Two awesome albums for you to check out

Apologies for being rather quiet round here the last few days – I’ve been waylaid by a summer cold, and as ever, have way too many submissions to listen to, never even mind writing about!

These two albums, however, are ones that you should take the time to listen to, and indeed, go and buy.

Yukon Blonde

Yukon Blonde’s third album On Blonde (see what they did there?) is out on June 15 and you can stream it over on Spin.com.

richard-thompson

Meanwhile, I never tire of going on about the genius that is Richard Thompson and you can stream his latest album Still either via NPR is you’re in the US, it’s out there on June 23, or if you are based in the UK, via The Guardian. It’s out here on June 29.

Stunning new video from Bjork

Bjork

So far, 2015 has been a brilliant year for albums. Top of my list so far, though is Bjork’s Vulnicura and you can read my review over at God Is In the TV). She’s just unveiled an absolutely stunning video for the album’s opening track ‘Stonemilker.’

Take the time to watch yet another groundbreaking video from Bjork – this time utilising 360° virtual reality. Shot on a beach in Iceland, it is something really quite special.

…and if you still haven’t heard Vulnicura, you know what to do.

Album Review – Bhi Bhiman

Bhi Bhiman -’Rhythm & Reason.’ (BooCoo Music/Thirty Tigers)

If the idea of anyone being a soulfully subversive singer seems a bit of an odd idea, let’s start by considering that this album is equal parts Richard Pryor and Curtis Mayfield. That’s the black humour of Pryor, the soul of Mayfield and the social observations of both. While concept albums are nothing new, there’s a theme running through the album, as Bhiman draws on his own upbringing as the son of immigrants for the album.

The album starts off with the delightfully catchy shuffle of ‘Moving to Brussels.’ Unusually for a song, it’s been described as an immigrant’s Dear John letter to his former dictator (as you have probably guessed, we are not in indie-by-numbers territory here). ‘There Goes The Neighborhood’ tackles the so-called ‘white flight’ concept -’And the white House turns to grey/and the black won’t wash away’ he sings, ironically but beautifully with his warm tenor.

Much like with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On, Bhiman understands the idea that you can deal with pretty serious topics, but you can put these across in a musical way, and his way adds music and humour (did I mention the humour? Seriously, it’s an important factor here). So he describes being interrogated by a jealous lover as being waterboarded – ‘Waterboarded (In Love).’ And the observation in ‘Bread and Butter that ‘Everyone wants to be a star – no-one wants to know the chords’ is pretty profound on many levels: we can take it as doing the groundwork for making progress and gaining recognition in life or a snipe at the talent show light entertainment malaise that makes up Saturday night TV.

Perhaps the strongest song here is ‘Up In Arms.’ Written about the fall from grace of Black Panther Huey Newton, the track ends with a gunshot. It’s not sensationalist, it’s not there to shock, but it is a very distinctive final note. And with police brutality coming under the spotlight once again (yet again) in the US, it’s particularly appropriate.

Most artists can show proficiency at at least one or two things, but the fact is that on this evidence Bhiman is equally strong as a singer, lyricist and guitar player. Like Richard Thompson strong. And while the aforementioned Pryor and Mayfield have their imprints on this record, it’s an impressive feat that it recalls the great soul albums of the 1970s from the likes of Messrs. Wonder, Hayes and Gaye – and of course, Mayfield, in its execution.

Where does this fit in in 2015′s musical world? Part of the many strengths is that there aren’t many records out there that combine this level of musicality with the observations and humour. Maybe there haven’t been in a while. But safe to say this is one of the most original albums you will hear this year.

****1/2

Rhythm & Reason is out now on BooCoo Music/Thirty Tigers

The return of Yukon Blonde

Yukon Blonde

Having been quite impressed when I first heard Yukon Blonde back in 2010, the five-piece Canadian band are now set to release their third album, the Dylan-referencing On Blonde on June 15 (Blonde on Blonde? Oh, please yourself) on Dine Alone/Caroline.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1.Confused
2. Make U Mine
3. Como
4. I Wanna Be Your Man
5. Saturday Night
6. Hannah
7. You Broke The Law
8. Starvation
9. Favourite People
10. Jezebel

…and you can hear three tracks from the album below, featuring the band’s way with a tune, a chorus and drawing on their love of The Cure, The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs:

A song for today #13

tomrobinson2-564

Today marks Tom Robinson’s 65th birthday. He’s shortly to release his first solo album in nearly twenty years ,Only The Now. Guests appearances on the new album include Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy, Lisa Knapp, Sir Ian McKellen, TV Smith and Nitin Sawhney.

The first single to be taken from the album is ‘Don’t Jump, Don’t Fall.’ Released today, it’s a poignant and utterly believable story of a teenage boy going off the rails. It is hoped the single will raise awareness and funds for CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably) dedicated to preventing male suicide in the UK. Having battled depression himself at various points in his life, CALM is a charity close to Tom’s heart. It runs a confidential and anonymous national helpline and web chat service for men who are down and in need of support, and relies largely on public donations to keep the helpline open and the campaign going.

More about CALM can be found here

I don’t normally post the entire lyrics to songs on the blog, but this is a) a very good song (how do I know it has touched me? When I popped out I was still singing it) and b) it’s a very worthwhile cause. So please: read the lyrics and listen to the song.

‘Don’t Jump, Don’t Fall’

I still remember first meeting you when
You were a small blond kid about nine or ten
Your mother went missing and your father drank
For your first real home you had an aunt to thank

You came to stay when you were still quite young
You had mischievous eyes and a razorsharp tongue
Life has its interludes and this was one
As we’d pretend for the weekend you were our son

We used to pick you up when you were feeling blue
Take you out to the movies & the circus too
But nothing’s forever and it couldn’t last
We had our own baby, and the moment passed

If you felt betrayed, boy, you hid it well
But when I think back now I feel guilty as hell
You hit the bottle when you hit your teens
Became runaway jailbait for chicken queens

Don’t jump, don’t fall
There’s a world of love out there & you can have it all

I must admit it must’ve seemed like fun
The kinda life you lived when you were on the run
The tricks you turned, and the drugs you’d done
As you scraped the barrel with your lowlife chums

You were always so certain you’d never see thirty.
When you called collect to talk drunk & dirty
A restless aching deep within
And the pain of inhabiting a human skin

Don’t jump, don’t fall
There’s a world of love out there, and you could have it all
Don’t jump, don’t fall
Standing on that balcony, your back against a wall

You must have been shaking with a terrible dread
As you climbed unsteady from your unmade bed.
Did you feel relief or did you just feel numb
To know your moment had finally come

When you left the flat on that final night.
Did you lock the door, did you leave the light
Did you think of her, did you think of me
Or did you simply think you were about to be free

The alcohol raging round your veins
The black depression pouring down like rain
I pray to God by every holy name,
My own sweet children never know that pain

Don’t jump, don’t fall
There’s a world of love out there, you could have had it all
Don’t jump, don’t fall
Standing on that balcony, your back against a wall

Words & Music by Tom Robinson.

Tourdates can be found here

A song for today #12

bryanferry_ps

Bryan Ferry celebrates his seventieth birthday this year, but the man the NME once dubbed Byron Ferrari shows no sign of slowing down. Last year saw his latest solo album Avonmore and he’s still responsible for some of the coolest music of the last forty years, both solo and as frontman of Roxy Music.

A few years ago, I argued that it might well be time for a Bryan Ferry resurgence, and I’ve rediscovered later Roxy and solo work.

While he’s done numerous cover versions throughout his career, the aforementioned Avonmore closed with his cover of Robert Palmer’s ‘Johnny and Mary.’ This also appeared on Todd Terje’s It’s Album Time. And now a stunning video has been revealed for the song. If you think that in the post-MTV era of YouTube etc.. that proper music videos don’t matter any more, feast your eyes on a beautiful video for a fantastic interpretation of a classic song. It stars Ferry and model Eliza Cummings.

A song for today #11

Vienna Ditto

Vienna Ditto are the London-based duo of Hatty Taylor and Nigel Firth. Reportedly (well, the press release says so, and it’s not always possible to prove to the contrary) the pair who first met when Nigel taught Hetty the guitar when she was 11 years old. On their website they describe themselves as being ‘Voodoo Sci-fi Blues’ which sounds pretty accurate. However Radio 1′s Huw Stephens’s description of them being like ‘Portishead doing a Tarantino Soundtrack’ (particularly if the film in question was Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill) is also pretty spot on. For me Chvrches collaborating with The Cramps would also hit the mark on the head.

Their debut album Circle is out on June 12. In the meantime, their next single, to be released on June 5, is entitled ‘Long Way Down.’ And it’s brilliant.

More of their music can be heard over at their website

The Cure vs. Twilight Sad

Robert Smith - the cure

Given that this blog takes its’ name from The Cure’s second album, it should come as no surprise that the opportunity to post Cure-related news is something I seize with delight. And when it involves another act that I have long championed on here, so much the better!

Last year, the Twilight Sad released their fourth album Nobody Wants To Be Here, And Nobody Wants To Leave. Now, for their next single from the album, ‘It Never Was The Same’ The Cure’s Robert Smith has recorded his version of the album’s ‘There’s A Girl In The Corner’ track to be the b-side. It’s utterly fabulous. and it’s out on June 15.

…and just in case you haven’t heard the original version, here it is:

You can pre-order the 7″ single here

Album Review – Cinerama

Cinerama

Cinerama -’Valentina.’ (Scopitones)

‘David Gedge’s other band!’ trumpets the sticker on this album. That’s ‘other’ in the sense that since 1985, David Gedge has been the frontman of The Wedding Present. The Wedding Present are the band who, amongst other things made history by scoring 12 Top 30 hits (one a month) with a single back in 1992. David Gedge is the man of whom the late, lamented John Peel once said ‘he’s written some of the best love songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong!”

Cinerama came into being in 1997 when the Weddoes went on hiatus, and Gedge collaborated with his then girlfriend Sally Murrell on a different sort of sound. Whilst the heartfelt love-songs continued, they owed far more to 1960s orchestral pop with flavours of soundtracks. By 2004, while Gedge was working on what became Take Fountain, he decided that the album sounded more like a Wedding Present album, the album was issued under that name. It has long been a stated ambition of Gedge’s to record and release a Wedding Present album in the style of Cinerama. So the album he has done it with is the 2012 album Valentina.

Still with me? Good. Because while this project has obviously taken a while to come to fruition, it demonstrates that David Gedge doesn’t always need a wall of raging guitars to show off his songwriting skills. Whilst the Cinerama version follows the same tracklisting and order of the original Wedding Present one, we now have a vastly different take on the songs, demonstrating sympathetic arrangements and an intelligence necessary to carry the project through (which is lesser hands than David Gedge might well have fallen flat on its face).

It might be questioned whether it’s necessary to be familiar with the original version of the album in order to enjoy it. On it’s own, it stands up fairly well, but it gives more sense to the concept behind the project if you’re aware of both albums. Valentina had never been one of my favourite Weddoes albums but I found that going back and listening to both versions side by side gave more of an insight into what had been done.

Some tracks, such as ‘You Jane’, definitely are as good as the Wedding Present version, and I think ‘Mystery Date’ in this version is even more heartfelt and moving. What does perhaps hold the album back a bit is that it can be a bit much to take in one listening; having listened to the entire album several times finding that I needed to break it up a bit.

On balance, though, it’s good to see that David Gedge has revisited his back catalogue in a different way, rather than simply recording an acoustic version or commissioning dance remixes, as might have been done by other (lesser!) acts in times gone by. It’s perhaps not the most obvious place to start for a newcomer to the work of David Gedge, but for those who are fans or want to investigate further, it’s an worthwhile addition to the catalogue.

***1/2

Valentinais out now on Scopitones.

20 questions with Kobi Onyame

Kobi Onyame

The Glasgow-based rapper takes the test…

Where are you and what’s the weather like?

At home in Glasgow. It was summer earlier on, then winter & now it looks like it’s just meh. Oh wait! The sun just came out. I’ll be back…

What’s your favourite record in the charts?

I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t heard the charts in a very long time but my favourite record right now is “These Walls” by Kendrick Lamar.

What are your favourite films?

Coming to America is probably my favourite film… EVER!

What are your favourite books?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelo changed my life. My mum gave me a Bible when I was 14. I still have it & refer to it for my truth.

What are your favourite TV programmes?

Game of Thrones, The Wire, Entourage, Suits, Friends, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, My Wife & Kids are a few favourites.

What was the first record you bought and where did you buy it from?

First album I ever bought was on cassette. It was Naughty By Nature’s 19 Naughty 3 album. I bought it in a market in Accra, Ghana.

What is your least favourite record that you have made, and why?

I like all my records! I wouldn’t listen to some of my older records now but I liked it at the time I put it out.

Do you believe in God?

Wholeheartedly

What is the strangest story you have read about yourself?

Everything has been pretty on point so far.

Tell us a joke.

Katie Hopkins. The joke is in there somewhere.

Which football team do you support?

Black Stars of Ghana

Do you have any pets?

Nope.

What’s the worst song lyric of all time?

Ha! Too many!

Who do you consider to be the most overrated musical act of all time?

Probably Vanilla Ice. Never forget Vanilla Ice.

What car do you drive?

I don’t have a car. I do drive though.

Who would you want to play you in the film of your life?

You remember the cartoon Captain Planet? Well, I’d get Kwame from Captain Planet to play me. My film will be animated.

Vinyl, CD, Download or stream?

Stream. I’m an avid Spotify user.

How will you vote in the next election?

Labour or the SNP.

When was the last time you cried?

My brother got married earlier this year. I shed a tear of joy and of sadness as my mother wasn’t alive to see. She would’ve been so happy to see him get married.

What’s the best cover version you have ever heard?

Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work” is probably just as good or better than Kate Bush. She did the original right? [She did indeed - Ed].

What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened at one of your own gigs?

It was at a festival. A girl tried to reach over the barrier at the front and fell over the barrier flat on her arse. I stopped the show, laughed a bit & asked her if she was ok. She was, so we carried on.

Have you ever been starstruck?

When I met Kanye West.

What is your culinary speciality?

I make a mean Spag Bol!

The Royal Family: should they stay or should they go?

I really don’t pay much attention to the royals.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you like to be?

I’d probably be an Economist at the World Bank.

What were you like at school?

Stood out like a sore thumb! A bit geeky, a bit shy but one hell of a cool guy, ha.

What’s your poison?

I actually have no idea ha

If you could change one law, what would it be?

I’d sum everything into the one – love each other.

Which decade would you have most liked to have lived in?

The 90′s was the best for hip hop. I’m happy I was a teen in the 90′s.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

Nope.

Kobi Onyame plays BBC Introducing at The Quay in Glasgow on Sunday June 7, alongside Honeyblood, JOnnie Common and United Fruit, amongst others. He Also plays the Solus Tent at Wickerman on July 25.

His new single ‘Imminence (Only Matter Of Time O)’ is released on July 5.