tape

aurora: nothing is eternal

aurora dances her words with her fingers when she sings, and seems to be both a lovely human being and a wonderfully weird tough cookie.

aurora aksnes sings about being a warrior of love, being attacked by the dark, climbing runaway trees, and demanding to be treated with respect instead of bending over too far. her brilliant voice and radiant way with words are moving both mountains and mole hills of feelings. her covers of “wrecking ball” and “life on mars” are equally inspiring. when she dances, she trips the northern light fantastic with gay abandon and giddy soul. also, she started a record shop gig in london by cheerfully talking about food stuck between her teeth and, in an episode of the talk show skavlan, she spoke thoughtfully about being sensitive, about not being interested in fame, and about how she wasn’t very good at being a teenager, seems to have skipped her teenage years, and, instead, is now a bit of a child and a bit of an adult. deadly all around!

and now aurora’s gone and made a documentary about things that inspire her, among them her hometown bergen, her family, and her friends. the cinematography is wonderful and aurora speaks with wisdom and kindness, for example on music being for sharing:

“music is not something you should keep for yourself, you can’t put it in a cage because it’s wild and alive.”

apart from wild music, there’s also magic apples, dancing in streets and forests & a lotta luminous heart. nothing is eternal, as the title of the documentary states, but everything can be fascinating. you ought to watch this, it might make your day.

aurora is on tour – make yourself some happy news and see her if you can!

billie the vision & the dancers: the key to my magic world

key

at the beginning of december, lars lindquist, maria thenor, sofia janninge and silvio arismendi of billie the vision & the dancers released their ep the key to my magic world. a world in which, i think, trees and human beings grow freewheelingly; which is lit up by music like by fairylights and campfires; which is magic because it is loved.

spanning over ten years and six brilliant albums with glow-in-the-dark titles, the band’s history is full of that kind of magic. they called their record label love will pay the bills; they turned a carpenter’s workshop in a forest near bräkne-hoby, sweden, into a home, a studio and an excellent cultural venue for the local community; their song with hello saferide and the covers that musical friends such as the pipettes, maia hirasawa, little marbles and seasick steve made of their favourite billie songs sound like love letters; they have an admirable habit of making strangers into friends and their songs are like conversations about personal ghosts under beds, political nightmares walking the streets in broad daylight, not fitting in and, at the same time, delighting in human beings. their songs throw glitter at hate and are met with declarations of love (look at their youtube and facebook pages!). i think i first fell for this one and, of course, that one.

the key to my magic world is no less scintillating. i think it also gave us billie the vision & the dancer’s first official music video.

the ep is about making up your mind, letting in spring air and tomorrows, dangling from the captain’s hook and needing to give up on someone. with giddy chord progressions and exhilerating syllable hooks, it invites human beings to sing and be heard (especially poignant considering the heartfelt welcome to refugees in the last seconds of the video), offers music as both a healing drug and a religion and makes idiosyncratic troubles oddly relatable (and so catchy that, even as you recognise yourself, you feel better immediately). with lines like “if i could keep from crying, if my words would get through, i would call you up instantly and try to explain again“, the lyrics, as usual, look like conversation transcripts rather than songs but, oh, they sound like watercolour groove.

if you know billie the vision & the dancers already, i daresay you’ll be pleased to add this key to your collection, if you don’t, then, wheeee, pick it up and come on in! also, if at all possible, be good to yourself and dance with them on their it’s my drug it’s my religion tour 2016.

small feet: from far enough away everything sounds like the ocean

small-feet-album-review3
small feet are wrestling ghosts and whistling worries till they shoot like meteors across the sky. here’s a cheer for every defiant line and every camomile note. this debut album has been a long time coming and now that it’s here it is as
excellent as its title promised it would be.

yes, we have heard this ocean coming from far away. some of this post-windmill spider pop we discussed beside golden walls, some of these songs we heard in a cloudy gallery, some of them we caught there and brought here. and some of these songs are new friends we’re only just making.

 almost casually, small feet lead us down crevasses of disappointment, with hope bent out of shape but glowing. here, someone kills unicorns for fun, plans need water to grow, the television set trades in lives, an army of heathens may well save you and in the trenches before the palm trees lies a diary of sadness.

 and, somehow, simon stålhamre, jacob snavely and christopher cantillo make this feel like inhaling extra air, it’s heart-growing music, with a curious buoyancy from weird fruit, reverb harmonies and oh ohs. quietly magnificent. like ane brun’s vocals on “bend towards the light” and raffaele malanga’s photographs of horses and the odd human disappearing in snowscapes and of aurora trees. an all-around brilliant piece of art, made by lovely human beings.

one of whom eats apples while shooting music videos ♥

dry the river : alarms in the heart

the second album, finally. and all our longing lights up and turns to smiles that blend into each other and grow teeth. alarms in the heart is so epic it makes you feel taller. even if you’re walking down to the commuter train in a yellow raincoat that is useless and silly because the rain stopped as soon as you left the house.

alarmssmall

i found dry the river by accident. i went to the gig to see marques toliver (again) but that one line “we danced to the shipping forecast” was all they needed to win me over. and they have won other people over, too, long before their magnificent debut album shallow bed had even been released. shallow bed combines astronomy, greek myths, biblical imagery, animal metaphors, surreal places, folk and some hardcore and postpunk elements. or as their drummer jon warren once said to me, “dry the river is an old folk five-piece disaster from the uk.” they also do brilliant acoustic versions and surprising covers. as their violinist will harvey is pursuing other adventures, dry the river is now a four-piece (peter liddle, matt taylor, scott miller and jon warren) but still a wonderful disaster.

alarms in the heart is alive with complex and astonishing melodies, fiercer instruments,  excellent lyrics and nerve-wreckingly beautiful intonation. peter liddle still draws on religious imagery and creates fairytale wildernesses but darkness seems to approach through more everyday angles. like seeing someone around the neighbourhood and wondering how they are. and then suddenly “half the town are underground / and half are half way there.” or writing a letter to articulate thoughts and then this: “the garden’s overgrown! [. . .] and now it’s just a field behind the house / where the creepers kind of swallow the light. / where you wait for a talking snake, / for a calendar date‒/ something you can rely on.” and, look, peter liddle’s med school past crept in, as well, providing a intriguingly grim introduction for a library longing.

there is a lovely and effortless reference to leonard cohen that might make you cry, a naked moment at the end of “rollerskate” that might make you stop dead with a slow smile, childhood memories, alienation, faintly disappointed dresses, fights, the pixies, saint john of the cross, a hidden track with bed sheet ghosts in driveway snow and all those radiant lines. such as “like a moth goes sad and soft in the streetlight’s umbilical glow / it was love that laid us low” and “it’s peace i desire but i can’t put the fire out or i’d be in darkness again.” and more in “gethesmane” than i can reasonably quote here.

in short, the second album, like the first one, is a treat. and, if i’m reading the tarot cards on the album cover right, the unexpected losses of the past will, through sudden change of direction in the present, lead to a future where a new creative cycle begins ‒ in other words, from here on, treats galore. and, judging from past gigs, all that is left to say now is go see them live if you can. awoo!

a brave account of the failures and growth processes involved in making alarms in the heart (from contrived structures to singing into voice memoes to each other in london to the recording period in iceland).

summer is for catching up

maybe you have it, too. that pile of albums, waiting for a quiet moment when you can listen to them properly, lyrics and all. no skipping to your favourite tracks. well, how about now. it’s summer in stockholm. most of your friends are out of town. it’s too warm to go outside. even the local library is closed. and while we’re catching up, here are three albums you wouldn’t want to miss. you can take them on a holiday or to your windowsill.

covers s


unplug
 
cloud cult
live painting at gigs, planting trees to absorb the their co2 output and green merchandise. these are some of the exciting things that cloud cult from minneapolis are doing. and then there is their 19-year history of experimental music that effortlessly, wittily and lovingly tackles anything in heaven and earth.

in april, they released an acoustic album with seventeen songs from their previous records. unplug is a live performance complete with banter and mistakes. if you haven’t listened to cloud cult before, this album may sweep your clean off your feet. if you have listened to them before, oh, you are in for a treat. they are acing it. these acoustic versions are both vulnerable and festive. the voices, keys and strings reveberating like summer air just before it gets heavy with rain. the stories include favourite words that are hard to spell, lines such as “an old man in the clouds or a happy little alien, whoever it is i need to thank her” and socialising with shadows.

cloud cult are finally making their european debut on 1st august, at the folk holidays festival in the czech republic. if you can go see them there, you’re a lucky monkey.

folie á deux | adventure of
dennis tkačuk and patric julian from västerås released their second adventure of album in september 2013. replacing religious with fantastic elements, it is more playful than the first, insha’allah. in fact, folie á deux sounds like they are having a mad hatter tea party over there, on the other side of the headphones. with feathers instead of hats.

the title translates as ‘madness shared by two’ but when the first slightly menacing beats of the intro break into a run through the woods with an invisible choir, you’ve long joined the two electro-samba-pop dreamers. they say they are trying to capture small fragments of everyday life and grow them into something. which they do jolly well. flowers on graves and jazz kites in the sky. whistling and oh oh ohs. and if that’s not enough, look at the wonderful video for “fool’s gold”.

these boys live on a sofa, have no-face over from the spirit world, drive fake cars and paint their faces with ice cream. the song keeps coming back to the line “we can’t seem to get a grip on this life” but does not sound disappointed in the least. and why would you be? when you can jig to this album of cheerfully infectuous madness instead.

learning | perfume genius
this genius who lives in seattle and, according to his facebook page, is interested in knitting weeds and braiding squids (♥) had escaped me for four long years. unacceptable. but, also, lovely because i don’t need to wait. mike hadreas’s third album too bright will be released on 22nd september and is being plugged as some sort of bold rage, which, frankly, sounds spectacular (looks it, too). and september means just enough time to catch up. 

the first album, learning, mike hadreas surprised himself by writing after moving back in with his mum. it was released in 2010 and floors you. splintered lo-fi piano songs, few but fierce words and melodies with hooks. the title track has one of the best uses of „blah“ in a song. ever. “you won’t be here” twists your ankle and “write to your brother” brings a smile to my face that i have difficulty explaining. there is blunt darkness, not gloom. there is mouthwash, guinea pig hair, a teacher who listens to joy division and a thank you like a lighthouse in the linear notes. and here’s a reason why you should continue right away with the second album put your back n 2 it:

and, while you’re at it, go on, have a look at the official video, as well. go on. ah, go on.

ben watt: hendra

Image

the german edition of the rolling stone has proclaimed ben watts first solo album in about thirty years (!) as their album of the month in april 2014. and i have been listening to some of its tracks a few times and i don’t get tired of this easy going, smart written pop music that fits to watts home region, cornwall/england.

ben watt? you remember everything but the girl, british pop band and their success missing? everything but the girl was ben watt and girlfriend tracey thorne. after the project just finished some twenty years ago, watt has produced a lot of dubstep music, opened a nightclub in london and lived the good life.

and now he’s back. all of a sudden. and delivers a beautiful set of well-crafted melodies and songs. take matthew arnold’s field for example, a piece about a site named after the british poet, a wonderful, silent description of nature, like a painting that talks to us and watts telling the story of scattering his father’s ashes in matthew arnold’s field.

the gun takes us to another place where people have ‘cold eyed cameras watch every door therre’s no public access to the beach or the shore, private patrol cars, but that’s a joke, it’s just two guys napping and sipping on diet coke’.   bernard butler’s guitar reminds us of mark knopfler and the album has another very special guest, david gilmour plays the guitar on ‘the levels’, another little masterpiece that mr watts has given to us.

a low key album that captures you and makes you listen and listen again.

 

the autumn defense: fifth

fifthwhen a side project lives for more than 13 years and releases its fifth album it sure is pretty serious and probably more than a side project.

the autumn defense was brought to life shortly after the new millenium had arrived. john stirrat, bass player of legendary illinois based alternative country outfit wilco and his friend pat sansone were the initiators of the autumn defense. sansone even joined wilco and has been a member of them since.

while wilco is dominated by the strong songwriting of creative genius jeff tweedy, stirrat and sansone are in full command to steer the autumn defense. and instead of the alternative country rock of wilco, the autumn defense explores, again, the genre of soft rock and the whole album gives me vibes of california and spring and summer, although i have never been there. it is very easy going, mostly very melodic music that the band continues to deliver.

the-autumn-defense-window

the autumn defense (press photo)

crosby, stills, nash & young and america come to my mind while the autumn defense helps me through this sunday and delivers a part of its soundtrack. stirrat himself has named former american pop bands love and big star as very important to the music of the autumn defense.

a few reviews have pointed out that this album is far too ‘pleasant’ (magnet) or “too clean” (consequence of sound). but awoostockholm agrees with q: “hotpot of classy, classic songwriting, rich in texture and flavour.” and the 13th floor: “no, the autumn defense isn’t breaking any new musical ground here, but for those who have a fondness for well-crafted, melodic songs with just a hint of melancholy; these 12 tracks should be right up your alley.”

the autumn defense will play a few gigs in texas in the days to come. in may, they will cross the atlantic and ‘take a holiday in spain’, luckily playing concerts in madrid, barcelona, valencia, guadalajara and san sebastian.

listen to: why don’t we / this thing that i’ve found