journalistic services


Nadine Shah, "Filthy Underneath" (EMI North)

Gifted with a sumptious voice that tickles Shirley Bassey territory, and a vibrato that adds depth - of anger, pain, or joy - to anything she sings, Nadine Shah is also a writer of stunning songs. Hugely generous in confessional detail, her way with song structure and catchy choruses constantly surprises. Co-produced, as (almost) ever, with Ben Hillier (Depeche Mode,  but also Graham Coxon and Melt Yourself Down), the sound, too, is far from the usual "singer-songwriter fare". Instead of guitars, intense percussion, darkly looming bass riffs as well as subtle piano and synth parts dominate proceedings - apart, of course, from that voice. Truly terrific.

Marry Waterson & Adrian Crowley, "Cuckoo Storm" (OLI)

Dubliner Adrian Crowley has the sort of baritone that would turn hell into a refuge of peace and calm. He is also a multi-instrumentalist (piano, guitar, mellotron, harmonium, clarinet, etc.) who is well aware of the power of silence. Marry Waterson is part of the great Waterson clan - mother Lal and uncle Mike were responsible for the wonderful "Bright  Phoebus" album -, a fact you can easily hear in the timbre of her voice as well as the melodies she creates. Hers and Crowleys muses and voices fit each other like a glove. The arrangements – cello, trumpet, sax etc are provided by guests - are  almost minimalist in their restraint without ever feeling stiff.  Waterson's «Leviathan» and Crowleys «Watching the Starlings» are the highlights amongst highlights.

Bill Ryder-Jones, "Iechid Da" (Domino)

"I made the mistake with “Yawn”, of just letting the music be exactly how I felt, and it was so unpleasant", is the Ex-Coral's candid appraisal of his last album: "So it was definitely a conscious effort to use my time wisely this time and try make music that made me happy." "Iechid Da" harks back in style and even lyrical references to his second LP "A Bad  Wind Blows in My Heart".  Gorgeously orchestrated, these songs sound as natural as if they were picked from a tree, and  Ryder-Jones has the voice and the technique to do them justice. "This Can't Go On" is the best song Mercury Rev never wrote. The sound is often very big but never feels bombastic. Wonderful all round, including the cover.

...and here comes the return of The Bin of Bile, a small corner of my website where I hide away my latest pet hates - albums I detest from the absolute bottom of my  ears.

The Bin of Bile

The Last Dinner Party, "Prelude to Ecstasy"

Sub-Bohemian Rhapsody dramatics welded to unmemorable rule-book pop; mainstream guff camouflaged in quirky hipster-indie gear.  

Michael von der Heide, "Nocturne" (MVDH)

Michael is an extraordinarily versatile singer who occupies a strange musical territory somewhere between French chanson, German Liedermachertum and 1930s Berlin cabaret - with a melodic sensibility deeply rooted in Swiss traditions.  With a long list of guests including Eve Gallagher, Heidi Happy and Inga Humpe, and a huge array of instruments that range from acordion and Hammond to all sorts of strings, the sound is rich and the mood reflective.  Sung variously in French,  Swiss German and English, the song selection consists of  co-writes and covers, including Kate Bush's "Ne t'enfuis pas".

Eno/Czukay/Schwalm,  "Sushi. Roti. Reibekuchen." (Grönland)

After a long abstinence from live performance, the ever unpredictable Brian Eno decided to launch an exhibition of his multi-media installation "Future Light-Lounge Proposal" in Bonn, Germany, with an  improvised open air concert accompanied by several chefs who supplied the audience with the titular delicacies throughout the three-hour session. Joined by Can's cut-up pioneer Holger Czukay, J. Peter Schwalm (synth), Raoul Walton (bass) and Jern Atai (drums), the results veer between spacey ambient explorations and  the sort of funkly electronica familiar from Eno's fine "The Drop" album.  As ever with Eno, the music doesn't leave any catchy choruses behind but instead creates an "room of sound" which invites the listener to delve in and surf along  on the waves of their own brain.

Flèche Love, "Guérison" (Horizon)

In a previous life, Flèche Love aka Amina Cadelli was the voice of Genevan post-Balkan techno crew Kadebostany whose circus vibe I frankly couldn't stand. More recently, she sang on Rachid Taha’s last album which, it turns out, was much  closer to her musical heart.  Rooted in her mother’s Amazigh culture and other Maghrebian sounds, with "Guérison" she beautifully succeeds in creating a blend of music (and poetry!) that shimmers with subtle influences from French chanson and Debussy to R&B and hip hop, and is very much her own. Lyrically, the album takes a deep look at what the artst describes as her own “wounded” childhood in Geneva.  An album of extraordinary power, beauty and musical innovation.