Friday, August 26, 2016

Julien Baker Sings Your Favourite Song (Guest Post)

A couple of months ago, guest blogger Joey Baltimore sent me this post about Duran Duran and why he still listens to them 20 years after discovering their debut album for the first time. Now he's back to try and salvage his indie credibility with some words about Memphis singer-songwriter Julien Baker. Over to you, Joe...

No one who loves music likes to answer 'What’s your favourite song?' question, because there are always too many answers, or too many caveats, or it's just impossible to pin down. But still, I find myself having favourite songs for hours, days, or sometimes weeks at a time - where I just keep coming back to one or two tracks over and over again (as of July 29th, 8am-ish, my favourite track is Old Friends by Pinegrove...I'm editing this on August 12th, and I think it's still that, although Ominous Bird by The Furniture is also on heavy rotation currently).

For a long time, Photobooth by Death Cab for Cutie was one of my favourite songs, and the official Death Cab Twitter account recently sent out a link to Julien Baker covering that very track:

Covers are tricky; sometimes they're great, sometimes they're not, and it's almost always the case that if the original was something I really liked then the cover will not impress me. But Julien Baker nailed Photobooth, and now I can't decide which version I like better. Hers was so good, I'm pretty sure I had purchased her album before the end of my second play-through. Risky, but I figured that anyone able to do that could make other good stuff.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Todd Zilla

Oddly enough, A Valley Son (Sparing) was the first Grandaddy song I ever heard. I imagine most people started with something like A.M. 180 (as heard on the 28 Days Later soundtrack) or He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot (the first track on The Sophtware Slump), but not me - I started with this:

It was featured on an fantastic compilation called Fear of Music, which came free with a Broken Social Scene CD that I bought in early 2006.

A Valley Son doesn't exactly come out all guns blazing, but it has a sad, lackadaisical beauty that I gradually warmed to. Eventually, I was moved to delve deeper into Grandaddy's repertoire, and my delving was richly rewarded by the melancholy futuristic brilliance of albums like The Sophtware Slump and Under the Western Freeway

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Farmyard & Library by Pulco

"One of the things we tried to do with the show [Monty Python's Flying Circus] was to try and do something that was so unpredictable that it had no shape and you could never say what the kind of humour was."

- Terry Jones, speaking in 1998

Ash Cooke - better known as Pulco - is an exceptionally prolific artist. Sure, it's been a solid year and a half since his last full-length album, Innovations in the Trade, but judging by his Bandcamp page he's been far from silent during that period, releasing two new EPs, two radio sessions, and an eighteen-track compilation in that time

And now we have Farmyard & Library, a bumper-sized new album that finds the king of Welsh DIY music traversing still stranger sonic territories than those heard on Innovations in the Trade. Cooke makes music the way Monty Python made comedy: constantly striving to defy expectations and do the last thing you'd predict at every turn. As a result, Farmyard & Library is a surreal collage of song; Pulco's music has its foundations in lo-fi, guitar-based indie rock, but Cooke never allows himself to be bound by genre or style. Instead, he uses indie rock structure and instrumentation as a springboard for exploration, throwing in as many surprises as he can along the way.

The sudden shift from 4/4 to 3/4 time in Unleash the Hounds is actually one of the album's tamer left-turns.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See

I got two Okkervil River CDs for Christmas last year: I shared my first impression of Black Sheep Boy in The Album Wall's penultimate post of 2015 but it occurs to me I never really mentioned the other album, 2002's Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See, here on the blog.

I'm not sure why: it's a lovely record. In fact, I think I actually preferred it to Black Sheep Boy at first, although the latter album has grown on me since I wrote that slightly lukewarm First Impressions post.

I first heard Don't Fall in Love on the M4, when Vicky and I were driving back from a post-Christmas visit to her parents' house. Its wistful, slightly folky indie sound felt perfect for that sunny December day, although we were both slightly perturbed when that off-key organ solo in Red came in for the first time. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

10 Questions for Kate Jackson

Until 2008, Kate Jackson was lead singer of The Long Blondes, a band from Sheffield who became something of a cult favourite thanks to such headrush-inducing indie pop gems as Once and Never Again and Giddy Stratospheres. The Blondes released two well-received albums - Someone to Drive You Home and "Couples" - but sadly split in October '08 after guitarist Dorian Cox suffered a stroke.

Jackson left the music scene for a while after that, throwing herself into visual art instead. Earlier this year, however, she came back with a bang: her debut solo album, British Road Movies, was released in May, and it's been very well-received indeed, both by longtime fans of The Long Blondes and by people who only discovered Kate more recently.

The record was made in collaboration with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, but while he certainly left his mark on British Road Movies (see the deliciously Suedey riffs upon which Homeward Bound and 16 Years are built), it's Jackson's songwriting and her instantly-recognisable voice that really make the album so enjoyable. Kate was kind enough to agree to a quick Q&A for The Album Wall - her answers can be found below. Enjoy!

The Album Wall: Congratulations on the new album - it's a really good listen. How have people been responding to British Road Movies thus far?

Kate Jackson: Thanks! I've had such a lovely response to the record. I really couldn't have asked for more considering it's been 8 years since I last released anything with The Long Blondes. The response to the music, the lyrics, and the artwork has been great, and people seem genuinely pleased that I've finally released this album and that I'm back making music.