Monday, April 4, 2011

Jonny, A New Project From Norman Blake and Euros Childs - A Review And A Free MP3!

One of the bonuses of having a blog -- even one like mine that only gets about 500 hits a day -- is that I've been able to get a few albums I wanted to hear for free and in advance of the release dates.

I will admit right now that my hopes were not high for the debut album from Jonny (Euros Childs from Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub) -- this wasn't necessarily a must hear-thing as much as it was a would be nice to hear-thing -- but, dammit, this is one charming and tuneful album!

I think I'm just surprised at how upbeat and sunny this whole Jonny album is!

Even discounting the 10 minute "Cave Dance", there are 30 minutes of great indie pop on this record.

Sounding at once familiar and totally different than their base-camp bands, Jonny plays to the strengths of both Euros (whimsy, psychedelia) and Norman (songcraft, harmony).

It's a very summer-y record and it recalls some of the more sing-a-long moments on the best Super Furry Animals records.

(And I'm not just going to that reference point 'cause Euros is a Welshman!)

Recorded in the studio of Paul Savage, one-time drummer of The Delgados -- he produced the last Emma Pollock album as well -- Jonny sounds crisp and direct with the bits of Gorky's-inspired whimsy kept to a minimum.

I say that because it's clear that this could easily have turned into a Euros Childs project as the guy is a very distinctive vocalist and musician but, no, Jonny remains a fully realized collaboration.

Opener "Wich is Wich" is a false-flag operation, bringing to mind Gorky's Zygotic Mynci immediately but, hey, the song is over before it's too far along.

Then we get "Candyfloss" (And you get it too; the link to the free MP3 is down below!). This is a near perfect single where both vocalists sound assured and in charge. As the harmonies of Euros and Norman carry the song forward, the music vaguely recalling something off of Heaven Up Here (1981) by Echo and the Bunnymen, the guitars chime and a listener just coasts along not quite sure which part is from Euros and which is from Norman.

And isn't that exactly what all great collaborations should be? While there are some cuts on this record that can be pinned to the guy from Gorky's or the guy from Teenage Fanclub, "Candyfloss" is the peak where things seem more seamlessly blended.

Here it's worth noting that Jonny is not just Euros Childs and Norman Blake; it's Dave McGowan from Teenage Fanclub on bass and Stuart Kidd from BMX Bandits on drums.

"Circling The Sun" is very nearly the best Teenage Fanclub song that's not a Teenage Fanclub song. If it's too obviously the work of Norman Blake, that's okay as it's just about perfect in its vaguely Byrdsian way.

"I Want To Be Around You" also recalls Teenage Fanclub but here, with Euros on lead vocal, the song sounds more like the Welsh band trying to cover the Scottish poppers.

With a sort of 1964 Kinks vibe to it, "Waiting Round For You" rollicks and rumbles in a retro fashion.

"Bread" directly recalls Emma Pollock's "Adrenaline", from her first solo album, and -- as others have noted -- is fleetingly political in its lyrical concerns.

The highlight of the record for me is clearly "Goldmine". With a garage-y organ, the cut sounds vaguely like something from The Bevis Frond or The 3Ds.

And let's not neglect the downright beautiful "The Goodnight" and "Never Alone", vocals handled by Norman Blake and Euros Childs, respectively. The two songs are spare and lean with the keyboards and piano in each used to great effect; it's hard not to hear a touch of the final Delgados records in each song now that I know that Delgado Paul Savage mixed and produced this album.

The 10-minute "Cave Dance" starts with 2 minutes of sprightly indie pop and then turns into an epic 8-minute keyboard workout, akin to the sort of spacious, and space-y, tracks one might find on a High Llamas record.

As it is, the song is more ambitious than essential but it's not a total mistake.

The product of two different pop sensibilities, Jonny works best when those differences are subsumed into something else.

While it would be foolish to try to compare this to the best moments of either Gorky's Zygotic Mynic or Teenage Fanclub, Jonny is as good in its own way as Barafundle (1997) or Grand Prix (1995).

But, you know what? You don't need to even try to make those comparisons. Just put Jonny on and dig those harmonies and melodies.

Download "Candyfloss" by Jonny right here!

Follow the band via Merge Records, where you can buy the album in MP3, vinyl, or CD formats.

Additionally, you can buy the album as an MP3 album from in the United States.