12 Revolutions of 2017: Spinning Coin -Permo

Maybe it’s the misty, doleful Scottish breeze; maybe the high density of pedantic, highly talented artists from North of the border; or maybe it’s the weirdly energetic magic that haunts the streets of Glasgow. Whatever it may be: Spinning Coin clearly have their shit together.

It’s no surprise that Orange Juice legend Edwyn Collins took the Glaswegian four-piece under his wing and partly produced their debut album Permo, which was then released by Stephen Pastel, one of the key figures of Scottish independent music. Rightly, they are treasured by those who know them best.

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Having seen Spinning Coin live twice – in Brighton and in Berlin – the Quiff can confirm that they’re beyond well-rehearsed. Their music is tighter than a pair of freshly washed hipster jeans, their predilection for precision exemplary – and it’s exactly this sense of rigour that’s manifested on Permo.

Rigour not only in a conventionally musical sense but a narrative one as well. Spinning Coin’s attention to detail encapsulates their ability to tell morally charged, poignant stories that carry political weight while still being personally digestible – such as Money Is A Drug. Jack Mellin’s voice, indignant and energetic, rattles alongside the thrusting, march-like drums, shouting out obstreperous lines that are filled with exasperation and injustice. Accompanied by bassist Rachel Taylor’s dulcet backing vocals in bridge and chorus, it creates a liberating clash that rounds the edges while revealing a simplified equation between rich and poor:

There’s many people that live in luxury/ And there’s many more people that live in misery/ Money is a drug taken by people who think they’re in luck/ When love is all there really is. 

Even though Money Is A Drug, along with other songs on the record such as Powerful or Tin, addresses concerns about our society and raises awareness, Spinning Coin’s motivation has never been purely political: “There was never any plan to make this into a political record. Obviously there’s certain tracks, like Money is a Drug, where we can’t deny that they’re political, but that just stems from whatever was on our mind at the time spilling out […] I’d quite like people to make up their own minds about what the songs [are] about as well. Honestly, me and Sean never think about these things too deeply when we’re making and writing music; it’s much more a case of letting it flow, and that goes for the lyrics, too. It’s a case of singing from the heart, so they’re personal, for sure.”[1], states Mellin.

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This contrast seeps through Spinning Coin’s music. They are concerned with both the intimate and the universal, the distant and the close, the melodious and the dissonant. Take a song like Sleepless, a simplistic but beautiful paean to dreaming, to finding a place, a way, where we can continue to hope even in our darkest, insomniac moments. Drawing together desperation and quiet optimism, cleverly juxtaposed, it is both jarring and harmonious:

Take me where the losers go to die/ Take me where the sleepers learn to fly. […] Take me where the losers learn to fly/ Take me where the sleepers go to die.

Musically, the band weave together the jagged discontent of post-punk with the melancholic, melodic introspection of early 90’s indie and the languid, lo-fi slackness of American alt-rock.

Starry Eyes is a polyphonic parade; an affirmative wakening call for more political participation, wrapped in a lax but meticulous guitar sound that gushes out as a rampant solo at its peak. It sounds as if it could have been lifted straight from an early Pavement record, with its discordant guitar and broken drums, with its vocals that always seem like they’re half a second behind the beat. It’s one of those songs which the Quiff was engulfed by from the very first second, savouring each note and every line:

You say things will never change/ But you never ask why/ You say things will never change/ (and) they won’t if you don’t even try/ Let’s do something/ that doesn’t involve getting fucked up in a sense of pride.

Spinning Coin have the rare ability to create a wonderful combination of slack and tight sound which is emphasised by their inconspicuous but diligent and peaceful stage presence. Maybe their ease of mind can be traced back to the Scottish way of life: “Everybody always seems happy when a new band comes along – it’s a good thing. We all work together to put on gigs, and there’s such a wide variety of bands in Glasgow now – it’s a really diverse scene.”[1] It sounds a bit like a fairy tale but maybe this is the Glasgow magic.

Permo was released last November via Geographic Music. You can buy it here.

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[1] http://www.theskinny.co.uk/music/interviews/spinning-coin-jack-mellin-interview

 

 

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Inside The Burning Hell

Crashing a wedding. Canadian figure skaters. Wartime Espionage. Amateur rapping. Climate change. Life as a Viking single parent. Upstairs amongst the hotchpotch, village-hall glamour of Brighton’s oldest gig venue, The Prince Albert, Canadian indie collective The Burning Hell spin their tall tales with wit, charm and a disarming insouciance. Over the last decade, this band of musical mischief-makers have quietly carved out a career making melodically oblique, lyrically ingenious guitar pop and here on the back of their 9th record, Revival Beach, Skewed Quiff catches up with chief songwriter Mathias Kom.

The new album is a treasure trove of musical miscellany encompassing electrofied agit-pop (Friend Army), soulful, gently-stirred country (Minor Changes), 90’s slacker college dropout indie (Supermoon), creeping ominous gothic alt-rock (The Troll) and Klezmer-soaked instrumental folk (Race To/Arrival At/Survival At Revival Beach). The diversity of songs reflects the vast swathe of influences on Mathias including Jonathan Richmond, The Silver Jews, The Wu-Tang Clan and The B-52s. Yet, there is an attempt to create something more cohesive than a collection of songs here:

Well, in a way the record is a concept album. It’s very loose but all the songs are in some way about the apocalypse or some problem that we have in this world. […] And then all the characters in different songs end up together in the last song – after the apocalypse. So, I hope that you can listen to it as a record.

But is this how people listen to music, now?

No. Like 10% of music listeners, maybe. […] Which is a shame in some ways but it’s also […] In the Fifties, people were only listening to singles. Albums, in a way that we know them now, didn’t really arrive until the Sixties. It’s not like people back then were idiots. They loved music and musicians loved making it. So, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.

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After a lively conversation about his literally idols – Joseph Conrad and Kasuo Ishiguro, to name a few – and predilection for venturesome storytelling Quiff wonders that Mathias hasn’t tried his hand at writing in a longer format. After all, this is a well-trodden path for lyrics-based songwriters such as Nick Cave, Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine) and, more recently, John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats). Surely, he’d enjoy the challenge?

I think it just never occurred to me. […] I kinda fell into music accidently. I never intended to do music as more than just a bedroom-hobby-recording project and, then, I’ve just been doing it for so long, now. But, yeah […] why not try writing short stories too because sometimes I get to the end of an 8-minute song and I’m like ‘This is probably too long for a song but it’d probably make a great short story.’, so I gotta try that next.

Given the scope of ambition it’s surprising to hear that Mathias has a fairly informal approach to song writing. Quiff had always imagined that a patient, diligent pedantry were the building blocks of combining intricate wordplay with melody.

Sometimes, it’s like that the lyrics arrive in your brain with a melody already. So instead of just thinking ‘Oh, this is a cool line.’, it just all happens at once. […] That’s the best. When that happens, then I know that it’s probably gonna work but when I have to fight, it’s probably not gonna work. […] You have to write the bad songs to write the good songs.

There’s something reassuring about knowing that everyone has slightly different creative processes. The world often tries to act as if constant back-breaking labour is the only way to make it, yet this self-conscious seriousness doesn’t come across:
Other musicians can just get up in the morning, start writing songs, go to the studio and record stuff, whatever… I could never do that. I just go through periods. […] like ‘Oh my god, I’m out of ideas and I’m fucked. What am I gonna do?!’ But it’s okay, it always comes back but you need to give it time.

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This easy-going nature is manifest in how Mathias speaks about getting by as musicians touring the world with part-time jobs back home. Quiff catches them in the middle of another 3 month stint of subsistence touring that takes in almost nightly dates across the UK and mainland Europe before finishing up in Canada. While others might be disappointed with the lack of glitz and glamour, this doesn’t seem to occur to them:

Yeah, it works. It pays the bills. Absolutely. I mean, we don’t tour in a Rolls Royce, it’s pretty DIY touring, so our expenses are pretty low. It works… […] Before I started making music, or before I did it seriously, I was teaching full time. Now, I usually teach one course a year over one semester. […] This year I’m teaching a course called ‘The Business of Music’ which I find really, really funny because I’d just go to class and say: ‘Hi kids, here are my tax forms. Whatever you do in life, do the opposite of this and you’ll be fine.’ But anyway, it’s gonna be great. I enjoy teaching a lot but I don’t wanna make it my life.

Mathias’ personality is clearly reflected in the Burning Hell’s music. They have a relaxed, humorous style but underneath the comfortable bushy-bearded exterior there’s a wicked intellect at play. When we start to press Mathias about how he finds the world of modern music and especially the use of social media as a platform for sharing and promoting yourself as an artist, a passionate and articulate response emerges:

No, I hate it. I fucking hate it completely. I hate it not because I don’t like connecting with people. I love getting messages from people who listen to our music but I hate that it all happens via this platform that I do really not respect. I have a lot of problems with Facebook, Twitter and all those companies. I don’t feel comfortable that I have to participate in this cooperation in order to make this good thing happen.

We play devil’s advocate a little. Not because we disagree with the point but because we’re just those kind of people. But doesn’t social media help to democratise music?

Yes in a way that it is technically true that anyone can make a record, put it online and in theory anyone can hear it and support it but of course, that democracy exists within the same capitalist framework that produced social media in the first place. So, no in that sense because you can be an amazing songwriter and have made an amazing record and if you don’t have a label or a big budget or a big publicist or a manager or all those things behind you, then getting your music heard beyond your Bandcamp followers it takes… a huge amount of luck.

But isn’t the current musical mainstream filled with examples of artists who’ve made it big by word of mouth? Take James Bay or the Weeknd who became worldwide stars after being spotted on Youtube, or Ed Sheeran who’s become almost impossibly huge after self-releasing his first 3 EPs.

There’s exceptions but the thing is that those exceptions are the example. It’s like the American dream. […] ‘Wow, it happened to them, you know, like Macklemore, so maybe it’ll happen to me.’ But they don’t realise that for 99% of the artists it’s gonna be a struggle no matter what until you have that big, structured funding behind you.

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So what would you do, then, if tomorrow you got a phone call over breakfast? A top record exec saw the show and loved it. They offer you half a million to record the next Burning Hell record? How do you handle the million Canadian dollar question?

I’d love to be able to just say: ‘No, fuck no. I’d never do that.’ But what I’d probably do is: take the half a million, keep as much of it as I could, make an intentionally terrible album, as cheesy and bad as I could possibly make it and be like ‘Here you go, do what you want with that.’

But what if people actually liked it? All of the sudden The Burning Hell are the shit?

But then with the other 400,000 or whatever is left over I could make a hundred great records.

And that’s where we leave it, laughter tickling down our sides, ideas dancing across our minds. Both in person and on stage The Burning Hell are not the sort of band to preach, they don’t have the answers, but they do have a way of life, an attitude that is reflected in their music, a modest, critical view on today’s music industry and a collegial approach towards other independent artists that we could do with a little more of.

You can purchase Revival Beach (and all of The Burning Hell’s back catalogue) from their Bandcamp page.

12 Revolutions of 2017: Big Thief – Capacity

When Adrianne Lenker takes a step closer to the mic – her guitar tightly clasped, her eyes sincerely closed – and starts singing, the room is filled with a tangible glow, a sweet, heady smell of recognition that flows harmoniously from line to line, absorbed by the wonderstruck crowd until every particle of meaning is inhaled. To deliver meaning is, for Lenker, a substantial part of her creative work: “That’s where the audience, the band, and me are meeting at this center, and the center is the meaning. […] In talking about the heavy things and looking at them and asking about the meaning there is such a release.”[1]

Big Thief’s second album Capacity brilliantly encapsulates their visceral willingness of telling stories and sharing memories.

Shark Smile, melodically the most captivating song on the album, describes the moment when two lovers are parted by a car accident. The beginning, auspiciously orchestrated, is nourished by Lenker’s huge narrative appetite. Her voice, gentle but determined at first, becomes something far more powerful and emotionally drawn as the story goes on; her voice cracks as the car turns over – but always comes back to the soothing, mantra-like chorus: “And she said woo/Baby, take me/And I said woo/Baby, take me too.”

This record is like a storybook crammed full of truthful thoughts and brutally honest moments. Capacity, the name giver of the album, is an example par excellence – a mellowing, brilliantly worded ode to devotion and vulnerability with a twist of irony: “Do what you want with me/Lost in your captivity/Learning capacity/For make-believing everything/Is really hanging on.”

This line is at the heart of these contrasting emotions. It’s both the truth and not quite the truth. Sometimes, we behave in ways that we know are wrong and we’re never quite sure why we do it.

Lenker’s candid lyrics are the outlines of a picture that gets coloured in by the rich, carefully chosen instrumentation in general, and by Buck Meek’s meticulous guitar play in particular.

This is followed by a tender thrust. Mythological Beauty is a deep dive into the past that makes the Quiff shiver and shine, giggle and grieve: “I built a ladder out of metal pieces/Father was working hard/Standing beneath the oak tree by the front door/You were inside baking bread.” Due to its personal proximity, scenes like this one become a rather mutual experience that allows us to wallow in togetherness.

There’s this crippling, yet ecstatic, feeling that’s been gliding swiftly through Quiff’s veins from the very first second of Capacity. His mind, toggling between play and rewind, finds ease with Mary. Ease in words long forgotten, reviving sweet, sweet memories. Lenker’s approach to songwriting is defined by its cathartic essence; by the ability to undress emotional turmoil and discover the unblemished core: “[…] when I first wrote the song I thought I was definitely writing it all about this dear friend and these experiences — and that time folded into other memories and just like a non-linear stream of life — but then later I started realizing in listening to it that a lot of the lines were applicable to myself, and things that I needed to hear.”[2] Her stories are accentuated by beautiful onomatopoeia and allegorical words, floating seamlessly from one line to another: “The sugar rush/The constant hush/The pushing of the water gush/The marching band/When April ran/May June bugs fly in/Push your gin Jacob/With the tired wiry brandy look/Here you go around Mary in your famous story book.”

Big Thief’s second album seems even more prolific, and Lenker’s aim to deliver meaning more poignant, than on their debut Masterpiece. It’s one of those records you can listen to a hundred times and still notice tiny, new details, narratively as well as musically. All the songs on Capacity are like seeds laid in your imagination, that with the passing of time blossom into something rare and beautiful and delicate. Lenker pretty much nails it when she states: “A lot of those emotions were really raw when we were capturing them on Masterpiece, and I think on Capacity those emotions and experience are just settling in and now it’s as if they’ve woven themselves into a bigger, deeper picture.”[3]

You can purchase Capacity from Big Thief’s website here.

[1] https://www.stereogum.com/1942568/qa-big-thiefs-adrianne-lenker-on-inhabiting-new-characters-fighting-fear-with-music/franchises/interview/

[2] https://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2017/05/31/530749628/big-thiefs-mary-is-a-meditation-on-resilience-and-recovery

[3] https://www.stereogum.com/1942568/qa-big-thiefs-adrianne-lenker-on-inhabiting-new-characters-fighting-fear-with-music/franchises/interview/

 

 

12 Revolutions of 2017: Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

The guitar, delicate as gossamer, washes over you. The bass sways gently across your bows. Greg Gonzalez’s whispered, smoky falsetto glides into place, a swell of strings rising in the distance. The opening of Cigarettes After Sex’s eponymous debut carries you away. Floating out here in the calm, dark, bottomless waters we spy the beautiful and bloody shards of memory, of love and lust, both fulfilled and unrequited, both won and lost.

Take album opener K, an obsession confessional, a dark lust letter to an itinerant lover. The story of a half-remembered love and the hope that a relationship could bloom from a casual fling: “And on the Lower East Side you’re dancing with me now/And I’m taking pictures of you with flowers on the wall/Think I like you best when you’re dressed in black from head to toe” but as it becomes clear that this affection may not be returned, a desperate, almost sinister tone appears: “Think I like you best when you’re just with me/And no one else…”. This is a track, which revels in its ability to first enchant and then unsettle:

Musically, Cigarettes after Sex are firmly entrenched in classic shoegaze, their influences – the somnambulant, reverb heavy guitar of Mazzy Star, the hushed, brutal vocal harmonies of Slowdive – are obvious and recent years have brought a swathe of revivalist bands for this genre. What makes this band stand above many of their peers is the ability to fit more subtle pop hooks into 5 minutes than most manage across an entire recordApocalypse, an action movie as an allegory for a relationship is carried by Gonzalez’s wonderfully expressive voice holding your attention like smoke rising on the horizon. Buildings crumble, cities turn to dust and the flood waters rise because “Your lips/My lips/Apocalypse.”:

There are songs here that linger like the first touch of a lover, desire and trepidation pulsing through their fingertips like an electric current. It is a record entrenched in moments, stealing youthful kisses and amplifying them with a cinematic approach. Take the closing track Young and Dumb, which on the surface appears to be about fucking and not give a damn, there is a sudden and moving scene that betrays a deeper affection: “We’ll drive your car to the beach//with the song on repeat, oh baby//my heart is racing watching you kiss my guitar”

Cigarettes after Sex have made an album for those late nights, laid on the sofa after the party ends. Those times, half-dreamt, when you can’t sleep from the alcohol and adrenalin but can no longer move. When memories flash before you wild and unbidden, good and bad, right and wrong, yet all delivered with equal violence. While it’s not a perfect record – sometimes the lyrics are a little trite and there is surely room for greater musical variety – it’s a perfect record for this time.

[Image sourced from https://www.postergully.com/products/cigarettes-after-sex-wall-art-artist-yash-guwalani]

12 Revolutions of 2017: Neil Young – Hitchhiker

Difficult, uncompromising and brilliant, David Briggs and Neil Young were the contradiction that ruled rock in the 1970’s. After meeting by chance in the late 60’s, they made some 18 records together, spanning more than a quarter of a century and were so productive that we’re still uncovering the great forgotten moments now. The aptly named Hitchhiker – Briggs met Young when he picked him up hitchhiking – was recorded in one evening back in 1976. 10 songs produced as straightforwardly as you can imagine, just one man, his guitar, and a lot of drugs. This is an album that eschews polish in favour of authenticity, songs half-wrought and visceral in their despair and intimacy.

Much of what appears here turned up in one form or another at a later point in Neil’s career. The opening salvo of Pocahontas and Powderfinger, which would elevate the 1979 LP Rust Never Sleeps, are stripped bare here. The latter, a peculiarly dark and lucid tale of pastoral loneliness, glows with a supernatural grace without the warm chunter of guitar and melodious backing vocals laid down by Crazy Horse.

The brilliance of these tracks is a testament to Brigg’s enduring philosophy of music production: “You get a great sound at the source. Put the correct mic in front of the source, get it to tape the shortest possible route — that’s how you get a great sound. All other ways are work.”[i]

This simplicity is something which is intrinsic to this record including the two previously unreleased tracks. Opening with a stoned giggle, Hawaii seems to depict a surreal dream conversation with a stranger, held together with straggling guitar and broken falsetto. Give Me Strength is an altogether straighter effort as Neil seeks stoicism in the dark hours of the night, the harmonica’s baleful lament close but soaring away: “The happier you fly/The sadder you fall/The laughter in your eyes/Is never all/Give me strength to move along/Give me strength to realise she’s gone.”

Briggs and Young were always an unlikely pair of bedfellows. Two people who seemed intolerant of so many other people yet who, as producer and musician, could barely be parted. It was, in many ways, this intolerance that drew them together. Perhaps, they were the only 2 people who could stand up to each other. As Neil Young himself admitted: “David was usually right, and when I disagreed with him, I was usually wrong.”[ii] Somehow, they always seemed to get the best out of each other – as on Campaigner, a song already released on the 1977 career retrospective Decade, is the highlight of this record, where it seems to have found its natural habitat. Lyrically, it is classic Young, somehow both contradictory and candid: “I am a lonely visitor/I came too late to cause a stir/Though I campaigned all my life/towards that goal.” It is astounded and confounded by living and finds beauty in the most unlikely corners:   “Roads stretch out like healthy veins/And wild gift horses strain the reins/Where even Richard Nixon has got soul/Even Richard Nixon has got soul.”

Even if by some strange quirk you already own most or all of these songs, Hitchhiker is worth the effort. It does what Briggs did best, it captures a moment. In this case a late evening in Malibu in 1976 when one of the finest musicians of the last century was at the height of his powers and sat down and sang 10 songs that would echo through music history.

[i] “Shakey, Neil Young’s biography” Jimmy McDonough ISBN 009944358

[ii] “Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream” Neil Young ISBN 0399159460

 

12 Revolutions of 2017: Matt Maltese – Blood, Sweat & Beers EP

Matt Maltese leans back from the piano his eyes cast to the heavens, and a mischievous, border-line malevolent grin edges across his face. He closes his eyes and lets a loose sigh drift from his body. There is a decadent, deadbeat charm in the way that he moves. A sly humour and quiet self-deprecation in his words that isn’t immediately obvious on listening to his record. In this place, in his place, up on stage he plays host to a hall of ghosts, both living and dead, with a wit and charm reminiscent of dark balladeers that came before him like Cohen and Waits.

The appeal of Blood, Sweat and Beers is that it was recorded live last year in front of a small audience by Hugo White (from some band called The Maccabees) and captures this young songwriter in his natural habitat, inchoate but replete with potential. Across five tracks and a poem he shows us his dark side and its beauty, he leads us into the heart of the apocalypse and we are happily led.

As The World Caves In begins on the final night of humanity’s existence. It’s a love song for the end of the world. With the bombs about to land and extinction creeping ever closer, Matt declares his heart: “Oh girl it’s you that I lie with/As the atom bomb locks in/Oh it’s you I watch TV with”. And in these final hours he finds respite in dark humour: “You put your final suit on/I paint my fingernails/Oh we’re going out in style babe/And everything’s on sale”.

No One Won The War is Matt at his most fatalistic. He looks out on the misery of the world, on the everyday failings of people, on our ridiculous attempts to appease our guilt and notes that No One Won The War. There is bitterness here, and a deep unquenchable sadness, yet also charm. The song’s central conceit is heavy but the instrumentation is soft and intimate, his whispered baritone beguiling: “The new day is now done/Did you hear another gun?/Some folks had their fun/There’s an awful lot of blood.”

The songs on this EP are piano-led, and backed by minimal instrumentation which doesn’t include drums. Rhythm comes from the bass and from the pacing of Matt’s vocals, unhurried like a bedtime story. Strange Time sums up his approach. It tells the tale of the death of a relationship, of one last night, of darkness and lust. It is brutally honest, borderline filthy, equally nasty and sweet, and Quiff loves it: “We sure have a strange time/But we sure do it right/We sure have a strange time/We’re getting stranger every night.”

So here we stand on the outside with Matt Maltese, a little gang of freaks and geeks falling for this five track confessional. Blood, Sweat and Beers highlights the rising career of a gifted songwriter and potent lyricist. He looks at the world with an alarming honest, yet always leaves us smiling and asking for more, more of the nihilistic beauty in his darkness.

Blood, Sweat and Beers is a vinyl only release. You might be able to get it here but if not then you should grab his EP and singles from here.

12 Revolutions of 2017: Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone

Loyle Carner stands front and centre on the cover of his album, but he is not alone. Family and friends crowd around him on the unkempt lawn, in front of a tenement block. People smile and giggle, nervous with the camera pointed at them. This is a moment repeated a hundred thousand times, same but different, an echo of family gatherings across the length and breadth of the UK.

Hip-hop is supposed to be brutal, frank and honest to reflect the troubled lives of its purveyors. This was true for the originators, it was true for the gangsters and it’s true for modern grime. Rather than turning his razor-sharp pen and honey-dewed drawl to everyday violence, the fraternity of gang life or the escapism of retail therapy, Loyle turns it inwards and creates a record of personal reflection, of pain and doubt and resilience and hope.

The album opener, The Isle of Arran, seduces the listener with its heavenly, gospel-tinged hook – “The Lord will find a way” – and then bares its teeth in a meditation of death, loss and grief that flickers across the flesh like the lash of a whip, pain and diffidence rising with realisation: “Clinging to that whole one/My mother said there’s no love until you show some/So I showed love and got nothing, now there’s no-one/You wonder why I couldn’t keep in tow, son.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSk

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We roll forward and Loyle’s lines – languid, smooth and resonant – lead us into his inner existence. He contemplates the difficulties of early adulthood: struggling to get by, trying to be responsible, and the loss of innocence. Ain’t Nothing Changed is a jazz-infused eulogy to the shedding of childish freedom. He dreams of the past as he struggles with the present: “Trust, I’m all alone panicking to play it safe/This talk of paper chase is forcing me to stay awake/Living in sake of cake, yeah, others will say you’re straight/Say they got my back and that they’re praying Imma pave the way/Like it’s the great escape.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GazJC5cAcIw

Like in life, there is also light amongst the darkness here. No Worries shows a more sanguine attitude to adulthood: “Fear loathing on this helter skelter/When all we really need is food, clothing and shelter/Played the hand they dealt ya down ’til the last card/You claim king but only jokers have the last laugh”. In almost self-therapeutic manner, Loyle reminds himself of what’s truly important in life: Love first, success second.

No CD is a highlight. A joyous boom-bap anthem, underwritten with humorous self-deprecation, that serves as a homage both to his love of music and the music that he loves:  “Oh please, we ain’t got no P’s/Because we spent all our money on some old CDs/We got some old Jay Zs, couple ODBs/Place ’em up in perfect order ’cause my OCD.

Family and loyalty are a constantly re-occurring theme. On Florence, Loyle imagines making pancakes with the little sister he never had while, on Mrs C, he speaks of the death of a friend’s mother. Sun of Jean starts as a tribute to his mother and her strength and ends with a poem about him as a child, spoken by his mother. While Loyle may have struggled because the world wouldn’t accept him as he was, he never felt this way with his mother. Their closeness is evident, and in a way that most artists would struggle to speak about with such frankness: “Call me the son of Jean/My little submarine/Me and my mother, there ain’t nothing that can come between/Call me the son of Jean.” There is hope in this track and that really is the conclusion of this record. Look forward; don’t look back because Yesterday’s Gone:

There is so much, which is refreshing about Yesterday’s Gone: its finally crafted beats, its candid discussion of difficult topics and its humour and warmth. There is no one in hip-hop making music quite like this and that makes the album, and Loyle, very special. Both musically and lyrically, it respects the past but looks forward to the future, which is something we can all get better at.

You can grab Yesterday’s gone from Loyle’s website.

 

12 Revolutions of 2017: moonweather – sit down, be small

Imagine taking a few months off in order to spend some quality time doing whatever you are passionate about. This is exactly how moonweather approached the making of their first record sit down be small: During the summer months last year, Colin, Bobby and Billy came together with local musicians and created something that has left Quiff weak with wonder:

“We quit our jobs for a summer and built the studio, with help from our friend Jon. The whole idea was that we weren’t going to rush the writing and recording this time around. We simplified the amount of things we were trying to do. There weren’t any festival application deadlines, or shows to practice sets for. Just a few of us in a basement taking our time writing and recording until we were happy with the result.”, states Colin.

The opening track is an experimental sound potpourri stitching together little patches from the album without revealing too much; like a hand surrounded by haze and hope reaching out to guide you through the intricate, yet joyous tangle.

Burn Me with its remarkably well-conceived orchestration is an impeccable example of how the carefully selected instruments and feelings expressed within this multifarious swirl correlate with each other: “Notice low, red low/See your breath as it/Slows” The trumpet flutters between the pattering drums and the soothing cello, reiterating the words with pleasure and purity – an aural manifesto that is floating free but in perfect time to the beat like a nimble-footed and light-hearted dancer.

The Quiff staggers and sways as the record moves on, giddy with excitement, appeasing his thirst with a fine pinch of musical ambiguity. Heads Up plays with contrasting spirits, it leaves the beguiled listener on his own, floating in anticipation but buried in thought, a dark aftertaste whispering across his throat: “Hold your head up by a smile/Piles of garbage thrown, creeping like the sub-floor/When you know you’re dead and gone/Taste the moon on your tongue.” Colin admits that “the music has a little bit of an upbeatness to it that the lyrics don’t really share.”

Nevertheless, moonweather have the rare ability to create vivid images in Quiff’s head that make him run along a gust pebble beach, pause in wistfulness standing amongst the ever-moving throng of city life or catapult him foolishly into the sky. Too Soon is probably the album’s empathetic masterpiece. The floating guitar and subdued horns gently war with vocals of urgent supplication. It’s a song about struggling with life and making mistakes, about regret and realisation, all combined in the recurring line “I should’ve known better.”

The genuine storytelling is complemented by the neatly styled musical arrangements, which reflect a sense of togetherness. That sit down be small is a team effort is plainly audible in every song and this has a great impact on the record’s cohesiveness. The result is manifested within the process; refined by the innovative input from a dozen musicians: “There was just a constant feedback loop happening, and people were adding all their different flavors to the mix. We’d try to explain to them the part that we wanted them to play and then they’d come up with something totally new and unexpected. The whole process was just so unpredictable and exciting.”

2017 has been a year of extraordinary songs rather than the coherent records that are so essential for the Quiff’s survival, his love and longing – and moonweather fed the Quiff well with the band’s precise feeling for timing, the sheer beauty of instrumentation and the common bond this album creates.

Self-critically, Colin, Bobby and Billy (and now Michael) are already planning their next undertaking: “We’re working on our second album right now, and it’s a goal of ours to have lyrics that are a little more concrete in what they mean, with stronger themes threaded throughout every song.”

You can get the moonweather record (for free) from their Bandcamp page.

12 Revolutions from 2017: Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song

We ease past the spluttering procession of trucks and Sunday drivers, wheels sliding across the smooth tarmac, the road stretching lazily in front of us as it undulates its way to the distant horizon. The world feels endless but narrowly defined, the vast tracts of tall pines on either side holding us in place, keeping us on track. The only way to move is forward. We are trapped but free, lost in the first heady days of the summer, somewhere between anywhere and nowhere and Dan Auerbach is our soundtrack.

On his second album, Waiting On A Song, Auerbach has left behind the gritty, broiling blues of the Black Keys, widening out his songbook to incorporate breezy folk pop, pristine orchestral funk and lazy, countrified acoustic unrest. Now with his own studio, and a bunch of production credits behind him, he seems like a man at ease with himself. The album’s title track, a joyful homage to the song-writing process, is followed by Malibu Man, a rising chorus of strings giving way to a glorious shimmy of horns. It’s a soundtrack to a way of life: “I moved from New York, with my boogie board/And bought a big house on the ocean/Stopped eating meat, I took the shoes off my feet/Just because I took the notion.” The song’s central character, his sparkling eyes and lazy smile breaking through an unshaven face, holds a cocktail in hand as he saunters down the beach.

And so we saunter with him through a pair of fuzzy guitar pop gems. Livin’ In Sin and Shine on Me – the latter in particular bringing the kind of chorus hooks and clap-along joy that merits a full ensemble of jiving housewives, swinging shopkeepers and pirouetting policeman – only to be hit by the earnest lonesomeness of King Of A One Horse Town. Now the streets have emptied and our bedraggled king kicks pebbles through an empty parking lot. Summer gives way to autumn and then winter. Snowfall tumbles around him as he shivers past the abandoned lots of half-built dreams, paralysed by his own fear:  “Guess I’ll stay on desolation row/Go get stoned and hang around/The beat of my drum is the only sound/I would jump into the ocean but I’m scared I’d drown.”

This song is the essence of this album. On the surface it’s bright and free – a series of wondrously effortless pop moments found with immaculate poise – but lyrically there are lines which unpick this ease. As you peel back the layers you see the intricacy and depth that lies beneath. Our Malibu Man is lonely and without roots. Shine on Me is more grasping, hopeful optimism than assured happiness. Even Stand By My Girl, an ode to loving monogamy is underwritten with anxiety: “I’m gonna stand by my girl, don’t think I won’t/I’m gonna stand by my girl, because she’ll kill me if I don’t.”

In reality, of course, it’s not all sadness and the durability of this record comes from its ability to balance light and dark. Yes, we swing to its casual beat and sense of escapism but we also find empathy in its disquiet and alienation. On Never In My Wildest Dreams, Auerbach writes of love and freedom, embracing us in a wave of delightful acoustic guitar and warm, fecund horns. But it’s a love that he hopes for, not one that he has yet reached: “Never in my wildest dreams/Would I be loving you/Never in my wildest dreams/Would my dreams come true.”

Waiting On A Song is one of the quiet success stories of this past year. A supposedly summer record that manages to be for all seasons. For some it may be a little too derivative, and certainly it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but it’s musically adept, finely crafted and constructed with a sly subtlety which can be easily overlooked. Give yourself a treat and grab this album from Easy Eye Records.

 

 

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