Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Sewing Room - And Nico

The Sewing Room was a sort of off-shoot of the Stars of Heaven, the sort of softer side to them.  The debut album, released in 1995, starts with the gorgeous, lazy strum of Mobile.  Guitars here jangle like you wouldn't believe.  The spirit of early REM hangs heavy on this album, on tracks like the muted Stop The Rain and From Every Corner.  Delve is rockier (relatively speaking) though the dynamics remain tight, almost metronomic.  Pedants will be unhappy with the whispered singing on the comparatively propulsive Instrumental.
There really is some bloody lovely guitar on the likes of Detumescent, Miles Away and the laid back Kill Me,  the latter being one of the strongest tracks here.  Elsewhere, Lord Let It Be Over is a little morose 
For my money this is a stronger album than either of the Stars of Heaven albums.  Some of the songs such as Weekdays are a little too brief, only getting going before finishing.  They sound good but aren't given long enough to make an impression.  And 16 tracks is probably a bit more than anybody needs.
Good luck trying to find it.  There is a download available here:

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Apartments - A Life Full of Farewells

The Apartments' third album, released in 1995, showed that very little had changed in the band's world and any passing trends such as grunge, shoegaze, Britpop etc had not rubbed off on them one bit.  Opening with a forlorn trumpet, Things You'll Keep hits that moderately miserable note firm in the solar plexus, all down-strummed guitars and Peter Milton Wash singing about thinking "there was a way out, so you took it" in a generally self-pitying way.

A beautifully sunny guitar pattern opens The Failure of Love Is A Brick Wall, seeing the track fall just on the less sunny side of Lloyd Cole.  You Became My Big Excuse introduces steel guitars courtesy of Tommy Grasso which seem a little incongruous, giving the track a far more country feel than standard issue The Apartments.  Along similar lines to how Red House Painters incorporated steel guitar on Songs For A Blue Guitar.  Rural bungalows, perhaps??  End of Fear is a little more lively, a busy strum introduced by some almost jaunty trumpet as Walsh sings about wanting to "fill you up with laughter".  But it's a plea rather than a promise in the desperate world of The Apartments.  On the other hand Thank You For Making Me Beg evokes the (relatively few) more downbeat moments of David Bowie's early seventies output.

This is exquisite sad bastard music.  The stripped down piano version of Goodbye Train, renamed as the far more specific She Sings To Forget You should be way way too wallowing but it really works as Walsh wrings out every syllable drawing each one out for maximum effect ("you visit all the crummy rooms, stale sweat and old perfumes"... "you're not lost or broken yet, you can't give in").  The final track, a song entitled All The Time In The World is given a fatal twist: "we've got all the time in the world now... how are you gonna kill it?", quite the turn of phrase to convey the overall feel of loneliness.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pavement - Watery, Domestic

Pavement released this stopgap EP in 1992 following their debut album, Slanted and Enchanted.  Of course they have to start Texas Never Whispers with 20 seconds of jarring synth noise before the grinding guitars kick in.  Stephen Malkmus sounds impossibly cool as he drawls the lyrics "she's so lackadaisical, should have been a West coast bride".

The trident, confident guitar licks on Frontwards follow this up, it's a confident, gritty rocker in the mould of Summer Babe.  After the brief, scratchy Lions (Linden) the EP finishes with the melodic Shoot The Singer which plays out like a less scratchy Perfume-V, with a nice guitarry coda that you won't want to finish.  A good EP but mainly a warm-up for Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ryley Walker - All Kinds of You

Ryley Walker's debut album came out in 2014.  The opening two tracks The West Wing and Blessings are fairly indebted to Nick Drake, all intricate guitar, piano, viola and mannered vocals.  What marks these songs out though is strong melodies and some seriously talented playing.  The pace picks up with glorious picking on the instrumental Twin Oaks Pt 1, where Walker and co stretch out a little.  Far from being gloomy, at times the album is positively joyous - the jaunty Great River Road being a case in point.

Fonda is a fine two minutes of ornate guitar/piano intermingling, while closer Tanglewood Spaces is also instrumental, meaning four out of nine tracks feature no singing.  Walker captures the essence of his heroes and updates them into something of his own.  He's marking himself out as one to watch.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Miracle Legion - The Backyard

American band Miracle Legion released The Backyard EP in 1984.  The opening title track sets the tone: very much along the lines of early REM, Mark Mulcahy singing a simple chorus line "The world was so big and I was so small".  The following track Butterflies has the prettiest guitar line on the EP, while on the other hand Closer to the Wall is much faster and rockier, but all still very much fitting the mould of REM on Murmur or Reckoning.

Guitarist Ray Neal's brooding, jangly guitar dominates Just Say Hello, and final track Steven Are You There? ends the EP on a suitably moody note.  Despite the obvious similarity to Stipe and co, this EP is still worth checking out in its own right.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

John Martyn - Inside Out

John Martyn followed up his acclaimed Solid Air with the far more experimental Inside Out album.  Released in 1973, it opens with the relatively conventional Fine Lines, featuring guitar, piano and Martyn's by now patented slurred vocals.  But from the album lurches left with the swirling instrumental Eibhli Ghali Chiun Chearbhail, then left again with the busy strum of Ain't No Saint which features some incongruous tabla.  Outside In is what can only be described as an "exploration" via echoplex, and the wah-wah workout Look In is a bit tedious.

The instrumental piece Beverley is an improvement, with an acoustic guitar centre stage, picking out pleasantries over sawing strings and noodling electric guitar.  Folkier moments are not exactly plentiful here, but when Make No Mistake arrives it's most welcome, at least until it morphs into jazzier territory two and a half minutes in.  Ways to Cry seems a little half-formed and underwritten before the closing lounge-sax jazz of So Much In Love With You.

Although there are strong moments on the album, it's a bit of a mess overall, maybe a little over ambitious.  Most of the better songs sound like not as quite as good versions of the better songs on Bless the Weather or Solid Air.