While my head’s been spinning over recent political events, it doesn’t mean my turntable hasn’t been.
So as part of my continued effort to break the habit of being lured into depressing and nerve ruining news stories I’m gonna drop down a few thoughts on those albums that have been getting the most of my ears lately.
Mogwai – Atomic
I’ve said this a few times and I’ll keep saying it; I fucking love Mogwai. Their soundtrack work often has a habit of being some of their best (see Zidane and Les Revenants). Atomic is technically but not totally a soundtrack as it comprises material reworked from their contributions to a BBC4 documentary “Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise” about the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and its legacy. As with their previous soundtracks I’ve not seen that which this music scores – nor do I feel up to it right now to be honest – but, again in common with those, it’s not a requirement as Atomic functions as a wonderful, often ethereal and continually beautiful and surprising Mogwai album in its own right. There’s less ‘rock’ on here, instead it’s an album of poignant textures and a blend of hope and fear, death and life.
Here’s Ether from it:
Minor Victories – Minor Victories
Keeping with the Mogwai love as Stuart Braithwaite here steps away from those Glaswegian post-rock legends to join Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, The Editors’ Justin Lockey and his brother James in a new project, Minor Victories. I’d had this on pre-order since the album and lead track were revealed and was not disappointed by the album. The oddest thing about this album is that at no point did all members record together yet they sound like a new band, not “a bit like Slowdive, a bit like Mogwai” but a new, brilliant sound that crackles with a taut electricity and energy that belies the distance between members during its construction. It’s alive with brooding drama and cinematic sweeps with Goswell’s vocals floating above in the mix with the only odd step coming with “For You Always” which features Goswell duetting with Mark Kozelek. How you feel about it will depend on how whether you like his current “steam of consciousness, verbal diarrhoea” approach to lyrics. Or his continued examples of douchebaggery. That aside, this album is one of the year’s best for me and has barely left the car cd player.
Here’s Folk Arp:
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
The grammatically questionable title aside, I love this album. I didn’t like King of Limbs; maybe listened to it in full just the once. Yet this…. from the opening rococo strings and paranoid urgency of ‘Burn The Witch’ to the echo-dripping reverb combo of piano and voice on closer ‘True Love Waits’ (a much stronger and far more powerful take than that which appeared years before) with Thom Yorke’s evocative “Just don’t leave, don’t leave” plea, this album is their best for some time. It’s more personal (Yorke having recently separated from his partner of 23 years and mother to his children), delicate piece which gives the sense of the band rediscovering beauty over the angles that have been dominant in more recent work.
Gary Clark Jr – Live
Still, given recent events, I had to make a change up and give the likes of Radiohead and Mogwai a little rest and find something more upbeat to try and get moving that way.
As such I returned to this. I’ve already spoken as to how I came to find Gary Clark Jr’s music so won’t repeat myself. This album though is still a go-to. On record I don’t think Gary has yet to find either the right producer or set-up to do his intensity and playing justice. Blak and Blu was a strong start and last year’s The Story of Sonny Boy Slim had some genuine highlight’s but wandered a little too all-over and lacked the potency he can get across with his guitar on a stage. Obviously that’s not an issue with this 2014 double wallop of great playing. The first time I heard it I was unable to sit still. I’m still not able to sit still when hearing it and nor can my two-year-old son, it’s a guaranteed way to get some bad dad-dancing going. There’s not many that can touch him when it comes to blues guitar and tracks like ‘Numb‘ and ‘Don’t Owe You A Thang’ show he’s got a shed load more in him than standards and Hendrix covers.