Monday, July 29, 2019

Live: British Summer Time Hyde Park (London, July 13th, 2019)

The National, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
The second event of our London visit was the penultimate date of the British Summer Time festival at Hyde Park, headlined by Florence + The Machine and The National.

Florence + The Machine, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
Finding a festival with the kind of line up that I would enjoy from start to finish hasn't been easy this summer, but the July 13th event in Hyde Park looked like it was tailor-made for me. First of all it was The National's presence that got the festival date on my radar as I had not seen the band live for many years (here's when was the last time), while this year's "I Am Easy to Find" is certainly one of their best albums yet as well as one of the highlights of 2019 so far.

The National, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
It's also been a long time for Florence Welch and her band (since her Athens live debut at Synch 2009 festival), so this was a good opportunity to see her in her hometown, but what closed the deal for me was the fine line up of support acts that ensured this was a festival date we would enjoy from start to finish. And as Florence pointed out during her set, the event's line up was 70% women ("Welcome to the matriarchy!" as she jokingly said), a rarity for festivals these days, although it's clear that women are responsible for a large percent of the best new music around.

Welcome to the matriarchy: Florence + The Machine, headlining B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019
Add to the great line up, the fine weather of that weekend (no rain and no heatwave either) and what you get is a great festival day filled with fine music in one of London's finest parks. Here's what else we enjoyed until The National and Florence + The Machine performances closed the day:

Cherry Glazerr

Cherry Glazerr, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
Clementine Creevy and her band came on the main stage around 13:30 for a strong 30-minute set, a fine blast of 90's indie-rock influenced guitar music, culled mainly from their recent album "Stuffed & Ready".

Goat Girl

Goat Girl, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
Goat Girl's debut was one of the highlights of 2018 and we had the opportunity to enjoy several tracks from it early in the afternoon at BST's second stage.

Nadine Shah

Nadine Shah, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)

Back on the main stage it was time for Nadine Shah and her excellent five-piece band who presented us one of the strongest sets of the day, based mainly on her 2017 album "Holiday Destination". If I am not mistaken, we also got to hear a couple of new songs as well. In any case, after this great performance we are certainly looking forward to her next releases.

Let's Eat Grandma

Let's Eat Grandma, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
Childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth have great chemistry together and the fun of their modern electropop sound is certainly infectious. Their dance routines during some of their songs is something else!

Blood Orange / Lykke Li

Blood Orange, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
Lykke Li, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
Dev Hynes' Blood Orange presented their latest work "Negro Swan" adding some R&B flavors on the main stage's proceedings, while Sweden's Lykke Li brought to Hyde Park the melancholic pop of her last year's album "So Sad So Sexy". Having seen her set last summer at Gothenburg's Way Out West we took the opportunity to have a lie down in the park and gather our strength for what was to come.

Aldous Harding

Aldous Harding, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
New Zealander Aldous Harding is responsible for one of our favorite folk albums of 2019, the excellent "Designer", and along with her four-piece band she presented us one of the finest sets of the festival on the second stage, featuring one of our top songs of the year, the wonderful "The Barrel".

The National

The National, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
Back on the main stage it was time for The National. The band has book-ended this decade with perhaps their two greatest albums, 2010's "High Violet" and 2019's "I Am Easy to Find", they are undoubtedly one of the finest live acts around and as this awesome 90-minute set proved, this year is a great time to catch them live. They played highlights from most of their albums and of course presented us their latest work accompanied by four excellent singers, Gail Anne Dorsey, Mina Tindle, Lisa Hannigan and Eve Owen.


Khruangbin, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
Khruangbin's mostly instrumental set closed proceedings on the second stage and were also joined by Dev Hynes for one song. More about the Texan trio's blend of psychedelia, surf, soul and dub on our next post about Ejekt Festival as a few days later we watched them again in Athens.

Florence + The Machine

Florence + The Machine, live @ B.S.T. Hyde Park 2019 (July 13th, 2019)
I may not be the biggest fan of "High As Hope", Florence + The Machine's fourth album, but undoubtedly Florence is an excellent performer and a great vocalist, so her headlining performance at Hyde Park (her second time on this stage) was certainly an entertaining experience. Full of energy and emotion, she presented a set covering all her albums so far and celebrated the ten years of hard work that brought her to the enviable position of topping this great bill here, in her hometown. A triumphant show to close the promotion of her latest album in the UK, before some rest and more headlining sets, this time in Athens, under the Acropolis.

BST 2019 highlights including The National, Aldous Harding, Nadine Shah, Goat Girl and Cherry Glazerr

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Live: Blue Orchids @ The Water Rats (London, July 12th, 2019)

The first week of our mini summer vacation was filled with live music and over the next few days we'll try to sum it all up in a series of posts that begin today with our first stop, on July 12th, at London's historic venue The Water Rats, a small pub in Kings Cross with notable history as it was here that Bob Dylan played his first ever UK gig in 1962. Actually on the very same evening that we made our way to the venue to see Blue Orchids, Dylan was playing with Neil Young at Hyde Park, but for us it was finally time to witness live Martin Bramah's band, the man who also happens to be responsible for most of the music on "Live at the Witch Trials", The Fall's classic 1979 debut.

Bramah formed Blue Orchids soon after leaving The Fall in '79, together with another ex-member of his previous band's first line up, keyboardist Una Baines, and released their debut single in 1980. Several singles followed, as well as a European tour as Nico's backing band in 1982, the same year that their first album, the cult classic "The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain)" was released. 

The '80s closed without any more Blue Orchids albums, but with Bramah's return to The Fall for a second brief stint during the period of recording and touring another classic album, 1990's "Extricate".

Bramah reemerged with a new version of the Blue Orchids between 2003 - 2004 for two more albums (largely solo efforts) and after another hiatus for the band, Blue Orchids made a comeback in 2016, giving us so far three albums, making the last four years their most prolific period.

The band's latest effort, a limited edition concept album which over the course of nine obscure covers and one special original tells a Faustian tale of woe, is titled "The Magical Record of Blue Orchids" and formed the backbone of the 80-minute set that the band presented. Some of the highlights from this album included the covers of The Growlers' "Pavement And The Boot", The Calico Wall's "I'm A Living Sickness" (made wider known when The Fuzztones covered it on "Lysergic Emanations") and The Human Expression's "Optical Sound". As for that "special" original, it is titled "Addicted To The Day" and it's a song with lyrics written by Mark E. Smith in April 1977 in one of Bramah's notebooks for which Martin later added the music. It was, of course, another highlight of the night and you can watch it below:

Blue Orchids - Addicted To The Day (live @The Water Rats, London)

Bramah and his band were in fine form throughout and it seems to me that this version of Blue Orchids can hold its own in any comparison with its original version from the '80s. For the encore, they actually took us back to their early days and closed their set with fine versions of "Agents of Chance" and a scorching "Bad Education". Garage psych-pop at its finest!

Blue Orchids, live @ The Water Rats (July 12th, 2019)

The opening acts for Blue Orchids were Cult Figures, an energetic punk band which released two singles in 1979 - 1980 for Swell Maps' label Rather Records, disbanded soon after, only to made its comeback 40 years later (!) with first album "The 166 Ploughs A Lonely Furrow" (check it out here), and Vukovar, an experimental, hard to describe act, who presented us what they call Theater-Of-Cruelty. You should definitely lend an ear to their latest album "Cremator" (click here), their seventh in the just four years they've been active, but their curious live performance, although original (during the first song one of the two singer was also getting a haircut on stage!), lacked punch as the only musical accompaniment was a keyboard and a monotonous bass line, leaving out the industrial/post-punk edge that you'll find in some of the album's standout tracks. They do get points however for their melodic moments and for the interesting booklet about tarot cards they handed out at the end of their set.

Cult Figures, live @ The Water Rats (July 12th, 2019)
Vukovar, live @ The Water Rats (July 12th, 2019)

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Top 25 Albums of the first half of 2019

2019 has certainly offered us quite a few exciting new albums so far and it's shaping up to be one of the strongest years in recent memory. Just before we take a short summertime break to enjoy the sun and visit a couple of festivals here and there, we are taking a look back to the last six months and select our favorite LPs of the year so far. Here are the results in no particular order (yet not totally random):

Top 25 Albums of 2019 so far

 Dogrel - FONTAINES D.C.

I am easy to find - THE NATIONAL

Remind me tomorrow - SHARON VAN ETTEN

Why hasn't everything already disappeared? - DEERHUNTER

Stunning luxury - SNAPPED ANKLES

White stuff - ROYAL TRUX

Sunshine rock - BOB MOULD



The seduction of Kansas - PRIESTS
Amyl And The Sniffers - AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS
Father of the bride - VAMPIRE WEEKEND
It's real - EX HEX
Dusty notes - MEAT PUPPETS
Ex:Re - EX:RE
Ladytron - LADYTRON
Stuffed & ready - CHERRY GLAZERR
Psychedelic country soul - THE LONG RYDERS
Trust in the lifeforce of the deep mystery - THE COMET IS COMING
Inside the rose - THESE NEW PURITANS