Friday, January 22, 2010

Music Highlights 2009 Part 3

Arbouretum - Another Hiding Place

Arbouretums' Song Of The Pearl is a great record, and I mean that literally. This music lends itself beautifully to the vinyl format with the kind of loose organic jams that Crazy Horse would be proud of. That is if Crazy Horse spent their time listening to British folk acts like Pentangle and Fairport Convention of course.

Local Natives - Airplanes

The standout track from their Gorilla Manor album I was hooked on this one from the first time I saw this live clip that a friend sent to me. This song refused to leave my head for quite a while. Gorgeous stuff.

Alisdair Roberts - The Hallucinator & The King Of The Silver Ship Of Time

Scottish singer songwriter Alisdair Roberts is a singer songwriter who puts his own unique spin on traditional folk music making him a contemporary of James Yorkston and Trembling Bells (whose members are also in a band with him called Black Flowers which I must investigate further). The Wyrd Meme EP was my introduction to his music and this is the opener from it. Unfortunately I couldn't find a stream or clip of the song but I did find this lovely video of him playing in Kilkenny.

Dirty Projectors - Temecula Sunrise

More proof that Brooklyn bands are listening to a shit load of African music! Bitte Orca had its flaws but when the highlights are as good as this who cares? This is perfect pop music, or at least my idea of what perfect pop music should be.

Grizzly Bear - Ready, Able

No other album this year has enthralled, surprised, confused & frustrated me more than Veckatimest. Roundly praised by critics everywhere it faced accusations from some quarters of being too distant & cold but the rewards for sticking with this gem of a record are still paying dividends. The Beach Boys are perhaps too obvious a comparison for some people but I can't help being reminded of Pet Sounds, such is the ambitous reach of the sound and arrangements (helped by Nico Muhley whose excellent Mothertongue I was introduced to this year). They then converted any remaining doubters with the gig of the year in Vicar Street.

Antony & The Johnsons - Epilepsy Is Dancing

Although I found the album slightly disappointing, there's no denying that when you put Antonys' voice to a melody as beautiful as this, you get pure magic. One of only a few songs on the album that I would hold in the same regard as those from I Am A Bird Now which was one of my favourites of the decade.

White Denim - Regina Holding Hands

One of the finds of the year for me. White Denim's stunning Fits is one of my favourite albums of 2009. Running the gamut from power trio garage rock to psychedelic jams and even proving they can pen a catchy pop song like "Regina Holding Hands". If that sounds all over the place well... it kinda is! But the album holds together brilliantly, it's eclectic without being jarring. Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to find their debut album Workout Holiday.

Alela Diane - Lady Divine

A beautiful singer songwriter who pens music which seems timeless, Alela Diane's To Be Still is a spellbinding album. The gorgeous appalachian harmonies on "Age Old Blue" almost took pride of place here but the gorgeous descending melody of "Lady Divine" won me over in the end.

Animal Collective - Brother Sport

Merriweather Post Pavillion was my introduction to the world of Animal Collective where I have been happily squatting since. A psychedelic swirl of beautiful samples, harmonies and endless hooks, typified by this closing track. This encompasses everything I love about this band. Another group released a single this year called "Lust For Life" but here was where you heard the proof of it.

Charles Spearin - Mrs. Morris (Reprise)

One of the live highlights of the year for me was seeing Broken Social Scene in Vicar Street. And although their marathon set may have been outstanding, it was the support that stole the show. If memory serves me correctly the scheduled support had to cancel providing Do Make Say Think and sometime Broken Social Scene guitarist Charles Spearin to premiere an album he had been working on called The Happiness Project. It's the only time I recall an audience baying for an encore from a support act. This video can explain better than I can the concept behind the album. And although the album didn't quite live up to the promise of that wonderful performance it's still worth a listen, especially for Mrs. Morris infectious monologue on the meaning of happiness.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kate McGarrigle RIP

A brief interruption in the highlights of 2009 posts to report some more sad news this week. I remember hearing Kate & Anna McGarrigle's "My Town" on Donal Dineen's show on Today FM over 10 years ago. It's one of those moments where you stop whatever it is you're doing to take in every note. The song was a constant inclusion on compilations I made for friends. It's a heart wrenchingly beautiful song, made even more so with her untimely passing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Music Highlights 2009 Part 2

Wild Beasts - This Is Our Lot

Leeds Wild Beasts this year became Britains next contenders for the "New Smiths" tag. Aside from all the hype they did make a huge leap forward on Two Dancers. Your liking of this band depends on how you react to Hayden Thorpes' near operatic falsetto. On the more extreme offerings on their debut he sounded like Mika with rabies. They reigned their excesses in somewhat on the follow up to brilliant effect typified by this track. The hook before the last chorus always gets me.

Drunken Boat - Underground

When the Choice Music Award shortlist was announced there were a few voices from the underground lamenting the omission of Plumb The Depths, Drunken Boats' follow up to Cut The Engines, Raise The Sails. OK I have to own up a little here... I'm one of the band members' house mates! But any thoughts of favouritsm are blown away with this album. This track grabbed me from the first time I heard it... fierce but beautiful. An admirable feat.

Julianna Barwick - Cloudbank

A recent discovery for me when I heard this track on the excellent GvsB blog. My jaw dropped immediately. Using what sounds like just her voice and very few words she creates beautiful soundscapes. Think of a less pretentious Sigur Ros or even Bjork. The choral nature of the music made me think of James Blackshaw. Reading my futile attempts to describe her music though is pointless... just listen for yourself.

James Blackshaw - Cross

Blackshaw is an artist whose music I've been listening to constantly since discovering 2008's excellent Litany Of Echoes. A gifted 12 string guitarist & pianist, he composes music which is grounded in folk but is also influenced by classical & minimalist composers. And that's where I stop pretending to know what I'm talking about! I'm not at all familiar with his influences so I feel slightly inept writing about his music. Suffice to say this does not take away from the enjoyment of this amazing music and "Cross" was the stunning opening track, with Lavinia Blackwall from the awesome Trembling Bells providing haunting vocals.

Wooden Shjips - Down By The Sea

If I were ever taking a drive down a very long desert road I imagine this would be my soundtrack. From their Dos album this track stole the show with its squalling psychedelic guitars melded to a hypnotic motorik beat. Think Jim Morrison fronting Neu! but without the shit poetry.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Music highlights 2009 Part 1

I was in the middle of writing a long rambling post about my favourite albums of the year when I realised how bored I was and gave up. If I was finding it boring who was gonna read it? So instead I decided to make a kind of 2009 mixtape. So in no particular order (except maybe track listing)...

Fuck Buttons - Surf Solar

Fuck indeed! It was certainly the word that I repeated in my head as this 10 minute plus epic unravelled itself in my headphones for the first time. Building tension with each passing minute it's relentless adrenaline rush makes it feel like the shortest 10 minutes you've ever spent.

Trembling Bells - I Took To You (Like Christ To Wood)

God I love these guys! From their incredible Carbeth this is one of many highlights from an album that sometimes sounds like The Incredible String Band playing The Wicker Man soundtrack... which is a good thing in case you were wondering.

Wilco - One Wing

There was grumbling from some fans that Wilco had moved even further away from the experimental terrain of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. But given time Wilco (The Album) was another fantastic album. This song especially is up there with their best and was one of the many highlights of their Vicar St. gig earlier in the year.

Memory Tapes - Bicycle

I really thought this wasn't my bag when I first heard it. I'm not a New Order fan for a start. I also had no idea about this guys other projects Weird Tapes and Memory Cassette. It all became clear after a bus journey with my headphones on. There's some beautiful moments on his Seek Magic album that are easily missed with casual listening... not least the voices at around the 3:30 mark on this track. Music to immerse yourself in.

The Duke & The King - The Morning I Get To Hell

Former Felice brother Simone outdone his brothers very disappointing Yonder Is The Clock album with Nothing Gold Can Stay, a lovely collection of soul tinged country rock that put me in mind of prime Isley Brothers. Although it's marred in places by some really ghastly lyrics (something Simone has been guilty of in the past) the highlights are fantastic. A great tonic for anyone thinking the Brothers album was... well... shit frankly!

P.S. The video above for The Duke & The King was the best I could find... the histrionics from the black dude in the hat are not included on the album!

Edit: Found a link to the album version of "The Morning I Get To Hell." God bless Grooveshark!

...must be in a good place now

RIP Bobby Charles