December 2020 Album of the month: The Avalanches – “We Will Always Love You”

I am usually struggling to recommend seven albums in December but this year was different as full of interesting releases…and two great records which competed for the number 1 position. Stay tuned as I will publish very soon my traditional Top 25 of the best albums of 2020!

Album of the month: The Avalanches – “We Will Always Love You” – Everything…but good! – This is only the third album from this Australian band but their best in my opinion. First 2000 “Since I Left You” LP was a sampling classic (but a bit difficult to enjoy) while sophomore 2016 “Wildflower” did not leave much trace. This new record is a different story and although its 1h & 11minutes of music will need more listening sessions, I can already feel its greatness. Having as guests on your own record people like Tricky, Johnny Marr, MGMT, Neneh Cherry, Samanda Maitreya, Mick Jones, Perry Farrel or again Leon Bridges (just a snapshot of the list of invitees…) should not work but trust me, it does! Every track has tens of ideas without losing the melody element or dance attitude. A great record to close the year with.

Runner-up: Paul McCartney “McCartney III” – Pop Rock – I guess the man needs no introduction… Being in a position to listen to an interesting record from a 78-year old musician who basically invented pop music as we cherish it today is something which should almost consider as a reward… The “III” title was thought on purpose as the two previous ones (“I” released in 1970 and “II” released in 1980) were made in the same circumstances: in a home-made studio, Paul playing almost all instruments and without any restrain regarding ideas. This is indeed full of interesting sounds and a few songs are quite…weird (hello “Deep Deep Feeling“) while many other ones are pure McCartney’s, sounding ageless and beautiful.

  • Also recommended:
  • Louis Philippe “Thunderclouds” – Baroque Pop – A very welcome come back from Philippe Auclair, who is as good in making mini rock symphonies as he is in writing about British football!
  • Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Lounge “Doug Carn – Jazz Is Dead 005” – Jazz – Another great record in the “Jazz Is Dead” series, inviting this time fantastic Hammond organ player Doug Carn.
  • Kid Cudi – “Man On The Moon III: The Chosen” – Hip Hop – A new Kid Cudi record is always an event and this new release is no exception
  • Ryan Adams – “Wednesdays” – Pop Rock – Selecting this unexpected record may look controversial… The music is beautiful though.
  • Various Artists – “Rough Trade Stores – Counter Culture 20” – Pop Rock – Great (and long) annual compilation for our Rough Trade stores’ friends, who made the world a better place during this tough year.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Ólafur Arnalds – “Some Kind Of Peace

December 2019 Album of the month: Yann Tiersen – “Portrait”

As every year, the month of December is pretty weird to review as a) there are very few releases b) all the best of the year lists are already available, not counting into account December… So once again, a few of the records below would not have a chance to be part of the selection any other month of the year…which does not mean they are bad. And our record of the month is a real essential release from a great artist. Stay tuned for our traditional best of the year 2019 to be posted soon!

Album of the month: Yann Tiersen – “Portrait” – Pop Rock – The way Yann Tiersen evolved in his artist’s life should be a model for everyone. I was originally not a huge fan of his music when he was made famous through the “Amélie Poulain” soundtrack but it looks it was millions of years ago so good and original his music has been for more than 15 years now. ‘Portrait’ is more than a compilation as on top of three brand new numbers, Yann Tiersen reworked his past catalogue with fresh ideas. The list of collaborators is impressive and self explanatory: John Grant, Stephen O’ Malley from Sunn O))), Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals or again Blonde Redhead. Album of the month heads and shoulders above the rest.

  • Runner-up: Various – “Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture 19” – Compilation – The traditional CD version of the annual Rough Trade compilation with 25 very different excellent tracks. Thank you Rough Trade for your stores, podcasts and showcase gigs and for making the world a better place
  • Also recommended:
  •  Courtney Barnett  “MTV Unplugged” – Pop Rock – Unexpected nice Xmas present from one of the artists of the decade.
  • Stormzy “Heavy Is In The Head”– Grime – (too) long album from the grime prince with a few jewels.
  • Free Nationals– “Free Nationals” – Funk – Old fashioned funk music from Anderson .Paak‘s band.
  • Kaytranada – “Bubba” – Electro Pop – Chilled early morning dance music.
  • Dirty Projectors – “Sing The Melody” – Pop Rock – Interesting live versions from the Brooklyn band.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Michael Kiwanuka – “Kiwanuka”

December 2018 Album of the month: The Bevis Frond “We’re Your Friends, Man”

As usual, the month of December is a very slow one with almost no other releases than compilations or Xmas records. Funny also that all best-of-the-year lists are published very early in the month, meaning new December records have almost no chance to be ranked. I still succeeded in choosing seven interesting records, by cheating a bit I must admit, adding up live albums, compilations or EP’s… Enough to wait until the start of the festive season and the release of my worldwide famous best of list which will be available early January. In the meantime, happy Xmas!

Album of the month: The Bevis Frond “We’re Your Friends, Man” – Psychedelic Rock – Basically the sole project of English singer, songwriter and guitarist Nick Saloman for more than thirty years, The Bevis Frond are typically the kind of band which has always been here, doing more or less the same record every two or three years. Neither revolutionary in style, nor in structure, their records are always excellent, especially when one has more time than usual to listen to them, as was so in December. If you like psychedelic guitars, this LP is for you!

  • Runner-up: Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert “Ghost Stories for Christmas” – Xmas record – The title says it all… Another beautiful and depressing record from the former leader of Scottish band The Arab Strap. To be listened to while reading the lyrics and with a glass of strong alcohol in hand in front of the Xmas tree.
  • Also recommended:
    • Amor  “Sinking Into A Miracle” – Groove Pop – Dance pop/rock from members of various indie rock bands.
    • Various – “Rough Trade Counter Culture 18” – Pop Rock – The traditional annual compilation from Rough Trade shops is already available. You will not like all the 45 tracks but a few of them may change your life. Thank you RT for welcoming me all year long in your nice stores!
    • Bruce Springsteen “Springsteen on Broadway” –  Pop Rock – Not as great in this audio version (but much cheaper) than live in the theater, my advice would be to skip the intros and have a playlist of these classics played mainly in acoustic mode.
    • 21 Savage “i am > i was” – Hip Hop – Released on 21st December, final good record of the year?
    • The Decemberists – “Traveling On” – Pop Rock – 5-track EP from one of our favourite bands from Portland, Oregon
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month Jeff Tweedy “Warm”

Tea time at Rough Trade East with Teenage Fanclub and Bob Mould!

For those familiar with the blog, probably not a surprise to see once again these two bands and artists as they were for the both of them in my Top 100 best of list.

2016 has been quite a good year for them as they are currently on tour and both published excellent records. On my side, I have been happy to catch Bob Mould on stage in February and Teenage Fanclub more recently at the End of the Road Festival.

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The good news for those who have a bit more time than usual like me right now is that one can queue at around 6.30pm for the many private sets organised by the excellent Rough Trade East store. So not a long post but a few pictures of these artists recently seen on stage at that store for two excellent gigs, not that different from those one could see at a festival.

What is great with these shows is that it always ends with the artists signing records and books, having a friendly chat with the audience and who knows even having pictures taken like the ones below of Gerard Love and Bob Mould.

Good opportunity as well to inform my beloved readers that the “records stores” page has been updated. Happy to get your comments or tips for other great stores you have been to!

My London Weekend, 27th and 28th April : “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the V&A and Dexys at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Girls, cocaine, alcohol, rock’n’roll, sex, beers, drugs, television sets in the swimming pool ! Yes, that was my lost weekend when all excesses were made possible thank to the Eurostar and a few quids! Ok, London is not the most affordable city in the world and what it has won as worldwide city on one side, it has certainly lost in authenticity on the other side but this is overall such a great and energizing city that this is always a pleasure for one to get their 2 hours and a half of train to get there.

Be relieved ; I will not talk to you about the beauties of Oxford Circus or Tower Bridge but I will focus on the music spots I went to and share a few things I really enjoyed.

  • 27th April

– 8h13 : Paris Gare du Nord : Eurostar leaving ! ok, not very rock’n’roll… and 9h30 : arriving ihe London Underground St Pancrass station !

-10h45 : “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum

First note that no pictures are allowed in the exhibition, which is a good thing… and means you have to read this article! This exhibition had been forecast for a long time and the fact that David Bowie came back out of nowhere to announce his new LP “The Next Day” in January and then published it in March was a pure coincidence. Of course, he had nicely allow the exhibition’s curators to use all costumes, suits, clothes…and dresses he had worn throughout his career but nobody was aware of such a come-back. David Bowie is therefore again everywhere now whereas I remember the time when we all thought he had disappeared from public and artistic life.

I was expecting the exhibition to really focus on the fashion side as I had read that the clothes were all there and analysed in detail. This is indeed the case but much more than this and this exhibition is COM-PUL-SO-RY fo all David Bowie and rock’n’roll fans! First, the sonic landscape is excellent ; every visitor first receives a great quality headset and the music and words interact with the place where you stay when visiting the exhibition. Then, this is actually about all aspects of the Thin White Duke’s career : fashion indeed but of course music, in and out influences, context, the Berlin years, movies, etc… As far as I am concerned, this is the most moving music event I have seen in ages and there is in particular a spectacular room with a 10-meter high ceiling showing fantastic live performances of the great man. Count around 2 hours for the whole visit such detailed and rich this exhibition is. Go there but book now as this already close to being sold-out.

– 15h00 : Rough Trade East, Brick Lane

Rough Trade East

Please go to the “Favourite Records Stores” page to know more about this shop. I would say that this is a great place in a rising neighborhood which reminded me a bit of Williamsburg in Brooklyn and having such a big records store in these ages is something quite crazy that has to be supported. I would just give a bit of criticism by saying that I found not too much choice for such a big store (compared for instance to Waterloo in Austin or Gibert Joseph in Paris).

– 20h00 : Dexys, Duke of York’s Theatre

Dexys - Kevin singing with Bill Paterson & Lucy Morgan

Good times for great artists or bands who had more or less disappeared : David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine…and Dexys (formerly Dexys Midnight Runners). I had already written a few posts about one of my favourite bands ever, either about their classic LP “Don’t Stand Me Down” or them being in my Top 100. But seeing them live was really something I would never have imagined and I must say that I probably was the happiest man in the universe for 2 hours and a half. Well, me plus the audience in the theatre as it had been a long time since I experienced such enthusiasm through a concert (well, too much concerts in Paris probably as UK audiences are known for having much more communication between artists and fans).

Dexys - Kevin Rowland & Madeleine Hyland

Dexys - Kevin Rowland & Pete Williams

The show was based on the recent great “One Day I Am Going To Soar” LP, played in order and in its entirety. This album is actually based on a kind of love story that ends badly but full of witticism, humour and charms. Amazing leader and singer Kevin Rowland (what a voice…) was on stage with between seven and ten musicians depending on the songs and the least one can say is that this is very rich and soulful music. Having back Jim Paterson on trombone was in particular very moving so important he is in Dexys’ history and sound.Dexys - encore!

The second part of the show was based on old songs from all periods and LP’s and the performance succeeded in growing in quality and stature. It was really the kind of shows you do not want to end. The band finished with a gorgeous playing of their masterpiece “What’s She Like”, with Kevin singing beautifully onstage and…elsewhere!

  •  28th April

After all these emotions, nothing better than a good run in Regent’s Park (1h10 minutes as I slightly lost myself…) and a good English Breakfast with toast and Marmite!

The Roundhouse - London Graham Nash - Proud Camden

I took advantage of my last hours in beautiful sunny London first with a walk in the Camden neighborhood near the famous Roundhouse theatre and more precisely with a visit to a photographic exhibition around Graham Nash’s work. Yes, indeed THE Nash from Crosby, Stills and Nash is as well a very crafted photograph and this exhibition is worth having a look if you happen to be nearby.

Ziggy - 23, Heddon Street

I kept on doing my pilgrimage near Soho, first by buying a couple of records at the Sounds of the Universe store (home of the great Soul Jazz label) and then by taking a few pictures of 23rd, Heddon Street, the place where David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars ” cover was shot. Of course, things have changed and there are no more sense of deep London there anymore but still an important landstone in the history of rock music.

File:ZiggyStardust.jpg Heddon Street - London - April 2013

All these rock places plus hundreds of anecdotes can be found in the nice book “Streets of London” published by Le Mot et le Reste. Not the kind a book to read from A to Z but very enjoyable to have it around when visiting the city.

Now leaving London by the 15h31 Eurostar… but I will be back soon for sure !