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Where has it been???!!!?!?!?!

In almost the same amount of time it has taken me to write a new blog post, Metallica have blessed us with their latest, alcohol withdrawal shakes and biker boots at the ready, album.

Now, don’t get me wrong, when I was a greasy lank haired fifteen year old (a continuing theme from my last post), all I listened to was Metallica. I ceremoniously scooped the crap out of my amp and struggled in vein to emulate the effeminate guitar wizard Kirk Hammett. I almost, almost (I can’t place enough emphasis on almost) bought a Kirk Hammett signature guitar; thank heavens I didn’t. For the few readers that aren’t acquainted with the intricacies of the guitar anatomy, Mr Hammett’s signature git fiddle is designed for one thing and one thing only: filthy, skin shaving heaviness. It looks menacing. It doesn’t provoke thoughtful or critical analysis. It just exists to destroy your ear drums, most probably when unplugged too. As I slowly came to appreciate the beauties of jazz, folk and early pop, trying to play such genres with a skull and cross bones emblazoned black behemoth would have been nigh on impossible. Plus it would have sounded like UTTER SHIT.

kirk-hammett

 

I have digressed somewhat. Out of respect for Hetfield & co. (bar Death Magnetic and 74% of St. Anger), I have listened to some of……ahem…….Hardwired to Self Destruct. To be fair, from what I’ve heard, they have returned to their Kill ‘Em All roots, albeit with an overly impressive slick production and more wrinkly skin. Kirk Hammett still belts out a nice bluesy Phrygian lick, so all can’t be wrong with the world.

Anyhow, what I really wanted to write about was all the great music I’ve had the pleasure of picking up recently! It was all a cunningly disguised plan to lure in die hard Metallica fans and treat them to the wonders of the musical world! What an evil schemer I am.

Let’s start with the all too infrequent tune producer Solange Knowles. Her new album, A Seat At The Table, is really quite something, a far cry from the modern Motown infused Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. What a set of pipes! A clear Dirty Projectors influence rings through, but this track is incredibly beat driven in its own right, with trickles of piano accentuating the bass heavy moments perfectly.

Next up is young American guitar virtuoso Julian Lage, who I will have the joy of witnessing this Thursday as part of the EFG Jazz Festival. His latest album, Arclight, is quite possibly my favourite release of the year and his first with an electric guitar. Without wanting to sound like a pretentious know it all idiot, this guy has tone oozing out of his fingers. His note selection is beautiful. The pace and execution of his playing wraps itself around the song structure, rather than sound like gratuitous wanking or someone who is trying too hard to impress. It’s tuneful, restrained, and comforting.The case to modify your Telecaster has never been so strong, especially when you take in the passage from 1.28 to 2.00.

Now, we have the glory days of psychedelic tinged grunge encapsulated in The Wytches. Upon a first time visit to Resident Records, I heard this blaring out over the speakers; my interest was instantly pricked. Their second album is worth your time, believe me. They could be the bastard brother of Nine Black Alps.

And finally, old Charles Mingus never ceases to amaze me. How had I not heard this album? And this tune?! Well, I’ve heard it now, so I can bask in its glory forever. I doff my hat to you sir. It’s a catchy little number, yes!

And with that, I’ll retire into the night and wish my friend Jack the happiest of thirtieth birthdays.

Enjoy!

Vocal bliss

Dirty Projectors

Vocal harmonies are something which I just can’t quite grasp in my mind, in how to put them into practice myself. Much like how a good drummer manages to make all their limbs flail in a random motion and produce a coherent beat.

When done well, vocal harmonies and melodies can transform a song which revolves around one or two notes into a thing of memorable beauty.

Quite probably the best ever three-part harmony pop group, The Beatles are an obvious choice. There is far too much to choose from, Nowhere Man and Here, There And Everywhere are two that instantly spring to mind, but I have a particular love for Yes It Is. Cast aside as too similar a song to This Boy and thus used as the B-side for the Ticket To Ride single, Yes It Is utilises complex harmonies and is a Lennon composition that showcases his ability to reel off beautifully melodic songs at will. McCartney and Harrison coming back in at 1.12 after the double tracked Lennon vocal is particularly nice.

Upon hearing this piece for the first time on the Moonrise Kingdom soundtrack, I was hooked and listened to it over and over again for a long while. As creepy as it is hypnotic, On The Ground, Sleep Sound is taken from Benjamin Britten’s opera of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It would be rude not to mention The Mamas and the Papas on such a blog, with their track I Saw Her Again Last Night.

And finally, one of the best vocal groups I have ever witnessed live, Dirty Projectors take the biscuit when it comes to ridiculously tight and incredible sounding harmonies. Bitte Orca and Swing Lo Magellan are two brilliant albums full to the brim with singing prowess, with the below acoustic version of No Intentions taken from the former. After David Longstreth’s initial lone intro, the perfect pitch harmonies start from 0.22 and are at their best during the choruses, the first one kicking in at 1.12.

p.s. If you can find a decent live version of Beautiful Mother by the Dirty Projectors from the Mount Wittenberg Orca EP, with Bjork, then that is well worth viewing too.