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Monday, August 4, 2014

July Talk --- Guns + Ammunition

Canadian band July Talk has released a stellar debut EP.

This EP is everything thoughtful music should be --- aware of its past, future oriented and full of balanced gestures, small and large. The lyrics are beyond wonderful. Full of spare, careful images that move beyond the iconic into the surreal.

Guitar driven, based around a pair of singers --- one male with a voice like Tom Waits or a mid stream Iggy Pop, one female who reminds me, god above, of a punkish Linda Thompson --- the band has the dynamics of the Pixies or the Dream Syndicate and the biting melodic swoop of, god above again, Cole Porter.

There are no gimmicks and not a moment wasted on July Talk's debut.

5/5 Stars

Available in all the usual places.

Follow them on Twitter @julytalk


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Peter Murphy Remastered --- Love Hysteria

Mr. Murphy has been remastering his back catalog.

While I have been a PM listener since Bahaus days, I was a bit leery of the intention behind such remastering, as well as the potential of the product itself. Murphy's solo work is often a mixed bag, self indulgence flecked with shiny pop brilliance, outright duds and spot on bits of loveliness. To be fair, he is never dull, and that voice could make voter rolls sound interesting --- if enigmatic.

The remastering of Love Hysteria is more than worth a listen or a buy. All the songs have a new sparkle and a shift of layers that let new areas of interest shine through. In the reworkings Murphy actually down plays the voice to gorgeous advantage. Interestingly, the only song that doesn't improve is Indigo Eyes, the only real hit from the album, which I've always found interesting if a bit pallid.

In addition to the remix/remodel, a generous selection of demos are included. These are of interest because they show much about Murphy's songwriting choices, and highlight his confidence and direction as an artist.

Murphy never fails to intrigue, even if he sometimes fails to please, but the remastering of Love Hysteria, no doubt operating from a hard won artistic maturity, consistently does both.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spaces --- Josh Savage

The only frustrating aspect of Josh Savage's output is that there is not more of it. As a songwriter he is judicious and sparing in his choices and lush in his effects.  He is just as careful about what he releases, and this concern for quality means that the output is, so far, low. I suspect that this young artist will be around for quite some time though, and that eventually the oeuvre will be large and respectable.

At the moment we have the new EP, Spaces, which consists of five tracks dealing with four songs, only three of which are unreleased --- Your Lips (which was proceeded by a truly lovely video), Lost in Paris and Horoscope. There are also a rerelease of Mountains in Hurricanes from Josh's preceding EP, and a live version of Your Lips.

Spaces is a bit harder edged than Mountains in Hurricanes, and more confident about adding new elements to the arrangements. There are no false steps and quite a few moments when the music does something unexpected in very pleading ways. For my taste, Lost in Paris is the standout track, conveying complexity and melancholy with seeming simplicity.

Josh has great control of his voice, and as a lyricist grows and grows. I look forward to watching him on his journey.

5/5 Stars. A must buy.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hilliat Fields --- The Waiting

The output of some musicians is impossible to assign to genre, and I admit a predilection for such music. The Waiting more than satisfies this predilection, and does so with sumptuous beauty, exemplary craft and the utmost attention to detail.

Where to begin? The Waiting is sonically adventurous and structurally audacious, creating cathedral spaces whose explorations have a sacramental aspect. While as a whole the songs are genuine parts of a larger gestalt, each is also a world in itself. From the repeated and varied piano figure in the first and eponymous track, to the carefully deployed percussive elements and the voice like washes of pads, the music is about what all very good to great music should be about --- elements without individual meaning melded to create meaning. And like good poetry, this music is also about leaving space for the listeners and what they bring. It is infinitely suggestive.

The music is technically intriguing. On a first listen it would seem that there are many parts coming together. In truth, a few simple parts are thoughtfully contrived to create something that is complex and beautiful without being at all busy. This is not only admirable but, in my opinion, a hallmark of art with a capital A. In The Waiting sounds meet and meld, creating complex harmonies and chromatic sprays. Hilliat Fields takes the time to let each piece develop fully.

To end where I began: The Waiting is a beautiful work that can sit alongside the best serious music of the last 100 years, be it by Ligetti, Stockhausen or Rorem. 5/5 Stars. Available at all major digital retailers. Select songs by Hilliat Fields can be heard on .Sound Cloud.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fabricstate --- Hannah Peel

Fabricstate, a four song EP by Hannah Peel released 24 February, has the musical, lyrical and conceptual weight of a much longer work. While Peel has tended to work through smaller musical gestures, and doesn't eschew them here, the songs on Fabricstate are large enough to be called majestic.

Starting relatively quietly with Silk Road, the EP creates a mood that is introspective, universal, hopeful and "large". The fat, confident synth line on the last, and title track of the EP is a good marker for the way this cycle of songs builds. The lyrics are sharp and evocative. The sonic palette diverse, yet integrated and controlled, confidently mixing acoustic and electronic elements, and the arrangements absolutely elegant. As a singer, Peel manages to please while also amazing the listener.

If you already own the Peel album and Ep's,  add this one to your collection. If you have yet to have had the pleasure of encountering this artist, start with Fabricstate and work your way back. I have no doubt that we will be given the delightful opportunity to work forward through new work by Hannah Peel.

4.5/5 Stars.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Maggie and Martin --- Union

If you only have a few dollars (pounds, euros) and you want to give yourself a fulsome treat, spend them on Union by Maggie and Martin.

After a few listens I was in adjectival overdrive --- sumptuous, elegant, haunting, wise, earthy, ethereal, subtle, direct --- the songs are very easy to like but hard to characterize. Anchored by Maggie's pleasantly worn and amazingly evocative voice, the songs are timeless. While there are nods to numerous genres and influences, Maggie and Martin create and occupy their own musical universe. That is a difficult trick to manage, and that they do so effortlessly is amazing. They end by sounding only like themself. Congratulations.

My first exposure to Maggie and Martin was through polari, an online magazine of culture seen through a queer lense. Polari has commissioned various artists to cover songs by renowned LBGT artists. In this case, I was intrigued by the duo's highly original reading of Pet Shop Boys You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk; stripped of gloss and it's mid tempo euro disco veneer, the PSB song is revealed as a grainy and very moving dissection of a relationship gone static and stale. On Union, Maggie and Martin give Roxy Music's More Than This a similar treatment, making it say new things and making it their own.

Standout tracks are the bravura opening track, Night of a Thousand Stars, Union and Wu at Heart. But really, all the songs are outstanding.

Press on the group seems spotty and their online presence is low. I hope that this means that Maggie and Martin are busy working on new material. I would certainly stand on line to hear it.

5/5 Stars.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


If you know of an artist who would benefit from a bit of exposure, or if you are such yourself, I'm always happy for suggestions. I only dwell on the positive, so if I don't like material I don't write about it (which doesn't mean that everything I might say will be positive).

I love music, and I love discovering and sharing. Don't be shy. Throw your homework onto the fire.