Books and covers, well, more properly Cd’s and covers; I never learn do I but I’m sure that I’m not the only person to look at this side project release from Jezebel Jones and automatically conjure words such as gothic, pagan, theatre, pathos, cliche, etc. But this is actually far removed from the Buffy watching, pseudo-pagan audience that I might have judged it to be aimed at. In fact its so far removed that it can’t even see Sunnydale in the rear view mirror.
What a glorious racket, and I mean that in the most constructive and positive sense. This is the sort of song that the more tribalistic elements of the scene will all argue over and try to claim it as their own. Punks will point to the inherent energy and edge that comes flying out of the speakers, the alt-rock fraternity will defend its four-four roots and foot on the monitor swagger, emos will make you aware of its angsty and pent up subject matter and indie kids will defend its effortless cool and accessibility.
“Good things come to he who waits” is the perfect adage for this the second album from Katie Doherty and the Navigators. More than ten years down the line from Bridges she is no longer the emerging artist breaking through into the folk scene but a stalwart of stages shared with the likes of Karine Polwart, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and the legendary Ray Davies. But as is often the way though, life moved quickly on after that debut release, circumstances changed, and for Katie Doherty that meant working as a composer, collaborating with the Royal Shakespeare Company, starting a family and relocating to enjoy life on a farm. While nourished by her life and work, her own music had to take a backseat.
Fans of Dublin duo Morrissey & Marshall will not only be familiar with the type of music the boys play but will also be familiar with the songs on this album because they’ve rerecorded their 2014 debut album ‘And so it Began’ but in a stripped back acoustic fashion.
Because there just isn’t time to give everything we receive a full write up MiD aims to catch the best of the rest, give it a brief mention and point you to a place where you can discover the music yourself and make your own mind up.
Love You, I – Minx
MINX is a female MC from the UK who’s been working back and forth between her native London and NYC, real name Madeleine Dunbar, she’s an extremely talented rapper, singer and song writer and she put out this over the Christmas period. Her latest release ‘Love You,I’ is her take on the ups and downs of a modern relationship, think Lily Allen and Monie Love having a party with Lauryn Hill and you’re half way there. This is the sound of a young woman with a lot to say and this is her time to say it.
Whereas some artists excel at doing a signature sound, who perhaps neatly capture the testosterone fuelled urges of rock, or who might ooze indie cool or maybe understand perfectly the delicacy and heritage of folk music, Jimmy Lee Morris instead understands the idea of the song itself. I’m not suggesting that he is in any way a jack-of-all trades but instead of worrying about the generic trappings, the fad and fashion of a sonic task at hand, he instead is the master of serving the song; style and genre being at best secondary considerations.
Having previously encountered David Schipper deftly parodying Bob Dylan as a solo outing, the perfect way to get to know the man better would be to take a listen to his work as a member of his occasional musical vehicle Lucky Dog, so this song landing in the review pile afforded me that perfect opportunity. The subtitle of “a new country classic” is very apt as it has all the hallmarks of the genres trademark style but also manages to put just the right twist on things, as you would expect from Mr S.
If Liverpool is known for producing bands with the ability to produce exquisite music whilst not taking themselves too seriously from The Beatles to The Coral then Big Tide’s first single from the forthcoming Sync or Swim (you see what they did there?) album is the perfect continuation of that tradition. Musically it fits on to a timeline of influence that runs from the original Byrdsian jangle pop through the bands who reinvented it on the west coast in the 80’s as the Paisley Underground scene, their English contemporaries such as The Icicle Works and on to more recent champions of the sound such as Guided by Voices.
For a man who has spent most of his career as a saxophonist, composer and producer in more avant-garde and psychedelic circles, Always All Around You seems to follow some classic and conformist lines. Not that that is in anyway a bad thing, of course it isn’t, the very definition of the term classic is an “outstanding example of a particular style; something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality” and that also tends to imply accessibility, familiarity and working in comfort zones. This second album sees Norman Salant adopting the mantle of acoustic guitar slinging, singer-songwriter, one who neatly treads a path that the likes of Paul Simon, James Taylor and Neil Young have left their sonic footprints on.
Imagine if The Cult had, instead of embracing foot on the monitor, leather clad rock, gone down a more 4AD inspire route around album three. Imagine if Echo and The Bunnymen had been inspired by Kate Bush rather than their retro-American influences. Imagine if The Church had opted for a shoegaze infused sound rather than the iconic 12-string jangle. All strange and hypothetical scenarios, but all ones that go some way to describe the glorious sound that Crooked Ghost make on this, their second album. I guess it is only journalists flailing for a handle who conjure such ridiculous images but it says a lot about a band when you need to resort to such extremes. Although, I must admit, it is also a fun thing to do.
Some music seemingly exists to cut through the background noise of the world around us, some to reflect it back at us like a mirror and some seems content to create fragile sonic structures to encircle and capture it. Lavine is definitely in the latter category. Moist seem to make music which is about building deft and delicate musical bubbles to encapsulate the natural atmospheres that surround us. And their gossamer blends of music are a perfect balance between the pulse of the modern, human world and the ethereality of the timeless natural landscape.
The Room in the Wood have a strange knack of wrapping influences up in other influences like sonic Russian dolls that upon opening lead you back down a sort of retro time travelling, sonic worm-hole. Mars (Wont Save Us), the lead track from their latest four track offering, of instance, is a prime example. Initially its a 2000’s era dark, alternative indie groover, open that up and you get the more discerning end of some 90’s underground alt-rock echo, inside that is a vibe of 80’s post-punkery, which reveals 70’s psychedelia and finally a core of 60’s garage band boisterousness. That’s a long thread to tug at but it does reveal that whilst fad and fashion may change on the surface, the really cool sounds endure from one musical generation to another. They just get a little make over to match the times.
As we approach the end of the year, releases for 2019 start coming thick and fast, the Christmas songs slowly get tucked up tightly into their boxes for forced hibernation until next winter and thoughts of spring and the new year come along. At the start of February American duo Mandolin Orange release their sixth album and if you like harmonised vocals, thoughtful lyrics, fantastic musicianship and things a bit country, look no further, Mandolin Orange may well be your next favourite band.
I have spent not an inconsiderable amount of time over the years morning the passing of the political song. It seems odd to me that at a time when the world seems more divided, more intolerant, more entrenched…that rather than such concerns be reflected in the music being made we instead seem to revel in the vacuous, the shallow, the easily digested and the effortlessly consumable. Luckily we have acts such as Twilight Fields to show me that things may not be as bad as I make out.
There are many reasons for making music. As a form of artistic expression it is as perfect and fluid a medium as you can get. You might make music to energise people, to make them think, to make them dance, to enhance moods, to help them relax, to impart emotion, as a form of escape and every reason in between. But there can hardly be a greater reason to make music than to celebrate the love and marriage of two people.
Whilst studio creations have the luxury of presenting the band which all the polish and glamour that the technology and time will allow, live recordings can be seen as a more honest representation of what a band really is all about. So this time as the latest offering from Tough on Fridays landed in the review pile we got to hear them in the flesh, as it were.
I love music that doesn’t fit into standard genres, that is hard to pigeon-hole and which has a totally unique artistic fingerprint on it. Teach Myself Again is just such a song. Essentially a spoken word stream of consciousness that blends gentle philosophies with wonderfully soul-searching metaphysical meanderings all pitched over eastern vibes and ambient beats. On paper you may think that you have heard something similar and indeed you may have but Jimmy B still finds new astral pathways to walk with this intoxicatingly psychedelic mysticism.
What’s interesting about 3Mind Blight is that you read through the accompanying bio and you find references to the Boom Bap Rap and Grunge scenes of the 90’s, which, at first, definitely seem out of keeping with the deft and dexterous slice of alt-rock that is I Am Not. But listen deeper and it makes perfect sense as the song seems to exist at a point where an infectious and driving dance groove collides with a darker, more desolate rock urges.
Dance music doesn’t have to be predictable. Although a lot of what is produced in that broad genre does seem to follow very tried and tested lines, plays safe and stays within its musical comfort zones. Occasionally you find someone who is deliberately making music without the safety net, who is happier leading than following, challenging rather than toeing the line. Log 57 is that very principle put into practice.
No one likes a joke more than I do. We’ll maybe my brother, my neighbours, the postman and the local amateur dramatics society. Okay, most people like a joke more than I do but I have to say that this cool little parody from David Schipper was not only wonderfully mirthsome and well thought out, it is actually a lot more poignant as a piece of social commentary than it might first appear to be.
Guitar music has to walk some pretty fine lines. Take rock music for example, there isn’t much daylight between a cool guitar-slinger with all the chops and swagger and a cliched buffoon with his foot on the monitor shouting “Hello Cleveland” at a stadium audience. Similarly for every 100 indie bands busily checking its hair in the mirror or alt-rock band making sure that it has just the right designer skinny jeans for the photo shoot, there is probably one or two that get it right. You either have it or you don’t, some things are just inherent, unteachable, natural. Pretty Noise is the sound of a band getting it right.
As was immediately apparent to anyone who heard Boy.Inside, D.Ni.L doesn’t work like most musicians. He is a collector of sounds, a collage-maker, an arranger and whereas most musicians chose to work with the tools of one or two genres to create their signature sound, here it is the very genres which are being bent to his will. But it is one thing to draw all of those disparate sounds together, it is quite another to find a way to splice them constructively into a working end product. It is D.Ni.L’s ability to weave these often conflicting and colliding sonic servings together that makes him stand out from the crowd.
Rhode Island four-piece Deer Tick have put together something of a miniature ‘Best Of’ compiled from selected songs from their two previous albums (Deer Tick Vol 1 and 2 respectively) but have also included cover versions of songs that inspired the original recordings AND new compositions, so, all in all, a bumper pack of audio offerings.
Somewhere along the line the term “pop music” has become a dirty word. I remember when guitar bands blazed an exploratory trail through pop realms as interesting as any keyboard wielding dance groover. But in the modern age the genre seems to be associated with music industry production lines, dance routines and TV talent shows. That’s why you need bands like Talk In Code. For Talk In Code is a pop band in the very best sense of the word, one that can wander from pastoral pop pathways to incisive indie cool to rocked out riffs to dance floor infused beats and back again without breaking into a sweat.
Tales of romance within the music industry are still alive and kicking, you hear stories of buskers being plucked from oblivion to record debut albums, lonely minstrel-type performers suddenly thrown into the spotlight after years of sofa surfing and these kinds of background stories are much more interesting than the reality of someone going through years of learning their craft in numerous bands before suddenly getting a deal with a bunch of friends and going on to be the next big thing.
What a difference a video makes! Okay, we have been here before, I Need You found its way to us not so long ago and it is safe to say that we admired its deft weaving of rockish warp and soulful weft into a gorgeous sonic design, one that tipped its hat wonderfully to the past whilst striding confidently into the future. It is back, this time with a video attached and proving that a song can be great when experienced through the usual audio sensory intake but add a visual package and that experienced is heightened no end.
For all the big and obvious sounds I get to listen to on a daily basis as a music reviewer, it is the more studied, the more ambient and more intricate sounds that I look forward too. I, of course, appreciate a pop hook, a rock riff and a well executed roots manoeuvre but there is something about music that uses space and anticipation to build its drama and atmosphere as readily as it uses instruments and structure that I find appealing. To find Invadable Harmony back before the reviewers pen is therefore a joy.
It’s pretty clear from the ‘man and his guitar’ front cover that this is a song centred around the sound of a six string and the male voice, but it’s no Bob Dylan or James Taylor, this is Americana with a dash of bluegrass and gospel to go along with it.
There was a time when videos were merely a marketing tool, a supplementary piece of promotion to help sell the song in question, something to be fun and forgettable. But over the years things have changed, or at least those smart enough to understand the power of the video, especially in today’s distracting and visually driven market, have changed the way they use them. Jonathan Alexander is one of those astute enough to recognise that a song with the right film accompaniment is more than the sum of its parts. Much more.
Whilst those at one end of the music industry, the moneyed end, are able to build a reputation from the tease and anticipation that comes with having a label budget to play the PR game, Fabpz the Freelancer takes a much more DIY approach. He keeps his name on peoples lips through a relentless release schedule with albums seeming being fired off into the public conscious every few months. And this, almost punk approach, seems to pervade the way he puts the music together as well.