Sunday, 26 February 2012

Athlete's Union Chapel Anthems...

Athlete are one of those bands that, whilst successful, have not managed to scale the higher strata of music business status despite notable awards and plaudits. Indeed, although there musical output is relatively compact, it is definitely a matter of quality rather than quantity. There anthemic approach to songwriting, recording and their live performances have inspired both loyal fans and appreciative listeners. Their strength relies on producing songs that have intelligent, yet charming, lyrics and memorable melodies that readily induce the Old Grey Whistle effect.

This latest release is a snapshot of the last night of their 2011 'Stripped Down' tour, a subset of the full setlist, but all the songs have that sense of familiarity from airplay and the TV broadcasts of their festival sets. Last night I settled down, donned my headphones on and treated myself to an uninterrupted listen. Unlike many first CD auditions I found myself happily riveted, encapsulated by the mood of the event and, as each song ended, smiling broadly in appreciation.

With a consummate line-up that knows these songs every which way, it is a delight to hear the re-inventions played with such ease and feel. And there is plenty of imaginative re-invention, with drummer Stephen Roberts combining percussion with beat boxes as well as kit. The balance and sound is approached differently, too, yet nothing is out of place or overpowering. Bassman Carey Willetts has a couple of starring parts along with a little out of tune passage, which, of course, makes it all totally authentic!

Singer Joel Potts makes a point of complementing keyboard player Tim Wanstall for his contribution, rightly so, as his playing throughout is sublime (even though there's what sounds like one little fluffette just before Joel's introduction!). The vocals are excellent throughout, too, although I suspect there has been some minor tweaking as I am sure I can hear some harmonies sung by Joel ;-) Mr Potts has one of those singer's voices, very distinct, easily identifiable and the way he phrases the lyrics is special.

The CD album captures those live gig moments, introductions and banter have been left in without detracting from the overall production, the atmosphere builds as they launch into 'Flying Over Bus Stops' gently, then building with a Jónsi-esque 'Grow Til Tall' climax. This is then followed by the closing track, 'that' song, 'Wires'. As per when I enjoyed their set at the Greenbelt Festival in 2009, the song is reprised after the tumultuous applause, culminating in just the 'congregation' singing with gusto and conviction, wonderful!

ATHLETE - LIVE AT UNION CHAPEL will be released on 27th Feb 2012 - purchase direct (as I did!) from Athlete HQ here.

Joel closes his anecdotal sleevenotes with this:
It's pretty nerve wracking playing in such a setting. I mean, everyone sitting in the pews and God is somewhere at the back.
And God saw that it was good... very good...


Saturday, 25 February 2012

Dustin Kensrue - please come home...

Mixing a familiar parable with a narrative style lyric sung from the Father's perspective in the 1st person, an inspiring piece from Dustin Kensrue, lead singer of Thrice...

But I know what you're thinking
That you've troubled me enough
Nothing could ever separate you from my love
I still stand here waiting
With my eyes fixed on the road
And I fight back tears and I wonder
If you're ever coming home.
Don't you know, son, that I love you
And I don't care where you've been
So please come home...

Friday, 24 February 2012

Bruce Springsteen taking care...

From Bruce's new album 'Wrecking Ball', another anthem demonstrating his lyrical ability to provoke a challenge in a statement...

Read more from The Telegraph: Bruce Springsteen: I enjoy artists who take on the world


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday Sacred Surprise

A view from across the not-so-wide pond from authoress Diana Butler Bass. A conclusion could be that the word 'Religion' has a less virtuous interpretation over there? However, the narrative (~3.17) about the priest in the Chicago area going outside the church to offer the Ash Wednesday marking with a cross is surely truly sacred? Perhaps this is a compelling illustration of the important distinction between the yearning for religious practices rather than seeking sacred moments...


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Living Lenten Love...

Another wee idea for Lent giving... born out of my weakness for tea and coffee which I've found works well for the last couple of years and now some folk have asked me to explain in more detail.

The principle is to total up an amount equivalent to the value of every drink drunk regardless of whether you paid for them or had them bought for you. So rather than cutting out those (vital!) morning caffeine oral injections and risking the potential of a skullcrushing headache this little spreadsheet sums up all your drinking at home and/or out and about during Lent. The final sum can then be given to a suitable good cause, my preferences are Microfinance sites such as Kiva or, my personal preference, UK based Deki. The template for this year (2012) is available to download here which even allows those with a Catholic disposition the option to leave out Sundays ;-)

An interesting side effect of this process is that this does enable some self discipline both in moderating drinking habits and reducing mean-spirited attitudes!

Meanwhile for another approach during Lent check out Tearfund's Carbon Fast:

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Friday, 17 February 2012

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Out of the roof came forth sweetness...

Have lived below a colony of wild bees for the last five years who have kindly created all this honeycomb (4.5 cubic feet) ready for some seriously local honey to be extracted. East Mersea's bee man Peter Inson both supervised opening up the roof and safe removal of the bees which will now be under his care. He estimates this haul should produce around 80lbs of honey with a shelf life of ~4,000 years!

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Saturday, 11 February 2012

Many are cold...

Just a tad on the cold side last night! Am left wondering if it was even lower in the dead of night?
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Monday, 6 February 2012

OK Go nail it yet again!


Offical blurb:

The new music video from OK Go, made in partnership with Chevrolet. OK Go set up over 1000 instruments over two miles of desert outside Los Angeles. A Chevy Sonic was outfitted with retractable pneumatic arms designed to play the instruments, and the band recorded this version of Needing/Getting, singing as they played the instrument array with the car. The video took 4 months of preparation and 4 days of shooting and recording. There are no ringers or stand-ins; Damian took stunt driving lessons. Each piano had the lowest octaves tuned to the same note so that they'd play the right note no matter where they were struck. For more information and behind-the-scenes footage, see and Many thanks to Chevy for believing in and supporting such an insane and ambitious project, and to Gretsch for providing the guitars.

Director: Brian L. Perkins & Damian Kulash, Jr.
Director of Photography: Yon Thomas
Editor: Doug Walker
Producer: Luke Ricci


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Just when you thought it was safe...

You know what it is with some bands that get back together and come out with an album? Sometimes it is marginally less than terrible, even for blindly loyal fans, then other times they deliver something special. The latter sums up the new collection of material from rock veterans Van Halen - A Different Kind Of Truth - released tomorrow Monday 7th Feb, a cracking selection of quirky songs which take advantage of more sophisticated production techniques since their inception in the 70s... 4.5 stars!