For the past several years, Caribou has caught the fancy of chin stroking electronic music fans. Suddenly is Dan Snaith’s first release since 2014’s Our Love. In concert, Snaith is an engaging and energetic frontman that is easy to like. These qualities shine through in his music on “Ravi” providing lots of hi-hat and the house-y “Lime” that cuts into a distant, atmospheric beat 2/3rds of the way through. “Never Come Back” provides a steady beat tailor made for private living room parties.
Getting much play on CBC Radio earlier this year, the single “Home” with it’s soul sample provides a giddy spin on classic soul. There is not much mystery in Snaith’s lyrics but they never come across as too on the nose. His mother in law loses a son on “You and I” over a bed of mid 80s synths while “Magpie” is a moving tribute to his sound engineer Julia Brightly who passed away in 2014. Cutting between soul, rap, house, and the dancefloor; Suddenly is a varied listen with several very good moments
In 2000 I worked my day shift at The Bull pub in London and set out on my own for a Saturday night. I had a ticket to see Isobel Campbell perform as The Gentle Waves. It was a really small venue that I had never been to before. That night’s special was a shot of Bailey’s of which I had several. The quietness coming from the stage was occasionally drowned out by the bartender making a drink. It was a wonderful night, one of my favourites while living in the great city.
Isobel returns with her first solo album in 14 years. Like that night in London, her vocals are barely above a whisper but emanate quiet power on tracks such as “The Heart of It All” and “Hey World”. What really elevates There Is No Other are the little touches that separate the tracks. “Rainbow” evokes 1960s Californian tiki bars and there is a one person call and response on late album highlight “Counting Fireflies”.
The center of There Is No Other is her cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin Down a Dream”. A drum machine holds down the low end, a synth creates tension while Campbell’s hushed vocal sounds like a lullaby. “The National Bird of India” says “don’t ask questions, he just is”. This is a good metaphor for Isobel Campbell, she just is and continues to create soft songs that that glow with a bright heart.
A mere six months after David Bowie in January 2016, Paul Morley released his biography of the Starman entitled The Age of Bowie. Expertly written from a fan’s point of view, Morley shows his deep knowledge of Bowie’s work that focuses on the 1970s. The decade is broken down into chapters for each year with major events in the singer’s life with a rundown at the end of each chapter of that year’s great albums and singles. There are no interviews or quotes, all the material seemingly deep well of Morley’s experiences, it is an interesting way to approach the singer’s life. It is a dense book that could have used some pruning as ideas that could be wrapped up in a few paragraphs instead extend over several pages. In all, a good read from an expert music writer.
The wonders of the local library was on display when several branches in Winnipeg had a copy of Brett Anderson’s autobiography, Coal Black Mornings. The pages were crisp as surly I was one of the first to have taken this quite good book home for the weekend. The Suede singer focuses on growing up in Sussex England, at the edge of a council estate to a family low on money. It follows Anderson as he moves through grade school, then college in Manchester before settling in London and starting the band that would make him famous. It was a coincidence that I finished this book right after the Bowie one listed above and it’s easy to see the similarities in their lives before becoming pop stars. The book offers a glimpse into English student life in late 80s/early 90s. Anderson has recently followed this up with another book that picks up where Coal Black Mornings left off.
I picked up George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia from Portland’s famous Powell’s Bookstore several years ago where it dutifully sat on my shelf until February of this year. The book tells of Orwell’s time fighting Spanish Fascists in the 1930s. It provides fascinating detail on what life is like on the front lines during a war with several funny moments and Orwell’s excellent writing. I have to admit, beyond fighting fascists, much of the politics was a bit beyond me. What was interesting was the amount of propaganda in the press and how life simply carries on even in the country where the war is taking place. When he finally leaves Spain, Orwell notes that upon returning to England the milk will be dropped off in the morning like any other day. In his forward, Richard Trilling talks about Populism politics. In what seems like our currently chaotic political times, it is true what people say that so much of this has happened in the past and one only needs to look at history. Unfortunately, history keeps repeating itself but while the darkness is here, this also means some light is around the corner.
My introduction to Ali Smith was a year and a half ago with Autumn. Late this winter it was time to pick up the next volume in the four book seasonal cycle set – Winter. This was the last book I checked out at the library just before the world went haywire and the libraries shut down. The story follows Art as he travels to visit his Mother over Christmas with his (fake) girlfriend in tow. The book touches on politics, the environment and relationships. Autumn received the acclaim but I think I enjoyed this one even more. Lux, the fake girlfriend, makes an impact on the family and brings them closer together, before she disappears. Sometimes life is like that, meeting people that you will never forget even if they are only around for a few days.