Tag Archives: Blues

Feist: Metals

28 Dec

Broken Social Scene member Feist’s fourth solo album is another one of highly-skilled Indie-Folk-Pop.

Feist has a powerful voice. Whilst she clearly has the capacity to belt every word out at the top of her lungs à la Florence and the Machine, in most of her songs she opts, rather, to sing softly and amplify her vocal recordings, resulting in a notably textured, dynamic and emotive vocal sound.

Feist also plays her dynamics well, oscillating swiftly between bare vocals backed by subtle acoustic guitar and the fuller sound created by prominent vocal harmonies in “The Circle married the Line”, and the final minute and a half of “Undiscovered First” – shouted boisterously over a strong, forceful percussion track – contributes to the entire album as a dynamical outlier, adding more sensitivity by comparison to tracks like “Cicadas and Gulls”.

In addition to emotively-harnessed vocals and skillful work with dynamics, Feist’s music is richly instrumentally-layered. “The Bad in Each Other” – strongly folk-influenced and garbed in wise, true lyrics – exemplifies this, and “Anti Pioneer”, interwoven with Jazz and Blues, displays an ear for tiny but memorable details in the soft, shrouded however poignant piano part that comes into it towards the end.

Feist’s music is excellently finished in terms of its instrumental composition, its dynamics, and of course the rare level of sensitivity in Feist’s vocals.



If only we all were the same kind of bad as you, Tom Waits…

25 Dec

There is never a dull moment with Tom Waits, least of all his latest album, Bad As Me. From fast-paced, hurry-up-and-get-on-the-damn-train bustle of opening track “Chicago” to “New Year’s Eve”: its slow, accordion-led ending track,  the album is a rich and embellished portfolio of Waits’ deft and devilish dabbling in a variety of musical styles, vocal techniques and different musical instruments.

In addition to the deep Jazz and Blues roots that extend their foliage to dapple all of Waits’ music in their shade, Bad As Me also contains elements of Country and European Folk music (also known as “listen, that’s a French accordion!”), as well as songs that cleanly fit into more modern genres like old-school Rock ‘n Roll number “Get Lost”, and classic Hard-Rock track “Satisfied”.

A particularly impressive feature of this album is Waits’ vocal versatility. In “Talking at the Same Time”, Waits sings in a sensitive – albeit still somewhat smoke-screened – falsetto, and in “Get Lost” he cranks his voice up to a choppy,  high-pitched gravel-grind that sounds like the lovechild of a dog’s growl and a wolf’s howl. Other songs, of course, feature Waits’ signature low-pitched, bourbon-soaked grunt.

In amongst Waits’ usual eerie and sinisterly-truthful lyrics are some enriching intertexual references, for example his hailing of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in “Satisfied”, and his commentary on and adaptation of “Auld Lang Syne” in “New Year’s Eve”.

Tom Waits’ Bad As Me has no filler-tracks. Every song is layered, finished and unique in its musical presentation and has its own story to tell in its lyrics. This is definitely an album worth listening to. On repeat.



It’s definitely a parenting thing.

19 Jun

The first music I ever danced to was Steely Dan.

The first music I ever recognized was Dollar Brand.

The first music I ever played (besides those AMAZING four-hour Free Jazz improvs I used to rattle off on our old Casio keyboard when I was 2) was JS Bach.

The first lyrics I ever really connected with were Pink Floyd’s.

The first lead guitarist I really fell in love with was David Gilmour

and the first person who I ever thought must’ve been the g-damn king of everything was undoubtedly Jimi Hendrix.


When he was 11, my dad busted his hardened-slacker reputation one year making sure he came top of his class, because if he did his dear old pops would buy him a guitar. He obliged: it cost him R12, and you could only really play it with a broken bottle-neck. It became known as “René’s gut-bucket” among the Avenant boys, and they would congregate from time to time to see who of them could prove their unshakeable manhood by holding three of its strings down long enough to strum a chord.

20 years later, though, he was composing music for the Jazzart dance company, and a further 20 down the line, despite his sinister B-Comm and Computer Science history, he’s finally a freelance professional musician. Whenever I bring a new friend home I kind of re-realise that my dad has a ponytail and the walls are lined with guitars, and I always end up pondering that where fathers are concerned, I really could’ve ended up with worse.

I was my dad who, conducting a series of experiments to determine what it takes to get a few-month-old dancing – and what this even looks like – discovered that I bopped up and down on my bum when he played Steely Dan. It was my dad who let me stay up a bit later because I’d jumped out of bed, having recognized the song my parents were playing, and it was my dad who showed me how to play Bach’s minuet in G and laughed when I converted it to Bach’s minuet in G minor. It was my dad who (masking numerous panic attacks) steered me away from Britney Spears and taught me about what had been going on in the world when Pink Floyd released The Wall. It was my dad again who, when the likes of Simple Plan began to find their way into our “music” folder, sat me down for a rather serious talk about Jimi Hendrix and his contributions to the rock genre. My dad taught me about contemporary music history and introduced me to the blues: its deep-running roots.

My dad introduced me to Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and The Beatles – all of whose music means so much to me that it feels weird saying just their names out loud when people ask me what kind of music I like.

Most importantly, though, my dad brought me up having been a victim of the “Ooh, we’re writing poo-imms, are we?” generation: he warned me that human civilization is a machine if not approached correctly, and never to let anybody turn me into a cog. He taught me to be suspicious of authority, and consistently drilled into my mind that I could do whatever I wanted with my life, as long as I was doing what I wanted.

Above all, he taught me to say “fuck you” (and loudly) to society when it needs to hear it, and it’s for this that I’m damn glad René Avenant is my father.


Poppa-bear is currently on lead guitar and vocals in The Hellfire Blues Club, and they’re pretty badass.