Dec 18 2012

Bat For Lashes’ ‘The Haunted Man’ reviewed

 Bat For Lashes The Haunted Man reviewed

Bat For Lashes, AKA Natasha Khan, decided to isolate herself from the external pressures of those who expected a new hit in the vein of 2009′s ‘Two Suns’. The Brighton artist composed and recorded her new album ‘The Haunted Man‘ in the Umbria countryside and this decision appears to have benefited her work.

The Brighton native’s return is stripped (right down to the Mapplethorpe style cover) and inspired as can be heard on the beautiful ballad “Laura” (which continues a tradition of first name single titles) and the Gotye-esque “All Your Gold“.

All the usual elements of the Bat For Lashes sound are present; minimal Middle Eastern rythmic patterns, subtle electronica bursts that never outstay their welcome and Khan‘s voice which, as displayed on opening track “Lillies“, can truly be regardes as one of the best heirs to the throne of Kate Bush and Elizabeth Frazer.

This album can be considered a coming of age for Bat For Lashes succeeded in producing an album that is even more passionate and sincere than it’s predecessors pushing ‘The Haunted Man‘ amongst the best, and possibly the very finest, release of her short discography.

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Post by Mario
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TRACKS:

badge itunes lrg Bat For Lashes The Haunted Man reviewed

doublecougar Bat For Lashes The Haunted Man reviewed


Sep 27 2012

Athena live @ Bush Hall, London

athena BushHall lores Athena live @ Bush Hall, London

This review is long overdue… A few months ago we were treated to an audience with Anglo-Greek songstress Athena, in the subtly decadent surroundings of Bush Hall, Sheppard’s Bush. London.

It’s a fitting venue for Athena’s musical style as Bush Hall is unique in its ability to stand as a relatively large venue yet still retain a feeling of sparkling intimacy. Athena herself looks striking in glamorous white robes suited to the occasion (or a schmaltzy cocktail party), either way, there’s no denying that in line with those mythical Greek goddesses before her, Athena is quite a picture.

Here’s a run-down of the show’s highlights.

Athena opens with recent single ‘Finding England’. Clearly in an entertaining and engaging mood, Athena blasts this one out with big bold vocals to within a whisker of her full singing ability. Funny that the song on CD is quite a cutesy sounding mellow affair – none of that here.

Peeling Apples‘, the title track of her album is another earthy affair but sang with soft grace which gives you a strong yank in to her heartfelt lyrical sphere. A bit like being hit over the head with a hardback nursery rhyme book, but it’s a welcome juxtaposition.

Wrestlers Mask‘ – a definite highlight in Athena’s repertoire – is a beautiful song about a Japanese wrestler who likes to keep his mask on. Nice and simple in story line “you don’t have to keep your mask on” etc but the melody, arrangement and vocals on the track are by far the most memorable and chin stroking of the night. Think Nerina Pallot meets a sad Dawson’s Creek scene, maybe where Pacey doesn’t quite get to pork that Milfy teacher so scuffs his way back home via moon-lit park benches – or something like that. As horrendous as that might sound, it somehow works.

By now you maybe guessing that Athena is something of love or hate kind of artist, and you’re most probably right. Those resident in the ‘hate’ camp would probably have little time for the track ‘Tears Are Only Water’ – a woosy ballad draped in uplifting tragedy crooned over a grand piano. Then there’s the somewhat self-explanatory ‘Love Will Conquer Everything’ – they’d hate that too, and to be fair, that little number is just a little far over the mushy line for me.

However, amongst the Kleenex stripping, duvet-on-the-sofa-with-onesie-covered-in-maltesers-crumbs-ness of it all does lie some genuinely bright sparks of songwriting and natural performance talent. Most probably nurtured during her time in New York where she was taken under the wing of a music teacher from the elite Juilliard School of Performing Arts.

As the night moves on we get a cracking Kiki and Elton-esque duet in the form of ‘Set in Stone’ a chirpy ditty that relieves us from the more somber feelings of its predecessors, but then ‘Little Jane’ is just a little too chirpy for my liking. The overly bouncy-pop melodies make it sound something like a Fisher Price advert, although that’s mildly vindicated by the song’s message which reaches out to ‘Little Jane’ and tells her not to worry about being one of those perfect poster girls. A worthy enough message but by now I’m yearning for more mourning.

Luckily enough we’re back in to Athena’s staple diet of the yearning ballad in form of ‘I’ll Never Know‘ – which is infinitely more stomachable than “Love Will Conquer Everything” from earlier, despite its simple romanticism it certainly hits the emotional spot and at this point I realise I’m getting slightly caught up in it all! Pull yourself together man. Athena does have a rare magnetism and at the risk of using one of the tiredest clichés in the book – she draws you in. Yep, I just said that.

These are followed by ‘Butterflies’ apparently an oldie which carries a convincing silky seductive manner reminiscent of the Rat Pack – albeit slightly more demure and minus the testosterone. And I was doing so well not to give in to a Kate Bush comparison, but here it is (I hate myself). ‘Looking At Me Looking At You‘ is an upbeat peaking and swooping demi-yodel which starts off with a folky erstwhile intro in the vein of Joni Mitchell before exploding in to the theatrical piano plinky-plonky style of Katie B herself although. It is however, very entertaining and in Athena’s own soft style it’s another highlight of the show.

This is followed by another mushy, otherwise forgettable number and then a song for Greece – called ‘Song For Greece‘ which I didn’t quite understand.

All in all, and after a rather lengthy set – some 90 mins including chit chat and between-song commentary, Athena has put on a thoroughly gratifying and professional show and there is no doubt to her obvious talents for astute songwriting and painfully catchy melodies. If you can sift through the moments of slightly affecting chaff you’ll be handsomely rewarded with golden wheaty goodness.

The album ‘Peeling Apples’ is out now.

TRACKS:

badge itunes lrg Athena live @ Bush Hall, London

doublecougar Athena live @ Bush Hall, London


Mar 16 2011

Introducing Kat Boelskov

katboelskov Introducing Kat BoelskovDanish singer/songwriter Kat Boelskov describes herself as having no musical training whatsoever, impossible to define genre-wise and, despite having not played a single gig to date, has self-recorded her debut album ‘Amateur‘ in her small Copenhagen apartment.

Genre defying as she may be, there’s on obvious debt owed to the likes of Kate Bush and Tori Amos from the off in Boelskov‘s intense, creative vocal performances, which sound comfortable across a huge range. She seems stylistically fearless, lacing her compositions with wails and yelps and launching at one point into a quasi-scat vocal solo that comes ever so close to become absurd, but ends up being entirely in keeping with the tone of manic intensity that permeates this record.

This spirit of creativity finds its way into the production and arrangement of the songs too, but with slightly less consitency than in the aforementioned vocal adventures. Much of the album is wonderfully pitched, ideally arranged for a home recordist, with sparse, ambient arrangements that leave space for meandering vocals; tracks like ‘Peace‘ underpinned by a flexible fretless bassline and ‘Everything‘, with it’s sparse, dark groove and swinging, thumping tom-tom drumbeat provide the perfect foil for Boelskov’s voice, rarely sounding inhibited by the productional limitations of a self-recorded setup.

The same can’t be said for ‘Girls in Love‘, where a synthesised horn section creates an unfortunate feeling of the ambitions of the album over-reaching themselves somewhat and conjuring up the wrong sort of connotations implied by the album’s title. Then there are those other times where there are sounds on the record I’ve just never encountered before that, in their kookiness are unexpectedly enjoyable. ‘1 Thing u Should Know’; is backed by a completely bizarre quick-decay honky-tonk piano sound which, despite being unusual and surprising, seems to make sense with the song, and offers something that feels both original and worthwhile.

In all, ‘Amateur‘, if it’s intended to be judged on a level with commercially produced releases (which the blurb of Boelskov‘s website seems to indicate it is) is a little bit hit and miss, without the focus or coherence needed for this record to fully sustain the interest of the listener; something which this singer undoubtedly deserves. For each of those beautiful, stripped down moments, where she sounds at home and in control, there’s another where you can’t help but wish for the guiding hand of a Paul Epworth or even a Guy Chambers to make things sound bigger and better, and perhaps even encourage the odd big chorus, another thing that a part of me feels this album might be a little short on.

That said, one can’t help but think Kat Boelskov is a woman very much of her own mind, and that the idea of doing everything herself, even if she’s not that good at it is the whole point. Whatever the case, while this may not be a fully realised picture of the artist, there’s potential in spades, which I’m sure we’ll hear realised one way or another some time soon.

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The first of many contributions by new Cougar monsieur Shane Water

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TRACKS:

badge itunes lrg Introducing Kat Boelskov

doublecougar Introducing Kat Boelskov



Mar 14 2010

Jaeger Shots

4425398201 efdd5202d9 Jaeger ShotsToday’s Sunday treat has been on rotation for some time Cougar HQ and I’m glad to finally expose the multi-talented Jaeger. The American (no location specified) sings, produces, remixes and DJs very much on her own terms and the results are evident from her internet presence.

Her own tracks sound like a bizarre cross between Kate Bush and The Knife with its moody keyboards, exuberant vocals and somewhat mystical vibes. Meanwhile her remix of ‘Reckoner‘ gives the track a tribal feel that is not  unappreciated.

Enjoy the sunshine, and enjoy Jaeger over at www.myspace.com/JAEGERsound

doublecougar Jaeger Shots