When a band reforms after over 20 years I think they have a tough challenge. There’s a certain amount of fan expectation of nostalgic recreation and some critical ears looking for something relevant. It’s a hard job to pull off and so I think any band in that position can only do one thing – what they enjoy. It is inevitable that The Modern Age will be compared to Sleeper’s previous three albums. Their second album, 1996’s The it Girl, is one of my favourite albums ever although I discovered it after Sleeper had split in 1998. Their last, 1997’s Pleased to Meet You, and its singles didn’t reach the same chart heights as the first two but I actually think it’s a great album and demands more ear time if you haven’t listened to it.
I have been over-exciting myself for the past year waiting for their return to the recording studio to be completed and my excitement has not been in vain. Everything I love about Sleeper is here. As a fan I know I am predisposed with a level of enjoyment but no longer are our tastes dictated by a 5 year microcosm of musical trend. People are more than ever entrenched in music of different era’s and although new sounds emerge some music just sounds good, and if it might be reminiscent of a particular style or era then so what?
So some will say Sleeper are just doing what they did in the 90’s, but what they did in the 90’s was really great and The Modern Age is a great collection of songs that get better with every listen however “fresh” you may or may not think it sounds. The pacing drums, catchy guitar riffs and keyboard hooks are irresistible. For me the lyrics have always been the most interesting part of Sleepers music and Louise Wener’s breathy vocals deliver the crafted lyrics wonderfully. Its a great album that gets better with every listen, and even if you don’t remember Sleeper the first time round The Modern Age is worth checking out, and you can find it here.
Standout track: Car Into The Sea
Another legendary live event from Banquet Records saw Tom Walker basking in the glow of his number one debut album, What A Time To Be Alive. I wouldn’t have normally picked up his album but as I checked out the gig on the Banquet website I thought “Why not?”. I admit it didn’t immediately grab me on first listen but his songs allow him to stretch both high and low, being equally engaging to listen to and more so live. He was clearly thrilled with the albums reception and to be playing in London. He worked through his debut with real energy, his voice so much more powerful as you might expect from a live performance. His slightly growly delivery resonates with every note and clearly he writes and performs from the heart. Leave A Light on blistered with emotion and one of the things I like about live performances is when the guitars kick in more than on record, and Tom Walker has a few to play with! I hope Tom enjoyed his first live outing in London because we certainly did.
Check out What A Time To be Alive here
I haven’t got hold of a Kylie album for a long time despite being a bit of a fan (we refer to her as Kylie…Lovely Kylie… in our house!). It’s almost like when Ultimate Kylie came out in 2004 what else did I need? Getting tickets for Kylies upcoming tour as a birthday pressie is a real treat as I have never seen her live, and I also got the extra-track Deluxe edition of Golden, a nice little hardback book containing the CD. Mainly recorded in Nashville the tracks have been given a country twang but Kylie retains her pop princess crown throughout. Tracks like Radio On really show how Kylie can carry the mellower songs, but it’s the dancier tracks where she continues to uplift and get you smiling. There are occasions when you feel the “twang” may have been overdone a bit but the songs are well written and it makes for a great album to listen to in the sunshine!
Standout track: Raining Glitter
With the charts continuing to be awash with electronica, dance and rnb (although there’s nothing wrong with any of those) you might be wondering if there was still any good live music out there. Well if you have any doubts then get yourself along to one of Abbie McCarthy‘s Good Karma Club nights in London to catch bands that you’ve probably never heard of (yet!) and more to the point are really great. Going to see bands you have never heard (assuming you don’t Spotify them) means you never know what you are going to get, but last Thursday what we got was three brilliant live sets.
Being on first Island Club played to an undeservedly small crowd. I’m loving the 80’s influenced keyboard and drum sound that some bands have at the moment. I just instantly enjoyed their music which doesn’t often happen. Although all three bands were great I think Island Club took pole position on the night. Great songs, great music. Check out their headline tour dates here.
Calva Louise up next provided a loud and lively set very reminiscent of a late 70’s/early 80’s Punk band. For three people they make a lot of noise and lead singer Jess’s frenetic guitar work was brilliant. It’s this sort of band that makes live sets their own. heir energy was immense and I would have loved to have seen more from them. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more chances to see them again.
Easy Life provided yet another different style, showing how great a night Abbie puts together. A kind of soul/jazz Brit hip hop sound that sounded so great. If the talented front man switching between keys, guitar, and trumpet wasn’t enough the rest of the band slid between instruments with equal ease. I never thought I would see an electronic clarinet (?) again either!! Check out their Creature Habits tour dates here.
I’ve been enjoying all three bands on Spotify over the weekend and check out all three bands music here, here and here., but as is quite often the case nothing is as good as seeing them live so if you can catch any of them on their own tours then you should. Also do yourself a favour and check out Abbie’s upcoming Good Karma Club nights here. Well worth a trip to the East End!
Bowie is a genius. His music is brilliant. Most people acknowledge that already so i’m not doing a review, but as a casual-ish Bowie fan I have been on the lookout for a greatest hits compilation for a while and finally got around to picking one up. However I suffered from a typical problem with picking a collection, particularly when the artist has such an extensive back catalogue. There is always one or two tracks that are inexplicably missing. The 2 Disc version of Legacy is pretty comprehensive but for me the stark omission is Suffragette City. I guess they had to cull something but it is a brilliant track and as the track listing runs chronologically it was easy to slip in from another collection. Although I don’t mind new mixes when it comes to a greatest hits I want original version’s and although Life On Mars is good alternative version I just had to replace it with the original. Now I have the ultimate Bowie collection and it sounds great! Which greatest hits have you had to “upgrade”?
Standout track : Oh, come on…..seriously, you weren’t really expecting me to pick one?
Well OK not exactly, but as blimmin’ well close as you are going to get this side of 2014 when our Kate last played Hammersmith. Cloudbusting have been on my radar for a while but I finally got to see them last week at the Half Moon in Putney. You are never quite sure what you are going to get with a tribute band but I am very pleased to say that they did NOT disappoint! Mandy Watson nails the vocals without sounding forced. Her passion for Kate’s music is clear and performed songs from 1979’s The Kick Inside to 2005’s Aerial. Being at one of Kate’s early 1970’s venues with the KT Bush Band made it extra special (although I’m pretty sure the stage has moved since I was last there in the 90’s!). If you are a Kate fan then Cloudbusting are a must see, and if you are even luckier you may get to see Del Palmer perform with them!
Last night my first visit to the Garage‘s upstairs venue was to see Scott Helman. Another punt into the unknown as I hadn’t heard any of his music before but his frenetic strumming on his 3/4 size acoustic quickly won me over. Backed by an excellent percussionist he took us through most of his last two albums of folk-ish rock n roll (but thoroughly pop) songs. His vocals had a slightly husky quality that may have been exaggerated by the DayQuil-sedated cold. An early equipment malfunction meant the sound op had to switch to mono, with Scott exclaiming “whatever that is!”. I hope he was joking, otherwise it’s another realisation of my growing age gap with today’s upcoming musicians! It’s always a good sign when you enjoy an artist that you have no previous experience of, so definitely worth checking out. Find his music by clicking here.