Okay, passed 100 albums for 2013. Here is the top 16 of those I like…….
Num Album Rating Notes1 Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse 9.00 Very good album1 Mogwai – Les Revenants Soundtrack 9.00 Stunning1 The Asphodells – Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Lust 9.00 Stunning album track 9 amazing1 Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt 9.00 A belter5 Terry Allen – Bottom of the World 8.75 A surprisingly lovely record6 FaltyDL – Hardcourage 8.50 V good piece of work6 How To Destroy Angels – Welcome oblivion 8.50 Really good album - atmospheric6 Kavinsky – OutRun 8.50 Wicked album6 Mazes – Ores & Minerals 8.50 Very nice album6 Tegan And Sara – Heartthrob 8.50 Superb Pop6 Depeche Mode – Delta Machine 8.50 Very good album6 Woodkid – The Golden Age 8.50 Lovely if a bit over worked in places6 Rudimental – Home 8.50 Nice, lovely album14 Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II 8.30 Nice piece of work, original14 Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze 8.30 Pretty good, but perhaps missing the tier 1 polish
Who you say. Well I say. A band or rather artist with musicians (maybe) who has made a brilliant record and who plays a small venue the Shacklewell Arms in (E8) London on Thursday June 13. And for only £8 too, it says here http://bit.ly/10abAfy.
Two reasons for writing this blog. Firstly to say what a great album it is, and secondly to encourage people to go and see her/them live.
So the album. Technically her second album, but her mainstream first and one which I found to be instantly likeable, accessible and well balanced. It cuts across a range of different styles, without getting repetitive and flows from folk, to pop to heavy guitar, with some dreamy beats thrown in too. In short a very good album.
I think this has a great chance of staying in my top 10 albums of the year, and I am very glad she is playing London. So the show, I expect it to be her full band, and playing a small venue will be extra nice. I think there is a touch of the Frank Turner’s about her. A lot of gigs, a lot of record making, a dash of jumping styles and band types, but really the focus on her, as the artiste, that is how it should be.
See you there, pint in hand, singing along.
One of the best bands I have seen live is the National. One of the worse venues I have ever been too, if not the worse, is Alexandra (Ally) Pally.
The National are playing Ally Pally. So my choice is, out of the way with rubbish transport links location, expensive beer, shocking acoustics, low viewing area, crap sightlines, cavernous arena butooooooh maximum number of punters for one night’s profit or not see a band I love.
I am sticking with the later. The thing is, the National are spot on politically, and treat their fans well too. However, their UK booking agent has done them a massive disservice. There will be no 5* reviews in the press. The live shows will win no awards. Their will be a muted and flat atmosphere, and the band will feel as if the Manchester shows were far better in the UK.
This will be true as they have a music venue to play at, now some poxy exhibition centre. Yes an exhibition centre, not built for shows, let alone music ones.
The National, you are a great band and I have high hopes for the album. But someone on your staff has let you down, badly. You may not regret it, but I will, as I do not want to spend (at least) £50 knowing it will be a waste. I’d rather give my money to charity. The nature of the fan in me will see me try and pick a ticket up cheap as some form of alternative justification. But sadly even though it is months away, I feel let down.
Alexandra Palace, I hate you.
My venue of choice in London is the Brixton Academy. With the sloping floor, the cavernous space which the sound bounces off. It is a delightful venue, one I can keep going back to.
However, a venue that always makes me sigh when a band/artist is playing at, is the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I have seen some really good gigs here, in fact one of the best gigs I went to was here. However, every single gig I have seen on the standing floor area has been either pants or a disappointment. Idlewild, The Rifles, and even Billy Bragg. In fact the only show that was okay there was First Aid Kit.
So why is it so bad. Let’s start with the low roof by the bar. That ruins the sound. Then we have the sightlines. How low done makes a bad gig, answer, see the SBE floor.
So what is the solution? Easy, go upstairs. I have seen 3 gigs upstairs, all stunning. Inspiral Carpets (who I also saw downstairs and were just okay), Billy Bragg who played a stunning set and I could sit down and enjoy the show, and Frank Turner who rocked the place from start to finish.
There are a few common denominators. Firstly I think sitting down is an underrated gig experience. Secondly it is easy to get a beer, which is nice. Thirdly, once you are in a spot you stay there. Fourthly the sounds flows nicely around you. Lastly the sightlines are great. Views of the stage and the front standing area.
If every SBE gig was a seating one I would enjoy it more, so life lesson #123, always buy a seated ticket at the SBE. You live and learn.
Okay, so it is 2013, but below are my best albums of 2011:
Why so late you so. Well better late than never I say.
1) The Decemberists - The King is Dead (9.5/10)
An album that blew me away right at the start of the year and at every listen reaffirmed why it is such a good album. From start to finish it is an album of the highest quality
2) King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine (9/10)
Lovely, melancholic, delightful, over and over
3) The Antlers - Burst Apart (9/10)
Very very good, an album that sparkles all the way through, will get better with every listen
4) Radiohead - The King of Limbs (9/10)
Beautiful. Wistful, chaotic, charming, and delightful piece of work. Stunning production.
5) Gui Boratto - III (9/10)
Freaking banging tuneage
6) Hearts - I Break Horses (8.75/10)
A real lovely album - varied, thoughtful and crafted with class, very very good
7) Beirut - The Rip Tide (8.5/10)
Lovely, deep and mellow. Orchestrally beautiful.
8) Lanterns On The Lake - Gracious Tide, Take Me Home (8.5/10)
Quality music - vocal masterpieces, well worth a listen.
9) Little Majorette - Rifle Heart (8.5/10)
A non-stop bevy of great pop songs, quite Beloved like, jingle jangle niceness.
10) The Horrors - Skying (8.5/10)
An album I didn’t expect to like, but did, strong.
11) Veronica Falls - S/T (8.5/10)
1980s guitar indie, pretty darn good.
12) Hyetal - Broadcast (8.5/10)
Dark, evocative, sharp dance music - cut above your normal tuneage.
Overall I think the year was okay, the top 3 were very good, but 2011 was not a vintage year for releases, and 2012 was better and 2013 will be a real cream of the crop year.
I did however at the back end of the year get to see King Creosote & Jon Hopkins perform their album live. It was lovely though no Youtube exists, so I nicked something else instead.
I remember watching 500 Days of Summer vividly. I watched it in a Paris cinema and a few things still really stick in my mind about the film. Firstly the soundtrack and how good it was. Secondly how pretty Zooey Deschanel was. And lastly why the hell had I not heard of Regina Spektor before.
On returning to London I did my usual thing when I find a new artist. I buy all their albums. I listen a lot to them and and was totally wowed by just how good they are. I think did my next step, I checked to see if they were playing live, and she wasn’t.
In fact I think she was undergoing form of break from music as other than a solitary show in Cambridge I don’t recall her doing any UK shows, till now. On Monday 2 July 2012 I ventured over to the Royal Albert Hall to watch her perform. It was a great show.
She had just the right amount of kooky about her, her voice was excellent and musically the band were sharp. It was very nice to leave a show without my ears ringing too as she played at a lovely volume.
However, the last album I felt was a dash below the previous two releases. Notwithstanding that, there is something fun, bright, pretty and simply lovely about Regina Spektor. She is simply, as the Welsh would say, Lush.
So, 2013, a year of great expectation for music fans. For the older and sometime hip generation we have the return of Fleetwood Mac. For those either side of 40 we have the second tour of the Stone Roses.
For all folk we have the return of Glastonbury, and a whole range of new releases from superb bands like The National and Phoenix. This is without the range of debut albums, always a plus for me, of hot tips like Frightened Rabbit.
I have more gigs lined up than I normally do by now. Biffy Clyro, The Postal Service (yes they are back), The Stone Roses, Kasabian and My Bloody Valentine. Possibly I am a bit heavy on nostalgia, but if those five were headlining across a festival you would be very happy. I am also sniffing around some Diiv tickets, and will catch a few more this side of July.
I think this year will be seen as a great year for music fans. More bands have realised that touring makes money, that releasing more music makes money, and finally musicians are stopping being stupid and actually getting off their arse and touring. Looking at you Ben Gibbard and Kevin Shields.
2013, make me proud.
So, underground wonder kids The Postal Service are hinting heavily that they will be back for some tour dates in 2013, as they have updated their website http://www.postalservicemusic.net/ I am very very excited.
Their album Give Up is a classic. And one of my favourite albums of that year and any year. If they tour you must see them.
So why are ten years are they doing it again, money, time, or just because they realise they made a bloody good record and should do it again, or at least tour properly with that record. However, who cares, so long as they do come back.
The first good album of 2013, Goldenheart by Dawn Richard. A rich blend of beats, vocals and top notch production.
A touch different to my usual stuff, but this is good.
Sometimes you see a video, hear a single or catch a gig and you sit there, wondering, why is this group not considered world class by more people. To me the greatest example of this is The National.
From Ohio, this 5 piece have produced some outstanding pieces of work over the last few years and have a superb live show in support of this, yet they are very popular across the music followers, but not by the public mass. However, I feel this is due to a number of reasons, they don’t tour as much as they could and the focus on the live shows is the music, rather than a grandiose light show and over the top stage.
The first time I remember encountering The National was at the start of 2010 when they released their latest album High Violet. I saw the reviews and thought this will be interesting, I gave the album one listen and then decided that they were a band I wanted to see. Luckily for me I did not have to wait too long, December that year at the always super Brixton Academy. It was a great night in more ways than one as I had a few beers with my old pal, the lead singer of Seafood.
Embarrassingly I have to wonder why the hell I wasn’t into them before. I listen to the entire back catalogue, a lot, and didn’t find a long play of theirs anything other than superb. In fact the debate for National fans is which of their albums is the best, with the debate raging between in most cases Boxer and High Violet. However Alligator is excellent and has a number of what I consider to be my preferred works.
In years to come people will reference The National like they do The Pixies. A band that has an amazing body or work, that is superb live and one that deserve far more mainstream success than they achieved.
They are also in my top 5 bands or artists of all time. But that is another blog for another day.
If any band deserves an anthem, it is The National.