Nights In

bargepole's picture

Queen

What's it called?: 
Live at The Rainbow '74
What does it sound like?: 
Perhaps the popular image of Queen these days is the Live Aid conquering, globe straddling colossus of the 1980's - but in the beginning Queen was a rock band, and a hard rock band at that. This long awaited album showcases the still up and coming band at a pivotal point in their career. Recorded in November 74 just after the release of the Sheer Heart Attack album,this set presents crunching performances of the best material from their first two albums, plus unsurprisingly a healthy chunk of their newly released album. The rock solid rhythm section of Deacon and Taylor, the virtuosity of May's guitar playing,the range of Mercury's vocals and the stunning repertoire of original material all combine to produce a high energy performance, which belies the band's youth at the time. The album is also available as a 2cd set, the second cd being another Rainbow show - this one from March '74 on the Queen II tour - a show that was originally intended for release as the band's third album.
What does it all *mean*?: 
Hearing these performances 40 years down the line is to hear a band ready to spread their wings and take the next step on the road to fame and international stardom. Oh,and it also reminds you that this band could rock out with the best of them!
Goes well with …: 
If you like Queen or hard rock, seek this out. The extra cd has added attraction of the final live outing of The Fairy Fellers Masterstroke and also the non-album B side See What A Fool I've Been, along with the first live release of Great King Rat.
Might suit people who like …: 
Forget the various post Mercury incarnations of the band, and listen without prejudice - if you're of a certain age it will roll back the years,and if you're not you'll have the pleasure of discovering what all the fuss was about!
tiggerlion's picture

Jason Moran

What's it called?: 
All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller
What does it sound like?: 
Fats Waller performed popular, novelty songs livened by stride piano in the 1920s/30s. He has made me laugh since childhood. No-one winked to the microphone quite like Fats. Jason Moran is a bright, charismatic jazz pianist. All Rise polishes those old, grainy tunes and brings them, grinning, into the 21st Century. Meshell Ndegeocello adds RnB production to the album and purring vocals to five of the twelve tracks. It is a celebration of Fats' warmth, romanticism and, most of all, his musicality. It's like a dance party sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. However, the heart of All Rise is in the quieter moments, especially a run of three piano dominated tunes (a touching Fats Elegy, a majestic Handful Of Keys and a dreamy Jitterbug Waltz), in which Moran flexes both his stride and his improvisational skills. Add Charlie Haynes' funky drums, Lehman's tasty sax, Thomas's lush trumpet and you have all the ingredients for a joyful jazz album that lives up to its title. *Applauds*.
What does it all *mean*?: 
Jazz doesn't have to be po-faced and intense to be at its best. It's great to hear modern day jazz that's so easy on the ear. Fats brings out the sense of fun in everyone.
Goes well with …: 
A party fuelled by deceptively strong punch and streamers. All Rise has the feel of a live album. You'd think the band are in the room with you, encouraging you to join in with the singing and dancing.
Might suit people who like …: 
Catchy hooks, infectious rhythms, wistful love songs, a positive outlook on life and music delivered with a smile.
RubyBlue's picture

How to Dress Well

What's it called?: 
'What is this Heart?' (2014)
What does it sound like?: 
Both Bingo and a good friend of mine mentioned How to Dress Well within the space of 12 hours, so I felt the need to investigate. HTDW is singer-songwriter Tom Krell, and a former Philosophy PhD student, academia fans. He’s already done two albums which are worth looking out for. I came to this knowing only that it’s been called ‘Indie R&B’, which must be a good thing. That’s not a bad description: Beck’s ‘Morning Phase’ mixed with Justin Timberlake and a hint of Miley Cyrus. If I had a criticism is that it immediately appears to be a bit bland and one-paced but it’s lyrically and musically much more interesting than it might first appear. A few ‘I love you baby’s and ‘sun reflected in your eyes’ pap but on further listen there is a more sophisticated description about sadness, a fear of intimacy, problems of honesty, a scepticism about sex and needing more even though you have what you wanted (‘Repeat Pleasure’: excellent) and even the void and death.
What does it all *mean*?: 
•This man is going to be very famous. •The further rise of Indie R&B. •Some controversy: is it R&B that white people can like? (I have no view on this really; or at least, I haven’t thought about it too much so I’m not sticking my neck out yet.)
Goes well with …: 
•A big fat spliff at 3am, so I’m told (but then, what doesn’t go well with that?)•More seriously: late nights, very early mornings. Although it’s also both pleasant to potter/dance around to but also to sit still and really listen if you so wish.
Might suit people who like …: 
Sun Kil Moon; later Beck; Michael Jackson; Pure pop; Frank Ocean; Janelle Monae; Prince(?); Jessy Lanza (thanks, Simon L.)
Wheldrake's picture

Counting Crows

What's it called?: 
Somewhere Under Wonderland
What does it sound like?: 
After the somewhat laboured Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings album I began to wonder if the Crows had run out of steam. Main man Duritz must have felt the same because the next album was a covers album and it's mix of obscure and not-so-obscure was the sound of a band having fun again, sounding looser than they had in years. Thankfully that spirit has reignited Duritz's muse and Somewhere Under Wonderland is a stonking return to form. It begins with the epic Pallisades Park, a tale of lost friendship soaked in nostalgia and it's the best thing they have done in ages. It's followed by the insanely catchy Earthquake Driver, the rockier Disclocation and then the beautiful ballad, God of Ocean Tides. Four superb tracks in a row. If the latter half of the album tails away somewhat it's still head and shoulders above the dour Saturday Nights album. If anything, it reminds me of their underrated third album, This Desert Life, and that's no bad thing.
What does it all *mean*?: 
That there's life in the old dogs yet. I saw them last year when they toured Underwater Sunshine and they were brilliant. It's good to hear Duritz firing on all cylinders again.
Goes well with …: 
It's a great driving album. Turn up the volume and tap out the beat on the wheel!
Might suit people who like …: 
Well, Counting Crows, obviously, but anyone who loves well crafted music sung with heart and soul will find something here. The Deluxe CD has two demoes tacked on, which are nice but inessential.
tiggerlion's picture

Peggy Seeger

What's it called?: 
Everything Changes
What does it sound like?: 
This a gem of an album, one that has been encased in an antique engagement ring; it still retains some sparkle and has quite a tale to tell. Peggy should attract more love from the Afterword, having a long career of thoughtful folk with a feminist twist. Here she is, one year from 80, still singing with perfect pitch and a wide range, even if her fricatives do whistle. She has surrounded herself with a 'family' of musicians including two of her sons. At times, the album is too cosy, the songs twee and the playing too gentle. But, at its best it has real bite. The opener is an insightful tribute to those who drowned on the Titanic, Flowers By The Roadside catches the throat, When Fairy Stories End grieves over lost love and Miss Heroin is uncompromising. Death is a constant companion, yet there is still fun to be had for the moment. I just wish there was a bit more grit and that the musicians let rip now and then. Nevertheless, it's quite an album for someone at her stage of her career.
What does it all *mean*?: 
It's not just the young who can express themselves through popular song. The majority of this album is warm, strong and thoughtful. If only I could perform so well when I'm in my dotage. I can't but help fall a little in love with this lovely woman.
Goes well with …: 
To be frank, it is a bit nice-cup-of-tea and slippers sounding but have a warm hand to hold for those revelatory, tricky moments. Peggy, herself, recommends dark chocolate and Burgundy in her beautifully written notes. Wise words befitting the album.
Might suit people who like …: 
Mature, sensible music performed by people unafraid of displaying their rebellious streak. There are songs here that are complex and emotional which celebrate life in all its shades. It is reminiscent of Bill Fay's Life Is People but not as good.
bargepole's picture

Fripp & Eno

What's it called?: 
Live in Paris 28.5.1975
What does it sound like?: 
This three cd set at long last presents this legendary concert in fully restored sound quality, with the live audio now synched with the rediscovered and restored original studio backing loops used in the performance. To hear this work, almost forty years since its original performance, still boggles the mind. Cds 1 and 2 feature the full concert, based around the No Pussyfooting and (the at that time unreleased) Evening Star albums, during which you can almost sense the general bewilderment of the audience. CD 3 contains the backing loops without overdubs, together with the reversed loop for Wind on Water (as used on the Evening Star album), and Later On, the B side of Eno's Seven Deadly Finns single. At the conclusion of the evening's entertainment, as the audience leave with the sound of Index Of Metals (side two of Evening Star) assaulting their senses, their bemusement is palpable.
What does it all *mean*?: 
Hear this and hear two uncompromising artists at the very top of their game,breaking new musical ground before your very ears!
Goes well with …: 
No Pussyfooting and Evening Star in particular are redolent of this performance,musical exploration pushed to the outer limits and beyond.
Might suit people who like …: 
The duo's other works, both together,solo, and also in conjunction with any of their fellow musicians - and of course Crimson fans, and indeed fans of early Roxy Music, should check this out. Free your mind - you won't regret it!
bargepole's picture

Travis & Fripp

What's it called?: 
Discretion CD/DVD-A
What does it sound like?: 
Theo Travis - flautist, saxophonist and more recently member of Steven Wilson's band. Robert Fripp - guitar maestro, no further introduction required. This set is drawn from a series of concerts in 2010, with minimal studio overdubs added,and features a conventional Cd plus a hi-res version on DVD-A. The pieces here combine an almost telepathic interplay between the two musicians,moving from intimate to grandiose,from small scale to epic. Crimson fans will be pleased to spot the melodic theme from The Power To Believe here, which both opens and closes the original six track album. They will be even more delighted with the addition of two extra tracks, the second of which,Rhapsody on the theme from Starless, is a quite stunning improvisation based around the Crimson classic.
What does it all *mean*?: 
Like the Fripp & Eno collaborations, this set shows two multitalented musicians taking the stage and going wherever their muse takes them, pushing the boundaries with every note played.
Goes well with …: 
The duo's other albums merit investigation, as of course do Fripp's other collaborations.
Might suit people who like …: 
Music that offers something new and different, pieces that allow discovery of new elements with every listen.
tiggerlion's picture

FKA Twigs

What's it called?: 
LP1
What does it sound like?: 
LP1 sounds like the future. It is a thoroughly modern record with few discernible instruments and little that could be described as a melody. The 'music' consists of fragments of artificial noise stitched together; cracks, rattles, bends, throbs, warps, even a house alarm. At first, the details are distracting but, after a while, they blend into a sumptuous mattress over which Tahlia Barnett coos, trills and seduces. The overall effect is a languid, gentle undulation of mood over 40 minutes. The lyrics are deeply unsettling because they are explicitly sexual. It's like witnessing young Ms Barnett writhe erotically in the sweltering heat of a summer night. She sings of giving and receiving pleasure, craving and pain, submission and control. She is frank and she is complicated. At my age, a poppet asking me, "how would it be if I suck before I bite" is dangerous but I am more disturbed at the impression she is revealing her most intimate secrets. LP1 is a special and intriguing album.
What does it all *mean*?: 
The album is alive and well. LP1 is specifically designed for its ten tracks to be experienced as a whole with each piece complimenting each other. There is no attention-grabbing ear worm for individual consumption. She does call it an LP after all.
Goes well with …: 
Solitary listening under headphones and a fantasy world in which I am thirty years younger, at least. I also need vodka, orange, a box of tissues and a darkened room. Otherwise, I might be embarrassed if anyone knew what I was actually listening to.
Might suit people who like …: 
Modern, Young 21st Century Music. LP1's lack of tunes and recognisable instruments render it non-Afterword-friendly. It sounds like nothing else and for the first six listens is a real challenge. But, be brave, LP1 is packed with delicate treats.
timtunes's picture

Jenny Lewis

What's it called?: 
The Voyager
What does it sound like?: 
The album you hoped she'd make.. As a lover of Rilo Kiley, well really 'More Adventurous' but particularly the heartbreaking 'Does He Love You', I have purchased her previous solo work and it hasn't won me over. So much so that I was considering not bothering with the new album, but the reviews (eg Sound Opinions) lured me. Finally! Record label marketeers are always bandying around "sounds like 'Fleetwood Mac' and 'Laurel Canyon'" in order to hook both the hipster and middle-aged nostalgics crowd. Normally, it's more wishful thinking(evidence, Haim). But here, at least the Mac label, is right. The album kicks off with what sounds like a lost track from 'Tango In The Night' and then keeps on going - with Ryan Adams sitting in for Lindsey. All of which is then cemented by her beautiful voice and at times, alluring and at times, vulnerable lyrics. Best new album i've heard for a good while - and i've kissed a lot of frogs...
What does it all *mean*?: 
I no longer hope for a Rilo Kiley reunion
Goes well with …: 
Sunny mornings standing on the station platform
Might suit people who like …: 
Fleetwood Mac! (but 'Laurel Canyon' I wasn't getting)

Tom Petty

What's it called?: 
Hypnotic Eye
What does it sound like?: 
Well, it sounds like Tom Petty, but then, he *always* sounds like Tom Petty. I haven't paid attention to a Tom Petty album since She's The One, which I liked a lot. So why return to him now? Well, there seems to be a bit of buzz about Hypnotic Eye - the dreaded phrases "return to form" and "classic sound" have been used. I'm here to report that it's a fantastic record. Tunes and Heartbreaker grooves abound in an all-killer, no-filler 44 minutes. The songs sound like they were recorded live, the guitars crunch like you'd expect. I'm at that point now where I've listened to the album enough times to have it knocking around in my head all the time, but not enough times to know it too well.
What does it all *mean*?: 
I can't truly answer whether it's a "return to form" or not - I allowed the last three albums & Mudcrutch to pass me by. However Hypnotic Eye seems intent on proving what it is that TP&tH are all about, what they are best at.
Goes well with …: 
Driving, to be honest, although I've been listening to it while cooking.
Might suit people who like …: 
...Tom Petty, really, there's no mystery here. If you're inclined to Tom and various Wilbury types, then Hypnotic Eye is one of the good ones. And don't be put off by the cover, because I was initially.
sven garlic's picture

La Roux

What's it called?: 
Trouble In Paradise
What does it sound like?: 
Somehow the singles from the first album didn't quite do it for me. A bit too obviously close to the Soft Cell, Yazoo influence. Elly Jackson's voice sounded somewhat shrill. I was drawn to this new album by the appealing cover image and gave it a go. The lyrics can be a little clumsy - 'I met him through a dancer/didn't know he was a tropical chancer'. They make me wince now and then. There's a song called 'Sexotheque'. And yet I find myself wanting to keep playing these songs. The music here is more varied than what went before. I hear reggae, disco, more instrumentation and more complex vocals, the voice is less exposed. There's still the synth-pop link to works like Human League's Dare but the influences and styles are more varied. Above all it's packed with catchy tunes, gorgeous melodies, and lots of hooks. A superb pop record basically. It's a joy. Don't be swayed by the singles alone, there's a lot more going on than they would suggest.
What does it all *mean*?: 
It means electronic, dance pop, mostly made by women is still the best and most interesting area of new music in 2014.
Goes well with …: 
Singing along and dancing around the home while undertaking domestic chores in your underwear. Well it worked for me.
Might suit people who like …: 
Human League, 10cc, The Knife and other well-crafted pop.
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.

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