Paul Clark’s album Out of the Shadow is generic 1984 Christian pop flavoured music. Pick any contemporary Christian artists from the 1980s; there is a locked-in sound. That goes for radio hits across the genre spectrum.
There wasn’t a lack of good music hitting the turntables in 1984. The Seventy Sevens released All Fall Down, an album that has passed the time test. It is still relevant and good music 34 years after it was released. There are a lot of hard-core Seventy Seven fans out there, and Mike Roe does a music vlog every week. Paul Clark has remained in the recording and performing Christian sphere. He performs primarily in churches but hey, a tip of the hat to him for keeping on making music. His latest album is from 2018, and while the lyrics are still full of Christianese, the music is quite good, with kind of an Americana feel to it with some good guitar pickin’ with fiddle fills.
Unfortunately, Paul Clark was still trying to find his place in the music pallet in 1984 and Out of the Shadow doesn’t pass the time test, although Paul Clark, as a recording artist, has grown and developed his career up to the present.
Petula Clark is still going strong at 89 years young. Her last release, according to Wikipedia, was in 2018. Discogs justify the fact that I only have two compilations. Petula Clark was a music factory with roughly one album for every year of her life. Another interesting tidbit of information, in October 1942, the nine-year-old Petula Clark made her radio debut while attending a BBC broadcast with her father. She never looked back.
In 1960 she embarked on a concert tour of France and Belgium with Sacha Distel, who remained a close friend until his death in 2004. Gradually she moved further into the continent, recording in German, French, Italian and Spanish. – Wikipedia. Hells bells, I trip over my tongue trying to sing in my native language, English.
Singing along with Downtown and the other hits was a nice trip down memory lane. Petula Clark continued to record, hit after hit, with lots of good memories; thank you, Ms. Clark. She also toured up till 2019 with an appearance in my native land, Canada. We have a large French population and she sings in French. A versatile performer, I am impressed.
14 June, 2019Details Théâtre Masionneuve Montreal, CANADAFrancos de Montréal Festival Petula Clark et invités [Petula and Guests] Guests: Louis-Jean Cormier, Antoine Gratton and France D’Amour Opening night of the annual Festival. Over 10 nights, the festival presents shows by legendary francophone performers from diverse musical backgrounds and nationalities, as well as a wide range of up-and-coming artists.
17 June, 2019Photos Queen Elizabeth Theatre Toronto CANADA
Some Days is an EP by a band named Khartoum that I have been listening to since June 17th. This EP has been a real pickle for me. I like the music contained within this music package, but I don’t know how to convey that emotive quality via words. To give a bit of context, I will quote a couple of lines from the lead song, Some Days.
“I can tell I’m disconnected …
Your trains left the station.”
I have felt disconnected trying to write something about this bit of musical and lyrical magic. The train left the station without me, and I was left standing on the platform waiting for another train to come along with my musical muse on board and carry the two of us away to some beautiful land of words.
That never happened. I listened to this EP over and over and came up blank every time. I hesitate to call it writer’s block because I have been able to write some other bits of music up. Is it a lack of inspiration? I don’t think so. I found this EP to be at least moderately inspiring, not entirely on the level of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, but they are working their way up the ladder, one gig at a time.
Khartoum is an engaging band, and they have a modern sound that is easy on the ears but can be easily dialled up a notch for the dance floor. I get the feeling they would be an excellent band to hear live; they generate that feeling, that energy.
In their own words:
“The EP title came about from the sample that’s heard at the very beginning of the title track ‘some days’… it’s actually an old iPhone recording of an early song that we never properly recorded. It’s been slowed down to match the key of the track, so that’s why the vocal sounds so freaky.
“Creating music is like going to a library and taking out a few books, ripping out your favourite pages that day and sticking them together to form a story.
“This EP is simply the result of ‘some days we visited the library and tore out some pages.
“I like the feeling that ‘some days’ evokes as a stand-alone statement. Some days can be great, some days can be bad, and for no particular reason, but always different. These tracks came together on those great days where we knew from the moment we woke up that something exciting was brewing.”
I couldn’t glean much about the people who call themselves Khartoum. It would have been nice to put names and faces to the music. I’ll like them on Facebook, Soundcloud and whatnot in the hopes of getting to know them better. I would enjoy spending some time getting to know them as people, and not just some music streamed over the internet of things. I did find this excellent video which features the song Ten People from the EP Some Days.
At the end of the day, since there will only be about an hour of daylight left today, this is a good listen. Check them out. Tight musically. Literate, which is a good thing for any band. It is nicely packaged as an EP named Some Days. By Khartoum. Do your ears a favour and give them a listen.
I listened to three albums from my tour through the vinyl catalogue, each requiring more than one listen. The three albums are Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music by Ray Charles from 1962, Chicago V from 1972, and Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album released in 1988. These three albums are pretty distinct, but they also have some commonality that threads through them.
I will not follow chronology but rather the sequence I found in my in-box. As I tap this blog out, Chicago is up first and on the turntable. This album is interesting from several different angles. It is Chicago’s first single album release. Notable, isn’t it? The fifth album and the first release on a single slab of vinyl. Their first release, Chicago Transit Authority, was a double album that made one hell of a splash for their inauguration. Then came Chicago, their second double album but released simply as Chicago. It has since become known as Chicago II in deference to the string of albums to follow it that are all named Chicago with a Roman numeral. Chicago III is also a double album, with II and III garnering immense praise from fans and critics alike. Then came Chicago at Carnegie Hall, also known as Chicago IV. This recording was the first live album and fourth album overall. It was initially released as a four-LP vinyl box set and was also available for a time as two separate two-record sets.
And then came Chicago V, the album on my turntable. This album contains the twelfth and thirteenth singles to chart for the band, as well as the album being considered the Best Small-Combo LP in Playboy magazines Jazz & Pop Poll for 1973. The album received generally good accolades, getting a 4 out of 5 from ALLMUSIC. It charted at #1 on Billboards 200 list and is certified Gold, Platinum and Double Platinum.
As I listened to this, I heard a link from the jazz-infused rock and roll of 1972 rushing straight into the modern jazz I am listening to coming out of New York, London, and Africa. I think Chicago was way ahead of the curve and broke ground for countless other music groups walking the line between genres. I love the horn work; they had some tight playing going on and bouncing off each instrument as they moved along. I don’t hear big solos, but I hear good musicians playing together, which can sound better than a five-minute solo if it is cut right. And Chicago cut it just right, and they cut it fast. This album took just over a week of studio time, cutting it right the first time.
I like this album because I can sit back and get lost in its groove, or I can work on a blog, for example, and have this playing as the soundtrack. I can pause at the tight passages or tap my foot along with the beat, and I can play it over and over. It is that good.
Chicago V, give it a listen, especially for the jazz fans out there. I think you will find it a good listen.
The next musical morsel is the self-titled album by Tracy Chapman. This album hit number 1 on the Billboard charts and garnered immense critical acclaim. From Wikipedia: “Just two weeks after its release, the album sold one million copies worldwide, becoming a big commercial success. In total, it sold over 20 million copies worldwide and is one of the first albums by a female artist to have more than 10 million copies sold worldwide.”
I fell in love with this album from the first time I heard it until the last time I heard it, which was yesterday. Chicago is still hogging the turntable but should be done soon. There are certain albums by certain musicians that can grab onto me for reasons that are beyond my reasoning ability. Chicago V is back in the catalogue, Tracy Chapman is Talkin’ About a Revolution. This album grabbed way out of proportion to my general listening back in 1988. I listened to If I Should Fall from Grace with God by The Pogues.
Naked by the Talking Heads is an album that has stayed in my listening profile forever. People by Hothouse Flowers is a band that I enjoyed seeing live and on record. The Indescribable Wow is an excellent album by Sam Phillips. The list goes on and on, but these are not folky protest albums, which is what I hear when I listen to Tracy Chapman. She single-handedly revived folk music in the era of metal and hard rock; not an easy task, but this album shot to number one and stayed there. It would be best if you went to Wikipedia to fully appreciate the impact of this album as far as sales and accolades go.
A lot has changed in my life since 1988. I became an ordained pastor as an evangelical Christian and then left the faith. I sold a large portion of my music catalogue twice. Thick as a brick, I didn’t learn my lesson the first time. I got married to a beautiful woman who supports my music endeavours, and we have stayed married for better, for worse, yadda yadda. We have a son, a terrific young man who inherited my passion for all things musical. Pre-Covid, we were averaging a concert every week, and our catalogue gives us ample music to choose from.
All this to say that a lot has changed but not my appreciation for Tracy Chapman, the album. I must say “the album” because none of her subsequent albums kept me listening to them, just her first one. Perhaps it is my association with the black community; she is black, and many of her lyrics fall into the category of protest songs. Maybe it is because of George Floyd and the countless other black people who suffer needlessly. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I know that I love this album and the song ‘Fast Car’ is one of the best car songs.
The third side of this musical triangle is Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music by Ray Charles. The title should serve as a shot across the bow. You will not hear traditional country and western music on this album. You will hear Nashville Country. You will hear lush orchestral arrangements and backing chorus instead of fiddle and banjo playing. This album is in a whole new category of musical genres. It has more R&B than traditional Country & Western music. Ray Charles didn’t start the trend towards the marriage of country and western music with other genres. Still, he broke the bubble that ushered in the movement of slick productions, studio musicians and lush instrumentation for the Nashville Sound.
I understand the significance of this record, not just for country and western music but for a black artist playing C&W music. Having said that, I must say that this album has not sustained its listenability for me. I have always kept my heart close to more traditional Country and Western music. Moving the music forward, I have listened to Outlaw Country music through its many revivals, Texas Country, Tulsa sound and other musicians who held traditional country and western music close to their hearts. An interesting anecdote: I enjoy the music of Sturgill Simpson and his breakthrough album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which pays homage to Ray Charles and his Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. I also enjoy the more traditional albums from Sturgill Simpson, especially his Cuttin’ Grass Sessions.
Ray Charles and his Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music are on a long play record, but I won’t be playing it long.
London Plane is a six-piece musical entity composed of David Mosey (guitar and vocals), Jessica Cole (vocals), Bryan Garbe (drums), Grant Parker (bass), Julian Tulip (synths) and Kristofer Widholm (guitar). Their roots trace back to 2014 backstage at a tribute show to the recently deceased Lou Reed when Psychedelic Furs’ Joe McGinty introduced David to Jessica, who were both performing.
London Plane will be releasing their sophomore album ‘Bright Black’ via Declared Goods on June 17.The press release tells me that London Plane would have appealed to fans of Bowie XTC, Gary Numan (this is a for sure, I hear Mr. Numan loud and clear in London Plane), Interpol, Bauhaus, Yeah Yeah Yeah (yeah, that fits), Shriekback, Protomartyr, The Primitives, The KVB, Iggy Pop (I didn’t hear that) and The Cramps.
That cuts a wide swath and establishes a very high bar for London Plane to reach up to, let alone jump over. Allow me to tell you what I heard when I listened to Bright Black.
I heard nonsense. Consider these lyrics, if you will.
“Zizza zizz resister/wholly adore
Vizza vizz aglister/when there were more”
There is no Zizza in my dictionary. There is a zizz, and It means a whizzing or buzzing sound. No Vizza, or vizz, or aglister, nothing. Pure nonsense. Is this a problem? No, of course not. Just yesterday, I was mulling and musing on the poetry of Lewis Carrol. David Mosey is in good company when it comes to nonsensical literature.
The song changes gears in the following two lines of the song Bright Black.
“Armies are all the same/When they fall; they’re replaced.
If it goes black/let it go bright black.”
Our history as humans consists primarily of one war followed by a conflict followed by a coup. One job after another for armies, it’s always the same. The soldiers fall in battle, and another one steps in to fill the gap; they all get replaced.
Now we come to a line that caught my attention.
“If it goes black/let it go bright black.”
If it goes black, in other words, if everything fails and there is no colour left, let it be bright, bright black. Can black be bright? Can black have gradients of colour? Yes, yes. I paint dioramas and scale models as a hobby, and there are many black colours. There is carbon black, gloss black, metallic black, NATO black, tire black, flat black, matte black, etc. There are dozens of variants of the colour black. Which technically is the lack of any colour. But for argument’s sake, we will treat it as a colour. What can I do if it is going to be black if the world is falling all around me? I can go down and give up or rise above the muck and the mire and paint my world bright black. If it has to be black, it might just as well be bright black. A glimmer of hope can be found even amid blackness, a radiant glow of black hope.
Watch That Madman Go is another interesting song. I think the song is about leaders behaving like madmen. The list is long, so I won’t bore you or I with it. I like the concept in the song where things like blackness, or corrupt politicians, can creep up without people raising alarm bells until it’s too late; the madman is loose. It’s along the lines of the frog in the pot. The temperature goes up so slow the frog doesn’t realize it’s in danger until it’s too late.
Bright Black is an interesting album. The lyrics aim at blackness and then offer a glimmer of light. There is a good balance, and the world isn’t all black. Musically they are very talented. I can’t nail their sound down to any single “it sounds like” example, but you can take some of the fans’ suggestions as examples. No, it would be best if you listened to Bright Black and then told me what London Plane sounds like to you.
I look forward to hearing what others hear. No two people hear a song the same way; we all have unique perceptions. I enjoyed this album, perhaps not a ten, but it is a good album.
“BIG STIR RECORDS and SPYGENIUS are delighted to announce the June 24 release of JOBBERNOWL – a brand new album from the celebrated Canterbury, England masters of literate psych-infected pop rock – on CD and all digital platforms.”
That gem of a quote is the opening salvo in the press release for a delightful new album that I have been thoroughly enjoying. The band’s name is Spygenius, which sounds like something from a James Bond movie. The album’s name is Jobbernowl, which sounds like something from Through The Looking Glass. Bruno Pontecorvo has been called a spy genius, two words. The band merges the words into one, Spygenius. Jabberwocky is a nonsense poem penned by Lewis Carroll, which is very close to the name of this album, Jobbernowl.
Needless to say, I was hooked by the combination of the band’s name and the album title. I must confess that I prefer “The Walrus and the Carpenter” when it comes to nonsense poems. My dad used to recite one stanza from it that I now have on my office wall.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
All of this preamble brings us to a few observations about the album.
# 1. What is a Jobbernowl?
There are 195 synonyms for Jobbernowl in the dictionary, which can be summed up as a blockhead. A blockhead and a jobbernowl are nice ways to call a person a stupid idiot.
#2. What is Spygenius?
Spygenius is a singer, guitarist and chief songwriter named Peter Watts.
Spygenius is Matt Byrne laying down the smooth keyboards for our listening pleasure.
Spygenius is a drummer Alan Cannings, and bassist, Ruth Rogers. These two keep everything on time.
I would be remiss, not to mention the cover art; Champniss. Cover art is one reason I like having the physical copy; in this case, it’s a CD. I want to be able to peruse the art and literature that gets lost in streaming media. I don’t know who Champniss is, but it is some trippy art reminiscent of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.
#3. I got lost on some rabbit trails while doing research for this blog. I went from Jobbernowl to Jabberwocky, a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll about the killing of a creature named “the Jabberwocky.” The poem was in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass.
#4. Then I took a left turn and listened to the band Ambrosia and their excellent self-titled album from 1975. The album opens with the song “Nice, Nice, Very Nice,” a poem by Kurt Vonnnegut Jr. that Ambrosia set to music. However, the link to this album, Jobbernowl, is the third song on side two. Yes, I am listening on a slab of vinyl, so there are two sides to play. That song is “Mama Frog,” which contains a narration of the poem Jabberwocky from ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ byLewis Carroll.
#5. Can we get back to the topic, please? I will make no promises but here is an effort. I have listened to this album several times, and I kept asking myself what was connecting the neural dots that lit up every time I heard this album. I finally made the connection today. Sort of, maybe, I think. I listened to the album Seconds of Pleasure by the band Rockpile. Rockpile significantly influenced the new wave and pub rock scene in the late 70s and early 80s. They technically only released one album, but they have a considerable legacy. I won’t get too lost on this rabbit trail but suffice to say that when I listen to Jobbernowl, I can hear echoes of Rockpile and their all-star cast, as well as a few others from that era. Names like Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Ian Gomm, Elvis Costello, Brinsley Schwarz, and the list goes. Suffice to say that I consider it a compliment of the highest order that Jobbernowl sound similar to these musicians.
#6. Jobbernwl does not have your typical love songs, either lost or found. They have wise words that touch on many themes, from epistemology to nonsense. I have included a few examples below, the song’s names and quotes from the band cut and pasted in. I won’t put all the notes and quotes up here.
I Dig Your New Robes, Pierre!
“The “Robes, Pierre” thing is just punning on the name Robespierre.” Spygenius’ P.
SkyPie, Century 21
“is about actively deciding not to believe in someorotherbigidea, just because believing in something is sort of emotionally easier than admitting to yourself (and the world!) that you simply don’t know. And after all, Socrates said that all he knew was that he knew nothing, so I’m in reasonably good company here… and the use of anachronistic heptalk (and a bit of Cockney rhyming slang!) is a sort of poke at political nostalgia… that idea crops up more strongly later…”
“very, very British; it ended more like a mashup between Motown, Kirsty MacColl and Ringo Starr. The whole song is based around the short descending bass line in the bridges, which is a bit of nonsense that came to me one day whilst goofing about on Matthew’s guitar. I really wanted to turn it into something, and this is what it became.”
“…lots of books referenced here… and in the next song too… books I never got to discuss with my lovely friend who died…”
Foucault Swings Like a Pendulum Do
“Just a bit of nonsense to close the record, a gag tune based on a dreadful threeway pun… or possibly a labyrinthine series of misdirections intended to expose the futility of seeking absolute truth and the processes of sensemaking we go through to fill in the gaps when we don’t actually know… in effect it’s about conspiracy theories, I suppose…! …nods here to the Bonzos and the Tiger Lillies, and also a little bit to the Jazz Butcher and Stump… ah, bless ’em all…”
I am listening to Jobbernowl as I write this, and I cannot help but hear the influence of the new wave and the British pub rock scene. Spygenius are genius’ when it comes to making good music, including lyrics that keep me listening, if for no other reason than to try and understand what they are singing about. It’s not just the lyrics that draw me into their circle of influence; the musicianship is top drawer with Spygenius. These guys know how to mix good vocals with potent music.
I think that will suffice for my meandering rabbit trails. I will wind it all up and put a little note on that says, “Open on June 24, sit back in your comfy chair with a beverage of choice at hand, set the volume at a moderate level, and peruse the album artwork while you listen to this contender for the best album of 2022.
I took the month of May off and didn’t do any music reviews during that time, with one exception, Parabola West and their album, Stars Will Light The Way. I had begun that review in April and worked on it for five days in May before posting it. Apart from that one blog, I did many other things to keep my life moving forward and enjoyable. I didn’t stop listening to music, reading about it, or going to live events. Read on to find out what I did to fill my days during May. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqB2UXmMZHs
May 9 found us, Valerie, Joel and myself, listening to James Taylor & His All-Star Band with special guest Jackson Browne live and in person, thanks to seats shared by very dear friends/family who couldn’t make the show. This was a special night because it isn’t often that all three of us attend a concert together. I have to admit that I entered the arena with low expectations. I mused that both of these gentlemen are getting on in years, and I hadn’t listened to any new content from them since Sweet Baby James was Running On Empty. I was ecstatic from the moment Jackson Browne started his set until the encore finished and the house lights went on. These guys and their bands blew my expectations out of the arena. It was an impressive bunch of A-list musicians in their bands; I googled it. Jackson Browne as an opener, can you imagine that? His name was at the top of the tour poster back in the day. I don’t see him as an opening act, more of a complementary artist who shared the bill with James Taylor. They also shared a few songs as they played together. Jackson Browne played a set of new music with enough hits to keep the senior citizens’ attention focused on the show. James Taylor was bouncing around the stage, dancing with the band as he spun music that spanned his career and plenty of songs he had a hand in writing. The music was fabulous, and the set design and integration were impressive. Jackson Brown had good set lighting and splash boards, and it was a good layout but not extravagant. James Taylor had an outstanding amount of stage lighting, splash boars, video feeds and practical effects. A highlight of the show was the two of them singing Running on Empty and a graphic of a highway on the back screen. Good stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and left the stadium with a new respect for Jackson Browne and James Taylor.
I’m still ploughing through “C” in my album listening adventure. Carman, Some-O-Dat. Carman has talent, but I find that he sounds too glib, leaning closer to a novelty act than a serious musician. A good voice and a cleanly produced album all the same.
The Carpenter’s, Singles 1974-1978. Hummable tunes crafted for the top ten market, not my thing but there is no denying they were very good at what they were doing.
So, now we enter into some flashback listening, starting with Wilf Carter singing Jimmie Rogers and a K-tel with 24 of Wilf’s songs. I grew up listening to this music, my Dad sang some of these songs, and we listened to CFCW, where we heard more in this vein. And it is a rich vein, Wilf Carter may not resonate with people these days, but I still enjoy listening to him. There is no shortage of Wilf Carter music, with 500 songs and 40 LPs to his credit. Wilf Carter is significant to modern music history but is most likely a stranger to the majority of people listening to music nowadays.
We have the Carter family following closely on the heels of good old Wilf Carter. Our library has an extensive quantity of The Carter Family, and I pulled out the first album with a bit of dread thinking about overdosing on Carter albums. That heaviness was short-lived and what started as a burden soon became a most enjoyable couple of days as I relished the deep catalogue we have. I confess that I did not listen to every album; there are many crossover songs, so I skipped some of the albums. Much like Wilf Carter, I suspect The Carter Family would evade most current playlists, which is a shame because The Carter Family were very influential; people should know the forces that shaped what they listen to today.
It is a short walk from The Carter Family to the Cash Family. Johnny Cash married June, the daughter of Maybelle Carter, one of the original Carter family members. I can’t remember not listening to Johnny Cash. I don’t have a bottomless supply of him on vinyl, but I have a good cross section of his career, and it was a good career. Few musicians command the respect that Johnny Cash does. During his career, he touched many genres of music and closed out his career with a flourish. To conclude the Carter/Cash segment, there is a single album by Rosanne Cash, the daughter of Johnny Cash from a previous marriage. Since it was first released, the album Kings Record Shop has been a go-to listen for me.
Resuming our listening in the letter C, we have Jim Croce. He was an icon in his short life and made some excellent ear candy—a storyteller in the best sense of that genre. On the night of my high school grad I ended up at a guys apartment and we listened to this album, seared into my brain permanently.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds took longer to listen to than an average record. I kept going back and listening to it again and again. That was especially true on the album No More Shall We Part, a deserted island record for me. I think a lot of my attraction to this album is the references to his addiction and subsequent recovery. Nick Cave is also a good storyteller, but his stories are often more challenging to understand but worth the effort of trying nonetheless.
In the brave new world of streaming music, I found The Devon Lamar Organ Trio, Cold As Weiss. I played that a few times and will probably listen to it a few more. Yves Jarvis was a new find for me, and I heard a couple of his recordings. Local boy makes good, St. Arnaud and his album, The Cost of Living, was a good listen and getting to see him live again sealed the deal. Othered Vol. 1 was good for several listens.
I’ll close out my music from May with an event that was a bucket list highlight. We flew to Vancouver to see mewithoutYou in concert, and it was worth the trip. mewithoutYou is a band that we came close to seeing twice, and for one reason or another, we missed, so when they announced their final concert series, we had to get on board with that. We have their entire catalogue in one music format or another, and some of them show up in more than one format. Seeing them live was a great experience; they are top-notch entertainers who know how to hold an audience in rapt. Aaron Weiss, the lead singer, has a unique phrasing between spoken word singing and something close to a growl or an emotional cry out. You have to hear it to understand it. The whole band were consummate musicians, and it made for an enjoyable evening in Vancouver. As a bonus we were able to visit with some family while in town.
So, there we have it. From James Taylor to mewithoutYou, May was an excellent month for music. I didn’t do any blogs during the month to keep my focus on my personal playlists, which was fun. I listened to a lot of good music. Now I return to WeatheredMusic with a fresh perspective and a clean palate for the summer listening season.
Parabola West is the name of a band that I am currently enjoying the musical offerings thereof. Apple Music lists Parabola West as traditional Celtic, but I take that with a bit of Celtic sea salt tossed over my shoulder. There are elements of traditional Celtic, but Parabola West add a twist of their own to that. The press sheet says there is a blend electronica and folk. The music has been called folktronic, Celtic, Nordic folk and electronica.
Throw all those genre words away and listen to the damn music for crying aloud. What I hear is beautiful music. I could stop right there, add no more explanation, and feel that I have described the music well. Beautiful music, yeah, that fits just right.
The beautiful music we hear is pulled, pushed and teased in from various sources, refined, blended and finally coalescing as Stars Will Light The Way. The new musical offering from Parabola West, the artistic persona of singer and songwriter Amy Tucker West, a nomadic free spirit artist who started her journey in Springfield, Massachusetts. As an aside, I am particularly fond of the song Massachusetts by the Bee Gees.
Amy Tucker West began songwriting on piano as a teenager, and, at age 21, she was recruited into the London-based trip-hop band Dreamfield. With two critically acclaimed releases to their credit. Take Me With You was released in 1999, and Christopher’s Dream in 2002. Dreamfield dissolved in 2003.
After Dreamfield, Amy Tucker West relocated to New Zealand, taking a 10-year break from music to work in IT and engineering recruitment. That career shift doesn’t surprise me; music and numbers complement each other beautifully.
Amy Tucker West returned to her musical quest in 2013 under the moniker Parabola West. Living off-grid in an eco-home up a misty mountain near Raglan, New Zealand, she crafted her debut, Did You Hear? EP in 2014, followed by her Purity of Weakness EP in 2017 and now Stars Will Light The Way. Her music is entirely self and fan-funded as a 100% independent artist with no label affiliation. I’ve got to respect that.
But wait, it gets better! It took Parabola West five years to craft the 13 tracks into the album Stars Will Light The Way. Five Years is also a great song from the discography of David Bowie. Parabola West has some significant touchstones.
“This album has been collecting inside of me for a long time and across a lot of different emotions. I didn’t realize it as I was writing the songs, but there is a theme that emerges about the night sky and trying to find your way in the dark,”. says Amy Tucker West.
Amy Tucker West has previously teased us with the tracks No One Can Get Me Here, Calling Your Name, World of Ours, and Hannah. Hannah is an ethereal tale of the thin veil between the physical and spiritual worlds, heightened by the use of the medieval hurdy-gurdy and the haunting Swedish folk instrument Nyckelharpa.
The ‘Stars Will Light the Way‘ LP is out now on CD or digitally everywhere, including Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp.
A deluxe CD package with a 48-page hardcover fantasy book of lyrics and images is also available, limited to 100 copies. A fantastic team of creatives transforms the exclusive CD package into a different character for each song. It is available exclusively through the artist’s Paraboland store. https://shop.parabolawest.com/pages/about
Vol. 1, I appreciate the optimism that there will be Vol. 2. The album is from the musical pairing of Henry Austin Lannan and Emily Palen. Through Specimen Box, Lannan’s collaborative music project with Larry Boothroyd (Jello Biafra and GSM, Victim’s Family, Triclops!), Henry Austin Lannan and Emily Palen met by chance. Upon hearing one of Austin’s demos, Larry introduced him to Emily, who created a vocal composition that led to this fruitful collaboration based on songs written amid the 2020 lockdown.
After recording numerous demos at Austin’s home studio, they eventually recorded this long-player at El Studio in San Francisco with Phil Becker (drummer of Triclops!, Terry Gross, Pins of Light and Lower Forty-Eight) serving as producer and engineer.
The album opens with a gentle synth washing over birds sweetly singing that lasts for 22 seconds, and then a drum marches over the birds and eventually displaces them. That transitions into track two, Planets on the Rise, a melodic evolution away from the birds. A heavily distorted guitar moves the piece into a more metal than a pop song at about the middle of the song. We are primed for the Journey to the Edge by the time Planets on the Rise ends, which settles the album into the heavier metal zone that feels right for Othered.
Lyrically the band leans towards living in fear of Big Brother and conspiracy by the government, big pharma and conventional journalism. Covid has been a massive catalyst for music and the arts. Othered have not been immune to the opportunity to get on the Covid bandwagon. When they get on they charge head-on at full throttle.
“‘Othered Vol. 1‘ was born out of sheer necessity to create amidst a complete disruption to normality as a result of the 2020 pandemic and lockdowns. Lyrically, the album is a call for independent thought, soul maintenance and critical discernment in a time when a war on human consciousness is being waged.”
“This album was a synchronistic opportunity for me to dive into myself as a vocalist and also to bring a voice to the traumatic experience everyone was plunged into. As we traversed the mind-bending manipulation of the last two years, the lyrics and melodies of Othered served as a channel to express views that were challenging to many to hear. Many of us who have always questioned what our government tells us have been afraid to speak up for fear of life-altering consequences. I do not pretend to know the core facts of the story we are playing out now; however, there is longstanding and irrefutable evidence that these false authority figures have never cared about us. I maintain that it is critical that we be able to question and think for ourselves,” says Emily Palen.
“When we are being attacked so viciously for doing so, it is a horrible red flag. Austin Lannan gave me his unlimited blessing to explore my own ideas uncensored, and I am very grateful for that landscape. My hope is that this music is both a clarion call to others who have felt alone during this time, a fortifying song for those who are on the front lines of consciousness evolution and a reminder to those who have fallen victim to mass engineered manipulation tactics, to come home to who they truly are. Our true nature is to care for each other and celebrate and support our vast differences. Our strength is in our diversity, not in aligning to one single thought sent down upon us from above”.
“2020 was a fucked up year. A profound sense of isolation permeated daily life along with rampant fear and a consistent general feeling of unease. The sounds, words and tone of this record are both inspired by those negative emotions and an attempt to counter the despair and hopelessness many of us felt throughout the year,” says Henry Austin Landan.
While the album’s music, primarily heavy rock and lyrical content, may not be everyone’s cup of tea, this is a good album when all is considered. “Our true nature is to care for each other and celebrate and support our vast differences. Our strength is in our diversity..” says Emily Palen; I think that is an excellent way to listen to this album. When I listened to the album with that agenda, celebrating and supporting our diversity, I gained a new and deeper appreciation for what Othered has offered us through the medium of music on Vol. 1
As a closing remark, I will add that this is one of those albums that gets better with age and repeated plays. I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to Vol. 1, but I can tell you that I enjoy it more with each listen, which is what I am listening to as I write this. Othered Vol. 1 is destined to be a stranded on a deserted island album. Good stuff.
I look forward to Othered Vol. 2.
‘Othered Vol. 1‘ is now available digitally and on gold-coloured vinyl in a limited edition of 150 copies, pressed with a heavy-weight gloss stock jacket and black card stock insert printed in silver and gold ink. The album can be ordered directly from the artist via Bandcamp.
I’m a sucker for a good story song, so I was happy with what I have been listening to over the last few days. I have been streaming Weird by the band Friendmaker. They have a new EP out on House of Strange Vinyl with three tracks, Weird, Leaky Mick and Vinny P The Talker and You, Me And Everything Else.
Weird is the second single from their forthcoming debut album.
You, Me And Everything Else was released earlier this year to warm reviews.
Friendmaker, from Carrickmacross, Irish: Carraig Mhachaire Rois, meaning ‘rock of the wooded plain,’ is a five-piece band fronted by singer, songwriter, and guitar player and producer David Marron Marron (vocals.) Joining David Marron are Maolíosa McMahon (vocals and keys), Paul Finn (guitar and vocals, Paul Markey (bass) and Fintan Marron (drums.)
The accompanying video takes its cues from the artwork of the De Stijl movement. Like the works of Mondrian and Van Doesburg, the video attempts to distill its subject matter to the very most uncomplicated form. The minimalistic primary colours of DeStijl are gone. Refined further to a monochromatic palette that basks in its absurdity. Fragmented surrealism unfolds to the song’s rhythmic patterns attempting to smother the viewer in what could and should be a straightforward performance video. A suffocating truncation of half shots and obscured movements creates any perceptual discomfort.
It seems appropriate that Friendmaker makes rock music on a wooded plain, Carrickmacross. I’m not sure how to fit the wooded plain into this blog, but give me enough time, and I am sure one will come to me. Speaking on the new release ‘Weird’, songwriter David Marron says, “Lyrically, the song searches for meaning in a recurring dream, examining the semi-consciousness experienced between waking and sleeping, specifically the changeover between abstraction and lucidity and asks why the events of a dream often stay with us beyond slumber, dictating our conscious mood as if rooted in reality? Do we pay enough attention to the foreshadowing presented in our recurring dreams? And can we afford to ignore a subconscious that consistently throws up a repeated storyline?”
After Marron’s previous band, Sanzkrit, ground to a halt, Marron found himself trying to fill a void by playing guitar in a few bands DJing, doing graphic design for bands and running an Arts Festival. Even though he was busy in creative fields, he felt he was still ignoring a significant and essential part of himself. He notes, “Music was solely personal therapy for dealing with difficulty. It wasn’t something I really felt like sharing at that time.”
I am grateful that Marron came to a place and time where he was ready to deal with the difficulties. What came out of that experience is this collection of three songs that wet my appetite for more deeply personal pieces in the upcoming full-length album. It will undoubtedly be equally tricky, but I surmise it will be similarly exciting and listenable.
Weird was released on April 21st via the band’s imprint House of Strange Vinyl and will be available everywhere digitally, including Bandcamp.
Rodney Cromwell (the nom de plume Adam Cresswell) was founding member of indie-folktronica band Saloon (who had four entries in John Peel’s Festive 50 & recorded three Peel Sessions) and also one half of acclaimed electronic duo Arthur & Martha,
‘Opus Three’ was conceived as a love-letter to a lost synthesizer – the Moog Opus Three. At its heart, the song is a simple dance number. A full-fat 120bpm beat, layered with a chunky Moog Opus 3 synth line, is overlaid with percussion and the primitive buzzing tones of a 1960’s pocket Stylophone. Inspired by the haunting and surreal novel ‘Ice’ by Anna Kavan, the song is about two lovers on the brink of apocalypse, separated by distance, lost in time, trying to find positivity in a world where there is little. “Don’t let it be, catastrophe” repeats the chorus, trying to conjure optimism from somewhere.
Leading the maxi single is a 12” extended dance mix from ‘Memory Box’ album producer Richard Bennett under his Roman Angelos moniker. The track is extended and pumped up – with the synth bass line pushed to the forefront, the track is as ready for your daily workout as it is ready for the dancefloor. The extended mix had its radio premiere on BBC Radio 6 Music thanks to Gideon Coe.
The next remix is from Dublin synthpop artist Circuit3, who brings an 80’s spin to the track, inspired by the darker end of the musical spectrum inhabited classic 80’s artists such as Yazoo, Depeche Mode and early Human League.
The final remix is a radical re-imagining of the song by the latest signing to the Happy Robots label, brothers Dan and Jacob Mayfield, a.k.a. Field Glass, who re-shape the track as a glorious ambient number, with wheezing organs, twinkling arpeggios and crystalline synths.
The final track on the single,‘Perception Management’is an atmospheric dystopian synth instrumental that might be described as ‘post-truth pop’, sitting sonically somewhere between Pye Corner Audio and early New Order B-sides.