December 2019 Album of the month: Yann Tiersen – “Portrait”

As every year, the month of December is pretty weird to review as a) there are very few releases b) all the best of the year lists are already available, not counting into account December… So once again, a few of the records below would not have a chance to be part of the selection any other month of the year…which does not mean they are bad. And our record of the month is a real essential release from a great artist. Stay tuned for our traditional best of the year 2019 to be posted soon!

Album of the month: Yann Tiersen – “Portrait” – Pop Rock – The way Yann Tiersen evolved in his artist’s life should be a model for everyone. I was originally not a huge fan of his music when he was made famous through the “Amélie Poulain” soundtrack but it looks it was millions of years ago so good and original his music has been for more than 15 years now. ‘Portrait’ is more than a compilation as on top of three brand new numbers, Yann Tiersen reworked his past catalogue with fresh ideas. The list of collaborators is impressive and self explanatory: John Grant, Stephen O’ Malley from Sunn O))), Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals or again Blonde Redhead. Album of the month heads and shoulders above the rest.

  • Runner-up: Various – “Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture 19” – Compilation – The traditional CD version of the annual Rough Trade compilation with 25 very different excellent tracks. Thank you Rough Trade for your stores, podcasts and showcase gigs and for making the world a better place
  • Also recommended:
  •  Courtney Barnett  “MTV Unplugged” – Pop Rock – Unexpected nice Xmas present from one of the artists of the decade.
  • Stormzy “Heavy Is In The Head”– Grime – (too) long album from the grime prince with a few jewels.
  • Free Nationals– “Free Nationals” – Funk – Old fashioned funk music from Anderson .Paak‘s band.
  • Kaytranada – “Bubba” – Electro Pop – Chilled early morning dance music.
  • Dirty Projectors – “Sing The Melody” – Pop Rock – Interesting live versions from the Brooklyn band.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Michael Kiwanuka – “Kiwanuka”

Best albums of 2018 – Top 25

A bit late this year due to a long Xmas break trip overseas but rest assured that the traditional end of the year list has been done with the same level of focus and love than all previous years. A very dense year in terms of quantity of excellent records, meaning LP’s by The Dirty Projectors, Richard Thompson, Suede, Blood Orange, The Breeders, Arctic Monkeys or again Bodega could easily have been here as well. But I guess a man’s job is to do choices, right? Nice to find three jazz albums this year as well in this selection. You will find below other lists from websites or magazines; it really looks that I am the only person on Earth to find Christine and the Queens’ music irritating and full of clichés…

Anyway, without further due, let’s start with the album of the year, a real masterpiece done by an old friend.

#1 Gaz Coombes – “World’s Strongest Man”. Released in: May 2018 -Probably not a major surprise for those who follow this blog on a regular basis but I hope that this symbolic reward will make the whole world listen again or discover this amazing piece of music. This is Gaz Coombes’ third solo album and probably the best of his entire solo career or with the excellent band Supergrass. Songs are catchy, sounds are inventive and different from one track to another and the musicianship of it all is extraordinary. What makes this record different though are the lyrics and in particular the doubts, fears and hopes of a middle aged family man living in me-too times and in a society where we are all looking for a sense of purpose. RECORD OF THE YEAR!

  #2 The Lemon Twigs – “Go to School”. Released in: August 2018. The Lemon Twigs are the band of the very young d’Addario brothers and this is already their third release after their debut LP in 2016 and a great EP in 2017. Putting as number 2 record of the year a concept album about an adopted monkey going to school, feeling rejected and putting fire to his college building may seem a desperate move but trust me with this one. This is a real grower and all 16 songs are fantastic. Looking forward to catch them live again soon!

 #3 Flavien Berger – “Contre-temps”.Released in: September 2018. If I had to prove again that I do not have anything against French music, here is another example. The thing is that I do not really care and the only thing that has driven me throughout these years and with this blog in particular is to share emotion found in music. This album can also be considered as a sort of concept album because every track is really fresh and inventive. To be discovered and enjoyed by non-French speakers as well.

 #4 Rhye – “Blood”. Released in: February 2018. A beautiful, sensual and very delicate 2nd album from Canadian singer Mike Milosh. Everything great pop music should be in terms of melodies and freshness in sounds. Imagine if Sade were a man and doing her first records now…

 #5 Neneh Cherry – “Broken Politics”. Released in: October 2018. Another beautiful and very moving record from one of our favourite female artist and singer. Neneh Cherry’s releases are not as frequent as they used to be but really deserve to be listened to. This new LP in particular may be the best she has ever done, either thanks to the strength of the lyrics or to the serenity of her music.

 #6 Spiritualized  “And Nothing Hurt”. Released in: September 2018. Umpteenth album from former Spacemen Three‘s Jason Pierce. For those familiar with his art, you will find what you like, i.e. themes of love and desperation within repetitive and Velvet Underground influenced songs. For the others, this album is the perfect choice to discover this fantastic band.

 #7 Kanye West – “Ye”. Released in: June 2018. Another best of the year end list and another album from Mr. West. Although it looks his public and social life is getting weirder every day, his musical skills remain as strong as ever, in particular in this mini-album where he very openly describes his mental issues.

 #8 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever  “Hope Downs”. Released in: June 2018. Musical movements are often things created by journalists but one has to admit there is currently an excellent wave of new and young Australian bands. The Rolling Blackouts C.F. are probably the best of the crew and this album will delight old Go Betweens fans but also a younger audience excited by new comers.

 #9 Sons Of Kemet “Your Queen Is A Reptile”. Released in: March 2018. Led by the great Shabaka Hutchings, Sons of Kemet are today’s best representative bands of the so-called new British jazz scene. In reality, all these musicians only want to respect the elders and create new sounds, mixing up traditional jazz in a context where they have all been listening to hip-hop and R’n’B.

 #10 Bill Ryder-Jones  “Yawn”. Out in: November 2018. Another great album from The Coral former member. As for all his albums, this one deserves to be listened again and again to appreciate his beauty and extreme musicianship.

  • 11. Petite Noir“La Maison Noir / The Black House”
  • 12. Interpol“Marauder”
  • 13. Jeff Tweedy“Warm”
  • 14. MGMT “Little Dark Age”
  • 15. Idles“Joy As An Act Of Resistance”
  • 16. John Coltrane – “Both Directions At Once”
  • 17. Kurt Vile – “Bottle It In”
  • 18. Father John Misty – “God’s Favorite Customer”
  • 19. Courtney Barnett – “Tell Me How You Really Feel”
  • 20. Sunflower Bean – “Twentytwo In Blue”
  • 21. Shame – “Songs Of Praise”
  • 22. Ty Segall – “Freedom’s Goblin”
  • 23. Field Music – “Open Here”
  • 24. Villagers – “The Art Of Pretending To Swim”
  • 25. Kamasi Washington – “Heaven & Earth”

Other voices’ (websites, magazines, records stores, etc…) Top 10.

You will find below a selection of other lists but there are so many of them that you may also want to go to the albumoftheyear.org website to get an aggregation of them all. You will appreciate that the Top 5 is made out of female artists.

  • Mojo (UK music mag): 1. Kamasi Washington Heaven and Earth 2. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino 3. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever Hope Downs 4. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 5. Christine and the Queens Chris 6. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 7. Ryley Walker Deafman Glance 8. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 9. Spiritualized And Nothing Hurt 10. The Breeders All Nerve
  • Uncut (UK music mag): 1. Low Double Negative 2. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever Hope Downs 3. Ty Segall Freedom’s Goblin 4. Spiritualized And Nothing Hurt 5. Yo La Tengo There’s a Riot going on 6. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 7. Gruff Rhys Babelsberg 8. Beak> Invada 9. Christine and the Queens Chris 10. Sons of Kemet Your Queen is a Reptile
  • NME (UK website): 1. The 1975 A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships 2. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino 3. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 4. Sunflower Bean Twentytwo in Blue 5. Pusha T Daytona 6. Shame Songs of Praise 7. Kali Uchis Isolation 8. Cardi B Invasion of Privacy 9. Mitski Be the Cowboy 10. Christine and the Queens Chris
  • Rough Trade (London, Nottingham, Bristol and Brooklyn stores): 1. Shame Songs of Praise 2. Everything is Recorded By Richard Russell 3. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 4. Khruangbin Con todo el Mundo 5. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever Hope Downs 6. Daniel Blumberg Minus 7. Goat Girl Goat Girl 8. Mark Peters Innerland 9. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 10. Oh Sees Smote Reverser
  • Fopp (UK stores): 1. Kamasi Washington Heaven and Earth 2. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 3. Low Double Negative 4. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 5. Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar 6. Christine and the Queens Chris 7. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 8. First Aid Kit Ruins 9. Jon Hopkins Singularity 10. Nils Frahm All Melody
  • Greg Kot (Sound Opinions radio DJ #1): 1. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Years 2. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 3. Noname Romm 25. 4. Superchunk What a Time to be alive 5. Saba Care for me 6. Our Girl Stranger today 7. Parquet Courts Wide Awake! 8. boygenius boygenius 9. Motorcade Motorcade 10. Eleanor Friedberger Rebound
  • Jim Derogatis (Sound Opinions radio DJ #2): 1. Viagra Boys Street Worms 2. CupcakKe Ephorize 3. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 4. Superchunk What a Time to be alive 5. Dessa Chime 6. Vince Staples FM! 7. Amanda Shires To the Sunset 8. The Beths Future me hates me 9. John Prine The Tree of Forgiveness 10. Parquet Courts Wide Awake!
  • Pitchfork (US music website): 1. Mitski Be the Cowboy 2. Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour 3. DJ Koze Knock Knock 4. Robyn Honey 5. Snail Mail Lush 6. Rosalía El mal querer 7. Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs 8. Low Double Negative 9. Tierra Whack Whack World 10. Yves Tumor Safe in the Hands of Love
  • Paste (US music website): 1. Lucy Dacus Historian 2. Parquet Courts Wide Awake! 3. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 4. Soccer Mommy Clean 5. Snail Mail Lush 6. Mitski Be the Cowboy 7. Pusha T Daytona 8. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever Hope Downs 9. Low Double Negative 10. Hop Along Bark your Head off, Dog
  • Les Inrocks (French mag): 1. Flavien Berger Contre-temps 2. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino 3. Cat Power Wanderer 4. MGMT Little Dark Age 5. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 6. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel  7. Kanye West Ye 8. Jorja Smith Lost & Found 9. Miossec Les rescapés 10. Neneh Cherry Broken Politics
  • The Guardian (UK daily newspaper) : 1. Christine and the Queens Chris 2. Robyn Honey 3. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 4. Cardi B Invasion of Privacy 5. Mitski Be the Cowboy 6. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 7. Kamasi Washington Heaven and Earth 8. Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour 9. Low Double Negative 10. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
  • The Independent (UK website) : 1. John Grant Love is magic 2. Colter Wall Songs of the Plains 3. Christine and the Queens Chris 4. Suede The Blue Hour 5. Troye Sivan Bloom 6. Travis Scott Astroworld 7. Gaika Basic Volume 8. Ben Howard Noonday Dream 9. CHVRCHES Love is dead 10. Parquet Courts Wide Awake!
  • Magic rpm (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Tunng Songs You Make At Night 2. Vera Sola Shades 3. The Married Monk Headgearalienpoo 4. Low Double Negative 5. Courtney Barnett Tell me how you really feel 6. En Attendant Ana Lost and Found 7. Spiritualized And Nothing Hurt 8. Beak> >>> 9. Cat Power Wanderer 10. Shame Songs of Praise
  • Noise Magazine (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Hangman’s Chair Banlieue Triste 2. Idles Joy as an Act of Resistance 3. Turnstile Time & Space 4. Deafheaven Ordinary Corrupt Human Love 5. Alice In Chains Rainier Fog 6. Daughters You Won’t Get What You Want 7. Rendez Vous Superior State 8. Thou Magus 9. The Breeders All Nerve 10. Will Haven Muerte

All Points East presents… the greatest bands in the world! Victoria Park, 2nd and 3rd June, 2018

 

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Last week was held in the very nice Mile End neighbourhood and more precisely in Victoria Park the second week-end of the new All Points East Festival. Actually, the previous week-end was the actual official festival with names such as The XX, Bjork or again LCD Soundsytem whereas the gigs I went to were part of something called “All Points East presents…”. Well, whatever the name, the real treat was in the line-up as basically I could find many of my current or past musical obsessions.

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So, for once, nothing particularly new to write again about these great bands or artists but just the pleasure in sharing a few photos of these two days: This Is The Kit, Spoon, Flyte, The War On Drugs, The National, Courtney Barnett, Patti Smith, St. Vincent and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. My camera was also as overwhelmed as I was by such a line-up as its lens stopped working after a certain stage…

Stay connected as next time, I will write about two amazing bands I had not seen live for decades..

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May 2018 Album of the month: Gaz Coombes “World’s Strongest Man”

Album of the month: Gaz Coombes“World’s Strongest Man” – Pop Rock – Although very popular at least in their own country, Supergrass is to me an underrated band, especially regarding their late albums. This is their original singer’s 3rd LP and the least one can mention is that this is getting better with each release. These songs do not necessarily sound special but there is an emotion in the words and melodies which make them overwhelming. I must say being a particular fan of non-macho songwriters trying to find a meaning of their lives in our current times. That was also to me the recurring them of my 2017 album of the year with Father John Misty and at the end of the day aren’t we all looking for such a thing?
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I was also lucky to recently attend a Rough Trade showcase for the release of that album and Gaz Coombes was magnificent on stage that day. Album of the month…. and of the year so far.

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  • Runner-up: Courtney Barnett “Tell Me How You Really Feel” – Pop Rock – Our favourite Aussie female singer is back with her proper second album. Probably less immediate than her previous releases, this is also deeper in terms of words and more in phase with the complicated life women face in their late 20’s / early 30’s. Amazing also how one could find acquaintances with Liz Phair‘s “Exile to Guyville” which has just been reissued for a 25-year edition.
  • Also recommended:
    • Eleanor Friedberger “Rebound” – Pop Rock – Another beautiful album from the former Fiery Furnaces singer
    • Arctic Monkeys – “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” – Pop Rock – The Sheffield band gets sentimental on this heavily Bowie-Gainsbourg influenced record
    • Slow Mass “On Watch” – Pop Rock – Is it hardcore? Is it pop? Or is it simply real powerful music?
    • Stephen Malkmus “Sparkle Hard” – Pop Rock – Now with more solo albums than Pavement’s in his career, he remains though a relevant force.
    • Kamaal Williams  “The Return” – Soul Jazz – A welcome different musical style in this very indie pop selection… 
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Eels – “The Deconstruction

 

Best albums of 2017 – Top 25.

Another year goes by and the more it goes, the less it seems to make sense … but not more or less than in the previous 3,000 years I guess. On these philosophical words, let’s focus on what this blog’s editor knows best, i.e. build nice end of the year lists!

Thanks to the nice suggestion of a friend, I started at the beginning of 2017 reviews of the best albums of the month. Quite a nice story and overall it meant that I listened to even more music thanks the intensive use of the streaming service I am subscribed to but also to regular visits to my local favourite stores, Rough Trade in particular. I tried to listen to all styles of music (folk, jazz, metal, pop, world, indie, soul, hip-hop,…) and hopefully without any prejudice. I can therefore proudly claim and make official that indeed big sellers such as Katie Perry, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Miley Cyrus or again Sam Smith have all released completely boring, uninteresting or sometimes atrocious records. Not a question of snobbishness but these records are produced without any invention, emotion or soul. The below list is of course subjective but as every year is a mix of newcomers, mature bands, artist I discovered on stage or people who had an impact in 2017. I could have easily select 100 albums I can come back to on a regular basis but that was not the point.

Top 25 this year and without further due, let’s start with our Album of the Year which is a masterpiece! For the sake of clarity, you can click this year on two links: the first one will take you to the monthly review when this album went out and the second one to a potential live review if any.

Pure Comedy

#1 Father John Misty – “Pure Comedy”. Out in: April 2017Live review What makes a record one’s album of the year. Beautiful music in the way Elton John could do in his peak in the 70’s with a touch of indie rock attitude? Angry and beautiful words against the state of the world ? Sensitive songs about the difficulty in being in love and making a relationship work ? Poetry ? Amazing presence on stage ? Probably all of this but to me what made it album of the year was the constant companionship and pure rough emotion I found in this album since it went out. Joshua Tillman is definitely increasing his game with every release. Stream it, buy it, read the words, catch him live; Father John Misty has made by far the RECORD OF THE YEAR!

Yesterday's Gone #2 Loyle Carner – “Yesterday’s Gone”. Out in: January 2017. This is the amazing debut album of the young London rapper Coyle Larner. His artist name is Loyle Carner as this is the way he used to pronounce his name when he was a kid due to dyslexia. He was also diagnosed as having behaviour trouble at that age but the young man found an escape in theatre and music. After the devastating death of his father in law, he went back to his music and released this very personal album full of great soul and jazz samples. Welcome to the club of great artists young man and keep on bringing a Man Utd Eric Cantona on stage.

DAMN. #3 Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.” Out in: April 2017. Kendrick Lamar does not need this blog to be more famous or more critically appreciated as it looks the whole world loves him now.. and other artists too as he appeared this year on many other tracks (U2, Miguel or again N.E.R.D amongst many others). This is an extraordinary album again and the young man is definitely the current most talented artist. Every new album is an exciting event so let’s hope it will last for a few more extra years.

Aromanticism #4 Moses Sumney– “Aromanticism”. Out in: September 2017. Live review. Those who are familiar with this blog may remember the emotion and positive shock I had whilst catching this young American artist live at End of the Road festival. His debut album is as amazing as he is on stage. He has the voice of an angel servicing very personal, melodic and original-sounding songs. If Bjork was a Black American young man in his 20’s, she would probably sound like him. To discover without further due.

The Loved Ones #5 Flyte – “The Loved Ones”. Out in: August 2017. A real grower that one as it was not in my August 2017 selection. This record made me young again as I discovered them after catching the cover of the record in a billboard in London (as used to be the case in ancient times). This young band from London made what I consider a classic in terms of melody and freshness of the sounds while respecting the grand tradition of great bands from the past such as Prefab Sprout, The Bluebells, Aztec Camera or again The Dream Academy. If such influences do not make you want to discover it, English pop rock bands must not be your taste!

Hot Thoughts #6 Spoon  “Hot Thoughts”. Out in: March 2017. Live review. Another great LP by this truly exceptional band. The difficulty with bands like Spoon (or The National for instance) is that one is so used to quality with each release that one has to favour more glamorous things or new ones. Let’s not fall into this easy trap and celebrate one of the most inventive bands of our times. The more they go, the better they are it seems…

Moonshine Freeze #7 This Is The Kit- “Moonshine Freeze”. Out in: July 2017. Live review. This is the second time that Kate Sable’s band ends up in our best of the year ranking after 2015 excellent “Bashed Out”. Her music is also getting more mature and accomplished and her peers start to recognize such a talent. Folk music for those who do not like it.

Lotta Sea Lice #8 Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile  “Lotta Sea Love”. Out in: October 2017. This is typically the kind of collaboration which should have been interesting at best as very often two great artists playing together do not produce something amazing. This is totally untrue here between the young Australian singer and her male American counterpart. They built a friendship while meeting on tour, experienced a few songs and then ended making a proper LP. Very refreshing Velvet Underground-sounding music and nice words relating the troubles for those travelling a lot for their work (I guess not only musicians could relate to this!).

All - Amerikkkan Bada$$ #9 Joey Bada$$  “All – Amerikkkan Bada$$”. Out in: April 2017. Firstly for those of you who follow with the same intensity as I did “Mr. Robot”, let me precise that this is indeed the same Joey who plays Leon in the series. Having said that, Joey Bada$$ is first and foremost a great MC. This is the third hip-hop album in this selection and although I have been listening to tens of them, nothing moves me more than rappers talking about the state of the world on great soul and jazz beats and samples. Am I really that old-school?

Sleep Well Beast #10 The National  “Sleep Well Beast”. Out in: September 2017. Live review. …and here they are in this selection as well. Not a surprise for regular readers of this blog as I guess they probably have been my favourite band of the current decade. Great album as usual but this time with a leap forward in terms of electronic sounds and songs structure. In other words, they keep on being more inventive while staying what they are. One of the greatest bands of our times.

Painted Ruins #11 Grizzly Bear  “Painted Ruins”. Out in: August 2017. Live reviewGrizzly Bear have once more delivered the goods and this album is probably that where you will find the most beautiful voices of them all. This band keeps on going forward in their own very singular way and every new listen brings extra discoveries and entertainment. A great album to enter their world and potentially go backwards to their previous LP’s.

A Deeper Understanding #12 The War On Drugs  “A Deeper Understanding”. Out in: August 2017. His 2014 album “Lost In A Dream” was a masterpiece although for some reason it did not end in my end of the year list at the time; not sure why… I write “his” as the band is really the brainchild of Adam Granduciel. This new opus is as good as the previous one and the way to describe it best is to associate it with the early 80’s Bruce Springsteen records (“Born In The USA” or “Tunnel Of Love”) with an indie attitude. Play it on and you will dance to it!

Songs of Experience #13 U2  “Songs Of Experience”. Out in: December 2017. A very recent release so once again quite difficult to judge as a record very often needs time to reveal if it is a good one, a classic…or a a fake! My gut feeling is that this is one of U2’s best and a few songs already sound like stadium classics. After the fantastic “Joshua Tree” tour this year, I am looking forward to catching them… backstage for their next tour!

I See You #14 The Xx  “I See You”. Out in: January 2017. This record is on the opposite side vs. the previous one in terms of date as it was released very early in January. I had already forgotten its beauty and I had to listen to it again to get it right. The song “On Hold” is particularly very moving for this blog’s writer ; the reason being probably the great use of a Hall & Oates sample…

American Dream #15 LCD Soundsystem  “American Dream”.  Out in: September 2017. Live review. So it was not really the end of LCD Soundsystem when its leader James Murphy decided to end it all in 2011 at the Madison Square Garden… Well, I guess we should be delighted then as their comeback record is as good as their previous ones, keeping the New York Grooooove Thang sound. One of the best dance machine ever is back!

Slowdive #16 Slowdive -“Slowdive”. Out in: May 2017. Live review. Excellent shoegazing band comeback #1.

Weather Diaries #17 Ride – “Weather Diaries”. Out in: June 2017. Live review. Excellent shoe gazing band comeback #2.

Mental Illness #18 Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness”. Out in: March 2017. Live review. One of the most beautiful and singular female voices.

Masseduction #19 St. Vincent – “Masseduction”. Out in: October 2017. Perfect and moving pop music from a young woman #1.

Melodrama #20 Lorde – “Melodrama”. Out in: June 2017. Perfect and moving pop music from a young woman #2.

Villains #21 Queens Of The Stone Age – “Villains”. Out in: August 2017. No Villains, only Heroes!    

Dark Days and Canapés #22 Ghostpoet – “Dark Days + Canapés”. Out in: August 2017. Former call center British employee ; all roads lead to Rome!      

Witness #23 Benjamin Booker – “Witness”. Out in: June 2017. Blues Soul Punk Rock young master.      

In Spades #24 The Afghan Whigs – “In Spades”. Out in: May 2017. Live review. Second excellent album since they reformed.

Drunk #25 Thundercat – “Drunk”. Out in: February 2017. Soul and hip hop bass player gets solo.

So it looks the power of Anglo-Saxon music is over if you read a few magazines…but my selection is made out of artists and bands from the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland only. I guess this is what moves me the most. The more it goes, the more this selection is well balanced between men and women…although I must recognize that this is still dominated by male US rock.

Other voices’ (websites, magazines, records stores, etc…) Top 10.

You will find below a selection of other lists but there are so many of them that you may also want to go to the albumoftheyear.org website to get an aggregation of them all (© JG from Garidech). Kendrick Lamar being the definite winner it seems…

  • Mojo (music mag): 1. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 2. Nadia Reid Preservation 3. Queens Of The Stone Age Villains 4. A Tribe Called Quest We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service 5. Jane Weaver Modern Kosmology 6. St. Vincent Masseduction 7. Kendrick Lamar DAMN 8. Hurray For The Riff Raff The Navigator 9. Sleaford Mods English Tapas 10. Aldous Harding Party
  • Uncut (music mag): 1. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 2. The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding 3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN 4. The Weather Station The Weather Station 5. Joan Shelley Joan Shelley 6. Richard Dawson Peasant 7. The National Sleep Well Beast 8. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice 9. St. Vincent Masseduction 10. Hurray For The Riff Raff The Navigator
  • NME (not as great as it used to be…): 1. Lorde Melodrama 2. Wolfe Alice Visions Of A Life 3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 4. Father John Misty Pure Comedy 5. LCD Soundsytem American Dream 6. J Hus Common Sense 7. SZA CTRL 8. Lana Del Rey Lust For Life 9. Wiley The Godfather 10. Liam Gallagher As You Were
  • Rough Trade (London, Nottingham, Bristol and Brooklyn stores): 1. Aldous Harding Post Party 2. Ryan Adams Prisoner 3. Bjork Utopia 4. Big Thief Capacity 5. Colter Wall Colter Wall 6. Cigarettes After Sex Cigarettes After Sex 7. The Big Moon Love In The 4th Dimension 8. Jane Weaver Modern Kosmology 9. Thundercat Drunk 10. Here Lies Man Here Lies Man
  • Fopp (UK stores): 1. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 2. The Xx I See You 3. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice 4. Father John Misty Pure Comedy 5. Richard Dawson Peasant 6. Fleet Foxes Crack-Up 7. Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit The Nashville Sound 8. Tinariwen Elwan 9. The National Sleep Well Beast 10. Grizzly Bear Painted Ruins
  • HMV (UK stores): 1. St. Vincent Masseduction 2. The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding 3. The National Sleep Well Beast 4. Father John Misty Pure Comedy 5. Cigarettes After Sex Cigarettes After Sex 6. Alvvays Antisocialites 7. Aldous Harding Party 8. Jane Weaver Modern Kosmology 9. Slowdive Slowdive 10. The Horrors V
  • Greg Kot (Sound Opinions radio DJ #1): 1. Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 3 2. Ted Leo The Hanged Man 3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 4. Sir the Baptist Saint Or Sinner 5. Downtown Boys Cost Of Living 6. Protomartyr Relatives In Descent 7. Vic Mensa The Autobiography 8. Mavis Staples If All I Was Was Black 9. Moses Sumney Aromanticism 10. Priests Nothing Feels Natural
  • Jim Derogatis (Sound Opinions radio DJ #2): 1. The Regrettes Fell Your Feelings Fool! 2. Downtown Boys Cost Of Living 3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 4. Priests Nothing Feels Natural 5. Rips Rips 6. Aimee Mann Mental Illness 7. Vic Mensa The Autobiography 8. The Feelies In Between 9. Wire Silver/Lead 10. Courtney Barnett And Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice
  • Pitchfork (music website): 1. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 2. SZA Ctrl 3. King Krule The OOZ 4. Kelela Take Me Apart 5. Lorde Melodrama 6. Moses Sumney Aromanticism 7. Vince Staples Big Fish Theory 8. Tyler, The Creator Flower Boy 9. Fever Ray Plunge 10. Jlin Black Origami
  • Paste (music website): 1. Jay Som Everybody Works 2. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 3. Father John Misty Pure Comedy 4. Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 3 5. Courtney Barnett And Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice 6. Sheer Mag Need To Feel Your Love 7. Alvvays Antisocialites 8. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 9. Mount Eerie A Crow Looked At Me 10. Sampha Process
  • Les Inrocks (French mag): 1. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 2. King Krule The OOZ 3. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 4. Migos Culture 5. Alex Cameron Forced Witness 6. Juliette Armanet Petite Amie 7. Mac DeMarco This Old Dog 8. Orelsan La Fête Est Finie 9. Damso Ipséité 10. Cigarettes After Sex Cigarettes After Sex
  • The Guardian (UK daily newspaper) : 1. St. Vincent Masseduction 2. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 3. SZA Ctrl 4. Lorde Melodrama 5. Perfume Genius No Shape  6. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 7. The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding 8. Thundercat Drunk 9. Kelela Take Me Apart 10. Richard Dawson Peasant
  • The Independent (UK website) : 1. Loyle Carner Yesterday’s Gone 2. Lorde Melodrama 3. Rapsody Laila’s Wisdom 4. Perfume Genius No Shape 5. SZA Ctrl 6. Ghostpoet Dark Days + Canapes 7. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 8. Syd Fin 9. Jessie Ware Glasshouse 10. Trampolene Swansea To Hornsey
  • Magic rpm (French bimonthly magazine, back in 2017…but already over in 2018?) : 1. Grizzly Bear Painted Ruins 2. Aldous Harding Party 3. Midget! Ferme Tes Jolis Cieux 4. Slowdive Slowdive 5. Kadjha Bonet The Visitor 6. Charlotte Gainsbourg Rest 7. Flotation Toy Warning The Machine That Made Us 8. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 9. Forever Pavot La Pantoufle 10. Big Thief Capacity
  • Noise Magazine (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Quicksand Interiors 2. Blut Aus Nord Deus Salutis Meae 3. Jessica93 Guilty Species 4. Slowdive Slowdive 5. Dead Cross Dead Cross 6. Algiers The Underside Of Power 7. Oxbow Thin Black Duke 8. Crystal Fairy Crystal Fairy 9. Sleaford Mods English Tapas 10. At The Drive-In In.ter a.lia

October 2017 Album of the month: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile “Lotta Sea Lice”

Another busy month for records’ releases; I guess it never really stops except in December. A few big names with listenable but slightly boring records (hello Liam Gallagher, Beck, Stereophonics or Bill Corgan) and a very embarrassing one from former hip-hop legends the Wu-Tang Clan… However, a great number of very good records and as usual very tough to keep a selection of seven of them. Anyway, here we go for October:

Album of the month: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile“Lotta Sea Lice” – Pop Rock – …and yes, I know, Kurt and Courtney… Having mentioned that, when two of one’s favourite and cherished artists of the last years decide to collaborate on a record, one is very often suspicious about the results. In other words, in music, the sum of two great talents on a record is often disappointing. This is not at all the case here and on the opposite, it looks these two musicians improved their games vs. their recent releases (well, this is true at least for Kurt Vile…). They met a bit by chance after making known their respective interest and appreciation in each other’s music and eventually made a song, then enough material for an E.P…and lo and behold here you are with one of the best records of the year. Very laid back and beautiful music and the kind of records we would probably have enjoyed in summer time…so enjoy it everywhere you live and especially for our beloved Brazilian readers!

 

  • Runner-up: St. Vincent“Masseduction” – Pop Rock – A bit samey here as I had a bad feeling concerning the new record from Annie Clark, alias St. Vincent for stupid reasons: she got famous in tabloids, her music looked less and less from the heart, etc… So good news are that I was entirely wrong. Her album is as usual quite different from previous ones and ready to explore electronic sounds but in a very emotional context overall and with beautiful songs.
  • Also recommended:
    • The Weather Station “The Weather Station” – Folk  Rock – Meet Canadian singer Tamara Lindeman and her beautiful Joni Mitchell-sounding songs…with bitter lyrics.
    • Robert Plant – “Carry Fire” – Pop Rock – Another beautiful album from the former Led Zeppelin singer where he mixes his love of rock’n’roll and oriental music
    • Sananda Maitreya “Prometheus & Pandora ” – Every style – 59 (!) new tracks from the artist formerly known as Terence Trent d’Arby. Not everything is great but there are a few gems to discover. And what a joy to hear that amazing voice of his again.
    • Bully “Losing” – Pop Rock – The Sundays meet Nirvana. Great guitar record.
    • Fever Ray “Plunge” – Electropop – Great and weird new album from Karin Dreijer, singer of the Swedish band The Knife.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – The National – “Sleep Well Beast

 

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

Great Australians in London : Courtney Barnett, 26th November 2015, The Forum – Robert Forster, 7th December 2015, Bush Hall

Not a lot in common between these two artists apart from their nationality and the fact their music is really fresh and exciting.

  • Courtney Barnett, The Forum, 26th November 2015

Courtney Barnett - Choose love T-shirt

This gig was my first one after the Paris events and I thought that was no better coincidence than to watch on stage a super talented young woman very much in line with what the new generation of youngsters should be. She arrived on the music scene a couple of years ago with straight-to-your-face rock’n’roll with a strong touch of Velvet Underground influence for her music. Her words though are very much representative of the “now”, with a mix of criticism, despair and energy to still keep on living, despite all the bullshit that is surrounding us. Her first tracks have been compiled last year through the “The Double EP : a Sea of Split Peas” record and I must stay I had not listened to something so exciting and full of energy for a long time.

She had been touring in 2015 to play extracts from her new proper debut LP “Sometimes I sit and think and sometimes I just sit”, which is one of the best records of the year. On top of being such a great record title, Courtney brought us the same formula as her first singles but on a more dynamic way. Many great tunes on this record too with in particular “Pedestrian at best“, a track you will find in all 2015 best of magazine compilations.

Courtney Barnett - with band and birds

Tonight, she was on top form with a bunch of excellent musicians with whom she had been touring most of the year. Although I found no real concern or stress in the audience after what happened in Paris (probably for the better), I am pretty sure Courtney had something to express by wearing her nice “Choose Love” white tee-shirt. Great gig and one of the best new artists to follow in the next years.

  • Robert Forster, Bush Hall, 7th December 2015

Robert Forster

Attending this gig was like seeing an old friend about whom one would not have had any news for many years : changed for sure, more white hair…but still overall the same. Robert Forster was the main driving force behind the seminal Australian band The Go-Betweens with his compadre Grant McLennan. After six fantastic records in the 80’s, the band even regrouped again in the late 90’s / early 00’s for three more records which were as good as their first period. Sad news is that Grant died from a heart failure in 2006, leaving Robert away from his musical soul mate and back to a solo career.

Robert Forster - with tree

Robert Forster on his own has never been the most prolific artist ever but each record he did as always a source of pleasure, either to be found in the simplicity and beauty of the songs or in the greatness of the words. I personally thought he had stopped doing music as there had been no such news in the last years but 2015 saw the release of this new LP “Songs to Play” which is among its best records.

Tonight, in the great atmosphere of the super small Bush Hall theater and surrounded by natives from surfing regions (Australia or Pays Basque), Robert Forster was solo and acoustic. This allowed him to present and sing his songs to the bone and on a very clear mode when one could appreciate every rhyme or subtle chord change. The man was as expected full of humility but also chatting to the audience between all songs, sometimes seriously but more often making everyone laugh. The set list was excellent, mixing songs from his solo career from all records plus a few gems from the Go-Betweens era. I was lucky enough to have a few words with him at the end of the show and have my “Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express” 1986 LP signed by the great man. And thanks again for the photographer!

Robert Forster - chat after concert