Dead Man Walking (soundtrack) (1996)

Well, not a “soundtrack,” as the “music from and inspired by the motion picture” of Tim Robbins’ excellent 1995 film, Dead Man Walking.

Ah, the dreaded “music from and inspired by the motion picture” album.  The lasting legacy of Jerry Bruckheimer’s popbuster era, where each tent-pole film had to have a hit single, and the hit single also led a compilation album of songs that might have been heard in the film. Or might be similar in theme or feel to the film.

Or, most likely, songs that the record company paid the film’s producers to put on the album for a bit of cross-promotion.

Thankfully, the popbuster has mostly gone the way of the big-name-star led action films they accompanied,[1] and buying a soundtrack album these days actually means you’re getting, you know, the musical soundtrack to the film.  But, for a while there, every film had to have the accompanying album of odds and sods.

And, of the thousands of horrible albums released to tie in with a film, thousands of horrible albums with music from and inspired by, there’s quite a large number of very worthy albums.

Including this album for Dead Man Walking.

Continue reading

Alcest – Shelter (2014)

I love finding new music.[1]

Image from wikipedia

Today, it’s a French shoegaze band by the name of Alcest, with their recently released album Shelter.

Recommended to me through a facebook group that is causing me to spend far too much money,[2] I searched the web and discovered that the only (legal) online outlet available to me was iTunes.

Cue three days worth of fighting with iTunes.[3]

But, finally, this Saturday morning, I get to put on this recommended album.

Wow.

Big beautiful walls of guitar sound.  Dreamy, layered vocals, shifting in and out of awareness.  The French lyrics adding to the feel of romance and disassociation. I wonder how this would sound if I actually, you know, spoke the language?

No matter, because right now not speaking French just eases my mind into hearing the smooth, husky, sometimes near inaudible vocals as just another layer into this vast shoegaze sound.

Continue reading

Rhian Sheehan – Stories From Elsewhere (2013)

Wellington’s Rhian Sheehan has been constructing intricate and gorgeous instrumental (mostly) music for a while now, both for albums under his own name and for a number of film and television projects.   His 2009 album Standing In Silence was a masterpiece, propulsive electronic elements carrying forward an album tied together by sampled musical boxes, hints of guitar, and massive symphonic emotional heft.

"Stories From Elsewhere" cover art by Kieran Rynhart.

“Stories From Elsewhere” cover art by Kieran Rynhart.

Sheehan’s latest album, Stories from Elsewhere, is a more organic thing.  The electronica elements are still there – loops of bells, chimes and music boxes[1], but they’re further subsumed within great swirls of strings, piano, guitar and bass, and drums.

Drums.  When I first heard the live drums played by Steve Bremner roll into track two, “The Upper Sky,” I was taken aback by the unexpected new element in Sheehan’s sound. Deep and laden in echo, cymbals splashing white noise throughout the mix.

Almost distracting, quite unexpected, carrying a sense of organic space that was quite unlike the intimate closeness that lay within the sound of Standing in Silence.  But utterly representative of where Sheehan was going with Stories from Elsewhere.  If the prior album was a step away from Sheehan’s earlier electronica style, this was a massive leap into an orchestral style of post-rock, a further diving into the concept of a “soundtrack without a movie.”

One, track, “Nusquam,” is almost entirely the string section alone.  It is gorgeous.

Continue reading

Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (2013)

Cover art from Anti Records. Click on image to go to site.

I remember when I first heard Neko CaseThe Rough Guide to Americana, a Rough Guide compilation I’d bought in 2001 to help me expand my knowledge of alternative country, a genre I was just starting to explore.  Track 3, Neko Case & Her Boyfriends “Guided By Wire.”

Case’s pure country voice was instantly arresting. High and taut, with the dust of the prairie and a twang in the tail. The song was sung of hearing voices and struggling with mental illness, and with rough-edged guitar and an endearing single-take feel it became a quick favourite.

It sent me out to track down as many albums as I could, falling more and more in love with her songs and her voice with each purchase.

And to tell as many people as I could about her.  That’s a particular joy, discovering and falling in love with some new artist or album – or beer or bar – and seeing others discover them and their popularity grow.[1]

Continue reading