IT’S no surprise that a record label run by members of Django Django and The Phantom Band that purports to “specialise in fun times” should be capable of sniffing out an interesting band at a hundred paces.
Snide Rhythms: Snide Rhythms
The Bonjour Branch, WEB ONLY
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Edinburgh art school trio Snide Rhythms display a similar sense of playful exploration on their debut album though their references are generally of the bug-eyed post-punk variety, resulting in barked lyrics, funky, conversational basslines and the occasional burble of aqueous analogue keyboards or Afro rhythm. Clipped post-punk meets sci-fi surf guitar on Instrulude and groovy beat pop meets turbo boogie on Channel, while frontman Colvin Cruikshank plays an urgent round of acronym association on the tightly coiled I Can’t Keep Up!
Green Day: Dos!
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THE second entry in Green Day’s new trilogy of albums is as varied and self-assured as Uno! but largely ditches the bratty punk pop in favour of tuneful new wave bubblegum (Lazy Bones), epic power pop (Wild One) and vein-bulging garage rock (Makeout Party). They also look to the 1960s for inspiration with The Supremes-referencing Stray Heart, the twang and strut of Nightlife, the beat thrash of Wow! That’s Loud and an unashamedly Beatles-y stripped-back ode to Amy Winehouse. Individually, these tracks wouldn’t amount to much more than throwaway fun but, cumulatively, they create another very likeable melodic collection which keeps its eye on the ball.
The Staves: Dead & Born & Grown
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I wonder what it is about the music of the Stavely-Taylor sisters – Emily, Jessica and Camilla – which persuaded the esteemed Glyn Johns and his equally sought-after son Ethan to share production duties for the first time ever on their debut album. Dead & Born & Grown is a pleasant easy listen, rippling with light, ambling folk pop and an occasional waft of the 60s West Coast sound on which they cut their harmonic teeth, but it is hardly stimulating, coming across like a workaday Laura Marling with sweet but samey fragrant harmonies sprinkled prettily on top.
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 5 & 7
Soli Deo Gloria, £12.99
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THE tempi are crackling, the clarity is knife-edge, and the atmosphere is startlingly tangible. This is Sir John Eliot Gardiner through and through, yanking the guts out of Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies and presenting them to us – in a live recording from New York’s Carnegie Hall - in a way that convinces you you might be hearing them for the very first time. It’s not just the period instrument precision of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique that sharpens these blistering performances, but Gardiner’s unflinching belief in the vitality of these works. He explores them ruthlessly and what he finds and delivers is as shocking as it is fulfilling.
Aruán Ortiz & Michael Janisch Quintet: Banned in London
Whirlwind Recordings, £12.99
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LONDON-BASED American bassist Michael Janisch is a familiar figure in Scotland, although his Cuban co-leader in this fine band may be new to many. Not so their special guest for this concert at the London Jazz Festival, alto saxophonist Greg Osby, who not only adds spice and lustre to the music, but has the album named in his honour in homage to his own Banned in New York disc. French trumpeter Raynald Colom and drummer Rudy Ruston complete the line-up. Unconventional covers of Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz and Monk’s Ask Me Now stand alongside original compositions by both leaders. The music is often dense and knotty, with improvisational ideas allowed to develop in both length and complexity (the shortest cut, Ask Me Now, runs to over ten minutes), and captures the immediacy of the live club performance.
Maeve Mackinnon: Once Upon An Olive Branch
Independent, Web Only
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MAEVE MacKinnon’s second album sees her in characteristically sinuous voice, whether in Gaelic or English. She comes layered in instrumentation, with producer Angus Lyon providing keyboards and accordion, Innes Watson fiddle and guitar, Fraser Fifield on saxophone and whistles and percussion from Signy Jacobsdottir.
There are times when the soft-voiced MacKinnon risks getting lost in it all. Her delicately poised emigrant song Hòro Iollaraigh is couched in an atmospheric growl of strings and percussion, but numbers like O Phàill and the popular Fionnghuala jog along nicely although they become rather subservient to the accompaniment.
In contrast, her a cappella rendition of She Moved Through the Fair is simple and affectingly direct.
There’s a strong strain of social conscience about the embattled Middle East in Upon An Olive Branch, which is delivered with quiet passion and laced with Fifield’s sax, while Ewan MacColl’s wry lullaby Father’s Song is nicely accompanied by piano and some eloquent fiddle from Watson.