February 2017 Round Up

Loss, divorce, anguish…all great things for music lovers

We’re not out of February yet and we’re already up and running with new music for the year. Ride have delivered two underwhelming new songs so far (although I wouldn’t be surprised if Home Is A Feeling grows on me) and Bleached have given us a good song that only falters in comparison with how good their last record was..but again, I’m still hopeful for that record when it’s released.

March is going to give us Sleaford Mods and State Broadcasters albums, which when you think that February has given us these three records, means that 2017 is shaping up quite nicely.

Campfires In Winter – Ischaemia

We don’t have to wait until next month to hear what Olive Grove Records is offering us though because Campfires In Winter release their debut record on 24th of February. We’ve been a fan of this band for a good couple of years so the album seems like it has been a long time coming…which is harsh on the band and says more about my impatience…but it’s been worth it.

Opening track Kopfkino is excellent, a song that featured in our end of year round-up and it sets the tone for an album that is as honest as it is intelligent and intricate. There is a lot laid out in the vocals but it’s a record that sounds big without sounding pompous and grand. It feels like a shawl or blanket wrapping around you in comfort but your fingers and face are still exposed to the harsher extremities.

With Doris outside doing her worst, it’s not a bad day to highlight Greeted By The Storm but it’s a song that would be worthy of mention on most days. And it’s not alone. The middle of the record is packed full of songs and moments that blur the line between massive band emotions and heartfelt indie darlings. Twelve Thousand Drops is lovely, the instruments glide and chime, and it’s an album that sounds as though it has been painstakingly constructed, placing layer upon layer of fragile elements, eventually creating a robust and powerful being.

In the past 10-15 years, there have been plenty of Scottish bands who have developed a big following and the appeal lies in the honesty, the genuine nature of the songs and the instantly recognisable emotions on display. Some of these bands are absolute shit and leave you scratching your head why anyone bothers with them but more importantly, there are great Scottish bands that really do matter, impacting on lives and connecting with folk in a way that helps people to make a bit more sense of their surroundings. If there is any justice, Campfires In Winter will be discussed of in this manner because when you think about the local acts that have tapped into people’s consciousness, they don’t lack anything in comparison.

Their album launch night is already sold out but it’s probably a safe assumption to say they will be gigging a more frequently over the course of the year. Take the time and effort to go and see them, you’ll be rewarded by a band that should be bigger than whatever stage they ultimately reach. I’m not entirely sure there’s an importance in being earnest but Campfires In Winter show that there can be quality in this approach.

Ryan Adams – Prisoner

You may say I’m an old cynic who has given up on (or who never really believed in) the idea of love but when news broke of Ryan Adams divorce from Mandy Moore, there was a small bit of joy in my heart. Not because I’m a bastard, it’s obviously a shame that the relationship ended and it would be a hard time for a lot of people. It also wasn’t because I thought, excellent, now Mandy has finished with Ryan, she’s back on the market, let’s make a move. That would be mad. However, divorce, heartache and feeling as though something has been ripped out of your body are all terrible feelings for a person to endure but they are so inspirational for a songwriter.

On the back of that, I had high hopes for Ryan’s new album and he doesn’t disappoint.

Shiver and Shake appears to be the popular choice going by early reviews and social media comments but for me, To Be Without You is the centre piece of the record and the first track that really jumps out at you. Then again, I’m a Neil Young man as opposed to a Bruce Springsteen fan so it may have something to do with that. Regardless of your leanings, if you love songs that have a simplistic country/folky heart, you are going to find plenty of songs to love…even if there are also enough 80s style punchy moments to keep others entertained.

At times, Ryan is his own worst enemy. A bit more quality control and a bit less powering through things at times would probably stand him in better stead, and it would certainly see his back catalogue being held in much greater esteem. It should never be overlooked though that he has many magical moments in his locker and when you take on board that some eras or records appeal more to some people than others, it’s clear that Adams is an artist that people truly love.

It is far too early to say where this record should rank alongside some of the classic albums he has made but I think it’s safe to say that Prisoner should be placed alongside the very best work of Ryan’s career to date.

Moon Duo – Occult Architecture Vol 1

There are plenty of reasons to love a band but sometimes the simplest reason is when it becomes clear that a band listens to and loves a lot of the same bands that you do. Moon Duo are an act that hit you in the chest every time. They do this with such ferocity that at times, particularly when seeing them live, you are still reverberating hours later, but they also worm their way into your heart.

When you hear glimpses of acts like Suicide, Spacemen 3, Kraftwerk, Jesus & Mary Chain and so many other acts of life-affirming power, how can you fail to react? The driving nature of a song like Cross-Town Fade is infectious and if you’re not strutting or bopping along, you’re made of stone and you deserve the self-loathing that you surely wallow in.

It’s the blend of beautiful melody wrapped in a gruff and muffled delivery and a breathless march of a rhythm that taps into something bigger than just the band themselves. This is the sort of music that has been firing people up for over 40 years but it still sounds fresh and important when delivered today. Maybe there aren’t enough bands making music like Moon Duo these days, or maybe when music of this nature is made by good bands, it is timeless. Either way, this is a fantastic record and hopefully it’s early release with respect to 2017 won’t see it being overlooked when the end of year polls are conducted.

Get it on, turn it up and move forward. Always forward. Forever forward.

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