dinsdag 14 juli 2020

The Quiet Earth. The Academy of Sun

In a recent singles round up I focused on a b-side, also a song on this album, the penultimate one. From what I heard further I had not expected to write more on The Academy of Sun. I changed my mind.

The reason why is easily answered. On The Quite Earth The Academy of Sun presents serious music with a thousand influences woven into the music in a most pleasant way. From David Sylvian to Kaiser Chiefs and on to Marc Almond and a light version of Scott Walker. Just a to name a few.

Weaving influences into one's music is all nice, but it ought to start there and not end. The good news is, The Academy of Sun does just that. It turns out its own inspired songs. A good example is 'The House'. The bombast of Scott Walker's early albums is stripped away, some electronics added and out comes 'The House'. It is a song that is clearly influenced but holds enough of its own; and is so interesting to listen to. Especially as the band is able to add extra layers while the song plays itself out. Each layer comes as a new and nice surprise, making the song intrinsically better with each introduced layer.

Just as easily the band switches to Britpop merging everything from The Kinks to Suede and Supergrass in 'The Parts That Needs Replacing', a song I like so much more now.

The Academy of Sun is a band from Brighton and described as a post-punk band. There are hardly any traces left of this past. Band leader Nick Hudson, who sings and plays everything holding keys and band members Kianna Blue (bass, synths), Guy Brice (guitar) and Ash Babb (drums) have evolved wide and deep into a band not afraid of tackling anything in alternative rock.

Where too much diversity on an album sometimes makes me wonder who the band/artist really is or wants to be, with The Quiet Earth' I have no such qualms. The band managed to display an overall warmth on the album that, in combination with Hudson's voice, holds everything together. That warmth is an overall quality here making me come back to the album. Something the two singles did not prepare me for. Listened to within the whole though 'The Parts That Needs Replacing' is an excellent song.

Promo photo
Don't expect an easy album. Not all songs are ditties to be digested in one go. No, instead prepare for songs that allow you to grow with them. To discover the details, to find the beauty where an easy melody is completely missing. 'Charboy In The Cinders' is such a song. Atmosphere, seemingly isolated parts by instruments, screaming and crying, a drum that keeps playing a dark, heavy pattern, keeping it all together. The song works though.

The combination of the different songs makes The Quiet Earth an aural adventure. One where some parts are relatively easy going, others know rough patches, rock you hard, are scary or give you some pause. It all comes by. "So what if Caravaggio was a murderer" sings Hudson in the most Kaiser Chief, from over a decade ago, way. Interesting question. The man murdered a few people in anger. Still his work is revered in musea. Should it, in what seems to become another normal these days?

All in all, this is an album very much worthwhile to check out. You may not like everything and certainly not at once. I came back and started to appreciate more and more and still do. Changes are this could be the same for you. So feel free to try it all out.


You can listen to and buy The Quiet Earth here:


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maandag 13 juli 2020

Punisher. Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers in the past three years has been identified as a major talent and something of an alternative icon. Whether solo, her debut or working with others, she came forward as a major talent for the future. There's one thing that was dissenting, my personal experience. Of course musical tastes are musical tastes but sometimes I just have to work harder. So I decided to give it a go and see where this experience ends.

Up front. With some artists it just happens that for whatever reason I cannot hear the melody they sing. This happened to me with a lot with e.g. the Laurel Canyon post hippies of the 70s. A lot of their work led to an almost physical reaction in my body. This has to do with the melodies that are not right for me. This is not the case with Phoebe Bridgers.

So far I have listened about five times to Punisher and a few extra for the songs on the 'I See You' single, that I reviewed a few weeks back. Like on the single I like 'Kyoto' immediately. The song is, just like Bridgers' singing, alive. The trumpet and the full band effort makes the song a joy to listen to. Ms Bridgers may sing somewhat downcast, it doesn't bring the song down in any way. This is upbeat music for the downtrodden. I love the way the trumpet moves through the song.

Many other songs though are almost more atmosphere than song. Never fully, as there is a clear vocal melody. Around that melody the instruments are more there to create and atmosphere. Extremely delicate, like in the title song. Sparse strings are allowed in over atmospheric sounds and a guitar that is mixed away into the dark background.

By the time 'Halloween' comes, the fifth song, I notice again that Punisher is demanding a lot of my attention. And it is here that the album runs into trouble with me. The question I find myself asking: Is this album worth all the effort it demands? My answer tends towards no. In most of the songs there is a minimum of variation and yes there's something going on, but at times so subtle that it takes too much effort for me to start enjoying the details.

This is not all. The downcast vibe of the album is no invitation to listen more as well. All is so glum. The instrumentation, the mix allows for almost nothing to escape the whole. Phoebe Bridgers is looking at the sky in 'Chinese Satellite', but does not see enough blue up there to make a new pair of pants from. By far most songs on Punisher do not entertain me. They make me feel concerned for her well-being and that is not why I'm listening to records. Basically what I ran into with the single, I still run into with the album as a whole. 'ICU' (on the album it's called this) even stands out as a beacon of light on Punisher. Where the combination does work for me is 'Moon Song'. Here her voice is used as a strength and it comes across easily. The theme and the mood are negative, again. Yet here all the things that happen around her voice come across as positive and energized. I totally understand that this is my personal experience and (perhaps) not yours, so please allow me to explain what happens to me during Punisher.

Strangely enough having listened the whole album through once again I'm still in doubt. Am I missing something that others so easily hear or is it, for a large part, simply boring music? The fact that I can't answer this question truthfully, yet, is saying something. The true test would be the head and stereo set, a true one on one, but for that I need to own the album first and I do not know whether it is worth the investment.

The album goes out with a bang and I'm tickled once more. It is the right song to invite re-listening for sure. 'I Know The End' does get an the end including everything in the ending, where it starts like an average Punisher song.

Summing up. Although I am in doubt how to score the album as a whole, I do not hear the major talent part. Phoebe Bridgers to me sounds like a singer-songwriter of which there are multitudes of. She presents her songs on Punisher with a lot of modern sounds but does that make her songs more special? That answer is no. For me it gets more interesting when Bridgers lets go of the singer-songwriter context, as it shows more interesting sides and arrangements to her songs. So please, if you haven't done so yet, go and form your own opinion and for all who have done so, thank you for bearing with me in my struggle.


You can listen to and buy Punisher here:


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


zondag 12 juli 2020

Out Of My Province. Nadia Reid

Nadia Reid maakt met haar derde album nog wat meer indruk en betovert met prachtige songs, wonderschone zang en een subtiele instrumentatie vol bijzondere accenten.

Nadia Reid dook net iets meer dan vier jaar geleden voor het eerst op met een jaarlijstjeswaardig debuut dat overliep van de belofte. De belofte werd waargemaakt met het drie jaar geleden verschenen Preservation en wordt nu van nog wat meer glans voorzien met het nog mooiere Out Of My Province. De songs op het derde album van Nadia Reid steken nog wat knapper in elkaar, haar zang is nog mooier en indrukwekkender en de inhuur van twee gelouterde producers heeft gezorgd voor veelkleuriger, maar nog steeds subtiel geluid. Out of My Province staat vol met prachtige songs en de een is nog mooier dan de ander. Wat een prachtig album van deze Nieuw-Zeelandse muzikante.

Helemaal aan het eind van 2015 maakte ik voor het eerst kennis met de muziek van de uit Nieuw-Zeeland afkomstige singer-songwriter Nadia Reid. Haar debuut Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs kwam eigenlijk te laat voor de jaarlijstjes, maar ik zette het album er toch in.
Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs werd precies drie jaar geleden gevolgd door het misschien net wat minder verrassende maar minstens net zo mooie Preservation, dat nu weer wordt gevolgd door Out of My Province.
Nadia Reid nam haar nieuwe album voor de afwisseling niet in Nieuw-Zeeland op maar in de Verenigde Staten en deed hierbij een beroep op twee producers van naam en faam. Out of My Province is geproduceerd door de vooral van Foxygen bekende Trey Pollard en door Matthew E. White, die onder andere mooie dingen deed voor Natalie Prass en Bedouine.
Ik was op voorhand niet direct enthousiast over de samenwerking met twee producers die normaal gesproken hun stempel drukken op de albums die ze produceren en die ook niet bekend staan om een ingetogen geluid. Dat ingetogen geluid was immers juist de kracht van de eerste twee albums van Nadia Reid die, volkomen terecht, volledig vertrouwden op de prachtige stem van de Nieuw-Zeelandse singer-songwriter. Mijn zorgen over de productie van Trey Pollard en Matthew E. White blijken gelukkig voorbarig, want ook Out of My Province is een prachtig en bijzonder subtiel ingekleurd album.
Ook op haar derde album maakt Nadia Reid de meeste indruk met haar prachtige stem. De zang op Out of My Province is over het algemeen zacht, maar zit vol gevoel en vol prachtige details. Het is een stem die de afgelopen jaren met van alles en nog wat is vergeleken en ook op Out of My Province hoor ik weer flarden Suzanne Vega en Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), maar inmiddels toch vooral Nadia Reid.
Out of My Province is een album dat voor een belangrijk deel in het teken staat van een leven ‘on the road’ en dat is een leven dat niet altijd makkelijk is, maar Nadia Reid ook de mogelijkheid biedt om de wereld te zien. Beiden kanten van de medaille komen uitgebreid aan de orde op het album.
De songs van de Nieuw-Zeelandse muzikante lieten altijd al invloeden van Joni Mitchell horen, maar deze invloeden hebben op haar derde album aan terrein gewonnen. De songs op Out of My Province vertellen stuk voor stuk bijzondere verhalen, steken knap in elkaar en worden prachtig gezongen.
De instrumentatie is zoals gezegd nog altijd relatief sober, maar de twee topproducers met wie Nadia Reid werkte, hebben zeker geprobeerd om hun sporen na te laten op het album. Hier en daar hoor je de bijzondere strijkers en blazers van Matthew E. White, terwijl op andere plekken de elektronica van Trey Pollard opduikt. Het is gelukkig niet ten koste gegaan van het intieme geluid van Nadia Reid en voorziet dit geluid alleen maar van een onderhuidse spanning die haar songs nog net wat mooier en indringender maken.
Nadia Reid betovert op Out of My Province 40 minuten lang met muziek van een bijzonder hoog niveau. Het is muziek die betovert, verwondert en ontroert en het is muziek die alleen maar aan kracht blijft winnen. Nadia Reid is tot dusver toch nog vooral een wat obscuur talent uit Nieuw-Zeeland, maar zo langzamerhand moeten we onder ogen zien dat ze echt met de allerbesten mee kan.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar Out Of My Province luisteren en het album kopen:


of luister naar onze Spotify Playlist om uit te vinden waar we over schrijven:


zaterdag 11 juli 2020

Haberdashed. Stop Calling Me Frank

Haberdashery is a word mentioned a few times in Quentin Tarentino's great movie 'The Hateful Eight'. From what I know the word to mean it seems inappropriately named there. In fact my great-grandfather owned a haberdashery, manufacturenwinkel, in Amsterdam called The Star, De Ster, until he went broke during the First World War. The house is still there. Of course I never met the man nor have been to the shop where my grandfather grew up around. So the title of the new Stop Calling Me Frank album resonates well with me.

Luckily so does the music. Stop Calling Me Frank (SCMF) knows how to contain good times into rocking and rolling songs. The single preceding the album is the opening song to the album. 'South Of Somewhere' in a way is a desperate affair, nothing is really going as it should. Musically though it all is sunshine and cocktails in the breeze. The kind of rock song a rock and roll loving man needs to hear to make him feel alive. A sharp-blown harmonica tips the proverbial hat.

What SCMF does well, extremely well, is taking the music they loved growing up and that is a while back and turn those inspirations into new songs that are energised and played as if there have never been records like this before. It all sounds so fresh and alive. What Haberdashed shows is the love the musicians have for their music and it shows. There's no need to stick to 'Louie Louie' in the The Kingsmen version. Everything that happened since that day when high quality pop and garagerock met and blended ever so well, is worked into the music on Haberdashery. The result is fast-paced rock songs, a honking saxophone and the kind of choruses that beg singing along to. The party just goes on and on on Haberdashed. This is the real deal and there's no holding back for one second. Rock and roll getting me "in a frenzy", just like Lenny Donahoe sings in 'Baby Done Drove'. And who can possibly hate Billy Joel? Just ask SCMF. They answer you in a very direct way in 'Baby Likes To Rock'.

Just under the high brow music on the U.S.'s east coast there is a rock and roll scene in Boston that is obscured from most people in the world. The quality of most of the bands in this scene is so high that it is time the secret door is opened so that the rest of the world discovers this scene as well. There must be millions of people loving this music in the way like I do. How to spread the word? Start by running to Rum Bar Records' musical haberdashery right now. The link is provided below.


You can listen to and order Haberdashed here:


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:


vrijdag 10 juli 2020

The Glow. DMA's

In 2016 DMA's debuted on this blog with its album Hills End and just like that album The Glow kicks off gloriously, here with 'Never Before'. The song combines Oasis brazenness with the rhythm of The Stone Roses or Madchester in general. 'Never Alone' is the kind of song that I can immediately attach myself to. Melodic, singable and a good strong rhythm.

The magic does not keep up though. Just like with Hills End the charms drop away after a few songs. Reading my review of four years ago, it had to do with the slower songs in the second half of the album. My doubts on originality are in there as well but certainly given the benefit of the doubt. All bands have to start somewhere.

On The Glow these doubts have become stronger. For some reason I am listening to new music differently. I have become better at or more strict in judging the music I am hearing over last months or so it seems. My strong doubts are getting stronger by the week it seems. Let me explain what is happening. These doubts have to do with the fact that I am listening to tons of new records and bands that recreate the past without adding an original element to their music. The albums at times are better in sound, the instruments are played superbly, the harmonies are great. Unfortunately the albums as a whole simply do not cut it with the originals. Almost as if they are an exam project of a musical education, instead of a new inspiring record from a (new) band. I miss true inspiration, I miss the personal inner flame and drive to create something new, unlike on 'Every Bad' by Porridge Radio. Old and yet totally new and inspiring.

Promo photo: MacLean Stephenson
That out of my system let me return to The Glow. DMA's introduces some dance elements, effects and rhythms into its music. That, often, distances the music further from me as it does here. There is a lot going on in several songs on The Glow. Take 'Life Is A Game Of Changing'. Fast rhythms, digital effects, synths, it's all there over a typical DMA's melody. Only one thing is missing: the song doesn't connect to me in any way. Where other songs like this in the past certainly have.

I had my doubts on Hills End. Unfortunately they have been confirmed on The Glow. The strings with Oasis are still in tact but I prefer to listen to the latest Liam Gallagher if okay with you. But, please, make up your own mind as this music could be ideal for you. It was the perfect excuse to write what I wanted to write for some time.


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