On The Office Stereo: May 2013
It would be wrong to describe the Music Fix office as an 'office' in the traditional sense. When the police move us on from our traditional base at the bus stop (thank you number 42, with your lovely unsecured wi-fi) and we re-convene on a bench in the park to discuss whether or not we've got enough money to secure a cup of weak tea for four, our grand media empire looks less salubrious than it does in the glossy 'write for us' brochure.
Nevertheless, we consider it our duty to overcome such minor inconveniences by delivering quality coverage of the rock, pop and associated fields - and not let annoyances like loose dogs and glue-sniffing teenagers interfere with our calling. Come rain or shine (mostly rain), we're here to separate the wheat from the chaff, the Wheatus from the Cathy Dennis 'cos if we didn't, you could easily bugger off and go somewhere else.
So we've got this new feature. It's pretty self-explanatory. We love new music. Sometimes you'll even catch us listening to it. Other times we just want to relax back on a bus station chair (one near a radiator ideally) and stick on some Elton. That's how we roll. The feature is called 'On The Office Stereo', largely in the hope that one day we'll have a proper desk to work from, a working kettle and a living, breathing second year student intern to work that kettle.
Until that day comes, here is some music we've heard leeching from other people's headphones.
Dominic H: When not sitting in my dark little corner playing with inverted crosses and buckets of goat blood, I've been known to indulge in a spot of brooding, melancholic folk. Having caught her at The Bedford the other week, now under the guise of Tess And The Tellers, I've been rather taken with Tessa Bickers' 2012 record Pot Luck. Influenced by the folk revival of the 70s and the lineage they have sired, with a bubbling undercurrent of electronics and the odd drum machine – think Jacqui McShee meets Portishead – this is a real heartbreaker of an album.
Continuing the pretty female vocals theme, I finally caught up with the Five Pounds EP from Hitchcock Blonde. I came across them when they were still Avenge Vulture Attack, so it was high time to see how far the reinvention has taken them. An accomplished and concise affair, its rebellious angry girl rock is bristling with passion and sexual tension, all tied up inside six catchy and somewhat addictive tunes.
I am almost always listening to some sort of krautrock such is my obsession with the genre, and my latest craze is Eat Lights Become Lights, in particular the recent live recording Live In Brixton. This simply has it all – pounding motorik rhythms, spaced-out synths and ridiculously happy riffs in thirty minutes of kosmische heaven that has me stupidly grinning from ear to ear.
Dominic S: In a quest for warmer weather, this month I have been indulging in some easy-listening and light-hearted Australian pop. Child of the Universe by Delta Goodrem seemed like the perfect fit. It’s been nearly a decade since ‘Born To Try’ and oh, how she has improved. The highlight is the underrated ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ which is sure to brighten up anyone's day. When I’ve just needed something simple but brilliant, this is the album I've reached for.
In complete contrast I have also been spending time with Willy Mason’s Carry On. After acknowledging his previous efforts I decided to give his most recent album a shot and I was not disappointed. The whole thing is just superb; individually, each track is truly worthy of its place but also connects and compliments the others. Some veer from his familiar minimalist productions and add something extra special, in particular the fantastic ‘Shadows in the Dark’ that employs an affecting harmony to magical effect.
For reasons best known only to myself I've managed to spend recent weeks with my flares deeply mired in the dregs of the early 70s glam rock era. Despite the fact glam produced some of pop's finest three minutes it's not a particularly deep genre, either thematically or in terms of numbers. Once you past the Bolans and the Glitters of the scene, and a few second division acts you might vaguely have heard of (Hello, Hello), you won't find endless compilations of quality unknowns like you find in the soul, funk or 60s garage band archives.
No, glam burned brightly and briefly and apart from a fad for obscure 'junkshop' glam tracks a few years ago, it's not an endless well of cool. Still, it's been a fun few weeks, familiarising myself with the likes of Hector and Iron Virgins and dreaming of a time when the tank top was a cool fashion item, rather than the babe-repeller it's become. As a taster of the whole scene, check out this German (!) version of Bonnie St. Claire & Unit Gloria's smashing ABBA-meets-Suzi Quatro hit 'Clap Your Hands (And Stamp Your Feet)'. They really don't make 'em like this any more - more's the pity.
Co-incidentally, or perhaps not, I've also been spending a fair bit of time in the company of Mr David Bowie, specifically his classic early-to-mid 70s albums. I've not even heard his new one yet, and was never much of a Bowie fan as a callow youth (being terrible for much of the 80s didn't help his cause) but like all great art, these works resonate differently over time and show different aspects of their character. I was particularly struck by the production on The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust ... and how simple much of it is, the instruments clearly defined and seperated. It's often what's wrong with much of modern rock music: over-produced into a tinny mush it tires the ears and wearies the soul. I'm even convinced that for parts of the title track, Mick Ronson's guitar slips out of tune, which just adds to the charm.
Max: As this has been my first month reviewing albums for TMF, I’ve tended to seek solace in my comfort food of some good ol’ boy rock and roll. It’s a real boom time in the US for this genre with some great music hitting the reacks and the stages. Blackberry Smoke are a proper balls-out country rock band, in the vein of someone like Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Whippoorwill album has some great riffs and lyrics that fill your mind with pictures of their home state Georgia. They taught me what a Whippoorwill is and lead singer Charlie Starr has the most impressive sideburns you will ever see.
Some quickies: Another band in a similar vein that I try not to wave my arms about to on the way to work - it’s a terrible habit - are Texan country rockers Whiskey Myers and their Firewater album. In preparation for seeing him in Bristol I had the John Fullbright album, From The Ground Up on rotation as well. You might have caught him on Later... with Jool Holland in one of those special guest slots that happen when Jools (or his researchers) likes you. And representing the girls, Brandi Carlile’s brilliant Bear Creek album has been getting regular plays since I saw her excellent live show in Islington back in February. She’s got an amazingly versatile voice, and a great touch in her songwriting.
I've had three albums on constant rotation for the past few weeks. The first has been Jake Bugg's most excellent debut. The first moment I got my little hands on it, it was on repeat for weeks and weeks. And I still find myself going back to it. What can I say; pretty face, gorgeous voice, beautiful songs, at once old fashioned and refreshingly new. To quote Depeche Mode: I just can't get enough.
I also recently discovered the fab Daughter. I had the honor of reviewing their stupendous debut If You Leave not long ago although I'd been initially cautious (the words "shoegaze" and "The XX" had been whispered - I recoiled in horror). But surprise, surprise this is another album that has been on heavy rotation chez moi. I love the surreal beauty of it, the iridescence, how the songs blur into one another. It is a stunning piece of work that some dull, one-dimensional band I could mention would never be able to muster.
At the moment on my ipod I am listening to Waiting For Something To Happen from fab indie band Veronica Falls. Now I admit on first listen I wasn't too smitten with album number two, longing for the endearing creepiness of their stellar debut. But this one has really grown on me, and, as I predicted, the songs are even better live. A scintillating collection of clever tunes, with the sparse production allowing the bands's floaty vocals to really stand out. This album, like its predecessor, owes a debt to the wonderful American indie bands of the 1980s, REM especially via the jangly guitars and sepia-hued feel of the songs. Just gorgeous.
That's us for this month. Feel free to tell us about your latest raves in the comments below.