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Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul

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Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul

Posted on 10 October 2018 by Joe

There are plenty of Bert Jansch compilations that take in his 1960s and early 1970s heyday. But this behemoth of a collection from BMG offers something far more career spanning.

By also dipping into the highlights from his mid-1970s through to a renaissance in the early 21st century this may well be the definitive Bert Jansch collection.

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The first CD contains exactly what Jansch admirers would expect. Strolling Down the Highway, Needle of Death and his take on the classic Angie are essential inclusions. As is Black Water Side, It Don’t Bother Me and a sprinkling of tracks from his 1971 classic Rosemary Lane, including the traditional Reynardine and title track.

This first half is a 14 track set of remarkable consistency, with his evocative laid back vocals and stunning guitar work, showcased to perfection.

Intriguing later career

 

But it’s the second half that is perhaps more interesting, as his career stop-started due to ill health.

Among the many high points from this period is what turned out to be his final album, 2006’s Black Swan, which sees Jansch joined by among others Beth Orton, and Devendra Banhart. The best partnership here though is on the title track, in which Helena Espvall’s haunting cello proved the perfect foil for Jansch’s voice and intricate guitar play.

Its also great to hear Kittiwake, a track from 1979’s ornithological concept album Avocet. This saw Jansch reunite with Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson and also joined by multi-instrumentalist Martin Jenkins.

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

There’s also the welcome addition of Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning and Chambertin, from the Mike Nesmith produced LA Turnaround (1974). His cover of Jackson C. Frank’s Carnival, from 1998’s Toy Balloon is another essential part of this collection.

What’s particularly refreshing about this compilation is that it acts as both a definitive collection, as well as a taster to encourage further investigation of his back catalogue.

Jansch sadly passed away in 2011, at the age of 67, leaving an incredible back catalogue that helped influence artists as diverse as Jimmy Page and Nick Drake to Johnny Marr and the Fleet Foxes. It is welcome to see his five decade spanning career at last captured in one place.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul is released on October 26. More details here.

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Front Person – Front Runner

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Front Person – Front Runner

Posted on 27 September 2018 by Joe

Separately Canadian singer songwriters Kathryn Calder and Mark Hamilton have impressed us for years, the former as a solo artist and member of the New Pornographers and the latter who records and performs as Woodpigeon.

But after a chance meeting it seems a perfect partnership, under the name Front Person, has been created.

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The pair met in a studio hallway, clicked, and decided to start a band there and then, or so the press release legend claims. It’s a nice story though so we’ll go with it.

The result encapsulates all that is great about their solo work, their passionate lyrics and beautiful vocal delivery. Like Squeeze’s Difford and Tilbrook their contrasting voices work perfectly in harmony. This is particularly the case on second track Long Night, one of many high points.

This Front Person debut is an ambitious release too. Rather than just recording in any old studio and any old instruments they’ve managed to gain access to raft of historically significant musical artefacts housed at the National Music Centre in Calgary.

Here they used its vast collection of electronica, from classic Mellotrons, Orchestrons, Optigans and the world’s first commercially produced synths.

But this vintage tech never overtakes this project, which still feels like a folk rock album at heart. Take Shorter Days for example, its an epic song that never becomes too showy thanks to Calder’s lead vocals, Hamilton’s backing contribution, as well as some well timed piano interludes.

This City is Mine, with Hamilton taking lead vocal duties, is another worth mentioning. It’s as near as this album gets to Trouble, his 2016 passionate album about love and loss.

As solo artists they are great, but together as Front Person they’ve created something wonderful. Let’s hope this partnership continues for years to come.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Nicholson Heal – Big Jupe

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Nicholson Heal – Big Jupe

Posted on 23 July 2018 by Joe

We first heard Bristol based Nicholson Heal last year while helping to judge the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. As soon as we heard his submitted track, Lacuna, with its twinkling guitar picking, fine melody and brass section we were hooked.

This was deservedly long-listed by us and we’ve been eagerly awaiting his debut album ever since.

Finally released this month we are not disappointed. Throughout it has the same keen focus on melody and that brass section still sounds great.

NicholsonHeal

Lacuna is here thankfully and is among a number of  high points such as Homespun Shotgun, which is elevated by an epic, cinematic chorus. Think Ennio Morricone meets Radiohead.

Lost at Sea is another strong track, displaying a radio friendly pop savvyness, while Diving Bell has some smart afro-beat guitar work. This will appeal to those who like London band Tigercats latest album in particular.

Granted there’s a bunch of nonsense in the press release that did its best to put us off. It’s talk of “a subconscious reflection on the existential questions that pervade the album” almost sent us to sleep. But we do urge other music journalists who are sent this release to forget that tosh and just listen to the album instead.

Nicholson Heal’s Big Jupe sounds great and is packed  full of good songs. That’s our two key reviewing boxes ticked.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Nicholson Heal and to order a copy of Big Jupe visit here.

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Robert Rotifer – They Don’t Love You Back

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Robert Rotifer – They Don’t Love You Back

Posted on 17 July 2018 by Joe

Robert Rotifer has found something positive from his worst nightmare. How very stiff upper lip. How very English of him.

The Austrian, who has been living in the UK for decades, is among the very many left shell-shocked by 2016’s Brexit vote. For him and his family in Kent it has extra resonance. Will he even be able to stay in the country? Still such important questions are up in the air.

He’s been rallying against the decision ever since with incredulity, anger, despair and sometimes humour. The whole omni-shambles of Brexit does often seem more akin to political satire. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Rotifer - they don't love you back

Amidst this state of confusion, John Jervis of Wiaiwya Records stepped forward to give Rotifer a small lifeline and the chance to put all these swirling thoughts onto disc.

His offer was to be one of seven artists, who are each recording a 77 minute track to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières. Brexit was the obvious muse for Rotifer’s part to the  project, which has also helped him fulfill a long held musical desire.

He explains:

I’ve always wanted to do one of those long-form psychedelic song suites with playful bits, recurring motifs, extended hypnotic bits and found sound segues.

Coupled with this long standing desire he also decided to record mostly at the moment of writing, to give it a spontaneous feel. The format and this method perfectly suits his experience of Brexit and the dream like state the UK has been left in.

The voices of those affected, Europeans dealing with racism and news announcements of the whole political mess, drop in and out among his finger picking and strumming on this largely acoustic guitar based psychedelic folk album.

There’s a family trip to the beach from his home town, Canterbury, that’s full of warmth and fear for the future in equal measure. There’s an ode to Jervis too.

Some songs within this 77-minute are more structured, such as the They Don’t Love You Back segment. Other times its like a frantic folk jam. It’s almost like Rotifer’s trying to get as many notes onto disc as he can before the Prime Minister Theresa May kicks him out.

The end result is excellent – a swirling, whirly-gig of summery folk. Part rant at Brexit, part love letter to England – which, sadly, for 51.9% of voters at least, is not loving him back.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

For more about Wiaiwya’s 77 project click here. The project’s Just Giving page can be found here.

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The Billy Shinbone Show – The Billy Shinbone Show

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The Billy Shinbone Show – The Billy Shinbone Show

Posted on 06 July 2018 by Joe

Late, great Glastonbury music scene legend Dan Bradford had a great way of describing his music – “Bitsa – bits of this, bits of that”.

It’s been three years since he died but his tradition lives on with another Glastonbury based artist, Billy Shinbone (aka Jesse Budd from psychedelic popsters Flipron and the Neville Staple Band).

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For this debut album Jesse has taken his love of 1960s psychedelia and merged it with bits of the old country and Cajun music he became engrossed in while touring the USA with Flipron.

It’s a combination that proves effective as within his guise of Billy Shinbone, he creates, inhabits and owns his own world – of an Englishman with eclectic tastes, suited up, with banjo, guitar, accordion and more taking to the stage in the smokey dives and bars of Texas and Tennessee.

From the reverbed guitar, whistling and accordion of opener Mostly Cloudy, Occassionally Sunny to the psychedelic, country finger-picking of Hoard of Hope and Plunder, there is plenty of opportunity to showcase his instrumental skills.

If You think You’ll Get Away With It also has all the hallmarks of lead single. This foot stomping, banjo and harmonica driven track has the best chorus on the album.

Temptation’s Got The Good Stuff, with some smart guitar dampening, runs this track a close second as our current favourite.

There’s a bit of a hoedown going on later on the album with Another Bunch of Flowers before last orders are called for the mean and moody Thanks But No Thanks, Baby.

Fans of Robyn Hitchcock are among those urged to catch Jesse when he tours his Billy Shinbone Show in the coming months in the UK. Hitchcock’s own “bitsa” mentality, of combining the music of his adopted home Nashville with whimsical English pop and psychedelia, is arguably a good point of reference.

With a bit of this, a bit of that working so well here, Dan would have been proud.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about The Billy Shinbone Show visit his website here.

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Dorian

This is going to be a short review. It is, to some degree, written out of necessity. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are a band that are completely new to me. I hadn’t heard anything from their debut album, Hope Downs, or either of their previous two EPs prior to this week. Within a couple of days I‘ve purchased tickets to see them play in October and they are currently my new favourite band.

Hope Downs

They are everything I love about guitar music. Great melodies, interesting lyrics, vocal harmonies and the perfect blend of professionalism and sounding like they are just on the edge of losing it.

They remind me of Eyelids if they’d come from Melbourne rather than Portland, or Parquet Courts if they’d grown up listening to The Go-Betweens rather than Sonic Youth. Lazy comparisons aside they are just a great band, three guitarists all singing and song writing backed by a solid rhythm section. Ten excellent songs coming in at an economical 35 minutes.

It is a great album from start to finish but smartly hits you with a knock-out three-punch of ‘An Air Conditioned Man’, ‘Talking Straight’ and ‘Mainland’ (surely the feel-bad hit of the Summer?) at the start of the record.

It’s only July but we have a serious contender for album of the year on our hands.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Papernut Cambridge – Outstairs Instairs

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Papernut Cambridge – Outstairs Instairs

Posted on 22 June 2018 by Joe

Feeling glum? Don’t worry, Ian Button and his Papernut Cambridge friends are about to pop round to put the kettle on, listen to your troubles and give you a lovely, warm hug.

This latest from the former Death in Vegas man’s invented 1970s pop combo is “not quite the full on death and religion Papernut album everyone’s been waiting for”, says Button, “but it’s close”.

That sums it up well. Here we find Button in reflective mood with his late father, who passed away in 2016, a strong presence.

Papernut Cambridge

Themes of grief and loss are inescapable for someone who is so recently bereaved. Sometimes its tough going, such as on second track, Crying. Here Button consoles someone in tears, through the presumably non-British Psychological Society approved technique of screaming “crying” at them, while Papernut chum Stabbs MacKenzie squeals away on his sax.

But in the main the tracks offer inspiration and hope, particularly on No Pressure, where Button passes on words of wisdom from his father. You can almost feel the clouds of gloom pass with this sunshine-pop, foot-stomper.

There’s more happiness too on the final, upbeat track New Forever.

And along the way Button’s adoration of the UK’s golden era of pop, the late 1960s and early 1970s, also serves up further moments of joy. This is particularly the case on the wonderfully psyche-titled opener Buckminster Fullerene.

Mr Shimshiner, on the album’s second half, is another high point.

Tea drunk, hug delivered and Button and his Papernut Cambridge pals depart, leaving you, hopefully, with a smile on your face.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

Papernut Cambridge – Outstairs Instairs is released by Gare Du Nord Records. More details here.

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Top 10 Albums of 2018 ….so far

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Top 10 Albums of 2018 ….so far

Posted on 20 June 2018 by Joe

Each June we take a moment to look back on our favourite albums of the year so far. Inventive pop is a key theme his time around, with bands keen to push their boundaries and take their sound into new directions. It’s certainly paid off in the case of many of our Top 10 Albums of 2018 …. so far. We will revisit this list once again in December, when we will reveal our favourite albums of the year.

 

10. Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

For his third album Liverpudlian Alex Highton has turned up the synths and 1980/90s influences to great effect. This is particular notable on opener Benny Is a Heartbreaker, an Ultravox-esque thriller of a song.

Alex Highton

Read our full review here.

 

9. Guided by Voices – Space Gun

Space Gun may well be the best album Pollard has recorded under the Guided By Voices moniker since he resurrected the band back in 2012.

Space Gun

Read our full review here.

 

8. Superorganism – Superorganism

This global octet, with members from the UK, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, have impressed us greatly with their stunning debut, which is packed with a range of styles, big choruses and delicious hooks.

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7. Okkervil River – In the Rainbow Rain

In the Rainbow Rain is Okkervil River at their best, featuring great tunes in the likes of Love Somebody and Pulled Up The Ribbon as well as some of the strongest personal writing yet from their leader Will Sheff.

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Read our full review here.

 

6. Tigercats – Pig City

Tigercats are back, bigger, brassier and they’ve brought the party with them, careering round the capital on this gem of a third album, which makes great use of their new horn section and African influences.

Tigercats

Read our full review here.

 

5. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Parquet Courts had already done their bit for guitar rock on their first three albums. Now they expertly take their music into new directions, thanks to Danger Mouse on production duties. The results are pure joy.

parquet courts

 

4. Neko Case – Hell On

The world’s best female vocalist? We certainly think so, especially after hearing this latest highly charged release. She certainly has a lot to be emotional about this time around with this album arriving after her house burnt down and amid a battle with stalkers. Yet another career highpoint and a worthy entry into our top 10 albums of 2018 list.

Neko Case - Hell-On

 

3. The Go! Team – Semicircle

Eu-bleedin’-phoric! There’s no other word combo to sum up the sheer exhilarating joy of this new The Go! Team album.

The Go Team SEMICIRCLE album artwork SMALL

Read our full review here.

 

2. Field Music – Open Here

From its chamber pop gems to pop-tastic foot stompers, this latest from Britain’s most interesting act continues to delight.  There are serious messages too, as the band eloquently express their fears around parenthood in post-Brexit Britain. A deserved high placing in our top 10 albums of 2018 list.

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Read our full review here.

 

1. Jack Hayter – Abbey Rood

A derelict children’s home provides the inspiration for former Hefner man Jack Hayter’s latest, where everything falls into place. It has a strong back story, some moments of genuine drama, great music and above all sincerity. This is not only one of the best folk albums of the year, but currently our favourite album of 2018.

abbey wood

Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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The Wave Pictures – Brushes With Happiness

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The Wave Pictures – Brushes With Happiness

Posted on 19 June 2018 by Joe

The Wave Pictures are something of an oddity within the UK ‘indie’ scene they have been part of for around two decades.

Their sardonic lyrics, partnerships with the likes of Darren Hayman and appearances at events such as Indie Tracks make them, on the surface, ideal for the C86 brigade. But at heart they are a blues rock band, more at home playing on the same bill as perhaps John Mayall or Dr Feelgood.

wave pictures

In recent years they’ve been doing their best to showcase their blues and classic rock roots, especially on the American influenced Bamboo Diner, the blues driven City Forgiveness and their Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute on Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon.

This late-night, booze fuelled blues offering certainly adds to those attempts. Recorded in one night, it aims to recreate the feel of a vintage jazz, folk or blues live album.

Guitarist Dave Tattersall explains:

Lots of bands pretend that they have made their Tonight’s The Night or Astral Weeks, that special album which is recorded in those rare, late-night, pressure-free circumstances; that loose collection of inspired jams. They haven’t done it really. They’ve spent bloody ages working on the thing. They’ve lost their nerve. This is the real thing. A genuine shitfaced improvisation.

Largely improvised, except for the lyrics, this nine-track collection shows how much of a tight knit musical machine they are after so long together.

It works best when based around a strong riff from Tattersall, as on opener The Red Suitcase, which features a lovely long rambling guitar solo too.

Jim is another strong track. Its dark, brooding lyrics and harmonica solo a world away from the fey pop of C86.

Crow Jane builds up nicely too as the album breaches the half way point.

But for the remaining three tracks I found myself getting a little restless and craving some of their more ballsy rock of recent years.

I get that this is an album designed to be slow and broody. But after 50 minutes of slow broody blues I got a little bored. But is that how all non-blues fans hear the blues?

While I admire Wave Pictures for trying out something different in the recording process, this comes across as more of an interesting add-on to their catalogue rather than a distinct high point.

6/10

by Joe Lepper

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Okkervil River – In The Rainbow Rain

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Okkervil River – In The Rainbow Rain

Posted on 24 May 2018 by Joe

In the Rainbow Rain is Okkervil River at their best.

This ninth album from group features some of the strongest personal song writing from leader Will Sheff, something which made other career high points like The Stage Names (2008) so effective.

The band’s 1980s influences, as used so well on The Silver Gymnasium (2013), are also deployed perfectly here once again.

And it feels like a band, rather than just Sheff and some others. That’s because he used the same close knit group that were with him two years ago on tour to promote their Away album.

“It was my favorite touring experience in many years… I felt like a kid again. I realized how phenomenally lucky I am that I’ve been able to play music for this long,” says Sheff.

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The results are uplifting and even spiritual in places, which is perhaps no surprise as Sheff’s recent visits to Quaker meetings are clearly a huge influence on his life currently.

Opener Famous Tracheotomies is superb. Here Sheff recalls the time of his own windpipe incision as well recounting the variety of celebrities to have also had this procedure.

It’s a track Mountain Goats songwriter John Darnielle would have been proud of. There’s something so bizarrely life affirming about hearing about the medical records of the likes of Ray Davies, Gary Coleman and Motown star Mary Wells put to a laid back 80s pop funk soundtrack.

There’s some great melodies here too. The Dream the Light is superb enough with its gospel choir and cheesy synths, but is elevated further by its strong chorus.

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I had to check that Love Somebody wasn’t a cover of an 80s chart ballad. It sounds so familiar, like I’ve been listening to this on radio for years. Turns out that its definitely Okkervil River, written by Sheff, bassist Benjamin Lazaar Davis and guitarist Will Graefe.

It’s not all 80s FM pop though.

Don’t Move Back to LA with its acoustic guitar picking is a timeless addition to the Okkervil River collection. Just beautiful.

The list of fine tracks goes on across an album of all killer, no filler and one I’d recommend to any Okkervil newbie as a great place to start. That’s not something you can often say about an act that has been around for 20 years.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

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