Singers going solo, good or bad? Well this month 3 of my favourites have gone and released side projects to their main, day job. The other question will be ‘Is this it for xxxxx?’ Well in all three cases I certainly hope not. Before all of that though, there is the small matter of my Album of the Month.
Album of the Month – British Sea Power Sea of Brass
One of the most under-rated bands in the country have done it again by producing something quite special. Taking some of their standard classics and re-working them with a hint of brass is really something very special and an absolute joy to listen to. Working with the award winning Foden’s Band they have taken a number of tracks from their back catalogue and changed them, subtly rather than something bombastic but that subtlety really makes a world of difference, from the joy of Waving Flags to the utterly brilliant The Great Skua this is a treat to the ears for all. Ever better still is the rather brilliant live recording that not only captures the brilliance of the music but it really showcases how wonderful this band are.
As I mentioned earlier 3 of my favourite bands have seen their singer go and work elsewhere. Firstly Dave Gahan has brought out his second effort away from Depeche Mode. With his backing band Soulsavers he has brought us Angels & Ghosts. In a nutshell it sounds like Depeche Mode sings the blues. Opening with the excellent Shine which gives you that air of Mode familiarity but something feels different, as blues guitar battles with a gospel chorus. On All of This and Nothing you could well be back with the original band, but there are elements of Manchester’s Doves thrown in for good measure. It even has a superb ballad on it in Lately.
The announcement of a solo work from the singer of my favourite band is something that gets me very excited. Needless to say then I was very excited by the anticipation of Courting the Squall from the really quite brilliant Guy Garvey. The teaser Angela’s Eyes indicates something that is a huge step away from the work of elbow, all ‘70s keyboard work and a rhythm that certainly has not come from the Seldom Seen Kid. However we are back onto familiar territory with the title track, this could be a full on elbow song at its best. From start to finish this is a great piece of work, lyrically clever (as you’d expect) and just the right mix between the very familiar and, perhaps, hints at where the boys will go when they next bring their music to the world. It peaks with the rally quite wonderful Unwind, a song that will warm the cockles of any elbow fans hearts.
A while ago Matt Berlinger from the National did some work with `Ramona Falls’ Brett Knopf. Apparently it wasn’t much cop and that stayed there until they have unearthed the work and released Return to the Moon under the band name El Vy. The opening track highlights that this could be the album of the year, it certainly is very catchy, light, frothy in the right places and a thoroughly joyous chorus. And like messrs Gahan and Garvey there is another here for fans to recognise and enjoy whilst enough here that will keep the work separate from the band. In this case never more evident than on the next track I’m the Man to Be. Throughout the album there are hints of classic indie music, hints of the smiths, the doors or even the libertines can be heard throughout. But most notable here is that Matt’s voice doesn’t really differ regardless what you are listening too. Which, seeing as i love the National, is a good thing.
One singer that deserves the success that many above have been afforded is John Grant, unusual to look at but utterly brilliant to hear, he is back with his latest Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Another album, almost orchestral in sound, where he showcases his superb songcraftm distinctive voice and cleverly worded lyrics. The title track sounds like it was written in about 1976. And it feels on Snug Slacks that he has stolen something from Sparks. It doesn’t stop there, elements of Meatloaf come through on Guess How I Know. But it is his collaboration with Tracey Thorn where this album truly triumphs. Disappointing is a tremendous record and worth listening to alone, even if you struggle with the rest of the record.
In 2013 Swim Deep joined their fellow brummies Peace in being at the forefront of the current baggy sound. Their debut was a superb record and featured in my favourites of that year. Whilst the follow up Mothers doesn’t quite hit those peaks it still is great fun. These are bands who clearly have listened to the Stone Roses growing up and are doing their best to recreate the sound. Worth a listen to but I would suggest finding their last record and giving that a go.
Mercury Rev have been around for a very long time. Their latest release The Light in You is 7 years overdue and certainly rattles along at an enjoyable pace. From festival filler such as You’ve Gone With so Little For So Long or joyous pop in Are You Ready? really shows them off. Lets hope its not 7 years till their next release.
Its almost Christmas so its time for some compilations and this month there are 2 well worth a listen and both offer so much but at almost opposite ends of the scale. Firstly there is the latest in a long line of Erasure greatest hits compilations Always features most of the singles that formed their back catalogue, most of the best stuff is still firmly in the 1980’s and early ‘90s but how much fun they prove, Sometimes, Victim of Love, A Little Respect and I Love to Hate you are all triumphant singalong wonders. The latter stuff isn’t quite so good but there will always be their Abba covers to fall back on.
Meanwhile, weighing in a 6 discs is Central Belters from Mogwai. You couldn’t get much further from Erasure if you tried, with well over 3 hours of music that can only be played loudly they have put together some of their best stuff from their back catalogue and its utterly brilliant. Heavy on the instrumental it neatly compliments my choice of album of the month. Both this an British Sea Power are essential listening in 2015 in the same way they’ve been for some time now.