“What am I doing in Dubai?”, asks Aldous Harding at the start of ‘Zoo Eyes’, the third track on her third album, ‘Designer’. It would be a good question for almost anyone, but seems particularly pertinent for a New Zeland born avant-garde singer-songwriter. We never find out the answer, it being Harding’s practice to sing in riddles (a latter section of the song goes something like “I drove my inner child to a show / We talked all the way home / In the nectar”). But if that’s a problem then it is the only one with this perfectly wonderful, constantly inventive, total ear-worm of a record.
On Thursday night I found myself in church. As someone who has been an atheist since starting to read science fiction at the age of twelve, St John’s in Bethnal Green was an unlikely venue for an evening’s entertainment, but William Tyler was playing and a church turned out to be the perfect venue for his beautiful acoustic guitar finger-picking. @williamtylertn
All I knew about the East Pointers upon entering the Lexington last night was that, according to my friend, the lead singer is the most beautiful man she’s ever seen. I don’t feel qualified to give a definitive view on that, although he did have a great hat, but the band were straight out of the top drawer.
This year’s Festive Fifteen, my annual round-up of the best new songs I have had the pleasure of hearing this year, is the product of a multitude of influences. I discovered three of the artists at the wonderful Green Man Festival in Wales. Five tracks reached my ears courtesy of the ever-wonderful BBC Radio 6 (6 Music if you must). Only three were record shop recommendations, probably the smallest total in my decade of Festive Fifteens, and a sure sign that I am not spending enough time in those educational establishments. But that is balanced by the fact that I have enjoyed live shows by more than half of the featured artists – a very healthy state of affairs.
Gruff Rhys is an artist who specialises in creating something new, unique and wonderful at least once a year. Markontour and other fans of the band which brought him to indie-fame were distraught when the Super Furry Animals went on hiatus in 2010, but left to his own devices Gruff Rhys ventured off in all kinds of interesting directions. Last night we had the pleasure of seeing him in his latest incarnation, a seer of dystopia, performing his new album, Babelsberg, in front of a rapt Oxford audience.
This year marks the centenary of the first performance of Holsts’ epic symphony, ‘The Planets’, and a few Saturday’s ago I was lucky enough to enjoy a celebratory performance at the London Barbican. It was magical experience, giving this amazing work new life and, courtesy of Professor Brian Cox’s enthusiastic presence, introducing the latest scientific thinking to a piece of music whose creation owed more to astrology than astronomy.
I haven’t written any ‘Album of the Week’ reviews for a while, primarily because every time I put on my headphones I just want to listen to Israel Nash. His latest offering, ‘Lifted’, is a hippy Americana chill-out album, that inspires relaxed smiles. I saw him perform at Rough Trade in Brooklyn a few weeks ago and it was an equally blissed experience, despite the inspiration for much of the album coming from Nash’s despair at the state of American politics.