Thursday, July 2, 2015

Talking Bush - Ordinary Unusual

Ordinary Unusual is a wonderfully tasty little nugget to embrace going into the weekend.  Four diverse synth pop tracks from St. Petersburg's Talking Bush.  It also is a bit of a dual threat -- a lovely release in its own right, it also serves as an introduction to the music Nikita Bushmanov will offer on his 2016 debut album.  But 2016 is a long way away, and thinking about it reminds us of another dire United States election cycle, so let's focus on the here and now.

The EP begins with the throbbing beats of instrumental track "Hear It", which soars to a big finish via bright synth strains.  "Overgrow" (see video below) is an urgent post punk song with a bit of a New Order vibe.  Talking Bush show an adept hand with dream pop on my favorite song on the EP, the wistful "There Is Now".  I think the Lightning Seeds would have been proud of those hooks.  The closer, "Tell Me" blends dream pop and post punk to good effect.

If you only have time for one sample, check out "There Is Now".  I recommend streaming all four tracks, of course.  The EP is out now as a digital download via Shelflife Records.  See the link at the bottom of the post.

Shelflife Records page for release

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fraser A. Gorman - Slow Gum

Melbourne's Fraser Gorman possesses an aw shucks kind of charisma that makes it easy to like him.  He seems open, friendly and without pretense.  It appears he loves animals and his mother.  He also looks a bit like a young Dylan, whose work admittedly informs his own, but he is quite upfront and comfortable with the comparison.  By day, Fraser is a carpenter, and its seems that constructing things is in his blood, because his debut album,  Slow Gum, demonstrates that with a guitar, pen and a head full of melodies and images, he is a hell of a songwriter.

Gorman's style is country-inflected folk and folk rock, and as is typical with the best work in those genres, the core of his songs are engaging stories, entertainingly told.  My first exposure was via "Book of Love", which remains one of my favorites of the past few years (I've included the Soundcloud clip, which has a button for download, but the video as well because it is a great video), although "Never Gonna Hold You (Like I Do)" from Slow Gum is overtaking it fast.  I eagerly consumed his next singles, "Broken Hands" and the noisier "Shiny Gun", and awaited his album with great anticipation.  The ten-song collection has a warm, homey feel with unassuming but infectious melodies, clever earworms and an atmosphere that spans two continents and a couple of eras.  In addition to his home country artists such as Paul Kelly and friend and label boss Courtney Barnett, his work carries strains of Nashville Skyline and '60s-'70s California singer songwriters and would comfortably fit in the American section of your collection.  Gorman loves and is knowledgeable about country music, but he certainly isn't, or at least isn't solely, a country artist.  Both his songwriting sweet spot and his performance style lend themselves well to robust arrangements.

Our bottom line is that Fraser Gorman is a pop storyteller with a well stocked toolbox, and Slow Gum will make all your chill moments of the summer much, much better.

Milk! Records page for Fraser Gorman
Marathon Artists

Monday, June 29, 2015

Linden - Rest and Be Thankful

At one point Joe McAlinden made a fair bit of noise.  His Superstar was signed to Creation Records and was known for its sun-kissed power pop.  His also lent his talents to Groovy Little Numbers, Boy Hairdressers, BMX Bandit, Edwyn Collins, Big Star, Alex Chilton and Matthew Sweet, among others.  He then left the music business and, among other things, became a restaurateur.  But apparently an accomplished musician and son of a music teacher just can't quit for good, and he has resumed blessing us with the fruits of his songwriting skills, albeit in a quieter vein.   His 2012 release, Bleached Highlights, earned deep praise in the UK.  In my view, Rest and Be Thankful, manages to succeed in the formidable task of topping the previous album.  Recorded in home territory in Argyll, western Scotland, in a fisherman's hut on the shores of Lock Fyne with the members of his live band -- Stuart Kidd, Eric Lindsay, Marco Rea, James Walbourne, and Paul Cook, and with finishing studio touches from Edwyn Collins himself, the album is peaceful, emotional and completely accessible.

Rest and Be Thankful succeeds for a myriad of reasons.  The songwriting is mature without looking backward, and intimate without being uncomfortably confessional.  The arrangements are lush without being fussy.  And one cannot overlook the value of timing.  It is late June and summer is upon us.  What better time for self-described 'pastoral pop' with weathered vocals, clever guitar lines and hooks at every turn?  Open the sun roof and head for the coast with your Ray Bans in place and Linden providing the perfect soundtrack.  But it seems to me that the pop perfection on the surface is just one part of the genius here.  Just as a good chef triumphs when he or she takes quality ingredients and combines them in complimentary fashion, with certain elements to the fore and the others evident but in support, McAlinden's songwriting deserves the songwriting equivalent of top Michelin Stars.  Each song is a dish, plated to perfection, with no element too dominant, no sadness or regret offered without a sunny hook or encouraging melody.

For my tastes, the best songs are "Window Pane", "Rest and Be Thankful", "Short Worm", and "Broken Glass".  By the way, the title of the album is taken from words inscribed on a stone at a rest stop at the end of a steep climb out of Glen Coe in Western Scotland.  The view from the spot is replicated in the album's artwork.

Rest and Be Thankful is out now on vinyl, CD and as a digital download via Slumberland Records in North America and AED Records in the UK.

Slumberland Records page for album
AED Records