Friday, 30 October 2009

CMJ Report: Day 3 (Afternoon Shows)

Thursday at CMJ saw another opportunity to get back out amongst the day shows, many of which centred around the Ludlow St combination of Piano's and Cake Shop, more or less neighbours on this stretch. It was at the former that I started day 3, hitting up one of the many Brooklyn Vegan parties.

Having actually touched on Surfer Blood (right) earlier this week here, I'll simply say that their sound is better than this viewing suggested. The room was packed, however, and I did only catch half the set. Definitely one I need to see again for a proper look. After them, UK boys from the East Midlands, Lovvers, took the stage in front of a much more manageable crowd. Launching into their ramshackle blend of raw garage rock, laced with a dose of punk spirit, it's clear they're somewhat detached from the performance.


True to this perception, the singer is quick to classify those assembled into the 'boring fuck' category. Potentially justified, given the lack of movement (even head bobs) and early afternoon time slot, but equally galling coming from a man wearing a cardigan onstage. Away from the pleasantries, the music is sloppy and nondescript, played with aggression but with no apparent direction for the vehemence. If anyone attended this to find the next punk heroes, they left sorely disappointed.

Feeling the need to cleanse my rock palette with some real music with attitude, I moved over to the long dark basement of the Cake Shop for the more other-worldy tones emanating from the Tee Pee Records day show. Wading into Naam's set proved to be the perfect tonic, as the Brooklyn-based psychedelic rockers assault the small venue's sound system for all it's worth. With an enormous sound and long, powerful riff sequences, theirs is a formidable performance and points to exciting developments to come.

Naam - Kingdom - Live at Death By Audio from Lawrence Scaduto on Vimeo.

Hot on the heels of Naam, the reason I became aware of this show begins to set up in the shape of LA's exceedingly retro Nebula. Again heavy on the psych, having formed from the ranks of Fu Manchu over a decade ago the trio have significant experience in the stoner rock game. Unfortunately, whereas Naam succeeded in impressing by bludgeoning the venue PA into submission, Nebula's approach requires a clearer sound in order to emphasise their more defined song structures. Something that the muddy mix and limited sonics simply don't allow for. As a result, much of what makes the band special - the finely honed riffs, laconic vocals, and throwback atmosphere - is lost in the wall of sound. Best check out their new album, aptly entitled 'Heavy Psych', for a more in-depth understanding of their quality.

MP3: Nebula - The Dagger

Leaving this one marked the midpoint of the marathon, so I sensibly retired for a bite to eat before hitting the evening hard. Which is where we shall shortly resume.......

Now playing: Yeasayer - Ambling Alp
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Surf's Up

Right-o, majority of this technical bollocks appears to be resolved now.....famous last the CMJ reports can be completed this week and put to bed. For the moment, though, I thought I'd shine the spotlight on a band that perhaps didn't blindingly wow me live last week but have been spinning repeatedly - to the extent that things actually spin any more - on the iPod. That band is Floridian quintet Surfer Blood.

Their track Swim (To Reach the End) initially perked me up last week, what with its chunky guitar sound, distant vocals and simple but effective chorus. This prompted a visit to Piano's on day 3, with a general perception of a decent but not mind-blowing live band. The singing sounded a touch wayward and the sound less dominating, although perhaps the venue can take some of the heat for that one.

MP3: Surfer Blood - Swim (To Reach the End)
Taken from the forthcoming album 'Astro Coast' - out Jan 2010

Buy it at Insound!

Back on plastic - or hard drive, I suppose - however, the band has tremendous return value. The chorus rattles around the mind long after the song has ended, in a similar style that Weezer managed on almost every song of their early career. Indeed, the pop-laden rock of that band is clearly pushing on the edges of Surfer Blood's music, even if they have differing approaches to production. There is significant reverb and echo employed here, mixed with pop sensibilities that result in a deceptively straight forward track that is, in all fairness, quite varied across the 3 minutes playing time.


It's always pleasant to have a band fight their way back into your conciousness via naggingly good recorded material, whether they've been passed over on the basis of an actual performance, a duff track, or simply an irrational fear of hype (hello, The xx, I still intend to listen you properly). Surfer Blood have waged a successful campaign on my senses to that end, from which I now look forward to hearing the forthcoming full length Astro Coast. Nice work.

The band is touring nationally across the US for the remainder of the year, so if anyone has the opportunity to catch them and redress the balance, please do so. I'll be only too happy to munch on my own words.

Now playing: Oh Emperor - Po
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 26 October 2009

Ghosts in the Machine

Perhaps not ghosts, more inferior Microsoft services. I abhorred their enforced service updates beforehand, but now the installations appear to have crippled my main laptop with no clever suggestions as to how to solve the shite they've engineered. And this relates to this beeeeecccaaause....? I had intended to post day 3 of CMJ and keep the roll going, but all the pictorial/audio content is on that machine. Balls.

Luckily, I have the good folks at Insound to back me up. I regularly tout their services round this way and one of the finer approaches they take is to offer up a slew of free MP3's for new releases. Often these suggestions are right at the forefront of the best new indie rock and beyond, so I make a point to regularly check back with what they have going on. So, why not share the most choice of the recent offerings, you cry? My thoughts exactly:

MP3: The Big Pink - Dominoes
Taken from the new album 'A Brief History of Love' - BUY

> A pulsating, swaggering offering from the first few seconds, the London band makes an indelible mark with this electro-tinged, arena-ready track. Immediately provides an incentive to jump on into the album, which I must do soon.

MP3: Tyondai Braxton - Uffe's Woodshop
Taken from the new album 'Central Market' - BUY

> Expect the unexpected from the solo offering of Battles' schizoid frontman and chief effects guru? Suprisingly not, actually, as this track recalls parts of their 'Mirrored' offering, not least the jarringly offbeat (yet catchy) brilliance of 'Atlas'. With an album of that eccentric, adventurous quality, however, it's no bad thing.

MP3; Built to Spill - Hindsight
Taken from the new album 'There Is No Enemy' - BUY

> After a mostly underwhelming performance at this year's Siren festival in Coney Island, my anticipation for the new BTS album had waned somewhat. That has swung right back around, however, upon hearing this effortlessly superb slice of delicate indie-rock. The lilting vocals are ever-present, laying a soft dew over the winding guitar passages and optimistic compositions of their musical landscape. In short, recommended.

MP3: Port O'Brien - My Will Is Good
Taken from the new album 'Threadbare' - BUY

> A ponderous Californian acoustic trio, Port O'Brien come M. Ward approved, in case you needed more than the common man's recommendation. This track is an introspective and quiet affair, relatively simple in structure and quite beautifully layered as the arrangements wash over one another, underpinned by a tight rhythm section. The album as a whole is certainly one for those reflective nights in with the lights dimmed and tipple of choice in hand. Prefer lager and a loud live band more often, personally, but we all need to get in touch with our inner self at some point, n'est ce pas? I'm sure Oprah says so, anyhow.

MP3: Volcano Choir - Island, IS
Taken from the new album 'Unmap' - BUY

> The new offering from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon has been covered here before but with the album now released and available, it doesn't hurt to point out this slightly more upbeat (offbeat?) offering.

Try before you buy, always a healthy option. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be back on track with the wrap up of CMJ, otherwise I'll never get to tell the world how superb performances from We Are Country Mice, The Minutes, Super Extra Bonus Party, Surefire, and Twin Atlantic were. At least not in eccentric, rambling detail......which would, of course, be a crying shame.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

CMJ Report: Day 2

After a variety of acts on day 1, day 2 was more about contrasting venues. Having previously arranged tickets to see country/pop crossover hero Brad Paisley at the mammoth Madison Square Garden, it was bizarre to arrive at this legendary venue from such intimate spaces as Rockwood Music Hall and Piano's. The MSG show wasn't part of CMJ officially, but no matter, as the whole week takes on a much more extensive schedule than the official listings.

So first up I caught one of my recommendations, Pete & J, down at Rockwood. They had curated the afternoon and made a fine job of it, if the audience applause for previous acts was to be trusted. I myself would have liked to get down for the Pretty Good Dance Moves set but, alas, some of us do have to work. Next time.

Having only watched the unmistakable duo perform an acoustic set prior to this show, it was a pleasure - and something of a revelation - to witness their versatility when backed by a full band. Resplendent in what can only be described as one of the rejected costumes from that classic movie 'Hook', Jason Blynn (J, for the slow of mind) is both amusing and multi-talented, shedding the guitar at one point to take up a seat at the drums. No less impressive, Pete Harper (take a guess) switches between guitar and piano duties like it ain't no thang. Whilst doing so, they run through a set that is chiefly about beautifully melodic pop songs and sublime vocal harmonies, yet also has moments to cut loose and rock out.

Key here is the ability between the two frontmen to harmonise and play off one another as if they were separated at birth. Each brings something unique to the sound and they meld together to create something very special indeed. The softer moments somehow ring out the loudest too, no more poignant - not to mention apropos of CMJ as a whole - as when J sings "It's getting hard to sing above the noise". Comparisons to the songwriting of The Beatles or Simon & Garfunkel are lofty but well-deserved, although they also have a wide range of contempo rary influences.

With a new album brewing - reportedly due as early as next January, if they weren't yanking our chains - by all rights these lads should be blowing up by the time CMJ 2010 rolls around. They play Chicago and some West coast dates in the coming weeks. Be sure to get down to a show if possible and you'll no doubt see what the fuss is about.

Shortly before heading to dinner, I decided to be bold and pop around the corner to Piano's for a glimpse of the bands playing either the full venue downstairs or the studio flat-esque upstairs bar. The former it was, though only for a single solitary song from DC's These United States, playing to a particularly crammed room. Their rootsy rock sound was briefly imparted to my brain but there exists a far better summary (and photos) from one who witnessed the entire set here.

Indie rock closet venues dutifully covered, I headed uptown to the Garden. If country music isn't a staple in the big city, nobody told the thousands that flooded into the arena on this particular evening. With a strong, well-known dual billing of Dierks Bentley (right) and Brad Paisley, the crowd appetite for this one was palpable from the moment we took our seats. Opener Jimmy Wayne did his best to energise the audience ahead of the main acts and, to some extent, succeeded in doing so with his enthusiastic stage running and sign-waving ("How many of you have ever even remotely heard of me?", being a particularly self-deprecating and unpretentious effort).

Nonetheless, he appeared slightly dwarfed by the stage and perhaps requires stronger songs to captivate at this level. 'A' for effort though.
Dierks Bentley suffers from no such limitations, however, his set being warmly received and the singer himself looking every inch at home on the multi-pronged stage. With a number of songs having charted well in the past, the crowd is perfectly familiar with his catchy material and proves it by singing the words of said tunes right along with him.

Regardless of supports, almost everyone in attendance tonight would have turned out for Brad Paisley. Possibly one of the nicest gentleman in country, if not music altogether, he comes across as genuinely enthralled to be playing this arena and location. With songs catchier than HDN1 - or any other strain the news outlets may care to scaremonger with - his entire set is chock full of sing-alongs, which at just under 2 hours playing time is no mean feat.

Though rooted in country influence, there is a huge pop sensibility underlining Paisley's music. Yet where pop music can be vapid and written by anyone but those that perform, the singer-songwriter's musicianship can be in no doubt, be that as he squeezes accomplished solos from his signature guitar or in the emotive odes to fallen servicemen. He also has the tongue-in-cheek songs to lighten up the mood where required, with 'Online' and 'I'm Still a Guy' making an appearance tonight.

Backed by a consistently entertaining video wall and musicians more than capable of matching his prowess, Brad Paisley both fills and enraptures this cavernous space in much the same way that Pete & J did the cosy Rockwood only hours earlier, with outstanding musical ability and stage presence. A heartening look at both ends of the spectrum of musical success then, all in all. And more importantly, a ruddy good night of music to boot.

Now playing: We Are Country Mice - A Good Old Fashioned Barn Raising
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 23 October 2009

CMJ Report: Day 1

It finally arrived. From being only vaguely aware of the existence of the CMJ Music Marathon earlier this year when I moved to the city, the hype and anticipation had built up to a frenzy by the time Tuesday October 20th rolled around. As with any good music festival, planning a schedule and figuring out clashes is central to the cause, but here one must also factor in public transport, rush hours, venue capacity and location, and whether or not the availability of free vitamin water will really pack the people in (answer: No. Though free Miller High Life will, apparently).

The schedules had started to be posted throughout the preceding week and seemed to take on almost a life of their own, with bands popping on (and occasionally dropping off) bills left, right, and centre. One of my first picks had been clear for some time, however, which was to get down to the Cake Shop for the Pop Tarts Suck Toasted day opener. A fine example of hard-working, music-obsessed bloggery, it's an important daily read with some fine taste, exemplified by opening up the festival with Brooklyn's Dinosaur Feathers.

With a lost bassist providing the perfect delayed start - thankfully accommodating my late arrival - the band launched into an upbeat, heart-warming set. Perfect for a warm autumn early afternoon, the trio mix up acoustic-led indie rock with tropical beats and synths pulled out of an old suitcase.....quite literally, although I believe there to have been some computerification involved within. As I foolishly left my camera sitting at home, you'll have to take my word for it until someone more organised posts the pics. With a set including cuts from the new
Early Morning Risers EP (free here, folks) and established fave History Lessons, Dinosaur Feathers are the perfect start to CMJ '09.

Later in the day, Rockwood Music Hall provided its usual cosy setting for another Brooklyn act, La Strada. Stepping in for their final few songs, I catch a band with wildly varied instrumentation and a thoroughly entertaining stage presence. Crammed onto the tiny Rockwood stage, they veer between more traditional folk influences and loud, rocking passages, recalling somewhat Arcade Fire were they to stray into more gypsy territory. Very eclectic, very enjoyable.

Remaining at the same venue and the first out of state act, Vermont's Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot are up next. Following on from such a lively band, Thompson and co do struggle somewhat to keep the crowd as engaged with their country-tinged acoustic rock. The voice is full of emotion and the music reflective, but many of the songs blend into one another and the tempo is rarely varied whilst I'm present. Fair to middling stuff and time to move onto the next venue about 3/4 of the way through the set.

The next location - and the one that will be called home for the remainder of the evening - is Ella, a happily short trot over Houston St from Rockwood. Sasha Papernik (video below) is up first, offering a low-key, relaxed pop sound with her neat piano playing at its core. Hot on Sasha's heels follow the excellent Lily & the Parlour Tricks (left). Fronted by the hypnotising Lily Claire, the sheer soul present in the vocals and seeping into the tight rhythm section is immediately arresting. Channeling influences over many decades and bringing to mind everything from 60's pop to Portishead, theirs is a tight and enthralling set.

Elephants (live at Bitter End)

Sasha Papernik | MySpace Video

Closing out the first night, The Bleeding Bombshells power the night into overdrive with some feisty rock 'n roll. Another act with a strong female personality on vocals, the dapper Jenda Wight provides the focal point for their loud, energetic and accessible rock. Although a relatively new band, songs like Down, Down are already sounding instantly memorable and much of this set bodes well for the future.

And, with that, I head on into the night enthused about the days to come and scouring the listings for the right picks for the coming days. As someone famous once sang about something completely unrelated: "We've only just begggguuuuuunnnnnn.......". Quite so.

Now playing: The Minutes - Black Keys
via FoxyTunes

Non Commercial Break

Any spare hours I've found this week have pretty much been catching up on much-needed sleep, but CMJ day reports will begin today.....promise! In the meantime, nobody embodies the total absorption in music and dedication to playing shows, to my mind, than Frank Turner.

Here's an exclusive house party set he did recently for ShockHound, which should keep things entertaining for the brief break here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Dig 'Em Up Again

This here city's own A Place To Bury Strangers returned to action earlier this month, with a North American tour now underway to showcase the many splendored charms of 'Exploding Head', their sophomore long player.
Once again fusing a retro shoegaze fascination to the panel-beaten form of industrial music - all topped off with some monotone, Ian Curtis-esque vocals - the band is sounding in fine fettle for this follow up to their oft lauded eponymous debut.

MP3: A Place To Bury Strangers - In Your Heart
Taken from new album 'Exploding Head', out now

MP3: A Place To Bury Strangers - My Weakness
Taken from debut album 'A Place To Bury Strangers', out now

Buy it at Insound!

New cut
'In Your Heart' pulses with an urgent electronic undercurrent, though the overall effect is one of laconic detachment, like viewing a busy outside cityscape from a darkened, quiet room. It shows off a slightly more refined edge, set against the raw nature of earlier material such as 'My Weakness'. How each overall effort fares versus its sibling will be ample subject matter for a full post in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, the band return home briefly next week (October 29th) for a date at the Bowery Ballroom, with the wonderfully dirty and raucous
Dead Confederate in tow as an added bonus. Following this in November, lucky UK punters will have a chance to witness the magic up close and personal. Dare you to stand right next to the speaker stacks......ah go on. Total.Sonic.Annihilation, indeed.

Now playing: volcano! - I've Been Loving You Since Desert Storm
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 19 October 2009

CMJ Music Marathon 2009: Artist Spotlights

Of course, it goes without saying that part of the joy of these multi-day music shindigs is unearthing new and exciting artists by accident. With so much talent on show, however, it's important to anticipate the artists that are expected to be highlights to ensure nothing gets missed. Stay tuned to Twitter feed for some micro-blogging goodness on anyone I stumble across...... @zidered.

With a solid schedule having built up over the past week - a good proportion of which will hopefully be caught personally and recorded for H-T-A posterity - on the eve of the event it's time to briefly run down the artists picked:


> Brooklyn indie kids with hints of the tropical and poppy synths that raise spirits. Previously....

- @ Rockwood Music Hall - LOWELL THOMPSON

> Country-tinged rock from this Burlington, VT songsmith.

7:30pm - Productshop NYC Showcase @ Glasslands - BEAT RADIO
> Lush Long Island indie-pop with nods to Postal Service. All manner of freebies available here.

8:30pm - Vanishing Point Presents @ Fontana's - AUTODRONE
> Atmospheric, experimental NYC alt-rockers with healthy doses of shoegaze.


2-7pm - Pete & J's CMJ Party@ Rockwood Music Hall - feat. PETE & J @ 5pm
> Something of a variety with a central performance by Pete & J, Brooklyn-based songwriters with sublime melodies and vocal harmonies to die for.

8pm - ABC News Amplified Party @ Public Assembly - ELECTRIC TICKLE MACHINE
> Chaotic, high energy indie-rockers with hooks that would have grown Ahab's leg back. Previously...

8:45pm - @ Bruar Falls - SETTING SUN
> Eclectic alt-folk from upstate NY, unafraid to experiment & explore.
MP3: Setting Sun - No Devil Me No More

11pm - @ Fat Baby - ABSENTSTAR
> Confident Chicago alternative rock which leans heavily on the anthemic. Previously...


- Ground Control Presents @ The Bell House - PETE & THE PIRATES
> Upbeat indie pop-rock from the commuter towns of Southern England.


- TeePee + Chronic Youth Present @ Cake Shop - NEBULA
> Fuzzed out L.A. stoner rock borne of Fu Manchu and their classic ilk.
MP3: Nebula - Heavy Psych

7pm - @ The Suffolk - AT SEA
> Heartfelt indie-rock unfraid to deliver a ballad following a wall of noise assault, courtesy of NYC songwriter Jason Brody.

8pm - Music from Ireland @ Bowery Poetry Club - THE MINUTES
> Brash garage rock from this high octane Dublin band.


- Village Voice Presents @ Knitting Factory - HEADLIGHTS

> Soothing Illinois indie with shimmering pop sensibilities
MP3: Headlights - Cherry Tulips

11pm - Paw Tracks Showcase @ Cameo Gallery - DENT MAY
> The best ukelele albums you'll hear all week. And then some.

11:30pm - Brooklyn Vegan (BBG) Showcase @ Fontana's - SALOME
> Brutal sludge/doom metal from Virginia.
MP3: Onward Destroyer


12am - @ Rockwood Music Hall - THE FUMES
> A fine line in rollicking, bluesy rock from this Ozzie duo.
MP3: The Fumes - Automobile

12:30am - Brooklyn Vegan (BBG) Showcase @ Fontana's - MISERY INDEX
> Colossal riffs will be the order of the day for these ferocious Baltimore metallers.

1am - Polyvinyl Records Showcase @ The Bell House - JAPANDROIDS
> Raw garage rock with suprisingly catchy results from this noisy Canadian two-piece. Previously...
3:15pm Deli NYC Showcase - The Delancey - WE ARE COUNTRY MICE
> Midwestern born lo-fi merchants who now call Brooklyn home, lending a contemporary twist to their more rootsy influences.

7:30pm - S.E.G. Presents @ Fontana's - SUREFIRE
> Throwback rock in the best possible sense, with a cocksure Brooklyn 'tude informing their undeniable pop melodies.

10pm - Cake Shop - TWIN ATLANTIC
> Jagged riffs and huge choruses from these rising Scottish alt-rockers. Previously...

And there are plenty of others touting various acts to catch this week. Here are some of them:

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war
(music industry folk, to you & I)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sing Me A Song, Writer

The past week has been brutally eclectic, personally. Anything from raging hardcore to soothing electronica to whimsical indie has graced the
H-T-A speakers, along with any number of individual tracks further confusing the issue. One constant, however, has been the humble singer-songwriter. An individual who pops up, amidst the chaotic noise, to offer a slow-burning, gentle word, more often than not with only an acoustic guitar and a quality tune in hand and heart.

Rather than tackle each individual via an album review or random babble, I thought it would be most appropriate to tie them all together in one post. And what better way to soothe the mind ahead of a thoroughly insane week of live music ahead? Aside from prescription drugs, of course. I'm English and, accordingly, much less heavily medicated than this Ritalin-addled continent.

First and foremost, I believe it was the new Langhorne Slim spinner that really pushed this whole singer-songwriter kick. A reflective and varied listen, 'Be Set Free' is by turns upbeat, with hints of down-home soul (Boots Boy), and elsewhere more melancholy (I Love You, But Goodbye). As such it satisfies a plethora of emotional musings and affords the listener both solace and cheer, although it can also feel stretched if one gravitates towards a particular style on any given spin. Overall, though, this Pennsylvanian tunesmith has delivered a genuine and diverse record that many will take to their heart.

MP3: Langhorne Slim - I Love You, But Goodbye (Live/MOKB)

Buy it at Insound!

Casting eyes all the way across to the other hemisphere for the next worthy artist, Australian songwriter Lucas Kane has actually made his new home right here in New York City, so revert your gaze back this way. All the better for us residents, as Kane is no stranger to hitting the intimate stages of Manhattan's Lower East Side or Brooklyn's northern environs. With a strong pop influence informing his creations - the sublime, summery Tomorrow being a case in point - the songs are often catchy and uplifting. He's no stranger to wrenching hearts either, something that becomes evident on EP title track 'Stars & Blue', a song that could easily accompany an evening spent staring into a series of drained pint glasses.

It can be a hard slog getting noticed as an individual songwriter in such a massive city, yet the enthusiasm with which Kane approaches his music is the most important step in achieving just that. Witness it first hand at Parkside Lounge on Wed 28th October, that is assuming the preceding CMJ week hasn't damaged all eardrums beyond repair.

MP3: Lucas Kane - Tomorrow
Taken from the 'Stars & Blue EP'
, out now

Shifting sneakily onwards, I must admit that the next artist making flirting with my iPod isn't strictly sticking to the policy of acoustic guitar and vocals. In fact, Danny Ross has something of a way with the old ivories and tinkling them is a fairly regular occurrence on new album 'One Way', released earlier this month. Furthermore, one of the great strengths of the album as a whole is the lush and wide-ranging instrumentation utilised by Ross. His personal blog offers some detailed insight into the background and composition of each song, something I personally love, offering as it does the opportunity to connect more deeply with our own personal favourites. In a time when artists have ever-increasing platforms through which to reach their audience directly, it's amazing that so few songwriters actually make the effort to do so. End proselytysing.

Danny Ross - Country Wind
Taken from new album 'One Way', out now - Buy

Buy it at Insound!

Soapbox firmly stowed back under the sofa, 'One Way' is more of an album of strong individual songs from my perspective. As an overall listen, it can become overly saccharine and, as a result, somewhat cloying. With upbeat, undeniable cuts like the title track or And The Trumpets Sing, though, Ross can exude happiness and immediately evoke it in his audience. Elsewhere, the western-tinged Country Wind provides an early highlight that any roadtrip compilation would do well to possess. Throughout, his voice is honestly soft and effecting, adding up to a release with some hugely enjoyable moments.

As time now weighs on and attention spans wear thin......Ritalin on standby.......a brief nod to other notable songsmiths to have contributed to this
current obsession:

  • Chuck Ragan - Ex-singer of the iconic Hot Water Music, with new album 'Gold Country' out now. Follow up to the utterly compelling debut 'Feast or Famine'.

  • Sara Watkins - Must catch up with the full album, but I was moved enough by a couple of tracks to cover here earlier this year.

  • Frank Turner - Of course I can't throw enough superlatives in the general direction of this gentleman. Search the H-T-A labels for previous posts and all will become abundantly clear.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Recalling the Heavier

Sometimes a little too much time passes on H-T-A between the more metallic content posts, depending on the whims of current listening. This week has ushered in some more aggressive sounds, however, so it's high time to catch up on the murky underworld of the heavy stuff. So, what's new?

  • As always when October rolls around, the nights draw in and the temperatures drop, the beautiful bleakness of Katatonia surges up the listening charts. Well timed this year, as the Swedes release new album 'Night Is The New Day' in early November. The lead track of this newie is called Forsaker and can be freely downloaded here (after e-mail sign up). After a brief but unerring similarity to Machine Head in the opening riff, the familiar floating vocal of Jonas Renske pulls it back in keeping with the sound honed on 'The Great Cold Distance'. It has sweeping, gorgeous moments and, although not hinting at a radically new direction, does bode well for the full length. Plenty more info on the album mini-site, worth a read for Anders Nyström's intro alone.
  • Equally exciting on the current release front is new material from Georgian riff monsters Baroness. After the supremely crafted mix of stoner, metal, and rock n roll delivered on the 'Red' album, expectations are high for this one, cunningly entitled 'Blue'. Once again the cover art is striking and, crucially, once again the music appears to be of the highest order. Striding out with the confident riffing of Mastodon, the melodic sensibilities of Torche, not to mention a sense of adventure all of their own creation, this one looks set to ensure a solid year for hard rock on 2009's best of lists. The neat widget below offers another sign up/free track kinda deal for a live version of Grad, one of the more restrained moments on the album. And for some of that killer older material, catch direct downloads of some tracks below it.


MP3: Baroness - The Birthing
MP3: Baroness - O'Appalachia
Both taken from 2007's the 'Red Album' - Buy

  • Edging into hardcore territory now and another addition to the British collection of ferocious noisemakers which already includes the likes of Gallows, The Ghost of a Thousand, and Your Demise. Dead Swans are the only band to be signed to trusted US hardcore label Bridge Nine, with their judgment appearing particularly sound if the first couple of tracks received from new album 'Sleepwalkers' are anything to go by. On tour with the equally energetic and vicious Comeback Kid in North America just now, this is one to turn up early for. The NYC date at Santos Party House next month is looking proper appealing just at the minute..........


MP3: Dead Swans - Thinking of You
Taken from new album 'Sleepwalkers', out now - Buy

  • Also worth a brief mention - only so because a band of this heritage deserve extended listens, reflection, and eventual summary - is the new Alice In Chains, 'Black Gives Way to Blue'. Having only scratched the surface of this one following its release last month, it's nonetheless immediately clear how relevant and true to their history the band still sounds. This is in no small part down to the heavy influence of the evergreen Jerry Cantrell, though rarely can there have been such a comeback true to the past when a key member has gone. Much more in depth stuff to come on this one, without doubt.


And as it's nigh impossible to top Alice In Chains, that will draw us to a close for the time being. The season is right for fiercer, piercing sounds, however, so expect much more on that side of the musical spectrum before the year is out.

Now playing: Katatonia - My Twin
via FoxyTunes