Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 Music Chart - December

Only one new album this month to round off the year: the soundtrack for the film Tron: Legacy by Daft Punk. A decent effort that doesn't fall into obvious traps and strikes a good balance between traditional orchestral score and electronic dance.

So the year belongs to Laura Marling, Arcade Fire and The National with The Black Keys and Kate Rusby forming the top 5 albums of 2010.

  1. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
  2. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
  3. High Violet by The National
  4. Brothers by The Black Keys
  5. Make The Light by Kate Rusby
  6. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
  7. Special Moves by Mogwai
  8. Hawk by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
  9. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
  10. Infinite Arms by Band Of Horses
  11. Flamingo by Brandon Flowers
  12. Murphy's Heart by Thea Gilmore
  13. The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony
  14. The Betrayed by Lostprophets
  15. TRON: Legacy OST by Daft Punk
  16. Acolyte by Delphic
  17. The Courage Of Others by Midlake
  18. Close-Up Volume 1: Love Songs by Suzanne Vega
  19. Close-Up Volume 2: People & Places by Suzanne Vega
  20. July Flame by Laura Veirs
  21. Further by The Chemical Brothers
  22. Sea Of Cowards by The Dead Weather
  23. Year Of The Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
  24. How To Destroy Angels EP by How To Destroy Angels
  25. Sky At Night by I Am Kloot
  26. The Quickening by Kathryn Williams
  27. Hearts & Minds by Seth Lakeman
  28. Immersion by Pendulum
  29. Handmade Life by Chris Wood
  30. End Times by Eels
  31. When Colours Flow by Ambeson
  32. Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles
  33. When This Was The Future by Lisa O Piu
  34. Fire Like This by Blood Red Shoes
  35. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward
  36. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent
  37. Renegades by Feeder

Thursday, 30 December 2010

BBC Sound of 2011 - Top 15 review

The time has come for a review of the BBC Sound of 2011 top 15 artists – those musicians that are trying to make it big next year. Chosen by 161 industry experts, these artists have a lot to live up to and may join esteemed company such as Adele, Little Boots and Keane. So after a listen to some of their material, here is my review of the BBC Sound of 2011.

Anna Calvi

Somewhere between Nick Cave and Patti Smith, and with aspirations to sing the next Bond theme, Anna Calvi is a striking, guitar-wielding singer. Powerful stuff, dark and haunting with a tinge of country – mainstream pop this is not.  

Clare Maguire

Signed a couple of years ago, Clare Maguire has been working on her debut album and it looks set to happen just at the right time. Another powerful female solo artist, her music is orchestral pop with plenty of soaring vocals and strings. A great voice and just the right side of gloomy.


Having already provided guest-vocals for Gorillaz, soulful Daley is now making his debut album with Bernard Butler (Suede). This is nothing new for me, but DJs and critics are hailing Daley as a unique and new talent vocally. This may be but some more focused song writing and less rambling would be improve things.

Esben & The Witch

Thomas Fisher, Daniel Copeman and Rachel Davies are Esben & The Witch (title from a Danish fairy-tale), described as ‘nightmare pop’ their music is a stark mix of gothic vocals from Davies and horror-movie soundscapes. Beguiling stuff but hard work – and the band inject the same nastiness into their visuals as can be seen on video for Marching Song.

Jai Paul

This 21-year-old Londoner is blending glass-shattering falsetto with hard-hitting lyrics and shaky synths and people are already calling it a new fresh vision. I’m not convinced on the strength of a few underground hits and demos.

James Blake

Probably the best singer in the BBC Sound of 2011 list, it is a shame that London’s James Blake takes his song writing approach from Antony & The Jonsons – this is bleak and empty when it should be uplifting and full of life.

Jamie Woon

BRIT School graduate Jamie Woon has been mentioned in the same sentences as James Blake but his music is more soulful and mainstream.  Wonderfully evocative music but like many of this year’s artists the delivery is serious and prosaic. A sign (and mood) of the times, perhaps.

Jessie J

There had to be one, And this is it.  Looking like Marilyn Manson’s succubus and sounding like she’s actually swallowed the auto-tuner (laughably people are genuinely saying she has a great voice), Jessica Cornish and her music is a horror show. Also anyone who feels is necessary to namedrop themselves at the start of a song immediately loses all credibility.


Nashville 4-piece Mona might not be doing anything new but they do it well – somewhere between The Clash and early REM. Fronted by Nick Brown, who does a passable Eddie Vedder straining baritone, this is energetic moody post-rock.

The Naked & Famous

From New Zealand, and sounding just a bit close to MGMT with a female voice at the helm, The Naked & Famous mix 70s throw-back with modern electro-pop loops. Not sure if they are new or unique enough to stand on their own.


Two more producers trying to make their own music and seemingly unable to find a singer who doesn’t need the thick auto-tuner treatment. This is stuttering pre-90s electronica that is nothing new or interesting.

The Vaccines

Another band, this time from indie-folk roots – although you wouldn’t know it from the stuff on their MySpace page. This is more gothic surf pop than anything else. A bit retro and a bit present day, this has promise but sounds like too many other up-and-coming bands these days.


The most established band in the list, Warpaint is a glorious blend of female vocal harmonies and gloomy guitar melodies. Formed in 2004 and from LA the band is unlikely to make the top of the list in favour of ‘home grown’ talent. Undertow is a decent song and a good showcase.

Wretch 32

Easily the best and most interesting of the urban artists, Jermaine Sinclair, aka Wretch 32 is an emerging force. His lazy flowing vocal delivery is sickly sweet but relevant and showpiece Traktor pushes the right buttons.


Yuck has been described as the new Dinosaur Jr. with bits of Teenage Fanclub and Red House Painters. Influences are clear in the band’s jangly guitars and tambourine music and layered harmonies. Shoegaze revival anyone?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir (December 2010)

This month Thea Gilmore's Angels In The Abattoir song is a bit of an odd one. During her recent live shows Thea has performed a version of the Guns 'N' Roses anthem Sweet Child O' Mine and this version is from the Gateshead show recorded this month during the tour.

Typically Thea's version focuses on the words - Sweet Child O' Mine actually has some wonderful lyrics and here they take centre stage. There are two excellent string pieces to replace the Slash guitars and the only issue is the sound quality at the top end of the choruses.

Hopefully Thea will record 'a proper version' in the studio soon.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

New REM song Discoverer - free download

The lead track from the new REM album Collapse Into Now is called Discoverer and available for free!

It's a bit of a Stipe shouty number mixed with whiny guitar work to start with and has echoes of What's The Frequency, Kenneth? from Monster. Let's hope the album isn't as bad as that. The song is not great but it's not completely terrible either.

Download it here:

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cage Against The Machine

Musicians have gathered to 'record' a cover of John Cage's silent piece 4:33 in a vain attempt to keep Simon Cowell and the X Factor machine from bagging the Christmas no. 1 (again!). It is an audacious campaign that brought together the likes of Orbital, Suggs and Pendulum to 'do nothing' during the recording. Pete Doherty didn't turn up. And in an attempt to relive last year, they have named the project Cage Against The Machine.

I'm all for upsetting the X Factor ethos but this is a step too far. Cage's 4:33 is not the 'most avant garde piece of music ever recorded'. It is all too easy to jump on that bandwagon. It is what it is. Nothing. And even the X Factor single is better than that, as a piece of music. Music competition or giving people false hope. It it all the same.

The only positive note (pun intended) is that all proceeds go to charity. I say don't buy it and give some cash to charity instead. Then buy some proper music.

Read about the utter ridiculousness of it all here.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Upside Down - The Creation Records Story

New Film. About Creation Records. Excellent.

Official website.

YouTube trailer.

Pearl Jam - New Fan Book: This All Encompassing Trip

There is a fascinating new book out by a Pearl Jam obsessive Jason Leung who followed the band on tour in 2005 and 2006.

The website is here.

As a huge Pearl Jam fan I will certainly get a copy and there is a wealth of information on the website including a chat with Vedder and McCready about the project.

If you order from the website, a portion of the money goes to Pearl jam's Wishlist foundation.

The Duke Spirit - new EP and free download

A band I have been following for a few years, back before they were well known and the BBC pushed them through their breakthrough acts programme, The Duke Spirit is back with a free download track from new Kasuma EP, Everybody's Under Your Spell. This is a brilliant return to form; vibrant and filled with dirty guitars.

Also read a great article and listen to another new song Villain on In One Ear. Much slower and darker but just as wonderful.

Bestival 2011 - The Cure and Primal Scream to headline

The Cure will headline Bestival next year in what will be the band's only European show. Also featuring will be Primal Scream as part of their Screamadelica tour and Brian Wilson.

Read about it here.

Coldplay's Christmas single

I used to be a big Coldplay fan. And in a lot of ways I still am. The début Parachutes is good, A Rush Of Blood To The Head is fantastic and X&Y showed the likes of U2 how to make a stadium album again. But it all went wrong with Viva La Vida.

So now Coldplay have released a Christmas single: Christmas Lights.

Judge for yourself. I think it's better than the songs they have released recently but the wheels fall off in the second half when Martin seems to think it's the best Christmas song ever made. Shame the production ramps up so much.

Jason Ward - Promotional Download Okay B-Side You're A Fool

To promote the new single Okay, Jason Ward has released the b-side as a free promotional download You're A Fool.

Much slower and longer than Okay but filled with more delicious multi-layered vocals. And lyrically it compliments the single in both feeling and subject. The sudden Dylan-esque harmonica break is a bit of a surprise and doesn't quite fit but it helps break things up.

More good vibes for the forthcoming album.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Jason Ward - new single 'Okay'

Jason Ward has released a new single entitled Okay. As great as anything from his last album Almighty Row, this is fairly upbeat (for Jason!) and a pleasant alt-country/indie pop song. It's a love song about forgiveness and retribution, and understanding someone's discretions. Excellent production, including some gorgeous strings and backing vocals to create a deeper sound. Jason says he's written 30 new songs since the Graceful Bow EP. I can't wait for the new album.

Okay is released on iTunes on 6th December 2010.