Archive for December, 2010

MUSIC OF 2010

29 December 2010

Lists like this are ubiquitous. Mine might be different because I talk about other lists I’ve seen, and also because I don’t care if the music was released between certain dates.  It is more important to me to talk about music that I associate with 2010. The music that defines time and place for me.

So this year, I really enjoyed ‘The National’ ‘High Violet‘, and I even did a post on it back in June. I see that this is agreement with a lot of best of 2010 lists I have seen. It got to #11 midway through the year on Metacritic. It did better at the end of the year — on The Recommender AND on the Amazon list it reached #9.  That’s pretty good for them as it might just prove to be their breakthrough work. For me, it just seemed to fit what I needed to hear on headphones at work a lot of the time.

Looking round the lists, there is universal acclaim for the following:

Thing is, they just didn’t click with me.  I just don’t like Kanye West and all that — and I saw Janelle on ‘Later’ and was less than impressed. Not my bag. Same with ‘Arcade Fire’ and ‘Mumford and Sons’ — everyone raves about them, so it must be just me.

‘The Drums’ ‘The Drums’ I took an instant dislike to. I didn’t mind the Mercury winner – ‘xx’‘ – ‘The xx’, but they weren’t exactly great live.

On the other hand, ‘Gorillaz’ (‘Plastic Beach’) – #24 Amazon, #10 The Recommender did click with me.  It shouldn’t have, but it did — maybe because my kids like the videos (especially ‘Stylo’ with Bruce Willis), I’m getting influenced by their enthusiasm. I have actually used ‘Plastic Beach’ to look back at their back catalogue — and with Shaun being on the jungle-based reality TV show, “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”, ‘Dare’ has been getting a lot of listens (in all its many versions), along with ‘5/4’, ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ‘Kids with Guns’.  So — strangely, the Autumn of 2010 is tied in with ‘Gorillaz’!

Similarly, I found the ‘Foals’ (‘Total Life Forever’) – #2 The Recommender to be one of the best things about 2010. It is a fun record as it conjures up a lot of audio memory of music from the 1980s and 90s.

‘Flaws’ – ‘Bombay Bicycle Club’,and ‘Tourist History’ – ‘Two Door Cinema Club’ and ‘WHB‘  – ‘We Have Band’ are worth a mention. They brought the year to an end in a similar vein to the start of the year with Owen Pallett. This is probably down to the weather and the economy now that I think on it.  Good records, good music.

The beginning of the year was marked by amazing amounts of snow for a protracted length of time — same as November/ December.  The ash cloud and banking crisis meant that there was a cold moroseness prevalent.  I started to listen to Owen and ‘Grizzly Bear’, but also to old Chet Baker records.

There wasn’t much going on through spring to be honest.  I delved back into technical guitar music for a while, listening to Vai, Holdsworth, and the jazz theme continued for summer with Hiromi Uehara and Tal Wilkenfeld — and any need for classical for Autumn was met in the form of Danielle de Niese or Wagner.

Looking back now, I would have to say that summer 2010 was about Peaches / Hiromi Uehara / ‘The National’ / ‘Stars’ how bizarre is that!  I took these  on vacation with me, but ‘The Five Ghosts’ by The Stars has turned out to be the summer album for me; it got me through the weeks of rain. ‘Foals’ and ‘The Antlers’ have seen me through all the snow.

Post-summer has been filled with wonderful music from all sorts, ‘Deadmau5’, ‘Magnetic Man’, ‘The Radio Department’‘The Thermals’, ‘Ratatat’, Regina Spektor, ‘Midlake’, Rumer, Joshua Radin, Larry Carlton and ‘Steely Dan’, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Mike Posner, Rackmaninoff’s ‘All Night Vigil’.

So here’s my top five albums of 2010:

  1. ‘The National’ ‘High Violet’;
  2. ‘The Antlers’ ‘Hospice’“;
  3. ‘Foal’s ‘Total Life Forever’;
  4. ‘Gorillaz’ “Plastic Beach“;
  5. ‘Stars’ ‘The Five Ghosts’.

Here are the oldies that mean 2010 to me

  1. Peaches ‘The Teaches of Peaches’
  2. ‘Midlake’ ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’,
  3. Hiromi Uehara ‘Time Control’

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ALL-NIGHT VIGIL

24 December 2010

On of my favourite all-time pieces is Rachmaninoff’s Opus 37, Всенощное бдение, Vsenoshchnoe bdenie, or “All-Night Vigil”. It is useful to know that this is very often just called “Vespers”, but purists get annoyed by this.

If you can get a chance to hear this live, then jump at it.  It is all voice, all vocal or choral or a cappella. It is not Gregorian Chanting in ancient and cavernous monasteries; it was written in a  fortnight in 1915 to raise funds for the war effort, and despite being a big hit, it was banned along with all religious music by the second of the three Russian Revolutions. It is modern and fresh — but still religious.

If you like Samuel Barber, you will most likely enjoy All-Night Vigil.  If, like me, you enjoy all choral music, from Eric Whitacre to Handel’s “Messiah”, you will perhaps appreciate the importance and sheer beauty of the work.

The recording I have seems to have become unavailable; I cannot track it down.  It is by the Tambov Chamber Choir under the artistic direction of Professor Vladimir Kozlyakov — who conducted my recording from 2003. Rachmaninoff was from Tambov, and the choir was started in 1993 by lecturers and students past and present at Derzhavin (Tambov State) University. The last track (#15) is actually a piano piece played by P. Kushnir — Variations On A Theme Of Corelli opus 42. The other 14 tracks are in Westernised Russian, but it doesn’t really matter terribly much whether “Bogorodice Devo, raduisya” means “Hail, Virgin, Mother of God” or not, I do wonder what happened to track 15 (according to YouTube it is “Troparion – Hail, Theotokos”, which Amazon has as “Hymn to the Mother of God”)! It’s pretty difficult looking for stuff when the Conductor might be spelled V. Kozlyakov or W. Kozlyakoff (and variations), Rachmaninoff can be Rachmaninov, Sergei, Sergey, and The All-Night Vigil can be Vespers! Tough One.  Luckily the music — when you find it — is wonderful trance-chill stuff.

Whatever version you get, it is perfect for Christmas mood making!

M ER Y       C RS M A S

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FOALS

18 December 2010

Album coverThe first time I heard of ‘The Foals’ was when they were nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize.  I got their album, ‘Total Life Together‘, and it is superb. There is of course the famous Twitter fight between The Foals and The Lost Prophets, and that is never a good thing.

The reviews of ‘Total Life Together‘ on Amazon are mixed. Disappointment from fans of their début album, ‘Antidotes‘ from a couple of years ago is always to be expected (it’s not angry enough, not raw enough etc.) — but I have not heard the first album, so I can only go on what I have heard, and on its own, ‘Total Life Together‘ is a great record.  The reviews actually make me less inclined to listen to their immature first album.

Don’t forget, it was the second album, not the first, that got the Mercury nomination.

Total Life Together‘ doesn’t sound like a “second album”, in the sense that “second albums” tend to be full of tunes that weren’t good enough for the début, or that tracks seem unpolished as a result of touring and promoting the début.

Amazon suggests that “people who bought this, also bought…” and listed ‘The Suburbs‘ – ‘Arcade Fire’, ‘Flaws‘ – ‘Bombay Bicycle Club’, ‘High Violet‘ – ‘The National’, ‘Tourist History‘- ‘Two Door Cinema Club’, ‘xx‘ – ‘The xx’, and ‘The Drums‘  ‘The Drums’ — and while that might give some idea of what the Foals sound like, it misses out some of the weirder references I can hear in their work.

The first thing is the album cover — this reminded me of Nirvana for some reason — but they do not sound like Nirvana, ‘Blue Blood’ has a Pixies style bass approach, and there are some King Crimson-y like guitar arpeggios, touches of U2, and even odd quirky guitar chops that sound they they were stolen from Nik Kershaw or Hipsway.  The vocals do strange things with vowels, so that I was reminded of Biffy Clyro! I reckon there could be hip indie music for the older gentleman (like myself). Ahem.

[Embedded video of Blue Blood from You Tube]

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rw6oWkCojpw]

Miami swings! There are interesting soundscapes, sequencer style joggy world-music/ African arpeggios along with a distorted fat bass grunt. Soft punk tones merge with reverb’d team singing and a moogy synth top!

There are lots of dynamics internally and between songs.  To me this sounds very like stuff I really liked when I was in my twenties — especially Hipsway and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions!  Even Hue and Cry!

usual links:

[Embedded video of Miami from You Tube]

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ90LRaEIt0&feature=channel]

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MIKE POSNER

11 December 2010

Mike Posner is pop-rap. Not my usual bag I guess, but I have to admit to quite liking the guy’s début album entitled: “31 Minutes to Takeoff“. It only came out a few months ago

Here’re the usual links to check him out:

[Embedded videoclip of Cooler Than Me by Mike Posner live on You Tube]

I like his lyrics — “pre-Madonna” — and “come on over and we can have deja-vu (ooh ooh ooh)” or “Trying to look bored in them Diors”.

He says what we’re all thinking, and that’s a gift!  It is actually refreshing to hear good pop again — a quality lyric, good production, and fine musicality.

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ELI “PAPERBOY” REED

9 December 2010

Sometimes it is nice to hear old fashioned R’n’B — and I mean by that, The Blues Brothers or Van Morrison. Especially after The Antlers. This sort of music seems to be making a revival with the likes of the young Eli “Paperboy” Reed.

I have his début album, “Come and Get it“. It is really good. At time on “Help Me” he sounds like James Brown! He really does have a great range and texture to his vocal that allows his the James Brown wail as deeper Otis or Marvin stuff.

If you like Wilson Pickett and Sam Cooke or even Jools Holland or Gnarls Barkley , then you will love Eli. Check him out!

His links:

[Embedded videoclip from YouTube of Eli – come and get it][Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5_p3iLqChQ]

The Album tracklist is:

  1. Young Girl
  2. Name Calling
  3. Help Me
  4. Just Like Me
  5. Come And Get It
  6. Pick A Number
  7. I Found You Out
  8. Tell Me What I Wanna Hear
  9. Time Will Tell
  10. You Can Run On
  11. Pick Your Battles
  12. Explosion

It’s odd that he’s white — or in fact that he looks like a fat Jimmy Carr, but hey, you soon get used to that.

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MAIPO SHIRAZ

9 December 2010

I couldn’t believe my eyes… Morrison’s Supermarkets are selling off their stocks of Vina Maipo Shiraz for under Four English Quids.  This is half price and then some.  What a bargain!

Yes, it is Vale central and 12.5% vol. It is as drinkable as the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot, but the Shiraz has more perfume and high notes.

Go Grab It!

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THE ANTLERS

8 December 2010

[Picture of Peter Silberman of The Antlers]Peter Silberman plays a Fender Mustang and has one of the best falsettos in the business. He formed “The Antlers” — and I have their album “Hospice“.  It is Brooklyn, and New York City in mood and lo-fi approach, but it is more straight, clearer and on focus. They opened for “The National” in Barcelona — now that would have been some gig!

I have been listening to this album on and off now for quite a while, but recently a chap I work with has discovered it — which has led to my returning to it again.

My favourite is “Epilogue”, simple guitar strumming (G major) — but a voice like Gregory Hoskins or Jeff Buckley.

“Hospice” is an incredibly emotional record. This guy really seems to pour out his heart and his art.  One for the headphones.

Here’re the usual links:

Peter did a blog that is intended to compliment the album: theantlershospice.blogspot.com

[Embedded videoclip: Epilogue by The Antlers on YouTube]

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQwkbRVqqxU&feature=related]

In a nightmare, I am falling from the ceiling into bed beside you. You’re asleep, I’m screaming, shoving you to try to wake you up. And like before, you’ve got no interest in the life you live when you’re awake. Your dreams still follow story-lines, like fictions you would make.

So I lie down against your back, until we’re both back in the hospital. But now it’s not a cancer ward, we’re sleeping in the morgue. Men and women in blue and white, they are singing all around you, with heavy shovels holding earth. You’re being buried to your neck. In that hospital bed, being buried quite alive now. I’m trying to dig you out but all you want is to be buried there together.

You’re screaming, and cursing, and angry, and hurting me, and then smiling, and crying, apologizing.

I’ve woken up, I’m in our bed, but there’s no breathing body there beside me. Someone must have taken you while I was stuck asleep. But I know better as my eyes adjust. You’ve been gone for quite awhile now, and I don’t work there in the hospital (they had to let me go.)

When I try to move my arms sometimes, they weigh too much to lift. I think you buried me awake (my one and only parting gift.) But you return to me at night, just when I think I may have fallen asleep. Your face is up against mine, and I’m too terrified to speak.
–Epilogue or Sylvia Alive In Nightmares

Absolutely beautiful music.  Painful at times, but worth it. Enjoy.

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