Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Playlist: August

  • Washed Out—Paracosm (2013)
  • The Civil Wars—The Civil Wars (2013)
  • Elvis Costello + The Roots—Wise Up Ghost (2013)
  • Blackfield—Blackfield IV (2013)
  • Volto!—Incintare (2013)
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band—Made Up Mind (2013)
  • Laura Veirs—Warp and Weft (2013)
  • Travis—Where You Stand (2013)
  • Franz Ferdinand—Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (2013)
  • Karnivool—Asymmetry (2013)
  • Jesca Hoop—Phonograph/Moon Rock Needle (2013)
  • David Bowie—Aladdin Sane (40th Anniversary reissue) (2013)
  • Yes—Close to the Edge (Steven Wilson remix) (2013)
  • Peter Case—The Man with the Blue, Post-modern Fragmented, Neo-traditionalist Guitar (1989), Wig (2010)
  • Rilo Kiley—More Adventurous (2004)
  • The Waterboys—This is the Sea (1985), Live Adventures of the Waterboys (1998)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Now on newsstands...

I interviewed John Grant, former vocalist for The Czars, for the latest issue of Under the Radar magazine.

It was the most harrowing interview I've ever done. Grant, who is gay, told me about the torments he endured during his childhood, which ranged from self-loathing over his secret sexual identity to getting beaten up outside his home by a bigot and not being able to tell his family why it had happened.

Grant told me, in unstinting detail, about his later years of drug and alcohol addiction and sexual promiscuity. Underlying all of it was serious depression.

There are parts of Grant's life I didn't even touch on in the piece, such as his struggle to overcome agoraphobia during his twenties or how he fell in love with his straight drug dealer, who once tried to kill himself on Grant's couch (and previously set fire to the house). John Grant has lived a life - and then some.

The good news is that he's doing better now. He told me how much music played a part in lifting him out of his condition and providing him a channel to get focused and exorcise those demons. Now clean, sober and cautiously optimistic, Grant has received some of the best reviews of the year for his second solo album, Pale Green Ghosts. His previous solo record, Queen of Denmark, merited similar plaudits and was named Mojo magazine's album of the year.

Take a listen to the great title track of Pale Green Ghosts below. A great showcase for the singer's tenor. Oh, and if you've never checked out Grant's former band, The Czars, you really owe it to yourself to get The Ugly People VS. Beautiful People for starters....

This issue of Under the Radar also features a forward looking cover story on British sensation Charli XCX (I've no idea what you'd call her if you met her in person - perhaps Charli?) as well as features on the new albums by The National, Primal Scream, Sigur Ros, and the wonderful Laura Marling.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Playlist: July

  • Anna Von Hausswolf—Ceremony (2013)
  • Joseph Arthur—The Ballad of Boogie Christ (2013)
  • Elvis Costello + The Roots—Wise Up Ghost (2013)
  • Blackfield—Blackfield IV (2013)
  • Santana—Viva Santana! (1988)
  • Boards of Canada—Tomorrow's Harvest (2013)
  • Gary Hoey—Deja Blues (2013)
  • Jon Hopkins—Immunity (2013)
  • Volto!—Incintare (2013)
  • Radiohead—The Bends (Box set edition) (1995)
  • Theo Travis + Robert Fripp—Follow (2013)
  • David Sylvian—Secrets of the Beehive (1987)
  • Queens of the Stone Age—Like Clockwork (2013)
  • Trentemøller —Lost (2013)
  • Sound of Contact—Dimensionaut (2013)
  • Beth Hart + Joe Bonamassa —Seesaw (2013)
  • Rush—All the World's a Stage (1976)
  • Goldfrapp—The Singles (2012)
  • King Crimson—Cirkus (1999)
  • Rokia Traoré—Beautiful Africa (2013)

I've been listening to some of the best albums of 2013 so far: Boards of Canada, Jon Hopkins, Elvis Costello +The Roots, and Rokia Traoré from Mali (take a listen to the single off her superb latest album, released in the USA on September 24, below).


And then there's my latest musical discovery: Sweden's Anna von Hausswolf. Her main musical instrument is a church pipe organ and she sounds like a cross between Kate Bush and Maria Lindén from I Break Horses. Add in some cool and unearthly guitar and the result is brooding music with appropriate song titles such as "Deathbed." The single, "Mountains Crave" (see music video, above) is lovely but only hints at how strange, yet beautiful, the album Ceremony is. One of the best things I've heard all year.

Gary Hoey’s new album, Deja Blues, is another new discovery. Guitar fans out there will be aware of Gary as one of America’s premier rock guitarists. He grew up near Boston and harbored a desire to attend the Berklee School of Music but his family was too poor to afford it. So, instead, Gary would hang around outside the school to find people who could give him guitar lessons. In the late 1980s, Gary got his big break. When a Boston radio station interviewed Ozzy Osbourne, the singer told them he was looking for a new guitarist. Gary Hoey called into the radio station and played his guitar over the phone for Ozzy. That got him a ticket to go to Los Angeles. In the end, Gary didn’t get the gig with Ozzy – it went to Zakk Wylde – but Gary went on to have a successful career creating mostly instrumental albums in the vein of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. In 1993, he recorded a cover version of “Hocus Pocus” by Focus that became a top 5 hit single on the Billboard charts. As Gary proudly notes, he managed to be in the charts at the same time as Nirvana. Gary’s soundtrack to the surf movie The Endless Summer II was also a big seller.

Deja Blues is the guitarist’s 11th studio album and his first foray into the blues.

So many famous rock guitarists have tried to follow Gary Moore’s path of crossing over to the blues and the results tend to be horrible because, unlike Moore, they don't really get the feel of the music. A lot of would-be crossover artists just end up shredding and throwing in a zillion notes a second rather than letting the music breathe and swing. But on Deja Blues, it's apparent right from "Boss You Around" that Gary gets the groove and soul of the blues. He plays what's right for the music.

Gary says that the album is influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, B.B. King, Albert King, Robert Johnson and Elmore James. Bonus points to Gary for not sounding like the countless Stevie Ray Vaughan imitator clones out there. And he has a really good voice. Gary says that this is where he wants to be from now on – he wants to spend the rest of his life playing the blues. This album validates that impulse. Below is a taste of the album...