Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC – 1973 – LATTE E MIELE – Papillon

Review by: Nina Anatchkova
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

What I lamentably discovered at the tender age of 17 is that generic prog albums aren’t exactly a commodity that’s hard to find. And in the internet age, they’ve crawled out of everywhere and are cool once again. For some reason. And while Latte e Miele get bonus points for singing in Italian (possibly due to the fact that they themselves are Italian) and therefore making this album at least slightly distinct, I feel Papillon suffers from the general syndrome of interchangeability of 70s prog records. Yes, Latte e Miele, you play it really well and I bet you have meticulously arranged like every second of this and that you have precisely thought out how to use bombast to bring out the instrumental intermissions in “Terzo quadro l’incontro” for instance or taken care to have the fusion breaks in “Quatro quadro l’arresto” but what new and breathtakingly unexpected are exactly trying to tell us here?

No, this record unfortunately still remains in my mind just as “70s sounds”, even after a couple of listens. It’s cool, I guess, but I don’t see why anyone would waste time listening to this when there’s so much else you can be enjoying and oohing in surprise and delight at.

Oh, there are the classical pieces reinterpretations too… Vivaldi and Beethoven. Why? Who knows, who cares.

Elevator Musings: Ep. 1 – On being a metaphorical virgin

Starting point: The song “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” by Father John Misty
By Nina Anatchkova

Believe me, no one is more embarrassed than I am for actually liking Father John Misty. I mean, “a hipster dork who despite that has a lot of sex” seems to be the main characterisation of his lyrical protagonist and yet he grows on you… on me. And it’s not like there’s subtle magic at work here either, it’s plain as day to me what attraction let’s say I Love You, Honeybear seems to have: stripped down songs that have been let soak in these “giant, deranged, impenetrable Disney-orchestra arrangements” as the man himself puts it. And of course the impeccable phrasing of these craftily put together if otherwise cringeworthy lyrics over the rolling canvas of quietly bombastic music. “Oh, I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a man // I mean like a god damn marching band” anyone?

Which brings me to my main point and it is: 

I’ve never done this
Baby, be gentle
It’s my first time

Yeah, this is exactly the lyric that has moved me to profound realisation recently. It’s about virgins!!!! No, as notices too, our favourite Father actually goes on to subvert this lyric: “Tillman twists the phrases typically uttered when a virgin first has sex, manipulating them to instead reflect the sensation of falling in love for the first time.”

I’ve got you inside
People are boring
But you’re something else completely
Damn, let’s take our chances

is the slightly clumsier conclusion to this thought. I used to mishear the lyric — “I’ve never done this so please be gentle” but even the way Father John Misty has written it there is something about confessing plainly how things stand. Because isn’t it more often that people try to impress other people by faking it? I am sure that’s the plot to many a screwball comedy, “liar revealed” plot template, probably even to Johnny Bravo. I know I once stubbornly proclaimed to this mechanical engineer guy I used to have a crush on that I can change my back bike tire alright on my own in order to seem tough and competent when really even detaching the chain proved to be trickier than I initially supposed. But here we have the protagonist refreshingly choosing the route where he bares proverbial soul and inexperience and completely trusts the opposite side (person). Liberating, as it is currently in fashion to say. It may all sound so simple but it does indeed take great bravery to be truly humble about yourself and to stop caring about how you are perceived or how superior you should come off as. So, thanks, Father, for making me reevaluate my life with your corny songs about your sexual dorkishness. “When you’re smiling and astride me // I can hardly believe I’ve found you and I’m terrified by that” indeed.

EISLEY – Currents (2013)

Review by: Alejandro Muñoz G
Album assigned by: Nina Anatchkova

Eisley is a Texan band formed by four siblings and their cousin. They seem to put a lot of effort upon each song’s textures, and that’s one of the strengths of the album. The overall sound strongly reminds me of Florence + The Machine, especially in songs like “Real World”.
There are some really delightful moments in the album. Take for example the superb opening track built upon different layers of acoustic and electric guitar lines; the melody of the “come lay under my wing” line in “Drink The Water”, mimicked by a piano all along the song; or the gorgeous piano arpeggios in “Shelter”.
I’m usually a big supporter of “albums” as integral works of art which should be listened from beginning to end to understand each song in its context. However, in this case the fact that most of the tracks share the same mood and tempo means that, when listened thoroughly, the album may appear quite unexciting at some point. This problem is accentuated by the limitations of the singing: while the lead singer (or are there more than one lead?) is a perfectly capable one, it’s not a particularly versatile or dynamic voice. For these reasons, I believe these songs are much better appreciated when listened apart from the album, isolated or alternated with other artists contrasting songs.
Overall, Currents is a beautifully crafted indie pop-folk-rock album; a nice listening experience, and I would surely return to some of its songs.

DESTROYER – Kaputt (2011)

Review by: Nina Anatchkova
Album assigned by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

Kaputt by Destroyer can be nothing else than a metal album, right? Right, but I am sure by the time you have laid your eyes on the beautifully washed out indie cover with some really curly but understated in size cursive writing, you would have probably dismissed that option too. And to tell you honestly, I had to dismiss several other preconceptions in order to fully appreciate the album. Like it actually being current or the product of 20-year old hipsters who think calling themselves Destroyer is the ultimate joke. No, people, the person about to bare his inner world before you is actually a 43-old (a couple years less at the time of recording) Canadian guy with some wild curly hairdo going on.

But let’s look at the music. The sound is obviously retro, and tasteful, in the best traditions of 80s sophisti-pop and probably going slightly beyond. Critics have compared this work to the output of a lot of 80s artists, and I will allow myself to draw a parallel to the Blue Nile’s work as well, at least in terms of how the songs are built on and heavily rely on a driving steady rhythm, and unravel into beautiful soundscapes when the occasion calls for it. Most notable in this respect are the two longest tracks here – “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker” and the closer “Bay of Pigs”, which are entire immersive mini-movements unto themselves.

Well of course the singing is not similarly big and evocative, nor drenched in emotion (or melancholy) but this is probably just as well because I don’t think that sort of attitude will fly in our subdued, self-referential and self-deprecating 21st century. In fact, Mr. Daniel Bejar’s unconvinced mumbling may take some getting used to but once you do, you can appreciate how well it fits the mood and intention of the songs. It is at just the right level of understated, which is not always easy to pull off, and the occasional female vocals (of The Beautiful South’s Briana Corrigan persuasion) really make the whole affair memorable.

Largely the same goes for the lyrics, they go with the music better than they would stand on their own, and they are of the dense, somewhat ironic and theatrically mock-introspective variation. America gets mentioned a lot, and also the typically millennial fascination with underachievement (“I was poor in love. I was poor in wealth. // I was okay in everything else there was.”) and futility (“Winter, spring, summer and fall, // animals crawl towards death’s embrace.”) makes an appearance more often than not.

But it all goes together well, this fascination with retro sound, beautiful trumpet embellishments, random lyrical musings, and of course that steady pumping rhythm that will guide you along on your Kaputt journey. So if you like a more tasteful and sophisticated take on indie music and don’t mind Daniel Bejar’s monologued musings in front of the mirror (which are really okay for the most part and sometimes even verge on admirably well-crafted), put on this sophisti-pop record disguised as an indie record disguised as a metal record and immerse yourselves without fear.

I for one was also poor in love and poor in wealth but now I am richer in the sounds of Kaputt and this almost makes up for it 🙂

KEB’ MO’ – Keb’ Mo’ (1994)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Nina Anatchkova

Keb’ Mo’, or Kevin Moore, as his mother knows him, hit the stage in 1994 with this, his debut album. It’s mostly an acoustic blues album. Keb’ has a nice deep voice and knows how to play the guitar. His voice and the album sound quite a bit like some earlier Taj Mahal albums.

“Come On in My Kitchen” and “Kindhearted Woman Blues” are Robert Johnson covers, the others are (co-)written by Keb’. I won’t describe all the songs, but give you a feeling of what you’ll find here instead.

A lot of the songs are solo performances, with Keb’ accompanying himself on guitar, with a little harmonica thrown in for good measure. “Every Morning” and “Love Blues” illustrate this perfectly. In some songs his guitar sounds a bit like a dobro, a nice touch.

Other songs, while still acoustic are less bluesy in sound and overall atmosphere. In “Victims of Comfort” and “Anybody Seen My Girl” for instance, he uses his voice to great effect but they do sound like nice Eric Clapton pop songs circa Reptile. The same goes for “City Boy”, although that mostly features a piano rather than guitars.

Some songs, mostly full band performances, sound happy, although still steeped in the blues (“Tell Everybody I Know” and “Angelina” are good examples).

“Don’t Try to Explain” is totally different: it’s more keyboard based (both piano and organ) and could have been sung great by both Greg Allman or Steve Winwood. Nice somewhat gospel like song, but it does not really fit the album (or it adds to the variety…).

Just like Robert Cray would move from (rather slick) blues albums into a more soul and r’n’b  direction, Keb’ would move in a more singer-songwriter direction on later albums (including collaborations with Jackson Browne, for instance). But he sure can write a song, he can play the guitar and he has a nice, somewhat melancholic voice. His debut album is a nice modern blues album and as such I strongly recommend it. 

VIRUS – Agujero interior (1983)

Review by: Nina Anatchkova

Album assigned by: Justo Barreto

With a name that makes me feel unclean and a bang of 80s synths and a rockabilly rhythm, Argentina’s Virus make their entrance on their third album – Agujero interior, which apparently translates as inner hole. Contrary to what the band and album names might lead you to expect, the album sounds as cute and as synth-laden as any early 80s offering – with the appropriate amount of hooks here and there and the correct vocal aesthetic on part of the vocalist Federico Moura. Almost everyone on the credits list, in fact, is called either Moura or Serra, and I have to say there is that vague warm and familiar feeling about this record – whether it stems from this band being the local town heroes or indeed a very nice tight-knit family. 

Even so, this record doesn’t really explore the depths of human emotion (or at least it doesn’t musically sound like it does) and doesn’t appear to challenge the listener too much artistically. Among the moderately quirky up-tempo rockers of the first half and the mid-tempo rockers of the second half, the gentler almost-ballad “¿Qué hago en Manila?” stands out, and as far as I was able to ascertain it deals with the usual subject matter of gentler ballads – being in love, falling in love or looking for love, or indeed sighing about love. 

In the end, I’ll confess to you that most of the rest of the songs on this album I can do with or without, but I do indeed appreciate the nice qualities of the song “¿Qué hago en Manila?” (the original recipe “¿Qué hago en Manila?” that comes forth on the track list rather than the estrade-suitable karaoke version which serves as an album closer), even if this makes me a generic mushy.