Review: For anyone thinking that title might be a tad self-deprecating, it's worth noting that Noel Gallagher isn't one to rest on his laurels-there may be material here that'll satisfy the old-school Britpop fans in the house, such as the first single 'Lock All The Doors', yet elsewhere 'Chasing Yesterday' is notable not only for Gallagher's midas touch with indelible melodies but for experimentation that takes in such unlikely ingredients as saxophone-abetted jazz and funk even whilst maintaining his love for the classic pop and rock of the '60s and '70s. On this evidence, this tunesmith's well of inspiration isn't running dry any time soon.
Review: Lewis' gentle and bewitching L'Amour, which came complete with a bizarre backstory involving the disappearance of the blonde-haired would-be-matinee-idol on its sleeve, was one of the surprise delights of the year. Yet the release of the hitherto unsuspected follow-up Romantic Times, which was originally recorded in 1985, only adds to the mystique surrounding this off-kilter auteur. The abstract croon and expressionistic mood may remain, yet the pastel shades and beachside calm of his earlier effort are gone, replaced by brooding atmosphere and vocals that betray a troubled soul beneath the luxurious veneer. Residing somewhere between lounge lizard thrills and outsider art chills, Romantic Times is a portrait of a true one-off.
I Forget & I Can't Tell (Ballad Of The Lights part 1)
Habit Of You
Your Motion Says
Don't Forget About Me
Love Is Overtaking Me
Planted A Thought
Love Comes Back
Review: A musical polymath like no other, the late Arthur Russell turned his hand to a bewildering variety of different musical styles, from avant-garde torch songs to pounding disco, yet all imbued with his otherworldly songwriting skill and richly emotional voice. This posthumous compilation, however, collects together the more oddly accessible material that he created, in largely acoustic and country styles. The cowboy hat on the sleeve may be strangely appropriate here, but more than this, the blend of plaintive melancholy and freewheeling charm can only leave the listener wondering how Arthur Russell managed to avoid mainstream success in his all-too-brief career. A strange and beguiling transmission from a unique talent.
Review: Long-term Pumpkins fans might have been forgiven for thinking that Billy Corgan had taken leave of his senses of late, given his ventures into wrestling management and the eight-hour freeform modular synth take on Herman Hesse's Siddhartha that he baffled an audience with in his coffee shop recently. Yet fear not: on the evidence of Monuments To An Elegy, the combination of riff attack, fragile melody and plaintive melancholy that was at the heart of the Pumpkins' classic work is very much present and correct, not to mention Corgan's charismatic songwriting suss. Monuments To An Elegy is a fitting title, for both the rock solid and emotionally engaging elements of classic Pumpkins are here explored anew.
Review: Arriving some twenty years after the last Pink Floyd album proper, 1994's The Division Bell, this new offering - which stands to be their last ever - apparently functions as both a swansong for their enormously influential outfit and a tribute to late keyboard player Rick Wright. Constructed partly from demos for the aforementioned album, as well as recordings from as far back as 1968, it somehow manages to showcase the closest the band has come to the classic Floydian sound in decades. Indeed, replete with Gilmour's soaring leads and ambient dreamscapes, it frequently recalls the heralded days of 'Wish You Were Here' amidst an atmosphere of beatific melancholy. If this is the moment that the rock giants choose to bow out, their legions of fans can rest assured they're doing so with both grace and style.
Review: Despite Dave Grohl's position in the rock firmament, the man rarely seems content to rest on his laurels, and this is proven once again by the mission he and the band embarked on to come up with Sonic Highways, their eighth album proper. Travelling around America to simultaneously record this album and create the HBO documentary series based on the musical history and local scenes of eight cities, he took inspiration from those he interviewed - from Dolly Parton to Bad Brains - to craft an album rich with the passion that first compelled him to play music. The result is the most life-affirming Foo Fighters record in well over a decade - explosive, melodious and fierily idealistic, it's a modern rock masterclass.
Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra, Op 34 (17:12)
Review: This recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Sergei Prokofiev's 1936 story and orchestral score Peter and the Wolf was recorded in 1977 and was originally released in 1978. The role of the narrator on the recording was initially offered to both Peter Ustinov and Alec Guinness who both turned it down, before David Bowie agreed to take on the role, supposedly as a Christmas present to his son. On the B-side is another equally as charming piece of recent classical history, Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra as narrated by Hugh Downs.
Review: This collection focuses in an era of Japanese music in which fashion, glamour and kitsch collided to create an addictive sound that morphed Westernized shapes into something kaleidoscopic and unique; the GS (or Group Sounds) phenomenon had seen Japanese artists attempting their own take on the high-energy onslaught of the Beatles and the British invasion, but elsewhere the female artists of the era were crafting a sound that tipped its hat to bossa nova, psych-pop and French ye-ye whilst maintaining a distinctly Japanese approach. Vibrant, eclectic and shot through with an insouciance and style rich even for this era, this is a compilation that sounds as exotic today as it did in the '60s.
Review: It may often be viewed as a cliche, yet Canadian country rockers Elliott Brood genuinely went right back to their roots with this, their fourth album proper in a near-twelve year life as a band; taking its inspiration from the Constantines lyric 'Work and love will make a man of you', the focus of this opus, recorded at The Tragically Hip's studio in Ontario, was on the rites of passage, and the bittersweet perspective of looking back on one's misspent youth. Taking inspiration from the like of the Flying Burrito Brothers and Whiskeytown as much as The Hold Steady and The Drive-By Truckers, the result is an earnest, earthy salvo of soul-searching songcraft that's as gritty as it is engaging.
Review: This September 21st, Leonard Cohen hit 80 years of age, and what better way to enter his ninth decade on earth than with another reliably dark and insightful series of grave reflections on the human condition. And indeed, with his stark ruminations backed with skill and taste by arrangements from erstwhile Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard, he arguably hasn't sounded better in around half that time. Popular Problems is as witty, as wry, and as eternally affecting as we've come to expect from this troubadour. Indeed, while Cohen continues to make records as fine as this one, balancing out taste and refinement with gravitas and humour, we'll be forced to agree with his assertion herein: 'The party's over, but I've landed on my feet'.
Review: Inspired initially by the likes of Screaming Jay Hawkins, Tom Waits and Nina Simone, the Wicklow-born Andrew Hozier-Byrne nurtured his own unique voice, taking soulful gravitas and bluesy grit and using them to sculpt songs with both a soul-searching approach and an unusual earthiness. His first single Take Me To Church was a surprise hit, its existential crises and potent melancholy striking a chord via their intensity of delivery, and this debut shows that it was no flash-in-the-pan. In a world of young artists overly obsessed with overstating their own authenticity, it doesn't take long to work out you're in the presence of one with raw talent to render such concerns redundant.
Review: If it's both garage-rock ramalama and infectious songwriting you want, not to mention a record that sounds like it's been beamed in staight from 1966, look no further than the current project of Greg Cartwright, legendary progenitor of The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers amongst others, whose incredible tunesmithery as well as his sheer joie-de-vivre have been responsible for some of the most memorable moments of the last twenty years in garageland. "Reigning Sound" takes a more laidback, organ-assisted and string-abetted tack, blending its rock'n'soul blasts with country-tinged melancholy and Brill building finesse, yet always with Cartwright's impossible-to-resist presence at front and centre. You're unlikely to hear an old-fashioned rock 'n' roll record this year that you're likely to want to spin over and over like this one.
Review: This deliberately mysterious outfit hailed from Italy, and this, the first of two previously ultra-rare and highly collectible LPs, is no less than a psychedelic classic, chock full of wild keyboards, fuzz guitar rampage, blissed-out trance states and fearful avant-garde trickery. It's been ascertained that Braen's Machine was the work of heralded soundtrack composer Perio Ulimani, as well as Morricone collaborator Allesandro Allesandroni, and this would make perfect sense, as "Underground" is very much in the metier of Italian soundtrack legends Goblin, and bound to appeal to fans of the widescreen psych sweep of Aphrodite's Child. Bellisima.
Review: Jack White has firmly established himself as many things-rock renaissance man and paragon of analogue recording amongst them, but strangest of all in the evolution of this mercurial figure is the way he's consistently challenged himself, and essentially only made wayward and compromising records as his twisted path has continued. Case in point is Lazaretto; perhaps his most eclectic and eccentric work to date, yet also his most focused, personal and euphoric in tone. A glorious trawl through a plethora of styles and moods and replacing the riff-worship of The White Stripes with enough freakish ideas to fill five albums this is proof positive that Jack White's muse is at its most potent when at its wildest.
Review: Channeling the history of the guitar and stretching the boundaries of traditional genres, Portland-based guitarist, composer and improviser Marisa Anderson possesses a unique and distinctive musical voice. Her playing is fluid, emotional, dexterous and original. Anderson's recent solo albums on Mississippi Records, "The Golden Hour" (2011) and "Mercury" (2013), feature improvisations inspired by Delta blues, West African guitar, Appalachian mountain music, vintage country and western, gospel, noise, rhythms, cycles, mortality and praise. For "Traditional & Public Domain Songs", Anderson reinterprets a collection of American classic folk songs in her fluent and accomplished style.
Pressed in an edition of 300 copies, the record is available as a one-time offer in extremely limited quantities. Now in its third year, Grapefruit is a subscription based record club founded by musician Simon Joyner and Ba Da Bing Records head Ben Goldberg to release exclusive and limited, vinyl-only LPs, all part of an annual series, sharing identical cover art but in different colors. The only connection between each group is that Joyner and Goldberg are both fans.
Review: Music On Vinyl are our new best friends. With a wide range of music being reissued as of late, Yello's 1987 One Second is just spoiling us. Never being fully acclaimed when it was originally released, this is one album which really spans the full circle in terms of artistic ideas sonic experimentations. While being tagged primarily as a pop work, it's really more of a lesson in synth manipulations and nutty beat-making. "The Rhythm Divine" has to be out top track but do check the whole thing, it's magnificent...
Review: A year shy of its 40th anniversary, Inspiration Information enjoys a reissue and it's still as sparkly and soul-laden as it was in 1974. Ranging from the guitar-twanging smoky blues funk of "Rainy Day" to the sultry, strutting title track, it's largely regarded as Otis's most comprehensive work of that time. According to legend it took him three years to create... 39 years later and it still sounds as good as this? We'd say that's time well spent!
Review: The latest Emotional Response release provides something very special indeed, in the form of a new track from under the radar psychedelic rock musician Nick Nicely. Nicely has been making music from the 70s onwards, but his music has recently undergone something of a critical reappraisal, with the likes of Robert Wyatt and Robyn Hitchcock supposedly inspired by his work; "Wrottersley Road" provides the ideal entry into his music, a masterful piece of shoegaze pop filled with fuzzed out guitars and Eastern psychedelic tones. Remixes are provided by Invisible Hands, who provide a minimal 80's inspired electro-pop version, which comes saturated in radiophonic textures, and The Oscillation, who take the track into even more abstract ambient territory than the original, deep into a place where time seems to stand still entirely, drawing its rich textures out into infinity.
Review: Last year's Delta Swamp Rock collection was one of Soul Jazz's best for some time, offering a rare glimpse into the rock, soul, country, funk and blues fusions that trickled out of the Southern US states in the late '60s and early '70s. This follow-up offers more little known highlights from the swamp rock scene, showcasing a thrilling array of little-known artists. In truth, it's the funk and soul-tinged tracks that most resonate (see Bobby Gentry's "Touch 'Em With Love" and Area Code 615's sweaty, banjo-laden "Ruby"), but there are plenty of other killer tunes that take a more sedate approach. Accompanied, as ever, by exhaustive sleeve notes, it's another essential selection from Soul Jazz.
Review: Considered by many to be one of the best live albums of all time, 'At Fillmore East' the classic album by the Allman Brothers, recorded at the
pinnacle of their success, was a huge hit for the band. In 1971 the Allman Brothers were already one of the most popular groups in America,
but by the time this album hit the streets their brand of Southern rock had become a national obsession. One of Rolling Stones' '500 greatest
albums of all time', it was the band's last with guitar hero Duane Allman who was killed in a motorcycle accident later that year.
Review: Vinyl Lovers Presents 'Blues Breakers' from John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton. This seminal British blues album gave Clapton the chance to finally show his
chops, not surprisingly, launching Clapton into stardom. Recorded in 1966 during Clapton's short stint with the Bluesbreakers, just after leaving the Yardbirds.
Review: Described by Music Week as 'Intriguing slice of rock that blends soaring vocals reminiscent of Muse with the taut pop sensibilities of The Killers'. This is a strong single which has already got the support of DJ Janice Long, who has invited the band for a live session on BBC Radio Two.
Review: As Radiohead tour the world and then regroup to record their new album, Thom Yorke releases his own record, 'The Eraser' on XL Recordings. A collection of nine new songs, the record was written and played by Thom and was produced by Nigel Godrich. Variously hailed as "The Best Band In The World" (Q Magazine), "Rock's Best Live Band" (Rolling Stone) and the band were placed at number 1 of Spin Magazine's 40 most influential artists, Radiohead has arguably become the most acclaimed and adventurous force in modern music. Over six studio albums the group have proved that it is possible to make massive creative leaps whilst continuing to grow in worldwide stature. Their records set new benchmarks for others to aim towards, whilst their live shows reach levels of intensity and exploration that few can match.