I’ll be honest. My time for new music this year has not been great. Between going back to lots of old stuff (Loudon Wainwright III, R.E.M. and Cold Chisel mainly) and catching up on a lot of TV, time for music has not been what it once was.
Maybe it’s not just me. Seems like previous years, the year always kicked off with some big records – Vampire Weekend, Spoon, etc. Maybe it’s work too. Having not really worked on any new music that has excited me has sent me packing to my old collection mostly.
And finally, a couple of really terrible records have let me down. More about that in part 2, coming soon.
Anyway – here’s a list – parts 6-10.
6. Jonny – Jonny
This is fun. Take somewhat wacky wordsmith Euros Child from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and match him with Norman Blake, the elder statesman of popcraft from Teenage Fanclub. What you get is Jonny, both band and album. Both band and album are lighthearted, silly, lovely, charming and so British.
You can hear the joy on every track. Garage rock-lite (in a good way) of Wich Is Wich and Candyfloss. Crazy psych fun of Goldmines and Cave Dance. And the truly touching English Lady.
7. D Rogers – Natural Disasters
Dave Rogers is the former guitar player for Melbourne pop group Klinger. His new album is a lovely low key look at modern living. My friend Paul once described the type of song that was like a good pair of tailored trousers. Something to wear out every day. That’s what this album is. Every day songs.
It’s all about the songs. The slight country twinge and the piano twinkles add texture but don’t get in the way. Rogers sings about stuff like unpaid bills and dishes. There’s a theme of money going through the album – Pay To Pay, Buyer’s Remorse. There’s even a song called Food & Electricty.
Not to say that this is some stylised study of urban living. It’s really just a great bunch of songs with no pretentions. It’s all wrapped up in some killer choruses (Breaking Bones is a highlight) and tasteful production. If you like the Pernice Brothers, et al, you’d probably love this.
8. Emmy the Great – Virtue
(Close Harbour Records)
Emmy the Great makes lovely, full bodied indie pop. Sort of Regina-ry, sort of Laura Marling-ish, all mixed together. Virtue is a major step up. It’s gotten remarkable reviews. If any of the many radio courting songs on here actually gets away, we have a hit on our hands.
So the big story of this record is that young Emmy was engaged, until her fiance discovered God and the relationship broke down. According to articles and interviews, it’s all over this album. I guess it’s there, but it’s more about her and dealing with a new life, and transcending something. It’s probably best heard on A Woman, A Woman, A Century Of Sleep.
There’s some digs at religion (I think). Lovely plays on words throughout, and some killer tunes. I just keep thinking this is a major record, and I hope people hear it.
9. Paul Simon – So Beautiful So What
The opening couplet of Questions For the Angels, one of the new tracks on here, is as brilliant as anything Paul Simon has done.
A pilgrim on a pilgrimage
Walked along the Brooklyn Bridge
Like America, or dozens of others of his masterpieces, Simon taps into something eternal, and puts it in a modern context. Sure, it’s been decades since he has been relevant – his career sidelined to that place that oldies go when they don’t get played on radio or make the cover of magazines anymore. But he can still mention Jay-Z and crossing rivers in one song and make it all work.
So Beautiful Or So What is actually the first album of a new record deal. His last, Eno-produced, album was a reinvention and a reinvigoration. It continues here. A renewed sense of song, and his own mandate of not writing about love anymore (claiming it’s creepy to hear from someone his age) leads to him playing on bigger themes. The Love he talks about on this record is more spiritual.
There’s a bit of that restless experimenting he is so good at. His sense of a smooth rhythm is still there, as is his guitar work (the lovely Dazzling Blue is filled with tasteful electric guitar). Hopefully another step into a lovely late career renaissance.
10. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest
8 years? Has it been so long? I love the first 4 Gillian Welch albums. Obsessed over them. And 8 years later, we finally have a fifth. The entire world has changed, and Gillian and partner David Rawlings haven’t.
This record only just came out and after many frantic listens though, it’s as good as I hoped. It is slightly disappointing that the loose band sound of Soul Journey has been forgotten for a straighter, acoustic affair. They’ve somehow gone backwards in their sound. But that’s what they’re about, I guess.
There’s that unsaid spookiness of their early records that are back in force here. Just what is it about Scarlet Town that isn’t right? Or who is that person in The Way It Will Be that deserves such hate? As usual, weird shit is going down.
Maybe it’s just the joy of having new music that has propped this album up. Let’s see what time will bring. But this album is not short on all the things I look for in a Gillian Welch record.
The below is from 2004, and the song has not changed. Waited 7 years for this! Crazy.