Discover more from VIBES
Music that excites me
A few weeks ago, I posted an article about 'The Music I Missed' which many readers of this publication seemed to enjoy, so I thought I would write another about music that excites me right now.
Following a frantic few months of writing and recording our new album, I have only recently returned to my musical odyssey where I try and listen, in depth, to seven new albums per week. No specific genre, artist or release date, just stuff that sails past during my daily life as a full-time musician.
Today I share four notable releases that have excited my ears since my last post.
Blur | The Ballad of Darren
I always sigh a little when a band I had admired many years ago decides to release a ‘new’ album but generally find a YouTube or Bandcamp link to check it out, especially if they have managed to retain the original lineup - a subject I will expand upon in a future article.
Blur vs Oasis
Even though I love all things Manchester, it was for me always Blur over Oasis. Not that I don’t like the odd Oasis tune, but felt that Blur had sophistication and a lyrical intelligence which was missing in a lot of the Oasis material.
Damon Albarn has continued to be cool, successfully collaborating with many artists and bands, notably Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad & the Queen, but a new Blur album?
So, with little expectation, I listened to the whole record a couple of times and was at first disappointed as there are only a couple of tracks which really got me; St. Charles Square and The Narcissist, but listening again these really got me. They are fucking great tunes - classic Blur.
I am a guitar player and have always been a great fan of Graham Coxon in Blur and his recent work with The Waeve also reveals his diversity as a serious multi-instrumentalist. He always creates a fabulous racket, with this new Blur record being no exception.
My favourite from the album and the first track of the live concert featured below is a masterclass in signature playing with great tone and feel.
Coxon lurches, squeals and skilfully reimagines Robert Fripp’s work on Bowie’s fabulous Scary Monsters with really unusual inversions, scales and timing.
And, what great opening lines from Albarn - ’I fucked up… I’m not the first to do it’.
Live at the BBC
I would have used the official video, but am a sucker for well-played live sets.
Whilst watching the video, I couldn’t work out if some of the tracks benefited from some backing tracks, but it looks like it was all live apart from the obvious - such as The Universal - where drummer Dave Rowntree dons cans for the click-track.
Due to geographic locations and associated copyright issues, some of you may not be able to watch it as it appears to have been put up on a non-official channel. But if you can and have the time - watch the whole thing.
So after all the chat, here is the band doing what they do, very, very well.
Anohni | My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross
Back in 2005 I was listening to the radio in the car and heard a remarkable voice that literally stopped me in my tracks. I waited until the end and discovered this voice belonged to Anohni Hegarty (formerly Antony) of [Anohni] and the Johnsons.
The song was Hope There's Someone from the Mercury Music Prize-winning album I Am a Bird Now - and knew instantly I had just heard something quite remarkable.
Going back to what I said about artists that I had revered years before turning out new material which was utter crap, I was relieved to hear this fabulous record which, as it happens, I discovered on Bandcamp.
The featured track here is Sliver Of Ice which was inspired by a conversation Anohni had with Lou Reed weeks before he died in 2013 with lyrics pulled directly from things he had said about an ice cube in his mouth and his realisation of the beauty of cold water.
Art-pop, avant-pop? I don’t know how to classify it - if art like this requires classification - but what I do know is that it is certainly in my top five of this year to date.
Check out the simple production, wonderful video and of course that vibrato guitar.
Produced by Anhoni and the wonderful Jimmy Hogarth, the album is full of sensational songs and timbres, but the overarching feature of any of her records is the voice, and what a voice it is…
If you have read any of our recent missives or listened to our weekly podcast you will know that we are not releasing our new album to any audio only streaming services. Hence if available, I include a Bandcamp link to the artists featured in this article where you can listen a few times before you choose to buy.
Independent artists can’t survive without you, the listener, supporting us directly by buying our work. Streaming is killing music.
I did this the other week and thought it was fun, so grab a cup of tea and take in two great videos.
All the Blur razzmatazz stoked my interest in Britpop and I briefly looked back at some second-tier bands from this genre.
First up is a live version of McAlmont & Butler playing Yes on the legendary ’Later with Jools Holland’ - a fabulous song.
McAlmont’s voice is so effortless and although Butler (formerly of the mighty Suede) has clearly partaken of a little Bolivian marching powder, does a great job. You know I love great guitar players and he is certainly one of them from that era, putting a charismatic sonic stamp on this and all the Suede material.
Next up is another Britpop spinoff - The Seahorses - featuring the mighty John Squire who formed the band after leaving The Stone Roses who can be seen here unleashing his inner Jimmy Page. Great song, fabulous guitar sound and riff.
I apologise for the audio-visual quality but there is not much out there…
VIBES is a reader-supported guide to life, culture, music and current affairs accompanied by a weekly music-inspired podcast. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support our work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.
The Durutti Column | Time Was Gigantic... When We Were Kids
I knew of this band whilst kicking around Manchester playing guitar in the 70s and 80s. They were always there, in the background.
The Durutti Column is, in reality, the project of tremendous guitar player Vini Reilly (do you see a theme here).
Their first album was produced by one of my favourites, the legendary Martin Hannett and released on Factory Records in 1980.
This rerelease came to my attention through a Mastodon post from my cyber buddy and music journalist Ned Raggett who waxed lyrical about Vini and an unexpected Guardian Interview - I’ve played for 60 years. That’s long enough - which is certainly worth a read.
“In his first interview in a decade, the Durutti Column’s hermit-like leader, once described as ‘the best guitarist in the world’, relives his extraordinary life from Manchester gangs to Factory Records”
This album was the last ever to be released by Factory and brought about the end of a 20-year partnership between Reilly and his mentor Tony Wilson. It is remastered, extended and features some of Reilly’s really great guitar work and songwriting.
Well worth a listen…
On a side note, Vini’s longtime drummer Bruce Mitchell (formally of Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias) is an old colleague of my wife and musical accomplice, Suzy.
Lonnie Holley - Oh Me Oh My
Even though Holley is 73, I had never heard of him.
He is principally a visual artist of some note (but not to me - I am such a Philistine) and only began his musical career in 2006, releasing his debut album Just Before Music in 2012.
Holley is known as an experimental musician and really makes a terrific noise.
The featured track Oh Me, Oh My has Michael Stipe on vocals, with other artists, namely Sharon Van Etten, Moor Mother and Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) liberally sprinkled across the record like truffles in a great risotto.
I find the whole album quite captivating, reeking of the USA’s deep south, but with producer Jacknife Lee skilfully negotiating around a trite blues vibe, instead creating a wonderful amniotic soundscape with himself playing bass guitar, drums, dulcimer, Dulcitone, guitar, kalimba, keyboards, marimba, percussion, piano, pump organ, synthesizer, vocals, programming as well as engineering, mixing and producing.
I Am A Part Of The Wonder sounds like a Daniel Lanois record which always does it for me.
If I was wearing one, I would take my hat off to him.
The beautiful production and playing does not take anything away from Holley’s real artistry, who wrote all the tracks and kicks the shit out of the vocal, especially on the opening track Testing.
Refreshingly he doesn’t play guitar but sings and plays Mellotron - how fucking cool is that.
I have enjoyed writing this article, sharing my passion and hopefully a little new stuff that will excite you. If you have a moment, please reciprocate by sharing what you are listening to right now in the comments below - I am seriously interested.
If you like this type of content (don’t you hate that word) and would like to hear Suzy and I enthusing about all things music, take a listen to our weekly podcast.
Next up is Suzy in the hot seat…