May 2017 Album of the month: The Afghan Whigs “In Spades”

Once again, another great month in terms of releases. Despite new excellent records, bands or artists such as At The Drive-In, The Charlatans or Todd Rundgren were not selected so enjoy the following great records!

 

Album of the month: The Afghan Whigs “In Spades” – Soul Grunge Rock – The Afghan Whigs are one of my favourite bands ever and their come back record in 2014 (“Do To The Beast”) after a 18-year hiatus was sensational news. However, despite being very good, one was expecting an even better record for their future ventures… and “In Spades” is such a record. Greg Dulli’s voice has never sounded so good and all the songs are memorable, beautifully mixing a soul sensitivity with a grunge sound. This has always been their forte but the least one can say is that they are back to stay this time. Nice cover as well from a Brazilian artist.

  • Runner-up: Mac DeMarco – “This Old Dog” – Cool Rock – The more it goes, the less Mac DeMarco should be considered as a nice and funny guy in the music industry but as a real fantastic songwriter. You will not find a cooler record to listen to during summertime but behind the easiness of the music lies fantastic songs.
  • Also recommended:
    • Paul Weller  “A Kind Revolution” – Mod Psychedelic Rock
    • Jane Weaver – “Modern Kosmology” – Space Pop
    • Benjamin Biolay “Volver” – Bittersweet French Pop
    • Slowdive“s/t” – Shoegaze Rock
    • The Mountain Goats “Goths” – Literate Rock
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month  Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.”

 

Best albums of 2016: Death is not the end

2016 yeah-ah! Remember, the year when everyone died and also the year everyone discovered mortality? Losing David Bowie, Alan Vega, Prince, George Martin, Leonard Cohen or George Michael was very sad indeed as a few of them were really young but probably also has it meant a part of our youth was vanishing. I remember not being something new as such sad news in the past already occured with artists such as John Lennon, Jeff Buckley, Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, Elliott Smith, Lou Reed or George Harrison. Listening to their music on a regular basis is probably the best way to keeping the flame alive. Death is a weird topic in Western civilizations as we keep on doing as if it were nonexistent although this is the only sure thing…I advise for those interested by this very festive topic to read the first pages of Karl Ove Knausgaard memoirs’ “A Death in the Family”.

On top of being the year everyone died, it has been also the year everyone published records. For some reasons, I had more time than usual to listen to (almost) all records that went out this year if one considers my reviewing perimeter is confined within the pop/rock/soul/hip hop/metal/r’n’b perimeter. I am humble enough to recognize there is somewhere an amazing jazz or blues record I am not aware of but this is also probably true for a great record made by an Italian, Malian or Brazilian band. There are so many musicians in the world and so many ways to discover them with streaming platforms or the resurgence of records’ stores that this is getting frustrating sometimes.

So after death and frustration, let’s bring the good news! This was a really fantastic year in terms of records and new music and it has been more difficult than ever to keep a shortlist. A few usual favourites of this blog are not amongst the chosen few either because they are just out of this Top 15 or because their records was below expectations despite being good. In other words, it has been a great year for hip-hop and r’n’b genres and De La Soul, Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Solange or Franck Ocean 2016 records are also super-recommended. Same for a few indie rock favourites such as Shearwater, Bob Mould, Mark Kozelek, Wilco, Okkervil River, Teenage Fanclub or Pixies. As usual, I tried to stay as close to the end of the year as possible…but probably not enough as a new Run The Jewels album has just been available two days ago and a new Nine Inch Nails EP yesterday!

Anyway, always difficult to make choices but I guess that is the beauty of such lists. I had enough time this year to put on a ranking amongst my selection so here we go in reversed order. For those who did not get it, it means #1 is my record of the year!

Image result for biffy clyro ellipsis#15 Biffy ClyroEllipsis The main reason this record is here is probably that I live in the UK and that this band is really massive here. Biffy Clyro is a Scottish band made out of the twin brothers Ben and James Johnston on drums and bass and of Simon Neil on guitar and voice. On top of being known for playing bare-chested and being full of tattoos, their music has been evolving throughout the years from grunge metal to a kind of Scottish Foo Fighters. Not the most subtle music ever but it is soooooo good to shout out loud these anthems. Best stadium-rock record of the year!

Image result for sunflower bean human ceremony #14 Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony Sunflower Bean is a young trio from Brooklyn and 2016 saw the release of their debut album. This record is a grower has one says and this band has a perfect sense of melody mixed with an exciting in-your-face attitude. If Liz Frazer from Cocteau Twins and Kurt Cobain from Nirvana had made a record together, it would be quite close to Sunflower Bean’s sound.

Image result for kanye west the life of pablo #13 Kanye West – The Life of Pablo This record has been probably too long and complex to make in a year that was a bit tough for Kanye West. After second thoughts, all years are tough, different and weird for Kanye… The reason why this record is not higher in terms of ranking is indeed probably due to the fact it requests many more hours of thorough listening to get over it. The reason why Kanye West is once again in our best of the year is named “Ultralight Beam”. This is the song opening the record and is one hell of a tune.

Image result for michael kiwanuka love and hate #12 Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate Michael Kiwanuka is a young British singer songwriter from Ugandan origins. After a very promising debut album in 2012 and great shows in a soul/folk tradition, he eventually faced a few difficult years looking for his real musical talent and trying to be at peace with his cultural background. After being closed to leave the music industry, he came back stronger and not afraid to show at the same time new ambitions but also happy to embrace any kind of music he likes. The results are really astonishing as one goes from one track sounding like Pink Floyd to another more related to black protest song a la Curtis Mayfield.

Image result for xiu xiu plays the music of twin peaks #11 Xiu Xiu plays the Music of Twin Peaks Of course, we Twin Peaks fans are all very much excited to discover in 2017 what Season 3 will be, directed by David Lynch himself…but that is not the reason this album is here. Xiu Xiu is a Californian band lead by Jamie Stewart and their music has always been complex to say the least. Here they succeeded to keep their weirdness to reshape covers from the series and the movie “Fire Walk With Me” whilst respecting the beautiful sense of melodies these songs hold. One of the most fascinating, frightening and powerful records one could find in 2016.

Image result for red hot chili peppers the getaway #10 Red Hot Chili Peppers  The Getaway “The worst band in the world”, “a cartoonish band”, “their best material is behind us” and so on… These are the articles one could find in reviews about the latest album by RHCP. This is totally untrue and shows how this is difficult sometimes for bands and their work to be really listened to. Thanks to the extraordinary production of DJ Danger Mouse, this is their best record for a long time and a few songs are really on par with their most famous ones (“Dark Necessities” for instance). This is also the first album in which Josh Klinghoffer succeeds in being himself and shows his guitar creativity without one having to remember his amazing predecessor John Frusciante.

Image result for meilyr jones 2013 #9 Meilyr Jones – 2013 This LP is the highest ranked debut album in our list and comes from a young Welsh singer. My best description of his music would be to mention Neil Hannon and his band The Divine Comedy if they still had the flame and kept on doing exciting records… The first track of this album called “How to recognize a work of art” is the best example of what a single should be nowadays. To put it differently, if you do not want to sing out loud or clap your hands, you are probably already dead (and I should have added you in my introduction). Click for concert’s review.

Image result for beyonce lemonade #8 Beyoncé  Lemonade A record from a major maturing artist, mixing all kind of music and sounds, not afraid to grab political topics such as the role of the black woman in Africa, being very much at the peak of visual and sound production, having prestigious guests such as James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White or The Weeknd? Indeed and even better than it looks like.

Image result for palermo hollywood biolay #7 Benjamin Biolay  Palermo Hollywood Would Benjamin Biolay be more famous out of French-speaking countries if he were to sing in English, like Christine and the Queens did this year with a new English edition of her album? Probably not and not sure I would like it to happen… I was a bit afraid to read that he recorded this LP in Argentina as this is not always a good idea to mix different styles. No risk here as this record is as Argentinian as The Wings’ “Band on the Run” was Nigerian when they went to Lagos to record it. Beautiful as always and as usual a very thin line between production and emotion.

Image result for radiohead a moon shaped pool #6 Radiohead  A Moon Shaped Pool Quite a bit unexpected I must say as although I found the recent experiences of their members always rewarding, I had more or less abandoned hope in listening again to a traditional great Radiohead album. I was entirely wrong as this album is probably one of their best, mixing urgency, poetic themes and more importantly super exciting music. Good also to hear more than usual the great sounds of the underestimated Colin Greenwood on bass. Take the time to discover this new album and you will be immensely rewarded.

Image result for kevin morby singing saw #5 Kevin Morby  Singing Saw Sometimes a good singer makes a new record and one can feel he has stepped up and is now part of the greats. It happened in recent years with bands or artists such as The War On Drugs or Kurt Vile for instance. Kevin Morby’s first albums were really good but this one has an extra je-ne-sais-quoi, mixing super exciting guitar music with great lyrics. If Bob Dylan were in his 20’s today and had started directly with electric music, he would not sound that different from Kevin Morby. Click for concert’s review.

Image result for nick cave and the bad seeds skeleton tree #4 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds  Skeleton Tree Nick Cave has been a sort of old companion as I have been buying his records and listening to his music for thirty years now. Unless having a heart of stone, one could only share the indescribable pain he and his spouse had last year when they lost a son. Despite a few songs already written and produced before this tragic event, this album is all about this loss. It may be of course quite harsh sometimes to listen to but one must recognize this is a fascinating record and one of his best works. With lots of very long songs and more drones and loops than usual, it might surprise those familiar with a Nick Cave sound but the effort is really recommended.

Image result for field music commontime #3 Field Music  Commontime This is another fantastic record from this band of brothers from Newcastle and probably a blessing and a curse for them as one gets used easily with quality stuff. I have already wrote a few posts on this band, in particular throughout my review of the end of the road festival. Let’s be more specific here: Field Music are the best unknown band of our times and every record is an incredibly exciting piece of music, mixing british pop sound, Prince and Steely Dan. Now get this record!

Image result for iggy pop post pop depression #2 Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression To put this record under the name of Iggy Pop only is quite an injustice as he himself recognizes that this is the work of a real band with Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys) on drums and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) on bass. But the real architect of this album is the great Josh Homme, leader of Queens of the Stone Age and main man on guitar and vibes here. Legend is that he received a text from Iggy asking “I think we should make a record together”. After a couple of days of uncertainty and pride, Josh replied also by text “I think that would be beautiful”. And beautiful and exciting and moving and funny and…name it it is! They all gathered secretly in the Rancho de la Luna studio in the Joshua Tree, California area and polished these fantastic nine songs. The best Iggy Pop record since “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life” 1976/77 Bowie era. Iggy pop made it quite clear that it would be his last traditional rock album and tour. If such were to be the case, one of the most beautiful human beings on earth has left us with a record to cherish. No better way also to end up a record (career?) with the wise lyrics taken from “Paraguay”, the last song on the album: “You take your motherfucking laptop/And just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth/And down your shit heel gizzard/You fucking phony two faced three timing piece of turd/And I hope you shit it out/With all the words in it”.

Image result for david bowie blackstar  #1 David Bowie Blackstar I swear I did not want to put this album as my album of the year as it looked a bit obvious… Blackstar has been the first record I bought this year as I got it on the 8th of January at the excellent New York Rebel, Rebel record store. This is also in NY that I got the sad news of the morning of the 11th of January and I do recognize that the way the late great man organised this record as a farewell piece of art might be over controlled. But I am pretty sure this record would still be ranked as such if David Bowie was still alive. First the music is super fresh through it and I have never heard so-called jazz musicians be used in such a “non-jazz” way on a “non-rock” record. Donny McCaslin on saxophone is particularly amazing. But the real stars of Blackstar are the songs and the melodies. Has there been a better song this year than “Lazarus” with its moving lyrics, free jazz style and The Cure influences?  I know this is difficult to listen to this record out of context but to me it stands as an immense piece of exciting musicRECORD OF THE YEAR!

 

Here we go then for 2016. Probably not my most original list ever but these records were those that brought me the most emotion and excitement this year and as a reminder this is the criteria for this list rather than any cultural or trendy meaning. Please react if you feel like it and whip me harshly for any significant record I may have missed in this Top 15!

Other voices’ (websites, magazines, records stores, etc…) Top 10. David Bowie and Franck Ocean everywhere!

  • Mojo (music mag): 1.David Bowie Blackstar 2. Michael Kiwanuka Love & Hate 3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree 4. Lambchop FLOTUS 5. Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker 6. Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression 7. Franck Ocean Blonde 8. Paul Simon Stranger to Stanger 9. PJ Harvey The Hope Six Demolition Project 10. Heron Oblivion Heron Oblivion
  • Uncut (music mag): 1.David Bowie Blackstar 2. Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool 3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree 4. Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker 5. Ryley Walker Golden Sings that have been Sung 6. PJ Harvey The Hope Six Demolition Project 7. Sturgill Simpson A Sailor’s Guide to Earth 8. Anohni Hopelessness 9. Teenage Fanclub Here 10. Beyoncé Lemonade
  • NME (formerly great, now free weekly junk): 1. The 1975 I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it 2. Kanye West The Life of Pablo 3. Christine & the Queens Chaleur Humaine 4. Skepta Konnichiwa 5. Kaytranada 99.9% 6. David Bowie Blackstar 7. DIIV Is the is are 8. Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression 9. Chance the Rapper Coloring Book 10. Franck Ocean Blonde
  • Rough Trade (London, Nottingham and Brooklyn stores): 1. Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression 2. Anderson .Paak Malibu 3. Margo Price Midwest Farmer’s Daughter 4. Mark Pritchard Under the Sun 5. Charles Bradley Changes 6. Anohni Hopelessness 7. Thee Oh Sees A Weird Exit 8. Angel Olsen My Woman 9. Powell Sport 10. Car Seat Headrest Teens of Denial
  • Fopp (UK stores): 1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree 2. David Bowie Blackstar 3. Christine & the Queens Chaleur Humaine 4. Mogwai Atomic 5. Bat for Lashes The Bride 6. Brian Eno The Ship 7. Field Music Commontime 8. King Creosote Astronaut meets Appleman 9. Lambchop FLOTUS 10. Skepta Konnichiwa
  • Greg Kot (Sound Opinions radio DJ #1): 1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree 2. Franck Ocean Blonde 3. Jamila Woods HEAVN 4. Michael Kiwanuka Love & Hate 5. Anderson .Paak Malibu 6. PJ Harvey The Hope Six Demolition Project 7. Drive-By Truckers American Band 8. Chance the Rapper Coloring Book 9. Solange A Seat at the Table 10. David Bowie Blackstar
  • Jim Derogatis (Sound Opinions radio DJ #2): 1. Savages Adore Life 2. TEEN Love Yes 3. La Femme Mysteres 4. Sneaks Gymnastics 5. The Gotobeds Blood//Sugar//Secs//Traffic 6. Honeyblood Babes never die 7. Jenny Hval Blood Bitch 8. Drive-By Truckers American Band 9. The Handsome Family Unseen 10. Beach Slang A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
  • Pitchfork (music website): 1. Solange A Seat at the Table 2. Franck Ocean Blonde 3. Beyoncé Lemonade 4. David Bowie Blackstar 5. Kanye West The Life of Pablo 6. Chance the Rapper Coloring Book 7. A Tribe Called Quest We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service 8. Anohni Hopelessness 9. Angel Olsen My Woman 10. Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Paste (music website): 1. David Bowie Blackstar 2. Beyoncé Lemonade 3. Car Seat Headrest Teens of Denial 4. A Tribe Called Quest We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service 5. Mitski Puberty 2 6. Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool  7. Angel Olsen My Woman 8. Lucy Dacus No Burden 9.Bon Iver 22, A Million 10. Franck Ocean Blonde
  • Les Inrocks (French mag): 1. David Bowie Blackstar 2.La Femme Mystere 3. Franck Ocean Blonde 4. The Lemon Twigs Do Hollywood 5. PNL Dans la légende 6. Kanye West The Life of Pablo 7. Leonard Cohen You want it Darker 8. Drake Views 9. Alex Cameron Jumping the Shark 10. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree
  • Time Out (London free weekly) : 1. Kanye West The Life of Pablo 2. David Bowie Blackstar 3. Solange A Seat at the Table 4. Skepta Konnichiwa 5. Kaytranada 99.9% 6. Anohni Hopelessness 7. Christine & the Queens Chaleur Humaine 8. Franck Ocean Blonde 9. Beyoncé Lemonade 10. Chance the Rapper Coloring Book
  • The Guardian (UK daily newspaper) : 1. Beyoncé Lemonade 2. Franck Ocean Blonde 3. David Bowie Blackstar 4. Kanye West The Life of Pablo 5. Solange A Seat at the Table  6. Anohni Hopelessness 7. Rihanna Anti 8. Christine & the Queens Chaleur Humaine 9. Skepta Konnichiwa 10. Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Noise Magazine (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Dinosaur Jr. Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not 2. Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas Mariner 3. Perturbator The Uncanny Valley 4. Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression 5. Preoccupations Preoccupations  6. Nothing Tired Of Tomorrow 7. David Bowie Blackstar 8. Neurosis Fires Within Fires 9. Savages Adore Life 10. Oranssi Pazuzu Värähtelijä

Best of 2012 : Top 20 !

This is already festive season time and our worldwide-famous best of 20 of the year. No smart words to write down this year as an introduction except that no excuse not to be interested in music in 2012 as choice and diversity are here more than ever.

Albums

 Channel Orange

Album of the Year – Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE”. Frank Ocean had been around for a few years either in the collective Odd Future or  as being one of the guests of last year shared album between Kanye West and Jay Z…but really nothing was preparing us for such a beauty. A tremendous record which one can really identify as being part of the 2012 culture and themes but bearing at the same time a sense of history. The music is a mix of soul, hip-hop, R’n’B, pop, rock with a beautiful voice reminding the greats such as Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder. I particularly liked as well as the interludes within the LP that make you feel this is more than one simple record. Album of the year!

 Animal Joy

My number 2 – ShearwaterAnimal Joy”. Once more and as in previous years, an excellent record from Shearwater, the Austin, TX based band. I had the pleasure in seeing them live twice in Paris this year (first one in La Maroquinerie with a great talk with their singer Jonathan Meiburg and the second one in La Boule Noire this time having a talk with the great rock critic Michka Assayas). I take the risk of repeating myself but this band is really amongst the best we have either for the intensity of the music or the class of the songs and I do not understand why they are not more famous. If you never heard a Shearwater record before, start with this one.

 

My number 3 – Paul Buchanan “Mid Air”. 2012 has been a kind of old-guys-being-back list and Paul Buchanan is the first example. This is the first solo LP of the singer of The Blue Nile and this is an album not to share but to listen to on your own very late at night. Based almost only on piano and voice, this record seems so fragile and strong simultaneously, bringing a sense of sadness and serenity complicated to explain with words.

One Day I'm Going to Soar

My number 4 – DexysOne Day I’m Going To Soar”. Talking about come back, this one was probably the most incredible and unexpected one of all times. This blog has been a huge fan of Dexys Midnight Runners (their 1985 LP “Don’t Stand Me Down” being a masterpiece as far as I am concerned). The issue is that band leader Kevin Rowland had lost himself in a perfectionism will and that apart from two weird solo LP’s, the name Dexys had been buried for 27 years…. Built with the help of former Style Council man Billy Talbot, this is as if Dexys had never left the music scene, with this fantastic white soul style. A very moving return.

 

My number 5 – Benjamin Biolay “Vengeance”. Vive la France ! Hyperactive Benjamin Biolay has returned again with a great LP, mixing very different styles and guests (including Carl Barat from the Libertines and French rapper Oxmo Puccino). Fewer ballads than usual but always that emotion one can feel I guess even if they do not understand the lyrics. Looking forward to seeing him on stage in 2013.

Other great records of my top 20 (by alphabetical order)

 Alabama Shakes “Boys & Girls”. Debut album from the Athens, Alabama, soul and southern rock oriented band. This record could have been out forty years ago but is really fresh as well. Click on les Inrocks Festival review to get a better flavour of the band.

  Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do ” Tiny American chanteuse back with her leaner album in terms of instrumentation, with songs that directly go under your skin.

  Cloud Nothings “Attack On Memory”. Nothing revolutionary in leader Dylan Baldi’s music but such a pleasure to hear a pure guitar-band, influenced by Nirvana and by German repetitive rock at the same time. Pitchfork Festival review available when clicking.

 Hot Cheap “In Our Heads”. London dance band Hot Chip’s 2012 LP might be their best. If you like your classic New Order dance period and beautiful nostalgic melodies…

  Howlin Rain “The Russian Wilds”. Every year, a psychedelic rock record gives me shivers down the spine. Last year was Jonathan Wilson, this year this is Ethan Miller’s band new LP.

  JapandroidsCelebration Rock”. Two crazy motherf*****s from Canada on guitar and drums making noise as if they were ten on stage (as seen at the Paris Pitchfork Festival) but with a “je ne sais quoi” of nostalgia that makes them one of the current bands to get interested in.

  Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d. city”. This, the official debut from young L.A., California, M.C. Kendrick Lamar is my favourite traditional hip-hop record in a very good year for the genre. Produced partly by Dr. Dre, this narrates the story of an 25-year old guy hanging out in Compton and has the best beats and samplings (hello Beach House) I have heard in a long time.

  Bob Mould “Silver Age”. Good old Bob… In a year when the three Sugar albums have been reissued and when he played “Copper Blue” on stage, Bob Mould took the time to give us this new LP, finding back the muscular guitar oriented sound of these first Sugar records. An important and appealing personality, Bob Mould is more relevant than ever.

  SpiritualizedSweet Heart, Sweet Light”. Talking about classic bands, here is another one. And this is probably one of the best records in Jason Pierce’s long career started in the 80′ with the Spacemen 3. If you like your gospel melodies with repetitive mantra, this record is for you (click for Festival les Inrocks review)

 Tame Impala “Lonerism”. Kevin Parker, leader of this Australian band, is simultaneously a complicated young man and a huge music lover, both qualities that created a monster of a modern psychedelic record. This is probably the album in our list that requires the most listening as their music is very rich and hides many beauties.

  The Walkmen “Heaven”. Like for instance Spoon, The National or Shearwater, The Walkmen are part of these great American middle-aged bands whose punch and melodies know-how is to cherish. What is difficult with these bands is distinguish an album from another as they are all excellent. I found a very moving maturity in “Heaven” and the songs were perfect for live shows.

 Paul Weller “Sonik Kicks”. Our all-time favourite non-smiling British citizen, Paul Weller has once again delivered the goods mixing his beautiful melodies with a rejuvenated interested in repetitive Krautrock. This guy should really be a model for all young musicians as his never-ending enthusiasm is something to cherish (as seen on stage).

  Jack White “Blunderbuss”. This is probably the most beautiful cover of all year (hello blue, goodbye red) but this is not the reason why Jack White is here. Amazing first solo record, mixing soul, retro rock, ballads and even…hip-hop influences. We do love values of hard work in this blog and this is not a coincidence to find musicians such as Jack White (and Paul Weller and Benjamin Biolay…) in our end of the year list. Tremendous shows as well all year-long for Jack White!

  Yeti Lane “The Echo Show”.  This is the second LP of this French band and one of the most enjoyable LP’s of the year. I must say this is the ideal target for our blog as we like melodic repetitive music here! I had the pleasure in seeing them live as well at the Rock en Seine festival and they are very good on stage.

 Neil Young with Crazy Horse “Psychedelic Pill”. Last but not least, 2012 was also the year of our beloved Canadian with no less than two records done with the beautiful Crazy Horse and one biography (“Waging Heavy Piece”). Fantastic long songs with lots of feedback ; keep on rocking in the free world, Neil!

Other top 5’s (Frank Ocean and Tame Impala everywhere!) :

  • New Musical Express (UK weekly mag.): 1. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 2. Grimes “Visions3. Frank Ocean ”channel ORANGE 4. Crystal Castles “(iii)” 5. Alt-J “An Awesome Wave
  • Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. Leonard Cohen “Old Ideas” 2. Bob Dylan “Tempest” 3. Jack White “Blunderbuss” 4. Dr John “Locked Down” 5. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE”
  • Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Jack White “Blunderbuss2. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE 3. Bill Fay “Life Is People” 4. Leonard Cohen “Old Ideas” 5. Dexys “One Day I’m Going To Soar”
  • Paste (US web mag.): 1. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE” 2. Father John Misty “Fear Fun” 3. Titus Andronicus “Local Business” 4. Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do ” 5. Sharon Van Etten “Tramp”
  • Pitchfork  (US website): 1. Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d. city2. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE3. Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do ” 4. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 5. Swans “The Seer”
  • Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Alt-J “An Awesome Wave” 2. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 3. Liars “WIXIW” 4. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE” 5. Django Django “Django Django” Their “best of 2012 Hors-Série” is as usual recommended as still excellent and coming with a CD of their prefered tracks of the year.
  • Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. Chromatics “Kill For Love” 2. Chris Cohen “Overgrown Path” 3. Kindness “World, You Need A Change Of Mind” 4. Grizzly Bear “Shields” 5. Dominique A “Vers Les Lueurs”
  • New Noise (French bimester mag.): 1. Electric Electric “Discipline” 2. Dinosaur Jr. “I Bet On Sky” 3. OM “Advaitic Songs” 4. Mark Lanegan Band “Blues Funeral” 5. Cloud Nothings “Attack On Memory
  • Sound Opinions (US music podcast)   Greg Kot’s 1. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE” 2. Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” 3. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 4. Killer Mike “R.A.P. Music” 5. Kelly Hogan “I Like To Keep Myself in Pain”     Jim DeRogatis’ 1. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 2. Kelly Hogan “I Like to Keep Myself in Pain” 3. Frank Ocean “Channel ORANGE” 4. Melody’s Echo Chamber “Melody’s Echo Chamber” 5. Spiritualized “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light”
  • Fargo (Paris records store): Top 2012 records in no particular order (4 records in common)
  • Ground Zero (Paris records store): Top 10 – not available yet.
  • Other Music (NY records store): 1. Andy Stott “Luxury Problems” 2. Frkwys Vol. 9 Sun Arraw & M. Geddes Gengras Meets The Congos “Icon Give Thank” 3. Actress “R.I.P.” 4. Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” 5. Daughn GibsonAll Hell”

Box Sets and Reissues

Many fantastic reissues this year (The Blue Nile, Sugar, Everything But The Girl, The Beat, Can, etc…) but if I had to choose three of them, no hesitation :

Blur “21”  Yes, you read well, 21 records (well, actually 18 CD’s and 3 DVD’s…) summarizing Blur’s career. They went back on tour as well and found time to play together between Damon Albarn’s numerous side-projects and Graham Coxon’s solo records and probably published the Single of the Year for me (“Under the Westway“). Beautiful box in which to dig every other day.

The Beatles “Vinyl Box Set”  Expensive indeed but having the complete works of this quite famous band remastered in a nice box with a beautiful book might be priceless. (re)discover if need be…

Roxy Music “The Complete Studio Recordings” Jump on it ; very cheap and indispensable CD Box Set if you want your place to look like home. Best band ever?

DVD’s and Blue Rays

Experiencing Blue Ray for movies is like doing the same when you have your first automatic gear-box for cars ; very difficult to give up when you have such a degree of quality definition in pictures and sounds. I therefore warmly recommend the two following extraordinary movies in this format :

LCD Soundsystem ” Shut Up And Play The Hits” 3-Disc set with on one side the full last ever show shot in 2011 at the Madison Square Garden with guest such as Arcade Fire and on the other side the melancholic documentary about leader James Murphy future life. Basically, what will be your life when you split a music band at the height of their powers?

Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day” This is the famous 2007 one-shot concert with Jason Bonham (John’s son) on drums. 20 million people (including me) had applied on the internet to see that show and one can see why here : one of the best songs ever written played by these great men.

That’s it for 2012. Please surf on the blog as there is plenty to watch and read and see you in 2013 for the follow-up of our Top 100 bands/artists of all times!

Best of 2009

No ifs, no buts, facts only. Voici comme chaque année un best of forcément très subjectif des 15 albums à avoir pour épater vos amis.

Album de l’année 2009 :

 

 

Cover (Truelove's Gutter:Richard Hawley) 

Richard Hawley : Truelove’s Gutter

La récompense d’un artiste toujours présent et dont la production est toujours sans reproche. Mais qui est donc ce Richard Hawley : 1) un ancien membre des Long Pigs et de Pulp ? 2) une sorte de parrain musical des Arctic Monkeys, Sheffield oblige ? 3) un artiste très connu au UK ? Eh bien, tout cela à la fois. On aura surtout aimé la volonté de ralentir les choses que l’on retrouve dans cet album et la prise de risque que cela implique de nos jours. Rajoutons à ceci des mélodies à tomber ainsi que l’utilisation d’instruments pas vraiment rock’n’roll (scie, harmonica de verre, etc…). Le croisement idéal entre Chris Isaak et Pulp. Album of the Year!

 

Les 14 autres (par ordre alphabétique) :

Benjamin Biolay : La Superbe


On aimerait écrire trois pages sur Benjamin Biolay, sur ses débuts de musicien classique, sur ses premières productions bien propres pour les autres (Henri Salvador notamment), sur ses premiers albums bien pop et yéyé comme il faut, sur ses premières déchirures, sur ses derniers albums qui commencent à sentir le cassé, le moins propre, sur sa non-voix si bouleversante qui nous rappelle quelqu’un et enfin sur ce merveilleux double album où pas un des 22 morceaux ne montre un signe de faiblesse mais on ne fera que trois lignes. Des arrangements somptueux, de la pop, des morceaux bouleversants et surtout ce sentiment “happy/sad” qui fait les meilleurs albums. C’est une sorte d’album de l’année bis ; buy it!
 
Bill Callahan : Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
 
Bill ne se cache plus désormais sous son ancien nom de “Smog” mais la qualité reste identique voire encore meilleure sur cet album où les mélodies et les arrangements n’ont jamais été aussi entêtants. Dans le style chanteur à spleen, Bill Callahan a toujours su broder des chansons à siffler sous la douche. Ceux qui aimeront cet album pourront rentrer dans un mode rétroactif (mais oui) et se plonger dans l’œuvre de cet artiste auteur d’une quinzaine d’albums.

 

Fever Ray : Fever Ray
 
Le 1er album solo de Karin Dreijer, habituelle moitié du groupe suédois The Knife. On y retrouve les ambiances intrigantes de ces derniers avec un je ne sais quoi de différent. Karin Dreijer a dit avoir composé cet album après son premier accouchement, la nuit notamment, dans ces moments d’éveil/sommeil durant lesquels son inspiration a fait des merveilles. Cette musique est à la fois flippante et pleine de magie ; pour ceux qui voudraient retrouver la fraîcheur des premiers Björk.
 
Grizzly Bear : Veckatimest
 
On retrouve chez Grizzly Bear un phénomène de succès spontané particulièrement rafraichissant pour ce jeune groupe qui n’a pas fait de concession particulière avec cet album. Un groupe US comme on les aime, curieux, éduqué, moderne tout en restant old school sur son ouvrage. Certains auront sans doute d’ailleurs fredonné la ritournelle “Two weeks” après avoir vu une publicité pour ouatures mais il est surtout recommandé d’aller un peu sur internet pour voir les très beaux clips de Grizzly Bear.
The Horrors : Primary Colours
The Horrors est un jeune groupe anglais au look hallucinant : des grandes asperges, avec des fringues serrés, des coiffures gothiques, enfin un rêve de groupe de rock, mélange entre les Cramps ou The Cure 1ère période. On est dans le gothique pur et dur … et on adore ça ! On était passé à côté de leur 1er album et on n’attendait rien de ce groupe. C’était sans compter sur la détermination de ces derniers qui sont allés chercher Geoff Barrow de Portishead pour la production, ce qui donne un son fabuleusement noir et pop à la fois.
Kings Of Convenience : Declaration of Dependence
Nos deux norvégiens préférés n’avaient plus rien sortis ensemble depuis 2004 et on pensait que ce groupe n’existait plus et resterait à vie un de nos trésors cachés favoris. Erreur ! Nos deux compères à guitares acoustiques se sont retrouvés comme au bon vieux temps pour nous pondre un album si berçant et plein de bonheur qu’on se croirait à Bergen do Brasil. A signaler également le projet plus dance d’Erlend

 

 Oye (The Whitest Boy Alive) tout aussi excellent.

 

Cass Mc Combs : Catacombs
L’auteur de ces lignes aime la pop et le rock qui bastonne mais avoue également un faible pour toute cette génération de chanteurs US dont on se sent proche aussi bien pour les références musicales que pour la recherche mélodique ou encore pour les textes accrocheurs. Excellent sunday morning record comme disent les Anglo-saxons.
Phoenix : Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
L’année de la consécration pour nos favoris de toujours aussi bien en France (nul n’est prophète…) qu’aux US (passage chez David Letterman). Pourtant, on n’a pas accroché d’entrée, peut-être repoussé par ce nom d’album ridicule. Et puis, petit à petit, les mélodies ont commencé à s’installer, avec leurs vies à elles et il a bien fallu reconnaître que c’est un des meilleurs albums de nos petits Frenchies.
Sonic Youth : The Eternal
Le passage sur le label Matador a fait le plus grand bien à ce groupe de NY toujours aussi pertinent après plus de 25 ans de carr..euh de bruit. Mais ils n’ont jamais été meilleurs que lorsqu’ils font du rock mélodique et punchy comme sur cet album et délaissent un peu leurs tendances avant gardistes. A signaler d’une part l’intégration de l’ancien bassiste de Pavement mais aussi un concert surréaliste au Palais des Congrès avec des hôtesses/placeuses en tailleur bleu avant qu’une 1ère partie vienne déchirer les tympans du public et que Sonic Youth arrive pour mettre le feu sur scène tandis qu’en avant-salle, les écrans annonçaient fièrement le concert à venir de … Serge Lama !
Soulsavers : Broken
 
Soulsavers est le projet de moins en moins électronique de deux anglais aux noms pour le moins amusants (Rich Machin et Ian Glover) mais qui ont su s’entourer de voix magnifiques sur cet album et en particulier de celle de Mark Lanegan qui monopolise ce disque par sa présence. Mark Lanegan est l’ancien chanteur des Screaming Trees, groupe ami de Nirvana, et participe depuis à beaucoup de projets, dont les fabuleux Queens of the Stone Age. Une voix éraillée qui donne des frissons au service d’ambiances à la Ennio Morricone.
Super Furry Animals : Dark Days/Light Years
9ème album pour ce groupe qui ne rassemble pas des animaux poilus mais des Gallois chevelus pour lesquels le mot tabou n’existe pas. Sur cet album, ils nous concoctent des ambiances à la limite du psychédélisme avec toujours cette personnalité qui les rend différent du reste (l’air vivifiant de Cardiff sans doute…).
Them Crooked Vultures : Them Crooked Vultures
… plus connus sous leur nom secret de “Petits Pois” lors du dernier festival Rock en Seine. Un rêve de fan : Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) à la batterie, Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) à la guitare et au chant et John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) à la basse. Parfois ces super groupes peuvent être décevants mais ce n’est pas du tout le cas ici car ça ressemble à une sorte de techno world avec des influences de trip hop et aussi… Allez stop, oui ça sonne exactement comme du Queens of the Stone Age avec le batteur de Nirvana et le bassiste de Led Zeppelin et donc c’est dément !
Wild Beasts : Two Dancers
Encore un groupe anglais dont le 1er album avait un peu laissé froid (du rock indie chanté en falsetto) et dont on n’attendait rien pour la suite. Et voici un 2ème contre-exemple ! Une musique ample et cool au service d’une voix chaleureuse et mieux maitrisée. Si vous ne voulez acheter qu’un album et êtes resté un fan pur et dur des Smiths, this is the one.
The xx : The xx
Encore un nouveau groupe d’anglais très très jeunes. Des filles et des garçons amis d’école qui ont fait un album chez eux sur des vieux synthés et cela donne quelque chose de miraculeux. Un croisement entre les Young Marble Giants et de la R’n’B. Difficile à croire mais pourtant vrai. A découvrir d’urgence pour ceux ou celles qui n’ont pas eux encore la chance de les entendre.
Tout près de cette liste (pêle mêle) :
  • Animal Collective, Eagles of Death Metal (rock’n’roll!), Franz Ferdinand, U2 (oui, oui), Fredo Viola (des voix superbes), Wilco, Jarvis Cocker (album musclé de l’ex chanteur de Pulp), Eels, DM Stith, Akron/Family, The Dead Weather (Jack White des White Stripes + Alison Mosshart des Kills), Magnolia Electric Co, Oneida (un triple album de fous furieux), Arctic Monkeys, White Denim, Yo La Tengo, Liam Hayes and Plush (notre n°1 de 2008), Air, Charlotte Gainsbourg (album écrit et joué par Beck), Julian Casablancas (escapade solo du chanteur des Strokes), Fuck Buttons, Girls.
  • R.I.P. Vic Chesnutt (1964-2009)
 
 
Meilleur DVD

Lou Reed : Berlin

Un des plus grands albums de Lou Reed et donc par conséquent de tous les temps sortis en 1973 autour de l’histoire des déambulations du narrateur et de la mère de ses enfants, junkie en détresse. Lou Reed a décidé de rejouer en intégralité cet album et c’est Julian Schnabel qui est à la réalisation. Un moment exceptionnel avec notamment la présence d’Antony dans les chœurs.
Meilleur Single
The Low Anthem : Charlie Darwin

Un morceau intemporel qui semble toujours avoir existé et qu’on croirait être un croisement entre un vieux gospel venant des montagnes américaines et un air d’un film de David Lynch.

Meilleur Coffret
Big Star : Keep an Eye on the Sky
Le groupe légendaire d’Alex Chilton fait l’objet d’un magnifique coffret de 4-CD. Ou comment ce groupe maudit de Memphis ayant fait seulement 2 albums de son vivant + un album posthume arrivait à faire mélanger des sonorités américaines du Sud du pays avec des mélodies que n’auraient pas reniées The Beatles.
Meilleure Compilation
Various : Dark was the Night
 
Une compilation de 31 morceaux du label 4AD au profit de l’association Red Hot qui récolte des fonds dans la lutte contre le Sida. Les bonnes causes ne sont pas synonymes de qualité artistique la plupart du temps mais ici, c’est tout l’inverse dans la mesure où on retrouve toute la brillante actuelle scène US dans ce disque : Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, The National, Antony, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird,Yo La Tengo, etc… Avec en prime un inédit exceptionnel de Sufjan Stevens.
Reissue(s) of the Year
The Beatles : everything !
 
Certes, battage médiatique ; certes, cela valait-il le coup ; certes, il y a un peu de business… Mais on reste naïf et enthousiaste devant le travail de remastering qui a été fait sur tous les albums des Fab Four. Cela permet en plus de remettre les pendules à l’heure et de réaliser que malgré tous les listes de best of ou autres nouveautés musicales, ce sont toujours ces disques qu’on prendra sur une île déserte. Ajoutons à cela la vision du merveilleux spectacle “Love” du Cirque du Soleil ainsi qu’une tournée de Paul Mc Cartney à couper le souffle et le choix s’impose de lui même.
D’autres TOP 10
– NME (UK) :
1. The Horrors – Primary Colours
2. The XX – The XX
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
4. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
5. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
6. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
7. The Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love
8. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
9. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
10. Jamie T – Kings & Queens
 
– Paste Magazine (USA) :
1. The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You
2. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Paviliont
3. Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Elvis Perkins In Dearland
4. The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
5. David Bazan – Curse Your Branches
6. Brandi Carlile – Give Up The Ghost
7. The Decemberists – Hazards of Love
8. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
9. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
10. Frank Turner – Poetry of the Deed
– Les Inrocks (French) :
1. The XX : The XX
2. Fredo Viola : The Turn
3. Charlotte Gainsbourg : IRM
4. Animal Collective : Merriweather Post Pavilion
5. Phoenix : Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
6. Julian Casablancas : Phrazes for the Young
7. Gossip : Music for Men
8. Peter Doherty : Grace/Wastelands
9. Jay-Z : The Blueprint 3
10. Passion Pit : Manners
– Mojo (UK) :
1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
2. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
3. Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter
4. The Horrors – Primary Colours
5. Tinariwen – Imidiwan: Companions
6. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
7. Florence And The Machine – Lungs
8. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
9. Madness – The Liberty Of Norton Folgate
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz
– Pitchfork (excellent US Web Site) :
01 Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
02 Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
03 The xx : The xx
04 The Flaming Lips : Embryonic
05 Raekwon : Only Built for Cubal Linx… Pt. II
06 Grizzly Bear : Veckatimest
07 Bat for Lashes : Two Suns
08 Phoenix : Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
09 Fever Ray : Fever Ray
10 Girls : Album
 

– Other Music (NY Store) :
01 Dirty Projectors : Bitte Orca
02 Animal Collective : Merriweather Post Pavilion
03 Dam-Funk : Toeachizown
04 Cold Cave : Love Comes Close
05 Broadcast & the Focus Group : Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age
06 The xx : The xx
07 Fever Ray : Fever Ray
08 King Midas Sound : Waiting for You
09 Phoenix : Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

10 Girls : Album


– Rough Trade (London Store) :

10 albums sans ordre : The xx : The xx / The Low Anthem : Oh My God, Charlie Darwin / The Horrors : Primary Colours / Fever Ray : Fever Ray / The Pains of Being Pure at Heart : The Pains of Being Pure at Heart / Grizzly Bear : Veckatimest / The Leisure Society : The Sleeper and the Product of the Ego Drain / Fuck Buttons : Tarot Sport / Forest Fire : Survival / The Very Best : Warm Heart of Africa

– Ground Zero (Paris Store) :

 

10 albums sans ordre : Animal Collective : Merriweather Post Pavilion / Grizzly Bear : Veckatimest / Cass Mc Combs : Catacombs / DM Stith : Heavy Ghost / The Pains of Being Pure at Heart : The Pains of Being Pure at Heart / Yeti Lane : Yeti Lane / The Whitest Boy Alive : Rules / The xx : The xx / The Phantom Band : Checkmate Savage / Here We go Magic : Here We go Magic


Bonne année à tous et bonne écoute !
Stéphane