Something for the weekend – Episode #53 – The Go-Betweens “Oceans Apart”

Back to popular demand! And for a new start, let’s review a great LP from one of our favourite Aussie bands.

The Go-Betweens – “Oceans Apart 2005

For those not familiar with The Go-Betweens, they were an Australian band formed in Brisbane, Australia, based around core members Robert Forster, Grant McLennan (both singing and playing guitars) and Lindy Morrison (on drums). They released nine albums between 1981 and 2005 and basically spent their musical career in London and Australia, trying to get the commercial success they would have deserved…but never achieved. The story of the band is a sad one with the too-early passing of co-composer Grant McLennan in 2006, which meant the end of this beautiful entity. Robert Forster remains very much active though and definitely got new dynamics recently, releasing great records and playing fantastic gigs. He also released a nice book in 2017, writing his vision of the band and paying a wonderful tribute to his late friend and music partner. They were very much present in the indie rock late 80’s London music scene and Everything But The Girl‘s Tracey Thorn recent book about her friendship with Lindy Morrison is also recommended; it is called ”My Rock’n’Roll Friend” and gives a different side of their story…

Released in 2005 as part of what specialists call the second phase of the band after they reunited, ‘Oceans Apart‘ is their ninth and final album for reasons mentioned above. I remember that fans were a bit disconcerted when the album came out as the sound was probably a bit more muscular than before…although all things are relative and this is not The Go-Betweens go metal! Reviews were really good though, which made me want to listen to this record again. Not an inch of disappointment I must confess: I played the first track and here you go, you are immediately in a perfect world for music lovers: the harmonies, the subtleties of the songs, the beautiful and moving lyrics and probably the most important of it all the quality of the melodies. Their come back in the 00’s was a real thing to treasure and the tragedy they faced makes things even sadder when one thinks about the way they could have last for a very long period of time. And one more thing: with 6th track “Darlinghurst Nights“, may Robert Forster have written his best song ever? A record (and a band) to absolutely re-discover.

Format: CD Bought in: 2005 To be noted: The band did not really enjoy commercial success but can now be considered as one of the most influential of its time. Rating: 9.0/10

Best albums of 2021 – Top 25

I swear this introduction will be short and that I will not mention The Thing too much… However, it is quite difficult to get rid of the white elephant in the room. Let me just mention that, like millions of music lovers, I was relieved and delighted to be able to attend gigs again. Not sure it will stay as such for long but every concert is a blessing. Attending my beloved End Of The Road Festival early September was by far my favourite moment of the year. I am also urging you readers not to be 100% digital and support your beautiful local record stores. There is probably one close to wherever you are reading this blog from, managed by passionate people, happy to share their favourites artists and records.

I literally listened to thousands of new albums or reissues this year and I must confess the choice was really hard amongst my Top 5. They all are fantastic pieces of music…as the other 20 records of this selection. Jazz, soul, noise, indie rock, metal, MPB,… all genres are represented so why not start going to your local records store and buy one of them in vinyl or CD?

#1 Low “Hey What”. Released in: September 2021. Wife and husband Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk, better known as rock band Low have long been favourites of this blog. I know I am not the only one to think so and Robert Plant in particular is a huge fan of them. What makes this record very interesting and quite overwhelming as far as I am concerned is the way they have been working on the sound structure. Maybe being without a bass player following Steve Garrington‘s departure from the band gave them a kick in the ass. A bit like Radiohead for instance, their eagerness to keep on looking for something new in their art is an admirable thing. Let me also add that seeing Low on stage is a tremendous experience that you may want to live. Not the kind of record to play on for faint-hearted but an overall experience you might cherish forever. RECORD OF THE YEAR!

 #2 Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – “Carnage”. Released in: February 2021. I must admit being originally quite wrong as I was not sure about the quality of this record when it was released. Catching these two great men on stage at the Royal Albert Hall made me realise this album was a masterpiece and a real grower I must say. I guess I do not need to praise Nick Cave and how he succeeded in having an amazing career throughout all the projects he has been involved. On this album though, he is on par with soul mate Warren Ellis who is an amazing musician and formidable force. Once more, probably not the kind of record to play at a party but what an incredible piece of music it is…

 #3 Goat Girl – “On All Fours”. Released in: January 2021. From London, Goat Girl helped us get a great start of the year 2021. I must confess this record got better with every new listening and the way those young girl improved from their first album is impressive. There is a sort of ‘je ne sais quoi’ in this album which made it different from current modern productions and simultaneously very much of its time. Your new favourite band?

 #4 Dry Cleaning “New Long Leg”. Released in: April 2021. I read this year a very funny article mentioning that when you name your band Dry Cleaning, it really means you are out of names! Jokes aside, the debut album from another London band will probably make you want to be on stage or at a rock venue so good their music is. The real differentiator though can be found in Florence Shaw‘s vocal performance…well more precisely her way of talking as you will not find a single sung note on this record. I was lucky to catch them at End of the Road Festival and they really are one the best bands I have seen in recent times.

 #5 Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”. Released in: September 2021. Simbi, what did you do? You are an extraordinary musician and performer and I was ready to name your album Record of the Year but I thought it was a bit long sometimes and that a couple of tracks were probably too much. Do not stop here though as when it is good, it is really awesome and every music lover should love her art. Her previous 2019 ”Grey Area” album was also extraordinary and this young lady is here to stay.

 #6 Arlo Parks  “Collapsed In Sunbeams”. Released in: January 2021. Another debut from a London artist and another incredible piece of music. From French and Chadian heritage and born in London, Arlo Parks gave us what it is to be a young black lesbian woman in our current times while making her songs universal and beautiful, with the kind of melodies one could sing while taking their shower.

 #7 Joel Culpepper – “Sgt Culpepper”. Released in: July 2021. For some reason, Joel Culpepper‘s album has been out of all so-called specialists’ end of the year lists, which is quite difficult to understand I must say. He has been present on the London hip-hop and music scene for a while now but ”Sgt. Culpepper” is actually his first proper LP. I personally had the same emotion as when I discovered Terence Trent d’Arby in 1987 and ”Tears of a Crown” was my favourite song of the year. What else do I need to write to make it one of your favourites?

 #8 Anthony Joseph  “The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives”. Released in: May 2021. Another gorgeous album by one artist I have been following for a long time now. A Trinidad-born poet, Anthony Joseph has always been very much involved in the history of his island and the way his ancestors were treated. He is as engaged and committed as usual but this time with an amazing bunch of soul and jazz musicians. I recently missed him on stage but my local correspondent confirmed to me that he is an artist to catch live.

 #9 Mogwai  “As The Love Continues”. Released in: February 2021. From Glasgow, Scotland, Mogwai have also been doing incredible music since 1997 and French series aficionados probably know them through music scores (”Les Revenants” or the ”Zidane” movie). One often has a tendency to take things for granted when they are great and I must confess I lacked of bit of attention to Stuart Braithwaite and his band. If you are not familiar with this band and keen in discovering fascinating instrumental music, they are yours.

 #10 Villagers  “Fever Dream. Out in: August 2021. Let us stay in Gaelic landscapes and go to Dublin, Ireland for Conor J. O’Brien‘s new record, alias Villagers. I was not that huge a fan at the start of their career but I think they went from good to great when Conor started to regularly collaborate with Paul Weller. Their new record is an exercise in subtlety in lyrics and music atmosphere and it also gets better with each new listening.

Cruising high in the sky; the next 15!

  • 11. Damon Albarn“The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows”
  • 12. Kenny Garrett“Sounds From The Ancestors”
  • 13. Caetano Veloso“Meu Coco”
  • 14. Lump “Animal”
  • 15. Makaya McCraven“Deciphering The Message”
  • 16. Sleaford Mods – “Spare Ribs”
  • 17. Neil Young And Crazy Horse – “Barn”
  • 18. Kings Of Convenience – “Peace Or Love”
  • 19. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra- “Promises”
  • 20. Teenage Fanclub – “Endless Arcade”
  • 21. The Weather Station – “Ignorance”
  • 22. Genghis Tron – “Dream Weapon”
  • 23. Mastodon – “Hushed And Grim”
  • 24. The Black Keys – “Delta Kream”
  • 25. Elbow – “Flying Dream 1”
As every year, you may want to peruse the albumoftheyear.org website, which aggregates all lists from magazines, radio shows, stores, etc…but really this blog’s list is all you need (and its related playlist)!

December 2021 Album of the month: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Barn”

It looks we reached the end of another year, didn’t we? Well, let’s finish it then with an old friend…

Album of the month: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Barn” – Pop Rock – For the second year in a row, we are lucky to get an excellent record from one of the greats in December, which is traditionally a rather deserted month in terms of releases. I was of course referring to Paul McCartney‘s excellent album and the least one can say is that Neil Young’s latest is one of his best of the 21st century. Mainly played and recorded in a …barn near the Rocky Mountains with young men Nils Lofgren (70 years old) on guitar, Billy Talbot (78) on bass, Ralph Molina (78) on drums and Neil Young (76), this record is the perfect article for those who like country-side Neil and grungy Young. The sound is as rough as one would expect but with a touch of subtlety probably coming from Nils Lofgren who is one of the most undervalued guitar player, despite him being a member of Crazy Horse and the E-Street Band! Thank you also to Daryl Hannah for such a lovely picture on the cover of the record.

Runner-up: Moses Sumney “Live From Blackalachia” – Angel Music – I know I am a bit obsessive about this young man but I guess I need to recommend his art again and again for those not familiar yet. This is a live album so obviously not really eligible for the best records of the year but it is a perfect introduction for newcomers. Enter his world and yours could be different. Trust me, it happened to me a few years ago…

Also recommended:

King Buffalo “Acheron” – Stoner Rock – Second album of 2021 from this great Rochester, NY band.

Madmess “Rebirth” – Psychedelic Rock – Indeed, with ‘m’ and not ‘n’, from London and plenty of beards and long hair!

Jeff Parker – “Forfolks” – Post Folk – A beautiful quiet guitar album from a musician who is one of those collaborating with Makaya McCraven on his awesome recent album.

Paul Weller – “An Orchestrated Songbook” – Classic Rock – This is the release of the streamed Barbican gig which occurred earlier in the year. Beautiful.

Bill Callahan & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy“Blind Date Party” – Pop Rock – What do you think happens when two of our favourite singers invite cool guests for a bunch of covers?

U.F.A of the month! : Arca – “iii / iiii / iiiii ” – Electronica – Four albums in a few days (three in December) from eccentric Venezuelan transgender artist and sometimes Björk collaborator. It goes from the unlistenable to the pure genius (often in the same track!) but this is never boring.

Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Damon Albarn“The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows”

Everything I listened to in December ’21.
The best of the year so far ; seven albums per month!

November 2021 Album of the month: Damon Albarn – “The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows”

Another awesome month for music lovers, celebrating this time one of the greats.

Album of the month: Damon Albarn – “The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows” – Pop Rock – It is always difficult to judge a new record by an artist who has been with you for a long period of time. Do we listen to their new projects and records because we know them or would we have the same approach and excitement if they were to be newcomers? I personally think so, as my motto is to ‘listen without prejudice’ so I guess/hope it works on both sides. Although I was quite neutral regarding projects he recently had, it looks this new record is an amazing one. Music and lyrics are very subtle and perfectly reflect the sort of happy melancholy felt by Damon Albarn while in Iceland or on the Western British coast line (amazing photos by the way). Probably a classic album…which I was lucky to recently test live on the 12th of November at Rough Trade East.

Runner-up: Makaya McCraven “Deciphering The Message” – Jazz – Makaya McCraven is an extraordinary drummer and his origins already tell a few things about the man and his appetite for experimentation (born in Paris from a American drummer dad and a Hungarian folk singer mum). Blue Note has offered him to rework a few tracks of their classic and incredible catalogue by using samples but also recreating music with a few fellow excellent young jazz musicians. The description of it all may appear worrying but I really suggest you listen to this album ; you will then enjoy the inventiveness and extreme musicianship of it all.

Also recommended:

Curtis Harding “If Words Were Flowers” – Soul Music – Old school soul music new record in today’s world by beautiful American singer with attitude.

Aimee Mann “Queens Of The Summer Hotel” – Pop Rock – Aimee Mann has always been a favourite of this blog and she delivers the goods with her new movie-inspired album.

Courtney Barnett – “Things Take Time, Take Time” – Rock – This is the new release from Australian Courtney Barnett, another favourite of ours. She is as good as usual in terms of choosing titles for her records, although her new music is a bit less lethal than her previous albums.

Idles – “Crawler” – Punk Rock – An excellent new opus from one of the best British bands of the last ten years.

Elbow“Flying Dream 1” – Pop Rock – Guy Garvey and his crew just released an unexpected new record, produced and written during pandemic times. You will not find a better band, balancing popular melodies with an inventive mindset. If not done yet, you should really listen to Guy Garvey’s finest hour, available every week on BBC6.

U.F.A of the month! : Abba – “Voyage” – It is well known that there are a few people amongst the best ever music specialists (Jim Derogatis or Michka Assayas being both of them for instance) who really like Abba and their so-called tremendous pop music feeling. I am not one of these people and I must even confess really hating their music, although I guess the four of them are probably nice people. So what about this new record released around forty years since they disbanded? Well, probably the worst thirty seven minutes of music I had to listen to since the start of the century. Avoid at all costs!

Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Caetano Veloso – “Meu Coco

Hours of music ; everything I had to listen to (including Adele, Abba and Julie Armanet ; the horror!) to offer you this nice selection.
The best of the year so far ; seven albums per month!

October 2021 Album of the month: Caetano Veloso – “Meu Coco”

I guess I owe an apology to my beloved readers for being so late but I hope the wait was worth it. This month, we are going to celebrate the new album of a 79-year old young man.

Album of the month: Caetano Veloso– “Meu Coco” – É do Brasil! – I must admit currently being in a Brazilian phase in terms of listening habits but I would not have thought in a million years being in a position to award the legendary Caetano Veloso with the album of the month tag. And by the way, qualifying the great man as a legend is probably improper wording because he is definitely not the kind of person to be kept in a museum. This is his first album in ten years and his first ever only made of personal songs, in a career which started in the late 60’s as a key member of the so-called Tropicalia movement. He recorded it in his Rio de Janeiro studio, alone or with young musicians but really it could have been released any time during the last fifty years. As often in his production, lyrics can be political, funny or even moving but understanding Portuguese is not an requirement to appreciate this album. You will not find such a sense of lightness and youth anywhere else this year. Listen to this album and discover an amazing person and musician.

Runner-up: The War On Drugs “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” – Pop Rock – Adam Granduciel is back with his new opus and the least one can say is that there is more than ever an attention to each sound and details. Those familiar with this band will not feel disconnected with this record as they will find Adam’s obsession in mixing sounds close to Bruce Springsteen‘s ”Tunnel Of Love” with an ‘now’ attitude. And as always with their previous records, it gets better with each listening.

Also recommended:

Shannon Lay “Geist” – Punk Folk – A great new record from this Californian chanteuse.

Vanishing Twin “Ookii Gekkou” – Pop Rock – Wonderful new record from this London band. If you are a fan of Stereolab and Krautrock, this one’s for you!

Parquet Courts – “Sympathy For Life” – NY Rock – This is a bit like meeting old friends again with Parquet Courts ; after five minutes of restraint, you end up being crazy like in old times!

Billy Bragg – “The Million Things That Never Happened” – Pop Rock – Still political and melody-oriented after all these years.

Mastodon – “Hushed And Grim” – Metal – The best metal band for people who are not necessarily metal music fans. Nothing beats listening to a Mastodon album very loud!

U.F.A of the month! : Coldplay – “Music Of The Spheres” – They finally got their worst reviews ever. A part of me think they deserve it as Chris Martin is a kind of a dick to be honest…but amongst a few poor tracks, there are good songs and with closer ‘Coloratura‘ one of their best ever.

Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”

That’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it: all October ’21 new albums I listened to!
The best of the year so far ; seven albums per month!

The Boo Radleys, London, The Moth Club – 30th October 2021

I am not sure exactly why but I have not been really eager to review again gigs and events recently… It probably comes from months of abstinence and a certain prudence about this new ‘almost-back-to-normal’ life. There is nothing I cherish more in life than attending live music and there is certainly nothing blasé regarding my attitude to gigs. I guess it was just getting back to old habits…and yesterday’s night gig was the perfect reason to do a review. You faithful readers know how much I consider The Boo Radleys as one of the best and more creative bands of all times. They were one of the many jewels of Creation records and their 1993 ”Giant Steps” LP is a fantastic record one can listen to hundreds of times. However, they were a band from the 90’s and clearly not in existence anymore since the new century and I guess every fan was fine to revisit one of their five great albums once in a while. Getting an alert from Songkick a few weeks ago that they were to reform for a few dates came as a positive shock to this blog’s editor…but I must confess I would not have missed this London gig for nothing.

Reformation can really be deceptive sometimes and I must admit I was not sure what to find, having in mind main songwriter and guitarist Martin Carr politely declined the invitation. These fears disappeared immediately after hearing the first notes of music played that night: the beautiful voice of Sice, the powerful drumming of Rob Cieka, the sense of melody of bass player Timothy Brown, the excellent guitar-effects playing of their tour guitarist… as if nothing had really changed. Sice made jokes throughout the nights about not getting younger (aside from Rob who found the fountain of youth) and not ready to go on a diet (‘Wish I Was Skinny‘) but really the way they played was as dedicated and amazing as during their peak period. The setlist was very well balanced with songs from their four 1993 to 1998 albums plus a few new (and very good) songs from their March 2022 soon to be released new album. Although they tried not to let it appeared too much, it was obvious that it was a special moment for the band, full of emotion and good vibes. Gents, welcome back to the music world and please make sure that it was not a one of a kind moment but that there will be more to come. And please play ‘I Hang Suspended‘ next time!

Bobbie Gillespie – Q&A – Earth Kitchen, London – 15th October 2021

For once, Rough Trade did not organise a Q&A at their traditional London East store but in a beautiful location, situated just next door to the Earth venue, one of the current best in Eastern London. The reason why Bobbie Gillespie, leader of Primal Scream and previous member of The Jesus & Mary Chain, was there that day was to present his autobiography (from his youth to the ”Screamadelica” album. I was lucky enough to be called by the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine to do a review of that evening, which was an excellent and rewarding one. You will find it below ; apologies again for non-French readers…and for French ones as there is a huge misspelling which has not been corrected by the web editor…

If there were one thing to remember that evening, one should keep Bobbie’s answer when asked if he were to choose between Acid House and Punk Rock: Acid Punk!

September 2021 Album of the month: Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”

It looks back to school period was for real this year! Tens of great or not so great records but plenty of them to discover. Matthew E. White, Sufjan Stevens, Esperanza Spalding or Andy Shauf would normally have been in this selection with their respective new records but that was quite a competitive month.

Album of the month: Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” – London Urban Music – Not a real surprise to get Ms. Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo as record of the month. This blog has been a huge fan of hers since they discovered her previous 2019 LP ‘Grey Area‘ which ended #2 in our best of 2019 list. She has been quite present recently either through her acting talents in Netflix excellent ‘Top Boy‘ series, with features on a few songs or again a fantastic performance at our beloved End Of The Road festival. Her new record is long and ambitious and I must admit it goes sometimes a bit all over the place, not naming a few weird interludes… However, when it is good, it is extraordinary! Here is a young lady, very sharp in describing in her lyrics what it means being a black woman in the UK with subtlety but moreover extremely talented in all the musical styles she puts her hand on. There will not be so many other better records this year so now is your turn to listen to her!

Runner-up: William Shatner “Bill” – Pop Rock – He has just landed from space! He is 90 years old! He has been doing amazing records since the start of the 00’s, including an absolute classic (2004’s ”Has Been’‘)! Ladies and Gentlemen, Captain Kirk is back!

Also recommended:

Suuns “The Witness” – Pop Rock – A very minimal and intriguing piece of music by one of Montreal, Canada best hidden secrets.

The Limiñanas & Laurent Garnier “De Pélicula” – Pop Rock A great lockdown collaboration between the best French garage band and the electro godfather. Sounds like a concept album to me!

Low – “Hey What” – Pop Rock – The older they get, the more they experiment. Low is one of the best band ever, period, and this record is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

The Bevis Frond – “Little Eden” – Pop Rock – A very long guitar-oriented rock album ; what is there not to love, really?

Manic Street Preachers – “The Ultra Vivid Lament” – Pop Rock – There has never been a week Manic Street Preachers album and this new opus is no exception.

U.F.A of the month! : Hubert Lenoir – “Pictura De Ipse: Musique Directe” – Whatever…. – Now choose your expression depending on the country you are from: bullshit / n’importe nawak / brincadeira…

Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Villagers – “Fever Dreams”

All September 2021 new albums, listened to by V&P.
The best of the year so far ; seven albums per month!

August 2021 Album of the month: Villagers – “Fever Dreams”

I am extremely late this month ; I know… So here you go for a great album for August.

Album of the month: Villagers – “Fever Dreams” – Pop Rock – The older Villagers’ leader Conor O’Brien gets, the more beautiful his music is. I must confess it took me a few years to really appreciate his art but I guess he can now be considered as one of the most gifted songwriter of our times. The way Paul Weller praised the talent of the Irishman through their latest collaborations makes no doubt ; he is one of the greats.

Runner-up: Steve Gunn “Other You” – Guitar music – Another lovely album from this fantastic American guitar player. This blog has been a fan of his for a few years now, either through his live shows or the beautiful records he made with the great late Michael Chapman.

Also recommended:

Kenny Garrett “Sounds from the Ancestors” – Jazz – Saxophone player extraordinaire!

The Killers “Pressure Machine” – Pop Rock Their best album in ages, in a Springstean mood.

Lorde – “Solar Power” – PopNice record from our favourite Kiwi pop female artist.

Big Red Machine – “How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?” – Pop Rock – Excellent collaboration between Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner from The National, with lots of cool invited female singers.

Liars – “The Apple Drop” – Pop Rock – Angus Andrew is back with his band as, as usual, this record is very different from the previous one

U.F.A of the month! : Kanye West – “Donda” – Kanye music – Not a bad record per se but much too long and not on par with what he used to release. Are his glory days behind us?

Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Darkside – “Spiral

All August 2021 releases
The best of the year so far ; seven albums per month!

Third Man Records – London Store Opening!

For once, I will not write a full article about a very specific event…as I already did it! I was lucky to be the London correspondent of the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine for the opening of the London store of Third Man Records (their 3rd after Nashville and Detroit), the label co-founded by Jack White with his two compadres Ben Swank and Ben Blackwell. Located in the centre of the Soho district, this is a very nice place indeed, full of great stuff.

For those familiar with French, read my review which can be found online (link below) and the interview I had with Dave Buick, the Detroit store manager. For the others, a) apologies and b) enjoy the picture of Jack White playing with his band on a balcony!