maandag 31 augustus 2015

Blossom. Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes

WHOA! The storm called Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes blows itself through my ears straight into my brain, shaking up neurons and whatever one has up there in the grey matter. In July this country suffered the worst summer storm since whenever (I missed it). In August my ears suffer the same sort of experience. Of course I've listened to the punk-garage-rock Carter & co play before, but it's been a while since I so fully appreciated it.

At first listen I backed off some. This can't be for me, but song after song Blossom landed and I started to appreciate all that was going on in the storm. Like walking against the storm on the beach. Jackets full of air, sand dusting off my trousers, hanging against the wind to not blow over and hoping that the pressure doesn't drop away for a second or two to land me flat on my nose.

Blossom is Frank Carter & the Ratlesnakes' debut album. Carter played in bands (Gallows and Pure Love) before, but is new to me. Carter started writing for Blossom in December last year and started working with guitarist Dean Richardson. In the recording studio of Thomas Mitchener, who grabbed his bass along the way, together with drummer Memby Jago all came together. "Its the most violently aggressive punk rock band Ive ever been in,” says Carter. “I feel like Ive got a license to kill again.” Let's take a look if the music holds true to the bio's punkstompin' words.

'Juggernaut'  is the first song on Blossom. Aptly titled the song kicks over everything in front of it, including Frank Carter himself who is or pretends to be out of breath from shouting, screaming, spewing his lyrics out into the microphone. The only overdubs are moments that exactly that happened. The rest is push record and blast away. If Carter is holding anything back in 'Juggernaut' it most be the last few threads that allow him to keep his sanity. All else seems to be coming out. Anger, fear, teenage angst, frustration and madness at the world all over. The music follows suit and goes all out and more, the proverbial 110% is played here for sure. Think that brilliant album opener of The Living End, 'Prisoner of Society', something like that matches my reference of 'Juggernaut'. The Living End is or was in 1998, more of a rockabilly powerhouse, but the intention is exactly the same. Another reference I can offer is Danko Jones, but Frank Carter's song are far more melodic. After that we have to venture into U.S. punk territory.

The rest of the album continues in this vain, but manages to take of the gas just an inkling here and there so that all gets the chance to breathe. What I also like in Blossom are the moments in which the band offers these little extras in which it shows that it can play. A bass run here, a guitar moment there, these moments that are allowed to come forward out of the wall of sound, which is huge, for a few seconds. No climbing over this wall.

How long Frank Carter's voice will hold out, time will tell. I don't even want to think about having to "sing" like this every evening. I hope for him that the "fuck, fuck" and a cough or two at the end of 'Loss' doesn't come from coughing up blood from a vocal cord injury.

The album is over in 35 minutes, which is long enough. One balled piece of energy that has to be accepted in small amounts. Blossom holds exactly enough for me. What a feast, what a storm, what energy. All unleashed for those who enjoy a little kick in the hearing every once in a while.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Juggernaut' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ_X3jbFL1s

or buy at Bol.com


zaterdag 29 augustus 2015

On the Double. Golden Earrings

In his series on albums released in 1968 and 1969 Wo. is recently digging into the Dutch section of these albums. After Tee Set, The Cats and Shocking Blue, it is time to write about Golden Earrings. The last album released with the 's' behind the band's name. 46 Years old this spring, what surprises does it hold? Other acts in this series are e.g. Chicago, Spooky Tooth and Donovan.

On the Double is an album I've never heard before, but holds that single which I still think is the most beautiful, impressive and fullest of grandeur the band has ever made: 'Just a Little Bit of Peace In My Heart'. Let's start with the beginning.

Who are Golden Earrings is 1969? Only three quarters of the band is the band we know today and the 's' is still there. The drummer is Jaap Eggermont, who soon after left the band and became a world famous producer, e.g. with 'Stars on 45'. The question also holds merit, as the band is not yet that rock beast it would soon become. 'Back Home' is still two years away at the release. Up to 1969, the band has scored several hits since 1965, Nederbiet singles, with the extremely poppy 'Dong-Dong-Di-Ki-Di-Ki-Dong' that turned into the band's first number one hit in the spring of 1968, as the most popular one with the larger audience. It is not on the album. In hindsight it didn't hurt Golden Earrings at all, but let's face it. The song is not Golden Earring worthy. The list of hits from that date onwards reaches straight into the early 90s, including four more number ones.

On the double was a term that with a native English speaking parent in the home we heard regularly. Every time we were dragging our feet having to go to bed, school, wherever, we heard "On the double". I had nearly forgotten that, until I read the title of this album.

On the Double is somewhere in between I notice while taking my first listening. There are some songs moving towards a harder sound and there are songs that are still reminiscent of the band's earlier hits in 1965-1968. Real pop like 'My Baby Ruby'. There are some horns there, but this is pure Nederbiet. Barry Hay may have a somewhat more rocking sound, Frans Krassenburg could have sung this one very convincingly. Hay is forcing himself the whole way.

On the Double is a double album. 19 songs in all and only one single. One of the songs. 'Murdock 9-6182' was covered and became a minor and only hit for the band Alles. This was all ("Alles") for the band. That is a lot of songs for a band of which I own a lot of albums, but never truly like most. I always think of Golden Earring as a fantastic singles band. Of that they have such a great list. That makes the greatest hits albums my favourite issues of the band, with 'The Devil Made Us Do It', as the ultimate one. With that comes that Golden Earring has always been a band that followed trends, never set them. Followed them in extremely brilliant ways, but followed.

On the Double is also too much to listen to all in one go I notice soon enough. And then comes that brilliant, totally fantastic single. Something came together in the production, the arranging and playing, the brilliant singing, that created a moment of sheer magic. 'Eloise' wasn't there yet, at least in NL, so I doubt whether the band followed here. Producer Freddy Haayen went out all the way. Bringing in a whole orchestra and captured the sound in and of the room, this space in it. A harp in a rock song! The acoustic guitar sounds as if it sits here next to me. Over that Barry Hay and George Kooymans sing their hearts out. Then there is the outro in which bass player Rinus Gerritsen is allowed to go out on a spree. 'Just a Little Peace In My Heart' never, never fails to amaze me. For nearly 47 years this single is one of the best songs that I've heard in my life. The impression this single made, together with a few others in that small time frame of three months at the end of 1968, is a stamp, a mark to which all other songs are compared. Other musical shrines have been erected since, but 'Just a Little Bit of Peace In My Heart' is a milestone for me.

Strangest thing is that I've never heard that big reference before. Of course, 'MacArthur's Park'! Unfortunately Golden Earrings were following again. It doesn't matter, this discovery doesn't take anything away from the quality of this song.

Having written that, the conclusion for On the Double is an unfavourable one. To quote Sinéad O'Connor (and Prince of course) "Nothing Else Compares". How could it? Golden Earrings made several other fantastic singles that hold up, but there just isn't one on On the Double. At best a good effort, but that is all I'm going to say about it.

Well, that's not totally fair, is it? I put on the album again, skipping the Big One. What I hear in 2015 is a band trying out different sounds, seeing what fits it best. Golden Earrings is clearly in transition. Some songs come close to what The Cats were trying at the time. This may sound strange, but isn't that far beside the point. It is in the way of singing, the instrumentation that is wider and just as poppy. The difference is when it is time for something distinctive, The Cats make things sticky sweet and Golden Earrings throws in a guitar or two and a fiery organ.

Rockwise Shocking Blue is way ahead of Golden Earring late in 1968. Even Boudewijn de Groot is wilder in his songs at this point in time. There is no 'Wie Kan Me Nog Vertellen' on this album. What can be heard on On the Double is not necessarily bad, but it is not full of zest nor fantasy. Most songs are so neat. Producer Freddy Haayen seems to have decided to keep the lid on the band. The experimentation in sound is in adding organs and pianos, not a rock sound. Was rock out of vogue when recording On the Double? It may just have been. Records like 'Summertime Blues', 'Born To Be Wild', 'Lazy Sunday' and 'Jumping Jack Flash' still had to be released. It is a pleasant surprise when 'Backbiting Baby' sets in with its distorted guitar in the semi-background. The kind of song that spans a bridge between 'That Day' and 'Back Home'.

By the time a John Rowles like ballad sets in, 'I Sing My Song', again I've seemed to have enough. And that after 'I'm a Runnin'' gave me the impression of two rocking songs at the end of side c there would be more in store. But no, I expected too much. Golden Earrings is doing a The Motions kind of song here, as they do a The Shoes piano thing elsewhere on the album. Nederbiet bands influencing each other the whole way. 'Mitch Mover', AAAARRRRGGGGHHH. A more rocking song, 'God Bless the Day', a ballad, a ... The final song, 'The Grand Piano' has some magic in there though. One of those songs that Golden Earrings lifted up and made something memorable of.

There hardly is a Golden Earring(s) album that I can sit out in one go, I'll admit. For me this band is one of the ultimate hit single machines of all time. A near endless list of great songs. On album they've never matched that quality. They clearly had a good ear for singles. On the Double at best is an average album with that one fantastic, epic song. Where did that come from? That is the question after hearing all else on On the Double. Lulluvudu, it seems. See if you can translate that.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Just a Little Peace In My Heart' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq2X6LaKXew

or buy On the Double on Bol.com




vrijdag 28 augustus 2015

Peanut Butter. Joanna Gruesome

Ik gruwel van pindakaas, maar wat hou ik van de muziek van Joanna Gruesome. De band uit Cardiff, Wales debuteerde anderhalf jaar geleden met het voor mij volstrekt onweerstaanbare Weird Sister. Het is een plaat die ik compleet grijs heb gedraaid en iedere keer als ik de plaat hoorde werd ik er nog weer wat gelukkiger van.
 
Weird Sister propte tien songs in 28 minuten en stopte deze songs vol met heerlijke noisy gitaarriffs en punky vrouwenvocalen, maar vergat ook de honingzoete onderlaag niet en stopte deze weer vol met gitaarloopjes die zo leken weggelopen uit de dreampop. ‘A hint of Lush and a ton of rush’ werd het op het Internet genoemd en dat was een omschrijving die ik niet kon overtreffen.
 
Na Weird Sister is er nu dan Peanut Butter en ik had eigenlijk verwacht dat Joanna Gruesome dit keer zou kiezen voor een net wat mildere variant van de muziek op Weird Sister. Joanna Gruesome heeft dat niet gedaan en dat verdient respect.
 
Het levert ook nog eens een fantastische plaat op, want Peanut Butter is eigenlijk op alle fronten beter dan het al zo goede Weird Sister. Joanna Gruesome heef dit keer maar 21 minuten nodig voor 10 songs en heeft er voor gekozen om er over de hele linie een schepje bovenop te doen.
 
Peanut Butter klinkt hierdoor alleen maar rauwer en noisier dan zijn voorganger, zonder dat dit ten koste is gegaan van de aanstekelijkheid van de muziek van de band uit Wales. Dat schepje er bovenop is niet vergeten voor de wat zoetere onderlaag van de muziek van Joanna Gruesome. De aan de dreampop ontleende gitaarloopjes zijn nog wat hemelser dan op het debuut en ook de engelachtige vrouwenvocalen zorgen voor nog net wat meer betovering dan op het debuut.
 
Joanna Gruesome klinkt nog altijd als de perfecte mix van Lush, Sleater Kinney, The Dum Dum Girls, The Ramones, Slumber Party en noem ze maar op. De ingrediënten van de Peanut Butter die Joanna Gruesome op haar tweede plaat bereidt zijn zeker niet nieuw, maar de mix van ingrediënten begeeft zich toch nadrukkelijk buiten de gebaande paden, waardoor Joanna Gruesome zich met speels gemak onderscheid van de inmiddels moordende concurrentie.
 
Er zijn zat bands die grossieren in gitaarlijnen die kunnen wedijveren met het mooiste dat er in de dreampop gemaakt is en er zijn zat bands die meester zijn in het maken van gruizige popliedjes van maar net twee minuten. Er zijn echter niet veel bands die al dit moois op compromisloze wijze aan elkaar smeden en meerdere uitersten verenigen in muziek die onmiddellijk goed is voor een brede glimlach.
 
Joanna Gruesome doet het en slaagt er hiernaast ook nog eens in om met tien popliedjes op de proppen te komen die volstrekt onweerstaanbaar zijn. Van Weird Sister word ik nog steeds heel gelukkig, maar ik weet nu al dat Peanut Butter dit geluk gaat overtreffen. De tweede van Joanna Gruesome is immers nog aanstekelijker, nog compromislozer, nog inventiever en nog onweerstaanbaarder.
 
Ik gruwel nog steeds van pindakaas, maar de Peanut Butter van Joanna Gruesome is voorlopig mijn favoriete kostje, net zoals de Weird Sister van de band dit anderhalf jaar geleden zo lang was. Heerlijke band, heerlijke plaat. Ik zet hem maar weer eens op en verdomd, ik word er weer wat gelukkiger van.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Last Year':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E4lSF9IrRs

of kopen op Bol.com

donderdag 27 augustus 2015

Amy, the movie

Let me fall right in with the door. I never liked a single song by Amy Winehouse, hated her voice, felt sorry for the way she looked and lived out her life and thought her thoroughly unattractive. So, now I have that of my liver and started a review in a negative way I never ever have before, let me turn my thoughts to Amy, the movie. I had never expected to go there, but when a friend said, that this was his choice, I decided to go along any way. It wasn't my first and probably not even my last choice. Why go there?

I found out a few things during the documentary film. One of them that Amy Winehouse had beautiful eyes. The Nefertiti kind of eyes or Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. Something like that. The more important part I found out about, was that Amy Winehouse had talent. Arguably more than was good for her. I had no idea. It is not that my appreciation for her music or voice has altered, I did find that this was her all the way and everything and everybody profited of that talent, taking a little bit until there was no resistance left.

This movie had the same effect on me as Oliver Stone's 'The Doors'. When is someone going to tell the lead person to stop and behave normal for a while. That they do not have to die. Nobody did so for Jim Morrison, no one did for Amy Winehouse. If either of the two would have listened to anyone, I don't know. Too many people depend on the money that comes in in huge buckets. From management, to touring directors, band members, the faulty husband and dear father himself.

There is loads of film with Amy on it. Film from before she broke big and became broken, including a famous, prophetic line: "I don't think I could handle it", about becoming a star, let alone a huge one. The director must have cheered when he found that tape. It is so clear that nothing can ever prepare a person for that change from private to totally public figure.

For the rest loads of hideous films of paparazzi following her every drunken, drugged and sober steps. After a movie like this it is time that professional restraining orders are put out on anyone in this business. Stalking seems a minor affair compared to what was going on unhampered in any way. Life is hell when it becomes as bad as this. Or the snippets of talkshow hosts, who were so proud to have the new rising star on their respective shows first and start cracking jokes, the ultimate cheap ones, about someone they would have killed for to have on the show would she have managed to step out of the quagmire of her depressions and write a new album. So incredibly low that they ought to be very much ashamed of themselves.

The spineless mother, "I was never able to stop her" and the father on his own trip to fame, giving some extra pushes into the deep end. The tour manager who became manager overall. Where were their loyalties?

Of course this is the effect the director wants us to undergo. In that Amy is a manipulative movie. Everyone is bad. Let's not forget that Amy simply lacked character to deal with it and make that third record and be the best jazz singer ever. That is sort of easy to forget in this movie. Most other artist do deal with it. All but Cliff Richard will have done some dumb things and in the end grew up. Even Keith Richards is a law abiding granddad in 2015, isn't he? Amy unfortunately did not live long enough "to learn how to live" as Tony Bennett formulated it and I'm sorry for her talent. Herself I'm not too certain about. All in this section is written on reflection, not my first impulse. That one was different.

As I said, I never had anything with Amy Winehouse, but this movie made me feel angry. A young woman, with more talent in her little toe than all around her, destroyed. By herself, that most, but with a lot of help. Especially from that little man of a husband, the hanger-on who is still alive. That made me feel angry alright.

In other words Amy is an intriguing movie that touched me and made me feel angry. It is hard to explain, but that is what it did. For those who liked the music of Amy Winehouse, there is loads of it to enjoy in the movie. It sounds good as well in the cinema. Another good feature is that there are no talking heads. Everyone interviewed was not filmed. That makes room for all the other pieces of film from Amy's life and makes Amy so much more impressive. A film to watch this one is. Despite the music.

Wo.

dinsdag 25 augustus 2015

Sirens. The Weepies

The Weepies is een man-vrouw duo uit Cambridge, Massachusetts, dat inmiddels een jaar of 15 aan de weg timmert. Deb Talan en Steve Tannen maakten tussen 2004 en 2010 vier mooie, vrijwel over het hoofd geziene en wat onderschatte platen vol zonnige popliedjes die over het algemeen in het hokje folkpop werden geduwd.
 
De afgelopen jaren was het wat stil rond het duo. Dat had deels te maken met de gelukkige omstandigheid dat de twee samen een kind kregen, maar hiernaast werd Deb Talan ook getroffen door borstkanker, wat een donkere schaduw wierp over het prille geluk.
 
Inmiddels is de kleine telg van de Weepies de luiers ontgroeid en is Deb Talan gelukkig voldoende hersteld om weer muziek te kunnen maken. Het zijn tropenjaren geweest voor The Weepies en dat hoor je op de nieuwe plaat van het tweetal, Sirens.
 
Ook Sirens bevat een aantal van de uiterst zonnige en zorgeloze folky popliedjes waarop het duo in het verleden het patent had, maar The Weepies klinken op Sirens vooral serieuzer en meer ingetogen dan voorheen. Het zorgt voor een wat afwisselendere plaat dan zijn voorgangers en dat is een pré.
 
Sirens bevat een aantal songs waarop Deb Talan en Steve Tannen de vocalen delen en een aantal songs waarin een van de twee de vocalen voor zijn of haar rekening neemt. Het zijn buiten een aantal zonnige en wat uitbundigere songs, vooral uiterst ingetogen songs. Deb Talan en Steve Tannen zijn getekend door de zware jaren die achter hen liggen en dat hoor je in de songs die net wat donkerder en emotioneler zijn dan we van het tweetal gewend zijn.
 
Het gaat zeker niet ten koste van de kwaliteit van de muziek van The Weepies. Integendeel zelfs. Sirens is als je het mij vraagt de meest overtuigende plaat van The Weepies tot dusver, mede omdat de plaat niet alleen vermaakt, maar ook diepgang en emotie laat horen.
 
Als liefhebber van vrouwenstemmen heb ik een duidelijke voorkeur voor de songs waarin Deb Talan de meeste vocalen voor haar rekening neemt. Het zijn overigens ook de meest intieme en meeslepende songs op de plaat, al is er met de songs met een hoofdrol voor Steve Tannen ook niets mis.
 
Net als op hun vorige platen grossieren The Weepies ook op Sirens weer in knap in elkaar stekende en makkelijk in het gehoor liggende popsongs. Zelfs wanneer het tweetal aan de haal gaat met Tom Petty’s Learning To Fly, weet het iets toe te voegen, wat knap is.
 
Sirens is vanwege de toegankelijke songs, de mooie stemmen en de sfeervolle instrumentatie een geweldige plaat voor een lome zondagmorgen, maar meer dan in het verleden komt de muziek van The Weepies ook op andere momenten uitstekend tot zijn recht. De instrumentatie is overigens niet alleen sfeervol, maar ook buitengewoon fraai. The Weepies wisten dit keer een flink aantal zeer gelouterde muzikanten de studio in te krijgen en dat hoor je. De prachtige vocalen maken het in combinatie met goede songs en meer dan voldoende emotie en doorleving helemaal af.
 
Sirens is de beste van The Weepies tot dusver. Iedereen die de vorige platen van het tweetal kent, weet dat dit iets betekent. Het feit dat Deb Talan inmiddels genezen is verklaard, betekent ook nog eens dat The Weepies nog vele jaren vooruit kunnen. Uitstekend nieuws als je het mij vraagt.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'No Trouble':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNh49WmPCAI

of kopen op Bol.com


maandag 24 augustus 2015

Rituals. Other Lives

It's quite some years ago that former WoNo Magazine and blog publicist Marcel van der Kwaak tipped a new band he really liked: Other Lives. I listened to the record a few times, but couldn't really make head or tails of it and forgot all about the band. Rituals came to me any way and I listened to the record a few times. Have things changed? It seems like it or does it?

What is the same is the relaxed undercurrent that accompanies Rituals. What has changed, to my recollection that is, is that the band seems to have hopped on to the Alt-J and Django Django bandwagon; in a successful way that is. The intention just drips off opening song 'Fair Weather'. The faint sound and especially the singing, as if Jesse Tabish barely has air enough to sing, reminds me of Alt-J, without the cut up of all else going on. The link in this song to Alt-J is almost to close to call. This song could have been on the band's last album almost without any changes. 'Fair Weather' is a beautiful, atmospheric song that just floats like on thin air.

Rituals is the band's fourth album, if I count the album released in 2006 under the name Kunek. A few band members came and went and Other Lives (2009) and Tamer Animals (2011) were released. After a four year hiatus Rituals is there. Whether the four year period is warranted by musical growth, I have no way of telling, as what went before is out of my brain and from what I remember I am not going back to listen. I just wasn't impressed enough at the time.

From all I'm hearing in the first songs of Rituals, Other Lives has jumped on a bandwagon. The music on Rituals is somewhat more organic than the music on 'This is all yours'. For the rest it is the same in approach, intent and the way of playing. Perhaps it is a matter of budget and studio time that there is a difference?

In song 4, 'Easy Way Out', things change. There is a lead guitar line with a desert twang, the Calexico horns are there in a subdued way. The singing though is something different. It reminds me so much of Clinic. The staccato way of singing, doesn't match the flowing music, but is attached to the drums that play close to a march. This mix works wonderfully well, in an ultra cool way.

Other Lives, a bit to my surprise, is an U.S. based band, where I would have put my money on the U.K. The band falls into that line more, until that Calexico horns and twang come about, but for the rest, it's all U.K. new wave in a new 10s coat.

When all is said and done, Rituals is too long an album. I can't manage to keep my attention on the album for 14 songs. For that the variation is missing. All songs keep within a certain range that make my mind go wondering to other things at hand. The violins and The Beach Boys' sort of approach to 'New Fog' doesn't help. It is exactly the sort of 'Surf's Up' difficulties that make me turn from that album as well. Perhaps it is exactly that that I hold against Rituals, there is no fun allowed it seems. It is all so serious. This is compensated by moments of beauty. They are undeniably there, but a mix with songs that are not top heavy would have been welcome.

In other words, Rituals hangs in the balance of my mood. It certainly depends on my mood how far I come into the album. There are days that I "never wanted this". Other days I put the repeat button on any way. That makes Rituals intriguing, as there is no single story to the album. It can go either way on any day. For me that is quite unique.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Reconfiguration' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2T6NuJVweU

or buy at Bol.com


zondag 23 augustus 2015

The Longest River. Olivia Chaney

In de Britse muziektijdschriften wordt het debuut van Olivia Chaney zeer warm onthaald.
 
Dat wekt geen verbazing, want de Britse singer-songwriter, die overigens al een aantal jaren wordt geschaard onder de grote talenten van de hedendaagse Britse folk scene, maakt op haar debuut The Longest River muziek die heel dicht tegen de traditionele Britse folk uit de jaren 60 en 70 aan schuurt.
 
Bij beluistering van The Longest River komt de naam van Sandy Denny meerdere malen op en dat is een naam die nog altijd veel emoties oproept onder de liefhebbers van traditionele Britse folk.
 
Nu zijn er heel veel Britse singer-songwriters die met de erfenis van de veel te jong overleden Sandy Denny aan de haal zijn gegaan en nog steeds gaan, maar Olivia Chaney steekt er op haar debuut toch wel wat boven uit, al heeft het even geduurd voor ik er zo over dacht.
 
Hoewel de muziek van de jonge Britse singer-songwriter absoluut diep is geworteld in de Britse folk uit de jaren 60 en 70, slaagt Olivia Chaney er ook in om een eigen en eigentijdse draai te geven aan de mooie invloeden uit het verleden. Dit doet ze door in de instrumentatie af en toe buiten de gebaande paden van de Britse folk te treden, bijvoorbeeld door de inzet van synthesizers en een harmonium, maar ook in vocaal opzicht beperkt Olivia Chaney zich niet uitsluitend tot de invloeden van de groten uit de Britse folk.
 
The Longest River lijkt op het eerste gehoor misschien oer-Brits, maar na verloop van tijd hoorde ik toch ook invloeden uit de Amerikaanse folk uit de jaren 60 en 70. Hiernaast verwerkt Olivia Chaney ook op subtiele wijze invloeden uit de jazz en de klassieke muziek in haar songs en hoor ik heel af en toe iets van een redelijk conventioneel klinkende Kate Bush.
 
Uiteindelijk bepalen de verwerkte invloeden slechts ten dele of een plaat me aanspreekt of niet. Er zijn de afgelopen jaren zoveel folkies opgedoken dat ik af en toe wat sceptisch wordt, maar Olivia Chaney heeft me met The Longest River uiteindelijk genadeloos ingepakt.
 
De songs van de Britse singer-songwriter zijn zeker geen dertien in een dozijn folksongs en zitten zowel wanneer het gaat om de instrumentatie als de vocalen razend knap in elkaar. In beide gevallen opereert de Britse zeer subtiel.
 
The Longest River is een buitengewoon ingetogen en stemmige plaat vol door piano of gitaar gedragen songs, die in eerste instantie erg traditioneel en wat plechtig aan doen, maar het is ook een plaat vol songs die bijna eindeloos lijken te groeien. Ik geef eerlijk toe dat ik bij eerste beluistering van The Longest River nog wel wat twijfelde. Ik vond het bij eerste beluistering allemaal wel erg traditioneel en de songs van Olivia Chaney bleven bovendien maar moeilijk hangen.
 
Zeker wanneer je geen heel groot liefhebber van traditionele Britse folk bent, is The Longest River een plaat die hoge barrières op kan werpen, maar wanneer Olivia Chaney je eenmaal raakt met haar bijzondere songs, raakt ze je ook diep. Dat ligt voor een belangrijk deel aan de werkelijk prachtige stem van de Britse, maar ook de instrumentatie op, de productie van en de songs op The Longest River blijken na enige gewenning kunststukjes. Terecht dus dat deze bijzondere plaat in Engeland wordt bejubeld. Nu Nederland nog.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Imperfections':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rGUInwyCRQ

of kopen of Bol.com



vrijdag 21 augustus 2015

Star Wars. Wilco

Out of nowhere Wilco released its new album. For free on its website, for a few weeks only, before the official release of cds and LPs. During my holiday too, but thanks to Erwin Zijleman I did not miss this treat and am listening to the new album right now and what an album it is. Alas, the download period is over. The You Tube version is still there though.

A new Wilco album is nearly always a treat. In some cases it may take a while for me before the quarter drops, but since the early 00s I am a fan of this Chicago based band. Adventure is a word it has written in capitols in its band manifesto. Of course it is impossible to renew yourself with each album, but on Star Wars Wilco manages to surprise again. Mainly in the very direct, straightforward approach in the music.

The opening is all but straightforward though. This somewhat experimental intro to the album is instrumental and estranging. Not that an approach like this is totally unknown. It reminds me that horrible Gang of Four kind of punk funk. All rubbing against the hairs on my skull and no decent melody in sight. It does make me sit up straight though. I'm totally alert by the time 'EKG' morphs into 'More...'. And quite rightly so. 'More...' starts with the same sort of nasty guitar sound, say Blur 1999, but becomes a totally The Beatles chorus. Those sweet little harmonies in the background. I just love it. Jeff Tweedy knows how to twist a song around.

In 'Random Name Generator' Wilco moves into a very direct song, with a punky undertone. "I change my name every once in a while", it seems, comes with some downsides. The whole song has a sense of loss, at least temporarily, about it. It sounds tough musically, with all the distorted guitars, mixed low into the whole sound, but search and you'll find vulnerability also. As such Star Wars at large is made with a nice ballance. When the singing is stricter or more monotonous, it is the music that is allowed some leighway, through a little side melody or a sound that jumps out of the fold.

As always I have some trouble sitting through a whole Wilco album in one go, but on Star Wars this effect is down to a minimum. This is the reason though that I never name the band among my favourites. Despite this fact, I am nearly always impressed with individual songs on an album and the achievement of the whole. I still have to see the band live for the first time. One of the only older bands still on my to watch list. It just never happened.

Why I think it will be special? Just listen to how 'You Satellite' is fleshed out little by little. The Nels Cline treatment is in there. The build up turns a song that starts out fairly elementary into an anthem of rock. Layer upon layer in instruments, volume and/or intensity is added, creating a monster. The ending is a big weak though, it just falls apart. Forgiveable after creating this wall of sound of impressive proportions.

With 'Taste the Ceiling' Wilco does exactly the opposite. This sweet song changes the mood from epic to mellow and sort of loving. Black and white, light and shade, moves back to dark in 'Pickled Ginger'. Some The Velvet Underground guitar comes by and matching staccato rhythm. This isn't a Velvet Underground song, but some of the madness is let out here. Weird sounds and an abrupt end.

Star Wars is an album that is growing on me. Slowly. Star Wars is not grabbing me by force, but by the spin, song by song. The relationship is turning out quite to my satisfaction. Variation, wit, tension, a great fight and lovingly making up, it is all here. And some craziness to enjoy as well. Who could ask for more?

Wo.

You can listen to 'Star Wars' here on You Tube as posted by Wilco:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n36fehFSiA

or buy on Bol.com


donderdag 20 augustus 2015

Nashville Skyline. Bob Dylan

And again we turn to those magical years in rock 1968 - 1969 when a young Wo. discovered something called the charts and through that a phenomenon that gave a new dimension and depth to his appreciation and relationship with music: hits. One of the hits was 'I threw it all away' in the spring of 1969. With it came an album called Nashville Skyline or so he discovered in the mid 80s when he truly started to appreciate the bard from Minnesota. (The hit had made no impression at all at the time.)

Strange as it may be to some, I think Nashville Skyline Bob Dylan's best and most consistent album too date or very nearly so. Is it because he's smiling on the cover and gives a glimpse of how he really is when the spotlights are off and far away? Who knows. This album certainly sounds like troubles were far from his mind when writing and recording it.

The album kicks off with a duet of Bob with Johnny Cash. The two had already shown a deep appreciation of each other in the past. Cash had recorded some of his songs and Dylan had appeared a few times on Cash's tv show. Together they breath life into an older Dylan song, 'Girl From the North Country'. Dylan's higher and shriller voice doesn't match with Cash's baritone, but who cares? The two plough themselves through the song, harmonise and even left a little slip of the tongue in there. Why not? Perfection is not necessarily perfect.

The fun really starts with 'Nashville Skyline Rag', an instrumental ditty that is played with panache and down right fun. Every one is enjoying himself on the song. Solos roll on and off like in the finest bluegrass tradition. Heck, The Hackensaw Boys built a career on this.

In a book on Dylan's songs I once read, the author discusses his oeuvre song by song. The third song on Nashville Skyline was mentioned as a simple toss off. Well, I have news for you, this is one of Dylan's finest. A simple sounding, oh so pleasant rocking song that just pleases me so much. The playing is elementary but every note is in its right place, the sparse lead notes enhance all they have to and tells all about his love for, I suppose the Mrs. Dylan of the time. He's happy being a lover, a husband and family man on the side and it shows through 'To Be Alone With You'. I loved singing and playing this song in a cover band long forgotten, in a different century. A nice feature is the bridge part of the song, a staple on this album. The "Is it rolling, Bob"? at the start of the song is Bob Dylan asking producer Bob Johnston if the tape is rolling. Johnston passed away this week at the age of 83.

The name of that single in the spring of 1969 was 'I threw it all away'. The opposite in every sense of 'To Be Alone With You'. A despondent Dylan is lamenting things lost. The guitar even sounds sad in that beautiful intro. If anything this song has a real into (and outro). Dylan may be known for just tossing a song on tape and be done with it. This intro is totally worked out before, just can't be a spontaneous invention. For that it's simply too neat and well played. All is well balanced here. Dylan sings with a deeper voice, but also diminished and sad in a totally resigned way. "Love is all there is, it makes the world go 'round", not a lyric one expected from Bob Dylan at the time, nor today.

The lightness of 'Peggy Day' is another sort of love song that is absent in the rest of his career. All is so up-beat, cozy and happy all around. His heart is taken away and not about to be returned any time soon. This song features an acoustic guitar in the lead, matched by a pedal steel, adding an Hawaiian flavour to 'Peggy Day'. It all ends with a great turnaround, making the feast complete.

One of Bob Dylan's most beautiful songs is 'Lay Lady Lay. Dylan captures the laziness of a warm summernight and the love that is possible in that "big, brass bed". The way the organ works with the pedal steel and the chord progression of the main part of the song, makes it sway the listener into the same mood. The two chord and mood changes are fairly brilliant. They make 'Lay Lady Lay' stand out. One of the gems of Dylan's career.

'One More Night' is a ditty, that much is true. Again Dylan captures a happy mood in a country kind of way. If there is a lesser song on Nashville Skyline, then it is 'One More Night'. In a way it is an up-tempo, but lesser version of the final song, which we will come to later. It's fun and that's all.

Seriousness is found on this album also. The tempo is up-beat, the lyrics are not. 'Tell Me It Isn't True' is song about denial. His object of affection was seen with another man or so someone has told. "All I want is your word", that is enough to make the bad things go away. 'Tell Me It Isn't True', is a follow up to 'I Threw It All Away'. The moods come close, but not totally. The order on the album is sort of wrong. Great song, again.

And then comes the intro to 'Country Pie'. What a deliciously subdued but happy stemming guitar solo. Dylan, again, captures a mood that is unheard of in his repertoire. Of course his nasal voice is there, but he's using it in a different way. Through most of Nashville Skyline. He is out to please here and that is a rare something ever since his first albums and gigs.

'Tonight I Will Be Staying Here With You' ends all the fun and is another of the great tunes of Nashville Skyline. The second single, not a hit, at least in NL, is again about (falling in) love. The singer is not planning on leaving, at least for tonight. Packed suitcases may be thrown out of the window, including all the worries, but that's all. Again a song with a change in its general course, that lifts it up to great heights. I just love this song. "Tonight" is the word of this album. That suggests more urgency than the general mood shows, I think.

Is all rose scent and moonshine then? Well, yes. Nashville Skyline may be seen as format album. Dylan operates in a pop-country rock-country blues triangle and many songs have the same, seemingly simple (3) chord progressions. It is often the change to one or two additional chords in a bridge that give them their brilliance. This fact gives Nashville Skyline that little extra along with the fact that Dylan captures happy and sad moods in a brilliant way. Nashville Skyline convinces, utterly, in an un-Dylan way.

Wo.

You can listen to 'I threw it all away' live on the Johnny Cash show here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww1gt6MHJRA

or buy at Bol.com


woensdag 19 augustus 2015

You Used To Live Here. Kelley Mickwee

Kelley Mickwee is een Amerikaanse singer-songwriter die al een tijdje actief is in de Amerikaanse muziek scene. Een enkeling zal haar misschien kennen van het duo Jed & Kelley of van de band The Trishas, maar voor de meeste lezers van deze BLOG zal de naam Kelley Mickwee waarschijnlijk nieuw zijn.
 
You Used To Live Here was overigens ook mijn eerste kennismaking met de vrouwelijke singer-songwriter die tegenwoordig weer vanuit Memphis, Tennessee opereert.
 
Het is een kennismaking die de nodige indruk heeft gemaakt. Kelley Mickwee imponeert in de openingstrack River Girl direct met een portie country soul die zijn weerga niet kent. Direct na de eerste noten weet je dat je naar iets bijzonders luistert.
Kelley Mickwee omringt zicht op haar debuut met een aantal prima muzikanten uit de Memphis scene en deze weten hoe soulvolle country moet klinken. Kelley Mickwee maakt het vervolgens af met vocalen die herinneren aan de allergrootsten en de song naar grote hoogten tillen. 
Na River Girl was ik fan van Kelley Mickwee en had ik nog zes tracks te gaan. Het zijn tracks waarin de muzikanten die de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter bijstaan, onder wie echtgenoot Tim Regan, indruk blijven maken.
 
Een heel arsenaal aan snareninstrumenten komt voorbij en alles klinkt even mooi en gloedvol, met een hoofdrol voor de pedal steel van Eric Lewis. Hetzelfde geldt eigenlijk voor de vocalen van Kelley Mickwee. De soul uit de openingstrack wordt op de rest van de plaat verruild voor een geluid waarin folk en country een voornamere rol spelen, maar ook deze genres zijn Kelley Mickwee op het lijf geschreven.
 
De zangeres uit Memphis is zo’n zangeres die de luisteraar kan verleiden met zwoele en warme vocalen, maar die dezelfde luisteraar ook kan ontroeren met persoonlijke teksten en vocalen waar het gevoel en de melancholie van af druipen.
 
You Used To Live Here bevat zoals gezegd zeven tracks, waarvan Kelley Mickwee er vijf zelf schreef, overigens steeds in samenwerking met een bevriende muzikant, onder wie Phoebe Hunt, Kevin Welch en Owen Temple, met wie ze een bijzonder fraai duet neerzet. De resterende twee songs zijn covers van songs van Eliza Gilkyson en John Fullbright en beiden zijn haar op het lijf geschreven.
 
You Used To Live Here is alles bij elkaar genomen een vrouwelijke singer-songwriter plaat die mee kan met de allerbesten en een paar keer rondweg imponeert. Valt er dan helemaal niets te klagen over het debuut van Kelley Mickwee? Ja, de plaat duurt maar een half uurtje en een half uurtje Kelley Mickwee smaakt vooral naar meer. Naar veel meer.

Er debuteren wekelijks heel veel vrouwelijke singer-songwriters, maar slechts een enkeling maakt een onuitwisbare indruk. Kelley Mickwee is een van deze vrouwelijke singer-songwriters. Ze kan vanaf nu op mijn speciale aandacht rekenen en dit bijzonder fraaie debuut zal ik koesteren. Wat een ontdekking.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'River Girl':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTz6BYfxkpg

of kopen bij Bol.Com

 

dinsdag 18 augustus 2015

Slow Gum. Fraser A. Gorman

The symbolism of the cover is huge. A young man in a dark suit, white shirt. A young, (Jack Rabbit) slim man in an alley, combed up hair. What's missing is a piece of paper in his hands with writing on it. "Watch out people, we have a new Dylan on our hands", this screams out to us viewers. The first one with that moniker that I personally can remember was Steve Forbert in 1978. A very heavy handed hand of cards to get dealt. But, does Gorman hold up to the sleeve's promise?

Fraser A. Gorman is from Melbourne in Australia and a part of the clan that also spawned Courtney Barnett. As she is on route to global fame with her two recent albums, there's no reason that Gorman couldn't go the same route. Musically they are somewhat apart though. Where Barnett plays more alt-rock, Gorman's music holds a lot of alt-country features. That said there is enough rock elements in there for all guitarlovin' music fans. Besides that Gorman is as versatile as Wilco is or The Band was. The music on Slow Gum is ages old. In that, in a twisted way, the album also reminds me of Jake Bugg's debut album. No matter how different the two are.

So as far as I'm concerned all talk Dylan can stop here. The two haven't that much in common, except perhaps the same musical taste in youth, if a difference of 50 years in age makes that possible. Gorman is so much more relaxed. The Rhodes piano sounds on 'Book of Love' is so extremely laidback. The "aa haa" harmonies conceived on a tropical beach with an ice-cold beer close at hand. Under-cooled is a feature of Slow Gum or Fraser A. Gorman that shines out. Don't expect any high rolling party anthems on this album. Gorman plays his thing in different tempos, but is always in control of all surrounding him.
Promo photo

Slow Gum starts with a basic song. Just voice and guitar in 'Big Old World'. This Bright Eyes influenced song is not representative for the rest of the album. Here a full band is present for the next 8 songs. The sound and atmosphere Gorman and co-producer Dan Luscombe created here is clear and as wide as the song called for. Things stop at keyboards, some horns or strings and backing vocals though. Nearly the whole works, save a full symphony orchestra.

The downside to Slow Gum is that things stay extremely neat, where I can imagine that live things may explode here and there. All the embellishments are left behind in the studio. In a song like 'Dark Eyes' things get too neat and ideal son-in-law music for me. 'Dark Eyes' is forgivable though. There is enough to enjoy on Slow Gum. Gorman proves to be able to excel in different musical formats. From the bare 'Blossom & Snow', with a piercing harmonica, comes a deep understanding of this kind of music, but mind, this is no 'Going Down to Laurel' let alone 'Bob Dylan's 115th Dream', just to reference some songs that came before. Fraser A. Gorman paid a lot of attention at his first drawing lesson: he draws within all the lines.

If we allow for this neatness, Slow Gum presents where Fraser A. Gorman is at the starting point of his career, but also almost is like a state of play of alt-country(rock) in 2015. The best that is on offer is here, as conceived, written, played and sung by Gorman. He feels comfortable in all the categories presented on Slow Gum. Singer-Songwriter, country-rock(ish), alt-country, roots, everything.

To sum up, on Slow Gum Fraser A. Gorman has managed to recreate "Rock of Ages" while incorporating some more modern influences as well. Slow Gum is an album that I love to listen to. More interesting is to see how the 23 year old is going to develop himself. The past is down, but does the future belong to Gorman also? An interesting question that the coming years will undoubtedly answer for us.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Book of Love' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-nIE39tEos

or buy at Bol.com


maandag 17 augustus 2015

Nina Hagen Band. Nina Hagen Band

Unbeschreiblich grossartig, that is the term I'd like to use before writing anything else on the first album of Nina Hagen Band. With time Nina Hagen may have beccome "vetter und vetter und vetter von dien Scheisschocolat", Nina Hagen Band has certainly become better and better and better. To my huge surprise it was not one of the albums I could vote for in the album list of the past 60 years on the website Musicmeter.nl. And then I played Nina Hagen Band during the holiday in the car and desperately trying not to speed and thought: time for a review.

The fame of Ms Hagen and her band came just before the music. I had just turned 18. Punk was something that slowly became a music form that became known to the average music lover in NL late in 1977 and the winter of 1978, while in the U.K. it was all but over. Nina Hagen was put under the punk moniker, but everyone listening to the well-crafted songs and the level of playing of her band has to admit that this band had nothing to do with punk as an expression of anger and social injustice. In looks perhaps and who knows attitude, but musically this is a great rock record.

Nina Hagen was sort of extremely strange of course. Whatever part she played as a singer there is no equivalent. Her voice is all over the place and some opera comes totally natural for her. This mix of theatrical singing in contrast with the hard rocking band together with her sneers in the punk fashion of London 1977 make for something extremely attractive to listen to. Even after 37 years I can still be surprised how high her voice soars over the soft melody of Naturträne. After which she gives it a full  punk treatment just before the guitar solo. Again it it the combi of great music with Nina's antics what make this particular song so great. The overdubs push her on to heights that seem impossible to reach and ending in ridiculousness chicken sounds. Why not?

The album kicks of with the only cover. 'T.V.-Glotzer' is also know as 'White Punks on Dope' by the Tubes. It's your debut and why not start it with a T.V. announcement? In another universe she could have made a career there, so convincing is her sounding neutral voice. Everything this record is not.

What I remember after buying the album not long after the release of the single 'Unbeschreiblich Weiblich' is the incredibly good sound. I still think this album has an uncanny sound. Even more so when I take into consideration that this is a debut. The record company has not saved on this production. Believe in success must have been soaring. (Too bad that not much else really came from this combination.) The explosion after the introduction is direct and in your face. Guitars, synthesizer and a walloping rhythm section. An intro of 40 seconds before Nina Hagen comes to the stage, relentless without mercy nor hesitation. The mix is such that it is clear who has centre stage on this record. Right up front just left from the middle. 'T.V.-Glotzer' is built up in such a great way, all in the band get a moment of glory somewhere, that it seems nearly impossible to do better. The strength of Nina Hagen Band is that it does get better in its own songs.

The band is three men who played in the Berlin band Lokomotive Kreuzberg before teaming up with Nina Hagen and keyboard player Reinhold Heil. What is special also is that all four, Berhard Potschka (guitars), Manfred Praeker (bass) and Herwig Mitteregger (drums) contribute to the songwriting with Hagen. There are two Hagen originals and 'Pank' was written by her with the late Ari Up of The Slits. It is not often that the drummer and bass player contribute significantly to the songwriting efforts.

Perhaps it is because of that that this album goes from hard rocking songs, to atmospheric beauties, reggae or punk to zombie ditties. Every single form chosen works and excels in inventive playing and multi layered music. The band gets away with it all and surprises with every turn of this record. Whether is the reggae and steaming showers of 'Heiss', the balladry of 'Der Spinner' (couldn't they really come up with a decent ending?), the rock of 'Superboy' and the mystery of 'Auf 'm Friedhof', Nina Hagen Band gives them an exquisite rendition that just drills into the brain for now and forever.

Through all  the years I have kept playing this album, perhaps one of the only ones from my (late) teenage years. Being on holiday in Berlin at the turn of 2010, I started quoting Nina Hagen once in front of Bahnhof Zoo (and yes I saw the entrance to the Damen Klo). Once home the record got more plays and got even more popular then ever before. Perhaps I only then started to appreciate all the hidden layers more that Nina Hagen band has within it. All these little sounds, the intricate drumming and the feats of Ms. Hagen herself.

In short, Nina Hagen Band seems to have crept up high in my favourite records of all time. There are not so many records that I really kept loyal to over all these years. Yes, 'Abbey Road' is my favourite The Beatles album, but when did I play it for the last time? Right, Nina still spins away as LP, cd or MP3 in a regular way. Rock on, Nina!

Wo.

You can listen to 'Unbeschreiblich Weiblich' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLqzr29m6E4

or buy on Bol.com


zondag 16 augustus 2015

Mutilators Defeated At Last. Thee Oh Sees

And another album by the band around John Dwyer. Most songs are totally drenched in psychedelia. I could even go as far as calling it swamp rock. Why? If music was wadeble, it would be near impossible to reach safe shore through a song like 'Lupine Ossuary'. The sound is so thick. At the same time as impressive as a swamp, full of hidden dangers. After I discovered the band with its 2013 album 'Floating coffin', the band released 'Drop' in 2014 and now in 2015 Thee Oh Sees treat the world to Mutilators Defeated At Last. And a treat it is.

What is easy is that there is no need to ask much around who Thee Oh Sees consists of. That is guitarist/singer/composer John Dwyer and whoever he happens to be playing with on this record. 2014 touring members, bass guitarist Tim Hellman, drummer Nick Murray and regular keyboard player Chris Woodhouse. Brigid Dawson returns for some backing vocals. In other words at the moment of writing things can already be very different in the band, which is more a one man project with people that help out where and when necessary.

Is Mutilators Defeated At Last very much different from what I have heard before from Thee Oh Sees? No, of course not. For that most songs are covered to deep in musical dregs. The remarkable thing is that Dwyer always manages to make his outstanding quality shine through: his ability to write a fine pop-rock song. No matter how much psychedelic trash he lays on top of or under his garage/psych rock there's always a song in there. That is where my relationship with the band starts.

What I also like is the subtlety with which several songs start, but can explode anyway or not. It shows that Thee Oh Sees is much more than a one trick pony. 'Palace Doctor' is a great example of that. The almost jazzy atmosphere created in the background, is overridden by some nice guitar work and Dwyer singing in what seems to be his normal voice. In other songs, where he tries to sound tougher, it is sometimes as if he's desperately trying to sound as if he's not inhaled some helium first. Again, it is the variety why I think Mutilators ... a good album and Thee Oh Sees a good band. If all was as top heavy as e.g. 'Withered Hand', I couldn't live with the whole album probably.

The album opens with 'Web'. The instrumental opening proves to me why it was a good choice to work with the rhythm tandem Hellman - Murray. Especially Nick Murray lays down a delicious groove before he is allowed here and there to lift off. The two allow Dwyer to take his guitars and singing every where he wants to. Chris Woodhouse will fill the holes left by the other three. Together they interact as a band should. Even if this line up is together only for this album and even if all four members recorded their parts completely separate, there obviously is chemistry between them. All parts come alive, while giving Dwyer the space to do his thing.

At this point in the year, I haven't heard a better psych/garage rock album yet, while overall Mutilators ... scores good as well. There's no real telling yet where we are going, for that it is to early in the year still, but this album is on my longlist for 2015, that much is sure. Mutilators Defeated At Last is a great record, which I enjoyed listening to from the very first song at the very first spin and the relationship is certainly growing.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Withered Hand' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK5SYwgVxgQ

or buy at Bol.com


zaterdag 15 augustus 2015

The Way It Feels. Heather Nova

Heather Nova maakte in 1994 een onuitwisbare indruk met haar tweede plaat Oyster, maar in de jaren die volgden liep het hippiemeisje uit Bermuda helaas altijd wat achter de feiten aan.
 
Door haar mooie stem en haar gevoel voor heerlijk toegankelijke popliedjes waren de platen die Heather Nova na Oyster maakte altijd wel enigszins de moeite waard, maar zo imponeren als Oyster deden ze eigenlijk nooit meer.
 
Een paar jaar geleden had ik Heather Nova na een aantal zwakke platen wel min of meer afgeschreven, maar het in 2011 verschenen 300 Days At Sea bleek, toch wel tegen de verwachting in, een flinke stap in de goede richting. Natuurlijk lang niet zo goed als Oyster, maar veel beter dan de platen die Heather Nova in de 10 jaar ervoor had gemaakt.
 
Dat het nog veel beter kan laat Heather Nova horen op haar nieuwe plaat The Way It Feels. Het is een plaat die meerdere nieuwe wegen in slaat en dat is op zijn minst verrassend te noemen, want zo avontuurlijk was Heather Nova de afgelopen twintig jaar niet.
 
The Way It Feels bevat een aantal typische Heather Nova popliedjes, maar bevat ook een aantal songs met duidelijke invloeden uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek en een aantal songs die opvallen door een donker en atmosferisch geluid, wat wordt gecombineerd met meer pop georiënteerde of juist  meer roots georiënteerde songs.
 
Ik was altijd zeer gecharmeerd van de lichtvoetige en toegankelijke popliedjes van Heather Nova, maar de net wat donkerder gekleurde songs maken minstens net zoveel of misschien zelfs wel meer indruk.
 
The Way It Feels klinkt gevarieerder dan alle vorige platen van Heather Nova en klinkt bovendien doorleefder en geïnspireerder. De emotievolle stem van Heather Nova kleurt prachtig bij de instrumenten (waaronder een banjo) die een aantal songs de kant van de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek opduwen en ook in de songs met ruimtelijke elektronische klanken overtuigt de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter als in haar beste dagen.
 
Omdat de songs van Heather Nova op The Way It Feels net wat dieper graven dan we van haar gewend zijn en ook afwisselender worden ingekleurd, is de nieuwe plaat van Heather Nova een plaat die je makkelijker vaak achter elkaar kunt horen dan de meeste voorgangers.
 
Zeker bij aandachtige beluistering is goed te horen hoe knap de plaat is geproduceerd. Voor deze productie tekenden Josh Kaler en Jay Clifford, die Heather Nova min of meer opsloten in hun studio in Charleston, South Carolina; iets wat ze overigens eerder deden met onder andere Colbie Caillat en Father John Misty.
 
Het heeft Heather Nova geïnspireerd tot een serie songs die behoren tot de beste songs die ze tot dusver schreef, wat The Way It Feels schaart onder de beste platen die de Amerikaanse tot dusver heeft gemaakt. Aan kunnen haken bij het niveau van Oyster leek me op voorhand onmogelijk, maar zo langzamerhand denk ik toch dat Heather Nova hier met The Way It Feels in is geslaagd en Oyster zelfs heeft gepasseerd. Misschien wel de beste plaat dus van Heather Nova en absoluut één van de parels en aangename verrassingen in het aanbod van het moment.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Sea Glass':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GNg-08qN8s

of kopen op Bol.com



vrijdag 14 augustus 2015

In Colour. Jamie xx

Allow me to come out of my comfort zone. Not because the all the colours of the rainbow come out on the cover of this album, but because of the music. Jamie xx is of the band The xx and that happens to be a band I quite liked to listen to and who featured on this blog before. Jamie xx is the man of the beats, if one can find them on the ultra silent The xx songs. On his solo album things are a bit different and I gave the album the benefit of the doubt.

To make an opening statement. I sat through In Colour several times so far, which is more than near any other album containing beats can claim. The exceptions? 'Moon Safari' by Air and the first Goldfrapp album. That is about it, I'm afraid. In Colour starts with 'Gosh'. Not exactly a claim for holding on as far as I'm concerned. While struggling through this song, the reward does come later on on the album. 'See Saw' with The xx colleague Romy Madley Croft, has this vibe that touches me in a very direct way. The dreamy vocals Madley Croft is an expert in, hover over the beats xx produces. Together they show that they belong together despite the context. The song is so much busier that most The xx ever does, still it works. 'See Saw' holds an organic warmth that I usually lack in electronic music.

'See Saw' at the same time brings me into a mood to listen further. The steal drum sound in 'obvs' sounds extremely far fetched, while bringing warmth at the same time. Samples fly around in the intro and a  treated voice is added here and there to bring a change to the sound, in which they succeed.

This all gets me to the song that reminds me of The xx most, 'Stranger In a Room'. His other colleague Oliver Sim is present here. The song is minimal, despite some production going on here and there. Sim sounds as if he's in a large room, all alone. Singing away as if there is nothing else, no one else. As if no one will ever hear this. He may be singing about being in a room with unknown others. The way he is singing these people only exist in his head. "Is there anybody out there?", it makes me think. Whatever Jamie xx has added underneath Sim, it is almost superfluous. That is the brilliance of his production here, without it it couldn't really exist also.

It is a song like 'Stranger In a Room' that prepares me for 'Hold Tight'. All of a sudden I do recognise the beauty in a song like this. The way the marginal melody works over the repetitive, percussive keyboard notes, undoubtedly looped and sampled or the other way around. The beats underneath that and the "singing", the sample that is repeated over and over again. I find I can listen to this.

Romy Madley Croft returns in 'Loud Places'. Singing about loud places in the totally silent verse, that morphs into a busier and soulful chorus. Another strange hybrid between what I consider a song and the kind of music which I am not able to recognise as a song. That is my shortcoming, most likely my generation gap. I just love the way the song moves into the chorus, while the "non-song" parts simply continue. Again I notice how little the two The xx singers need to sound utterly convincing. Near total emptiness is enough for them. One note here and there does the trick. Almost uncanny the atmosphere the three create together or here in parts.

The rap of 'I Know There's Going to be (Good Times)' is not for me, but that won't surprise you reading this blog. 'The Rest is Noise' sounds like Jamie xx is playing with all sort of ideas that he had floating around and mixed them all together. Some I like, some I dislike and some, well, I simply enjoy. The mood changes here and there and lift my spirits.

It all ends with 'Girl'. Not the easiest bassline here and a bit over done. Half the world seems to have been co-composing the four letter worded song, including Brian Wilson, Arther Baker and Erland Oeye and these are just the names I recognise. One large sample 'Girl' is. There are some o.k. parts, but it isn't may favourite song of the album.

In short, yes, In Colour took me out of my comfort zone and in part it was a pleasant trip. Mostly into the territory I already was familiar with, The xx. This familiarity allowed me to delve a bit deeper and enjoy some of the other songs on In Colour. Overall it remains difficult for me to enjoy music like this, but at least I've tried.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Loud Places' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP9luRtEqjc

or buy at Bol.com


donderdag 13 augustus 2015

Phantom Radio. Mark Lanegan Band

Does the cover tell the story of an album? In the case of Phantom Radio it doesn't as it is an hideously ugly cover, while the music is more than alright.

Mark Lanegan is more active than ever it seems. As if the devil's chasing him down life's roads. In whatever constellation or collaboration Lanegan's dark, whiskey and smoke edged voice is all over the place. This time again with the name Band behind his name. A band in which some Flemish musicians play a large role.

Mark Lanegan came into my life with the last album of his band Screaming Trees in the mid 90s. What a fantastic album 'Dust' was and is. From that moment on things changed for the band and now I'm listening to another album from the Mark Lanegan Band.

Reading around the album I find that it is over half a year old. Well, I just discovered it and like what I'm hearing, so am sharing the experience with you. Loving music hasn't got anything to do with actuality. The real relationship doesn't open after several spins of the record. Seldom at first listen.

Phantom Radio is a mix of several sorts of music. Let's call the basis rock or indie rock. From there the band starts playing with the sound. In front is always the baritone of Mark Lanegan. He sets the mood. Because of his dark voice it is never a happy one. Let's face it. Lanegan may cause many a laugh at every party he's at, there's no telling not knowing him personally, but on the basis of his singing voice he doesn't sound like it. The music follows his tone of voice. There's always this suspense hanging around him. Built up slowly as suspense should be. Perhaps even a hint of danger. The danger of a drunk with a temper, lashing out with a broken glass or bottle. The music reflects this as it is able to hold back the whole time. It never really lets us see what's up its sleeve. In the restraint is the tension that the music of the Mark Lanegan Band almost makes tangible. On the other hand the release seldom to never comes on Phantom Radio and that is not always pleasant as well. It is a distinct downside to Phantom Radio.

Having discussed the downside, let's return to why I enjoy Phantom Radio anyway. Let's focus on a song like 'Floor of the Ocean'. It's almost Depeche Mode in sound and play. The song has a distinct 80s feel about it, something I usually close to hate, while here the voice of Lanegan gives the song a depth that Depeche Mood seldom found. The fake drums, the 80s bleeps of synths and the 'Enjoy the Silence' like guitar line together create an atmosphere that belies their background and provide something which touches americana somehow. It may sounds strange but that is what this mix of two worlds creates: a fantastic song.

The creative team behind the "Band" is not afraid to work with more modern rhythms and older accents. 'The Killing Seasons' has a near hip hop rhythm and Tubeway Army synths. Why not? It provides Mark Lanegan with a background in which a hanging or two can be addressed in a convincing way, while at the same time providing a form of lightness.

Not all songs on Phantom Radio are as convincing as these two examples. Still the created atmosphere allows Mark Lanegan to do his thing in a very convincing way and that is what the function of everything behind him is, isn't it. On Phantom Radio he seems to be challenged a bit more by a Belgium background that allows for more playfulness in a, relative to Mr. Lanegan's voice of course, way that he may even have been taken out of his comport zone. The result is an album that makes a difference in his back catalogue. Well done in other words.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Death Trip to Tulsa' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocOPKBLQH6c

or buy on Bol.com: