Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Playlist: Alt-J (∆)

Alt-J's new album, All This is Yours, has landed. And – like the debut – it's fantastic.

Like An Awesome Wave, it opens with an Intro and it includes Bloodflood pt. II (a stripped-back, re-orchestrated variation on the original) and a brilliant cover of Bill Withers's Lovely Day (a bonus track).

One of the best songs has to be Every Other Freckle, if only for the lyrics (but of course the sound and melody are great too):

"I’m gonna bed into you like a cat beds into a beanbag / Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet"

Arrival in Nara and Nara both have the vibe of the beloved Taro from the first album and Hunger of the Pine gives us that fantastic Alt-J sound in a great melody and understated synths.

Lead singer Joe Newman's voice is unique – Warm Foothills shows how nimbly he can jump between the low and high registers with his voice – and there is nothing else quite like Alt-J's carefully considered instrumental combinations, delicate melodies and clever lyrics.

The only thing, for me, is that the new record doesn't have a stand-out track like Tessellate from the first. With repeated listening, one will probably emerge...

Basically, this album had a lot to live up to following An Awesome Wave, one that a thousands-strong crowd loved enough to sing word-for-word and in track order at Glastonbury 2013, and the boys have nailed it.


If you like this, why not try:

The Playlist: George Ezra
The Playlist: Trentemøller
First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
The Playlist: John Grant

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Oldenburg, Lower Saxony

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am lucky enough to travel occasionally for work. Last weekend, it was a trip to the beautiful town of Oldenburg in Lower Saxony, Germany for the fantastic annual music festival there, the theme of which this year was glück –  or happiness.

In my opinion, any festival with that theme is worth checking out. I don't know about you, but the amount if negativity, snide criticism, general bitching and mundane dissatisfaction surrounding me in daily life (both online and off) seems staggering at times. So to spend some time in a stunning part of the world with fellow journos celebrating happy lifestyles and cheerful good fortune through music was more than ideal.

The opening weekend of the Niedersächische Musiktage involved a musical bike ride, a stroll around the gorgeous town with the traditional German fairytale Hans im Glück, a musical church service and an afternoon spent with brilliant band ?Schmaltz!, whose hugely entertaining brand of klezmer is genius and infectious (watch a video below). And the weekend's gala concert was stunning – a performance by Jonathan Nott and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra of works by Ives, Schubert and Beethoven, it was one of the best concerts I have been to.

As with all my travels, I took my 1970s Pentax k1000 along with me and captured some of it in 35mm. This is how it looked...

Visit for more of my travel photography. My piece on the Niedersächische Musiktage will be published in the July 2015 issue of BBC Music Magazine

If you like this, why not try:

A weekend in Berlin
Spreepark, Berlin