Friday, March 27, 2009

Jesper Norda (Free things #3)

Jesper Norda is a conceptual artist living and working in Göteborg in Sweden. He is also in the electro-rock band If there is something, whose album can be downloaded for free from the 23 Seconds website.

However, for me his best work has been the extraordinary cycle of songs that have made up his two recent collections We Have The Guts and Little Ones. Primarily just Jesper's piano and vocals, this is no Elton John. The two self-released EPs are full of some extrordinarily honest compositions, with some beautiful light piano work underlying a dark resonant vocal style that reminds me of Ian Curtis, or a somewhat warmer Tom Waits at times. The songs are primarily about relationships, but from the point of view of maturity, not innocence or lust, which gives them a rather rare quality. Composition seems to happen mainly free-style, sitting at the piano, which gives the song a crystalline and directive quality.

There are great tracks throughout, but for me the two stand-outs are the title song from We Have The Guts, and Tomorrow you'll be forgiven... from Little Ones. These are songs you absolutely have to hear. There's also an excellent cover of a Telepopmusik song (Dance Me) which stretches the simple disco music into a different place.

I look forward to hearing more from Jesper Norda, but in the meantime, download these superb EPs.




Iron & Wine (Free stuff #2)

Iron & Wine have just re-released the acoustic demos for the Shepherds Dog album, as a free download from their website.

This is one of the best albums of the last few years, so hearing these simple hone-down versions of the songs is a delight. Just Sam Beam and his guitar, but the quality of the playing and the songs is superb.

Download the eight tracks here;


and a taster below:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Doomcloud (Free Stuff #1)

Kevin Hewick live in Leicester (UK) in 2008

(c) Photo by David Hawkins

Kevin Hewick has just released his album Doomcloud as a free download available from his website.

Kevin Hewick is probably most famous for being the man who flunked the audition to replace Ian Curtis in Joy Division. That's probably unfair, not least because he was never really suited to be a dark front man to New Order, it wasn't really an audition and he never really sought it out. He was however an inspirational anti-folk singer-songwriter (Tony Wilson compared him to Elvis Costello), a bit of an oddity on the Factory record label that was home to Joy Division, New Order and their like. His song Haystack is one of that label's classics (or would have been if it didn't actually emerge in its proper form on the 1980 Les Disques du Crépuscule compilation From Brussels With Love). Stylistically, Kevin's gruff neurotic-yet-romantic punk-folk singing was in a world of its own. After the 'dark years' in the 1980s/1990s, Kevin is now writing songs and has been gigging a lot, mainly around his hometown of Leicester, playing three hour covers sets and of course his own songs. He is currently playing in Hewick, Haynes and James who describe themselves as a power-trio in the Hendrix/Cream mould, but with bits of Davy Graham and Girls Aloud. Sounds fascinating.

Doomcloud is an album of demos recorded at home and then left unfinished in 2003. It's a pretty stark, but at times beautiful, album of love songs; the lyrics raw and honest and in places deeply touching. The tone is set by the opening song 'An Object she's left behind' :
Now she's gone it's as if she were never here
It's as if I imagined the last few years
The fighting is over, the loving is too
My other half was just passing through...

The guitar lines are simple, yet at times impossibly beautiful. The words weave in stories of sad lonely relationships, of longing, of hope and opportunity. The song 'How far off the target was I?' is one of the best, a tale of a lonely man's hope and failure in the quest for love. Kevin's vocal is superb too, carrying his powerful impassioned voice across the plaintive refrane captured in the title, and then some " embarrassing it was to see my dart fly, a mile off target from the bullseye."

Not all of the album works, and some of it still sounds unfinished, perhaps too painful to keep working on. But where it works, it really works.

I can't fail to be moved by the beautiful guitar lines in 'Make that call', and the optimistic demand "to turn on your mobile, wherever you are... I'll stay in touch". Another favourite is 'I'm not involved', with an excellent memorable riff and a melody that sounds both modern and straight out of the finest English folk from 1972.

Imperfect and flawed perhaps, but honest and moving and raw.

Download the whole album here

Visit Kevin's website

And buy the brilliant Tender Bruises and Scars compilation
by clicking on the cover image below:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Old Photographs

the boy in pajamas

There are big boxes of old photographs in our local antique emporium Snooper's Paradise, and these were amongst those that took my fancy.

It struck me tha I know these people every bit as well as the people in some of my oldest family photographs. Occasionally, I know the people they become, but nothing at all about the thoughts and feelings, loves and longings, they experienced when the photographs were taken. Every picture tells a story and these are no different. There is little of place in these pictures, and not that much about time apart from the clothes and the hairstyles, but there's a lot of character in these images, and I think tha's what drew me to them.

knees and cups of tea

Full of life

A family celebration (I)

A family celebration (II)

Confidence and servility

Power and influence - listening, speaking, and just being there

Sunday, March 08, 2009

We won't be back until Spring

Another month, another mixtape, another set of silly love songs.

I've been running my mp3 player on random shuffle the past few weeks and I ended up jotting down the songs I really liked, and they were mostly the ones in this mix, although not in this order. It's another strange slow pace to this one - a whole novel rather than a short story, or maybe a film, but it's all there. The setting feels East-coast American and quite early 1970s.

One day I should write this, but for now you can listen to the soundtrack.

As usual, there's a few choice mp3s, and
you can download the whole piece below
if you'd like to do that.

  1. Tim Hardin - Shiloh Town
  2. Loudon Wainwright III - The man who couldn't cry mp3
  3. John Vanderslice - They won't let me run
  4. The Carter Family - No depression in Heaven
  5. The Leisure Society - A short weekend begins with longing mp3 website
  6. Funkadelic - Can you get to that?
  7. The Great Outdoors - Spring Flower
  8. David Ackles - One Night Stand
  9. Junip - Turn to the Assassin
  10. Bob Dylan - Ain't gonna go to hell (unreleased, live 1980) mp3
  11. Petra Haden - God only knows
  12. Tim Buckley - Happy Time
  13. P J Harvey - Oh my lover
  14. Jenny Lewis - You are what you love
  15. Cat Power - Don't blame you
  16. Jesper Norda - We have the guts mp3 website
  17. The White Stripes - We're bound to pack it up
  18. Ann Sexton - You've been gone too long
  19. Hiawatha Telephone Company - What's your move? mp3
Download the whole lot in a 99mb bundle of mp3s.
First 100 downloads, and then it's gone.
Get it here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009