This blog is another throwback album observation. Ambrosia is a rock band from southern California. The band started in 1970 with David Pack on guitars and vocals, Joe Puerta playing bass, Christopher North tickling the ivories and Burleigh Drummond on percussion. An early influence on their prog-rock style of music was King Crimson and other progressive rock bands of the early 1970s. Their vocal harmonies came from a love of the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It’s no small wonder that I like Ambrosia since King Crimson and CSN&Y are two of my favourite bands. I don’t remember when I bought my first Ambrosia album, but I am leaning heavily towards 1975, the year their self-titled debut album came out and a single from that album, “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” was getting airplay. I still play this platter frequently. The “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” song is firmly entrenched in my earworm library of hits. A note of interest about that song is that the lyrics of this song were written by Kurt Vonnegut and appear in his 1963 novel “Cat’s Cradle”. In conclusion, this album has aged very well and is still a darn good go-to album.
From the opening bars of this album, Hawaii, an intro called “The Poet, Pt.1”, you know that you are in for a prog listening experience. There is no mistaking the prog sound, and I intend that statement as a compliment to Aisles, they nail it in a good way.
Aisles are a six-piece progressive rock band originally from Santiago in Chile, started by Germán Vergara(guitar) and Luis Vergara (keyboards) in 2001. The brothers were joined their childhood friend Rodrigo Sepúlveda on guitar. Eventually, lead singer Sebastián Vergara, Alejandro Meléndez (keyboards), drummer Felipe Candia and bassist Daniel Baird-Kerr rounded out the band.
This is a bit of an odd review, this album was released in July of 2015 and Aisles are currently working on a new release. Nevertheless, I will soldier on and give this music a review because it was new to me when I was recently given a copy by the band.
I don’t know which grabbed my attention first, the sound or the lyrical content. The sound is pure prog with Aisles adding their own twists and turns that keep it fresh. The lyrics tell a science-fiction tale of resettling a new world after Earth is destroyed, a classic theme that appealed to the sci-fi fan in me.
There is, in my opinion, a masterful mix on this album. The sound ping pongs between speakers, and there are some fascinating new sounds such as those heard on the track “Ch-7”. The lyrics dance in between the notes and weave the tale of “The Poet”. The band tells us, “all the music was written with our hearts and minds, set on the idea of these human colonies – a small group of people who are able to preserve some of the heritage of mankind after Earth is destroyed”. I highly recommend following the storyline with the lyrics in front of you.
This double CD concept album arrived in a sweet three-panel case with a lyric sheet in a pocket in the middle panel. The artwork is nicely done and the lyrics, as per all CDs, are small and difficult for old eyes in dark rooms to read. I cheated and used iTunes to follow the songs lyrical motif.
In summary, I liked this musical adventure. It required about a dozen listens because there is so much going on both lyrically and sonically. Due to the album’s strength, it was still as enjoyable on the last listen as on the first, maybe even more so. The twelve songs on Hawaii span 1 hour and 22 minutes so, settle into a comfortable listening repose and prepare for the launch of a musical odyssey.
I look forward to their new album, which will introduce us to a new lead singer, Israel Jil. This album is due in 2021, and if “Hawaii” is a measuring stick, this new album should be a stellar success.
Here we are, it’s 2021, and new music is coming out in defiance of the remnants of 2020. Some of that music is for quiet moments of reflection. Music that sets aside time to take stock of where we are, and where we are going. Still Corners are one such musical entity; they make music for the times we find ourselves living and their new album Last Exit is coming soon.
Still Corners. That is a decent name for a band. It is easy to read, it is easy to remember, and they use a sensible font. Still Corners, yeah, that’s an alright name. I wonder what is means!
When I do a review of an album, I will usually listen to it a few times to get its feel. Then I read through the lyrics while listening to the music again—then researching begins, reading about the artists and visiting their body of work up to their most recent release. In this case, that album is Last Exit by Still Corners. I got lost in this album, and for two days I listened to it over and over.
I eventually reached this moment, and I am still listening to it while I write. Still Corners got me hooked for several reasons. One is because they sound a bit like another favourite band of mine, Cowboy Junkies, another excellent band name, right! Do yourself a favour and listen to The Last Exit and then check out The Trinity Sessions by the Junkies. The voices of Margo Timmins and Tessa Murray sound similar through my old ears. Still Corners also channel Sergio Leone and the spaghetti western vibe. Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppie also get a nod for being into that vibe.
Enough of that rabbit trail lets talk about The Last Exit. It is good music. Full stop. Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes are consummate musicians whose music has the power to send me to pleasant places. Amid our current world, this type of music is…well, music to my ears. On top of their musicianship, Still Corners also write some right smart lyrics. Tessa explains, “There’s always something at the end of the road, and for us, it was this album. Our plans were put on hold – an album set for release, tours, video shoots, travel. We’d been touring nonstop for years, but we were forced to pause everything. We thought the album was finished but with the crisis found new inspiration and started writing again.” It was in this context that songs like “Crying”, “Static”, “Till We Meet Again” were written, reflecting on the impact of isolation and the need for social contact and intimacy.
Last Exit, new music for a new year, check it out at these internet addresses:
I have gotten into the habit of documenting my listening habits over the spaces of time to seeing if I could glean anything meaningful from those statistics. With over 500 unique albums listened to over the course of 2020 I had some sifting and sorting to do.
Did I find anything worth writing about? I think there are some insights that can be gleaned from these lists. For instance, which albums did I listen to the most based on the year they were originally released?
The top spot in that category was taken by the year 2020 with 96 unique albums listened to. This statistic did not surprise me in the least because I like listening to new music. Second place was 2019 with a significant drop to a mere 19 albums, not as many as 2020 but these were still relatively fresh and deserving of another spin around the turntable.
For third place I took a big jump back to 1971 and 1978 with 18 albums released in each of those years that I listened to. The next three most listened to years are all in the 1970s, which came as no surprise to me. In 1970 I turned 16, got a summer job and bought some records with the money from my first foray into the working world. In 1973 I graduated from high school and two days later got a full-time job with a decent salary that helped feed my appetite for music. After the 1970’s my listening jumped all over the place from 1958 to the present.
The next stat is for how I listened to all that music. Thanks to Covid-19 and isolating at home I decided to go through our vinyl collection, starting at A and going through the alphabet. I didn’t listen to every album but I did listen to 210 slabs of vinyl. iTunes came in second with 146 albums that I listened to. I only listened to three cassette tapes in 2020 and no 8-track or reel to reel tapes. I should mention that these statistics are all for full albums, I do not keep statistics for single releases or album samples.
The next category is for the most listened to artist in 2020, and the winner is Pink Floyd, with eight albums in 2020 that I listened to. ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ was the only album with two listens, which is interesting to me because I am a huge DSotM fan, 1973 right!
Second place was Daniel Amos with eight albums and two listens to their album ‘Mr. Buechner’s Dream’. These two come as no surprise to myself or anyone who knows me, the two artists are longstanding favourites for me.
The most listened to album goes to ‘Greatest Hits’ by Various Artists. This happens every year, for some reason I like listening to compilation albums such as this one from K-Tel, which I bought in 1973 from the Hudson’t Bay store in Grande Cache shortly after I graduated from high school, if my memory serves me well there were only about a dozen of us in the grad class.
After that there was a log jam for the most listened to albums of 2020 with these all tying for the top spot:
‘Hermit of Mink Hollow’ by Todd Rundgren
‘Lateralus’ by Tool
‘Shades of Deep Purple’ by Deep Purple
‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’ by Colter Wall
‘The Beatles’ by The Beatles, aka ’The White Album’.
The final observation is for the 2020 album of the year award.
Wait, I don’t do album of the year awards.
What we do have are some of my favourite listens from 2020, with a heavy emphasis on the word some.
Bob Dylan: ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’. I saw him live in concert in 2017 and that was not a pleasant experience, this album restored Dylan to my good books.
Gwenifer Raymond: ‘Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain’. I had never heard of her before this album came out, and now I can’t stop listening her. An achingly beautiful album.
Colter Wall – ‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’
Colter Wall came roaring out of Saskatchewan playing honest country and western music and with this, his third release, he builds on what the first two laid down and then upped the ante.
Speaking of good C&W music, Sturgill Simpson – ‘Cuttin’ Grass ‘, entertained me for hours.
Sturgill Simpson is like Colter Wall in that I have been listening to his music since he released his first album back in 2013. His newest, ‘Cuttin’ Grass’ is both a departure and a return. It is different from his last release and similar to his first. I have played this on vinyl, and it sounds incredible.
Lucinda Williams – ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ I am a latecomer to Lucinda Williams’s music but having found it I only want to hear more and this release sounds might fine.
Neil Young – ‘Homegrown’ I have been listening to Neil Young’s music since the day before forever. This is reminiscent of some of his early stuff, more acoustic and folky.
Steve Earle and the Dukes – ‘Ghosts of West Virginia’ All I knew about Steve Earle was his big hits, Guitar Town and Copperhead Road. Until last year, when I started streaming some of his music, and then this album came out and now I have my ear glued to his music.
The Avett Brothers – ‘The Third Gleam’ I keep ‘Emotionalism’ and ‘The Carpenter’ in fairly steady rotation, at least once a year and now this recording will start that round dance with them.
Colter Wall, Sturgill Simpson, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, Steve Earle and The Avett Brothers are all to the Country and Western music of today in same way that Willie and Waylon and the boys were to the Nashville establishment back in the ”70s. Outlaw country isn’t dead; it’s alive and well in the hands of folks such as these.
Kronos Quartet & Friends – ‘Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger’ The Kronos Quartet hasn’t laid down a lousy album, ever. This record is story telling at its finest.
Shabaka and the Ancestors: ‘We Are Sent Here By History’ This album is jazz, new jazz, attention-getting jazz. Smooth and raw and emotional. It is good music, nothing more and nothing less. I also nominate this for album artwork of the year. It is stark but it conveys a message by forcing us to focus on what is shown.
This brought to mind the album cover of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by Joy Division, stark but striking in the same way. I also listen to ‘Unknown Pleasures’ frequently.
I hope you have enjoyed your 2020 musical experience, if nothing else it provided a soundtrack to the year through the gift of music. Some of these albums created a distraction away from the shit show that 2020 was. Demi Lovato created the best commentary on 2020 with her song‘Commander In Chief.’ Music also provided more than a few moments of pure pleasure. For each of the artists in this list and to all of the artists that I listened to but who didn’t make the final cut, thank you.
Distancer is the new album from Hiatus, which will be released March 12, 2021. The London-based British-Iranian producer has given us ‘Arrival’, a single and video from that album to whet our appetites.
‘Arrival’ is music that haunts, excites and called out for me be hitting the repeat button over and over. The track features a spoken rendition of a poem called ‘The Guest House’ by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, words that Cyrus says lend the ‘Arrival’ a powerful message of hope. It also lends ‘Arrival’ a statement that good music transcends time and place. And make no mistake about it, this is good music.
“For me, the poem is about how as humans we are subject to thoughts and feelings that seem beyond our control, the result of animal instincts that connect us to the origins of life on Earth. I find myself bombarded with complex thoughts about my relationship with others and the world around me, many of them judgemental and negative in nature, all of which have their roots in a handful of behaviours that throughout evolution have ensured our survival – paranoia, pride, anger, ambition. But the poem suggests that there is a world outside of the stories of our lives, and though we can never be entirely free of the behaviours that define us as humans, we can connect with something much larger, and find liberation through recognizing that it is us, and we are it.”
It’s a message also conveyed by a stirring video, which features live-action footage shot by Owen Tozer in Tokyo, London and Kathmandu, alongside cosmic animations created by AI artist Nathan Shipley.
“The visuals are created using a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN),” says Nathan, “an algorithm designed to learn and generate patterns. We trained the GAN using images of cells taken through a microscope and also star formations taken through a telescope. This enables the GAN to dream an infinite landscape of new cells and star formations and also morph between the two. This ties back to the message of the poem: showing a connection between our elemental selves and the larger universe, which seems so alien and outside of us, yet which is made of exactly the same stuff, and came from exactly the same place.”
Cyrus began producing electronic music while working as a journalist in London in the early 2000s. In 2005 he was living with his grandmother in Tehran, spending his days working for an Iranian newspaper, his nights sifting through his dad’s old records. On his return to London he began work on ‘Ghost Notes’ (2010), an album featuring samples from many of those same records, and channelling the timeless melancholy of Iranian music. Despite being self-released, the album met with acclaim – tracks like ‘Sightless’ and ‘Insurrection’ received mainstream radio play, the latter voted single of the week on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable on BBC Radio 6 Music.
In 2013 he followed it up with ‘Parklands’, a record featuring several vocal collaborations, including ‘We Can Be Ghosts Now’, the stop-motion video for which won Best Animation at the 2013 UK Music Video Awards. Four years later he released ‘All The Troubled Hearts’ (2017), an album-closing with ‘Delam’, featuring his father reciting and translating old Iranian poems, the story behind which Cyrus recounted in an article for the Guardian.
In 2019 Cyrus was introduced to Faraz Eshgi Sahraei, an accomplished player of a traditional string instrument called the kamancheh, and his wife Malahat, a talented singer, both recently relocated from northern Iran to north London. Over several months, the three met regularly at a studio in Brixton to record the songs that would eventually comprise ‘Distancer’, Cyrus’ fourth album.
As a result, ‘Distancer’ is Hiatus’ most Iranian album so far, crowning a process that began long ago; it also closes with another contribution of Iranian poetry from his father. Yet it is also a record liberated from the melancholy of past releases, channelling instead a sense of awe informed by the meditation, psychedelic experience and reading that in recent years has helped Cyrus deal with bouts of depression. It is a record offering hope at what can feel like a hopeless time, and one perhaps best embodied by Rumi’s closing words on ‘Arrival’:
The dark thought, the shame, the malice:
Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
I hope you enjoy this album as much as I have. ‘Arrival’ gives a great big shout-out that Hiatus has indeed arrived.
Following on from his ‘12 Songs Of Summer’ project, which has seen him release a new song or remix every month for the past year, Swedish musical troubadour David Alexander aka Summer Heart has now returned to announce the details behind his latest EP ‘Ambitions’, which arrives on 6th November 2020.
Having been performing independently for over eight years, Summer Heart is now signed to the renowned Swedish label Icons Creating Evil Art. With an already impressive roster under their belts, the imprint is set to become a welcome home to the frontman’s breezy and lovable direction.
Much like his work to date, his latest collection looks to take influence and inspiration from his everyday life, which has always given him an extremely down-to-earth and relatable style of writing. Filled with his bright and euphoric aesthetic, each track looks to tell the story of the man behind the name, giving us a more humbled and intimate feel to his direction.
Written between his recent trip to California and his hometown in Malmö, Sweden, the frontman treats us to a blend of personal tales in his lovelife, to just letting himself go and experiencing life as it happens. While singles like ‘Ambitions’ and ‘Black Jeans’ tackle the anxieties and insecurities of what to do next, the EP’s closer ‘Motorcycle’ sees him in renewed spirits, shaking off past experiences and letting himself feel free once again.
But continuing to keep his cards close to his heart, this new release is still filled with all the romantic ventures he is known for. With ‘Good Together’ seeing him pursue that bright and elegant dream-pop sound we all know and love, the EP’s opener ‘Ambitions’ and closer ‘Motorcycle’ act as the bookends for this sweeping new journey. Bringing a sweet and effortless energy throughout, they mark the beginning and end of an emphatic journey that looks to cement the same positive direction that landed him his first record deal.
Speaking about his new collection, he said, “Before going on tour I always make sure to wrap up all the work I have postponed or ignored so I can come back to a blank slate. But since my tour got cancelled it was the first time in my adult life I actually didn’t have anything to do. It was very freeing and I could sit down and think about what I wanted to create and what I had struggled with in the past. I realised I’ve just wanted too much and never really been able to slow down and see things from a different perspective. The EP itself is about having high ambitions and wanting to do so many things at the same time but not always knowing where to put your focus.”
Summer Heart’s new EP ‘Ambitions’ will be available to stream and download from 6th November 2020 via Icons Creating Evil Art.
wassailer – someone who proposes a toast; someone who drinks to the health of success of someone or some venture
Wassailer – the pseudonym of the artist, Will. Formerly of the band Evergreen (previously known as We Were Evergreen), a French alternative indie-electro-pop trio. The band formed in Paris in 2008 but relocated to London, UK, in 2011 and that is were Will now lives and records.
Will honed his skills as a musician through the four EP’s and an LP that We Were Evergreen released, Will now based in Lewisham is finding his own identity influenced by South East London’s jazz and afro scene.
Weaving his style with songs that land somewhere between Irish trad and popular grime, Will tackles a plethora of social malaise and the lack of empathy behind humanity’s behaviour.
Will, as Wassailer, delivers a very forthcoming album. Commenting on it he explains “I’ve managed to tell the story I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell it, starting with the newest song I’d produced, and finishing with the eldest and most personal piece I ever wrote… It’s very intimate and very political. I could not have been more honest, clumsy, passionate, very me.”
From the debut single ‘Son’ Wassailer returns to unveil the atmospheric single ‘242’. Accompanying the single “242” is a lyric video featuring Wassailer himself, sitting at the top of a 242 bus, the video overlays with distorted time-lapses of the journey. Commenting on the video, he says: “I went back to East London to shoot some time lapses with my phone, sticking it to the upper deck front window of the actual bus 242. I was obsessed with the raindrops trickling on it at night, creating these psychedelic colour fx with the traffic lights. That’s basically as blurry as what’s going on in my mind most of the time.”
Will is building suspense in anticipation of the release of his solo debut full-length LP, ‘i, the bastard’ which will be released via Empty Streets Records on January 27, 2021. You can get a sneak peek through the links to his singles, see below. I managed to get a preview, and I can honestly say that this is a killer album. January 27, 2021, mark on your calendar and listen to his single till then.
Emi Wes opens her new EP with the shimmering song “All Grown Up”, brimming over with her electric vocals and backed with a solid team effort.
Then we get the Spanish guitar of “Where’s My Money” that evolves into a hypnotic pounding track that carries her anguished vocals and a bass line that supports her cry for more money. The song then moves into a vocal trill that sounds more like it came out of Turkey than Spain. Magnificent production.
WTF? The next track is “Five Miles”, a song that shouts R&B from the rooftops. With thumping percussion and a chugging bassline that carries her vocals to the surprise conclusion, lush strings. I loved this track. I honestly do not know what I can say beyond that. It is my favourite from a stable of winners.
“Cry Baby”, the next to last song is not a peon to a guitar effects pedal, think Jimi Hendrix. It is a love song. And a darn good love song at that.
The EP closes with her new single ‘Issues’. On this showcase song, she sings ‘Sensitive as a flower, watch me bloom so eager to learn, I watch it grow.’ The song is a self-love affirmation, as she explains: “Over the years, these have been the lines of my life. It’s really about not being frightened of appearing vulnerable.” Discussing the song, she tells us: “The instrumental, the strings and Robins chords just gave me the words to a feeling I had in me. I guess it was also important for me to address that I have issues too because we all do. Sometimes saying it aloud makes it more OK. For me, it’s a sign of strength being able to say the less pretty out loud.”
“Sometimes saying it aloud makes it more OK”, and sometimes playing it loud makes it more OK. Pop this gem of an EP into your headphones and crank the volume to 8, I don’t want you to go deaf at 10, and listen to this fantastic EP from Emi Wes. A voice that is bound to go places and keep getting better and better; this is a promising start.
Don’t forget to check her out at these fine web pages:
Six songs on the new EP from Tungz titled “Why Do Anything?”
I don’t know why we do anything, like “What For” man?
Six is the natural number following five and preceding seven. It is a composite number and the smallest perfect number. Just because it’s small is no reason to treat it like “Somebody To Get Shy With”.
Don’t be shy, “Go Out”, buy a six-string guitar and make music for your friends. Then after you are famous and selling tons of records, there is no reason to say “Can’t We Just Be Friends Again”?
We need to stay close, to “Touch” each other, to be “Emotional” but not cold and distant.
We don’t need to have six degrees of separation between us.
Our relationship can be full, as prosperous as the six whole notes in an octave. Let’s keep the distance between us small, as small as the six semitones in a tritone.
Let’s stop writing in abstract forms. The EP, “Why Do Anything” from the Bristol-based band Tungz is a smooth listen. Dabbling in electronica, R&B, and even touches of funk, make these tunes a pleasant listening experience. The variety of music kept me listening intently to find what came next as each song played out. ‘Why Do Anything?’ came out on the 30th of October via Heist or Hit. Do something, listen to this EP, you will not be disappointed.
Way back on Sept. 16, 2020, I posted a favourable review of the single “Breakfast Again” by Owen Meany’s Batting Stance. Today I have been listening to the album that that single came from, Feather Weights.
I searched high and low for a definitive definition of feather weight. For the single word “featherweight” it was easy to find, it is a boxing classification for contestants between 54 and 57 kg. and by analogy, it can be anything of little weight including an insignificant person or thing. A definition of “feather weight” was more challenging. It could be an individual that consumes a small amount of alcohol and is intoxicated, or it could be a scrupulously exact weight so that a feather would turn the scale.
For Daniel Walker, who is the alter-ego of Owen Meany, “The featherweights are the heavy burdens that we place on ourselves that are imagined, or that we can create by overthinking,” says Walker. “Trying to reconcile with gut instinct versus an anxious mind.”
That’s me in a nutshell, overthinking the deeper meaning between “featherweight” and “feather weight” and resolving nothing other than giving myself an anxious mind. Carry on then, shall we?
Daniel starts the album Featherweights with what should become a Canadian anthem right up there with Stompin’ Tom Connors “Hockey Song”. It also has one of the best song titles ever, “The Androgynous Hockey Stick”. Isn’t that an excellent handle for a song! As a youth, I was a featherweight hockey player, so my career only lasted to my 13th birthday when I found out that everyone else on the team outweighed me, outskated me and out checked me. I focused on writing after all the pen is mightier than the hockey stick.
Next up is He(art) Attack, which makes a nice bookend with “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky.
Further along the meandering tracks of this album, we come to “Car Attack”, a new single for Owen Meany’s Batting Stance. This groove hugging ode to our fixation for automobiles, Daniel Walker tells us: “This is a song about how humans often will put more time into vehicle maintenance than upkeep in a relationship. The song dwells on a used car in a junkyard as it re-tells old adventures and hopes for the chance at a new one.”
We encounter several more exciting songs; you need to explore them; it is well worth the time spent. The album closes with “Breakfast Again” which Daniel Walker tells us “is about the emotions: the worries and resolution that come with no
longer sharing a life with someone important to you.”
This album is no featherweight or feather weight for that matter. It is a well thought out and crafted piece of art. The lyrics give you pause to wonder what Daniel Walker is writing about, for example, what’s up with “Empty Vespers”? In conclusion, I found this to be enjoyable to listen to, and I nominate it for my end of the year list. This album comes with the bonus of a rather enjoyable video: 1https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV3_ESlSbBI&ab_channel=OwenMeany%27sBattingStance