Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Mike Wexler - Dispossession

Photo by David Black.

Mike Wexler has recently signed to the wonderful Mexican Summer label, and his second album 'Dispossession' will be released on Monday - a heady, brooding affair that sits alongside the majesty of outsider songwriters like Cass McCombs and Robert Wyatt. Despite a Brooklyn base, 'Dispossession' recalls the pastures of the Canterbury scene of the Sixties and Seventies, with finger-picked meanderings and deep, shuddering vocals.

Listen to opening track 'Pariah':

And stream 'Lens' on The Line Of Best Fit.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Wendy Rene - After Laughter Comes Tears

On a recent trip to Brighton, I picked up the new Wendy Rene compilation 'After Laughter Comes Tears' - a 2LP comp of her complete Stax & Volt singles and rarities from 1964-65. It was a bit of a gamble based on recommendations from friends (I'd only ever known her tracks 'Bar-B-Q', 'Crying All By Myself' and the classic 'After Laughter Comes Tears'), but oh my, what a buy.

Originally named Mary Frierson, her stage name was picked by Otis Redding himself. Her mother was the minister of music at their local church, and introduced Wendy to the organ. There isn't a huge amount known about the elusive Wendy Rene, but in her early teens she formed a singing group called The Drapels with her brother and two friends, and was signed with . She also married very young, but ended up parting ways and settling down with Stax songwriter James Cross, retiring from music in 1967.

What struck me was the dramatic end to her career - she was due to take the plane with Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays for what would have been her final performance for quite a while. But as she had recently become a mother, at the very last minute she decided to stay at home with her new baby son instead. The plane crashed in Lake Monona on the way to the show, leaving Redding and six others dead. After that, Wendy never knowingly recorded anything else, leaving the spotlight to raise her family.

The compilation spans her earliest recordings with The Drapels, up to her final sessions in ’65. Even though she was only in her early teens when the recordings were made, her soulful voice is unwaveringly strong and poignant, as though she's still been finding her way through the excruciating heartbreak and longing of love for decades rather than a handful or years.

Of 'After Laughter...', she says it was written while she was at high-school and shrugs off rumours that it is about any particular incident, admitting "I kinda got the big head for awhile, especially with the boys. I had a crush on a guy and I thought this would really do it, but it didn't. His loss!"

It may not have done it for him, but her small but brilliant back catalogue certainly did it for thousands of music lovers worldwide.

Available to buy online at Resident.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Novella - Don't Believe Ayn Rand

'Don't Believe Ayn Rand' is a new track from the Brighton founded and Dalston-based Novella, who I don't really know much about but I saw them play in 2010 and they were great; a fuzz of feedback, faces hidden in curtains of dark hair and soft, Deal sisters vocals to sweeten the pill.

I've managed to successfully come late to every show they've played since so haven't seen them live for a while, but I remember looping 'Oh Brian' last spring, and as this latest track goes to show, they haven't swerved too far from their eerie-psych-meets-The-Breeders beginnings.

Produced by Rory Attwell, their debut EP is now up for pre-order on Italian Beach Babes and is due out next month.

Download the track from Soundcloud:

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Kindness - Swinging Party

New (but actually rather old, from 2009 I believe) song crush is Kindness' eerie cover of the Replacement's 'Swingin' Party'; a subdued takeover that channels Talking Heads and Seventies' disco beats and acts the wallflower - quietly intriguing and unassumingly luminous.

Kindness is Adam Bainbridge, who spends time between London and Berlin and has released one single so far on Moshi Moshi. There is more to come, and it's sounding incredible:

His debut album 'World, You Need A Change Of Mind' is coming out on 5th March on Female Energy. You can preorder now. It'll be one of THE records of 2012, mark my words...

Hear more.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Toy - Left Myself Behind

Hype can be a strange beast, as we're all aware. In the age of the single track download, one song can propel an artist further into a music fan's conscious than any tour-weathered band with years of output heavily piled up in record shops. Hell, the iPod mainstays nowadays don't even have their own nameboard in record shops. For those who don't spend their lives in the glare of the computer screen, these bands don't even exist.

While music lovers may like to consider themselves to be raised above the taboid-feasting freakshow of mainstream media, the past few years have spoken otherwise, with hype being as much of a hindrance as a help. Big, pushy promises from a four minute audio file can lead to pitiful full-lengths as artist's aren't given the time or help to expand and evolve.

Thankfully, there have been many exceptions to the fast-paced, fickle lifespan of a buzzband. It's early days yet, but this one in particular feels like a keeper. Step forward Toy; a miraculous concoction of shoegaze, post-punk, psych and enthralling performance, all long hair, bright lights and big noise. Only formed in 2010, the past few months have seen their name transform from small text on London's gig flyers to one of the most talked-about bands in the UK. With only a two track 12" released on Heavenly Recordings, there is always an element of fear within the rush of interest that's gathering, but this time it feels different; there is genuine excitement in the more traditional sense - people lining up to get their hands on ltd vinyl pressings not because of predictions of future eBay value, but quite simply because they really need to take a piece of the live performance home with them, as the 40 minute set just wasn't enough.

Toy have just finished a four week residency of the Shacklewell Arms, and packed out the pub every time with necks craned around the doorframe to catch a glimpse of this mesmerising sound. So if (like me) you usually shy away from the latest 'buzz band' and would rather dig a little deeper to find your sounds, for now abandon all preconceived notions and just go and see Toy live. For once the hype is justified.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Cass McCombs - County Line

Someone on YouTube described this particular track as "Elliott Smith meets the Bee Gees", and while that might sound like a ridiculous pairing, they kind of have a point.

I still don't get why Cass McCombs isn't better known (and I know this is something that's widely voiced) - Dropping The Writ was my introduction to his songwriting; a thriving, accomplished collection of tracks that felt unstained by self-awareness or expectations, and that grasped at emotions in a surprisingly tender manner.

The following Catacombs was a gentle, sleep-addled sprawl of late-night thoughts, delivered with an intensity that is so often lost and difficult to fake. Sometimes the pull of a particular song isn't immediate, but take the time to get to know it and you'll never want to be without it again. This has turned into more of a love note than the write-up I initially expected, but  then it's tricky not to stress the importance of Cass McCombs.

I haven't yet caught up with his most recent record, Humour Risk, as WIT's END is a pretty all-consuming listen, and it's always good to have something new lined up to explore.

This song is perfect.