record reviews december 2015


10,000 (Secret City)


Emilie is Canadian singer-songwriter Emilie Kahn and Ogden’s the name of her harp, the partnership producing a debut album that will prompt references to Joanna Newsom, but also throw up comparisons with Tori Amos, Feist and Metric. She’s got a sort of nasally, angelic little girl Victoria Williams-type voice that goes well with the sweet tinkles of her chosen instrument, the songs given extra flesh by multi-instrumentalist producer Jesse MacCormack and drummer Francis Ledoux as well as occasional embellishments by cello and French horn.

Opening with the shimmeringly airy Blame, she traverses familiar troubled relationships terrain, the best examples to be found on the blues shaded White Lies, where you might detect a hint of Billie Holiday, the waltzing regret-steeped title track and the tinkling Hold Me Down, its acrobatic vocals, shifting tempos and melodic airiness mirrored in the playful romantic trepidation of Babel.

It’s a little too winsome to be taken at a single sitting and, with a couple of possible exceptions, none of the songs really rise above the clouds to shine on their own, but there’s enough here to make you want to come back and listen again.

Mike Davies


The Pattern of Electricity (Discolexique)


Working with Peter Broderick behind the desk and various instruments, this the Oregonian singer-songwriter’s first solo outing in nine years, a break-up album (albeit focused on recovery rather than collapse) spinning out of from the end of her personal and professional relationship with Joe Haege with whom who she formed Tu Fawning.

Those who recall her earlier work will remember her as a subdued vocal presence, her voice complementing the restrained, reflective nature of her music. Here, while not exactly ballsy, she’s more forceful, both in her delivery and, as the gradually swelling seven minute Pattern The Cut/Calm Ass Mofo and the chugging guitar riffs of The Beast Lives In The Same Place show, in her melodies.

Not that she doesn’t still do spare and hushed, just listen to the double-tracked vocals of the sad, simple and lovely Live For The Dead, the brooding quality of the slow-walking Woods, haunted by Broderick’s deep and dark rumbling guitar and punctuated with percussive snaps

or the lonesome country ache of the organ-washed Long Shadow (with Pb) as she sings “you can feel the space between us, or you can make me yours.”

The beautifully sad pulsing, static crackling, vocally echoing Another Shape (on which she sound a like a cross between Judy Collins and Cassell Webb), this is one of those albums that creeps up on you, worming its way inside and proving impossible to shed.

And, while images of the dark loom large, ultimately this is an album about letting go and coming back into the light, a note of positivity that rings loud on the closing, simple guitar accompanied In The Dark, You’re More Colorful (“You’re alright, I’ll let you go. I’m alright, now, let me go”) and with its multi-tracked vocals and organ drone, the slow paced, defiant Release Me with its swelling drums and guitar coda. “I’m rising”, she sings. Indeed she is.

Mike Davies


West of Anywhere (Alive Natural Sounds)


Formed in Perth back in 1992, fronted by Dom Mariani, DM3 released five albums (two of which were a mix of unreleased material, B-sides, covers and live recordings) before falling apart and this is a compilation of 18 of the best. Musically, it’s classic high energy garage power-pop, heavily influenced by the likes of The Ramones with lashings of ringing guitars and driving drums on instantly catchy songs laced with hooks and bouncealong choruses.

Punchy punky numbers like One Times, Two Times Devastated, Can’t Get What You Want, Foolish and the Monkees-ish Blue Light sit happily alongside less propulsive tracks like Augustine and the Beatlesque ballads Something Heavy and Take It All. They never really made a splash outside of Australia and, as such, the audience for this is going to be somewhat limited, but anyone who ever felt a thrill from hearing the intro to Last Train To Clarkesville, the surfing rush of Sheena Is A Punk Rocker or the chiming hooks of Starry Eyes by The Records will embrace with enthusiasm.

Mike Davies


Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists (Deep Fried Records)

nikki h

Described as sounding, not inaccurately, as the offspring of Tina Turner and Little Richard, )just listen to Scratch Back) and raised by James Brown and Chuck Berry, North Carolina born and New Orleans-based hill, blazes through her album like a rock n roll gospel comet, shooting off sparks of R&B and garage rock in equal measure.

Recorded in a studio, but blistering with the energy of a live show Hill takes no prisoners as, with the help of husband Matt Hill on guitar and a rhythm section of Ed Strohsahl and Joe Meyer she kicks off with the Doobies-like chug of the title track before cracking up the express train rock n boogie of Oh My, the bluesy swagger Struttin’, a Stonesy (Let Me Tell You ‘Bout) Luv and the Faces-like riffery of Hot Shot.

At times recalling Tina circa Steamy Windows (and at others channelling the soul-blues of Etta James (as on Nothin’ With You) and closing with a piano boogie version of Twistin’ The Night Away, this is the sort of undiluted hot, sweaty, booze soaked good time rock n roll that you thought they didn’t make anymore.

Mike Davies


Heart Map Rubric (Chord Orchard)

fiction aisle

A new 10-strong project from former Electric Soft Parade and Brakes singer Thomas White, this isn’t quite what you may expect from his past outfits. Out go the psychedelic colours and in comes shades of 40s jazz and lounge, with lush orchestrations of brass and strings, and whispery, soft crooning vocals (on Sleep Tight he recalls McCartney a la Fool On The Hill). Here the dreaminess of the bossa nova styled Each & Every One or Broadwayesque piano ballad The Colour of Morning sit alongside more cacophonous moments such as Major Seventh and What’s A Man To Do while New Year’s Day offers more folksy acoustic guitar and an eight minute The Sea Rolls On Forever and Outskirts suggest Lloyd Cole and early Bee Gees, respectively. A definite and audacious musical sea change, this may have old fans baffled and bemused, but, inspired by Sinatra’s recording of London By Night, it should find him a whole new audience among those whose CD collections include Alison Goldfrapp, Babybird and Edwyn Collins.

Mike Davies 2020