Cult Classics Album Breakdown 10

Cooza – Our Day (2020)

Isn’t it fascinating how alternative genres of music emerge from standard genres we already know?

Cooza is a masked alt-folk musician from the west side of Liverpool’s River mersey who describes his music as freak folk. Freak folk. I love it, and I totally get it. It shouldn’t fit in. It shouldn’t really appeal, because ‘freak’ lives on the outside, right? The extremities? The borderlands of acceptability and beyond? Yes and no. I mean, who knows anymore? I feel that freak is chic in the roaring 2020’s. And Our Day is definitely chic.

In a world where artists are up against it if they want to make a living from the music industry, more and more independent projects are emerging. You see, when you write, record, master and self-produce your own music, you don’t have to deal with record executives, the unfortunate business of record labels, rip-off merchants and con-artists. You don’t have to have your image crafted to what they prefer. You don’t have to guide your art towards sales and the grip of the commercial jaw. You can do whatever you want, however you want, and use the multiple platforms afforded us in the technological age to reach an audience.

Now, I’m a record man. I like to buy a vinyl or CD copy. Cooza’s Our Day is currently still only available on streaming platforms, but I’m working on it. I’d love nothing more than this album on my vinyl shelf tucked neatly between Joni Mitchell and The Beatles. Hint Hint.

Cooza’s contemporary tones draw inspiration from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Adrianne Lenker, Bon Iver, Big Thief, Ben Howard and Flatsound, and his poetic lyricism derives from an attraction and preoccupation with the natural world. Other slightly more melancholy soaked themes explore the complexities of love, and the struggle to comprehend post-millenial relations. It’s no coincidence that this talented young songwriter is a Joni Mitchell and later-career Kate Bush fan. The aching and mystery is all there.

The highlights include hypnotic single Wooden Frame, in which the combination of guitar loops and delicately layered vocals bleed beautifully all over the audio waves. You Look Good In It could have been written by David Crosby in 1969 – an absolutely sublime, gentle anaesthetic. I adore the background noises, and the vocals that sound like they’re coming from another room. It’s as indie as it gets.

The fascinating Love Love (Interlude) has Dr John’s Gris Gris stamped all over it, Be My Man a spacious, ethereal lament, and Gentle Into The Good Night (Interlude) such a brain-worm mind-fuck that it could rest perfectly adeptly in a Boris Karloff film.

Henrio, a Spanish master of melody and fellow Liverpool based musician, joins Cooza for Hores De Capvespre in what becomes a lyrically intense, roomy declaration, and quite frankly, I could lie back in a field, eyes closed, and listen to Cut My Hair for just about forever. The album concludes with I Can See New Zealand From Here – not just a concept that raises a smile, but a simply gorgeous, scattered refrain.

When asked about the concept behind Our Day, Cooza had this to say:

“…the whole album is a series of snapshots from a relationship told through the narrative timeframe of a day- starting with waking from a dream full of questions, and ending on going to sleep and falling into a new dream that promises more freedom. ‘Our Day’ is about how you can claim a whole day as your own, forgetting the world exists when you’re with someone you love. It’s about trying to keep the feelings of love from that day alive for however long…” (courtesy of: http://www.gigsoupmusic.com)

And so here is a melting pot of extensive and diverse influences – Cooza is clearly a muso who listens with more than just two ears. The melodies that he crafts are an intriguing mix of melancholy & sunrise & soothing & aching & longing & surprise & grief & hope & green meadows & lemon trees & soul. His voice is unique, and his guitar playing so sparse that it makes the spaces in between do all the work. It’s brilliant.

I love nothing more than to discover a local artist whose music touches me. And it’s no wonder this record has already amassed more than 200,000 Spotify streams.

Listen to the album here: https://open.spotify.com/album/5EpS9xRiHoo93AsV1Y6ShI

★★★★★★★★★☆

9/10

© Joel Saunders

Top track trio:

You Look Good In It

Wooden Frame

I Can See New Zealand From Here


Cult Classics Album Breakdown 2

Paul McCartney – McCartney III (2020)

It’s absolutely remarkable to me that a man of McCartney’s age is still doing what he’s doing at 78. The man is a melody machine. I mean, how can one guy have so many incredible, magnetic, dopamine soaked, feel-good bangers in ONE BRAIN?!

Paul McCartney is not only the most successful commercial songwriter in contemporary music history, but he is also one of the richest, has record breaking stats falling out of his jacket pockets….and most importantly….he was a BEATLE! He could have retired in 1970 when Liverpool’s famed fab-four split, and lived more than just a comfortable life. Instead, fifty years later, after already showcasing a body of solo and Wings work that the world will never see the likes of again, he’s been back in the studio completing his trilogy of indie inspiring, self penned, produced and engineered masterpieces in what only Macca could coin ‘rock-down’.

McCartney III proves one thing for sure – the man is still in love with his one true love….music. This album is far from going through the motions. It isn’t in the least bit stagnant, over-chiselled, sappy or contrived. Yet again, the genius that is (staggeringly…) heading for 80, has pulled out an absolute gem from yet another wardrobe door in his Narnia of imaginations. I’m not gushing over this record because it’s McCartney. I’m gushing over it because it’s bloody great.

As a writer myself, it always amazes me to see someone as prolific as Macca. Consider his discography: 23 studio albums credited to The Beatles, a further 26 studio albums credited to Paul McCartney, either solo or with Wings, 7 classical albums, 5 electronica albums (as The Fireman), and countless live albums, compilations, EP’s and box sets. I know his career has spanned almost 60 years, but the man has literally never stopped. That can only be down to his burning desire to create, and the need to fulfil that incredible gift that he has been given to craft a melody and pin it down with words the world over can relate to.

McCartney III opens with what is already an iconic riff – an almost eerie descent into Long Tailed Winter Bird, an all out attack on the musical senses, and the signature theme for this surprise release. It left me thinking shit, there’s so much more left in his tank! The album really takes off with Find My Way – a classic McCartney hook, and though the power of that crème-de-le-crème vocal has faded, he’s found ways to still work it. The very best in every walk of life adapt rather than disappear.

Lavatory Lil could have been on the classic B-side of Abbey Road, Slidin’ shows that Macca has been listening to the Foos (and that he’s no slouch on lead guitar), and Deep Down is the most contemporary McCartney track I’ve heard this side of the millenium. Fascinating to hear an old man singing about throwing parties every night. I’m sure Macca is no stranger to a party, even now. His eternal youth shines through this record.

The true highlight for me though is the mesmerising, 8-plus minute Deep Deep Feeling. For me, it generates a similar intensity that I Want You (She’s So Heavy) does, also on The Beatles’ seminal album, Abbey Road. The song swirls into a deep vortex of beautiful loops, and probably Macca’s most innovative vocal in years. Also….what a drummer he is!

The other highlight is the final track, Winter Bird / When Winter Comes. An outtake from the 1997 Flaming Pie sessions, McCartney has finally put the finishing touches to what is a beautifully raw, singer-songwriter masterpiece – the likes of which James Taylor, Stephen Stills, John Martyn or John Prine would be proud of.

Paul McCartney’s importance in the realms of contemporary popular music doesn’t need to be chanted from the rooftops. The man is the Beethoven of our times. Yes, he’s made better albums. Not many, but he has. I’m actually a fan of much of McCartney’s 21st century output, but I think this album probably snatches top spot of that batch from the 2006 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, which was also outstanding.

It leaves me excited for what else may come from the master tunesmith. It’s so refreshing to see the likes of Macca, Dylan, the Stones et al in the studio producing music that stands up. With his 80th birthday looming, we may be in for yet another original surprise from Paul….and if so, all hail the old guard!

★★★★★★★★★☆

9/10

© Mary McCartney

Top track trio:

Find My Way

Deep Deep Feeling

Winter Bird / When Winter Comes