Vetiver – Tight Knit

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I love Vetiver. I first ran into them when I saw them support Adem at the ABC a few years ago. It was a weird show, had Adem, Vetiver, Juana Molina and Vashti Bunyin (boak), and each band sort of played with the other bands. Well, everyone seemed to play for Adem as it was his show. But I was left with a real sense of elation from that show simply because of Vetiver. Whilst on honeymoon in San Francsico I picked up a couple of their albums – ‘Vetiver’ and ‘To Find Me Gone’ and simply fell in love with their laid back vibe. They couldn’t be from anywhere but San Francsico if you ask me. Having fallen in love with that city and it’s wonderful relaxed Haight district – which by the way has the best music shop in the world – Ameoba Music – it’s hard not to love Vetiver and they always remind me of those brilliant 10 days we spent in San Francisco. Anyways, I was reading Roddy Woomble’s diary earlier today and he was talking about the new Vetiver album ‘Tight Knit’ and about how good it was and I forgot that I hadn’t written about it as yet. So do I agree with Roddy Woomble. Simply, yes I do. I just read a review on songbytoad about Jeffrey Lewis’ new album and how though it does very little new or surprising it is still a really great piece of music. Well the same applies to this album. File this under lazy days spent in coffee shops reading a good book and chilling to the great tunes on the stereo. This is the perfect soundtrack to a summer in the sunshine. The songs feel old. Feel like they have their roots firmly bedded in the past – given Vetiver’s last album was a covers album of some of Andy Cabic’s favourite old songs this is hardly a surprise. But there’s something so peaceful and relaxing about the sound Vetiver achieve on record. Cabic’s vocal definitely helps. Soft and soothing, but the lovely guitar hooks and piano melodies float in and out effortlessly throughout this album creating for me what is just about their best work to date. And that is saying something because To Find Me Gone has a special place in my heart. I saw they have just played with Fleet Foxes at the Palace of Fine Arts theatre in San Francisco and my heart skipped a beat. That is one of the most beautiful places to visit and to see those 2 bands there must have been so so special. I am jealous of anyone who attended that show and would be intrigued to hear from them as to just how good a show it was! Anyways, I am feeling very nostalgic now and need to go home and look at photos and listen to more Vetiver. Simply put, I think there should be a place for Vetiver in everyone’s music collection and this album is as good a place to start as any. Enjoy.

www.vetiverse.com

TSP Grade = B

Doves @ HMV Picturehouse, Edinburgh, Thursday April 23rd

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I love Elbow. I’ve always loved Elbow. From the first moment I heard ‘Asleep in the Back’ I was hooked and I have followed their fortunes ever since, with great hope but mainly real surprise as to why they’d never scaled the heights they deserved. They are undoubtedly one of my biggest musical influences, there songs drenched with sadness at times and Guy Garvey has to be one of the most important musicians to me. ‘Switching Off’ was the first dance at my wedding and is to this day one of my all time favourite songs. Whilst I think their meteoric rise to stardom since winning the Mercury Music prize last year is about 10 years late, it is thoroughly deserved and I, more than anyone, was delighted when I’d heard who’d won. Well Doves are probably the Elbow of 2009. In a similar fashion to Elbow, it is my personal opinion that their best albums are their first 2 albums and whilst the following 2 are excellent, they are not as good as previous efforts. It is also my opinion that they will more than likely be nominated for the Mercury prize this year, or at least there will be expectation for this to happen because Elbow and Doves are mates and also both from Manchester and have similar stories etc etc. I hope not. I really hope that if Doves win the prize, and I don’t think the album is strong enough to do so, then they win it because they deserve it. Whilst I like the album, it does not blow me away but you never know. This is not something that cannot be said about their live performance because not only was I blown away, I was left wanting more. It’s the first time I’ve seen them live. It won’t be the last. Opening tune ‘Jetstream’ (from the new album coincidently!) was as good a live track as I have seen by anyone ever. The atmosphere and the lighting set the tone and the track just built and built and built to a monsterous climax. It was amazing. The rest of the set was made up largely of tracks from the new album with old classics thrown in for good measure. Whilst clearly a little rusty and still wiping the cobwebs away, there is no doubt that on their day Doves are a force to be reckoned with live as this performance proved. And big shout out to the Picturehouse. An excellent venue, with excellent sound and a great atmosphere. Reminded me of Shepard’s Bush in London, which can only be a good thing. Hopefully more and more bands start playing there as I certainly think it has potential. But the night belonged to Doves, and though I don’t think they will emulate the success of their fellow Mancunians, I do hope that they continue to write and release albums because the world of music is a better place for them.

www.doves.net

Meursault – Nothing Broke

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Nothing Broke? Well don’t fix it. Sorry, that was lame. But it’s exactly how I feel about Meursault as a band. From the first moment I heard Meursault, I knew that they were a band I was going to love. Their debut album ‘Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing with Tongues proved this, was on my top 10 list of 2008 and is still an album I turn to when I’m flicking through my ipod trying to decide what to listen to. I think it’s a stunningly good album by probably my favourite Scottish band. Of course, one of the best things about seeing Meursault’s live performances is that you never get 2 shows that are the same. Sometimes Neil plays solo, sometimes he has little Chris in tow and sometimes the full compliment are there. Sometimes they are stripped down to the bare bones and sometimes they are full on electronic noise mongers. You never know what to expect and that is always a great thing about a musical performance in my eyes. So with the release of Nothing Broke I would assume that those of you who are expecting more of the audio onslaught of POB/KWT will be slightly surprised by what this EP contains. Opening track ‘Nothing Broke’ is probably up there with anything I’ve heard by Meursault, the subtle piano line just about breaking through as the song swells beautifully to its conclusion. ‘Red Candle Bulb’ a cover of a Withered Hand song is as tender as you can imagine Meursault being. Neil Pennycook’s vocal, for perhaps the first time I can think of on record, remains contained, on a leash if you like, adding to the simple beauty of this track. Big thumbs up to Dan for the song. Big thumbs up to Merusault for their interpretation of it. ‘Love or Limb’ is another stunningly simple and sparse number with Neil’s vocals to the fore this time. The harmonies are special on this. The double vocal track being the stand out but the song itself is another little gem. It’s funny, during the course of making the Kays album with Neil I’ve had the pleasure of hearing some of these tunes in their simplest forms, on a ukulele or acoustic guitar, so it’s lovely to hear how they have developed. Still simple, still stunning but with lovely little touches of instrumentation adding to their overall beauty. The last 2 tracks of the EP William Henry Miller Parts 1 and 2 will be familiar to a number of folk. Well, part 1 anyways. A firm live favourite – so much so that at the recent Fence gig at Old St Paul’s, audience participation of handclaps occurred during Neil’s solo set, which was a lovely touch. I know a number of people who felt this song should have made the album track listing, I’m not sure why it didn’t, but if you ask me it has found its perfect home on this EP. Part 2 starts off sounding like it could be by Sam Amidon, which is no criticism. Once again though, when Neil’s vocal kicks in, this sparse and haunting finish to the EP is lifted to another level. Neil warned me it was not an uplifting EP. I am inclined to disagree. This is stunningly good. It is a beautiful change of direction and pace by a band at the top of their game and deserving of the attention surrounding them at the moment. And it is uplifting. Well it has been for me. It makes me want to make the album better and inspires me. For everyone’s sake, I hope that this EP reaches the wider audience it deserves and inspires others too. There is Nothing Broke and if you ask me, things are only going to keep getting better.

As an aside but something I hope people will attend in number, Meursault play Trampoline on June 13th with support from Wounded Knee and The Foundling Wheel.

songbytoadrecords.com

TSP Grade = A-

Ashes Of American Flags – Wilco

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No, its not a new Wilco album, though that is apparently due towards the end of June and that thought has left me bahving like a small child. Well actually, its probably Roddy who’s making me behave like a small child but I don’t ever get as excited about music as when I know there is a Wilco album due. Disappointed of course that they have not announced a Scottish date, just London and Dublin, but excited as always about their music. And the album now has a tracklist, it’s just not got a title. I also believe that there are backing vocals on one of the tracks by Feist. I can’t imagine a female vocalist on a Wilco tune, but I am looking forward to hearing it. As always with Wilco, you’re never sure what to expect. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born though sonically different, were proper experiments in making music. Noise music incorporated with proper great tunes. Then Sky Blue Sky dropped and it was something totally different but still brilliant. So this dvd come along at just the right time for me. 2 years since I saw them in London – 2 nights in a row! – and right about the time when I need my Wilco levels significantly raised. And it doesn’t disappoint. I don’t like live shows on dvd in full so brilliantly, in a similar fashion to Sunken Treasure, the format of this dvd is captured over a series of live shows with songs taken from the shows, soundchecks etc and a whole lot of interesting chat from the various members of the band in between. It’s a really enjoyable insight into this wonderful band, how touring takes its toll on them and how important each member is to the overall sound. There’s about 13 live tracks on the dvd with another 7 on the extras. It really is value for money but then everything always is with this band. It’s made me itchy to see them again, but knowing that this might not be possible this year I’m just buzzing now for the new album. And the one thing I love about Wilco more than anything is how much they inspire me as an artist and person. Listening to them talk passionately about what they do, how things have changed within the band etc, it just makes me more positive about the things we do and who we are. And they always make me want to sit down at my piano and write. Which I did last night. And it was good. So today I am happy.

www.wilcoworld.net

The Felice Brothers – Yonder Is The Clock

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I wasn’t going to write about this album for a variety of reasons but after giving it long hard consideration, I have something to say about the band so I’m going to say it. Now, I’ve read a number of reviews about the album and before I delve into the problem that I have with the Felice Brothers, its important to make this statement: I like this album. I like the Felice Brothers.

Ok, so now that that is clear, lets begin.

I guess what confuses (and I am confused so I make no apologies if this review becomes confused!) me about this band is why they are heralded by so many as something truly special and unique. Perhaps its the unique part that bothers me most. I’m not sure what unique means to others but it does not mean that you sound like Bob Dylan at times, The Band at others, Woody Guthrie at others and Tom Waits at others. This is not unique. Yes, I believe they take all these influences, roll them into a ball and spit them out in a rootsy, folksy, alt country, rock n’roll kind of fashion the likes of which is not heard in the UK very often. But is it really something new? It’s certainly nothing ground breaking for me. I have a lot of alt. country records, a lot of folsky americana and though the Felice Brothers do it as well as anyone I can think of, its nothing I’ve not heard before. It’s more than a little borrowed from various sources.

That said, I love this album. And I love it more than I loved the previous albums. Perhaps its the darker edges of this record which appeal most to me. ‘The Big Surprise’ with its subtle and beautiful use of drums is a stunningly sparse start to the album before the foot stomping begins in ernest. Yet it’s the moments when they drift dangerously close to Waits territory that I love the most. ‘Ambulance Man’ and ‘Sailor Song’ (jesus, it’s even got a Waits title!!) are fantastic tunes and I absolutely adore ‘All When We Were Young’. There are a number of foot stomping numbers about Chickens…not sure how many chicken songs an album should have?!, which up the tempo and pace of the album but all in all it’s another fine piece of music from start to finish. So whilst it’s nothing new for me, and I’d probably stick on Highway 61 Revisited or Black Rider before this, its certainly something well worth investing in if you have a fondness for the music produced by Waits, Dylan, Woody Guthrie or the Band, and I’m sure, despite my concerns, that in years to come that the Felice Brothers will be as revered as the aforementioned when we talk about the elite of american music.

www.thefelicebrothers.com

TSP Grade = B-

Olafur Arnalds – Found Songs

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foundsongs.erasedtapes.com/

I am starting this post with a link, simply because the first thing you should do before reading this post is go back to the top of the page and click on the link and visit the site.

Ok, so now you’ve done that you may continue…….

………Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am a massive fan of Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds. Though only 21, the man has a couple of records to his name (1 album and 1 ep) as well as having supported Sigur Ros across Europe. His music is simply stunningly beautiful and his work has been on regular repeat on my stereo whenever I need to chill out. And now he has embarked upon this wonderful new project called Found Songs, which basically sees him composing, recording and releasing a song a day for this entire week. It’s day 4 now and the first 3 days have been nothing short of brilliant. If I am honest, this is a very brave project, it’s a big commitment to say you have 7 songs in your locker but to find them within a week and for them to be as good as they have been so far is quite stunning. And its not just the music. In addition to the music, he has actively encouraged people to send him art, inspired by the music he posts on the site. He then posts his favourites on his facebook page and apparently, plans are afoot to release a limited edition vinyl with the pictures included sometime later in the year. Personally, I think this is a wonderful project. It’s exciting. It’s fresh and it leaves the artist very vulnerable given the commitment to produce a song daily. This is what music is all about for me. Creating and sharing. He is making the songs available for free download. He is asking people to colaborate with him in the form of sending him art inspired by his music. I love how he’s interacting with his fans in such a positive and creative way. Projects like this inspire me. Music like this inspire me and makes me want to sit at my piano and write. So please, if you’ve never heard Olafur Arnalds’ music, pop across to the Erased Tapes site (a wonderful record label by the way) and check him out now. You will not be disappointed.

Frightened Rabbit – Liver!Lung!FR!

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Ok, so I’ve read some really positive reviews about this album and some really negative ones – one inparticular destroyed Frightened Rabbit calling them mediocre. This review is going to be indifferent. Before I get criticised for this, everybody knows how much I love Frightened Rabbit. Ever since I saw them at Cab Vol at the time of their first album I have loved the band. And another thing, I love hearing songs in their rawest form, to hear where their origins are, where they began life, stripped back to the bare bones before all the flesh was added. Seeing Jeff Tweedy play Wilco songs on only an acoustic guitar is still one of my favourite gigs of all time and indeed having caught Scott from Frightened Rabbit’s solo set at Gimme Shelter I was really looking forward to this album. But I don’t get it. The songs are still great, but there is no point to this album in my opinion. The arrangements are pretty much identical to those on ‘Midnight Organ Fight’ but with no punch at all. I was disappointed that the songs weren’t rearranged, played about with a little but more disappointed that extra musicians were added without really adding anything to the songs – I didn’t even notice James from the Twilight Sad on ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ at first. This album just doesn’t compare with the brilliant solo set Scott did at Gimme Shelter – they should have recorded and released that! Sure, it’s a pleasant listen and it’s certainly not a bad album because the songs are still great songs regardless. I just wanted more, or perhaps less from the arrangements. Thats all.

TSP Grade = C

I Couldn’t Be Happier

So tomorrow we play King Tuts supporting the excellent Sennen. It’s going to be a great night but a really emotional one too because it will be both Jake and Grant’s last ever gig for the Kays. It’s kind of sad. Jake has been in the Kays for about 4 years now and is one of my best friends in the world. But these things happen and to be honest, both Graeme and I are very positive about the future. I was thinking last night about being left behind in terms of the Edinburgh music scene etc and it does frustrate me a little that we are not offered the same opportunities as other bands, perhaps because we are not part of the clique or there is no buzz about us at the moment. But then I thought to myself, I am a very lucky boy. I have Neil Pennycook of Meursault recording my album. I have a potential record label – and a fucking great one in my eyes. I have had a film made about my band by a wonderful up and coming Scottish film maker, who again recently used one of my new songs for a short film he made whilst in South Africa. The result is stunning and makes me very proud. On top of this, I have a new project in the pipeline with one of the best young photographers I’ve ever known and I am soooo excited about this. It’s very much in its infancy, but if it works, and I am sure it will, then it’s going to be something I’ll treasure always. So do I feel lucky? Yes I do. The album is out this year, there will hopefully a further ep later in the year and when I look back at all the things I’ve done so far I am pretty proud. But I am more excited about what lies ahead in the future. So yes, tomorrow will be the end of something, but it will be more about a new beginning, and one I am sure is going to be nothing but positive. I for one couldn’t be happier with life right now.

Doves – Kingdom Of Rust

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Two things about this album. If you are not a Doves fan then this will do nothing to change your mind. If you are a Doves fan it will just reinforce how much you love Doves, cause lets face it, if you’re a fan of Doves you love Doves! The album itself is not ground breaking, it’s not a change in direction and it probably won’t make my top 10 albums of the year list when the time comes. But having listened to it on repeat for the past 2 days, it is, as with all Doves album a really fucking good listen. All the usual elements are there and the album could not be anybody but Doves. The bass lead tunes – you know, I’d never noticed before how high in the mix the bass is! Of course this makes perfect sense for a 3 piece, but I had never noticed this fact until now. Anyways, Doves for me are at their best when the tunes are upbeat and at their worst when the tempo drops down. Fortunately, for the most part, this album sees the more up tempo numbers to the fore and title track ‘Kingdom of Rust’ is an exceptionally catchy little number. So yeah, I’m still absorbing this album a little and I guess I will for some time, but it’s definitely put me in the right frame of mind for going to see them later this month. Anything to see the Cedar Room live! If you like Doves, buy this album, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t like Doves, don’t buy this album, it won’t change your mind. If you’re not sure about Doves I’d start elsewhere and build up to this one. And that sums it up quite nicely.

TSP Grade = C+

We Sink Ships

I love photography. I’ve always loved photos. I love the idea of documenting a moment in time. I love freezing the moment and having that moment forever in grained in my life. Unfortunately, I am the kind of person who has no idea what I am doing with a camera other than saying “cheese” or pressing the button and taking a quick snap. Sometimes I get lucky and the photos are great, other times they are not, either way I have no idea why! I’ve never studied photography, I wish I had, but I love to look at photos by others. I find looking at photos probably more enjoyable than any other visual art and more than anything I love black and white photography. My mum has studied this for about 3 years now and I just love to flick through her folio when I am home and give her my opinions on what she’s been doing. Technically I am of no use to her, but I think she appreciates my comments. More often than not she’ll show me 3 pictures of the same thing, all slightly different in colour, and I’ll choose the one I like best. More often than not it will be the poorest technically! But I like odd things, I always have. I like things being out of focus or blurred or slighty weird. I can’t explain why, similar to not being able to explain why these things happen!

Anyways, through the Kays I have had the pleasure to meet a number of different photographers. We Sink Ships is an artistic collaboration between Scottish photographer and musician Neil Milton and my friend Heidi Kuisma. According to their website (www.wesinkships.co.uk) ‘they use pinhole and selective focus photography techniques alongside evocative soundscapes and ambient experimental music to create sound and vision designed to tug on the viewer and listener’s heart strings’

At this moment they have 2 excellent exhibitions online. One entitled Talvi/Winter which showcases photos by Neil and Heidi – I think you can guess the theme! The photos are a stunning mix of techniques. What I found most interesting was how I became able quickly to identify Neil’s work from Heidi’s. Like I said, I’m no expert in photography so I cannot comment much on how these photos were captured but I can say that I love this exhibition. The pictures are stunning, sparse and beautiful, like the music I love most in life.

The second exhibition is entitled ‘Two Times Intro’ and is basically a run through of photos from gigs. Whilst featuring work by Heidi and Neil, this exhibition also showcases the work of lots of their friends. I do love gig photography too. These are a great set of pictures, though I do prefer the Talvi/Winter exhibition if I’m honest. I never tire of landscpae shots!

Anyways, I’ll stop prattling on, but if you like photography and you are interested I would highly recommend stopping by their site. Also, you should check out Heidi’s on folio of pics at www.flickr.com/photos/mybitofsky

and you can check neil’s work (sorry for not putting this link, didn’t know about it at the time) at:
http://neilmilton.co.uk/

Enjoy.