zondag 21 oktober 2018

Bird Streets. Bird Streets

John Brodeur is een muzikant uit New York met een verleden in een aantal mij onbekende bands uit de stad. Tijdens een vakantie in Los Angeles liep hij muzikant en producer Jason Falkner tegen het lijf, waarna de twee besloten samen te werken.

Jason Falkner is bekend van de bands Jellyfish en The Grays en van een aantal prima soloplaten, terwijl hij als producer werkte voor onder andere Brendan Benson, Syd Arthur en Beck. Jason Falkner moet het nog altijd doen met een cultstatus, maar het is ook een muzikant die alles dat hij aanraakt in goud kan veranderen.
Alle reden dus om nieuwsgierig te zijn naar de samenwerking tussen John Brodeur en Jason Falkner, die het debuut van Bird Streets heeft opgeleverd.
De titelloze eerste plaat  van Bird Streets is er een die bijzonder makkelijk overtuigt. Net als Jason Falkner heeft John Brodeur een uitstekend gevoel voor lekker in het gehoor liggende popliedjes. Het zijn popliedjes die in  een aantal gevallen in het hokje powerpop passen, maar die ook meer ingetogen singer-songwriter muziek niet schuwen. Het zijn bovendien popliedjes die zich hebben laten inspireren door de groten uit de popmuziek, met een voorkeur voor popmuziek uit de jaren 60 en 70.
Het debuut van Bird Streets is een plaat vol songs die je al decennia lijkt te kennen, maar het zijn wel degelijk gloednieuwe popsongs van John Brodeur. De popsongs van Bird Streets doen soms wat Beatlesque aan, maar kunnen ook opschuiven richting de Beatlesque muziek die onder andere 10cc en Jeff Lynne na het uiteen vallen van de Fab Four zouden maken. De muziek van Bird Streets schuurt hiernaast dicht tegen de muziek van een band als The dB’s aan, maar kan ook stevig rocken en dan weer heel andere associaties oproepen.
Bij beluistering van het debuut van Bird Streets hoor je onmiddellijk dat Jason Falkner en John Brodeur lang hebben gesleuteld aan de plaat. De instrumentatie klinkt prachtig en zit vol mooie details, met een hoofdrol voor prachtig en veelkleurig gitaarwerk. Het is bovendien een zeer gevarieerde instrumentatie, die alle songs op de plaat voorziet van andere kleuren.
Wat voor de instrumentatie geldt, geldt ook voor de zang van John Brodeur. De Amerikaanse muzikant beschikt over een warm en aangenaam stemgeluid, maar het is ook een stemgeluid dat de songs op de plaat voorziet van een opvallend eigen geluid.
Het titelloze debuut van Bird Streets is hiernaast een eersteklas feelgood plaat. De songs die Jason Falkner en John Brodeur in elkaar hebben gesleuteld laten de zon uitbundig schijnen en strooien driftig met memorabele refreinen en honingzoete melodieën. De criticus zal beweren dat het debuut van Bird Streets weliswaar aangenaam klinkt, maar niet veel nieuws laat horen. Dat is deels het geval, want de plaat staat vol met songs die je al decennia denkt te kennen, maar aan de andere kant prikkelen de songs op de plaat stevig de fantasie en zit je steeds weer op het puntje van de stoel wanneer je al het moois wilt ontrafelen.
Ik laat me maar vooral leiden door het gevoel dat de plaat mij geeft en dat is een heerlijk gevoel. Iedere keer dat ik het debuut van Bird Streets hoor zijn de songs me weer wat dierbaarder en ben ik weer wat vrolijker. Knappe plaat wat mij betreft en vooral een hele lekkere plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Bird Streets hier beluisteren en kopen:


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


zaterdag 20 oktober 2018

European Heartbreak. Amber Arcades

Not all albums reach my in or letterbox and thankfully so. Yet, when an long-awaited album does not Spotify helps out, until the opportunity presents itself to go out and buy the record. There is a downside though. Listening and forming an opinion all mean that the review follows long after the release date. Some things are as they are and I did not hurry myself here.

Amber Arcades came into my life with a five song EP followed by the oh so pleasant album and fantastic single 'Fading Lines'. Truly one of my favourite songs the second half of this decade. Last year a new EP followed with the even better song 'It Changes' on it. Bars and expectations were raised by Amber Arcades. Are they met?

Yes! It is that simple. European Heartache is one of my favourite albums of 2018 so far. It seems Annelotte de Graaf has reached out for and found new depths in her songwriting. The more alternative/indie rock of her previous records has been let go of and a host of influences let in as substitutions.

Her singing has not so much changed. The rather thin, girllike voice presents itself no different. There still is that layer of modesty in the presentation, the holding back where emotions are concerned. At the same time De Graaf is singing as a woman who knows what she's doing and why, with the confidence to show. If she had doubts about her own qualities, they have been left behind as well.

It is in the musical make up that Amber Arcades has made giant leaps forward. Decades of music are let in. French yeah yeah, 60s pop, a little blue-eyed soul. Just listen to the start, the deceptively called song 'Simple Song'. An acoustic guitar strums, the band kicks in and some Burt Bacharach/Herb Alpert horns do as well. Soft and modest they glide over the slow memory. The oomph the song gets in the interlude part, including a Mellotron sound, shows that this song is deceptively simple. It sounds like a pre-chorus but turns out to be the chorus. 2.33 minutes is all. A 60s single length song, holding it all.

This level and distinction is kept up easily on European Heartbreak. In 'Hardly Knew' Annelotte de Graaf sings with so much ease. She doesn't have the voice of the female singers who had made it big in the age of my parents, the song could have been on their songbook. It is a song that transcends time and space. A song to potentially have been recorded in the 50s, 60s or 70s and in 2018. The kind of pop that has nothing to do with the charts of 2018. For the first time in years I heard a few songs in the national chart show in the car today. I had nothing going on for me there. Here though I am slowly melting away each time I hear 'Oh My Love (What Have We Done)' or 'Goodnight Europe'. Somehow Amber Arcades presses all the right buttons. Some songs are Beatlesque others even older, the kind of songs that influenced Lennon and McCartney when they started out.

This record is an album for all hours of the day. Late evening glass of wine music, early morning waking up and listening while working or reading. It works in all circumstances. Add the addictive tendency I have developed to put on European Heartache (together with 'Heartbreak Hi' of The LVE to be released on 26-10 and 'Ain't No Place' by TMGS) and I am writing about an album that holds it all it seems. As I started out with, an album that may score high on the 2018 WoNo Magazine chart of best albums. Listen in awe in the face of extreme musical beauty.

I am extremely curious what this translates into live. Follow this blog as the answer will be provided on 26 October.


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


vrijdag 19 oktober 2018

Cheers! Steiner & Madlaina

Two young, self-assured and slightly alternative looking young women pose in front of an older model cabriolet. The Thelma & Louise of 2018 ready to burn rubber and run for it? No, Steiner & Madlaina are ready to take on the world, head first, on the basis of an oh so nice, alternative pop and indie rock album. Cheers! is the sort of album that I can play on any moment of the day. It cheers me up immediately.

Steiner & Madlaina are Nora Steiner and Madlaina Pollina from Switzerland. (And  that explains my Sophie Hunger association when the duo sings in English.) Cheers! is the duos first album, after releasing an EP in 2017, called 'Speak'. Like Ms. Hunger Steiner & Madlaina sing in several languages, German, English and Schweitzer Deutsch, that nearly incomprehensible form of German that for Dutch ears regularly is too much to process.

What Cheers! firstly signifies for me personally is the huge lust for life the album shows. The album is full of summer, like the sleeve shows. The energy is immense. The fun of creating these songs and playing them the way they are played all show that the two women are extremely proud of  their songs. And right they are to be. This does not mean that all is well in the universe of Steiner & Madlaiana. Perhaps far from even. It does mean that the duo has the strength to put negative impressions into strong compositions and lyrics. Just bare with me here.

Promo photo by Nils Lucas
In how far 'Riot' is autobiographic is hard to tell from the outside, just read these lyrics: "Hey Momma, hi daddy, do you remember me ... I am the bad seed, I know I am, but I am not sorry". It does tell something about the desire to become an artist and not a doctor, lawyer or nurse, doesn't it?, but also on the pride for what has been achieved to date. Leaving it all behind to achieve the dream. What every great artist has to do in one way or another. Everything moves in front of the muse. As such, this song in the middle of Cheers! is a key song for Steiner & Madlaina.

Musically I have already mentioned Sophie Hunger, but I am reminded often of Dutch band Elenne May as soon as the tempo goes down somewhat. In general singer-songwriters have been an influence as this duo is full of stories. The music also follows in a long tradition of German (and English) language bands. 'Skandal Im Sperbezirk' was extremely exuberant and 'Kristallnacht' very rocked up, yet 'Das Schöne Leben' does not stay that far behind. It is the melancholy mood that makes it somewhat different (and the mandolin/bouzouki sound), not the going out on the town feeling of the song. At the same Nancy Sinatra and Susanna Hoffs can be mentioned in a mix with Lily Allen and Lana del Rey. In 'Reckless Love' the dreamy quality of these three singers come together and are blended into an icy love song.

Promo photo by Nils Lucas
Steiner & Madlaina have several musical faces, that all have its own distinctive qualities. The album kicks off with a mix of seriousness and an all out exuberant, happiness that gives nothing away of the really serious side of the duo. There is no fear of soft, empty, questioning songs and neither to then let them explode. 'Gross Geträumt' is one of the winners on Cheers!. That aside, the voices of the two both are winners and compliment as well as challenge one another. Another huge plus for the album.

It seems that after Sophie Hunger I have another act from Switzerland that is going to be extremely interesting to follow in the coming years. If anything Cheers! is an extremely successful debut album. Together with Shame's 'Songs Of Praise' the best of 2018.


You can buy Cheers! here:


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


donderdag 18 oktober 2018

Jellies. 77:78

De Britse muzikanten Aaron Fletcher en Tim Parkin stonden ooit aan de basis van de Britse band The Bees. De vanaf The Isle of Wight opererende band leverde in 2004 met Free The Bees een bescheiden meesterwerk af, maar sinds 2010 is het helaas stil rond de band.
Aaron Fletcher en Tim Parkin werken sinds 2010 samen onder de naam 77:78 en die samenwerking heeft nu een eerste plaat opgeleverd.
Iedereen die het meesterwerk van The Bees kent, weet dat de band zo ongeveer de hele Britse muziekgeschiedenis van de late jaren 60 in haar songs had gepropt en voor het gemak de Amerikaanse muziekgeschiedenis van deze periode ook nog maar had toegevoegd.
Ook het debuut van 77:78 staat bol van de invloeden en neemt je vooral mee terug naar vervlogen tijden. Dat is momenteel erg in, maar waar de meeste bands het associëren met een goedgevulde platenkast niet erg moeilijk maken, is het niet zo eenvoudig om relevant vergelijkingsmateriaal aan te dragen voor het duiden van de muziek van 77:78. Jellies is een plaat vol zoete verassingen en het zijn verrassingen in alle kleuren.
77:78 citeert op haar archief nadrukkelijk uit de archieven van de (Northern) soul, maar gaat net zo makkelijk aan de haal met psychedelica, funk, Westcoast pop of zelfs dub. 77:78 combineert een vat vol invloeden, maar voegt hier een vat vol tegenstrijdigheden aan toe. Het ene moment hoor je wat van The Beach Boys, het volgende moment duikt Syd Barret op of levert 10cc haar beste werk af, maar 77:78 tovert ook een lome versie van Big Audio Dynamite of een soulvolle versie van The Style Council uit de hoge hoed.
Met het noemen van namen doe je het Britse duo altijd te kort, want geen enkele vergelijking gaat lang mee en vrijwel niets doet het bijzondere geluid op Jellies recht. 77:78 haalt de mosterd immers zeker niet alleen in het verleden, maar voegt ook eigentijdse invloeden aan haar muziek, flirt met hip-hop ritmes en kleurt stiekem ook nog op talloze andere manieren buiten de lijntjes. Jellies staat hierdoor bol van het avontuur, maar het is ook de perfecte soundtrack voor een broeierige zomeravond of een luierdag.
Natuurlijk doet de muziek van 77:78 ook geregeld denken aan de terecht bewierookte platen van The Bees, maar Aaron Fletcher en Tim Parkin slaan ook allerlei andere wegen in. Het ene moment wordt je betoverd door soulvolle blazers of een aangenaam tegendraads orgeltje, het volgende moment betovert het tweetal met Beach Boys achtige koortjes. In de ene track domineren organische en soulvolle klanken, maar niet veel later krijg je een flinke dosis moderne elektronica voor de kiezen en lijkt de Beta Band opgestaan.
Het zal duidelijk zijn dat Jellies van 77:78 met geen mogelijkheid in een hokje is te duwen. Het is een plaat waarop teveel gebeurt om op te noemen, maar het is ook een plaat vol zoete popliedjes die je na één keer horen wilt koesteren. Het wispelturige muzikale karakter van Aaron Fletcher en Tim Parkin zal waarschijnlijk flink wat muziekliefhebbers tegenstaan, maar wat mij betreft heeft het Britse tweetal een plaat afgeleverd die niet in de schaduw hoeft te staan van het meesterwerk dat ze ooit maakten met The Bees. Ik zet Jellies nog maar eens op en ik hoor weer nieuwe dingen. Ondertussen wordt het oor steeds meedogenlozer gestreeld met popliedjes waarvan ik alleen maar zielsveel kan houden. Geweldige plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Jellies hier beluisteren en kopen:


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


woensdag 17 oktober 2018

Ain't No Place. TMGS

This review was ready somewhere mid-March, before the release date was set back for seven months. The album cover has changed. It used to be a photo from some long forgotten western movie. The album's ending is different. The spoken word is gone. All a matter of copyright (not) clearing. The new cover art is superior to the old one. So that is positive. The review starts somewhat confusing, were it not for the explanation just provided.

The cover of Ain't No Place takes me back to long ago Saturday afternoons 16.00 hours. The BRT, Flanders regional broadcast station played black and white movies of the 40s, 50s and early 60s. So yes, cowboy movies were certainly present there. The first notes of Ain't No Place takes me back to the spring of 2013 instantly at the moment those TMGS trumpets adorn the opening track 'The Wasted Years'.

TMGS released one of the best records of this decade with 'Rivers And Coastlines: The Ride'. Except for a few songs, the band became silent for five years. A bass player left, his replacement also. The record label folded. But yes, rumours spread via an a-mail proved true. This winter I received an e-mail announcing a new album and the chance to listen. That's just what I have been doing over the past weeks (now months).

A TMGS album with the same impact on me like 'Rivers And Coastlines: The Ride' is impossible. For that the sound is too familiar in 2018. Everyone has albums like that, albums that become a part of you. Ain't No Place does not surpass its predecessor. I started playing that album again, and a lot at that.

So, having that out of the way, I can focus on Ain't No Place. What a fine album TMGS has produced. Its melancholy sound, captured in the voice of Peter Lodiers, who sings like he is missing something or someone on a permanent basis, and in the music that surrounds him, is of astonishing beauty. It will only be a matter of time before the songs will become a part of me as well.

'Holding The Reins' is a song that starts with a fiery guitar intro. 'The east wind is coming". If it's winter it will be cold. The singer is on route on roads that will bring him home. Like in my interview with band in 2013, I still wonder whether the grass is greener for Lodiers at home or elsewehere. It is hard to tell as he's always in transit it seems, whether on route, coming or going. The music holds a fine tempo, intricate guitar playing, a tough rhythm guitar, while the Hammond meanders right underneath the surface to emerge for a solo in between the guitars.

Listening to a song like 'Holding The Reins' I can't help but wonder how it can be that hardly anyone seems to notice a band that is this good. In part that may be the level of ambition of the musicians themselves. Maybe they are happy just releasing a fine record?, I can't tell. Fact is that Ain't No Place, again, is a record by TMGS that deserves to be heard. The soft country-tinged songs all hold an intrinsic quality and inner beauty that makes them aglow from within. So much work must have been put in arranging the songs and work out all the fine details to make them flow so effortlessly.

Ain't No Place does not hold one single song, that is not made out of intrinsic, inner beauty and details to live and die for. The arrangements are at times so brittle and delicate that I dare not move while listening in fear of breaking something. And on top of that the trumpets of Bart Raats and Brent Cuveele hover over it all. The icing and cherry on the already far too good tasting and devilishly addictive cake. Just listen to the intro of 'Cold Day On The Lake'. Do I need to write more?

I had started to doubt whether I would ever hear a record by TMGS again. My patience has been rewarded though. Now I have to hope the band will cross its northern border once again, so I can go and watch them play not too far into the future from now. I had that pleasure once, so why not again? (And yes, TMGS is, Tuesday 18 December at Q-Bus Leiden, 21.00.)


You can listen to and buy Ain't No Place here:


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


dinsdag 16 oktober 2018

Don't Call Me Angel. Hilary Scott

Has Dynasty's Sammie Jo gone into music?, was the question I asked myself looking at the cover of Hilary Scott's 'Don't Call Me An Angel' for the first time.

Hilary (yes, only one l) Scott is an American singer-songwriter on the overlapping edges of roots, pop and country, now living in a part of the north-west U.S. I only learned the existence of through that great novel 'Snow Falling On Cedars', Puget Sound. Equipped with a smoky voice, she presents her 12th album.

I could make it easy on myself and just conclude that Scott makes it too easy on herself and presents too overly clean and not dangerous (enough) music. That is only half of the story though. In fact it would sell the album short, though not untrue. The other half is about Don't Call Me Angel being a nice collection of songs, that have some fine band playing on it. Co-producer Johnny Lee Schell has made the album warm and loving for the artist and the listener. The result is an album I like to listen to every once in a while.

Hilary Scott presents a few moods on her latest album. The up tempo rocking 'Not Used To Being Used To' is followed by a fine ballad called 'You Will Be Mine'. Where in the former the guitars rock out, including some soloing, on the latter a warm Hammond organ carries the tune where a piano plays the solo. The kind of song that makes it easy to be carried away with.

My first comments are in accord with a song like 'Heartless'. I'll just leave it there as there is so much else to enjoy.

A big surprise is the cover of Prince's 'Kiss'. Stripped of all the funk and horniness of Prince and certainly the bluster of Tom Jones, 'Kiss' becomes a modest love song in the version of Hilary Scott. Just an acoustic guitar is enough to make her intentions clear. It really is a kiss that is enough here.

'Make It Right' is another song that colours between the lines neatly. At the same time Ms. Scott seems to play all the right notes here. The spaces left open in the mix allow for all the individual instruments to shine in the right moments. The result is a warm song, slowly taking its course with Hilary Scott shining in front of it all. She's singing slow, drawing out the notes without ever once becoming tedious as some of her colleagues can be. This is slow and to the point.

With this I've reached the core of this album. There is a modest urgency in Don't Call Me Angel that makes it near impossible not being touched by it. There is a level that is easy to miss when attention is not provided. As I have, I can write that Don't Call Me An Angel is a small treasure, shining ever so bright for those who pay attention.


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


maandag 15 oktober 2018

Possible Dust Clouds. Kirstin Hersh

Kristin Hersh? Yes, the name did more than ring a bell. I vaguely remember a solo album somewhere from before my music went digital as in MP3s. Belly and Tanya Donelly for some reason pop up. And wasn't there a band they played in together? The answer has disappeared in the mist of time. I know it not to be that strange as most of the 80s and let's count 1990 in, is musical mist to me for a huge part.

Come summer 2018 and Fire Records drops a digital version of Possible Dust Clouds in my email box. Yes, I wanted to listen to the album, but somehow it never came to it. The moment I did, the world changed a little bit. 'LAX' is such a strong song. Hersh mixes the whole late 80s alternative rock and early 90s grunge type of music into one huge ball of energy. Layers of guitars are stacked on top of each other and she sings as if there is nothing left to lose. Courtney Love roughness, minus the uncontrolled madness.

Kirstin Hersh's voice is so roadworn that she sounds like a singing rock grandma (and perhaps she is). It suits the music she plays in 2018 like a glove. Possible Dust Clouds is an album with a few faces. There's a hard rocking side and songs where the acoustic guitar is taken out for a spin. 'Half Way Home' may start easy but soon turns into a monster of some sorts. Guitars start freaking out, while Kirstin Hersh's voice is strained even more while still producing lots of sound. This way her voice won't make 70. And I can't blame her when going after the effect she reaches for on this record.

Promo photo
Looking on Wikipedia that band was Throwing Muses, of course, the album I remembered is 'Hips & Makers' from 1994 -scaring the hell out of me that the duet with Michael Stipe, 'your Ghost', is already 24 years old- and I found a copy of 'The Grotto' in my collection, without any recollection whatever, I'm afraid. Since 2003 there were four other records, yet they all passed me by.

What strikes me on Possible Dust Clouds is the urgency of the record. A term I had never associated with Kirstin Hersh so far. Most songs sound like a hellhound is on her trail, with hope still to get away before it catches up. On the route she's not afraid to return to early influences like the Patti Smith Group in the repetitive 'Loud Mouth' for example. Balled energy combined with some anger, without an exiting melody. Punk without razor blades and safety pins. More like the real thing and not Malcolm McLaren's ideas of punk. Though they were seen as the real thing at the time.

Admittedly the excitement does wear off further on into the album. After about seven songs it becomes harder to be as enthusiastic as with the first songs. Even at this level of intensity it is possible to settle in and become comfortable with it. This fact takes nothing away from the overall quality of the album, which is pleasantly pleasing the alternative rocker part in me.

Again, Kirstin Hersh seems to go all out on Possible Dust Clouds. She does so in a firm and very direct way with no mercy for too many subtleties. The result is a fine album that I'm likely to play for some time.


You can listen to and buy Possible Dust Clouds here:


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


zondag 14 oktober 2018

Hadley McColl Thackston. Hadley McColl Thackston

Ik kan op het Internet nog niet heel veel vinden over Hadley McCall Thackston, maar wat ben ik onder de indruk van haar titelloze debuut, dat deze week ook in Nederland is verschenen.
Hadley McCall Thackston is een jonge singer-songwriter uit Decatur, Georgia, die de muziek thuis met de paplepel kreeg ingegoten. Vanwege haar liefde voor alles wat Iers is, verruilde ze Georgia een aantal jaren geleden voor Ierland, waar ze begon aan een theater opleiding.
De liefde voor de muziek bleek uiteindelijk groter dan de liefde voor het toneel en de carrière van Hadley McCall Thackston kreeg een boost toen een van haar demo’s in handen kwam van singer-songwriter David Corley, die de jonge muzikante uit Georgia vervolgens in contact bracht met zijn producer Hugh Christopher Brown. Het debuut van Hadley McCall Thackston werd vervolgens deels in Canada (de thuisbasis van de producer) en deels in de Verenigde Staten opgenomen en het is wat mij betreft een debuut dat overloopt van de belofte.
De singer-songwriter uit Georgia maakt muziek die stevig is geworteld in de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek zoals die in het Zuiden van de Verenigde Staten wordt gemaakt. Het is muziek met vooral invloeden uit de folk en de country. In muzikaal opzicht doet het me wel wat denken aan de platen die bands als Po’Girl en de Be Good Tanyas het afgelopen decennium maakten en ook de soloplaten van Jolie Holland dragen relevant vergelijkingsmateriaal aan.
Ik heb niet veel informatie over de muzikanten die op het debuut van Hadley McCall Thackston spelen, maar het zijn muzikanten die uitstekend uit de voeten kunnen met de rootsmuziek zoals die in het diepe Zuiden van de Verenigde Staten wordt gemaakt, met een glansrol voor de violist. Hugh Christopher Brown heeft al eerder laten horen dat hij heel goed weet hoe een goede Amerikaanse rootsplaat moet klinken en ook het debuut van Hadley McCall Thackston klinkt geweldig.
De jonge Amerikaanse kijkt niet op een invloed meer of minder, waardoor haar titelloze debuut een verrassend veelzijdige plaat is geworden. Het is een plaat die behoorlijk traditioneel kan klinken, maar er staan ook een aantal songs op die als lichtvoetig kunnen worden bestempeld.
Ook de teksten van Hadley McCall Thackston schieten meerdere kanten op. Haar debuut bevat een aantal liefdesliedjes, maar ze schuwt ook de politieke thema’s niet en spreekt haar afschuw uit over het grote aantal jonge zwarten in de Verenigde Staten dat ten onrechte of onnodig sneuvelt door politiekogels. Het geeft het debuut van Hadley McCall Thackston een bijzondere lading en het levert een aantal songs op die volwassener klinken dan haar leeftijd rechtvaardigt.
Het titelloze debuut van Hadley McCall Thackston is in muzikaal, tekstueel en productioneel opzicht een interessante plaat, maar het sterkste wapen van de muzikante uit Georgia heb ik nog niet eens genoemd. Het is immers met name de zang op de plaat die diepe indruk maakt.
Hadley McCall Thackston beschikt over een bijzonder stemgeluid en een heerlijke Zuidelijke tongval. Het is een stem die wel wat doet denken aan die van Jolie Holland, maar Hadley McCall Thackston heeft ook het onweerstaanbare (en ongrijpbare) dat de stem van Natalie Merchant heeft. Het tilt het debuut van de jonge Amerikaanse een flink stuk boven het maaiveld uit. Het is zoals gezegd een debuut dat overloopt van de belofte, maar het is ook een debuut dat direct mee kan met de beste platen van het moment in het genre. Ga dat horen.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier naar Hadley McColl Thackston luisteren en het album kopen:


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


zaterdag 13 oktober 2018

Abysskiss. Adrianne Lenker

Abysskiss. What a fantastic word. And so multi interpretable. Just use your imagination what it could all mean. Adrianne Lenker must have thought of a few by now.

Her solo album was released recently. It is a small, contained and modest album. Just Adrianne, her voice and guitar. Delicate fingerpicking and a highish, thin voice. The contrast is that in all that softness and delicate playing the music is confrontational. There is nothing much relaxed about Abysskiss. Ms. Lenker still has some inner demons to put to rest. Like most younger people do, though most do not have the talent to it in this beautiful way.

In music this album is very much in line with Anne Tivel's album 'Heroes Waking Up'. In playing it is far from the sweetness that covers Tivel's album. Adrianne Lenker may sound sweet, but whether she is, as a musician and singer, I sincerely doubt it. For that her lyrics are to confrontational and self-doubting. This is all about inner-searching and not e.g. caring about the well-being of a father who goes out fishing in his boat. Death, relations, it all comes by. Somehow I'm often remembered of Courtney Barnett. Certainly when the sound is expanded in 'Out Of Your Mind'.

Next to her solo career Lenker sings in the NYC band Big Thief, a band two records into its career in the folkrock segment. With a lot more guitars and stuff involved. First impression? Start listening to 'Masterpiece' also. The purpose of the solo records is to show songs at their barests and "to shed some skin", as she formulates it.

It may well be that recording solo as well allows her to be more personal in the songs. As such it seems to me that she succeeded. Abysskiss is no easy listening, but very much worthwhile to do so. Adrianne Lenker invites her listeners to be drawn into her world. Those who do are treated to a gem like 'Cradle'. Dark guitar notes, a voice and some humming is all it takes to tell a story (o.k. with a few things going on in the background in parts). As thin and transparent as a ghost, as soft as silk 'Cradle' is.

For me it took a second listening session to get past my first impression of the thin, slightly whining voice. From that moment onwards a world opened itself. A world of ethereal beauty in which a singer-songwriter bares herself to the world. Things seldom get more intimate on a record.


You can listen to and buy Abysskiss here:


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


vrijdag 12 oktober 2018

Blues Obituary. The Groundhogs

There's no need for a lot of words here. The Groundhogs takes a trip down blues' memory lane. The electric blues of the 60s that is. Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience are the best references. A trio rocking out on guitar, bass and drums all doing its own thing, creating a fiery blues storm of experimental blues rock. The rough voice does all else.

No, it never gets as good as Cream and Hendrix were at the top of their game. Which is nearly impossible. No act can ever have an impact like this once discovered. The Groudhogs does a very nice obituary though, authentic sound and all. With four of the six members of the two example bands now playing in that great gig in the sky, an obituary is in place.

Recently I heard the North Mississippi All Stars' live album for the first time in over a decade. It impressed me so much more now than it did then. Right after The Groundhogs cd came by and although this is a studio album, the feeling NMAS brought, is approximated.

If you are into music like this. This is your album. 'Voodoo Chile' like licks, Jack Bruce like bass runs and singing, Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker like drumming, it is all here. 50 Years overdue perhaps, still a nice addition to a long extinct musical style.

Promo Photo
And then I read up on the album and is there a surprise in store for me. This record is the 50th anniversary re-issue of the original album released in September 1969. The Groundhogs had been reduced to a trio by the time it released its second album Blues Obituary. Tony TS McPhee on guitar, Pete Cruikshank on bass and Ken Pustelnik on drums capture the sound of the time perfectly. To me this band was never heard of, but this re-issue is a just one. The Groundhogs are rocking with the best of them. Even better, they are rocking still, with McPhee as continuous member through most of the past 55 years.

This discovery takes nothing away from the power of Blues Obituary. It remains a strong album.


You can listen to and buy Blues Obituary here:


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


donderdag 11 oktober 2018

Muckus Maximus. Muck and the Mires

It keeps amazing me how the 60s remain a huge influence on musicians. For young musicians of let's say 20 years of age, the 60s were swinging 30 years and more before they were born. Perhaps not even their parents were around at the time.

Yet Muck and The Mires are playing U.S. garage rock with abandon. Super melodies with staccato rhythms and a great little Farfisa organ in the middle of songs.

On Muckus Maximus the band kicks off with 'Break It All'. A song leaving no doubt where the intentions of this band are concerned. A fast rock and roll shuffle sets the pace of this four song E.P. It is 1964 musically just after The Beatles have conquered the U.S. with 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'. Every youngster with an inch or two of imagination, a little creativity and some rebelliousness took to their parents' garage and started to make music and grow their hair. It is this atmosphere Muck and The Mires captures fantastically on 'Break It All'.

Photo: Nicole Tammaro
The second song 'Good Enough' jumps to the late 70s when songs like 'My Sharona', 'Hanging On The Telephone' and 'What I Like About You' were such nice hits. All influenced hugely by the 60s garage rock of course with a little punky attitude to boot. Again the song delivers and convinces. This is rock and roll as it is supposed to sound.

Muck and The Mires is around a little bit longer and touring the world for nearly 15 years today. Hailing from Boston, the band first gained attention by winning a Steve Van Zandt garage rock contest in 2004. In 2018 this 10" vinyl EP is released with nothing but winners on it. In 1964-65 each song might have been a hit. Nowadays it will only reach connoisseurs of vintage garage rock and proto punk. With further songs like '#Loneliness' and 'Too Soon To Fall In Love' there is nothing left to convince. Muckus Maximus is a winner of an EP. Had the songs been released over 50 years ago, be sure to have found them on the famous 'Nuggets' box set.


You can listen to and buy Muckus Maximus here:


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


woensdag 10 oktober 2018

Gracias Señor. The Sore Losers

Please take a look at the cover of Gracias Señor. It does pose a picture begging the question whether to take this all seriously. Does the same go for the music of The Sore Losers?

The album kicks off with 'A Little More'. Everything between The Tragically Hip and The Black Crowes come by immediately in my mind. All bands with The up front and two words after that The. Guitar driven songs in the mostly alternative, some southern rock segment. 'All In A Day's Work' may be more alternative inclined, yet again a song that is more than alright.

The Sore Losers is a band from Belgium, started in 2009 with now four albums to its name. As all others passed me by, I do not have to compare. What I'm hearing is links to another Belgian act, Admiral Freebee. When Tom van Laere decides to rock out that is. There also are nods to Britpop bands like Supergrass, without the tongue in cheek spunk of Gaz Coombes' delivery.

'Eyes On The Prize' is such a song. The little riff throughout the song is typically Supergrass. Yet the song is so much more serious. There's just not much to laugh here. Which is all compensated by the great delivery of the climax of the song. Even more guitars join Jan Straetemans' singing. Basically here the mystery part of The Sore Losers is presented. The songs may all be serious, there's nothing to complain as far as the intentions of the band are concerned. Each song has its intrinsic strengths and a few surprises in the execution. The band was not happy with one or two findings musically. Where an extra guitar line could be found within a song's arrangement, you can rest assured. The Sore Losers will have found it.

Vocally the band in more one dimensional. Harmonies is not something it bothers with. A straight vocal delivery does the trick. Straetemans may have double tracked his voice, but things remain there. The singing itself it just as straight forward.

Further on in the album the 70s get through more on the album as influences. Faces, Led Zeppelin e.g. are bands The Sore Losers' members have found in the record collection of their parents or uncles. Some of them must have been classic hardrockers in their day. And why not? Some great music was made at the time.

All these influences shine through, making The Sore Losers not the most original band on this planet. It hasn't the intention to be that. It does have the intention to write and play some classic rock influenced originals. With the solid foundation of Kevin Maenen's bass and Alessio di Turi's drums, Straetemans' and Cedric Maes' guitars can rock all over the place. And they do. Add a keyboard in the album's totally succeeded ballad 'Where Are You?' and the picture is about ready. Mission accomplished.


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


dinsdag 9 oktober 2018

Shape Of Silence. Saint Sister

Soft and dreamy, that is the right description to start this review. Saint Sister prefers its laundry to be soft as silk when it comes out of the dryer. I can see the ugly little, smiling bear coming with the add in this country in my mind's eye.

Saint Sister is a duo from Ireland. Shape Of Silence is Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre's first album, after releasing several singles after the inception of Saint Sister.

In its music Saint Sister starts with folk. The classic British variety that is. Doherty & MacIntyre sing duets the whole of the time. Very much like Worry Dolls and The Secret Sisters do or Helen Ferguson does with her own voice(s). There is a main difference with the first two. Saint Sister does not do spectacular harmonising. This is far more in unison than diverging and coming back together. This makes the songs in Shape Of Silence serious to extremely serious. Not less attractive. Far from.

It is from here the journey called Shape Of Silence starts. Why? The duo leaves the British folk behind as soon as the music itself is concerned. If anything, Saint Sister is not afraid of (dark) electronics. I am not a fan of the triphop that was big somewhere over 20 years ago, think Massive (Attack). The sounds of that huge hit with the baby in the womb video is all over this album. Songs carried by electronic soundscapes with some melodies escaping it here and there.

Now I have no way of telling which came first, the sounds or the songs. If the former the two ladies filled in the space on top of the sounds and soft beats. If the latter the acoustic songs were stripped away ruthlessly to be replaced by the modern world. And this is a huge difference with modern folk music which lets in modernities in only to support the folk. Here samples of spoken words, slow beats, atmospherics, voice treatments, are all fair game. The recently reviewed album of Queen of the Meadow (Helen Ferguson) is the antithesis, in everything, of Shape Of Silence. Yet both albums manage to touch, though in various ways.

Not all is so modern here. My one Enya album, the one with 'Orinico Flow' on it, shines though here and there. The fretless bass in 'Half awake' sounds like Fernando Saunders' bass on Lou Reed's 1980s albums. So there are enough handles to find my way into Shape Of Silence.

What wins me over in the end is the beauty Saint Sister has on offer. This album holds the love of Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre for their music. It is an delight to listen to, an album that immediately sets my mind on this music. With no need to think of anything else.


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


maandag 8 oktober 2018

Muunduja. Maarja Nuut & Ruum

There are out of the comfortzone records and out of the comfort zone records. The kind that come by in Kairos, the radio programme my WoNo colleague, .No compiles for his monthly stint on Concertzender. Muunduja certainly is a record that could find a place there. But, beware, I can never be certain. Either the voice of the recording quality could be at miss. We approach music from very different angles, but with the same end result: a deep love for the music we truly appreciate.

Over the past weeks I have listened several times to Muunduja ('Shifter'). The album grew on me with each session. Don't ask me to explain why, as this is not the kind of music I usually listen to. Experimental, searching for ways into fairly basic compositions that turn it upside down, completely, to find sounds and twist 99.9% of musicians would never find. The result is some fine soundscapes over no more than four or five notes repeated endlessly.

The basis of this album is a violin. This instrument provides the basic notes that start each exploration. So in a way the least interesting instrument on Muunduja. It is all else that does the exploring part. In such it is a part analogue and part digital.

Maarja Nuut & Ruum is a duo from Talinn in Estonia, that pretty, medieval town on the Finnish Gulf. It may be that I read this, but somehow I am also reminded of Arvo Pärt, who comes by regularly in Kairos. Usually with choir music. Yet the repetitions in both artists' music sound familiar to me, where the sort of music could not be further apart. Nothing divine here on Muunduja. And yet, the music has something to do with the spiritual. It exhumes rest and a tranquil state of mind. The music faces the listener directly and not to primarily entertain. It is aimed at a lot more, as this music is in a way confrontational. It has a direct impact on other brain parts than the inner ear.

Another reference is Sophie Hunger in the way of singing of Maarja Nuut. Both have this way of creating a unique atmosphere through the interaction between their voices and the music.

I can not tell you a lot more, except that this, experimental, music grips me. It takes me out of my musical comfort zone and brings, no accompanies me to a different but extremely pleasant state of mind. So, please go out and listen to Muunduja. If you do, feel free to share your experience below in the comment section. I am truly interested.


You can listen to or buy Muunduja here:


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


zondag 7 oktober 2018

Sculptor. Luluc

Het Australische duo Luluc neemt de tijd voor haar muziek. Dear Hamyl, het in eigen beheer uitgebrachte en hier helaas nauwelijks opgemerkte debuut van het tweetal, verscheen in 2008, de terecht bewierookte opvolger Passerby stamt uit 2014 en nu is er dan de derde plaat van Zoë Randell en Steve Hassett.
Voorganger Passerby vergeleek ik vier jaar geleden uitvoerig met de platen van Fairport Convention en Nick Drake, maar de plaat riep ook zeker associaties op met de muziek van Cowboy Junkies, Mazzy Star en The Innocence Mission (aldus mijn recensie uit 2014).
Nu zijn dat toevallig drie bands die deze maand een nieuwe plaat hebben uitgebracht (van Mazzy Star verscheen helaas slechts een EP), wat betekent dat Luluc wat meer concurrentie heeft dan een paar jaar geleden. Sculptor laat snel horen dat Zoë Randell en Steve Hassett de competitie makkelijk aan kunnen.

Luluc wordt nog altijd vooral in het hokje indie-folk geduwd, maar de muziek van het tweetal grijpt vooral stevig terug op de traditionele folk uit de jaren 70, al verwerkt het tweetal op bijna slinkse wijze ook heel veel invloeden uit de dreampop in haar muziek. Het resultaat is van een bijzondere schoonheid.

Vergeleken met zijn voorganger kiest Sculptor voor een wat voller geluid, maar dit moet direct worden gerelativeerd. Zoë Randell en Steve Hassett imponeren op hun derde plaat met prachtig lome en opvallend sobere klanken met volop echo’s uit het verleden, maar ook flink wat invloeden uit het heden. Centraal staan de schitterende gitaarlijnen van Steve Hassett, die er in slaagt om met op het eerste oor relatief eenvoudige akkoorden een bezwerend effect toe te voegen aan de muziek van Luluc.

Dit bezwerende effect wordt verder versterkt door de prachtige zang van Zoë Randell, die aansluiting vindt bij de grote folkzangeressen uit het verleden, maar haar zang ook voorziet van eigentijdse melancholie en onderkoeling. De prachtige zang maakt Sculptor van Luluc voor mij vrijwel onweerstaanbaar.

Het Australische tweetal nam de plaat grotendeels zelf op en nam hier de tijd voor. Het zorgt voor zorgeloze en heerlijk lome klanken. Deze zijn van wat extra spanning voorzien door gastmuzikanten als The National voorman Aaron Dessner, The Dirty Three drummer Jim White en Dinosaur Jr gitarist J Mascis, die opvallend subtiele bijdragen leveren aan de plaat.

In de meeste tracks kunnen Zoë Randell en Steve Hassett het echt prima met zijn tweeën af. De door subtiele gitaarlijnen en prachtige vocalen gedragen songs van Luluc nodigen uit tot wegdromen, maar ook als je klaarwakker blijft valt er heel veel te genieten op de derde plaat van het tweetal. Ik adviseer iedereen om vooral wakker te blijven, want de op het eerste gehoor sobere en eenvoudige songs van het Australische tweetal winnen nog heel lang aan kracht en zijn wanneer ze zijn uitgegroeid van een bijna onwerkelijke schoonheid. Ik was vier jaar geleden behoorlijk onder de indruk van Passerby, maar Sculptor is nog veel mooier. Wat een bijzondere plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Sculptor hier beluisteren en kopen:


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


zaterdag 6 oktober 2018

Celebrate. Town of Saints

After nearly calling it quits, Town of Saints returns with an album that may truly signify what it stands for and who it is. More than with the two predecessors Town of Saints has reached into its inner core and comes out with Celebrate. An aptly titled album that celebrates the music released here.

An album that shows the core of this band. At times with an The Hackensaw Boys' abandon U.S. country music is celebrated. The alternative rock layer that was always put over this core, hiding it from the world even, has been laid by the way side. "If the car don't start, we know the place where we are going to die", sings Harmen Ridderbos, accompanied by the loud violin of Heta Salkolathi. Yes, I know the feeling. It could have been a moment like this that led to an epiphany on how to continue.

Of course this is only one part of the story of Celebrate. Town of Saints has not left everything behind, as the second song 'Requiem For The Living' shows. In this strong, powerful song the rock side of the band comes forward. In fact it reminds me directly of the kind of music Death Goldbloom made on its superb mini album 'Cluster Funk'. The violin meanders through the whole song. Giving it something unique, before the electric guitar simply explodes. Another reference certainly is Chris Isaak.

Next up is a variation on Emmylou Harris' cover of 'C'est La Vie', where the violin intro is concerned. It seems like the Charlie Daniels band is revived. At the same time this song is 100% modern. So tight and solid. 'No Mistakes' is a true hybrid song of many styles and eras, that gets away with it thanks to the strong delivery of Ridderbos' voice and the tightness of the band. Another song showing the urgency Town of Saints seems to feel and expresses full force. The kind of song meant to win people over for the band.

The true country of old comes through in 'Weeds'. Town of Saints doesn't play hide and seek here for certain. Nobody would have been surprised, had it been a release by the likes of a Grayson Capps. Although the band plays a little with the form, adding some modernities to traditional country, the love for this genre shines through abundantly. As it does in many places over this album.

'Up In Smoke' was such a forceful and good single that I decided to dedicate time to it exclusively. My conclusion remains fully intact (read on here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2018/06/up-in-smoke-town-of-saints.html). We're in Ferd Moyse, now ex-The Hackensaw Boys I understand, territory alright in playing the violin and chanted singing.

The album remains as divers as mentioned until now. From, almost, lofi in 'Elegy (The Last Dance)' and spoken word in 'Oscillate' that explodes into a violin propelled rocksong, to Jake Bugg rock with a violin. It can all be found on Celebrate. And then some more. Hence my conclusion that Celebrate may be all Town of Saints has to offer. Facing the end of their career Ridderbos and Salkolathi have come up with the best they have to offer in 2018. A very smart move as far as I'm concerned.


You can listen to and buy Celebrate here:


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


vrijdag 5 oktober 2018

Kairos, September 2018 by .No on Concertzender

Iedere maand schrijft Wo. iets over Kairos, het programma van .No op de Concertzender. Deze maand doet hij dat niet, want alles over de plaat die centraal staat in deze aflevering van Kairos is al geschreven door hem (en .No). Vandaar dat hij een maandje overslaat. Luister hier dus verder:


Want dat is natuurlijk wel nodig. U hoort Komma hier zoals u het nergens anders zult horen. Bewerkt, geknipt en geplakt, binnenstebuiten gekeerd. Alsof .No op zijn eigen tocht door de kreken van het Gat van Pinten is geweest en teruggekeerd is met zijn verhaal op het verhaal van broeder Dieleman. Kortom, zeer de moeite waard.

Voor de recensie van .No, lees hier verder:


en voor die van Wo. hier:


Komma is in originele staat hier te beluisteren en te kopen:


of luister op de playlist van WoNo Magazine op Spotify:


A Room To Store Happiness. Queen of the Meadow

Listening to A Room To Store Happiness and especially at the start of the album 'Withdrawn', one word springs up in my mind: pastoral. In my mind I see queen Marie-Antoinette of France and her entourage of ladies in waiting enjoying their little Arcadia in the back of the huge garden in Versailles. Sitting in the shed, with sheep and lambs all around them, making garlands of the spring flowers and living their privileged lives, for as long as it would last. Withdrawn indeed. It is not hard to imagine Queen of the Meadow sitting in her corner of the shed or veranda softly playing her guitar and singing, with the queen and ladies softly singing along.

Fast forward to 2018, with a diversion to the 70s Polaroid sort of photo on the artwork of the album. A Room To Store Happiness is Queen of The Meadow's second album released on Tiny Room Records. 'Aligned With Juniper' (2016) was in fact my introduction to Stefan Breuer's label.

Again folk is all the clock is ticking here. The music is ever so slow and, yes, pastoral. The only thing breaking through this rest is the double tracked voice of Helen Ferguson. She is omnipresent on A Room To Store Happiness this way. Having a fairly thin voice, the effect is one of strength. Around her the acoustic guitar is the foremost instrument. From there others can join. A song is slowly fleshed out, either through harmonising beyond the double tracking and other instruments, strings or a light form of percussion. Just listen to 'Ashes Adèle', a piano based song. There are Helens everywhere, while a church organ chimes in ever so softly, as do strings. The song becomes bigger the whole time, while remaining its modest self. Beauty is the right word here.

Listening more closely to the album, I notice that small pop elements are allowed to join the folk music. A few chord changes and melodies that could have made a pop song. Allowing in a little extra light on the spring meadow.

A Room To Store Happiness is an album that has little, perhaps even nothing to do with 2018. It is an album that could have been made any time over the past centuries (if they had albums, electrical instruments, etc. that is). It is the intention that counts. Just like Modern Stories' album from 2017, 'Swell To Great', this albums has an atmosphere from days long gone by. While at the same time it has a little recalcitrance like Gretchen Lohse is so good in on her album 'Primal Rumble'. Where 'Empty Room' could be a new song by Elenne May. Queen of the Meadow holds more than just pastoral folk music. The thing is that I have to remind myself of this fact as the primary memory of the album is always that.

And exactly that is what makes A Room To Store Happiness such an interesting album to listen to, again and again. I am always surprised by the changes and the quality coming with these changes. Yes, once again a spot on release by Tiny Room Records.


You can listen to and buy A Room To Store Happiness here:


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


donderdag 4 oktober 2018

At Weddings. Tomberlin

Achter Tomberlin gaat de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Sarah Beth Tomberlin schuil. De jonge Amerikaanse muzikante groeide op in een streng religieus gezin op het Amerikaanse platteland, waarvan ze vervreemde in haar puberjaren.

In alle eenzaamheid schreef ze vervolgens de songs die zijn terecht gekomen op haar debuut At Weddings. Het is een debuut dat voortborduurt op een eerder in eigen beheer uitgebracht mini album, dat nu is aangevuld tot een volwaardig debuut.

Het debuut van Tomberlin is een uiterst ingetogen en zeer intieme plaat. De plaat wordt gedragen door mooi pianospel of akoestisch gitaarspel, dat vaak een repeterend karakter heeft. De plaat wordt verder ingekleurd door de mooie stem van Sarah Beth Tomberlin, die er in slaagt om alle emotie rond haar zware jeugd over te dragen op de luisteraar.

At Weddings is een uiterst ingetogen plaat, maar de productie van de plaat is belangrijker dan je op het eerste gehoor zult vermoeden. Voor deze productie deed Tomberlin een beroep op de Canadese muzikant en producer Owen Pallett, die het geluid op At Weddings op bijzonder subtiele wijze heeft verrijkt met onder andere strijkers en keyboards. Het zorgt voor een donker geluid vol bijzondere details.

At Weddings van Tomberlin is een plaat die je onmiddellijk bij de strot grijpt door alle emotie, intimiteit en onderhuidse spanning, maar het is ook een plaat die eindeloos groeit door alle subtiele maar zeer trefzekere details in de instrumentatie. De instrumentatie versterkt de schoonheid van de stem van de singer-songwriter uit Louisville, Kentucky, die je op indringende wijze deelgenoot maakt van haar jeugd in de Amerikaanse Bible Belt.

Qua sfeer doet At Weddings van Tomberlin wel wat denken aan de platen van Julien Baker. Het is een sfeer die in Engelstalige recensies vrijwel unaniem het predicaat “haunting” krijgt opgeplakt, wat letterlijk vertaald spookachtig betekent, terwijl bezwerend misschien meer recht doet aan de muziek van Tomberlin.

Het debuut van de jonge Amerikaanse singer-songwriter wordt verder uitvoerig vergeleken met  het debuut van Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago, dat net als At Weddings ver van de bewoonde wereld werd opgenomen en een net zo desolate sfeer heeft.

Er zijn veel platen als At Weddings van Tomberlin, maar het debuut van Sarah Beth Tomberlin steekt wat mij betreft flink boven het maaiveld uit. Het is knap hoe schijnbare eenvoud en een geluid dat tot in de kleinste details klopt samen gaan en het is nog knapper hoe Tomberlin je weet mee te nemen naar de beklemmende omgeving die haar jeugd bepaalde.

Natuurlijk is het zo dat ik een zwak heb voor dit soort muziek, maar ook zonder dit zwak heeft Tomberlin met At Weddings een plaat gemaakt die behoort tot de meest indrukwekkende platen van het moment.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt At Weddings hier beluisteren en kopen:


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


woensdag 3 oktober 2018

Americana. The Kinks, The Road and the Perfect Riff. Ray Davies

In his third book Ray Davies looks back on two important periods in his life. One in his career and one in his personal life. At the time where the book starts the first part of The kinks' career is, just about, over. The 60s stream of hits is drying up up. The U.S. ban that lasted from 1965 till 1969 is lifted. A new record contract was signed and the band decided it was time to conquer the U.S.

Step by step the band succeeds. More as an all over theatre act than a full fledged rock band, The Kinks grow bigger and bigger by the album. Of course there ís 'Lola' in 1970, that worldwide monster hit, while in fact the song is the odd one out. The last of the huge hits in Europe and The Netherlands. From now on there are concept albums or rock operas nearly exclusively. The Preservation albums, 'Soap Opera', 'Schoolboys In Disgrace'. Tour after tour after tour and slowly everything starts breaking at the fringes of the band. Marriages lay by the way side. Drummer and guitarist fight ever more. Members deciding to choose for their private lives and not the band. People in the entourage dying of terminal illnesses. In Europe the Kinks seems to slowly fade from memory, never really to recover. For a band that, with The Who, is in third place firmly where 60s U.K. bands are concerned, this is a mysterious, unexplainable place to be.

Ray Davies continues, losing himself along the way more and more. With the change of record label in 1977, the band concentrates more on individual songs once more, is coached better it seems by the record label and its owner. Slowly The Kinks gains more ground once again and is on route to score U.S. hits and albums. With the 'Low Budget' album (1979) the band moves into arena's and bigger, becoming one of the great rock bands in the U.S. Again things deteriorate within the band itself. With lesser albums from the second half of the 80s onwards, it all collapses in the mid 90s with a fantastic self-produced acoustic album, 'To The Bone'. The last show is somewhere in Norway in 1996. Ray Davies goes solo with his storytelling.

The other half of Americana focuses on Ray Davies' period in New Orleans ending in being shot in the first days in the new year of 2004. The fact that I hadn't heard anything about that until the 'Americana' album in 2017, tells something about how far from memory Ray Davies had faded in this country in 2004. Working on ideas for his first solo album, but with his soul under his arm, Davies is lost. No band, no marriage, his youngest daughter with her mother in Ireland, no sense of home. The casualty of the road Ray Davies had become is looked at with remorseless insight as he lands himself in New Orleans. In search of himself in a doomed relationship and casting out for things that make sense to do. Leading to being shot in a street robbery in the wrong place at the wrong time and where most likely a cab would have been the right place in all circumstances. The medical complications after the shooting all come by, including the long recovery towards his first solo album, to be released in 2006 only, 'Other People's Lives'. Long after I have closed the book in 2004.

The message I took from the book is another one. The Kinks went on for too long. If the band had gone into a hiatus of four or five years, say after 'Word Of Mouth', like The Rolling Stones more or less did, the band would have reached that famed status of "will they ever perform again"? To keep reaping for 30 years onwards. Everyone involved would have been older and perhaps wiser. In Europe somehow the band lost everything, most likely as the result of focusing nearly exclusively on the U.S. That still does not explain why compared to most other 60s bands, The Kinks come by so much less on the radio. The hits are superb, superior. There is no other word for it. And they are not there.

The uncertainty and yearning for recognition I registered in Ray Davies' shows in the 00s sort of is explained in this book as well. It seems Ray Davies does not believe in the true strength of his songs or yearned for recognition too much, instead of making the songs do the work for him. They can, without effort. This uncertainty comes forward throughout this book.

A book that is straightforward and written well enough. Ray Davies is an entertaining causeur. I can imagine sitting around the hearth listening to his stories spell bound. A few times he skips a topic too easily -Hey, what did really happen here or Give me some more details, please. Perhaps that is for biographers and not himself to tell. The book would also have been a perfect stepping stone to the albums, if I hadn't found out about the book after the second album. So be it, it's time to read 'X-Ray', his first book.

In my reviews of 'Americana part I and II' I mentioned that Ray Davies seemed to have, perhaps finally, resigned himself to what and who he is. That there is nothing left to prove as he has done it all, so was able to come with two great and dignified albums. I hope that is the case as he has proven it all, time and again. In his music and in his books.


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dinsdag 2 oktober 2018

Mandala Brush. Spain

Not too long ago, I wrote about the live album Spain released, consisting of recordings of its weekly stints in a L.A. venue. Evenings that were used to experiment and work with guests, just to find out what would happen on such an evening. I concluded that I would surely have liked to have been present on one of these nights. (Read on here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.com/2017/06/live-at-lovesong-spain.html.)

It seems Spain has taken that attitude and approach with it into the studio. I have a lot harder time to digest what is on offer now that I'm listening to a studio recording. It is hard to discern why that is, but I will try my best.

Up front I'm going to start simply by stating that musically Mandala Brush is fine. The record seems well composed, the mix of the sound and instruments is excellent. What is harder, is that Josh Haden seems to exert his voice more. He sounds strained here and there, which is not always pleasant to listen to. It is a confrontation of sorts. Right in the beginning in 'Maya In The Summer' Haden is in my face, staring me down, with me losing effortlessly. Musically the song just continues and then some more. It is one long streak of repeated notes, with minor variations in the vocals. Over this instruments play patterns of notes, while the drums and bass pound ever onwards.

The song lasts about seven minutes, reflecting the jams at the Lovesong. How far can we take one basic musical given? Far, as 'Maya In The Summer' is a hypnotic song. Confrontational, certainly, but also good and somehow not one second too long.

The mood becomes more relaxed in the beautiful 'Sugarkane'. A song like a song can, perhaps should be. Melodically strong, great singing and harmonising (either his sister Petra or Tania) with a clear beginning and ending. Brought in a mix like this, Mandela Brush grows, substantially.

The third song is psychedelic heaven and transcendental meditation in one. Bells and other in kind percussion flows over the floating music. Haden just chants his aahhs. Danny Frenkel's snare rolls, his cymbals are very present. 'Rooster Cogburn' is released about 50 years too late. Jefferson Airplane at its most experimental comes by here. The shouted "No man is an island. He's a peninsula", is all that is missing here. At the same time Kenny Lyon (guitar) and Shon Sullivan (organ) play a great role and Haden shows he knows his Jack Casidy. It is not hard to warm to this psychedelic outing. 'Rooster Cogburn' has nothing to do with the psychedelic revival of the past 10 years but everything with the experimental 60s. Eight minutes is nothing and over before I know it.
Promo photo: John del Gatto

The change to the country of 'You Bring Me Up' is unexpected and quite sudden. Again I am enjoying the clear sound of Mandala Brush and the ladies Haden singing their oohhss in the background. Not really my style of music, but certainly alright in its sort.

Back to experimentation in the studio. Horns and woodwork comes in and the violin and cello of Haden's sisters. 'Tangerine' is a stretched composition. All notes are long drawn, the music is far from in a hurry, while within that point of rest there is a listlessness, an unrest. It is this contradiction that makes 'Tangerine' so interesting to listen to. Again, Josh Haden's voice is in search of its limits. Yes, it fits the composition totally, but that does not always make it pleasant to listen to. Again 7 minutes is nothing here.

Further on Mandela Brush melancholy is researched thoroughly with a French touch or a soft pop touch with a muted trumpet in the beautiful intro to the song ('Folkstone Kent'). In 'Laurel Clementine' Neil Young is saluted the Spain way where again melancholy is clearly in view. What a song! Eastern sounds are introduced. Not my cup of tea, but we are experimenting here. Despite the composition westernising midway through, Spain has lost me long before 14 something minutes are over. AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

It would have been better to end the album with 'God Is Love'. Then I could just switch it off. Now 'The Coming Of The Lord' follows. Again a great song with a beautiful trumpet. TMGS territory (The new album, 'Ain't No Place' is due on the 19 October, finally!) The real end is 'Amorphous' that starts with Haden's bass guitar only. Slowly the song develops in a Pink Floyd way.

So, yes, Spain does not make it easy on its listener. Mandela Brush is an album in which Josh Haden has tried out his band to the extremes and not be bound by conventions. Some experiments go over the top, other succeed and in the middle are some fantastic songs. All in all Mandela Brush shows that this way of working paid off for Spain. In a grand fashion. The musicians were all willing to go the whole way and play an idea out to all its corners and back. The result is a superb album.


You can buy Mandela Brush here:


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