This Week’s Albums
August 14th, 2015
IT is a case of “Something old, something new/something ‘borrowed’, something…
that doesn’t rhyme. “ I do a D.J. gig every week; I have the opportunity to play four different albums: one that is ‘old’ (to my mind, anything pre-1985), something ‘new’ (released brand-new that week); something influential (and has inspired a genre/other acts)- in addition to dealer’s choice (any album I choose). Having done this for over a year-and played everything from Graceland to Pearl Jam; from FKA twigs to Beastie Boys- it is enormous fun. I get to talk to people (about music); play some awesome stuff- turn people on to some great/forgotten sounds (well, I try to). I shall publish this every week; try and highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you had forgotten about.
The Old: Dusty Springfield- Dusty in Memphis (1969)
We all are aware of Dusty Springfield: the legend is synonymous and widely celebrated. If you do not own a Dusty album, make it this one. With hits such as Son of a Preacher Man, The Windmills of Your Mind and I Can’t Make It Alone- it is an essential collection. The queen of British Soul music went to Memphis- a climate and town that were foreign to her- and recruited the best musicians and producers. With the likes of Memphis Cats and Jerry Wexler on board, Springfield’s stunning voice reigns. An album that is far ahead of its time, Dusty in Memphis is a Soul masterpiece: Springfield has never sounded as authoritative and ready-made. A natural-born Soul diva, she makes each track her own (the likes of Bacharach and David, Gerry Coffin and Carole King are covered). Released in 1969, the album stood as a landmark release: for a white British singer to conquer the Soul market- normally ruled by U.S.-born black singers- was a huge achievement; Springfield sounds no-less striking and mesmeric. For those seeking a perfect Soul/Pop album; brimming with transcendent moments- your search should begin (and end) here.
The New: Neck Deep- Life’s Not out to Get You (2015)
I was going to by the new album from Dornik: a Psychedelic Soul star from south London (who used to drum for the likes of Jessie Ware). H.M.V. doesn’t seem to stock it; Amazon doesn’t have it in stock- the stupidity of this baffles my mind. Angrily, I had to plump for Neck Deep: in fact, my anger was soon allayed. The Welsh band’s (sophomore album) delivers huge punch and emotion. Tracks Threat Level Midnight are relentlessly pressing and addictive; Can’t Kick Up the Roots is one of the most captivating songs of the summer- Gold Steps is a Pop-Punk jam that is sure to be a live favourite. Whilst not the finest album of the week; Life’s Not out to Get You is a stunning L.P. Comparisons to Sum 41 and seem unfair and short-sighted: Neck Deep have their own personality and drive; their songs are more consistent and nuanced- a band to watch closely. Whilst the relentless force and energy may grow tiring, it is an album you will revisit; one guaranteed to raise the energy levels- and get the crowds united. If you manage to find Dornik’s self-titled album anywhere, let me have it! As it stands, Neck Deep’s new album is a mighty consolation: a record that should be investigated by all.
The Influencer: Wire- Chairs Missing (1978)
A year before Dusty Springfield’s masterpiece arrived, Wire landed this stunner: a band and album you have probably never even heard of. The record mixed cold and haunting synthesisers with dark and downbeat moments; a crucial evolution from Punk into Goth music. Chairs Missing is a study in perfectionism and detail. The arrangements are filled with stunning sounds and sonic texture; the songs deal with personal demons and disturbing avenues- the combination is hugely effective. Too Late is a rousing Punk-Rock closer; packed with sweat and pummel. I Am a Fly (the album’s highlight) is all mechanics and imagery; fly-mimicking guitar sounds; vivid lyrics- the band’s masterpiece. Sing-along and quirky, it epitomises the disc as a whole. Brimming with inventiveness and doom-laden prophecy, there are hints of early-career Pink Floyd: few artists manage to concoct albums so enduring and faultless. Many of you will be unfamiliar with Wire: one spin of Chairs Missing will completely change this; compel you to dig deeper- and check out the band’s back catalogue. The group are still recording today- and released their self-titled album this year- so high-time you got on board!
The ‘Other One’: James Blake- Overgrown (2013)
The 2013 Mercury prize-winning album was a huge statement upon its release: confounding and startling critics- Blake’s sophomore L.P. took the music world by storm. Blending melancholy and introspectiveness (with electronic soulfulness) Overgrown is a perfect ‘grower’: a record that takes several listens to understand; when you do the effect is wondrous. Blake’s somber reflectiveness and ghostly soundscapes moved away (from his Dubstep-influenced debut); his subtleness and minimalism make the heaviest moments palatable and all-encompassing. Retrograde is fragmented beats and spectral vocals; Digital Lion is trippy and Eno-esque: a song that ducks and races; catches you by surprise- Our Love Comes Back is the stunning swansong. Defined by Blake’s jaw-dropping and captivating voice, Overgrown has inspired legions of modern Soul men- including the likes of Sam Smith. Of-its-time and modern, the album fuses intoxicating loops with (stunning) digital beats. Rebelling against the ‘traditional’ Dance/Club albums, Blake created an album to swell the heart; rouse the soul- far exceeding the expectations of the genre; showing his peers how it should be done. Absolutely essential listening.