Monday, January 11, 2016

Peter Astor - Spilt Milk

The year is starting out with some very good releases.  Today's feature is Spilt Milk, the latest LP from the venerable Peter Astor.  Consisting of ten songs that distill the best attributes of Astor's long career in music, from his Creation Records projects The Loft and The Weather Prophets through his varied solo recordings.  If one were required to tag it with a genre name I suppose jangle pop would move towards the head of the list.  But we aren't so constrained, and we find that this work is delightfully more complex that such a label would suggest.  Listen to lead track "Really Something", and appreciate the hints of The Weather Prophets, The Bats, The Go-Betweens and The Velvet Underground.  In fact, the spirit of VU runs through the album, with propulsive, insistent rhythms providing the foundation for Astor's literate and incisive creations.

The poignant and self-effacing "Mr. Music" previously was released as a single, and I've sung its praises here and here.  The sly "My Right Hand" adds an upbeat country rock twist.  The fourth song is the quiet and exquisite "Perfect Life", which always gets at least two replay presses from me.  The first half of the album ends with the chugging "The Getting There".

The second half of the album commences with one of my favorites, "Very Good Lock", which refers to the narrator's penchant for keeping his feelings locked inside.  "Good Enough" is a spiritual cousin to classic country laments.  Spilt Milk closes with three excellent folk pop songs, "There It Goes", "Sleeping Tiger", and "Oh You".  Of the three, "Oh You" probably would win the most votes as one of the album's stronger tracks, but a sign of Astor's consistency as a songwriter is that it wouldn't be a unanimous choice.  For me, this is the kind of album that finds its way into almost permanent rotation in my collection.  The songs are simple, but infused with keen observations and years of experience.

In addition to Peter Astor, the players on the album include James Hoare (Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting, The Proper Ornaments), who played multiple instruments and recorded the album in his flat, Pam Berry, Jack Hayter, Alison Cotton, Robin Christian, and Susan Milanovic.  When he isn't writing and performing music, Astor teaches, researches and writes about music as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster.  He also has written about the album Blank Generation by Richard Hell and the Voidoids for the Bloomsbury 33 1/3 series.

Spilt Milk is out now via Slumberland Records in North America and Fortuana POP! in UK/Europe.

Slumberland Records
Fortuna POP!

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