Lost in Music – John Meagher
EACH week John Meagher writes exclusively for Independent.ie.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Sharon Van Etten – Where Are We (Jagjaguwar)
In 2012, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter attracted rave reviews thanks to her wonderfully stark third album, Tramp. And then, last year, she popped up on The National’s slow-burning Trouble Will Find Me.
Something of an heir to the great Patti Smith, Van Etten is back with her most compelling work to date. Where Are We – there’s no question mark – is a lacerating examination of failed relationships.
Van Etten shuns the sort of trite observations that pockmark the songs of some of her peers and instead offers brutally honest lyrics that stay with the listener. How about this from album standout ‘Your Love is Killing Me’?: “Break my legs so I won’t run to you/ Steal my soul so I am one with you.”
Whether she’s singing about the horrors of domestic abuse or laying bare her own culpability in unhappy unions, a sympathetic listener will find a great deal to cherish here.
The arrangements are comparatively bare and Van Etten’s striking vocals are to the fore of every song. While it’s true that there’s little let-up in the bleak subject matter, it says much about her songwriting talents that the comparative absence of light amid the gloom doesn’t matter a whit.
One of the year’s best – up there with St Vincent’s latest.
Key tracks: Every Time the Sun Comes Up; Your Love is Killing Me
Take a listen here.
Printer Clips – Printer Clips (Bone China)
Paul Noonan has made a name for himself as Bell X1 frontman over the past 15-odd years, but now he’s stepped out on his own – with just a little help from his female friends.
Printer Clips – hardly the most inspired moniker, it has to be said – is both the name of his new project and debut album. Features duets with such international names as Stars’ Amy Millan and Martha Wainwright as well as the home-grown likes of Gemma Hayes and Cathy Davey, the 35-minute album is a sweet confection that showcases Noonan’s idiosyncratic brand of songwriting.
Perhaps the most fruitful pairing sees Noonan and Lisa Hannigan mesh their voices together beautifully on ‘Apparatchik’ – one of the more Bell X1-sounding songs on the album.
There’s also an inspired duet with the Australian singer Julia Stone (‘Some Surprise’) while ‘Vapour Trails’, which appeared on The Cake Sale album that Noonan was involved in back in 2006, is taken to a whole new place thanks to a fine performance from Joan as Policewoman.
Incidentally, Paul Noonan brings Printer Clips to the National Concert Hall, Dublin, tomorrow night – for those who can drag themselves away from the Champions League Final.
Key tracks: Some Surprise; Apparatchik
Have a listen to three Printer Clips songs here.
I have three copies of the Printer Clips album to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, simply email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the name of Bell X1’s most recent album. I’ll close the competition at 6pm this evening.
CLASSIC ALBUM REVISITED
The Smiths – Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
With a new solo album in the offing, World Peace is None of Your Business, and a new-found presence on Twitter, Morrissey is likely to be an especially busy man this summer.
New single ‘Istanbul’ has been getting so-so reviews, but there was little lukewarm about the extraordinary five years he spent as Smiths frontman between 1982 and 1987. Strangeways, Here We Come was the band’s swansong and while it may not be as celebrated in the canon as its predecessor, The Queen is Dead, its an album that has become more appreciated with the passing of time.
For my money, it’s the most complete of all Smiths albums and packed full of outstanding songs. ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’; ‘Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard this One Before’; and, ‘Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me’ are familiar to even the most casual Moz fan, but a “lesser” track, such as the record industry-baiting ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’ packs quite a punch.
And Johnny Marr’s guitar coaxes all manner of sounds throughout the album, not least on ‘Death of A Disco Dancer’.
Listen to ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’ here.
GIG OF THE WEEK
Camera Obscura, Button Factory, Dublin, Monday (€22)
For the 200,000 plus expected to attend One Direction’s three Croke Park gigs this weekend, there’s only one show in town. It’s probably fair to say that few of those boyband fans will be familiar with the oeuvre of Glaswegian outfit Camera Obscura, but they’re missing out.
A superb, female-fronted band offering a fine line in Spectorish pop, their hyper-literate songcraft stands alongside such Caledonian luminaries as Teenage Fanclub and Belle & Sebastian.
Listen to Camera Obscura’s Traceyann Campbell deliver a memorably downbeat rendition of Abba’s ‘Super Trouper’ here.