Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Tallest Man on Earth - There's No Leaving Now

For the past 5, 6 years Mr Mattson has impressed us with his albums. Albums that made your head shake in disbelief after finding out the man was from Sweden and not from the American woods. From the first, emotional debut ‘Shallow Grave’ through the second and more open ‘The Wild Hunt’ to his new album ‘There’s No Leaving Now’, The Tallest Man on Earth has steady been building a growing fanbase. TNLN shows the artistic curve he has been on the last few years. This was already visible in his live shows. Where first it was just him on small stages with only acoustic guitars slowly electric guitars creeped in and now even a band joins him once in a while on stage. The sound on TNLN is therefore more varied. More electric guitar, some piano and percussion. Underneath is still his massive talent. Cryptic lyrics of wisdom from the woods of Sweden. Playing folk songs on just an acoustic guitar can seem limiting but the songwriting has evolved. But being more refined does not mean that this album is full of songs that will become crowd favorites. It lacks a ‘Gardener’, ‘King of Spain’ of ‘Love is All’. This doesn’t at all mean The Tallest Man on Earth is on a downward spiral, the album is too good for that but it isn’t the defining work of one of the most talented songwriters around.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

Sweden. A country that offers the worst and best of mankind. A country that gives us the artificial fakeness of Abba, Ace of Base and Ikea but has people who sound as authentic as possible. We talked a lot on these pages already of the genius of The Tallest Man on Earth. A man with a sound and voice straight out of the American hinterlands and not at all from his native Scandinavian homeland. Here now is another example in the two young ladies who are First Aid Kid.
They first came into the public’s eye and ears with a beautiful woodland rendition of a Fleet Foxes’ song. The band liked it so much they invited them on stage and from there on things took off. After a good first album comes the brilliant “The Lion’s Roar”. The voices sound like they come straight from Nashville and the songwriting is equally on par. With the help from Conor Oberst they also get well deserved indie-cred on the final song. The singles ‘Lion’s Roar’ is great and the follow-up ‘Emmylou’ places them exactly where they should be, in the ranks of Harris and June Carter. It’s a beautiful ode to country music love.
Sweden, please give us more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dangerous Summer - War Paint

The song 'No One's Gonna Need You More' has found its way onto my playlist and it made me get the album. Good luck for me! They recorded the song 11 times in slightly different ways. OK, that was a joke but it serves a point. There is nothing wrong with the songs, the singing and the instrumentation. It's urgent, tight and it rocks but it is all sung in the same heartwrenching way in the same speed that it really makes you wonder if the singer means all of it. Any song could be a single because they are all equally well made, but it get's boring after a few songs. You keep hoping there will be more but unfortunately there is no change.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guided By Voices - Let's Go To The Factory

Like Pavement and Sebadoh Guided By Voices was one of the bands that opened my eyes to the possibility of different music. It was a nice cool autumn night when on a Thursday night I walked over to Elpee, a store in Groningen, and bought myself the vinyl version of GbV’s “Bee Thousand”. To my surprise when I opened it a beautiful blue vinyl disc appeared. “Bee Thousand” had it all; guitars that were recorded , then lost contact for a little bit, then reappearing again. It had songs and pieces of songs, beautiful little guitar riffs and heartbreaking melodies. It was as if the Beatles had reappeared in the form of a schoolteacher from Ohio. The two albums following “Bee Thousand” still appealed but after that I lost track somewhat, just listening to the occasional single once in a while. And when the band disbanded in 2004 so did my interest.
To my big surprise here now is “Let’s Go To The Factory”. Again some beautiful melodies come to me, bringing back those great old memories. Part of the album has the same crappy but perfect sound. Apart from lofi songs this album also has some studio tracks. It’s Robert Pollard’s overall songwriting that stands out once again. Lennon and McCartney melodies, NYC style garage sound etc. Again the songs at times do not seem finished, but that leaves open more own interpretation of what the song should be. OK, it’s not like the mid-90’s albums but I still love it, if only for that fond memory of my teenage years.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Charles Bradley - No Time For Dreaming

Real sixties Stax/Atlantic soul has been pronounced dead for a few decades now but with the meteoric rise of Daptone that claim can be shoved back into the ground for hopefully a long time. Charles Bradley is the latest perfect offering coming out of their studios. The man’s soulful voice seems lifted out of the Memphis studios into the cradle of the warm Dap King sound. Horns that soulfully blow on ‘Golden Rule’, a female chorus gospelling the chorus on ‘I Believe In Your Love’ or the hammond’s staccato riff on ‘Trouble in the Land’ that also features a beautiful hornriff making you wish they would have made it a 5 minute instrumental and not a 1 minute interlude. ‘Lovin’ You Baby’ is the real classic 60’s song which could have been sung by Percy Sledge. Soul is still coming back!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pterodactyl - Spills Out

JagJaguwar’s constant stream of excellent indie records keeps flowing with the excellent Pterodactyl album “Spills Out”. These Brooklynites have fused drumdriven noise records (opener ‘School Glue’) with 60’s melodies, almost Wilco like. Even though there is a song called ‘Zombies’ on the album the legendary sixties band influenced the mellifluous ‘The Hole Night’. Little guitar riffs and breaks make the songs choppy while the drummer keeps doing his awesome profession. Multivocals add more layers of sound, especially over the distorted bass line in ‘Allergy Shots’. Pterodactyl’s name suggest something really old, but their music I assure you, though borrowing from the 60’s and 90’s is anything but.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Beets - Let The Poison Out

I could give you a long list of things that are wrong with this album. It’s not very well played or sung, the speed of some of the songs seems to be strange to say the least. A garageband that hasn’t figured out yet that sometimes speeding up the play improves a song.
But I won’t do all of that because the Beets are just too much fun. Violent Femmes clanky acoustics played with the mental state of the Ramones. This Queens band sounds more like a lo-fi band from the early 90’s but who cares. Lyrics about mundane things and a song in Spanish: the very Pixies-like track 3. Best track is “Without You”, a future indie classic.
With the help of fan Howard Stern The Beets might just get the cult-following they deserve.