Music: A month's worth of new stuff

It’s been a good month for music. Sally and I are booked in to see Martyn Joseph and KT Tunstall in the coming months, plus, there was a new Athlete album out that I splashed out on. Thoughts below:

Drastic Fantsatic – KT Tunstall

The catchiest of the new albums, very easy to get into. KT is a good songwriter, a very accomplished musican and singer, and she’s intelligent too. We very much liked the first album and this one didn’t disappoint as a follow up.

The songs are a variety of styles, there’s folk, rock and roll, ballads, pop, even a hint of Latin American.

It’s a great album, but I don’t think it will quite have the lasting appeal of “Through the Telescope”. Enjoying it for the moment though.

Vegas – Martyn Joseph

This is the album about which I’d like to say the most. I became a fan of MJ quite recently (probably after the Bush Hall gig…3 yeas ago?) and missed out on a lot of his older stuff. But he is one of my favourite musicians.

For those that don’t know, he’s a Welsh folk-rocker who writes about stuff that he really cares about and sings and plays with an enormous amount of passion.

This record is a bit different to some of his other stuff. MJ himself says something like “it might even make you smile”. And that’s true – there’s a tribute to Elvis and some other nice moments, but he remains gritty, slightly angry, political, and, occasionally melancholy.

I must confess that after a few listens I’m feeling like the album doesn’t have much new – it feels like a union of the last two (“Whoever it was that brought me here…” and “Deep Blue”).

Song-wise examples:

  • Vegas is a catchy tribute with an easy chorus, in much the same way as “This Being Woman”;
  • “Weight of the World” is a bit like “This Fragile World”;
  • “Nobody Loves You Anymore” is reminiscent of “Six Sixty Six” (though I’ll avoid comparisons of George Bush and the Devil – that would be going too far);
  • “The Fading of Light” seems to be an updated “Yet Still This Will Not Be”;
  • and “The things that we have carried here” is like “Whoever it was that brought me here…” in more than just the length of the song name.

But that shouldn’t detract from the quality of this album. MJ’s consistently good songwriting hasn’t gone away. His percussive accoustic guitar playing makes sounds like a single instrument shouldn’t. His intricate fingerstyle is beautiful as ever. And his vocals, though mostly lacking range of pitch, vary from the haunting whispers of “Kindness” to the angry growls of “Nobody Loves You Any More” .The little flourishes of percussion, harmonica, woodwind, strings, piano, even an electric guitar or two (!) add depth and interest without detracting from the key elements of MJ’s voice and guitar.

I DO like this album. A lot. I will play it over and over. And the gig in November will be one of the highlights of my year. But I’d like to see him writing about something a bit different next time…perhaps a few elections, on both sides of the pond, will make for some more variety in the next album.

Beyond the Neighbourhood – Athlete

And the album I’ll say the least about. Certainly the most difficult to get into!

Athlete’s first album was a catchy, pop-rock record. The second, Wires, was more downbeat, but more mature. I still haven’t quite got to grips with all of it but the music is excellent and it was worth spending time having it grow on me – there’s some cracking songs on there. I suspect this third album is like the second. It’s in the shadow of two much more easily accessible albums at the moment, but I will persevere.

Musically it sounds rich and intricate and I suspect there’s some awesome songs on there – I’ve just not found them yet…or they’ve not found me.

Maybe more notes required in a few weeks.