Friday, April 28, 2006
The beefed-up full band sound works really well for up-tempo country rockers like brilliant new song Jack Killed Mom, but the delicate beauty of the quieter songs, and particularly the Watson’s vocals, (like my favourite Happy) get lost a bit in the rhythm section, with the bass set a bit too high. However, it’s not all bad. We get a few glimpses of the quieter beauty, most notably in the songs Jenny performs solo (such as Rabbit Fur Coat) and just accompanied by the Watson Twins (there was one particularly lovely untitled new song).
And the encore was to die for – a solo performance of Melt Your Heart, then Jenny and the Twins doing an acapella version of the Shirelles’ I Met Him on a Sunday, and the closer, a cover of the traditional gospel song Cold Jordan which turns into a celebratory clap hands, stamp feet piece of joy – complete with a swirling glitterball swathing the Empire in little flecks of light. It’s a wonderful finale, and enough to make me forget any previous disappointments.
To complain too much would be churlish. Lewis is a consummate performer, with a great voice and whole set worth of amazing songs which stretch beyond her short debut album. She really doesn’t need to return to her other job fronting Rilo Kiley. So on balance, a bit of a winner, but she needs to tone down the drums, and that bloody bass, and let the true beauty shine through.
Here's a couple of songs from Rabbit Fur Coat, plus another couple from their recent KCRW session - that new song and Cold Jordan.
Download: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: Happy
Download: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: New (untitled) song (live KCRW)
Download: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: Cold Jordan
Download: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: It Wasn't Me
Buy Rabbit Fur Coat
My pics from the gig are a bit ropey, on account of being perched in the gods, up on the third balcony. Ushtastic has some better ones on his Flickr site.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Download: Primal Scream - Country Girl
Download: Primal Scream - Country Girl (live)
The return to rock 'n' roll isn't the only connection between the new album and Give Out... They're also using a William Eggleston photo for the cover (above). They previously used one of his photos on the cover of Give Out... (see yesterday's post for that one).
And you can check out the video here (you'll need Quicktime). Or if you do YouTube, here. It's basically a solo version of many a British night out, expect dressed in a cowgirl outfit and set in California. Bob looks good in the Nudie Suit though...
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Maybe then it’s time to re-evaluate their previous major rock ‘n’ roll excursion – 1994’s Give Out But Don’t Give Up. It wasn’t too well received at the time, including by myself. But I really didn’t know much better. I got into music via a combination of acid house and Madchester, and then moved onto indie rock. Screamadelica was exactly my thing. I hadn’t heard of (never mind heard) Exile on Main Street or Let it Bleed. Stax horns had never troubled my ears. Now I have, and count these among my favourite music, so listening to Give Out…again is a real treat.
Sure it’s derivative, and wears its influences loud and proud for all to see. But it’s also a great album. It’s got a dirty, Southern rock ‘n’ roll swagger. It’s got funk, soul, and plaintive ballads. It’s got clichéd, sleazy lyrics. It’s got The sweet voice of Denise Johnson. Heck, it’s even got George Clinton bringing the calls to groove. What’s not to like?
This is the album where the Scream team are true to all their much touted-influences. Even in the ecstasy haze of Screamadelica, Bobby Gillespie was talking up MC5 and the Stones. It didn’t seem right at the time, but it all came out on Give Out...
So belated appreciation all round. I’d probably go as far as to say that it’s my favourite Scream album after Screamadelica. So there.
Download: Primal Scream - Rocks
Download: Primal Scream - Call on Me
Download: Primal Scream - Funky Jam
Buy Give Out But Don't Give Up. You really need it, you know.
It’s odd that an album which is essentially full of short, fuzzy punky songs with guy/girl vocals should take a while to grow. That kinda thing is usually pretty instant, innit? Well, maybe, but somehow this one crept up on me unawares and forced my hand, slowly but surely.
They’re pretty ace live too. The sisters (Jennifer and Laura Rogers) and the honorary ‘sister’ Miyuki Furtado spread themselves out across the stage and got on with the business of rocking the kids assembled for BYOP. Jennifer and Miyuki dash across the stage live their lives depended on it. The sound quality wasn’t exactly top notch, but they put on a pretty fine show, which seemed to be mostly comprised of songs from The Invisible Deck (i.e. I recognised them!)
After seeing them, I love this album even more now. The crunching bass-pounding energy of the likes of Why Won’t You, Never Learn to Cry, and The Light, which are just great pop tunes, are also fantastic live. The brattish-sounding “I don’t care/ it's not enough/ I want more” vocal of Money Matters sounds like it could be a lyric from BYOP, but it’s actually an anti-greed rant. Not subtle, but effective. Album closer Sooner or Later, with its steady pounding bassline and messy guitar riffing is stretched out to a glorious 8:19 mins.
At the gig, they saved the best till last. My album favourite is a bit of a departure from most of the other tracks. A 6-minute, dark brooding epic called Your Littlest World, with guitars menacing like dark storm clouds on the horizon. It’s a great closing number to the gig. If the Sisters keep on producing more of this kind of stuff, they’ll be the band that remains memorable, when the sharp, instant punk pop of the night’s headliners is forgotten.
Download: Rogers Sisters - Your Littlest World
Download: Rogers Sisters - You Undecided
Download: Rogers Sisters - Why Won't You?
For some weird reason or other, The Invisible Deck isn't out in the UK till September. But if you're in Britain, you can buy it from the States. It's out there.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
BYOP’s eponymous debut album was a bit of a revelation for me – I really wasn’t expecting it to be any good, but I was pleasantly surprised. Seeing them live isn’t quite a revelation though – these gigs were never going to be about technical proficiency. That’s not the point. It’s all about bratty teenage punk riotous energy (with some built in awkwardness). And the kids in the crowd, most of whom are probably about the same age as the band, are loving it. I don’t go to that many gigs these days where the moshpit takes up half the venue. It makes me feel old, standing on the edge of the tumbling teenagers zone (and remembering the last time I dived into the moshpit – in this same venue while the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were playing, oooh, years ago). But that’s OK. To them, I’m probably ancient.
The short songs are played fast, with hardly a breath in between. And suddenly they’re at the end. My highlights are also my album highlights – OUCH and Fill My Pill. And Damn Damn Leash of course. They sound great. And they do the shortest encore I’ve even seen. It may have been the less-than-one-minute Let’s Get Sandy, but it’s sometimes difficult to tell the songs apart.
Outside the venue the streets of Bloomsbury are thick with inebriated, still-excited young people, revelling in the joy of the post-gig buzz. I chuckle and go home.
Download: Be Your Own Pet - OUCH
Download: Be Your Own Pet - Damn Damn Leash
The Rogers Sisters provided fine support. More on them later.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Download: Guided By Voices - Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy (Propeller)
Download: Guided By Voices - Queen of Cans and Jars (Bee Thousand)
The presentation is called Smothered in Hugs: the legacy of Guided By Voices, and is on at about 7:30pm, following the evening service. If you're in East London, pop in (info on the flyer below). How often do you get to go to church to hear about a legendary indie band? Take the chance!
Here's one more - the title track of the presentation (also from Bee Thousand).
Download: Guided By Voices - Smothered in Hugs
Thursday, April 20, 2006
The show's pretty good. As well as introducing me to new stuff like Larrakin Love and Lupen Crook recently, it's given me a good few blasts from the past. Here are three that stand out in my mind from the last week or so. Ash's divine Angel Interceptor that had me dancing round the kitchen like it was 1996 and I was 21 all over again. Pulp's grand conscious opus Help the Aged from the under-rated This is Hardcore. And from only a few years ago, The Blueskins' unnoticed, but bristlingly good Change My Mind. I hear they're back, which is probably a good thing.
Download: Ash - Angel Interceptor
Download: Pulp - Help the Aged
Download: The Blueskins - Change My Mind
The above pic is from my weekend Drummond Street excursion. There are more at The Way We See It and even more at my Flickr site.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
I’ve given Battles quite a lot of my listening time lately in an attempt to either like or understand their current UK release, a CD that combines both their B EP and EP C. It’s on Warp records, which in my mind gives them an edge from the start.
But has it been worth it? It certainly appears so from the first track SZ2, which starts off in a nice atmospheric post-rock vein, before introducing some glitchy electronica, then chiming bells, then some fuzzy guitar and stabbing synths, then cranking up the spiky guitars and introducing a skittering breakbeat. It’s beautifully layered, builds nicely, is over nine minutes long and is really quite marvellous.
Unfortunately the rest doesn’t quite live up to this fine start.
The negatives: pretentious titles don’t really help - Ipt2, +Tras, UW and Hi/Lo anyone? And let’s not confuse Ipt2 with Ipt-2 either. The 12-minute meandering synth hum of Bttls, which introduces some noises which resemble various goings on in a robot’s kitchen. More glitch and inconsequential sound effects on Fantasy. Followed by nine 4-second tracks of one electronic pulse. It would be difficult to dance to Dance. I could go on…
The positives: Some of the tracks hold together nicely, in particular +Tras with its choppy guitar riffing and Hi/Lo with its discordant guitar and bleeps over a minimalist synth baseline. And some nice artwork too.
They’re quite possibly a band that's just trying too hard be too cool for their own good. If the music really stood out, we could forgive them. But as much as I’ve tried, it’s an album that’s hard to like, and even hard to admire, as I’m not really sure what Battles are up to. It’s the sort of music that some hipsters will try to like because they think they’re meant to. But challenge them to be truthful. Do you really like it? I’m not sure the answer will be yes.
However I’ve got an odd feeling that they could be good live, if they cut the crap and play to their strengths.
Anyway, make up your own mind and check these out.
Download: Battles - SZ2
Download: Battles - +Tras
And if I’ve not put you off, you could even try buying EP C / B EP here.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
I mention this because I've been asked to write for a new (still to be launched) website on unsigned bands. More on this later no doubt. So I need to see some good new bands to write about. Last Friday I went down to the Buffalo Bar with my mate Dan (of I hate bendy buses fame) to see his friend Emmy the Great. Ironically, she's one of the few artists I have first heard live, having never heard of them before, and been totally impressed by (In Emmy’s case, supporting Tilly and the Wall at the same venue in Feb). I thought that it would be good to see her play again, and then hang around for a few more (bands and beers). Good in theory, not so good in practice.
That's not to fault Emmy. The problem with having a name like Emmy the Great is that it's open to all sorts of bad jokes. This time from the dodgy compere ("here's Emmy, and she's ... great!"). And I'm sure she's heard them all before. But she took it in good spirit.
Now I've opened myself to the problem of writing about her without mentioning the word 'great'. Oops. I could have said 'great voice', 'great songs', ‘great lyrics’ and it would have been true. But, let's try again. She’s a confident and assured performer, and despite being a solo acoustic artist in a noisy bar, she held at least half the people there in rapt attention through her short set. The songs? She has a fine way with words and a tune. Dramatic tales, wistful narratives, gorgeous folk-pop melodies. It’s all good. It’s a shame that the venue was a bit noisy, but she still sounded great. Aargh! That word again!
Why don’t I stop looking for alternative superlatives and let you listen yourself.
Download: Emmy the Great – Absentee
You can buy her current single from Tunetribe. Stream more songs at her myspace.
Unfortunately, superlatives were not in order for the other bands. Well, I can’t be certain about all the other bands. The next one on was so bad that I couldn’t be bothered to see the rest, and left to go home to some superior Friday night TV.
Now, I know that you can listen to every band in the world on myspace, but really, I don’t have the time or the inclination to while away the hours listening to shitty indie bands, in the hope I might find some good ones to go and see. So I guess what I’m looking for is some recommendations. You may get an idea from my posts what I like. They have to be from London (or playing in London) and unsigned. I look forward to your suggestions. In the meantime, it's back to John Kennedy's Xposure for me.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Anyway, I'm not a big fan either, although I don't have that much cause to use them. I feel sorry for people who live in Hackney though - it's the only London borough without a tube station, but now they can have all the cramped and unconfortable conditions of the Undergound on the road!
And since this is an mp3 blog, I'll take the opportunity to post a bit of bendy bus-related confusion that's available on the website. Bendy bus on fire.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
In their own words:
"The really interesting thing - well to me anyway - has been how differently people perceive the same place or object and to a lesser extent, the way that they use their cameras to capture this.
This is the fundamental idea behind The Way We See Things [sic]. Given a chosen location, how would a bunch of different photographers capture this? What would they see that others missed, how would they use their creative juices to produce an image that made you think - 'is that really the same place that I went to?' And I guess to a lesser extent the site may give some an introduction to the wonderful diversity of London"
I've perused it with interest for a few weeks, then last week I got down to Elephant & Castle with my camera and took a few pics. I sent them to TWWSI and they're on there. I've put the same featured photos on this post, so if you go to the site, you can find out my real name!
There are more Elephant pics on my Flickr site.
"at the moment, i am busy trying to work out how the live show is going to work but there are definite plans for a tour later this year - details will be on the website or our new myspace page [which is here]
the next single, goosey gander, has also just finished recording - that will be should be out on cripple creek in a few months, with a cheeky cover on the b-side...
thank you for any messages you have sent - apologies for any belated response, i do read them all and they spur me on when the computer sequencing programme refuses to do what it's supposed to..."
So there you go. It's a bit of an undestatement to say that the MySpace site is in its infancy. So far her only friend is Tom (and at least me once I'm accepted). And there's not a audio streaming / download player thingy either. But I guess it's a start...
So to celebrate, here another Willis track, especially for Ed - her cover of 'Word Up' by Cameo.
Download: Willis - Word Up
Go on - you need Come Get Some!
Sunday, April 09, 2006
And here’s another, although a bit more low-key. It isn’t really a group either, more of a duo, a collaboration. John Mark Lapham from the Earlies and his fellow native of Abilene, Texas – singer-songwriter Micah P Hinson – have got together for a project called The Late Cord.
Working together is nothing new for them – Micah’s debut album The Gospel of Progress was produced by The Earlies. And the first time I saw The Earlies they were supported by Hinson, but his backing band consisted of most of The Earlies. It was an amazing gig, and I still stand by this review. However, this is the first time they’ve worked together outside their main projects and they’ve done an EP which will be out later this month on 4AD.
And it’s a nicely minimalist affair, and a curious little thing. It neither goes into the territory of The Earlies’ dubby, spacey psychedelic country, or follows Hinson’s gutsy, soulful folk-rock. However, there are elements fans of both acts will recognise and enjoy, particularly Micah’s gloriously wasted vocals, which make it hard to believe he’s only 24 years old. It’s a slow-burning affair, with the pick of the five tracks being the opener Lila Blue, with its repetitive organ building up a haunting atmosphere into which Hinson’ vocals are slowly released. For a track that clocks in over eight minutes, it never outstays its welcome either. Similarly, My most meaningful relationships are with dead people (great name for a track) is another lovely downbeat track of organ and vocal, with Lapham also adding the glitchy effects.
The haunting theme continues in Chains/ Strings - another nicely mininmalist little number which is pretty much just a cello piece by Earlies’ cellist Semay Wu. The other two tracks are more experimental excursuions with soundscapes and muted Hinson vocal. Interesting, but they don’t seem to go anywhere.
All in, it’s a bit of an oddity, not even having the commercial appeal of either artist’s main work. But it’s clearly a labour of love for Micah and John Mark and it’s bound to have some interest to fans of either or both artists. Like me, then. And, given that they’re meant to be releasing a full album, it hints at promise to come.
Download: The Late Cord – Lila Blue
Download: The Late Cord – My most meaningful relationships are with dead people
Pre-order Lights from the Wheelhouse.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
The story’s mainly about a Mexican collaborator of theirs, for whom they’re trying to sort out a visa, so he can tour with them, and it involves an incident where they’re stopped by a border guard. “What do you do” he asked. “We play music” they reply. The expected “What kind of music” question was never returned, Joey said.
But it got me thinking – what kind of music do Calexico play? Especially in the light of their new album Garden Ruin. Before now, I’d have said that essentially they have two types of song – one is a kind of rolling, dusty slightly country, slightly jazzy song, and the other is a straight up throw-your-sombreros-in-the-air mariachi number. Sometimes both songs appear together, like in the classic Stray off their debut album Black Light.
On Garden Ruin however, things are different. Neither type of song is prominent. Instead they’ve opted for a more straightforward alt-rock Americana template, an on occasions rocking out in an almost uncharacteristic way. Now this could be a bad thing, making them indistinguishable from so many other bands in a similar vein. But it’s not – it’s still Calexico. The melodies still soar. There’s still that glorious desert evocativeness, and the trumpets and jazzy drumming are always lurking round the corner.
Tonight the full canon is in evidence. The mariachi stompers in particular go down well with the crowd, in the increasingly sweaty 100 Club – it’s great to hear the likes of Minas de Cobre, El Picador and the aforementioned Stray.
But the new songs are pretty well-received too. Burns’ confession to being a ‘shoegazer’ earlier in the set seems like less of a joke when he and the band swathe a few songs in sheets of guitar noise. There’s even feedback, which I'm sure I’ve never heard at a Calexico gig before (though they’re such accomplished musicians, that you feel every drop of feedback is measured).
It’s a really special gig, and a great privilege to see Calexico in such a small venue – pretty rare in London. I’ve seen them a few times now, but never fully appreciated the brilliance of drums and percussion maestro John Convertino. Heck, they’re all amazing. A band to make sure you see sometime. Now I can’t wait to see them at Summer Sundae.
Download: Calexico - Panic Open String
Download: Calexico - Letter to Bowie Knife
Download: Calexico - Roka
Buy Garden Ruin.
As an odd footnote, they were meant to appear on John Kennedy's XFM show after the gig, but pulled out because Joey apparently lost his voice at the end of the gig. It didn't seem like that. Or is that why they didn't play Crystal Frontier?
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
She emerged with that album, recorded under her surname and released on 679 records, in the latter half of 2003. It was (and still is) a real treat, chock-full of earthy, funky rock 'n' soul. Her music and her great vocals impressed more than a few people at the time and it got a load of good reviews. In early 2004 she released an EP (including a fine bluesy take on Cameo’s Word Up) and then promptly disappeared.
Although all is not lost. A couple of months ago, I heard Rob da Bank playing a new song, which turns out to be a limited 7 inch single called Get in the Ring. It’s good, and it pretty much continues from where Come Get Some left off.
But what else? The b-side sounds like a home recording of some kids singing Paper and Stone (off the album) – so does that signify a lack of new material? And like I said, it’s been hard to find current info on her (and even harder to find a photo – hence just the album cover above) No sign of her on the 679 records website (was she dropped?), and although her website is still active, there’s not a lot of info on there either. So I’ve emailed her to ask what’s up. Hopefully I’ll hear soon. If anybody else knows, drop me a line...
In the meantime, here’s that new single and a couple of tracks off the album.
Download: Willis - Get in the Ring
Download: Willis – Paper and Stone
Download: Willis – Take You High
Buy Willis CDs and 7 inches.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Anyway, back to the music...
Album of the Month
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
Funny that I didn't pay them much attention the last time round (apart from Maps, along with everyone else), but I can't get enough of this album.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Turn Into
Songs of the Month (in no particular order)
1. The Knife - Marble House
A song that manages to be both glacial and beautifully warm. And it reminds me of the Cocteau Twins.
2. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
OK, every teenager in the land will have this on a ringtone soon. But that doesn't mean it's not good.
3. Massive Attack - Live With Me
A truly impressive comeback.
4. Lucky Soul - Show Me Love
I've been on about this before. Just gorgeous pop-soul from a hugely promising band.
5. Two Gallants - Las Cruces Jail
I've belatedly just caught up with this band, but recently I've been well into What The Toll Tells. This was the first Gallants song I heard, and it's still my pick...
Saturday, April 01, 2006
The XL link with this show was the world TV debut by the Raconteurs, which was pretty good. The other bands/artists were Guillemots, Kano, Jose Gonzalez and 'zombiecore' competion winners Send Some Paramedics. They should really concentrate on the music on this show, and drop the filler stuff like a fan's mobile video diary and anything involving Russell Kane. Get a few more songs in. It could be so much better.
The other aspect to the show is a previously unannounced gig somewhere in London that's revealed at the start of the show, and people are given about 50 minutes to get there and get in on a first-come-first-served basis. Last night it was Mystery Jets at the Mildmay Working Men's Club in Newington Green. On a rainy Friday night it would have taken a lot more than that to get me off the sofa and onto the 277.
To round off XL week, here's a couple of tracks from MIA and Basement Jaxx.
Download: MIA - Galang (South Rakkas Mix)
Download: Basement Jaxx - Good Luck
Buy MIA and Basement Jaxx.