Here is part two of our new music picks for February. You can catch up with Part 1 here. Do we actually know anything about new music? Or, are we just too old to understand what most of this is banging on about? Read on to find out.
Cazimi / Rose, Caitlin
Mark: Caitlin Rose is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter. Her father is a label executive and her mother is songwriter Liz Rose, best known for her numerous co-writes with Taylor Swift. Her 2010 album Own Side Now and 2013 follow-up The Stand-In made her a critical darling, with her blend of country and indie-pop. Perhaps the pressure of such acclaim led her to take a step back, as it has taken nearly 10 years for her to deliver another album. She has a sweet voice and a style that mixes traditional honky-tonk, with a Zooey Deschanel-esque indie-pop, and a relatable way with an acerbic lyric. Standout track ‘Getting it Right’ features Courtney Marie Andrews. Definitely worth the wait.
Neil: It’s been close to ten years since the release of Caitlin Rose’s most recent previous album . Her new release Cazimi is an album that is, in some senses a follow up, but one that deliberately likes to blur the edges between things. Sure, it still could be described in the loosest of senses as an alt-country album, but it is like a version of country music reinvented by Taylor Swift. The lyrical content is equally obtuse; the songs are largely about complex emotional situations where the protagonist is barely holding it together, sung in a honey-tinged world-weary voice. All of this is, of course, intentional and used to great effect. One reviewer described the songs as having an ‘impressionistic feeling’ and that summarizes the album well too.
Solo works 96-98 / Raymonde, Simon
Mark: If you have no idea who Simon Raymonde is, he was the bass guitarist and keyboard player with Cocteau Twins from 1983 to 1997 and now runs the famous indie record label, Bella Union. When he started work on his first solo album, Blame Someone Else, the Cocteau Twins were still together, and the other band members feature on some tracks. By the time it was released in 1997 the band were no more, so it became the first album to appear on his Bella Union label. It’s been out of print for 25 years, and is repackaged here (and renamed) with 3 extra bonus tracks. As you would expect, there is very much a dream-pop aspect to these tracks that fits in with the style of the later Cocteau Twins album. Raymonde has been apparently hesitant to re-release it, but it’s all very mellow and pleasant, without being particularly original or pushing any musical boundaries. Weirdly it probably fits in more with today’s music scene than it did when it was originally released, with it’s laid back bedroom-pop charm.
Neil: During 1997 the Cocteau Twins were falling apart, and during that time you could find band member Simon Raymonde in the studio working on material that might, or might not, end up being used on a potential future Cocteau Twins release. As history shows, it turned out that this material was destined to morph into his first solo outing which has taken twenty-five years to be re-released. And although there are some Cocteau Twins touches (indeed both his fellow band members added separate elements to the tracks) the majority of the music is a long way from the Cocteau Twins. Indeed, the album sounds like what more mainstream indie music sounded like in Britain in late nineties. Raymonde does the vocal honours and writes most of the songs, with the exception of Scott Walker and Television covers. The album is both fragile and lush, and has a highly polished sound.
Is it going to get any deeper than this / Soft Pink Truth
Mark: The Soft Pink Truth is a house music side-project from Drew Daniel, who is one-half of Matmos, and this is his 7th release overall. Lush, psychedelic, disco marathons, meets chamber jazz and ambient soundscapes, moving between relaxing vibes to dance floor disco, to moody introspection. Singer Angel Deradoorian adds vocals on some tracks. Plenty of throwbacks to late 70s/early 80s European disco sounds.
Neil: Is it going to get any deeper than this by Soft Pink Truth is a particularly well named album. It starts of interestingly enough, as a wonderful nostalgic exploration of deep house dance music, but it quickly expands into something much more expansive. In places it’s a sexy, camp and lush sonic bubble-bath of an album, but it also organically changes into a rich meditative piece that is inspired by the memories and emotions the musicians experienced during those times.
Billy Nomates / Nomates, Billy
Mark: Billy Nomates is the moniker of Bristol’s Tor Maries, whose music is a blend of post-punk & 80s synths. New album Cacti was out last month, but this is her 2020 debut, that led to her being signed to Invada Records, the label of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow. Spiky, catchy songs with clever, humourous, observational, lyrics take acerbic swipes at pretty much everything and everyone. A fun, caustic, critique of the banalities of modern culture, and the financial & political inequalities rampant in British life. Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods pops up on ‘Supermarket Sweep’. Entertaining.
Neil: Billy Nomates is the first self-titled album from Tor Maries, whose second album ‘Cacti’ has just hit the record shops to rave reviews. On its release this debut album also created waves and was widely acclaimed. The tracks are clever, and largely comprise of sharply observed commentaries about our times. The music can best be described as post punk, but there’s a lot of other genres to be found in the broad palette of styles she uses. She is a fiercely independent singer-songwriter, who has a great capacity to write caustic, and occasionally, funny punk-tinged songs. She describes herself as a “punk with a keyboard”.
Sod’s toastie / Cool Greenhouse
Mark: Cool Greenhouse are a post-punk London band, and this is their 2nd full-length album. Angular post punk, wonky riffs and deadpan non-sequiturs from vocalist Tom Greenhouse (for example “Thank f…. Christ if you can find the end of the Sellotape in under 15 minutes”). If it sounds a bit similar to Dry Cleaning, Yard Act, Black Country, New Road and the like, The Cool Greenhouse actually pre-date all those bands, having debuted as a solo project by Tom Greenhouse back in 2017. Blurring the everyday with the surreal, in a dead montone they chronicle the absurdist nature of the reality we are all trapped in.
Neil: Cool Greenhouse are uncompromising in their approach, a post-punk band that employs fractured, repetitive, rhythms and melodies, and surrealist, existential, hard to fathom lyrics with wry humour thrown it. It’s this dogged, self-imposed discipline and clarity of vision that makes the album work. Though it does take time to tune into their wavelength, it eventually pays dividends. Just for reference they reminded me at points of a modern version of Devo.
Lady for sale / Kirke, Lola
Mark: Lola Kirke is a British-American actress/singer, whose father is Bad Company’s Simon Kirke, and Lady For Sale is her sophomore full-length album. A deliberate attempt to create an 80s female-country album sound along the lines of: Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’, Barbara Mandrell, Juice Newtown, Tanya Tucker or The Judds – the groundbreaking female artists that preceded the Shania Twain country-pop era. It’s somewhat campy and sparkly in places, with slightly dinky production, though that all may be entirely deliberate. It mostly succeeds as more than a nostalgia project, with strong, catchy, swinging, songs that focus on the balance between empowerment and love.
Neil: Just last year Lola Kirke was told that her age would count heavily against her chances of becoming a successful actor or pop musician. Furious at the situation, and undeterred, she turned her focus to country music to make her creative mark. What emerged is a classic 80’s era country pop album, with songs about broken down hearts and proud but damaged people struggling on through life. It reminded me in many aspects of Real Love era Dolly Parton, with heavily polished slick slide guitars and eighties synths to the fore. An album that fully embraces the glam and glitz of 80’s country.
Folksongs & ballads / Blake, Tia
Mark: This is a 2022 reissue of the only album by young American singer Christiana Elizabeth Wallman, recorded in Paris when she was only 19 years old under the stage name Tia Blake. Hailed as a lost classic, her pitch perfect, warm, emotive voice winds around a set of traditional Appalachian and British folk songs. Sparse arrangements and subtle guitar lines surround her darkly haunting and unaffected vocals. Other than 3 later tracks performed in 1976, she never recorded any further music, becoming a writer and eventually settled in North Carolina. She has been compared to many artists: Nico, Karen Dalton, Bridget St’ John and Nick Drake, so definitely worth a listen if you appreciate any of those artists.
Neil: This album definitely falls into the category of “Lost Classic”. It was originally released in 1972 and disappeared without trace. Even at that point in time, it was an album that was looking back into the past of the great American folk song tradition. Tia Blake made her own distinct mark on these legendary songs, recorded with minimal orchestration and largely just Tia’s superb smoky powerful voice and two guitars. It was to be her only recording indeed nearly every known recording by her is on this release.
Don’t give up on me / Burke, Solomon
Mark: Reissue of the 2002 Solomon Burke comeback album. Burke was one of the founders of 60’s R&B, scoring a string of hits for Atlantic in the early 60’s, melding gritty R&B, county and gospel. However, by the 90s, like a lot of the soul originators, he was recording on smaller labels and smaller budgets and was largely forgotten to the general public. His fortunes changed after signing to the Fat Possum label, where producer Joe Henry surrounded him with a series of original and previously unreleased compositions by top-rank songwriters: Tom Waits, Dan Penn, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison and more. This delivered a comeback that would go on to critical acclaim, commercial success and win a Grammy. The close live-in-the-studio sound that Henry achieved, along with the sparse arrangements and instrumentation, free Burke’s voice to inhabit the stories in these songs, cutting straight to their emotional heart. Deep soul at its best.
Neil: The late great Solomon Burke is regarded as one of the founding fathers of R&B music. His output in the 60s was legendary, you can check out some of those recordings on the Atlantic R&B compilation series. He fared less well in the 80’s and 90’s, when tastes changed and he was given often poorer material to work with. However, this 2002 album is a revelation. Recorded live in the studio over four days with no overdubs, with sparse production that highlights his voice, it features new songs by some of the finest songwriter out there: Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits and Brian Wilson to name but a few. The results are spectacular, and his vocal performance is stunning. The album went on to win best contemporary blues album at that years Grammys.