Nights In

RubyBlue's picture

Maximo Park

What's it called?: 
Too Much Information
What does it sound like?: 
A bit of context: I do really love Maximo Park, mainly for 'Books from Boxes' which got me through a very bad break-up. I also played to death 'Our Velocity' which is a reasonably subtle anti-war song, for those who like that sort of thing. As a North-easterner I love hearing the accent on record, and I'm dying to see them live, so I come to this review with a lot of positive baggage. I know they are thought to be indie chancers but they have survived the post-mid-2000s implosions rather well. Their fifth album, and I didn't really expect to get this far with them. But I glad I have because this is rather a richer experience than previous albums. A bit of electronica in there, even, I think, and things sound more modernist and smoothed out, which may be a good or bad thing. The vocals sound more mature, if a little under water ( not a bad thing. More in the comments.
What does it all *mean*?: 
In and out of love again; we're older and life gets more complex; we show our musical influences on our sleeves.
Goes well with …: 
Live, I think. Played loud on a summer afternoon. Early evening pub. Post break-up quiet reflective moments. Stick it on your phone/device in the park with friends.
Might suit people who like …: 
The Smiths; The Maccabees; early REM; Fever Ray; Arctic Monkeys of 'Humbug' maybe; indie chancers. Standout tracks and more below!

Eric Clapton & Friends

What's it called?: 
The Breeze, an appreciation of JJ Cale
What does it sound like?: 
JJ Cale. No, really, it sounds just like JJ Cale to the extent that if someone played it, unannounced and unknown, I would assume it was the late great himself. And it is, clearly, none the worse for that, as Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler vie for who sings most like himself, aided and abetted by other friends ranging from those I know, Tom Petty, to those I didn't. Only occasionally, when Willie Nelson takes on a vocal, is there any slippage from the template, or when Greg Leisz steels in toward the end. Nice touch to have Mrs Cale, Christine Lakeland, on a few tracks as well. It's all mid temp choogle and you either like it or you don't. Innessential but lovely.
What does it all *mean*?: 
It feels as if this is a man who garnished more affection than accolade, and, d'ya know, of the two I suspect the former is more lasting.
Goes well with …: 
Driving thru' the midwest with a beer on the go. Only, of course, in my imagination.
Might suit people who like …: 
JJ Cale
Fatima XBerg's picture

The Twenty-Four-Hour Song

What's it called?: 
7 Skies H3
What does it sound like?: 
The Flaming Lips are known for wacky concepts (like a 4-CD album where you're meant to listen to all 4 discs at once) and this is one of them: in 2011 they recorded a 24-hour song (yes: it lasts for 24 hours!) and sold it on Halloween (each of the 13 copies came in a real human skull, and the price was 5,000 $). Then they put it on a continuous stream (you can still listen to it: http://www.satelliteheartradio.com/24/), and this year issued a 50 minute version on vinyl on Record Store Day. The music is mostly ambient, floating soundscapes (a bit like Porcupine Tree's instrumental jams such as "Moonloop"), but there are also noisy weirdo passages. In the middle there's a five hour improv session, recorded live (known as the "Metamorphosis Section"), that is pure bliss: like one of Eno's more melodic ambient albums, but played with electric guitars, drums, and that trancy psychedelic synthesizer from the "Yoshimi" album. One of the most beautiful pieces of music I ever heard.
What does it all *mean*?: 
You certainly begin to think about how to spend your time, what music means to you, and how you listen to it. I mean, the introduction lasts for three hours!
Goes well with …: 
A flatrate internet connection, a cozy sofa or bed, a bottle of whiskey and some sandwiches.
Might suit people who like …: 
to spend some time with music. Certainly not for the "life's too short for a six-minute song" brigade.
RubyBlue's picture

Hurray for the Riff Raff

What's it called?: 
Small Town Heroes
What does it sound like?: 
I knew nothing about them before buying the album so thanks for the recommendation. I’ve not ready any reviews apart from the ones on here, and I don’t really know much about the genre either (folk rock? folk blues? Or simply folk? Something else?) Thanks for the suggestion- I always like to broaden my horizons although it takes a bit of a shift in attitude and an investment of time. Themes: country, rivers, New Orleans, murder, the South, guns, death, love, tradition, the past. Some dark themes, some lighter and Alynda Lee Segarra’s lovely, beautiful , honey voice means it’s a deceptively easy listen. I have to confess that this didn’t grab me immediately; I had to dig a bit deeper due to being largely unfamiliar with this kind of music.It’s not my favourite genre(s) but willing to give it a go. (I had thought it was a little one-paced but I was very wrong about that- see below.)
What does it all *mean*?: 
Important because: • The lovely voice (and fiddle); • The genre blurring; • Female reflections on history, traditional songs and styles.
Goes well with …: 
• Whiskey on the porch. • I was mainly listening to this on very long walks on hot sunny days and it didn’t fit really; another sundown record, maybe. • Road trip down South. (America, not Brighton, perhaps.)
Might suit people who like …: 
•Old murder ballads mixed with feminism mixed with Ani DiFranco mixed with roots;•Johnny Cash;•Gillian Welch;• Gene Clark/ Byrds:‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’;• Country Dylan;• Laura Marling?• Natalie Merchant;•A darker Cowboy Junkies; •American Gothic.
RubyBlue's picture

Lana Del Rey

What's it called?: 
Ultraviolence
What does it sound like?: 
A few caveats: 1. I haven’t read any reviews of this at all, partly so I could come to it fresh without any more preconceptions than I already had. 2. I’ve never reviewed anything before. 3. I adore ‘Video Games’ for personal reasons so I had a relatively positive bent towards LDR from the start. As an aside, this is a wonderful album cover- how I miss full-size LP covers. Overall, the themes and imagery include: dangerous boys; crazy, damaged girls on the edge of a breakdown; anger, self-destructiveness; the Bible; guns; cars (and girls); childhood; ‘America’ (I think); fame; dresses and flowers; wanting more more more. She has a much warmer voice that I expected; I thought this would be colder, more detached and chilly, and the production kind of is: clear, shiny, metallic and light but the voice redeems it for me and brings back a bit of connection. It is a much more interesting album that I thought it would be – more serious. Comments on the tracks below.
What does it all *mean*?: 
• A new seriousness- Lana as serious artist. • A reflection on female self-destructiveness in the face of dangerous yet seductive men. • Fame: it’s a good thing, it’s a bad thing. • She has a truly beautiful and clear voice.
Goes well with …: 
My first listen was at sundown on a Sunday with a couple of drinks; I was in a reflective mood and this suited that feeling well. Good for that 3am time when you can’t sleep and melancholy takes over.(Won’t help you get back to sleep, however.)
Might suit people who like …: 
Wonky Pop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonky_pop ; the more outré and dirty aspects of Tori Amos; Kate Bush; Ani diFranco; drama; female pain; women who swear a lot.
bargepole's picture

Yes

What's it called?: 
Heaven and Earth
What does it sound like?: 
Having witnessed a seemingly rejuvenated Yes on their recent tour, expectations were reasonably high for this release, the first by the current line-up of the band. That optimism hasn't been totally justified. Although this isn't a bad album overall, indeed there's nothing to really dislike about it all, there isn't any outstanding material that you feel will be a long standing part of their future repertoire. As you'd expect, the playing is exemplary and Jon Davison sounds remarkably like Anderson at times. However, the songs themselves are a bit much of a muchness and at some points veer dangerously close to blandness. The production by Roy Thomas-Baker doesn't add as much to proceedings as anticipated, but there is some nice Roger Dean artwork to look at. However,the proggier side of the band has been pretty much neglected here in favour of more commercial shorter songs - a shame as there's still a big market out there for the longer, more complex pieces.
What does it all *mean*?: 
If you're hoping for the Yes that produced prog classics such as Close To The Edge etc then this album is perhaps not for you. It is more in the vein of latter day releases such as 'Fly From Here', a more AOR oriented 'Yes-Lite' sound if you will.
Goes well with …: 
Bands with a back catalogue of classic material will often face a struggle getting their audience to take on board newer material, and that could well be the case with this album unfortunately.The closing 'Subway Walls'is as close as we get to prog.
Might suit people who like …: 
All in all, something of a curate's egg and perhaps a missed opportunity, especially as the recent tour showed a band which obviously enjoyed playing the longer proggier pieces,and still had the ability to do so - yet there are none on offer here.
bargepole's picture

Jethro Tull

What's it called?: 
A Passion Play - An Extended Performance
What does it sound like?: 
Another Steven Wilson job on a classic 70's album. This is Tull's 'difficult' 1973 album, together with the aborted sessions for the proposed sequel to 'Thick As A Brick' recorded in France earlier that year. Both now have a new stereo mix on the two CDs here, while the two DVDs boast a variety of 5.1 surround mixes of the same material. The DVD also features video of 'The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles', together with intro and outro films from the subsequent tour. Wilson has thinned out the complexity of the mix on the original album, leaving a sound that, while still complex, is somewhat less dense than the original. This beautifully put together package also includes a great 80 page book, with reminiscences of the original sessions, details of the remixing process and memories of the 1973 tour - and much more!
What does it all *mean*?: 
This is maybe not the place to start if you're a newcomer to Tull, but for the diehard fans this sheds new light on an album which divided fans on its original release. Needless to say, the sound quality is excellent throughout.
Goes well with …: 
It's fascinating to hear at last the full aborted sessions from the chateau in such good quality - as fans will know, some of this material ended up on APP, while a few others surfaced on subsequent albums and the remainder languished in the vaults.
Might suit people who like …: 
Fans of Tull will already have formed their opinion of this work long ago, but maybe now is the right time for a reappraisal of this classic 70's album. If you're not familiar with it, give it a try anyway - you might be pleasantly surprised!

Sturgill Simpson

What's it called?: 
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.
What does it sound like?: 
Possibly the worst title for an album ever. The contents however are an entirely different proposition and a conundrum. The first 7 songs are fairly straight country songs - country of the edgier variety, think Ryan Adams, Steve Earle etc. Then things start to get turned on their head with the 8th track Just Let go and go completely bonkers by track 9 It ain't all flowers. It starts as a country song and then wigs out into a psychedelic jam replete with backward loops and all manner of cosmic noises and completely changes the perception of the album as a whole. Daring and adventurous, I can't help thinking that this is only the start of a new direction for Sturgill Simpson and his next album will almost certainly veer further off the Country road. Still he has a great voice and a good line in tunes.
What does it all *mean*?: 
Country music doesn't have to confine itself to the Nashville straightjacket. Those of us who are fans of the genre knew that already of course.
Goes well with …: 
Not really sure - I bought the cd after hearing the 'crazy' track on a cd in a shop in Rotterdam. If I had heard the other tracks first they may not have grabbed me in the same way but it definitely grows.
Might suit people who like …: 
Country outside of Rhinestone and Hats box. His voice is similar to Garth Brooks but without the Schmaltz and big production. After three listens I am hooked.

x (Deluxe Edition)

What's it called?: 
x (pronounced Multiply)
What does it sound like?: 
x is the second album from Ed Sheeran. The first track, One, recalls the loss of his love, Alice, a frequent theme on his first album, +, and one continued into I'm a Mess, a faster-paced guitar based track with a harder edge. Sing, the most radio-friendly track, produced and co-written by Pharrell Williams, is followed by Don't and Nina before yet another tale of loss, Photograph, the R&B/hiphop tinged Bloodstream, Tenerife Sea (probably 2014 song of choice for lovestruck holidaymakers), then back again to the more radio friendly R&B of Runaway, another Justin Timberlake inspired song co-written and produced by Williams and then the rap of The Man. Thinking Out Loud and Afire Love, a tribute to his grandfather, who died during the writing of the song, are both slow tracks which bring the regular-sized album to a close. The R&B/hiphop/upbeat feel continues on the deluxe version with the rap of Taking it Back and uptempo Shirtsleeves.
What does it all *mean*?: 
The sentimental Even My Dad Does Sometimes and I See Fire, a song previously released on the Desolation of Smaug soundtrack close the extended version. Producers Jake Gosling, Rick Rubin and Pharrell Williams add the seal of quality to the product.
Goes well with …: 
Younger, female company, perhaps even older ladies who secretly want to mother the tousled, flame-haired ruffian. And definitely a bottle or two of chilled white wine.
Might suit people who like …: 
Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, et al. Not intended for consumption by prog devotees or grumpy old dads.
bargepole's picture

Steve Hackett

What's it called?: 
Genesis Revisited: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
What does it sound like?: 
Steve Hackett returns with this 2cd/Dvd/bluray package from his 2013 show at the Albert Hall, showcasing material from throughout his tenure with Genesis from 1971-77, a period which many regard as the band's classic era. Vocalist Nad Sylvan sounds remarkably Gabriel like at times, and a number of guests also put in an appearance - John Wetton, Ray Wilson and Roine Stolte all perform admirably. The one disappointment is Amanda Lehman, whose voice does not seem well suited to Ripples, great song though it is.Hackett's playing is flawless throughout of course. The set reminds listeners what a prolific and creative period the 70's was for Genesis, and the selection played covers most of the bases. If you were asked to compile a 'best of' covering that era, then the tracklisting wouldn't differ much from what's on offer here.Inevitably there's always a song or two that you wish had been played on the night, perhaps Cinema Show in this case (a personal favourite), but that's a minor gripe.
What does it all *mean*?: 
This is a first class note perfect performance of a back catalogue crammed full of fantastic music. It highlights the huge contribution Steve Hackett made both to the composition and performance of these songs, and of course to Genesis as a band.
Goes well with …: 
If you're a fan of Hackett or Genesis, or indeed just classic prog in general, then this would be a great addition to your collection.It comes as a standard 2cd/dvd set and also as a limited edition 2cd/2dvd or bluray.
Might suit people who like …: 
As above really, prog fans will love this as an unparalleled collection of great Genesis tunes from their 1970's classic era. Also don't miss out on the opportunity to catch these songs, and others not featured here,played live on tour in October.
Poppy Succeeds's picture

Tobacco

What's it called?: 
Ultima II Massage
What does it sound like?: 
At first, simply wonderful. A distorted, warped and decayed video-nasty aesthetic as applied to French House, pop and R&B. Opener Streaker is one hell of a curtain-raiser, coming on like Daft Punk gone Witch House and setting the scene for a brill-bags first section of torture-chamber pop, and dark, neon-splashed analogue electronica. Shame yer man Tobacco (aka Tom Fec from Black Moth Super Rainbow) can't maintain the Lucio Fulci atmospherics, and a second-half devolves into sub-Four Tet noodlings, which might please those wanting a next dose of Lone or Flying Lotus but is a bit of a disappointment for those of us grooving on the black stuff. Dipsmack and Omen Classic struggle to maintain their erection, but by then it's too late and I've gone off the idea altogether. Sorry, love.
What does it all *mean*?: 
It means I shouldn't really recommend albums on the basis of the first track. Ahem.
Goes well with …: 
A feeling of slight disappointment.
Might suit people who like …: 
Lone, Four Tet, Flying Lotus, John Carpenter, Salem, Monster by Kanye West
Wheldrake's picture

Rival Sons

What's it called?: 
Great Western Valkyrie
What does it sound like?: 
Let's be clear, Rival Sons wear their influences like a badge of honour. The Ghosts of Zeppelin and Electric era Cult stalk these tracks. This is Classic Rock writ large. That said Rivals Sons manage to be their own entity too. The drums are loud and propulsive; new bassist Dave Beste drives the songs along with verve and Scott Holiday's guitar work is superb. But it's the soulful vocals of Jay Buchanan that lift this above the crowd. Blessed with a great voice he uses it to its fullest on every song. The album starts with a bang with Electric Man and, despite a few silly lyrics along the way, pulses with vitality all the way to current single Open My Eyes. After that things slow down a bit until we reach the awkwardly titled, 7 minute epic that is the closer Destination On Course. This album demands to be played LOUD.
What does it all *mean*?: 
That it's still possible to make great classic rock music. If the Kings of Leon can be huge with their brand of refried Southern Rock, there is no reason why Rival Sons more classic sound can't be huge too.
Goes well with …: 
A long drive, windows down, music blasting. It's a great driving album.
Might suit people who like …: 
Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Cult......in fact any classic rock.
bargepole's picture

Rick Wakeman

What's it called?: 
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 2014
What does it sound like?: 
Wakeman afficiandos will recall this work being originally released as a live album back in the dog days of 1974.Now,40 years later, it's back in a bigger and better version. This is the first studio recording of this piece - the original was recorded live to keep costs to a minimum. The original score was also pruned to fit on a single Lp, but fear not for these missing passages have now been recreated and reinstated in their rightful place.Original vocalist Ashley Holt is still present and in fine voice,although sadly his musical partner in the original version, Gary Pickford-Hopkins, passed away last year. After all these years, this remains one of Rick's finest works, right up there with Six Wives and King Arthur.
What does it all *mean*?: 
With Rick's frequent appearances on light entertainment shows, it's easy to forget what a supremely talented player he is, as amply demonstrated throughout these extended pieces retelling Jules Verne's classic tale.
Goes well with …: 
Any fan of Mr Wakeman's work will love this.In addition to the standard cd, there are also limited and deluxe editions, as well as a vinyl version, all with new Roger Dean artwork. The 1999 sequel Return to the Centre of the Earth is also reissued.
Might suit people who like …: 
If you caught Rick on his recent UK tour you'll know what to expect from this release - if not, then treat yourself to this piece of classic era Wakeman and hear what you missed - a man still at the height of his musical powers!
James Blast's picture

Inside Story: Caddyshack

What's it called?: 
no.4 in a series of Inside Stories, tales about the movie
What does it sound like?: 
Quacks like a duck! No offence! The greatest 'goofball' comedy, so far. Behind the scenes of Jaws, Scarface, Silence of the Lambs and last night... CADDYSHACK!!! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes, yes! as Butthead might say. Many major leads are missing but it's still a riot and Lacy Underall's boobies have got bigger. "No, Offence"! Dangerfield, Chase and Murray ad-libbed most of it. Bill Murray was a minor character sans dialogue, until... Basically they couldn't hold him down and CC and him came to blows over it. It's a riot, almost like seeing the movie, first time over again.
What does it all *mean*?: 
It has been an outstanding series, so far, but this is an epic!
Goes well with …: 
Lot's of alcohol, salt, and a chomp of lemon.
Might suit people who like …: 
goofball comedies like Animal House.
tiggerlion's picture

The Black Keys

What's it called?: 
Turn Blue
What does it sound like?: 
Everything about this record is huge. There are epic melodies, big choruses, floor drums resonating through the earth, guitar solos echoing through the stratosphere and an all-enveloping bass. It is stately, authoritative and rigorous, a record made by a band three albums into its imperial phase. Essentially, it's the work of three men, Dan Auerbach on guitars, keys and vocals, Patrick Carney on drums and Brian Burton (Dangermouse) on keyboards. Less frenetic than its predecessor, El Camino, they embellish their rock template with a blues feel and are confident enough to experiment with falsetto vocals, elements of dance, string-like backing and a gentle piano ballad. Never self-indulgent, even on extended guitar solos, the music is given room to breathe and is all the better for it. Turn Blue is already an irresistible commercial success and will be ubiquitous on the radio and in bars throughout the summer. It's probably wise to surrender now. The discerning Afterworder might like it.
What does it all *mean*?: 
The Black Keys are shaping up to being THE rock band of the teenies. Three great albums in a row since 2010. Their relationship with Dangermouse is the equivalent of Talking Heads' with Eno. It may not last for ever, so enjoy it while you can.
Goes well with …: 
A hot day, cold beer, double denim, open-air stadiums (Glastonbury?), basement clubs, a rock-chick/rock-guy on the arm, whistling with fingers, a rebel outlook, a willingness to turn up to eleven, living in the moment and a devil-may-care attitude.
Might suit people who like …: 
Free. This album reminded me of the carefully constructed, unhurried Free albums of the seventies. The Black Keys are a rock band with a broad scope and a real desire to progress musically, whilst succeeding commercially. Long may they reign.

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