Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Music 2011 - Part 11 - New heads on old shoulders?

If the title of this post seems strange then it is defiantly so.  I have been listening to much new music recently and imagining those artists that I might wish to appear at festivals this summer; particularly artists perhaps alien to those who merely concern themselves with the headline acts at Glastonbury.  
One place that has often turned up trumps is the 'Lake Stage' at Latitude. It was revitalised last year, after a poor 2009, and if Huw Stephens is again curating the future is bright.  One of the many highlights last year was Clare Maguire, whose début album 'Light After Dark' is released in the UK tomorrow.  In the wake of the recent 2011 BRIT Awards, and the success of alumna Adele Adkins who today managed the feat of having her two LPs at #1 and #2 in the UK album chart while simultaneously having the #1 and #4 single...

And, as if I needed to mention it, this is another from that stable who is about to hit the airwaves - and again is a female singer songwriter.  Known as Spark, real name Jessica Sparkle Morgan, she has a big voice - think Marina Diamandis and a lot of Americana that you should have heard but maybe haven't - combined with a strange pastoral electronic sensitivity and perhaps I'm getting close...
She has just been signed to 679 Recordings, also the home of Marina and The Diamonds and Little Boots, and the connection there is perhaps not too obscure. The pastoral bit is perhaps a little more so until, and the title of the post hints at this, most of  her early work that is available on-line is produced by Peter-John Vettese. Whilst he is an electronic keyboard maestro and talented producer it is notable here that thirty years ago he joined Jethro Tull and bought his distinctive keyboard influence to the 1982 album 'Broadsword and The Beast'.  It was a collaboration that would last almost a decade and, in the here and now, one that is echoing strongly.
The most obvious adjective for this phenomenon, if one rarely used and thus I shall do so with abandon, is Euterpean.
Further posts on New Music 2011:
Part 1  ---  Esben and The Witch
Part 2  ---  Yuck

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Acoustic+. Live with little comment.

Four acts - £5 entry - and 3 hours of live music. If this is not a bargain then I don't know what is...

Dan Days, live @ Cheese & Grain, Frome, February 18, 2011.

Lara and Harry, at the moment that a new song did not quite go according to plan.

Harry plays electric bass, except when she doesn't and Lara just sings instead of playing acoustic as well.  Harry then does acoustic guitar instead. Any which way it - the acoustic guitar - is truly thus as it has no internal pick-up and so a condensing microphone is used instead.
Ben Waller and The Tell Tale Signs
This band was, quite effortlessly, my stand-out of those at Acoustic+ in December (see here) and I'm delighted that it appeared again for a much more extensive set last week.  This did nothing other than to cement my conviction that I was right.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts on Music - albums for interesting times...

I've been taking a break from writing posts and one that has, unusually, lasted almost a fortnight. Suffice it to say that I have still been listening to and thinking about a great deal of music in the meantime. In part I have been seeking out new music, while also thinking about bands that I would like to see at this summer's festivals...
I intend to try and pick up the dropped stitches with a selection of music that I have had on-rotation during this time.  It comes with a warning: this is not uplifting music except that, just possibly it is comforting for its sense of hopelessness at the state of things albeit often in an abstract sense.  That things have changed has been deftly short-circuited by the recent Grammy and Brit Awards - both in the nominations and indeed the winners.
The relationship between Music and Politics took a turn for the better and it started to change in the Bush/Blair era but, I wish to contest, now the major labels are on the defensive the tide is going to be hard to change in the Cameron/Obama one.
The rise of music, largely without the political shackles that the major labels imposed, is likely to actually be one aspect of 'The Big Society' that Cameron can rely on getting in the real world. Punk was a total break.  It laid the foundation for an intelligent blue-print on which to call and promote; as happened, and with great success: that is grunge!
Tony Blair was "friends" with Oasis, in the so-called 'Cool Britannia' phase, and he also played guitar. It happened but was actually a poor publicity stunt. 
It is hard to imagine the possible invitees (except for TV talent show cast-offs) to such a soirée at 10 Downing Street, were one to happen in this new age of austerity; less likely still those, except the desperate, that might accept the invitation.
That is not to say that Britain does not have a wealth of talented musical artists, and ones increasingly good at taking their talent to export markets, for it does. Just now, however, is a time when they simply don't need that particular patronage.
This artist should be top of the list of "the uninvited". It is the eighth studio album from one who is never shy to pull punches when it comes to politics, subject or timing and therefore was only released on the Monday just gone.

Can one album cause a Government to fall? Well - and at least this is true - it has not happened yet.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Rock Legend Is Gone - Gary Moore

This came without warning.  There was nothing to suggest that Moore, one of the most prolific and versatile guitarists of his generation, was about to call it a day, let alone in this way, at the age of 58.  He was not famed for the excesses of his lifestyle, more his prodigious output on a wide range of musical fronts, including broadcasting. It included,  inter alia, three separate spells with Thin Lizzy, the last of which saw him record their ninth studio album, and their most successful in the UK chart, 'Black Rose - A Rock Legend'.  In addition, and aside from many other collaborations, he has released the better part of twenty solo albums and had a busy 2011 already planned...

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Some Things Change - Old Is The New 'New'

Some things annoy me and it has been a week of many of them.  I'll spare you all those that are not in the least music related (the much larger part of the total) and stick to the subject, more or less, of this blog.

I'm not the revolutionary type, nor do I condone cruelty to animals, but Paul Gambaccini has recently got me to the point where, were he to appear as a rabbit in the headlights, the choice between 'swerve and avoid' or 'quick, kind, road kill' might be a snap decision.
I know the statistic that he used; that only three of the top 100 selling UK singles/songs (interchangeable in these days of downloading) in 2010 were 'rock' and I'm not going to dispute it for were it one or five it would make little difference.  What is indefensible, based on this statistic, is that 'rock music' as a genre is dead. Forever.
It is a patently idiotic statement and if anyone should know that these things go in cycles he - the so-called 'Professor of Pop' - is one of those who does.  If you want an illustration of  how time changes things in music then here it is:

Imagine you are in February 2001 but [thanks to time travel] you have a copy of 'Sigh No More' and play it to a group of friends: once they stop falling about laughing and regain some self-composure you place the killer punch: Mumford & Sons are Grammy nominated for it.  You wouldn't have even got your credibility back by now were that not true.
Rock similarly, particularly the heavier end thereof, was never at the mass end of the singles chart. There were exceptions of course, some quite remarkable ones indeed, but rock is more a market for folks who buy albums - and that can be independent of format.
Sometimes it is hard to 'Hold The Line' - and yes I do reference the song by Toto, their début single (1978) - but sometimes that is important too.  I'm not stuck in the days of 70s-90s rock, that is hopefully obvious from this blog, but neither am I going to subscribe to the opinion that rock is dead, or even moribund, any time soon.

There are plenty of fine new guitar bands out there, more than I even suspect, and no shortage of new rock music - in whatever sub-genre you like - all you need to do is find it. It is easier than ever - legally so with care - and that is what the internet is for.  Find it before it is on the radio, or at least those parts of it that most folks listen to.
This, in that it is all dejá vu, prompts me to post an article from 'The Fly' for the first time since my second blog post!

For that original air of 2006 blog authenticity I made sure that it is too small to read comfortably.  You can of course click to enlarge!
Then again, with the benefit of experience and hindsight, I posted it at a sensible  size. Now what vinyl shall I listen to next and from which century?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Argyria is the condition that results from chronic exposure to, and thus poisoning by, silver or its salts; the obvious symptom is a strange but characteristic bluish-grey pallor of the skin and in its severest form, while rarely fatal, it can lead to more disturbing psychological manifestations. It may merely reveal underlying ones, one of which is synæsthesia (synesthesia).
All-in-all that is hardly a likely topic for a song.  Except, that is, when Esben & The Witch are involved...

These strange metallic voices
Gleaming white and breeding light
Delve under your brow
Delve under my brow
Folding, unfolding
They whisper colours
Watch the rainbows flood
Dancing, we're dancing
Pebbles flirting with our toes
Listen to our heartbeats grow
Marble rivers whirl
Minerals swim like fishes
A glorious school of glittering
Innocent eyes, these innocent eyes
These strange metallic voices.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I'm On My Own Side Now

The title is taken from one of the best songs on one of my favourite albums of last year by one of the most impressive new live artists I saw.  This version of the lyric is a close as I can get to that which she performed at EOTR 2010 (twice, on different days and on different stages). It is almost identical to the version on the album 'Own Side Now' though the live instrumentation was somewhat different.

Own Side
I'm goin' out on the town
Said I'm tired of chasin' you down
And it's not my right
To always push you around
I'm on my own side now

Who's gonna take me home?
Cause I don't wanna go it alone
Who's gonna want me when I'm just somewhere you've been
Who's gonna want me now?
And who's gonna take me home?

I'm gonna find me true love
Said I'm through asking you if you knew, love
How much it meant to me?
How it was meant to be?
And how it all feels empty?

Who's gonna take me home?
Cause I don't wanna go it alone
Who's gonna want me when I'm just somewhere you've been?
Who's gonna want me now?
And who's gonna take me home?

Who? [repeat x4]
And who's gonna take me home?
Cause I don't wanna go it alone
Who's gonna want me when I'm just somewhere you've been?
Who's gonna want me now?

Who's gonna take me home?
Cause I don't wanna go it alone
Who's gonna want me when I'm just somewhere you've been?
Who's gonna want me now?
And who's gonna take me home?

I'm goin' out on the  town
Said I'm tired of chasin' you down
And it's not my right
To always push you around
I'm on my own side now.

Own side now.

What I particularly like about it, and many of her other songs too, is its ambidextrous balance of emotion - it is outwardly-assertive indignation and gnawing self-doubt rolled together.  It is far from the only example in her song-writing canon - Learning To Ride, the first song on this, her début album proper, is another.  But then, listening back to the 10" vinyl mini album 'Dead Flowers' that is similar, for all its cover versions also themed likewise, and includes the splendid self-penned - and her live audience-sing-a-long anthem of the summer gone - Answer In One Of These Bottles.  I'll add the lyric for both as soon as I can.
This latter song also has an interesting parallel in a track by another of my favourite artists out of Nashville - Amy LaVere.  I believe that she has been busy writing and recording new material with her band for a forthcoming third LP...  The song to which I am referring, however, is from her 2007 (2008 in the UK in effect) album 'Anchors and Anvils' and is the track Pointless Drinking, credited to Paul Taylor.  That is verging in to New Music 2011 territory, but why not?

As a sting in the tail, I'm now well and truly cross with myself to have not managed to see 'She Keeps Bees' at EOTR 2009. I have read so many good things about the Brooklyn duo lately...  and they are readying their new album too.

Note added March 8, 2011:
Caitlin Rose is now confirmed to appear at EOTR 2011.

Note added February 3, 2011:
[If you are currently at The Scala, 275 Pentonville Road, London, where 'She Keeps Bees' is supporting Smoke Fairies this evening then you can buy it pre-release.

More Caitlin Rose posts:
Docket - Caitlin Rose - lyric
Live at End of The Road 2010
Answer In One Of These Bottles - Caitlin Rose - lyric
Shotgun Wedding - Caitlin Rose - lyric

Pointless Drinking - Amy LaVere - lyric