Emmy The Great shares Chang-E

With her new album April /  due for release 9th October via Bella Union, and having recently been featured in The ObserverEmmy The Great today shares a beguiling part-animated video for her new single “Chang-E”. Of the track Emmy says: “It begins with this. Chang-E, the wife of the tyrant Hou Yi, drinks the elixir of immortality to save China from his eternal reign. She ascends to the moon, and lives there with the Jade Rabbit, its original inhabitant. In Mid-Autumn, we celebrate Chang-E’s sacrifice with a festival of lanterns and lights. Many centuries later, NASA tells the moon-bound Apollo 11 astronauts to look out for the Chinese queen and her rabbit. Michael Collins replies, ‘We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.’”

Of the video Emmy adds: “I wanted to tell the story of the moon goddess as I heard it as a child. It’s a lesser known version of the famous legend (which forms the centrepiece of Mid-Autumn celebrations), and all the more evocative because Chang-E’s destiny is decided by an act of defiance. I had worked with animator Renee Zhan on her film O Black Hole, and I knew she would understand the story and its roots. The creative team also included Mona Chalabi (storyboard), Armiliah Aripin (editing), and Jesse Romain (production). In the fragmented lives we’re living in at the moment, the ideas came together remotely from around the world. This is reflected in the footage between the animation, which is from my personal archive, and a performance of Chang-E on Hong Kong’s RTHK, that I performed while 5 months pregnant.”

“Combining Canto pop with warm neo-folk, her songs are beautifully constructed, the arch quirkiness of her early albums replaced by the lush writing of songs such as Chang-E or Okinawa.” MOJO

“An album filled with soft, tender indie-folk… ‘Mary’ skips along via a country-tinged shuffle, adding to the ever-present feeling of gliding through a city.” Uncut

Emmy recently announced news of a special live performance at the Barbican to follow the release. Tickets are available HERE.

Jonathan Wilson releases El Camino Real EP

Jonathan Wilson has announced the release of Dixie Blur: Digital Deluxe Edition on October 30th featuring B-Sides & Acoustic versions of songs from the critically acclaimed album. Today, Jonathan Wilson has also shared El Camino Real EP, which is available on all streaming platforms.

“Wilson’s return to his southern roots drips with feel and flavour…His most potent release to date.” ★★★★– MOJO

Nashville, TN – Acclaimed artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jonathan Wilson has announced the October 30th release of Dixie Blur: Digital Deluxe Edition. The deluxe version of Wilson’s critically praised album will be released digitally and features three sides of music, including the full Dixie Blur album, unreleased B-sides and acoustic renditions of some of the album tracks. See track listing below.

Dixie Blur was recorded in Nashville and released on March 6 2020 via BMG/Bella Union, just when the initial impact of the pandemic fully hit and tours were halted.

The album is Wilson’s most fully realized work to date, and the press agreed with features and coverage running in Rolling Stone Country, Variety, Relix, Associated Press, Billboard, Paste, American Songwriter, No Depression and much more.

The multi-talented artist went to Nashville to record live in the studio with Wilco’s Pat Sansone as co-producer and some of Music City’s finest players. The most compelling behind the scenes story is how Wilson convinced the legendary Mark O’Connor, who many consider the greatest living fiddle player, to play on the album. The multi-Grammy, multi-CMA Musician Of The Year has not played on a session since 1990 but chose to take part as long as the sessions were recorded live. The compelling story of the unlikely collaboration is told by Wilson and O’Connor in this short clip that includes in-studio footage and portions of an interview with World Café’s Raina Douris.

While awaiting the arrival of Dixie Blur: Deluxe Edition, fans can enjoy the El Camino Real EP, released digitally today. The EP is comprised of six tracks,  three of which feature Mark O’Connor. The El Camino Real EP is now available at all DSPs.

Laura Veirs shares ‘Another Space & Time’

With her new solo album My Echo due for release next month on 23rd October via Bella Union, Laura Veirs has today debuted a video for third single “Another Space And Time.”

“In another space and time, California’s not burning
And the seas don’t rise, I’ll meet you there and I
Will remember the day, That the internet died
We found peace of mind”

In Laura’s words:  This is the first time I’ve danced in a music video. I loved dancing in it! It was choreographed by a Portland-based Brazilian dancer named Nelson Euflauzino (who also appears in the video). It was shot by an 18-year old music video director named Twixx Williams. The dancers you see here are friends of mine (not professional dancers). We did all of the rehearsing and shooting socially-distanced and outside over the Covid summer of 2020. The outfits were made by a local stylist named Alethea Dalton (the dress I’m wearing is an old vintage dress owned by Alethea but she made the other dresses).

I love the surrealistic elements that come into play in this video. In these lyrics I desire an escape from the way things are right now. In this “other space and time” California’s NOT burning, people DO have peace of mind, the internet is DEAD (and people are present with each other in real life instead of living on screens). This song is a dream that we can and will live in a more peaceful, loving world – and a world with more personal freedoms, too. I love how these wishes are embodied in the movements of the dancers. We look free and happy because we were!

“My world was turned upside down in my divorce and it felt like ‘nothing new’ to be forced into further deep uncertainty with the pandemic. I was already prepped for the kind of thinking required for dealing with the unknown. Also, as an artist you always have to deal with that fact anyways since art is such a precarious way to make a living.”

My Echo is my 11th solo album. It’s my ‘my songs knew I was getting divorced before I did’ album. My conscious mind was trying as hard as I could to keep my family together but my subconscious mind was working on the difficult struggles in my marital life. I was part of a “Secret Poetry Group” that met and wrote poems monthly for a year during the writing of this record. Many of my poems turned into songs for this album. By the time the album was being mixed last fall, my ex-husband/producer Tucker Martine and I had decided to go our separate ways. We were a great musical team for many years but we struggled to be compatible in our marriage and family life and that struggle is reflected in this album.

In this new batch of songs I imagine escaping from some sort of prison or cage. Advancing age, the confines of domesticity, our oppressive government and the threat of the apocalypse permeate these songs. In these songs my heart craves certainty and permanence but none is to be found. It’s an album about disintegration. It reveals my artist’s intuition at work.

Although these songs were written before quarantine they are strangely relevant to times in which we find ourselves currently. You will find me staring at the walls (Turquoise Walls). You will find me feeling grateful to be alive (Memaloose Island). You will find me accepting the ephemeral nature of life (Vapor Trails and All the Things). You will find me searching for personal freedom while feeling trapped (Freedom Feeling). You will find me trying to accept that sometimes the best thing to do is to sit still and do nothing at all (Another Space and Time).

Produced by Tucker Martine in the summer and fall of 2019. My Echo features guest appearances from Jim JamesBill FrisellKarl BlauMatt Ward and others.”

Landshapes debut ‘Rosemary’

With their new album Contact due for release November 20th via Bella Union, London outfit Landshapes have shared a psychedelic new single titled ‘Rosemary’, along with an accompanying video. The band explain that… “In ‘Rosemary’ we were exploring the herb and its ability to aid and stimulate memory, which led to the idea of connecting with ancient lineage, whether that be human ancestors or even trees. The idea of placing ourselves within a deep time trajectory, rather than seeing ourselves as special beings, separate from the world around us. The song starts with a feeling in the body, which I suppose is the holding place of so much ancestral DNA.”

Loneliness, isolation, alienation, the need for connection and community. The salient themes of our times resonate with a haunting, predictive and vital power on the third album from London four-piece Landshapes. Contact is an album that digs deep into the past, looks ahead to the future and burns with vivid life in the present, where its mind-expanding soundscapes, beguiling melodies and resonating emotions exude a tremendous in-the-moment vibrancy.

The title speaks clearly to the album’s themes, as intended. As Luisa Gerstein (vocals, synths) explains, “The working title for a long time was ‘Collapse’, but when we came around to naming it, and having the conversation from our respective isolation, we wanted to give it a name that was more hopeful, and about connectivity.  Dan suggested ‘Contact’ and it clicked – Contact with each other; contact with the wider world amidst its unravelling; music feels like a really essential part of that right now.” 

Contact took form after extensive touring for Landshapes’ second album, “Heyoon”, where the band’s shape-shifting hybrids of alt-folk, psychedelia, math-rock and more brimmed with brooding beauty. The desire to sustain the focused fluidity and elemental power of their live energy – honed from Green Man to End of the Road and beyond – compelled them to continue playing and writing together, with strict principles to light the way. As Heloise Tunstall-Behrens (bass, vocals) puts it, “We approached this album with the idea of creating more space, simplifying and allowing things to breathe. We also wanted to keep the songs briefer, with fewer deviations.” 

A few years later, Contact sustains those principles beautifully. The sulphurous sludge-rock guitars and depth-charged synths of “Rosemary” throb with a rapt intensity: while the lyrics reflect on ancestral DNA and the memory-stimulating powers of the titular herb, the physicality of the sound embodies a sense of the past living in the present, registered deep in the gut.  

Throughout, Landshapes equip their elemental intimations and exploratory themes with a palpable immediacy. “Siberia” is a psychedelic folk song of ice and fire, its forceful chants set to deliciously lopsided rhythms; direct and mysterious. Testifying to the band’s road-tested chemistry, loose grooves are executed with a limber precision. “Drama” sets its snapshot of, says Luisa, “the imbalance of emotional labour that can happen between men and women” to an alt-R&B funk drift. With Jemma Freeman (guitar, vocals) and Dan Blackett (drums) swapping instrumental roles, “The Ring” is mantric, romantic pop with a troubled heart, its seeming simplicity deceptive. “I suppose it was a love song at first,” says Heloise, “inspired by some friends getting married. For me, it evolved into a feeling of connection with the world and non-human species – a partnership upon which we tend to rely and take for granted but don’t appreciate all the time.” 

Elsewhere, moods and emotions deepen and diversify. “Real Love Is Dead” sets a tale of break-ups and Tinder to a misty synthetic backdrop. The spare, future-thinking “I’m Mortal” grapples with the question of giving birth in today’s world, treated vocals throwing its core human doubts into stark relief. For Luisa, the amniotic bliss-pop of “Dizzee” frames a reflection on “the specific experience of going to a queer people of colour club night for the first time, and feeling so ecstatic that the space existed, feeling at home, whilst simultaneously wrestling the feeling of being an imposter”.  

Look for evidence of the band’s live power and you will find them manifested forcefully on “Let Me Be”, an inside-out critique of white male self-entitlement set to a whirligig of organs, chants and fuzzy math-rock guitars. Born from a jam session on tour, the wordless harmonies and guitar-strafed lurches of “Just A Plug” add cathartic jolts of electricity. “It feels like a release and a chance to vent,” says Heloise, “even without lyrics the sentiment is there!” Finally, “Conductor” diverts that energy into a serene reverie on time and the body, its expansive imagery anchored in the immediacy of sensation. 

After the voyages of self-discovery on their 2013 debut, “Rambutan”, and the wide-open reach of “Heyoon”, Contact pays testimony to Landshapes’ questing spirit. Recorded live at Soup Studios when it was in Limehouse, the album’s freshness reflects a strict resistance to, says Luisa, “over-cooking in the studio”. New tools helped flesh out the soundscapes, Jemma notes: “actual synths”, a Boss Dr Rhythm drum machine, and fresh guitar pedals enrich the sonic palette without gratuitous studio interference. Meanwhile, storied sound wizard and producer Kwes became, says Heloise, “sort of a fifth member”, helping to take the songs “to a new realm”. 

As Jemma says, “We had a strong idea of wanting to keep a raw feel to the work, and that we wanted external ears to play a guiding influence and add a new voice once we had built the foundations. The sense of previous preciousness was something we could dispose of, as we had more confidence in our ability to play and write. I think it made us bold.” 

Tim Burgess announces ‘Ascent Of The Ascended’

Following rave reviews for his recent solo album, I Love The New Sky, Tim Burgess today announces news of a new EP, Ascent Of The Ascended, released 27th November via Bella Union and available to preorder here. The 6-track EP contains two superb new tracks, “Yours. To Be”, and “The Ascent Of The Ascended”, recorded soon after the album was finished, as well as four tracks recorded in New York City back in March as a live session for Paste magazine. Three of the tracks are from I Love The New Sky alongside a new version of The Charlatan’s classic ‘The Only One I Know’.

Of the lead track, “Yours. To Be”, Burgess says: “At the tail end of the glory of the night before – with all the hope and beauty that the following morning brings. Away from the glare of the party – like the calm after the storm has left town. It’s a feeling that’s so pure and uncluttered. It’s around a while, then real life starts to creep back in. It’s all about making the most of moments as they are happening .”

https://youtu.be/PfqkTZg2Rxc

Burgess goes on to say: “There was an energy that came from recording the album with such a brilliant band – I didn’t want it to end, I wanted to record a bit of a magnum opus, which is where Ascent of the Ascended came in. I’d always wanted to work with Charles Hayward from This Heat, so we have him a ring and he said yeah. With “Yours. To Be” being almost like an instant feeling you get in a moment, very rarely in your life – the two songs are so different but they somehow complement each other. So an EP was the perfect idea.”

“We had so many plans for playing live this year – from South by Southwest to Glastonbury and everything in between. But that wasn’t to be. We played four shows in New York before lockdown happened – so our session for Paste Magazine was such a rare event, we’ve included the songs to complete the EP.”

“A gorgeous, summery slice of psych pop that’s peppered with nods to a who’s who of musical innovators. From the opening chords of Empathy for the Devil, which give a nod to The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry, to the delightful Comme D-Habitude, which conjures up Sparks in their pomp, there’s not a bad note on the album.” Evening Standard – 5 stars *****

“Sunshine pop gently nudged and bustled off-centre by playful experimentation… There’s a lot going on here, yes, but with Burgess on such dynamic form, its all good.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“Joyful and exuberant, it recalls the good cheer of post-Beatles Paul McCartney, while ‘Sweetheart Mercury’ has something of the sunshine pop of Super Furry Animals.” The Times – 4 stars ****

“This is an adroit, cohesive pop treasure melding early 70s Todd Rundgren, Nilsson’s introspection and the art-pop of Kevin Ayers and post-Roxy Eno.” The i – 4 stars ****

“An optimistic celebration, driven by hooky melodies and strong choruses: Lucky Creatures relishes its Scott Walker-ish spaciousness, stretching out in swirls of synth and string, while Sweetheart Mercury has a vamping rhythm enlivened by squelchy Moog. It’s all crowned by the confidence of I Got This, which reconciles Charlatans-esque country-soul Hammond to classy baroque-pop ba-ba-bas in a way that is unabashedly uplifting.” The Observer – 4 stars ****

“Fifth and best solo outing from the Charlatans frontman… The connective sense of an on-the-hoof holiday from the day job, plus emotionally deep and humorous lyrics, make this a winner.” Q – 4 stars ****

“Composed in the Norfolk countryside, the record has a wonderfully expansive feel. It’s big and brash, from the freewheeling strumming and plonks of piano on ‘Empathy for the Devil’ to the whirling, psychedelic synths of ‘The Warhol Me’. For a time of such profound melancholy, it’s comforting to hear Burgess with such a sunny outlook.” The Independent – 4 stars ****

“His best in years… With feel-good abandon, the confidence of these bold, varied arrangements shines from the speakers… An infectious album where ideas are abundant.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****

“The Beatles, Sparks, Abba, 10cc, Stereolab – all these and more are conjured up on 12 tracks full of space, complexity, beauty and lyrical wizardry.” Sunday Times

“Hugely uplifting, these twelve tracks are rich in melody and bear a loose and lovely feel.” The Sun – 4 stars ****

“Burgess is one of a kind. Each solo effort reveals more of his idiosyncratic nature. The boy wonder’s eye for a pop melody and a deft pop hook remains sharper than ever.” Shindig – 4 stars ****

I Love The New Skyindulges a love of classic pop rock, with sweet melodies, pop-literate lyrics and arrangements packed with delightful details.” The Telegraph

“The lone approach  seems to have indulged more of Tim Burgess’s agreeable idiosyncracies… We’re enchanted.” Uncut – 7/10

Pom Poko debut “My Candidacy”

Having recently announced their return with sophomore album Cheater, due for release 6th November via Bella Union, Pom Poko today share raucous new single “My Candidacy”. According to the band… “the song itself is kind of about the wish to be able to believe in unconditional love, even though you know that there probably is no such thing. We, at least, believe in unconditional love for riffy tunes with sing-song choruses.”

 “If you have a vacancy for Favourite New Band, Pom Poko would like to apply for the role,” tweeted Tim Burgess in April, as Norway’s finest punk-pop anti-conformists revisited their joyous debut album, Birthday, for one of Tim’s mood-lifting Twitter listening parties. Pom Poko pimp their CV on all fronts with their glorious second album. Between the quartet’s sweet melodies, galvanic punky ructions and wild-at-art-rock eruptions, Cheater is the sound of a band celebrating the binding extremes that make them so uniquely qualified to thrill: and, like Tim’s listening party, to fulfil any need you might have for a pick-you-up. 

As singer Ragnhild Fangel explains of the leap from Birthday to Cheater, “I think it’s very accurate to say that we wanted to embrace our extremes a bit more. In the production process I think we aimed more for some sort of contrast between the meticulously written and arranged songs and a more chaotic execution and recording, but also let ourselves explore the less frantic parts of the Pom Poko universe. I think both in the more extreme and painful way, and in the sweet and lovely way, this album is kind of amplified.” 

Both sonically and thematically, that sense of amplification asserts itself right off the bat with the tearaway title-track. Bursting into life on the back of a blast of fractious guitar noise, a thrashing riff and a sweetly sardonic vocal, “Cheater” laces its serotonin rush with tangy lyrics about dreams and, says Ragnhild, the kind of “cheating kid who doesn’t understand why they didn’t get things exactly like they wanted on their first try”: thematic motifs that reverberate throughout the album. 

From here, Pom Poko court their extremes with firecracker confidence. Its lilting melody laced with a critique of gender stereotypes and set to a Breeders-style lurch, “Like A Lady” is sharp and catchy. First single “Andrew” upholds a facility for simplicity in one of Pom Poko’s loveliest choruses, though a band such as this will never settle for the obvious: Martin Miguel Tonne’s jazzy guitars seem to do everything except what you expect them to.  

Further evidence arrives in the contrast between the thrilling, think-on-its-feet thrash-pop of “My Candidacy” – made in less than three hours – and the mellifluous “Danger Baby”, a tale of irrational fears with Ragnhild’s vocal and Martin’s guitar merged in unexpected union. That love for surprise synchronicities, slanted sounds and unexpected subject matter propels “Andy Go to School”, where a tempo-tweaked guitar line accompanies a lyric extolling the pleasures of water parks and a free-flowing sonic palette. “Towards the end one of the guitar pedals made a huge BZZZ sound in a pause, but we thought it was cool and raw so we just rolled with it,” says Ragnhild. “We like to mix the feeling of a surgically produced piece of music with the random sounds that also happen when you are a band playing together.” 

After its opening, almost Bolan-esque belches of guitar, “Look” extends that spirit of openness to an invitation to look outside of one’s self, before “Body Level” ends the album on a characteristically generous, unguarded – amplified – note of positivity. “Things get better,” sings Fangel, embracing directness with the same readiness as Pom Poko exult in giddy intricacy. 

The sound of four distinct personalities driving in divergent directions towards one destination, the result is an evolved snapshot of the bracingly contrary chemistry forged when Fangel, Tonne, Jonas Krøvel (bass) and Ola Djupvik (drums) united to play punk during a jazz gig at a literature festival in Trondheim (the band-members studied jazz there.)Taking their name and spirit from Japanese animation visionaries Studio Ghibli’s marvellously out-there film about raccoon-dog rebels with unfeasibly large testicles, Pom Poko showcased that convulsive individuality to exuberant effect on 2019’s Birthday. Along the way, they drew praise from NME, DIY, PopMatters, The Line Of Best Fit, The Independent and BBC Radio 6 Music, while going on to be nominated for two Norwegian Grammy Awards (Spellemannprisen) and The Nordic Music Prize. Meanwhile, a huge touring schedule included countless sold-out headline shows and a rapturously received UK jaunt with Ezra Furman. 

Written in the same run that produced interim releases “Leg Day” (with its playful dance-based video) and “Praise”, and recorded/produced in cooperation with Marcus Forsgren (Jaga Jazzist, Broen, Arc Iris), Cheater does its predecessor proud on every front. Bursting with colour and wonky life from its cover art (by close collaborator Erlend Peder Kvam) outwards, it differs from Birthday primarily in that its songs did not have a chance to be road-tested before going into the studio. But you wouldn’t know it. As Ragnhild explains, “That meant we had to practice the songs in a more serious way, but it also meant the songs had more potential to change when we recorded them since we didn’t have such a clear image of what each song should/could be as the last time.”  

In other words, consider that vacancy for free-thinking punk-pop adventurism in your life filled. Right, Tim?