Stevie Nicks – 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault (a very biased review)

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Stevie Nicks’s new album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, will be released across the US tomorrow, having already spent a week cruising through the European market as the North American leg of Fleetwood Mac’s global reunion tour got underway. While this isn’t exactly new news, this record happens to be very special, not just to Stevie, but to the legions of fans like me who found, listened to and loved the many bootleg demos we managed to dig up over the course of our endless love affair with her music.

You see, these demos were like an extra glimpse of Stevie-ness that we just couldn’t turn down all those years ago. Like the Wild Heart track of the same name, when you’re Enchanted by Stevie Nicks, it’s so lovely to be around her voice that saying no to hearing it seems ridiculous, no matter what the sound quality on a few dodgy YouTube clips happens to be like.

Now, however, she has knowingly given us what we’ve wanted for so long in the form of a real record, full of those captivating love stories that never really saw the light of day before. In short, she has done what my obsessive thirteen-year-old self wanted to hear more than anything – not that I ever stopped dreaming about it.

Full disclosure: if you want an unbiased review, you won’t find one here. I tried to warn you in the title.

Due to the Fleetwood Mac tour, Nicks and renowned (read: kickass) producer Dave Stewart put the whole record together in three months before rehearsals began. Three months isn’t very long for anyone to make an entire album, let alone a rock icon who happens to be joining one of the greatest bands of all time for yet another world tour just a matter of weeks down the line.

So, they went to Nashville, did the bulk of the recording in three weeks using session musicians, then finished it up back in Los Angeles. Talk about a whirlwind – but hey, Stevie’s the best twirler in the business.

“I’m used to bands where we argue over how to do the song. These Nashville guys just say, ‘Yes, ma’am.'” she told Rolling Stone in a recent interview.

The result of this energetic turnaround ended up being one of the best records of Stevie Nicks’ whole career, in my opinion at least. The reasons I fell in love with her music are all over it. The grit, pain and passion in her voice are present throughout and, on tracks like Lady and Blue Water, there’s a depth of emotion that seems so gentle but could actually knock a person right over.

Having chosen songs she wrote over the past five decades, many written in the early days about her great love and musical partner in crime Lindsey Buckingham, 24 Karat Gold was always going to be deeply personal.

“Lindsey will love it – half the songs are about him!” she explained to Rolling Stone.

Delightfully and unsurprisingly, it feels like an album that is totally and utterly her, as she underlined so well in the aforementioned interview.

“It’s always intense to look back, but it’s always good to remember who you were and what it was like then. It makes me remember how beautiful and frightening it all was…  all that pain I went through — it got me here.”

Shovels & Rope – a lesson in bringing the house down

I got beer on my phone, what can you do.

I got beer on my phone, what can you do.

Playing their second show in New York City in as many days, Shovels & Rope brought the Music Hall of Williamsburg to it’s boot-stomping, beer-spilling knees on Tuesday, September 23rd. Americana’s new favorite couple, they’ve often been likened to a ‘modern day Johnny and June’, is special for many reasons. These include the ability to bring any house down with little more than a few bars of a new song, relatively unknown to the people in front of them. In this instance, it was The Devil is all Around, the opening track on their latest album, Swimmin’ Time.

In the middle of the crowd, people were smiling at each other and making friends over the sheer wonder of it all. We were, every last one of us, enchanted. Part soulmate-level romance, part riot, part ‘I’m staring at you so we remember what we’re doing’, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent pulled off a performance that was not only worthy of their exceptional songwriting, but gave thier fans something to really watch. Having made a point of remaining a two-person act, the instrument juggling epitomizes the kind of well-honed display of guts, determination and bare-bones talent these two are all about.

“People think we’re gazing romantically in each other’s eyes, but I’m really just waiting for the change. Michael likes to catch me sleeping on the job” Hearst told Rolling Stone Magazine recently, underlining the teamwork and good humor it takes to pull it all off in front of an audience. I think it’s probably both, though, and it’s impossible not to fall completely in love with them, their music, and the fact that no words can do justice to just how phenomenally talented they are.

Hearst and Trent do not strictly adhere to any notion of a set list, nor do they really know exactly who will be playing which instruments. As it happens, this is a recipe for the kind of live magic that has fans and critics alike wondering, “Why the fuck aren’t these guys bigger?” Anyone lucky enough to see them go lip to lip over the same mic for Save the World can attest to the palpable electricity pouring off the stage. It’s infectious. The devil may well be all around, but so are these guys and it’s an entirely heartening experience. Their 2012 album was called O Be Joyful for a reason, after all.

Ultimately, it was a show in the truest sense of the word, and one I need to get another ticket to before I go stark raving bananas.

FYI – American Songwriter has a great feature on Shovels & Rope that you should definitely read, too, if you’re even halfway as much in love with them as I am.

Odessa – a beautiful debut EP

Ever heard of Odessa Rose? Me neither until this morning, but now I would like have bonfire parties with her for the rest of forever while we dance around like pixies. This is a direct result of having listened to her self-titled debut EP (well, almost, it’s called Odessa) on repeat for the last 6 hours. There are only four songs on it.

This shit is good. The production is absolutely killer, showcasing her pretty yet powerful voice as it rises up and rains back down like a meteor shower. But that’s not all, the percussion and the instrumental sections then smash the whole thing back into outer space. It’s lovely, but it’s lovely with oomph.

So, do you want to hear something beautiful? Of course you do. Watch the video below, then listen to the rest on Spotify, then go and buy the whole shebang on iTunes if you live in a country where it’s available. (Well, the US.)

“Hummed Low” Odessa Rose from drew bourdet on Vimeo.

Young Summer – Siren

Credit:  Eric Mooney Photography
© Eric Mooney Photography

Washington, DC based musician Bobbie Allen AKA Young Summer is back with her first full-length album, Siren, following the success of her 2013 Fever Dream EP. While the record features a couple of known quantities such as Waves That Rolled You Under, it also boasts a whole lot of shiny new synth-laden surprises, including Leave Your Love which has received rave reviews from the likes of Nylon Magazine, and Taken which isn’t about the Liam Neeson movie of the same name.

Allen herself has described the whole album as “haunting, but specifically the title track.” She’s certainly onto something there and, as was her intention, the song really does call you in, daring you to resist the rest of the album. Of course, the whole thing meanders along to its final destination before you really want it to, ending in with an uptempo yet cool-sounding track called Classless Kids with more than a hint of Lana Del Rey style gloominess. As the last notes fade, it’s hard not to want more, to find out where she’s going next.

Having already soundtracked TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Pretty Little Liars with her cover of The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, played SXSW, toured the UK and garnered a notable US following, I’d happily put money on the fact that wherever she’s going will involve even bigger and better things.

You can pick up/download your own copy of Siren as of midnight tonight or, if you’re still not convinced, head over to her site for a free download to help persuade you.

Bora York – Let Loose

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Minneapolis duo Bora York AKA of Chris Bartels and his wife Rebekkah are two mavericks who – now with a brand new baby – record and produce a every single one of their dreamy tracks in their two-bedroom apartment, before mixing, pressing and distributing then via Chris’ own independent label, Anthem Falls Music.  The follow-up to their debut LP Dreaming Free is another sunny yet less folk-driven offering in the shape of their new single, Let Loose. It’s a thing of synthesized beauty and one that is currently – and happily – receiving a lot of much-deserved praise. A couple of their tracks have also been featured on some high-profile television shows recently, including CBS’ Criminal Minds and ABC’s The Middle.

Oblivious Pop described the new track as “a pop track that’s laced with crystalline synths to chill your body as the chorus blasts in like a heavy heat wave.  There’s no doubt you’ll be blasting and dancing to this track all through the summer months.” While Indie Shuffle claim “it’s impossible not to get swept up in the excitement, especially by the time the chorus comes around.” In short, it’s a pleasantly infectious four minutes and five seconds you’ll want to re-live over and over again.

Anyway, listen to this and then go and buy it/stream the crap out of it on Spotify.

KLP – Decide

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I heard Decide by KLP (an acronym of Kirsty Lee Peters, FYI) on the radio this morning and have more or less had it on repeat ever since. I also picked up my very exciting new headphones earlier and this track is essentially soft porn of the aural variety. And now I want to go to a disco. Late though I may be to this particular party, I think I might be a little bit in love.

The Sydney-based DJ, vocalist, producer and probable wizard is currently doing the rounds at this year’s SXSW festival after a recent writing trip to LA. After such exploits, it’s fairly safe to say her past, present and upcoming projects (including one with Diplo) will be much talked about and, more importantly, listened to (read: broadcast) a lot in the coming months.

Hailed as one of Australia’s brightest industry talents, it’s likely to be one hell of a year for this lady.

The Pacifics – St. Patrick

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Of all the things to listen to this evening (no going out for green beer for me unfortunately) a song called St. Patrick is potentially the most appropriate. In fact, those two words are the only lyrics too, shouted down a microphone by The Pacifics, a Dublin-based four-piece. It couldn’t be more perfect, and it’s free to download.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/139515801″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

If that was enough to whet your appetite a little, you can stream their debut LP, Pacifically, on Soundcloud, too. The word riotous springs to mind.

If you need to scare some snakes or some unwanted English invaders out of anywhere, keep these guys in mind…