The August List are West Country husband-and-wife duo, Kerraleigh & Martin Child and their second album is called 'Ramshackle Tabernacle' which, is released on the 5th May through Ubiquity Project Records.
On hearing this album for the first time, it’s like being transported to a wild desolate Americana landscape where songs come from deep down in the soul and are sung with passion. The band ‘Mount Moriah' comes to mind as a comparison. These are songs to be sung on a road trip through the Colorado Desert even though they were recorded at the Strawhouse Studios in Oxford!
Just nine songs, the album does, come round to a more British landscape vibe mid-way through on ‘Connie Converse” a true account of the 1950's singer songwriter who became disillusioned and vanished and to this day, no-one knows what happened to her.
The harmony of the two voices are pitched just right and there is a host of instrumentation, Kerraleigh - Vocals/ Harmonicas/ Percussion/ Stylophone and Martin - Acoustic & Electric Guitar / Vocals/ Banjo/ Percussion. Never over the top, this is a finely balanced record that by any logic, should see The August List playing many a festival this summer.
Back with their first record in four years, is Austin based Psych-Rockers, The Black Angels. ‘Death Song’ will be released through Partisan Records on 21st April, with a special edition version following on Record Store Day, the day after.
The band, now with a substantial back catalogue behind them will headline this year’s Liverpool Psych Festin September, with a sound from the new album that will bounce off the walls of the festival firing psychedelic bullets into your senses.
‘Currency’ a single and the early lead song kicks off the album with a sonic abrasiveness to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, this then gets surpassed with the powerful “I’d Kill for Her’ with its screaming guitars. ‘Half Believing’ is menacing and is followed by ‘Comanche Moon’ tackling the United States' history of genocide against Native Americans. Dark topics indeed.
The Black Angels are back and in fine form, Produced by Phil Ek who has worked with the likes of Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes, and the The Shins, ‘Death Song’ is a totally different sphere sound wise, it’s turned out to be a really dynamic record.
We would never expect The Black Angels to change direction to give us a album of ballads or pop songs, so it must be a challenge to always create something new but, on this album there is such a fresh fuzzed landscape that it could easily become one of the band’s best records.
‘I Dreamt’ delivers a ‘Moon Duo’ daze and is just a dream track to shut your eyes to, then comes the onslaught that is ‘medicine’ and it eyes wide open, jumping around the room again.
The album closes with 'Life Song', six and a half minutes of Floyd influenced psych and a fitting conclusion.
As mentioned, on 22nd April 22nd, a special limited edition release of ‘Death Song’ will be made available for Record Store Day, including the new album on two glow-in-the-dark vinyl LPs and packaging printed entirely in blacklight-reactive ink. There’s another one for the shopping list!
‘Day Fever’ was released back in February on City Slang Records and is songwriter Cherilyn MacNeil's first release in four years. Just under 40 minutes in length this is a beautiful record. Cherilyn has a voice somewhere between Kate Bush, Fiona Apple and Agnes Obel; in other words, delightful.
Opener, ‘Oh, the Sky’ is a wondrous start and you would think music that represents a South African sky. “Oh the sky is an ocean” is the Fiona Apple like lament. Cherilyn is a South African based in Berlin. The album itself was recorded in John Vanderslice’s San Francisco studio.
John Vanderslice has made a name for himself in analog recording, something Cherilyn hadn’t explored prior to the decision to record with him. “On tape, digitally correcting small mistakes during production wasn’t an option: they’d keep a track or erase it - all of it - and start again”.
‘Tie me to the Ground” is a widescreen song, sweet, with an underlying terror of life on the street. Each song on the album is the result of just one, or a maximum of two, studio performances., like listening to an album recorded live. Each song paints a picture in your mind. ‘So petty, so pathetic’ is an equally enjoyable tune with gritty lyrics “You scumbags go to hell” yet with Cherilyn’s voice it is a dream like song.
In “Placate Her,” we wonder why we can’t just be nice to ourselves. “Mean Well” is a tragic look at vulnerability and anxiety. This is a beautiful record, full of twists and turns with the backing choir keeping it on an angelic level .
‘Nothing Melodious’, mainly acoustic guitar and vocals is a delight and brings another style to the record. ‘Then Not Now’ brings in an organ that gives a dark backing to the song. The album concludes with ‘The Run’ , a bright breezy conclusion.
This is a real find, ‘Dear Reader’ is new to me, let's hope there are some live shows soon
London alternative indie 3 piece Happyness release their sophomore album 'Write In' on 7th April, following on from 2014’s well received 'Weird Little Birthday'.
Clearly the band have evolved and matured over the 3 year gap, as where the debut was a fuzzy, hazy pop release, this follow up is strikingly more confident and not afraid of a melody along with the fuzz.
Opening track Falling Down sets the scene with it’s confident guitar loop, and deliciously takes its time to get going and build into the gorgeous start to the album it is. Originally the 2 minute guitar opening was going to be at the end of the song, but a change of heart resulted in this grand statement of a song.
Piano leads the listener into next track, the curiously titled The Reel Starts Again (Man As Ostrich), and again what grabs you is the melody and layered approach to the song.
Anytime is a real driving, propulsive track which will go down well live, especially at a summer festival with a few pints on board.
Jon EE’s vocals remain an almost whisper/singing affair, reminiscent of Neil Halstead, but it would be difficult to imagine this music accompanied by anything different.
The beautiful 6 minute Tunnel Vision On Your Part closes the album - stylistically, somewhere between Slowdive and Mojave 3, and leaves me wanting to put the whole album on again, which I’ve done many times.
Whilst it’s common for a review to pick out individual tracks, this could also have been easier to say that this is an album that genuinely benefits from listening as a whole, from start to finish, on good headphones or stereo.
Letting the songs wash over you, it’s difficult to not be affected by the lovely melodies and kinetic energy of each track, and the result is genuinely uplifting. The band are touring extensively this Summer, and I can only imagine what they will do with the songs live. Don’t miss them.
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