Review: Troubadour for the dejected, rejected, never-did-fits, Ezra Furman deserves to be ranked among the greatest songwriters of our time. On "Twelve Nudes" he takes the hard-learnt lessons of previous records and channels that anger, desperation, euphoria, fear and hope into an impassioned call to arms - his finest since "Perpetual Motion People". In many ways, this is a far more positive outing, too, or at least one that largely keeps the focus on big noise. "My Teeth Hurt" and "Thermometer" are ferocious, head-banging whirlwinds. "Evening Prayer aka Justice" throws fists to the air with protest-esque pride. "Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone" offers Northern Soul-leaning drums and rhythms. Of course, there's still room for freaky, introspective rockabilly melancholia - namely "I Wanna be Your Girlfriend". Like Furman himself on-stage, it's unashamed and unwilling to compromise, making for one of this year's finest bloody-lipped, sweat-soaked rock 'n' roll records.
Review: The Soft Cavalry have arrived, a new project of husband & wife duo Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell. Their debut, self-titled album has been described as falling somewhere between Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and R.E.M. To put it another way; slow motion stoner surf rock meets subtle shades of folk and washed-out Shoegaze. Dancier and straight-laced drums primed with disco energy also find their way into tracks like "Bulletproof". The album finds its unique space in seemingly being able to create a new study into cosmic folkology; perfectly weighted with atmospheres that drift across and through the album's many dimensions.
Review: In a music landscape seemingly micro-managed and steeped in cliche to the point of inescapable blandess, the maverick spark of an artist like Ezra Furman is something to be valued very highly. His third album 'Perpetual Motion People' crams more ideas, energy, eccentricity and chutzpah into its thirteen tracks than most bands can dream of in a career. Wracked by self-doubt he may be, yet Furman here channels his angst, inspiration and flamboyant joie-de-vivre into a kaleidoscopic collection of exuberant ditties that sashay with blues-rock, jaunty punk-pop and acoustic introspection whilst maintaining a vibrant pull all Furman's own. The sound of a unique talent blossoming in rare style.
Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddam Thirsty Crow
The Ideal Husband
Bored In The USA
I Went To The Store One Day
I Love You Honeybear
Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)
The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt
When You're Smiling & Astride me
Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddam Thirsty Crow
The Ideal Husband
Bored In The USA
I Went To The Store One Day
Review: Josh Tillman, the ex-Fleet Foxes member, has confused plenty with his alter ego Father John Misty, and occasionally it can be hard to tell whether the recently-married troubadour is inhabiting a distinct role or dealing out confessional ditties straight from the heart. Yet what is beyond question is how fascinating and addictive I Love You, Honeybear manages to be. By turns lushly arranged and stark, Tillman sets his reflective songwriting to a sonic backdrop infused with Laurel Canyon flavour, arriving at a reinvention of the singer-songwriter stylings of the mid-'70s for a newer, still more complicated era-think Elton John by way of John Grant. The result is a modern-day triumph that's as acerbic as it is emotionally involving.
Review: 'Transangelic Exodus' is Ezra Furman's rock 'n' roll concept opus following the pseudo-autobiographical story of Furman falling in love with a transangel and the two becoming outlaws on the run from the government and mysterious, intolerant and violent figures. Structurally and musically, every song feels like a new chapter as Furman explores a multitude of avenues, drawing strands of genres together to create something simultaneously strange and familiar. It's a stunningly well-formed and considered album, and Furman's storytelling makes for a visceral and thrilling ride, and this is perhaps his best work yet. In a time when values are changing so rapidly in favour of openness and acceptance, but intolerance still has societal footholds, albums that manage to be as joyously compelling, poetically written and acerbically counter-cultural in their message as 'Transangelic Exodus' feel more necessary and relevant than ever.
Review: 'Music For People In Trouble', the latest missive from Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanne Sundfor, is a marked departure from 2015's 'Ten Love Songs'. Here, Sundfor omits euphoric synth-pop hooks in favour of a quietly confident and dappled choral aesthetic. The ideas at work in this album are as varied as those in her previous work, but feel far more cohesive in their execution. Over two songs, Sundfor smoothly transports the listener from the fingerpicking country and western of 'Reincarnation' to an intimate solo piano ballad then to smoky jazz club noir in 'Good Luck Bad Luck'. Without ever feeling heavy-handed, this considered sense of movement and form - paired with Sundfor's at times heart-wrenching lyrics - is what makes 'Music For People In Trouble' so striking.
Okolona River Bottom Band (feat Norah Jones) (4:37)
Big Boss Man (feat Hope Sandoval) (3:23)
Reunion (feat Rachel Goswell) (2:23)
Parchman Farm (feat Carice Van Houten) (3:44)
Mornin' Glory (feat Laetitia Sadier) (3:23)
Sermon (feat Margo Price) (4:31)
Tobacco Road (feat Susanne Sundfor) (2:50)
Penduli Pendulum (feat Vashti Bunyan with Kaela Sinclair) (3:11)
Jessye' Lisabeth (feat Phoebe Bridgers) (3:03)
Refractions (feat Marissa Nadler) (2:30)
Courtyard (feat Beth Orton) (3:26)
Ode To Billie Joe (feat Lucinda Williams) (5:38)
Review: With Mercury Rev something of a household name in some parts of the world, icons of a modern age, you could forgive such a group for trudging down a beaten path of trying to reinvent themselves; taking it instead to reimagine a 1968 sleeping classic. Adorning this cover-LP with Bobbie Gentry's all-time classic "Ode To Billie Joe" (feat Lucinda Williams), each track on the record in fact features a different singer-songwriter. Both Norah Jones and Beth Orton can be counted alongside Rachel Ann Goswell (Slowdive) and Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab) in addition to country music's hotly tipped next star, Margo Price. Among a boastful host of others, it's a full female cast to line up alongside a sweet new interpretation of a country western classic the world will finally hear in full.
Review: The ex-Czars frontman had already set the bar very high on his last two solo platters, mapping out an idiosyncratic style that somehow managed to be confessional and soul-searching yet sardonic and wry, and with memorable and melodious songwriting in abundance. Yet his third, 'Grey Tickles Black Pressure' takes bolder steps onto the dancefloor as well as into '70s FM radio terrain yet without compromising his dramatic and poignant delivery, with stirring and spectacular results. Uncompromisingly emotional in tone yet suffused by hope and positivity even amidst the trademark dark humour, this is the troubadour's greatest triumph yet.
Review: It's been a whopping six years since the last Spiritualized album and Jason Pierce, the founding, spearhead member, behind the group's success honourably lives up to expanding the notion of 'space rock' into 2018, and beyond. On the airwaves it's been "I'm Your Man" that's charted most attention, a sombre-ish, horn-blowing, western number with a touch of the blues. Meanwhile there's also "Here It Comes (The Road) Let's Go", a song that is said to be a list of instructions that leads the listener to Pierce's house. "The route is real," he says, while singing about rusty gates, paraphernalia and radios. Space may be the place, but if not, try over at Spiritualized.
Review: John Grant delivers a modern contemporary dose of synth pop in his Love Is Magic LP for Bella Union that was co-produced with Midlake's Paul Alexander. It provides the American with his fourth solo album, following 2015's Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, 2013's Pale Green Ghosts, and his 2010 debut Queen of Denmark. This LP, though, arguably provides a fresh thicket of neon-lit sounds that keep the irony palatable enough, "Diet Gum" perhaps the best example. For fans of the soundtrack to Drive, or Parisian duos Justice and Daft Punk, to the avant ballads of Laurie Anderson, Grant's pop kosmische here is a dazzling disco ball to be danced upon in your loudest colours and cackles of laughter.
Review: In the aftermath of the Brexit vote the question on many people's minds is 'what's going to happen'...well an answer for some, at least, was a new BC Camplight album, fittingly named, Deportation Blues. Recording in Liverpool's Whitewood studios, Brian Christinzio is said to have locked himself in a windowless studio and recorded all songs almost exclusively in the dark. With title track Deportation Blues its most illuminating result, the album overall is a more electrified opus, musically speaking, than his previous long players How To Die In The North and Blink Of A Nihilist. Featuring Luke Barton on guitars and synth, alongside guitarist Tom Rothery and multi-instrumentalist/ backing singer Ali Bell, BC Camplight lights it up again.
Review: Touches of Future pop that you could expect from Warp Records or PAN is what curios Lowly deliver; something of a Danish thread between Radiohead and Fever Ray. The five-piece outfit showcase all kinds of beat variations in their music be it from the broken beat wares of "Go For A Walk" and "Stephen" to the dubbier, childlike grooves in "Baglaens". There are more acoustic, vocoded numbers in "Out Beyond" as is the same with the minimal piano-isms on "Delicate Delegates" and the nostalgic "Selver". A devastating sophomore album of conceptual proportions, Lowly have built a playground of musicality, instrumentation and emotionally safe zones to sit in, appreciate and wonder. Bravo!
Review: Bella Union's newest faces are Norwegian group Pom Poko whose best and most steely expressions in press shots go some length to reveal the youthful angst and playfulness of their multicoloured, poppy punk sound. That said, there's glimpses of Mars Volta instrumentation in tracks like "Milk Trust", and "If U Want Me 2 Stay" does a good job at building a wall of noise like My Bloody Valentine would, but really the group's true aesthetic lies within an indie mould intrinsic to Scandinavia while still thrashing about the place with a melee of high energy guitars, drums and rebellious vocals (maybe even some bagpipes in "My Blood") to deliver a album your parents might not get, but the headbands and spray jackets waiting at the door a generation after the Modular wave will.
Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution (4:11)
Ballad Of The Dying Man (4:52)
Leaving LA (13:10)
A Bigger Paper Bag (4:36)
When The God Of Love Returns There'll Be Hell To Pay (4:01)
Two Wildly Different Perspectives (2:59)
The Memo (5:18)
So I'm Growing Old On Magic Mountain (9:51)
In Twenty Years Or So (6:31)
Review: Perhaps LA's most well-loved postmodern troubadour, Joshua Tillman brings his third album as Father John Misty, a sprawling and theatrical epic polemic on just about all of our modern society. The quality of his writing here is far more complex and impressive, as heart-wrenching chord progressions and grandiose song structures keep the listener firmly in the palm of his hand. The album's title 'Pure Comedy' is the first stab of bitter irony here, as Tillman seems in a more serious and pensive mood than we became used to with tongue-in-cheek and self-assured previous albums 'Fear Fun' and 'I Love You, Honeybear'. That isn't to say that the album is totally humourless, but that Tillman uses it in smaller doses to antidote the cathartic and anxious emotion to far greater effect.
Review: There's a truly undefinable yet wholly recognizable mood to the music of Washington DC native Marissa Nadler, and in places it's hard to not feel the ghost of Roy Orbison's vibrato coming through the vocals sung here. There's some beautiful duets and overdubbing to be heard from Angel Olsen on an album that Nadler co-produced with song-writer Lawrence Rothman and Justin Raisen, the latter known for his production work with the likes of Santigold, Yves Tumor and Kim Gordon to name a few. It's nigh on impossible to not be cast away by wistful forlornness of the LP and its titles alone express the deepest of melancholy blue in Nadler's music, with none more effectively haunting than the album's title track: "For My Crimes". Be brave.
Review: Home to artists like The Flaming Lips, Father John Misty and Fleet Foxes, the much adored Bella Union label out of London present the debut album of Piroshka. Not to be confused with a much loved Polish delicacy (actually taking inspiration from Little Red Riding Hood), the group is made up of an amalgamation of artists lifted from bands like Lush, Moose, Elastica and Modern English. Opening with the all too familiar squeal of an amp's feedback, an all too groovy backbeat ensues to make any elderly rocker at the back of the scout hall get up and dance. The album casually surfs through a bevy of styles, from weird cosmic '80s synth action that begins in "Never Enough" to the melancholic wild west themes in "What's Next", to even classical, trip hoppy affairs in "Heartbeats". A suitably dreamy debut from Bella Union's next super group.