Saturday, 27 May 2017

Hands Music 21

Aldous Harding - Party

No Rockets

The simplicity of instrumentation - essentially unimaginative piano strikes and/or gentle chord sequences - and the overall langour of the pace would suggest this is a dull album. Well, it isn't, ironically, a 'party', but in the singing from Aldous Harding, especially at her lower, sonorous tone, it is a beautiful if brooding set of songs. This singing is often supported by accompanying/harmonising/surprising vocals, though the tone remains the same: sombre. Four songs in the middle exemplify this well - I'm So Sorry, Horizon, What If Birds and The World is Looking, the last having the sweetest of harmony in that other vocal arrangement, and here a simply plucked guitar. Definitely mood music, listen when you want contemplative rather than rocket launching.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Feist - Pleasure, album review

Complex Depths

I was initially a little disappointed in this new album from Feist, expecting her pretty, if quirky at times, pop-clever songs, but this whole has a rawer quality, demo-like and jagged, though there are the sweet songs [and the distinctive vocal] for example title track Pleasure, and then A Man is Not His Song and I’m Not Running Away, with these as all the others to varying melodic assertions, bold or indifferent, complex and bearing the further listening they need/deserve and which reveal the depths of songwriting and performance.  

Piano Music 2

Monday, 15 May 2017

Chris Stapleton - From A Room Volume 1, album review

Vocal Velocity

It is almost all in the vocal, really, honestly, truly: these are fine songs, Countryfolksoul tunes, and the playing on this album is kept minimal to classic stripped-back effect, and it allows the simple harp playing as on second track, Willie Nelson’s Last Thing Needed, First Thing This Morning [writers Nunn and Farar], to shine - a languid harmonica empathy to this lament about having you walk out on me, but my goodness, Stapleton’s soulful growl is such an emotive exacting singing, especially on a plaintive song like this.

Tracks like third Second One to Know amp it up but sustains the simplicity with crisply strummed electric guitar, and a crisp but brisk lead; fourth Up to No Good Livin’ is proper ol’ time pedal steel Haggard Country about drinking and all attendant bad things, People called me the Picasso of painting the town, before love prompts a conversion – a morality tale soaked in whiskey.

And then track 5, Either Way. This is beautiful. A deftly played acoustic guitar base to set the pace and softly rolling rhythm, Stapleton beginning his pained narrative of lost love, again, and then the amazing vocal rise to the main event where his voice fills a room with that pain and longing of the most believable, scorching singing. Hyperbole? Not a jot. This is followed by an electrified sweet electric guitar riff and a gorgeous soulful melody of I Was Wrong flipping the coin with expressions of sustained love, the guitar soloing over brooding bass a gutsy and sassy accompaniment. These two songs are sublime in the simplicity of their power, Stapleton’s evocative voice, and unadorned but perfect playing. Next Without Your Love is no shirker either, a pop-ballad whose melodic sensibilities are roughed-up delightfully yet again by the vocal velocity.

Guitar Music 3

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced: 50th Anniversary

Either Side

I quite like the symmetry of this: yesterday, May 12th, was the actual date of the 50th anniversary of the release of this seminal album, perhaps the one and only that can carry that tag without any refutation whatsoever. I 'reviewed' it here on the blog on May 11th, 2011, and I now refer to it again on May 13th, 2017, so each date either side of that release date.

I didn't actually review the album back in 2011, placing it in my Top Fifty - that's no surprise - and I won't today because it doesn't really need one. I did enjoy The Huey Show [Huey Morgan] on BBC Radio 6 today as I was listening whilst driving home from the Lakes as he presented a special on the album, playing its still stunning tracks, as well as others, especially early Hendrix, and interviews.

As I said in my previous posting, I had an original UK copy which was pinched from my cottage and I am quite angry about that, a feeling I didn't quite reflect then. I also didn't mention that the American vinyl copy I now have was obtained by my mother for me, and that was so thoughtful - she more than anyone listening to the music I grew up with: not by choice, but by ambient very loud sound! This is the month of what would have been her birthday if she was still here, but I will  say thanks Mom all the same.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Galley Beggar - Heathen Hymns, album review

Acid Folk Will Do

I read a review just now about Galley Beggar which began with the cliché that their sound is hard to define and then justified this paradoxically by referring to possible mirror sounds and then therefore providing implausible trajectories regarding originality and establishing their own identity.

Nice try. I probably enter this cul-de-sac occasionally myself when reviewing, but I think I defer more generally to precursor sounds, namechecking these echoes, and/or acknowledge the genre-following and, if impressed, refer to the ‘fresh’ approach.

We want to acknowledge individuality, but in so many ways sole artists and bands today can only really provide that ‘fresh’ re-presentation of a type/form/genre/sound.

This is acid folk – it’s what the band call it on their web site. Well, they cleverly say the band is ‘described as’ but do not denounce the naming. Why? Because they are acid folk.

It is pleasant and well played. Singer Maria O’Donnell has an archetypal vocal for this sound, and that is not to diminish the fact it is a mirror/echo/re-presentation of that sound, that acid folk sound. I like the acoustic folk guitar work, as on The Girl I Left Behind, and the very clearly Pentangle-esque The Lake which is pretty damn fine as a familiar folk sound. There’s sitar – not sure from the Personnel list who plays this – and Celine Marshall provides violin among the band’s sweet vocal harmonies.

It is quite a repetitive album, and whilst I’m no particular fan of folk jigs, this would benefit from the occasional injection of pace. It isn't particularly 'heathen'. A pretty version of Let No Man Steal Your Thyme has some punchy electric guitar. The violin does soar a bit too and there is a guitar follow of this as an instrumental jam. I imagine this is nicely far-out live, and I mean that. I also like the Curved Air/Darryl Way violin on closer My Return.