The evening rush hour can be particularly bad along C5 these days, and on one of those days, when you need to break the tedium (and physical strain) of inching slowly towards your destination, you end looking at the billboards. One of them has Lea Salonga on, and while I couldn’t remember what else was on it, it helpfully noted that she’s been in the business for forty years.
“If Life Ain’t Getting You High” by Velvet Starlings | So, back to the inbox, and a song that feels like it knows I haven’t been in a good place lately and wants to assault me with thoughts that, maybe, I should get off my ass and do something about it. Not gonna have that. This is a good song, though, and considering my recent rant about how samey the stuff I’m getting from Los Angeles is, well, this isn’t. This is bluesy, a little bit rowdy, and just the right amount of classic. Also, Christian Gisborne, the leader of the Velvet Starlings, is just 15! No wonder he looks a bit gawky on the music video. “If Like Ain’t Getting You High” belies expectations, and while there’s a lot more growth on the way, I’m impressed with where this is now. The EP is already out in the usual places. I’d give it a try, but for some reason Spotify isn’t working for me. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)
I acknowledge that I am not the best person to talk to when it comes to albums that really take their time – and yet I’m reviewing Bottle It In, perhaps Kurt Vile’s most meandering album ever. Yes, he’s had this reputation, but here he really gets lost in his thoughts, with a sprawling 80-minute opus of slow builds and even slower builds. To be fair, that is the beauty of the record: the ever-intricate manners in which Kurt gets to where he has to go, or at least supposed to. Somewhere along the way it seems he even loses track of himself, staying in the in-between for extended stretches until he realizes he has to move on, and move on he does, whether you’re still alert enough to tag along or not. That’s the allure of Bottle It In, but again, I’m a guy who tends to get bored, and here I felt like I was exerting more effort. Possibly an issue of sequencing again, because the first third of the record was engaging (with single “Backasswards” both a high point and a signpost of things to come) and the rest, well, there were some interesting things going on, but when one runs away with things, fully engrossed, everyone else take a while to catch up. And then it ends with a track simply called “Bottle Back” and it’s over. [NB] | 3/5
In this age of overly indulgent albums comes John Grant’s Love Is Magic. All right, yes, I am suggesting that this album crosses that line a bit too often for comfort, and I’m the guy who enjoyed the excursions on his previous album. Where it all seemed quirky on Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, it feels a bit too much on Love Is Magic – or is it the curse of the long album in the age of Spotify once again? The lyrical idiosyncrasies (particularly on full display in album opened “Metamorphosis”, which starts off tenderly before going wildly off-track) are fun, but by the halfway point of the album, and yet another five-minute long track, it feels like you’ve been assaulted to submission and are just enjoying the view for what it’s worth. There is still a method to John’s madness, to the blips that’s a bit reminiscent of 8-bit Tron, but you’ll struggle to get there – or perhaps it’s just me. For what it’s worth, it all settles down and the album’s last two tracks, “The Common Snipe” and “Touch and Go”, strips back and lets the themes breathe a bit more. There it goes a bit full circle. [NB] | 3/5
“Blush” by Mr Twin Sister | All right, I am still feeling tender, so I am delaying the inbox further. (Actually it’s because I’ve yet to email the artist for more information.) Here’s another one to wake up to, although technically I didn’t wake up to this. Kimbra was interviewed on Zan Rowe’s show four months ago and – this is how busy I have been – I only got around to listening to the whole thing on the way to work today. Imagine listening to Kimbra’s velvety out-of-concert speaking voice at six in the morning, when the skies are still slightly dark but the sun is definitely rising, introducing this song from a band out of Long Island. Good heavens, this is languid and sad, the same way I am not languid but am pretty sad. Amidst the muted saxophones, which are pretty, are these lingering thoughts. Is there more to this? Damn it, Kimbra, I wish I could interview you. [NB]