Thursday, 27 December 2012
Love Machine (In Memorium Kurt Hauenstein) - LOUIE AUSTEN - from the album What A Comeback!
He's no spring chicken, our Louie! Born in Austria in 1946, he is ostensibly a classically-trained jazz singer but, for the last ten years or so, has been dabbling in electronic dance music. He gives an unusual slant to the genre, however, as he tends to sing the songs in the style of the old crooners. Indeed, he refers to his music in this style as "electrocrooning". Whatever it is, its all rather enjoyable. This is a cover of the 70s Austrian hit single for the late producer, Kurt Hauenstein
Skintercourse - MENOMENA - from the album Moms
For a supposedly experimental indie band (hailing from Portland, Oregon), this is a damn fine tune indeed! Some doubts were expressed as to whether the band would carry on following departure of lead singer / songwriter Brent Knopf (who can now be heard under the name Ramona Falls) but in stead of floundering, the band appears stronger than ever. Funny how that often happens!
Strike Up Your Matches - JOACHIM COODER - from the album Love On A Real Train
Now this album truly is a collaborative effort! Undeterred by being the son of a famous father (yep! Ry Cooder is his dad and Joachim has been the drummer on several of his old man's records), he has set out to make an album where he laid down the backing track and then sent tunes to different friends for them to add vocals and anything else they wanted. The result, it has to be said, is mixed but definitely worth a listen. This track, incidentally, is superb
Monday, 24 December 2012
Playing With My Friends - MASTERS IN FRANCE - from the EP Inhale
They may be Masters in France but they are actually from Bangor in Wales. Around since 2009, this EP is the first fruit of their labours. They are an indie rock band but, like many of their contemporaries, the influence of dance music is there for all to hear. One of my tips for 2013, this track has an excellent groove to it
Bosphorus - BRAZZAVILLE - from the album In Instanbul
An album that has actually been around for about three years, but seems to be cropping up on a number of playlists again at the end of 2012. The band are led by David Brown, who featured prominately as saxophonist on both Odelay and Midnite Vulture albums by Beck. There is a definite Beck influence at work here, but I am also reminded of the rather excellent Tindersticks
The Rain - REEL PEOPLE - from the album 10 Years of Soulful Bliss
The album title tends to give away the fact that this lot have been around the block a couple of times. It also give you an accurate idea of what kind of grooves you'll find in the grooves. A mix of very cool soul, funk and jazz, this is an excellent overview of the band to date. Sounding as if they should originate from the sunny climes of California, they are actually based in the suburbs of London. Fans of Maze and Incognito will love this album
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Four "Best of" albums stood out for me this year - all actually, for once, fulfilling their brief as actually being the best of each particular band.
Teenage Kicks - The Very Best of THE UNDERTONES
A great shame about the incredibly naff cover, but never mind ... there is gold in them there hills! One of the great pop groups of the 70s ... no, one of the greatest pop groups ever ... this is by no means the first compilation from them but it is definitely the best.
DURAN DURAN - The Biggest and The Best
Going one better than The Undertones by having a naff title to go with the dreadful cover belies the fact that this really is a pretty definitive collection of their best known work. What is a dreaful shame is that tracks from the last two albums are not included, because Duran Duran have actually got better with age and their 2010 release, All You Need Is Now, is probably their best album.
Still, enough moaning ... this is a great album to be getting on with
Ultimate CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL: Greatest Hits and All-Time Classics
The cover on this isn't quite so bad, but what a ridiculous mouthful of a title. An indication of my love of this band can be obtained when I admit that not only do I own all the studio albums but this is the fourth .... count' em ... Creedence compilation I own. Oh ....forgot to mention I also have the box set of every track they ever recorded
It may seem difficult to believe now, but this lot were actually bigger than The Beatles in the States for a few years ...
THE FACES - Stay With Me: The Anthology
This ticks all the boxes ... great cover, good title, and the best collection of songs from Britain's greatest ever rock band. I never got to see them live, which was apparently their forte, but their recorded work stands the test of time. Rod has never sung better; Ronnie has never played better, and you will never feel more alive than when listening to this
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Picking the top 20 albums of the year was a difficult task, but picking the top 5was easy ... these stand out amongst all the great music I've heard this year (and I've heard a lot!)
5 - THE NEW DIVISION - Shadows
Whisper it, but I think this actually came out in 2011. Never mind, though, because it has been an album I have listened to constantly this year. Hailing from California, the band sound like they spent their youth listening to the sounds of Manchester during the post-punk years. New Order definitely springs to mind, but the songs have a more relaxed, almost chilled, quality to them than their northern England heroes.
4. JAKE BUGG - Jake Bugg
Every so often, an artist comes along who justs blows you away with his talent. It is especially memorable when that artist is a mere 18 years old. Jake Bugg is a troubadour .... mixing modern sounds (especially Britpop) with a bit of rock 'n' roll, a bit of bluegrass, a bit of r 'n' b. The results are an album of pure joy. The new Bob Dylan? Or the new Johnny Cash?
3. DEEP SEA ARCADE - Outlands
My tastes in music are catholic, but musical heaven for me is quality pop music played in a traditional guitar - bass - drums style. Even happier if a bit of Hammond organ is thrown in. Total bliss if the music comes with a dash of psychedelia. For those of you already familiar with this album, it will come as no surprise that I fell in love with it from pretty much the first time I heard it. They are from Australia. They have a brilliant drummer. This is a brilliant album
2. ELECTRIC GUEST - Mondo
One of my favourite albums from last year was "Rome", produced by the ubiquitous Danger Mouse. It comes as no surprise that my 2nd favourite album of the year also sees Brian Burton at the controls. Electric Guest are four guys from Los Angeles who have produced an album that manages to come across as upbeat and rather sad at the same time. It's funky, soulful, laid-back, uplifting, and the band borrow musical styles with abandon. A must-listen album for everyone.
and now .... cue drum roll and, perhaps, a fanfare ....
1. DJANGO DJANGO - Django Django
Some of the best music comes about when a band allows a song to organically grow from a groove ... a rhythmn that underpins the song and keeps on going as the band add layer upon layer to it. Certain bands immediately sping to mind ... the legendary Beta Band for one. Where this lot have the advantage is that they have the songwriting talent to go along with their musicianship. The single "Default" grabbed mny attention initially but it is just one of an entire album full of brilliant music. The Beta Band certainly come to mind when you listen to this, but so too do the Beatles and even The Beach Boys. I defy you not to love this album to bits
Friday, 7 December 2012
THE BEST EPs OF THE YEAR
Two extended play releases stand out from the crowd this year. In musical terms, they are poles apart but they are joined here because the music they contain is uniformly brilliant and they are both from new bands who promise much for the years to come
MS MR - Candy Bar Creep Show
The mysterious MS MR hail from New York and put this EP together from tracks they had originally released as either singles or downloads. My immediate thought on hearing this was that the songs had a touch of Florence & The Machine about them, but they stay with you much longer than the possibly-overrated Ms Welch and also they are much more fun. Great lyrics to go with great songs
THE STRYPES - Young Gifted & Blue
You look at the cover of this EP and think that The Strypes have used some Smiths-style old pic to decorate their release. The truth is .... they are the band! Their average age is 15. They sound like their average age should be 65. They don't sound like the bastard children of the Yardbirds or Decca-era Stones ... They sound like the reincarnation of those bands (and anyone who heard anything of the Stones live at the O2 know that reincarnation would be a godsend for those old men)
Fast, fun and the best blues harp playing since I don't know when ...
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Featuring my favourite albums of the year from what has been a very good year musically
10 - BRASSTRONAUT - Mean Sun
It may come as no surprise, bearing in mind the band's name, that the horn section plays a very important part in the sound of the album. A band's second album is often a difficult one, but not for these guys ... a much more rounded, more accomplished, and deeper album than their debut (the really rather good "Mt Chimera"). A sound that is not going to set the charts alight, but will give all you musos out there a very warm glow of pleasure
9 - RICHARD HAWLEY - Standing At The Sky's Edge
An album on which Mr Hawley, previously known for his worthy but slightly dull albums, remembers a) he's a bloody great guitarist and b) he can make a wondrous noise with it! This album soars! This album brings to mind the last few minutes of the Stone Roses debut, Zeppelin in their pomp. Loud, bold, and utterly brilliant
8 - HOT CHIP - In Our Heads
An eagerly anticipated album by me, because Hot Chip are one of those rare bands who have actually made more than three decent albums and who get better with each one. I am delighted to say this did not disappoint - easily their best yet. A synth-based band with great intelligence and a knack for creating a tune that will please both rock and dance fans
7 - MICATONE - Wish I Was Here
A German band whom I discovered this year and hastily bought their three previous albums after hearing this one. Jazz, soul, funk, dance and blues are mixed into the pot to produce an album of blissful sounds, great songs, and probably the best female vocals of the year. Had this been marketed more effectively, I would not have been surprised to see this as one of the years best sellers. Alas, It remains a secret for thee and me
6 - BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW - Cobra Juicy
Still not sure whether this is the best or worst album cover of the year, but ... hey ... never mind ... its what it sounds like that matters. And it sounds great. This is their fifth, and best, album and it finally brings together their ability to write great songs with the production values those songs have desperately needed. If 60s psychedelia is your thing, and you like your music both sinister and catchy, then grab this album
Sunday, 2 December 2012
Continuing my run down of the best albums I've heard this year
15 - KOSHEEN - Independence
A band that has released albums sporadically throughout its 13 year career (I think this is only their fourth). The last two albums have been something of a disappointment but they have redeemed themselves with this release. The trip-hoppy drum n bass from previous releases is still there in the background but now heavily disguised with pulsing beats that many would describe as hard house. An album to kick-start the day
14 - GOTYE - Making Mirrors
I may have been the only person in the world who had not heard "Somebody That I Used To Know" prior to hearing this album for the first time. In fact, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to my friend, Anis, (follow him on Twitter at @oldlawyer1) for bringing this classic to my attention. I am still surprised that I like it so much, because there are times when I think this album could have been made in the 80s by Phil Collins. however, it all works, the songs are great, and the musicianship exceptional ... especiallyon this track "Smoke and Mirrors"
13 - LADYHAWKE - Anxiety
Last year, I surprised myself by how many dubstep albums appeared on my list of favourite albums. This year, the big surprise has been pure pop music . Her first album, released 4 years ago, had a sort of 80s rock feel to it, but that sound has been jettisoned and replaced by sounds not dissimilar to Garbage and Elastica. Seriously, not a duff track on this album
12 - JACK WHITE - Blunderbuss
Is there anything I need to say about the ubiquitous Mr White? The White Stripes may be no more, but the sound continues on his debut solo release. Blues, Rock, Country ... all the old influences are still there but mixed in a way we have come to expect. For me, the most important artist of the last 20 years
11 - LANA DEL RAY - Born To Die
There have been times when there has been no escaping the songs of Lizzie Grant, nor escaping from stories of her in the tabloid press. You could actually get fed up with her, if it wasn't for the fact that she has produced an astonishingly great album ... an album I have not tired of listening to all year. The lyrics, the vocals, the music .... all work together in a way few artists achieve
Friday, 30 November 2012
The final month of the year approaches and it is now unlikely that any masterpiece will be released between now and Christmas. I say this in full knowledge that one of last year's best albums (The Black Key's "El Camino") was released on 6th December. Lightning is not going to strike twice. Is it?
Anyway, here are my favourite albums of 2012. These albums were not necessarily released this year (I think two may be from 2011) but the albums came to my attention over the last eleven months and have been pretty much constant companions since
20 - VACATIONER - Gone
Like many acts this year, Vacationer is not a group but one Kenny Vasoli. Having been involved in a couple of indie projects, this was Kenny's attempt to go a little more into the mainstream whilst still appealling to the indie crowd. He pulled it off ... warm, summery, upbeat tunes abound as can be heard on the single "Trip"
19 - GUILLEMOTS - Hello Land!
A band that has always been a better live experience than on record (except perhaps for their debut), this lot announced that this album was to be the first of four releases in 2012. No sighting yet of the other three, but no matter - this is definitely their best album to date. One gets the distinct impression that they have just started to record the music they enjoy, rather thanwhat is expected of them. This track is called "Southern Winds" and could easily have been written by Crosby, Stills & Nash
18 - GOSSIP - A Joyful Noise
The band dropped the "The" from their name and also dropped the raw edges of their previous albums. Nu Disco came of age with this album, a pure pop confection that wouldn't have sounded out of place if released by Madonna.
17 - THE STRANGLERS - Giants
It is a rare treat indeed when a band, 38 years into their career and with 16 previous albums of vastly varying quality, release one of their best ever. The distinctive bass and keyboard sounds are exactly what you expect, but they have managed to use them in some really good songs.
16 - PATRICK WATSON - Adventues In Your Own Backyard
Have to say I am usually very prejudiced against albums sung in a male falsetto, but this album draws you in with its haunting melodies and rich instrumentation. Its an album that keeps on giving, in that you seem to hear more of it, and more of its depth, with every play. This track, "Lighthouse", may just be my favourite of the year
Stay tuned ... Nos 15 - 11 coming very soon
Thursday, 1 November 2012
Tea : JIM NOIR : From the album Jimmy's Show
Hailing from Manchester, England, Jim Noir is the nom de plume of Alan Roberts. He chose the name as a homage to comedian Vic Reeves. Confused? Well, Vic's real name is Jim Moir.
He's had a couple of albums previously, but this collection of songs, mixing obscure British psych and bedroom pop, spiced with loopy lyrics and sticky sweet melodies, is undoubtedly his best.
Bones : MS MR : From the EP Candy Bar Creep Show
From New York, this mysterious duo (they are known as just Ms and Mr but they are, in fact, Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow) have found a sound somewhere between Lana Del Ray and Florence and The Machine. Less hystrionic than the latter, and funkier than the former, this EP bodes well for their full-length debut next year
Dirty Paws: OF MONSTERS AND MEN : From the album My Head Is An Animal
This Icelandic band have been called "the new Arcade Fire" by the media but they are better than that. If I was going to compare them to anyone, I'd say they have the same uncomplicated melodies and simple songs favouredby The XX
Saturday, 27 October 2012
Monk : MINI MANSIONS : from the album Mini Mansions
Mini Mansions is the side-project of Michael Shuman, better known as bassist with Queens of the Stone Age. Mixing a modern psychedelic sound with tunes reminiscent of pop's heyday, the album will appeal to fans of post-Revolver Beatles or Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys
Yes Or No : THE FRESH AND ONLYS : from the album Long Slow Dance
Garage rock from San Francisco, but a band not afraid to explore the roots of other genre's of music, from psychedlic blues to country & western. This particular song just rocks!
Apocalypse Dreams : TAME IMPALA : from the album Lonerism
Those that know me are probably fed up with me beating the drum for Australian music, but it remains true that the best new music around is coming from down under. Tame Impala hail from Perth and will take you on a psychedelic journey that is second to none. On this, their second album, the psychedelia is tinged with a nod towards early-70s prog rock. Cannot recommend this album highly enough.
Saturday, 13 October 2012
Sorry folks, but this does not seem to be available to download everywhere. Gossling is another Australian ... from Melbourne, in fact. I've included it because i love a cover version, especially when the original is, as in this case, pretty obscure itself. Written and performed originally by Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, Helen Croome (aka Gossling) put her own unique slant on it
Don't Build A Wall 'Round The Graveyard (Ain't No One Trying To Get In) : MARIA IN THE SHOWER : From the album The Hidden Sayings Of Maria In The Shower
A four piece folk cabaret all of their own, this lot from Vancouver take you to a place where all music comes to play. Swing, samba, ballads, rockabilly, blues, gypsy soul and more...
A heady mix indeed, and an extremely enjoyable one!
Ex-Believer : COMPUTER MAGIC : from the compilation album Kitsune Maison Compilation 12
Computer Magic is, as one often finds, not a band but a person. In this case, an amazingly talented person. Her name is Danielle (but she prefers to be called Danz). She's 21. She lives in New York. She records in her bedroom. She has a knack for an amazing tune and writing classy pop songs. She has an EP out called Orion (very highly recommended) but sadly this track is not on it. The compilation is well worth buying, though ... some excellent tracks on it
Thursday, 4 October 2012
Sunny Day : THE BLOODPOETS : From the EP Wings
More evidence that the healthiest indie scene at present is way down there in Australia. From Brisbane, this lot mix catchy pop hooks with some very dark beats.
We Work In Bars : THE CHAP : Can be downloaded from here
One of those records that makes me break out into a smile every time I hear it and guaranteed to have you singing along to it in double-quick time. Described as an "experimental electro-rock outfit", I'd say they are just purveyors of quality pop music
What You Wish For (Doesn't Always Come True) : JANE'S PARTY : From the EP Jane's Party EP
Four very cool dudes from Toronto makes great pop music and know how to grab your attention at the start of a song. Great three-part harmonies as well. You'll know what I mean when you listen to this