Posts Tagged ‘Next Time Around’

PledgeMusic, which began operations in 2009, has gone belly-up.

For those unaware, it was a crowdfunding website that connected indie music artists with fans who provided backing for specific projects. It was a win-win for everyone. The artists weren’t left footing the upfront costs for their projects (no mortgaging the house!) and, if they were smart, priced in a profit for themselves. Fans, for their part, scored new music plus, if they chose, nifty premiums – everything from autographed items to pay-to-order cover songs to house concerts to a chunk of an artist’s hair. They also gained access to an online diary that chronicled the project via posts and audio/video uploads.

The PledgeMusic model had artists receiving 85 percent of their raised funds through two payments over the life of a given project, with the company deducting its portion – 15 percent – from the second. There’s also this: The site’s terms and conditions says that “Monies collected by PledgeMusic for a Campaign will be held on account for the Artist.” That infers, at least to me, that the money raised by each artist was segregated from the company’s operating funds, and perhaps that was the case at first. Over time, however, it appears that Pledge dipped into the 85 percent supposedly earmarked for the artists, though why we don’t know. What we can say for certain: Payments to artists were delayed. And delayed again. And, finally, stopped altogether. 

PledgeMusic is now expected to enter bankruptcy, perhaps as soon as this week. The money sent in by fans to support specific artists will likely go to the company’s creditors, whoever they may be, and not the artists themselves. I’ll leave it to others to expound on and investigate the whys and wherefores of the company’s stumbles, and instead state the obvious: There’s no coming back from it.

And while Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and other crowdfunding sites remain, PledgeMusic’s absence will be felt – at least for me. I found it, by far, the most user-friendly. It’s always where I began my searches for new or established artists to support.  

The first PledgeMusic project I backed was in 2011, when I signed on for the Juliana Hatfield album that became There’s Always Another Girl. In the years since, in addition to signing on for Juliana’s additional Pledge projects (and the Blake Babies), I backed a variety of other artists, including (but not limited to) 10,000 Maniacs, Josh Rouse, Garland Jeffreys, Rickie Lee Jones and, most recently, Church of Birch pastor Diane Birch, whose plate-passing campaign came in 14 percent above her goal just as PledgeMusic began suspending payments to artists.

So, for today’s Top 5: RIP PledgeMusic (aka Songs from PledgeMusic Albums I Helped Fund).

1) Juliana Hatfield – “Taxicab.” This driving tune – which is made for listening to while speeding down the highway – hails from Juliana’s under-rated There’s Always Another Girl album, which began life as “Juliana Hatfield New Album” on PledgeMusic in 2011.  

2) Garland Jeffreys – “Is This the Real World?” Garland’s 2013 Truth Serum album was highlighted by quite a few songs, but this one is – hands down – my favorite. One listen and, trust me, you’ll be hooked.

3) Rickie Lee Jones – “Feet on the Ground.” That artists such as Juliana, Garland and Rickie Lee had to turn to PledgeMusic says all one need know about the state of the music industry circa the 2010s. This song is one of the highlights from her 2015 Other Side of Desire album.

4) The Stone Foundation – “Next Time Around.” The British soul/R&B band’s Everybody, Anyone album was one of my favorites from last year. Absolutely addictive. And this tune is a stone-cold classic.

5) Diane Birch – “Stand Under My Love.” Diane’s 2018 PledgeMusic project reached its goal, only to have the money swiped from her collection plate. So I’m reaching back to this insta-classic tune from her 2016 EP, Nous. In another era, it would have been a huge hit.

(If you like it, head over to Diane’s BandCamp page and buy the EP.) 

’Tis the season for making lists and checking them twice, and determining which album is the Old Grey Cat’s ballyhooed Album of the Year. The honor, which is celebrating its 40th year this year, came about late in 1978 due to my dream of becoming a rock critic (yeah, I know: crazy!), and continued through the decades because…well, why not? Over that span, it’s chronicled the evolution (or lack thereof) of my musical tastes.

It is a decidedly personal affair, in other words. In years past, and on the updated tally I post early each year, I explain the process thusly: “The candidates are drawn from what I’ve purchased, so the pool is decidedly limited in comparison to, say, what the writers at Rolling Stone or Allmusic.com are exposed to. Some years I buy a lot and some years not, primarily due to my listening habits – I play albums I love over and over and over until they become one with my subconscious (obsession, not variety, is my spice of life). So the more I like certain albums, the less overall I hear.”

But in the immortal words of Ron Ziegler, “that statement is no longer operative.” In the age of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, no one needs to actually purchase an album to enjoy it. Just about every new release can be had for the price of one CD a month (aka the subscription fee) or the willingness to put up with commercials. (Yet, although I don’t purchase as much as I once did, I own all the albums that made their way onto my list. How could I not?)

Also, as I wrote last year, “The candidates are also winnowed by my age, race, gender and idiosyncrasies. I’m a middle-aged white guy, in other words, with catholic tastes.”

Some years, I revisit all the contenders. This year? There was no need. They are albums that I’ve turned to time and again since their releases, and have never grown tired of. That said, there were a few surprises: Although I thoroughly loved First Aid Kit’s Ruins and Courtney Marie Andrews’ May Your Kindness Remain, as the year wore on I found myself listening to them less and less often. I’m sure it had more to do with me, and the headspace I found myself in, than the music. I deem them two of my three “honorable mentions” for the year. Mikaela Davis’ Delivery is my third.

And, with that… 

Juliana Hatfield’s Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John is my Album of the Year. 

I got chills when she announced the project – as Hopelessly Devoted to Liv – during her concert with Wesley Stace at the Ardmore Music Hall in October 2017, and those chills were multiplying after she sang “Have You Never Been Mellow?” and “Physical.” (Just as an aside, Stace suggested that she call the album JH Sings ONJ, as the title conjures such cover sets from yesteryear as The Hollies Sing Dylan. It obviously stuck.) 

In my review, I noted that the set is, in some ways, an extension of the moving “Wonder Why” from her 2017 Pussycat LP, “in which she sought refuge from the madness of the present via the memories of her childhood. These songs, for her and us, are a similar escape into the past. They conjure another time and place, and also pay homage to a singer (and sometime songwriter) who, in that long-ago era, created a safe room where many of us dwelled on occasion.”

FYI: It’s the sixth time that Juliana has nabbed my year-end honors.

The first runner-up: the Stone Foundation’s Everybody, Anyone. In my review, I said that the songs “feature taut rhythms and lyrics that strive for something more than the rudimentary reflections that make up much of today’s mainstream music. They’re metaphysical musings of the highest order.”

Paul Weller co-wrote that Stone Foundation track, “Next Time Around.” His own release this year, True Meanings, is the latest classic in his own oeuvre, and is my second runner-up. Due to offline events, this blog was placed into a holding pattern around the time of the album’s release, so I never reviewed it. But make no mistake: It’s one of his best. 

The third runner-up: Shelby Lynne’s Here I Am, which features her songs (and some poetic snippets of dialogue) from her movie of the same name. Originally available only on vinyl, it’s now out on CD (via Shelby’s online store). The songs are as mesmerizing as her performance in the film.  

The fourth runner-up: Erin O’Dowd, whose debut album, Old Town, took up residence in my heart and head way back in May, and provided much-needed sustenance on a long road trip Diane and I took in September. In my First Impressions piece on it, I said that the songs sent “my spirits soaring higher than the beautiful May morn.”

The fifth and final runner-up: Becky Warren’s Undesirable, which is an album-long treatise on America’s unofficial caste system. As I wrote in this piece, it’s akin to a series of short stories set to song. It’ll draw you in, make you think, and make you tap your feet.

Echoes from another era reverberate through much of Everybody, Anyone, the latest offering from the Midlands-based Stone Foundation. The 11 songs conjure, at times, Traffic, Earth, Wind & Fire, Steely Dan, War and similar groove-heavy acts of yore, as well as the Chi-Lites, Marvin Gaye and Van Morrison, yet the influences never overwhelm the music, which sounds fresh and immediate.

Neil Jones (guitar/vocals) and Neil Sheasby (bass/backing vocals) cowrote the songs, with an assist from Paul Weller on “Next Time Around.” Weller also plays on several tracks. (Which makes sense, given that the set was recorded at his Black Barn Studio.) There are additional guests, too, including Weller’s former Style Council mates Mick Talbot and Steve White. Singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams provides a sweet counterbalance to Jones’ grainy timber on “Don’t Walk Away”; and Hamish Stuart, formerly of Average White Band and Paul McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt-era band, lends his distinct vocals to “Only You Can.” 

Yet the guest spots matter not. The “stars” here are Jones’ expressive voice, the band, and – most importantly – the songs themselves. They feature taut rhythms and lyrics that strive for something more than the rudimentary reflections that make up much of today’s mainstream music. They’re metaphysical musings of the highest order.

Here’s one highlight: the aforementioned “Don’t Walk Away.”

And another: “Give the Man a Hand.”

And another: “Next Time Around.” 

And, finally: “Heavenly Father.”

In short, I’ll be playing Everybody, Anyone again and again for quite some time.

The set is available to stream and buy at all the usual outlets, as well as from the band’s website. (The package I picked up from them comes with a cool making-of documentary, as well as autographed LP and CD.)

The track list:

In the weeks and months ahead, Diane and I will be sorting through the ephemera of our lives as we prepare to move south. It’s a daunting task, as we’ll essentially be deciding what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, and what to trash. The decisions will be tough: What of the high-school report I authored on Lewis Carroll? (For the record, I got a B+.) What of the middle-school essay that recounted my life up until that point? (An A.) Or the box filled with handouts and notes from various college classes? The boxed-up books in the attic? The old magazines that clutter the den? Our DVDs? CDs? LPs? And what of the many framed and unframed posters and prints currently collecting dust?

Some of those questions are easier to answer than others, of course. And while we’ll keep much, we’ll part with much, too. The thing about growing older is this: You realize your life’s treasures aren’t the things you collect, but the people you hold in your heart.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Releases, Vol. XXXIII 1/3

1) Harriet – “You Get What You Give.” The dulcet tones of Harriet are utterly addictive, and this infectious shot of upbeat philosophizing – a cover of the New Radicals’ modern-rock smash from 1998 – is, too. It’s one of four tracks from her new EP, The Universal Sessions, which she recorded for BBC Radio 2’s “Alan & Mel’s Summer Escape.”

2) Jane Willow – “Onward Still.” Speaking of philosophizing… I cannot get enough of this song from the Dutch-Irish singer-songwriter. The martial drums, strummed guitars and Jane’s warm vocals, and her lyrical insights, are balm for the soul. The future is in front of us, all, and what becomes of us is up to us.  

3) Hanora George – “The Fallen.” I discovered Hanora, who’s based out of Cork, thanks to Karrie, who shared an interview with the singer on her Facebook page. Wow. What’s amazing is this: Hanora didn’t begin her musical journey until her college years. 

Here’s the interview in question:

4) Stone Foundation – “Next Time Around.” The Midlands-based band’s latest release, Everybody, Anyone, is an addictive set of R&B-infused rock, echoing the likes of War and Traffic, among others.  

5) Hannah’s Yard – “Feels Like Home.” The Buckinghamshire collective covers this classic Randy Newman song on their current release, the four-song Reflections EP. It’s a stirring rendition.