New Monday

I don’t think I’ve ever featured Jenny Lewis here before and I’m not sure why because she’s one of my absolute favourites and I think one of the best songwriters around.

The former Rilo Kiley lead singer has put out two brilliant solo albums of Bobbie Gentry/Laurel Canyon-ish Country-Soul which I highly recommend and has a new one coming out in a few weeks called The Voyager. She shared the title track last week and it’s just gorgeous, can’t wait for the album (which has already won my Cover of The Year award).

New-ish Monday

I’m a little late catching up to Courtney Barnett but considering how old I am it’s a minor miracle I even know her name.

Courtney is a young Australian lass who came to the world’s attention last year with two EPs of Lou Reed/Bob Dylan-esque guitar pop full of lazy melodies and off-kilter, quirky lyrics (“Avant Gardener” is about having an asthma attack.) A few months ago the two EPS were collected together and released as The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas and it’s all rather wonderful so you should get it.

New Monday

Poptastic new single by Charli XCX from the soundtrack of young-adult weepie The Fault In Our Stars. But as much as I like this it still won’t make me go and see a film about kids dying of cancer.

All pop songs should have titles like BOOM CLAP.

New Monday

Terrific new single by synth songstress La Roux from her upcoming (and long overdue) second album.

I Love Your Live Action

Friday night I’m walking down the street toward the venue where I’m going to see Angel Olsen in concert when who should walk quickly by me in the opposite direction all on her own: none other than Ms. Olsen herself. For a second I thought she was doing a runner and wanted to shout after her “COME BACK, YOU HAVE A SHOW TO DO!” Thankfully she must have just popped out to get some smokes or something because an hour or so later there she was on stage with her band.

Olsen’s voice is so extraordinary she can silence a room by just standing there and singing, so not surprisingly the best part of the concert was when the band left her alone on stage with just that voice, a guitar, and her intense “don’t fuck with me” stare that has probably stopped several men in their tracks in the past.

Not that Angel is some deathly serious no-fun zone, she was funny and chatty which usually I enjoy but there were times when I thought she was maybe a tad too nonchalant and breezy which often undercut the emotional impact of her material. I also wish that the whole band had come back for the encore instead of just her doing a quiet solo number again. Would have been better to finish in big style with the rocking, anthemic “High Five” instead of tossing it off three songs into the set.

These are minor quibbles though, it’s quite something to hear that voice in person and wonder how something so heart-stopping and elemental could come out that sweet-looking girl in the baseball cap.

This was the first concert I’ve been too since I got my iPhone but I only took a few photos and didn’t shoot any video because I didn’t want to be one of those people. Thankfully there were very few distracting phone screens being held up (except for some twat in the front who I swear spent half the gig texting someone) but this guy to the left of me shot the video above.

In case you’re wondering about the banter at the start, someone in the audience asked her where she got her shoes so she made a joke about how smelly they were after being on a long tour.

New Monday

Wolf Alice are a rock band from London who have only released one EP and a handful of singles so far. I don’t feature much new guitar-driven rock music here because frankly I find a lot of it boring and predictable, but I can still be turned on by some big noisy riffage like these these tracks from their latest EP Creature Songs out later this month.

It’s all very “alternative rock” and won’t win any prizes for pushing envelopes but sometimes crashing guitars and a big chorus can still really hit the spot.

New Monday

I love this single by Wye Oak. I’m no expert on the band but apparently for their new album (their fourth) they dropped their established guitar-based sound in favour of synthesizers. While I’m sure that will have pissed off a few of their fans — I remember some EBTG fans getting miffed when they exchanged their acoustic guitars for electronic beats — the results get a big thumbs up from me. This is slinky and sexy synth pop with a hint of early Eurythmics. The video is rather great too.

Lost Treasure

I can’t say I was listening to much post-punk influenced music in 2001 (Trip Hop more my thing back then) so it’s not surprising I missed out on the album Any Other City by Scottish indie band Life Without Buildings. I wasn’t the only one either because it didn’t sell a lot and ended up being the only album they ever released — not counting a posthumous live set — as they amicably spit up a year later. But over the years it developed a cult following and has just been reissued after falling out of print for a while, which is how I came to hear it and fall under its spell too.

Any Other City is exactly the sort of idiosyncratic record that inspires cult devotion, especially when the band don’t make another one. The Young Marble Giants are another band like that who come to mind and Life Without Buildings do also sound like something you might have heard on the John Peel show in the late 70s, all scratchy and angular indie with a spiky charm that reminds me of other female-fronted post-punk bands like Delta 5 and The Raincoats.

What gives them distinction though is lead singer (and currently fine artist) Sue Tompkins who scats, free-associates, and rambles over the music, with words tumbling out of her like the hyper-active nutter you hope doesn’t sit next to you on the bus. I think she’s what you’d call a Marmite singer, you’ll either love her or hate her. I’m firmly in the former camp.

Download: New Town – Life Without Buildings (mp3)
Download: Daylighting – Life Without Buildings (mp3)



What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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