Thursday, 22 January 2015

Latest Discoveries from Spotify

I really wish I could easily share a Spotify playlist. I've started trawling through the 'New Music Tuesday' playlist that they publish every week, and if I find anything of interest, I put it into the 'Good New Music' playlist. I've not been at it for very long, and the playlist is currently just over an hour long.

OK - here's 'East Of Tennessee' by Beta Radio from 'Colony Of Bees', which I have to admit to not having listened to yet (the album). My feel for genres isn't very well defined, but I would liken this to Mumford & Sons - the harmonies are lovely - a bit country, but really well done. The song just ticks along really well.

'Paper Trails' by Darkside from 'Psychic'

I love this. Again - quite a downbeat track - the album (only really listened to once) is something different - mellow, instrumental in many places. I don't know what it is, but there's something about this track that reminds me of 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' without the wah guitar.

The Killing Kind by White Fever from Beating Of Wings

It doesn't look like this has met with much public attention yet (only 178 plays on the Soundcloud site at the time of writing). This is a great tune from what would appear to be a new group with - another with just a solitary EP to their name thus far. Melodic, haunting, catchy, atmospheric. I want to say 'Echo and The Bunnymen' with a female singer,

Why Don't You Save Me? by Kan Wakan from Moving On

Very mellow (another, I know) and stripped back. This reminds me quite a lot of Portishead.

Ooh look - this track is downloadable! DOWNLOAD IT NOW.

When Will We Be Free? by Young Lions from Blue Isla (as yet unreleased)

This song gets going about a minute in - it reminds me of a few things which I can't quite bring to the front of my mind - it is much more upbeat. Maybe its a cross between Temper Trap (Sweet Disposition) and a Doves track, but I can't think which. Any suggestions?

Nowhere To Go by Hurricane Love (sadly all I can find by them at the moment)

What a fantastic track - just give it a listen.

Let Go by Coasts (again these seem to be newcomers with not much out)

Another good song. These lot remind me of Two Door Cinema Club.

That will do for now - there are others, but probably a bit more 'Mainstream' (Belle & Sebastian, Fall Out Boy, Imagine Dragons)

Comments welcome - I'd love to know if anyone else likes these?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

2014 and a few thoughts (Part II)

OK, so where was I? June? Well a couple more mentions for June I suppose.

Firstly, Kasabian - 48:13

There is a very similar story here as with Fanfarlo and Elbow. I'm a big fan of Kasabian, especially their first album. Subsequent albums have struggled to meet the standards it set, but I think that this is the best of the rest to date. However, it is one that I have listened to a good few times, but would struggle to sing you a track from. I love the cello riff on this track.

Secondly, Ian Anderson - Homo Erraticus

What to say here? I've been pursuing an interest in 'prog', but I think I'm a fairly fussy 'prog' fan. I need it to be musical. I'm also more interested in modern prog. I like the idea of concept albums, and this places a massive tick in that box. Ian Anderson (he of Jethro Tull) produced a very interesting album. I can do no better to summarise the album than to link to the Wikipedia article but basically the songs represent the tales of a man who believed he had various past (and future) lives spanning Britain through the ages. Also you can't beat a bit of jazz flute.

OK - on now to ...

October Kate Miller - Neophyte

OK I think this EP illustrates a couple of points I'd like to raise about Spotify. This was listed as a new release by Spotify, and I listened and loved it so immediately sought out more. Well it turns out that Kate Miller is a new-comer and this is all she's released. A 5-track EP. Well I wanted to do my bit to support a new starter and paid for a download of an EP. This is probably only the second EP I've bought and I'm not sure how I feel about it - on balance, I think it's a good thing - maybe EPs are all I'm up to handling now as these songs have stuck in my mind.

November Superfood - Don't Say That

For one reason or another, I was using my wife's car for a while, and heard this song on 6music a couple of times and instantly liked it - Shazam pointed me in the right direction, only for me to become frustrated because the album hadn't yet been released - well it came out eventually and proved to be worth the wait - although, I think this is probably a stand-out track.

December Haken - Restoration

What a song to end on - all 19:25 minutes of it! For me, this track alone made 2014 worthwhile musically. Haken are a contemporary prog band from London, and their last album was sublime. Anyway, I was delighted to see a new release from them, but disappointed that it was only an EP. Well the disappointment didn't last long at all when I heard the quality of the product. Heavy in places, gentle in others, bizarre even for a couple of minutes towards the end, then it all comes together in a glorious uplifting denouement. A bit of effort is required to find the time to listen, but for me, this is pretty much the holy grail of music making.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

2014 and a few thoughts (part I)

*takes key handed to him by John*
*unlocks door*
*opens door*
*looks around*

So ... this is what a blog space looks like from the inside. John has seen fit to give me access to this blog, but what to do now?

I think ostensibly the idea was for me to give a reflection on the previous year's music from my perspective, and I'll probably do that after a fashion.

I've been thinking about music a lot recently, and more specifically on how to find and to get into good new music. I may go into this in other posts, or maybe I'll go into it a little now.

Songs don't seem to be sticking in my mind like they used to. Sometimes now, I get hold of an album and have to listen to it three or four times before much of it becomes familiar. Things seem to have been going this way for some time, but it perhaps seems quite striking now. Take for instance Tom Odell - I've just looked back through my music folder to see what music was new in 2014 for me, and there's this Tom Odell folder! I have no idea what it's doing there and what it's all about! *consults with family* Actually I haven't really listened to this before - no-one knows where it's come from. Grr. I'll start again.

February - Fanfarlo - Let's Go Extinct

Right - I like Fanfarlo, a lot. Their first album was the best, the second pretty good, the third, the one in question, is OK. I had high hopes for it with it being a concept album, exploring life from the earliest origins (possibly being delivered to Earth in the form of organic compounds riding on asteroids) to the end of humanity. I have listened to the album about 5 or 6 times, I'd say, but couldn't sing you any of the songs. This one is fairly typical:

March - Elbow - The Take Of And Landing Of Everything

I loved Seldom Seen Kid, and it is one album which goes against what I have said, in that I am pretty familiar with all of it, but I have listened to it a few times, including a couple of times watching the excellent BBC production of the album with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Anyway, that was that, this is this. I've probably listened to it 3 times and liked it - probably a return to form after a slightly disappointing (to me) build a rocket boys! BUT .. I can't sing you any of the songs from it.

May - Kongos - Lunatic

Now actually, there's a lot to say about this album. It first appeared on Spotify as a new release. I was drawn to it because I'm rather taken with the name (John Kongos did the original 'Step On' back in the 70s, a fact which amazed me as I thought the Happy Monday's version was original). Anyway, this band are the sons of this bloke - they're from South Africa. I downloaded the album from Spotify and loved it pretty much straight away, and it gets an unreserved recommendation from me. Then it disappeared! Just vanished from Spotify ... and Amazon! However, it was available to buy as an import CD, so that's what I did. It has since been released in the UK (September kind of time). One of the tunes is used as backing music on BBC adverts or something like that.

June - Hayley Bonar - Last War

There's a bit of a story here too, but I will be brief ... one arm of my quest to discover new music is to organise a communal CD - a bunch of us pick tracks to share. Well for the CD in question, we had a theme of 'Travel' and I was a bit stumped, but then heard this song playing on 6Music, and it has the word 'travelling' in the lyrics ... job's a good 'un ... as is this track, and the album.

Actually, I'm rambling on more than anyone would care to read, so I'm going to leave it there for now.

*retreats back through door*
*closes door*
*locks door*

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Schönberg's Top 10 Albums of 2014

I would like to say that, owing to overwhelming pressure from the blog-reading public, my annual top 10 albums of the year countdown returns. However, when I say 'overwhelming pressure' I mean that one person, namely John Sills, has asked that the annual long-player summary of the year be resurrected once again. So, in true Wayne's World style, this is a special one-off blog for an audience of one, if you like what you read we're at Pine Way in Aurora, Illinois, so Ladies and Gentlemen I give you.... Schönberg's top 10 albums of 2014!!!

I wrote last year that 2013 had heralded a move from CDs to digital downloads in my music collection, and that this had made me listen to more albums rather than the predicted move to single track purchases. Well, 2014 saw another media-shift in the Schönberg collection, a move from owning music to 'renting' through streaming media supplier Spotify. I spend £10 per month on Spotify's premium service, the price of one or two albums, and have access to myriad of new releases and back-catalogues. Now there is no reason to not try an album out, for fear of buying a pup, a simple download and listen in the car on the way to work will normally give me an idea of whether the album is worth pursuing more, or whether I should delete it from my phone and replace with something else. This means that I have been able to be much more adventurous with my choices this year, something that I think shows in the broadness of my top 10.

So, strap yourself in:

10. The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream

9. Johnny Marr - Playland

8. The Horrors - Luminous

7. Royal Blood - Royal Blood

6. Metronomy - Love Letters

5. Alvvays - Alvvays

4. Death from Above 1979 - The Physical World

3. Todd Terje - It's Album Time

2. Teleman - Breakfast

1. Allo' Darlin - We Come From The Same Place

So there you have it. An eclectic top 10 ranging from the indie-folk musings of Allo Darlin' through the funky club electronica of Todd Terje all the way to the down and dirty grunge rock of Death from Above 1979. I hope 2015 is as interesting and varied in a music sense as 2014 has been.

Footnote. My number one album of 2014 shows the power of Spotify. Back in 2010 I was blown away by Allo Darlin's debut album, but their 2012 follow up (Europe), save for a couple of cracking tracks, left me a bit cold. If it wasn't for the option to try out the third album without shelling out good money, I may have declined to purchase it and would therefore have been denied this beauty. I'm still not sure of whether the economics of Spotify work, or whether the smaller, independent bands get a good deal, maybe someone can educate me on this.