Best albums of 2020 – Top 25

..and what a year that was indeed. None of us working and living in the so-called First World countries have never experienced such a thing but who are we to complain really? This is a music blog so I do not have neither the skills nor the knowledge to write any particular relevant comments. What I can confess though is that more than ever listening to music has been a blessing, especially in a context with (almost) no live action. As with all lists, it is done to be challenged and commented. And as will all lists, it should be considered as a picture in time. I selected the following 25 albums after a pre-list of 53 of them but this is not the end (as an example, I already have regrets not to have included Cornershop‘s “England Is A Garden“…). I guess though my number 1 album of the year actually makes sense with what our world is today and I hope it will be remembered as such.

I also wanted to thank Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie for all his many at-home sessions. These were a real treat and made the first lockdown a not so bad time (well, you know what I mean…). Go and catch them on line!

#1 Phoebe Bridgers “Punisher”. Released in: June 2020. I must confess that it was a very close call and that, depending on the mood of the day, my top 3 could have been differently sequenced. What made the difference probably came from the emotion felt every time I listen to this amazing record. Everything is in its right place and the attention to detail given by Phoebe Bridgers in her lyrics and arrangements is really awesome. I could of course add that she is a young lady of her time, with the hopes and issues women face today but this is more a consequence than the actual reason of recording such a piece of music. Final track “I Know The End” also happens to be my favourite song of 2020 so I guess the choice was pretty obvious. RECORD OF THE YEAR!

 #2 BC Camplight – “Shortly After Takeoff”. Released in: April 2020. This record is the third and probably final one of the so-called Manchester trilogy. BC Camplight is actually the sole project of American musician Brian Christinzio who finally found a bit of peace of mind in the North of England. His personal story and struggles would need an entire book to write but what is more important here is the way he balances dark and funny lyrics with an incredible sense of melody and musical skills. Discover this album (and his previous efforts too) and the rewards will be immense.

 #3 Fiona Apple – “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”. Released in: April 2020. Fiona Apple is an extraordinary talent and having her as number three in this list is just confirmation of all the greetings she received this year from musical reviewers all around the world. I do not have much to add vs. the review I did when she was my album of the month in April, except that this is really an record to discover if not done yet…and if you like dogs!

 #4 Happyness “Floatr”. Released in: May 2020. This album was a real grower for me throughout the year; the kind you find better and better after each listening. Happyness are a London trio and this record sounds like what kind of music Elliott Smith would have done in 2020, mixing psychedelic sounds with incredible beautiful melodies.

 #5 Childish Gambino – “3.15.20”. Released in: March 2020. Those curious enough to look more closely at the cover will spot the ‘Donald Glover presents’ mention but this is the only clue about this record which was released on digital form only on the 15th of March, hence the title… For some reason, this album is nowhere to be seen in any end of the year list while I think this is his best so far. All tracks are good and collectively have this very naked sound and inventiveness… which reminded me of the best Prince records.

 #6 Ghospoet  “I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep”. Released in: May 2020. This is the fifth album of London born musician Obaro Ejimiwe and the least one can say is that he is getting better and better with each release. Ghostpoet is to me the kind of people we need in today’s musical world, questioning society without losing sense of what a great track should be.

 #7 L.A. Salami – “The Cause Of Doubt & A Reason To Have Faith”. Released in: July 2020. This blog does not want to differentiate on purpose and promote artists you will not find in any other list; as a reminder my main goal is to share those records which genuinely moved me last year and that is no exception. Also from London, Lookman Adekunle Salami is a very active figure on the local musical scene. When he does not collaborate with others, he releases his very personal blues rock songs, making them instant classics.

 #8 Moses Sumney  “Græ”. Released in: May 2020. I am not afraid to state that Moses Sumney is probably one the greatest artists of our times and when life goes back to normal, catching him live is almost a compulsory thing. Released in two parts in 2020, “Græ” is a very ambitious record and one may sometimes feel that releasing twenty tracks was too much. However, I must say that what one lacks in immediacy, one gets it back in terms of being rewarded on the long term. A future classic?

 #9 Benjamin Biolay  “Grand Prix”. Released in: June 2020. First of all, let me confirm to all that this is not Romain Grosjean on the cover after his horrendous crash but this is indeed quite disturbing to have this man in flames. I was not that enthusiastic about his latest ”Argentinian” records but with “Grand Prix“, Benjamin Biolay is back on pole position (I know…). This is a very interesting record for 80’s post punk British music lovers and also for those attracted by smart lyrics in French. The best of both worlds really…

 #10 Lianne La Havas  “Lianne La Havas”. Out in: July 2020. This is the third album from London-based former Prince protégée Lianne La Havas and without any question her best so far. It took me a bit of time to get all this album’s subtleties but when you get there, you are quite addicted to it. For those Radiohead fans, her cover of “Weird Fishes” may be the best ever done. Your favourite record for all summers to come!

Also not to miss, the next 15!

  • 11. Arbouretum“Let It All In”
  • 12. This Is The Kit“Off Off On”
  • 13. Jetstream Pony“Jetstream Pony”
  • 14. Laura Marling “Song For Our Daughter”
  • 15. Paul McCartney“McCartney III”
  • 16. Blake Mills – “Mutable Set”
  • 17. Andy Shauf – “The Neon Skyline”
  • 18. Elvis Costello – “Hey Clockface”
  • 19. Ichon – “Pour De Vrai”
  • 20. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – “What Kinda Music”
  • 21. The Apartments – “In And Out Of The Light”
  • 22. Khruangbin – “Mordechai”
  • 23. Kevin Morby – “Sundowner” (very popular in Bordeaux, France!)
  • 24. The Avalanches – “We Will Always Love You”
  • 25. Fontaines D.C. – “A Hero’s Death”

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.

  • Mojo (UK music mag): 1. Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways 2. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 3. Fontaines D.C. A Hero’s Death 4. Bill Callahan Gold Record 5. Fleet Foxes Shore 6. Cornershop England Is A Garden 7. Jarv Is… Beyond The Pale 8. Run The Jewels RTJ4 9. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 10. The Flaming Lips American Head
  • Uncut (UK music mag): 1. Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways 2. Fleet Foxes Shore 3. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 4. Drive-By Truckers The New OK 5. Thundercat It Is What It Is 6. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 7. Bill Callahan Gold Record 8. Jarv Is… Beyond The Pale 9. Shirley Collins Heart’s Ease 10. Laura Marling Song For Our Daughter
  • NME (UK website): 1. Run The Jewels RTJ4 2. Taylor Swift Folklore 3. Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia 4. The Strokes The New Abnormal 5. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 6. Kelly Lee Owens Inner Song 7. Rina Sawayama Sawayama 8. Haim Women In Music Pt III 9. Beabadoobee Fake It Flowers 10. J Hus Big Conspiracy
  • Rough Trade (London, Nottingham, Bristol and Brooklyn stores): 1. Sault Untitled (Black Is) 2. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 3. Rina Sawayama Sawayama 4. Laura Marling Song Four Our Daughter 5. Jarv Is… Beyond The Pale 6. Dream Wife So When You Gonna… 7. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Viscerals 8. Bdrmm Bedroom 9. Porridge Radio Every Bad 10. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Sideways To New Italy
  • Sister Ray (London Soho store): 1. Juniore Un Deux Trois 2. Andy Bell The View From Halfway Down 3. Billy Nomates Billy Nomates 4. Freddy Gibbs & The Alchemist Alfredo 5. Bdrmm Bedroom 6. Laura Marling Song Four Our Daughter 7. Kate NV Room For The Moon 8. Four Tet Sixteen Oceans 9. Thurston Moore By The Fire 10. Working Men’s Club Working Men’s Club
  • Greg Kot (Sound Opinions radio DJ #1): 1. Sault Untitled (Black Is) & Untitled (Rise) 2. Run The Jewels RTJ4 3. Melkbelly Pith 4. Angelica Garcia Cha Cha Palace 5. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 6. Bartees Strange Live Forever 7. Coriky Coriky 8. Idles Ultra Mono 9. Porridge Radio Every Bad 10. Jyoti Mama, You Can Bet!
  • Jim Derogatis (Sound Opinions radio DJ #2): 1. Shemekia Copeland Uncivil War 2. Ganser Just Look At THe Sky 3. Angelica Garcia Cha Cha Palace 4. Jason Isbell Reunions 5. Run The Jewels RTJ4 6. Lucinda Williams Good Souls Better Angels 7. Drive-By Truckers The Unravelling 8. Margo Price That’s How Rumors Get Started 9. Lydia Loveless Daughter 10. Sault Untitled (Black Is) & Untitled (Rise)
  • Pitchfork (US music website): 1. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 2. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 3. Moses Sumney græ 4. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 5. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately 6. Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways 7. Yves Tumor Heaven To A Tortured Mind 8. Haim Women In Music Pt III 9. Jessie Ware What’s Your Pleasure? 10. Bad Bunny YHLQMDLG
  • Paste (US music website): 1. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 2. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 3. Run The Jewels RTJ4 4. Sault Untitled (Rise) 5. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately 6. Porridge Radio Every Bad 7. Soccer Mommy Color Theory 8. Rina Sawayama Sawayama 9. Adrianne Lenker Songs 10. Moses Sumney græ
  • Les Inrocks (French mag): 1. The Strokes The New Abnormal 2. Working Men’s Club Working Men’s Club 3. Andrea Laszlo De Simone Immensita 4. Fontaines D.C. A Hero’s Death 5. Helena Deland Someone New 6. Chassol Ludi 7. Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways 8. Gorillaz Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez 9. Ela Minus Acts Of Rebellion 10. Damso QALF
  • The Guardian (UK daily newspaper) : 1. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 2. Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia 3. Rina Sawayama Sawayama 4. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately 5. Sault Untitled (Black Is) 6. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 7. Haim Women In Music Pt III 8. J Hus Big Conspiracy 9. Taylor Swift Folklore 10. Moses Sumney græ
  • The Independent (UK website) : 1. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 2. Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia 3. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 4. Laura Marling Song For Our Daughter 5. Moses Sumney græ 6. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately 7. Haim Women In Music Pt III 8. Sufjan Stevens The Ascension 9. Adrianne Lenker Songs 10. Taylor Swift Folklore
  • Magic rpm (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Cabane Grande Est La Maison 2. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 3. Fontaines D.C. A Hero’s Death 4. Car Seat Headrest Making A Door Less Open 5. Mary Lattimore Silver Ladders 6. This Is The Kit Off Off On 7. Adrianne Lenker Songs & Instrumentals 8. Oneohtrix Point Never Make Oneohtrix Point Never 9. Matt Elliott Farewell To All We Know 10. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
  • Noise Magazine (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou May Our Chambers Be Full 2. Human Impact Human Impact 3. Oranssi Pazuzu Mestarin Kynsi 4. Napalm Death Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism 5. Hum Inlet 6. Nothing The Great Dismal 7. Butch McKoy The Sick Rose 8. Tar Pond Protocol Of Constant Sadness 9. Higher Power 27 Miles Underwater 10. Untitled With Drums Hollow
  • Resident (Brighton very cool store): 1. Working Men’s Club Working Men’s Club 2. Porridge Radio Every Bad 3. Sink Ya Teeth Two 4. Moses Boyd Dark Matter 5. Bdrmm Bedroom 6. Juniore Un Deux Trois 7. Craven Faults Erratics & Unconformities 8. Fontaines D.C. A Hero’s Death 9. BC Camplight Shortly After Takeoff 10. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes What Kinda Music

Ten gigs to remember…

I will not give you a figure (although I have it!) but I already spent a huge portion of my time on Earth attending gigs. It also means money spent on tickets, travels, tens of merchandising and gallons of beer! Jim & Greg from Sound Opinions recently did one of their shows on the concerts which made them what they are. I thought it would be a cool idea for this blog. You will find below a selection of ten concerts. A few massive live bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, U2 or again Bruce Springsteen could have been there for sure but these next ten are really special to me.

  • Prince – Paris, Bercy – 14th June 1987 – Setlist

Difficult not to select Prince in this list. I was lucky enough to catch him live three times but the first concert was definitely the best. He was at the peak of his career and had released his first post-Revolution LP “Sign O’ The Times” a few months earlier. I remember the stage was amazing while retaining a very natural feel. And Mr Prince Roger Nelson was also playing his beautiful peach harp-shaped guitar…

  • Happy Mondays / My Bloody Valentine – Paris, New Morning – 22nd March 1989 – Setlist

I must admit I am not sure which band was supporting which but I remember sweat was literally pouring on the walls of the tiny New Morning theatre, which was more a jazz location than a Madchester / Noisy Pop one! I also remember experiencing Happy Monday’s Bez dancing like hell with MBV on stage as if his life were depending on it!

  • Neil Young – Paris, Zenith – 7th July 1993 – Setlist

Neil Young is one of the best performers of all times and I guess you do not need to read this blog to discover this as a fact. I have attended six gigs of his and they have all been gorgeous. In my mind, the first time I caught him live on stage with the immense Booker T and the MG’s gave me shivers down my spine throughout all the concert and for good reasons probably. I saw him last year in 2019 at Hyde Park and he was playing like a guy in his twenties.

  • Jeff Buckley – Paris, Olympia – 6th July 1995 – Setlist

Jeff Buckley… The saddest history of them all… He gave us one hell of an album with “Grace” and was destined to be one of the greatest… It was unfortunately not meant to be but that night was one of the most moving moments I experienced in my life. This was an extraordinary performance by a beautiful human being. Pretty awesome setlist as well from acapella opener “Dream Brother” to final Big Star cover song “Kanga Roo“.

  • Radiohead – Paris, Cigale – 16th April 1996 – Setlist

Radiohead is probably my favourite band of the last 25 years and when I am asked which style of music I listen to, I generally reply that I like every genre but with a specific love of bands such as The Velvet Underground or Radiohead. I went to seven Radiohead gigs in my life and I must say their initiative of releasing one new video concert every week during this lockdown period was a real sign of class. In 1996, they were far from releasing their next to come masterpieces but that night they way the played tracks from “The Bends” with so much passion was the start of a love story between me and the band.

  • Tom Waits – Paris, Grand Rex – 24th July 2008 – Setlist

…and here we go, twelve years later, back in Paris as if living in Brazil or Strasbourg never happened… Catching Tom Waits on stage is quite difficult to say the least as the great man very rarely tours (no sign of him in Europe since then). What made this concert standing up above the rest was probably the musicianship and atmosphere the audience had that night and the feeling we were all in a different and fairy world.

  • Arcade Fire – Austin City Limits festival, Texas – 18th September 2011 – Setlist

Is there a better band than Canadians Arcade Fire on stage in terms of intensity, passion and dedication? Probably not. Is there a cooler musical city in the world than Austin, Texas? Probably not either… Attending Austin City Limits festival was a dream come true for this blog’s main shareholder and his Paulistano buddy. No ticket picture this time and no way to find the original wristband…

  • Iggy Pop – London, Royal Albert Hall – 13th May 2016 – Setlist

Finally, a concert happening in my favourite city in the world! Was it the best concert I have ever seen? Difficult to answer such a question but the way Iggy Pop performed that night was probably as good as in his years with The Stooges but with more experience and life troubles behind him. Based mainly on his three best albums, i.e. “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life” from his Bowie Berlin years and recent “Post Pop Depression“, what made this show so special was also his backing band…which basically was Queens Of The Stone Age on this tour. Spotting Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Mani (The Stone Roses) and Kate Moss while leaving the Hall probably added up to the excitement that night.

  • Moses Sumney – End of the Road festival, Dorset – 2nd September 2017

Another obvious choice as End of the Road has probably been my favourite time of the year since I have discovered it. No edition this year for the same obvious reasons which have made 2020 such a weird year so far but memories from past editions as still there. Moses Sumney’s gig that year was a shocker to me as I had no clue whatsoever about who he was and what kind of music he was playing. I am not sure being able to better characterize his art today but I know for sure he is one of my favourite current artists following the emotional encounter I had that day at the beautiful Garden Stage.

  • David Byrne – London, Eventim Apollo – 19th June 2018 – Setlist / New York, Hudson Theatre – 25th January 2020 – Setlist

Last but not least to end up this list of concerts, let me introduce you to Mr. David Byrne, originally from Scotland but better known as the singer of New York band Talking Heads. I went to his London concert just because his new album was quite good and also because I had good memories about the previous gigs I had seen. However, nothing was preparing me for such a beautiful conceptual thing. Surrounded by eleven musicians from all over the world, each of them wearing an elegant grey suit, free of their moves and barefoot, David Byrne had never sung so well. The setlist was extraordinary with songs from all periods of his musical career. If you add up a beautiful stage, lots of fund and energy plus a pinch of political conscience, you will get a recipe of a fantastic gig. The good news is that this tour had a continuity on Broadway in late 2019 and early 2020. I must admit I loved it so much that I succeeded in seeing it again in New York at the start of the year.

So ten nights out of hundreds of great performances may look like a difficult choice to make but I guess it was done quite naturally. Regrets, I had a few (how did I do not to see Nirvana live?…) but overall I would like to thank all these artists for the 1,304 concerts I have been to (indeed, here is the number!).

May 2020 Album of the month: Ghostpoet – “I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep”

No fancy introduction this month. Those following this blog are familiar with the music diversity it does support…

Album of the month: Ghostpoet – “I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep” – UK Urban Soul – Born Obaro Ejimiwe, Ghostpoet is an extraordinary UK artist who, after spending a few years as a call centre operator, started to get a bit of success a few years ago. The call centre business world’s loss happened to be music’s gain as he has a very singular voice in today’s UK scene. His previous 2017 album “Dark Days + Canapés” was among the best of that year and his new record can also be considered as one of the best this year. This new album is also probably more mature and richer in terms of moods and atmospheres while his voice remains the key asset here as the way he uses it is really extraordinary. A great artist to discover if not done yet.

  • Runner-up: Moses Sumney – “Grae” – Heaven & Hell music – The first part of this record was released in February but this is now the definitive article. Moses Sumney is to me one of the major artists of this generation and I will always remember the shock and emotion I had when I first discovered him at the 2017 edition of the End of the Road festival. The great news is that rather than replicating his first album, he went further this time like all great artists do. This new record is actually a very ambitious one and its twenty songs are not made of one style of music one could easily categorise.
  • Also recommended:
  • Ben Lukas Boysen “Mirage” – Electro Piano – A beautiful late night electro record from the Berlin-based German musician.
  • The Electric Soft Parade “Stages” – Pop rock – A totally unexpected return from the White brothers and their beautiful guitar sound.
  • Happyness – “Floatr” – Pop Rock – This London band goes from one psychedelic song to another one a la Elliott Smith in the blink of an eye.
  • Owen Pallett – “Island” – Classic Pop – Our favourite current Canadian artist (arranger of strings on Arcade Fire records) has invited the London Contemporary Orchestra on his new opus for a beautiful and disturbing result.
  • Jetstream Pony– “Jetstream Pony” – Pop Rock – Last month I gave you the concert review and now here is their new record!
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Fiona Apple – “Fetch The Bolt Cutters

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

September 2017 Album of the month: The National “Sleep Well Beast”

September in music is also a kind of back-to-school period and the quantity and quality of records released this month hasve been amazing. I have listened to no less than seventy (!) new records released this month and I must say that apart from the atrocious new Miley Cyrus LP, I enjoyed to hear all of them. The fact that a few personal favourites such as Foo Fighters, Mogwai, Hue and Cry, The Dream Syndicate or Four Tet are not part of the below selection shows how good the chosen few are.

Album of the month: The National“Sleep Well Beast” – Pop Rock – I know this statement may not be shared by all but to me The National are the best band of the current decade. All their records are inventive whilst keeping their own style and their music has been evolving little by little, each record adding up audacity and creation. Their strength lies in the team spirit of the band and with Matt Berninger they have a beautiful singer and leader. This new record is no exception and this time they put more electronic sounds in their beautiful songs, making it familiar and fresh at the same time.

  • Runner-up: Moses Sumney“Aromanticism” – Pop Rock – I was eagerly looking forward to listening to this new record as I had felt under the charm of this young singer at the recent End of the Road festival. This record comes from outer space and I am pretty sure once again that Moses Sumney will be an important artist and name to follow in the next… thirty years? Difficult to describe as he plays all styles of music with such grace and beauty so the best is for you to discover it.
  • Also recommended:
    • LCD Soundsystem “American Dream” – New York Grooooovy thang – What? They are not in the month’s Top 2, despite the fact that this is their excellent come back album? No… but they should!
    • The Horrors– “V” – Pop Rock – Album #5 for Faris Badwan and his band; great as usual.
    • Torres“Three Futures” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part I
    • Zola Jesus “Okovi” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part II
    • Chelsea Wolfe “Hiss Spun” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part III
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – The War On Drugs – “A Deeper Understanding

 

My review of End of the Road Festival 2017

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Another year goes by with personal issues, great moments, not so good moments, scary things happening all over the world,…well we/you all face this and I guess this blog is no different. However, as all good things in life, there are still a few times when one feels secured, happy or comforted. It can be done through art, books, friends, family, going to see a game, fishing,…you name it. For me, despite it being only my third edition, End of the Road brings that comforting feeling.

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There was no major news this year in terms of why and how much I love this festival. It comes for the audience, the music lovers (hello Big Jeff!), the site, the peacocks, the comedy stages, etc… Please refer to my reviews of previous years (cf. tag “End of the Road” on the right of the page) and I hope being able to share all the good karma that comes out of it. I will guide you through a more summarised review this year so let’s start with Thursday evening.

  • Thursday, 31st August 2017

As with last year, the organisers decided in keeping this good idea: let’s start the festival on Thursday night with a few gigs.

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My first music note out of 24 gigs I were to attend during these four days came from a nice and friendly UK band called The Surfing Magazines. I then attended the concert of Brix Smith & The Extricated. Originally from the US, Brix used to be Mark E. Smith’s spouse and they both were members of The Fall in the 80’s. After a few years out of the music business, she is back with former The Fall members, playing a mix of old The Fall songs and new ones they created. Quite a lively and nice set I must say.

Thursday’s headliners were Slowdive. They were contemporary of bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride or The Boo Radleys in the late 80’s/early 90’s and part of the so-called “shoegaze” movement. After disbanded in the 90’s and focusing on their other project Mojave Three, their leaders Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell reformed the band a few years ago and released a new self-titled LP this year (cf. our May 2017 Albums of the month). As quite often with this band, they do not have so many memorable songs but their beauty lies in the way they work on sounds and musical structures. I was quite impressed by their strength and focus on stage and this was an excellent way to start the festival.

  • Friday, 1st September 2017

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Very sunny day to start the month of September with lots of great gigs as well! The difficulty at End of the Road is often to make decisions as there are almost always two gigs at the same time out of the four stages. I personally generally favour to attend concerts in their entirety when I can and chose either bands/musicians who are personal favourites or others I have never seen playing live before.

I decided therefore to miss Mac DeMarco who was headlining that day as I attended his concert recently at the Route du Rock festival in Saint-Malo.

I experienced a few nice discoveries such as the nice but slightly boring folk songs of Julie Byrne, the punchy Velvet Underground-influenced music of Ultimate Painting, the great country-rock of female legend Lucinda Williams, the surprising, demanding and beautiful music of New-Zealander Aldous Harding or the beautiful indie-rock songs of US band Real Estate.

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The two concerts I enjoyed the most though were Michael Chapman and H. Hawkline. Michael Chapman could be considered as a finger-picking legend. Now reaching 76 years, he sounds and looks like a youngster both on stage and on record (cf. our January 2017 albums of the month). On a very sunny Garden Stage, he played a great set, alone with his acoustic guitar, telling us plenty of funny stories between songs. The older I get, the more I get bored with conventional music, like boring folk musicians, bland indie bands or repetitive electro shit (hello Justice…) so watching someone being so long in the business while being so fresh is something to recognize.

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My other favourite concert was H. Hawkline, an artist I had already seen live two years ago. His attitude and music remain as fresh as I remember and this is a pity that this artist from Wales is not more famous. Catch him live if you can.

  • Saturday, 2nd September 2017 

Saturday is generally the most tiring day of a festival so I decided to enjoy the last sunny day, take my time rather than running from one place to another and appreciate the six gigs I went to.

No regret at all concerning those I missed as so great were the ones I attended. Quite funny and charming as with The Burning Hell from Canada, really good as always with Band Of Horses or amazingly dynamic and full of energy like The Lemon Twigs, lead by the D’Addario brothers (respectively 17 and 19-years old!). Nadine Shah‘s concert was impressive as well ; she has a real strong personality, her music is really beautiful, her words are clever and political…and she has a nice Geordie accent from Newcastle. Listen to her album as soon as you can (cf. August 2017 Albums of the month).

My two best moments of the day (and also of the festival) came from that day. I caught first quite early in the afternoon an artist I had never heard of whose name is Moses Sumney. In a world where we are 24/7 connected and where all sounds/records/news are supposed to be known, I was intrigued by it but also quite excited. I must say the reward was immense and very emotional. This beautiful big black guy is from the USA but with Guinean origins and has lots of interaction everywhere basically. He was assisted on stage by a young guitarist while he was singing, playing guitar, synths… or machines. His music can go from one minute to another from a heavenly melody to industrial sounds. He has the voice of an angel but does not insist too much on it as one can see his interest is more in sounds and emotion. I thought that this is a feeling that people must have had the first time they discovered Bjork on stage…and the next track he played was a Bjork cover. Discover him before he gets too massive ; his debut album will be out soon on the 22nd of September.

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The day ended beautifully with the Festival headliner, i.e. Father John Misty. The alter ego of Joshua Tillman, Father John Misty has been one of our favourite artists in the latest years and the current success he has cannot be more deserved. His latest album “Pure Comedy” was amongst our April 2017 best albums of the month…but really this alum is more than this. It has been personally a very emotional companion since its release and I could talk for ages about the perfect balance between beautiful 70’s Elton John’s music and Joshua’s funny, sad, complex, political and overwhelming words. The current live tour is as beautiful as the record and for his first festival headline Father John Misty was really impressive. His band is fantastic and there are around 15 musicians on stage, including strings and horns. One of my best concerts ever for a performer on top of his form.

  • Sunday, 3rd September 2017

What would be a UK festival without rain? After three days in a row without one drop of rain and two beautiful sunny days actually, Sunday was completely different and to make it short it did not stop raining all day! This did not stop your reviewer to do his job either by choosing “dry” gigs in tents or fighting the rain with the usual material (cape and waterproof clothes).

That was my busiest day with eight gigs attended, knowing that I went and see 45 minutes of each headliner rather than choosing one entire gig.

So quite a busy day indeed and a female-oriented one, either with the great C-86 UK scene influenced band Girl Ray or with the Crutchfield twin sisters. Born and raised in Alabama, their indie rock is really good and exciting: Allison Crutchfield has her own band with… Allison Crutchfield & The Fizz while Katie Crutchfield is a bit more famous than her sister with her band Waxahatchee (in which Allison also plays…shall I do it again or did you get it?). Anyway, both bands are super recommended and can be enjoyed in dry or wet weather conditions (as personally experienced!).

Other female artists I enjoyed that day were Nadia Reid from NZ and her beautiful acoustic and poetic songs and Satomi Matsuzaki who is the lead singer of the always weird but always enjoyable band Deerhoof. I could almost say that Foxygen is a female-oriented band as their two leaders Jonathan Rado and Sam France have a real non-male sensitivity in their melodies and song structures. Theirs was probably my rainier concert ever but the mood amongst the crowd was so strong that everyone almost forgot they were all heavily soaked!

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The Jesus and Mary Chain or Bill Callahan? Bill Callahan or The Jesus and Mary Chain. Both artists are part of my Top 100 and have been personal favourites for a long time. I caught Bill recently in London… and the Reid Brothers even more recently at the Route du Rock festival. So I decided to watch the first 45 minutes of Bill Callahan and the remaining 45 ones of The JAMC. I think it was the right choice as Bill Callahan‘s set (this time with a full band and not only his usual side-guitarist as early in the year) is more balanced in terms of songs’ choice whereas The Jesus and Mary Chain generally plays their most iconic tracks during the second part of their set. Despite both gigs being obviously very different, both were excellent and represent to me a certain idea of what rock’n’roll should be, i.e. mainly self-belief in one’s ideas…

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See you next year End of the Road ; I already bought my “early bird” ticket!