Balmorhea – Stranger

Yeah, this is a 2012 record.  Yeah, it’s 2013.  I know.  Slack on my part.  Well, not really.  In all honesty, I don’t know where I find the time to listen to music anymore.  Somewhere in amongst all the things going on in my life I try to find the time to listen to new music but I have been flooded with the stuff in the last year and sometimes, I admit, it’s all a bit overwhelming.   There is just so much to consume and not enough time in a day to do it.  A lot of the music that I listen to gets air time at my work as I sit with headphones on to drown out the white noise of the office.  And that’s kind of what happened with this record.  Forgotten about until the start of the year, I turned on my ipod and wanted something fresh.  And there it was, magic art work and all.

I will be honest.  Had I not seen Balmorhea live before I may not have persevered with this record either.  There definitely wasn’t an instant connection but I started to remember watching them live.  The brilliance of the playing.  The intracicies of the music.  The complexities of structure.  The masterclass in piano.  Getting lost in a sea of stunning harmonies and melodies that picked you up and carried you for and hour and a half before laying you gentley down to rest.  And before I knew it I was consumed yet again by what really is a wonderful record.  Once you give it time to soak in to your mind and to take over your bones, this really is another top record.

If you like Balmorhea this is definitely for you.  If you like music that enlightens and elevates this is also for you.  It’s warmth is a welcome tonic to the miserable grey, drizzle outside our windows.  Maybe it would have snuck into my top 10 list for last year, the jury is out but it’s certainly a record worth owning and embracing for it will raise the spirits during this dull January.

You can check out this and other Balmorhea records here.  Enjoy.

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I Tried But…

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It’s official.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot love a record by Low.  The opening two tracks to new record ‘The Invisible Way’ were so promising.  I was sitting thinking, ‘this is it, this is the album that breaks the trend’.  Sadly, it’s not.

This is not an album review though.  It’s more a musing about the stumbling blocks I have with Low.  And why a band who so many people love and who produce dark, sombre, downbeat tunes, which should be right up my street, do not seem to register with me in a positive way.  And I think I have the answer.

When the voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker combine with Sparhawk on lead vocals and Parker backing, the songs are often simply stunning.  ‘Plastic Cup’ and ‘Amethyst’ being two perfect examples.  However, as a lead vocal, I cannot stand Parkers voice.  The tracks go from interesting to bland in an instant and it’s hugely frustrating.   ‘So Blue’ and ‘Holy Ghost’ are both interesting tracks, but I sit longing for them to be sung by Sparhawk and not Parker.  I am sure if they were I would find them much more appealing.   That’s not to say that all songs with Sparhawk on lead vocals are amazing, they are not.  But for the most part Low, lead by Sparhawk are a much more interesting proposition for me.

With Jeff Tweedy in command of production this was always going to be a more harmonic/melodic affair and added to my hope that something positive would happen to me when I listened to the record.  And his influence on the music ios clear enough.  I just cannot love Low though.  In much the same way I cannot ever love Pavement (though I cannot even bring myself to like them), I just cannot find the love for Low that so many people I have known in music have.

Maybe the next album will change my mind about them.  But I say that every time.  And it never happens.  So I will enjoy the tracks from this record that I do like and hope that maybe next time they will go a bit further – though I doubt with Parker on lead vocals I’ll ever like a full album.