Aah, the covers album, a tricky beast, an almost unwelcome visitor to the party and one that is immediately faced with dilemma’s; do you stay true to the original or do you change the arrangements entirely giving it a new spin but risk losing the essence of the song? Do you choose unfamiliar tracks so not to offend fans of the original, or do you pick classics but always be in a battle of comparisons?
No matter what your rootsy preference, Tentrees and Haldane seem to have things covered. Grit is a suite of songs which effortlessly combines the best aspects of acoustic, folk and country genres. The playing is a deft and intricate without seeming showy or unnecessarily bandwagony, concise picking and lovely riffing provides a structure which is both hypnotic yet wonderfully restrained. Lyrically, again, all necessary boxes are ticked from the blue collar anthem of 29 Loads of Freight to the witty social observations of Craft Beards and Man Buns to the howling blues of I Don’t Have A Gun.
Malibu Blackout adhere to both age old truths and totally modern attitudes. On the one hand they understand that if you don’t have a good song in the first place then no amount of studio trickery can polish it up and therefore groove, melody and accessibility are of paramount importance. On the other they take the line that music has gone beyond its once tribal inclinations and so write songs for this post-genre world we find ourselves in, ones that wilfully hop the sonic demarcations of old and defy easy pigeon-holing.
Some music fits neatly into custom built, generic boxes and there is nothing wrong with that. But fad and fashions come and go, tastes change, music moves on and I find the music which survives, which continues to be relevant, which may even one day be regarded as classic is that which seems to be unconcerned by generic demarcations. After all, life doesn’t come packaged in different emotional compartments , it is at once sad yet positive, energetic and poignant, loud but meaningful and everything in-between, all at the same time. So should our music be.
Although writing for and fronting punk duo Ghoul Kids gave Taylor Barnes a great place from which to speak on any number of topics and narratives, it wasn’t until he suffered the unexpected departure of a close friend that he decided that a different musical platform would better serve his creative needs. That new sound, a blend of drifting shoegazery, vintage surf and rock urges, gothic vocalisations and a dark, psychedelic pop, was in some ways the antithesis of the path he had up until then been pursuing but it also still pulsed with an alternative, underground and cultish resonance.
Pop needs saving and Hajk could be just the band to do it. Pop, R&B and Indie music are all very potent forces in their own right but it seems when the modern music industry mixes them together in search of a winning formula they always end up turning those vibrant colours into a nondescript sonic shade of grey. A shade that works as the perfect, dull and perfectly dull background for songs whose agenda of dance-routines and celebrity rappers, tried and tested templates and borrowed grooves should have been discarded years ago. But discard such artists and what do you replace them with? Hajk, that’s what!
Forget, “you had me at hello, “ this latest musical jaunt from TTMTMS had me at the cover illustration, one seemingly taken from an Edward Lear publication. Not that it says much about the music itself but it does tell me something about the way they think and the things they find amusing. Truth be told, they had me before that. They had me at Tightropin’ that most English of romps through the most American of sounds. And that is really the essence of the band, the ability to liberally plunder the best bits of state-side roots history, porch band culture and cowboy campfire jams but then drive a spike through the centre that is shaped like English folk tradition and quirky humour. Many can folk but few frolic so wonderfully and so brilliantly revelling in this country’s quintessential qualities.
One of the reasons that I get so annoyed with the current trend of people only attending gigs by bands that they already know, who fit exactly into their current musical wheelhouse, that their brother-in-law plays bass for, or whatever comfortable fit it might be, is that you miss the opportunity to be totally surprised by a band you previously knew nothing about. That was how I first encountered these splendid people, a small festival, the knowledge of one of the members previous musical art attacks and cool name was my ticket, and boy did taking a chance on them really pay off.
Advance releases should act as a teaser, a sonic signpost to a forth-coming bigger release, a taste of things to come. And on the face of it that is exactly what Stop Talking was in regards to this album as it landed in the review pile only a few days previous. But it is a curious record, a teaser certainly but its dichotomous nature, an opening minute of aggressive punk-metal that their Bay Area home patch has traded on since the early eighties, followed by a longer payout formed of drifting guitar lines and restrained vocals left many questions unanswered too. What it did tell me though was to expect an onslaught of raw-edged, punk infused, hard and heavy music that blended simple progressions and direct sonic salvos with technical guitar work, but to also expect the unexpected, the odd musical trick or trap to throw me off balance. And for all the strangeness of Stop Talking, it did its job perfectly as that is exactly what I got.
Jamit, and his strange and wonderful forward thinking dance music creations is a regular visitor to DAA’s sonic literary shores. Often seeming like a solo voice in the music wilderness, creating singular sounds alone somewhere on the other side of the world and fighting back against the waves of predictability and pre-conception by building mercurial musical landscapes. Here though he has found a like-minded soul and if Jamit on his own is an interesting prospect, a collaboration is exceptionally intriguing. Just the concept of a Singaporean-South African musical cross-pollination has to be fascinating concept.
You have to love a song that sends you right back down the sonic rabbit hole, back into the body of that wide-eyed teenager that you used to be staring up at some long forgotten punk band in a now bulldozed venue in a town that you can’t remember going to. The first wave of any new genre is always the most exciting and subsequent musical devotees may capture the music, the style, the sound, the vibe but rarely do they capture the raw emotion that you felt when you first encountered the music that was going to change your life. A G E N T ’s Stop Talking, however, does exactly that.
As soon as the name Glen Hansard comes up most people think of that iconic sonic moment in the film Once or perhaps a general allegiance to the classic lines and timeless songwriting styles of artists such as Dylan, Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen. But Hansard has always found ways of upsetting expectations and this new track from the looming fourth solo album, This Wild Willing, is as strange and mercurial as anything found in the darker and less immediate corners of his regular musical vehicle, The Frames, back-catalogue.
On first listen – especially if you weren’t paying attention – you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is an album full of fluffy clouds, rainbows, optimism and sunshine all played out by a bright female voice and set against the back drop of Hippy-inspired dreams of unrealistic goals where people greet each other kindly and skip happily through the long grass of the world.
You’d be partially right.
The history of contemporary music is littered with high drama and over the top behaviour. The path to rock ’n’roll infamy is paved with imploding bands, bad behaviour, reckless acts and personal feuds. That side of history might make good copy and is thus assured the column inches in the press but the reality for most bands is very different indeed. It is generally one of hard work and dedication punctuated with moments of genius, a slow fade out and a long wait before attaining the title of cult band. The story of The Go-Betweens follows just such a pathway and because of its lack of intensity and intrigue is probably more valuable a document for those wishing to understand the reality of the music business.
Roots music, like most generic labels, is too broad a term to really convey anything useful to the listener. It covers all sorts of world, folk and traditional sounds, sounds that seem to lie at the beating heart of one culture or another and also seems to imply a nostalgic backward glance to a sound that is fairly well established, that is instantly identifiable, easy to pin down and even point to on a map. But if ManaLion is to be found anywhere in this broad musical scatter gun of ideas, it is found in a rare and interesting corner that is marked progressive, forward-thinking perhaps even futuristic.
Doug Collins has been described as a “man out of time” and, after listening to his ten-track album ‘Good Sad News’ it’s pretty clear what that means. Collins’ songs evoke the musical era of the jukebox, prom nights and broken-hearted teenage girls alone at home crying over their first love while sad songs play on their record players.
The instrumental pieces on The Humors, the second full-length album from NYC-based freelance guitarist Ryan Dugré, are meant to create mood and space. Drawing influence from film music, sparse scores such as Neil Young’s music for Dead Man, as well as the more melancholic pieces found on Marc Ribot’s Silent Movies, Ryan’s music is graceful and meditative.
There is something utterly and infectiously joyous about this latest release from Lord Conrad. But that is the art of making dance music in a nut shell. Too many people working in the broad progressive dance field, ignore any thoughts of moving the genre forward and instead stick to the same few musical tricks, overloading the song with sonic gimmicks and weigh it down with layer upon layer of studio tricks.
There are many reasons to cover other peoples songs and in my opinion most of them are not really very honest. I know that you can make an argument for tradition and wanting to honour your favourite songs but for my money, unless you can bring something new to it then all you are doing is riding on someone else coat tails and basking in their reflected fame and glory. After all in which other creative field could you do something similar without it being regarded as at best plagiarism, at worst forgery? I couldn’t paint the Mona Lisa or write Pride and Prejudice without a few questions being asked.
Your weekly round up of the music that we didn’t have time to cover in any great depth but which we felt needed a bit of a mention so that you can go and check things out for yourself.
9 Heartbit – Stefano Tucci
Raised in Naples but now resident in Paris, Tucci has been blending musical genres for nearly a decade. His latest album 9 Heartbit is a blissed out blend of clever guitar lines and groovesome dance beats, chilled electronica and pop urgency. More than anything it proves that dance music and dexterous guitar work are not as opposite as the rock and dance fraternities would have us believe and that there is a sweet spot between the two. Listen to Tucci’s music and it seems so obvious.
Find this album and lots more besides HERE
It is with a sense of sadness that I sit down to write about this latest Barnstormer album, having learned of the passing a few days ago of Dan Woods, original and long serving guitarist with the band but so much more too. Musician, artist, Fish Brother, Sensible sidekick, and as someone who was lucky enough to meet him on a number of occasion, not only a perfect gentleman but a perfectly gentle man. I raise a glass!
Anyway, to horse…
There are moments when the wonderfully named Amigo The Devil sounds like the dark, balancing counterpart of Damien Rice, times when he sounds like the alt-folk version of Danzig but mostly he sounds like Amigo The Devil. For all the space and drifting atmospheres of the former and the intense, diabolical edges of the latter, he manages to plough a furrow through murder ballad territory in his own inimitable style. This is Southern apocalyptic country music, gothic folk, blasted and blighted rock music…it’s the music that is playing as you wait for the world to end.
Monkfish make music as a soundtrack for a time and place that never really existed. It is one part The Old South, one part David Lynch soundtrack and one part dystopian future. A blend of what was, what is and what might be. And if the physical time and place that they cloak themselves in is a dark and mercurial one it is only because it mirrors the sonic landscapes that they build, more than the sum of its parts perhaps but some of those parts clearly falling into alt-country, rock and folk genres. But as always it is how you blend those familiar sounds together and more importantly what mortar you use as to hold it all together that makes you stand apart from the pack.
Bristol’s Our Nameless Boy are pleased to announce their return with their forthcoming new EP ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Scared Again’ set for release through Beth Shalom Records on 1st March 2019.
To celebrate the news the band have revealed the video for new single ‘All It Is’ – an intense visual documentation of guitarist/vocalist Ian Gorrie’s recovery from an 11-month long battle with testicular cancer.
It’s clear from the outset that this album is going to be something special, the cover artwork alone tells you that there has been a lot of thought and work gone into the making of this album. It’s always a good idea to make your cover stand out because fans of this style of music will be dipping into this cd regularly and, lets face it, no one likes a boring album cover.
If pop music seems to have become a sonic painting by numbers production line more concerned with appealing to comfort zones and pre-conceptions of late, then we have to thank the gods of music for artists like Shreya Preeti. But it isn’t that she is making pop music that sits at a generic extreme or that she is splicing new sounds together in some genre-hopping experiment, far from it.
Given Nelson King’s usual rate of output, I was thinking of sending out a search party, having not had anything by him land in the in-box for quite a while, but thankfully Life Ain’t No Movie Show turned up as if to assure me that he is still very much in the game. Though its all relative I guess as even with this recent breathing space he would still finish in medal position compared with today’s average artist.
Not content with inventing his own musical genres by taking the common building blocks of familiar sounds and fashioning them into new sonic architecture, Garden City is Slang building a whole new world for those sounds to inhabit. It’s a place where “a red river flows through the veins of an enchanted forest” and “through the mist, in the heartland, lays Garden City.” That may seem a bit proggy, but rest assured this isn’t the music of wizards and epic quests, unless the wizards are the musicians making this glorious sound and their quest is a search for the groove.
There are few purer or more universally relatable things to write music about than attempting to capture the emotive sugar rush and natural high of your first crush and put into words those unexplainable and new experiences of first time love. And that is exactly what Just Wanna Dance is all about, attempting to describe with words and music all of those innocent, new and exciting chemical reactions that do strange things to you and your mind when love, lust and longing take hold of you.
I think it’s fair to say, without the risk of sounding sexist, that the album currently playing on my stereo is one written by a female and largely intended for a female audience. It’s true that within most arenas of creativity, be it books, films, television shows or music that if you can capture the female audience, you’ve got a hit. We all remember the fuss surrounding the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ books, and ‘The Greatest Showman’, a film released quite recently, panned by critics but audiences loved it.