Memory –  Murmur Tooth (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a3918558583_16The further down this dark, spacious path Leah Hinton takes her solo Murmur Tooth project, the more I love it. Always aware that there is more musical currency in atmosphere and anticipation than bombast and clutter, here she builds a powerful and punchy piece from the bear minimum of sonics. The icing on this rich, dark and bitter sweet cake is the melancholic trumpet that weaves its way through turning a shrouded modern indie song into a twisted, timeless Old World dirge. 

Dealing with the sensitive issue of memory loss, something that at least is being spoken about more and more in the current climate, it instils the conversation with an intimate perspective and a cold dread that comes with the thought that everything that makes up your life, your history, your personality, your very being, could one day drop from your memory piece by piece leaving you anonymous and detached from everything you once were.

As always it is the combination of beauty and terror that Leah captures so elegantly, the tension and drifting atmosphere that floats about the listener as if they themselves were part of a chorus line from a gothic musical. Cold, deep, poignant and reflective but also gorgeous, ephemeral and eloquent. It’s what she does.


A quick chat with Colin Moulding

TCI-Photo-credit-Geoff-Winn-2Ahead of the upcoming run of TC&I shows at Swindon Arts Centre I managed to grab a quick chat with Colin Moulding about recent events, a return to treading the boards and what the future holds. This time last year I had spoken to him and Terry Chambers about the release of their e.p. Great Aspirations, so I was interested to know how we got from that record to full band live shows.

“A few reasons really, all those songs I wrote for XTC, when I had finished recording them I just had to wave goodbye to them and I thought it might be nice to hear them in a concert setting as a lot had never been heard that way. This coincided with Terry thinking shall we play some live shows on the back of these new recordings but of course we only had four new songs. I knew he wanted to get back out and play live, that’s how Terry best expresses himself. I thought, I can’t go the whole hog, I can’t go back to a touring lifestyle, I have commitments but I can go half way and  play some shows via a more considered approach.”

Continue reading “A quick chat with Colin Moulding”

Bring On The Mesmeric Condition  –  The Morlocks (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

HGR-028_Morlocks-thumbThis may be their first album for eight years but as soon as Bothering Me’s boisterous Hollywood Brats style musical swagger starts emanating from the speakers, it seems like they have never been away. How quickly we fall back into line, them delivering acid-laced raucous garage rock and us lapping up every second of it. 

Now based in Düsseldorf, vocalist Leighton Koizumi has gathered around him a veritable who’s who of European psychedelia, fuzz and garage rock players including Rob Louwers on drums, Oliver Pilsner on bass and Marcello Salis and Bernadette on guitar. And if the line up might have been refreshed, the sonic identity of the band is still reassuringly single-minded. Guitars are sludgy, fuzzed out and pushed to the edge, drums are wonderfully tribal, basses pulse relentlessly, pianos are hammered to within an inch of their lives and in the eye of the storm Koizumi partakes in a shamanic ritual to conjure the spirits of long dead bikers and beatniks, hippies and surfers, drop-outs and freaks.

Songs such as Easy Action strut and swagger with cocky confidence, Heart of Darkness is a strange swirl of gothic-folk-pop and One Foot in the Grave is a solid gold slice of highly charged Bolan-esque rock. For all their raw approach, jagged angles, dark hearted rock vibes and warped psychedelic leanings, they never lose sight of the hook and the melody. Bone crunching and visceral this may be but you never lose the urge to dance, yell, jump about and spill your beer as a libation to the Gods of Rock’n’Roll. The more you spill on their behalf the stronger they become which probably makes The Morlocks nothing short of high priests.

Wanna join a cult?

Mats Ronander and The Dusty Runners –  Would You? (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

z63RdpyQEven on the first play of this album you come away with the feeling that these are songs forged by a very skilled writer and recorded by an experienced band. And you would be right, just one look at Mats Ronander’s resume reveals that he not only has a pile of solo albums behind him but is a go to, top flight session man and has toured as part of, not only home grown legends such as ABBA but has graced the ranks of the likes of Ian Hunter and Graham Parker’s live line ups. In short, the man knows what he is doing. And then some!

Having gathered around him an equally impressive cast of players he has created an album which mixes slick country grooves, polished blues and approachable rock, all shot through with accessible, soulfulness and infectious vibes. It’s where commercial possibilities meet rootsy traditions, where the sound of the American dream gets dressed up for an even bigger international audience.

At one extreme you have the purer Nashville infused sounds of the Karin Risberg led Nothing’s The Same, a song that just glistens with rhinestones and personal reflection and at the other The Bridge plays with big funky, soulful blues. The title track wanders through some latin inspired beats, Spare Me Some change is a bluesy plea and My World showcases the gospel harmonies which are never very far away from the proceedings.

It’s a fine album, deftly constructed, able to wander across genres yet deliver a consistent overall sound, one where rootsy underground music is taken from the truck stops and downtown blues bars and represented and repackaged for a slicker uptown audience. Purists might prefer their music with the rough edges still in evidence but Ronander’s ability to create such sounds for a much bigger stage is exactly why he has had such a successful career.

Nevertheless –  Trio of Awesuhm (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Trio of Awesome_phixrThere are so many well constructed, clean-limbed and classic sonic lines running through Nevertheless that it immediately feels like a song that you have been humming along to all your life. That simple guitar rhythm, the plaintive piano lines, the jaunty mandolin, they may all sound familiar but the cliche that suggests that this might breed contempt certainly isn’t appropriate in this case. Sometimes familiarity breeds commendation. There’s a new cliche to stick in the book for you.

And the advantage of having an unfussy and sleek tune, one that is happy to just get the job done rather than showboat is that the listener can then focus on the lyrics and this is something that you really need to do here. Trio of Awesuhm offer up a call to arms to all those who think that the challenges that lie ahead of them might be too much, who are afraid to tread new pathways, break new ground, to push at the boundaries and barricades. In its own supple and subtle way it’s a poignant, important and relevant message, it always has been but it somehow seems the perfect time to underline it in these dark days.

Cool Pop Thursday : This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

41yXHeTcCXL._SY355_Does Kate Bush actually make music that can be simply categorised as pop? Although it is an idea that has been levelled at many artists, normally out of some act of promotional hyperbole, Kate Bush is one of those few who makes music that only ever sounds like herself. With the exception of a few acolytes in later years, most notably the exquisite Bat For Lashes, Kate Bush conjures songs which are so original, so of the artist herself as to defy generic pigeon-holing. But pop will do as good as any.

This Woman’s Work is a masterclass in emotion, in space, in atmosphere and anticipation, of how so much can be done with so little. The art, of course, is editing just the right bits of “so little” and that was always been where she left everyone else behind.


Scene and Heard – CCCXCIII: Cool Ride –  Peter Senior (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

39957139_474972783004192_6081965620063109120_nThere is very little new under the sun, as they say, especially when it comes to guys singing about cars. But as is always the way it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Anyway, that’s enough cliche’s for the time being, you know what I am saying. And whilst Cool Ride is a guy singing about a car, it is the music that Peter Senior uses to deliver the message that justifies going over such well trodden territory again.

Blending a country rock ’n’ roll groove with more soulful textures, –  plaintive piano notes and melancholic trumpets with a bluesy backbeat –  the song might swerve away from the usual cliches, but the video certainly doesn’t. I like to think that the images use are knowingly obvious, that it is self-deprecating, delivered with a wink and it does indeed remind us that there is more to life than cars and girls (sorry another throw away reference). It is also about cars and boys!

The track is taken from On The Edge, an album which acts as a showcase for Senior’s myriad styles and musical interests skipping between country and rock, Motown and pop, an almost as live recording and his first solo album to date.

But despite, or perhaps because of, the playful innuendo found here you shouldn’t dismiss the song as a past pastiche or rose tinted glance back to past musical glories. Okay, that is part of what’s going on here but it is also a song for today, a modern update on simpler musical times and blending oil stained Americana with sassy late night jazz vibes. And the more you play it the more you find to like about it.

Between the more obvious beats and the straightforward intent, subtle and supple textures emerge, the odd percussive groove here, a Mariachi blast there, perfectly poised harmonies and some clever arrangements. It would be easy to take so many different sonic elements, throw them into the mix and end up with a cluttered sound, one where one instrument steps on the toes of another but the production here allows everything to breath, even to the point that you can hear some of the “live-ness” of the recording, something I thoroughly approve of.

So to conclude, it is a song that you need to get to know, one that you need to spend some time with,  take for a spin a few times and understand how it handles. And like most great cars you will find that what you find when you lift the hood of this sonic beast may very well surprise you.

Young Waters – Young Waters (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

01-417106Stick the label “twisted neo-folk’ on something and I’m in. It already ticks three important elements for me. Folk music, or at least that music which beats at the heart of your particular cultural traditions, is where music begins. Someone much older and wiser than me quite rightly pointed out that “all music is folk music; I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.”  Well, quite. Neo, because even the most tried and tested of genres have to move on. Twisted because, well, expectations are there to be dodged. And in this case that box is ticked or not depending on your view of what twisted is, not that it really matters.

For what Young Waters have created here is an album of songs very much rooted in traditional sounds, sounds that are deft and delicate, spacious and emotive, harmonious and intricate but which manages to update those traditions whilst using the very same building blocks. Arrangements follow unexpected twists (there you go) and turns, the lyrics are often deep and exploratory and the whole affair feels less reverential, less tied to the sounds of the past but more like a new chapter written in the same sonic handwriting.

Twisted might imply a mad overhaul of the folk sound, strange gene-splicing in night time music laboratories and wild genre-hopping. But the twists are more supple and subtle than that and act to steer things through interesting waters rather than let things run wild. The result is a charming blend of familiar sounds used to new ends, of soft and gentle string washes, of a creeping darkness filling the space between crisp and clear acoustica, of exquisite harmonies, of the family silver getting buffed up for a new batch of visitors. Twisted? Perhaps not so much. Gorgeous, well-crafted, dexterous and awe-inspiring? Absolutely!

Indie Wednesday : A Gang Called Wonder – Siblings of Us

37390815_993850477463211_8742275497146187776_oIndie? Possibly not but their music is so weird, genre-hopping and changeable that I’m not really sure where it fits in so this is as good a place as any. Most of my postings in this category have been real blasts from the past so far but as these splendid people are currently on tour and they remind me at their most intense of things like The March Violets and James Ray’s Gangwar, that’s excuse enough to post them here.

Industrial strength synth exploring rock territory? A pop band armed with keyboards and a bag of amphetamine? A trio who don’t care about fad, fashion or where genres start or end? I suspect that they are all of the above.

Check out music and tour dates at – Siblings of Us


The Panoramic View – Mark Harrison (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

panoramic-view-coverOn an increasingly packed shelf of roots music stands an artist who is quietly going about his business, blending and blurring the lines between country, folk and blues and playing shows all over the place, and picking up friends and followers as he goes.

If you’re a follower of Mark Harrison, or keep an eye on roots music in general, I won’t be telling you anything new here, you’ve already had the scoop and it’s I who is the late comer, but for those who stumble upon the cd cover and think “that looks interesting” or have heard his music on Radio 2 or perhaps wandered past an acoustic stage at a festival and heard a song or two by him, read on…

The Panoramic View is Mark’s sixth album and is a wonderful dip into nostalgia, these songs could have been written sixty years ago but the great success is how these songs also feel and sound contemporary. The opening track title, ‘One Small Suitcase’, sums up the feeling of the album in three words, these are songs to accompany a railroad trip, sat on an old wooden crate, passing the fields of Idaho, watching the miles and hours drift by with nothing but the stories and imagery that Harrison effortlessly seems to conjure.

Harrison encourages the listener to go on the journey, pack that small suitcase, get on board that train and visit the father surrounded by children, the heart broken man wronged by his woman, the legendary railroad worker and the man living on a farm scratching a living and trying to avoid temptation and passing on his words of wisdom to the upcoming generation. I guess this is a metaphor for what Harrison is trying to do, a blues man at heart, he is repeating and retelling the music of the blues, so it can hopefully find a home among the pop tunes and short-lived celebrity acts. But if you’re hoping for screaming guitar solos, look elsewhere because this is subtle story telling that clings on by it’s nails long after the song has finished.

There are acoustic songs like ‘House Full of Children’, ‘Ragged’ and ‘John The Chinaman’ but there is a growly earthy centre that is found in the superb ‘Hooker’s Song’. Obviously none of this can be done alone, Harrison surrounds himself with some fine musicians, bringing the different tones to life with ease. One thing that particularly stood out was the brass work of Paul Tkachenko, hearing a tuba being played on any record puts me in mind of the silver bands of Northern England, yet hearing it here, on an album so obviously American-inspired allows these stories to feel more relevant to me somehow.

So, like I said earlier, if you have heard Mark Harrison before, I’m probably telling you nothing new here, the songs are good, the music is good and this is what you’ve come to expect from a musician writing and delivering this level of music, but if this is your first visit, you’re in for a treat.

Alt-Rock Tuesday : Taillights Fade – Buffalo Tom

Buffalo-TomI have to admit that I was a real late-comer to Buffalo Tom. A whole bunch of friends of mine were big fans but there is only so much time and there are so many records that sometimes you miss out on bands that should be a real shoo-in for your record collection.

Anyway I made up for it later and this one song more than any of their brilliant canon of work is the one that always stands out in its majestic and melancholy  glory.

Now I come to think about it I do remember having a cassette (remember those kids?) with the album that spawned it, Let Me Come Over,  on one side and Dinosaur Jr.’s Where You Been on the other. Ha…funny how the mind can suddenly throw up long forgotten useless information like that.



Watercolor Lies –  E E Beyond (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

49ac5193850d6d8c2cdde0afafa37a968ca48953Whilst a lot of music seems to be made for the most shallow reasons, fame, money, ego a means to an end rather than the journey itself, occasionally you come across music which seems confessional, intimate, the narratives of an artist trying to make sense of their own life and understand the world around them. Watercolour Lies falls very much into the latter camp. At its most intimate it examines the authors own relationships and searches for honest truths beneath the outer appearances, at its most poignant it is nothing short of a bold dissection of The American Dream.

The Watercolor Lies of the title refers to the things that society and the system, even friends and family tell us are in our best interests but which later prove to be only hollow traditions. You get an education but you still have to work three jobs to make ends meet or you stay in a relationship because maybe it is easier or maybe you think they will change. Nothing is the way society, the media, politicians tell you it is but you go along with it anyway.

But for all its soul searching and deep questioning, Watercolor Lies is a gorgeous album. Lyrically it may often be confrontational but musically it wraps these thoughts in exquisite R&B grooves and soulful sound washes, hip-hop beats and alt-pop infectiousness. The title track in particular is a spacious and dark piece and taut with the frustrations that the lyrics highlight. Dreamers Howl which opens the e.p. is a wonderful blend of tribal hypnotics and shuffling, minimal dance floor beats and right from the start shows the thread  of optimism that runs through the music in its “I’ve Got You” chant. Life may be tough but we can find comfort and support in those around us.

Enemy, which brings the e.p. to a conclusion is a beautiful pop ballad, both haunting and deeply personal. But it is this confessional stance which reaps the greatest rewards, once you are honest with yourself, once you know how you really feel, only then can you move on.

Watercolor Lies is an important collection of songs. For too long music has forgotten that it has a platform, a place to engage with like minded people, or perhaps change other point of view and that is exactly what Elaine Faye, the driving force behind the project, does here. She may seem like a voice in the wilderness in these troubled and broken days but sometimes the purity of such a lone voice can make it seem all the more powerful. And on the basis of this musically intelligent and lyrical eloquent collection of songs, E E Beyond should resonate with a lot of discerning music fans looking for artists who speak their language and who put those same frustrations to creative use.

Sweet Nothings –  Eliot Dean Baker (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

tumblr_pfuazmVbLb1rll5k4o1_500Considering how far we have come since the singer-songwriter became a staple part of  the modern music canon, how many songs have been written largely around one voice and one guitar, you might be forgiven for thinking that there wasn’t much more to do with such a format. But as is always the case it is not the format but the creativity of the artist, the singer not the song. Eliot Dean Baker is proof of just such an idea and using just the basic ingredients he is able to create something rather compelling.

Following a slow burning journey from gentle picking, emotive strings and a spacious beat he manages to steer the song along a dramatic and dynamic path mainly though deft construction rather than a layering on of overt and obvious sonic textures. The song does gain weight as it travels to its sudden conclusion but only slightly, the odd bit of guitar embellishment here, some beguiling vocals there but largely this is about the song, the vocal delivery and the way he alone wanders between quiet atmospheres and triumphant crescendo.

My go to artists for songs such as this are often the likes of Damien Rice or David Gray, not exactly break through acts but neither have been bettered that often and their ability to do so much with such a sparse musical tool kit is reflected in the way Eliot Dean Baker works too. Baker weaves the same smoke-like and transient sounds around him, the same air of the otherworldly, an ethereal grace matched buy a very human condition. I’m not saying on the strength of this one song messers. Rice and Gray should set an extra place at the table just yet but they might want to make sure that there is a coffee brewing in case guests do drop by.

Stay Together For The Cats  – The Inner Party (featuring Erin Poppy)

haknnjdllnledhlnI can’t work out if this is poignant, sad or just plain silly. It might be all three at once which would then actually make it quite brilliant. I’m sure there are childless couples whose life revolves around their pet cats but would those surrogate children be a reason to stay together in the face of a failing relationship? I guess the fact that many people would have to think long and hard about the answer to that is the reason that the song is so great.

There isn’t much in the way of music going on behind, a beat and a whole heap of melancholic sounds, the perfect accompaniment for the world weary and worn out vocals that they frame. In fact after a while the song starts to make the listener feel a bit down too, such is the power of music I guess but somehow you find yourself wondering if he did come home, did the relationship survive and what sort of a life a cat could have coming from such a broken home!

Inner Party

Scene and Heard – CCCLX: Fall Apart  – Ignacio Pena (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

fallapartfront2.jpgWhen ever I come across an artist whose music appears to drive a lyrical content about revealing truths and endeavouring to explain to people just why the world is the way it is, I always brace myself. More often than not it is little more than a string of hippy nonsense and conspiracy theory about alien bases on the dark side of the moon and secretive powers behind the throne. But what is so refreshing about Fall Apart in particular and Ignacio Pena’s work in general is that he isn’t trying to tell us about hidden figures who have been pulling the strings of puppet players throughout history, he is telling us about the ones that have always and continue to do so in plain view. Why look for conspiracy theories and furtive cult groups when the history books will show you that far from being alien interlopers and secret sects, they have just been businessmen and investors, and more than anything it is they who have shaped the modern world.

The East India Company might be an odd thing to want to write a song about but I say why not? Better a history lesson and content that might spark an interest in something tangible than another pop song about how your girlfriend dumped you over instagram..or whatever. As part of the album Songs for the Fall of an Empire, Fall Apart and particularly the informative video charts the rise and fall of The Company and shows that it is the blueprint for modern corporate politics.

Musically it is the usual deft blend of accessible rock, the perfect mix of muscle and melody, and a more progressive vibe, partly due to the subject matter, partly due to the clever dynamic that the song uses. If you think that rock music is all about girls and cars, then you need Ignacio’s music in your life, rock music it may be but it is rock music concerned with things that actually matter.


Coulds and Shoulds – DK1 (reviewed by T. Bebedor

51pADsv4gAL._SS500This album was described to me as electro-acoustic folk, sounds interesting enough, and two genres that could sit quiet nicely together, and they do. The songs are acoustic based but given a little extra atmosphere and ‘body’ with the electric treatment and, often, it works.

The songs sit nicely on the periphery of the subjects they tackle, often being the observer and posing questions – particularly on ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ where we’re asked to describe our world to visiting aliens – about human nature. He tackles personal issues such as dating as a middle-aged man, the effects of prescription drugs on your outlook on life and trying to ignore those voices in your head that seem to add caution to every decision and prevent us from doing things.

I think the best place to start with DK1’s album is the voice; singer/songwriter/musician/ producer Daniel Kent has a voice like Marmite, some will like it, others won’t. It’s a gentle, fractured, soft voice but won’t be for everyone.

Music wise the album covers folk but also takes in gyspy jazz and straight forward acoustic songwriter fare, the album starts well, ‘Itty Bitty Sh**y Committee’ is a strong opener, ‘Skinny Jeans’ takes a humorous look at modern day dating and ‘Bump’ sounds like a track from 90’s band St. Etienne, not a bad selection considering at this point the album is only five songs in.

There seems to be a deep well of talent around at the moment, blurring the borders of genres and challenging the listener to do something more than simply to listen, DK1 does just that.

Coulds and Shoulds is released on 1stOctober on F&G Records.



Stuff –  Strangely Alright (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a4034941787_16Scientists have always predicted lots of cool technological advances, from jet packs to flying cars, from sentient artificial intelligence to time travel. And whilst we are still waiting for the first three of those to become the every day luxuries they promised, the last of that list has been available for a long time. You don’t believe me. Just go and look at your record collection! Every time you put a record on…yes, I still call them records, get over it…not only do those sounds remind you of the time and place where they were created, they can also act as backward glancing sign-posts or future musical predictions and they also probably remind you of that point in your life when you first encountered the music.

Strangely Alright are sonic time-travellers. They paint paisley patterned pictures that shimmer with the 60’s mercurial blend of darkness and innocence, they mesh psychedelia and pop melodies together, they run rock muscle through the most danceable of tunes, they are the perfect blend of past and present. Their reference points, early Floyd’s whimsey, The Kinks deftness, later Beatles experimentalism, Bolan-esque strut, perhaps King Crimson’s more groovesome output as well as later retro-revivalists such as Redd Kross and Jellyfish, might suggest that they spend their time glancing back to past glories. But as I have said before, they also sound like a band making music for today. Pastiche and comfort zones is not what is going on here and whilst you can probably make a fair guess at the contents of their record collections Stuff is every bit as adventurous as the music made by those they tip their hats to.

Whilst the band seem to either only put out the good stuff or just have an uncanny ability to write songs which feel like single material, The Information Game, for me at least, sits at the heart of the e.p., a brilliant blend of Aladdin Sane cool and modern alt-alt-alt rock (rock that is at least three steps removed from the posing indie kids with the their complicated hair and their skinny jeans). All the songs found here are robust enough to make their own way in the world on their own. Whatcha Gonna Do is a teasing taste of what we might have got if Marc hadn’t let Gloria drive the mini that fateful day, Building Bridges is totally infectious from the word go and the title track is  the sound of the past and the future having a party in the present.

Strangely Alright doesn’t do things by halves and Stuff is as solid a collection of songs as you are going to hear any time soon, the fact that they are building, blending, inventing and destroying any number of genres along the way is just the icing on the cake. Okay, not time travel in the truest sense but it will do until actual time travel comes along.

Come Again – Grand Blue Heron (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

31957393_1668761816494930_1283781671987970048_nAah Belgium, the land of good beer, good chocolate, good football and, if Grand Blue Heron are anything to go by, pretty good rock music.

It’s no great secret that rock music is alive and well on the continent, it’s a thriving community and often feels like every suburban street or block of flats has a future rock star tucked away in a corner somewhere, busily learning guitar chords, listening to albums and planning world domination. Not sure if this is the reality but there are some good bands that don’t get the attention they deserve because the music isn’t ‘on trend’ or simply because the market is crowded by British and American examples.

Sounding like a 90’s indie band and giving a nod to 70’s punk comes Grand Blue Heron, a four piece from Belgium, who don’t care if you like what they do because they’re having such a good time doing it, you can either join the party or stay outside and wait for the next bus home. There is a level of control throughout the album that only really comes with experience and knowing your instrument inside out.

The overall sound is effect-heavy (only the drums sound organic) with guitar tones going from thick distortion to heavy sustain in seconds, but it works. Rock music has always been judged on its energy, it’s not like classical music where a musician will pour over notation, playing a piece of music repetitively until it becomes second nature, rock music is trial and error, attitude and ego, the four musicians on show here know their individual place and part of the puzzle.

The album starts with a strong rock song to set the tone and we’re taken through rock-blues, to straight up, smack-in-the-face rock to a mid-section of two songs that hint at a fondness for 80’s  bands like Joy Division and then the whole package is finished off with a song entitled ‘Chlamydia’ (obviously not a first date song) which is simply punk.

If your tastes are a little heavier than most, but not as heavy as metal, you could do far worse than giving these fellas a few minutes of your time, who knows, you might even fancy cracking open a bottle of beer too.

Not that we condone that kind of thing here…


Scene and Heard – CCCXCII : Safe and Warm (Lullaby For Jesus) – Katie Garibaldi (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

0011943078_10Although it seems that summer may have only just disappeared and we have all the Autumnal delights to get through yet, plans are already being made for the Christmas holiday season. Katie Garibaldi may be the first Christmas song to land on the review pile but I think it is going to take some beating. As part of her Home Sweet Christmas album Safe and Warm mixes her already well established roots credentials with more devotional gospel vibes the result is the perfect match of seasonal and timeless.

Whilst many will be releasing songs which are either dry and formulaic or silly and sentimental, Garibaldi mixes the right about of delicacy and grace with clever sonic choices and deft composition. The layered harmonies are exquisite, the space in the song allows her own soft but effective main vocal to have room to soar, with the instrumentation only framing and embroidering the song rather than driving it any more than is necessary.

A seasonal song that you can play all year round? Absolutely!


Folky Friday – Who Knows Where the Time Goes – Fairport Convention

unhalfbricking_387965_450x450Both a sublime solo song for Sandy Denny and here a more rocked up version for Fairport Convention, either way it is a gorgeous song and whether left to their own devices or placed within a band Denny’s voice is outstanding. It probably isn’t cool to admit it in these days of edge and cool but both Denny and Karen Carpenter possessed voices that have never been beaten, in this scribes humble opinion.

Criterion of the Senses – Ed Motta (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

61XCiTbggoL._SY300_QL70_There is a fine but very important line between being predictable and middle of the road and being smooth and cool. It’s the difference between playing old standards to uptown, supper club gigs and using phrases such as “don’t go changing” when thanking the audience and making music that weaves soulful grooves, jazz sophistication, gentle funk smarts and even touches of reggae, classical and homespun vibes together. Thankfully Ed Motta knows the difference, he knows where the line is, he knows which side he is on and he is so far removed from those music by numbers sets that he can’t  see that line or even clubs lights in the rear view mirror.

It’s the difference between compromise and accessibility, for whilst this latest album is certainly full of music which engages easily with the listener, the depths and textures it is built from are beguiling and inspiring. It never panders to expectations or merely gives the listener what they expect or feel they want, it would rather give you what you didn’t realise you wanted.

Whilst there is a touch of Al Jarreau or George Benson about the music, lyrically Motta out paces even those big names, I don’t remember either of them using the word Kafka-esque in a song and having it wash through so smoothly! Lyrically inspired by everything from sci-fi, abstract poetry, 80’s fashion…in a wonderfully humorous way and even Hamlet, these songs are stories in their own right, little vignettes and fleeting scenarios set to the coolest music.

The result is an album that will appeal to the jazz and soul purist and the fan of chilled pop alike, those who want a smooth sound track and particularly those who will revel in the elegance of the music and the eloquence of the lyrics. All things to all people…that isn’t a bad label to have.

Strange Charms –  Lana Loveland (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

R-11468180-1516867875-1781.jpegAnyone who is a fan of the garage, psychedelic, retro and freaky end of the rock oeuvre will be familiar with Lana Loveland. Being Organist with The Fuzztones as well as being a member of the Music Machine and fronting her own band Loveland has made her a household name, at least in the more discerning musical dwellings. After a brief hiatus…it’s a girl!…she is back with a vinyl single which goes by the name of Strange Charms.

And given her illustrious CV it is everything you would want it to be. It blends acid rock’s fuzzed out guitars with hazy psychedelic pop, 60’s underground vibes with a modern alt-rock zeitgeist, it not so much plunders the past for interesting sounds as re-packages them for a new audience. Web of Sound is even more mercurial sitting somewhere between a long lost Jefferson Airplane single and a Hammer House of Horror sound track and you never even see the join.

The art, of course, is to refuse to trade in past glories but to build those ideas into something new and for all its retro hat tipping, this release is perfectly timed. With pop music dead in the water and rock music too busy checking itself in the mirror people are increasingly looking back for less cynical, less industry driven music. What Lana Loveland offers is something that is both old and new, then and now. It’s time travel I tell you, sonic time travel…and Strange Charms is your ticket.

Legend –  2nd Verse ft. Daylyt (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

500x5002ndVerse certainly tell it like it is. One of the great things about rap music is that it looks you in the eye, shoots from the hip and draws first, firing off salvos of reality, truth bullets packet with explosive honesty. And Legend holds nothing back as it kicks off. And if rap, hip-hop and all its various sub-genres are based around dexterous and poetic use of language then this certainly ticks a lot of boxes on that score. It’s an interesting switch really, other genres are happy to create intricate music and just through the lyrics on the top without much thought, here the music is just a simple device to keep things moving forward and it is the mesh and flow of the words which is the focal point here.

And as if 2nd Verse didn’t get the job done they also have a couple of tricks up their sleeve. Firstly in stark contrast to the street swagger of the lyrical delivery, they weave in some spoken word samples whose clipped, retro, public service announcement style in perfect imbalance. But their best trick is securing the services of master battle rapper Daylyt whose presence adds no end of kudos to the proceedings.

Revelling in the past is all very well and good but the best music, or at least the most original, seems to be made as people move things forward. It’s all about evolution, it’s about forward-thinking, it is the way the world turns. Legend is the sound of the world turning and music moving into pastures new. Here they pull together various urban strands, lazy beats, slow hip-hop rhythms, cool rap flows, strange and glitchy electro-groove musical motifs and even a few sultry R&B tones and smooth, late night smokey vibes.

It’s a track that tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like something new, a bold step forward, a post-urban style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations. Ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, trap, electronic music or any other genre should be about. Welcome to the post genre world!

It is an addictive combination of hypnotic vocal delivery and trippy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. It is the perfect eulogy for the streets, the hustle, the hassle, the grime and the game, it plays to stereotypical images but it drips with dark reality. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own, new first language.

Pop Thursday : A New England – Kirsty McColl

imagesIt’s odd really. I’m not big on covers or people who feel that they can re-work a song because they can make a song better, more relevant or whatever but one of my favourite songs of all time is Kirsty McColl’s cover of Billy Bragg’s A New England. She took a cool underground song and turned it into pure pop without losing its inherent greatness.

Listen to those brilliant bass runs, those extra layers of guitar textures and of course Miss McColl’s brilliant voice. Instead of the commercial video version I have gone for the superior extended 12″ version. The intro of this is the benchmark for building into a song and as it drops into place just before the vocals come in you get to hear the two most perfectly chosen guitar notes in pop history. You’ve gotta love that.

Illuminate –  Viva Death (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

093575If classic rock was one of things that the punk manifesto stated should be destroyed, a generation later alternative rock in general and bands such as Viva Death in particular are where rock and punk co-exist in perfect harmony. Why wage war over your differences when you can celebrate the common ground? Illuminate is indeed that common ground. Initiated by Scott Shiflett and Trever Keith of Face to Face the band has evolved, expanded and taken breaks as other musical commitments have taken precedent and this latest album sees only Shiflett and producer Chad Blinman contributing the lions share to the project.

But the result is a solid and snarling beast of an album, the much needed shot in the arm that rock music has been waiting for for a long time now. It mixes hard rock with darker post-punk, takes the infectiousness of classic rock but tempers that with the more exploratory attitudes of the alternative scene, bares punk rock teeth and even wanders out into some more experimental and refreshing sonic pastures.

Sound The Alarm is a charging, incendiary track, one that gives the Foo’s a run for their money but at the other end of their musical machinations, Windows is a dark and pulsing, chilled and reflective creation. Illuminate is definitely a rock album but one that is pushing at the boundaries all of the time. Petitioning The Black Wall is an industrial masterclass, Storm a skittering and tension filled dance-rock ritual whilst Man in the Street is futuristic pop-rock, all strutting grooves and jagged edges.

Whilst their peers are happy enough to wrap themselves in the same The Colour and The Shape inspired creative comfort blanket that has been keeping them safe for two decades now,  Viva Death are more than happy to mix and match their musical fashions choices and the result is an album which is at once familiar and comforting but also inspiring and adventurous. 

Revel & Ritual: Holiday Music for the World – Greg Herriges (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

280a35b4-01b1-4d52-a38a-1646324664dc_phixrWhen you hear the term “holiday music” what springs to mind depends on which part of the world you are from and what your cultural heritage sounds like. With this in mind Greg Herriges has collected together music which goes beyond the Holly and The Ivy of the western Christmas traditions and recorded, reworked and in some cases composed his own music which reflects the sounds of festivals, revels and holiday celebration across the globe.

The skill of such an enterprise is to come across with authenticity, that you are revelling in the music with the spirit and joy for which it was intended rather than being merely a dusty academic, collecting and cataloguing for anthropological reasons rather than musical. And as he flits from Basque to Balinese traditions, from Catalan to Chinese song and from Hebrew to Ukrainian heritages he never once sounds anything other than at one with the music. A glorious celebration of world music and a reminder that however much we talk about the global village, the world is indeed still a large, fascinating and beguiling place full of rich rewards and musical marvellousness.

Indie Wednesday : Return To Yesterday -The Lilac Time

The_Lilac_Time_(The_Lilac_Time_album)_cover.jpegTo be honest, these daily by-genre posts are really just me working my way through the favourite bits of my record collection, but it gives us something to bond over…or argue over. Indie music of course is a tricky term, aren’t they all, but for a man of my age it is more about an independent ethic which existed in the post-punk era, led to a whole genre being built around the term in the 90’s and which is again in evidence in the modern age with the various D.I.Y and grassroots ways of operating away from the majors.

Also feel free to make suggestions for videos to post in these categories, it isn’t all about me. It is mainly about me though!


Black Parade –  Musta Paraati (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

563205It is fair to say that 34 years is rather a long time to wait for a new album and although the band underwent a period of rejuvenation in 2015 when they worked with vocalist Herra Ylppö to release a two-track e.p., this recent collaboration with Jyrki Linnankivi from The 69 Eyes was only ever intended to produce a couple of songs in English for fans beyond their Finnish borders. Still, as is often the way, one thing leads to another and the next thing you know you are clutching a full blown album of new material.

Musta Paraati are sonic brethren to the likes of Killing Joke or Theatre of Hate, skirting the cliche of goth with enough distance to put them in a more credible market. They  build songs around the same sonic Strum and Drang as those dark post-punk bands, they wander between cavernous doom and chiming electronica and there is something of Carl McCoy in Linnankivi’s vocals, only with much better clarity and diction. But unlike McCoy’s Nephilim they stop short of the pretension that oozed from their pores.  Like most bands who start in fairly niche genres you only survive by quickly broadening your horizons, The Clash had out grown punk by London’s Calling and more relevantly The Mission had shed the goth moniker by the time they had put Children to bed.

Black Parade is the sound of a band who know their audience but who don’t pander to its every whim, casting their net to a wider alternative rock potential crowd. The one older song here, Leader, proves that they already knew how to walk the fine line between the dark edge of underground New Romanticism and what would soon be termed alternative rock even as the NWOBHM championed the classic sound of the seventies.

The remaining ten tracks are all new. Chopsticks chimes with a wonderful space and accessibility, Radio is dense with heavy textures even as it references Bowies most soul -pop moments, Reaper is raw and jagged and Today is the perfect blend of dance groove and industrial edge. It’s easy to see where the bands blackened heart lies but the charm of the album is that this is the sound of the band writing the music that they might if they were starting out today. Whether you are a fan of the early albums or just someone looking for music that flies in the face of modern by-the-numbers alt-rock and identikit indie, this is an album that you are going to fall for immediately.

Album pre-order – CD     Vinyl

Vanessa Peters – Foxhole Prayers (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

a3021777516_10Throughout history, creative minds have always responded to injustice or outrage in their own way – Picasso’s 1937 painting Guernica immediately springs to mind – and music is a powerful platform to air one’s own feelings on certain subjects.

Music can be political but at the same time still needs to be heard, so getting the balance between getting the message heard and remaining entertaining is tricky but this tightrope is expertly handled with Vanessa Peters’ 11thstudio album. She tackles broad subjects like politics and growing violence but also brings the listener into her more private world, sharing her self-doubts and fears.

But don’t worry, this isn’t a tubthumping political ride, it’s a creative mind writing about the world around her.

Like most solid albums the songs grow and evolve the more you hear them, and the result is something very homely and comforting but something that also has the intelligence to keep you on your toes knowing that dark times are just around the corner.

Peters’ voice is surprising resilient, not the strongest, but it sits just as happily in the softer moments as well as the rockier songs and her delivery is honest and invites the listener to come along for the journey, it’s a voice that you want to listen to.

The album’s opener, ‘Get Started’ is a gentle kick in the pants and a call to arms, yes things aren’t always buttercups and crumpets but we have a hand in our own path so make a choice and stick to it, no matter what stands in the way. This positivity runs throughout the album, even when she is laying her fears bare on ‘Fight’, it is quickly followed by ‘Lucky’, another slice of positivity. ‘The Riddle’ sounds like the best Radiohead song that Radiohead didn’t write, it has the acoustic guitar, the dreamy melody and distorted effects that the Oxford band produced during the 90’s.

The title track acts as an intersection midway through the album, announcing a slight change to atmosphere and, interestingly, the album seems to get better as it goes along, three of the final four songs are wonderfully up-tempo and reinforce what a strong and varied songwriter Peters is. ‘Carnival Barker’ is an almost humorous metaphor for the current American president and the sideshow that surrounds him (reminding me a little of the Talking Head track ‘Democratic Circus) and ‘Trolls’ rattles along before a return to more familiar ground in the albums closer, ‘What You Can’t Outrun’.

In this world of commentators, bloggers, vloggers and whoever else people listen to now it’s clear that songwriters are still powerful voices and I’m yet to think of a reason not to listen to this one.

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