Artist_ Erlend Oye
Album Title_ Legao
Genre_Reggae, Accoustic, Electric Folk, Alt Country
Moments Of_Kings of Convenience, Fleetwood Mac, Phoenix, Simon & Garfunkel
Stand Out_ Bad Guy Now, Fence Me In, Rainman
Erlend Oye is Norwegian (although lives in Sicily) and like many prolific and very under-rated songwriters from this part of Europe, he is talent bundled into one quirky human being. A musician foremost, you can happily categorise him as a producer, singer, songwriter, frontman and composer. Having formed and fronted The Whitest Boy Alive (sadly no longer) and one part indie folk duo Kings of Convenience, Legao is his 2nd solo album and in true Erlend tradition, is a nice little leap forward (or perhaps to the side) for his impressive catalogue of the most inoffensive and catchy music you are ever likely to hear.
This is a man who can do know wrong in terms of creating comfort music that really should be on every ones summer list of tracks and albums. Whether it is the groove and indie-funk of The Whitest Boy Alive, the beautiful mellow heart felt acoustic sounds of Kings of Convenience or for his more recent electronic solo work. Legao is no different. Here we have an album that is one quarter reggae, one quarter folk, one quarter country and a quarter accoustic, unlike his debut that saw more an electronic influence.
Electronic forms much of Oye’s backbone in his music, whether prominent in his composing or not, much of his writing stems from a groove or a repetitive dance element. Legao brings a twist to the proceedings, gone are the glitches and synth bleeps and loops and in their place a surprising reggae influence, actually quite a substantial one.
Oye teamed up with Hjalmar, a reggae group from Iceland to play the album out and as we dip smoothly into the opening track Fence Me In we get a subtle taste of the reggae influence without losing the quintessential trademark sounds of Oye’s wonderful vocal tones and a few hammond keys thrown in for perfect measure.
Lyrically all the tracks on this album revolve sing of love found and love lost, so no real change there for Oye’s subject matter, however with a reggae soundtrack perfectly layered and not over done to make it sound pastiche, it works very nicely. The band meld their Icelandic Rasta grooves sporadically but neatly through the entire album, Say Goodbye and Whistler all sound the same with their obvious Reggae roots, but tied in with delicate pop songs about loving, loving and more loving don’t sound too tiring.
First single to be taken from the album is Garota, armed with plectrum guitar licks and stuttering trumpets is reminder of all the bits and pieces we love about Kings of Convenience, nothing new here but the ooze of summer nights and lazy days, Oye makes it sound so effortless. It is soulful, instantly catchy and instantly memorable.
Bad Guy Now has all the sounds of an 80’s Fleetwood Mac song with its laid back drums, slide guitar and gentle vocals that make this one my stand out track, helped by what Oye does best, sing out acoustic laden songs with sweet honey dripping harmonies and lyrics of relationships and love gone wrong. Its perfect summer driving music.
The album comes together nicely with Rainman, bringing together all the finest elements of the album, a touch of reggae, some pop and folk, yes, it is riddled with Paul Simon but when does this good, you can call it influence rather than ripping it off. Mr Simon himself would be happy to put his name to such a beautiful track like this.
As Erlend Oye, signs off on yet another completely inoffensive album, it has me ponder, can this man do know wrong. When I say inoffensive, it wouldn’t be right to say this album is ground breaking, a change on the future of modern music or anything of the sorts, rather an album that reminds us that music doesn’t have to be anything more than something that makes us feel good, makes us smile and a nice little reminder that Summer in Australia is on its way. I think I found my summer album to bring a soothing smile on my face.
Album Title_ And Star Power
Genre_ Psychedelic, Indie Rock
Moments Of _ Velvet Underground, Mama’s and the Papa’s
Stand Out_ How Can You Really
Foxygen’s exceedingly quirky duo Jonathan Rado and Sam France have released their new album And Star Power, a buoyant venture into neo – psychedelic terrain and an ambitiously confident addition to an irreverently experimental cannon. Having worked with greats like the Flaming Lips, Foxygen’s most memorable antics parade most notably on display in their live shows – France occasionally opting to ramble in non – sequiturs or just bash himself with the microphone, whichever works at the time. This week I perused their latest and funnily enough, quite fancied what I found.
It’s an interesting phenomenon, the way that trends seem to do complete cycles. Just because something is out of fashion at the moment, doesn’t mean it will stay that way and if you are anything like me, you might just decide its best to keep the item in question, just in case; be it an item of clothing, an old album or those weird platforms you thought were timeless. Some might argue that a classic never goes out of style, I believe I may have been one to champion such an argument at some point, but who determines whether it was better the first or second, potentially third time around? Which brings me to my next point; all these new wave psyche bands are intermittently indulgent, for the most part technically sufficient but namely, diluted versions of their trailblazing forefathers. Is that harsh? I am of the opinion that we are hard pressed to find bands that improve on proverbial genius but for the most part, these bands are very good.
Foxygen makes no apologies for its shameless infatuation with 60’s pop music, all the tropes are there. Their inception is well documented, their debut album in the form of We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, a critically acclaimed realization of their labours. The comparisons were inevitable, most common of course the Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground … I mean, what would notoriously sedate and terminally obliging rock legend Lou Reed have to say about all this anyhow? I will point out though, there is a sense on this album of real abandon, and it topples astride moments of genuine creative gold. In addition, there were fumbling attempts at gold from the outset, a potential cameo from Stevie Nicks and a drumming solo from Paul McCartney not working out.
And Star Power is a massacre in some cases, which makes it all the more intriguing. It’s a double sided 24 track creeper and as I said, the tropes are all there, perhaps its first release capturing my vote How Can You Really owing almost to a Mama’s and the Papa’s/Martha and The Vandella’s type hybrid, melodic hooks and soaring piano interludes all about happy as you could expect from anyone who isn’t heavily medicated. Coulda Been My Love a dreamy, creeping, forlorn ballad of loss whilst Hang is classic Velvet Underground fare for the die hards who are just really reluctant to let go or just believe that they were born in the wrong decade.
OK so, my verdict? Well worth a good listen, although it gets a bit choppy toward the last third of the album in places, probably owing to the fact that Richard Swift took a back seat on production here. But otherwise, melodious confectionary, fit for your Sunday and excellent on repeat at Friday’s work drinks and frankly, California dreaming at some of its finest.
Album Title_ Greylag
Label_ Dead Ocean Records
Genre_ Folk rock
Moments Of_ Tame Impala, Kings of Leon, Fleet Foxes
Stand Out_ Yours to Shake, Another
Portland folk rockers Greylag are a prolific songwriting outfit, professing to the production of a catalogue of tunes that would put Bob Dylan to shame. Despite this, their 2014 self-titled EP is only the second official release for Greylag, a follow up release to 2012’s The Only Way to Kill You. It’s clear that these kids have a bucket load of talent, and the trio’s latest release is a myriad of unique and intriguing tracks that have had certain critics respective pants charmed off.
Having done a bit of background research on the band, I was certainly intrigued to hear their newest release and what unashamedly hipster music blogs like Stereogum and Pitchfork were raving about. Must be said, I wasn’t disappointed by what Greylag have crafted musically. The band don’t reduce themselves to creating awesome tracks, they’re also able to produce music that is incredibly listenable and capable of being enjoyed over and over.
“Yours to Shake” is almost reminiscent of early Kings of Leon circa-Aha Shake Heartbreak (I’m not being confused by the use of the word ‘shake’ twice guys, I promise) – a slow jam building to a climatic and majestic chorus. What makes this particular track great, along with the rest of the album, is the band’s ability to blend and not have each musical texture drown out the other. Importantly the vocal tambre cuts through exceptionally well. Generally, it is abundantly clear that these guys are as good musically as they are songwriters.
“Arms Unknown” is of a completely different ilk, using acoustic guitars to generate a quasi-folk sound. The climax of the tune, with his sweet yet raw vocals soaring over an exceptional driven chorus, is as great as what we encounter on “Yours to Shake”. “Burn On” demonstrates the band’s versatility, stepping back from the guitar-driven folk rock and heading a much purer and gentler form of the genre.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say Greylag are the next in a commendable continuum of prodigious folk rockers like Band of Horses and CSNY.The extraordinary talent is there, without question. Moreover, Greylag are a band that exudes cool – they’re basically the archetypical folk rockers. It would not surprise me if they were the next big thing to hit the music blogosphere and The Jays. Listen to this album – you won’t regret it.