Death and Vanilla, Ronnie D'Addario, Rose City Band, RVG, Teleman, Warrington Runcorn New Town Development Plan.
The Front Runners
Flicker : Death and Vanilla
Everyone deserves a piece of this gentle, dreamlike album to help them feel at ease.
Death and Vanilla are a Swedish trio whose music seems to have nailed the essence of staying chilled. It’s hard to imagine them stressing their way through a soundcheck or panicking at a looming deadline. They’re more likely to run a bath to soak in at the end of a long, hard but satisfying day.
Take ‘Fearless’. It emerges from what might be called a jam, but that doesn’t capture the sense of ease beneath it. It’s the sound of a band that’s perfectly in tune with their way of making music.
There’s something dreamlike and hypnotic about it, the gentlest wake up call you’ll ever receive. ‘Find your Illusion’ is relaxed to the point of being nicely languid. The soft propulsion of ‘Out For Magic’, the melody of ‘Baby Snakes’ that reaches out to caress and embrace you, the multi rhythms of ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ in which every member plays apart - they’re siren songs, but lacking the potential to do you harm.
In their early days, Death and Vanilla were noted for their cinematic sound. It’s still there but it has been converted and integrated into self contained 3-4 minute pop songs. It’s not the only surprise nestling in these songs. There’s the light dub bass that comes in at the end of ‘‘Perpetuum Mobile’, the organ introducing ‘Looking Glass’, the all but ambient outro to ‘Mercury’s Rising’ and, yes, the lapping waves behind ‘Perpetuum Reprise’. Each of them is like an unexpected gift, thoughtfully chosen and neatly wrapped.
More than once in this album they sing about your state of mind. They’re here to soothe it. Don’t turn them away.
Taster Track : Baby Snakes
Garden Party : Rose City Band
Rose City Band (aka Ripley Steele and assorted friends) make music to escape to and lose yourself in. It’s a swirling, captivating trip.
They started as a porch band, rustling up the sound of lazy evenings under the fireflies aided no doubt by liquor and other relaxants. Somehow they’ve developed into a band that take you far. Technically, what they play may be called country rock but musically its huge, and capable of taking you to the stars.
Perhaps it started on a porch, but their music is now about wide open spaces. It’s the equivalent of steam trains moving effortlessly through mile after mile of open countryside. It’s nimble and light on its feet. Allow it to carry you along, enclosed in its bubble.
This is music that helps you to feel that only good can come of the world. Imagine taking your partner for a ride to the top of a ridge on a warm evening, sitting in your car and gazing silently at the world spread out below. Don’t let the feeling of that go because unheard soundtrack you’re picking out is this album and straight out of the universe is love.
There’s something immediately familiar and welcoming to the opening strum of ‘Chasing Rainbows’. And yet, this music is also rare. Few acts allow you to lose yourself so completely in their sound. Some dance acts perhaps, purveyors of electronic headphone music and Rose City Band. They draw on the jams of 70s album acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and The Flying Burrito Brothers. It’s as if they’ve uncovered a time capsule in which this kind of music has remained fresh and ready to use. The way that ‘Moonlight Highway’ trips into ‘El Rio’ is a small but special moment.
Ripley Steele has assembled a classy supporting act to help convey his musical vision. They’re an exemplary band of brothers, but special notice goes to Barry Walker on steel pedal guitar. It’s not allowed to swamp the music but he does an excellent job of flavouring it.
This is an album that lasts for 40 minutes, but it feels as if it’s gone in the blink of an eye. That’s a sign of its hypnotic power and a reason you’ll play it again and again.
Taster Track : Chasing Rainbows
Good Time / Hard Time : Teleman
Teleman are one of the most melodic bands of recent times. On their new album, which crept in unaccountably under the radar, they do not disappoint.
In the little press that accompanied the release, they teased that they had aimed for something new that they had nor tried before. Casual listeners who have dipped into their albums over the years may disagree but, listen carefully, and there is evidence that they have both tried that and succeeded too.
Opening track, ‘Short Life’, swaps the chilled vibe of 2022’s ‘Sweet Morning’ EP for something more urgent and even edgier. ‘Wonderful Times’ is also harder edged, the gathering clouds in an otherwise blue sky. But even when they sing as if they are in a bad mood it can’t last for long.
‘Cherish’ is the sound of Teleman from recent times. It’s the sound of “ A smile that melted the ice cream”. Not necessarily what you want to hear or witness when global warming is headline news! Its appearance midway through the album helps to crystallise the conflict running beneath the surface. On this album their positive sweetness calling card is pitched against the evidence and feeling that the world at the moment is, well, a bit shit. The good news is that the positivity and light comes out on top.
Singer Thomas Sanders is a big part of the appeal. His voice is full of an inherent sweetness that hasn’t fully grown up. It’s tempered by sadness at the sense of innocence slipping away.
In addition to the sugar sweet melodies, - ‘The Girls Who Came To Stay’ is sooo relaxing - these are songs that quietly bounce like the footwork of a top sportsman. They’re like a more substantial, less ephemeral Lightning Seeds.
There’s a track here called ‘The Juice’. I’ll have a gallon of what they’re drinking!
Taster Track : The Girls Who Came To Stay
The Chasing Pack
All Gathered In One Room : Ronnie D’Addario
This album is a curiosity. It’s out of step with much that’s around in music at the moment but it is, nevertheless, an enjoyable listen that exploits a lucky dip of influences.
Most people won’t have heard of Ronnie D’Addario. He’s a journeyman musician, inspired by the Beatles. He’s also the father of The Lemon Twigs, so he’s having an influence in the 21st Century even as his own songs hark back to the original Summer of Love.
This is a throwback to the time before electronics took over and the only limit on your songs was the boundary of your imagination. Here, we have the sounds of 60s psychedelic chamber pop, excerpts from unpublished teenage operas and even a sea shanty.The titles - ‘The Telegram’, ‘Come One Come All’ and 'Belle of the Ball’ - pin the songs to an era. It feels like music of the 60s, looking back to concerns of the late 40s and 50s. It’s a classic pop version of ‘Guys and Dolls’, a series of stories of youth retold through sepia spectacles.
‘All Gathered In One Room’ is emphatically not a Christmas album but songs like ‘The Journey’ share some of their warming, nostalgic sentimentality like remembering chestnuts roasting around a log fire. It’s calling out for a children’s choir to accompany it. It’s hard to pin down the tone. Elsewhere, on a song like ‘In Your Face’, there’s a sense of settling old scores.
What’s more certain is that it is riddled with the catchiest melodies, melodies that will be dug up untarnished in a hundred years’ time. They’re melodies to share with your best friend but, equally, to inflict as earworms on your most irritating enemy.
‘Come One, Come All’, in both forms found here, rekindles the spirit of rock and roll. ‘A Shot In The Dark’ rolls out of the speakers with the style and flavour of Squeeze’s ‘Hourglass.’ Elsewhere, you can detect the sweetness of Randy Newman without the cynicism.
These are songs made for radio, gems to cut through the static, memories of the past preserved in vinyl.
Taster Track : A Shot In The Dark
Brain Worms : RVG
Intensely personal Australian rock. It’s more Patti Smith than Bruce Springsteen.
There’s a groundswell of good Australian bands taking punk as their launch pad floating just beneath the surface of today’s music. To A Swayze and the Ghosts, Amyl and the Sniffers and Civic amongst others you can now add RVG to that list.
RVG is the vehicle for Romy Vager. She took inspiration from Patti Smith in naming her band the Romy Vager Band, before shortening it to its initials to take the focus off her. That’s a decision slightly at odds with the songs which are very much about her.
Vager takes life and death seriously. ‘Tambourine’ covers a funeral held under Covid restrictions. The root cause of this seriousness is found in communication failures, the difficulties in talking. Communication, for RVG, is either too hard or too late.
She sings from the material inside her head. In ‘You’re The Reason’ she pleads for empathy. That’s tricky when it includes the stuff of serial killers in nightmares (‘Giant Snake’) and, in ‘Squid’, her belief that :
“I didn’t intend to be
Some hideous turquoise thing.”
Lashing out at the things and people who are wrong in her life is a useful form of therapy, but it can make for an uncomfortably intense listen, one that heads for the door marked ‘emo’.. RVG just about avoid that fate. In ‘Common Ground’ they carefully navigate their way to a good song by making choices that steer the songs towards tunes and melody. ‘Midnight Sun’ is rawer, rougher, better. On their single ‘Nothing Really Changes’ they find the balance between the thoughts in Vager’s head and a poppier sound. It’s not a sell out, but it is a refreshing lighter and accessible. It’s relentless in a good way and allows itself to fade away rather than come to an abrupt climax.
There’s a lot to enjoy here. They don’t need to lose the sense of pain and personal injustice, but If they can take the thoughts in their head and make them more universal they could have a bright future.
Taster Track : Nothing Ever Changes
The Nation’s Most Central Location : Warrington Runcorn New Town Development Plan.
Beneath this dull performing name, lies an electronic vision of things that have gone badly wrong. It’s not an uplifting piece but it delivers a stirring and damning indictment of remote decision making and its consequences.
I know. That summary above, and the title of the album itself, makes it sound like a bureaucrat’s soundtrack. It’s more than that, and better too.
As a lesson in musical atmospherics, this scores 10/10. The vision contained in this album is relentlessly delivered in every track. It’s so fully realised that the music almost slips into the background. The Warrington Runcorn New Town Development Plan are looking back decades to work out what went wrong, what consequences unfulfilled the forecasts. This is the soundtrack to those reflections. Be warned. It’s the music of Kafka’s unseen governors, not the frustrations of the Vicar of Dibley’s parish council meetings.
The atmosphere is threatening, foreboding and unavoidable. The music offers an ugly cement and concrete view of the world. It nails the lie contained in the title ‘A Brighter And More Prosperous Future’.
The tracks are built around throbbing bass lines that in ‘Rocksavage’ and ‘Daresbury Laboratory’ capture the feel of a heartbeat under stress. Slowly, some musicality crawls through the atmosphere to lighten a track such as ‘Thelwall Viaduct’.
This is an impressively delivered work but would you listen to it for pleasure? It’s like watching a chilling documentary or reading a disturbing book. You might feel that the experience is valuable but perhaps not that you want to revisit.
Taster Track : Daresbury Laboratory
(Post Script : There are several claimants to be the Nation’s most central location. The Ordnance Survey have calculated that the ‘honour’ belongs to Lindley Hall Farm in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire. Now you know.)
As ever this week's Taster Track playlists can be accessed at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7cSveL7NpVp1xgrKxPe4av?si=SkFlSnvySeuYFpgG0WJFmA or via the Spotify link on the Home Page. The link to the Youtube playlist is https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwV-OogHy7Eh_sy55y6i18Qj7w_Z3CQft
The Shadowplay playlists are at: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/01iU7Jy80SMvJO5QBF7Oux?si=00d9d1fb8b2f4baa and https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwV-OogHy7EjsaT8idWnNv42LqIGEGSmH&feature=share