Well, it’s been too nice a day to be sat inside a cafe with free wireless internet, so I didn’t. I didn’t the day after either, hence this really stupid timeline that will make no sense to anyone but me.
Instead, I spent the day wandering about the grounds of an ancient church trying to read weather beaten gravestones from the 18th Century and (possibly) earlier, and pottering about on the seafront being harassed by seagulls which was a largely necessary evil, as weirdly enough, right up on the beach as close to the incoming tide as possible has been the only place to get a decent 3G signal on my phone.
And so on to my choice of second-favourite album of this year. As the TV behind me is currently beaming reports of a student protest being met with a sadly over-the-top response from the police (not excusing those who have turned up to bait the police by surging – from the back – people towards the lines, but charging with horses was disproportionate and unacceptable) and political discourse in general across the Atlantic being largely portrayed as being groups of people trying their hardest to shout over the top of other groups of people who respond in turn with more shouting, this record stands out as people with something important to say, saying it with a calmness and grace that has been lacking elsewhere. This approach may not garner the headlines as much as much noisier gatherings, but it is still a powerful plea and is one that is as steadfast and strong as the mountains that it has set out to try to protect.
Number 2: Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore – Dear Companion
I have to thank Sup Pop’s exemplary mail order department for making sure that my relationship with Dear Companion got off on the right foot by having it arrive on my doorstep slap bang on the official release date, which also happened to be my birthday. I had been anticipating this record from the moment it was first announced, as Daniel Martin Moore’s previous Stray Age release from 2008 had lodged itself firmly as one of the best albums I own. So, no pressure there then on this new album where Daniel is joined by cellist Ben Sollee who shares the same musical and environmental vision, and who have donated the profits from this release to ilovemountains.org – an organisation dedicated to peacefully fighting the destruction of mountaintops for the purposes of coal mining. And they do this by echoing the music of the Appalachian communities that are under threat from these mining processes.
The telling line in the whole album is from Ben Sollee opening Only A Song with the line “I wouldn’t make a sound if I wasn’t so angry”, gently sung over a gently rolling tune – this is a song of articulating anger and frustration but with restraint and a slighly sad realisation that “this is only a song, it can’t change the world”, but sing it he does anyway despite this and that sentiment alone uplifting and optimistic enough to take notice of what is being sung about.
It feels at times as if Dear Companion is a sad record, documenting things before they are lost (Wilson Creek in particular evokes this sentiment, a song containing words in the accompanying booklet but performed on the album as an instrumental, as if it’s already started to fade away), but the majority feeling is that of love for what is already there, passed onto the listener in the hope that enough people agree with this enough to put an end to such destructive practice. It’s not all composed and restrained however; the title track (and the album’s standout for me) contains a level of impassioned urgency to the album to push home the point that the issues that have caused the record to be made are happening right now.
Overall, it’s a very gently persuasive album that makes its points so well by being so articulate and inclusive. It’s a view on their world and their community that they are trying to protect, and on the strength of Dear Companion, they will hopefully have many more people supporting them in this.