fredag 31. oktober 2014

31102014 - Fiona "Peyond the Pale"

Remember Fiona? Nor do that many others, I presume. To me she was just someone from the pages of Kerrang! as I never got to hear her music back when she, uh, had a career. Listening to this now it's easy to see why she never made it big, as this is pretty void of identity. Even though album opener "Tragedy" is pretty decent and her voice has a nice Terri Nunn-like quality to it the songs in general are mostly below par, and in AOR that's the biggest sin of them all as there's nothing more boring than generic AOR. And there's really nothing here (with the possible exceptions of the aforementioned track and semi-ballad "He's on My Side") that would make me want to listen to this instead of artists like Pat Benatar, Robin Beck or Berlin.

torsdag 30. oktober 2014

30102014 - Blood Warrior "Blood Warrior"

When you discover a band called Blood Warrior you want to check them out, that's just the way it is. And when the band includes the vocalist from O'Death you want to really listen! The first song here takes you to the gentle country where Bonnie "Prince" Billy and other new folkies live, and on the second track, the 8 1/2 minute long "Choir" they run the whole gamut from soft alt folk to Southern Gothic Gospel, namechecking Townes Van Zandt and interpolating Bob Dylan in the process! We get some weird folk, some traditional American music, chants, organs and lots of other goodness. "Snake Seer" sounds like a drinking song, while other tracks make you feel like meditating in the woods at night. This album makes it through without any big airs and graces, but leaves a permanent mark!

tirsdag 28. oktober 2014

28102014 - Karin Wright "You Got the Silver"

I remember when Norwegian country music sounded very Norwegian and nothing like anything that ever came out of the country that created country music. When performers thought a Stetson was all it took, and so did the record buyers. And even the good ones didn't really sound authentically American, which, let's face it, all proper country music should. Well, just this year there's been several brilliant Norwegian acts that sound like they come from various parts of that land, and this is one of those. I guess the word we're looking for is "authentic". Or how about "heartfelt"? "Real" and "true" are two more of my favorites. Karin Wright knows that you gotta have a fiddler in the band (and a mandolin player too!), and her country songs are mostly of the broken hearted kind, which always was the best kind anyway. Her voice gives you just the slightest hint that at least a few of these songs are based on experience, but whatever bad has happened in her love life ended up as songs to lift our spirits, so hey, lost some, won some I guess? This is an album I would recommend to all lovers of the genre any day, so to me "You Got the Silver" is pure gold.

mandag 27. oktober 2014

27102014 - Buck 65 "Neverlove"

I seem to recall digging a Buck 65 album years ago - perhaps as far back as the 90's - but I can't remember which one. I do remember enjoying his mix of hip-hop and blues with everything and anything tossed into the pot and fitting together as well! This album starts brilliantly with the dark "Gates of Hell", followed by the disturbingly sweet "Je T'aime Mon Amour", but after a couple of more tracks there's a nice, but not very inspired hip-hop ballad. I guess it's supposed to set some kind of mood, but it doesn't work for me. Then we get the dreadful "Heart of Stone", which sounds like a serious bid for a regular r'n'b/pop single. What the hell happened to sounding alternative and daring? And if it's meant as a parody it's not funny! Even less so is the semi-trance pop abortion that is "Super Pretty Naughty". After this the entire album is ruined for me anyway, but there's nothing remotely exciting happening after this, mostly just very competent, but very plain poppy hip-hop, the kind of which would not sound out of place on a school disco. Not necessarily bad, but disappointing for someone who wanted this to sound fresh and edgy. The last two songs are pretty ok, but by this time I have lost interest. Do yourself a favor, stream the first four tunes, and stop there.

søndag 26. oktober 2014

26102014 - Karla Bonoff "Restless Nights"

Karla Bonoff is someone you don't hear many people talk about these days. I guess there were no huge hits and no big tragedy to remember her by, just four albums, released between 1977-1988 and a song on the "Footloose" soundtrack. Since then, not much. A song from her last album made it to the "8 Seconds" soundtrack in 1994, and she has a song on a Jackson Browne tribute album released earlier this year. And apparently she is still touring, mainly in USA and Japan, but she still pretty much qualifies for the "Where are they now?" file. This album, released in 1979, is a good one, with good songs and she has a good voice. Still, it's easy to see why she's more known for her songwriting, as most songs here could have been great in the hands of singers with a bit more personality, like Bonnie Raitt or Linda Ronstadt, both of whom have recorded songs written by Bonoff, including the opening song on this record. Cute, but far from classic.

lørdag 25. oktober 2014

25102014 - Fredrik William Olsen "Til Stede"

I get extremely annoyed the second this guy starts singing, which happens to be the same moment I discover what band he's from, a band I do not love at all. Also, there's the fact that he's too young to be taken seriously singing about what he does. What, oooh my feelings, oooh? Screw that! But wait, what's this? Why is he making me listen? Aw, c'mon! Is there really something here that could make this worth listening to? Oh, is he not trying to sound older and wiser than his age and experience? Is this actually… No… Charming? Good? Wait, we're still only on the fourth song, he's gonna fuck it up. (…) I have taken a pause, and by the second last song I'm still listening. Like a big brother would listen, or like I don't know what… It's still a bit too poetic for my instant liking, but at the same time I am positively not hating anymore. I'm guessing that by the next album I will dig this guy, and I promise that I will stay along for the ride!

fredag 24. oktober 2014

24102014 - Bonnie Tyler "Faster Than the Speed of Night"

No need to say much here. Iconic cover (which needs to be replicated or at least paid tribute to by today's hipsters). Brilliant cover version of "Have You Ever Seen the Rain". THAT production, courtesy of THAT Jim Steinman. A bunch of songs that are decent enough (ok, the title track is brilliant!), if not exactly breathtaking, but who cares? Nobody, that's who, because "Total Eclipse of the Heart", which at the time of writing feels like one of the best freaking songs ever! Quentin Tarantino, could you please put that song in your next movie, so we can have a Bonnie Tyler revival?

torsdag 23. oktober 2014

23102014 - Mark Lanegan Band "Phantom Radio"

Remember when Mark Lanegan sang in Screaming Trees? Seems such a long time ago now, doesn't it?  These days most people think of him as the dark crooner with a troubled soul, not least thanks to the three breathtakingly wonderful albums with him as the Lee to Isobel Campbell's Nancy, as well as the Gutter Twins, Soulsavers, collaborations with Earth, Queens of the Stone Age and more plus several solo albums. He keeps himself busy, our Mark. On this album his voice is as broodingly brilliant as ever, but the tunes are not restricted to downtempo balladry, as they touch upon both gothic pop and various shades of electronica - or rather synth - as well as hints of trip-hop and kraut rock. And he manages to do all this, to find common ground between these genres and merge them through the vessel that is his voice, because he has that flair for knowing what works and the authority that comes with a voice like his. You will love this album, I know I do! Mark my words...

onsdag 22. oktober 2014

22102014 - Aretha Franklin "Sings the Great Diva Classics"

Did you see that clip where Aretha performed "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele on Letterman, and stomped all over the original? Now I'm thinking that Adele must be soiling herself because a) she could never overdo that - Aretha just took her song and made it her own! And also because b) the fugging Queen of Soul did one of her freaking songs! With that in mind, having Aretha do an album's worth of showing who's the boss sounds like a brilliant idea. It's just that when the originals are ladies like Etta James, Gladys Knight, Dinah Washington and Diana Ross, even 'Reefa is unable to outsing the originals. Sure, she does great versions of most of the songs here, but she doesn't claim any of the tunes, apart from "Rolling in the Deep", and her versions of "No One" (Alicia Keys) and "Nothing Compares 2 U" (originally The Family, but we get it - the classic "diva version" is by Sinéad O'Connor) are pretty redundant, especially the cocktail jazz version of the latter. All in all, a good idea done bland. Next time, give the producer reins to Rick Rubin or even Jack White, and have Aretha do songs by Janis Joplin, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Rihanna, and we're talking! And by the way, if you want a cover version of a Sinéad O'Connor song to give you goosebumps, there's another queen, and her name is Bettye LaVette! That's real while this just screams "product"!

tirsdag 21. oktober 2014

21102014 - The Vanjas "Sings and Plays Rock'n'Roll"

I got this band recommended by Ann-Sofie Hoyles from The Spiders, and of course I end up checking them out three days after they play in Oslo! Oh well, next time… Apparently Vanja herself is the daughter of Stefan Sundström, and the musical genes are strong in this family. Her voice is full of blues, soul and rock'n'roll attitude, and the band plays hard, but catchy garage-y rhythm & blues that will seduce you one moment and beat you up before stealing your lunch money the next. Obviously all the attitude in the world is useless without the songs to back it up, but the Vanjas are rich in both 'tude and tunes! Whether you're a fan of Etta James or  The Hives, this is an album you need to check out. And do yourself the favour of doing just that before the band hits your town, because you will want to see them live!

mandag 20. oktober 2014

20102014 - Marit Larsen "When the Morning Comes"

Nice and pleasant pop. This blog post will be updated when I'm friends again with my laptop.

søndag 19. oktober 2014

19102014 - Larry Norman "Upon This Rock"

Continuing on the list of the 101 strangest records on Spotify (or, in my case, on WiMP), here's the debut solo album of Jesus rocker Larry Norman! This album was released in 1969, after Norman left the group People!, which he fronted, when the rest of the band gave him and fellow lead singer Gene Mason the ultimatum of joining them as scientologists or getting out. They left, People! disappeared after a few years and Larry Norman went on to more or less singlehandedly invent Christian rock and release more than 100 albums, getting hate from evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and love from people like Pete Townsend and Frank Black along the way! The music is pretty catchy, perfectly hippie-friendly rock that fans of other acts from that era, such as Van Morrison, Neil Young or The Band could easily embrace, as he mixes folk, rock, country, sugar sweet balladry, trippy psychedelia and more. And with the rest of the band consisting of Wrecking Crew members Joe Osborne, Hal Blaine, Mike Deasey and Larry Knechtel you know that it's gonna sound just right! As for the lyrics - well, they're there, but unless you are as uptight in your anti-Christianity as the previously mentioned evangelists are in their aversion of rock you shouldn't let that get in the way of enjoying some really good and catchy tunes! However, calling this the "Sgt. Pepper" of Christian rock might be a stretch. But then again, who am I to judge, not really knowing (or even planning to find out) everything else there is to compare with within the genre…

lørdag 18. oktober 2014

18102014 - Rita Moss "Talk to Me, Tiger!"

So I found this list called "The 101 strangest records on Spotify" when I did research while writing an earlier post, and if they are there I suppose I can find them on WiMP as well. This is the first record on the list, and it's full of lovely cocktail jazz delivered by a nightclub singer who at the time of this album's release in 1966 performed regularly at Hollywood's Exotica Club and Lakewood Boulevard's Polynesian-themed Tahitian Village Restaurant and Bar. Her deliverance of standards like "Misty" and "Fly Me to the Moon" are sweet as sugar, but what sets her apart from many others in the same genre is her four-octave range that really makes this… something else. Strange? Perhaps. Different? Definitely. Worth checking out? Oh, yes!

fredag 17. oktober 2014

17102014 - Witch Cross "Fit for Fight"

Gotta love that classic shameless METAL! Danish band Witch Cross released this gem back in 1984 - that's 30 years ago, muthas! Little did they know that this kind of metal would go completely out of style not many years later, and even less that there would be a revival even bigger than the original wave, ultimately inspiring them to reform in 2011, 25 years after splitting up, and even recording a follow-up album! From the album opener, "Night Flight to Tokyo", you know what you're gonna get, and from there on it's take it or leave it; take it if you enjoy great traditional metal with powerful riffs, intense soloing and brilliant air raid siren vocals, and leave it if you don't - your loss! You've got your fast songs, your mid tempo ones and some heavier tunes, all of them anthems! What more can you ask for?

torsdag 16. oktober 2014

16102014 - Argent "Circus"

Argent is one of many bands where I'm familiar with a few songs here and there - some mainly through cover versions - but the full albums are mostly unchartered territory for me. This was their sixth album, released in 1975, and the first without Russ Ballard. In other words an odd place to start I guess, but the cover got me. The vocalist here is John Verity who would go on to record an album with a band called Phoenix about 20 years before the French band of the same name. So, this album… It ain't bad, but I would call it pleasant rather than interesting. Some of the stuff reminds slightly of Pink Floyd, other songs have a Supertramp vibe to them, there's even some Queen. Musically I would call this soft prog rock, with emphasis on the "soft" bit. That's about it.

onsdag 15. oktober 2014

15102014 - Jim Stapley "Long Time Coming"

Got a tip about this album, the debut by English newcomer Jim Stapley, a fellow who claims to be inspired by both James Taylor, Free and Led Zeppelin, and who would definitely not sound out of place on a bill with, say, Rival Sons. However, there's a lot more to "Long Time Coming" than the blues swagger of the 'Sons, something a song like "My Own Worst Enemy" is a good example of, with its majestic strings and gooseflesh-incucing arrangement. And Stapley's voice is really impressive, capable of raunchy bar blooze as well as soulful escapades that border on gospel, as it would sound in the hands of The Raconteurs or latter day Bruce Springsteen. This album, produced by Tony Visconti, no less, has the light and shade, the stripped bare tunes and the songs all dressed up for the ball. All over the place there's small details - an organ here or some tasteful choir harmonies there - that don't force themselves upon you, but merely play with you and let you come to them. Like the way "Grey Matter" builds almost unnoticeably and reaches a haunting climax where the background vocals (that were there long before you noticed them) almost start dueling! This thing has "Newcomer Album of the Year"-candidate written all over it in sky high letters!

tirsdag 14. oktober 2014

14102014 - Wire "Pink Flag"

This is one of those I can't explain. I have no good reason whatsoever why I never got into Wire or even have a passing knowledge of their catalogue. I know this is wrong. And from the first chords of magnificent opener "Reuters" this is confirmed. Dammit, this is cool stuff! I do believe Elastica ('member them?) stole the riff of "Three Girl Rhumba" for their song "Connection", and I'm pretty sure a lot of other riffs here have been inspirational for plenty of bands I like. I even recognize some of the songs from cover versions. There's all of 21 tracks on the thing, and one listen is far from enough to let it all sink in, but I get why this is considered an important album by bands and critics alike. It's filthy enough to be punk, but it's rock'n'roll at the core and where some of the songs are hauntingly melodic others are abrasive and slightly hostile, but they all pack a mean punch and even the really really short ones have enough identity for them not to just fly by in a blur. "Strange" is another immediate fave, but there's so much here to enjoy that they could all become favorites at some point if I listen often enough. And believe me, I will!

mandag 13. oktober 2014

13102014 - Eliza Doolittle "In Your Hands"

Pretty pretty pop music from the cutesie Londonette who had me charmed with the single "Skinny Genes" from her debut album. She remains in the area between Lily Allen/Kate Nash-simplicity and All Saints/early Nelly Furtado pop with just a tiny amount of R&B. The song "Make Up Sex" is Natasha Bedingfield lawsuit material, but catchy enough for me not to care, and even if none of the songs on "In Your Hands" match the whistling charms of "Skinny Genes" there's plenty of pleasant catchiness to go around, and, let's face it, sometimes that's all you need. Oh, and "Big When I Was Little", placed almost right at the end of the album, is a total charmer of a song!

søndag 12. oktober 2014

lørdag 11. oktober 2014

11102014 - Jackson Browne "Standing in the Breach"

I have listened far too little to Jackson Browne. There's this song I know and that album I have heard here and there, but I wouldn't really call myself familiar with him as an artist. So a new album is a good opportunity to start righting that wrong. And what you get is relatively predictable, which is a good thing as long as the predictable bit is the bit where Browne writes great songs. And that's 10 for 10 on this album that I guess doesn't show him as a more mature songwriter than ever, because when was Jackson Browne ever an immature songwriter? Yes, musically it's about as abrasive as an afternoon by the pool, but his lyrics have plenty of edge as he tackles various issues, including gun control, rigged elections and environmental concerns, not too impressed by the state of affairs in general today. At 65 he's still both an excellent singer and songwriter, and well deserving of your attention!

fredag 10. oktober 2014

10102014 - Emilie Nicholas "Like I'm a Warrior"

This album is #1 on the Norwegian album charts this week, so reluctantly I put it on. And as soon as this three year old girl starts to sing I know I'm gonna hate it. Seriously, what IS the deal with her English pronounciation? And why does she keep singing her own name? "Nobody told me/Emilie Emilie Emilie…" WHAT! Nobody told you to STFU? Well, please allow me to introduce myself… The second song is called "Let You Out", and I swear to god she sings "Willie you ow/Willie you innagai" like a fucking consonant would kill her! And there's the overuse of "quirky" sounds and cut'n'paste beats stolen from Anja Garbarek and borrowed from Björk, that serve as distractions so that people might be all Amelie'd into thinking this is cute and charming instead of noticing that the Emperor has no clothes and no proper songs either. I'm sure this sounds great through an expensive stereo, but tell me one good reason why this tops the charts while Karin Park - who also has a kind of cutesy vocal delivery, but who writes actual tunes, and great ones at that - is criminally ignored by the mainstream audience? Number one? Sorry record buyers (or, more likely, song streamers) and album reviewers alike, history will prove you WRONG!

torsdag 9. oktober 2014

09102014 - Sioux "The One and the Many"

I'm sure there are (and have been) many bands called Sioux, but these lovable Portlandians happened across my horizon through this pretty damn great cover version of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer". They are far from industrialists themselves though, instead belonging in that elusive part of gritty, groovy and semi-doomy heaviness some like to call sludge rock, with plenty of crunch and punch to go around. There's lots of melody as well, and comparisons with early Baroness, Kylesa and Mastodon should help you along the way of understanding this beast.

onsdag 8. oktober 2014

08102014 - Stevie Nicks "24 Carat Gold - Songs from the Vault"

Go Nicks! All you really need is Stevie's voice. I'm certain she could have sung all the songs on the latest Bryan Adams album with everything else remaining the same, and the result would have been magic. Stevie Nicks could even have done an album with cover versions of Coldplay, U2, Keane and James Blunt, and it would have reduced grown men, such as myself, to quivering wrecks - in a good way. What this is, though, is a bunch of recordings of her own songs, originally demoed by herself between 1969 and 1995. Plus a Vanessa Carlton song, which was her mother's favourite song when she was sick and dying. You don't need me to tell you that this is absolutely lovely - the sound of pure beauty distilled through a pair of vocal chords. What you actually need is to stop reading and start listening to this album right now!

tirsdag 7. oktober 2014

07102014 - Bryan Adams "Tracks of My Years"

This album could have been stickered with the message "sounds exactly as expected". One look at the tracklist, and you can imagine how Adams will perform the various songs. Oh, did I not mention that, apart from one song (two on the deluxe version), these are all covers? Adams does The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson, Beach Boys and more, and makes everything sound like Bryan Adams. You decide if this is a good thing or not. Let's face it, although "Reckless", an album that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, remains a true melodic rock classic, it's all been a bit boring since then. There's been the big ballads - especially THAT ballad - but Adams has obviously forgotten completely that the kids wanna rock, which is a damn shame. Somebody should remind him, perhaps get him to do some shows where he plays "Reckless" in its entirety, because this is a snoozefest that doesn't do Adams any favours, nor does it improve on any of the originals (as if!). I'm sure it was fun playing these songs,  but apart from the album cover there's little to get anyone else excited. And it's too bad he's not covering Ryan Adams!

mandag 6. oktober 2014

06102014 - Wasp Summer "Close As a Slow Dance"

Who is Wasp Summer? This is one I accidentally came across while looking for something COMPLETELY different, and all of a sudden here I am, listening to a song called "Dancehall At Louse Point", which reminds me of Maria McKee. And those who know me know that this is one of the biggest compliments I can give! Apparently Wasp Summer, the singer/guitarist, is an English-born, Australian-raised, Berlin-based songstress and singer/songwriter who, if I read my internet biogs right, formed Wasp Summer, the band, after this album was recorded. There is much lovely alt country here, as well as some proper country, and Neko Case would no doubt approve. On "I'm Going Mining" there are hints of Martha Wainwright, another of my favourite artists, and on "I Hope You'll Mend" I hear traces of Sophie Moleta. However, the artist I hear most in these songs is Wasp Summer. Yes, beneath a surface of easily enjoyed tunes that at first listen might not seem like more than pleasant wanderings in the great field of familiar sounding music there is a voice - both literally and musically - shining through that seems capable of winning you over with an even more distinct identity of its own come the next release. An impressive debut, and one that makes me really look forward not only to the next album, but to the next 5 albums and beyond! Who is Wasp Summer? Maybe your next musical crush!

søndag 5. oktober 2014

05102014 - The Fat Dukes of Fuck "You and Your Opinion"

I remember digging these guys' 2012 album "Honey From the Lips of an Angel", a record with some real gems beneath the sick and childish humour. This album is from 2009, and delivers a lot of the same sonic attack. With song titles like "Will There Be Poop?" and "Penetration Celebration" you know it's not gonna be soft hugs and pats on the back, but that would not be what you're looking for from a band called The Fat Dukes of Fuck, would it?. The references are still Melvins, certain Mike Patton related bands and other delightful nasties, with equal parts noise, groove, heaviness and sickness. It's perhaps a tad less accessible than "Honey…", which means very little I guess, but it's also very cool in all its uncompromising ugliness, which means a lot.

lørdag 4. oktober 2014

04102014 - Duran Duran/Wham! "Rio"/"Make It Big"

I just REALLY wanted to hear "Hungry Like the Wolf", and so I thought I might as well play the entire album. Of course the title track and "Save a Prayer" are also songs I've heard a million times before, and even "The Chaffeur" and "New Religion" are pretty familiar. Great stuff, of course, and so is the rest of the album, even today. Still, knowing over half of the album already felt ever so slightly like cheating, so since I was in that 80's mood, dancing around the living room floor with my 10 month old daughter I put on another album where I know half of the songs by heart, namely "Make It Big" by good old Wham!. Again, there were four smash hits on this one, and those shouldn't need any introduction, but the remaining half are relatively dull, at least compared to the non-single material on the Duran Duran album. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Careless Whisper" are still flawless, though, and so are the other two singles, I guess. All in all a nice trip back to the eighties, but "Rio" is the only album of the two I might want to play in its entirety again.

fredag 3. oktober 2014

03102014 - Lewis "L'Amour"

I recently stumbled across the story of Lewis, an artist who released two albums in the eighties and then disappeared. Read the story yourself. This is the first of the two albums, released in 1983, and it's a gorgeous piece of low key singer/songwriter pop, mainly performed with just an acoustic guitar and some tasteful keys backing up Lewis' soft and tender voice. This is one for fans of Neil Young at his most mellow and minimalist, but those who love Antony & the Johnsons or Bonnie "Prince" Billy are also very likely to embrace this thing of frail and quivering beauty.

torsdag 2. oktober 2014

02102014 - Superchrist "Holy Shit"

One of the best metal bands on the scene these days is Dawnbringer, led by the omnipresent bandleader, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Chris "Professor" Black. This is his Motörhead inspired band, and their sixth (and so far last) album, from 2012. Apparently this band is currently on hold while Black juggles 4 or 5 other bands and projects, which is a shame as this is a really cool album with songs that are great and have plenty of identity despite the obvious influences. This might be because the Professor puts his own stamp so clearly upon the material, especially vocally, that nobody could ever accuse Superchrist of being mere copies of anything. And there's also a lot of other influences to be felt, such as Saxon, Thin Lizzy and plenty of NBOBHM, which is nice. The end result being something that is unique and fresh and a homage rather than a rip-off.

onsdag 1. oktober 2014

01102014 - Prince "ART OFFICIAL AGE"

Yesterday I enthused about Prince's other new album, "PLECTRUMELECTRUM", released with his new band 3RDEYEGIRL. And where that record starts out (and keeps on) rockin', this album begins like a Danish eurodance party - which is not what anybody really needs. It's obviously a good thing that the two different releases don't sound too similar, and for the rest of the album this is Prince showing his funky and soulful side. Not a bad side at all, but this is a road that was paved by Prince himself, and not even he gets a free ride down that highway. He is Prince, and of course he delivers, but he has done this before and a lot better.