My Top Ten Albums of 2018

2018. Another amazing year of music. I probably saw more concerts than ever before. And so many good bands coming through. The return of a few artists whose records I’ve loved in recent years too. I get asked how I find out about all this music (even though I really only scratch the surface of what’s out there). The answer is listening to BBC 6 Music, reading the music press, following bands on Facebook and Twitter, and the live experience. Concerts in London and occasionally elsewhere, and the two festivals, Latitude and End of the Road, which introduce me to great new bands every year.  There’s so much to love, and I’ve been loving it more than ever before in 2018!

And so here are my top ten albums of the year, plus a few others that came close, some great individual tracks and a few albums from 2017 that I missed last year. All represented on the Spotify playlist at the end of this review.

No 1. “Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves

Wembley Arena October 2018

Wembley Arena, 27 November. The lights go down. At the top of a staircase a shaft of light shines down on Kacey Musgraves, briefly alone with her acoustic guitar, strumming the opening chords of “Slow Burn”. Born in a hurry, always late, never been early since ‘88… I feel quite moved, the tears well in my eyes. “Slow Burn” is the opening song on my favourite album of the year, “Golden Hour”, and one of the best on the album. The best things can take time; I’m alright with a slow burn. “Golden Hour” has felt like the soundtrack to my life in 2018. It’s that rarity: a happy country album. Well, sort of happy – it has its moments of doubt and gloom too. The song that perhaps sums the whole thing up is “Happy and Sad”, where Kacey reflects on her feelings at times of real happiness – downhill from here! “Golden Hour” is a celebration of love and hope – Kacey married not so long ago – interspersed with those doubts and fears and some put downs of the arseholes in songs like “High Horse” and “Wonder Woman”. Along with “Slow Burn” and “Happy and Sad” my two favourites are “Oh What a World” and “Golden Hour”, both unashamedly sentimental and positive. Beautiful love songs; the perfect antidote to the crazy world in which we live.

The music on “Golden Hour” is, on the surface, barely country at all, though I dare say that the melodies, stripped down, could cruise along easily enough to a bit of weepy steel guitar. This is high class pop, beautifully produced, with half an eye on what a Taylor Swift has achieved, without going the whole hog into dance mode. “High Horse” is Kacey’s disco number, and it went down a storm at Wembley. But the template is more an updated Fleetwood Mac, without forgetting those country roots. Above all, “Golden Hour” is a feel good album that never fails to give you a warm glow. Easy and deep. A sound to wallow in, songs to swoon to. It’s winning a lot of big awards in America at the moment. People were surprised at first, but it’s no surprise to me. The USA has recognised the brilliance of Kacey Musgraves and this wonderful album.

No 2. “Talk of this Town” by Catherine McGrath

Scala, Kings Cross, September 2018

So continuing the country/pop theme, our own contender, and my No 2 of the year. Catherine McGrath is a young country singer from Northern Ireland and “Talk of this Town” is her debut album. Regular readers of this blog will know that I love her music and have been following her progress since I first saw her at Latitude in July 2017. I went to see her that summer afternoon because I’d read in the programme that she was inspired by Kacey Musgraves. So there’s a connection! “Talk of this Town” is a mix of some of her “old” songs re-recorded and a batch of fresh tunes, with a rockier edge in many cases, and definitely an ear for the pop sensibility of Taylor Swift. Lyrically, most of the songs are about lost love, missed opportunities, what-ifs, but the music is uplifting and at times, just plain beautiful. There are so many highlights, but I love the upbeat punchiness of newer tunes like “Enough of You” and “Lost in the Middle”, the defiance of “Talk of this Town” and the anguished should have been me cries of “Wild”, one of her oldest songs, now with full Tayloresque production. “Don’t Let Me Forget” is a lovely duet with Hunter Hayes, and the re-makes of the wistful ballads, “Cinderella” and “She’ll Never Love You” twang the heartstrings. Like Kacey’s “Golden Hour”, Talk of this Town” is always an album to put on and feel good.

No 3. “Fixed Ideals” by Muncie Girls

Borderline, Soho, October 2018

I came across Muncie Girls for the first time when I was asked to review “Fixed Ideals” for the Punk Archive website in August. I immediately liked the sound – mostly upbeat melodic punk combined with Lande Hekt’s distinctive, West Country tinged voice. So far so good, but on reading the PR blurb which came with a link to the album, a lot was made of the honesty and bite of Lande’s lyrics and how they dealt with her upbringing and battles with depression. So, on the train up to Edinburgh for the festival I had the album on repeat, and those lyrics did start to reveal themselves. There is an unvarnished candour, a real vulnerability, amid the anger at politics, at sexist men and at life, really. Lande doesn’t go for metaphor or allusion much, she tells it like it is in her world. And I found that the songs really grew on me, that the vulnerability and sadness in the words, were really quite affecting. So, on the one hand she excoriates her errant father on “Jeremy” as the riff struts and leaps into action; on the other the simple plea that we were friends at least; oh we were, weren’t we? in “Hangovers” is one of the most heart-rending things I’ve heard this year. Those two songs are the most memorable for me; but I love the Strokes-style guitar in “Fig Tree” along with the put down of one of those sexist blokes, and “Clinic” and Picture of Health” combine punky riffs with brutal honesty about what has gone on in her head. “Fixed Ideals” led me to Muncie Girls’ debut album “From Caplin to Belsize” which came out in 2016. They are fairly similar – “Fixed Ideals” perhaps a little slicker – and I’ve come to listen to them as a double album. The wonderful, wistful “Social Side” has become something of a companion piece to “Hangovers”. The band – a three piece – are excellent live too. Modern punk at its best.

No 4. “Silver Dollar Moment” by the Orielles

Heaven, Charing Cross, November 2018

The Orielles make music that is diamond-edged, jangling, funky and melodic, echoing the indie sounds of the 80s with a bit of 70s Isley Brothers style funk thrown into the mix. But with a sound which is very distinctly their own. “Silver Dollar Moment” is a joyous album which has grown on me over the year, and really took off after the brilliant live performance I saw at Heaven in November. I love Henry Carlyle Wade’s stop-start guitar motifs, complemented beautifully by Esme Dee hand-Halford’s elastic basslines and airy vocals. Highlights include “Let Your Dogtooth Grow”, “Sunflower Seeds”, “Old Stuff, New Glass”, and the slow one “Liminal”, accompanied by its 60s film theme shadow “The Sound of Liminal Spaces”, but the whole thing shimmers and delights.  This band are capable of anything in the future.

No 5. “Where Wildness Grows” by Gengahr

All Points East Festival, Hackney, June 2018

 Gengahr’s debut album “A Dream Outside” was No 1 in my top albums of 2015. I loved the twisted melodies, the eerie vocals of Felix Bushe and the expressive guitar sounds of John Victor. The best indie guitar album for a long time, I suggested. “Where Wildness Grows” is the next step on the journey. It’s lusher, more complex, but retains the essential qualities of the first album. The guitars sing, sometimes they surge, and the tunes remain entrancing. The best song of all is “Carrion” which carries you along on a wave of sound, and was magnificent live, when we caught them at “All Points East” this summer. I’ll be Waiting” chugs along catchily, a little like “Heroine” before it, and “Rising Tide” has a lovely, languid melancholy. “Where Wildness Grows” is another triumph, and I can’t understand why the music press haven’t picked up on them in a big way yet.

No 6. “Clean” by Soccer Mommy

End of the Road Festival, September 2018

Soccer Mommy is the vehicle for Sophie Allison, and “Clean” is officially her debut album, although she has had a couple of previous collections of songs. The sound is a combination of sensitive singer-songwriter and low-fi indie jangle. The songs pack a punch lyrically, but also have a real tenderness at times. Live they work beautifully, and never more so than when Sophie goes solo and just sings along to a sparse accompaniment from her electric guitar. I’ve seen the band three times this year; at a crowded Moth Club in Hackney, at End of the Road and then supporting Kacey Musgraves at Wembley Arena. “Your Dog” and “Cool” are the defiant rockers, the likes of “Still Clean” and “Scorpio Rising” the ones that work so well unaccompanied live. This album is a simple delight.

No 7. “Goat Girl” by Goat Girl

Koko, Camden, November 2018

Ah, I love this band! I just love their attitude. There is loads of it. No bullshit. Taking on the sleazy elements of London life. Live they have a real swagger, as they rattle through their songs, sometimes rocking out, sometimes drawling, twanging in a rockabilly style, or hinting at reggae. “Goat Girl” is their debut album. 19 songs, fragments, blurring into each other, confounding the expectations of what we were going to get first time around. As a piece it’s grower; individually the standouts are the ones that rock live: “The Man”, “Country Sleaze” (a new version), “Cracker Drool”, “The Man with No Heart and Brain”. It’s going to be fascinating to see what direction they take in the future.

No 8. “Liberty” by Lindi Ortega

Komedia, Brighton, June 2018

This is Lindi’s fifth album and quite different to its predecessors. The sound has a definite echo of the spaghetti western soundtrack. Rather than Nashville, this is Arizona, New Mexico. The themes are familiar – variations of country heartbreak, Lindi’s voice as achingly beautiful as ever. She toured the UK this summer and I saw her twice. Two of my musical highlights of the year. Overall, this isn’t her greatest album – the songs are less distinctive than some that have gone before. But there are many wonderful moments. My favourites are “In the Clear” – relief after the storm –  and the gorgeous “Lovers in Love”, which is up there with Lindi’s best. Still my favourite country artist (well, with Kacey, maybe!).

No 9. “Love is Dead” by Chvrches

Latitude Festival, July 2016

“Love is Dead” is Chvrches third album, and continues their journey from electro-indie to triumphant dance-pop. But still with an indie edge. It took me a little while to get the most from it, but the infectiousness of songs like “Get Out”, “My Enemy” (with the National’s Matt Berninger duetting) and “Heaven/Hell” won over me in the end. Actually, “Get Out” was a hit first listen. Definitely learning a few lessons from Taylor Swift there. Lauren Mayberry’s voice remains a thing of great beauty, set against the pounding dance beats; and live she is now an exceptional performer. Can’t wait to see them at Alexandra Palace next February!

No 10. “European Heartbreak” by Amber Arcades

The Dome, Tufnell Park, October 2018

Amber Arcades’ debut “Fading Lines” was my No 1 of 2016. I couldn’t get enough of those pristine Euro-melodies and the shimmering guitars. And then there was the electro-pop workout “Turning Light”, which was always the highlight live. “European Heartbreak” is a more subdued, melancholy affair, a lament for lost love, and for Europe. Only “Where Did You Go” really lets the guitars loose. The songs are lush, reflective, almost with a 60s feel. You could compare some of them with First Aid Kit. Singer Annelotte de Graaf, who also writes the songs and plays rhythm guitar, invests the songs with a wistful beauty. It’s another album that grows on you, that reveals more of its depths with each listen. Not as uplifting as the first, but ultimately a more profound listen. And in “Goodnight Europe”, we have a suitably regretful song for Brexit.

Near misses

“Nowadays” by Palace Winter takes up where the magnificent “Waiting for the World to Turn” left off, without quite as many memorable tunes. “Lush” by Snail Mail has been getting in a lot of year end best-ofs. It’s similar to Soccer Mommy” – a bit less varied in sound, maybe a bit rockier. Great live at End of the Road.

Snail Mail, End of the Road Festival, September 2018

I’m only just getting in to Courtney Barnett’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel”, but I’m liking the guitars and there are more of her unsettlingly honest lyrics amid some catchy melodies. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever on “Hope Down” have a rolling, rambling guitar sound that reminds me at times of REM and War on Drugs. Hollie Cook’s “Vessel of Love” is an easy-grooving collection of reggae with a lovely dub feel that really came across live at Latitude in the early hours. Hollie’s sweet vocals would have made this lovers’ rock in the 80s – maybe still do.

Hollie Cook, Latitude Festival, July 2018

“All Melody” by Nils Frahm, the German pianist/composer, is an adventure into sound – electronic and analogue. Quite beautiful – to immerse yourself in. And the foundation for an extraordinary live show. That can be said about Jon Hopkins’ “Singularity” too. More relentless electro-beats than Nils’s album, and quite amazing live at Latitude, enhanced by the stunning visual effects. “Dream Wife” by Dream Wife is a lively, assertive collection of indie rockers, embellished by the distinctive voice of Rakel Mjoll, who is brilliant on stage too. Adrienne Lenker’s “abysskiss” is a solo effort from the singer in Big Thief. It’s a thing of delicate beauty and I can’t wait to hear her perform it at Union Chapel in January. Finally, I haven’t really given “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” by Arctic Monkeys enough time yet; but I sense there’s an album in there that could really grow on me. It sounds more like a solo venture for Alex Turner, and more than anything, reminds me of the balladeering of David Bowie. That’s not a bad reference point.

Dream Wife, Hidden Doors Festival, Leith, Edinburgh, May 2018

Some standout tracks from 2018 and some 2017 discoveries

Retirement has allowed me to listen to more daytime radio, and I’ve got to hear some great new soul sounds, some jazzy, some imbued with the spirit of rap and dance. The 90s rebirth of cool/ acid jazz vibe updated for the modern age. The tracks I’m really loving include “Blue Lights” by Jorja Smith, “Used To” by Greentea Peng, and “Tried” by BADBADNOTGOOD (ft Little Dragon).  I could add “Everybody Loves You” by Soak to that list, a real melancholy anthem. There’s a gorgeous new song from Faye Webster too, called “Kingston”. The word that comes to mind is luxuriant – both the sound and the accompanying video. Should be a massive, massive hit. Probably won’t, but the world doesn’t know what it’s missing. Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy has also released a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” which is stripped down and wonderfully atmospheric.  And last but not least, two really beautiful songs from Billie Marten: “Mice” and “Blue Sea, Red Sea”. I first heard her a few weeks ago on Tom Ravenscroft, standing in for Lauren Laverne on 6 Music. Just loved her voice, and her laid back attitude when interviewed. Those two singles are follow ups to her 2016 album “Writing of Blues and Yellows”. It’s a good album, with a great mellow cover of Royal Blood’s metallic stomper “Out of the Black”. Shows there’s a lovely melody lurking in just about any song!

Faye Webster, The Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell, July 2018

Four artists who had albums in 2017 that I missed, but I discovered thanks to End of the Road festival, also deserve a mention. Caroline Spence is a Nashville-based country singer with a beautiful voice and a wonderful album called “Spades and Roses”. I love it all, but the songs that stands out is “Slow Dancer”. Up there with Kacey’s “Slow Burn”. Big Thief are a New York band. Americana would be a lazy categorisation, but there’s an element of that. Chuck in a bit of Velvet Underground and U2 and you might start getting there. Adrianne Lenker, who I mentioned above, is the lead singer. “Capacity” was their 2017 album; “Masterpiece” came out in 2016. There are so many great songs, which can go off in all sorts of directions. “Shark Smile”, “Paul” and “Masterpiece” are my three current favourites. Julien Baker is another American artist. “Turn out the Lights” is her 2017 album and the title track starts slow and develops into a massive chorus. I really like her voice, though the music is a little overblown at times.  Finally, (Sandy) Alex G. Recommended to me by one of our Latitude gathering. I saw his band at End of the Road and was amazed by their popularity with the 20 somethings. Their 2017 album “Rocket” is a bit of a mish mash, but I absolutely love the song “Proud”. A totally joyous sound, even though some of the lyrics are quite dark.

(Sandy) Alex G, End of the Road Festival, September 2018

So that’s it as far as the words are concerned. But if you have Spotify and fancy a listen, here’s a playlist of the some of the music I’ve been writing about. Put on shuffle and enjoy!

One last photo of Kacey – just so it automatically pops up in my Facebook post!

Wembley Arena, October 2018

Posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections, Music - Top Tens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

lovelondonscenes 154 – By Osterley Park

I went for a cycle this afternoon – just a quick spin, which took me past Osterley Park, which is sandwiched between the A4 and M4 just west of Ealing. It’s a lovely park, a place we used to go to a lot when the children were young. There’s a bridle path which winds around the edge of the park, and as I cycled past the lake, around 2.30, I just had to stop and take a few shots pointing west, into the low sun. It looked gorgeous. Hopefully these photos give you some idea.

Posted in Photos - lovelondonscenes | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Nils Frahm at Hammersmith Apollo, 4 December 2018

On Tuesday this week Jon G and I went to Hammersmith Apollo for a much anticipated concert: Nils Frahm. The German pianist, composer and all-round electronics whizz. I’d seen him before: Latitude in 2014, where he was amazing in the Sunday lunchtime slot at the Sunrise Arena (at that time the i-Arena) and then in 2015 at the Roundhouse. The album being showcased then was “Spaces”; in 2018 we have a new album, “All Melody”. It’s an intriguing and, as ever, entrancing piece of work. Mary Anne Hobbs on 6 Music, one of Nils’ greatest champions, has just made it her album of the year, and I can see why.

So there was a lot to look forward to, other than going to the Apollo, which is one of my least favourite venues, apart from the fact that it is easy to get home afterwards. We had seats in the balcony at least, so settled down for what turned out to be two and a quarter hours of engrossing musical adventure. There were ten songs stretched over that time. Each one a meticulous composition. Usually with periods of light and shade, looped refrains and punching beats one moment, mellifluous piano sections the next. Two banks of keyboards, with Nils moving from one to the other as the moment required. Electronic music can sometimes be rather impersonal – it’s made by a machine as much as the human operator after all, but the cadences of Nils’ music, the moments of soothing beauty, the soaring climaxes, can be quite moving. You are sucked in, at one with the music. It’s good on record, but it’s the live arena where Nils’ music has its power, its humanity.

It’s hard to pick out highlights, as I’m not so familiar with his music that I can instantly identify out many of the pieces. But “Says” from 2015, which came near the end, stood out; while “All Melody” (the track) was a thing of reflective beauty. Nils had a nice, self-deprecating patter, and talked about the simplicity of “Says”, with its repetitive shapes and journey through the chords from C to A to F minor (I think).  Simple yes, but hypnotic and greeted enthusiastically by the crowd.

So, yes, a truly captivating performance. The two and a quarter hours flashed by. A Nils Frahm concert is an immersive experience, a real joy. Catch him if you can.

Posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

RIP Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks

News came through yesterday that Pete Shelley, singer in one of the great punk bands, the Buzzcocks, had died, aged 63. The Buzzcocks have, if anything, grown in stature over the years. The leaders of the northern branch of punk; influences on all of the great post punk bands that followed, like Joy Division, the Fall, the Smiths, New Order and probably a later generation of Mancs too – Stone Roses, Oasis and others.

I wrote a bit about them in “I Was There – A Musical Journey” of course. Here it is:

So the punk triumvirate were the Pistols, Clash and Jam. The Damned briefly lurked up there on account of being first to get their rowdy records out.  But they were a bit of a joke ultimately.  Fourth in the hierarchy were definitely Buzzcocks. The northern punks, inspired by what they read about the Pistols to come down to see them and, shortly after, form a band.  They went on the riotous tour with the Pistols and Clash, and made some of the important DIY EPs: “Spiral Scratch”, “Boredom”, “Orgasm Addict”, in 1976 and 77.  Iconic titles, music that I heard on John Peel but didn’t really connect with in a big way, not at first. Then the tunes got bigger, sharper.  “What Do I Get”, released in February ‘78, showed what was coming: a fast Ramonesy riff, an industrial edge to the guitars, a whiney vocal over a great pop melody about the trials and tribulations of love, courtesy of Pete Shelley.  By then, the co-founder, Howard Devoto, had moved on.  He formed Magazine.  They had a more leftfield sound, closer to Roxy Music. One truly great song, “Shot by Both Sides”, a decent album, and not a lot after that.  Equals cult band for the rest of time!  Nowhere near as good as Buzzcocks though, because their debut album was one of the greatest.

 “Another Music in a Different Kitchen”. I loved it the day I bought it, soon after it came out in April 1978, and I love it still.  Of all the punk albums, only “The Clash” and “London Calling” and “Pink Flag” by Wire rank as high.  The buzzsaw guitars, those pop melodies, the counterintuitive stance. Anti-rock’n’roll in philosophy; pure rock’n’roll in sound.  Take the starter, “Fast Cars”.  A sample of the old favourite “Boredom”, and then a diatribe against fast cars.  Not a celebration.  A damnation – of cars.  So anti-rock’n’roll.  Hating the car.  A riff as good as any The Ramones came up with.  Brilliant.  As a non-driver until the 90s it hit my button!  Still does, even though I now drive.  The song to put up against all that boy racer nonsense that permeates our culture. 

 Every song on the album is diamond sharp: three chord surges powering, mostly, tales of boy wishes he had girl, or boy splits with girl. Taking refuge in drink and drugs and clubbing. The Manc way, over the years to become one of the great themes of pop music: Smiths, Stone Roses, Oasis.  Founder members, Buzzcocks. The final track, though, was something else.  “Moving against the Pulsebeat”, featuring maybe the first punk drum solo!  To this day I’ve never really latched on to the lyrics; it’s just the driving beat of the drums and those buzzsaw guitars again.   It makes me want to reach for my air guitar every time I hear it.  Maybe it’s metal in disguise. It must have inspired some metal bands.  Metallica, probably.  Ends with a snatch of “Fast Cars”.  A brilliant album topped and tailed by two of the definitive, but unorthodox punk tracks. 

 After that, there wasn’t all that much from the band that grabbed me.  As ever, that meant Buzzcocks had their most successful single ever:  “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen in Love With)?”. Great pop tune, no more no less. A singalong chorus that still gets ‘em going at any reunion party for forty and fifty somethings.  (Do I know this?  Of course not, but I’m sure I’m right. And they won’t be finishing with “Pulsebeat” either.)  And there’s another track I love.  I got it when I bought a Buzzcocks triple CD with pretty much everything they did in their early and successful days, called “Product”.  The track’s called “E.S.P” and it’s driven by a hypnotic two note guitar riff.  There’s not much else to it, but while the riff is repeated it seems from time to time to jump to another level.  I’m not sure why, but it makes the song uplifting at every turn.  A work of simple genius.

(By the way, the reference I make to “Fast Cars” being reprised at the end of “Moving Away from the Pulsebeat” isn’t 100% right, because really it’s the solo from “Boredom”.)

A lot of the tributes today are making a lot of the early EPs, with the state-of-the-youth cry of anguish, “Boredom”, the seminal song. The DIY ethos of the music and the marketing is often said to be the beginning of indie, a term which is still with us today, denoting an attitude, a detachment from the mainstream (even when part of the mainstream) a generally dissatisfied outlook on the world. The Buzzcocks didn’t have a long period of success, but their early works helped define a generation of music lovers and our affection for the music never went away. After a period apart the band reformed, and have been touring for many years. I saw them at Brixton Academy a few years ago, and to be honest, didn’t enjoy it. We stood near the front and the music was so ear-splittingly loud, the sound so distorted that I retreated to the back of the venue after a while to protect my hearing. It was one of those evenings when you only really recognised the songs because they were etched on your memory. The bassist was being an arse as well. So it wasn’t the best exercise in nostalgia that I have been to! But it didn’t sully the memory of those great songs, and one of the finest albums of all time, “Another Music in a Different Kitchen”.

So RIP Pete Shelley: in your brief time in the sun, you made a real and lasting difference.

Posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

The Orielles at Heaven, 29 November 2018

The Orielles are a young band from Halifax, who have been getting increasingly good reviews, both on account of their excellent live shows and a very good debut album, “Silver Dollar Moment”, which was released in February this year. I’ve seen them a couple of times this year, at Latitude and End of the Road. They feature, on bass and vocals, Esme Dee Hand-Halford; and on guitar Henry Carlyle Wade. Their trademark sound involves jangling, echoey guitar, a dose of diamond-edged funk, punchy basslines and Esme’s wafting vocals. If it reminds me of anything it is mid-80s indie – Orange Juice and the Pastels spring to mind. But actually, they don’t really sound like anyone else – they have something which is very much their own.

Last Thursday they played a showcase London show at Heaven, which, I have to say, is an excellent venue for concerts. Holds a decent number of people, has an airy feel to it, and just a good vibe. Given that the two shows I’ve seen here – Girl Ray and the Orielles – attract a benign crowd not dominated by rowdy blokes, that obviously helps.

And this was the best I’ve seen the band perform so far. Full of confidence, really enjoying themselves, the music tight and at times, very funky, in a 70s Isley Brothers way – remember those guitar workouts they used to have at the end of songs like “Summer Breeze” and “That Lady”? Esme and Henry make a contrast centre stage. She stands slightly side on, swaying to the beats as she sings, while Henry at times does an impression of Wilko Johnson on steroids, with his guitar held high on his chest, a bit like John Dwyer of The Oh Sees. And his guitar is something to marvel at – when he gets going with the choppy riffs, the woozy solos, the funk workouts, he really gets going. The highlight in this respect is the closing song of the encore, the epic “Sugar Tastes Like Salt”. A magnificent tune and an uplifting finish to the show. The Orielles’ “Freebird”!

The set covered most of the album, kicking off with “Old Stuff, New Glass”, with a twangy bassline and a triumphant swirling riff. The star tune “Let Your Dogtooth Grow”, with its classic dreamy melody and jangling indie guitar appeared four songs in. That was followed by the bluesy slow one, “Liminal” and its companion “The Sound of Liminal Spaces” where the keyboard player came into his own, with a lovely 60s movie groove. Those two songs show that this band could go anywhere in the future, which was confirmed by the next song, a new one called “Bobbi’s 2nd World”, which is their 70s funkiest yet. It may have been about someone’s cat!

And you couldn’t complain about the last two of the main set, “Sunflower Seeds” and “Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)”. Orielles high points. Both with those distinctive stop-start beats and riffs. Truly infectious. The encore started with a new one, “Flowers” (thanks Setlist FM!) and then that epic which I mentioned earlier, “Sugar Tastes Like Salt”.

And that was it. 10 o’clock, and Heaven ready to change back into a club. But what a good evening. Unquestionably one of the best new bands around. And they have the potential to get better and better. Watch out for the Orielles!

Posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

lovelondonscenes 153 – London at nightfall from the Millenium Bridge

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Tate Modern working on the follow up novel to “The Decision”. Afterwards, around 4.30, I walked over the Millenium Bridge en route to Mansion House tube station. The views of the City and other directions are stunning as darkness falls. I took a few shots – not for the first time – and have turned a few of them into black and white pictures. See what you think.

Posted in Photos - lovelondonscenes | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Swimming Tapes at the Moth Club, Hackney, 20 November 2018

This time last week I went to see Swimming Tapes with Jon G at the Moth Club in Hackney. When he suggested it I confess that I’d never heard of them, but he said it was summery beach Boys-style indie guitars and I thought, why not? A nice contrast to the gloomy November weather which has now asserted itself. I did a bit of research before I went and liked what I heard. Jangling guitars; lovely, breezy melodies. Reminded me a bit of a band I used to like in the early-mid 2000s, The Thrills. I used to play their album “So Much For The City” in the car a lot and my kids used to sing along to songs like “Big Sur” and “One Horse Town” in the back!

The Thrills are from Ireland, and coincidentally, Swimming Tapes, while based in London, hail mostly from Northern Ireland. They came on to a traditional Irish song, “The Star of the County Down”. Live their sound was excellent. The guitars did indeed jangle and lilt, and sometimes soar. There was an infectious, danceable beat to the tunes and they looked like they were having a lot of fun. The place was pretty full and the crowd were really with them. I really enjoyed it.

The band were very happy about the number of people who had turned up. One of their singers confessed that they were so nervous before they came on that they could “hardly breathe”. They put “Star of the County Down” on to relax themselves – though I thought it was also a statement about where they were from.

They don’t have a debut album yet, but they’ve put out a number of EPs since 2016, full of those summery sounds. I’ve put them all on one playlist on Spotify and have been playing it a lot. Feel good music. We all need a bit of that. Top tunes for me at the moment are “Alison” (which was their last song), “Souvenirs” and “Cameos”.

I’ll be looking out for any new music they put out, and they would be perfect for a mid-afternoon slot at Latitude or End of the Road. We shall see!

Posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment