Black Pumas – Black Pumas

Over a whatsapp video call, David showed me a new CD he had bought, I nodded politely as though I recognised the band and knew all about them and we moved on to the next one of three. The album was Black Pumas by Black Pumas and I thought little more of it until the very next day I somehow found myself in a record store for the first time in months since the lockdown started. I didn’t really have anything in mind to buy and was browsing around when I stumbled upon a vinyl copy of the album. I bought it, unheard, on a sort of recommendation by David. I think if I had gone to the store with a purpose, looking for something specific, I probably wouldn’t have, but apart from the recommendation it was on a nice splatter vinyl and came with a bonus CD, also it wasn’t particularly expensive.

I’ve played it several times since then and really do rather like it. If you haven’t heard them yet here is their track ‘Colours’ (which I’ve spelt correctly) for you to have a listen to before I go on:

So who are they? They are singer Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada who got together in 2017 and released their debut album, Black Pumas, on June 21, 2019. They performed at South by Southwest in 2019 and won a best new band trophy at the 2019 Austin Music Awards. On November 20, 2019, they were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. That’s quite a start.

Black Pumas performed “Colors” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! following their network TV debut on CBS This Morning along with a taping on season 45 of Austin City Limits. The band’s single “Colors” later reached number one on AAA radio. The single has been streamed over 60 million times across all platforms. Meanwhile, the official live video of “Colors” has been viewed over 25 million times on YouTube. Despite all this, nobody has pointed out that Colours has a U in it.

In their hometown of Austin, Texas, Black Pumas became the first band to sell out four consecutive shows at Stubbs, one of the city’s live venues, and on May 7, 2020, mayor Steve Adler proclaimed the date as Black Pumas Day.

The whole album is consistently good and doesn’t step outside it’s aesthtic with the production staying true troughout to a sort of modern 70’s feel that has been quite popular of late.

This is roughly what the vinyl looks like, not my picture but my copy is pretty similar:

Tracklist

A1Black Moon Rising
A2Colors
A3Know You Better
A4Fire
A5OCT 33
B1Stay Gold
B2Old Man
B3Confines
B4Touch The Sky
B5Sweet Conversations
Bonus CD
CD-1Black Moon Rising
CD-2Colors
CD-3Fire
CD-4Eleanor Rigby

I’ve yet to listen to the bonus CD, I’m not sure if they are demos or live or something else. I just checked, it’s a live session. SO that’s something to look forward to.

Aurora – A Different Kind Of Human – Step 2

Back in 2015 the John Lewis Christmas advert featured a cover of the Oasis song ‘Half a world away’, performed by Aurora. This advert is actually quite a big thing in the UK and every Christmas it becomes a water cooler conversation. Over the years there have been some pretty good cover versions and the odd original, these are the ones released as singles:

Release
date
TitleArtistsPeak
position
23 November 2009“Sweet Child o’ Mine”Taken by Trees23
12 November 2010“Your Song”Ellie Goulding2
11 November 2011“Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”Slow Moving Millie31
9 November 2012“The Power of Love”Gabrielle Aplin1
10 November 2013“Somewhere Only We Know”Lily Allen1
6 November 2014“Real Love”Tom Odell7
6 November 2015“Half the World Away”Aurora11
10 November 2016“One Day I’ll Fly Away”Vaults53
10 November 2017“Golden Slumbers”Elbow29
8 February 1971“Your Song”Elton John7

you may remember the Aurora track from 2015:

Anyway, the point I was getting to was that I had no idea who it was singing but saw the advert repeatedly that Chritmas and there was something about her voice that I really liked, but I never really investigated any further, I’ve no idea why.

I did see this about a year ago where she was covering Massive Attack, and doing it very well. Again I didn’t investigate any further.

Cut to last week and I did this:- Your F***ing Sunny Day where I included a track by Aurora (Apple Tree) which put her back in the forefront of my mind so when a few days later I saw this in HMV reduced to £9.99 I picked it up.

So, some detail, basically from Wikipedia, Aurora Aksnes (born 15 June 1996), known mononymously as Aurora (stylised as AURORA), is a Norwegian singer-songwriter and producer. She spent much of her life in Os, Hordaland county, Norway.

Aurora did not originally expect to perform music professionally, preferring to keep her music private: “I never really wanted to sing, or to be on the stage at all,” she said. “I just wanted to write, maybe become a doctor or a physicist or something of that kind.” When she was 16, Aurora performed a “really long and boring song about world peace” at her high school’s leaving ceremony and a classmate put the video online.

Around the same time, a friend uploaded a track Aurora had recorded as a Christmas gift for her parents to SoundCloud. These two songs were discovered by a representative of Made Management, a Norwegian management company, who invited Aurora to visit their office for a meeting in early 2013. “At first I thought no,” she recalls. “But then my mum said I should think about the idea of sharing my music with the world because maybe there’s someone out there who desperately needs it. And that could actually be a good thing.” In a few hours both songs received thousands of visits in Norway, which earned Aurora some notoriety in her country, in addition to a fan base on Facebook.

Aurora then set about working on her songwriting for around a year before giving her “first proper live performance” at a Norwegian music festival. “I don’t think I was born to be an entertainer, I used to really be afraid of playing live on-stage. Obviously it’s terrifying! But now I look forward to it every time. I’ve learned not focus on myself, cause it’s not about me. Now I only think about giving everyone the best experience. A magic moment.”

I opened the album when I got home and it was a nice surprise to find that it was a nice clear blue vinyl:

There’s an interesting genealogy to why I would like this album, at least I think it interesting. During one of my many charity shop visits looking for CD’s I picked up a copy of Body Talk by Robin, a performer I have paid absolutely no attention too really, but I popped the CD on in the car for my journey to work and, despite it being further towards Pop that I normally listen to, I really liked it, in fact, it’s a fabulous album. What it did was open me up to more music that drifts into the pop spectrum, and it opened me up to the song ‘The River’, the opening track of the album, which I swear I’d heard before but can’t remember where or when.

I think what I like about the music that Aurora is producing is that while it clearly has many pop elements it still seems to retain and outsider feel about it as though it is a stream meandering alongside a river of pop but never quite joining it. She also seems to be rather quirky, and I like quirky.

The more I listen to this album the more I like it, it’s a quick grower, which is not always a good thing but I think in this case if Aurora continues the way she is then she could well become a Bjork like musician who continues to make and break her own rules, which the music industry needs. Homogenous music is a boring dead end, we need difference.

The Seed (above) is a lovely, but quite scary view on our current environmental crisis and has a very simple point to make, and it makes it very well, ‘You cannot eat money”

Just like the seed I don’t know where to go
Through dirt and shadow, I grow|
I’m reaching light through the struggle
Just like the seed I’m chasing the wonder
I unravel myself All in slow motion [

You cannot eat money, oh no
You cannot eat money, oh no
When the last tree has fallen
And the rivers are poisoned
You cannot eat money, oh no

Tracklist

A1The River
A2Animal
A3Dance On The Moon
A4Day Dreamer
A5Hunger
A6Soulless Creatures
B1In Bottles
B2A Different Kind Of Human
B3Apple Tree
B4The Seed
B5Mothership

Here is a great performance from this years Glastonbury festival, an event I will never get to go as tickets sell out in a nanosecond.

0:40 – The River 4:22 – Churchyard 8:56 – All is Soft Inside 14:12 – Warrior 18:10 – Soft Universe 23:25 – Runaway 27:51 – Apple Tree 31:40 – The Seed 36:27 – Forgotten Love 40:15 – I Went Too Far 44:21 – Queendom 48:27 – Running with the Wolves

This is a raw feed from Glastonbury 2016 on the John Peel Stage, it starts at 20 minutes so scroll forward, fabulous performance.

1 – Black Water Lilies 2 – Warrior 3 – Winter Bird 4 – Under the Water 5 – Runaway 6 – Under Stars 7 – I Went Too Far 8 – Running With the Wolves 9 – Conqueror

She has an authenticity, or at least that’s what I perceive, that I really like and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what she does next.

Darkstar – Foam Island

Somebody bought this album back around 2015 and wasn’t very pleased with it as I found it in a used records bin still in its shrink wrap for £7.00. As it was released by Warp records and I was sure I’d heard some of their tracks somewhere in the past and don’t remember hating them, I bought it. Pretty glad I did as I really do like it. I’m very fond of spoken word interludes in music, the sort of thing Public Service Broadcasting do for instance, and this has an element of that although more between tracks rather than as an integral part of them, they have a proper sense of not being scripted though, which matters. There’s also some words from former British PM David Cameron, the man so self absobed in his own belief of his invincibility that he never considered that the referendum could possibly not go the way he expected, and when it did, he ran away and left everybody else to deal with it.

Darkstar are James Young and Aiden Whalley (there was a third member at one point, James Buttery) who began making music together in London around 2007 and originally self released their records. ‘Foam Island is their third studio album which was released on 25 September (UK) and 2 October (ROW) via Warp Records. The album’s main themes were informed by social change in the UK and in particular how this is affecting the youth of today post UK Conservative Party re-election. Much of the spoken word included on the album is as a result of the duo travelling to Huddersfield in order to talk to and capture the thoughts and aspirations of the Northern youth of England.

Tracklist
A1 Basic Things
A2 Inherent In The Fibre
A3 Stoke The Fire
A4 Cuts
A5 Go Natural
A6 A Different Kind Of Struggle
A7 Pin Secure
B1 Through The Motions
B2 Tilly’s Theme
B3 Foam Island
B4 Javan’s Call
B5 Days Burn Blue

For me it was a good find as it is another of those bands that I’ve seen or heard a small amount of but never really investigated, now there are a few more albums out there that I can discover and if there’s one thing I really like, it’s finding new things to listen to. There’s an interesting summation to the album review in Crack magazine, which I think is probabaly true:

Foam Island is not the zeitgeist-defining masterpiece that something as ambitious and politically engaged as this could have been. There are moments when it seems to lose focus; minutes that pass without note. But Darkstar sound comfortable with themselves, and their uneasy equilibrium. You won’t hear another album like it this year, and that alone is a reason to grimly raise a glass and be thankful for a band with a disdain for smiling sweetly, and who remain on the outside looking in.

It’s probabaly fair enough, but sometimes it is just a question of whether you like something or not, and I like it.

Hekla ‎– Á

Who the hell is Hekla Magnúsdóttir? Well, she plays the theramin, and who doesn’t love the theramin?………………………. Don’t answer that.

If you had to categorise her debut release you might very well go for something like ‘Icelandic ambient’, but no, she doesn’t really fit in that, she produces rather haunting electronica overlayed with a delicate voice, haunting even. It’s a strange listen and and times there is a creepiness about it but there is also great beauty. For me, one of the key indicators of whether this album is any good or not is whether I’m constantly thinking “Teramin, Theramin, Theramin” all the time as I’m listening to it, and I don’t. Some of the sounds and transitions between notes are unusual but she plays the instrument with such skill that there is no suggestion that there is anything gimmicky here. Hekla is an extremely skilled musician who can make her instrument bend to her will.

Obvioulsy I’ve made some assumptions here, so just in case, here is a quick rundown on what a theramin is:

The theremin (/ˈθɛrəmɪn/; originally known as the ætherphone/etherphone, thereminophone or termenvox/thereminvox) is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist (performer). It is named after its inventor, Léon Theremin (Лев Термен), who patented the device in 1928.

The instrument’s controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the thereminist’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.

The sound of the instrument is often associated with eerie situations. Thus, the theremin has been used in movie soundtracks such as Miklós Rózsa’s Spellbound and The Lost Weekend, Bernard Herrmann’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Justin Hurwitz’s First Man, as well as in theme songs for television shows such as the ITV drama Midsomer Murders. The theremin is also used in concert music (especially avant-garde and 20th- and 21st-century new music), and in popular music genres such as rock.

If you wanted to buy one you can pay as little as £40 but the go to instrument appears to be by Moog and it is about £300.

I bought the album a few weeks ago, it was discounted to about £11 I think from £20 ish and this is the thought process that made me decide to buy it:

It’s quite cheap, oh Icelandic, Theramin! It will be terrible or brilliant. I’ll get it.

Tracklist

Hatur4:43
Í Hring4:22
Muddle4:29
Heyr Himna Smiður1:52
Arms4:19
Ekki Er Allt Gull Sem Glóir3:25
A Way4:13
Í Felum2:42
Slit2:40
Stondum4:30

Nérija ‎– Blume

The album for August I received today (actually 2 days ago now) from my Rough Trade Subscription is Blume by Nérija. I’m on my fourth listen and I absolutely bloody love it.

To my thoroughly untrained ear I hear a strong, resounding in fact, echo from the days of the Jazz greats intermingled with everything that has happened since then, with occasional seventies TV themes and a sprinkling of Afrobeat. It is a delicious cocktail.

Nérija were winners of the Jazz Newcomer Parliamentary Jazz Award 2017 and Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year 2016 nominees, Nerija are are a collective of London-based musicians playing exciting and original music inspired by Jazz, Hip Hop, Afrobeat and South African Township. Featuring a line-up truly representative of the up-coming London jazz scene, the seven-piece band features rising players such as tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia (Polar Bear, Outlook Orchestra, Steve Reid InNOVAtion Award Winner), trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey (KANO, Little Simz, KOKOROKO) and guitarist Shirley Tetteh (Maisha, Gary Crosby’s Groundation).

After the release of an EP in 2016, their eclectic repertoire has appealed to the UK jazz scene as well as giving them a presence at rap and pop-focused festivals. They have toured across Europe and the UK and performed alongside top UK jazz musicians such as Nathaniel Facey of Empirical, pianist Zoe Rahman, and supporting Jazz Jamaica at the renowned Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Recently signed to Domino records and having performed at Ronnie Scott’s, the Barbican and jazz fetivals in the UK and Europe, Nérija are truly part of the buzz.

SXSW Band Write UP

My copy is three sided orange vinyl with the fourth side etched, which is sort of nice as it means it hasn’t had the crap compressed out of it to get it onto 2 sides, even though etched sides are a little pointless, it’s better than blank I guess. Oh and it’s limited to 1200 copies.

Milano – Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts

At the same time I bought this incredibly cheaply: Wild – Streets Of Laredo, I also picked up Milano by Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts cheaply. It was on sale for £8 and I took a chance on it at that price. I did try and have a quick listen on Spotify but there was no data reception so I just got it anyway.

Line Of Best Fit – Review

Luppi draws his inspiration from another city that’s played an important part in his life; the achingly cool buzz of high-fashion 80s Milan. MILANO combines the yin and yang of slacker punks Parquet Courts and brash energy of Karen O. It seems an incompatible pairing, however Parquet’s slurring discordance and O’s frenetic purr make for an intriguing proposition.

O only appears on half of the album, and in her absence the Parquet-only tracks are wired with all the nervy DIY hallmarks that have made their own albums so thrilling. “Mount Napoleon” is off-kilter and downtuned with a laxity and jittery undertone that recalls Silver Jews or Pavement, while on opener “Soul and Cigarette”, Luppi intersperses keys that twinkle through the ramshackle, buzzsaw guitars like lights in glitzy department store windows.

The album really shines though when O steps up to the mic and accordingly, Parquet Courts spike up their guitars to complement her kittenish exuberance. Jagged riffs thrust, needle and stab on “Talisa” and “Flush”, while O’s vocals strut, prowl and drip with unapologetic sexuality. “Touch yourself!” she orders brattishly on “The Golden Ones”, later breathlessly asking “do you like it when I dance for you like this?” on “Pretty Prizes” amid ragged Magazine-esque riffs.

On paper MILANO should be a mess, but it’s a resounding triumph. Luppi has crafted a fast-paced and fashionable record which taps into the lifeblood of his beloved Milan; seductive, hedonistic and super stylish.

So in the spirit of supreme lazyness I agree with all of the above, certainly about Karen O who fits in really well on the tracks which she guests on.

I’ve listened to the album several times now and it’s a grower for certain, mostly because I’ve become used to Daniele Luppi and his voice now.

Odetta – My Eyes Have Seen

So my quest to find copies of every album in my Best Albums of 1959 continues with a copy of My Eyes Have Seen by Odetta. I had thought this one was going to be more difficult to find than it eventually was, all the copies seemed to be in the U.S but one popped up for £4 last week and I jumped on it, so now it is in my possession and another ticked off the list. I currently have 19 of the 30 in the list, so well on the way to finding them all.

So, Odetta, this was her fourth album release and, as far as I can see, it has only been re-released once since 1959 on vinyl, back in 1973 in Italy for some reason. As far as I can tell my copy is from 1959, it’s in OK shape but far from perfect, as long as it plays OK that’s fine though.

Odetta Holmes (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008), known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, lyricist, and a civil and human rights activist, often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she influenced many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Time magazine included her recording of “Take This Hammer” on its list of the 100 Greatest Popular Songs, stating that “Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music.

The rear of the cover contains a paragraph explaining each song, in the language of the time, which I’ll share with you now:

SIDE ONE

  1. Poor Little Jesus – One of the most powerful Negro Christmas spirituals, Poor Little Jesus draws its strength from the contrast between its exulting melody and its lamenting text. It is far removed from the traditional, “sweet” carol as a plantation is from the meadows of the English countryside. Odetta ironically adds a modern reference which is deeply moving in its underlining of the seemingly endless tide of suffering.
  2. Bald Headed Woman – In this Negro prison song, a boasting air becomes both a comic mask to cloak the tragedies of prison life, and assertion of defiant strength. Songs of this kind, created under conditions whereby they must be carried by the human voice alone, attain a stark, classic line, and it is thus that Odetta sings it, unaccompanied, the silences as potent as the sung phrases, and with punctuation provided by her own hand claps.
  3. Motherless Children – This song is a variation of the better known spiritual, This Train. For the listener, Odetta’s version is a deeper one, since it juxtaposes the jubilation of the gospel train with the tragedies of life.
  4. I Know Where I’m Going – A tender and beautiful love song, which has become a favourite in the repertoires of ballad singers on both sides of the Atlantic.
  5. The Foggy Dew – An old Irish ballad that has been collected in various form. This haunting version celebrates the Easter rebellion against the British rule in 1916, which ended in defeat of the citizen army by the “long-range guns” of the British troops. The extraordinary accompaniment, with its mood of foreboding at the opening, and of the mournful defiance at its close, is a tour de force by Odetta’s guitar and the bass of Bill Lee, her accompanist.
  6. I’ve been Driving On Bald Mountain and Water Boy – Odetta’s linking of these work songs results in a sum greater than the parts. Here is a rhapsody on Negro labor which overwhelms the listener by its alternation of moods and the richness of its characterizations. Opening with the depiction of the proud, John Henry-like steel-driver, Odetta introduces his “buddy” who got hi “learnin’ ” on the Big Bend Tunnel, and shows the mutual respect of these masters of the sledge and spike. The tempo accelerates to a climax at which the mood of freedom suddenly breaks and we find the worker on the chain gang calling for the “water boy”. A mood of bitterness and anguish pervades the first verse, where the dull repetition of rock-breaking is reflected in the hardness of the voice. Then the prisoner’s memory awakes and a rich sense of the loss of freedom is unleashed in the “Jack of Diamonds” verse. Memory is erased in the tempo of labor which engulfs both singer and audience in a dramatic close.

Side Two

  1. Ox Driver Song – This is a song of the American Southwest frontier, of the pioneers emigration by covered wagon or prairie chooner west from the Mississippi. The drive through mud and over steep hills required a granite-like fortitude and it is this quality which Odetta’s perfromance captures, with its unstoppable momentum and cumilative intensity.
  2. Down On me – Oddetta first heard this song in a Library of Congress recording by Vera Hall, as collected by Alan Lomax. The lyrics, with the outcry “Looks like everybody in the whole wide world is down on me” are secular, but the influence of the spirituals is not hard to perceive. A rich body of folk song, created by wandering singers, embodies such a bridge between the spirituals and the blues.
  3. Saro Jane – This is a song of a Negro rouster, a stevedore, who served on a U.S. gunboat that harassed the Confederate supply lines during the Civil War. It was collected by Dave Macon in 1887 from Negro singers in Nashville, Tennessee, and is considered the first example of the “roustabout” songs which arose on the great rivers of the centrsl United States. Filled with good humour, its finest irony is its claim that the stevodores have “nothing to do but sit down and sing”.
  4. Three Pigs – With the inflections that Odetta gives to this children’s song, it becomes a fable for grown ups.
  5. No More Cane On The Brazos
  6. Jumpin’ Judy – Tqo Negro prison songs, which express quite different emotions, No More Cane speaks openly and literally of suffering and degradation, expressing personal sorrow and mood of resignation. It is poetically the more profound lyric, especially in its ironic opening statement. Jumpin Judy, which shares some verses in common with Leadbelly’s Midnight Special, is a comic fantasy, in which ribald ellements effectivly mask the resentments and bitter sarcasm.
  7. Battle Hymn Of The Republic – The melody is of folk origin, despite authorship claims of several 19th-century composers. The words are by Julai Ward Howe who wrote them in December 1861 after hearing Union soldiers singing John Browns Body as they went to battle near Washngton D.C. The Battle Hymn was first published in the Atlantic Monthly of February 1862 and became the anthem of the Union forces.

Upon listening to this album twice as I wrote out the above I am genuinely suprised that it isn’t more well known, revered even. Perhaps it is but I’m just not aware of it. Though it may not be your normal listening choice I do urge you to put half an hour aside and just listen to it from start to finish, it is a wonderful collection of songs beautifully performed.

Streets Of Laredo – Wild

When an album is priced at £3.00 one doesn’t expect much, but it is certainly worth taking a chance on, it’s the price of a cup of coffee after all. In an act of pure laziness I have copied and pasted their bio from their facebook page as I know little or nothing about them, so here it is:


The title track on Streets of Laredo’s new album, WILD, essentially sums up their attitude since starting the band in Auckland almost five years ago. It’s a gorgeous, soul-stirring ballad with a haunting trumpet line, buttery harmonies, and a chorus that goes: “They call us wild / Let’s show them wild.” 

“It’s about how ridiculous you have to be to hang in there with music, against all the good, logical advice people will give you,” says Dave Gibson, who formed the band with his younger brother Dan after they bonded over records like John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Give Peace A Chance” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” “Trying to make a career in music is scary and there’s zero security involved,” Dave continues. “And fantastic things will happen, but you really have to be borderline crazy to keep doing it. ‘Wild’ does a great job of encapsulating what that’s like.” Singer and percussionist Sarah jane Gibson says “Wild” began as a song to Dave about their life together (the two are married), but developed into an anthem for anyone who needs encouragement to chase their dreams. “”Wild’ is about being more daring,” says Sarah jane. “If you’re gonna take a big risk, you need to go all in.” 

When the Gibsons relocated from New Zealand to New York City back in 2012, it took a major leap of faith on their part. They had only played one gig and demoed a few songs, but the newborn project incited such a genuine spark of inspiration that they all felt a bold move was in order. “When we moved to the U.S., Streets of Laredo was really just an idea,” says Dave, who is the band’s drummer and — along with Dan, Sarahjane and guitarist Cameron Deyell — one of its principal songwriters. “We were like, cool, let’s start from scratch in a really big town. And I like to think that the naivety and boldness of that move has really paid dividends for us.”

It undoubtedly has: In the four years since they made a new home for themselves in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, Streets of Laredo has developed from an idea to a brainstorm to an exciting new reality for the now six-piece band. They released a critically embraced debut full-length, Volume I & II, in October 2014, and have toured North America with artists from Shakey Graves to Kaiser Chiefs to Albert Hammond, Jr., as well as bringing their rousing blend of gospel-tinged folk and psychedelic Americana to receptive audiences at festivals including Bonnaroo and Governor’s Ball.

The band started writing the batch of songs for their second studio album while they were still on the road in support of their debut, and recorded the first series of demos in early 2015. Although they had taken a traditional approach to their debut, writing on acoustic instruments and recording with minimal studio manipulation, Streets of Laredo saw this new one as an opportunity to experiment. “The first album, we tried to limit our choices to organic-sounding and acoustic-sounding instruments, and songs that could be expressed very simply in a live, unplugged setting,” says Dave. “This time, we explored the use of synthesizers a lot more — especially Dan, who experimented the most with using samples and unusual noises that ended up becoming part of the songwriting process. There’s a quite brutal synthesizer line in ‘99.9%’ that wouldn’t have been an option on our first record.” 

Another technique the band used to refresh their perspective was to start a song using sampled instruments, and then transpose the part to acoustic guitar for the recording. Says Dave: “Your fingers go to real different places on piano than guitar, so it’s a way of fighting muscle memory and familiar patterns.” 

Once they had amassed a series of demos they were excited about, Streets of Laredo recruited esteemed producer John Agnello. Fans of Agnello’s deft touch on albums by Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., the band began sharing demos with the producer early on, making refinements based on his input as they moved from preproduction in Brooklyn to three weeks recording at Dreamland Studios in upstate New York. “John definitely influenced our sound,” says Dave, who admired Agnello’s knack for capturing relaxed, natural-sounding performances. “He respects the take and if it’s got a few glitches in it, so be it. He was really good at helping us feel super comfortable and be less academic about things in the studio.” 

Indeed there is a newfound confidence running throughout WILD — from the title track and “99.9%” to the eerily catchy “Silly Bones” and a sweet, lilting tune called “Doesn’t Even Bother Me,” which Sarahjane describes as “this beautiful sentiment about not feeling like you need to be in the mix all the time in NYC, but finding a way to live a happy, normal life with your family.” She continues: “We have an ideal situation, where we can do this and it doesn’t take us away from each other. When we tour and play it feels like we’re living a good life together and fulfilling our dreams. The trick is remembering to find the magic in the moment.”


Streets of Laredo are: 
Daniel Gibson – Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitar 
Dave Gibson – Drummer, Backing Vocals
Sarahjane Gibson – Vocals, Percussion 
Cameron Deyell- Electric Guitars, Backing Vocals
with
Sean McMahon – Bass, Backing Vocals 
Andrew McGovern – Trumpet, Synth, Percussion

So the big question I guess is, do I like it? And I do. Sometimes there are odd connections that occur that lead you to things quite unexpectedly, for example, if you were to look at my recent post Best Albums on 1959 you would see, at number 30, an album by Marty Robbins, on his next album after that one, ‘More Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs’ you would find the song ‘Street Of Laredo’. Which is nothing to do with why I picked up the album but is a moderately interesting coincidence.

There are two styles on the album as a result of shared vocals, some by SarahJane Gibson which at times have a Fleetwood Mac vibe about them and most by Daniel Gibson, which you can hear in the video above.

For £3 it’s a good listen and I’m glad I took a punt on it and added it to my collection.

KOKOKO! ‎– Fongola (and BlueDot 2019)

I received a yellow vinyl version of Fongola by KoKoKo! a couple of weeks ago via my Rough Trade subscription and I didn’t get to play it more than once before I headed to Hong Kong and then the festival. It was coincidence, a useful one, that they were playing as to receive a new album and get to see the band shortly after is pretty cool.

A wind of change is blowing over the cultural landscape of Kinshasa.

An amazing alternative scene is thriving far for the occidental fantasies of “world music”…

It is explosive and vibrant. These sounds are emanating from the ghetto and downtown clubs of the Congolese capital in between the government-imposed power cuts. The artists actually bring something alive in the chaos of the 3rd biggest african city. They have strong new ideas with DIY constructed instruments and a powerful and unique drive. This movement is more expressive, lively, spontaneous and direct compared to most big cities’ scenes, like London, Berlin etc… It’s raw, free and open creatively more like NYC in the 70s and 80s or Berlin in the 90s if it has to be compared to artistic movements. It’s inventing everything from nothing and it’s happening now and you can experience it through the recordings, the videos and KOKOKO!‘s incredible live shows.

The above is from the BlueDot write up. So it was a lively and energetic performance and I really enjoyed it. I’m listening to the album again now and it does benefit from better production than the live show (which is to be expected) and I am recognising some of the tracks having heard them live.

It does actually take a lot for me to not like something, it has to be exceptionally bad in my view, but this isn’t. Though there is a little repetitivness, in the repetiton of the band name in many of the songs for example, it isn’t a problem at all and even though I have no idea what the subject matter of each song is, they all seem to have a sense of joy about them.

Eluvium – Piano Works

Label: Temporary Residence Limited ‎– TRR299LP-C1
Format: 3 × Vinyl, LP, Limited Edition, Iridescent Mother Of Pearl
Limited to 1000 copies. Includes Pianoworks Vol. 2 (new recordings of classic Eluvium piano pieces).

This arrived in the post yesterday. I pre-ordered from Rough Trade, and then saw the exact same version in my local record shop on Saturday. I didn’t know it was going to be there of course and the only extra expense is the P & P.

Eluvium is one guy, Matthew Cooper, who is based in Portland, Oregon. His first release was sixteen years ago and there has been a steady release schedule in the intervening years of ostensibly ambient material with some oddities along the way. If you’ve not already seen it I talked previously about his 2016 release False Readings On and it was one of my Albums of 2016.

Most of Eluviums previous releases are centred around piano but little of it is just piano, as we have here in Pianoworks. I am not qualified to pass any comment on the piano playing, in relation to style, technique, difficulty etc. But I am qualified to say that I like it. It’s gentle, simple at times but it is music for times when that is exactly what you want. If you fancy a pogo in your living room then this isn’t the album you’d choose but for reflective moments, quiet moments when you have time to breathe, Pianoworks is an ideal companion.

I just looked at the Bandcamp page and read this, which seems absolutely right: Inspired by the quiet thoughts and solitary observations of children – and the evolution/dissolution of that ephemeral, uncorrupted wonder of simple joy – Pianoworks begins with a song about children’s piano lessons, and culminates with an etude driven by the struggle to hold onto innocence and imagination as adulthood settles in. The record’s dramatic simplicity in both execution and expression is with purpose: Cooper wants the music to be simple enough to inspire children and novices to play, and the concept simple enough to resonate regardless of age or experience.

The album is a double on mother of pearl vinyl and very nice it is too:

As mentioned right at the beginning, it comes with a third disc of previously released but re-recorded tracks, one of which is ‘An Accidental Memory in Case Of Death’, which I have been listening to pretty regularly for over a decade now.

The full list of re-recorded tracks is down below:

It’s a nice package, with downloads as well, although I never use those and if the mood is right in your world, I’d recommend giving it a listen.

Nina Simone – Pastel Blues

There are a lot of old jazz and blues albums being re-issued at very reasonable prices at the moment, this isn’t one of them, costing pretty much the same as a new release, but worth every penny.

The album was recorded in 1964 and 1965 and released by Phillips Records in 1965, peaking at number 139 on the Billboard charts, which is interesting as it almost certainly one of the top 100 albums of the decade, in my opinion, and this chart placing re-affirms my view that charts are not necessarily a reflection of what was actually good in any given year. Popular does not necessarily equal good.

I’m always on the look out for Nina Simone albums to add to my collection, and there are plenty to add as I only have two, this and ‘Little Girl Blue’, oh, and a best of CD that I bought in a charity shop for £0.50p.

The recording of this album is a little unclear to me as, online, some tracks are listed as ‘Recorded Live’ but it doesn’t say that on the album cover, maybe they were. It’s an album of cover versions, although back in this time period this was often the norm, with only the final track, the traditional song ‘Sinnerman’, credited to Simone as arranger.

Speaking of the cover, here is a special treat, the liner notes:

Tracklist

Be My Husband3:19
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out2:35
End Of The Line2:51
Trouble In Mind2:37
Tell Me More And More And Then Some3:05
Chilly Winds Don’t Blow3:59
Ain’t No Use2:35
Strange Fruit3:26
Sinnerman10:15

I do prefer the Billy Holiday version of ‘Strange fruit’, which would be even better if the production values were as good as on this record (not that the Holiday version is terrible), but Simone still does a really good version.

There is a certain feeling to ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’ that comes from Simone, as though she has lived it and is just passing on her story, she’s exceptionally good at owning a song and her voice carries a depth of emotion that few other performers seem to be able to achieve.

Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile

For Fathers Day today, I received a couple of albums. By received I mean I went to the record store, chose them, paid for them and brought them home. I picked up a copy of the 2018 Mercury Music Prize winning ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ by Sons of Kemet. Of course they didn’t actually win, Wolf Alice actually won, but this is better than that in my view.

I do tend to always read it as SONS OF KERMIT though, and then visualise Robin his nephew. I wish this weren’t true but it is and I can’t seem to stop doing it now. Anyway, this is their third album, I haven’t heard the other two yet but really, really like this one. While it is filed under Jazz, which is quite right, I hear quite a fair bit of Ska in it as well and other influences.

Sons Of Kemet are born of many vital elements, a name that nods to ancient Egyptian culture, and a line-up that comprises some of the most progressive 21st-century talents in British jazz and beyond. Band-leader, composer and sax and clarinet don Shabaka Hutchings brings together his fiery vision alongside London-based bandmates Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford and latest addition Theon Cross. – That’s what it says on Bandcamp.

I sat listening to the album and then had a little browse to see where they would be playing in the UK this year. Much to my surprise I already have tickets to see them in July, as they will be at the Bluedot festival, which I’m going to, possibly alone now as my son isn’t going to be around, my best friend in the whole wide world refuses to go and my good lady wife is very much on the fence about it. That’s fine, I can do alone.

For reference and in relation to my earlier point, below is a list of the nominees for the Mercury Prize, in which there are a couple I don’t think should be there but otherwise it’s quite a good list, but I think it generally accepted that Wolf Alice was the safe choice of winner.

2018 Hyandai Mercury Prize shortlist in full:
Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Everything Everything – A Fever Dream
Everything Is Recorded – Everything Is Recorded
Florence & The Machine – High As Hope
Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
King Krule – The Ooz
Lily Allen – No Shame
Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?
Novelist – Novelist Guy
Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life

They are playing on the Saturday at the festival but I have difficulty be able to see if they are on at the same time as Kraftwerk or not, if they are then, much as I like them, I will probably be watching Kraftwerk. There are a lot of bands at the Bluedot Festival that I’ve never heard of, but I see that as a real positive, it’s an opportunity to discover new things and if I don’t like what I’m hearing very much I can go to another stage and see what’s happening there.

Pearl Jam – Vitaology

I rarely talk about Pearl Jam, which is odd as I really rather like them and have done since they released their debut album. A lot of their releases came out when I was buying CD’s rather than vinyl, but any album that contains the track ‘Spin The Black Circle’ deserves to be owned on that format I think.

So this is how Pearl Jam get in my head, played on repeat while I am doing something else or left in the car CD player for weeks on end so it always comes on while I am driving. I had ‘No Code’ in for a couple of months and when I listened to it a few years later was surprised I knew all the songs, having forgotten about the car marathon.

One of the problems I initially had with Pearl Jam was that everything I heard that wasn’t ‘Jeremy’, wasn’t ‘Jeremy’, which is silly really but there you are, I compared everything they did to it and if it wasn’t vaguely similar I was displeased. Now this is clearly stupid, several albums of songs that all sound the same would be pretty crappy but that’s how it was. It was this subconscious listening that I later did that shook me out of that idiocy and it’s a good job it did otherwise I would have completely missed so many great songs.

Just in case you are wholly unaware of who Pearl Jam are, here is a very synopsised synopsis:

Pearl Jam where formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. Since its inception, the band’s line-up has included Eddie Vedder (lead vocals), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), and Jeff Ament (bass guitar). Since 1998, the band has also included drummer Matt Cameron (also of Soundgarden). Boom Gaspar (keyboards) has also been a session/touring member with the band since 2002. Drummers Jack Irons, Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlain, and Dave Abbruzzese are former members of the band.

Formed after the demise of Gossard and Ament’s previous band, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten, in 1991. One of the key bands in the grunge movement of the early 1990s, its members often shunned popular music industry practices such as making music videos or giving interviews. The band also sued Ticketmaster, claiming it had monopolised the concert-ticket market. In 2006, Rolling Stone described the band as having “spent much of the past decade deliberately tearing apart their own fame.”

I’m not a big fan of favourite songs from an album, unless it’s one of those albums that really only has one good song on it, and I do like the whole of Viataology, but if somebody held a gun to my head and asked my to pick one song, well, I’d suggest they need some serious medical help, but I would also pick ‘Corduroy’.

As a band I like their ethos, which I take at face value, in that they really do not seem to take advantage of their fan base, or, they really take advantage but don’t appear to. I hope the former. In its first week of exclusively vinyl release (back in 1994), Vitalogy sold 35,000 copies and was the first vinyl album to chart due to exclusively vinyl sales in nearly a decade. 

I do remember disliking this album on first listen as I was still in ‘Jeremy’ mode I think but, like so many of their albums, it has grown on me over time and now it has several favourites on it, but it doesn’t stand up as a complete work. ‘Pry, To’ is filler. ‘Bugs’ is just terrible and “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me”  should never have been conceived let alone given birth to. Take these away and you have a great, but shorter, album.

Death and Vanilla – Are You A Dreamer?

Label: Fire Records ‎– FIRELP543X
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, Special Edition, Pink
Released: 10 May 2019
Genre: Electronic, Rock
Style: Darkwave, Experimental, Psychedelic Rock

If either of you bothered to read the drivel I write then you would know that I have mentioned Death & Vanilla several times before, to prove this you can click here: More on Death & Vanilla (Though you probably won’t).

So a new album on lovely pink vinyl in a special sleeve with music that very much is what they are about. Vintage instruments, atmospheric production, melodies and motifs that tickle your ears until they slip in because there is little other choice.

1. A Flaw In The Iris – 04:45
2. Let’s Never Leave Here – 06:06
3. Mercier – 04:25
4. Eye Bath – 06:25
5. The Hum – 05:10
6. Nothing Is Real – 05:02
7. Vespertine – 04:07
8. Wallpaper Pattern – 05:09

Marleen NilssonMagnus Bodin and Anders Hansson are Death and Vanilla and they all hail from Malmo in Sweden (there should be some umlauts on that last O but I’ve no idea how to do them).

As of today I have everything they have ever released on vinyl, which all came about from a random purchase one day because I liked the cover. That they later did a couple of live soundtracks to old films was a bonus, as I do love a good soundtrack, I also love old analog instruments, they are the gift that keeps on giving.

Miriam Makeba ‎– Miriam Makeba

Label: London Records ‎– HA 2332, London Records ‎– HA.2332
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Mono, Purple Label
Released: 1961

I was delighted to find and original copy of this album in the used record store today, filed under Jazz, which is debatable, but a very pleasing discovery nonetheless.

Zenzile Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa.

Born in Johannesburg to Swazi and Xhosa parents, Makeba was forced to find employment as a child after the death of her father. She had a brief and allegedly abusive first marriage at the age of 17, gave birth to her only child in 1950, and survived breast cancer. Her vocal talent had been recognized when she was a child, and she began singing professionally in the 1950s, with the Cuban Brothers, the Manhattan Brothers, and an all-woman group, the Skylarks, performing a mixture of jazz, traditional African melodies, and Western popular music. In 1959, Makeba had a brief role in the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa, which brought her international attention, and led to her performing in Venice, London, and New York City. In London, she met the American singer Harry Belafonte, who became a mentor and colleague. She moved to New York City, where she became immediately popular, and recorded her first solo album in 1960. Her attempt to return to South Africa that year for her mother’s funeral was prevented by the country’s government.

Makeba’s career flourished in the United States, and she released several albums and songs, her most popular being “Pata Pata” (1967). Along with Belafonte she received a Grammy Award for her 1965 album An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba. She testified against the South African government at the United Nations and became involved in the civil rights movement. She married Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the Black Panther Party, in 1968. As a result, she lost support among white Americans and faced hostility from the US government, leading her and Carmichael to move to Guinea. She continued to perform, mostly in African countries, including at several independence celebrations. She began to write and perform music more explicitly critical of apartheid; the 1977 song “Soweto Blues”, written by her former husband Hugh Masekela, was about the Soweto uprising. After apartheid was dismantled in 1990, Makeba returned to South Africa. She continued recording and performing, including a 1991 album with Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie, and appeared in the 1992 film Sarafina!. She was named a UN goodwill ambassador in 1999, and campaigned for humanitarian causes. She died of a heart attack during a 2008 concert in Italy.

Makeba was among the first African musicians to receive worldwide recognition. She brought African music to a Western audience, and popularized the world music and Afropop genres. She also made popular several songs critical of apartheid, and became a symbol of opposition to the system, particularly after her right to return was revoked. Upon her death, former South African President Nelson Mandela said that “her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.” – Wikipedia

She has such a beautiful voice and was, in so many ways, a trailblazer for African music. The Click Song may be familiar to you, maybe not, but do have a listen to the concert from Stockholm below, she was amazing.

01:05 – 04:04 “Mbube”
04:06 – 07.14 “As The Rising Sun”
07.24 – 10.16 “Forbidden Games”
10.23 – 13.17 “Chove Chuva”
13.29 – 15.17 “Click Song”
15.37 – 20.00 “When I’ve Passed On”

Rosalia – El Mal Querer

This was one of my albums of 2018, though I’d never mentioned it before then. There’s actually a lot of albums that it takes me while to get around to mentioning, some going back several years, I’ll get to them eventually. So, in the best of 2018 I wrote this: I like modern flamenco, who knew? Not me for sure, until I was told what genre this actually fell into. Apparently the album is based on a Occitan novel from the 13th or 14th century and documents a toxic relationship where the mans jealousy drives him to imprison a woman. This was part of her degree thesis I believe and the whole album was under her complete control, delivered to the record company for distribution only. It is a triumph.

And here, through the magic of the interwebs is a wonderful performance of the lead single on Later with Jools Holland:

Flamenco is often seen nowadays as something cheesy put on for the tourists amusement and is discounted as a result, but Rosalía Vila Tobella has ripped up whatever rule book there was and created her own, new version of the traditional genre that could be listened to without the knowledge that there was any link at all. It is seeped in modernism, deploying production techniques that are more akin to the chart toppers of today than the castanet wielding dancer of yesteryear.

My only complaint would be its brevity, clocking in at around 30 minutes, I have 12″ singles that play for longer, however, that is because I want more of the good stuff and I would rather it be short than padded out with fluff. It does come in a nice gatefold sleeve with a good 12×12 booklet so that does help justify the price a little.

There are a couple of earlier releases for me to investigate, and I do hope that the success that Rosalia is currently enjoying is used as a springboard to greater things, although this album will be a difficult one to top.

Lamb – The Secret of Letting Go +

I’m a fan of Lamb, both the group and the meat, though I would only put mint sauce on one. I wasn’t looking for it but I found and bought their new album today in HMV. I only popped into for a browse as I don’t really tend to use them much but it was there and I was going to buy it at some point and now seemed reasonable enough.

Though I haven’t had a chance to give it a good listen yet I like it already, which I was expecting as I like everything I’ve heard before, even though there are some nuances in some of the tracks that I haven’t heard them do before, such as the lead single featuring a guest vocal. Here it is:

The track that really grabbed me was the third on the album, for which they also made a video, but it was more a document of the time they spent in Goa than relevant to the actual song so I’ve not used it here, I’ve used straight audio instead as the video is distracting, do seek it out if you like but I’d recommend listening to the audio first as it’s a really quite atmospheric and this is lost with the visuals.

After one listen I’m pretty pleased and I think this one will grow on me a I listen more.

in 2017 I was supposed to be going to see Lamb at Manchester Cathedral and Pledge music had a campaign for a live album of the event so I signed up. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go due to work commitments, which was a huge disappointment, but it was nice to receive the album, a triple on three different shades of blue vinyl. It took a year after the gig to arrive but it was worth the wait.

Tracklist

A1Lusty5:00
A2God Bless6:55
A3Cotton Wool5:48
B1Trans Fatty Acid5:34
B2Zero8:00
B3Merge6:17
C1Gold7:48
C2Closer4:18
C3Gorecki7:40
D1Feela5:09
D2Angelica4:19
D3What Sound4:20
D4Little Things4:04
E1Ear Parcel6:45
E2We Fall In Love6:16
E3As Satellites Go By4:55
F1Backspace Unwind4:01
F2Illumina6:39
F3Gabriel6:58

I can’t find any video from the gig but here is one from around the same time.

Having seen that I really wish I went as Manchester Cathederal would have been an amazing setting.

Gillian Welch – The Harrow and the Harvest

Gillian Welch is a person, but also a duo, they are Gillian and husband Dave Rawlings, although they aren’t actually married, who occasionally record as Dave as well. Clear? Good, then I’ll continue. This is their 5th album as Gillian Welch and the first to be release on vinyl, and what a release. There are many people who say vinyl is best others who disagree and sometimes either can be right, but in this case the vinyl is perfect. There are a number of reason for this, firstly the music lends itself to the format as it is limited in instrumentation and there is no requirement for many overdubs. Secondly, it was recorded using old analogue equipment, which again lends itself to the format. When I say old analogue this is from the microphone to the amps to the desk to the tape, proper old school, and it shows. My ears are not as good as they used to be but I can still hear the difference.

I’ve mentioned before about a Billy Holiday album I have that was recorded in the 50’s, it sounds amazing, as though we are in the same room, The Harrow and the Harvest has the same feel about it. Another nice touch, for the CD version at least, was that the covers where letter pressed, which is something I’ve tried my hand at (it’s difficult) and individually coffee stained to give them an aged look. It’s small touches like this that makes this album special throughout. That and they released it on their own Acony record label.

I saw them at Warwick Arts Centre on the tour promoting this album and it was captivating, so engrossed was I that it came as a complete surprise to me when it ended as I had lost track of time. Just two people with guitars, no light show, no pyrotechnics and it was amazing. That’s the set list from the night above.

Now I fully understand that a lot of people are turned off at the mere suggestion of Country music, and while you could throw this album into that category I find it sits better in Americana. These are pretty dark songs, not about pick up trucks and other country tropes, they are often delicate and have a seam of sadness running through them, they are beautifully constructed and performed.

I have to share this about Dave Rawlings guitar playing,

Rawlings achieves his signature guitar sound flatpicking a small archtop guitar. The 1935 Epiphone Olympic that has been his primary instrument was a mid-priced guitar for its time, with a carved arched solid sprucewood top, carved arched solid mahogany back and mahogany sides. It sold for about $35 in 1935. The guitar’s lower bout measures 13 5/8 inches wide, and it has three piece f-holes.[

Rawlings “scavenged” the guitar from a friend’s attic and is now hardly seen playing anything else. As he states, “I just picked it up. It was filthy, and it didn’t have strings. You could just see the shape of it under the sawdust.” Rawlings tuned it and brought it to a recording session for the Welch’s first record. “As soon as I heard it through the microphone and through the speakers I was like, ‘I love this guitar.'” he says.

The New Yorker‘s Wilkinson described Rawlings as a “strikingly inventive guitarist” who plays solos that are “daring melodic leaps”. A review in No Depression by Andy Moore observed that Rawlings “squeezes, strokes, chokes and does just about everything but blow into” his guitar. He’s not flashy, but he is an extraordinarily emotive guitar player.

A1Scarlet Town
A2Dark Turn Of Mind
A3The Way It Will Be
A4The Way It Goes
A5Tennessee
B1Down Along The Dixie Line
B2Six White Horses
B3Hard Times
B4Silver Dagger
B5The Way The Whole Thing Ends

When Welch’s first two albums came out, critics questioned the authenticity of her music, having grown up in Southern California but performing Appalachian themed songs.  This is, of course, complete crap and The Wall Street Journal’s Taylor Holliday said it best: “Stingy critics give Ms. Welch a hard time because she’s a California city girl, not an Appalachian coal miner’s daughter. But as Lucinda or Emmylou might attest, love of the music is not a birthright, but an earned right. Listen to Ms. Welch yodel, in a tune about that no-good “gal” Morphine, and you know she’s as mountain as they come.

It’s been 8 years since this was released and it is high time that a new album was released, which could include a new track for which they received an Oscar nomination. They lost out to a song from ‘A Star Is Born’ which, in my opinion is rather formulaic, but even being nominated is pretty damn good. The song is the theme to the Coen Brothers’ Western anthology The Ballad of Busters Scruggs, the song soundtracks a pivotal gun battle between Tim Blake Nelson’s titular gunfighter and the upstart “The Kid,” played by former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson. Nelson’s character tragically loses, and he and “The Kid” duet on the song as Scruggs is lifted into heaven. Welch and Rawlings recently released their own version of “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” earlier this month. The video is their understated but wonderful performance at the Oscars ceremony.

I think it pretty obvious by now that I highly recommend this and all their albums. There’s something very endearing about them and they connect brilliantly with their audience, like below on a Neil Young cover:

I’ve included below an hour long concert for the BBC performed at St Lukes in London, because it is quite brilliant.

Finally, a Radiohead cover, that’s right, Radiohead. Heaven.

Rating: 9.4

Public Service Broadcasting – The War Room

This was released in 2012 and, I guess, it would be classed as a mini album, having only 5 tracks and clocking in at only about 18 minutes, maybe it’s just a 12″ single, anyway, I’ve had it a while and I write about it now as I remembered something I had forgotten, which is that I’ve been to the war rooms in London. Having had a little ponder about that I listened to this and now here I am writing about it.

I was there for a seminar or conference, I can’t even remember what it was about now, but we had a tour of the place, some of which you can see in the picture above (which is behind glass, you can’t actually go inside that bit). They are called Churchill War Rooms and are one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. Construction of the Cabinet War Rooms, located beneath the Treasury building in the Whitehall area of Westminster, began in 1938. They became fully operational on 27 August 1939, a week before Britain declared war on Germany. The War Rooms remained in operation throughout the Second World War, before being abandoned in August 1945 after the surrender of Japan.

My best guess is that I was there around 18 years ago, it was rather fascinating and it is worth a look around if you are ever in the area. I don’t know if the Public Service Broadcasting album is a direct reference to these rooms, but it probably is as the subject matter is the second world war.

PSB (Not the Pet Shop Boys) have a style that they stick quite rigidly to, namely a sort of post/kraut rock instrumentation overlaid with vocal samples usually taken from original sources. For example, Tracks 1, 2 & 4 contain samples from films of the same name and track 3 contains samples from ‘The First Of The Few’. When these are then combined with archive footage they become more powerful, such as when used as the below:

This happens to be a style that I rather like, although I know there are many that feel it is limiting and, perhaps, more of the same for each release. I came across them via their last full album, Every Valley based around the demise of the Welsh Mining Industry, which was something I had an understanding of and an empathy with. I’ve bought earlier albums as well, and there is a Titanic related release out now, and I still haven’t lost interest, so I’ll probably get a copy. We all like what we like and don’t like what we don’t like, and I like this, History and music combined, it is a potent combination.

I’ve actually read accounts of people leaving PSB gigs in tears, so touched where they by what they’s just witnessed, and I think I understand that. While reading a book gives us information or watching a film draws us in, there is something about music in combination with these that make people feel, actually feel, and it manifests itself in different ways for different people.

Rating: 8.4

S U R V I V E ‎– RR7349


It is almost impossible to separate S U R V I V E from the Netflix series Stranger Things nowadays, such is the perfect intertwining of the music with the visuals in both atmosphere and period. This album, recorded in 2015 and released in 2016, has the sense of the soundtrack as it too is built with period analog synths, but it is definitely a cohesive whole rather than collected pieces written for the scenes it played alongside.

I would find it impossible to get to the end of this without mentioning Tangerine Dream, which is clearly true as I just did. I’ve listened to Tangerine Dream, the earlier stuff, a lot, and I can hear them in this album and in much of the S U R V I V E catalogue, be it there intentionally or not.

These are no creators of pastiche though, this is original music that I find to be eminently listenable and, put quite simply, I have become a bit of a fan, having three of their releases as well as the 3 Stranger Things Soundtracks.

S U R V I V E are Michael Stein, Kyle Dixon, Adam Jones and Mark Donica and were formed in 2009 in Austin, Texas. It was Dixon and Stein who composed the musical score for Stranger Things rather than the band. As a band the quartet have been producing synth-heavy, horror-score-influenced compositions for almost a decade, via drum machines and analog synths.

Tracklist

A1 A.H.B 4:25
A2 Other 3:43
A3 Dirt 5:06
A4 High Rise 3:59
A5 Wardenclyffe 4:08
B1 Sorceror 4:39
B2 Low Fog 4:40
B3 Copter 6:36
B4 Cutthroat 4:02

Here, for your listening and viewing pleasure, is a 54 minute live set:

 

Setlist: Floating Cube 1:58 Hourglass 6:27 Omniverse 11:48 Sorcerer 17:15 Parousia 21:45 Copter 25:05 Cutthroat 30:48 Wardenclyffe 35:25 Black Mollies A.H.B 42:15 Holographic Landscape 47:00

Rating: 9.0