Album Reviews

I have now lived with this record for around a week and can say that Ryan Adams is back and on (Ashes and) Fire! Solo start and nice acoustic song ‘Dirty Rain’ is in Heartbreaker vein, but heck, really it’s just a classic Ryan ballad. Title song Ashes and Fire has a slight Dylanesqe feel. and the band kicks in from’ Do I Wait’ but overall this is a solo record and although the Cardinals may be sorely missed, Ryan has delivered yet another gem of an album.

It’s his first record released on his own PAX-AM label and Sony’s Columbia Records. The album was recorded in LA at Sunset Sound in Hollywood and produced by Glyn Johns who was a regular in the production chair during Ryan’s early albums, including the (still) magical Heartbreaker.

(Tom Petty) Heartbreakers, organist, Benmont Tench appears on Ashes and Fire alongside Norah Jones who sings backing vocals to great effect.

I don’t hold much faith if the recent press headlines around this record, ‘Ryan reborn’, ‘Best since Heartbreaker and Gold’, ‘Ryan rediscovers his muse’ etc. I really don’t think deep down that Ryan ever lost his muse. Yes he took a long break (who wouldn’t if they could from the day job), He filled his time and random projects and archive releases. He played the odd shows and also this summer, played an acoustic tour of Europe this year.

So it’s another Ryan record and yes it is on par with his other output of which, the majority is excellent. There are plenty of (eyes shut) magic moments on this record so perhaps, like people discovered Ryan at the time of Whiskeytown and then after that via, Heartbreaker and those early shows, a new generation will now latch on as the journey continues.

 

Pete

10/11

 

Dirty Rain

Ashes & Fire

Come Home

Rocks

Do I Wait

Chains Of Love

Invisible Riverside

Save Me

Kindness

Lucky Now

I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say

 

A lovely record from Leslie Feist. Metals is her second album under the Feist, moniker and it is another gem. A whiff of Americana on opener, ‘The Bad in Each Other’ followed by, ‘Graveyard’. You know the album is a winner when someone can make a song called ‘Graveyard’ sound joyous.

 

There are heart rending ballads, electronica, pop and indie on this record and unlike the rather bleak album cover the album itself is warm and rich and very listenable on the ears.

 

‘Caught in the Wind’ has a Kate Bush like grandeur and a soul vibe kicks off ‘How Come You Never Go There’. So as you can see that the album has a varied pace.

 

It could I guess be considered a pop record but, Leslie Feist comes from the (recently disbanded) indie playground of Broken Social Scene, just listen to ‘A Commotion’, her indie song writing credentials, laid bare.  

 

From 'Anti Pioneer' the album takes a Jazz, Blues feel then onto those ballads mentioned before. This is first and foremost an album of finely crafted original songs which should be welcomed into any collection,

 

10/11

Pete  

The Bad in Each Other
Graveyard
Caught a Long Wind
How Come You Never Go There
A Commotion
The Circle Married the Line
Bittersweet Melodies
Anti Pioneer
The Undiscovered First
Cicadas and Gulls
Comfort Me
Get it Wrong, Get it Right

This has album has been a regular visitor to my headphones for the past couple of months, so it must be time to award it a review. Starting with the gently parping horns of 'Dark Horse' you are immediately drawn into the world of Other Lives - slightly mysterious, slightly ethereal, but a world that's as warm and inviting as a womb. 'As I Lay My Head Down' has a slightly Eastern European feel to its rhythms and backing, and then the brilliant 'For 12'  swoops in on a cloud of swirling strings with an  almost spaghetti western feel to the guitars. 

The title track is next, with some bar-room piano beginning the song, which continues with a melancholy air, and then 'Dust Bowl III' starts with a simple acoustic guitar before turning into something much grander, with rhythmic drums and a swell of instruments. 'Weather' is an unusual track, feeling unstructured and loose but with vocals and instruments harmonising, it rises and drops through the song, winding its way through your head.  

'The Future' is the new album from duo Brad and Jessica Lauretti from Brooklyn, New York. Sounding much more like lovers than brother and sister, their second album is warm and touching with just the right amount of pathos. Recorded in an old school house in Wassaic (upstate NY) with engineer Justin Pizzoferrato, there's an intimacy and empathy in the music and lyrics that draws the listener in. If the occasional track veers a little to closely to the country border (I'm looking at you 'Key West') there's enough rough edges on some of the other tracks like 'Space Baby' and 'Just Because' to ensure that your attention remains. The melancholy vibe is at times reminiscent of some of Richmond Fontaine's quieter moments, and there's a nice emotional edge to Brad's voice. 

In some ways this is almost an American alt country version of the Big Deal album 'Lights Out' that came out in the UK a couple of months ago - it's got the same deceptively simple air that draws the listener in, and there's plenty of musical variation to be found behind the simple acoustic facade. And while ultimately it might not be quite as satisfying as the Big Deal record it's still got enough talent and charm to make it worth recommending. The band played the End of the Road festival last month, so if you were lucky enough to see them there then well done, the rest of us will just have to hope they return to these shores soon. 

This band had a lot of mystique and intrigue about them after the release of their debut album ‘Survival’ in 2009, which included Sharon van Etten on guest vocals. The sound was mature beyond the band’s years and carried a really thrilling air about it (much like Wild Nothing recently). The sophomore album from Forest Fire, ‘Staring At The X’ does therefore have something to live up to.

 

No worries on that score however, as the album should spread like a…err…forest fire. It’s a big, big sound from these young merchants of sophisticated and measured noise.

 

The guitar is magnificent throughout with flashes of the riffs of Television’s Richard Lloyd and Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour.

 

Eight songs and that 'big sound' surrounds you from the off, on 'Born Into'. The song for all its emotion and musical complexities finishes abruptly after three minutes when really it could go on for another three.

 

‘Future Shadows’ with those aforementioned guitar riffs and forward looking electronics changes the pace. Same thing with 'The News' - Roxy Music sax, nice guitar riffs and punctuation, yet just as the guitar gets magnificently intense the song finishes, after just two and a half minutes. Frustration is growing but let’s hope the live shows bring some extended solos.

 

Don’t be discouraged by just eight songs, there is a great deal of technical musical accomplishment in the music on the record, the climax of which is the seven minutes (!) plus, ‘Visions in Plastic’ which ends the record on a mighty fine note.

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