Death of a ladies’ man – Leonard Cohen’s studio albums

I never had a simple relationship with Leonard Cohen and his music. Of course, I have always recognised the beauty of his songs and the fantastic character he was but he never touched me like artists such as Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen did for instance. Michka Assayas did in October ’16 one full week of programs on his songs and I must say it made me re-discover the work of this great man. His recent death was a shock as well although one could only see that he was very active until his last days and that he had a beautiful and blossoming life until the end. I thought listening again to all his studio albums was probably the best way to reflect on his work and give my modest feedback…

 Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967): His debut album when he was already 33-year old, which already made him different from his contemporaries who very often had finished their careers at that canonical age. The story is quite known for those interested by his life: Leonard Cohen was already a celebrated poet and writer but he realised there was more money to be made in the music business, hence this first LP. This is probably his most classic and famous record, which bears in particular the worldwide known song “Suzanne”. The formula is simple: Leonard sings with his beautiful deep voice ten songs with a very lean instrumentation (very often a bit of acoustic guitar and that’s it). What makes this record eternal is the quality of the songs and their peculiar stories which were very often true and just facts that Leonard Cohen lived and put through poetry. Best tracks: “Sisters of Mercy”, “So Long, Marianne” and “Hey, that’s no Way to say Goodbye”. 9/10

 Songs from a room (1969) :  …and here is for me the first concrete example of a not-that-great LP from Leonard Cohen… The music is really boring and the sense of melodies very often nonexistent. What remains then for the listener? A few great songs for sure but not all of them can be considered as such. Listen without prejudice and I guess many of you will feel that way. Best tracks: “Bird on the Wire” , “The Partisan” and “You know who I am”. 7/10

 Songs of Love and Hate (1971) : has an album ever had such a clear title? Probably the best album from Leonard Cohen and that where he has never been more bitter or sharper in his words. As usual, if you like very complex music chords, forget it but if your idea of music is authenticity, great lyrics and emotional songs sung from a gravel voice, this is for you. Another recurring trend in his career is the way a few of these songs will have better singers cover them, like “Avalanche” covered by Nick Cave in 1985 for instance. …and as Lloyd Cole once said in a concert I attended in the early 00’s, “Famous Blue Raincoat” is (one) of the best songs ever. Best tracks: “Avalanche”, “Dress Rehearsal Rag” and “Famous Blue Raincoat”. 9/10

 New Skin for the old Ceremony (1974) : this is probably my favourite album from the great Canadian. The main reason is probably because to me this is the one where the musicality is the best, in the sense that one feels a close-to-perfect balance between his traditional guitar sound and added production. Probably the album where you will be able to listen to real sounds of drums and bass… and even a bit of groove. Well, we are not talking about Pharell Williams but you know what I mean,a “groovy” Leonard Cohen. Fantastic songs once again but this has been a recurring thing throughout his career so nothing new here. Best tracks: “Lover, lover, lover”, “There is a war” and “Take this longing” . 9.5/10

 Death of a Ladies’ Man (1977) : this is actually where things start to be embarrassing and awkward… This album does not have a good reputation for sure but I did not care one second about such consideration and was actually quite excited to listen to it again with fresh ears. For those who know their music history, they will be familiar with the fact that this record was produced by the formerly great Phil Spector. However, the guy was already on a declining slope and more famous for his eccentricities than for his work as his masterpieces were already behind him…and yes, that’s the one where he put his gun on Leo’s temples during a recording session. But the issue does not come from this but more from the fact that these songs are overall ok but often poorly producted and sometimes with weak melodies. I challenge everyone to listen to the song “Fingerprints” and find it good. So not his best record for sure… Best tracks: “Paper Thin Hotel”, “Dont’ Go Home with your Hard-On” and “Death of a Ladies’ Man”. 5/10

 Recent songs (1979) : not the most famous album of the great Canadian but one of his most solid ones. After the Phil Spector’s atypical record, Leonard Cohen was back to his more traditional sound but in a warmer way than usual and helped by subtle musical gems. One amazing song with “Came so far for Beauty” whereas the rest can be heard as a long moody sequence of tracks, sung quite beautifully. One thing though that would start a trend felt also in the next records: this is the place where one can feel the first (over?) use of female choirs. I have nothing against it (hello, Spiritualized) but here this is sometimes a bit out-of-place as far as I am concerned. Best tracks: “Humbled in Love”, “Came so far for Beauty” and “Our Lady of Solitude”. 7.5/10

 Various Positions (1984) : the first of his muzak albums… For those not familiar with the meaning of muzak, there is an expression in French :”musique d’ascenseur” (elevator music). This is probably too harsh as there are amazing songs in this record and sometimes the balance is really good as on the opener “Dance me to the end of love”. But overall, the music is much too dated with the sound of these awful 80’s synthesizers and organs and also these female choirs which do not bring anything at all. The best example being by far the immense song “Hallelujah”. The world should be eternally grateful to John Cale for spotting such beauty in this song and covering it in a style that Jeff Buckley would make its own a few years later. Best tracks : “Dance me to the End of Love”, “The Law” and “Hallelujah”. 6.5/10

Image result for i'm your man cover I’m your Man (1988) : as reviewed above, it would be foolish to say that Leonard Cohen had actually retired from music so talking about a comeback would be improper. However, that was the general feeling from all critics and audience alike as this LP was not really expected either in terms of being available but also in terms of music excellence. I know I am probably not consistent by criticizing on one side an album like “Various Positions” and praising “I’m your Man” when one focuses on the musical production. The only difference is that here Leonard Cohen goes until the end of his vision by incorporating only new sounds rather than being between a rock and a hard place. To make it short, this album uses new technology as good as the Pet Shop Boys do it. But that would be nothing without the songs of course and here you definitely have a few classics so re-discover this album again if not already the case. Best tracks : ” First we take Manhattan”, “Everybody knows” and “Tower of Song”. 8.5/10

Image result for the future leonard cohen The Future (1992) : unless you are the #1 worldwide fan of the late great Canadian, I guess everyone with a sense of artistry will admit that the cover with the bird, the heart and the handcuffs will not deserve a prize. ..and yes, I know this cannot be a criteria when one has in mind the cover of the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds“. Anyway, this is neither the greatest Leonard Cohen LP… nor a tragedy as the songs are quite enjoyable in a sort of soporific-it’s-cold-outside-let’s-stay-home-read-a-book-and-play-this-record but this is not the main thing I want from music. As usual, there are a few great songs and “The Future” is one of them for sure but also a few embarrassing moments like the last almost-instrumental track “Tacoma trailer”. Best tracks : “The Future”, “Waiting for the Miracle” and “Democracy”. 6/10

 Ten New Songs (2001) : This record came out after nine years of silence, the longest interval between two albums at a time when Leonard Cohen was reaching his 67th year, so still a young man compared to other veterans. However, one can really feel here a man completely out of current trends, doing what he does best, ie singing calmly deep words with his gravel voice on top of quiet music. Once again, the music background is the real issue here as this is really to inoffensive and cheesy. Not terrible to one’s ears but quite boring to be honest. Not the kind or records you want to play regularly if you like music and the thousands of other exciting records to listen to. Best tracks: “In my Secret Life”, ” A Thousand Kisses Deep” and “By the Rivers Dark”. 5.5/10

 Dear Heather (2004) : First to all, “Dear Heather” is really the kind of record to listen to in specific moods and times of the day… In other words, quite a good record to listen to late at night, ideally in the umpteenth floor of a big tower with a view on the lights of the city… and not the kind you want to hear if you want super exciting music. This album is a bit the extreme for me regarding my muzak tolerance…but the songs are sometimes great, the mood makes sense very often and Leonard sings with the weight and wisdom of a not so young man. The thing is that there are really great songs but also terrible ones (hello “Undertow” and “Dear Heather”). Really difficult to judge on an objective manner so let’s be charmed by the great man and let’s not be too harsh… Best tracks : “Because of”, “The Letters” and “There for You”. 6/10

 Old Ideas (2012) : The first album of what I would call the farewell/twilight trilogy and a very good surprise to be honest. I bought this record quite mechanically I must say as when you are a music lover,… well you buy new records by Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones or Daft Punk whatever the reviews or the possibility of streaming… and this is one of those records I probably listened to a couple of times only. This is a much better one than his three previous efforts mainly due to the fact that the music is warmer and played with beautiful new instruments, such as a banjo or a violin. Interesting to note as well that Leonard Cohen is now clear about how to sing or rather how to tell stories whereas I was not convinced by his previous records. A few great songs and more than ever the regular themes of guilt, religion, disappointment, etc…on which Nick Cave based his career! Best tracks : “Going Home”, “Amen” and “Darkness”. 7/10

 Popular Problems (2014) : Another very solid effort from master Yoda and what a pleasure to get news from him on a regular basis so late in his career! Another thing I like about Leonard Cohen and his albums is that they are short and concise, which is a quality that fellow hip-hop artists should benefit sometimes. A very sharp album, where neither a word nor a note is superfluous. One should not be surprised by the quality of the writing when one knows the author but still there is such youth in these words that difficult not to be impressed. As usual, the music would benefit from having even less and I guess you understood that I am not a huge fan of female choir. What a pity that Leonard Cohen did not record with Rick Rubin as Johnny Cash did, as the results would have been amazing. Best tracks: “Almost like the Blues”, ” Did I ever love you” and “Nevermind”. 7.5/10

 You want it darker (2016) : Hopefully the last album from the great man as a) it looks it was conceived as such by his author b) nobody wants albums like the ones done after Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain died… This record has been out since mid-October 2016, i.e. two/three weeks before the sad news of the passing of Leonard Cohen and the mood is indeed very religious. Although not the masterpiece claimed in a few reviews, this is a beautiful way to say goodbye, thanks in particular to the great production of his son Adam Cohen. I am repeating myself but these last three albums will probably get better and better every year and this is quite difficult to judge such a fresh piece of art. Best tracks : “You want it darker”, “It seemed the better Way” and “Steer you Way”. 8/10

The verdict

14 studio albums in a row in around 3 weeks. Am I clearer on my musical relationship with Leonard Cohen? Slightly… I definitely recommend for anyone to own his four best albums and then one could create a great playlist with a few tracks here and there from the other LP’s. What is sure is that the world has been a better place with Leonard Cohen and that his influence on bands or on a certain way of seeing life and art has been immense. Musically speaking, it is true that not all his LP’s were great but who could say so apart from a few amazing artists? Alternatively, I would recommend one of the recent live albums (London or Dublin for instance) but also the fantastic compilation curated by les Inrocks in 1991 called “I’m your Fan”. Great covers by Pixies, Lloyd Cole, Nick Cave, Ian Mc Culloch…and so on. Probably the best way to listen to these songs is when they are sung by others.

R.I.P. Leo and thanks for making life on Earth a bit easier.

 

Best of 2012 : Top 20 !

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

Albums

 Channel Orange

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

 Animal Joy

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

 

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

One Day I'm Going to Soar

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Sets and Reissues

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

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

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

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

DVD’s and Blue Rays

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

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

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

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

My 2012 Autumn Music Festivals 2/2 : Festival les Inrocks, Cigale-Boule Noire-Olympia, Paris, 8th, 9th, 10th and 13th November, 2012

Your host has been a long time attendee of the Festival les Inroks and even  if I did not go necessarily every year, I try to mark up the dates when the program looks interesting. Quite a weird feeling this year as if I was more than happy to find back on stage more “standard” and guitar-oriented bands after the Pitchfork festival, the opposite was true as well, i.e. I found that the festival was lacking a bit in diversity. The best (worst?) examples being once more these sub-bands, mainly coming from the UK, that bring nothing apart for a kind a “savoir-faire” which I find quite cynical. I am talking here about bands such as The Maccabees,  The Vaccines, Electric Guest, Peace for instance.

Please go to the “shows” page for a complete picture of the bands I saw as I will focus here only on a few bands which I really enjoyed.

Spiritualized (4)

  • Spiritualized (8th November – Cigale)

At last! Spiritualized has been for years one of my favourite bands (ranked #77 in my Top 100) but I did not succeed in seeing them live before. The show was quite in line with my expectations, i.e. leader Jason Pierce being not very talkative and concentrated on his music with a great bunch of musicians behind and two beautiful gospel singers. I would even say that seeing Spiritualized live is understanding what this is about : slow start in almost every song with only a few notes that could be played in a church and then the music starts to speed up little by little eventually reaching repetition and pure pleasure.

Michael Kiwanuka (6)

  • Michael Kiwanuka (10th November – Cigale)

Michael Kiwanuka is young 25-year old young UK singer from Ugandan origins and he published his first album this year. His style is clearly influenced by soul/folk artists such as Bill Withers or the recently deceased Terry Callier, which makes him quite a curiosity in the current music scene. Excellent show live and his voice in particular is as good as on the record. I really appreciated as well the fact that there is a kind of understatement and humility in him and his musicians.

Alabama Shakes (7)

  • Alabama Shakes (10th November – Cigale)

Alabama Shakes is another 2012 revelation. Coming from Athens, Alabama and built around the strong personality of their singer Brittany Howard (what a name!), their music is not very far from that of Michael Kiwanuka in the mindset as their sound is clearly retro-soul oriented but in a modern way. In other words, this band is really part of the “now” but has the modesty not to create anything new but adopting great songs from the past. The musicians are really efficient on stage but the real star there is by far Brittany who has a real strong presence on stage ; the Cigale was on fire!

Pulp (4)

  • Pulp (13th November – Olympia)

After a short two-day break, back to the festival les Inrocks to see a band I had not seen live before actually : Pulp! The band was on indefinite hiatus for years and their singer Jarvis Cocker had a solid solo career until they started to play a few shows two years ago and went on playing throughout the world. It had been years since they did not play Paris although Jarvis is familiar with the city as he lives there all year-long.

So how was it? Well, very good show for a very good band if I may say but… Of course, all the Britpop hits were there and the crowd went hectic in particular when great songs such as “Disco 2000” or “Common People” were played but I was personally feeling a kind of inauthentic atmosphere, as in “let’s show the world that this concert is amazing and that I am great being part of the lucky ones”. The fact in having Jarvis speaking bad French between every song completely took out all emotion as fas as I was concerned. Let’s not be negative as the show was overall very good ; the climax being a fantastic version of “This is Hardcore“.

See you next year les Inrocks and enjoy my video of “Babies” :

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 76 – 80

Follow-up of our TOP 100. As a reminder, clicking on the title related to the artist/band will give you more information about them.

80. The Colourfield / Terry Hall

from : Manchester, England / first great sounds : 80’s / style : sensitive pop/ essential album : Virgins and Philistines (1985)

Terry Hall was/is the main singer in great UK ska band The Specials. All his career has been made of musical experiences with different partners, sometimes with artistic or commercial success…and sometimes not. The Colourfield was a band he created with Toby Lyons in the 80’s and they made two LP’s only, the second one being nice but very 80’s sounding. Which leaves us therefore with their first LP….whih is a real masterpiece and sounds as fresh today as it did 27 years ago. I already reviewed this album when doing the best of 1985 and its title might have influenced this blog…

79. Creedence Clearwater Revival

La Chanson de la Semaine 58 dans Musique & Music creedence-clearwater-revival-reunions-617-4091 from : El Cerrito, California, USA  / first great sounds : 60’s  / style : pure american music / essential albums : Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968), Bayou Country (1969)

Lead by John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival represents as far as I am concerned the quintessence of American music. In other words, this band had American country-rock basics but went way far away creating punchy soul-influenced songs, sometimes lasting for a very long time, never in a “muso” way but on the contrary on a hyper sensitive one. Difficult music to describe actually except one could say it could satisfy a very large audience coming from very different universes. Hear their cover of “I heard it through the grapevine” and you will understand what I am trying to write.

78. Phoenix

from : Versailles, France / first great sounds : 00’s  / style : euphoric pop/ essential albums : United (2000) / Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)

After years of not knowing if admitting having done my studies partly in Versailles was something to be proud or ashamed, the early 00’s brought a new wave of great French bands, allowing to answer “yes” to this question. I remember not understanding why such a melodic and creative band could not be more successful when I saw them live in Strasbourg at the time of their second LP in a half empty concert hall of eighty people… But they kept oneplaying and recording and their talent has eventually being recognized, which is justice. A band to recommend to see live as they are particularly great when on stage.

77. Spiritualized

 

12 from : Rugby, England/ first great sounds : 90’s  / style : dreamy repetitive gospel-rock  / essential album : Ladies and Gentlemen…We Are Floating In Space (1997)

Essentially the child of Jason Pierce which he created after disbanded the great Spacemen 3, Spiritualized has been a band which only did good or great records in their whole career. The formula is indeed often the same and based on a slow mantra that accelerates during the length of the song and therefore creates a repetitive and hypnotic atmosphere but with something else on top brought by Jason Pierce. Their 1997 masterpiece is the kind of record everyone should play loudly at home often and even if Jason Pierce has been closed to death in the past years following a complicated surgery, the guy is with us more than ever, as can be heard in their great “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light” 2012 recent LP.

76. Ride

 from : Oxford, England / first great sounds : 90’s  / style : shoegazing godfathers  / essential albums : Nowhere (1990), Going Blank Again (1992)

I remember very well starting the 90’s, reading the NME talking about the first EP by an amazing new band called Ride and having bought this same record. Quite magical the way young and exciting new bands can arrive out of nowhere… I saw them as well opening for then very good The House of Love and the band played probably with more intensity compared to the main act. They did not last very long (1990-1996) but their melodic fuzzy rock gave us four beautiful studio albums and many great EP’s. Andy Bell and Mark Gardener went on having a so-so career after this (Andy being the bass player in Oasis!) and never managed to get better than their first records. The first two albums have been reissued so get them if not the case yet.