Monthly Archives: September 2014

RICHARD THOMPSON – Acoustic Classics

Album: Acoustic Classics

Artist: Richard Thompson

Label: Beeswing

Release Date: July 22, 2014

Richard Thompson 7-22


As billed, Acoustic Classics showcases master songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson recasting fourteen tunes from his near-five decade repertoire as solo acoustic numbers. Fans of his intimate solo shows know these arrangements well, and have long jonesed for a clear, non-bootleg recording of Thompson doing well-known catalog cuts like “Wall of Death,” “I Misunderstood” and “Shoot Out the Lights” stripped of accoutrements – all the better to highlight his witty lyrics and fingerbusting guitar work.

For the Thompson fanatic, the setlist is almost too predictable, to the point of incorporating “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” which were solo acoustic to start with. There’s little emphasis on recent work, as only “One Door Opens” (from 2003’s The Old Kit Bag) and “Persuasion” (from 2001’s best-of Action Packed) hail from the new millenium, while fully half the setlist comes from his years in collaboration with (ex)wife Linda, including “Walking On a Wire,” “Dimming of the Day” and “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.” (Nothing from his Fairport Convention years, sadly.) That said, it’s impossible to argue with the quality of any of these songs or his note-perfect performances of them – his six-string wizardry will have aspiring guitar players wearing out the grooves and he brings out new shades of excellence in some of the staples. Plus “Galway to Graceland,” a Thompson favorite never released on any of his studio albums, finally gets a pristinely recorded take here. Ultimately, this is a record full of brilliant Richard Thompson songs given strong readings. Impossible to argue with that.

 DOWNLOAD: “From Galway to Graceland,” “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight,” “Persuasion”



Album: Sisyphus Says

Artist: Lees Of Memory

Label: SideOneDummy

Release Date: September 16, 2014

Lees of Memory 9-16


Just as a heads up to those longsuffering Superdrag fans, expecting The Lees of Memory debut to essentially be the sixth Superdrag record you’ve been waiting for: it’s not.

Although two-thirds of the band is comprised of Superdrag vets, the sound here is a pretty big step away from the infectious Power Pop the Knoxville band was known for and into one of the best Shoegaze sounds to come along since the 1990s.

John Davis and Brandon Fisher, along with Nick Slack, opt for a much more wide-ranging atmospheric sound, trading jangly riffs for swirling guitars. The deep melodies and harmonies – a trademark from their earlier band – are still here, they’re just a little harder to find, not placed right up front. Davis’ vocals have also never sounded stronger or prettier, for that matter, then when he’s singing a melancholy song like “Little Fallen Star” or the driving “Not a Second More,” the closest thing The Lees of Memory have to an arena rocker.

Davis and Fisher gave slight hints to this new sound way back in 1996, when they put out the brilliant, but underrated headphones album Head Trip in Every Key. And while another Superdrag album would be sublime, I’d be just as happy if Sisyphus Says is the first in a long line of releases for the new band.

DOWNLOAD: “Little Fallen Star,” “Open Your Arms” and “Not a Second More”


ROBERT PLANT – lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar

Album: lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar

Artist: Robert Plant

Label: Nonesuch

Release Date: September 09, 2014

Robert Plant 9-9


If you look back on the 30+ year solo career of former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, his affiliations with the generations of artists who succeeded he and his old mates at the vanguard of British pop music have been incredibly substantial.

Saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft, who would gain primary notoriety for his featured role throughout Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut the following year, played on the song “Pledge Pin” off Plant’s 1982 solo debut Pictures at Eleven. Toni Halliday of Curve sang backing vocals on 1985’s Shaken n’ Stirred and 1987’s Now and Zen, where she was joined by the late, great Kirsty MacColl, perhaps most famous for her star turn as Shane MacGowan’s foil on The Pogues’ “Fairytale in New York”. Who could forget when Porl Thompson of The Cure was recruited for the band put together to back Plant and Jimmy Page on their reunion campaign of the mid-to-late-‘90s. Anyone who cites their two favorite double LPs to be Physical Graffiti and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me were no doubt enthralled by the idea of seeing their two guitar gods cut heads on a concert stage. Thompson would go on to record with Plant for his 2002 album Dreamland, which also featured Portishead drummer Clive Deamer, who would join Cast guitarist Skin Tyson as key members of the singer’s mid-00s band The Strange Sensation.

And it is Tyson who has joined Plant in his latest engine of creation he calls the Sensational Space Shifters, another group of UK shakers he’s been touring with for a couple of years now. But now they make their debut as a studio unit on lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, his first album since signing to the esteemed Nonesuch label. Produced by Plant himself and mixed by studio wizard Tchad Blake, the follow-up to 2010’s Buddy Miller-helmed Band of Joy moves away from the atmospheric Americana that earned him a Grammy for his 2007 collaboration with country great Allison Krauss Raising Sand and closer to the sonic adventures he was toying around with on Dreamland and 2005’s The Mighty Re-Arranger. With lullaby and…, Plant reunites with his secret weapons in programmer John Baggott and bassist Billy Fuller, who alongside the folks in Portishead and Massive Attack helped pioneer the Bristol trip-hop movement of the early 90s, picking up where they left off nearly a decade ago with these eleven new songs containing some of the first new Robert originals since Mighty Re-Arranger at least.

The ghosts of Plant’s dive into the bluegrass ocean might bookend this collection with two versions of the Appalachian standard “Little Maggie”, perhaps most famously rendered by the Stanley Brothers in the 1940s. But the way by which the singer and his Space Shifters transform the song both on the intro and the reprise, incorporating thick electronic bass, dub-like breakbeats and otherwordly vocal work from Gambian ritti great Juldeh Camara that cut through the airy mountain traditionalism like a laser. Cuts like “Rainbow” and “Somebody There” will surely please fans of Plant’s more traditional rock moves, while “Pocketful of Golden” suggests the Pictures at Eleven era reimagined by Thom Yorke. Camara turns up again on “Embrace Another Fall”, playing a two-stringed lute called the kologo as Plant extols his appreciation for the music of Wales by incorporating a section of an ancient Welsh song, “Marwnad yr Ehedydd” with assistance from folk singer Julie Murphy. But its when the 66-year-old dives into his recent obsessions with the nomadic Tuareg musicians of North Africa does lullaby truly Roar. Two of this record’s best songs–“Poor Howard” and “Up on the Hollow Hill (Understanding Arthur)”–combines the soil from two forms of blues, one from the Sahara and the other from the Mississippi Delta and sifts them together atop a wholly futuristic direction that pushes the legacy of Led Zeppelin directly into the second decade of the 21st century,

In a career brimming with impressive albums working in conjunction with some of the most visionary session players in the game during his Esperanza years, lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar is the all-encapsulating masterpiece we all knew Robert Plant the solo artist had in him the entire time.

 DOWNLOAD: “Little Maggie,” Rainbow”



EARTH – Primitive and Deadly

Album: Primitive and Deadly

Artist: Earth

Label: Southern Lord

Release Date: September 02, 2014

Earth 9-2


The first incarnation of Earth, Dylan Carlson’s long-running means of self-expression, took the grunge of its Pacific Northwest brethren and slowed it way, WAY down, creating a new mode of droning doom in the process. The band’s new millennial work, however, has largely eschewed distortion and metal trappings for a trippier, cleaner, more Southwestern vibe that’s led to new heights of artistic success. Apparently, however, Carlson, stalwart drummer Adrienne Davies and bassist Bill Herzog have taken the twanging drone as far as it can go, reverting back to waves of heavy riffola on Primitive and Deadly. And not only that – this is the first Earth record since 1996’s Pentastar: In the Style of Demons to feature vocals, sung by guests Mark Lanegan and Rabia Shaheen Qazi from Rose Windows.

Given the band’s success the last couple of decades at moving rock away from its trusty toolbox, Primitive and Deadly seems on its face like a step backward into safe territory after years happily tripping through the wilderness. But that would only hold water if the results weren’t as satisfying as they are – the songs unfold with the same measured pace as any classic Earth pieces, Lanegan and Qazi fit perfectly on their respective tunes and Carlson’s riffs flow like chocolate lava. Brooding, menacing, haunting, even elegiac – we feel the Earth move across the emotional spectrum, rumbling through its soundscapes with eyes closed and amps set to stun.

DOWNLOAD: “Even Hell Has Its Heroes,” “From the Zodiacal Light,” “Badgers Bane”


EL MAY—The Other Person Is You

Album: The Other Person Is You

Artist: El May

Label: Rose Quartz

Release Date: August 26, 2014

El May 8-26


El May’s Lara Meyerratken wraps hard-won self-examinations in the frothiest of pop clothes, matching cheesy manufactured beats with hand-clapped euphoria, then slipping the knife in sideways. The proportions vary, with some songs working almost entirely on the surface, and others taking more subversive turns. The two she’s giving wide release through videos – “I Played a Role” and “Thrills” – tend towards the gossamer end of things, but there’s meatier, more interesting fare here as well.

Meyerrratken has had her greatest success writing music for commercials, so unsurprisingly, there’s a Q-tested pop sheen glossing over these songs. Yet like the famous ice cube, her songs hide subliminal messages, providing fleeting glimpses of self-doubt and bad judgment in a melting bath of liquid pop. In “Diamonds, Girl” she converses with the Pierce’s Allison Pierce about an unsatisfactory lover, protecting herself in one verse, getting called on her bullshit (by Pierce in the next. This all happens amid lush b-girl harmonies and skritchy beats, in a setting that is stripped down but by no means simple.

On guitar heavy songs like “Lessons and Appear” and “My Policeman’s an Addict,” Meyeratken sounds noisily, brassily unbowed, standing just to the pop side of Speedy Ortiz and slightly to the 1990s indie-rock-left of Neko Case. “You wanted power, turn up the electricity,” she advises on “Lessons Appear,” an older-and-wiser recounting of a Eurail pass summer affair. She’s wry and self-aware as she contemplates her innocence, but the innocence lurks, wearing a young-ish midriff top, in the songs corners.

The last three songs, and especially the last, take some chances with structure in a way that is decidedly not either pop or ad-friendly – and perhaps this is why I like them best. “Diagnoses for the Doctor” mocks a know it all lover, who knows best about everything, except he doesn’t. Meyerratken’s rebellion is subtle, sly and not quite angry. She admits that, after everything, “We   all want to get home at the end of the day.”

The last song “Oh Get Carried” starts in the kind of harp-aspiring synthesizer arpeggios that typically usher in dream sequences on TV sitcoms like Gilligan’s Island, a lush – let’s say over-lush – beginning that circles excess and then falls right in. But don’t count this writer out, she emerges half way through in a wonderfully abrupt shift to hand-clapped euphoria. It’s like hearing the Lawrence Welk Orchestra discovering Afro-beat – and also wonderful.

The main problem is that El May can’t resist embellishment, adding on swoops and swoons and furbelows, even as she’s lacerating herself lyrically. It’s a weird combination, intermittently compelling, but I’d like to see her get as real musically as she is with words.

DOWNLOAD: “Diagnoses for the Doctor,” “Oh Get Carried”

INTERPOL – El Pintor

Album: El Pintor

Artist: Interpol

Label: Matador

Release Date: September 09, 2014



Four years have passed since 2010’s Interpol and the departure of bassist Carlos Dengler; for their fifth LP Interpol simultaneously maintain their charged, melancholic rock and tread new grounds. El Pintor is the first album without Dengler’s contribution and the first time lead singer Paul Banks plays both guitar and bass; despite the loss of a band member the post-punk sounds remain as beefy, loud and moody as ever.

El Pintor is not Antics or Turn on the Bright Lights, there are not as many immediate hooks and riffs that were present on these earlier releases; instead, the solid music on El Pintor unveils a nuanced mellowing that has taken over the last two releases from Interpol. Thankfully Banks, Daniel Kessler and Samuel Fogarino have perked up since their 2010 album and have created a louder, more upbeat soundscape for listeners…as upbeat as our melancholic trio will allow, this is Interpol after all.

Kessler continues to create a separate landscape with his piercing lead guitar that adds a detailed accent to each track, “Same Town, New Story,”“My Desire,”“Tidal Wave”and “Twice As Hard”are prime examples. Fogarino’s skilled drumming is best heard on “Anywhere”as he changes the fast pace of the song ever so slightly and leads us to a smoother chorus that booms with his drum rolls. The bass heavy “Everything Is Wrong”is one of the catchiest tracks on the album and the words “Everything is wrong, truly wrong”never sounded so appealing. The one downfall to the piercingly loud executed music, Banks’vocals are drowned out but the themes of love, longing, sadness and a sense of foreboding are not lost.

DOWNLOAD: “Everything is Wrong,” “Anywhere,” “My Desire”

2014 Hopscotch Fest (1), Sept. 4-6, Raleigh NC

Dates: September 4-6, 2014

Location: Various Venues, Raleigh NC

Priests 4

We have the photographic evidence… don’t try to deny you were there, punks. Above: Priests. Our buddy Tyler Gallion made the rounds throughout the annual Hopscotch Music Festival, and came back with a trove o’ images. Below you can view some of his favorite shots, and meanwhile, check him out further over at his Facebook page. (He calls his biz, appropriately enough, Good Vendetta Photography.)


Ay-i-iaiiiii… Hopscotch 2014, what can we say? A week after the event and we’re still exhausted, our ears still ringing. Full disclosure: the BLURT crew was busy pretty much from 10 in the morning until 2 in the evening Thursday through Saturday (with the exception of Thursday night, which was brought to a premature end, for us at least, thanks to a torrential rainpour that doused the streets of Raleigh and left us righteously soaked to the skin).

For starters, we were on hand at our sister business Schoolkids Records and helping host day parties: go HERE to see my photo gallery. My personal faves included Amigo, Pinkerton Raid, Temperance League, Lud, Melissa Swingle and – my new favorite band – The Everymen. We profiled The Everymen earlier this year at the site and now I know why contributor John Moore was so ga-ga over ‘em. And then of course it was time to hit the city plaza by 6pm, which found us watching De La Soul on Thursday night (they were good, although the crowd was oddly soporific), St. Vincent and Spoon on Friday (both were outstanding, although the sound for the latter was so criminally distorted no matter where you positioned yourself that someone on the audio crew needs to be horsewhipped), and Death and Mastodon on Saturday (Death was a revelation, and even one of the member’s odd tangent into Christian proselytizing didn’t take away from the punk/hard rock power of the set; Mastodon was just ridiculously brutal, and I mean that in a good way).

You can view photographer Gallion’s favorite images below, along with a more comprehensive night-by-night gallery HERE. Among my own highlights:


  • Drag Sounds (Thursday, Pour House) – hi-nrg garage raveups straight outta Durham
  • Blanko Basnet (Thursday, Tir Na Nog) – a Hammer No More The Fingers offshoot from Raleigh, and the kind of airy, Prog-tilting indie rock that never fails to make me grin
  • Museum Mouth (Thursday, Slim’s) – although I spent most of the set trying to wring out my soaking wet shirt and mop the rain from my head, there was a pop-punk buzz afoot for these savvy young Tarheels that kept me warm in the tummy
  • St. Vincent (Friday, city plaza) – it was a surprisingly short set, barely over an hour, which left more than a few fans who paid for an individual show ticket rather dismayed; there were noticeable “boos” from the crowd when Annie did not come back out for an encore. Still, she closed out her energetic, tuneful set in a strobelight-strafed, feedback-laden orgy of noise that was nothing less than cathartic.
  • That busker group outside Capitol Smoke Shop (Friday, on the street) – one of the treats about SXSW in Austin is always the unexpected impromptu performances you run into, and Hopscotch was no exception. These guys served up a positively killer version of the Allmans’ “Blue Sky” arranged for guitar and mandolin, drawing an appreciative crowd in the process.
  • Sun Kil Moon (Friday, Lincoln Theater) – technically I was not at this, but I did file a post-mortem about the “fuckin’ hillbillies” incident HERE. A few days later Mark K himself posted my story at his SKM website and let me know that of all the coverage, mine was the most fair and even-handed – and that he appreciated it.
  • Death (Saturday, city plaza) – whoah, a drum solo 20 minutes into the set, now THAT is rock ‘n’ roll, my friends. Plus, with the Motor City meeting Hendrix in a melodic hard rockin’ soul mashup, it nicely accented the 45-minute all wheat/no chaff set. Both the newer and the older material worked, and I am making plans to see these guys as soon as possible in their natural club habitat.
  • Silent Lunch (Saturday, Tir Na Nog) – edgy, angular, Wire-esque post-punk with chantlike atonal vocals but also with just enough oomph – props to the drummer – from the Durham band to transport the listener to another plane.
  • Demon Eye (Saturday, Lincoln Theater) – now this is the kind of old-school metal that makes yours truly feel like a hirsute young teen all over again. Very ‘70s in thrust and with just enough contemporary shadings to win an audience in 2014. Count me among the new fans of this Raleigh combo.

 Loads more, of course, but I risk repeating myself (and boring the reader). The bottom line is that Hopscotch is one of the best multiple-venue festivals currently operating, and it’s my hope that it earned enough attention – and took in enough receipts – to keep rolling for many years to come. See ya in 2015! – FM



Spoon 2



St. Vincent

St. Vincent 2

St. Vincent


Thurston Moore

Thurston Moore

Thurston Moore 2


(below) Amigo, Pinkerton Raid and Salt To Bitters, who performed at a day party hosted by our sister business Schoolkids Records


Pinkerton Raid

Salt to Bitters




Priests 6


Nervous Ticks

The Nervous Ticks 2


See Gulls

See Gulls



Subrosa 2


Young Cardinals

Young Cardinals


Witch Mountain

Witch Mountain 2


Sun Club

SunClub 2


Valient Thorr

Valient Thorr 4

Valient Thorr 3


What Cheer Brigade

What Cheer Brigade





Album: Pitiful Blues

Artist: Malcolmbe Holcombe

Label: self-released

Release Date: August 05, 2014

Malcolm Holcombe 8-3


Malcolm Holcombe made it clear from early on he’s not the kind of guy you want to mess with. He takes no grief and suffers no fools. We don’t know that for a fact of course, but one listen to any of his previous albums and Pitiful Blues in particular makes that impression pretty clear. Judging by his ransacked vocals and hard-scramble sound, it’s obvious that Holcombe’s not about to soft-sell his intents. “Take what you can get/Some politician’s grinnin’/Don’t trust the government/I got a rifle in my hand,” he growls on “By the Boots,” and by God, it’s obvious he’s not joking. From the sweat-stained sentiments of “Savannah Blues” to the rootsy ramble of “Sign for a Sally,” Holcombe wears his convictions on his proverbial sleeve, laying down one gritty discourse after another with a rugged, irascible irony and intensity.

Frayed and well-worn, gruff and gritty to the max, these songs sound like they were plucked from the tangle of the swamp or yet another roadhouse refuge. Not that Holcombe is solely focused on agitated discourse, insolence or indulgence; final track “For the Love of a Child” makes it clear that apart from the tenacious turbulence, a certain amount of tenderness still resides within. More purposeful than pitiful, these ten songs find a weary renegade giving voice to a troubled soul.

DOWNLOAD: “For the Love of a Child,” “By the Boots,” “Savannah Blues”


Album: Wild Crush

Artist: Archie Bronson Outfit

Label: Domino

Release Date: May 13, 2014

Archie Bronson 5-23


Around 2010’s Coconut, the Archie Bronson Outfit stepped away from the gut-shocked post-punk that broke the band out of the pack with Derdang Derdang and began pursuing a more saturated, sprawling psychedelic sound. The initial foray didn’t work all that well. It was muddled more than meltingly expansive, and it had a trebly, unnerving gloss that suggested tone over substance. Now with Wild Crush, with new bass player Kristian Robinson (replacing Dorian Hobday), the London trio has hit its stride, churning meatier, heavier grooves without sinking into sonic muck.

That new bass player, by the way, takes a leading role in opener “Two Doves By the Lake,” a cut that sets the standard for this frenzied ride. Robinson, along with drummer/songwriter Sam Windett, hold down the foundation, while singer Arp Cleveland and saxophonist Duke Garwood channel this cut’s wilder spirit. It’s a nearly mesh of tight cohesion and free-wheeling excess, the kind of track that goes way, way out there, but doesn’t get lost.

“We Are Floating” is another highlight, grounding Cleveland’s wavery, anxious chant in a massive riff. Here’s the song that best recalls Derdang Derdang’s scrappy, staccato intoxications while embedding them in a larger, more enveloping sound.

Elsewhere, ABO flirts with Mercury Rev-ish fantasies (“Love to Pin You Down”) and Spaceman-esque drones and sprawls (“Lori from the Outer Reach”), and it works more or less. Still, the best tracks here match Derdang’s downed-wire punk frenetics with jackbooted 1970s arena psych. “Cluster Up and Hover” revs powerhouse guitar engines hard, but in control. Leave it to Cleveland’s warbly voice to lean way out, terrorized and exhilarated, as this rock and roll drag racer rounds the corner in ecstasy. I don’t think I’ll ever like another ABO record as much as I liked Derdang Derdang, but this one comes close, much closer than Coconut.

DOWNLOAD: “Two Doves by the Lake”, “We Are Floating”




STEFANO BOLLANI TRIO – Joy in Spite of Everything

Album: Joy In Spite of Everything

Artist: Stefano Bollani

Label: ECM

Release Date: August 26, 2014



Italian jazz pianist Stefano Bollani leads an international band on his latest LP Joy in Spite of Everything: bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund, his regular rhythm section, hail from Denmark, while guests Bill Frisell (guitar) and Mark Turner (sax) come from the colonies. The musicians’ experientially wide range comes in handy, as Bollani’s compositions possess a similar breadth. From the straight-on post bop of “No Pope No Party” to the cymbals-heavy balladry of “Las Hortensias,” the Bill Evans melodicism of “Tales From the Time Loop” to the playful calypso of “Easy Healing,” the songs hop all over the stylistic map, less a sign of dilettantism than versatility.


The classically-trained ivory tickler handles everything he throws at himself with virtuoso technique and a sure melodic touch – cue up the Brubeck/Guaraldi melodicism of “Alobar e Kudra” or the creamy blend of classical technique with swing rhythm on the Bollani/Frisell duet “Teddy.” But to really get where Bollani is coming from, spin through “Ismene,” which begins as an almost ambient ballad before getting busy in the middle, “Vale,” which spins as much through dissonant clusters as single line lyricism, or the title track, a fleet-fingered exercise in fun. Joy in Spite of Everything is nearly a survey of various jazz iterations, but Bollani’s impressive playing and obvious, well, joy in running his fingers across the keyboard gives it unity.

 DOWNLOAD: “Tales From the Time Loop,” “Joy in Spite of Everything,” “Alobar e Kudra”