Presenting…Rev Magnetic

Rev Magnetic

Rev Magnetic are based around the core of legendary Scottish musician and writer (Sweetmeat, Jelly Roll, Venus As A Boy – all worth reading) Luke Sutherland.

An occasional member of Mogwai, his musical project Rev Magnetic are now signed to Mogwai’s Rock Action label, and ‘Gloaming’ is the first fruits of the partnership. The single is released on 7″ at the end of this week, out now on digital, and an album is to follow.

This is glorious – and the video is fantastic, too.

 

New from Chaka Khan

chaka-khan-hello-happiness

I’ve been a bit quiet round the blog lately, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve given up.

Rather that life is keeping me busy. But I’m still listening, reading and writing.

At the moment, I’m enjoying the final part of Stuart Cosgrove’s epic soul trilogy, Harlem 69: The Future Of Soul. It follows on from Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul and Memphis 68: The Tragedy Of Southern Soul. The fast-moving tale of soul is intertwined with the politics of the period, and it’s educational not just about music but also about history, politics and sociology. The advantage of the modern age is that you can make a list of the music you are reading about and go and investigate it at the touch of the button…though this probably works more to the benefit of the consumer rather than the artist.

One of the people who appears in the pages of Harlem 69 is a young Chaka Khan. She’s just released her first album in twelve years, Hello Happiness. Somehow I missed last year’s first track from the album ‘Like Sugar’ which is just awesome. Fortunately, when it comes to doing my end of year Festive Fifty lists, one of my rules is that a track can qualify even if it was released as single the previous year…if it is released on the parent album that year. Seriously, check this out…

 

 

This is the title track, which is also rather fine.

 

 

Hello Happiness is only seven songs long, but it’s a joy to hear. Take the time to do so!

 

Gig review – Craig Finn

Craig Finn

Craig Finn – Edinburgh Usher Hall, February 6, 2019

The last time I saw Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn it was close enough to see the whites of his eyes. Hardly surprising, it was a living room gig in an Edinburgh tenement. At the time he was promoting his latest (third) solo album, We All Want The Same Things. Now two years later, he’s supporting Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon on solo dates, and has a new solo album, I Need A New War, out in April.

There’s no doubt that Craig Finn is a talented songwriter – but watching and listening to him armed with just an acoustic guitar (no mean feat in a venue the size of the Usher Hall, upgraded from the comparatively smaller Queen’s Hall), his skill as a raconteur cannot be underestimated. Sure, it’s irritating when people won’t shut up over the support act, but even more so when it’s someone this witty.

Introducing the Hold Steady’s song ‘Magazines’, he talks about how it was written after a girl dumped him on a date. Then twenty-four hours later – during which time he’d written the song – she realised she’d made a mistake and they’ve been together ever since, even though he wrote the song. There’s a preview of the new record’s ‘Magic Marker’ and more reflections about growing up and missing out on being a proper punk because he didn’t get to see Black Flag on ‘Punk Is Not A Fair Fight.’ There’s the melancholy of 9/11 revisited on ‘Newmyer’s Roof’ and a touching tribute to the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit with a cover of Frabbits’ ‘Heads Roll Off.’

As a reviewer, I was privileged to see this, but if I’d been a punter I would have been amply rewarded, too.

Album review – Katie Doherty and the Navigators

katie-doherty-lg-1170x650

Katie Doherty and the Navigators -‘And Then’ (Steeplejack Music)

‘Second album syndrome’ is an idea that’s been around so long it’s tempting to wonder how music makers were pressured pre-recorded sound. Katie Doherty released her debut, Bridges, back in 2007, but it’s only now that the follow-up, And Then, has been released.

Not that she’s been idle in the meantime, as she’s been a composer for many Northern Stage productions, as well as collaborating with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and starting a family. This second album is not a concept album per se (or if it is, it’s very well hidden!), but there is a theme running through the record, Doherty’s evaluation of the concept of change.

This is a record that probably will be described as folk, for convenience if nothing else, but that shouldn’t mean that it isn’t hugely contemporary in terms of the lyrical concerns within. On the title track she looks at the issue of looking perfect in the age of social media:

And they filter out the lines that show you’re living

They paper over cracks where light gets in

And that fire in your belly is a safety hazard

And they’ll smother it before it could begin

Please, please don’t let them win‘ she implores the listener.

Elsewhere she looks at just how overwhelming being a parent is on ‘Tiny Little Shoes’ and takes a tough stance on standing up for yourself as a woman on ‘Angry Daughter.’ If you ever thought that folk music was little more ‘than hey nonny no’ needs to listen to her powerfully proclaiming that ‘this is owed to resilience, stand up for what is wrong.’

It’s not just about the power of Doherty as a lyricist but it’s also about how compelling the album is, over repeated listens, musically. Shona Mooney (fiddle and vocals) and Dave Gray (melodeon and vocals) make this very much a group record, along with double bassist Ian Stephenson, producing something very powerful to listen to. The atmosphere conjured up to listen to on ‘A Rose In Winter’ particularly is a spinechilling listen, and the centuries-old traditions meeting the twenty-first century head on in the instrumental ‘Polska.’

The standout track, though, is ‘Heartbeat Ballroom.’ Reflecting on lovers who met at teenage dances, it’s actually pretty moving, even more so when combined with Ian Fenton’s video. even on its own, it is an extraordinarily visual song in the images it conjures up. If it doesn’t bring a lump to your throat, then something’s wrong.

There’s no need to spend hours debating what folk music is or attempting to justify this album’s place. Take it at face value, and live with it until you love it. Then keep playing…

****

And Then is out now on Steeplejack Music

 

 

 

 

Interview – Michael Franti

michael-franti-4

The legendary Michael Franti talks about collaborating with William S. Burroughs, supporting U2 and the enduring appeal of ‘Rapper’s Delight…’

17 Seconds: Hello Michael! How are you, where are you and what’s the weather like?

Michael Franti: I’m doing great, I’ve just completed a new film called Stay Human and an album to go along with it called ‘Stay Human Vol.II’. They are both about how we hold onto our humanity in challenging times like the ones we are living in today and my personal battle of optimism over cynicism that I see playing out all over the world today.

17 Seconds: Where are you based these days?

 MF: My home throughout my adult life has been in the Hunter’s Point neighborhood of San Francisco, where I live with my wife Sara and our four-month-old son, Taj. We also own a boutique yoga hotel in Bali called Soulshine Bali where we live part of the year, I’m passionate about yoga and our hotel puts on over 40 yoga retreats annually and my wife and I lead two music and yoga retreats a year. As a touring musician my home is a tour bus for 6-7 months on the road.

17 Seconds: What are your hopes for the political situation in the US in 2019? 

MF: I hope that Americans wake up to the fraud that President Trump is and that we either elect someone else in 2020, or that he is unceremoniously removed from office before then.  Regardless, he’s already done damage to our nation that will take decades to recover from.  That being said, I see this as a wakeup call for everyone in our country – sometimes things need to get super bad in order to wake and shake folks up to become active. Our nation needs to heal the epidemic of gun violence, opioid deaths, racism, sexism, and our dependency on fossil fuels and make real investments into education, healthcare for all and creating an economy that is run on 100% renewable energy.  That’s a lot for 2019, but hey we gotta start somewhere.

17 Seconds: Would you ever consider running for political office? 

MF: No.  I’m not someone who believes that a random guy off the street (or in my case a stage) would be better at it than people who know the business of how to get stuff done in government.  Experience matters.  I’m not gonna ask a plumber to fly me from San Francisco to New York, just because they “think” they might be good at it.  That being said I think I’d make a pretty good campaigner, I just feel I can be more productive promoting optimism and issues through music.

 17 Seconds: In 1993 you collaborated with William S. Burroughs, what are your memories of working with him?

MF: He was a very kind, mysterious man. I’m very proud of that record and the claymation video for The Junky’s Christmas that was made.

17 Seconds: In the UK you first gained attention as part of Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy. What are your thoughts on the project, a quarter of a century on? 

MF: It was a life changing experience for me to go from being in an aggressive-afro-industrial-punk band like The Beatnigs, to putting out a song like “Television The Drug Of The Nation” with Disposable’s and then being invited to open for U2 in stadiums around the country for 50,000 people every night.  Being at those shows and watching U2 do their thing also taught me that melody can be as powerful as lyrics and that anger wasn’t necessarily my super power. 

17 Seconds: What are your plans for Spearhead (and beyond) for 2019? 

MF: We are releasing the Stay Human album and film on January 25th and will be touring with them throughout the year.  The first single, “The Flower” is all about gun violence. In 2017, there were 39,773 deaths from gun violence in America. That’s way too many. Our goal as always is to inspire optimism, make people dance, appreciate every precious second of life and to stay in the fight to make the world a better place.

17 Seconds: This year marks forty years since ‘Rapper’s Delight’ became the first top forty hip hop record in both the UK and the US. What are your thoughts on the record? 

MF: I still love it and still own a cassette of it that I recorded off the air when it came out, and yes, I can still recite the entire song word for word.

17 Seconds: Finally, what music are you currently listening to? 

MF: Victoria Canal, who’s an inspiring artist that was born with one arm and taught herself to play piano.  She has the voice of Nora Jones and Alicia Keys and a message of self-empowerment that is so important today. I love almost everything Diplo does and recently dug into Dominic Fike’s Ep, ‘Don’t Forget About Me’.

 

Stay Human II is released on Boo Boo Wax on January 25.

 

New from The Killers

Killers 2019

It has been a while since I featured The Killers on the blog. If I’m being honest, Hot Fuss is the only album I ever really listen to.

But this new standalone track ‘Land Of The Free’ is quite good, and the video directed by the legendary Spike Lee is incredibly pertinent.

Can’t wipe that wind blown smile from across my face
It’s just the old man and me
Washing his truck at the Sinclair station
In the land of the free
His mother Adeline’s family came on a ship
Cut coal and planted a seed
Down in them drift mines of Pennsylvania
In the land of the free
In land of the free
When I go out in my car I don’t think twice,
But if you’re the wrong color skin
You grow up looking over both your shoulders
In the land of the free
And we got more people locked up than the rest of the world
Right here in red white and blue
Incarceration’s become big business
And it’s harvest time out on the avenue
In the land of the free
Move on, there’s nothing to see
So how many daughters?
Tell me how many sons
Do we have to put in the ground
Before we just break down and face it?
We’ve got a problem with guns
In the land of the free
Down at the border
They’re gonna put up a wall
With concrete and rebar steel beams
High enough to keep all those filthy hands off of our hopes and our dreams
People who just want the same thing we do
In the land of the free

Album Review – You Tell Me

You Tell Me

You Tell Me -You Tell Me (Memphis Industries)

You Tell Me is the new project of Field Music’s Peter Brewis and Admiral Fallow’s Sarah Hayes. Their self-titled album has grown out of a meeting at a Kate Bush celebration concert and the discovery of a shared love as music diverse as Tortoise and Rufus Wainwright. On paper, this sounds like an album that has the potential to really be a brilliant album…

Both artists have an impressive track record – Sarah is additionally established as a contemporary folk artist- and this is very much an equal collaboration. When their voices come together it’s gorgeous, and they really meld together well. However, whilst there’s a lot going on here on this album that demonstrates their considerable individual talents, it’s possibly a bit too clever for its own good, with the result that several tracks just leave the listener feeling really rather overwhelmed.

The album really does not get off to a good start. Opener ‘Enough To Notice’ sounds a bit sickly sweet, and the idea of ‘Water Cooler’ – that of an inept office romance- is interesting enough on paper, but in reality has so much going on that it’s really rather distracting. ‘Clarion Call’ aims to sound like Fairport Convention (an aim that no artist should ever be criticised for, admittedly) but doesn’t quite get there.

On the other hand, ‘Springburn’ is a success because it’s shorn of too much cleverness, and the end result is absolutely lovely, pretty much as stripped down as this album gets. Album closer ‘Kabuki’ manages to combine the duo’s experimental tendencies and to produce something as equally gorgeous.

There’s a lot going on here, rather too much to deal with (thankfully, it’s not a long album). Perhaps three or four tracks would hang together well to make up a pretty decent EP. Instead of which, we are presented with a series of ideas that obscure the songs underneath. Yes, it’s well produced, but that really isn’t enough to make a decent album. Frustratingly, even repeated plays do not start to illuminate the album, as if to make it something worth persevering with, but instead, leave it as something that listened to as a whole make it more of an endurance test.

There’s no doubt that Messrs Brewis and Hayes are talented songwriters with a desire to experiment. But on the evidence here, at the risk of sounding harsh, the tendency is to say ‘don’t give up the day jobs.’ Or, alternatively, develop the ideas more carefully next time.

**

You Tell Me is released on Memphis Industries on January 11.

 

 

Interview – George McFall

George McFall meets with 17 Seconds to buy us a coffee, tell us about his new album and why it’s coming out under his own name.

George McFall

Given the somewhat intense look Mr. McFall gives on his fantastic new album XIV: Surrounder, it may come as a surprise to some readers just how very nice and down to earth he is in real life. We met on a dark January night in the bar of Edinburgh’s hallowed Cameo cinema to discuss the forthcoming release of his second album – the follow-up to 2012’s debut God Save The Clean – due out at the end of January. He buys me a cup of coffee, settles himself down with a pot of tea and we get on with a very enjoyable chat.

 So, given the seven years that has passed since the debut (also an excellent record, in case you were wondering) what has he been up to? Quite a lot as it happens.

 

‘I’ve been trying to hold down jobs, maintain relationships and working on the new album,’ he says. He also did a degree in History at Birkbeck College in London, where he lives for much of the time.  With the exception of drums from Edinburgh drum legend Murray Briggs (of Oi Polloi and Aberfeldy), everything else on the record has been played by George himself. ‘Being able to do a record like this one in a mere six years is quite impressive when you’re having to do everything yourself,’ he says. Really, it’s hard to argue.
george mcfall xiv surrounder spotify art
Not only that but checking the shelves back home later reveals he also contributed to the two albums released in that time by Dominic Waxing Lyrical, Woodland Casual and Rural Tonic. He’s also written and recorded a forthcoming album with Murray’sbrother, Aberfeldy frontman Riley. They set up the Edinburgh record company, Tenement Records, with friends back in 2010 ‘None of us are doing it thinking that we’re going to sell lots of records,’ he says, though the quality – which also includes Aberfeldy’s last album to date, Somewhere To Jump From – pretty much speaks for itself.
Whereas previous records, going back to his debut single, 2007’s ‘First Blast Of The Trumpet Against The Monstrous Regiment Of Women’ were under the name Clean George IV, the arrival of the first track from the album ‘Autumn’ towards the end of last year was the first time he had put out a record under his own name. ‘There comes a time in life when giving yourself a cartoon name seems trite and embarrassing,‘ he says.
The original name was nothing to do with George IV Bridge in Edinburgh – the city where he grew up – but was,he says cryptically, ‘somewhat ironic . Of that debut single, he jokes about having an idea about writing protestant pop music (believe me, in parts of the Celtic Fringe there are still those who wouldn’t get the joke about that, regardless of churches being places they go for hatching, matching and despatching). The A-side references a notorious pamphlet by the Scottish religious reformer John Knox, while the B-side ‘The Great Highland Crack Epidemic’ was inspired by nights out. ‘I was writing songs from the title backwards in those days,’ he reflects.

Given the distinct sound that he has fashioned, I ask what his influences are. His father is a classical musician, and growing up he was surrounded by the 1980s pop music of the time, followed by a ‘classic rock phase’ and then a period of what may now be regarded as classic leftfield rock, the likes of Captain Beefheart, The Birthday Party and The Fall. The latter particularly sound like an influence on his two albums.

He also enjoys the German progressive rock sound of the 1970s – I tell him that I hear a connection between his music and that of the legendary Faust. This seems to please him and he recalls an encounter with the drummer of the band some years ago who told him that in the future we’d all smoke electric cigarettes. The time has now come, we agree. He played keyboards for a while in the fondly remembered Kling Klang, who drew on the German music of the period, but were eventually forced to split up after a cease and desist notice from Kraftwerk (it’s the name of their Dusseldorf studio).

We also end up discussing the minimalist music of the late twentieth century, he gives the thumbs up to the likes of Americans Steve Reich and John Adams, but he’s rather less than enthusiastic about Philip Glass, perhaps being rather unimpressed when I tell him it was David Bowie and Siouxsie Sioux who got me to rethink my own views on him.
Perhaps given our surroundings on this wet January evening, we discuss the film influence on his work – he describes both his albums as ‘quite cinematic sounding.’ He tells me that he has deliberately courted a hi-fidelity sound on his records. While he is sympathetic to previous generations indie shambling, he tells me quite firmly that ‘in this day and age there’s no excuse! [for low fidelity]’ In his defence, he doesn’t name names. Many of these bands come from north of the border, and in Scotland, the six degrees of separation is usually reduced to two.
Surrounder was finished last summer, and over the next few months he intends to finish not one but two albums under his own name. In addition to that, he has radio sessions and a few ‘little shows’ as he describes them, lined up.  Certainly his new album may have been a while coming, but once my broadband finally lets me, it’s a treat for the ears. He ploughs his own furrow, and your record collection should be better for that.

XIV: Surrounder is released on Tenement Records on February 1.

Presenting…Katie Doherty

Katie-Doherty-And-The-Navigators-136Katie Doherty released her first album, Bridges, back in 2007. A number of projects have meant that 2019 will see its follow-up, And Then.

Credited to Katie Doherty and The Navigators, it’s a beautiful album (already played twice in one sitting today), that will be released on January 25. A full review will follow shortly.

The first track to be released from the album ‘Heartbeat Ballroom,’ is a lovely track, which is accompanied by a video which is quite moving (lump in the throat moments) directed by Ian Fenton and mostly featuring members of the Walsall community. You can read more about it here.

 

You can hear more tracks from the album here

Presenting…Oceans Over Alderaan

Oceans Over Alderaan

Hello, and a happy new year to you all.

Shortly before Christmas I received an email from a Blackpool band named Oceans Over Alderaan. The band are Alice Deacon, Steve Trenell, Joe Wylie and Barry Parkinson. Amongst their influences are the likes of The Cure, Cocteau Twins, and Mogwai.

January 11 will see them release their debut single ‘Sevenfour’ which is absolutely fantastic and you can stream below. It combines the best of shoegaze, doomrock, post-rock…call it what you will, it’s really very good indeed. It’s released on The Recording Industry Is Dead Records, which seems to be pretty accurate, but here’s hoping this reignites it.

The only other track on their soundcloud page is ‘Falters’ …which sounds equally good and will be released later on this year. As far as I can see there are no gigs lined up at the moment, but what’s on display here is fantastic.