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Paul's Choices: 

 

Aimee Mann -Mental Illness

 

This ones  a favourite at the moment  standout tracks include,

Goose Snow Cone/ You never loved me/stuck in the past/patient Zero/ Rollercoasters

certainly worth a listen and very consistent all the way through. great lyrics to boot. -Paul.

Over the course of her career, Aimee Mann has given voice to those who aren’t necessarily losers so much as self-saboteurs, lovers who bristle at intimacy, who race full speed ahead toward happiness only to shoot themselves in the foot just shy of reaching their goal. “Always snatching defeat/It’s the devil I know,” she sings on “Goose Snow Cone,” the opening track of her ninth album, Mental Illness. “Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly,” the singer-songwriter goes on to say. Love may be the answer, and it may be all that we need, but it’s not always the last word.

 

 

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As the compilation reasserts, White has been writing on an acoustic since day one, however, the kinds of acoustic songs he writes have changed considerably over the years. More than just showcasing his tuneful side, Acoustic Recordings is a shrine to White’s self-sufficiency, in both the musical and ideological senses. After all, White has always been one to take matters into his own hands, whether he’s building guitars from some spare wire and woodopening his own record press, or ensuring aliens have access to a turntable. And until he can get off this godforsaken planet and join his records in space, Acoustic Recordings stockpiles a great American songbook that can endure even after we’re all forced to live off the grid.

 

 

 

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 the Decemberists have gone back to their beginnings for The King Is Dead, with leader Colin Meloy forsaking epic storytelling for taut, disciplined, melodic guitar pop. The influence of REM is apparent throughout in arpeggiated guitar figures written in the style of Peter Buck, and often played by him – Calamity Song and Down By the Water, in particular, sound like the Georgia band at their top-notch best. It's no retreat, though: the confident swing of opener Don't Carry It All sets the tone for the album, and song for song, this is certainly Meloy's best set since the Decemberists' breakthrough album, Picaresque. Though the craftsmanship is evident – in the delicacy of the pair of seasonal ballads June Hymn and January Hymn, in the hillbilly-ballad-cum-indierocker Rox in the Box – it sounds as though Meloy has allowed instinct to supplement his intellect. A relatively understated delight from a band few might have suspected capable of understatement.

 

Neil's Choices:

 

Wardruna, Druna


Wardruna- Skald

                         

Skaldic poetry largely defined the rhetoric and literature of the Viking age, making the Skalds of ancient Scandanavia powerful forces of culture, religion and catharsis in pre-Christian Scandinavia. It’s hard to think of a more appropriate heir to the Skaldic mantle than Norway’s traditional folk collective Wardruna. The act’s fourth LP, Skald strips its usually expensive sonics down to bare essentials in earnest reference to an obscure tradition.

After composing the score for the History Channel’s Vikings and completing a trilogy of albums inspired by the ancient Germanic runic alphabet Elder Futhark, Wardruna now forgoes massive soundscapes in favor of 10 solo live recordings. Armed with a kraviklyre, a tagelharpa, a bukkehorn and his own voice, frontman Einar Selvik delves into Viking poetry for an impressive bounty.

Bukkehorn blasts provide a druidic aura for opener “Vardlokk (Summoning Guardians),” but its second is only haunting vocal drones. While it might seem like an oxymoron to call a half-acapella song “instrumental,” Selvik uses his full-bodied voice as an instrument in the truest sense.

The limited range of his lyre and bowed instruments necessitate expressive singing, as evidenced on the minimalist lyre plucking on the title track. His gruff, emotive vocal timbre effectively fills in the dead space left by the strings’ quick decay. While the lyrics are primarily sung in Old Norse, the weightiness and confidence of his rapturous performances transcend language barriers with ease.

The nimble lyre arpeggiations in “Ein sat hon uti (Along She Sat Outside)” are sparse and repetitious. While its foray into tagelharpa certainly sports more resonance, “Vindavla” is still based in open voicings and hypnotic modulations. In this sense Selvik’s voice becomes the necessary focal point of Skald. He provides dynamism to otherwise sparse arrangements, as the inherent imperfections of his unedited performances provide believable authenticity.

The “Skaldic versions” of three pre-existing Wardruna tracks “Voluspá,” “Fehu” and “Helvegen” encapsulate the contrast between Skald and Wardruna’s previous material. The stark minimalism of this album cannot be stressed enough. It’s just Selvic in a room with three instruments playing Nordic folk incredibly well.

The musical fundamentals of these three songs remain intact even without the grandiosity provided by the full band. Descending minor chords, choppy accents and swaying balladry respectively evoke a grizzled longboat-man warming his spirit amid the icy Nordic winds. Selvik’s impassioned singing and steadfast playing elevate these cuts from Viking campfire songs to stunning displays of melodic viscera.

Skald revolves around simple ideas, and the ideas’ success depends on how well Selvik can capture the essence of the ancient poems he chose. “Ormagardskvedi” (Snake Pit Poetry), highlights three stanzas from the Icelandic work “Ragnars Saga Loðbrókar.” Even without the context of legendary Viking hero Ragnar Lodbrok’s unceremonious execution-by-snake-pit, Selvik perfectly contextualizes his words to a sobering rumination on the universal nature of death.

As he unearths the poetry of Nordic warriors, Selvik does charge these cuts with his genuine musically. This is most apparent on “Gravbakkjen” (The Burial Hill). Selvik had to add his own music and words to the lost swan-song of Petter Strømsing, who apparently wrote it for performance at his funeral. This freedom allows him to push lyre and voice to dumbfounding heights.

The plodding lyre plucks of “Gravbakkjen” carry a heavy melancholy, but there’s still room for hope in fatalistic tune, as read in the translated lyrics: “When I eventually lie in the ground/ Still I will live in the words/ Of the verses that I chant and the tunes which carry.” In this way, Selvik’s background in Norwegian black metal comes full circle.

His old band Gorgoroth nursed an obsession with archaic Norse culture underneath anti-Christian blasphemy, and Skald sees him fully partake in the Nordic traditions he at first preserved through rampaging drums and shredding guitars. It may seem worlds away from black metal, but Selvik’s pure fervor gives these delicate notes an impact on par with the extreme metal he came up with.

The 15-minute a capella cut “Sonatorrek” stresses the need for patience and open-mindedness to properly appreciate Skald. The song leaves evolving arrangements on shore, sailing away with primitive chanting. Selvik’s intent here is more spiritual than musically involved, as he thanks Odin for having bestowed on him the skaldic art. Indeed, Skald feels just as much like ancestral reverence as a collection of folk tunes. It’s a suitably interesting listen, but understanding Selvik’s larger point gives it much more staying power.

Wardruna has long evoked Viking tales with cinematic ambiance, but Skald reaches into the core of Nordic folk music to resurrect in all their arcane glory. Selvik not only do these ancient Nordic songs justice in a musical sense, but taps into the timeless intent behind the words of his ancestors.

 

 

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Wolves in the Throne Room- Thrice Woven

Pacific Northwesterners Wolves In The Throne Room have long been masters at creating moments of clarity: those instances where their ear-splitting black metal engine cuts out and leaves the song to glide on unassisted, breaking out of the broiling storm clouds and into a clear canopy of sunlight. It’s a knack the band have spent 15 years perfecting, and Thrice Woven offers a textbook example of this halfway through opening track 'Born From The Serpent's Eye'.

After a four-and-a-half minute barrage of tremolo riffs sprinting over rocky blast beats, the song shoots over a cliff edge into silence. Instead of capitalising on this shock to push down into the choppy waves below, as many of their peers might, WITTR allow their momentum to fade away. Swedish singer Anna von Hausswolff’s hymn-like harmonies entwine with heavenly wind chimes. Then, just when it feels like this nirvana might never end, the Weaver brothers crash back in with a jolt of thunder.

It really feels like WITTR have been away for longer than they have. Their last album, 2014's ambient Celestite, was more an exercise in musical theory than a proper release - a concession to the unwritten rule that, at some point in their career, every black metal band has to try their hand at something that isn't black metal. Heavily influenced by electronic pioneers such as Cluster and Brian Eno, Celestite was the sound of the band (who have always had a thing for sparse synthesizer arrangements) pushing their abilities to the limit in the studio without thinking too hard about where they were going next. They could easily have taken a leaf out of the book of Ulver, or Sólstafir, or (urgggh) Burzum and continued down this path, moving away from the genre that spawned them in search of completely new musical pastures.

Fascinating though this approach could have been, it is not what has happened. Musically there is little but time that separates Thrice Woven from the ‘trilogy’ of Diadem of 12 Stars, Black Cascade and Celestial Lineage, all recorded under Southern Lord, and most of the songs here could be swapped with those on the last of this trio without raising too many eyebrows. Under the surface, however, there is a subtle evolution of style.

Past WITTR albums have tended to exude either an autumnal or wintry atmosphere and, once again, the band have chosen to release their album in September, just as the year descends into its slow demise. However, there’s an unexpectedly triumphal undercurrent to ‘The Old Ones Are with Us’ that feels like the premature coming of spring. “Winter is dying / The sun is returning / The ice is receding / The rivers are flowing,” the brothers growl, as if summoning the sun back from its arctic slumber.

As a band whose music tends to twist and transform like the unpredictable weather of Washington State, they have definitely managed to produce music with a positive vibe before. Usually, though, these warm moments are fleeting - brief beams of sunlight that break through the clouds and emphasise the mist of melancholy that surrounds them. For over eight minutes here, though, hope is the focus - it's an incredibly uplifting experience, coming from a band whose senses seem better attuned to the planet we live on than most.

The second half of the album lacks the spirit of its first two transcendent tracks. 'Angrboda', named after Loki's giant mistress, owes altogether too much to Darkthrone circa Ravishing Grimness and Windir at their windiest. The well-named but forgettable closer 'Fires Roar In The Palace Of The Moon' spends a full 12 minutes questing for a moment of impact that never arrives. But, for those first 19 glorious minutes, Thrice Woven skirts the eye of the storm, flitting between untrammelled power and celestial beauty with a finesse that few can match.