Laura Groves – Thank God There’s ‘Friday’

Laura Groves has a new EP out. It’s called Committed Language and it’s available here. The vibe is a certain synthy funkiness. Fleetwood Mac are the official reference point. But one track is different. Unlike the other songs, ‘Friday’ is piano-led. It’s also unutterably beautiful. It’s reminiscent of Laura Groves’ previous incarnation, Blue Roses. At one time, she was being pitched alongside Laura Marling as the true incarnation of nu-folk, but both were better than that. Blue Roses was a wonderfully emotional album, but unfortunately the project is no more. If you like ‘Friday’ and/or you’re missing Blue Roses, then you might like this session from late last year. With just Ms Groves, a piano, and her beautiful voice, time has been rewound to about 2008.

Committed Language and a previous EP, Thinking About Thinking, are both available from Bandcamp. There’s also her lovely version of Paul McCartney’s ‘Waterfalls’ and much more over at Soundcloud.

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Holy Holy – Making History

Holy Holy are almost unsearchable. You can imagine what turns up. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that their latest single slipped through the net. It shouldn’t have. It’s called ‘You Cannot Call for Love Like a Dog’. Believe me, the track is better than the title. It follows on really nicely from their great EP The Pacific, which was reviewed ecstatically here. Here’s the video from the Tube that is You.

The bearded ones are readying for a short tour of Europe, but not Ireland unfortunately. So, in the meantime here’s a really nice live-in-the-studio version of another great track ‘History’. When will that album ever be out?

 

Wilder Maker – Everyday Crimes

Wilder Maker have a new EP out. This is the second of three they’re promising this year. The defining feature of a Wilder Maker song is that while they always get from A to B, they rarely go in a straight line. There are usually lots of little diversions along the way. And whichever way they go, it’s always an interesting and somewhat emotional journey. Here’s Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Villagers – Darling Arithmetic

Villagers – Darling Arithmetic

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This is Conor O’Brien’s coming out album. “It’s not a news story”, he told The Irish Times, “Man is gay”. Quite right. What’s the big deal? Well, it’s a big deal for Conor O’Brien, who was motivated to compose a bunch of songs about it. From the very first words we’re in typically elusive Villagers territory, but this time we know for sure what’s being communicated. “It took a little time to get where I wanted, It took a little time to get free, It took a little time to be honest, It took a little time to be me”. Yet what makes Darling Arithmetic so compelling is that it’s not just a coming out album. This is an album about love. Falling in love. Falling out of love. Cleaning up after love. Falling back in love again. Now, this should always be a big deal. And it certainly is for Conor O’Brien. There’s a whole album of songs about it. As usual, there’s a wonderful turn of phrase. “See there’s a mystery in your eyes, A kind of swimming pool for swimming fools like me”. And there’s a warmth that at times has been missing before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the album is at its very best when the two themes combine. “We’ve always been up against it”, we hear on ‘Hot Scary Summer’, “But now it’s sad to see that we’re up against each other”. The wonder of this album, like the previous Villagers albums, lies in the constant allusiveness. But on a couple of occasions the equivalent of the fourth wall is broken. “Take the blame”, we’re told on Little Bigot, “And throw that hatred on the fire”. The sentiments are unimpeachable, but the spell is broken for just a second or two. By its very nature Darling Arithmetic is different from its predecessors. The raw emotion of Becoming A Jackal is absent. And the almost exhausting logorrhea of {Awayland} has run its course at least for now. In its place there’s an openness and a tenderness. A love in all its forms.

Pitchfork review

The Irish Times review

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

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His Sufjanness is back and he’s making us all very sad. Well flagged in advance, Carrie & Lowell refers to his late mother and stepfather. Carrie died in 2012, providing the immediate catalyst for this most beautifully elegiac set of songs. More than that, though, Carrie shaped Sufjan’s upbringing by abandoning him on various occasions from his very earliest years. In one sense, the narrative can be delivered perfectly straightforwardly. “When I was three, three maybe four”, we’re told, “She left us at that video store”. Her leaving must have been as difficult to comprehend then as it is now. “What did I do to deserve this now?”, he asks, “How did this happen?” But in the end there’s no rancour. No bitterness. “I forgive you, mother”, he cries. Yet closure is almost impossible. “What’s left is only bittersweet, For the rest of my life”. Framed by fragile vocals. Wrapped in wondrous melodies. The songs are as heartbreaking as the story itself. Perhaps the most affecting moments are on ‘Fourth of July’. Set on her deathbed, the lyrics are full of endearments. “My firefly”, “My little hawk”, “My little dove”, “My little loon”. At times, Sufjan sings both of his mother and to his mother. “Such a funny thought to wrap you up in cloth, Do you find it all right, my dragonfly?”. But in an almost imperceptibly different register, he also sings as his mother. “Did you get enough love, my little dove, Why do you cry? And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best, Though it never felt right, My little Versailles.” While Carrie & Lowell can be read like a novella told in almost linear fashion, what’s striking are the allusions and asides that complicate the story and add depth to it. There are references to Greek mythology and, naturally, to The Bible. There are also half-mentions of places and events that no doubt resonate personally, but to which we are not made party. And then there are the outbursts whose meaning we can only wonder at. “Head of a rabbit”. Carrie & Lowell may be the result of a lifetime of disconnection, but it’s also a product of enduring love. It’s a combination that finds Sufjan Stevens at his most moving lyrically and his very best musically.

Pitchfork review

Consequence of Sound review

The AV Club review

Pretty Much Amazing review

Paste review

Glen Hansard – The artist transformed

Glen Hansard – It Was Triumph We Once Proposed… Songs of Jason Molina

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Not sure how this crept under the radar. Perhaps it was a chronic case of glenhansardaphobia. Never quite clicked before. But this is special. Five songs by the late, great Jason Molina covered by the ever-bearded Oscar-winning one. ‘Farewell Transmission’ and ‘Hold On Magnolia’ are full on Songs: Ohia, The Magnolia Electric Co, classics. How can they be covered? It’s an abomination. A violation. But, hold on (magnolia). They generate more than a grudging acceptance. In fact, they create a real liking. But that’s not all. There’s a cover of ‘Being In Love’ from Lioness. Oh come on. Lioness? Seriously? But, wait. This version of ‘Being In Love’ has been fully Magnolia Electric Co’d. It could be an outtake from the album of albums. No higher praise. And so too for ‘Vanquisher’ from Songs: Ohia (The Black Album). Now this is good. Really good. But oh my goodness. Glen Hansard? That Glen Hansard? Yet Glen Hansard has real, bona fide Jason Molina history. They toured. They even put out a split 7” in 2000. And therein perhaps lies the real beauty of this all-too-short collection. These aren’t fan versions. There’s a knowingness. A connectedness. Here, like all great cover albums, we hear the artist transformed. Nothing takes away from the original versions, but something special is added. And in this case we get double the money. Because not only is Jason Molina transformed. So, too, is Glen Hansard. Time for a reevaluation.

 

 

Pitchfork review

Consequence of Sound review