Best albums of 2016: Death is not the end

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Festival Field Day, 6th & 7th June 2015, London Victoria Park

Back to festival time for the blog after close to 2 years of drought as the last one I went to was the excellent Paris Pitchfork Festival in November ’13. So with a big smile on my face and with the pleasure in having a sunny weather throughout the two days, here is my review of this event.

Field Day 2015, Ride

I had taken my 2-day pass ages ago as I did not succeed in being fast enough to get tickets to see Ride at the Roundhouse late May so going to this festival was an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Held in the beautiful Victoria Park in the North-Eastern side of London, it is almost the first one of the outdoor British festivals of the year. I was particularly impressed by the way the logistics were taken care of and by the fact the Festival was offering a few big names whilst keeping a decent size. 16 bands reviewed and scrutinised below ; I must admit that to me the second day was by far better than the first sold-out one. Pity for the prestigious guests I had convinced to put on their red shoes and dance the blues with me..

  • Poor : 1 Star

I lately realised that the different posts on this blog might appear slightly boring as always describing good to great concerts and/or books, records, etc… I must say that by getting older every day, one wants probably to keep their energy in writing positive things… On top of it, years of listening and spending well-earned money probably made me aware about which gigs I want to go to. This is why a Festival is always welcome for me as this is a very good opportunity to write about bad bands or bands good on records but less so on stage.

Field Day 2015, tUnE-yArDs

This is for instance the case with Caribou who were the headliners on Saturday evening. Their music and record have been a must in the recent years for those interested in intelligent and melodic dance music but I must say I have been waiting for the show to really start and give a bit of emotion or groove… Almost same deception for me regarding tUnE-yArDs. Exclusively the brainchild of Merrill Garbus, this is an almost-female fronted band whose ambition is apparently now only to mix high-pitched indie rock with tribal drums plaid in an African style. At the end of the day, nothing is particularly bad here but you keep hoping the concert will end soon as nothing really happens. A real pity as she was a real new original voice and presence when the band started but it looks from another age now.

Field Day 2015, Kindness

Kindness was the third major deception of Day One as although Adam Bainbridge’s will to mix uptempo melodies with Prince gimmicks and soul chorists looks like a great idea, you actually feel like watching an average band covering funky standards. I thought I would have interesting things to say about new UK band Gulf…but no really apart that it sounded to me like (another) soon to be forgotten UK band.

  • OK : 2 Stars

OK in the meaning that I did not spend a bad moment per se and that I even enjoyed part of the show…but, well, you know, ok means ok…

Field Day 2015, Philip Selway

Philip Selway is the drummer of one of our most cherished band (Radiohead) and that was funny seeing this great musician playing his delicate songs in front of around 300/400 people under one of the tent stages whereas the guy is used to play arenas in front of worshipping fans. Nice to see such a humble man singing and presenting his songs …and he has a nice voice by the way. But shall I be severely spanked to say that it was on the edge of being boring ? Too late I am afraid… Another good band watched on the same stage was the Allah-Las from Los Angeles. Their music is a mix of garage rock with nice 60’s West Coast influence melodies and they sometimes are on the verge of greatness. My only feeling is that their sound is so retro that this is a bit embarrassing sometimes.

Field Day 2015, Allah-Las

Third ok concert for me was that played by hype Scottish band Django Django. Their new second LP “Born Under Saturn” is really good but is it for the real reasons? What I try to say is that they are very clever guys much interested in new sounds and textures. They have everything to succeed as their good sense of melodies have already made them popular while at the same time pleasing the indie rock aficionados…but something is missing here. Not sure what this is (soul ? authenticity ?) but I pretended a bit to have a good time whereas in reality I was a bit indifferent to their songs.

Field Day 2015, Django Django

  • Good : 3 Stars

Either unexpected good surprises or confirmation of what I thought, these are bands I would be really happy to see again if opportunity were to knock again.

Field Day 2015, Ex Hex

The first band you see on Day One is always something special in a festival ; it will not necessarily give you the tempo about what is to come but it might give you a flavour of the mood, the audience, etc… Yossarian is a new band from the UK and their set was impressive in terms of energy and good songs (influences I spotted went from Pink Floyd to early Radiohead). Their first album was offered as a free download for those attending the set so nice initiative too! Another very good act on Saturday was the Norwegian Todd Terje. Although I did not have the best spot to see his very nice lounge/dance music, the tracks he played (mainly from his latest LP “It’s Album Time“) were as good live as they were on record, thanks in particular to an excellent drummer on stage. Perfect music to warm up on a declining sunny day!

Field Day 2015, DIIV

The next three acts were as good as I had expected them to be. I started my Day Two with the female trio Ex Hex. Held by singer/guitarist Mary Timony,  a woman who has been around for many years in excellent different bands, their music is a mix of grungy sounds with nice choirs. A kind of modern female Ramones and this is a real compliment! DIIV on their sides were presenting on the main stage extracts from their soon to come second LP and it sounded very promising. Although Zachary Cole Smith looks like a guy getting out of bed in terms of attitude…and clothes, he was actually very much there and focused. I must say the band made me a much better impression than the last time I had seen them at the Pitchfork Festival in Paris and I cannot wait to hear the new LP. Last but not least, I managed to watch the second part of Mac DeMarco‘s set and the guy was the way we like him. Dr. Jekyll on one side mainly on the way his songs are really moving and beautiful (his latest LP was part of our 2014 Top 20) and Mr. Hyde on the other one jamming sometimes stupidly with this bare-chested viking guitarist or crowd-surfing.

Field Day 2015, Mac DeMarco

  • Great : 4 Stars

Field Day 2015, Owen Pallett

My only real emotion of Day One was for Owen Pallett and his violin. This Canadian from Toronto used to be known in the business through his multiple activities and in particular as the one arranging strings for his friends Arcade Fire. On top of these many extra-curricular activities, he is now a solo artist on his own and his latest 2014 “In Conflict” LP is particularly recommended. What he does with his violin is really amazing but the skill he has with this instrument is always at the service of the songs and melodies.

Field Day 2015, My Brightest Diamond

Day Two was particularly heavy in emotions, starting with the great Shara Worden who plays under the guise of My Brightest Diamond. She is a super talented musician but I was not sure about how her intimate songs would get on stage. Exam more than succeeded as far as I am concerned first because her rhythm bass and drums section were astonishing but as well because of her personality. Here is a woman who can be funny, make you dance, give you the creeps,… and all this in a 40-minute set. Discover her if not done yet.

Field Day 2015, Patti Smith

Patti Smith playing the seminal “Horses” under a beautiful day with on her side Lenny Kaye on guitar ; can life be any better? Well, probably not, due to the fact that she was on top form at 68 years old and keeping the same balance of stamina and poetry as she has been famous for all her life. Nothing much to say apart from the fact the great lady is amongst our Top 100 of all times and that “Horses” is an album I have literally been listening to hundreds of times with always the same enthusiasm. The rest of the set was amazing as well and the band finished with their traditional cover of “My Generation” by The Who. Catch her if you can as she will have a few extra-dates comes Autumn.

Field Day 2015, Andy Bell & Mark Gardener

Last but not least, I ended up this 2-day marathon with the amazing Ride from Oxford, UK. This band is part too of our favourite ones and the least I could say is that a year ago I would not have believed such a tour possible. What made the reunion of the original four-member band possible was the good idea Liam Gallagher had last year of disbanding the post-Oasis mediocre Beady Eye, thus leading for an event all rock fans were waiting for almost twenty years. I had only caught them once in April 1990 as the opening act of The House of Love (remember them?) and that show was still a very strong memory. Faith and belief are two key words in rock’n’roll and Ride played at Field Day Festival as if their story had just begun. They opened their fantastic set with “Leave Them All Behind” and kept the pace as such throughout the whole gig. Not sure what will happen next (is this reunion for long ? any plan in trying to record new songs ?) but tonight there was magic in the air so thank you gents.

Field Day, see you next year!

 

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..

Radiohead, Paris Bercy, 12th October 2012

Radiohead is the band or artist I have seen the most in my humble music-lover life as this Bercy show was my 7th Radiohead concert, starting in 1996 at La Cigale, Paris when they were touring their LP “The Bends”. The reason is probably due to the fact they do not tour as much as they used to, meaning I really try to catch them live when possible as their sets are always a rewarding experience.

What makes Radiohead so good on records but live as well ? :

– first and without a shadow of a doubt the freshness of their music and the choices they did in the past in not being another “expected” band such as, say, your Coldplay or Muse. Every record has been a radical change from the previous one and although it might appear not natural for a few followers and critics and even a gimmick per se, it really put the band aside from many of their contemporaries. Radiohead’s music is the pure opposite of boredom and their ambition is a thing to cherish ;

– secondly, the members on the band have all great personalities and craftmanship. Of course, Thom Yorke is somehow the lead figure of the band but Radiohead is one of the few bands whose members’ names I can all remember. And Jonny Greenwood is a fucking amazing musician on stage…

– their shows are always interesting visually speaking and bring a great mix of music and lights.

So, how was Bercy 2012? Well, excellent thank you very much : a great setlist (including songs from all LP’s from “The Bends” onwards), an amazing contribution from Clive Deamer the second stage drummer, a tremendous light show based on demultiplying screens and above all a sense that the guys were really happy to be here and play, sharing their enthusiasm with a few French words! So I guess see you soon for my 8th time…

Best of 2011 : Top 20!

So here we are again, putting names and feelings and rationality in boxes and ranking… Not sure what for once more and I agree that it may seem pointless in such a history-weighted year with acceleration of events everywhere on our little planet, except as always the envy of sharing a great artistic passion in these troubled times. A year spent seeing many bands live, buying, listening and hearing literally hundreds of records, files, videos, sites, magazines, etc.. and here are the results with a Top 20 albums of 2011. Please comment, buy, listen, take a guitar and play, go to a show, whatever but any little action would mean a lot for your host. If you could particularly give your Top 3 of the year in the comments, that would be very much welcome. And if you had not been on the blog since a year ago, there are plenty of reviews to read so advertise it!

Cover (The English Riviera:Metronomy)  Album of the Year – MetronomyThe English Riviera” Really easy choice this year as this gorgeous LP did not suffer any competitors to get the number one tag, as far as I am concerned. Lead by Joseph Mount, Metronomy is an English band and this is their third album. Last one was quite good but what makes a band go from good to great is always a fascinating phenomena. With a new rhythm section (and what amazing drummer and bassist Anna Prior and Gbenga Adelekan are…), this record left a bit aside the electro side they were famous for to create pop music that is at the same time smart, danceable, intelligent, popular and…well, simply great. I would assimilate this record to the best done by LCD Soundsystem but with an English perspective. In “The Bay”, one of the best tracks of the LP, Joseph Mount sings the following lyrics “…You may have the body but do you have the songs?”. Dear Joseph, you do not have one but eleven fantastic songs and you made by far the album of the year.

Cover (Apocalypse:Bill Callahan)  My number 2 – Bill CallahanApocalypse” Bill Callahan has been an old friend (metaphorically speaking of course) of this blog and you might want to review the two concert reviews done this year on the blog. What makes the former Smog leader get in such a high position in our best of this year? Probably the fact that with these seven songs he succeeded more than ever to make simple and acoustic music sound deep. A very deep voice, deep lyrics and deep emotional music, I strongly recommend this LP to anyone who is attracted to ageless music.

Cover (C'mon:Low)  My number 3 – LowC’mon” Talking about emotion, simplicity, many albums done and two shows reviewed this year, here is my bronze medal of the year. Still based on the core married couple of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, Low plays very very slow music which could be compared to grunge music played for churches. I admit this is an easy shortcut but their music has been a beauty for many years and this record is amongst their best.

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

Cover (El Camino:The Black Keys) The Black KeysEl Camino” The Black Keys took everyone by surprise with this record that went out late in the year in December but their formula is more efficient than ever. Written with the help of DJ Danger Mouse (cf. below), this LP is less soulful than the previous one “Brothers” and closer to their original drums and guitar formula but sooooooooooo good! Video of the year as well for the “Lonely Boy” video ; if your feet do not move, you must be reading this from heaven or hell.

Cover (Rome:Danger Mouse) Danger Mouse and Daniele LuppiRome” I would never have enough words to praise the great Danger Mouse (real name Brian Burton) whose projects are all great, either mixing The Beatles and Jay-Z for the “Grey Album”, making an album with the singer of the Shins or as half-part of the soul/pop/hip-hop duo Gnarls Barkley. This year, he recorded an homage to italian movies of the 70’s with one Daniel Luppi, actually playing with musicians that used to play on Ennio Morricone records. The two guest singers really made the difference here: Norah Jones (her best work ever!) and Jack White always on top and concentrating on his beautiful voice. THE surprise of the year.

 Daniel DarcLa taille de mon âme” Our usual Frenchie in this list is one again Daniel Darc. Please read his story in this blog’s review of his late concert in Paris. It may be a bit tricky for non-French speakers to get it and awkward for French-speakers as well as this is pure emotional music but with a rock’n’roll mindset as well. Most funny lyrics with “J’ai peur des noix de coco depuis Keith Richards, j’irai en enfer avec Richard Hell”!

Cover (Skying:The Horrors) The HorrorsSkying” Very close to the podium for this English band for their third LP. Their second one was already one of the best of 2009 and for this one they decided to produce it themselves. They are now definitely amongst the great and these guys are really in love with music, mixing 60’s psychedelic and post-punk influences in a great way. Faris Badwan is for me the man of the year as he did another great album as half of duo Cat’s Eyes (great name too!). Please click on to read review of their Rock en Seine show.

Cover (Kiss Each Other Clean:Iron & Wine) Iron And WineKiss Each Other Clean” When one clicks Iron and Wine in allmusic website, one gets Iron Maiden as first choice of related bands! Thank you allmusic as I could describe their music as completely the opposite although I have nothing against pure good metal once in a while. Lead by the multi-talented Sam Beam, this record is beautiful as always as far as melodies are concerned but this time with more musicians and richness which makes it above what he did before. Best show of the great Austin City Limits festival as far as I am concerned as well.

Cover (I Am Very Far:Okkervil River) Okkervil RiverI Am Very Far” Another one of these bands coming from Austin, Texas, mixing at the same time epic songs in a very subtle environment. One more, why this record compared to the previous ones done before? Probably a question of timing and the fact that I had been very enthusiastic about the show they played in Paris this year. Discover this band and you will be rewarded.

Cover (Last of the Country Gentlemen:Josh T. Pearson) Josh T. PearsonLast Of The Country Gentlemen” A resurrection here coming from the former leader of Texas band Lift to Experience. After years spent in the wilderness and thanks in part to a Creperie (!) restaurant in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, Josh Pearson gave us this year his first solo LP, mainly acoustic and with very long but captivating songs. Click on for review of the show he did this year at the Café de la Danse in Paris.

 RadioheadThe King Of Limbs” One of our favorite bands ever, Radiohead went on playing tricks with their fans this year by getting this new record out of nowhere at the start of the year with the same policy as their last album “In Rainbows” with download first before any physical format such as the traditional CD or a limited edition with vinyl and newspaper inside. And the actual music in here? Well, a bit weird as impossible to remember a song from scratch but every time the needle gets on the record, one has to admit that Radiohead is still a top band, mixing electro sounds with great rhythm and the gorgeous voice of Thom Yorke.

 Lou Reed & MetallicaLulu” This may be probably the record that brought the most hatred in the music press and web community. I think I had never seen the critics so divided but boy, when people did not like it, they made it known! I personally liked it a lot and felt that this improbable meeting of two kinds made tremendous loud…but quiet music as well. I had seen Robert Trujillo in the audience attending Lou Reed show in Paris this year and one has to know that the great Lou is not in good physical shape, suffering from diabetes. The story “Lulu” is based on the play adapted by Robert Wilson on the story of this 19th century lady who fell down from high society in the gutters of life. Listen without prejudice.

Cover (Undun:The Roots) The RootsUndun” 2011 has not been the best hip-hop year for your host as I did not get the fuzz around the Odd Future crew and as Jay-Z and Kanye West’s common album was nice whereas we were expecting much better. So back to one of hip-hop oldest and best bands to deliver the goods…very late as this LP went out mid-december. The Roots are now hosting the “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” show in the US and it gave them access to their studio on a 24/7 basis, allowing them to experiment basically with whatever they have in mind. “Undun” is based on the story of a guy growing, living and dying in the suburbs and was inspired by an old track from Sufjan Stevens. Mixing genres, beats and singer, this LP is a real grower, better with every listen and finishing with a classical suite (not very common in hip-hop) on which Sufjan Stevens plays the piano.

Cover (Strange Mercy:St. Vincent) St. VincentStrange Mercy” This is the third album done by Annie Clark under the St. Vincent moniker and she really grows in stature with every year that goes on. This pretty and shy young woman makes today the most original music I know from a female perspective but always with a sense of melody. Discover this great artist, either by clicking on earlier review of her reinterpreting Tom Waits or in the excellent 4AD label sessions.

Cover (Marble Son:Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter) Jesse Sykes And The Sweet HereafterMarble Son” One of the best surprises of the year for me as I had associated Jesse Sykes with nice but sometimes boring pure Americana music in the past. Wrong! Her new album mixes at the same time nice melodies and handcrafted American epic songs with a kind of drone Sunn O))) influenced slow metal mood, which made it one of the most fascinating music of the year. And great music to drive to!

 Cover (Nine Types of Light:TV on the Radio) TV On The RadioNine Types Of Light” One of our regular bands of the end-of-the year list, TV On The Radio went from NY to California to record their new LP and one can really feel a more relaxed mood. Are we as surprised by this record as we used to be when we discovered this band? No, for sure. Are they still leading the pack in terms of excellence, creativity and emotion? Yes! If you have never heard about this band, this is a very good way to enter their world. And I give you not one but two concert reviews for 2011 you lucky readers!

Cover (Smoke Ring For My Halo:Kurt Vile) Kurt VileSmoke Ring For My Halo” Or how to be inventive and sound as completely new with a familiar basis (talk Beck or Sonic Youth but on a more laid-back mood). Kurt Vile went one step ahead this year and his album is an ongoing pleasure for whoever wants cool but demanding music. Please check the video I took in Austin to get a better idea of what I am talking about.

Cover (The Whole Love:Wilco) WilcoThe Whole Love” Having a new Wilco record is a bit like what getting a new Pavement record used to be 15 years ago : excitement, pleasure and with the same sound overall but always with a few changes in their sound or song structures. “The Whole Love” could be described as a kind of summary of all they do well, that is to say pure American rock with weird sounds interfering once in a while the whole project. They also regularly are in our best-of but that is very much deserved as Jeff Tweedy and his guys are one of the most interesting and fascinating bands of our times.

Cover (Smother:Wild Beasts) Wild BeastsSmother” This band came on top with their second album “Two Dancers” in 2009 and their latest LP is really as good as the last one, going further in the typical English vein of great voices but with groovier tracks. And they were also at Austin City Limits!

Cover (Gentle Spirit:Jonathan Wilson) Jonathan WilsonGentle Spirit” Not a newcomer in the music business as this guy owns a studio in Los Angeles and produced many records for all the US bands we cherish but this is his “real” first LP. A fantastic album with songs that own as much to Neil Young as to American great vocalists bands, this is a record either to listen to near the fire or on the beach in the summer.

Very close to this list : Arctic MonkeysSuck It And See” / James Blake S/T”/ CascadeurThe Human Octopuss” / ColdplayMylo Xyloto” / Cymbals Eat GuitarsLenses Alien” / Death Cab For CutieCodes And Keys”/ The DecemberistsThe King Is Dead” / Dutch UnclesCadenza” / Foo FightersWasting Light” / Eleanor FriedbergerLast Summer” / Noel Gallagher’s High Flying BirdsS/T”/ Arthur HBaba Love” / Joan As Police WomanThe Deep Field” / JusticeAudio, Video, Disco” / J. MascisSeveral Shades of Why” / Red Hot Chili PeppersI’m With You”/ Suuns Zeroes QC”/ Vivian GirlsShare The Joy” / Tom WaitsBad As Me” / Wild FlagS/T”… and many, many, many records not in this list!

Other top 3’s  (PJ Harvey quite loved in the UK and Bon Iver in the US…):

-> New Musical Express (UK weekly mag.): 1. PJ Harvey “Let England Shake” 2. Metronomy “The English Riviera” 3. The Horrors :”Skying

-> Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. PJ Harvey “Let England Shake” 2. Gillian Welch “The Harrow And The Harvest” 3. Metronomy “The English Riviera

-> Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. PJ Harvey “Let England Shake” 2. The Horrors “Skying” 3. Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues

-> Paste (US web mag.): 1. Bon Iver “bon iver, bon iver” 2. Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues” 3. My Morning Jacket “Circuital

-> Pitchfork  (US website): 1. Bon Iver “bon iver, bon iver” 2. Destroyer “Kaputt” 3. M83 “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

-> Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. The Black Keys “El Camino” 2. Metronomy “The English Riviera” 3. Wu Lyf “Go Tell Fire Mountain” Their “best of 2011 Hors-Série” is particularly recommended as excellent and coming with a CD of their prefered tracks of the year.

-> Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. Girls “Father, Son, Holy Ghost” 2. Destroyer “Kaputt” 3. Baxter Dury “Happy Soup

-> New Noise (French bimester mag.): 1. The Skull Defekts “Peer Amid” 2. Battles “Gloss Drop ” 3. Cheveu “1000″

-> Sound Opinions (US music podcast) Greg Kot’s 1. Wild Flag “Wild Flag” 2. The Roots “Undun” 3. tUnE-yArDs “WHOKILL” Jim DeRogatis’ 1. Le Butcherettes “Sin Sin Sin” 2. Wild Flag “Wild Flag” 3. Das Racist “Relax”

-> Robert Haymoncollins (Bristol, UK,blog): This is a Top 10 with no particular order but we have three records in common

-> Fargo (Paris records store): 1. Kurt Vile “Smoke Ring For My Halo” 2. Bill Callahan “Apocalypse” 3. Ryan Adams “Ashes & Fire

-> Ground Zero (Paris records store): Top 10 – no order – 2 records in common

-> Other Music (NY records store): 1. Kurt Vile “Smoke Ring For My Halo” 2. Zomby “Dedication” 3. Andt Stott “Passed Me By / We Stay Together

Box Sets and Reissues

Always mixed feelings here as do we music fans have to enjoy beautifully remastered editions of great albums from the past with extra tracks, books and photos and do we have to be cynical, knowing that the records industry count on us to buy these overly priced sets? I think the right way as a consumer is to keep balance between what is really new and worthwhile vs. what is purely a repackaged stuff. Not always easy I must say… 2011 was clearly the reissue year : R.EM., Nirvana, The Jesus and May Chain, Paul Mc Cartney, The Smiths, Can, Smashing Pumpkins, Primal Scream, The Rolling Stones, This Mortal Coil, The Who, Serge Gainsbourg, Mikey Newbury, etc…

  Best Box SetThe Beach BoysThe Smile Sessions” To make it short, here is the story of this music : in 1966, Brian Wilson (leader of the Beach Boys) following the success of their LP “Pet Sounds” and wanting to compete with The Beatles’s “Revolver” began work on his “Smile” project. Drugs, mental issues and heavy pressure he put on himself made him abandon the project later in the year and he would never be the same again. A few tracks appear little by little on official albums or bootlegs but the real discovery was to see Brian Wilson back in shape in 2004 playing “Smile” live and recording what could/should have been. Now seven years after, we are given the full package in this box-set for completists (5 CD’s and 2 LP’s) with the full sessions done by the band at the time. This is something that us music fans never thought we would be able to hear but this is true now. If your budget is limited and you do not want to hear 27 sessions of “Heroes and Villains” (which I can understand!), there is a shorter great 2-CD version. BUY IT!

  Best ReissueMarvin GayeWhat’s Going On” Your host will soon be writing a best of the year 1971 as this truly was one of the best years ever for music. Voted best album ever by New Musical Express in 1985, this is the record where Marvin Gaye emancipated himself from the Tamla Motown owner (and brother-in-law) Berry Gordy, wanting to stop singing silly love songs but giving his vision of the world. Best soul music ever for me on this record and the themes in it make it so 2011 : environmental issues, war in foreign countries, corruption and tax, etc… This reissue has one LP with the original mix and 2 CD’s with a remastered version and bonus tracks. Whatever the edition you chose, no one can live without this music at home!

So great year one more as all years for the music lovers since.. forever. A special goodbye to R.EM. who disbanded with dignity this year and whom we will never thank enough to introduce us to American bands  and to the White Stripes. A special thought to the big man Clarence Clemmons who disappeared much too early (“Jungleland” sax solo forever!). Stay tuned to Virgins and Philistines blog and see you soon!

The Velvet Underground: the most influential band ever? A great book + Lou Reed in Paris (Grand Rex, 5th of July) + Velvet Revisited (Cité de la Musique, 7th of July)

I will not be the first and last one to use Brian Eno’s famous quote on the Velvet Underground but this is so true : “the first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band”.

Here is a short summary: young man from NY named Lou Reed (chain-composing songs for others and already subject to electro-shock treatments by his parents) meets young man from Wales named John Cale (avant-garde trained musician) in the mid-60’s to create different music. They create a band with Sterling Morrison on guitar and the boy-looking Maureen Tucker on drums (ancestor of Meg White from the White Stripes), hang around the Factory led by Andy Warhol who proposes to produce their 1st album (meaning doing nothing musically speaking but creating the buzz) and imposes German model/actress Nico on three tracks. The band did only four studio albums in their short career from 1967 to 1970, John Cale leaving after two LP’s and being replaced by Doug Yule.

Cover (The Velvet Underground & Nico:The Velvet Underground) Cover (White Light/White Heat:The Velvet Underground) Cover (The Velvet Underground:The Velvet Underground) Cover (Loaded:The Velvet Underground)

These four LP’s are indispensable for anyone with an interest in the so-called “indie-rock” scene but more generally in songs, music and art I would say. I will not make any comment on them, except that they all deserve a 10/10 (please click on the covers to know more about them and see the incredible amazing songs available on each one). I would recommend a great book that went out in 2009, giving the chance for those who lived this fantastic period of time in NY to talk about their Velvet Underground memories with tremendous pictures too. Apart from the fact that I could hear a “Sunday Morning” or “Sweet Jane” 1,000 times and being as excited and enthusiastic as the first time, The Velvet Underground gives us all contemporary pop and rock music lovers a sense of purpose and history. Remember that this is band that was basically unsuccessful at their period but that went on influencing so many great musicians, like painters did in the past, virtually getting success and recognition much after death.

The Velvet Underground

Last week was a special week in Paris as there were two Velvet related concerts:

  • First one took place in “Le Grand Rex” where Lou Reed played in Paris for the first time since 2007 for an entire performance of his “Berlin” album. Now 69, I found him not in physical good shape, as he seemed to have difficulty to walk on stage. However, after a first hesitating track, he and his band (led by the amazing Tony “Thunder” Smith on drums) began little by little to deliver the goods and that was a great show. Excellent setlist as well mixing classic Velvet Underground tracks and solo Reed ones. I felt a particular emotion when he faded out “Small Town” (from “Songs for Drella” on the story of Andy Warhol) and began playing “Mother” from John Lennon Plastic Ono Band. Here is a beautiful and cooled down version of “Sunday Morning”, the first song on the first Velvet Underground album.
  • The second one was part of the Days Off festival at la Villette and was a kind of pop/rock fan’s dream. A specific band had been indeed created for this event with the following musicians: Gaz Combes and Danny Goffey (Supergrass), Nicolas Godin (Air), Colin Greenwood (Radiohead), Nigel Godrich (fantastic producer) and Joey Warronker (from R.EM. and Beck fame), whaoouhhh! Two days of rehearsals as Danny told us and here we are, as if 40 years ago. The band played first “The Velvet Underground and Nico” in its entirety and then went on playing other great tracks for the other albums. Two female singers went on helping them playing former Nico songs (Feist from Canada and Soap and Skin from Austria). One has to admit that the show was straight with no major change vs. original songs but were played with such intensity and joy by Gaz in particular that that was a hell of a moment. Great initiative from the festival..to be done again next year. Here is another video and a few pictures from both shows.

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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