“We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever,” Stephen Malkmus informs us midway through the cheerful indie-pop jangle of Lariat, “talking ’bout the 80s”.
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Wig Out At Jagbags
Star rating: * * *
Oh, how it shows. This sixth album from his kind-of solo project (outdoing the five he released through the 90s with his seminal first group Pavement) remains in hock to a kind of guitar-laden classicism which traces a thread from the Beatles all the way through to the lo-fi and grunge from which Pavement sprang.
It’s not at all bad, but it is heavily referential and aimed right at the heart of a target audience who have been with Malkmus for the past couple of decades.
The first track is one of the most exploratory, a fun odyssey called Planetary Motion which sounds like an angular kind of yacht rock taking unscheduled forays into 60s psychedelia.
The Janitor Revealed and Houston Hades might be of a more familiar bent to fans of Pavement: unhurried, twanging backdrops to a bit of nudge-nudge wry lyricism, albeit, in the latter case, with a nice air of country funk.
But there are other occasions when the record heads sonically out there. J Smoov is a charmingly lazy ballad built around a Herb Alpert-style trumpet line, Shibboleth and Scattegories are founded on dark, grungy undercurrents, and the resounding highlight Chartjunk co-opts bouncing AM radio rock to Malkmus’s style. David Pollock
Download: J Smoov, Chartjunk
Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology
Light In The Attic, £15.99
Star rating: * * * *
Sometime Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age man Mark Lanegan (right) has built one of the most enviable below-the-radar careers in music. That this two-disc/three-vinyl collection concentrates upon his first half-dozen solo albums alongside 12 unreleased tracks and still feels as though essentials have been left out (where’s Methamphetamine Blues?) is testament to this. A raw, understated country grind complements his parched growl throughout, lending the air of a Cormac McCarthy novel to PJ Harvey duet Come To Me, for example, and to Sunrise, the sole nod to a productive three-album collaboration with Isobel Campbell. DP
Download this: Come To Me, Leaving New River Blues
Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer
An Evening With Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer
Cooking Vinyl, £16.99
Star rating: * * * *
First you have to buy into author Neil Gaiman’s scholarly fantasia, then you have to approve of former Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer’s bookish but attitude-laden aesthetic, and finally you have to be able to handle the married couple’s relentlessly winsome on-record devotion to one another. Get over all of that and this live recording of their joint show – previously only available to the 3,000-strong Kickstarter audience which funded it – is a tender and immersive experience. The three discs feature Gaiman’s stories and poetry, Palmer’s acoustic songwriting and a delicate joint set. DP
Download this: The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, Look Mummy No Hands
Hallmark, available online only
Star rating; * * * * *
A classic jazz LP for under a fiver? That’s the way to start the frugal season. This 1957 album finds the mighty tenor king for the first time in the swinging, soulful company of Oscar Peterson (piano) and his trio of Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass) and Stan Levey (drums). Peterson – whom Webster later named as the best accompanying pianist he ever had – and Co provide the perfect setting for the saxophonist’s legendary balladeering skills and his bluesy, downright funky side. Alison Kerr
Download this: Ill Wind
Calum Stewart and Heikki Bourgault
Available from www.calumheikki.com
Star rating: * * * *
Recorded by active young Scots flute and piping master Calum Stewart and Breton master DADGAD guitarist Heikki Bourgault, this new album is released to coincide with a tour by the duo through Wales, Scotland, Denmark and France. It’s their second album, and takes their fusion of traditions to a bright new plateau. Alternating between the traditional wooden flute and the most expressive form of bagpipe, the uilleann variety (usually known nowadays as the “Irish pipes”), the lads are very skilled, their fingering astonishingly fluent, as they perform their own compositions, adding a smattering from their various cultures. The well-known Irish jig Lough Gowna kicks off, but the tracks quickly get more sophisticated and generally quicker. Not so La Legende De La Cane, however, which catches
a sweet, gently tripping breeze.
Download this: Schottishe Kerlou
Ein Heldenleben, Macbeth
OEHMS Classics, £10.99
Star rating: * * * * *
When premiered in 1899, Richard Strauss’s semi-autobiographical Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life”) might have seemed somewhat presumptuous, given its composer was only 35. The location, however, would have helped: the regular concert series established by the Frankfurt Museum Society had premiered the composer’s Also Sprach Zarathustra and Macbeth, both conducted by Strauss. In Ein Heldenleben there is no doubting where the composer’s sympathies lie, with its grand – even grandiose – opening theme, his critics depicted as sniping sparrows, and his ultimate triumph. Strauss’s Macbeth derives from a Meiningen Court production of Shakespeare’s play: Strauss regarded it as his most advanced work to date, and clearly cared about it, subsequently revising it twice. This vibrant live recording by the
Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra under Sebastian Weigle ably brings out its subtleties and complexities. Alexander Bryce
Download this: Der Held