Tag Archives: album review

UNKLE – The Road Pt.1 (Songs For The Def)

 

This is a very different UNKLE from the one you met back in 1998. Gone are DJ Shadow, Thom Yorke and the hundreds of samples that comprised Psyence Fiction. Instead, trip-hop pioneer and Mo’ Wax founder James Lavelle joins forces with a whole new team of collaborators to create his latest vision for UNKLE. Continue reading

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David Rawlings – Poor David’s Almanack (Acony Records)

 

This is David Rawlings’ third album under his own name, or that of The Dave Rawlings Machine. But really, this can easily be considered a Rawlings/Welch album, as Rawlings’ long-time partner Gillian Welch co-writes half five of the album’s ten songs, and sings and plays on all of them. Continue reading

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Herriot Row – Lesser Stars – Southbound

From the first few notes from the debut album of Aucklander Simon Comber (aka Herriot Row) you are instantly transported back to James Taylor’s 1970s.  These are songs of place and time, polished carefully like precious, fragile gemstones.  They are soft and sensual in their own way, with just a hint of the Kiwi dry sarcasm buried in the layers.  But moreover, they are unrushed and take their time to get there – where ever that may be.

From the delicate instrumental Farewell Spit to the heart-breaking, yearning song of travel memories Till The Older Brother Says Goodbye.  The latter feels like Comber is trying to reconcile some kind of parting of with his real or imagined sibling, under circumstances that are perhaps not entirely amicable.  Hoever, the animosity cannot remain, the olive branch is proffered (“until the clock in my chest begins to tick a little lighter’).

Love and loss, easy themes to write about, hard to do well, run clear and crisply through this 11-song collection of principally acoustic guitar based numbers, subtly embellished by a few friends – piano (Rob Shelton), (Andrew Macguire) percussion and vibraphone and John Vanderslice (Moog and techy stuff).   The best example of loss comes with the haunting tune about poet RAK Mason’s ghost out on Queen’s warf in the damp fog, walking like the song with queasy unease (The Beggar).

Opener Learning To Talk has a wonderful and compelling hook that insists you listen closely.  Sadly, Comber’s voice is not quite suited to this song and I feel he could have asked a female vocalist, perhaps one with a higher voice, to tackle it with more success.  Where it all gels perfectly though, is on his wonderful ditty Beautiful and Harmless, his instantly infectious but not entirely trustworthy love song.  This is a simple song, structured around a couple of satisfying chord changes and a quirky melody.  It slightly feels like something I’ve heard elsewhere but I can’t quite place it.  Within two listens I was singing this nifty little earworm all afternoon.  Watch out for this one fronting TV advert or TV promo very soon.

The song known as The Usual Business starts with the slightest hints of a Graeme Downes composition.  It’s a retarded observational piece about the chaos of a big city, moving in slo-mo as a busker moves in cinematic fashion through the streets to his position.  “It’s the usual business and I headed into town, to sign for my cigarettes with a painted frown.”  I like this one the best for its ironic honesty.

Lesser Stars was recorded in San Franscico with producer Vanderslice (Mountain Goats, Spoon) at the helm.  Comber’s moniker may not leap out at you, unless you’ve been to see the Chills national tour or the Verlaines Australian shows, where he did a bit of support work recently.  His US recordings came off the back of a tour with American indie icon Barbara Manning.  Until recently it was a one-man affair but when he heads out in support of this album it’s be as a proper band with Stu Harwood (Anthony Tonnon Band) on drums and Dave Flyger (Paquin) on bass.  It’ll be interesting to see how this all translates to a live stage and weather he can maintain the delicious intimacy of the album and all the charm it conveys on a stage.

Tim Gruar

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Steve Earle – So You Wannabe An Outlaw (Warner Bros)

 

After a folky duets album with Shawn Colvin and an exercise in the blues…2015’s Terraplane…Steve Earle gets back to the country with his strongest album in years. Continue reading

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Grawlixes – Set Free (Southbound)

 

Currently Wellington based, the indie folk duo Grawlixes explore romance with a dry wit and a razor-sharp tongue on their debut album, Set Free.  Like a hot cuppa-soup laced with arsenic they offer warm comfort and the satisfaction of a slow painful death to all those lovers who dared to spurn us.  Continue reading

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Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up (Nonesuch)

 

After a six-year leave of absence during which time bandleader Robin Pecknold moved to NYC to attend Columbia University, Fleet Foxes have released their third album. But it seems that Pecknold’s studies may have gone to his muse, leaving fans with the sound of one man disappearing up his own liberal arts diploma. Continue reading

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Chris Stapleton – From A Room: Volume 1 (Mercury)

 

Two years after his acclaimed debut solo album, Traveller was released, Nashville maverick Chris Stapleton serves up the first of a two-part follow-up. Continue reading

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Lorde – Melodrama (Universal)

For  mainstream music, Lorde’s debut album, Pure Heroine, was a bolt out of the blue. Laced with the precocious ennui that only a 16 year old could possess, it was a cutting critique of pop hedonism. But what made this album truly fascinating was that Pure Heroine was an internationally successful pop album that was purposely created outside of the very world that lauded it. Continue reading

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Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song (Nonesuch)

 

Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach takes a break from his day job and revels in the musical treasures to be found in his adopted home of Nashville. Continue reading

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Kevin Morby – City Music (Dead Oceans)

Morby follows up last year’s breakthrough album, Singing Saw with a “companion piece”, which can be seen (and heard) as the flip side of the same musical coin. Continue reading

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AJR – The Click (Liberator)

On their new album, The Click, NYC siblings AJR show us what they’ve been up to on those cold winter nights.  Stealing from classical, hip-hop, funk and virtually every producer you can name it’s an album of quirky but beautiful instrumentation and charming but bone dry lyrics that subvert modern qualms with the power of youthful energy and frantic, catchy vocals.  Add to that the boy’s bizarre and exuberant geek-ness and it’s like three Sheldon Coopers kidnapped Brian Wilson and broke into Kanye’s studio late one night and got nasty on his lap top. Continue reading

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The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2CD Anniversary Edition) (Apple)

 

50 years after it changed the musical landscape forever, The Beatles’ eighth studio album gets a facelift. But does it need one? And how does it hold up after all these years? Continue reading

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Lord Echo – Harmonies (Soundway)

Mike Fabulous’ new album Harmonies – his third under the Lord Echo moniker and part of a 15 year trilogy (Melodies, Curiosities, Harmonies) since signing to esteemed London label Soundway – has been a true labour of love.  And it shows.  Continue reading

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The Miltones – The Miltones (The Label)

With an ability to write intelligent lyrics and an alluring stage presence The Miltones have, indisputably, earned their chance to release this debut album. Led by vocalist Milly Tabak and guitarist Liam Pratt, the group released their first single Black Dahlia in 2014. The track introduced the bands alternative yet skilfully unique sound, easily attractive to crowds of all ages. Continue reading

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Lil Yachty – Teenage Emotions (Motown)

Oh Buoy.

Where do I even begin?

Lil Yachty, the self-proclaimed ‘King of the Teens’ has been making waves thanks to his mixtape Lil Boat and the effervescently mindless Broccoli one of the biggest hits of 2016.

But like a teenager’s hormones, his debut album  is all over the place. Continue reading

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