LUMP – Self-titled

Lump

Although you must of heard this a million times, LUMP is a collaboration singer/songwriter Laura Marling and  Tunng founding member, Mike Lindsay.  When I first heard of this collaboration, I was pretty excited. I think Marling is a fantastic singer due to the fact that she can vary the tone of her voice and throughout the album we listeners are lucky enough to get quite a selection,  Some tracks she releases her smoky voice (Hand Hold Hero), her ‘sort of singing but it’s really talking’ voice (Late to the Flight) and she lets loose it is great (May I be the Light).

I have also been a follower of Tunng ever since the debut Mother’s Daughter and Other Song and I’ve always admired their ability to mix beats folk instruments, incidentally there’s a new album out soon but that’s another story.

Lump (if in small cases then the album) is only a brief 30 minutes but a lot is packed in there. First of all the record begins like a dj set; it starts slowly and then builds up to the mighty centrepiece, Curse of the Contemporary, a track where Marling unleashes her voice to twanging guitars , booming bass, a shuffling beat that gets faster as the song proceeds. It’s heart stopping, amazing and possibly the best track I’ve heard this year. The album continues on another high note, the already mentioned Hand Held Hero, with its Giorgio Moroder intro and then peters out.

All seven tracks on Lump are fantastic. The instrumentation is rich and yet organic. Sometimes you’ll want to dance, and sometimes you’ll want to reflect. It’s an album that is varied but has a distinctive sound. My only worry about this project is if it stops here. Clearly there’s a ton of potential here, especially when this first offering sounds so good.

 

 

Track of the Week

Every Wednesday I will post one track that I am playing constantly. It may be something old or brand new.

This week it is Haley Heynderickz – Oom Sha La La

 

 

This track hits all points that I like in a song. There are quirky observant lyrics and certain amount of spontaneity. I especially like the totally random shouting of  the phrase ‘I need to start a garden’ towards the end. It’s a jaunty folk song that will put a smile on your face.

 

 

 

Buzz Poole – Workingman’s Dead

WD

This volume is a 33 1/3 book in the classic sense; there’s a brief history of the band and then an in depth analysis of the tracks. Sure there’s some interesting insights of acid tests and the culture surrounding The Grateful Dead but, since I’m not a fan of the band this particular entry in the series was ok but nothing amazing.

This review was originally on Goodreads.

Various Artists – Rough Trade Shops: Counter Culture 17.

RTCC17

Ever since 2003, one yearly treat I look forward to is the annual Rough Trade Shops compilation. To date this is a double album which has some highlights from major albums released during the year and some surprise hits for the upcoming one. The best ones usually contain a lot of hidden gems that were overlooked.

In previous years the Counter Culture albums would have one disc dedicated to folk, accessible dance music and indie pop and a second disc dedicated to the loud, weird and off kilter tracks. I was always worried that a sign of old age would be when I preferred the quiet disc to the loud one but never happened. Anyway last year they did away with that and now we listeners get a well sequenced set of tracks that alternate between all the genres I mentioned above.

I could be biased but I barely can find anything wrong with these compilations (well if you force me to dis a Counter Culture compilation I would say disc one of CC 11 – I have heard all the tracks before) so this years is no exception: I think it is awesome and exciting. I think there’s a certain magic listening to a lot of aural treasures.

My personal highlights at the moment are the following:

Chastity Belt – Different Now

Flat Worms – Motorbike

Rolling Black Outs Coastal Fever – French Press

Superorganism – It’s All Good

Michele Mininni – Rave Oscillations

Honestly I could chuck some more links but i’ll leave it at that.

 

For 42 years Rough Trade Shops have been at the forefront of taste making and, trust me, with a compilation as strong as this one, they are still ahead of everyone.

 

 

 

 

Tara Murtha – Ode to Billie Joe

Billie Joe

This review was originally on Goodreads.

One thing I admire about the 33 1/3 series is how the authors approach an album. In the case of Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe, we readers get a very well researched history about Bobbie Gentry including her reclusive way of living , the making of THAT hit song and then background (rather than technical details) about the album and then Gentry’s foray into directing.

The overall picture is that Bobbie Gentry was a woman who had to fight her way in a male dominated business and, not only survived, but proved that she was better. Unlike most country folk stars she chose the producer and had a say and also she was in control of her image (something rare back then)

Some of the better 33 1/3 volumes are the ones that convince me to listen to the album and this one made me, so I guess, in my case, that’s a winner. Saying that the 33 1/3 consistent and this volume is another one worth reading.

The Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers

barr-brothers

Back when I was a teenager I used to buy music based on an NME or Q review and sometimes the album would be a bit dodgy. Thankfully with the internet one can be sample albums before buying (fact: I still like physical copies of albums) I had no idea of who The Barr Brothers but I did listen to the title track of this album and thought it was rather good so I purchased the record. Then I did a bit of research.

The Barr Brothers hail from Canada and Queens of the Breakers is their third album. That’s really all that’s important. Musically the group straddle that world between folk and rock, that is there’s the full sound of a rock band and even quite few times keyboards crop up. Yet there’s a country vibe that runs through the album. One thing that I like is that despite the rich instrumentation Queens of the Breakers is a spacious album. Every instrument has breathing room, which results in songs that are easy to listen to. Choruses are present and the somber moments are perfect. Play it on Saturday night or Sunday morning, or late afternoon. It’s good for any occasion.

Queens of the Breakers is another of those surprise albums (see Lost Horizons)  I got this month. It is a solid listen that has enough surprises to warrant repeat plays. Although the days of Canada’s bands making the headlines is not as strong as it used to be, rest assured great music is still being produced there.

 

Lost Horizons – Ojalá

ojala

 

For the untrained ear Ojala is Spanish for God willing, which sums up the genesis of this album and it does have quite a backstory.

Lost Horizons consist of ex Cocteau Twins bassist and Bella Union boss , Simon Raymonde and Dif Juz drummer Richie Thomas. There’s a post rock pedigree here so  there’s an inkling to what type of music you’ll be listening to on Ojalá. Moreover, to add that extra dimension the group roped in an array of guest singers that will make anyone drool. Marissa Nadler, Sharon Van Etten, Ghostpoet, Karen Peris (of The Innocence Mission), Tim Smith (of Midlake), Cameron Neal, Soffie Viemose  (of Bella Union bands, Horse Thief and Lowly respectively) Leila Moss (The Duke Spirit) and the list goes on. It is impressive. Not to mention that this album was recorded during some worrisome times.

Generally a huge amount of guests on an album can render a record interesting but uneven. This is definitely not the case here. Each singer gives their particular song a unique touch but there’s a uniform sound running throughout Ojalá, which are mostly piano based with orchestral flourishes. As Raymonde and Thomas are pros at this type of sound, the album gives beautiful vibes without ever sounding fussy or overproduced. If you want to chuck in genres then think of a post rock album with a dash of dream pop (and there are a good number of dreamy moments) folky psychedelia and some soul (opener Bones remind me of something Kate Bush would do back in the early days)

Highlights? quite a few but my personal favourite track would be Reckless, with its pensive piano motif and rapper Ghostpoet eulogizing about the world. It’s spine tingling. Marissa Nadler’s guest appearances are amazing. Leila Moss gives a terrific vocal performance in Score the Sky and the Swirling She Led me Away was a sweet reminder of why I obsessively listened to Midlake’s The Trials of Van Occupanther so many years ago.

Maybe if I do have a complaint it is Ojalá’s length. it is a hefty 70 minutes and although the time passes pleasantly it’s a lot to digest in one sitting and you HAVE to stop everything in order to absorb this album properly, probably a double album would have been better but that’s just me as a person who listens mostly on commutes.

Ojalá took me by surprise. It dropped out of nowhere and, through many spins these songs grew on me. How such a hushed album can sound so powerful is a testament to the many talents involved in this project.

 

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice

Lotta Sea Lice

 

In a way, I am surprised that this collaboration did not happen sooner. If you look in retrospect both Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett share quite a few musical traits. Both can be wordy, have roots in 90’s alternative music, have distinctive voices, a laid back attitude and both know how to rock out.

Lotta Sea Lice is exactly what you’d expect from a collaboration such as this. Barnett will sing a word stuffed verse then Vile takes over and sings his part and provides background noises. Sometimes they sing in tandem. Musically the pair’s grungier tendencies are replaced with a more acoustic sound. However this is not a bare bones folk album, rather the music is jaunty. If you’re a fan of Courtney Barnett’s Depreston  or Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Day then you’ve got a basic idea what this album sounds like. This is an album for a sunny Sunday or a late night drive. Lotta Sea Lice is relaxed but has enough spark not to make the listener fall asleep.

Other than a bit of bounce Lotta Sea Lice also has charm and honesty, which is a bit rare. While listening to the album I felt that Vile and Barnett had fun recording this,especially on Continental Breakfast or the outro to Fear is like a Forest, where the duo just sing together enthusiastically.

To add to the rough and tumble feel of the album there are four covers. One is the aforementioned Fear is like a Forest, originally sung by Barnett’s partner Jen Cloher. It’s great. Then they cover each others songs. Vile attempts Barnett’s Out of the Woodwork, retitled here as Outta the Woodwork and does a good job but I prefer the guitar playing more . Barnett covers Vile’s Peeping Tomboy and she pulls it off. The last cover is Belly’s Untogether and that is done well a is a good closer.

Needless to say that the non covers are even better than the covers, Continental Breakfast is definitely the best track but the fun Blue Cheese and swaggering On Script are equally good.

Lotta Sea Lice is a solid album which makes for good listening, however it feels like a fun one off record and I feel that Barnett and Vile could offer a lot more if the collaboration was taken more seriously, but I’m not complaining. This is the kind of album I’ll listen to until Kurt Vile or Courtney Barnett release a new album and then I’ll return to it when both artists stop the promo wheel and I am waiting for new material by them.

 

Moses Sumney – Aromanticism

moses sumney

When I heard a couple of Moses Sumney’s tracks two years ago I had a sudden onrush of the chills. It wasn’t the sparse arrangements but rather it was Sumney’s voice, which can be best described as a wavering falsetto with some moments where he sounds like Prince. I then felt that this guy can go into weird sounding territories quite easily.

Fast forward a few years and Sumney’s debut has landed and there are weird moments. Quite a few in fact. Honestly this is the first time that I’ve ever heard a musician start an album with a reprise of a track that was released back in 2014. Man on the Moon is a few seconds of layered voiced with string arrangements that would not sound out of place in a classic Disney film. It is a promising start.

The first half of Aromanticism consists of Sumney displaying the approachable side that was prevalent in the early singles. I definitely will not say that these are average but they do sound restrained with just some hints of what may come via a lush orchestral arrangement, a sample or some electronic burbles, although the jazz outro in Quarrel does raise the eyebrows. During the first five songs I kept wishing that Sumney would unleash his voice and let everything go wild.

That moment happens during mid track with Lonely World: A track that starts off with some hazy ambient noises, piccolo solo and then Sumney’s voice bursts in and increases pitch and mixes thumping techno noises, poly-rhythmic drumming, brass, strings into an almighty clatter. It is brilliant and introduces the listener to the treats that lie within the second half of the record.

From Lonely World to Self-Help Tape all hell breaks loose and Sumney unleashes his experimental side. Make out in my Car sounds like a distant cousin of Bjork’s Possibly Maybe.Think of a trip hop beat mashed up with an orchestra The Cocoon-eyed Baby (the guy should get a prize for awesome song-titles) is a freeform poem with Sumney’s multi-tracked tones dancing around it. I could go on but there is a lot to write about the second side of Aromanticism. I’ll just say that the album closes with Sumney’s voice overlapping each other and in different pitches. A satisfying conclusion.

I feel that Aromanticisim is just an introduction to the wonderful world of Moses Sumney. I just have this feeling that his music will venture into different sonic territories and that will be exciting indeed but for now Aromanticism is just fine.