Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Now on Newsstands

Amid several projects this summer, including researching and writing a whopping 7,600 word liner note essay for an upcoming vinyl box set, I contributed a couple of pieces to the two most recent editions of Prog magazine.

I reviewed the 11th album by The Pineapple Thief, a British band I've long been a fan of in issue 68 (Jon Anderson cover). Your Wilderness features drummer Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) and is one of the best albums in the band's catalog. Here's a taste of the album courtesy of YouTube: In Exile
No Man's Land

For issue 69, released this past week, I reviewed a concert by YES in Lynn, Massachusetts. I last reviewed a YES show in 2014 during their final show with bassist Chris Squire, who sadly passed away last year. truth, In truth, I wasn't expecting much from the show. Longtime drummer Alan White decided to sit out the tour due to health issues following surgery. Steve Howe is now the only remaining member from the band's classic era. Indeed, YES's lineup nowadays is a bit like the Celtics basketball team after they lost their championship-winning big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. But, like the current Celtics team consisting largely of no-name players, YES can still hold their own on the big court.

July and August Playlist

  • Marillion—F.E.A.R. (2016)
  • Lisa HanniganAt Swim (2016)
  • ShearwaterLodger (2016)
  • Mélanie De BiasioBlackened Cities (2016)
  • Wye OakTween (2016)
  • John WesleyA Way You'll Never Be (2016)
  • The AmazingAmbulance (2016)
  • Burnt BeliefEmergent (2016)
  • Jeff BeckLoud Hailer (2016)
  • The Jelly JamProfit (2016)
  • Sam Beam and Jesca HoopMilky Way (2016)
  • Francis DunneryReturn to the Wild Country (2016)
  • The Pineapple ThiefYour Wilderness (2016)
  • Joy WilliamsVenus acoustic (2016)
  • BjörkVulnicura Live (2016)
  • Floating PointsKuiper; Alaenia (2016, 2015)
  • The Besnard LakesVolume 1 (2016, 2015)
  • Steve Jansen and Richard BarbieriStone to Flesh (2015 reissue
  • The Week that WasThe Week that Was (2008)
  • AmplifierThe Astronaut Dismantles HALEternity, The Octopus, Sunriders (2005-13)
  • The Besnard LakesVolume 1 (2003)
  • Buena Vista Social ClubBuena Vista Social Club (1997)
  • QueenGreatest Hits, Vol. 1 and II (1991)
  • The ClashThe Story of the Clash, Volume 1 (1988)
  • YesTales from Topographic Oceans, Drama, 9012, Big Generator (1973, 1980, 1983, 1987)
  • GenesisDuke (1980) 
  • Joni MitchellMingus (1979)
  • John ColtraneA Love Supreme (1965)

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)