PLAY LIST 2017
A bit more synth and ProTools this time round for the guitar/bs/drums band from Austin, Texas. But the songs are as intriguing as ever, and the sound textures combine machines and organic strings to often Eno'esque effect. There are some straight-ahead fun tunes - including the title track - but I like the moodier stuff more, "Pink Up" and "Us".
Spoon, "Hot Thoughts" (Matador)
Members of All Seeing Eye and Fat White Family as well as Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl all participate in fleshing out the imaginary band that appeared a while back in a most amusing concept album by the Eccentronic Research Council. The results are suitably sleazy, rockingly dark and sometimes gigantically over the top. In other words, a lot of fun.
Moonlandingz, "Interplanetary Class Classics" (Transgressive)
A much more polished and direct affair than their nebulously psychedelic debut, "Volcano" shows off the quartet's ear for a catchy pop melody to good effect. Some moments are positively Sparks-ish, in other places we suspect the influence of "Fragile"-era Yes and Moody Blues. Well-crafted and refreshing.
Temples, "Volcano" (Heavenly)
A sumptuously multi-textured collection of tunes from the Hot Chip's second solo venture in eight years. Served well by several guest vocalists and held together by Goddard's mastery of a range of classic as well as modern synths, the styles blended together range from Detroit and deep house via early 80s soul and disco to post Hot Chip-pop. Lovely all round.
Joe Goddard, "Electric Lines" (Domino)
Jeb Loy Nichols
Raised in Missouri, filtered through the NY art school scene and somehow landed in Adrian Sherwood's On-U crew, Nichols now lives in Wales where he paints, sings and writes songs. This, his tenth solo album, is one of his best. It serves up a steaming hot gumbo of Southern-country-soul in the tradition of Joe South, Tony Joe White and Bobby Womack.
Jeb Loy Nichols, "Country Hustle"
(City Country City)
After years of un-learning ingrained habits and long-taught automatisms, Batkovic has arrived at a truly unique style of accordion-playing. Bending and stretching the instrument to its (often percussive) limits, he drifts between minimalist repetition, church organ-like grandeur and contemporary chamber music intimacy. Co-produced by Portishead's chief experimenter, Geoff Barrow, by the way.
Mario Batkovic, "Mario Batkovic" (Invada)
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Superb second mini-LP from this Melbourne quintet. Chiming guitars, shimmering vocal harmonies, fine songs - all in the fine tradition of the unforgettable Go-Between. They keep best for last, the astonishing "Fountain of Good Fortune".
Rolling Blackouts C.F., "French Press" (Sub Pop)
Justin Townes Earle
Wonderfully groovy album from Steve's son, his eighth. A hint of New Orleans here ("15 - 25"), a touch of Bop 'til You Drop-Cooder there ("Short Hair Woman"), and first-rate storytelling everywhere. The odd fleck of brass, clavinet and vibraphone and pump organ provides added spice.
Justin Townes Earle, "Kids in the Street" (New West)
A synth/guitar/drums trio from Winterthur remind me in spirit of the very early, very wonderful and very surreal Split Enz. Their songs kick out in all sorts of unexpected directions and yet never lose touch with a solid handrail of melody. They wear their considerable chops lightly and display a fizzy sense of humour, too. Oh, and their synth bass will make any wall tremble, guaranteed.
Soybomb, "Plastic Festival" (Radicalis)
With Hawkwind in one corner of the sonic spectrum, Neu, Broadcast and Trees in the others, Jane Weaver's latest venture into the pleasures of repetitive riffs, psychedelic synths and vocals as clean, clear and English as Jacqui McShee's, is another woozy and groovy delight. Two Doves are part of the band, Can's ex-singer Malcolm Mooney provides a guest rap, and the whole thing does not reek one bit of retro.
Jane Weaver, "Modern Kosmology" (Fire)
Bonnie Prince Billy
Merle Haggard comprehensively ruined his coolness status in 1969 with "Okie From Muskogee", a song praising the marijuana-free and short-haired citizens of Muskogee. Will Oldham succeeds admirably in dragging Haggard's songs in from the cold with beautifully laid-back if not homely arrangements featuring fiddles, banjos, woodwind and some lovely vocals from him and Nuala Kennedy and Cheyenne Mize. Customarily classy stuff from the Prince.
Bonnie Prince Billy, "Best Troubadour" (Domino)
The Soft Boy has made countless albums, and this is one of his best. Recorded in Nashville with Brendan Benson as a producer, Hitchcock is sounding rockier and more energetic here than he has for a while (though his last few albums weren't bad by any stretch of the imagination!). Most importantly, he has pulled some brilliant melodies out of the hat. The lyrics are customarily sharp, ranging from Virginia Woolf to his dad ("Raymond and the Wires"). Great cover, too.
Robyn Hitchock, "Robyn Hitchcock" (YepRoc)
What a terrific comeback by the rocking shoegazers! 21 years after their last album, "Weather Diaries" not only sounds much better than the likes of "Tarantula", but also contains better songs. The multi-textured guitars are a sound of wonder, the rhythm section is in dynamic mood throughout, and Mark Gardener's voice doesn't sound a day older.
Ride, "Weather Diaries" (Wichita)
I've been a serious fan of the gruff-voiced guitarist from Leeds since the days of "Wrecked Again" and "Deal Gone Down", and this, his fiftieth album, is as terrific as his best early stuff. Recorded with a bunch of young American admirers including Steve Gunn, the tightly woven guitars provide an airy backdrop to the earthy vocals. And the magnificent Bridget St John pops up with some extra vocals.
Michael Chapman, "50" (Paradise of Bachelors)
The Secret Sisters
Laura and Lydia Rogers are sisters from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and they've been through major label hell right down to personal bankruptcy. The ever wonderful Brandi Carlile and her musician side-kicks, the Hanseroth brothers, have helped to remotivate and retool them. The results are beautiful, ranging from simple verandah-folk to rousing Country pathos and Everly Sisters elegance.
The Secret Sisters, "You Don't Own Me Anymore" (New West)
A nicely rocked up dose of alt. country, the third album, apparently, from the Nashville-based daughter of John. She has a great voice, loaded with equal parts sorrow and oomph. The guitar sound is great, and there's some courageously simple honky-tonk piano. And there's a breath-taking guitar solo in "The Night David Bowie Died".
Lilly Hiatt, "Trinity Lane" (New West)
For his fourth album, Obaro Ejimiwe has got together with multi-instrumentalist and producer Leo Abrahams. The result is another selection of darkly atmospheric tunes, played with organic guitars, pianos and strings, seasoned very wisely with some nastly electronic touches. It really is extraordinary how Ghostpoet can sound so deeply melodic with his laidback drawl - and deliver such newly direct and angry lyrics.
Ghostpoet, "Dark Days + Canapés" (PIAS)
Nashville-based New West is easily my favourite label of the year. Each new release has had me raving, and this one is no exception. Crunchy rock'n'country from Oklahoman McPherson, now residing in East Nashville, apparently a hotbed of country experimentation. Powerful stuff that occasionally reminds me of early Elvis Costello and the sadly underrated Moon Martin.
JD McPherson, "Undivided Heart & Soul" (New West)
Melanie De Biasio
De Biasio can do jazzy piano ballads with the best of them, as she proves with the title track. However, most of this self-produced album consists of daringly sparse, ProTool-tooled rhythm tracks - sometimes little more than a scratchy noise and an abstract bass pulse - with subtle piano touches and De Biasio's elegantly unhurried singing. Dense and quietly dynamic, this is a deep midnight pond of an album to lose yourself in.
Melanie De Biasio, "Lilies" (Le Label/PIAS)
Modern Studies are a quartet from Scotland with an ancient, wheezing harmonium at the centre of their line-up which also includes a cello and the composer/singer Emily Scott. Whilst the charm of the band's unusual chamber-folk sound is immediately obvious, the songs themselves take a little longer to sink in. It's worth the work, however, and the patience, to hear the vocal harmonies spin their quiet magic.
Modern Studies, "Swell to Great" (Fire)
Discovered when supporting James Yorkston on a tour of Ireland, Fogarty, a County Mayo-man, released his debut album via the sorely missed Fence Collective label. Here, he has teamed up with producer Leo Abrahams (Eno, Ghostpoet, etc.) to produce a gloriously melodic and subtle fusion of organic old and electronic new. Beautiful songs, touching on subjects as diverse as Van Gogh, Mexico and Tommy the Cat.
Seamus Fogarty, "The Curious Hand" (Domino)
Multi-instrumentalist White started his musical adventure relatively late in life, at 40, with the help of David Byrne's Luaka Bop label. Here's his sixth album, and it's no less idiosyncratic, genre-straddling, baffling and beguiling as the first. Whilst it takes many of the ingredients that usually make up "Americana", it couldn't be described as such - nothing else in America or anywhere else sounds like this.
Jim White, "Waffles, Triangles & Jesus" (Loose)
Lal & Mike Waterson
Bevor sie 1972 dieses herrliche Album veröffentlichten, hatten Lal, Mike und die restlichen Watersons mit ihren Accapella-Versionen von traditionellen Liedern eine grosse, puristisch eingestellte Folk-Fangemeinde aufgebaut. "Bright Phoebus" mit seinen mal handfesten und blutigen, mal lustigen Alltagsgeschichten und der Begleitung von diversen Steeleyes und Fairports kam schlecht an. Diese längst überfällige CD-Version erfreut mit einer zweiten CD mit Demos und drei weiteren Songs. Ein ganz grosses Album.
Lal & Mike Waterson, "Bright Phoebus" (Domino)
Dirty Projectors, "Dirty Projectors"
I liked their last album. Now it's back to pure detestation. Endless artificially retuned falsetto warblings, machine-tooled bleeps and chords, unfathomably clever melodic meanderings. Grrr!
Thundercat - Level 42 on Lucozade. This kind of tinkle-tiddly shit used to be called cocktail jazz. Not getting it in a major way. Fucking ghastly.
Nick Hakim, "Green Twins"
The Sunday Times calls it "the best debut album of 2017 so far". I hear a caterwauling hipster burying himself in a shrill machine-tooled musical mess. Grim. And it's got a prog.-sleeve.
The Bin of Bile
The Bin of Bile
The Bin of Bile
Top 20 - 2018
1) Jane Weaver, “Modern Kosmology”
2) Mario Batkovic, “Mario Batkovic”
3) Michael Chapman, “50”
4) Egopusher, “Blood Red”
5) Seamus Fogarty, “The Curious Hand”
6) Melanie De Biasio, “Lilies”
7) Lilly Hiatt, “Trinity Lane”
8) Kacy & Clayton, “The Siren’s Song”
9) Ride, “Weather Diaries”
10) Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, “French Press”
11) Richard Dawson, "Peasant"
12) Ghostpoet, “Dark Days & Canapés”
13) Robyn Hitchock, “Robyn Hitchcock”
14) Soybomb, “Plastic Festival”
15) Loyle Carner, “Yesterday’s Gone”
16) JD McPherson, "Undivided Heart & Soul"
17) Juana Molina, “Halo”
18) Moonlandingz, “Interplanetary Class Classics”
19) The National, “Sleep Well Beast”
20) Kathryn Williams, “Greatest Hits