Friday, 27 September 2013

Daughter - If You Leave

Oh Dear!  Act in haste, repent at leisure springs to mind.  Although in my defence I did rather enjoy Daughter at Glastonbury, enough to award them second place in my Top Three for Glasto 2013.  There was something about them in a live environment that was quite beguiling but translating their slightly ethereal material to the studio has not quite worked for them.

Following their Festival appearance, I downloaded their debut album for 4AD, ‘If You Leave’ and have been listening to it on the inevitable ipod commute.  Unfortunately it has not really gripped me.  Without the visuals and expansiveness that live performance allows, their set sounds a bit flat, repetitive and devoid of any really memorable tunes, which is a bit of a disappointment, to say the least as I had great expectations for this unlikely trio.

On the plus side, Elena Tonra’s songs have a pleasant lilting quality and exquisite lyrics and each one has been beautifully arranged by fellow band members, Igor Haefeli (guitar) and Remi Aguilella (drums), but the whole is an object lesson in why everything really comes down to the tunes.  Many have argued that the lyrical content of a song is what really matters but unless you are Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell, this is a very shaky premise.  For me, this album proves the point that unless you can write a decent tune all the production stardust in the world will not save it.

That is not to say that some of the songs are not OK but too many are a bit aimless melodically and the pace is too homogenous and too measured throughout the ten or so songs.  It needs a bit of livening up and a bit of drama added (compare with Florence and the Machine, for example) to really set it free.  Even Sade’s ‘Diamond Life’, that seminal 80s cocktail album, had a verve about it despite its mellow quality that allowed you to keep interested.  Daughter, on the other hand, have produced a beautiful sounding album that appears to have all the right ingredients, yet still does not gel

I can’t help feeling that at the moment, Daughter really ought to be a ‘singles’ band as to hear one song at a time is still quite an experience.  It is when you are forced to listen to 10 of them in a row that the impact is lost.  Perhaps next time?


And on that note, I am sad to say that I am ceasing writing my regular posts on this blog.  These last few months have been more of a chore than an enjoyment so after 7 or so years and over 300 posts I am retiring.  I may post from time to time but for now, I am taking a break.  Thanks to all of you who have read my musings and commented here.  It’s been fun.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Eagles Studio Albums 1972 - 1979

Back in the spring of 1977, it seems you couldn’t turn a radio on anywhere without being subjected to ‘Hotel California’.  It was omnipresent on the airwaves for months and effectively cured me of ever wanting to delve into the Eagles back catalogue, ever.  So what is this box set I see before me?  Lo, it is the newly released ‘The Eagles: The Studio Albums 1972-1979’.  And it is here because a) it was cheap, and b) I’m curious to know what all the fuss is about since I’ve not listened to most of their output until now.

Not being a particular fan of The Eagles, I have only ever owned one LP, ‘On the Border’ but now I have the complete set of all six 70s releases from their debut up to the frankly dreadful ‘The Long Run’.  Has time mellowed my indifference or do they now strike a chord?  Well, yes and no.  Listening to these albums now in chronological order it is easy to see how the conversion from ex-Linda Ronstadt country backing band to full blown stadium rock ‘n’ roll outfit occurred.  Whilst there is a gradual shift over time, the most marked change in style happens about the time of my only purchase, ‘On the Border’.  It is here that the mix of Leadon-led country and Frey/Henley rock is at its most divisive following the arrival of additional guitarist Don Felder – a move that eventually precipitated the departure of Bernie Leadon.

Having listened to all six albums, my overall impression is that The Eagles were in essence a great singles band.  Each album has 2/3 stand out tracks and all of them were released as singles.  Even the Hotel California album itself, which I have now listened to for the first time, is little more than the title track with a load of so-so other tracks (I can feel the comments coming already!).  In many ways I am a bit disappointed by this as I expected to find many hidden gems amongst the non-single tracks but I’ve been a bit under whelmed to tell the truth.  Nevertheless, the singles still stand the test of time and show why The Eagles were such a revered band so I think I’ll stick with them.

I have made an ipod playlist of about a dozen of my favourites and it bears a very strong resemblance to most of the ‘Best Of’ compilations already on the market.  The only major addition I have made is to include Bernie Leadon’s tribute to Gram Parsons, ‘My Man’ which is one of the best Country songs I have ever heard and cannot understand why it doesn’t feature on any Eagles compilation.

So, are The Eagles the American Madness, a great singles band with a series of less than great albums?  Discuss.