wed 08/04/2020

New Music reviews, news & interviews

Remembering John Prine, one of the great American singer-songwriters

Jasper Rees

John Prine, who has died at the age of 73 from a Covid 19-related illness, was one of the great American folk poets. Having spent his early adulthood pounding the sidewalks as a mailman in Chicago, he never quite shucked that blue-collar aura of the working man's minstrel.

Joe Boyd's Recording Heaven

Joe Boyd

When it comes to making records, I love deadlines. Embarking on an open-ended project, particularly with the infinite number of overdubs made possible by ProTools, is my idea of hell. Back in the Nineties, I once spent an afternoon combining vocal takes line-by-line into a master track for one song. That’s when I started to think writing books might be a better way to make a living.

Album: The Strokes - The New Abnormal

Nick Hasted

Their debut’s title was a disillusioned shrug, and for most of the 19 years since Is This It, The Strokes have continued with seeming reluctance,...

Colors performance stream on YouTube review -...

Joe Muggs

The Colors studio in Berlin has quietly created one of the biggest new brands in music from filming back-to-basics performances with laser-focused...

theartsdesk on Vinyl Lockdown Special 1: Napalm...

Thomas H Green

For the duration of this C19 Lockdown, rather than the usual sprawling monthly epic, theartsdesk on Vinyl will be presented regularly in bite-sized...

Album: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Viscerals

Guy Oddy

Geordie rockers sharpen up to kick out the jams

Reissue CDs Weekly: Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters

Kieron Tyler

The ‘Smashed Full Of Wonder’ comp celebrates zeitgeist-sensitive Eighties Brit-combo

Album: Pokey LaFarge - Rock Bottom Rhapsody

Liz Thomson

The rocky road to redemption

ReMastered: Tricky Dicky and the Man in Black, Netflix review - dynamic saga of music and politics

Thomas H Green

Riveting hour-long documentary about Johnny Cash's White House concert in 1970

Album: Ren Harvieu - Revel In The Drama

Kieron Tyler

Almost a decade on from ‘Through The Night’, the soulful voice of Salford takes control

Album: Purity Ring - Womb

Mark Kidel

Diaphanous pop for difficult times

Jazz musicians adapt to the lockdown - 'Welcome to our world!'

Sebastian Scotney

Our favourite musical initiatives from jazz musicians the world over

Album: Thundercat - It Is What It Is

Nick Hasted

Shadowy Californian dreams from bassist firing at full-blast

Elton John’s iHeart Living Room Concert for America, YouTube review - the real star was a Mayo Clinic doctor named Elvis

Liz Thomson

Sir Elton John: this time we can't stand by

Christine and the Queens/Instagram review - musical missives during lockdown

Veronica Lee

French singer-songwriter's petits cadeaux for her fans

A simple twist of fate - how a chance encounter with 'Joan Baez, Vol 2' 50 years ago led to a festival in Downtown Manhattan

Liz Thomson

Celebrating Greenwich Village, where the beat lives on

Reissue CDs Weekly: Recording Is The Trip - The Karen Dalton Archives

Kieron Tyler

The Dylan-approved folk-inclined stylist’s 1962 and 1963 recordings get another outing

Single: Bob Dylan - Murder Most Foul

Richard Williams

A taste of the apocalypse

ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads, Netflix review - a story well told but marred by clichéd style

Mark Kidel

Robert Johnson: a pact with the devil? A myth de-constructed, yet enhanced

Album: Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia

Joe Muggs

Lipa frees her inner disco diva, and the world is a better place for it

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, BBC iPlayer - an intimate, insider's account of his life and music

Tim Cumming

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson puts a wealth of rare and unseen footage to good use

Album: Pearl Jam - Gigaton

Nick Hasted

Rock veterans face troubled times with embattled optimism

Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All, Netflix review - epic two-parter on pop's first superstar

Thomas H Green

Built around a 1971 farewell concert, Alex Gibney's documentary makes richly engaging viewing

Album: Sufjan Stevens &. Lowell Brams - Aporia

Mark Kidel

Magical story-telling in sound

Album: Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud

Lisa-Marie Ferla

A journey of sobriety and self-acceptance, by way of Memphis and New York

Slipknot Unmasked: All Out Life, BBC iPlayer – masked metalheads reveal all

Guy Oddy

An intimate show from the Iowa rockers but not a mellow one

Album: Basia Bulat - Are You In Love?

Kieron Tyler

Uneven fifth studio set from the Canadian singer-songwriter

Reissue CDs Weekly: A Slight Disturbance In My Mind

Kieron Tyler

Provocative canter through ‘The British Proto-Psychedelic Sounds of 1966’

Album: Little Dragon - New Me, Same Us

Nick Hasted

Electro-R&B veterans are set adrift on memory bliss

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

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