Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring madness - music and cats.

I seem to have had so many items on order (or on pre-order) for so long that I was beginning to become impatient and had begun to wonder if they, or at least some of them, would ever arrive at all.
The way notifications went today it looks like they will, and almost all at once - two vinyl LPs, two vinyl 12" EPs and two CDs. The strange thing is that, of the six items, three are recorded by UK artists and two of those have had to come from the US, along with the two by US artists. The remaining two, one of which is by a Canadian band, were more readily available here and that is a demonstration of the vagaries of the quasi-global market!
The Canadian one, which I have not mentioned before, is the latest from Metric, a band that I would dearly love to see live. They are in the UK this spring but it now looks unlikely that I will be able to catch them on tour.

Less electro than 'Old World Underground...' and less rock than 'Live It Out'?

I can't wait to decide for myself and, while talking of electro-reinvented, here is one album that I've listened to a great deal in the last few weeks. Ask most people to name an artist from New Zealand and (Kiri Te Kanawa aside) I suspect you'll get blank looks...

Another inspired signing by (Australian label) Modular Recordings, released under license by Universal/Island Records in Europe, the music is quite remarkable - it sounds like nothing you can remember or pin a name to - and the album artwork is quite strange too, all done in watercolour and depicting the paraphernalia of electronic home-recording...

... and cats, lots of cats. Some look shocked and others are listening or merely asleep.

This is my favourite; it is truly surreal and so different from most current music artwork. It is actually the cover to the 7" single 'Paris Is Burning' as if a cat, particularly one in New Zealand, could possibly know or care.

It is an amazing single, and Pip Brown is a star, so the UK Government responded immediately.

The National Curriculum in 2011.
It has been trialled and all kittens will be taught to sing, read music and play piano from an early age.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

One job - two apprentices...

What a great way to spend a Saturday evening in 2009!
Listening to the band that forty years ago advertised for a lead guitarist in
Melody Maker and couldn't decide between two of them - ended up with both - and thus accidentally made rock history. Thin Lizzy regularly used twin leads, as did Blackfoot and many others too, but Powell and Turner were the ones who set the ball rolling.
I was just four in 1969 and there was no 'reality TV' either...

Some things however just get better with time and Wishbone Ash appear to be one of them; this was after all part of their '40th Anniversary Tour'. I have seen them twice before, the first time in 1985 at the Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall, and this was the best gig of the lot. Their set was almost two hours long including both new material and, of course, some of the classics. The last track was 'Phoenix' taken from the album Wishbone Ash (1970) on which it was over ten minutes long and so it was again.
These two pictures were both taken during the first encore and that was another track 'Lady Whiskey' from the same album.

Andy Powell still doing the business yesterday!

They appear as the last two tracks, but swapped over, on the 1974 double live LP 'Live Dates', which is the one I mentioned here last week.

That sound was still alive and well yesterday evening in Frome.
I'll add more soon but, at least for now, suffice to say it was one hell of a show!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Things That Happen When You Write Them Down

It's been a while, as someone said to me last week, so here is some new music from Wales that most will probably be unfamiliar with and the 5-track EP is available only on vinyl 7":

This is, as far as I know, the first full release of a solo recording by south Wales artist Laura Bryon amongst whose other projects is the band King Alexander, which has been mentioned here before, but while 'Despot Chic' was shouty punk this is an acoustic affair. The second track, 'The Trees They Do Grow High' is traditional while the others are self-penned and so was, I very much suspect, the artwork too. Released on Bird Records (07EGGS) this is an EP for lovers of the current nu/anti-folk resurgence. To buy it try Spillers Records in Cardiff or, to save a journey, click here instead. As the short review on their site says this is recommended to those who like the music of Cate Le Bon, and that is very true, but taking away the Welsh aspect (and none of this EP is sung in Welsh), another current point of reference would be Blue Roses.

Good Fortune Sounds - bad luck mouse.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Let The Truth Be Told...

I guess that being hailed as one of the "next big things" is a double-edged sword and there have been plenty as we go into 2009. It is a problem for artists as, although it provides the oxygen of publicity, it increases the pressure and raises expectations. Raised expectations can affect the prospective listener too. We all know the pleasure to be found in hearing a previously unheard-of artist only to discover that they are the 'best thing ever'. To be frequently told the very same thing, in advance of listening, can make that experience - when it comes - slightly underwhelming. This album was starting to run that risk, at least as far as I am concerned, and it is not released until 18 May in the UK and 16 June in the US, so that is why I mentioned some weeks ago that I had got hold of a US copy of the 12" single 'From My Heart To Yours'.

It went some way towards convincing me that I was not about to be disappointed and now that I have a promotional copy of the whole album I can say that my optimism is more than vindicated. It is common at points such as this to say that the artist evokes sounds like those of 'so-and-so' to provide a touchstone to readers. In this case I am deliberately not going to do so and for two reasons. This is not the genre of music I predominantly listen to and, perhaps more importantly, coming to it without preconceptions this just seems to be a complete album rather than a mere collection of radio and download friendly titbits for music magpies.

It starts with the UK lead single 'Shine' and that starts with the following lines...

Waking up one morning you realise
Your life is just one big compromise.

Another aspect of the whole album is that it sounds so natural and mature - in the sense that it never seems to be anything other than itself. There are no vocal histrionics, just the voice that has already earned her, in a country that rightly takes much pride in its multi-stranded musical heritage, the title 'The Soul of Ireland' and that can hardly be intended as anything but a compliment albeit a typically sly-humoured one. The restrained backing arrangements and production are spot on. They do not attempt to upstage the artist and the material, neither do they consciously seek to hark back to earlier times and styles. I haven't noticed any faux-vinyl crackle but, that said, I can only imagine how good it will sound on vinyl (hint: Atlantic) and I'll be buying that when it becomes available. At ten tracks and about thirty-eight minutes it is not long; it sensibly eschews any kind of filler that has spoiled many an otherwise fine album.

Live? Again her reputation precedes her - likely one of the most sought-after festival artists of 2009-10.

My favourite songs? Well that's a hard question but currently these three:
  • Don't Stay
  • The Worst is Over
  • Mmm...
Ask me again next week and it will quite likely be three others and that is always a sign of a good album.
As well as big predictions 2009 has already proven to contain a treasure-trove of excellent albums and this is certainly one of them. I have a prediction: this will be in the music industry award shortlists in the coming year, very possibly on both sides of the Atlantic. My one reservation is that, as this is a début album, how is she going to better it?
It is however, as 2009 has already shown, actually quite possible!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Leaf and stream....

As you might know by now I have a thing for lyrics, although I have no real idea how this came about, so here are some more. These are from long ago, but hey its Spring now, so what if it is influenced by the seasons and come from a song - on multi-platinum album Argus by Wishbone Ash - that is 37 years old this year.

I find myself beside a stream of empty thought
Like a leaf that's fallen to the ground.
Carried by the flow of water to my dreams
And woken only by your sound.
I've walked this path for many years and
Listened to the trees that call your name.

It still seems fresher than a daisy-chain around the neck of a faux-hippy ever could; I'm sorry folks, and as you know I like absolutely love loads of new music, but sometimes that is just how it is!
If you are looking for one of the best 'live albums' of the 1970s, and I've mentioned this topic here before, Live Dates (1973) is right up there with the very best of them. It is available on CD but better still is MCA Records MCSP254, the original 2 x 12" vinyl release.

Wishbone Ash are on tour too, a '40th Anniversary' one, and for shameless reasons of nostalgia I'm going to see it. The last time that I saw Wishbone Ash live, and I'm not ashamed to admit this either, was at the Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall more than twenty years ago. Some tell me that I shouldn't go again, that I'll only be disappointed, but they are also very ones that won't risk going to see an artist that they know nothing about.
I'll take the risk, thank you, and they can suffer the outcome. I will be interesting to see what the set list is although my guess it will lean towards the earlier classics.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sea of Tears - new music I want in 2009 - part 5½

It was perhaps obvious that my last post was left unfinished and so it was...

That was a problem, entirely of my own making, and I apologize for it. April is a good time, so here are some new albums, scattered across genres, that I now want. I don't care if they are popular now: some are, some will be so in the future, and others simply will not.
That is the long term view and I'm disinclined to take it.
If I want an album, and although it is true that I have many that are decades old, when I want a new one the buying choice is wider but so, quite alarmingly, is my taste in music!
If that were a surprise then this a very surprising selection, one based on Americana again, but I just can't help it.
You can tell me what you think (either e-mail or comment) but I still think that you should simply listen to whatever it is that you want to so feel free to tell me about whatever music you have found.

The selected ones are already on order, many from the US, something that was not really possible twenty years ago, but this one actually takes its reference points from Americana and also the British 'pop-rock' of the sixties and Jewell does it well - back then you simply couldn't have done it this way. The covered songs are excellent again but the originals are even better.
They have an air of total authenticity and are often narrative, songs that are tales of being fu**ed over, but they do it without appearing self-consciously traditional or, on the other hand, overtly bitter or modern. It certainly isn't nu folk, anti folk or whatever, and I like most of that too, even though this album is much more electric-oriented than LfS&S. The result is engaging, more 1960s than obviously influenced by anything that came later, and really quite special.

Amongst the others are...

There are just so many good things around - this is merely another interim post.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Music I Want In 2009 - Part 5

Hello, I'm back after two weeks away from writing, but not from listening, which is just something I need to do once in a while. That said I'm now bubbling over with new music to share...

The latest from Metric, and all kinds of other wonderful things plus one that which, should I wish to do so, I could use as my excuse for vanishing for the last fortnight because it really is that good.

To have one alter ego is often one too many and two is beyond countenance.

None should try, and fewer could get away with, the blonde artifice of Pearl.

Only Karen O might give her competition, but perhaps they would talk clothes instead?
One told the lead guitarist that he'd be playing keyboards on the album, the other told Scott Walker to sing a song for her and sent him the part... and they both did.