Four years since their release the Coral return with ‘lost album’

 

 

The history of music is littered with ‘lost albums’. Some weren’t good enough to ever be released, a few were against what was going on at the time and were shelved in favour of something more ‘current’, others were snatched from us at the 11th hour (Neil Young I’m looking at you’re here) and some were so out there everyone involved went slightly insane (Brian Wilson knows what I’m talking here). The Coral’s The Curse of Love is in the second category. While the Coral had made their name making wonderful psychedelic indie pop, 2006 might not have been open to an album like this.

 

 

“But at least it’s out now, right?” I can hear you thinking. The short answer to this is yes, but also no. It is a great slab of slow psyched out folkie brilliance, but it is about 1,000,000 times better than Roots and Echoes, the album they actually released after the Invisible Invasion. Tracks like Wrapped in Blue show that they were still capable of writing gems. You Closed the Door is one of the best ballards they’ve ever wrote. However it is on Gently and the Watcher in the Distance that they channel their inner Pentangle, and create some of the albums most memorable moments.

 

 

This is the Coral at their psyched out best. It is a mixture of their first and second album. Fuzzy, wonky guitars, but played at a slower folkier pace. The only downside is that it took them eight years to release it. After hearing the Curse of Love you start to wonder what else they have hidden away in their vaults.

 

 

8/10

 

 

The Coral – The Watcher In The Distance

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Unlikely pairing yields Scott Walkers most enjoyable and listenable album in 19 years

 

 

In recent years Scott Walker’s musical output has been, well, harrowing at best. At times if feels that Walker is changeling his listeners to stick around until the album finishes. If/when you give up he is notified and chuckles while rubbing his hands laughing. This cannot be said for Soused. On this album Walker has released something that can be tangibly called ‘enjoyable’. A major factor of this new found enjoyment is down to his collaborators Sunn O))).

 

 

 

 

Sunn O))) are a three piece ambient metal group. Since their inception they have pushed the boundaries of what metal, experimental heavy rock and avant garde music can be. In a nutshell they play loud, slow, reparative and did I say loud? Their involvement on this album is a match made in heaven. What started off as a mutual love in, turned into something far more interesting and exciting. The juxtaposition of their hard, crunchy guitars and Walkers falsetto operative voice works perfectly and what’s more there are hooks that you can hum.

 

 

From the opening moment of Brando (Walkers opening vocals and a guitar riff that sounds a lot like Sweet Child of Mine), you get the impression that this is going to be something special. This gives way to the sound of a whip cracking and Sunn O)))’s trademark heavy, drawn out riffs. After that the album leads its own way through menacing soundscapes, riffs to die for and viseral lyrics for 48 minutes until the final track Lullaby (this isn’t something you’ll want to play to a baby to get them asleep) closes the album.

 

 

While this might not win Walker any new fans, it won’t alienate any existing ones. On Soused, Walker has created some of his most challenging, but listenable tracks in recent years. If you are dubious about an album of this type, heavy droney metal coupled with poetic lyrics (this is the album Lou Reed wanted to make with Metallica), don’t be, at times it’s light and playful, and extremely listenable! OK, this isn’t Scott 3, but it isn’t Tilt or Drift either.

 

 

9/10

 

 

Scott Walker – Bull

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Dorian Concept unveil sophomore album, it bridges the gap between original electronic pioneers and dance culture

 

 

Joined Ends, the second album by Austrian producer Oliver Johnson, is a journey through melody, rhythm and tone. Johnson takes as many cues from electronic pioneers and contemporary classical composures as he does from his dance peers.

 

 

The Sky Opposite starts off taking Philip Glass’s trademark sound, but updating it and layering it with luscious synths and vocals loops. As far as first songs go, it does its job. There is no build up, as soon as you press play, BAM, the song starts. It’s intricate patterns draws you in and before you know it, the song as finished. Ann River, Mn merges seamlessly and it’s more of the same, expect that the vocals are more pronounced.

 

 

As the album continues, it starts show its dance influences more and more. Mint is a five minute exercise in woozy synths, wonky beats and angular vocals. Daft Culture takes a simple riff, but through layering beats, bass and vocals, the resulting track is anything but simple. It’s these simple, but effective production techniques, not to mention exquisite compositions that makes this one of the stand out tracks.

 

 

Nest Nest however is where Johnson really lets rip. It shows off his expertise as a producer as well as a composer. His production touches are light, but effective in creating a specific mood and feeling. The strings flow around you with lyrical flourishes, but it’s the ether like synth and keyboard that holds the piece together.

 

 

Ultimately this is a good album and stronger than his debut, what lets it down however is that at times it’s more interesting to spot his influences, than to pay attention with what he is actually playing. Also when Johnson isn’t sure what to do with a track, or where to take it, he layers in vocals. While this adds texture, it can, after a while become grating.

 

 

7/10

 

 

Dorian Concept – Nest Nest

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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As sometimes happens on a Friday night when I stay in, I put on BBC4 and see what music documentaries they have on. Normally I find myself being drawn in by musicians I have no interested in, but am unable to stop watching the story of their lives. Last night, this happened again. The subject was Jeff Lynne. I know, Mr. Blue Sky himself. Over the years I have tried to ignore his music as much as possible. This was easier once I left home for uni, as my Dad used to play ELO a lot. And I mean A LOT! One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was giving him a copy of the Best of ELO (you know the one with the medal on the cover) on CD for his birthday. He had it on vinyl and cassette, but his new car had a CD player, so I thought he’d like it. It ruined so many journeys in the car.

 

 

So last night when I saw it was Jeff Lynne. Immediately I thought “Oh God no…”, but sadly after watching the curly permed Brummie for five minutes I was drawn in. Basically he’s a really nice guy. He knows he’s stuck it lucky with his career and that’s, in all fairness, quite refreshing to see. He wasn’t being a dick with his rock n roll stories. He was being very honest and charming. The only thing that annoyed me about the documentary was then they had shots of his house, you could see all his gold discs. At first I thought it was ostentatious, but then I thought, “Where else are you going to put them?” Why hide them in a cupboard? If you’ve proud of your achievements why not show off a bit?

 

 

Since I’ve woken up I’ve had this song in my head. It was possibly the first time I appreciated Lynne’s brilliance (cheers Paul Weller… ), and sadly it wasn’t until later that I realised that maybe my Dad was right about him all these years (don’t tell him I said that). If you get the chance check out the Eldorado album, as far as concept albums go it’s alright.

 

 

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Ghost Culture co-produces dreamy ambient pop masterpiece

 

 

 

 

Lucid is the debut song by Kelly Lee Owens. Short version. It’s brilliant. Long version it’s bloody brilliant. Even long version it’s really bloody brilliant! Songs like this don’t come along very often. It has a dream like quality to it, but the pulsating beat stops you drifting off. Lucid is an apt title, as the track feels like the definition of the word. The beats and bass are crisp, yet the synth and keys envelope you while the vocals keep you grounded. This is in part down to its co-producer Ghost Culture (we are long time admirers of his work at thisyearinmusic towers). You can hear his flourishes all over the track.

 

 

 

 

The last time Owens was heard, she was on Daniel Avery’s (instant classic) debut. On these three tracks she showed the versatility and adaptability of her voice. However on Lucid she is up front and the tone and quality of her voice come through. While it’s too early to start shouting her name from rooftops and calling her the crossover artists the current scene has been missing, she is definitely one to watch over the next few months if this is anything to go by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Glen Campbell signs off career with a Beatles-esque tear jerker

 

 

After a career lasting over 50 years, Glen Campbell is calling it a day. A major factor in his retirement has been his worsening Alzheimer’s syndrome, which he has had since 2011. On his final single I’m Not Going to Miss You, Campbell signs off with an exquisite track.

 

 

It starts off simply enough with a piano, vocal sounds and guitars, but it’s the lyrics that really drive home how debilitating this disease really is.

 

 

I’m still here, but yet I’m gone
I don’t play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you ’til the end
You’re the last person I will love
You’re the last face I will recall
And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you.
Not gonna miss you.

 

Croons Campbell. To call the lyrics heartfelt is an understatement. He is spilling his soul to us, while he still remembers who ‘us’ are. He knows that his time is short and wants to go out all guns blazing, like the (rhinestone) cowboy he is! Later in the song he sings

I’m never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You’re never gonna see it in my eyes
It’s not gonna hurt me when you cry
I’m never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains
I’m not gonna miss you
I’m not gonna miss you

 

 

To know that in a short period of time you won’t remember your family and friends is heartbreaking. To hear them in a song is groundbreaking. At times I’m Not Going to Miss You touches on the intensity and emotion as Johnny Cash’s swansong Hurt. The tone and quality of Campbell’s voice is not in question, which makes his departure from music even more sad and moving.

 

 

Ultimately this is an amazing piece of music, but deep down I wish it had never been written, as it means one of my favourite musician’s will no longer be around. Try not to well up while listening to this, I know I couldn’t.

 

 

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Noel Gallagher sets up second High Flying Bird’s album with comeback single

 

 

In the Heat of the Moment is the comeback track from Noel Gallagher. It picks up where his debut solo album (High Flying Bird’s) left off. The guitars are big and dumb, the chorus is catchy and the verses fill in the gaps. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from Noely G. If this is what the new album is going to sound like then its business as usual. Which is all fine, but, well, ultimately we feel let down.

 

 

This is the man who inspired a generation of kids to pick up guitars (for better or worse). He wrote songs that are engraved into the national psyche. He had a feud with the other great singer songwriter of his time, and they inspired each other to make great music, and for five minutes he made supporting Manchester City cool.

 

 

When Oasis broke up (for the last time) I promise and potential was there for him to do something different. He wasn’t shackled by his band mate’s abilities to match his vision. He could stop writing three minute pop songs and start to create the music he loved (psychedelic inspired space rock). In interviews before the release of the first High Flying Bird’s album he hinted that he had two albums in the pipeline. The first was a standard rock album and the second was a collaboration with the Amorphous Androgynous. While High Flying Bird’s album played it safe (a little too safe for some) we were promised something special to follow. Over the months (and years) since its release Gallagher has said that the Amorphous Androgynous album has been scrapped. Personally I think this is down to fear. Is it fear that the album wouldn’t live up to the hype, or that the music he made would push him too far away from the mainstream, or that it wasn’t very good? Sadly we’ll never know. Whether these songs will feature on new album Chasing Yesterday will remain to be seen. If In the Heat of the Moment is anything to go by the answer is now.

 

 

If Gallagher is going to continue to play it safe, it seems pointless that he won’t reform his old band, as the majority of his songs always sounded better coming out of someone else’s mouth (namely brother Liam). While In the Heat of the Moment isn’t the worst song I’ve heard, it isn’t the best, and nowhere near as good as his earlier work. So come on Noel, patch things up with Liam, even if it’s just for the money, as ultimately you both need each other to surpass where your current birds are flying.

 

 

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Bowie returns with surprise release, some people’s world implodes, others don’t

 

 

Right so the one thing the World needs right now it a new David Bowie track. In certain camps this is the biggest, most pressing thing going on. In others it’s just an old man releasing a long waffly faux-jazz number. I’m probably being harsh on the Thin White Duke, but this doesn’t move me in anyway. The first 30 seconds are interesting, vague skittering drum and bass beats against a wall of feedback and distressed bass, then it doesn’t do anything or go anywhere. When his vocals enter the mix it sounds like Bowie has been listening to a lot of Scott Walker. The difference between this and Scott Walker’s more recent work, is that Walker REALLY pushes the boundaries of what music can be. He looks inside himself and drags out dark and intense ideas and puts them to music. I’m not saying that it’s an easy, or pleasant, listen. It’s not, but you have to respect him for going his own way. This feels slightly pedestrian. “Look at me! Look at me! I’m an ARTIST” it screams “I don’t just write pop songs”.

 

 

My main problem with Sue (or in a Season of Crime), is that you can see the sum of its parts too clearly. A bit of Scott Walker, some Vivian Stanshall there, a sprinkle of the Residents, a drop of jazz, a smidge of drum ‘n bass and heavy dose of the avant garde. I’m not saying that I want Bowie to reinvent the wheel every time he has new release but something more polished wouldn’t be a bad idea. As Sue (or in a Season of Crime) is part of a new odds and sods/Greatest Hits album being released next month it makes sense that it’s a little experimental and rough around the edges.

 

 

While this is true, over the years Bowie has tried his hand at most genres, I would prefer something more fully formed, rather than something new to help flog a new best of compilation.

 

 

 

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Brighton singer songwriter unleashes opus on an unsuspecting world

 

 

King of Cats is a bit like Marmite. You’ll either love him or hate him. Personally I think he’s great. His music contains an honesty that others will strive a lifetime to achieve, not never reach. What you see and hear is what you get. I had the pleasure of seeing him a few days ago and it is a performance that will stay with me for a while.

 

 

What we got on that wet Friday night in Brighton was a man on a stage baring his soul. It was just him an electric guitar (played scratchily) with some kind of FX pedal(s). When he started I wasn’t keen. KofC sings in a falsetto, part childlike, and part feline screech. Imagine Daniel Johnston meets Robert Pollard. It was hard to take at first, but after a few songs I got into it and I started to hear the beauty it contained.

 

 

There was one song in particular that resonated with me more than the others. The chorus was “Not everybody gets the joke” over and over again, like a demented mantra. Was KoC saying that his performance was a joke and not to take him seriously, or was the song about some joke he’d told people and it hadn’t gone down well? I don’t know and partly I don’t care. I just liked the song.

 

 

Luckily for me KoC has just released it as his new single so I can play it to my heart’s content. It’s more polished here, and there isn’t the extended mantra outro, with is the only downside on this song. If you see KoC in your local area I implore you to go and check him out, as it’ll be a show you’ll remember for a long time!

 

 

 

 

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 October 2014

 

 

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Mass genocide wiped out a generation of musicians, at least some tracks remain

 

 

Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia. I’m not going to go into details about who and what they were, but I’ll put it lightly by saying it was a bad time. It’s estimated that upto 2,000,000 Cambodians were murdered in the Killing Fields. If you had connections to the former government, were ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese/Thai or another minority racial group, were an economic saboteur (i.e. you had no agricultural ability) or were a professional or intellectuals (or had connections to the West) you were rounded up tortured and killed. Sadly at the time there was a growing Rock & Roll scene and these trailblazing musicians were also rounded up.

 

 

There have been many compilations about this musical scene, the most famous being Cambodia Rocks. The music is a mixture of Rock & Roll, sometimes played with traditional instruments, but with very strong psychedelic leanings. If you think of the Brazilian Tropicalia scene you’re on the right tracks. Some of the tracks were nothing more than covers, but some were original compositions. In truth they are nothing short of genius. Luckily there are current bands keeping the original vibe alive. Dengue Fever and the Cambodia Space Project. While these bands never quite get as out there as the original pioneers, they get pretty close, and that’s good enough for me!

 

 

Today I have chosen Paem Nas Sneha by Pan Ron. It sounds like a mixture of the Munsters Theme and classic Surf Rock. I know very little about Pan Ron, apart from this track is amazing and her voice is epic. I have no idea what this song is about, but I don’t care. It just sounds brilliant. If you like music that is a bit out there, then this is for you.

 

 

Pan Ron – Paem Nas Sneha

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Yesterday I went to Brighton. While I was there I saw my mates and three great bands (more on this later). The journey down was easy (40 minutes) the journey home took three times a long (cheers train types), so now I’m slothing like a good ‘un on the sofa watching junk TV. A curry has been called for and I have an unlimited supply of mint tea beside me.

 

 

Normal blogging service will resume tomorrow (as I expect the trains will too), but for now let’s all enjoy, possibly, the second best song written about Brighton (Elastica has the credit of writing this).

 

 

In closing cheers Brighton you were ace!

 

 

Stray Cats – Rumble in Brighton

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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1980’s Scottish Indie janglers, need to be revisited

 

In the history of music there are a lot of forgotten bands. Most are forgotten because, well, they weren’t every good. Sadly however are the ones are forgotten, but were amazing. The Snakes of Shake fit into this category. Forming in Glasgow in the early 1980’s they released two albums before calling it a day in 1987. Neither have ever been re-issued (pull your finger out Stiff!).

 

 

 

Their debut album the Southern Cross is a 40 minute explosion of joyous jangling indie pop. Seori Burnette’s range from preacher, story teller all infused with a hint of optimism (while sounding more like Lou Reed than Lou Reed at times). On Like No Other Burnette implores while his lover is “like no other, he must believe her” followed “I no longer need her, so I must leave her, but first mistreat her” “I will have no other, and never be her lover” backed by a mournful harmonica and piano, then half way it picks up the pace and switches from being mournful into, almost blasé and sardonic that he isn’t into her anymore.

 

 

 

The album is book ended by South Cross and Southern Cross Part 2. These are the stand out tracks on the album. These aren’t straight indie pop songs. There are elements of zydeco, gospel, barroom choir, ragtime and boogie woogie. What’s more striking is how well it works and gels together.

 

 

One of the reasons that Snakes of Shake never really made it, was because they were a bit ahead of their time. Because they didn’t sound exactly like The Smiths, and weren’t from London didn’t help either. So what better way to welcome the weekend than to play the Southern Cross!

 

 

Snakes Of Shake – Southern Cross

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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BNJMN releases his second EP of the year and a third is imminent, minimal techno never sounded so appealing!

 

BNJMN has been a busy boy. Not satisfied with releasing an excellent EP on Technicolur (Ninja Tune offshoot), but he has released another EP on Delsin. Coil contains similar elements to IV EP, but at times it has flourishes of ambient that Dr. Alex Peterson would be happy with.

 

 

Title track Coil opens with swirling synths, abrasive loops, and 4/4 beat. It is in the same vein as IV, but there is enough going on to keep it from being formulaic. It’s a dance floor track at heart, but it’s also enjoyable on the tube, or at a desk. Berth contains a simple loop, but coupled with ethereal synths and a beat so subtle that at times if drifts out of the mix. Together they create an ambient track that is similar to fog. If engulfs you, yet you can see through it to all its collective elements. Stand out track Merge is another dance floor gem. It’s a pulsating beast of a track. Skittering loops (at one point it sounds like a modem dial up has been sampled and manipulated), wonky bass, driving beat all make for an euphoric five and a half minutes.

 

 

Coil shows a progression in BNJMN’s work. Not only is he capable of making dance floor favourites, but he has crafted some well thought out music. This EP coupled an incendiary DJ set, show that BNJMN is more than a bedroom producer. He knows his audience and what makes up a good show. If BNJMN continues to make music of this calibre his next album promises to be topping end of year lists.

 

 

There is a silver lining to this story too. Later in the year BNJMN has a collaborative album with Best Available Technology, and that’s coming out on another label (Astro:Dynamics this time). If the quality of this year’s EP’s then this could be someone remarkable. Personally I’m counting down the days.

 

 

https://soundcloud.com/delsinrecords/bnjmn-coil-dsr-e5-previews

 

 

http://www.delsinrecords.com/release/4286/bnjmn/coil

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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FlyLo goes jazz on new album You’re Dead!

 

 

You’re Dead! is finally here. After months of hyping and mental press releases, Steve Ellison has released an album that not only lives up to all the build-up, but actually surpasses it. A rare occurrence for this day and age. You’re Dead take us on a journey through the afterlife. The album isn’t just literally Ellison has lost friends and family over recent years (his parents, Great Aunt and Austin Peralta his friend and collaborator), so dead is clearly on Ellison’s mind.

 

 

Given the morbid subject matter, the album is surprisingly light and airy. This is down to Ellison’s deft production, mixing skittering beats with luscious sways of synth and guitar. As with the previous four Flying Lotus albums jazz is a prevalent factor, but You’re Dead feels like a jazz album from start to finish. This is partly down to (long-time collaborator) Thundercat’s bass. It sets the tone of the album from Telsa to The Protest. This interplay with the beats and synths adds to the feeling of light and space. As the songs merge into one another, we are taken on a journey though the afterlife.

 

 

Musically You’re Dead incorporates everything from Jazz, Afro-Futurism, Psychedelia, Rock and Electronic music. As times it feels like the missing link between Sun Ra and Funkadelic (at its most extravagant). It’s this level of experimentation that seperates You’re Dead from previous Flying Louts albums (minus the insanely excellent debut 1983). Usually FlyLo albums sound ridiculous, but are full of boring songs. It appears that on You’re Dead Ellison has managed to create an album that not only sounds brilliant, but has brilliant songs on it too.

 

 

8/10

 

Flying Lotus – Turtles

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Iceage-Danish punks channel spirit of Nick Cave on new album

When Iceage first exploded on the scene they sounded like a bunch of feral kids who had only heard hardcore and punk. Their 2011 debut was a repeated attack on the senses and is one of the best punk debuts ever! In 2013 they returned with You’re Nothing. While it wasn’t as fast and frenetic as their debut, it was still a powerful 35 minutes. Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s vocals were starting to shift from hardcore guttural shouts to definable vocals. The style was reminiscent to Ian Curtis (the same as musically there was a shift toward a post-punk sound).

 

 

This sound is even more evident on their new album Plowing into the Field of Love. The album opener On My Fingers starts with a call and response from the drums and guitars. Then Rønnenfelt’s vocals kick in. Sounding somewhere between Curtis and Nick Cave, they carve their way through the music. At first this new vocal style is slightly disjointed as it doesn’t quite fit with the music, however by the time On My Fingers ends they have merged. The Lord’s Favourite sounds like a rocker that would make you check out a band in a pub’s backroom. It starts like soundcheck, then bursts into a Poguesesque jig. To call it rambunctious is an understatement.

 

 

Lead single Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled is a re-working of The Mercy Seat (but with different lyrics). On this track we hear iceage’s aggressive playing start to come to the fore. It’s a slow burner that builds to a maelstrom of noise confusion at the end. Ultimately this is the weakest song on the album as it sounds like iceage are imitating more than innovating their sound. The stand out track is Simony which starts with a near identical riff to Sonic Youth’s classic Dirty Boots, the song then goes into Joy Division territory (surging bass, attack drums and droney vocals). The production of the track is flawless, with the way the different layers rise to the surface, only to descend when their time is over. The interplay between the bass and acoustic guitar in the bridge is one of the stand out moments on the album. As it’s one of the fastest (and hardest) tracks on the album original fans will have something to salivate (and mosh) over.

 

 

While the album is chocked full of iceage’s influences it doesn’t take away from the album’s enjoyment. This is the sound of a band starting to become masters of their craft. While this is a different sounding album to their debut, there is enough here not to alienate their original fan base. They might argue that they want more 1:35 songs and less pronounced vocals, but what they are given instead are 12 well-crafted and written songs, which, ultimately is more important than how fast can you play and how loud can you scream.

 

 

7/10

 

iceage – Simony

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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New Wave gets lodged in my head, and because I’m a nice guy I want it to get stick in yours!

 

 

Lene Lovich was a New Wave darling. She released her best work between 1978 and 1982 on Still Records. If you don’t know about Stiff, look them up. They have released some of the best Punk, New Wave, Indie and Pop albums.

 

 

Today’s song, Trixi, is the B-Side to my favourite Lene Lovich single Bird Song. I remember seeing this on TV as a kid and it freaked me out. Weird church scenes, creepy birds in graveyards, odd looking priests standing around an organ and those vocal yelps. It’s still stand ups today, but don’t take my word for it, check out the video below.

 

 

 

 

Pretty cool right? Personally, Lene Lovich sits between Patti Smith and Kate Bush (you know, a better Toyah). She was theatrical, but had heavy driving music around her. It was the perfect mix for the times. Sadly

 

 

Trixi on the other hand is this demented fairground waltz (does it remind you of the Resident too?). In 1979 people must have thought “What the hell is this? This isn’t very punk!” but 35 years later it has stood the test of time better than the A-Side.

 

 

For some unknown reason this has been going round my head all day. When this happens I find getting something hooked on the song, normally gets it out of my head. As I a no longer have the this earworm it must have worked, so you know, thanks for you help!

 

Lene Lovich – Trixi

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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The Hogwarts Express is calling; I better get a wriggle on

 

 

Today is my first wedding anniversary, so I’m keeping this short. To celebrate this amazing occasion we are off to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I am very excited. I am a fan of the film series, but have not yet read a single word of the books. This is something I expect to remedy in the future, but sadly not today.

 

 

What I really enjoy about the Harry Potter series is that, although the stories are new, the themes are old (magic, good vs. evil, homework, friendships). Basically it’s a mixture of Enid Blyton, Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaimen and Monty Python. Well that’s how I see it anyway.

 

 

No doubt by the end of the day I’ll have put on the sorting hat and ended up in Hufflepuff (bloody love Hufflepuff), but for now it’s time to brave the elements (it’s pretty wet here), have some lunch and board the Hogwarts Express. Later muggles…

 

 

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – Hogwarts March (From “Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire”)

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Soundtrack offering gets mouths watering for film and the new album

 

After the strength of last year’s Tears for Fears cover on the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack Lorde returns to the franchise, but instead of just submitting a track to the soundtrack, she’s curating the whole thing.

 

 

Yellow Flicker Beat has now been released as a single. It follows on the feel of Everybody Wants to Rule the World. It opens with Lorde’s voice humming. Then her whispery vamp-esque vocals come in. Keyboards enter the mix, playing exactly what Lorde was humming in the opening section (clever huh?). This pattern carries on until the chorus kicks in. It’s big and catchy, everything you want from a pop song. The rest of the song follows this sequence until the end, when the same humming closes the song. It’s a loop. The track (in theory) can never end. Is this a reference to the film and how the plight of the characters will never end, or is it just clever pop tricks? As I know nothing about the Hunger Games (I haven’t read the books) I’m going to have to wait to find out.

 

 

Lyrically the track is taking pointers from the film too. Opening lines are

 

 

I’m a princess cut from Marble,
Smoother than a storm
And the scars that mark my body,
They’re silver and gold

 

 

The interplay between the words marble and storm is clever and playful. It shows that, basically, she’s hard and nothing can touch her. Later in the track Lorde sings

 

 

And now people talk to me I’m slipping out of reach now
People talk to me, and all their faces blur
But I got my fingers laced together and I made a little prison
And I’m locking up everyone who ever laid a finger on me

 

 

This, again, show’s how hard and ruthless she is. If you wronged her, you better plan your escape route, as she’s coming for ya!

 

 

On Lorde’s previous Hunger Games track she was saying that Everybody Wants to Rule the World, however now on Yellow Flicker Beat she is in charge, it’s taken her a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get on top and anyone who has ever wrong her is going to pay. Another reading is that the track has nothing to do with the book/film series at all. It is an anti-bullying anthem. Never give up, if someone puts you down, don’t listen to them, be strong and one day you’ll be in a better position than them. Whatever the reading it’s still a bloody great song.

 

 

Lorde is the right pop star for now. She has her finger on the pulse (and it working with the right people), plus her ‘alternative’ image (and music) is the perfect antidote for Taylor Swifts and her bubblegum pop (no offence to Taylor Swift). Yellow Flicker Beat shows that Royals wasn’t a fluke, but don’t get in her way, as she’ll get you next time she’s in town!

 

 

Lorde – Yellow Flicker Beat

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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LA electronica producer goes acoustic on new album. Results are hauntingly beautiful

 

 

Alfred Weisberg-Roberts AKA Alfred Darlington AKA Daedelus is one of the most prolific and respected producers working in electronic music today. His output alone is enough to inspire awe (15 albums in 13 years). Not all of those tracks are gold. For the ones that aren’t you have to respect his decision to follow that path, even if the results weren’t as enjoyable as the journey it took to get there. This can be said for 2011’s Bespoke. It was a good idea (baroque meets LA dance culture) the results were as patchy as getting a jacket tailored at the local launderette.

 

 

In the years since Daedelus has released another album (2013’s Drown Out) and has just recently released his 15th album The Light Brigade (I did mention he was prolific). The Light Brigade finds Daedelus on a new path. The album is loosely based on the Crimean War. The opening of the album quotes Lord Alfred Tennyson’s epic poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. While this seems like an unique theme for an album, it isn’t the first time Daedelus has written about it. 2010’s The Rigteous Fists of Harmony was loosely based on the Boxer Rebellion. In all honesty this is the best album about a Russian tradegy since the Bee Gees-Odessa.

 

 

Daedelus has always incorporated glitchy samples and beats to his music, but this time he has taken a more folktronic route. You could never accuse Daedelus of writing bangers (Fair Weather Friends excluded). Slightly introverted, quirky, thought provoking electronica is his MO. This is the order of the day on The Light Brigade, expect that it sounds more acoustic and organic. These instruments have been processed, manipulated, tweeked, but the lack of bass boost, keyboard loops and synthetic hand claps makes it a refreshing listen.

 

 

Lead single Onward is the anthesis of this new sound. Its five minutes of dreamlike vocals, melancholy piano and woozy bass. In honesty it sounds like nothing else in the cannon of Daedelus’ work. At first I found it’s lack of drive annoying and vocals slightly tedious, it just wasn’t going anywhere, but after a few listens I was drawn in to its fragile, beguiling beauty. The rest of the album is like this. Once you crack the code it becomes one of the most listenable albums I’ve heard all year.

 

 

While the Light Brigade possibly isn’t album Daedelus intended on making, its change in direction (musically) makes it more interesting than his last few. A change of musical direction can sometimes be a kiss of death, but this time it appears to have reinvigorated him. If this is the new direction that Daedelus is taking then I’m all for it and can’t wait for what he does next.

 

 

7/10

 

Daedelus – Onward

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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Ras G released third in the Raw Fruit series and third ACTUAL mixtape this year

 

 

Gregory Shorter, Jr. has had a busy 2014. After the success of last year’s Back on the Planet he wasn’t content to sit on his laurels. Oh no. Shorter (or Ras G, as he is better known) followed this up with the second instalment in the Raw Fruit series. Raw Fruit Volume 1 was a selection of 15 tracks that clocked in just under than 30 minutes. These weren’t throwaway demos; these were just really short tracks. The second edition was more of the same, but the seemed more focused. The tracks had more of a point and the beats and samples were more precise. Then came the slip mixtape with VHVL (original review here).

 

 

This brings us up to date. Ras G has now released Raw Fruit Volume 3. It contains the same level of production wizardry as 1 & 2, but this time, musically speaking, Ras G seems more reflective. The samples are more laid-back (almost DJ Shadow-esque in places). The opening track Hear U, is a simple beat, bass, vocal, layered samples track. Less is definitely more with this on. It’s laced with melancholy and reverence. The lone vocal sample says “I can hear you”. Is Ras G implying that he knows what we’re going to be thinking, or will he use this in his live sets when he wants the crowd to know that he isn’t ignoring them? Maybe it was just a badass sample that he loved with the beat. Either way it’s a great way to kick off the mixtape. 2 Kushy sounds like he’s sampled someone running their finger around a glass half full of water and then manipulated every way he could, layered it to give it that Space Bass sound he’s known for. T.V. Party has a violin sample that wouldn’t be out of place on any RZA produced track. It’s a murky piece that plays straight into Ras G’s newly found reflective Space Bass sound.

 

 

Stand out track is Rawk’n. This is one of the longer tracks on the album. The main sample is a fuzzed out guitar riff (think Hendrix and Blue Cheer and you’re on the right track). This song conjures up LA’s musical history (the Fillmore, acid-test parties, Metallica, etc, etc), but due his looping, additional samples and beat he shows you LA’s musical future too. It’s a clever thing to do in 2:36.

 

 

The most interesting thing about the album is that he’s got some guest vocalists on some of the tracks. Giovanni Marks, the Koreatown Oddity and KhaiLL Sadiq join him on four tracks. These non-sampled vocals show that Ras G isn’t afraid to collaborate (something that he hasn’t really done in the past). Are these four track insights into the new direction that he’s going to be taking? Or are they tracks he had and couldn’t find the right way to finish it on his own? Either way they are exciting and enticing us think about what might be coming next.

 

 

While this year’s releases aren’t direct follow ups to Back on the Planet, they are filling the void very nicely. They are allowing the music consuming fans to have something new to chew on while he starts/continues/finishes his next long player. Despite their length these are not disposable tracks. Far from it. This is some of the most listenable and inventive music I’ve heard since, well, the Seat of the Soul mixtape in July. If you are a fan of forward thinking electronic music, this is a tape you need to have. But you better get in their early as they are limited and will probably have run out by the time you’ve finished reading this.

 

 

8/10

 

 

Ras G – Rawk’n

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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If I was in Green Day I would be about to have been woken up. This would have been a shame as I would have missed the fabulous music of September. This month’s free playlist show this quality more than any other month.

 

 

September saw releases from Slow Club, Ghost Culture, Esben and the Witch, Pere Ubu (a serious contender for album of the year), alt-J, Leonard Cohen, Goat, Hollie McNish (another serious contender for album of the year) and the History of Apple Pie (yet another serious contender for album of the year).

 

 

The biggest album of the month was the return of Aphex Twin. Syro may not have been what we were expecting, but it was definitely what we needed! It was 70 minutes of abstract techno. However the stand out album was the History of Apple Pie’s follow up to last year Out of View. This album has everything that their debut had, but the sound was more refined and more importantly fun.

 

 

Let’s hope that October will be just as good. Looking at the release schedules it’s looking like it could…

 

September 2014

 

 

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Spoken Word double album is the (un)surprising hit of the year

 

 

Historically spoken word albums can be hit and miss. However in recent years this has changed and they have become vibrant, exciting and extremely playable. Since the rise of artists like Sage Francis, Polarbear and Scroobius Pip spoken word nights have taken on the vibe of rock gigs. People get excited, enthused and give the performers a hero’s exit after their set. One of this new batch of poets is Hollie McNish.

 

 

This week sees the release of her new album Versus (or should that be Verses?). What’s more it’s only a double. The first disc is straight up poetry. This is what McNish does best. Her poems don’t mess around they get straight to the point, and once she’s made her point she hammers it home with facts, pathos and humour.

 

 

Stand out tracks include Mathematics is about immigration. Cherry Pie is a beautifully harrowing lament about her Grand Father being sick because during the war he (and his comrades) were stranded on a beach and all they had to eat was candied cherries. Touch is about how you don’t need pornography if you are in a relationship and you should be able to turn each other on. Cupcakes and Scones is about how weird the concept of School Discos are, and how McNish doesn’t want dress like a child anymore. She’s a woman and wants to be treated as such. As you can see these are big topics that no one else seems to be talking about. This is McNish’s genius and power. At times the album places like a best of, as the quality of the songs are so strong.

 

 

Disc two contains the same tracks as the first, but being backed by music. If you’d seen McNish live recently you would have noticed that she was adding musical elements to her sets. Musically it’s pretty grimy and dirty. The juxtaposition between McNish’s lyrics and the music is perfect. Although her voice is soft and soothing but the subject matter is anything but. This is great stuff!

 

 

If you are a hip-hop junky or a poetry head this album is for you. If you aren’t then you need to hear this album! There is a major shift going on at the moment and spoken word is getting bigger and bigger. So do yourself a favour and get down to Hollie’s nearest show.

 

 

8/10

 

 

https://soundcloud.com/holliepoetry/turn-on-bricks

 

 

Hollie Poetry – Turn On (Bricks)

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Stumbling across music was never so literal!

 

 

Sometimes you stumble across a band. In this case I actually stumble across them. I was in one of my favourite record shops looking at the precious things in the glass cabinets. Sadly I wasn’t paying as close attention to the other patrons as I should have and stumbled on a bag on the floor. I didn’t fall over per say, but it was pretty close. When I regained my balance and composure I was staring face-to-face with a familiar face. Not the dozy shopper who left his bag in the aisle, but a face on a record sleeve.

 

 

At first I couldn’t work it out, but as the blushing faded the image came into focus. It was Sun Ra. Immediately I went to the till with said 10” under my arm and left. On the tube home I read the blurb on the back of the record. “Right” I thought “This should be interesting”. And interesting it was. The record in question was the Brainiac Five-Space is the Place.

 

 

The Brainiac Five

The Brainiac Five

 

 

The music is a kind of space rock with leanings toward folk, psychedelia, proto punk and jazz. At times it reminds me of Ozric Tentacles. What is it with these Cornish bands eh? But what is more interesting is that it’s their first release of new material since 1988!

 

 

Since 1988 the members have been off having lives and indulging in other musical projects. The only downside is that apart from the cover and the title, I can’t really hear much Sun Ra on there. It’s all far to pedestrian to be compared to Ra. I get that this isn’t meant to be a cover, but I was expecting something a bit more ‘out there’ (for want of a better word). Ultimately this is an enjoyable 17 minutes. Let’s hope that after 26 years apart Brainiac Five will yield something else along these lines!

 

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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One of my favourite producers samples one of my favourite horn riffs

 

 

There is something about the sound of a marching band that I can’t ignore. It’s infectious and makes my day immediately better. When I first heard DMX-X Gon’ Give it to Ya I thought it was a joke and wrote it off. After weeks (possibly months) of hearing it most days by a housemate at uni, I realised that it was bloody great. While I have never bought a DMX release (and probably never will) this track has a place in my heart.

 

 

This is big dumb rap at its best. Lyrically Earl Simons (AKA DMX) isn’t really saying much; apart from he’s going to give it us, his gruff bark fits perfectly with the marching band on crack music. Today (for an unknown reason) I decided to try and find a marching band cover of X Gon’ Give it to Ya, alas I couldn’t find one, but I did stumble across today’s track.

 

 

Regular readers will know us at thisyearinmusic towers rate Melé highly. So today’s track is a match made in heaven. What is great about this track is that isn’t not a cover and it’s not a remix. It’s something in-between. The way that he takes the sample and then adds new a xylophone to the mix it brilliant. This is what marks Melé out from the pack. It’s his attention to detail that always amazes me.

 

 

I can’t wait for his album to finally drop. If it is as good as his EP’s then it could easily be the best album of that year!

 

 

 

 

 

 September 2014

 

 

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Indie label releases a slice of what’s going. Don’t call it a best of though…

 

 

Killing Moon Records has been on thisyearinmusic’s radar for a while now and after hearing the second instalment of the New Moons series you will see, well technically hear, why. The album is chocked full of bands you’ve never heard of making the music you crave and long to hear. In short, it’s pure. The music is being made because they need to make it. They aren’t writing songs to make up an album that they have no choice in making (i.e. their contract dictates they need to record another album to fulfil their advance). These songs come from somewhere else.

 

 

Since 2008 Killing Moon has been putting out music of this kind. There has always been honesty with their releases (even if they haven’t lived up to their hype). This is rare. Indie labels are passionate about the music they put out. Some are more concerned with being cool and other are concerned with sales. Killing Moon appears to be somewhere between the two. If they feel passionate about a band they’ll put it out regardless of what it might, or might not, sell.

 

 

Right so back to New Moons Volume 2. It’s chocked full of 26 tracks over 90 minutes. The compilation runs the gambit of straight up indie rock (Racing Glaciers, Taymir), unadulterated pop (Fickle Friends), electronica (One Bit, St Street), prophetic story tellers (John Joseph Brill and John J. Presley), quirky glitch indie(Remi Miles, Model Aeroplanes), straight rockers (HOLY, Idles).

 

 

The stand out track is Money for Rope-Ten Times. It starts off with a playful riff and then BAM straight into the chorus, then another short verse and that catchy chours is back. There is a faux surf solo/chord progression that puts the song on its head. From then you’re just craving the chorus and when it comes you’re singing/shouting it back in the call and response tradition (don’t do this on the tube. People will think you are mental). There is a playfulness to the song that is infectious, but the tone of the lyrics gives it a slight dangerous feel. All good music should have this feel. If it felt safe then we’d all be fans of bubblegum pop and work of the pioneers in the 1950’s and 1960’s would have been for nothing.

 

 

I’m rambling now. I apologise for going off course, but the music made me do it. I’ll keep this short to stop from going off course again. This is a great snapshot of a label starting to find its feet and carve out its identity. Considering the label is six years old and at six children start to work out what and who they like, so it all makes sense really. Here’s to another six years, who knows where Killing Moon Records will be in 2020. Hopefully still putting out albums of this quality and passion!

 

 

8/10

 

Money For Rope – Ten Times

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Laughing Len turns 80 and releases a new album to celebrate. What a nice guy!

 

 

Popular Problems is the 12th album by living icon Leonard Cohen. I know 12 albums in 46 years isn’t that impressive, but remember he spent nine years in semi-retirement and he had a LOT of money stolen by an ex manager, it all evens out. What is impressive is that Popular Problems is released on Cohen’s 80th birthday.

 

 

Cohen’s previous album Old Ideas was released in 2012. Popular Problems sounds like a relative to it. Part of this reason is Patrick Leonard is at the helm again. Leonard appears to be the new Sharon Robinson. Considering the critical success that pairing had, I think we’re heading into another Cohen golden age if these two albums are anything to go by.

 

 

Whilst this isn’t classic Cohen it’s a lot better than Various Positions and Ten New Songs. Musically it runs the gauntlet of blues, country and that synth/drum machine stuff Cohen loves so much. Lyrically its far more interesting (didn’t see that one coming did you?). I wouldn’t say this is a confession, but at times it does feel like someone baring their soul at times. In short it’s pretty riveting.

 

 

Lead single Almost like the Blues sums up this new Cohen formula perfectly. It’s a low tempo number, but its structure is reminiscent of Waiting for the Miracle, The Future and Tower of Song. As usual it’s chocked full of religious imagery

 

 

My Father said I’m chosen

My Mother said I’m not

I listened to their story

Of the gypsies and the Jews

It was good, it wasn’t boring

It was almost like the blues

 

 

What it means however is down to you. I know what I think it’s about, but I’m not letting on until I’ve had more time to let its symbolism wash over me. This is something you always get with a good Cohen album. He never gives you the full story; you have to make the connections and draw your own conclusions.

 

 

Happy Birthday Leonard, please release an album every birthday, yeah?

 

 

7/10

 

 

Leonard Cohen – Nevermind

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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The first Aphex Twin album in 13 years is released. Grown men are weeping as we speak!

 

 

In 2001 Richard D. James released his last album Drukqs. It divided critics and fans, but since then it has been lauded as a classic. This might be because it’s follow up never emerged so people had a long time to digest the last ‘new’ music by Aphex Twin. That is until now. Today sees the official releases of new album Syro. For some it’s the day they thought would never happen. So today’s burning questions is “Has it lived up to the wait and hype?” The short answer is yes. The longer answer is ultimately yes, but it might not be as convincing as the short version.

 

 

Syro opens with Minipops 67 [120.2]. Minipops is reminiscent to Windowlicker in its melody and structure. This isn’t entirely a bad thing and due. You need to ease people back after such a long time away. You want them to think “OK, it’s been 13 years, but it still sounds like Aphex” Next up is XMAS_EVE10 [120][thanaton3 mix]. This is the longest track on the album. Its use of conga drums is a nice touch, but at 10:31, a few minutes could have been edited out somewhere, as it feels too long. This could be because it’s 09:35 am and I need to be properly warmed up before playing techno of this sort.

 

 

Now produk 29 [101] takes its turn in the starting XII. It has a classic Aphex feel to it. It’s bass is simple and repetitive, but it is layered with wonky synths, woozy keyboard riffs and cut up vocal samples very Bluejam in places (it’s nice to see that James still has his sense of humour). At times it sounds like it has come from a computer game. You get the feeling that you are walking around an empty dark house and as you get near the end/aim of the mission the music starts to get more sinister and the beat starts to mimic your heart rate. In short it’s bloody marvellous!

 

 

I won’t bore you with a brief outline of each track, but as the album progresses the tracks get faster and start to sound like James at his most whacked out. S950tx16wasr10 [163.97][earth portal mix] has a slight jungle feel to it. The final track however is a piano piece reminiscent of the more mellower tracks on Druqks (think Strotha Tynhe and you’re on the right track). Considering what has come before, it’s a very haunting, melancholic and beautiful way to end the album.

 

 

Overall it’s a good album and a classic comeback. While there is an element of Emperor’s New Clothes to it, it does live up to the hype. As a whole Syro isn’t the ground breaking comeback that some fans were hoping for, but at the same time it isn’t a damp squib. There is plenty on here to engage with. As I mentioned with produk 29, it’s the layers that make the song, not just the beat and bass. This is the code of the album. One a few tracks I was hoping that James would let rip a bit more, or manipulate the samples a bit more. Let’s hope that some of the other ‘lost’ albums will now be released as if this is mark of the quality James has in his archive, then it’s a shame not to release it!

 

 

8/10

 

 

Aphex Twin – s950tx16wasr10 [163.97][earth portal mix]

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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This song is an absolute banger in every way! I don’t have the word to describe how perfectly brilliant it is!

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie (1st and 2nd Movements – Adapted from “Trois Gymnopedies’)

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Novelty records delivers a quality cover that almost surpasses the original

 

 

If you look at some of the biggest hits over the years a lot of them will be novelty songs. As a nation we love it. Today’s track comes from one of my favourite novelty albums. Simpsons Sing the Blues was released in 1991 at the start of Simpsons mania. At the time I liked this song, but didn’t really get it. I like Do the Bartman, Deep Deep Trouble and Look at all those Idiots more. It wasn’t until I really got into music, and found King Curtis that I realised the genius of this track.

 

 

In my heart I like this version more than the original (I know I’m wrong, but what can I do? I heard it first). It’s a classic track for a classic lazy Saturday.

 

 

The Simpsons – Springfield Soul Stew

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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So Scotland decided to vote no against independence, now the real fun begins

 

 

Last night Scotland went to the polls. They were voting to see if the majority of the country wanted to become independent from Britain. This is the biggest political vote to happen in my lifetime. Registration numbers was a record high (in the end 85% of the Scottish population went to the polls). The end results were 55% No to 45% Yes. Roughly speaking about 2 million people voted to stay, but 1.5 million people voted to leave.

 

 

Now the real fun starts. If you have 1.5 million people who aren’t happy with the way things are being run, that’s a massive problem. The three main cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen) all voted to leave. How will Westminster appease these disillusioned people? Massive reform is the only answer, but what will this actually mean?

 

 

Only time will tell, but it is the start of a long, long journey to make the United Kingdom united again.

 

 

Teenage Fanclub – Start Again

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Hollie McNish unveils new album with some choice cuts from it. Just counting down the days until release now…

 

 

Hollie McNish is about to release her new album. This album is a double. Before you start to reel and think “A double poetry album…?” Don’t fret non-believer, the second disc will be McNish’s poems put too much “Poetry and music? Bongos and berets? Alright you beatnik…” Think again.

 

 

Hollie McNish has as much to do with poetry as she does with hip-hop. Her poems are a mirror to the country. They show all that is right and wrong with it. She tackles immigration and racism (Mathematics), how the old are treated in society (Bungalows and Biscuits) and the dilemma of breastfeeding in public (Embarrassed). These are big topics. Topics that effect all of us, but are rarely given the attention they deserve because XXXXX celebrity has a new hair cut or XXXXXX footballer scores a goal to get his team into the next round of the almost never ending season.

 

 

To mark this occasion McNish has uploaded two tracks to her Soundcloud. The first is Mathematics, but the second is a musical version of Embarrassed. Lyrically the poem is about breastfeeding in public and the countries objectification of breasts (its ok use breasts to sell bras/soft drinks/cheese, but if you breastfeed in public you’re a freak). It’s sad that McNish had to write this poem, but I’m glad that she did as it draws attention to how many women don’t want to and hide out in toilets instead. Musically it has a bass/grime feel to it (actually the beat is sick). It is about as far away from the subject matter as you can get, but it’s this juxtaposition that makes it work.

 

 

If you have an interest in poetry and hip-hop, mark 29/09/2014 in your Outlook calendar. This will be an album that you can’t afford to miss!

 

 

https://soundcloud.com/holliepoetry/get-used-to-this-embarrassed

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Welsh quartet channel the power of pap on new single rather than rock

 

 

This isn’t for me. I’ve tried, but I realise that I am not the demographic for this band. Maybe it’s a sign of age or indifference, but this comes across as angst-by-numbers. Lyrically Cocoon is mundane. At no time do I care about either of the characters in this dysfunctional take on Romeo and Jules. If her mates think you’re a dick, you’re probably a dick (from my experiences with people). Musically this is pedestrian. It follows the classic formula of rock of the lowest order.

 

 

If this is your thing I’m sorry that I’ve slagged it off, but I’m totally not bothered not bothered about this.

 

 

Catfish and the Bottlemen – Cocoon

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Mercury winners return with strong second album

 

 

When I realised that I’d have to listen to and review the new alt-J album, it didn’t fill me with glee. It’s not that I dislike alt-J, or thought their debut was hideous, far from it. In its way it was a snapshot of those heady times that were 2012 and some of the ideas on it were interesting. My main problem with the band (and the debut) was the level of praise that was heaped on it. It wasn’t the best album of 2012, nor was it the best album on the Mercury shortlist that year (Field Music and Django Django shared that honour). There was an element of Emperor’s New Clothes about it. Music journalists had not much to write about the week it came out, to over lauded it. Which is a shame, but the English press does love to build someone up and tear them down.

 

 

Jump forward to 2014 and This is All Yours is released. On a first listen this is a cleverly inventive album. It is far superior to An Awesome Wave. On An Awesome Wave you got the impression that alt-J were going along with the scene. They were following the blueprint The XX laid down for indie with an electronic\dance flavour. The songs were well crafted, but ultimately dull. These sets of songs are anything but dull. This is All Yours starts with a four and a half minute romp which alt-J flex their music muscles (and influences) more than on 44 minutes of their debut. It throws in harmonised vocals, haunting keyboards/synths, a sample of Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir, distorting drums and Eastern hypnotic instruments. So far so good. Over the next few tracks this new musicality comes to the fore.

 

 

alt-J have more energy and feel more vibrant than before. Up next are two of the single Every Other Freckle and Left hand Free. These songs have a slight bluesy feel. Joe Newman’s voice sounds especially guff and harrowed. The best lyric of the whole album is contained in Every Other Freckle (Let me be the wallpaper that annotate papers up your room). Garden of England – Interlude is the next track. It’s a minute of faux traditional English folk that conjured up garden parties, walks along a tow path in the summer, women with parasols and cricket. You know, England. After this track however the album doesn’t live up to its early promise and the next few tracks don’t have the impact nor the strength of the first six. There are a couple of highlight, Warm Foothills is a nice instrumental jaunt and Pusher is an emotional ditty that starts to close the album nicely.

 

 

While this isn’t a perfect album it is far more varied and enjoyable than their debut. I still get a touch of Emperor’s New Clothes about it, but there are moments here that justify some of the praise that the album has received. If you liked the An Awesome Wave you should love this. If you were on the fence about it, This is All Yours will push you one way or the other. Personally I’m still not sure, but I’m willing to give their debut another listen and hope to get swept along with it, rather than against it.

 

 

6/10

 

 

alt-J – Intro

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Skronk mavericks release second album in 15 years

 

 

Earlier this year Finish group Can Can Heads release their second album Butter Life. They had been recording songs for it since before their debut came out in 1999. Once you get your head round this piece of information, you can start to understand their creative process. Once you’ve got that sorted you are ready to experience their music.

 

 

There should be a little disclaimer on the cover stating “Abandon all preconceptions ye who enters here”. At first Butter Life sounds like a cacophony of discordant sounds and noise. This is partly true, but only partly. Once you get past the third track it all starts to calm down a bit and the method to their madness starts to sink in. This isn’t just random loud noises seemingly put together for the sake of shock (or art). There are melodies and rhythms at play.

 

 

Musically the album combines Punk, No Wave, Free Jazz and Noise, but there are elements of Grindcore, Classic Rock and Pop in the mix too. It’s pretty heady stuff. What’s more is that once you crack the code it’s massively enjoyable and repeat listens are mandatory. There are also elements of Jazz Canto here. While not all the songs have lyrics, the feel of the pieces have this album at their core. There is a discordant feel here that harks right back to Jazz Canto.

 

 

 

 

This is the sound of band who know what they want to do and don’t care if you don’t like it. Let’s hope that the next album doesn’t take another 15 years to make and is released before 2030!

 

 

7/10

 

 

http://cancanheads.bandcamp.com/track/guilty-bystander

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Lazy Sunday’s require fitting lazy music

 

 

Today I am sat on the sofa not doing very much, eating food that isn’t very healthy. Part of the reason for this self-imposed exile from the world is that last night I drank a bit too much Guinness and as tomorrow is Monday, I fancy a day doing nothing.

 

 

When a day is full of slothful behaviour it needs a righteously slothful soundtrack. Today I am playing the 1965 Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass classic Going Places. It’s chocked full of hit after hit after hit. At times you think it’s a best of, but it’s not. How Herb Alpert and the TJB came up with songs of this magnitude keeps me guessing more than an episode of Lost.

 

 

So if you are like me today and need something lazy and laid back to play, I heartily recommend this album!

 

 

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – A Walk In The Black Forest

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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The second Soundbite festival kicks off today in West London, why not get involved

 

 

Today sees the Soundbite festival returning for a second year. As with last year it’ll be taking place in Dean Gardens in West Ealing. The line-up is better than last year. The two must see bands this year are Jacob & Goliath at 17:30 and friends of thisyearinmusic Du Bellows. As We’ve given the alt-folk-blues group some attention in the past, I thought I’d pick Jacob & Goliath as today’s featured artist.

 

 

This three-piece hails from Brentford. They make the kind of music that is as thought provoking as it is beautiful. Yes at times it does edge toward Mumford & Scums, I mean Sons, territory but it doesn’t have the smugness that infiltrates their bland form of faux folk acoustic pop. Big things are destined for Jacob & Goliath, they have recently taken part in the Burberry Acoustic sessions and the results are pretty impressive given the age of the band.

 

 

 

 

Throughout September Jacob & Goliath will be touring round selective venues in the UK. I recommend you to go and check them out, as they probably won’t be in venues this small for long…

 

 

 Jacob & Goliath – Green

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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It’s Friday, the weekend is almost upon us, what better way to start it than with an apocalypse themed funk album.

 

 

Maggot Brain was created by funk overlord George Clinton. The album opens with the immortal lines “Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, For y’all have knocked her up, I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe, I was not offended for I knew I had to rise above it all, Or drown in my own shit”. Then a guitar slow (and quietly) starts to play, as the song carries on the intensity increases until it’s a maelstrom of riffs, licks and effects. Not a bad way to start an album right?

 

 

While this might be everyone’s idea of a perfect start to a Friday, it is to me, and if you are like me you’ll be playing this album on loop, chanting and mumbling along, like some kind of demented mantra all day!

 

 

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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The Mercury Music Prize shortlist as been revealed. Not a bad list this time…

 

 

So it’s that time of year when the Mercury Music Prize Shortlist is announced. This year’s list looks better than in recent years. Here’s a quick rundown of who’s on it and their chances of winning.

 

Anna Calvi – One Breath

 

A second nomination in as many albums. Calvi’s been here before so maybe second times the charm.

 

Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

 

This could be worth a cheeky outsider punt, but I don’t think it has the legs to pull off a shock win.

 

Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

 

No shock that this is on the list. It’s a bloody good album, but is too obvious to win.

 

East India Youth – TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER

 

This is a beautiful and beguiling album that yields more charm with each listen. Chances of winning, low.

 

FKA twigs – LP1

 

This is one of this year’s favourites. It has the right amount of quirkiness, underground cool and ‘who’ to grab the gong.

 

 

GoGo Penguin – v2.0

 

Token jazz album. Great for them to get a nod, but limited chances of winning. But if the Mercury panel keeps putting jazz albums on the list, one year a jazz album will have to win. Might be worth a sly wager.

 

Jungle – Jungle

 

Another favourite. Sadly I find this album bloody boring, but if it wins I won’t be shocked.

 

Kate Tempest – Everybody Down

 

My favourite album on the list. This is everything that the Mercury is about. Clever lyrics, inventive musicality and a stage performance that is second to none!

 

Nick Mulvey – First Mind

 

The downbeat, folky choice of the list. Nick Mulvey won’t pick up the final award, but will pick up a Brit of two next year. Also the second album on the list produced by Dan Carey.

 

Polar Bear – In Each and Every One

 

Second time of the list for experimental jazz group. Chances of winning slim to none, but you never know do you. Speech Debelle won once remember…

 

Royal Blood – Royal Blood

 

This has winner written all over it. Shame it’s not a great album…

 

Young Fathers – DEAD

 

This is the most intriguing and experimental album on the list. It’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year and I’m slightly shocked by its inclusion. I hope it wins, but know it probably won’t.

 

 

GoGo Penguin – Fort

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Mercury Music Prize Shortlist 2014

Avant garage pioneers return with 18th studio album and 40 years

 

 

Where to begin with this album! Firstly it’s by Pere Ubu. If you are aware of those two little words you know what expect. If not, then you are in for a treat. Pere Ubu formed in Cleveland during the mid-1970’s. While originally part of the underground (and punk and post-punk) scene, they stood out form their peers. When asked what their sound was like front man David Thomas coined the term “avant garage”. This suits them perfectly. They play with the conviction of a garage rock band, but with touches and flourishes of avant garde experimentalism (if you think of The Fall-I am Kurious Oranj you’re on the right tracks). They released five critically acclaimed albums until disbanding in 1982. This was short lived and in 1987 they reformed (and have recorded 11 albums since then).

 

Now back to the present. Carnival of Souls firstly is brilliant. It encompasses everything that Pere Ubu does well, and things I’ve never heard them do before. Instead of writing a conventional album they have followed the pattern of the previous two albums 2009’s Long Live Pere Ubu (loosely based on Macbeth) and 2013’s Lady from Shanghai (each part was recorded in isolation from the rest of the band). Carnival of Souls is (as the back cover tells us) “about a guy sitting by a river. After awhile he takes some clothes off and jumps in the water. He drops to the bottom where he looks up and watches the moon as he’s dragged downstream for as long as he can hold his breath”. And that’s about it.

 

Musically this is the tightest and heaviest Ubu have played for a while. But it’s Thomas’ vocals and lyrics that are the real star here. Visions of the Moon is the stand out track. It’s a monologue about someone living on the moon. The emotion that he sells with this delivery is astounding. Less is certainly more. He talks about the characters house, his walks and the lack of Sun rises. Musically the song is a slow and meandering (but never boring). It builds with simple keyboard & clarinet runs and a marching drum beat never stops the song moving slowly forward and it has an outro to die for.

 

If you’ve never heard a Pere Ubu album before, this is a good place to start. It is full of clever ideas, wonderfully playful lyrics and dirty guitars. If you are already a fan of Ubu, then you are in for a real treat. It’s so good that it’s the only thing I’ve listened to and thought about for three days. It’s totally under my skin and I love it! The only problem with this album is that it is under my skin and if I don’t stop listening to it, I’m running the risk of overplaying it and then ruining it possibly for ever. Which would be a travesty!

 

 

9/10

 

 

Pere Ubu – Golden Surf II

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Indie electro duo release uplifting second album

 

 

In 2012 ODESZA released their debut. It was 40 minutes of dream pop. Lyrically there wasn’t much there (apart from some vocal samples), but musically it was rich and lavishly constructed. Jump forward to 2014 and ODESZA have released their second album In Return.

 

 

In Return contains more of the same (textured dream pop, but with an added bite of manipulated samples). The music is euphoric, ethereal and uplifting. Everything we’ve come to expect from ODESZA. Since 2012 their song writing and composition of songs has increased. At times their debut sounded like a band working out what sounds and samples go together. The majority of these experiments were flawless, but a bit rough around the edges at times (which added to the effect). On In Return, they have nailed it. They have the perfect mix of pop and indie electro.

 

 

One of the most obvious differences between Summer’s Gone and In Return is that they’ve brought some friends along for the ride. Half of the songs have guest spots, predominately vocalists. On one level this works, as the limited vocal samples have been replaced by organic vocal samples. Lyrically the juxtaposition between the subject matter and the music works very well. However because there are seven different collaborations (on eight tracks) the album doesn’t flow as well as if ODESZA had used two or three guests. At times it feels like they could have released three fully formed EP’s than one cohesive album.

 

 

This is an enjoyable and inventive album that gets better with each listen, but this fan would have preferred a couple more instrumental tracks and maybe a few less guests. As it stands it’s a strong difficult second album, but not as strong as it could have been.

 

 

7/10

 

 

ODESZA – Sundara

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Electronic indie label give away entire back catalogue for free. Another reason to love Activia Benz!

 

 

What’s not to love about Activia Benz? They sign great artists. They’re tweets and posts are funny. They were founded by Slugabed. However late last night they’d decided to give away their back catalogue for free, and going forward all EP’s will be free to download too (see link below). What bloody good chaps eh?

 

 

bit.ly/1lPii5i

 

 

But what makes this even better is that the music is flawless! Over the past few years Activia Benz have released some of the most forward thinking electronic music I’ve heard in a long time. I feel bad when an indie label has to give their music away for free, but as most of the EP’s are on Spotify they’re already doing this. At least this way they’ll know the people who REALLY like their label and can send updates of future releases and live nights.

 

 

Eloq – Stadium Aurora

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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 Activia Benz

 

 

1970’s blue-eyed soul group eighth studio album is perfect to Sunday’s

 

 

OK, it’s Sunday. Let’s slow things down a little bit. Yesterday was for bangers and the boozing, today, is for silent reflection and tea. The Rascals eighth album (Peaceful World) fits this perfectly. It’s 73 minutes (that’s a double LP) of blue eyed soul. I generally dislike blue eyed soul. It’s generally a boring and watered down version of a classic genre.

 

 

Peaceful World is a different album though. It has elements of pop, rock, psychedelica along with soul. This is the perfect Sunday album. The music is mellow, interesting and has a laid back harmony vibe. It’s bloody brilliant and I can’t stop playing it today.

 

 

The stand out track (is the title track) Peaceful World. It’s a monster at 22 minutes. The majority of it is instrumental, but it doesn’t get boring as the psychedelic/rock tinges come to the fore. It’s nothing short of fantasitic!

 

 

So if you are like me today (slightly hungover) play this while you have your first brew of the day.

 

 

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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London duo release hybrid album that is stronger than its elemental parts

 

 

SDR007 is a great album. End of. It’s the kind of music that wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago. It’s a mixture of indie, spoken word, punk and hip hop. “We’ve heard this before!” I can hear you saying, but where SDR007 succeeds where other albums fails is in the lyrics and their delivery. It isn’t so much what they are saying as how they are saying it. This is the spoken word part of the album and it’s a joy to listen to. I won’t ruin the tracks by saying what they are about, but I will say that the more you play it the more you get out.

 

 

Being signed to Speech Development Records is a massive factor in their musical freedom. Scroobius Pip is one of the major players on the spoken word\UK hip-hip scene. He has constantly delivered the goods, be that with Dan Le Sac or on his solo albums. He’s never scared to experiment or try something new. Pip’s musical ethos is all over this album. The way each track jumps around the juxtaposition of sounds is anything but inspired.

 

 

Later in the year sees warrenpeace travelling around the country as part of the Speech Development Showcase Tour. If they are playing in your town (or one near to you) I suggest you checking them out, as it’ll be a night you’ll never forget

 

8/10

 

 

warrenpeace – Hungry

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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1980’s B-Side eclipses 99% of Macca’s total output

 

 

Before today I was a very staunch non fan of Paul McCartney. He is my least favourite member of the Beatles. I find his post Beatles work very smug and single serving. That is until I heard the Temporary Secretary single.

 

 

The A-Side starts with a wonky synth that wouldn’t be out of place in Hoxton today. As the song progresses a stuttering acoustic guitar is added. Lyrically (and vocally) the song sounds like the Residents have hijacked it. It’s a peculiar song about a guy who wants a secretary and doesn’t mind if they’re crap as long as he can look at them. Nothing prepares you for the B-Side though.

 

 

Secret Friend is 10:31 of swoony synths, conga rhythms, noodling trumpets and rise and fall piano. It’s nothing short of brilliant. What McCartney has done (while messing about\experimenting) is see the future of music. Just under half way there is an instrumental break and that passage along could have been released on any number of labels today. The beat is reminiscent of a garage track, with its stop-start pattern. The piano part is the blueprint for the majority of dance music that followed.

 

 

After listening to this piece of music I have been left reeling. For the year it was recorded it is totally forward thinking. What is even more surprising is that it has aged remarkable well. A lot of music that has been created under experimental conditions sounds very dated quickly, but because these two songs were so ahead of their time (a time we have only just caught up to) they still sound fresh and exciting. There are three words I never thought I would never say about Paul McCartney!

 

 

Paul McCartney – Secret Friend

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Gothic post rockers gear up for album three by releasing their most striking song to date

 

 

Naming your band after a Norwegian fairy tale can bring certain conations. Luckily the music Esben and the Witch make lives up to this. Basically it’s post rock, but with some subtle differences that set them from other groups. Firstly they are fronted by Rachel Davis. With Davis they possess a vocal range that can equal any maelstrom their guitars and keyboards can create. Their songs have a far more Gothic feel to them than other post rockers. This is a post-modern Gothic though. It has more in common with David Cronenberg’s Shivers and JG Ballard’s High Rise than the classic Gothic of yester year. This is down to their interplay of electronic equipment and devices during the song writing process. Their songs glitch, click, buzz and hiss in places, and Davis’ vocals merge perfectly to create and ethereal haze. Esben and the Witch employ melody far more than other post rock bands. Esben and the Witch slowly interweave melodies and textures of sound until they have built a crescendo of noise.

 

 

This model of song writing is on display with their new (and come back single) Blood Teachings. The bass and guitars interact with Davis’ voice. At times it follows the call and response pattern. As the song is eight minutes long it slowly builds to its majestic peak 2:33 from the end. Then they just put their foot down and let rip until the end. It is one of the most striking and beautiful pieces of music they have ever created. The evolution of their sound keeps their song writing fresh, transient and beguiling.

 

 

Interest at thisyearinmusic towers is building for the release of their third album next week. If the song writing remains this consistent then it could eclipse their nigh on perfect (and genre defining) debut Violet Cries from 2011. The future is dark and gloomy for Esben and the Witch, but that’s the way they like it!

 

 

Esben and the Witch – Blood Teachings

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Another transfer window closes; let’s imagine if football managers were musicians

 

 

I’m going a bit off piste here today. Over the last few days transfer rumours and signings have been ruling my world, so I thought it would be funny to imagine what musician’s football managers would be. Some are based on their methods, others on their persona and others still on how I perceive them.

 

 

Ian Holloway = Sqaurepusher

 

OK, this isn’t obvious at first, but bear with me. Like a lot of jazz (and let’s face it that’s kind of what Tom Jenkinson’s music is) there is a method to the madness. The method might not be apparent straight away, but there is one there. The same can be said with Holloway’s managerial style and most defiantly his interviews. “It’s all very well having a great pianist playing but it’s no good if you haven’t got anyone to get the piano on the stage in the first place, otherwise the pianist would be standing there with no bloody piano to play”. Nuff said really.

 

 

Harry Redknapp = Chas & Dave

Bit of a no brainer really. He’s an East End lad and they play Rockney (a mixture of boogie-woogie, pub rock, but with a cockney’s charm). Redknapp’s style of play could easily be classed at Rockney. It’s a bit old fashioned and rough around the edges, but it can be really enjoyable to see the old favourites performed live “Long Ball” and “442”.

 

 

Roberto Martinez = Fran Healey

This one might be a bit unfair, but I really think that Martinez is the football embodiment of Travis. Whilst massively unfashionable now at a time Travis were, well, alright. Sadly Travis haven’t changed their musical style over the years and nor as Martinez. There is nothing particularly wrong with this, it’s just a bit boring. Yes he won the FA with Wigan (no small feet) but Travis also headlined Glastonbury (again no small feat given their talent and lack of competition).

 

 

Steve Bruce = Tom Scholz

Steve Bruce is similar to Roberto Martinez. (This pains me to say but) Bruce was one of the best centre backs England ever produced. Since making the switch to management He has never changed his style of play. This is probably down to the way he played for Manchester United. He went in hard and worked hard for every ball. This is something Bruce instils in his teams. Tom Scholz’s story is similar. Scholz’s built a studio in his basement and made demo, after demo, after demo until he got signed (and formed Boston). It’s this bloody mindedness and perseverance equate the two together. Boston eventually got singed and Steve Bruce almost won the FA Cup last year.

 

 

Mauruicio Pochettino = Mick Jagger

This one might be a bit short-sighted, but I feel that Pochettino only cares about his reputation and the amount of money he can get, rather than the team he is in charge of. The same can be said for Mick Jagger. It’s been written that Jagger only cares about how much money he has and how famous he is, compared to whether he is making good product. I feel the same can be said for Pochettino. Leaving Southampton after an amazing season to jump to Spurs shows that he never really cared for the club and when a better offer comes along he will leave Spurs for it too. This is fine, and maybe he thought he had taken Southampton as far as he could, but I would have love to have seen what he did this season with that group of young English players.

 

 

Brendan Rodgers = Black Sabbath

Before I get into this, I want to say that I actually like and rate Brendan Rodgers. He has done what many have failed to do in recent years. Make Liverpool play well and attack the summit of the Premier League. Black Sabbath are the perfect band to represent Rodgers’ style of managed and play. His teams can be fast, they have vibrant attacking options and they can be fun to watch. However I feel that the legacy of the band attracts more fans than the current releases. This can be said for Liverpool. They have one of the richest pasts in English football, but recently they haven’t won a great deal. I’m sure time will change this though. Sadly…

 

 

Manuel Pellegrini = Kanye West

This one has little to do with style of play, but down to cold hard cash. Manchester City are one of the most wealthy teams in the world. In theory they can buy anyone, for any amount of money. Excess is woven into their current stadium and trophy cabinet. Excess can also be used to describe Kanye West. Everything he does it beyond the realm of financial mortals. Everything he says is excessive. I like Pellegrini’s manner, but when the results don’t go his way he’ll be gone. With an excessive payout in hand.

 

 

Jose Mourinho = Phil Spector

I’m drawing parallels between Phil Spector’s private\later life. Far from it, I think that when joe Mourinho sets up a football team, he sets up a wall of football (similar to Spector’s Wall-of-Sound). No matter who he plays he steps up his strongest team. Be that a league match (after the title is in hand), a Carling Cup match on a rainy Wednesday night or a Champions League game. This has to be commended. But like Spector Mourinho is immensely arrogant thinks no one can better what does. See a perfect match!

 

 

Louis Van Gaal = Captain Beefheart

When Miroslav Klose played under Louis Van Gaal he has said “It was a tough time, particularly working with Van Gaal, I didn’t feel free. It was very difficult for me to fulfil his expectations. He was asking me to make runs I just couldn’t see. I gave it all I could, but sometimes it just wasn’t enough.” This is a similar response from musicians who played under the good Captain’s (mis)guidance. Captain Beefheart was notorious for making musicians play seemingly impossible riffs, chord progressions for days on end until he had the sound he wanted. Both Van Gaal and Beefheart have the product to back up their odd working practices. Van Gaal has won trophies everywhere he has been and Beefheart’s discography contains some of the most ground breaking and inventive music ever committed to tape. Time will tell if Van Gaal bring the silverware back to Manchester United or if he’ll end up with an Unconditionally Guaranteed on his hands.

 

 

Arsene Wenger = Sun Ra

Before we go on I should say I am a massive fan of both Arsene Wenger and Sun Ra. Sun Ra is one of the most innovative, forward thinking, musicians and band leaders of all time. Ra kept a big band going to 40-50 years. He did this though a shoestring budget (at first), communal living, lectures on subjects that interested him and a love of music. The same can be said of Wenger (I can validate the communal living or lectures, but if he could he probably would). When the Premier league was (let’s not beat about the bush) going mental by paying silly money for players Wenger bought the players that he thought would be beneficial for the team without paying over the odds for them. Wenger has also brought in many regulations for his Arsenal team. The most striking is an anti-drinking policy during the season for his players. Ra was tee-total and imposed a drinking and drugs ban on his musicians. Some called playing with like the “Ra Jail” meaning that once you were in his band, you lived and breathed his music 100% sober. When you see some of the best free flowing attacking playing football. That’s Ra. When you see the team make 30+ touches before scoring. That’s Ra. When you see Wenger sitting on the bench then walk over to a player and speak calming about what needs to happen. That’s Ra. Now if only Wenger would start wearing Egyptian headgear and quoting about Isis and pyramids, he would truly be Sun Ra!

 

 

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Trust Us (Take 6)

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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Three single in and Ghost Culture is making a niche dance friendly atmospheric electronica

 

 

Ghost Culture is a very apt name. Ghost can mean “a mere shadow or semblance; a trace” and Culture can also mean “development or improvement of the mind by education or training”. Add these two nouns together and you have something remarkable. And remarkable is the new single Arms.

 

 

The music James Greenwood creates is part floor fillers (not in an Ibiza way) and part ethereal soundscapes. When listening to current single Arms, you get the impression that the music is almost translucent. It feels like walking into a mist. You can see it, and feel it, but when you grab a handful it vanishes.

 

 

The Greenwood music sounds familiar, but totally original. He is a disciple of Richard Fearless (he played on Death in Vegas last album) and at times this connection is very apparent (debut single Mouth could almost be a Death in Vegas track), but there is plenty there to show that the student will slowly become the master. On Arms it’s more of the same, but everything is more concise. The drums sound crisper and the synths more effluvium. The major difference here is the tone of the vocals. Half whispered, half spoken. They draw you in and once they have the wonder hypnotic outro starts.

 

 

Arms is the direct descendant of Kraftwerk, but for the post-clubbing generation. Rumour has it that Greenwood is working on a full length album. If these three singles anything to go by, then an album would be the highlight of any year it is released! For now, however, I’m going disappear into the musical haze Ghost Culture has, almost, effortlessly created. I suggest you do the same!

 

 

Ghost Culture – Arms

 

September 2014

 

 

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Sheffield duo return with new album and sound, kind of.

 

 

It’s been three years since the last Slow Club album. In that time they have grown up. On new album Complete Surrender, they had ditched their twee indie-folk roots, and the full indie sound of Paradise. This time they have embraced the past and gone soul. Northern Soul to be precise.

 

 

The intro to Complete Surrender reminds me of Taxman. After this initial flirtation with familiarity the song changes and a Hammond organ and husky female vocals enter the mix. The vocals are more exhaled then sung. A guitar enters now and the song picks up the verse-chorus-verse-middle 8-verse-chours-outro pattern. It’s all very pleasant, but it isn’t what’s in the foreground that is the most interesting bit though. It’s what is going on behind that.

 

 

What is most striking about Complete Surrender is the composition and the textures of sound. There is a lot going on in the background. This is the sound of a band who has been listening to a lot of 1960’s pop. You can definitely pick up on a touch of Phil Spector about it. Everything about this song is BIG. The way the guitars and strings mimic the vocals is exceptional. At times it sounds like a Mark Ronson song, but there is a level of authenticity about it. Being from Sheffield, Slow Club would have been exposed to Northern Soul in its purest form. They have not just decided to add some horns and Wall of Sound production techniques to their new song, they have studied the composition to the genre and produced something that sounds like it, but it respectful to the original source materials.

 

 

Slow Club – Complete Surrender

 

 

September 2014

 

 

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August has been a great month. There was loads of great new music, and I re-found loads of old favourites. of Arrowe Hill released a track inspired by the centenary of the First World War. It is part of an EP. Every year until 1918 they will release a track for that year. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

 

 

The Bug released his new album and it’s amazing! Keeping on an electronica vibe Rustie released his second album and it’s possibly one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. The Wytches released their debut and it proves that guitar music ain’t dead! Keep it up boys…

 

 

This month saw two surprise returns. Kate Bush took to the stage for the first time in 35 years. The results were meant to be magical. The other surprise return was Aphex Twin announced he will release a new album in September. When the new broke, everyone at thisyearinmusic towers sent batshit crazy!

 

 

Along with all this new music I watched some amazing musical documentaries. If you have a few spare hours please check out youtube for documentaries on Grindcore, Black Metal, Thrash Metal, Sun Ra, Blondie, Punk and Grunge.

 

 

August 2014

 

 

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Bush mania rolls on. Eight albums in the top 40.

 

 

After her first gig in 35 years eight Kate Bush albums are in the UK top 40. What is more remarkable is that she only has 11 studio albums. This is about 72% of her total output in one chart at one time. What is more remarkable is that she is the first female artist to do this.

 

 

Out of her discography her debut The Kick Inside (1978) and Hounds of Love (1985) are my personal favourite. This might seem that I am only picking the albums with the biggest singles on them, but it is more than that. The Kick Inside is full of wonderful ideas and some of the most interesting pop songs committed to tape. Hounds of Love on the other hand is an album of two halves. The first half (Hounds of Love) is chocked full of massive pop songs (including three of Bush’s most famous), but it is the second side that is the most interesting. The Ninth Wave is a suite of seven songs that Bush herself described as being “About a person who is alone in the water for the night. It’s about their past, present and future coming to keep them awake, to stop them drowning, to stop them going to sleep until the morning comes.” Not bad for a pop album eh?

 

 

If you have never heard this selection of songs I recommend that you do. They truly are wonderful. At times the lyrical content is abstract, humorous, loving, scary and chilling, but they are never dull. It is a work of brilliance. The old expression “They don’t make ‘um like this anymore” is sadly true with this album. Let’s hope that this sudden bout of live performances (also called The Ninth Wave) might inspire Bush to get back into the studio and create something as bewitching again.

 

 

Kate Bush – Waking The Witch

 

 

August 2014

 

 

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Japanese electronic pioneer continues to infiltrate my subconscious, years after hearing the albums for the first time

 

 

Isao Tomita is a legend. He’s a pioneer. He stands alongside other such visionaries as Vangelis, Wendy Carlos, Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. Tomita’s work helped push the boundaries of what could be achieved with analog synths. Even now 40 years after their initial releases his albums still sound fresh and exciting.

 

 

As with a log of early electronic pioneers he recorded classical music on synths. Snowflakes are Dancing, his 1974 take on Debussy’s tone paintings is one of his more powerful and engaging works. With Snowflakes are Dancing he push the boundaries of classical, avant-garde, ambient, electronic synth pop. The sounds he created are luscious, but warming. The tones envelope you put you in a bubble.

 

 

As this is the day of rest (if you believe in such things) I am starting my day by having a nice cup of tea and listening to this wonderful album. The sky is blue, there is the promise of a lovely carvery later in the afternoon and work seems a long way off (even though it’s about 24 hours away)…

 

 

Isao Tomita – Grand Canyon Suite: Clair de Lune, No. 3

 

 

October 2014

 

 

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