Sunday, 26 September 2010

A great week for music

It's a pretty damn exciting time for music at the moment - a lovely mix of finding brilliant albums I never knew existed and anticipating exciting new releases from artists I already love. This week see's the release of the new album from the massively under-rated KT Tunstall. KT will always be dear to me for forming a part of the soundtrack to my road trip across South Africa a few years back. Like many people my first glimpse of KT came with her performance on Jools Holland which absolutely blew me away. 

Another new release I'm excited about is Jimmy Eat World returning with Invented. At the risk of repeating myself they are a hugely underrated band who are capable of both truly beautiful fragile and visceral, energetic music. Chase this Light was gloriously pop and I secretly hope for more of the same although it would be nice to get a Hear You Me or Drugs or Me on this album as there wasn't anything comparable on the last record. To get in the mood here is a great video of them performing in the studio from the Bleed American sessions and just for sheer nostalgic joy Salt Sweat Sugar on Letterman:

This was also the week that I embarrassingly only just found out that the finest voice in music Ray LaMontagne had released a new album last month with a backing band called The Pariah Dogs. I actually only found out thanks to the single 'Repo Man' being played on the brilliant Minnesota radio station The Current that I have been listening too a lot online. 'God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise' will probably receive the full blog treatment before long so I won't say much except that I am far from disappointed. I've added a live performance below of Repo Man and the sumptuous Can I Stay? which had the honour of being second dance at my wedding. I'm sure Ray views that as his greatest achievement!

I've also had the pleasure of discovering a couple of artists I wasn't familiar with; Clem Snide and Matt Costa. All credit has to go for the peerless Heather Browne at fuel friends blog who continues to enrich my musical palette with every post. Costa has a new album out this year 'Mobile Chateau' which is a soulful, sixties tinged album which showcases his impressive knack of matching catchy hooks with inciteful lyrics. Mobile Chateau is his first venture into self-production and importantly features a drummer called Corey Gash which is to be applauded. Similarly Clem Snide had not previously entered into my consciousness despite a large back catalogue. It is one of life's great pleasures to find an artist you enjoy only to discover they have hours of material to enjoy. The band's seventh studio album 'The Meat of Life' is a great slice of alt-country which I heartily recommend. Enjoy the videos below (the Clem Snide track needs forwarding to 1m 35s).

All that leaves is for three quick observations and an excuse for a couple more videos. I drove back from the in-laws on Sunday and listened to Whatever, and ever, amen for the first time in a while and I think it deserves to be considered one of the finest albums of all time. Ben Folds is a genius. Secondly on my cycle in the Autumn sunshine yesterday I listened to Reservoir by Fanfarlo again and can't believe they aren't absolutely huge. Fans of Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons and The National really should check them out if they haven't already as they deserve a bigger following. Finally in a seamless link I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful friend who picked me up a ticket to go an see The National in Brixton on November 29th. I will make it my first live review blog and am really rather excited.

Enjoy your week everyone (well all five or six of you!)

ps - If you have enjoyed this or have some constructive advice it would be most kind of you to leave a comment. x

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sounds like a Tim Burton movie...

A slightly unsettling love of Laura Marling led to me deciding to have listen to these chaps - mainly due to the excellent name. The only other thing of interest I have discovered about them is the lead singer and writer is good friends with Robert Pattinson.

Been Listening by Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit 

So it seems folk is cool now. Well bloody good stuff as despite having plenty of cringe worthy moments as a genre it has give us some glorious, magical music whether it be Nick Drake, Joan Baez or more recent gems like Rachel Unthank and The Winterset. That's without mentioning the obvious (initials: BD, answers to Zimmerman). So I was intrigued to listen to this album and see if Flynn is next in line to follow the success of Marling and Mumford & Sons. In all honesty, I don't think they will. The opening track Kentucky Pill sets things off to a flyer and had this quality been maintained I would be absolutely raving about 'Been Listening' but unfortunately such heights are only briefly rivalled on a couple of other occasions on this album. A little too much brass and some frankly irritating percussion too often overshadows the talents of a sparkling lyricist. Flynn is capable of composing charming phrases which unmask a predilection for Shakespearean prose - I'm thinking in particular of 'prickled interest seizing pride' from the charming, wistful 'Been Listening'. This flair for language is also effectively employed on the album stand-out 'Barnacled Warship' telling the story of an eager recruits transition to disaffected military campaigner. This track in particular made me think of the wonderful Decemberists album 'Picaresque' which is high praise indeed. Perhaps an unexpected negative is the duet with Laura Marling on 'The Water.' Perhaps my love of Marling is impeding my ability to fairly judge Flynn but I couldn't help but feel this track would be better without him. His voice simply doesn't compliment hers and there is no sense of harmonic synergy. The bluesy 'Howl' which follows is far better and transports the listener to a smoky bar.Flynn closes the album with two  ballads;  the beautiful Amazon Love, which features Lillie Flynn (presumably a relative) from Noah and the Whale, is a far more successful duet as the vocals are much more in harmony to create a track of pure velvet. Album closer 'The prizefighter and the heiress' has ambitions to be an epic but despite being a pleasant listens falls short of the grand statement it hoped to be.

I feel like Flynn is capable of great things and would perhaps be better served following a separate musical path from his band who consistently seem at odds with the talented writer. This is an enjoyable album but feels overall like an opportunity missed.

Definitely one to watch but far from the finished article yet. As a caveat I suspect this could be a grower and I could well scold my middling initial rating. I'll keep you posted (if you excuse the pun).

Six out of Ten.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Awful name, decent band

Just a short little blog - it's been a tough week back at the schoolhouse and I'm cream crackered. I thought I'd share a little review of the recent album from Philadelphia indie band Dr. Dog. Here goes...

Dr. Dog - Shame, shame
 I heard about this band through passing comments on a couple of blogs and after listening to a few tracks from their back catalogue thought I'd give their latest offering the blog treatment. Dr. Dog are a band who haven't really made a significant mark in the music world. They have been a group who are easy to like but seem to lack that special spark which makes you love them. In fact in recent years they have received criticism for sounding increasingly polished and having diminishing soul. This is a hugely difficult slide to arrest - if you are happy and content what is there to write about without sounding offensively smug? On this latest effort they have made a conscious effort to amp up the emotional content and reaffirm that connection. So do they succeed? Perhaps surprisingly they do. Lyrically there is a new freshness and a darker tone pervades the album creating a markedly different feel from the quirky, breeziness of previous offering Fate. For a borderline psychedelic indie times at this on this record they plunge deep into country territory which fuels the personal story telling approach. 'Station' is a glorious ode to touting which whilst lamenting the repetition recognises the comfortable security of consistent affirmation of your art. 'Jackie wants a black eye' could easily be a Bright Eyes album track were it not for the absence of the trademark Oberst cracked delivery. Vocally this is a really interesting sound, harmonies often drive the melody of the music not unlike Crosby, Stills, etc. Dr. Dog operate the duel vocalist approach to good effect - though lacking the bite and frission of Gomez for example. The 60s pop-rock comparisons are less relevant on this album though it would be incorrect to claim a dramatic new direction has been taken. One issue I do take with the album is the odd insistence on fading tracks out abruptly and clumsily. This could perhaps be a product of the uneven nature of the album - a handful of tracks had been written and set aside over the years - and it doesn't quite work together as a cohesive piece. Ordinarily this wouldn't be of great concern, but it is when a band is looking to stimulate an emotional connection with the listener. I couldn't help but feeling that Leaman and McMicken set out with the intention of creating a Richmond Fontaine record yet couldn't bring themselves to entirely leave the old habits aside. The result is an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable album.

Five out of Ten

(Skip to 4:05 for the performance)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Obeying the General's command

Allow me please to take a detour into some previously unchartered territory today. This blog is primarily a music blog but I have recently done a bit of moonlighting in other areas. I was asked to do a guest blog by Peter Turner for his magnificent blog It's been a long time General. Click the hyperlink to find mine and some other guest movie reviews as well as Pete's impressive back catalogue. This is to celebrate the blog reaching 50 posts and if you haven't already take some time to pour yourself a brew and read through his previous reviews. They really are of the highest quality and I know Pete (like me) really appreciates feedback. If by chance you read his or my blog anonymously please sign up to blogger to follow and hopefully offer your thoughts. I am also a passionate fan of Manchester United and the wonderful people at ManUtd24 have included my thoughts on the great Eric Cantona as part of their latest feature. Follow the hyperlink to the site and enjoy.

*Massive side note; Love, love, love by The Mountain Goats came on BBC 6music during this blog and I had completely forgotten how utterly charming it is. I think it could well be their finest hour. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Covered in sunshine

Okay some weird phenonmena known as sunshine has appeared (albeit briefly) today so I'm not going to stay indoors typing away. Instead have a few videos of entertaining covers to put a smile on your faces: