shoots and roots

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nicolai Dunger


Nicolai Dunger will be new to some of you. He shouldn't be. For this you should be truly repentant, and begin redress the imbalance by listening to this collection of effortless, jangly folk-pop songs on repeat for several days. It wont feel like penance though, in fact, you'll thank the good Lord for opening your eyes.

'Play' is Dunger's sixteenth album, and sees him pull in favours from Mats Schubert (Bo Kaspers Orkerster) and Nina Perrson (Cardigan). For past releases he has worked with the finest of his contemporaries (e.g. Will Oldham, Mercury Rev and Calexico).

On first listen 'Play' recalls Ryan Adams, but repeated listens really set him apart as trading in a more fluid, playful and – at the same time, classic, brand of pop. Pretty good for an ex-professional Swedish footballer, I'd say.
Aaron Kennedy

Score: 7/10
For fans of Ryan Adams, Calexico, early Van Morrison
Download: Heart and Soul

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

David G. Cox

David G. Cox

Dreamtrak Records

David G. Cox – a grand name for what seems like a very promising up-and-coming artist. This is Cox's debut album, and it comes in the midst of his Phd studies in black American folklore and gospel music. It sports thirteen darkly sparkling garage folk songs. As you might expect, academic that he is, the production and performances on Cox's album are all delivered with consummate professionalism; as you might not expect, the songs are actually quite evocative and listenable.

There's a sparse intensity in the instrumentation here that is reminiscent of both Tindersticks and Leonard Cohen. What's perhaps even more exceptional is the quality of Cox's voice – generally staying in the lower registers, and sometimes gravelly enough to recall (if not rival) Tom Waits himself. There's depth and variety in this album to keep drawing you back. Definitely worth having a listen.
Aaron Kennedy

Score: 7/10
For fans of Tom Waits, Tindersticks, Lambchop
Download: She Moves Through the Blue

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Osso & Sufjan Stevens

Run Rabbit Run

Asthmatic Kitty Records

Heads up all dedicated Sufjan fans, or those with a penchant for the unconventional. You may recall Sufjan's 2001 Enjoy Your Rabbit – a glitchy collection of experimental electronic arrangements inspired by the Chinese Zodiac. Well, Run Rabbit Run is that self-same album re-arranged for the string quartet Osso (New Pornos, Kanye, Sufjan). While some the arrangements get slightly lost in translation – with the thoughtful, choppy intrigue of the original rendered busily and clunky – this is essentially a warm, lively recording, and a fitting tribute to our beloved orchestral folk-pop doyen.
Aaron Kennedy

Score: 6/10
Download: Year of the Rooster.
For fans of: Kronos Quartet, Clogs.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Yim Yames

A Tribute To

Rough Trade Records

Yim Yames is the pseudonym taken by My Morning Jacket front man Jim James for the purpose of this tribute to George Harrison. James describes the late Beatle as a 'prime example of the healing power of music'. The featured tracks were recorded at the time of Harrison's death in 2001 and it is obvious that Harrison's music had long been a source of comfort and catharsis to James.
Judging by the simplicity with which the songs are recreated here, James’ priority was to celebrate the personal connection he felt with Harrison’s music. There is little instrumentation other than James’ guitar and vocals; the songs themselves and James’ trademark lush reverb do all the talking. This is an unpolished, rough diamond of a record that is haunted throughout by a spirit that will warm your soul and remind you of a great-departed talent. Aaron Kennedy

Score: 7/10
Download: Behind that locked door (from
For fans of: MMJ, George Harrison

Monday, November 23, 2009

YOUR TWENTIES (Levi's OnesToWatch Residency)


Opening proceedings this evening are the brooding and frenetic The Bridport Dagger, a band who take their onerous epithet from a euphemism for noose rope. This three piece make atmospheric gloomy blues rock tunes that sound totally fresh and yet referential of some of the greats. Imagine Elvis or Orbision teaming up with a grim rock 'n' roll reaper; given enough rope this band could really turn some heads.

Second up are The Brute Chorus, a band whose energy isn't so much brooding in the shadows as it is flaunted in the foreground. Their chaotic, ramshackle 50's rock sound is ambitious and ballsy, and yet not overt about the careful craftsmanship holding it all together. You might say this band wear their metaphorical cocks on their sleeves – even if this can be slightly nauseating at times.

Headliners Your Twenties, on the other hand, are a band that seem hormonally challenged. Yes, the big tunes do elevate; yes, there are riffs catchy enough to spool out an entire adult-sized onesy in the duration of their short set, and yes, the grooves are Solid. As. A. Rock. ... but there's just no heart. I want to like this band, but their bloodless performance is all too stiff-upper-lip and very-cool-for-school. Think Kowalski without half the charm and, on average, slightly longer songs.
Aaron Kennedy

Monday, October 26, 2009

Part Chimp


Rock Action

is the third full-length to come from the gnarly South London noise rock ensemble Part Chimp. The initiated may not have considered the possibility of their ears registering any increase in blisteringly dense white noise after 2005's 'I Am Come' – surely the pool of blood on the floor beside your head testified to this? Think again my friends, think again.

Not only have the Chimp succeeded in tapping into a fresh seam of primordial musical sludge, they have created even louder blend of solid grooves, timber shiveringly-loud guitars and droning melodies.

Opener 'Trad' is, a pastiche of the stoner rock genre, is no less of a satisfying melodic drone-fest for being a piss-take. Dirty Sun is a grimy, epic strut that sees them exalting in some reframed Sabbath-like tropes.

Released on Mogwai's Rock Action label, the album represents something of an evolution in their noise-mongering ways – a progression from their indie/grunge roots, to sludgier, stonier ground, while at the same time remaining true to their rock band roots. If bleeding ears is your thing, Thriller is worth checking out.
Aaron Kennedy

Score: 7/10
Download: Trad, Dirty Sun
For fans of: Jesus Lizard, The Melvins, Harvey Milk

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fanfarlo, Reservoir

Fanfarlo Records

Reservoir is the first LP to come from London-based folk pop band Fanfarlo. Released under the band's own label, it completes the picture sketched by a preceding bevy of singles. Produced by Peter Katis (The National, Interpol), and with ringing endorsements from David Bowie, Sigur Ros and Rough Trade Shops, this record demands attention.

Balthazar's soulful intonations provide the emotional center of the record. On the rousing and triumphant Ghosts it recalls the ecstatic wailing of 'Clap Your Hands' frontman Alec Onunsworth. The production is a densely layered, kitchen sink affair, lending another gear of compulsion to the sound. Third track, Luna, drives along like a full force gale, and is saturated with everything from violin to synthesiser parts, and much more besides. On the surface, this an all-round beautiful and absorbing listen.

That said, while the vocal is melancholic and possessing of a certain whimsical abondon, becomes easy to ignore the longer you hear it. Balthazar's open, almost dispassionate singing style is partly to blame. The disappointment ensuing from a closer inspection of the lyrics explains why it has been recessed snugly into the weave of the mix.

While fans of Arcade Fire and Beirut should initially enjoy this album, the discerning devotee will think twice. If you'll forgive the word-play, barring a few stand-out tracks (numbers one, two and three), Fanfarlo's Revervoir seems to draw from waters less deep than their better-loved musical progenitors.
Aaron Kennedy

Score: 6/10
Download: Ghost, Luna
For fans of: Arcade Fire, Beirut, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah