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Monday, 25 June 2012

'Late Night Conversations' Part Two: Josh Rouse Stageit Concert June 24


I watched the second instalment of Josh Rouse's Late Night Conversations concert series on Stageit last night.  Once again, Josh delivered a fantastically varied setlist in which he played a wide range of tracks from previous albums, debuted a new track and took requests from the audience.  This time round, the sound quality was again very clear, aside from a slight delay at the very beginning, which was resolved within the duration of the first song.

Accompanied by Caio Bellveser on piano, Josh opened the set with a beautiful rendition of Bluebird St. (Caio joined Josh on bass for the remainder of the show).  An equally impressive Streetlights followed, in which Josh played harmonica in the into and middle 8 sections.  This is one of my favourite Rouse songs to hear live, it works so well played both acoustically and with a full band, and on this occasion I felt the harmonica added a nice touch to the intro.  Next up, Josh played a new track - Our Love (recorded with Brad Jones) - a lovely song with a very melodic sounding chorus.  Like all the new material he has been playing, I look forward to hearing how this track will sound as a studio recording on the upcoming album.

The tracks I enjoyed most were Fine Fine, Slaveship, and Lemon Tree.  Though the playing was tight throughout the set, I thought the bass and vocal harmonies were particularly great on these songs.  On a sidenote, I loved hearing El Otro Lado.  I've never heard it played live before and thought it was the perfect closure to a great show.  

The live chat window once again proved to be a great interaction tool for fans to request songs and ask Josh questions, and much like the first concert, people were suggesting he play shows dedicated to one particular album.  I asked if he would consider playing a Nashville show in London, to which he replied that he was looking at possibly doing something like this for the album's ten year anniversary.  This is a very cool idea, and it would be incredible if something came of it.

I am looking forward to the next in the series of these concerts.  Though the setlists have offered good variation so far, I would personally love to hear Sad Eyes and maybe some more tracks off the Bedroom Classics Volumes - songs like City Blues and O, I Need All The Love would sound great in these shows.

Setlist
Bluebird St.
Streetlights
Our Love
Dressed Up Like Nebraska
Sweetie
Comeback (Light Therapy)
Hollywood Bass Player
Fine Fine
Summertime
Slaveship
Lemon Tree
El Otro Lado

Friday, 22 June 2012

Track of the Day: That's No Way To Get To Heaven - Guster


Taken from Guster's sixth studio album Easy Wonderful, That's No Way To Get To Heaven is, in terms of arrangement a simplistic, yet powerful song.  I like how the instrumentation is layered; the track starts with just guitar, but further elements are gradually introduced at key moments of the song's progression.
The appearance of piano and vocal harmonies in particular, add a lovely warmth to the overall production of the song, and with lines of "One half of me is still shaking / The other half is still waiting for a lover", the clarity and strength of Ryan Miller's lead vocal is evident throughout.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Killers - Official Trailer For Upcoming Album 'Battle Born'


The Killers have released a trailer for their upcoming album Battle Born.  The album, due for release in September, is the follow up to 2008's Day & Age.

I'm looking forward to hearing more previews of the album in the coming months and hopefully, the band will announce new tour dates soon!

It's been four years since Day & Age, so I'm very excited to hear new music from one of my favourite bands.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Hot Chip 'In Our Heads' - Online Stream


Hot Chip's new album In Our Heads is released on June 11.  However, the follow up to 2010's One Life Stand is currently streaming over at npr.org.

The album can be heard in full here.

I've listened to the the entire album a few times now and so far my favourite track is Don't Deny Your Heart - I'm loving the 80's synths on this track.  The chorus is great too, fast paced and totally addictive.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

New Josh Rouse Stageit Show - Sunday June 24


Josh Rouse has just announced a new Stageit show for Sunday June 24.  He tweeted that he would be premiering new songs.  His previous show was awesome, so I am very much looking forward to this one.

It looks like these concerts, known as Late Night Conversations, are going to be a regular thing.  Great news for fans!

Tickets are once again being sold on a 'pay what you can' basis and can be purchased here.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Essential Albums: Continuum - John Mayer


John Mayer's 2006 album Continuum is generally regarded as being his finest work to date.  Though 2003's Heavier Things  is my personal favourite, Continuum is a fantastically produced album, full of well crafted songs which not only demonstrate Mayer's flair for song writing, but also his undeniable talent for playing a guitar.  Whereas Heavier Things touched upon blues in places (most notably on Come Back To Bed), the genre is present throughout on Continuum, backed up with elements of pop and soul.

The soul influence is evident on the politically driven Waiting On The World To Change, an upbeat song which made for a perfect lead single with it's catchy lyrics, complete with an even catchier middle 8 vocal breakdown and guitar solo.
The political theme is also present on Belief, one of the album's strongest tracks, which is powerful both instrumentally and lyrically.  Wonderfully melodic guitar hooks are complimented with lines of "Belief is a beautiful armour / But makes for the heaviest sword / Like punching underwater / You never can hit who you're trying for".

Continuum features two tracks - Gravity and Vultures - which appear on Mayer's 2005 live album Try!, recorded as part of the John Mayer Trio (with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan, who also feature here).  The tracks were rerecorded for Continuum and both translate brilliantly as studio versions.
Gravity in particular is flawless - prior to hearing the final studio recording, I had heard lots of live versions of the song, many featuring amazing extended intros and guitar solos - and compared to how experimental and lengthy these versions often were, I honestly don't think he could have recorded a better studio version of Gravity than what appears on this album.  Lyrically, I think Mayer himself does a great job of explaining the themes behind the song in an interview which appears on the Live From Abbey Road TV series:  "Gravity is one of the most important song's I've ever written, and it's an experiment for me, in not explaining everything in a song.  And that keeps it open for me, so I can address whatever I'm thinking about, on any day that I'm playing Gravity and I can really sing to it because no matter what happens in your life, Gravity is kind of the tune, It's kind of a really universal theme about not falling from whatever rung of grace you're on at the the moment, not losing the happiness, not losing the success.
Temptation, the darkness, all that stuff, that's just the human struggle."

I think Vultures is interesting in the way that it addresses similar issues to that of Gravity.  It's a strong, defiant track which is very much reflected in it's instrumentation and lyrics - "Power is made, by power being taken / So I keep on running / To protect my situation".  In an interview which took place around the time of the album's release, Mayer said the track was "not about the record business, it's just about everyone but you".  However defiant Vultures is, there are lyrics throughout which portray the positive message of the song - "Then I'll come through / Like I do / When the world keeps / Testing me, testing me".

What is worth noting about Continuum, is that the lyrics and themes addressed aren't as optimistic as Heavier Things, or the 2001 debut Room For Squares.  
Damaged relationships and heartbreak are a running theme throughout many of the tracks, in particular Dreaming With A Broken Heart and I'm Gonna Find Another You.  The most obvious example of this however, is on the Clapton inspired Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, in which beautiful instrumentation compliment Mayer's haunting lyrics - "I'll make the most of all the sadness / You'll be a bitch because you can / You try to hit me just to hurt me / So you leave me feeling dirty / Because you can't understand".

"So scared of getting older / I'm only good at being young" sings Mayer on Stop This Train, an emotionally powerful track, in which he confronts the fear that time is moving forward with no option to stop or go back.  With lines of "Don't know how else to say it, don't want to see my parents go / One generation's length away / From fighting life out on my own", Mayer's lyrics are hard hitting and unsettling, though the thoughts and anxieties addressed in the song are shared by many of us.

I consider Continuum an essential album as it is consistent throughout.  The lyrics and production are solid on all the songs and I feel the track listing is suitably placed too, perfectly conveying the mood and atmosphere of the album as a whole.  However, the real beauty in Continuum is how well it works when played live.  I attended many of the shows in which Mayer toured with this album and each performance brought exciting live versions of the studio tracks.  He experimented with extended intros and guitar solos which always brought a fresh sound to the songs.  The setlists had variation too, so each show was always different (though Mayer has always been great with switching up the setlist and playing rare songs, it's still a great perk for hardcore fans who attend multiple shows.  It's also refreshing, compared to so many bands who have a standard setlist which they stick to religiously throughout the duration of a tour).

One of my favourite tracks to hear live is I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You).  I found the album version to be a grower of a tune, however this song really comes alive when played on tour.  On his 2008 tour for example, he had a horn based extended intro, which totally enhanced the seductiveness of the track.  Another live version of the track, from his 2007 Austin City Limits performance, features an extended guitar intro, which gradually evolves into the main body of the song.

These tracks have to be heard to be fully appreciated, so below I have included a selection of my favourite songs from Continuum.  Some of the tracks are the studio recordings from the album, the rest are live versions taken from various performances.