All entries for December 2006
December 25, 2006
Seeing as the advent calendar has fallen to pieces in my absence, I’ll skip it entirely and write about 25 tracks from the year that apparently I put on repeat, and repeat, and repeat, thanks to the scary feature over at Last.fm. Holly has already posted hers here, so go there first. If you look at mine you can see I’ve completely cheated but meh, these ones stood out more (You’ll maybe also notice I listen to myself a lot. I’m only trying to get used to hearing my voice, it’s bloody awful). And MERRY CHRISTMAS!
In chart order:
1. Voxtrot – Soft & Warm
Man, I was so excited about this band after hearing the first EP and patiently, manually, scanning the music blogs for news of the new record, maybe even a snippet. I think I first heard this as a KEXP session and then I knew the record was going to be so much more fulfilling than the last. A tiptoeing keyboard line, gaining confidence with a dancing bridge to finally that swelling brass and that climbing melody that I can’t help but be physically lifted by every time I hear it.
One more ‘single’ in, the excitement has ebbed slightly, but the anticipation for what they can do with a new album in the new year is still very, very great.
2. Phoenix – Second To None
My chart actually gives Long Distance Call as next in the list, but I thought this was a more apt title. I wrote about Phoenix not too long ago and the album has never been far from the play button.
I still can’t get over the fact he plays one note for half the song.
3. Beirut – Postcards From Italy [Download]
I didn’t like Beirut at first. Who wants to listen to one accordion/banjo/brass line looped over and over with little change over a whole album? It was thankfully this track that kept me going back to have another listen, and I do want to listen to those now hypnotic phrases and arrangements because it just wouldn’t work with the shifts of traditional pop music. That resigned tone of voice as he sighs ‘And I, will love to see that day, that day was mine’ the brass joins back in for another round and it just feels just right.
4. Field Music – In Context [Listen]
I borrowed the first Field Music album before I left for New Zealand and in the hurry forgot to grab a copy before giving it back. I had to survive on the free tracks from the website and this little gem from the MySpace page and from the new album in the new year. I’ve written about it already here, and fortunately I also found both Field Music albums as a special Australian edition for a very sweet deal while wandering around Sydney.
5. Guillemots – Trains To Brazil [Listen]
A bassline that pumps to the thump of the toms while Mr. Dangerfield just has to wail and how great this song is going to be. Superbly uplifting for its lyrical content (‘Can’t you live and be thankful you’re here? ‘Cause it could be you, tomorrow, next year’) and engaging throughout, definitely a worthy position on this here chart.
6. Okkervil River – Black [Download]
I wrote about this album only a fortnight ago, so I won’t dawdle about how great this track is. That opening snare rattle and the keyboards ring out and Will Sheff just gets more and more enraged/emotional/ecstatic as drums and guitars crash around him. Worthy of awe.
7. Neko Case – That Teenage Feeling
It took me a while to buy Fox Confessor, living off scraps of what I could find, each taste actually building the expectation for the remaining tracks. Every time Neko delivered and every time she lets her voice soar you can’t help but get goosebumps. This track was a swift prime example of that.
8. Destroyer – Painter In Your Pocket [Download]
Dan Bejar doesn’t have the most pleasant voice in the world, and though it took me a while to accept the warbling intro to this song, when those pads warm you up with the tumbling drums and Dan ‘sings’ ‘I didn’t stand a chance, I couldn’t stand at all’ you kinda believe him. Then that little gem of a guitar riff appears and suddenly the drums really roll and even the vocals start to feel right over the smooth tones and it just works. Brilliant.
9. Thom Yorke – Black Swan
No-one was expecting a Thom Yorke record, but when it came, you did kind of expect this sort of insular electronic collection of songs but nothing quite as groovy as the guitar line in Black Swan. A fitting credits closer to Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly (‘This is fucked up’) and I could listen to that line, and have, all day.
10. Cold War Kids – Hospital Beds [Download]
The piano line is so simple, the drums only barely too complex for Meg White (come on, hi-hat AND toms at the same time… woah) it takes the wild vocals to really lift this one from being a real funeral dirge, because you can hardly say it has a chorus. And great those cords of are too, offering a fine introduction to the band’s sound.
11. The Futureheads – Skip To The End [Download]
This is a lot higher up the list than I expected it to be, a song I’ve kept clear of for some strange reason in recent time despite it being a great one. Area had been a staple of playlists earlier in the year, and the album it preceded was well anticipated. News and Tributes didn’t push all the right buttons but instead found some new ones to play with
12. The Walkmen – Another One Goes By
The bar door opens, you wander in, a piano chord, some guy crooning ‘I don’t know what to offer you, I’m only broke and lonely’, another day/month/year goes by and you can keep listening to this song and thinking back to the last time you did exactly the same thing, four minutes ago. Sure, it’s an almost carbon-copy cover of a song released by a friend of the Walkmen (Mazarin) only last year, but damn if it isn’t just the perfect end to an album, well, pretty much anything, ever.
13. Arctic Monkeys – Leave Before The Lights Come On
It’s a long time since January when the Arctic Monkeys tumbled the records down and tore opinions in two over the Northern four-piece. They’ve kept surprisingly busy since that period, releasing a stop-gap EP and this last single that doesn’t push forward in any way but goddamn if it ain’t at least on a par with anything else they’ve done. ‘Well this is a good idea, you wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t’, right on brother.
14. The Hold Steady – Chips Ahoy! [Download]
I try not to be taken by any Pitchfork hype (or the seemingly growing Pitchfork-hate) but The Hold Steady worked for me. Well, for this song at least. Simple, air-guitar worthy, vocals not too in-your-face or annoying and a whirling organ breakdown, exactly what I expected, exactly what I got. And I could listen to it again just to make sure…
15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cheated Hearts
It’s hard to remember that the YYYs actually released a new album this year, and even less so that it was actually quite good. For all the cries of it being too restrained you sure as hell can’t say it of this track, as Nick Zinner lets rip to drown out Karen’s yelp.
16. The Dears – There Goes My Outfit
I was a huge fan of No Cities Left but was kinda frustrated at the long-winded jams of nothing and just the amount of effort required to get through the whole album despite it being full of pop numbers like Lost In The Plot. Gang Of Losers reigned in the song times, kept the bombast and filled the whole album with great tunes. An acoustic version of this song was released as a teaser and is a lot more heart-wrenching than the studio version, but the whole arrangement works so it keeps ahead.
17. Duels – What We Did Wrong
It doesn’t matter which versioin I listen to of this song (I posted the demo version a while back), it can’t stop it being such a perfect distillation of how to write an interesting and utterly fantastic pop song.
18. The Mountain Goats – Woke Up New [Download]
I think it was the fact that I found out that there was this band who’d had released tens of albums without me taking notice made me actually go and see what the fuss around The Mountain Goats was all about. I found there wasn’t much fuss at all, but just some very innocent and honest acoustic songs that are so strikingly heartfelt you can’t help but be drawn in to the world Darnielle creates in his albums. Then you realise this world is the real world and makes you feel a little strange, but that’s alright, because he’s there to sing you through it.
19. Lily Allen – Smile [Listen]
Another great pop song but this time from someone I expected to completely despise. Sure, I don’t think much of the other tracks I’ve heard, but this one is perfect.
20. Gnarls Barkley – Smiley Faces
I never really took notice of Gnarls Barkley at first, not even noticing how big Crazy was or really recognising it. When I finally came around I was thankful, because St. Elsewhere really is a fucking cool album. This, the second single, is definitely a worthy follow-up to the blockbuster. That Motown beat, that voice, and I don’t get what some people have against Dangermouse because the production here is spot on, letting the song breathe in all the right places.
21. The Rapture – Get Myself Into It [Download]
I remember going to see The Rapture in Manchester years ago, and although I had to leave for work the next morning, my friends stayed around and had drinks with the band. During the conversation, it became apparent that the guy who plays the cowbell (and sax) was getting really fucking tired of hitting that metal thing on stage and the tour was definitely a drag. The rest of the band obviously never listened to him (much), cos this time he has a little wooden one to hit, along with the cowbell for this more upbeat take on their indie-dance-punk-funk thing found on Echoes. Well, I guess he gets to play the sax a lot more this time round…
22. Sondre Lerche – Phantom Punch [Listen]
Finding Two Way Monologue on one of those magazine CD’s (‘Word’ if I recall correctly) was proof enough that this guy could write a tune. This song rocks out in a way only a guy hooked on nostagia for the oldies can, like it’s 1980. Sure, the animal sounds have no place on any record ever (apart from maybe Seen the Light by Supergrass) but this is a rollicking pop tune despite that.
23. The Stills – Destroyer
Without Feathers was a far cry from the dark, gloomy Logic Will Break Your Heart and in some ways, like this glorious horn-blaring stomp of a song, it was a good thing. In most cases, like most of the album I’ve come to realise, it wasn’t.
24. Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out Of This Country [Download]
An obvious soundtrack to me leaving the country, coming out at just the right time and being very pretty indeed. Despite all the frustrating, unavoidable last-minute preparations, this just about kept me relaxed enough to not go crazy over it. ‘What does this city have to offer me?’, I was about to find out…
25. Sunset Rubdown – Stadiums and Shrines II [Download]
Whenever that guitar line comes spiralling down and the keyboards lifting up, I love that moment. And when at the breakdown when two notes are just pushing you and Krug just mentions ‘I’m sorry anybody dies at all these days’ and it all kicks back in, I love that moment. A great song.
Bonus. Afterburner – Don’t Leave It Too Late [Download]
If there is one song I’ve listened more than anything else this year, it has to be this. Writing it, practising it so many times to get the arrangement right, recording it, working out levels, mixing it, performing it live and finally having a finished version to give away to friends. I joke that Pete (the guitarist) wanted me to write a song better than Don’t Look Back In Anger and I hopefully didn’t make too bad of an effort at it…
Enjoy your holidays!
December 11, 2006
In this week’s internet stravaganza!?
- Michael Jackson – Beat It (with Chris laughing and ruining my live jingle)
- Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2
- I cock up a few jingles. Score!
- The Long Blondes – Swallow Tattoo
- The Pipettes – Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me
- We discuss the Long Blondes, all the students going away and Fopp over the top of the Rocky theme, which is fucking awesome
- Of Montreal – Gronlandic Edit
- Listeners in the North experienced sound quality difficulties. Sorry.
- Hot Chip – The Beach Party
- Very bad rapping. Bad. Sleep deprivation kicks in. George Galloway hates war, but he LOVES RaW!
- The Charlatons – You’re So Pretty, We’re So Pretty
- Brakes – Hold Me In The River
- Another quiz dies on it’s arse. Why do we keep doing this!? Never Mind The Buzzcocks meets The Two Ronnies with rubbish effect… Best Journey ever though.
- KISS – Strutter (not Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!)
- Rainbow – Since You’ve Been Gone
- Eclecticism. Chris and Mat’s Indie Nipple
- Bloc Party – The Prayer
- Radiohead – Electioneering (What is it good for?)
- The end of the show. Steven Seagal and Thunderbox!? Chris tricks me into saying Merry Christmas, because he’s a bastard.
- Muse – New Born
December 09, 2006
This blog is about the music – not the contributors – but I thought after my first post a brief introduction would be appropriate.
3rd year Mathematician, Tech. editor of The Boar (The Core), has a blog on here called DanceDance.
My main (only) source of music is through asking people to share their tastes with me. More accurately: bugging people to lend me their music and forward whatever they’ve enjoyed recently. I guess my philosophy is that other people can do the work finding good music and I’ll drown myself in it. Perhaps that’s why I’m here (á la discothèque, not Earth I mean): to give something back. I hope I can.
Hello to all the “discothequers” out there and PEACE OUT.
I confess, it wasn’t until this year that I first ‘got into’ (read: ‘heard of’) TV on the Radio. It was the coincidence of one of my friends in Brighton being a huge fan and them also being the favourite band of one of my house mates. I returned from a trip to see the friend, where lots of TV on the Radio had been played, and slipped my house mate a memory stick with the instructions “you know what to do”. He didn’t, and I had to explain in more clarity that I wanted him to mp3 me with TV on the Radio goodness.
Return to Cookie Mountain is TV on the Radio’s second album, following Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. I just want to recommend a purchase of Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes as it’s a collection of music unlike anything else you will have heard and has two of my favourite tracks of the (personal) year: Staring at the Sun and Ambulance. For a few weeks now I have been giving the mp3 of Staring at the Sun to people unfamiliar with the group and, without exception, they have purchased the album within days.
The band offer an intoxicating mix of genres. In places they are Jazzy, at times hip-hoppy, even touching on doo-wop in tracks such as Ambulance (an entirely vocal song). Their style is difficult to do justice to in description but it has a relaxing and rhythmic feel to it that I’ve found listenable in pretty much any mood. Return to Cookie Mountain maintains the precedent set in TV on the Radio’s first album of decent length tracks (only one track over the two albums is less that 4 minutes) that keep a distinct theme going but frequently insert interesting drum beats and instrumentals as the song progresses.
I’m failing to convey what TV on the Radio are about and completely neglecting an analysis of Return to Cookie Mountain in isolation from Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes but, in many ways, that’s what TV on the Radio are all about: each piece of music is distinct, the albums don’t seem to have a theme but the tracks on them certainly do. TV on the Radio are a group that don’t think in albums, but in pieces of music and performances, Return to Cookie Mountain is a continuation of the distribution of their amazing music and a beautiful collection.
TV on the Radio – Province MP3 Expired
TV on the Radio – Tonight MP3 Expired
December 08, 2006
I’ve been in Australia for two weeks, and New Zealand for five months almost, so I figured I should at least be checking out some of the local music around. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit shit in that regard, opting out or risking money on names I’ve not heard of, but I’ve been surprised after reading this review and buying the album, that no-one else has picked out Australian Ned Collette for making a surprisingly great solo album (away from his group, City City City, who I’ve not heard). It’s only the second time I’ve ever bought an album on the strength of one review (the other being CYHSY, go hipster me) and I’m beginning to wonder whether I should trust my internal sincere musical radar more often (I’ve avoided I’m From Barcelona so far at least).
Back to the music, Mr. Collette has produced a fine set of tunes that are not perfect, but showcase enough charm and diversity in the arrangements to make it worthy of a purchase to any fan of folk. Opener Song For Louis begins with a trademark Nick Drake fingerpicked melody before his more assured, confident and slightly rough (sandy, some might say) voice breaks through with a touching paean to a friend. Female vocals and electric guitar join in briefly to add a sweet touch before fading into the enjoyable instrumental reprise, The Happy Kidnapper.
Each of the songs holds unique arrangements past the standard acoustic foundation, a bouncing beat here (Boulder), slide guitar there (A Plea For You Through Me), handclaps and a psychadelic synth line out of nowhere (Janet) and this is all without mentioning the glorious centrepiece of The Laughter Across the Street. Laughter starts with another picked line, and the same, almost reassuringly so, tone of Ned’s vocals come in, soon accompanied by double bass and more picking arrangements. A choir and violin section sooth you through another few stanzas before you realise the focus start to shift. Suddenly, the quiet ‘do-do-do’s that were hushed moments ago have been backed by another bouncing electric guitar line, choirs build, drums nudge their way in and squelching synth bubble underneath to really work the song into something special. It’s no wonder that you can hear a slight applause at the end.
The only downer for me in the whole album is the monotonous Heaven’s the Key, but I can accept that for all the unexpected joy the rest of the songs have provided. So here’s a few so you can decide for yourself:
Ned Collette – Song For Louis
Ned Collette – The Laughter Across The Street (from Cokemachineglow.com)
Ned Collette – Janet
MP3s removed by request
BUY THE ALBUM IF YOU CAN FIND IT GADDAMN!
Best Bet is the Ned Collette Store
December 07, 2006
After a solo album from Roddy Woomble that showcased the depth to the quieter side of Idlewild’s albums that seemed to be creeping up on the rest of the band’s output in the later releases, Idlewild have released a sharp shock to the system with their latest single, If It Takes You Home. This is short and sweet like the 100 Broken Windows days, and it bodes well for the new album, Make Another World, can’t wait!.
This album had been on my ‘to get’ list for a long while, but never stumped up the money to bring it in on import. It was originally released in 2005, but in the UK in 2006 (which is why it’s valid here) but I actually bought it in Auckland a few months ago.
Okkervil River play songs that have been characterised as emo, rock, indie and country (the section where I found this) because the songs aren’t afraid to rock, Will Sheff’s vocals are definitely charged with emotion, yet there’s a side to the songs that is tender and intelligent.
The album itself is a concept of sorts, beginning with a cover of Tim Hardin’s, Black Sheep Boy, with a view to take it’s namesake through a series of songs later on in the album. Immediately after comes the quiet strum of For Real, a few hushed lines are given before a guitar stab comes out of nowhere, jolting you to attention and really kicking the song and album into gear. It’s actually quite surprising that Okkervil River have decided to give the two strongest songs off the album, the other being Black, away for free, but even more satisfying when the likes of The Latest Toughs and So Come Back, I Am Waiting prove that they haven’t given away all their album’s assets.
The quieter and more subtle songs took longer to take hold, but have since grown with repeated listens, recognising the horns prevalent in A King And A Queen and the following A Stone that lift the previously dour tone whilst hearing Song of Our So-Called Friend work its wonder with a jaunty strum and tinkling keyboards and Get Big release with a gorgeous slide guitar solo.
December 05, 2006
I am well aware that there are few bands out there who summon the spirit of Marmite quite like the Manic Street Preachers, so it was quite intriguing to watch the solo albums by the two remaining guitarists, lead guitarist/singer James Dean Bradfield and bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire, attract neither delirious praise nor acidic bile. In fact other contributors to this blog weren’t even aware that both had put out solo albums this year. Such is the journey to the quiet margins for one of the biggest, and most in your face, bands of the 1990s.
And it is just typical of this brilliantly perverse band that after one terrible album (Know Your Enemy) and one understated album (Lifeblood) it took them going solo to remember who they really are. It really is a blast of revitalised Manic Street Preachers, but that’s to say these are two Manics albums, rather two albums which demonstrate how the Manics came about from two different personalities.
In brief, James’s albums is big and glossy. This is where ‘Design For Life’, ‘If You Tolerate This…’ and ‘Sleepflower’ come from. It has big production, hand claps and sha-la-las. It also has a sense of melancholy and nostalgia about it. Lyrically simplistic but there are no furious attempts to cram the entirely of Das Capital into a three minute rock song so it flows. JDB has never been a man afraid of a soaring melody and The Great Western soars a lot, lush keyboards, his distinctive and brilliantly diverse guitar work. And the voice. If we forget that JDB has one of the bets voices of the 1990s then we are fools.
Nicky Wire on the other hand is famous for not having a good singing voice, more a ranting tool. He also plays bass, albeit not amazingly. So therefore logically his album features no bass and a newly acquired, punk rock, fractionally off key but almost always listenable singing voice (in my opinion, you’ll have to try it for yourself). But if JDB was always expected to come up with a solid album then Wire’s has been the greater triumph as even avid Manics fans did not expect him to come up with something as good as I Killed The Zeitgeist. It’s indie as indie used to be, lo-fi, low key and unexpectedly thrilling. Yes, he does still try to cram in big words and ideas into every song, but the excesses of recent times are gone and the angry poetry is back. Even better his handle on an unexpected softer side comes up with some of the best songs of the year.
Ultimately the only down side of both albums is the feeling you when listening to the best tracks (‘English Gentleman’ (JDB), ‘The Shining Path’ (Nicky), ‘Break My Heart Slowly’ (Nicky), ‘Run Romeo Run’ (JDB)) you find yourself wondering how amazing they would be as full band Manics tracks. But just like Star Wars Episode 3 made me want to watch 4-6 again, this is no bad thing. This is why these albums are here together. They belong together, like their creators.
Listen to these:
And whilst you’re at it, buy the 10th anniversary edition of the Greatest Album Of All Time, the amazing, wonderful, superlative ‘Everything Must Go’. It really is the most important thing in 1990s music! [/hyperbole]
December 04, 2006
If there’s one thing which seems to unite all music blogs, and most music fans, it’s the desire to bash the NME. This makes it particularly grating when they manage to get it right, but never fear, there are always other big selling magazines which are spouting rubbish. The Worst Piece Of Music Journalism Of The Year award this year goes to Q Magazine which reckons Silent Shout by Swedish electro geniuses The Knife is “A hideous mess of electro noodling and maddeningly obtuse, tuneless vocals” worth one star out of five. Now everybody is entitled to their own opinion. However Q likes to play it safe. For all its gushing about Radiohead and Pink Floyd, the most typically Q bands are Keane and Coldplay. Safe. Indie. Definitely not the sound of the entire history of electronic music collapsing into a blackhole.
Such a shame for Q really that in fact such a collapse sounds as magnificent and wonderous as it does. You really would have to be a technophobe, and an impatient one at that, to give Silent Shout one star. It suggests you have listened to it once, probably not even all the way through.
For those who want a real assessment here it is – Silent Shout takes all the distinctive, overused, overplayed features of electronic music and reimagines it as something beautiful and human. Yes, human. At heart this sounds like a woman (specifically singer Karin Dreijer Andersson) battling a stream of conflicting emotions against some challenging but rewarding music. And some blatant pop.
It takes guts to release the most tricky track on your album as a single, but The Knife took that leap and sent ‘We Share Our Mother’s Health’ out into the world. It is the perfect encapsulation of them. On first listen it’s a noise, a mess, and a disturbing one at that. Any more than one listen, however, is enough to bring out the thrilling rush of the piece, the melody (yes, there is one) and the feeling that it’s not really that disturbing, more a mad rush.
The rest of the album is more accessible, and quite emotional at times. There is an unexpected pathos in many songs, ‘Marble House’ and ‘Forest Families’ in particular should rip out the heart of any listener.
This isn’t about easy listening. This isn’t about trying to appear cool. This is simply pop music as you forgot it could be, challenging, rewarding and real.
Listen to these tracks. I was going to give you ‘Marble House’ but that song is so amazing, so wonderful, so fantastic that I believe you should bloody pay for the privilege of listening to it. Yes, that good.
December 03, 2006
We Landed On The Moon! are a quintet from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We interviewed them a few months ago and their album has maintained on my rotation ever since – it’s a brilliant debut. The album starts with the excellent One of a Kind, crescendoing into full swing as the album goes through Everything is Fine and Simple Steps.
WLotM! display a number of styles throughout the album, with Blondie-style vocals from the lead singer flowing through influences from Blondie, Kate Bush, and the 80s indie-rock scene to create a wonderful mix of pop-rock that is very easy to listen and dance to.
There’s very little to say about the album other than you should go and buy it. Now!
BUY THE ALBUM NOW DAMN YOU