Sunday, March 12, 2017

Belle and Sebastian - Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant

Belle and Sebastian released their fourth album in 2000.  It opens with I Fought In A War, which builds gradually, adding guitar, strings and brass to Stuart Murdoch's voice, developing into something akin to Love's Alone Again Or.  There are plenty of classy pop tunes here such as The Model, The Wrong Girl, the Murdoch/Isobel Campbell duet Women's Realm and the dippy Nice Day for a Sulk.

The Stuart David / Isobel Campbell duet Beyond the Sunrise and Chalet Lines plod along without really going anywhere.  Better are Sarah Martin's Waiting for the Moon to Rise which has a decent swing to it, and the slow-burning, string-laden Don't Leave the Light On, Baby.  Twee-ness is never too far away, particularly on Isobel Campbell's Family Tree but they maintain a certain charm throughout.  So overall, if you've already bought into this band, there's a good chance you might enjoy this album.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Palace Music - Arise Therefore

After the leap forward of Viva Last Blues this is something of a regressive step.  It's a sparse collection of songs with the prominent addition of a drum machine (!).  Most of the songs simply have a slight rumbling bass, Will Oldham's whiny voice, drum machine and little else.  Some of the highlights are the very muted A Sucker's Evening, and the title track, which features a welcome drop of guitar.  No Gold Digger is probably the closest thing to any kind of 'proper' song with a kind of full sound on the album.  On other tracks like Kid of Harith and Disorder, Oldham's fast-and-loose-with-any-form-of melody vocals are inclined to grate.  For the uninitiated, this is really no place to start!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel of Love

Bruce Springsteen's eighth album, released in 1987, was a bit of a departure from what had gone before, with keyboard as the lead instrument and guitar and everything else relegated to a supporting role.  If you can get beyond John Landau's eighties production, it's an understated gem.

After the kind of odd vocal and harmonica opener Ain't Got You, we settle into the album proper with the defiant Tougher Than The Rest.  The upbeat melody is dragged back by the droning keyboard so it's hard to imagine the hardcore Springsteen punching the air to this, or much else on here.  If anything it would be the rabble rousing Spare Parts, but this is a bit out of place here, it's strident in a way the rest of the album isn't.  

A complete change of tack arrives with the stripped bare Cautious Man, a simple acoustic song in the mould of Nebraska.  But moody keyboards are the order of the day here.  Walk Like A Man, Two Faces and especially One Step Up are made for contemplative staring out the window.  The subject matter of the lyrics is disarming, Springsteen singing about "trying to walk like a man".  The last of these is particularly downbeat as he sings about "when I look at myself I don't see the man I wanted to be".

The title track is a curious beast.  Probably the best known song here, it has a dollop of eighties studio effects in it, yet somehow manages to reach beyond this to become a redemptive anthem, singing about how it's "easy for two people to lose each other in this tunnel of love", and then back it up with a rare (on this album) guitar solo.  The album ends with more moodiness in the shape of Valentine's Day where the track plods along in a blissful gloom before drifting into oblivion.  Dismiss this album at your peril, it's a Bruce Springsteen album for people who find Bruce Springsteen a bit much.