Thursday, July 1

Albums Of Last Month

Johnny Flynn 'Been Listening' (Transgressive Records)

What happens when a rousing movement emerges as the latest trend, is that a swirl of third-rate spinoffs follow as a consequence. Hello 'Popstars', no thanks 'Fame Academy'. Hello Starbucks, no thanks Caffe Nero. Hello Mumford & Sons, no thanks Stornoway. And if it wasn't for Johnny Flynn's pre-'Sigh No More' debut album 'A Larum', one could easily infer that he and his Sussex Wit are only here and now because of Marcus and his. But really, Johnny, real name Joe, is just as epoch-making as Mumford, Noah and Marling - and 'Been Listening' is yet another grrrrreat album to pile upon the nu-folk vista of sublimity.
While 'A Larum' was right 'n' rosy in parts, this is pretty much wholehearted doldrums and drowning forsakenness all boxed in profound strummed grace and winsome refrains. Colin Firth's George Falconer in 'A Single Man' if he was real, born in South Africa and had Shakespeare posters on his wall.
'Lost and Found', with its beginning of the killer picking you'd find on Jeffrey Lewis's cutting room floor (only 'cause it was too pretty), speaks from the mind of someone on the edge, much like a lot of 'Been Listening'. However, here they "lie a-dying in bed; It's time for me and death to wed; I'll taste the loam; With a breath my body's dead". So despondent, but unfeigned and addicting just the same.
And like all the fabulous folk records of late, Ms Marling herself is in attendance via either body or spirit. As she should be, because 'The Water' would patently miss her silvery tones trotting along its ridiculously honeyed guitar work any other way.
'Amazon Love' is where the glamour of before meets its summit, arresting piano stemming from 'Hurt'-period Johnny Cash or something. "Blow me home, take me in, hold me close; We're aware of perspective to not be rejected; blow me home," goes the breakable-sounding Johnny midway through, his diffidence on show as black and white as ever, bearing witness to the wants of all around us.
Johnny Flynn is one accomplished inspiration. And if 'Been Listening' doesn't shift him to the fore by the sides of his nu-folk brethrens, nothing will. But that's fine, because I know it's brilliant. And so should you...

Best Track
The Water

Eminem 'Recovery' (Polydor Records/Interscope Records)

This is a first. Never has one so distant from the safely self-doubting dominion of indie managed to acquire an Album Of Last Month. What's even more mystifying is that Marshall Bruce Mathers III has been around shifting a good 80 million or so LPs for well over a decade. 'Recovery' may not be his most noteworthy, but it sure as shootin' is for a good deal of time. "I guess I had to go to that place to get to this place," Eminem reflects on lead single 'Not Afraid', itself a guiding light of newfound spunk and guts.
Team-ups with Ozzy Osbourne ('Going Through Changes') and Pink ('Won't Back Down') should flunk like the BP share price, but they really don't. "I'm debating on leaving this world this evening... I'm hatin' my reflection... Fame startin' to give me an excuse to be at an all-time low... And I just lost my fuckin' best friend... Hailie, this one is for you," he declares on 'Changes', downright angry, downright real. It all too makes for yet another heavy-hearted Eminem ditty, taking on the sorrowfulness of 'Stan' from 'The Marshall Mathers LP' and 'Curtain Call's 'When I'm Gone'.
Though this ain't all Marshall falling from grace for a shot in the arm. Well, it mostly is, but 'No Love' (featuring the now-imprisoned Lil Wayne) and 'W.T.P.' both sample that of a dance moxie ("Now you can do this on your own but everyone knows that no-one likes to be alone, so get on the floor and grab somebody, ain't nothin' but a White Trash Party," he goes on the latter). And Eminem may be steamed up and steely throughout, but he can't keep his naturally comedic foible at bay. There's less of last year's "Damn, I think Kim Kardashian's a man", more "Man get these whack cocksuckers off stage, where the fuck is Kanye when you need him?"
But the strongest number goes to the Rihanna-featuring 'Love The Way You Lie', a profoundly popstumous stomp of unpretentiousness you'd half-expect on an Usher record - Only with extra of the junky acoustic strings de-stressing below and not so much of the "Right now there's a steel knife in my windpipe, I can't breathe... Next time I'm pissed I'll aim my fist at the dry wall".
Production-wise it's not as glossy as it could be, but Eminem's PO'd intentness sorta overrides all that. Jeez, talk about a recovery.

Best Track
Love The Way You Lie