Monday, October 31, 2005

The Brave and the Bold cd review




Now this really is an interesting collaboration. Tortoise and Will Oldham/Bonnie 'Prince' Billy are not exactly similar artists. Oldham is the king of simple and straightforward indie alt-folk. The only experimental thing about him is his wide range of monikers. Tortoise howerver are an entirely different kettle of fish. Tortoise favour grand, instrumental soundscapes and aren't regarded as the most accessible of groups. There are similarities: both are from Chicago, and Oldham is keen on collaborations, his last record, Superwolf made jointly with Matt Sweeney.

Instead of writing new material together, they decided to reinterpret a wide range of covers. The ten tracks range from Elton John's Daniel, to Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road; but none are as you've heard them before. Predictably it's a little hit and miss. Like most collaborations some tracks lean to one artist and few find true balance. But fans of either artist will find something to enjoy and though the quality varies, for the most part it is of a high standard. All tracks abound with creativity and ingenuity, a truly Brave and Bold side project.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Duke Special, Empire Music Hall, 27 Oct 2005

DATE__________27 OCTOBER 2005

What does it take to ‘make it’? Surely the big time is not a simple formula of talent = success. That the most downloaded song of the summer was by James Blunt is ample evidence that excessive talent isn’t necessary. It also puts to bed the idea that originality or lyrical ingenuity is a necessary pre-requisite. In fact, fortune seems to be as simple as being in the right place at the right time.

If the world was fair and the righteous prospered, Duke Special would be topping the charts. He’s talented, original, charming, honest, and has a timeless ability to write great songs. Behind the masquerades of dreadlocks and mascara, he sings catchy, clever, piano pop songs. He is adored by all he encounters, which is all too few.

But things are looking up, and he just might break through to a wider audience. If tonight was anything to go by, his number must be coming up. The second of a two-night stint at the Empire, as part of the Belfast Festival, was sold out and buzzing with anticipation. He was backed by an extraordinary collection of people who perfectly fit his eccentric circus-carnival image. His percussionist stole the show; rarely sitting still for more than one song, he was banging whatever came to hand, including cheese graters and wooden boxes.

The show was a bit shambolic, piano’s were swapped around, there were musical interludes and the number on stage grew with every song, but that only added to the party feeling. For the first of two encores Duke invited his sisters to accompany him on ‘My only sunshine’. He never fails to give it his all, and sang ‘Freewheel’ and other standouts from Adventures in Gramaphone like it was his last gig. If not the most clinical performance it was a lot of fun, and perhaps the last time we see him in a small venue. Surely fame and fortune beckon.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chris T-T review

This guy writes protest songs in a similar vein to woody Guthry and Bob Dylan, but for the 2000's, about Tony Blair and Iraq.




chrisThe first thing that strikes you about Chris T-T is that he’s unashamedly political. Those of you who believe that music and politics should not mix stop reading now.

‘9 Red Songs’ is a collection of protest songs recorded and produced by Jon Clayton at London’s One Cat Studio. Chris T-T has the wonderful ability of coupling radical politics with dark sarcasm, often causing much offence. Whether he’s singing about Tony Blair’s non-existent heart (‘Tony’s Heart’) or hunting supporters (‘The Huntsman Comes A-Marchin’), Chris wears his heart, beating, bloody and bruised on his sleeve.

9 Red Songs has a bedroom-record feel to it; very natural reverbs and shining acoustics bringing an emotional weight to what could have easily been an alienating rant. The acoustic guitar, banjo, cello and accordion sound will appeal to those who like their music the right side of folk.

Chris T-T’s main pulling-power is his refreshing ‘real-world’ approach, often considered more important than the songs themselves. And this is indeed the case, the songs are good but don’t cut it when compared to the cream of the alt. folk scene. However, in a political world where the wealthy trample the poor, and a musical world were James Blunt and Coldplay rule, Chris T-T (or more importantly, his honesty) is indispensable.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mi and L'au


Mi is a female Finnish model. L'au is a French soundtrack producer. Mi and L'au meet in Paris, fall head over heels in love, and move to the woods in Finland to live happily every after in peace making very slow, quiet records.

Think a bit Bjork, a bit Joanna Newsom, a bit Devandra Banhart (labelmates), a bit Anthony and the Johnsons and you're almost there. The music is all sparse, and delicate, and slightly unsettling- voice, acoustic guitars, and other orchestrations. It's not really the weird folk stuff that's going about at the minute, but perhaps a distant cousin of it.

If you imagine what music made in the Finnish woods would sound like, then it probably sounds like Mi and L'au. There are no fast songs, no hooks, no singles you must burn, but that's not the point. Together they are enchanting, as beguiling as the Greek sirens Odysseus tried to resist. It's one to watch for if you like your Scandanavian folk wispy and melancholic.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Shameless self promotion

Occasionaly I put my money where my mouth is and instead of criticising other people's music, I make my own. I have a few songs kicking around which formed a couple of demos, and I thought I would gradually post them on the blogosphere and see if anyone downloads them. If this improves your day then my mission is achieved.

This is my most recent song. It's called "Guilty".

I'm sure you know by now to right click on the link and go to "save as" to download.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Narnia is ‘racist’ and ‘misogynistic’ says Pullman

Author Philip Pullman has attacked the CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, calling them ‘racist’ and ‘misogynistic’. His biggest chriticism is that as it is supposed to have Christian references, it lacks Christian virtues. He claims that there is not a trace of love in the books, instead they are ‘reactonary’ and ‘prejudiced’.

Now I’ve read the Narnia stories, and I’m pretty sure Pullman hasn’t from his comments. To say that it lacks Christian virtues is a bit na├»ve as the whole story is a classic battle of good against evil, one that Pullman himself has ripped off with every book he writes. It tells the story of Aslan, the good character coming to save Narnia from the reign of the White Witch by sacrificing himself so that the others can be saved. Towards the end of The Lion, the Witch… he breathes new life into all the prisoners who had been turned into stone. Aslan rescues Edmund, despite the fact that he had joined the side of the White Whitch and spurned Aslan.

But there is no love in Narnia? It’s just prejudiced? I think Pullman had better do some reading. It sounds to me like a sound bite for some cheap publicity. On a discussion board I saw, someone had joined Pullman’s criticism slamming the Narnia chronicles claiming that they were “derisive about vegetarianism”. Oh please.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Richmond Fontaine 5 October 2005, Belfast

ARTIST Richmond Fontaine + The Amazing Pilots
VENUE The Spring and Airbrake
DATE 5 October 2005

A real alt-country treat was brought to the Spring and Airbrake courtesy of the excellent Open House Festival. Fresh from a stint supporting Pedro the Lion in the USA The Amazing Pilots joined Portland's Richmond Fontaine. RF broke through to Irish audiences after the release of 2004's Post to Wire. Now touring in support of the stripped down Fitzgerald album they visited Belfast for the first time. “We love Ireland, especially the horses, but this is our first trip to the North.” lead singer Willy Vlautin tells Alternative Ulster.

The Pilots quickly won the applause of the crowd during their short support set with easy melodies and silky guitar sounds taken from their latest record Hello My Captor. When the four members of RF ambled onto the stage around ten o’clock, Willie was in story teller mode. He has an ability to bring to life the characters in his music, from gun-toting Harley Davidson girls to drinking shots of vinegar for lunch and losing on the horses. Live, the louder songs from Post to Wire excelled and while they typically describe the desolate and destitute, on stage their enthusiasm is palpable. Richmond Fontaine are one of few remaining great American songwriters, let’s hope it’s not long until they’re back.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sufjan Stevens at the Spring and Airbrake

Sufjan Stevens
The Spring and Airbrake, Belfast
13 October 2005

After the release of his latest record, Illinois, Sufjan (pronounced Soof-yan) Stevens has become something of an underground phenomenon. His name is regularly followed by the phrase ‘the-next-big-thing’. He’s sold out three consecutive dates in London on his current tour and last night sold out Belfast.

Backed by his six-piece band, all decked in orange and navy cheer-leading gear, Sufjan took us on a tour of Michigan and Illinois, through the small towns of Jacksonville and Dakota to the big cities of Detroit and Chicago. They were choreographed to perfection. Before many of the songs he led a cheer, “give us a J! Give us an A! Give us a C! Give us an K! Give us an S! Give us an O! Give us an N! Give us a VILLE! Whaddawe got? JACKSONVILLE” Not being a native American raised on pom-poms and cheers, this was all rather novel. It’s certainly the first time I’ve seen cheerleaders at a gig.

Oh and the music was great too. Trumpets, banjo’s organs, the whole works. The songs mutated live from their recorded versions with different intros and extended endings. They played quite a short set, but covering most of Illinois, with a couple from Seven Swans and Michigan.

The band were polished and professional. The audience were not. The mix was quite low, and Sufjan sings softly at the best of times, so loud shhh’s were frequently ordered, but people continued to talk anyway, and the bar kept smashing glass. The crowded venue added to the excitement but, at the same time detracted from a good performance by Sufjan and his cheerleaders.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Fatal attraction

Like legions of others, my ipod changed my life. I have been perfectly satisfied by it. Until now that is. Suddenly I feel envy.

Apple have announced the new ipod. And it plays video.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Coming soon on about the music...

What's in store for this niche of cyberspace? Well there have been a few new records through the door, and appearing on this page will be

THE CONSTANTINES - Tournament of Hearts (Subpop)

HOLOPAW - self titled - (Subpop)

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Jacksonville City Nights (Lost Highway)

Calexico/Iron & Wine - In the Reins - (Overcoat records)

Bell Orchestre - recording a tape the colour of light - (Rough Trade records)

Plus an interview with Richmond Fontaine, and live reviews of the above and Sufjan Stevens. Watch this space.

Monday, October 10, 2005

KC Rules OK!!


Based in the kingdom of Fife, Kenny Anderson has been recording and releasing literally gazillions of albums on his own Fence record label for about the last ten years. King Creosote's third commercially released album, KC Rules OK follows the much acclaimed 'Rocket DIY' which got him voted one of the top 50 Scottish bands of all time. Recorded with 'The Earlies', KC Rules OK is a beautiful collection of touching, funny, sad, poignant and heartbreaking songs. Like Belle & Sebastien, KC finds wonder in the minutiae of adult relationships; trips to Safeway and unromantic garlic breath. Maguerita Red is as bohemian and heartfelt a song that you'll hear in a long time. His Scottish accent is clearly identifiable as he sings and lends a certain charm to the small town folk feel. In all it's an album worth investigating.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Richmond Fontaine

Richmond Fontaine are rolling into Belfast on Wednesday to play as part of the Open House Festival at the Limelight. It's a treat to have one of the greatest american storytellers in our city. I'll be reviewing the gig and interviewing the guys. Watch this space! If you have any questions you would like asked leave a comment.

Monday, October 03, 2005

My girlfriend says...

My girlfriend is one of the faithful few who frequently reads my blog. She maintains that while I write about coffee and wine, riots and politics, (not to mention a lot of music), I never mention her.

So here she is. Heather my love.

Arabian Mocha Java

My friend, and black apron coffee master, Jonny Ross gave me a bag of the holy grail of coffee, Arabian Mocha-Java yesterday. A blend of Yemen and Java coffees, this exotic combination creates a balance of soft spice, smooth body and a slight berry aroma. It is apparently the first ever blend, made by Dutch 17th Century coffee traders. It has virtually no aciditiy at all, making it smooth, but with a voluptuous body. Apparently it’s great. I have yet to open the beans and stick them in my grinder, but I plan to later on today. Thanks Jonny.