vrijdag 23 maart 2018

Ghost Alive. The Boxer Rebellion

In 'Oor' #2 of 2018 Editors were the main feature. A pages long interview. One of the topics mentioned was on The Boxer Rebellion. Tom Smith said that Editors was once taken on tour as a support act of The Boxer Rebellion, but that now Editors played the largest venues while the Members of The Boxer Rebellion all had to take jobs to exist. What followed next was telling, about Smith and the band he was speaking about "and they still make records and tour in between. I don't know if I could do that".

The Boxer Rebellion never really attracted me to its music much. The radio hit 'Diamonds' has its moments, but nothing much else. The words of Tom Smith made me decide to give Ghost Alive a fair chance. I'm glad I did. It is an intense and at moments extremely beautiful album. Like the picture on the album cover it holds light and shade where anything can hide in, but can't move without catching the light.

In my mind I hear music that holds back, has elements of a misplaced bombastic nature without much of a memorable melody in sight. I promise to give some albums a second chance. It may well be I am sincerely mistaken.

Ghost Alive seems in everything the opposite of what I had expected to hear. Yes, the mood is downcast and despite the many acoustic instruments there is this hint at bombast in the music. Yet when a band can present it in such a beautiful way, with these subtle chord changes, so smooth, so soothing, it seems it can simply do no wrong. Perhaps the band has learned a lesson: "You've got to love yourself". Could this simple sounding yet for some so hard to arrive at conclusion be the secret to Ghost Alive's success in my ears? The emotional tranquillity this frame of mind offered The Boxer Rebellion led to the inner beauty that was let out, result in the beautiful songs released on Ghost Alive?

The music presented is soft pop, music to really listen to. Melodies may change, yet the chord changes are so soft that they are hardly noticed. Instruments are added without any loud crash or bang. They blend in and play their softly added notes. It could be a piano, a string section or organ. It simply doesn't matter. The mood is ever so slightly altered.

Over all this the soft and high voice of Nathan Nicholson meanders. A voice of a singer is always a dominant feature in the sound of a band, Nicholson's voice provides The Boxer Rebellion its melancholy stamp. It holds a dreamy quality expressing a longing for something not present. The music is totally submerged in that longing and underscores it from all sides. The drums and bass laying the depth of that longing and the pace to get to the dreamed of destination. The acoustic guitar and strings provide the support and stamina needed to keep striving to get there. "I am not a lost cause", sings Nicholson in 'Lost Cause', I would say far from Mr. Nicholson. The Boxer Rebellion has breathed life into itself. Exit ghost, enter alive.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


donderdag 22 maart 2018

The Santa Ana. Sugerfoot

Ik heb eind vorig jaar flink wat leuke muziek uit de jaarlijstjes van anderen gehaald en ook het online zetten van mijn eigen jaarlijstje heeft weer een aantal hele mooie tips opgeleverd. De mooiste van het stel komt vooralsnog van de band Sugarfoot en luistert naar de titel The Santa Ana.
Sugarfoot is een Noorse band die al een aantal jaren bestaat en de Bent Sæther als bekendste lid heeft (al zijn Øyvind Holm en Hogne Galåen de voormannen van de band). Bent Sæther kennen we natuurlijk van Motorpsycho, dat dit jaar met The Tower een jaarlijstjesplaat afleverde, maar kennelijk was er nog tijd over voor een ander project.
Sugarfoot nam haar vorige plaat op in de Rancho De La Luna studio in Joshua Tree, California, en dat was zo goed bevallen dat de band terugkeerde naar de Verenigde Staten. De bijzondere sfeer van de Californische woestijn is dit keer nog nadrukkelijker aanwezig in de muziek van de Noren, die zelf het hokje Cosmic Americana hebben bedacht voor hun muziek.
The Santa Ana ademt nadrukkelijk de sfeer van Joshua Tree in de jaren 70 en de sfeer van de countryrock uit dezelfde periode. Joshua Tree is de plek waar Gram Parsons in 1973 zijn laatste adem uitblies en flarden van zijn muziek klinken door op The Santa Ana, net als flarden van de muziek van onder andere Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Byrds en The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Sugarfoot vermengt de nadrukkelijke invloeden uit de countryrock met gelijke delen Westcoast pop en 70s psychedelica, waardoor The Santa Ana warmer en lichtvoetiger klinkt dan de meeste andere platen van Noorse bands.
Met een muzikale duizendpoot als Bent Sæther aan boord, verwacht je niet dat Sugarfoot het hier bij laat en dat doet de Noorse band dan ook niet. De zonnig klinkende countryrock van de band mag af en toe ontsporen en kan dan alle kanten op schieten. Een aantal songs op de plaat klinkt Beatlesque (of herinnert aan het briljante Kontiki van Cotton Mather), maar wanneer Sugarfoot incidenteel kiest voor muzikaal spierballenvertoon kan de band ook zomaar wat totaal onverwachte invloeden uit de progrock toevoegen aan haar songs.
Het zijn uitzonderingen, want over het algemeen genomen is de muziek van de Noorse band geworteld in de zweverige countryrock zoals die in de jaren 70 werd gemaakt. Door de bijzondere twist die werkelijk ieder moment kan opduiken is de muziek van de Noorse band echter een stuk spannender dan de meeste andere muziek van het moment die zich laat inspireren door de hoogtijdagen van de Amerikaanse countryrock.
Hoe vaker ik naar The Santa Ana luister, hoe meer bijzondere dingen ik hoor en bij iedere luisterbeurt zijn de songs van de Noren me weer wat dierbaarder. De Noorse band komt ook nog eens met bijna 70 minuten muziek op de proppen, wat het nog knapper maakt dat de plaat in slechts twee weken werd opgenomen en gemixt in de Californische woestijn.
The Santa Ana van Sugarfoot laat zich moeiteloos beluisteren als een obscure en vergeten klassieker uit de jaren 70, maar ook in 2017 klinkt de muziek van de Noren fris en urgent, wat van The Santa Ana een hele bijzondere plaat maakt.

Noorwegen heeft ons vorig jaar heel veel mooie muziek gebracht en die zag ik in allerlei jaarlijstjes terug (waaronder mijn eigen jaarlijstje). The Santa Ana van Sugarfoot zie ik vooralsnog maar weinig in deze lijstjes, maar dat het een jaarlijstjesplaat is, lijkt me inmiddels wel duidelijk. Ik voeg hem zelf toe aan het lijstje met platen dat mijn jaarlijst misschien wel had moeten halen, maar helaas net wat te laat werd ontdekt.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar The Santa Ana luisteren en het album kopen:


Voor de dubbel LP kun je hier terecht:


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


woensdag 21 maart 2018

Tape Recorder. Lionlimb

My tape recorder lies somewhere in storage with all my tapes. MP3s and streaming are the basis of my music experience these days. With an exceptional cd here and there and for the albums that really make an impression vinyl. It may well be that this album will become one of those exceptions.

Bayonet Records sent me an email announcing the release of this album. As I had never heard of Lionlimb, it did not get to the top of my list. That changed fast after I typed in the name on Spotify. Something of an addiction was what happened next.

The music is so serious, so solemn. With instruments associated with classical music in abundance, combined with rock instruments Lionlimb creates a hybrid of the two musical genres. A firm drumplaying keeps the music in the rock realm, while at the same time Lionlimb has nothing to do with symphonic rock. The recently reviewed album 'Current' by Belgian band Madensuyu has a similar disposition, only based on piano and drums.

What I noticed right after is the singing. Who sings like this? Yes, Elliot Smith. The same modest, soft-toned and self-conscious way of presenting the vocal. Mixed just right so that the at times loud music does not interfere with the delivery of the singing. A balance that works so well on Tape Recorder.

Lionlimb is from Nashville. In nothing, at least to my relatively untrained Nashville ears, I recognise anything remotely country. There's simply no reference or direct connection. The band members' background is the band of Angel Olsen. So, without realising it I may have seen them play at Paradiso, 2014. In 2016 the band released its first album 'Shoo', now followed by the six song album Tape Recorder.

What impresses me no little is the way Lionlimb is able to change the mood of a song. In the title song, there is just Stuart Bronaugh's soft voice accompanied by a piano, played in the style that is favoured by radio program 'Kairos' on Concertzender. (Yes, I've tipped .No.) Strings come in, created an even more serious atmosphere. After a short string intermezzo a drum kicks in at 3.38 minutes, slowly changing the structure and pace of the song. The piano switches to a rhythmic one note playing, while the drums slowly move towards an "Animal" of the Muppets Show franticness. And then they fall away, leaving the other instrument behind, orphaned, yet strong. Changing the mood once again. The drums, played by Joshua Jaeger, always sound prominent, if present.

Tape Recorder holds six of these intricately designed songs. Where not a lot is what it seems. Lionlimb dares to change the structure and mood of the songs. In 'Swallow's Song' in such a way that the next song appears to have started. When it hasn't. Instruments and melody can simply drop away to be replaced by something completely different. I am on my toes the whole time to keep up and try to comprehend what is happening. This will change with more listen sessions of course. For now I am tremendously enjoying myself.


You can listen to and buy Tape Recorder here:


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


dinsdag 20 maart 2018

Massabu Evening Entertainment. Todd Tobias and Combo Qasam

Deep down in the dark forests of Africa there is a party going on. Under the evergreens, tall, dark, filled with huge green leaves, the shouts of monkeys come from the trees while below between the adobe and thatch huts a huge fire is built, around which the tribe members dance in wild abandon. Working itself into a trance, spurred on by the musicians hitting everything that can be hit upon to produce a rhythm. Wild shouting from the ground is reproduced from the trees by monkeys and birds kept from their sleep.

Enter Todd Tobias and Combo Qassam. Hearing is believing what is happening on Massabu Evening Entertainment. (Instrumental) rock music is played with wild abandon, aimed pure at the dance instincts of humans and nothing else. Here and there a link with the exotic is laid, underscoring the imaginary village called Massabu where this music is supposed to be produced by Tobias and some friendly musicians.

Todd Tobias enters the music scene in the wake of Robbert Pollard of Guided By Voices in another band called Circus Devils. He plays on several latter GBV albums and several solo outings of Pollard, while releasing records with other acts as well. Involvement in and/or on 8 or 9 albums a year is no exception for Tobias. Not counting the 8 solo EPs or LPs he released between 2012 and 2016. A very busy musical man, since he entered the professional music scene around his 34th birthday. A full late bloomer it seems.

Come 2018 and I am exposed for the first time to Todd Tobias through Tiny Room Records that releases Massubu Evening Entertainment. In a way it is a very weird album. The story is weird, the music, slightly weird at times, the shouts are strange. And yet, after having played the record several times, I can only say that Todd Tobias has hit the big time some how. In a mix between Frank Zappa and De Kift his music just jumps around and produces loads of energy; rock and roll at its most primitive. Hank Mizell all over again, yet beyond this one hit wonder's wildest imagination. Todd Tobias has tapped into extremely primitive emotions to come up with a superb record that can guide anyone through the political fads and anxieties of 2018. The kind of music that makes people shut up and dance, while producing huge smiles along the way.

There are three options to do so in The Netherlands. The album is premiered with members of bands from the Tiny Room Records label. See below where you can go to.


You can listen to and buy the album here:



22 March OCCI, Amsterdam
23 March Worm, Rotterdam
25 March Studio Patrick Utrecht

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


maandag 19 maart 2018

Interview with Zoe and Rosie of Worry Dolls for WoNoBlog

Photo by Wo.
Interview by Wout de Natris 

© WoNoBlog 2018

Having listened to 'Go Get Gone' now about 8 months ago, I tipped Hans of the Q-Bus in Leiden straightaway. Within hours the return message read: "just booked them". Hence I knew I would be in the Q-Bus in Leiden about 6 months later. The album was reviewed by both Erwin and myself, the show was reviewed this January. After the show Zoe and Rosie agreed on an interview. A trip to Nashville held things up a little, but here's the result. As you will find, I was lucky to escape with my life....

You both started as solo singer-songwriters. How did you meet?
We were writing songs and playing guitar as solo artists from the age of 12. We both went to study music in Liverpool at 18 and we met during the first week at an open mic night in the Uni canteen! 

Is there a specific moment you can point to when you both realised you were better off together?
We started off just singing together, we used to sing a lot of Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch and Nickel Creek songs that were rich in harmonies, and then we started singing each other’s songs and writing together. We realised that even though our voices were very different, there was something really special when we came together. When we graduated, we decided to stop our solo projects and focus exclusively on Worry Dolls. 

What is it that makes you better as a duo?
We always strive to be the best we can be, we both have very high expectations and are perfectionists so these qualities help us to be better in all aspects of our music. Within writing songs together and organising all the background admin that goes into touring and releasing the music itself. We also both have very different strengths so that definitely helps us to grow and together we have all that we need to pursue Worry Dolls. It also helps that we are great friends, we’ve known each other a long time and we can always just say what’s on our minds! 

Did you play the same sort of music solo or did you evolve together to where you are now?
Well Zoe had a more folk music background with both her parents having met in a folk band and with her Irish and Liverpudlian roots. Rosie grew up being inspired by and loving alt-Country and Rock music. So when we both came together we fused all our influences and this became the sound that we create through Worry Dolls. We like to think of it as all our favourite influences coming together to create something new and more mature that the solo music we created before. 

On stage you regularly said “when we wrote this song…”. Do you actually write together? How does the “average” Worry Dolls song come to pass?
Yes we co-write most of the songs together. Zoe wrote Passport on her own, but we usually come up with ideas apart and bring them together to finish. Sometimes it starts with a guitar or banjo riff, sometimes a lyric or a melody, or even just an interesting title. It’s usually based on whatever overpowering emotion we’re feeling at the time. 

The lyrics of several songs are about leaving, leaving someone behind. In how far is this in connection with the lives you chose to live as hard working musicians and the great difference with the rest of the world, like you pointed to on stage?
Yes that is definitely a theme that us as musicians can relate to. A lot of the choices and sacrifices we have made for Worry Dolls have meant leaving people or places behind. It is those choices that define us and inspire us to write. In particular the songs on our album were all written within a short period of time, just a few months. We’d left our jobs and our lives behind in London to travel to America to make the album. 

Your album ‘Go Get Gone’ was recorded in Nashville. What is the attraction of this southern U.S. city to two young women from the U.K.?
So much of the music that we love and grew up on comes from Nashville. We initially went there just to soak up the culture and watch incredible musicians play. But we ended up meeting so many like-minded new friends, we wrote a whole bunch of songs and completely fell in love with the place. We knew we had to go back and make an album there. 

Could the album have been made in London or would it really have been a different album because of that fact?
The theme behind our first debut album was definitely about our choices and journey to the US. I think the first album would have been different had we made it in our home city. Most of the inspiration was found through being brave, leaving our home and our comfort zone and having all these new, life changing experiences in an incredible new city. We were both working full time in London, so we needed to take ourselves out of the daily grind to truly be inspired. We really felt a spiritual connection to Nashville like neither of us had ever felt for any other city. 

Photo by Wo.
Who are your heroes and influences and have these changed over the years?
Truly classic singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Eva Cassidy to more modern day writers like Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch. Incredible women like Alison Krauss & Dixie Chicks, who make us strive every day to be better singers, better players. We love artists that really put special attention into their lyrics. Jason Isbell & Courtney Marie Andrews both have such wonderful lyrical styles and tell stories in such a unique and fresh, yet nostalgic way. 

Your harmonies are so perfect, as if your voices “were made for each other”, I wrote in a review. How hard do you have to work at them or do they just come about naturally?
First of all, thank you very much… We’ve been singing together for quite a few years now. At first we really worked hard to refine our vocal sound. We’ve never really had one of us ‘taking the lead’ and the other singing harmony, because we love the idea of both of us together being one voice, one that’s different from either of us on our own. Now it comes a lot more naturally, we often write in harmony instead of adding a harmony afterwards.

You made a comment about liking a song best that is just basic in sound and instruments. That shows in your music, yet the music is perfect. When do you know that a song is finished?
Aw that’s very kind of you to say. As an artist a song never feels truly finished and an album is the same feeling. However, if we never released and shared our music it would never reach anyone, so you have to let the song go and live their lives! The great thing is that even once the song is recorded, it can change and evolve live and you can breathe fresh life into it for years to come. 

A worry doll is a beautiful concept and feeling. What made it the right name for you to work under?
We had worry dolls as kids to tell our worries to and put under our pillows. They’re all about relieving anxiety and laying down your troubles - that seems so linked to how therapeutic music can be, for both the listener and the writer. We write about our fears and worries and this helps us get through hard times, and we hope it helps our listeners too.

In the artwork of the band, the art used is more in association with North American indigenous people (at least for me) than Middle American of the worry dolls. What is the story about your choice for beads and feathers as a statement in artwork?
For us it’s not about the geography, but the sentiment. As kids we also had dreamcatchers, which are similar to worry dolls because they encourage positive dreams by catching your bad ones. We grew up going to hippy festivals and craft camps, and we love the homemade, protective nature of both worry dolls and dreamcatchers. We always find beautiful dreamcatchers all over the world, we starting making them and collecting feathers. Whenever we find feathers it feels like good luck, so we chose feathers as our theme. 

On the setlist I saw lying on the floor at the Q-Bus, behind each song are the mysterious words “baby”, “GS” and “here”. What do they refer to?
This is our secret code. If we told you, we’d have to kill you… 

What can the world expect from Worry Dolls in the near future?
Well we are very much looking forward to our next trip to Holland. And of course, more music!!