donderdag 31 oktober 2013

Aventine. Agnes Obel

Three years ago Agnes Obel appeared on the musical stage with her debut album 'Philharmonics', an album that stood out in a hectic world. The sound was laid back, subdued and far from the madding crowd. Aventine takes off where 'Philharmonics' left off. Agnes Obel takes us down a road of isolated beauty and stillness, a road to sit down, relax, put on a headset and just listen.

The sleeve of Aventine is completely in sync with the Roman title. The Aventine being one of the seven hills of ancient (and present) Rome. She is viewed in profile, like a Roman of old, with light coming from behind. Still, stern, solemn, mouth slightly open. Like the music is also.

Aventine is all atmosphere. Opening with the piano instrumental 'Chord left'. Nothing more than a few chords and a modest, extremely serious melody. Small is the correct word, but anyone who cares to listen will recognize beauty instantly. 'Fuel to fire' takes this mood and builds on it. Agnes' voice is added and a cello weaves itself behind and through the piano notes. The voice is a mix of sweetness and a husky smokiness. My take is that Agnes Obel's voice is not very much different from the older Kate Bush, while her music has the same sort of mysticism. Her advantage is that she does not have a backcatalogue to compete with. Her take on music a more modest one, with less instruments around her. She's very confident about her music, as she dares to present her voice near bare. Another name that pops up is Enya, like in 'Orinoco flow'. Several songs on Aventine have the same direct, yet mystical, quality.

Aventine is an album that can escape me when I put it on and do not pay attention. It is so quiet and still, that it is over before I know it. Giving me the impression that it is only 15 or 20 minutes long. When I do listen, I'm drawn in by a few single cello notes played by Anne Mueller or picked violin notes by Mika Posen. Aventine does not take more to please me. It is in these small and subtle details that Aventine scores big. The accompaniment is of such subtlety that sometimes I need to strain to pick it up. Any noise seeping through, things that happen in a family situation, ruin the listening experience immediately. That makes Aventine a late night album, lights subdued and eyes closed for maximum effect.

Aventine holds a hint of classical piano sonatas, dreampop, triphop without a single hint at beats or scratching, a faint trace of pop. It sails on the edge of easy listening, is Celtic without any Celtic instruments and sounds. Aventine holds singer-songwriter qualities without a notable guitar in sight. Above all it holds Agnes Obel, an artist that knows where she is going and what she stands for. Above all it holds 'The curse' the song in which all of Aventine comes together. A song of intense beauty and boldness. A song rivaling the songs on Morgan MeCaskey's EP 'Righteous kind'. And that is a real feat, as I have not heard many albums this year that were better.

There is just not much more to write on Aventine. Go and undergo what Agnes Obel offers. It will speak to you or it won't. When it does you are in for a treat. So go for it, is the advice of

Wo.

You can listen to 'The curse' here.

woensdag 30 oktober 2013

The right side won. What Fun!

This weekend a song was played on the radio that I instantly liked. "Serious Talent" on 3FM the DJ said, but that was all I got. Yesterday I heard it again and surfed to the website of 3FM. The song is called 'AAAAH' by new Dutch pop band Taymir. But what happened next is a bit more surprising. 'AAAAH' put a thirty year old song into my head that hasn't left me since, so why not write about that?

The right side won was a number three hit in The Netherlands in 1983. The song was picked up by Radio 3 as 3FM was called then (or was it even Hilversum 3 in 1983?). In those days it still made a big difference on what day I listened, because the airtime was split between different denominations. On Tuesdays (with the Wednesday afternoon) was the best day. VARA, the labour broadcasting organisation, played the "better" sort of pop music and it played The right side won first. Not surprising, because the song has notibly anti-Falkland war connotations. (I just read that on Wikipedia.)

To me it always meant more than just that. In 1983 there were lots of political movements in The Netherlands, mostly aimed against right wing dictatorships, Israel, South Africa, industry, etc. For some reason or another left-wing dictatorships were not that bad. At least not a lot people bothered to protest against them.

Looking at the text of the song, this association is not far beside the point. "The right side won. God's on our side. It had to be done, it's pity men died". Things happened that "they" could not allow. "They" usually being generals and colonels that could not stand the situation in their respective countries and rode out of their barracks to commit a coup. Followed by repression, torture and disappearances of people. As such the song was the right one in a time of mass demonstrations against nuclear bombs, the violent squatters' riots, the arson against companies doing business with South Africa and the bombing of a politicians private home. Forms of left wing protest that has disappeared in the 10s.

What Fun! was a reggae band from Haarlem. A band that scored one hit. Since 2005 they are playing again, but not in a way that I've noticed. A multi-cultural band, which was not as normal then as it is now. A large band also, with horns and background singers and all. The music of The right side won is a mix of up-tempo reggae with pop. The staccato rhythm is infused with a great melody and horn solos in all the right places. Yes, not unlike UB40. The call and response singing is done just in the right way. Singer Martin Richardson sings and half raps in places, while the three girls respond to him or declaim "That we're in the right". It's this line which is the apology that is still heard all around the globe when one person or movement or political party claim to be better than another. When things usually take a turn for the worse for everyone against this movement or not agreeing. The rhythm of The right side won invites to dance, the main theme of the lyrics to sing along.

My guess is that the song was picked up first because of the political message and that everybody afterwards just sang along because it was such a fun song, i.e. a hit. The right side won is a sort of song that is seldom made nowadays. Songs no longer deal with issues, but with abstract feelings or personal observations. Yes, sometimes things were better in the past, people wanted to or dared to take a stand. There were things to take a stand against. So, when is the first song and a hit at that, written on mass surveillance or against Russia's homophobic laws, etc.?

The right side won, which I played for the first time in years if not over a decade today, has lost nothing of its power. It is still a protest song with a great melody, intricate and special. But most of all, the overall message thirty years down the line still rings true and that is no mean feat in itself. "That we're in the right". This phrase is the apology heard all around the globe when one person or movement or political party attest to be better than another. It makes that the message of The right side won is still very true today.

What Fun! released another single 'Let's get digital' and I have an EP, if I remember correctly, but the new songs never matched The right side won. The band quit in 1989 anonymously, with one #3 hit to its name. A song that deserves to be heard again.

I still haven't figured out thought what the link between 'AAAH' and The right side won is.

Wo.

You can listen to The right side won here.

dinsdag 29 oktober 2013

The fate of the world depends on this kiss. Whitehorse

The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss van Whitehorse heb ik inmiddels al heel wat weken en misschien zelfs al wel maanden liggen en vind ik ook al heel wat weken (of maanden) een geweldige plaat. Waarom ik er tot dusver niets over heb opgeschreven? Ik zou het niet weten, al sluit ik zeker niet uit dat ik deze plaat stiekem helemaal voor mezelf wilde houden. Whitehorse is een Canadese band waarvan de spil wordt gevormd door Melissa McClelland en Luke Doucet. Beiden ken ik nog als soloartiest, in welke hoedanigheid met name Luke Doucet behoorlijk wat indruk wist te maken met een paar prima platen. Een paar jaar hebben de twee de krachten zowel op het muzikale als het amoureuze vlak verenigd, wat vorig jaar een Whitehorse EP en nu een volwaardig debuut heeft opgeleverd. De EP ken ik niet, maar The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss (prachtige titel ook) is een bijzonder fraai visitekaartje. Whitehorse zal in de meeste gevallen in het hokje roots worden geduwd, maar daar past The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss niet volledig in. Persoonlijk beluister ik de plaat van Whitehorse inmiddels als een rootsy remake van Rumours van Fleetwood Mac. Daar zal lang niet iedereen het mee eens zijn, maar ik hoor bij beluistering van The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss van Whitehorse een briljante popplaat. De kwaliteit van de songs is angstig hoog, de stemmen van Melissa McClelland en Luke Doucet wisselen elkaar prachtig af maar vullen elkaar als het moet ook prachtig aan, de instrumentatie op de plaat klopt helemaal en boven alles vormen de songs op de nieuwe plaat van Whitehorse een soort organische eenheid. Allemaal dingen die ik ook in Rumours bewonder, al klinkt deze klassieker uiteindelijk toch heel anders dan The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss. Whitehorse is veel meer een rootsband dan Fleetwood Mac en maakt hier geen geheim van. In muzikaal opzicht doet het af en toe wel wat denken aan Calexico (zeker wanneer de geweldig klinkende gitaren een zuidelijk twang geluid laten horen), maar wanneer je luistert naar de vocalen en naar de bijzonder toegankelijke songs blijft er van deze vergelijking weinig tot niets over. Whitehorse verrast op The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss met de ene na de andere prachtsong. Het zijn songs die je bij eerste beluistering al een aantal decennia lijkt te kennen en ook al een aantal decennia koestert. De muziek van Whitehorse bevat flink wat invloeden uit de 70s, maar stiekem verstoppen Melissa McClelland en Luke Doucet zoveel stijlen dat het te ver gaat om The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss met het etiket 70s retro te beplakken. The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss is als je het mij vraagt een van de betere platen van 2013 en kan zomaar uit groeien tot een klassieker. Ik zet hem voor de zoveelste keer op en weer is het 12 tracks lang genieten. Ik weet wel wat er straks hoog in mijn jaarlijstje staat en dit verdient navolging. Ben ik door de hitte bevangen eerder deze week? Nee hoor, luister maar eens naar deze fantastische plaat.


Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Achilles' desire.

maandag 28 oktober 2013

Lou Reed (1942 - 2013)

Where I do not remember, but somewhere in the past weeks I read that Lou Reed had been transferred to a hospital with screaming sirens and that he underwent a liver transplant earlier this year. Saturday I thought: 'How would Lou Reed be doing?' Yesterday evening in the concluding words of a sportsprogram the presenter made a reference to Lou Reed, ???, which was explained in the 8 o'clock news following the sports show.

For all appearances, to me Lou Reed looked like a grumpy, self-centred, possibly quite unpleasant person. Who cares, if the music he made at times soared to great heights?

The first song of Lou Reed I consciously heard must have been 'Walk on the wild side', but I do not have a vivid remembrance of it. The song sort of was always there and certainly not the kind of song I liked at 13. The first album I consciously heard was 'Berlin'. This was an utterly and totally shocking experience, that remained with me quite vividly. I was staying with a friend for a week who had several albums of which some I truly liked. 'Berlin' wasn't one of them, it was horrible. My 14 year old ears were prepared for a lot, but this? Crying babies, destitute people, music sounding so desperate. To be honest, I still can't listen to it as a whole, really. What has changed is that I hear the quality of the album and what made it so ground breaking.

Lou Reed's route to fame started off of course as part of The Velvet Underground (& Nico), a band "nobody bought an album of, but every one who heard them play started their own band". The four albums The Velvet Underground produced all have its moments, but it is the third 'The Velvet Underground', that is of a consistent quality. Where the freaky experimentation of John Cale was set aside for the soft boy band splendour of Doug Yule. Together with 'VU', the unofficially tagged long lost fourth album, between 'The Velvet Underground' and 'Loaded', released in 1987, my two favourite VU albums, followed by the debut album with Nico. In 1970 Reed left the band and started his solo career. That is 43 years to 5. This makes it incomprehensible that in all publications I read so far, The Velvet Underground is mentioned foremost. It is the reputation the band gained long after its demise that is responsible for that.

Lou Reed's solo career was one of great ups and tremendously deep downs. Truly fantastic albums like 'Transformer', 'Coney Island baby', 'New York' and 'Magic & loss' and live album 'Rock and roll animal' are backed by 'Street hassle', 'Growing up in public', etc. It is only fitting that his career ends with a controversial album like 'Lulu', which so many people seem to truly hate. Lou Reed is controversy, from the very beginning of his career right up to the very end. Someone who does not get that, misses a lot of his artistic personage.

I got to see him play live twice. The first time solo in 1984 as final act of the Torhout/Werchter festival, in Werchter. Fernando Saunders had a lot of trouble with his bass amp, which did nothing for the atmosphere of a non-caring crowd. People left to go home after a long day, resulting in a totally uninspiring show. The second time was with The Velvet Underground in a half-filled Ahoy. So much for the much praised, legendary band, that was unable to draw more than half of the Arena. But we in Europe got to see the band play and I would not have wanted to miss that for anything in the world. It was a truly great concert, with a band in great form, completely living up to its reputation. Looking at the stage from fairly close by however, I could not put away the thought that Lou Reed did not like to share the spotlights with his (former) bandmates. They were treated as equals by the audience, as a band, with Moe Tucker getting the most applause after singing either 'After hours' or 'I'm sticking with you', I can't remember which one, but I did see the annoyance on the face of Lou Reed.

Since the mid-90s I basically stopped following Lou Reed. The albums just weren't interesting
enough any more. Not unlike what happened in the 80s. This time he sort of gave up himself also. There were all sorts of projects, but no longer a lot of new music. That was what made 'Lulu', a collaboration with Metallica, so surprising. Uncompromising, loud and inspired. No matter what people say or write, this is exactly what 'Lulu' is and isn't that essentially when Lou Reed was at his best? Uncompromising?

Not necessarily loud though. Anyone who has heard songs like 'Pale blue eyes', 'Jesus' or 'Candy says', knows how subtle, soft and even tender Lou Reed could write and play songs. Reed was a master of all trades on the edges of pop, rock and even jazz. He turned it into his own blend and took his music to places where only a few others dared to go. Certainly, he was assisted by John Cale, Andy Warhol, David Bowie and later side kicks, perhaps, but it was usually his songs and lyrics. The influence from 50s rock and roll and pop were never far away, but at the same time nobody sounded like Lou Reed in/and The Velvet Underground. Too avant garde for nearly all in the late 60s. Lou Reed found his place, obviously and went on to do many interesting things, searching for whatever he tried to find. Surprising, boring, baffling, enrapturing his fans along the way. In the way a truly dedicated artist should and does. Without searching nothing is found and Lou Reed found more than enough for one lifetime. For better or worse, he did find.

The last time I went out the door for Lou Reed was to watch the movie 'Berlin' a few years back. An integral show of the album filmed in New York City. It had me sitting at the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Superbly played and sung. A great show. A monument for a great musician. The way I prefer to remember Lou Reed.

Wo.

zondag 27 oktober 2013

Marc Maron, who's that?

Marc is an American stand-up comedian. Never heard of him? Why would you, if you are not from the US? American stand-ups are not an export product. Eddy Murphy, perhaps, Richard Pryor, maybe, Dennis Leary, exceptionally, but all those other US stand-ups, they are doomed to the oblivion of European niche and sub culture. As soon as stand-ups become famous they become comedy actors or talk-show hosts. We have no idea that these people have a long career in improv theaters and small rooms with a couple of tables and people lining up back-stage to share their worldview  wrapped in jokes in 10 minutes sets.

What the Fuck!!!

That is not an expression about my own miserable knowledge of stand-ups or a statement of what I wrote above, but the title of Marc's podcast.

What the Fuck appears semi regular and with high frequency. The shear number of episodes and their duration make it difficult to keep up - there are only so many commutes in a week. Before you know hours of backlog have accumulated.

The format is straightforward, Marc starts off with what's up with themisery of his day-to-day life. Does some product placement for coffee, stamps, audiobooks or dildos, and then enters into an almost hour long interview with a fellow comedic, actor, chef, or musician.

The whats-up-with-Marc section of the show is, as Marc seems to acknowledge, the part that most people skip fast forward. However, it is the part of the show that reveals what the show is really about: the fact that motivation and drive for (artistically) expressing yourself is a lifelong struggle. Marc clearly has a drive and motivation to create a unique interpretation and understanding of the
world and share that creatively. His description of the weekly battle with his anxiety, the way he interacts with his loved ones, his love for cats, his struggle with his audience, and the prelude to the
conversation are all about that drive to self-define. While this part of the show is pitched as a conversation to the listener it seems more like a conversation of Marc with himself or with a therapist that lives at the other side of the pop shield.

I am still not sure if I like this first part of the show. It is like the asymmetrical friendship with that friend that is always in trouble, always talking about it, is sorry for himself, and never listens to you.

That said.

The first part of the show is a necessity for understanding why the second half of the show works. Marc not only tries to understand his own drivers but is sincerely interested in the drivers of others. He takes a serious amount of time to understand his guests. Usually by talking through their history: parents, school, first inspiration, first accomplishments.

Since he is a comedian there is some focus on the comedic world. But I find his interviews with musicians and chefs the best. Marc aspires to be a good cook and a musician, but he is neither. (That said, I would love to have him cook for me because I believe he would make a mean dish. He has also proven more than once that he plays a nice 1-4-5 on the guitar). That admiration for musicians and chefs tickles his curiosity and that makes for awesome interviews.

Listen to the interviews with Josh Homme, Hunt Sales, Iggy Pop, John Cale, Nick Cave, Billy Brags, or Dave Grohl and you will understand that it is well worth to tune in to this pod cast.

I wonder if Marc could do interviews with people with a different creative skill set like scientists or nerds. I don't think he ever had one on the show. Don't let that stop you from listening to the musicians.

Boomer lives!


http://www.wtfpod.com
podcast on itunes or as app.
@marcmaron

OMK

zaterdag 26 oktober 2013

Over land and sea (3). Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk

This spring we ran a review of Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk. Following the album we did an interview this summer (click here). Recently we received this e-mail:

"I'd like to let you know about a FREE album download that we currently doing. Right now on noisetrade.com you can find our full album Over Land and Sea, along with a b-side called A Traveller's Anthem.


here is the direct link to the FREE download.

If you can please share the free music download link with your friends via facebook, twitter, email, word of mouth, etc that would be a really big support to us.  Probably bigger then you could know.  Please consider posting it.
We also launched a funding campaign to help us with our next album.  I won't go into the details, since they are all posted on the campaign, but I would ask that you check it out, watch the video, and read what we wrote so you can get a full idea as to what we're aiming to do.


You can find our IndieGoGo Campaign here.

That's it, please check out those two links and share them if you feel comfortable doing so.
Thanks so much everyone!  I hope you're all doing well.

And as always, feel free to write back with any questions/comments/input/etc.

Cheers,

Zoltan, Lauren, Jay, Jessica, Josh, and Hammer.

LMATFOF"
,
which we decided to follow up on. So here's the review once more and do go listen to this beautiful album on Noisetrade.com.
Over land and sea.
For a band with a fairly odd name, it makes pretty normal music. Lauren Mann c.s. was thrown into my lap through a website called Noisetrade, where music is available for free. The artist can be tipped as a courtesy. In the passed weeks several of these albums have come by on this blog as a courtesy from us to them.

Lauren Mann comes from Calgary in Canada, but now the open road is her home, touring relentlessly sharing her music around the country. Her Fairly Odd Folk are musicians that she gathered around her in her starting years. The nickname the band got, stuck. Jay Christman  plays drums, bass, percussion and acoustic guitar, Jessica Christman's on bass, aux keys and BGV's, Josh Akin plays electric and acoustic guitar as well as banjo and Zoltan Szoges plays keys, melodica, glockenspiel, percussion and clarinet. Lauren herself also plays piano and ukelele. It goes to show how diverse the sound of this band is.

Lauren Mann has a very pleasant voice. High, light, a direct pleaser, because she stays on the safe side of the likes of Dolores O'Riordan. Just a voice is seldom enough for me, so let's go into the music. Starting the album is 'Fragile', a beautiful small song with these fun, single notes piano accompaniment and 'I lost myself'. Not another new folk band, I thought? Everything is there, the mandolin/banjo/ukelele, the typical drums, the way the dynamics work up the song. Not to forget the happy whistling and singing along. Hearing 'I lost myself' for the first time, I heard an instant hit. There's even a hint of ABBA in there, a rare mix, but it works.

It is after 'I lost myself' that Over land and sea started to surprise me. Lauren Mann and her Folk take routes that are less obvious for a new folk band. In fact they aren't one. This is a pop band if I ever heard one. Over land and sea is a fun, mostly up beat album, while at the same time venturing into songs that are too sweet to my taste. In 'Dance with me' it is only her voice for me to hold on to. The rest is to sugary and sweet. Other songs are so intensely beautiful that I'm being shaken around like in a bumper car ride at a county fair. Taking it all in Lauren Mann plays what can be called new folk or folk rock, but is not afraid to throw in a ballad or pop song. The Fairly Odd Folk do everything to make her voice shine and with that themselves.

What I also really liked is the trick the band does at the beginning of 'Weight of the world'. It starts out all happy sounding with glockenspiel and all and then starting this serious song on depression of someone close. It set me off totally on the wrong foot.

One of my first impressions is that fans of Ilse de Lange should really like Over land and sea. I'll test it on my girlfriend soon. (Yes, a positive advice was given!) At the same time there is enough to enjoy for fans of a bit more rough pop. The songs in the folk pop and rock idiom are all spot on. The title song is so much fun to listen to. Upbeat with these undertones that makes me listen again. 'Like the mist' is a beautiful ballad. Lauren sings that she is "searching for beauty". I tell her to stop right now. You've found it, dear lady. Her clear voice, the perfectly sounding cymbals, the sparsely played piano notes, a great guitar line. 'Like the mist' is sheer beauty and a perfect way to end the album. A great promise for the future.

Over land and sea is the second album of LMATFOF. In 2010 'Stories from home' was released. Although I'm not familiar with the album, it can't be any any other way that Over land and sea is a tremendous leap forward. A singer that is so comfortable in very different songs, admitted, not all sit well with me, can go anywhere in the future. Despite this personal dip, Over land and sea is a beautiful album clearly made with love and dedication fitting right in with the times and offering that little extra too. Best of both worlds it is.

And all this time I was thinking of whom does Lauren Mann's voice remind me? And then I read her last name again .... well, Aimee of course.
Wo.

vrijdag 25 oktober 2013

American ride. Willie Nile

Willie Nile verruilde in de jaren 70 zijn geboortestad Buffalo voor het bruisende New York, waar hij al snel te vinden was in de muziek scene rond clubs als CBGB's. Hoewel Willie Nile met enig succes aan de weg timmerde, kreeg hij nooit dezelfde status als stad- en tijdgenoten als Patti Smith, Television, The Ramones en Talking Heads, die hij zag uitgroeien van beginnende bands tot wereldsterren. Willie Nile bracht uiteindelijk twee prima platen uit in de jaren 80 en één uitstekende plaat in de jaren 90. Ik denk niet dat er veel mensen zijn die ze in de kast hebben staan, maar ze zijn zeker de moeite waard. Dat geldt ook zeker voor de bescheiden stapel platen die Willie Nile sinds de overgang naar het nieuwe Millennium heeft gemaakt. Een aantal live-platen niet mee geteld, tel ik vier platen, waarvan met name het in 2006 uitgebrachte Streets Of New York zeer de moeite waard is. Het stapeltje platen krijgt nu gezelschap van American Ride en ook dit is een plaat die het absoluut verdient om gehoord te worden. Luister naar American Ride en het lijkt of de tijd heeft stil gestaan. American Ride klinkt als Born To Run had geklonken wanneer de jonge Springsteen New Jersey zou hebben verruild voor New York. Willie Nile maakt op zijn nieuwe plaat grootse rock ’n roll met een licht smoezelige CBGB’s injectie. Naar slechte songs zal je op American Ride tevergeefs zoeken. Willie Nile nadert inmiddels de 65, maar klinkt op zijn nieuwe plaat minstens net zo gedreven en energiek als op de plaat waarmee hij meer dan 30 jaar geleden debuteerde. Toch is American Ride niet alleen een plaat waarop van dik hout planken worden gezaagd. In een aantal tracks kiest Willie Nile voor sobere akoestische songs met een stevige roots impuls en verruild hij CBGB’s voor de New Yorkse clubs waarin Dylan ooit debuteerde. Welk genre Willie Nile ook kiest, hij overtuigt op indrukwekkende wijze. American Ride laat een ouwe rot horen die het misschien nooit echt heeft kunnen maken, maar het is wel een muzikant in hart en nieren en een muzikant die op één of andere manier iets heeft. Wat dat is weet ik nog steeds niet precies, al zou het wel eens kwaliteit kunnen zijn. Muzikanten die Springsteen en zijn E-Street band naar de kroon willen steken zakken meestal snel door het ijs, maar de Springsteen achtige tracks op American Ride zijn songs die je zomaar aan het Springsteen repertoire toe zou kunnen voegen, waarna het waarschijnlijk snel publiekslievelingen zouden worden. Wat geldt voor de grootse rocksongs, geldt ook voor de wat meer ingetogen rootssongs. Het is absoluut duidelijk waar Willie Nile de mosterd haalt, maar op één of andere manier voorziet hij deze van een aantal extra ingrediënten, waardoor de basis onaangetast blijft, maar uiteindelijk vooral de frisse details de aandacht trekken. Ik heb American Ride van Willie Nile inmiddels een aantal keer gehoord en weet zeker dat er nog vele keren zullen volgen. Van American Ride kun je immers alleen maar heel blij worden. Is dat voldoende? Voor mij wel.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar 'American ride' luisteren.

woensdag 23 oktober 2013

Holding a heart. Toby Lightman



And again time to give some attention to an album that is given away for free on Noisetrade.com. Holding a heart is a five song EP by Toby Lightman. Toby is a singer songwriter from New York who is actually active for nearly 10 years as a recording artist. Holding a heart is her sixth release since 2004.

Holding a heart is an EP that tries to find a spot in the well-filled pool of female singers that followed the breakthrough of Lily Allen circa five years ago. At least that is the idea she puts into my head listening to Holding a heart. That makes the competition fierce. I have to follow that by the comment that I do not know most of these album and singers. Some songs were sort of unavoidable for any one leading a normal life in the western hemisphere. They are everywhere. A few songs I even truly liked. Like Lily Allen’s ‘Fuck you’, a brilliant little hit of an ironic song.

Holding a heart has that same sort of heaviness borne through irony and a sense of lightness.  Which I;ll try to explain some more below.

How does Holding a heart come to be reviewed then? It found a spot on my i-Pod after downloading it from Noisetrade and started to come by. The first thing I heard was Toby Lightman’s clear voice, which is mixed over the music. Up front and thus in my face: here I am. No hiding, no masquerading. She really presents herself vocally. The second thing is that there is a wide variety of songs presented by her. The third thing is the upbeat air, with enough of a serious undertone to make Holding a heart stand out. H-E-L-L-O is the best example on Holding a heart. It sounds at first like it is going to be this fun sort of song, but slowly the mood shifts. Somebody is not here who is supposed to be. The mood is just set in the right way, making the song very much worthwhile listening to.

The same goes for the song that ends this EP. ‘Wheels’ has a bittersweet connotation, so much in contrast with the poppy ‘We are’ that starts Holding a heart. Hand claps and all. And even this song set me on the wrong foot totally. It starts all bright and poppy and then changes mood very slowly until even the la-la-las in the background do not seem to know which way to go, hesitant and uncertain. And then it also ends within the minute too, easily. Confusing, intriguing, interesting. Over before I realised it and wanting more.

The great pop single of Holding a heart is ‘All I silence’. Guitar outburst in the Coldplay style, spicing the chorus. The light and the shade let into the song, that is is just loaded with dynamics. Personally I do not think this is the best song of the album, I can understand the more prominent place. The refrain is an earcatcher. The “shut ups” clearly in the line of lily Allen's 'Fuck you'. The third song and title song is the most serious. Close to a singer-songwriter song. It shows the ambition of Toby Lightman. An ‘Eleanor Rigby’ kind of song, in between pop and classical music.

Holding a heart is only five songs long. In it Toby Lightman presents herself in a self-assured way. Daring to venture into several avenues at the same time. Daring to set the listener on the wrong foot, challenging him to follow her along surprises and changes in style and approach. Toby Lightman is far from an arrive, but she managed to intrigue me with her EP and that’s a first step towards a future musical relationship.

Wo.

You can listen to and download Holding a heart here.

maandag 21 oktober 2013

Personal record. Eleanor Friedberger

Eleanor Friedberger maakte als lid van het duo The Fiery Furnaces (dat ze samen met haar broer Matthew vormde) een aantal fascinerende maar ook ongrijpbare platen, die in de loop der jaren steeds verder afdwaalden van het nog redelijk conventionele debuut van het tweetal. Ik heb The Fiery Furnaces een aantal jaren omarmd (en heb twee van hun platen zelfs wel eens een meesterwerk genoemd), maar op een gegeven moment raakte ook ik het spoor bijster. In 2011 bracht Eleanor Friedberger haar solodebuut uit, Last Summer. Het bleek een uiterst toegankelijke plaat vol met heerlijke 70s popliedjes met een eigentijdse twist. Last Summer bleek uiteindelijk een groeiplaat die deed uitzien naar veel meer. Dat meer is er nu in de vorm van de tweede soloplaat van Eleanor Friedberger, Personal Record. Ook op haar tweede soloplaat is de muziek van de Amerikaanse weer heel ver verwijderd van de experimentele muziek van The Fiery Furnaces. Personal Record trakteert ons, net als zijn voorganger, op heerlijke zonnige popliedjes die vooral lijken geïnspireerd door muziek uit de jaren 70. Friedberger is in dit decennium wel iets opgeschoven en heeft de vrouwelijke singer-songwriter pop uit de vroege jaren 70 verruild door meer gitaar georiënteerde pop uit de tweede helft van de jaren 70. Door de bijna onweerstaanbare gitaarloopjes en de lekker dromerige klanken doet Personal Record me meer dan eens denken aan de muziek van al lang vergeten bands als The Shirts en Martha & The Muffins, maar Personal Record heeft ook raakvlakken met de muziek van Blondie, The Cars, The Go-Go’s en een paar keer zelfs met The Undertones. Heerlijke gitaarpop met een vleugje new wave dus en dat is een combinatie die nog altijd werkt. Heel even lijkt het of Eleanor Friedberger al haar eigenzinnigheid opzij heeft geschoven, maar als je goed luistert naar Personal Record kom je toch weer heel wat verrassende uitstapjes tegen (waaronder zelfs een snufje bossa nova of toch opeens weer wat West Coast pop of psychedelica), waardoor de songs op de plaat alleen maar beter worden. Iedereen die aangenaam werd verrast door de toegankelijke songs op Last Summer, zal nog enthousiaster opveren bij beluistering van de zonnige tracks op Personal Record, maar ook liefhebbers van vrouwelijke singer-songwriters die zich niet in een hokje laten duwen en niet vies zijn van flink wat avontuur, zijn bij Eleanor Friedberger weer aan het juiste adres. Met Personal Record heeft Eleanor Friedberger een lekker veelzijdige plaat met louter songs van wereldklasse afgeleverd. Voor mij nu al een van de soundtracks van de prachtige zomer die nog moet en ook gaat komen.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar 'Other boys' luisteren.

zondag 20 oktober 2013

The devil put dinosaurs here. Alice in Chains



Not unlike other bands of grunge era, Alice in Chains is back and making music like it’s 1995. Almost like nothing has changed. As if singer Layne Staley hasn’t died. And why not? It is not as if the band has lost its right to exist. Guitarist/singer Jerry Cantrell was responsible for at least 50% of the sound and songs of Alice in Chains. Replacement singer William DuVall has indeed the right way of singing, as has Jerry Cantrell. A sound that exhumes death, misery and unhappiness. The fun thing is that Alice in Chains has this little extra in 2013 compared to 1995: life and some humour on the side, if we judge the album title to start.

Alice in Chains was part of the Seattle sound and scene of the early 1990s, what we have learned to call grunge. The deep, dark sound was matched by the singing. Not really my cup of tea. This changed somewhat when the band released its eponymous album in 1995. With a few great, sludging and grinding songs like 'Grind' and 'Heaven beside you', they did win me over for at least 50% of that album. After that the demons got the better of singer Staley and except for a so-called unplugged album for MTV, never was heard from again, with the predictable overdosis as the inevitable end. Sad is the only correct word here.

Starting all over in the late 00s, The devil put dinosaurs here is Alice in Chains’ second album since. I liked it from the first playing. What the band in its new incarnation is capable of is mixing a few other influences into the grinding and harsh music. Proglike guitarharmonies and sound in ‘Stone’ or a popinfused refrain in ‘Voices’. It is these little diamonds that show through thanks to the hard polishing the band does elsewhere that make The devil put … so much more interesting to listen to. Most songs have more air in it once we leave the opening duo behind. Allowing details to shine through. Allowing the listener to hear what Alice in Chains is capable of also.

Perhaps it is contradictory to write the words “warmth” and “playfulness” in an Alice in Chains review, but they are spot on. Despite the darkly, emotionless sung words, multi tracked for the extra dark effect, and slurry execution of it all, light shines in the different guitar parts Jerry Cantrall has laid down. Arpeggiated notes in the title song combined with the darker sparse notes. And although Sean Kinney’s drums roll dark and deep, the time signature allows for these beautiful fills on the hi-hat, creating rest and air in the relentless pounding. To my ears that makes the music of Alice in Chains so much more fun to listen to. There is life and light let in and that happens to be the part of life I like best, a lot even.

What I also like is that Alice in Chains comes close to one of Jeff Buckley’s best posthumous songs, ‘Yard of blond girls’. ‘Low ceiling’ has the same rolling rhythms and playfulness of this song covered by Jeff Buckley. Cantrell adds a beautiful progsolo to this mix. More variation and more fun. This way Alice in Chains mach II is not just an emulation of Mach I. The band has allowed itself to evolve and not just sticks to what we already know. More points go the The devil put … here. The basis may not have changed, the icing certainly has. There is so much more to discover, the melodies are so much more varied and the sounds so much more pleasant, that Alice in Chains has become the better and more interesting band for it. If we hear how a song like ‘Scalpel’ is built up. From an acoustic guitar based song, to a great harmonic chorus and well-crafted verses, all fully fleshed out. More kudos here.

What The devil put dinosaurs here shows is what a big difference a little sunshine makes. Alice in Chains has come up with an album that can be called nice by Alice in Chains standards. It makes all the difference to me. Great fun.

Wo.

You can listen to 'The devil put dinosaurs here'.

vrijdag 18 oktober 2013

The weight of your love. Editors

De uit het Britse Birmingham afkomstige band Editors zal waarschijnlijk nooit meer ontsnappen aan de vergelijking met legendarische postpunk bands als Joy Division en Echo & The Bunnymen. Nu viel er na de release van het prachtdebuut The Back Room uit 2005 ook helemaal niets af te dingen op de vergelijking met de beste postpunk bands uit de Britse muziekgeschiedenis. Editors liet oude tijden herleven en deed dit op grootse wijze. Sinds The Back Room heeft Editors zich echter flink ontwikkeld en dat willen de critici helaas wel eens onder het tapijt vegen. An End Has A Start uit 2007 lag nog redelijk in het verlengde van The Back Room, maar In This Light And On This Evening uit 2009 was een totaal andere plaat, waarop de gitaren van The Back Room vrijwel volledig plaats hadden gemaakt voor synths (en Joy Division volledig was over gegaan in New Order). De muzikale aardverschuiving deed de band trouwens geen goed. Editors zat de afgelopen vier jaar in de lappenmand en lange tijd leek het er op dat er geen vierde plaat van de Britten zou verschijnen. Gelukkig liep het anders. Afgelopen vrijdag lag The Weight Of Your Love in de winkel en wat is het een glorieuze comeback geworden. The Weight Of Your Love begint nog altijd bij de prachtige platen die Echo & The Bunnymen in de eerste helft van de jaren 80 maakte (Crocodiles, Heaven Up Here, Porcupine en Ocean Rain moet echt iedereen in huis hebben), maar neemt vervolgens de invloeden uit de 30 jaar muziekgeschiedenis die zouden volgen mee. The Weight Of Your Love is een plaat met stadionpretenties, zeker wanneer Editors U2, Coldplay en Simple Minds in beter tijden naar de kroon probeert te steken. Persoonlijk vind ik de tracks waarin de postpunk invloeden domineren en de tijden van Echo & The Bunnymen herleven nog altijd het best, maar de flirts met grootse rocksongs en de experimenten met strijkers verdienen zeker respect en aandacht. The Weight Of Your Love is een plaat die makkelijk overweldigt met donkere gitaarwolken, atmosferische synths, stemmige strijkers, meeslepende vocalen en grootse songs, maar het is ook een plaat die overeind blijft wanneer je er wat kritischer naar luistert en de songs een voor een langs de maatlat legt. Dan valt op hoe knap het allemaal in elkaar steekt en vooral ook hoe goed voorman Tom Smith zingt. De eerste recensies die ik over The Weight Of Your Love heb gelezen zijn vernietigend, maar dat vind ik veel te makkelijk. Editors doen op The Weight Of Your Love een poging om zich te vernieuwen en wat mij betreft slagen ze hier glansrijk in. The Weight Of Your Love is misschien heel af en toe wat over the top, maar de meeste songs op de vierde van Editors zijn wonderschoon. Luister daarom op zijn minst onbevangen en onbevooroordeeld naar The Weight Of Your Love. Mijn oordeel staat inmiddels vast: prachtplaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar 'A ton of love' luisteren.

donderdag 17 oktober 2013

Fanfare. Jonathan Wilson

Listening to Fanfare is a weird experience. It's like listening to a long lost album by Frank Zappa, that I somehow missed in 1980. Or listening to the long lost album of Pink Floyd from 1974. Not to mention The Beatles' breaks in 1968. Crosby & Nash in 1973? And all that sometimes at the same time. New surprises come with each new song. To my ears it seems like Jonathan Wilson has taken his old, vinyl collection in his hands, shook it as hard as he could, stacked the deck and then made a record with what came out of that.

Jonathan Wilson is a recording artist, producer with credits like Dawes and solo artist. Fanfare is his third solo album following 'Frankie Ray' (2007) and his breakthrough album 'Gentle spirit' (2011). The LA connection is all over his music or more specific Laurel Canyon, the place where a lot of the then young and hip people of the 1970 LA scene moved to. Born in 1974 in the south east of the U.S. it is not a period that Wilson actively participated in, but certainly emulates here.

For one thing, from what I'm hearing, Wilson has done this with great class and a fine ear for detail. On the other hand, the overpowering way the album kicks off, makes the middle part a great surprise. The jazzy singer-songwriter style made best known by Crosby, Stills and Nash is on centre stage here. Singing, atmosphere and all. The contrast between the relaxed song and the intense singing is always something that I have to get used to, get into the mood for, something which I do not always manage to do. Here it surprises me even more, because it comes so unexpectedly. From the form of singing, to full songs in that style like trippy and jazzy 'Cecil Taylor'. Jonathan Wilson does not mind to add a song in the style of Neil Young to it straight after: 'Illumination' is a 100% Dinosour Sr. in intro and form. Not singing as no one has a voice like old Neil. (What would the response of his school choir director have been?, I sometimes wonder.)

All this shows why I have a hard time to warm to Fanfare as a whole. There's no song the same, which is also a good thing of course, but I get the impression that Wilson was asking himself each week: 'Who am I going to honour with a song now'? The result is that Fanfare is an album with a lot of different influences that do no so easily gel into an album. Also this question begs for an answer: Who is Jonathan Wilson really, musically?

Heaving said that, the next comment has to be that most songs of are an extremely high level. The playing and composition are all very well done. The pleasant surprises of recognition add to that. On the other hand the album is lacking of emotion. Most songs are sung undercooled, yes in a seventies Steely Dan (or Gino Vannelli) sort of way. The songs are not as complex as that, still they are well crafted. It is this qualification that has made me listening to Fanfare again so far. There is definitely something in here that could me go to really liking it. That is not yet the case though. I'll admit that it can go both ways at this point in time. What Fanfare and Jonathan Wilson have done, is intrigue me. Isn't that where truly liking an album starts? It can either be through love at first hearing or through really investing in an album that is worthwhile investing in. All the rest I leave behind. Fanfare has the quality that makes it worth my while to invest in it.

So, to sum here. We will have to see where Fanfare and I will go. Ask me again a few months from now.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Dear friend' here.

woensdag 16 oktober 2013

Dream cave. Cloud Control

Cave rave? Dream rave? I'm getting confused here. Of course the former is by indie folk rockers Crystal Fighters, also to be found on this blog, the latter the new album of Cloud Control, the band that debuted with that much fun album 'Bliss release'. This album wound up in my 2011 year list, if I remember correctly. So expectations are high. A supple continuation, (great) growth or the much feared difficult second album?

Dream rave kicks of with near retching -in reverse no less- sounds. If that does not announce a difficult one, then what? Luckily the song turns into music and is followed by a familiar sounding song setting me back on track: 'Dojo rising' is all a Cloud Control fan can expect. Laid back rock with some pleasant singing, boy - girl. The relaxation with which Wright and Lenffer follow each other in the singing is lacking all urgency and still spot on. The playfulness of several songs endear them to me instantly. Listening to 'Ice age heatwave' has the trickling of melting ice all over it. The song just sparkles and shines. Like unsuspected sunshine on a cold and cloudy day.

Cloud Control is a band from the vicinity of Sydney, Australia, that makes a blend of indierock and psychedelica. Singer/guitarist Alister Wright, keyboardist/singer Heidi Lenffer, drums and percussionist Ulrich Lenffer and Jeremy Kelshaw on bass and vocals, together are responsible for this blend. One that takes them one step further into experimentation than on the debut album, 'Bliss release'. Vague bathroom hollow singing with a shower dripping in the background? Check, it's here on 'Tombstone'. The final song is a step back in time to a song that could have been sung by the likes of Paul Anka or Neil Sedaka. In atmosphere 'Dream rave' comes very close to a pop song from the late 50s. The only difference is that it is played differently. Not necessarily to please, but to estrange. And again there's all this leaking water from broken or not properly closed taps. That makes the end of Dream rave, the album, as special as the begin.

In between Cloud Control takes its listeners on an aural trip that pleases, surprises, prickles and tickles. On Dream rave Cloud Control manages to come up with interesting vocal melodies, great 'pa-pa-dahs' intros, distinctive guitar melody lines and inventive rhythms. 'Moonrabbit' holds them all in fact. The intro is one big invitation to blend my own voice with those of the band. 'Moonrabbit' is extremely poppy without ever being a hit. So much fun to listen to. In 'Happy birthday' it is the sprightly bass line that draws the most attention. All members get the possibility to have their moment, without forcing it in anyway.

Dream rave even presents us with some dance songs with a few traces of 80s doom and gloom presented with a lightness that plainly make it work. There is a different rhythm, translike dreamy soundscapes made by synths or computers, but it's the singing and the melody that make the songs interesting and hold that vague traces to 60s psychedelia. Overall it gives the album that little extra variety that makes it grow and presents the listener with a lot more to discover with each spin.

In short, Dream rave seems to be everything that a fan could wish from Cloud Control's second album. The album delves deeper, without losing the lightness and playfulness that characterizes Cloud Control's music. Even when more dance oriented rhythms and sound scapes are used, the band doesn't lose its own identity. It's a dream(time) record.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Dojo rising' here.

dinsdag 15 oktober 2013

She beats. Beaches

She Beats van de Australische band Beaches wordt aangeprezen als dreampop. Dat is een aanbeveling die ik zelden naast me neer leg en die me ook maar zelden teleur stelt. In het geval van Beaches is zelfs sprake van enige euforie, want wat is dit een overtuigende plaat. Beaches komt uit het Australische Melbourne en bestaat uit vijf vrouwen. De band is inderdaad niet vies van dreampop zoals die in de jaren 90 werd gemaakt, maar met alleen het etiket dreampop doe je de muziek op She Beats te kort. Flink te kort zelfs. Bij beluistering van de tweede plaat van Beaches (het debuut wist Europa nooit te bereiken) valt met name het gitaarwerk op. Dit is voor dreampop begrippen opvallend gruizig en bovendien zeer veelzijdig. Beaches telt zelf al drie gitaristen, maar wist voor She Beats ook nog eens gitarist Michael Rother, die we kennen van de Duitse Krautrock band Neu!, te strikken. Het werkelijk fantastische gitaarwerk vormt de rode draad op She Beats, maar Beaches heeft nog meer krachtige wapens in handen. De invloeden uit de dreampop zijn inmiddels enkele malen genoemd, maar She Beats bevat veel meer dan invloeden uit de dreampop. De muziek van Beaches put duidelijk uit de 60s psychedelica, maar heeft ook een zwak voor indringende noiserock, experimentele Krautrock, donkere drones en heerlijk gruizige shoegaze. De dames van Beaches beschikken over heerlijk dromerige stemmen, die prachtig kleuren bij diepe bassen en monotone ritmes. Het fascinerende gitaarwerk smeedt alles aan elkaar en voorziet alle songs van zoveel kleuren dat het je zo af en toe duizelt. Met name in de wat langere tracks is het gitaarwerk op She Beats van een betoverende schoonheid en heeft de dromerige muziek van Beaches een zwaar hypnotiserend karakter. Het deed me in eerste instantie vooral aan Lush (één van mijn favoriete 90s bands) denken, maar de muziek van Beaches is veelkleuriger en avontuurlijker dan die van de dreampop pioniers uit een inmiddels ver verleden. She Beats van Beaches is een plaat die je mee sleurt naar plaatsen die het zonlicht maar moeilijk verdragen en voorlopig niet denkt aan los laten. Onder de indruk was ik direct, maar inmiddels ben ik compleet in de ban van deze plaat die ik bij toeval ontdekte en Nederland tot dusver nauwelijks lijkt te bereiken. Drie kwartier lang heeft Beaches je bij de strot en hierna wil je maar één ding: nog drie kwartier She Beats. Beaches heeft een plaat gemaakt die met een beetje geluk kan uitgroeien tot één van de uitschieters van 2013. Zo ver is het nog niet, maar ik weet zeker dat bijna iedereen die de luisterlink hieronder aan klikt onmiddellijk om is, zeker wanneer de dreampop tot de oude liefdes moet worden gerekend.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar 'Out of mind' luisteren.

maandag 14 oktober 2013

The Civil Wars

There's a calamity going on here as you can see. Thick, black smoke suggestion something's burning with a lot of oil product in there. It is not The Civil Wars the calamity is about. Its eponymous sophomore album is one big step forward from debut album 'Barton hollow'. This was an album I liked, but not enough to write about. It was o.k., but not really more than that. Having listened to The Civil Wars for several times now, I can state that this album has that little extra. However, now I'm reading up about all the prizes 'Barton hollow' has won, I'll admit that it must be my ears that are at fault, but that is the way it is.

The Civil Wars is a country/folk duo. Joy Williams and John Paul White (what's in a name?) are making music together since 2009 and so far have two albums to their name and a live album that is available through Noisetrade.com. The singer-songwriters met in 2008 and decided to start making music together. Although Keith has released one solo album before the duo, Joy Williams has released a whole bunch of albums. To describe them as the beauty and the beast is to simple. White sings too good for that. They complement each other nicely. Who listens to the a cappela part of 'From this valley' knows what I'm talking about. The singing is nigh perfect here. Changing the height of the notes, that are held super long, without falter, shows that these two know how to sing.

The Civils Wars is pushed into the country category, but to me most songs sound as if they could have been great Tammy Wynette or Dolly Parton songs, but certainly are not in these versions. The country is more in Joy Williams' voice than in the music. Just like The Parlour Soldiers, some songs are set in a more forceful setting, others soft and delicate. A matter of adding an electric guitar to the sound. This combination is a winner in 'Oh Henry', a full sounding song only because the voice of Williams is mixed completely to the foreground. With an acoustic and two electric guitars in the background and a Keith Richards like- sounding John Paul White singing in the back ground delivering mere accents.

It is the combination of songs that won me over for The Civil Wars. At the basis it is all one person, one guitar songs, that are fleshed out to a duo setting, with a minimum of additions. Rick Rubin is behind the knobs and tweedles, but seems to have used these as sparingly as possible for The Civil Wars. The production is totally clear, beautifully recorded and left alone after that. There may be an extra guitar, very sparse percussion in a few songs, even a violin in 'Sacred heart' (a French song); when it comes down to the bottom line this album is about two voices. Two voices curling and curving around each other like a snake on a vine. Interweaving and letting go, joining and parting in all the right places. This duo really found each others' voice and know that it is the better for it.

The Civil Wars is not spectacular. If it is, it is of spectacular great beauty. Radiant and glowing. Any one who enjoys beautiful singing and songs that need listening, should not pass this album by, says,

Wo.

You can listen to 'The one that got away' here.