“Yawn” by Bill Ryder-Jones was the best album of 2018. Not some 14 day wonder that catches your ear, gets a few plays because of the novelty of having shiny new music around the house before returning to the tried & tested, it’s a record that has impressed me more than any others by “newer” artists that have crossed my path. “Yawn” still shares a place at the front of the stack with recent releases by Edwyn Collins, J.J. Cale & Wreckless Eric, musicians who have been a treasure & a pleasure for a long time now. This week Bill announced the upcoming release of “Yawny Yawn”, a re-imagining of his record for just voice & piano. Of course I’m going to be interested in such a project, even more so after seeing & hearing the first track he has made available.
Bill says that “ I presume at some point I felt that the original had too much pep”, an example of the man’s dry wit. He’s a master of matter-of-fact Merseyside melancholia &, as he sings, “there’s a fortune to be had from telling people your sad”. “Yawn” has it’s share of loss, regret & introspection that I find to be honest & emotional rather than miserable. The soundscapes & sometimes surprising guitar interjections certainly add power & beauty to the songs but “Don’t Be Scared I Love You”, already a little cracker, sounds just fine in its new sparse arrangement. Bill’s lyrics are strong enough to stand the stripped-back treatment & when “Yawny Yawn” is released on July 26th I for one will be on it.
So what else is new?
I was talking up Whitney’s “Light Upon the Lake” album all those years ago in 2016. We have to wait until the end of August for “Forever Turned Around” & this week the group have given us a taste with the almost instrumental “FTA” & “Giving Up”. “Light…” came around at a time when I was feeling that some of my favourite US artists had perhaps become a little predictable, their best work already done. Whitney’s fresh light touch, melodic Indie with soulful folky undertones appealed as precisely the update that Americana needed. The group checked for Levon Helm (Julian Ehrlich is another singing drummer) & Allen Toussaint & while they are hardly as Funky as Lee Dorsey (who is?) these are pretty good names to aspire to. The smooth swoop of Max Kakacek’s guitar brought to mind George Harrison & still does, another pretty good influence to have around. Julian’s individual, distinctive voice is a taste I’ve been happy to acquire, “Giving Up” bodes well for the new collection, that trumpet/guitar break is just lovely. Bring It On.
It’s within living memory that I was tagging the Skints as the best young band in the UK. “Swimming Lessons”, the group’s 4th album, is the expected conflation of dubby reggae, rap & punky power chords blended with assurance & energy. They are a 4-piece with 3 vocalists who all get their turn on lead. Marcia Richards has the sweetest voice while guitarist Joshua chats his conscious lyrics. It’s Jamie, the drummer/singer, who has always hit the spot with UK Pop Reggae that would not be out of place on an early Dennis Brown LP.. At their best the Skints bring to mind the Specials, a group who combined Ska & social commentary with commercial appeal more effectively than any other. Perhaps none of the new tracks stand out like “This Town” or “The Cost of Living is Killing Me” though a little more time spent with “The Island”, a no holds barred state of the nation address, could change my mind. The Skints are growing up, the range of their music is ambitious & always worth a listen because they get it & they get it right.
OK that’s 3 & “Humanworld”, the new LP from Peter Perrett arrived this week, time will definitely be made for that. It’s a proper treat to hear more new songs from the former member of the Only Ones after so long away from the studio. Yesterday I discovered that there’s an upcoming Richard Hawley record. It keeps you busy all this new music business, I’m not surprised that people stick to the things they already know & love!