Saturday, 22 August 2015

Music Chart - August 2015

Time for another chart update. New albums from Wolf Alice - so good it goes straight into the top five!, The Chemical Brothers - possibly their most uninspiring, lacklustre and soulless album to date, new country music star Kacey Musgraves - a charming journey through trailer park America, Little Boots - Ms. Hesketh continues to tug on Kylie's coattails with luscious electro-pop, Muse - who engage, baffle and amaze in equal measures, Public Enemy - the veteran rap legends plug away wit their (now) inconsistent art, and two albums from CFCF with gorgeous instrumentation and melodies.

Death Cab For Cutie hold the number one spot in the 'not-quite-top-50'.

  1. Kintsugi by Death Cab For Cutie
  2. My Love Is Cool by Wolf Alice
  3. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
  4. Blackbirds by Gretchen Peters
  5. The Race For Space by Public Service Broadcasting
  6. I Wasn't Born To Lose You by Swervedriver
  7. Short Movie by Laura Marling
  8. The Scene Between by The Go! Team 
  9. Radiance & Submission by CFCF
  10. Beneath The Skin by Of Monsters And Men
  11. Policy by Will Butler
  12. Working Girl by Little Boots
  13. Modern Nature by The Charlatans 
  14. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
  15. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World by The Decemberists 
  16. Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves
  17. A Forest Of Arms by Great Lake Swimmers
  18. Everything Ever Written by Idlewild 
  19. Bonxie by Stornoway
  20. Culture Of Volume by East India Youth
  21. Hypoxia by Kathryn Williams
  22. Mount The Air by Unthanks
  23. 8:58 by 8:58 
  24. The Colours Of Life by CFCF
  25. California Nights by Best Coast
  26. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance by Belle & Sebastian 
  27. Drones by Muse
  28. Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP by Aphex Twin
  29. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
  30. Before We Forgot How To Dream by SOAK
  31. Traveller by Chris Stapleton
  32. Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth by Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth 
  33. Picture You by The Amazing
  34. Everything Else Matters by Pinkshinyultrablast
  35. Everyone Was A Bird by Grasscut 
  36. Man Plans God Laughs by Public Enemy
  37. Scatter by Crushed Beaks 
  38. Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress by Godspeed You! Black Emperor 
  39. Born In The Echoes by The Chemical Brothers
  40. Heavy Love by Duke Garwood 
  41. The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers
  42. A Flourish And A Spoil by The Districts
  43. Then Came The Morning by The Lone Below
  44. Menace Beach by Ratworld
  45. Sauna by Mount Eerie
  46. The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Manson
  47. 10 Futures by Aqualung
  48. We Slept At Last by Marika Hackman
  49. MG by MG

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Music Chart - June 2015

A new chart for June and great new albums from Florence + The Machine and Of Monsters And Men. Something different from Mumford & Sons doesn't quite deliver while Great Lake Swimmers, Stornoway and Best Coast return with solid new work. The new solo album from The Killers' front-man Brandon Flowers fails to hit the mark while Hypoxia by Kathryn Williams is a slow burner. Impressive début from SOAK completes the monthly update...

  1. Kintsugi by Death Cab For Cutie 
  2. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
  3. Blackbirds by Gretchen Peters
  4. The Race For Space by Public Service Broadcasting
  5. I Wasn't Born To Lose You by Swervedriver
  6. Short Movie by Laura Marling
  7. The Scene Between by The Go! Team 
  8. Beneath The Skin by Of Monsters And Men
  9. Policy by Will Butler
  10. Modern Nature by The Charlatans 
  11. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
  12. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World by The Decemberists 
  13. A Forest Of Arms by Great Lake Swimmers
  14. Everything Ever Written by Idlewild 
  15. Bonxie by Stornoway
  16. Culture Of Volume by East India Youth
  17. Hypoxia by Kathryn Williams
  18. Mount The Air by Unthanks
  19. 8:58 by 8:58 
  20. California Nights by Best Coast
  21. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance by Belle & Sebastian
  22. Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP by Aphex Twin
  23. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
  24. Before We Forgot How To Dream by SOAK
  25. Picture You by The Amazing
  26. Everything Else Matters by Pinkshinyultrablast
  27. Everyone Was A Bird by Grasscut
  28. Scatter by Crushed Beaks 
  29. Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  30. Heavy Love by Duke Garwood 
  31. The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers
  32. A Flourish And A Spoil by The Districts
  33. Then Came The Morning by The Lone Below
  34. Menace Beach by Ratworld
  35. Sauna by Mount Eerie
  36. The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Manson
  37. 10 Futures by Aqualung
  38. We Slept At Last by Marika Hackman
  39. MG by MG

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Music Chart - April 2015

Great new albums this month from Death Cab For Cutie (the last with Chris Walla), The Go! Team (take away the irritating fillers and there are nine cracking pop tunes) , and Paul Hartnoll's new post-Orbital project 8:58. Also more brain-scrambling musing from the wonderful Courtney Barnett and the heartbreaking Sufjan Stevens. Elsewhere Godspeed You! Black Emperor continue to baffle and beguile while East India Youth delivers his best work yet.

Death Cab For Cutie take the top spot (for now). Kintsugi is not perfect but plays to the band's strengths throughout, a blend of styles and textures - clichés aplenty with the unique DCFC slant.

  1. Kintsugi by Death Cab For Cutie
  2. Blackbirds by Gretchen Peters
  3. The Race For Space by Public Service Broadcasting
  4. I Wasn't Born To Lose You by Swervedriver
  5. Short Movie by Laura Marling
  6. The Scene Between by The Go! Team
  7. Policy by Will Butler
  8. Modern Nature by The Charlatans 
  9. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
  10. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World by The Decemberists 
  11. Everything Ever Written by Idlewild 
  12. Culture Of Volume by East India Youth
  13. Mount The Air by Unthanks
  14. 8:58 by 8:58
  15. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance by Belle & Sebastian
  16. Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP by Aphex Twin
  17. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
  18. Picture You by The Amazing
  19. Everything Else Matters by Pinkshinyultrablast
  20. Scatter by Crushed Beaks 
  21. Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  22. Heavy Love by Duke Garwood
  23. A Flourish And A Spoil by The Districts
  24. Then Came The Morning by The Lone Below
  25. Menace Beach by Ratworld
  26. Sauna by Mount Eerie
  27. The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Manson
  28. 10 Futures by Aqualung
  29. We Slept At Last by Marika Hackman

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Music Chart - March 2015

After a brief hiatus, it's time for a new 2015 music chart. A slow-burning first quarter has created a varied and interesting top 10 with veteran Gretchen Peters producing one of the finest album's of her illustrious career. Public Service Broadcasting return with The Race For Space and another wonderful collection of atmospheric and inspiring samples and electronica. A blast from the past with Swervedriver bringing back the magic on the guitar-fuelled I Wasn't Born To Lose You, another delicious slice of character songwriting from the wonderful Laura Marling, and an impressive - if left-field - release, Policy, from Arcade Fire's Will Butler form the current top 5.

  1. Blackbirds by Gretchen Peters
  2. The Race For Space by Public Service Broadcasting
  3. I Wasn't Born To Lose You by Swervedriver
  4. Short Movie by Laura Marling
  5. Policy by Will Butler
  6. Modern Nature by The Charlatans
  7. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World by The Decemberists 
  8. Everything Ever Written by Idlewild
  9. Mount The Air by Unthanks
  10. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance by Belle & Sebastian
  11. Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP by Aphex Twin
  12. Picture You by The Amazing
  13. Everything Else Matters by Pinkshinyultrablast
  14. Scatter by Crushed Beaks 
  15. Heavy Love by Duke Garwood
  16. A Flourish And A Spoil by The Districts
  17. Then Came The Morning by The Lone Below
  18. Menace Beach by Ratworld
  19. Sauna by Mount Eerie
  20. The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Manson
  21. 10 Futures by Aqualung
  22. We Slept At Last by Marika Hackman

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Music Chart - 2014 Review

So after a brief hiatus, here is the final chart of 2014... Some new entries of note are:

It's Nearly Tomorrow by Craig Armstrong - more beautiful and elegant instrumentals from a true genius, mixed with tracks featuring some distracting - if equally elegant - guest vocalists.
Fall Together Again by Andy Burrows - continuing to prove there is life after Razorlight, Burrows delivers wonderful songwriting yet again.
I Forget Where We Were by Ben Howard - a darker, more introspective collection of personal songs and intensity then Howard's début.
Super Critical by The Ting Tings - the band that completely refuse to conform take on the likes of Chic and guitar-funk disco with another party album.
In The Seams by Saint Saviour - the best songs Saint Saviour has put her name to; heartfelt, beautiful and vocals to die for.
Storytone by Neil Young - if you remove the 'big band' versions, this is a stripped-down open-hearted album of quite wonderful songs - that said, the filled-out numbers occasionally hit the mark.
The Endless River by Pink Floyd - the band's swansong featuring outtakes and material from the late Richard Wright; a fitting end to a huge legacy.
Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters - the best album from Dave Grohl and the boys for many years - this is a full-on and committed guitar-fest.
Monuments To An Elegy by The Smashing Pumpkins - a brave attempt to do something different which often works thanks to Billy Corgan's sharp lyrics and listless delivery; not the band they once were but now a different animal.

The final top ten features amazing bands and great singer-songwriters. The War On Drugs were never to be beaten.

  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines 
  3. Syro by Aphex Twin
  4. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  5. Morning Phase by Beck 
  6. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis
  7. Somewhere Under Wonderland by Counting Crows
  8. Forgetting The Present by Remember Remember 
  9. Built For Storms by Nigel Stonier
  10. In The Seams by Saint Saviour
  11. While 1 is less than 2 by Deadmau5 
  12. The Fire Inside by Luke Sital-Singh
  13. Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters
  14. It's Nearly Tomorrow by Craig Armstrong
  15. Royal Blood by Royal Blood
  16. My Favourite Faded Fantasy by Damien Rice 
  17. Beauty & Ruin by Bob Mould 
  18. Super Critical by The Ting Tings
  19. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies 
  20. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  21. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  22. Ryan Adams by Ryan Adams
  23. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  24. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
  25. Fall Together Again by Andy Burrows
  26. Storytone by Neil Young
  27. This Is All Yours by Alt-J
  28. Alarms In The Heart by Dry The River 
  29. I Forget Where We Were by Ben Howard
  30. Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen
  31. Owl John by Owl John
  32. Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
  33. 48:13 by Kasabian 
  34. The Endless River by Pink Floyd
  35. Indie Cindy by The Pixies 
  36. Ghost Stories by Coldplay
  37. Running With Scissors by Janet Devlin 
  38. Bones + Longing by Gemma Hayes
  39. The Voyager by Jenny Lewis
  40. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  41. Pe'ahi by The Raveonettes 
  42. A New Nature by Esben And The Witch
  43. Grinning Streak by Barenaked Ladies 
  44. Phantom Radio by Mark Lanegan Band
  45. Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst 
  46. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  47. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  48. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  49. Lazaretto by Jack White 
  50. Get Hurt by The Gaslight Anthem
  51. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  52. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club 
  53. Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave by The Twilight Sad
  54. 1984 by Ryan Adams 
  55. Playland by Johnny Marr
  56. Heartstrings by Howling Bells
  57. We Come From The Same Place by Allo Darlin'
  58. El Pintor by Interpol
  59. Honeyblood by Honeyblood
  60. Futurology by Manic Street Preachers
  61. IX by Corrosion Of Conformity 
  62. Pale Communion by Opeth
  63. Into The Lime by New Mendicants 
  64. The Day's War by Lonely The Brave
  65. 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela 
  66. Monuments To An Elegy by The Smashing Pumpkins
  67. A Letter Home By Neil Young
  68. In The Silence by Asgeir
  69. Held In Splendor by Quilt
  70. Blood by Pulled Apart By Horses
  71. Wilderness of Mirrors by Lawrence English
  72. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
  73. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  74. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  75. Alvvays by Alvvays
  76. Supernova by Ray LaMontagne
  77. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  78. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn
  79. Atlas by Real Estate
  80. Croz by David Crosby
  81. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  82. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  83. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  84. Wildewoman by Lucius
  85. Luminous by The Horrors
  86. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  87. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  88. Waking Lines by Patterns
  89. Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos 
  90. Complete Surrender by Slow Club
  91. The Future's Void by EMA
  92. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  93. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  94. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  95. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  96. Warpaint by Warpaint
  97. Are We There by Sharon Van Etten
  98. To Be Kind by Swans
  99. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  100. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  101. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  102. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  103. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  104. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Music Chart - September 2014

Another amazing month of new music. Not one...but two Ryan Adams albums!, each showcasing the man's unique talents. 1984 is down and dirty punk meets garage rock and the eponymous album is borderline ironic - he has spent years detaching himself from 'almost namesake' Bryan Adams yet the latter release brings together soft-rock influences and clichéd scansion. The contrast makes the former more interesting but musically inferior. Then comes a much welcomed new album from Counting Crows, returning from something of a slump: a nice, yet limp covers collection after a 'more of the same' mid-tempo drawl live album. But Somewhere Under Wonderland is magnificent - upbeat, energised and committed in equal measures, with Adam Duritz sounding better than ever.

To compliment this trio, Leonard Cohen - now a feisty 80 years old - brings us one of his best albums, well, since the last one. Wonderful song writing and a stilted, yet charming, delivery makes Popular Problems an engaging and compelling listen. Then, another stalwart of the music industry: Aphex Twin returns with a list of incomprehensible and unpronounceable songs on the brilliant Syro - a masterclass of electronic genius. And lastly the sublime, weird and often wonderful Alt-J return with an album that is arguably better than their award winning début.

A late entry to the 2014 chart is Coldplay's Ghost Stories... while clearly a shadow of their former selves, Chris Martin and the boys deliver a beautiful heartfelt and inoffensive collection of love songs - the band's best for a very long time. And in total contrast, Pulled Apart By Horses continue to thrash things up while Lonely The Brave have a long way to go before they can claim Biffy Clyro's crown.

Nothing challenges the mighty War On Drugs who hold the top spot.

  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines 
  3. Syro by Aphex Twin
  4. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  5. Morning Phase by Beck 
  6. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis
  7. Somewhere Under Wonderland by Counting Crows
  8. Forgetting The Present by Remember Remember 
  9. Built For Storms by Nigel Stonier
  10. While 1 is less than 2 by Deadmau5 
  11. The Fire Inside by Luke Sital-Singh
  12. Royal Blood by Royal Blood
  13. Beauty & Ruin by Bob Mould
  14. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies 
  15. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  16. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  17. Ryan Adams by Ryan Adams
  18. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  19. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
  20. This Is All Yours by Alt-J
  21. Alarms In The Heart by Dry The River 
  22. Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen
  23. Owl John by Owl John
  24. Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
  25. 48:13 by Kasabian
  26. Indie Cindy by The Pixies 
  27. Ghost Stories by Coldplay
  28. Running With Scissors by Janet Devlin 
  29. The Voyager by Jenny Lewis
  30. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  31. Pe'ahi by The Raveonettes
  32. Grinning Streak by Barenaked Ladies
  33. Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst 
  34. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  35. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  36. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  37. Lazaretto by Jack White 
  38. Get Hurt by The Gaslight Anthem
  39. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  40. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club 
  41. 1984 by Ryan Adams
  42. Heartstrings by Howling Bells
  43. Honeyblood by Honeyblood
  44. Futurology by Manic Street Preachers
  45. IX by Corrosion Of Conformity 
  46. Pale Communion by Opeth
  47. Into The Lime by New Mendicants 
  48. The Day's War by Lonely The Brave
  49. 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  50. A Letter Home By Neil Young
  51. In The Silence by Asgeir
  52. Held In Splendor by Quilt
  53. Blood by Pulled Apart By Horses
  54. Wilderness of Mirrors by Lawrence English
  55. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
  56. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  57. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  58. Alvvays by Alvvays
  59. Supernova by Ray LaMontagne
  60. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  61. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn
  62. Atlas by Real Estate
  63. Croz by David Crosby
  64. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  65. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  66. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  67. Wildewoman by Lucius
  68. Luminous by The Horrors
  69. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  70. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  71. Waking Lines by Patterns
  72. Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos 
  73. Complete Surrender by Slow Club
  74. The Future's Void by EMA
  75. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  76. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  77. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  78. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  79. Warpaint by Warpaint
  80. Are We There by Sharon Van Etten
  81. To Be Kind by Swans
  82. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  83. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  84. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  85. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  86. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  87. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Music Chart - August 2014

One of the best months of the year for new albums and a 2014 return for some great bands. One of the biggest releases of the year is Alarms In The Heart by Dry The River - a solid, yet sadly inferior second-best to the brilliant Shallow Bed. I'll give it time but it lacks not only the songs but much of the wide-eyed wonder of its predecessor. The Gaslight Anthem get heavy with the New Jersey charm with Get Hurt...for me not quite as slick as Handwritten but plenty of commitment and passion, as always. One of the new shining lights this year finally follows up a bunch of EPs, and the intriguing Film Songs, with the excellent The Fire Inside - a marvellous début featuring one of the best songs of the year: Bottled Up Tight. And another new act promising so much - and delivering: Royal Blood release their eponymous début; kicking off with the astonishing Out Of The Black and blistering Figure It Out. Echoes of White and Homme everywhere but the startling combination of vocals, drums and bass guitar performed by a duo is truly exhilarating. Last but no least, Thea Gilmore's right-hand man Nigel Stonier, a brilliantly talented songwriter and performer who doesn't release enough albums of his own, has made Built For Storms - filled with stark observations, smart lyrics and beautiful poignant reflections.

Elsewhere, Frightened Rabbit take time out for Owl John, The Raveonettes bring back the bleak, Slow Club attempt to engage, Howling Bells pull the Heartstrings and Honeyblood get feisty.


  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines
  3. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  4. Morning Phase by Beck 
  5. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis
  6. Forgetting The Present by Remember Remember 
  7. Built For Storms by Nigel Stonier
  8. While 1 is less than 2 by Deadmau5 
  9. The Fire Inside by Luke Sital-Singh
  10. Royal Blood by Royal Blood
  11. Beauty & Ruin by Bob Mould
  12. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies 
  13. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  14. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  15. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  16. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
  17. Alarms In The Heart by Dry The River
  18. Owl John by Owl John
  19. Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
  20. 48:13 by Kasabian
  21. Indie Cindy by The Pixies 
  22. Running With Scissors by Janet Devlin 
  23. The Voyager by Jenny Lewis
  24. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  25. Pe'ahi by The Raveonettes
  26. Grinning Streak by Barenaked Ladies
  27. Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst 
  28. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  29. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  30. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  31. Lazaretto by Jack White 
  32. Get Hurt by The Gaslight Anthem
  33. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  34. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club 
  35. Heartstrings by Howling Bells
  36. Honeyblood by Honeyblood
  37. Futurology by Manic Street Preachers
  38. IX by Corrosion Of Conformity
  39. Into The Lime by New Mendicants 
  40. 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  41. A Letter Home By Neil Young
  42. In The Silence by Asgeir
  43. Held In Splendor by Quilt
  44. Wilderness of Mirrors by Lawrence English
  45. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
  46. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  47. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  48. Alvvays by Alvvays
  49. Supernova by Ray LaMontagne
  50. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  51. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn
  52. Atlas by Real Estate
  53. Croz by David Crosby
  54. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  55. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  56. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  57. Wildewoman by Lucius
  58. Luminous by The Horrors
  59. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  60. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  61. Waking Lines by Patterns
  62. Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos 
  63. Complete Surrender by Slow Club
  64. The Future's Void by EMA
  65. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  66. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  67. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  68. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  69. Warpaint by Warpaint
  70. Are We There by Sharon Van Etten
  71. To Be Kind by Swans
  72. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  73. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  74. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  75. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  76. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  77. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Vinyl Frontier - Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell


Two more gems recently entrusted to my care...

In 1969 Bob Dylan defied convention and instead of making a political statement - at the time there was much to protest about - he made Nashville Skyline, a sublime and quirky country-rock album.  Featuring Johnny Cash and a host of other great musicians there is much more to this than Lay Lady Lay, and Dylan's best album after Blood On The Tracks. This was the ultimate protest singer making the ultimate anti-protest album.

History really does repeat itself. I have the same feeling listening to Song To A Seagull, Joni Mitchell's wonderful début album, as I do with Laura Marling's Alas I Cannot Swim... The same idealistic lyrical craft mixed with swirling acoustic guitars in a simple, unruffled and raw production. Not many singers get away with a concept album as their first effort but Mitchell made her mark on the music world from the very first note. Her voice is both powerful and un-threatening, every song tells a story, while the strings add the atmospherics.
-- CS

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Vinyl Frontier - The Beatles

I am not a huge Beatles fan. I have my own favourite songs and I only own Revolver and the two anthologies (on CD)…until now. Recently, I inherited (with great privilege) some ‘old’ records including all twelve original Beatles LPs (thirteen if you include Magical Mystery Tour) plus a few other compilations and rarities collections.

Here they are: 

The Beatles’ albums cover a mere eight years, from the debut Please Please Me in 1963 to Let It Be in 1970. Often making two albums a year during this time, it is an incredible catalogue of music and culture. The development of the band’s music can be divided into four trilogies: Please Please Me, With The Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night is poster-boy jangly pop; Beatles For Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul is a band exploring and expanding; Revolver, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album is creativity, risks and reward; and Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let It Be is the sound of self-indulgence, fractures and reflection – Abbey Road feels like the start of Harrison’s solo career with some of his best songs and Let It Be, mostly recorded before Abbey Road, doesn’t feel like a ‘break-up’ album although The Long And Winding Road always seems to be an obvious swansong.

For me, the height of The Beatles’ creativity and power was 1966. The reason I bought Revolver is that I still think it’s a masterpiece – although it does seem to divide fans somewhat – and listening to my new vinyl copy, even more so. The album has just about everything from the dark sad Eleanor Rigby to the playful nursery-rhyme Yellow Submarine, punchy Got To Get You Into My Life and the eclectic closer Tomorrow Never Knows. Vocals are shared and Harrison wrote three good songs. In comparison, the follow-up Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is overrated (but still very good). Having listened to the most of the earlier albums in full, A Hard Day’s Night is a highlight, with its fuzzy production and Lennon and McCartney writing together wonderfully.

I do recognise why and how The Beatles are so popular and why the songs and albums are iconic works of art, not only as part of British music but around the world. The song-writing partnership of Lennon and McCartney is still legendary and combined with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, one of the best-known and loved pop bands lives on.
-- CS

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Music Chart - July 2014

A sparse month for good new music... but great new albums from Deadmau5, Remember Remember, Weird Al Yankovic and Jenny Lewis, plus a decent effort from Manic Street Preachers and Barenaked Ladies.

And again, nothing new to challenge the best album of the year from The War On Drugs...


  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines
  3. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  4. Morning Phase by Beck 
  5. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis
  6. Forgetting The Present by Remember Remember 
  7. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  8. While 1 is less than 2 by Deadmau5
  9. Beauty & Ruin by Bob Mould
  10. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies
  11. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  12. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  13. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
  14. Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic
  15. 48:13 by Kasabian
  16. Indie Cindy by The Pixies 
  17. Running With Scissors by Janet Devlin 
  18. The Voyager by Jenny Lewis
  19. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  20. Grinning Streak by Barenaked Ladies
  21. Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst 
  22. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  23. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  24. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  25. Lazaretto by Jack White
  26. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  27. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club 
  28. Futurology by Manic Street Preachers
  29. IX by Corrosion Of Conformity
  30. Into The Lime by New Mendicants 
  31. 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  32. A Letter Home By Neil Young
  33. In The Silence by Asgeir
  34. Held In Splendor by Quilt 
  35. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
  36. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  37. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  38. Supernova by Ray LaMontagne
  39. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  40. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn
  41. Atlas by Real Estate
  42. Croz by David Crosby
  43. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  44. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  45. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  46. Wildewoman by Lucius
  47. Luminous by The Horrors
  48. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  49. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  50. Waking Lines by Patterns
  51. Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos 
  52. The Future's Void by EMA
  53. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  54. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  55. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  56. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  57. Warpaint by Warpaint
  58. Are We There by Sharon Van Etten
  59. To Be Kind by Swans
  60. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  61. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  62. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  63. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  64. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  65. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Friday, 4 July 2014

Suzanne Vega - Live at The Lighthouse, Poole (3rd July 2014)

A warm Summer evening on the south coast of England, and the promise of great music from a true legend, drew us to Poole and the majestic Lighthouse. A venue that has been transformed in recent times from the old Arts Centre to a now modern, bright and vibrant concert hall was to be graced by the presence of Suzanne Vega. And having only seen her live once before (briefly at a dark and wet Glastonbury, from the back of a packed noisy acoustic tent many years ago), I was more than a bit excited to see one of my musical idols in a proper venue for the first time.

 
...But first, the support act. No big name: Chris Simmons from Brighton (who I suspect no one, including me, had heard of) walked on stage with his guitar to a smattering of applause, plugged it in, and just got on with it. With a limited collection of his own songs to choose from he managed to fill his half hour with two Squeeze covers including a superb version of Up The Junction. At one point he asked us, 'as you are so quiet, do you mind if I unplug my guitar?' and he did, playing completely acoustically. It was mesmerising. I have absolute admiration for anyone in this business who can get up on a stage with a voice and just sing. There is nowhere to hide and he didn't have to. Definitely one to watch for the future and hopefully this (short) run of support gigs will bring him an audience...

This year Suzanne Vega has, in the words of my fellow gig-goer JC, 'got her mojo back'. The release of her eighth studio album: Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles, after nearly five years re-working her own back-catalogue for the 'Close-Up' series, is her first new music for seven years and she is clearly re-energised and motivated. This was a no-frills performance with no big screens, light shows or huge orchestra. Backed by the brilliant Gerry Leonard (aka Spooky Ghost) on guitar (he also produced 'Pentacles') and Doug Yowell on drums, the three musicians more than filled the stage with Vega's words and music.

Naturally songs from Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles featured heavily in a set that blended old and new. The intro was the trio of theatrical Fat Man And Dancing Girl, anthemic Marlene On The Wall (with added top hat) and the sultry Caramel before three new songs: the wonderful Fool's Compliant, mysterious Crack In The Wall and enlightening Jacob And The Angel. By this stage, Vega was chatting to the audience in such a charming, funny and engaging way, trying to explain the new songs and their significance. The beautiful Small Blue Thing, gorgeous Gypsy and dramatic poetry of The Queen And The Soldier followed by the endlessly playful Don't Cork What You Can't Contain, spiritual Laying On Of Hands / Stoic 2 and moody Left Of Center formed the delicious centre-piece. To bring the main set to a close, latest crowd-pleaser I Never Wear White lived up to the billing - a definite highlight, lead to the reflective Some Journey, heart-breaking Luka and then to finish a full-on 'DNA'-esque version of Tom's Diner. I'm a huge fan of the original vocal-only take but this worked better on stage.

We didn't have to wait too long for the inevitable encore. Vega explained that they were off to Lisbon for the next leg of the European tour and songs featuring Portuguese Women are the order of the day... so she re-started with a modern update of the elegant Iron Bound / Fancy Poultry before asking us what we wanted. Now was my chance...do or die. I yelled 'Blood Makes Noise' (yes me, really), a song I was surprised didn't make the main set and I was determined to hear it. Turning to Leonard who was already setting up his effects pedals, 'shall we do it?'. And they did, a brilliant 'solo-vocal' version complete with fuzzy guitars and electronics, capturing the spirit of the original. Vega said afterwards that she didn't expect that 'the people of Poole' would be up for that. I'm not from Poole. Then, someone else asked for the melodic In Liverpool, so thankfully I didn't have to - another wonderful highlight, before Rosemary brought the night to a close.

Suzanne Vega did not disappoint. The lack of anything from Songs In Red And Gray and Beauty & Crime was a noticeable omission: Bound, Unbound, Penitent, If I Were A Weapon etc... and World Before Columbus would have been my second shout of the night, but with a wealth of songs to choose from it was not possible to fit in everything. But clearly Vega still has the love for a performance and the feeling is mutual. A magical evening that could have gone on forever, listening to one of the best voices in the business, performing at brilliant as ever.
-- CS

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Music Chart - June 2014

A quiet month but some big hitters return with new albums. Jack White backs up a couple of great preview songs with the mixed Lazaretto which is far too adventurous and unnecessarily ambitious for its own good. Granted, White is a wonderful showman and songwriter, with ideas brimming and overflowing but sometimes keeping things simple is the best policy. Kasabian, on the other hand, have a more straightforward album with 48:13; ignoring the grungy disco of lead single 'eez-eh', there are moments of brilliance here as the recent Glastonbury headliners provide their unique blend of scuzzy electro-rock. And to complete this month's important trilogy, Bob Mould is back with Beauty & Ruin, not as polished as the wonderful Silver Age but guaranteed to please fans of the legendary songwriter. Elsewhere, X-Factor loser Janet Devlin proves there is life after reality TV: Running With Scissors is a gorgeous album of wide-eyed musings, lost loves and storytelling (also it includes a rather nice cover of The Cure's Friday I'm In Love). The Pains of Being Pure At Heart continue the delicious jangly guitar-pop on Days Of Abandon and Lana Del Rey flirts with controversy with Ultraviolence. The mighty Corrosion Of Conformity bring the noise to IX and finally the overrated Sharon Van Etten asks the non-question Are We There.

...but as yet, nothing to knock The War On Drugs from the number one...

  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines
  3. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  4. Morning Phase by Beck 
  5. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis 
  6. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  7. Beauty & Ruin by Bob Mould
  8. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies
  9. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  10. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  11. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
  12. 48:13 by Kasabian
  13. Indie Cindy by The Pixies 
  14. Running With Scissors by Janet Devlin
  15. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  16. Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst 
  17. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  18. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  19. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  20. Lazaretto by Jack White
  21. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  22. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club 
  23. IX by Corrosion Of Conformity
  24. Into The Lime by New Mendicants 
  25. 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  26. A Letter Home By Neil Young
  27. In The Silence by Asgeir
  28. Held In Splendor by Quilt 
  29. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
  30. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  31. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  32. Supernova by Ray LaMontagne
  33. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  34. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn
  35. Atlas by Real Estate
  36. Croz by David Crosby
  37. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  38. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  39. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  40. Wildewoman by Lucius
  41. Luminous by The Horrors
  42. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  43. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  44. Waking Lines by Patterns
  45. Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos 
  46. The Future's Void by EMA
  47. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  48. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  49. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  50. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  51. Warpaint by Warpaint
  52. Are We There by Sharon Van Etten
  53. To Be Kind by Swans
  54. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  55. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  56. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  57. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  58. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  59. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Music Chart - May 2014

More of an interesting month for music than a great one... the long awaited solo effort from Damon Albarn, Everyday Robots is as prosaic as it is charming - given his recent collaborative work and adventures into soundtracks, this is the sound of the former Blur front-man growing old gracefully. In contrast, the guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela return with 9 Dead Alive, another tribute album, with each track inspired by someone; a more varied collection than 2009's 11:11. This month also brings back The Pixies, a truly extraordinary and inventive band show their class on Indie Cindy. And the other album of note this month is A Letter Home by Neil Young, taking retrospective to the extreme - a covers album (avoiding the obvious, mostly) recorded, with the help of Jack White, on vintage equipment. This works, up to a point, and the under-production is engaging at first but slowly grates. If nothing else, this shows Young is still full of ideas, and music, and long may it continue.

Elsewhere, new material from Swans (To Be Kind) is challenging, Conor Oberst doesn't quite bring back the majesty of Bright Eyes (Upside Down Mountain), Ray LaMontagne (Supernova) goes 60s smooth and Tori Amos (Unrepentant Geraldines) twists and turns her way through a strange, but ultimately underwhelming, landscape.

(...a late addition, thanks to the recent gig supporting The War On Drugs at The Koko, Quilt's Held In Splendor makes it onto the Underwurld chart...Speaking of The War On Drugs, Lost In The Dream still tops the list...)

  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines
  3. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  4. Morning Phase by Beck 
  5. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis 
  6. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  7. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies
  8. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  9. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  10. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders 
  11. Indie Cindy by The Pixies
  12. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  13. Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst 
  14. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  15. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  16. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  17. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  18. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club
  19. Into The Lime by New Mendicants 
  20. 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  21. A Letter Home By Neil Young
  22. In The Silence by Asgeir
  23. Held n Splendor by Quilt
  24. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  25. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  26. Supernova by Ray LaMontagne
  27. The Future's Void by EMA
  28. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  29. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn
  30. Atlas by Real Estate
  31. Croz by David Crosby
  32. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  33. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  34. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  35. Wildewoman by Lucius
  36. Luminous by The Horrors
  37. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  38. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  39. Waking Lines by Patterns
  40. Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos
  41. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  42. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  43. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  44. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  45. Warpaint by Warpaint
  46. To Be Kind by Swans
  47. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  48. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  49. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  50. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  51. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  52. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The War On Drugs at The Koko (27/05/2014)


We headed for London on a rainy Tuesday night in May to the Koko, just a brief walk from Mornington Crescent tube station, for what promised to be one of the highlights of the year: The War On Drugs (Lost In The Dream tour). The venue, formally a theatre, cinema and BBC studio, hosted The Goons and Monty Python’s Flying Circus back in the day before it became the Camden Palace in the 80s, to be renovated in 2004 into the magnificent music hall it is today. So, after queuing in the drizzle and failing to recognise members of support band Quilt heading for the VIP entrance, we hurried inside…

Finding a suitable vantage point on top left walkway in front of the bar, it wasn’t long before Quilt walked on stage for one of their first European (support) gigs, a (now) four-piece band from Boston who have recently released their second album Held In Splendour. The slight (and very cute) Anna Fox Rochinski and imposing (handsome) Shane Butler, banishing guitars and microphones equally, is a delicious combination and the band made the most of their short support slot. Songs from Held In Splendour featured heavily including the brilliant Arctic Shark and Tie Up The Tides, and live the band added a vibrancy and energy lacking on the record.

[Photo credit: ThreeBeams]

During the break, the usual sound checks took place and we had our first glimpse of the mighty Adam Granduciel with his unkempt hair, sorting out his guitars and peddles. And then the band took to the stage. Granduciel has recently described The War On Drugs as a ‘one man band’ which is a huge disservice to David Hartley, Robbie Bennett and Charlie Hall. Given the intimate song-writing of latest album Lost In The Dream, we all know what he means but this was a massive performance by the quartet. The set was a curious mix of previous masterpiece Slave Ambient and most of Lost In The Dream, with new arrangements of the former framing the newer songs. It (mostly) worked, in that Slave Ambient works beautifully as a single end-to-end album; ebbing and flowing as it glides between familiar sounds and themes, constantly revisiting itself. So, within the more stand-alone Lost In The Dream tracks, songs like Brothers, Some To The City and Baby Missiles added a strange, yet wonderful, glue. 

Granduciel’s guitar work throughout was especially sublime, as was Charlie Hall’s ferocious drumming. The big highlights were Burning, Under The Pressure (without the unnecessary prolonged outro of the original) and the perfect Eyes Top The Wind. The encore provided the night’s big surprise:  starting with a cover of John Lennon’s Mind Games, which was quite amazing. The depth of songs from two great albums made this one of the best sets of any gig I’ve experienced. A great night at an iconic venue.
-- CS (with JC)

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Music Chart - April 2014

New albums this month from loser/hipster Mac Demarco - back with the endearing Salad Days, the sublime ethereal jangly-guitar pop of Atlas from Real Estate, and Brooklyn's ferocious Lucius and their album Wildewoman. This month we can also hear the return of Kaiser Chiefs and Education, Education, Education & War - an album which has its moments, both good and bad. In complete contrast EMA fuses passion and technology into an eclectic mix of rough and smooth on The Future's Void, Paul Thomas Saunders satisfies with Beautiful Desolation and Smoke Fairies follow-up their difficult second album with a much more accomplished set of beautiful vocals and solid songwriting. Last but not least, Eels release yet another album of self-deprecation, heartbreak and mournful songs with The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett.

The War On Drugs hold the top spot...

  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines
  3. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  4. Morning Phase by Beck 
  5. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis 
  6. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  7. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies
  8. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  9. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  10. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders
  11. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  12. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  13. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  14. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  15. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  16. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club
  17. Into The Lime by New Mendicants
  18. In The Silence by Asgeir
  19. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  20. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  21. The Future's Void by EMA
  22. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  23. Atlas by Real Estate
  24. Croz by David Crosby
  25. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  26. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  27. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  28. Wildewoman by Lucius
  29. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  30. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  31. Waking Lines by Patterns
  32. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  33. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  34. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  35. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  36. Warpaint by Warpaint
  37. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  38. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  39. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  40. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  41. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  42. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Vinyl Frontier - The Cure, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Bruce Springsteen, Kirsty MacColl, Bob Dylan

The USR music fair at the Rivermead in Reading (UK) on Friday 18th April (Good Friday) was too good to miss this year... one of six biggest UK one-day events and a huge selection of records on offer.

First up, an album I've been waiting for... the limited edition gatefold of Automatic by The Jesus And Mary Chain. By no means the band's finest work, this is the transition between the feedback-strewn gloomy shoegaze of Darklands (and the mighty Psycho Candy début before) and the brilliant Honey's Dead. Fans loved this album, while the critics hated it (Q Magazine struggled to award 2 stars) and I remember listening my cassette copy over and over until it fell apart. And it still sounds great on vinyl today, especially Blues From A Gun and UV Ray.

I've always been a big fan of The Cure but never a big collector...until recently. I keep seeing copies of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me but never The Head On The Door - an album I've been seeking for ages. Boasting one of the band's most creative collection of songs, and the brilliant singles Close To Me and In Between Days, for me this has always been the prelude to their finest work, Disintegration. On side B, A Night Like This and closer Sinking are both the sound of a band coming of age.

I'm always on the lookout for records by Bruce Springsteen and Nebraska was high on my list. A truly challenging record of sparse, dark songwriting - a stopgap between The River and Born In The USA and an album that may have never existed. Springsteen originally recorded it with the E Street Band and then decided to release the 'demo' version. The result is haunting and desolate with piercing vocals and harmonica - Springsteen's folk album, made better by the occasional crackle and blip on the record. The production and songwriting are both superb.

A rose between two thorns, Kirsty MacColl's Kite is still one of my favourite albums of the eighties and a perfect example of an artist doing their own thing in time when so many musicians weren't. This is an eclectic mix of sounds and styles including the cover Days and turns from Johnny Marr and David Gilmour, and Steve Lillywhite on production. This is filled with witty observations, sharp and poignant lyrics, all brilliantly delivered by an artist who left us well before her time.

And last, but not least...the find of the day. For as long as I can remember I have been trying to find a decent copy of Blood On The Tracks. So when I spotted a 'VG' copy for a modest price, I had to investigate. Easily the best thing Bob Dylan has ever made; an album with so much poetry, poise and power doesn't come along too often. From opener Tangled Up In Blue to the vitriolic Idiot Wind, to Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts and the mighty Shelter From The Storm, this is now one of the best in my collection. And for a record that is nearly as old as I am, it sounds wonderful.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Music Chart - March 2014

Another great month yields three new albums by three great artists: Julie Fowlis weaves her vocal magic and mystery on Gach Sgeul (Every Story), Elbow continue to charm and captivate with The Take Off And Landing Of Everything, and The War On Drugs return with Lost In The Dream - a wonderful follow-up to Slave Ambient (and another early contender for album of the year). Elsewhere St. Vincent pushes the aural boundaries, Blood Red Shoes bring the trash-noise and The Hold Steady prove they are still as intense and focused as ever.

  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines
  3. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  4. Morning Phase by Beck 
  5. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis 
  6. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  7. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  8. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  9. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  10. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  11. The Take Off And Landing of Everything
  12. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  13. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club
  14. Into The Lime by New Mendicants
  15. In The Silence by Asgeir
  16. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes
  17. Echoes by Emily Smith
  18. Croz by David Crosby
  19. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  20. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  21. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  22. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  23. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  24. Waking Lines by Patterns
  25. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  26. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  27. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  28. Warpaint by Warpaint
  29. Eagulls by Eagulls
  30. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  31. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  32. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  33. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream (Album Review 2014)





The War On Drugs has been, and will always be, a band of one... Adam Granduciel has taken his labour of love further into his own mind on third album Lost In The Dream, to explore his conciousness, his life and his emotional state. It was always going to be tough to go one better than previous album Slave Ambient, a swirling vortex of prog-rock, subtle floating soundscapes and brilliant guitar-led pop songs - all washed with Granduciel's Dylan-like vocals. So, given the inward, self-indulgent nature of The War On Drugs, Lost In The Dream, a new album of material written mainly while touring, undergoing many rewrites and reworks, was never going to be as good.


But it is. Lost In The Dream is a different album than Slave Ambient, subtly different in its approach and delivery. While the previous album is big, bold and wide-eyed, Lost In The Dream is closed, introverted and personal. From opener Under The Pressure, it is clear that Granduciel wants to share his pain and anxiety of being in the spotlight and living up to expectations. At nearly nine minutes, this is the longest song on the album; it ebbs and flows with lifts and falls before the only truly weak point: instead of dropping into a quiet, ambient lull for a minute before returning with shining guitars and pounding drums for the big finish, absolutely nothing happens. A deliberate ironic statement about not following predictable convention? Possibly...but the lack of inspiration right from the start is a real surprise.

Red Eyes provides the early 'pop' song, blending ethereal synths and guitars with racing drums. The effect is not too far from Razorlight (back in their prime), Granduciel punchy and with purpose - even throwing in an over-exuberant woop before the guitars rain-down. In contrast, Suffering is light yet melancholy, slow-paced and beautifully sublime. The gorgeous piano arrangement in the second half contrasts the oddly-random guitar work. Then the album takes a more ambitious turn with the beguiling An Ocean In Between The Waves, which could be the Dire Straits song that never was; Granduciel more Knofler than Dylan while exquisite guitars and thumping drums lead to a frantic peppering of vocals in the second half.

Continuing the lighter feel of Lost In The Dream, Disappearing provides a superb centre-piece - shining like a magnificent 80s soft-rock influenced interlude between what has come and the second act. This starts with Eyes To The Wind, one of the best songs Granduciel has written - his vocals are exposed and the arrangement unwinds with a supreme elegance; the vocal delivery a nod toward former band-mate Kurt Vile. All this is blended with more guitars, drums and the most wonderful piano. What makes this so good is that Granduciel is not hiding behind a massive stadium-filling sound. This leads to the album's only return to a trick from its predecessor: the three-minutes of The Haunting Idle gives a brief Floyd-esque reprise, but without the original song, before the final trilogy...

...begins with another album highlight and superb pop song, Burning. This feels heavily Springsteen-fuelled with ever-present organ (circa Darkness On The Edge Of Town) and driving drums. And then the title track, with delicious (never-overused) harmonica, brings another moment of class to build like a lost Neil Young classic. Obvious influences aside, this is reinvention and reinterpretation of the tried and tested and not mere copycatting. To close, In Reverse is delivered as the quiet reflection after a turbulent, cathartic, and often painful journey, never overstated and fading delicately into a soft aftermath instead of unleashing the explosives. A perfect end to a near perfect-work.

Lost In The Dream is a slow-burner...it doesn't grab your attention and sweeps you along for the ride; it draws you in, further into the inner world of Adam Granduciel on each listen. He hasn't done this all on his own of course, and the 'band' play to their strengths throughout and new boy Patrick Berkery is supreme with the sticks. But the songwriting and song-craft is every bit as strong as the new standard we now expect from The War On Drugs and ultimately Adam Granduciel has opened his heart, poured out his soul, and made another brilliant album.
-- CS

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Mogwai - Usher Hall (8th March 2014)

As part of the centenary celebrations of Edinburgh's magnificent Usher Hall, bringing together contemporary and classical music, and comedy across five nights, I was drawn to the great city to see Mogwai. Not only a Scottish institution and much maligned 'cult' band, Mogwai are in the highest echelons of musical greatness, and the chance to see one of the best bands in the world was too good to pass up.

So, armed with train tickets, a guest house booking and gig tickets for the upper circle, I ventured north of the border via London for a weekend of culture and music. I took the opportunity to see Edinburgh's sights - the Castle, Palace, Royal Mile, Cathedral, Arthur's Seat and National Monument, the pubs and restaurants, and the hoards of French descended on the capital for the 6 Nations rugby. But the highlight was Saturday Night at Usher Hall, at 7pm. Waiting for the doors to open, to be escorted up the stairs and through the corridors and bars to the concert auditorium with its rows of seats looking down on the stage and stalls - the excitement quickened.

Mogwai's support for the night were two other Scottish bands: Remember Remember and The Pastels. Both did much with the limited time they had - two half hour sets flew by. It would be easy to describe Remember Remember as 'Mogwai-lite' but they bring their own personality to their music - delicate xylophone, keyboards and interesting electronic flourishes. The Pastels added vocals and a more organic depth, but kicked off with Slow Summits, a blistering 6-minute instrumental, before more typical songs from the full-on Baby Honey to the delicate Summer Rain. Both bands seemed to enjoy and relish the experience.


But it was Mogwai's night. A stage packed with amps, keyboards, a huge drum-kit and guitar stands awaited Stuart, Dominic, Martin, John and Barry, complete with 'Rave Tapes' themed lighting rig and graphics looming above. The set for the night wasn't entirely dominated by the latest album - no bad thing but there was barely room for the best of the rest - and the Mogwai back catalogue is extensive and impressive in any live environment. This was the full set:

Heard About You Last Night
Rano Pano
Helicon 1
Take Me Somewhere Nice
Master Card
I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead
Deesh
Hunted By A Freak
Mogwai Fear Satan
How To Be A Werewolf
Remurdered
We're No Here
---
The Lord Is Out Of Control
Ithica 27/9
Batcat


The best of the set was the trio of Hunted By A Freak, the epic Mogwai Fear Satan (complete with fantastic explosive reboot) and the swirling guitars of How To Be A Werewolf. The mighty We're No Here completed the main set before a subdued encore climaxed with the awesome ferocious noise of Batcat. Within the venue, the sound slicing through the crowd and echoing from the rafters, reflected back into the stalls, the immense force of guitars and drums were amplified beyond belief. I could feel the music pounding in my chest as much as in my ears, even from my lofted vantage point (a brilliant view down on the stage). The loud became louder. The delicate melodies were somewhat lost in the noise at times but even the set's weaker songs were given a new dimension - most notably Master Card had a much needed lift, and the new songs sounded brilliant live. It would have great to hear more from The Hawk Is Howling...and in a set designed to showcase the new material (obviously), there was no Friend Of The Night, Auto Rock, You Don't Know Jesus or R U Still In 2 It. They were never going to create a set to please everyone.

So my first experience of Mogwai live was a unique and overwhelming experience. As we left the Usher Hall, still shaking from the acoustic-battering (both the crowd and the building), I overheard someone say they had seen Mogwai live many times but that was one of the loudest. They set out to do the venue and their kin proud, and they really did bring the noise.
-- CS

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Album Chart - February 2014

New albums this month from (among others) the stadium-bound Augustines, with their brilliant eponymous follow-up to Rise Ye Sunken Ships, the ever-wonderful Suzanne Vega - back after a reworking sabbatical with new material Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles, and the beguiling Beck who has released his most serene, sublime work of his career: Morning Phase. Elsewhere, Mary Chapin Carpenter is cinematic, Seth Lakeman is genre-redefining, and Sun Kil Moon is autobiographically challenging.

  1. Augustines by Augustines
  2. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  3. Morning Phase by Beck
  4. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  5. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  6. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  7. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  8. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  9. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club
  10. Into The Lime by New Mendicants
  11. In The Silence by Asgeir
  12. Croz by David Crosby
  13. Benji by Sun Kil Moon
  14. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  15. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  16. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  17. Waking Lines by Patterns
  18. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  19. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  20. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  21. Warpaint by Warpaint
  22. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  23. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  24. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  25. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads