Friday, 30 December 2011

The Evening's Empire - Top 20 Tracks of 2011 (5 - 1)

Well, I certainly have left this late! I could claim that I was just being thorough; making sure there aren't any earth shattering singles released on December the 30th which everyone else's  “end of year lists” would have missed..... but lets face it, it's just down to procrastination and laziness. Regardless, I am still within the 2011 time frame, so without much further ado - my Top 5 Tracks of 2011.

5.   Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes sensational follow up to ther self-titled debut, was an  absolutely huge success this year. Widely recognised by critics and and public at large as being one of the albums of the year. It is on this effort that Pecknold stopped looking at the world at large, and instead turned the lyrics upon himself.

'Helplessness Blues' is one of those songs that you know straight away is going to be huge. It has just the right amount of sing-ability without it becoming clichéd, the right amount of catchiness without being too shallow and lyrics that are excellent without necessarily telling you exactly what they mean. Rich in the usual excellent, quirky musicianship and gorgeous swooning harmonies that we've come to expect from the Seattle six-piece - it's a truly special track.

`What's my name, what's my station, oh, just tell me what I should do'

4.   Laura Marling - Sophia

What more is there to say about Laura Marling...... To me she is probably the most astounding, young talent currently in music.. The incredible albums by the age of 21 is clearly the form of a prodigy at work. When I look at artists from the 60/70's I think about how incredible it must have been to grow up with the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen; to me Marling will go on to be held up there with these greats.

I could have pretty much picked any track from her incredible third album A Creature I Don't Know, but I've gone for 'Sophia'. 2 minutes 55 seconds of beautifully crafted musicianship before the track eventually reaches a crescendo layered with country-style vocals and a melody that forces the listeners attention.

'Rarely I weep, sometimes I must, I am wounded by the dust'.

3.   Ryan Adams - Dirty Rain

That's more like it Ryan! Where on earth have you been keeping tracks like this when you've forced us to endure albums like III/IV?! Whether Ashes & Fire marks a return to form or just a positive blip on a career in free fall is yet to be seen, however, one thing is certain - This is a fucking great album!

There are a number of tracks that could have made it on the list from Ashes and Fire; however, I settled on the opener 'Dirty Rain'. Riddled with semi-autobiographical references of looking at the past, at how things used to be, and wondering how to get back to what you once were.

'Now I'm here lookin' through the ruble, tryin' to find out who we were'.

2.   Frank Turner - If Ever I Stray

For me it wouldn't be an end of year list (or any list) without the inclusion of Frank Turner somewhere amongst it. So here he is; just shy of the number 1 spot. Earlier this year he released his forth studio album, England Keep My Bones, which moved him into the conciousness of the last few people in the UK who were still unaware of his music. Full of themes of national identity (not to be confused with racism), mortality and what it means to grow old; it was a far more mixed album, straying from his tried lyrical formula of travelling and taking to the road.

'If Ever I Stray' is a song about making sure you stay true to who you are, and having people around you to keep you grounded. Featuring an infectious guitar riff, superb vocals and one of the best crescendos i've ever heard, it's another instant classic from the Folk/Punk songwriter.

                             'Sometimes it's hard to remember, I couldn't do this on my own'.

1.   Bon Iver - Holocene

Bon Iver, Bon Iver is as hauntingly beautiful an album as you are ever likely to hear. It's not background music and sometimes it isn't even enjoyable in the traditional sense, but it is so well written, so detailed and immaculately created that it has surpassed all other albums this year for me. 

This was always going to be the difficult second album for Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) in the wake of his debut, For Emma For Ever Ago, which cemented itself in indie music folklore, complete with a back story of sadness and sombre isolation. His latest effort is bigger, richer, more sophisticated in its arrangement. It's safe to say that Vernon has moved well away from his back story which could otherwise have type-cast him for the rest of his career as that-bearded-guy-who-wrote-an-album-in-a-cabin.

It is on 'Holocene' that Bon Iver is truly at his best. The finger-picking guitar opening is warm yet sombre; then comes the vocals from Vernon, which are more like an instrument in their own right then an audible vocal. It climaxes in the heaven-bound chorus, when a lyric tears into the listeners conciousness, 'and at once I knew, I was not magnificent'. Sometimes a song has a quality that you can't quite put your finger on; this song has that quality in abundance.

                                        'Someway baby, it's part of me, apart from me'.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Evening's Empire - Top 20 Tracks of 2011 (10 - 6)

Firstly, I hope you all had a great Christmas. I hope that Santa got you everything you wanted, I hope that the pretty girl/guy in accounts that you've liked all year sent you a merry Christmas text - But mostly I hope that you didn't have the misfortune of having to listen to that Michael Buble Christmas album.
    Anyway, things are getting serious now, as we reach my Top 10 Tracks of 2011.

10.   King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Bats In The Attic

Earlier this year I wrote a review of the new King Creosote & Jon Hopkins album Diamond Mine (read here). Off this beautifully simple, distinctly Scottish album there was on song of particular quality - 'Bats in the Attic.

A tale of a relationship on the verge of breaking down, and one party's desire to repel this inevitability. Built around a simple piano part, and complimented with a gorgeous ambient soundtrack courtesy of Jon Hopkins.

9.   Manchester Orchestra - Pensacola

In an era of music rich with Indie Pop, Electro, and Folk it's nice to have a bit of good old fashioned rock and roll. Sounding like a cross between Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids, Manchester Orchestra are one of my favourite new bands of the year.

Firstly it's catchy, really catchy. The drum roll leads you in to an anthemic chorus, which cries for you to sing along. Just a great track for those of you with a soft spot for pure and simple American rock music.

8.   Coldplay - Paradise

Say what you like about Coldplay (and most people do); Mylo Xyloto was a huge change in musical style and direction for a band which made their millions making heartfelt, pop-rock for the masses.

Paradise was the album's second single, and one which I've been listening to fairly solidly since its release. Yes, it does feature some suspect lyrics and stretched syllables; but the production & beats more than make up for this. Add an instantly singable melody and gorgeous piano and violin and you have another huge hit from the world's biggest band.

7. Ben Howard - Keep Your Head Up

This time last year I was talking of Ben Howard's talent and even chose him as my number 1 artist to look out for in 2011. Well he's had one hell of a year with his highly received debut album, a string of prestigious tour and festival slots and even a stint as Zane Lowe's 'Hottest Record in the World'.

'Keep Your Head Up' comes from his debut album Every Kingdom and is 4 minutes 20 seconds of pure inspired folk.

6.   Drake - Marvin's Room

Drake's 2011 album Take Care made a huge stir with critics and the music community at large, proving that his debut success with Thank Me Later was not a one off.

From this 18 track masterpiece, one song instantly blew me away, 'Marvin's Room'. It is based around a drunken phone conversation with his ex girlfriend, who he wants back in his life. He admits that although his life may look perfect from the outside that in reality it is far from it - 'I’ve had sex four times this week I’ll explain, Having a hard time adjusting to fame'. Such lyrical honesty and vulnerability is on display throughout 'Marvin's Room', demonstrating the huge chasm that separates Drake and the majority of his contemporaries. 

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Evening's Empire - Top 20 Tracks of 2011 (15 - 11)

Following swiftly on from my earlier post, prepare for another selection of fine music and even.... *pause for effect* a little bit of hip hop.

15.   Wolf Gang - Lions In Cages

I first heard this song on the radio whilst I was driving through the National Parks of Southern Utah; so admittedly it does perhaps have that added positive sentiment.

Regardless, I instantly loved this track and it will certainly go down as one of my most played this year, despite the fact it was October before I first heard it. Catchy Indie Pop at its best.

14.   Childish Gambino - Outside

Now I will openly admit that I was very late to the Gambino bandwagon. It seemed that every end of year list I read featured this young talent, so I thought I'd give him a try.

About 1 minute 24 into the album's opener ('Outside'), I fully understood the hype. Whitty, cutting lyrics, huge beats and an absolutely game-stopping chorus makes for what is a truly spectacular song.

13.   Okkervil River - Wake And Be Fine

I'm a huge Okkervil River fan, and consider Will Sheff to be one of the finest lyricists in alternative music; which meant I was hugely excited that 2011 saw the release of OR's sixth studio album, I Am Very Far. A change of sound with a touch of class.

'Wake and be Fine' is a highlight on an album rich with highlights. Sheff's vocals have never sounded stronger, matched with superb lyrics

12.   Kurt Vile -Jesus Fever

What a year it's been for Kurt Vile. His album Smoke Ring For My Halo was released to widespread critical acclaim. His lo-fi, roots driven rock has drawn similarities to Bruce Springsteen and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

'Jesus Fever' is Vile at his best. Emotive lyrics, simple guitar work and a grungy vocal line come together to create something really special.

11.   The Antlers - I Don't Want Love

 Hospice was truly remarkable. A concept album built heavily around an abusive relationship. Their sound has developed on Burst Apart; the tracks are larger and more heavily produced, but the starkness remains.

'I Don't Want Love' is a beautifully simple track about a sexual relationship, where one person just wants no further part in it, but can't help but keep coming back. 'So if I see you again, desperate and stoned, keep your prison locked up, and I will leave my gun at home.'

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Evening's Empire - Top 20 Tracks of 2011 (20 - 16)

'Tis the season to be jolly'......... or based on my Twitter feed, spout opinions of what your favorite tracks of the year were. So not to fall behind the curve, here are my selections for my top 20 tracks of 2011, starting with numbers 20 - 16:

20.   fun. - We Are Young

I first heard this song a couple of weeks ago and instantly loved it. I was equally impressed to find out that my girlfriend had also heard it....... unfortunately it was because it featured recently in an episode of Glee.

Fun is the perfect adjective for this track. Positive lyrics, and uplifting chorus make this a feel good anthem for the festive period.

19.   Frightened Rabbit - Fuck This Place

Earlier this year they released three tracks in the form of  A Frightened Rabbit EP. As I've come to expect from FR, it was something of real quality.

'Fuck This Place' isn't a traditional love song per se; it's about feeling lost and just needing someone to look after you. Layered with piano, rich brass and gorgeous hamonies courtesy of Camera Obscura's Tracy Ann. Pure class.

18.   Smith Westerns - End Of The Night

Dye It Blonde was one the early stand out albums of the year. The young Chicago-based outfit know how to write timeless rock n' roll numbers, and with 'End Of The Night' they strike pure gold.

Catchy, swooning, rock n' roll at its best.

17.   The Mountain Goats - Damn These Vampires

All Eternals Deck received widespread favourable feedback from critics and fans alike, and was one of 2011's finest.

'Damn These Vampires' is a tale of drug addiction and the struggles that come with it. Despite the dark subject matter, it's a beautifully uplifting track.

16.   Admiral Fallow - Squealing Pigs

Show me a more catchy song and i'll show you a liar. Admiral Fallow write beautifully incricate folk tracks, and their debut Boots Met My Face showed heaps of potential.

Heaped in nostalgia 'Squealing Pigs' is catchy and pop-y in all the right places. I expect big things from this Scottish six-piece.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Evening's Album: Stylusboy - Whole Picture (EP)

Stylusboy is the moniker for the Coventry based acoustic artist, Steve Jones. After playing guitar and bass for a variety of bands, he decided to set up shop as a solo artist with a more stripped down, folk-orientated sound. It seems as though this change in musical direction has really paid off, and his growth can be heard on each of his two previous EPs. However, it is with Whole Picture, we see an artist that has really found his sound. Released on Lazy Acre Records earlier this year, this is a truly accomplished collection of tracks.

Image courtesy of Stylusboy promo
The EP's title track, 'Whole Picture' kicks things off with its upbeat tempo and refined harmonies. Complete with backing Xylophone, it draws similarities with fellow folk artists The Boy Least Likely To. The EP continues with 'Beyond the Flags', which is one of Whole Picture's highlights, adding complexities in terms of both musicianship and lyrics. This is especially apparent withdynamic musical shift in the chorus, moving from the upbeat to the melancholic with the superb delivery of the line 'have I  finally found my home away from home'.
     'Left to Hide' has an air of Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly about it; featuring intricate finger picking guitar, a lush string section and rousing choruses. With 'Something Worth Keeping', Stylusboy returns to themes of the rest of the EP however lacking the urgency and direction that appears elsewhere.This is not to say that it's a bad song, taken individually, but the metronome drum beat does little to assist the cause and much like its subject matter this song is 'dragging its heels'. This is somewhat rectified in the track's more uplifting chorus; however, it still feels as though a change of pace was needed at this point of the EP. Which is exactly what we find in 'Gunfight at the OK Corral'. Opening with its chorus, the infectiously catchy lyric 'you and me we're on each other's side.... gunfight, gunfight, we might die tonight' is repeated to great effect. The re-introduction of the drums and xylophone, as well as a change in subject matter, add significantly to the track, making it one of the EP's most interesting songs.
    Whole Picture's closing track 'Dave's Song' is a track of true beauty and the most clear signal of Steve Jones' considerable talents. Here the music is stripped back giving the listener a chance to fully absorb his vocal strengths, which intertwine superbly with female vocalist Rachel Grisdale. This song encapsulates the feelings of grief and despair at the loss of a close friend, a subject which is covered with a touching maturity by Jones. The song ends with the lyric 'This is not the end, just the start from a different place'; I think this may be equally applicable for the artist himself. It's hard to keep a talent like this down, and we may well may be about to witness the start of bigger things for this exciting young musician.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Evening's Anthem: The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt

Okay, so i haven't blogged in a while. Apologies. I am however, going to take all the blame away from me and place it purely down to the weather. In what is perhaps the most British of excuses, this beautiful Indian summer we are currently experiencing has been fully to blame. Barbeque's, picnics, beer and the seaside have also had a role to play, but they are all secondary figures to that giant ball of Hydrogen in the sky. As this weather is now drawing to an end, my commitment to my blog will be back on the rise.

Back to the evening's anthem feature. I thought I would introduce you to a song which I've been listening to a lot recently, 'The Wild Hunt' by The Tallest Man On Earth.

The Tallest Man On Earth, incase you were wondering, is not 'the tallest man on earth'. As far as my google searching has indicated he is in fact, a man of a fairly reasonable height (unless he's having custom made giant guitars built for him). 

Regardless of his height, he does write some superb music. Drawing comparisons, (along with every other white male to wield a guitar) to Bob Dylan -  his voice does certainly have a certain nasal quality, similar to that of early Dylan. This track, 'The Wild Hunt', come from the fantastic folk album of the same name. For those of you who like your folk intricately written with thought provoking lyrics, it's well worth a listen.

Like the majority of his songs, this one is lyrically very interesting and open to much analysis. It draws upon the ancient folk myth of - 'The Wild Hunt'. According to the legend, at prominent times in history a host of spirits and phantoms would appear to hunt down sinners and the unclean. Seeing the Wild Hunt was thought to presage some catastrophe such as war or plague, or at best the death of the one who witnessed it. Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man On Earth, has clearly done someone wrong romantically. This song sees Kristian at that point of bitter self loathing, where he doesn't feel like he deserves to be loved ('I left his heart to the wild hunt a-coming'). He sings with heart-breaking effect how he 'plans to be forgotten when he's gone' - well if he keeps writing beautiful, thoughtful music like this, I would say the chances are slim.

'I left my heart to the wild hunt a-comin'
I live until the call'

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Evening's Anthem: Tom Waits - Martha

Lets go back to 1973 now and the release of Tom Waits' debut album, 'Closing Time'. This was a truely seminal album and is my favorite in Waits' back catalogue. Rarely sticking to one style, the album switches from genre to genre effortlessly - folk numbers include 'Old Shoes' and 'I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You', Jazz tracks 'Ice Cream Man' and my personal favorite, the ballad 'Martha.

The track opens with a discordant piano riff and the words 'Operator, number please', a line which instantly has the listener hooked to find out more. As the song unfolds the listener hears the dialogue between Waits, and a past love (Martha). The opening verse shows Tom's insecurities and reservation in getting back in contact with his past loves ('will she remember my old voice'). Perhaps worrying that he didn't mean as much to her as she did to him.

The chorus moves into a beautiful and smooth melody, playing off perfectly against the minor based progressions in the verses. The lyrics here change as well, reminiscing of the early romance the two shared (days of 'roses', 'poetry and prose') and living only for each other.

It feels from the rest of the song that Tom is fixed in a state of nostalgia. During the following verse we find out that she has a husband and kids, and with the line 'you know that I got married too' there is more of an indication has his marriage hasn't lasted. His life, unlike hers, seems not to have gone according to plan. He is at a point in life where nothing makes sense, and he wants to go back and remember a time when it did. The song ends with the character admitting his love for her but being reserved to the fact that it was 'never meant to be'. The song is an incredibly tragic love story; and once again, a moment of pure genius from Waits.

                                 'There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows,
                                                 and we saved them for a rainy day.'

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Evening's Anthem: Frightened Rabbit - Backwards Walk

To be honest i'm surprised that it has taken me this long to get round to selecting a song by this band. As my friend (and 'song of the day' blog competitor) Man, Meet Dinosaur can justify, these guys are fairly consistently playing on my iPod.

There are not nearly enough positive adjectives for me to describe Frightened Rabbit. With their 2008 album 'The Midnight Organ Fight', the Scottish four piece wrote the best break up album since Ryan Adams 'Heartbreaker'. Spearheading that album is the rousing indie anthem, 'My Backwards Walk'.

This song describes singer, Hutchinson, knowing that he's in an unhealthy relationship which isn't made to last. The song describes his inability to leave it all behind even though he knows it's for the best, and in particular the physical aspects which keep bringing him back. The penultimate verse orchestrates these sentiments perfectly - 'I'm working hard on walking out, my shoes keep sticking to the ground. My clothes won't let me close the door, my trousers seem to love your floor.' It really is an incredible, emotionally charged song which builds up to Hutchinson repeating the (coarsely put) line, 'You're the shit and i'm knee deep in it'. 

The talent Hutchinson has is the ability to right deeply personable, but easily relatable lyrics. As well as this, his thick Scottish accent allows him to deliver a cuss word like only the Scots can! If you haven't checked them out, I recommend you give the below a listen, and find out what you've been missing out on. 

                    'I've been working on my backwards walk, there's nowhere else for me to go 
                      except back to you just one last time, say yes before I change my mind.'

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Evening's Anthem: Warren Zevon - Keep Me In Your Heart

Next we have a song from an artist who is not remembered quite as prominently as (in my eyes at least), he should. Back in 1970 Classic Rock placed him alongside Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and Bruce Springsteen as 'one of the four most important new artists to become well known during the decade'. Perhaps not fully living up to all of the early potential indicated with his sophomore effort 'Excitable Boy', he did still go on to write some incredible songs.

In 2002 after experiencing dizzy spells, Zevon went to see his physician - and ultimately was diagnosed with mesothelioma (a form of lung cancer). His diagnosis was that he had no more than a few month to live. Zevon refused further treatments to prolong his life in favor of putting all his remaining energy into what little time he had left. His ultimate goal was to survive long enough to write and see the release of his final album, 'The Wind'. Contributions on this album from Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris and Tom Petty, showed Zevon's popularity amongst legends of the industry.

Although it's hard to judge an album objectively in these circumstances, I really do find this to be a truly special record. For me the stand out track is 'Keep Me In Your Heart'. On this song Zevon wear his heart fully on his sleeve, with some gut-wrenchingly honest lyrics. He hopes that during the every day tasks that his loved ones take part in, they keep him in their heart's for a while. The exquisitely executed guitar ballad puts across the last concerns and wishes of a very special talent, taken too early. Zevon posthumously received five Grammy nominations, including best song for 'Keep Me In Your Heart'.

Zevon survived long enough to see the birth of his twin grandsons and the release of this album on 26th August 2003. I'll leave you with some advice he gave on the Letterman show (who was a close friend of Zevon's) - when asked what advice he'd give from his current state on life, Zevon responded 'enjoy every sandwich'.

                                           'Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
                                                                    Keep me in your heart for a while'

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Evening's Anthem: Iron & Wine - The Trapeze Swinger

Today's 'Song of the Day' is written by Sam Beam - or to use his performing and recording name, Iron and Wine. The song features on an album of IAW rarities and B-sides called 'Around the Well', and was also on the 'In Good Company' soundtrack (though i'm not sure anyone has ever seen that film).

The Trapeze Swinger is about as lyrically beautiful a song as you are likely to find. Rich in personal references from Beam, but with an over-arching lyrical theme wide enough not to alienate its listener. The song describes, from the narrators point of view, looking back at a failed relationship, and one in which you are ultimately to blame for its end. You are looking back and hoping that when she remembers your relationship, she remembers the good as well as the bad. Each verse starts with the phrase 'Please, remember me', and then continue to describe nostalgic memories. There are also multiple references suggesting that the narrator has just died, or is about to die and his worry that he won't see her in heaven because of the terrible things he did over the course of their relationship. The song ends with these fantastically crafted lines:

'So please, remember me finally,
And all my uphill clawing.
My dear, but if I make the pearly gates
I'll do my best to make a drawing,
Of God and Lucifer, a boy and girl,
An angel kissing on a sinner.
A monkey and a man, a marching band,
All around a frightened trapeze swinger'

Although this song is consistently superb, I really do believe it is one of the few occasions where it sounds better on live recordings then it does on the album. See it's fantastic performance at ACL below:

'But please, remember me, my misery
And how it lost me all I wanted'

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Evening's Anthem: Ryan Bingham - Southside of Heaven

Next up we have Mr Ryan Bingham, and his superb opener to his 2007 album 'Mescalito'. This album saw Bingham step up to mainstream success, with the backing of Nashville based (and home of another musician named Ryan) 'Lost Highway Records'.

Unlike a number of his peers Ryan Bingham is a man who has actually lived by all thclichés associated with being a country musician -  being homeless, working on rodeos, sleeping rough and just generally living a hard life full of knocks. This authenticity comes across in his songs, and is worn in to the very fabric of his lyrics. 

This song is Bingham's plea for a place of peace. His statement is that the romanticised life of the troubadour is not everything that it would seem from the outside; and of how he pines for a safe and stable place to call home. These heartfelt lyrics coupled with Bingham's gruff voice, the voice of a man twice the age of the 30 year Texan - or as Rolling Stone put it 'like Steve Earle's dad'. The exquisite finger picking guitar and mandolin alongside the windswept harmonica solos create a truly atmospheric song.

                   'Well I've been a desperado in West Texas for so long Lord I need a change.
                                For ten long years this old place ain't seen a drop of rain.'

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Evening's Anthem: Nick Drake - One of These Things First

For the entire of April I'm going to post my 'song the day' for each day. I will give you a little explanation of my interpretation of the songs meaning, and why I am so fond of it.  It's day one and i'm already thinking this is going to tough...... could pretend it was an April fools prank? Nah, lets persist.

Okay, I was thinking of going for a song with the word 'first' in it as this is my first post (I know what you're thinking, I am really good at themes), so my song of the day is:

Nick Drake - One of These Things First

Nick Drake is one of those iconic names in folk music. An 'enigma wrapped inside a mystery'. All the key ingredients are there. He was making music in the late 60's/early 70's, he was a shy man who few got close too and died young enough that he didn't end up like Brian May doing collaborations with 'Five'.

'One of These Things First' comes from Nick's 2nd album, the superb 1970 release, 'Bryter Layter'. The song takes its listener on a trip through the possibilities which lay before Drake in the past. He states his disillusionment with his present with the lines 'I could be, here and now. I would be. I should be. But how? Drake's music was never popular during his life, which was a source of frustration for both Island Records and Nick himself. It seems in this song he looks back at all the forks in the road he didn't take and wonders if he may have been better off in a different life. Drake was a believer in aspects of Buddhism and particularly the idea of re-incarnation, which would also tie into the songs meanings of wanting to be something else.

Anyway, I could analyse this songs lyrics for hours but lets discuss the songs sound. The guitar and piano complement each other beautifully on this track (though does the piano remind anyone else of the tune that used to play when you were building a house on 'The Sims'?....... no, just me?). Nick's vocals are as smooth and melancholic as you're ever likely to find, although the whole song had a more uplifting tone than the lyrics would suggest. It really is an exceptional song, from an exceptional songwriter - listen below.

                                 'I could have been your statue, could have been your friend.
                                         A whole long lilfetime could have been the end.'


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Frank Turner - I Am Disappeared

Wow, what a week for new music; Admiral Fallow and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart album releases yesterday, and a new Death Cab single this morning. Now this. Frank Turner is truly the Holy Grail in new releases for me. He leaked this song on his youtube channel; his first proper release (following the live release of 'If Ever I Stray') from his up and coming album 'May England Keep My Bones', a quote taken from Shakespeare's The Life and Death of King John. The album is due for release on June 6th.

Image thanks to Music Snob
So now on to the song. I've listened to in about 8 times in a row, and I've got to say, it really is a grower. In true Frank Turner style, it is an auto-biographical track describing a dream he had about Bob Dylan. As he said when I saw him live, it actually ended up being quite a boring dream, so he made up a more exciting ending and turned it into a song. A particular highlight is the palm-muted guitar ending as Frank exclaims 'come morning, I am disappeared. Just an imprint, on the bedsheets.' Following this the song kicks back in to it's familiar fast paced rhythm explaining Frank's escape 'into the sun rise'.

To me, this song is not as interesting a track as his previous live release ('If Ever I Stray' listen here), which felt like a bigger step away from his previous work to a more Rock N' Roll style. With that being said, it's still a great song which has only fueled my excitement for his upcoming album.

Death Cab For Cutie - You Are A Tourist

Today sees the release of Death Cab's first single from their upcoming album 'Codes and Keys' (out May 31st). The track is 'You Are a Tourist', and sounds on the first couple of listens like classic DC -  rumbling bass lines and an infectious guitar riff along with some solid vocals by Mr Gibbard.

With this being said, it doesn't have the 'wow' factor I was hoping for, being that it's pretty much the first new song the band have released since 2008's 'Narrow Stairs' (apart from 'Meet Me at the Equinox', and as it was on the Twilight soundtrack it is void). In my view, this is not as strong a lead single as Narrow Stairs': 'I Will Posses Your Heart'. A simply brilliant track, with a disturbing theme of lust an obsession.

Listen to the below, and let me know what you think.

Death Cab for Cutie – You Are A Tourist by weallwantsome1

Monday, 28 March 2011

The evening's artist - Matt Stevens

So, after randomly perusing (yeah I said perusing), Twitter a little while ago, I stumbled across an artist called Matt Stevens. This isn't so rare. I often find myself stumbling into new artists, being that I write a music blog; but there was something quite different this time and here's why:

The man is a fantastic, and I really do mean fantastic, guitarist. He has managed to capture a unique sound, drawing similarities across a variety of influences, from King Crimson to Nick Drake, but at no point mirroring anything too closely. I believe 'Acoustic Guitar UK' hit the nail on the head when they called him "A one man guitar orchestra".

His songs are epic, mood altering pieces, which can only be described as acoustic prog. Using (for the most part) an acoustic guitar and a loop 
pedal, he crafts the most amazingly intricate and detailed songs, based around some of the less orthodox musical structures and progressions.

Although all of his musical talents are impressive, and that they certainly are, there is another reason why he's such an interesting artist. Matt Stevens once said: 'Obscurity is the enemy, not piracy', and this seems to be the central philosophy that he works by. Here is a musician who has fully embraced the digital revolution and all the benefits that come with it.

Realising the potential value of being able to communicate to a worldwide audience, he utilises Social Networks (with 33,000 tweets and nearly 6,000 followers), plays live gigs online, does podcasts, as well as writing and contributing to a number of other publications and organisations. In doing all this he c
onstantly keeps his fans up to date with his activities, and has formed a solid community of like-minded musicians and music enthusiasts around him. Concluding that the music industry is in a state of flux, and knowing that he must change with it; his albums are available on a pay-what-you-feel-is-fair basis. The man is a 'poster child for the digital revolution'; and any band wanting to take advantage of the technology the 21st century has to offer could learn a lot from the Matt Stevens blueprint.

Check out his album 'Ghost' here (you can even listen before you buy).

                              Matt doing what he does: shredding his guitar, with loop pedal underfoot. 


Friday, 25 March 2011

The evening's anthem - The Moulettes - Recipe for Alchemy

They say that 'good things come in small packages'. Well if fame is anything to go by, then that saying could not be more applicable to this band.

Image thanks to big session festival

'The Moulettes' are a 5-piece hailing from Southampton, who specialise in writing strange and beautiful pop-folk songs. With 'Recipe for Alchemy' they may well have written one of the best and quirkiest pop songs I've heard this year.

To say that this song is original is an understatement. Its unique violin introduction and the following bass lines draw the listener in instantly. Using some less common instruments (namely cello and bassoon) the track has a sound like a cross between Ellie Goulding and Gogol Bordello (a comparison I never thought i'd make). The haunting twin vocal melodies are captivating, and complement the complex instrumentation perfectly.

It really is an incredible song, and I implore you to take 3 minutes 46 seconds out of your day to give it a listen. If there was more pop music like this, then you'd probably find me crouched over my radio most Sundays to hear the top 40 run down.

01 Recipe For Alchemy by aledinsalisbury

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Fleet Foxes - Battery Kinzie

The Seattle bands follow up to their self-titled 2008 debut is nearly upon us, and based upon the two pre-album singles released, it looks to be a thing of absolute beauty. If you didn't hear the album's first single (which also happens to be its title track) - click here

The format from their previous effort still remains; with intricate, sweeping harmonies and fast paced, stomping guitar rifts filling their songs
Despite the new albums sombre name, these two singles seem to have an air of optimism which was often lacking on their debut. In fact in the lead up to the first single's crescendo Pecknold sings 'What good is it to sing helplessness blues?'. Perhaps this is an encouraging sign for a brighter future for on of Americana's most promising bands.

Helplessness Blues' is due for release on 3rd May on both Sub Pop and Bella Union labels.

A short release of the second single, 'Battery Kinzie', can be heard below.

Fleet Foxes - Battery Kinzie by One Thirty BPM

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Evening's Artist - Nathaniel Rateliff

This will be the first in an ongoing series of posts on my favorite new artists, or 'The evening's artist' as i'm so wittily calling it. I'll try and keep them to small artists, as there is no point in me informing you of my love for Queen or Bruce Springsteen (of which there is much). So, without much further ado:

Nathaniel Rateliff

Image thanks to SSG Music
'Who is Nathaniel Rateliff?' I hear you ask. Well he's not just the owner of one of the finest mustaches you're ever likely to see, although this is certainly true (seriously, Google search it, it's immense). This guy was unknown to me too until a month ago, however, since that point his songs have barely stopped being played on my iPod, Spotify or YouTube.

So lets fill you in: Nathaniel Rateliff is a young, folk troubadour from Denver, Colorado. His beautifully rich baritone voice perfectly compliments the music's sparse sound. Although called Nathaniel Rateliff, this is technically a band (featuring five other members), yes, 'much like Avril Lavigne' I hear you say. However, as the frontman, singer and guitarist he remains the focal point in the music. His music seems routed in folk and country routes, with songs often revolving around bleak imagery.

His debut effort 'In Memory of Loss' was a series of recordings he made on his 8-track, which were later transformed into a full 16 song album by producer Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse). It really is a beautiful album, and one that deserves considerably more success and attention (though it hasn't gone completely unnoticed). The two things that are immediately noticeable on this album are: Nathaniel's voice and the huge amount of audio space on the tracks. Nathaniel's voice varies between a quiet swoon (on the intro to 'Once in a Great While') before breaking into more of a definitive shout ('Shrowd'), drawing similarities to Caleb Followill of 'Kings of Leon'. Instrumentation is used sparsely, with most songs just featuring guitar and vocals (though piano, harmonica and drums do also crop up from time to time) but all this focuses the listeners attention to the lyrics and swooning vocals harmonies.

16 songs is perhaps a few too many, and by the end of the album the impact of these tails of heartbreak and despair is somewhat lessened; however, there are some really incredible, heartfelt tracks on this album. It is available on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon and I would highly recommend you give the below a listen and if you like what you hear, buy the album.

For fans of - Bon Iver, Kurt Wagner and Leonard Cohen

'It's taken years to make a beautiful shroud'

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Artists to look out for in 2011 - Part 3

The time is finally upon us. I have collected all the results in. There was just one, and it was written by me. So I can now announce my number 1 'Artist to look out for in 2011':

1 - Ben Howard

Image thanks to Surf Girl Magazine

Ben Howard. Make a mental note of that name. I really do believe that this guy is destined for much bigger things. The 23 year old from Devon is starting to cause a bit of a stir in the industry, with a rapidly increasing fan base. One listen and you'll understand why. His innovative lap guitar style, made famous artists such as Andy McKee, is brilliantly worked in to his songs, adding both melody and percussion. It's not just the guys skills with an axe that impress, it's the voice. Truly his greatest instrument. He switches between the soft and sensitive, to a rough, raw cry with ease. Unfortunately due to his acoustic guitar and link to the surfing community, parallels will instinctively be drawn between him and Jack Johnson, however, I think that this would be a grave injustice to this upcoming star. I can see more similarities in his work to that of Eddie Vedder in his fantastic soundtrack to the film 'Into the Wild'.

Recent tours with Xavier Rudd, Angus and Julia Stone and Jason Mraz has seen the young folk artist playing to larger and wider audiences. Though Ben's sound is hard to pin down to a specific genre, and feels more intrinsically linked to the surroundings it was created in. Not since 'For Emma, For Ever Ago' have I heard songs feel more intimately affected by their environment. You can feel the wild nature of the South English coastline where this young musician resides in the very fibre of his songs. 

To listen to his music click hereAccording to his Myspace they he is 'laying the finishing touches to the debut album in a little barn studio [....] near home so all is gold and good.'. So hopefully we will not have long to wait to hear a full length release from the Devon artist. 

In the mean time; get comfortable, tell the dog/friend/brother/sister/wife/husband/*insert noisey influence* to shut up, make the video full screen, and enjoy 4 minutes and 33 seconds of raw talent:

For fans of - The John Butler Trio, Bon Iver, John Martyn