2015 Top 15 records

Here we go for our annual review of the year in music through the best new records. Lots to write about in 2015 : dramatic and very important stuff with the Paris events but as well a few more derisory facts related to music in particular. The fact that the New Musical Express became a free weekly magazine was a very depressing one for those like me who were eagerly waiting in the 80’s and 90’s for its weekly edition to build one’s rock and pop culture. On the other side, vinyls are now available almost everywhere and one can only hope this is not a posh trend but something that will stay for good. I hope you will like this year’s selection ; I was quite happy to see so many powerful and independent women part of it by the way… And now, rock’n’roll !

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” What makes a record your favourite of the year ? Well, first, it has to be indeed your favourite and not the trendy choice to look cool and in line with rock critics’ choice. Then, it has to be a grower and probably not the kind of record you love after the first listens. On top of it, it probably has to get lost of changes, different musical styles, a few parts you do not really understand, others with which you are amazed, a kind of main thread through it too ? In this case, the choice is easily made and we are very happy to welcome a classic from Mr. Lamar three years after his previous opus. LP of the year !

TWO RUNNER UPS

Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I sit and think and sometimes I just sit” I have been told that one could feel that this record is made by someone special by looking at its cover and title and I must say this is really true. This young woman from Australia has justified this year all hopes put in her first past recordings with her proper debut album. Simple and punchy songs with a soft Velvet Underground influence for the music and simple and direct words from the “now” generation. Once you got this LP, I can tell you will have to listen to it regularly so good it is. Click here for live review.

 Torres “Sprinter” Torres is the musical moniker for American female singer Mackenzie Scott and this album has been a real discovery for me as I had missed her first good but not great LP. With a prestigious cast of musicians used to work with great artists such as PJ Harvey or Portishead, she delivered with this record a series of extremely powerful and melodic songs built around a very strong personality. Difficult to describe as her music does not appear so different at first but the richness and greatness is felt little by little when one takes the time to do so. Like what all great music, you will be rewarded if you take enough time for this record. Click here for live review.

The rest of the Top 15 records in no particular order

 Sleater-Kinney “No Cities to Love” Witnessing the reunion of Mss. Tucker, Weiss and Brownstein under the Sleater-Kinney tag was one of the joys of 2015. I must admit that I missed this band when they were at their peaks and only discovered them through the 2006 “The Woods” LP. In the meantime, I did my homework and bought little by little all their amazing punchy punk and melodic albums and became a fan of the “Portlandia” series in which Carrie Brownstein acts. No such fun as in the series in this record but an excellent job done by this female trio. …and Janet Weiss on drums has been for a long time a friend of this blog as she has played with so many great bands (Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus, Quasi, etc…).

 Marilyn Manson “The Pale Emperor” I really think I would never have thought to find Brian Warner’s evil alter ego in such a list as his music had always been a mystery to me… I had enjoyed a few powerful tracks here and there but always thought the guy and his band were a bit fake and difficult to like through an entire album. Complete change of thoughts with this LP which is a real and constant pleasure for those who like bluesy and powerful music. The musicianship and sense of melody are great in all tracks but what makes this record a real gem is the way Marilyn Manson uses his amazing voice. The kind of records Nick Cave could do to soundtrack “The Road” (ok, I know he did but you got the point…)

 Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear” Father John Misty is the name Josh Tillman took a few years ago and this symbolic act was indeed a liberation for him. After publishing a few solo records under his own name and more famously being the drummer for the (slightly boring but) good band The Fleet Foxes, he decided to get away from his folk and hippie look and make more aerial music. This record is indeed very ambitious and could have been done in the 70’s by West Californian singers. Complex and beautiful words also influenced by his getting recently married and the eternal husband-and-wife relationship stories…

 Tobias Jesso, Jr. “Goon” Talking about simple but beautiful songs played on the piano, let me please introduce you to Tobias Jesso, Jr. His story is the kind that could have been invented. After a few failed tentatives to succeed in the music industry, and after the conjunction of a car accident and the news that his mother was sick, the young man gave up on his Californian dream and travelled back to Vancouver. Family news fortunately got better with time and he started to compose a few songs on his sister’s piano…and here you go for one of the records of the year. He was even (un?)lucky to be chosen for one of his track to be sung by a successful English chanteuse called A., whom this blog will not mention as we are talking about the best of 2015 here!

 Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” As often described for musical oeuvres that need a bit of time to get really appreciated, this album is a grower. I was actually quite surprised by its simplicity, knowing Sufjan Stevens is one of my Top 100 artists and is generally more ambitious in his records. This is  a very moving and autobiographical story based around his mother (and her demons) and his stepfather. The more one listens to this record, the most one will be touched by these amazing melodies and sense of detail. A year with a new record from Sufjan Stevens cannot be that bad. Click here for live review.

 Blur “The Magic Whip” Another quite unexpected news as although Blur had been back together for a few shows and singles, the idea of an album was not really realistic due mainly to all out-of-Blur extra activities held by Damon Albarn. Good news is that Graham Coxon is probably now the one who cherishes the most this entity called Blur and he was the real brain behind this new record. Cut from hours of jams when the band was stuck in Asia for a few days last year, he succeeded in putting structures behind these songs and suggested to Damon Albarn to add a few melodies here and there. The results are amazing and make it one of the best records from Blur. Welcome back gents.

 My Morning Jacket “The Waterfall” Seventh studio album for this incredible American band and its singer Jim James. This album has not been a real star amongst rock reviewers and I think the reasons are that My Morning Jacket are now very far from their original americana sound and that this album cannot easily be identified easily. Songs and styles all over the place indeed but to me this is what makes it probably their best record. Jim James has never sung so beautifully and I remember their End of the Road concert as one of the best of my musical year.

 Du Blonde “Welcome Back to Milk” Singer Beth Jeans Houghton went through a David Bowie (re)discovery phase, decided that life was too short to do the same music again and again and therefore decided to adapt this new Du Blonde moniker. Recorded with members of the Bad Seeds and other guests, her re-invention was really spectacular and beautiful. Powerful and melodic songs from a young woman not afraid to take risks in her career, what could one ask for more ? Click here for live review.

 This Is The Kit “Bashed Out” Mainly the project of their singer Kate Stables who spends her life between Paris and the UK, this record is to me the perfect synthesis between folk and modernity and I mean it as a real compliment. The sounds they create are really warm but with a constant sense of melody compared to other of their contemporaries. The show they performed at the End of the Road festival was amazing and probably over what they had expected, according to their reactions that day.

 Kurt Vile “B’lieve I’m Goin Down” This man has regularly been in our best of these last years when he has a new record but this is based on his high level of excellence rather than by laziness or habit. He is one of the young musician of our times I have seen the most on stage and I think there is no coincidence so brilliant he is live. The only difference vs. twenty or thirty years ago is that now such musicians bring their guitars cases on stage and do not drive in limos… A few new sounds here and there on this record with lots of piano for instance but once again the best way to describe Kurt Vile to me is an “indie” Bruce Springsteen.

 Kamasi Washington “The Epic” I think this is the first time that a so-called jazz record can actually be found in such a list in this blog. Weird I guess as jazz is probably one of the musical genres I like the most, best proof being the presence of Miles Davis and John Coltrane in my Top 100 of all times. However, to me, it has too often become a rigid style a bit far from the diversity and dynamism of new music… and this is the reason why this amazing triple album can be found here this year. Kamasi Washington often plays with hip-hop or electro artists such as Kendrick Lamar or Flying Lotus and one can feel these influences in his music. An incredible sense of urgency and melodic madness during these three hours that seem to last three minutes. A record impossible to miss.

 Robert Forster “Songs to Play” One of the finest return to form this year came from Robert Forster and that was quite an unexpected one. The former Go-Betweens co-leader has been particularly active this year either through the fantastic “G stands for Go-Betweens” box set for which he wrote the comments or with this great new record. So indeed this is not the nu-metal or grime new phase of Robert Forster but beauty often lies in classicism… Click here for live review.

Other top 5’s :

  • New Musical Express (UK formerly rock Bible – now free weekly bullshit): 1. Grimes “Art Angels” 2. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 3. Jamie XX “In Colour” 4. Wolf Alice “My Love is Cool5. Tame Impala “Currents”
  • Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. Julia Holter “Have You in my Wilderness” 2. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 3. Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” 4. Ryley Walker “Primrose Green” 5. Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear”
  • Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Julia Holter “Have You in my Wilderness” 2. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 3. New Order “Music Complete” 4. Tame Impala “Currents” 5. Jim O’Rourke “Simple Songs”
  • Paste (US web mag.): 1. Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear” 2. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 3. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit” 4. Sleater-Kinney “No Cities to Love” 5. Hop Along “Painted Shut”
  • Pitchfork (US website): 1. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 2. Jamie XX ”In Colour” 3. Grimes “Art Angels” 4. Vince Staples “Summertime ’06” 5. Tame Impala “Currents”
  • Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Tobias Jesso Jr. “Goon” 2. Tame Impala “Currents” 3. Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” 4. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 5. Django Django “Born Under Saturn”
  • Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. The Apartments ” No Song No Spell No Madrigal” 2. Aline “La Vie Electrique” 3. Julia Holter “Have You in my Wilderness” 4. Tame Impala “Currents” 5.  Nicolas Godin  “Contrepoint”
  • New Noise (French bimonthly mag.): 1. Faith No More “Sol Invictus” 2. Failure “The Heart is a Monster” 3. Marriages “Salome” 4. Chelsea Wolfe “Abyss” 5. Vision of Disorder “Razed to the Ground”
  • Sound Opinions (US music podcast)
    • Jim DeRogatis’  1. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit” 2. Low Cut Connie “Hi Honey” 3. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly 4. Bully “Feels Like” 5. Titus Andronicus “The Most Lamentable Tragedy” 
    • Greg Kot’s 1. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 2. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit” 3. Protomartyr “The Agent Intellect” 4. Shamir “Ratchet  5. Vince Staples “Summertime ’06
  • Other Music (NY records store): Top 30 in no particular order
  • Rough Trade (London records store) : 1. Bjork “Vulnicura” 2. Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear” 3. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit” 4. Ezra Furman “Perpetual Motion People” 5. Max Richter “from Sleep”
  • Ground Zero (French disquaire) : Top 10 in no particular order

2014 Top 15 records

Here we are again… Another year behind us and our recurrent review of the past year and its best records. 2014 was quite a weird year as I felt the overall quality and choice of music was amazing and diverse but at the same time there were not the few killer LP’s that one will remember in 20 or 30 years’ time (hello Kanye West, Daft Punk or Nick Cave in the previous years). However, as in every year, choosing only a few LP’s was a difficult task, excluding either old favourites (Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Jack White, TV on the Radio or The Horrors amongst others) or excellent records that made the professional rock critics’ choices (The War On Drugs, Run the Jewels, FKA Twigs or St. Vincent). Anyway, these are the usual rules of the game so let’s start our Festive Top 15!

2014 Favourite Musical…Thing : Foo Fighters “Sonic Highways”

…thing and not strictly speaking record as we are talking here about a documentary plus the record itself. For those who live in an entire different galaxy, Foo Fighters have been for around twenty years the band driven by Dave Grohl (former drummer of a quite famous band called Nirvana…). I do not have in mind another example of one person having so much success and music credibility in two different bands, knowing he does not play drums but guitar in the Foo Fighters (yes, there was as well Joy Division/New Order…but this is different). Every Foo Fighters record in the past years has been a reward as far as I am concerned especially when one goes over the first layer of their music and finds beauty and subtlety beyond the noisy surface. This new record was based on a clear principle : 8 one-hour documentary episodes about great American cities (namely Chicago, Washington DC, Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle and New York) all directed by Dave Grohl . The band’s new tracks had to be recorded in each city in a legendary studio. The results are beautiful and I recommend to watch the entire series before enjoying the record. Is it without any doubt the best record of the year and one that will count in the years to come ? Not sure… Is it the product around music that gave me by far the most emotion throughout the year. Not one hesitation. Watch it and listen to the record.

The rest of the Top 15 records in alphabetical order

 Damon Albarn “Everyday Robots” Quite surprising but this was the first “real” solo album of Damon Albarn, one of the most hardest-working man in show business after his adventures with Blur, Gorillaz, The Good The Bad & The Queen, Mali Music, etc… A great surprise to be honest as I had not been that enthusiastic with the man lately but here he made a very focused and excellent record… and in particular one of the most beautiful songs of these last years with “Heavy Seas of Love” with Brian Eno.

 The Both “The Both” You will not find this album anywhere else, which I do not understand as it was my almost-number 1 and I spent a few days hesitating… Yes, real important things in life, I know… This is the project of indie rocker Ted Leo (voice and guitar) and the great Aimee Mann (voice and guitar). I must admit I am not really objective about Aimee Mann as she is one of my favourite female voices ever and I would find arguments to love her if she were to sing the phone book. If you like punchy, melodic, subtle guitar rock, do the effort and you will be rewarded by this hidden treasure.

 Broken Bells “After The Disco” Another project from two quite active characters of the music scene, Broken Bells are James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse who is one half of Gnarls Barkley and probably the most requested producer of these last fifteen years. Their first self titled record from 2010 was good but this one went a step forward. Melancholic 4 am dance pop music when things are desperate and full of hope.

 Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” I had seen Mac DeMarco and his band a few years ago and even if one could feel a great potential in their songs and melody, their slacker attitudes was a bit tough to cope on during a full record or show. Complete change with this wonderful album and although the Canadian would hate me for me saying it, he has changed and improved his art with a sense of maturity. This guy might well be one of the classic songwriters of our times so discover him if not done yet.

 Flying Lotus “You’re Dead!” The electronica movement has been more dynamic than ever this year and LP’s by Sohn or SBTRKT were really close to be in the list this year. I chose Flying Lotus as his music is an amazing mix of sounds (jazz, hip-hop, dance, jungle) one can listen at home, in clubs or through one’s headphones. Being the grandnephew of Alice and John Coltrane does not bring a bad DNA neither…

 Kelis “Food” I had lost interest in her for a long time and her latest records were only Ok-ish but what a come-back this year ! For those who are not that young, Kelis entered the musical world with strength at the young age of 19 in 1998 with her first Neptunes-produced LP “Kaleidoscope” and was married to the excellent rap singer Nas. She found an equal interest in cooking and food in the last years and became a chef. Her last LP was based on her two passions and was produced by David Sitek from TV On The Radio. For those who like soul with a modern touch.

 Little Dragon “Nabuma Rubberband” Fronted by the female singer Yukimi Nagano, Little Dragon is a Swedish band which has been doing records throughout the 00’s with a funk/pop/rock formula that found the perfect formula this year with this record. Melodies to hum in the shower and a sense of melancholia made it one of the records that everyone should love, from demanding rock fans to those who love their pop music nice and easy.

 Florent Marchet “Bambi Galaxy” Not sure if living now in London is what explains the fact that there are two French records in the list this year… I had always found Florent Marchet’s music interesting but sometimes on the verge of being slightly irritating. This record is completely different as one can feel this is going to be great from the first note onwards. French-speakers will like the Gainsbourg-influenced lyrics but everyone should succumb to the charms of this cosmic and very emotional music. The kind of future we would imagine sounding like when we were young in the 70’s or 80’s.

 Metronomy “Love Letters” Their former record “The English Riviera” was our LP of the year in 2011 and remains without any doubt in the Top 10 record of the 2010’s. Their latest LP did not have the same immediate sense of greatness but was one of these records rewarding you little by little. Great and simple melodies and a “je ne sais quoi” that made it part of this list without any doubt. Live review here.

 Morrissey “World Peace Is None Of Your Business” Poor unlucky Stephen Patrick Morrissey… Despite a weakening health, he eventually came back on top artistic form and delivered the record we had been waiting for more than twenty years for such a talent… only to see his new record label not really promoting it and getting rid of the former The Smiths singer after a few months. Pity as seeing him back on top of his game after his great autobiography last year was a real pleasure. Re-discover him. Live review here.

  Spoon “They Want My Soul” This Austin, Texas band keeps on making excellent records on an impressive regular basis and one can only appreciate the fact that Spoon start to get more and more famous over their historic fan-base. In line with this year’s selection which has been strongly based on melodic songs-oriented artists, to my mind this is impossible not to like their mix of krautrock and catchy songs. Live review here.

 Sun Kill Moon “Benji” Another busy year for Mark Kozelek between solo concerts, collaborations and this new record under the Sun Kill Moon banner. Beautiful and long songs about death amongst friends and relatives sung with an acoustic guitar with his as-usual fantastic voice. One of this blog’s favourite artists. Live review here.

 Sebastien Tellier “L’Aventura” Our favourite French bearded excentric singer/songwriter, Sebastien Tellier was back this year with a beautiful LP recorded in Brazil. To be listened without prejudice and almost with the ears of a child to be able to jump in the direct, complex and inventive melodies of this album.

 Ben Watt “Hendra” This is Ben Watt’s second album…thirty one years after “North Marine Drive”. In the meantime, he was the driving force behind Everything but the Girl with wife Tracey Thorn, felt very ill, had three children, went on being a well-respected DJ, wrote two beautiful books… and here we were in 2014 with album number 2. Exactly the record I was expecting and hoping to be honest, which does not mean it was not one of the best of the year. Former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler very much involved as well. Could be your late night record or your Sunday morning one depending on your mood.

Other top 5’s :

  • New Musical Express (UK weekly mag.): 1. St. Vincent “St. Vincent” 2. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” 3. The War On Drugs ”Lost In The Dream” 4. Aphex Twin ”Syro5. Caribou “Our Love”
  • Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 2. Leonard Cohen “Popular Problems” 3. Aphex Twin “Syro” 4. FKA Twigs “LP1” 5. Sharon Van Etten “Are We There”
  • Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Beck “Morning Phase” 2. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 3. Sleaford Mods “Divide And Exit” 4. Jack White “Lazaretto” 5. St. Vincent “St. Vincent”
  • Paste (US web mag.): 1. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 2. St. Vincent “St. Vincent” 3. Run The Jewels “Run The Jewels 2” 4. King Tuff “Black Moon Spell” 5. Alvvays “Alvvays”
  • Pitchfork (US website): 1. Run The Jewels “Run the Jewels 2” 2. FKA Twigs “LP1” 3. The War On Drugs “In The Dream” 4. Aphex Twin “Syro” 5. Grouper “Ruins”
  • Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Christine and the Queens “Chaleur Humaine” 2. Damon Albarn “Everyday Robots” 3. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” 4. FKA Twigs “LP1” 5. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains “Piano Ombre”
  • Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. Ariel Pink “pom pom” 2. Metronomy “Love Letters” 3. Donovan Blanc “Donovan Blanc” 4. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains “Piano Ombre” 5. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days”
  • New Noise (French bimester mag.): to be announced soon!
  • Sound Opinions (US music podcast) Greg Kot’s 1. Kelis “Food” 2. Protomartyr “Under Color of Official Right” 3. Benjamin Booker “Benjamin Booker” 4. Mary J. Blige “The London Sessions” 5. Wussy “Attica!” Jim DeRogatis’ 1. Against Me! “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” 2. Ex Hex “Rips” 3. Le Butcherettes “Cry Is For The Flies” 4. Aphex Twin “Syro” 5. Shellac “Dude Incredible”
  • Other Music (NY records store): Top 30 in no particular order
  • Rough Trade (London records store) : 1. Temples “Sun Structures” 2. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 3. Todd Terje “It’s Album Time” 4. Metronomy “Love Letters” 5. Little Dragon “Nabuma Rubberband”

My Eurockéennes de Belfort 2013 festival experience

Ah, the pleasure in seeing again the Vosges mountains and the delicious Malsaucy lake and being back at “les Eurocks” as the festival attendees call it. That was indeed my 8th edition and probably one of the best thanks in particular to VIP invitations we got through my good friend Gilles. Indeed, no mud and very sunny this year…and many places to actually sit down and give a bit of a rest to our old bodies.

Radiohead, TV on the Radio, Pixies, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Phoenix, Air, Massive Attack, Grinderman, Gnarls Barkley, Kanye West,… the list of great bands or artists I had seen from 2003 to 2009 is endless so how was this 25th edition ?

  • Day Two – 5th July 2013

No way for me to go to the first day as indeed the festival was held during four days this year to celebrate its specific anniversary so let’s start with Day Two.

Matthew E. White - Eurocks Belfort 2013

What a better way to start the festival than finally seeing summer arriving for Matthew E. White. This bearded guy from Michigan has recently done his first LP and his music is a mix of americana and soul, which made it a nice and easy enjoyable show.

Change of stage and mood (there are four of them in total, including the great “La Plage” one, where the stage is actually in suspension… above the water!) to see the young US Punk band Fidlar (meaning Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk – a skateboarder expression). Amazing energy and “joie de vivre” and more pogos that I have seen in my last twenty concerts.

Fidlar - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Woodkid - Eurocks Belfort 2013

The least I can say is that I felt utter disappointment on the contrary with Woodkid, the new French hype guy. Very pretentious and boring music, I may give him a second chance and listen to the record but really I did not enter his world to keep it nicely. The guy directed a couple of videos for Lana del Rey so the apple does not fall far from the tree as one says…

Today’s headliners were the Smashing Pumpkins, one of my favourite bands ever (I know, not in my Top 100, weird…) but I did not have great expectations as the only original member now is their leader Billy Corgan who plays with young musicians. How wrong I was ; they played a fantastic concert and their young drummer is particularly amazing. A very well-balanced set list with old and new songs, ballads and heavy monsters, hits and less famous songs. Go and see them if you can ; that was probably the best show of the week-end for me.

Smashing Pumpkins - Eurocks Belfort 2013

  • Day Three – 6th July 2013

Guest House - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Stand 2000 - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Always difficult to get away from our nice and relaxing guest house in the middle of the mountain to get back to the festival in the middle of thousands (127,000 people for the four days) of people, including a large majority of young girls and boys being there mainly to party and not giving a shit about bands playing. On the opposite, the festival brought many great street theatres troupes this year, including the hilarious Stand 2000 actors.

The Strypes - Eurocks Belfort 2013

The day started for me with the discovery of the very very young Irish band The Strypes. They are all between 15 and 17-year old and their drummer in particular looks like a young kid but boy, how they rock and withsuch style! A great discovery, let’s hope their 60’s rock influences will allow them to make great records and that they will age gracefully.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Robert Levon Been - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Peter Hayes - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Talking about style, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are probably the best example of it. Still a trio but now with a new female drummer, their Jesus and Mary Chain meets psychedelic rock influences have aged beautifully and their set was a constant pleasure. Good to see them back on shape after all the personal dramas they lived in recent years.

I had great hopes for the Dan Auerbach (from the Black Keys)-produced soul singer Valerie June but I must admit that the most interesting thing was her dress…

Valerie June - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Back to “la Plage” then, first to hear one of the DJ sets from Pedro Winter (the former Daft Punk manager) mixing great records from The Rapture to LCD Soundsystem and  then announcing the arrival of Dinosaur Jr. I saw them last time in the Parisian winter but they were at ease playing under the sun and their set was great, despite Lou Barlow’s technical issues with his bass. They are one of the best bands ever so nothing else to say.

Dinsosaur Jr. - J. Mascis - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Dinosaur Jr. - Lou Barlow - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Lou Doillon - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Two Door Cinema Club - Eurocks Belfort 2013

After a few other partially-seen shows (Lou Doillon, nice but a bit dull – Is Tropical, energizing dance rock influenced by the Klaxons – Two Door Cinema Club, enjoyable but not exciting band – Fauve, new annoying French hype band), what I had left of energy was dedicated to Phoenix, the headliners of the third day. The way this band is now famous is quite reassuring as it means we could still find bands having success like R.E.M. had in the past for instance, i.e. keeping on believing in your music and deciding that people will finally come to you through hard work and good songs. I was a bit suspicious on my side as the last concert was not as great at the first ones but they were really good tonight and this tour has an excellent set-list, even if I would have liked to hear more old songs. But the new LP gets better and better with every listen and I hope I will enjoy them as much when I see them again in Rock en Seine in late August.

Phoenix - Eurocks Belfort 2013

  • Day Four – 7th July 2013

Are festivals tiring when the last day arrives : YES ! Is it ridiculous to still go to festivals when you are closer to 50-year old than 40 : PROBABLY ! Is it rewarding and will I keep going in rock festivals : YOU BET!

Palma Violets - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Fewer interesting bands to see today which was not a bad thing as quality is much crucial than quantity. The first band I saw were Palma Violets. I had seen them in the very tiny “Boule Noire” theatre last autumn for the festival des Inrocks in Paris and they have survived the hype, made a fine first LP “180” and are getting huge in the UK. They were probably the most energizing bands of the festivals and even if their music is still a bit rough (The Clash meets the Libertines), their attitude and the way they rock are fresh in the current music scene.

The Black Angels - Eurocks Belfort 2013

The music played by the Austin, Tx band The Black Angels on the “Grande Scène” is probably less energetic but their modern psychedelic rock makes them one of the current very solid bands. Their set was full of subtleties and seeing them under the Belfort sun reminded them probably of their beautiful Texas state.

From Australia, the Kevin Parker-lead band Tame Impala have been probably the hippest one last year, with their LP “Lonerism” elected album of the year by New Musical Express and in every music critics top 10 (including this site!). Not the kind a band you abandon yourself to at first sight, one has to enter their world step by step to truly appreciate their beautiful psychedelic (again!) music. Tame Impala - Eurocks Belfort 2013

My Bloody Valentine - Eurocks Belfort 2013

The last and only time I had seen My Bloody Valentine was in 1989 (with Happy Mondays as opening act!) and it has been quite marketed everywhere that their new excellent LP went out this year after a 22-year hiatus. I had read that their shoegazing music on stage was a torture for the ears but that was not true at all. For sure, better to have earplugs and sure again they are not the most talkative band ever but when things work, their music is a real beauty. The kind of bands totally apart from the rest of the music scene, like, say, The Cure (and not only for Kevin Shields haircut), the fact in having them around is a miracle per se.

Blur - Eurocks Belfort 2013

And here were at last, our last concert of the week, the reason we came back to “les Eurockéennes de Belfort” : B-L-U-R ! A truly great band amongst the great, they never really disbanded, even if Damon Albarn was working on hundreds of musical projects and Graham Coxon did not really know if he was still part of the band… They more or less reunited through friendship last year and did a fantastic new single “Under the Westway” so I was very excited to see them again after all these years. The guys were fit and showing us pleasure in being here (their only French date) and the show was great…as expected. It is true that it would really be good for them to make another LP but the songs they have are so good that the crowd was enjoying every moment of it. Very smart set list as well, starting with their “disco” hit Girls & Boys and finishing with four perfect songs. Seeing Blur is like feeling like Dorian Gray, especially at 1.30 am throughout the night after three tiring days!

Blur - Damon Albarn - Eurocks Belfort 2013

See you soon Belfort for a personal 9th edition.

Attendance - Eurocks Belfort 2013

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!

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : Part Two : 86 – 90

I know you have been waiting eagerly for weeks now so here you are with our second episode of our TOP 100 !

90. Blur

 from : Colchester, England / first great sounds : 90’s / style : brit-pop with a soul / essential albums : Modern Life Is Rubbish (1994), Blur (1997)

Not many bands of the so-called Britpop movement of the 90’s have had the honour of being in this Top 100. Why so? Mainly because these bands had a gift to craft good albums and took opportunity to be included in a movement that did not really exist, apart from the will of a few journalists from the N.M.E. in a desperate attempt to pretend that all great was still coming from the UK, but had not real talent. After a traditional and not so promising start, Blur quickly made the difference thanks to two amazing personalities in the band with Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon. In a career made out (for the moment) of seven LP’s, they embraced all kind of styles with passion and envy. Damon Albarn went even further exploring African music and creating other bands and in particular the great Gorillaz. Recent “21” box-set is a must for all those who want to discover one of our great contemporary bands.

89. Sufjan Stevens 

 from : Detroit, Michigan, USA  / first great sounds : 00’s  / style : melodic pop / essential album : Illinoise (2005) / click for more on the blog

Sufjan Stevens is one of the musical joy of this new millennium and would probably never have appeared in the 20th century. The guy is so much representative of musicians we like in our ages : difficult to describe, very much educated and talented, nerdy but nice-looking at the same time, quite shy in real life but exuberant on stage, … With “Illinoise”, Sufjan Stevens had created one classical record which one can listen every other week.

88. Spoon

 from : Austin, Texas, USA  / first great sounds : 90’s  / style : easy/not-so-easy pop/rock / essential album : Transference (2010)

Led by Britt Daniel and Jim Eno (a good start with such a surname!), Spoon is one of those hidden-gem bands which built a strong following amongst music lovers in the last decade. They get better and better with every new LP and their music is at the same time very easy to listen to but with weird and original hooks that really make the difference. I only saw them once in Paris at the Elysée-Montmartre theatre a few days before it went in flames and got closed…

87. The White Stripes

 from : Detroit, Michigan, USA  / first great sounds : 90’s  / style : guitar and drums blues rock / essential album : Elephant (2003) / click for more on the blog

Jack White is a fantastic musician ; I have written it down in shows’ reviews but do not have issue in saying it again. The way this guy came in the 21st century with a very clear view about what his band was about is amazing : precise set of black/white/red colours choice, the mythology between him and Meg White (former wife ? sister ? The Velvet Underground Moe Tucker’s cool reincarnation?), his love of ancestral and authentic blues,…. The White Stripes were never as good as on stage and wrote as well one of the last hymns of our times (“Seven Nation Army”). The group disbanded a few years ago and I am not sure we will hear anymore about Meg whereas Jack is a musical force to bear with, either with his other bands (The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) or with a new promising solo career.

86. Prefab Sprout

 from : Newcastle, England / first great sounds : 80’s  / style : poetic pop / essential albums : Steve McQueen (1985), Jordan:The Comeback (1990)

Paddy McAloon was one of the idols of my youth as the music he created with his band Prefab Sprout was so dreamy at a time when the charts were full of horrors. Paddy was for sure the creator and leader of this band but it would never have sounded the same without the soft drumming touch of Neil Conti or without the ethereal singing of his (then) girlfriend Wendy Smith. Their career had been relatively short in albums considering the fact that Paddy was a real perfectionist. They were famous for a couple of years but came back with the 1990 masterpiece “Jordan : The Comeback” which was to ambitious a piece of work to get on par with the charts. Paddy McAloon sort of disappeared from business life due to a rare illness that made him almost blind but everyone should hear “When Love Breaks Down” if not done yet and (re)discover a tremendous band.