donderdag 30 december 2010
Favorite albums of 2010: 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2
Nr. 1 – Linda
Album: New Love
Artist: Former Ghosts
If my putting this album on number one comes as a surprise, then you obviously haven’t run into me this year. I have been absolutely infatuated with Former Ghosts this year. Last year’s Fleurs ended up pretty high on last year’s list (third place, I keep an excel file) and with the prospect of live performances this year, I was excited. And wow, I wasn’t disappointed at all when I saw Freddy Ruppert perform live for the first time in May this year. He was preceded by Parenthetical Girls who were all kinds of amazing themselves, and I and the rest of the audience just stuck around for Freddy thinking he could never amount to very much after just having seen the best gig of the year. How wrong were we. During his set the sheer display of emotion on Freddy’s side made me feel so uncomfortable that I wasn’t even sure whether to applaud or slap the girls who were drunkenly screaming at him (I now know I should’ve gone for the second option). It was also the first time I heard ‘New Orleans’ and saw a grown man cry on stage. Wow.
It got even better, if ‘better’ is the right word in this case, when I saw him in his home town of Los Angeles. He performed the track ‘Mother’ that night, the night of his dead mom’s birthday, while his father and brother whom both had never seen him perform under the denominator of Former Ghosts were standing right behind me creating the illusion that Freddy Ruppert was looking right at me each time he almost succumbed to tears. It was heartbreaking. Then he finally released New Love and I just so happened to be the first person in the world to find the vinyl waiting for me on my doormat. So through the magic world of Twitter, the first glance Freddy Ruppert got of his own finished album was of a picture I send him of my album (followed by weeks of harassment by people wanting me to upload to thing, so for future reference: no I will not).
The album itself is brilliant. I love each and every track on it, though ‘New Orleans’ and ‘Bare Bones’ are my absolute favourites. The lyrics seem so simple and the emotions so raw, I’d almost wish I’d have a break-up to get through so I’d have a proper reason to put this album on repeat. To be quite honest, this album has made me a little bit afraid to fall in love. The emotions behind lines as “I waited my whole life to find you / But I’m not the one you waited your whole life to find” and “Oh stop my heart from beating / Oh I’m so tired of not sleeping / Oh love, keep it away from me” make me doubt the lines it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
Random Track: ‘Winter's Year’ (feat. Yasmine Kittles)
Nr. 1 – Ilse
Album: New Love
Artist: Former Ghosts
Former Ghosts is a project by Freddy Ruppert, a man haunted by demons in the forms of death and lost love. He deploys his synth/drum machine to deal with this darkness, which according to Pitchfork “sounds like what might've happened to Joy Division if Ian Curtis had bought a Casio and a four-track and fired the rest of the band”. On occasional songs Freddy calls in the help from Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart on guitar and Zola Jesus’ Nika Roza Danilova on vocals, the whole combination creating an incredibly intense and emotional, almost brutal debut album ‘Fleurs’, which was released last year. My first encounter with Former Ghosts was somewhere late that year too and since then, the music very slowly and gradually found its way into my modestly regular listened to bands. This turned into a more extensive listening habit after seeing Freddy Ruppert live for the first time, in May this year, which was a gut-wrenching experience I can tell you. It was like watching someone publicly chastising and tormenting himself, as the emotions and intensity are even more effective live than on record: Ruppert screams, dances and sweats all the frustration out of his body; making it appear he’s not just haunted, but also possessed by demons. I have seen him twice more since then, both great gigs, but somehow it wasn’t as shocking as that first time.
Then came the new record titled ‘New Love’ , which is just as depressing as ‘Fleurs’ and besides Freddy’s obsession with lost love it deals with the fear towards his new love and the possibility this relationship might fail too. Besides Nika and Jamie, we also have Yasmine Kittles (TEARIST) lending her voice on ‘Winter’s Year’ and ‘I Am Not What You Want’. I actually prefer the songs with Freddy Ruppert solo as there is only him to focus on, making it ‘easier’ to absorb his anguish. ‘Taurean Nature’ and ‘The Days Will Get Long Again’ particularly set your teeth on edge when performed live, as Freddy angrily spits out the words “I will love them more than you”. ‘New Orleans’ and ‘And When You Kiss Me’ are brilliant songs too. Seeing how often I’ve listened to this album since it came out, and how Former Ghosts really ‘made’ my musical year, I don’t think there’s any other logical place than this ending up at first.
Random Track: ‘Only in Time'
Nr. 1 – Stef
Album: High Violet
Artist: The National
Not highly surprising, no, as The National stands for everything I love in arts and music. Abstracted visions on contemporary urban life where emotions and detachment rampage freely right through each other, one more confusing than the other. From the muddled first track to the orchestrated ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’: the songs exhume feeling, atmosphere, and a sense of, yeah, this is what I’m feeling/thinking/wanting right now. A feature not many artists will ever achieve in one album, let alone with their whole oeuvre. Small fragmented pictures like “But I won’t follow you into the rabbit hole / I said I would, but then I saw / Your shivered bones / They didn’t want me to”, “Go out tonight with your headphones on again”, “With my kid on my shoulders I try / Not to hurt anybody I like” really feel like snapshots, paintings, or short films. But there’s more, the anxiety, not the picture outside but the emotions inside: “It takes an ocean not to break”, “I don’t have the drugs to sort it out”, “Yellow voices are swallowing my soul”, “What makes you think I’m being led to the flood?”.
Then there’s the music as well. More orchestrated than ever before, the band is really expanding their sonic pallet. The horns, the sounds on ‘Afraid of Everyone’, but also the different kinds of guitar. And then there’s the impressive drumming as well. Not only are the individual sounds impressive, but it is especially magnificent how everything meshes together to really bring out a certain feeling, a certain atmosphere. A shimmer of hope, or the madness to accompany the lyrics of Berninger; the music is always adding to the message, either by fully supporting it or by adding another layer to the story. It is another chapter in the victorious campaign of The National that was started with Alligator and continues with this fine, fine album. As you may have found out by now, I’m a sucker for things that somehow tie in with what I’m thinking of what I find confusing about contemporary urban life. I don’t think there’s a band that ties in better with what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling than The National, and that goes for this album as well. My favourite album of the year, with not a song I would skip.
Random Track: ‘Anyone’s Ghost’
10: High Violet - The National
09: All Delighted People EP - Sufjan Stevens
08: Cerulean - Baths
07: Gemini - Wild Nothing
06: This is Happening - LCD Soundsystem
05: Learning - Perfume Genius
04: Carve Out the Face of my God - Infinite Body
03: Stridulum / Stridulum II / Valusia EP - Zola Jesus
02: Infra - Max Richter
01: New Love - Former Ghosts
10: Nothing Hurts - Male Bonding
09: Crazy For You - Best Coast
08: Stridulum II - Zola Jesus
07: Monitor - Titus Andronicus
06: Treats - Sleigh Bells
05: Teen Dream - Beach House
04: High Violet - The National
03: Learning - Perfume Genius
02: Forget - Twin Shadow
01: New Love - Former Ghosts
10: Standing on top of Utopia - Kasper Bjorke
09: Albuterol - Mike Simonetti & Johnny Jewel
08: False Priest - of Montreal
07: Forget - Twin Shadow
06: We Have Band - We Have Band
05: Black City - Matthew Dear
04: Heartland - Owen Pallett
03: This is Happening - LCD Soundsystem
02: The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae
01: High Violet - The National
woensdag 29 december 2010
Favorite albums of 2010: 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3
Nr. 2 – Linda
Artist: Max Richter
I guess this is my odd one out this year. The music on this album was originally commissioned by the Royal Ballet as a collaboration between composer Max Richter, choreographer Wayne McGregor and artist Julian Opie (whom you might know from the Blur cover he did a lifetime ago). So surprisingly, I’ve got a ballet as my number two, even though I have never seen a ballet. It is also inspired by T.S. Elliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ and Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’, both of which I have never read or heard. Goodie.
The album isn’t actually the original piece. The original was 25 minutes long and recorded as a BBC documentary in 2008. Since then a lot has been added to the piece to make it suitable for recording as an album. Not that is a studio album in the strictest sense of the word. There are individual tracks, but you can’t really listen to on track on its own. The tracks come together to form one piece of music, and the separate tracks might be viewed as chapters. You could try and read a random chapter, but that would only end up like watching a single episode of Lost: complete gibberish (not that I’m insinuating that particular show would start making sense if you were to put yourself through watching more than one episode, or the entire series for that matter).
On this album, Max Richter combines classical music – when he performed the album this year, he was accompanied by a string quintet – with electronic noises, which I believe is the perfect way to get me listening to classical music. Apart from the fact that it’s absolutely beautiful. For the first half of this year I only listened to classical music when my flatmates were practising their violins and that came with a lot of Hungarian swearing (in which I am now quite proficient), so discovering to this was quite the epiphany. Maybe ballet ought to be up for 2011.
Random Track: ‘Infra 4’
Nr. 2 – Ilse
Artist: Twin Shadow
Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear has invested well for his new label by putting out (and co-producing) Twin Shadow’s debut, as I instantly fell in love with this album and have been playing it over and over ever since I discovered it. It’s difficult to grasp what exactly it is I find so thrilling about it; perhaps it’s the heartfelt, romantic pop music in combination with George Lewis Junior’s smooth, melancholic voice, or that every single song on this album is in its very own way as solid as rock, which makes me consider ‘Forget’ an almost flawless album. In any case, the music has an incredible sense of nostalgia to it and the 80s disco pop and new wave influences are present at all times. In some songs it even has a gloomy and sinister mood to it, in ‘Castles in the Snow’ for example. The variation in both musical elements (synths, funky bass lines, striking guitar solos, and drumming Stephen Morris would be jealous of) and tempo (from slower, heavier moods to livelier, danceable pop music) are very well-balanced and all together they create charismatic melodies and dreamy soundscapes.
‘Forget’ provides great music for any given moment; whether you’re on a train, in your bedroom or on the dancefloor; you’ll have to restrain yourself from bobbing your head to the catchy rhythms of the unremembered eighties, and singing along to Lewis Junior’s lyrics of vague childhood memories and remembrances of ended love affairs. All in all, Twin Shadow has delivered a stunning debut with ‘Forget’ and it was definitely my ‘love at first listen’ for the year 2010.
Random Track: ‘Shooting Holes’
Nr. 2 – Stef
Album: The ArchAndroid
Artist: Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae has been working on a nice streak with the Metrpolis series, inspired if only in name by the Fritz Lang movie about a futuristic upstairs/downstairs live and how love and humanity should trump that. A film that also got a re-release in the Eighties with a Moroder soundtrack with, amongst others, Freddy Mercury on vocal duties. Much maligned, that version, I might add. Luckily this album wasn’t put on the same heap on release. Monae’s first full LP is a critically acclaimed one, and not without reason. That’s because of the talent, the music, the message, but perhaps above all the grand tour through music history she is giving us. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. People chide my previous pick for stealing and how unoriginal it is, but, you know, perhaps that is post-modernism. It’s not like anyone is hiding it anyway.
This album wears its influences on its sleeve. Sometimes its James Brown, sometimes it is a romantic crooner soundtrack from the 1940s (and in some cases it is almost as she literally takes snippets from these films), not to mention the numerous allusions to science fiction or, even, actual history and not even the years of yore cinematically. Weaved through that is the sci-fi story of Cindy and Mr. Greendown, one a human, one an android. Upstairs/downstairs. This story, although a tad more loosely than the previous EP which was heavy on theme, is weaved through all these songs with such different styles, but all with their own connotations. A constant through all this is Monae’s artistic and aesthetic vision, combined with those great vocals. Borrowing as much from what has been as LCD Soundsystem, but that doesn’t matter. She creates something new, daring, epic, and beautiful with it. It feels like an early Bowie album, and truthfully, there aren’t many compliments around more positive than that.
Random Track: ‘BaBopByeYa’
dinsdag 28 december 2010
Favorite albums of 2010: 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4
Nr. 3 – Linda
Album: Stridulum/Stridulum II/Valusia EP
I didn’t really know which release to choose as Zola Jesus has released rather a lot this year. She’s made it even more difficult by releasing her stuff first in the USA, then adding some songs before she released the same stuff in Europe, then figuring that she should also release the new European stuff in the USA but adding some more new stuff and finally releasing the last new USA stuff in Europe as a single. I could just choose Stridulum II as that features most of her stuff and was actually intended to be an album – according to the press release that landed in my inbox at least, Nika Roza Danilova herself seemed to disagree – but then I’d miss out on ‘Poor Animal’. Moreover, I don’t own that record myself, whilst I do own Stridulum and the Valusia EP (and that last one comes in some beautiful packaging).
But hey, let’s talk about the music. I think these releases are bloody brilliant. The songs on Stridulum sound more like her earlier work, but cleaned up, the layers of noise have lifted a bit. ‘Night’ and ‘Manifest Destiny’ are filled with despair, but at the same time there is that glimmer of hope which sounds so amazing when the opera-trained Nika sings it. The tracks on the Valusia EP are more poppy, as if she discovered catchy melodies and figured she could get away with that as well, and oh my God, she can. One of my favourite tracks is ‘Sea Talk’, which also featured in a now almost indistinguishable version on her Tsar Bomba EP. It’s been brushed up from the – sorry for the cliché, but it just really fits here – rough diamond it was to a real gem.
Live she possibly even more impressive. I’ve seen her with a full band crammed on a small stage in New York and on alone on a vast stage in London with nothing more than a laptop. She has enough attitude to make both work, even though she’s obviously absolutely uncomfortable with a whole crowd of people staring at her. With the progress she has made in this year alone I absolutely can’t wait for her new album next year.
Random Track: ‘Manifest Destiny’
Nr. 3 – Ilse
Artist: Perfume Genius
Despite not having listened to Perfume Genius much in the last month or two, overall he really is one of the most intriguing artists I discovered this year. This is mainly because every time I listened to his debut album ‘Learning’, it managed to instantly make me feel so utterly sad, in the lump-in-your-throat kind of way. Every now and then it even left me with actual tears rolling down my face. But hey, when an album starts off with ‘No one will answer your prayers / until you take of that dress…’ it is obvious you’re not in for some happy birthday songs. Especially ‘Lookout, Lookout’ (‘He will not be missed / He didn’t have a family to begin with’) and ‘Mr. Peterson’ (‘He made me a tape of Joy Division / He told me there was part of him missing / When I was sixteen / He jumped off a building…’) are incredibly gripping and Mike Hadreas’ vulnerable, fragile, soul-piercing voice, in combination with tender piano melodies make it sound all the more heartbreaking.
Another thing that makes his music all the more riveting, is that in his lyrics he deals with unpleasant topics: suicide, abuse, relationship with an authority figure, self-destruction/addiction, but through his music and voice he somehow seems to offer his tormentor(s) forgiveness (‘I know you were ready to go / I hope there’s room for you / up up up above, or down below’). Seeing Perfume Genius live only adds to the whole fragility experience: he looks like a bashful young deer behind a piano/organ, coming across a bit bewildered, almost as if he were autistic. Perhaps you’re not sensitive to the emotional strings Perfume Genius pulls for some people, he certainly is the living proof that the most delicate of beauty has to come from the darkest and most troubled of souls.
Random Track: ‘Gay Angels’
Nr.3 – Stef
Album: This is Happening
Artist: LCD Soundsystem
Yeah honey, it is, it is happening. I love the DFA label because everything really seems to tie into the same kind of themes and feels. On one hand you have the more disco feel that basically begs for being able to feel true emotions again like love and hope and beauty. On the other hand you’ve got a more sci-fi and a more modernistic approach. The sci-fi is more of a questioning where those true emotions at this moment are. Android versus human. Very much the theme on the Juan MacLean album last year (well, in their whole oeuvre, really). You also have the post-modern approach. “Love and rock are pick-up things”, James Murphy sings. Those base emotions that disco thrives on, what do they mean? If they mean anything anymore. If you can enter a television program to vie for a guy and you’re in love. If you can put on a guitar, grow your hair, and you are rock. If you can have rock if you just download it with one click of a button instead of being in that small, local venue.
But hey, perhaps this is happening. Perhaps “people who need people” are indeed being thrown in the back of the bus. And if so, what do we do now? Can we go back, do we have to make do? Should we grow detached, or should we crave and yearn for those what one can term feelings of old. Should we escape in drunkenness, as seems to be the case on ‘Drunk Girls’ and ‘Somebody’s Calling Me’ to remove ourselves entirely from it all? This album meanders from a craving for emotion and a human touch to detachment to escapism. That’s what I completely love about this album, as for me it signifies the current crossroads of metropolitan life. Not only that, it is also packaged in fabulous songs you can dance to. Or intricately crafted songs in which both the music and Murphy’s voice work together to evoke a certain atmosphere. I really like how they work together on for example ‘Somebody’s Calling Me’, which for me really gives that drowsy feel of having had a late night drink. True, I could’ve done without the first two songs (though a lot of people will argue the first song is the best on the album, but oh well), but I’m not throwing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? out of the window either because I wouldn’t mind to skip the first twenty or so pages. I think the album is just too great thematically and does so good a job of addressing the state of modern urban life that I just love it. That the music is ace and dance-y and goes over well life also has something to do with it of course.
Random Track: ‘All I Want’
maandag 27 december 2010
The list: 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5
Nr. 4 – Linda
Album: Carve Out the Face of My God
Artist: Infinite Body
Someone wrote about this album that it’s this day’s classical music, and I couldn’t agree more (and I really should start writing down quotes when I read something I want to use as I couldn’t for the life of me tell you who actually said that). Infinite Body’s music is a sort of ambient Fuck Buttons but with that LA sound that really seemed to catch on this year, resulting in 40% of my end of the year list originating from this one city. And when you think about that a bit more, it feels rather weird. How does one city, on the other side of the planet, manage to dominate this year’s album list? According to my flatmate it’s impossible to form a band in London because the city’s too crowded: there are no affordable spaces where you can really practice – meaning without the neighbours calling the police because you’re making noise - resulting in ‘bands’ having to get full time jobs in order to pay for practice space and then not having the time to practice in the now affordable space. The vast open space of the USA seems to be winning on this (then again, L.A. doesn't strike me as the wide open Western country plains, but I've only been there once as a kid so I've got no clue anyway - ed).
I have used ‘A Fool Persists’ as my ringtone for the better part of the year, which wasn’t a big success as I didn’t really want to pick up my phone on the rare occasion that it actually went off. On the album it works perfectly though. All the songs flow into each other, something which I love as it means you shouldn’t play this album on shuffle. Shorter interludes are alternated between the longer tracks, and while the all tracks feature a drone of noise which strangle reminds me of No Age – or not so strangely as the album has been released on their record label - there is some real beauty in there too.
Random Track: ‘Dive’
Nr. 4 – Ilse
Album: High Violet
Artist: The National
Six months ago I wrote this album off as ‘another one of those the National albums’. This wasn’t a negative remark, as I adore ‘High Violet’ just as much as their other work. However, having had more time to let the album sink in; I think this one is actually bigger and more enlightening than their older stuff, something I’d attribute to the lush orchestration and uplifting harmonies. The sense of hope that shimmers through the cracks of each of the songs is incredibly comforting. Another remarkable thing about the National is that they’re are able to make somewhat odd lyrics sound very natural. I mean, how many bands can get away with “It’s a terrible love and I’m walking with spiders”? I’m still puzzled by how they do it, but I think Matt Berninger’s distinctive baritone voice is definitely a suspect. He manages to deliver it with such sincerity, devotion and soothing warmth you’ll eagerly agree and succumb to it, no matter how seemingly non-sensical the words may be.
Though ‘High Violet’ features numerous great songs, ‘England’ must be one of my favourite tracks of the year 2010. Not only on a musical level, but more on a personal level as well. Having left England this summer after almost a year of living there, the lyrics “You must be somewhere in London / You must be loving your life in the rain” are quite painful, not only because of all the people I left behind (and they definitely come to mind when I hear this line), but also for the memories I have of my time there. It’s a time I won’t get back and won’t relive again anytime soon, if not never. At the same time ‘England’ helps me cope with these feelings and reminds me that life goes on. All in all, the National may be kings of sad bastard melodrama rock about urban and social anxiety, it is definitely not in a ‘nobody understands me’-way. Quite the opposite actually, their music is engaging, uplifting and has a relatable and universal appeal.
Random Track: ‘England’
Nr. 4 – Stef
Artist: Owen Pallett
As you might have realized by now – and surely if you have read this blog before you must’ve known – I do love stuff that is thematically linked to each other. Whether that be on themes or in terms of narrative or in terms of atmosphere; I love it if there is an idea behind it or if an idea has unconsciously been built in. This time it is very much on purpose, because Owen Pallett has made an intricately structured concept album about farmer Lewis in a fictional world where he, Owen Pallett, reigns supreme. However, Owen wants something of Lewis, but he is “never gonna give it to” him. In the finale of the album Lewis violently dethrones Pallett from his mandate to rule the world.
Now, that is the story of the narrative, and there is a whole hoist of themes there that I find interesting. First of all, the meta-fictional element of putting yourself in a work of fiction so that, inherently, it IS fiction. So there is no world created trying to be real, but the author’s hand and eye are firmly present and the author makes no attempt in hiding it. Second of all, there is the theme of a fictional character rebelling against the narrative. The author says, hey, this is the way it is going down, and the character says, You know what, no!, and rebels against it. Which can be construed as rebelling against tradition or conformity, or something else oppressing. Very much ties in what the world has been doing since 1950 with Gay Rights, Civil Rights, the Second Wave of Feminism, and the ongoing quest of, okay, so, I don’t believe in God, but if there is no God, what exactly is going on in this world and why? On the album there are loads of references to be found to religion as well, or to other literature like, for example, Faust. Not to mention that the songs are just plain good. Some are even rather catchy because of the amazing looping Owen does, some are carefully crafted and have some curveballs in them, like the opera singer on the closer of the album. Both musically and in terms of narrative a great album high on themes and ideas.
Random Track: ‘Tryst With Mephistopheles’
This time our Christmas Break special in which we pick our favourite tracks of the year!
Craig: Best' song of '10 - 'Coma Summer' – Weekend
My taste in music is quite simple, really. All I ask of a song is that it shreds my fucking face off. I want it loud--capable of causing ear damage & nose bleeds, and I want it to flirt with chaos. I found these criteria more than satisfied when Weekend's noisy cacophony "Coma Summer" dropped earlier this year.
The buzzing guitars are an open floodgate & the sonorous harmonies give a waterfall quality to the merciless wall of sound Weekend builds. The blurry vocals as background keep this song sounding chaotic without drifting into meaningless noise. All in all, it gave me a great excuse to blow out the speakers in my rental car this weekend.
Linda - Track: Joanna Newsom - Good Intentions Paving Company
I was quite surprised myself that after ploughing some other end of year lists I came up with this track as my best track of the year. Somehow, I'd completely forgotten about Joanna Newsom, even though she managed to release the longest album of the year (I think I managed to listen to it in full only once). Nevertheless, I absolutely love this song, even the bit with the banjo. Even though most people only see a sweet girl playing the harp when they think of Joanna, I love that this song show that she does have an attitude and has a good grip on sarcasm (why else would you name a song about a relationship on the road to hell 'Good Intentions Paving Company'?). And if someone were to start an argument about her voice being unbearable, don't worry, I've made a rather inconclusive list of honourable mentions (sorry, I couldn't help myself): Former Ghosts - Bare Bones; Zola Jesus - Manifest Destiny; Islet - Iris; Baths - Plea; Parenthetical Girls - Young Throats; The National - You Were a Kindness; Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People (I don't care which version); Blue Water White Dead - Song for the Greater Jihad.
Anna: The National - Conversation 16
Picking my favourite song of the year would normally cause my brain cells to implode, but this year the answer comes naturally. Its engaging song structure and overwhelming melody aside, this song managed to not only touch my heartstrings (festive sappiness), but play them till melting point, substitute them with new ones, and repeat the process from scratch. I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, that's what favourite songs are meant to do.
Ilse: Foals - 'Spanish Sahara'
After much contemplation, I decided to go with something that isn’t necessarily the song I loved the most this year in terms of musical content or emotional attachment (in that case I probably would’ve chosen Former Ghosts, The National, or something else). At the end of a year, you feel so spoilt with fresh bands and new albums by old loves, you often unwittingly ‘lose’ certain artists as well. This can happen because you feel ‘too old’ for it and you’ve outgrown the band, forget about them, or simply can’t relate to their music anymore.
One of the bands I’ve outgrown this year (among Mystery Jets and Laura Marling) was Foals. When I heard ‘Spanish Sahara’ for the first time I didn’t fully realise they were going down a different road with their new album, as I was blinded by how good this track was. Musically, it’s very solid, starting off quiet and calm and slowly adding instruments and building up to a climax. Upon seeing them live two to three times after this came the disappointment: they had lost all the energy and vigourity I loved them for, I was annoyed by screaming children around me and the album ‘Total Life Forever’ was dreadful. By the time summer started I had almost forgotten about Foals. Anyway, it were two fun years and I don’t feel sorry for the loss: ‘Spanish Sahara’ is a magnificent farewell.
Stef: Follow the countdown in the “clip van de dag” section to find out! No use in spoiling it, now is there?
zondag 26 december 2010
The list: 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6
Artist: Perfume Genius
I might have been a bit overexcited about this album when I put it on number one half a year ago. I still think it’s absolutely great, it’s just there are about four albums that I think are better, two of which were also kind of around when I attempted to make this list last time round. I think this in itself proves the silliness of these lists: you need some perspective, some time to really appreciate some records and some more distance from others (which brings Editors’ second album – An End Has a Start – to mind, which I found mind-blowing at first and have never listened to since).
Nevertheless, Perfume Genius’ debut album is absolutely excellent. I love the combination of the at times almost hesitant, shy and calm poppy sound of the tracks with the dark, scary content that sounds like it ought to belong in a Xiu Xiu song. There are not an awful lot of people who manage to pull that of successfully. It seems very probable that if it hadn’t been for blogs and the internet, someone operating in such a small and specific niche as Mike Hadreas would not even be able to actually be an artist. Something which showed during his first show in London this year. He’d had next to none experience in performing his tracks live and seemed very insecure at times, and still managed to sell out this venue, solely on the reputation he had build online by recording songs in his bedroom. Pretty extraordinary.
Random Track: ‘Learning’
Nr. 5 – Ilse
Album: Teen Dream
Artist: Beach House
Another boy/girl duo I loved this year was Beach House, a band that stuck with me throughout the entire year 2010. I saw them live three times, twice in the first quarter of the year and then once again last month and I have listened to their album countless of times since its release in January. Despite this being their third album, I can’t say I knew much about Beach House before this year, and having listened to their other LPs since, I think the new one is more accessible and easier to get into than its predecessors. The atmosphere on ‘Teen Dream’ is romantic, melancholic, comforting, warm, and has an almost indescribable charm to it. It recalls the nostalgia of young love, the spirit of daydreaming and a certain pure innocence. Yet, innocence doesn’t necessarily mean naïve or weak; in this case it’s extremely powerful and enlightening. The main causer of all this is immediately the duo’s main strength: Victoria LeGrand’s absolutely stunning voice. Once she starts singing, all boundaries of time disappear and she almost sings you in a state of hypnosis.
I’m definitely not the only one who fell in love with this album; ‘Teen Dream’ was praised widely and generously among many critics this year, and you could say it really allowed Beach House to properly break through, something truly well deserved. However, whether it’s a gift or a curse is something only time will tell, as it seems almost impossible to create something that’s better than this. But hey, you never know right?
Random Track: ‘Better Times’
Nr. 5 – Stef
Album: Black City
Artist: Matthew Dear
Matthew Dear came out a couple of years ago with Asa Breed in which he kind of shifted to more song structured songs, as opposed to more minimalist epics. This album follows that path, and it even adds a shimmer of a concept in there; namely Black City. In his songs he seems to paint little vignettes – as abstract these sometimes might be – of living in a sort of dystopic city. Sometimes Matthew turns a bit more inward and shows the psyche of someone in the city, especially later on the album and with the more melancholic ‘Slowdance’. Sometimes it resembles a series of abstract, dreamlike paintings, or the universe of a sci-fi or superhero comic book. Sometimes it is harsh and dark, sometimes it is melancholic and dreamlike.
Whatever it is, Matthew Dear finds the right sonic landscape for it. Everything is carefully crafted using all kinds of sounds and production tricks to find exactly that sonic pallet that he is looking for. His voice is perfectly suited to evoke the right emotion, without being the most skilled vocalist. Not going to win any song contest anytime soon, but this is art, not the ability to hit useless notes. A very well crafted album that through its sounds takes you on a journey in the fictional city Dear has created for us.
Random Track: ‘Monkey’
zaterdag 25 december 2010
The list: 10 - 9 - 8 - 7
Nr. 6 – Linda
Album: This is Happening
Artist: LCD Soundsystem
As one of the albums I was looking forward to most this year, I’m really glad it turned out this well. There were the mishaps by Foals, Mystery Jets, Blonde Redhead (not that Penny Sparkle is an awful album as such, it’s just a bit of a letdown after 23), Yeasayer, MGMT, and I believe Klaxons dared to resurface – and isn’t it just amazing how many of these albums you can find on the NME end of year list? – just to remind us that good albums by fairly established bands shouldn’t be taken for granted. With gems as their self-titled debut and Sound of Silver, James Murphy and friends certainly had something to live up to.
Maybe it’s the hinting of a retreat from music, just as Sufjan Stevens did, that made this record even more unexpectedly brilliant even though it lacks in songs as brilliant as ‘Someone Great’ or ‘Tribulations’. But nevertheless, it is an awesome record, and live it’s even more amazing. I don’t think I stopped moving for more than a second during their two hour gig earlier this year. But hey, they’ve probably got the best line-up anyone could wish for with people like Nancy Wang and Pat Mahoney; even if James Murphy were to recite the phone book (if those things still exist) over a jam session of the band, the entire city of New York would come out to dance.
Random Track: ‘Home’
Nr. 6 – Ilse
Boy-girl duos are always fun, especially if they have enough energy to make it sound like their band consists of a whole army instead of just two people. Sleigh Bells are particularly good at this, and their sound is characterised by its use of contrast: the electronic beats/samples, thick drums and Derek Miller’s heavy guitar versus Alexis’ calm, almost nursery rhyme like voice (a few songs aside, where her voice is as harsh as the music). This is partly relatable to the musicians’ backgrounds: Alexis Krauss was in a teen pop girl band, while Derek Miller was in a hardcore band. We especially notice this calm/chaos contrast in ‘Rachel’ and ‘Run To The Heart’, where we are treated to soothing ‘ooohs’ and seductive whispers. Then we get ‘Rill Rill’, which is another sweet one, involving loads of finger snapping (just like in ‘Tell Em’), only to burst out into sirens again, bulldozing all over you with ‘Crown On The Ground’ and particularly the loud and chaotic ‘Straight As’. This album offers so much to hear, and all the sounds seem pushed to their maximum; resulting into something I’ve never heard before, it’s almost like Sleigh Bells created their own genre.
All in all, I’d say this exceptional debut is filled with bold, alarming chaos, energetic loudness and noisy aggression, it crosses borders and blends into a unique sound: an obnoxious combination of motorcycle engines and cheerleader chants.
Random Track: 'Crown on the Ground'
Nr. 6 – Stef
Album: We Have Band
Artist: We Have Band
Let me tell ya, I just love these three people. It’s one of those bands that I’ve been following since probably the very start of their career, and since then they have only gotten better and better and better. This year they came with their debut album, consisting of their previous singles and of new, fully developed songs which sound full and rich. All the songs have the same feel to them, and there are certain thematic elements that run through the whole album (for more on that, try and google We Have Band IKRS and you’ll find my review analyzing the album on that basis). Perhaps it is a London album, or a city album. Certainly the themes are post-modern in their nature. Just try and count how often circular motions return time and again (whether purposely or not).
I love that quality in music, when you can analyze it on theme, because it says so much about the aesthetic and the mindset of the band and what they want to evoke. However, in the end it is not only about that, but about the tunes as well, and they’ve done an excellent job with that as well as far as I’m concerned. It has some terribly catchy singles, but also some songs which focus more on the melancholic atmosphere. It isn’t all happy anyway, though you can happily dance to it, a combination that has proved to be winning for ages now. Just a well-balanced debut with some true highlights. The only knock might be that some of the earlier singles perhaps don’t fit in quite that well, being a bit more hooky and less linked to the atmosphere the other songs seem to have. That’s nitpicking though, and who wants to do that in a top 10 countdown?
Random Track: 'Hero Knows'
vrijdag 24 december 2010
The list: 10 - 9 - 8
Nr. 7 – Linda
Artist: Wild Nothing
When I first listened to this over half a year ago, I wasn’t convinced. The whole thing sounded rather bland and not one song managed to catch my attention and as a result, I didn’t even consider the album for my half year list. When the album did appear on Ilse’s list, I decided to give it another chance, and what do you know: I loved it. The haziness and how everything just blends together sounded perfectly wonderful all of a sudden.
In a live setting they were amazing as well, even though their London date was the last one of a lengthy tour taking them through Europe, making it painfully obvious at times that sleep is an absolute necessity and that Jack Tatum’s voice does not benefit from a lack thereof. He did manage to reach those high notes though, eventually. Other than that, the gig was rather amazing – maybe even more so since they were obviously not at their best. With tracks like ‘Confirmation’ and ‘Drifter’ they certainly did manage to convince me to add another album to my vinyl collection (though admittedly, given the state of my vinyl addiction that doesn’t take much these days).
Random Track: 'The Witching Hour'
Nr. 7 – Ilse
Album: The Monitor
Artist: Titus Andronicus
A band taking its name from a Shakespeare play making a concept album about the American Civil War of 1861-1865; I would say the ambition alone makes this album deserve a spot on the list. In context, the Civil War forms more of a metaphor to describe personal events, rather than that this album exposes us to a history lesson. From the references to Glen Rock and New Jersey, we may draw the conclusion that it describes bearded frontman Patrick Stickles’ journey in life and the love-hate relationship he has with the Garden State. Next to regional identity, recurring themes in this journey are emotional anesthetization, alcohol and the importance of friendship. You could say this album actually describes an inner civil war.
Musically, it has, like their debut album ‘The Airing Of Grievances’, a lot of keyboards, shredding guitars, and reverb vocals, resulting into their familiar noisy sound. Stickles doesn’t claim to be part of a ‘lo-fi movement’ though, he rather thinks of the band making ‘hi-fi punk’. The songs on ‘The Monitor’ are incredibly anthem-like, as the band vocalize in synchrony, which gives you the idea it’s sung by a group of drunk friends in a pub. All this happens without turning the album into a collection of low-brow drunken lullabies, as next to the historical and geographical references we get plenty of pop culture references to digest as well. One of them for example, is fellow New Jersey resident Bruce Springsteen; on the song ‘A More Perfect Union’ (which I suspect of being a reference to Billy Bragg) they changed his “Tramps like us, baby, we were born to run” into “Tramps like us, baby, we were born to die”. ‘The Monitor’ features so many layers to enjoy that, despite dropping a few places compared to 6 months ago, I still consider it as interesting now as when it came out in March this year.
Random Track: 'Richard II'
Nr. 7 – Stef
Artist: Twin Shadow
This probably is the most important reason of doing lists. Because I forgot about this album until someone said, hey, perhaps you should listen to it (or, more forcefully, lets listen to it while we are doing the dishes). Which is also the reason for this list, to perhaps remind you, hey, have you given these albums a fair shake while trying to find your way in the crowded maze of music land leaks and downloads. Twin Shadow surprised me in numerous ways. I love the romantic vibe of the vocals, I hadn’t expected that for some reason. And it is less lo-fi than I had originally anticipated. So good thing I actually listened to it, no?
A good thing regardless, because I love the dreamy, romantic atmosphere of the album. It’s one of those albums you love to put on late at night when you are walking home or are at the verge of falling asleep in the train. One of the most impressive features of this album, and perhaps that is why I am half anticipating it to have legs, i.e., that it will age well, is that it is of constant quality. There is a central atmosphere, and Twin Shadow plays around that with limited yet variable means. Sometimes he sings really high pitched, sometimes he throws in an impressive guitar solo, and so he continues to craft songs that you want to listen to. And, in my opinion, not only is the quality consistently high, I actually think he ends on a high note with the last three songs, which really prevent you from pushing the stop button before the needle reaches the middle. An absolutely lovely debut.
Random Track: 'Slow'
donderdag 23 december 2010
The list: 10 - 9
Nr. 8 - Linda
Seeing Baths live was one of my favourite music-related moments in 2010. I wasn’t even sure whether I should go through the trouble of travelling through half of London (or what qualifies as half of London in my world) in order to be able to see Will Wiesenfeld – a resident of Los Angeles of course – perform his debut UK show in a basement in a venue that goes by the rather appropriate name of ‘Camp’. But hey, I had already bought a ticket and staying home would’ve just be wasteful, now wouldn’t it?
His music rests somewhere between chillwave and dubsteb, two genres which have been exploited by many over the last couple of years for some quick fame, but Baths manages to find some new ground. That, and he is more cute than any baby panda known to the internetz (I may have spent some of my otherwise precious time on lolcats this year, but I balance it out by fervently reading the Guardian’s Science section). I absolutely love it when an artist seems genuinely surprised people even showed up at their show, let alone dance to their music, instead of using the words “thank you” to signify they’ve reached the end of a song. So far, this list had been limited to Dan Boeckner, Alexei Perry and Gareth Campesinos!, but Will Wiesenfeld is a very welcome attribution. Also, the fuzzy animal impression which he uses to introduce ‘Animals’ is not to be missed.
Random Track: 'Maximalist'
Nr. 8 - Ilse
Album: Stridulum II
Artist: Zola Jesus
I wasn’t planning on including ‘Stridulum II’ as I’m still not sure whether it qualifies as an EP or an album, and I wanted a list only consisting of albums. But then again, 9 songs must be a mini album at the very least, and every single song on here is so great that I couldn’t leave Stridulum II out. Zola Jesus is a project by 21-year-old Nika Roza Danilova, and in particular her unique, shivers-down-your-spine voice. She’s been incredibly productive this year, as she also worked with Former Ghosts and L.A. Vampires besides releasing several records of her own. It took a while for me to fully get into her music, but once you’ve done so, there is no turning back. Nika was trained for opera singing, and that influence is still present in her soulful, almost theatrical voice and in combination with the synth, drum machine and modified vocals, it makes the music very dark, mysterious and incredibly dramatic. Sometimes dramatic and theatrical could be considered negative; but in this case it comes across very much genuine and sincere.
This is also visible through the lyrics, she’s not afraid to write about huge concepts using simple language, as the way she sings it makes it all the more powerful , assuring and comforting, which proves that she is as mature as her authentic voice. I’m afraid Zola Jesus’ modest breakthrough in the alternative mainstream this year is only the beginning of something bigger and greater, and that what we’ve seen so far is just a sneak peek of the things she might be capable of, and with her level of productivity I’m sure it won’t take long until Zola Jesus will manage to amaze us once again.
Random Track: 'Manifest Destiny'
Nr. 8 - Stef
Album: False Priest
Artist: of Montreal
In one of the songs on this album he refers to Woody Allen. Not completely illogical for numerous reasons, but there is also a, not so much a reason, but a similarity; namely that both have already made their Magnum Opus. Which also means that everything they put out now is going to be compared to their other output, and in the case of of Montreal it is especially compared to Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? which he released two albums ago. This is no Hissing Fauna, both in terms of quality as in terms of sound and theme. Whereas Hissing Fauna is extravagant and more of an inward journey, this is more funky and more of a look at modern society and the people in it. The stories are not necessarily about the mind of Kevin Barnes anymore, but they are narratives about what happened to him, as opposed to being about him.
Which doesn’t mean that there is less of Barnes to go around, even though he is sharing vocal duties with the likes of Solange and Janelle Monae. His opinion is clearly stated, and he even hits it home quite clearly in the more experimental closing song ‘You Do Mutilate?’, which is as surprisingly electro as it is a pamphlet rather than a narrative. In the mean time he certainly has created a fair share of good songs. Though not as immediate party time as on previous albums despite the funk, the songs have easy on the ear instrumentals to accompany the lengthy and wordy monologues of Barnes, which are full of his typical one-liners and la-di-da comments. Which, yes, is from the movie Annie Hall by Woody Allen (la-di-da).
Random Track: 'Casualty of You'
woensdag 22 december 2010
Matthew Dear has been around for quite a while now. Since over a decade he has been busy with the avant-garde side of electro music, transforming himself from someone on the minimal side and being no stranger to ten minute epics to a person honing his song craftsmanship. This year he delivered the critically acclaimed album Black City, an album in which he more or less ditched the minimal electro in favour of songs with more bravado and more theatrics. At least, those are two characteristics apparent on the hideously titled song ‘You Put a Smell On Me’. However, he also delivers when he descents into the more dreamy spectrum, for example when he plays the fabulous ‘Slowdance’. Promoting this new album he went on tour and arrived in the venue of Trouw, Amsterdam, one of the more electro oriented venues in Holland.
A lot of the new album is played live, and with live I mean live. Naturally the Apple laptop and the electronic hardware is all there, but a lot is played live as well. There’s a drummer, a bass player, even someone doing horns. In the mean time Matthew is singing and handling the cowbell and tambourine whilst walking around the stage. So nothing stationary here. He is a performer, a frontman, someone who doesn’t hide his face but knows there is an audience for whom he is pouring his heart out. And he does, seemingly meaning every word he says. On Black City, every word he says puts one more piece of a puzzle together which, in its wholeness, forms an imaginary, perhaps dystopic city. If there is friendliness there, it certainly isn’t the only thing walking around town.
In the mean time Matthew isn’t only playing his latest stuff. Asa Breed is also featured on the setlist, and together they form quite a nice soundtrack. There’s a good balance between some of the slower, dreamier songs and between the songs that have a bit of a beat and a bit of punch to them. So there’s something to sway to and something to dance to. One of them being fan favourite ‘Don and Sherri’, which is one of the non Black City songs he pulls out of his bag. Talking about bags, as said, the crowd is a mixed one, some coming for Matthew Dear the artist, some coming for whatever as long as it has a beat, and some coming just to be at the venue.
Everyone, however, is getting a charismatic performer who is really putting his heart and soul into his songs, visibly so. The bass and beat might’ve been too loud on occasion (literally shaking the very foundations of my body), but Matthew Dear himself is impeccable. The way he carries himself on stage certainly appeals to me. He just brings the whole package: neatly dressed, preaching to his choir with fervor, and his moves fit the tunes that are being played. It might be hip to wear your vintage, oversized, casual wear on stage, but I like a bit of fancy dress on a performer. Call me old-fashioned. The live horns really add something to his sound, and the band really hits the spot in the atmosphere department.
Now if only one could get home from gigs like these in winter time, eh? Vital functions of the railway system are frozen, but even if I had known that in advance I still would’ve made the trip to witness the preaching Matthew Dear live. I just would’ve brought something with me to put my contacts in, that’s all (or would’ve, at the very least, talked to a Chemist a bit earlier than after the fact, since apparently a bit of kitchen salt keeps the contacts from, well, dying, basically).
Our list thus far: 10
Nr. 9 – Linda
Album: All Delighted People EP
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Yes, I’ve included an EP. But as it is the first ever EP to be released on double vinyl (as in, the thing didn’t fit on the by convention defined one slack of vinyl which managed to hold all EPs up until the moment Sufjan Stevens decided All Delighted People didn’t qualify as an album) I reckon I’ll be granted permission to include it on this list (if not, bite me). And a great EP it is. Just look at the cover! It’s like a ‘Where’s Waldo’ book without Waldo (so far, I’ve located five Sufjans, Leonardo DiCaprio, Aaron or Bryce Dessner – they are far too similar for me to able to tell them apart – an inflatable Santa and the Dalai Lama).
Highlight of the album, sorry: EP, are the two versions of ‘All Delighted People’ which are very loosely based on Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’ – and apparently the Apocalypse and existential ennui, whom always make for an interesting combination if I may say so. And of course the fact that it just so happens to come rolling out of Sufjan Stevens’ head only months after admitting in an interview that the whole “I’ll write an album for each and every American State” project might have been a bit overambitious and that he feared he could never write music again. Only to release this beauty and an album to critical acclaim this year. And though The Age of Adz might be wonderful, it doesn’t measure up to this EP. However, it’s still no Illinois, on which even the song titles were a delightful read.
Random Track: 'Enchanting Ghost'
Nr. 9 – Ilse
Album: Crazy For You
Artist: Best Coast
Bethany Cosentino, once part of Californian drone duo Pocahaunted, is the leading lady behind this sunny surf pop outfit called Best Coast. In earlier demos and EPs, Best Coast’s sound appeared somewhat reminiscent of that first band she was in. On the album however, all the noise and reverb vocals have disappeared and have made place for more polished and poppy versions of some of the earlier released songs. Interestingly enough, Best Coast’s boyfriend Nathan Williams (a.ka. Wavves) went down a similar path this year and also produced a more pop oriented record. Preferring his earlier noise work, I have hated Wavves for doing so. Opposed to this I actually love Best Coast’s more poppy sound, and Crazy For You has been the soundtrack to countless bus rides between home and work this summer. A nice comparison would be the Beach Boys, if the Beach Boys were in fact Beach Girls, smoked a bit of weed every now and then, and spent their days waiting by the phone in case that one special person called.
Lyrically speaking, Bethany Cosentino doesn’t appear to be the most poetic, intelligent or diverse of songwriters. The lyrics are mainly about boys, love, the summer and the beach, and Bethany’s limited set of vocabulary is mainly covered by the following words: ‘lazy’, ‘crazy’, ‘miss you’, ‘phone’, ‘with you’, and as you may be able to guess she is not the most innovative when it comes to rhyming either: crazy/lazy, miss/kiss, end/friend . The whole thing makes you feel like you’re reading a thirteen year old girl’s diary, which only supports the atmosphere this album provides; longing for the sun and the beach, and the insecurity that comes with puppy love. All in all, it is not necessarily the most genius of albums, but then again proves that it doesn’t have to be; sometimes fun and simplicity make an album enjoyable enough as it is. And truly, with this one it is summer all year long.
Random Track: 'When the Sun Don't Shine'
Nr. 9 – Stef
Artist: Mike Simonetti & Johnny Jewel
So is this cheating? Well, if Linda can put an EP on her list, I can put a mixtape on it no? Plus it got the proper album release as it was put on vinyl and in shops. This after it was first set free on the internet for nought. Plus I think it is as much of a creation as the monster is a creation of Dr. Frankenstein. It is a sort of get together of different styles and genres which are merged into one single narrative. A narrative although drawing upon previous styles, genres, and works (often by incorporating them wholly in this new narrative), still forms a new work with its own style and function. The new work changes the original function of the songs and endow them into a new aesthetic; the Italians Do It Better aesthetic.
Mike Simonetti and Johnny Jewel are the prime exponents of the Italians Do It Better label. A label which has brought the world Italo Disco bands like Desire, like Glass Candy, like Chromatics: all bands including Johnny Jewel. The sound of this mixtape is that of the bands above, taking old country songs and what not and putting the distinct sound of the label on them. This makes the mixtape full of interesting songs that sound both fresh, innovative yet also familiar (both for the people who know the original songs as for the people who know the sound of the label). It surprises on first hearing, and it doesn’t falter on repeated listens as the songs are just well put together and dancey affairs.
Random Track: 'The Dead of the Night'
dinsdag 21 december 2010
Nr 10 – Linda
Album: High Violet
Artist: The National
Oh, the absolute impossibility of ranking the overload of records I want to include in this top ten! I think I’ve included and excluded this particular album at least twice on a daily basis over the last week. Am I going to include it over records such as Glasser’s excellent debut Ring? Have I heard enough of the brilliant Autre Ne Veut even though I’ve only discovered their self-titled album two weeks ago? What am I missing on Twin Shadow’s album that everyone else seems to be in love with? And then there are bands of the likes of Beach House, Deerhunter, Bathcrones and Islet that I want to at the very least mention, and how can one manage such a thing when you’re only allowed ten entries in this conglomerate of best music in the first year after the noughties ended?
I’ve managed to see The National perform live no less than three times this year, and only one time did they manage to slightly disappoint me: there had been mentions of Sufjan Stevens appearing as a special guest, but we had to make ado with some guy from Arcade Fire (if you’re not Win Butler himself, you’re ‘some guy’), which given my idolisation of Mr Stevens was an utter disappointment – but more on that particular subject tomorrow. Other than that their shows consisted merely of moments of complete bliss – complemented by someone shouting “The English are waiting” during one of the lengthier moments of contemplation in between songs, though former albums formed the main contribution to this fact. I love High Violet, though someone still ought to clarify that name to me, but it just doesn’t reach the brilliance of Alligator or Boxer. It feels like more of the same – even though even that is very impressive when it originates from a band like this – and I’m craving something new.
Random track: ‘Afraid of Everyone’
Nr 10 – Ilse
Album: Nothing Hurts
Artist: Male Bonding
Male Bonding are a bunch of hipsters whose garage band could belong in the L.A. noise circuit, along with bands as No Age, Vivian Girls and Abe Vigoda. I intentionally say ‘could belong’, as they’re surprisingly enough not from California, but hailing from the Dalston D.I.Y. scene. The band saw the light there in 2008 and has released several splits and 7”s before finally releasing their debut album this year. Having mentioned those particular bands from L.A., I can imagine it’s incredibly tempting to write this album off as ‘easy’ and ‘unoriginal’, but the more you listen to it, the more diversity appears and different influences are to be found. You could say it takes the best bits from the 60s surf pop vibrations, 70s punk energy (‘T.U.F.F.’), then 90s lo-fi garage rock and grunge (‘Crooked Scene’) and ultimately the familiar before mentioned L.A. noise bands. A pleasant potpourri of catchy melodic hooks, pounding drums with the occasional cowbell, fast and furious rock riffs, a churning bass, not-always-so-noisy vocals and big spoonful of loud impatient energy is the result. Some of the lyrics express the confusion and prospect of decay that comes with being young, such as in the fuzzy ‘Weird Feelings’ (one of the highlights of the album): I felt like this for ages / Just didn’t know how to say it and ‘Franklin’, in which we get All this won’t last forever… That last song clearly stands out as we have less of the hard rhythms and a more mellow, tropical melody. A few more outbursts of noise and then the album ends with a song under the almost promising title of ‘Worse To Come’, an acoustic song with one or two Vivian Girls on back-up vocals. Despite the average length of the songs on ‘Nothing Hurts’ being around two minutes (the longest one being 2.45 minutes), resulting into the full length of the album not even reaching the 30 minutes, it’s an impressive debut nonetheless.
Random track: 'Crooked Scene'
Nr. 10 – Stef
Album: Standing on Top of Utopia
Artist: Kasper Bjorke
Okay, so I can understand why people would consider this album uneven, as some of the tracks without vocals are quite different from the tracks with vocals. And sometimes tracks with one vocalist are quite different than tracks with other vocalists. Nevertheless I do, on 90% of the album, sense a certain atmosphere in all the songs. As if they want to exhume the same thing. Some songs say it in more of a dance track way, others in a catchy synth-pop way, and others in a slightly gloomy, downbeat way; but they do seem to breathe in, breathe out much of the same air. Plus, when Kasper Bjorke hits the spot, he really is right on the money for me. Some of the tracks are among my favourite tracks of the year, and I’ve been listening to them over and over. I waited in tense anticipation on the vinyl to drop on my doorstep, and when it did I was hardly disappointed. Especially since for some bizarre reason the tracklisting is different and I like the vinyl one better. It is Kasper’s sophomore effort after In Gumbo, which was even more of a mixed bag, so that’s progress as well. Bjorke certainly has a way to find the right sounds and make them into interesting tunes. Some of the sounds come from left field, and some of the tunes sound surprisingly radio friendly, but it is always an interesting listen no matter what. Also check both the clips to ‘Young Again’ and ‘Efficient Machine’, both worth the watch. Bij gebrek aan bruikbare Hypem links van dit album is de onderstaande link sowieso de clip van 'Young Again'.
Random track: ‘Young Again'
by Linda Wijlaars
Oh, the suspense of going to a Suede gig! And the horror when you finally take a look at your ticket that’s been lying around gathering dust for months and realise that you’ve actually booked a seat instead of a ticket in the standing area. Sitting down at the Suede gig you’ve been quite literally waiting for years for, ever since they broke up ages ago (7 years, 1 month and 3 days to be precise, but who’s counting anyway?). Could it get any worse? Well, there is the venue it’s being held at: the O2 area (or Millennium Dome for anyone who believes that a venue named after a phone company should at the very least provide you with a proper signal). Maybe it’s me, but I feel there is something inherently wrong when a band that appealed to, and sang about weirdoes, creeps and other generally awkward people sells out London’s biggest music venue. But perhaps it’s just in my mind that the whole raison d’être of a band like Suede is affected when people’s main reason to buy a ticket is “a nice evening out”.
Not that above rant disqualifies Suede as a band in any way. After Brett Anderson’s solo career (or a lack thereof), it seems very reasonable that they cash in now. How many bands have preceded them by now? It’s only a few months ago that Pavement took control of Brixton Academy for almost a week and managed to sell out every single night, so why can’t Suede tag along for the ride?
But enough on the why’s and how’s, it’s the music that matters, and one of the (very, very few) benefits of having a seat is that it is pre-assigned, allowing one to miss support acts such as Dial M for Murder, whose name is as off putting as David Cameron’s sudden love for the Smiths – and have you read Morrissey’s subsequent rant? “David Peckham”, excuse me while I giggle as a 5-year old. New Young Pony Club’s faith is rather similar, although ‘The Get Go’ remains one of their more brilliant efforts.
Whilst waiting for the main act, the arena fills, ads for Peter Andre and Barry Manilow gigs flash over the screens and the man next to me enthusiastically recounts his last gig experience: a 1999 concert by Suede. He still owns the shirt he bought at that particular gig, but his lifestyle since has condemned it to be used merely as a flag. When the lights finally go down, and a dark opening tune starts to play while people around me scurry to their seats (this takes longer than you’d normally expect, considering the age range of the audience) time seems to turn back and the last ten years seem not to have happened at all. Even from the distance I’m at, Brett Anderson can be made out unmistakably, and another benefit from sitting halfway up the stairs becomes obvious: from this distance it is impossible to make out whether the band have aged as much as their audience.
Music wise, they certainly haven’t. From opener “This Hollywood Life” to the very end everything is performed absolutely flawless (kudos to the tech guy who had to readjust Brett Anderson’s microphone thingy about every five minutes or so). And because it’s Suede, every other song or so makes your hart jumps as they’re playing one of your favourites: ‘Trash’, ‘Filmstar’, ‘Animal Nitrate’ or ‘Everything Will Flow’. Brett Anderson still has the moves and the voice and every high note is reached, while the giant screens mainly show the drummer as he is the most immobile person in the set. When the cameraman finally zooms in on Brett Anderson (and who else would you want to look at?), a choice has to be made: watch the gig on the screen or live as the set up of the venue doesn’t really allow you to do both. While it is great to be able to actually see Brett’s face, it does feel a bit like you’re just watching it happen instead of actually being part of it. But hey, there is a probably a reason why they were already advertising the recordings of this gig before it actually happened.
As you might expect, everyone is on their feet within minutes and dancing like a bunch of overexcited teenagers whose parents have allowed them to go to a gig unchaperoned for the first time ever. ‘Pantomime Horse’ offers a short moment of deliberation and time to reconsider of the more edgy dance moves before the set is off again and the singing along wins it from the dancing - the question remains whether that was an actual improvement. Naturally, there is an encore, which Brett starts with an acoustic rendition of ‘The Living Dead’ – rather appropriate for the occasion in an ever so slightly sarcastic way if I may say so. The Wednesday night ends on ‘Saturday Night’ and the reassurance that this wasn’t their last gig. Which is all I really needed to hear. Next time I’ll be more careful whilst ordering tickets.
Track: ‘Still Sound’ by Toro Y Moi (listen here)
Average Grade: 5.6
Ilse: I loved Toro Y Moi's debut album 'Causers Of This'; and despite this new track being longer, mellower and featuring an extended instrumental bridge; it sounds just like it's straight off there. Yup, this whole hazy, funky and dreamy feel-good electro, also known as 'chillwave' infiltrated my listening habits immensily this year and I was happy to succumb to it eagerly.
Anna: So this is what chillwave sounds like - I guess. It actually is a sonic yawn. Yawnwave. I coin new genres because I can.
Linda: I love this! It's nothing like the stuff he did before, which I thought was great, but wow, I'm just really impressed. Does this mean post-chillwave is born?
Craig: Fancy ladies sipping champagne in slinky metallic dresses, squeaky-clean men wearing skinny pink ties. The VIP lounge of some expensive club. Pearls, hairspray, lots of gold & silver. They're all lounging on black leather furniture and are too cool to let loose or dance. You're there, somehow invited by your friend who writes a society column in your city. These people are the creme de la creme at the periphery of the circles you hang out in. You realize it's not all it's cracked up to be, being cool.
Is benign post-disco a genre? It should be.
Stef: Nice bass, nice disco-ey vibe to dreamily dance to, and I like the quick singing he does in that high voice, and then goes dreamy afterwards. Yeah, nice track in my book.
maandag 13 december 2010
Niet dat je hoeft te treuren though, want we blijven altijd druk bezig met deze blog ook al is het even niet zichtbaar op de blog zelf. Hopelijk zullen de absurde nieuws verhaaltjes snel en met regelmaat weer terugkeren, want dat is toch iets zeer eigens aan deze blog. Maar in ieder geval komen er een paar leuke dingen aan. Zo moest ondergetekende weliswaar Suede missen vorige week, maar Linda zag ze in Londen, dus dat verslag is coming. Daarbij wist ze ook nog een gesprek te voeren met Freddy Ruppert van Former Ghosts, dus ook dat zal hopelijk binnen nu en een acceptabele tijd online komen te staan. Verder zijn Linda, Ilse, en ondergetekende ook weer bezig onze favoriete albums van dit jaar van een kort bijschriftje te voorzien om zo hopelijk iedereen te overtuigen dat, mocht je het nog niet geluisterd te hebben, dat toch echt de moeite waard is. Ook zal ondergetekende dinsdag hopelijk wel weer een concert kunnen bijwonen na het afblazen van de twee vorige gigs die op mijn agenda stonden, en dus hopelijk zal een verslag van Matthew Dear in Trouw ook op een gegeven moment op de blog komen.
Oftewel, er staat veel op het programma, so don’t go anywhere! Of nou ja, don’t go anywhere als je louter zou weggaan omdat je denkt dat deze site een beetje downhill gaat, want dat is niet zo, we’re just a bit busy, that’s all. Maar goede muziek gepaard met verhaaltjes, hey, where else are you going to get that, right? Inclusief bij tijd en wijle wat literaire discussie, hoewel vooral daar tijd voor nodig is, so yeah. Maar het komt er vast wel weer aan, uh-huh.
Track: ‘Written on the Forehead’ by PJ Harvey (listen here)
Average grade: 3.6
Ilse: This song certainly sounds warmer and fuller than compared to songs of the ‘White Chalk’ LP. Yet, after listening to it for about a dozen times I’m still not sure whether this is up my street (had to listen at least 3 times to figure out she was singing about ‘dinars’ being thrown at belly dancers, opposed to my initial thought of ‘diners’). Benefit of the doubt for this one; though I’m curious to hear more.
Linda: I never really got PJ Harvey anyway, but this song is particularly bland. It did give me a very violent hiccup attack though, so excuse me while I go stand in the corner up side down drinking a litre of water whilst holding my breath for half an hour.
Craig: I've never really listened to PJ Harvey before, and I don't think this really gives me reason to pursue. I think singer-songwriters have the tendency to be overrated.
Anna: I don't know what is turning me off the most; the awful voice effect, or the fact that it sounds like two different songs playing simultaneously. Either way, consider me severely turned off.
Stef: A far cry from Julie Andrews, both in voice as in tune, lets just leave it at that.