I am extremely late this month ; I know… So here you go for a great album for August.
Album of the month: Villagers – “Fever Dreams” – Pop Rock – The older Villagers’ leader Conor O’Brien gets, the more beautiful his music is. I must confess it took me a few years to really appreciate his art but I guess he can now be considered as one of the most gifted songwriter of our times. The way Paul Weller praised the talent of the Irishman through their latest collaborations makes no doubt ; he is one of the greats.
Runnner-up: Steve Gunn – “Other You” – Guitar music – Another lovely album from this fantastic American guitar player. This blog has been a fan of his for a few years now, either through his live shows or the beautiful records he made with the great late Michael Chapman.
Kenny Garrett – “Sounds from the Ancestors” – Jazz – Saxophone player extraordinaire!
The Killers – “Pressure Machine” – Pop Rock – Their best album in ages, in a Springstean mood.
Lorde – “Solar Power” – Pop – Nice record from our favourite Kiwi pop female artist.
Big Red Machine – “How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?” – Pop Rock – Excellent collaboration between Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner from The National, with lots of cool invited female singers.
Liars – “The Apple Drop” – Pop Rock – Angus Andrew is back with his band as, as usual, this record is very different from the previous one
U.F.A of the month! : Kanye West – “Donda” – Kanye music – Not a bad record per se but much too long and not on par with what he used to release. Are his glory days behind us?
For once, I will not write a full article about a very specific event…as I already did it! I was lucky to be the London correspondent of the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine for the opening of the London store of Third Man Records (their 3rd after Nashville and Detroit), the label co-founded by Jack White with his two compadres Ben Swank and Ben Blackwell. Located in the centre of the Soho district, this is a very nice place indeed, full of great stuff.
For those familiar with French, read my review which can be found online (link below) and the interview I had with Dave Buick, the Detroit store manager. For the others, a) apologies and b) enjoy the picture of Jack White playing with his band on a balcony!
Never too late to review the previous month’s best albums! Apologies to Willow, David Crosby, Emma-Jean Thackray,Lump, Billie Eilish or again Durand Jones & The Indications who all released excellent records as well but did not end up in this selection.
Album of the month: Darkside – “Spiral” – Electro Guitar Rock – Darkside is the musical duet of French-Chilean-American electro dance producer Nicolas Jaar and American guitar player Dave Harrington. They formed in 2013 and quickly released a wonderful first LP with ”Psychic”, one of the best releases of that year. I remember attending an electric and exciting gig at the Paris Pitchfork Festival in 2013 but to me the beauty of it all was that we all knew it were to be a provisory thing. The news that they were to release a new album after all these years came as a shock and a surprise. As for their first LP, this new record is something to slowly digest and its beauties come after repetitive listens. Welcome back gents with one of the most beautiful and challenging piece of music released this year so far.
Runnner-up: Joel Culpepper – “Sgt. Culpepper” – Modern Soul – Although he is already 37 years old, this is actually Joel Culpepper’s first album…and what a great way to discover this amazing artist. I was personally made aware of him through the latest season of the great BBC TV Show ”…later with Jools” and since then I was eagerly waiting to know more about him. There is not one weak track on this album and the least one can say is that the man has a talent to sound simultaneously modern and classic. A real gem of a record.
Rejjie Snow – “Baw Baw Black Sheep” – Hip Hop – 3rd album from the Irish rapper and his best so far.
Tot Taylor – “Frisbee” – Pop Rock – 70’s fresh sounding record from this veteran in the music scene.
Leon Bridges – “Gold-Diggers Sound” – R&B – For those who like their R&B and Soul Music rough and creative! Nice cover as well.
Torres – “Thirstier” – Pop Rock – She’s great; isn’t she?
Prince – “Welcome 2 America” – Prince music – Finally, what would probably have been record of the month if Prince were still with us. Why on earth did not he release this gorgeous opus in 2011 as originally forecasted? To be listened to very loud!
U.F.A of the month! : Foo Fighters – “Dee Gees” – Cover band – Dear Dave Grohl, you are one of the most exciting man in rock music and your taste in music is impeccable but does the world deserve a pub rock album of Bee Gees covers by your band? Not sure…
This month, we will travel the world, from Norway to Mongolia.
Album of the month: Kings Of Convenience – “Peace Or Love” – Norwegian Bossa Nova – There was no better news for me than reading a few weeks ago that a new K.O.C. record was to be released soon. After a hiatus of twelve years, the Bergen, Norway duo of Erik Glambek Bøe and Erlend Øye is back with a heavy-metal-meets-hardcore-techno sounding album which… no, hold on really, the good news is that there is no real surprise in this new record and that it could have been released any time in the last fifty years. The two friends are neither as young as they were when they started in the early 00’s and their new songs reflect the hopes and troubles faced by men in their mid-40’s. Their sound remains a mix of Brazilian accoustic sounds with a Scandinavian attitude and approach, served this time by a couple of overwhelming tracks sang with Canadian female singer Feist. Discover this band if not done yet and it may change your life as it changed mine twenty years ago. Welcome back Gentlemen!
Runnner-up: Enji – “Ursgal” – Mongolian Jazz – Based in Germany, Enji is a young Mongolian female artist who mixes her love of jazz with her own traditions. This record is a very interesting one as one goes from one track to another from either very standard (and beautiful) sung jazz moods to completely different ones, the latter making you feel you really are in the middle of gorgeous Mongolian landscapes.
Sleater-Kinney – “Path Of Wellness” – Pop Rock – Now a duo, this is Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker‘s 10th studio album and one of their best.
Francis Lung – “Miracle” – Pop Rock – Second Elliott Smith‘s influenced album from a former member of WU LYF.
John Grant – “Boy From Michigan” – Pop Rock – A long and ambitious album from one of my favourite current artists. It goes a bit all over the place but a few tracks are classics!
Faye Webster – “I Know I’m Funny Haha” – Country Soul – One of the most beautifully crafted album of the year ; your favourite summer record!
Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog – “Hope” – Experimental Blues – A fantastic guitar album from one of the best, who collaborated with Elvis Costello or Tom Waits amongst others
U.F.A of the month! : Clara Luciani – “Coeur” – (bad) French variété – What is the point in mentioning your love of LouReed or Leonard Cohen to eventually make such a bad record? I must have missed something…
This week, let’s take the time machine to 1990…or is it 1968?
World Party – “Goodbye Jumbo“ – 1990
World Party is essentially the brain child of a certain Karl Wallinger. This Welsh musician made himself known by music fans by being a key member of The Waterboys during their first phase in the mid-80’s, when their leader Mike Scott wanted to get as close as possible to his concept of Big Music. Karl Wallinger was for sure very instrumental in helping the band to be one of the most successful of that era. However, the two gentlemen’s personalities were probably too strong to last for a long time and Karl Wallinger left the band while their leader would find more closeness with his celtic musical roots. Karl Wallinger decided then he could also be a leader for his next project he would call World Party.
‘Goodbye Jumbo‘ is World Party’s second LP and probably their best. Although very popular at the time, the music press was quick to decide World Party was nothing more that a pale copy of better bands which influenced their sound. One can indeed obviously hear a certain common ground with late 60’s / early 70’s artists like Arthur Lee‘s Love or John Lennon. But it is to my mind pretty lazy just to mention this as Karl Wallinger’s talents as a composer were for real and not only those of a plagiarist. Both ”Way Down Now” and ”Put The Message In The Box” are gorgeous singles with a perfect sense of melody but one should state that the album in its entirety is a timeless jewel. A song like ”Take It Up” for instance could have been written anytime in the last sixty years and its subtleties could probably not be entirely discovered even after umpteenth listens. It is also to be noted that Karl Wallinger’s voice has a undefined extra factor, which made this band and album different. Although he only released five albums from 1987 to 2000, he never officially stopped the band so who knows?
Format: CD Bought in: 1990 To be noted: I remember doing my internship in Weybridge, Surrey at that time and that this record was very popular in the UK. Rating: 8.5/10
Do I repeat myself sometimes? If so, I do apologize but once again this month was amazing in terms of quality releases! Excellent albums done by Damien Jurado, Sons Of Kemet, Lambchop or black midi are also really worth to discovering on top of the below usual selection of seven records.
Album of the month: The Black Keys – “Delta Kream” – Blues – I must confess recently thinking The Black Keys had become something similar to comfort food these latest years and not as essential as they were in the early 00’s. Recent albums were ok but Dan Auerbach looked more interested in producing other artists rather than focusing on new music with fellow drummer Patrick Carney. Best thing to do when a band starts getting away from their roots ? Well, there are probably worse ideas than organising a 2-day, no-rehearsal, 10-hour playing session, covering old blues numbers. Adding up super-skilled guitarist Kenny Brown and bassist Eric Deaton, this session is everything we like about rough and authentic music and you sometimes feel as if you were with these guys, paying homage to blues giants like Junior Kimbrough or R.L. Burnside. Buying the vinyl version to get the beautiful William Eggleston photo cover is warmly recommended as well.
Runner-up: Squid– “Bright Green Field – Pop Rock – This album was really close to get the top spot and will probably have a high ranking by the end of the year. Originally from Brighton, UK, Squid confirmed all hopes put in their first 2019 ”Town Centre” EP. Their new album definitely needs a bit of effort from the listener but I guess this is what we all look for when one has an interest in challenging and demanding music. A few tracks are really splendid and you may end up dancing and shouting like hell in your living room while playing this record. They are part of this year 2021 End of the Road festival edition so I hope to be able to catch them then…
Anthony Joseph – “The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives” – Spoken Jazz – Gorgeous latest opus from Trinidad born, London-based poet. His lyrics are assharp as usual and guests’ musicianship is extraordinary.
Paul Weller – “Fat Pop Vol. 1” – Pop Rock – Paul Weller just celebrated his 63rd birthday last week with another annual delivery. Not a sign of fat Mr. Weller; you rule like a youngster!
St. Vincent – “Daddy’s Home” – Pop Rock – Annie Clark‘s new release is probably less dance-oriented than her latest albums and more inclined towards 70’s sounds.
Current Joys – “Voyager” – Pop Rock – Current Joys is the alias of a certain Nick Rattigan, an American artist I must admit never have heard of before. It looks this is is eighth album and indeed, never too late to discover such an ambitious and incredible record.
Del Amitri – “Fatal Mistakes” – Pop Rock – First album in years from the Scottish veterans ; they are back full or energy, mixing The Beatles and The Velvet Underground influences!
U.F.A of the month! : Van Morrison – “Last Record Project Volume One” – Yes Van The Man, you are right, Facebook is crap and you think COVID-19 is a conspiracy…but do we need to listen to all of it for more than 2 hours? I do not think so…
Nessa semana, vamos viajar ao Brasil! This week, let’s travel to Brazil to praise one of the most singular and original bands coming from this fantastic country, which gave to the world so many amazing artists… and also o monstro Thiago Silva who just won his first Champions League. Parabens!
Os Mutantes – “Everything Is Possible – The best of Os Mutantes“ – 1999
Although your reviewer lived in Brazil in the late 90’s, I must confess that I discovered this incredible band thanks to the release of this compilation on David Byrne‘s Luaka Bop label. Those familiar with the great man and following his career from his Talking Heads period to his solo work were not surprised at the time about his initiative in creating a label to promote artists and bands coming from all over the world and especially from Latin and South America. Formed in the mid-60’s in São Paulo by brothers Arnaldo and Sérgio Baptista and female singer Rita Lee, they unconsciously created something very unique, mixing bossa nova, MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), British pop and psychedelic rock music. They really were one of a kind and I must admit that even today after listening for hours to their music, I am still not sure what this is about…which is great! They were lucky to appear on the legendary 1968 ‘Tropicalia’ compilation with others artists such as Caetano Veloso or Gilberto Gil but once again to me they could not really be associated with this scene. Their peak period can be found in the late 60’s to mid-70’s and more precisely in their first four albums which are all classics. While Rita Lee left in 1972 to become one of the most popular Brazilian singers of all times, genius and band leader Arnaldo Baptista faced a few difficult years, struggling with mental issues before giving up the band in the late 70’s. They reformed in the mid 00’s and released a few solid records, although not as seminal as those early releases.
This compilation is a superb introduction to the band and their very specific musical landscape. One will find on this record songs written by the band but also a few covers…but it does not change the full picture as they used to make theirs any song they were working on, from beautiful ballad ‘Baby‘ to psychedelic opener ‘Ando Meio Desligado‘ or again ‘Bat Macumba‘ which could have been a Blur song in their more relaxed and experimental moments. The majority of their tracks were obviously sung in Portuguese but also in English, Spanish…or French. As very often with great bands, their sound and production cannot really be associated to a period in time. If this record were to be released today, it would sound as fresh as a band of newcomers. This is an excellent first step to discover this band for lovers of Brazilian music…but also for those who are not.
Format: CD Bought in: 2000 To be noted: I was not a Londoner at the time but how I wish I could have attended their 2006 reunion at the Barbican. This live event was recorded and released in 2007. Rating: 9.0/10
It looks many of my favourite bands decided to release records this month. I must confess then than my choices may appear less diverse than usual but how not to chose these great bands’ new records? …and by the way, The Coral‘s ”Coral Island” could have been here as well…
Album of the month: Flyte – “This Is Really Going To Hurt” – Pop Rock – Following a great debut album is always a very tricky exercise so I was not sure what to expect regarding Flyte‘s sophomore album. The fact that the band had became a trio since the release of 2017 gorgeous ”The Loved Ones’‘ and a subsequent series of beautiful gigs was definitely not bringing very good news. Do not take this for granted though as this new release is probably as good as their first effort. Based conceptually on Will Taylor‘s personal break-up experience, first listens may appear a bit deceptive but further ones will be rewarded. One will find (again) in this album a sense of refinement and attention to details which is a sure sign that this band is here to stay and hopefully become one of your favourites. A must for all ears!
Runner-up: Teenage Fanclub – “Endless Arcade – Pop Rock – …and then they were three (well more precisely two composers…). How to deal with the departure of one of your key member and songwriter?Gerard Love decided to leave the band three years ago and I was one of the lucky few attending his last gig when they played three nights in a row all their classic period Creation songs. Being good Scottish and pragmatic people, Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley decided to do as if nothing happened, to share all song writing responsibilities on a 50/50 basis, to add up the great Euro Childs on keyboards…et voila! Another classic Teenage Fanclub and one of their best.
Dry Cleaning – “New Long Leg – Pop Rock – In the grand tradition of singers/talkers a la Lou Reed, John Lydon or Leonard Cohen, here is the fantastic debut of this London band, lead by the fascinating voice of Florence Shaw.
Cory Hanson – “Pale Horse Rider” – American Music – Debut album from the lead singer of psychedelic band Wand. American music as its best.
Field Music – “Flat White Moon” – Pop Rock – Sunderland’s best band (and one of the best of our times!) deliver the goods again. Long live the Brewis brothers!
Matt Sweeney & Bonnie Prince Billy – “Superwolves” – American music – Their second collective release sixteen years after their previous one and an even better one.
U.F.A of the month! : Merry Clayton – “Beautiful Scars” – Dear Merry, you are a legend, you had a very tough life and the way you sang on The Rolling Stones‘ ”Gimme Shelter” was an all-time high. Hence my sincere apologies to put you in this category but, really, your new release is not very good…
I am not sure that when I started this Something For The Weekend series of reviews, I would have imagined to get to episode #50. I must confess I had a tremendous pleasure doing so, especially during that weird year we just experienced. Loving music with all my heart and soul, I realised this is probably a never-ending thing and that I will keep on putting my modest contribution by reviewing many more records for a long period of time. So, for episode #50, ladies and gentlemen, I give you a very special one this time.
Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On“ – 1971
To describe this record as a very special one would not surprise anyone. But although this is indeed one of the most important releases of all times, this is a record which is very close to my heart as well. First of all, it looks I have always heard ”What’s Going On” since very young. I still have in my music collection the ‘musicassette’ (as it was called then) that my father bought in the UK and although I did not have a very clear understanding of it all, being a very young boy, I clearly remember listening to these songs in the car while travelling. Then, I have no shame to confess that I am what I am thanks to this incredible 30th November, 1985 New Musical Express issue which I received just a couple of weeks after starting my subscription. For UK readers, you need to understand that reading the NME while growing up in France at the time was one of the few possibilities to get news about great music… This issue made me discover all the greats from Roxy Music to Van Morrison, from Television to Bob Dylan or again from The Clash to Sly And The Family Stone (full list here). And which record was voted as best one ever by the 1985 NME writers? Well, I guess you know…
I recommend to those not really familiar with Marvin Gaye to dig further in all his music production as this is a fascinating one. After starting as a session drummer for Tamla Motown, he went on recording fantastic singles in the 1960’s, either solo or duetting with female partners, the most amazing being the legendary Tammi Terrell who unfortunately died too young from a brain tumour. Marvin Gaye never really recovered from it ; these sad news plus an unhappy marriage with Berry Gordy‘s sister and stories he got from his brother Franck coming back from the Vietnam War were reasons to bring to the world such a masterful record. ”What’s Going On” is an extraordinary piece of work on different levels. For a start, the lyrics and themes (poverty, war, racial inequalities, ecology) are very much the same as today…although it was released fifty years ago. Then, the flow of the record is very peculiar and the production has not aged at all: tracks are often blurred into one another, which gives a dreamy feeling. Finally, Marvin Gaye’s voice is beautiful and very moving, while the many musicians playing throughout are immense. His career until his sad passing in 1984 would bring other extraordinary songs and albums but his personal life would become so difficult to deal with that he would never climb such musical heights…but who would? A record to listen to again and again.
Format: Cassette/CD/LP&CD 40th Anniversary Reissue Box SetBought in: 1971/1993/2011 To be noted: Although new comers to this album should definitely listen to the classic version that was released in 1971, I recommend to fans to discover the so-called Detroit Mix which brings a new perspective… especially regarding the way his NFL Detroit Lions buddies are recorded! Rating: 10.5/10
This week, we will review a hidden gem from a mysterious artist.
Bobbie Gentry – “The Delta Sweete“ – 1968
Bobbie Gentry has always been a enigmatic person in the music business to say the least… Born Roberta Streeter in the great Mississippi State, she took her music alias while singing with country male artists everywhere in the United States. Her very singular voice and talent quickly put her above her stage buddies and she had the chance of being able to release a 7” in 1967 with ”Mississippi Delta”. However, DJ’s were all more intrigued by the B-side ”Ode to Billie Joe” which became a worldwide phenomena, covered by hundreds of musicians. I must confess this song remains today one of the best of all times, either by the beauty of the music, the quality of her voice or again the lyrics which remain a mystery until now (what made Billie Joe McAllister jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge by the way?).
”Bobbie Gentry performs The Delta Sweete” is her second album and an amazing effort it is. First of all, her voice is a gorgeous thing throughout those twelve tracks. Then, the musicianship is extraordinary in the country soul style one can find in many of these great musicians from the Southern States of the USA, like Tony Joe White or The Allman Brothers Band for instance. However, one must admit it goes beyond this peculiar style of music as the whole album is overall very ambitious, adding up orchestra’s strings on many of the songs. Last but not least, each song’s lyrics mean one thing or another, depending on the day or the mood of the listener. Bobbie Gentry made a few less interesting records afterwards and decided to get out of public life from the mid 70’s onwards, which makes this LP a very specific item.
Format: LP Bought in: 2020 To be noted: This extraordinary record has been reissued in 2020 and the LP version is particularly worth the purchase. I also recommend as a companion piece Mercury Rev‘s ”Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited”. Released in 2019, the great American band invited female singers (Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Laetitia Sadier, Beth Orton, Phoebe Bridgers, and so on…) to recreate this major opus, each singing one song. Rating: 8.5/10