Friday, February 24, 2017

All of This Will Disappear: Impermanence by Peter Silberman

"I'm disassembling...piece by piece..."

Impermanence opens with a crisis. The creative process that led Peter Silberman to write and record this album was triggered a few years ago by an injury that left the Antlers frontman temporarily deaf in one ear and agonisingly sensitive to sounds that he scarcely even noticed before. This devastating setback - and I'm sure that having your hearing wrecked is horrible even when you don't make music for a living - drove home to Silberman the fact that everything is subject to change, and that everything ends eventually. As he himself puts it, Impermanence is the result of being forced to "consider the finite".

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hurray for the Riff Raff: Small Town Heroes Revisited

With both the UK and the USA seemingly becoming more insular and inward-looking with each new day, now would be a good time to revisit Hurray for the Riff Raff's Small Town Heroes even were it not for the fact that its successor is due out next month. Originally released in February 2014, this album may just be the reminder we all need right now of the importance of open-mindedness and progressive, compassionate thinking.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Antlers: Why Has Peter Silberman Gone Solo?

Later this week, Antlers frontman Peter Silberman will be releasing his debut solo album Impermanence. I always find it interesting when a band's chief songwriting force goes solo (what's the point, I often wonder, when you already have creative control?), and it's particularly intriguing in this case because The Antlers themselves started life as a Peter Silberman solo project. It was only eight or nine years ago that they assumed the form of a proper band with an established core lineup: drummer Michael Lerner and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci didn't get involved until Silberman already had a couple of albums in the bag, and even the most recent Antlers record - 2014's superb Familiars - still credited Peter Silberman as the sole writer for every track.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Memories of Mansun's Attack of the Grey Lantern

This is my copy of Attack of the Grey Lantern by Mansun. The album came out on the 17th of February, 1997 - exactly twenty years ago today - but I was only five years old back then, and I didn't get my hands on this CD until roughly a decade later.

It all started when I heard Wide Open Space on a compilation CD that came free with a 2006 issue of Uncut magazine (Legacy: The Best of Mansun was among the new releases reviewed in the mag that month). I had never listened to Mansun before that, but there was something intriguingly out of the ordinary about Wide Open Space that I just couldn't brush off. I loved the nervous two-note guitar riff, I loved the cartoonish yet vaguely nightmarish touches going on in the background, and I loved the song's circular structure - the claustrophobic way it went around and around, sounding (ironically, given the title) like it was gradually closing in on you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

EP Corner: Oui EP by American Anymen & Lise

The Oui EP. a four-track collaboration between New York collective American Anymen and French artist Lise, has two basic settings: yearning for the past, and trying to cope with the present. The tension between then and now is reflected in the album's sonic landscape - somehow or other, it sounds like a fuzzy DIY bedroom recording and a sumptuous soul classic at the same time. It's as if The Moldy Peaches had a baby with If You Leave Me Now by Chicago.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Great Con: Attack of the Grey Lantern at 20

Is Attack of the Grey Lantern a concept album? Certainly, Mansun's gapless debut - which came out on the 17th of February, 1997, making it 20 years old as of this Friday - bears many resemblances to the archetypal rock opera. There are recurring characters and motifs; ambitious, widescreen arrangements; and the whole thing flows seamlessly from one song to the next, as though each segue were facilitated by a team of unseen stagehands, pulling ropes and running around backstage to keep everything running smoothly.

But if it is a proper concept album with a proper narrative (à la Tommy and The Wall), well...what is that narrative? What is the actual *plot* of Attack of the Grey Lantern?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Support Happiness: 10 Questions for Tammy

Brooke and Aaron are two people from Brooklyn, NY who perform together under the name Tammy. Their music is a gorgeous brew of indie, country and folk influences, and their debut album This (released late last year) slopes gently back and forth between doe-eyed romance and dagger-eyed contempt, to deliciously bittersweet effect. It's a great rainy day album, and the two members of Tammy very kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions about it - here goes:

The Album Wall: Why did you choose the name 'Tammy'?

Brooke: Tammy's the name of a character in a rock opera we haven't written yet.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Rattle Through Fragments & Curiosities by Armstrong

Some years ago, I downloaded A Brilliant Escape. a free sampler from Ontario-based record label The Beautiful Music. This compilation (still freely available here if you fancy a listen) brightened up many a dreary afternoon at work back when I first acquired it in 2013, and even now I find it a far more enjoyable listen than many albums I actually paid money for. A Brilliant Escape is very generous for a free sampler, offering up lots of good songs and several great ones: my personal favourites are the weepy I Hope He's Everything You Wanted Me to Be by Scottish miserablists The Just Joans and a wonderful track called This One by somebody named Armstrong.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Love, Unlove: This by Tammy

Brooklyn duo Tammy bill themselves as a 'sex folk' band, but if you're looking for songs about throbbing members, quivering womanhoods and screaming orgasms, you'll have to look elsewhere. Tammy tell the stories either side of the sexual encounters; they sing the moments leading up to sex and the moments that come afterwards.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Vampire Stories: An Interview with Adam Klopp of Choir Boy

Released towards the end of 2016, Choir Boy's Passive with Desire is a haunting, lushly-textured album that sounds like it was torn directly from the dark underbelly of the 1980s. Some of its songs are beautifully bittersweet; others sound downhearted and despondent; still others sound utterly tormented.

It all makes for a rather bewitching listening experience, and it's all pinned together by the gloriously ghostly falsetto of Adam Klopp from Ohio, USA. Adam was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Passive with Desire - read on to find out all about his musical influences, his fondness for vampire imagery, and quite a bit more besides. 

The Album Wall: What does it mean to be 'passive with desire'?

Adam Klopp: The phrase 'passive with desire' is a reference to a conversation I had with a friend near the tail end of the writing process. She brought up how people can be passively suicidal - not necessarily actively trying to die, but hoping the universe might take control and do away with you via car crash or something. I hadn't  heard the concept articulated like that before, and it really resonated with me. I think a lot of people get depressed or nihilistic and fantasize about not existing, even if they're not at risk of ending their own lives.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Damien Rice & The Story of O

Damien Rice's debut album O came out exactly 15 years ago today. To mark this anniversary, I thought I'd take a look back at the most delicate LP of 2002 and try to work out exactly what it's all about.

Why did Damien Rice call his first album 'O'? Several years ago, I wrote a blog post suggesting several possible explanations: it's an exhortation to God, it's a reference to his Irish heritage, it's a number zero signifying worthlessness! I felt very clever and insightful and pleased with myself until someone on Twitter came along and burst my smug little bubble:

How could I have missed it? In all my pondering and theorising about the symbolism of the letter O, I had overlooked the fact that Amie, O's sixth track, contains a whopping great title drop:

"Amie, come sit on my wall
And read me the Story of O
Tell it like you still believe
That the end of the century
Brings a change for you and me"

As you may be aware, Story of O (or Histoire d'O if you speak French) is an erotic novel that was originally published in the mid-20th century. Its central character, only ever referred to as 'O', is a fashion photographer who willingly becomes a sexual slave and grows more and more submissive as the story goes on; I won't go into the beady details right now, but Story of O can be read in full on the Internet Archive if you're so inclined. I must admit that I haven't read it myself, but from what I've heard it makes 50 Shades of Grey look like an issue of Jackie.