April Music Review – James Blake, Caitlin Rose, Kacey Musgraves, and Uncle Acid!

I loved James Blake’s first album, which was in my top 10 of 2011. He was positioned as a mainstream singer songwriter type, but like the eponymous first album, Overgrown is a complex and original work. It isn’t “difficult”, in the sense that there are tunes, and the overall vibe is pretty laid back – you can let it drift over you quite easily, so it’s not exactly Metal Machine Music. But it doesn’t fit neat pigeonholes, as we get influences including dubstep, folk, modern classical and electronica, blended by Blake. And there is some weirdness in there - as overlaid tracks start moving in different time signatures after 4 minutes of the opening track, you will think there’s something wrong with your CD player / Spotify (perhaps there is!) Really quite strange... So this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but there are times when it all comes together into something quite beautiful. 8/10

 

Caitlin Rose with her second album The Stand-In has established herself s the country singer it’s currently OK for hipsters to like. Her album is a fine collection of country / blues songs, performed with charm, skill and emotion by Rose. It’s probably “Americana” rather than true Nashville country, and that’s given the album considerable cross-over appeal. Indeed, at times, she sound more like classic pop rock singer songwriter Aimee Mann than Dolly Parton (and check out Mann’s best album, Whatever, for a treat if you don’t know her work). Ballads like Pink Champagne are lovely, whilst tracks like this one show her more upbeat side. Another 8 / 10

Kascey Musgraves with her debut album, Same Trailer, Different Park, is on one level more traditional “country” than Rose. Fairly simple songs, mainly acoustic backing, sweet tunes, a lovely voice – all pretty standard for a Nashville starlet. But then you listen to the lyrics. Drugs, the intense boredom of life in small mid-West towns, infidelity... OK, country singers have covered these issues historically, but Musgraves brings a contemporary freshness and directness to her writing. A major career seems to beckon. We featured “Merry go round” when it was a single last year– a stone cold all-time classic country song. But there are other classics here like “It is what it is” , which may just be the most beautiful country-waltz song ever written about casual sex! 8.5/10

And now, as they say, after all that feminine country stuff, for something totally different. Sounding like they’ve been living in Black Sabbath’s basement for the last two decades, with the odd late Beatles album and a certain quantity of mind-altering substances to keep them company, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats are a mysterious Cambridge band who are grabbing some attention with their first major album release, Mind Control. (Earlier self-released albums now sell for hundreds of pounds, apparently). Heavy metal stoner riffs, leavened with a bit of psychedelia , and some decent tunes, it somehow pulls of the difficult task of sounding impossibly retro without sinking into parody (the fate of The Darkness, for instance, after their first album). Definitely worth checking out if you have any affection for Sabbath, Deep Purple, John Lennon post 1968... 7.5/10

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