Pre-order “Christmas Joy in Full Measure” on iTunes now, and receive Mary Epworth’s new song “The Wolf and the Woods” instantly.
Hand Of Glory records asked twelve artists for an original Christmas song. Here are twelve tracks that sum up the many experiences of Christmas, from lush widescreen pop (Webb Brothers), to sparkly Saturnalian disco (Mary Epworth) to dystopian Fall-esque horror (Extradition Order). Other standout tracks include Young Knives’ dark medieval-esque ‘Low Carol’, Kiran Leonard’s sprawling proggy epic ‘Huygens probe’ and Papernut Cambridge’s charming and magical ’93 Million And One’.
Kiran Leonard’s excellent debut album Bowler Hat Soup is out today on Hand Of Glory, available as a gatefold double LP, CD and download.
See above for an exclusive track by track explanation of Kiran’s masterful debut album.
“Kiran Leonard (No 1,520)
He’s 17 and supremely, eclectically gifted – meet the Manc mutha of invention”
Hometown: Dobcross, Oldham.
The lineup: Kiran Leonard (vocals, instruments).
The background: Kiran Leonard is a singer-songwriter from near Manchester, but another kid busker with a soulful voice he ain’t. Record companies searching for the next Ed Sheeran can probably look away now (he’s not even the next Ed Harcourt, although that’s a lot closer). One of the tracks on his album, Bowler Hat Soup – which isn’t even his debut, despite the fact he’s only 17 – sounds like a hardcore band playing a show tune. Others remind us of Ariel Pink in a tussle with Aphex Twin, and Van Dyke Parks if he were remaking Song Cycle less as a tumble of musicals and Americana and more as a jumble of music hall and Monty Python.
Needless to say, Leonard is more Frank Zappa than Frank Turner. Bowler Hat Soup includes 16 tracks and features Leonard playing everything bar a swordfish trombone, from the usual piano and guitar to a grill. There are as many ideas as there are instruments (22 at last count, give or take a cajón and a mandolin). Hell, his press release contains more ideas than most records by people twice his age. He describes his album as “a hexadecagonal pseudo-fortress of occasionally caustic and semi-illiterate pop nonsense” and, employing a decidedly regal third-person, “suspects the whole thing is a little schizophrenic and relentless” while tacitly acknowledging the benefits of such qualities. He is “a firm believer in the exponential curve that connects the power and excellence of a show with its number of drummers” and “claims his music is capable of causing uncontrollable bouts of hysteria”.
We’re not laughing, we’re gawping. At this boy – signed to producer Paul Epworth’s sister Mary’s label – who knows how to spell Nietzsche and leitmotif, and who, not surprisingly, has been described by sources we trust as “freakishly savantish”. His music, as we say, moves rapidly between prog-pop, scuzz-rock and a dozen other places, some of which have no name. From the baroque tumult that is opener Dear Lincoln to the closing track, A Purpose, performed on an 1898 American reed organ, there is no let-up. It is psych-cabaret one minute, avant-chamber pop the next. There are handclaps and harmoniums, and an agglomeration of non-rock styles that posit Leonard as a sort of teenage Brit Van Dyke. There’s No Future in Us is a mad Ariel Pink hurtle wherein Leonard’s voice is treated not so much to Auto-Tune as Manual Distort. Oakland Highball is metal vaudeville or acoustic thrash.
Apparently, his previous album opened with a 26-minute prog-jazz opus called the Big Fish. We’re actually scared to check it out. Before that, he made electronic music under the name Pend Oreille. Not for nothing have some suspected Leonard is some kind of brilliant hoaxer. Either way, you want to applaud him. “I have never attempted anything this complex or grandiose,” he says. He explains that lyrically he “began to semantically group certain themes – songs about my family and friends, of love and war, and also alcohol consumption” – as he progressed. He adds: “To have finally seen its completion is an overwhelming and wonderful feeling.” We can only imagine.
The buzz: “Jesus, what a talent.”
The truth: We doff our (bowler) hats to this young chap.
Most likely to: Pend belief.
Least likely to: Sign to a major.
What to buy: Bowler Hat Soup will be released by Hand Of Glory on a limited run of 300 vinyl records on 26 August.
File next to: Ed Harcourt, Rufus Wainwright, Frank Zappa, Harry Nilsson.
“In the Bandcamp introduction to “Dear Lincoln”, Kiran Leonard lays out some caveats for prospective listeners: “I was 14 and uneducated, hence my mispronunciation (and pretentious namedropping) of friedrich NEECHsher. i also fucked up lEETmotif. but as far as anyone is concerned, the mistakes are obviously ironic.” His insistence upon irony is the only faintly juvenile thing about this majestic, freakishly savant-ish song; Leonard is now 17, and resides in Oldham, near Manchester, and as a resident thereof, I feel entirely justified in telling you just how dull it is here. Conversely, “Dear Lincoln” is a wondrous, sub-two-minute blast of shambolic, lo-fi piano rambling and smashed cymbal fog that would have been entirely at home on Elephant 6 in its heyday, recalling early of Montreal, Elf Power– and a Joanna Newsom-like way with words and intonation rendered in the wiry voice of a manic teenage boy.
Leonard says the song’s about mental health and the concept of tabula rasa, though it’s hard to follow the lyrics without guidance– he sings as if playing the piano from Big, sprinting up and down the keys while yelping at least one word for every note. There’s so much raw, unadulterated delight here; the way he uses a single word as the join between bars, breaking it over his knee before scurrying into another mad verse, spewing lines like, “the walls of coffin beds begin to topple with flames, scream names,” in some nameless panic. It is without a doubt the most invigorating song I’ve heard all year. One more time: he wrote it when he was 14 years old.”
Laura Snapes, Pitchfork
This amazing video was suggested to me by MoxyMoron on Last.fm, as he saw that I was listening to “Bee Gees 1st” on repeat.
He said “Dim the lights”, and I will also add “Turn the volume up”.
I’m a rather big fan of Jobriath, AKA Jobriath Boone, born Bruce Wayne Campbell.
A couple of times I’ve mentioned this to people who share 99% of the same taste in music as me, who are happy to evangelise about most pop music, glam, folk, psych, whatever, only to find that they think I am claiming to like him only to seem outrageous.
The other response is generally just a blank look.
Personally I think he’s criminally underrated. I don’t know if that’s an overhang from homophobia in the 70s, homophobia in the here and now, a fear of glam rock, or just the result of a hype-bubble so massive that the fallout obscured what talents Jobriath really had.
I first saw this clip of Jobriath and his amazing backing band The Creatures on this clip from his 1974 appearance on Midnight Special.
His original choice of song “Take me I’m yours” was just a step too far for the producers due to its overtly sexual lyrical content. To me, his performance offers so much more than just glitter and showmanship.
Every time I watch this I’m filled with envy that I’m not in this band.
Sometime last year I got hold of a copy of the self-titled album he made as part of the band “Pidgeon”. I had a hunch I would like it, Jobriath plus sunshine pop sounded like my dream combination. My hunch was correct.
I love it all. It’s full of beautiful songs with baroque flourishes, it’s tender and sweet, and I find it awfully hard not to read lots of meaningful things into the lyrics.
This is the B-side of the single that Pigeon released after the album, supposedly there were some more tracks from these sessions. I wish this song was hugely famous. I can’t help but be greatly moved by it every time I hear it.
Killer lyrics to this one, listen in.
Bruce Wayne Campbell died of AIDS on 3 August 1983 aged just 36.
Acclaimed filmmaker Kieran Turner is busy making a film about Jobriath Boone and his life, featuring interviews with many of his friends and colleagues, and those who love his music now. Keep up with the project here Jobriath AD Facebook Page .
I wanted to write a post about music I had particularly got into over the last year, and I couldn’t really remember what I’d listened to when. I turned to the expert, my last.fm page.The stats there revealed the totally unsurprising truth that The Beach Boys are still my god and that The Association are my financial system (no, I’m not sure where I’m going with this metaphor either) but also helped show things which sprang from nowhere to the top of my chart.So I turn my attention to number 3 in my stats for 2010, the wonderful eccentric genius that is mr Kevin Ayers.
I stumbled across Kevin Ayers on a great comp, Insane Times: 25 British Psychedelic Artyfacts From The EMI Vaults which has some fantastic music on it, like “Is it love” by Jon, and “Mr Armageddon” by The Locomotive (one of my ’09 musical crushes) and also Kevin’s “Song For Insane Times”. I didn’t really like Kevin’s track at first, but it really grew on me.
There’s something special about the feel of Kevin Ayers’ music, the attitude maybe, that’s just so relaxed and natural, from the joyful pop of “Religious Experience (Singing a song in the morning)” right through to more experimental things like “The Confessions of Doctor Dream: Irreversible neural damage”. It never feels fake, it always feels like genuine playfulness, never self-indulgent or posturing.
Anyway, I think all I’m saying in this long and winding post, is that I love Kevin Ayers, and that listening to this marvellous box set brought me much comfort.
Like someone had sat me down and said to me: “It’s all going to be ok you know” and I believed him.