Another great work of New Borns for you to get your ears around. Joses Ganzales returns with an album that has received great acclaim and why think so. Sean Carey is one portion of Bon Iver (drummer) and following on from his brilliant album release of last year delivers another majestic EP and proves his abiliy to capture emotion and atmosphere. On the other end of the spectrum is the fourth album from Brookyln trio Grooms, an edgy and punkish album that will se them take a slighty new direction. In Tall Buildings is an album of interesting folk and electronic mixes written by one man, Erik Hall who is based in Chicago. It is an album of many suprises and had our new writer from France enjoying the moment.
Album Title_ Vestiges and Claws
Label_ Imperial Recordings
Genre_ Acoustic, Indie, Folk
Moments Of_ Nick Drake, Devendra Banhart, Elliot Smith
Stand Out_ Let It Carry You, Leaf Off/The Cave
Vestiges and Claws is album number three, coming eight years after it’s predecessor In Our Nature, for Swedish singer-songwriter José Gonzáles. Despite this, José has not been quiet on the music front; his indie band Junip has released two albums in this time followed by extensive world touring. Vestiges and Claws sees José stepping back to his primarily acoustic sound that we all know well, especially for his cover versions of The Knife’s Heartbeat and Massive Attack’s Teardrop. His original work is really allowed to shine through on this effort, displaying another great album of soothing melodies and vocals, and of course, José’s incomparable guitar playing.
Self produced and recorded in his home town of Göteburg, Sweden, this is also José’s first album that really focuses on his own original recordings. Given the standard of his previous original work, it is with no hesitation that this album would be considered as an exemplar release. As mentioned by José in a press release for Vestiges and Claws, the overall sound of this album is considered to be “less minimalistic” – this album sees the addition of extra guitar parts, strings, woodwinds and some basic percussion lines on most of the songs. Each part slides smoothly behind José’s signature guitar work, adding elements and layers of sounds that complement each other and add to the intricacies of each song. We know that his work with Junip has done a great job of showing us his ability to arrange songs for a full band, and to great success. However, it is the simplicity of the tracks the make up Vestiges and Claws that in themselves represent something of beauty.
The lyrical content of the tracks are generally a positive one, an outlook on life, on change, growth, stories and hope. One of the most memorable lines would definitely be the almost gospel-like, uplifting nature of Leaf Off/The Cave, with a soft harmony of overdubbed vocals repeating the line ‘make the light lead you out’. It’s a song the listen to when your hopes may be failing, guaranteed to instil positive vibes. On the flip-side, true emotions spill out over Stories We Build, Stories We Tell, with José getting ‘angered over you….hope they’ll get to you’. In reality, this is the only real example of more powerful feelings, but it’s hard to really envisage them whilst being rounded out with such relaxed guitar lines (and hand claps).
It’s pretty hard to fault José’s overall sound – he’s found something that works well for him, it’s distinctive and unique to his sound. The finger-plucked acoustic guitar, fluid melodies and soothing vocals. Songs like Let It Carry You hark back to a more Junip style sound, with multiple guitar lines and ample percussion. It’s also a more radio friendly song, which reminds you of Your Life, Your Call, one of the band’s more popular songs. Then a slower pace and more minimalistic sound on The Forest are more comparable to his earlier solo work.
In essence, Vestiges and Claws should be accompanied by cruisy days, long trips and warm afternoons (which is surprising given it gets pretty bloody cold in Sweden). José continues to refine his sound and build upon it with each release. Sure, there is nothing particularly innovative to be noted, but the appreciation comes to a solid songwriter whose music is approachable, likeable and confident. It was worth the wait José, and welcome back.
Album Title_ Supermoon EP
Label_ Jagjaguwar Records
Genre_ Ambient Folk
Moments Of_ Coldplay, Porcupine Tree, Paul Simon
Stand Out_ Fire Scene
In this day and age, when anyone with a laptop computer in their loungeroom can create and disseminate a song, Bon Iver drummer Sean Carey, going under his solo title of “S. Carey” (geddit?) has taken advantage of such technology to turn in a new EP of acoustic re-workings of earlier work. Apparently recorded during the super moon period of August 2014, Carey called the EP “a study in scale, space and proximity”. He also called it “beautiful, intimate, potent, personal”. He was right.
In all honesty, all I knew about Sean Carey prior to listening to this EP was that he is primarily the drummer for Wisconsin outfit Bon Iver. All I knew about Bon Iver prior to listening to this EP was that Coldplay’s comeback single last year, “Midnight”, apparently sounded like them. So, here we go.
Indeed, this delicate little offering starts out all pin-drop piano on “Fire Scene”, from Carey’s last full-length album “Range Of Light”. It sums up the entire EP, really. Carey certainly has a yearning, hushed, sincere quality about his voice, and you can probably hear the distant echoes of early (circa “Parachutes” and “Rush Of Blood To The Head”) Coldplay. The chorus shimmers as Carey claims “On and on…all I want is honesty”, and you believe him. Then comes the cryptic breakdown. “Tree has snapped, sparks are flying everywhere, cables burn and lines flare”. If it’s broken, it’s at least beautifully put. Carey’s voice just creeps up into the higher registers towards the finish. A highlight.
The rest of the EP follows a generally similar course. “We Fell” sees a bit of jangly acoustic guitar joining in. There’s also some lovely violin-string picking against the gaps in the guitar work, and it’s all what Coldplay fans would have maybe liked the most recent effort “Ghost Stories” to sound like. Precise. There’s also a nod towards Porcupine Tree boss Steve Wilson’s more reflective moments, too.
The title track is a new composition, with a hint of Thom Yorke vocal style creeping in. It’s no surprise that Carey later attempts to tackle Radiohead’s “Bullet Proof” on the EP. The sustained ending of “Supermoon” is a real treat, while the faltering, hesitant hazy-ness continues through “In The Stream” and the penultimate “Neverending Fountain”. By the end, my brain was also coming up with Paul Simon-esque comparisons. And I felt these ears had to coin a new genre phrase – ambient folk.
Overall, it’s perhaps not the most spectacular thing you’ll hear all year, but certainly far from the worst. Carey even manages a decent take on ”Bullet Proof”, a song that some would consider an undoubtedly untouchable Radiohead classic.
Album Title_ Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair
Label_ Western Vinyl
Moments Of_ Male Bonding, Pavement
Stand Out_ Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair
Changing their name from Muggabears to Grooms in 2009, ‘Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair’ is the indie trio’s fourth and most unique offering thus far. Hailing from Brooklyn, the group draw influence from the likes of Sonic Youth and Pavement to deliver hazy, 90’s guitar pop that simply oozes from the speakers. Experimenting with a more synth driven sound, the combination works well, giving Grooms a refreshing glow in the all too familiar sea of mediocrity.
Just like a groom on that big day, it’s expected that things may come across a little shaky at first, but easily forgiven considering the circumstances. The same can be said for the band Grooms and their maiden voyage into unfamiliar territory – whilst a little unsteady, it can be confidently labelled a success. With long-time bassist Emily Ambruso deciding she could no longer continue with the band due to financial constraints, coupled with the loss of their studio space ‘Death by Audio’, it’s commendable that the album was even completed at all.
The album opens with the whirring guitars and synths of ‘Bed Version’, easing into a breezy instrumental towards the tail end of the song. This reigns true for a lot of ‘Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair’, with songs often ending somewhere different to where they began. It works, but is a little bit uncertain at times as the band finds their feet in this new territory. Standout track ‘Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair’ is where Grooms have nailed this approach. Keeping true to their roots, ethereal synths are seamlessly blended throughout, making the track feel full without being too dense. Comb that through your hair.
Vocally, the album is hit or miss. Most times the voice work is spot on, complimenting the music in both a melodic and contextual sense. Track ‘Doctor M’ is a good example of both, with a good amount of variety in the melody, though a little repetitive lyrically. When you notice that it’s the longest track, you automatically expect the song to be somewhat droney and contain a drawn out instrumental section – no surprises here, but well executed.
I particularly enjoyed the drumming throughout this LP, which is impressive in a release such as this where percussion often takes a back seat to merely maintain a workable beat. Steve Levine is on point here, keeping the drum work thoroughly interesting without going over the top. Learning that Steve starred in the pilot episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ spinoff ‘Better Call Saul’, I became instantly jealous of his ability to drum like a boss and play a skateboarding jerk in a rad TV show.
‘Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair’ represents a comfortable change for Grooms. Focusing on the overall atmosphere has given the album an airy, ethereal tone that suits them well. For a band that have had a somewhat tumultuous time writing this record, you would be forgiven for not noticing it in the final product, even if some minor sections sound a little forced. Refusing to let themselves fade into the droves of like-minded guitar pop bands, this new direction is bold, but remains true to who they are, a feat that’s often be easier said than done. A great album for that lazy Sunday afternoon with a few friends and a few too many sneaky beverages.
Album Title_ Driver
Label_ Western Vinyl
Genre_Indie pop, Folk
Moments Of_ Beck, Elliott Smith
Stand Out_ Exiled, Bawl Cry Wail
Trained as a sound engineer , Erik Hall, alias In Tall Buildings, recorded Driver in his home studio in Chicago (Illinois). His first album (In Tall Buildings, released in 2010) is a collection of gorgeous indi pop songs. Driver plays out on the same basis, but this time adding a good electronic sound to it. A more personal album, more successful, more profound who surprises with its hypnotic pieces.
It took him 4 years, 4 years during which In Tall Buildings have carefully concocted, produced, recorded this second album. He took his time, time to build and find the best combination possible to mix up folk melodies with electronic sounds. Hall is demonstrating all his acquired knowledge, with the patience and precision of a true music lover, to take the listener on a unique musical journey. And it feels just like this. Each sound response is calculated and optimized, every little electronic sounds are perfectly superimposed on an instrumental melody. You can hear that Hall researches his music and creates an atmosphere that emerges and makes for an important part of this album. Hall’s quiet and haunting voice stands in the foreground, treated as an instrument. It finds itself being, at some point, modified, computed, electronized, demonstrating that nothing here has been due to chance.
Blending nostalgia, emotion and rhythm, it is impossible to predict the musical direction taken during pieces before hearing them in full. I’ll Be There Soon, for example, begins as a rock song and then transforms to a folk style. The heavy and loudy battery fades to a small guitar riff for the chorus, from an oppressive atmosphere to a folk atmosphere lighter, reminiscent of some of nicest Beck’s songs I have heard. The surprising Exiled starts as a pop song but quickly turns into a song full of emotion, in a very touching way. Songs such as Cedarpeak and Aloft, both without words, act as interlude in the middle of small delights as Bawl Cry Way, a pop song who make you think of artist such as Eliott Smith, before the arrival of its electronic sounds, adding an extra touch of modernity. Some songs are moving away from the folk pop to approach to expend more on an electronic style, not staying no less warm either.
Despites its play on genre, the album in its entirety remains very pop folk guitar sound and Hall delivers some wonderful trippy sounds that blends acoustic guitar and technology in savoir faire. This is a very quiet and relaxing album, it is an album of thoughtfulness and ambition that will take you on a mind trip throughout its duration. the kind of perfect album that listening into a car ,next to the sea, driving at sunset.