All Points East presents… the greatest bands in the world! Victoria Park, 2nd and 3rd June, 2018

 

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Last week was held in the very nice Mile End neighbourhood and more precisely in Victoria Park the second week-end of the new All Points East Festival. Actually, the previous week-end was the actual official festival with names such as The XX, Bjork or again LCD Soundsytem whereas the gigs I went to were part of something called “All Points East presents…”. Well, whatever the name, the real treat was in the line-up as basically I could find many of my current or past musical obsessions.

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So, for once, nothing particularly new to write again about these great bands or artists but just the pleasure in sharing a few photos of these two days: This Is The Kit, Spoon, Flyte, The War On Drugs, The National, Courtney Barnett, Patti Smith, St. Vincent and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. My camera was also as overwhelmed as I was by such a line-up as its lens stopped working after a certain stage…

Stay connected as next time, I will write about two amazing bands I had not seen live for decades..

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Best albums of 2017 – Top 25.

Another year goes by and the more it goes, the less it seems to make sense … but not more or less than in the previous 3,000 years I guess. On these philosophical words, let’s focus on what this blog’s editor knows best, i.e. build nice end of the year lists!

Thanks to the nice suggestion of a friend, I started at the beginning of 2017 reviews of the best albums of the month. Quite a nice story and overall it meant that I listened to even more music thanks the intensive use of the streaming service I am subscribed to but also to regular visits to my local favourite stores, Rough Trade in particular. I tried to listen to all styles of music (folk, jazz, metal, pop, world, indie, soul, hip-hop,…) and hopefully without any prejudice. I can therefore proudly claim and make official that indeed big sellers such as Katie Perry, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Miley Cyrus or again Sam Smith have all released completely boring, uninteresting or sometimes atrocious records. Not a question of snobbishness but these records are produced without any invention, emotion or soul. The below list is of course subjective but as every year is a mix of newcomers, mature bands, artist I discovered on stage or people who had an impact in 2017. I could have easily select 100 albums I can come back to on a regular basis but that was not the point.

Top 25 this year and without further due, let’s start with our Album of the Year which is a masterpiece! For the sake of clarity, you can click this year on two links: the first one will take you to the monthly review when this album went out and the second one to a potential live review if any.

Pure Comedy

#1 Father John Misty – “Pure Comedy”. Out in: April 2017Live review What makes a record one’s album of the year. Beautiful music in the way Elton John could do in his peak in the 70’s with a touch of indie rock attitude? Angry and beautiful words against the state of the world ? Sensitive songs about the difficulty in being in love and making a relationship work ? Poetry ? Amazing presence on stage ? Probably all of this but to me what made it album of the year was the constant companionship and pure rough emotion I found in this album since it went out. Joshua Tillman is definitely increasing his game with every release. Stream it, buy it, read the words, catch him live; Father John Misty has made by far the RECORD OF THE YEAR!

Yesterday's Gone #2 Loyle Carner – “Yesterday’s Gone”. Out in: January 2017. This is the amazing debut album of the young London rapper Coyle Larner. His artist name is Loyle Carner as this is the way he used to pronounce his name when he was a kid due to dyslexia. He was also diagnosed as having behaviour trouble at that age but the young man found an escape in theatre and music. After the devastating death of his father in law, he went back to his music and released this very personal album full of great soul and jazz samples. Welcome to the club of great artists young man and keep on bringing a Man Utd Eric Cantona on stage.

DAMN. #3 Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.” Out in: April 2017. Kendrick Lamar does not need this blog to be more famous or more critically appreciated as it looks the whole world loves him now.. and other artists too as he appeared this year on many other tracks (U2, Miguel or again N.E.R.D amongst many others). This is an extraordinary album again and the young man is definitely the current most talented artist. Every new album is an exciting event so let’s hope it will last for a few more extra years.

Aromanticism #4 Moses Sumney– “Aromanticism”. Out in: September 2017. Live review. Those who are familiar with this blog may remember the emotion and positive shock I had whilst catching this young American artist live at End of the Road festival. His debut album is as amazing as he is on stage. He has the voice of an angel servicing very personal, melodic and original-sounding songs. If Bjork was a Black American young man in his 20’s, she would probably sound like him. To discover without further due.

The Loved Ones #5 Flyte – “The Loved Ones”. Out in: August 2017. A real grower that one as it was not in my August 2017 selection. This record made me young again as I discovered them after catching the cover of the record in a billboard in London (as used to be the case in ancient times). This young band from London made what I consider a classic in terms of melody and freshness of the sounds while respecting the grand tradition of great bands from the past such as Prefab Sprout, The Bluebells, Aztec Camera or again The Dream Academy. If such influences do not make you want to discover it, English pop rock bands must not be your taste!

Hot Thoughts #6 Spoon  “Hot Thoughts”. Out in: March 2017. Live review. Another great LP by this truly exceptional band. The difficulty with bands like Spoon (or The National for instance) is that one is so used to quality with each release that one has to favour more glamorous things or new ones. Let’s not fall into this easy trap and celebrate one of the most inventive bands of our times. The more they go, the better they are it seems…

Moonshine Freeze #7 This Is The Kit- “Moonshine Freeze”. Out in: July 2017. Live review. This is the second time that Kate Sable’s band ends up in our best of the year ranking after 2015 excellent “Bashed Out”. Her music is also getting more mature and accomplished and her peers start to recognize such a talent. Folk music for those who do not like it.

Lotta Sea Lice #8 Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile  “Lotta Sea Love”. Out in: October 2017. This is typically the kind of collaboration which should have been interesting at best as very often two great artists playing together do not produce something amazing. This is totally untrue here between the young Australian singer and her male American counterpart. They built a friendship while meeting on tour, experienced a few songs and then ended making a proper LP. Very refreshing Velvet Underground-sounding music and nice words relating the troubles for those travelling a lot for their work (I guess not only musicians could relate to this!).

All - Amerikkkan Bada$$ #9 Joey Bada$$  “All – Amerikkkan Bada$$”. Out in: April 2017. Firstly for those of you who follow with the same intensity as I did “Mr. Robot”, let me precise that this is indeed the same Joey who plays Leon in the series. Having said that, Joey Bada$$ is first and foremost a great MC. This is the third hip-hop album in this selection and although I have been listening to tens of them, nothing moves me more than rappers talking about the state of the world on great soul and jazz beats and samples. Am I really that old-school?

Sleep Well Beast #10 The National  “Sleep Well Beast”. Out in: September 2017. Live review. …and here they are in this selection as well. Not a surprise for regular readers of this blog as I guess they probably have been my favourite band of the current decade. Great album as usual but this time with a leap forward in terms of electronic sounds and songs structure. In other words, they keep on being more inventive while staying what they are. One of the greatest bands of our times.

Painted Ruins #11 Grizzly Bear  “Painted Ruins”. Out in: August 2017. Live reviewGrizzly Bear have once more delivered the goods and this album is probably that where you will find the most beautiful voices of them all. This band keeps on going forward in their own very singular way and every new listen brings extra discoveries and entertainment. A great album to enter their world and potentially go backwards to their previous LP’s.

A Deeper Understanding #12 The War On Drugs  “A Deeper Understanding”. Out in: August 2017. His 2014 album “Lost In A Dream” was a masterpiece although for some reason it did not end in my end of the year list at the time; not sure why… I write “his” as the band is really the brainchild of Adam Granduciel. This new opus is as good as the previous one and the way to describe it best is to associate it with the early 80’s Bruce Springsteen records (“Born In The USA” or “Tunnel Of Love”) with an indie attitude. Play it on and you will dance to it!

Songs of Experience #13 U2  “Songs Of Experience”. Out in: December 2017. A very recent release so once again quite difficult to judge as a record very often needs time to reveal if it is a good one, a classic…or a a fake! My gut feeling is that this is one of U2’s best and a few songs already sound like stadium classics. After the fantastic “Joshua Tree” tour this year, I am looking forward to catching them… backstage for their next tour!

I See You #14 The Xx  “I See You”. Out in: January 2017. This record is on the opposite side vs. the previous one in terms of date as it was released very early in January. I had already forgotten its beauty and I had to listen to it again to get it right. The song “On Hold” is particularly very moving for this blog’s writer ; the reason being probably the great use of a Hall & Oates sample…

American Dream #15 LCD Soundsystem  “American Dream”.  Out in: September 2017. Live review. So it was not really the end of LCD Soundsystem when its leader James Murphy decided to end it all in 2011 at the Madison Square Garden… Well, I guess we should be delighted then as their comeback record is as good as their previous ones, keeping the New York Grooooove Thang sound. One of the best dance machine ever is back!

Slowdive #16 Slowdive -“Slowdive”. Out in: May 2017. Live review. Excellent shoegazing band comeback #1.

Weather Diaries #17 Ride – “Weather Diaries”. Out in: June 2017. Live review. Excellent shoe gazing band comeback #2.

Mental Illness #18 Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness”. Out in: March 2017. Live review. One of the most beautiful and singular female voices.

Masseduction #19 St. Vincent – “Masseduction”. Out in: October 2017. Perfect and moving pop music from a young woman #1.

Melodrama #20 Lorde – “Melodrama”. Out in: June 2017. Perfect and moving pop music from a young woman #2.

Villains #21 Queens Of The Stone Age – “Villains”. Out in: August 2017. No Villains, only Heroes!    

Dark Days and Canapés #22 Ghostpoet – “Dark Days + Canapés”. Out in: August 2017. Former call center British employee ; all roads lead to Rome!      

Witness #23 Benjamin Booker – “Witness”. Out in: June 2017. Blues Soul Punk Rock young master.      

In Spades #24 The Afghan Whigs – “In Spades”. Out in: May 2017. Live review. Second excellent album since they reformed.

Drunk #25 Thundercat – “Drunk”. Out in: February 2017. Soul and hip hop bass player gets solo.

So it looks the power of Anglo-Saxon music is over if you read a few magazines…but my selection is made out of artists and bands from the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland only. I guess this is what moves me the most. The more it goes, the more this selection is well balanced between men and women…although I must recognize that this is still dominated by male US rock.

Other voices’ (websites, magazines, records stores, etc…) Top 10.

You will find below a selection of other lists but there are so many of them that you may also want to go to the albumoftheyear.org website to get an aggregation of them all (© JG from Garidech). Kendrick Lamar being the definite winner it seems…

  • Mojo (music mag): 1. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 2. Nadia Reid Preservation 3. Queens Of The Stone Age Villains 4. A Tribe Called Quest We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service 5. Jane Weaver Modern Kosmology 6. St. Vincent Masseduction 7. Kendrick Lamar DAMN 8. Hurray For The Riff Raff The Navigator 9. Sleaford Mods English Tapas 10. Aldous Harding Party
  • Uncut (music mag): 1. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 2. The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding 3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN 4. The Weather Station The Weather Station 5. Joan Shelley Joan Shelley 6. Richard Dawson Peasant 7. The National Sleep Well Beast 8. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice 9. St. Vincent Masseduction 10. Hurray For The Riff Raff The Navigator
  • NME (not as great as it used to be…): 1. Lorde Melodrama 2. Wolfe Alice Visions Of A Life 3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 4. Father John Misty Pure Comedy 5. LCD Soundsytem American Dream 6. J Hus Common Sense 7. SZA CTRL 8. Lana Del Rey Lust For Life 9. Wiley The Godfather 10. Liam Gallagher As You Were
  • Rough Trade (London, Nottingham, Bristol and Brooklyn stores): 1. Aldous Harding Post Party 2. Ryan Adams Prisoner 3. Bjork Utopia 4. Big Thief Capacity 5. Colter Wall Colter Wall 6. Cigarettes After Sex Cigarettes After Sex 7. The Big Moon Love In The 4th Dimension 8. Jane Weaver Modern Kosmology 9. Thundercat Drunk 10. Here Lies Man Here Lies Man
  • Fopp (UK stores): 1. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 2. The Xx I See You 3. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice 4. Father John Misty Pure Comedy 5. Richard Dawson Peasant 6. Fleet Foxes Crack-Up 7. Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit The Nashville Sound 8. Tinariwen Elwan 9. The National Sleep Well Beast 10. Grizzly Bear Painted Ruins
  • HMV (UK stores): 1. St. Vincent Masseduction 2. The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding 3. The National Sleep Well Beast 4. Father John Misty Pure Comedy 5. Cigarettes After Sex Cigarettes After Sex 6. Alvvays Antisocialites 7. Aldous Harding Party 8. Jane Weaver Modern Kosmology 9. Slowdive Slowdive 10. The Horrors V
  • Greg Kot (Sound Opinions radio DJ #1): 1. Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 3 2. Ted Leo The Hanged Man 3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 4. Sir the Baptist Saint Or Sinner 5. Downtown Boys Cost Of Living 6. Protomartyr Relatives In Descent 7. Vic Mensa The Autobiography 8. Mavis Staples If All I Was Was Black 9. Moses Sumney Aromanticism 10. Priests Nothing Feels Natural
  • Jim Derogatis (Sound Opinions radio DJ #2): 1. The Regrettes Fell Your Feelings Fool! 2. Downtown Boys Cost Of Living 3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 4. Priests Nothing Feels Natural 5. Rips Rips 6. Aimee Mann Mental Illness 7. Vic Mensa The Autobiography 8. The Feelies In Between 9. Wire Silver/Lead 10. Courtney Barnett And Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice
  • Pitchfork (music website): 1. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 2. SZA Ctrl 3. King Krule The OOZ 4. Kelela Take Me Apart 5. Lorde Melodrama 6. Moses Sumney Aromanticism 7. Vince Staples Big Fish Theory 8. Tyler, The Creator Flower Boy 9. Fever Ray Plunge 10. Jlin Black Origami
  • Paste (music website): 1. Jay Som Everybody Works 2. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 3. Father John Misty Pure Comedy 4. Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 3 5. Courtney Barnett And Kurt Vile Lotta Sea Lice 6. Sheer Mag Need To Feel Your Love 7. Alvvays Antisocialites 8. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 9. Mount Eerie A Crow Looked At Me 10. Sampha Process
  • Les Inrocks (French mag): 1. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 2. King Krule The OOZ 3. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 4. Migos Culture 5. Alex Cameron Forced Witness 6. Juliette Armanet Petite Amie 7. Mac DeMarco This Old Dog 8. Orelsan La Fête Est Finie 9. Damso Ipséité 10. Cigarettes After Sex Cigarettes After Sex
  • The Guardian (UK daily newspaper) : 1. St. Vincent Masseduction 2. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 3. SZA Ctrl 4. Lorde Melodrama 5. Perfume Genius No Shape  6. LCD Soundsystem American Dream 7. The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding 8. Thundercat Drunk 9. Kelela Take Me Apart 10. Richard Dawson Peasant
  • The Independent (UK website) : 1. Loyle Carner Yesterday’s Gone 2. Lorde Melodrama 3. Rapsody Laila’s Wisdom 4. Perfume Genius No Shape 5. SZA Ctrl 6. Ghostpoet Dark Days + Canapes 7. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 8. Syd Fin 9. Jessie Ware Glasshouse 10. Trampolene Swansea To Hornsey
  • Magic rpm (French bimonthly magazine, back in 2017…but already over in 2018?) : 1. Grizzly Bear Painted Ruins 2. Aldous Harding Party 3. Midget! Ferme Tes Jolis Cieux 4. Slowdive Slowdive 5. Kadjha Bonet The Visitor 6. Charlotte Gainsbourg Rest 7. Flotation Toy Warning The Machine That Made Us 8. Kendrick Lamar DAMN. 9. Forever Pavot La Pantoufle 10. Big Thief Capacity
  • Noise Magazine (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Quicksand Interiors 2. Blut Aus Nord Deus Salutis Meae 3. Jessica93 Guilty Species 4. Slowdive Slowdive 5. Dead Cross Dead Cross 6. Algiers The Underside Of Power 7. Oxbow Thin Black Duke 8. Crystal Fairy Crystal Fairy 9. Sleaford Mods English Tapas 10. At The Drive-In In.ter a.lia

Spoon – Complete discography and review of the 30th June, 2017 concert (London, O2 Forum Kentish town)

A bit like those great American bands such as Shearwater or The National, I must say I really discovered the greatness of Spoon’s music in 2007 only, i.e. more than ten years after their first studio album. I guess I am faulty by having read too much British press at the time…whereas I got a better balance subsequently while perusing the internet. In musical trends, one generally goes from US grunge to Britpop whilst actually there were many interesting and original bands doing their own thing. Better late than never as they say so here are two reviews for the price of one of one of the best and singular band of our times.

  • Discography: the studio LP’s

 Telephono (1996): Always weird to discover old albums of favourite bands and quite difficult to be objective and not think about what would go next. This is not the case with bands such as Radiohead for instance as I bought their first album the week it went out and I can judge each record by its merit. Anyway, Telephono is a very solid debut album albeit lacking a bit of singularity. Quite influenced by bands such as Pixies or Pavement, this album is made out of punchy and short songs. One could already feel the excellence of Jim Eno on the drums but Britt Daniel’s voice is not as precise as it is now. Best tracks: “Don’t Buy the Realistic“, “All The Negatives Have Been Destroyed” and “Towner“. Rating: 7/10

 A Series Of Sneaks (1998): Not as rough as the first album but not as great and polished as the masterpieces to come, this album deserves to be discovered and listened to with fresh ears. One could very much feel the influences of the 90’s US rock sound on a few songs whereas a few other ones are really singular and could have been written anytime in the 60’s, 90’s or today. A testimony of a band growing up with grace. Best tracks: “The Minor Tough“, “Metal Detektor” and “No You’re Not“. Rating: 7.5/10

Girls Can Tell (2001): Thee years without a new album may appear a long time for a young band but this lapse of time was explained first by being on a new label and also by the release of the excellent “Love Ways” EP in 2000. If such a thing exists, this is the album where the band really found their identities and the “Spoon sound”. By this, I mean getting away from the Pixies / Pavement influences and getting closer to the skeletal drums and guitar sound which makes the band immediately familiar. Not great yet…but getting closer to it. Best tracks: “Everything Hits At Once“, “Lines In The Suit” and “This Book Is A Movie“. Rating: 8/10

 Kill The Moonlight (2002): The energy was there and now Spoon were getting closer and closer to their sound. This album is probably even more interesting in that sense compared to the previous one although I found the songs not as memorable. Typically the kind of records one would describe as transitional, which means very often that it is full of hidden treasures. Best tracks: “The Way We Get By“, “Stay Don’t Go” and “Don’t Let It Get You Down“. Rating: 7.5/10

 Gimme Fiction (2005): The first true great record by Spoon and very often considered as their best by a portion of their fans and the press. Not so much the case here although I must admit this album being amongst their best. This is really the time when the band finally achieved all their potentials by mixing guitar oriented rock with soul influences and once again this skeletal mood difficult to describe but which is really their own. Good to note as well that this is the start of a series of albums beginning with an amazing track. Best tracks: “The Beast and Dragon, Adored“, “My Mathematical Mind” and “I Summon You“. Rating: 8.5/10

 Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007): This is a very special album for this blog as I entered Spoon’s world through this amazing album. It remains for me Spoon’s masterpiece and one of the few fantastic albums in rock music where every track you listen to seems to be better than the previous one. I am torn between recommending this album directly to anyone not knowing Spoon or having them listen to this album later but at one stage in your life you should discover this album. Best tracks: “Don’t Make Me A Target“, “The Ghost Of You Lingers” and “The Underdog“. Rating: 10/10

 Transference (2010): Spoon were probably in an ideal position in 2010 as they were starting to reach a bigger audience while keeping their more indie rock fan base. As they had built their career with a step by step approach, their new record was again a balance between keeping their sound and experimenting. This made Transference another gorgeous album which was almost as good as their previous masterpiece…and finished in this blog’s end of the year Top 3! Nice William Eggleston cover as well. Best tracks: “Written In Reverse“, “I Saw The Light” and “Got Nuffin“. Rating: 9.5/10

 They Want My Soul (2014): A kind of weird record as the band seem harsher and more independent than ever in their words while being probably a bit less inventive than previously. All this is relative really as this is an excellent record full of inventive pop songs. Britt Daniel’s voice keeps on getting better and better as well. Best tracks: “Rent I Pay“, “Do You” and “I Just Don’t Understand“. Rating:  8.5 /10

 Hot Toughts (2017): …and here we end our provisory 21-year journey until Spoon latest LP, which was our LP of the month in March of that year. One of their best albums so far and to me probably their best song ever with “Hot Thoughts“. Interesting to notice also the presence of a weird keyboards and saxophone track at the end of the album, proving if need be that this band is here to stay and ready to innovate. Best tracks: “Hot Thoughts“, “I Ain’t The One” and “Tear It Down“. Rating: 9/10

 

  • Concert Review: Kentish Town Forum, 30th June 2017

Spoon, London, June 2017

So indeed great expectations from this gig as you may guess, knowing that the band have indeed more and more followers, a bit like R.E.M. had in the past before becoming massive. Held in the nice Kentish Town area and in the excellent Forum theatre, I found the band even better that my first gig in 2014 at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

It goes certainly without saying but when one is in a position to live from what they like to do, without any financial stress and a solid critic and fan base, one is necessarily in a better position regarding creativity within a nice context of achievement. This is really what I felt by watching Spoon. You can feel a sense of completeness from the band in their music but also on the fact that they know they have an audience ready to follow them through their musical ventures.

It is indeed a sort of paradox but to me the band have never been so pop and arty simultaneously in their music. Britt Daniel is definitely reaching his potential in being a singer and a leader while the band is excelling in all styles, with a particular mention as always to the great drumming of Jim Eno.

The setlist was really cool and well balanced. I will show to the world my Nick Hornby side below as I associated tracks with albums:

  • Telephono and A Series Of Sneaks: none
  • Girls Can Tell: 1 song (“Anything You Want”)
  • Kill The Moonlight: 1 song (“Stay Don’t Go”)
  • Gimme Fiction: 3 songs (“I Turn My Camera On”, “My Mathematical Mind” and “I Summon You”)
  • Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga: 4 songs (“Don’t You Evah“, “Don’t Make Me A Target”, “The Underdog” and “Black Like Me”)
  • Transference: 1 song (“Got Nuffin”)
  • They Want My Soul: 4 songs (“Inside Out”, “Rent I Pay”, “Do You” and “Rainy Taxi”)
  • Hot Thoughts: 4 songs (“Do I Have To Talk You Into It”, “Can I Sit Next To You”, “I Ain’t The One” and “Hot Thoughts”)

March 2017 Album of the month: Spoon “Hot Thoughts”

…one more month…and what a month it was in terms of quantity and quality of records. This blog’s writer is a pro so he went until listening to music he would never listened otherwise. Lots of records in March, a few regular favourites, a few big names (Bob Dylan), youngsters, veterans, a few deceptions (IAM, Jamiroquai), etc… So for the record: 1) Drake’s new LP is ok but no more 2) If you like Ed Sheeran’s atrocious new album, you probably are very sick and this blog is your cure!

Album of the month: Spoon “Hot Thoughts” – Pop/Rock – Spoon is one of my favourite bands ever and they are actually part of my Top 100. Describing them is difficult as their music sounds so simple and direct that they do not really impress at first. Their strength is probably to be found in this easiness they have in creating punchy and very rhythmic songs with a beautiful sense of melody. This new album is no exception and every new listen brings more pleasure and subtlety. Album of the first quarter by far!

  • Runner-up: The Jesus and Mary Chain – “Damage and Joy” – Rock – A not so unexpected come back from the Reid brothers 20 years after their last album. Very close to their 1994 “Stoned and Dethroned” album in tems of sound, they remain a fantastic force in the industry with their Velvet Underground meets the Ronettes style.
  • Also recommended:
    • Depeche Mode “Spirit” – Synth Blues
    • Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness” – Pop/Rock
    • Sleaford Mods “English Tapas” – Lad’s Laptop Punk
    • Grandaddy “Last Place” – Pop/Rock
    • Thomas de Pourquery/Supersonic “Sons of Love” – Space Jazz
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month Aquaserge – “laisse ça être”

 

2014 Top 15 records

Here we are again… Another year behind us and our recurrent review of the past year and its best records. 2014 was quite a weird year as I felt the overall quality and choice of music was amazing and diverse but at the same time there were not the few killer LP’s that one will remember in 20 or 30 years’ time (hello Kanye West, Daft Punk or Nick Cave in the previous years). However, as in every year, choosing only a few LP’s was a difficult task, excluding either old favourites (Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Jack White, TV on the Radio or The Horrors amongst others) or excellent records that made the professional rock critics’ choices (The War On Drugs, Run the Jewels, FKA Twigs or St. Vincent). Anyway, these are the usual rules of the game so let’s start our Festive Top 15!

2014 Favourite Musical…Thing : Foo Fighters “Sonic Highways”

…thing and not strictly speaking record as we are talking here about a documentary plus the record itself. For those who live in an entire different galaxy, Foo Fighters have been for around twenty years the band driven by Dave Grohl (former drummer of a quite famous band called Nirvana…). I do not have in mind another example of one person having so much success and music credibility in two different bands, knowing he does not play drums but guitar in the Foo Fighters (yes, there was as well Joy Division/New Order…but this is different). Every Foo Fighters record in the past years has been a reward as far as I am concerned especially when one goes over the first layer of their music and finds beauty and subtlety beyond the noisy surface. This new record was based on a clear principle : 8 one-hour documentary episodes about great American cities (namely Chicago, Washington DC, Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle and New York) all directed by Dave Grohl . The band’s new tracks had to be recorded in each city in a legendary studio. The results are beautiful and I recommend to watch the entire series before enjoying the record. Is it without any doubt the best record of the year and one that will count in the years to come ? Not sure… Is it the product around music that gave me by far the most emotion throughout the year. Not one hesitation. Watch it and listen to the record.

The rest of the Top 15 records in alphabetical order

 Damon Albarn “Everyday Robots” Quite surprising but this was the first “real” solo album of Damon Albarn, one of the most hardest-working man in show business after his adventures with Blur, Gorillaz, The Good The Bad & The Queen, Mali Music, etc… A great surprise to be honest as I had not been that enthusiastic with the man lately but here he made a very focused and excellent record… and in particular one of the most beautiful songs of these last years with “Heavy Seas of Love” with Brian Eno.

 The Both “The Both” You will not find this album anywhere else, which I do not understand as it was my almost-number 1 and I spent a few days hesitating… Yes, real important things in life, I know… This is the project of indie rocker Ted Leo (voice and guitar) and the great Aimee Mann (voice and guitar). I must admit I am not really objective about Aimee Mann as she is one of my favourite female voices ever and I would find arguments to love her if she were to sing the phone book. If you like punchy, melodic, subtle guitar rock, do the effort and you will be rewarded by this hidden treasure.

 Broken Bells “After The Disco” Another project from two quite active characters of the music scene, Broken Bells are James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse who is one half of Gnarls Barkley and probably the most requested producer of these last fifteen years. Their first self titled record from 2010 was good but this one went a step forward. Melancholic 4 am dance pop music when things are desperate and full of hope.

 Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” I had seen Mac DeMarco and his band a few years ago and even if one could feel a great potential in their songs and melody, their slacker attitudes was a bit tough to cope on during a full record or show. Complete change with this wonderful album and although the Canadian would hate me for me saying it, he has changed and improved his art with a sense of maturity. This guy might well be one of the classic songwriters of our times so discover him if not done yet.

 Flying Lotus “You’re Dead!” The electronica movement has been more dynamic than ever this year and LP’s by Sohn or SBTRKT were really close to be in the list this year. I chose Flying Lotus as his music is an amazing mix of sounds (jazz, hip-hop, dance, jungle) one can listen at home, in clubs or through one’s headphones. Being the grandnephew of Alice and John Coltrane does not bring a bad DNA neither…

 Kelis “Food” I had lost interest in her for a long time and her latest records were only Ok-ish but what a come-back this year ! For those who are not that young, Kelis entered the musical world with strength at the young age of 19 in 1998 with her first Neptunes-produced LP “Kaleidoscope” and was married to the excellent rap singer Nas. She found an equal interest in cooking and food in the last years and became a chef. Her last LP was based on her two passions and was produced by David Sitek from TV On The Radio. For those who like soul with a modern touch.

 Little Dragon “Nabuma Rubberband” Fronted by the female singer Yukimi Nagano, Little Dragon is a Swedish band which has been doing records throughout the 00’s with a funk/pop/rock formula that found the perfect formula this year with this record. Melodies to hum in the shower and a sense of melancholia made it one of the records that everyone should love, from demanding rock fans to those who love their pop music nice and easy.

 Florent Marchet “Bambi Galaxy” Not sure if living now in London is what explains the fact that there are two French records in the list this year… I had always found Florent Marchet’s music interesting but sometimes on the verge of being slightly irritating. This record is completely different as one can feel this is going to be great from the first note onwards. French-speakers will like the Gainsbourg-influenced lyrics but everyone should succumb to the charms of this cosmic and very emotional music. The kind of future we would imagine sounding like when we were young in the 70’s or 80’s.

 Metronomy “Love Letters” Their former record “The English Riviera” was our LP of the year in 2011 and remains without any doubt in the Top 10 record of the 2010’s. Their latest LP did not have the same immediate sense of greatness but was one of these records rewarding you little by little. Great and simple melodies and a “je ne sais quoi” that made it part of this list without any doubt. Live review here.

 Morrissey “World Peace Is None Of Your Business” Poor unlucky Stephen Patrick Morrissey… Despite a weakening health, he eventually came back on top artistic form and delivered the record we had been waiting for more than twenty years for such a talent… only to see his new record label not really promoting it and getting rid of the former The Smiths singer after a few months. Pity as seeing him back on top of his game after his great autobiography last year was a real pleasure. Re-discover him. Live review here.

  Spoon “They Want My Soul” This Austin, Texas band keeps on making excellent records on an impressive regular basis and one can only appreciate the fact that Spoon start to get more and more famous over their historic fan-base. In line with this year’s selection which has been strongly based on melodic songs-oriented artists, to my mind this is impossible not to like their mix of krautrock and catchy songs. Live review here.

 Sun Kil Moon “Benji” Another busy year for Mark Kozelek between solo concerts, collaborations and this new record under the Sun Kill Moon banner. Beautiful and long songs about death amongst friends and relatives sung with an acoustic guitar with his as-usual fantastic voice. One of this blog’s favourite artists. Live review here.

 Sebastien Tellier “L’Aventura” Our favourite French bearded excentric singer/songwriter, Sebastien Tellier was back this year with a beautiful LP recorded in Brazil. To be listened without prejudice and almost with the ears of a child to be able to jump in the direct, complex and inventive melodies of this album.

 Ben Watt “Hendra” This is Ben Watt’s second album…thirty one years after “North Marine Drive”. In the meantime, he was the driving force behind Everything but the Girl with wife Tracey Thorn, felt very ill, had three children, went on being a well-respected DJ, wrote two beautiful books… and here we were in 2014 with album number 2. Exactly the record I was expecting and hoping to be honest, which does not mean it was not one of the best of the year. Former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler very much involved as well. Could be your late night record or your Sunday morning one depending on your mood.

Other top 5’s :

  • New Musical Express (UK weekly mag.): 1. St. Vincent “St. Vincent” 2. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” 3. The War On Drugs ”Lost In The Dream” 4. Aphex Twin ”Syro5. Caribou “Our Love”
  • Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 2. Leonard Cohen “Popular Problems” 3. Aphex Twin “Syro” 4. FKA Twigs “LP1” 5. Sharon Van Etten “Are We There”
  • Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Beck “Morning Phase” 2. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 3. Sleaford Mods “Divide And Exit” 4. Jack White “Lazaretto” 5. St. Vincent “St. Vincent”
  • Paste (US web mag.): 1. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 2. St. Vincent “St. Vincent” 3. Run The Jewels “Run The Jewels 2” 4. King Tuff “Black Moon Spell” 5. Alvvays “Alvvays”
  • Pitchfork (US website): 1. Run The Jewels “Run the Jewels 2” 2. FKA Twigs “LP1” 3. The War On Drugs “In The Dream” 4. Aphex Twin “Syro” 5. Grouper “Ruins”
  • Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Christine and the Queens “Chaleur Humaine” 2. Damon Albarn “Everyday Robots” 3. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” 4. FKA Twigs “LP1” 5. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains “Piano Ombre”
  • Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. Ariel Pink “pom pom” 2. Metronomy “Love Letters” 3. Donovan Blanc “Donovan Blanc” 4. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains “Piano Ombre” 5. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days”
  • New Noise (French bimester mag.): to be announced soon!
  • Sound Opinions (US music podcast) Greg Kot’s 1. Kelis “Food” 2. Protomartyr “Under Color of Official Right” 3. Benjamin Booker “Benjamin Booker” 4. Mary J. Blige “The London Sessions” 5. Wussy “Attica!” Jim DeRogatis’ 1. Against Me! “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” 2. Ex Hex “Rips” 3. Le Butcherettes “Cry Is For The Flies” 4. Aphex Twin “Syro” 5. Shellac “Dude Incredible”
  • Other Music (NY records store): Top 30 in no particular order
  • Rough Trade (London records store) : 1. Temples “Sun Structures” 2. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 3. Todd Terje “It’s Album Time” 4. Metronomy “Love Letters” 5. Little Dragon “Nabuma Rubberband”

Spoon, London Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 7th November 2014

Spoon, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Band

God how I like this city! There are literally great concerts to attend on a daily basis and the good thing is that sometimes great events occur very near where you live as this is the case with the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, one of the best theatres in London. That was my second Spoon show ; this American band being one of my favourites ever, ranked # 88 in this blog’s Top 100. Last time I saw them was in Paris at the Elysée Montmartre, just before this theatre burnt in flames. It has been remaining closed until now and I hope I will not bring back luck to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire…

Hamilton Leithauser

The opening act was Hamilton Leithauser, former singer with the excellent The Walkmen, whose last LP was one of the best of 2012 but it looks the band is now on hiatus, as is the current correct way of saying “separated”… He played songs from his first LP with just another guitarist and I found the show quite sad, first because the songs are beautiful and intimate but as well because this is always a bit moving to see someone with a career already behind them starting from scratch and having to prove to the audience how good they are.

Spoon, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Jim Eno

Spoon arrived on stage with what one could really perceive enthusiasm and pleasure in presenting to the UK audience (well, probably half of them being Americans…) their new songs for the very good recent “They Want My Soul” LP. For those not familiar with the music of Spoon, you probably actually are if you are a series’ freak as their songs are often used in the best ones of the last years. Theirs is a mix of very easy listening American pop with a real talent for memorable melodies and more ambitious and looping/repetitive music. In other words, the best of both worlds for a band particularly at ease and giving their best on stage.

Spoon, Shepherd's Bush Empire, Britt Daniel

Great show with a very responsive audience and a set list well-balanced between the new album and their incredibly good old songs.

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : Part Two : 86 – 90

I know you have been waiting eagerly for weeks now so here you are with our second episode of our TOP 100 !

90. Blur

 from : Colchester, England / first great sounds : 90’s / style : brit-pop with a soul / essential albums : Modern Life Is Rubbish (1994), Blur (1997)

Not many bands of the so-called Britpop movement of the 90’s have had the honour of being in this Top 100. Why so? Mainly because these bands had a gift to craft good albums and took opportunity to be included in a movement that did not really exist, apart from the will of a few journalists from the N.M.E. in a desperate attempt to pretend that all great was still coming from the UK, but had not real talent. After a traditional and not so promising start, Blur quickly made the difference thanks to two amazing personalities in the band with Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon. In a career made out (for the moment) of seven LP’s, they embraced all kind of styles with passion and envy. Damon Albarn went even further exploring African music and creating other bands and in particular the great Gorillaz. Recent “21” box-set is a must for all those who want to discover one of our great contemporary bands.

89. Sufjan Stevens 

 from : Detroit, Michigan, USA  / first great sounds : 00’s  / style : melodic pop / essential album : Illinoise (2005) / click for more on the blog

Sufjan Stevens is one of the musical joy of this new millennium and would probably never have appeared in the 20th century. The guy is so much representative of musicians we like in our ages : difficult to describe, very much educated and talented, nerdy but nice-looking at the same time, quite shy in real life but exuberant on stage, … With “Illinoise”, Sufjan Stevens had created one classical record which one can listen every other week.

88. Spoon

 from : Austin, Texas, USA  / first great sounds : 90’s  / style : easy/not-so-easy pop/rock / essential album : Transference (2010)

Led by Britt Daniel and Jim Eno (a good start with such a surname!), Spoon is one of those hidden-gem bands which built a strong following amongst music lovers in the last decade. They get better and better with every new LP and their music is at the same time very easy to listen to but with weird and original hooks that really make the difference. I only saw them once in Paris at the Elysée-Montmartre theatre a few days before it went in flames and got closed…

87. The White Stripes

 from : Detroit, Michigan, USA  / first great sounds : 90’s  / style : guitar and drums blues rock / essential album : Elephant (2003) / click for more on the blog

Jack White is a fantastic musician ; I have written it down in shows’ reviews but do not have issue in saying it again. The way this guy came in the 21st century with a very clear view about what his band was about is amazing : precise set of black/white/red colours choice, the mythology between him and Meg White (former wife ? sister ? The Velvet Underground Moe Tucker’s cool reincarnation?), his love of ancestral and authentic blues,…. The White Stripes were never as good as on stage and wrote as well one of the last hymns of our times (“Seven Nation Army”). The group disbanded a few years ago and I am not sure we will hear anymore about Meg whereas Jack is a musical force to bear with, either with his other bands (The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) or with a new promising solo career.

86. Prefab Sprout

 from : Newcastle, England / first great sounds : 80’s  / style : poetic pop / essential albums : Steve McQueen (1985), Jordan:The Comeback (1990)

Paddy McAloon was one of the idols of my youth as the music he created with his band Prefab Sprout was so dreamy at a time when the charts were full of horrors. Paddy was for sure the creator and leader of this band but it would never have sounded the same without the soft drumming touch of Neil Conti or without the ethereal singing of his (then) girlfriend Wendy Smith. Their career had been relatively short in albums considering the fact that Paddy was a real perfectionist. They were famous for a couple of years but came back with the 1990 masterpiece “Jordan : The Comeback” which was to ambitious a piece of work to get on par with the charts. Paddy McAloon sort of disappeared from business life due to a rare illness that made him almost blind but everyone should hear “When Love Breaks Down” if not done yet and (re)discover a tremendous band.

2010 best records

Reminder of 2010 “Best of” list

Une liste élargie cette année tant la production musicale est de plus en plus riche, diverse et exceptionnelle.

Sur le podium, les USA trustent les médailles:

Cover (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:Kanye West)

Gold medal: Kanye West “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

Everything you will love in one LP: style, references, melodies, joy, sadness – Kanye West is definitely one of the greatest. La fable du lièvre et la tortue adaptée à cette année musicale puisque cet album n’est sorti qu’en décembre même si la plupart des morceaux ont été disponibles au compte goutte tout au long de l’année. On peut penser ce qu’on veut du personnage très médiatisé (trouvez un autre artiste nommé cette année passée à la fois par G. Bush et B. Obama) mais le musicien est irréprochable. Un album digne des plus grands artistes des décennies passées par sa créativité, son ouverture musicale (est-ce encore du hip-hop?), des samplings impeccables (King Crimson, Gil Scott-Heron) et ses invités (Bon Iver!). Et surtout des mélodies magiques avec un côté de self-depreciation rare dans une époque plus éprise d’anecdotique que d’authenticité. Album of the year by far. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/my-beautiful-dark-twisted-fantasy-r2055009/review)

Cover (Transference:Spoon)

Silver Medal: Spoon “Transference”

Great Austin, Tx band delivers the goods once gain – when simplicity equals greatness. Un de ces groupes américains qui se construit et murit avec les années. On était un peu passé à côté des débuts de ce groupe qui existe depuis 1994 mais on se demande pourquoi car cette musique a tout pour plaire aussi bien aux amateurs de mélodies qu’aux afficionados du rock indépendant. Que des tubes en puissance dans cet album dans un monde idéal. Go for it! (http://www.allmusic.com/album/transference-r1691709/review)

Cover (High Violet:The National)

Bronze Medal: The National “High Violet”

One of the current best live band succeds in keeping its indie attitude but with more catchy melodies. The National est également un groupe qui se fait sa place petit à petit dans le panthéon des grands avec son dernier album. Les vertus d’une détermination et d’un self belief portées par un chanteur fascinant et des musiciens excellents combinées au fait de se retrouver un jour au bon endroit au bon moment. Ecoutez cet album, craquez sur la voix chaleureuse et suave de Matt Berninger et sur la musique au couteau du groupe, remontez dans les temps les albums des années précédentes et surtout allez voir ce groupe sur scène. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/high-violet-r1805201/review)

15 autres albums (par ordre alphabétique):

Arcade Fire “The Suburbs”

Our favorite Canadians are back to form vs. previous album with emotional lyrics. A tous les déçus de l’album précédent des Canadiens, le groupe répond avec une musique toujours enflammée mais plus sobre et des paroles basées sur le passage à l’age adulte. Welcome back guys.

Beach House “Teen Dream”

Weird and warm songs from this Lynchian Californian girl-boy duo. Les mélodies entrainantes de Victoria Legrand (eh oui, la nièce de Michel) avec les trouvailles musicales d’Alex Scally. Du David Lynch qui se baladerait sur les plages de l’Océan Pacifique.

The Black Keys “Brothers”

Still excellent blues-rock formula from Akron with fantastic songs. La cité du pneu (Akron) nous encaoutchoute encore d’un formidable album de blues-rock au plus près de l’os pour ce duo américain. Leur projet de l’année 2009 (Blakroc) qui mélangeait blues, soul et hip-hop a ouvert des horizons nouveaux à ce groupe qui a de plus en plus de groove dans sa musique. A signaler des performances live d’exception.

Field Music “Measure”

Amazing third LP from this band from Sunderland, England who will warm up XTC fans. Le Royaume Uni n’est pas oublié de notre sélection avec le troisième album des frères Brewis. Très ambitieux album d’ailleurs avec pas moins de 20 titres travaillés dans leur studio personnel de Sunderland. Un groupe qui devrait être énorme tant la qualité de leurs chansons rappelle celles du meilleur XTC. A découvrir.

John Grant “Queen of Denmark”

First solo LP from the former leader of the Czars played with the Midlake musicians. John Grant est l’exemple du miraculé incompris et déprimé devant ses échecs musicaux précédents pour lequel le mot seconde chance a un sens. Un magnifique album dans la lignée de ce que fait Midlake, c’est à dire un rock très 70’s soft mélangé à du pur Indie avec des textes au scalpel. Meilleur titre de chanson de l’année pour “Jesus Hates Faggots”.

Grinderman “Grinderman 2”

Old men rock! Nick Cave’s trash band better than ever. Grinderman est le groupe sans piano de Nick Cave dans lequel sa verve plus blues et trash peut s’épanouir au mieux. Quelle musique et quelle jeunesse. A signaler la créativité instrumentale de Warren Ellis, l’alter ago du bon vieux Nick. Pour réveiller le loup ou la louve qui dort en nous.

LCD Soundsystem “This is happening”

James Murphy’s influences from punk rock, Talking Heads, Brian Eno and Can put him almost in the podium. Nouveau disque exceptionnel de James Murphy et son groupe qui sera d’ailleurs sans doute le dernier sous cette forme. Tout ce qu’on aime dans la musique se trouve chez cet homme-là. A signaler les London Sessions disponibles chez tous les bons vendeurs numériques et en solo l’excellente bande originale du film Greenberg avec Ben Stiller.

Local Natives “Gorilla Manor”

Geeks rule the earth with great indie melodies! Sans doute le groupe qui pourrait disputer à Hot Chip le titre de groupe le moins sexy du monde mais de magnifiques mélodies californiennes pour tout ceux qui veulent prolonger toute l’année le sable de la plage qui reste dans les oreilles.

Massive Attack “Heligoland”

Trip Hop Bristol veterans reinvent themselves with great invited musicians. On n’avait presque oublié cet album mais sa réécoute l’a finalement fait préférer à celui de Gorillaz pourtant également excellent. La marque de fabrique de Massive Attack est toujours présente mais pleine de fraîcheur de nouveau grâce aux invités et notamment Tunde Adebimpe de TV on the Radio et Damon Albarn qu’on ne présente plus.

Janelle Monae “The Archandroid”

Amazing record from this young lady. What Jimi Hendrix would do if he were 20 in 2010. Eh oui, pas moins, une jeune artiste noire américaine qui mélange tout: hip hop, soul, R’B, rock psychédélique, pop, etc… Toujours un immense plaisir de découvrir de tels nouveaux talents. A signaler également une participation croisée avec Kevin Barnes sur cet album et celui d’Of Montreal.

Sufjan Stevens “All Delighted People EP/The Age of Adz”

The great man back from months of illness with more electronics influences than before. Certes, il a été absent quelques mois du fait d’une maladie rare mais en échange on récupère en 2010 deux albums pour le prix d’un même si le premier n’est pas censé être un LP complet… Tout n’est pas du niveau de Illinois dans ces 19 chansons mais il y a quand même des perles. A ne pas manquer en concert pour ceux qui le peuvent.

Teenage Fanclub “Shadows”

Latest LP by the Scottish Band, one of the all-time greatest. Ils prennent leur temps pour faire des albums et c’est tant mieux. The Beatles, The Byrds, Love, The Go-Betweens, XTC, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, rien à rajouter.

Richard Thompson “Dream Attic”

New songs played live from the epic folk rock guitar player. La liste est diverse comme le montre la présence dans celle-ci de l’ancien leader de Fairport Convention, goupe anglais de folk rock des années 60 qui a pour ainsi dire inventé un genre à lui tout seul. Cet album plus qu’un autre car Richard Thompson met plus en avant ses talents exceptionnels de guitariste.

Warpaint “The Fool”

100% West Coast female group for one of the best debut albums of recent years. Certes, le fait qu’une des deux chanteuses soit l’ex-girlfriend de l’ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers John Frusciante (producteur de leur premier EP) augurait du meilleur mais pas autant que la profonde originalité de ce groupe 100% féminin. Un groove étonnant quand même très rock avec des voix magnifiques.

Neil Young “Le Noise”

Still young after all these years. Young and Lanois straight to the bone. Incroyable de pouvoir encore compter sur Neil Young en 2010! Un de nos 10 artistes préférés de tous les temps encore capable de sortir des disques importants. Un disque en pur solo avec un son de guitare incroyable trafiqué par le Canadien Daniel Lanois, producteur entres autres de U2 et Bob Dylan. D’où le jeu de mots du titre…

Egalement recommandés:

Owen Pallett, These New Puritans, Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer, Hot Chip, Broken Bells, Liars, Midlake, Gorillaz, MGMT, Shearwater, Caribou, The Fall, Paul Weller, Band of Horses, Drake, Best Coast, Interpol, Philip Selway (le batteur de Radiohead en solo), Robert Plant, Deerhunter, Swans, The Walkmen, Cee Lo Gren (le chanteur de Gnarls Barkley), Kid Cudi, The Roots et N.E.R.D.