Album Reviews

Oh Susanna is Canadian singer/songwriter Suzie Ungerleider, who has been releasing music since 1997, has won a Genie Award (Canadian Oscar) for her song 'River Blue' and has several Juno nominations to her name. 'A Girl In Teen City' is her seventh full length album.

This is a concept album of sorts. Encouraged by her friend and producer Jim Bryson, Suzie wrote about her teenage self, growing up in 80's Vancouver. Listening to these songs you get into her world, learn about the people she hung out with, the times she had her heart broken, the mischief they got up to and the bands they listened to. It is very much a looking back album, comparable perhaps to Patti Scialfa's '23rd Street Lullaby', though that contained memories of a woman in her thirties.

This brings me to 'A Girl In Teen City's limitations. The subject matter is very specific and after a while the very detailed descriptions of clothes and hairstyles in particular become wearisome. They do provide some good lines (the "made to measure skin tight leather Mexican pants" in 'My Boyfriend' being particularly catchy), but towards the end of the album the nostalgia got a bit saccharine for me and I longed to escape to the present.

Suzie has a strong and clear voice, which is the standout ingredient of this album. On 'Puget Sound' especially she sounds exactly like Nanci Griffith, which is not a bad thing at all. For me this is the best song on the album, alongside 'Walked All The Way Home', which has a very lovely melody. The instrumentation has been kept very mellow, even on the more up tempo songs. The vibe is folk (one reviewer used the term Canadiana) and this illustrates that Suzie has been on quite a journey, as the songs list the teenage girl's favourites: The Clash and D.O.A. In 'My Old Vancouver' she describes "the Ballroom above the arcade, where X and Black Flag and Dead Kennedys played" (nice!).

There are mentions of Gastown, Chinatown, Hastings and Main, trips to America - mostly fond memories. There is also a little bit of trouble with the police, some troublesome boys and lots of ripped up jeans, spiked up hair, a jacket with the sleeves cut away - many clothes references. The difficulty with a concept album is that it is almost inevitable that the subject matter becomes quite samey after a while. Yet it equally interesting to get a look into this teenage girl's life and to realize that she has come a long way. She is now a wife and mother, a cancer survivor and a musician with a loyal following, enabling to make this her second Kickstarter-funded album.

'A Girl In Teen City' was my first introduction to Oh Susanna. I like her voice and her melodies and am therefore curious to seek out some of her earlier albums now.

Oh Susanna will be touring the Netherlands from 6 to 16 April, followed by a UK tour starting 19 April (some dates co-headlining with Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage).
Full details on her website

8/11

Helen

It is a testament to this great band that after 40 years since they formed, they can still produced a fire of creativity in their new music. 'Silver/Lead' is the 15th studio album from Wire and it’s about as far from nostalgia as you could get.

Ten songs on a record that couldn’t be more alive and vibrant. The musicianship is first class. Opener ‘Playing Harp For The Fishes’ is dark as are Graham Lewis’s menacing lyrics.

“A mute undertaker had something to tell
I stand at the threshold; I’m ringing the bell
I was hoping for heaven, I’d settle for hell”

it’s a stunning opener.

‘Short Elevated Period’ is an danceable jump around the room rocker whilst ‘’ Diamonds in Cups' changes the pace again with a cinemascope widescreen song. ‘Sonic Lens’ is a brilliantly crafted jagged song,

"Compass, phones, and gps
have all produced, the same address
Tomorrow is another day
We place our goodness on display"

This is just a selection of the enthralling songs and lyrics on this record.

The band put the hours in touring as well as playing at and curating the Drill Festival around the world. LA this weekend, Leeds, Berlin and Brussels are imminent.

All the way through to the tenth and title track, this record holds your focus through it’s 36 minutes..... Long may this band continue to reign over their kingdom!

Pete

10/11

Website

Dates

30th -1st April LOS ANGELES (USA) DRILL : LA

April
3rd SAN FRANCISCO (USA) Slims
7th VANCOUVER (CANADA) Imperial Theatre
8th SEATTLE (USA) Crocodile
21-22nd LEEDS (UK) DRILL : LEEDS

May
4th LONDON (UK) The Garage
5th LONDON (UK) The Garage
7th BERLIN (DE) DRILL : BERLIN
9th COPENHAGEN (DK) Loppen
11th UTRECHT (NL) De Helling
12th PARIS (F) La Moroquinerie
13th BRUSSELS (B) DRILL: BXL

William Hut is a Norwegian indie/rock musician , formerly lead vocalist of Norwegian Grammy award winning Poor Rich Ones and solo since 2001.His most successful solo album was 2007's Nightfall which included the single Take It Easy. William released his most recent album Hafnir Games at the end of 2016 recorded in Norway and Iceland ; a little research reveals that Hafnir is a small village and the location of the earliest evidence of settlement in Iceland.

First track 'Two Different Ways' has a bright guitar melody and William's distinctive vocals which are reminiscent of Avi Buffalo or Death Cab's Ben Gibbard. The relaxed groove and big choruses continue through the first half of the album, special mention must go to 'Bliss' with it's ear-worm chorus “Show me where the wind will blow, The water flow and the crops will grow.”

The album's mood changes halfway through on 'What If I', with its simple stripped- back guitar, percussion and vocals. There's another abrupt mood change in the more electronic dash of 80's drums sounds of 'The Racetrack'. William delivers a credible impression of Michael Stipe on my personal favourite 'Balcony View' which would sit comfortably on any of the good late period REM albums.

An album of lovely, relaxed grooves for a perfect lazy Sunday morning listening treat.

Alisdair Whyte

8/11

Website

I don’t suppose many of us have a great amount of Norwegian rock music in our collections - maybe A-Ha or Kings of Convenience ? Well, I’m pleased therefore to introduce you to Torgeir Waldemar who is to release his second album called 'No Offending Borders' on 17th March.

The eponymous debut album dropped in 2014, and was labeled an acoustic masterpiece on it’s release, however the press release promises a more diverse sound on the follow up.

This doesn’t seem quite true when track one starts - a gorgeous acoustic little number with added harmonica called 'Falling Rain' (Link Wray), and thoughts turn to a Norwegian Bob Dylan.

Track two however, is where the first surprise hits, the eight minute rocker called 'Summer in Toulouse', channelling Neil Young with it’s crunching guitars and pounding rhythm section. This is the definition of exhilarating, and the song is up there with one of my tracks of the year so far.

Waldemar states that "the album exists as a statement of the seriousness we meet in our everyday lives, from relationships breaking down to the global refugee crisis, and all points in between", so it’s fair to expect this to be a solemn album, but despite the subject matter, this is a deeply musical and dynamic album, beautifully produced and highly resonant.

'Island Bliss' and 'Souls On A String' are further delicate, acoustic folk songs that sit comfortably between the rock and roll, and just add to the albums appeal.

Album highlight is 'Sylvia (Southern People)', in which Waldemar again leans on classic Neil Young for style and rhythm, but who cares when this is the result. Stunning track.

Vocally, Waldemar is reminiscent of Father John Misty, his electric guitar playing is Neil Young like, and there are moments of Bob Dylan on his quieter acoustic moments, yet the sound is all his own. I’ve played this album (loud) indoors, on headphones, and whilst driving, and it seems to fit all occasions, it’s that good.

I hope this proves to be a breakout album for Waldemar, and he becomes recognised beyond his native Norway because this is a serious talent that deserves the kind of audience the aforementioned artists get.

10/11

Keith

Website

Well I don’t know much about Lyle Christine, he comes from Glasgow (good start). ‘Duff Steer’ seems to be his eighth album and he is a great guitarist.

‘Duff Steer’ out on 20th March and is a straight between the eyes grunge rocker. I would imagine a power trio swamped in the influences of Rory Gallagher, Nivana and a touch of Thin Lizzy. Just under forty minutes, there is no lapse in the power throughout. The guitar riffs and solos are sonic heaven!

Lyle’s own press sheet claim’s “this is his strongest album to date despite the fact there are two sh*t songs on it". On listening I can’t find those particular two songs, for an aging rocker like myself it’s just best to stick this album on and turn up the the volume!

Pete

7/11

 

We also had a quick chat with Lyle to fill in the gaps;

Hi Lyle, how’s Glasgow treating you today?

It’s a bit drizzly, it’s a bit dreary, but we’re all still out in the streets, holding hands and wishing for a brighter tomorrow.

The BBC 6 music festival is coming to town shortly, does that help local musicians in anyway?

I think so, it should be good for venues, good for bands – I like 6 Music, Shaun Keaveny wakes me up each morning (my radio alarm clock, not him in person), so I’d be more attracted to a festival supported by that station, certainly more than a tour supported by the likes of Radio 1. Being a Southsider in Glasgow, it’s nice to see venues such as Glad Café and Rum Shack included in the festivities.

New Album ‘Duff Steer’, who is in the band and where/when was the album recorded?

The band is.... only me, all on my lonesome. I’ve been a solo recording musician for almost 10 years now, although it’s entirely possible I’ll get back with a full group at some point in the future. Duff Steer was recorded over 2016/2017, backing tracks laid down in my home studio, vocals recorded at Dixon Street studios in Glasgow.

This looks to be your eighth album and your first was 2007? Has your sound changed over the years and how do you feel you have grown as a musician in that time?

So, my first solo record in 2007 was Why Doesn’t My Album Sounds As Loud As Everyone Else’s?, and back then I wanted to try out a fairly heavy-digital sound, with layered drum machines, distorted synths, and guitars overdriven with digital clipping. But really, that was more a one-off experiment – at heart, I’m a guy who likes good guitar sounds, good guitar songs – for example, I really like the style and production of Kurt Vile’s album B'lieve I'm Goin Down... (2015), the opening track Pretty Pimpin sounds amazing. The thing is, when you’re a recording musician who is also your own engineer/producer, it’s really tempting to throw on synths, or techno drum beats, or 5 track guitar solos. And I like that freedom to experiment, but it costs time and doesn’t always work. The one consistent thing about my albums is, each record usually has a couple of songs that don’t work, but I leave them on – good, bad or indifferent, publish and be damned. Then move on to the next one.

Any live dates planned to promote the new record?

Only press promotion for the new record at the moment, mainly to satisfy my ego without having to go outside.

Is music full time for you or is there a day job as well?

Well, let’s put it this way – my income from Spotify royalties for December 2016 was 5p. That’s right, five pence. Read it and weep, wage slaves.

What was the first album you bought and where from?

It was To the Extreme by Vanilla Ice, 1990. I was 10 years old. My sister also took me to see Vanilla Ice that year in Edinburgh. After the show, she looked ill and said “I have never seen so many pelvic thrusts in my whole life”. My next purchase, one year later, was Nevermind along with ACDC’s For Those About To Rock. You can hear all three of those influences in everything I’ve ever done.

One piece of advice for new guitarists just starting out today?

Trade in those guitars for shovels.

 

Duff Steer will be available here:

Spotify 

iTunes 

Bandcamp 

 

 

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