Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Interesting ...

Lots going on in the music world and no time to keep up! Hey, at least there are ZERO good albums to review right now so that I have more time for posts like this one (seriously, May-June-July is weak on the album release front...).

First off, Gorillaz have, as has been expected for months now, announced their 2018 follow-up to the debacle that was 2017's 'Humanz' ... it will be entitled 'The Now Now'

Another long-anticipated album, 'Mitsubishi Macchiato' (or whatever its real name will be) from Vampire Weekend is all but finished; shows are also lined up for the summer and a new logo (?) has made an appearance

Kendrick Lamar, world's most important rapper and now Pulitzer Prize winner, collected his historic award recently; in less meaningful news, Pusha T and Drake, who are not important rappers, have unleashed a crap-storm of childishness that cool kids call a "beef"

As for me, there are no albums to review in the coming months (aside from a subpar effort from FJM, there is precious little out there ... sorry Florence ... not sorry Gorillaz) SO I have given myself a challenge. I am admittedly not a fan per se of David Bowie's music though I am very aware of the MASSIVE impact the man had and continues to have on modern music. So? I am going to listen to every single last one of his 27 studio albums (that's not a typo) and then reflect. I may drink a little while listening. Or put on a dress. Or dance. But I will listen to them all and perhaps in the process, become a born-again Bowie fan ... here's hoping that at the very least I will get a better appreciation of the man's genius (which is without question).


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Interesting (Genius Edition)

This is very clever. An Instagram post from 'bubba2000art' has absolutely skewered the new Arctic Monkeys album with subtlety. Or as subtle as spray paint gets:

Not only is the street art in Alex Turner's hometown of Sheffield, but taking it one step further, was tagged at the 'Hunter's Bar' roundabout, which Turner references on their first album in the song "Fake Tales of San Francisco", which generally makes fun of Brits who've fallen for the lure of the USA. How is LA Alex?  

He talks of San Francisco, he's from Hunter's Bar
I don't quite know the distance
But I'm sure that's far
Yeah I'm sure it's pretty far
And yeah, I'd love to tell you all my problems
You're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham
So get off the bandwagon, and put down the handbook
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Monday, 21 May 2018

Concert Review: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats @ Massey Hall (18 May)

I will do this show no justice in attempting to use something as crude and unwieldy as the written language to describe it, but I will try...

It was nothing short of phenomenal and is likely one of the best live performances that I have ever experienced in 25 years of concert-going. The energy and enthusiasm and authentic joy on display by the band found its way into every note of every song and not once did the band sound anything less than exceptional. Exceedingly rare also was the fact that the concert started up-tempo and not once did that let up; Mr Rateliff and his Sweaty Knights had us in the palms of their hands for the whole night, and took us on a wild range of experiences and emotions, all the while with sincere gratitude for the shared energy.

What a performance from a group of consummate but humble showmen. If ever the chance presents itself, and especially in a venue like Massey Hall, jump at it.


Saturday, 19 May 2018

May Album Review ... Parquet Courts, 'Wide Awake!'

New York based, genre-resistant foursome Parquet Courts are, with 'Wide Awake!', not only releasing their fifth album in eight years, a rate that maybe only Ty Segall could top, but perhaps also their best to date. This is an album that makes it known from its opening moments that it has something significant to say, and based on their production choices with Danger Mouse at the helm, will spare no genre or metaphor in relaying it to the listener.

May Album Review ... Courtney Barnett, 'Tell Me How You Really Feel'

There is something infectious about Courtney Barnett, something immediately arresting or even downright lovable about the authentically laissez-faire way that she seems to approach music. She smiles easily, writes lyrics that make you think as easily make you laugh, seems willing to talk about music all day, and is delightfully bashful about her fame. On top of that, she writes simply great songs that cover a massive spectrum of influences, intentions, and instrumentation. While her 2015 debut 'Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit' was full of quirky, wittily-constructed songs, 'Tell Me How You Really Feel' shows a much more emotionally vulnerable side of Barnett, taking more overt risks in both the construction of her lyrics and the sonic landscapes upon which they are built.

Concert Review: Margaret Glaspy @ Longboat Hall (15 May)

Longboat Hall could not have possibly been a better venue for this event; oozing history, the circular basement room allowed for an intimate closeness with the performer that is so hard to replicate. A step further, it made the stripped down performances on offer, both featuring only one instrument (guitar), fill the space in a way that would be next to impossible to replicate. 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Interesting ...

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, who released an outstanding second album this year, have also just released a pretty outstanding video for "Hey Mama". Here's to family...


Sunday, 13 May 2018

May Album Review ... Arctic Monkeys, 'Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino'

I really really hoped that Joel would beat me to this so that I wouldn't have to review it at all, let alone listen to the album more than once.  As a result, I will intend to keep the length short and the vitriol light and maybe then I will only vomit in my mouth a few times while writing.  This album is horrendous. Much has been made of the fact that lead-singer Alex Turner wrote much of this album on a Steinway piano (because it's not pretentious at all to make sure the brand name appears in every review) and that there is little of the band's somewhat characteristic guitar sound present.  Some thoughts about that - first, Alex should probably learn to play the aforementioned and heavily name-dropped piano and second, the band may as well have been hired house musicians for all of their involvement on this album, save perhaps bassist Nick O'Malley who at least got his groove on a little bit here and there.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Interesting ...

What's my age again?  Take the quiz provided by BBC's Radio One and other brother will predict it based on your answers. I fooled 'em...


Friday, 11 May 2018

Scott Hutchison (1981-2018)

May you live long in our memories and find peace wherever you are headed ... your absence is beyond description

You are not alone in this...peace,

Thursday, 10 May 2018

"If happiness won't live with me..."

2013 was a very difficult year. Professionally, I found my workplace to be mired in acrimony and political rhetoric; personally, my wife and I had struggles that only those attempting to have children late in life can understand; and then one of my anchors in life, my father, suddenly passed away. This was a year of great loss, personal tragedy, and enforced reflection; it was also a year in which my long-traveling life companion depression forced itself into my every thought and action, becoming the filter again for all that I was and in all my interactions with the world. As the anchor that was my father was suddenly absent, and depression sunk in its terrifyingly sharp claws, I came to rely with even greater force on perhaps the most intangible of anchors, though one that has served me my whole life long – music. 

'Pedestrian Verse', Scottish foursome Frightened Rabbit’s fourth album, was released in February of that year and came to be the skeleton upon which both my grief and my recovery were built. The band was new to me, but I found myself profoundly moved by the simple sincerity of lead-singer Scott Hutchison’s lyrics and vocals. This was a man who suffered deeply, who was honest about his struggles with depression and personal loss, and put simply, was exceptionally authentic in conveying those themes. “Acts of Man” is, in a world of conventional love songs, the single most authentic and honest; “State Hospital” is a study in everyday heartbreak and perhaps the most devastating of all, “Nitrous Gas” is an unflinching battle between a man and his many, dark demons. The timing of this album’s release, amidst the storm that my life had become, could not have been better, the emotion no less profound, and the undercurrent of possibility, of survival, ultimately no less motivating. 

Depression is an epidemic. It cannot be stopped and it has no boundaries. As our awareness of mental health limps forwards at a most “petty pace”, so does our awareness of those whom it has dug its hooks into, whose lives it has altered, sometimes permanently. With depression, far too often comes silence, isolation, and in its worst cases, suicide. Scott Hutchison knows this as acutely as the author of this article, knowing all too intimately the ways in which it severs ties with reality, builds walls against help, and silences the sufferer in ways that cannot be adequately explained. Hutchison chose song and music as the vehicle through which he could navigate his depression and personal losses and I chose his music through which to filter my own personal narratives. I could not possibly thank him enough for helping me through 2013; thus today, when I read the news that he was officially missing, that no one knew his whereabouts and that his band mates and family alike were appealing to him to return, I couldn’t help but fear the worst. Has he found his upper limit? Has the suffering become too much? Or has he simply chosen to take some time off, time to reflect and recover on his own? I do not know, and perhaps never will; my only hope is that just as his lyrics helped me to find a glimmer of light in my own darkness, that he will find some spark to light his way home and that this story does not end as yet another depression-fuelled tragedy. 

The following line from “Nitrous Gas” has rolled through my head often today, perhaps as often as my own memories of 2013: “If happiness won’t live with me / I think I can live with that”. I hope Scott that this is true, and that even if happiness has decided to abandon you, living still remains your way forward, one breath, one step, and one sunrise at a time.

Peace brother,

Saturday, 5 May 2018

May Album Review ... Jon Hopkins, 'Singularity'

'Singularity' picks up very similarly to how 2013’s 'Immunity' left off, with renowned composer and DJ Jon Hopkins painstakingly creating music that feels crafted directly from the innermost layers of human emotion. There is so much propulsion and drive, and no wasted layers of sound or musical phrases – this is all very purposeful, very deep, and very moving electronic music. Title track “Singularity” is as ominous a song as can be found on this album, but while Immunity revelled in darkness and shadows, there are tracks here that show a softer, more delicate side to Hopkins’ work. “Emerald Rush” is crafted upon the most fragile of piano melodies, “Feel First Life” feels true to its name, evocative of the sun rising over a setting of stirringly natural beauty, while “Everything Connected” positively soars. True to his talents, none of these moments of seeming introspection or musical fragility stay as such for long, nor do they succumb to melancholy, but it is refreshing to see Hopkins willing to branch out and demonstrate his growth as both a producer and composer of very powerfully emotive music. 

May Album Review ... Iceage, 'Beyondless'

'Beyondless' begins in truly memorable form, with the fire and ferocity of “Hurrah”, a song about our cultural immersion in violence, war, and ultimately death. It is a well-written diatribe against our seeming inner wiring for violent acts in the name of nations, flags, and in the desire to accumulate wealth. It is also a stormingly powerful blast to the eardrums that, as a listener, you almost wish would continue long past the point where the song has ended. Unfortunately, the rest of the album fails to live up to the quality of the opener, though there are still many memorable moments within.