Monday, July 18, 2016

Now on Newsstands


Nowadays, it's not often a band comes along with a sound so unique that you can't really compare them to other artists.

Bent Knee, a six-piece from Boston, is one such band. They don't sound derivative of anyone else. As a recent The Wall Street Journal feature on the band put it, their sound taps into cabaret, ’70s piano-based folk, chamber pop, industrial rock, metal, prog rock and more.

The Boston Globe noted that they're making a bid for the big time and ran a great review of the band's latest album, Say So.

In the latest issue of Prog magazine, now on newsstands and available digitally, I interviewed the band about their horror stories about touring America in a small van and delved into the tight familial bonds between these six musicians. (I wouldn't classify Bent Knee as "prog rock" band; just very progressive in the uniqueness of their sound.)

To get a feel for the band's sound, check out the music videos below. "Leak Water," from their just-released album Say So, is about how a young girl endures the beauty regime her mother submits her to every morning. "Good Girl" is about battling societal gender expectations.

The video of "Being Human," from the band's previous album, Shiny Eyed Babies, showcases how remarkable this band is live—you won't be able to take your eyes off them. (Look for their fall tour dates at http://www.bentkneemusic.com/tour.)

More details on the band and its albums at www.bentkneemusic.com





Thursday, June 30, 2016

June playlist



(with links to music videos on YouTube):



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Steven Wilson interviews




Since November 2015, I've been conducting a number of lengthy interviews with Steven Wilson. Frankly, it's been an honor to spend so much time talking to one of my all-time favorite artists—not just a sweet guy but also a very thoughtful and eloquent interviewee.

I've delved into various aspects of the brilliant songwriter and producer's craft, including retroactive appraisals of his solo work and album projects such as Porcupine Tree, No-Man, and Bass Communion. I also interviewed two of his collaborators, bassist Nick Beggs and animation director Jess Cope.

You can read the latest piece about what prompted Steven to release his solo catalog to streaming services such as Spotify over at PopMatters. (Here's a tease: It was the death of Prince.)

And here, below, is a compilation of links to the recent interviews:


(I've interviewed Steven and many of his musical partners numerous times over the years and you can find links to earlier interviews in the right-hand column of this website.)


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Playlist May




  • Radiohead—A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)
  • Mark Pritchard—Under the Sun (2016)
  • PJ HarveyThe Hope Six Demolition Project (2016)
  • Knifeworld—Bottled Out of Eden (2016)
  • Sarah JaroszUndercurrent (2016)
  • Jon Anderson/Roine Stolt—Invention of Knowledge (2016)
  • Kendrick Lamar—To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
  • Joseph Arthur—Days of Surrender (2015)
  • Simon Scott—Insomni (2015)
  • Ryan Adams—Ashes and Fire (2011)
  • Fever Ray—Fever Ray (2009)
  • School of LanguageSea from Shore (2008)
  • Bass Communion—Loss  (2006)
  • Broadcast—Tender Buttons (2005), HaHa (2003), The Noise Made by People (2000)
  • Ali Farka Touré—The Source (1991)
  • My Bloody Valentine—Loveless (1991)
  • Stevie Ray VaughanIn Step (1989)
  • Nina Simone—Her Golden Greats (1988)
  • Dire Straits—Making Movies (1980), Dire Straits (1979)
  • Harmonia—Deluxe (1975)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Playlist March

        • Endless Tapes—Brilliant Waves (2016)
        • Bent Knee—Say So (2016)
        • Steve Mason—Meet the Humans (2016)
        • Rokia Traoré —Né So (2016)
        • Joe Bonamassa—Blues of Desperation (2016)
        • Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop—A Love Letter for Fire (2016)
        • Jeff Buckley—You and I (2016)
        • Sand Snowman—A Doll's Eyes (2016)
        • Francis Dunnery—Vampires (2016)
        • Various Artists (incl. Robert Plant)—The Long Road (2016)
        • Ray LaMontagne—Ouroboros (2016)
        • Dave Kilminster—And the Truth Will Set You Free (2014)
        • Julia Holter—Loud City Song (2013)
        • Joanna Newsom—Ys (2006)
        • Bass Communion—Loss (2006)
        • Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry—More than This: Best of (1995)
        • Dead Can Dance—Into the Labyrinth (1993)
        • Red Hot Chili Peppers—Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik (1991)
        • Lynyrd Skynyrd—Skynyrd's Innyrds (1989)
        • Iron Maiden—Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)
        • The Doors—LA Woman (1971); In Concert (1991)
        • Donovan—Greatest Hits (1969)




Friday, March 25, 2016

Now on Newsstands...

I wrote a feature story about the great American band Shearwater for the current issue of Prog magazine, now on newsstands and available in e-format. To my ears, Shearwater's latest album Jet Plane and Oxbow is the album to beat in 2016. (Here's my review of it in Under the Radar magazine.)

When I interviewed Shearwater frontman/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Meiburg for the story late last year, our conversation drifted into talking about David Bowie. We're both fans and, at that time, we were excited about the imminent release of Blackstar. We had no idea, of course, that David Bowie was at that stage critically ill and would soon no longer be with us...

At the time, Jonathan was already planning to perform every single song from Bowie's Lodger album on Shearwater's tour. In retrospect, the timing was fortuitous as it became a tribute. Shearwater has been performing two songs from the album each night and even performed Lodger in its entirety at Rough Trade Record store. (You can download NYC Taper's recording of that show here.)

I thought I'd share some excerpts, below, about Jonathan's musings about David Bowie, as they didn't make it into the article.

Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg:

...on David Bowie's Lodger

One of the things were going to do on the tour just for fun, and we’re not going to do it all at once, is we going to cover all of David Bowie’s Lodger record during the tour. Some of it in radio stations and some of it live. It’s been a real pleasure going through that record because it’s such an odd record. And yet, listening to it and dissecting how it was done and how will the different parts fit together, you can learn so much from that record. It’s a great education.

...on the Bowie's Berlin Trilogy

For a long time, I didn’t get the record [Low]. I like the older boy stuff, where he was the funny, wise-cracking cartoon character. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but now the late '70s records that he made seem much deeper and richer to me. They’ve aged better I think.

That [album] and side two of Heroes are so magical and they seem out of time. And you know, just reading about it, what some of the influences were, but nonetheless, they seem to use a lot of devices that were technologically quite new at the time and conjured something that seemed quite timeless. If you put on Heroes and just listen to it all the way through the record, you find yourself two-thirds of the way through, thinking, “Are we still on the same record?” I can’t believe this album has gone this many places. It does it really economically and fast, too. It’s not a long record. It’s a beautiful example of a records ability to distort time and open worm holes in your sense of time.

...on Bowie's stagecraft 

I was watching the Serious Moonlight tour the other day. Partly as a frontman educational video. God he was good! It was from 1982, after Let’s Dance came out. But the material is almost all from previous records and mostly from the Low, Heroes, Lodger stuff. He's got a whole horn section with him and it’s very '80s, but man he just sells that show. It’s astonishing to watch. It’s not alienating, it’s not scary. It doesn’t have any of the emotional energy of that stuff that we were talking about [earlier]. But he so confident in delivering these very alienated songs. As a piece of staging too it’s quite brilliant. Now we expect from big shows all these mechanisms and confetti cannons and lasers. This is much more pared back compared to that. There’s a giant, inflated globe that he does a number of different things with, all of which are really effective. The whole thing probably cost 20 bucks. The whole thing works on an arena size.

...on Blackstar

At this point, David Bowie is in victory lap mode. He can do whatever he wants. I hope he does do whatever he wants.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Playlist: February



  • Joe Bonamassa—Blues of Desperation (2016)
  • Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop—A Love Letter for Fire (2016)
  • Jansen, Barbieri, Karn—Bearable Moons, session outtakes (2016)
  • School of Seven Bells—SVIIB (2016)
  • The Besnard Lakes—A Coliseum Complex Museum (2016)
  • Francis Dunnery—Vampires (2016)
  • Field Music—Commontime (2016)
  • Bent Knee—Say So (2016)
  • Justice Cow—Quone (2016)
  • Bob Marley—Legend (1984)
  • This Heat—This Heat (1979); Health & Efficiency (1980); Deceit (1981)
  • Neil Young—Harvest (1972)
  • The Who—Who's Next (1971)

Sleeve Notes



I am honored to have written the sleeve notes to the newly released Porcupine Tree vinyl box set, The Delerium Years: 1994-1997. It was fantastic to work with the folks over at K-Scope and Carl Glover did a great job designing the box set and its beautiful book.  I interviewed the members of the band for the 7,000 words history of the band during those years. Steven Wilson remixed and remastered the music for this release. As he put it to me:

"There have been two releases of this music before. The first one was basically at a time when people didn’t pay any attention to mastering at all. My mixes were all over the place and I was mixing on anything I could beg, borrow, or steal. So the mixes are thin and tinny and some of them are more fuzzy and muffled. At that point, you sent your tracks off to a CD plant and they just pressed them flat. So the original mixes are quite dynamic, because they are not squashed or anything. But they’re also quite eccentric EQ-wise. They’re painful to listen to.
The second edition, which was the first set of remasters that came out in the first part of the millennium between 2000 and 2005, I tried to remaster myself. I corrected a lot of the EQ levels, but this was the height of the “loudness wars” and I got sucked into it too. I mastered them very loud, very compressed. Again, when I listen to them now, they’re painful. 
So, this time, I think I’ve got them right. Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned a lot—not just for my own music, but from mixing other people’s music—about the quality of sound and not crushing things. So I fixed all the EQ. The dynamics are all there. I’m not saying it sounds great, because the recordings still betray their origins: ADAT tapes with low-resolution recording and some very primitive and mixing on my part. They do sound like independent DIY recordings, which they are. But they have charm. At least they sound as good and warm and vibrant as they ever have. The sound is good as it can be. And, actually, I think they sound good."
Read more about it and purchase it here.

In related news, I am now creating content for Steven Wilson's newsletter. We've just released our fourth issue which features a live audio exclusive. Each issue includes new interviews with Steven about his latest activities, past albums from his vast catalog, and his own music recommendations. It's more like a mini magazine than a newsletter. To subscribe, go here and you'll receive a download of a live version of "Drive Home."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Now on Newsstands: Tight but Loose

Over the past two years, Jimmy Page sat down for more interviews about Led Zeppelin than at any other point in his career. Of all those many interviews, there were two that stood apart from the rest: Page's consecutive interviews with Dave Lewis for Tight But Loose, the long-running Led Zeppelin magazine.

Most music writers tended to ask Page either tediously generic questions or probed for salacious details about what, exactly, Led Zeppelin got up to inside the Starship, its luxury airplane that included a fireplace. (I doubt an airplane equipped with a fireplace would pass FAA regulations nowadays!) By contrast, Dave asked Page perceptive questions that took readers deep into the creation of music that has withstood the fickle changes of time and fashion. Indeed, Page told Tight But Loose about how the recent deluxe reissues of the catalog, brimming with unreleased material and alternate mixes, enhances the group's legacy.

"It’s like a portal, it’s like a view point into that time when those recordings were made for those particular albums, those classic albums," Page said in TBL issue 38. "And I knew right from the beginning, in thinking about this project, that it was for you, the fans. Because we sort of understand the difference between just hearing Led Zeppelin and really listening to it. I knew that people with that level of understanding would really get off on it, hearing all of these different versions and things that they haven’t heard before."

I first came across Dave Lewis, the world's foremost authority on the band, when he published the book Led Zeppelin: A Celebration in 1990. In those pre-Internet days, the comprehensive guide to the history and recordings of the British four piece was a revelatory education to this young fan. The book, and many others Dave has published over the years, occupy a hallowed space on my bookshelves. His magazine Tight But Loose is also an indispensable read for Zep fans. (It's available as a handsome print publication from here, and also newly available in digital format from here.)

I'm honored to have contributed to TBL over the years. For the 40th issue, I penned an in-depth two page overview about Robert Plant's most recent tour. (I also wrote a short review of Plant's Sept. 2015 show in Boston for Classic Rock magazine.)

Visit http://www.tightbutloose.co.uk/ for details about the magazine plus all the latest news about Led Zeppelin and its members' solo activities.