If you hang around somewhere long enough people will give you something to do. This is a good thing. Especially if that ‘having something to do’ involves records, record shops, music, and talking about records, record shops and music – or even writing about them. Since Music’s Not Dead opened in 2011 I’ve been an irregular and regular customer depending on how you view these things, increasingly more regular since January following my recent trajectory of leaving a job, doing a degree, finding a job, losing said job, having to move, putting all my belongings in storage and ending up back where I grew up, which is here, Bexhill (subtext: you are correct, I’m at my parent’s). In between writing a book and looking for work I’ve been leaning on the good will, rock’n’roll anecdotes and tea liberally dispensed by Del and Rich for a considerable part of my wellbeing, so in return, some words for the website.
I’m not a music writer and have minimal experience of writing reviews. I say this now to lower any expectations – how do you write about music anyway? It exists only at a vibrational level, much like everything else if we’re going to get cosmic about it, which means that writing about music is just writing about anything. Of course music gets in (some of it at least), straight into the bit that feels stuff. This can be good and bad: good for knowing that despite everything the world can throw at you, you are still a human being; bad for finding words to express exactly what you might be feeling. This is the murk we have to deal with.
All that said, let’s have a look at a couple of recent events.
At the end of August The Weather Station played at the De La Warr Pavilion. The Weather Station are a folk band from Canada fronted by the songwriter Tamara Lindeman. Loyalty, their new album, is warm and moody; if you like vocals underpinned by spare guitar lines and muffled drums they are for you. I was new to the band but was happy to discover Lindeman is a sensitive writer, her songs disarmingly simple, clear images drifting along on strong undercurrents. They made the room feel small and connected to something greater; throughout I was conscious of the sea in the dark just outside. They’re nothing like The Innocence Mission, the American folk-rock band whose 1989 eponymous debut album I loved, but something about their music made me think of them all the same; perhaps the gentleness. I bought the vinyl and got it signed, a fantastic signature too, big, sprawling, proper, date and place included. Their bass player wore amazing high-waisted trousers.
Then on the first of September Eleanor Friedberger, previously of the Fiery Furnaces, now three albums into a solo career. A completely different proposition in every way. I have to mention the shoes, perhaps the most ambitious sell I’ve seen in my years of perusing merchandise at gigs. Next to the vinyl and CDs and tote bags and fabric badges a pair of white canvas shoes, pre-loved and holy (in the sense of having holes worn in them, not in the sense of a venerated object with miraculous powers, though thinking about it now perhaps this would’ve more than justified the ‘Eleanor’s Shoes £100’ label). People were loving the shoes. I saw at least two people take pictures. It certainly got me thinking. Are artists that hard up? Or is she just way ahead of the curve? Why was I simultaneously amused and confused by them? Perhaps I don’t take things seriously enough sometimes. These kinds of questions flew in and out of my head while the band, a three piece, played. There is a certain kind of swagger to her writing that appealed, though it took me a while to warm to it. Her songs are built with care and seem rock-solid, storm proof, able to withstand heavy seas. I liked the ones that were a bit looser than the others; these cropped up more towards the end so I guess she was warming into it too. Again I’m writing from a perspective of limited knowledge. I never bought the Fiery Furnaces triple LP with the wonderful cover that I used to see on my regular visits to Rooster Records when I lived in Exeter, though each time I picked it up. Now I wish I had.
My recent discovery is Anna von Hausswollf. This came about purely from looking through the racks (as if you needed to be reminded, this is one of the many reasons why we need record shops). I am a firm believer of judging a record (or a book) by its cover. If it’s a grainy black and white photo then my inner goth will want to find out more and certainly Hauswollf’s Ceremony (released in 2013) has yet to disappoint. If you liked the early Dead Can Dance albums or are a fan of Chelsea Wolfe or Russian Circles you’ll find much to love in this; it is a stunning work, atmospheric, empty, orchestral, almost heavy metal in places. I can’t recommend it enough. Latest album The Miraculous (2015) is just as good if not better. Start with the wonderful ten minute long ‘Come Wander With Me/Deliverance’ to get the full range of what to expect; it’s not of the twenty-first century and doesn’t belong here, but I’m very glad that it is.
(This post by Alex, MND’s writer in residence. Views are my own and not necessarily that of the shop. Anyone interested in writing – about anything – come and say hello).