Category Archives: ALBUMS

BEST ALBUMS OF 2011

Another good year for music, and with all the Best Of lists around i thought I would do mine again.  So here goes.

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2011

#1        BATTLES – GLOSS DROP

This was a much looked forward to album and it did not disappoint. If you are a fan of percussion, this is a great album.  I saw them live at Glastonbury this year, and they were one of my highlights.  It was a close run thing but I think this just pips Bjork to the #1 spot!

#2    BJORK – BIOPHILIA

Weird and wonderful, Bjork is at least interesting, even when she miss fires.  A genuine genius and someone always looking for the off the wall idea.  This album takes her music a step forward in linear production.  This one will keep me interested for the months ahead.

#3    ZUN ZUN EGUI – KATANG

This band is a Bristol favourite and much championed new band who have been steadily releasing EP’s over the past couple of years.  I first saw them live when supporting Tinaweren at the Academy.  They were superb.  An eclectic mix of African Rythms, screeching vocals and Hendrix like guitar licks.  Simply unbeatable and unique!

#4    BAXTER DURY – HAPPY SOUP

Alternative Pop at it’s best, this album was a wonderful surprise and with the catchiest tunes.

#5    LYKKE LI – WOUNDED RHYMES

With a moodier persona, Lykke Li has still proven her ability to write a catchy song and to wow her audience.  A more rounded album than her debut, this is again unmissable.

#6    ANNA CALVI – ANNA CALVI

The new kid on the block, much was expected and much delivered.  A unique voice, so powerful, with a unique sound.  Superb. Live review here

#7    JAMES BLAKE – JAMES BLAKE

Innovation is the name of the game with James Blake, pushing the boundaries while still acquiring the fans.  A superb live performer and an excellent album.

#8   YUCK

This is the Indie fans dream album, with wonderful songs to go with the shoe gazing. Full album review

#9    KURT VILE – SMOKE RING FOR MY HALO

Wonderful album finally getting the recognition he deserves.

#10 METRONOMY – THE ENGLISH RIVIERA

I was amazed at how much attention Metronomy got this year, but it is all well deserved, along with the Mercury nomination.  A step on from their last offering, this band is excellent on so many levels.

#11    RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS – I’M WITH YOU

This album was received with a lot less fanfare.  With the loss of John Frusciante many have written the Chili peppers off.  Not me.  This album is a grower, and the more subtle sound of Josh Klinghoffer adds to the enjoyment. They are also a live act to reckon with. 

# 12    BON IVER – BON IVER

Another masterpiece from Bon Iver.  A lot more polished than the last album, and perhaps less surprising, but a superb listen for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

#13    THE HORRORS – SKYING

Carrying on from where they left off, while taking on some more 80’s sounds.  An excellent album

#14    THE KILLS – BLOOD PRESSURES

Their sound has been changing over time from their raw first 2 efforts.  With the distractions of side projects this album is a welcome return.

#15    GANG OF FOUR – CONTENT

My my, this album could have been a disaster, however, with this offering, they have finally laid to rest the idea that they could never compete with their first 2 albums.  Having been so influential on so many bands, it is nice to see them come up with the goods again.  A superb album.

#16    WIRE – RED BARKED TREE

Another new wave classic artist coming up with the goods.

#17    PETE AND THE PIRATES – ONE THOUSAND PICTURES

This album passed without so much a whimper in the music press, yet it is remarkably good.  This is one that needs a good listen and you will be going back to it for months ahead.  Live review here

#18    PJ HARVEY – LET ENGLAND SHAKE

The indie darling came up trumps again this year and took the Mercury prize to boot.

#19 RADIOHEAD – KING OF LIMBS

They keep doing it – probably the most innovative popular music band on the planet came up with an offering that was a lot less accessible than “In Rainbows”  – this album needs a bit of love to appreciate it.

#20 – Frankie and the Heartstrings – Hunger

Another great live band with the energy most can only hope to have.

21 – Duke Spirit – Bruiser
22 – Pains at being pure at heart – Belong
23 – Scum – Again into Eyes
24 – Cold war Kids – Mine is Yours
25 – Nicholas Jaar – Space is only Noise
26 – Woods – Sun and Shade
27 – Kate Bush – 50 words for snow
28 – Smith Westerns –  Dye it Blonde
29 – Black Keys – El Camino
30 – J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

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PETER AND THE HARMONICS – Live Review, Louisiana Bristol, and Album Review

Speculative gigs to see new bands play are always a hit and miss affair, but on this occasion there was nothing to lose as it was a part of the Bristol harbour festival.  A wonderful annual event that brings the heart of Bristol to life.

A wonderful arts and music festival throughout the weekend was to begin on the Friday night.  So I headed down to one of the fringe venues at the brilliant Louisiana.  I was attending on the recommendation of a friend who knew a member of the band.

Whenever you get an invitation to see a band because they are a friend it is a bit of a double edged sword.  What if they are awful?

Luckily on this occasion, there were no such fears.

Peter and the Harmonics, a local Bristol band comprising of

Pete Stilwell (The Francos)
Lead Vocals and GuitarEd Falconer (The Francos)
Guitar, Violin and Backing VocalsJimmy Curry (45’s and Snatch22)
Bass Guitar and Backing VocalsTom Chillcott (Nova Saints)
Drums and Backing Vocals

arrived on the ground floor stage at about 7pm and from the off had a little more than the average band to offer.

Their Facebook page lists their influences as Neil Young, The Band, The Coral, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver.

This is one of the few influences list that I have seen which does have some bearing on the type and quality of the music they play.

Pete Stilwell has a sweet voice that commands attention right from the off, and you can tell from the hush of the crowd that the band has them where they want them, listening to every word and note.

The set moved along with variety and ease and the band were able to have a rapport with the crowd, always a help on a festival night.  From acoustic numbers, violin interludes, rock and ballads the bands repertoire was excellent.

The band sounded tight, and brought across their music brilliantly.  They were a real delight to watch and listen to.  A definite depth to their songwriting from the catchy Over Me to the Bluesy These Terrors I Know.

Despite the fickleness of the music industry, if these guys keep it together I’m sure they will garner much interest in the future.

I managed to get hold of their home made EP with the tracks Over Me, These Terrors I Know and Gold is the Morning.  I would certainly recommend giving them a listen or trying to see them as they do gigs in the region.

P J Harvey wins Mercury Music Prize 2011

Last night PJ Harvey was crowned the Queen of Indie and the critics darling as she romped home with the Mercury Music Prize just as the bookies were predicting.

This decision by the panel dispelled a few fears and myths regarding the Mercury Prize.  Namely that you cannot win the prize twice; that an established artist could not win it; and the bookies can sometimes get it right!

In the past perhaps it has been thought that when they nominate the likes of David Bowie and Paul Weller, that it was an acknowledgement, but in reality they could never win.

This years list was particularly strong and varied which made it all the more difficult for the judges, which makes the win by PJ Harvey even more prestigious.

Radiohead must still be thinking what they have to do to win it though!!

A superb album from a superb artist and worthy winner.

Independent Record Store Day 16th April 2011

Today’s the day all record collectors and vinyl junkies, and general music lovers having been waiting for, record store day. 189 independent record stores around the UK along with many in the US and around the world open their doors to crowds of people hoping to pick up the odd limited edition item specially released for the day.

I got up at 5:45am for the occasion, originally intending to get to Rise Records in Bristol by 7am, but ended up going a bit earlier at 6:20am.  To my surprise there were already 13 people ahead of me!  By 7am there were nearly a hundred, and by 8am, when the shop was opening the queue stretched almost to the end of the street, over 150 people.

Luckily for me, they let in about the first 15 people and stopped the queue to avoid the “scrum” that would inevitably ensue if everyone was let in at the same time.

The excitement had been building for some time as people were drooling at the window seeing what copies they were stocking.  Bar a few frantic moments it all went very smoothly and other than one item  managed to pretty well lay my hands on the copies I wanted.

The staff were incredibly well organised and helpful and were helping people find that special copy they were after.

After queueing for an hour and 40 minutes, I was pretty much done, and spent out within 15 minutes!  It was like being a boy in a sweety shop and I could have easily spent double the amount of money that I did.

I managed a big haul which my partner I’m sure will appreciate!!:)   –   Big Star 3 Test Pressing; Doors Mono re-issue; Radiohead 12″; Esben and the Witch 12″; Black Mountain 7″; Badly Drawn Boy 7″;  Clash 7″; Toots and the Maytals 7″;Vaccines album; Grinderman 12″ and the Gorillaz album.  All in all a pretty good day, or 15 minutes!  Sadly I was unable to enjoy a leisurely day hanging around due to work commitments but, maybe next year I will have more time. . . . . . . just waiting for the credit card bill!

Looking at the response from the good humoured crowd of people queueing I am sure the record store day this year will have gone down a storm.  Can’t wait to get around to playing some of my finds.

THIN LIZZY – LIVE AND DANGEROUS: Classic Albums

I have chosen this album not just because it is an amazing album but it is one of the few truly classic “live” albums and double albums that has ever been made.

Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous Track Listing (1978 Vertigo)

  • Jailbreak
  • Emerald
  • Soutbound
  • Rosalie
  • Side 2 – Dancing in the moonlight
  • Massacre
  • Still in Love with You
  • Johnny the Fox meets Jimmy the weed
  • Cowboy Song
  • The Boys are back in town
  • Don’t believe a word
  • Warrior
  • Are You Ready
  • Suicide
  • Sha-la-la
  • Baby Drives me Crazy
  • The Rocker

Originally released in 1978 as a double album to showcase the previous 2 tours following their incredibly successful recent studio albums Johnny the Fox and Bad Reputation that many Thin Lizzy fans would regard as their hayday. It showcases the talent of Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, Brian Robertson and Phil Lynott.

This album is best enjoyed on vinyl as many of this era are, but recent incarnations exist on CD and DVD remastered which do the recordings some justice.

The thing about Thin Lizzy that anyone investigating their back catalogue must understand is that they were a fantastic live act that had trouble creating their best sound in the studio.  Despite many excellent efforts, this album remains their highlight, capturing everything that was good about them.

It’s real benefit is within the mix and production that gets the balance between the “atmosphere” of the live event and the superb music.  This is one of the few live albums that you can imagine being at the venue watching the band.  The immediacy of the sound and the crowd gives it an atmosphere so many live albums simply do not have.

Live albums generally fall into 2 categories, either a lame excuse for a greatest hits album “live”, or an attempt to give an impression of seeing the band live.  This album definitely falls into the latter category.

There was much controversy over this album with rumours over the “overdubs” carried out in the studio.  Originally the project was to produce another studio album with Toni Visconti but due to time constraints this was not possible so the editing of live material became the project instead.

As with many classic albums and songs the concept of “Live and Dangerous”, came about almost by accident and became a rock phenomenon and would be the defining record of the band.

It starts off in dramatic style with jailbreak and showcases the superb Emerald that became a stalwart of all Lizzy live performances.  Side one finishes with Rosalie, a Bob Seger cover which is excellent.

Side 2 begins with the simple but excellent slow number “Dancing in the Moonlight” and one of the highlights of the set “Still in Love with You”.  Side 3 is where the band hits it’s stride in a major way with the “Cowboy song”, “Boys are back in town” and “Don’t Believe A Word” all cranking up the volume, the latter being a reworking faster version of the song written with Gary Moore that appeared on his solo album Back on the Streets. Gary Moore would later join Lizzy again on probably their best studio album Black Rose.


Side 4 is where the sense of being in the venue really come alive with the sing- a-long “Baby Drives Me Crazy”, and ends the set on the “Rocker”.

This is a roller coaster ride of an album and is truly one of the greatest rock albums.

I had the good fortune to see the great man Phil Lynott live on the  Thin Lizzy Tour for the Renegade album.  I can say that “Live and Dangerous”, appears to be one of the few representations of a live band that rings true and gives the listener some sense of just how good they were.

If you only listen to one live album or one Thin Lizzy album in your life, make sure it is this one.

OTHER MUSIC REVIEWS

Gary Moore RIP
Vaccines live review
Yuck Album review
Beady Eye Album Review
Pete and the Pirates live review

YUCK: YUCK – Album Review

Now we know what happened to Cajun Dance Party, the catchy song smiths Daniel Blumberg (Guitar, vocals) and Max Bloom (Guitar, vocals) have created a new project, now joined by Mariko Doi (Bass),  and Jonny Rogoff (Drums).

From North London, New Jersey and Hiroshima; this band have taken on the guise of a niche US indie sound akin to Dinosaur Jr, sonic youth and the early 1990’s shoegaze crowd.

It sounds as if this could truly be horrible, derivative nonsense, and a waste of your time to listen to, however, this is far from the case.  This album is truly excellent, and up their amongst the best of it’s genre.

It opens with an instantly catchy song Get Away, with a haunting guitar lick, and a sound reminiscent of the pixies. Quieter moments with the dreamy Shook Down; Suck; and the sublime Suicide Policeman; there are explosive moments with Holing Out and my pick of the songs Operation which sounds rough around the edges but again has that haunting guitar which holds the whole thing together.

You can hear a bit of Teenage Fanclub and Pixies in the music and for those of a younger age The Pains at being pure at heart.

I quite often have a go at derivative music that borrows far too much from eras’ of the past (see my previous post on Beady Eye!).  But as has been said before, there is only good or bad music, and this definitely fits into the “good” category.

Perhaps it feeds on my indie disposition but having grown up with the likes of the Pixies and a myriad of wannabe indie bands of the time, these do not sound like wannabe’s but genuinely have something to offer.

This won’t be the best album you hear this year, but it will give you a lot of pleasure.

TRACK LISTING

1.   Get Away
2.  The Wall
3.  Shook Down
4.  Holing Out
5.  Suicide Policeman
6.  Georgia
7.  Suck
8.  Stutter
9.  Operation
10. Sunday
11. Rose Gives A Lilly
12. Rubber

SINGLES

Rubber
Georgia
Holing Out
Get Away

http://www.myspace.com/yuckband

http://yuckband.blogspot.com/

YOAV: Live Gig Review – A Musical Magician

Yoav Gig at the Thekla Bristol

Yoav was born in Israel with an Israeli/Romanian background and grew up in South Africa. He was first seen on the radar in the UK in 2007/8 with live appearances and his debut album Charmed and Strange released in 2008.

It was released to critical acclaim and has achieved mainstream success in various countries around the world, however his success has been more limited within the UK.

I first saw him perform live in 2008 when he was playing support at the Thekla in Bristol.  I was lucky to catch his appearance and was mesmerised him.

This time was no different.  He played in the bar of the Thekla, on the upper deck to an intimate but enthusiastic crowd.  This time, his mesmerising performance was aided by even more gadgets for his feet to play with!

Set List

Little Black Box
Yellowbrite Smile
There is Nobody
Spider Song
Angel and the Animal
Adore Adore
Club Thing
Besutiful Lie
6/8 Dream
We are all Dancing
Where is my Mind

The reason for his mesmerising performances is due to the way he makes his music.  He plays a set with the full musical accompaniment of a band, with keyboards, guitars and percussion, yet he performs all these instruments through the creative use of his one and only guitar.

He uses his guitar to lay down various tracks on a loop, layering the songs in front of the audience, creating drums, keyboards, backing vocals, bass and guitar.

The first thing he does when he enters the stage is to take his shoes and socks off so that he can operate the array of pedals and buttons on the floor with his feet while playing his music.  It is a mesmerising performance, and some songs are extremely complicated.  This is not a gimmick however, the songs are beautiful, and his voice is versatile.

The audience is captivated by the wonderful songs and the way his songs develop before your eyes in the live setting.

His performance last night was well over an hour long and would have been longer if it was not for the usual ridiculous curfew foisted upon us by the Thekla venue.

Yoav has just become number one in his native South Africa with his song “We are all dancing”.

The man has to be seen to be fully appreciated, if you can, grab yourself a ticket at one of his shows in the UK or Europe over the coming weeks.

Albums

Charmed and Strange (2008)

  1. Adore Adore – 5:36
  2. Club Thing – 4:24
  3. Live – 4:10
  4. One by One – 3:47
  5. There Is Nobody – 3:56
  6. Wake Up – 3:21
  7. Beautiful Lie – 5:10
  8. Angel and the Animal – 5:06
  9. Sometimes… – 4:49
  10. Yeah, The End – 3:27
  11. Where Is My Mind – 3:25 (Pixies Cover)
  12. Wasteland Waltz (UK Bonus Track)

New Album  –  A Foolproof Escape Plan (2011)

  1. Greed – 4:36
  2. Moonbike – 3:41
  3. Safety in Numbers – 3:38
  4. Yellowbrite Smile – 3:49
  5. Spidersong – 4:00
  6. Little Black Box – 3:52
  7. Easy Chair – 5:03
  8. Anonymous – 4:15
  9. 6/8 Dream – 3:53
  10. We All Are Dancing – 4:06