The E Street Shuffle: Bruce Springsteen’s messy, flamboyant, life-affirming second album

In 1973, when Bruce Springsteen presented his completed second LP The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle to Charles Koppelman at Columbia Records, he was told in no uncertain terms that the record would be a commercial flop. With its scruffy musicianship and lengthy, sprawling songs, the album would, Koppelman believed, kill Springsteen’sContinue reading “The E Street Shuffle: Bruce Springsteen’s messy, flamboyant, life-affirming second album”

Review: Pictish Trail – Island Family

As musical tributes to the Scottish Hebrides go, Johnny Lynch’s salute to the Isle of Eigg, Island Family, is certainly an unusual one. There’s barely an acoustic instrument in sight, no soaring fiddles or intricate guitar to evoke the windswept landscape and rough seas. Instead, jagged electronics and coarse percussion cut across seas of seethingContinue reading “Review: Pictish Trail – Island Family”

Review: Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

‘It’s a little bit magic,’ promises ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’, the title track of American indie folk-rock band Big Thief’s latest album. At 80 minutes long, this mammoth record was born out of drummer and producer James Krivchenia’s desire of capturing the full range of vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s song-writing talent inContinue reading “Review: Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You”

Revisiting Taylor Swift’s Red

Last week Taylor Swift released her newly re-recorded version of her 2012 album Red. I look back on why this ‘happy, free, confused and lonely’ record remains her best work to date. ‘Like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street’: this is how Taylor Swift describes a doomed love affair on Red’s title track,Continue reading “Revisiting Taylor Swift’s Red”

Review: Sam Fender – Seventeen Going Under

Happy songs are easy to come by. Political commentary is woven throughout the popular music canon. But creating music that speaks truth to power while affirming the very things that make life worth fighting for is a much harder task. Bruce Springsteen could do it, Stevie Wonder could do it, and Sam Fender can certainlyContinue reading “Review: Sam Fender – Seventeen Going Under”

Review: Yola – Stand For Myself

Following her Grammy-nominated 2019 debut Walk Through Fire, English singer and songwriter Yolanda Quartey returns with an impressive second album. Much like its predecessor, Stand For Myself is rooted in country, soul and a smattering of rock ‘n’ roll, Quartey’s indomitable vocals coursing through the soundscape of 60s and 70s America. But along with moreContinue reading “Review: Yola – Stand For Myself”

Review: Bleachers – Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night

Maybe it was the dusky blue cover artwork or the vibrant energy of the singles or perhaps just the enticing, twilit romanticism of the title, but Bleachers’ third studio album Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night seemed poised to be their most cohesive and expressive LP to date. And on one hand the albumContinue reading “Review: Bleachers – Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night”

The Raincoats, and the imperfect humanity of music

If the ethos of punk rock was to rip up the hit-making rulebook, strip back the gloss and the excess, and value raw fervour over technical accuracy, then the Raincoats, formed in 1977 by then novice musicians Ana da Silva and Gina Birch, were perhaps the punkest of the punk. Their band took the homemadeContinue reading “The Raincoats, and the imperfect humanity of music”

Review: Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

Jubilee, the latest release by Japanese Breakfast, the project of American musician Michelle Zauner, could well be called an emotional rollercoaster – if rollercoasters only went downhill, that is. The album takes us from the infectious openheartedness of the buoyant lead single ‘Be Sweet’, to the devastating loneliness of final track ‘Posing for Cars’, whichContinue reading “Review: Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee”

Review: Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

Four years after the release of their Mercury Prize-winning album Visions of a Life, London-based band Wolf Alice return with another LP, brimming with their signature blend of fuzzy shoegaze and extravagant alt-rock. Blue Weekend sees the band aim for a grander, more lavish sound than they have produced thus far, resulting in a recordContinue reading “Review: Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend”