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/

 

 

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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

qM5Cd8zw

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 from 2017: Patch & The Giant – All That We Had, We Stole

Angie’s trumpet flares and detonates. Nick’s bass stomps and strides. On strings, Gabe and Derek compose a dulcet roar in the background. Luke steps towards the microphone, his throat raw, his voice a tired and beautiful bark, to tell us the stories of the forgotten.

Patch & The Giant’s debut album All That We Had, We Stole is peopled by a cast of the downtrodden: Butchers and their beasts, anonymous buskers, lovers left behind, ageless mothers and crying fathers, blooded soldiers and lost sailors, heavy-browed brothers and actors without words. These are the tales of those gathered amongst the muck and the mire. It seeks them out and finds dignity and beauty in the undulations of their seemingly prosaic existence.

Local Man is a strident call to arms. The accordion stirs and sways, the strings raise us to our feet in honour of the barely visible musician in the background of our lives and his “songs of freedom/and of loneliness and joy.” We are gracefully berated for our ignorance of his humble vocation: “But if you’d ever stop to pause and listen/You’d see what is missing/But all your eyes and all your ears/Are vacant/Eluding time.”

Having lifted our spirit, the album turns and shows us a darker side. The Day You Went To Sea is a paean to family and love and to death and loss. Its warm, sepia-tinted nostalgia has an undercurrent of violence and confusion: “A song can be the best of me/A heart devoid of melody/A book that took on grass and leaves/A man could falls on bloody knees/To give you all you need.”

Flowers may be the closest thing this album contains to a love song, though whether for a lost love or a lost life, it’s never clear. We are drawn in by the intimacy of this song, the audience mouthing the words, not singing, for fear of breaking its fragile beauty. There is regret but also hope – a small flame nurtured between the lines of its evocative and elegant imagery: “Lavender blue/All that’s good I stole from you/A faceless gain/Lavender black/Shake the devil from your back/I’ll take your weight.”

Were this a decade ago – in the epicentre of the indie fold revival – Patch & The Giant would be in the vanguard, and this album would be gracing enough radio playlists to grant them the time and freedom to write and record at will. Instead, they are bringing their euphoric and delicate songs to a tiny corner of our musical consciousness. Perhaps the groundedness that comes with this is what gives them their essence, but if All That We Had, We Stole is the standard they are setting then they surely won’t stay hidden for long.

You can purchase All That We Had, We Stole direct from Patch on CD and Vinyl.

12 Revolutions of 2017: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – French Press

The rain skewers down from left to right, the wind rolling across the swollen, churning ground grappling and grasping at the last of us, shaking us numb. Up on stage at End Of The Road, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever occupy a tiny square of space, the 5 of them huddled together in almost indecent proximity, as if they can protect each other from the coming storm. Fragments of beats and chunks of guitar roar from the speakers in defiance of the weather.

The record rolls in with French Press, a glistening, airy echo of guitar, the pulsing thud of a snare and  the sweep of rhythm guitar and bass, like wheels turning on an endless stretch of wet tarmac. A melodious grumble kicks in: “I’m alright/If you asked me/But you never do/Is this thing on?/I’m coming at you.”

Across a mere 25 minutes, they come at you. Driven on by a rhythm section of perpetual motion and sharp, harmonious guitar hooks. Overburdened and overwhelmed by an excess of feeling and an increasingly desperate sense of distance, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever take shelter from the storm in these songs. There is love, lust, loss, disappointment, frustration, confusion, bemusement, anger and resentment glittering like broken glass in the corners of the opaque stories this band tell, each track a literate, lyrical journey.

Musically, they are lost in the post-punk and alt-rock of the 1980’s. Their guitar work is unabashedly similar to the Go-Betweens, a brittle blend of sugar and salt that, in lesser hands, would only sound like a pale imitation. It is their closeness, as if they were playing within each other, that gives it authenticity.

Sick Bug is the embodiment of the raucous, wild storm. We are buffeted back and forth by angular guitars and a driving rhythm until the briefest moment of calm in the middle, the eye of the storm, and then we are dragged back into the tempest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyjE0vZEQh4

The record rises through the storm reaching above the clouds for the closing track, Fountain of Good Fortune. Here everything is a little clearer, certainty emerging from the discord and we find a radiant jewel of alternative pop with a hard-boiled heart: “I see a problem/I’m not willing to address/And I take pleasure/In not wanting to impress/’Cos I’m drinking/From the fountain of good fortune.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn7ybiISu98

French Press is a record of beguiling ambiguity. Their lyrics are both enigmatic and sincere. Their music as disgruntled and distant as a storm on the horizon, yet as close and comfortable as a passing dream. With a debut album and a new tour on the way, they are a band to watch in 2018.

You can purchase this record from the glorious wonder that is Bandcamp.

Down The Rabbit Hole, Part 1

quiff2The weekend is a broken ornament, a beautiful twisted relic lying fractured on the floor, glistening in the early summer sun. I stagger as I lean down to pick through the myriad pieces – the rabbit hole; the headphone dancers; the Strang man; the sunken wreck; the land time forgot; the synthetic dream; the funfair; and the rolling stone – because I’m bewitched.

It’s early Friday evening when we stumble into the Alice in Wonderland bar, the rush of alcohol washing us down the rabbit hole and out onto the street with an awkward step. Our guides await us, a stylish mess standing in that graceful, honest way that only the young and reckless can manage, like rocks sliding down a deserted hillside.

It’s a warm evening, the air fragrant with the hypnotic scent of freshly bloomed flowers and freshly smoked marijuana. People throng around us, a clash of festivals – music and theatre – belching forth an eclectic brand of modern madness. A congregation mill around us, giant lanyards strung around their necks so that they resemble oversized children with a day pass to the theme park. A man on stilts tiptoes between them making regular, ovoid laps, his head bouncing back and forth like a jack in the box, his smile a sea of teeth. A band of brave dancers tear through the centre, headphones pinned to their ears as they swagger and sway to a song no one else can hear. Our senses buckle but hold and we are transported.

The shop, built to hold 15, already holds 50 and as the band gather behind a hastily assembled stack of speakers, more push through until we are a mass of heat and sweat and spilt lager barely a hand’s width away from the men from Madrid. The drummer, yellow cape cascading down his back, counts a beat, the guitar roars into life and we explode, a spiralling corkscrew of expectant energy. At the heart of it, one of our guides conducts the chaos, bouncing and buffeting but immovable, the room pivoting around him. The Parrots adore us as much as we adore them, their crazed brand of 60’s punk-pop psychedelia is a deafening roar overwhelming and empowering us all.

20 minutes pass as if time were racing against itself and, suddenly, we stand briefly alone and forlorn until a DJ presses the needle to a 7 inch. Beguiled, we consider asking him for the name of the song, instead reaching for our phones and then, Shazam! We are away again.

We drop anchor at a crowded bar, a swell of distracted chatter obstructing any path to the bar. In the far corner a fairly decent band are broadly ignored. Someone needs to take charge of this menagerie before momentum is lost. We need a Strang man. He emerges from the side, skinny and wilful, powering his way to the front, and we follow in his wake. There is a restless buzz to Kane Strang’s music, his artful 90’s DIY pop a mask worn to obscure the doubts and fears that are strewn within his lyrics.

Outside, we cast the stragglers onto a passing truck as it pauses to recruit. In the gathering night, glowsticks twist leaving an echo of colour in the air, bass thumps through our bodies and many are drawn away to a brighter, noisier future.

We stagger and smoke, somnambulant as we await the call. Sound reverberates from the depths, a forgotten wind whispering and whistling in the distance, the press of a single ivory rising above the quiet cacophony as if from a long forgotten piano in the bar of some sunken wreck. Our guides return to lead us by the hand, plunging downward towards the seductive melancholy until we are submerged, happy to never to return.

Matt Maltese’s vocals are dark and heady. His lyrics, visceral and harsh. His music, warm like the barrel of a fired gun. He is where we end part one.

Dark side of the tune

It’s not exactly profound to suggest that there is a link between the quality of art produced and the state of the world. Yes, art requires funding and support and education and people to have enough time and money to both enjoy it and pay for enjoying it. And, yes, there is a point at which art becomes basically impossible for people because they have neither the time or resources to make or enjoy it. However, it’s also true that some of the greatest art comes from some of the most difficult times. That for many artists struggle is an important part of their process. That it’s how they find their voice. Every protest needs an anthem.

In music, you can look at the folk and blues that came out of dustbowl, depression era America, or the rise of punk and new wave from the industrial meltdown of late 70’s and early 80’s England. To me, it feels like the last year has resonated in a similar way to those times.

The rise of far right, nationalistic, xenophobic politics magnified through the prism of Brexit and Trump. The never-ending crises of war, poverty and famine leading to an explosion of  refugees who are seemingly to blame for having nowhere safe to call home. The continual failings of modern capitalism to balance individual freedom with societal responsibility leaving meritocracy as a fading dream. And all this punctuated by moments of terror about which we must show no fear, because to do so would be to give the criminals that enact these horrors exactly what they want.

Meanwhile the music has got better and harder and more honest. In the States, alternate hip-hop – led by a vanguard of YG and the returning A Tribe Called Quest – has found it’s voice again. Musically, the spectrum is as broad as it’s ever been and the beats as strong. Lyrically, there is a new-found vigour. No one is going quietly into the night.

KXNG Crooked’s Alternative Facts seems almost whimsical at first. Over a lackadaisical beat you’re encouraged to lie to your girlfriend, your boss, the police and your family. And why the hell not? After all, if the President can do it, why shouldn’t you?

The message here is really important. It’s not just about what Trump does, it’s also about what he represents. What does it teach us when the ‘leader of the free world’  thinks it’s not only okay to lie, but also that it’s not a lie if enough people believe it to be true.

Mr Wise’s The Man of Orange is a menacing first person encounter with the mind of Donald Trump. The President’s own words are swallowed whole and spat out again in angry roar. As I learnt to my cost, you shouldn’t listen to this at full volume in your car,  unless you want to give people the wrong impression.

And we haven’t even touched the excellent new tracks by Joey Bada$$ and J. Cole. Maybe, another day, because I can’t get through this blog without mentioning the fantastic ‘Our First 100 Days’. 100 artists, 100 songs, one for each of the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. This compilation has been providing fuel to my musical fire for months now and if you haven’t got on board with it, then you should. For a minimum donation of $30 you too can have all these tracks. Not only is this a complete bargain but all the profits go to charities fighting for LGBTQ rights, sensible climate change and immigration policies, and access to safe, objective family planning options. If you haven’t got the point yet, this project  gives me a warm, tingly feeling and that’s before we’ve talked about the music.

Adam Torres is relatively new to me but has been quietly stretching the Americana envelope for a decade now (his 2008 record Nostra Nova, in particular, is really great). Dreamers in America is melancholy and gorgeous:

Nathan Bowles is a fantastic banjo player from Virginia. His track the I In The Silence gently quakes my heart, reminding me a little of Dirty Three in their quieter moments:

I cried when I first heard the Piano Version of Julien Baker’s Good News. Her album from last year, Sprained Ankle, was pretty great but this is a wonderful, if brutal 4 minutes:

Most of these songs appear on  May’s Skewed Quiff. You should listen to it and then go and buy some music.

1 Arabesque by Pronto Mama
2 Different Now by Chastity Belt
3 Mockingbird (w/ Mimikyu) by Luupy
4 Two Of The Lucky Ones by The Droge & Summer Blend
5 Luxury Vintage Rap by Nick Grant
6 Keston Cobblers Club by Almost Home
7 Filthy Boy by Mental Conditions
8 The I In Silence by Nathan Bowles
9 Imagining My Man by Aldous Harding
10 Good News (Piano Version) by Julien Baker
11 Moonfire by Boy & Bear
12 Let The Drums Speak (Dj XS Right Thing Edit) by Bah Samba
13 Walk Don’t Run by Chimney
14 Animals by Laura Gibson
15 High For Hours by J. Cole
16 Hot Thoughts by Spoon
17 Hey Can You Come Out And Play by Megan Sue Hicks
18 Bird by Kelly Lee Owens
19 Permanent by Carla Sagan
20 Vintage Red by Jay Jay Pistolet

1 Do The Whirlwind by Architecture in Helsinki
2 Sparkle (Teck-Zilla Remix) by Camp Lo
3 The Lives Of Elevators (Findspire live session) by Orouni
4 Chance The Dog (The Song) by The Kraken Quartet
5 Predator by Will Johnson
6 The Sea by Eliza Carthy
7 Turncoat by Pickwick
8 Alternative Facts by KXNG Crooked
9 Smoke Of Dreams by Thurston Moore
10 Laminated Cat by Jeff Tweedy
11 Can’t Hold On by Black Lips
12 One More Love song by Mac Demarco
13 The Man of Orange (prod. by Team Demo) by Mister Wise
14 Modern Highway by Luke Abbott
15 Hellhound in The House by Hip Hatchet
16 Halfway Home by Broken Social Scene
17 Caramel Dreams by Blue Movies
18 Just A Dream (Alternate Take) by Bert Jansch
19 Lil Dead Eye-d by Richard Edwards
20 End Of The World by Sharon Van Etten

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