Category Archives: music

A year in music 2013

2013. In music. Spotify has taken over. Whether I like it or not, and despite the fact that I continue to purchase CDs like some weird old dinosaur, almost all of my music consumption is done via Spotify. I promised myself this wouldn’t happen but it’s just too damn convenient. To try and make up for this I’ve made a concerted effort to buy from BandCamp if at all possible, but too few bands use it to make it a real viable way of guaranteeing that the band gets the money for what I’m listening to.

Albums of the year:

  • Volcano Choir: Repave (spotify) (amazon). Justin Vernon’s 4th album in the various versions of Bon Iver. The best yet.
  • Matthew E White: Big Inner (spotify) (domino). Gospel music like you’ve never heard.
  • William Onyeabor: Who Is William Onyeabor (spotify) (amazon). Fantastic, heavily disco influenced, Afro-beat from the eighties.
  • Darkside: Psychic (spotify) (amazon). Proper headphone music.
  • CHVRCHES: The Bones Of What You Believe (spotify) (amazon). 2013’s perfect pop album.

Albums I discovered and loved in 2013, despite earlier release dates:

  • The Asphodells: Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Lust (spotify) (beatport). Andrew Weatherall. ‘Nuff said.
  • Mungolian Jetset: Schlungs (spotify) (amazon). “Too trippy for it’s own good” said the reviews (see also Tranquility Bass, below). Bollocks, says I. Moon Jocks and Prog Rocks is disco perfection.
  • Moonface with Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery (spotify) (amazon). The Wolf Parade album I’d been waiting for.
  • Gallops: EP (spotify) (bandcamp). Um. Just try it. You might like it.

And let’s talk about albums released in 2013 that I desperately wanted to like…

New Arcade Fire albums have been, for the last 6 years, genuine highlights. I just couldn’t get behind Reflektor. Or rather, I thought the first 30 minutes were fantastic, and the rest was shite.

John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts. I loved Queen of Denmark. Pale Green Ghosts is lyrically just a bit too close to the bone to listen to too often. Which is a shame, because he’s clearly brilliant.

And Midlake’s first album without Tim Smith. To be honest I’ve not listened to this enough to know outright. I think it’s definitely better than Courage of Others, but probably isn’t quite Van Occupanther. Time will tell – I’m still trying.

I managed to get a lot of gigs in this year too. I gig for the dancing so there’ll be no surprise to find that various versions of Hawkind (both Psychedelic Warlords and Hawklords), Wooden Shjips and LoOp provided the best gigs of the year by a country mile. The surprise package was Parquet Courts (who were fantastic, against expectations) and the disappointment was Junip (just too much head nodding and beard stroking).

I continue to be confused why no one dances at gigs any more. I’m clearly getting old. Perhaps the gig highlight was being shushed by some earnest beard toting chap during the opening chord of the Wooden Shjips set. We are not hear to listen, people, we are here to dance. He sidled away from us quite quickly once our limbs started flailing…

As previous years I’ve compiled a list of my most played albums per month, and linked to a Spotify playlist for every album played in the given month.

  • January: Tranquility Bass new album. Back in 1997 Tranquility Bass released what fast became my favourite album of all time (Let The Freak Flag Fly). Favourite to the point that I don’t listen to it too often, in case I accidentally ruin it through over-playing. Yeah. I know. Anyway. He disappeared. And then in late 2012 he reappeared. With the rather excellent Heartbreaks & Hallelujahs. You should try it.
  • February: Matthew E White’s Big Inner. Oh, as they say, My God. One or other remix of the main track Big Love was on pretty much every mixtape of the year, but the whole album (and unremixed Big Love) is absolutely glorious southern swampy soul music to die for.
  • March: I’ve never really listened to hip hop. Through not having a route in, rather than any disliking it. In March someone spent the time working out what I might like. Hence A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory being my most played album in March (along with Black Star and Madvillainy).
  • April: All excursions into hip hop aside, I’m still a fuzzy guitar space rock kind of guy… So Life Coach’s rather excellent Alphawaves & the new Besnard Lakes happily filled April.
  • May: Thisismyjam introduced me to Matthew E White in January. It also introduced me to !!! in May. Thr!!!er became one of my most played albums of the year, and led me to a more detailed investigation of the DFA/dance punk thing: The Juan Mclean, Outhud and Maserati all ended up on rotation too.
  • June and July: God I miss Wolf Parade. Seriously miss them. So Moonface’s Heartbreaking Bravery was a fantastic discovery. Spencer Krug’s half of Wolf Parade was the half I really liked – this is the natural successor to Wolf Parade for me, in a way that Handsome Furs and Divine Fits never were.
  • August: August (like December) is always musically a bit light through holidays and so on. Junip made a perfect soundtrack to those few evenings I was able to spend in the garden.
  • September: There is no question that I love Justin Vernon. Not only that, I prefer each new album to the last. Volcano Choir’s second album (Repave) is the best yet.
  • October and November: Like 2012’s Alt-J, CHVRCHES are all a bit calculated, industry insider, type stuff. But it’s absolutely perfect pop music, so fuck it.
  • December: Dunno why I bother recording what I listen to in December. Sufjan Stevens. Every year. (Although it’s worth noting that CeeLo made a Christmas album!)

A year in music 2012

My albums of the year:

  1. Goat’s World Music (spotify). Daft costumes and songs with Goat in the title. I don’t think they intend themselves to be taken seriously, but it’s hard not to. Think acid soaked math rock; proper WTF, proper awesome
  2. Peter Broderick’s These Walls of Mine (spotify). Apparently this is a collection of “experimentations” but it sounds pretty darn complete to me… Glitchy, sparse, laid back and laid bare; I just love this album
  3. Golden Void’s Golden Void (grooveshark). Almost a Black Sabbath tribute album, but original enough to be much more than that. Gloriously heavy heavy psych
  4. Breton’s Other People’s Problems (spotify). I couldn’t stop listening to this for months. Like a South London LCD Soundsystem or Alt-J’s ASBO-toting cousin. Disaffected and dark, but pop music all the same
  5. Heavy Electrics (spotify). I might be on my own with this one. Driving, pulsing, krautrock designed to be played far too loud in seedy basement bars in Bladerunner’s Los Angeles.

Yet again I stumbled across a bunch of albums from previous years that I’d managed to miss, so special mention has to go to Citay, Yellow Moon Band and Tweak Bird (you might sense a theme among them…)

Like the last couple of years I’ve also done a month by month breakdown of what I listened to the most (as compared to what I liked the most). In a “measured life” kind of way I also started creating spotify playlists of every album that I enjoyed in each month. These are intended for my own (imagined) enjoyment in my (imagined) dotage, but they’re linked to too, in case you’re interested:

For those who wish to run the same analysis of their own habits you can download the script from my github. As long as you have python installed it will work like so:

python fetcher.py username year

e.g.

python fetcher.py offmessage 2012

A year in music

Following on from last year I’ve been running the numbers on this year’s listening habits. This year has been directly affected by my signing up to spotify; lots more back catalogue stuff and less obvious front runners each month. That said, each month was still easily typified by something… I’ve also put together a spotify playlist of how 2011 sounded for me for the masochists among you (one track from each album in chronological order)

  • January: The Decemberists; still going from last year, plus New! Album!
  • February: …still going with The Decemberists (need inspiration)
  • March: Other Beach Boys had solo careers? Really? Dennis Wilson!
  • April: In which I discovered my new favourite band, and the album I played most all year – Wolf People’s Steeple
  • May: Drone rock! Oh yes! Moon Duo!
  • June: New Fleet Foxes! Turned out to be shit, but it took a few plays to realise
  • July: New Bon Iver!
  • August: Neil Young! (caused entirely by this awesome Neil Young playlist)
  • September: Drone rock! Oh yes! Wooden Shjips!
  • October: New Wilco!
  • November: Deerhunter side project you say? Why yes, I’d like some of that. Atlas Sound
  • December: WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF TUNNG BEFORE?

And my albums of the year?

  1. Mazes
  2. West
  3. Tomboy
  4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra
  5. Circuital

Special mention has to go to Wolf People’s Steeple; by far and away my most played record this year (despite it being released in 2010).

For those who wish to run the same analysis of their own habits you can download the script from my github. As long as you have python installed it will work like so:

python fetcher.py username year

e.g.

python fetcher.py offmessage 2011

A year in music

Thanks to the wonder of the API over at Last.fm I’ve been “running the numbers” (as it were) on my listening for 2010. It can be summarised as follows:

  • January: The xx and various works by Erlend Øye. Clearly coming down from a heavy Christmas
  • February: New Yeasayer! I am new again!
  • March: Fang Island, you say? Dramatic! Exciting! Loud! Clang!
  • April: Dangermouse is back. Broken Bells is possibly his best collaboration yet. And that whiny git from The Shins isn’t whiny anymore
  • May: Dexys Midnight Runners made a third album? And it’s really good? Blimey!
  • June: Kevin Rowland wasn’t weird enough. I need weirder. Ahhhh. CocoRosie – there you are
  • July: New Wolf Parade! I am new again!
  • August: New Arcade Fire! I am new again!
  • September: Wolf Parade! Arcade Fire! (still going)
  • October: Calm down. Don’t get overexcited. Ooh. Twin Shadow, that’ll do nicely
  • November: WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF SUFJAN STEVENS BEFORE?!?!
  • December: No. Seriously. Why? He’s been around for years. His back catalogue is massive

And my best albums of the year?

  1. Expo ’86
  2. ODD BLOOD
  3. Fever

Doldrums, and how to get out of them

A while ago I tweeted about being in a musical rut, and asked for help.  I thought it was worth reporting back the ones that really did it for me:

Sheet music

Having spent most of the Nineties in a darkened room listening to music that went “bang, bang, bang, bang” at somewhere around 140bpm I felt pretty musically adrift when, sometime around 2001, I started sleeping at the weekends again and techno stopped meaning quite what it had.

To find myself some new musical roots I started reading about all sorts of music, going right back to the Fifties. My theory was that I should start at the beginning and see where I ended up.

Along the way I’ve read some fantastic books*, recommended by some very knowledgeable people. I’m amazed to only just discover the existence of the Continuum 33⅓ series. Nigh on 100 titles, each book the missing sleevenotes of some of the greatest albums recorded. What an amazing list; from the cult, like Zaireeka, Maggot Brain, Radio City, Unknown Pleasures through the classics like Forever Changes and on to pop like Abba Gold and Sign O’ The Times. If anyone’s wondering what to buy me for a gift just start at the beginning of the list – I’ll have one of each, ta 🙂

* My favourite music book, by the way, is Fierce Dancing by C J Stone which documents, among other things, the transition from the free festivals of the Eighties to the open air raves of the Nineties. Is there a music book I should have read?

We got the love

Florence and the Machine’s cover of You Got The Love is really starting to get on my tits.  If I hear one more gushing “ooh, what a great version” or, worse, one more person telling me what a great track it is, completely unaware of the original, I shall be moved to violence.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is John Truelove‘s original version – melding Candi Staton’s acapella vocal with Frankie Knuckles Your Love in the one true version. Re-released, remixed, re-recorded many many times this is, for me at least, the one we should all remember.

And please, if we’re going to get gooey about modern cover versions, sod Florence and The Machine and Joss Stone.  Try The XX version instead.