Bat For Lashes – ‘Two Suns’ album review + watch “Daniel” video

Bat For Lashes

Natasha Khan (aka Bat For Lashes) has done it again on her second album ‘Two Suns’. Her evocative, breathy style continues to beguile audiences as the mystical, enchanted landscapes of her psyche traversed in ‘Fur and Gold’ move into the metaphysical ‘emerald cities’ and constellations of heartbreak and recovery of ‘Two Suns’ …

Bat For Lashes

Natasha Khan (aka Bat For Lashes) has done it again on her second album ‘Two Suns’. Her evocative, breathy style continues to beguile audiences as the mystical, enchanted landscapes of her psyche traversed in ‘Fur and Gold’ move into the metaphysical ‘emerald cities’ and constellations of heartbreak and recovery of ‘Two Suns’. Journeying is a more than apposite metaphor to describe listening to this album – the penultimate track is even entitled “Travelling Woman”.

Opening with faintly murmured lines from the Song of Solomon, itself a Biblical allegory of the relationship between the individual and God as husband and wife, we know instantly that this will be a spiritual and emotional journey. The tribal beats and cries which recall Kate Bush’s “Running up that Hill” on “Glass” set our adrenaline going for an album which documents Natasha Khan’s response to a disintegrating relationship.

Her lyrics have an innate sense of the poetic; recent single “Daniel” describes the ‘cinders and rain’ of a relationship before a ‘sheet of rain’ falls down upon her heart, set to a haunting sound-scape which echoes Fleetwood Mac at their best.

Other tracks linger on planetary orbs of light and dark and an alter-ego called Pearl, showcasing a sustained interest in duality throughout Khan’s writing, whether it be the duality of the self; the relationship between lovers or the doubling within nature. The themes of duality are apparent on the exquisite album artwork: the beautiful front cover is surely influenced by Frida Kahlo’s work and is already my tip for best album sleeve of 2009.

Such beauty and attention to detail saturates Khan’s otherworldly yet accessible musical style, which knits together pop (“Daniel”), dance (“Pearl’s Dream” has a real Donna Summer vibe), spoken word (“Good Love”) and the avant-garde in wonderful symbiosis.

Her new band (which includes former Ash member Charlotte Hatherley) have built upon the experimental folk of ‘Fur and Gold’ to create a more electronic, physical sound which moulds itself around Khan’s misty, hypnotic vocals. She sounds like a mystical forest nymph yet expresses such longing and insecurity, we aren’t daunted by her ethereal presence; we empathise with her intricate poetic yearnings and reach the end of the album sharing her feeling of acceptance. Khan has the unique ability to hold our attention whilst weaving our emotional experiences into her song and is a natural star; the fact that she does so without compromising her vision merely increases her allure.

Watch “Daniel” video:

Buy Music:

Bat For Lashes on amazon.co.uk

Bat For Lashes on amazon.com

Photo Credit: Brooke Nipar

Bat For Lashes Official Website
Bat For Lashes MySpace
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By: Lindsey Davis

Emmy The Great – ‘First Love’ album review

Emmy The Great - First Love

The immodestly named Emmy the Great (I can just hear the detractors baying already) has been making waves on the festival circuit for a while now, and at long last she’s released a long player we can listen to in the comfort of our homes …

Emmy The Great - First Love

The immodestly named Emmy The Great (I can just hear the detractors baying already) has been making waves on the festival circuit for a while now, and at long last she’s released a long player we can listen to in the comfort of our homes.

Reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian’s early output, ‘First Love’ has the power to disarm and reward you anew on repeat listens. It contains songs with simple, unobtrusive melodies masking idiosyncratic, literary and often acerbic observations of modern young relationships, the lyrics delivered in Emmy’s clear and confident voice.

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The Sound Of The Smiths review + competition; listening party links

The Smiths

Very few music fans who were around during the mid-eighties were indifferent to The Smiths – you might love them or hate them, like Marmite really, but you were unlikely not to have much of an opinion …

The Smiths

Very few music fans who were around during the mid-eighties were indifferent to The Smiths – you might love them or hate them, like Marmite really, but you were unlikely not to have much of an opinion. This is what drove their success of course – the fans were the kind of fans who would queue for hours, days even, to get tickets for gigs or the latest release.

With that kind of adoration, the fact that there was also a bunch of people going around saying how much they hated them (not simply didn’t think much of, or even actively disliked, but hated) only served to intrigue the uninitiated, who would then be all the more likely to buy the latest single/album/gig ticket to see what all the fuss was about, and would then either end up slagging them off at every opportunity or queuing for hours in the rain in Wolverhampton hoping to sneak in to the show.

Not that you could do much to get away from them during their heyday, they were everywhere, Top of the Pops, NME, Smash Hits even. For a few years, the Smiths simply were indie music – not that there was too much competition – never forget this is the era that gave us the Wonderstuff and Neds Atomic Dustbin.

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Leonard Cohen review – O2 Arena, London

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen review, O2 Arena, London – 14 November 2008. Have you ever seen Annie Hall? If yes, then you’ll recall the scene where Alvy dates a music journalist played by Shelley Duvall and they emerge from a Stones concert, Duvall’s character rhapsodising about how the gig was ‘transplendent’. Well before you go any further, I should confess: that was me, after witnessing the legend that is Leonard Cohen in London …

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen review, O2 Arena, London – 14 November 2008

Have you ever seen Annie Hall? If yes, then you’ll recall the scene where Alvy dates a music journalist played by Shelley Duvall and they emerge from a Stones concert, Duvall’s character rhapsodising about how the gig was ‘transplendent’. Well before you go any further, I should confess: that was me, after witnessing the legend that is Leonard Cohen in London.

After a hellish journey from Oxford to London and then to North Greenwich, we found ourselves slightly late, hungry and cranky. Now anyone who knows me will testify to my horrendous hunger grumps. So it’s no mean feat that three hours later, I was in seventh heaven. Like Leonard advised, we forgot the past and were transported to another place by a performance which is best described as sublime.

Dressed in a pin-striped suit and rakishly tilted fedora, Cohen looked ice cool. He and his band gave the appearance of a thirties era group of gangsters, their iconic appearance matched in panache by a set in which it was clear Cohen meant every word of his poetic and mystical lyrics. A magnificent “Hallelujah” was a case in point.

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Martha Wainwright + Angus & Julia Stone review, Oxford Town Hall

Martha Wainwright

Last night (4 November, 2008) I witnessed two sets from Martha Wainwright and her support act Angus & Julia Stone that couldn’t be more different …

Martha Wainwright

Last night (4 November, 2008) I witnessed two sets from Martha Wainwright and her support act Angus & Julia Stone that couldn’t be more different. One look at the crowd told me the majority were lefty (I’m one too, before I sound like a fascist!), middle class professionals who were there for Martha first and foremost and who’d probably heard about her through the Observer (heck, an English teacher from my high school was there). However, by the end of Angus & Julia’s set they were clearly won over to their curious alt-folk – and quite right too.

Enchanting ingénues Angus & Julia Stone beguiled the crowd with their pretty folk sound in a set characterised by honest to goodness talent and quiet charm. The elaborately designed domed ceiling of the Oxford Town Hall was beautifully lit and gave the appearance of a fine lace cover over the stage which set off the pair’s delicate and breathy vocal styles perfectly. Julia’s witchy delivery was particularly spellbinding and a new track from Angus which peaked in an angry, rockier chorus was also notable.

It really is astonishing how talented the two are. And how they can put up with each other on the road. I don’t think my brother and I would last a day on a tour bus together! Their backing band are equally gifted.

Guitarist Clay had taught himself drums especially for the tour after their regular drummer was taken sick and he showed himself to be pretty proficient on the old skins. An unecessary apology for any mistakes (none that I could spot) was given before a rumbling and throaty “A Book Like This”, which was the high point of the set for me – that and an old song the siblings had written at band camp some years ago on the hoof which incorporated “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and provoked gentle chuckles from the crowd.

Given their wonderful music, it’s especially striking how shy the pair are – Angus in particular seemed content to hide behind hair and hat and left most of the inter-song banter to sister Julia. I guess they were new to most of the crowd last night but I predict that sales of their album will definitely increase after this tour finishes. I do love them so. “A Book Like This” is definitely one of my favourite albums of 2008 – possibly even my most favourite. They sound and look like they’ve stepped out of your most lovely imaginings and I hope their success builds and sustains over time. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

In contrast to the winsome humility of Angus & Julia, Martha Wainwright was her typical showy self – a presence massively opposed to her support but which was nonetheless compelling. Martha is herself one of famous siblings, and I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched her extravagant gestures and evident pleasure in being on the stage, what teatime at the Wainwrights must have been like with all those performers jostling for attention in one room. School friends must have been made of strong stuff to visit, for sure! The venue’s baroque décor suited Martha’s ostentatious and emotive vocal style perfectly. Boy can that woman belt out some tunes. By the time she got to singing a jazzy number in French, I concluded as a mere mortal, that’s just showing off …! “You Cheated Me” and a closing cover of Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play” were my personal highlights although at times an overwrought and bombastic vocal style proved a little too much to take.

Martha’s between song patter was tongue in cheek and a million miles away from her confessional music, and was certainly evidence of her professionalism as well as a charismatic and dramatic personality. Thanking her excellent band and support as well as technicians alike (she rightly pointed out the sound men did wonders in what must have been a tough space to work with), she was slick and classy without sounding insincere. In fact I’d say her patter was refreshingly chipper and much welcome after the emotional gymnastics of her songs.

In all, gold stars are due to both acts. My fondness for Angus & Julia was admittedly my main reason for going and they didn’t disappoint; but credit where it’s due to the main act: Martha gave a set which no one could criticise for being sloppy or indifferent – she’s a born entertainer with a voice that demands to be heard. Now, thank you.

Martha Wainwright on amazon.com

Martha Wainwright on amazon.co.uk

Martha Wainwright Official Website

Angus & Julia Stone on amazon.com

Angus & Julia Stone on amazon.co.uk

Angus & Julia Stone Official Website

By: Lindsey Davis

The Pipettes review, Carling Academy Oxford

The Pipettes

In keeping with the history of glamorous pop trios, The Pipettes have undergone what they call in the business, a line up change. In that the band are effectively a brand new entity, with none of the original members left …

The Pipettes

In keeping with the history of glamorous pop trios, The Pipettes have undergone what they call in the business, a line up change. In that the band are effectively a brand new entity, with none of the original members left. But any preconceptions the audience might have had of inter-band awkwardness or forced camaraderie seemed to have been left at the door. And if there was any residual concern within the crowd, the band’s carefree attitude would have immediately dispelled such fears.

Polka dot prom dresses and co-ordinated dancing filled the space in the upstairs of the Carling Academy in Oxford (October 26, 2008) even before the Pipettes came on stage, in homage to the trio’s vintage style. There was a party atmosphere to the gig from the offset, which injected some much needed glamour and kitsch into the Academy’s stark surroundings.
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Grace Jones ‘Hurricane’ review

Grace Jones

The first thing to say about ‘Hurricane’ is that it is a classy bit of work, and I’m not just saying that because I’m old enough to remember Russell Harty. The production values on this CD are high, the list of collaborators (Eno, Tricky, Sly and Robbie amongst others) stellar …

Grace Jones

The first thing to say about ‘Hurricane’ is that it is a classy bit of work, and I’m not just saying that because I’m old enough to remember Russell Harty. The production values on this CD are high, the list of collaborators (Brian Eno, Tricky, Sly and Robbie amongst others) stellar, the songs strong, Grace Jones‘ voice inimitable. She makes her own rules, does Grace, always has, no doubt always will, her voice is her own and no-one else’s, a rare commodity in these corporate and homogenised times. Let this be said because this album is good, very good, and it deserves to be measured against the highest standards, which is I’m sure just how Ms Jones would want it.

Even measured against those highest standards, there is little to complain about. “Sunset Sunrise” is not just classic Grace Jones, it is classic pure and simple, with an infectious pop reggae rhythm (that’s Sly and Robbie for you), memorable melody, strong lyrics, a sentiment befitting someone, how to put this, not as young as once she was. I don’t mean to be rude here – the sooner we get over this ridiculous glorification of youth that has plagued our culture for decades the better. We’re all going to get old and die so get over it, which is incidentally one of the things this song says, with the wisdom and lightness of touch which comes with age. I also don’t mean to imply that she doesn’t still look fantastic because she does, far better if you ask me than the sleek, androgynous and implausibly shiny Jones that graced the cover of Island Life, but I digress.

Grace Jones

It feels indelicate to mention this, but it has been nearly twenty-five years since her last album, and in model/pop star terms she was old then (nearly thirty perhaps, the mind boggles). This is relevant only because one of the things that lifts this album above the ordinary is the way that she is not masking anything, ignoring or distorting where she is at right now, but rather simply singing about her life with daring, self-assurance, and a surprising amount of heartfelt reminiscence. See for example “I’m Crying (Mother’s Tears)” (note the position of the apostrophe – she is not crying the tears of mothers in general here) and the upcoming single “Williams’ Blood”.

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