Monday, 19 January 2009

Crystal moon, the autumn leaves

A few items of interest...

Firstly, an album that passed under my radar - it only having been released in NZ, and on a tiny independent label at that - and only brought to my attention recently by a friend with exquisite taste and a good pedigree of recommendation :) Graeme Humphreys and Peter Keen were previously members of NZ indie-rock band the Able Tasmans, but in 2006 made an album as Humphreys & Keen. Called 'The Overflow', it's a truly astounding record, full of the kind of melodies that get under your skin and burrow in deep. Each song seemingly contains a whole barrage of hooks; even when you think you've got it sussed, another melodic twist comes along to sweep you off your feet. The songs are mostly based around a musical bed of rich piano, but wonderful arrangements - augmented by strings here and brass there - ensure a consistently brilliant and shifting musical outlook throughout. It really is a dream of a record. After a couple of months of constant listening, it's still revealing new secrets on every play, different songs establishing themselves as firm favourites. A selection from the album can be found at their Myspace - if you only stream one song, go for You Too, with its gorgeous strings.

If you need any further convincing that this album is an essential buy, here's an MP3 that'll seal the deal:

MP3: Humphreys & Keen - The End Of The Golden Weather

Buy The Overflow

Apologies to anyone who knows me, as the following statement will shock: I've been listening - voluntarily - to the BEE GEES. Oh yes. But wait, it's not what it seems. The ever-brilliant All Songs Considered podcast from NPR (an increasingly reliable source of fantastic new musical finds) played a tune from the Gibb brothers' 1969 concept (of sorts) album 'Odessa', which prompted an immediate purchase from 7digital (given that the only physical release appears to be a £30 deluxe box set - how deep is my love? Not £30 deep, that's for sure). The opening title track is probably the best - and strangest - song on the album, and worth buying on its own, but the rest of it is pretty fantastic. Hints of the Beatles, Love, the Beach Boys, the Zombies and the Kinks nestle alongside a very identifiable early take on the Bee Gees' trademark harmonies. I'm not venturing any further into their catalogue, mind, as I'm well aware of the disco horrors that lurk about a decade further on.

MP3: Bee Gees - Melody Fair

And finally, it's always fantastic when a favourite artist returns with some new material, and even more so when it's with an album so wonderful it puts most of their already-impressive back catalogue to shame. It appears David Mead's big push to be a big player on the indie scene with the potential pop crossover of 2006's Tangerine didn't work out, leading to his latest, Almost & Always, being pretty much given away digitally for free (well, in exchange for some email addresses). This isn't a musical last gasp however - Almost & Always is the classic-sounding album he's been hinting at for years. It's at once recognisably Mead while at the same time going somewhere completely different. Occasionally conjuring up the kind of musical imagery Gershwin provided for Woody Allen, this is a complete and utter triumph of songwriting. As opposed to Tangerine's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink production, Almost & Always sees stripped-back arrangements leaving space for the lush melodies and vocals to shine through. A fellow Mead enthusiast suggested that after just one listen, it was up there with Indiana in terms of being pinnacles of his discography. There's a good chance that after a few more plays it may even surpass that fantastic record. An utter beauty, and an early contender for album of the year.

MP3: David Mead - Little Boats