Friday, 27 March 2009

Lonely Dear

I have been living with Dear John the new Lonely Dear album for a little while now. Originally I got drawn in by the opening track Airport Surroundings after Lonely Dear had been lurking on the edge of my aural world for a while. Lonely Dear is in fact Swede Emil Svanangen who does everything apart from the ocassional guest appearance (Mr Andrew Bird appears briefly for instance)

Airport Surroundings has that insistent air about it that I couldn't ignore. Somehow there is something undeniably Swedish/Scandinavian about the whole sound, apart from the obvious Scandinavian accented vocals - the stye of the mutlitracked synth work, the rather melancholic flavour on even the most upbeat sounding tracks.

Initially it was the opening few tracks that were most appealing, the most quickly involving, but as time goes by the later tracks slowly give up their pleasures, progressively more whistful, sadder, aching. There is an undeniable sense of loss, a sort of homelessness in an odd way, behind all the songs but despite this I don't find it a 'down' album at all, really rather the reverse.

Live Mr Svanangen is clearly supplemented by a few mates to reproduce the full sound which if the NPR podcast of a recent show is anything to go by (bundled with the fabulous Andrew Bird gig), they manage to do very well. In the UK in April, maybe I will manage to get to the Birmingham show…

MP3 Airport Surroundings - Lonely Dear


Web site

NPR Podcast

Monday, 16 March 2009

Elbow in Bristol

Bit slow off the mark on this post, but last Tuesday saw us at the Colston Hall again seeing friends Elbow for the third time in 12 months. By this time of course The Seldom Seen Kid is now the stuff of legend, the Mercury prize well under their belt and Mr Garvey et al are of course everyone's favourite band from, oh heavens, years ago...

The audience was that rather unsettling mix of youngsters with a thinking brain, old gits like me who read something personal into every lyric and the those couples out for an evening in town who vaguely heard One Day Like This on Radio 2 sometime or other. Naturally it is these that get on my wick something rotten - not remotely interested in the support band, think its quite appropriate to talk through and over everything just like they would watching The Bill on TV, dressed up to the nine's in their sub Top Shop garb and frankly only there to irritate the c**p out of me.... breathe out, count to ten ...

Well the support was worthy of real attention - The Acorn delivered a great set from their Gloria Esperanza Montoya album, sounding tight, and in fact quite rocky for such a delicate set of songs. They would probably be better suited to a more intimate venue but they acquited themselves well, injected a bit of banter with the crowd and left having made some new priends, if there is any justice in the world.

The Elbow set was a pretty well established one now, but no worse for that. The four string players adding warmth and depth, the band rock solid and all clearly at the top of their game, and the staging a little more interesting than last time but nothing to distract you from the main interest.

Of course they played much of the current album but also some welcome stuff from the three previous albums including the majestic New Born. For many in the audience, and especially the male contingent it seems, found it an almost religious experience - even chaps up with us in the balcony. I hadn't really twigged before what a strong male following they encourage - with followers knowing the words, the actions and revelling in the rare occasion to connect with some male sensitivity as delivered with aplomb by Guy Garvey. I do understand the almost religious overtones but mine must be a more introspective worship - my loss I fear.

A fine show, a great band with quality music and playing - who can deny them their well earned place a the top of the heap. Lets hope the polyester couples bog off to summat else next time.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Point Juncture WA

In the same way that others seem to have a bit of an obsession with bands from Leeds (step forward Mr Dany Sloan ' Exitfare ) I have to 'fess up to something similar for bands from the NW USA - Seattle/Portland etc.

New to me is Point Juncture, WA hailing from Portland, thanks to Burn the Bowery for the trigger. Whilst I am in confessional mode I had better admit to not being a big fan of female vocals in a band setting (sorry, its just how it is, not anti-girlie or anything...). But here Alison Spring and Victor Nash share and blend their vocals in a way that fits PJ's music perfectly.

The band has apparently been around for five years or so and their latest release, Heart to Elk, is their third self released offering and re-released courtesy of Mt Fuji Records (available on iTunes, streamed off their web site and for sale via Amazon). In addition to the usual instruments you get to hear a bit of vibraphone, some brass and the like, that really add colour and depth to their sound and their melodies.

A personal favourite is Sioux Arrow with its insistent drum drive, some fab loopy distorted guitar and echoey Rhodes-type piano sound contributing to the great aural atmosphere - grand stuff. The video is a slightly mad mix of home vid footage, local shots and live footage.

SIOUX ARROW from Hart Ryan Noecker on Vimeo.

Myspace Point Juncture, WA
Web Site Point Juncture WA

Monday, 2 March 2009

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

I have to say that Andrew Bird's Noble Beast album has really got to me. The quite winning combination of violin, vocals and whistling really can't be beaten and combined with melodies that dig under your skin and sufficient wackiness to be charming but not irritating, means that this has been on heavy rotation of late.

Some apparently find his rather beautifully constructed lyrics a tad knowing but frankly its a joy to have some lyrics that both tell stories but also employ some out-of-the-mainstream words: for goodness sake just listen to some of the unutterable rubbish on the new U2 effort, I know which I would rather listen to.

There is something oddly timeless about Birds music, despite the unusual combinations, loops and noises; perhaps it is the use of older instruments - violins, semi-acoustics, glockenspiel, cor anglais etc that give a depth and richness to the sound. Of course it is a joy to hear someone able to whistle with accomplishment - a skill sadly lost to me - and the whole builds to a wondrous combination of folk, rock, traditional soundscape.

NPR have a great, full length concert from the 9.30 club in Washington that is available both to stream and get on podcast. Bird's ability to play several instruments, whistle, sing and control numerous loops etc means that he can play with only a couple of additional musicians yet accurately produce his full sound.

I have squirrelled away my tickets to see him when he reaches the Thekla in Bristol in May this year - by all accounts it should be a show woreth seeing..

Andrew Bird with Mucca Pazza - "Fitz & The Dizzyspells”

Andrew Bird Website
Andrew Bird Myspace
NPR Concert