Thursday, 31 July 2014

Music Chart - July 2014

A sparse month for good new music... but great new albums from Deadmau5, Remember Remember, Weird Al Yankovic and Jenny Lewis, plus a decent effort from Manic Street Preachers and Barenaked Ladies.

And again, nothing new to challenge the best album of the year from The War On Drugs...

  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines
  3. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  4. Morning Phase by Beck 
  5. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis
  6. Forgetting The Present by Remember Remember 
  7. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  8. While 1 is less than 2 by Deadmau5
  9. Beauty & Ruin by Bob Mould
  10. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies
  11. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  12. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  13. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
  14. Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
  15. 48:13 by Kasabian
  16. Indie Cindy by The Pixies 
  17. Running With Scissors by Janet Devlin 
  18. The Voyager by Jenny Lewis
  19. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  20. Grinning Streak by Barenaked Ladies
  21. Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst 
  22. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  23. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  24. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  25. Lazaretto by Jack White
  26. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  27. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club 
  28. Futurology by Manic Street Preachers
  29. IX by Corrosion Of Conformity
  30. Into The Lime by New Mendicants 
  31. 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  32. A Letter Home By Neil Young
  33. In The Silence by Asgeir
  34. Held In Splendor by Quilt 
  35. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
  36. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  37. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  38. Supernova by Ray LaMontagne
  39. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  40. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn
  41. Atlas by Real Estate
  42. Croz by David Crosby
  43. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  44. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  45. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  46. Wildewoman by Lucius
  47. Luminous by The Horrors
  48. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  49. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  50. Waking Lines by Patterns
  51. Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos 
  52. The Future's Void by EMA
  53. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  54. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  55. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  56. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  57. Warpaint by Warpaint
  58. Are We There by Sharon Van Etten
  59. To Be Kind by Swans
  60. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  61. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  62. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  63. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  64. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  65. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Friday, 4 July 2014

Suzanne Vega - Live at The Lighthouse, Poole (3rd July 2014)

A warm Summer evening on the south coast of England, and the promise of great music from a true legend, drew us to Poole and the majestic Lighthouse. A venue that has been transformed in recent times from the old Arts Centre to a now modern, bright and vibrant concert hall was to be graced by the presence of Suzanne Vega. And having only seen her live once before (briefly at a dark and wet Glastonbury, from the back of a packed noisy acoustic tent many years ago), I was more than a bit excited to see one of my musical idols in a proper venue for the first time.

...But first, the support act. No big name: Chris Simmons from Brighton (who I suspect no one, including me, had heard of) walked on stage with his guitar to a smattering of applause, plugged it in, and just got on with it. With a limited collection of his own songs to choose from he managed to fill his half hour with two Squeeze covers including a superb version of Up The Junction. At one point he asked us, 'as you are so quiet, do you mind if I unplug my guitar?' and he did, playing completely acoustically. It was mesmerising. I have absolute admiration for anyone in this business who can get up on a stage with a voice and just sing. There is nowhere to hide and he didn't have to. Definitely one to watch for the future and hopefully this (short) run of support gigs will bring him an audience...

This year Suzanne Vega has, in the words of my fellow gig-goer JC, 'got her mojo back'. The release of her eighth studio album: Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles, after nearly five years re-working her own back-catalogue for the 'Close-Up' series, is her first new music for seven years and she is clearly re-energised and motivated. This was a no-frills performance with no big screens, light shows or huge orchestra. Backed by the brilliant Gerry Leonard (aka Spooky Ghost) on guitar (he also produced 'Pentacles') and Doug Yowell on drums, the three musicians more than filled the stage with Vega's words and music.

Naturally songs from Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles featured heavily in a set that blended old and new. The intro was the trio of theatrical Fat Man And Dancing Girl, anthemic Marlene On The Wall (with added top hat) and the sultry Caramel before three new songs: the wonderful Fool's Compliant, mysterious Crack In The Wall and enlightening Jacob And The Angel. By this stage, Vega was chatting to the audience in such a charming, funny and engaging way, trying to explain the new songs and their significance. The beautiful Small Blue Thing, gorgeous Gypsy and dramatic poetry of The Queen And The Soldier followed by the endlessly playful Don't Cork What You Can't Contain, spiritual Laying On Of Hands / Stoic 2 and moody Left Of Center formed the delicious centre-piece. To bring the main set to a close, latest crowd-pleaser I Never Wear White lived up to the billing - a definite highlight, lead to the reflective Some Journey, heart-breaking Luka and then to finish a full-on 'DNA'-esque version of Tom's Diner. I'm a huge fan of the original vocal-only take but this worked better on stage.

We didn't have to wait too long for the inevitable encore. Vega explained that they were off to Lisbon for the next leg of the European tour and songs featuring Portuguese Women are the order of the day... so she re-started with a modern update of the elegant Iron Bound / Fancy Poultry before asking us what we wanted. Now was my or die. I yelled 'Blood Makes Noise' (yes me, really), a song I was surprised didn't make the main set and I was determined to hear it. Turning to Leonard who was already setting up his effects pedals, 'shall we do it?'. And they did, a brilliant 'solo-vocal' version complete with fuzzy guitars and electronics, capturing the spirit of the original. Vega said afterwards that she didn't expect that 'the people of Poole' would be up for that. I'm not from Poole. Then, someone else asked for the melodic In Liverpool, so thankfully I didn't have to - another wonderful highlight, before Rosemary brought the night to a close.

Suzanne Vega did not disappoint. The lack of anything from Songs In Red And Gray and Beauty & Crime was a noticeable omission: Bound, Unbound, Penitent, If I Were A Weapon etc... and World Before Columbus would have been my second shout of the night, but with a wealth of songs to choose from it was not possible to fit in everything. But clearly Vega still has the love for a performance and the feeling is mutual. A magical evening that could have gone on forever, listening to one of the best voices in the business, performing at brilliant as ever.
-- CS