May 2017 Album of the month: The Afghan Whigs “In Spades”

Once again, another great month in terms of releases. Despite new excellent records, bands or artists such as At The Drive-In, The Charlatans or Todd Rundgren were not selected so enjoy the following great records!

 

Album of the month: The Afghan Whigs “In Spades” – Soul Grunge Rock – The Afghan Whigs are one of my favourite bands ever and their come back record in 2014 (“Do To The Beast”) after a 18-year hiatus was sensational news. However, despite being very good, one was expecting an even better record for their future ventures… and “In Spades” is such a record. Greg Dulli’s voice has never sounded so good and all the songs are memorable, beautifully mixing a soul sensitivity with a grunge sound. This has always been their forte but the least one can say is that they are back to stay this time. Nice cover as well from a Brazilian artist.

  • Runner-up: Mac DeMarco – “This Old Dog” – Cool Rock – The more it goes, the less Mac DeMarco should be considered as a nice and funny guy in the music industry but as a real fantastic songwriter. You will not find a cooler record to listen to during summertime but behind the easiness of the music lies fantastic songs.
  • Also recommended:
    • Paul Weller  “A Kind Revolution” – Mod Psychedelic Rock
    • Jane Weaver – “Modern Kosmology” – Space Pop
    • Benjamin Biolay “Volver” – Bittersweet French Pop
    • Slowdive“s/t” – Shoegaze Rock
    • The Mountain Goats “Goths” – Literate Rock
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month  Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.”

 

Musical leaves in London 25&26th July 2015 ;The Jam/Brian Wilson/Badly Drawn Boy

The Jam, Somerset House, 2015 - Band

I remember being super excited two years ago when I spent a great week-end in London, enjoying the “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the V&A and a Dexys Midnight Runners concert. I must say that although I have been in London for a year now, I still get more or less the same feeling of excitement every week-end when discovering this amazing city with endless treasures. Funny then that without knowing it, I sort of got recently the same kind of week-end as that mentioned above with three great events.

I started on Saturday by visiting an exhibition at the prestigious and beautiful Somerset House, home in particular of the recommended Courtauld Gallery. Actually this exhibition was about…The Jam! Interesting to see how popular culture and tradition mix so well in this city. For those not familiar with The Jam, they were Paul Weller’s first band and probably the most popular in the UK between 1977 and 1982, when their leader decided to stop at the peak of their popularity to go towards new musical adventures. It created a kind of trauma within the British youth at that time but showed as well the spirit of independence Paul Weller has been having for 5 decades now. The exhibition showed a great balance between memorabilia objects (guitars, pictures, clothes,…) and movies of concerts and clips. Funny to see former and current mod fans visiting the exhibition (well I guess I am one of them…) not hiding smiles and enthusiasm but still in well-behaved manners!

Love and Mercy

 

Change of place and direction Notting Hill for an early evening session at the beautiful Gate Theatre to watch “Love and Mercy” starring John Cusack. Based on the life of Brian Wilson, leader of the Beach Boys, the film is focused on two periods of his life : first the 1965-1968 years, source of extreme genius…and the start of his mental issues and then the end of the 80’s when he re-entered the life of normal people but at a certain price. I strongly recommend this very moving movie for all those interested in rock’n’roll myths, knowing what one can see on the screen is really close to what actually happened. Good to see for once a movie based on music facts not too Hollywood-driven in its transcription of it all. For you all Beach Boys fans, the scenes in the studio describing the sessions that made “Pet Sounds” and the doomed “Smile” albums are fantastic.

Badly Drawn Boy, Barbican London, 2015

…which brought us now to Sunday when I had a ticket to see live Badly Drawn Boy performing his first LP from 2000 “The Hour of Bewilderbeast“. The show was taking place at the Barbican Hall, situated on the Eastern side of town, in a very modern area stuck between offices and the Shoreditch neighbourhood. Always great to discover new places and theatre halls and that one was particularly amazing and with a great quality of sound. Not sure if this album rings a bell for many of you but this is clearly not the case in the UK where this is one of the classics of the last decade. Crazy of how time flies as to me it was still quite a recent LP and Badly Drawn Boy quite a new singer whereas we are talking about 15 years ago… What makes this LP so astonishing is a mix of modernity and classic songs, as if basically it had been done in the 60’s…or now but by a very strong individual. One can say whatever they want about Damon Gough (his real name) but strong individual he is indeed… Wearing his traditional wool hat (well it was 18 degrees in rainy London so for once the hat might have been justified), he showed his pride and happiness in being celebrated by such an enthusiastic crowd and I must say I spotted a few tears of joy here and there. The band was very subtile as well, being able to slow down and playing beautiful strings while getting noisy and/or funky when needed. BDB, Barbican 2015 setlist was based on songs from his other albums but the first part of the show was where the emotion was. (Re)discover him and start by this LP if you do not know this artist ; the rewards will be immense.

Teenage Cancer Trust Festival, Johnny Marr / Paul Weller, Royal Albert Hall, 27th March 2015

The Jam, The Smiths, The Who, on stage together…and I was there ! Ok, ok, I am slightly embellishing the gig I went to recently as these bands did not actually played but a few of their original members were there.

Roger Daltrey, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

Held for the 15th edition once again in the gorgeous Royal Albert Hall, the Teenage Cancer Trust charity association has been supported for a long time by Roger Daltrey of the Who and every year at the early stages of spring the creme de la creme of British artists are present to help this good cause.

Johnny Marr, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

Johnny Marr was the opening act of the night I had chosen to attend and the former guitarist of the Smiths was on top form. Although I found his latest LP so-so, I must admit that the 10-song set he played was excellent with a very good balance of songs from his two solo albums, one cover, three The Smiths songs and the marvellous “Getting Away With It” from Electronic, the band he formed in the late 80’s/early 90’s with Bernard Sumner (New Order) and Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys).

Weller on guitar, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

After a break when Roger Daltrey appeared on stage with teenagers and young adults to promote the Trust and their actions (and a very moving movie shown on-screen), Paul Weller arrived on stage, fit and young as ever at 56. With no major change in his band compared to the recent shows of his I went to in Paris, he played a great focused set taking here and there in all his albums…apart from probably his best one “Wild Wood“. It meant not one song from his days with The Jam or The Style Council (the man is stubborn…) but many new songs from his next-to-come LP but as well a bunch of old ones from his first fantastic “Paul Weller” LP. I must say that listening live to songs such as “Kosmos” or “Uh Huh Oh Yeh” was a great personal experience.

Weller on piano, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

On top of it, the event everybody was hoping for occurred when Johnny Marr came back on stage to play an old Motown cover song with the rest of the band. A first-time in the UK as I read it already happened in the past in the US…and probably not a one-off as both men are talking about collaborating in the future.

Weller & Marr!, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

Paul Weller discography : The solo years studio albums

I recently read one great Uncut magazine specific issue dedicated to Paul Weller (#11 in our TOP 100) and it made me want to listen once again to his records, starting with his solo career.

 Paul Weller (1992) : or how to be back from nowhere… After having been the most popular artist in the UK at the end of the 70’s and start of the 80’s with The Jam, the soul/dance/jazz work he did afterwards with his second band The Style Council had not really found its audience and critics were so-so. It eventually fainted, leaving Paul Weller with no recording company but moreover no real will to keep on doing music. He found the sparkle back little by little by playing back to his roots and this 1992 LP was the first one under his own name. And what a great album, mixing soul/rock influences but with a style that would become his personal one (influenced by band such as Traffic for instance or called “dad-rock” by lazy critics). Everything was already there and I remember personally being so full of joy to find him back playing such great news songs. Top songs : “Bull-Rush”, “Into Tomorrow” and “Amongst Butterflies”. (8.5/10)

Image result for weller wild wood Wild Wood (1993) : or how this LP definitely put back Paul Weller on the music scene. It was indeed with this fantastic album that Paul Weller confirmed he was back with a revenge (and was to become again one of the most popular artists ever in the UK). There is not one weak song on this LP and each of them, either being a punchy pop/rock number or a beautiful ballad has enough life and emotion to stand on its own. Lots of efforts as well to create an ensemble with nice instrumentals often linking two songs. Indispensable! Top songs : “Sunflower”, “Wild Wood” and “All the Pictures on the Wall”. (9.5/10)

Stanley Road Stanley Road (1995) : or how to confirm. This LP was probably Paul Weller’s most expected one since The Jam period as he was definitely back on the music scene and one was not disappointed as it was one of his best. I had forgotten the quality of the songs and re-listening to it again was a good reminder about how pleasant having the man back on top was (he was only in his mid-30’s after all…). Top songs : “The Changinman”, “You do something to me” and “Broken Stones”. (9/10)

Heavy Soul Heavy Soul (1997) : or how to stay at the top of the Major Leagues. This is probably Paul Weller’s most groovy LP and heavy soul indeed it is. One of these albums in which you feel at ease immediately when listening to it. The tunes are strong as well but one could feel that Weller had gone to the limit of the soul/rock formula and that something else was to arrive…  Top songs : “Heavy Soul, Pt. 1”, “Up in Suze’s Room” and “Science”. (8/10)

Heliocentric Heliocentric (2000) : or how to reach excellence. To my mind the best Weller LP, it was the one mixing still great tunes to sing along with but with a new sounding structure influenced by psychedelic rock in particular. Strings were back in the game as well, reminding the fantastic under-estimated Style Council LP “Confessions of a Pop Group“. Top songs : “He’s the Keeper”, “Frightened” and “There’s no drinking after you’re dead”. (9.5/10)

Illumination Illumination (2002) : or how to start the intermediary period. Where do you go after such a brilliant LP ? Well, you do another one, trying at the same time to have a look backwards and imagining what one’s future will be like. It gives “Illumination”, the first LP not produced by Bredan Lynch and the first one after the so-called “classic” Weller period. This LP though should be re-discovered as there are interesting songs, announcing great things to come in the future. Top songs : “A Bullet for Everyone”, “Bag Man” and “All Good Books”. (7.5/10)

File:Paul weller studio 150.JPG Studio 150 (2004) : or how to find inspiration in classics. The covers’ LP is a classic album for well-known artists and the fan is generally delighted by such an initiative. However, it gets generally thick after a couple of listening and these albums are not the ones which are the most listened to. Let’s say that Paul Weller found back enthusiasm in these songs and that his versions are indeed really good, although not revolutionary… Top songs : “Wishing on a Star”, “The Bottle” and “Early Morning Rain”. (7/10)

As Is Now As Is Now  (2005) : or quite a rediscovery. I had more or less forgotten this LP, probably as it was the album coming before Paul Weller’s latest so-called trilogy but this is a really good one. Songs melodies might appear not that strong sometimes but the music is top notch here, mixing his soul influences as ever but as well modern sounds. Top songs : “Come On / Let’s Go”, “The Start of Forever” and “From the Floor Boards Up”. (8/10)

22 Dreams 22 Dreams (2008) : or how to be fifty and be more relevant than ever. 21 moving and great songs (the 22nd dream being a poem in the booklet) with all kinds of influences raging from pastoral folk to soul and jazz instrumentals. This album reminds partly the subtleties of The Style Council when they were at the top of their games but with more experience and quality in music craftmanship. A very rich-sounding LP to listen to again and again. Top songs : “Invisible”, “Cold Moments” and “Push It Along”. (9/10)

Wake Up the Nation Wake Up The Nation (2010) : or how to get young again. This album is the second part of the latest Paul Weller’s trilogy which has been called this way to describe long albums with lots of ambitious songs whereas in reality they are really different. 16 punchy short (or sometimes very short – too short?) songs with the more than welcome presence of The Jam bass player Bruce Foxton on two tracks. Top songs : “Wake Up The Nation”, “Aim High” and “Two Fat Ladies”. (8/10)

Sonik Kicks Sonik Kicks (2012) : or how Paul Weller gets Krautrock sounding. Well, it might be too strong a statement but this is indeed true that one will find more repetition and samples throughout these songs than ever before. A remarkably fresh sounding LP by a young man of 54-year old. This LP was part of your 2012 best of by the way. Top songs : “Kling I Klang”, “By the Waters” and “Dragonfly”. (8.5/10)

11 studio albums then and I hope this post will help you chose the LP’s that you will enjoy the most. There are as well many live or different compilations albums and they are often as good as the studio ones. DVD’s/Blue Rays are very nice as well, especially those which bring back the particular atmosphere of his London Hyde Park shows.

Long live Paul and looking forward to listening to your next album!

…and here it is (update done in January 2016)

 Saturns Pattern (2015) : A bit less adventurous than on his last LP’s, it still remains a very good album of solid songs. More emphasis on melodies and a bit less on soundscapes, which does not mean this is a bad thing as all great artists need/like this ying and yang alternance. Top songs : “Saturns Pattern”, “Pick it Up” and “These City Streets”. (7.5/10)

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 11-15

15. Radiohead

 from : Oxford, England / first great sounds : 90’s / style : experimental pop / essential albums : The Bends (1995) , Ok Computer (1997), Kid A (2000), In Rainbows (2007) / Click to read more in the blog

First, the attitude : no band has never less played the rock’n’roll star ego game than Radiohed. Second, the way the work : all five members are creative and an integral part of the Radiohead sound. Third, the evolution : every record is different and they always try to bring something new, which materialized in their sound (from classic indie rock to electronica influenced rhythms). And fourth, the songs : a great gift to always create fantastic melodies. We have all envied older people when they told us they have been lucky enough to see Pink Floyd or The Clash at their peak period ; well, I will tell younger kids that I experienced Radiohead live at their peak period…

14. Bob Dylan

from : Duluth, MN, USA / first great sounds : 60’s / style : everything but folk! / essential albums : Bringing It All Back Home (1965), Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Blonde on Blonde (1966), Blood on the Tracks (1975), Desire (1976), Oh Mercy (1989)

Everyone knows the name “Bob Dylan” and all the clichés associated to him : protest singer, folk rock, voice of a generation, blah blah… BULL-SHIT ! Bob Dylan is all but this. He is an innovator, a huge rock’n’roll and all styles of music fan and he had a tremendous life. And on top of it, he is a self egoistic bastard who did/does not want at all to be taken for a kind of hippie generation voice or something a-like. 50 years in the biz but apart from the pure Dylan fans who will buy anything, do you really know his records? If not, start with the list above and you will hear rich, moving and powerful music you might never have imagine from such a public figure.

13. Lou Reed

 from : Brooklyn, NY, USA / first great sounds : 60’s / style : no-bullshit rock’n’roll / essential albums : Transformer (1972), Berlin (1973), New York (1989), Songs for Drella (1990), Magic and Loss (1992) / Click to read more in the blog

I think his best enemy John Cale wrote once about Lou Reed something like “how can such an evil man can write such beautiful songs”. It might not be the exact quote but the overall idea is there as Lou Reed does not have indeed the reputation of being the nicest guy in show business… I have seen once ask the people in the audience who wanted to dance and shout to leave the theatre as this was not what he intended to do. Anyway, the guy is one of our modern geniuses, from the Velvet Underground (cf. rank #51) to all his solo records or projects with other musicians. I saw him in particular play on stage his masterpiece Berlin a few years ago and must say it was one of the best experiences of my musical life.

12. Led Zeppelin

 from : London, England / first great sounds : 60’s / style : heavy blues rock / essential albums : Led Zeppelin (1969), Led Zeppelin II (1969), Led Zeppelin III (1970), Led Zeppelin IV (1971), Houses of the Holy  (1973)

When I started being a real music fan in the mid-80’s, thanks to all these beautiful British post-punk and new wave bands, the enemies were clearly Led Zeppelin and another popular singer from New Jersey… Of course, like everyone at that time, I had in my record collection “Led Zeppelin IV” and had played air-guitar while listening to “Black Dog” or “Stairway to Heaven” but I must say it took me years to come back to Led Zeppelin, thanks to MTV and the Page/Plant unledded show where they played different versions of famous songs in Morocco or in the forests of Wales. This band was the mythic rock’n’roll band, where all excesses were tolerated and experienced. The band was made out of the four BEST musicians of the 70’s in their respective roles : Jimmy Page as amazing gifted guitar hero, the larger-than-life John “Bonzo” Bonham on drums, the best rock arranger ever on synths and bass with John Paul Jones (still very active, playing for instance with Joss Homme from Queens of the Stone Age – rank #20) and or course Robert Plant as singer and angel-like stage presence. I particularly recommend the live DVD that went out around 10 years ago if you really want to see what the band was really about.

11. Paul Weller (The Jam / The Style Council)

from : Woking, England / first great sounds : 70’s  / style : mod and soul / essential albums : In the City (1977), Sound Affects (1980), Café Bleu (1984), Our Favourite Shop (1985), Paul Weller (1992), Wild Wood (1993), Heavy Soul (1997), Sonik Kicks (2012) / Click to read more in the blog

Yes, there are still 11 artists I prefer to Led Zeppelin! I must admit this is a bit theoretical as the Top 15 is really made out of my musical heroes and listening to one of their records would make me probably change the ranking… Anyway, Paul Weller has been a kind of musical big brother for me as this is someone who has always been in my cloud. I was a bit too young to catch The Jam although I dig later in all their records but really discovered Paul Weller through his soul-funk-jazz Style Council period and have always found his musical choices and evolution extra-interesting. The guy as a real know-how of not being self-satisfied, which probably comes from his modest origins and the values of work he had from his family. Like for all these great musicians and people, seeing them on stage is probably the best way to understand what all this is about..

Best of 2012 : Top 20 !

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

Albums

 Channel Orange

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

 Animal Joy

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

 

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

One Day I'm Going to Soar

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Sets and Reissues

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

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

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

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

DVD’s and Blue Rays

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

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

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

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

Old Guys rule : four fantastic shows from Bob Mould, Paul Weller, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen (Brussels and Paris, June-July 2012)

Probably a coincidence but four of my favourite artists of all times were in the neighborhood recently. The four of them not as young as they used to be but still 200% relevant by their attitudes, energy, ethics…and of course by the greatness of their music. So let’s start with good old Bob.

1. Who : Bob Mould ; Age : 51 ; Where : Ancienne Belgique (Brussels) ; When : 3rd of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes

One of my musical regrets in life is not having seen on stage the seminal US band Hüsker Dü, melodic punk trio from the 80’s out of which Bob Mould was singer, guitar player and co-leader with drummer Grant Hart. The influence of this band is not something well-known by the general public but without Hüsker Dü, there would not have been any Pixies or Nirvana, simple as that. After a couple of amazing solo albums, Bob formed a new band named Sugar in the 90’s and they enjoyed a relatively high success in the UK, where they were signed on the excellent Creation label, home of Primal Scream, Ride, Teenage Fanclub or Oasis among many other bands. He went on making other good records after Sugar disbanded even if on a less frequent basis.

Tonight, the show was based on Sugar 1st LP “Copper Blue” which was rated as album of the year by New Musical Express in 1992. Sugar first months were as good as Hüsker Dü best years by the intensity of the music and the quality of the songs, which made it an album available to all from the pure hardcore fan to the more melodic-oriented person. He revisited the full album track by track in its original sequence sequence with two great musicians : Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass … and the least one could say is that this show was LOUD! All “Copper Blue” songs are hits as far as I am concerned and that first part of the show was something I never thought being lucky enough to see live. After revisiting the past, the band played new songs from future to come LP and of course finished with a few Hüsker Dü ones, including the famous “Celebrated Summer”. Here is for your pleasure a video I took of the third track on the LP called “Changes” :

I would recommend Bob Mould’s recent biography “See a little light” where he openly talks about all his formed addictions, failed love or missed friendships, his constant fight against his body weight and more interesting how he succeeded in assuming his homosexuality in a complicated environment. Fascinating book from a great man. All three Sugar albums have just been reissued as well on 2-CD formats and are highly recommended.

2. Who : Paul Weller ; Age : 54 ; Where : Bataclan (Paris) ; When : 13th of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes

I have been lucky to see Paul Weller on stage a few times but it seems he now has a recurrent commitment with Le Bataclan when he comes in Paris as this is the third time in a row that I have been enjoying him and his band playing in this venue. For those totally unfamiliar with Paul Weller, you should be aware that he is one of the most famous artists in the U.K. where thousands of people have been celebrating him play in huge outdoor places, such as Hyde Park for instance.

One can describe Paul Weller’s life as a one celebrating music in all his forms from his start as leader of mod-punk band the Jam in the 70’s, then as the leading force in jazz-soul-dance ensemble The Style Council in the 80’s and finally embracing an amazing career since the 90’s mixing influence as diverse as Traffic or Nick Drake. He has been a respected figure amongst generations of musicians, the most famous fan probably Noel Gallagher of Oasis. His first solo albums (“Paul Weller” in 1992 or “Wild Wood” in 1993 for instance) represent exactly the kind of music I would like people to hear when you receive the infamous question “what music do you like?” and that you are dumb-faced as you can not decide to choose amidst thousands of records or artists.

And the more Paul Weller gets older, the more adventurous his records are, which is remarkable for an artist who could have decided to go on doing what he knows best. His new LP “Sonik Kicks” is particularly fresh and innovative mixing 70’s German rock and typical British pop. The band (with the very talented Steve Cradock from Ocean Colour Scene on guitar) arrived on stage and started by playing this new LP in its entirety, which is always tricky as the audience is mechanically less familiar with this new material. Excellent first part anyway with Paul wearing smart italian shoes and a nice suit. The band went back for an emotional 4-track acoustic session before playing more well-known songs from his back catalogue including two The Jam songs (“In the City”, their first single!).

Probably the best show I have seen from this amazing and passionate artist for whom music is a real raison d’être. Here is the beautiful “You Do Something To Me” from the acoustic session.

3. Who : Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers ; Age : 61 ; Where : Grand Rex (Paris) ; When : 27th of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes

It had been twenty years that Tom Petty had played live in Paris until this Grand Rex show and one can not help but asking why such a long time… Maybe it comes from the fact that Tom Petty is quite a reluctant pop star in these glamour ages where authenticity is not really recognized at its own value. Anyway he was back and the crowd was totally forbidding him all this long period of time without a show (see article about the show for French-speaking readers).

After having had the pleasure in seeing once more this year the great Jonathan Wilson for an excellent set (his Facebook page is highly recommended as he took many pictures of this tour), the stage was ready for the main act. Tom Petty is the kind of artist everybody knows when in the music business but if you were to ask who Tom Petty is to the common man, you would have nothing but an embarrassed silence. This is probably no true in the US where he has been one of the key artists for decades but I am sure that even there his songs are more famous than who he is. And songs he had more than enough in this set! I was afraid that he would concentrate on his latest nice LP’s but the set was really well-balanced between covers (Fleetwood Mac, Chuck Berry), side-projects (The Traveling Wilburys, the band Tom formed in the late 80’s with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lyne and George Harrison), pure driving hits (“Free Fallin'”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Learning To Fly”) and very old songs (“American Girl”).

Like Elvis Costello with the Attractions/Imposters, Tom Petty has never been better than when the Heartbreakers are his backing band. These guys literally live and feel rock’n’roll but in a very subtle way. Mike Campbell in particular is such an underestimated guitar player that I would really recommend anyone to (re)listen to a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with a special attention to the musicianship of it rather than the songs.

Here is one of the hits for your pleasure : hear it and hum it back when driving your car!

4. Who : Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band ; Age : 62 ; Where : Bercy (Paris) ; When : 5th of July 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes (note : no pictures or videos taken by your host, Bercy being a bit too large for my camera… These photos come from this site)

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Well, last but not least as they say… I had seen The Boss live for a few times but I must admit that this was by far the best show…and the longest one ever for me with 3h38 of pure pleasure (my former longest concert was The Cure at this same place in 2008 for 3h30). I am personally not a huge fan of long shows and much prefer an intense concert of 1h15 rather than the full one with the compulsory three encores. But Bruce is not a common man for sure as was not as well the French-English-American fellow on my side who enjoyed every minute of it as if it was his last day on Earth.

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Bruce Springsteen was here first to celebrate his new very good LP “Wrecking Ball” which he is currently touring throughout the world. But he had probably as well in mind the hidden mission of celebrating his old pal Clarence Clemons who passed away last year. He did it in a very dignified way, preventing any pathos, which is not a surprise coming from the man. What else can we say apart from the fact that the show was apparently even better than the previous evening in Bercy, with an amazing set list taking tracks from all decades with a joy and musicianship that one can not fail to love without the slightest sight of cynicism. I personally have more and more doubts about these huge shows and only go there where the artist is an extraordinary person/band (eg Kanye West recently or Radiohead soon in October) but these issues do not exist with Bruce as you really feel he plays for you and only you whatever the distance you are from the stage.

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The E-Street did the job as well, although I found Steven Van Zandt a bit shy. The red-headed first lady Patti Scialfa was there (and their daughter Jessica as well who went on stage to dance with her father during “Dancing in the Dark”) but the real stars tonight for me were Jake Clemons (nephew of the late Clarence) and Max Weinberg whose drumming technique has never been so powerful and subtle at the same time. Anyway, this band would not be what they are without the great man himself and tonight Bruce Springsteen was funny, full of energy, giving emotion, dancing and playing like a 20-year old man,…and I do not have any other words to qualify how this man is, except that he has qualities to which we all should aspire to in our daily life.

For more on this show (article, pictures and videos), please click on this nice link.