Oktober Fest! Part Five: Tears For Fears, Royal Albert Hall, 27th October 2017. “Funny how….time…flies…”

Almost a mini festival as after Aimee Mann the previous day and before another band (soon revealed!) the day after, I attended my 2nd gig in a row at the great Royal Albert Hall venue.

Tears For Fears, Royal Albert Hall 2017

Tears For Fears is probably THE band I had never seen in my life which I was dreaming to catch up on stage and I was closely following their moves since they reformed a few years ago and especially since their summer gig in the not-so-nice Hyde Park festival (not so nice because much too crowded and with a poor sound system…). They actually decided just a few weeks ago to play this one-shot concert to promote their best of album to come and a more traditional tour in 2018.

I must say I was not one hundred percent sure that the original duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were back together again but that was so, to mine and the audience’s pleasure that night. Although they were not as sharp when they started to make still good records on their own, one must recognize that their first three LP’s are amongst the best of any genre or era. Assimilating Tears For Fears as part of a nostalgic 80’s act is pure laziness because these songs are really amazing, moving and inventive and this has nothing to do with listening to them at a certain age in one’s life.

Tears For Fears, Royal Albert Hall 2017

I guess I am lying a bit here as the crowd were mainly in their forties and fifties and one could find a sense of nostalgia in the air… Anyway, the band were on top form and despite dramatic family events faced recently by Roland Orzabal, they were both singing and playing like young guys. Their band was also excellent with a particular mention to their backup singer who was singing “Woman in Chains” as if he were Oleta Adams!

Tears For Fears, Royal Albert Hall 2017

The playlist was extraordinary and almost every song is a classic. I was personally surprised to get as early in the concert a song like “Sowing the Seeds of Love” (one of my favourites ever). The end of the show however was perfect, finishing with “Head Over Heels” and “Shout“. Ever wanted to feel like being part of a giant karaoke? Well go and see Tears For Fears playing “Shout” on stage in the UK!

My favourite concert of the year? Well, close to it probably…

Oktober Fest! Part Four: Aimee Mann, London Palladium, 26th October 2017

..and here we are, back again on the other side of the Channel and this time in the very heart of the city at the nice Palladium theatre. This venue is full of history…including mine as this is the place where I have attented gigs from Brian Wilson, Bryan Ferry or Elvis Costello for instance.

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Aimee Mann is probably one of my favourite female singers of all times and although I do recognize her skills in composing songs, her humour, the bitterness and tenderness of her words and her sense of melodies, what moves me the most with her is actually her voice. Like many other people, I discovered her through Paul Thomas Anderson‘s fantastic movie “Magnolia” and her subsequent amazing album “Bachelor #2 or, the last remains of the dodo“. She has always had lots of affiliations with the movie industry: she used to be married to the great musician Michael Penn (brother of Sean) and was a key nihilist member in the Coen brothers’ classic movie “The Big Lebowski“!

Her current musical partner is Jonathan Coulton and those familiar with the series “Braindead” know his voice as he sings a summary of previous episodes at the start of each new one. He was the opening act but also very much present during Aimee’s set as he co-wrote many songs of her last album “Mental Illness” (one of our March albums of the month).

I was delighted to see her again and was really expecting this gig. No disappointment as she is on stage as one expects her to be as in real life, i.e. charming, communicative, funny…and very tall! Her voice is a beautiful on stage as it is on records and her setlist was a great mix of songs from all her career. Catching Aimee Mann on stage or listening to her records is a bit like drinking hot milk with honey, it means times are tough overall but you feel much better during and after her set.

Oktober Fest! Part Three: The Rolling Stones, 22nd October, U Arena, Paris

…well this arena is in Nanterre actually but it does not look so good as Paris on paper. Actually, it may sound as exotic for non-French people as Weston-super-Mare looks to me so I guess this is a question of referential… So I left my beloved readers last time in a tiny venue with the excellent Chad VanGaaalen and here we are now on the other side of the Channel to catch the Rolling Stones in this new arena which was inaugurated for their first show a few days before. The band decided to finish this short European tour with three dates in Paris and as Mick Jagger mentioned during that night it was their 32nd show in Paris.

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It is true that a cynical person could state that they are only here to beat records but to me this is not the only reason. It is true that their longevity is impressive and now that everyone more or less agrees that they do not keep on playing just for money (they are already very rich…), there must be something else. This something else is an easy one; it is called love of music and also loving being on stage and partying in front of thousands of people.

The Rolling Stones  @ U Arena, Nanterre, 22 Oct 2017

I was not thrilled to go back catching them in Paris as I must admit that when you are used to going to gigs in the UK you tend to find people’s behaviour not that great in your own country. Things were a bit different in the U Arena as it looked like the kind of shows for people…who never go to concerts. The Rolling Stones were an event to attend and to share in Facebook. I am pretty sure 80% of the audience would have been in trouble if asked which were their Rolling Stones Top 5 albums… A bit like those wearing Ramones tee-shirts : I would be surprised if the majority of them could mention three songs… Anyway, let’s stop being snobbish and review the show.

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One word: great! It was my third Rolling Stones gig after Paris in 1990 and Rio do Janeiro in 1999 (I know…) and I must say it was the best by far. The four remaining original members have an average age of 73 (!) years and they play like hell, despite Charlie Watts on drums looking a bit like a zombie… Mick Jagger jumps like a guy in his thirties, Ron Wood is really sharp now after being sober for many years and Keith… is Keith! I even caught him getting a cigarette on stage!

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What was more important was the fact that I felt catching these guys in a small blues club, with Mick Jagger playing very often the harmonica and Keith and Ronnie playing their sometimes not-so-perfect riffs with a smile and a real human touch I had not seen in ages. The setlist was almost the same every night with only a few changes on the blues covers (taken from their latest fantastic album “Blue & Lonesome“). Great stage show as well ; very simple but straight to the point with excellent giant screens. Catch them if you can.

Next episode of the Oktober Fest: back to London with the beautiful Aimee Mann; stay tuned!

Note: photos are not mine, meaning I attended the gig the old-fashioned way!

October 2017 Album of the month: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile “Lotta Sea Lice”

Another busy month for records’ releases; I guess it never really stops except in December. A few big names with listenable but slightly boring records (hello Liam Gallagher, Beck, Stereophonics or Bill Corgan) and a very embarrassing one from former hip-hop legends the Wu-Tang Clan… However, a great number of very good records and as usual very tough to keep a selection of seven of them. Anyway, here we go for October:

Album of the month: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile“Lotta Sea Lice” – Pop Rock – …and yes, I know, Kurt and Courtney… Having mentioned that, when two of one’s favourite and cherished artists of the last years decide to collaborate on a record, one is very often suspicious about the results. In other words, in music, the sum of two great talents on a record is often disappointing. This is not at all the case here and on the opposite, it looks these two musicians improved their games vs. their recent releases (well, this is true at least for Kurt Vile…). They met a bit by chance after making known their respective interest and appreciation in each other’s music and eventually made a song, then enough material for an E.P…and lo and behold here you are with one of the best records of the year. Very laid back and beautiful music and the kind of records we would probably have enjoyed in summer time…so enjoy it everywhere you live and especially for our beloved Brazilian readers!

 

  • Runner-up: St. Vincent“Masseduction” – Pop Rock – A bit samey here as I had a bad feeling concerning the new record from Annie Clark, alias St. Vincent for stupid reasons: she got famous in tabloids, her music looked less and less from the heart, etc… So good news are that I was entirely wrong. Her album is as usual quite different from previous ones and ready to explore electronic sounds but in a very emotional context overall and with beautiful songs.
  • Also recommended:
    • The Weather Station “The Weather Station” – Folk  Rock – Meet Canadian singer Tamara Lindeman and her beautiful Joni Mitchell-sounding songs…with bitter lyrics.
    • Robert Plant – “Carry Fire” – Pop Rock – Another beautiful album from the former Led Zeppelin singer where he mixes his love of rock’n’roll and oriental music
    • Sananda Maitreya “Prometheus & Pandora ” – Every style – 59 (!) new tracks from the artist formerly known as Terence Trent d’Arby. Not everything is great but there are a few gems to discover. And what a joy to hear that amazing voice of his again.
    • Bully “Losing” – Pop Rock – The Sundays meet Nirvana. Great guitar record.
    • Fever Ray “Plunge” – Electropop – Great and weird new album from Karin Dreijer, singer of the Swedish band The Knife.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – The National – “Sleep Well Beast

 

Oktober Fest! Part Two: Chad VanGaalen, London, Oslo Hackney

The name Oslo may be confusing for a few of you but I did not go to Norway to see this gig but stayed in the hip Eastern London district of Hackney. However, that was a very international event as Chad VanGaalen is a Canadian citizen from Calgary, Alberta while I was honoured to attend the gig surrounded by prestigious guests from New Zealand and Scotland.

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…and what a nice venue it was. Literally positioned at the exit of the Overground station, the Oslo is more a pub than anything else with a small but nice stage room on the first floor. The room was packed and probably close its maximum capacity. Nice to get that sweaty and drunky feeling again amongst the audience as my latest gigs were in bigger venues and probably cleaner.

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The night started well with a very nice opening young band called Mauno, also from Canada and whose music was to me a mix of Pixies and C86 UK Pop sensitivity. The big Chad and his cap were then on stage for a superb set. Chad VanGaalen is one of this typical musician you know when you are interested in indie rock although one would have difficulties to hum one of his songs under the shower. His style is pure indie rock mixing a great energy within a pop sensitivity. To come back to my previous point, his songs should actually be whistled easily as they are very melodic. I think his latest and new LP called “Light Information” is probably the easiest to grab so far and listening to it first is good idea if you want to know more about this excellent and recommended musician. An excellent concert overall with a special reward to his guitarist’s nice beard.

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Next episode of the Oktober Fest: The Rolling Stones in Paris. Size does not matter as they say but neither age ; stay tuned!

Oktober Fest! Part One: Grizzly Bear, London Brixton Academy.

October has been indeed a particularly busy month for this blog’s writing team with no less than six gigs in twenty days. All sorts of bands (known/less known/old/young) and in very different venues. Let’s start this particular series with one of our Brooklyn favourites: Grizzly Bear at the Brixton Academy on the 9th October 2017.

Grizzly Bear, London, October 2017

Playing the Academy means a kind of success for lots of bands or artists as it means they are in a position to reach a quite massive audience…just before the big arena sizes. Grizzly Bear is typically this sort of band. They are quite famous..but not that much and are successful in keeping their indie rock credibility. There is a huge chance for almost everyone to be familiar with their 2009 tune “Two Weeks” as it has been quite used in ads or tv series. However, I am pretty sure that the general audience does not really know their overall discography. The latter has been very consistent with five LP’s and two EP’s and one really feels that the group is constantly improving towards beautiful and simple music, while retaining a certain strangeness to it. Their latest LP “Painted Ruins” was one of our best albums of the month in August 2017 and I must say I discover new subtleties every time I listen to it.

Grizzly Bear, London, October 2017

I felt the same way while catching them live, my personal second time after the 2012 Pitchfork Festival in Paris. These guys will definitely never be rock stars (…whatever it means) as their attitude, the way they dress and how they perform on stage do not create mayhem or an immediate need to stage-dive! However, if what you want from a band is craftsmanship, beauty and amazing voices, they are the ones for you. They all are tremendously gifted musicians (often swapping instruments) but their talent is very much used for the song and not the other way round (like alt-J for instance). Despite a few slightly boring moments here and there, I must say enjoying it overall a lot and being quite moved by the beauty of a few songs. The perfect band to catch if you are in the right mood.

 

Stay tuned for Part Two with Chad VanGaalen, coming next!

Spoon – Complete discography and review of the 30th June, 2017 concert (London, O2 Forum Kentish town)

A bit like those great American bands such as Shearwater or The National, I must say I really discovered the greatness of Spoon’s music in 2007 only, i.e. more than ten years after their first studio album. I guess I am faulty by having read too much British press at the time…whereas I got a better balance subsequently while perusing the internet. In musical trends, one generally goes from US grunge to Britpop whilst actually there were many interesting and original bands doing their own thing. Better late than never as they say so here are two reviews for the price of one of one of the best and singular band of our times.

  • Discography: the studio LP’s

 Telephono (1996): Always weird to discover old albums of favourite bands and quite difficult to be objective and not think about what would go next. This is not the case with bands such as Radiohead for instance as I bought their first album the week it went out and I can judge each record by its merit. Anyway, Telephono is a very solid debut album albeit lacking a bit of singularity. Quite influenced by bands such as Pixies or Pavement, this album is made out of punchy and short songs. One could already feel the excellence of Jim Eno on the drums but Britt Daniel’s voice is not as precise as it is now. Best tracks: “Don’t Buy the Realistic“, “All The Negatives Have Been Destroyed” and “Towner“. Rating: 7/10

 A Series Of Sneaks (1998): Not as rough as the first album but not as great and polished as the masterpieces to come, this album deserves to be discovered and listened to with fresh ears. One could very much feel the influences of the 90’s US rock sound on a few songs whereas a few other ones are really singular and could have been written anytime in the 60’s, 90’s or today. A testimony of a band growing up with grace. Best tracks: “The Minor Tough“, “Metal Detektor” and “No You’re Not“. Rating: 7.5/10

Girls Can Tell (2001): Thee years without a new album may appear a long time for a young band but this lapse of time was explained first by being on a new label and also by the release of the excellent “Love Ways” EP in 2000. If such a thing exists, this is the album where the band really found their identities and the “Spoon sound”. By this, I mean getting away from the Pixies / Pavement influences and getting closer to the skeletal drums and guitar sound which makes the band immediately familiar. Not great yet…but getting closer to it. Best tracks: “Everything Hits At Once“, “Lines In The Suit” and “This Book Is A Movie“. Rating: 8/10

 Kill The Moonlight (2002): The energy was there and now Spoon were getting closer and closer to their sound. This album is probably even more interesting in that sense compared to the previous one although I found the songs not as memorable. Typically the kind of records one would describe as transitional, which means very often that it is full of hidden treasures. Best tracks: “The Way We Get By“, “Stay Don’t Go” and “Don’t Let It Get You Down“. Rating: 7.5/10

 Gimme Fiction (2005): The first true great record by Spoon and very often considered as their best by a portion of their fans and the press. Not so much the case here although I must admit this album being amongst their best. This is really the time when the band finally achieved all their potentials by mixing guitar oriented rock with soul influences and once again this skeletal mood difficult to describe but which is really their own. Good to note as well that this is the start of a series of albums beginning with an amazing track. Best tracks: “The Beast and Dragon, Adored“, “My Mathematical Mind” and “I Summon You“. Rating: 8.5/10

 Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007): This is a very special album for this blog as I entered Spoon’s world through this amazing album. It remains for me Spoon’s masterpiece and one of the few fantastic albums in rock music where every track you listen to seems to be better than the previous one. I am torn between recommending this album directly to anyone not knowing Spoon or having them listen to this album later but at one stage in your life you should discover this album. Best tracks: “Don’t Make Me A Target“, “The Ghost Of You Lingers” and “The Underdog“. Rating: 10/10

 Transference (2010): Spoon were probably in an ideal position in 2010 as they were starting to reach a bigger audience while keeping their more indie rock fan base. As they had built their career with a step by step approach, their new record was again a balance between keeping their sound and experimenting. This made Transference another gorgeous album which was almost as good as their previous masterpiece…and finished in this blog’s end of the year Top 3! Nice William Eggleston cover as well. Best tracks: “Written In Reverse“, “I Saw The Light” and “Got Nuffin“. Rating: 9.5/10

 They Want My Soul (2014): A kind of weird record as the band seem harsher and more independent than ever in their words while being probably a bit less inventive than previously. All this is relative really as this is an excellent record full of inventive pop songs. Britt Daniel’s voice keeps on getting better and better as well. Best tracks: “Rent I Pay“, “Do You” and “I Just Don’t Understand“. Rating:  8.5 /10

 Hot Toughts (2017): …and here we end our provisory 21-year journey until Spoon latest LP, which was our LP of the month in March of that year. One of their best albums so far and to me probably their best song ever with “Hot Thoughts“. Interesting to notice also the presence of a weird keyboards and saxophone track at the end of the album, proving if need be that this band is here to stay and ready to innovate. Best tracks: “Hot Thoughts“, “I Ain’t The One” and “Tear It Down“. Rating: 9/10

 

  • Concert Review: Kentish Town Forum, 30th June 2017

Spoon, London, June 2017

So indeed great expectations from this gig as you may guess, knowing that the band have indeed more and more followers, a bit like R.E.M. had in the past before becoming massive. Held in the nice Kentish Town area and in the excellent Forum theatre, I found the band even better that my first gig in 2014 at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

It goes certainly without saying but when one is in a position to live from what they like to do, without any financial stress and a solid critic and fan base, one is necessarily in a better position regarding creativity within a nice context of achievement. This is really what I felt by watching Spoon. You can feel a sense of completeness from the band in their music but also on the fact that they know they have an audience ready to follow them through their musical ventures.

It is indeed a sort of paradox but to me the band have never been so pop and arty simultaneously in their music. Britt Daniel is definitely reaching his potential in being a singer and a leader while the band is excelling in all styles, with a particular mention as always to the great drumming of Jim Eno.

The setlist was really cool and well balanced. I will show to the world my Nick Hornby side below as I associated tracks with albums:

  • Telephono and A Series Of Sneaks: none
  • Girls Can Tell: 1 song (“Anything You Want”)
  • Kill The Moonlight: 1 song (“Stay Don’t Go”)
  • Gimme Fiction: 3 songs (“I Turn My Camera On”, “My Mathematical Mind” and “I Summon You”)
  • Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga: 4 songs (“Don’t You Evah“, “Don’t Make Me A Target”, “The Underdog” and “Black Like Me”)
  • Transference: 1 song (“Got Nuffin”)
  • They Want My Soul: 4 songs (“Inside Out”, “Rent I Pay”, “Do You” and “Rainy Taxi”)
  • Hot Thoughts: 4 songs (“Do I Have To Talk You Into It”, “Can I Sit Next To You”, “I Ain’t The One” and “Hot Thoughts”)

Heroes! 3 gigs in a row from LCD Soundsystem, The National and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Autumn is traditionally a very busy period in terms of records’ releases but also in terms of concerts…especially in London. In all honesty, there are enough good concerts to go out every night so I guess one has to choose extraordinary events which are compatible with one’s schedule…and budget. There were many uncertainties as far as this blog is concerned so I took my tickets quite late but I eventually succeeded in seeing these three musical giants, all part of my beloved Top 100 of all times. I was pretty far from the stage though, hence the no-so-good pictures…If you want nice photos, please go back to my End of the Road Festival review!

  • LCD Soundsystem, Alexandra Palace, 23rd September 2017

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Although Alexandra Palace (nickname Ally Pally) is quite far to central London, it remains an extraordinary place and I had good memories about my latest gig there. …from extraordinary place to extraordinary event, there is not a long way to go and having LCD Soundsystem make their London comeback concerts here made perfect sense. Recurrent readers from this blog know how much we love this band and how much heartbroken we had all been a few years ago when James Murphy decided to end his band…for different reasons. Their 2011 farewell show at the Madison Square Garden in New York is probably one of the most moving and exuberant concerts ever.

Good news is that…for different reasons James Murphy went back playing with the band in the last months before finally taking the decision to give it a go again. Their new record (“American Dream”) had just been released and is excellent…which is a relief as bands reforming may have a tendency to disappoint fans sometimes. This is fortunately not so this year as I can think about excellent comeback LP’s from Ride or Slowdive for instance.

So we were super excited to catch them live again…and that was pretty good indeed. James Murphy was on top form, the band are as good in terms of playing together as they were before the break-up (specific mentions to Nancy Whang on keyboards and Pat Mahoney on drums) and the place was perfect to dance and move on… but something was missing. Not sure if I gave too much expectation and excitement to see them live again, if it was due to the setlist (whaaaaaaatttt? no “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” and no “Losing My Edge“!) or if I found the audience not focused enough on the gig …but I came back home slightly disappointed. Still a very good gig…but no more.

  • The National, Eventim Apollo, 28th September 2017

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Here is a band on the top of their game and to me one of the Top 5 best artists since the start of the century. No less… The National’s personal story is an interesting one as well as a bit like Spoon for instance, they did not make a huge fuss with the release of their first records but went on improving with each release and building a bigger and bigger community of fans all over the world.

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My last experience with these guys was in the beautiful context of the Greek Theatre in L.A. and I must say I was quite pleased to take my bike to see them, a bit like meeting old friends whom you see once in a while. The other good news was that the opening act was no less than Kate Stable and her band This Is The Kit (our July record of the month). No real surprise as her musical world is quite close to The National’s and as Aaron Dessner produced their 2015 album “Bashed Out“. This was a beautiful way to open such a great night and Kate and her chorus singer went back singing one song with the National during their show. It made Matt Berninger do one of his stupid but funny jokes (“…This is half of This Is The Kit…”).

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The National played four shows in a row in this great and historical theatre and the 28th of September was actually their last European night before going back to the US. Their latest album “Sleep Well Beast” is a beauty and I really felt I was lucky to see a band at the top of their game. I had this feeling a few times in the past when you feel that the band you see is amazing but probably also making history and at the peak of their career. I also found Matt Berninger is a very moving man, showing strength, doubts, fun and weaknesses at the same time. Everything a man is his late forties should be… As with every night of the UK tour, they did a cover version and tonight was… Queen‘s “I Want to Break Free” (which was very good actually). Last but not least, this was the only night when they finished with “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”, the best song of all times, sung a capella as traditionally done during their concerts. Love you guys….

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  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, O2 Arena, 30th September 2017

And what better way to end the beautiful but depressing month of September than catching live Nick Cave and his gang of musicians. My personal relationship with Nick Cave’s music and art is not new and since discovering his music in 1986 with his covers album “Kicking Against The Pricks” I guess I never lost track of his work. My first face to face meeting with the great man was actually in 1990 in London at a store when he was signing his book “And The Ass Saw The Angel” so this is a long story. The man has always been transparent about his life, his good times (Sao Paulo, Brighton, family life,…) and the bad ones (heroin addiction, loss of his son Arthur). His work is quite weird actually as his music is at the same time so out of time (gothic blues and old-fashioned storytelling) but also very much influenced by his own life.

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Anyway, this was the tour that everyone was a bit afraid to attend after the family tragedy he had to live but as expected Nick Cave and his band were as sharp and sensitive as one could have expect. I must admit that it was probably my best gig of Nick Cave…despite being in a bloody too big arena. The setlist was perfect, mixing up very old songs like “Tupelo“, recent songs from his latest album “Skeleton Tree” or classics such as “The Mercy Seat” or “The Weeping Song“.

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The only thing I found a bit inauthentic was the stage invasion during “Stagger Lee” as it is done at every show of the tour. However, another good surprise was to find Nick Cave in the middle of the audience finding Bobbie Gillespie from Primal Scream and make him sing a portion of the beautiful “Push The Sky Away“. 

Let’s not forget to mention the Bad Seeds as well as these guys are tremendous and in particularly Warren Ellis. “…He is a cutie…” as said Nick Cave after hugging him ; yes, Nick, you all are actually.

  • Conclusion: The National juste above Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and LCD Soundsystem behind. Should one meets their heroes? Definitely so!

 

September 2017 Album of the month: The National “Sleep Well Beast”

September in music is also a kind of back-to-school period and the quantity and quality of records released this month hasve been amazing. I have listened to no less than seventy (!) new records released this month and I must say that apart from the atrocious new Miley Cyrus LP, I enjoyed to hear all of them. The fact that a few personal favourites such as Foo Fighters, Mogwai, Hue and Cry, The Dream Syndicate or Four Tet are not part of the below selection shows how good the chosen few are.

Album of the month: The National“Sleep Well Beast” – Pop Rock – I know this statement may not be shared by all but to me The National are the best band of the current decade. All their records are inventive whilst keeping their own style and their music has been evolving little by little, each record adding up audacity and creation. Their strength lies in the team spirit of the band and with Matt Berninger they have a beautiful singer and leader. This new record is no exception and this time they put more electronic sounds in their beautiful songs, making it familiar and fresh at the same time.

  • Runner-up: Moses Sumney“Aromanticism” – Pop Rock – I was eagerly looking forward to listening to this new record as I had felt under the charm of this young singer at the recent End of the Road festival. This record comes from outer space and I am pretty sure once again that Moses Sumney will be an important artist and name to follow in the next… thirty years? Difficult to describe as he plays all styles of music with such grace and beauty so the best is for you to discover it.
  • Also recommended:
    • LCD Soundsystem “American Dream” – New York Grooooovy thang – What? They are not in the month’s Top 2, despite the fact that this is their excellent come back album? No… but they should!
    • The Horrors– “V” – Pop Rock – Album #5 for Faris Badwan and his band; great as usual.
    • Torres“Three Futures” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part I
    • Zola Jesus “Okovi” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part II
    • Chelsea Wolfe “Hiss Spun” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part III
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – The War On Drugs – “A Deeper Understanding

 

My review of End of the Road Festival 2017

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Another year goes by with personal issues, great moments, not so good moments, scary things happening all over the world,…well we/you all face this and I guess this blog is no different. However, as all good things in life, there are still a few times when one feels secured, happy or comforted. It can be done through art, books, friends, family, going to see a game, fishing,…you name it. For me, despite it being only my third edition, End of the Road brings that comforting feeling.

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There was no major news this year in terms of why and how much I love this festival. It comes for the audience, the music lovers (hello Big Jeff!), the site, the peacocks, the comedy stages, etc… Please refer to my reviews of previous years (cf. tag “End of the Road” on the right of the page) and I hope being able to share all the good karma that comes out of it. I will guide you through a more summarised review this year so let’s start with Thursday evening.

  • Thursday, 31st August 2017

As with last year, the organisers decided in keeping this good idea: let’s start the festival on Thursday night with a few gigs.

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My first music note out of 24 gigs I were to attend during these four days came from a nice and friendly UK band called The Surfing Magazines. I then attended the concert of Brix Smith & The Extricated. Originally from the US, Brix used to be Mark E. Smith’s spouse and they both were members of The Fall in the 80’s. After a few years out of the music business, she is back with former The Fall members, playing a mix of old The Fall songs and new ones they created. Quite a lively and nice set I must say.

Thursday’s headliners were Slowdive. They were contemporary of bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride or The Boo Radleys in the late 80’s/early 90’s and part of the so-called “shoegaze” movement. After disbanded in the 90’s and focusing on their other project Mojave Three, their leaders Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell reformed the band a few years ago and released a new self-titled LP this year (cf. our May 2017 Albums of the month). As quite often with this band, they do not have so many memorable songs but their beauty lies in the way they work on sounds and musical structures. I was quite impressed by their strength and focus on stage and this was an excellent way to start the festival.

  • Friday, 1st September 2017

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Very sunny day to start the month of September with lots of great gigs as well! The difficulty at End of the Road is often to make decisions as there are almost always two gigs at the same time out of the four stages. I personally generally favour to attend concerts in their entirety when I can and chose either bands/musicians who are personal favourites or others I have never seen playing live before.

I decided therefore to miss Mac DeMarco who was headlining that day as I attended his concert recently at the Route du Rock festival in Saint-Malo.

I experienced a few nice discoveries such as the nice but slightly boring folk songs of Julie Byrne, the punchy Velvet Underground-influenced music of Ultimate Painting, the great country-rock of female legend Lucinda Williams, the surprising, demanding and beautiful music of New-Zealander Aldous Harding or the beautiful indie-rock songs of US band Real Estate.

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The two concerts I enjoyed the most though were Michael Chapman and H. Hawkline. Michael Chapman could be considered as a finger-picking legend. Now reaching 76 years, he sounds and looks like a youngster both on stage and on record (cf. our January 2017 albums of the month). On a very sunny Garden Stage, he played a great set, alone with his acoustic guitar, telling us plenty of funny stories between songs. The older I get, the more I get bored with conventional music, like boring folk musicians, bland indie bands or repetitive electro shit (hello Justice…) so watching someone being so long in the business while being so fresh is something to recognize.

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My other favourite concert was H. Hawkline, an artist I had already seen live two years ago. His attitude and music remain as fresh as I remember and this is a pity that this artist from Wales is not more famous. Catch him live if you can.

  • Saturday, 2nd September 2017 

Saturday is generally the most tiring day of a festival so I decided to enjoy the last sunny day, take my time rather than running from one place to another and appreciate the six gigs I went to.

No regret at all concerning those I missed as so great were the ones I attended. Quite funny and charming as with The Burning Hell from Canada, really good as always with Band Of Horses or amazingly dynamic and full of energy like The Lemon Twigs, lead by the D’Addario brothers (respectively 17 and 19-years old!). Nadine Shah‘s concert was impressive as well ; she has a real strong personality, her music is really beautiful, her words are clever and political…and she has a nice Geordie accent from Newcastle. Listen to her album as soon as you can (cf. August 2017 Albums of the month).

My two best moments of the day (and also of the festival) came from that day. I caught first quite early in the afternoon an artist I had never heard of whose name is Moses Sumney. In a world where we are 24/7 connected and where all sounds/records/news are supposed to be known, I was intrigued by it but also quite excited. I must say the reward was immense and very emotional. This beautiful big black guy is from the USA but with Guinean origins and has lots of interaction everywhere basically. He was assisted on stage by a young guitarist while he was singing, playing guitar, synths… or machines. His music can go from one minute to another from a heavenly melody to industrial sounds. He has the voice of an angel but does not insist too much on it as one can see his interest is more in sounds and emotion. I thought that this is a feeling that people must have had the first time they discovered Bjork on stage…and the next track he played was a Bjork cover. Discover him before he gets too massive ; his debut album will be out soon on the 22nd of September.

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The day ended beautifully with the Festival headliner, i.e. Father John Misty. The alter ego of Joshua Tillman, Father John Misty has been one of our favourite artists in the latest years and the current success he has cannot be more deserved. His latest album “Pure Comedy” was amongst our April 2017 best albums of the month…but really this alum is more than this. It has been personally a very emotional companion since its release and I could talk for ages about the perfect balance between beautiful 70’s Elton John’s music and Joshua’s funny, sad, complex, political and overwhelming words. The current live tour is as beautiful as the record and for his first festival headline Father John Misty was really impressive. His band is fantastic and there are around 15 musicians on stage, including strings and horns. One of my best concerts ever for a performer on top of his form.

  • Sunday, 3rd September 2017

What would be a UK festival without rain? After three days in a row without one drop of rain and two beautiful sunny days actually, Sunday was completely different and to make it short it did not stop raining all day! This did not stop your reviewer to do his job either by choosing “dry” gigs in tents or fighting the rain with the usual material (cape and waterproof clothes).

That was my busiest day with eight gigs attended, knowing that I went and see 45 minutes of each headliner rather than choosing one entire gig.

So quite a busy day indeed and a female-oriented one, either with the great C-86 UK scene influenced band Girl Ray or with the Crutchfield twin sisters. Born and raised in Alabama, their indie rock is really good and exciting: Allison Crutchfield has her own band with… Allison Crutchfield & The Fizz while Katie Crutchfield is a bit more famous than her sister with her band Waxahatchee (in which Allison also plays…shall I do it again or did you get it?). Anyway, both bands are super recommended and can be enjoyed in dry or wet weather conditions (as personally experienced!).

Other female artists I enjoyed that day were Nadia Reid from NZ and her beautiful acoustic and poetic songs and Satomi Matsuzaki who is the lead singer of the always weird but always enjoyable band Deerhoof. I could almost say that Foxygen is a female-oriented band as their two leaders Jonathan Rado and Sam France have a real non-male sensitivity in their melodies and song structures. Theirs was probably my rainier concert ever but the mood amongst the crowd was so strong that everyone almost forgot they were all heavily soaked!

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The Jesus and Mary Chain or Bill Callahan? Bill Callahan or The Jesus and Mary Chain. Both artists are part of my Top 100 and have been personal favourites for a long time. I caught Bill recently in London… and the Reid Brothers even more recently at the Route du Rock festival. So I decided to watch the first 45 minutes of Bill Callahan and the remaining 45 ones of The JAMC. I think it was the right choice as Bill Callahan‘s set (this time with a full band and not only his usual side-guitarist as early in the year) is more balanced in terms of songs’ choice whereas The Jesus and Mary Chain generally plays their most iconic tracks during the second part of their set. Despite both gigs being obviously very different, both were excellent and represent to me a certain idea of what rock’n’roll should be, i.e. mainly self-belief in one’s ideas…

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See you next year End of the Road ; I already bought my “early bird” ticket!