It’s probably fair to say, after several years of writing reviews that I have more than had my fill of singer-songwriters. This applies to both sexes; it’s the fact that they mostly seem to fall into the category of being bland or far too confessional, with just a handful actually having something to offer.
Thankfully, the American singer Diana Darby falls into the latter category. Comparisons that have been made to Galaxie 500 and Mazzy Star are pretty accurate. In a sense -and I mean this as a compliment -it’s a fragility that is actually endearing rather than wearying. There’s a stripped down quality that really does prove the cliche of less being more.
A song like ‘If Love’, for example, may seem slight, but there’s a dark, addictive quality to it, that gradually seeps in. It may not re-write the rulebook, but it’s a beautiful album that doesn’t outstay its welcome, and shows the singer-songwriter genre may yet have more to offer…
Over the last thirty or so years, Rough Trade have released a number of different sounding bands, but Houndmouth are the first time I can remember them having released a band who sound like, well, pure country. Sure their labelmates Alabama Shakes have a ‘Southern’ sound in their own way too, but on the evidence of their rather fine debut self-titled EP this is something else.
Straight out of Louisville, Kentucky, they are: Matt Myers (guitar and vocals), Katie Toupin (keyboard and vocals), Zak Appleby (bass and vocals) and Shane Cody (drums and vocals). Recorded at their own studio, they’ve created a pretty sharp debut that grows on repeated playing.
You can download the EP’s opening track ‘Penitentiary’ for free here:
A quantum leap on from his debut album, Forget, this album may have been out for a few weeks now, but that doesn’t mean I have been enjoying it. Whereas his debut was linked in with the chillwave movement (AKA the movement that made it OK for Hipsters to listen to 80s AOR without having to be, y’know, ironic about it), this time the template -crafted in his own image -is more in the style of early 80s new wave pop.
The biker look on the front suggests that George Lewis Jr -as he’s known to his mum- is taking no prisoners. ‘Can’t You see I’m not in love’ he sings on ‘Run My Heart’, and he does not mean it in the way 10CC did. Yet this is an easy album to get to grips with. If, as one album suggests that he’s ring-fencing his heart, this is not a hard album to love. Far from it. First single ‘Five Seconds’ remains one of the best tracks I have heard this year. It’s a darker album lyrically, yet poppier in its approach -without (as you will have gathered by now) being sugar-coated in any way.
If it seems unlikely that 4AD would have put out an album sounding like this in 1982, somehow it makes perfect sense in 2012. And thus, the underground and mainstream evolve…
Having made two albums in the early seventies -Bill Fay and Time Of The Last Persecution , Bill Fay has taken until now to release a new album (although a lost album Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow was finally issued in 2004). He is now regarded as a national treasure -and support from cult but significant artists like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Nick Cave and Current 93′s David Tibet has helped him finally achieve the recognition that didn’t happen forty years ago.
So, parallels could quite possibly be drawn with the likes of Vashti Bunyan in terms of career revival; but to listen to his music on this album alone is to realise how much Fay has influenced others. Wilco covered Fay’s song ‘Be Not So Fearful’ and here Fay returns the favour by offering a radical and beautiful take on Wilco’s ‘Jesus etc..’ (originally to be found on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot).
Beautifully scored and arranged, these songs stand out on their own and make up one hugely impressive whole. Whilst unbearably sad in parts, the sheer quality and beauty on this album is strangely life-affirming. I’ve become absolutely smitten by this album over the past week, and have listened repeatedly. So a cult hero for many years -on the strength of this album, his time has finally come. Make the time to listen-and make sure you buy it.
1. Blur ‘Under the Westway.’
2. RM Hubbert ‘Car Song.’
3. Nico ‘I’ll Keep It With Mine.’ Cover version of the week
4. The Last Battle ‘ Breathe Bones, Beathe (session track).’
5. Scars ‘Your Attention Please.’ (Gone but not forgotten).
6. Bwani Junction ‘She Ain’t Saying No.’
7. The Last Battle ‘Hope Is Gold (session track).’ Buy the original version from their bandcamp here
8. Carter Damm ‘Clowning (demo).’
9. Stanley Odd ‘Get Out Ma Headspace.’
10. The Last Battle ‘The Butterfly Song (session track).’
11. The Last Battle ‘Ruins (session track).’
12. Cancel The Atronauts ‘I Sold My Soul (And This Is All I Got).’
OK folks, there will be another radio show from me this week at 7-8PM on Fresh Air this coming Thursday.
This was last week’s show -here’s the tracklisting again, and if you wish to listen to it, it’s there below:
1. Dead Can Dance ‘Children Of The Sun.’
2. Kate Bush ‘Running Up That Hill.’
3. Twin Shadow ‘Five Seconds.’
4. We Are The Physics ‘Applied Robotics.’
5. Aggi Doom ‘Bring Me The Head.’
6. Shamen ‘Jesus Loves Amerika.’ ‘Gone but not forgotten.’
7. Soap&Skin ‘Wonder.’
8. Cancel The Astronauts ‘Making Dynamite.’ Album of the month Animal Love Match
9. Matt Norris and the Moon ‘Roots Below.’
10. The Delgados ‘Mr. Blue Sky.’ ‘Cover version of the week.’
11. Grimes ‘Genesis.’
12. Antony & the Johnsons ‘Cut The World.’
Straight outta London, Palma Violets are Sam Fryer (vocals, guitar), Chilli Jesson (bass, guitar), Pete Mayhew (keyboards), and Will Doyle (drums). Recently signed to Rough Trade, they have been together barely a matter of months.
So new in fact are they that there’s no soundcloud or bandcamp (no idea if there’s a myspace -it’s like asking the videoshop if they have something on VHS, frankly), nor anything on the Hype Machine -but there is the video of a song ‘Tom The Drum,’ which you can see at the bottom of this post.
They’ve had the likes of Nick Cave and Bernard Butler at their gigs, they were signed by none other than Geoff Travis, and they’ve supported the likes of the Alabama Shakes. As with any new act, there is always the risk of them being built up to be knocked down before they’ve barely got started -but for now, just take them at face value and enjoy!