Currently Listening

It’s been a real pressure cooker of a week so time to blog has not been permitting – no opportunity to kick into the final three on the Bruce Least to Most series or any of the other posts sitting in ‘drafts’.

Here, though, is a quick surmise of those tunes that I’ve been listening to of late.

Ryan Adams – Shiver and Shake

Holy shit is Prisoner good. More than being a divorce album this is one of Ryan Adams’ finest. Gorgeous layers and echoes of Tunnel of Love Springsteen and drenched in dollops of that sun-kissed, late-80’s AOR vibe that so many have embraced of late (see Haim, War on Drugs etc) as to sound delicious and lyrics (“I miss your loving touch, I miss your embrace, but if I wait here any longer I’m gonna fade away”) that are more open and deft than he’s sung for some time. I don’t think I’ve played a new record as much as I have this one in a long time.

Tool – Ænema

I’ve really gotten back into this album over the last couple of weeks – I was determined to introduce my wife to the band but their unwillingness to stream and the fact that their albums still sell at ‘standard’ price means it’s not so easy but I picked this one up at a decent price and it hasn’t left the car since.  Any album so unabashed in its Bill Hicks reverence is gonna be ok; “Learn to swim, see you down in Arizona Bay”

think my wife dug it. I know my three-year-old son loves it though I’m now having to be more cautious as to the lyrical content of songs he hears. I don’t want him saying “Fuck L Ron Hubbard” after all. Although…

잠비나이 (Jambinai) – Connection

A couple of weeks ago I found (well, my wife pointed it out and encouraged me to go in) a really cool little independent vinyl-only record store in Canterbury with a great name – Vinylstore Jr. The guy had just dropped Jambinai’s album on the turntable. They’re a South Korean (obviously not North) post-rock band, their label describes them as “less like a band than a force of nature, fusing the full dramatic range of post-rock dynamics to Korean folk roots to create an exhilarating, vivid and unique fusion. ”

 

Currently Spinning

Uh-oh; a break in posting has occurred.

To be honest it goes back to being very busy with that thing called life.

The busy in question has, however, been soundtracked by some great music, new and not-so-new.

First the new…. I’ve been playing two new releases at a steady pace for the last two weeks, both of which arrived on the same morning. Strangely enough this was the day after the arrival of the not-so-new – a bumper weekend for the collection.

IMG_4076Not so long ago I’d dismissed Death Cab For Cutie. I first heard them – like so many – at the time that Transatlanticism was propelling them into a lot of speakers. Title and Registration and The New Year (Christ, how many myspace and xanga pages featured that on January 1st for years to come?) were my way in and still remain a regular listen.

However, having heard a few earlier albums I was then put off by Plans. It sounded too ‘OC’ and watered-down to my ears. I Will Follow You Into The Dark was far too obvious and over-played for my taste. I still don’t listen to anything from it. So I stopped paying attention to Gibbard and Co. This was a bit of a mistake, really.

In 2011 my wife surprised me with tickets to a DCFC show. I hadn’t listened to anything new of theirs for some time let alone have any idea what they would be like live. I was expecting a lot of quiet acoustic numbers. Another mistake. It was a great show – new material (the Codes and Keys album which I grabbed on vinyl from the merch stand) vastly more upbeat and superior to anything on Plans and songs that I didn’t know that meant I quickly went and picked up Narrow Stairs. The quality of those two albums (and the connection to a great night out) meant that Death Cab went up the play count list.

While not as sonically interesting as Codes and Keys, Kintsugi continues along the same path musically – more blips and electronic phases than acoustic strums. Lyrically the theme of separation seems to abound. It makes sense given the events between this album and the last – though I’ve now read that Gibbard is trying to be less self-referencing than ever- with high profile relationships ending and founding guitarist / producer Chris Walla saying farewell to the band.

To my ears Kintsugi isn’t as strong as Codes and Keys but contains many a cracker. The vinyl (very pretty) also included the CD which meant it went straight in the car and has been on steady repeat over the last couple of weeks on the commute and family drives. It holds up very well and reveals more with each listen.

Not really one for listening to on family drives – it’s a bit too intense for toddler ears – I’ve been hungrily devouring another new one on repeated listens on my commutes.

IMG_4073In my overview of last year’s listens I mentioned how I’d rather Godspeed You! Black Emperor was the going concern over Silver Mt Zion. When they came back in 2012 their Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! was the best thing released that year. It’s still huge.

Accordingly I was pretty excited when news arrived – out of nowhere as is customary – of a new Godspeed album to drop in March.

Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is perhaps their shortest. Certainly for a while. It’s their first not to feature any samples or field recordings, just the most direct, intense and powerful sound they’ve made. It’s amazing. Having created a genre and dominated they’ve now found a way to make a variation on their sound which still manages to completely hypnotise and compel.

I won’t be able to see them when they make their way over here on tour this year but I’m just so very glad that they’re a) making music again and b) that music is of such pulverisingly high a quality as Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress.

And the not-so-new… I was happy to find Ennio Morricone’s Film Music Volume 2 on vinyl on ebay. I was even happier to find it was exactly as described and played faultlessly.

IMG_4072When it comes to film soundtracks I have my favourites. While John Williams’ Jurassic Park score is high up on that list, I’ve long looked forward to being able to drop the needle on both the themes from Once Upon A Time In America and The Mission. Both of these are by Ennio Morricone, both of which are my favourite of his (yeah, yeah; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly etc etc… don’t move me in the same way) and both of which feature on here. Perfect – if it took me three listings to get hold of thanks to the ending times.

With His Arms Outstreched? With His Arms Outstreched

I didn’t post a “Best of 2012” list. It’s the first time in many years that I didn’t feel compelled to create such a list, let alone share it.

godspeed vinylHad I of given time to what is now becoming a near compulsive addiction to share our “I think these were the only releases that mattered” thoughts at the year’s end I would have struggled; last year was more about discovery of existing work than being blown away by new.

It’s fitting, then that the album that I listen to most with a 2012 stamp on it (how many people are still listening to their ‘Best Album’ of last year?) was ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! by the ever-mighty Godspeed You Black Emperor .

I can’t remember how or when I first hear GSYBE. It would be a safe bet to think it was back in the days I was hanging living above a bakery another guitar player into far heavier and doomier material than I’d listened to at that point. But, no: I’m sure I remember listening to Dead Flag Blues on a train to Brighton – a journey which preceded the aforementioned living arrangement.

The obviously incorrect sensation that I’ve always listened to Godspeed.. is what makes ‘Allelujah… feel like a rediscovery of existing work – to listen to it, to let the needle drop onto the immense, slow-building inferno that is the opening Mladic is akin to hearing something that has always been; has always existed as a part of their musical cannon.20130623-130418.jpg

While the band was absent for seven years, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! picks up where they left off – it’s grungy, dark, grainy, atmospheric, vast, apocalyptic post-rock done in the manner that only Godspeed You Black Emperor can (though many have tried to fill the hole their break left) and I love it. For while they voyage far deeper into the dark and push the extremes of their sonic palette to lengths few bands would risk, there’s an undeniable craft and, strangely, warmth to it.

Perhaps what makes this one of most enduring albums of last year for me is the fact that while it contains elements of everything that fuelled their earlier albums, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ is at once Godspeed You Black Emperor nodding to the past but pushing firmly forward.