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Mr. B. A. D. Plowman "Brendan" (UK)

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Everyday Robots
Everyday Robots
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyday Listening, 9 May 2014
This review is from: Everyday Robots (Audio CD)
Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn : A restrained, subtle and often subdued collection of songs. It's a beauty.

I have listened to it every day since procurement a week ago and the tunes are setting up home inside my skull. Why, I just went for a long-distance run over the hills of South London and the mournful chorus of "Selfish Giant" looped in my head for the entire workout (complete with fluttering flute). A day or so ago I was grocery shopping and the gorgeous piano trickles of "Hostiles" were providing a sedate soundtrack to my vegetable selections.

When walking my nephew through the park, the sun emerged from behind a cloud and the uplifting gospel chorus of "Mr Tembo" was immediately poured in to my mind tank. (The ukelele on "Tembo" is also worthy of note as it is wonderfully cheerful.)

"Heavy Seas Of Love" possibly grabs the EARWORMERY GOLD MEDAL. God damn that painfully catchy gospel chorus!! I should sue Mr Albarn for disallowing any coherent thoughts in my brain over this past week.

Mr Albarn, to put it VERY simply, is extremely good at writing songs. Songs that haunt the listener long after listening.

"Everyday Robots" is Damon at the top of his game, doing what he does....and doing it well.

Love Letters
Love Letters
Price: £7.25

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Lovin' It, Lovin' It, Lovin' It., 14 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Love Letters (Audio CD)
"Love Letters" - The latest LP from formidable English synthpop darlings METRONOMY. "Love Letters" : Nice title for a record. However, many reviewers on Amazon, thus far, seem to be implying that this quietly great collection of tunes should be titled "Love Lettuce". They seem to be implying that much of the music here is bland, uninspiring and diluted in flavour (much like...ahem... get the idea!...)

Indeed, I, WAS somewhat underwhelmed when I first listened to this album. On the whole, I just thought that many of the tunes drifted like flotsam and I couldn't engage. I tried. I failed.

Subsequent time spent with these songs, however, has allowed me to warm to them enormously. Indubitably, this album is a GROWER. Granted, a large portion of these songs have a subdued tone (detractors may use the word "restrained"). I am now of the opinion that the best term for this music is "quietly beautiful".

"The Upsetter" is a great opening tune. It simmers and fills the listener with anticipation (like all great openers should). "I'm Aquarius" kicks in next, notable for its cute "shoop-shoop" backing vocals. "Monstrous", meanwhile, sounds like what would happen if JS Bach leaped in to a time machine, landed in the 1970's and started prodding an analogue synth. Baroque brilliance!

"Love Letters", the title track : I'm guessing you're familiar with this. A dangerously infectious chorus, Supertramp piano, drum rolls and a melancholy trumpet. Pop perfection? YUP.

After "Love Letters" the vibe of the album is more sparse and minimal and I'm guessing that this is what has alienated some listeners. However, there is much to enjoy here. "Boy Racers" is a warm, groovesome instrumental that is lifted by some scorching guitar at the end. It evokes driving through a neon-drenched city. "Call Me" is a cracking tune with an expertly crafted vocal melody. "The Most Immaculate Haircut" (something I've never laid claim to) sparkles with guitar arpeggios. "Reservoir" skips merrily on an uptempo beat and should please fans of the old stuff. "Never Wanted" closes the record softly, with muted guitar and a contemplative vocal.

My advice would be : Stick with it. Okay, so it's not as catchy on the surface as the splendid "English Riviera". It's not as punchy as "NIghts Out", perhaps. However, it's a different beast. If you're looking for a collection of "jukebox hits", definitely look elsewhere. If you like the sound of some understated, beautifully conceived songs that creep up on you, then join the (not so raucous) party.

Personally, I think this may just be their finest album. Time will tell.....

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 5 TP
Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 5 TP
by Alan Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.57

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting. Profound. Essential., 2 Feb. 2014
Swamp Thing Book 5 is very nearly the FINEST collection in the whole of Alan Moore's formidable series. It focuses largely on the injustice dealt out to Swampy's soul mate and lover Abby Cable, her incarceration, and Swamp Thing's ferocious response to this.

"The Garden Of Earthly Delights" is the enthralling centrepiece of the book. Swamp Thing transforms Gotham in to a sprawling, impenetrable jungle of greenery and has an amusing scrap with the legendary Batman. The chapter ends in tragedy but the reader knows that there is more insane/insanely intelligent action yet to come. And there is : - "My Blue Heaven", the story that ends this book, is one of the most affecting stories I have ever read by Alan Moore. It features our elemental hero creating his own utopia on a haunting blue planet. It stands above even the unforgettable tales from previous books (e.g. "Pog", "Nukeface Papers", "Windfall" - three that always spring to mind...)

Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" series is consistently great (though book 1 and book 6 fall slightly short, in my opinion). Book 5 is as good as it gets...and THAT'S pretty darned good.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 27, 2014 9:56 PM BST

City Forgiveness
City Forgiveness
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Waves of Jubilation, 13 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: City Forgiveness (Audio CD)
We're hurtling towards the conclusion of 2013, folks, and inevitably everybody will start to talk about the best albums of the year. Lists will be compiled. Heads will be scratched. Disagreements will occur. Blood will be boiled. The same artists will turn up in every list (MBV, Boards of Canada, Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend...) Many of the top rankers could well be unworthy (though it's all relative, of course!)

What I fear is that this blisteringly great DOUBLE album from The Wave Pictures may not get a look-in at all. If not, that would be a travesty, for CITY FORGIVENESS is nothing short of a masterpiece. Packed in to its 90 minutes we have scuzzy blues, bittersweet vocal harmonies, sprightly guitar solos that never outstay their welcome, melodious basslines, drums that roll and rumble, then sputter and syncopate. An African flavour is often present due to David Tattersall's beautiful flecked guitar lines. Overall, the sound is dangerously infectious and the songs will swiftly become lodged in your GRATEFUL HEAD.

Highlights? Well, "Better To Have Loved" is a cracker that glides along on minor chords and a melancholy lyric. "Whisky Bay" is as mellow as it's title suggests. "Red Cloud Road" is lo-fi Paul Simon but with no whiff of pastiche. "Atlanta" is subdued piano-led calypso with a chorus to die for. "Lisbon" rocks out on a drum pattern that is looser than clowns' trousers. "New Skin" is a song to cry to. "Golden Syrup"......... I'll stop there, because to be frank there is very little on this album that doesn't cut the mustard.

And let us not forget that this is a DOUBLE ALBUM. Kudos to The Wave Pictures for encouraging extended listening in this age-of-the-short-attention-span. We are gifted with ninety minutes of great quality songs and not a note is wasted. The freshness is retained throughout. The same cannot be said of Arcade Fire's latest lengthy release, which is weighed down by too much flabby self-indulgence.

In conclusion - In this reviewer's humble opinion, CITY FORGIVENESS is THE album of 2013. I hope there are many souls out there who agree.

Price: £13.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Splendid Companion Piece To "The Violence", 29 July 2013
This review is from: Bugbears (Audio CD)
"Bugbears", the latest offering from the scarily prolific Darren Hayman, is presented as an accompaniment to his almost flawless last release "The Violence". It is a collection of thirteen folk songs from the seventeenth century and Stuart era that Hayman has "revised, edited and even re-written in places". Mercifully, this does not mean that the album is a fiddly-dee karaoke exercise! Rather, it presents itself as a (lyrically) less bleak and (musically) more trad, version of "The Violence".

Opening tune "Martin Said" sets the scene. Described in the beautifully written sleeve notes as a "drinking song", it does indeed swing along drunkenly with plucked banjos, a weepy fiddle and Darren's endearingly wobbly vocal. The next tune "Bugbears" is a thing of delicate beauty. The acoustic arpeggios, whispered vocal, soft chiming keyboards and HEARTBREAKING melody all add up to a song that captivates from beginning to end. It's Darren Hayman on full power, and that is a wonderful thing.

The album continues with a smattering of pleasant instrumentals and eminently more effective (and affecting) vocal tracks. "Hey Then Up We Go", with its derelict chapel organ, is like a spooky nursery rhyme. "The Contented" is a great slow-paced piano number about politicians and its major-to-minor melody is marvellous. "Impossibilities", meanwhile, should come with an EARWORM caution because it is DANGEROUSLY catchy. No surprises there, though. I've had Darren Hayman songs spinning round in my head for days at a time. The man is gifted, to be sure.

All said and done, "Bugbears" is forty minutes of top quality, bucolic music. Its only minor flaw is that the instrumental tracks are a tad forgettable (a shame, as Hayman's vocal-free concept album "Lido" overflows with gorgeous, wordless music).

This flaw is only minor, though. In the main, "Bugbears" has all the warmth, friendliness, harmony and lyrical bite of D.Hayman at his finest. Oh, and the artwork on the album release is a DELIGHT. Enjoy....

The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town Documentary  [DVD] [2011]
The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town Documentary [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Thom Zimny
Price: £9.90

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Promise That Is Truly Delivered., 8 May 2011
Is "Darkness on the Edge of Town" Bruce Springsteen's masterpiece? You may well think so after watching this wonderful documentary. Almost certainly, you will want to clamp on some headphones and bask once again in the glory of the tunes: "Prove It All Night", "Racing in the Street", "Candy's Room" and all the other gems. Those twinkling glockenspiels, thunderous piano lines, scorching guitar solos and Bruce's gutsy, heartfelt vocals. Life-affirming stuff.

This movie provides an utterly compelling insight into the making of the album. We witness the blood, the sweat and the tears that the band produced to get this music recorded. Studio footage shows the E Street boys hunched over the mixing desk in states of extreme sleep deprivation. We learn that Bruce's requirements were so specific that it took them two weeks just to achieve the right drum sound. Yup, it was a painful process.

There is some great footage here. Witness red raw practice performances from Bruce's NJ home (including a woozy, lethargic and organ-heavy "Something in the Night"). We see some blistering live concert clips. We are treated to a succession of talking head interviews. There is also much arty, black and white footage of a washed out New Jersey that compliments the music perfectly. This movie, like all great music movies, is something of a collage. Beautifully and tastefully designed.

The highlight? It has to be Bruce at the piano performing an early version of "Sherry Darling" while Miami Steve romps and jives with a pair of drumsticks and belts out the vocal harmonies. It's mesmerising...and hilarious!

Anyhow, enough from me. "The Promise" is a great item to own (and check out the extras - quality stuff). It is perfectly packaged and affordably priced. Fans of The Boss and those who need to be converted - BUY NOW.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 16, 2011 11:38 AM BST

Penguin Cafe: A Matter Of Life
Penguin Cafe: A Matter Of Life
Price: £13.24

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music Matters., 20 Feb. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Mr. Soft Machine's review has summed up this release and the whole ethos of Penguin Cafe in a very concise manner. Hats off! Therefore, I will keep this review brief.

Listening to this wonderful album right now, I am bowled over by its consistently gorgeous melodies. Tunes such as "Landau", "Harry Piers" and "From a Blue Temple" are taking my soul to such lofty heights. Simon Jeffes would be very proud I'm sure of what his son Arthur and his dazzlingly talented group have created here.

Simply, listening to "A Matter Of Life" frequently induces the same amount of euphoria within me that the original Penguin Cafe Orchestra were so often capable of raising. I can think of no higher praise than that!

Buy this and give your spirits a guaranteed musical lift.

Knee-Deep in the North Sea
Knee-Deep in the North Sea
Price: £4.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get On Your Knees!, 20 Feb. 2011
"Knee Deep in the North Sea" originally came out a few years ago and was correctly lauded as a contemporary jazz classic. This re-release is essentially the same set of tunes but they have been remixed to sonic perfection by Mr John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead...)

The production here is excellent - there is now more space and depth in the sound. The haunting tones of the hang drum shimmer like an amber sunset. Not a single pluck of the bass is lost. Crisp drums skitter and scatter. The saxophone is bruised and aching. Many of the songs evoke travel and reflective journeys (Steve Reich definitely an influence). There is much blissful repetition to be heard. Tunes such as the title track, "Steps in the Wrong Direction", "Pompidou" and "Prickly Pear" are wonderfully catchy and melodious and occasionally playful. A joy to listen to.

The bonus tracks here are also more than welcome - cosmic and loopy live renditions that give a good flavour of what the band are like in concert.

Here's hoping that this re-release will introduce Portico Quartet to a wider audience. Their music is both experimental and accessible and demands repeated listening.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 12, 2011 5:17 PM GMT

Teen Dream
Teen Dream

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dream Come True, 27 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Teen Dream (Audio CD)
"Teen Dream" is LP number three from Baltimore's Beach House and is their strongest by some considerable distance. Running at 48 minutes, it offers 10 spellbinding, intelligently constructed and ever so slightly "abnormal" pop tunes and is a pure listening pleasure from beginning to end.

The album kicks off with "Zebra", a formidable opener with a seductive electric guitar pattern that simmers away and builds to a serene chorus. It is immediately apparent that the songwriting skills of this two-piece outfit have developed enormously since their last record. "Silver Soul" is next - a slow burner with singer Victoria Legrand performing a soulful vocal that sounds like a resigned sigh. The enveloping, echo-drenched organ chords work particularly well here. Third tune, "Norway", has had some radio play and is unsettlingly beautiful - just check out its DISEASED slide guitar line! It will lure you in, I guarantee it.

"Used to Be" is a truly wonderful, infectious ditty that you will find going round in your head as you wait for the morning bus. It contains a very jaunty, almost McCartney-esque vocal, a playful piano backing and a frisky "oompah-oompah" beat. It's one of those tunes that will compel you to drop your spoon into your cornflakes and just LISTEN.

"Lover of Mine" is also very powerful. It has all the alien beauty of a dark 1980s synthpop ballad, but without the pungent aroma of 1980s cheese. No, Beach House know a thing or two about subtlety. Their tunes are also leant a haunting, etheriel air by the production technique ("Teen Dream" was recorded in a cathedral by producer Chris Coady).

"Real Love" is possibly my favourite track here at the moment. At its foundation lies a great minor chord piano riff that could have been spun from the spindly fingers of Thom Yorke. Also, the vocal melody on this one is positively GHOSTLY. This captivating creation is followed by a suitably epic closing track - "Take Care" - which contains descending chords and a poignant vocal refrain : "I'd take care of you/ That's true".

I've had this album for a couple of days now and it has become a permanent fixture on my hi-fi. I know it's only January at the moment, but I'll be very impressed if we get to hear a BETTER album this year. You see, on many occasions recently I have purchased overly-hyped contemporary releases and, on listening, been underwhelmed and frustrated. I have often thought, "Can new music still excite me? Must I continue to delve into the past? Have all the best songs already been written?"

Albums like "Teen Dream" put such fears to rest. The music is simultaneously classic and lemon-fresh, sweetly seductive and highly relevant. In short, a musical treat. A MUST-BUY.

PS - This release contains a bonus DVD which contains a video for each of the ten tunes here. The quality varies, but if you like some visual accompaniment to your music then this special release is probably the one to plump for. However, in my humble opinion, it's all about the tunes. Oh, those glorious tunes.....................................................

Tomorrow's Laughter
Tomorrow's Laughter
Price: £11.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Perfectly Pleasant Half Hour Passed., 11 Dec. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Tomorrow's Laughter (Audio CD)
After some brief research, I have discovered that Sara Lowes has previously collaborated with acts such as The Earlies and Jim Noir (amongst others) and this is her first solo release.

"Tomorrows Laughter" (apostrophe bypass?) is a kind of "mini album" which features six finely crafted tunes and weighs in at an agreeable thirty minutes. Each song, on first listening, sounds unremarkable: pretty melodies but perhaps lacking any considerable amount of edge. Repeated listening, however, reveals much to adore in this music as the many hidden elements come to the fore. Each tune, stripped to the core, comprises of sweetly sung vocals, shifting rhythm patterns, 1970's-style rock piano and a smattering of electric guitar licks. Added to these basic elements are frequent multi-layered vocal harmonies and some very inventive orchestration (including some dazzling brass sections and what sounds like a medieval flute). Also invited to the party are the ever-welcome mellotron, cello and some lush Hammond organ. Sara Lowes may ostensibly be a solo artist, but she has a large group of friends backing her up. This gives the music a celebratory feel (imagine Sufjan Stevens' "Illinoise" album with Aimee Mann on vocals).

There isn't really a poor tune here. As I previously mentioned, they are densely layered and evolve with each listen. Special mention, however, should go to "I Wish" which is a bold opening tune, and the title track "Tomorrows Laughter" with its stomping piano and jaunty clockwork rhythms. "Down and Out" is another highlight ; a hypnotic folky ballad, dripping in strings.

So, after initially being a little underwhelmed, I now look forward to a full-length release. In the meantime, this half-hour nugget will do nicely. I'm listening to it now and warming to it even more! It has the polished musical sensibilities of Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" with a slight dash of psychedelia. If that sounds agreeable, then you know what to do!

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