..said Winston Churchill, in fact this is what he actually said: ”Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.” Some of this month’s artists subscribe to his still profound words, consciously or unconsciously. They have stuck with their art, in the face of adversity, if common sense, if not good sense, told them it was time to quit and leave the stage to someone else. Those “someone elses” are also represented in today’s list. Let’s start with perhaps the least fortunate of this month’s artists, Nerina Pallot.
Her debut album was pulled before it was released, she lost her recording contract after an episode on a children’s show where she was accidentally pushed off a couch and became the butt of a number of jokes. Although reviewers have mostly loved her, the audience hasn’t exactly embraced her. On her new album, The Sound and the Fury she turns protest singer three decades after it was fashionable, but hopefully time will prove her right. It might just be fashionable to sing about more profound things than falling in love.
Not that there is something wrong with falling in love, far from it. Lauren Housley proves the point. Her new album, Sweet Surrender, offers a number of nice love songs, charmingly performed in her edgy country style with an equally edgy voice. Housley has been compared to Joss Stone, Eva Cassidy and Amy Winehouse, quite unfair for all four, if you ask me. Her songs may not be distinct enough to be in that elite category, but I enjoyed the album and have shared five songs with you.
Staying in the romantic corner for a while, let’s listen to duelling guitars from virtuosos James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg, born on different sides of the Atlantic but definitely coming together on the beautiful album Ambsace, their second to date. The album is filled with both old and new songs, with both Duke Ellington and The Smiths represented.
Diane Coffee takes me back to the airy pop of the sixtees, bringing back images and sounds from the Sgt. Pepper era. Coffee is a side project for Shaun Fleming of Foxygen. Fleming has also lent his voice to a number of Disney characters, so that should explain why he sounds as much as a girl. Everybody’s a Good Dog offers bubblegummy pop, but done with style and sophistication and with the upmost respect for the artists who inspired him.
Moving up a few decades to the eighties and to Darwin Deez, reminding me of old favourites Stephen Bishop and Squeeze (see below). This is naughty and unpredictable pop music, ditching chorus and verse when he feels like it, bringing in strange beats, riffs and entertaining lyrics to make it even greater to listen to Double Down.
Unpredictable is a good description of our next artist, Ben Folds, the North Carolinian who last month released So There. This pop album offers much more than pop (and the pop is exquisitely good), ending with a full piano concerto reminiscent of George Gershwin’s rhapsodies, that Folds performs himself together with the Nashville Symphony. It isn’t as good as Gershwin, but what is? I love this album, and I do hope, although we may be among the few on the planet listening to So There, that Ben Folds sticks with it like Churchill suggested, because this is not only good, it is great.
Richard Hawley is out with a new album, which is quite an event for an avid Hawley fan like me. I was a bit disappointed last time he presented a new album, but this time, with Hollow Meadows, I am back being a happy man again. If I believed in reincarnation, which I certainly don’t, I would have suspected Roy Orbison was involved in putting Richard Hawley together. The same baritone voice, the same pain as well as soothing in the voice, but Hawley is still his own man. His songwriting and his guitar skills add to his genius.
Which leaves us with four performing acts who refuse to give in. One I have already mentioned, good old Squeeze, the band that was destined to take over from the Beatles and to a certain degree did for some of us. But again the comparison is unfair for both. Their new album, From the Cradle to the Grave, is really a soundtrack album to Going to Sea in a Seave, a memoir series from British broadcaster Danny Baker, but it does feel like a real collection, a real LP. The abupt chord changes, the energy, the great tunes, the sunny charm of Difford and Tilbrook, it is all there. I fell immortal listening to new Squeeze tracks in 2015!
And talking about immortality, a new solo album is out this month from a man who is the living proof of man’s indestructability. Keith Richards of Rolling Stones fame should never have been around recording Crosseyed Heart. What he hasn’t exposed his body to has not yet been invented; still there is a lazy energy in everything he does, including this album. I saw him live with the Stones last year, and although he is a bit more stationary than his pal Mick, he didn’t exactly look like he would drift back to a nursing home room after the show. Crosseyed Heart is not full of Jagger-energy either, and a bit backwards looking than modern, but I like it considerably better than Bill Wyman’s album that I exposed you to a few months ago.
He is called the father of British Blues, but great grandfather would be a more appropriate title. John Mayall has just released an album at the age of 82, called Find a Way to Care. And he is not talking about elderly care. I dare blues artists in this day and age making the guitars sing and the piano roll like him. The album has a number of old blues songs, but still feels fresh and new. Never give in.
I presented you with tracks from Pink Floyd’s new album some months back. Now David Gilmour has gone into the studio alone and recorded a considerably better album than Pink Floyd’s The Endless River. Rattle That Lock is as accessible as Pink Floyd at their best, great pop songs with strong melodies, some of these reminiscent of tracks from a musical. His solo guitar trademark is printed all over the album, and his vocals are mixed all the way to the front, successful producer moves, both of them. Floyd aficionados may find the album too middle-of-the-road. To me this album is taking me back to highly loved Richard Wright’s solo albums in the 70s and other fabulous solo projects from the Floyd boys. Like The four Beatles they were sometimes brilliant on their own. Not always, but sometimes.
Mew, Villagers, Van Morrison, Oh Land, Denai Moore, The Leisure Society, Daniel Kvammen, Marina and the Diamonds, Death Cab for Cutie, The Lilac Time, Anneli Drecker, Pokey LaFarge, Bassistry and Bill Fay are now leaving the list. Hope they have given you pleasure and joy.
I will be back with two lists in December: the last refuelling of the Petter Wallace list this year, then a Best of ’15 list. In the meantime, enjoy the 67 new tracks!