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Songs To Die To - Part 3

Continuing a series about songs death and dying. These are not necessarily songs that talk about the process of dying, rather as the title suggests, songs that I could imagine listening to on my death bed, or taking as consolation during or after a funeral. 

Morbid? I think not, as death is part of life. If we all talked about it a little more, maybe we'd cope with it better.

No 1: featuring "Land Of Hope & Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen here

No 2: featuring "Look On Down From The Bridge" by Mazzy Star here


With that said here's my next choice.


No 3: Gonna Be A Darkness - The Jayhawks

From their superb collection of songs that main man Gary Louris wrote with other artists, (full review here), comes this gem co-written with Jakob Dylan.


I love the extended musical introduction, starting with the mandolin, building with the bass and piano.It sets a lovely relaxed groove that hints at the sadness to come.
Louris and drummer Tim O'Reagan blend their voices beauti…
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Hello Sunshine by Bruce Springsteen - New Song Review

After the Broadway experience comes a new song, and my initial thoughts upon hearing it were not about this track specifically, but what it means for the upcoming "Western Stars" album in June. As Bruce has said, this is a different type of album, not a rocker but a 'return to sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements'. 


My hope is that we are going to get Bruce's version of "Nashville Skyline", as the track has a laid back, country feel, with a rhythm that immediately evokes "Everybody's Talkin' ". 

Another one of his early influences, the great Roy Orbison, also shines through, and as a defender of "Outlaw Pete" from "Magic", (more on that here), this can only be a good thing. His vocal has a country tinge and the pedal steel and strings complete the image. 

Given his battles with depression, documented in his autobiography, the lines about "being too fond of the blues" and "loving the lonely place&q…

Best Of A Bad Bunch - "Under The God"

It is pretty rare for an artist to have a sustained career without at least one barren period with a lack of commercial success, critical or fan acclaim. Some may only have one golden moment, and then struggle to hit the heights ever again. That doesn't mean that all they produce in those "lost" years is without merit.

Go here for part one featuring Neil Young.

I'm going to look at some of my favourite songs from these lesser known or ill regarded periods, continuing with a man who has had more than one period of both acclaimed and berated music, David Bowie.

Bowie had one of the greatest, in my opinion, runs of combined commercial and critical success from "Hunky Dory" in 1971 to "Let's Dance" in 1983. I'd accept the argument that you could include "The Man Who Sold The World"  at the start of the list, but for me it is with Hunky Dory that Bowie's golden run started. In that run, only stop gap covers collection, "Pin Ups&…

Rockin' The Suburbs - New Music

Just a quick post to say that I appear on a couple of episodes of the fantastic Rockin' The Suburbs podcast this week, talking about some of my favourite new music from the last two months. Be sure to listen EVERY day. 

Episode 584 here

Episode 585 here

Or from your usual podcast provider.

More thoughts on Karen O & Dangermouse here

More thoughts on Strand Of Oaks here

More thoughts on Black Mountain here

More thoughts on Jenny Lewis here

Lux Prima by Karen O & Dangermouse - Album Review

Sometimes you know that something is just 'right'. There is an almost indefinable quality that is evident from the outset that continues throughout the film, book, or in this case album. It is not often that I get this feeling, but much like 2004's "Saturnalia" from The Gutter Twins or 2010's "High Violet" from The National, this new album featuring a collaboration between Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs and renowned producer Brian Burton, aka Dangermouse, has 'it'.

My, oh my, this is some album. An early album of the year contender? Most definitely.
Strong words you might say, but just listen to it. Running the full gamut of styles, sometimes within the same song, from electronica, through orchestral pop, funk and soul to rock whilst stopping off at movie soundtracks and torch songs along the way. 

The list of influences that I hear include "Low"era Bowie, Pink Floyd, Grandaddy, Chic, The Beach Boys, Motown, Phil Spector, Portishead, Jo…

On The Line by Jenny Lewis - Album Review

Arriving with positive notices and an all-star supporting cast that includes a former Beatle in Ringo Starr, a former Heartbreaker in Benmont Tench along with renowned players like Jim Keltner, Don Was and produced by Ryan Adams it would be easy to dismiss such a description as too good to be true.
However, sometimes it is okay to believe the hype..
The 4th solo album from Jenny Lewis is an example of the old adage that misery makes for great art, and is another entry into the canon of great break-up albums.
It is crammed with catchy melodies, expert playing and excellent, if sometimes just a little too cool for school, songwriting. Right from the very start with "Heads Gonna Roll" the sweetness of the melodies is leavened with a perfectly judged dose of underlying menace and bitterness.
Mention has to be given to the Hammond solo from Benmont Tench on this track. The tone is deliciously fat and filthy in the best possible way.
"Wasted Youth" continues with a ridiculous…

Eraserland by Strand Of Oaks - Album Review

A new album from Tim Showalter which, barring a final misstep, hits all the Americana, (and more), marks. This album is heartfelt, sleazy, uplifting, classic and referential all at the same time whilst still pointing forwards.

The beginning is inauspicious. "Weird Ways" starts out like a standard Ryan Adams ballad, but takes off halfway through in a way that reveals the pedigree of the other musicians on the album. After hearing this track I thought it sounded like the aforementioned Mr Adams playing with My Morning Jacket(MMJ). The reverb drenched sound kept rearing its head and a little research revealed that, minus main man Jim James, they were the backing musicians on the album . No wonder I kept hearing them! As a band who has produced much that I like this was a good thing. 

After "Weird Ways" heads for the stars we stay there with "Hyperspace Blues" which is one for fans of Jason Pierce's Spiritualized, and sounds just as a song with that title s…

New Music Review: "Future Shade" by Black Mountain

A new discovery for me, Canadian rockers Black Mountain and their new single from upcoming album "Destroyer".

I stumbled across this on a new music playlist, and it immediately stood out for the unique sound the band were creating. The riffs and rhythms said 1980s metal, but the tone sound and vocal style said alternative rock. Equal parts Dinosaur Jr. and NWOBHM, I love this combination, something I've not heard done effectively as here. 

From the way the sound opens up into the chorus, to the keyboard lead lines, to the full Iron Maiden style dual lead around the 3 minute mark this instantly shot onto my list of the best new music I'd heard in a while. Looking forward to the new album after this. 

"Drown in the future shade, ain't no-one going to save you tonight..."




R.E.M. At The BBC Review

I received this 9 disc package at the end of 2018, but due to its voluminous content I needed sufficient time to digest it properly to avoid critical indigestion!

In addition to being stacked with content, this box set is a fascinating document, (pardon the pun), of the evolution of one of the greatest bands in rock music. Focusing on the live recordings as opposed to the BBC sessions, things start with in 1984 with the then still very much underground R.E.M. and an urgent performance at Rock City in Nottingham. The jangle and mumble of the early band is very much present. A band who know how to play and what they want to project but without the big hits that would take them skyward in later years. A certain hesitancy and sense of testing the water is evident here.

I have to confess to not being in the 'cool' crowd and preferring the Warner to IRS years. As a result the jump forward 9 years to a huge open air gig at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 1995 is much more to my taste. Whilst…

Distance Over Time by Dream Theater

The fourteenth studio album from the world's premier purveyors of progressive metal, (for those unfamiliar with the genre imagine equal parts Yes and Metallica), arrives 3 years after their double concept album "The Astonishing". 

This time the band went back to basics, setting up, playing and writing as a band in a room. If this is the result, more please. Tight and focused, with a return to punch-the-air riffs like "Outcry" from 2011's "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" or "The Looking Glass" from their eponymous 2013 album.



Things kick off on a high with lead single "Untethered Angel", a brief moody intro before it erupts with a riff that says buckle in for the ride.
Given that these are some of the finest practitioners  in the world on their respective instruments what you get is the standard, for Dream Theater, impeccable musicianship with jaw-dropping feats of virtuosity. Gone is the bloat of "The Astonishing",  and in it…