Anne Pigalle - L’Ame Erotique
There isn’t much in this world more attractive and alluring to this reviewer than music and the French accent. When I discovered “L’Ame Erotique” by Anne Pigalle I was served a delightful mix of both. Let me first say, this album is not for everybody. It’s a wonderful mix of Poetry in both the English and French language with very simplistic music.
The first song I was drawn to listen to, thanks to it’s fabulous title “Saint Orgasm”, is a song so sultry and graphically erotic that it took me by surprise. Anne’s French accent produces very slurred words that are hypnotic on her tongue, just her pronunciation of the word “Saint” was sultry enough. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting the phenomenal, brave lyrical content of the song. I’m always wary of my use of the word “Brave” but the instrumentation is so stripped down it leaves lines such as “My hands grab you forcefully, how much do you want to come?” completely unmasked and exposed. As a song writer who often indulges in erotic imagery, this song, and indeed entire album, leaves me feeling completely liberated.
It feels wrong, almost inappropriate, to comment on the “production” of an album such as this, but never the less I will. The vocal is left very dry in order to expose the listener completely to Pigalle’s words. The acoustic guitar is played very basically, just route notes are played and again there is little to no reverb to maintain the intensity and intimacy of performance. On tracks such as “A New Life” a drum machine is used to create very simple drum loops with the odd synth thrown in here and there. I would have loved to hear more experimental production on this album as it may have opened it up to a slightly larger audience, but none the less I can see why Pigalle chose to keep such a basic, intimate vibe throughout this body of work. There are no comparisons I can, and would want to draw to Anne Pigalle, and I find “L’Ame Erotique” a very interesting and enlightening listen. http://annepigalle.com
Dear Reader - Idealistic Animal
A delightful body of work. the alias of singer and songwriter Cheri MacNeil. The album is a break up record like no other, track by track I get the feeling I am listening to a woman who’s thoughts are questioning as she parts way with her faith. I struggle to enjoy music when I feel the lyrical content is poor or sounding laboured, this isn’t the case here. Like her voice, Cheri MacNeil’s lyrics are unpretentious, simple, yet thought provoking and often beautiful. Take the song “Fox (Take Your Chances)” for instance, “I ached myself awake” was a line so cripplingly sublime and unexpected so early in the song, that it held my attention for it’s entire length. In the same song, an almost Morrissey- like lyric “Life is dull as sin most of the time”, endeared me to Dear Reader instantly.
With such personal, intimate lyrics, I wasn’t disappointed with the production of this album. Continuing the personal theme, the production was simple and powerful as a result. All too often I find a lot of work is done to make huge sounding vocals by layering track after track of harmonies (which would detract from the intimate performance and lyrics), but one gets the feeling that Dear Reader were more interested in letting the songs, lyrics and performances speak for themselves. The subtle use of brass and strings, compliments tracks like “Bear (Young’s Done)” perfectly without making them a huge feature and distracting from the song’s sentiment. “Idealistic Animals” is a very sweet and almost understated body of work. It isn’t album written to achieve huge commercial heights but it’s charming songs such as “Whale (Boohoo)” make “Idealistic Animals” well worth a listen. http://dearreadermusic.com
Reviews above by Chris Fox
The Dustaphonics – Party Girl
It’s like something from Kerouac’s On The Road - the dank smell of whiskey and stale cigarette smoke curls through the bar, thick and cancerous. It hangs in the witching hour gloom. A woman in stockings moans a tune from across the top of a battered grand piano. She’s sexy and dangerous and mostly every man sober enough to lift his head off the bar is swaying to her hypnotic spell. There are silhouettes of old negroes, sleazy looking men in shabby hats, sunken-eyed junkies - all clanking their bottles and stumbling around in the smog to the ramshackle clatter of the band. In the seventies a musician called Tom Waits became obsessed with this sort of seedy scene. He formed an act around it, and despite (or perhaps because of) the baring of his stylistic arse to the post-hippy, satin shirted glam rock pomp of his day, he found a cult following. The Dustaphonics mix a different musical cocktail than Waits, but it’s a timeless image like his that their music belongs to.
Ok, so this kind of performance can end up a façade, an act – maybe even a barrage of clichés – but The Dustaphonics aren’t meant to be your standard band. ‘Party Girl’, their second album, is a retro party piece. And just feel that swagger. Sludgy, slap-backed guitars moan in smacked-up bliss under the carnal wail of the lead singer, whose voice shudders with flutters of vibrato, sometimes off-pitch but full of heart and guts and voluptuous at all times - every bit the femme fatale characters of the album’s narrative. It’s practically oozing sleaze. Some parts of ‘Party Girl’ sound like they could have come straight from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack – indeed sometimes it’s a little close for comfort (‘Burlesque Queen’ has borrowed heavily from ‘Rumble’ by Link Wray, and ‘Showman Twang Tiki Gods’ wields a distinctly ‘Miserlou’-like riff – although its finale sounds more like an epic Mexican showdown from a Rodriguez flick). In addition to their movie glam, The Dustaphonics provide a whirlwind tour of the 50’s and 60’s – flirting with surf ('burlesque queen', 'eat my dustaphonics'), rhythm and blues (‘I think I’ve had it), garage rock ('the jinx', 'looking at you'), rockabilly ('party girl'), rock & roll ('when you gonna learn'), and the blues ('you gonna wreck my life'). They don’t so much fuse genres as hop from one to the other, although the songwriting manages to remain formulaic throughout. True, this sounds like two fairly shitty features, but The Dustaphonics weld them together into a form where they bring out the best in each other.
Tottering around in a flashy, hedonistic party stupor, this album is wild and dizzy with fun. It captures the hopeless abandon and punk energy of a manic live set perfectly, disturbed only by the occasional sample. It’s also catchy and occasionally offers the frustrating excellence of a chorus that could have been a hit fifty years ago (such as the title track). Nevertheless, these guys are clearly just here to have a good time, and if I ever get a chance to catch them on the live circuit, you’d better know I’m getting on board. www.facebook.com/pages/The-DUSTAPHONICS-official-fan-page/108928055808650
Iarla O’Lionard – Foxlight
A ghostly voice gently dances over the thick, wet trudge. It glides and bends gently in the age-old patterns of its forefathers - aching, hopelessly pushing under the weight of a crushing melancholia. Under it a blanket of elaborate sounds drones and twinkles – digitally tweaked to within an inch of its former self. Is this the funeral march of tradition? The marriage of the old and the new? Compromise? Innovation? In the age of the computer, it’s no surprise that celtic folk is demanding questions.
Iarla O’Lionaird may have discarded traditional authenticity by adopting the art of 21st Century audio twiddling, but having done so he has seized the helm of a larger power, free to play with a rich bounty of sonic wonders – synths, pianos that sound like they’re being played at the bottom of a loch, fuzzy backgrounds of static crackling and snare brushstrokes. They creep in and out, almost orchestral in their variation. The whole sound – wet and resonant, slowly pulsing along, rooted in folk tradition - even the alien mystery of the language it’s sung in – is very Sigur Ros. However, Iarla’s Irish heritage provides the most vital ingredients– the strange phrasing patterns of yesteryear can be heard in the virginally cute ‘Goat Song’, and the bobbing Sean-nós melodies of the girl singing in ‘Daybreak’ are stunningly evocative of emerald hills and murky, rippling lakes. The traditionalists will probably condemn it as fetishisation of the sacred, a dilution of that which should be untouchable – sort of like slapping paint on a museum relic. For me, however, traditional folk is no different from any other ingredient a musician can use – art can’t evolve without a past to evolve from and therefore it is every creator’s birthright to plunder tradition in whichever way he/she sees fit. What Iarla has done here is create something new and interesting out of an art form that’s sinking into obscurity – fair play to him. http://www.iarla.com
Reviews above by Lawrie
Feist – Metals
You may know Leslie Feist as the lady whose music was in that Ipod ad. But with her fourth studio album she proves she’s not just a one hit wonder. This is her follow up from 2007’s ‘The Reminder’. It features duets with Vanessa Carlton and Marina (and the Diamonds). Metals is filled with flowing strings and fluent woodwind courtesy of Colin Stetson. Leslie Feist sticks to the style she’s so well known for. Uproars of cathartic choruses grace throughout. The joyous track ‘Graveyard’ is a celebration of life itself where we hear expulsive melodies and fluctuating timing, where she sings “brings them all back to life”. Her fourth album is probably her best to date. Her gospel like vocals wash into words of nothingness and the album lulls over you like a turning tide. Metals is a sound of excellence and encompasses true vitality. Feist isn’t just a jazzy piano-folk artist, she is the sound of passion.
Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures
On the 23rd of July, 2011 the music industry lost a true gift. And now, in time for winter, just half a year later a tribute to Amy Winehouse has been released. In good cause, £1 of each sale goes to the Amy Winehouse Foundation set up by her father, Mitch. Lioness… is a tribute above all other tributes. Unreleased heartfelt versions of her hits include ‘Valerie’ and ‘Tears dry’ which upon listen make you wonder why the hell weren’t they released before? There are no games or novelties on this album, just one incredible voice. Unsurprisingly, Amy Winehouse was the only British female who won five Grammys. ‘A Song for You’ was recorded in just one take in her front room in Camden, 2009, it shows her true effortlessly outstanding vocals. Significantly the most haunting track is the one recorded just weeks before she passed, with Tony Bennett, who said “She’s just as good as Ella”. Amy’s vocals never fail to impress and this record makes her just seem so alive. If there is any talent worth preserving it would always be hers. Like a lioness this record is just as strong as any of her others.
Summer Camp – Welcome to Condale
Welcome to echoes of the 80s created by multi instrumentalist Jeremy Warmsley and lead vocalist Elizabeth Sankey. These Londoners don’t fail to follow up their wonderful 2010 EP. Welcome to Condale is like a hazy and nostalgic milkshake with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top. Their melodies are sweet yet their vocals are interestingly bitter. Singing about heartache and failure, Summer Camp know how to relate to any teenager. There are many tracks that are influenced by the 60s-80s yet still remain fresh and exciting, for example ‘American Virgin’ with its Bestcoast-esque whistles and lost love lyrics. Summer Camp mix chimey synth with lowfi guitar as well as standing out from other duos such as Slow Club and Sleigh Bells. Does this album seem contrived? Possibly, but any album with the exciting stand out track – ‘Ghost Train’ (which cleverly mimics the sound of a train chug) is a successful album.
The Black Belles – The Black Belles
It’s always been obvious that anything Jack White touches, regardless of taste, tends to be absolute gold dust. This time he’s produced an album from an all-girl garage-rock band named The Black Belles, who are signed to his label, Third Man Records. The band themselves, comprised of drummer Shelby Lynne, bassist Ruby Rogers, synth player Lil’Boo, and guitarist/vocalist/organ player Olivia Jean, create dark 60’s influenced heavy punk rock, something very reminiscent of White’s early and very primal White Stripes recordings.
The album itself is a short one, with songs very rarely going over the three minute mark. All of the songs on the album fail to fall short of the bluesy garage rock that you’d expect from a Jack White production, with tracks such as Wishing Well reflecting White’s past and very clearly laying down the basics of just what was appealing in The White Stripes – the basic drumming, the simple riffs, the energy, the blues, the soul. However, they are a lot more than what you hear in the first few tracks. As the album goes on you hear elements of Pixies-esque surf-rock combined with Dick Dale’s bouncing style bass lines. This album could quite well be made for a Tarantino action-comedy blockbuster set in the 1960s. Ultimately, this album is all about that energy. The tracks aren’t necessarily your average girl rock group that may create some melody or pop anthems. This is a band that have stripped down the nonsense and gone back to the original punk ethos. I know it is way too obvious to compare this band to Jack White’s previous work but despite all that, front-woman Olivia Jean seems to be one extremely talented musician, perhaps on a par with Mr White himself. Her solos over the bass lines, which on their own are at a tremendous speed, are thundering and wailing and thoroughly impressive for a band so early into their career. A brilliant spot by Mr White, and a phenomenal effort from the four musicians involved. ‘The Black Belles’ is an album worth listening to for all fans of Jack White and his numerous projects.
Laura Gibson - La Grande
Laura Gibson, residing from Oregon, USA, has hit out with an album representing her own self-discovery. Having played over 200 shows since 2009’s acclaimed album Beasts of Seasons she now presents us the album which represents journeys and transitions.
The title track and opener reveals a lot about the singer. The track itself is a rumbling North-American influenced track sounding like it could be the soundtrack to a more modern Clint Eastwood Western. Laura Gibson is said to have had total creative control over this album and it’s clear that every tiny piece of this record has been put together so very delicately and smoothly. Her gentle voice simply lies and floats across the surface of the music, mostly accompanied by a slow yet deep drum beat and some brass section backing the instrumentals ever so quietly. I can only imagine that if I was to tour the landscape and natural locations in the USA, I would want this album to accompany me. Gibson has clearly focused on the thematic ideology of journeys and this is grasped well by her as an artist and the listener as a recipient.
This record is subtle, beautiful and extremely powerful. Gibson creates an album to be proud of combining American soul with deep blues and folk to create a heavenly blend of truly magical melody. Laura Gibson gives the listener a tour of her world and a journey to remember with this beautiful record.
12 Dirty Bullets – Downsides To Making A Living
12 Dirty Bullets are an aggressive and rather heavy British indie-rock band from with all the expected influences. The classics – The Beatles, Radiohead, The Stone Roses, The Clash and The Jam. The album kicks off with self-titled track and packs a punch straight away with the heavy riffs kicking you in the teeth on first listen. It starts of very-punk influenced, with Dark Tales of a Policeman taking great influence from the cheeky and playful poetry used by bands like The Jam and The Arctic Monkeys. It’s already quite clear that the album belongs to a certain era, the modern indie influences come through are reflected in the music, very much putting them in a similar category to the lad rock style of The Courteeners and Oasis. The album will appeal to those interested in the old school poetic style of The Arctic Monkeys and The Courteeners energy and punk influence despite the fact the band don’t necessarily offer anything new or innovative.
The record is energetic, punchy and ferocious, with vocals and aggressive riffs prevalent throughout. ‘Downsides To Making A Living’ is a good solid rock n’ roll album from a young band who are certain to mature and appeal to the audience interested in the heavy British indie-rock scene that is so popular in today’s music scene.
Reviews above by Josh Nicol