maandag 31 december 2018

WoNoBlog's 2018 list of best read posts

The end of a year always gives pause for reflection. It is the same on this blog. Yesterday we presented regular contributor Erwin Zijleman's record of the year.

Today we present your favourite posts, the ones that were most read. The number one comes with some doubts. This discussion between three gentlemen, after a normal number of views, in spring became popular in the Russian Federation, exploded during my summer break and still attracts viewers each day from there. On this blog and I suppose on many others, unfortunately this means that something goes on that I can only guess at. Still, the post comes with a Spotify list of 67 extremely enjoyable songs from the 60s. So go on and take a listen anyway. All the others are normal scores and I am glad with your views. Should you have missed a post, there's a link provided to all 10.

Thank you for reading and taking your time to enjoy what we present. We hope to meet online again in 2019. Here are your favourites!

10. Feliz EP. Feliz

9. Nancy Kleurenblind & De Zingende Roadie. Nancy Kleurenblind & De Zingende Roadie

8. The Light. Tango With Lions

7. Moving Targets. The Peawees

6. Our Country: Americana Act II. Ray Davies

5. "Tiny Room is eigenlijk een familie!" Interview met Stefan Breuer

4. Scarlett Roses. Grayson Capps

3. Live At Jazz Middelheim. Chantal Acda and Bill Frisell

2. Risha. David Eugene Edwards & Alexander Hacke

1. 67 Songs from the 60s. A discussion

zondag 30 december 2018

Golden Hour. Kacey Musgraves

Ieder jaar rond deze tijd maakt Erwin Zijleman zijn plaat van het jaar bekend. Zo ook in 2018. Dit jaar heeft de plaat in kwestie al een plekje gehad op dit blog. Daarom hieronder een link naar de originele post voor hen die toch benieuwd zijn. Nieuwjaarsdag volgt de lijst van Wo.

De redactie

Every Breath Smells Thank You. Aleph The Hawk

A few weeks ago an email reached me from an unknown address, so in the spambox it sat as it should be. It proved to be trustworthy, including a request to listen to the album and consider a review.

It turned out to be a pleasure, this request. Aleph the Hawk, Steven Depoorter in daily life, is also involved in Firefang. A quite different beast that is (read on here: In fact I'm fearing Depoorter may suffer from schizophrenia. My bet is he knows and thrives on it. Both identities create great music it seems from listening to them.

Under the name Aleph the Hawk, he dabbles in Americana and So those interested settle in and let this slow but intense music wash over you. That's the way it works optimally for yours truly.

Things are kept small on Every Breath Smells Thank You. The setting is acoustic and remains thus. A guitar, a banjo that is a big part of the story. It remembers me of some of the most intimate songs of Neil Young, including part of that brooding darkness Dinosaur Sr. was able to play in the mid 70s. 'Lotta Love', some songs on 'Hawks & Doves' (1980) and especially some tracks on 'On The Beach'. Like Neil Young a piano can pop up and of course a harshly blown harmonica. It makes for interested listening, despite the fact that most songs remain in the same vein for the whole album. The changes are minimal but oh so pleasant.

Around Depoorter there is a host of musicians playing with him on the other instruments. The rhythm is created by strings instead of skins. The banjo, a stand up bass, acoustic guitar. Like in 'Tracks Of Ore' it is the flute that takes the lead and the ladies who come forward out of nothing to sing a counter melody. Just like a violin that can come in for a soft support. The melody reminds me of a folk melody from long, long ago. Just a piece of music assisting the tale that needs to be told. this is meant to be listened to intently. Only then the true beauty of the music will come forward.

Aleph the Hawk manages to keep things intimate and interesting. The approach is more alternative than clean. More (extremely) interesting than aimed at pleasing. He is not afraid of showing rough edges in voice and instruments. At the same time in a way the opposite effect is reached. The music on this album is special and shines like a glow in the dark. A point where people are drawn to, irrespective of possible consequences in that dark. Fascinating stuff.

31 December is a strange day of the year to release an album. In multiple ways. But from what I just wrote it makes total sense. Glows in the dark, potential, dangerous consequences, fascination. It all sounds like New Year's eve to me.


You can listen to and buy the album here:

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

zaterdag 29 december 2018

Kairos, 6 December 2018 by .No on Concertzender

After the festivities in last months deliberations by Wo. on the radio show .No produces for Concertzender called Kairos, we return to business as usual. Of course 100 is a random number, but people like to celebrate special occasions and 100 is a nice round figure. 101 is not. It is the beginning of a new cycle so to say. So let us follow Wo. in his train of thoughts while listening to the music on the Kairos of December 2018.

So, onwards with the series: a meditation on modern music. A high voice chimes with the echoes of an ancient cathedral. The troubles latter day musicians go to to artificially create bathroom reverb on their voices is created instantly in the old homes of our Lord. The voice is supplanted by a violin and more like and stringminded instruments. Playing a melody, some harmonies and counter melodies. Together they slowly create the image of a cascading waterfall. Level for level it drops ever downward. The water not caring, nor feeling what we humans would under the same circumstances, knowing what could await us at a lower level. The melody holds this coldness, distance within it. Michael Price has left wild emotions outside of his composition 'Willow Road'. Only now reading the title, it could be about a country lane with trees on both sides slowly bending to the wind, uncaring for their respective fates. The voice returns morphing into the next contribution.

Sytze Pruiksma returns after debuting in Kairos 100 with four pieces no less. 'Waad' is an experimental composition. Almost like a morse signal from a ship at sea. A language I do not understand. Is it a distress call or just an ordinary message? There's no way for me to tell. What I do not understand is that the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is part of this album. Where is it? Certainly not present in 'Waad'. This is 100% electronics with at most an electric bass guitar playing the dark notes. Creating a dissonant in the last part of the composition. Nearing non-music 'Waad' is. Not really for me, but certainly not harsh or unpleasant.

Slowly Eastern music moves in. A percussive instrument and some sort of flute. Although this seems more North African, I can't help to see a cobra coming out of a basket in rapture of the music and oblivious of the audience watching. Anouar Brahem returns, at least I'm near certain, after a certain period to Kairos. In 'Diversion' he plays traditional music that is worthy of meditating on. There's a calmness in the rhythm and soothing notes from the flute. They caress the mind while sinking ever deeper towards the thin line between consciousness and sub-consciousness. The line between lucidity and sleep.

Again one of those mixes that seem incredible. Yes, the instruments change, but the mood and pace do not. And yet 'Lake Serenade' by Manu Delago has started. Wherever this lake is, it must be beautiful there as Delago paints a most beautiful and tender musical picture of this lake. One to visit for sure.

The background changes once again, so do the instruments. However, if meditating on this music, I am sure the meditator would hardly have noticed the change. The mood is darker, the notes drawn out now, the instruments much tighter together. Yet there is still a form of serenity interlaced with a slight tension, some unease. KJ Rothweiler first comes by with 'Sile' and then 'Caro' where a piano plays a repetitive motive for a while, before variations start to interact with the main theme. The album 'Ex' may have things past as a theme. The melancholy dripping from the piano notes, recorded as if in a large room or hall, certainly suggests a longing for those things. Rothweiler was not in a happy mood when composing 'Caro'. More like he lost her forever. 'Caro' is a composition that needs constant attention. If not, you will have lost interest quite soon. Alone with a headset on will work best.

Michael Price also gets a second helping in this Kairos. Again from his album 'Tender Symmetry'. 'Shade Of Dreams' again starts with a high voice, singing alone before strings start an accompaniment. This is serious stuff, that much is clear. The singing is at the edge of what I can bare, yet clearly affecting me. My mood becomes so sad. The feeling just sweeps over me.

When a sad and lonely trumpet takes over. Eric Vloeimans and Sytze Pruiksma play another bird named composition, 'Nightingale'. This is so beautiful. Slowly the orchestra winds itself up to a climax, but the sound fades away.

Just sounds and noises, like a grumbling troll on a far away mountain, announcing mayhem that may just about strike sometime soon. We are in Norway with Trondheim Voices + Asle Karstad. This is not music, not real singing. There are voices and noises. All extremely experimental. A fragment and a five minute piece called 'Steamsaw'. Yes, somebody has been composing here, but it is beyond me to what purpose. Certainly not to please me. But, who knows, perhaps for millions of others and at a minimum .No., as he has given Trondheim Voices a place in his program.

Maarja Nuut & Ruum, who I can claim having tipped .No on, return for the third month in a row. The Estonian violinist and singer collaborates with electronic artist Hendrik Kaljujärv, a.k.a. Ruum, for her album 'Muunduja' (Shifter). Now I know one word in Estonian and that is "järv". This is the pond or small lake outside a village that most villages in the Estonian countryside have. Her sharp voice has taken the place of the Norwegian non-singing voices. Just repeating and repeating the same melody over electronically treated sounds and supplanted by a harsh sounding violin.

When an acoustic guitar comes in House of Cosy Cushions takes over. Richard Bolhuis' work by now can be called a permanent feature of Kairos. Not always agreeing with me though. This is not the case with 'Bleed The Need'. This barok sounding song knows only minor changes in melody, but has a clear connection to the music of U.K.'s Modern Studies, a band I rather like. There's a folk element, hidden in the darkness, on the edge of the song.

KJ Rothweiler gets a third helping this month. Again dark notes wash over me. An organ with treated sounds that come to me if having to travel through waves, moving unexpectedly making me have to wait until the wave and thus the sound finally reaches me after having bumped into other waves and objects near the beach. 'Room' has a layer of mystery in the song, because of this time alternating effects. Intriguing and easy to listen to.

'Fermatinio' is up next. A private recording by Tilo Baumheier and Michael Stratz. A bass and a flute slowly playing out a song. There is a jazz element because of the bass, not unlike the jazz pieces on previous Kairosses by the trio with the Polish name, Jan something. Just like it this music is not mine, yet it is not hard to acknowledge beauty when I hear it. The way the two instruments interact are quite pleasant.

The way the piano moves in is classic .No. For a second or so it is as if a third instrument is added to the duo, before the other two fade away. By now I'm listening to a piano tale called 'Now You're Gone'. The sadness is just as deep as described above in KJ Rothweiler's 'Caro'. Roger Spees' melody is soft and lingering. Notes are sparse, long held, but above all sad. There's no joy when she's no longer around.

The piano changes mood unexpectedly. It is not a surprise that Spees is no longer playing. Pieter de Graaf returns to Kairos with a melody that holds joy and melancholy all in one. No piano tale but 'A Minor Story'. De Graaf certainly catches me with this composition. It is so multi-layered, intrinsically beautiful. The warmth that comes from it could be life saving, I am sure.

It ends with a small joke of less than two seconds, I let you figure out that one for yourself.


Playlist 20181206 2300 Kairos 101 s
00:06       Michael Price. Willow road. Album ‘Tender Symmetry’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP112CD.
06:34       Sytze Pruiksma. Waad.Sytze Pruiksma, City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Album ‘LÂN’. LÂN 1.
11:50       Kudsi Erguner. Diversion. Kudsi Erguner & Lassad Hosni. Album ‘Conte de L’incroyable Amour’- Anouar Brahem. ECM 1457 1779874.
17:14       Manu Delago. Lake Serenade. Album ‘Parasol Peak’. TPLP1450CDP.
19:30       KJ Rothweiler. Sile. Album ‘Ex’. DRONARIVM RD-54.
21:35       KJ Rothweiler. Caro. Album ‘Ex’. DRONARIVM RD-54.
27:53       Michael Price. Shade of Dreams. Album ‘Tender Symmetry’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP112CD.
30:15       Sytze Pruiksma. Nightingale. Sytze Pruiksma, Eric Vloeimans, HaFaBra Orchestra.
Album ‘Conference of the Birds’. LÂN 3.Sytze Pruiksma.
31:41       Trondheim Voices + Asle Karstad. Berlin Memorial (fragment). Album ‘Rooms & Rituals’. Grappa LC49093.
32:37       Trondheim Voices+ Asle Karstad.Steamsaw. Album ‘Rooms & Rituals’. Grappa LC49093.
37:52       Maarja Nuut & Ruum. Une Meles. Album ‘Muunduja’. 130701 Ltd. CD13-30P.
42:49       Richard Bolhuis/House of Cosy Cushions. Bleed the Need. Album ‘Haunt Me Sweetly’. Outcast Cats CAT 0C01.
46:26       KJ Rothweiler. Room. Album ‘Ex’. DRONARIVM RD-54.
49:56       Tilo Baumheier & Michael Stratz. Fermatinio. Private recording.
52:43       Roger Spees. Now you’re gone. Album ‘Piano Tales’. Zijnsmuziek PT250409.
56:16       Pieter de Graaf. A minor story.Album ’Prologue’. DGR Music.
59:46       Trad. Dag Sinterklaasje (adapted fragment). VOF de Kunst. Album ‘Sinterklaasfeest met VOF de Kunst’. WSP CD16137.

You can listen to this Kairos here:

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

vrijdag 28 december 2018

Astral Swans, Howart, Memory Fish live. De Ruimte, Amsterdam Sunday 23 December 2018

With signees to the Tiny Room Records label one gets places. After visiting the Vondelbunker earlier this year, now Amsterdam-North at the edge of an industrial estate soon to be turned into a residential area was the location this time. De Ruimte is not unlike a bar in student dormitory only somewhat bigger. A special feature is the windows tilting outward somehow creating the impression of being on a ship's bridge.

Unfortunately when I walked in out of the rain (having moved from the waterfront), I was the audience and even more unfortunately things did not get really better during the three shows. Those who stayed at home did not get wet, but missed three shows of circa a half hour each that all, in their own way, were memorable.

Where to start with Memory Fish? One man, one small keyboard producing beats and somewhat changing sounds per song yet always dark in outlook. Lyrics that seemed to be made through a cut up technique by throwing lines up in the air and randomly assemble them into a lyric. With one exception: in each song "Charlie" is told something, explained something, dissuaded of something, etc. In a way this act was extremely fascinating. It was also the first time I was sitting with the lyrics in my hand. But that is as far as I can go. This was not for me. The monotony of tone, sound and songs were not able to reach nor touch me in a positive way. There is an album called 'The Horses Are Still Running", Charlie, I automatically add in my mind, I notice. So totally untouched I was not by Memory Fish.

Next up was Astral Swans, the name under which Canadian singer-songwriter Matthew Swan releases his songs. His guitar tuned in such a way that with just one finger barring the frets he was able to play nearly each song. As such the two shows were in fact somewhat alike. The main difference is a melody, no matter how elementary played on the guitar, is instantly discernable, the lyrics understandable, creating an impact in the first lines: "I had a dream I killed all of my friends". Add that Swan's singing voice is so much pleasanter to listen to and there's a winner. What struck me, is how a singer-songwriter can have an impact with so minimal tools to work with. The accompaniment on the guitar was almost beyond minimal. More percussive than melodic. It is all up to the voice to create the effect. And it did. Of course it helped that I knew most of the songs, but even then. Astral Swans has an effect on me.

The afternoon was closed by Howart. Bravely overwinning some electrical issues at the very start of the show, it did not seem to affect the players at all. Howart is a band of Tiny Room Records celebrities accompanying singer/keyboardist (and painter) Anneke van Nieuwkoop. Together they work out songs in a way that moves in a direction of post rock with some progrock elements woven into the whole. In a new song I had the impression Howart could work itself up to the Earth & Fire of the 2020's. The Earth & Fire of the first 4 years, not the disco and reggae version of a few years later. After the two singer-songwriters sonic storms, feedback, all sorts of effects and noise were released on the few people in the audience, but always to a great effect. Something happened in De Ruimte, I had not expected. The music certainly does not fit the soft-toned artwork by Van Nieuwkoop accompanying the record. This is music that bites, hard at certain points, before releasing and returns to a hibernating phase. Impressive is the right word, good the one that follows up close.

Afterwards I went home with the 7" single released by Tiny Room Records by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Naked Shortsellers and a 12" to be released early next year in my bag. Through the rain I moved on back to the waterfront to catch the ferry to Amsterdam's Central Station. The last shows of a year that brought so many fantastic ones.

(All photo's by) Wo.

Here's more on the artists on Tiny Room Records:

on Memory Fish:

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

donderdag 27 december 2018

Harness. K Michelle Dubois

K Michelle DuBois strooit met volstrekt tijdloze pop en rocksongs en ze worden steeds onweerstaanbaarder

Ik had nog nooit van K Michelle Dubois gehoord, maar toen haar plaat voor het eerst uit de speakers kwam, had ik het idee dat ik haar al jaren kende. Harness staat immers vol met volstrekt tijdloze popliedjes en het zijn popliedjes met een voorliefde voor 90s rock. Het maakt van Harness de ultieme feelgood plaat, maar de songs van K Michelle DuBois zijn ook nog eens heel goed. De instrumentatie is gericht op genadeloos verleiden en ook de stem van de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter beschikt over dit vermogen. Ik ging direct voor de bijl en ben nog lang niet klaar met deze compleet onweerstaanbare plaat

K Michelle DuBois staart me inmiddels al vele weken aan vanaf de cover van haar nieuwe plaat Harness. Het is een cover die me al vanaf dag één flink tegen staat, maar de muziek op de plaat staat me juist zeer aan en daar gaat het uiteindelijk om.
De plaat verscheen vorige week, zodat ik eindelijk iets kan opschrijven over de derde plaat van de singer-songwriter uit Atlanta, Georgia. Over de vorige twee kan ik niet veel zeggen, want die zijn me volledig ontgaan, maar plaat nummer drie is echt een hele goede.
Op deze derde plaat maakt K Michelle Dubois volstrekt tijdloze popliedjes en het zijn volstrekt tijdloze popliedjes die zich vooral laten inspireren door de vrouwelijke rockmuzikanten uit de jaren 90. Denk aan Juliana Hatfield, denk aan Belly, denk aan The Breeders en denk ook zeker aan Liz Phair in haar alternatievere jaren.
K Michelle DuBois beperkt de invloeden die ze verwerkt in haar muziek echter zeker niet tot die uit de jaren 90. Hier en daar hoor ik iets van Siouxsie Sioux, hier en daar iets van The Bangles, maar Harness kan zich ook laten inspireren door de tijdloze popmuziek van Fleetwood Mac, de girlpop van Phil Spector, de ‘angry young woman’ muziek van Alanis Morissette of de verleidelijke popliedjes van Jenny Lewis. Zo kan ik nog wel even doorgaan met het noemen van namen, maar een recensie met alleen maar namen helpt uiteindelijk niemand.
K Michelle Dubois verwerkt al deze invloeden in een geluid dat ik alleen maar kan omschrijven als compleet onweerstaanbaar. De gitaarlijnen op de plaat zijn zonder uitzondering om te smullen, de gitaarmuren die hier en daar worden opgebouwd zijn aangenaam gruizig, de brede klankentapijten van synths zijn steeds weer sprookjesachtig mooi, terwijl de ritmesectie lekker voor in de mix staat.
Het is een geluid dat bedoeld is om genadeloos te verleiden en dat doet het dan ook. Op hetzelfde moment durft K Michelle Dubois te experimenteren. De ritmes zijn soms voorzichtig tegendraads, de synths strooien zo nu en dan met licht tegen de haren in strijkende klanken, terwijl de gitaren hier en daar flink uit de bocht mogen vliegen.
Als ik al het vergelijkingsmateriaal op één hoop veeg is Harness van K Michelle DuBois de plaat die Alanis Morissette na Jagged Little Pill niet meer heeft gemaakt, al doe ik K Michelle DuBois met zo’n eenzijdige vergelijking ook tekort.
Ik heb het nog niet over de stem van de singer-songwriter uit Atlanta, Georgia, gehad en het is een stem die gemaakt lijkt voor dit soort muziek. K Michelle DuBois kan in vocaal opzicht stevig rocken, maar kan ook meisjesachtig verleiden of klinken als een alternatieve popprinses. Harness walst keer op keer over me heen met pop en rocksongs waarvan ik alleen maar heel vrolijk kan worden en vervelen doet het na al die draaibeurten nog steeds niet. De cover van de plaat blijft helaas een beetje creepy, maar verder niets dan lof.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Harness hier beluisteren en kopen:

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

maandag 24 december 2018

Little Black Book. Sarah Walk

A while back I received an email saying perhaps this is something for the blog as I can't do anything with it where my radio show is concerned. Listening to Little Black Book for just a few seconds I understood .No's email completely. At the same time I knew that it would fit on the blog. It remained in that vague sort of musical limbo. Ever since the summer I was running behind on releases and this one had already been released earlier even.

Enter Christmas time and a time to look over my shoulder to see if there are albums left behind that deserve a spot in the final days of the year.

"I've got a little black book with my poems in", sang Roger Waters on the "The Wall" album in 1979. Well, does this lady have a little black book with her notes in! The title song opens the album with a piano. Fiercely played, hurriedly even as if she can't wait till she's able to deliver her message. Guitars and drums enter. All an intro to a grungy chorus, where Sarah Walk shows the world the ease with which she sings in this genre. The part that seems an intro to the chorus is so strong and then it turns out to be a part of it anyway. Relation problems centre in the lyrics. "A heart breaking at the seams", words that are said to be so true but perceived as lies on the receiving end. 'Little Black Book' is a strong song, where Sarah Walk and musicians explore the boundaries of the composition as well.

Sarah Walk was born in Chicago and graduated from the Berklee College of Music. Together with producer Steve Brown she set out to record her first album, released this October. Her piano is a foremost instrument on the album. Together they opted for a big sound. Even the first ballad on the album, 'Maybe Someday' is huge. Walk's voice is a powerhouse even when holding back. The piano is played like a hammer, keeping time like a bassdrum.

On a day when a listener is tired, this is not the album to play. (Well, certainly not the first half.) Everything is big, huge, blown up, so you'll be wound up instead of winding down. In the lyrics relationships fail without exception. Someone is leaving, someone is holding on while the other is letting go or has already left, leaving the other behind in doubt and sorrow. Sadness is the parole in Earth's valley of tears of Sarah Walk, where anger and bafflement fight for supremacy.

Not putting this album on ever would be a serious mistake though, as Little Black Book has its extremely good moments. Even moments were Sarah Walk leaves her rocking pose behind and returns as a night club singer. 'Time' is a very delicate song, kept small, where Ms. Walk shows a totally different side of herself. Tender violins set in to underscore the pain felt because of another break up.

Playing a piano there's always a danger names of the likes of Elton John and Billy Joel pop up in a review. I could understand if they do. Especially Billy Joel, the piano parts at times do remind me of him. That is where things stop as far as I'm concerned. The rock side of Sarah Walk is far more authentic, even when violins join again in 'Can't Slow Down' the rock is sounding great. Not like the pastiche Joel would create. The guitars are an integral part of this song that rocks hard for a piano driven song. If I have to compare in NL, it will have to be Anouk of her first several albums. Her fans can certainly check Sarah Walk out.

Little Black Book shows several sides of Sarah Walk, maybe even one too many, but so be it. With Little Black Book she lays down a very impressive introduction to herself and the start of her career. With a voice like this and the varied songs she's able to write and arrange this album ought not to be the last I hear from her. It may be a few years from now, but I'm already looking forward to the second helping.

And the androgyny everyone else writes about? Whatever she is or wants to be, I just hope for Ms. Walk she'll be happy. Certainly happier than when writing Little Black Book. The music brings me joy, so a warm thank you for that.


You can listen to and buy Little Black Book here:

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

zondag 23 december 2018

A Dawn I Remember. Holly Arrowsmith

Soms komt er maanden geen muziek uit Nieuw-Zeeland voorbij op deze BLOG, maar dit jaar is het spitsuur. Na Julia Deans en The Beths is het nu Holly Arrowsmith die mijn aandacht heeft getrokken met een uitstekende plaat.
Holly Arrowsmith is net als Julia Deans en The Beths afkomstig uit het Nieuw-Zeelandse Auckland, maar tapt in muzikaal opzicht uit een ander vaatje dan de twee stadgenoten die haar voor gingen op deze BLOG.
A Dawn I Remember is een bijzonder ingetogen singer-songwriter plaat, die voor een belangrijk deel genoeg heeft aan fraai akoestisch gitaarspel en een mooie stem.
Holly Arrowsmith maakt muziek die vooral in het hokje folk past en het is folk die zowel aansluiting vindt bij oude helden als Joan Baez en vooral Joni Mitchell en jonge folkies van het moment, waarvan vooral Laura Marling relevant vergelijkingsmateriaal aandraagt.
Holly Arrowsmith groeide op in de Nieuw-Zeelandse natuur, maar werd geboren in Santa Fé, New Mexico. Het verklaart misschien waarom A Dawn I Remember niet alleen citeert uit de archieven van de folk, maar ook aansluiting vindt bij de Americana uit het zuiden van de Verenigde Staten.
A Dawn I Remember, overigens al het tweede album dat Holly Arrowsmith in eigen beheer heeft uitgebracht, is zoals gezegd een voornamelijk ingetogen plaat met een hoofdrol voor de akoestische gitaar en de stem van de Nieuw-Zeelandse muzikante, maar de productie van de plaat is veel belangrijker en voller dan bij eerste beluistering opvalt.

Voor de productie van A Dawn I Remember deed Holly Arrowsmith een beroep op Ben Edwards, die eerder mooie dingen deed voor onder andere Julia Jacklin, Tami Neilson en Marlon Williams. Ben Edwards heeft er aan de ene kant voor gezorgd dat het verzorgde akoestische gitaarspel van de Nieuw-Zeelandse muzikante en haar mooie en emotievolle stemgeluid in balans zijn, maar de ervaren producer heeft de plaat ook voorzien van fraaie accenten van onder andere piano, keyboards, banjo en slide gitaar. Het voorziet de songs op de plaat van net dat beetje spanning dat nodig is om op te vallen.
De accenten die zijn toegevoegd aan de sobere muziek van Holly Arrowsmith zijn uiterst subtiel en zitten de eenvoud van haar muziek nergens in de weg. Het is muziek die net zo indringend is als de muziek van de al eerder genoemde Joni Mitchell en Laura Marling, maar A Dawn I Remember heeft ook het lome en bezwerende van de platen van bijvoorbeeld Gillian Welch.
Net als alle genoemde zangeressen heeft Holly Arrowsmith geen hele makkelijke stem, maar de stem van de Nieuw-Zeelandse strijkt toch minder tegen de haren in dan die van met name Joni Mitchell. Ook de songs op de tweede plaat van de muzikante uit Auckland maken het je niet altijd makkelijk. Het zijn persoonlijke songs die de tijd nemen en hierdoor zeker op het eerste gehoor wat lang voort lijken te slepen. Het voorziet de songs echter ook van urgentie en van schoonheid, die wat mij betreft steeds nadrukkelijker aan de oppervlakte komt.
A Dawn I Remember is de zoveelste uiterst ingetogen vrouwelijke singer-songwriter plaat die dit jaar is verschenen, maar zowel qua stem en instrumentatie als qua songs springt Holly Arrowsmith er in positieve zin uit. Bij dit soort muziek is uiteindelijk allesbepalend of de muziek je raakt of niet en de songs van Holly Arrowsmith raken mij zeker. Prachtplaat als je het mij vraagt.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt A Dawn I Remember hier beluisteren en kopen:

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

zaterdag 22 december 2018

Spider In My Beer And Other Songs. Stop Calling Me Frank

Can I take an album called Spider In My Beer And Other Songs by a band called Stop Calling Me Frank seriously? Do I have to even? No, of course not. But make no mistake, this album is great fun and played with a level of enthusiasm that makes sure I am listening and give it the credits due.

Stop Calling Me Frank is the kind of band that I might find on a city jazz festival evening in the back of some bar or other cranking it out to great fun of all present. Every one is stomping around, swigging beer, hopefully without the spider in it. Rock is all around, a harmonica on fire over it all. Blues faves, 'Johnny Be Goode' and other rock and roll classics and 60s classics will be played and sung along to.

Reading the story of Stop Calling Me Frank, I am not surprised to find a band coming back together after 30 years of working and raising kids. The past decades were also used to hone some songwriting skills, surplanting the covers of old. Older and wiser, bigger probably in the wrong way, the band returns to the Boston scene on fire.

With its mix of rock, powerpop, garage rock (hear that saxophone honking) and a mild form of punkrock there's not one song on this selection that does not have that deep groove. A groove to move to, dance to, party to. Spider In My Beer ... offers that in abundance.

Promo photo
Those expecting a sense of subtlety in their music are at the wrong address here. Stop Calling Me Frank rocks on, mildly at a mimimum, but always tight, without too many frills on offer. With prominently mixed in drums followed by a tight bass and rhythm guitar, it is only the saxophone and an occasional guitar lick or solo that is allowed to escape that tightness. It results in music that is meant to move to. Think 'Louie Louie', The Ramones, 'My Sharona' and you will get the picture. If your still failing in imagination here, just listen to 'Drinking After Work' and you will get all drifts surrounding this band.

Spider In My Beer ... is not for all occasions, but for all those that I like a little wildness and abandon in my music. Just to dance around for a few moments in the living room, just for the fun of it, this is my album. It could/should be yours to.


You can listen to and buy Spider In My Beer And Other Songs here:

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

vrijdag 21 december 2018

Odds. Garda

Duitse band luidt de herfst in met een stemmige soundtrack vol weemoed en schoonheid 

Odds van Garda lag bij mij op de stapel van de wat anonieme nieuwe releases van deze week, maar de plaat ontstijgt deze stapel direct wanneer de eerste klanken uit de speakers komen. De band uit Dresden heeft een buitengewoon stemmige herfstsoundtrack vol invloeden en vol fraaie accenten gemaakt. Soms uiterst ingetogen, dan weer groots en meeslepend of flink ontsporend. Een heel rijtje grote namen komt bij als vergelijkingsmateriaal en het is een rijtje dat iedere keer weer anders is. Een plaat die ik niet zou willen missen. 

Ik weet niet zo gek veel over de Duitse band Garda. Ik weet dat de band uit Dresden komt en de afgelopen jaren een indrukwekkende live-reputatie heeft opgebouwd. Ik weet verder dat de band de afgelopen jaren twee, met name in Duitsland, goed ontvangen platen heeft uitgebracht en dat deze platen niet alleen opvielen door bijzonder fraai artwork, maar ook door mooie en spannende muziek.
Die muziek heb ik zelf overigens pas gehoord na beluistering van de nieuwe plaat van de band en ik moet de critici gelijk geven. Odds, de nieuwe plaat van de Duitse band, valt me qua artwork wat tegen, maar het gaat natuurlijk om de muziek. In muzikaal opzicht heeft Garda wat mij betreft flinke stappen gezet, want Odds is een mooie en bijzondere plaat, die nog een stuk beter is dan zijn voorgangers.
Garda werd vooralsnog in het hokje folk gedrukt en ook Odds opent ingetogen met een akoestische gitaar en sprookjesachtige klanken. Wanneer de stem van zanger en voorman Kai Lehmann voor het eerst opduikt in een bad van strijkers met hier en daar wat venijnige gitaaruithalen, ontstijgt Garda het hokje folk direct. De smaakvolle en avontuurlijk instrumentatie in combinatie met stemmige vocalen en de wat donkere ondertoon doen wel wat denken aan de muziek die David Sylvian maakte op zijn eerste soloplaten, maar waar de voormalig Japan zanger uiteindelijk verstilde klanken opzocht, laat Garda haar muziek meerdere malen ontsporen.
De openingstrack ontspoort eerst met ruwe gitaren, maar slaat hierna om in een toegankelijk en buitengewoon fraai en rijk georkestreerd popliedje. Alleen in de openingstrack heeft Garda al meerdere gezichten laten zien en dat doet de band ook op de rest van de plaat. Odds is soms folky en ingetogen, soms groots en meeslepend en soms ruw en avontuurlijk.
De band maakt steeds weer indruk met de bijzondere instrumentatie, waarin gloedvolle strijkers, warme en organische klanken en sprookjesachtige elektronica steeds prachtig samenvloeien. Garda maakt op Odds bovendien indruk met het gemak waarmee de band tussen genres en stijlen schakelt.
In iedere track doet de band me weer aan van alles en nog wat denken, waarbij illustere rijtjes op kunnen duiken als The Blue Nile, New Order, Ben Howard en American Music Club. Het is een rijtje dat in iedere song weer anders kan zijn, maar het is altijd een aansprekend rijtje namen.
Zeker bij beluistering met de koptelefoon hoor je goed met hoeveel aandacht Garda heeft gesleuteld aan haar muziek. Ondanks het grote aantal instrumenten valt alles keurig op zijn plek, hoor je ieder detail en slaagt Garda er ook nog eens in om ruimte te creëren in haar muziek.  Het is muziek die prachtig past bij de langzaam opduikende herfstkleuren en bijpassende weerbeelden, maar is ook muziek die ondanks alle melancholie en weemoed verwarmt met mooie klanken in al even mooie songs.
Als ik dan toch een kritische noot moet kraken is dat je hoort dat Kai Lehmann geen native speaker van het Engels is, maar hoe erg is dat? Het zit mij in ieder geval nergens in de weg. Mooie en bijzondere plaat, die echt alle aandacht verdient.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Odds hier beluisteren en kopen:

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

donderdag 20 december 2018

TMGS and Dieter van der Westen Band Live. Q-Bus, Leiden Tuesday 18 December 2018

TMGS: photo Wo.
A double bill in the Q-Bus in Leiden this evening and what a bill. TMGS has released two of the most beautiful albums of this decade: 'Rivers And Coastlines: The Ride' and 'Ain't No Place'. Dieter van der Westen Band proved one of those total surprises, easily packing in every one in the audience.

TMGS from Antwerp by way of Kalmthout plays a mix of country music and Americana, laced with the softest tinges of high quality pop music and a dose of rock in the right places. And then come in the trumpets, although only one this evening. On record the band reaches an enormous high level of perfection. When I take in the fact that the band is almost more of a hobby, I doubt whether a higher level of perfection can be reached without an unlimited number of studio hours. My take is that this would probably lead to overkill.

So expectations were incredibly high on my end. The seven took to the stage and an impression of a band tuning up, all at once, was created, all making vague noises. Before slowly and softly a strummed guitar came forward and the clear sound of the trumpet announcing the beginning of that highlight of 'Ain't No Place': 'Cold Day On The Lake'. What a beautiful beginning.

Peter Lodiers: photo: Wo.
The previous show in Q-Bus in 2013, was marred by sound troubles on stage and for the audience. This time things were mixed perfectly as usual in the Q-Bus. Right from the start all the instruments came across so clear and I knew we were going to be in for a treat. A pedal steel guitar added another element of authenticity to the Americana TMGS plays. The trumpet adds an extra layer of desolation and longing to the music and the lyrics on moving, travelling, coming and going somewhere.

The songs from the latest album 'Ain't No Place' all made the cut when played live. Melodically TMGS presents so many surprises in its songs. Yes, live that third and/or fourth guitar or keyboard part cannot be played and some of the harmonies are amiss, yet even then there are so many guitar parts, pedal steel, keyboard, bass runs and inventive drumming to follow, that two ears at times are not enough.

I found myself so impressed by what was going on. When 'Tell Everyone', the first song from 'Rivers And Coastlines: The Ride' that introduced me to TMGS, was played heaven was reached. If I had died there and then, luckily I did not, the world would have been at peace. Musically it could not have become any better, perhaps ever.

D. vd Westen: Photo: Wo.
Dieter van der Westen Band played another perfect set this evening. Far more traditional country music was played. From ballads to country rockers and more jazz tinged, all came by in this set. With three different guitars, acoustic, electric, dobro or banjo, joined by drums and an upright modern electric bass, totally different sounds and solos could be played. Four part harmonies were no exception in the songs of  this band. Van der Westen himself has a pleasant edge to his voice, reaching all the way to that guy with the rough voice in Gomez. When a song "not really fitting in" was played, it reminded me of Gomez as well; indeed an odd one out here.

The guitarist appeared to be playing more or less ad lib, reading chords from a pad, playing impressively good. A clear country sound, finger picking little guitar runs or fabulous solos made a little dirtier in sound. The contrast with the slide notes on the dobro or fingerpicked banjo was working out fantastically.

This band also started off in a surprising way, with African percussion in a country song, creating a totally different sort of sound and atmosphere. It was a pity the band did not return to this mood for one or two more songs. Regular drums were the preferred standard.

TMGS: photo Wo.
Afterwards people compared the bands. Some were impressed by both acts, others preferred Van der Westen. To them I answered the following. Dieter van der Westen Band plays a perfect Americana with original songs, but in a traditional way. TMGS has made a few genres its own, created a more original sound and sonically experiments to create new sound combinations in a traditional environment. No one disagreed.

A perfect night ended the 2018 season of 'Hans van Polanen presents'. Two acts with great impact and musicality of which one happens to be one of my favourites. Yes, the spine was tingled all right: TELL EVERYONE how good TMGS is.


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

woensdag 19 december 2018

The Best Of Folks/Harbour Men. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy/Naked Shortsellers split 7"

Despite the fact that Bonnie 'Prince' Billy has featured more in the former magazine than on this blog, he does not need much of an introduction. Those following this blog have encountered This Leo Sunrise a few times in the past two years.

Leo Meijer, This Leo Sunrise's bass player, is a long time acquaintance of Will Oldham and manages a near official website/fansite on all things Will Oldham. After all those years of friendship they have decided to release a split single on the Tiny Room Records label from the Netherlands. In a bio on This Leo Sunrise one of the first things mentioned is "influenced by", fill in any incarnation of, Will Oldham. So it is not hard to imagine that a cooperation by the two artists is quite understandable. A Utrecht "supergroup" was created by Daniel Papen, voice, Leo Meijer, bass, Jacco van Elst, guitar and Gerben Houwer, drums and called itself Naked Shortsellers. So much for the connection and origins of this split single.

Both present a song very much worth while listening to. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's is a familiar sounding song. Stripped to the bone, the acoustic guitar drives it relentlessly forward with its elementary sounding guitar pattern, played over and over. At least two "princes" sing to us. A few sparse piano notes come to us in the form of a "solo". Very slowly, not to mention delicately, the song is flashed out. Bit by bit more voices join and an extremely estranging sound, making the song eerie. Only to drop away to once again leave us with just a guitar and voices of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. The song is on family ties and binding to children (don't) or brothers (do), friends (only when they see the best in you), friends of friends (when you trust them). So a piece of advice is given as well.

Harbour men starts with a voice emulating Johnny Cash's bariton. My take is that Papen sings in a deeper voice than he is used to. During the first notes I hold on to my heart tightly, yet when the song plays itself out, all concerns are set aside. This is a fantastic song, slowly moving, gently pushing forward. Papen and Will Oldham together sing lead parts, where Papen bit by bit creates a Nick Cave atmosphere over a more widely arranged Bonnie 'Prince' Billy kind of song. The country flavoured Harbour Men knows a subtle pedal steel solo lifting the melancholy mood of the song to an even higher level. This is beauty of the spinetingling sort, folks. The best of.

The way Naked Shortsellers slowly changes the mood in Harbour Men is so well done. Step by step the song becomes more direct and from distant ever closer. By changing the vocal melody Daniel Papen is in front of my face ever more. "I thought I knew you", he sings accusingly. Will Oldham takes over in the background before Papen returns for a perfect ending.

After 'Gloria' with broeder Dieleman Bonnie 'Prince' Billy releases another split single in The Netherlands. It may even be a better one.


You can order the single here:

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

dinsdag 18 december 2018

Manic Acid Love. Schmieds Puls

Another one of those records that should have been reported on in these pages some while ago, but somehow never got off that pool of potential reviews. The reason is not that strange. Manic Acid Love is not my every day record. Schmieds Puls not an average name either. So what are we dealing with here?

Following Anaana by Cari Cari, Manic Acid Love is the second album by an Austrian band making it to these pages. With this album the band releases its third album, my personal first. With singer Mira Lu Kovacs the band has a charismatic front lady, who is not afraid to confront her listeners. Musically Schmieds Puls can be extremely direct as well, but doesn't stop at obvious effects. It wants to affect its listeners and engage them through different approaches towards a song.

Together with bass player Walter Singer and drummer Christian Grobauer Kovacs presents a musical hybrid that pulls elements from pop, e.g. The Cranberries, but also from alternative pop, jazz and experimental music more built on sounds than clear cut songs. The result is a fascinating aural experience. One that doesn't let itself be caught easily. For that Manic Acid Love is to diverse. Hence the reason it took me a while to really dig into the album. Over this all Mira Lu Kovacs sings with her light voice, not seldom in complex harmonies with herself. From light-hearted acoustics arpeggios the mood can grow dark within an instant with heavily played distorted electric chords and return. It makes for fascinating listening.

Promo photo
Not that what I'm hearing has never been done before. Listen closely and everyone will deduce an influence here and there. In the way of singing and the music. Schmieds Puls really works with its influences to make them its own. E.g., in a jazzy outing a Michael Jackson like rhythm can emerge in an outro. A classical style intro on an acoustic guitar can be followed up like nothing of the kind came before, changing the song into a folk led playing of the guitar.

It is in this way the Austrian band keeps putting me on the wrong foot. One moment more successful than the other, but never without surprising me with its next move. This is not an album to put on at a party, but everyone who enjoys listening to a serious album with music very much worthwhile listening to, should give Manic Acid Love a chance. Follow the music and follow the story from manic to acid to the vindication of love.


You can buy Manic Acid Love here:

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

maandag 17 december 2018

We The People Of The Soil. Inspector Cluzo

We the people of the soil is a record about farmers. A lot of animals are mentioned in the first lines, but not a goat. Musically the album shoots off in many directions. The imagination of the members of Inspector Cluzo reaches far and wide. A hardcore metal chorus can switch to a soulful Hammond contribution within seconds or a Hendrix wah wah guitar. In short, there is a truckload of discoveries to make on this intriguing album by a band 10 years on route. With a name commemorating Peter Sellars' most memorable character (although "Chance Gardener" comes close).

Inspector Cluzo is a French duo, Laurent Lacrouts and Mathieu Jourdain, releasing its sixth album in those ten years. Until this album, the Rockfarmers as they are nicknamed, has kept everything within its own fold. Not so We The People Of The Soil. They worked with Vance Powell of Jack White, The White Stripe and all other White incarnations, but also e.g. Arctic Monkeys and Wolfmother fame, in Nashville to create this giant of an album.

For a duo Inspector Cluzo is able to create a huge sound. Not unlike many another duo setting of course, but no matter what, huge noises have to start with a song to attract me for longer than just a moment or to. And songs this band has. Of very different elk to. The wall of sound is just as easily traded in for an acoustic guitar and a whistle. Of course, like most duo bands Inspector Cluzo can never reproduce this all on stage. As I'm not primarily interested in constraints, I'm happy with what I'm hearing. A warm organ, tinkering on a piano. This band knows how to make itself sound interesting and above all good. 'Little Girl' is a smaller song, but the one showing Inspector Cluzo can do much more than wrapping a good song in loud music. When the guitar kicks in again for the title track it is so welcome. Slightly funky, holding back, while the voice is already announcing what is happening next soon. The kind of song I've not heard Dan Auerbach/The Black Keys writing since 'El Camino'. I was already convinced about this album, this draws me in even more. 'We The People Of The Soil' is a great song. What a chorus! Fantastic dynamics!
Promo photo

The folky 'No Deal At The Crossroads' with some spaghetti western, Ennio Morricone elements woven into the schmalzy interludes, changes the mood yet again. Don't think that I've started using examples somewhere into the album makes a difference. I could have started with song one or seven, it would only provide different examples to an identical story. Inspector Cluzo dares to change its tune many times, creating a versatile yet oh so interesting album. Far more so than The White Stripes and closer to The Black Keys. We The People Of The Soil holds a pop element or two, even at its most extreme, 'Pressure On The Mada Lands'. With Tyler Bryant as a guest on guitar.

There is so much to discover on We The People Of The Soil, it is too much to mention. My take is that it is your turn to go on this adventure. For those still buying cds, it comes in a special form including a book. So take your chance.


You can order the album here:

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

zondag 16 december 2018

Back Roads And Abandoned Motels. The Jayhawks

De Amerikaanse alt-country band The Jayhawks maakte in de eerste helft van de jaren 90 twee briljante platen. Het zijn platen waarmee de band uit Minneapolis, Minnesota, zich schaarde onder de alt-country pioniers en het zijn platen die ik nog steeds met grote regelmaat uit de kast trek.
Het niveau van Hollywood Town Hall uit 1992 en Tomorrow The Green Grass uit 1995 heeft de band wat mij betreft nooit meer benaderd, al is het maar omdat deze platen optimaal profiteerden van de bijzondere chemie tussen voormannen Gary Louris en Mark Olson (de Lennon/McCartney van de alt-country).
Ook de laatste twee platen van The Jayhawks vielen me echter zeker niet tegen. Alle reden dus om uit te kijken naar de nieuwe plaat van de Amerikaanse band. Deze plaat opent verrassend met een vocale hoofdrol voor Karen Grotberg in een song die ik ken van de (overigens niet erg overtuigende) soloplaat van Dixie Chicks frontvrouw Natalie Maines. In de tweede track komen de Dixie Chicks terug in het van de band bekende Everybody Knows, waarna ik even dacht dat The Jayhawks een Dixie Chicks coverplaat hebben gemaakt.
Dit blijkt niet het geval. Back Roads And Abandoned Motels bevat louter songs die Jayhawks voorman Gary Louris schreef voor anderen. De Dixie Chicks komen nog een keer voorbij op de plaat en verder komen songs voorbij die eerder terecht kwamen op platen van onder andere Jakob Dylan en Carrie Rodriguez. Back Roads And Abandoned Motels bevat tenslotte twee gloednieuwe songs. Het levert een plaat op die ongetwijfeld een tussendoortje zal worden genoemd, maar zo ervaar ik de plaat niet. Buiten de songs van de Dixie Chicks en Natalie Maines zijn alle songs op de plaat nieuw voor mij en het zijn stuk voor stuk typische Jayhawks songs.

Eerder noemde ik de twee voormannen van de eerste editie van The Jayhawks de Lennon/McCartney van de alt-country. Dat is natuurlijk teveel eer, maar als ik de vergelijking vasthoud, is Gary Louris onbetwist de McCartney van de alt-country. De songs op Back Roads And Abandoned Motels sluiten nadrukkelijk aan bij de erfenis van de vroege alt-country, maar hebben zich ook nadrukkelijk laten inspireren door de countryrock uit de vroege jaren 70 en door de muziek van The Beatles en die van Paul McCartney.

Vergeleken met de andere platen van The Jayhawks klinkt Back Roads And Abandoned Motels net wat lichtvoetiger en poppier dan de andere platen van de band, maar op een of andere manier bevalt het me wel. Gary Louris heeft een aantal prima songs geschreven voor anderen en het zijn songs die me, voor zover ik de originelen ken of heb kunnen vinden, beter bevallen in de uitvoering van The Jayhawks.

Back Roads And Abandoned Motels is een erg aangename plaat die me goed helpt bij het omarmen van het vakantiegevoel, maar het is ook een plaat vol subtiele aanknopingspunten naar muziek uit een ver verleden. Het is bovendien een plaat die zich steeds nadrukkelijker opdringt en die na een paar keer horen meerdere songs oplevert die het verdienen om te worden gekoesterd. Veel meer dan een tussendoortje dus deze nieuwe Jayhawks plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

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

zaterdag 15 december 2018

Music in raves and rants. A conversation for three

Recently Gary, Mark and Wo. started a discussion online following Wo.'s 2nd hand purchase of The Beat's first album from 1980. Not only did the discussion. once posted, get a retweet from The (English) Beat, apparently fully back in existence, Mark, for the rest unrelated, received an e-mail inviting him to purchase tickets for the 2019 The Specials tour, announcing a new album as well. All this led them to a new discussion. 

Mark, 27-10:
Following on from our dip into ska memories recently!

I check out local charity shops from time to time; 20 years ago when vinyl was on the way out they used to be a good source for finding records at very cheap prices. However, although there are many more charity shops on the typical British high street as regular shops close down with the unstoppable online retail revolution, I rarely find anything of interest these days amongst the dross of Boney M, Bread, Brahms and Bert Kaempfert. There is a greater awareness of the monetary value of records now and I suspect the more interesting records are creamed off by the charities for sale on e-bay. Still I can't resist popping in for a shufty in the racks and boxes and yesterday I did come across - in a "care home for cats" shop - an original  mono copy of the Beach Boys Best of Vol 2 from 1966: closing track is the amazing Good Vibrations (which my mother bought for me when it was in the charts). The "flipback" lp sleeve was in very presentable VG/excellent condition - i.e. barely a crease - so I could not resist it for only a quid. I've now also cleaned the record (the usual sponge job) and it plays incredibly well - only a few odd crackles here and there, no scratches, while the heavy vinyl mono gives the record a warm sound all round. There is a signature on the back of the sleeve which shows it has done the round of parties (a practice that has presumably died out with technology change) and the label shows a lot of spindle marks (another tell-tale sign of heavy use) so I was surprised it sounds so good. It's not hugely valuable - maybe £8 or so  - have to knock off a few quid due to that signature on the sleeve -  but I was very chuffed with that find and glad to add it to my somewhat limited Beach Boys collection: it has been saved for the nation and I've chipped in to save a stray moggy or two! Segue to..... Pet Sounds I've got of course (everybody should have a copy of that) and also the subsequent but somewhat cobbled together Smiley Smile lp (original copies now going up in value by the way). As you probably know, the intended follow up to PS, "Smile" (sic), was shelved and did not see the light of day until an archive issue eventually came out in 2011 which I've also got.  So the Best of Vol 2 tells a tale of a rush job release by Capitol frustrated by a wayward Brian Wilson and the absence of a new album. Similarly, the Beatles Oldies but Goldies compilation was pushed out by EMI for Christmas 1966 while the group were still stuck in the studio working on Sgt.Pepper. Unlike the Fab Four, however, the Beach Boys were pretty much washed up by this time and Capitol were not able to cash in on Brian Wilson's genius at the height of psychedelia. Hence the issue just one year later of yet another Best of (vol 3) when Brian was still trying to get a grip on things generally and he was not performing with the band anymore: problems all round for the Beach Boys at that time.

Gary, 27-10:

Gary, 28-10:
By the way, I have always liked the band Bread… besides the mainstream 70s hits some of their album tracks are worth a listen… David Gates’ solo album First has the track ‘Suite: Clouds and Rain’ which is also one of my favourites… a novel musical construct but also maybe a guilty pleasure?😁 

Mark, 28-10:
Aaah…..probably me being harsh again and I admit I hardly know their records - a few of their big hits just hazily remembered. However, they epitomize seventies "soft rock" and all-white AOR that is well-crafted and impeccably played music but lacking guts, grit, messages or rough edges, and so I lump them in with other famous names that similarly just do not cut it for me and have no place in my otherwise, I would say, quite diverse record collection, like Genesis, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, Elton John, Queen, Doobie Brothers, Z Z Top......

Borderline (or should I say on the border!) are The Eagles because they were country rock pioneers with some oomph courtesy of Bernie Leadon who is linked to the great Gram Parsons:  they were both members of the Flying Burrito Brothers. So The Eagles just about cut it for me until the point he left which was when the band became bloated with stadium-rock success and increasingly bitter personal rivalry. As punk raged across the music scene  I sold my original copy of Hotel California - but bought it again after visiting the hotel on the album sleeve during an ICANN trip to LA! 

Another possible case for acceptance are the Allman Brothers Band: the thrilling guitar prowess of Duane Allman provides the pass into my record collection I guess. 

Of the solo singer-songwriters of that era, I've got lp's by Jackson Browne (whose voice certainly sounds very soft) and James Taylor (more edgy) who are both arguably vulnerable to negative AOR tagging. However, at their peak they were top notch writers so OK for me on that scoring. Carly Simon is also safe on the shelves until she went mainstream in the 1980s. Paul Simon wobbled a bit in terms of relevance but who can dare dismiss his achievements in the 1960s (some very political songs then too)? Great credit also to him for sticking his neck out with his engaging South African and Brazilian music in the 1980s. Never any risk of Joni Mitchell or Neil Young falling into the AOR trap. 

Who would you never buy? Maybe you're more tolerant and easy-going than me! "We may lose and we may win, Though we will never be here again
………... so take it easy!"

Gary,  29-10:
Oh Mark, I think you have just asked me that question that you will have wished you had never asked!😂

As you may recall Mark, within in our past frequent work-time discussions this is a subject that has irked me over so many years and may explain why I love (for a better term) ‘Prog Rock’ so much.

I have always listened to ‘music’ for what it is, an artistic medium that means something to you as an individual, music should produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion. But that could also be in the form of excitement, aggressive or negative emotions or feelings. I have never been one to listen to music because it is associated with a social movement or ‘scene’. Indeed, the latter apparent attitude taken by many people when ‘attempting’ to enjoy music is illogical and potentially missing out on a greater gift and experience, because “its not cool to enjoy that scene”! You can exchange the latter quote to whatever common vernacular you wish to choose or may have heard😉.

In my view it is a big mistake, although I grant you convenient, to classify and compartmentalise music as it should always be experienced or appreciated for what it is, not because the musician has blue hair, wears his baseball cap on his/her head back-to-front or has strident fashionable, political or cultural views. To me this has been what is so terribly wrong with the music scene since the mid-70s, too much focus on what is ‘cool’, fashionable and more widely prevalent homage to the media’s Cult of Celebrity! Although there is a valid connection between music and dance, in my view, dance now is considered to be the only reason music exists…. This view is oh-so-wrong! Music is so much more, to me the purest form of music has little or no vocals and most certainly is not just a song! Of course, I enjoy ‘a good toon’, meaningful and inspiring lyrics and even a cheerful whistle as I walk along, but today in our culture that seems to be more the norm and not (in my view as it should be) the exception!

Rap is also an incredibly limiting medium (or at least to my ears)… I have no problem with anyone enjoying it, but it seems that it now excludes other musicians and writers from gaining access to public exposure and inspiration.

You mention the terms AOR, Stadium-Rock, Punk and I will infer Country and singer-songwriter, this is where I believe the core of our cultural problem is, the very action of classifying excludes valid and exceptional pieces of art. This why I love ‘Prog’ (if you have to put a title on it) so much because eclectic, taking inspiration and borrowing from all areas of music and culture to produce music at what I consider its highest levels of quality and experience. I am not saying you have to like what is produced, but to dismiss it without understanding what has gone into producing it or the levels of potential appreciation and enjoyment from listening to it is unfair and actually very negative.

You briefly mention ‘Punk’ and what is today considered to have broken the 70s music industry as being a positive effect. I disagree completely with this view, it had negative affect on music as an art form, because what came with Punk and commercialism thereafter killed the creative process. In my view Punk was nothing more than a fashion statement, very little true musical value was produced (not to say there were not some gems amongst the dirt). There seemed to be a confusion between what is music and what is fashion, to me the two should not be merged as music usually comes off worse! In my personal view Punk’s popularity was an early manifestation of what is today's Populist culture, it could be described as being a reactionary movement instigated by clever manipulators like Malcolm McClaren that ended with global success but basically was just another version of the 'Emperor's New Clothes’… sadly people do not learn from mistakes like this and now we have degenerated into getting a US president like Trump… all talk but no thought!

Back to my original point, much valid music has been ignored, dismissed and potentially not been created because it is easier for the media, commentators and even Joe Public (wasn’t he in the Sex Pistols 😆?) to look like they know what they are talking about without any real effort or risk of being outside the clique!

My philosophy has always been enjoy music on its own merits and not be swayed by someone in the media that tells you its uncool or rubbish as the chances are they themselves have been told to think that way!

Rant over!

Wo., 30-10:
Having enjoyed a few days off hiking the north east of the country and visiting the in-laws in the south west and then doing my company's taxes there's some time to enter this new discussion.

The Specials back in action?! I bet the tickets will be quite steep and the new music a lame version of what they were able to do? Or maybe not and it will be a good album? We'll have to wait and see. All in the original line up, so with Jerry Dammers?

It's years ago that I've gone through the endless baskets with old records filled with the kind of hopeless releases that I tried to avoid as much as possible 40 years ago, in the hope of finding that one album. For one I'm too lazy, for two my knees are far from what they used to be when I was 16 or something. These baskets are usually on floor level, so I leave them for what they are. Nice alliteration by the way, Mark, all those B's.

What would I never buy? Certainly classics, jazz, pre-1964 pop albums, not to speak of all the albums I never should have bought like the non-greatest hits albums of Golden Earring, new wave stuff with one to three good tracks on them, 70s AOR like Rod Stewart, 70s, early 80s West Coast artists like James Taylor, Crosby-Nash, Carly Simon. I just can't listen to these too difficult songs with a jazz tinge in them. Sorry, Gary, most prog-rock is just not my thing. Too difficult and elaborate for my ears. Those solo albums by band members of famous bands. Soul, disco, dance, rap, trance, trip hop, C&W, (nu) metal, AOR and hardrock. Yet, they all have their exceptions. Some great singles or a great album track that make me blur the lines for a short while.

On the other hand, I am open to all music that appeals to me, speaks to me or downright floors me. On so many days I am surprised by music a band sends me or a label/promoter that, in most cases, I otherwise would never have heard. Among them are several albums that I consider among my all time favourites, by obscure bands, working in the margins of an industry, with me wondering how on earth it is possible that I have to listen to all this pre-fab crap as soon as my girlfriend turns on the radio, while there is so much fantastic new music out there of which I am fairly sure that given half the chance, today's youth would also like. What they are presented with by the dozens of radio stations is so one dimensional it is possible to fall through this music. With hardly any exception. There's so little I like here. Perhaps the only exceptions are that couple of hits by Lilly Allen of a while back, including 'Fuck You' and, what's in a title, the hit by Cee Lo Green. Everything the music industry pushes these days doesn't hold any value to me. Me being old? Of course and certainly, but not because my ears are abused, like my father's generation in general thought their ears were in the 60s, while seeing a generation growing up in danger of failing utterly and completely. No, it has nothing to do with that, but all with the lack of inventiveness, good hooks, great melodies. It simply all seems to sound the same.

I have to give it to the youngsters I know well. They speak of the latest rappers, rap together every once in a while and watch videos, I think, on their smartphones, but enjoy the oldies, from the 60s to the 90s, just as much and gladly join me at an The Analogues show to listen to The Beatles' music live. My influence? Yes, of course, but a lot they find themselves on Spotify.

And for punk. No, I've written it before, it was nearly not for me in the 70s. That started with Green Day and The Offspring in the mid 90s for me, when I started to look back and found great music. Yes, The Sexpistols were a pre-fabbed lot, but the New York scene was more original in my opinion. The scene that gave us Patti Smith, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Television, etc. was far more original and honest. On the other hand, every generation needs something to kick on and at. Perhaps that's what's wrong with today. No youngsters kick anything any more or their parents were, even are, so bad, there's nothing to beat or kick against. We have done it all and boasting about it as well.

I played that record by The Beat again today. "Oh, what fun we had...", to quote that other ska heroes of mine.

Over the past days I've discovered several records that deserve a 4,5 or 5 * review. There's some great music being released in the fall of 2018.

Mark, 4-11:
There's so much music around these days - as you report at regular intervals in your blogs, Wout - I see it in the magazines too and hear just a fraction on the radio in the evening on BBC Radio 6. It's obvious there is so much new talent around and that so many people in the countries we know see music as the way to express themselves in an artistic and skilful way, it's very reassuring. I think it helps to restore your faith in humanity at a time when it seems we are on a downward spiral with political divisiveness and aggression everywhere, and the global environment suffering and fear growing that we are running out of time and we are not going to turn all this round for the sake of our children and grandchildren. 

When you consider all the history, roots and evolution over the last few decades of the music we love and the incredible variety today of different styles of music, I think the availability and access to music is much more balanced now than what it was back in the 1970s. For example, if you listen to Radio 6 on a typical evening it draws on much of this rich heritage switching from rock to ska to African to country to reggae to progressive to folk to blues to Cuban to electronic to rock'n'roll to jazz-rock to heavy rock - not much gets left out really - plus new records and sessions in the studio. If you stop by one of the bigger newsagents and scan the music section, in addition to the big monthlies like Uncut, Mojo and Q (which each cover most kinds of music), you see individual magazines that have sprung up in recent years specialising in folk roots, progressive, heavy metal, rock'n'roll, punk, electronic, jazz....quite amazing when you remember 40 years ago in the UK it was basically the NME, Melody Maker or Sounds - all weekly newspapers. There is much less snobbery I think  that one kind of music is superior to all others; or that folk is only for a particular kind of rustic intellectual; or that progressive is for hopeless hippies and weirdoes...… Instead it seems the panorama of music is much more connected up and people who love and consume music are much more tolerant and willing to diversify their musical interests.  The changes in media technology have been a great help - especially with opening up the archives and keeping in the musical consciousness of many more people what was originally considered to be ephemeral, worthless and soon to be forgotten. A lot of John Peel sessions going back to the late 1960s are now being played again on Radio 6; the tapes could so easily have been wiped because I don't think anybody then would have expected that 30 years later we would have time to listen again to all those sessions, never mind have an interests in doing so.

I happily roam around quite a lot of this diversity of music and find new kinds and artists young and old to check out. It is almost too much to handle now though and I find myself having to draw the line somewhere. I realise, Gary , that that can be quite arbitrary as it is usually done by deciding which artists I'm not interested in or dislike for some reason regardless of what he/she/they might have done. I named several in my previous e-mail and was curious only if you and Wout were also having to draw lines and how our thumbs down might compare. 

Jools Holland's "Later...." show was on TV this evening and I was interested to see Terry Reid again. The last time I saw him perform on the box - or anywhere - was on the Whistle Test in about 1973 which I remember because on the strength of that appearance the next day I went out and bought his "River" lp which I still love and is now something of a cult collectible. After another great album "Seed of Memory" recorded with Graham Nash, he disappeared from view in the 1980s after dropping out and moving to LA. Now he has re-surfaced on TV, alarmingly as an old man with specs but he still proves himself to be an energetic acoustic guitar player and the voice that could have been the voice of Zeppelin (he turned Jimmy Page's offer down) is still quite strong, swooping impressively from loud to soft within a single phrase. Almost a forgotten figure who goes back to the sixties British R&B scene, it was great to see him again. As I say, there seems to be an opportunity now almost for everyone and it is a little easier for old rockers to keep going: just have to dump the drink and drugs, get someone to remaster the best of the archive, see if Record Collector will do a feature, and seize the right moment to step out into the new media spotlight.

I've just bought on e-bay a shiny original copy of The Best of The Beach Boys Vol.3: 

Well I've been thinking 'bout
All the places we've surfed and danced and
All the faces we've missed so let's get
Back together and do it again.
Wo., 4-11:

Thank you for this very thoughtful piece, Mark.

Where the thumbs down is concerned, I find with being sent music regularly by small press agencies and smaller and bigger labels my mind is so much more open to other forms of music, in the sense of open to the unknown. My preferences have not so much change a lot, although I have been surprised several times. It is more that I find beautiful music made by obscure musicians, even by bands that are nearly 100% DIY and are only able to perform a few times a year and for small audiences at that. All this huge dedication to a muse almost no else seems to find of interest, is so admirable. With me cheering at the side line. Yes, this way I have discovered a few truly ***** LPs almost nobody else seems to know or appreciate. For that reason alone I'd wish more people read my blog and become inspired by it.

Of all that new music I at least try to listen once. Sometimes it stays there, it is impossible to please every one, sometimes I return after a while and find to have had my ears screwed on wrong at the first attempt. One thing has changed, thrice over. First with all the downloading, which was legal (or said to be by leading politicians) in this country, I found that music starting to lose all value. There was no way I was able to attach myself to a MP3, secondly with all this new music I am listening for the blog all the time and writing about it, I also lost connection to the music in the longer term. Yet, closing in on 6 years blogging, the attachment to music certainly has returned. Several bands truly have become favourites and albums very much cherished. This has to do with the first change, the fact that I started buying LPs again. This really changed my connection to music for the positive. Albums are expensive, so I better buy one I really like playing. Friday I spent € 50 on a double album, 'Komma' by broeder Dieleman. Look it up, it is a true work of art this album. (Of course) the music is super special as well.

So, a real stop at this point in time is price. I refuse to pay more than €25,= for an LP. If I really want the record then I settle for the cd. For the rest I receive so much music that there is nearly no a need to buy anything else, except the ones I really, really want to have. And sit down and play them while really listening. Something I had not really done for years with all the "free" MP3s flying around the house. Since several years downloading is formally illegal here as well and I've stopped doing it. Not even being tempted any more.

Summing up, I have become a fan of Bands like Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Kaizers Orchestra, Blood Red Shoes and Band of Skulls in the 00s and a host of bands and artists in the 10s, with most recently truly fantastic albums by Belgian TMGS, Austrian Cari Cari and U.S./Belgian/Dutch/Slovenian Distance, Light & Sky, all 4,5 to 5 star albums in two weeks' time.

Music, I love it. And in the band one of the guys this week said he wants to play Sade's cover of 'Why Can't We Live Together'. The result I hear Tina Turner's 'Let's Stay Together' and Joe Cocker's version of 'You Can Leave Your Hat On' the whole day in my head. Music? I love it.

BTW, The Specials were advertised here last week. A new album is underway. Tickets go for € 43,=. I wish them all the best but won't be there to listen.


P.S. Playing Sade turns out to be a load of fun. The timing is extremely hard, so a great challenge and fun, but I'd already mentioned that.