Recommended Listening: May 2011
- Published: 15 May 2011
- Hits: 2677
Enjoy this month's collection of eclectic sounds.
15 May 2011
Light After Dark
Light After Dark is Clare Maguire’s debut album.
The British singer and songwriter released the album in late February and ever since her name has been doing the rounds in the press.
She has been compared to Stevie Nicks and Annie Lennox and signed her first record deal with a major record label in 2008.
The first thing that's apparent about this album is Maguire's voice. It's incredible and not only for her relative young age of 24.
Commenting on her own vocal ability, Maguire has been quote as saying as a child she was always the loudest one in a room.
“I loved performing at family parties, and at school when I was bored, I’d get up on the desk and sing. The teachers thought I was mad, but it’s how I connect: telling a story in song, and seeing people react to that. When I’m talking, it’s far harder for me to express myself," she wrote on her website.
Music has always been in her family. Maguire grew up listening to her Mother’s traditional Irish music, an influence that can be heard in a number of the tracks on this record.
Despite her ambitions to pursue a career in music, a high school teacher attempted to discourage her from her goal telling Maguire to instead concentrate on her exams. Not content to stand for such a response, Maguire complained to her school principal and shortly after made the decision to quit school and move from Birmingham tot London.
To fund her move, the singer took part-time jobs in shops, bars and restaurants]. At night Maguire focused on social networking, eventually securing 1.5 million hits to hear her rough demos.
At age 20, Maguire signed with Universal music and the hunt for the right producer began.
After a number of opportunities presented themselves, the singer chose Fraser T Smith (Britney, Cee-Lo, Tinchy Stryder, Ellie Goulding and James Morrisson).
Maguire said material for Light After Dark came quickly, with most songs taking just a day to write and some vocals were recorded in the first take.
The album opens with 'Are You Ready?' an ambitious track that concentrates almost entirely on Maguire's voice. Maguire's vocals flood the track with a controlled yet expansive vocal range. It makes for quite a brilliant introduction.
'The Shield and The Sword' is a strong track that will no doubt resonate with indie-pop and dance fans alike.
With a definite influence from the 1980s, 'The Last Dance' is understood to be a homage to one of Maguire's heros, Michael Jackson.
'Freedom' is very much ballad inspired with a keen focus on Maguire's vocals and piano accompaniment. The track has a great build up heading towards the chorus. It is very well done with Maguire not pushing too hard or sounding too overly polished.
'I Surrender' is the album's most mainstream pop release. It has an incredibly infectious melody and Maguire's vocals.
Maguire's Kate Bush influence can be heard on 'The Happiest Pretenders'.
The singer shifts from an indie pop princess to a darker diva on 'Aint Nobody'.
'Light After Dark' is the album's standout.
'This Is Not The End' plays homage to Maguire's mother's Irish heritage. It is a very beautiful irish folk/gospel inspired track.
Maguire has delivered a sensational album on debut. Her vocal ability is beyond impressive for a first time recording artist.
Fleet Foxes underwent a pretty hellish experience while recording their latest album.
Not only did the Seattle based band apparently fork out thousands of dollars of their own money in rehearsal time for new material that would never be used, the confusion over when the album would be released and the pressure to deliver similar success to their debut album almost cost band front man, Robin Pecknold, his relationship.
In 2009, online reports quoted Pecknold as stating the band’s follow up to their self-titled debut (2008) would be released later that year.
At the time, the band came together to work on new tracks. After renting a house in their hometown, and forking out $60,000 the end result of the rehearsals were tossed away.
A year later scheduling conflicts with the band’s drummer, Joshua Tillman, forced work on the new album to again be stalled.
Around the same time as Tillman was off working on solo work, Fleet Foxes producer, Philip Ek, told the press that he had begun work on the album after Pecknold had provided him with demos.
Reports then claimed Pecknold’s personal life started to suffer with the delays of the album. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, the singer said the stress of the situation had prompted his long-term girlfriend to end their relationship. It is believed since the release of the band’s album the pair have reunited.
Duelling guitars open 'Montezuma'. The crispness of their sound sets the scene for this track's gentle journey. Pecknold's vocals are beautifully accompanied by a choir of voices.
'Bedouin Dress' has a gypsy folk flavour to it with plucky strings and brush stroke drumming the initial central focus. Pecknold's vocals again are a standout as well are the series of instrumental solos.
'Sim Sala Bim' has such a beautiful intro of sweet acoustic guitars. They provide the perfect frame for Pecknold's voice. A swell of thunderous guitars breaks the gentle stretch and readies the listen for 'Battery Kinzie'.
'The Plains/Bitter Dancer' has a longish instrumental intro. It continues with the album's gentle and steady theme. Little by little the track lulls you in with its epic chorus of harmonies. The track brings with it a definite shift from light to slightly darker.
Pecknold has really put a lot of emotion and passion into this album, with the title track, 'Helplessness Blues' a true testament to this.
'The Shrine/An Argument' has a gospel feel that is sombre and calming.
'Blue Spotted Tail' is delightful. It has a delicate hint of Simon and Garfunkel's 'Homeward Bound'.
'Helplessness Blues' is a truly wonderful album. There is such a depth of sound and talent on this release. Fleet Foxes' attention to detail is breathtaking.
Kosciuszko is Jebediah’s first studio album in almost seven years.
Since the band’s 2004 record ‘Braxton Hicks’ they have been on an indefinite hiatus.
A year earlier in 2003, Jebediah and their record label, Sony Music, parted ways.
With news of the split, the subsequent lack of studio releases and front man Kevin Mitchell stepping out of his rock persona to release indie-ballad solo records (as Bob Evans), many believed Jebediah had called it a day.
Yet last year, murmurs started to surface that Mitchell had reunited with Vanessa Thornton, Chris Daymond, and Brett Mitchell to rehearse tracks from their back catalogue as well as write music for a new album.
Last October the band released news they would release their fifth album, Kosciuszko’in April 2011.
Recorded in their hometown of Perth , Kosciuszko saw the band work with producer Dave Parkin (Sugar Army, Snowman, Karnivool) and become their first record on their new label, Dew Process.
Kosciuszko is a much anticipated welcome return for Jebediah. It's an album that will no doubt have a lot of pressure on it, not perhaps by the band themselves, but by their fans.
When Jebediah released their debut album 'Slightly Odway' in 1997 the band filled a gap on the local scene for grunge rock.
The album reached number seven on the Australian charts thanks to the success of singles 'Leaving Home' and 'Military Strongmen'. Two other tracks 'Harpoon' and 'Teflon' also propelled the album to double platinum status.
A year later in 1998, Jebediah released their second studio release 'Of Someday Shambles', with the band's self-titled follow up in 2002 and Braxton Hicks in 2004.
'Lost My Nerve' is the first taste of the band's new album. If nothing else, this track proves Jebediah are back and reinvigorated. Reverb is in thick supply on this single with repetitive vocals over dubbed with grungy guitars and smashing drums.
'Oxygen' is a little softer and cleaner that the first single. While Mitchell's vocals will always be one of the band's trademarks, it would seem that his time as a solo artist tripping down folk lane has softened his former rough edges.
'She's A Comet' is the band's most commercial release to date. The song is light, easy and uncomplicated. Jebediah purists will probably not entirely approve of the band's pop bent.
'Control' is perhaps the best example of how Jebediah has aged gracefully with rock flair.
Halfway through the album Jebediah are in full flight. On 'Under Your Bed', Mitchell's vocals are a blur, his voice swimming amid a sea of guitars and drums.
'Battlesong' is traditional Jebediah pure and simple.
There is something quite Eskimo Joe about 'Freakin' Out'. While the single is a little more edgy than the style the fellow Western Australian band embraces, the similarities are definitely there. Perhaps Mitchell and Eskimo Joe frontman Kav Templey swapped notes while the pair worked together on side project, Basement Birds?
Aside from the comparisons, Jebediah's new album is a welcomed return. It is a very strong and accomplished record that not only delivers on sound but also on style.
When I First Met Your Ma
When I First Met Your Ma is a compilation album that was inspired by Australian songwriting legend, Paul Kelly's single of the same name.
The album opens with Kelly's original version of 'When I First Met Your Ma'. The magic of Kelly is a mixture of his performance, distinct voice and his ability to captivate the listener. He is one of the country's most respected storytellers.
Joining Kelly on this album is an impressive list of local artists, each having recorded a track that fits in with the theme of relationships, motherhood and love.
Melbourne band Oh Mercy recorded new track 'With You' especially for this release. It is fitting that the band have a place on the album as they have openly said Kelly was their inspiration for their latest album, Great Barrier Grief.
Julia Stone is next up with her single 'My Baby'. The track has been taken from Stone's debut solo album, The Memory Machine. It is cloaked with acoustic guitar, soft violins and breathy vocals. The beauty of this track is its simplicity. Julia’s voice has such strength about it that she could carry any song without much assistance.
Gin Wigmore's take on Hollywood classic 'Over The Rainbow' is wonderful. The New Zealander has quite an unusual tone to her voice which proves quite perfect for the single.
Like 'Oh Mercy', Megan Washington and her band, Washington, recorded a new track for this album. Washington's 'Lightwell' is a very sweet and delicate single that sees Washington step back from her rambunctiousness.
'Djarrimiri' has been lifted from Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu's debut album 'Rrakala'. The track contains stunning folk harmonies mixed with traditional language and harmonies.
Bertie Blackman offers a cover of Fleetwood Mac's classic 'Gold Dust Woman', while The John Butler Trio turn up the amplifier with a live release of their upbeat song, 'Treat Yo Mama'.
Little Birdy's Katy Steele pays homage to her own Mother with the piano accompanied 'Newborn'. The track is very elegant and tender and one of the first recordings from the singer since Little Birdy's Confetti album and indefinite hiatus.
Troubadour Andy Bull has recorded a version of The Beatles single, 'Mother Nature's Son' taken of the band's The White album.
Clare Bowditch has re-recorded her single ‘A Lucky Life’ for the album. The single, taken from the singer's Modern Day Addiction record, hits you with heavy thumping sounds and the lyrics ‘We want to give you god’. It’s all rather ominous, though this track would have to be one of the most memorable.
When I First Met Your Ma is an absolutely stellar release.
Lucinda Williams is a name that would be well known to many travelling in folk circles.
The American blues and folk singer recorded her first studio album more than 30 years ago in 1978, with her follow up release in 1980.
While the singer’s early releases did little to make a dent in the popular music press, a self-titled release eight years later gave Williams’s much deserved recognition.
The album featured the single ‘Passionate Kisses’ which garnered Williams a Grammy Award in 1994 for Best Country Song.
Williams would take home her second Grammy four years later for her 1998 record ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road ’. It is this album that many credit as the singer’s breakthrough release.
Between 1998 and 2007, Williams released five studio albums, including one live recording.
In 2007, Williams famously headed out on a US tour with her set list filled with her entire back catalogue. The tour also featured special guests ranging from Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Mike Campbell, Greg Dulli, E, Ann Wilson, Emmylou Harris, David Byrne, David Johansen, Yo La Tengo, John Doe, Chuck Prophet, Jim Lauderdale and Shelby Lynne.
A year later in 2008, Williams released her tenth studio album in ‘Little Honey’. Following its release, Williams would take three years to deliver her latest album, Blessed.
'Buttercup' starts the album off with an upbeat tempo. The blues inspired track is brilliant with William's 'suffers no fools' attitude taking control.
The guitar and drum intro of 'I Don't Know How You're Livin' is delightful. William's soulful lyrics are carefully accompanied by subtle drums, a beautiful slide guitar and piano. This track has quite a sombre feel to it, though it still retains a level of quiet beauty.
William's vocals steals the limelight on 'Copenhagen' and 'Born To Be Loved'
'Seeing Black' awakens the rock chick in Williams. In a similar vein to 'Buttercup', this track is heavy on the rock accompaniment. William's also picks up the pace with the melody.
William's songwriting ability comes to the fore on 'Soldier's Song'. The politically driven track is incredibly sad with Williams's lyrics truthful without pulling no punches.
Title track 'Blessed' and 'Ugly Truth' is Williams at her best. Sublime tracks.
William's gravelly voice sounds a little more relaxed and sweeter on 'Kiss Like Your Kiss'. The choice of the string instruments is also a noticeable and welcomed inclusion.
Lucinda William's Blessed is a beautiful release. William's spirit and passion for storytelling remains strong even after 11 albums.
Fat Possum Records
Three years ago Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom parted ways with their former band to start a new project.
Since 2005, Blumberg and Bloom had been members of United Kingdom indie outfit, Cajun Dance Party, however in 2008 they quit the group to begin work on new material. Yuck was born.
In early 2010, the pair released two singles on vinyl 'Rubber' and 'Georgia'. Shortly after Yuck added two new members in drummer Jonny Rogoff and former Levelload member and bass player Mariko Doi.
Mid-way through last year, the new Yuck line-up began work on their debut album.
The band's self-titled debut was released as both a physical album and digital download on 15 February through Fat Possum Records.
Hype surrounding the band has lead to comparisons to Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jnr.
A wall of sound greets you on 'Get Away'. Effected vocals and perky electric guitars cover most of this track. While the vocals are very difficult to understand, it matters little when you've got such a sensational guitar riff.
Heavy guitars continue to be the focus on 'The Wall'.
'Shook Down' is a complete change of pace for the band. The track has a charming melody and even throws in a harmony or two - with Blumberg's sister Ilana lending a hand.
Just when you think Yuck has mellowed, the indie-punk returns on 'Holing Out'. The band's choice to push the vocals to the background on a number of their tracks seems to be a deliberate move that creates intrigue.
'Suicide Policemen' is quite the surprise. While the title of the track is a little curious, the track itself is winning with raw harmonies and simple acoustic guitar strumming.
'Georgia' has a great energy about it. With hints of The Cure's 'Friday I'm In Love' guitar riffs as part of its intro the track is immediately likeable.
The chorus of 'Sunday' is very unusual. It is a little out of sorts with the rest of the track, yet as Yuck seems to be all about the recording experience without the wax and polish of expensive production it therefore seems fitting.
Yuck's debut album is extremely unique. The fact the band has sidestepped the conventional recording process and delivered a record that contains minor technical and vocal errors just adds to their appeal.
Music reviews by Kate Kachor at Eleven Magazine