The NBT Review 61

The Amplification Of Mr. Ballad

The Remix Of Mr. Ballad

The Bare Bones Of Mr. Ballad – All by Chapman (Creating Reality)

Songs have always been shape-shifters, play them in your child’s bedroom late evening and they are personal fragile things, a secret shared.  Play them out under the coloured lights, or in the pub or with a band and they are social creatures, sometimes playground madness, or sometimes a dinner party of thoughts.  Each instrument now adds a riddle to the secret, each drum beat or electric guitar melody or backing vocal agitates , reflects and deflects, the song seems warmer somehow, stronger, the fragile must now be listened for, the truth is now not just from one soul but many. Then play them stripped then clothed with coats of many colours, push them into electronica space, send them bouncing into the chaos of traffic and bodies bouncing in clubs, and the songs become puzzles, become tricksters become the sly one in a debate, become the dark one in a movie. The secret soul is still there it is just now a super hero leaving the mild mannered reporter back at the bar, no one knows who that masked man really is but oh they love the way he swoops, flies, shudders through the conflicted night. No one knows but many feel his goodness, danger, strangeness. Yes the soul is still there.

Space (and oh sadly; time) do not permit me to write about each song, each mutation, so at random I picked one and leave you dear curious listeners to go discover what lies beneath, within, around the others.

We first see ‘’Hum Along’’ as a pop country creature, the life affirming coda to a bittersweet saga, gentle, hopeful, the dark room illuminated by the warm glow of lamplight and restfulness. Then that bittersweet comes into sharper focus, the trials and the sadness and the mistakes now past but the wounds still sensitive, there is this hint that the singer will NOT contemplate his own destruction but now can finally understand why loved ones must fade from our reality, if not our dreams and love. The final version, takes that thought and changes it into a wicked grin of a thing, it’s a disco version of a relieved man’s  Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, of the youngster going ‘’Stuff Ya’’ and using his wild dance as a force against the end of things. Giddy and uplifting it is the sound of Fear being shot down with Joy.

There are ten more examples of this suburb creativity at play here and I highly recommend that all three albums be purchased and tracks played at random and let the shape-shifters work their magic.

Listen and buy here:

http://www.mrballad.com

Hear Chapman’s thoughts on his releases and tracks from all the sets this week on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th April.

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

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The NBT Review 60

Water On The Moon – Crazy Mary (Humsting Records)

When did new wave get this dirty, and oh I mean dirty in the way that MUST be taken as a compliment, like a kid that has spent his summer playing hard and exploring every abandoned warehouse, every enticing exotic cave and ditch and field, the dirt is a badge of honour is EARNED, defines the very soul of the free spirit.

Here the dirt is in the details, you THINK you are listening to a hard rock track, and suddenly there are slithers of alt country organ coiled sly within the throbbing motor of the melody. You THINK you are listening to a raw outtake of perhaps a Blondie b-side and then new wave morphs into no wave shudders from classic boogie into something sweet and now and possibly fatal.

It’s as if Grace Slick and Karen O were sisters and fronted an alternate universe version of the Replacements.

Well until the next song that is, then suddenly we are transported into the stranger era of our pop music history and we go progressive we feel folk, the ballad becomes this driving twisting epic thing, music to play when storms threaten.

Sometimes, just as you are feeling at home with Em Z’s bawdy take on the rocked rolled vocal, the band get eccentric, the harmonies get abstract and the mood gets spiky creative.

This garage band has a garage that has not only oil stains and wounded tunes, but shattered TVs, blistered comic books and stranded buckets full of soul.

Get twisting now

http://www.crazymary.com/

Crazy Mary will be featured on the 30th April NBT Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 59

Between Customers – Matt Keating (Red Parlor Records)

Keating constructs his songs like sketches that the artist keeps returning to,  adding details and colour and mood until the picture before you is a personal memoir, the simple perfect lines that tell all, recalling ‘’Darkness On The Edge Of Town’’ era Springsteen;  that fine balance between studio mastery and narrative grit.

He loves his characters, no matter how broken and flawed they may appear, affection and empathy shown in the turn of a verse and the way the strings slide comfortably to (old blanket on a cold night like)tangle delicate into some of the songs.

No scene is overstated, no drama played for giddy dramatics, there is craft here on display, as he strips away what does not need to be said and keeps the core, the finite details of what really matters.

There is steel in the sensitive, and yes the tunes are so damn pretty, but there is no impression of weakness, no concession to safety, no desire for blandness. If the songs soothe it is because they sing true not because they play nice.

Keating distills the world into intimate bulletins so the storm becomes the sigh in a fractured relationship; he makes the immeasurable understandable, touchable, he revives the art of telling just enough and telling all you need to know.

 Subtly descriptive in the way Don MacLean and few since have managed he brings the little bits of what he sees, (wherever he is) to us, making the telling of these tales seem effortless and the listening to them valuable.

Listen here:

http://www.mattkeating.com

Catch songs from this album on the NBT Podcasts going out on the 30th April,  13th and 20th May

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

Matt will also be playing concerts in Vienna with NBT favourites Richard Kapp and Cassis.. check the website for details.

The NBT Review 58

Time Is Fun When You’re Having Flies – AfterThem

AfterThem – AfterThem (Both Independent Releases)

SO

Your soul is conflicted, you want danger, you want to be provoked made tense, alert by the music coming to you, want to feel demands are being made, that on the other side of this listening experience you come out changed wiser maybe, crazier surely.

BUT

You also want to be warm, cuddly cuddled, want to be asked to pogo/dance/swing by that cute strange girl with the blue hair and piercing eyes, want to hum the hooks, grin that huge lazy grin you practiced, and most of all, charmed.

It seems like AfterThem is the band for you.

Within one tune you maybe gently rocked by a tropical breeze while being set on edge by sharp knife drill worthy of latter day Coltrane when he was bornAgainRadical. Within another the scratchy ghost of a Dr John look-a-like rumbles fiery against a slowed down Talking Heads (Eno period) minimal groove.

The funk here is all angles and spiky shiny jewelries dropped into messy bubbling stew, modern black magic indeed.

For the self titled album (which disc came first? And does it matter?) Female vocals are slid far down in the mix a delight for those who ever wondered what Jefferson Airplane might sound like fronting an extremely busy lo-fi Pavement. This selection rocks slightly harder than ‘’time’’ and brings the dirt to the fore, but the sharper focus of the other set clicks it slightly harder as the more rewarding listen.

Both sets though pleasure the brave listener

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Afterthem

You can hear tracks from both albums on the NBT podcasts

6th May on our flagship cast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/
 5th may on the NBT Dark Electric

http://nbtdarkelectric.podomatic.com

The NBT Review 57

Looking For Landmarks – Two Loons For Tea (Sarathan)

I started this as a normal review. This word went here; these thoughts there. Then I realized, sometimes albums should not be dissected, no aural autopsy done. Rather the ‘letting go’ and then just…try, describe the journey.

Put on this music and this movie plays.

She drives through a landscape of rapidly changing storms. Escaping the thrum of her sweet nightmare, sometimes the sunlight sparkles on the cold metal, sparkles turn to sparks, blue sky to night. It was easier when she just believed him.

Subtle scene change, the camera zooms swoons over the car abandoned, the girl is gone and the boy is lost. The sound of reason, the sound of the past, the sound of mothers and lovers beat slow steady (deliverance) in another room, but he just can’t quite get up.

In a flash, the house is empty, no I take that back there is a Newsom ghost, a rock n roll Johanna, dusty sensual dancer, haughty almost even in the dying, even in the fade.

Cut to the city and strangely drifting along with a Roy Orbison mood she finds her self aging delicate, the prizes wrapped in unclear memories looking kind of ugly now in the intensity of her gaze.

This is all about adults looking for the children they were. And the children dreaming of the beautiful adults they may just become.

And then.

What is actually found.

A balance of regret and nostalgia, the rainbow breaks through the sepia and the colours bleed all over everything, the blur shifts and the band shudders into focus.

Finally this reverie explodes outward, the fragile characters in this movie twist and vanish and in a song named after a women who bound herself in words and wordplay and language and the paths of communication, sensual dangerous and enticing, in this song, the music speaks.

Then the writing is done, the album complete.  I listen to the sounds of a quiet room, a church bell ringing far away, a typewriter creating not so far away. I savor the calm as it stretches over the minutes of my thoughts.

Then I press play and begin the journey again.

Find out for yourself about this collection here:

http://sarathan.com/artists/twoloonsfortea.html

Buy Two Loons For Tea

http://tinyurl.com/NLD-Amazon

http://tinyurl.com/LoonsL4LAmazon

Songs from this album will be featured on a very special broadcast of the NBT Podcast

Going out on the 8th April 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.org/

Also read about Sarathan Records on the NBT Portal Website

http://nbtmusic.de/page10.php