Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell – A Perspective

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Magnolia Electric Co - Josephine

Listening to Magnolia Electric Co's final album, released in 2009, Jason Molina and co have left behind the dark, slow burning rock of their earlier material and embraced country on the honky tone likes of O Grace! and The Rock of Ages.  Shenandoah and Whip-Poor-Will are equally informed by country music.  Thankfully the title track features some rougher, distorted guitar.  Further into the album The Handing Down is a welcome slab of spooked-out Crazy Horse-style rock, and it's followed by the desperate plea Map of the Falling Sky.  By the time the fine Little Sad Eyes with its eerie organ stabs and high lonesome rocker Knoxville Girl (not the Appalachian murder ballad) arrive you'll wonder why they front loaded the album with all those country songs.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Loose Fur - Loose Fur

Loose Fur was a project featuring Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche from Wilco along with Jim O'Rourke.  They released their first album in 2003, which is fairly much as you might expect, six longish songs with Tweedy and O'Rourke sharing vocal duties.  Many of these songs, such as Laminated Cat are a little on the repetitive side, with a rolling guitar groove that repeats itself ad nauseam without really going anywhere.  The O'Rourke-sung songs such as Elegant Transaction are brighter and more enjoyable in a kind of meditative way.  So Long is odd, in a good way, in that it's reminiscent of the more stripped down and tripped out moments of Queens of the Stone Age.  You Were Young sounds like Wilco flecked with Sonic Youth and is therefore the song that suits Jeff Tweedy the most - it's the one track here that would work on a Wilco album.  The instrumental that follows, Liquidation Totale is pure Jim O'Rourke, while Chinese Apple sounds like what it is: Tweedy singing an acoustic Jim O'Rourke song.  There's lots of guitar noodling on show here so if you tolerate this, there's much to enjoy here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Ease Down The Road

Will Oldham released this album in 2001.  It's considerably more 'musical' than any of his previous albums.  It opens with May It Always Be which features a muted electric guitar, piano and Oldham actually singing 'properly', before a full on guitar solo midway through the song.  Many of the songs on the album are catchy and feature tunes you can really sing along to, such as the trio of Just To See My Holly Home, At The Break of Day and After I Made Love To You.  

A King At Night has a pleading, plaintive yet muted quality to it, a sweet tune distracting from lyrics concerned with "going down on me".  It's an incredibly melodic album in comparison with anything which came before.  The title track is an amiable shuffle, with the just the 'right' amount of each instrument, even the banjo doesn't overshadow anything.  Languid tunes such as Lion Lair and the country-tinged Mrs. William are the order of the day, making the album a great listen.  Grand Dark Feeling of Emptiness and Rich Wife Full of Happiness are bluesier, a bit like a very sparse Nick Cave.  In fact, not a bad place to start with Will Oldham.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Glaciers - Living Right

More jangly goodness from Australia.  There seem to be several bands called Glaciers, making these guys a bit harder to identify and pigeonhole.  What is definitely the case is they released this album in 2016.  It opens with the quite glorious jangle of Winter, accompanied by soft vocals, which sets the tone for the album.  It's kind of driving around on a (dreaded) sunny day music, exemplified by Local Hero, Weekdays and everything else here.  Career Crisis is vaguely reminiscent of the brighter moments of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, and how can you not love a band who calls a song Ddouble Vvision!  Later in the album Sensible and the title track feature some gorgeous, liquid guitar lines.

If there is a criticism, it's that there is practically no variation across the album, but on the other hand, each of the 11 tracks here are seriously strong.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Talk Tight

Australian band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever released a debut EP in 2016.  It opens with the jangly thrills of Wither With You, which comes across like the Go-Betweens with an injection of New York cool.  They sound like they are having a cracking time on the joyful Wide Eyes and Heard You're Moving which zip along nicely.

After the manic pop thrills of the previous four songs, Tender Is The Neck takes the intensity way down with a gorgeous, laid-back number, which adds some of the vulnerability of The Smiths to their jangle fixation.  The EP ends with a flourish on the slightly bored yet cool sounding Career.  With seven tracks of summery guitar goodness here, it's hard to go wrong.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Clearance - Catalogue Nos.

Chicago band Clearance released this collection of their early singles in 2014.  Walking Papers is an almost perfect indie rock song, with driving swaggering guitars and nonchalant singing from Mike Bellis.  Introduced chronologically, You're Not The Target oozes self-assurance and a relaxed charm.  Selling the Plot and She's Gonna Show You are brighter, with a bit more of a 'pop' feel.  One or two of the songs have a seemingly unconnected jam thrown on the end of them, which gives the tracks something of an enchanted charm....

Ok, I attempted to get through this review without mentioning the band they are most often compared to, Pavement, but to no avail.  The breezy charm of Close Encounters strongly evokes this band, while the navel-gazing Face the Frontier has a wonderful, lazy charm that emulates classic mid-period Pavement such as Father to a Sister of Thought brilliantly.  In fact, when this band slow it down on this and the sub-two minute Safer Passage they really excel, sounding effortless and just a little ragged.

They don't ignore more rocking moments, Drive Out! and Carte Blanche are a bit more forceful than anything else here, in a Velvet Underground/Strokes kind of way.  

It really is top drawer stuff.  An album of old-fashioned guitar thrills.  What's not to like?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Kings of Convenience - Quiet Is The New Loud

Responsible for some kind of quiet music movement based on their album title, this was the Norwegian duo's debut album, released in 2001.    Consisting mainly of acoustic guitar and harmony-led songs, it's a highly melodic collection of songs.  Production is crisp and clear, which allows these songs to stand out and sound good in either winter or summer.  It opens slowly with Winning The Battle, Losing the War which has a nice electric guitar in the coda.  While it sounds very pretty a whole album of songs at this pace would seriously drag, so it's refreshing that Toxic Girl picks up the pace.  To a gentle, quiet trot rather than a sprint or anything.  An early highlight is I Don't Know What I Can Save You From, this and the following track Failure feature lovely, rolling acoustic guitar patterns.   Sometimes the album gets quite 'loungey' as on the soft shuffle Leaning Against The Wall and The Passenger.  Later on the album, Summer on the Westhill is almost impossibly pretty.

But really, if you like sumptuous harmonies and acoustic music, any of these tracks will work for you.  The album is very consistent across all 12 tracks, and a fine listen.