donderdag 21 september 2017

Down Hearted Blues. Eilen Jewell

Over the passed years I had heard one or two albums by Eilen Jewell, perhaps even reviewed one. Working in what in general is called the Americana genre, I was somewhat surprised to find Eilen Jewell emerged deeply into the blues. Now the title of the album, Down Hearted Blues, may give something away, it's not the same as a full fetched (electric) blues album.

It is exactly that what Eilen Jewell presents. She explores several blues genres on her new album. So in that she is not so far away from what The Rolling Stones presented to the world late 2016. Down Hearted Blues is filled with covers from A to Z in which Ms. Jewell delves into the American blues songbook and comes up with a whole lot of songs I'm not familiar with. Songs by Charlie Sheffield, Bessie Smith, Howlin' Wolf, Memphis Minnie, etc. come by. One a boogie, the other in the lounge blues style of T-Bone Walker or an up tempo country style rocker.

Promo photo by Joanna Chattman
This mix is what makes the album so interesting and irresistible to listen to. With a clear voice with only the faintest of a rasp on her vocal chords Eilen Jewell sings the songs with self-assured bluster, giving the album its little extras. The musicians behind her all do a fine job. The sound as a whole is great; but, I can't but face the fact that it's all been done before. It's the singing that makes Down Hearted Blues come alive.

The songs on Down Hearted Blues are now from near a century old to at least a half century. All the people who played and sang on the originals have passed away long ago. It is a good thing that these songs are brought alive in the 10s, an incentive to delve into the musical mines once again. I have to own up that I still haven't heard Bessie Smith sing ever as far as I'm aware, yet play one of her songs with my own band (in the Derek and the Dominos version).

Promo photo by Joanna Chattman
Like The Stones half the fun is hearing songs like this in a fresh way recorded on modern equipment that the original artists could not even begin to think of in their day. The other half is the obvious joy of the present artists of playing these songs. Jewell loves playing and singing these songs and it shows. The result is a modern sounding blues album that does right to the different styles in which (rhythm &) blues have presented itself through the years and places.

For someone who at first doubted whether she, a white girl from Boise in Idaho, had any right singing the blues, Eilen Jewell came out quite alright. Yes, great fun Down Hearted Blues is.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Down Hearted Blues here:

https://eilenjewell.bandcamp.com/

woensdag 20 september 2017

Moonshine Freeze. This Is The Kit

This Is The Kit is het alter ego van en/of de band rond de Britse muzikante Kate Sables.
 
De band debuteerde in 2008 met het door niemand minder dan John Parish (PJ Harvey) geproduceerde Krulle Bol (!) en werd een van de lievelingen van de Britse muziekpers met het in 2010 verschenen Wriggle Out The Restless.
 
Pas met het in 2015 verschenen en door The National voorman Aaron Dessner geproduceerde Bashed Out, trok This Is The Kit ook buiten de Britse landsgrenzen de aandacht en maakte ook ik kennis met de intieme muziek van de band rond Kate Sables.
 
Voor de vierde plaat van This Is The Kit keerde Kate Sables terug naar Bristol en nodigde ze John Parish uit voor de productie van de plaat. Moonshine Freeze is een logisch vervolg op de vorige platen van de Britse band en laat net als zijn voorgangers een intiem en avontuurlijk geluid horen.
 
Kate Sables kan ook dit keer uit de voeten in lieflijk aandoende folksongs die wel wat doen denken aan die van Kathryn Williams of aan de vroege platen van Cat Power, maar treedt ook graag buiten de gebaande paden met songs die wat rauwer klinken of die wat nadrukkelijker het experiment opzoeken.
 
In de wat rauwere songs begeeft This Is The Kit voorzichtig in het territorium van PJ Harvey, maar zeker in de net wat experimenteler aandoende songs creëert Kate Sables een bijzonder eigen muzikaal universum.
 
De meest ingetogen songs op de plaat moeten het doen met het fraaie banjospel en de bijzondere stem van Kate Sables, maar Moonshine Freeze bevat ook een aantal rijker ingekleurde songs met fraaie bijdragen van blazers of effectief gitaarspel van de producer van haar vorige plaat, Aaron Dessner.
 
Moonshine Freeze staat vol met songs die zich niet direct opdringen, maar die wel nieuwsgierig maken. De songs van Kate Sables strijken soms licht tegen de haren in, maar verrassen net zo makkelijk met wonderschone of zelfs bijna sprookjesachtige elementen. Folk vormt het belangrijkste bestanddeel van de muziek van This Is The Kit, maar wanneer de blazers aanzwellen verkent Moonshine Freeze ook nadrukkelijk invloeden uit de jazz.
 
Moonshine Freeze wordt hier en daar een moeilijke plaat genoemd, maar daar ben ik het niet mee eens, wat overigens niet betekent dat de vierde plaat van This Is The Kit een makkelijke plaat is. De meeste songs op Moonshine Freeze overtuigden me vrij makkelijk, maar pas na meerdere keren horen was ik pas echt onder de indruk van de nieuwe plaat van This Is The Kit.
 
Sindsdien wordt de plaat alleen maar beter en raak ik steeds meer onder de indruk van de subtiele instrumentatie vol mooie accenten, de fluisterzachte en bijzonder mooie stem van Kate Sables en van de songs die buiten de lijnen durven te kleuren, maar nergens verzanden in doelloos experiment.
 
Liefhebbers van avontuurlijk indie-folk vallen zich zeker geen buil aan Moonshine Freeze, maar stiekem hoop ik dat de vierde plaat van This Is The Kit wat breder wordt opgepakt, want ook liefhebbers van rootsmuziek kunnen zomaar genadeloos vallen voor de bijzondere muziek van Kate Sables en haar band.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Moonlight Freeze hier beluisteren:

https://soundcloud.com/this-is-the-kit/moonshine-freeze

dinsdag 19 september 2017

To The Bone. Steven Wilson

The work ethic of Steven Wilson is huge. His solo output is a steady stream of music that is highly appreciated among prog and rock fans. His collaborations are just as steady going. There is one minor setback, I'm not a progrock fan in general, although there are noted exceptions.

Over the past years I read how good this man's work is. I gave several albums a try and usually I gave up quite soon. This music is just not for me. Wait, I hear you say, you wrote on '4 1/2' in 2016. Yes, I did, but is not all good, is it?

Come To The Bone. Again I read nothing but enthusiastic reviews lauding the man's work in general and To The Bone specifically. As I encountered the album in a digital postbox, I decided to give it a try and guess what? This is not the first time I'm listening while writing this review. Don't ask me why To The Bone is different. I just can't tell you. Fact is I like the album.

It starts with the light touch in the music. I recognise the songs as such and not as compositions containing the lengthy exercises of musical prowess that prog songs so often are. Several songs clock in under five minutes. Others under six. O.k., not all. It goes without saying that several elements within the songs can only be described as prog, but they serve the song and not the other way around where the song is an excuse to go all out and lose me.

One of the other prog bands I can sometimes listen to is Anathema and To The Bone reminds me of that band's music here and there. Especially when a lady joins in to sing. Ninet Tayeb plays a great role e.g. in 'Pariah'. My favourite Swiss singer Sophie Hunger is present also in 'Song Of I'.

A good example of why I like this album is 'The Same Asylum'. The melody is extremely free flowing, a near perfect pop song. The guitar outings are varied in attack, sound and approach, to return to that fine flowing melody, without unnecessary detours. In the guitar everything from Steve Howe to Frank Zappa comes by, so enough to enjoy.

I like the way how song can go from extremely small, just a piano, to a whole fiery band sound, without losing the feel that the song started out with. 'Refuge', one of the songs that creeps up towards seven minutes, does this in a great way.

With 'Permanating' Steven Wilson even presents his fans with a pure popsong with a high mid 70s soul element. The O'Jays or Tavares could have recorded this song if only you think away the loud guitar. Strange but true. It's not my favourite of the album though. Diversity is certainly a part of this album.

'Misplaced Childhood' is the only Marillion album I could sit through and at that only barely. In truth I haven't played it in perhaps over two decades. 'Kayleigh' pops into my head regularly off late and I think it has something to do with To The Bone album. More specific, the ultra short song 'Blank Tapes' may be the messenger setting 'Kayleigh' off in my mind.

'People Who Eat Darkness' is a great rocksong, with, again, a nice role for Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb. The collaboration with Sophie Hunger is a song that could have been a Sophie Hunger song, until the rock elements, hidden deep into the mix, seep in. Very soft, like a ghost at the start of a horror movie. Where we, the audience, are fully aware of what is going on in the background, the cast isn't yet. Strings come in, arranged by Dave Stewart, but the song never really comes alive in the end. It all sounds a bit like the end of a The Beatles song, but by then we had enjoyed the whole of 'I Am The Walrus' and not just the estranging end.

With only two songs left to go, the album has already sold itself to me. My only comment that can be seen as negative is that To The Bone is a bit too long for me. I would have been happy with two songs less. That has nothing to do with the quality of what still follows. After the somewhat experimental beginning of 'Detonation', the song sets off in all the right ways. Over an hour is just a little more than I can handle here.

Yes, I'm somewhat surprised by the new Steven Wilson album. Pleasant surprises are always welcome though. So, is it because of the title? After all didn't The Kinks leave the recording arena with 'To The Bone'? No, this To The Bone does it all on its own formidable strength.

Wo.

You can listen to To The Bone here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUF_-iSZ9kA

maandag 18 september 2017

David Gilmour Live at Pompeii

Recently I visited the region of Naples and of course used the opportunity to peruse the streets of ancient Pompeii. In fact, it was so huge and impressive, that I visited the archaeological site twice. To walk around through streets that were laid out over two millennia ago, was a sobering yet joyful experience. It is so easy to imagine the old Romans walk around the streets, going about their business and lives.

When we arrived at the amphitheatre's catacombs I was in for an extra surprise. In one wing was an exposition on the concert Pink Floyd staged there, without audience, in the early 70s. In the days before its huge commercial breakthrough. The experimental music was played, parts of the film shown and great pictures of the bandmembers in their youth.

Once home I saw an announcement for a movie called David Gilmour live at Pompeii. 45 Years after the first show there Gilmour returned to play a show with an audience and filmed it. I couldn't resist and bought a ticket to go out and see it in my local theatre. Despite the fact that I haven't listened to any of Gilmour's solo albums a lot through the years.

Shine on
Sunday afternoon in Pathé Haarlem. What is there to say except what a great show this was. Everything seen up close, a sound that is not only perfect but larger than life. Everything is blown up to huge proportions for a maximum effect. One of the things that remains to be said is, what a shame it is that it's impossible for three senior citizens, who once made up 3/4 of Pink Floyd to enjoy this moment together on stage. For the rest it seems I was looking at perfection.

Even the later Pink Floyd songs and the few David Gilmour solo songs did extremely well live. Gilmour played killer guitar solos and the band played all the right sounds. The five voices that together filled in the harmonies created a wall of sound. It was so impressive. A great 'One Of These Days' with Guy Pratt and his delay pedal in a fantastic role on bass, the oldest song played. 'Dark Side Of The Moon', 'Wish You Were Here' and 'The Wall' all had their share. Not only reminding me what my favourite albums of all time are, but confirming it. Why have I never gone to a David Gilmour solo show? I can't tell you any more.

you crazy
Grandad on stage. It's impossible not to think this when watching this movie. Gilmour looks like the dad of one of my young adult year friends. But then the man is in his early 70s and I have to remind myself how old I was when I bought these albums I just mentioned, wearing my 'The Wall' t-shirt from around that time. (Yes, I still have it, and it sort of fits too.)

Looking at the amphitheatre of Pompeii, seeing the Vesuvio behind it I thought 'what am I doing here in the rain and greyness and cold'? Just over a month ago I walked around there in 34 degrees, with a nice tan and drinking fantastic limone granitas.
diamond

The audience at the (two) shows, visited something fairly exclusive. There weren't thousands of people in attendance. Perhaps 2.000, but that may have been it. A show of legendary proportions and a million times better than the 1971 show, when the band still played these experimental, instrumental, weird, spacey shit, from before the bandmembers found out they could write fantastic songs/ Songs they became renowned for, probably for eternity.

What a show. I was really, really impressed and have come to the conclusion that Pink Floyd may in the end be my band of bands in my decades of loving music, surpassing probably The Beatles. WHAT A SHOW!

(Pictures by) Wo.


zondag 17 september 2017

Something To Tell You. Haim

De zussen Alana, Danielle en Este Haim debuteerden al weer bijna vier jaar geleden met Days Are Gone. Het trio uit San Fernando Valley, California, maakte op haar debuut indruk met frisse popliedjes, prima vocalen en vooral met een verrassende mix van invloeden.
 
Ik was persoonlijk zeer te spreken over het aanstekelijke en sprankelende debuut van HAIM en daarom heel nieuwsgierig naar de vandaag verschenen tweede plaat van de zingende zussen uit Californië.
 
Er zit een relatief lange periode tussen het debuut van het drietal en de nieuwe plaat van HAIM, maar bij beluistering van Something To Tell You blijkt er relatief weinig veranderd.
 
Ook op haar nieuwe plaat haalt HAIM haar inspiratie weer uit een aantal decennia popmuziek. De succesvolle platen van Fleetwood Mac uit de jaren 70, die in het ouderlijk huis van Alana, Danielle en Este grijs werden gedraaid, zijn nog steeds een hele belangrijke inspiratiebron, net als de harmonieën van Wilson Phillips, de funky escapades van Prince protegés als Jill Jones en Wendy & Lisa en de R&B van TLC, die de jonge zusjes Haim in de jaren 90 warm maakten voor de popmuziek.
 
HAIM maakt ook op Something To Tell You weer Popmuziek met een hoofdletter P en daar moet je tegen kunnen. Als je er tegen kunt valt er op de tweede plaat van HAIM echter heel veel te genieten.
 
Ook op Something To Tell You grossiert HAIM weer in nagenoeg perfecte popliedjes. Het zijn popliedjes zoals Stevie Nicks ze in haar jonge jaren schreef voor Fleetwood Mac, maar de perfecte pop van Fleetwood Mac uit de jaren 70 is op fascinerende wijze het nieuwe millennium in gehaald en steekt veel knapper in elkaar dan de snel oordelende criticus of de oppervlakkige luisteraar zal vermoeden.
 
Ook op de tweede plaat van HAIM vervult producer Ariel Rechtshaid weer een belangrijke rol. Hij heeft de aangename popliedjes van de zussen Haim voorzien van een fris en sprankelend geluid, dat nadrukkelijk citeert uit de jaren 80 en vooral de jaren 90, maar ook met één been in het heden staat.
 
Alana, Danielle en Este Haim zijn sinds het debuut weer vier jaar ouder geworden en hebben zich flink ontwikkeld. Something To Tell You bulkt van het zelfvertrouwen en laat in vocaal, muzikaal en compositorisch opzicht flinke groei horen. De individuele vocalen zijn krachtiger, terwijl de harmonieën een meer eigen geluid laten horen en waar de rijke mix van invloeden op het debuut nog niet altijd even consistent klonk, heeft HAIM nu een herkenbaar eigen geluid waar het makkelijk patent op kan aanvragen.
 
De songs van het drietal zijn nog net zo onweerstaanbaar als op het debuut, maar laten hier en daar wel wat meer eigenzinnigheid horen. Een vleugje melancholie dat voortkomt uit de niet altijd succesvolle stappen op het liefdespad van Alana, Danielle en Este Haim geven de sprankelende popliedjes van het drietal tenslotte net wat meer diepgang.
 
Something To Tell You doet het prima op de achtergrond als een soundtrack voor een mooie zomerdag, maar luister net wat beter en de kwaliteit van de tweede plaat van HAIM komt nadrukkelijk aan de oppervlakte. En luister zeker tot en met de laatste track, want die is van een bijzondere schoonheid en laat horen dat we van HAIM nog veel meer kunnen verwachten.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Something To Tell You':

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

zaterdag 16 september 2017

Play Dead. Mutemath

It took Mutemath a while to get to me. To use the title of the band's new cd, I played dead for a while. After the third song I could not get through the album, despite liking the first songs. That changed with investing some more time in Play Dead.

Looking into Mutemath on Wikipedia I find a band from New Orleans that is around since 2002 and releasing music since 2004. That is a long time without me having heard a single note. That changed with Play Dead, the band's fifth album.

The album opens with a song that has a distinct prog flavour. It holds faint traces of the Alan Parsons Project, Yes and what I have heard from someone like Steven Wilson recently. 'Hit Parade' is the kind of song that catches my attention. Not just because of the grandeur its exhumes, I am not that big a prog fan, but also because of the pop element and the little elements of madness that pop in and out like a Tourette syndrome sufferer on parade. It makes for an intriguing song with a lot of surprising elements on display and hidden.

The change to the next song is somewhat large. 'Pixie Oaks' is a much more straightforward pop rock song than 'Hit Parade'. A tight, accented rhythm guitar sets the pace for the verses, where the chorus somewhat explodes. In sound the likes of Vampire Weekend come to mind, which is quite a long way off Yes, to name one. Surprising perhaps, but 'Pixie Oaks' also catches my attention and keeps me on my path into Play Dead.

The Madchester rhythm of 'Stroll On' is the next surprise. Especially when Alt-J elements of estrangement move in as well. With the word estrangement, Play Dead is typified quite well so far (and later on). In all songs something happens that sets the listener in another environment than he thought he was. Without disturbing this listener too much. That is a feat. What I do notice is that a dance element has gotten into Play Dead, including some digital scratching. And that is where things went wrong.

In 'Break The Fever' the, odd, rhythm (and a vocoder) take the upper hand. If I wanted to listen to disco, I would have become a fan in the 70s, which I didn't. That is where Mutemath lost me.

Recently I reviewed the album 'Nocturnal' by the German band Nazz and wrote how the band went from a to z and back, over backwards, and how that put me off in the end, despite hearing several nice songs. Mutemath also gives me the idea that all three members have totally different musical tastes and that all three are in control of their own songs, making the band a ship without a rudder.

This is an observation that may hold true. Fact is that after listening better, I find that 'Nuisance' is a small, electronic, but certainly nice song. The pop of 'Placed On Hold' is full of melancholy, where singer Paul Meany captures the atmosphere in a great way. Again a switch from what went before, including a great guitar explosion played by Tom Gummerman, who can finally show what he is capable of.

By then I seem to have accepted the curve balls Mutemath throws at me. O.k., some disco. Why not? Even Arcade Fire does it. I believe it when the band says it did not have any rules when writing and recording Play Dead. Every idea that came into the members' heads was pursued and worked out. Some of it into songs that I have come to like and some that I have come to accept as part of this whole. Like 'Everything's New'. Disco with some great music in there that keeps being interceded with odd balls and weird interruptions.

And so Play Dead continues for a few more songs. I guess you have gotten my drift by now. Mutemath isn't going to be caught in one hole. You have to search for them in many holes and never sure in which one they will be now. Call it versatile, surprising or musically suicidal, Mutemath seems to be getting away with what it is doing on Play Dead. It certainly grew on

Wo.

You can listen to 'Hit Parade' here:

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

vrijdag 15 september 2017

Favourite Pleasures. GUN


In the first week of 1969 a song by a band called Gun entered the Dutch charts. 'Race With The Devil' impressed me no little at the time. Now I would call it a gimmick hit. That Gun was never heard from again, although I found the single second hand somewhere in the past decades. The second Gun scored a hit in the 90s with a cover of Cameo's 'Word Up', a disco song from the 80s that I sort of liked. Never to be heard from again, by me. Gun nor Cameo.

Fast forward to 2017. An album lands on my digital doorstep by a band called GUN. So what Gun is this? Not the one of the Gurvitz brothers, but the band from Glasgow that is making records since 1989. After an hiatus of nearly a decade the band is back in business since 2008, all of which I was totally oblivious of until recently.

With Favourite Pleasures GUN has come up with a rock-pop album that is easy to like, perhaps too easy, but who cares when listening to some great songs? And some great songs can be found on Favourite Pleasures.

Promo photo
Straight away there is some strong riffing going on from the get go. GUN speeds head first into a song into which there is a Led Zeppelin element in the roughness of the riff and the attack of the song, combined with a great sing-a-long chorus. Together 'She Knows' adds up to a grunge meets Britpop at lunch with U.S. powerpop, spiced with a little punky stuff. In short 'She Knows' is totally irresistible.

In this and the rest of Favourite Pleasures the band totally delivers on its own word: "GUN will always have tons of melody - over the years that's been instilled in us". There is not a gram of originality on Favourite Pleasures. From the singing style of Steven Tyler to every pop rock sound of the past decades, they are present on this album. You will find references to so many well-known pieces of music, that it could have been a music quiz. This could have made this album one big cliché. It isn't for a very good reason. What makes it such a pleasure to listen to is the enthusiasm with which it all is presented and the sheer power of the songs. The first and the last criteria for the songs seem to be free flowing melodies and harmonies that are flawless in composition and arrangement. The kind of songs that always seem to have been there and always will be. Tons of melodies indeed.

Promo photo
In the end the name Aerosmith keeps popping up. There is one huge difference though. Where Aerosmith has come up with perhaps 9 truly great songs on all its albums, GUN comes close to that number with just one album. With the exception of the totally unnecessary ballad at the end called 'Boy Who Fooled The World', there isn't a weak brother on this album. There is a little something for all rock fans, save the lovers of the metal side and louder. That could also be a let down for some, not for me. I sit here moving my head and smiling a lot, while writing this review.

There's no need for more words here. This album is a ton, minus one ballad, of fun. With an extra mention for 'Black Heart'.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Favourite Pleasure' here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFFYzg3IvTI


And that other Gun? Alright, you find 'Race With The Devil' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaSxvL5QiVw




donderdag 14 september 2017

Truth Is A Beautiful Thing. London Grammar

Het Britse trio London Grammar debuteerde al weer bijna vier jaar geleden met het terecht de hemel in geprezen If You Wait.
 
Op haar debuut maakte de band uit Londen indruk met een broeierige instrumentatie vol invloeden uit de triphop, maar het sterkste wapen van de band bleek zangeres Hannah Reid, die If You Wait naar grote hoogten tilde.
 
Het succes van het debuut heeft gezorgd voor een flink budget, waardoor London Grammar voor haar tweede plaat kon beschikken over topproducers als Jon Hopkins (Coldplay), Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence + The Machine) en Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia). Ze hebben stuk voor stuk goed geluisterd naar het debuut van London Grammar en vervolgens Hannah Reid de hoofdrol gegeven op Truth Is A Beautiful Thing.
 
De instrumentatie van Dan Rothman en Dot Major is ook dit keer prachtig, maar treedt veel minder op de voorgrond. Het is een wijs besluit, want Hannah Reid maakt ook dit keer een onuitwisbare indruk met een stem vol kracht, subtiliteit en emotie.
 
Truth Is A Beautiful Thing opent opvallend ingetogen. Het tempo ligt laag, de instrumentatie is loom en aardedonker, wat prachtig past bij de van melancholie overlopende zang van Hannah Reid.
 
Door het lage tempo moet je, zeker bij eerste beluistering, wel wat moeite doen om bij de les te blijven. De trage en donkere popsongs van London Grammar dringen zich zeker niet onmiddellijk op, maar wanneer het kwartje eenmaal valt, valt het ook hard.
 
Ondanks het feit dat de band voor haar tweede plaat heeft gekozen voor producers van naam en faam en voor producers die niet vies zijn van grootse en meeslepende hits, heeft London Grammar het eigen geluid dat op If You Wait zo mooi vorm kreeg behouden en verder ontwikkeld.
 
De tweede plaat van de Britten bevat wel iets meer invloeden uit de pop, maar het is smaakvolle en eigenzinnige pop. Het is een moedig besluit, want waar London Grammar met een paar stevige stampers makkelijk de wereld zou kunnen veroveren, liggen de lome en donkere klanken voor menigeen waarschijnlijk wat zwaar op de maag. Persoonlijk heb ik echter een steeds groter zwak voor de meer ingetogen songs van London Grammar en het zijn deze songs die domineren op Truth Is A Beautiful Thing.
 
Zeker bij beluistering met de koptelefoon is goed te horen hoe loodzwaar de ritmes zijn, maar ook hoe subtiel de rest van de instrumentatie is (let maar eens op de prachtige gitaarlijnen en de mooie pianoklanken). Het is de perfecte ondergrond voor de weer hemeltergend mooie vocalen van Hannah Reid, die beter doseert dan op het debuut en ook meer emotie en doorleving laat horen. Het is goed voor heel veel kippenvel.
 
Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is ook nog eens een plaat vol ingehouden spanning. Je verwacht dat de ingehouden en zich langzaam voortslepende klanken ieder moment tot uitbarsting komen, maar dat gebeurt uiteindelijk 50 minuten niet (op de luxe editie van de plaat zelfs ruim een uur niet).
 
Waar If You Wait met louter superlatieven werd onthaald, zijn de reacties dit keer gemengd. Persoonlijk vind ik Truth Is A Beautiful Thing niet alleen een waardig opvolger van het prachtdebuut maar bovendien een stap vooruit.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Truth Is A Beautiful Thing':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPcPtd3k-Qg

woensdag 13 september 2017

Resurgam. Fink

Someone on a mission Fink seems to be. His second album in 2017 sees the light of day and both are memorable. So it is possible to produce more than one album a year and be consistent after all.

This spring Fink released an album filled with self-penned blues songs, that was favourably reviewed on this blog. (Read on here if you like to find out more: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2017/03/finks-sunday-night-blues-club-vol-1-fink.html) Now Resurgam, which does not necessarily mean a giant leap between styles. The album is freer as Fink does not pin himself down to one idiom.

Where the two albums meet, is the atmosphere and the down to basics production. 'Resurgam' is also the name of the song the album opens with. It is the musical equivalent of an uprising. They all start small with more and more people latching on until its a surge, a wave that pushes away everything in front of it. In 'Resurgam' Fink adds instrument after instrument, playing with ever more gusto. The strong point of the song is that there is no rush, no hurry. The song moves forward as an unstoppable force, in one pace, dark and brooding but ever hopeful of the positive ending. "I will rise up, I will rise again". No matter how many times it takes. All 8.35 minutes of the song are used to make the point.

My introduction to Fink was somewhere in the 00s, where, I think my ex-colleague and erstwhile WoNo Magazine contributor Inge pointed me to the album 'Biscuits For Breakfast'. I lost sight of Fink later on, until I received his blues album earlier this year. Also the second album of this year is to my taste.

Resurgam mixes several musical styles. The basis could be called blues, without using the standard blues idiom, let alone the 12 bar blues. In feel certainly the essence of the blues is present in a song like 'Day 22'. From there Fink starts his work, with rhythm, electronics and traditional instruments. So it can be that I hear an influence from Massive Attack and triphop. The addition of an electric guitar, live drums and bass, makes the song far more energetic, while keeping the triphop atmosphere. The result can be heard in a song like 'Cracks Appear', as far as I'm concerned one of the flagships of Resurgam.

Fin Greenall totally surprises me when everything is stripped away and there's just a piano and a voice. The mildly rough voice of Greenall brings 'Word To The Wise' totally alive. The kind of ballad that cuts through everything to catch the listener at his most vulnerable. A few strings that enter the song late, make the point that was already made, stand out some more.

Resurgam keeps impressing me from this moment on. Whether it is an acoustic guitar that is in the lead ('Not Everything Was Better In The Past'), electronics and beats ('The Determined Cut') or an electric guitar ('Godhead') the compositions stand out. The songs on the album mostly have been stripped to the bone it seems, after which only what was really necessary was put back in place, allowing the listener to hear the bare essence of Resurgam and Fink.

With his new album Fink impresses me. I am truly curious how our relationship is going to develop over the coming months. For now the album is on the longlist for my end of year list.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Cracks appear' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy31vJQPPk0

dinsdag 12 september 2017

Death Goldbloom. Tim Claridge

Some time before the holidays I received an email from two artists who are connected. Only for me personally and no one else. Both announced new work and I did not have the time to review either before I left. 'Undici' by Bongley Dead was reviewed last week. Now I'm making amends to Tim Claridge.

Those following this blog will have seen the name of this Vancouver, Canada based artist pop up in different guises. This is the first time under his own name. The album is named after his former (?) band. Just to confuse the world some more.

Death Goldbloom is different from what Claridge has released before. The album is basically a solo effort. Tim Claridge, an acoustic guitar and some keyboards, not necessarily unpowered. An electric guitar does show up here and there. This creates a solemn album. Now that is nothing new. All his albums are solemn. What is new is that he can totally convince in such a bare environment.

First there is his voice. Here is a singer, with a capitol S who can vary easily between his higher and lower register. Secondly there is the guitar meister. This man can play guitar in different styles in a great and majestic way. Thirdly Tim Claridge writes great songs, blues infused, with hellhounds on his tail. Darkness and the devil are never far away. Finally the combination of the three spells talented.

When some slide guitar enters the whole thing goes up one notch further. I can imagine Mark Lanegan sing 'Long Time Comin'' one of these days. Now that would be a great way to get Tim's name out there. Chris Isaak might be a candidate for 'Placebo Diablo'.

From this blues we move into some Spanish guitar playing. Now 'Buddhist Casanova' is not something I would have expected to hear on this album. Behind the classical guitar a slide guitar is played, putting things a bit askew. I'm not sure this combination works though.

Death Goldbloom is an album that is top-heavy. I have to admit that I seldom listen to it in one go. When I hear a song like 'Blue Dream' though I am totally back to where I should be with Death Goldbloom. In a day and age where albums do not seem to matter any more for most people this problem is taken away for them. For me, an oldfashioned album appreciator, it is not. This does not mean that I look upon Death Goldbloom negatively. Far from even.

The darkness in several songs is totally convincing. Claridge must be a man who likes to work in the darkness and let that time of the day inspire him. If you listen to 'Torn Apart' I can feel a coldness creeping up on me. And at the same time in my mind I can hear him sing this song with Natalie Ramsay, giving the song a totally different atmosphere as the light and shade would have been balanced. The quality of the song shows that it doesn't take a lot to create a great, impressive song. A voice and an electric guitar, played with total reticence.

As I wrote, it takes patience to find the quality of the songs further on in the album. It pays off though. Tim Claridge's new album contains a whole bunch of great songs. Go over and listen for yourself. And pay something before you download. An artist has to live in order to produce great songs like this.

Wo.

You can (listen to and) buy Death Goldbloom for your preferred price here:

https://timclaridge.bandcamp.com/album/death-goldbloom

maandag 11 september 2017

Lust For Life. Lana del Rey

Another of the bigger releases during my holidays was Lust For Life. Readers of this blog have noticed that I have a weakness for the voice and music of Lana del Rey. That she has a gracious appearance is a nice addition, but when I listen to her music, there are no pictures involved. With her albums 'Honeymoon' (2015) but especially 'Ultraviolence' (2014) she entered my musical universe. Although, that happened before that with the song 'Ride', that impressed me a lot. The sensual atmosphere is more than a gimmick. Lana del Rey creates a universe of her own, that incorporates the world of Doris Day movies as much as modern R&B. The mix that (the team around) Lana del Rey conjures up is sort of irresistible.

Now there is Lust For Life, Del Rey's third album since breakthrough album 'Born To Die' (2012). The title has nothing to with Iggy Pop's same titled punk album and hit of 1977. Not even in atmosphere or intent. This Lust For Life is enjoyed from a lounge chair with all the time of the world to enjoy this moment. Luxurious food and exotic cocktails within reach.

On Lust For Life Lana del Rey is more aligned to modern dance and R&B than before. In a Lorde sort of way. Cooperation with singers and rappers are a part of this latest album. I notice The Weeknd, but also names that have no meaning for me. A famous name is Stevie Nicks, which is a logical choice. Vocally the ladies certainly are related. Another guest role is filled in by Sean Ono Lennon, who has found his own role in music, by mainly staying in the background. A whole host of co-producers are on the list, with Lana del Rey and Rick Nowels present in all songs. Nowels has a list of productions longer than I can post here. The list of people that are credited for songwriting, the record is 7, producing, a record of 5, and playing instruments is almost like reading the phonebook. How many people are needed to make an album these days?

In the cover photograph Lana Del Rey looks like a country girl, smiling!, in the 60s about to be snapped up by the Beautiful People on the move to San Francisco. No more 1950s chic. Does that mean that the music has changed also?

Taking the whole album in, yes, it has. The edge that Dan Auerbach gave 'Ultraviolence' had been stripped away for a more smooth sound on 'Honeymoon' and this becomes even more so on Lust For Life. For the bigger audience that seems to be a fine choice, for me it is not. I liked that combination a lot. That does not mean that there is nothing to enjoy on Lust For Life. Towards the end of the album the album becomes a blur though. Too much songs that seem to sound the same. The songs become interchangeable as far as I'm concerned.

The Lorde comparison is not such a strange one. Just listen to the song that opens Lust For Life. 'Love' is a very bare song with Lana del Rey's voice floating over the electronic background. "Young and in love", it must be a nice memory for her. For me it seems that with a song like 'Love' Lana del Rey has surrendered something that made her unique.

Something of the mystery returns with the single 'Lust For Life', a collaboration with Canadian singer The Weeknd. It's a song in which the electronic background doesn't hinder me as much as it did with 'Love'. This suits the Lana I want to hear better.

And then enters '13 Beaches'. Lana del Rey shows here that she could sing the right song without anything behind her and still mesmerise me. Again slow beats and electronic sounds enter the song, but I'm o.k. with them here. This is classic Lana alright. Aloof and warm, detached and longing, all these contradictions balled into one voice.

It goes of and on on Lust For Life. My main complaint remains these beats and electronics that have replaced the atmospherics of her previous albums. Lana del Rey steps into the 10s with Lust For Life. Yet again, I can't help noticing that she lost a part of herself in the process. In a beautiful song like 'White Mustang' I'm distracted the whole time time by the horrible fake drums and disturbing percussion and other noises. It's a shame.

Unfortunately things are not going to be alright between this album and me. And I haven't even mentioned the rappers yet, which I'm not going to do. Lust For Life is just not for me. "Bitches" is a word that does not fit Lana del Rey.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Lust For Life' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP4eqhWc7sI

zondag 10 september 2017

This Tall To Ride. Robyn Ludwick

Robyn Ludwick ken ik van haar in 2005 in eigen beheer uitgebrachte debuut en de drie jaar later verschenen opvolger.
 
Op haar debuut For So Long maakte de singer-songwriter uit Texas direct een onuitwisbare indruk. Robyn Ludwick was destijds begin 30, net moeder en had geen makkelijk leven op het Texaanse platteland. Het zorgde voor een doorleefde rootsplaat vol indringende persoonlijke verhalen.
 
De uit een zeer muzikale familie afkomstige singer-songwriter maakte minstens evenveel indruk met het in 2008 verschenen Too Much Desire, dat haar had moeten scharen onder de smaakmakers van de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek.
 
De afgelopen negen jaar hoorde ik eigenlijk niets van Robyn Ludwick, sinds ze een week of wat geleden haar nieuwe plaat aankondigde in de mailbox. This Tall To Ride is inmiddels verschenen en ook dit is weer een prachtplaat.
 
Robyn Ludwick maakt nog steeds alt-country waarin de gitaren af en toe mogen uithalen, waarin de verhalen vooral de donkere zijde van het leven belichten en waarin de singer-songwriter uit Texas imponeert met emotievolle en doorleefde vocalen.
 
Denk aan de platen van Lucinda Williams, het rauwere werk van Allison Moorer, de prachtplaten van Patti Griffin en de platen van Rosanne Cash, om maar eens een aantal namen te noemen. Met het noemen van namen doe je Robyn Ludwick overigens tekort, want de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter maakt ook op haar nieuwe plaat weer diepe indruk met ijzersterke songs, een indringend en broeierig geluid en een stem waarvan je alleen maar kunt houden.
 
Ook This Tall To Ride is weer een donkere plaat, waarop onderwerpen als liefde, seks, drank en drugs centraal staat. Het maakt de songs van Robyn Ludwick een stuk rauwer dan die van frisse, jonge en momenteel razend populaire countryzangeressen als Kacey Musgraves en al haar soortgenoten. De populariteit van deze jonge countryzangeressen uit Nashville zal Robyn Ludwick niet snel evenaren, maar in kwalitatief opzicht kan This Tall To Ride de competitie makkelijk aan.
 
De songs van Robyn Ludwick dringen zich ook dit keer genadeloos op en snijden door de donkere teksten en de doorleefde zang meerdere keren door de ziel. Net als bijvoorbeeld Amanda Pearcy maakt Robyn Ludwick muziek die iets met je doet, of je dat nu wilt of niet.
 
Ook in muzikaal opzicht valt er op This Tall To Ride heel veel te genieten. Robyn Ludwick heeft een aantal prima muzikanten verzameld, die zorgen voor een rauw en broeierig geluid, waarin de gitaren de hoofdrol spelen en meer dan eens zorgen voor gitaarpartijen van een enorme schoonheid.

Ik was Robyn Ludwick eerlijk gezegd wat uit het oog verloren na haar tweede plaat, maar direct bij de eerste noten van haar nieuwe plaat was ik verkocht. This Tall To Ride is sindsdien alleen maar veel beter geworden en behoort absoluut tot de beste rootsplaten die 2017 tot dusver heeft opgeleverd.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt This Tall To Ride hier beluisteren en kopen:

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/robynludwick22 

zaterdag 9 september 2017

A Deeper Understanding. The War On Drugs

The war that is going on for decades and simply can't be won. There are too many people who enjoy the use of it, not counting those who have become compulsive users. So the band's name is quite provocative in the face of the stern U.S. government.

The band's previous album, album of the year in 2014 in many a poll, 'Lost In The Dream' in the end did not carry me away. In fact, for me it was too much Springsteen, an artist that I simply do not get. For the life of me I can't understand his popularity through the past decades and have a hard time naming five songs that I like. (Roy Bittan as pianist for David Bowie. Now that is another matter.)

Come 2017 and The War On Drugs releases its first album after the great breakthrough. Again the critics walk away with the band, as far as I read something on the album. In my local record store there was a record on, with a good, straightforward song playing, that had me thinking the whole time: 'who is this?'. It wasn't the band or artist I thought though. (I'm still trying to put a name to it.) Liking the next two songs as well, I brought the cd home. The LP was another of these insanely priced affairs, that I've decided to pass up on.

What I liked about what I heard was the combination of grandeur, a solid straightforward sound and an American pop element that sounded like the perfect mix. There wasn't a single Springsteen thought entering my mind, so there was nothing stopping me.

Having listened to the album as a whole by now, what strikes me, is that there seems to be nothing hinting at pressure to come up with a successful new record. Adam Granduciel is one of the lucky ones for who true success comes at a later age. Where the artist has reached a level of maturity and has worked hard to be where he is. That puts things somewhat in perspective. It seems to have allowed him to come up with, in my opinion, a better album than 'Lost In The Dream'.

Having heard the album multiple times since I wrote this introduction, allowed me to get an, ahem, deeper understanding of the album. My appreciation has certainly grown. On the other hand a little hesitation for the future grew also. Let me explain.

A Deeper Understanding is a solid affair. Seen from a distance it seems a monolith of sound. Something so solid that nothing can penetrate it. Step closer and I notice all these little spots that glisten on the sides of the monolith. Gems that are distributed without any hesitation nor discrimination. This can take the form of a fine guitar solo, the build-up of a song, the extra instrument(s) that is(are) added to the whole, making the song even more dense or the unsuspecting soft ballad. A Deeper Understanding is full of these moments. I am not even going to try to give examples. Everyone appreciating the album will find moments for him or herself to deeply enjoy. As such the album is deeply satisfying.

Without even touching close to Steely Dan's music, I'm reminded of the approach of its music in the music on A Deeper Understanding. Each song goes for the max and whatever is added has to fit into what is already there or requires complicated changes to what was there before. In other words the arrangements are intricate (inside of that monolith). A surprise is the Paul Simon nod that starts 'Knocked Down', one of the ballads.

And then 'Holding On' starts once again and I know: The Waterboys. That is why I couldn't figure it out straight away. Granduciel is singing somewhat like Mike Scott here with music that is far too solid for The Waterboys. Ah, problem solved.

Where my concern lies, is that because of the density of most songs, I may not grow to have a deeper relationship with the album. As most songs easily pass the five minutes and are dark at the outside, like the cover is, this adds to my concerns. It takes some stamina at times to sit through the whole album. Which could lead to playing the album less in the future. It is time to listen with my headset on. To discover even more. The basis for a lasting relationship is laid. I'll have to see what happens next.

For now, it is easy to conclude that one of the bigger releases this year totally satisfies. The War On Drugs won me over with A Deeper Understanding. It took a while, but I'm there.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Holding On' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-oHBkikDBg

vrijdag 8 september 2017

Nocturnal. Razz

Listening to this album for the first time I did not get past the first songs. I can't remember the reason. It was enough to note down the album for a potential review. In other words I liked what I was hearing. Boy, was I in for a surprise when I put on the album again.

Nocturnal starts off as an alternative rock album. The overall mood is one of a band being alternative, without drawing outside of the lines one single time. As I had just finished writing my review of the Italian band Bongley Dead's latest album 'Undici', I couldn't help notice the differences. Both play alternative rock, but the differences are so huge. And all similarities mostly disappeared a little further into Nocturnal.

Nocturnal is an album with two faces - I wrote about a week ago. Listening to the album some more in the past days, I'm more of the impression that Nocturnal is the result of a band with a multiple person disorder. The last time I was so confused was after an album by the Swedish band Mando Diao. Razz delves into so many influences that this album sounds more like a Greatest Hits compilation (filled with unknown songs) than a consistent work by one band.

The question is whether this is a bad thing or not. The answer, as things often go, is somewhere in the middle. I think that if I was to ask different people to listen to this album, all would come up with different favourites. Now that will often be the case, but with Nocturnal things will be much more black and white. Simply because the starting point of many songs come from totally different backgrounds.

As I wrote, the album starts quite nice. Alternative rock, with some Britpop influence and a danceable rhythm. The Rifles come back, as does The Killers, so in its backburner many 80s hitband (from the U.K.) can be identified in opening song 'Paralysed', which certainly is one of the strong songs on the album. A great opening song. The two songs that follow mix synths into the alternative rock, but that does not change the outlook of Nocturnal. The Rifles remain my main reference point and I can live with that. Both 'Trapdoor' and 'Could Sleep' keep a fine deep end and score well.

In 'Another Heart/Another Mind' the speed leaves the album. That as such is understandable. It makes sure the album is varied and not one dimensional. Under the surface the alternative rock remains present while the music mixes triphop with a single beat in parts of the song. Until the beat is released later in the song. But I just don't find my way into this song.

Then White Lies comes by, with a prominent base and a synth in the background. Not for the first time Simple Minds comes into my mind, but also Arctic Monkeys. The harmonies are vintage Alex Turner c.s., before we really move into dance with a rock guitar and drum with 'Step Step Step'. This song gives me the impression that the members of Razz have listened very hard to their heroes, but failed to come up with a fitting song. 'By & By' does another fine The Killers, as per its first album, song, where rock and synths are mixed again in a convincing way.

'Lecter' moves into triphop and 80s synthpop, where the band loses me again. The Rifles return again, then a dance influenced song that again shows the darker side of Razz, before it all ends with a ballad played on an electronic piano. By then I'm up the creek without a peddle.

All this may sound overly negative but it isn't. Just over half of the songs are quite alright and a few others have their moments. What I have difficulty with is getting Nocturnal as an album. It gives me the impression to be a collection of individual songs that were stuck on one silver coloured disk for convenience.

Be that as it may, this German band has produced an album that gives food for thought and that is something that cannot be said of all albums. It manages to get a person put of his/her comfort zone. So go out there and make up your own mind on Nocturnal. Assuredly you will find something to your taste(s).

Wo.

You can listen to 'Paralysed' here:

https://razzofficial.bandcamp.com/track/paralysed

donderdag 7 september 2017

Postcards. Pieta Brown

Twee jaar geleden schreef Erwin Zijleman een lovende recensie over het album 'Paradise Outlaw' van Pieta Brown (lees het hier: https://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2015/05/paradise-outlaw-pieta-brown.html). In 2017 geeft hij de zangeres opnieuw de aandacht die zij verdient.

Pieta Brown timmert al zo’n 15 jaar aan de weg en heeft inmiddels acht platen op haar naam staan.
 
Het zijn platen die over het algemeen niet heel veel aandacht krijgen en daarmee doen we de dochter van singer-songwriter Greg Brown enorm tekort.
 
Ik ben hier zelf ook schuldig aan, want nadat ik drie jaar geleden zeer enthousiast was over het bijzonder fraaie Paradise Outlaw, heb ik de nieuwe plaat van de singer-songwriter uit Iowa City al weer een tijdje laten liggen.
 
Het is doodzonde, want wat is Postcards een fantastische plaat. De achtste plaat van Pieta Brown werd, net als zijn zo mooie voorganger, geproduceerd door de gelouterde Bo Ramsey, die Postcards heeft voorzien van een fraai en intiem geluid.
 
Het grote publiek weet de muziek van Pieta Brown misschien nog niet op de juiste waarde te schatten, maar haar collega muzikanten doen dat gelukkig wel. Postcards bevat bijdragen van onder andere Mark Knopfler, Calexico, The Pines, David Lindley, Mason Jennings, Carrie Rodriguez en een aantal Ramsey telgen; stuk voor stuk muzikanten die iets bijzonders neer kunnen zetten en dat ook doen.
 
Postcards is desondanks een opvallend ingetogen plaat. De aangerukte sterren zorgen voor wonderschone accenten, maar het staat allemaal in dienst van het sobere, voornamelijk akoestische geluid op Postcards en de bijzondere stem van Pieta Brown.

De singer-songwriter uit Iowa City zingt ook op haar nieuwe plaat weer intiem en fluisterzacht, maar op een of andere manier slaagt ze er in om haar soms bijna lieflijke vocalen oprecht en doorleefd te laten klinken. Dit is mede de verdienste van Bo Ramsey, die steeds een opvallend smaakvol, vaak indringend en vaak ook atmosferisch geluid neerzet, waar Pieta Brown haar mooie stem tegenaan kan vleien.
 
Postcards staat garant voor veel muzikaal vuurwerk en vocalen waarvan ik kippenvel krijg, maar Pieta Brown is ook nog eens gegroeid als songwriter. Postcards is een voornamelijk ingetogen plaat, maar van verveling is geen seconde sprake. Pieta Brown vertelt op Postcards mooie verhalen en vertolkt ze op oorstrelende wijze in songs die betoveren en bezweren.
 
Al even oorstrelend is het prachtige gitaarwerk op de plaat, dat steeds net iets anders klinkt omdat steeds een andere gitarist aan mag schuiven. Het zijn gitaristen van naam en faam die op Postcards te horen zijn en dat heeft absoluut meerwaarde.
 
Zeker op de late avond komt de muziek van Pieta Brown uitstekend tot zijn recht en stijgt Postcards tot steeds grotere hoogten. Postcards gaat waarschijnlijk niets veranderen aan de waardering die Pieta Brown krijgt voor haar muziek, maar liefhebbers van Amerikaanse rootsmuziek die deze plaat wel oppakken, hebben al snel een plaat in handen die je alleen maar intens wil koesteren.
 
Paradise Outlaw was drie jaar geleden prachtig, maar met Postcards levert de zo getalenteerde Pieta Brown een plaat af van een niveau dat maar door heel weinig (roots)muzikanten wordt gehaald.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'In The Light'"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXdP0kWzHzU