November 2018 Album of the month: Jeff Tweedy – “Warm”

We are getting closer and closer to the end of the year…which is sort of mad. Anyway, here is the final busy month of the year before a probably slower December and the grand finale of the best records of 2018! But first things first with November and a bunch of extraordinary records… and no Muse record as to be honest this is a crap one…

Album of the month: Jeff Tweedy“Warm” – Music from a master – Is it an obvious and expected choice from those familiar with this blog? Indeed it is and I really asked myself the question: “do I like this record because I am such an enthusiast about Jeff’s music or could anyone love it if they were to discover this?” The answer is that I do not really know and also who really cares… What is sure is that for me Wilco are the best band of our times and that this is always a threat to find a new project from their leader. In “Warm“, the music gets calmer and simpler than ever but the quality of the melodies and the emotion of the lyrics are something which is rarely found nowadays. In a nutshell, this is the record where Jeff is very straight and honest about this failures, past addictions, doubts but also hopes in life. Another record of the month after Gaz Coombes‘ “World Strongest Man in May in which a non-macho man confesses his difficulties and struggles in today’s world. Count me in baby…

  • Runner-up: Bill Ryder-Jones“Yawn” – Pop Rock – Almost a twin album to the Jeff Tweedy record from one of our current favourite artists, also caught up in the past at End of the Road. A former band member of Liverpool band The Coral, Bill Ryder-Jones has not enjoyed an easy life to say the least but has found a real shelter in his music. The type of LP where one could find comfort, especially in winter time. Another record I am ready to defend tooth and nail against anyone.
  • Also recommended:
    • J Mascis  “Elastic Days” – Pop Rock – Latest solo effort from Dinosaur Jr. frontman and one of his best.
    • Smashing Pumpkins – “Shiny and Oh so Bright” – Pop Rock – The first LP for ages with 3/4 of the original band. Thrashed by Pitchfork but actually a good album with a couple of fantastic tracks.
    • The Good, the Bad & the Queen “Merrie Land” –  Pop Rock – Umpteenth project from Damon Albarn. Not as good as he things this is…but still very interesting.
    • Esben and the Witch “Nowhere” – Pop Rock – This Brighton band has been doing constant great guitar albums and here you go with another one.
    • Raoul Vignal – “Oak Leaf” – Folk Rock – Beautiful slow record from this French musician, not too far to what Kings of Convenience used to do 15 years ago.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month Neneh Cherry “Broken Politics”

End Of The Road festival 2018 – 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!

A kind of magic: Jeff Tweedy (Wilco frontman) playing acoustic songs at the Barbican, 3rd February 2018

I was looking forward to seeing this gig for a long time first because I like the guy so much but also as it was held in my beloved Barbican Centre, the best cultural place in London. It had not been too long a time since I last caught Jeff Tweedy on stage as part of Wilco but last night’s gig was different as it was purely solo acoustic Tweedy.

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A bit of a dream come true concert to be honest as to me Jeff Tweedy is the definition of what a musician should be: amazing songwriter, beautiful voice, very much involved in the current times we are living (Wilco is with The National amongst President Obama’s favourite bands thanks to their Chicago common origins) and also a great passionate producer who has revitalised Mavis Staples‘ career.

After a very nice opening from US-exile English “person” (as he said) James Elkington, Jeff arrived on stage, alone as expected with just an acoustic guitar…and his Stetson hat. Playing amazing songs the acoustic way is always a difficult and tricky exercise, especially when they are known for the beauty and richness of their arrangements. No such hesitation last night though. Jeff started his set with probably three of his best songs (“Via Chicago“, “I am trying to break your heart” and “Ashes of American flags“) with such a natural beauty and emotion that we were all ready for a fantastic evening. Jeff Tweedy is known not to have a particular setlist and to play depending on the mood. Well, his mood must have been particularly good and relaxed as the choice of songs was incredible, including my best favourite Wilco song (“Impossible Germany“), making it all a superb setlist.

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An amazing set then…and a few incredible funny moments taking place throught the dialogues between him and the audience, which was made of a majority of American citizens. Very funny talks about his signature guitar, his hat, how he tunes his guitar or the beauty of not having hits in one’s career when one has to play live. The most moving and funny thing though was when he sang the last verse of the Wilco/Billy Bragg song based on Woody Guthrie lyrics (“Remember the mountain bed“) as requested by a female audience member. He actually did it, therefore making her delighted, and told us then that he should do it more often, i.e. only sing one verse per song rather than bothering to play entire songs! Not sure if it sounds so great when one does not live the actual moment but trust me that one was good…

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For those who went this far in the review, I recommend his 2017 album “Together at last” which is basically in the same spirit as last night’s concert or Wilco’s best records as selected in my Top 100 encyclopaedia (let’s be proud of our work!).

A certain idea of America: Lambchop (Rough Trade-8th Nov.) and Wilco (Brixton Academy-19th Nov.)

This blog’s readers know (or will understand by browsing the topics which can be found on the menu) that my rules are only to talk about music, whatever the personal or worldwide events happening around us. It may be a bit theoretical sometimes especially living in a place which is pro-European in a country which did not think the same but I consider not being skilled enough to write about everything. It does not mean being insensitive to what is happening in the world and the best examples of this could be found in these two cherished American bands.

  • Kurt Wagner (Lambchop)- Rough Trade East – 8th of November 2016

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Another great private event from Rough Trade after those recently reviewed (Teenage Fanclub and Bob Mould). This time Kurt Wagner from Lambchop was there to promote his new LP “FLOTUS”. The evening started with a 30-minute chat with prestigious interviewer Tim Burgess from The Charlatans. The two of them know each other quite well as Tim spent a bit of time in Nashville a few years ago on a solo album produced by Kurt Wagner. The interview was clumsy at times but really friendly and often funny. Good idea also to let the audience asking questions ; your host was quite proud to ask a question to Kurt about his involvement in wood floor carpeting! Then the great man played a few tracks from his new record and past ones before finishing with the traditional records signing session.

Lambchop is one of these bands which have been here for ages and which have never made a bad record. Their music could be described by a mix of country and soul, made different with what it looks like thanks to Kurt’s beautiful voice and inventive texts. I probably need a bit more time to digest “FLOTUS”…which by the way does not mean First Lady Of The United States but “For Love Often Turns Us Still”. However, it is true that what is very surprising is the use of Auto-Tune, more generally used by hip-hop or r’n’b artists. Not that surprising actually after Kurt mentioned his current main influences are probably to be found in nowadays hip-hop like Kendrick Lamar…or these artists heard through his neighbours’ car’s stereo!

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You will have noted that this event was taking place on the 8th of November. A member of the audience asked the question about who was to win the election and Kurt answered :” You know who will win…and by far”. I guess the night and the following day must have been tough for the guy… Keep on doing your beautiful music, man.

  • Wilco – O2 Academy Brixton – 19th of November 2016

No surprise again for anyone here if I mention that Wilco is one of my favourite bands ever ; they were #81 in my top 100 of all times. What makes them really so special is the consistency in the excellence of their work. They just had another album out this year (“Schmilco“). Although this record is largely acoustic (and beautiful), one recognizes very quickly Wilco’s style towards more robotic and in-your-face tracks throughout this album.

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Wilco are not only one of my favourite bands ;  you may remember candidate Obama playing their records during his 2007/08 campaign. Unless I am wrong, they were also invited to the White House. Moreover, they are a constant presence in the best movie of the 21st century yet, namely Boyhood by Richard Linklater. Watch this video showing the character played by Ethan Hawke explaining one of their songs to his son ; very moving scene : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9CciFGOuY4

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The gig was great ; not really a surprise to be honest but I guess being always that good on stage must not be taken for granted. Lasting more than 2 hours and with a setlist picking up tracks from all their already 20ish-year long career, here was a digest of everything I love about a certain side of the USA: creative, poetic whilst being down to earth (hello Bruce Springsteen), tolerant, funny, interested by the world, moving… The band was tighter than ever yesterday night, with the six players playing as one. Of course, Jeff Tweedy is their beloved leader and main singer but every one of them plays their role.

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As commented by Jeff Tweedy after a marvellous solo from Nels Cline on guitar on the fantastic “Impossible Germany”, “…take that Trump!”

 

 

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : Part Three : 81 – 85

And here you go for part three of the most eagerly poll of the universe!

85. Steely Dan

 from : Los Angeles, California, USA / first great sounds : 70’s / style : muso sensitive jazz-pop/ essential album : Aja (1977)

Basically the band of core duo Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (although hundreds of great musicians have been welcome and have all put their personal touch in the Dan music), this is the kind of band that all pure punk and indie rock fans should hate : perfection in music, laid back L.A. style, lots of saxophone (!) and not an inch of rebellion. But I defy anyone to resist to Steely Dan’s music and its melancholy and when one goes deeper and scratches the surface, they will see that words are indeed quite bitter sour… They still tour once in a while and I had been lucky enough to see them in Paris a few years ago. Donald Fagen published a few records under his name as well and his first LP “The Nightfly” (1982) is more than recommended to all.

84. Daft Punk

Image result for daft punk from : Paris, France  / first great sounds : 90’s  / style : the future of music / essential albums : Homework (1997), Discovery (2001)

“The punk back to the funk, come on”. That was the mantra opening our favourite Parisian duo first album. The cover notes of this first LP gave respect to hundreds of musicians, including for instance Augustus Pablo, Barry Manilow, The Black Crowes, Brian Wilson, Can, Curtis Mayfield, Dr. Dre, David Bowie, Prince, Roxy Music, Serge Gainsbourg, Spacemen 3, etc… and for me it says it all about what the band is about. They succeeded on top of their great electro-pop music in creating a “something else” with the costumes, helmets, pyramid stages and comic movies that has made them one of the great bands of our times.

83. Echo and the Bunnymen

from : Liverpool, UK  / first great sounds : 70’s  / style : rock noir/ essential album : Ocean Rain (1984) / click for more on the blog

One of my first real musical emotions with bands such as The Smiths or R.E.M. in the 80’s, Echo and the Bunnymen have always been about the voice of Ian McCulloch and the guitar inventive soundscapes of Will Sergeant. Although the late drummer Pete de Freitas had been the real click which helped the band go from good to great, the core duo is really what makes this band special. Ian McCulloch in particular is a fascinating character epitomizing in the same person what is so good and bad in the North of the UK. They came back at the end of the 90’s after a few years’ hiatus and their albums and live shows are still highly recommended.

82. TV On The Radio

 from : Brooklyn, NY, USA  / first great sounds : 00’s  / style : dreamy NY rock / essential album : Return To Cookie Mountain (2006) / click for more on the blog

The kind of band I always go and see live when they are on tour as their music is always refreshing and new. It comes from the fact that they gather a great mix of personalities, the three main characters being great producer/guitar lead David Sitek, Afro-haircut angel-voice Kyp Malone and last but not least amazing singer Tunde Adebimpe. If you like “now” Brooklyn bands + soul music + The Cocteau Twins, this band is your band.

81. Wilco

from : Chicago, Illinois, USA / first great sounds : 90’s  / style : weird americana / essential albums : Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), Sky Blue Sky (2007) / click for more on the blog

Created on the burning ashes of this previous band Uncle Tupelo by leader Jeff Tweedy, Wilco might be the most beautiful band of our times. Their music is really built equally on american rock classical sounds (hello Tom Petty fans) and on weird-influenced European sounds (hello Can and Brian Eno). They way they fought as well against the music industry to be able to make their 2002 masterpiece “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” heard by their fans is an example to follow. Discover this band (they are every year in my best-of the year polls) and enjoy hours of endless pleasure.

Wilco, Grand Rex, Paris, 5th March 2012

At last! Your host has been a Wilco fan for more than ten years now and I always missed the opportunity to see them live although I had seen many live shows on screen and knew that the band were as good as they are on records. And on top of this, they do not come very often to our nice country as this is true we have a President who has Enrico Macias in his playlist whereas Wilco are in Barack’s one ; spot the difference…

Wilco has been created in 1994 by Jeff Tweedy, formerly co-leader of Uncle Tupelo with Jay Farrar, in an alternative country-rock style, as can be heard on the first two LP’s. Excellent for sure but this band really went a step forward when they incorporated experimentation in their songs in the next LP’s. They have today an impressive catalogue of songs with a strong duality (melody/experimentation) that pleases at the same time the classic American rock fan and, say, the Radiohead one. Jeff Tweedy himself is an interesting personality, looking like your day-to-day friend or neighbour but with a painkiller addiction since young which made him different basically. One can feel a great thinking in his music but with a great musicianship too, helped for this by ones of the best musicians today in the world of pop/rock music (drummer Glen Kotche and experimental guitarist Nels Cline being both particularly amazing).

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So here I was, expecting to see at last one of my favourite bands ever… and gosh what a band live! Even better than I thought it would have been. Two fantastic hours of great songs to hum with on top these crazy moments we all like in rock. Only bad point was these stupid security guys forbidding the audience to step up from their seats during the first hour of the show ; ludicrous to say the least…

I will soon do a “record by record” post about Wilco but you could buy any album in particular and the recent ones have all been in our best-of lists (2007, 2009 & 2011). As you are nice readers as well, here is an opportunity to seem them in the Grand Rex with the private session they did for Télérama before the show with two tracks from their new LP. Click on their Facebook link as well to see complete setlist of the show.

Best of 2011 : Top 20!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Sets and Reissues

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

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

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

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

Best of 2007

Avant l’heure, c’est pas l’heure et de peur de rater l’album du siècle qui sortirait le 31 décembre dans l’après-midi, la liste 2007 a pris un peu son temps même si le choix s’est finalement imposé de lui-même. Here we go!:
Album de l’année 2007

 Cover (Sound of Silver:LCD Soundsystem)

LCD Soundsytem : Sound of Silver

Ils sont rares les albums qui s’adressent à la tête et aux jambes avec le même plaisir ; c’est pourtant ce qu’a réussi à faire James Murphy avec ce dernier album. Pour rappel, James Murphy c’est le boss du label DFA, producteur entre autres de The Rapture et New-Yorkais pur jus. Cet album, c’est un peu du Talking Heads grande époque de nos jours mais encore mieux (histoire de mettre la barre bien haut). A signaler également la sortie en CD de 45:33, l’album de commande de iTunes et Nike qui doit vous accompagner lors de votre jogging matinal – on se demande à quelle fréquence ! On a aussi beaucoup aimé la série de 45T du titre “All my Friends” avec des reprises du même morceau par Franz Ferdinand et John Cale, un peu comme à la grande époque des sixties où les groupes jouaient les morceaux des concurrents 15 jours après leur sortie. Album of the Year!

 

Les 14 autres (par ordre alphabétique) :

Cold War Kids : Robbers & Cowards

Un groupe qui a commencé par un site web avec ce concept des “Gamins de la Guerre Froide” et qui de fil en aiguille est allé vers la musique de jeunes. Premier album pour ce groupe US qu’on a vu notamment à Rock en Seine reprendre du Lennon version Plastic Ono Band. Et accessoirement, meilleur début d’album depuis bien longtemps – les lecteurs de Nick Hornby se reconnaîtront…

Foo Fighters : Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

Alors oui, on reconnait qu’on aime bien parfois le rock bien lourd avec des cris de rebelles au milieu mais ce serait réduire Dave Grohl à quelqu’un de moins fin qu’il ne l’est réellement. Même s’il n’avait jamais déçu avec ses Foo Fighters au sortir de ses années de batteur d’un certain groupe de Seattle, on attendait toujours l’équilibre entre hymnes jouissifs chantés à tue-tête et ballades subtiles. Ce n’est plus le cas avec cet album, particulièrement bon à écouter on the road.

Iron and Wine : The Shepherd’s Dog

Qu’est ce qui fait qu’un album de tendance folk cool est plus enthousiasmant qu’un autre et finit dans le top 15 ? Pas grand-chose, quelques bidouillages sonores et de belles histoires comme Samuel Beam les raconte si bien…

Kings of Leon : Because of the Times

Alors là, on n’attendait pas vraiment grand-chose de la fratrie Followil (pour mémoire, 3 frères et un cousin), ces quatre beaux mecs à l’histoire trop belle pour être vraie : fils d’un pasteur dans le Sud US profond. Et pourtant, quel album dément! Pour résumer, une sorte de Joy Division à la sauce Deep South avec une profondeur et une intensité géniales.

Jens Lekman : Night Falls over Kortedala

La surprise de fin d’année ; un Suédois qui après avoir fait quelques albums était retourné bosser dans un bingo (2 jours !) avant de s’y remettre pour un essai et on lui est reconnaissant. Un mélange de pop élégante et de Scott Walker.

Loney, Dear : Loney, noir et Sologne

Restons en Suède pour cette sortie de deux albums dans nos contrées cette année alors qu’ils étaient l’un et l’autre disponibles en Scandinavie depuis 2/3 ans. Une sorte de nounours qui chante des mélodies à pleurer et à siffler en boucle sous la douche.

Of Montreal : Hissing Fauna, are you the Destroyer?

Merci à nos correspondants de la Grosse Pomme de nous avoir recommandé ce groupe hallucinant dont le leader Kevin Barnes doit vraiment regretter de ne pas avoir pu concurrencer David Bowie au début des années 70 tandis que ses mélodies sonnent proches de la période glam et également tant son goût pour se travestir sur scène rappelle celui du grand David.

Queens of the Stone Age : Era Vulgaris

Un album un peu plus groove que les précédents pour le groupe de Josh Homme mais avec toujours ce son de métal chaleureux et répétitif dont on ne se lasse pas. ll n’y a pas des centaines de musiciens ou groupes importants par décade – Queens of the Stone Age fait partie des groupes qui resteront dans la petite/grande histoire de la musique. Voilà, c’est dit, non, mais.

Radiohead : In Rainbows

Alors, oui, ils ont sorti leur album par téléchargement seulement avec le prix qu’on veut et c’est une révolution, patati, patata,… Mais tout ça, on s’en foutrait si l’album était nul voire quelconque. Car ce qu’il faut retenir, c’est que cet album est peut-être leur meilleur. Et je parle d’un groupe qui a sorti The Bends ! Et OK Computer ! Une qualité mélodique incroyable, des sons simples mais magnifiques, bref battu d’un centième par LCD Soundsystem pour la place de n°1.

Gruff Rhys : Candylion

Plus que l’album de son groupe Super Furry Animals  (“Hey Venus!”), on recommande chaudement le deuxième album solo de leur leader avec des chansons en gallois, en anglais, en brésilien (enfin avec un accent gallois donc bizarre). Impossible d’être de mauvais poil en écoutant Gruff Rhys.

Kanye West : Graduation

On n’aime pas trop comment le bonhomme se la joue clinquant dans le Rap US mais dans son propre intérieur, Kanye West est un fan de musique qui sur ses albums chantonnent par-dessus de vieux morceaux Soul déments avec un grand respect et une grande créativité. L’album sans doute le plus enthousiasmant du lot avec entre autres un sample de Daft Punk. A signaler aussi son boulot impeccable de producteur pour Common et son album “Finding Forever”

The White Stripes : Icky Thump

Ce n’est pas parce que Jack White et sa fausse sœur Meg sont moins hypes qu’il faut les oublier. Surtout quand ils sortent un de leurs meilleurs albums dans une année pourtant très riche en qualité. Une superbe synthèse entre leur volonté de modernisation et leur attachement éternel au blues.

Wilco : Sky Blue Sky

Déjà le 6ème album pour le groupe de Jeff Tweedy et un peu comme pour Jack White, sans doute leur meilleure synthèse entre rock US type Americana et leur volonté d’aller vers des choses plus expérimentales. De bien belles guitares sur ce LP et des paroles très justes sur les relations homme/femme

Saul Williams : Niggy Tardust

Plutôt que ses concerts impeccables avec Nine Inch Nails ou bien les albums sortis cette année – Year Zero et son petit frère remixé -, on aura surtout adoré Trent Reznor en 2007 pour l’album à quatre mains composé et joué avec le rappeur Saul Williams, mélangeant pastiches, reprises loufoques, mélodies pop, le tout dans une inventivité rare. Uniquement disponible sur le site de Saul Williams pour 0 ou 5 dollars.

Tout près de cette liste (pêle mêle) :

Klaxons, The Good, the Bad and the Queen, Deerhoof, The National, Grinderman (projet de Nick Cave), The Besnard Lakes, Blonde Redhead, Arctic Monkeys, Battles, Electrelane, Interpol, Band of Horses, PJ Harvey, Hushpuppies, The Soulsavers, Animal Collective, The New Pornographers, Beirut, Panda Bear, Fields, Gravenhurst, Sondre Lerche, The Weakerthans, Spoon,…

Bah, j’sais pas ou le syndrome Coldplay

Eh, oui, on ne sait toujours pas très bien quoi penser du 2ème album d’Arcade Fire (“Neon Bible”) : est-ce du Rondo Venezanio mélangé à du mauvais Dexys ou un vrai bel album emporté par le lyrisme ? Ou bien est-on moins sensible dès qu’un groupe devient trop gros et est trop attendu (cf. Coldplay dans le passé ?). Réponse dans 5 ans. A signaler aussi les relativement décevants 2èmes albums des groupes British suivants : Bloc Party, Maxïmo Park, The Rakes, Editors. Pas mauvais mais beaucoup moins bons que leurs 1ers albums.

Back from the Dead

Pas vraiment morts car jamais à la retraite mais pas tout jeunes non plus, nos vieux amis Robert Wyatt, Neil Young et Bruce Springsteen ont tous les trois sorti des très bons albums en 2007. En revanche, The Stooges, Dinosaur Jr., Smashing Pumpkins et Buffalo Tom étaient eux tous les quatre à la retraite depuis plus ou moins longtemps et ne nous ont pas déçu pour les retrouvailles par des albums très dignes qui ont d’ailleurs comme but principal de permettre de les retrouver sur scène.

 

Meilleur DVD

Nirvana : Unplugged in New York

Enfin disponible en DVD – pourrait d’ailleurs être chaque année DVD de l’année s’il ressortait tous les ans. Comme disent les Meat Puppets invités pour trois morceaux par la bande à Kurt, “fucking Nirvana!”

 

Meilleur Single

Justice : D.A.N.C.E.

On aurait pu choisir d’autres morceaux de l’album avec la croix mais celui-ci s’impose naturellement avec l’originalité des chœurs d’enfant. On a mis un peu de temps à aimer Justice mais après quelques mois, on est définitivement conquis – Dance !

 

Meilleur Coffret

The Fall : Box Set 1976-2007

On ne remerciera jamais assez certaines coiffures touffues du Grand Est de la France de nous avoir re-connecté avec le groupe du grand Mark E. Smith, ses musiciens interchangeables qui bastonnent, ses ânonnements de voix incompréhensibles et ses sorties incessantes d’albums. The Fall a sorti un album cette année (“Post TLC Reformation!”) et Mark E. Smith a participé à une expérience techno avec les Allemands de Mouse on Mars (“Von Südenfed”) mais c’est ce superbe coffret peu onéreux de 5 CD’s qu’on retient. Une des influences principales de James Murphy et comme dirait le regretté DJ anglais John Peel au sujet de son groupe préféré : “The Fall, always the same, always different”.

 

Meilleure Compilation

Elliott Smith : New Moon

Comme si le regretté ami Elliott ne nous avait jamais quitté, cette compilation d’inédits nous ressort des morceaux magiques où sa voix feutrée nous donne toujours autant le frisson.

 

Reissue of the Year

Cowboy Junkies : Trinity Revisited

Petit rappel : à la fin des années 80, un jeune groupe alors amateur de Toronto rentre dans une église pour faire un album alternant reprises et morceaux à eux – certains ne s’en sont encore jamais remis et considèrent cet album comme un classique absolu. 20 ans après, ils reviennent dans la même église, accompagnés d’amis proches (Natalie Merchant, Ryan Adams, Vic Chesnutt) pour célébrer cet album et le rejouer dans l’ordre. La magie est toujours présente comme merveilleusement capturé dans ce CD/DVD.

 

Live Band of the Year : Daft Punk

En clin d’œil au Alive 1997, nos Frenchies favoris sortent Alive 2007, soit l’intégralité du concert de Bercy en juin 2007. Une performance live de Daft Punk, c’est plus qu’une suite de morceaux, c’est un véritable travail créatif de remixes exceptionnels sur l’ensemble de leur répertoire. A signaler aussi la sortie en DVD d’Electroma, leur trip californien cinématographique avec références à Antonioni, Lynch ou autres Kubrick.

 

 

D’autres TOP 10

– NME (fanzine british)

1. Klaxons – Myths Of The Near Future

2. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
3. Radiohead – In Rainbows
4. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
5. Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
6. Kings Of Leon – Because Of The Times
7. MIA – Kala
8. Biffy Clyro – Puzzle
9. The Cribs – Men’s Needs, Woman’s Needs, Whatever
10. Battles – Mirrored

– Paste (best US mag.) :

1. The National – Boxer

2. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
3. Bruce Springsteen – Magic
4. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
5. Feist – The Reminder
6. M.I.A. – Kala
7. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
8. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
9. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
10. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

 

– Les Inrocks (more music please)

1. LCD Soundsystem : Sound of Silver

2. Justice : Cross

3. Loney, Dear : Loney, noir et Sologne

4. Animal Collective : Strawberry Jam

5. Klaxons : Myths of the near Future

6. Kanye West : Graduation

7. PJ Harvey : White Chalk

8. Patrick Watson : Close to Paradise

9. Alela Diane : The Pirate’s Gospel

10. M.I.A. : Kala

 

– Mojo (Rock Bible Mag.)

1. Radiohead – In Rainbows

2. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
3. Bruce Springsteen – Magic
4. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
5. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
6. The Good, The Bad & The Queen – The Good, The Bad & The Queen
7. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
8. PJ Harvey – White Chalk
9. Robert Wyatt – Comicopera
10. Kings of Leon – Because of the Times


– Ground Zero (où acheter ses disques à Paris ?)

1. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

2. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
3. Fiery Furnaces – Widow City
4. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
5. Handsome Furs – Plague Park
6. Deerhoof – Friends Opportunity
7. Battles – Mirrored
8. Caribou – Andora
9. Berg Sans Nipple – Along The Quai
10. Electrelane – No Shouts No Call

 

– Pitchfork (best music web site in the world)

1 Panda Bear – Person Pitch

2 LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

3 M.I.A. – Kala

4 Radiohead – In Rainbows

5 of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

6 Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

7 Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

8 Battles – Mirrored

9 The Field – From Here We Go Sublime

10 Burial – Untrue

 

Voilà, avant de conclure, un dernier mot sur les modes d’achat et d’approvisionnement de la musique à une époque où elle peut parfois être présente et disponible jusqu’à l’écœurement. Pas d’envie de rentrer dans un pseudo débat économico-évolutif de société que d’autres feront mieux. Juste de rappeler qu’on peut être moderne et adorer la numérisation de la musique (site d’achat conseillé : e-music, le France Loisirs du rock indépendant) sans pour autant abandonner les vinyles et autres CD’s et continuer d’avoir envie d’aller acheter des disques chez Ground Zero à Paris, chez Sounds of the Universe à Londres, Other Music à New York ou encore Waterloo Records à Austin pour s’y sentir bien et avoir de vrais échanges musicaux avec des passionnés.

Alors, montez les amplis, faites sonner vos voisins et bonne année 2008 !