Monday, 29 March 2010

Song of the Week #13: "Still Be There" by Alondra Bentley

I went to see Josh Rouse play in Manchester last week, a fantastic gig despite his new stuff still taking its time to sink in. A healthy selection of classics helped, especially the encore of Sparrows Over Birmingham, 1972 and It's The Nighttime.

An extra bonus was a fantastic choice of support act. Alondra Bentley is based in Spain, but sings in English, with a speaking voice recalling Bjork and a singing voice somewhere between Charlotte Gainsbourg and Nerina Pallot. Sharing band members with Josh Rouse, she gave a great performance, cute and quirky in equal measure.

Then there are the songs - the gorgeous folky melodies on new album Ashfield Avenue really are a treat, Some Things Of My Own and Still Be There sounding incredibly familiar after just a couple of listens.

Couldn't seem to find a physical copy of the album, so ended up buying it from 7digital. Highly recommended!

Video: Some Things Of My Own:

MP3: Alondra Bentley - Still Be There

Listen to Ashfield Avenue on Spotify

Monday, 22 March 2010

Song of the Week #12: "Blues Run The Game" by Simon & Garfunkel

Inspired by Laura Barton's glowing comments on the new Laura Marling album, I had a listen, thinking it'd be very much up my street. Turns out it's not, and it got me wondering whether I *think* I like folk music more than I actually do. Or is it just that, with the exception of one or two songs, the album on the whole just doesn't appeal to me melodically? I don't have a lot of folk music in my music collection, although I was recently sent some Fairport Convention which I've been enjoying a lot. Certainly can't think of much modern folk that's left any impression (apart from maybe Damien Rice's first album, and that's a few years old now).

I do however have a big soft spot for Simon & Garfunkel. Their Old Friends boxset covers pretty much all bases, and favourites change all the time. Right now I'm in the midst of a mild obsession with Blues Run The Game. One guitar and two voices - does it get much simpler (or better) than this?

MP3: Simon & Garfunkel - Blues Run The Game

More of Simon & Garfunkel's greatest hits on Spotify

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Song of the Week #11: "Violent" by Stellar

Haven't got too much to say about Stellar, although listening to anything off their fantastic debut Mix takes me right back to my Uni days. It was a result of one of those convoluted connections that I'd probably never take a chance on now. As a big Crowded House fan, I'd seek out any spurious link that might deliver something along similar lines. I chanced upon a single by Bic Runga that CH bassist Nick Seymour might have had something to do with. Quickly becoming enamoured with Bic's debut album Drive, I then moved onto... her sister. In hindsight that's not an obvious connection, but fortunately her sister Boh also knows her way around a tune, although the Garbage-alike electro-rock music she made with Stellar is quite a trek from Bic's gentle pop. Anyway, Violent was the opening track and still sounds gloriously spiky.

MP3: Stellar - Violent

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Song of the Week #10: "Feeling No Pain" by Jason Falkner

I was introduced to the work of Jason Falkner around 2002, and his first two albums completely blew me away. 1999's Can You Still Feel in particular is a genuine pop classic. For whatever reason, he remained pretty much under the radar for most of the last decade, his third full-length record getting a Japanese release in 2007 (and only just getting a US release around now). That record, I'm OK You're OK, is patchy at best - a huge shame, given the long wait.

Saying that though, in 2004 he put out an absolutely sublime 5-song EP, the aptly-titled Bliss Descending, which contained some of his finest work to date. Power-pop at its best, songs like Lost Myself and Feeling No Pain are almost certainly getting constant radio airplay in a more pop-friendly parallel universe.

MP3: Jason Falkner - Feeling No Pain

Spotify: A limited selection of back catalogue

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

I'm in hope, I know...

If you're in or around Leeds, the new issue of the free music mag Vibrations is now out (in music shops, pubs, and various other locations). Among other things, it has my feature on Hope & Social.

If you know of the band at all, it'll more than likely be from their previous incarnation, Four Day Hombre, who released an album a few years ago in a blaze of next-big-thing press, but which ultimately failed to make much of a splash. A change in outlook later and they reappeared as Hope & Social, with new album Architect Of This Church available from their website for whatever you want to pay.

The article will appear on the Vibrations website at some point soon if you can't get hold of the physical mag.

MP3: Hope & Social - In Need
MP3: Four Day Hombre - Resolve

Monday, 1 March 2010

Song of the Week #9: "Faces" by Nik Kershaw

I went to see Nik Kershaw play a solo acoustic show in Holmfirth a week or so back, and was reminded yet again of what a brilliant songwriter he is. There were evidently people there who only wanted to hear the classic hits, proceeding to talk through everything else. For me, his most consistent work emerged with his comeback in 1999 with the 15 Minutes album, but I guess that one passed most people by. The show was a nice mix of old and more recent, the biggest surprises of the night being the inclusion of Faces and Human Racing from his debut album way back in 1984. Always a couple of my favourite Nik tunes, it was a genuine thrill to hear him play them live. Following the show, I dug into my MP3 folder to hear the originals - Faces in particular always impressed me with its cold, clinical paranoia somehow perfectly matched by the almost nursery-rhyme chorus.

The Idiot's Guide To Nik Kershaw I wrote for Jefitoblog a few years ago disappeared when that site crashed and burned, so I might dig it out and repost it here at some point.

MP3: Nik Kershaw - Faces

Spotify: Nik Kershaw

Buy Nik's new acoustic album No Frills