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

October 2017 Album of the month: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile “Lotta Sea Lice”

Another busy month for records’ releases; I guess it never really stops except in December. A few big names with listenable but slightly boring records (hello Liam Gallagher, Beck, Stereophonics or Bill Corgan) and a very embarrassing one from former hip-hop legends the Wu-Tang Clan… However, a great number of very good records and as usual very tough to keep a selection of seven of them. Anyway, here we go for October:

Album of the month: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile“Lotta Sea Lice” – Pop Rock – …and yes, I know, Kurt and Courtney… Having mentioned that, when two of one’s favourite and cherished artists of the last years decide to collaborate on a record, one is very often suspicious about the results. In other words, in music, the sum of two great talents on a record is often disappointing. This is not at all the case here and on the opposite, it looks these two musicians improved their games vs. their recent releases (well, this is true at least for Kurt Vile…). They met a bit by chance after making known their respective interest and appreciation in each other’s music and eventually made a song, then enough material for an E.P…and lo and behold here you are with one of the best records of the year. Very laid back and beautiful music and the kind of records we would probably have enjoyed in summer time…so enjoy it everywhere you live and especially for our beloved Brazilian readers!

 

  • Runner-up: St. Vincent“Masseduction” – Pop Rock – A bit samey here as I had a bad feeling concerning the new record from Annie Clark, alias St. Vincent for stupid reasons: she got famous in tabloids, her music looked less and less from the heart, etc… So good news are that I was entirely wrong. Her album is as usual quite different from previous ones and ready to explore electronic sounds but in a very emotional context overall and with beautiful songs.
  • Also recommended:
    • The Weather Station “The Weather Station” – Folk  Rock – Meet Canadian singer Tamara Lindeman and her beautiful Joni Mitchell-sounding songs…with bitter lyrics.
    • Robert Plant – “Carry Fire” – Pop Rock – Another beautiful album from the former Led Zeppelin singer where he mixes his love of rock’n’roll and oriental music
    • Sananda Maitreya “Prometheus & Pandora ” – Every style – 59 (!) new tracks from the artist formerly known as Terence Trent d’Arby. Not everything is great but there are a few gems to discover. And what a joy to hear that amazing voice of his again.
    • Bully “Losing” – Pop Rock – The Sundays meet Nirvana. Great guitar record.
    • Fever Ray “Plunge” – Electropop – Great and weird new album from Karin Dreijer, singer of the Swedish band The Knife.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – The National – “Sleep Well Beast

 

My Californian rock trip, July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Best of 2011 : Top 20!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Sets and Reissues

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

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

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

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

Rain Dogs Revisited, Paris, Salle Pleyel, 22nd November 2011 : St. Vincent stole the show!

The great Tom Waits has just published a fine new LP (“Bad As Me”) and coincidently Rain Dogs Revisited were playing at around the same time in Paris. A bit like The Velvet Revisited, the idea was to play a tribute to one of Tom Waits’ best LP’s with artists giving their interpretations of these great and moving songs. “Rain Dogs” has always been one key LP for your host as I remember buying jointly the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Psychocandy” nad Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs” the same day after NME elected both of them LP’s of the year 1985.

So, how these artists measured themselves against such beautiful songs? Well, there were highs and lows…. :

– very poor : The Tiger Lillies. I had never heard about this band but avoid them at all costs. Completely out of scope while singing and playing Tom Waits’ songs as if there were circus and vaudeville’s ones whereas these are on the opposite songs that come from the heart and soul. The singer was particularly annoying, pulling faces and singing in a high-pitched voice.

– neutral : Jane Birkin. Nothing to say about her. She sang a couple of songs in a professional way but with no feelings whatsoever. And why singing “Alice” which has nothing to do with “Rain Dogs” or the rain theme?

– quite good : Camille O’Sullivan and Stef Kamil Carlens (singer of Zita Swoon). Both singers did their best and showed enthusiasm and a real love of Tom Waits but did not do the extra-mile.

– interesting : Erika Stucky. I had never heard about her but she gave a very personal and scary version of Tom Wait’s songs, mixing languages and atmosphere. Excellent interaction with the audience as well. The thing is I guess three songs were great but I would have been bored about an entire set.

– excellent : Arthur H. The only French artist of the set (which allowed the French audience to understand Tom Waits’ lyrics for once, as he joked) had been named at the start of his career a Tom Waits xerox, which was not far from the truth. However, record by record, he established a true personality and is probably today on the most interesting French artists. One could feel and see that Arthur was not faking on stage and had the real inside feeling, groove and love for these songs. Superb version of “Clap Hands” in particular.

– excellent : the band! Bunch of great musicians under the lead of David Coulter. Special mention to two extraordinary musicians : Terry Edwards (of Tindersticks fame) who in top of being a famous skilled saxophone player is also an excellent guitar player and of course the great Steve Nieve on keyboards (member of Elvis Costello & The Attractions).

– top of the world : St Vincent. Annie Clark as she is known by her family really stole the show. This young and nice-looking lady is a tremendous artist who mixes emotion with a kind of natural weirdness. I had seen her in the past as opening act for Sufjan Stevens and I must say she has gained an impressive maturity throughout the years. I strongly recommend to anyone to listen to the three LP’s she did until now as they are all amazing. The way she interpreted “Downtown Train”, “Tango Till They’re Sore ” and “Big Black Mariah” left me speechless.

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All in all a nice evening and a very good idea which should be continued to celebrate great albums from the past.

And go and see St. Vincent live if you can. Here is her version of Big Black Mariah when Rain Dogs Revisited were on stage in the UK in July 2011 :