Electronica Album Reviews

Sophia Kennedy: Monsters review – showtunes and sub-bass from sonic shapeshifter

(City Slang)
Unable to categorise the Baltimore-born, Hamburg-bred artist, you are thrown into her disarming, disorientating but oddly relaxing emotional world

For the modern musician, genre-fickleness is no longer the exception but the rule. Switching styles and blending sounds doesn’t simply cater to listeners with depleted attention spans – it can also be a way of evoking and critiquing the chaotic internet culture that left them that way. Baltimore-born, Hamburg-bred artist Sophia Kennedy’s music does both those things, but it also channels a restlessness and nostalgia that has little in common with her peers.

For a start, her sonic references include Tin Pan Alley and vintage showtunes, she complements curious melodic callbacks with ominous electronica, expansive hip-hop, sub-bass, trap beats, twanging guitars and the sound of monkeys screeching. What’s also unusual is that she doesn’t temper this fluctuation with a consistent voice: frequently, it’s a low, stately, Bette Davis-style drawl; sometimes it’s a brittle falsetto; sometimes a taut, mean sprechgesang.

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Leon Vynehall: Rare, Forever review – warped, intense, cerebral

(Ninja Tune)
The DJ-producer’s introspective, genre-defying second album rewards engaged listening

Leon Vynehall’s 2018 album Nothing Is Still was a sleepy sensation. Although the house DJ had produced a couple of track compilations and entrancing singles, such as Midnight on Rainbow Road and It’s Just (House of Dupree), he took a giant step forward with his debut album, pulling jazz, ambient, club and chamber music into its sweeping ambit. Each song matched a chapter in an accompanying novella based on Vynehall’s family history; short films were shot. Played live, it evolved into something more warped, intense and cerebral, and some of that energy survives here.

Perhaps that’s because Rare, Forever looks inward. Although it’s as carefully constructed as Nothing Is Still, there is nothing as mellifluous as that record’s Movements (Chapter III). It’s more abstract, fractured, complex and unpredictable, fluttering across the lanes. This is best exemplified by Snakeskin ∞ Has-Been’s skittish rave, with its vertiginous drop and wasp-in-a-jar stabs, disintegrating without warning into the pastoral nocturne of its coda. Rare, Forever rewards engaged listening, though, and intriguingly it’s the classical and jazz influences that are most persuasive, particularly on album bookends Ecce! Ego! and All I See Is You, Velvet Brown, and Mothra’s majestic orchestral techno crescendo.

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Gazelle Twin & NYX: Deep England review | John Lewis’s contemporary album of the month

(NYX Collective Records)
A dramatic reworking of Gazelle Twin’s techno-folk Pastoral album with the NYX choir adds layers of hair-raising chills

Gazelle Twin is the alter ego of Elizabeth Bernholz, a composer, producer and singer who creates unsettling, terrifying and occasional hilarious electronic music. Her stage costume resembles a Morris-dancing Leigh Bowery in Adidas trainers impersonating one of the droogs from Clockwork Orange. This retro-futurist court jester garb suited her remarkable 2018 album Pastoral, a febrile journey into the heart of middle England that mixed thuggish techno, menacing folk chants and lyrics that satirised old Albion and delved into its dark, paganistic roots.

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Guedra Guedra: Vexillology review | Ammar Kalia’s global album of the month

(On the Corner)
Abdellah M Hassak integrates the rhythms of north African folk music with a bassline-heavy electronic pulse

From the spiritual polyrhythms of gnawa to the looping vocalisations of Sufism and the percussive tessellations of Berber folk, the world of north African cultures meet in the music of Morocco. Producer Abdellah M Hassak, AKA Guedra Guedra, has taken these rhythms as the core of his work. His name comes from the Berber dance music performed on the guedra drum; his debut EP, 2020’s Son of Sun, explored these diffuse roots through a dancefloor filter, with added field recordings and electronic Midi sequencing, a junglist collage that straddles tradition and contemporary dance musics.

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Blanck Mass: In Ferneaux review – the very definition of niche

(Sacred Bones)
Travel the world as Benjamin John Power mines a decade’s worth of field recordings on his gratifyingly singular fifth album

In Ferneaux represents something of a departure for electronica auteur Benjamin John Power. After the euphoric and abrasive maximalism of 2019’s Animated Violence Mild, and his work as half of Fuck Buttons, Power’s fifth album as Blanck Mass is a more oblique affair. A product of lockdown isolation, it comprises two lengthy soundscapes that blend his trademark layers of coruscating noise with sounds found on his travels over the past decade. Set out of context, these field recordings become for the most part wilfully abstract and very much open to interpretation: was this one recorded in downtown Bamako, that one at a Portuguese woodland rave?

Phase I begins with twinkling synths before hitting a bombastic climax, and then everything drops away around the six-minute mark, leaving only a recording of what could be a walking tour of an open-air cutlery-testing facility, which in turn becomes a slowly evolving drone. It ends with industrial pummelling. Feedback and distortion feature more prominently in Phase II, as does a gorgeous piano coda, while a carnival atmosphere prevails in the most prominent found sound. In an age of Spotified homogeneity, it’s the very definition of niche, but makes for admirably – and enjoyably – singular listening.

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Rock Album Reviews

Six Feet Under: “Nightmares Of The Decomposed” Album Review

Six Feet Under make it very clear that more than 25 years into their career, they remain at the forefront of the death metal. Dynamic, heavy-as-hell, catchy, and uncompromising, it is everything that the band’s longtime faithful have come to expect from these giants. The band members are Chris Barnes (vocals), Jack Owen (rhythm and …

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Behemoth: “And the Forests Dream Eternally” Reissue Review

Behemoth slithered out of Poland and forever changed the black metal scene. After numerous successful albums and multiple monstrous tours, Nergal and company have risen to become quite the powerhouse in a genre that was once very much underground and taboo. Perhaps this album is their gift of sorts to their most loyal fans. And …

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Jazz & Blues Album Reviews

Rochelle & the Sidewinders – Something Good | Album Review

Rochelle & the Sidewinders – Something Good

Self-produced CD

19 songs – 74 minutes

www.rochelleandthesidewinders.com

Fronted by honey-voiced alto Rochelle Creone, Rochelle & the Sidewinders have been Texas’ big little secret for the past six years, building a huge regional following at festivals and clubs across the Lone Star State. But they should burst beyond the borders with this long-awaited and well-deserved follow-up to their debut CD, Live in Austin Texas.

A high-energy quintet that features Tom Coplen on guitar and former Stevie Ray Vaughan and Nick Curran bandmate Jim Trimmier on horns and keys, they produce a sound that’s deeply rooted in the bluesy, soul-drenched sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but thoroughly updated for the 21st century in a package that will have you tiring yourself out on the dance floor.

Rochelle – who bills herself as the Texas Songbird — and Tom penned all 19 tracks of this massive, 74-minute effort, which was recorded at 512 and co-producer George Storey’s LRK Studios just prior to COVID-19 but comes across with the feel of a live set. The band’s roster’s rounded out by the rock-solid rhythm section of Adam Stafford on bass and Andrew Tuck on percussion and backing vocals.

Things heat up from the opening notes of “Good Love,” a stop-time shuffle built atop a heavy, repeating Texas blues guitar/horn hook. A powerful, melismatic alto, Rochelle explodes on the scene after a brief intro as she voices her regret after realizing her good thing has walked out the door for good. The band kicks it up a couple of notches for “Rub a Dub” — a rapid-fire announcement that it’s time for love – before dropping to a whisper for “Something Good,” a six-plus-minute ballad that returns to the lost-love theme and gives Coplen plenty of space to shine.

The loping “Treat Me the Way You Do” swings like a pendulum as Rochelle announces that it’s time to find someone new and gives Trimmier an extended solo before the funk kicks in for “Monkey See Monkey Do,” a highly percussive, stop-time number with a complex, jazzy arrangement. Next up, “Dr. Groove” finds the band updating the James Brown & the Fabulous Flames groove as the singer professes her love for the physician.

The uptempo rocker “Raggedy Ann Stomp” mirrors ‘60s sensibilities before the Sidewinders ease into “I’d Be So Blue,” an unhurried statement about how lonely Rochelle would have been if “not for two.” Then they fire on all cylinder for the rocker, “Happy Boy,” a another number that successfully turns back the clock. A regimented drumbeat and bass solo open the jazzy instrumental “Take It from the Top” before Rochelle’s romantic fortunes take a turn for the worse again in “I’m on My Way,” but she still maintains hope in “Make It Right.”

“Party Time” delivers more funk atop a medium-paced shuffle before the rocker “I’ve Got a Shadow” adds more heat to the fire. The torch song “Blues for the Night” keeps things searing before the Sidewinders explode once more with the rapid-fire “Pressure Cooker.” Three more pleasers — “Working for a Living” – which professes that “life’s too short, the days are too long,” “I Can’t Let You Go” – another song of regret, and “Letter to Layla” – a sweet, stripped-down love letter to a daughter – bring the action to a close.

Available through Amazon, Apple Music and direct through the band’s website (address above), Something Good is just that. Strongly recommended – especially if you’re looking for a dance workout.

Little Richard – Five releases on Omnivore Recordings | Album Reviews


Little RichardFive releases on Omnivore Recordings

www.omnivorerecordings.com

The Rill Thing

13 Tracks47 minutes

King Of Rock And Roll

17 Tracks – 64 minutes

The Second Coming

13 Tracks – 55 minutes

Southern Child

14 Tracks – 52 minutes

Lifetime Friend

12 Tracks – 50 Minutes

In 1970, Reprise Records made some noise with a new release from a rock & roll legend, Little Richard, who had disappeared for five years during his self-imposed exile from the music business. On his return, the flamboyant singer struggle to regain a place in the spotlight. The Rill Thing made it abundantly clear that Little Richard was still a force to reckoned with, still rocking as hard as ever.

Omnivore Recordings reissued The Rill Thing, and now has added four more titles recorded from Reprise that collectively provide listeners with a deeper appreciation for Little Richard’s artistry. The 1971 follow-up record, King Of Rock And Roll, has a cover photo of the singer on a throne, holding a scepter and crown, with a flowing robe off-set by multi-colored beams of light in the background. To make sure that no one misses the message, the title track opens the disc with an announcer giving an introduction over crowd noise and horn fanfare. Then Little Richard proclaims his rightful place on the throne, name-checking a number of perceived rivals as the unidentified backing band sets a rockin’ pace.

Listeners get a taste of how the singer might of sounded preaching the gospel during his religious hiatus at the start of a spirited cover of “Joy To The World,” then he tears into “Brown Sugar,” two of the many covers on the disc. “Dancing In The Street” is taken at a frantic pace, then he offers his funky interpretation of the Motown sound on “The Way You Do The Things You Do”. The mood shifts to a more reflective condition on the Hank Williams classic, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” allowing Little Richard to showcase his considerable vocal skills.

He does some testifying at the beginning of “Born On The Bayou,” then delivers another fine performance on the John Fogerty hit. Little Richard’s original, “In The Name,” has another memorable vocal performance. The band serves up a professional sound, slicker than the approach on Richard’s previous effort, cut with the veterans at the FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, AL. Six bonus tracks are included, with “Open Up The Red Sea” a highlight as Richard finally unleashes some volleys on the piano. As a follow-up record, The King Of Rock And Roll kept the comeback rolling along.

The Second Coming, released in 1972, reunites the singer with some old friends from the days of recording in New Orleans for Specialty Records. Producer Bumps Blackwell enlisted drummer Earl Palmer and saxophone ace Lee Allen for the project, along with other notables like Chuck Rainey on bass and Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel guitar.

Another change is the shift to Little Richard’s original tunes. “Mockingbird Sally” and “Thomasine” are sturdy rockers, and “Sanctified, Satisfied Toe-Tapper” is rollicking instrumental featuring Little Richard doubling on electric piano and clavinet. “Rockin’ Rockin” Boogie” misses the mark due to generic lyrics while “Prophet Of Peace” makes an attempt to update the Little Richard sound. The four bonus tracks include two versions of “Money Is,” a driving number written by Quincy Jones for the feature film $, starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn. Overall, the disc is a solid effort with a few highlights.

First issued as part of a 1995 Rhino Handmade box set, the tracks comprising Southern Child were shelved for a scheduled release in 1972 at the last minute. Omnivore has released the album as it was intended, along with several bonus tracks. In the liner notes, noted writer and historian Bill Dahl refers to this as Little Richard’s great lost country rock album, a diversion far from his usual path, which could explain the reluctance of Reprise to release the record.

The truth is that the singer is in prime form, establishing on cuts like the gentle “If You Pick Her Too Hard (She Comes Out Of Tune)” and “Ain’t No Tellin’”that he has a deep affinity for country music. The original title song finds him celebrating his Georgia heritage. “In The Name” sounds like a true blue Hank Williams number, and Richard nails it. Longtime fans will certainly be drawn to the steady rolling sound of “California (I’m Comin’)” and the bluesy nature “Last Year’s Race Horse (Can’t Run In This Year’s Race)”. Taken as a whole, this record elevates Little Richard’s status as a vocalist, proving that he could excel at more than shouting rock & roll lyrics.

Fourteen years later, Warner Brothers Records gave Little Richard yet another attempt at a comeback with the release of Lifetime Friend, with Travis Wammack on guitar. He penned the title track, a slickly produced tune extolling the grace of God. Billy Preston co-wrote the opening song, “Great Gosh A’Mighty,” combining with Little Richard on a hard-rocker with a burning Wammack guitar solo. “operator” is another flag-waver complete with surging horns and a vocal chorus.

“Destruction” goes to a darker place, but comes up short musically. “I Found My Way Home” gives listeners a taste of the singer as a rapper, with mixed results. “One Ray Of Sunshine” is a soothing ballad with Preston’s lush organ work filling out the arrangement. “Big House Reunion” is a rousing celebration of the promise of life ever-after. Bonus cuts are two additional mixes of “Operator”.

Only the most ardent Little Richard fans will consider purchasing all five of the Omnivore reissues. For those who lean towards the singer as a rocker, The Rill Thing and King Of Rock And Roll would be the first albums to grab. For country fans, or anyone who enjoys fine singing, Southern Child is a revelation. These releases mark one more comeback for the man who, for many, defined rock and roll music. Long live Little Richard!

Bad Temper Joe – One Can Wreck It All | Album Review

Bad Temper Joe – One Can Wreck It All

Timezone

www.badtemperjoe.com

CD: 12 Songs, 49 Minutes

Styles: Acoustic Blues, Roots, Ensemble Blues, All Original Songs

Once in a pink super moon (which recently happened), an acoustic album from a foreign blues artist rises and shines super-bright. Not because of slick production values or household-name recognition of the musician, but because of high quality, raw honesty and a dedication to traditional sound. Australian vocal virtuoso Andy “Sugarcane” Collins’ CD’s are superb examples of these. So is One Can Wreck It All, the seventh studio album from a German aficionado dubbed Bad Temper Joe. All of its twelve tracks are originals, seamlessly meshing classic blues style with atmospheric 21st-century overtones. Imagine sitting on your front porch with a hollow-body guitar, strumming old favorites and singing along, while strange radio signals warp and resonate in the air. Could it be an alien invasion? Never fear! This is no War of the Worlds, but a meeting of two worlds: American and German blues.

When it comes to blues in Deutschland, there’s no getting around this grumpy twenty-something. The native press calls him “one of the really important songwriters and guitarists of the German blues scene” (Wasser Prawda) and praises his “rough, powerful vocals […] as well as his excellent fingerpicking” (Bluesnews).

Bad Temper Joe was the only European act to make the finals of the 2020 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

Performing along with Bad Temper Joe (vocals, guitars, piano, foot stomping and kettledrum) are Washboard Wolf on washboard, kick drum and percussion; Ian Andrews on vocals and kettledrum; Moritz “Moe” Hermann on vocals and kettledrum; Marcel Rahe on harmonica and vocals, and Alexander Scholten-Luchsen on piano and vocals. (Side note: “Kettledrum” is not an instrument often listed on a blues album, and yours truly is grateful for its inclusion here.)

The CD begins with an autobiographical-sounding ballad (is it or isn’t it?) entitled “The Night Johnny Cash Quit Doing Pills.” Usually, a musical icon kicking the habit is a good thing, but for our narrator, it signals the end of an era: “Tell me, do you remember those nights/We sat by a campfire light/We passed a guitar, came from near and from far/We all wanted to be a rock-and-roll star/But it all lost its thrill the night Johnny Cash quit doing pills.”  “Early Morning Blues” is no pepper-upper either, especially for those who don’t get up with the sun. However, it’s mighty catchy, especially Marcel Rahe’s harp. “Hole in my Pocket” boasts spooky slide and other guitars, and “Don’t Mess With a Mule” constitutes a jaunty romp. Later on, “Wishing Well” adds more voodoo, with an intro perfect for long, lonely nights when you need music as a boon companion. Feeling a bit down about a certain virus? “I’ll Never Get Well No More” is a haunting ballad about an impoverished patient comparing his hospital room to a prison – “My bed feels like barbed wire; I’m caught in a double bind.” Sure puts things in perspective.

One Can Wreck It All is a resonant, melodic and more-than-slightly-dark CD. The blues reminds us to love life, no matter how scary it gets. Bad Temper Joe and company do an excellent job of it on their seventh offering. Even if you mourn your lot, hope, like a full moon, is on the horizon.

Shawn Pittman – Stompin’ Solo | Album Review

Shawn Pittman – Stompin’ Solo

Must Have Music

https://shawnpittman.com

15 songs time – 42:21

I’ve known the name Shawn Pittman but over the years never knowingly heard his mainly electric blues-rock, guitar playing, singer-song-writer music. Partly due to being confined by the pandemic and partly to strengthen his skills as a solo artist, he put together this CD of just him accompanied by his acoustic guitar. The effort consists of nine originals and six cover songs all with the ghost of traditional blues ever present. The Oklahoman native having spent a large portion of his career in Texas, with a Texas country blues rugged sort of vibe. His voice imparts a world wise feeling in its’ hearty throaty-ness. His finger-picked and occasional slide guitar is right up there with the best in the field. The listener’s interest is kept by the variety of approaches. Not an easy feat unless you have command of your instrument like Shawn has.

A jaunty upbeat boogie instrumental by Texas ‘songster’ Mance Lipscomb called “Mance’s Rock” is a fit welcome. You can just about see the dirt road dust kick up in the tasty fingerpicked guitar ditty “Ode To Texas”. His guitar dexterity is put on display on “Talk Didn’t Do No Good”. “Early In The Morning” finds him unleashing some ragged slide guitar. He creates a catchy guitar riff on the infectious “Take A Real Good Look”.

He continues his Texas influence on the two remaining instrumentals. Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Lightnin’s Stomp” is a joyful romp. The other Mance Lipscomb tune “Spanish Flang Dang” is an exotic little tune. I’ve also heard it played by Mississippi John Hurt.

He covers Johnny Guitar Watson’s upbeat “Sweet Lovin’ Mamma” and commits a nice version of Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright”. On the latter he uses a bit of a Jimmy Reed groove. The rather silly “Fly Swattin’ Woman” recalls the delivery of Paul Geremia. His voice is echoed on the co-written “No Such Thing” giving it an other-worldly vibe. Much the same technique is applied on his original “Pressin’ Your Luck”.

Shawn carries on the acoustic blues tradition while keeping it fresh and appealing. He helps the tradition live on while adding to it. It’s a welcome change of pace from the usual deluge of electric blues.

The Bush League – Here We Are…again | Album Review

The Bush League – Here We Are…again

http://thebushleague.com

self-released

13 songs, 53 minutes

Electric musicians putting together acoustic concept albums has a long tradition, even before the birth of “Unplugged” in the 90’s. Muddy Waters set the Blues standard in 1964 with his essential Folk Singer. Richmond Virginia’s The Bush League’s 3rd full length album Here We Are…again is an entry into this oeuvre. The Bush League put down their high energy brand of electric Hill Country Blues by way of 90’s R&B/Rock and offer laid back takes on many well worn workhouses with an intermission of a few unique originals.

Centered around singer JohnJason Cecil and bass thumper Royce Folks, The Bush League has been building a unique sound in the Southern US with a cast of support musicians since 2007. Bringing back into the fold guitarist Shane Parch from an earlier incarnation of the band, The Bush League operate as a drum-less trio on this record. Some additional support is offered here and there on harmonica, vocals and percussion from Vince Johnson, Daniel “Mojo” Parker and Jlynn Holland-Cecil. But, this record is all about the interplay of the 3 primary Bush leaguers. Folks’ strong, percussive bass playing anchors the music and propels the flights of fancy that Blues shouter Cecil croons out with a smooth R&B voice. An engaging and confident singer JohnJason Cecil is a revelation on this album. The adept acoustic picking of Parch, instead of the heavy electric guitar on former outings, allows Cecil’s voice the air to fully bloom through the speakers. Additionally the laid back nature of the arrangements and the general medium tempo take on the music give Cecil the room to really extemporize. It is why war-torn songs like “You Got to Move”, “Trouble in Mind,” and “I Feel Like Going Home” work; Cecil is able to squeeze every last drop of meaning and emotion out of the lyrics.

Two high points of unique performance melded with material are the League’s take on the Junior Kimbrough classic “Done Got Old” and the original “M.I.L.F.” Taking the open majesty of Kimbrough’s original recording of “Done Got Old,” Parch and Folks take the song at more of a shuffling drive. Cecil singing in a flatter dynamic than in other places, flips the sentiment of the song and thumbs his nose at the idea that the song’s “old man” can’t do the things he used to do. The funky original “M.I.L.F” is a lascivious come on in graphic description to “mama’s friend” who used to “change my dirty drawers.” Starting with the sound of laughter and lighting some kind of smoking material, this song is fun and brings the listener into the Bush League’s locker room for bro time.

The Bush League have done a great job through their career so far blending legit Blues, modern R&B and a hard driven Rock edge. Their 2012 record Can of Gas & a Match and their 2018 Parch-less more produced offering James Rivah are eclectic and raw while also being consistent and fully formed. The secret is the incorporation of creative and often clever originals. On this acoustic Blues cover record the 2 very beautiful soulful originals “Heaven” and “Lazy Sunday Afternoon” sequenced back to back in the middle of the record sound a little out of place. These are exceptional tunes and performed with emotions and depth, they just don’t have the impact that songs like these had on earlier records.

The Bush League is an excellent modern Blues band. Authentic in spirit and working within the form of the Blues, these talented individual artists push the form forward. Here We Are…again is a fun stripping down of this band’s aesthetic, a window into their influences and process. This album wets the appetite for the next full on record and makes the listener excited for their next live performance.

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Pop Album Reviews

The Black Keys: Delta Kream review – stripped back simmering sounds

(Nonesuch Records)
Returning to the simpler joys of their early records, the Ohio duo’s 10th album covers songs by the north Mississippi artists that continue to inspire them

Over a 20-year trajectory from playing in bars with no audience to filling arenas, the Black Keys have never lost the blues. The Ohio duo of singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney’s 10th album illustrates the point with a set of songs by the north Mississippi artists that continue to inspire them, such as Lafayette County’s late RL Burnside and Hudsonville’s also deceased Junior Kimbrough, a labelmate when the early Black Keys recorded for Fat Possum.

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St Vincent: Daddy’s Home review – master of reinvention warps the sounds of the 70s

(Loma Vista Recordings)
Playing with identity and touching on family matters, Annie Clark’s sixth album with wilfully twisted musical backing is hugely impressive

The backstory of Annie Clark’s sixth album as St Vincent already feels well-worn. We live in an age of prurient interest in – and boundless opinion-giving about – celebrities’ personal lives: announcing that the title of Daddy’s Home referred to her father’s release from prison after a 10-year stretch for stock manipulation was bound to have an overshadowing effect.

Only the title track concerns her father’s imprisonment and release, although his presence lurks over the album in more subtle ways. Its sound was apparently inspired by his record collection, which evidently majored in the early 70s. The whole album is liberally dressed with a synthesised sitar sound that cropped up on dozens of the era’s soul singles, from Freda Payne’s Band of Gold to the Stylistics’ You Are Everything. There are dabblings in the fingerpicked acoustic style of the era’s confessional singer-songwriters, the mock-showtune stylings of Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman and the electric piano-driven funk of Donny Hathaway or Stevie Wonder. Anyone with a passing acquaintance with Pink Floyd’s most successful album can’t fail to notice the influence of its more languid moments on Live in the Dream, which comes complete with the none-more-Floydian lyric, “Welcome child, you’re free of the cage / Trying to seem sane makes you seem so strange”.

Related: St Vincent: ‘I’d been feral for so long. I was sort of in outer space’

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Dodie: Build a Problem review – a sweet, candid debut

(The Orchard)
Dodie Clark proves that she’s more than just a YouTube sensation on this promisingly ambitious first album

Ten years ago, an Essex teenager called Dodie Clark started uploading cover songs and original tracks to her YouTube channel, often replete with ukulele. Though she remained unsigned, in the years that followed, EP releases saw the singer-songwriter charting in both the UK and US – no doubt partly as a result of her already massive online following.

But to frame her success as solely rooted in YouTube fame is to minimise the work and growth evident on Clark’s sweet debut album. Build a Problem comprises cinematic compositions with ripples of strings, piano and guitar, echoes of clarinet, all topped with a mellifluous voice that recalls Regina Spektor without the bite. Clark is unafraid to be messy and tender in candid lyrics that consider relationships with others and herself (“Am I the only one wishing life away? Never caught up in the moment, busy begging the past to stay”).

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