Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Balloon Called Moaning

A Balloon Called Moaning - what does that mean as an album title? Well nobody seems to know except those responsible, and they are not telling! This is the first release from a band that I had not heard of until I saw them play on the 'Sunset Stage' at Latitude 2008 and I think I've found live picture from that gig that I haven't used before.

L -R: Justin Stahley, Ritzy Bryan and Rhydian Daffydd.
Ever since it has been on my list of bands not to forget.

When I discovered in January that Pure Groove Records were to release their début album I could hardly wait.

Eight tracks and 29 minutes: some would call it a mini-album. It is however several minutes longer than they were allocated to play their set at Latitude - but it doesn't take long, for better or for worse, to make a lasting impression.

Call it what you like but there is no point reviewing the tracks individually.

I could easily have been disappointed by the weight of my expectations here, as has happened many times before, but this is just brilliant and I'm so glad that I saw them live first.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Driving to Idaho. What happened to Nerina Pallot?

Driving to Idaho...
The track that arguably took her from Dear Frustrated Superstar territory, after endless battles with the suits at the label that released her first album, had that title. Her second album was to be Fires and it was originally released in 2005 by the label 'Idaho' that she set up for that purpose.

Fires (2005) - IDAHOCD001

In 2006 she was signed to 14th Floor Records, a Universal imprint. Fires was then remixed (more sparkly, as the artist herself put it) and given a major re-release. It was good too, and it went platinum in the UK. Call me reactionary if you like but I actually still prefer the original Idaho version for its less intrusive production and have them both. For months in 2006 the songs from this album could be heard almost whenever the radio was on. The singles from it were largely well received and successful given the full treatment and promotion.

14th Floor 825646387076 14FLR16V LC003077 (2006)

They were good songs, well written, arranged and sung and then, as suddenly as she had appeared, she vanished.
Probably not for much longer though - she's now got to choose the tracks that will constitute her third album. That might take some time as, a prolific songwriter and lyricist, choosing at most a dozen from apparently about sixty songs is always going to be a challenge. It will, when it appears, be one that I'll be quite happy to buy even if I have not yet heard a single track from it.

Method of Modern Love

Six weeks in and 2009 in music is getting into its stride. It is sounding good and certain trends are clear:
Firstly, that festivals are not necessarily going to suffer as a result of the recession. Glastonbury sold out over a week ago and the only tickets that will be available in early April will be returns. After last year's wobble, that this happened before any acts have been officially confirmed surprised me at first. On reflection I have decided that perhaps this result is in part because of the recession. Perhaps folks who enjoy music and can tolerate camping have, while making cut backs to expensive holiday plans, realised just what good value in terms of both time and money a long weekend at a festival can be.

The second thing, and it will doubtless be apparent at this summer's festivals, is the subtle shift towards more music that is pop and fantasy-inspired and often electronically based. This is no sudden change, and it certainly won't stop the likes of White Lies conquering all the territory they lay claim to, but it should make 2009 very interesting indeed. It took a while but electro-pop finally returned to the mainstream in 2008 and I wouldn't be surprised if its disco-cousins don't do the same in 2009 and that is where some of these new electronic toys will see use live.
They've been a source of much controversy and creativity since the analogue Moog synthesizer appeared in the late 1950s, with the more compact, robust and practical transistorized version following in 1961. They are still used and have many devotees, not least for the warm sound they produce. The Dubrecq stylophone followed in 1967, a hand-held keyboard played with a stylus, and it was really mainly intended as a 'toy instrument' for children. It too gained a large following and was therefore successfully relaunched in 2007.

This is an example of the 21st century stylophone.

You will almost certainly see one being played sometime this year - it is well suited to the style of music favoured by Little Boots and others. Another much more recent and complex electronic instrument also used by Victoria Hesketh first appeared in 2007.

Yamaha Tenori on.

It is not obvious exactly what it does or how you play it but, put very simply, it is a computer specifically designed to be used to play music. As you probably know I'm a big fan of acoustic music and traditional instruments but I can't wait to see someone in the flesh actually playing one of these.

On that general subject one of the giants of 1990s electro/dance pop is back. The single below is a new one released to promote the forthcoming 2-CD compilation - London Conversations - The Best Of Saint Etienne - but I wonder if there is actually rather more to it than that particularly given the success of Sarah Cracknell's collaboration with Mark Brown in 2008 - The Journey Continues.

This is the first Saint Etienne single in many years: 'Method Of Modern Love', was released on 9 February 2009. It is available to download but why would I want to? This is the real vinyl deal. This is 0116 of 1500, some of which were also signed.

Across the Atlantic they are at it too and they have also developed a liking for vinyl! More soon...

Chrome's On It - Telepathe (12" vinyl single)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chasing The Tiger's Tail

As a kid you get on a fairground roundabout and you are probably not paying so you don't consider where you will get off, or even what might happen in the meantime. It is an adventure and about enjoying the here and now. If that is simply an ice-cream you didn't expect to get, then that is good enough when age ten...

'Fat Cat' bankers that made themselves rich on the cards of others' houses are the current bêtes noires but this is also how and why the established music industry went wrong. It did it rather earlier however, and without such global ramifications, but it did it none the less.
Did the world's financial sector notice the possible parallel?
Well, if it did we were not told. Now some senior bankers have said "sorry" in a lengthy and guarded way. The sort of tongue-tied language couched in weasel-words - against which Wikipedia would rightly rail on the grounds of lack of candour - but that at worst would come with the label 'Parental Advisory'. Had they had come up with a contrite explanation, that could justifiably be labelled 'EXPLICIT CONTENT', it would have been better.

There is that human traît, which we all have to a degree, to believe that good as things may be they could be better if...
The problem is when it runs riot. If I mess my life up because of the way I believe this to be true then you can just say "that was all your fault" and the rest of the world will carry on as it did before. It is all a matter of scale and, on that scale of reckoning, things globally are currently pretty bad.

As in life so it is in music and vice versa. Some artists are already funding their albums by selling small shares (typically £10/ $15) to supporters on which a return on future royalties will be payable if such happens - this mutual 'Credit Union' approach has a great deal of precedent in other times and situations. Given that it links diverse artists and their supporters directly, particularly in the digitally connected world, it could have profound implications for the music industry.
It is in any case a cyclical industry, not least in terms of consumer taste, for who would have thought in, let's say the summer of 2007, the US market would now be so enamoured of pop, that there would be so many UK winners at the 2009 Grammys or that the UK, while apparently already in a deep recession, is flirting not only with electro-dance but also italo-disco while simultaneously maintaining an addiction to much that is, more or less, acoustic?
Can you really imagine Emmy the Great collaborating with Norman Cook - the Cinderella of acoustic indie with pop and dance legend Fatboy Slim (DJ, and former Housemartin)?

No, of course you can't!

That is a good answer, and thank-you, except that it is wrong.

I make no apologies if the above seems like a Luke Haines lyric, from the Black Box Recorder School of Music, but the fact remains that you can:

Try putting your mind, guitar, or instrument of choice, to this hybrid song:

I had a dream, no destination,
A sense that it would end like this...
In a trunk at Brighton Station
As an unsolved case.

I love the place I come from
I'm happy where I am.
I can't stop chasing the tiger's tail
I'm tempted to taste some forbidden delight

But I just don't get it.
I don't let it get to me.

The only way into this song is walking.
But you'd rather run.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blue Roses - an update.

This is an update to my earlier post for those of you who have been looking for more information. The first Blue Roses single, 'Doubtful Comforts', is now scheduled for release in the UK on 2 March 2009 on Salvia (XL Recordings) and the album is due to follow sometime in April. In between touring with Guillemots and Emmy The Great she not only found the time to write it all; it is also self-arranged and self-produced. I do not know the album title or track list as yet.

If you can't wait even that long here is a 2008 single that, released as Laura Groves, is still available:

Salvia TIC 001 (2008) is available from Rough Trade.

The only problem I have with it is that it only makes me want the album even more! The 'b-side, and that it genuinely is for it is physically available only on 7" vinyl, 'Bridges' is very short but also a wonderful resumé of her musical style, fluid vocals and observational lyrics.
In a genre with much competition Blue Roses will surely be one of the 'must hear' acoustic artists of 2009.

Note added 14 February:
'Blue Roses' is also the title of the album and it is pencilled in for release in the UK on 27 April on both CD and 12" vinyl. It is now available to pre-order in both formats from Pure Groove.

He doesn't like it when people love me
But he can argue so eloquently.
His words are like knots
Which cannot be unpicked by the likes of me.
Sometimes bridges burn themselves down.
I never knew when to...

Friday, February 06, 2009

One album, two possibilities - and it fails on both counts.

I doubt that I would have bothered to try to drive through the snow in order to get to work today were it not that this album was in the CD autochanger. If it had been indoors I would have just stayed at home instead (like, as it turned out, almost everybody else). It took me so long to get to work that I was actually able to listen to it once-and-a-half-times and, at over 43 minutes, it is not short. It is my first received album release of 2009 and so it is obviously my favourite, but I think it likely to remain one and if the rest come up to this standard then it is going to be a year to remember.

An album with such ambitious intent could quite easily have become arch and pretentious or, on the other hand, just another formulaic indie-pop-rock cross-over. I think it does neither hence the title of the post - the music and lyrics are both very strong throughout but, ultimately, it is the singer that makes the song and sometimes so much more than that which is merely written.

Nina Persson demonstrates that facility in spades.

It is very different to the music she made with 'The Cardigans' or indeed her duet with Sir Tom Jones - a cover of 'The White Stripes' Burning Down The House. She also duets on Your Love Alone Is Not Enough with the 'Manic Street Preachers' and that appeared on the Manic Street Preachers' album Send Away The Tigers (2007).
I've listened to Colonia twice more at home this evening. The best general description I can muster is that it is equally comforting and disturbing and I'm certainly not getting bored of it. As for my favourite tracks that is truly no easier to say than after the first time I listened to it. That is the sign of a really good album - if you want three then try these:
  • The Crowning
  • Love Has Left The Room
  • My America
The achievement no less remarkable is this: it is never obvious just what an incredible tightrope this album actually treads. It involves both Nathan Larson, her husband who is better known for film music and it shows to great effect, and fellow Swede Niklas Fisk. Joan Wasser (Antony and the Johnsons and, perhaps more importantly, Joan As Policewoman) also provides violin and viola.

Just buy it!

In Europe, except Scandinavia, it is released on CD by
Reveal Records (REVEAL 50), the inlay booklet contains all the lyrics and this album will also be available on vinyl. In the US it currently only available on import, handled by 101 Distribution, but available from at a price.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A thought and a rumour.

A thought:
This is an unusual post as it is something of an operational announcement.
I regard all visitors to my blog very highly and, to try and discover what inspires you, I watch the very limited blog statistics that I can gather accordingly.
I think I have noticed a certain problem:
You are looking for items I mention in my 'I've Just Listened To...' list located in the side bar and the post associated with it has nothing about that artist. There could be several reasons for this but these are the most likely:

  • I haven't posted about that item.
  • I have posted about this artist but that post is not on the page that you are currently viewing.
I'm currently trying to improve links, including forward ones from old posts, but it is an endless struggle. I try to make links from 'I've Just Listened To...' to items, even if only as an aside, of artists that I have mentioned. If the side-bar mention is a clickable-link then that should take you straight to a post of at least some relevance. If there are problems please let me know (see below) and, similarly, if you think some pages should be cross-linked please suggest which ones and, for the benefit of everyone not least me, why. You might think that obvious but in different ways, that, to one who writes and thinks in a different way that may not seem so. If not then try Google: search "rpgreenhalgh", complete with the quote marks and the item you are looking for, again enclosed in quote marks. Here is an example:

"rpgreenhalgh" "fur and gold"

It will likely return many 'hits' (and you may have to view similar searches not included, as offered at the bottom of the page) but you should be able to pick out the more promising ones from the synopses. Please don't feel bad about it; I do just this when I can't remember where and when I posted something and, for goodness sake, I wrote and posted it in the first instance! I need to do a bit of work there.
If you can't find something then please feel free to contact me directly. I can't promise that I will respond to every question but ask me a simple one, like 'What is the catalogue number of ***some album*** that I have mentioned?' I probably can and will. Either post a comment/question or e-mail me: contact details can be found in the sidebar: About Me>View my complete profile.

A few words of warning:
Your contribution can be credited to you or, if you would rather remain anonymous, I will respect that. You can post an anonymous comment via Blogger and it is simply your choice. It will not affect my decision, as moderator, whether or not to publish it and you can disagree with me as much as you like but - for the good of all - posts that are clearly offensive, libellous, etc. will be not be published and I'm glad to say that I have never had to invoke this yet.
I'm not saying that you can't tell me that you think my current favorite act is utter s**t, because you can, and I might unwittingly post something similar about yours. Maybe I already have!

These are merely some ground rules.

A rumour:

It's the BBC story that just runs and runs; the one that says TOTP could be back for good and 2009 looks to be an extremely appropriate year for it. Booked to run for just a few weeks when it started in 1964 it ran weekly for over forty-two years, in it's heyday had a UK weekly audience of around fifteen million, and that was on a Thursday evening! What channel wouldn't kill for that now?

The title screen in 1968 but not the icon I remember.

I might be wrong but I think that for many of a certain age, and I am one, this single is still inextricably connected with Top Of The Pops.