This is as close to worth it as we’ve been hoping for

field-music_creditandymartinActually, I do feel better for that.

Got a few comments about last night’s post and the, erm, tone of it. So I thought I’d probably better get in and talk about some of the records I actually liked from this year.

Like this one…

Commontime – Field Music

When I started to go through the aforementioned end-of-year lists I was struck by the fact that Field Music’s latest gift only came out this year – it seems like it came out ages ago. I’m tempted to think that Time really is a relative concept when it comes to Field Music records. They pack such a lot into every moment of every tune that the Old Feller does some sort of double-take, holds up for a moment and rewinds the tape. (You’ll notice that in my stuffed, overdone metaphor, for some reason Time still uses a shonky old cassette player…)

Talking about Field Music making one of the best records of the year is a bit like suggesting Barcelona could win the Champions League this season – not exactly sticking your neck out, are you? But there you are, if it’s quality, you might as well call it.

So another Field Music record, another ambitious record choc-full of twitching time signatures, bold but sparingly-used guitars, taut drumming and all manner of muted jiggery-pokery dancing around the edges. Such is the regularity and consistency of the Brewis’ output that at first I was tempted to add this to my “treading water” list of yesterday. Thankfully for my shot-to-pieces credibility, I gave it another listen and all manner of technicolour fantasia figures reintroduced themselves through my headphones. What beautiful, clever chappies they are.

One of the things that struck me at the time and even more so yesterday is the immediacy and warmth of the lyrics. Snatches of conversation fresh from the Brewis kitchen (I like to think) waft in and out of the songs, some of them alarmingly candid, almost ill-advisedly frank. Kind-hearted counsel, which in other less-skilled hands would sound arch or cheesy, is instead dispensed with tenderness and sympathy, and such is the legendary niceness of the brothers that I take it at the fullest of face values.

Some of the songs are damn funky (in spite of what they say), some are tricky listens (not going to lie to you…) and some pass you by completely until you take a moment, but all of them are intelligent and reward you for a careful listen (not always my speciality), new white horses rising to the surface with every listen.

Here’s a belting video of one of those KEXP sessions (God bless those folk) with a great interview with the brothers in the middle (where they talk about the “F” word) and the best version of Disappointed with its clever vocal interplay and heroic bassline.

The comments on any Field Music video are quite illuminating, siting all sorts of bands as influences almost all of whom I’ve either never bothered with or have high-handedly dismissed as beneath me.

Well, thank God for the Brewises!

I look around, nothing’s what it seems

angrykidDecember’s regular trawl through the various end-of-year lists leads me inevitably to a couple of thoughts:

”I should probably do one of these.” (Oh God…)

and, when the penny dropped,

“It’s been a pretty thin year, hasn’t it?”

I’m guessing at this point, there’ll be a few outraged hipsters jumping from their seats, tipping over metaphorical tables and storming out of the room, muttering dark words about the Cavern of Anti-Matter record or Amber Arcades’ Green Man set. But… I think I’m standing by it.

I say “I think” but I’m actually pretty sure – I know this because I wrote a list, although not an end-of-year list, ooh no:

2016 – Six Records I Hated:

 

MY WOMAN – Angel Olsen

OK, that’s a bit strong, it’s not at all bad, just not nearly as good Burn Your Fire For No Witness, which I really only discovered this year and to my ears sounds way better. Nothing on the new one is half as clever or witty as “Hi Five”. And while we’re on it, I disproportionately hate those bloody capitals.

FLOTUS – Lambchop

Again capitals? Really? And who had the bright idea to “correct” Kurt Wagner’s soulful, conversational vocals? This is the only record on the list I couldn’t bring myself to buy – couldn’t get past the wretched samples…

Void Beats/Invocation Trex – Cavern of Anti-Matter

Tried pretty hard to like this record (including another listen this morning), but I just don’t (no matter how many times Neu! are referenced in reviews)

IV – Black Mountain

Really, really liked their first album and remember playing the bejeezus out of it at the time, but this is awful – none of the cool fun, none of the loopy graceful style. Hard to believe this is the same band to be honest.

Modern Country – William Tyler

Read the reviews of this and was charmed by the “modern country” idea, but really, there’s just nothing there. One of those records that is good because people say it is. If you heard this playing in a lift, or at an airport, you’d probably wonder how on earth Pitchfork gave it an 8…

Fading Lines – Amber Arcades

Another record I tried and tried with, but tossed it away when I realised what I was doing. If only the rest of the album was as good as the title track…

2016 – Seven Quite Good Records by Bands I Cherish, that’ll *do*…

… but

 

Stiff – White Denim (highlights “Holda You (I’m Coming)” and “Big, Big Fun” but it’s no D)

Schmilco – Wilco (highlights: the line “Cry, like a window pane”, actually the whole song, but a few tracks that are pretty forgettable)

Here – Teenage Fanclub (hardly fair, I know. They’re Teenage Fanclub – if I wanted progression, I’m in the wrong relationship)

Singing Saw – Kevin Morby (Can’t understand this one’s appearance in all the lists – did no one hear the previous two records? Or his stuff with the Babies? Pretty thin stuff compared to these…)

City Sun Eater In The River Of Light – Woods (love this bunch, but, meh…)

Calico Review – the Allah-Lahs (memories of seeing them at Psychfest one year, possibly the coolest band I’ve ever seen. Where are they now?)

Hold/Still – Suuns (actually, Suuns may well be the coolest band I’ve ever seen, but I’ve gotta say, they’re losing me…)

 

2016 – Four Records I’ll Not Be Buying

(This is my Blog, and these are my prejudices)

 

22, A Million – Bon Iver (Sorry, but no.)

Blackstar – David Bowie (nope)

Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave (nope)

The bloody Radiohead record (I’m an old man, not going to change now)

 

D’you know? I feel a little better for that…

I can’t for the love of Jehovah comprehend why you knock at my door

hqdefaultOh cripes.

We’re mid-December already, and I’ve got those end-of-year lists to sort out. They really are everywhere and I feel bad about it, but I’m not sure I can be arsed…

How about something not 2016, not festive and not especially relevant to, well, anything? Yeah, back on home territory, thought you’d go for that…

Evan Dando

Was languidly thumbing through the CD pile the other day and I chanced upon Lemonheads’ It’s A Shame about Ray – a record I listened to a lot at the time but I don’t think I’ve touched for many, many years. You will, of course, know by now what a lovely group of songs it is, but it’s always a joy to revisit an old standard. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed belting out “Alison’s Starting to Happen”, crooning along to “It’s a Shame about Ray” and bawling “I… JUST…WANT… A BIT-PART… IN YOUR LIFE!” at the top of my voice, as I’ve driven around the ‘Shire over the past week.

But you know all this, and have presumably done the same yourselves. (That’s not just me, right?)

I’ve only just realised, however, that there’s an actual Evan Dando solo record – Baby, I’m Bored – which was released in 2003, and got into the UK Top 40 (so no real excuse for missing it, apart from the obvious). It’s a gap in my knowledge that I’ve been enthusiastically putting right over the last couple of days

And really, there are some picture-perfect songs on here, like this one, a ridiculously flawless ditty from an imaginary Gene/Gram songbook.

 

There are about three or four songs as good as this on the record (plus a bunch of only-slightly less successful ones). Songs such as “All My Life”, “Why do you do this to yourself?” and “Shots is Fired”, all of which deserve to be massive classics in anyone’s collection. They really benefit from the sparer sound solo work can give a writer, and show a temperate, self-knowing tone. Many of the songs are apparently directed at another but such is the man’s notoriously reckless approach to his own well-being that it’s impossible not to read into them a sense of self-rebuke (“whatever part of you that’s been calling the shots is fired…”.) And if it wasn’t already almost as well-known as his drug addictions, you’d have to realise pretty quickly that Evan Dando is a massive Hank Williams fan, with an intuitive sympathy for an old-school outlaw life – there’s apparently a whole album of Hank Williams covers recorded but never released.

You wonder about the man, really. A cursory trip around YouTube will deliver any number of pretty ragged live performances (including a gig he apparently did in his pyjamas), all of which make you worry a little for his state of mind, but then again the recently reformed version of Lemonheads has given us a couple of more than decent records.

Nothing as good as this, mind… (if you want to skip the slightly inane interview, and go straight to a terrific, sympathetic acoustic version of the song, go to 6:10)

I was there in the room…

the-hecks-mirror-by-dan-paz-smallerMeant to follow up the last Trouble in Mind a little quicker than this, but hey-ho…

If the Beef Jerk offering somehow wasn’t lo-fi or strident enough for you, may I suggest the shriller, twangier and even more brilliantly-named the Hecks, also on Trouble in Mind, also young ‘n’ feisty and also hogging my car stereo.

Oh, and they’re really, bloody noisy.

The Hecks

The Hecks are a three-piece from Chicago, who are obsessed with strange guitar tunings, “intentionality” and Faust. The “intentionality” thing is an idea I’ve lifted from an interview they did with Chicago magazine LocalLoop, which I think translates as everything that comes out of the studio being done with and for a purpose. Do read the interview, their idea of guitar tuned in a particular way having to stay as they are, due to financial or technical limitations, is quite a fun one.

What’s particularly odd about all this is that one of the first impressions September’s debut album gives you is of raggedness and above all chance. Very little sounds as if it has been planned, polished or preserved.

You can stream a load of Hecks songs from the TiM SoundCloud page, and I’d recommend a good listen. Particularly fond of this:

 

 

From the first taut chords of “Sugar” to the awkward zeal of closer “Airport Run”, it’s a pretty uneven affair – whirling, clanking, twanging chords rub tattooed shoulders with drone and feedback-decked noise. It’s rough, Faustian stuff and, as I say, really noisy. I reckon, there’s always a place for dissonance, ugliness and a right bloody racquet.

And for those times, I give you…

Let’s move into the ocean, we won’t tell anybody…

beef-jerkThese days I oft times find myself haphazardly using up the last few of my eMusic downloads at the end of the month. It can be a slightly edgy, weirdly cautious business (I hate wasting things) and often culminates in my snagging another Latin collection of eager garage punk or (more often than you’d imagine) some murky new Soft Machine live set.

Well this month, I stumbled upon a new tack that I’ll employ more often. I chose at random one of my favourite labels of recent years – Trouble in Mind – and just go for it. A bit of rummaging around amongst the releases there and jackpot…

Beef Jerk

Beef Jerk are Australian and are part of the, er, burgeoning “dolewave” scene there (yes, really). And, in spite of my proverbial goldfish-like span of attention, have had the run of the car stereo for much of the week. Their debut record, Tragic, is a collection of demos that had been knocking around on the Internet for a couple of years before they decided to spruce them up and self-release them officially. TiM stepped in from there and have given it a proper release so that the inquisitive punters of the globe can get busy.

It’s a great little batch of fifteen songs that starts off promisingly (“Why are you so disagreeable? Table manners? Unbelievable”) and really kicks on from there. It’s absolutely packed full of loopy, jangly chords, dry lyrics, a few profanities and the odd sprinkling of Beefheart-ian rough sax. The songs do touch on a fair amount of everyday slacker business – caravan parks, shoplifting, drinking and general loafing round – but also take in mysterious Frenchmen, doomed fathers and flights to the seabed (“don’t forget the sunscreen lotion / fish fingers in the sun”).

I’m clearly not a musician and can only scratch my head and applaud songwriters Jack Lee and Mikey Branson’s ability to choose the right chords each time. I’m also very much impressed by the former’s prodigious ability to sing out of tune, and although press reviews frequently mention the Go-Betweens, I’d say Beef Jerk are more like another batch of Mark E Smith’s children (alright, grandchildren).

There’s not a lot of Beef Jerk around on the Internet (yet?), which could of course mean a couple of things, but I’m going to take the getting-in-at-the-ground-floor line. Fairly recently, you could actually stream the whole of the record from the band’s Bandcamp page, but until that returns (as they claim it will), you’ll have to trawl through the demos on Soundcloud or get a few tasters from YouTube.

This one’s my favourite:

 

(Particularly gratifying to see the pickup driver put the bin back up at the end, nice lads really…)

But this is also a great surging bugger of a song:

Transient, restless…

5616I don’t write enough about genuinely new music, I’ve decided.

This was the original brief that I settled upon when I started this damn thing all those years ago (ten, in fact, I know…), but somewhere along the way I’ve given into my natural tendency to allow myself to be side-tracked by some fuzztone-infused titbit, distracted by a morsel of exotica.

But here’s a new record…

Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch

(Although, to be honest I’ve not yet quite made my mind up about it…)

Jenny Hval is Norwegian who has, including this one, released six records, all of which have previously escaped my attention. Blood Bitch came out last month to some fairly good reviews.

In fact if you thumb through any of these reviews, you’ll quickly become ensnarled in all sorts of clever writing about sexual identity/confusion; gender neutrality or some other such wordy wankery. You’ll also come across vaguely uncomfortable (if you’re a feller of a certain age) discussion of menstrual … erm… stuff. I may be starting to mumble a little at this point, and I haven’t even started to talk about “Untamed Region” yet…

As well as this, there’s also a fair amount of vampire chat and, well, a bit more blood of various types. And at this point, you’re probably thinking that I’ve lost my way with the whole record, but hold up:

 

I really like this clip.

I’m always rather keen on folk who can prance around looking, well, daft with such utter, unshakeable conviction that I start to think I’m actually the one who’s the berk here. And so, you start to look again…

It’s a record full of awkward, ungainly moments – dialogue runs into and over songs, there are screams, white noise, disturbing ethers that stop as suddenly as they started, irregular rhythms and a lot of breathy confidences shared. But amongst all these uneven qualities, there are also moments of what can only be described as warm beauty.

A good example of this would be “The Great Undressing”, one of the longer songs on what is generally quite a short record. It opens with a conversation between friends that continues rather longer than you expect and doesn’t really give way to the song as it actually begins. It’s about being desperately vulnerable and ultimately, just desperate, for love, any love, anything, but it’s continually interrupted and discoloured by other lyrics re-repeated, out of context, over and above the melody. To my mind the key lines “I don’t need money, I just need your love, or your approval, anything” are almost lost beneath the repetition of a line from earlier in the verse – “you must be disgusted”. Moving lyrics, wilfully obscured, almost lost…

You’ll have gathered that I’m still not sure about Blood Bitch, it’s got a fair few moments that leave me cold, and, it has to be said, a certain amount of silliness. But for every moment of over-indulgence or obstinate eccentricity, there’s another of startling, complex, nagging splendour, that will not be denied and cares not how it looks to me or to anyone else..

One for the headphones, I’d say…

May be confused about a few things, but honey I’m on the move…

white-denim-at-pembyfest-2016-viesmag-4If the day comes (when, surely) for there to be a general reckoning of Bloggers and sundry Internet quacks for their overall contribution to the commonwealth, I’ll stand in the line amongst the other middle-aged saps in Fall t-shirts, and blink nervously in the harsh sunlight as a series of solemn gentlemen open their man-bags and begin to interview their charges.

I’m guessing the exchange will be a fairly short one, before I fall silent and sullenly await the guillotine. There’ll be some sort of polite shuffling of papers, before my arbiter leans forward and says, in a gently concerned fashion,

“You, er,  missed a fair bit, didn’t you?”

White Denim, O2 Academy

Those last two (fairly florid) paragraphs were my way of berating myself for once again taking my eye off the ball in a particularly daft fashion. A friend of mine got me a ticket for this gig a while back, and I’d not really given it much thought since.

Truth be told, since I last saw them a few years back, I’d gone off White Denim a little and wasn’t much of a fan of 2013’s Corsicana Lemonade. It’s not bad but not as exciting as the earlier records, and this particular butterfly had other sticky treats to investigate. Consequently I was completely unaware of White Denim’s recent upheavals. You’ll no doubt have been all over the half-the-band-leaves-midway-through-next-record thing, and will have already formed your own opinions, but I missed it entirely.

Worse still, seeing the band come out at Bristol’s premier rock venue, I somehow remained unaware of the changes, and although one of my memories of seeing them in 2012 was the exhilarating interplay between guitarists Petralli and Jenkins, I managed to convince myself that these recollections were unreliable, figments of a flakey, capricious imagination.

*Shakes head ruefully*

Having said all this, sometimes ignorance is indeed a form of bliss – a couple of people I spoke to later had pooh-poohed the new line-up and recent performances, and being the hopelessly impressionable feller that I am, the evening would’ve been coloured somewhat if I had actually stayed awake at the wheel.

In fact, it was a pretty good, if boisterous evening with the new line up acquitting themselves well. New drummer, Jordan Richardson, impressed particularly, an enthusiastic, barrel-chested presence at the kit. He played the drums like Gareth Evans (Gloucester’s injured No 8) runs – head up, chest puffed out, boisterously charging through the set, arms akimbo like some sort of tubby wind-up toy.

Terebecki and Petralli were still the heart of the band, however, and a set which ran through most of the new record, Stiff, and touched on a lot of favourites from the back catalogue, was a reminder that even if the exhilarating twin guitar thing is no more there’s still plenty to get excited about. In fact, at least one punter remained blissfully heedless of the changes.

As before, it was something of a machine-gun attack, one blistering song piling on the shoulders of the previous one, with precious little chat and the sparsest of breathers between each one. Exhilarating stuff it was, and this old chap was left a little punch-drunk by the end of it all

The younger Academy punters got pretty excited and amongst the normal festivities, there was stage diving, limb-flailing careening around and enough rough stuff at the front to merit a few incursions from the security gents (and at least one feller being dragged out).

Sweaty, first class entertainment, all in all.

I’ve got a few noisy recordings for you…

Real Deal Mamma

Anvil Everything

Mirrored in Reverse

 

and if you fancy a quick comparison…

At the Farm (2016)

At the Farm / Say What You Want (End of the Road ’11, twin guitars a-sparkling…)

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