New music – January 2016

Sarah Blasko – Eternal Return

Sarah Blasko’s musical output over the years has been remarkably consistent and she’s not about to trip over with her fifth album – this one a tad more pop orientated and synth-heavy, with 80s flavour to some of the songs. Quality listen and solid songwriting from start to finish. I can’t say I’ve ever been emotionally moved by her music – even at her most confessional there’s just something chilly and distant about it all – but there’s definitely something very beguiling about her and her raspy-yet-ethereal voice.

John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

I loved Queen of Denmark, Grant’s outstanding solo release from 2010, but for some reason skipped over the follow-up. I’m glad I got acquainted with this most excellent third album. It’s got some of the same gorgeous guitar/piano balladry from his debut, plus experimental electronic weirdness. Some songs are outright funky! Nothing on it is as affecting and emotional as the first two tracks on Queen of Denmark, but Grant’s smooth baritone is just wonderful to listen to and his lyrics are so good and off-the-wall bizarre here they’re worth sitting down with the booklet to make sure you don’t miss anything. They go from touching to acerbic to self-deprecating to hilarious; how about this bit of character assassination which demonstrates why it’s never a good idea to have a bad break-up with a musician:

You and Hitler oughta get together
You oughta learn to knit and wear matching sweaters

On coming to terms with being HIV-positive:

I can’t believe I missed New York during the 70s,
I could have gotten a head start in the world of disease
I’m sure that I would have contracted every single solitary thing

however…

There are children who have cancer,
And so all bets are off
Cause I can’t compete with that

And then on another song he namechecks:

Rachmaninoff, Skriabin, Prokofiev,
Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Vysotsky and Lev

which warmed my little Russian heart. Most of these names are pretty famous, but Vysotsky? Respect.

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