Laura Groves – Committed Language (EP)

18 02 2015

committedThis is Laura Groves second EP, the follow-up to 2013’s dreamlike Thinking About Thinking (EP).

You might be aware of Laura’s previous work as Blue Roses, and the often raw, inspired by the northern landscape acoustic songs from their 2009 debut (and only) album. The music released under Laura’s own name is much more layered and electronic, though still finding the space to add guitar and live bass to good effect on some songs.

EP opener Committed Language could have jumped straight out of your dusty old cassette copy of Now That’s What I Call Music 1984 – with it’s warm analogue Japan‘esque synths, and off-kilter percussion. I hear some of the playful song-arrangements of Todd Rundgren, and the electronic experimentation of Chimera era Bill Nelson in some of Grove’s recent material, and Committed Language is no exception to this.

Dream Story has grown from the demo version that I heard online around 3 years ago, and is now driven by production (especially the bass and drum machine) that recalls Fleetwood Mac‘s Tango In The Night. Dream Story takes a few wonderful diversions along the way, and the lead-in to the chorus is as smooth as the world’s smoothest thing. And that’s smooth.

Have a listen to a stream of the song from Laura’s SoundCloud page below.

Friday is a piano and rhodes ballad, that slowly builds as sugar-sweet backing vocals flit around the lead vocal. The most direct arrangement on this 4 song EP, and a moving song.

lgroves

The EP closes with Mystique, a slow-burning jazzy track. Hazy chorused guitar washes through a song Steely Dan would be proud of (if they didn’t spend 45 years perfecting the reverb on the snare). Mystique repays your faith after repeated listens, as new highlights make themselves known to you as this haunting song really gets under your skin.

I recently bought a wonderful yacht pop / yacht rock compilation called Too Slow For Disco, and the tracks on this EP would not have sounded out-of-place in that era, the magical period between 1975 and the mid 1980s. The 80s are often described as being a light, superficial musical decade, but a lot of colourful, adventurous music was released during that time – it wasn’t all Wham! and Haircut 100.

The jazz inflections, bold arrangements and synth / rhodes layers give the music on this EP a warm, nostalgic identity that fits the sad songs on Committed Language. Now, where is that album Laura?

“I think I’m ready now, bring back the mystery…”

Buy Laura Groves – Committed Language (EP) on bandcamp

Buy the Blue Roses CD on Amazon

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Laura Groves – Thinking About Thinking EP

29 09 2013

"Thinking About Thinking" EPLaura Groves (who previously recorded under the moniker Blue Roses) has released her first new solo material since 2009, with the digital (and vinyl) release of the Thinking about Thinking EP on Deek Recordings.

The opening track, Inky Sea, has a real late night feel, with the dark rhodes piano and layered 80s keyboards reminding me of Cliff Martinez‘s Drive soundtrack.

The music has progressed from 2009’s mostly acoustic Blue Roses album, and benefits from a much wider production palette.

After the beatless opening song, Pale Shadows is driven by a tight drum machine track, and back to the 80s again, has hints of China Crisis The Cocteau Twins in the instrumentation, topped off with a very Robert Smith like guitar riff. It’s probably my favourite of the 4 tracks, with hints of Fleetwood Mac in the chorus (always a good thing!)

Sadly, a by-product of the post-CD age, it’s impossible to tell who is playing on the tracks as there are no liner notes with this digital release.

“When the walls break down, it’s a beautiful thing”

Laura Groves

Easy Way Out sneaks in a crafty bossa-nova beat and a strong bassline to underpin the complex, ever-evolving arrangement, that grabs you after repeated plays.

The title track of Thinking About Thinking slows down the tempo of the EP, and has a real USA West-Coast vibe, with hints of mid-70’s Todd Rundgren seeping through to my wise old brain.

At times, the close harmonies remind me of Prince‘s sublime Sometimes It Snows In April from the Parade album.

I hope the EP is a taster for a new album in the not-too-distant future. If you liked the Blue Roses album, or are a fan of early Kate Bush, this EP will be something you will want to investigate, so go on, treat your ears.

Buy the EP

Buy Laura Groves – Thinking About Thinking EP from Bandcamp

Other releases

Buy the Blue Roses album from Amazon

Buy the Does Anyone Love Me Now? EP (featuring Grammatics) and the excellent First Frost Night on Amazon

Buy the I Am Leaving Single (featuring the wonderful Moments Before Sleep) from Amazon





2009 Music Review

29 12 2009

Ok, its that time of year….  Here are some of my favourites from 2009.

Airbag


I’m not sure how I stumbled across this Norwegian band, but I’m glad I did.  A classic rock fans dream, blending the guitar style of David Gilmour / Pink Floyd with early Porcupine Tree, and throwing in a little a-ha for good measure!

According to the wonderful stats provided by Last.FM, Airbag’s debut album Identity has been my most played album in 2009.

Recommended track: No Escape

Airbag website

Buy the Identity mp3 album from Amazon
Buy the Identity CD album from The Burning Shed

Blue Roses

Already mentioned in more depth elsewhere in my blog, 2009 saw the release of a wonderful debut album from Laura Groves aka Blue Roses.  An act I’m hoping to see live again in 2010 (I saw a woefully short Blue Roses show live at an Apple Store event in London during the Summer).

First Frost Night from the recent Does Anyone Love Me Now? Digital EP shows a real progressive feel seeping into their music.

Look, I didn’t mention Kate Bush!

Recommended track: I Wish I…

Blue Roses website

Buy the Does Anyone Love Me Now? Digital EP from Amazon

Buy the Blue Roses album from Amazon

Shearwater

Released in 2008, but only noticed by me in 2009, so included here, the album Rook from Texan band Shearwater is a delicate collection of songs driven by rich strings and piano mixed with acoustic guitars and lots of references to birds (band member Jonathan Meiburg is a graduate student in ornithology).

Singer Meiburg definitely has a hint of Mark Hollis in his vocal style, so a band that fans of later period Talk Talk will probably appreciate.

Recommended track: Leviathan, Bound

Buy Rook at Amazon

Butch Walker

Again, a 2008 release, but one I stumbled across in 2009 thanks to the wonders of Youtube.  I was aware of Butch Walker’s previous band, Marvellous 3, due to the power-pop anthem from 1999, Freak of the Week (a fair-sized hit in the US that I heard when on holiday in Florida).

I found clips of Walker performing songs from his solo albums, often alone with just acoustic guitar or piano, sometimes with a full band, but always entertaining. What sold it for me was solo version of Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You from 2008’s Sycamore Meadows album.

From reading reviews, Butch Walker is not critically acclaimed in his native USA, but when did that ever matter?  Yes, his songs are often very sentimental, but again, when did that ever matter?  I’ve quickly snapped up his entire back-catalogue (at least the ones that I’ve managed to get from the US, I’m a couple of EP’s and a live DVD short of a full collection), and there are some real gems to be found. Mixtape from 2004’s Letters album is a career highlight, and one of the best rock songs about unrequited love.

You gave me the best mixtape I have
Even all the bad songs ain’t so bad
I just wish there was so much more than that
About me and you

Walker is a very traditional performer, which, again, is not a criticism, and he seems aware of rock history whilst knowing how to knock out a great song, so expect nods to some of his idols in live performances.  Either solo or with a full band, Walker seems to put 150% into every live performance (he reminds me of a mid-period Springsteen in this regard).

One of my most played artists of 2009, and someone I hope to see live for the first time in 2010, if he heads over to the UK to tour his next album.

Recommended track:  ATL from Sycamore Meadows

Some become lovers because of the sex
And some, you know, they just become friends
In our case, we just became bad at it all
And never got good at it again

Buy Letters at Amazon

Buy Sycamore Meadows at Amazon

Butch Walker website

Miike Snow

The part Swedish, part US band Miike Snow have released one album to date, and a clutch of classic singles.  For the fact-fiends reading this blog, the Swedish contingent in the band were responsible for the Grammy winning Toxic by Britney Spears.

I was lucky to be able to see one of the bands first live performances when they played at the iTunes festival in the summer of 2009 at London’s Roundhouse.  The recent single Silvia was a highlight of the live show, and is also a centre-piece on the studio album.

Maybe I’m a little odd, but if a group like 10CC formed today, I think they would sound like Miike Snow.  Too much modern dance music has disposable lyrics, with songs that are little more than icing sprinkled on a beat, but Miike Snow songs would work just as well in an acoustic environment, as they are strong enough to survive without the studio trappings.

Recommended track:  Burial

At your own burial, don’t forget to cry
At your own burial
Looking at my 81st birthday, everyday this body goes to waste
Remembering how I would raise an army when we went back to your place

Buy Miike Snow at Amazon

Miike Snow website

Others on the Kinski radar in 2009

Marina and the Diamonds

One of my favourite songs in 2009 was the perfect pop of  I Am Not a Robot.

With a debut album, Family Jewels, on the horizon, one to watch in 2010.

Marina & the Diamonds website

Buy Marina & the Diamonds at Amazon

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James Grant


Former
Love & Money singer James Grant released the album Strange Flowers in 2009, unfortunately to little fanfare. It’s an amazing album, full of finely crafted songs, the highlight for me being the 9 minute plus bluesy My Father’s Coat.

In a stall in the marketsquare
I saw his old threadbare mohair
And I choked out the oath in my throat
Stood staring at my father’s coat

Buy Strange Flowers at Amazon

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Wild Beasts


Cumbrian band
Wild Beasts second album, Two Dancers, includes When I’m Sleepy… , which evokes the spirit of the late, great Billy Mackenzie.

Watch the Hooting & Howling video.

Buy Two Dancers at Amazon.

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Rickie Lee Jones

The latest Rickie Lee Jones album, Balm In Gilead, was released late in 2009. Opening track Wild Girl is a personal favourite, and has a lovely Steely Dan feel to the arrangement.

Wild girl in a red dress
Come on, speak up, say yes
This thing that makes you beautiful
Never comes out of a jar

Soundtrack King Jon Brion appears with Rickie on the track Bonfires.

Buy Balm In Gilead at Amazon.

McAlmont and Nyman

The Glare is the first (and hopefully not the last) collaboration between former Bernard Butler cohort David McAlmont and composer Michael Nyman.

Apparently a musical match made via Facebook (how 21st Century) the album is made up of Michael Nyman compositions turned into songs (and with lyrics added) by David McAlmont, all dealing with “The Glare” of being in the media spotlight.

So from Berlusconi, assisted suicide (the extremely moving Friendly Fire) to ‘drug mules’ In Laos, its a wonderful concept that sends you rushing over to Google to research the stories that inspired the non-judgemental lyrics.

I had a second, a single chance
To let the cameras see my face.
I hoped then I would make the news
And I prayed that you’d be tuned in

The Glare Dossier – The stories that inspired the songs.

Buy The Glare at Amazon.

Releases I’m looking forward to in 2010

Memories Of Machines – Warm Winter

The forthcoming collaboration between no-man’s Tim Bowness and Nosound’s Giancarlo Erra.  Highlights included the slow-burning At the Centre of it All and the perfect-pop of Before We Fall.  Memories of Machines website

Delphic – Acolyte

A band that I first came across as support to Bloc Party in 2009.

Sounding like a 21st Century New Order,  forthcoming single Doubt is the song that should give the Manchester band their first hit in 2010.

Delphic Myspace

Buy
Acolyte at Amazon.

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Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back

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The next Peter Gabriel album is released in February of 2010, and will consist of twelve cover versions of songs by artists such as David Bowie, Elbow, Bon Iver, Radiohead, Paul Simon, Talking Heads and The Magnetic Fields, recorded using just orchestra and voice.

Buy Scratch My Back at Amazon

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Hazel Mills

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The next EP from Bristol’s Hazel Mills should be released in 2010.

Butterfly, the first Hazel Mills EP, was released more than two years ago now, so new music is long overdue.

Hazel Mills website.

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Stars

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A new album from Canada’s Stars, titled The Five Ghosts is due in June 2010.

The last Stars release was the Sad Robot EP in late 2008.

Stars Myspace

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Favourite songs of 2009

Catherine A.D. Carry Your Heart

And as I fall from hope to here with your heart on my back
How did we get here? With your heart on my back…
And with your blood still on my tongue and words that can’t be undone
How do we get to carry our hearts?

Miike SnowBurial

Marina and the DiamondsI Am Not a Robot

James GrantMy Father’s Coat

The DecemberistsAnnan Water

GrammaticsInkjet Lakes

Blue Roses I Wish I…





Blue Roses – Moments Before Sleep

7 09 2009

Blue Roses debut album (2009)

One of the best debut albums I have heard in a long, long time. A virtually beat-free album, with layered vocals, underpinned with acoustic guitar, piano and electronics, and hints of folk music.  Laura Groves aka Blue Roses is from Shipley, and there several tracks, such as Can’t Sleep and Coast that could only really come from West Yorkshire.
The albums standout tracks is “I Wish I…” (if this track doesn’t melt your heart, you are made of stone). Just piano and voice, and a string quartet towards the middle of the song, this is one of those songs that could have been recorded at any time in the past thirty years, its untouched by technology, and is all the betetr for it.
“But when he touched my hand like it was gold,
Well I want to pull away and say,
“Look, it’s only…well it’s only made from plain old skin and bone”
The Kate Bush comparisons are an easy (but valid) reference point, but Blue Roses have none of the theatrics of Kate Bush’s early work, and live performances are all about the music, which is powerful and emotive.
Rebecca is the only song to feature electric guitar and percussion, and breaks up the album with its discordant opening, but then the magic kicks in and the song goes to another place.
“Let me sit and watch you working, I won’t be a pain.
You will not notice me at all.”
The album was apparently recorded on a shoestring, with studio-time, borrowed grand pianos and choirs from the local pub, all grabbed when they were available, not that you can tell. There’s a real warmth and clarity to the songs on this album, and the constant touring and support of Radio 2 will hopefully raise the albums profile over the coming months.
The direction of the next album release will be interesting, as recordings released after this album was recorded point to a different direction, with less acoustic guitar and more experimentation with different production techniques.  Single “b” side (is there such a thing anymore, in the digital age?) Moments Before Sleep is a lo-fi wonder, but as magical as anything on the album.  The most recent recording released was an enchanting cover of The Beatles Golden Slumbers from Mojo magazine’s Abbey Road Now compilation.
Greatest Thoughts
Cover Your Tracks
I Am Leaving
Can’t Sleep
I Wish I…
Coast
Does Anyone Love Me Now?
Doubtful Comforts
Rebecca
Imaginary Flights
XLCD 411 UK Release April 2009 / US Release July 2009

One of the best debut albums I have heard in a long, long time. A virtually beat-free album, with layered vocals, underpinned with acoustic guitar, piano and electronics, and subtle hints of folk.

Laura Groves aka Blue Roses is from Shipley, and there are several tracks, such as Can’t Sleep and Coast that could only really come from West Yorkshire.

The albums standout track is I Wish I… (if this song doesn’t melt your heart, you are made of stone). Starting off with just piano and voice, and adding a string quartet towards the middle, this is one of those songs that could have been recorded at any time in the past thirty years.

I Wish I… is untouched by technology, and is all the better for it.

“But you’ve got your eye on the door.
This is what my life is for.
I’ll pray that you won’t drop your anchor here.”

The Kate Bush comparisons are an easy (but valid) reference point, but Blue Roses have none of the theatrics of Kate Bush’s early work, and live performances are all about the music, which is powerful and emotive.

Rebecca is the only song to feature electric guitar and percussion, and breaks up the album with its discordant opening, but then the magic kicks in and the song heads off to another place.

“Let me sit and watch you working, I won’t be a pain.
You will not notice me at all.”

The album was apparently recorded on a shoestring, with studio-time, borrowed grand pianos and choirs from the local pub, all grabbed when they were available, not that you can tell. There’s a real warmth and clarity to the songs on this album, and the constant touring and support of Radio 2 will hopefully raise the albums profile over the coming months.

The direction of the next album will be interesting, as the recordings released after this debut was recorded point to a different direction, with less acoustic guitar and more experimentation with production techniques.  Single “b” side (is there such a thing anymore, in the digital age?) Moments Before Sleep is a lo-fi wonder, but easily as magical as anything on the album.  The most recent Blue Roses recording released was an enchanting cover of  The Beatles Golden Slumbers from Mojo magazine’s Abbey Road Now compilation.

Tracklisting:
Greatest Thoughts / Cover Your Tracks / I Am Leaving / Can’t Sleep /
I Wish I… / Coast / Does Anyone Love Me Now? / Doubtful Comforts /
Rebecca / Imaginary Flights

Lyrics quoted © Blue Roses
XLCD 411 UK Release April 2009 / US Release July 2009

Buy Blue Roses on Amazon UK
Buy Blue Roses on Amazon US








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