There are more good albums released these days than fit this blog. Usually it is tough luck, as I only have time on average to review four albums each week. In addition there's a singles section since a few years, highlighting 10 recent singles per week. So why not do the same for some albums that really deserve attention? So, I decided to do a catch up of some albums from the past few weeks and late last year. Agreed, they are not so well and intensely listened to as usual. It will have to do.
Epocha. Abrasive Trees
On Epocha Abrasive Trees or Matthew Roachford brings together the songs he has released in the past few years of which some have made it to this blog. Expect, on average, songs lasting for five minutes. Dark and brooding, they slowly take you through the dark ages to come out vindicated on the other side. My musical reference is the postpunk of the 1980s. Think The Cure, Killing Joke, The Cult, but all without the big drums and huge guitars. Epocha is more about creating a mood than showing muscles and comes out well. The mood is set by electronic sounds or dark, distorted guitars mixed into the background and some muffled percussion. A guitar (or two) is always present, playing a slow, clear riff. Roachford's singing is just as dark. The contrast with a female voice, like on 'Now You are Not Here' (Jo-Beth Young) is welcome and well done. Epocha fits well in the mid 20s and is a trip down the 80s memory lane in one.
You Radiate. Jimmy Diamond
The first notes I heard of You Radiate were from a song called 'Chase The Moon'. Nice but not special. It's good I paid attention for a bit longer, as the song slowly but surely keeps growing. Jimmy Diamond is a Dutch trio that started its musical life as the European tour band of Strand of Oaks, a band I still do not really know what to think of. Timothy Showalter made up the band's name on tour and during the pandemic the trio started working together on making their own music. This resulted in an album that definitely has the United States written over it where the music is concerned. Hints at Americana, the pop rock of The War on Drugs and Strand of Oaks, where ballads and rock easily mixes. Jim Zwinselman, Ruud Gielen and Floris Poessé catch a great mood in their music. There's no need to hurry anything. Even when they rock, like in 'In The Dark', they take their time to do so. Yes, there's a link with Excelsior label mates Moss in sound, not in the urgency. As a final comment, I'll mention the dreamy atmosphere of Jimmy Diamond, Like a long summernight the band takes its time for every single note. The sun is still out, yet going under ever so slowly (and then I saw the album's cover).
A Room Of One's Own. Rosemary & Garlic
Another album taking its time. Slow piano notes fill my ears. An intro to an album taking its time. Anne van den Hoogen is not in a hurry to let her voice be heard. When she does though, her point is made fast. Dreamily she sings over the music that unfolds slowly as well. All rest and play here. “If you put on the music, I would hope that it would stop you somewhere in your tracks for just a second, just to feel some comfort and some kind of beauty,” she says in the bio. Mission accomplished, Anne. Rosemary & Garlic is now a solo effort, with former part of the duo Dolf Smolenaers now present as co-producer. A Room Of One's Own is Rosemary & Garlic's second album. Filled with singer-songwriter and folk songs with a modern take on British folk of old, the album also offers space. Every instrument has its own place and time in the songs. They all come across beautifully and warm, spaciously mixed, giving them each their own spot on the record. Beauty caught on record.
Different Game. The Zombies
In the past months two singles already came by and made me very, very curious for the whole album. The Zombies today are men beyond men of a certain age. They are elderly gentlemen still going at what they do best, recording songs and playing them live. The Zombies never received the commercial acclaim when first active as a band. The real breakthrough came after they disbanded and 'Time Of The Season' became a hit in 1969 anyway. With Different Game the band releases a new album and it binds all of the sixties in it and add a modern studio sound to it. The title and opening song could have been by Procol Harum as far as the organ goes. The typical The Zombies organ comes in with 'Dropped Reeling & Stupid'. One of the singles. Colin Blunstone's voice is not what it was 50 years ago. It can't be. He does really well though, just like Rod Argent has come up with the songs that make for a good, if dated, album. There's nothing sentimental about Different Game though. This album totally deserves to be heard.
Mist. Vreemde Kostgangers
Another album by a band of veterans. The oldest is alive and kicking and doing the interviews. Henny Vrienten died almost a year ago and George Kooymans is terminally ill with ALS. They had started their third album during the pandemic after the tour had to stop, like everyone else's. Mist is an album filled with melancholy songs about life, ageing and death. The album had to be finished and released Vrienten had said to the other two and they did, a little against the odds. It's impossible to listen to Mist without realising what happened after the tour had to stop in March 2020. (I was one of the lucky ones on 5 March in Haarlem.) It is possible though to listen to the album and hear the quality of these three Dutch musicians of star quality. The troubadour, Boudewijn de Groot, the pop star who became a lot more, Henny Vrienten and a rock god, George Kooijmans, bring their different sides to Vreemde Kostgangers and show how good they are. This album is filled with beautiful songs showing so many different sides to them.
Dropkick Murphys' founding guitarist Rick Barton finds himself in Quincy, Massachusetts painting houses when not playing with his band Continentals. Listening to the quality of his band's album Hello, I can't help but muse what's wrong with the world these days if a band with the quality of Continentals can't sustain its members by playing music. A song like 'State O' Maine' is a HIT, in capitals, yes. Perfect rock and roll, perfect harmonies, perfect changes in the vocal melody and chords. Should I have left anything of brilliance out of this summery, I deeply apologise. On Hello decades of rock and roll come together in a blend that's almost too much fun. From The Rolling Stones into the 80s U.S. rock bands to Dropkick Murphies barring the Irish influences and anything resembling powerpop and punkrock in between, with a little americana on the side. It's all there in the nine songs on Hello. Granite City in the name Quincy gave itself. This music is just as hard rock(ing).
One More Drink. The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs
Another band with members that go back a few decades already and decided to come back together after 20 years and go for it once again. The music is as old-fashioned punkrock as it is good. It is that the voices betray their age, the playing is so forceful and energetic that it belies the musician's age by a decade or three and a half. How many more good songs can be written using these basic rock and roll chords?, I often muse. Loads it seems, as The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs have a whole album filled with them. Yes, you'll have heard it all before but who cares when it's this good? With Frank Meyer the band has a great singer, who really leads the band as a driving force. The surprise sax solos of Geoff Yeaton are a huge surprise, as it isn't the kind of instrument to expect in a band like this. He matches the guitar riffs with ease. If I have to compare this band, it would be to Social Distortion at its best. The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs come really, really close. One More Drink comes as a deluxe edition with bonus tracks for those who jump the gun. Better go over to Rum Bar's Bandcamp page fast.
De Belevenis van Niels Hendrix. Niels Hendrix
Rocksongs gezongen in het Nederlands met een Vlaams accent. Dat is de eenvoudige omschrijving. Dit is al een iets ouder album, dat er tussendoor glipte door diverse oorzaken, die mij enige tijd weerhielden om veel tijd aan het blog te besteden. Tijd om het goed te maken, want De Belevenis Van Niels Hendrix is een heel fijn album. Hendrix heeft een mooie mix van luisterliedjes en rocksongs gemaakt, binnen één song en niet apart. Met zijn akoestische gitaar speelt hij het liedje en met zijn stem en geregeld binnenvliegende elektrische gitaar wordt de rockkant van zijn muziek belicht. Het album is uitgebracht op Fons Records. Als ik kijk hoeveel platen van dit underground label uit Hasselt hun weg hebben gevonden naar dit blog, dan kan alleen maar geconcludeerd worden dat het niveau hoog ligt. De Belevenis Van Niels Hendrix is hier geen utizondering op. Rock in het Nederlands/Vlaams is al een uitzondering. Goede rock in die taal al helemaal. De Belevenis Van Niels Hendrix levert dit op overtuigende wijze. Dan kan een popsong als 'Nooit' makkelijk vergeven worden. Wat resteert, is van topklasse.
Horizon. The Inspector Cluzo
French farmers and rock duo touring the world The Inspector Cluzo returns to this blog. Again, they rock out in a decidedly unfrench way. The duo makes a lot of noise for a duo. Impossible to recreate together on stage. On record, who cares? Not me. Horizon is a fine album on which modern blues rock is mixed with solid rock. Altogether it is all about excitement but not without interesting songs. In between all that farming and as soon as the chickens have gone to roost, the guitars and drums come out sounding out over the French fields. Successful enough to hire Vance Powell as producer and have Iggy Pop, his album 'Every Loser' is still fantastic, contributing to 'Rockphobia'. You have to be patient though before you hear him. Singer (and guitarist) Laurent is a great singer in his own right. He has different voices to share with us, making listening to Horizon even more interesting. The Inspector Cluzo knows how to rock but what it is doing as support act to EELS (7 April AFAS), I can only muse at. Doesn't sound like the best match to me. Just listen the duo go down on 'The Armchair Activist' and you can't but agree with me. '9 Billion Solutions' would fit though, so I may be wrong.
What happened to Niels Hendrix, happened to Mich also. An album I had already set apart never got off the list of blog potentials. Until today. Mich is, better was, a project and not a real band. Over the years this seems to have changed, as the band fairly regularly releases new records. Nuts is, once again, an album that has 1980s written all over it. More specifically, it has The Cure written all over it. Mich manages to combine the upbeat side of The Cure's music with the darkness surrounding the upbeat sound. A high sounding guitar, synths and a firm rhythm section are supporting dreamy singing. The pop element wins on Nuts, more so than before. In fact, the songs are better than on the band's previous two efforts. To my ears, the songs are better. They stick better somehow and my take is this has all to do with the pop element that has been infused into the 80s music. At a time when the world does seem to be about to fall on our head, Mich comes with a blue sky, thus providing the blue hats we all will wear when a blue sky falls. Nuts it may be, the music is not. Nuts is Mich's best effort so far.
Wout de Natris