Album Review – Pale Honey

Pale Honey – ‘Devotion.’ (Bolero Recordings)

Looking back at previous pieces I have done on Pale Honey it is clear that somehow I always end up referring to what their previous steps have been. Their early releases were rightly critically acclaimed, and it’s great to watch an act grow.

No musical act grows in a vacuum – and it’s so cliched to compare them to other duos, so I won’t here -but with the release of a handful of tracks over the last twelve months, it’s clear that they have *cough* broadened their musical palate.

Sometimes a band’s determination to grow beyond their first album can end up giving listeners that seems to have no connection with what preceded it. Pale Honey have managed to draw links with their self-titled debut, but managed not to repeat the tricks of it (aside from writing great songs, that is). The atmosphere of ‘The Heaviest Of Storms’ is a particular highlight. It shows off their Nordic-noir take on Scandi-pop at its best.

Do they sound like a different band? No -‘ Real Thing’ provides the strongest link with their debut -but Devotion is a huge leap forward, and gets even better on repeated listens.

****

 

Gig Review – Tori Amos

 

Tori Amos

Glasgow 02 Academy, October 6 2017

How good was Tori Amos live? Even three days later, I’ve still got a glorious glow just thinking about the gig…

The gig was the final night of the European tour supporting her new album Native Invader. A quarter of a century since she appeared with her debut Little Earthquakes, she still seems like very few before or after her. Sure, comparisons may be made with (insert name here) or (insert name here) if you must. But as she walked out onto a stage – just her, her faithful Bosendorfer concert grand piano and a couple of keyboards – she gets a standing ovation just walking on stage. It probably is easier if you’re playing to an adoring crowd, rather than struggling to be heard amongst people who aren’t there to see you, but what is clear is that she has won fans over, and they aren’t about to let her go.

She’s clearly had a great tour – and the warmth of Glasgow audiences is rightly legendary. With a pretty damn impressive back catalogue, she’s never going to be able to play every one of the favourites and promote the new album. But the gig felt like a great crowd supporting a great artist.

I first heard her in 1991, a few months before the album came out when ‘Silent All These Years’ came out (it would later make the top 40; she’s had a number of bona fide hits here in Britain over the years). It sounded like nothing else at the time. So to finally hear it live is a dream come true and the sense that it’s just as magical and bewitching as it always was.

Many of the crowd are delirious to hear ‘Baker Baker’ – but me, I’m delighted to hear favourites like ‘Sparkle’ -‘she’s addicted to nicotine patches’ indeed, and I realise that ‘Winter’ may indeed be my favourite song of hers after all (for a long time I might have plumped for ‘Sister Janet’, b-side to ‘Cornflake Girl,’ her forst top ten hit). Her cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ is as heartbreaking as the original, and she also weaves in the Eurythmics’ ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’ into the set.

Perhaps most revelatory is hearing ‘Blood Roses’ live. On record I’d found the track from Boys For Pele unsettling and alienating. Yet hearing it live, it all makes sense. I’d been privilged to be able to review the gig for free – but within a very short time, I felt that I would have been delighted if I had paid for both mine and my fiancees tickets.

Album Review – Richard Thompson

A mere two months after the release of Acoustic Classics II, Richard Thompson has given us a third collection of acoustic workings of music from his back catalogue. It’s quite a fitting way to continue to mark the fifty years since he co-formed the seminal British folk-rock band Fairport Convention.
A word about the title: Rarities often implies that it’s music that hasn’t really circulated because it’s offcuts, music that has been tucked away on b-sides, soundtrack albums or -God forbid – simply that it wasn’t really very good. In this case, put any such concerns to one side: he has amassed a number of great songs over time, and these songs are deserving of being heard, stripped down to voice and guitar.
If Bob Dylan can be considered the songwriter’s songwriter in America, then Thompson must surely be the frontline contender for the British title. A number of these titles have been covered by other artists previously -‘Seven Brothers’ by Blair Dunlop, and ‘Rainbow Over The Hill’ by the Albion Band. Six of the fourteen have been unreleased – and while all high in quality, they’re very different in approach. The album gets of to a rather dark and angry start with ‘What If’ and the reflective ‘They Tore The Hippodrome Down.’ The latter feels like a cousin to one of Muswell Hill’s other famous songwriter’s – Ray Davies of The Kinks, and their 1983 single ‘Come Dancing.’ There’s the humour of the ode to one of the most important inventors ever ‘Alexander Graham Bell’ and the very European sounding ‘I Must Have A March’ which sounds like it really should have been sung by Marlene Dietrich (except that she’s namechecked in the song) or by Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
Some of the tracks have been around for a while – there’s two tracks from the final Fairport album that Thompson appeared on, Fullhouse, ‘Sloth’ and ‘Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman.’ From the years with his then-wife Linda we get ”Never Again’ and ‘End Of The Rainbow.’ It’s not a hotch-potch; the reality is that an album that is almost entirely voice and acoustic guitar is powerful and commands your attention. If it had been written as an entire album it would still have worked.
Are there other Thompson titles I’d like to hear if he continues his acoustic series? To pick three out of the air:  ‘Dry My Tears And Move On’ from Mock Tudor, ‘Roll Over Vaughan Williams’ from Henry The Human Fly and a version of Fairport’s Sandy Denny’s still astonishing ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’ to name a handful – I’m sure every Thompson fan has their own ideas on what should be covered. Suffice to say, yet again, Thompson has produced an album that draws on his back catalogue and stands on its own merits.
****
Acoustic Rarities is out now
https://youtu.be/v0xm6SETkCs

Track of the day #48: U.S. Girls

4AD continue to be one of the most consistently brilliant independent labels, nearly forty years after they were founded. A mere couple of days after new music from The Breeders (see below), Meg Remy (AKA U.S. Girls) has released her new subversively pop tune ‘Mad As Hell’ – and it’s absolutely fabulous.

The press release – accurately – describes it as a ‘candy-coated Trojan horse for her powerful call to action for pacifism and impassioned critique of military spending.’ Protest music takes many forms – not least with the video. Directed by Remy with Emily Pelstring, it brings together historic, patriotic and military imagery. Remy performs throughout the video duplicated in synchronized dance moves flipping off her subjects recalling backup dancers of ‘60s pop girl groups. Indeed the song sounds like an alt-pop take on an 80s take on 60s girl bands.

Struggling to make sense of that? Watch the video below. The track is taken from the follow-up to 2015’s Half Free, about which more details are set to follow…

 

The return of The Breeders

It’s a double cause for celebration as The Breeders return, not only with new music – but with the line-up that recorded 1993’s seminal Last Splash. Twin front-women Kim and Kelley Deal (vocals, guitar) are joined by Josephine Wiggs (bass) and Jim MacPherson (drums).

The first track to be released is ‘Wait In The Car’ which from the very first listen is prime Breeders. It’s available to download now (yup, I already have) and stream, and it’s part of three singles due to be released on 7″ vinyl: Single One will be available at the band’s upcoming tour dates, starting October 15 (pressed on orange vinyl, featuring a cover of Amon Düül II’s 1970 track ‘Archangel’s Thunderbird’, recorded with Steve Albini in Chicago).  Single Two will be available exclusively at select independent record stores from October 27 (pressed on red vinyl, featuring Kim’s dreamy reimagining of Mike Nesmith’s ‘Joanne’).  Details of Single Three (featuring a cover of Devo’s ‘Gates of Steel’ and pressed on yellow vinyl) are to announced later in the year.  Each version is limited to 1,500 copies worldwide.

The video for ‘Wait In The Car’ can be seen below. ‘Wait in the Car’ was directed by Chris Bigg (formerly of the v23 team who worked on the band’s previous 4AD releases) and Martin Andersen, with the video piecing together 800 still images.

“It all started with a brick,” the pair say.  “We both liked the idea of using something iconic yet quite banal. An old brick has a story and it’s a beautiful raw object.  We started collecting more and more (some intact, some broken) and realised how different they all appear, each one having its own identity.”

The band are on tour this month and next:


OCTOBER
10 – NEWPORT, KY, The Southgate House Revival
15 – GLASGOW, ABC
16 – DUBLIN, Vicar Street
17 – MANCHESTER, Academy 2 **SOLD OUT**
18 – LONDON, Electric Ballroom **SOLD OUT**
22 – AMSTERDAM, Melkweg Max
23 – ANTWERP, Trix
24 – BERLIN, Heimathafen
25 – COPENHAGEN, Vega
27 – PARIS, Le Gaite Lyrique **SOLD OUT**
29 – ST. PAUL, MN, XCEL Energy Centre (w/ Arcade Fire)
30 – CHICAGO, IL, United Center (w/ Arcade Fire)

NOVEMBER
1 – DETROIT, MI, Magic Stick
3 – BOSTON, MA, The Sinclair **SOLD OUT**
4 – WASHINGTON, DC, Lincoln Theatre
5 – NEW YORK, NY, Bowery Ballroom **SOLD OUT**
6 – PHILADELPHIA, PA, Union Transfer
8 – PORTLAND, OR, Wonder Ballroom **SOLD OUT**
9 – SEATTLE, WA, Showbox at Market **SOLD OUT**
11 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA, The Rickshaw Stop **SOLD OUT**
12 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA, The Rickshaw Stop **SOLD OUT**
13 – LOS ANGELES, CA, El Rey Theatre **SOLD OUT**

Presenting…DIVES

It’s still great, even in my forties, to have a submission drop into my inbox (in amongst the excessive amouint of stuff in there and the people who keep sending follow-up emails, despite the fact I ask people so nicely not to do so) and think ‘Yes! This is my new favourite band.’

Austrian band DIVES are a surf-pop trio consisting of Dora de Goederen (drums), Viktoria Kirner (bass), and Tamara Leichtfried (vocals, guitar) and they come from Vienna.

The trio draw from the 60s – girl-bands like the Shangri-La’s, as well as both the post-punk c-81 sound and the c-86 indie-pop attitude. Amongst their influences are 17 Seconds’ faves The Shop Assistants. They will release their debut EP on November 3. The first track to be made available is ‘Shrimp’ and you can see the video below.

The EP will be available digitally and on vinyl and CD on Siluh Records. It’s only available for p[rivate stream at the moment, but you will have to take my word for it that it’s very good indeed.

The tracklisting is as follows:
1. Shrimp
2. Concrete
3. Roof
4. Tomorrow
5. Drum
6. Squeeze

There’s only dates in Austria and Germany announced at the moment, but they are as follows:

October 20  – Linz, Willyfried
November 18 – Vienna, Fluc (EP launch)
November 29  – Munich, Milla
December 1 – Leipzig, Tiff
December 2 – Berlin, Schokoladen