A fairly large timescale here, PC problems have got me beat. In fact I'll divide the music I've listened to /seen across two entries and a third update on my review of 'The Next Day' from earlier this year. So whilst I save up the pennies for a Mac (the way ahead for me) here goes, featuring new albums from Arcade Fire, Eminem and Jake Bugg, albums from earlier on in 2013 in Alela Diane and Jonathon Wilson, live offering from Suede and an oldie from Alison Moyet (whom I also caught live in Southend).
So, Arcade Fire and fourth LP 'Reflektor'. Already number one in six countries and top ten in many others I approached the album with some trepidation having been underwhelmed by lead ‘single’ ‘Reflektor’. However I needn’t have worried, as two or three listens later and I’m well into the album. It does move on from previous albums, much more electronic and produced, however still inventive and unmistakenly Arcade Fire. ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ is the exception, being for me the biggest waste of space the band have ever put their name too. But ‘Porno’ is outstanding, just a Phil Oakey vocal away from a Human League classic that never was. ‘Reflektor’ the track has grown on me too, though to call this a true double album is a bit of a push, drop the no good track three and the pre track one messing around and a single CD is all that’s needed, but still, though not the best Arcade Fire album they still have the distinction of not having put a foot wrong (in album terms anyway). Also check out the bands version of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Games Without Frontiers’ on Gabriel’s (?) ‘And I’ll Scratch Yours’ album, which I must also mention was performed very nicely too by Nancy Wallace at my friend Daryl Easlea’s Gabriel biog ‘Without Frontiers’ book launch on Friday (22/11) night at the Railway in Southend.
And so onto Eminem’s 8th album proper, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’. A pleasing and surprising return to form, dominated by Em’s sharp and wordy rhyming and plentiful retro sampling (The Zombies, Beastie Boys, Joe Walsh & Wayne Fontana amongst others). Quite what the 41 year old multi millionaire rapper still finds to be so angry about is a bit of a mystery, but angry he is. Do not enter if the usual expected misogyny and homophobia are likely to offend, but you know, it’s an Eminem album, so don’t be surprised. It’s still sharp, sometimes humorous and always well executed. Dr Dre and Rick Rubin are both credited as executive producers, but this has Rubin’s handiwork all over it far more than Dre’s. Of course it’s not up there when compared to the first two albums, but it comes surprisingly close. The big question though is, having had to revisit his second album in order to produce his best since his second album, what next?
Where next for the in demand Rubin won’t be so much of a problem. He’s working with Ed Sheeran on his 2nd and just a couple of weeks after Eminem’s CD Jake Bugg's 2nd album appeared proudly bearing a Rubin production credit. ‘Shangri La’ is an earthy trad sounding album, all crisp instrumentation and it could only be Jake vocals. The songs aren’t quite as classy or varied as album number one but it’s no let down either. Whether it was the intention or not to present Bugg as a latter day British Johnny Cash I suppose we’ll never know, but that seems to be his current career trajectory, and why not. Hopefully he’ll have a little more time to write the third album but this is still a step in the right direction.
Last of the ‘new’ albums is Suede ‘European Tour Live 2013’, available from online trader concertlive. Of the two offerings I went for the late October show in Leeds (the other being Brussels on Nov 1st). It’s a well recorded career capturing set that leans a little on this year’s LP, but nice to have and decent value. You can get it here….
The best album I’ve purchased during the last few weeks is Alela Diane’s ‘About Farewell’, released earlier this year to the fevered excitement of the serious music press (Mojo, Uncut etc). In places sparse, in places haunted, but always immaculately written and performed, this is a beautiful, sad, ghostly and very melodic album. It got me first listen, I don’t know why because it sounds nothing like it but I feel compelled to recommend it especially to fans of Jeff Buckley’s quintessential ‘Grace’. Another music press praised release is Jonathan Wilson’s ‘Fanfare’ on the wonderful Bella Union label. It’s a record steeped in knowing rock history, mainly worthy of the reviews it gathered but less inventive and melodic that Alela Diane’s album. Could be a grower though, and Wilson is very active as a musician and producer having produced Roy Harper, Chris Robinson and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy amongst others. Worth investigating.
Also recently had the pleasure of catching Alison Moyet live at Southend’s Cliff’s Pavilion and picking up her 2004 covers album ‘The Voice’. The gig leaned heavily on this year’s wonderful ‘The Minutes’ album, an return to electro pop in style, classic pop in quality. Older songs revisited were interpreted with similar production values, I’d love to hear some recordings of these tracks, it felt a warm and comfortable show, the audience lacked some spark which I believe is often the case in hometown sort of gigs, but Alison’s performance was spot on, humorous and confident without being cocky. Get ‘The Minutes’ if you’ve not yet done so, and get to see Ms Moyet live soon if you can. 2004’s ‘The Voice’ which I picked up for a pound is a lusher more orchestrated album, made with Anne Dudley. Including songs by Bacharach, Legrand/Bergman, Costello, and Brel amongst others this showcases another side of Alison Moyet, as song interpreter supreme. A shame that ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ as performed on ‘The one and only Cilla Black’ this year wasn’t on the radar at the time, but here it is in case you missed it....
Of course, Bowie’s ‘The Next Day Extra’ has also hit the racks; see my reposted review which will follow this post later today. Also coming in the next day or so, two straight nights at the O2 (Mott The Hoople and Depeche Mode), Mott’s Columbia albums revisited, some Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones, Metallica and Caro Emerald.