Albums of the year 2009

As tradition dictates, it's that time of year when we make a list of our favourite cultural artefacts from the past year, and list them in an order of merit. So this is my list, a top five followed by a random selection of albums that I dug, and will continue to dig.

1. The Very Best - The Warm Heart of Africa

The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit) with Ezra Koenig "Warm Heart of Africa" LIVE in NYC from 'Sup Magazine on Vimeo.

2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

3. Dan Deacon - Bromst

Dan Deacon - Paddling Ghost from Natalie van den Dungen on Vimeo.

4. Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People, Lazers Do

5. YACHT - See Mystery Lights

YACHT - Psychic City (Voodoo City) from Jona Bechtolt on Vimeo.

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
The xx - xx
Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Karen O & The Kids - Where The Wild Things Are
Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Yonlu - A Society In Which No Tear is Shed Is Inconceivably Mediocre
Telepathe - Dance Mother
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Dinosaur Jr - The Farm
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
Fanfarlo - Reservoir
Micachu & The Shapes - Jewellery
The Horrors - Primary Colours
Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
The Juan Maclean - The Future Will Come
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns


Tea and Coffee by Laurie

This weeks discoveries...

An unknown gem from the Phil Spector box set. Could have so easily fitted onto Pet Sounds:

We are still allowed to listen to Phil Spector records, aren't we?

Listening to the glorious best of Giorgio Moroder, I discovered a song with its own credits. What a wonderful thing, and a terrific record:


Asian Weirdness

I was discussing the almost total absence of interesting Korean music with a colleague the other day, and he mentioned a bar he used to go to which had an amazing collection of 60's and 70's western rock. Apparently there were some people clued in with Dylan, Zeppelin, the Byrds et al but during the dictatorship period this all got locked down, and culturally it seems to me that they are yet to recover (although the cinema is excellent, so work that one out). Bang on cue, I read out about the new album Pysch Funk 101 (buy it here), a collection of 60's and 70's freakery from around the world, including Kim Sun's 'The Man Who Must Leave":

Sorry Korea, I may have underestimated you.

Of course, we expect weirdness from the Japanese, and this is a terrific example:

Out now on DFA

Free mp3's:

Yura Yura Teikoku, “Sweet Surrender (Remix)” (via 20JFG)


The song in my head...

All summer long, the songs that have have really lodged in my cheesebox haven't even been by musicians. I have written on here before about my love of the comedy song, and the best exponents nowadays for my money are Adam & Joe. Their Quantum of Solace themes, first broadcast last year and recently made available for download on their blog, are so catchy and superior to the actual theme that I think they've taken up about half of my vacant brain space in the last year.

Sontum Of Quolace - Joe Cornish

Quantum Of Solace - Adam Buxton

And not so catchy, but utterly brilliant, is Adam's drum n bass song about Ratatouille:

Ratatouille - Adam Buxton

Wonderful stuff. Best of all, they're now back on the radio, so more songs are coming our way. Huzzah.


The song in my head...

Hello. I'm back. Having a job can really take up a lot of your time, can't it? So here's a new idea (to go with the new colour scheme). I'm going to post up whatever random song has entered my mind. It's a new series, and part of my plan to make this blog less considered and more random. Here's the first one.

I was at the world's largest indoor theme park the other day, queueing for 'the Pharaohs Fury' when four elderly Korean men, dressed in red trousers and stripey waistcoats, Dixieland style, came round the corner and performed a showtune on miniaturised brass instruments. I then imagined to myself what request I could make to stump and bemuse them. My first thought was play a Beatles song (obvious I know) and bang, quick as a flash they launch into this:

and it hasn't left my mind since.


Solid Gold Popular Music Number Twenty One

Every week I post a song, for no reason other than it's fabulous. It may be old or new, obscure or over-exposed. No explanation, no fancy spiel, just solid gold popular music. Oh, and it's a secret, so you'll just have to trust me.

Solid Gold Popular Music Number Twenty One


Boredoms vs Lindstrom

It should be easy nowadays to turn the Japanese psycho drum kings the Boredoms into dance music, after all their music is about as danceable and groove based as experimental ever gets. On recent Japanese only release Super Roots 10 (hunt it down, it's out there), they get a make over from DJ Lindstrom, who does a great job of transforming them into space disco. Unlikely I know, but it really works.

Boredoms - Ant 10 (Remix By DJ Lindstrom)


Underrated: Electroclash

It's hard not to look back on the Electroclash scene of 2001 and 2002 without thinking about the people who liked it: preening, pretentious adrogonoids with angular hair, dayglo clothes and ambiguous incomes. Nathan Barley meets, well, no one really. People it's very difficult to like. Except, aren't all youth movements inherently irritating if you're on the outside? Just think of the scorn that must have been poured on the New Romantics in the early 80's, only later for them to be clutched to the nations bosom (admittedly after a little toning down on the eyeliner). Secondly, is this image even accurate? I used to go to Electroclash clubs all the time, and neither me nor my mates ever daubed ourselves in rediculously overpriced clothes that were designed to look like binliners covered in crisp packets, and I don't remember seeing that many people who did. The unfortunate result of this is that we forget the music, as if it was an after thought or a soundtrack to a fashion show of fools. By doing this we are overlooking some of the best and most influential dance music of the last 10 years.

It's easy to forget how much electroclash changed everything in dance music. As Kiran Sande explains in his recent Fact magazine article:

"It reconciled electronic and rock sensibilities, but with a sense of cabaret glamour a million miles away from the lager-fuelled indie-dance frippery of The Chemical Brothers. It was, more than anything, performance art – naturally attracting androgynous, stage-hungry figureheads like Fischerspooner and Peaches. In the UK electroclash restored character, confrontation and individuality to the rave after almost a decade of shallow “Cheers, nice one” camaraderie."

The main result of this sea change in attitude was that dance music became fun again. It had songs, ones you could sing along with while you danced (Sunglasses at Night, Deceptacon, Seventeen) as well as bangers (Silver Screen Shower Scene, Fuck The Pain Away, La La Land). This influence hasn't gone away, and dance music has been much more playful, experimental and extrovert ever since. Electroclash acted as a catalyst that begat Erol Alkan, Justice, Crookers, Hot Chip, and for better or worse, made Lady Gaga possible.

Mostly though, it gave us some cracking tunes. Here are some of my favourites, and for more see the Fact magazine top 20, it's a pretty good selection.

Felix Da Housecat - Silver Screen Shower Scene

Black Strobe - Me and Madonna

Green Velvet - La La Land

Tiga - Hot In Herre

Le Tigre - Deceptacon (DFA Remix)

Felix da Housecat - What Does It Feel Like (Royksopp Remix)

Soulwax - No Fun / Push It


Solid Gold Popular Music Number Twenty

Every week I post a song, for no reason other than it's fabulous. It may be old or new, obscure or over-exposed. No explanation, no fancy spiel, just solid gold popular music. Oh, and it's a secret, so you'll just have to trust me.

Solid Gold Popular Music Number Twenty


Sounds I'd like to hear more of in popular music...the donkey.

There's something particularly abrasive and atonal about a donkeys bray, and therefore it seems like the most unlikely sound that you'd ever hear in a pop song. That's why I want to hear it more often. If you know any others, be sure to let me know.

Scott Walker - Jolson and Jones

Extra points to Scott Walker for the lyric "I'll punch a donkey in the streets of Galway" and managing to make a donkey sound so utterly terrifying.

Kate Bush - Get Out Of My House

It may be a human impression, but that just makes me like it more.

Beck - Jackass

The song where most of us began our donkey odyssey.


Random thoughts while listening to lots of stuff...

Seems to me like there's a ton of new albums around at the moment, and good ones too, ones that deserve attention. I can't give them the track by track treatment, but here are some abbreviated random thoughts...

Tiga - Ciao!
Mr Tiga knows his way around a pop song, and has been churning quality electro pop since the electroclash days of yore. The new album contains some corkers, Mind Dimension being a stand out. I'm also keen on any song that has the lyric "What's that sound? I like that sound. I love that sound. It's the sound of my shoes" as the song Shoes does. Who needs poetry? Not me guv.

Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years. I love band, really love them. They've never let me down, never become too self indulgent or worse, lazy. So I hope this is album is awesome.

It's rockin', folky, glam, groovy, poppy, German, and Arabic. There are songs that sound like early 80's Bowie, and Trevor Horn productions. This mish mash works, because it's the Super Furries, and that's what they sound like. It's why I love them.

There's also a song called The Very Best Of Neil Diamond. Say no more.

St. Vincent - Actor.
Like an indie Goldfrapp (that's a compliment, by the way) this album swaggers and veers in different directions, often catching you off guard with unexpected aural twists of heaviness and it's discomforting atmosphere. Coupled with her confident, intimate vocals, it's an odd and enjoyable experience.

PJ Harvey and John Parish - A Woman A Man Walked By.
There I am thinking "great a new PJ Harvey album, I know what I'm getting, and I know I'm going to like it." This thought is only half right, because I have stupidly forgotten that none of her albums have ever sounded like their predeccesor, or any of her previous albums, and that isn't a just a new PJ Harvey album, but it's a new PJ Harvey and John Parish album, and his involvement should not be underestimated. This album doesn't have much relation to her previous, most fragile album, the piano led White Chalk (with the exception of The Soldiers) or indeed to the poppy Stories From The City, the rough around the edges Uh Huh Her or the sleekness of To Bring You My Love. If anything, it's closest at times to the raw visceral Rid Of Me, but then you get a slower, rather lovely song like Passionless Pointless. Parish's music is at times bluesier and at times more soulful that you associate with Harvey. I like the directions he has forced her into, and I hope this album won't be as neglected as their previous album.

Graham Coxon - The Spinning Top.
The prospect of a new Graham Coxon album is more appealing to me then the Blur reformation, not because I'm naturally contrary (that's unrelated) but because I really liked his last solo album, and I hated britpop, even if Blur were the brightest diamonds in that particular morass of mediocrity. On his new one, he's toned down the chippier power pop of the previous album, Happiness In Magazines, and replaced with a more pastoral folky English sound. It works pretty well, although the shadows of Nick Drake, Davey Graham, Bert Jansch et al loom pretty large. It's ironic really, as Coxon always seemed the least Brit influenced member of Blur, and this album will probably receive no benefit at all from the forthcoming reunion, buried beneath an avalanche of questions about how they're all getting along. Shame really...


A very cool marketing ploy...


Solid Gold Popular Music Number Nineteen

Every week I post a song, for no reason other than it's fabulous. It may be old or new, obscure or over-exposed. No explanation, no fancy spiel, just solid gold popular music. Oh, and it's a secret, so you'll just have to trust me.

Solid Gold Popular Music Number Nineteen


Solid Gold Popular Music Number Eighteen

Every week I post a song, for no reason other than it's fabulous. It may be old or new, obscure or over-exposed. No explanation, no fancy spiel, just solid gold popular music. Oh, and it's a secret, so you'll just have to trust me.

Solid Gold Popular Music Number Eighteen


Mor3 Prince 4 U

So, as u probably know, Prince has rel3ased his latest triple opus, and even though he is a g3nius of such magnitude that he should be given a castle in every nation as his own, the right to any first born child and that his fin3st creation is only equalled in human achievement by the wheel, fire and confectionery custard, I, like most people gr33t the idea of a new triple album with considerably less than 3nthusiasm. However, after some prompting by my go to guy 4 all things Prince, I gave it a go. Firstly, 1 of the albums isn't actually by him, but rath3r by a new protégée, Bria Valente, which meant I could leave that 1 until whenev3r. Secondly, the albums that are actually by him are pretty good. Not spectacular, but much b3tt3r than I expected, and there are a few tracks that really stand out. U should list3n to the song below, it's great. Then start building him a castl3.

Prince - Dance 4 Me (alternate link)