MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS
Echoes of the Dreamtime (Invisible Hands Music)
Born in San Francisco somewhere between Woodstock and Saturday Night Fever, Richards is a former early member of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and married to Rick Parker, who, among other things, produced Bohemian Like You for the Dandy Warhols. None of which, other than he produced this too, is particularly relevant in the appreciation of this dreamy collection of eight, pastoral tracks that average around five and a half minutes and lean heavily on atmosphere in her self-professed quest to have people slow down, listen and reflect. Indeed, the ethereal Americana of 7th Ray would feel at home in some early hours chill out room. That said, Tokyo’s Dancing is more uptempo with its jangling guitars and a folksy air reminiscent of 10,000 Maniacs at their most light-footed. There’s a similar feel to Little Radio, her pure, comforting voice and simple acoustic guitar giving way to a fuller band sound with flashes of electric guitar overriding the softer backdrop.
The seven minute First Light of Winter is a moodier piece, the scene set with dark reverb guitar and echoey vocals before an swirling empty desert ambience embraces it, Even longer is It Was Given, a musical saw evoking the sound of the wind and backgrounding the acoustic strum through a decidedly folk number with its narrative based on Michael Haneke’s enigmatic drama The White Ribbon which, set in Germany in the run up to WWI, explores the origins of cruelty.
Elsewhere, the closing Already Fine also has a folk sensibility, more traditionally inclined this time, Colours So Fine is fairly straightforward 70s West Coast folk rock and Julian weaves Eastern colours (sitar, tabla) into its mix of flute, violin, guitar and looped percussion mix for a six-minute account of a relationship foundering through lack of trust and selfishness as she sings “I see you as a child who has needs/.It’s so easy to forgive you, but it’s always me, me, me.”
While readily accessible, the combination of literate lyrics and subtle, complex arrangements means this may take longer to unfold its deeper charms than is usual, but the time spent will be well worth it.
TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND
Let Me Get By (Fantasy)
The third full length outing for the 12-strong band fronted by singer Susan Tedeschi and guitarist husband Derek Trucks, for the last 15 years also a part of the Allman Brothers, maintains and expands their cocktail of Memphis soul and southern rock/country. As such, it’s hard not to mention Bonnie Raitt in passing, particularly on album opener Anyhow and the gospel country soul Hear Me. Gospel also feeds into Laugh About It while Don’t Know What It Means adopts a funkier chugging groove designed for hot, sweaty southern bars (or churches) and Right On Time, on which Mike Mattison handles vocals, is all New Orleans jazz complete with greasy trombone, Let Me Get By swings from a country soul sway into a jazz Hammond workout jam and, also sung by Mattison, the eight minute Crying Over You/Swamp Raga welds a sweet Philly soul funk groove to a new agey world music instrumental coda played on 12 string harmonium drone and flute.
Heading to the finishing line, I Want More has a driving Motown beat (you could also hear Tina Turner ripping into it) while the final cut, In Every Heart, throws in a brass section along with Hammond, flute, Wurlitzer, piano and fuzz bass courtesy Doyle Bramhall II for one of those big end of the night linked arms gospel soul sawyers. Probably best experienced live for the full effect, but this is great stuff.
Though not available for review, the deluxe version adds a further eight tracks, three live, two alternate mixes, something called Satie Groove (which sounds like an instrumental) and a timely Southern soaked cover of Bowie’s Ok! You Pretty Things, a number they first performed at last year’s Sunshine Blues and Music Festival.
NIVE AND THE DEER CHILDREN
Feet First (Glitterhouse)
Recorded over the course of three years and in countries ranging from her native Greenland to Belgium to Nashville, the songs mirroring the shifting environments, this is the sophomore release from the Inuit singer-songwriter. It also embraces a vast diversity of collaborators and styles with album opener Still The Same being recorded in Tucson with Howe Gelb and his band on the one hand and Tulugaq, a tribal infused folk ballad co-written with a couple of twelve-year old twin sisters from northern Greenland, is sung in Greenlandic with crunching, hollow percussion, bleeps, feedback and dissonance.
Elsewhere, the percussion driven Walking ventures into similar experimental territory with bells and something called a bendy-slidey, Happy is more of a front porch sing song with strings that conjures Emmy The Great, Slip (on which Gelb also plays) has a string jazzy swing vibe, Grandma Marie inclines to dreamy Appalachia with its plucked banjo, sung in her native tongue Ole’s a pulsing drone featuring Lisa Gamble on saw and electronics and In My Head summons thoughts of First Aid Kit. Although her little girl voice provides a through line, it’s perhaps a little too kaleidoscopic for mainstream consumption, but those looking for the more accessible side of the fringe, or fans of early Bjork, should certainly give it a listen.
Good Advice (Secret City)
Her last album, Tall, Tall Shadow, back in 2014, saw the Canadian songstress move away from her earlier folksiness and towards the poppier mainstream. Even so, there remained touches of those Joni Mitchell comparisons and some Celtic influences. Not so here. Working with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, her self-confessed break-up album comes lashed with poppy melodies and electronics, resoundingly evidenced by the likes of the bouncing La La Lie with its synth brass and shades of vintage Motown, Long Goodbye (which in full flurry sounds like a retro Belinda Carlisle), a 60s tinged Fool and the big Katy Perry effervescent balladeering of In The Name Of.
There’s plenty of big voice moments here, carried along on big melodies by equally big guitars and drums, so it’s good to find there’s also room for something less musically expansive, as with the and the synth backed tick tocking Time and album closer Someday Soon where, just for a moment, backed by swelling organ and choral voices she slips back into an almost ethereal reverie. As fans who recall early offerings such as Gold Rush and Once More For The Dollhouse will know, this Basia Bulat was always there, lurking in the wings, waiting for the moment to step out into the full spotlight and shine. Now she has, and the glare is blinding.
Everybody’s Dying to Meet You (Fortuna Pop)
Taking their cue from Shoegaze and the better moments of the C86 indie-pop movement, the sophomore album by the London trio of shimmery sherbet voiced singer Rachel Kenedy, punchy pedals-friendly guitarist Sam Ayres and powerhouse drummer Jordan Hockley is, as you might expect rammed with echoey vocals and guitar distortion, prompting instant thoughts of bands like The Primitives, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Pastels and, on occasion The Cocteau Twins. This is no bad thing, proceedings opening with the tumbling effervescence of Pull My Arm and running through a clutch of, on average, three minute songs like the cascading pop rush Bitter Pill, Ego Loss where Kenedy’s high chorister vocals float over a simple jangly riff, the gutsier guitar snarls of How Do You Do and Tammy, and the citric psychedelia squeezed over Bathroom Sink and the chiming My Only Friend.
There’s nothing overly complex here and it would be easy to criticise the album for a certain sameness between the tracks. But that would be to deny their infectious exuberance and disarming sweetness, and, besides, stretching out to a mammoth four minutes, Intrusive Thoughts shows they can do slow burn ebb and flow to dreamy head in the clouds effect too. Blooming good.