Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Eureka Brown - O Utopia (Digitalia)

I like to think I'm well-balanced enough to accept that music is generally a matter of personal preference.  If someone fails to find something in releases I recommend to them, I can generally greet this with equanimity  Why, then, do I find myself listening to O Utopia and thinking that, if you don't find yourself instantly falling for its charms, there must be something very wrong with you?

If that sounds like Eureka Brown's music has brought out my intolerance demons, that couldn't be further from the truth.  There's an easy charm about this album that, even in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary, astonishingly manages to reassure me that the world is essentially a good place

The reason for this is, I suppose, that the album's upbeat quirkiness manages to take apart and put back together that world in so many pleasing ways you're drawn into something that resembles a far more satisfying place to live.  Sometimes it does this, as in the case of 'Hush Hush', by settling into such a reassuringly lovable groove that the spikily intrusive guitar that comes in at one point soon falls victim to that groove and settle peaceably into it.

Or sometimes the inclination is to throw a whole melee of sounds together that ought to sound like a disparate mess but which somehow creates some kind of wondrous balance between dissonance and harmony.  'The whole caboodle's going down the tubes,' he sings on 'Shebang', following the line with a scratchy mock-fanfare that's part celebratory, part twisted sonic meddling. 

I play 'We're All Gonna Die' in my Dandelion Radio show this month, its calmly enunciated statement on the inevitability of death failing to shake off the album's general feel good vibe even as it consigns us all to dust. 

Somehow, I get the impression that Eureka Brown isn't one to judge you over all this, but I will: you are incomplete without this album.  Get it from the Digitalia bandcamp site here

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Chuck - My Band Is A Computer (Old Money/Audio Antihero)

The perennially wonderful Audio Antihero have introduced a new off-shoot label.  It's called Old Money Records and if what it's going to release is anywhere near as good as this first offering, we're in for a treat.

Old Money's remit is to put out reissues and compilations, with the intention of allowing us to catch up with music from the past that hasn't yet received the attention it deserves.  As someone who constantly self-flagellates due to an inability to give everything that passes through my inbox as much of a hearing as I'd like, this is a pleasing venture in itself.

I don't think anything from Chuck ever did pass through that inbox, which is a shame because I've clearly been missing out on something very special indeed.  Chuck's approach is unmistakeably rooted in that tradition of eastern US songwriters - he's from Massachusetts but now lives in Brooklyn - who have a way of mixing the celebratory and the world-weary in such a way that any dormant paradoxes lying therein are brought kicking and screaming, yet often laughing, into the world.

I detect strains of Jeffrey Lewis and Leonard Cohen but I note neither of those are mentioned as influences in the press release.  Daniel Johnston and
Jonathan Richman are though, and these are just as discernible. Other ears may no doubt find that Chuck is coming from somewhere else entirely, because what he adds to all this is very much his own.  The defiantly bombastic synth-led overture of opener 'Happy New Years Babe' make way for the wistfully introspective 'Oceans' and 'Mary Anne' yet the mesmerising, uplifting musical backdrop, particularly of the latter, continues the defiant mood, which prevails, even as the awkward tiny details of life so brilliantly assemble in Chuck's acute lyrical observations, throughout the collection.

I'm playing 'Pictures' in my Dandelion Radio show this month, another track that marries upbeat instrumentation with reflective lyrics, in this case searching for clues in a personal history that, for Chuck, comes across as somehow both familiar and alien. 

In all, then, a new direction for Audio Antihero, but with a familiar stamp of quality. 'My Band Is A Computer' is available now, as download or limited edition cassette, here

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Mi Mye - The Sympathy Sigh (Philophobia)

Jamie Lockhart, the creative force behind Mi Mye, possesses a lightness of touch in his songwriting that doesn't administer any rough treatment to stop you in your tracks, still less does it grab you by the balls, but that's not to say that within its delicate tapestry it isn't capable of delivering punches.  And stop you in your tracks is what The Sympathy Sigh certainly does.

The punches meted out in The Sympathy Sigh are subtly delivered but carry an emotional impact that stays in the mind long after more visceral approaches have faded into harsh memory  The narrator's static reflections in the archly titled 'I Think Everything's Going To Be Fine' reveal much about the depth you're going to find here, the final, blankly stated title loaded with potential meanings, unfulfilled yet pregnant with possibilities

There's rich variety in these possibilities.  The evocative images of 'Methadone Church' and 'All Fin' rub up against the stark realism of 'Your Handwriting', while there's something almost celebratory in the mood of 'Night City Air'.  This is an album that can peel away layers of your life to reveal the starkness of nature, while offering up perspectives that fluctuate between the troubling and the (almost) comforting.

Probably my favourite track is 'Nightswimming and the Snow', which I'm playing in my Dandelion Radio show this month.  Its lingering fade-in takes us into a narrative that verges on the spoken word as it recounts snowy scenes played out to an REM soundtrack.  Here, not buying a wide-screen TV means a reason to sit closer together.  A foot curled around the back of an ankle is the prelude to an embrace.   

All of which is emblematic of a collection that so unerringly digs beauty out of harsh reality only to reverse the process in a musical heartbeat with a deft lyrical twist.  That said, listening to The Sympathy Sigh can scarcely be called an unsettling experience: rather, its plaintive harmonies and lightly intrusive instrumental strains look set to provide a perfect counterpoint as the dark autumn nights begin to gather.

Best get hold of a copy fast then.  It's available now in vinyl, CD and download from here