Review: J.P. Kallio “After The Storm”

In our fast-paced, multimedia, multitasking, ready-to-consume world, we hardly ever take the time to engage with anything profoundly and solely. From my own experience I know for instance that there are only few listeners to my radio programmes who just do that: Sit and listen.

It is the plight of the singer-songwriter therefore, especially when performing live that his music is taken as a kind of pleasant background noise. Who needs the stories anyhow, told in the folk tradition of rendering tales by music? We have all the news input we need and more. Information overload.

It is with this in mind that I really appreciate J.P. Kallio‘s work (see earlier blog post). Relentlessly he pursues his aim in life: Music. There are almost daily sessions in Dublin with J.P. Kallio who moved there from this native Finland almost two decades ago and immersed himself in traditional music. Other than that he churns out songs weekly and blogs diligently, supporting musicians. With four albums under his belt last year alone, you would think, the songs become fodder but that is not so. He instead used the constant songwriting to fine-tune his craft.

With his new album “After The Storm” he does make it as easy as possible to entice you to really listen: Superbly produced (headphone material!), with a strong baritone voice that can convey many moods and amazing fingerpicking guitar-playing and the odd sparse additional touch of an extra instrument or vocal, you are very welcome to listen to his lyrics. Nothing distracts, unless you get distracted by the outer world. I beg you: Don’t.

“Won’t help me” starts off the album, being a good choice as it features just the voice and the acoustic guitar – a song about not blaming the world around you, but doing the first step yourself.

“Stick around” is the declaration of love in the daily grind with lovely added electric guitar and vocals.

Title track “After The Storm” introduces poignant piano sounds.

The sadder “Anytime” picks up on the song before and befitting the happier lyrics it becomes quite a rhythmic song from the middle on.

Then we have “Never Ending Road” about the one friendship that outlasts the others in a typical American country mood.

More of that in “Mama Was Right”, only with some cool slide guitar and melancholic lyrics.

Followed by one of my favourites, the incredibly delicate “Deeper Than Before”, featuring excellent finger-picking style and added vocals.

Then comes “Do your best” in the typical J.P. Kallio style; the sombre banjo-accompanied “Losing Faith”; some nice-old fashioned blues with “Dog House” and  another upbeat country-style song called “Fool”.

“After The Storm” ends up with touching masterpiece “Troubled” that shows J.P. Kallio’s use of voice and guitar at his best.

J.P. Kallio’s lyrics are observant, honest and the music transports them excellently, never becoming overbearing, able to rely on its sheer being accomplished. The album “After The Storm” is in a clear handwriting, the melancholic folk tradition despite little side steps into other genres.

Now sit down, switch everything else off and listen! Find the new album “After The Storm” on Soundcloud.

Captain Wilberforce

How to write a blog post about someone who does an excellent blog on new bands himself? Who does? Simon Bristoll does in the aptly named “Honey and Bile“! Kudos to the accomplished musician and blogger on many new bands himself by at least saying a few words and maybe bringing his music to a couple more ears.

I know him first and foremost as Captain Wilberforce, releasing songs with an assured nod to the songwriting craftmanship of the sixties. For me also XTC and Elvis Costello spring to mind. Catchy as hell stuff! Titles such as “The Johnny Depp Memorial Café” indicate a lyricism that is funny on the surface, sometimes sad underneath and to me quintessentially British.

Simon Bristoll started out in the mid-nineties in “Theory Of Everything” who released an album “The Failure of Arithmetic”, alas their first and last.

As Captain Wilberforce he released a well-received demo called “Dreams Of Educated Fleas”. In 2004 the debut album “Mindfilming” followed, in 2008 “‘Everybody Loves A Villain” and in 2011 “Ghost Written Confessions”. You must have heard one of Captain Wilberforce’s songs somewhere surely, since they were massively featured as soundtracks on various TV programmes and channels.

Bar the drums Simon Bristoll used to play all instruments himself. Currently though Captain Wilberforce are Simon Bristoll (vocals, guitar), Carl Banks (drums), Mike Browne (guitar), Chris Newiss (bass).

They are working on a new EP which hopefully will hit us in June 2015. Meanwhile we must do (and this is no punishment at all) with his last EP “Distance” and you will find a few tracks from it below.

Contact Captain Wilberforce at which will lead you to all other relevant information.

And now have some from their last EP “Distance” (you can also check out Captain Wilberforce’s previous three albums on YouTube which musically, I find, take you from 60s England all the way to the sweet American music…loads of gorgeous songs to explore!)

“Someone To Love”

“The Johnny Depp Memorial Café”

This is my favourite “You Can’t Have Me”

Kurt Vile

You know that attitude of some fans of alternative music? A band becomes bigger – they are not selling out; their music does not become unbearable; they do not become nasty or pontificating. They just become better known, hit the charts, play in bigger venues. And  then indie nerd has had it! They are no longer interesting to him/her. Is it that the proud parent momentum is lost and the other fans are unworthy? I truly cannot answer that question.

Look at The War On Drugs: Yes, their album “Lost In The Dream” is selling like hot cakes and gets praised to the moon (deservedly so, I think). They tour and tour and sell the venues out like nothing (again, deservedly so). Promptly critics wail, on the forefront a certain Mark Kozelek. Aaaaaalriiiiight, maybe they just don’t like the music…fair enough, then do not listen.

What is Kurt Vile supposed to say? Starting out with The War On Drugs and leaving after their first album “Wagon Wheel”, he missed out on all the fun. Granted he, now a family man, would not be able to do that kind of touring schedule for more than a year. And maybe he will be adored by all the above-mentioned indie nerds who find him just in the right-sized venues. But Kurt Vile does not need that. Such passion, such an output of music. And he will know himself that a lot of the limelight is sheer luck (and so does Adam Granduciel of TWOD and is grateful for it). Plus, it was only last year when Adam joined the Violators on stage and later, Kurt did the same for The War On Drugs. Yes, we were a very blessed audience that night.

Kurt Vile - Pukkelpop by Alice Peter-Burns

But nevertheless, I find it is time that we write about Kurt Vile (and I have no problem at all with writing whole novels on The War on Drugs). Simply for the reason that for those who have missed Kurt Vile in their lifes, here’s your Saturday night treat!

Summed up (I do want to come to the music!):

Kurt, who is in his mid-thirties, of course is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, and is strongly connected to his hometown. He hooked up with Adam Granduciel over their love of Dylan on travels and they then set out as The War on Drugs. After the album “Wagon Wheel”, Kurt Vile left to form The Violators (Jesse Trbovich – guitars, bass guitar, saxophone, since forever; Rob Laakso – guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, various instruments, since 2011; Kyle Spence – drums, percussion, since  2013) All is on very good terms between The War on Drugs and The Violators!

He has done five albums so far: Constant Hitmaker (2008), God Is Saying This To You (2009) and  then, on Matador, Child Prodigy (2009), Smoke Ring For My Halo (2011) and Wakin On A Pretty Daze (2013). A number of EPs complete the large oeuvre.

He comes from a large family and his first instrument was a banjo, even though he wishes it had been a guitar. But he realised that that was what he wanted in life: Music. Always having to work, tough jobs with no college career up his sleeve and on top of it a little shy for the working-class world, it cannot have been easy.

Even nowadays, he’s frank to admit, that he would like to make more money, after all, he has a family to support. He also would like to be more famous in the sense that he simply can communicate what he lives for with more people. He also discovered that some people (see above) tut-tut at that but he is grown-up and he is right, I think.

To some he comes across as a slacker, but the man is eloquent, friendly, loves his family and Philadelphia and is a hard worker, almost obsessive.

Vile released two albums, Constant Hitmaker (2008) and God Is Saying This to You… (2009), before signing to Matador Records, in May 2009, and releasing Childish Prodigy that same year. In 2011, Vile released his fourth studio album, Smoke Ring for My Halo, which significantly increased his exposure. His fifth studio album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, was released in 2013.

Joy, oh joy, Kurt is currently working on a new album, the release of which could be later in the year! And I have not even mentioned that he also works together with the unbelievably gifted Steve Gunn.

Shall we have some music?

Have a good weekend!

Liu Bei

What it is like to work for a non-commercial radio station? Well, it is a lot of, er, work that we do enjoy immensely, however. And it is unpaid which of course we do not enjoy a lot. Then again, we live without playlists which is wonderful. We are right there at the pulse of music and music pulses our blood if I may say so clumsily poetically on the first spring-like Saturday evening of this year.

Thus, I may mutter *beep* if the BIG radio presenters were quicker than me playing a band. In this case of course it was Steve Lamacq of the Beeb and that makes it alright. Steve may….not that he would bother to ask me:-)

Getting there, getting there: The band in question was Liu Bei. Liu Bei is not a Chinese singer but a London band counting five members. They got their name from a radio documentary about a Chinese (kind-hearted, very tall) warlord.

Richard, singer and guitarist, joined the band (who were about to chuck it in) after touring relentlessly with three albums up his sleeve on his ownio and did not want to go along alone. Lucky coincidence, that.

The songs do derive from what Richard finds inspirational and that can be a reading a book or a listening to songs that make him want to be just as good or he walks or indeed he can party to shut down the brain for a bit. He does find that sometimes as much as restrictions pain you, you have to set yourself certain boundaries to find your way, too. Much like All We Are explained it, see the post on them in this blog.

As swimming pool echoes Liu Bei describe their music. I find that very fitting – there is a dreamlike, surreal quality to their songs. Or maybe it is because of the floor of their studio? Anyhow, anyone who quotes Mazzy Star and the Cocteau Twins as influences, is stuck on my record player with gaffer tape already.

The music leaves you to discover always something new in the songs, there’s danceable bits, addictive guitar sounds, wee extras and above all a really good voice. Add to that lyrics that go straight to the heart and there you have Liu Bei. I heard they are not to be missed live as well.

Their new EP “Goodness” is out on Museumgoer Records and is available in all the usual places. This year is starting well!

Visit Liu Bei on their website which will lead you to their Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Twitter etc. homes.

Here is their debut single “Infatuation” and you better get those Sharon van Etten hankie bags out, I swear, touching your heart with hot knives but it feels good.

(I wanted to put up the audio, then saw the video, that’s it, tears streaming down…)

And then we have two songs from the new EP “Goodness”. First up the title track:

And then the gorgeous “Fields” with Rachel Goswell from Slowdive: