Like Robin Gibb would sing in “Staying Alive“, I am a women’s man this month…but not in the same meaning of the expression. A great deal of amazing talented young women this month, starting with two fantastic records done by two ladies coming from the greatest city in the world!
Album of the month: Little Simz – “Grey Area” – London Pop – Born from Nigerian parents, Little Simz, née Simbiatu Ajikawo, is to me the typical example of the current pop/r’n’b/hip hop London scene. One can hear she has millions of influences but the way she sings and leads her musical career is so effortless and fresh it makes this record timeless. Not that impressive at first, it gets viral the more you listen to it. A real contender for 2019 record of the year.
Runner-up: Nilüfer Yanya – “Miss Universe” – London Pop – …and here you go for another extraordinary record from a young Londoner female artist. Mixing her British, Turkish and Caribbean background, this LP sounds new and quite timeless as well. There is not one particular style from one song to another. It may make it disconcerting for those who like to put music into genres but to me this is what makes it so good.
Robert Forster– “Inferno” – Pop Rock – The former Go-Betweens co-leader is as sharp as usual with this new album but this time with more catchy melodies and a greater sound than his previous records.
Solange – “When I Get Home” – Soul – Beyoncé‘s little sis’ with her more original and inventive effort ever.
Sasami – “Sasami” – Pop Rock – A beautiful record from this NY young female artist. If you like the soft moments of My Bloody Valentine, this is for you!
Jenny Lewis– “On The Line” – Country Indie Rock – At last Jenny Lewis brings sincere feelings in her music this time, making it a real treasure to cherish.
Strand Of Oaks – “Eraserland” – Post Industrial Country Rock – Imagine if Joy Division were from Indiana, USA…
Another fantastic month in terms of new releases! I must admit keeping only seven records was a tough choice and that new LP’s by Ex:Re or Tiny Ruins could also have been there. However, very happy to get news again from the artist who has released our record of the month as he is one of the hidden jewels of our times.
Album of the month: Cass McCombs – “Tip of the Sphere” – Pop Rock – Cass McCombs has been one of my favourite artists of the last fifteen years…but I am not sure I could explain why. His music is actually simultaneously very traditional and very modern. I know the comparison may be scary and misunderstood but I consider he does what Bob Dylan may have been doing at one stage of his career in terms of intelligent lyrics and very catchy songs but in an ambitious musical shape. I guess better to listen to this record to make your own mind…so listen to it as my gut feeling is that he will not be far from the top at the end of the current year.
Runner-up: Du Blonde – “Lung Bread for Daddy” – Pop Rock – Second album for Beth Jeans Houghton under the Du Blonde moniker. Those familiar with this blog may remember how much I enjoyed her latest gig at End of the Road festival and the least I could say is that her new record really meets the great expectations I had. Songs are straight to the point whereas her singing has never been more powerful. An artist to keep on following in the years to come.
Michael Chapman – “True North” – Folk Rock – Age does not matter but excellence does… 78-year old Michael Chapman has never sounded so sharp. To be also noted: the record is produced by the excellent Steve Gunn(who was in last month’s selection).
Bob Mould – “Sunshine Rock” – Heavy Rock – Talking about age… One of the best records from the former Hüsker Dü / Sugar leader. …and with strings on a few tracks!
Stephane Eicher & Traktorkestar – “Hüh!” – Swiss Pop Rock – The great Swiss musician revisits his back catalogue with the help of a young refreshing band. A good reason to listen without prejudice and acknowledge Stephan Eicher has made fantastic songs throughout his career.
James Yorkston– “The Route to the Harmonium” – Scottish Folk – You will not find a more authentic fresh-sounding record that James Yorkston’s new one. He sings mainly about his daily life in Scotland and makes mundane life extremely beautiful.
The Young Gods – “Data Mirage Tangram” – Post Industrial Rock – It looks this is Switzerland’s month! Very welcome return from the Swiss veterans with the quietest industrial rock record you will ever listen to.
I had mixed feelings in the past about tribute bands, considering them very often as quite pathetic either for the musicians involved or for the audience. To make it short, the past is the past and better to discover new exciting bands rather than listening to the same songs again and again from your favourite band from the past or dead artist. Maybe this is age or being more tolerant but I welcome such gigs now. The concert that made the difference was probably that I went to in the early 00’s in Strasbourg, bringing on stage Genesis‘ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” by the excellent tribute band The Musical Box. Bach or Coltrane have been dead for a certain period of time now and musicians play their music all over the world so why could not we listen to the music of The Rolling Stones?… Wait…I am just told The Rolling Stones are not dead actually…Anyway, I recently experienced two Bowie and one Prince tributes so here is the review for each of them.
A Bowie Celebration – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12th January
The first gig I went to was in the same mindset as that attended early 2017, in the sense that the leader of this band is American pianist Mike Garson, probably one of the most influential band members David Bowie worked with (like Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar, Reeves Gabrels or Gail Ann Dorsey to name but a few). On stage with a few usual suspect compadres like Earl Slick on guitar or Carmine Rojas on bass, one must recognize he manages to bring David Bowie’s music live with joy, energy and just a slight touch of pathos. The three singers were also quite good, with a special mention to Corey Glover, one of the founding members of Living Colour. My only frustration came from the choice of songs; they were all great but quite a pity there were so few from the last thirty years.
Seu Jorge & The Heritage Orchestra – The Life Aquatic -Tribute to David Bowie – Hammersmith Apollo – 8th February
The next one was a bit different as it was a specific breed of tribute… Based on the songs he performed in his sailor role in Wes Anderson‘s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (one of my favourite movies ever), Seu Jorge was in the beautiful Apollo theatre to sing in Portuguese a few Bowie classics from the so-called glam period. The majority of the songs were indeed actually from “Hunky Dory“, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” or again “Aladdin Sane” and like in the movie, sung in Portuguese… according to Seu Jorge’s inspiration. For those not familiar with the man, he has been one of the most singular voices in Brazil in the last 25 years, either with supporting roles in movies or through a few excellent records. I was also a bit frustrated not to hear any Brazilian-sounding songs from Seu Jorge but I guess these were the rules of the game. On the other side, it would be a disgrace not to mention the extraordinary level of the classic ensemble on stage that night as they really brought an extra dimension to the songs whilst staying subtle.
The Revolution – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 14th February
No better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day that catching up live Prince‘s former glorious band from the early 80’s, surrounded by prestigious guests from Bordeaux, France. As a reminder, a bit like James Brown used to do, Prince did not hesitate to frequently change his musicians and despite their excellence, The Revolution was no exception. Despite great or…interesting records later, they probably played on Prince’s greatest albums: “1999“, “Purple Rain“, “Around the World in a Day” or the immense “Parade“, one of the most moving, dancing and singular albums of all times. The Revolution are/were: Lisa Coleman on piano, Doctor Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z. on drums, Brown Mark on bass and the great Wendy Melvoin on guitar. They were also accompanied on stage by singer Stockley Williams, especially when a falsetto voice was needed.
After Prince’s death in 2016, these musicians went through a tough mourning phase and spontaneously reformed the band more than 30 years since they last played together to celebrate their former leader. I guess I am not the only one to claim it but these musicians really created a specific sound thanks to Prince’s vision. The setlist was really extraordinary and I must admit being very much moved by Wendy’s interpretation of “Sometimes It Snows in April“. All the set was very moving actually and I spent the whole evening in a happy/sad state of mind. The rockers were also amazing in terms of energy and musicianship. Wanna see the funkiest band in town? Go and see a bunch of immensely skilled musicians in their late 50’s named The Revolution!
I tend to post not as many concerts’ reviews as I used to probably because I am in a state of mind where I prefer to simply enjoy a gig rather than analysing it. Another reason may also come from seeing my favourite bands many times on stage and trying to find new interesting things to say are often quite challenging.
…which is probably the reason why I wanted to post a(nother) review of Low on stage, for the 4th time after two gigs in Paris in 2011 and another one at End of the Road festival in 2015. Low were playing the great Barbican Center last Friday as part of a tour celebrating their latest LP “Double Negative“, which is not an easy beast to tame… I must admit not knowing exactly what to think about this album as one one side I really admired the weirdness of it all and recognised that American bands need to make a statement from their art nowadays and not just another record but on the other side, I did not feel a real emotion in this record and I guess this is not something one can command.
As expected, these reservations disappeared the moment the band played their first note on stage. This was by far the best performance from Low I attended and the reason is simply that the band gets better every year. They get sharper in what they are in the sense that their sound is more and more extreme as they know exactly what they want to do. And likewise, their sense of melodies is fantastic as can be heard in the way Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker blend their voices. They also found in Steve Garrington the bass player they were looking for in their early days and his continuous presence for many years now is not a coincidence in the maturity of the band.
So indeed probably not the final review from this blog about this great American treasure. Catch them live if you can; it has just been announced they are going to be there at End of the Road 2019!
January blues? What January blues? Nothing better than a bunch of new releases to fight the post-Xmas depression and I must say that if the rest of the year is as good as this first month, we are going to be spoiled!
Album of the month: The Delines – “The Imperial” – Country Soul – A really beautiful album to start 2019… a real depressing one as well but so gooooood. I would describe this record as a mix of Bruce Springsteen‘s “Nebraska” lyrics with the country soul feeling of Dusty Springfield‘s “In Memphis“. Do not fear the “country soul” tag as in reality we are only talking about beautiful moving music here, sung with the voice of an angel by vocalist Amy Boone. Very friendly people as well with whom I had a quick chat during their recent Rough Trade East showcase.
Runner-up: Toy – “Happy in the Hollow” – Psychedelic Rock – Fourth album from this excellent Brighton band. Their influences are obvious (Velvet Underground, Spacemen Three,…), they are not the most smiling musicians but they manage to bring a fresh attitude in their melodies and repetitive music. Another band I was happy to see at the Rough Trade Bristol store recently!
Steve Gunn – “The Unseen in Between” – Rock – excellent “Kurt Vilish” album from one of today’s best guitarists
Sharon Van Etten – “Remind Me Tomorrow” – Pop Rock – You may know here from roles in the OA or the latest Twin Peaks Series but Sharon is even better when she sings. A splendid record.
Deerhunter – “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappear?” – Pop Rock – Good question indeed… Listen to Bradford’s Cox new record and you may find the answer.
James Blake– “Assume Form” – Pop – James Blake is more focused on this new album than on his previous ones and sings more gorgeously than ever.
Pedro The Lion – “Phoenix” – Pop Rock – Fifteen years since David Bazan’s band latest LP and really worth the wait
A bit late this year due to a long Xmas break trip overseas but rest assured that the traditional end of the year list has been done with the same level of focus and love than all previous years. A very dense year in terms of quantity of excellent records, meaning LP’s by The Dirty Projectors, Richard Thompson, Suede, Blood Orange, The Breeders, Arctic Monkeys or again Bodega could easily have been here as well. But I guess a man’s job is to do choices, right? Nice to find three jazz albums this year as well in this selection. You will find below other lists from websites or magazines; it really looks that I am the only person on Earth to find Christine and the Queens’ music irritating and full of clichés…
Anyway, without further due, let’s start with the album of the year, a real masterpiece done by an old friend.
#1Gaz Coombes – “World’s Strongest Man”. Released in: May 2018 -Probably not a major surprise for those who follow this blog on a regular basis but I hope that this symbolic reward will make the whole world listen again or discover this amazing piece of music. This is Gaz Coombes’ third solo album and probably the best of his entire solo career or with the excellent band Supergrass. Songs are catchy, sounds are inventive and different from one track to another and the musicianship of it all is extraordinary. What makes this record different though are the lyrics and in particular the doubts, fears and hopes of a middle aged family man living in me-too times and in a society where we are all looking for a sense of purpose. RECORD OF THE YEAR!
#2 The Lemon Twigs – “Go to School”. Released in: August 2018. The Lemon Twigs are the band of the very young d’Addario brothers and this is already their third release after their debut LP in 2016 and a great EP in 2017. Putting as number 2 record of the year a concept album about an adopted monkey going to school, feeling rejected and putting fire to his college building may seem a desperate move but trust me with this one. This is a real grower and all 16 songs are fantastic. Looking forward to catch them live again soon!
#3 Flavien Berger – “Contre-temps”.Released in: September 2018. If I had to prove again that I do not have anything against French music, here is another example. The thing is that I do not really care and the only thing that has driven me throughout these years and with this blog in particular is to share emotion found in music. This album can also be considered as a sort of concept album because every track is really fresh and inventive. To be discovered and enjoyed by non-French speakers as well.
#4 Rhye – “Blood”. Released in: February 2018. A beautiful, sensual and very delicate 2nd album from Canadian singer Mike Milosh. Everything great pop music should be in terms of melodies and freshness in sounds. Imagine if Sade were a man and doing her first records now…
#5 Neneh Cherry –“Broken Politics”. Released in: October 2018. Another beautiful and very moving record from one of our favourite female artist and singer. Neneh Cherry’s releases are not as frequent as they used to be but really deserve to be listened to. This new LP in particular may be the best she has ever done, either thanks to the strength of the lyrics or to the serenity of her music.
#6 Spiritualized –“And Nothing Hurt”. Released in: September 2018. Umpteenth album from former Spacemen Three‘s Jason Pierce. For those familiar with his art, you will find what you like, i.e. themes of love and desperation within repetitive and Velvet Underground influenced songs. For the others, this album is the perfect choice to discover this fantastic band.
#7 Kanye West – “Ye”. Released in: June 2018. Another best of the year end list and another album from Mr. West. Although it looks his public and social life is getting weirder every day, his musical skills remain as strong as ever, in particular in this mini-album where he very openly describes his mental issues.
#8 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever –“Hope Downs”. Released in: June 2018. Musical movements are often things created by journalists but one has to admit there is currently an excellent wave of new and young Australian bands. The Rolling Blackouts C.F. are probably the best of the crew and this album will delight old Go Betweens fans but also a younger audience excited by new comers.
#9 Sons Of Kemet–“Your Queen Is A Reptile”. Released in: March 2018. Led by the great Shabaka Hutchings, Sons of Kemet are today’s best representative bands of the so-called new British jazz scene. In reality, all these musicians only want to respect the elders and create new sounds, mixing up traditional jazz in a context where they have all been listening to hip-hop and R’n’B.
#10 Bill Ryder-Jones –“Yawn”. Out in: November 2018.Another great album from The Coral former member. As for all his albums, this one deserves to be listened again and again to appreciate his beauty and extreme musicianship.
11. Petite Noir – “La Maison Noir / The Black House”
12. Interpol – “Marauder”
13. Jeff Tweedy – “Warm”
14. MGMT – “Little Dark Age”
15. Idles – “Joy As An Act Of Resistance”
16. John Coltrane – “Both Directions At Once”
17. Kurt Vile – “Bottle It In”
18. Father John Misty – “God’s Favorite Customer”
19. Courtney Barnett – “Tell Me How You Really Feel”
20. Sunflower Bean – “Twentytwo In Blue”
21. Shame – “Songs Of Praise”
22. Ty Segall – “Freedom’s Goblin”
23. Field Music – “Open Here”
24. Villagers – “The Art Of Pretending To Swim”
25. Kamasi Washington – “Heaven & Earth”
Other voices’ (websites, magazines, records stores, etc…) Top 10.
You will find below a selection of other lists but there are so many of them that you may also want to go to the albumoftheyear.org website to get an aggregation of them all. You will appreciate that the Top 5 is made out of female artists.
Mojo (UK music mag): 1. Kamasi Washington Heaven and Earth 2. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino 3. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever Hope Downs 4. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 5. Christine and the Queens Chris 6. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 7. Ryley Walker Deafman Glance 8. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 9. Spiritualized And Nothing Hurt 10. The Breeders All Nerve
Uncut (UK music mag): 1. Low Double Negative 2. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever Hope Downs 3. Ty Segall Freedom’s Goblin 4. Spiritualized And Nothing Hurt 5. Yo La Tengo There’s a Riot going on 6. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 7. Gruff Rhys Babelsberg 8. Beak> Invada 9. Christine and the Queens Chris 10. Sons of Kemet Your Queen is a Reptile
NME (UK website): 1. The 1975 A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships 2. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino 3. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 4. Sunflower Bean Twentytwo in Blue 5. Pusha T Daytona 6. Shame Songs of Praise 7. Kali Uchis Isolation 8. Cardi B Invasion of Privacy 9. Mitski Be the Cowboy 10. Christine and the Queens Chris
Rough Trade (London, Nottingham, Bristol and Brooklyn stores): 1. Shame Songs of Praise 2. Everything is Recorded By Richard Russell 3. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 4. Khruangbin Con todo el Mundo 5. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever Hope Downs 6. Daniel Blumberg Minus 7. Goat Girl Goat Girl 8. Mark Peters Innerland 9. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 10. Oh Sees Smote Reverser
Fopp (UK stores): 1. Kamasi Washington Heaven and Earth 2. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 3. Low Double Negative 4. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 5. Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar 6. Christine and the Queens Chris 7. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 8. First Aid Kit Ruins 9. Jon Hopkins Singularity 10. Nils Frahm All Melody
Greg Kot (Sound Opinions radio DJ #1): 1. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Years 2. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 3. Noname Romm 25. 4. Superchunk What a Time to be alive 5. Saba Care for me 6. Our Girl Stranger today 7. Parquet Courts Wide Awake! 8. boygenius boygenius 9. Motorcade Motorcade 10. Eleanor Friedberger Rebound
Jim Derogatis (Sound Opinions radio DJ #2): 1. Viagra Boys Street Worms 2. CupcakKe Ephorize 3. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 4. Superchunk What a Time to be alive 5. Dessa Chime 6. Vince Staples FM! 7. Amanda Shires To the Sunset 8. The Beths Future me hates me 9. John Prine The Tree of Forgiveness 10. Parquet Courts Wide Awake!
Pitchfork (US music website): 1. Mitski Be the Cowboy 2. Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour 3. DJ Koze Knock Knock 4. Robyn Honey 5. Snail Mail Lush 6. Rosalía El mal querer 7. Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs 8. Low Double Negative 9. Tierra Whack Whack World 10. Yves Tumor Safe in the Hands of Love
Paste (US music website): 1. Lucy Dacus Historian 2. Parquet Courts Wide Awake! 3. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 4. Soccer Mommy Clean 5. Snail Mail Lush 6. Mitski Be the Cowboy 7. Pusha T Daytona 8. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever Hope Downs 9. Low Double Negative 10. Hop Along Bark your Head off, Dog
Les Inrocks (French mag): 1. Flavien Berger Contre-temps 2. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino 3. Cat Power Wanderer 4. MGMT Little Dark Age 5. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 6. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 7. Kanye West Ye 8. Jorja Smith Lost & Found 9. Miossec Les rescapés 10. Neneh Cherry Broken Politics
The Guardian (UK daily newspaper) : 1. Christine and the Queens Chris 2. Robyn Honey 3. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 4. Cardi B Invasion of Privacy 5. Mitski Be the Cowboy 6. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 7. Kamasi Washington Heaven and Earth 8. Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour 9. Low Double Negative 10. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
The Independent (UK website) : 1. John Grant Love is magic 2. Colter Wall Songs of the Plains 3. Christine and the Queens Chris 4. Suede The Blue Hour 5. Troye Sivan Bloom 6. Travis Scott Astroworld 7. Gaika Basic Volume 8. Ben Howard Noonday Dream 9. CHVRCHES Love is dead 10. Parquet Courts Wide Awake!
Magic rpm (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Tunng Songs You Make At Night 2. Vera Sola Shades 3. The Married Monk Headgearalienpoo 4. Low Double Negative 5. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 6. En Attendant Ana Lost and Found 7. Spiritualized And Nothing Hurt 8. Beak> >>> 9. Cat Power Wanderer 10. Shame Songs of Praise
Noise Magazine (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Hangman’s Chair Banlieue Triste 2. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 3. Turnstile Time & Space 4. Deafheaven Ordinary Corrupt Human Love 5. Alice In Chains Rainier Fog 6. Daughters You Won’t Get What You Want 7. Rendez Vous Superior State 8. Thou Magus 9. The Breeders All Nerve 10. Will Haven Muerte
As usual, the month of December is a very slow one with almost no other releases than compilations or Xmas records. Funny also that all best-of-the-year lists are published very early in the month, meaning new December records have almost no chance to be ranked. I still succeeded in choosing seven interesting records, by cheating a bit I must admit, adding up live albums, compilations or EP’s… Enough to wait until the start of the festive season and the release of my worldwide famous best of list which will be available early January. In the meantime, happy Xmas!
Album of the month: The Bevis Frond – “We’re Your Friends, Man” – Psychedelic Rock – Basically the sole project of English singer, songwriter and guitarist Nick Saloman for more than thirty years, The Bevis Frond are typically the kind of band which has always been here, doing more or less the same record every two or three years. Neither revolutionary in style, nor in structure, their records are always excellent, especially when one has more time than usual to listen to them, as was so in December. If you like psychedelic guitars, this LP is for you!
Runner-up: Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert – “Ghost Stories for Christmas” – Xmas record – The title says it all… Another beautiful and depressing record from the former leader of Scottish band The Arab Strap. To be listened to while reading the lyrics and with a glass of strong alcohol in hand in front of the Xmas tree.
Amor – “Sinking Into A Miracle” – Groove Pop – Dance pop/rock from members of various indie rock bands.
Various – “Rough Trade Counter Culture 18” – Pop Rock – The traditional annual compilation from Rough Trade shops is already available. You will not like all the 45 tracks but a few of them may change your life. Thank you RT for welcoming me all year long in your nice stores!
Bruce Springsteen – “Springsteen on Broadway” – Pop Rock – Not as great in this audio version (but much cheaper) than live in the theater, my advice would be to skip the intros and have a playlist of these classics played mainly in acoustic mode.
21 Savage – “i am > i was” – Hip Hop – Released on 21st December, final good record of the year?
The Decemberists – “Traveling On” – Pop Rock – 5-track EP from one of our favourite bands from Portland, Oregon
..and then we eventually all reached the final day of the 2018 edition of End of the Road. As all great events, there is always a sense of weirdness when one realises that something expected for months is actually going to end soon…
That was another day of choices and for instance my program did not allow me to make it for Haley Heyderikx, Iceage, Ezra Furman, Idles, Feist or Ariel Pink‘s gigs. Another time, another planet I guess…
No better way to start the day than with the Perpignan garage band The Limiñanas from Perpignan, France. They may not be the most radical new band of all times but their music is really excellent, especially in the context of a festival. And being able to hear “c’est bon, on peut y aller” in the middle of Dorset was a real treat!
But this was nothing compared to the next gig I attended. I was not really familiar with the legendary Posies from Seattle, although I had recently heard the latest albums from one of their two leaders Ken Stringfellow, the other one being Jonathan Auer. The concert was actually a positive shock as their music is an incredible mix of grunge and power-pop, which makes them associated by many with the beautiful Teenage Fanclub from Scotland. I had never seen them in their prime but I read that they are as good now since they reformed as they were in the 90’s. A band not to be missed on stage.
I then attended two nice gigs at the Garden Stage. The first one was from the Velvet Underground influenced British band The Wave Pictures: quite a refreshing gig but with no real sparkle to be honest. The second one from an old acquaintance with Jonathan Wilson, a musician from L.A. and also fantastic producer of our 2017 album of the year with Father John Misty. Jonathan’s musicianship and taste are unchallengeable but I must admit I had been more excited when I first caught him on stage a few years ago in France.
After a final catch-up at the Big Top stage with Michelle Zauner’s interesting band Japanese Breakfast, I came back to the Garden stage, full of hopes for Julia Holter‘s gig. That was quite a disappointment actually as although her challenging music can be very good on record, I felt that a festival was probably not the best place to appreciate it, especially on Day Four… What makes End of the Road so beautiful is that rather than killing time, I then decided to check on rebel grunge country outlaw Jim White at the Tipi Tent, which actually ended as one of my best moments of the festival. In the great tradition of American singers, his songs are very simple but also very often straight to the point and full of a certain desperate emotion. Jim White is also one of the funniest musicians I have ever experienced and his introduction story about his former role as a Jehovah’s Witness was hilarious.
My fate was to finish the festival at my favourite Garden Stage with the final two concerts I attended. Always a pleasure to see rock legend John Cale on stage, for the second time of the year after his March concert at the London Barbican. Of course, John Cale does not sing Coldplay-hymn stadium songs and his music is often a bit difficult to say the least. But taking a step backwards, isn’t it incredible to watch this 76-year old man still eager to experiment? Amazing bunch of musicians as well.
I was also super excited and full of joy to finish it all with White Denim, from my favourite city in the USA, i.e. Austin Texas. I have always enjoyed a lot their records although their music is so diverse and embracing all styles that this is sometimes difficult to remember them as a real singular band. However, they are truly amazing live, playing endlessly super catchy but very complex songs, owing as much to jazz, Americana or power pop styles. Not a hint of weakness during this great concert and the best way to finish the day and the festival full of memories.
Any idea about where I will be next year late August/early September?
We are getting closer and closer to the end of the year…which is sort of mad. Anyway, here is the final busy month of the year before a probably slower December and the grand finale of the best records of 2018! But first things first with November and a bunch of extraordinary records… and no Muse record as to be honest this is a crap one…
Album of the month: Jeff Tweedy– “Warm” – Music from a master – Is it an obvious and expected choice from those familiar with this blog? Indeed it is and I really asked myself the question: “do I like this record because I am such an enthusiast about Jeff’s music or could anyone love it if they were to discover this?” The answer is that I do not really know and also who really cares… What is sure is that for me Wilco are the best band of our times and that this is always a threat to find a new project from their leader. In “Warm“, the music gets calmer and simpler than ever but the quality of the melodies and the emotion of the lyrics are something which is rarely found nowadays. In a nutshell, this is the record where Jeff is very straight and honest about this failures, past addictions, doubts but also hopes in life. Another record of the month after Gaz Coombes‘ “World Strongest Man“ in May in which a non-macho man confesses his difficulties and struggles in today’s world. Count me in baby…
Runner-up: Bill Ryder-Jones– “Yawn” – Pop Rock – Almost a twin album to the Jeff Tweedy record from one of our current favourite artists, also caught up in the past at End of the Road. A former band member of Liverpool band The Coral, Bill Ryder-Jones has not enjoyed an easy life to say the least but has found a real shelter in his music. The type of LP where one could find comfort, especially in winter time. Another record I am ready to defend tooth and nail against anyone.
J Mascis – “Elastic Days” – Pop Rock – Latest solo effort from Dinosaur Jr. frontman and one of his best.
Smashing Pumpkins – “Shiny and Oh so Bright” – Pop Rock – The first LP for ages with 3/4 of the original band. Thrashed by Pitchfork but actually a good album with a couple of fantastic tracks.
The Good, the Bad & the Queen – “Merrie Land” – Pop Rock – Umpteenth project from Damon Albarn. Not as good as he things this is…but still very interesting.
Esben and the Witch – “Nowhere” – Pop Rock – This Brighton band has been doing constant great guitar albums and here you go with another one.
Raoul Vignal – “Oak Leaf” – Folk Rock – Beautiful slow record from this French musician, not too far to what Kings of Convenience used to do 15 years ago.
Saturday is traditionally the most tiresome day of them all. So to fight it and to stay as energy-driven as possible, I spent close to twelve hours on site!
I attended fewer gigs than the previous day (only eight…) but also decided to start the day differently by watching a movie at the beautiful cinema tent built in the Twin Peaks spirit. End of the Road is also a great festival to chill, relax, meditate, get a massage, attend a comedy show …or watch a movie. No better way to start the day actually than seeing one of my favourite director latest movie, namely Wes Anderson‘s Isle of Dogs. I guess he does not need me to say so but his latest opus is as usual funny, entertaining, full of emotion, very creative,…everything one wants to find in movies really.
After this excellent start, it was back to the gigs for me in a day that was under the banner of psychedelic and garage rock music. This was also a difficult day in terms of choice and I missed amongst others bands or artists such as Screaming Females, Julian Baker, Mulatu Astatke, Gruff Rhys, Destroyer or again the festival headliners Vampire Weekend.
After a nice first gig from Welsh newcomers Boy Azooga , my first thrill came from L.A psychedelic band Flat Worms. Their formula is not revolutionary but one can really feel the vibes and energy of this pure rock’n’roll trio just after one song. Lead by singer and guitarist Will Ivy, I dare anyone not to dance like a maniac after watching a couple of songs. Well I did anyway…
Next stop at the Garden stage was a bit of a disappointment as I was expecting more from Pennsylvania songwriter Alex Giannascoli, better known under his artist name of (Sandy) Alex G. I thought the gig was lacking energy, emotion or both so I went to the Wood stage to be prepared on time for Shame. They are a South London young punk rock band and they released early in the year (in January to be precise) one of the best records of the year. I knew they had the reputation of being wild on stage…and there was no disappointment here neither as wild is probably too soft a word. What is even greater with these guys and in particular with their singer Charlie Steen is that there is not an ounce of cliché. You feel you are watching a potential great band without them being aware of it. Isn’t this what rock’n’roll is about?
Spontaneity is probably not how I would describe Brooklyn’s Sunflower Bean as it looks everything has been studied here, from their influences (The Velvet Underground meets The Cocteau Twins) to their non-look… and moustache for their drummer. What makes this band different and probably one of the best we have today is bass player / singer Julia Cumming. She has a real stage fascinating presence whilst staying very spontaneous. One of the best gigs I attended during the week-end.
My next two gigs were a bit opposite as singer Sophie Allison’s band Soccer Mommy were more exciting on stage than on record with their folk rock music, whereas I thought Hookworms on stage were much less subtle than they are on records with their German repetitive influenced music.
Anyway the real excitement of the day for me was that I would eventually catch John Dwyer on stage with one of his numerous bands and project, namely Oh Sees. With Ty Segall or Jack White, John Dwyer is currently one of the hardest man in show business and his records have regularly been in our best of lists. Wearing his traditional bermuda shorts made out of cut jean trousers, his usual tattoos and his guitar held very high, the great man and his band performed an amazing gig of psychedelic music. John Dwyer is the sole constant member of The Oh Sees (I know, they are currently called Oh Sees…) and musicians come and go depending on the overall ambiance he wants to create. This tour is particularly awesome as there are…two drummers on stage. That was an excellent way to end a very long day.
Oh…and by the way, that was another beautiful sunny day in Dorset!