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 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 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

The NBT Review 55

Thunder Buffalo – Thunder Buffalo (Dig/Sarathan)

Switch on the stereo of giddy distorted, pick up the speakers as they howl and throw them out of the window, this is the sound of them falling. Hitting the ground and bouncing UP back, into the room.

Like the 13th Floor Elevators, tripped up even more, Thunder Buffalo bend these songs into squawky- screechy bubblegum shapes, as the Butthole Surfers, the Residents hoot and howl and jive along.

All is not chaos and glitter though, swooshed up in eternal 3am sinister reverb stolen from the nightclub of the lost phantoms, Gloomy In Us All swings like a 50s rockabilly ballad time warping into nugget era America. Several songs too evoke the spirit and the sheer infatuation with the blues that Jeffrey Lee Pierce had when he pushed out Gun Club screams into the world.

And if there is some kinda justice in the world then in a year’s time, YouTube will be swamped with earnest young mad men women attempting the pathos of the fragile If I Leapt.

Sure this is not always a comfortable listen, but is delicious and noisy and fuck it really  makes me want to dance. A personal favorite.

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

Thunder Buffalo — Gloomy Download
http://sarathan.com/thunderbuffalo/gloomy/

Turtles EP – War Tapes (Sarathan)

One night REM playing within their most PoP defined pose mated with an Interpol dressed in the finest dark glitter hooks. The resulting child was this new collection from this (for now) LA based band.

We sit enthralled in a cinema full of shadows, the slow burn drama of the song catching on to the light stream, this is bedroom epic, bathroom poetical intense, the harmonies, the illuminated and the secret entangled smooth.

The percussive echo, the heartbeat of the extremely nervous or the over thoughtful, his voice effected, the ragged man asks the ghost to join in the dance, and the music builds, the stormy noise tornados around, around, around, till all is the whip, the wind and the breathing. This is a song for those who want, need, perhaps, the freedom of being scared.

This is a crush on fear, adoration of the vulnerable, and the love of the fatal paths that we sometimes slip down, it is the sound of: when COOL bangs up against warmth and ricochets straight into our studied detachment.

The War Tapes have the potential and yes, the will, to straddle both the mainstream airwaves and like the gloomy magnificence of Michael Gira’s Swans capture the heart and soul of the alternative scene.

Watch out for their debut full length release coming out in May

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

War Tapes, Turtles EP:
http://tinyurl.com/itunesWTturtles

Listen to tracks from both these bands on a special broadcast of the NBT Podcast going out on the 9th April

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

Also in April read about Sarathan Records, listen to tracks view pix and vids on a special feature showcased on the new NBTwebpage portal

http://nbtmusic.de

The NBT Review 54

Across The Atlantic – Sarah MacDougall (Copperspine Records)

Her voice on the radio, the only companion in the loneliness of the long distance night. She tells of the girl and the train and when the song transforms, enfolds into its self then shudders sweetly outward, then the girl is her, the girl is us. WE now jump into this adventure. It is delicious the way her voice strolls slow, even hesitant, as the music rambles along jolly clitter-clattering down the tracks.

The theme of moving, out, away, stays with us. Here is a song for a hitchhiker standing in that wondrous painful delicate quiet, that elastic time between the departure of the last kind car, and the arrival of the next headlights of some new hope.

Her world is full of dishonest romantics who have love on their side anyway, and strong protectors who find their strength in the ones they rescue. Her world is not in black or white and certainly not grey, it is in the colour of mist and running water and twilight and whispers.

Stand out track for this listener is the beautiful title ballad. Home is where the heart is, sometimes… not always… sometimes your heart stays, ‘Across The Atlantic.’

The arrangements, the production of these 10 songs, keep them swaying from clear alt country, into sharp focus pop, and back into atmospheric roots rock, never muddy, never lazy, instrumental voices often slyly shyly fading in, twisting the girl here then there, never distracting from the sound of the TRIO, this is after all their music and they delight in sharing it.

http://sarahmacdougall.com

You can hear tracks from this album in April on the NBT Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=589214

Lyrics from Across The Atlantic featured on the NBT Portal website

http://nbtmusic.de/

The NBT Review 50

With The Eye Of A Skeptic… – Bill Price (Grass Magoops Records)

This is old time Country dance, girl boy harmonies against a roots rocking band led by the jubilant skitter of the Cittern (a sort of large bodied mandolin.) This is not all though; this is the personal political, the thoughtful, the wishful, the dreamer making songs, the watcher singing.

We hear about the Junkman who learns about life in the bits and pieces he collects, the secrets we throw away without even knowing it. We debate within a blues swing room about the soul of modern art then to the strains of a lilting lullaby like tune we are taken flying.

In his dreams, in this flight,  years roll by jumbled, villains are given the chance to be heroes , history is scrambled and re-sighed re-written and hope is rescued from the cynic’s prison.

Price may see these things, these choices, with the eye of a skeptic, but his belief in good, in the right decisions maybe being made, the fact that the future is really fragile and can be broken into something beautiful; is what makes this collection a gift.

In the song ‘’Foot In The Dirt’’ the simple act, the lucid description of how it feels..Just to cast away the heavy of the day and ..Walk, touches this listener because that escape has often been MY escape too.

So jump slow and jump calm into these songs and stories, get caught up in the seemingly effortless virtuoso playing of all involved and welcome this gentle raconteur into your home.

http://www.billprice.info

Analog Love – Cassis and the Sympathies (Wunderblumenmusik)

Benign, serene coming down from the clouds willfully we slow dive into Analog Love, a neon lit lounge, default setting on sultry, though  soon enough we allow the lady to take our hand and dance us into a wide open cinema land.

This is new wave old romantic, ambient, impulsive, addictive, a darker Julee Cruise, a content Nico, still slightly dangerous, a sweetly lethal bubblegum, deep blue tripping over the rhythm disguised as sighs.

There is that skewed perspective that Lydia Lunch gave on Queen Of Siam, though this time the chanteuse is backed by a mixture of Yello and seemingly old time wicked jazz musicians playing for their souls.

In these songs disturbing desire is just, always JUST,  a finger click away. These are invitations to a languid version of Hell, an acceptably edgy version of Heaven. Piano and Accordion entice and bewitch in the guise of slick warped ballads, tears and escape, they urge us to close our eyes and

Sink.

A cool journey away from the modern normal.

http://www.cassisvision.com/

Hear Tracks from BOTH these albums on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 49

Lunchbox  – Richard Kapp and the Gowns (Independent Release)

It is a delectable irony that the opening track “It’s Too Loud‘‘demands to be played rather loudly. It‘s the kind of thing that gets the listener swaying about in their room, or on the street even (if heard on an iPod or mp3 player) conducting an imaginary orchestra. A song about loneliness perhaps but a song that uplifts at the same time, eccentric pop then.

Let this be said straight away, this band suits Mr. Kapp.  And his style, his droll take on love, life and other potential disasters suit this band. It’s almost like, mmm, that with fellow musicians aiding and abetting his creations he can get even more personal than previously allowed.

The title track now sweetly sways with nostalgia drifting from images of peace to feelings of loss then back again, then flying through wonderful harmonies, it quirkily goes schizophrenic on us.

‘’Selling Them Your Love’’ invokes the spirit of Belle and Sebastian, even a chamber pop version of the Lightning Seeds while ‘’So Dirty’’ is a gently elegant smutty show tune with added restrained vocals dips and dots from Woodstock Taylor. The Broadway version of Stephen Merritt would be proud!

Sometimes there is lonely heartbreaking trumpet, sometimes a swoon of crystal clear female vocals, sometimes the piano playing comes into sharp focus, sometimes all this and more fades away lost willingly in the ambiguous emotional heart within the collection.

Then in, ‘’Another Town’’ Kapp along with guest Ina Simone capture exactly what makes a pop ballad work. No whine , no angst, no over emoting dramatics here, something simple, almost country, utterly captivating for now this is my favourite song in the set. A Dreamy companion to ‘Wake Up’ from Asterisk.

As always this is an album that will reveal more every time it gets played and is the perfect progression for Richard Kapp and his band the Gowns.

http://www.richardkapp.com/

Catch songs from this release on the NBT Podcast going out on the 23rd Feb 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/