My music personality and gig of the year 2016: Iggy Pop, Royal Albert Hall, 13th May

Be warned: this post is an excuse to talk about one of the last living heroes: Mr. James Osterberg, alias Iggy Pop! Not really actually as I really think his presence and excellence throughout the year was huge and unexpected and that he deserved this virtual reward.

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Iggy Pop, 13th May 2016, Royal Albert Hall – Iggy celebrating

I let you read the review of his latest LP “Post Pop Depression” which ended up the year ranked #2 in our best of the year list. The good news is that Iggy Pop toured throughout the year for a few shows and that the band which played with him at least during the first part of the year was actually that present on the album.

Iggy Pop, 13th May 2016, Royal Albert Hall - full stage

In particular, I was lucky enough to attend the 13th of May gig which occurred at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I know superlatives are easy and that music reviewers do have sometimes the tendency in being over-enthusiastic for the last album they listened to and for the last gig they attended. But trust me, this concert was definitely in my personal top four, which means a lot for someone who spends his life listening to live music. For the record, the other gigs would be Jeff Buckley in 1995 (Paris Olympia), Radiohead in 1996 (Paris la Cigale) and Tom Waits in 2008 (Paris, Grand Rex). Why was this concert so amazing? First, the Royal Albert Hall is a very specific and beautiful place but I do admit we are just dealing with the environment here. Secondly, apart from the original Stooges, Iggy Pop has never played with such a great and smart band: Josh Homme, Dean Fertita, Troy van Leeuwen from the Queens of the Stone Age galaxy, Matt Sweney from Chavez/Swans and Matt Helders from Arctic Monkeys. Apart from the latest who only played incredible drums throughout the concert, the other musicians alternated between keyboard, guitars and bass with an incredible sensitivity, joy of being on stage and a certain fandom also. Third reason was the setlist which was entirely based on the three best Iggy’s albums, namely “The Idiot”, “Lust for Life” and the new one “Post Pop Depression”. Listening live and for real by such tracks as “Lust for Life”, “Mass Production” or “Fall in Love with me” was really something I never thought I would live.

Fourth reason was the energy, love and enthusiasm showed by the little 69-year old man. He succeeded to keep his jacket for two tracks but as usual he took it off and spent the whole show bared-chested, showing his strange skin which is a mix of that of an old lizard and of an ageless punk rocker. The way he sang these songs was incredible and his voice was really on top. But more important, what made this concert special was the feeling of love and good vibes transmitted by him. I must say I have never seen so many hugs in one concert!

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I was not the only one to feel the quality of this concert as we spotted after the show of group of people, including Kate Moss, Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream) and Mani (The Stone Roses). I recommend also the following linked review by The Guardian who says it all…in better English. Last but not least, this concert is now available in CD, DVD or even better Blu-ray so watch if you want to experience the beautiful moment yourself in your sofa…or elsewhere.

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…and that is not all there is to it for Iggy Pop in 2016. The great American director Jim Jarmusch filmed and produced a documentary on Iggy Pop’s first band called “Gimme Danger” . Jim Jarmusch has always been very much influenced and present within the world of music either through his movies where one could see the late Joe Strummer (The Clash) or the RZA (Wu-Tan Clan) acting or the documentary he did on Neil Young and Crazy Horse. The Stooges only actually released three albums but they are all indispensable and influenced generations of musician and music lovers. Not sure if this is already available everywhere globally but watch it when you can and in the meantime click to see the trailer.

My Californian rock trip, July 2016

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The blog has been away for a few months but for good reasons. First, there has been a change of office in order to deal with the exponential growth of readers all around the globe but the main reason is that one of the blog’s best reporter has been sent to the USA and more precisely in California for a couple of weeks.

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As for all good Californian journeys, better to start with San Francisco not only because the temperature difference is low vs. London but also as this is a great rock’n’roll place. A bit disappointing to be honest as the Haight and Ashbury district is not really what it used to be when bands such as Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead were leading the psychedelic world but one can still sense a bit of hippie vibes when hanging around in the city. Funny as well to see for real places such as Grace Cathedral Park, as sung by Mark Kozelek in his Red House Painters days. The real music highs I experienced were the visit of the great Haight Ashbury Music Center guitar store but moreover the way I found a quite rare American edition of Virgins and Philistines by the Colourfield for only $9! I have been looking for the vinyl version of this record for a long time and found it in a store who had only a few vinyls…in a country where basically this is getting very difficult and rare to find records’ store.

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Change of atmosphere a few days later on our way from the Death Valley to Joshua Tree. “This is 9am ; let’s stop for breakfast… this place seems nice…funny that this is called Bagdad Café like that in the movie…but stop, that’s the one actually!” Yes, indeed, quite unexpected but great. For some reason, this movie has been really popular in France and Japan… and that’s it really but one cannot forget the fantastic cover of the soundtrack done by the late Jeff Buckley.

I would lie if I were to say that visiting the Joshua Tree National Park was only to see the beauties of this weird and atypical place. U2 made indeed the place more famous than it used to be with their 1987 LP and this is also the home of the Rancho de la Luna studio, home for instance of many Queens of the Stone Age records and the latest Iggy Pop LP too. However, I really booked our motel there as it looked nice, cheap and quite easy vs. our overall road trip. What a surprise then to realise at the reception desk that this is actually the motel where U2 stayed and had many famous pictures taken for the promotion of the album…close to 30 years ago now… Great place with just a few rooms and a special vibe as one can guess.

After San Francisco, Big Sur, Sequoia National Park, Death Valley and Joshua Tree, our last stop was in Los Angeles and in particular on Venice Beach. No way for a music and records lover not to pay a visit to Amoeba records which is probably the biggest independent records’ store in the world right now with Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas. Quite an amazing place indeed. I was impressed in particular by the way so many records were so well labelled and organised in such a big store and I must say it was quite easy to find out what one was looking for. But the real totally unexpected event of it was to spot Jesse Hugues, leader and singer of the Eagles of Death Metal hanging around in the store, without nobody really recognising him. I met him for a chat and although a lot of not-so-nice comments have been made about him recently, he was charming and very warm. I could really felt that the Bataclan November events were still very much in his heart and soul and that the guy feels connected forever with French people with what happened that night.

Last but by no mean least, I had been warmly recommended by a Garideche Hell’s Angels’ hipster not to leave L.A. without attending a show at the Hollywood Bowl. I did not manage to make it as the shows were not great when we were there but I had booked in advance to spend our last night at the Greek Theater to see The National, one of my favourite bands ever. The Greek Theatre bears the same concept as the Hollywood Bowl, in the sense that the audience sits outside in an amphitheatre surrounded by a beautiful landscape. Amazing place…and another great show for the National. On top of singing their usual beautiful songs which were chosen amongst all their past LP’s, the band played a few songs from their future LP which is still under a work in progress phase. Very interesting songs with more electro sounds although final versions may be quite different. The band were excellent as usual and their singer Matt Berninger particularly happy to be there, as shown with his recurring beetle-on-stage jokes. Great invitees on stage as well with Adam Granduciel from the The War on Drugs and Annie Clarke from St. Vincent…and a concert from The National would not be the same without the splendid a capella performance of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” so the show ended beautifully.

No “Californication”, neither “California uber alles”, just a great trip in one of the greatest rock’n’roll places in the world.

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Best of 2013 : Top 20 !

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

Albums

 

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

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

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

From Paris, November 2013 concert

The rest of my top 20 (by alphabetical order)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other top 5’s :

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

Reissue of the Year

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

Music Movie of the Year

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

Big bands, small places : Queens of the Stone Age, Paris, Trianon, 19th June 2013 / The National, Paris, Point Ephémère, 24th June 2013

Two very good initiatives from these two great bands : before coming back to Paris in November in the middle of a proper tour, let’s meet the fans in small theatres and show them how we rock. Same principle : tickets on sale at noon sharp, both shows sold out in 15 seconds, one guest maximum and ID requested when entering the theatre. And yes, I must admit I have been fast to get my tickets !

QOTSA Paris June 2013 : band & logo

It had been a long time since I had enjoyed seeing Queens of the Stone Age on stage and the excitement was there, especially as it was my first experience of the band in a relatively small theatre. They are back with a gorgeous new LP (with many guests playing on it, including Sir Elton John –  no kidding) but moreover their leader Josh Homme is back with a new enthusiasm after having a near-death experience a couple of years ago following a complicated surgery.

As in every tour after a new album, the band faces always slight changes and this time we were having a new excellent drummer (Jon Theodore) replacing the great Joey Castillo who apparently ended up on bad terms with Josh Homme. This is always difficult to fully enjoy a set based on a new LP as one does not know already all its subtleties. The new tracks were really great however and bringing an excellent balance with the more famous ones. Amazing how this band keeps up growing and getting more and more popular ; who would have thought about it a few years ago?

QOTSA Paris June 2013 : Josh Homme

Go and get the record and come back to see them in November, such QOTSA are an incredible band on stage.

The National, Paris, June 2013 (Band)

Talking about tiny places, nothing beats the Point Ephémère ! This concert was really a last-minute surprise. The band had to cancel their Istanbul concert due to the demonstrations and riots that were occurring in Turkey and rather than taking a day off throughout their European tour, they decided to enjoy a small show with their French fans and Parisian friends. One of the two Dessner twins (sorry, I still did not manage to tell who is whom between both…) told us the story in a perfect French accent.

The National, Paris, June 2013 (Dessner & Devendorf)

Like for QOTSA, The National just had a new great LP out but I did not have the time to listen to it more than three times. Same feeling however of great new songs reaching the same level of excellence as their former catalogue. Their singer Matt Berninger was on top form and I had forgotten how intense the guy was on stage, being able to have an hyper-sensitivity through slow songs or singing in the audience like a lunatic.

The National, Paris, June 2013 (Matt Berninger)

Fantastic and very moving show for this band which is as well growing up with every album and new tour but still keeping their easiness and humility. Being Barack Obama’s favourite band is probably an asset… They will be back in Paris in November ; go and see them!

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 16-20

20. Queens of the Stone Age

 from : Palm Desert, California, USA / first great sounds : 90’s / style : stoner rock / essential albums : Rated R (2000) , Songs for the Deaf (2002), Lullabies to Paralyze (2005) / Click for more to read in the blog

How can a band be bad with such a name ? Nearly impossible I guess… Built on the ashes of Kyuss by giant red-haired Josh Homme, Queens of the Stone Age is one hell of a rock band, the kind of which you want to scream out of your lungs when you experience them live or you want to play dumb air-guitar at home when listening (loudly) to one of their (great) records. Joss Homme is a very welcoming person and his band has regular guests such as Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Mark Lanegan or even… Elton John if the rumours about the future LP were to be confirmed ! For those who like their rock melodic and heavy, this band is yours.

19. Curtis Mayfield

 from : Chicago, Illinois, USA / first great sounds : 60’s / style : Superfly!/ essential albums : Curtis (1970), Roots (1971), Super Fly (1972)

Probably the most important artist in the so-called “black music” genre, Curtis Mayfield started in the 60’s as leader of the beautiful soul band The Impressions (their most famous song “People Get Ready” being often found in U2’s setlist) before embarking on a solo career at the start of the 70’s. He was one of these rare artists who succeeded in mixing great music and strong intelligent political messages. His masterpiece will remain forever the soundtrack of blaxploitation movie “Super Fly” but there is no such thing as a mediocre Curtis Mayfield. He spent his last ten years in difficult medical conditions after a stage incident but your host will always remember enjoying the great man on stage in the small New Morning theatre in Paris in 1987. Move on Up !

18. Red Hot Chili Peppers

 from : Hollywood, California, USA / first great sounds : 80’s / style : punky melodic funk / essential albums : Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991), Californication (1999), By the Way (2002), Stadium Arcadium (2006) / Click for more to read in the blog

THE only band I went seeing two days in a row when they played in Paris a few years ago first as their sets were different every night and second as they were really great! This band really went from good to great when they left a bit behind them their cartoonish funk rock style and concentrated on songs, still keeping their legendary amazing groove. The rhythm section built on Chad Smith (drums) and Flea (bass) is probably one the best that ever existed whereas this is difficult to find a better showman than Anthony Kiedis. But the real genius of the band has always been my favourite all-time guitar player John Frusciante. He is probably not the most skilled musician in the traditionalist meaning of the word but his feeling and sensitivity are the elements made this band different from the pack.

17. The Cure

 from : Crawley, England / first great sounds : 70’s / style : Smith music / essential albums : Seventeen Seconds (1980), Faith (1981), Pornography (1982), The Top (1984), Disintegration (1989), Wish (1992)

I am not sure if I ever wrote down a word before about Robert Smith’s band and this might be due to them being a bit away from the news, despite regular fantastic shows (last one I saw in 2007 last 3 hours and a half…). This band is known by a few people as “goth” and others assimilate them to pop commercial songs but the truth is that Robert Smith has been a fantastic hard-working man, creating a piece of beauty and originality throughout all his career. Their peak period in the 80’s was particularly impressive (cf. essential albums) but one has to say that The Cure have been reliable since day one and never disappointed music lovers.

16. Talking Heads

 from : New York, NY, USA / first great sounds : 70’s  / style : rhythmic groove / essential albums : 77 (1977), More Songs about Buildings and Food (1978), Fear of Music (1979), Remain in Light (1980), Little Creatures (1985)

A bit as for The Cure, this is my first words about Talking Heads as this is indeed a bit more difficult to have news to tell about bands that do not exist anymore. Talking Heads was part of the late-70’s NY scene (if only I had a time-machine…) and their music was really mixing what the four members were : cold and intellectual (David Byrne on words and rhythm guitar), rock (Jerry Harrison, ex-Modern Lovers) and funky (married couple Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz respectively on bass and drums). 8 studio albums, all of them great and a never-ending influence on legions of great bands (Franz Ferdinand, LCD Soundsystem, etc..) make them my favourite band ever…out of our TOP 15 soon to come ! (I know, poor teasing…).

Queens of the Stone Age: Rated R (2000) – deluxe edition Reissue (2010)

Who : Queens of the Stone Age / Where: USA / Genre: stoner rock / 5 studio albums from 1998 to 2007

Related Bands & Artists : Foo Fighters (Dave Grohl), The Eagles of Death Metal, Kyuss, The Desert Sessions, Them Crooked Vultures, Scream (Mark Lanegan).

Queens of the Stone Age is without any doubt one of the great bands of the 00’s. Leaded by Josh Homme, and created on the ashes of the band Kyuss, they have built a musical environment which is at the same time powerful and melodic with a distinctive guitar sound. The famous “stoner rock” tag does not mean anything per se, except the feeling you may have when playing and listening to powerful music in a detached way (that’s my interpretation anyway when you put aside the drugs stuff…). All five albums are highly recommended and more especially “Songs for the Deaf” (2002) with Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) on drums all through the LP and the fantastic song “No One Knows” but I chose to focus on the 2nd LP which was the one that made them go higher musically speaking and that has just been reissued with lots of extra-tracks. Here are a few pictures of QOTSA at Rock en Seine 2010:

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The original LP was blue and the reissue is now red (very important nerdy detail). Beginning with “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” and listing all imaginable drugs in an enthusiastic way, it goes on with one of my favorite tracks ever “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” : great lyrics, Josh Homme sings better than ever, amazing bass and this amazing strength they often have in being at the same time “powerfully relaxed”. This is a pure classic album with at least three other amazing songs (“Better Living through Chemistry”, “Monsters in the Parasol” and “I think I lost my Headache” finishing the LP with.. horns!). The former crazy-bald-goatte wearing-on stage nude playing-bass player Nick Oliveri is even given the right to sing a kind of hardcore song which is great too. Overall, one of the 10 best LPs of the 00’s (9/10). The bonus tracks are excellent too and in particular the 2000 Reading Festival concert (7.5/10).

To read more stuff on Rated R:

– English reading: http://www.allmusic.com/album/rated-r-r479243/review ; http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/14515-rated-r-deluxe-edition/

– French reading: http://www.w-fenec.org/rock/queens-of-the-stone-age.html

Best of 2007

Avant l’heure, c’est pas l’heure et de peur de rater l’album du siècle qui sortirait le 31 décembre dans l’après-midi, la liste 2007 a pris un peu son temps même si le choix s’est finalement imposé de lui même. Here we go! :
 
Album de l’année 2007 :
 
Cover (Sound of Silver:LCD Soundsystem)
LCD Soundsytem : Sound of Silver
 
Ils sont rares les albums qui s’adressent à la tête et aux jambes avec le même plaisir ; c’est pourtant ce qu’a réussi à faire James Murphy avec ce dernier album. Pour rappel, James Murphy c’est le boss du label DFA, producteur entre autre de The Rapture et New-Yorkais pur jus. Cet album, c’est un peu du Talking Heads grande époque de nos jours mais encore mieux (histoire de mettre la barre bien haut). A signaler également la sortie en CD de 45:33, l’album de commande de I-Tunes et Nike qui doit vous accompagner lors de votre jogging matinal – on se demande à quelle fréquence ! On a aussi beaucoup aimé la série de 45T du titre “All my Friends” avec des reprises du même morceau par Franz Ferdinand et John Cale, un peu comme à la grande époque des sixties où les groupes jouaient les morceaux des concurrents 15 jours après leur sortie. Album of the Year!
Les 14 autres (par ordre alphabétique) :
Cold War Kids : Robbers & Cowards
 
Un groupe qui a commencé par un site web avec ce concept des “Gamins de la Guerre Froide” et qui de fil en aiguille est allé vers la musique de jeunes. Premier album pour ce groupe US qu’on a vu notamment à Rock en Seine reprendre du Lennon version Platic Ono Band. Et accessoirement, meilleur début d’album depuis bien longtemps – les lecteurs de Nick Hornby se reconnaîtront…
 
Foo Fighters : Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Alors oui, on reconnait qu’on aime bien parfois le rock bien lourd avec des cris de rebelles au milieu mais ce serait réduire Dave Grohl à quelqu’un de moins fin qu’il ne l’est réellement. Même s’il n’avait jamais déçu avec ses Foo Fighters au sortir de ses années de batteur d’un certain groupe de Seattle, on attendait toujours l’équilibre entre hymnes jouissifs chantés à tue-tête et ballades subtiles. Ce n’est plus le cas avec cet album, particulièrement bon à écouter on the road.
 

 

 

Iron and Wine : The Shepherd’s Dog
Qu’est ce qui fait qu’un album de tendance folk cool est plus enthousiasmant qu’un autre et finit dans le top 15 ? Pas grand chose, quelques bidouillages sonores et de belles histoires comme Samuel Beam les raconte si bien…

 

 

Kings of Leon : Because of the Times
 
Alors là, on n’attendait pas vraiment grand-chose de la fratrie Followil (pour mémoire, 3 frères et un cousin), ces quatre beaux mecs à l’histoire trop belle pour être vraie : fils d’un pasteur dans le Sud US profond. Et pourtant, quel album dément! Pour résumer, une sorte de Joy Division à la sauce Deep South avec une profondeur et une intensité géniales.
 
Jens Lekman : Night Falls over Kortedala
La surprise de fin d’année ; un Suédois qui après avoir fait quelques albums était retourné bosser dans un bingo (2 jours!) avant de s’y remettre pour un essai et on lui est reconnaissant. Un mélange de pop élégante et de Scott Walker.
Loney, Dear : Loney, noir et Sologne
Restons en Suède pour cette sortie de deux albums dans nos contrées cette année alors qu’ils étaient l’un et l’autre disponibles en Scandinavie depuis 2/3 ans. Une sorte de nounours qui chante des mélodies à pleurer et à siffler en boucle sous la douche.
 
 
Of Montreal : Hissing Fauna, are you the Destroyer?
Merci à nos correspondants de la Grosse Pomme de nous avoir recommandé ce groupe hallucinant dont le leader Kevin Barnes doit vraiment regretter de ne pas avoir pu concurrencer David Bowie au début des années 70 tandis que ses mélodies sonnent proches de la période glam et également tant son goût pour se travestir sur scène rappelle celui du grand David.
Queens of the Stone Age : Era Vulgaris
Un album un peu plus groove que les précédents pour le groupe de Josh Homme mais avec toujours ce son de métal chaleureux et répétitif dont on ne se lasse pas. ll n’y a pas des centaines de musiciens ou groupes importants par décade – Queens of the Stone Age fait partie des groupes qui resteront dans la petite/grande histoire de la musique. Voilà, c’est dit, non, mais.
Radiohead : In Rainbows
Alors, oui, ils ont sorti leur album par téléchargement seulement avec le prix qu’on veut et c’est une révolution, patati, patata,… Mais tout ça, on s’en foutrait si l’album était nul voire quelconque. Car ce qu’il faut retenir, c’est que cet album est peut-être leur meilleur. Et je parle d’un groupe qui a sorti The Bends ! Et OK Computer ! Une qualité mélodique incroyable, des sons simples mais magnifiques, bref battu d’un centième par LCD Soundsystem pour la place de n°1.
Gruff Rhys : Candylion
Plus que l’album de son groupe Super Furry Animals  (“Hey Venus!”), on recommande chaudement le deuxième album solo de leur leader avec des chansons en gallois, en anglais, en brésilien (enfin avec un accent gallois donc bizarre). Impossible d’être de mauvais poil en écoutant Gruff Rhys.
Kanye West : Graduation
On n’aime pas trop comment le bonhomme se la joue clinquant dans le Rap US mais dans son propre intérieur, Kanye West est un fan de musique qui sur ses albums chantonnent par dessus de vieux morceaux Soul déments avec un grand respect et une grande créativité. L’album sans doute le plus enthousiasmant du lot avec entre autre un sample de Daft Punk. A signaler aussi son boulot impeccable de producteur pour Common et son album “Finding Forever”
The White Stripes : Icky Thump
Ce n’est pas parce que Jack White et sa fausse soeur Meg sont moins hypes qu’il faut les oublier. Surtout quand ils sortent un de leurs meilleurs albums dans une année pourtant très riche en qualité. Une superbe synthèse entre leur volonté de modernisation et leur attachement éternel au blues.
Wilco : Sky Blue Sky
Déjà le 6ème album pour le groupe de Jeff Tweedy et un peu comme pour Jack White, sans doute leur meilleur synthèse entre rock US type Americana et leur volonté d’aller vers des choses plus expérimentales. De bien belles guitares sur ce LP et des paroles très justes sur les relations homme/femme
Saul Williams : Niggy Tardust
Plutôt que ses concerts impeccables avec Nine Inch Nails ou bien les albums sortis cette année – Year Zero et son petit frère remixé -, on aura surtout adoré Trent Reznor en 2007 pour l’album à quatre mains composé et joué avec le rappeur Saul Williams, mélangeant pastiches, reprises loufoques, mélodies pop, le tout dans une inventivité rare. Uniquement disponible sur le site de Saul Williams pour 0 ou 5 dollars.
Tout près de cette liste (pêle mêle) :
Klaxons, The Good, the Bad and the Queen, Deerhoof, The National, Grinderman (projet de Nick Cave), The Besnard Lakes, Blonde Redhead, Arctic Monkeys, Battles, Electrelane, Interpol, Band of Horses, PJ Harvey, Hushpuppies, The Soulsavers, Animal Collective, The New Pornographers, Beirut, Panda Bear, Fields, Gravenhurst, Sondre Lerche, The Weakerthans, Spoon,…
 
 
Bah, j’sais pas ou le syndrome Coldplay
 
Eh, oui, on ne sait toujours pas très bien quoi penser du 2ème album d’Arcade Fire (“Neon Bible”) : est-ce du Rondo Venezanio mélangé à du mauvais Dexys ou un vrai bel album emporté par le lyrisme ? Ou bien est-on moins sensible dès qu’un groupe devient trop gros et est trop attendu (cf. Coldplay dans le passé ?). Réponse dans 5 ans. A signaler aussi les relativement décevants 2èmes albums des groupes British suivants : Bloc Party, Maxïmo Park, The Rakes, Editors. Pas mauvais mais beaucoup moins bons que leurs 1ers albums.
Back from the Dead
 
Pas vraiment morts car jamais à la retraite mais pas tout jeunes non plus, nos vieux amis Robert Wyatt, Neil Young et Bruce Springsteen ont tous les trois sorti des très bons albums en 2007. En revanche, The Stooges, Dinosaur Jr., Smashing Pumpkins et Buffalo Tom étaient eux tous les quatre à la retraite depuis plus ou moins longtemps et ne nous ont pas décu pour les retrouvailles par des albums très dignes qui ont d’ailleurs comme but principal de permettre de les retrouver sur scène.
 
 
Meilleur DVD

 
Nirvana : Unplugged in New York
 
Enfin disponible en DVD – pourrait d’ailleurs être chaque année DVD de l’année s’il ressortait tous les ans. Comme disent les Meat Puppets invités pour trois morceaux par la bande à Kurt, “fucking Nirvana!”
 
 
 
Meilleur Single
 
 
Justice : D.A.N.C.E.
 
On aurait pu choisir d’autres morceaux de l’album avec la croix mais celui-ci s’impose naturellement avec l’originalité des choeurs d’enfant. On a mis un peu de temps à aimer Justice mais après quelques mois, on est définitivement conquis – Dance !
 
 
Meilleur Coffret
 
  
The Fall : Box Set 1976-2007
 
On ne remerciera jamais assez certaines coiffures touffues du Grand Est de la France de nous avoir re-connecté avec le groupe du grand Mark E. Smith, ses musiciens interchangeables qui bastonnent, ses ânonnements de voix incompréhensibles et ses sorties incessantes d’albums. The Fall a sorti un album cette année (“Post TLC Reformation!”) et Mark E. Smith a participé à une expérience techno avec les Allemands de Mouse on Mars (“Von Südenfed”) mais c’est ce superbe coffret peu onéreux de 5 CD’s qu’on retient. Une des influences principales de James Murphy et comme dirait le regretté DJ anglais John Peel au sujet de son groupe préféré : “The Fall, always the same, always different”.
 
 
Meilleure Compilation
 
  
Elliott Smith : New Moon
 
Comme si le regretté ami Elliott ne nous avait jamais quitté, cette compilation d’inédits nous ressort des morceaux magiques où sa voix feutrée nous donne toujours autant le frisson.
 
 
Reissue of the Year
 
  
Cowboy Junkies : Trinity Revisited
 
Petit rappel : à la fin des années 80, un jeune groupe alors amateur de Toronto rentre dans une église pour faire un album alternant reprises et morceaux à eux – certains ne s’en sont encore jamais remis et considèrent cet album comme un classique absolu. 20 ans après, ils reviennent dans la même église, accompagnés d’amis proches (Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams, Vic Chesnutt) pour célébrer cet album et le rejouer dans l’ordre. La magie est toujours présente comme merveilleusement capturé dans ce CD/DVD.
 
 
Live Band of the Year : Daft Punk
 
 
En clin d’oeil au Alive 1997, nos Frenchies favoris sortent Alive 2007, soit l’intégralité du concert de Bercy en juin 2007. Une performance live de Daft Punk, c’est plus qu’une suite de morceaux, c’est un véritable travail créatif de remixes exceptionnels sur l’ensemble de leur répertoire. A signaler aussi la sortie en DVD d’Electroma, leur trip californien cinématographique avec références à Antonioni, Lynch ou autres Kubrick.
 
 
D’autres TOP 10
 
 
– NME (fanzine british) :
 
1. Klaxons – Myths Of The Near Future
2. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
3. Radiohead – In Rainbows
4. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
5. Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
6. Kings Of Leon – Because Of The Times
7. MIA – Kala
8. Biffy Clyro – Puzzle
9. The Cribs – Men’s Needs, Woman’s Needs, Whatever
10. Battles – Mirrored
  
– Paste (best US mag.) :
  
1. The National – Boxer
2. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
3. Bruce Springsteen – Magic
4. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
5. Feist – The Reminder
6. M.I.A. – Kala
7. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
8. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
9. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
10. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
 
– Les Inrocks (more music please) :
 
1. LCD Soundsystem : Sound of Silver
2. Justice : Cross
3. Loney, Dear : Loney, noir et Sologne
4. Animal Collective : Strawberry Jam
5. Klaxons : Myths of the near Future
6. Kanye West : Graduation
7. PJ Harvey : White Chalk
8. Patrick Watson : Close to Paradise
9. Alela Diane : The Pirate’s Gospel
10. M.I.A. : Kala
 
– Mojo (Rock Bible Mag.) :
 
1. Radiohead – In Rainbows
2. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
3. Bruce Springsteen – Magic
4. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
5. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
6. The Good, The Bad & The Queen – The Good, The Bad & The Queen
7. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
8. PJ Harvey – White Chalk
9. Robert Wyatt – Comicopera
10. Kings of Leon – Because of the Times

– Ground Zero (où acheter ses disques à Paris ?) :
 
01. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – SOUND OF SILVER
02. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE -STRAWBERRY JAM
03. FIERY FURNACES -WIDOW CITY
04. PANDA BEAR -PERSON PITCH
05. HANDSOMES FURS – PLAGUE PARK
06. DEERHOOF – FRIENDS OPPORTUNITY
07. BATTLES – MIRRORED
08. CARIBOU – ANDORRA
09. BERG SANS NIPPLE – ALONG THE QUAI
10. ELECTRELANE – NO SHOUTS NO CALL
 
– Pitchfork (best music web site in the world) :
 
 
01 Panda Bear – Person Pitch
02 LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
03 M.I.A. – Kala
04 Radiohead – In Rainbows
05 of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
06 Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
07 Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
08 Battles – Mirrored
09 The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
10 Burial – Untrue
 
Voilà, avant de conclure, un dernier mot sur les modes d’achat et d’approvisionnement de la musique à une époque où elle peut parfois être présente et disponible jusqu’à l’écoeurement. Pas d’envie de rentrer dans un pseudo débat économico-évolutif de société que d’autres feront mieux. Juste de rappeler qu’on peut être moderne et adorer la numérisation de la musique (site d’achat conseillé : e-music, le France Loisirs du rock indépendant) sans pour autant abandonner les vinyls et autres CD’s et continuer d’avoir envie d’aller acheter des disques chez Ground Zero à Paris, chez Sounds of the Universe à Londres, Other Music à New York ou encore Waterloo Records à Austin pour s’y sentir bien et avoir de vrais échanges musicaux avec des passionnés.
 
   
Alors, montez les amplis, faites sonner vos voisins et bonne année 2008 !
 
 
 
Stéphane