They say the third time around is the charm but, frankly, if you didn’t light up hearing Super 8’s first two records this year, you may be immune to his retro-1960s brand of hooky, summer-infused tune-age. Yes, you heard right, three albums in one year! Bringing back productivity standards not seen since the mid-period Fabs, one play of Hi Lo confirms it isn’t coming at the expense of quality. This installment is another delight! The vibes here vary, sometimes sounding very Arthur-era Kinks or late 1960s country Rolling Stones or even early 1970s Van Morrison. Check out the great laid back late 1960s sunshine pop of the opening track “Mr. Sunshine” or the cool beach groove of “Good Times.” The whole record is very mellow party listenable but with a few very cool surprises, like the brilliant Beck-like deconstruction of Neil Diamond’s “Cherry Cherry” and the spot-on Smiths’ riffing of “If Ignorance if Bliss.”
With all this product, Super 8 must have bills. Get over to bandcamp and buy the whole catalogue. After all, how far off is record number four …
Musical gods of summer, you have heard our pleas! We have need of sunshine melodies and cool hooks to accompany our unrealistic seasonal aspirations and you have answered our prayers with new albums from some reliable sources. Get the bottle opener and air pump ready!
American-French duo Freedom Fry are no one thing. Their range runs the gamut of neo-cabaret to low-key dance numbers, with a whole lot in between. They’ve mostly put out original singles and EPs along with some inspired covers since 2011. But now comes their first long player, Classic, and it’s aptly named. Gone are the syncopated beats of last year’s Strange Attraction in favour of a more stripped down, acoustic sound e.g. banjos, dreadnought 6 strings, with just a touch of spaghetti western a la Ennio Morricone. You can really hear the western lilt on tracks like “For You,” “Cold Blooded Heart” and especially on the sunny “Past Lives” with it’s haunting whistling. Freedom Fry channel a kind of happy-go-lucky, feel good disposition on a lot of their tunes, even when the subject matter is dark. Kinda like riding a bike by the ocean on a sunny day. Feel that breeze on tracks like “Awake” and “Ticking.” This is a predictably solid debut album from a band that’s been single-teasing us for years!
For YouPast Lives
Just six months after the release of his stunning debut, T-T-T-Technicolour Melodies, Paul Ryan aka Super 8 is back with another solid 1960s-infused musical rumination on life, love and politics with his new record, Turn Around Or …There is a late 1960s Kinks and Stones-like quality to the recordings here, both in terms of social commentary and the easygoing acoustic-but-still-rocky vibe to the whole album. “Hey Mr. Policeman” and “Be Careful What You Say” update 1960s social criticism for the new millennium while “Smile” and “Turn Around Or” exude that 1960s endless summer. I love the harmonica blasts on “You Say You’re Leaving” and the rockier “Calling Out.” Ryan changes up the pacing with “Never Had a Love,” which reminds me of McCartney’s forays into older musical forms. But the highlights here for me are the subtle, building hooks on the Jayhawks-reminiscent “Mary Jane” and the obvious single, “Your Love is my Blanket.” Nice cover of fellow Scots BMX Bandits great tune, “Serious Drugs.” Turn Around Or …is a sixties-vibing, easygoing summer party album, and it has arrived just in time.
Musical gods must be paid and prayers won’t pay the rent or put new strings on the dobro. Get on over to Freedom Fry and Super 8’s internet real estate and pay the piper.
Hurry and get your hands on this really super collection from the mysterious and musically iconoclastic Paul Ryan, aka Super 8. As a record T-T-T-Technicolour Melodies is defined by an acoustic sensibility but never limited to it. Instead Ryan’s acoustic guitar acts like old faithful in the background, sustaining every song, which are then adorned with all manner of ear candy: harmonica, slide guitar, cello, horns, you name it. Naming influences on this record is a potentially endless task, it is such an amazing synthesis of musical styles. In terms of tempo and feel, I hear the laid back confidence of Van Morrison in his masterful early 1970s period. Over the range of songs, you can hear a bit of the Rolling Stones, Wilco, the Velvet Underground, even the Verve here and there. But overall, the performance really reminds me of Beck on Odelay in its freewheeling, seemingly effortless pastiche of different sounds and musical motifs. And then there’s the songwriting, which is pretty impressive. This batch of tunes is mellow, soulful, and hooky. Need some uplift? Put this on while tooling around the house and feel the colour of your day change.
So what songs are the highlights? This whole record is great – there’s isn’t a bum track here. To my ear, “Last Final Cigarette” is the single with its mellow guitar hooks and subtle ear worm chorus. I love the background vocals that open “Catsuit” and the mournful harmonica and banjo that kicks off the “To Morocco” (which sounds like a great Stones acoustic number). Things rock up on the title track with some nice tempo shifts and tasty guitar work. “Just a Serenade” has a lovely lilting bounce that reminds me of vintage Wilco or acoustic Verve. The Beck influence seems particularly strong on the album opener “Tomorrow’s Just Another Day” and “Hey ! Non-Believer.” And then the whole thing wraps up with “My Sweet Baby Jane,” a track that sounds like it was pinched from a classic early 1970s country rock album by the Stones or the Byrds.
Super 8 is a major talent. Get in on the ground floor by checking out his internet real estate.