On my playlist
Recommendation: If you haven’t watched the music critic and author Anthony DeCurtis’s more than an hour-long interview with Reed, there’s a link here.
For much of the last fortnight, I have been listening to Lou Reed’s music, re-exploring especially his and the Velvet Underground’s discography of the 1960s and early ’70s. But there’s been quite a bit of new music on my playlist too. Here’s a listing in no particular order.
Arcade Fire: At 76 minutes, the Canadian band’s fourth album, Reflektor, which came out three years after 2010’s The Suburbs (which won a Grammy for Best Album of the Year in 2011), is a very long album. In fact, it could seem a trifle too long. But the talented multi-instrumentalists led by the married duo, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne do not disappoint. Arcade Fire are known for their use of orchestras, horns, pipe organs and other instruments rarely heard on rock albums and also for their theatrical performances, right up to the interesting costumes that the band members turn out in. One thing you can’t accuse the band of being is predictable. It never is. On Reflektor, Arcade Fire team up with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, which explains its greater than usual share of synth-based electronic sounds. But that isn’t everything. On the new album, the band has 12 members including Haitian conga players and, as usual, the songs jump genres – everything, including art-rock, punk rock and electronic dance music. There’s even a cameo by David Bowie. But, as with Arcade Fire’s earlier album, don’t expect the genres not to collide and fuse with each other because that’s what the band does best.
Jagwar Ma: They’re an Australian trio who are described as ‘Madchester revivalists’, Madchester being the genre of music made popular by Manchester based bands of the 1980s and 1990s – New Order, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Charlatans and others. A genre that is a kind of fusion of psychedelic rock, electronic dance music and classic rock and roll, all rolled up with a bit of gloominess, Madchester enjoyed a brief but high-salience popularity. Now, Jagwar Ma, who’ve just launched debuted their full-length, Howlin, attempts to give it a modern twist. Their sound on the album is tight, catchy and well-engineered and what I’d call cerebral danceable music, no matter how oxymoronic that phrase might sound. Jagwar Ma is a band to check out. If you don’t believe me, ask Noel Gallagher of Oasis, who recently slammed BBC’s Radio 1 for neglecting to air a good band like them.
Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa: Blues guitar genius Bonamassa and soul-jazz-blues singer Beth Hart have collaborated before. In 2011, they released their first cover album, Don’t Explain, which was a collection of covers of songs by Ray Charles, Tom Waits, Billie Holiday, Etta James and other greats. This year, the duo has followed it up with Seesaw, another album featuring covers of songs again by jazz, blues and soul legends. Songs by Etta James, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin feature again but there are tracks that are covers of Louis Armstrong (Them There Eyes), Blood, Sweat & Tears (I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know), Buddy Miles (Miss Lady) and Al Green (Rhymes). Hart’s vocals are electrifying and awe-inspiring. As for Bonamassa, what more can one say about a guitarist who opened for BB King when he was only 12 and who is unarguably among the world’s best ever bluesmen?\
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