Three Record Reviews – Marianne Faithful, 11 Paranoias, Aldous Harding

Marianne Faithful, Give My Love To London

photoThere isn’t a stretch of the rock highway that English Marianne Faithful hasn’t traveled. She has endured the spotlight of a celebrity marriage (Mick Jagger), painful drug addiction and a career that has spanned six decades, creating dozens of peerless recordings.

The latest in Faithful’s impressive catalog is Give My Love To London her first in three years since Horses And High Heels. The eleven tracks are in keeping with expectations of the sultry singer/songwriter, a sense of tragedy, loss and tireless redemption seeking. The sixty-seven year old’s voice possesses an elegantly androgynous tone, capable of capturing all the myriad of facets in human frailty and experience. She mixes elements of rock and folk and blues all over her palette. The results are sometimes haunting like a wind swept open field (“Mother Wolf”) while others evoke something more complicated (“Love More Or Less” and “The Price of Love”). Every one though is a meditation.

Faithful ends Give My Love To London with a cover of Hoagy Carmichial’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well” one of those woe-struck beauties from Billie Holiday’s 1958 classic, Lady In Satin. I used to listen to this track as a way of sticking my finger deeper inside the fresh emotional wounds but Faithful (somehow) finds a way to turn the song even a little more blue. She’s not crooning quite in quite the same staged manner that Holiday does. Rather, her rendition is well traveled, the distress of being alone more personal.

Holiday isn’t the only luminary name here. Faithful has brought Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Brian Eno, Roger Waters and excellent work by Edward Harcourt (a terribly underrated musician on so many fronts) in to infuse her latest collection of hard spun tales with new life. I was a little late to delve into Give My Love To London, which was released in late September, but it is well worth checking out as the days shorten and nights get longer.

You can find Marianne Faithful’s record here, at her Myspace page.

11 Paranoias, Stealing Fire From Heaven

a4130006808_10From the first dark drawls and languid bursts of the opening track, “The Great Somnambulist” it’s abundantly clear that UK’s 11 Paranoias mean business. Their bass heavy, sludge rock churn is core riveting. It follows the formula that maximum volume should yield optimum results, but it never once leans toward redundancy. Their album, Stealing Fire From Heaven cycles between those bitter, murky down tuned depths and spectacular, arcing crescendos.

Vocalist Adam Richardson delivers on his gravelly quality over the seven tracks but its never left out in the open. To my ear, its the sign of a boring listen when the growl dominates the mix. Although he has a heavy metal star menace, the dense production keeps his voice moving, playing hide and seek throughout the seven track. Sometimes its out front, while others its back in the dark, ominous fog.

There is a great deal of care given to variety here, from the epic “At The Curses” which drones on for a neck breaking twelve minutes, to “By The Light Of A Dying Star (Neutron Start)” my favorite track, accenting some soaring guitars, almost reminiscent of old British steel. As a follow up to their highly regarded debut, Superunnatural this record feels like a step forward. There are few bells and whistles at play. These are excellent songs, that are more focused and constructed to draw as much out of their morbid skins as humanly possible.

I’ll bottom line this one, real simple: Stealing Fire From Heaven has all the brutality and complicated nuance to add up to a satisfying listen. Late arrival on the favorite of 2014 list.

If you’d like to learn more about the band or the album, check out their Facebook page.

Aldous Harding, Aldous Harding

aldousharding_coverEnigmatic isn’t quite the right word to describe New Zealand gothic rock artist Aldous Harding; yet, it fits quite well.

At various times on her self-titled record she comes off powerfully, an assured, almost stalking presence but that is contrasted by an utterly doe-eyed sensibility. Her voice is lilting and tenuous and those qualities only serve to draw you in closer to her dichotomy. Harding’s debut offering places her into a very interesting stream of bold, female songwriters, the likes of Lana Del Rey and Isobel Campbell. She write exceptionally long (most over six minutes) fragile acoustic songs that extract every emotion from their subject matter, whether that be wistfully forlorn, “Two Bitten Hearts” or the lead single, “Hunter” which blends a country standard element into the mix of weird folk.

Repeat listens only further build upon these riddle. Find out more about Aldous Harding at her label site, Lyttelton Records.

To read any older record or live music reviews, check out the Well-Lighted music page.