75 Dollar Bill – I Was Real

On paper, a duo listing a plywood crate among their primary instruments doesn’t promise much more than a modest fruit and veg delivery. But New York’s 75 Dollar Bill are capable of doing remarkable things with very little. This fifth album sees percussionist Rick Brown and 12-string guitarist Che Chen subscribing to avant-garde composer Tony Conrad’s Eternal Music theory across 70-plus minutes of ecstatic, locked-in … Continue reading 75 Dollar Bill – I Was Real

Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Servants Of The Sun

Astonishingly prolific – six studio albums and four live LPs in just eight years – the CRB rein in the exploratory feel of their recent work for something leader Chris Robinson describes as a “dream Saturday night set at the Fillmore”. Opener Some Earthly Delights and Venus In Chrome still think outside the box, though; frothy 80s pop melodic top lines driven by vintage synths … Continue reading Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Servants Of The Sun

The Divine Comedy – Office Politics

Those who find The Divine Comedy irritating complain about  Neil Hannon’s tendency towards archness and his desire to send himself or others up. Would, say, Damon Albarn call one of his albums Bang Goes The Knighthood? The key to appreciating Hannon’s shtick is to accept that on every album there will be songs like Office Politics’ Philip And Steve’s Furniture Removal Company – a jingle … Continue reading The Divine Comedy – Office Politics

Mark Ronson – Late Night Feelings

Mark Ronson’s used the term “sad bangers” to describe his fifth album’s contents. Wonderfully, lead singles Nothing Breaks Like A Heart, which exploits Miley Cyrus’ Tennessee twang to reinvent Dolly Parton’s Jolene for the clubbing generation, and the title track, which showcases Lykke Li’s sorrowful vocal to update 1970s disco, suit the terminology. Lykke smoulders, too, on the poignant 2 AM, but on Find U … Continue reading Mark Ronson – Late Night Feelings

Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstacy

Working with outsiders for the first time, Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard bring in Philippe Zdar (Phoenix/Cassius) and Rodaidh McDonald (The xx/David Byrne) to co-produce their seventh album. While Taylor and Goddard are plainly good enough to do it themselves, having fresh input is a reminder that Hot Chip really are a band rather than merely a studio project. Less a radical reinvention than refreshing … Continue reading Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstacy

Pixx – Small Mercies

  It takes a while to figure out who Hannah Rodgers sounds like. At first it’s St Vincent, with Small Mercies’ opener, Andean Condor, recalling Annie Clark’s Strange Mercy. Then, when Mary Magdalene’s gloomy grunge kicks in, or maybe Bitch, with its clanging guitars and blunt lyrics – “You’re full of shit/ Still sucking on your momma’s tit” – Courtney Love leaps to mind. But … Continue reading Pixx – Small Mercies

Bill Callahan – Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

At 20 tracks long, Bill Callahan’s latest album takes up almost as much space as his preceding three combined. Here, with fatherhood and marriage occupying his thoughts, Callahan presents a less coherent and fully thought-out album, as per his previous. Instead, he offers up an ostensible collection of poignant vignettes – like skimming a stone through his mind. And it’s an ever-rewarding and curious mind … Continue reading Bill Callahan – Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

Mort Garson – Mother Earth’s Plantasia

  In 1978, Brian Eno made Music For Airports – a revolutionary moment in the history of ambient music – but two years before that, Mort Garson made music for plants. Yes, a record of piano and electronic music that was designed to be played for the benefit of houseplants. The subtitle of the album is “warm earth music for plants… and the people that … Continue reading Mort Garson – Mother Earth’s Plantasia

Neil Young – Tuscaloosa

Returning to the tour that birthed his least favourite album – 1973’s live effort Time Fades Away – Neil Young’s latest Archives release is an 11-song snapshot of a University of Alabama show with The Stray Gators (soon-to-depart drummer Kenny Buttrey makes the cut here). Although we only hear half of the setlist played that night, a clear performance arc can be heard. Much of … Continue reading Neil Young – Tuscaloosa

Mikey Dread – At The Control Dubwise

Mikey Dread (real name the more prosaic Michael Campbell) was reggae’s renaissance man, equally adept as a DJ, toaster, vocalist and producer – he is probably best known for his work with The Clash on their Sandanista triple. This Transparent Red, 180gsm edition revisits the golden age of dub, with the legendary Mikey Dread centre stage. At The Control Dubwise was originally released in 1979 … Continue reading Mikey Dread – At The Control Dubwise