February 2020 Album of the month: Greg Dulli – “Random Desire”

I have a confession to make… This is getting more and more difficult to cope with this blog’s ambition of selecting the best albums for each month. There are so many releases in all kinds of genre. I tired once again this month to listen to as many records as possible in indie rock, French pop, jazz, hip hop, soul or again metal. It means though that very often I did not succeed in having more than one real proper listening to an album. Not ideal nor satisfactory but a Jedi has to trust their own instinct I guess…

Album of the month: Greg Dulli – “Random Desire” – Soul Heavy Rock – I am very happy to give this honorary reward to one of my favourite singer of all times, period. For those not familiar with the man, Greg Dulli is the singer of The Afghan Whigs, one of the best American bands of the last thirty years. The band had reformed at the start of the previous decade after being on hiatus for close to fifteen years with two new excellent albums (‘Do To The Beast‘ in 2014 and ‘In Spades‘ in 2017) but their future is once more uncertain now with the passing of guitarist Dave Rosser. Greg Dulli has always been a collaborative artist but although his work out of the band has always been of interest, I personally thought he was at his best while playing with his original crew. …but this was before this splendid new album, apparently the first under his own name, where one can find his very ‘noir’ style which mixes grunge rock and heavy soul music. A perfect record to listen to when the night gets really dark and silent.

  • Runner-up: Tame Impala – “The Slow Rush” – Pop Rock – Album #4 for one of the best current bands to emerge from Australia in the early 10’s and their first since 2015’s “Currents“, which to me was showing signs of slowing down. It looks the 5-year break between releases was a positive one for Kevin Parker and his band because this record sounds fresh and exciting. A few rock critics mentioned their frustration on the lack of guitar playing but to me this is actually what makes this record so good. Songs are also more focused than they used to be and the vinyl cover is splendid so no reason not to jump enthusiastically in Tame Impala new record.
  • Also recommended:
  •  Frazey Ford  “U Kin B The Sun” – Country Soul – Beautiful moving record from the former member of Canada’s The Be Good Tanyas.
  • King Krule “Man Alive!”– Krulian Music – Not as extraordinary as his previous “The Ooz” LP, Archy Marshall’s new album remains unique in sounds and moods. An artist not to miss at any cost on stage if you can.
  • Princess Nokia – “Everything Is Beautiful” & “Everything Sucks” – Hip Hop – Two simultaneous releases from NY female rapper, both of them as fun as they are ambitious.
  • Real Estate – “The Main Thing” – American Pop Rock – Album #5 from the New Jersey band. Every new album is better than the previous one so to be listened now…before the next one to be released!
  • Jeremy Cunningham – “The Weather Up There” – Jazz – New confessional album from Chicago’s jazz drummer. A beautiful tribute to his late deceased brother.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Torres – “Silver Tongue
Two playlists to listen to randomly: the first with all seven records of the month since the start of the year (meaning all records of this selection plus those of January 2020) and the other one with all records I listened to for February (meaning more than 60 hours of music…).

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

More than grunge – Two great American bands: The Afghan Whigs (Koko, London, 30th May 2017) and Buffalo Tom (Islington Assembly Hall, London, 9th June 2017)

These two bands have many things in common: they were considered part of the grunge movement whereas in reality their roots are more to be found in traditional American music, they have great leaders/singers, they stopped for many years after the 90’s, they recently came back though…and your host had the pleasure in catching them live in a 10-day period. No excuse then not to do a review of these concerts.

  • The Afghan Whigs – London, Koko – 30th May 2017

No need to tell my whole story as not fascinating but I decided to go and try my luck literally one hour before the start of the show after a long and tiring road trip from France. I was rewarded thanks to a nice lady who sold me the ticket of her sick husband…for £10! And this for a band for which I came especially to London when I was not living in London in 2012 (I’ll be your mirror Festival)… On the other side, I lost all my pictures of the concert due to a computer issue so I guess bad and good news were balanced.

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Although I had seen a great solo concert of their leader Greg Dulli last year, this concert from The Afghan Whigs was at the same place as last time in 2015. Koko (formerly known as the Camden Palace) is one of the most extraordinary theatre I know and seeing this great band again in this same place was really great.

Not sure what I can add on this band which to me is one of the best ever. Their new record “In Spades” has recently been this blog’s album of the month. The way the setlist was built was particularly remarkable as the new songs from the two latest LP’s were totally integrated with older classics, such as “Gentlemen” for instance. Despite Greg’s fight against one or two members of the audience who were taking picture with flash on, the show was particularly moving, knowing that their guitarist Dave Rosser was absent because of his current fight against cancer. If I could add one thing on top of my previous posts on this great band, it would that Greg Dulli is a hell of a singer. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see the great Ed Harcourt as an opening act and playing many songs with the band as well as a second guitarist.

  • Buffalo Tom – London, Islington Assembly Hall – 9th June 2017

Lead by the excellent Bill Janovitz on guitar and voice, Buffalo Tom is an American power pop rock trio who have made eight brilliant records between 1989 and 2011. I never had the opportunity to see them live and this year was a fantastic one as they were celebrating the 25 years of their best album “Let Me Come Over” released in 1992.

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On top of being a brilliant musician, Bill Janovitz has more than one string to his bow and he is in particular an excellent writer. I recently wrote his 33 1/3 series book on The Rolling Stones‘ “Exile on Main Street” and I must say this is one of the best.

Image result for bill janovitz exile on main street

 

Their set was brilliant and the least one can say is that the band are as dynamic and punchy in their current early 50’s incarnation than they were twenty-five years ago. The songs were played with a real density but also with a great pop sensitivity. The way the set was structured was really good: the band were their own opening act, playing first eleven songs covering all Buffalo Tom periods. After a short break, they came back to play the gorgeous “Let Me Come Over” in its entirety, before playing two encores…for a total of twenty-six songs!

As usual in this kind of celebration, the audience was looking like the former French Parliament (mainly men in the fifties) and it would be good to see more female and youngsters as in the current French political trend. However, if this is the price to pay to see such a great band, so be it!

Image result for buffalo tom let me come over

 

May 2017 Album of the month: The Afghan Whigs “In Spades”

Once again, another great month in terms of releases. Despite new excellent records, bands or artists such as At The Drive-In, The Charlatans or Todd Rundgren were not selected so enjoy the following great records!

 

Album of the month: The Afghan Whigs “In Spades” – Soul Grunge Rock – The Afghan Whigs are one of my favourite bands ever and their come back record in 2014 (“Do To The Beast”) after a 18-year hiatus was sensational news. However, despite being very good, one was expecting an even better record for their future ventures… and “In Spades” is such a record. Greg Dulli’s voice has never sounded so good and all the songs are memorable, beautifully mixing a soul sensitivity with a grunge sound. This has always been their forte but the least one can say is that they are back to stay this time. Nice cover as well from a Brazilian artist.

  • Runner-up: Mac DeMarco – “This Old Dog” – Cool Rock – The more it goes, the less Mac DeMarco should be considered as a nice and funny guy in the music industry but as a real fantastic songwriter. You will not find a cooler record to listen to during summertime but behind the easiness of the music lies fantastic songs.
  • Also recommended:
    • Paul Weller  “A Kind Revolution” – Mod Psychedelic Rock
    • Jane Weaver – “Modern Kosmology” – Space Pop
    • Benjamin Biolay “Volver” – Bittersweet French Pop
    • Slowdive“s/t” – Shoegaze Rock
    • The Mountain Goats “Goths” – Literate Rock
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month  Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.”

 

Same guys, different places : praying with Greg Dulli and playing bowl with Bob Mould, London, February 2016

Those following the blog will know for sure that these two artists are pretty much part of my musical heroes’ top league and the idea here is probably not to praise them again…although they probably deserve it both.

Greg Dulli, Union Chapel, February 2016, church

Let’s start with Greg Dulli first, leader of the Afghan Whigs and who was back to London around a year after the show at the Koko. I was eagerly waiting for this show as I had read Greg was covering all periods of his prolific career, either with his above-mentioned main band but also with the work he did solo or through the multiple other projects like the Twilight Singers for instance.

But to me the real amazing surprise was this hall based in Islington called the Union Chapel where you really feel being in a church. Drinks and food are actually permitted on a separate floor whilst the actual chapel hall is strictly a free-alcohol place, which makes sense really. The stage is beautiful, particularly the amazing escutcheon which is on top of the musicians.

Greg Dulli, Union Chapel, February 2016, with band

After a very good and interesting opening act by the Velvet Underground– influenced Italian artist Manuel Agnelli, Greg’s show was a good as expected. His voice is still on top form and bearing this mix of typical white-grungey sound and Tamla Motown black soul influence.

P1140430Greg Dulli, Union Chapel, February 2016, singing

The most moving and beautiful moment of the show was probably the acoustic cover he did on his own for the encore : a very stripped and to the bone version of “Modern Love” by David Bowie. Setlist here.

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Press forward and here we are two days later in a totally different environment with good ol’ Bob Mould. For those lost on the internet and reading this review by chance, first be welcome and then be aware that Bob was the driving force behind the seminal bands Husker Du and Sugar.

After a few years in the wilderness and/or busy doing something else (please refer to his great autobiography reviewed here), Bob Mould has been back on a powerful trio mode for a few years now. The element of surprise has probably vanished a little but one has to recognize that the man is probably in one of his best periods ever, either in terms of quality of his new songs or of the level of energy he puts behind every show.

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The show was an opportunity to discover new songs from the now available “Patch the Sky” excellent LP and as usual he played also lots of tracks from all periods of his career…which means the setlist was terrific as usual.

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…but what made the show really special to me was the place where it occurred. Held inside the aisles of the O2 Arena, Brooklyn Bowl…is actually a place for bowling players! It means that there were indeed bowl players during the show, enjoying their game and the show. Quite funny. I took the opportunity of this unique lay-out to watch the show from one side of the stage, giving really the impression of being backstage. Something I recommend as it give a totally different perspective.

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See you soon for other weird places ; a swimming pool next ?

 

The Afghan Whigs, London Koko, 4th February 2015

The first concert of a new year is always something special… It might come from the fact that January for me is generally on the low side as far as going out is concerned or that fighting the cold weather to go and attend shows gives you a different feeling but I have always considered it as the real start of the year.

The Afghan Whigs at London Koko 2015 - Greg Dulli

…and what a better way to start 2015 than seeing the beautiful Afghan Whigs, ranked # 34 in our personal Top 100 list. But a word about the venue first. Koko (formerly known as the Camden Palace) is a magnificent theatre located in Camden Town. When you are inside, you can find a very original layout with different floors and bars. What makes this place great is that one can experience a standard rock’n’roll experience when they are in the lower stalls but as well a very different one when seated in a comfortable leather sofa with a drink in hand.

The Afghan Whigs are for me one of the best and more original bands which came out of the 90’s and with Greg Dulli they have a singer as much influenced by Stooges-oriented rock as by Tamla Motown soul sounds. After a long hiatus in the 00’s, they had reformed in 2012 and I have very strong memories about their last London show held at the Alexandra Palace as part of the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival.

The Afghan Whigs at London Koko 2015 - Full band

Although the band is slightly different from the original line out (guitarist Rick McCollum did not wish to be part of this reformation), they were on amazing form, melodic, tight and lean as ever. Last year was as well an important one for the band in terms of records as they put out their first new LP in 16 years with the excellent “Do to the Beast”, whereas their 1993 masterpiece has been reissued as part of nice “Gentlemen at 21” deluxe edition. Great setlist as well in particular with an interesting cover of a song from The Police and a band I clearly recommend to see if you have such an opportunity.

  

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TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 31 – 35

35. Paul McCartney (Wings/Fireman)

 from : Liverpool, England, UK / first great sounds : 60’s / style : Sir Paul / essential albums : McCartney(1970) , Ram (1971), Band on the Run (1973), Back to the Egg (1979), Driving Rain (2001)

We are of course talking about the post-Beatles career here. Paul’s early 70’s solo records were very criticized when they went out as people were used to the richness of the Beatles sound. However, with time passing forward, you should discover these LP’s as their lo-fi sound is very “now” and as they hide such a creativity in melodies and sounds. The mid and late 70’s Wings period is particularly amazing as well with songs that are really on par with the best Beatles ones sometimes. The great man went back from so-so records in the 80’s/early 90’s to really interesting records recently. Go and see Paul if you want to spend the best karaoke night of your life!

34. The Afghan Whigs

 from : Cincinnati, Ohio, USA/ first great sounds : 80’s / style : grunge’n’soul / essential album : Gentlemen (1993) / click for more on the blog

What a band ! And what an amazing leader and singer they had/have (the band reforms once in a while) with Greg Dulli. Imagine a band mixing the power and abandon of the grunge era with the structure and soul of the Tamla Motown era and you have the beautiful Afghan Whigs. I have been lucky enough to go to the ATP festival last year in the UK and I must say they were the reason for me to do so. I have listen to their masterpiece “Gentlemen” literally hundreds of time and this is a discovery every time. Discover yourself the Afghan Whigs if not done yet.

33. Sonic Youth

 from : New York, NY, USA / first great sounds : 80’s / style : Sonic rock! / essential albums : Sister (1987), Daydream Nation (1988), Goo (1990)

Woah ; what a band ! I am afraid I will keep on being so enthusiastic until we reach Number One in my TOP 100 as every band from now onwards is truly amazing! And Sonic Youth is no exception. Lead by formerly married couple Kim Gordon on bass and Thurston Moore on guitar with the help of the great Lee Ranaldo on guitar and Steve Shelley on drums, Sonic Youth have started as a post-punk band of the NY art scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s. They matured little by little, making amazing records and shows, keeping their punk art sensibility with a talent for real powerful rock sound. Their future seems uncertain now but let’s thank them for these long years of constant pleasure.

32. Gil Scott-Heron

See the source image from : Chicago, Illinois, USA / first great sounds : 70’s / style : protest soul / essential albums : Pieces of a Man (1971), Winter in America (1974), Bridges (1977)

Son of the Scottish soccer player whose nickname was the black arrow, Gil Scott-Heron has been one of the most influential person in music in the 20th century : writer, rap pioneer, creator of beautiful soul songs with his partner in crime Brian Jackson on keyboards, defender of human rights, etc… The second part of his life has been a constant descent to hell with the classic hurricane brought by drugs consumption : addiction, loss of friends, job, family and health. He came back from the dead in 2010 with “I’m New Here” thanks to a young generation of musicians but unfortunately passed away in 2011 as his body had seen too many abuses. I saw him on stage a few months before he died and although I must admit it was not his best show ever, the pride in having seem him in the flesh was very rewarding.

31. Nick Cave (Birthday Party / Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds / Grinderman)

 from : Australia/ first great sounds : 70’s  / style : Cave blues / essential albums : Kicking Against The Pricks (1986), Tender Prey (1988), The Good Son (1990), The Boatman’s Call (1997),  Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (2004), Push The Sky Away (2013)

Our favourite Australian (now more a citizen of the world after having lived in Berlin, São Paulo…and Brighton) is one of this musician whom I have followed since an early age and who have never disappointed me in what form whatsoever. To me, Nick Cave is a real bluesman, meaning his music bears all influences but they are his and does not have time for any compromising bullshit. There are basically two Nick Cave songs : the slow piano one and the (often very long) excited and possessed guitar-one but Oh Lord how I would like to be able to reach one tenth of these two songs! Essential artist.

The Afghan Whigs, I’ll be your mirror Festival, Alexandra Palace, London, 27th May 2012

“I’ll be your mirror” Festival was part of the great “All Tomorrow’s Parties” events which take place in the UK and in the US a few times a year. The idea is to request to one artist/band to be the curator of the festival and make a list of the bands he would like to invite during these three days. The mood is always very relaxed and the events are held in human-sized and friendly places where fans can have a chat with the musicians or other artists as there aren’t only shows but also movie or other arts events. This spring UK event was curated by the excellent band Mogwai.

It had been ages for me since I had seen a band performing live in the UK and the reformation of one of my favorite bands ever and the fact that they were not playing in France gave me a good reason to cross the Channel. The event was held at Alexandra Palace which is an old and beautiful building located in the middle of a nice park and one has to mention as well that the weather was great : only blues skies and temperature around 27/28 °! Two stages : the West Hall (dark, loud, a bit like the Grande Halle de La Vilette in Paris) and the Panorama Room (with daylight, relaxed and with the audience seated on a carpet floor!).

I only attended Sunday session and arrived mid-afternoon to catch latest track from Thee Oh Sees. All concerts I saw later were all nice to watch either for their nice melodies (Canadian folk band Siskiyou, husband and wife synth band Tennis, late-90’s influenced UK band Yuck) or for their pure punk/rock energy (Archers Of Loaf, The Make-Up).

My excellent surprise came from a band I did not know very well called Sleepy Sun. Five guys on stage, they play a kind of melodic psychedelic stoner rock with great guitar solos. The kind of music to listen when in your car and that makes you imagine you are driving in the desert in the US whereas you are on your way to your local hard-discounter to buy water and milk! Excellent band to catch on stage if you can.

But the real thrill was for The Afghan Whigs. Held by leader Mark Dulli and formed in the late 80’s in Cincinnati , theirs was a never-heard before mix of grunge guitars and melodies with a big Tamla Motown soul influence. The best example is that they were signed on the great Sub Pop label (home of the first Nirvana and Mudhoney records) while recording “My World Is Empty Without You” by The Supremes. Their masterpiece is “Gentlemen” (1993), a record I have been listening to literally hundreds of times and which is characterized by the power of songs, guitars, Greg’s voice and the subtlety of the words describing man-woman relationship. They split in 2001 and since then Greg Dulli has made excellent records with the Twilight Singers or with Mark Lanegan for instance.

Real emotion here then and the crowd was made out of connoisseurs as one can hear from the cheers and the fists held high during the band most famous songs. That was personally one of my most emotional show as I never had thought in seeing them live (I had missed them in their glory days) and one of my best I must say. Arriving very elegantly on stage in their black shirts and playing as if it was the last day on Earth, the show was a fantastic one, covering all periods of their career.

Inclusion of wind instruments in a few songs brought a sensitive side, Greg Dulli’s voice was on top and they even made a medley with the last track from “Gentlemen” and the second part of “Purple Rain” by Prince. For our American reader-friends, go and see them live this summer if you can, as they will play in all big festivals, such as Lollapalooza in Chicago or Austin City Limits in Austin.