Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Willie Ames - night owl

California born singer-songwriter and skilled instrumentalist Willie Ames produces atmospheric alternative folk/rock with a bluesy and gritty edge with shades of Dylan. The title track "Night owl" is a perfect example of his style with hard picking and a vibe that seems to come straight out of a broken boxcar abandoned in the desert (under a starry sky natch).
"Desert run" has a relaxed acoustic feel underpinned by a slap melody which he apparently does himself while playing the guitar. Tracks like "Dance with you" have a simple yet effective melody. Tracks like "Black widow" are darker though and include some banjo, this is not happy bluegrass but hard and raw picking.

"Feelings" is one of my favourite tracks with its breakneck acoustic melody and dead-pan vocals. This is crafted and raw acoustic music and well worth a listen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Dreamscape - la-di-da recordings (Kranky)

The Dreamscape, the lovely Dreamscape. A prototype Secret Shine if you will, they released a fantastic single "Blackflower" at the start of the 1990s... unfortunately that isn't on here but we do get the rest of the Dreamscape's product including their follow-up EP to Blackflower and some songs which never saw the light of day until now including their recorded but then buried third EP.

I've always liked the Dreamscape with its sometimes laid-back and atmospheric but also non-dominating shoegaze, mostly for Rebecca Rawlings vocals which rate among my all-time favourites. The songs are simple, vocals, guitars and drum machine but so effective. The Dreamscape certainly are one of those long-lost bands who should have been so much more, but there is no justice in the universe we all know that.

But happily in this case there was Secret Shine to follow and they did the odd decent tune...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Top 5 Records (October)

1) la-di-da recordings - The Dreamscape
2) rapproacher - Class Actress
3) deception - Cave Cat
4) all things must pass - George Harrison
5) afar - The Ice Choir

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Best of Top of the Pops '76

Ah 1976 the heady year that saw the beginning of punk... not that you will find any on this covers compilation of course. The songs reflected genuine chart interest in any case and not what the NME said was cool, thus we have the likes of ABBA's "Mama Mia" and an amazing version of Queen's "Bohemian rhapsody". Indeed this cover version is very good and much more adventurous than the likes of "Under the moon of love" though thats done well too, but the original is not exactly one of my favourites...

What is my favourite song from 1976 (at the moment anyway) is on here, and that is "Mississippi". The days before punk (didn't really) blew it all away were often country rock and disco tinged and there are plenty of examples of both here to enjoy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Time and Energy - strange kind of focus

Experimental music from California, Time and Energy are an indie duo who have added tape loops, woodwind instruments and a whole lot of strangeness to their mix. "Hot air" which starts this album off is a case in point, a rock track with added layers of noises giving it an asymmetric air.

Sometimes experimental rock can disappear the wrong side of listen-ability but Time and Energy manage to pull it off such as on "Tree salad" which sounds like its melody is from some tin cans being bashed and a cheap organ (and maybe it was?!)
Its not all explosive noises, "Breakdown" has a nice relaxed acoustic feel. "Sitting on a scale" is a great psychedelic rock song with lovely keyboards underpinning an air of menace. The album is a great one with so much inventiveness, classic rock mixed with all manner of strange noises, often coming at you suddenly without warning. "Acid Jam" sums up the band with its tempo changes and psychedelic noises. Unexpected, surprising and cool.

"Strange kind of focus" is out in November 2012.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Live : Mary Chapin Carpenter & Shawn Colvin (Birmingham Symphony Hall October 18 2012)

And in a bit of a departure... some folk, country rock in an acoustic setting. In fact i have been a fan of Mary Chapin Carpenter since i was a teenager and as those years are (ahem) some time ago i thought it was about time i saw her live. Here the two singer-songwriters were without their bands, just them on stage with a bunch of acoustic guitars.

And it was great, despite being in a (nearly full) big hall the feel was intimate. Carpenter mentioned how the two of them often just played songs to each other in their kitchens, this was a bit like that only sans coffee. The banter between the songs was great especially from Colvin, the little stories adding much to the songs that followed. As for the songs, they were a mix of old and new and performed well. Carpenter plugged her new album quite a lot (which is brilliant by the way) but there was a cheer when the golden oldie "This shirt" was played. That indeed was a song off the first album of hers i bought so many years ago...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Sunbathers (Dufflecoat)

Following on from their CD single on Dufflecoat earlier in the year the UK based pop duo make their 7" single debut with this lovely trio of seaside set pop songs. I said "gorgeous acoustic driven melodies" before i think, and as i believe in recycling i say the same again. "Hope" with its cute percussion is a simple and lovely song well played and sung evoking the delicate beauty of a sand castle.
"Hopeless romantic" has a simple sparse yet jaunty melody and quirky lyrics. "Northfield Lane" is my favourite track on it, seaside sound effects (seagulls!) take us into a reflective melancholy. Perfect music for when you are peering out of a rain soaked window, at the endless crashing of waves on the shore. And if you are land locked, then looking out at the A38 works just as well. The Sunbathers EP is due out in November.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stone Roses - i am the resurrection

This is my favourite Stone Roses song and the single is still treasured even though it just has 3 versions of the same song and a rather pony remix of "Fools gold".

So 3 versions of the A-side then but ignore the radio edit and the album version check out the 5:3 Stoned Out Club Mix of "I am the resurrection". This is the best version, this is the kind of version you went mental to in the club after all. Beefed up beats and bass, its of its time but has weathered well unlike some early 90s indie dance tracks. Love the artwork too, the late 80s/early 90s high watermark of the indie/mainstream crossover. Just genius.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ash - free all angels (Infectious)

Ash's third studio album rocked 2001 (is it really so long ago?) The album is notable for its big rock ballad "shining light" (put your lighters away please) however to me the album only really gets going on track 9 or 10...

The final few tracks on the album are among the best sequences of songs on an indie album ever. The power ballad "Sometimes" with its tasty guitar then the fun rock-thrash of "Nicole" with its shouty chorus. Then we have the sweeping strings of "There's a star" taking us into another glorious rock ballad. Brilliant sequence of songs, the rest of the album isn't bad either.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cave Cat - deception (Dufflecoat/Luxury)

Sweden pop duo make their debut on this great 7" single released jointly by Luxury and Dufflecoat Records. Cave Cat came together thanks to a shared love of British guitar pop from the 80s and 90s and that influence is clearly evident on the two catchy and fresh pop tracks on show here.

"Deception" is a jaunty little tune with a great yet simple pop melody. I prefer "The abject" though which has a bit more of an anthemic indie pop feel to it and a chorus you'll be quickly singing along to. At once familiar but also new. Great debut!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

George Harrison - all things must pass (EMI)

The story of this album is well known, it came out in 1970 not long after the final break-up of The Beatles and astounded people with the sheer amount of music on offer (3 LPs worth which has translated to 2 CDs here with some extra tracks added) and the sheer quality too. So how does this remastered version of the album stand up 42 years on...

It stands up perfectly well thank you, an album that is just sheer class. The album didn't spring out of nowhere, it included songs George had written during the latter years of  the Fab Four (indeed some of which where rejected in favour of Lennon & MacCartney songs on the Beatles final few albums).

Whether it is the familiar hit "My sweet Lord" or the sublime adult rock of songs like the amazing and moody "Beware of darkness" it just oozes class. True there are hints of what some might term Dad rock excess in the years to come in some of the tracks especially the jams but i think they are fine and anyway can be omitted if you wish. On this album George certainly came out from behind the shadow of John and Paul, the album showcasing his songwriting and musical skill, heart and feel.