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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sarah Blackwood – My Mistake Baby Boy

Pick of the Week 42 – Sarah Blackwood

Definitely not from Denton County, Texas is Sarah Blackwood, the one time singer with Dubstar, who hails from Halifax, West Yorkshire. Halifax has the grottiest swimming pool complex in Western Europe, but possibly the largest capacity viewing area. It's also difficult to navigate in the town centre and the only people to ask for directions are prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers. However the leisure centre does a natty minestrone soup if you’re interested and I’m sure Sarah Blackwood has frequented this establishment and partaken in this premium Italian pasta based beverage. I am not aware of her other work, but this is a slow burning, acoustic folk masterpiece and I’ll definitely be checking out her back catalogue. I love the little growl in her voice that bursts out occasionally and I’m sure Halifax is suitably proud of her.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Caitlin Rose – The Stand In

The much anticipated Caitlin Rose album has lasted a good couple of months on the car stereo and it’s no surprise that it’s another impressive batch of alt-country ditties. It’s something of a slow burner and takes a few listens, but once you’re familiar with the songs, it worms its way into your subconscious like a naked mole rat in a meandering competition. Sadly, it never reaches the dizzying heights of Caitlin’s three mega tracks (Sinful Wishing Well, Piledriver Waltz and Own Side) however the fact that it comes close is testament to its quality and consistency.

Following Caitlin on Twitter has been slightly underwhelming. She comes over as brattish, cocky and annoying. Maybe that’s harsh, but perhaps more pop stars should shed the nice guy images and just be themselves. There’s at least two cocky, annoying brats in my own family and I quite like both of them, and they can’t sing half as well as Caitlin. I’m sure she’s lovely in real life though.

The first half is much stronger with ‘No one to call’, ‘I was Cruel’ and ‘Pink Champagne’ all belted out with characteristic gusto. The wavering beauty of the Larry the Lamb vibrato is sadly missing, but Caitlin pulls things round with the stunning, sing-a-long anthem ‘Waitin’. Only time will tell if she can go one better than second place in the festive fifty this year.

And as with all Country and Western reviews we come to the obligatory cowboy references. So fire up the Barbie, put some baked beans on to cook, pull on your favourite pair of jeans (if you own any, if not regular trousers will have to suffice, or perhaps a pair of chaps?), tie up your horse, take off your sixshooters (a water pistol will do), and tip your ten gallon hat. Then sit back, relax and enjoy ‘The Stand In’. A big howdy to all our cowboy readers! Ye-haaaah good buddies!!!!!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

B9 Bis - Belgian Cold Wave 1979-1983

The title sounds like pure obscure gold and I’ve been rubbing my little hands together in anticipation of wrapping my ears around B9 Bis. Disappointingly, ‘Cold Wave’ doesn’t quite live up to my gleeful expectations. The songs are a stark throwback to a time when electronic music was new and exciting, however most of the selections on the disk are average at best. It all boils down to a lovely idea, but poorly executed.

It’s hard to describe the musical direction of the compilation. At its best it’s the birth of dance music as we know it, at worst it’s a Kajagoogoo album track. It’s as if the bands are grappling with the new technology and haven’t quite grasped the need for quality song-writing to match their geeky enthusiasm for these new fangled synthesisers. I guess it sounds like a hybrid of Kraftwerk, John Foxx, The Danse Society, early Cure and B-Movie, but not always in a positive way. Well done to the Belgians for their enthusiasm if nothing else.

Sadly, a nifty atmosphere alone doesn’t make for a great compilation and ultimately there are about three songs that I actually like. Siglo XX gives his all with ‘Individuality’, Isolation Ward are suitably icy and detached with ‘Lamina Christus’ and easily the best track is The Names’ ‘Spectators of Life’; 2 minutes and 58 seconds of ‘Nowhere Girl’ inspired perfect pop song.

Great title, slick packaging, lovely accents, high levels of ‘starkness’ and a catchy genre name. Poor songs. I suppose you can’t have everything.


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Gillian Welch - The Way it Goes

Pick of the Week 41 – Gillian Welch

This is a big favourite of daughter of Doccortex and a good old rootin’ tootin’ tune it is too. It’s a tale of hardship and suffering in the gritty wild west, with a simultaneously bluesy and country feel. From a showbiz family with bluegrass roots Gillian sounds like she could come from Denton County, however she sadly, and stereotypically, works out of Nashville, Tennessee. Nevertheless, this song has really grown on me and I particularly love her dark, stark and moody brand of Americana. Well done Gillian and a lovely cowboy hat too!


Friday, 4 October 2013

Pocketbooks – Flight Paths

Regular readers will know just how highly we rate Pocketbooks at the Into the Valley offices. The latest album ‘Carousel’ was reviewed last July with the kind of reverence usually reserved only for obscure royalty. The great news is that ‘Flight Paths’ their debut LP is even better. There’s more offbeat harmonies, more quirky duets and lashings of kitchen sink drama lyricism, so brace yourselves for one of my favourite albums of this year.

Pocketbooks are as far from the corporate rock clone as can be imagined. There’s no pretence or posturing in these songs, just heartfelt snapshots of the real world viewed through glasses once worn by the Poohsticks. It’s pure British pop music that would have been so popular in the mid eighties world of vinyl, but somehow doesn’t fit snugly onto a new fangled i-pod playlist. Having said that I’m sure Ben Fogle has them on constant repeat through his headphones. (We love Ben Fogle at Into the Valley…) 
We already knew quality of ‘Fleeting Moments’, but who would have guessed the amount of other gems contained in this collection. ‘Footsteps’ is the perfect vehicle for Emma’s sweet and sugary vocals, whereas ‘Camera Angles’ is equally appropriate for Andy delicate metro-sexual crooning, with ‘Cross the Line’ sharing the credit in a soaring duet. There are too many high points to mention and I can’t pay it a high enough compliment other than saying that at least half of the songs are equally as enjoyable as ‘Fleeting Moments’.

So get out there and buy it and become one of the cool kids like me and Evlkeith. Well the cool middle aged guys anyway.