End of the Road Festival 2016 – 3nd of September – Day Three

Basia Bulat - guitar

Like all good series, important to make the audience wait eagerly for the next episode (not that true anymore with Netflix…) so here is episode 3 of the great End of the Road 2016 edition.

Saturday is traditionally the day where one feels a bit tired but not so much the case this year as I attended 10 gigs…despite the ongoing rain. I unfortunately did not spend one second around the Woods Stage and missed such excellent artists as Local Natives or Bat for Lashes but once again there were a few choices to me made.

Meilyr Jones

My start of the day was as usual at the Garden Stage with Meilyr Jones, a relatively newcomer from Wales who published this year his first album called “2013“. This is one of the records I have been listening the most recently and must say that the concert was as good as the show. This guy is very talented and has a way in making great melodies. Listen to the first song of the album (and of the show) named “How to recognize a work of art” and I can bet you will immediately be seduced by its rhythm and sense of melody. A real talent to follow.

I then adapted and changed my plan and decided to stay dry under the Big Top tent to see The Garden on stage. This band is that of twin brothers Fletcher and Wyatt Shears and is based on the bass and drums-only formula. Quite fascinating and a bit annoying at the same time as songs are very punchy, very short and sung with sounds that a smart monkey could do. I quite enjoyed the show but must admit this is not the kind of band I will follow.

Basia Buliat - piano

Still in my “let’s-not-get-too-wet” mindset, I then attended the gig from Basia Bulat under the Tipi tent. She is a Canadian singer and she and her band probably got one of the unexpected success of the festival. Basia Bulat has a fantastic voice and great songs but also something different in her fresh attitude and choice of instruments (hello,dulcimer?…). I have read that she starts to be very popular in her native Canada and cannot see any reason for this not to happen in the UK and continental Europe.

Sam Beam - End of the Road 2016

But to me the best concert of the week-end was that of Sam Beam (fron Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop. Funny how I always have great expectations from Iron & Wine in traditional halls and always feel (slightly) disappointed whereas I found the guy amazing in festivals. Not very intuitive as his music should not work in festivals but this is not the case. The great (and modest) man published a record this year with Jesca Hoop. I had already seen her as opening act for Shearwater and she is a beautiful artist on her own or in all the collaborative stuff she does with others. They were on their own with very often Sam’s acoustic guitar as the only instrument but believe me the emotion was incredible. Excellent stage presence between tracks also as both of them were very funny and a couple of great covers from The Bee Gees…and Eurythmics. Gig of the festival for me!

Jesca Hoop - End of the Road 2016

I continued my marathon and managed to grab a few songs from Cat’s Eyes, the duo formed by The Horrors’ singer Faris Badwan and the classically trained singer Rachel Zaffira. Their music is really interesting in the sense that they mix a gothic attitude with a Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood type of music but with more ambition. I think the Big Top stage was probably not the best one to give back their sense of subtlety but I still enjoyed the few songs I saw. I would just add that not offering them a role in a Tim Burton movie is a real disgrace!

M. Ward is an artist from whom I regularly buy records either solo or with other collaborators (he has been quite popular with Zoe Deschanel as She & Him) but I realised it was the first time I was spotting him on stage. Excellent surprise as I was not expecting him to be as good as on records but he acted live the right way, i.e. with excitement and playing rockers rather than ballads. His band is really on top of their game and he is also an amazingly talented guitarist, which is something I did not know. A bit like for Phosphorescent the previous day, here are two guys who play traditional rock with a 21st century attitude so what’s not to like?

For really traditional music to typical inventive Scottish attitude, there are only a few yards… That was indeed the feeling I had with Steve Mason and his band. The guy started his career very high with the Beta Band, one of the most inventive British bands from the last decade. For those of you “High Fidelity” fans, you will remember the scene where Jack Black proudly announces to his boss John Cusack that he will sell a few records by the Beta Band (“The 3 EP’s” to be precise) after playing them in the store. But success is an ephemeral thing and Steve Mason disbanded the group quite soon and went back to his demons… He just released an album under his own name this year and this is a real return to form. More on record than live to be honest as there was too much a “lad” attitude on stage as far as I am concerned and I was a bit frustrated by a certain lack of subtlety. Pity really as the record is really good.

Steve Mason - End of the Road 2016

Last concert of the day at the Garden Stage with a new important talent: Ezra Furman. This singer/songwriter/guitarist has recently started a very positive buzz amongst critics and fans not only for his music but for what he is as well. Here is a young man who was close to being good for many years but with too heavy a personal burden to achieve what he had in him. But the solution was really obvious : let’s wear stockings, a pearls’ lace and moreover a nice dress on stage. So this is what I experienced ; a guy playing a very fresh version of rock’n’roll, wearing a dress and surrounded by a gang of rockers! Great energy and refreshing attitude indeed although one will really judge Ezra Furman in a few years when/if the sensation is over.

I did not stay until the end as I really wanted to enjoy BC Camplight under the Tipi Tent to end the night. This artist from Philadelphia, PA had released two LP’s which were not really noticed by the general public (me included I must admit) before relocating to Manchester, UK after a few years of doubts and personal trouble. I am just realising by the way that the three gigs in a row were a bit similar in the sense that these artists were far from getting a straight and linear career ; fascinating coincidence… Anyway, back to BC Camplight who to me has released one of the best albums of the year with “How to die in the North“. Do not focus on the title as I guess this is more a joke on Manchester than anything else. This album is not dissimilar to what Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys would have done if he were of the same age nowadays (and having got rid of Mike Love…). Mini-symphonies, punchy melodies, weird solos… Go and listen to that record.

BC Camplight - End of the Road 2016

So here it was for Day Three with a “mission accomplished” feeling…but as I still had a bit of bravery and will, I went on my way out to the Big Top Stage to see who was playing as surprise show and if I had a chance of knowing the band… And indeed, as I had the great surprise with the other thousands of people staying late to watch Wild Beasts on stage! I only managed to watch the four last tracks of the gig but they all were hit songs. For those regular readers, you know this blog is a huge fan of Wild Beasts and that I have been either reviewing concerts and put their records in my best-of-the-year lists. Their last LP is quite different from the last ones (more radio-friendly or more urban? not sure yet…) but it is really impressive to see what they have become on stage, especially in the UK. I just hope they will not become too big and will not lose in subtlety what they gain in energy and popularity (hello Foals…).

Wild Beast - End of the Road 2016

One more review to come with Day 4 so stay tuned!

 

Wild Beasts, Paris Trabendo, 16th April 2014

Wild Beasts, Trabendo 2014, blue mood

Wild Beasts is probably one of the most interesting and original current bands and the whole editorial team decided to catch them live again in Paris in a much different environment compared to Austin City Limits 2011 when they were actually our start of three great days (ah…the sun, the Austin atmosphere, the cold beers,…).

What makes this band different is that they brought from a relatively straightforward rock structure in the tradition of many great British bands their personality through the rich and falsetto respective voices of Tom Fleming and Hayden Thorpe. On top of this, their path has not been a direct one and the more they make records and shows, the more one feel their will to experiment but once again within the scope of beautiful melodies.

Wild Beasts, Trabendo 2014, Hayden Thorpe

The Trabendo Hall was not sold out for the show which was a pity but as well lead to a great and friendly atmosphere between the band and the audience as that night was their last concert of their European tour. The band played greatly all along the show and as often in such cases having two different voices complementing and challenging each other is a real asset. One coud feel throughout the concert that these guys are more than a bunch of musicians gathering for the sake of playing music and that they really make music to go forward and try to add up a tiny layer of excellence in the long history of great bands.

Wild Beasts, Trabendo 2014, drum'n'bass

All their LP’s are really recommended ; Two Dancers” in 2009 and “Smother” in 2011 were part of our end-of-the-year best of’s and new LP “Present Tense” is excellent as well. Catch them up live if you can as well as I think they will tour the summer festivals.

Wild Beasts, Trabendo 2014, Tom Fleming

 

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!

Austin City Limits Festival 16th to 18th September 2011 : My Top 10 shows

A dream come true for your host. Austin City Limits is a festival that had been created ten years go in 2001 and whose line-up has been one of the best for a few years. It takes place every year at the end of the summer (well, winter lasts for one month in South Texas…) in Zilker Park very near downtown and has many qualities on top of its line-up : cooler audience in the world, between 30 and 35 degrees C° every day, the pleasure in attending shows bare-feet in the grass, a Waterloo Records temporary store, ecology-friendly (I did not see one soda bottle or a beer glass on the ground for three days…) and even ladies speaking the language of signs in front of the stage during a few shows for those who needed it. I saw 24 shows during this three-day marathon and you will find below my subjective Top 10. But here are first a few pictures of the festival to get in the mood, including all shows I saw but not in my Top 10 (although a few of them were great such as The Antlers, Charles Bradley, Gomez or Phosphorescent for instance). Oh, and Christian Bale was there too…

ACL 2011 - Entrance Day

#10 – Joseph Arthur : a long time since I did not see Joseph Arthur live. He had been “discovered” by Peter Gabriel at the end of the 90’s but always managed his career the way he wanted, making it a bit difficult to follow among his many projects. He played ACL on the way he does it best, i.e. alone with his acoustic guitar and a foot-sampler to get rhythm and loops and allowing the audience to hear his beautiful texts and melodies. And as he is a very talented painter too, he did a few of them while singing. Classy guy…

#9 – The Walkmen : Americana meeting Joy Division is the way I described this band to my mate before the show and I must say this is a quite good shortcut. The guys woke up at 4 a.m. as they were coming directly from another long distance US State whose name I forgot but still succeeded in opening greatly the Saturday session on the AMD stage. Excellent noirish but also entertaining band ; I was particularly impressed by the way their singer Hamilton Leithauser kept his suit during the show when temperature was around 40°C…

#8 – Twin Shadow : this band is the project of  George Lewis, Jr. (American guy born in Dominican Republic) and his music is a bit difficult to describe. Let’s just say he is friends with the band Grizzly Bear and that his music is a mix of 80’s British synth-influenced pop with a sonic and groovy edge. Anyway, the concert was really excellent and I strongly recommend his debut LP “Forget”to anyone. Please click on this link to see a nice HD movie of Twin Shadow playing in the studio.

#7 – Wild Beasts : coming from the U.K. and in continuous improvement since their first LP, Wild Beasts can be considered as sorts of cousins of the legendary band The Smiths such delicate and intelligent their music is. Add to this a groovy rhythmic section and two fantastic singers for the price of one with by Hayden Thorpe and Ben Little and you have one of the great bands of our times. That was our first opening show on Friday 1 p.m. and what a great band to start with!

#6 – TV On The Radio: ok, another TV On The Radio show for me and I could have chosen another band for this Top 10…but no. As great as always and even more than last time for me probably due to more weeks to get familiar with their last LP. A great audience atmosphere as well and realizing in the middle of the show the pleasure in seeing them in Austin…I had to leave before the end to get a decent view for Stevie’s show but no hard feelings guys…

#5 – Kurt Vile And The Violators : Kurt Vile is the new guy on whom we should bet in the years to come. 2011 has been a very prolific year with his new LP “Smoke Ring For My Halo” and him being more than a guest on albums from Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.). To describe his music in short, I would say this is not dissimilar from the style heard on acoustic songs from Nirvana’s Unplugged. Great melodies and crafted work but with a tension that can explode at every second. One of the best shows of the festival on the very nice Austin Ventures stage. And fine Orangina tee-shirt, Kurt!

#4 – Stevie Wonder : What a pride and joy to see Stevie Wonder perform with such a punch. You could feel in the audience that everyone was overwhelmed to see in form the great soul artist. He had lost weight vs. last time I saw him in Paris and as schedule was quite tight he did not do his usual 10-minute speech about love and all (only 5-minute ones…). Anyway, great covers from Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson (“The way you make me feel“) plus a huge part of his classics and in particular songs from his two master LP’s “Innervisions” and “Songs In The Key of Life” that everyone should own by law. Keep playing in such a way please great man…

#3 – Kanye West : Our 2010 record of the year artist was playing his last show in this formula. And what an ambitious show that was : arrival in a platform in the middle of the crowd (and very close to where we were standing!), around thirty classic dancers, a glorious stage wallpaper, lights everywhere and so on. But of course that would be nothing if the songs were crap which as you know is completely the opposite. Kanye is such a media personality today that this is difficult to judge and even so what would be the consequences for a multi-millionaire businessman? Well, I personally found a guy in love with music, with an amazing voice (something I had not realized before) and so happy to be on stage that everyone could feel as if they were very close to the stage. And always a nice feeling to see one of the greats on the peak of their forms. “Can we get much higher“? This will be tough after such a performance…

#2 – Arcade Fire : 8.30 pm. All stages are now over with bands and artists and last show of this 3-day festival starts on the Bud Light stage. What better and enthusiastic band to close a festival with than Arcade Fire? None today I guess… One of the most joyful shows I have ever attended and I am not sure I can find the words to describe the state of the crowd as well! Have a look at the set list and at the latest Zenith show as well but please go to see Arcade Fire next time you are in a position to do so and you will be rewarded.

#1 – Iron & Wine : Best show of the festival as far as I am concerned although that was the only one entirely under the rain (rain in Texan summer being something that wets and refreshes a bit your body and that is welcomed by local people!). As a reminder, Iron & Wine is the project name for Sam Beam and can be simply described as the most beautiful and subtile music that you will ever hear (no, really…). Sam being from Austin and proud father of five girls, seeing two of them dancing and applauding Dad backstage was a pleasure. For more on Iron & Wine, please have a look at his recent 4AD sessions and his interview/studio live songs on Sound Opinions (show #302).

So here you are, amazing festival full of authentic emotions and friendship ; basically what one is looking for in this 21st century life… ACL, see you probably in 2013!

Best of 2009

No ifs, no buts, facts only. Voici comme chaque année un best of forcément très subjectif des 15 albums à avoir pour épater vos amis.

Album de l’année 2009

Truelove's Gutter

Richard Hawley : Truelove’s Gutter

La récompense d’un artiste toujours présent et dont la production est toujours sans reproche. Mais qui est donc ce Richard Hawley : 1) un ancien membre des Long Pigs et de Pulp ? 2) une sorte de parrain musical des Arctic Monkeys, Sheffield oblige ? 3) un artiste très connu au UK ? Eh bien, tout cela à la fois. On aura surtout aimé la volonté de ralentir les choses que l’on retrouve dans cet album et la prise de risque que cela implique de nos jours. Rajoutons à ceci des mélodies à tomber ainsi que l’utilisation d’instruments pas vraiment rock’n’roll (scie, harmonica de verre, etc…). Le croisement idéal entre Chris Isaak et Pulp. Album of the Year!

Les 14 autres (par ordre alphabétique) :

Benjamin Biolay : La Superbe

On aimerait écrire trois pages sur Benjamin Biolay, sur ses débuts de musicien classique, sur ses premières productions bien propres pour les autres (Henri Salvador notamment), sur ses premiers albums bien pop et yéyé comme il faut, sur ses premières déchirures, sur ses derniers albums qui commencent à sentir le cassé, le moins propre, sur sa non-voix si bouleversante qui nous rappelle quelqu’un et enfin sur ce merveilleux double album où pas un des 22 morceaux ne montre un signe de faiblesse mais on ne fera que trois lignes. Des arrangements somptueux, de la pop, des morceaux bouleversants et surtout ce sentiment “happy/sad” qui fait les meilleurs albums. C’est une sorte d’album de l’année bis ; buy it!

Bill Callahan : Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle

Bill ne se cache plus désormais sous son ancien nom de “Smog” mais la qualité reste identique voire encore meilleure sur cet album où les mélodies et les arrangements n’ont jamais été aussi entêtants. Dans le style chanteur à spleen, Bill Callahan a toujours su broder des chansons à siffler sous la douche. Ceux qui aimeront cet album pourront rentrer dans un mode rétroactif (mais oui) et se plonger dans l’œuvre de cet artiste auteur d’une quinzaine d’albums.

Fever Ray : Fever Ray

Le 1er album solo de Karin Dreijer, habituelle moitié du groupe suédois The Knife. On y retrouve les ambiances intrigantes de ces derniers avec un je ne sais quoi de différent. Karin Dreijer a dit avoir composé cet album après son premier accouchement, la nuit notamment, dans ces moments d’éveil/sommeil durant lesquels son inspiration a fait des merveilles. Cette musique est à la fois flippante et pleine de magie ; pour ceux qui voudraient retrouver la fraîcheur des premiers Björk.

Grizzly Bear : Veckatimest

On retrouve chez Grizzly Bear un phénomène de succès spontané particulièrement rafraichissant pour ce jeune groupe qui n’a pas fait de concession particulière avec cet album. Un groupe US comme on les aime, curieux, éduqué, moderne tout en restant old school sur son ouvrage. Certains auront sans doute d’ailleurs fredonné la ritournelle “Two weeks” après avoir vu une publicité pour ouatures mais il est surtout recommandé d’aller un peu sur internet pour voir les très beaux clips de Grizzly Bear.

The Horrors : Primary Colours

The Horrors est un jeune groupe anglais au look hallucinant : des grandes asperges, avec des fringues serrées, des coiffures gothiques, enfin un rêve de groupe de rock, mélange entre les Cramps ou The Cure 1ère période. On est dans le gothique pur et dur … et on adore ça ! On était passé à côté de leur 1er album et on n’attendait rien de ce groupe. C’était sans compter sur la détermination de ces derniers qui sont allés chercher Geoff Barrow de Portishead pour la production, ce qui donne un son fabuleusement noir et pop à la fois.

Kings Of Convenience : Declaration of Dependence

Nos deux norvégiens préférés n’avaient plus rien sortis ensemble depuis 2004 et on pensait que ce groupe n’existait plus et resterait à vie un de nos trésors cachés favoris. Erreur ! Nos deux compères à guitares acoustiques se sont retrouvés comme au bon vieux temps pour nous pondre un album si berçant et plein de bonheur qu’on se croirait à Bergen do Brasil. A signaler également le projet plus dance d’Erlend Oye (The Whitest Boy Alive) tout aussi excellent.

Cass Mc Combs : Catacombs

L’auteur de ces lignes aime la pop et le rock qui bastonne mais avoue également un faible pour toute cette génération de chanteurs US dont on se sent proche aussi bien pour les références musicales que pour la recherche mélodique ou encore pour les textes accrocheurs. Excellent Sunday morning record comme disent les Anglo-saxons.

Phoenix : Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

L’année de la consécration pour nos favoris de toujours aussi bien en France (nul n’est prophète…) qu’aux US (passage chez David Letterman). Pourtant, on n’a pas accroché d’entrée, peut-être repoussé par ce nom d’album ridicule. Et puis, petit à petit, les mélodies ont commencé à s’installer, avec leurs vies à elles et il a bien fallu reconnaître que c’est un des meilleurs albums de nos petits Frenchies.

Sonic Youth : The Eternal

Le passage sur le label Matador a fait le plus grand bien à ce groupe de NY toujours aussi pertinent après plus de 25 ans de carr..euh de bruit. Mais ils n’ont jamais été meilleurs que lorsqu’ils font du rock mélodique et punchy comme sur cet album et délaissent un peu leurs tendances avant-gardistes. A signaler d’une part l’intégration de l’ancien bassiste de Pavement mais aussi un concert surréaliste au Palais des Congrès avec des hôtesses/placeuses en tailleur bleu avant qu’une 1ère partie vienne déchirer les tympans du public et que Sonic Youth arrive pour mettre le feu sur scène tandis qu’en avant-salle, les écrans annonçaient fièrement le concert à venir de … Serge Lama !

Soulsavers : Broken

Soulsavers est le projet de moins en moins électronique de deux anglais aux noms pour le moins amusants (Rich Machin et Ian Glover) mais qui ont su s’entourer de voix magnifiques sur cet album et en particulier de celle de Mark Lanegan qui monopolise ce disque par sa présence. Mark Lanegan est l’ancien chanteur des Screaming Trees, groupe ami de Nirvana, et participe depuis à beaucoup de projets, dont les fabuleux Queens of the Stone Age. Une voix éraillée qui donne des frissons au service d’ambiances à la Ennio Morricone.

Super Furry Animals : Dark Days/Light Years

9ème album pour ce groupe qui ne rassemble pas des animaux poilus mais des Gallois chevelus pour lesquels le mot tabou n’existe pas. Sur cet album, ils nous concoctent des ambiances à la limite du psychédélisme avec toujours cette personnalité qui les rend différent du reste (l’air vivifiant de Cardiff sans doute…).

Them Crooked Vultures : Them Crooked Vultures

… plus connus sous leur nom secret de “Petits Pois” lors du dernier festival Rock en Seine. Un rêve de fan : Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) à la batterie, Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) à la guitare et au chant et John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) à la basse. Parfois ces super groupes peuvent être décevants mais ce n’est pas du tout le cas ici car ça ressemble à une sorte de techno world avec des influences de trip hop et aussi… Allez stop, oui ça sonne exactement comme du Queens of the Stone Age avec le batteur de Nirvana et le bassiste de Led Zeppelin et donc c’est dément !

Wild Beasts : Two Dancers

Encore un groupe anglais dont le 1er album avait un peu laissé froid (du rock indie chanté en falsetto) et dont on n’attendait rien pour la suite. Et voici un 2ème contre-exemple ! Une musique ample et cool au service d’une voix chaleureuse et mieux maitrisée. Si vous ne voulez acheter qu’un album et êtes resté un fan pur et dur des Smiths, this is the one.

The xx : The xx

Encore un nouveau groupe d’anglais très très jeunes. Des filles et des garçons amis d’école qui ont fait un album chez eux sur des vieux synthés et cela donne quelque chose de miraculeux. Un croisement entre les Young Marble Giants et de la R’n’B. Difficile à croire mais pourtant vrai. A découvrir d’urgence pour ceux ou celles qui n’ont pas eux encore la chance de les entendre.

 

Tout près de cette liste (pêle mêle) :

Animal Collective, Eagles of Death Metal (rock’n’roll!), Franz Ferdinand, U2 (oui, oui), Fredo Viola (des voix superbes), Wilco, Jarvis Cocker (album musclé de l’ex chanteur de Pulp), Eels, DM Stith, Akron/Family, The Dead Weather (Jack White des White Stripes + Alison Mosshart des Kills), Magnolia Electric Co, Oneida (un triple album de fous furieux), Arctic Monkeys, White Denim, Yo La Tengo, Liam Hayes and Plush (notre n°1 de 2008), Air, Charlotte Gainsbourg (album écrit et joué par Beck), Julian Casablancas (escapade solo du chanteur des Strokes), Fuck Buttons, Girls.

R.I.P. Vic Chesnutt (1964-2009)

 

Meilleur DVD

Lou Reed : Berlin

Un des plus grands albums de Lou Reed et donc par conséquent de tous les temps sortis en 1973 autour de l’histoire des déambulations du narrateur et de la mère de ses enfants, junkie en détresse. Lou Reed a décidé de rejouer en intégralité cet album et c’est Julian Schnabel qui est à la réalisation. Un moment exceptionnel avec notamment la présence d’Antony dans les chœurs.

 

Meilleur Single

The Low Anthem : Charlie Darwin

Un morceau intemporel qui semble toujours avoir existé et qu’on croirait être un croisement entre un vieux gospel venant des montagnes américaines et un air d’un film de David Lynch.

 

Meilleur Coffret

Big Star : Keep an Eye on the Sky

Le groupe légendaire d’Alex Chilton fait l’objet d’un magnifique coffret de 4-CD. Ou comment ce groupe maudit de Memphis ayant fait seulement 2 albums de son vivant + un album posthume arrivait à faire mélanger des sonorités américaines du Sud du pays avec des mélodies que n’auraient pas reniées The Beatles.

 

Meilleure Compilation

Various : Dark was the Night

Une compilation de 31 morceaux du label 4AD au profit de l’association Red Hot qui récolte des fonds dans la lutte contre le Sida. Les bonnes causes ne sont pas synonymes de qualité artistique la plupart du temps mais ici, c’est tout l’inverse dans la mesure où on retrouve toute la brillante actuelle scène US dans ce disque : Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, The National, Antony, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird,Yo La Tengo, etc… Avec en prime un inédit exceptionnel de Sufjan Stevens.

 

Reissue(s) of the Year

The Beatles : everything !

Certes, battage médiatique ; certes, cela valait-il le coup ; certes, il y a un peu de business… Mais on reste naïf et enthousiaste devant le travail de remastering qui a été fait sur tous les albums des Fab Four. Cela permet en plus de remettre les pendules à l’heure et de réaliser que malgré tous les listes de best of ou autres nouveautés musicales, ce sont toujours ces disques qu’on prendra sur une île déserte. Ajoutons à cela la vision du merveilleux spectacle “Love” du Cirque du Soleil ainsi qu’une tournée de Paul McCartney à couper le souffle et le choix s’impose de lui-même.

 

D’autres TOP 10

– NME (UK) :

  1. The Horrors – Primary Colours
  2. The XX – The XX
  3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
  4. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
  5. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
  6. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
  7. The Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love
  8. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
  9. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
  10. Jamie T – Kings & Queens

– Paste Magazine (USA) :

  1. The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You
  2. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Paviliont
  3. Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Elvis Perkins In Dearland
  4. The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
  5. David Bazan – Curse Your Branches
  6. Brandi Carlile – Give Up The Ghost
  7. The Decemberists – Hazards of Love
  8. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  9. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
  10. Frank Turner – Poetry of the Deed

– Les Inrocks (French) :

  1. The XX : The XX
  2. Fredo Viola : The Turn
  3. Charlotte Gainsbourg : IRM
  4. Animal Collective : Merriweather Post Pavilion
  5. Phoenix : Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  6. Julian Casablancas : Phrazes for the Young
  7. Gossip : Music for Men
  8. Peter Doherty : Grace/Wastelands
  9. Jay-Z : The Blueprint 3
  10. Passion Pit : Manners

– Mojo (UK) :

  1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
  2. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
  3. Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter
  4. The Horrors – Primary Colours
  5. Tinariwen – Imidiwan: Companions
  6. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
  7. Florence And The Machine – Lungs
  8. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
  9. Madness – The Liberty Of Norton Folgate
  10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

– Pitchfork (excellent US Web Site) :

01 Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

02 Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

03 The xx : The xx

04 The Flaming Lips : Embryonic

05 Raekwon : Only Built for Cubal Linx… Pt. II

06 Grizzly Bear : Veckatimest

07 Bat for Lashes : Two Suns

08 Phoenix : Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

09 Fever Ray : Fever Ray

10 Girls : Album

– Other Music (NY Store) :

01 Dirty Projectors : Bitte Orca

02 Animal Collective : Merriweather Post Pavilion

03 Dam-Funk : Toeachizown

04 Cold Cave : Love Comes Close

05 Broadcast & the Focus Group : Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age

06 The xx : The xx

07 Fever Ray : Fever Ray

08 King Midas Sound : Waiting for You

09 Phoenix : Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

10 Girls : Album

– Rough Trade (London Store) :

10 albums sans ordre : The xx : The xx / The Low Anthem : Oh My God, Charlie Darwin / The Horrors : Primary Colours / Fever Ray : Fever Ray / The Pains of Being Pure at Heart : The Pains of Being Pure at Heart / Grizzly Bear : Veckatimest / The Leisure Society : The Sleeper and the Product of the Ego Drain / Fuck Buttons : Tarot Sport / Forest Fire : Survival / The Very Best : Warm Heart of Africa

– Ground Zero (Paris Store) :

10 albums sans ordre : Animal Collective : Merriweather Post Pavilion / Grizzly Bear : Veckatimest / Cass Mc Combs : Catacombs / DM Stith : Heavy Ghost / The Pains of Being Pure at Heart : The Pains of Being Pure at Heart / Yeti Lane : Yeti Lane / The Whitest Boy Alive : Rules / The xx : The xx / The Phantom Band : Checkmate Savage / Here We go Magic : Here We go Magic

Bonne année à tous et bonne écoute !