Thursday, May 28, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 43 - The Great Western Tears EP

This is something that I have been meaning to mention for some time and a merry band that you might well be aware of in various disguises. The Great Western Tears is a five-piece from middle-England that just can't resist middle-America except to the extent of not being there at least for now.
Their introductory EP is self-titled and uses the term 'ameripolitan' to describe at least some of their sound; it is a new term to me but I can clearly see where it is coming from. The link above explains much of the thinking that leads to this.

It has four tracks and, possibly, the immediate attention-grabber is 'The Late Great Man In Black'. There is no need to explain what that is about...

That the band has both male and female vocalists and pedal-steel guitar soothes things no end. They even spoil us with a track-by-track explanation of just how things came to be - it is here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 42 - Beth Porter & The Availables - Open Doors

After a run of posts in the 'New Music 2015' series that has concerned musicians on other continents it is time to come much closer to home.
You might have heard Beth Porter playing cello on the works of a number of artists that I have mentioned before but 'Open Doors' is an LP (and d/l but no CD) in which she takes charge of lead duties, including song writing, with the backing of her band The Availables that as the name suggests varies in both number and members according to those that are 'available' for any given event. It also explains why it has been several years in the making.

Indeed I mentioned that here after they played Frome's Cheese & Grain towards the end of last year when she mentioned that 'Open Doors' was forthcoming. 
Here she is then.

It is string based and acoustic. Here is the track list for it:
  • Jack
  • Time
  • Open Doors
  • These Days
  • Willow
  • Pylons
  • Floorboards
  • Salty Water
  • Baby Are You Up
  • Friends
  • 30 Years
  • Italy
Beth Porter and The Availables, if there are any, play Frome again very soon.

Here they are playing 'Salty Water' at the Bath Folk Festival in 2012. It returns from 8 - 16 August 2015.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 41 - Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think...

The title 'Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit.' refers, of course, to the great divider that the Eurovision Song Contest has become as it celebrates its 60th!
The archetypal dysfunctional 'family' is joined by Australia this year and I for one welcome that wholeheartedly. I can't imagine how anything but good can come of it. Think what the headlines would be if Guy Sebastian were to win with 'Tonight Again'?

Australia is "not allowed" to host the competition so where would it be held? I'd nominate Ireland, to be quite honest and not just because there is no danger of them winning it themselves in 2015 as they failed to make the final.

The foregoing is an unlikely scenario and whatever happens when Eurovision 2015 is gone and forgotten this next Australian, starting to take the UK by storm with an album that is as difficult to describe as it is clever and that extends to its duplicitous title - 'Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit.' - is extremely unlikely to suffer the same fâte.
What is more, her take on events chimes rather nicely with the way many of us in the UK view Eurovision and many other things.

There is a constituency that she is just born to inherit - those that like deliberately obtuse songs full of internal questioning and clever wordiness. I could listen to this LP over and over again and not get bored but, equally, I just know that it will have rabid haters for exactly the same reasons that make me a fan. It is like Marmite or more appropriately, and it appears in the lyric to one song, the antipodean equivalent Vegemite. Be that as it may I'm happy as she is playing Green Man Festival 2015. It has some references that I could mention, at least for me, but I don't think that I need to mention them. 
Astonishingly this is Courtney Barnett's début album but I recommend that you also listen to 'A Sea of Split Peas' (2013), which is a compilation of songs from her EPs.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 40 - mid-west or north-west?

The first of this pair I mentioned here back in February. The strangest thing is that although released in the North American market on May 26 it is already available in the UK. WTF?
It is fair to say that this brings no Damascene conversion from her previous records. That would, I proffer, be rather like expecting Dylan to go disco. The rather more shocking thing is that I have yet to see Eilen Jewell play live. I have only listened to it a couple times so far but there's nothing not to like. I'm quite certain that, as I listen to it more often and more carefully, I'll find much more in it and not least because that has been the case with all the earlier releases. Why albums such as her solo début Boundary County (2006), which includes one of the finest modern protest songs in my opinion, remains so little known beggars belief.
OK. Perhaps I should get off my high-horse and chill out. This is pretty much how I would plan on doing that and this is another band that I have never seen live. Having relocated long ago from the mid-west to the ocean-side of Seattle Seapony releases a third LP. I guess it is as much a case of whether wide sky or wide sea does it for you.

'A Vision' is released on 31 July 2015.  Music for warm summer days and sea breezes.

Not only that: Seapony is now a four-piece and, with real percussion from Aaron Voros in place of their former vintage drum-machine, it marks a major step-change. Jen Weidl, Danny Brewer and Ian Rowland continue in their previous rôles but there is a new versatility.
Previous albums 'Go With Me' and 'Falling' were released by Hardly Art.
'A Vision' is self-released and more information. including ordering and formats are vinyl, CD and d/l, may be found here. This is the track list.
  1. Saw The Light
  2. Bad Dream
  3. Couldn’t Be
  4. Everyday All Alone
  5. Hollow Moon
  6. Let Go
  7. A Place We Can Go
  8. Go Nowhere
  9. In Heaven
  10. New Circle
  11. A Vision

I have never seen Seapony live either. Lots more things to do!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 39 - Kansas City blues...

There is no particular rhyme or reason to this. It is just the result of my innate curiosity, I suppose. My last post was about a modern blues artist from Kansas City, Missouri - Samantha Fish, and she releases her third LP soon and I am well aware of the previous ones.
The result was that this evening I found two more that I deem worthy of listening and I think that neither are much known in the UK.

The first is power trio Katy Guillen and the Girls. The connection here is that they supported Samantha Fish in KC just the other day, as she previewed new album 'Wild Heart'. This is Katy and the Girls playing 'Grind' live at International Blues Challenge 2014 and the band's self-titled debut album, 'Katy Guillen and the Girls' (2014) is already released.

Katy Guillen & the Girls - Grind live at IBC 2014 from McKinney Makes Media on Vimeo.

My personal thought is that this next is even better and yet almost certainly less well known. It is 'Down In The Dirt' (2015) - Amanda Fish Band and the two Fishes are not related, in as far as I can tell.
This is slower, more soulful and measured, than the aforementioned LP. I could listen to it on repeat (well actually I already have).
It is rare that an album, let alone an artist, that I have only just discovered provokes that kind of response. 
I must turn it off and go to bed instead.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The King is dead. Long live the King.

When BB King was born into a life of poverty 'blues' was a curiosity, if even that, unnoticed by the classes that "understood" music. It was simply something black people did to amuse themselves and their kind. There was no mass market for it and therefore no money to be made.

That little of Robert Johnson's early playing, in relative terms, survives is testament to that. BB King came to prominence at the cusp of the change in Civil Rights and regardless of race or colour to a market that few might have imagined. He didn't stop there - until last October he was touring with relentless fervour. Goodness knows how many he inspired along the way, from Clapton et al to many far more recent recruits - it was, I'm thinking, his lifelong mission.
When it came to young women playing blues - well I guess that is something that he would've approved wholeheartedly too.

Without him this would in all probability never have happened at all.
'Wild Heart' is released by Ruf Records on 29 June.

I should perhaps mention that she is playing Southampton Blues Festival (a single-day indoor event) on 27 June 2015 at Southampton Engine Rooms

Saturday, May 16, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 38 - Joanna Gruesome - Peanut Butter

More new music from Wales but that is just about where the comparisons with my last post end.
This music is not sung in Welsh and the nearest it gets to a harp is that the band's name is a parody of that of Californian alt-folk harpist Joanna Newsome; indeed one of the latter artist's songs could easily be as long as the whole ten-track LP 'Peanut Butter'.  Only one track on it reaches the three-minute mark.

The party-line, almost certainly an urban myth, is that the five-piece met as students in Cardiff at an anger-management meetingIts truthfulness doesn't matter  - it something you want to believe and the music lends credence.
It also shows the remarkable diversity in music coming from Wales - and Joanna Gruesome won the 2014 Welsh Music Prize on the basis of début LP 'Twisted Sister'.
The most obvious comparison here, as it is also Cardiff based, is Los Campesinos. I would like to remind you of this, which I mentioned here way back in 2007. I believe that Laura Bryon is still active in the music of South Wales.

It also puts me much in mind of the C86 ethic adopted-and-adapted, from about 2004, by the late, lamented south-coast based Help She Can't Swim. They both share a tendency to music in short-message format - it may not be original, but hell it is fun.
This is the playlist for 'Peanut Butter':

  1. Last Year 2:52
  2. Jamie (Luvver) 1:41
  3. Honestly Do Yr Worst 1:51
  4. There Is No Function Stacy 1:58
  5. Crayon 3:10
  6. I Don't Wanna Relax 2:15
  7. Jerome (Liar) 1:39
  8. Separate Bedrooms 1:59
  9. Psykick Espionage     2:08
  10. Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend   2:01
It is already released on LP, CD and d/l on Fortuna POP! (UK), Slumberland (N. America).

Some bands take years agonising over a sprawling second LP. It has taken barely a year for this 22 minutes of condensed madness to arrive.
 'Last Year' is the introductory, and the second longest, track on the album.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 37 - Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf

In the recent times of political and even cultural uncertainty in the UK this album just became an obvious choice for what, to me at least, is a difficult post to write. One thing I pride myself on is a willingness to tackle cross-genre music including that in other languages and this is certainly no exception.
I did a quick survey of my collection yesterday evening and just now: most of my music is unsurprisingly in English. Spanish language albums are in third place. In between those and by some margin...

Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf was released, in a very limited edition, by Peski Records late last year.

It gets a very much deserved full release - vinyl, CD & d/l - by Heavenly Records on 24 July 2015.

Although - aside from a single track (sung in Cornish) - it is all sung in Welsh that is not to say that, lovely though that might be, it is full of plaintive harp and lilting tradition. The title comes from Owain Owain's 1976 novel that depicts an overbearing dystopia controlled by distant, often malign, robots.
Musically it is gently electronic kraut-pop, or at least that's the best description I can muster at this moment. This is the track-list:

  1. Chwyldro 5:18 
  2. Patriarchaeth 3:29
  3. Calon Peiriant 5:08
  4. Sisial Y Môr 5:41
  5. Dawns Y Blaned Dirion 1:30
  6. Golau Arall 3:31
  7. Stwff 4:59
  8. Y Dydd Olaf 4:15
  9. Amser 4:45
It is a political concept album. It won't appeal to all, I fully understand that, but it is a curiously soothing kind of revolution even if you don't actually understand a word of it.
This is the opening track 'Chwyldro' ('revolution', but also 'rotation' and 'orbit' - generally, that which goes around).

GWENNO - Chwyldro (2014) from Peski TV on Vimeo.

As we often share a similar taste in music, and there's nothing wrong with that at all, I'd be very interested to see what De krenten uit de pop makes of this LP and not least because music in a language other than their own is their normal diet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 36 - Slow Down Molasses - Burnt Black Cars

'Burnt Black Cars' - by one of the best bands that I have ever seen live at a festival and without any prior knowledge of it - is simply a warning that Canada is well and truly on my mind again! Here it is playing the Tipi stage at End Of The Road Festival 2011.

That band was Slow Down Molasses, from Saskatoon, SK.

The new LP, 'Burnt Black Cars', was released today.
That it was produced by Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes) and the title might tell you something about how you should expect it to sound. You should not be disappointed unless that is you expect it to sound quite like the previous works of either band. I think that I need to write nothing more about this.

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions - Tom Clements and Annabelle Chvostek

Sunday just gone was the last Marnhull Acoustic Session before the summer recess for festivals and suchlike. The opening artist was Tom Clements and he could hardly be more local to the venue.  The use of live self-sampling is amazing to watch as are the sounds that he can make with that guitar. You won't need telling that one of his influences is Mark Knopfler but this is more than imitation, or indeed flattery.

His LP 'Roots, Morals and Other Life Choices' is released on 15 May.

Not so many have come to Marnhull from as far away as Annabelle Chvostek: as she put it, while the consonants in her surname give away her Slovak roots, she is in fact third-generation Canadian.  Some may know her through her stint with Canadian trio The Wailin' Jennys, which she left in 2007, but there is a whole lot more territory that she covers. At times her mandolin playing is replete with eastern European influences but, when it comes to her forthcoming LP 'Be The Media' it isn't the star of the show and neither is her acoustic guitar. In this sense it was one of the least acoustic sets I have seen at Marnhull, but no matter.
Her "new toy" is new to her but not actually new at all. To quote:
"A 1969 Fender Mustang, with a racing stripe and matching machine head."

'Be The Media' is a fine album too and is officially released in July (well, probably it is).

There is a certain, somewhat retro, groove to it as I suggest that the cover artwork implies. It is that good.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 35 - Jess Vincent & Devonport's Column Acoustic

This is something of a hybrid post shared between headline artist Jess Vincent, venue Devonport Guildhall and a new acoustic session Column Acoustic. All this became known to me simply because I picked up a flyer a couple of weeks back. Here it is.

I am, most unfortunately, unable to attend for reasons of prior engagement. It bothers me most because I know little about the three support acts and have never seen any of them live. What you do get is four acts playing a stunning Grade 1 listed venue, that also has a café and bar, for £4 entry (adult). I intend to come and see Column Acoustic for myself at the earliest available opportunity. Why wouldn't you, if you have any interest in music? 
I have seen Jess Vincent live, she supported Ward Thomas here in Frome on the opening date of their first headline tour in August 2014. Here is what I had to say about that and just for a good measure a picture of her playing then.
Her 2013 LP 'Seesaw Dreams' is more than accomplished and Reg Meuross is a major collaborator here.

I think that a new Jess Vincent album is soon to be released. Without any doubt there will be new songs to listen to.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Thoughts on music - is this really true?

This isn't a rant but the premise is something that made me think.
It doesn't annoy me in the slightest but made me consider how I now perceive music the way I do. And why that might be so.
This post on The Line of Best Fit got me started because it doesn't fit my experience at all. I will soon turn turn fifty and yet now I listen to not only more music but a wider variety of music, both new and old, than I ever did  - as a teenager or any time in between - and I estimate by an order of magnitude, so statistically significant. In part that is because I can but that does not mean that that I would do so if I did not wish to do so. Indeed I am rather proactive about finding new music rather than simply waiting for it to be served up to me by the industry and established media. Again this is something I rarely if ever attempted back when I was younger. Is this largely peer group pressure and the fact that as we get older, and in general terms more self-assured, it influences us less?

Let's look more closely at what the primary research implies. I will start with this graph:

On the face of it the indication is that I am just an exception to the rule. Another is that I  and many others are listening to "cool" (contemporary) music but also a whole lot more other "uncool" music as well?  This chart does not tell us that, and conveniently stops at age 48. I assume that means that I am regarded as a "dead" listener now.
Strange then that I am writing this. The rest of the survey is interesting not least because it seems to indicate that females' taste in music ages much less quickly than that of males. Interesting though it is I suggest that it might be influenced by factors that are not the headlines - the data is based on US Spotify streaming. What if females are more inclined to use Spotify more often than males, and possibly at different ages, as just one example?
There could well be very legitimate reasons for that to be true; this study tells us absolutely nothing about them.

The certainty is that a lot of money depends on divining the real trends in music consumption and the demographics of it. Importantly, and this must be true given long-standing trends, that it will vary dramatically from country to country, which is something else that the above survey, quite transparently, makes no attempt to address.

Monday, May 04, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 34 - Elise Yuill - A Thousand Angels' Tears

I may have been quiet for the last week or so and this might seem a low key return to the posts 'New Music 2015'. In fact I have been listening to more than you might imagine. Elise Yuill from Somerset but now mainly based in Plymouth, Devon has been on my watch list for some time. That she is now confirmed to play Frome Festival 2015 is more than a reason to write something.

It is somewhat tricky to track down in any physical format.
You can stream it below, if I get this right. Then buy it here.