End Of The Road festival 2019 – Day Two – Friday 31th August 2018

 

The last day of the month of August is generally a bit depressing at it means the end of summertime, no more sunny weather and back to work/school. The best remedy is to be at End of the Road…and attend 10 gigs as I did! So without further due, here you go for Day Two review.

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My first concert was under a beautiful sun at The Woods Stage with Du Blonde, the avatar name chosen by Beth Jeans Hougton. I had not seen her since 2015 for my first edition of the festival and she was as powerful and subtle as I remember her last time. She is probably not the most smiling person ever and her choice of a Star Trek tee-shirt was too geeky to be true but her music is a real delicacy. One can even feel the spirit of the great David Bowie sometimes. She is working on the finishing touches of her new record which should be released early 2019 so I am quite sure this is not the last time she will be mentioned here.

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I then attended two gigs in a row at my beloved Garden Stage, one of my favourite places on Earth. The first one was from the North Caroline band Hiss Golden Messenger, basically the sole project of M.C. Taylor. I have always enjoyed their records as they mix Americana music with a certain depth. They are a bit different live as they are more in the country rock tradition. In other words, I had a good time but I was expecting a bit more.

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Quite the opposite with This Is The Kit, the band lead by English singer and songwriter Kate Stables. I also discovered this band at End Of The Road 2015 with a fantastic concert at the Tipi tent. Since then, they have been one of my favourite current bands and this was the fourth time I was catching them live. It was again beautiful and probably the best gig of theirs I came to see. Kate was alternating as usual between her banjo and her nice green guitar with a strength and emotion I was not expecting. I also attended a signing session a few hours later in the day at the Rough Trade store tent and we had a nice conversation in English… and French as Kate has been living in Paris for thirteen years now.

Completely different genre of music with Tirzah, a young Londoner female artist, working in the design world by day and singing her great melodies by night. Her music is not that different from Leila, for those who remember this very original female artist who released a few personal kind of trip-hop records at the end of the 90’s and start of the 00’s. Tirzah was on stage in a minimalist configuration with her friend and collaborator Mica Levi and another excellent male musician playing… a bit of everything. Go and discover her debut album, which was part of our August record of the month selection.

Back to the Woods stage for the concert of the legendary Josh T. Pearson, former leader of the cult Texas band Lift To Experience. Josh T. Pearson released in April his second solo record “The Straight Hits!, with all tracks having the word “straight” in their title. I already told the story of this incredible artist and performer as part of my review of his 2011 gig at the Café de la Danse in Paris. With a completely different look and haircut and also a quite different style of songs, Josh T. Pearson looks and sounds like a different artist…but beware the beast is still here, as experienced by this fantastic live performance. He is an artist not to be missed, alternating between very intense numbers…and a few dick jokes as well (I did not get them all I must confess!). I also had a 5-minute conversation with the great man the following day as part of a signing session, once again talking about Paris as he used to live there a couple of years before going back to Texas.

 

Next step was back at the Tipi tent to see the Polish experimental guitar and clarinet duo of Zimpel & Ziolek. Although their names sound more like a kids’ cartoon, their music is quite fascinating. Exactly the kind of thing I like about this festival: discovering new artists and it looks I was not the only one as the whole audience was delighted. I then attended around thirty minutes of the Brooklyn band Big Thief at the Garden stage but I must say I was quite disappointed. All reviews of their latest records have been so positive that I was expecting to find a life-changing band but I only attended a quite good indie band. Maybe I was not in the mood… On the other side, I was not really expecting anything of The Orielles, a young UK band, but they were really excellent under the Tops stage tent. They are a two-female and one-male trio…and are actually all very young! Their indie rock sound will not start a revolution but I must say they have an impressive musicianship and energy.

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However, the greatest moment of the day and of the festival for me was Jeff Tweedy‘s gig at the Garden Stage. The show of the Wilco leader was not necessarily that different from that I saw at the start of the year at the Barbican but it was probably more intimate. Those reading regularly my reviews probably know how I cherish this amazing artist who has produced or created amongst the most beautiful songs of our recent years, first with his band Wilco but also with other collaborations or solo. He was just playing with his acoustic, which shows how strong these songs are. I also knew he was a very funny person and I must say the concert made it a real fact. When an audience member told him “You’re beautiful”, he replied “I’m beautiful? You’re sick!”. Discover this beautiful man, his beautiful band, his beautiful records and his beautiful songs if not done yet.

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I still had a bit of energy left so I decided to attend Protomartyr‘s concert in the warmth of the Tops Stage. …and I must confess there was not better to end a lovely day than with this Detroit band, lead by the fascinating Joe Casey. You would not believe this man in a cheap suit and with the haircut of an insurance clerk is one of the best current punk rock singers of our current times but he is! Their sound is also very dense and not that different from what a mix of Joy Division with Living Colour would be. Not sure if it means anything to anyone but they are really good on stage!

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So here it is for Day Two. I did not see Daniel Blumberg, The Weather Station, Lucy Dacus, The Low Anthem, Fat White Family or again St. Vincent although they were all on my list but a man has to do difficult choices sometimes. Stay posted for Day Three!

 

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.

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#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

July 2017 Album of the month: This Is The Kit “Moonshine Freeze”

Summer holidays for a few of us… but the blog is never on leaves! I was expecting a lazy month in terms of new releases but this not was so so let’s go for our July review.

Album of the month: This Is The Kit “Moonshine Freeze” – Pop Rock – One of the most expected releases as far as this blog is concerned following the great gig I attended at End of The Road festival in 2015. Not a disappointment to say the least as you will not find a more moving and beautiful record this year. This Is The Kit is the brainchild of Kate Stable, an English woman expatriated in Paris. As with all great records, the best thing is to listen to it and you will understand from the first track onwards.

  • Runner-up: Nine Inch Nails – “Add Violence” – Ok, I must admit I am slightly cheating here as this is a (long) 5-track EP and not an album… but what a record. Everything this blog adores about Trent Reznor and his band: power, melodies and amazing sound ideas. By the way, the band recently appeared in the new Twin Peaks series 3 in the episode 8, probably the most surreal episode of all series ever.
  • Also recommended:
    • Broken Social Scene  “Hug of Thunder” – Canadian collective pop rock
    • Toro Y Moi – “Boo Boo” – One man dance machine
    • Lana Del Rey “Lust for Life” – Lynchian girlie songs; her best album so far
    • Arcade Fire “Everything Now” – Euphoric dance pop. Not their best album but a few really great tracks
    • Benjamin Gibbard “Bandwagonesque” – Pop Rock – Death Cab For Cutie’s singer covers Teenage Fanclub best album: a fan’s dream come true
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Ride “Weather Diaries”

 

2015 Top 15 records

Here we go for our annual review of the year in music through the best new records. Lots to write about in 2015 : dramatic and very important stuff with the Paris events but as well a few more derisory facts related to music in particular. The fact that the New Musical Express became a free weekly magazine was a very depressing one for those like me who were eagerly waiting in the 80’s and 90’s for its weekly edition to build one’s rock and pop culture. On the other side, vinyls are now available almost everywhere and one can only hope this is not a posh trend but something that will stay for good. I hope you will like this year’s selection ; I was quite happy to see so many powerful and independent women part of it by the way… And now, rock’n’roll !

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” What makes a record your favourite of the year ? Well, first, it has to be indeed your favourite and not the trendy choice to look cool and in line with rock critics’ choice. Then, it has to be a grower and probably not the kind of record you love after the first listens. On top of it, it probably has to get lost of changes, different musical styles, a few parts you do not really understand, others with which you are amazed, a kind of main thread through it too ? In this case, the choice is easily made and we are very happy to welcome a classic from Mr. Lamar three years after his previous opus. LP of the year !

TWO RUNNER UPS

Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I sit and think and sometimes I just sit” I have been told that one could feel that this record is made by someone special by looking at its cover and title and I must say this is really true. This young woman from Australia has justified this year all hopes put in her first past recordings with her proper debut album. Simple and punchy songs with a soft Velvet Underground influence for the music and simple and direct words from the “now” generation. Once you got this LP, I can tell you will have to listen to it regularly so good it is. Click here for live review.

 Torres “Sprinter” Torres is the musical moniker for American female singer Mackenzie Scott and this album has been a real discovery for me as I had missed her first good but not great LP. With a prestigious cast of musicians used to work with great artists such as PJ Harvey or Portishead, she delivered with this record a series of extremely powerful and melodic songs built around a very strong personality. Difficult to describe as her music does not appear so different at first but the richness and greatness is felt little by little when one takes the time to do so. Like what all great music, you will be rewarded if you take enough time for this record. Click here for live review.

The rest of the Top 15 records in no particular order

 Sleater-Kinney “No Cities to Love” Witnessing the reunion of Mss. Tucker, Weiss and Brownstein under the Sleater-Kinney tag was one of the joys of 2015. I must admit that I missed this band when they were at their peaks and only discovered them through the 2006 “The Woods” LP. In the meantime, I did my homework and bought little by little all their amazing punchy punk and melodic albums and became a fan of the “Portlandia” series in which Carrie Brownstein acts. No such fun as in the series in this record but an excellent job done by this female trio. …and Janet Weiss on drums has been for a long time a friend of this blog as she has played with so many great bands (Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus, Quasi, etc…).

 Marilyn Manson “The Pale Emperor” I really think I would never have thought to find Brian Warner’s evil alter ego in such a list as his music had always been a mystery to me… I had enjoyed a few powerful tracks here and there but always thought the guy and his band were a bit fake and difficult to like through an entire album. Complete change of thoughts with this LP which is a real and constant pleasure for those who like bluesy and powerful music. The musicianship and sense of melody are great in all tracks but what makes this record a real gem is the way Marilyn Manson uses his amazing voice. The kind of records Nick Cave could do to soundtrack “The Road” (ok, I know he did but you got the point…)

 Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear” Father John Misty is the name Josh Tillman took a few years ago and this symbolic act was indeed a liberation for him. After publishing a few solo records under his own name and more famously being the drummer for the (slightly boring but) good band The Fleet Foxes, he decided to get away from his folk and hippie look and make more aerial music. This record is indeed very ambitious and could have been done in the 70’s by West Californian singers. Complex and beautiful words also influenced by his getting recently married and the eternal husband-and-wife relationship stories…

 Tobias Jesso, Jr. “Goon” Talking about simple but beautiful songs played on the piano, let me please introduce you to Tobias Jesso, Jr. His story is the kind that could have been invented. After a few failed tentatives to succeed in the music industry, and after the conjunction of a car accident and the news that his mother was sick, the young man gave up on his Californian dream and travelled back to Vancouver. Family news fortunately got better with time and he started to compose a few songs on his sister’s piano…and here you go for one of the records of the year. He was even (un?)lucky to be chosen for one of his track to be sung by a successful English chanteuse called A., whom this blog will not mention as we are talking about the best of 2015 here!

 Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” As often described for musical oeuvres that need a bit of time to get really appreciated, this album is a grower. I was actually quite surprised by its simplicity, knowing Sufjan Stevens is one of my Top 100 artists and is generally more ambitious in his records. This is  a very moving and autobiographical story based around his mother (and her demons) and his stepfather. The more one listens to this record, the most one will be touched by these amazing melodies and sense of detail. A year with a new record from Sufjan Stevens cannot be that bad. Click here for live review.

 Blur “The Magic Whip” Another quite unexpected news as although Blur had been back together for a few shows and singles, the idea of an album was not really realistic due mainly to all out-of-Blur extra activities held by Damon Albarn. Good news is that Graham Coxon is probably now the one who cherishes the most this entity called Blur and he was the real brain behind this new record. Cut from hours of jams when the band was stuck in Asia for a few days last year, he succeeded in putting structures behind these songs and suggested to Damon Albarn to add a few melodies here and there. The results are amazing and make it one of the best records from Blur. Welcome back gents.

 My Morning Jacket “The Waterfall” Seventh studio album for this incredible American band and its singer Jim James. This album has not been a real star amongst rock reviewers and I think the reasons are that My Morning Jacket are now very far from their original americana sound and that this album cannot easily be identified easily. Songs and styles all over the place indeed but to me this is what makes it probably their best record. Jim James has never sung so beautifully and I remember their End of the Road concert as one of the best of my musical year.

 Du Blonde “Welcome Back to Milk” Singer Beth Jeans Houghton went through a David Bowie (re)discovery phase, decided that life was too short to do the same music again and again and therefore decided to adapt this new Du Blonde moniker. Recorded with members of the Bad Seeds and other guests, her re-invention was really spectacular and beautiful. Powerful and melodic songs from a young woman not afraid to take risks in her career, what could one ask for more ? Click here for live review.

 This Is The Kit “Bashed Out” Mainly the project of their singer Kate Stables who spends her life between Paris and the UK, this record is to me the perfect synthesis between folk and modernity and I mean it as a real compliment. The sounds they create are really warm but with a constant sense of melody compared to other of their contemporaries. The show they performed at the End of the Road festival was amazing and probably over what they had expected, according to their reactions that day.

 Kurt Vile “B’lieve I’m Goin Down” This man has regularly been in our best of these last years when he has a new record but this is based on his high level of excellence rather than by laziness or habit. He is one of the young musician of our times I have seen the most on stage and I think there is no coincidence so brilliant he is live. The only difference vs. twenty or thirty years ago is that now such musicians bring their guitars cases on stage and do not drive in limos… A few new sounds here and there on this record with lots of piano for instance but once again the best way to describe Kurt Vile to me is an “indie” Bruce Springsteen.

 Kamasi Washington “The Epic” I think this is the first time that a so-called jazz record can actually be found in such a list in this blog. Weird I guess as jazz is probably one of the musical genres I like the most, best proof being the presence of Miles Davis and John Coltrane in my Top 100 of all times. However, to me, it has too often become a rigid style a bit far from the diversity and dynamism of new music… and this is the reason why this amazing triple album can be found here this year. Kamasi Washington often plays with hip-hop or electro artists such as Kendrick Lamar or Flying Lotus and one can feel these influences in his music. An incredible sense of urgency and melodic madness during these three hours that seem to last three minutes. A record impossible to miss.

 Robert Forster “Songs to Play” One of the finest return to form this year came from Robert Forster and that was quite an unexpected one. The former Go-Betweens co-leader has been particularly active this year either through the fantastic “G stands for Go-Betweens” box set for which he wrote the comments or with this great new record. So indeed this is not the nu-metal or grime new phase of Robert Forster but beauty often lies in classicism… Click here for live review.

Other top 5’s :

  • New Musical Express (UK formerly rock Bible – now free weekly bullshit): 1. Grimes “Art Angels” 2. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 3. Jamie XX “In Colour” 4. Wolf Alice “My Love is Cool5. Tame Impala “Currents”
  • Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. Julia Holter “Have You in my Wilderness” 2. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 3. Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” 4. Ryley Walker “Primrose Green” 5. Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear”
  • Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Julia Holter “Have You in my Wilderness” 2. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 3. New Order “Music Complete” 4. Tame Impala “Currents” 5. Jim O’Rourke “Simple Songs”
  • Paste (US web mag.): 1. Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear” 2. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 3. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit” 4. Sleater-Kinney “No Cities to Love” 5. Hop Along “Painted Shut”
  • Pitchfork (US website): 1. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 2. Jamie XX ”In Colour” 3. Grimes “Art Angels” 4. Vince Staples “Summertime ’06” 5. Tame Impala “Currents”
  • Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Tobias Jesso Jr. “Goon” 2. Tame Impala “Currents” 3. Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” 4. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 5. Django Django “Born Under Saturn”
  • Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. The Apartments ” No Song No Spell No Madrigal” 2. Aline “La Vie Electrique” 3. Julia Holter “Have You in my Wilderness” 4. Tame Impala “Currents” 5.  Nicolas Godin  “Contrepoint”
  • New Noise (French bimonthly mag.): 1. Faith No More “Sol Invictus” 2. Failure “The Heart is a Monster” 3. Marriages “Salome” 4. Chelsea Wolfe “Abyss” 5. Vision of Disorder “Razed to the Ground”
  • Sound Opinions (US music podcast)
    • Jim DeRogatis’  1. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit” 2. Low Cut Connie “Hi Honey” 3. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly 4. Bully “Feels Like” 5. Titus Andronicus “The Most Lamentable Tragedy” 
    • Greg Kot’s 1. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly” 2. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit” 3. Protomartyr “The Agent Intellect” 4. Shamir “Ratchet  5. Vince Staples “Summertime ’06
  • Other Music (NY records store): Top 30 in no particular order
  • Rough Trade (London records store) : 1. Bjork “Vulnicura” 2. Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear” 3. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I just Sit” 4. Ezra Furman “Perpetual Motion People” 5. Max Richter “from Sleep”
  • Ground Zero (French disquaire) : Top 10 in no particular order

End of the Road Festival, Larmer Tree Park, Dorset, 4th, 5th and 6th September 2015

End of the Road 2015, Logo Day

I think I have found what I was looking for… A festival that, despite being sold out, succeeds in :

  • having as a line-up only interesting, good or great bands
  • keeping a human face and making your life enjoyable rather than miserable with great food, not too much walk between the four beautiful music stages, easiness to get access to the camping or parking areas , clean toilets without no queue, plenty of space when one attends a gig,…
  • being really different with lots of great stores, surprise concerts in the forest, other stages (comedy, disco, cinema)…and peacocks in utter freedom
  • making you feel young again compared to other festivals ! I have never seen so many babies (not children or teenagers, I really mean babies!) but people in their 60’s as well

So, yes, English summer time means 18 degrees at best but there was no rain at all during the whole festival and Sunday was sunny and wonderful so I guess we were lucky here too. No question about it : that was my best festival of all times with Austin City Limits and although a few of you might be sceptical in not finding so many big names, the density of good bands is amazing. I attended 31 gigs in three days and did not remember a bad one (ok… maybe I should exclude Sleaford Mods… but these guys remain interesting). I had to do choices so I did not succeed in seeing such big artists as Tame Impala, Django Django, Saint Etienne, Mark Lanegan, Laura Marling or Mac De Marco but I guess I have been rewarded by those I saw. Here is the list of my favourite gigs, stage by stage. Many of these artists will be found again in my best of the year 2015 list and I must say that women are more than ever leading what is interesting in pop and rock today.

 

  • Tipi Tent

Very nice and friendly space, protected from the weather…with carpet on the floor. Temperature on site often reached around 10 degrees at night so the campfire held outside was a brilliant idea too. Three names I would like to comment on in particular. The first one was actually the first gig of the whole festival I went to (Friday 1.30pm) with a new artist named Aero Flynn. He is a friend of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and his music is a beautiful mix of American sensitivity with a electro/Radiohead touch. I finished my first day until midnight with another musician I have been following during these last 3 years : Jacco Gardner. This Dutch artist does a very melodic music with influences I can spot coming from the Byrds or Teenage Fanclub. But the best gig of the Tipi tent I have attended was without any question that of a UK band called This Is The Kit, lead by Kate Stables. Their music is difficult to describe ; it mixes folk and electro with a grunge attitude, whatever it means… The band were really amazed by the crowd packed in such a small area and my feeling is that they should be really successful in the years to come

 

  • Garden Stage

End of the Road 2015, Garden Stage

Without any doubt the most beautiful stage not only of the festival but of all of them. This is the place I spent most of my time and one could feel a real sense of happiness and achievement between the relaxed audience and the bands. Weird to hear regularly the typical sounds of the peacocks but this is one of the charms of the festival. Low, one of my favourite bands were the last band on this stage on the first day and theirs was the usual mix of Velvetian cool melodies and more “in your head” songs. Saturday was only dedicated to the label Heavenly, home of prestigious past names such as Doves, Edwyn Collins or Manic Street Preachers for instance and all the bands I have seen that day were really a pleasure (cf. gigs’ list page for details). But my main enthusiasm of the week-end went to the great retro/soul sounds of Natalie Prass, with whom I had the pleasure in having a 5-minute chat during the Rough Trade signature event.

  • Big Top

A more traditional tent stage as can be found in other festivals, this stage still had a je-ne-sais-quoi that still made it different ; probably the elephant hanging from the ballon under the roof…This stage was made to receive tougher sounds and the two artists I prefer there were really in that mood. Metz is not only the name of a French city but as well of a powerful trio signed on the seminal Sub Pop label. Difficult not to mention Nirvana such their music is powerful and demanding. Let’s stop the comparison here as not a lot of bands would be advantaged by such a thing but let me just write that I spent a hell of a moment with them, in the good meaning of the word. The other gig I would specifically like to mention here is that of the great Beth Jeans Houghton who has been facing this year a complete transformation under the name Du Blonde. Her music is like such a name could mean for me : great melodies with no fat and a close to the bone attitude, whilst still keeping a feminine touch. Without falling into stereotypes, she is one of these artists who achieve something more while on stage.

  • The Woods
End of the Road 2015, The Woods

The Woods, what a nice name rather than calling it main stage… As this is what it is about probably, the outdoor stage with the main space and the bigger names but with something different once again difficult to describe. Due to the choices described above, the only gig I attended on Friday was that of Torres but what a gig that was. Torres is the artist name of the American female songwriter Mackenzie Scott and her music is very intense and beautiful at the same time. Her latest LP is a real treasure and benefits from the presence of Adrian Utley from Portishead. To make it short and lazy, she is the new American PJ Harvey.

The names on Saturday were amazing. I had in mind to watch My Morning Jacket for 45 minutes before leaving to catch Saint Etienne on the Garden Stage but their concert was so great and authentic that I stayed until the end. I may have been too over familiar with this great American band and will dig again in all their records, such their musical evolution is interesting. And they really have an amazing leader with Jim James, who is able to sing like an angel during one song and play a saturated guitar solo five minutes later.

The main star and headliner of the festival was of course Sufjan Stevens, one of the best artists of our times (ranked #89 in my top 100). Although I feel that his music may sound not that warm sometimes on stage, his talent is so immense that he succeeds in making you feel very personal quiet songs, surrounded by thousands of other people. His interaction with the audience was very funny as well and full of wit. That was my third Sufjan Stevens gig and that was probably that where I found the best balance between his acoustic side and his electro one.

Sunday at the Woods was probably as good as the previous day. The festival had the good idea in closing with The War On Drugs, the band lead by Adam Granduciel and in which Kurt Vile used to play as well before going solo. Their LP “Lost in the Dream” was to be found in all best of the year 2014 lists and I must say there are probably even better on stage than on record, with a huge emphasis put in guitar solos. What Bruce Springsteen would be if he were to start today and was slightly less mainstream (and this is a compliment).

But for me the main thrill of the festival was to eventually see Future Islands. I have been a huge fan of their 2014 LP “Singles” and I guess anyone who has seen a TV live performance of the great single “Seasons” and the crazy dance moves of their singer Samuel T. Herring will not forget them in a long time. On stage, the formula is simple but super efficient : no guitar but a never ending groove beautifully orchestrated on keyboards/drums/bass by the band whereas Samuel T. Herring keeps on singing and living his songs as if it were the last day on earth. Not sure I spent a better moment this year than during the hour and fifteen minutes that last their gig.

So this is the way it ended for 2015 and the 10th anniversary of the festival, full of memories and great moments. Thanks to Sofia and Simon for having created this marvellous idea ten years ago and see you next year (already got my ticket…)!

End of the Road 2015, Logo Night