Album Review: Ben Watt

Ben Watt album

Ben Watt – ‘Hendra’ (Caroline International)

It’s been over thirty years since Ben Watt released his first solo album North Marine Drive, and here is his second. In the meantime, he’s been A DJ, writer and most famously one half of Everything But The Girl with his wife Tracey Thorn. Though she took lead vocals on most of EGBT’s material during the two decades they recorded, Watt took lead vocal a few times himself and has the voice to handle it (check out ‘The Night I Heard Caruso Sing’ from 1988′s Idlewild or ‘Talk To Me Like The Sea’ from 1991′s Worldwide.)

I have to confess that this album did take me a few listens to get into, but once I took it all in one go s opposed to dipping in a few times, it made perfect sense. No it doesn’t just pick up where his debut solo album left off there’s been too much water under the bridge for that – and yet, it does continue in the same vein. It features contributions from Bernard Butler, and Berlin-based producer Ewan Pearson. The album’s standout track ‘The Levels’ features Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

It’s a thing of beauty this album, a pastoral work that doffs its cap to the likes of Robert Wyatt (a previous Watt collaborator), Richard Thompson at his most soulful and even John Martin. At times melancholic and at others uplifting, it’s a strong, coherent piece of work -and if he’d like to deliver a third album like this, in his own time, I’m sure many people would welcome it. This humble scribe included…

****

Hendra is out now on Caroline International

Stream Hendra via Brooklyn Vegan

New video from The Horrors

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As mentioned previously on here, The Horrors are to release their fourth album, Luminous on May 5.

They’d made streams available of this track ‘So Now You Know’ – but here is the full video in all its glory. Really rather upbeat and -well- lovely. It may or may not have been shot with the American market in mind, but don’t let your cynicism get in the way of enjoying it.

This has been described as the most anticipated album of 2014 by the NME. I don’t know that that necessarily applies to me (I’m more excited about the forthcoming albums from The Cure and Morrissey – but then I’m 37 not 17, so that may be more than just a little bit significant).

Twin Shadow reinvents the power ballad

Twin Shadow

I’ve featured Twin Shadow quite a few times here on 17 Seconds over the years, and ‘Five Seconds’ reached no.13 in my Festive Fifty in 2012. George Lewis Jr. has his own take on the 80′s, and as I commented back in 2012 around the time of his second album Confess, whilst it seems unlikely that 4AD would have put out records that sounded like his in the early 80s, somehow it makes perfect sense now.

The power ballad, that 80s musical movement of lighters in the air aloft of soft rock has given us his new single ‘To The Top’ which after a couple of plays I had to buy (lead by example). Turn it up, play it loud and go and buy. No-one talks about Hypnagogic pop anymore (least of all those who invented the concept), but it seems that AOR has become acceptable now.

Enjoy.

‘To The Top’ is out now on 4AD.

The continuing story of The Pictish Trail

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Pictured above is Johnny Lynch AKA The Pictish Trail. As you’re almost certainly aware (if you have followed the Scottish DiY scene at all in any way shape or form) he used to run the Fence label together with Kenny Anderson AKA King Creosote..

Johnny Lynch now runs Lost Map Records and has signed to Moshi Moshi Records in London. Having released Secret Soundz Vol. 1 & 2 separately in 2008 and 2012 respectively (read my review of Vol. 2 here), the two albums will be released as one package through Moshi Moshi on June 9.

‘Wait Until’ is the new single. He also headlines Big Day In at Edinburgh’s Electric Circus this Sunday (April 20).

For more forthcoming gigs see here, including in-stores over the next week or so and a full tour in May.

Album Review: Call To Mind

Call To Mind The Winter Is White

Call To Mind -’The Winter Is White’ (Olive Grove Records)

Right from the word go, even when all you could hear of Call To Mind was via their Myspace site (hey, every self-respecting act had a Myspace site in 2008!), it was clear that they had something special. Two years later, when they delivered their debut, self-titled EP, that promise was delivered. And now, six years after they first graced my attention, they deliver their debut album.

Olive Grove Records have delivered a lot of fine material over the past few years, but to my mind, this is their finest release so far. It’s beautiful, and it needs to be heard. Sure, comparisons of this Highland band to the likes of Sigur Ros and The National may seem obvious, but that’s high praise and utterly, totally deserved.

This is music to lose and find yourself in, a record to be played again and again. From the opening of ‘A Family Sketch’ to the last notes of album closer ‘Chemotherapy’ the five piece barely put a foot out of place. The press release says they have a love of Scotland’s outdoors -and strange as it may sound, that spills into the music.

If you still think that epic and ethereal are buzzwords for good, please check this out. And if you care about hearing great acts, make sure you buy this.

****1/2

The Winter Is White is released on Olive Grove Records on April 14.

The continuing story of Dead Flowers

Dead Flowers Make It Bright

Reviewing Dead Flowers’ debut album Midnight At The Wheel Club at the end of last year I wrote: ‘I think most people would agree that there are songs that make you want to cry, and songs that make you want to dance. But the opening track on Dead Flowers’ debut album ‘Make It Bright’ makes me want to do both of those. And I think that’s got to be a first.’

As it happens, the album topped my end of year list, and ‘Make It Bright’ was no.11 in my Festive 50 list.

And ‘Make It Bright’ is out now as a single in its own right. It still deserves five stars. And if you haven’t heard the album yet…what are you waiting for?

Presenting…Inuit

Inuit

There’s something awesome about three-pieces, it really is the magic number.

Glasgow three-piece Inuit are Chris Monan (guitar), Darren Gibson (guitar and vocals) and Andy McMillan (drums). So far they’ve put out two releases, the now sold-out At One Time, For A Time EP last year and last month’s ‘I’m No Sun Expert.’ The latter really is one of the most beautiful tracks I have heard this year.

Their debut album Don’t Forget You’re Here Forever is coming soon on Good Grief Records, and they are playing at Glasgow’s Classic Grand on April 10 (this Thursday). THey will be heading off on a co-headliner tour with labelmates Bianca at the end of the month.

This will see them play Dundee Redd Suite Studios (April 27), Aberdeen Cellar 35 (April 28), Inverness Market Bar (April 29 and Edinburgh Opium (April 30). In addition, they will play Bristol Stag & Hounds with support from Cleft on May 3.

The continuing adventures of SOAK and Chvrches

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I’ve long supported Chvrches on this blog and back in February wrote about the first signing to their Goodbye label, SOAK.

Ahead of a gig this Thursday (April 10) in London at St. Pancras Old Church, SOAK has unveiled this rather fine cover of the tune that first brought Chvrches to wider attention ‘The Mother We Share.’ Whilst that is an electronic wonder, this version strips it down so that the vulnerability in the song is laid bare for all to hear. And hear it you most definitely should.

To download it, go here – you just need to put in your email address.

And because it goes with this post, here is Chvrches’ remix of Blud.

Album Review: Kirsty MacColl

anthology

Kirsty MacColl -’All I Ever Wanted – The Anthology’ (Edsel)

Even reading about the death about Kirsty MacColl still saddens me, nearly fourteen years later. It must be fairly bittersweet for her two sons, Jamie and Louis, every Christmas, when the anniversary of their mother’s death – through no fault of her own – happened right in front of them. Her most famous part – that of the female protagonist on The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale Of New York’ became a million-seller and is rightly regarded as the nation’s favourite Christmas song.

Of course, there’s far more to Ms. MacColl than her death and ‘Fairytale.’ It appears here, of course, but it’s telling that it appears halfway through the second disc of this compilation. Not because I think it needed to buried (hell, I’m still not sick of 26 years later), but because as the other 42 tracks reveal, there was so much more to her than that song.

So we have a number of her singles from over the years, songs that were deservedly hits -’Walking Down Madison,’ her covers of The Kinks’ ‘Days’ and a radio session version of ‘A New England’ recorded with Billy Bragg; singles that weren’t hits -’They Don’t Know,’ ‘Terry’ and ‘In These Shoes?’ as well as album tracks that showed just how awesome she was on that format, too – ‘England 2 Columbia 0′ and ‘Us Amazonians.’

It’s a genuinely comprehensive overview of her career as you’d expect, and hope, and one I feel does her twenty-year career justice. It’s also got decent sleevenotes (so nice when us reviewers are sent these rather than just streams or downloads!); and is both a great introduction and fantastic round-up.

****1/2

All I Ever Wanted – The Anthology is out on Edsel on April 7.

(not this version on this compilation but I had to share!)