Music

Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch with Fats Kaplin: You Can't Save Everybody

Jason MacNeil

Fats Kaplin

You Can't Save Everybody

Display Artist: Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch With Fats Kaplin
Label: Dead Reckoning
US Release Date: 2004-07-20
UK Release Date: Available as import
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I first heard Kieran Kane when he was with the O'Kanes, a short lived but rewarding group that spawned hits like "Daddies Need to Grow Up Too" and "One True Love". A couple of years later I heard of Kevin Welch when he seemed to be in the good graces of Nashville's utterly finicky Music Row. His hit "Something 'Bout You", from his Western Beat album, as well as "Til I See You Again", had him as the next big deal. But Welch and Kane are in it for the long haul, making some of their finest music in recent albums, including a live release recorded Down Under. Now, with this album, the singer-songwriters and musical craftsman team up again to offer up a dozen songs that would outshine even the best Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings have to give. Beginning with the mountain-esque haunt on the title track, Kane's deeper timbre is countered by the higher drawl of Welch (Kevin, not Gillian!). The instrumentation draws you in and you're hooked less than a minute in. "You can't save everybody / No word no word no praise / You can't save everybody / Everybody don't wanna be saved", they sing on the slow but enjoyable, swaying tune.

It's a great start and sets the mood for this album -- two singers who have plied their craft quite well and are more at ease sitting in wooden chairs across from each other churning out gems. "Dark Eyed Gal" has Welch taking lead as Fat Waller comes in with his button accordion. Although it's drawn out a tad longer, the tempo is just the way it should be in a Townes Van Zandt-like manner. Kane and Welch sound like they have been together forever, playing into each other's strengths while the toe-tapping Appalachian-meets-bluegrass hue greets "Hillybilly Blue". Here Kane speaks the lyrics more than sings them, but the accompanying instruments are the song's biggest asset.

Both songwriters use the blues format sometimes with a distinctive traditional Americana slant, particularly as Welch controls the quite bouncy "Jersey Devil" as he's helped out on harmonies by guest vocalist Claudia Scott. It's the sort of song that could go on for perhaps twice its length without losing any steam, just a rolling and ambling tempo that is still rather jaunty. The lone mediocre tune thus far is the ordinary "Somewhere in the Middle" with a slight Tex-Mex feeling that is thankfully rather short. But this direction is a brief change as it's back to the strong songwriting and delivery, with Welch giving a great performance on "Flycatcher Jack and the Whippoorwill's Song", resembling the darker moments of Steve Earle's "Billy Austin" or "Over Yonder" as well as Springsteen's sparser Nebraska or The Ghost Of Tom Joad. This is followed up by "Callin' Me", a spiritual tune that is mindful of Hank Williams, although without much of the honky tonky. Here, Fats Kaplin weaves a lot of magic around Kane's lead and Welch's support during the chorus.

Although there are many highlights, perhaps "the" one is Welch's self-penned "Till I'm Too Old to Die Young", which was a hit for the likes of Moe Bandy in the late '80s. The song, which talks about literally holding on for dear life, is somber and yet somehow quite hopeful given the topic. "I pray that I won't feel the chill until I'm too old to die young", Welch sings as he and Kane just strum a few comfortable folk chords. Ending the song with just his voice is the sonic icing on a very rich cake that might leave a lump in your throat.

The homestretch isn't quite as outstanding but the creeping "Everybody's Working for the Man Again . . . " takes dead aim on the big department stores squashing the little independent Mom-and-Pop shops and the much bigger picture. "We had a radio station they played our music they way they all liked it round here / Then a big corporation with a whole lot of money told our jockeys what we wanted to hear", Welch sings. Ending with "A Prayer Like Any Other", this album shows you that there's still great songwriters out there. It's just your job to look a little bit harder. So get going!

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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