January 2013 - A Month in Music

A new feature (although I previously tried something similar) that may or may not continue with time dependent. Basically the idea is a summation post where I give all of or some of my favourite things from the month. It could be an EP, an album, a gig or a discovery made. It doesn't have to be from this month either, just when I happen to come across it. Then it wouldn't be me without adding a bit of waffling praise. It all sounds utterly self-pleasing but hopefully you might find something which you agree with. As ever these sort of things are highly liable to change. Let's give it a try anyway...

Gig(s) of the month.

Daughter - St Mary's Church, Brighton - January 17th
Serafina Steer - St Leonards Church, Shoreditch - January 24th

January was quieter than normal for me, in fact I only went to five gigs, probably less than half my normal monthly return. It was quality other quantity though with my favourite of the month so close between Serafina Steer's majestic album launch at St Leonard's Church in Shoreditch last week and Daughter's set at St Mary's in Brighton that I've decided not to attempt to split them.

Both were impeccable sets delivered by incredible singer/songwriters, Daughter's spine-tingling show highlighted everything you've already read about her/them. Elena's haunting vocals and bruised, intimate song-writing alongside subdued percussion and shimmering textures. It had St Mary's completely silent, half in awe, half just enjoying the moment.

Serafina Steer's show was equally wonderful. For this, her album release gig, her delicate harp patterns are joined by a string quartet and a whole host of other musicians, one of which was none other than Jarvis Cocker (he produced the album too - more on that below). He joined Serafina for three tracks, one on guitar, one on tambourine and vocals and another on a wind-up air machine. Incredible.

So was the show, serenely beautiful at times and other eccentric and fun, "Disco Complitation" and the Jarvis duet "The Removal Man" especially, the highlight though Serafina's gorgeous, dream voice, it pulls you and sends you off to a better place. Much like the album, head to the next paragraph for that!

Album(s) of the month. 
Serafina Steer - The Moths are Real

I try and avoid album reviews for the reason simple reason that I'm not very good at them so I'll try and avoid that trap here (too much). I first came across Serafina Steer on her Bloody Hell EP a couple of years back and it's a track re-worked from that EP that blows you away first...

"Night Before Mutiny" is arguably too good to be an opening track, it completely blows you away and leaves the rest of the album an almost impossible task of competing with it. Something The Moths are Real generally manages to achieve through with a striking collection of brilliant folk-ish tracks (it's not really an album you can define to any particular genre) and Serafina's inventive, story-telling lyrics.

The emphasis throughout is on Serafina's voice with fluttering harp often leading beautiful melodies, with the odd bit of quirky instrumentation thrown in for good measure, never better than on the funk-laden "Disco Compilation" and "The Removal Man", a track so witty and good that I'm sure co-vocalist Jarvis Cocker would love to snap it up for a (forthcoming? please!) Pulp album. "Ballad of Brick Lane" is softer and gentle ballad and after an amusing start "Skinny Dripping" turns to a pastoral, tender beauty. 2013, you might only be one month old but you've started off alright to me.

Runner up. The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law.

I'm finding it really hard to review Wolf's Law, if you know me and this blog at all you may know my love affair with The Joy Formidable goes back a good three years now and in that time I've seen them forty-odd times with a handful more to come over the next month. That makes being subjective quite difficult...

I'm going to serve a review here too, I'll possibly do one when I'm happy with it. Wolf's Law is definitely more of a grower than TJF's earlier work and it's the softer, tender moments that are my early highlights. "Silent Treatment" and "Wolf's Law" I already knew from live airing but it's the string-laden "The Turnaround" that strikes me most, woozy and gorgeous, it highlights the power of Ritzy's voice, restrained and beautiful perfectly. "Forest Serenade" is perhaps the closest to the bands earliest work, energetic and powerful with a killer, joyful (pun intended) chorus. Anyway, I promised I wouldn't do a review and this is in danger of turning into one.

I love this band, buy their album and more importantly see them live, you won't regret it.

Single / track(s) of the month.
Can't split these two I am afraid.

David Bowie - Where Are We Now?

Ask anybody one month ago if we'd have a new Bowie album due in the first quarter of 2013 and I'm sure they'd have laughed at you. Everybody would have been wrong too because we do.

The first preview from it "Where Are We Now?" is instantly Bowie, reflective and philosophical from the get-go, a moody track with a brooding whisper to his vocals that reminds me of some Heathen work, vulnerable and beautiful, Bowie has kept us all guessing and returns from apparent exodus to blow our minds. The album apparently contains a couple of heavier tracks that will do more than that - I can't find the link to the article on that on just now, sorry.

If you've been on Mars, head to Bowie's website to find out more about The Next Day, due March 11th - I cannot wait.

Prince - Screwdriver

After Rock & Roll Love Affair towards the end of last year I got excited thinking that Prince was back, it sounded like the Prince we all love (well not all), like a lost song from The Revolution and better than much of his post The Rainbow Children output (which in my opinion is a criminally underrated record). Sure Prince has turned in a few good tracks in those years, Guitar, F.U.N.K., Dance 4 Me, Black Sweat all jump straight to mind but his albums have lacked any consistency. Now though, perhaps, the signs are looking good...

Latest single "Screwdriver" makes it two for two, after an incredible short live cut of the track was released via the 3rdEyeGirl youtube channel a few weeks ago highlighting a raw, guitar led jam. The actual single came last week via the video embedded below. Whilst not as raw, a Chaos & Disorder esque version would be amazing, the single still rocks out and is nothing short of great, with a female trio making up his new backing band (3rd Eye Girl?) "Screwdriver" is full of playful and suggestive exuberance, characteristics nobody does better than Prince. The Guardian say everything better than me so I'll keep that short and sweet.

His new website looks cool too, but that said I'm still feeling bitter about however much money I wasted on Prince's Lotusflow3r website a few years and shall not be early-adopting to any potentially new pay-for-play sites just yet...

EP of the Month.
Sea of Love - So Loud

I gave this one a glowing review already on my Introducing feature so I'll keep it brief and just tell you to go and buy the limited to 300 10" vinyl.

So Loud is an affecting EP that leaves you longing for more... stark soundscapes and spine-tingling intimacy, displaying heart-wrenching fragility of love lost around a haunted wall of sound and delicate guitar nuances.

Below is the video which introduced Sea of Love to me, make sure you've seen it too...

Runner Up
La Luz - Damp Face

Another EP I've reviewed this month so I'll keep this short and rely on copy and paste (head to the original post for a better write-up). Actually from 2012 but I didn't discover La Luz until a earlier this month. Their debut EP Damp Face is ace...

A Ennio Morricone homage is the hazy "Clear Night Sky" with spidery guitar patterns that jangle and twang around an infectious, creepy melody while the closing track is another stunner, "Easy Baby" slows things down with a languid, lazy day melody and brings those Spector girl groups straight back to the fore with gorgeous backing harmonies, super, super sweet.

Discovery of the Month.

Plaid Dragon

There's been some good discoveries this month so this was a tough one, good have easily picked Waterbaby or Dog in the Snow or Torres but I'm going to go with Plaid Dragon, "Dog Physics" is just an incredible track.

The highlight of the EP though is the title track and closure, which spends three minutes of its duration as a blissful folk-ish tune, with languid instrumentation and mellow vocals before exploding in a cacophony of noise. A wonderful signal of intent with the five piece from Missouri due to release a follow up early this year.