James Blake gifted fans with a pre-Christmas present Sunday as the British singer released the studio take of his unadorned rendition of Don McLean’s “Vincent.” After frequently performing the American Pie song about Vincent Van Gogh in concert over the past year, Blake entered Los Angeles’ Conway Studios earlier this month to lay down the track.Like those live renditions, Blake’s version strips the song to its core as the singer runs through the track accompanied only by piano. “Vincent” is also available to stream or download on all major services, with that version the recipient of some minute studio touches. Following his busy 2016 – in addition to releasing his latest LP The Colour of Anything, Blake also produced “Forward” for Beyonce’s Lemonade, worked on Frank Ocean’s Blonde and recruited Vince Staples for a “Timeless” remix – the singer has been relatively quiet in 2017, only dropping his Natalie Portman-starring “My Willing Heart” video in March and collaborating on Kendrick Lamar’s “Element.”Blake has debuted a handful of new songs during his 2017 shows, including tracks titled “Lul Bye,” “I Can’t Believe the Way We Flow” and “Loath to Roam.”
Johnny Marr has unveiled a new collaborative track and video with acclaimed actress Maxine Peake.
The former Smiths, Cribs, Modest Mouse and The The guitarist turned solo star has teamed up with the award-winning ‘Shameless’, ‘The Village’ and ‘Silk’ actress Peake to deliver a hard-hitting commentary on homelessness.
Based on the experiences of former Big Issue salesman Joe Gallagher from his first the first few weeks of being homeless in Edinburgh (which he would later publish in The Big Issue under the name James Campbell), ‘The Priest’ sees Peake reading out Gallagher’s poetry, backed by a cinematic soundscape provided by Marr.
“I wanted to do something different and I thought of asking Maxine to collaborate having been a fan of her work,” said Marr of the song. “We started a creative process that clicked and culminated in ‘The Priest’, a song and short film inspired by a facet of modern life as we see it and feel it.”
“It’s about asking questions,” Peake The Guardian of the track and video – which stars her ‘Three Girls’ co-star Molly Windsor on the streets of Manchester. “Everybody’s in a situation, everybody has a story. It’s about finding out why. We take things at face value, don’t we?
“You form an opinion about something immediately, but you ought to step back a bit. Take in the vista first.”
Speaking of Gallagher’s work, Big Issue editor Paul McNamee said: “Over time, Joe started to work up and out of his place. He got shortlisted for a journalism award. He started looking for a place to live, and apply for work. He gained confidence. He worked his way from the street, using The Big Issue and his incredible writing skill, and is now in permanent work. I’m proud to have played a small part. It’s what The Big Issue is for, really.
“Then, when we heard Johnny Marr and Maxine Peake had come across his work and wanted to use it, that was the cherry on top. We arranged for Joe to go and see Maxine and Johnny a few weeks ago. We’re running the piece in Monday’s big Christmas special. It’s a terrific story. Everybody at The Big Issue is incredibly proud of what Joe has achieved. Who knows where it will end!”
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released new song, “Echo,” the latest preview from the group’s forthcoming new album, Wrong Creatures.
Unlike the album’s opening single “Little Thing Gone Wrong,” which leaned more toward BRMC’s trademark ragged garage sound, “Echo” takes a more atmospheric, uncluttered approach. The song, as the title suggests, echoes the enthralling sound of Eighties rockers like Echo & The Bunnymen.
Longtime Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds collaborator Nick Launay produced Wrong Creatures, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s first album since 2013’s Specter at the Feast. The album was created in part while drummer Leigh Shapiro recovered from a brain tumor.
“I find myself writing about death a lot,” frontman Peter Hayes previously said of Wrong Creatures in a statement. “I find myself having a discussion with death, which sounds dark. For me, it’s dark humor.”
Wrong Creatures arrives January 12th. Three days later, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will embark on a nationwide five-week long tour that concludes February 24th at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theatre. Fans that preorder Wrong Creatures will receive an instant download of “Echo” along with “Little Thing Gone Wrong.”
The first single from Titus Andronicus’ upcoming fifth album A Productive Cough, “Number One (In New York),” probably can’t be called a holiday song, even though it’s spangled with sleigh bells and rolls with the sway of a Christmas carol. Frontman Patrick Stickles even sings the words “Tis the season,” though he follows it immediately with “I’m breathing in poison.” Maybe it’s more of an early January song, the kind that feels right after the festivities have drained away and everyone collectively braces themselves for another year. Stickles doesn’t sound too happy about the prospect, but, as always, there’s a streak of hope in his signature bray, even as he declares himself “president of the emptiness.”
As the song’s repeated piano riff grows louder and more insistent, as the saxophones and guitars start to roar toward the eight-minute mark, Stickles sounds more and more hopeless, like his ennui might go on forever. “We’re off to another dimension/The rent’s too expensive here,” he proclaims, but by the end, he finds some degree of solace in the fact that he’s able to sing at all. “I can’t begin to think what I’d tell people back home/So I tell it to the microphone,” he concludes. It’s bleak out here, but at the very least, Titus Andronicus can still scream their heads off while the world burns.