Saturday, 27 December 2014

25 BEST ALBUMS OF 2014



25. JULIAN CASABLANCAS + THE VOIDZ – Tyranny





"Adventurous, inventive, inexplicable, bizarre – and, to counter Scott Walker’s latest exploits in the world of musical impenetrability, actually accessible."






24. ROBERT PLANT – Lullaby And …The Ceaseless Roar




"He does upbeat folk (“Poor Howard”), he does rock with a good punch (“Turn It Up”), he does affecting romantic ballads (“A Stolen Kiss”)... This is the sound of taste and experience."






23. MANIC STREET PREACHERS – Futurology




"James Dean Bradfield can still write a tuneful anthem in his sleep. The addition of a few friends, deplorable though it is, actually works. All nice and good. Let’s face it though: Rewind The Film had better songs."






22. THE MENZINGERS – Rented World




"On The Impossible Past unfurled like a great novel, every page equally powerful and gripping. This time it feels like a short story collection with some stories outshining the slightly weaker ones."






21. THE AFGHAN WHIGS – Do To The Beast




"I don’t believe that Greg Dulli is physically capable of writing a better collection of songs. Do To The Beast is all you could ask for, now or in 1993."







20. KING DUDE – Fear




"He does acoustic, he does electric, and everything he sings has the sort of melodic menace that was only budding on King Dude’s two previous albums. Truly, the stuff here is catchy as hell where ‘hell’ is more than just a metaphor."





19. EMA – The Future’s Void




"The Future’s Void may lack a truly signature song like “California”, but if anything – it is even more consistent than Past Life Martyred Saints, her previous album. Just as raw and creative, and a little less fucked up."





18. TOM VEK – Luck




“You’re skating on thin ice with a heavy heart”. This line starts “Pushing Your Luck”, and it just might be the perfect description of this album. Luck is edgy, claustrophobic, intelligent. It has dance beats, but they will not get you on the dance floor."





17. ROBYN HITCHCOCK – The Man Upstairs






"This is a late period Hitchcock album."






16. TIMBER TIMBRE – Hot Dreams




"This album will take you places. You won’t listen to it too often, Hot Dreams does bring on a rather bleak feeling, but every time you will play it you won’t resist its unique charms."





15. DELINES – Colfax




"There’s this engrossing, atmospheric darkness swallowing the city with only a few neon signs flashing out of the night. The effect is both lush and narcotic, and you know you’re in for a great deal of style."





14. MIREL WAGNER – When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day




“1 2 3 4, what’s underneath the floor”, it is almost too simple. These ten songs sound like nursery rhymes delivered by way of acoustic guitars, haunting vocals, dark vibes and dust. When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day is a perfect title."




13. COMET GAIN – Paperback Ghosts




"These twelve songs are about as far away from saving the world as you can get. But please note how the last words on this album go: ‘Every little nothing is some kind of something’. If anything, Paperback Ghosts is certainly that."





12. SWANS – To Be Kind




"To Be Kind will be followed in 2015 with an H-bomb explosion of intensity and desperation and running time matching that of Erik Satie’s “Vexations”. If he doesn’t do that, we should feel robbed."






11. SUN KIL MOON – Benji




"Benji is Mark Kozelek’s fifth album in less than two years. Some feat – considering that each and every one of those mines similar depths of mumbling, world-weary greatness. If he doesn’t stop now, this might go the distance."





10. WHITE LUNG – Double Fantasy




"Their albums last from 20 to 25 minutes (which is a brilliant concept, I would certainly encourage many bands to do the same) and contain songs of such power, sheen and intensity that you will wonder what everyone else is up to."





9. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS – Brill Bruisers




"Really, there’s no way a band featuring A.C. Newman, Neko Case and Dan Bejar can release a less-than-great album. And that’s my only complaint: Brill Bruisers is just that, another great New Pornographers album. Wish I could say that about a few other bands."





8. MORRISSEY – World Peace Is None Of Your Business




"Let’s get it straight: World Peace Is None Of Your Business is a ridiculous title. It’s so ridiculous it verges on embarrassing. However, when Morrissey does it, it’s all right."






7. THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything




"But a little kid says ‘we make a lot of noise because we love each other’, and all my concerns are swept aside by the wall of sound that is both monstrous and absolutely majestic."






6. MARIANNE FAITHFULL – Give My Love To London




"Over the course of these exceptional 11 songs Marianne barely puts one foot wrong. The songs are excellent and while her voice is on a clear Dylanesque trajectory (she does sound a lot like him on the title track), the performances are stylish and affecting." 




5. GALLON DRUNK – The Soul Of The Hour




"The Soul Of The Hour won me over in its opening 10 or 15 seconds of rollicking piano notes. This album is tight, gripping, positively overwhelming."







4. LEONARD COHEN – Popular Problems




"Leonard Cohen is where you can say ‘deep’ without sounding silly or pretentious. It’s 40 minutes of therapy by way of understatement, introspection, effective arrangements and female backup vocals."






3. COLD SPECKS – Neuroplasticity




"This is sensational. “A Broken Memory” is sensational. Gutsy, charismatic, soulful music with rasping horn giving it a sizeable John Coltrane-esque edge."







2. JOHN MOORE – Floral Tributes




"So essentially Floral Tributes is a perfect companion to Lo-Fi Lullabies. Its playfulness is jazzy and obvious, but it isn’t sober and is, quite possibly, totally delusional. As for the actual songs, they are just as good as the ones that made up Lullabies."




1. JOHN MOORE – Lo-Fi Lullabies



"The songs that make up Lo-Fi Lullabies were written in dismal, crisis-fuelled mid-90s, prior to Black Box Recorder. The sound and the vibe wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with John’s music. It’s elegant and stripped-down and it never gets monotonous because of the sheer quality of songwriting."





Thursday, 25 December 2014

In The Bleak Midwinter

Some things change, some things never change. Gustav Holst's "In The Bleak Midwinter" is still the greatest Christmas carol of all time. As performed by King's College Choir, Cambridge. Merry Christmas!




Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Lists! Best songs of 2014


First off, sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s death. Sleep easy.

Second. I have to make a break. I won’t be writing reviews in the near future. Instead – to get distracted, to fuck things up, to gain this site a few more cheap hits, I will be writing lists. LISTS. All kinds. Ridiculous, useless, masturbatory lists.

Starting with now.

2014. Songs.


25. STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS – “Lariat”

The feel good song of the year. The video is good, too. Malkmus hasn’t lost it.




24. MORRISSEY – “Art Hounds”

His best song this year, and it’s a goddamned bonus track. Lighten up, Morrissey!

23. KING DUDE – “Watching Over You”

If you are romantic but have a devil in you.

22. HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT – “This One’s For Now”

Sarcasm and wit. As ever.

21. BEN WATT – “Hendra”

Listened to this while walking home late at night. The vibe, the tune.

20. COMET GAIN – “Long After Tonite’s Candles Are Blown”

This year, I entered Vatican City to this song. I’m a despicable man.

19. WHITE LUNG – “Down It Goes”

Fuck yes.

18. MARIANNE FAITHFULL – “True Lies”

Smoked out, concise and powerful.

17. EMA – “When She Comes”

Still raw, but already more mature. Underrated.

16. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS – “Champions Of Red Wine”

Effortless pop genius. Neko Case on vocals.

15. THE MENZINGERS – “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore”

As good as anything off On The Impossible Past. Enough said.

14. COLD SPECKS – “A Broken Memory”

All you need to know about artistic growth.

13. ROBYN HITCHCOCK – “San Francisco Patrol”

Just a classic ballad from Robyn Hitchcock.




12. GUIDED BY VOICES – “All American Boy”

Another gem from Tobin Sprout. He should just dump that Pollard guy.

11. THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA – “Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal)"

The wall of handsome noise hitting you full on the face and you want more.

10. DAMON ALBARN – “The Selfish Giant”

Best thing he’s done since 13. Never cared for Gorillaz.

9. TOM VEK – “You’ll Stay”

“Everything’s okay. You’ll stay”.

8. DELINES – “I Won’t Slip Up”

The sound of the warmest night when you are reasonably tired and in love.

7. GALLON DRUNK – “The Soul Of The Hour”

Ecstatic. I wish the groove would go on for another seven minutes. 

6. LEONARD COHEN – “Did I Ever Love You”

Someone told me Tom Waits could do this song so well. Yes, but…

5. MIREL WAGNER – “Oak Tree”

Simple, disarming and magical.

4. LUKE HAINES – “Alan Vega Says”

Luke did not record a great album this year. But did record a great song.

3. JOHN MOORE – “Almost Optimistic”

God help you if you can relate to John’s lyrics here. And what a melody.

2. EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN – “Lament 3. Pater Peccavi”

No comment.

1. SUN KIL MOON – “Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes”

Mark Kozelek is on such a songwriting roll it’s scary. This song is scary.






(Real number one, though, is “Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” by U2.)


Sunday, 21 December 2014

SONG OF THE WEEK #175: Poly Styrene - "Black Christmas"

Ironically, Poly Styrene's "Black Christmas" is one of the reasons why people who don't like Christmas should all be taken to a dark place and shot.




Friday, 19 December 2014

2014 albums: ROUND-UP


A few others that were good but maybe not always too good.


Ben Watt – Hendra

This is something of a special album for me this year even if I hardly have time to relisten to it that much. The melancholic, depressing, eerily beautiful and lyrically uncomfortable title track is a song of the year. A few others, like the cheerlessly upbeat “Forget” or “Matthew Arnold Field” are good too, but sometimes Ben Watt shows more subtlety than substance. 7/10

Thurston Moore – The Best Day

Basically, Thurston Moore doing his thing. The best part is that this time around he chose to put a bigger emphasis on the melody. Two opening guitar epics are hypnotic and well-written, and sparkles of brilliance are all over this thing. Moore knows he is a limited songwriter, but equally he knows how to present himself. “Forevermore” is one of the greatest things he has ever done. 8/10

The Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads

This is one hell of a combination of band name, album title and record sleeve. Everything matches the music perfectly. Rip-roaring, free-floating, screaming rock music with good riffs and heaps of attitude. For those who want to get mad late at night (preferably – very late). Bluesy, swampy and menacing. 7/10

Fire! Orchestra – Enter
 
Swedish band whose genre (according to certain websites) goes as follows: experimental big band. Deeply imaginative, inventive music that masterfully shifts from seductive sax-led grooves to charismatic noise freak-outs. Unfortunately, they had to spoil all the fun with those torturous vocals at the beginning of track 3, but overall lots of well-honed improvisation people with taste should appreciate. 8/10

Vashti Bunyan – Heartleap

Vashti Bunyan is of course a legend. Part of the legend can be attributed to the fact that she has recorded very little. But consider the quality. Her first album Just Another Diamond Day and gems like “Train Song” should be enough to convince anyone. Heartleap is a slow, monotonous and incredibly nuanced folk record. And one of those genuinely good things that can perhaps make you a better person. 7/10

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animals

To be completely honest, the first time I heard this album – I thought Sunbathing Animals would grow on me. I thought Parquet Courts were doing the right thing trying to slow things down and go for addictive mid-tempo grooves. Sadly, though, the album wore thin too quickly. Good album, entertaining in places (“Vienna II”, for instance, is wonderfully Fall-esque), but should have been more. Weak 7/10

EinstΓΌrzende Neubauten – Lament 

From cathartic to atonal. Selflessly experimental. Never an easy listen, and a palpable tune is not to last. Impossible to describe, difficult to listen, incredible to take in, irresistible in its genuine, authentic weirdness. However, let me tell you this. “Lament 3. Pater Peccavi” is the most beautiful thing I’ve heard all year. 8/10

James Yorkston – The Cellardyke Recording & Wassailing Society

Altogether less immediate than James’ brilliant previous album, I Was A Cat From A Book (whose “Border Song” is still in my heavy rotation), The Cellardyke takes time and patience. The folksy melodies are certainly charming but slightly meandering and will require your fullest attention. In the end you will be converted. Because nobody can deny something as gorgeous as “Red Fox” or "Great Ghosts". 7/10