If the thought of packing up your life in a knapsack and setting out on the open road ever appealed to you in the least – good news. The Civil Wars have written an album about how that might work out for you.
Self-titled, with all the idiosyncrasy of form and focus that implies, this follow-up to 2011’s ‘Barton Hollow’ turns inward in a way few songwriters dare, and fewer still pull off. It looks at all the rabid, hungry thoughts that eat away at you when you’re alone – truly alone, with nobody to tell you you’re going a bit crazy and lovesick.
Sinners, criminals and widows speak their piece in turn, fleshing out ‘The Civil Wars’ with the depths and dark regrets of relationships torn apart with good intentions. And it’s all strung together with that triumphant vocal harmony, shared by Joy Williams and John Paul White, back for another round of eloquent anguish and melodic heartbreak.
Whatever we expected of Laura Marling after ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’, wherever we thought that jazzy folk jam sound of hers was heading, we were wrong.
Wonderfully, presumptuously, deaf-eared wrong.
Laura Marling doesn’t do linear progression. She doesn’t do predictable, and you’d be somewhat disappointed if you thought she did simple love songs.
He’s been in more bands than most of us have had hot dinners. He’s shared stages (and groupies) with everyone from Steve Marriott to Steve Van Zandt. He’s had 65 years on this Earth, and he doesn’t seem to have wasted a single day thus far.
From his days in Silverhead warming up for Deep Purple and Fleetwood Mac, through recording on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label, launching his ‘Rock Against Drugs’ campaign and fronting Power Station at Live Aid, Michael Des Barres is the name that fills the gaps in rock history.
There’s something about Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, you know. They shouldn’t be this cool.
Sometimes they play like angry, dirty punks; sometimes they play like they’re in a psychedelic space trance.
They sing about the ugliness of war and the sweet release of death, like a trio of ghosts who happened upon Black Sabbath and close harmonies in the same afternoon. By all the ordinary rules of the music world, they ought to be a heavy metal band with pretensions up to their eyeballs.
But they aren’t. They defy convention. They defy genres. It’s hard to fathom them. It was hard to fathom that first record of theirs some 12 years ago, and ‘Specter at the Feast’ isn’t going to be fathomable either. Another 12 years from now you’ll still be playing it, wondering how music like this actually, physically came to be.
Do you raid your obscure vinyl collection, Tarantino style? Do you hire Hans Zimmer and let him off the leash to wreak musical genius?
Or do you just grab an up-and-coming band by the collar and empty a suitcase of money in front of them? “Yup, let’s do that” said Beautiful Creatures director Richard LaGravanese. Probably.
Ready or not, Richard Thompson’s ‘Electric’ is upon us. Along with Taras Prodaniuk and Michael Jerome, the core of his touring band for the last 10 years, Thompson has put together a record of remarkable depth and powerful folksome flavour.
His guitar playing, so inimitable and unpredictable, has never been easy to define. Now it veers between wild fantasy and weary fable, stirring up all passions of untamed youth alongside the hardened discipline that only comes with long maturity.
Now you’ve been through our extensive Essential Listening 2012 series, which includes all our top choices from a past twelve months of albums, gigs and tracks, here some of our frankly super talented band of writers pick out their own favourite album of 2012, each making a convincing argument for the selected records in the process.
“I’m always going to trust the art and be suspicious of the artist because he’s generally…a stumbling clown like everybody else.” – Bruce Springsteen, 2006.
Clinton Heylin starts his book with this very same quote. It’s his statement of intent; his anchor for 400-odd pages of exploration into the way this particular artist has grown up through 40 years in the music business.
From the scruffy-bearded street poet who snared a record deal by singing ‘It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City’ for John ‘I Discovered Dylan’ Hammond, to the tireless stadium rocker taking over the world with ‘Born in the USA’, Heylin retraces the steps of the man you and I know as The Boss through every test and every track worth knowing about.
Fret ye not on the practicalities, you don’t need a TARDIS to visit those days anymore. Just give ‘This Is An Adventure’ a spin. You’ll be there in the twinkle of a glockenspiel.
Only The Darkness would have the balls to kick off their record with a Hawk The Slayer line, leading into their blood-pumping tribute to love and bicycles ‘Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us’, sounding for all the world like they’re off to storm the castle on their fixies. This is rock ‘n’ roll with rrrrolling ‘r’s, twin-harmony guitar solos and very high voices, and it’s been too, too long since we heard its like.
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