Back in 2013 we called New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo one of the greatest American guitar bands ever. The trio returns with their fifteenth studio album and first set of all originals since that year’s Fade album. While learning how to use Pro Tools, bassist James Mcnew started recording the band’s practice sessions and soundscapes which lead to working on songs for this release.
First single “For You Too” is lo-fi guitars teamed with heartbreaking lyrics – “but if it’s not too late, if I could protect you… maybe I could be that guy”. Ira Kaplan also takes on the vocals with mumbly goodness in “She May, She Might”. Georgia Hubley’s lead on “Shades of Blue” is surely one of the finest songs ever written about picking out paint colours. Instrumentals “You Are Here” and “Here You Are” do a fine job in bookending the disc.
In between, the album is broken up by three, five minute instrumentals including the atmospheric “Shortwave” and the jazzy “Above The Sound”. Having all three in a row slows the momentum down as the rest of the album is a mix of more instrumentals, song sketches, and subdued material. Only “Esporte Casual” lightens the mood and sounds like the kind of musical interlude that blur used to do so well. Several great Yo La Tengo tracks abound in the first half but the second half of There’s a Riot Going On is not nearly as memorable.
With Elton John’s Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace coming to an end in May, myself and the missus packed our bags and headed down. Catching the show that made it into the news due to an unruly fan trying to touch him saw our performance end on a bit of a sour note, however Elton was phenomenal throughout. If you have the chance, do absolutely try and catch him on his last ever tour that starts later this year. With the anticipation of the show, I picked up Diamonds, the latest in a long line of greatest hits sets Elton has put out through the years. Track listing is very similar to the greatest hits that came out in 2002 with a few minor changes.
Opting for the two-disc set of Diamonds instead of the super deluxe edition, the first CD is extraordinary. Front to back classics from “Your Song” to “Rocket Man”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Daniel”, “Bennie and the Jets”, etc. These Elton John/Bernie Taupin compositions make-up some of the greatest compositions of all time. Disc two starts with “Song For Guy” before giving way to the hits of the 80s up to 2016. Highlights include the sentimental “I Guess Why That’s Why They Call It The Blues” and “Sad Songs (Say So Much)”, the defiant “I’m Still Standing” and the disco house mix of 2003 UK chart topper “Are You Ready For Love”.
The second disc can fall into schmaltzy territory with “Nikita” and wedding reception staple “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. “I Want Love” updates Elton’s sound to the point of sounding like a Robbie Williams knockoff, not necessarily a terrible thing. After his 70s heyday, even the best songs sound slightly less substantial and at times suffer from 80s production. That being said, the performances are always spot on and having virtually all the hits in one spot for a legendary artist like Elton John is fine indeed.
For the past few years my reading of books has been off/on at best. Read two books in a row then nothing for a few months before starting up again. In 2018 I vowed to change that with a goal of reading a book a month. Not exactly a stretch target but one to keep me going. I’ve been posting on Instagram as I finish each one but wanted to post here as well. I have not written about books in the past as my literary knowledge is good but limited. Instead of trying to write a few paragraphs every month, I decided to write quarterly about the three books I read. Here is the first installment…
Annie Proulx’s 1993 novel The Shipping News won the Pulitzer Price for fiction in 1994. The story tells of Quoyle who moves back Newfoundland with his two daughters and aunt after his wife leaves him. His family was from the area of Killick-Claw area but his parents had emigrated to New York state many years before. Reviews for the book veer from “masterpiece” to “rubbish”. I fall somewhere in the middle but closer to the latter. While Proulx paints a vivid picture of Newfoundland, I never fully connected with the characters and had to push myself through it. 6/10
Mark Manson released The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** in the fall of 2016 and since then has sold millions and the author has gained many followers. There are moments in the first few sections of the book where “f***” gets used quite a bit and grows rather tiresome but once that gives way, there are plenty of good life lessons revealed. A lot can be boiled down to “don’t sweat the small stuff” and don’t run away from your problems. Face them, tackle them, then trade up to more important problems. You only get so many f***s to give in life so choose wisely. Excellent book that I look forward to reading again in the near future. 9/10
The Rosie Project is the debut from Australian writer Graeme Simsion that has sold a few million copies since being published in 2013. The novel follows the plight of professor Don Tillman trying to find a wife who fits his rigid criteria when he meets the less than perfect Rosie and decides to help her find out who her real father is. Simsion keeps this romcom of a book moving along swiftly with many funny moments that has the reader rooting for Don and Rosie to get together. A movie has been in the works with directors/actors coming and going for a few years now, hopefully it sees the light of day soon. 7.5/10
Modern Kosmology is Jane Weaver’s sixth studio album. Much praise was heaped on the Manchester based, Liverpudlian upon release in the spring of 2017 and received a new lease on life (in my world) when Mojo magazine ranked it their fifth favourite record of the year. “Did You See Butterflies” is the most immediate track with a droning bassline and early 90s Lush style vocals.
The electronic folk album is a slow burn that reveals treasures throughout. The throbbing techno of “The Architect” and spacey rock of the title track. At the deep end, last track “I Wish” recalls the beloved Broadcast. “I wish you were cool, I wish you were something” Weaver’s high-pitched vocals tell us. A varied listen with nothing that sounds out of place, this was well worth travelling back a year to discover.