Posts Tagged ‘Indie Pop’

I’ve changed my approach to these blog posts because they got away from my intention, which was to make some notes about new music I’m listening to. Instead it seems to have turned into more of a review site, which was not my intention. The blog really exists to support the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist, not the other way around.

I also noticed that the more I was treating this as a review column, the less I was writing, and consequently the less I was putting on the playlist. So a lot of the music I listened to never made it to the column, either because I wanted to have some kind of definitive opinion of it before posting, or else I wasn’t moved enough to either write about the music or put it on the playlist. In some cases where the music did resonate with me, I didn’t really want to say much of anything about it, just get out of the way and play the song already. Hence the playlist.

Anyway, I think I’ll try to treat this more like a musical diary for now and see how that goes. Which means I will probably revisit some selections and have little to say about others (at least at that moment), but it should lead to sharing more music more often on the Spotify playlist.

Finally, please not that the headings below are all links. The Artist names links to the artist’s website, and the album title links to the album on Spotify.

So, let’s get …restarted.

BECK - Morning PhaseBeckMorning Phase

It’s been a long time between Beck albums. I can understand how anyone waiting years for another “Devil’s Haircut” or “The New Pollution” might be disappointed with “Morning Phase”, because it is essentially a folk album and sooo mellllllooowww.  It’s also, if you’ll excuse the terms in relation to Beck, a gentle and pretty album in the songwriting, the singing, and the overall production.  I’ve been enjoying it well enough.  It hasnt rocked my world in any dramatic sort of way, but there are a few songs on it that have caught my attention in subtle ways. I’ve included my current favorite of these,“Turn Away” on the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist. It vaguely reminds me of one of those old Paul Simon ballads he used to write for himself and Garfunkel, emphasis on Simon.

Bombay Bicycle Club "So Long, See You Tomorrow"

Bombay Bicycle ClubSo Long, See you tomorrow

I’ve already written about this album and added some songs to the playlist. After a month or so I find that I’ve listened to this album more than any other new release so far this year, and it does seem to have legs. Last time I mentioned that I considered putting the opening track, Overdone” on the playlist. I may have had a slight allergy to opening tracks at the time so I left it off. However, I can no longer ignore it since it may be the best song on the album that has not been released as a single (so far). It’s now on the What Am I listening to 2014 playlist.

Takuya Kuroda Rising Son

Takuya KurodaRising Son

Japanese born Manhattan resident Takuya Kuroda borrows the jazz band he’s been trumpeting with behind vocalist Jose James for several years now to make his new album on Blue Note records, with James behind the production board instead of the vocal mic.

James gave Kuroda some sage advice before making this album: Make sure you have something in the music that makes people bob their heads. He has indeed done that, using modern beats from R&B, hip hop and afropop under the kind of classic, smooth jazz sound you would expect from a Blue

Note recording. It works a treat, and the jazz wins out easily in that bit of rhythmic fusion.  The purists might complain but I think it’s the kind of album that even those with merely a passing interest in jazz might like. I can see myself racking this one a lot.

Jose James does sing on one track, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” which I’ve included on the playlist. To me, it feels like lying in a meadow on a perfect summer day.

Kris Davis Trio - waitingforyoutogrowKris Davis TrioWaiting for You to Grow

Now here’s a jazz album you definitely can’t nod your head to, though you may shake it occasionally. The Kris Davis Trio is just a bit too Avant Garde for my tastes, and at times seem to be pushing the envelope of what can be considered music. It might suit people who like their jazz a bit more challenging. I suppose opening the album with over a minute of free form drum solo should have been a dead giveaway.

Using the classic trio line-up of  piano, bass and drums, the music seems to veer from chaotic to frenetic, in and out of time, eventually resolving to something you can grab on to, just to prove there is some form there, then moments later devolving back into an intentional mess. And that’s just the first, 15 minute track. It sounds like this music might be fun to perform, but I didn’t find it much fun to listen to.  Maybe I need to hear to it a few more times before it starts making sense to me. If it ever does I’ll let you know. 

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Bombay Bicycle Club "So Long, See You Tomorrow"Thanks to my two eldest sons, Bombay Bicycle Club is one young band I am familiar with. “So Long, See You Tomorrow” is there fourth album, and it is completely different than the first three in that it is not completely different from the previous one. That is, the band released an above average Indie  Rock album, a completely acoustic folk album, and an electronic pop album in that order, as though they were three different bands. I’m not complaining – I enjoyed them all. I would not have thought that was the best way to build a core following, but it seems to be working for them.

Anyway,  “So Long, See You Tomorrow” builds on “A Different Kind of Fix”, their previous album, with a smooth balance of pop that relies less on the guitars than previous albums, filling out the sound with a variety of synth work, extra vocals, and a wind instruments. There are also some sneaky world music motifs popping up here and there, especially rhythmically, possibly inspired by singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist/frontman Jack Steadman’s travels through India, Japan and Turkey.

To me this album sounds like their most mature work so far, fewer quirks, just decent sounding pop music from beginning to end. I can see the album kicking Bombay Bicycle Club up another notch to a wider audience the way last years “AM” did for the Arctic Monkeys. I hope I’m right. This album is a pleasure to listen to.

“Carry Me” and “Luna” have already been released as singles, .The latter is currently on the BBC Radio 1 playlist. Therefore with all there is to choose from I’ll skip those. My son Tiernan really likes the opening track “Overdone”, and I like it too, but he can get his own blog (lol). Instead I’ll go with “Home By Now”, which is a mid-tempo ballad with an “ahhh” feeling kind of chorus and some nice dynamics as the song goes on. I’ve also chosen “Feel”, which grabbed me right away with drummer Suren de Saram’s mid-eastern rhythmic drive under a catchy upbeat tune with a simple but effective hook in the chorus. They are both on the What Am I Listening to 2014 playlist.

Ed Harcourt’s new album “Time of DustEd Harcourt "Time of Dust"” is a sombre and melancholy affair. It’s also a pretty good listen.

The macabre opening piano riff of “Dreamland” sets the tone with a love song that Gomez Addams might sing to Morticia if they were into singer/songwriters. The title track is a catalog characters and events you might notice when the world is falling apart.  Further on the saddest orchestra plays sadly and slightly out of tune (fortunately for us, only in the lyrics), the ship goes down,  rooks sit on a fence waiting to move one on to the next world, and we are reminded that love is like a minor key. I think you get the gist.

What offsets all this darkness is that at its core this is an engaging collection of well-crafted and well-performed songs. The music consistently compliments the lyric content. The production and arrangements support the songs perfectly and are creative enough within the margins of support. The album is as easily listenable as it is dark.

My one criticism is a minor technicality: at six songs this seems to me to be neither an EP nor an album. I suppose that hardly matters as we progress further into the digital age.  If a six-track album means no filler or out-of-context tracks, and there are none, then so be it.

If you want to hear an above average singer/songwriter album and the above description hasn’t put you off, you should give this a shot. I’ve added “In My Time of Dust” to the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist.