Thursday, 19 March 2020

Rádio Macau ‎– Rádio Macau (1984)

Style: Alternative Rock, Post-Punk, Pop Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: EMI

1.   Um Dia A Mais
2.   A Noite
3.   Bom Dia Lisboa
4.   Até O Diabo Se Ria
5.   Diabos No Paraíso
6.   No Cenário Habitual
7.   Mais Uma Canção Sobre Edifícios A Arder
8.   É Tão Fácil
9.   No Comboio Descendente

Bass – Alexandre
Drums – Ramalho
Guitar – Flak
Synthesizer – L. Filipe Valentim
Voice – Xana
Arranged By – Rádio Macau
Producer – Francisco Vasconcelos, Pedro Vasconcelos, Rádio Macau

Lambchop ‎– FLOTUS (2016)

Style: Post Rock, Abstract
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: City Slang, Merge Records

01.   In Care of 8675309
02.   Directions to the Can
03.   Flotus
04.   JFK
05.   Howe
06.   Old Masters
07.   Relatives
08.   Harbor Country
09.   Writer
10.   NIV
11.   The Hustle

Bass – Matt Swanson
Contra-Alto Clarinet, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Cornet – Matt Glassmeyer
Drums, Drum Programming – Scott Martin
Guitar, Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Drum Programming – Ryan Norris
Backing Vocals – Alicia Bognanno
Guitar, Vocals, Written-By, Producer, Painting – Kurt Wagner
Piano, Electric Piano – Tony Crow
Producer, Engineer – Jeremy Ferguson

ver the course of Lambchop’s two decade-plus career, they have been remarkably consistent. Even with their various lineup shifts, there have never been any tumultuous breakups, no big reunions, no major controversies. Any of their 12 studio releases could reasonably be your favorite. But while each of their albums sound unmistakably like Lambchop, no two of them sound quite alike; from the bouncy alt-country of Thriller, to the stark lounge folk of Is a Woman, through the sweetly orchestrated ballads of their last album, 2012’s excellent Mr. M. As a frontman, Kurt Wagner—with his inimitable baritone, like an agoraphobic Bill Callahan—has also shifted and stretched in his own quiet way. Sometimes he’ll greet you with a pre-coffee grumble; other times, he’s singing in the shower with a wispy falsetto. Like any good leading man, Wagner redefines himself for the role he’s playing, but he never lets you forget that he’s in control. 
So while FLOTUS, the band’s Vocoder-drenched, largely electronic new album, might initially feel like a shock, the reinvention is not entirely unprecedented. Last year saw the release of The Diet, an album by Lambchop side project HeCTA– featuring Wagner, as well as drummer Scott Martin and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Norris– that found Wagner singing his characteristic melodies over dance beats and au-courant synths (“You shouldn’t have to change a thing, except your mind,” he sang in the album’s highlight). Those ideas come into full bloom throughout the nearly-70 minute FLOTUS, though it’s less tentative and more seamless, with even Wagner’s vocals sounding like an instrument in the mix (this is not merely Lambchopped and Screwed). Like Bon Iver on 22, A Million, Lambchop exist here as a modern Americana act refusing their genre’s assumed aesthetics. But unlike the post-Yeezus cacophony of 22, A Million, FLOTUS is as lush and gorgeous as any of Lambchop’s past work, sometimes floating by with the luxurious chill of hotel lobby music, but never losing its sense of direction. 
With the majority of the album eschewing traditional song structure, the most immediate way to listen to FLOTUS is as a bridge between its twin epics: the opening “In Care of 8675309” and its closer, “The Hustle.” In Lambchop’s lineage of long, slow-burning album openers, “8675309” is their longest and their slowest-burning. It also serves as a smooth gateway into the band’s new sound, with Wagner’s heavily effected vocals–like the church organ setting on a cheap keyboard with the speakers muffled–rising from tentative opening notes to full-blown crooning by the end, accompanying one of the album’s best melodies. Wagner has cited both Kendrick Lamar and Shabazz Palaces as inspirations for his new direction, but a more fitting reference here might be Future, whose use of Auto-Tune is less ornamental and more foundational to his very cadence and word choice. As such, “8675309” is not merely a great Lambchop song with a weird vocal effect; it’s a great Lambchop song because of the weird vocal effect.

“The Hustle,” on the other hand, arrives at the end of the record devoid of any vocal effects. Hearing Wagner’s untreated voice by that point makes it sound even more powerful and vulnerable. “I don’t want to leave you ever,” he opens, his voice warbling and reverberating all on its own, “And that’s a long, long time.” Over the course of its jazzy, stuttering 18 minutes, the song slides between movements, like Destroyer’s similar tour-de-force “Bay of Pigs,” before closing with the faint sound of piano. “It was raining like a movie/And it was hard to look away,” Wagner sings, a fitting metaphor for how captivating and uncanny but wholly natural the song feels. 
While none of the other tracks on the album are as immediate as “8675309” or as stunning as “The Hustle,” they each reveal their charms on repeated listens. The ones that focus on simple, repeated phrases–like “You are very remarkable” in “NIV” or “Take it on the chin” in “Directions to the Can”–become catchy in an effortless way. The less vocal-focused songs function as opportunities to appreciate the other members of the band. Tony Crow’s piano in “Howe” is as lyrical as any of Wagner’s appearances, and Matt Swanson’s bass in “Old Masters” slithers with soulful charisma. Every part of the record speaks to the greater whole, from the album cover (a close-up shot of Wagner’s wife, Mary Mancini, the Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party posing with Obama), to the title: both an acronym for “First Lady of the US” and, according to the liner notes, “For Love Often Turns Us Still,” a meditation on how simple things still render us speechless. “Given enough time, I can pretty much draw a correlation between any separate objects,” Wagner has said. The disparate pieces of this album play to that strength, unfolding like a long riddle. 
It’s to the band’s credit that FLOTUS exceeds its novelty. In a year when Springsteen, Bowie, and the creator of a hit Broadway musical have all cited Kendrick Lamar’s music as an inspiration, FLOTUS does not come entirely out of left field; it’s a solid, satisfying listen, devoid of context. Wagner’s lyrics are as cutting as ever (“See the flowers wilt/From the government they built/As the hammers wail/On a ship that hasn’t sailed”) and the band already sounds comfortable with their new sound, settling into a weightless groove that make you feel as if they’ve played this way forever. It’s one of Lambchop’s greatest strengths, that even when they’re overtly experimenting, they wear it as naturally as the garish pearls that have adorned their stage attire. “There’s that old saying about an artist having only one or two good ideas in his life and is doomed to repeat them,” Wagner recently said in an interview. “I reject that notion. I think I have maybe five.” What’s clear after listening to FLOTUS, is that he’s only getting started.
Sam Sodomsky / Pitchfork

Rosie Lowe ‎– Yu (2019)

Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Wolf Tone

01.   Lifeline
02.   The Way
03.   Birdsong
04.   Pharoah
05.   Valium
06.   Mango
07.   ITILY
08.   Little Bird
09.   Royalty
10.   Body // Blood
11.   UEMM
12.   Shoulder
13.   Apologise

The Leeds-based singer Rosie Lowe debuted in 2013 with “Right Thing,” a brooding R&B-soul hybrid that made the aftereffects of a breakup sound like being submerged in a sensory deprivation tank. Her atmospheric 2016 LP Control explored the emotional give-and-take of modern dating, and despite being cloistered by a few too many glazed, anonymous synths, there were quietly compelling songs (see: the body-image treatise “Woman”) to bear out Lowe’s songwriting finesse. For follow-up YU, Lowe improves on her formula by expanding her circle. Calling on a diverse group of collaborators ranging from Jay Electronica to Floating Points, she assembles a warm-blooded pop/soul/funk hybrid that charts the ups and downs of a relationship. 
Lowe’s lyrics can sometimes scan as overly simplistic, as on the icily aimless “Valium,” but her songwriting blooms when she leans on more fantastical metaphors. Early highlight “Pharoah” struts on a swaggering bass line and a hypnotic organ sample from Pharoah Sanders’ 1977 “Memories of Edith Johnson,” while Lowe conjures Egyptian gods and goddesses: “My hair is Nu/My face is Ra/My eyes are Hathor/But worlds apart.” On the simmering “Mango,” she plays Eve seducing Adam, ratcheting up the double entendres: “I adore the selection you bring/It’s your platter that makes my tastebuds ring/…And I’ve been looking for some fruit for my tree.” 
Her gravelly, soaring voice is supported by Lowe’s longtime producer Dave Okumu, who adds dynamic, rubbery synths that feel like HD upgrades of his work on Control. On the disorienting highlight “ITILY,” a sweeping synth line underpins Lowe's moony thoughts of an affair: “Don’t wanna come on strong but he has gone out/And he won’t be home for another three hours.” The warped effect mimics the head rush of forbidden romance, with the repetition of the one-line chorus (“I think I love you”) drilling in its obsessive side-effects.

YU’s guest features occasionally come across as half-baked. The pop-minded “The Way,” driven by a jaunty bass guitar, is a bright spot until Jay Electronica settles into a long-winded, tacked-on guest verse addled by clumsy references to UK landmarks as well as the groan-inducing couplet, “Show me the way like Glinda Good Witch/My heart’s so tired like BFGoodrich.” Elsewhere, she casts a who’s-who of singers to fill in as a Greek chorus to better effect: Jamies Woon and Lidell, Kwabs, and Jordan Rakei make up the head-spinning, processed backing vocals on “Birdsong,” which also features a skidding, Jai Paul-ian electric guitar. 
YU comes to us via Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone Records, which may account for its vague sense of boutique-y, almost-too-tasteful A&R-ing (Epworth has steered Adele and Florence and the Machine’s music to similarly refined ends). Yet Lowe’s sophomore album retains a distinct point of view, with her folkloric sensibility and forward-thinking production shining through despite some smoothed-over platitudes. Lowe is only growing as an artist, and YU heralds a bright future. 
Eric Torres / Pitchfork

Nérija – Blume (2019)

Style: Contemporary Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Domino Recording Co. Ltd.

01.   Nascence
02.   Riverfest
03.   Last Straw
04.   Partner Girlfriend Lover
05.   EU (Emotionally Unavailable)
06.   Blume
07.   Equanimous
08.   Swift
09.   Unbound
10.   Blume II

Alto Saxophone – Cassie Kinoshi
Double Bass – Rio Kai
Drums – Lizy Exell
Electric Bass – Rio Kai
Flute – Nubya Garcia
Guitar – Shirley Tetteh
Mastered By – Chris Potter
Tenor Saxophone – Nubya Garcia
Trombone – Rosie Turton
Trumpet – Sheila Maurice-Grey
Mixed By, Producer – Kwes

The loud and energetic septet Nérija is just the latest formidable voice to emerge from London’s jazz scene. In the last few years, the city has produced some of the most vital players in improvised music, including drummer Moses Boyd, saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, and tuba player Theon Cross, all of whom draw on influences as disparate as grime and Afrobeat. Now, Nérija has entered the discussion with Blume, a collection of earthy, atmospheric, and danceable tracks. Although it folds in sounds from all over the world, there is a distinct sense of terroir—you get the sense that this music could only have come from London.

The group—including tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia, trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, alto saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi, trombonist Rosie Turton, guitarist Shirley Tetteh, drummer Lizy Exell, and bassist Rio Kai—play all across the city in various configurations. They have released one promising EP, but the 10 original compositions on Blume stand apart. The players have a familiar rapport that still allows room for risk, and the music thrums with tension while never losing the reggae and funk bits that remind you this is club music at heart.

The horn lineup puts forth gritty, layered voicings that give the septet the air of a big band. The first track, “Nascence,” feels like it could have emerged from a horn-heavy Blue Note album circa 1965—Wayne Shorter or Herbie Hancock, perhaps. Then the rhythm section enters with a stuttering cadence rather than a swing feel, throwing you off balance. Mid-album tune “EU (Emotionally Unavailable)” begins with just the rhythm section of Tetteh, Exell and Kai; settling into a heavy, rock-ish vamp, deep and satisfying, they sound like they could plausibly produce a fine album of their own.

Nérija bill themselves as a collective, not a group, and they leave plenty of room for individual voices to shine. Garcia, whose excellent debut Nubya’s 5ive was released in 2017, blows sultry, fluid lines as well as thick, repeated phrases that bring to mind a jam-band saxophonist crossed with Coltrane. Maurice-Grey and Turton are both loose and smeary players, roughing up the music’s finer edges. Kinoshi is a dexterous improviser, as on “Swift,” but still makes room for long tones that give her solos emotional depth. Exell, a master of funk, makes great use of her drum kit, with a gluey snare, a resonant bass drum, and dark, chunky cymbals. Kai’s lines hold everything loosely in place.

Tetteh emerges as the album’s unexpected star. The absence of another chordal instrument like the piano gives the guitarist room to stretch out when it comes to melody, harmony and texture. Her rhythmic accompaniment is tight and in the pocket, but often gets weird and spacey, sounding like a mixture of Nile Rodgers and Mary Halvorson. Her improvisations—particularly on “Riverfest” and “Partner Girlfriend Lover,” which she wrote—are superb, crisply stated, and engaging. Tetteh—who also sings on her solo project, Nardeydey—has one of the most distinct voices on the album, and that’s saying quite a bit. At its best, Blume is a testament to the rich aesthetic diversity of London’s jazz scene.
Matthew Kassel / Pitchfork

Louis And Bebe Barron ‎– Forbidden Planet (Original MGM Soundtrack) (1976)

Style: Abstract, Soundtrack
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Small Planet Records, Poppydisc, Rev-Ola

01.   Main Titles - Overture
02.   Deceleration
03.   Once Around Altair
04.   The Landing
05.   Flurry Of Dust - A Robot Approaches
06.   A Shangri-La In The Desert / Garden With Cuddly Tiger
07.   Graveyard - A Night With Two Moons
08.   "Robby, Make Me A Gown"
09.   An Invisible Monster Approaches
10.   Robby Arranges Flowers, Zaps Monkey
11.   Love At The Swimming Hole
12.   Morbius' Study
13.   Ancient Krell Music
14.   The Mind Booster - Creation Of Matter
15.   Krell Shuttle Ride And Power Station
16.   Giant Footprints In The Sand
17.   "Nothing Like This Claw Found In Nature!"
18.   Robby, The Cook, And 60 Gallons Of Booze
19.   Battle With Invisible Monster
20.   "Come Back To Earth With Me"
21.   The Monster Pursues - Morbius Is Overcome
22.   The Homecoming
23.   Overture Reprise

Composed By, Producer – Louis And Bebe Barron
Mixed By – Louis Barron

The Whitest Boy Alive ‎– Rules (2009)

Style: Indie Rock
Format: CDVinyl
Label: Modular Recordings, Universal, Asound/Bubbles

01.   Keep A Secret
02.   Intentions
03.   Courage
04.   Timebomb
05.   Rollercoster Ride
06.   High On The Heels
07.   1517
08.   Gravity
09.   Promise Less Or Do More
10.   Dead End
11.   Island

Bass – Marcin Öz
Drums – Sebastian Maschat
Guitar, Vocals – Erlend Øye
Mastered By – Bo Kondren
Mixed By – Norman Nitsche
Producer – The Whitest Boy Alive

First of all, I'm not sure this record even belongs on RA. It's pretty untechno, and as The Whitest Boy Alive's website states, "[we] started as an electronic dance music project in 2003. It has slowly developed into a band without any programmed elements." According to the band, each of the tracks was recorded live, with no overdubs. But the quartet still manages to bring a sequenced sensibility to the music. In fact, it's probably Erlend Øye's most head-noddable release to date. It's a playful record, and a grower that sweetens and deepens with repeat spins. 
On early tracks "Keep a Secret" and "Intentions," guitar streamers flap through gusts of Rhodes piano, building a sort of pseudo-improvisational suite of Tropicália twee rock. On "Courage," Øye's trademark cotton-mouthed vocals get an unusual workout as he shouts, "Show some courage, courage, courage." Slow-burner "Rollercoaster Ride" has the narrator lamenting "Waiting every day for a line / For a sign from you," but this song is more like a melancholy cruise than a trip on the Giant Dipper. Supposedly, these are songs about breaking the rules, but really, they're about wondering if the rules were really there in the first place. 
Keyboardist Daniel Nentwig gets down with his bad Doors-y piano self on the uptempo "1517," as Øye jazzily remarks that "people in northern Europe since medieval times / We find it hard to deal with when our dreams come true." As usual, his lyrics are articulate but vague, honest but non-confessional, and delivered with a distinctive, reedy affect. (If cries of pop anguish are called screamo, can sung-spoken snatches of European self-reflection be referred to as "thinko"?) 
There's a tight jamminess to Rules, with quick-turn crescendos, clean-as-hell guitars and truly exceptional percussion from Sebastian Maschat that dashes and shivers and purrs like a happy porch cat in the sun. The occasional Mesozoic synth stab appears, courtesy of a vintage Crumar, though the most electronic track on the disc, "Dead End," is still at its core a warm guitar song. It smokes, too. 
After the haunting "Island," the record is gone, its last harmonic echoing faintly. Rules explores much of the same emotional territory as Dreams and the two KoC LPs: longing and loss, relationship disconnects, tension between adult caution and childlike overstimulation and so on, but this record feels clearer, more optimistic, and certainly has a cannier rhythm section. Maybe it belongs on RA after all.
Noah Barron / Resident Advisor

The Whitest Boy Alive ‎– Dreams (2006)

Style: Indie Rock
Format: CD Vinyl
Label: Modular Recordings, Universal, Asound/Bubbles

01.   Burning
02.   Golden Cage
03.   Fireworks
04.   Done With You
05.   Don't Give Up
06.   Above You
07.   Inflation
08.   Figures
09.   Borders
10.   All Ears

Bass – Marcin Öz
Drums – Sebastian Maschat
Guitar, Vocals – Erlend Øye
Producer – The Whitest Boy Alive

Those of you who have stayed up late watching ESPN2 may have stumbled across a very unusual bit of television: The Whitest Boy Alive competition. Contestants from around the globe (the middle latitudes, at least) battle in a series of events designed to judge the breadth and depth of their Caucasianness, facing off in contests like Quickest Sunburn, Jumping Inability, Lack of Rhythm, Star Trek Fan-Fiction Writing, NASCAR Identification Quiz, and, of course, hockey. 
Apparently I missed the season where Erlend Øye won the coveted golden-golf-ball belt of The Whitest Boy Alive, but apparently the musician is proud enough of his accomplishment to have named his latest project after the award. It's no surprise that Øye was such a formidable candidate; after all, he hails from notorious WBA powerhouse country Norway, and despite being quite poor in the Lack of Rhythm competition, his Nordic skin resembles an Atomic Fireball with the most miniscule of sunlight exposure, and he looks like he'd be an encyclopedia of TNG-era Trek facts. 
Øye's pride in his title might fool you into thinking the Whitest Boy Alive is, as the name would indicate, some kind of tee-hee ironic white-kid rap project; thankfully, it's not. After making delicate whisper-folk as half of the Kings of Convenience, a collaborative electronic solo record, and rechristening himself "The Singing DJ" for a well-received DJ-Kicks set, Øye now takes the step of making electric music, "rock," for lack of any better term. Hewing close to the soft side of the genre, Dreams presents a sound that invokes every Scandinavian stereotype not yet broached by this review: socialism-clean, winter-wind crisp, expensive-sounding, and unfailingly polite. 
Like the similarly fussy Phoenix, Øye applies each element of his four-piece band with obsessive meticulousness, creating a tight, rhythmic sound that is so unfunky it comes back around to funky again. Reflective of his DJ set's taste for Kompakt-style glossy house, TWBA's drumming is metronomic and efficient, while the bass, guitar, and keyboards gently entwine with drill-team precision, imagining if Kraftwerk had produced Fleetwood Mac. 
Whether you find this winterfresh concoction to be electrifying or sedative depends on your temperament, or your thoughts on previous Øye work; all the new-fangled amplification doesn't do much to raise the singer's library-voice volume. Øye attempts to mix things up by indulging a heretofore unknown taste for guitar solos, nothing too flashy, but still providing a bit of fang on an otherwise toothless record. When the guitar spotlights are kept at a messy-chord rhythm-guitar level (as on "Burning", or the nicely inverted progression of "Inflation"), they're satisfying, like intentionally making a mess of a neat freak's kitchen counter. When the solos turn to extended vamps, as on "Down with You", they only magnify the music's hypnotic qualities, for better or worse (mostly worse). Elsewhere, on "Above You", Øye tries to animate his stiff sound with playful keyboards: a crunchy clavinet that successfully adds some strut, and a bloopy synth that ruins the strut by making it sound like they're jamming with R2D2. 
Still, despite the stylistic embellishments, Øye can't completely escape his now well-established persona; that same restrained voice, those same detached melodies, the same room left for silence, no matter whether it's set against folk, electronic, or rock trappings. There's still life left in that formula, but transferring it from genre to genre must be getting exhausting-- Øye himself sounds a bit groggy by the drum-less closer "All Ears". The taut, prim pop of Dreams does revitalize Øye's approach for a time, but by the end of the album the novelty is somewhat lost, a promising sound extinguished by the singer's refusal to expand his vocal horizons. Blame it on a conflict of interest: The Whitest Boy Alive contest frowns upon excessive displays of vocal exuberance, and its champion and house band are obligated to comply. 
Rob Mitchum / Pitchfork

Suzanne Ciani ‎– Seven Waves (1982)

Style: Experimental, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Finnadar Records, Victor

1.   The First Wave: Birth Of Venus
2.   The Second Wave: Sirens
3.   The Third Wave: Love In The Waves
4.   The Fourth Wave: Wind In The Sea
5.   The Fifth Wave: Water Lullaby
6.   The Sixth Wave: Deep In The Sea
7.   The Seventh Wave: Sailing Away

Composed By, Arranged By, Performer, Producer – Suzanne Ciani

Seven Waves is Suzanne Ciani's first album. She started recording it in 1979, finished it in 1981, and released it in Japan in 1982. The first U.S. release was in 1984. She re-released it in 1995 on Seventh Wave, her own label, named for this CD. She recorded this music on vintage electronic equipment, most of which no longer exists. This set is a conglomeration of Ciani's electronic wizardry, her new age sensitivity, and her innate romanticism. The atmospheres and soundscapes are dense and gentle. Her melodies hover above and within the soundscapes. This is classic e-music and essential listening for all fans of electronic new age music. It evokes responses similar to those evoked by Kitaro, Constance Demby, Nik Tyndall, and Lisa Lynne. 
AllMusic / Jim Brenholts

Tindersticks ‎– Simple Pleasure (1999)

Style: Art Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Island Records, Mercury, Simply Vinyl

1.   Can We Start Again
2.   If You're Looking For A Way Out
3.   Pretty Words
4.   From The Inside
5.   If She's Torn
6.   Before You Close Your Eyes
7.   (You Take) This Heart Of Mine
8.   I Know That Loving
9.   CF GF

Backing Vocals – Gina Foster, Jenni Evans
Baritone Saxophone – Dave Bishop
Bass – Mark Colwill
Cello – Oliver Kraus, Sarah Wilson
Drums – Alasdair Macaulay
Guitar – Neil Fraser
Keyboards – David Boulter
Tenor Saxophone – James Talbot, Phil Todd
Trombone – Neil Sidwell
Trumpet – Steve Sidwell
Violin – Calina De La Mare, Charles Nancarrow, Eduoard Wood, Harvey Brown, Lucy Wilkins, Ruth Gottlieb
Electric Violin , Keyboards, Vocals – Dickon Hinchliffe
Vocals – Stuart A. Staples
Arranged By  – Dickon Hinchliffe
Music By – Boulter, Hinchliffe, Staples
Producer – Stuart A. Staples

After three albums of increasingly easy on the ear orchestral vignettes, Tindersticks decided to shake it up a bit for fourth album Simple Pleasure. The strings are still very much in place, but now they’re more soulful than mournful. 
Sadness is never far away in the Tindersticks world, but here it comes through inaction (Forgiveness is what I need sings Stuart Staples on I know that loving. If I could only get out of the water) rather than violent or instinctive action. On the album’s final song, CF GF, he’s ready to go one step further: ‘I won’t make you cry, tell you lies, never say goodbye’. At the same time, because life is not so simple for those who are not so beautiful, he feels the need to qualify this pure tenderness: Some nights I could crawl in beside anyone. 
Sadness starts the album, albeit sadness with hand-claps. From the opening bars of Can We Start Again you know something slightly different is going on with Simple Pleasure: taking the place of the Tindersticks album duet here are almost gospel-like backing vocals. And if that wasn’t startling enough, they follow it up with a cover version of Odyssey’s 1980 single ‘If You’re Looking For a Way Out’, and somehow make it seem like a Tindersticks original. It’s utterly entrancing, and a measure of how far from their début they’ve suddenly travelled. This is the anti-’Jism’. 
Both ‘If She’s Torn’ and ‘(You Take) This Heart of Mine’ are truly beautiful ballads, but its in the album’s final two offerings that we come back to the brilliance of the album’s opening. I Know That Loving and CF GF provide a perfect and fitting end to this new / old / new version of Tindersticks. The former, gospel backing in tow, and images of water and altars brings to mind a river baptism, a cleansing, as the strings swirl and eddy, and horns interject. And as for CF GF, suffice to say it’s an implausibly soulful ballad, shining even among the stellar company it keeps on Simple Pleasure. 
After three albums of unerring beauty, but which had Tindersticks getting dangerously close to formulaic, typecast as the orchestral Cave / Cohen wannabes that they never wanted to be, Simple Pleasure was a perfect side-step into new territory: by stripping back the sound, with the addition of backing singers, Tindersticks somehow took their sound to new levels of poignant beauty.
Neil / Record Rewind Play

Tindersticks ‎– The Waiting Room (2015)

Style: Alternative Rock, Art Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: City Slang, Lucky Dog

01.   Follow Me
02.   Second Chance Man
03.   Were We Once Lovers?
04.   Help Yourself
05.   Hey Lucinda
06.   This Fear Of Emptiness
07.   How He Entered
08.   The Waiting Room
09.   Planting Holes
10.   We Are Dreamers!
11.   Like Only Lovers Can

Alto Saxophone – Jason Yarde
Tenor Saxophone – Julian Siegel
Trombone – Harry Brown
Trumpet – Byron Wallen
Performer – Dan McKinna, David Boulter, Earl Harvin, Neil Fraser, Stuart A. Staples

Tindersticks turn 25 this year. It’s a remarkable feat for any band, but even more impressive than the Nottingham outfit’s longevity is their consistency. Tindersticks have never released a bad album (or even a middling one), never made an opportunistic, trend-driven shift, and have never done anything that might date their music to its moment of origin. They’re the rare group that can lay claim to a signature sound, yet tweak the formula from album to album so that each of their 10 records possesses its own distinct character. The skies in their world may be forever gray, but the clouds are always moving and morphing, letting in the faintest flickers of light that change the size and shape of the shadows they cast.

The richly atmospheric, nicotine-stained quality of the Tindersticks’ music makes it an ideal complement to TV shows and films, whether their songs are soundtracking pivotal scenes on "The Sopranos" or comprising entire scores for French art-house maverick Claire Denis. But on The Waiting Room, that dynamic is reversed: the band handed off its 11 tracks to various filmmaker friends (including Denis, Christoph Girardet, Pierre Vinour, and Gregorio Graziosi) as inspirational fodder for accompanying short films packaged with deluxe editions of the record. The album opens with a cover of Polish composer Bronislau Kaper’s "Follow Me," aka the theme song from the 1962 film adaptation of Mutiny on the Bounty; in Tindersticks’ hands, the original’s tiki-torch splendor is given a gritty makeover that pushes it closer to Midnight Cowboy territory. It’s a perfect scene-setter—The Waiting Room may not feature any songs about oceanic expeditions, but the band sure know their way around tales of backstabbing and betrayal.

Yet for all the band’s filmic qualities, the action in frontman Stuart Staples' lyrics is always more psychological than physical. The weightless Wurlitzer tones of "Second Chance Man" and "Were We Once Lovers?" respectively set Staples’ inner turmoil against brassy swells and disorienting disco. And just as the latter track appears to achieve liftoff, Staples delivers a dispiriting chorus line—"how can I care if it’s the caring that’s killing me?"—that forsakes rapture for rupture.

The Waiting Room might be Tindersticks’ most subdued effort to date, but it still flashes the irreverence that enlivened efforts like The Something Rain and Falling Down a Mountain. On "Help Yourself," an uncharacteristically louche Staples shakes off his troubles by swaggering onto the floor of the Shrine in Lagos circa '72 (and the novelty of the Tindersticks going Afrobeat is savvily mirrored by Denis’ companion clip, which depicts French-Caribbean actor Alex Descas roaming the shopping-mall concourse of a French train station, nonplussed by the white European consumer culture surrounding him). An even more wondrous surprise arrives in the form of "Hey Lucinda," a wobbly-kneed waltz that finds Staples communing with the spirit of the late, great Montreal chanteuse Lhasa de Sela, an occasional Tindersticks collaborator who died of cancer in 2010. It’s like a fleeting reminiscence of someone who’s passed, but one that leaves you smiling from the warm memories rather than weeping over their absence.

The beautifully languid "Hey Lucinda" contrasts sharply with The Waiting Room’s other big-ticket matchup, "We Are Dreamers," which sees Staples joining forces with Jehnny Beth of Savages and the Tindersticks tapping into that band’s brooding menace. It’s the moment where all of The Waiting Room’s mounting tension is finally released, into an outsider anthem that recasts material impoverishment as spiritual empowerment ("You can rob us/ You can trick us/ Peer over our shoulders and steal our ideas") as Beth and Staples’ voices intertwine and overlap before locking into the song’s rallying cry: "This is not us/ We are dreamers!" But in the Tindersticks’ world, every dream is followed by a rude awakening; following that climax, the bitterly fatalistic closer "Like Only Lovers Can" pairs '70s soft-rock sway with a cutting chorus: "We can only hurt each other the way that lovers can/ So where do we go?" Appropriately, many of the visuals that accompany these songs emphasize distance and emptiness: black-and-white footage of a wedding from the '50s; a seaside fairground after the tourists have gone home; taxidermied animals. They’re moments and entities once bustling with life, but which now exist as faded memories or shells of their former selves. And for so long as we pine to make them real again, there will be exquisite Tindersticks songs to help us fill the void.
Stuart Berman / Pitchfork