It’s been a very busy year for us, consequently, updates here have been somewhat lacking. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t been enjoying things though, far from it. Here are some of the albums that have provided particular enjoyment for me, over the second half of this year.
This is such a bittersweet triumph. When news emerged, that the laconic, former Silver Jews man, David Berman was going to be releasing new music there was a sense of genuine anticipation. The lyrical genius and provider of classic deadpan vocal delivery matched with killer tunes, was ready to put a 10 year musical silence behind him.
The new project was entitled Purple Mountains and the self-titled album did not disappoint. Caustic, bleakly honest lyrics, beautifully display the torments that Berman has been going through. The hope was, that this brilliant collection of songs would be a cathartic release, the start of new era of creativity and maybe even, joy, in what has obviously been a challenging life.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be the case. Although the record is a huge triumph and interviews indicated that Berman was optimistic about the future, his reality was sadly different. Plans were made to tour the record, but it wasn’t to be.
We found ourselves in Barcelona, in the unlikely situation of waiting to go on The Boaty, an incredible music festival on a cruise ship sailing from Barcelona to Sardinia and back. In our hotel were listened to this enchanting but sometimes bleak record again and again, whilst reading on twitter that most of the bands we were excited about saying were stranded in England, with a good chance that they may not reach the boat. The record sustained us, it’s bleak, skewed belligerent optimism providing the perfect soundtrack.
Then the news broke that David Berman had died, seemingly at his own hand. Such tragic news. The clues were there, the lyrics made it clear that life was not good. The hope that the love the record had already produced, would sustain him, was dashed away.
If you are coming to the record without knowing the back story, it’s simply a great record. If you know the details, it could put you off buying it, it shouldn’t. The record sparkles with beautifully observed takes on his condition, many peoples condition. It’s funny, smart and overflows with great melodies. It’s record that can inspire a warm glow on the coldest of days.
This video, has a gently meandering couple of minutes at the start before the song kicks in. When it does, those words strike with a punch that can you leave confused as to why anyone was surprised by the ending to this particular story.
One of the pleasures of 2019 has the been the lovely surprise of hearing songs by The Lovely Basement coming out of the radio on BBC6 Music. It shouldn’t be a surprise as these songs rightly stand next to anyone’s but, their just our mates, they play in pubs to small crowds, they could easily be overlooked, but maybe this terrific record is going to change things.
Musically it’s midpoint Velvets meets Country, with a tad of indie jangle thrown into the mix. Lead singer Katie Scaife has one of those “my new favourite singer” voices. Understated yet, poignant it’s a gem. The perfect voice to deliver some deliciously constructed tunes. The lyrics are witty, clever and often with a great story to tell.
These songs quickly worm their way in to your head with their great melodies and hooks. The live sound of the band is enhanced of this record by the addition of local Cornet king Harry Furniss on a few tracks. This expands the sound nicely, just keeping on your toes with his inventive playing. Oh, and there is some beautiful pedal steel on the record from the mysterious “Buns”.
The album really deserves to be heard and it’s pleasing to see that it’s picked up some excellent reviews over the last few weeks. I’ve been trying to pick out a few “favourite tracks” to mention, I can’t though, I love the whole record and the wonderful moods that it creates.
One of our most played records of this year, and probably next year as well.
Another album that may have slipped under the radar. Carwyn Ellis is one of those unassuming musicians that crop up all over the place, subtly making thing better for whoever he plays with. He also makes some lovely records of his own, this one being the one that I’ve enjoyed the most.
The record is a beautifully connection between Wales and Brazil. Initially recorded in Rio de Janeiro then tidied up in Caernarfon and London, with musician from all of those nations, it’s a truly international record. The vocals are predominantly in Welsh, with the occasional bit of Portuguese thrown in as well. The tunes have a wonderfully light touch, lovely melodies fill the album. It’s important to state that this isn’t a pastiche of those 60’s and 70’s records that many of associate with Brazilian music. The record moves gracefully through many styles, even edging towards krautrock on tracks like Gwên and Ymosodwyr Anweledig.
The overall feeling though is undoubtedly more Rio than Risca or the Rhine. It exudes warmth and positivity, so although summer may have long gone, this is a perfect record to warm you, on these cold winter days.