Thursday, 27 December 2012

Volume 51

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

Volume 50

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

2012 - The Best of "The Best Of"

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

Top 5 albums of 2012 - no arguments brooked

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


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

2012 - The Best EPs

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

2012's Finest Albums - Part 3

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

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

The best of 2012? - Part 2

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