Monday, May 23, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 34 - The Honeycutters - On The Ropes

I would stay up all night to write about this. This is cognisant music of the most perfect kind. It wasn't for no good reason that their last long-player 'Me Oh My' was on my list of Albums of 2015 - Part 1.
This is the follow-up to that and I am pleased to say the band has made no drastic changes. That certain predictability - the idea that while circumstances may change, for better or for worse, many things will remain much the same and that a gritty determination, and even redemption, will overcome those that don't.

The Honeycutters - On The Ropes (20 May 2016, Organic Records).
  • On the Ropes
  • Blue Besides
  • Golden Child
  • The Handbook
  • The Only Eyes
  • Back Row
  • Useless Memories
  • Piece of Heaven
  • Let's Get Drunk
  • 500 Pieces
  • Ache
  • Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover)
  • Barmaid's Blues

Jason Isbell is playing Green Man 2016 and Margo Price plays End Of The Road 2016, so that is covered.
If I could wish to see just one more Americana act at a UK festival this summer then The Honeycutters would be it. It's not that this LP is particularly similar in style to those of either of the others and indeed that is a big part of the whole charm of it. They are each happy to plough (sic) their own furrow, however I regard it as an equally noteworthy one.
I have no reason to suspect that given the current mood here in Britain the band would not find anything other than a very warm welcome indeed.
This video is for 'Jukebox', which is the opening track on the aforementioned 'Me Oh My'.

It is the perfect match to 'Barmaid's Blues', which is the closing song on 'On the Ropes' and that really matters.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 33 - Alice Phoebe Lou - Orbit

I listen to and read about far more music than I ever write about. I'm going to make absolutely no secret about why I have chosen this right now. De krenten uit de pop, a blog based in the Netherlands, with which I seem to share more than a little musical affinity, mentioned the South African artist Alice Phoebe Lou and her recent release 'Orbit' only this morning. I knew absolutely nothing at all about any of this but, despite my very sketchy ability to read Dutch (maybe I have a reason to try harder now?) it seemed interesting.
The acid test was of course to listen to it, whilst also trying to find more about the places and influences from where this is coming. It also made me think a bit more about artists from South Africa...

I think that I might have mentioned only one such specifically in the almost 1200 posts that I have published to date and surely that surely can't be a fair reflection of the situation? That act was Dear Reader, the vehicle of Cherilyn MacNeil, that I saw live at Latitude Festival 2009 and in particular the album 'Replace Why with Funny'. I mentioned that here and clearly I was of the impression that my thoughts about this might have been in the minority though I cannot remember why that was. It's been a long preamble but there is a reason. Why did both artists ultimately choose Berlin?

Alice Phoebe Lou - Orbit (6 May 2016, OMN).
  • Girl on an Island
  • Society
  • Red
  • Take Flight
  • Haruki
  • Walking In The Garden
  • Amsterdam
  • Orbit
  • The City Sleeps
I must say that I am struck by this release on the basis of just a couple of listens. What makes me even more impressed, and it is probably more reliable guidance as regards my impression of where this might be going, is just how this is a reflection of her live performance roots on the streets of European cities. This video of a performance near Warschauer Str. railway station in Berlin is actually two years old now. 

I always have an eye and an ear for live potential. This is just tailor-made for a certain kind of music festival.

New Music 2016 - Part 32 - Hattie Briggs - Young Runaway

When Hattie Briggs' début LP 'Red & Gold' was released in April 2015 I remember thinking that whatever releases the rest of the year was to bring this was sure to remain amongst my favourites. I was quite right and, given the review the album and her live performances have received in the months that followed, many others feel the same way.

Clearly not one to rest on her laurels and a prolific song writer and as the spring of 2016 was struggling to get going the 'Here's to Hoping EP' came our way.

This consisted of Tilly's Song, the original release of which pre-dates Red & Gold, and three news songs as a taster of a forthcoming LP. This is that record.

Hattie Briggs - Young Runaway (Wise Dog Records, 8 July 2016).
  • The Lake
  • Lift Me Up
  • Here's to Hoping
  • On Your Way
  • Digging to Australia
  • Have We Met Before?
  • Castle On the Sand
  • Talk To Me
  • You Only Live Once
  • The River
The ten songs are all new and self-written. 'Red and Gold itself only had a single cover, that being 'Fields of Gold'. The team behind it, including producer Peter Waterman, remains much the same as that featured on the first record. It is however clear that the team had learned a lot during the making of the first.  It shows in a number of ways, from the more intricate use of supporting musicians to the production. The other feature that sets it apart is that it is a set of songs all written over a fairly short period of time. I haven't really listened to it often enough to chose any particular favourites but I suspect that this may not really be possible because, despite countless times of listening, my favourite tracks on 'Red & Gold' tend to be quite mutable depending on the circumstances prevailing at the time.

Whilst I whole-heartedly commend 'Young Runaway' to your attention I very much suggest that you take any opportunity you get to see Hattie Briggs live - be that busking solo, which she often does, or playing with the full band.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 31 - On Dead Waves

This release has somehow blind-sided me but I'm very excited about it. On Dead Waves is a new act but it combines artists I am much in awe of. It consists of two artists with previous recording histories: James Chapman (as Maps) and Polly Scattergood (as herself).
This is what has happened since they met musically, by dint of performing each the songs of the other, at a showcase at The Roundhouse, Camden, London back in 2011.

On Dead Waves - On Dead Waves (Mute Records, 20 May 2016).

This is the track list:
  • Blackbird 
  • Never Over
  • California
  • Hollow
  • Alice
  • Dead Balloons
  • Blue Inside
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Jupiter
  • Winter's Child
The big question, and I'm not minded to make you wait until Friday to find out, is what does this synthesis sound like? I would have been terribly disappointed had the work been unremittingly cheerful.

On Dead Waves.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Red Butler - Frome Blues, Rhythm and Rock Festival

After a break of almost two weeks I am back. I have tried writing posts both 'to order' and also from self-imposed obligation and neither has tended to work out well. It seems that it is best not to worry about it and simply to wait until the bug, for that it what it is, bites me again.
It's not that I abandon music in these interstices. It is arguable that quite the opposite is true; i
n this time I have seen seven bands live and this is one of them.

Sunday, May 8 was the latest edition of Frome Blues, Rhythm and Roots festival. All was good but this was a stand-out for me: of course Corky Laing and Martin Turner were excellent - they are both (in all probability) rather older than the parents of any of the four members of  Brighton's Red Butler! This is their début LP but another is to follow towards the end of the year and they played some tracks from that too. This, together with the fact that it is produced by King King drummer Wayne Proctor, bodes very well indeed.

Red Butler - Freedom Bound (2014, self released).

Red Butler was only the second of the six acts to play that day and received a standing ovation from the otherwise seated audience at the end of their forty-five minute set. That might have been a sign of things to come for, as of this evening (17 May), they are confirmed as one of the six nominations in the category 'Blues Band' at the British Blues Awards 2016. A link to all artists and acts short-listed for all categories is here

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 30 - Gill Sandell - Songs Of Our Years

As well as the simple pleasure of putting it together, one of the highlights of writing this blog is getting to listen to some new music before it is widely released. Quite a proportion of the new music that I buy nowadays is a result of pre-ordering direct from the artist, often as part of a crowd-funding campaign. As well as improving the chances of the music seeing the light of day it also means that the highest possible proportion of the purchase price accrues to the artist. Buying music from the artist at live gigs is another route to the same end but in this case the music already has to have been realised physically.

Songs Of Our Years - Gill Sandell (Rowan Tree Records, 6 May 2016).

It comprises twelve tracks, all original songs and also features a number of artists with whom she has performed and worked with previously, including Anna Jenkins and Jo Silverston from The Red Clay Halo on strings, and is released on her own label as were her previous two solo records Tarry Awhile (2010) and Light The Boats (2013) both of which I have mentioned in the past.

Friday, April 29, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 29 - Kitty Macfarlane - Tide & Time

Whilst I was thinking about that next "road-trip post" --- it's nearly complete, at least conceptually --- I am amazed by how often I get diverted by things that are  local and sometimes actually more immediate.  This is one of them and I chose to say diverted, rather than distracted, for a reason.
Songs about shipping, weather and the possibility of a new Hinkley nuclear power station are all to be found amongst the lyrics on offer here. It has helped me considerably in assigning a better focus to the aforementioned project because it made me think rather more about not just what songs are written about but the possible reason why the subject was chosen for analysis.

Tide & Time EP - Kitty Macfarlane (self-released, 2016).
  • Wrecking Days
  • Bus Song
  • Lamb
  • Tide and Time
  • Song To The Siren
Four are original songs on which she accompanies her singing with finger-picked guitar. Song To The Siren is a Tim Buckley cover and a song with a history all its own. It is therefore a brave choice to cover and while quite notable it doesn't subsume the other tracks in any way.
His original recorded version appeared on the 1970 album 'Starsailor' but the first artist to release a recording of it was Pat Boone on his 1969 album 'Departure', which was released by Tetragrammaton Records in the US. Tetragrammaton was wound up as a result of insolvency in 1971. Pat Boone has, indeed continues to have, wide appeal in the US but hardly any such in Europe.
The best known version of the song, at least in the UK and as of now, is that by This Mortal Coil and that has a very different treatment to the one on this EP. 
Tim Buckley did however perform it with The Monkees on TV and in its original folk-like incarnation, on 25 March 1968. This appears on the 2CD 'Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology' (2001). 

Kitty Macfarlane has recently toured as support for BBC Folk Awards 2016 'Best Duo' winners Sean Lakeman and Kathryn Roberts and she will do so again soon. She is currently supporting Blair Dunlop on many of the dates of his ongoing UK tour including 'The Plough', Torrington, Devon (30 April 2016) and Marnhull Acoustic Sessions, North Dorset (1 May 2016).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 28 - I Am Snow Angel - Fever

I haven't written much about electronic music for a while. This is in part because warm weather seems to prompt me to listen to it and at the moment winter is digging-in its heels for a final show of strength. Spring, and all thoughts of Summer, are therefore on hold. This kind of situation might change dramatically in a matter of days however - I believe in this - and that brings me to this artist whose moniker might ordinarily suggest a winter-time appeal.

I Am Snow Angel is a New York-based electronic pop performer, producer and visual artist and this is the latest release.

Fever - I Am Snow Angel (self-released, 2016).

There is plenty more by I Am Snow Angel out there to find, including the 2014 digital LP 'Crocodile', and there is more to come quite soon. I think that the thing that really caught my ear is that this is not strident electronica; it is pastoral rather than urban, wistful but still restive, and I'm keen to find more that is somewhat like it.
If I want or need to find urban or revolutionary music then I know that there is plenty of that available too.

Friday, April 22, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 27 - Tim Heidecker - In Glendale

I've been thinking about putting up another post that is a road-trip or rail-trip through music. It's an idea that I like and I enjoyed figuring-out the first one but then again it was pretty spontaneous. Ideas and the music to go with them I am not short of. There is no doubt at all about that. There are only three significant matters remaining undetermined; the starting point, the destination and the itinerary. I guess I need a little more time working on that project. It isn't something that I can't conjure up on demand and trying only makes the problem worse.

That neatly brings me to this. A project complete, except for its release to an expectant world, and a project more-or-less about a single place. Tim Heidecker is a comedian by trade and this is his first foray into "serious" music. That might sound alarm bells for many but in this case it shouldn't.
This is his semi-serious take on life, family and anything else (not all of it pleasant) in and around their home in California.

In Glendale - Tim Heidecker (Rado Records, 20 May 2016).
  • In Glendale
  • Cleaning Up The Dog Shit
  • Work From Home
  • Ghost In My Bed
  • Good Looking Babies
  • When The Cash Runs Out
  • I Dare You To Watch Me Sleep
  • Central Air
  • I Saw Nicolas Cage
  • Ocean's Too Cold
Rado Records is an imprint, under the Jagjaguwar label, curated by Jonathan Rado of FoxygenWhatever the sound, and it is mostly indie rock here, music doesn't get much more independent-minded than this.
In a sense Tim Heidecker has a parallel in Courtney Barnett: they are contemplating 
similar conundrums and the resulting decisions but starting from quite different points of view.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Without comment: The European Question.

When The Common Market Comes To Stanton Drew:

Folks say nowadays we've got to change our ways,
The papers say so, so I s'pose 'tis true,
We've got to take the chance, with Germany and France,
And live like all they foreign people do.
Now, I wonder if they'll build the Eiffel Tower on 'arptree 'ill,
Put gondolas down on the River Chew,
Shall us all drive on the right, and drink up all the night-
When the Common Market comes to Stanton Drew?

Some folks seem to think, we'll 'ave to change our drink,
There's rumours flyin', so I s'pose 'tis right,
They say they've seen a tank of Portuguese vin blanc,
Jammed up in t'High Street t'other night.
They say that port and brandy will sell for £1 a quart,
And the Druids Arms won't close till ver' nigh two,
And we'll all drink caviar from a girt big cider jar,
When the Common Market comes to Stanton Drew!

Now, as for what we eat, we must export more meat,
Send 'em all our best prime beef and ham,
While we does stuff our guts with Transylvanian nuts
And garlic-flavoured processed German spam!
When George comes home from milkin', he'll get a big surprise,
When 'e sits down expectin' Irish stew,
And 'is wife says "George, I'll get 'ee, a girt dollop of spaghetti,"
When the Common Market comes to Stanton Drew!

When the market-time comes round, down the pub we'll all be found
Jammin' up the public bar all day
And you won't get through the doors, for Messieurs and Senors
Arguin' about the price of summer hay.
With Timsbury full of Belgians, and Radstock full of Dutch,
The Paulton farmer won't know what to do,
And you might see Acker Bilk advertisin' Pensford milk,
When the Common Market comes to Stanton Drew!

In the evenin' times I s'pose, we'll sip of our vin rose,
Just like they do in the Argentine
And we'll watch they foreign blokes, with their girt big 'ats and cloaks,
Flamingo-in down on the village green.
We'll 'ave to watch our wenches when they dark-eyed lads gets here,
And the local boys'll 'ave to form a queue,
They'll say "Ooh la la, oui oui," instead of "How's bist thee?"
When the Common Market comes to Stanton Drew.
When the Common Market comes to Stanton Drew
When the Common Market comes to Stanton Drew!

Adge Cutler and The Wurzels (1973)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 26 - 9Bach - Anian

There is so much interesting music that is being released in the UK at the moment that I often find it hard where to start and what to choose. This one wasn't difficult to include. It's the third LP from North Wales' 9Bach and follows on from Tincian (2014). Once again, although sung entirely in Welsh, its musical influences go far beyond that - particularly in the direction of Greek, Balkan and near Middle Eastern traditions. In comparison with its predecessor it is also more outward looking in terms of time as well as place. That is not to say that what Lisa Jên articulates here is optimistic. It isn't and it is often rather challenging. Anian means nature and, because Welsh is economical and subtly nuanced in its use of words, also related concepts like natural order, morality and such.
If you find modern mainstream chart music rather bland, repetitive and commercial what's not to like?

Anian is released by Real World Records on 29 April 2016 in the UK.

It was recorded with the same musicians as Tincian, but the process and resultant mood is very different. This is the track list:

  • Llyn Du
  • Anian
  • Yr Olaf
  • Ifan
  • Si Hwi Hwi
  • Cyfaddefa
  • Brain
  • Heno
  • Deryn

The first track to be released is Llyn Du (Black Lake) and the video is all shot in the Glyderau, North Wales.

Monday, April 11, 2016

New Music - Part 25 - Half Deaf Clatch - Simple Songs For These Complicated Times

Well what can I say?
It seems no time since I was writing about Half Deaf Clatch and the 2015 LP The Life and Death of A.J Rail. My memory isn't failing me here, I'm pleased to say, even though it was barely longer than a month back.
That was based on seeing Half Deaf Clatch live in Frome somewhat earlier when he also mentioned the possibility of a forthcoming EP, 'The Apocalypse Blues'. Well you can forget that idea. It has been has now taken on an entirely 
new dimension as a ten song LP.

Half Deaf Clatch - Simple Songs For These Complicated Times (self-released, 11 May 2016).

No frippery is evident in the song titles:
  • The Hush Blues
  • The Blinkered Blues
  • The Apocalypse Blues
  • The River Blues
  • The Undertow Blues
  • The Exodus Blues
  • The Lost Blues
  • The Struggle Blues
  • The Countdown Blues
  • The Elysian Blues
Just acoustic blues.

Added 16 April 2016:
Here is an archive-based video, to accompany 'Apocalypse Blues', that draws on footage of nuclear weapon tests.

Added 16 May 2016:
Now the reconition is spreading across the Atlantic, as this review demonstrates:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Why Bristol matters and other thoughts...

I have issues with Bristol. I lived there from early 1990 until late 1995.
I shall try and explain that statement elliptically, in the context of two recent releases.
The first and most recent of these is the third full length from Bristol-based multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd; it follows 
Disarm (2010) and Little Battles (2012).

Direction of Travel - She Makes War (The State 51 Conspiracy, 8 April 2016).

Attempt to place Direction of Travel in a pigeonhole at your own peril. It is dark-edged but often rather uplifting. The opening track 'Drown Me Out' starts with a portentious drum figure. The lyrics are uncompromising and unsettling too; that's just the opening salvo. Even a megaphone is not unknown. 
Elements of pop, grunge, folk and electronica, as well as vocal loops, slither in-and-out like Medusa's serpents and with a coterminous unpredictability. 

The one thing that this most certainly is not is comedy for, as she says herself:
She Makes War... because love is a battlefield.

The video to Paper Thin was shot in Boston and New York, February 2016.

To follow this might appear to be something of a problem. That it is not so is the result of a complete oversight on my part!
This next album should probably have been included in my selection of 'Albums of 2015'. Better late than never, I suppose, and again I will make no effort to put the content in any neat little box. Bristol, Brighton and Plymouth are involved here too.

On The Inside - Wildflowers (Caroline International, 28 August 2015).

A trio comprising sisters Siddy and Kit Bennett, and Joe Ashbury, On The Inside is their first full length release. One quote, regarding life on the south coast of England where Siddy Bennett lived between the ages of ten and sixteen, is really rather interesting.

I had a magical childhood, but Plymouth changes a person.

Taken from the album this is 100 Personalities recorded live at The Crypt Sessions, 4 April 2016.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 24 - Julianna Barwick - Will

I seem to have posted a large run of 'New Music' posts just recently. Here is yet another and a sneak preview. I've been listening to this on repeat this evening simply because I can and I wish to do so.

Will is released by Dead Oceans in North America and Europe on 6 May 2016.

It follows her 2013 LP Nepenthe, which I mentioned briefly, and is her third full length recording. I'm minded to think that is is also the one that I might come to like the best. I have seen her play live too, at End Of The Road Festival 2013, and that aspect certainly comes highly recommended. She is confirmed to play at Green Man Festival 2016 so that is an opportunity I intend to take. The other thing that I have been doing is listening to it some more, from start to finish and now several times. I'm not as a rule much inclined to pick a couple of stand-out tracks unless of course I feel them to be all that is of-note on offer and here that is not any concern of mine.
I suppose you might attribute this to my pre-digital roots when there were only two things available - the singles or the album purchased in its entirety.

Here is the track listing:

Julianna Barwick - Will:
  • St. Apolonia
  • Nebula
  • Beached
  • Same
  • Wist
  • Big Hollow
  • Heading Home
  • Someway
  • See, Know
Beautiful, dreamy and led by keyboards, it's going to take a small and intimate stage setting to show this at its best live - unless of course she has a grand 'Plan B' to reveal, which is quite possible at least in principle.
At End of The Road 2013 she played the Tipi stage with just understated electric guitar, courtesy of Scott Powell, as accompaniment beyond her own keyboards.
Here she is back then at EOTR 2013. The Walled Garden stage at Green Man 2016 would work perfectly.

Whilst I have nothing live to offer from the new album here is an extended live set recorded at KEXP in Seattle a couple of months later:

Julianna Barwick live at KEXP, Seattle - November 22, 2013.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Music 2013 - Part 23 - Karima Francis - Black

I received this in the post yesterday and I couldn't wait to give it a thorough listen or three. The word is that I'm liking it very much indeed.
It seems so long ago that I reviewed Karima Francis's first album 'The Author'. It was back in 2009; it was good and so, if maybe less original, was the follow-up 'The Remedy' in 2012. Beneath the surface lay a major career set back. Not very many would have the strength of character to overcome a rejection like that.

Four years later her third album 'Black' is the result of a successful crowd-funding venture. Karima is supported by an excellent band, the members of which apparently coalesced out of nowhere in the matter of a very few days by dint of good fortune and quick thinking on the part of Karima to get them on-board. It is a record just how the tight unit wanted it to sound, working free from outside interference.

Karima Francis - Black:
  • Black
  • City Walls
  • H.W.T.M.C.
  • Believe In Love
  • Regrets
  • It's Alright Now
  • Shout
  • Remember Me
  • Waves
  • Perfect Dream
  • Blue Moon
I can find no official release date as yet. 140dB Records is managing this release. What I really want to do now is see Karima and the band play live!