The harmonies are as sweet as ever and the songwriting as solid as always on First Aid Kit’s fourth album, “Ruins.” The Swedish sister duo continue to draw on their country and folk inspirations to offer up another powerful and beautiful record.
“Rebel Heart” sets the somewhat melancholy tone for an album that was written in the aftermath of a broken relationship and a deep exhaustion that set in after three albums and six years of solid touring.
The influences are strongly evident – the first single, “It’s A Shame,” seems to give a nod to a kind of half-snarly half-aloof discontented Dylan oeuvre, with its organ sound reminiscent of “Positively 4th Street.”
“My Wild Sweet Love” rolls out swooping harmonies that would be at home on a Fleet Foxes record, and “Hem Of Her Dress” wraps with a group chorus that could have been an outtake from Kristy MacColl, Shane McGowan and the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” if that song featured a Johnny Cash-style mariachi band.
For me, “Fireworks” is the most standout track, as strong as any hit song from the prior records, with a pining nostalgia that hits Julee Cruise / David Lynch levels.
I’m looking forward to seeing them Tuesday night at the Beacon Theatre New York after last year’s phenomenal show at Town Hall.
Nobody does weird and odd music better than Björk, and if you’re going to play strangely organic-sounding music labeled as utopian then naturally you’ll want 13 flute players, a harp, a choir, a cello, some animal or bird sounds, and a bit of synth.
I struggle to find words for this – the usual ones and a few less than usual phrases cascade down to me: ethereal, floaty, suffused with light, hopeful, positive, disconnected from or evolved beyond the hellishness of our modern political nightmare, melodic beyond normal sense of scales and linear melodies… but ultimately words fail as this is simply a very good listen and a powerful album from Björk. It’s not completely unusual for her – she’s often entered the a cappella or spacious orchestration territory, even going back as far as “Debut” with tracks like “Anchor Song.”
Björk is hard to write about…
Sharon Van Etten was featured in David Lynch’s new Twin Peaks season, and I went looking for her albums to get more acquainted. She’s a solid songwriter in the Leonard Cohen / Angel Olson vein, a talented singer and guitarist. Her voice moves between the austere and airy, the light and haunting. The arrangements are spare and spares, a touch of Emily Reo, with some tracks just her and the guitar, keeping the spotlight on her emotional lyrics and content. Another great American female musician – I’m glad David Lynch introduced us.
Midge Ure is the producer and writer of 80’s hits like Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” Ultravox’s “Vienna” and “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes,” and Ultravox’s singer from 1979.
Ure’s “Orchestrated” features orchestrated versions of Ultravox and solo career songs arranged by the composer Ty Unwin, plus a newly composed track called “Ordinary Man” in which Ure looks back over his life.
Is it pompous? I’ll let Ure answer that: “It might be a little pompous and a little OTT in places but sometimes the music needs that – it deserves that kind of huge platform.” I tend to agree. This actually works pretty well, and fans will love the versions of songs like “Dancing (with tears in my eyes),” “If I was,” and “Vienna.”
Midge’s voice at 64 is astonishing.
You can’t help but admire Peaches’ brazen disregard for lyrical complexity or intricacy. This is plain crude vulgarity and fun, sung and snarled and laughed to a highly danceable electro-clash backing.
Beck’s new album is a blend 80s New Wave pop songs, 70s dance hits, glam rock, light grunge extracts, Billy Joel and Thin Lizzy songs, hipstery acts like MGMT, and a range of other ingredients.
Think I’m making this up?
Compare “Colors” and Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film.”
Hear the pseudo Nirvana/Pixies guitar chord choruses in “I’m So Free” and the opening of “Up All Night.”
Play the instrumental piano intro to “Dear Life” and tell me this wouldn’t fit in a late 70s Billy Joel song (or a Mott the Hoople song, for that matter).
The guitar solos on “Dear Life” are almost Bowie circa “Hunky Dory.”
The reverb echoey guitar and rising chord progression pre-chorus on “No Distraction” sounds like a 90s rock ballad hit.
Compare the thrusting bass jump and the high vocals of “Dreams (Colors Mix)” to those in MGMT’s “Electric Eel.”
It’s hard to hear “Up All Night” and not think it’s a touch similar to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
Speed up Lenny Kravitz’s “It ain’t over till it’s over” and you get close to Beck’s “Square One.”
All these disparate influences merging – this is not a bad thing. Synthesizing your influences into a coherent end product is something all musicians do, and Beck does it pretty well. This is a decent album and highly listenable.
This collection of remixes by Coil and Nine Inch Nails was released without NIN or Reznor’s knowledge by an associate of Coil in 2014.
In any case, these are actually some pretty good remixes, especially the version of “The Downward Spiral,” and I’d recommend this EP to any NIN fans.