Guest Blogger - The Von Pip Musical Express
Whoever said ‘the best songs have already been written’ was quite clearly looking (and listening) in the all the wrong places. Wouldn’t it be depressing if you thought you’d never again experience that giddy rush of excitement upon discovering a fabulous new artist or were to spend the rest of your life unmoved by anything produced by a musician who was born post 1985?
I’m firmly of the view that today’s musicians are still producing varied, exciting, innovative and inspiring music but you won’t unearth it by simply sitting at home in your sweat pants wearing rose tinted spectacles reminiscing about days gone by. Nor will you discover new talent on certain prime time Saturday night TV shows compèred by two guffawing Geordie gnomes. However if you’re prepared to dig a little deeper, there is still gold in them there hills.
I will yield to nobody in my view that 2011’s musical output thus far has been nothing short of excellent. We’ve had bands as diverse as Islington Boys Club, I Am In Love, Pris, The Jezebels, Lets Buy Happiness and The Good Natured all bubbling under as well as strong album releases from the likes of PJ Harvey, Wye Oak, British Sea Power, The Decemberists, Love Inks and Fight Like Apes. Add in the fact that Howling Bells, The Indelicates, Emmy The Great, Bleech and Pete and the Pirates amongst others are all set to release albums in the not too distant future and I would suggest that reports of the death of musical creativity have been greatly exaggerated.
As we are at almost at the halfway point in 2011 I thought it would be a good time reflect on my favourite four albums of the year thus far, and so without further ado....
1. 'Get Well Soon' by Sarabeth Tucek
There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe just how wonderful this album is. Simply put, it’s a timeless classic from a singer who really should be a household name. Given the subject matter and what she rather beautifully describes as ‘an impressionist rendering of a time ruled by grief,’ revolving primarily, around her father’s death, it’s a huge testament to her talent that she turns the pain of loss into something incredibly poignant and life affirming.
What starts out as a lament to her late father becomes a celebration of remembrance and provides a resolution of sorts in coming to terms with grief. As a singer she’s blessed with a luminous, crystalline voice and possesses the ability to deftly convey the contents of her heart with an eloquent, understated majesty. It’s a magnificent album from start to finish from an artist who effortlessly demonstrates that music still has the power to move and inspire, despite what the pop charts may tell you.
2. 'The Big Roar' by The Joy Formidable
Has an album ever been more aptly named? Juxtaposing Ritzy Bryan’s soaring vocals with a frenzied jangle of barbed guitars and thunderous drumming they have not only managed to capture all the heart, emotion and energy of their live sound, they’ve added to it. In doing so the Joy Formidable have produced an album that has exceeded all expectations. Amongst the fury, the power and the often frenzied pace of the album, The Joy Formidable manage to stir something deep inside you, connecting on an emotional level and filling you with a sense of euphoria.
3. 'Help Stamp Out Loneliness' by Help Stamp Out Loneliness
This Manchester based gender symmetric sextet’s debut is a beautiful, bitter-sweet, collection of shimmering songs, aching melancholy and intelligent literate modern-day poetry set against jangling guitars and giddy keyboard swirls. Such is the uplifting nature of many of the melodies you may initially be oblivious to the darker lyrical content which only truly reveals itself after repeated listens. The album contains themes ranging from obsessive pop star stalkers (inspired by The King Of Comedy) , the dying embers of doomed relationships, beer gardens and alfresco sex, all presented within a lovely whirling, fuzzed up, kraut-pop, lounge-gaze shell. Think Camera Obscura meets St Etienne meets the Wedding Present at the Star and Garter, with a dash of Belle & Sebastian.
4. Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li
Wounded Rhymes is an eclectic a mix of cascading tribal beats, wonky, skittering keyboards and haunting vocals that range from the strident to the sultry. It’s always innovative, entertaining, sexy and at times downright eccentric. It’s an album that delves into the feelings experienced in the aftermath of loss and it is undoubtedly a dark, melancholic slice of pop noir, yet it never feels bleak, in fact the overall impression one is left with, is that of a singer who has become emboldened by experience and one who has found her true voice. It’s an album that works on many different levels and on occasion sounds like a twisted version of the Ronettes drowning in black honey. She’s certainly one of the acts I’m extremely excited about seeing at this year’s Glastonbury festival.
Many thanks to Andy from The Von Pip Musical Express for his suggestions. Make sure you check out the blog and keep an ear out for him on Now Plying today.