Tim Bowness – Stupid Things That Mean The World


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There is a modest earnestness to much of Tim Bowness’ third solo album Stupid Things That Mean The World (InsideOut), as the singer-songwriter continues to explore the direction and timbre of his more recent works. Openly stating that Stupid Things… is a continuation of its’ predecessor, Abandoned Dancehall Dreams (InsideOut), Bowness confirms the premise that practice makes (near) perfect, with an eclectic and wistful selection of songs whose charm isn’t just in the pleasant ear candy they first appear to be, but in the reflection and layers that unfurl with repeated listens.

With a warm, friendly production courtesy of The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord, who also adds moments of lilting guitar and acoustic quality much like he did to Katatonia’s Sanctitude (KScope), on the surface Bowness’ solo work is centred around building a song that sounds simple, often flowering out of an acoustic guitar and unpretentious vocal combination, expanding to contain several strata of multiple, and very appropriate, instrumentation, such as the delicate pedal guitar that enhances ‘Know That You Were Loved’, or the swelling strings and keys that dance in and out of several of the tracks.

Bowness conveys honest emotion and reflection in his words throughout, each line delivered with grace and feeling. He doesn’t push the vocals, staying in a comfortable mid-range, but allows the fine touches of the many players (a veritable who’s who of progressive rocks’ illuminati) to add colour to his ideas and push the dynamics of this most excellently and carefully arranged album, with standout song ‘Sing For Me’ the most well-crafted of songs, rising to a fulfilling and emotive conclusion.

While being far from a melancholy album, indeed the overall sense is one that uplifts, most songs display tinges of regret, sorrow and introspective. Yet where Strange Things… is at its best is in the more experimental songs; the burnt caramel to the honeyed touch of the dream pop surroundings. ‘Press Reset’ is dark rock, ‘The Great Teenage Electric Dream’ shows its temper and the title track is slinky pop, all which adds up to show Strange Things That Mean The World is a welcome addition to the canon of a man who is No-Man no more, but stands as a valued solo artist in his own right.

 

7.5/10

STEVE TOVEY


Wino And Conny Ochs – Freedom Conspiracy


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Robert Scott “Wino” Weinrich is the front man for the Doom Metal bands The Obsessed and Saint Vitus, Conny Ochs is a Dark Folk musician, and together they make minimalist bluesy folk. In 2012 they released Heavy Kingdom, and now they came together once again to produce Freedom Conspiracy (both Exile On Mainstream).

While Heavy Kingdom was really raw and unpolished, which had its charms but also lacked in places, Freedom Conspiracy is much more polished. This does not mean they have lost their feeling though. The songs are still simple and effective despite being more complex musically. Many songs on this album combine electric guitar with an acoustic, and the electric sound is sometimes really sludgy. In the title track ‘Freedom Conspiracy’ the electric guitar plays almost the same lines as the acoustic, which creates a very deep sound. Interestingly, the guitar in the verse sounds a lot like ‘The Mirror Song’ by Live.

The vocals also have a layer of distortion over them at times, which lends some power to the melancholic lyrics and melodies. I really enjoy the bluesy aspects of this album, such as the slide guitar in ‘Shards’. A real highlight is ‘Foundation Chaos’, which is a blues in 7/8ths in the verses and 4/4ths in the chorus, and as such it has such an unusual groove. ‘Invisible Bullets’ is also a very interesting song, the chords and melodies go in places that you don’t expect, and the chords and solo on electric coupled with primarily high vocals really sets this song apart from the rest from the album. It sounds a little bit messy in places, like they had not played it through a lot before recording it, but it is definitely one of my favourites. The album ends with another melancholic yet sweet song, ‘The Great Destroyer’. It is a great closer for this album about love, loss, and dealing with being human, and leaves you with a kind of quiet happiness, as if you grew just a little as a person by listening.

7.5/10

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LORRAINE LYSEN