Neil Young discography : Part Three – The 80’s

I recently read Mojo Collectors’ Series two excellent issues dedicated to the great Neil Young and I realised it was time for me to listen (again) to his complete discography, whilst trying to get a better sense of it. His classic albums and songs are amongst my favourites of all times but he released (and keeps on doing it now in his seventh (!) musical decade) so many records that this is not very easy to get it all. As a starter, I will peruse his albums from the 80’s. One will see that this was not such a doomed decade for the Canadian…

Complete review: Part I (the 60’s) – Part II (the 70’s) – Part IV (the 90’s) – Part V (the 00’s) – Part VI (the 10’s) – Part VII (the 20’s)

Neil YoungHawks & Doves (1980):  One of his most obscure records and I must admit I very rarely listened to it. This is not a bad album per se but Neil Young sounds a bit on automatic pilot on a few tracks, as is often so when he plays with excellent country musicians. The first four tracks (the A side) are made out of old numbers dating from 1974 to 1977 while the other five tracks (the B side) were especially played and released for this record. An album to (re)discover but your life will not be changed by it. Rating: 6.5/10. Key tracks: “The Old Homestead“, “Stayin’ Power” & “Comin’ Apart At Every Nail“.

Neil Young & Crazy HorseRe.ac.tor (1981): Do not get too many expectations by spotting the presence of Crazy Horse in this record as it was made pretty quickly and without any real big ideas. It does not mean it is not without a few good moments though. The A-side is a bit polluted by the ‘T-Bone‘ song and its nine direction-less minutes but the final two tracks could really compete with the best of the punk-rock Neil we love. Rating: 6.5/10. Key tracks: “Get Back On It”, “Rapid Transit” & “Shots”.

Neil Young Trans (1982): 1982 was a key year in Neil Young’s career as he he left Reprise records to join David Geffen’s recently created company. The least one could say about this album is that this is not a typical one, according to his usual expected standards. Reviews were ok and even sometimes pretty good but it sold poorly and was considered by some as one of the worst records of the 80’s. It actually aged quite gracefully and one can now understand while Neil Young was so much using the vocoder while singing. He was pretty discreet at the time but he and his wife were spending hours per day to try to communicate to their handicapped son Ben, hence the analogy through these tracks. Rating: 7.0/10. Key tracks: “Computer Age”, “Transformer Man” & “Like An Inca“.

Neil Young and the Shocking PinksEverybody’s Rockin’ (1983): Instructed by David Geffen to give a record which would be closer to what his fans were expecting, Neil Young came back with an actual real rock’n’roll album. Those familiar with Neil Young’s sense of humour will get the irony of it… Made out of four covers and six originals, some consider these 25 minutes of music to be the nadir of his work. I would not be that harsh as to me this record is well played and produced. It should not be considered worse than, say, John Lennon‘s “Rock’n’Roll“. It is true though that this is not the kind of record one wants to listen to on a regular basis… Rating: 5.0/10. Key tracks : “Betty Lou’s Got A New Pair Of Shoes”, “Wonderin'” & “Mystery Train”.

Neil YoungOld Ways (1985) : After being sued in 1984 by his own record company for giving them unrepresentative material (cf. the LP’s reviewed above), Neil Young came back to his country roots and released this album in 1985. He has always considered it should be called “Old Ways II” as the final product ended up quite different from the original 1983 version. What do we have here? One cover and nine originals played competently by an excellent bunch of musicians and a few prestigious names like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. However, this is too ‘country’ for my taste and one would have appreciated a bit of dissonance. Nice cover though… Rating: 5.5/10. Key tracks : “Get Back To The Country”, “Once An Angel” & “Bound For Glory”.

Neil YoungLanding On Water (1986) : Is it one of the weirdest Neil Young albums? Probably not in terms of originality but more in the sense that one could feel the Canadian was fighting and sweating to find his muse while the outcomes were not on par with expectations. A few reviewers may note a return to more traditional pop and rock music but I must admit having difficulties to name any of these tracks even after a few listens. A quite good album then, thanks in particular to the heavy drums sounding of the great Steve Jordan but one which is difficult to grab. Rating: 5.5/10. Key tracks : “Hippie Dream”, “Touch The Night” & “Hard Luck Stories”.

Neil Young & Crazy HorseLife (1987) : On “Life“, the final album released on Geffen, Neil Young was back with his Crazy Horse compadres after a six-year hiatus. Seven tracks out of nine were actually recorded live to try to get the spirit and energy of his late 70’s albums. Although this album is pretty solid overall, one would lie saying it is one of his best. On the plus side, the energy was there and Neil was probably more relevant in his political views that he had been since the start of the decade. On the minus side, the songs were not really memorable and the instrumentation is still a bit 80’s sounding here and there. Not a bad effort though… . Rating: 6.0/10. Key tracks : “Inca Queen”, “Prisoners of Rock’n’Roll” & “Cryin’ Eyes”.

Neil Young & The BluenotesThis Note’s For You (1988) : This album is actually quite important for this reviewer because it was the first I actually bought (although my father had a couple of Neil Young’s albums at home). I remember New Musical Express giving it a good rating and mentioning in their review that Neil was back. Listening to it again with fresh ears confirms this is indeed a good album although sometimes a bit stuck in the blues-with-horn-section style. The B-side is also weaker than the A-side but this was overall a nice return to form. Rating: 7.5/10. Key tracks : “Ten Men Workin'”, “This Note’s For You” & “Coupe De Ville”.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & YoungAmerican Dream (1988) : I must confess I listened to this album for the first time in my life while doing this review. I guess always difficult to write something that relevant… although my missing this album may have a reason. Thanks to a promise he did to David Crosby if the latter could finally get out of his drug adduction, here was Neil Young’s second album of the year and even more eventful the only second C,S,N & Y studio album. Do not get too excited though as despite a few good tracks (including David Crosby’s fantastic “Compass“), the results are quite poor. The production is also very dated as can be heard through the quite horrendous Graham Nash numbers. Why did they put so many songs by the way? Eight or ten would probably have made a decent record. Rating: 5.0/10. Key tracks : “‘Feel Your Love”, “Drivin’ Thunder” & “Compass”.

Neil YoungFreedom (1989) :…and in the end, our heroes always win. Neil Young ended the decade with the album everyone had been looking for for a long time. Based on the “Eldorado” E.P. which was only released in Australia and gathering a couple of songs from “This Note’s For You” (cf. above) and other ones which were in his vaults for years, here was an album taking all the good ideas he put in his other 80’s albums but with a real consistency that was lacking otherwise. One will find everything they like about Neil Young, from the country-influenced Linda Rondstadt duets to the experimental songs or again those in a more Crazy Horse style. One could also not forget to mention that this album ends and finishes with two different versions of “Rockin’ In The Free World“, one of the classics of our times. Rating: 9.0/10. Key tracks : “Eldorado”, “On Broadway” & “Rockin’ In The Free World (Electric)”.

So here we were for the 80’s; a average rating of 6.4/10, confirming this was not an easy decade artistic-wise for Neil Young but still a every interesting and needed one for his future endeavours. Stay tuned for the other decades; coming soon!

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!).

Something for the weekend – Episode #27 – Built to Spill “Live”

This week, we will review one of the greatest live albums of all times, no less…

Built To Spill – “Live2000

Formed in the early 90’s in the great city of Boise, Idaho, Built to Spill reached this year their fourth decade of existence without too much noise. Well… this is a matter of speaking really as their sound can be defined like a balance of their two main influences Neil Young and Pavement. Not a bad start indeed but as all great bands, they are much more than the sum of these. With their leader Doug Martsch, they have an extremely talented songwriter with the voice of an angel… in the body of a lumberjack. They ‘only’ released eight studio albums of original material since the start of their career, which to me properly represents what this band are; more craftsmen than showbiz guys really.

Live” may not be the most original title for a live album but at least it delivers the goods. Released in 2000, it was recorded during a few live sessions or gigs throughout 1999 in different American cities such a New York or Seattle for instance. With a total duration over one hour and ten minutes for only eleven tracks, one can guess that indeed a few tracks are very long. No surprise here as well because this band are never better than when they play on stage. The tracks on this album are a mix of originals from their 90’s LP’s and a few covers as usual, with a specific mention to the ‘tour de force’ 20-minute version of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer” from his fantastic “Zuma” album. If you like ambitious and bittersweet melodies or gorgeous and endless guitar solos with an indie mindset, this record is for you.

Format: LP Bought in: 2013 To be noted: I first had this album in 2004 from the Strasbourg library when discovering the joys of burning CD’s in mp3. I acquired the vinyl version in 2013 as this was one of the reissues of Record Store Day that year. Rating: 9.5/10

October 2019 Album of the month: Big Thief “Two Hands”

October 2019 was probably the best month in terms of quantity since I started doing this review at the start of 2017. New records by Wilco, Elbow, Mikal Cronin, Kanye West or Van Morrison would have been in this selection any other month. Which makes the below-reviewed records even better!

Album of the month: Big Thief – “Two Hands” – Pop Rock – The quite boring band Foals also released their second record of the year but the real event this month really comes from Brooklyn indie rock quarter Big Thief. Their previous album ‘U.F.O.F.‘ was already in our May 2019 selection but this one is even better. Lead by the beautiful voice of Adrianne Lenker, a fascinating young woman, one can really feel a sense of unity in this band and I must admit I was wrong the last time I saw them in 2018 at the great End of the Road festival. All songs are powerful and simple but also quite overwhelming…and with ‘Not‘ they probably have a contender for the best song of the year, no more, no less…

  • Runner-up: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Ghosteen” – Pop Rock – Those familiar with Nick Cave‘s personal life will understand what he refers to with the title of this new LP, a contraction of the words Ghost and Teenager. Singing about the loss of a loved one does not necessarily mean artistic success…but this record is totally amazing and full of intelligent emotion. The album is spread in two parts (‘Children’ and ‘Parents’) and any listener will be impressed by the way things evolve throughout this record. One of the best records of the year and of Nick Cave’s career.
  • Also recommended:
  •  DIIV “Deceiver” – Pop Rock – Another New York, NY, band and one of the best for those who like their rock strong and punchy.
  • Angel Olsen “All Mirrors”– Pop Rock – One of the favorite female singers of this blog, this time with her most ambitious record.
  • Swans – “Leaving Meaning” – Intense music #1 – Michael Gira’s band is back with a beautiful, long …and quite calm album.
  • Neil Young And Crazy Horse – “Colorado” – Pop Rock – Like old wine, nothing better than a new record of the Canadian loner with his bunch of compadres.
  • Sunn O))) – “Pyroclasts” – Intense music #2 – 2nd album of the year from the American doom masters. Same comments as last time: play loud, listen without prejudice and the rewards will be immense.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Giant Sand – “Recounting the Ballad of Thin Line Men”

December 2017 Album of the month: U2 “Songs of Experience”

…and here we are with the last month of the year. Crazy how time flies…and how I enjoyed doing this monthly review. It has sure has been a lot of time spent listening to hundreds of records but worth the effort. December as usual is not the month with the highest number of releases and this month’s big names were a bit of a downer (Van Morrison, Miguel, N.E.R.D or Eminem to name but a few). However, the below selection remains very good and worth listening to

Album of the month: U2“Songs Of Experience” – Pop Rock – Always difficult to judge a new album from a very famous group as either you want to slag all their new records since… the last one you love or you love everything, meaning your voice may not be credible. I tried to be as objective as possible, knowing U2 is one of my favourite bands ever. Of course, expecting them to be as powerful as during their peak years of the late 80’s / early 90’s may be wishful thinking but the fact that they are still around with important things to say … and good songs is something remarkable. So, I think… this is a good U2 album. A few songs may be judged too Coldplayish and made for stadiums but there are at least 5 or 6 great songs, with very personal words this time. Let’s see if this LP stands the test of time but for the time being I really enjoy it.

 

  • Runner-up: Nabihah Iqbal“Weighing Of The Heart” – Electronica – First effort under her own name from young British electro artist. Very fresh sounds and interesting words coming from someone who knows what trying to be integrated in a society means.
  • Also recommended:
    • QTY “QTY” – Rock – NY female/male duo, produced by Bernard Butler.
    • Neil Young + Promise of the Real – “The Visitor” – Rock – Another release from the wise man, who is as angry as ever.
    • Hans Chew “Open Sea ” – Psychedelic Country – The genre says it all…
    • Cindy Wilson “Change” – Electro Pop – Unexpected very good album from The B52’s‘ former singer.
    • Chris Thile “Thanks For Listening” – Mandolin Pop – The second time the mandolin virtuoso is in this review after his dual album with Brad Mehldau in January. Almost as good as Sufjan Stevens.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – OCS – “Memory Of A Cut Off Head

 

Old man / Young man : Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Paris, Bercy, 6th June 2013 / Kurt Vile & The Violators, Paris, Maroquinerie, 8th June 2013

“Old man look at my life, I’m a lot like you were” – Neil Young, “Old Man” , 1972

On the left corner, a giant of a musician, the one who almost never stopped doing great music in almost fifty years, on stage with his best band. On the right corner, the new breed, a young man on the rise, in the great tradition of beautiful songwriting with an edge in sound. So who won ?

  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse, 6th June

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My last two Neil Young shows were in small venues (Grand Rex, Zenith) so saying I was delighted to go to Bercy to see him live would be a lie but with him being back with his old Crazy Horse amigos, there was not much choice. Neil Young is part of my personal Top 10 and the way the great man keeps on doing great records is really a constant joy. Tonight, the 67-year old Canadian was not on an acoustic mode (although he played a couple of songs alone on harmonica and guitar) but on a grungy one. Starting their great set list with “Love and only Love” from their 1990 “Ragged Glory” LP, the band played as they usually do, meaning in a very tiny space, very close one to the other, despite being on stage in a huge and cold arena.

After the very good surprise as well in seeing the excellent Californian band Los Lobos as opening act, Neil Young set went on with great power and energy and the least one can say is that the songs from last “Psychedelic Pill” LP are really on par with older ones. Once again, the only regret is to have to see Neil Young in an arena and I would recommend for those in the South West of France to go and get them when they play in Biarritz in July.

Nel Young & Crazy Horse, Bercy, 6th June, band in TV screen

One last word for our French speaking readers : there are currently two excellent readings about Neil Young : the first one is a special issue from les Inrockuptibles whereas the second one is a new bookzine called Muziq ; both are deeply recommended.

  • Kurt Vile & the Violators, 8th June

Kurt Vile, Paris, 8th June, singing

Change of atmosphere for Kurt Vile & The Violators at la Maroquinerie. My third Kurt Vile show after Austin in 2011 and le nouveau Casino in Paris in 2013, it was with great enthusiasm (and with a loved family member!) that I went to see him with his great band in this tiny and warmly theater. On top of it, la Maroquinerie has a restaurant where you can have a nice dinner before and after the show and in the past I had been lucky enough to have dinner near the Dears, Badly Drawn Boy, The Lemonheads or Shearwater for instance. This time I was indeed seated very near Kurt Vile who mechanically signed on the cover of the LP’s I had bought.

Kurt Vile & The Violators, Paris, 8th June 2013His show was… warmer I would say and after once again a very good opening act (Emily Wells), the band played like hell since the first song, the fantastic “Wakin on a Pretty Day” from the new LP. I suddenly realized that 33-year old Kurt Vile was not that different from what Neil Young probably was in his thirties : inventive, traditional, nice but no the most compromising person ever, great songs, the acoustic/electric duality, the way he plays with his musicians (Jesse Trbovich on guitar being a real jewel), and so on and so on… Kurt Vile, Paris, 8th June 2013, guitar solo

So I guess you got the point : Kurt Vile is an important artist and although the music business changed vs. what Neil Young faced when he started, I am sure this young man will be with us for a long time. Discover him if not done yet and you will be rewarded.

Kurt Vile, Paris, 8th June, alone

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 6-10

10. Bruce Springsteen

 from : Freehold, New Jersey, USA / first great sounds : 70’s / style : euphoric rock / essential albums : Born To Run (1975) , Darkness On The Edge Of Town (1978), Nebraska (1982), Born in the U.S.A. (1984), The Rising (2002) / Click to read more in the blog

Number 10 in my Top 100… Does this ranking really mean anything ? If  I were to rank Bruce on the number of times I listened to his records and watched his DVD’s and on the emotion and energy I felt at his concerts, he would probably be closer to the number One spot. If I were to make one advice regarding Bruce Springsteen for those who do not really know him and his music, it would be not to do the same mistake I did at first, that is to say go beyond the blue-collar kind of music for typical Americans cliché. His music is indeed very American as he has mixed throughout his career all kinds of influences (pop, soul, rock) but his words must be understood more in a John Steinbeck kind of way rather than George Bush’s one. One word as well on his faithful E-Street Band musicians ; although he is the creative force, they have been the best musical vehicle he could have dreamt of to fulfill his artistic ambitions.

9. Tom Waits

 from : Ponoma, California, USA / first great sounds : 70’s / style : Waitsian music / essential albums : Blue Valentine (1978), Swordfishtrombones (1983), Rain Dogs (1985), Mule Variations (1999) / Click to read more in the blog

Another amazing artist whose art is often reduced to a cliché too… Yes, Tom Waits has a wolf voice and he may be sometimes closer to Brechtian over exuberant music but his world is a fantastic one. After having spent the 70’s doing beautiful but more standard jazz-blues piano-oriented albums, he met future wife Kathleen Brennan in the early 80’s and began a different style of music thanks to her pushing him to really be what he wanted to. The results are genius sounding records full of weirdness (these instruments…) and emotion (these songs…).

8. Elvis Costello

 from : London, England / first great sounds : 70’s / style : from pub-rock to classical / essential albums : This Year’s Model (1978), Imperial Bedroom (1982), King Of America (1986), Blood & Chocolate (1986), Brutal Youth (1994), When I Was Cruel (2002) / Click to read more in the blog

…and the Attractions should I say such a key element his first band have been throughout his career. Declan McManus (real name) started in the mid-80’s as a kind of fusion of classical rock and punk rock and managed to attract fans of both kinds of music. He went on being a major player in the UK scene, every album in the 80’s bringing a fresh approach to a specific genre of music. As in all great artists and musicians, he had a very strong peak period from 1978 to 1986 but kept on making very nice albums . All essential albums mentioned above are really must-haves so do not lose time and listen to them all!

7. Neil Young

 from : Toronto, Canada/ first great sounds : 60’s / style : acoustic/saturated rock / essential albums : Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969), After The Gold Rush (1970), Harvest (1972), On The Beach (1974), Tonight’s The Night (1975), Zuma (1975), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Ragged Glory (1990), Le Noise (2010) / Click to read more in the blog

We have already mentioned Crosby, Stills and Nash at number 50 in our Top 100. Although Neil Young was indeed a major force in their best albums, it was necessary to dissociate his so-called solo career, which is not that solo as he did his best music with his band Crazy Horse. Do you still follow me ? Well, if not, go directly to any of the essential albums mentioned above as this is like breathing air as far as I am concerned. You basically have two Neil Young songs : the acoustic folkie-ballad one (often with sad words) and the furious electric saturated one (one with..furious words). Both of them are the Ying and Yang of our favourite Canadian and explain why this guy has been doing great music for ages.

6. The Rolling Stones

 from : London, England / first great sounds : 60’s  / style : from blues to rock / essential albums : Aftermath (1966), Beggars Banquet (1968), Let It Bleed (1969), Sitcky Fingers (1971), Exile on Main St. (1972), Some Girls (1978), Steel Wheels (1989) / Click to read more in the blog

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones ! A few of you might have been lucky enough to experience this band on stage either at their peak period (1965-1975) or later. Personally, I am always impressed by these guys and the number of fantastic songs they have been doing. Let’s not forget the importance of this band in the 60’s and overall in the history of the 20th century, as far as society changes are concerned. But moreover Mick, Keith, Charlie, Brian, Bill, Mick (#2) and Ron must be cherished for what they brought to the music world with only a simple love of blues at the start. I would recommend once again Keith Richard’s book “Life” to get the full story.

Recent books I read : Part One – Good ol’ paperbooks!

I have recently had a bit more time to read a small part of the many books on music I keep on buying so I thought now was the right moment to talk about it. Let’s start with these three ones I read on the old format (yes, with paper pages that you actually turn!).

  • Neil YoungWaging Heavy Peace

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He took his time but the great Canadian eventually published his memories at the end of 2012. And to be frank, I would not speak about real memories, such as Keith Richards did with “Life” as here Neil Young writes in a free jazz way through very short chapters and with no real timelines or logics…or this is the first feeling one can have in the opening pages. Indeed, when you are deeply in the middle of the book, you realize this is a way for him to talk more easily about heavy subjects, such as his sons in particular who both suffered from cerebral palsy. And if you will find indeed too many pages about his love of old cars (who cares?) and his obsessions regarding compressed digital sounds, there are many things to cherish, notably when he writes about his relationship with his father or with Stephen Stills for instance. Recommended reading.

  • Mark EverettThings the grandchildren should know

…or E’s biography. Who is E ? Well, he is the singer/leader of the great Eels band everyone knows for the “Novocaine for the Soul” hit in the mid-90’s but who kept on doing great records until now. E wrote his biography in 2009 just before a trilogy of great albums (by the way, their new LP “Wonderful, Glorious” has just went out and is highly recommended). For those who know a bit about E., he appears like a depressed guy and this book explains his side of the story and more particularly all the deaths that occurred in his family, leaving him virtually the only family member. But there is much more than that in this book and in particular this is a model of life-struggling and optimism. Very funny and enjoyable way of writing as well, which is not a surprise when one knows how skilled the man is. Indispensable reading for music fans and highly recommended for the others.

  • Michka Assayas – In a lonely place

I am afraid this book is for the moment only available in French (in the great Le Mot et le Reste collection). Michka Assayas is an important person in music which he will not recognize as humility is one of his quality. He has started writing in the early 80’s in rock magazine “Rock’n’folk” and then kept on doing reviews in “les Inrockuptibles” in the late 80’s. He then voluntarily disappeared from the rock writing scene but kept on writing here and there before creating the amazing “Histoire du Rock” book in the late 90’s (new edition to arrive in 2013!) and doing the great “Subjectif 21” radio show. Joy Division’s fans will recognize the title of the book as one of their favourite songs and indeed this is such a pleasure to (re)read these reviews and chronicles about Joy Division, Everything But The Girl, Dexys Midnight Runners, The Beach Boys, U2, etc… The strength of Michka Assayas was in his writing-style as you will not find a trendy expression that could have not aged well but on the opposite all these reviews could have been written today. The way he describes his relationship with music and why we have perfectly the right not to agree with the overall shit we are imposed culturally-wise brings with words all I have ever had difficulties to express on my side. Buy it!

Best of 2012 : Top 20 !

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

Albums

 Channel Orange

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

Animal Joy

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

 

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

One Day I'm Going to Soar

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Sets and Reissues

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

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

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

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

DVD’s and Blue Rays

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

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

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

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

2010 best records

Reminder of 2010 “Best of” list

Une liste élargie cette année tant la production musicale est de plus en plus riche, diverse et exceptionnelle.

Sur le podium, les USA trustent les médailles:

Cover (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:Kanye West)

Gold medal: Kanye West “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

Everything you will love in one LP: style, references, melodies, joy, sadness – Kanye West is definitely one of the greatest. La fable du lièvre et la tortue adaptée à cette année musicale puisque cet album n’est sorti qu’en décembre même si la plupart des morceaux ont été disponibles au compte goutte tout au long de l’année. On peut penser ce qu’on veut du personnage très médiatisé (trouvez un autre artiste nommé cette année passée à la fois par G. Bush et B. Obama) mais le musicien est irréprochable. Un album digne des plus grands artistes des décennies passées par sa créativité, son ouverture musicale (est-ce encore du hip-hop?), des samplings impeccables (King Crimson, Gil Scott-Heron) et ses invités (Bon Iver!). Et surtout des mélodies magiques avec un côté de self-depreciation rare dans une époque plus éprise d’anecdotique que d’authenticité. Album of the year by far. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/my-beautiful-dark-twisted-fantasy-r2055009/review)

Cover (Transference:Spoon)

Silver Medal: Spoon “Transference”

Great Austin, Tx band delivers the goods once gain – when simplicity equals greatness. Un de ces groupes américains qui se construit et murit avec les années. On était un peu passé à côté des débuts de ce groupe qui existe depuis 1994 mais on se demande pourquoi car cette musique a tout pour plaire aussi bien aux amateurs de mélodies qu’aux afficionados du rock indépendant. Que des tubes en puissance dans cet album dans un monde idéal. Go for it! (http://www.allmusic.com/album/transference-r1691709/review)

Cover (High Violet:The National)

Bronze Medal: The National “High Violet”

One of the current best live band succeds in keeping its indie attitude but with more catchy melodies. The National est également un groupe qui se fait sa place petit à petit dans le panthéon des grands avec son dernier album. Les vertus d’une détermination et d’un self belief portées par un chanteur fascinant et des musiciens excellents combinées au fait de se retrouver un jour au bon endroit au bon moment. Ecoutez cet album, craquez sur la voix chaleureuse et suave de Matt Berninger et sur la musique au couteau du groupe, remontez dans les temps les albums des années précédentes et surtout allez voir ce groupe sur scène. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/high-violet-r1805201/review)

15 autres albums (par ordre alphabétique):

Arcade Fire “The Suburbs”

Our favorite Canadians are back to form vs. previous album with emotional lyrics. A tous les déçus de l’album précédent des Canadiens, le groupe répond avec une musique toujours enflammée mais plus sobre et des paroles basées sur le passage à l’age adulte. Welcome back guys.

Beach House “Teen Dream”

Weird and warm songs from this Lynchian Californian girl-boy duo. Les mélodies entrainantes de Victoria Legrand (eh oui, la nièce de Michel) avec les trouvailles musicales d’Alex Scally. Du David Lynch qui se baladerait sur les plages de l’Océan Pacifique.

The Black Keys “Brothers”

Still excellent blues-rock formula from Akron with fantastic songs. La cité du pneu (Akron) nous encaoutchoute encore d’un formidable album de blues-rock au plus près de l’os pour ce duo américain. Leur projet de l’année 2009 (Blakroc) qui mélangeait blues, soul et hip-hop a ouvert des horizons nouveaux à ce groupe qui a de plus en plus de groove dans sa musique. A signaler des performances live d’exception.

Field Music “Measure”

Amazing third LP from this band from Sunderland, England who will warm up XTC fans. Le Royaume Uni n’est pas oublié de notre sélection avec le troisième album des frères Brewis. Très ambitieux album d’ailleurs avec pas moins de 20 titres travaillés dans leur studio personnel de Sunderland. Un groupe qui devrait être énorme tant la qualité de leurs chansons rappelle celles du meilleur XTC. A découvrir.

John Grant “Queen of Denmark”

First solo LP from the former leader of the Czars played with the Midlake musicians. John Grant est l’exemple du miraculé incompris et déprimé devant ses échecs musicaux précédents pour lequel le mot seconde chance a un sens. Un magnifique album dans la lignée de ce que fait Midlake, c’est à dire un rock très 70’s soft mélangé à du pur Indie avec des textes au scalpel. Meilleur titre de chanson de l’année pour “Jesus Hates Faggots”.

Grinderman “Grinderman 2”

Old men rock! Nick Cave’s trash band better than ever. Grinderman est le groupe sans piano de Nick Cave dans lequel sa verve plus blues et trash peut s’épanouir au mieux. Quelle musique et quelle jeunesse. A signaler la créativité instrumentale de Warren Ellis, l’alter ago du bon vieux Nick. Pour réveiller le loup ou la louve qui dort en nous.

LCD Soundsystem “This is happening”

James Murphy’s influences from punk rock, Talking Heads, Brian Eno and Can put him almost in the podium. Nouveau disque exceptionnel de James Murphy et son groupe qui sera d’ailleurs sans doute le dernier sous cette forme. Tout ce qu’on aime dans la musique se trouve chez cet homme-là. A signaler les London Sessions disponibles chez tous les bons vendeurs numériques et en solo l’excellente bande originale du film Greenberg avec Ben Stiller.

Local Natives “Gorilla Manor”

Geeks rule the earth with great indie melodies! Sans doute le groupe qui pourrait disputer à Hot Chip le titre de groupe le moins sexy du monde mais de magnifiques mélodies californiennes pour tout ceux qui veulent prolonger toute l’année le sable de la plage qui reste dans les oreilles.

Massive Attack “Heligoland”

Trip Hop Bristol veterans reinvent themselves with great invited musicians. On n’avait presque oublié cet album mais sa réécoute l’a finalement fait préférer à celui de Gorillaz pourtant également excellent. La marque de fabrique de Massive Attack est toujours présente mais pleine de fraîcheur de nouveau grâce aux invités et notamment Tunde Adebimpe de TV on the Radio et Damon Albarn qu’on ne présente plus.

Janelle Monae “The Archandroid”

Amazing record from this young lady. What Jimi Hendrix would do if he were 20 in 2010. Eh oui, pas moins, une jeune artiste noire américaine qui mélange tout: hip hop, soul, R’B, rock psychédélique, pop, etc… Toujours un immense plaisir de découvrir de tels nouveaux talents. A signaler également une participation croisée avec Kevin Barnes sur cet album et celui d’Of Montreal.

Sufjan Stevens “All Delighted People EP/The Age of Adz”

The great man back from months of illness with more electronics influences than before. Certes, il a été absent quelques mois du fait d’une maladie rare mais en échange on récupère en 2010 deux albums pour le prix d’un même si le premier n’est pas censé être un LP complet… Tout n’est pas du niveau de Illinois dans ces 19 chansons mais il y a quand même des perles. A ne pas manquer en concert pour ceux qui le peuvent.

Teenage Fanclub “Shadows”

Latest LP by the Scottish Band, one of the all-time greatest. Ils prennent leur temps pour faire des albums et c’est tant mieux. The Beatles, The Byrds, Love, The Go-Betweens, XTC, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, rien à rajouter.

Richard Thompson “Dream Attic”

New songs played live from the epic folk rock guitar player. La liste est diverse comme le montre la présence dans celle-ci de l’ancien leader de Fairport Convention, goupe anglais de folk rock des années 60 qui a pour ainsi dire inventé un genre à lui tout seul. Cet album plus qu’un autre car Richard Thompson met plus en avant ses talents exceptionnels de guitariste.

Warpaint “The Fool”

100% West Coast female group for one of the best debut albums of recent years. Certes, le fait qu’une des deux chanteuses soit l’ex-girlfriend de l’ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers John Frusciante (producteur de leur premier EP) augurait du meilleur mais pas autant que la profonde originalité de ce groupe 100% féminin. Un groove étonnant quand même très rock avec des voix magnifiques.

Neil Young “Le Noise”

Still young after all these years. Young and Lanois straight to the bone. Incroyable de pouvoir encore compter sur Neil Young en 2010! Un de nos 10 artistes préférés de tous les temps encore capable de sortir des disques importants. Un disque en pur solo avec un son de guitare incroyable trafiqué par le Canadien Daniel Lanois, producteur entres autres de U2 et Bob Dylan. D’où le jeu de mots du titre…

Egalement recommandés:

Owen Pallett, These New Puritans, Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer, Hot Chip, Broken Bells, Liars, Midlake, Gorillaz, MGMT, Shearwater, Caribou, The Fall, Paul Weller, Band of Horses, Drake, Best Coast, Interpol, Philip Selway (le batteur de Radiohead en solo), Robert Plant, Deerhunter, Swans, The Walkmen, Cee Lo Gren (le chanteur de Gnarls Barkley), Kid Cudi, The Roots et N.E.R.D.