Tag Archives: CD

The Just Joans : The Private Memoirs and Confessions of the Just Joans, LP released January 2020

A welcome and wistful mix of melancholy and fun on the new album from Glasgow indie song-crafters The Just Joans, maintaining the high standard since their formation in 2005. Before you even listen to the songs the titles tell a story…

1. Hey Ho, Let’s Not Go
A burst of brass is used to counteract the ennui as we become more reluctant to make the effort to have a night out when ‘…I’d rather get a takeaway…I’d rather get an early night….’. There is still a regret in the playout, ‘…when we were young we took the bus to town…’

2. Who Does Susan Think She Is? This one rolls along nicely and as in many of the tracks it is a wistful tale of life moving on and the inevitable leavings behind. Great piano solo!

3. Wee Guys (Bobby’s Got A Punctured Lung) A pre-released single; an instrumentally upbeat and succinct commentary on some of the probable mundane reasons for knife crime.

4. Dear Diary, I Died Again Today Katie Pope delivers a touching vocal performance, backed by a string quartet and featuring the memorable couplet ‘…a comment so inept, Frank Spencer would have wept…’

5. My Undying Love For You Is Beginning To Die Definitely one of many highlight of the album, lo-fi synth and percussion for David Pope’s sad reminiscence ‘….once upon a time long gone you held me in your thrall…but now I find I’m less inclined to bother much at all….’. It sort of resolves with the twist of ‘…perhaps that’s why you left two years ago with your new beau…’

6. When Nietzsche Calls A sombre mood pervades this one, but the affecting vocal and distant strings still wins you over.

7. The Older I Get, The More I Don’t Know Opening with ‘…the past has passed me…..the future’s ghastly….’ the song sounds more optimistic than it should be as the driving rhythm section pushes it along.

8. The One I Loathe The Least Lyrically, musically and in the vocal performances this is another big highlight. All together now! ‘….when everyone’s subhuman scum…it’s hard to find some peace…thank heavens I found you…the one I loathe the least…’

9. Another Doomed Relationship
Sounding like an early poppy Depeche Mode single the synths are back for this mini-masterpiece, the narrator knowing that even as ‘…we dream of true love…but the outcome’s the same…..’ that still ‘…. we cling on by our fingertips…’ and ultimately ‘…it’s the hope that kills you…’

10. Holiday Acknowledging the musical influence of Blur in the lyric for this song, this one really hits the sad reality ‘…two weeks in the sun but then you come back and it’s all the same…and you’ve got twelve months to count down again…’

11. People I Once Knew
The strange compulsion to retread the past that started with website ‘FriendsReunited’ set to a sinister clock ticking beat ‘….I’m quite content with my life and how it went…so, why do they call to me? that strange menagerie…’

12. Like Yesterday Again A dark coda to the album; lyrically sparse with lush but lo-fi orchestration ‘…in this room there’s no view…all there is are memories of you…’. A thoughtful ending to a brilliant album.

https://www.thejustjoans.co.uk/
http://www.fikarecordings.com
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2016/01/25/just-lovely-split-ep-released-january-2016/

Various Artists : The Sounds Your Dreams Make, LP released November 2019

Subtitled ‘An Everlasting Compilation’, here is a selection of artists from the Cambridge-based record label…

1. The Jims – The A to Z of You and Me A leisurely instrumental bookend, featuring acoustic guitar, bass and xylophone with a hint of percussion. A dissonant piano interrupts creatively towards the end.
2. Victorian Tin – Silver and Perfume This one is strangely addictive, with shades of 80s cult popsters Japan as it features roving bass slidings and a world-weary vocal.
3. Bug Teeth – Emily A double note on acoustic guitar provides the rhythym and melodic structure of the song as the ethereal vocals enchant for this heavenly two minutes.
4. Karalinga – The Old Man Laid-back semi-psychedelia driven along by an amiable saxophone line.
5. Ivan Campo – Magic A short pastoral interlude. Woodwind and acoustics weave a spell featuring shows and shamen with sinister undertones.
6. Lizard Brain – Am I Just A Dub I haven’t heard one of these for a while, an echong, sparse percussion and bass infused remix of an existing track – this one from the band’s cornucopia album ‘Stray’.
7. A J Jackson – World In A Wheel This is a wandering, speculative track that always returns to the strong hookline. The relaxed vocal delivery and circularity of the song reminds me of 80s pop minor-masterpiece ‘Kiss Me’ by Stephen Duffy.
8. Stenbit – Vanished From Earth Electronic meanderings certainly conjure up a cosmic journey. Meteoric pulsing interjections and a distant phone ringing(?) make it all a bit unsettling.
9. The New Fools – Oh Steven, Why? A fine waltzing Smiths-style song carries a coruscating lyric that acknowledges the impact made by the band before describing the fall from grace of their lead singer.
10. Smoothy – Bad Television A chiming, lingering riff gives shape to the plaintive vocal and sentiments in this thoughtful piece. The bass burrows around under the stately beat as the guitar gradually takes over.
11. Ollie Jackson – Let’s Be Clear One of my favourite tracks on the compilation, a rolling acoustic guitar beguiles under a quietly despairing vocal and affecting melody.
12. Kammahav – I’m Hers, She’s Gone Lovelorn and a bit confused about the loss of a relationship, the narrator sums up the ambiguity over a reassuring acoustic rock background.
13. Captain Crylaugh (featuring Bug Teeth) – We Two Boys Together Clinging Acoustic and electronic loops merge into rewarding strata as Bug Teeth adds the spectral vocal magic again.
14. Schaum – This Film There is plenty of time for the ideas in this carefully constructed track to develop. It could accompany a long aerial view of a city at night in a dystopian black and white movie.

https://www.facebook.com/everlastingrecords/
https://thenewfools.bandcamp.com/album/various-artists-the-sound-your-dreams-make

Psychic Lemon : Freak Mammal, LP released 8th November 2019

An excellent new long-player from Cambridge experimenters Psychic Lemon arrives on the back of their coruscating live album released in May this year.

Dedicated to the late Stephen Hawking,‘Freak Mammal’ is five tracks of force-field intensity, beginning with the statement of intent that is ‘Dark Matter’ – astronomers say that this is the stuff that makes up most of the Universe and much of that substance seems to be present in this enormous track.
It all seems so calm at first as a soothing electro-keyboard repeats over the steadily building drums until the arrival of a sky-soaring guitar. One of the great attributes of an electric guitar is that it can be made to sound like anything but a guitar and this track proves that, especially at high volume.
Seven and a half minutes in and the music starts to dismantle itself into component parts; the drum pattern breaks into a rush of cymbals underneath a guitar solo of improbably sustained notes until the whole mighty machine crashes in again for the rest of the song.

The slower ‘Seeds Of Tranquility’ is a more contemplative thirteen minutes, driven by the bass octave stretching and muted complex percussion. Perhaps inspired by the unchanging melancholy of the lunar surface it feels timeless and far away.
Then ‘Afrotropic Bomb’ steps back up a gear, this time a distorted keyboard and bass riff is the musical chassis that the song is built on (a song without words; like all of this and their last LP Psychic Lemon have dispensed with the vocals and evolved the psychedelic experience into its purest form).

The ambiguously titled ‘Free Electron Collective’ is a relentless drum pattern workout, in some ways the most immediate track on the album and would certainly be a highlight of their live show.

The Velvet Underground reference in the title of ‘White Light’ gives a clue to the hammerhead pounding of this finale but I don’t know if the VU ever quite mustered this energy level on their recorded instrumental digressions. Previewed on Psychic Lemon’s ‘Live at the Smokehouse’ album this track shows how adept the Cambridge three-piece are at recreating not just the sound but the whole all-consuming onslaught of their live performances.

http://psychiclemon.co.uk/

Derecho : Beneath A Stained Glass Sky, LP released November 2019

A track by track review of the new album ‘Beneath A Stained Glass Sky’ from four-piece rock band Derecho (a tornado that moves in a straight line)….

1. You Stole My Heart Starting with an accelerating drum call this opening salvo is a classic rocker. Singer and composer Jo Ash makes her presence felt with a powerful vocal, as the guitar slices in with organ backing and the big chorus is never too far away.

2. Red Ivy A gentle piano verse gives way to the surprising and dynamic chorus and it is all a bit dark (‘…so seduce me with your poison…’). I particularly like the instrumental interludes where the band have their chances to shine but Jo’s soaring voice is the centrepiece of the track.

3. Numb To Shame A bold statement of intent in the first few bars turns into a taut, twisting, mid-paced three minutes.

4. Fight or Flight Conjuring up the atmosphere of 80s metalpop classic ‘Run To The Hills’, this one moves quickly to its killer chorus. A waterfall of keyboard provides a brief soothing interlude.

5. Blue Heart An effective swampy blues re-working of a piano waltz from Jo Ash’s solo album (reviewed at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/10/14/jo-ash-constellations-lp-released-october-2018/)

6. Pushing Me Away The band really go for it on this one; a mixture of stealthy verse framed by sinister, echoing keys and building up into a soaring refrain as the drums steal the show.

7. Oxygen A dark lyric ‘…suffocate my mind…strip my lungs of air…‘ contrasts with a backing that rolls along deceptively uptempo and optimistic.

8. Nowhere Land (Into The Black Hole) Inspired by the film Interstellar this is one of the longest tracks on the album, a slow-burning, anthemic piece. Jo’s clear voice sails along in the upper registers as the music veers into prog-rock stylings, with a marching synthesised string section eventually unleashing the dark hordes of Mordor.

9. Lunar Light
The lyric combines poetic imagery with the idea that the Moon can influence a personality ‘….under the light, lunar light…….is this really you? madden my senses, make me pretend I’m safe….’ This song has a retro 70s glam-rock feel to it, the combination of piano/guitar riff with the theatricality of the words works a treat.

10. Mountains A bold, broad finishing track, giving plenty of time to set the mood with a recurring figure dominated by the bass end of the piano. Jo’s voice goes through a range of distortion, to an emotive chorus and back again.
Another showcase too for the other band members and the production; making key contributions to this excellent rock album.

(Album launch show is at the Blue Moon, Cambridge on Saturday 16th November…)

http://www.derecho.band/#home-1-section

Chris Fox : From The Shadows, LP released November 2019

A track by track review of ‘From The Shadows’, the third album from Cambridge contemporary folkster Chris Fox.

1. Bird Of Paradise A likeable and catchy song that Chris has been performing live for a while, a relaxing bluegrassy piece featuring contrasting backing vocals and a subtly cool acoustic ensemble driven by upright bass.

2. Tinseltown This current single is a darkly humerous murder ballad about how a US summer job went awry, ending with the consequences from ‘….paid me a couple of grand to bury a body in the sand…the coyote howled and the owl did screech….’. The narrative motors along smoothly, always returning to the inevitable chorus line ‘….now I’m running from the law…I’m running like I never run before…’ . It is a morality tale to relish.

3. You Helped me through A looser, free-form song with just a gently percussive acoustic guitar and a confiding, emotive vocal reminiscent of the late John Martyn. Excellent.

4. Little Brown Sparrow Inspired by an encounter with a homeless woman, pondering the future and the choices involved on both sides. A sparse guitar figure weaves its spell in the background.

5. Annabelle A song of love and loss, with a strong tune and the words cleverly blending multiple exes into the title character, also deconstructing aspects of the creative process into the lyric and featuring some neat couplets ‘…I wrote a hundred songs about you…did you write one about me?…’.The bass stretches and yearn across the words, as it does on the next track too.

6. I’m in Love with you A highlight of the album, with smooth rhythm from the brushed drums and a violin with a counter-melody giving depth to this lovelorn coffee-themed tale. The harmony vocal from Zoe Wren is just right and the atmosphere created reminds me of the whispering folk/blues of J.J. Cale.

7. The Motivator Blues A change to electric guitar (played by album producer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Wilde) for this 12-bar blues, a burst of positivity and statement of intent.

8. Castaway With the 2000 movie as the inspiration for this gently scored acoustic piece, it extends the metaphor into deeper reflections, with fine voice work from Chris and Zoe.

9. Just a Fool From a slow thoughtful start this expands into a folk anthem as the acoustic chords continue to build. With the topic of unrequited love the lyrics are sombre ‘…I’m just a fool left out in the rain, still I pine for you…‘, but there is still an element of moving on despite this.

10. Who Really Loves you Timely pondering of the genuineness of friends and supporters and who really counts. It is built around a catchy hookline and leaves you thinking as it drifts away through the ether accompanied by a sharp guitar solo.

With 42 shows so far in 2019, Chris Fox is a consummate live performer, either as a solo guitarist or with like-minded musicians. This is a collection of songs that deserve an even wider audience…

https://www.chrisfoxmusic.org/

Psychic Lemon : Live at the Smokehouse, LP released May 2019

Recorded at The Smokehouse, Ipswich’s venue for the discerning listener and pursuer of truth and authenticity in music, here is a new live album from Cambridge-based Psychic Lemon.
This consists of three tracks from their second album ‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay’ (see review below) and two new tunes. The band have dispensed with vocals on this live performance, distilling their psychedelic onslaught into its purest form.
This is clear from the opening ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’; as the guitar effects go crazy in the first minute like an ending to the track instead of the beginning, but fear not! the drums and bass lay down their groove and propel the sound along at a mighty pace for all of its ten minutes.

Straight into ‘Satori Disko’, a more mellow-ish, languid offering with a looping guitar figure and some extravagant cymbal smashes as the bass spans the octaves. There is a conventional guitar solo too to tempt the palate. Favourite track of mine ‘Hey Droog’ is driven by a pounding drum pattern with some dark choral sounds adding an atmosphere of doom. Like all of their live performances, the music seems to take on a life of its own, the band merely servants of the greater cause.

New track ‘Jonny Marvel at the Milky Way’ is a pastoral interlude, like an instrumental from mid-period Pink Floyd the keyboard provides the texture for grand guitar experimentation over an unhurried rhythm backing. As the atmospheric colours fade away, the finale bursts in; ‘White Light’ is a frenetic work-out – a high energy end to an immersive and impressive performance with the music firmly embedded in the walls of this excellent venue.

http://www.psychiclemon.co.uk/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/01/01/psychic-lemon-frequency-rhythm-distortion-delay-cd-released-january-2018/

Jeremy Tuplin : Pink Mirror, LP released 5 April 2019

A track by track review of the excellent new album from Jeremy Tuplin, the follow-up to his debut ‘I Dreamt I Was An Astronaut’ from 2017. With his distinctive voice and gift for words he has produced a heady concoction of attractive music and rewarding and complex lyrics.

1. Can We Be Strangers On this scene-setting opening track a gentle guitar welcomes you into his inverted lyrical world, ‘….secret, don’t tell me your secret, the purpose of a secret is that it is meant to remain a secret…’. Gradually the semi-orchestral sounds threaten to overwhelm the words.

2. Bad Lover Brilliant poppy up-tempo groove, driven by an addictive guitar figure, this was the preview single for this collection. Definitely a highlight, watch the video too with the band artfully succumbing to boredom during the mimed performance.

3. Just Cos Ur Handsome Another jaunty song, full of regret and wordplay, ‘…Too easily confused is the state…Of two hearts that are bound forever….In leather clad daydreams what do you even mean…’. The rhymes and assonance go across and through the lyric lines, as the guitar sparkles over the sympathetic rhythm track.

4. Gaia A paean of praise to planet Earth despite human shortcomings; featuring a series of great rhymes with the goddess’s name ‘…Gaia, D’you ever wish that cosmic rock had just slipped by ya….Guess it’s a risk of being the world’s most frequent flyer…’
The goddess herself makes a vocal appearance part way through. Divine!

5. Pandora’s Box An epic personalisation of the Ancient Greek myth, mixed in with nightmarish imagery and relationship paranoia. The central musical freeform section is unlike anything else on this collection before order and hope is restored. (although of course ‘…they say it’s the hope that kills you…’)

6. Pink Mirror Thoughtful but inscrutable lyrics on this one as the melody and instrumentation carry it along optimistically.

7. The Machine A bluesy, late night reflection powered by a compulsive bass beat and razor sharp drums. Personal social commentary ‘…Then I think of everything I do, think, feel or see…It barely contributes to the economy…’ as the narrator becomes lost in modern stresses.

8. Love’s Penitentiary This twisted love song opens with the winning couplet ‘….There goes my baby out the door again…She’s carrying my heart in a handbag made of my own skin…’ pulling you in to a lo-fi masterpiece, one of my favourites on the album.

9. Frankenstein Dark and moody, this slow burner features a ringing, roaming guitar and haunting words ‘…You’re like the internet personified but kept under wraps….Concealing the monsters you create ….’

10. Break Up
Neat and sparse musically with honest and touching words. ‘…This is it we’ve reached the final threshold….Robotic people with smart telephones….’. The imagery of modern relationships is convincingly tinged with disappointment.

11. Humans This brilliant cinematic song is the centrepiece of the album for me; a winner as it is a ‘list song’ featuring a random cast of people to support the key theme ‘….Humans, I love you….Despite my seemingly best intentions not to….’ The leisurely six minutes is bookended by gentle acoustic guitar and the names range in prominence from ‘…Buddha, Blondie, Dostoevsky…’ to footballer Peter Crouch and the surprising pairing of ‘…George Bush, Kate Bush…’. Impressive indeed.

12. The Beast A quiet end to the LP; an ode to escape and realisation ‘…I’ve been lying to myself, living through a telephone…For once I’m gonna listen to my mother and wear that warm coat she bought me…..’ With just guitar arpeggios it is one of the loveliest melodies on the album reminiscent of a hidden gem on an Edwyn Collins solo disc.

http://www.jeremytuplin.com/
http://www.trappedanimal.com/