Festival Field Day, 6th & 7th June 2015, London Victoria Park

Back to festival time for the blog after close to 2 years of drought as the last one I went to was the excellent Paris Pitchfork Festival in November ’13. So with a big smile on my face and with the pleasure in having a sunny weather throughout the two days, here is my review of this event.

Field Day 2015, Ride

I had taken my 2-day pass ages ago as I did not succeed in being fast enough to get tickets to see Ride at the Roundhouse late May so going to this festival was an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Held in the beautiful Victoria Park in the North-Eastern side of London, it is almost the first one of the outdoor British festivals of the year. I was particularly impressed by the way the logistics were taken care of and by the fact the Festival was offering a few big names whilst keeping a decent size. 16 bands reviewed and scrutinised below ; I must admit that to me the second day was by far better than the first sold-out one. Pity for the prestigious guests I had convinced to put on their red shoes and dance the blues with me..

  • Poor : 1 Star

I lately realised that the different posts on this blog might appear slightly boring as always describing good to great concerts and/or books, records, etc… I must say that by getting older every day, one wants probably to keep their energy in writing positive things… On top of it, years of listening and spending well-earned money probably made me aware about which gigs I want to go to. This is why a Festival is always welcome for me as this is a very good opportunity to write about bad bands or bands good on records but less so on stage.

Field Day 2015, tUnE-yArDs

This is for instance the case with Caribou who were the headliners on Saturday evening. Their music and record have been a must in the recent years for those interested in intelligent and melodic dance music but I must say I have been waiting for the show to really start and give a bit of emotion or groove… Almost same deception for me regarding tUnE-yArDs. Exclusively the brainchild of Merrill Garbus, this is an almost-female fronted band whose ambition is apparently now only to mix high-pitched indie rock with tribal drums plaid in an African style. At the end of the day, nothing is particularly bad here but you keep hoping the concert will end soon as nothing really happens. A real pity as she was a real new original voice and presence when the band started but it looks from another age now.

Field Day 2015, Kindness

Kindness was the third major deception of Day One as although Adam Bainbridge’s will to mix uptempo melodies with Prince gimmicks and soul chorists looks like a great idea, you actually feel like watching an average band covering funky standards. I thought I would have interesting things to say about new UK band Gulf…but no really apart that it sounded to me like (another) soon to be forgotten UK band.

  • OK : 2 Stars

OK in the meaning that I did not spend a bad moment per se and that I even enjoyed part of the show…but, well, you know, ok means ok…

Field Day 2015, Philip Selway

Philip Selway is the drummer of one of our most cherished band (Radiohead) and that was funny seeing this great musician playing his delicate songs in front of around 300/400 people under one of the tent stages whereas the guy is used to play arenas in front of worshipping fans. Nice to see such a humble man singing and presenting his songs …and he has a nice voice by the way. But shall I be severely spanked to say that it was on the edge of being boring ? Too late I am afraid… Another good band watched on the same stage was the Allah-Las from Los Angeles. Their music is a mix of garage rock with nice 60’s West Coast influence melodies and they sometimes are on the verge of greatness. My only feeling is that their sound is so retro that this is a bit embarrassing sometimes.

Field Day 2015, Allah-Las

Third ok concert for me was that played by hype Scottish band Django Django. Their new second LP “Born Under Saturn” is really good but is it for the real reasons? What I try to say is that they are very clever guys much interested in new sounds and textures. They have everything to succeed as their good sense of melodies have already made them popular while at the same time pleasing the indie rock aficionados…but something is missing here. Not sure what this is (soul ? authenticity ?) but I pretended a bit to have a good time whereas in reality I was a bit indifferent to their songs.

Field Day 2015, Django Django

  • Good : 3 Stars

Either unexpected good surprises or confirmation of what I thought, these are bands I would be really happy to see again if opportunity were to knock again.

Field Day 2015, Ex Hex

The first band you see on Day One is always something special in a festival ; it will not necessarily give you the tempo about what is to come but it might give you a flavour of the mood, the audience, etc… Yossarian is a new band from the UK and their set was impressive in terms of energy and good songs (influences I spotted went from Pink Floyd to early Radiohead). Their first album was offered as a free download for those attending the set so nice initiative too! Another very good act on Saturday was the Norwegian Todd Terje. Although I did not have the best spot to see his very nice lounge/dance music, the tracks he played (mainly from his latest LP “It’s Album Time“) were as good live as they were on record, thanks in particular to an excellent drummer on stage. Perfect music to warm up on a declining sunny day!

Field Day 2015, DIIV

The next three acts were as good as I had expected them to be. I started my Day Two with the female trio Ex Hex. Held by singer/guitarist Mary Timony,  a woman who has been around for many years in excellent different bands, their music is a mix of grungy sounds with nice choirs. A kind of modern female Ramones and this is a real compliment! DIIV on their sides were presenting on the main stage extracts from their soon to come second LP and it sounded very promising. Although Zachary Cole Smith looks like a guy getting out of bed in terms of attitude…and clothes, he was actually very much there and focused. I must say the band made me a much better impression than the last time I had seen them at the Pitchfork Festival in Paris and I cannot wait to hear the new LP. Last but not least, I managed to watch the second part of Mac DeMarco‘s set and the guy was the way we like him. Dr. Jekyll on one side mainly on the way his songs are really moving and beautiful (his latest LP was part of our 2014 Top 20) and Mr. Hyde on the other one jamming sometimes stupidly with this bare-chested viking guitarist or crowd-surfing.

Field Day 2015, Mac DeMarco

  • Great : 4 Stars

Field Day 2015, Owen Pallett

My only real emotion of Day One was for Owen Pallett and his violin. This Canadian from Toronto used to be known in the business through his multiple activities and in particular as the one arranging strings for his friends Arcade Fire. On top of these many extra-curricular activities, he is now a solo artist on his own and his latest 2014 “In Conflict” LP is particularly recommended. What he does with his violin is really amazing but the skill he has with this instrument is always at the service of the songs and melodies.

Field Day 2015, My Brightest Diamond

Day Two was particularly heavy in emotions, starting with the great Shara Worden who plays under the guise of My Brightest Diamond. She is a super talented musician but I was not sure about how her intimate songs would get on stage. Exam more than succeeded as far as I am concerned first because her rhythm bass and drums section were astonishing but as well because of her personality. Here is a woman who can be funny, make you dance, give you the creeps,… and all this in a 40-minute set. Discover her if not done yet.

Field Day 2015, Patti Smith

Patti Smith playing the seminal “Horses” under a beautiful day with on her side Lenny Kaye on guitar ; can life be any better? Well, probably not, due to the fact that she was on top form at 68 years old and keeping the same balance of stamina and poetry as she has been famous for all her life. Nothing much to say apart from the fact the great lady is amongst our Top 100 of all times and that “Horses” is an album I have literally been listening to hundreds of times with always the same enthusiasm. The rest of the set was amazing as well and the band finished with their traditional cover of “My Generation” by The Who. Catch her if you can as she will have a few extra-dates comes Autumn.

Field Day 2015, Andy Bell & Mark Gardener

Last but not least, I ended up this 2-day marathon with the amazing Ride from Oxford, UK. This band is part too of our favourite ones and the least I could say is that a year ago I would not have believed such a tour possible. What made the reunion of the original four-member band possible was the good idea Liam Gallagher had last year of disbanding the post-Oasis mediocre Beady Eye, thus leading for an event all rock fans were waiting for almost twenty years. I had only caught them once in April 1990 as the opening act of The House of Love (remember them?) and that show was still a very strong memory. Faith and belief are two key words in rock’n’roll and Ride played at Field Day Festival as if their story had just begun. They opened their fantastic set with “Leave Them All Behind” and kept the pace as such throughout the whole gig. Not sure what will happen next (is this reunion for long ? any plan in trying to record new songs ?) but tonight there was magic in the air so thank you gents.

Field Day, see you next year!

 

Best of 2013 : Top 20 !

2013 was one of these years… Every year is great when you are a real music fan as there are reasures to discover in pop, soul, rock, metal, hip hop,…any style. But 2013 was special and I had to put apart excellent records that would have been here other years (hello My Bloody Valentine, Iron & Wine, Franz Ferdinand and many others…). Difficult as well for newcomers to join the crew so good were the more famous artists who had been there forever and/or made unexpected comebacks.

Albums

 

Album of the Year – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Push the Sky away”

 Nick Cave has made so many great albums that a new one is sometimes seen as “another excellent Nick Cave album”. That was my reaction at first and although I liked it a lot, it became slowly but surely my number one throughout the second part of the year. Amazing songs, great lyrics, less guitar, more melodies, Warren Ellis more and more present as lieutenant…and that’s it. We have with Nick Cave an amazing musician and singer, who keeps a very humble attitude and tends to simplify his art with age (as many great painters did in the past) so discover him if not done yet and cherish his music.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Paris Zenith 2013, holding hands

From Paris, November 2013 concert

The rest of my top 20 (by alphabetical order)

  Arcade Fire“Reflektor” Arcade Fire have been back in 2013 and the least one can say was that indeed difficult to miss them being back. Lots of hype around the name (they took the fake “The Reflektors” tag to play here and there), around their new sound (more rhythm thanks to LCD Soundsystem James Murphy), around their mystery guests (hello again David Bowie)… but at the end of the day how were the songs and the LP? Well,…good enough to be in this Top 20 but probably not as good as their previous LP’s “Funeral” and “The Suburbs”. They remain though one of the most interesting bands of our times, the way they are looking for new ways to do music is refreshing (despite the quite irritating marketing plan around it) and with the song “Reflektor” they had an amazing hit.

 Arctic Monkeys – “AM” The little boys from Sheffield are now mid-20’s adults living in California and AM is already their fifth (!) LP. I hesitated a bit before putting this album as well but not anymore after a few recent listening as such powerful and melodic their music still is. For those who love at the same time Brit-pop and stone-rock (me!), this album is a must (and quite well ranked everywhere in the UK).

 David Bowie“The Next day” What can I say except that 2013 was a weird year with the totally unexpected come-back from such a great artist to the music biz but as well amongst the world of the living whereas my indestructible other idol Lou Reed left us in October… The 8th of  January in particular had been an important day with David Bowie showing to the world a new single the day of his 66th birthday and the fact that a new LP was to arrive in March. The Next Day is a superb album, as good as the last ones he had done in the early 00’s and with the usual great partners, such as for instance Toni Visconti at the production wheel or Gail Ann Dorsey on bass. Amazing 10-minute remix of “Love is lost” from James Murphy (again!) available on the limited edition of the album mixing typical LCD Soundsystem and a few musical phrases from “Ashes to Ashes”.

Image result for bill callahan dream river Bill Callahan“Dream River” A new LP by Bill Callahan might be the equivalent of new Woody Allen or Coen Bros movies : very regular in production, you go there more by habit than will, it sounds or looks familiar at first sight or listening but then you realise that these guys are real masters in what they do and that their art is always on top of the rest. No revolution here in Bill Callahan’s music but very humble and funny lyrics with beautiful melodies and a very crafted way to make it sound modern. If you do not know yet this artist, “Dream River” is the album to start with.

Image result for wise up ghost Elvis Costello and the Roots“Wise Up Ghost” I tend to be suspicious and to freeze my enthusiasm when two of my favourite artists from different horizons join forces to make music together as this is often deceptive. Fortunately the association of Elvis Costello with what might be the best hip-hop band of the last fifteen years has given beautiful results. The strength of this album is that both these artists collaborate on a kind of “intermediary” music (say neither rock, nor hip-hop) giving what could be the Tamla Motown sound of today. The most unforecasted collaboration of the year for a very recommended album.

 Mikal Cronin“MCII” One of the rare newcomers in this Top 20 list, Mikal Cronin is a young American part of the Ty Segall garage-rock frame. However, his music is more balanced than the rest of his fellow friends with a mix of folk sensitivity and indeed sometimes heavier garage-rock sounds. Melodies are superb throughout this album, which explains its presence in our Top 20.

 Daft Punk“Random Access Memories” Like Arcade Fire, Daft Punk‘s return has been precisely prepared and implemented and one could feel concerned about what was really at stakes. But who cares when the music is so good… and so different vs. what the band had done before. To make it short, let’s stay that Daft Punk went with this record from the numeric to the analogic age with subtlety, envy and creativity. You have been dancing and listening to “Get Lucky” for almost a year now so I will not dare tell you that this single is indispensable and probably the best hit song since Gnarls Barkley “Crazy”. What makes this LP so amazing as well is the way the band and their guests managed to get the best from each others. The real master of this album by far is the fantastic drummer Omar Hakim ; he is the one keeping this heartbeat rhythm throughout the album and making it the work of robots starting being human. (almost) #1 record of the year…

 Darkside“Psychic” Darkside is a project held by the American-Chilean dance music producer Nicolas Jaar with the (great) help of guitarist Dave Harrington. Together, they do produce fantastic electro music, succeeding to make it sound at the same time very fresh and very 70’s. This is probably not by chance that their project’s name is a part of Pink Floyd most famous album. I personally had an amazing experience when I saw them live at the Paris Pitchfork festival so euphoric and dreamy their music is.

 Junip“Junip” Junip is a Swedish trio lead by semi-famous pop/folk singer José Gonzalez and this album is their second LP after “Fields” in 2010. They clearly played tougher with this album, not in the sense that they suddenly starting making death-metal guitar riffs but more in the fact that they mixed their usual beautiful folk songs with new repetitive rhythms not far from those made famous by 70’s German bands (CAN, NEU!, etc…). A real grower too as each new listening make this album better and better.

 Mark Kozelek and Jimmy Lavalle“Perils from the Sea” One of the four (!) LP’s offered this year by the great Mark Kozelek and all surprisingly fresh and different (one is live “at Phoenix Public House Melbourne“, one is a covers LP “Like Rats” and the other one is a collaboration with US band Desertshore). This one is for me the best of the four probably because Mark Kozelek had not been involved in such fresh sounds for years. Jimmy Lavalle is more famous as leader of electro-pop band The Album Leaf and one can feel all what he brought to this collaboration. Red House Painters fans will find Mark Kozelek’s voice as beautiful as ever but probably in more dynamic and smiling environment (do not get wrong, I am the #1 fan of his usual depressive songs…).

 Laura Marling“Once I was an Eagle” Laura Marling is a young 23-year old British singer and this album is already her 4th album (!). I guess I never talked about her before in this blog whereas her music has been a constant pleasure for years now. She put herself in danger here by letting her UK band behind her to record this album in Los Angeles with new musicians. But I would tend to say that the real star of the show is her in all her records so impressive is her maturity and voice for such a young lady. The first four tracks of this record are a kind of post-break up suite when one can really feel the 3 am mood of serene hope after difficult times. If these comments remain unclear, think Laura Marling as the Joni Mitchell of our times, no less.

 The National“Trouble will find me” The National are really getting better and better with each release. This might seem too affirmative a sentence in relation to their last LP’s that have been regularly in our best of’s of former years but this album is a good as all previous ones regarding chords and arrangements but probably stronger in terms of melodies and emotion (“happy/sad”). If you are familiar and attracted to their music, you really should catch them on stage. I saw them live twice in 2013 and this has been every time an amazing moment.

 Nine Inch Nails“Hesitation Marks” Another excellent come-back as the band was on infinite hiatus since 2009 but it looks like the different very good projects Trent Renznor was having on a parallel side were not rewarding him enough compared to the thrill of being back on record and on stage with his main band Nine Inch Nails. Very long and deep album which will request many listening to get over all its treasures. Same as for The National with Nine Inch Nails ; if you like them, seeing them live is a must.

 Prefab Sprout “Crimson/Red” Talking about comeback, this one was probably the most surprising of them all. Of course, there had been a few albums since Prefab Sprout’s great years (basically the 80’s) but more often these good records were recordings from the past. This is not the case with this new album which has been made alone by Paddy McAlloon. After many serious health issues, he is looking now like an old wise man with long white hair and beard but his songs (and voice) are that of a young man in his late 20’s in love. Probably the most moving album of the year.

 Queens Of The Stone Age“…like Clockwork” Amazingly enough, it had been six years since the previous QOTSA album and one did not feel such a long time due to their leader Josh Homme’s presence in many projects. However, he had disappeared for a few months in 2012 as he faced a surgery that did not go well and had a near-death experience. After double-thoughts about his career and the meaning of life, the big man came back to what he is famous for : music that rocks like hell ! Well, sort of as this album is probably the most melodic and quiet one and should bring new fans to one of the greatest bands of our times.

 Trentemøller“Lost” Our favourite Danish dance artist/producer has been back recently with this very good album which did not make a lot of noise amongst the specialists. This is a shame as one can find the post-punk mixed with electro kind of music for which he is so good at (say This Mortal Cole with a Daft Punk Vibe…). Many great guests as well on this LP, including Mimi Parker from Low.

 Kurt Vile“Wakin on a Pretty Daze” This blog’s author is quite a fan of Kurt Vile and I have seen him live twice this year. What makes this young man so good and above the rest of all the fine American rock writers? Probably the way he has of not playing 100% of the biz game and being naive at the same time. Musically speaking, those who like their songs long and repetitive as in the best Neil Young LP’s will get love at first sight with Kurt Vile.

 Kanye West“Yeezus” You all know Kanye West, one of the richest musicians ever, with an ego the size of a continent, his celebrity-life, his ridiculous videos, the way he talks to the media basically about …anything. But this is not the Kanye West I like ; the one I know is one the greatest artists of all times, making fantastic albums in a row, always changing style, inventive and creator of superb melodies. This LP was tougher after the first listening (almost sounding like the NY 70’s band Suicide for those familiar) but deserved attention as this was as good as his best work. Funny as well to hear Daft Punk on many tracks playing dark and scary electro whereas they chose soul sounds for their own LP.

 Yo La Tengo“Fade” Another great LP from Yo La Tengo with as usual the same beautiful split of cool ballads and furious saturated rock songs. Having seen them live this year was as great as before and having the honour to get a 5-minute chat with them at the Paris Pitchfork Festival made my year. In this sad 2013 year where our rock master disappeared, there is no better band as Yo La Tengo to bear the Velvet Underground sounds.

Other top 5’s :

  • New Musical Express (UK weekly mag.): 1. Arctic Monkeys “AM” 2. Kanye West “Yeezus” 3. Queens Of The Stone Age ”…Like Clockwork” 4. Foals “Holy Fire” 5. Savages “Silence Yourself”
  • Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. My Bloody Valentine “mbv” 2. David Bowie “The Next Day” 3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Push The Sky Away” 4. John Grant “Pale Green Ghosts” 5. Laura Marling “Once I Was An Eagle”
  • Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Bill Callahan “Dream River” 2. Daft Punk “Random Access Memories” 3. David Bowie “The Next Day” 4. Arctic Monkeys “AM” 5. John Grant “Pale Green Ghosts”
  • Paste (US web mag.): 1. Phosphorescent “Muchacho” 2. Mikal Cronin “MCII” 3. Foxygen “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic” 4. Janelle Monae “The Eletric Lady ” 5. Deerhunter “Monomania”
  • Pitchfork  (US website): 1. Vampire Weekend  “Modern Vampires Of The City” 2. Kanye West “Yeezus” 3. Disclosure “Settle ” 4. My Bloody Valentine “mbv” 5. Danny Brown “Old”
  • Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Arcade Fire “Reflektor” 2. La Femme “Psycho Tropical Berlin” 3. Daft Punk “Random Access Memories” 4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Push The Sky Away” 5. Jagwar Ma “Howlin”
  • Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. Aline “Regarde Le Ciel” 2. Phoenix “Bankrupt!” 3. Minks “Tides End” 4. La Femme “Psycho Tropical Berlin” 5. Arcade Fire “Reflektor”
  • New Noise (French bimester mag.): 1. Jessica 93 “Who Cares” 2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Push The Sky Away” 3. Fuck Buttons “Slow Focus” 4. Ventura “Ultima Necat” 5. Marvin “Barry
  • Sound Opinions (US music podcast)   Greg Kot’s 1. Parquet Courts “Light Up Gold” 2. Chance The Rapper “Acid Rap” 3. Allen Toussaint “Songbook” 4. Darkside “Psychic” 5. Savages “Silence Yourself”     Jim DeRogatis’ 1. Savages “Silence Yourself” 2. Parquet Courts “Light Up Gold” 3. Chance The Rapper “Acid Rap” 4. Foxygen “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic” 5. Lorde “Pure Heroine”
  • Fargo (Paris records store): Top 2013 records in no particular order
  • Ground Zero (Paris records store): Top 10 in no particular order
  • Other Music (NY records store): Top 30 in no particular order

Reissue of the Year

Nirvana “In Utero” Much more than “Nevermind” or “Unplugged”, “In Utero” was Nirvana‘s masterpiece. No need to argue beloved readers ; this is a fact ! This magnificent box-set include 3 CD’s of the original album with the mix we all know plus mixes of what it could (should?) have been plus a lot of alternate versions and a tremendous MTV live show (also including as a DVD) which shows all the power of the band and the genius Kurt Cobain was. Read in particular the letter that producer Steve Albini wrote to the band to convince them to work with him to understand what love of music is about.

Music Movie of the Year

Dave Grohl “Sound City” Very moving and energizing movie from Dave Grohl explaining how such a great studio Sound City, California was (home of many historical records such as Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” – great reissue as well this year by the way – and Nirvana “Nervermind” for instance), how it slowly got less famous vs. new technologies and how he bought the mixing desk and brought it back to life. The music is extraordinary throughout the movie and there are many guests bringing back this place to life. Watching in particular Paul McCartney with the surviving members of Nirvana or Josh Homme playing with Trent Renznor is a must. Watch the movie and buy the album.

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 56 – 60

I know, I know, the working week is tough without a new episode of our TOP 100 but here is your reward.

60. Robert Wyatt

 from : Bristol, England / first great sounds : 60’s / style : delicate protest songs / essential albums : Rock Bottom (1974) , Old Rottenhat (1985)

There are basically two periods concerning Robert Wyatt : the first one when he was party-beast drummer in jazz-rock British ensemble The Soft Machine and the second one when he became the man of a beautiful voice and inventive keyboards sounds after being paralyzed from the waist down due to him falling down from a window at one party too many. His oeuvre is unique and can not be linked with that of any other musicians due to the kind of music he plays. Very much on the left side politically speaking, Robert has been showing all his life how to make beautiful and sensitive protest music.

59. Jeff Buckley

 from : Orange County, California, USA  / first great sounds : 90’s / style : sensitive authentic rock / essential album : Grace (1994)

Jeff Buckley would probably be rated much higher here if he had been able to have a longer career. Son of the great Tim Buckley, him passing away in 1997 was probably the saddest news in the history of rock music such was his talent. At the same time very much respectful and passionate about his predecessors, he was still able to bring something new and fresh in his music. Grace is a perfect debut album although I must admit that listening to it is a mix of pleasure and sadness.

58. The Clash

from : London, England / first great sounds : 70’s / style : punk rock / essential albums : The Clash (1977) / London Calling (1979)

Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon, The Clash is one of these bands when you can give the musicians’ names at a glance so great were their personalities and crafts. With Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks, The Clash were the leaders of the UK punk movement of the late 70’s but they were more than that. With Strummer and Jones, they had two amazing songwriters and with Simonon and Headon, they had one of the best rhythm sections ever (although the first one basically learnt bass when playing the first shows!). Authenticity, conquering the US, drugs’ abuse, friendship, betrayal, redemption, their own story is one of the greatest ever written as well.

57. Arcade Fire

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting from : Montreal, Canada / first great sounds : 00’s  / style : hyper-enthusiastic rock  / essential albums : Funeral (2004), The Suburbs (2010) / Click for more on the blog

Arcade Fire came out of nowhere in 2004 with their first LP “Funeral” and the least one can say is that this album made a strong impact in the rock world. There are one of these rare bands that succeed in bringing together the general non-music-lovers’ audience, the rock critics, their peers and your regular indie-rock fan (hello me!). The best environment to enjoy Arcade Fire is to see them on stage as I defy anyone to resists to such enthusiastic songs!

56. Primal Scream

 from : Glasgow, Scotland / first great sounds : 80’s  / style : screamadelica / essential albums : Screamadelica (1991), Vanishing Point (1997) / Click for more on the blog : complete discographylive

Virgins and Philistines avid followers will not be surprised to see Primal Scream in our TOP 100 thanks to the different posts we have already done about this great band and their leader Bobby Gillespie in particular. I would only recommend once more to listen again and again to “Screamadelica” if you want to feel the hedonism and positive feeling that one could find in the music business in the UK in the early 90’s. Don’t fight it, feel it!

Austin City Limits Festival 16th to 18th September 2011 : My Top 10 shows

A dream come true for your host. Austin City Limits is a festival that had been created ten years go in 2001 and whose line-up has been one of the best for a few years. It takes place every year at the end of the summer (well, winter lasts for one month in South Texas…) in Zilker Park very near downtown and has many qualities on top of its line-up : cooler audience in the world, between 30 and 35 degrees C° every day, the pleasure in attending shows bare-feet in the grass, a Waterloo Records temporary store, ecology-friendly (I did not see one soda bottle or a beer glass on the ground for three days…) and even ladies speaking the language of signs in front of the stage during a few shows for those who needed it. I saw 24 shows during this three-day marathon and you will find below my subjective Top 10. But here are first a few pictures of the festival to get in the mood, including all shows I saw but not in my Top 10 (although a few of them were great such as The Antlers, Charles Bradley, Gomez or Phosphorescent for instance). Oh, and Christian Bale was there too…

ACL 2011 - Entrance Day

#10 – Joseph Arthur : a long time since I did not see Joseph Arthur live. He had been “discovered” by Peter Gabriel at the end of the 90’s but always managed his career the way he wanted, making it a bit difficult to follow among his many projects. He played ACL on the way he does it best, i.e. alone with his acoustic guitar and a foot-sampler to get rhythm and loops and allowing the audience to hear his beautiful texts and melodies. And as he is a very talented painter too, he did a few of them while singing. Classy guy…

#9 – The Walkmen : Americana meeting Joy Division is the way I described this band to my mate before the show and I must say this is a quite good shortcut. The guys woke up at 4 a.m. as they were coming directly from another long distance US State whose name I forgot but still succeeded in opening greatly the Saturday session on the AMD stage. Excellent noirish but also entertaining band ; I was particularly impressed by the way their singer Hamilton Leithauser kept his suit during the show when temperature was around 40°C…

#8 – Twin Shadow : this band is the project of  George Lewis, Jr. (American guy born in Dominican Republic) and his music is a bit difficult to describe. Let’s just say he is friends with the band Grizzly Bear and that his music is a mix of 80’s British synth-influenced pop with a sonic and groovy edge. Anyway, the concert was really excellent and I strongly recommend his debut LP “Forget”to anyone. Please click on this link to see a nice HD movie of Twin Shadow playing in the studio.

#7 – Wild Beasts : coming from the U.K. and in continuous improvement since their first LP, Wild Beasts can be considered as sorts of cousins of the legendary band The Smiths such delicate and intelligent their music is. Add to this a groovy rhythmic section and two fantastic singers for the price of one with by Hayden Thorpe and Ben Little and you have one of the great bands of our times. That was our first opening show on Friday 1 p.m. and what a great band to start with!

#6 – TV On The Radio: ok, another TV On The Radio show for me and I could have chosen another band for this Top 10…but no. As great as always and even more than last time for me probably due to more weeks to get familiar with their last LP. A great audience atmosphere as well and realizing in the middle of the show the pleasure in seeing them in Austin…I had to leave before the end to get a decent view for Stevie’s show but no hard feelings guys…

#5 – Kurt Vile And The Violators : Kurt Vile is the new guy on whom we should bet in the years to come. 2011 has been a very prolific year with his new LP “Smoke Ring For My Halo” and him being more than a guest on albums from Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.). To describe his music in short, I would say this is not dissimilar from the style heard on acoustic songs from Nirvana’s Unplugged. Great melodies and crafted work but with a tension that can explode at every second. One of the best shows of the festival on the very nice Austin Ventures stage. And fine Orangina tee-shirt, Kurt!

#4 – Stevie Wonder : What a pride and joy to see Stevie Wonder perform with such a punch. You could feel in the audience that everyone was overwhelmed to see in form the great soul artist. He had lost weight vs. last time I saw him in Paris and as schedule was quite tight he did not do his usual 10-minute speech about love and all (only 5-minute ones…). Anyway, great covers from Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson (“The way you make me feel“) plus a huge part of his classics and in particular songs from his two master LP’s “Innervisions” and “Songs In The Key of Life” that everyone should own by law. Keep playing in such a way please great man…

#3 – Kanye West : Our 2010 record of the year artist was playing his last show in this formula. And what an ambitious show that was : arrival in a platform in the middle of the crowd (and very close to where we were standing!), around thirty classic dancers, a glorious stage wallpaper, lights everywhere and so on. But of course that would be nothing if the songs were crap which as you know is completely the opposite. Kanye is such a media personality today that this is difficult to judge and even so what would be the consequences for a multi-millionaire businessman? Well, I personally found a guy in love with music, with an amazing voice (something I had not realized before) and so happy to be on stage that everyone could feel as if they were very close to the stage. And always a nice feeling to see one of the greats on the peak of their forms. “Can we get much higher“? This will be tough after such a performance…

#2 – Arcade Fire : 8.30 pm. All stages are now over with bands and artists and last show of this 3-day festival starts on the Bud Light stage. What better and enthusiastic band to close a festival with than Arcade Fire? None today I guess… One of the most joyful shows I have ever attended and I am not sure I can find the words to describe the state of the crowd as well! Have a look at the set list and at the latest Zenith show as well but please go to see Arcade Fire next time you are in a position to do so and you will be rewarded.

#1 – Iron & Wine : Best show of the festival as far as I am concerned although that was the only one entirely under the rain (rain in Texan summer being something that wets and refreshes a bit your body and that is welcomed by local people!). As a reminder, Iron & Wine is the project name for Sam Beam and can be simply described as the most beautiful and subtile music that you will ever hear (no, really…). Sam being from Austin and proud father of five girls, seeing two of them dancing and applauding Dad backstage was a pleasure. For more on Iron & Wine, please have a look at his recent 4AD sessions and his interview/studio live songs on Sound Opinions (show #302).

So here you are, amazing festival full of authentic emotions and friendship ; basically what one is looking for in this 21st century life… ACL, see you probably in 2013!

Arcade Fire, Paris, Zenith, 28th June 2011

Welcome back to the club Arcade Fire! Which club? That of great bands….

Your host has always been a bit suspicious about this band. Reminder of who they are: 8-member band from Montreal, Canada based on the married couple of Win Butler (from Texas) and Régine Chassagne (from Haitian origins) who made their amazing debut “Funeral” in 2004 but with so much hype and great reviews everywhere that it made me put a discount in my love for this particular band (I know, what a snobbish thing to do…). This plus the fact that their second LP “Neon Bible” in 2007 was moving towards the wrong way to my mind (Rondo Veneziano anyone?). I sam them at the time at the Olympia in Paris and I must say that the great Electrelane was much more rewarding as an opening act compared to the whole show (well, that was my mindset at the time..). So, thinking about the Coldplay or Cold War Kids syndrome (great debut album, too much hype… and then not that good),  I was not expecting much from their third LP (“The Suburbs” in 2010). Complete mistake as this was one of the most enjoyable, smart and great LP’s of last year. Excellent theme as well in a rock’n’roll world where composers prefer to sing about the wide open space rather than the less glamorous suburbs, where in reality half of us grew up and made our first years…

This back to greatness form had been confirmed by their concert at Rock en Seine in August 2010 (unfortunately stopped by the rain) but moreover by the show they did last week in Paris. I absolutely loved every minute of it and had forgotten how this band has no ego, no bullshit behaviour and how every member is such a good polyvalent musician. And so many great songs as well!

Here are a few pictures of le Zenith and a few ones as well from Rock en Seine in 2010:

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I took he following video (pure classic from “Funeral”) and I warmly recommend a recent Sound Opinions podcast (show #290) where Will Butler (brother of Win) and Richard Perry were interviewed and were the whole band played a few tracks in the studio.

2010 best records

Reminder of 2010 “Best of” list

Une liste élargie cette année tant la production musicale est de plus en plus riche, diverse et exceptionnelle.

Sur le podium, les USA trustent les médailles:

Cover (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:Kanye West)

Gold medal: Kanye West “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

Everything you will love in one LP: style, references, melodies, joy, sadness – Kanye West is definitely one of the greatest. La fable du lièvre et la tortue adaptée à cette année musicale puisque cet album n’est sorti qu’en décembre même si la plupart des morceaux ont été disponibles au compte goutte tout au long de l’année. On peut penser ce qu’on veut du personnage très médiatisé (trouvez un autre artiste nommé cette année passée à la fois par G. Bush et B. Obama) mais le musicien est irréprochable. Un album digne des plus grands artistes des décennies passées par sa créativité, son ouverture musicale (est-ce encore du hip-hop?), des samplings impeccables (King Crimson, Gil Scott-Heron) et ses invités (Bon Iver!). Et surtout des mélodies magiques avec un côté de self-depreciation rare dans une époque plus éprise d’anecdotique que d’authenticité. Album of the year by far. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/my-beautiful-dark-twisted-fantasy-r2055009/review)

Cover (Transference:Spoon)

Silver Medal: Spoon “Transference”

Great Austin, Tx band delivers the goods once gain – when simplicity equals greatness. Un de ces groupes américains qui se construit et murit avec les années. On était un peu passé à côté des débuts de ce groupe qui existe depuis 1994 mais on se demande pourquoi car cette musique a tout pour plaire aussi bien aux amateurs de mélodies qu’aux afficionados du rock indépendant. Que des tubes en puissance dans cet album dans un monde idéal. Go for it! (http://www.allmusic.com/album/transference-r1691709/review)

Cover (High Violet:The National)

Bronze Medal: The National “High Violet”

One of the current best live band succeds in keeping its indie attitude but with more catchy melodies. The National est également un groupe qui se fait sa place petit à petit dans le panthéon des grands avec son dernier album. Les vertus d’une détermination et d’un self belief portées par un chanteur fascinant et des musiciens excellents combinées au fait de se retrouver un jour au bon endroit au bon moment. Ecoutez cet album, craquez sur la voix chaleureuse et suave de Matt Berninger et sur la musique au couteau du groupe, remontez dans les temps les albums des années précédentes et surtout allez voir ce groupe sur scène. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/high-violet-r1805201/review)

15 autres albums (par ordre alphabétique):

Arcade Fire “The Suburbs”

Our favorite Canadians are back to form vs. previous album with emotional lyrics. A tous les déçus de l’album précédent des Canadiens, le groupe répond avec une musique toujours enflammée mais plus sobre et des paroles basées sur le passage à l’age adulte. Welcome back guys.

Beach House “Teen Dream”

Weird and warm songs from this Lynchian Californian girl-boy duo. Les mélodies entrainantes de Victoria Legrand (eh oui, la nièce de Michel) avec les trouvailles musicales d’Alex Scally. Du David Lynch qui se baladerait sur les plages de l’Océan Pacifique.

The Black Keys “Brothers”

Still excellent blues-rock formula from Akron with fantastic songs. La cité du pneu (Akron) nous encaoutchoute encore d’un formidable album de blues-rock au plus près de l’os pour ce duo américain. Leur projet de l’année 2009 (Blakroc) qui mélangeait blues, soul et hip-hop a ouvert des horizons nouveaux à ce groupe qui a de plus en plus de groove dans sa musique. A signaler des performances live d’exception.

Field Music “Measure”

Amazing third LP from this band from Sunderland, England who will warm up XTC fans. Le Royaume Uni n’est pas oublié de notre sélection avec le troisième album des frères Brewis. Très ambitieux album d’ailleurs avec pas moins de 20 titres travaillés dans leur studio personnel de Sunderland. Un groupe qui devrait être énorme tant la qualité de leurs chansons rappelle celles du meilleur XTC. A découvrir.

John Grant “Queen of Denmark”

First solo LP from the former leader of the Czars played with the Midlake musicians. John Grant est l’exemple du miraculé incompris et déprimé devant ses échecs musicaux précédents pour lequel le mot seconde chance a un sens. Un magnifique album dans la lignée de ce que fait Midlake, c’est à dire un rock très 70’s soft mélangé à du pur Indie avec des textes au scalpel. Meilleur titre de chanson de l’année pour “Jesus Hates Faggots”.

Grinderman “Grinderman 2”

Old men rock! Nick Cave’s trash band better than ever. Grinderman est le groupe sans piano de Nick Cave dans lequel sa verve plus blues et trash peut s’épanouir au mieux. Quelle musique et quelle jeunesse. A signaler la créativité instrumentale de Warren Ellis, l’alter ago du bon vieux Nick. Pour réveiller le loup ou la louve qui dort en nous.

LCD Soundsystem “This is happening”

James Murphy’s influences from punk rock, Talking Heads, Brian Eno and Can put him almost in the podium. Nouveau disque exceptionnel de James Murphy et son groupe qui sera d’ailleurs sans doute le dernier sous cette forme. Tout ce qu’on aime dans la musique se trouve chez cet homme-là. A signaler les London Sessions disponibles chez tous les bons vendeurs numériques et en solo l’excellente bande originale du film Greenberg avec Ben Stiller.

Local Natives “Gorilla Manor”

Geeks rule the earth with great indie melodies! Sans doute le groupe qui pourrait disputer à Hot Chip le titre de groupe le moins sexy du monde mais de magnifiques mélodies californiennes pour tout ceux qui veulent prolonger toute l’année le sable de la plage qui reste dans les oreilles.

Massive Attack “Heligoland”

Trip Hop Bristol veterans reinvent themselves with great invited musicians. On n’avait presque oublié cet album mais sa réécoute l’a finalement fait préférer à celui de Gorillaz pourtant également excellent. La marque de fabrique de Massive Attack est toujours présente mais pleine de fraîcheur de nouveau grâce aux invités et notamment Tunde Adebimpe de TV on the Radio et Damon Albarn qu’on ne présente plus.

Janelle Monae “The Archandroid”

Amazing record from this young lady. What Jimi Hendrix would do if he were 20 in 2010. Eh oui, pas moins, une jeune artiste noire américaine qui mélange tout: hip hop, soul, R’B, rock psychédélique, pop, etc… Toujours un immense plaisir de découvrir de tels nouveaux talents. A signaler également une participation croisée avec Kevin Barnes sur cet album et celui d’Of Montreal.

Sufjan Stevens “All Delighted People EP/The Age of Adz”

The great man back from months of illness with more electronics influences than before. Certes, il a été absent quelques mois du fait d’une maladie rare mais en échange on récupère en 2010 deux albums pour le prix d’un même si le premier n’est pas censé être un LP complet… Tout n’est pas du niveau de Illinois dans ces 19 chansons mais il y a quand même des perles. A ne pas manquer en concert pour ceux qui le peuvent.

Teenage Fanclub “Shadows”

Latest LP by the Scottish Band, one of the all-time greatest. Ils prennent leur temps pour faire des albums et c’est tant mieux. The Beatles, The Byrds, Love, The Go-Betweens, XTC, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, rien à rajouter.

Richard Thompson “Dream Attic”

New songs played live from the epic folk rock guitar player. La liste est diverse comme le montre la présence dans celle-ci de l’ancien leader de Fairport Convention, goupe anglais de folk rock des années 60 qui a pour ainsi dire inventé un genre à lui tout seul. Cet album plus qu’un autre car Richard Thompson met plus en avant ses talents exceptionnels de guitariste.

Warpaint “The Fool”

100% West Coast female group for one of the best debut albums of recent years. Certes, le fait qu’une des deux chanteuses soit l’ex-girlfriend de l’ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers John Frusciante (producteur de leur premier EP) augurait du meilleur mais pas autant que la profonde originalité de ce groupe 100% féminin. Un groove étonnant quand même très rock avec des voix magnifiques.

Neil Young “Le Noise”

Still young after all these years. Young and Lanois straight to the bone. Incroyable de pouvoir encore compter sur Neil Young en 2010! Un de nos 10 artistes préférés de tous les temps encore capable de sortir des disques importants. Un disque en pur solo avec un son de guitare incroyable trafiqué par le Canadien Daniel Lanois, producteur entres autres de U2 et Bob Dylan. D’où le jeu de mots du titre…

Egalement recommandés:

Owen Pallett, These New Puritans, Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer, Hot Chip, Broken Bells, Liars, Midlake, Gorillaz, MGMT, Shearwater, Caribou, The Fall, Paul Weller, Band of Horses, Drake, Best Coast, Interpol, Philip Selway (le batteur de Radiohead en solo), Robert Plant, Deerhunter, Swans, The Walkmen, Cee Lo Gren (le chanteur de Gnarls Barkley), Kid Cudi, The Roots et N.E.R.D.