Between The Bars by Burnt Island

When Rodge Glass contacted me to tell me that Burnt Island would be covering Elliott Smith’s ‘Between The Bars’ for the tribute I was more than a little delighted, as it is without a doubt one of my all time favourite Elliott Smith songs.  Taken from the wonderful record ‘Either/Or’ this track is one of the most stunningly beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard.  For me, one thing that resonated with me about the work of Smith was his ability to deliver super delicate beauty that pierced your heart but still managed to life you in a weird way.  Lyrically and musically he had the most wonderful ability to drag you into his songs and make you live every second of them.  Make you a part of them.  Without a doubt, for me, his defining work would be ‘Either/Or’, ‘XO’ and the highly under rated ‘Figure 8’.  With some artists you just never forget when you first heard them, how they impacted on your life and how much their music means to me.  Words cannot describe how much the music of Elliott Smith means to me.  The voice, the production techniques, the songs that never ever fail to move me.

Burnt Island are also an incredibly talented bunch.  Dr Rodge Glass is an award winning novelist and, one key element of the music that they create is the way that his words, and the wonderful instrumentation that surround the words, draw you in.  Make you part of their story.  So similar in many ways to the effect of Elliott Smith.  So it’s very fitting that they chose one of Smith’s finest lyrical tracks as their contribution to the cause.  I am totally honoured to have them onboard and delighted to be able to share this version of the song with you now.

You must, must, must check out Elliott Smith here.  You must check out Burnt Island here.  And you must PLEASE GO HERE and download this track.  All profit from the project is going to Depression Alliance UK.  It’s a seriously important charity which helps those who suffer from a serious, yet often overlooked illness.  That illness has cost us more people than you can ever care to imagine including these 3 wonderful musicians.  So please, support the cause, go to page and pay your £1 for the track.  Again, your involvement is very much appreciated.

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Flirted With You All My Life by Lotte Kestner

So here we go!!!  We’re starting the Smith/Chesnutt/Linkous tribute with a track by Vic Chesnutt as performed by Lotte Kestner, possibly better known to the readers of this blog as Anna-Lynne Williams of Trespassers William.  I’m lost for words when I hear Anna-Lynne’s voice.  I really am.  It’s one of the most beautiful voices on planet earth I think.  I was completely stunned and honoured when she added her vocals to The Kays debut album and I was even more delighted when she agreed to be part of this project.  I know how excited she is about recording this track and how much she wants to make it available for her fans, so I decided to change the running order and make her track the first one available for download.  

She has chosen Vic Chesnutt’s track ‘Flirted With You All My Life’ from his 2009 album ‘At The Cut’.  It’s really interesting to note that There Will Be Fireworks have chosen the exact same track for the project, though their version and this version could not be more different.  It was never a rule that people had to do a different track from one another, simply that they recorded something they were passionate about.  Every artist who has contributed has definitely done just as I asked.   Anyways, for me, the later work of Vic Chesnutt, particularly his last 2 records, are his best.  I got into his music when Lambchop were his backing band.  But I fell massively in love with his music when his backing band changed to the Silver Mt Zion Orchestra.  That single change took his music from whimsical and floaty to dark and driving.  And ‘At The Cut’ is simply stunning.  ‘Flirted With You All My Life’ is a poignant and scary song.  The words, given what happened at the end of 2009, are very eerie and possibly quite confusing.  However, it’s a stunningly wonderful song and you really, really will love this version I’m sure.  You must, must, must check out Vic Chesnutt here.  You must check out Lotte Kestner here.  And you must PLEASE GO HERE and download this track.  All profit from the project is going to Depression Alliance UK.  It’s a seriously important charity which helps those who suffer from a serious, yet often overlooked illness.  That illness has cost us more people than you can ever care to imagine including these 3 wonderful musicians.  So please, support the cause, go to page and pay your £1 for the track.  Lets raise some money people.

The National – High Violet

So there’s probably nothing I can say about this record which has not already been said elsewhere.  I know everyone has been getting massively excited about this record and, to be honest with you, I could not agree more with all the shouting and hollering about how good this record is.  I usually run a million miles from hype, but the National are different for me.  But it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to people that it’s so good.  The only surprising thing for me is that it’s taken this long for them to receive the attention they deserve?  What really is the difference between this and anything they’ve done in the past, bar a bigger budget, perhaps better production and upping their game a little in the song writing stakes?  Let’s face it.  ‘Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers’ is a great album.  ‘Alligator’ is a great album.  ‘Boxer’ is a great album.  ‘The Cherry Tree EP’ is great too.  ‘The National’ is a beginning, but it’s a good beginning and has some amazing songs.  Songs like ‘Daughters of the Soho Riots’ remain as good as anything they’ve ever written and even on their early releases you had songs like ‘About Today,’ which scream ‘this band has the potential to be massive’.  And so, it seems, they are going to be massive. And rightly so.  But should we really be surprised based on their back catalogue?  Absolutely not.

High Violet is a step forward, without a shadow of a doubt but that’s kind of the reason I love the National so much.  Progression.  Development.  Knowing that they can do better every time.  And despite the shouting from the rooftop about this being their masterpiece, I actually believe that they can and will do better next time out.  5 star reviews suggest perfection.  I think there’s more to come.  It’s so inspiring listening to a band who can change very little about their sound.  Very little about what makes them so good.  And yet get better and better with every release.  Think of the number of bands who put out an amazing debut record and then suffer for it when it comes to albums 2 and 3, even 4.  Others trudge along, just writing and releasing records they believe in and slowly but surely people start to understand why they are so good.  If ever there was an example of this it’s the National.  Nothing is different.  There is no change in direction.  There is no massive alterations to the formula.  Songs from this record could sit perfectly on other records and vice versa.  Herein lies there genius though.  To keep doing the same thing but doing it better and better and better.  Matt Berringer’s voice is as stunning as ever.  For me though, what makes this band so amazing is their drummer Bryan Devendorf.  The first time I heard ‘Boxer’ it was the drums that stunned me.  How he can shape and change a song so subtly.  The way he changes things up on songs when nothing else really changes too dramatically, like on ‘Afraid of Everyone’.  He leads the band.  He conducts the band.  He drives the band forward.  If only all drummers were this good.  Stunning. 

Anyways, I could go through each track on this record and describe how and why it’s so good.  Why it gives me goose bumps from start until finish.  But it seems that people don’t need me to tell them.  The word is out there.  The National are here.  And they are only going to get better.

Language Of Landscape – Memories Fade Under A Shallow Autumn Snow

So having written about Micheal Ashford and his beautiful short EP, I now turn my attention to this EP by Calgary based duo Chirs Tenz and Cory Zaradur.  This EP is only three tracks long.  But the three tracks total just over 45 minutes in length.  So we’ve gone from talking about one of the shortest ambient/classical EP’s I have listened to, to one of the longest!  And oh my god what a stunning piece of beauty this is.  What a sonic landscape of sound and craft and vision.    The opening track ‘And The Rain Embraced Our Closing Words’ is simply amazing.  It is truly one of the most stunning pieces of ambient, classical music I think I have ever laid my ears upon.  Breathtakingly haunting.  Mind bogglingly beautiful.   It stops and starts.  Swells and dies.  But never loses track of the beauty within.  This record is not one you’re going to listen to whilst you do your daily run or when you’re on the open road.  It’s one you need to give time to breathe and live within you.  The acoustic guitar at the end of ‘Contemplating Departure In The Wake Of Clear Light’ is a shock.  After the darkness beforehand, it sounds almost like another day is about to begin.  It’s just the end of track two though.  ‘Speaking Between Truth And Denial’ does not change the pace or atmosphere of the record.  It just adds to the wonderfully simplistic, haunting beauty of an EP which deserves lots of attention.  If there is any justice, these two Canadians will make a mark on the modern classical movement with an EP which demands attention and commands respect.  The names are beautiful.  The art is beautiful and most importantly.  So is the music.  You must check this out and you can do so here.  What’s more, it’s a free download.  So don’t waste another second, get downloading now and enjoy.

Micahel Ashford – This River

This record clocks in at just under twelve minutes for five tracks.  It is short by anyone’s standards but in terms of ambient, classical music it really is ridiculously short in length.  Blink and you’ll miss it.  However, if you don’t blink and you pay full attention you will simply love the short, sharp beauty of the work.  Shrill piano tinkering starts before gorgeous acoustic guitar sublimely filters through on opening track ‘Dallas Misses You’.   The ambient backing and piano tinkering complete a fine short opening to the record.  Piano becomes the focus of the record on tracks two and three with track three, ‘A Convergence Of Birds,’ being the ep’s sublime stand out piece.  It’s back to the acoustic guitar for the wonderfully dreamy ‘Blood Orange’ before the record concludes with another slice of midnight bluesy piano in the form of ‘Green Coat Dream.’  Unquestionably, there is a bluesy nature to this work, but it completely falls under the ambient/classical bracket.  Another fine release from Sonic Reverie Records.  I have been a long standing admirer of Chris’ blog and now I am equally impressed by the music he is releasing on his record label.  His ability to find and support these musicians is fantastic and I will be keeping a close eye out for future releases from his label.  In the meantime, please check out his blog here and Michael Ashford’s music here.  Enjoy.

There Will Be Fireworks

 

How exactly have these guys been overlooked?  I really am gobsmacked by the fact that despite clearly producing one of the finest Scottish albums of 2009 and yet nobody seems to have taken note.  Not properly.  What’s up with that people??  I am totally at a loss as to why they are not being championed left, right and centre.  Their debut album is, from start to finish, a brilliant piece of work.  And it is a piece of work rather than simply a collection of songs.  From start to finish this feels like a composition, like each piece has been carefully planned and placed in the jigsaw to ensure that the flow of the record is right.  Sometimes it’s hard to know when one tune starts and another stops, but here in lies the brilliance of the record.  It’s the way they have carefully planned the whole thing from start to finish that makes the album so so good for me.  I am shocked by the lack of media attention.  These guys deserve it.  People talk about the Twilight Sad and how amazing they are.  Well I’d take these guys debut record over the TS’s second album any day of the week.  It’s not about competitions.  However, where is the love for a band who produced one of 2009’s outstanding records and surely deserve to be recognised as one of the most exciting bands in Scotland at the moment.  These guys, Conquering Animal Sound and The Scottish Enlightenment would be up there as my favourite acts going.  They have also sent me a cover of a Vic Chesnutt tune for the tribute project and I cannot wait to make it available as it’s simply brilliant.  I had no idea how they would make a Vic Chesnutt song work.  They’ve made it their own though, and they’ve made it bloody great too.   Please, please, please check out There Will Be Fireworks here.  Enjoy.

Anna Rose Carter – Silver Lines

So I’ve already written recently about Anna-Rose Carter and how I have fallen in love with her stunning nuggets of piano perfection.  Well this is her most recent release ‘Silver Lines’ and it is simply gorgeous.  I am talking unbelievably beautiful.  You must must must go to her bandcamp page and buy this.  Do it and do it now. You will not be disappointed.  I promise.  It’s just five pieces of such radiant beauty you cannot fail to smile when you sit back and watch the rain clouds pass over head, on a night like this.  She will make you drift off to a place that is filled with happiness and peace.  Even if you have had the worst day imagineable – and mine was not all that great – you will feel the weight of the world lifted from your shoulders.  So rather than spend anymore time trying to make you realise how good this lady is –  just go to her page and buy her record.  Do it.  Talking of which, the packaging is just amazing.  It’s a mini cd and it came wrapped in lovely paper and tied with string.  Such a lovely human touch, which just makes this record all the more special for me.  Plus she sent me a lovely postcard along with it thanking me for previous review.  The human touch.  You cannot beat it.  Anyways, I digress.  Check her out please.  Enjoy.