Harry Harland (Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam)
Back in October, Lana Del Rey blew the nation away with a seminal performance of Video Games on Later with Jools Holland. A performance of fragile beauty that launched her into the nation’s hearts and helped propel the song to the top of the charts. On the same edition of the programme though, there was another performance that impressed me immensely, that of Coventry-based MC Ghostpoet.
Ghostpoet had previously come to my attention in name only, when his debut album Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam was shortlisted for the 2011 Mercury Music Prize. After watching his performance of Survive It (below) I decided to download the aforementioned release. In its own understated way, the album is a wonderful listening experience.
The feel of the music is very bare, almost downbeat at times, while the laid-back vocals evoke the sound of Maxi Jazz or even Roots Manuva’s early work. It’s the perfect album for those hungover Saturdays, or if you happen to be of that lifestyle, “comedown music”. The narrative has an ominous feel about it throughout, only relenting for comparatively euphoric closing track Liiiines. You certainly feel that the Ghostpoet has been on a journey, but happily it appears to one with an upbeat ending. Let’s hope this positivity continues to breed excellence.
For fans of: Tricky, The Streets, Roots Manuva
Em Bell (Tanlines – Mixed Emotions)
Anyone in the know of New York City’s diverse music scene for the last few years will know Mixed Emotions is a long time coming. Since their first song hit the web in 2008, Tanlines – comprised of Eric Emm (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Jesse Cohen (drums, keyboards, bass) – have been steadily releasing genius dance singles with labels across the globe.
So after a lot of Europe, a lot of 80’s and a need for something big, they are back with their debut album. While touring, the guys spent hours listening to albums by R.E.M., skate punk records from the 80’s, Born in the USA, and more. As Eric explains it, “Listening to them, I became very aware of the lasting resonance of a good song. A good song transcends production trends. That’s what we were missing, and I wanted to start making songs that would have a life of their own.”
All along you can hear the 80s influence in the electro-pop synth vibe that comes out in most of the songs. The album opens with ‘Brothers’ which is upbeat, confident and the heart tugging synth mixed with indie vocals sets up the vibe of the rest of the album. Things settle down a bit, allowing for you to switch off but the African beats in ‘Yes Way’ lift things up again and they really inject that little something extra. The album is inoffensive. Quite a few of the songs you forget you have listened to or merge into the track before. It is a comfortable album to listen to while eating some falafels or reading a comic book. It’s safe, it’s reassuring and it’s not so bold that it distracts you from what you are doing.
It was recorded in various NYC home studios and mixed in Miami by legendary mixing engineer Jimmy Douglass and on March 20th 2012, Tanlines will release the debut album, This album is a labour of love with both painful and transcendent interjections. There are some vivid moments but most of it passes you by in a way that is quite enjoyable. It isn’t memorable but it’s nice. It isn’t the life changing album I think they set about trying to make but there are warm synths, driving kick drums and with a mix of organic and synthetic sounds you are taken on a journey of “mixed emotions”. Get it? I thought you might…