The Whitest Boy Alive. Do you know who they are? Don’t worry, I wasn’t expecting a resounding yes. A little-known jazz-funk-pop-rock band, The Whitest Boy Alive were my soundtrack to quite a few lonely nights at home alone, particularly songs like ‘1517’ and ‘Golden Cage’.
But one person who does know a thing or two about The Whitest Boy Alive is Luc Andre, lead singer, guitarist and clarinetist of the band Un âne gonflable.
Luc and his crew take the spirit of The Whitest Boy Alive and The Strokes, and then turn things up a notch. Thoughtful, touching, yet surprisingly bouncy and dance-able, Un âne gonflable combine the best of funk, pop and even layers of avant-garde into a neat little guitar-led package.
In this episode, Luc and I talk about the beginnings of the band, the best ways to promote your music today, and what it means exactly to feel like Frank Moody (Californication fans might sympathise).
Album review: Ribbons, Bibio
Also this week, we take a look at the newest release from British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Bibio.
Fans of BPM Pod will be aware of Bibio, thanks to his previous mention for the single Curls (which is one of the two singles from this new album, Ribbons).
Bibio (a.k.a. Stephen Wilkinson) is part folk, part electronica, part country. Looking back over the Bibio discography, it is hard (and futile) to truly pin Wilkinson into one genre.
Ambivalence Avenue is still Bibio’s highest regarded release, intertwining synths with acoustic guitars, crackly field recordings and and drum machines, and the style here is certainly one which has permeated all of Bibio’s releases over the past 10 years (Phantom Brickworks notwithstanding).
If you ask me, A Mineral Love is the best Bibio release, delicately balancing folk-pop with hits of disco, soul and electronic music. Yet Ribbons is not a million miles away from the distinct Bibio sound on A Mineral Love; if anything, you could imagine Ribbons as the acoustic offcuts from A Mineral Love. Same DNA, different being.
Room to breathe
On Ribbons, Bibio introduces a more instrumental heavy drive, even in the lyrical numbers. Fiddly, fantastical guitar licks stand out in almost every track, showcasing not only the skill of Wilkinson on the guitar, but also the intelligence and talent in terms of arrangement.
Songs are allowed to breathe; melodies are given time to develop; each part is granted to space it needs to add to the atmosphere of tranquility that transcends the entire album.
Given this, Ribbons is perhaps the most complete release from Bibio. This doesn’t mean it is exempt from flaws: with 16 songs running over 51 minutes, some of the songs become tedious and predictable, notably in the instrumental numbers where the guitar sound is too familiar.
There’s a sense that four songs could have been cut from the album and released later as an EP, or as bonus content. That’s not to say anything here is bad, but you can have too much of a good thing.
Still, for a lazy Sunday afternoon lull, for a feeling of exploring the rolling British countryside, or for something to keep the guests tapping their toes at a late-night dinner party, you could do a lot worse than turn to Bibio. While Town and Country and Light Up The Sky still take the crown as the best Bibio songs to date, a pick of any track from Ribbons is certainly going to please. Worth a spin.
Ribbons is available on Spotify and all other streaming services, and is available to order on vinyl from Bibio’s own website.
Album review: Forget Me Not, Adrian Tonceanu
Also on this episode’s album-review-double-header, there’s the new release from Adrian Tonceanu, a charming Canadian singer-songwriter, who I have had the pleasure of playing with
Forget Me Not is the fifth release from Adrian, continuing his catalogue of acoustic-led folk-rock hits. Here the 10 songs run just over 40 minutes in length, ranging from rockier numbers to folk ballads.
What I like about Adrian is the very lyrically involving feel; there is a lot to unpackage here in terms of sentimentality, reflection and angst. Alongside this, there is the acoustic-led melodies.
It is quite heavy on the acoustic guitar – perhaps too much so in places – but it is a contrast to what could have been a generic, grunge, distorted guitar sound.
There is heavy use of chorus on most of the vocals, giving a feeling of the late sixties or early seventies. On tracks like Bring You Back the influences of The Beatles are pretty clear, coupled with some almost Bowie-esque elements and chord changes.
The opening track, Till Tomorrow, showcases the speedy fingerwork of Adrian in the best way possible – there are some steller solos in there.
Wind Beneath is a rather typical blues number, one which most reminds me of a Joe Walsh or James Gang tune, with the high amount of chorus on the guitar, the use of distortion on the main drive, and the harmonized vocals.
A lot of the songs here focus on sorrow, pain and love, but Adrian has a sense of humour about it all. Witty lyrics are sprinkled with strange voicings and phrasings, neither of which are offputting or awkward, but certainly amusing.
Adrian’s voice recalls a way of singing that is largely forgotten today, especially among the singer-songwriter crowd who focus heavily on a faux-London accent. Adrian’s voice is reminiscent of early nineties rock bands, or even late eighties glam rock bands. That’s not a criticism at all; in fact, that signals power, a deep bass resonance, and a certain clarity too.
All in all, there’s a tonne of solid acoustic-driven songs here. At times, the motifs and sounds do become quite familiar – particularly with the reliance on the acoustic to lead the way. The album certainly hits its stride early, with House on the Hill and Nina being the weakest points for me. Yet overall, this release is a welcome addition to any fans of the folk-rock genre, and certainly one Adrian should be proud of.
Forget Me Not is available from Adrian’s website, digitally and on vinyl.