Listening Post: Ed Sheeran/The Hot 8 Brass Band/Anonhi/Bardo Pond
Our weekly wrap of new music.
Ed Sheeran has a way about him that is refreshingly down-to-earth, genuine and heartfelt. He isn't necessarily the most studied — as in a Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen — songwriter but what seems clever to the brain is often removed from the everyman touch of pure emotion. Not only is Sheeran at his most autobiographically honest - "learned to sing in the Lord's house but stopped at the age of nine" (Eraser) and "the club is not the best way to find a lover ... put Van the Man on the jukebox and then we start to dance" (Shape of Things) - he's such a natural for a good melody, verse and chorus, whether he is being Ed the Rapper, Ed the Balladeer or Ed the bluesman. On his much-anticipated (and already commercially monstrous) third studio album, Sheeran expands his musical palette with a more exploratory sound that shows, despite any preconceptions, he's more than a man with a guitar with a sweet voice and has the kind of pop smarts that we've come to expect from Justin Timberlake. Divide will conquer.
The Hot 8 Brass Band
On the Spot
Nothing represents the New Orleans sound as much as a good brass band, and there are few brass bands that rival Hot 8. Long one of the crescent city's finest, Hot 8's latest comes out just before the band's performance at this year's WOMAD. It can be a hard job capturing the organised chaos of good brass bands on record, but On the Spot does a fine job. It's all good stuff, infused with that classic New Orleans sound. The highlight may just be a stunning version of St James Infirmary, the old standard kicked up a gear by boundless energy and some startlingly proficient horn solos. They're a class act. Turn it up, shut your eyes and imagine you're in a sweaty Bourbon Street bar, a beer in your hand and the Hot 8 blowing deep into the night.
Second solo release from British-born transgender singer Antony Hegarty. This is vocally driven electronic with, at times, lyrical content that's harsh and heavy. In Ricochet she sings "I'm going to hate you my God" presumably at some kind of divine figure she feels has harmed her. This is not light hearted music but there's a power to it that comes with the sheer strength of Anohni's voice. She doesn't rely on thick production, and doesn't feel the need to compromise with accessibility. Instead Hegarty creates a sound that's equally unsettling as it is peaceful, in much the same way Radiohead has done in recent years.
Under The Pines
The sludge in the Bardo Pond is as murky and chemically toxic as it has always been. The American-based psychedelic prog-rock group — one part Dinosaur Jr another Merzbow — continue to try to make sense out of fuzzy logic and an album that, at 41 minutes long and broken into six tracks, is like a kaleidoscope that constantly changes before your ears. Vocalist Isobel Sollenberger and her sometimes abstract, sometimes wistful dream pop lyricism is again central to the musical dialogue, where a moment of musical clarity such as the title track, is submerged afterwards in free noise, trippy flutes, gruby guitars and steady stoner rhythms.
Mike AlexanderThe Ho
- Sunday Star Times