William The Conqueror – Proud Disturber Of The Peace 2017

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William The Conqueror – Proud Disturbed Of The Peace2017 seems to be the year of artists going solo, independent, or otherwise walking away from major record deals. Ruarri Joseph has established himself a member of this trend, leaving his solo folk career behind for more grungy shores, hoping that a new direction would allow him to loosen the restraints on his creativity which was otherwise being restricted by record label demands.

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Joseph’s new band William The Conqueror (featuring drummer Harry Harding and bassist Naomi Holmes) is another reminder that separating oneself from a major industry label can be artistically freeing, and their debut album Proud Disturber Of The Peace is a sign that William The Conqueror know how to work that new found freedom into a consistent and enjoyable album.

After one listen to the band’s debut release it is clear that trying to label Joseph’s newest project with a specific genre presents a challenge. There are hints of country in the guitar hooks and bluesy rhythms are peppered throughout the album, while the overall feel and the band’s laid back approach to performance says good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

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LCD Soundsystem – American Dream 2017

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“It’s gonna have to be good enough, I can’t do this anymore, my brain won’t work.” So James Murphy confesses on recent single “Tonite”. Hardly an encouraging admission given LCD Soundsystem‘s America dream is probably the most anticipated comeback record of the year. But then Murphy has always tried to pre-empt and derail expectation and criticism, as his outfit’s premature split itself suggests.
…LCD Soundsystem have always been great performers, so it stood to reason that their live prowess, coupled with an appetite born out of a near-five-year abstinence, would hit the spot. New material, on the other hand, is a different matter. Popular music history is littered with disappointment when it comes to the ‘comeback……record’.

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Ergo, fans will no doubt approach American Dream with a degree of trepidation.

Happily, for the most part, any lingering doubt is unfounded even if, on first listen, American Dreamsounds so familiar it’s a little disconcerting. Sure, there’s an expectation that the band sound like themselves, but initially, the synths, beats and Murphy’s vocal style feel a little too habitual. Other Voices reworks Us V Them, and Tonite can err too close to LCD-by-numbers for example. But then should we really expect to be dazzled by one of recent years’ most adept magpies? While LCD Soundsystem’s music has always cribbed from and re-imagined numerous touchstones and genres, had the hunter-gatherer in James Murphy finally exhausted his territory?

It turns out not. This record, more than any from their back catalogue, is a slow burn. It doesn’t have the spiky malevolence of North American Scum or the punchy pull of Daft Punk Is Playing At My House, but it does have depth to spare. Sonically, it’s the richest record they have produced. The nine-minute plus How Do You Sleep’s opening tribal beat and subtle digital tinkling leave Murphy’s cries of “I can’t hear you anymore” sounding like they are echoing out into the abyss. It’s a spooky and troubling opening, which builds gradually and magnificently to a crescendo capped with the repeated line “And six steps back.” Other Voices includes a lovely bass line that recalls Tina Weymouth on baggier form; Emotional Haircut dabbles in a cacophony of rhythmical layers, and Change Yr Mind apes David Bowie’s Fame guitar licks to great effect (his presence pervades the record more than any other LCD Soundsystem recording, which is saying something).

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Lyrically, Murphy imprints himself seemingly without outside influence. American Dream is certainly the saddest record LCD Soundsystem has produced. These are songs battered by self-doubt, a preoccupation with getting older (a theme that has run through much of his work) and aching laments for his failure to connect. Time and time again he berates himself: “You know that you’re the only one who’s been destroying all the fun,” painting a picture of a party pooper extraordinaire. The themes of the record aren’t restricted to his own preconceived shortfalls, as more than ever his view is outward looking. Call The Police reflects political confusion: “Well, there’s a full-blown rebellion but you’re easy to confuse/By triggered kids and fakers and some questionable views/Oh, call the cops, call the preachers!” And Other Voices touches on division: “Your still a pushover for passionate people/and you’re just a baby now/with those soft hands and no eyes/resisting other voices.”

There are thematic crossovers between this record and Arcade Fire’s recent Everything Now, such as “Everybody’s singing the same song,” versus “Every song that I’ve ever heard/Is playing at the same time/It’s absurd.” But unlike Arcade Fire’s inglorious and patronising efforts (“Love is hard/Sex is easy” or “Be my Wendy, I’ll be your Peter Pan” to quote just a couple of that record’s lyrical horrors), Murphy is far more pragmatic and unsentimental, whether he’s debunking Hallmark sentiments – “Yeah, we don’t waste time with love/It’s just a push and a shove” – or demanding “So get up and stop your complaining”, he’s is pretty adept at calling bullshit when he sees it.

It’s difficult to believe Arcade Fire’s sentiments on Everything Now, feeling as clunky and forced as they do, but in spite of Murphy’s recent claims that he broke up his band to sell tickets, it’s his record that is the more convincing of the two. Despite his best efforts to sabotage a sense of authenticity, the messages on the record remain credible.

American Dream is flawed, human, and will only commit to one certainty: “You’re getting older/I promise you this; you’re getting older.” Yet it isn’t a depressing record. Like any other LCD Soundsystem album it will doubtless encourage folk onto their feet, and whilst Murphy may rue a perceived failure to connect, this is where he will unite others.

Equally, although these songs wreak of dissatisfaction in places, he’s no cynic, and while overall it’s a less immediate work than their previous efforts, the added complexity will no doubt ensure its longevity. The most instant song on the record is the lead single Call The Police, and while it might be an unabashed play for glory, he can be forgiven the pitch. After all, this time his fans still wanted a hit, and he deserved one. Murphy’s fallibility has proved to be his strength.

Thanks to charlie for writing this up .

 

 

The National – Sleep Well Beast 2017

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So it has arrived and im happy the The National HQ sent me out a advanced copy . Seventh album from American indie rock band The National, due September 8, 2017. In an interview with Rolling Stone, lead singer Matt Berninger said that the album is “about marriage, and it’s about marriages falling apart. I’m happily married, and but it’s hard, marriage is hard and my wife and I are writing the lyrics together about our own struggles and it’s difficult to write, but it’s saving my marriage. Not saving my marriage, my marriage is healthy, but it’s good for everything! And so it’s gonna be a strange record, and I’m crazy about it.”

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and the only photo that actually turned out when i went to see them London

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Indigo Code

I don’t really know when my love for denim started , But i do know that i have been wearing it from an early age because it was cheap and it took some shit from climbing and other duties of being a young lad . But there has not been a stage of my life that i have been without denim and i don’t really think i could cope without this material of God .

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In fact most folks around have gone through there life being connected with denim in some way , shape or form and if you have managed to get through life without owning denim then the first question you need to be asked is ” How The Fuck Have You Managed .

I have seen myself cancel events or not even show because no jeans are allowed . i have turned up at nightclubs and been refused entry on there NO DENIM POLICY when its totally clear that my denim cost more than you £50 matalan trousers, jacket , shirt and tie oh and that’s also counting the doorman’s footwear also but for all the bad rap denim has had over the years i’ll defend it and stand by it .

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For me denim sits along side good music and good bourbon with good pizza if you can crack all them in one shot you just know  inside you own this shit . So even over this summer i have been cutting around in a indigo denim sarong and i have been on a mission hunting down denim i have found some bargains and i have even been given a pair that need some TLC and some good needle work .

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So the above picture is what i’m actually on the hunt for now , i mean i could easily buy a new one but that would be cheating i want one worn with a little bit of history a little beaten and a little mystery and i wont stop till i find one .

 

 

Buffalo Canyon

Well at the beginning of the year we lost our bass player and our drummer  but i guess these things happen , And it wasn’t through bad vibes our change of direction it just happened . so Gary and myself sat down and thought about how we overcome this issue after trying out new bass players and drummers none of them actually got what we as a band are about or had a clue of less is more if that makes any sense .

So after heaps of coffee and bouncing around ideas and plans we actually came up with lets just do all the parts ourselves until we actually found the correct people we want this time rather than just grab the first available bassist and drummer and to quote Gary ” if they like us they will join us ”

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So we went back to something that we loved and reworked it i tried to come up with a dirty bass line but it eluded me hence why i don’t play bass , we did two version of this and this is the radio friendly version . the live version really has a groove to it and will post that up on our soundcloud page in a few weeks

 

 

so on that note i’m outta here i have a heap of Guinness to get through after all it is a saturday night .

Its All Been A Little Slow

Things have a been a little slow round here and not much new music coming my way, but saying that the new Waxahatchee album arrived today and i just know that’s going to be so good . also having no mobile is fantastic its been a total detox from being on call to everyone . the down side is having to use my ipad for everything at the moment and that’s a rare thing i use normally avoid all apple products .

so i’m working on this playlist that i pick two songs from some of my albums and put them out there and its time to share with you now . this list will never stop growing so a quick check every now and then would be recommended

The Book Of Denim

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So i won a competition on instagram a few weeks back to win a book of denim and i had to enter a photo of me wearing my denim so like a complete selfie wanker i did . And low and behold i won out of 11k folks (i never win anything ) .

so in the image above is the book i won and i gotta say its a great book and finding out so much about denim . everyone should own good denim that has to be a law right? anyway so today im kicking around in my french workwear denim top that i picked up over the weekend for £5.00 oh the love of a junk shop and i have a heap of promos to sift through . im outta here

Mojave 3 – spoon and rafter 2003

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Mojave 3 is a firm all time favourite here and a little bit of me always hopes that they return with more amazing music . Spoon and Rafter was released on 22 September 2003 in the UK, and a day later in the US. After the break up of Slowdive in 95 Neil Halstead formed the birth of Mojave 3 and released 5 amazing albums

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The Schramms – One Hundred Questions 2000

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Shaped from former members of Yo La Tengo, The Human Switchboard and Peter Stanfel’s Bottlecaps, The Schramms have been a Hoboken and New York fixture since 1985.

Finding a place in the sun both in the U.S. and in Europe, they have become one of rock’s most respected and talented bands.

Dave Schramm can also be heard as a featured guitarist on current works by Richard Buckner, Freedy Johnston, Soul Asylum, The Replacements and Whiskeytown.

This Album establishes the depth and sophistication of these veteran song crafters. This time, they’ve enlisted J.D. Foster to produce. This release is tight, and precise. The songs belong together and make for a flowing, detailed and intriguing work – like a book you cannot put down.

The band is joined by such luminaries as Richard Buckner, Syd Straw and Jeb Loy Nichols who all share in the vocals and the atmosphere.

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Lambchop – Awcmon 2003

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Well before i head off for another weekend off grid i thought i would share this album with you all . So i have uploaded a heap of Lambchop up to the ipod so you know ill be listening to the complete discography .

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Touted as “Nashville’s most fucked-up country band” by their label Merge Records, Lambchop was arguably the most consistently brilliant and unique American group to emerge during the 1990s. Their unclassifiable hybrid of country, soul, jazz, and avant-garde noise seemed at one time or another to drink from every conceivable tributary of contemporary music, its Baroque beauty all held together by the surreal lyrical wit and droll vocal presence of frontman Kurt Wagner. Although Lambchop’s ever-rotating roster would later expand to over a dozen members, the group formed in 1986 as a simple three-piece teaming Wagner, guitarist Jim Watkins, and bassist Marc Trovillion, former high school classmates already ten years removed from the educational system. Originally dubbed Posterchild, the trio made its earliest recordings in Trovillion’s bedroom, self-releasing a series of cassettes with titles like I’m Fucking Your Daughter. In time, the lineup began to grow and the band regularly performed live in and around the Nashville area, often at the area record shop, Lucy’s (not coincidentally owned by Wagner’s wife, Mary).

I Hope You’re Sitting Down (aka Jack’s Tulips) In 1992, Posterchild — now consisting of Wagner, Trovillion, guitarist Bill Killbrew, clarinetist Jonathan Marx, multi-instrumentalist Scott C. Chase, drummer Steve Goodhue, and percussionist Allen Lowery — released An Open Fresca + A Moist Towlette, a split single with friends Crop Circle Hoax. The 7″ brought the group to the attention of entertainment lawyer George Regis, who issued cease-and-desist orders on behalf of his clients, the noise pop band Poster Children. After rejecting the names REN, Pinnacles of Cream, and Turd Goes Back, the band settled on Lambchop, added vocalist/saxophonist Deanna Varagona, steel guitarist Paul Niehaus, and organist John Delworth, and signed to Merge to release the 1993 single “Nine.” Their debut LP, I Hope You’re Sitting Down (aka Jack’s Tulips), followed a year later. In many ways, this album would be the most conventional Lambchop record. Its Nashville origins and torch-and-twang ambience would saddle the band with the increasingly erroneous alt-country tag, although Wagner’s Lou Reed-like vocals and bizarre narrative conceits — in particular the fan-favorite “Soaky in the Pooper,” a vivid recounting of a bad LSD trip — immediately signaled their obvious distance from the likes of Uncle Tupelo or the Jayhawks.
How I Quit Smoking The lovely How I Quit Smoking appeared in 1996 (although on the subsequent “Cigaretiquette” single, Wagner would proudly announce, “I’m smoking again”). Recorded live the previous Independence Day, the Hank EP followed later in 1996. Marking the debut of drummer Paul Burch, the disc represented the apotheosis of Lambchop’s Billy Sherrill-inspired phase, its lush production evoking the Nashville sound so popular three decades earlier, but by then completely passé among Music City’s chart superstars. 1997’s Thriller proved a major turning point; highlighted by the Muscle Shoals soul of “Your Fucking Sunny Day” and including no fewer than three songs penned by East River Pipe’s F.M. Cornog, this sprawling, difficult album introduced the uncompromising eclecticism that would dominate Lambchop’s work from here on out. The follow-up, 1998’s What Another Man Spills, upped the ante further. On remarkably soulful covers of Curtis Mayfield’s “Love Song (Give Me Your Love)” and Frederick Knight’s “I’ve Been Lonely for So Long,” Wagner’s baritone drawl even gives way to a Prince-like falsetto. That same year, the group also backed Vic Chesnutt on his album The Salesman and Bernadette.
NixonLambchop’s fifth full-length, Nixon, appeared in the spring of 2000. Supposedly a concept album exploring the presidency of the infamous Tricky Dick, Wagner even included a bibliography in the liner notes — a direct connection to the Watergate scandal remains unidentified. Though still criminally unknown at home, Lambchop enjoyed a much more substantial following overseas, and on May 13, 2000 they appeared at the London Royal Festival Hall. The gig was recorded and made available at U.K. appearances that fall as the Queens Royal Trimma limited-edition EP. (A 2001 European tour yielded the Treasure Chest of the Enemy EP.) The 2001 collection Tools in the Dryer assembled many of Lambchop’s scattered singles, compilation tracks, and remixes.
Is a Woman After recording the purposefully spare Is a Woman in 2002, Wagner and company moved on to their most ambitious project yet — two simultaneously released albums, Aw C’Mon and No, You C’Mon, in which Lambchop returned to full power and joined by a lush string section. The next year, the musically experimental EP CoLAB came out, followed in the spring of 2006 by The Decline of Country & Western Civilization, Pt. 2: The Woodwind Years, an eclectic collection of tracks that had never appeared before on Lambchop records, including one new song, “Gettysburg Address,” and a record of all-new material called Damaged later that summer. 2008 saw the release of the typically graceful and elegant OH (Ohio), followed in early 2012 by the group’s 11th full-length outing, the austere Mr. M., which offered up 11 lush, string-laden meditations on love and loss, all of which were dedicated to the late Vic Chesnutt. In 2015, Kurt Wagner introduced his electronic side project HeCTA, and elements of HeCTA’s eclectic musical approach informed Lambchop’s next project. FLOTUS (which Wagner says stands for “For Love Often Turns Us Still”) was released in October 2016.

 

British Sea Power – Let The Dancers Inherit The Party 2017

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Much loved indie group British sea power have returned with a collection of songs that showcase the strongest elements of their music, giving listeners space for contemplation while also bringing a healthy dose of high-energy rock.
Exquisitely crafted, the album’s introductory instrumental track is an extension of closer, “Alone Piano,” providing seamless repeated listens, but there’s plenty in the middle to love, too. Lead single “Bad Bohemian” is upbeat, with an ’80s influenced bass line, and Yan Wilkinson’s melancholic lyrics: “It’s sad now how the glass looks rather empty / The formulation of the elements makes you yearn.” Third track “What You’re Doing,” led by the softer vocals of Wilkinson’s brother, Hamilton, contrasts sharply, its warm drums and guitars bringing…

 

…wide-open spaces to mind as Hamilton brings a feeling of optimism to the song. It’s complemented by “Keep on Trying (Sechs Freunde),” an invigorating track with brilliant guitar interplay and a strong rhythm section.

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“Electrical Kittens” features Abi Fry’s beautiful violin playing, and feels like a quintessential British Sea Power song with its emotional intensity. “Praise for Whatever,” meanwhile, captures the band’s ability to pry bombast out of melancholy, as the drama grows from Yan’s first lines while the bass and guitars build. The lyrics perfectly express the world of contrasts we live in: “It’s such a convoluted hour / To play amongst the flowers / When we’re counting all the missiles down, from three to one to none.”

On Let the Dancers Inherit the Party, British Sea Power seek to express the confusion and despair — and, most importantly, the hope — felt during these trying times. Their music doesn’t shy away from the contradictions of life, and provides motivation to “keep on trying.”

Lift To Experience – The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads 2017 (remix)

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Well i said to myself that i wasn’t going to purchase this AMAZING album AGAIN , But guess what i ? i did . How could i not purchase this , it is one of the greatest albums ever made by three dudes that make you feel that you just been hit head on by a train of wonderful noise .

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The band set out to create a brand new mix of “The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads” with engineer Matt Pence 15 years after its original release. The album was originally recorded live to tape, and Matt Pence was able to mix from those original recordings and capture the energy of the three musicians playing together in the room.
… If there was ever a case of an album being ‘ahead of its time’ this probably is it. Akin to Slint’s Spiderland in many ways, lift to experience ‘s the texas jerusalem crossroads came seemingly out of nowheresville middle-America (Denton, Texas in this case) and only made a small ripple at the time, the summer of 2001. The band disappeared shortly after, satisfied with their contribution (even if critically and commercially it wasn’t…

…an overwhelming success at the time) but also citing an interest in their solo careers – most notably, lead guitarist/vocalist Josh T. Pearson’s – and a changed world post-9/11. To date, last year’s appearance at Guy Garvey’s Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall remains their only live performance since.

It’s fascinating looking back on critics’ initial response to The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads years later. In general, no one could deny the band’s ambition in taking on such a ‘big concept’ 90-minute record about the biblical end of the world taking place in Texas (rather than Jerusalem’s actual location in Israel), but there’s a resistance to those same religious allegories and questions Pearson mulls over this 90-minute epic, coupled with the band’s own meta-self-referential plot within the tale. For the uninitiated, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads begins with “the Angel of the Lord” appearing in front of the band one dark Texan night, prophesising the end of the world is coming and they must “lead the children of Israel to the Promise Land” which turns out to be in Texas. Across the next 90 minutes, Pearson wrestles with his specifically American-Christian struggles with forming a successful band with “a smash hit” as he negotiates with God himself in ‘Waiting’.

On that summary, it’s perhaps understandable that initial audiences weren’t really sure how seriously to take Lift to Experience’s debut (and only) full-length record. Were they actually speaking from a privileged religious point of view – the album certainly isn’t an outright criticism of Christianity – are they in fact as arrogant as they suggest in ‘These Are the Days’? – “So all you haircut bands, doing headstands/thinking you’ll turn the world upside down/Put your guitars up over your shoulders/A new sort of experience is taking over /’cos we’re simply the best band in the whole damn land/and Texas Is The Reason.” – is this meta-fictional narrative just simply pompous and pretentious?

Similarly, by the summer of 2001, musically, audiences would now be fairly used to the epic “post-rock” record. The beginning of this millennium was a pretty incredible time for music considering what was coming just around the corner. Bands who at the end of the previous century had posited themselves as outsiders prophesying, if not maybe the end of the world, certainly a catastrophic change to it, were already releasing big ‘statement’ albums – Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Yr. Skinny Fists…, Explosions in the Sky’s Those Who Tell the Truth… – while other already gloomy bands changed their established style post Y2K to point to the huge imminent technological changes, both in their music and what it means to us, on its way – Radiohead’s Kid A, Fugazi’s The Argument, Unwound’s Leaves Turn Inside You; however all these bands removed themselves from their art’s focus. While there is no way any of these artists knew exactly what was coming – which fellow Texans Explosions in the Sky found out the particularly hard way – there seemed a general trend in 2000 and 2001 that something was coming.

There are many comparisons to be made between then and now. At the beginning of the millennium, George W. Bush has been sworn in on a wave of right-wing populism after eight years of controversial liberalism, scaring everyone out of their late Nineties stupor into a decade defined by war which would carry on into the next presidency. If in 2001 The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads risked being sanctimonious, 2017’s collective doom-mongering makes this album suddenly very relevant indeed – just when we thought white, American privilege couldn’t surprise us any further they go ahead and elect a fascist.

It also helps that we as an audience are now much more smart to Pearson’s intentions. Given his tremendous solo career in the subsequent time, we are familiar with his wry sense of humour and very real religious and spiritual considerations. Equally, we now live in a very changed world both socially (well, kind of) and musically 15 years on where meta-fictional concept double-albums – such as Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life – is now not such an alien concept in indie music.

Musically, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads speaks for itself. It is a tour-de-force in musicianship and songwriting, especially impressive for a three-piece. For 90 minutes, the world really does sound like its ending as this trio blast through sonic explosions on their respective instruments, move to delicate, reverb-soaked moments of sorrow and back again over the course of this double album. Another big reason for the record’s underrating at the time is the very valid argument of its sketchy production – hence the real reason for the re-mastering. While the original is still impressive, there often lacks a clarity between each member’s input and layering from the Cocteau Twins’ original mix, which thankfully has now been fixed by Matt Pence (Jens Lekman, Yuck, True Widow) so that the guitars shimmer, the bass rumbles and the drums explode.

With that in mind, along with America’s current climate, there is no reason why The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads shouldn’t finally find its place in indie-rock music’s canon. It is a stunning singular work, hugely visual and symbolic like a great film or novel that highlighting individual tracks is kinda empty when it so clearly should be enjoyed as a whole. Let’s just hope the Angel of the Lord’s prophecies doesn’t come true.

Skyway Man – Seen Comin’ From A Mighty Eye 2017

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To fully appreciate James Wallace (a.k.a. skyway man ), it helps to understand his background. The auteur is the ultimate Nashville outsider having worked with his hometown Richmond, Virginia’s Spacebomb collective and his own alternative — some might say experimental — folksy naked light band among other under-the-radar projects over the past decade. Along the way he’s picked up some high profile fans in the form of Alabama Shakes’ frontwoman Brittany Howard, but in Nashville he can be seen as a provocateur; a guy unafraid to push boundaries that transform pop into art. He continues that endeavor under his newest alias, Skyway Man.
It’s as good a name as any to lead a collective of nearly 20 musicians who have contributed to……his debut under this moniker. By any measure, Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye is an audacious example of what his press release calls “folk futurism.” The song cycle’s concepts are largely too obtuse to easily untangle, but the lyrics are sung in the first person and seem in part to be about living in a dystopian society.

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Wallace’s sweet, boyish voice makes even extended tracks like the wordy, nine-plus minute “Wires (Donny Angel and the Opening Wide)” go down easy, even if inscrutable lyrics such as “And if your sky catches fire ‘cause the tank crushed the car with the family inside/ and you fly from reason like sparks or rocks that you kick down the street with your heels while you’re waiting for the community van that takes you and your bag someplace that you’ve never been before”… phew … are a mouthful to unravel.

Musically, the twisted but melodic tunes encompass a variety of sounds, including but not limited to colorful psychedelic rock, lighter Beatles-styled pop, and a skewed Nilsson/Donovan chamber style that, even with multi-tracked instrumentation, including creative use of horns and string arrangements, stays frothy and generally bubbly. A sunlit prog-folksy instrumental titled “The Dedication of Giant Rock” splits the album in two pieces, giving the listener a break from having to scrutinize the lyrically dense songs.

Those more dedicated to the Wallace cause can spend the necessary effort disentangling the concept, but even for those who take a pass on that task, this is an impressive, bold, and ambitious 53-minute work. Wallace is clearly talented and you can tell he’s referring to himself, and perhaps the creation of this four-sided opus, when he sings “Visions and the sound of my blood/ have been keeping me awake at night.” – American Songwriter

Richmond Fontaine – Thirteen Cities 2016

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The complete Tucson sessions including seven extra tracks.
2007: the snap-pocket shirts, sideburns, literary leanings and pedal steels of alt-country are simply memories from the ’90s. Movement hero and harbinger Jeff Tweedy has led Wilco far from the decade-old roots rock rusticisms of Being There, finding purchase in experimental landscapes dotted with the detritus of modern living. Many have forgotten that Ryan Adams once fronted a marvelous alt-country band called Whiskeytown, as the bedheaded man-child jettisons off into the pop star stratosphere, bouncing from rock to pop to punk to country (again). Not so for Richmond Fontaine, who are led by archetypal old-school-styled alt-country hero Willy Vlautin.

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The intelligent and slightly shaggy Vlautin, who has published a successful novel (and whose voice contains the perfect blend of fragility and gravel for this type of fare), writes smart songs — poetic weepers that ride strains of deep twang and pedal steel and lash sweet pop melodicism to country intonations.

For their seventh album, Thirteen Cities, the Portland, OR band headed into the deserts of Tucson to work for the third time in a row with J.D. Foster, who is known for producing Calexico and Richard Buckner. Calexico pitch in significantly with horns on the euphoric, sprightly pop-country of the opener, “Moving Back Home #2.” Elsewhere, on the busily titled “$87 and a Guilty Conscience That Gets Worse the Longer I Go,” sweet cries of pedal steel trail the mini sketches of Vlautin’s narrator, who witnesses enough suffering and depravity (a near-death boxing match, a tractor-trailer crash, a teenage runaway in a sexual tryst) to spur him into the kind of deeply beautiful and downtrodden existential crisis that was once Tweedy’s stock-in-trade (e.g. “Far, Far Away” from Being There). By the time one gets to “Capsized,” whose down-by-luck narrator drifts, sells his possessions, and estranges himself from all palpable life, you begin to get the sense that the deeper Vlautin plunges his characters into despair, the brighter the twinkle of exultation in his eye. But all would be for naught if he didn’t breathe rare life into these literary tales with melodies that often take breathtaking little turns and swoops.

With Thirteen Cities, Richmond Fontaine employ varnished beauty to exceed the already high-water marks set by 2004’s Post to Wire and 2005’s The Fitzgerald.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Damage And Joy 2017

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All praise Creation Records founder Alan McGee, for he was right: The Jesus and Mary Chain will return next year with their first new album in 18 years, Damage and Joy.

Due out March 24th via ADA/Warner Music, the long-awaited follow-up to 1998’s Munki was produced by Killing Joke co-founder Martin Glover, aka Youth, who also plays bass on the record alongside JAMC touring drummer Brian Young and Lush bassist Phil King.

The album’s first single and opening track, “Amputation”, premiered on Steve Lamacq’s BBC 6 Music today. Better yet, you don’t really need your ear buds; this one’s pure melody, sounding like something off an indie soundtrack from 1996.

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VA – Let It Be: Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison (2016)

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A sequel to Ace’s 2011 compilation Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon & McCartney, the 2016 set let it be black america sings lennon , mccartney and harrison expands upon its predecessor, finding space for selections from the ’80s and even the 2000s (nevertheless, most of these 22 songs are from the ’60s and ’70s) plus songs from George Harrison too. “Something” is indeed here, presented in an expansive, seductive 12-minute rendition from Isaac Hayes, and its presence suggests just how far-reaching Let It Be is. Hayes sits alongside Ella Fitzgerald’s funky version of “Savoy Truffle,” an unexpected combination of singer and song that finds its match in Nina Simone’s moodily elegant “Here Comes the Sun,” not to mention Little Junior Parker’s slow,…

…trippy version of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Such delights are rampant on Let It Be. Only a handful of cuts adhere to the original arrangements, but even those put a distinctive personality on the tunes: Earth, Wind & Fire funkify “Got to Get You Into My Life,” Fats Domino rolls through “Lovely Rita,” and Arthur Conley gives the ska of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” some grit.

More than its predecessor, Let It Be stands as a testament to both the songbook of the Beatles and the imaginative interpretations of black America.