You know how in Facebook there are those little numbers in red squares that magically appear? What are they about? Some appear to be called ‘Notifications’ but often are just FB trying to sell marketing tools. Others seem to be congratulating me on someone liking something. It all seems so trivial and pointless I usually ignore it all, which is also an effective defence against the stupidity I feel when actually trying to follow the numbers and inevitably getting lost.
So it is not all together surprising that I entirely missed a personal message from one of my favourite artists.
Last November, Nick Saloman—he of the mighty, often fragrant miasma that is The Bevis Frond—messaged me that he had a new album coming out and would I be interested in receiving a review copy?
When, you ask, did I pick up this communication? Sometime in February. About a quarter of a year late. Remember Hugh Grant at the beginning of Four Weddings and a Funeral where all he says is ‘Fuck’ for the whole scene? That was me.
After I’d settled down a bit, I recalled that Nick is a right gent and had been immensely easy and pleasant to work with when we did an email interview a while back, so I messaged him to explain how my silence was a reflection of social media incompetence rather than any indicator of my interest in his music (an interest that has remained robust lo! these many years). He said, ‘No worries’ (or the English equivalent) and passed on my postal details to Fire Records.
In due course a package arrived containing not just the new Bevis Frond double, but a bunch of other releases as well. As all music aficionados will attest, receiving music—especially ahead of its official release date—is just a bit thrilling. Obviously Nick’s album was the one that produced the biggest grin; it astounds me that he can continue to produce quality songs in such quantities after such a long career.
But as music bloggers know, the greater the anticipation, the stronger the pull to produce a thoughtful, insightful review. And this year, so far, I’ve really struggled to find time for Vinyl Connection.
Long term readers will have noted that weekly (often bi-weekly) posts have appeared more-or-less continuously over the past six years. But since taking on some commercial music writing, there have simply not been enough disposable income-hours to tend Vinyl Connection. I feel a bit sad about that—not because I believe anyone particularly cares—but because it has been such a regular part of my life for so long. Still, writing for Discrepancy Records is great fun and surprisingly satisfying given its focus on albums residing within cooee of the mainstream. Not long ago, for instance, I wrote on Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 monster Rumours—something unlikely to happen at VC, but really fun to tap out.
[If you are a fan of the album, here is a link and an out-take photo; the piece was originally meant for Valentine’s Day, but didn’t quite make that deadline.]
The upshot of it all is that the old aphorism, “So much music, so little time” has never been truer in this antipodean neck of the woods. I will tell you about Mr Saloman’s new Frond album soon, perhaps even including a dialogue with the man himself, but in the meantime, here are a few words about two 2019 releases that Fire Records sent, because both are very enjoyable in quite different ways.
Released in early February 2019, Varshons II is the second album of covers by Evan Dando’s reformed Lemonheads.
If you’re thinking middle-aged angst and bile (Mr Dando is over the half century mark by a couple of years), think again. This is a meal as hot as lemon sorbet and as jagged as that curvy spirograph graphic on the cover. Mr D sounds laid-back and comfortable as he folds songs by everyone from Lucinda Williams to Yo La Tengo into his inimitable croon. In fact, Dando’s voice is as mellow as a pint of Guinness and his choice of songs varied and idiosyncratic. Nick Cave’s “Straight To You”, Paul Westerberg’s “Things”, John Prine and The Jayhawks, all bow before this well upholstered throne. Yet the mood is far from soporific. Lines of sharp-edged guitar appear here and there and the version of Bevis Frond’s “Old Man Blank” is less Guinness than a pint of bitter. Overall, an album that will play in the foreground or background with equal ease then exit with a smile and a warm handshake.
The new album by Sweden’s Death And Vanilla (released May 10th, 2019) is a delightful compote of juicy influences. Some haunting Stereolab here, a bit of Julee Cruise/Angelo Badalamenti there; mellow soundtrack melodies and gently other-worldly soundscapes layered over loping rhythms. The trio of Marleen Nilsson (Any relation to song-writing legend Harry?), Magnus Bodin (Any relation to Swedish progressive keyboard player Tomas?) and Anders Hansson (Any relation to Vinyl Connection favourite, Swedish keyboard composer Bo?) have gone for moods over rigid rock structures, giving the album a dreamy, reflective air. One of my early favourites is “Eye Bath”, an echoing groove that sounds like lounge-krautrock and is quite mesmerising.
Although something creamily psychedelic (“The Hum”) can rub shoulders with a piece of Western-noir pop (“Nothing is Real”), there is nothing haphazard about Death And Vanilla’s recording. Are You A Dreamer? is both engaging and transporting, and that’s a rather lovely combination. If you’ve been a bit lost for ethereality since Cocteau Twins split, try this.