So me and Rough Trade are back together again after a break. It wasn’t anything serious. They had relaunched their website and it coincided with my credit card lapsing and it all fell into abeyance. I thought I would cold turkey for a while to see if I would miss the Album of the Month service.
The answer was I did a little. The service gives you a physical copy of one album selected by the store and then recommendations of another nine. These can obviously be streamed if you subscribe to such a service. The beauty of it is that you can generally find something worth listening to within these ten selections.
I had found that I was listening to less new music in the period between my last album, Angel Olsen’s “My Woman” in September of last year. Rather coincidentally, the same album has grown on me hugely in the period to become one of my favourites of the year. I’ve been mostly focussed on ECM jazz and classical, which is perfect for the winter months and R’n’B, with Solange’s album “Seat At The Table” getting many plays.
With spring coming, this felt like the right time to reconnect with the Rough Trade Album Club. The relaunch of the club felt like a good opportunity, promising a greater number of member benefits beyond the regular coloured vinyl with exclusive events. Let’s see how it goes.
First up is Holly Macve’s “Golden Eagle”.
This is Macve’s debut LP on ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union label. Raymonde is a good judge of talent. I remember fondly one particular evening at the Royal Festival Hall watching Stephanie Dosen, The Kissaway Trail and Midlake celebrating the album’s tenth anniversary. Raymonde spotted Macve at an open mic evening at the Bee’s Mouth in Brighton and signed her up. Originally from Galway, raised in Yorkshire, the LP was produced by Lantern On The Lake’s Paul Gregory in Newcastle. In the meantime, she’s supported personal favourite John Grant and Ryley Walker.
It is a spare record and one can hear the Lanterns influence. Most tracks feature a multi tracked version of Holly’s voice, piano and/or acoustic guitar and that is mostly it aside from a few embellishments such as the odd slide and tremolo guitar on “The Corner Of My Mind”.
Holly’s voice is front and centre along with her rootsy and country influenced songs. It is quite an instrument, blessed with a Hank Williams style falsetto yodel. If I had a criticism, it is that she overuses that yodel and it drifts into affectation occasionally. Some may love it though, although I found it a little wearing and too a slight degree, detracts from the high quality of the songs. “Heartbreak Blues” and “No-one Has The Answers” step the pace up a little but generally this is a slow and easy type of album. “Shell” has a touch of Ladies Of The Canyon era Joni.
The title track is dedicated to Holly’s grandfather, a composer who helped her learn the piano and started her musical education. She started singing around the house before she could talk properly and obviously the musical talent is in her bones. It is a very accomplished debut, stylistically self assured. It closes the album with a stately piano ballad and a choir of multiple Hollys.
It reminds me of Alela Diane, a personal favourite from the late noughties. Hear’s Alela’s early song “Pirate’s Gospel”, a folk sea shanty. Alela has a similar voice but doesn’t go in for the falsetto stuff.
I’ve been listening to the LP a great deal and get a little more from it each time which bodes well. It is available from Rough Trade on red vinyl with a bonus CD of covers, the highlight of which is a gorgeous cover of the Everly Brother’s “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and a decent crack at Ryan Adam’s “Call Me On Your Way Back Home” from my old favourite “Heartbreaker“.
Holly has done a Rough Trade podcast in the shoplifting series, where she picks her interesting records in store. Her selections certainly showed her influences quite clearly and a couple of the songs are stone cold classics IMHO:
- Gillian Welch – “Revelator” (from “Time (The Revelator)”(2001)) – 0ne of my very favourite records too
- Meilyr Jones – “Refugee” (from “2013” (2013)) – gentle piano track from a Welsh singer songwriter
- Angel Olsen – “Lights Out” (from “Burn Your Fire For No Witness”(2014)) – as noted above, I’ve developed a bit of a fondness for Angel’s music over the last few months
- Ryan Adams – “Bartering Lines” (from “Heartbreaker” (2000)) – she’s a big fan of “Heartbreaker”, which of course is fine by me!
- Mazzy Star – “Fade Into You” (from “So Tonight I May See” (1993)) – another great song but from their second LP, not the first as the podcast states
The songs are all from the classic singer songwriter repertoire, albeit rather recent examples. Holly obviously has a good ear.
I can imagine Holly working well on the summer festival circuit in the acoustic arenas. One to watch.