Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Adult Contemporary Essentials 22.11.09

Not Even In July
Let’s face it – even the hardest critic of hippy folk would find a lot to like in Fleet Foxes. Well, those same parts make up most of what makes Not Even In July special. Jesse Marchant, an actor turned singer-songwriter, who goes under his initials, sings in a sweet, gentle voice over relaxed lovely melody. A Canadian by birth, Not Even In July was recorded in a church studio, whose atmospherics add a gorgeous ambience to the lazily swelling dynamics and the echoes. Like fellow Canadians Great Lake Swimmers, Marchant’s music has an intimacy that reminds the listener of early Neil Young, Jackson Browne or Rickie Lee Jones. With material covering subjects such as the perfect July On The Sound, written for a dying friend, Marchant is a match for our own Stephen Fretwell – a band is used to fill out the songs without ruining their delicacy and elegance. As a first album, this is an immense small effort.

ACE rating 9/10

The Swell Season
Strict Joy
Think about the word ‘fine’. Fine is when it doesn’t rain, but it’s not a lovely day, when the food you just ate was passable, but not great, when the watercolours in the gallery are competent but not going to attract a bid. Fine is for background music, not something that could become
the object of your affection. Well, The Swell Season are fine. That hasn’t stopped them being lauded for their fine music, but it does mean that Strict Joy is only for those who like their food unchallenging and digestible. The Swell Season are at their core a duo, Glen Hansard, from Irish band The Frames, and Marketa Irglova, a Czech classical musician and singer. There’s half a sense of security when the first track kicks in, Low Rising – except it doesn’t go anywhere, like a Hallmark sentiment rather than a meaningful emotion. And then the album carries on for a bit and then it stops. There are lots of people around who rather liked The Frames, and who do like The Swell Season. That’s fine.

ACE rating 6/10

Live At The Olympia
Warner Bros
REM have been on the wrong end of a lot of criticism about their more recent new material, and a sense that there was more contractual obligation than anything more passionate in there. This release restores your faith in the band, as it offers up a series of recordings from shows in Dublin in 2007, featuring songs that would end up on Accelerate and a lot of pre-Warners album songs. Although the experiments for Accelerate are a good fan
treasure trove, it is the live versions of the older songs (Reconstruction, Life’s Rich Pageant, Murmur) that add so much interest – there is spitting flame running through some of these tracks, so intense is the delivery. Given their head more than 20 years later, these songs and these versions prove that REM are still one of the best indie bands on the planet – this album captures effortlessly everything that made REM great. It is an essential REM album for any fan, and a perfect introduction for anyone who’s not yet become one.

ACE rating 8/10

Adult Contemporary Essentials rating
9-10 Essential purchase
7-8 Good, definite buy if you've liked this artist in the past
5-6 OK only, don't say I didn't warn you
3-4 Poor, even for this artist
1-2 Awful

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