BPM Pod
Episode 42: Chris Weinhardt pt.2

Episode 42: Chris Weinhardt pt.2

June 13, 2020

A while back, before the whole coronavirus thing, I went drinking with long-time podcast regular, Chris Weinhardt. As expected, we talked for quite a while about a long list of random topics.

Was it all good? No. Not at all. But some of it was, in between pizza, regular toilet breaks, beer resupplies, and a hell of a lot of podcast mistakes.

Still our wide ranging conversation was fun and enlightening, as I am sure you will agree.

So here's part two of our chat. In this part, we discuss the use of autotune in live performances and if it makes you less of a singer. Plus, we discuss what our first music purchase was, the first music videos that we fell in love with, and the first album we bought.

Check out part 1 here.

Coming up on BPM Pod

We'll be looking at parts 3 and 4 with Chris Weinhardt, plus we'll be hearing from one of my favourite music producers in the entire world, Hans Annellsson. Also Berlin-based singer-songwriter Alex Spencer swings by.

The Pulse reviews: Jason Isbell, Haim, Perfume Genius, Fiona Apple

The Pulse reviews: Jason Isbell, Haim, Perfume Genius, Fiona Apple

May 27, 2020

Hello and welcome to this episode of BPM Pod, the podcast where we get behind people's music.

 

I hope you're doing well out there in these strange times and am glad you're taking the time to listen to the podcast. Thanks for your continued support, love and dedication. Remember if you want to get in touch with me here at BPM Pod, you can do so via the social channels, so definitely check those out. And I'd like to know what music you've enjoyed recently too so, if you want to submit a quick 30 second clip of you reviewing some music you've encountered recently – good or bad – then head over to the Facebook page at BPM Pod and drop me a message.

 

So for now, it's time for another episode of The Pulse here on BPM Pod, where I look at some of the music I've recently encountered – some new, some old, some finished, some not.

 

On this episode, I look at new music from Haim, Perfume Genius, and Fiona Apple. But first, I want to turn my attention to one of my favourite singer-songwriters today, and someone we've heard a bit of before on this podcast, and that is Jason Isbell with his album Reunions.

 

Jason Isbell – Reunions

The fourth album from American alt-country soft-rock blues-rock singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, accompanied here by The 400 Unit. Follows The Nashville Sound – a great album – from 2017.

 

Now I read somewhere that Isbell thinks Reunions is his strongest work yet and that set me up for expecting a lot, so do keep that in mind. But overall, Reunions for me was good, not great.

 

On the plus side, the sound here is different and has a lot more resemblance to a well produced Jackson Browne album, or offcuts of Dire Straits. There's a lot of overdubbing and layering here with some dreamlike effects, stereo landscapes and so on.

 

In terms of the songwriting, it's largely strong, with stand out tracks such as Overseas, Be Afraid and Only Children really stealing the show. A couple for me fall by the wayside, including St Peter's Autograph, Running With Our Eyes Closed, and controversially What've I Done To Help – a track which people seem to love for the Bill Withers slash Walk on the Wild Side blend, but is a track I think is overly long, repetitive and quite weak lyrically.

 

There are excellent performances from the band members, as always. Dave Cobb does brilliantly with the production too. But unlike his previous releases – Southeastern and Something more than free particularly – there's something in Reunions which brings distance and unrelatability. It's not somehow as touching or heartfelt, even though individual elements are excellent, whereas his other releases demand repeat listens to understand all of the emotions underneath.

 

So I overall like the direction Isbell has taken with this album, particularly in terms of the new sounds he has created, but for me it is not his best. Still a very worthy addition to his catalogue, and I recommend fans buy it, and newcomers give it a listen at least.

 

 

Haim

women in Music Part 3

Now this is not strictly a review, as the album has now been delayed until June sometime, due to the current nonsense in the world. But with that said, I want to talk about it because the first handful of tracks from the upcoming album really point to something special.

 

Now I have been a Haim fan for a long time, even when I had people saying they were poppy Fleetwood Mac rip-offs. To me they've always had some kind of sense of humour and gravitas about them, as well as a tonne of talent. And while I still don't fully understand or hear the influences that Haim tout so often – such as Destiny's Child, TLC and so on – I do get the pop sensibilities that they evoke.

 

The tracks that are out there so far are Summer Girl, Now I'm In It, Hallelujah, The Steps, I Know Alone, and Don't Wanna. So there's almost half the album out there right now.

 

For me, the strongest tracks are Don't Wanna and The Steps, but I guess this is because it appeals to my previously mentioned Fleetwood Mac tendencies. Summer Girl was released a while ago now kind of out of the blue and has a definite – again I mention this – Walk On The Wild Side vibe. It's very non-Haim but also very Haim.

 

One track that sounds very non-Haim is I Know Alone, which has a strange but somehow alluring music video of the sisters dancing in a socially distant manner. It's a song that sounds more akin to something from Caroline Polachek, notably the song Doors, and therefore is not so far removed from the Haim sound, but is a little different. Lyrically, I find the Haim track I Know Alone pretty weak, and it's too repetitive for my liking, too generic, and too electronic for my taste. However, a bit like the directional change I praised Jason Isbell for earlier, I like that Haim are trying something new.

 

So the album Women in Music Part 3 is not out for a little while but, based on the tracks so far, I think we're in for an absolute treat from Haim and I cannot wait to get stuck into the album for real.

 

Perfume Genius

Set My Heart on Fire Immediately

Perfume Genius, the moniker of singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas, released this album this week to absolute critical acclaim.

 

I confess: I had never heard of Perfume Genius before. But I guarantee you I will be tracking music from Perfume Genius in the future.

 

I wasn't blown away by this album quite to the gushing same level of reviews from Alex Petridis in The Guardian and so on, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The tracks here are certainly pop, but of a candied late seventies early eighties vibe, somewhat like Paul Young or Bryan Ferry.

 

Vocally, this album is excellent. There's real longing, hurt and strain across the album, particularly on songs like Just A Touch. The singles – notably On The Floor – have an almost Vampire Weekend vibe to them. And for an artist who writes a lot about addiction, bullying, and sexuality, there's a happiness in many places on this record.

 

A couple of tracks here can't be put into the same synth-driven slick pop bucket as the rest though, notably Describe, which is a kind of noir-ish pop-grunge track, which I actually kind of feel like is what Neil Young was trying to go for with his eighties New Wave slash grunge idea but never really achieved. It's a weird track for sure, and I heard someone describe it as 'gay grunge' which I don't know is an appropriate or correct description, but equally I cannot quite put my finger on how to describe it either.

 

I do think the album is a little long, with 13 tracks stretching the limit a little, although they are all short pop affairs.

 

And yeah, it is a strange album for sure, and won't be at the top of everyone's list. It's not the top of mine either, but I will say that as a throwback to an era which never existed kind of sound, this certainly hits the mark.

 

Fiona Apple

Fetch the Boltcutters

This is one I only just got around too, released back in April. Fiona Apple is someone I've dabbled with in the past, and someone I knew about, but not someone I paid much attention to musically. So when I was faced with album, not knowing all that much about her previous work, you can probably sympathise that this very atypical, bizarre album hit me like a train.

 

And I loved it. Musically, it's like a part-improvised, percussion poetry session. Fiona cries out, scratches, scowls, shouts, and rages on the topics of bullying, sexual assault, confinement, lies, truth, friendship and more. It's angry, yet oddly darkly humorous

 

What's more, this album is largely recorded on the fly and at home, and that could be a criticism but it really isn't. It helps breed the unpredictability, the explosiveness, the sudden changes in rhythm, tempo and keys. I hear shades of Joni Mitchell here, of Suzanne Vega, even of something completely different like J Dilla or Sharon Van Etten. It's a maddening yet exciting mix of music. It's not polished, it's not perfect, and that's what makes it great. There's no messing around here, and for an album about getting the boltcutters and cutting yourself free from whatever prison you've created, the sound does exactly what Fiona preaches – it breaks free of the usual routines and structures and offers something unique, insightful, and certainly divisive. I love it, and would urge you check it out, that's Fiona Apple with Fetch The Boltcutters.

 

 

And that's all for the Pulse for now here on BPM Pod. You can find all of the releases I just mentioned on BPM Pod dot com, and on the social channels (Facebook and Instagram). And you can read more on BPM Pod dot com, and revisit all of the previous episodes there, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

 

On the next episode, we'll have part two of the extended podcast with Chris Weinhardt, so stay tuned for that.

 

Stay safe and stay lucky, and thank you for listening to and supporting BPM Pod.

 

 

Episode 40: Weinhardt catch up (part 1)

Episode 40: Weinhardt catch up (part 1)

May 23, 2020

It was way back in episode two - the first 'proper' episode' - where I met Chris Weinhardt, somewhere distant and dark on the outskirts of Berlin. (Okay, Wildau isn't that bad, but it is a little far away. Listen to episode 2 here.)

I was nervous. Despite experience in the radio broadcasting field, it has been a while since I ran the show, doing the interviewing, editing, uploading and so on. I felt the pressure.

Chris? Well he couldn't have been more relaxed or accommodating, offering to collect me from the train station, offering to get me food and drink, and being welcoming and warm to this weird British guy who, with no podcasting experience, wanted to talk to him about music.

Almost two years later, Chris and I are still in touch, albeit not as often as we should be, and our musical journey has taken some wonderful turns. It was with this in mind that Chris asked me to come round for a beer so we could talk more generally about music, the next steps for Weinhardt, and how the adventure looked in 2020.

And then came coronavirus

After recording this episode over beer and pizza back in February 2020, Chris and I had planned to meet again on a more regular basis to transform elements of BPM Pod into a two-man show. We'd talk absolute crap, review music, review gigs and so on - a bit like the Kermode and Mayo Film Review, if you know that.

And then everything stopped.

Within a matter of weeks the restrictions came in. People freaked out, bought far too much toilet paper, and prepared for the end of the world. In my own little bubble, I was freaking out too, especially as my wife and I were having (and did have, I am glad to say) a baby in April.

It all became a bit much and the podcast took a backseat.

The thing is though: Chris and I talked for hours back in the Spring and a lot of it was good. We had such a flowing, different chemistry that it felt odd to simply abandon the episode. At the same time, the conversation was so rambling and weird (thanks alcohol) that it felt strange to put it out as one episode.

Better late than never

So to relive the pre-coronavirus days, to hear the absolute nonsense Chris and I talked about, I'll be releasing all parts of the chat Chris and I had over the coming weeks, starting with part one.

Each part is around 10-20 mins, discussing a bunch of different topics from Fred Durst, to country music, to backing tracks and if you should be able to use them in live performances.

It's nonsensical, it's all a bit stupid, but it's exactly what we need in these trying times. So check out parts one and two above, and stay tuned for more to come.

Reviews: King Buffalo, Heavy Heavy, Gyoza

Reviews: King Buffalo, Heavy Heavy, Gyoza

May 12, 2020

Inspired by the excellent YouTube movie review channel YMS (thanks for all your great work, Adam) I've decided to transform the regular 'The Pulse' feature into a kind of quickie review segment.

This month, I turn my attention to three absolutely awesome releases, all in the stoner-rock heavy-metal field, as I review the latest releases from King Buffalo, Heavy Heavy and Gyoza. Don't miss it. 

Episode 38 - My top 10 Jason Isbell songs

Episode 38 - My top 10 Jason Isbell songs

May 4, 2020

"Have you heard Jason Isbell?" said my record producer, Thomas. I sheepishly said no, trying to hide how I may just have missed someone I should know about. He could tell.

"Oh don't worry - I don't think that many people have heard of him. But you should hear his stuff. I'll start you off with Southeastern."

And there we sat, in Thomas's vinyl-stacked basement studio, and listened to the album all the way through. We did not talk, we did not offer opinions, we sat silently and absorbed what we heard.

I have been hooked ever since.

Isbell's catalogue, while relatively short, is crammed with stunning stories of love, loss, hope, fears and occasionally political standpoints. The former guitarist for the Drive-By Truckers - another band I absolutely adore - Isbell is today one of the most in-demand songwriters out there, having most recently broken more into the mainstream with his contribution to A Star is Born.

Ahead of new album Reunions from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, I thought I'd give you what are, in my opinion, the top 10 best Jason Isbell songs to date.

Do you agree, disagree, or perhaps you've never heard of Jason Isbell and you want to offer your thoughts on this introduction to him?

Listen to the podcast, read the list below, and let me know.

On the next episode

We'll be going back to a friend of the podcast, Chris Weinhardt, for a dose of pre-lockdown musical fun. Plus we'll have an episode coming soon with singer-songwriter Alex Spencer so stay tuned.

Episode 37 - My top 10 favourite Queen songs

Episode 37 - My top 10 favourite Queen songs

April 24, 2020

Everyone and anyone who knows me - or even if you only listen to this podcast - knows I am a massive Queen fan. From watching their music videos over and over on VHS as a kid, through to owning pretty much all of their music as I grew up, there's something about the band that has allured me ever since my grandfather turned me onto them.

I make no apologies at all for saying that, to me, Queen are the greatest rock band ever. There's been no one better since, and I don't see anyone bettering them soon. Their shining star was, of course, Freddie Mercury. And again, I don't mind relying on hyperbole when I declare that Freddie is the best rock singer of all time either. Again, no one has come close, or is coming close.

The music of Queen is not all great though. Their albums were rarely consistent in terms of track quality, and their styles were a little too varied and unfocused at times (even within one single song). But the fact that Queen need three greatest hits albums to even scratch the surface of their back catalogue speaks volumes about the quality of music the band created.

And let's not forget their incredible live prowess too. Of course, led by the showman Freddie, there was the sense you were watching a circus ring leader rather than a rock singer - and that's meant as an entirely positive thing, I assure you.

Queen are thoroughly entertaining, stunningly talented, and quite simply irresistible. So picking their top 10 songs is a stupid endeavour, right?

Yes, you're correct. But did that stop me? Does my own stupidity stop me doing anything on any given day?

Nope, it does not. So without further ado, here are my personal favourite Queen tracks.

And before I go

You might think: "Hey, I did not follow BPM Pod to hear about the things you like. Where are the interviews?"

Well first off, that is a legitimate thing to wonder. There has been a decline in interviews recently, and it's been a real shame.

The reason?

My wife and I now have a baby. You're sure to hear little Ella on the podcast sometime soon, probably crying in the background. Of course, this has somewhat drained my time and energy, so bear with me.

Rest assured though: there are not many of these short list podcasts left before we get back into the swing of things.

Stay safe everyone.

Episode 36 - Top 10 Jackson Browne songs

Episode 36 - Top 10 Jackson Browne songs

March 29, 2020

Jackson Browne is, without question, my favourite musical artist of all time. Perhaps someone else will come along one day and take the crown, but I don't see it happening any time soon.

Browne is, to me, one of the most sensitive, soulful, poetic songwriters of all time. Sure you've got Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Gordon Lightfoot and so on, but none of them - despite similar styles - really capture the beauty, sorrow and confusion this life holds.

A wonderful storyteller, pianist and guitarist, Jackson Browne is my biggest musical inspiration and certainly my most listened to artist.

Does this mean everything he touches is golden? Not at all. There have been some dreadful albums along the way, including Hold Out, Lawyers in Love, and Lives in the Balance.

But in an attempt to showcase just how brilliant Browne is, I've compiled what I consider the best Jackson Browne songs out there.

If you like what you hear, definitely check out anything from his discography, though I would recommend Late for the Sky first, and possibly For Everyman and Jackson Browne shortly afterwards. Once that's under your belt, I'm Alive wouldn't be a bad bet.

For solo acoustic fans, check out either his Vol.1 or Vol.2 solo acoustic stuff. Really haunting renditions of some superb songs.

Browne is still making music today - most recently with his album Standing in the Breach - and tours relatively consistently. Right now, Browne has the dreaded coronavirus, which has somewhat paused his musical progress. Still, he released his latest single A Little Soon to Say in March 2020, ahead of his upcoming album Downhill From Everywhere which is slated for release in October 2020. (I also mentioned this in the most recent Pulse blog.)

Check out my top 10 and let me know what you think.

Interview: Orange Utan

Interview: Orange Utan

March 19, 2020

Go on, say Orange Utan. Oran-gee Uu-tarn. Orang-Utan. Orrrr-angje Uo-tan. Like many of the great mysteries of the world, we may never, ever know how to properly say this mystical name. (And that doesn't go for us only, but the band too.)

Yet Orange Utan know this causes confusion. They know it's interesting. And, in properly refreshing self-referential humour, they don't care.

The thing that stuck out to me about the band (I spoke with bassist Soren, and drummer Christian, but I assume the other two are the same) is how relaxed they are. There's no bullshit, no fakery, no nonsense. They're honest, open, and certainly having a wonderful time.

Orange Utan are part prog-rock, part punk, part thrash, part stoner rock - it's pretty tough to describe, but certainly worth checking it out. Given the wide range of genres in their music, there's a wide range of topics to touch upon to see how the band got to this point. From talking about the happiness they feel on stage, to the musical ambitions of the band going forward, we had a delightful, long chat touching on far more than what is in this episode. (Some of it got political; we cut that out.)

With two albums down, Orange Utan are still going strong, recording their third album and currently touring (coronavirus fuckery pending) in Spring 2020. Certainly a band to watch and track in the coming months and years.

To find out more about the band, click here to go to their website.

PLUS: You might hear a bit of a different intro song on this episode. Clever listeners will know it is Warren Zevon's 'Splendid Isolation'. Kind of apt given the virus situation. (I hope the joke is well received and royalties aren't claimed.)

Interview: Lucas Castillo

Interview: Lucas Castillo

March 3, 2020

Nights out, singalongs, soulful chats, and a damn lot of fun - Lucas Castillo and I have had a pretty decent run through it all. And, finally, he made his way around to BPM Pod.

The thing is: podcasts with friends sometimes become a bit dull. You have so many inside jokes, so many nearby references, and so much history, that you can easily abandon the listener.

Not with Lucas Castillo. A pro musician, with the ability to critically self-reflect on his journey, we talked through the night about mental health, being away from family, musical ambitions, and much, much more.

There's nothing I can say that can really capture the warmth, humour and appreciation captured in the podcast up top. Thanks to Lucas for appearing on the show, and for all the good times at Laksmi bar and beyond.

To find out more about Lucas Castillo, go to Facebook or search on le Instagram. (You'll also find him at Laksmi Bar quite a bit.)

 

Interview: Tidal Wave

Interview: Tidal Wave

February 14, 2020

The problem with Limp Bizkit is that they're misunderstood. Are they cool? No. Do they make good music? Meh, not really. Are they relevant? Good lord no.

But are they fun? Yes.

See I've always seen Limp Bizkit as a weird 90s/00s remnant of angry white-guy rap-rock. I'm not necessarily advocating a comeback of the genre, themes, or style, but I have always had a soft spot for their music somehow. I was pretty unsure as to why, until I met Dean Schweitzer of Tidal Wave.

"It's because it's fun. It's just '1, 2, 3, 4' and now we're going to jump, or shout, or whatever the fuck we want to do," says Dean.

"I like that fun element. It's not clever or cool. It's just fun."

I think Dean is right, and the fun element is certainly something he too puts into his music. Alongside an absolute bucket load of heart, soul, and ragged rock riffs, of course.

Check out the new song for proof (if you needed any).

Fight Song by TIDALWAVE

From reliving the nineties to musing on today's scene

Tidal Wave - fronted and run by Dean - is primarily a studio project. Different musicians form, and have formed, the band in every country Dean has lived.

It brings new flavours to old material, and it is a fun way to prevent the complications of committing to a permanent band, but when the only constant is one member and their vision, it takes a lot of drive and mental strength to keep reinventing again and again.

And that's a lot of what we talk about in this episode: maintaining a healthy mind, heart, and soul. What do you do when the music just isn't coming? How do you stay motivated and focused to keep pushing? And when do you give yourself a break for the success you've achieved?

In this podcast, you'll hear all of these topics, and more (Limp Bizkit included). You'll come away feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and with a new found understanding of how hard it is to keep chasing something you love.

Speaking with Dean was an absolute pleasure. Tidal Wave is a superb project, with some cracking tunes out there. Thanks to Dean for taking the time to talk, and for being such a welcoming, open host.

For more information on Tidal Wave, go to Bandcamp, or their website .