miércoles, 25 de marzo de 2020

David Kilgour - Bobbie's a girl (2019)

Both on his own and with his band the Heavy Eights, David Kilgour built up a strong CV of chiming, noisy, and sometimes thickly psychedelic indie rock since the Clean stopped recording (for a while) in the early '90s. On records like 1994's Sugar Mouth or 2004's Frozen Orange, right up to 2014's End Times Undone, he's made thoughtful, tuneful albums that chime warmly as his understated vocals deliver a big, soft punch. It's a formula that has served him well for a long time, but on 2019's Bobbie's a Girl, Kilgour and his band change things up. For one thing, it's mostly an instrumental album, with Tony De Raad and Kilgour's acoustic and electric guitars carrying the main melodic weight, Thomas Bell's bass and Taane Tokona's drums subtly shading the background, and an array of carefully placed keyboards coloring in spaces here and there. A majority of the songs are meditative and inward-looking while still being darkly compelling. "Entrance" sets the scene like a cloud settling in overhead, and many of the songs follow suit. Sprinkled in among the pretty, wordless ballads ("Coming in from Nowhere Now"), dramatic Bad Seeds-esque laments ("Swan Loop"), and off-kilter noise-blues jams ("Ngapara") are occasional pop songs like the sweetly soaring "Smoke You Right Out of Here" and "Looks Like I’m Running Out," which spits out shards of pain in fragments of electric guitar then attempts to heal the damage with reassuring vibraphone runs.

It's no surprise that the album's tone is extra thoughtful and a little sad at times, since it's inspired and shaped by the death of Kilgour's mother as well as his longtime mate Peter Gutteridge. The band took their time making the music and creating the right feel, and the heartbreaking results show that their efforts were well worth it. Along the way, Kilgour realized that jettisoning the words allowed the interplay of the instruments to conjure up the exact feeling of loss and melancholy that he was looking for without language getting in the way. That choice makes the album a little less accessible on first listen, but once the music takes hold, it sinks in deeply. Though it is something of an outlier, at its core, Bobbie's a Girl is just like the other albums Kilgour has made over his long career: lovely pop music powered by his knack for crafting songs that feel like snippets from real life.

The Verlaines - Dunedin Spleen (2019)

The Verlaines have been a seminal Dunedin band since 1980, creating songs that mix astute lyrics with complex, visceral music often influenced by songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Graeme Downes’ day job as a music academic at Otago University. ‘Dunedin Spleen’, the band’s 10th album, continues this trend – and makes up for any delay between records with 19 tracks.‘None of these chords I own, I’ve only gave them temporary shelter,’ the album begins, and the lyrics throughout are similarly thought-provoking, intelligent and satirical, though not without warmth and sadness. The impressionistic chords and touching lyrics of A Crib At Flatline Bay reveal deep loss, while Way Too Old To Grow Up Now is an affectionate nod to a friend and fellow musician in a particular Dunedin scene.

A new Verlaines album always means sophisticated songwriting and musicianship, which ‘Dunedin Spleen’ has in buckets. Freeform impressionistic jazz, show tunes, Weimar-Germany influenced punk jazz (Church And State) and garage rock (None Of These Chords) all feature at points, while elements of punk, indie, and art-rock help to define the album’s sound. Crashing chords, and winding guitar and organ lines add depth to the songs, which are immediate and vital. It’s fair to say that some of the more recent Verlaines’ albums have been harder to engage with, but not so ‘Dunedin Spleen’ – it’s urgency frequently matches the visceral classics from the band’s early years, and shows Downes (and The Verlaines) at their melodic, and intricate, best.