Sunday, 31 August 2014

Music Chart - August 2014

One of the best months of the year for new albums and a 2014 return for some great bands. One of the biggest releases of the year is Alarms In The Heart by Dry The River - a solid, yet sadly inferior second-best to the brilliant Shallow Bed. I'll give it time but it lacks not only the songs but much of the wide-eyed wonder of its predecessor. The Gaslight Anthem get heavy with the New Jersey charm with Get Hurt...for me not quite as slick as Handwritten but plenty of commitment and passion, as always. One of the new shining lights this year finally follows up a bunch of EPs, and the intriguing Film Songs, with the excellent The Fire Inside - a marvellous début featuring one of the best songs of the year: Bottled Up Tight. And another new act promising so much - and delivering: Royal Blood release their eponymous début; kicking off with the astonishing Out Of The Black and blistering Figure It Out. Echoes of White and Homme everywhere but the startling combination of vocals, drums and bass guitar performed by a duo is truly exhilarating. Last but no least, Thea Gilmore's right-hand man Nigel Stonier, a brilliantly talented songwriter and performer who doesn't release enough albums of his own, has made Built For Storms - filled with stark observations, smart lyrics and beautiful poignant reflections.

Elsewhere, Frightened Rabbit take time out for Owl John, The Raveonettes bring back the bleak, Slow Club attempt to engage, Howling Bells pull the Heartstrings and Honeyblood get feisty.

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

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Vinyl Frontier - Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell

Two more gems recently entrusted to my care...

In 1969 Bob Dylan defied convention and instead of making a political statement - at the time there was much to protest about - he made Nashville Skyline, a sublime and quirky country-rock album.  Featuring Johnny Cash and a host of other great musicians there is much more to this than Lay Lady Lay, and Dylan's best album after Blood On The Tracks. This was the ultimate protest singer making the ultimate anti-protest album.

History really does repeat itself. I have the same feeling listening to Song To A Seagull, Joni Mitchell's wonderful début album, as I do with Laura Marling's Alas I Cannot Swim... The same idealistic lyrical craft mixed with swirling acoustic guitars in a simple, unruffled and raw production. Not many singers get away with a concept album as their first effort but Mitchell made her mark on the music world from the very first note. Her voice is both powerful and un-threatening, every song tells a story, while the strings add the atmospherics.
-- CS

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Vinyl Frontier - The Beatles

I am not a huge Beatles fan. I have my own favourite songs and I only own Revolver and the two anthologies (on CD)…until now. Recently, I inherited (with great privilege) some ‘old’ records including all twelve original Beatles LPs (thirteen if you include Magical Mystery Tour) plus a few other compilations and rarities collections.

Here they are: 

The Beatles’ albums cover a mere eight years, from the debut Please Please Me in 1963 to Let It Be in 1970. Often making two albums a year during this time, it is an incredible catalogue of music and culture. The development of the band’s music can be divided into four trilogies: Please Please Me, With The Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night is poster-boy jangly pop; Beatles For Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul is a band exploring and expanding; Revolver, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album is creativity, risks and reward; and Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let It Be is the sound of self-indulgence, fractures and reflection – Abbey Road feels like the start of Harrison’s solo career with some of his best songs and Let It Be, mostly recorded before Abbey Road, doesn’t feel like a ‘break-up’ album although The Long And Winding Road always seems to be an obvious swansong.

For me, the height of The Beatles’ creativity and power was 1966. The reason I bought Revolver is that I still think it’s a masterpiece – although it does seem to divide fans somewhat – and listening to my new vinyl copy, even more so. The album has just about everything from the dark sad Eleanor Rigby to the playful nursery-rhyme Yellow Submarine, punchy Got To Get You Into My Life and the eclectic closer Tomorrow Never Knows. Vocals are shared and Harrison wrote three good songs. In comparison, the follow-up Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is overrated (but still very good). Having listened to the most of the earlier albums in full, A Hard Day’s Night is a highlight, with its fuzzy production and Lennon and McCartney writing together wonderfully.

I do recognise why and how The Beatles are so popular and why the songs and albums are iconic works of art, not only as part of British music but around the world. The song-writing partnership of Lennon and McCartney is still legendary and combined with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, one of the best-known and loved pop bands lives on.
-- CS