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

December 2017 Album of the month: U2 “Songs of Experience”

…and here we are with the last month of the year. Crazy how time flies…and how I enjoyed doing this monthly review. It has sure has been a lot of time spent listening to hundreds of records but worth the effort. December as usual is not the month with the highest number of releases and this month’s big names were a bit of a downer (Van Morrison, Miguel, N.E.R.D or Eminem to name but a few). However, the below selection remains very good and worth listening to

Album of the month: U2“Songs Of Experience” – Pop Rock – Always difficult to judge a new album from a very famous group as either you want to slag all their new records since… the last one you love or you love everything, meaning your voice may not be credible. I tried to be as objective as possible, knowing U2 is one of my favourite bands ever. Of course, expecting them to be as powerful as during their peak years of the late 80’s / early 90’s may be wishful thinking but the fact that they are still around with important things to say … and good songs is something remarkable. So, I think… this is a good U2 album. A few songs may be judged too Coldplayish and made for stadiums but there are at least 5 or 6 great songs, with very personal words this time. Let’s see if this LP stands the test of time but for the time being I really enjoy it.

 

  • Runner-up: Nabihah Iqbal“Weighing Of The Heart” – Electronica – First effort under her own name from young British electro artist. Very fresh sounds and interesting words coming from someone who knows what trying to be integrated in a society means.
  • Also recommended:
    • QTY “QTY” – Rock – NY female/male duo, produced by Bernard Butler.
    • Neil Young + Promise of the Real – “The Visitor” – Rock – Another release from the wise man, who is as angry as ever.
    • Hans Chew “Open Sea ” – Psychedelic Country – The genre says it all…
    • Cindy Wilson “Change” – Electro Pop – Unexpected very good album from The B52’s‘ former singer.
    • Chris Thile “Thanks For Listening” – Mandolin Pop – The second time the mandolin virtuoso is in this review after his dual album with Brad Mehldau in January. Almost as good as Sufjan Stevens.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – OCS – “Memory Of A Cut Off Head

 

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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Gaelic Power : U2 (London O2 Arena – 29th October 2015) / The Waterboys (London Apollo, 6th December 2015)

I had in mind from the start to do joint reviews of these great Irish bands. The events that happened in the meantime only reinforced the importance of U2 in the story of people who became men in the 80’s as if they have been and will always be here, sometimes for better or worse.

  • U2, 29th October, O2 Arena

Only my third U2 gig in so many years, the first two ones having occurred in 1989 with the late great B.B. King as opening act and more recently in 2009 when they had their amazing spaceship.

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I must say I was very excited as their last album is actually a grower and gets better and better after each listening. One of the main reasons is probably that the “iTunes” controversy is now behind us and one can concentrate more openly on the music. The other reason of my eagerness to see U2 live is that their setlist is always fantastic (our #52 band!) and that I wanted to share this with my whole family which I had succeeded in bringing for once to see rock’n’roll (not a complete success there I am afraid…but I will not give up!).

As usual in U2 arena or stadium shows, these guys make you feel as if you are actually very close to the stage. This is due to their great showmanship and music skills but as well to the set-up of the stage. For this tour, they have chosen a main stage linked to a very small one where the band can feel like a real gang. In the middle of both was a huge screen in which the band could actually play or sing. Very impressive.

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First part of the show was mainly focused on the last LP and as written above, there are very moving sons about Bono’s youth in Ireland. However, the more the show was going forward, the more the fans were in a position to hear their favourite songs. I feel like when I am at a zoo when listening to songs such as “Where the streets have no name“, “Even better than the real thing” or “Bullet the blue sky“, i.e. like a young child full of hopes and dreams. The way they played “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was particularly amazing, with the four of them lined up in the middle of the arena.

Everyone was looking for a British artist to meet them on stage for the encore after Noel Gallagher the night before but we were lucky enough to actually have Patti Smith that night. They closed the show by playing “People have the Power” with her and they did it again recently in Paris when the Eagles of Death Metal joined them on stage.

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U2, London, 29-10-15, The Edge

I understand that Bono might annoy a few people sometimes by his will to change the world amongst the powerful but I personally find it great for one to use the little power they have to do so as long as they keep integrity in their art. Not a final word without reminding everyone how creative and inventor of beautiful sounds and melodies The Edge is as a guitarist. Set list here.

  • The Waterboys, 6th December, Eventim Apollo

Lead by Mike Scott from Scotland, the Waterboys can be considered as an Irish band too as their music has always been very much influenced by Ireland and its mystique. After a long hiatus in the 00’s, the band has been back a few years ago and have been regularly played since then. They even gave us this year an excellent LP with “Modern Blues“. And tonight indeed, band members were either coming from Ireland, the UK or the USA.

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But enough about nationalities and back to the show, which was indeed very good. The Waterboys came to fame at the same time that U2 and both bands with others such as Simple Minds or Big Country were supposed to be about “the big music”. This is true that The Waterboys had such songs with “A Girl called Johnny” or “The Whole of the Moon” but with time they went towards more subtlety and one felt the real change in their career when “Fisherman’s Blues” went out and showed the world that Mike Scott was as much a rocker as a lover of traditional folk sounds (…and songs).

The fact that they played their most exuberant anthem “Don’t Bang the Drum” in an acoustic violin and piano version was a good example of what I was trying to explain above.

Musicianship was particularly excellent as well as every player brought craft and power to the other members of the team. Setlist here.

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 51 – 55

We are going further to greatness every day! Enjoy the remaining artists of our TOP 100 before getting to the upper half very soon.

55. Pixies

 from : Boston, MA, USA / first great sounds : 80’s / style : Lynchian screaming melodic rock/ essential albums : Surfer Rosa (1988) , Doolittle (1989)

In a long line of American bands simultaneously influenced by their elders and extremely influential on more bands to come, the arrival of Pixies at the end of the 80’s came as a shock as one was not familiar with such a mix of pop melodies held at the top of his lungs by Black Francis, counterbalanced by the groovy bass of Kim Deal and the inventive guitar sounds of Joey Santiago. Their production was quite limited (four albums) but their music sounds as fresh today as it used to. They still tour regularly and are excellent most of the time, despite the passing of time and a few pounds too many!

54. James Brown

 from : Barnwell, SC, USA  / first great sounds : 50’s / style : the Godfather of Soul / essential album : Live at the Apollo (1963), Startime (Boxset – 2007)

The hardest working man in show business, famous for fining his musicians when he considered they deserved it for errors made on stage, for beating his wives, for having spent many years in jail, for being quite cynical regarding money, might not have been the best person ever. But who cares when art is concerned? Man of many musical decades and many genres within Soul/Funk, leader of fantastic bands of musicians throughout his career, inventor of the “funky drummer” sound (hello The Stone Roses), most sampled man ever in the hip hop community, here is for what he should be remembered for. “Can I take it to the bridge?”

53. Shearwater

 from : Austin, Texas, USA / first great sounds : 00’s / style : beautiful American rock / essential albums : Rook (2008), Animal Joy (2012) / Click for more on the blog

Not a surprise for those who regularly follow this blog as once more I do not understand why this band is not bigger than they are right now. Great melodies and powerful American music with a feel of heroic European post-punk influences, I can only recommend you any of their albums and to go see them live if you have an opportunity. Do not miss to listen to Jonathan Meiburg’s beautiful voice.

52. U2

1986zabriskie from : Dublin, Ireland / first great sounds : 80’s  / style : the creme de la creme of stadium rock  / essential albums : The Unforgettable Fire (1984), The Joshua Tree (1987), Achtung Baby (1991)

A weird rank I know for such a band as either you hate them and do not want to hear about them or you are a über-fan and put them on the top of the list. I am one to get an intermediary opinion about them. I must admit being one strong hater of Bono when he mixes his position with a “war is bad, help Desmond Tutu” attitude and but once more, who cares when at the end of the day only the music counts. One really realizes how great this band is when seeing them live and hearing all these amazing anthems.

51. The Velvet Underground

 from : New York, NY, USA / first great sounds : 60’s  / style : guitar rock bands godfathers / essential albums : The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967), White Light, White Heat (1968), The Velvet Underground (1969), Loaded (1970) / Click for more on the blog

THE BAND that influenced thousands of them. If you like your indie rock, you necessarily are a Velvet Underground fan. Band of two leaders at the start (Lou Reed and John Cale), supported first by their mentor Andy Warhol, they never got any popular success in their living time as the American mood was more a hippy one at that moment and people were not ready for acid words and dissonance. Their four LP’s are indispensable and are such a pleasure to discover again and again.