Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2011 in Music - Albums - Part 1

No real change in presentation here from last year; two lists of albums strictly in order alphabetical by artist. The difference is that this year I'm going to publish the lists first and, only when you have had a week to consider (and comment - see below), shall I add the links and my thoughts on why they are included and, perhaps, others are not.
In no way is this intended to be a balanced list, far from it in fact: It is quite utterly biased to what has caught my attention in a lasting way in 2011.

  • Adele - 21
  • Amy LaVere - Stranger Me
  • Austra - Feel It Break
  • Bella Hardy - Songs Lost and Stolen
  • Emily Barker - Almanac
  • Esben and The Witch - Violet Cries
  • Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tell Me
  • Lanterns On The Lake - Gracious Tide, Take Me Home
  • Seapony - Go With Me
  • Thea Gilmore - John Wesley Harding
  • Widowspeak - Widowspeak
  • Yuck - Yuck
Please feel free to add comments, queries, suggestions or questions. It is what this is all about, whether negative, positive or simply mystified!  All comments are moderated (by me alone, so you know that I read them) and while I prefer it that you can put your real identity to your piece, because you should believe in what you are saying and be prepared to stand up and be counted, I will sometimes sanction the publishing of "anonymous" comments. Comments that are defamatory, offensive or simply irrelevant in content or context will not be published regardless of source.
I'll attempt to answer valid questions and comments either in comments of my own in reply or in a more general 'round-up' post.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Acoustic+ - November acts 1,2 & 4

This starts where the previous post left off. In some ways this is the less acoustic side of Acoustic+, but in several different ways that is rather telling.

The first to perform was Alex Veale who performed some tracks solo and some accompanied, but all acoustic.
His other musical outlet is an all-electric rock outfit...  and this is in fact an acoustic cover of a Metallica song. That is no surprise really and certainly nothing new: Lucie Silvas covered 'Nothing Else Matters' as a piano ballad on her 2004 album Breathe In. Done well, and this was, it can work even if the die hard fans might say otherwise. 
Next up was Bristol/Bath based four-piece Furlined. They were not entirely acoustic, as electric bass was involved. No matter though: so is one of the acoustic instruments much in vogue at the moment - 'cello played by Tegan Thomas.
All songs are by Neil Crossley, also lead vocals and acoustic guitar. Engaging lyrics, a band so good and this was interspersed with intelligent patter; sometimes poignant, sometimes truly comedic retrospective.  I kid you not - this is what 1990's music could have been if it were done properly.
Of the four acts performing the only one that I had seen before was the last, and the youngest, Amplified Silence. To state the obvious, they are in the "+" category as they are not acoustic at all! I think I could have a good guess at some of their musical influences. I'm not going to do that - they don't need it. They perform as a five-piece outfit except for a couple of instrumental numbers...
...leaving their vocalist in the rôle of on-stage muse.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Daturas - Acoustic+

Frome's very own Acoustic+ is something of a regular on these pages now - and with good reason in a local scene that, as well as thriving, has many competitors. The most recent event was last Friday. Sometimes I cover the acts/artists in order of appearance but this time that has gone out of the window.  The Daturas were actually the third of four acts to play and, although they were very good, I've chosen to mention them first for this reason alone... 

Earlier this year, when commenting on unusual instruments that had appeared at Acoustic+, I mentioned that it would make my day if pedal steel guitar were one of them. I first became acquainted with it in the live environment at festivals a couple of years ago and thought it as remarkable as the sound is distinctive. The stranger thing is that, despite the above comment, it is a sound that with judicious consideration can fit well with many genres of music (in that sense perhaps like saxophone) in which it is non-traditional. To be honest I'd have liked the sound of The Daturas even without said instrument - they have presence, something that actually applied in its own way to all four acts - and songs to pull it off.
Not to mention a distinctive and charismatic front man.
The next thing, you might reasonably wonder, is how the other three acts measured up in comparison. 

Dead season? Songs don't write themselves...

Some things have disinclined me to blog for a couple of weeks. They are mainly music related but that is not a reflection on the music. It is indeed rather the opposite and while the major train (I shall comment specifically on EMI later) heads for the comforting buffers of compilations and bankers in an attempt to shunt sales into a slightly better place in the run up to Christmas, sometimes saying nothing is a sign in itself.
We know that the current economic climate, even if steps are being taken to address that, is entirely poisonous. Things are tough, no doubt about that in almost all sectors, but the UK music industry is still a net exporter - and this applies to the independent sector almost exclusively. There is much said about the decline of manufacturing - don't forget that music is in fact a manufacturing industry right from point of song writing...
When the up-turn comes, as sooner or later it will, there will be serious opportunities both creative and commercial and UK music will be in a good place to take advantage.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Live and Local - Archangel

You could spend Saturday afternoon driving to some impossibly distant 'branded retail experience'. On the other hand you could take advantage of that which is local. Call me old-fashioned if you like but I rather prefer walking for ten minutes to get where I want to be. That applies to the shops. This is a bonus - it is much cheaper and more satisfying than retail therapy too.  

Nicky Swann and Katie Marie @ Archangel, Frome - November 5, 2011.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Acoustic Moon 3 - Without words and in other tales

I shall continue with the performances of last Thursday evening, and not before time, with a trio of artists whose principal weapon is acoustic guitar. If you think that might be a recipe for tedious similarity then think again.

The first of those to play was Chris Woods and while he was very talkative between tracks they are all entirely instrumental. I must admit that I'm pretty tolerant of instrumental music but even if that were not the case it would have pushed me to think that way and, apparently, most others thought the same. It did however make me think about the way he was playing, and how to take photos of it. I never did quite succeed in doing the latter. No excuses on my part --- it was astonishing just to watch and wonder. In retrospect it is amazes me that I took any pictures at all. I've seen more than my fair share of live acts this year and this was right up there with the most remarkable.
When it came to it Cole Stacey, who has recently been touring the UK sometimes with and sometimes without Chris Woods, was certainly in competitive mood.  I should say that this was the closing date of that tour and a coup de grâce.
It was a contest of a kind...
Cole sings his own songs; he also picks judicious cover versions too. He then conjured Jennifer Clark, up from Devon, to sing on some songs and even got the audience singing too. There were only winners here.
This one was 'The Boxer'. There is however no animosity.
Together unplugged, at Acoustic Moon 3, with Chris Woods on banjo.
Top of the evening, and dealt a tough hand, was Mark Abis. Have no worries about this for he thrives on songs about that sort of thing...  and a new album is on the way soon.