Writing a review of a bands’ debut album can go two ways - the first is that there has been loads of hype and press and you can’t help to be influenced by what you read and hear, and secondly, and in this case, you know nothing about the band and personnel and start with a clean slate.
Even their own website gives little away regarding the band - who are they ? Where are they from ? And more importantly, what does the album sound like ?
The seven track (mini) album clocks in at only thirty nine minutes, and according to the press release, takes it’s influences from just about everywhere - college rock, brit pop and shoegaze, and builds on them to create something new. Produced by James Bragg, who has also worked with Gengahr, it’s true that there are influences all over this album, whilst also sounding fresh and original at the same time.
Closing track, the nearly eight minute 'Where Wild Flowers Grow Fondly', is an almost prog rock opus to new beginnings, featuring a Supper’s Ready style , hypnotic couple of minute drum section, while synth bleeps and squiggles ebb and flow over it. Stunning. It’s the drumming on this album that actually stands out for me, and none more so that on I Take The River, very reminiscent of the National on About Today, driving the song in just the right direction.
The really rather lovely 'Ohio' appears to have been the spark around which the album was written and started life as an acoustic demo. The version that made the album however is a very different beast - a sweeping, widescreen epic of a song, again underpinned with emphatic drums, my only disappointment being that it finishes far too abruptly.
The seven minute 'Show Me Magic' starts in a very relaxed manner, and could have come off any of Mark Knopfler’s recent solo albums, before those drums again propel the song along to a very different beat.
This is an enigmatic album which reveals more on each listen, and even after double figure listens, I still haven’t got a proper grip of it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yes, there are influences everywhere, and virtually every one of the seven tracks reminds me of other bands, but the whole adds up to more of the sum of it’s parts. I really like this album and I really like this band. It’s left me hungry to hear more from them, and find out more about them, especially that drummer.
The Hold Steady front man releases 3rd solo effort We All Want The Same Things on Partisan Records, following on from 2015’s Faith In the Future. Named after a line from the song God In Chicago, the title refers to the basic human needs that remain constant however turbulent or changeable the world gets. Never more so than the current climate.
Finn is a very literary songwriter, very much in the same mould as Willy Vlautin, and this his 3rd solo album, has done that rare thing; combining compelling storytelling with strong melodic tunes - are you listening Mark Kozelek.....?
These are stories about everyday folk, doing everyday things and just living their lives - nothing extraordinary or indeed ordinary about them, but Finn has the ability to make everything sound fascinating.
The aforementioned, beautiful, God In Chicago is Finn talking over plaintive piano before being joined on vocals by a female voice as the 2 of them are on a road trip to Chicago.
The poppy Preludes acts as first single from the song collection, and is the most autobiographical detailing his return from college and trying to figure out his own place in the world and his future - very much fitting in with the rest of the character studies on the album.
Best song title on the album must go to Birds Trapped in the Airport, and is a jaunty little number and again Finn is joined on vocals by the female voice.
It Hits When It Hits, is a contemplative, brooding track with the title referring to the fact that you can’t ever plan for love...
Finn has created an expansive world view, and a vision of the States that draws you into the minutae of everyday life, with even the final words on the last song imploring us to take care of ourselves. Every song is a wordy story, each of which could be expanded into a novel, but most importantly, the songs can be listened to without having to hang on every word, as the melodies are strong enough to stand up on their own.
The world is a better place with songwriters like Craig Finn, and this might just be his best album yet.
A sweet third album from The Little Kicks. A dreamy indie soundtrack as we start to come out of winter and think of the summer sun
Ten tracks that flow nicely, the opening ‘Theme’ is wide screen reverb guitars. ‘Sing About Something Real’ that follows, has punchy indie guitar and keyboard and flows beautifully,
‘Don’t Get Mad, Get Even’ goes into Keane/Coldplay territory, a sweet song and just like ‘Let’s Get Lost Together’ festival fields this summer could do worse than ring out to this band. At the moment their website does not show any dates outside of Scotland .... So festival promoters, look up these guys!
The band hail from Aberdeen but wrote the songs for this album in a lodge by Loch Ness then recorded in Edinburgh and then mastered at Abbey Road.
Lead singer Steven Milne said “This new album is a collection of songs that means a lot to me and I feel it reflects a massive increase in both my own and the band’s confidence and abilities. There have been ups and downs personally since we last released music but I’m happy to say that on the whole we have grown to be more proud of what we do and to be less reticent to shout about it and our music. The themes of the record would be a feeling of happiness, gratitude and to be thankful with what you have and not take things for granted”.
The record is a joy, it is a pure, no worries, indie joy to be precise. A roof down on the car type of record.
There are some bands that can just maintain a high level of quality output, lyrically and musicianship wise even with, lengthly gaps between albums. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are one of these bands with vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alec Ounsworth as the lynchpin of the band, they have released their fifth album, 'The Tourist'.
Alec was apparently doing a lot of soul-searching as the songs came together for the album. “The album was a type of purge,” he says. “A purge of certain emotional confusion that manifested itself in the last several years. It was not an easy album to make, by virtue of the fact that it was an emotional time for me.”
It’s an album that sinks into you consciousness quickly, like a Steely Dan album, you know it is going to be a superb and quality listen all the way through.
Alec spent about a week recording The Tourist at Dr. Dog’s Philadelphia studio with a drummer and bassist. After that, he and engineer Nick Krill spent a few months “tidying things up” and recording additional material, backup vocals, keyboards, guitars and more percussion.
‘The Pilot’ opens the record, with a dreamy rhythm and sharp vocals. ‘A Chance to Cure’ follows within a hair’s width of the finish of the opener and, you find yourself surrendered to the rhythm of this album at the end of just the second song.
Alec prides himself on honesty across all aspects of the band, from live performances to the studio. “I am a relatively solitary person and seem to work best alone,” he says. “I do count on others to help the project as the process of making and releasing an album moves forward, but if it doesn’t match what I have in mind, it’s hard for me to really be there for it. I guess this is one reason why the project has been independent all this time. Trust me, I understand that thinking this way is both an asset and a liability.”
Live the band play lengthy shows and the addition of songs from the Tourist will make the upcoming live gigs something not to be missed. The songs are well paced, ‘Down (is where I want to be) picks out a funky pace, ‘Unfolding Above Celibate Moon’ is a song about life in LA. It's a record full of variations.
Ten songs, great musicianship and Alec’s trembling voice adds another fine album to the CYHSY collection.
1. The Pilot
2. A Chance To Cure
3. Down (is Where I Want To Be)
4. Unfolding Above Celibate Moon (Los Angeles Nursery Rhyme)
5. Better Off
7. The Vanity Of Trying
8. Loose Ends
9. Ambulance Chaser
10. Visiting Hours
The day started a sunny and bright, spring like day in winter. Then the clouds grew darker and there was a chill in the air, we head indoors in need of some warmth. Easiest fix for that and some indoor sunshine is Jen Lekman’s latest album ‘Life Will See you Now’.
Like a solo version of Belle and Sebastian, he is able to create vital personal songs full of stories about life, love, and youthful insecurities with something to jar the memories for the older listener.
Musically sweet as syrup, disco, samba, bosa nova this record is a joy, front to back. It’s the the fourth full-length studio release from this Gothenburg based singer-songwriter. How is it the Scandinavian race seems to have such joyful pop sensibilities?
The album opens with ‘To Know your Mission’ which contains the lyrics:
"To have a dream
A GPS in your heart
A path to follow
Through the dark
Well, Jens says, "I write songs sometimes
But they're kinda bad"
Those bad songs didn’t hit this record for sure.
'Wedding in Finistère" has the waiting bridge bride saying;
"She said, "Like a five-year-old watching the ten-year-olds shoplifting
Ten-year-old watching the fifteen-year-olds French kissing
Fifteen-year-old watching the twenty-year-olds chain-smoking
Twenty-year-old watching the thirty-year-olds vanishing"
Every song has that depth of a tale to tell, Just a lovely record for anyday.