Best albums of 2016: Death is not the end

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Rock city : Alan Parsons’ master class at Abbey Road, The Rolling Stones exhibitionism & The Kinks’ musical

Abbey Road Studios

I read so many books and magazines on rock music and its history/stories that at one stage considering cities such a New York, Austin, Chicago, Berlin or London as key rock places is really obvious. However, as one knows, there is sometimes difference between theory and reality…but this is not the case for London. This is not obvious at first although you realise quickly there are more quality gigs than anywhere in the world. Then although a few of them have been closed throughout the years there are probably more record stores than any city in the world. But the real difference comes from the other options available when one is looking closely and the fact that this is not fake but really part of the culture of this city.

Abbey Road, Studio 2

One of the best moments I experienced last year was to attend a Master Class held by Alan Parsons at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios. Alan Parsons is better known by the general audience for a few hits he had in the late 80’s with the Alan Parsons Project (hello “Eye in the Sky” for instance) but for rock aficionados he is famous for his role as young sound assistant on The Beatles “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” LP’s when he was only a 19-year old young man and later as the main sound engineer on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” album. Many hifi sellers from the late 70’s and early 80’s own this man a few quids as this album was very often used in stores to show the quality of the hifi equipment. Quite moving and unique opportunity also as the conference was taking place in Studio 2, where the Beatles recorded around 190 of the 210 tracks they have in total (I count on Beatles geek fans to precise the exact number).

Abbey Road, George and John

Interviewed by the excellent journalist David Hepworth, the 90 minutes I spent there were a complete joy, especially when he played on the original piano the “Lady Madonna” intro or when he showed us how he and Pink Floyd created the sounds heard on their worldwide hit “Money”. There is a cool Abbey Road store full of memorabilia nearby and you can of course walk on the famous zebras!

Abbey road, zebras

Choosing between the Beatles and the Stones is like choosing between mum and dad so let’s embrace them both (although depending on the mood of the day one clearly prefers of these two bands). I went to the Saatchi Galery to visit Exhibitionism, the Rolling Stones exhibition curated and closely followed by Sir Jagger. The man is currently more active than ever these days as he is also a co-producer with Martin Scorcese of the excellent “Vinyl” HBO series, held in the mid-70’s in NY city. Putting the Rolling Stones in a museum may look like a weird idea as they were probably the antithesis of such a thing when they started their career…but the times they are a’changin’.

The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism

Do not get me wrong here, the exhibition is clearly recommended for Stones and rock music fans as the curators have gathered an impressive collection of guitars, clothes, movies, etc… The studio room in particular is a delight by the way it has been re-created and by the number of beautiful guitars owned by Keith Richards and Mick Wood throughout the years. My only problem is that I have been having with the Rolling Stones for many years now ; they want so much to control all business around their names that the exhibition lacks a bit of authenticity. I would have liked to know more about the real role of the late Brian Jones during his last years in the band or for instance more context about what the band has been in England during the 60’s and 70’s. Funny as well how Bill Wyman has been almost erased from their history. Once again, clearly recommended if you are in London but could have been even better.

Musicals on the West End are a key thing to do when you visit the city as a tourist and are the equivalent of Broadway shows in NY. I have always been sceptical about the quality of these shows but I think it was more contempt and ignorance on my side than anything else. I must admit that my only experience was the amazing “Love” musical by the Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas in 2009 so I thought it was a good moment to check this. I had read great reviews on the “Sunny Afternoon” musical based on the story of the seminal band The Kinks lead by the two Davies brothers. Ray Davies (genius songwriter) has always had a love and hate relationship with brother Dave but they really made their best work when collaborating together, not that dissimilar from a certain 90’s Mancunian band…

The Kinks, Sunny afternoon

Held in the nice Harold Pinter theatre, literally 300 yards from Piccadilly Circus, the show was the best homage one could find in such a musical. I think  Ray Davies has been closely consulted for the show as it describes so well what London was between 1964 and 196, showing at the same time the energy and optimism of the swinging 60’s without forgetting the fact that the working class was quite far to live the same kind of thing. The actors playing the band are particularly amazing bringing fresh air with an amazing quality in the musicianship (specific mention to the actor playing Dave Davies on guitar). And the songs… “Dead End Street”, “You Really Got Me”, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, “Waterloo Sunset”, “Sunny Afternoon”, “Lola”,…the list is endless. Not sure why they did not make my Top 100 as I have always been a huge fan… Anyway, if you spend a few days in London, go and see this play.

On top of these two examples, a couple of pictures below taken near home and showing that London will never forget great musicians. Unlike what James Murphy would sing on NY with LCD Soundsystem, London I love you and you are never bringing me down.

To read more on London, please go to the post I did last year on the Jam at the Somerset House or to the great week-end I spent a few years ago to attend the “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the V&A museum.

Best of 2013 : Top 20 !

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

Albums

 

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

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

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

From Paris, November 2013 concert

The rest of my top 20 (by alphabetical order)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other top 5’s :

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

Reissue of the Year

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

Music Movie of the Year

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

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 1

1. David Bowie

 from : London, England / first great sounds : 60’s / style : simply David Bowie / essential albums : The Man who Sold the World (1970) , Hunky Dory (1971), The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Alladin Sane (1973), Diamond Dogs (1974), Young Americans (1975), Station to Station (1976), Low (1977), Heroes (1977), Scary Monsters (1980), Let’s Dance (1983), Black Tie White Noise (1993), Heathen (2002), Reality (2013), The Next Day (2013)

I do not need to add many things on top of the amazing list of records above ; I think this is self-explanatory… Please simply note that this list has been done at a time when basically David Bowie was out of public life so I was not influenced by his beautiful current come back ! The guy is a genius, went through all styles of music with grace and talent and has been the most creative musician in the pop/rock format ever. The most pertinent thing I could say is that all musicians who played with him were at the peak of their beauty and creativity when contributing to his music either on records or on stage. With David Bowie’s music and personality, the world has been without doubt a better place.

More about David Bowie :

“David Bowie is…” exhibition at the London V&A

– Davie Bowie 2011 “Station to Station” reissue and excellent biography by Paul Trynka

– Magazine special issues : Uncut ; Les Inrocks ; New Musical Express

What now ?…

Done after hours of work in May 2012, here is the full list with details, pictures and recommended discography for your pleasure, as Bryan Ferry would say. As in all lists of “best ever” choices, it is already out of date and my main hope is that the same list in five years will welcome new great artists and be much different. If I were to do it again today, I am almost sure that people like Benjamin Biolay or Everything But The Girl would be there…but who would be out then ?

Air, Beastie Boys, Beck, Benjamin Biolay, Black Sabbath, Cocteau Twins, Dinosaur Jr., Everything But The Girl, George Harrison, Grandaddy, Joni Mitchell, Kraftwerk, Leonard Cohen, Lloyd Cole, Love, Low, Magazine, Massive Attack, Morrissey, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Pink Floyd, Pulp, Smashing Pumpkins, That Petrol Emotion, The Band, The Divine Comedy, The Go-Betweens, The Horrors, The Kinks, The Triffids, The The, The Roots, The Stones Roses, The Who, The Zombies, Todd Rundgren, Tom Petty, Elvis Presley, XTC… The list of other amazing bands or artists is endless and for sure the TOP 100 exercise is a bit frustrating.

And you ? What is your favourite band or artist of all times ? What is your TOP 5 ? Which great band I did not include in my TOP 100, meaning I did not understand anything about music and that this blog sucks ? Let us know and add comments here !

My London Weekend, 27th and 28th April : “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the V&A and Dexys at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Girls, cocaine, alcohol, rock’n’roll, sex, beers, drugs, television sets in the swimming pool ! Yes, that was my lost weekend when all excesses were made possible thank to the Eurostar and a few quids! Ok, London is not the most affordable city in the world and what it has won as worldwide city on one side, it has certainly lost in authenticity on the other side but this is overall such a great and energizing city that this is always a pleasure for one to get their 2 hours and a half of train to get there.

Be relieved ; I will not talk to you about the beauties of Oxford Circus or Tower Bridge but I will focus on the music spots I went to and share a few things I really enjoyed.

  • 27th April

– 8h13 : Paris Gare du Nord : Eurostar leaving ! ok, not very rock’n’roll… and 9h30 : arriving ihe London Underground St Pancrass station !

-10h45 : “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum

First note that no pictures are allowed in the exhibition, which is a good thing… and means you have to read this article! This exhibition had been forecast for a long time and the fact that David Bowie came back out of nowhere to announce his new LP “The Next Day” in January and then published it in March was a pure coincidence. Of course, he had nicely allow the exhibition’s curators to use all costumes, suits, clothes…and dresses he had worn throughout his career but nobody was aware of such a come-back. David Bowie is therefore again everywhere now whereas I remember the time when we all thought he had disappeared from public and artistic life.

I was expecting the exhibition to really focus on the fashion side as I had read that the clothes were all there and analysed in detail. This is indeed the case but much more than this and this exhibition is COM-PUL-SO-RY fo all David Bowie and rock’n’roll fans! First, the sonic landscape is excellent ; every visitor first receives a great quality headset and the music and words interact with the place where you stay when visiting the exhibition. Then, this is actually about all aspects of the Thin White Duke’s career : fashion indeed but of course music, in and out influences, context, the Berlin years, movies, etc… As far as I am concerned, this is the most moving music event I have seen in ages and there is in particular a spectacular room with a 10-meter high ceiling showing fantastic live performances of the great man. Count around 2 hours for the whole visit such detailed and rich this exhibition is. Go there but book now as this already close to being sold-out.

– 15h00 : Rough Trade East, Brick Lane

Rough Trade East

Please go to the “Favourite Records Stores” page to know more about this shop. I would say that this is a great place in a rising neighborhood which reminded me a bit of Williamsburg in Brooklyn and having such a big records store in these ages is something quite crazy that has to be supported. I would just give a bit of criticism by saying that I found not too much choice for such a big store (compared for instance to Waterloo in Austin or Gibert Joseph in Paris).

– 20h00 : Dexys, Duke of York’s Theatre

Dexys - Kevin singing with Bill Paterson & Lucy Morgan

Good times for great artists or bands who had more or less disappeared : David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine…and Dexys (formerly Dexys Midnight Runners). I had already written a few posts about one of my favourite bands ever, either about their classic LP “Don’t Stand Me Down” or them being in my Top 100. But seeing them live was really something I would never have imagined and I must say that I probably was the happiest man in the universe for 2 hours and a half. Well, me plus the audience in the theatre as it had been a long time since I experienced such enthusiasm through a concert (well, too much concerts in Paris probably as UK audiences are known for having much more communication between artists and fans).

Dexys - Kevin Rowland & Madeleine Hyland

Dexys - Kevin Rowland & Pete Williams

The show was based on the recent great “One Day I Am Going To Soar” LP, played in order and in its entirety. This album is actually based on a kind of love story that ends badly but full of witticism, humour and charms. Amazing leader and singer Kevin Rowland (what a voice…) was on stage with between seven and ten musicians depending on the songs and the least one can say is that this is very rich and soulful music. Having back Jim Paterson on trombone was in particular very moving so important he is in Dexys’ history and sound.Dexys - encore!

The second part of the show was based on old songs from all periods and LP’s and the performance succeeded in growing in quality and stature. It was really the kind of shows you do not want to end. The band finished with a gorgeous playing of their masterpiece “What’s She Like”, with Kevin singing beautifully onstage and…elsewhere!

  •  28th April

After all these emotions, nothing better than a good run in Regent’s Park (1h10 minutes as I slightly lost myself…) and a good English Breakfast with toast and Marmite!

The Roundhouse - London Graham Nash - Proud Camden

I took advantage of my last hours in beautiful sunny London first with a walk in the Camden neighborhood near the famous Roundhouse theatre and more precisely with a visit to a photographic exhibition around Graham Nash’s work. Yes, indeed THE Nash from Crosby, Stills and Nash is as well a very crafted photograph and this exhibition is worth having a look if you happen to be nearby.

Ziggy - 23, Heddon Street

I kept on doing my pilgrimage near Soho, first by buying a couple of records at the Sounds of the Universe store (home of the great Soul Jazz label) and then by taking a few pictures of 23rd, Heddon Street, the place where David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars ” cover was shot. Of course, things have changed and there are no more sense of deep London there anymore but still an important landstone in the history of rock music.

File:ZiggyStardust.jpg Heddon Street - London - April 2013

All these rock places plus hundreds of anecdotes can be found in the nice book “Streets of London” published by Le Mot et le Reste. Not the kind a book to read from A to Z but very enjoyable to have it around when visiting the city.

Now leaving London by the 15h31 Eurostar… but I will be back soon for sure !

David Bowie, news from outer space: “Station to Station” reissue + “Starman” by Paul Trynka

The only way to talk and write about David Bowie in the times in which we live is to count on new products from the past as he has been living in semi-retirement since 2004 when he had a stroke and maybe realized that troubles were to come if living the same life he had for the forty past years. Our loss but probably a survival issue here…

Anyway, I warmly recommend Paul Trynka’s book “Starman”, an unauthorized biography by this Mojo magazine journalist , full of interviews and fantastic research work on Ziggy Stardust, the Dame, David Jones, the Thin White Duke,…call him whatever you want. As far as I am concerned, David Bowie is my favorite artist of all times and even if I thought to know almost everything, I knew nothing actually compared to the information one can read in this great book. All his phases are described, from his childhood, his family traumas, his first bands to the love and hate relationships he had with Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, Mike Garson, Tony Visconti, Brian Eno or Reeves Gabrels, all these amazing musicians that very often acted the role of their life when playing with the great man himself. Read it even if not a David Bowie or music fan and you will discover a great personality in our blank times. And if a Bowie fan, you will enjoy every page of it!

Cover (Station to Station:David Bowie)

Station to Station“, written and produced in 1975 but out in 1976, is one of his best records, in a cocaine-mad-transitional word for Bowie between his soul NY “Young Americans” record and his so-called Berlin trilogy from 1997-1979. Bowie was at his thinnest period and notion of sleep was more a concept than a reality. However, this 6-track LP is still fascinating now as it was then, mixing post industrial and epic sounds (“Station to Station”), commercial hit (“Golden Years”), soul-funk influences (“Stay”) or a sumptuous ballad (“Wild is the Wind”). This reissue comes with the 2-CD  Nassau Coliseum ’76 concert: amazing show and please listen to the live “Stay” version if you want to know what “Virgins and Philistines” blog is all about… (10/10)

Best of 2008

Vous étiez quinze puis deux cents et vous êtes désormais des millions (mais chacun si différent) à réclamer la liste. En ces temps de crise, que chacun reçoive un brot d’eau, un quignon de pain, une paillasse et de la bonne musique !
 
Une année bizarre musicalement parlant car de plus en plus de nouveaux groupes, d’autres à peine apparus qui disparaissent, plus personne qui n’achète des disques, des places de concert souvent à 120 Euro (à quand un emprunt spécial concert ?), le DVD qui n’assume plus son rôle de relais, etc.. Allez, on va pas rester sur des souvenirs tristos et rentrons donc dans le vif du sujet.
 
 
Album de l’année 2008
 
Cover (Fed:Plush)
 
Plush : Fed
 
Contrairement à l’an dernier, on a privilégié un album un peu hors du temps, fait par un dandy avec son monde à lui. Mais quel choc émotionnel dès les premieres notes de guitare qui se détachent ! Cet album a été réalisé par un certain Liam Hayes qui a notamment travaillé avec Will Oldham de Palace. On sait peu de chose sur le bonhomme et c’est d’ailleurs cette part de secret qui est excitante, un peu comme quand on découvrait autrefois un album au casque sur la platine pour la première fois. Ce n’est d’ailleurs même pas réellement une sortie de 2008 car il était sorti au Japon seulement dès 2002 mais n’est disponible dans nos contrées occidentales que depuis 2008. Un album ambitieux avec des arrangement magnifiques pour tous ceux qui aiment les artistes qui sortent du lot. Album of the Year!
Les 14 autres (par ordre alphabétique) :
 
Adem : Takes
 
De son vrai nom Adem Ilhan, ce Britannique vient de la scène électro avec notamment le groupe Fridge (avec le fantastique Kieran Hebden dont les disques solo sous le nom de Four Tet sont fortement recommandés). Mais ici c’est une voie différente et même accoustisque qu’il nous propose avec des reprises très personnelles de PJ Harvey, Aphex Twin ou encore Smashing Pumpkins. Le disque le plus zen de l’année.
 
Bon Iver : For Emma, Forever Ago
 
Mais oui, Bon Iver comme Bon Hiver in French ! Justin a tout plaqué dans la cité (groupe, amis, copine), a pris ce surnom (expression employée par les locaux quand il fait froid) et a noyé son spleen dans la vieille cabane paternelle perdue au milieu d’une forêt du Wisconsin (véridique !). Il nous a sorti un album très intimiste, à écouter autour de la cheminée. Et vive la musique triste !
Daniel Darc : Amours Suprêmes
 
On était passé un peu à côté du disque de retour de l’ancien chanteur de Taxi Girl et ses performances scéniques avait plus inspiré du respect humain que de l’enthousiasme musical. Et puis on tombe sur cet album dont on n’attendait rien mais dans lequel on prend tout. Des musiques toujours géniales de son compère Frédéric Lo à ses paroles toujours au couteau avec un grand sens des mélodies, on s’incline devant Daniel.
 
Death Cab For Cutie : Narrow Stairs
 
Ben Gibbard et son groupe Death Cab For Cutie (chanson du film Magical Mystery Tour de the Beatles) fait partie de ces musiciens du patrimoine américain qui vendent beaucoup de disques tout en vivant dans un relatif anonymat. Pourquoi donc plus cet album que d’autres ; eh bien sans doute pour la qualité des intros des morceaux et des ambiances dans lesquelles on s’installe (rien à voir mais les amateurs de The Cure sauront de quoi on veut parler…)
The Last Shadow Puppets : The Age Of Understatement
Difficile de ne pas retrouver Alex Turner des Arctic Monkeys dans notre palmarès. Cette année, suite à une amitié liée en tournée avec leurs groupes respectifs, il s’est uni à Miles Kane (The Rascals) pour cet album à influence Scott Walker ou David Bowie toute première période Decca avec l’aide de l’arrangeur des cordes d’Arcade Fire. Un projet enthousiasmant et une nouvelle réussite pour Alex Turner.
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks : Real Emotional Trash
L’ancien leader de Pavement a enfin retrouvé la formule magique de son ancien groupe (formule qu’il oublie d’ailleurs parfois sur scène…). Au menu : des mélodies magnifiques, des arrangements compliqués et surtout ce qu’on adorait chez Pavement, ce mélange de punk américain dans le format des chansons et de rock US des 70’s dans les solos de guitare. Welcome back Stephen !
 
 
Merz : Moi et mon Camion
Un disque totalement passé inaperçu et pourtant quelle merveilleux mélodiste. Merz est le surnom que s’est choisi le natif de Bristol Conrad Lambert et dans cet album il nous narre les différents déménagements personnels vécus ces dernières années (hence the title…). Un album dans lequel on se sent bien.
MGMT : Oracular Spectacular
Difficile de passer à côté de ce nouveau groupe américain en 2008 tant leurs chansons nous ont accompagnés dans nos lecteurs mp3, sur scène, dans les palmarès de fin d’année, voire même au générique de l’Euro! Mais une reconnaissance mérité tant ce groupe est inventif et doué. A suivre pour voir comment ils sauront gérer la hype qui les accompagne. Indispensable en tout cas cette année.
Portishead : Third
La plus grande suprise de l’année. Déjà, le fait qu’ils refassent de la musique 10 ans après. Mais en plus cette musique ! On craignait le trip trip-hop, genre disque à mettre en soirée quand on reçoit ses amis en musique de fond, soit la négation absolue de la musique, mais non point. Une intro en brésilien et tac c’est parti et ça dépote ; puis s’enchainent les morceaux fabuleux avec la voix de Beth Gibbons qui chante comme si sa vie en dépendait. A mettre en musique de fond si vos amis sont fans de Sunn O))).
R.E.M. : Accelerate
L’album qui a disparu de tous les classements de fin d’année… On l’a donc ré-écouté pour conclure que, oui, c’est bien le R.EM. qu’on avait découvert il y a plus de 20 ans, avec des arpèges de guitare, des morceaux de pur rock, la voix incroyable et mystérieuse de Michael Stipe.
Shearwater : Rook
Longtemps en balance avec Plush pour le titre d’album de l’année. Shearwater est un groupe américain dont le leader Jonathan Meiburg a une voix qui rappelle de manière troublante celle de Mark Hollis dans les derniers Talk Talk. On retrouve donc le côté américain très rock et libéré avec des plages plus européennes où l’accent est mis sur la voix et les ambiances. Un disque exceptionnel.
TV On The Radio : Dear Science
Quel plaisir de retrouver nos leaders de 2006 pour un album qui perd peut être dans l’expérimental ce qu’il gagne en sensualité. Des musiciens exceptionnels, des voix démentes et un producteur à la pointe avec David Sitek (cf. plus bas). Et toujours ce mélange indéfinissable entre les Cocteau Twins et la soul Motown.
Vampire Weekend : Vampire Weekend
2ème groupe de l’Est des USA le plus hype de l’année après MGMT, ces musiciens au look d’étudiants d’Harvard nous font un dosage savant entre rock US et rythmes africains sous influence Graceland de Paul Simon. Le disque qui nous a sans doute donné le plus le sourire aux lèvres cette année.
Kanye West : 808s & Heartbreak
Le seul qui reste dans la liste par rapport à l’an dernier est celui sur lequel on aurait le moins parié. Et pourtant, Kanye West nous livre un album qui est tout sauf du hip-hop, avec une voix travaillée à l’auto-tune et dans lequel il se met à nu suite à des événements personnels douloureux. Une suite de morceaux ni commencés, ni finis mais qui sont les plus attachants entendus depuis longtemps dans ce monde hip-hop où on préfère souvent mettre en avant ses dollars et ses décapotables plutôt que son vague à l’âme.
Tout près de cette liste (pêle mêle) :
-> les jeunes : Fleet Foxes, Born Ruffians, Black Kids, Glasvegas, Santogold, My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, Gnars Barkley, Elbow, Foals, The Week That Was, Bloc Party, Peter Borderick (pour ceux qui aimeront Bon Iver), Friendly Fires (pour ceux qui aiment Talking Heads), School Of Language, Get Well Soon, Fujiya & Miyagi.
-> les vieux : Tindersticks, Paul Weller, Nine Inch Nails, Spiritualized, Deus, Beck, Leila, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Oasis, Mercury Rev, Aime Mann.
 
Meilleur DVD
Various : From the Basement
Le meilleur d’une émission de la TV anglaise dans laquelle on peut voir les musiciens jouer en live mais sans public. Des peformances exceptionnelles de Sonic Youth et Radiohead en particulier.
Meilleur Single
Midnight Juggernauts : Shadow
Ce morceau ou d’ailleurs n’importe lequel de l’album de Midnight Juggernauts, ce groupe australien découvert aux Eurockéennes de Belfort. Les fans de Justice ou Daft Punk adoreront.
Meilleur Coffret
 
The Jesus and Mary Chain : The Power of Negative Thinking
Un titre qui en dit long sur l’énergie qui animait les frères Reid de Glasgow à leurs débuts avec souvent des sets de 15 minutes montre en main qui finissaient en émeute. Mais sur le plan musical peu de groupes ont aussi bien intégré l’héritage du Velvet Underground. Un magnifique coffret de 4 CDs, bourré d’inédits et de reprises. Comme quoi, 25 ans après, on peut parler de The Jesus and Mary Chain comme de Jacques Brel.
Meilleure Compilation
 
 
The Smiths : The Sound of the Smiths 
C’est certes sans doute la 512ème compilation des Smiths mais c’est de loin la plus complète de toutes. Et quel groupe!
Reissue of the Year
 
David Bowie : Live Santa Monica ’72
C’est toujours émouvant de retrouver un artiste en plein phase d’ascension. C’est ce qu’était David Bowie dans ce concert resté pirate des siècles avant d’être proprement réédité pour le plaisir de nos oreilles.
Man of the Year : Tom Waits
Le plaisir et l’honneur de l’avoir vu enfin en concert dans nos contrées avec un spectacle époustouflant. Et également ce dique OVNI de reprises par Scarlet Johanson produit par David Sitek de TV on the Radio. Comme il le dit lui même, elle chante dans cet album un peu comme si Cendrillon avait pris trop de sirop contre la toux…
D’autres TOP 10
– NME (fanzine british) :
1.MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
2.TV On The Radio – Dear Science
3.Glasvegas – Glasvegas
4.Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
5.Foals – Antidotes
6.Metronomy – Nights Out
7.Santogold – Santogold
8.Mystery Jets – Twenty One
9.Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night
10.Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
 
– Paste (best US mag.) :
 
1. She & Him – Volume One
4. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
– Les Inrocks (more music please) :
1. MGMT : Oracular Spectacular
2. Fleet Foxes : Fleet Foxes
3. Vampire Weekend : Vampire Weekend
4. Santogold : Santogold
5. The Last Shadow Puppets : The Age Of The Understatement
6. Kanye West : 808s & Heartbreak
7. Portishead : Third
8. TV On The Radio : Dear Science
9. Sébastien Tellier : Sexuality
10. Bon Iver : For Emma, Forever Ago
– Mojo (Rock Bible Mag.) :
1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
2. Last Shadow Puppets – Age of the Understatement
3. Paul Weller – 22 Dreams
4. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
5. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
6. Hold Steady – Stay Positive
7. Glasvegas – Glasvegas
8. Week That Was – Week That Was
9. The Bug (Kevin Martin) – London Zoo
10. Neil Diamond – Home Before Dark
 
– Pitchfork (best music web site in the world) :
01 Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant EP/Fleet Foxes
02 Portishead – Third
03 No Age – Nouns
04 Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
05 Deerhunter – Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.
06 TV On The Radio – Dear Science
07 Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
08 M83 – Saturdays=Yout
09 Hercules and Love Affair – Hercules and Love Affair
10 DJ/rupture – Uproot

– Ground Zero (où acheter ses disques à Paris ?) : pas de Top 10 cette année mais un TOP 25 sans ordre. Allez voir sur le site et allez acheter des disques chez Ground Zero!
 
 
Pas de déprime en 2009 ; on sortira toujours quelques minutes de la morosité en se mettant un petit Led Zep à fond !
Bonne année à tous!
Stéphane