October Music Review – Feist, Ryan Adams and Noel Gallagher

The big album of the Autumn is not quite available yet – Florence and the Machine with Ceremonials. When it is, we’ll have a specific review of that. So until then, we’ll range around a bit for this month’s highlights.

We’ve featured Ryan Adams recently in our Musical Archaeology series, so I won’t go over his history again in detail. But let’s start by saying Ashes and Fire is his best work for some years, although not quite up to the majesty of Strangers Almanac (with Whiskeytown) or his solo albums Gold and Heartbreaker. This new collection features 12 songs, tuneful,  mainly acoustic but strong country / folk / blues ballads and mid-tempo songs, with a relaxed, quite gentle but emotionally engaging feeling running through the whole thing. His vocals are great, and backing is pretty simple, acoustic guitar, piano, bit of organ or pedal steel here and there. Nothing revolutionary, but it is highly enjoyable and it’s great to have an album from him that you don’t need to fast-forward through any track (consistency has been an issue in recent years with Adams' albums).  8.5 / 10
(This is an acoustic version – this track has the band behind him on the album. and don't you just love the "cool" Dutch DJ...!)

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and their eponymous album are next – I hate the name. Either be a band, or use your name. Don’t do both – it smacks of false humility (“I’m just part of the band, man) combined with marketing considerations (“we need people to know it’s Noel”).  But that aside, not many criticisms actually. It’s not exactly pushing the boundaries – in the main, these are conventional pop / rock songs with judicious use of strings and piano, although AKA... What a Life slips into what is almost a hi-energy disco groove which breaks up the overall mid-paced feel nicely.  Gallagher sounds more committed than he’s done for a while, and the Beatles influences are still visible - no bad thing. It’s not going to excite you or upset anyone if you hear it in the background in the bistro or gastropub, but the songs represent his best collection since (What's the story) Morning Glory.  A respectable 7.5/10

Feist went from low key singer songwriter to huge global profile with 1234, the brilliant video and the i-Pod  campaign.  She’s taken three years to follow up The Reminder, from which 1234 came, but it’s been worth the wait.  There’s nothing on her new album, Metals, quite as catchy as that, but it’s very impressive. It is hard to categorise her style– not as folky as Laura Marling, not as rock as Florence, not as “easy listening blues/ jazz” as Norah Jones, or as country as Lucinda Williams, but with touches of all those genres and in the same league as those artists in terms of talent.  Tracks such as Commotion, which is decidedly weird but rather wonderful, bring Kate Bush or PJ Harvey to mind as the nearest comparators.  It feels like an album you can come back to often and find something different in it every time.  Here she is on the Letterman show (love the backing singers – “Mountain Man”, a cool group in their own right).  8.5 / 10

First Voice

  1. Julian:

    Saw Feist on Jules last night, really good and different, with lots of backing from all sorts or weird and wonderful instruments..definitely worth a look on BBC i-player.

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