Music and Mutterings of 2015

Well, here we are at the last day of 2015. And it’s been an interesting year, as in “may you live in interesting times.” There’s nothing that can be said quickly about what’s going on around us, except that you have to hope that more people are taking a personal role in speaking out against bigotry, ignorance, and hatred, wherever it shows up. Positivity and compassion, may those ideas fill us all and shape our so-called reality.

Musically, there’s been the constant flow of new material, although to look at the charts, you’d find it hard to believe that besides a small handful of people in the eye of the media, anyone else is actually doing anything. Step away from the mainstream though, and there’s a lot of people out there, fighting the good fight and struggling to get heard in the flood of what’s available.

Someone said to me that artists who have achieved success should stand aside, and let the new come through. I really don’t agree with that, for many reasons, not the least being that to say to someone they no longer have a reason to create is to kill them, early. Let’s be grateful for the people out there who want to keep going, and do, right to the end.  

We just lost a fine example of living life on your own terms, not to a mediatized schedule. Lemmy (RIP) said “If you’re going to be a fucking rock star, go be one. People don’t want to see the guy next door on stage; they want to see a being from another planet.”

May you find your planet in 2016.

2015 Video Playlist

Top Ten Albums of 2015

Drenge – Undertow

Dave Gahan and Soulsavers – Angels and Ghosts

Duran Duran – Paper Gods

Jamie xx – In Colour

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Spector – Moth Boys

Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool

American Wrestlers – American Wrestlers

Dilly Dally – Sore

Mew – + –

Top Ten Songs of 2015

Dave Gahan and Soulsavers – All of This and Nothing

Duran Duran – Paper Gods

Drenge – Standing in the Cold

Kendrick Lamar – How Much a Dollar Cost

Spector – All The Sad Young Men

American Wrestlers – Wild Yonder

Mew – Water Slides

Jamie xx – Hold Tight

Dilly Dally – Desire

Bang Gang feat. Keren Ann – A Lonely Bird

Special Mentions

DTCV – Uptime!

Lull – Bubble Tea EP

American Wrestlers at Northside Fest

American Wrestlers
Elvis Guesthouse – June 12
Northside Fest – June 14
New York

I saw American Wrestlers twice when they were here in NYC. Once at the oddly named Elvis Guesthouse in the East Village, which despite the charming attempt to create a story around Elvis still being alive somewhere on the “hippie trail” in the Middle and Far East (sure, why not), was a stunning example of how shrinking supply and rising rents is pushing music into places not entirely suited. Yeah, yeah, it’s all about the vibe and not the sound, but a drum kit in a corner across from a tiled-in seating area that seems a throwback to when the space was a kitchen, or toilet, or massage parlor is going to overpower everything, no matter what. There was free beer before 8, not complaining, and some eager fans, and the dancing guy who finally broke loose, freed by the music and started dancing from the bathrooms to the tiles very happily. It’s a tribute to the quality of the songs that even in such inauspicious surroundings, Gary McClure and his band brought the album alive.

After a killer show supporting Viet Cong on Saturday, the Northside Festival in Williamsburg – Brooklyn – was the next port of call for American Wrestlers. A hot, sunny day, Bedford Avenue closed down to traffic, some squares of grass put down in the street to mimic a park, and the opportunity to watch the endless parade of hipster fashion was the setting.

American Wrestlers hit the stage in very low key fashion, no introduction. The music was left to stand for itself, especially after the bassist let the audience know they were from St. Louis, then after another song, let slip the name of the band. No matter.

more review over here…

Review of new self-titled album from American Wrestlers

Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to achieve. Think of The Kinks. A song like “Waterloo Sunset”, the timeless Ray Davies classic, manages to be both easily memorable and emotionally complex all at once. Sometimes listening to a song is like a doorway to a different life. More than the sum of their parts, you know them instantly, yet the songs always have that quality. “Jungleland”, the epic Springsteen song off Born to Run is another. An entire landscape of striving and pain unfolds in a few minutes, pulling you in from the first notes, whether you hear it while buying a six in a bodega or after dropping the needle on to vinyl, surrounded by expensive speakers. The song doesn’t care – it still produces that unexplainable connection. There are albums you listen to, and there it is. You play it again. You still don’t know why exactly but it’s undeniable. That pull. And with a handful of simple, almost lo-fi songs, American Wrestlers have produced a raw, rough-hewn album of singular beauty.

No moments of glossy pretense. If art should feel like all the moments you can’t talk about out loud, then American Wrestlers is wrestling with art.

review tap tap

My interview with Gary McClure of the band American Wrestlers

American Wrestlers. With a title like that, it’s hard to know what to expect. And for quite a while, when the songs were first released on the internet, there was no information as to how they came about or where they were from. Then the quality of the music began to attract attention, and eventually, the story emerged. American Wrestlers is the creation of Gary McClure, a musician originally from Glasgow, with a number of previous projects to his credit. The most well-known of these was a Manchester-based band called Working for a Nuclear Free City, described as “a flawless lucid-dream trip through a thousand fantastical influences”, who released a couple of critically acclaimed albums. After McClure put out a solo album, Wreaths, which didn’t find the kind of response he’d hoped for, fortune intervened when he met his future wife, and followed her to America. Waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn so he could work here, McClure thought he’d while away the time writing a couple of songs. A local pawn shop sold him a bass and a Tascam 8 track recorder, and his front room became the studio. Result. The warm, emotion-infused mix of songs starred through with guitar hooks and wry pop influences triggered a wave of record company interest. Now, the self-titled album is due out at the beginning of April. Northern Transmissions was curious. Alice Severin spoke to Gary McClure about living in another country, songwriting, and what it’s like to record without being linked to the internet.

And I was getting the feeling as well that – I don’t think this era is any different from any other era, I think it’s always been that way. But a lot of songs and a lot of music is about – look at me, and here’s me, and the music is really a vehicle to promote the person as some kind of star or something, or a weird character. A lot of people do that kind of thing, but – you know songs are things that people sing. That’s what a song’s for. And it’s not about the person who writes it, or being famous or something, or making some weird artistic statement. It’s supposed to be something with a common idea, that everyone can understand, so everyone can sing it. That’s what a song is. And it seems such a simple, stupid thing to say but it’s almost like people have forgotten that.

interview this way…