Fin Greenall‘s last release – a collaboration with Holland’s revered Royal Concertbebouw Orchestra – seemed to offer a new perspective on the Cornishman’s work.
Working the added dimensions, an assortment of pieces highlighted the talents of an artist capable of seeing his normally introvert sensibilities thrive in the broadest of musical contexts.
Where critics previously might have accused him of being incapable of anything other than the subtlest of dramas, the transformation rivalled anything a duckling or caterpillar is capable of.
Greenall has a cosmopolitan background, having worked on Amy Winehouse‘s first demos, received three BMI awards for his work with John Legend‘s ‘Evolver‘ and worked stints for a number of prominent labels. The hallmarks of his career would seem to be change and always seeking new horizons; on ‘Hard Believer‘, however, this will-o-the-wisp script is not quite followed to the letter.
It’s been a long period of hibernation for The Chills – at times it looked like it might be a permanent hiatus – but the band who began life in Dunedin in 1979 now seem well on the way back to full productivity.
The journey might have been circuitous, but frontman Martin Phillips makes no apologies for a set which mixes the more familiar songs with a clutch of those from new album ‘Silver Bullets‘, of which he speaks in confident terms. It will be an acid test of their revival like no other; their last studio effort ‘Sunburnt‘ was released in 1996.
Pastoral, reflective and possibly the most charming album of the year, King Creosote returns with his, well it’s anyone’s guess these days – could be his 40th or 400th album – ‘From Scotland With Love‘.
This love letter to Scotland is a collection of simple and beautiful songs, some grander gestures and a smattering of upbeat numbers all about a life lived amongst people who have grown up with common experiences. Like a microcosm of a way of life we now yearn for, not a simpler time, or anything so faux or twee, just a time fondly remembered and missed, but no less hard or more happy.
Offering the listener such wonderful slices of lo-fi indie beauty, it truly stands apart as something special. And it does this by offering something quite distinctive in its bare bones, simple beauty and gentle honesty. Songs like opener ‘Something To Believe In‘ and ‘Miserable Strangers‘ are so fragile and tentative they feel like they could almost disappear before your eyes, while the immense wonder of ‘Pauper’s Dough‘ is simply breathtaking, managing to feel so personal whilst sounding so grand.
The poignancy wrapped up in the title of Morrissey’s landmark tenth solo studio album could never ring more potently than within our current war-torn age of rising military tensions and political unrest.
On ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business‘ Morrissey bookends a troubled period in his own personal life, of ill health and cancelled tours, with an album of distinct clarity in its message, acting as the perfect aural compliment to his recent bare all autobiography.
His solo career to date has been met with critically acclaimed consistency, while commercial peaks in debut album ‘Viva Hate‘ and 1994’s ‘Vauxhall and I‘, once described by Morrissey as a potentially unsurpassable feat of musical accomplishment, provide ample evidence that the legendary Smiths frontman and all round purveyor of resplendently self-deprecating melancholy still has plenty to say when he sees fit to decant his inimitable political and societal observations into song.
Some roads can lead just about anywhere.
So after Slow Club’s folksy debut ‘Yeah So’ it would have been almost impossible to have predicted ‘Complete Surrender‘.
Gone is the whimsical, playful and sometimes almost childlike indie-folk, replaced by nothing but the lushest production possible.
The album isn’t a total surprise however; sophomore effort ‘Paradise‘ hinted at their all encompassing interests, and that an ever burgeoning talent was beginning to really display just what they were capable of. It was full of adult themes and icy synths, with tracks like the soulful ‘Never Look Back‘ hinting there was even more to come.
And it is this potential that ‘Complete Surrender’ fulfills. It pushes fully into the neo-soul sound, with wonderfully lavish productions which bring to mind some truly classic songs, but it also develops the synth-soundscapes so prevalent on ‘Yeah So’. Never satisfied with pushing these new boundaries, it also harks back to the warmth of their debut.
The recent 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain‘s death brought to mind a number of long forgotten things, not least of which was the bizarre theories surrounding its nature.
Also buried in the haze of two decades was just how close a living Cobain might have come to seeing his career eclipsed by his spouse, as the errant Courtney Love perceptively used the hyper-reality surrounding their marriage and motherhood as a muse, stepping to them with fists balled and raised. Released just four days after her husband’s (probable) suicide, Hole‘s irascible sophomore record ‘Live Through This‘ was the sound of a woman taking the reigns of her career with a flint-eyed determination.
Subsequently hailed as a classic and easily Love’s finest musical contribution to her prosaic back story, ‘Live Through This’ lessened the aggression of Hole’s début ‘Pretty On The Inside‘ and tapped into multiple veins of angst and post-grunge nihilism, kicking against the pricks with rapier like precision.
White Lung vocalist Mish Way has made no secret of her admiration for Love; a performer who, despite her obvious character flaws, has continued to be uncompromisingly successful, an alternative role model who flies in the face of the planet’s widespread post millennial misogyny.
Having already acquired critical acclaim for her first two albums from both press and contemporaries – Nick Cave and David Byrne are both fans to name two – Anna Calvi takes a brief detour for her latest release ‘Strange Weather’.
This 5 track EP is a captivating eclectic mix of obscure covers originally by, with the exception of one song, obscure artists.
Indeed, her choices are such anonymities that one is immediately absolved for not thinking these to be Calvi’s own work.
Of course she is no stranger to releasing covers, having already recorded songs by artists as diverse as Elvis, Cohen and Springsteen as b-sides, but ‘Strange Weather’ goes a step further. Not content to simply exhibit a diverse knowledge and appreciation of songwriting during the last 60 years with facsimile renditions, she skilfully reinterprets these works, and personifies them.
At ease with the sleaze.
Unquestionably, there has always been an element of lewd impropriety about the Dandy Warhols, but what separated them from other bands that focused on depravity was their comfort within that sound. Courtney Taylor-Taylor and his companions have always seemed most at home when singing about society’s underbelly.
And this is never more evident than when you see them live. There is only one tempo for the whole night – and it’s a writhing, driving and throbbing beat. Everything is moody, menacing and pulsating, all done with purpose. This is a performance intended to startle, nothing is as expected. All the hits are played, most are barely recognisable, but all amaze.
The problem with being over forty is people so often insist that you act your age; while you’re ticking off another item from your bucket list like white water rafting without a boat, you almost can’t hear yourself think for the tutting of judgemental bystanders.
On ‘Broken Heart Surgery‘, Pete Fij‘s subject has suffered one of the most ignominious fates that a middle ager can endure: being chucked. The trauma of it is etched in almost every angry, sardonic word, while his partner in crime, Terry Bickers, offers tea, sympathy and understated guitar by way of a shoulder to cry on.
We’ve had veterans dipping into the solo world, seasoned mainstays releasing some of the best work of their career and, always most excitingly, brand new bands unleashing truly impressive debuts. 2014 has been undoubtedly another strong year so far, and Live4ever has once again picked out just a handful of albums for us all to revisit and reflect on as an all-too fleeting summer homes into view.
The variety is striking; from the ‘true joy and genius of great punk music’ found in OFF’s ‘Wasted Years’, to the ‘haunting, tragic air’ of ‘I Can Learn’, and the majestic under-the-radar first release from Vikesh Kapoor which dispays ‘the real America, its majesty and pride never so honestly depicted’. All this and much more is waiting in the latest edition of Live4ever’s Essential Listening series.
Live4ever’s Essential Listening is here to share, not preach! An interactive celebration of rock and roll where your favourites can contribute. Make sure your stand-out albums of the year so far get a deserved mention by leaving a comment below.
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