In about 45 minutes I’ll be taking myself to see this man live for the first time, so this is a nice little send-off before I get on the road.
The start of the video for “Duquesne Whistle”, the first single from Bob Dylan’s new album Tempest, is upbeat and lighthearted, but that quickly changes. You’ll learn two things from watching it: Don’t be a stalker, and Bob Dylan has THE most bad-ass entourage on the planet.
Tempest is released on September 11th and below you can watch the new video via Rolling Stone.
On Wednesday I’ll get to fulfill a dream of mine since discovering Bob Dylan’s when I was a kid: I finally get to see him live, and I’m fucking pumped!
I still remember laying on my top bunk back home in Edinburgh watching VH1 Classics and his live video for “Tangled Up In Blue” came on, and I was instantly mesmerised. Since then I’ve been having a musical love affair with the man’s music, and as he’s getting ready to release another album, his 35th in his 50 year career, we can now listen to the first piece of music from it.
“Duquesne Whistle” is fantastic, and lines like “You say I’m a gambler. You say I’m a pimp. But I ain’t neither one” show that his mind is still as sharp and as witty as it was 50 years ago. It’s taken from Tempest, out on September 11th and you can listen to it below!
Keaton Henson’s music is beyond meaningful. His absolute desolate approach to everything he makes is original and interesting. The minimalistic vibes and touches on his debut album Dear…were astronomically detached and depressing. Tracks like “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are” and “Small Hands” were perennial at nature. The sound is just plucky guitar and falsetto lyrics, and you can’t refrain from thinking, “That doesn’t sound like it could mean that much.” But you’d be wrong.
Even with this track or any other track, there’s so much minimalism and beauty in this dark, depraving sound that Henson perfects. “Sweetheart, What Have You Done” adds a cello and more of the same. I can’t wrap my head around how Henson manages to pull so much out of so little. Yes, Bob Dylan did the same with protest songs and sometimes heartfelt tracks similar. (I’m looking at you, “Ballad In Plain D”.) But Henson does it in a whole different kind of way. Instead of being directly and openly depressing, like Dylan’s music, Henson channels it through the waves and crests of the music.
Two things I’m a huge fan of ; Japandroids and guys who can do a cover that brings elements to the table which were either subtle or non-existent in the original.
It’s no secret that by playing a song on acoustic it’s instantly going to feel deeper and draw more emotions from the listener. We all get that acoustic songs seemingly bare an importance that no plugged in track could ever hold a candle to, look at Bob Dylan, his electric albums are the best he ever created but put on “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” or “Blowin In The Wind” and tell me you don’t instantly have a connection that “Maggie’s Farm” could never bring.
Oddly it’s not so much the acoustic aspect that makes what Beat Radio (Brian Sendrowitz) has done so great, it is the fact that he has taken a song that was a James Dean “Rebel Without A Cause” angst driven soundtrack to making ones own life happen and turned it completely on it’s heals. If you were in a band on your first tour the original is what you would listen to upon entering the highway on the way to the first show in another state, this remake is what would get played on the drive home when the lack of sleep, truck-stop food, and a desire to just be yourself has you almost in tears.
The original is a statement, Beat Radio have changed it into a concession of remembrance. Celebration Rock is in my top five albums of the year so I’m not taking anything away from Japandroids when I say this, but I think I may actually like Beat Radio’s cover better than the original (oh the blashphemy!), right or wrong it’s true.
From being the “voice of a generation” to plugging in, from being wrecking his motorcycle to writing the most painstakingly heartbreaking album ever recorded, from visiting boxers in jail to giving himself to God, and from making great records into his fourth decade to performing on a Never-Ending Tour, Bob Dylan is the most versatile and unpredictable artist in music. In the past 50 years, Dylan has released 34 studio albums.
Well, get ready. Tempest has been announced. His 35th studio album will feature ten new tracks. I’m hoping that this album will be just as good as his past few albums - you know, Together Through Life, Modern Times, “Love and Theft”, and Time Out of Mind. If so, we’re in for a treat on September 11. Then again, he’s Bob Dylan. He could make anything.
You can read the official statement here. And now, I leave you with a Rolling Thunder Revue performance, circa 1974, of the lead track of Blood on the Tracks.
- “Duquesne Whistle”
- “Soon After Midnight”
- “Narrow Way”
- “Long and Wasted Tears”
- “Pay in Blood”
- “Scarlet Town”
- “Early Roman Kings”
- “Tin Angel”
- “Roll On John”
After opening for Bon Iver in 2008, Kristian Matsson garnered countless comparisons to Bob Dylan because of his folky wanderlust and romantic, husky crooning. Matsson’s last release, The Wild Hunt, built the foundation of his music around his potentially abrasive vocals, allowing his lyrics to shine through. There’s No Leaving Now, his third album as The Tallest Man On Earth, is hardly a departure from his notoriously nasal style, but offers another glimpse at Matsson’s mix of beautifully composed guitar, blanketed by enigmatic folk stylings.
Matsson sounds more relaxed, even from the start of album-opener “To Just Grow Away”, which contains the typical The Tallest Man On Earth sound of jangling acoustic guitar and lyrics that feature anecdotal relationships between life and nature. The album’s single, “1904”, is the familiar combination of crystalline acoustic guitar and Matsson’s powerful wail and, as a single, it shows the separation between new and old The Tallest Man On Earth sounds. Though the difference may be subtle, Matsson’s raspy delivery is less blistering in the past, seeming like a guised pop track once the chorus kicks into gear.
There’s No Leaving Now features much more instrumentation than past records. Matsson opted for percussion, multi-layered riffs, and even piano. His energy is not as brash this time around as he opts for a calmer, more reflective demeanor that’s perhaps less distinct also. He is more successful in slow-burning songs like “Criminals” and “On Every Page” because he turns everything down except his voice, allowing it to fill the empty space. When he sings the chorus on “On Every Page” he hits a high note that will bring shivers to your spine and, to be honest, that is the furthest musical outlier in this album.
Even though There’s No Leaving Now does not expand anything but Matsson’s songbook, longtime fans of Tallest Man may notice a lack of urgency from Matsson’s vocals that previously appeared on tracks like “King of Spain” and “The Drying of The Lawns”. The raw power of Matsson’s past recordings are dulled down on this record to make way for a shinier presentation and, for singer-songwriters like him, this is a natural progression. Instead of supercharging his voice to the brink of blowing out the speakers, Matsson shows more inhibition.
What he hasn’t phoned in at all is his image, still that of a beloved troubadour, laying on thick lyrics like “whatever happened to the boy is now a tale for the seas” and “I’m just a rock that you’ll be picking up through the ages.” Matsson’s lyrics are still rich with natural imagery and vigorous self-proclamation, straddling the line between hyper-metaphorical and deeply personal. He’s always been a master of avoiding convoluted lyrics and staying genuine to his image, and this record is no exception.
There’s No Leaving Now is a fine follow-up to The Wild Hunt because it shows artistic growth while adhering to his same general approach. Simply, if you were a fan of The Tallest Man On Earth, you should most likely dive head-first into this record. If you disliked his sound in the past, nothing on this album will change your mind. A friend of mine recently likened Matsson to Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen in that their fans value smartly written songs over showy musicianship. Even though Matsson is clearly musically talented, his voice paired with acoustic guitar is his strong-suit and he wears it well on this album.
Okay, the first thing I absolutely have to talk about before anything else is this darn cover. I believe the idea was to have a classy cover that complements this Frank Sinatra-influenced album. This album artwork is so trashy; it looks like a little girl did it on Word. It isn’t even properly centred. Look at the word ‘Walk’: the ‘K’ barely fits on and the ‘W’ has a whole load of space. And, have they changed their name to ‘The Walk Men’? Why on earth is their name broken in to two words? I don’t call myself Step Hen. Anyway, it’s only artwork and in no way does it represent how good the music is, which is, after all, what actually matters.
I love even-numbered years for one reason: there will (without a doubt) be a new Walkmen album. Not once have the dedicated band let down their fans; they have always managed to release an album every two years following their debut, which (although its’ hard to believe) was ten years ago. “Heaven” is an album that looks back on the band’s career. It’s full of lyrics about certain points in the band’s career; the video for the title track features photos from day one of their career all the way through to recording this album with Phil Ek.
When anyone says the word “Walkmen”, a certain image pops in to my head: the band is playing in Spain at around midnight, with Hamilton Leithuaser sporting a buzz cut and a certain stance so that he’s able to yell as loud as he can; the lighting makes the whole band look like silhouettes. Now, if you’ve never seen the band before and have only heard this album, it wouldn’t be far out for you to think that they all sport Iron & Wine type beards and sit on stools at their gigs. This album’s music continues the space and air of “Lisbon” with a touch of rock ‘n’ roll that features Hamilton Leithuaser’s best Robin Pecknold impression.
For the people who are worried about the lack of rock or angst in this album (like I was), do not fear. This album is a lovely, dreamy album, but be realistic: The Walkmen aren’t going to release an album without any fast-paced, thumping jams. “The Love You Love” is the “Angela Surf City” of “Heaven” and “The Witch” is quite haunting. Although I remember when Leithuaser smashed his way through the songs and broke the sound levels at gigs, I quickly forget all about it when Ham is picking away at “Southern Heart”, a quiet solo song (!), or when I hear “We Can’t Be Beat”, a song with a Fleet Foxes feel and the drumbeat like that of a marching band.
The album might not go down well with people who criticize Hamilton for mimicking Bob Dylan, because if there’s one thing “Heaven” does, it’s to use the music as a velvet cushion for the crown that is Leithuaser’s vocals. There are plenty of comparisons to be made to Dylan and Leonard Cohen and people may hate it, but in of the six albums under The Walkmen’s belt, Ham’s vocals have never sounded more distinguished or more polished. Maybe instead of accusing him of mimicking said icons, he should be placed amongst them as an icon himself. I believe that he’s the greatest singer of our generation and a true lyrical genius.
Throughout the album there might be a few too many ‘whoa oh ohhhh”s for my liking. “Nightingales” and “Heaven” are the prime culprits. They come off a little corny, but thinking about it, most of this album is corny. Pretty much every song is a love tale; the album is even called “Heaven” for Christ sake. There’s nothing cornier than that.
If there’s one thing they know how to do, it’s how to end the album magnificently. The final song, “Dreamboat”, is the most emotional song in their entire career; it pulls your heart strings like never before, and when Leithuaser sings “no no no no no no” it’s one of those moments that absolutely destroys you. On paper they might not sound like the most powerful lyrics in the world, but trust me, they are… and pretty corny too.
These days, it really is a rarity for a band to manage to release an album every two years, and it’s even more of a feat to imagine them doing it for ten more years. They all have families, and to release an album bordering on amazing after it felt like “Lisbon” came out just last week shows a genuine fondness for their career. This is why The Walkmen are one of my all-time favourite bands. Other bands wish they could do what they do. “Heaven” makes me think about The Walkmen’s entire career; it’s something so unique and special that they really should be proud of all they’ve accomplished. I would say that this is one of the best albums The Walkmen have created, but I suppose I say that about all of them. They really can’t be beat.
The Swedish singer/songwriter returns with a limited 12” Record Store Day release of his single, “King of Spain” off of his second full-length, 2010’s “The Wild Hunt”, the b-side of which is a cover of the Paul Simon staple, “Graceland”, originally off of his 1986 album of the same name.
The cover was originally recorded in 2010, but because it was only available on his European tour behind “The Wild Hunt”, he decided to make it a b-side to his Record Store Day release so that Americans could purchase it.
While covering this classic Paul Simon single, The Tallest Man On Earth really makes it his own by maintaining his usual raw-sounding vocals, drawing comparisons to Bob Dylan, as opposed to Paul Simon’s more polished sound in the original track. He also employs a banjo, giving the song an even fresher, new vibe.
Although this single isn’t on the album, The Tallest Man On Earth will be releasing his third full-length studio album on June 12th via Dead Oceans, right before kicking off a brief tour, including stops at Newport Folk Festival and Lollapalooza.