Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

It’s only the best albums of 2023

December 15th, 2023

It’s that time of year when I look back on everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve heard and make arbitrary judgements about quality. Then I pick ten albums, more or less at random, and insist everyone else should listen to them.

It’s been a year of a lot of albums. Absolutely loads of them. As is my custom I’ve made a playlist of my favourite songs from the 149 albums that I liked, that have come out this year. It’s an eclectic range of things but from that 149 I could have easily made a list of my favourite 17 albums of the year. But, the decimalisation of lists doesn’t work like that.

What I hate about this is writing descriptions for albums. Why would people try and describe albums in words? What more can you say beyond “this is good” or “this sounds like……”?

It’s Spotify links throughout. If you use other things like Deezer and Apple……. that’s interesting.

So, my top ten. In reverse order so that I can facilitate tension.

Mandy, Indiana – I’ve Seen a Way – This is good. I’ve been listening to much more ambient electronic stuff this year but this stood out as being more than lush strings over an erratic kick drum.

Sufjan Stevens – Javelin – I reckon Sufjan has managed to release two truly great albums in his life. Obviously, Illinois stands out as being one of the greatest albums ever and Carrie & Lowell is a classic. With Javelin I think he’s added a third. He’s had a rough year with not being able to walk and all the grief.

Matters – Echolocations – Brummie band klaxon. In over a decade of writing about albums, I can’t think of a local band making it onto my list before. This came out in March and I’ve been listening to it consistently since then. Just stretching the definition of ambient into dance, this album is triumphant. I liked it so much I bought a T-Shirt.

Noname – Sundial – This is Noname’s debut album. But she has previously released two mix tapes. I’ll hold my hands up and say that I’ve got no idea what the difference between a mix tape and an album is. I could look it up. I’ve not looked it up. The only thing I know about Noname (apart from her Mix Tapes) is that she always seems quite angry with her fans, and other people. Fair enough we live in a world with a lot to be angry about.

U.S. Girls – Bless This Mess – And U.S. Girls are back. I love this album. It’s good. Meghan Remy is a stone-cold genius with an eye (?) for catchy songs. This almost borders on the Fleetwood Mac at points but that’s not a crime.

Liv.e – Girl in the Half Pearl – I listened to this album so much on Spotify that Liv.e recorded me a personal message, as part of my Spotify summary, to thank me. I’m pretty sure it was just for me. I doubt when she started on this I was the demographic she had in mind. But, there you go.

Ren – Sick Boi – Ren just dominates YouTube with a relentless torrent of songs and I always wondered if he could turn them into an album. He did. This is easily one of the best albums of the year and just incredible that one person could create every element of this without the “support” of a record company. Don’t listen to this if you stand any chance of being triggered by references to suicide. Do listen to this if you can though.

Jesse Ware – That! Feels Good! – Classic feel-good disco, She put it in the title and it’s an accurate description. Revisiting disco seems to have been a theme this year but Jesse Ware did it better than anyone else. I think she’s probably made herself a pension with this album.

Yussef Dayes – Black Classical Music – There is oddly little jazz on my list this year. Don’t worry I’ve not given up on jazz. This is a ridiculous debut solo album. Yussef Dayes is probably the best drummer in the world and this is a perfect vehicle to see his vision for songs and his drumming.

Yves Tumor – Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) – The first time I listened to this I thought it would probably be my album of the year and I was right. Go me and my ears. I’m still gutted that I didn’t get to see them when they dropped out of touring last year. It’s my album of the year and I haven’t really got anything else to say about it.

That’s everything I have to say on the matter


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What were the best albums of 2022?

December 14th, 2022

2022 has been one of those years where albums have come out and I’ve bought them. Much like most other years. Just like all those other years, I’ve painstakingly been through every album to try and figure out what my favourite ten are.

If you are interested in everything I’ve found this year then, as always, I’ve made a playlist of the year. It’s a good listen if you put it on shuffle.

Also this year I released my fifth album. It didn’t make it onto my top ten albums because that would have been both weird and unconvincing.

Just to maintain some tension I’ve put my top ten albums in reverse order. It’s a slow build-up unless you read quite fast.

10) Little Simz – No Thank You – I didn’t know whether to include this or not. It only came out at the weekend and I’ve not really listened to it enough to be absolutely sure it is one of my albums of the year. But it shows that good albums come out throughout the year and Little Simz is currently an unstoppable force. After winning the Mercury Prize back in October and having back to back to festival headlines I’d have thought she would want a month off. Apparently not.

9) The Comet is Coming – Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam – I don’t want this to look like my token jazz album of the year but it is the only bit of jazz on this list. So it is the token jazz album of the year. It’s been a year of mixed news for Shabaka Hutchings with Sons of Kemet splitting up in the Summer and this album coming out in September. This is The Comet is Coming’s most complete album to date and you should listen to it.

8) Daniel Avery – Ultra Truth – It sounds a bit like early 90s electronica but not in a laboured old man sort of way. I hate lazy comparisons with other bands/styles but you need them if you’re ever going to have any luck describing music. Otherwise, it’s a series of electronic bleeps. Actually this is literally a series of electronic bleeps but with expansive production that sucks you in from the start.

7) The Utopia Strong – International Treasure – It’s really hard to separate The Utopia Strong from being the band that Steve Davis is in and being a band in their own right. This could either make them look like a novelty band, which is really unfair or introduce more people to the exciting world of modular synths. I’m not convinced many people are looking to find out more about the exciting world of modular synth. My other The Uptopia Strong news is that they cancelled their gig in Kings Heath twice this year. I’m still angry about that.

6) Crack Cloud – Tough Baby – Canada never seems to have bands. They always seem to have collectives. My only frame of reference for this is Godspeed You! Black Emperor. So, leaving aside my limited knowledge of Canadian bands, Crack Cloud are, currently, my favourite Canadian collective. I thought this was a complete mess when I first listened to it but it grew on a lot. Give it a few listens.

5) Nilüfer Yanya – Painless – This is another one that grew on me over time. It came out at a really busy point of the year and I think I’d only given it a couple of listens but then saw loads of people talking about it and thought I might have missed something. I had. There are loads of different genres in here but it still maintains a consistency that shows it is all one person’s work.

4) King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Omnium Gatherum – It’s been another relentlessly busy year for KG&LW (I just can’t be arsed to type all of that out every time). From an album of remixes in January to three new albums in October and Omnium Gatherum in the middle. This massive double album covers every style we know them for and is also a great route into the 23 albums they’re released in the last ten years. The opening 18 minutes of the Dripping Tap is just exhausting to listen to.

3) Danger Mouse, Black Thought – Cheat Codes – Danger Mouse seems to have knocked out quite a bit of stuff this year as well. This partnership with Black Thought sounds both very old and very new all at the same time.

2) Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B – Jockstrap is the worst name for a band. It’s terrible. They create a mental image that couldn’t be more removed from what they sound like. This is probably the most creative album I’ve listened to this year and probably my gig of the year as well.

1) Charlotte Adigéry, Bolis Popul – Tropical Dancer – And my album of the year is Tropical Dancer. Belgium’s finest electro pop by some way. This takes a quick trip through racism (opposing it) and mysogeny (also opposing it) whilst being perfect electronica. It’s good to listen to and it’s good work to.

That’s my lot for 2022.


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Albums of 2021, what were the finest?

December 15th, 2021

Keeping up a well trodden tradition of one blog post a year here it is, my favourite albums of 2021. It’s been an interesting year for albums. I don’t know whether a lot had been stored up through 2020 because of the pandemic but it seemed like there was a constant stream throughout this year. Some good, some pretty bad. But this post isn’t bothered about the bad things.

As always I’ve kept a record of my favourite songs from albums released this year. You can listen to my playlist here. It’s an eclectic mess of a playlist but that’s my thing.

So, here we go. In reverse order my favourite ten albums of 2021.

10 – Hannah Peel Fir Wave
If you like ambient soundscapes then you’re going to like Fir Wave. The whole album is an interpretation of Delia Derbyshire’s work with the BBC Radiophonic workshop. There has been quite few things this year to mark the twentieth anniversary of Delia Derbyshire’s death, not least the excellent BBC documentary The Myths and the Legendary Tapes. But this album stands out as a great tribute in that it takes the music even further.

9 – Bachelor (Jay Som & Palehound)Doomin’ Sun
If you’ve followed my albums of the year lists before then you might have a vague recollection that I think Jay Som is one of greatest guitarists in the world. This collaboration with Palehound is excellent. Really heartfelt songs which are catchy. You can’t ask for more than that. Stay In The Car particularly has a lot of the 90s about it. It’s good, go and listen to it.

8 – Mdou MoctarAfrique Victime
Mdou Moctar is often described as the Hendrix of the Sahel. I reckon that’s because he plays the guitar and people can’t think of any other guitarists. He doesn’t sound anything like Hendrix. I reckon the more familiar Tinariwen have done loads to promote music from the Sahara to European audiences and Mdou Moctar sounds similar. But he is from Nigeria and I have no idea if he considers his music to come from the same genre. He’s coming to Birmingham next year and I’m going to see him.

7 – Magdalena BayMercurial World
This was a late addition to my albums of the year. I noticed it in a load of albums of the year lists but hadn’t actually heard of them. It’s really good. At first listen it comes across as lightweight synth pop but there are little bits in there where you can tell they’re trying to inject a bit of tension that shouldn’t be there.

6 – Kaidi TathamAn Insight To All Minds
I had no idea who Kaidi Tatham was until I went to see Nubya Garcia in November. She was really enthusiastic about her recent remix album, which is fair enough, it’s good. She played Kaidi Tatham’s version of La cumbia me está llamando and I thought I’d make the effort to find out who he is. Apparently some people know him as the UK’s Herbie Hancock. It seems a bit reductive but this album is epic, and yeah, it does have a lot of Herbie Hancock in it.

5 – Theon CrossIntra-I
What do you get if you mix the tuba, jazz and hip-hop? Intra-I, basically. Theon Cross is an ever present part of London based jazz. He’s a member of Sons of Kemet, he appears on albums by Nubya Garcia, Kano, Moses Boyd and Emeli Sande. He’s everywhere. His second solo album is easily one of the best albums of the year. It’s undeniably a jazz album but covers so many different genres that just aren’t jazz, you would barely notice.

4 – SquidBright Green Field
I’ve been waiting for Squid’s first album for two years. Ever since I didn’t go and see them at Future Days back in 2018. people have told me in too much detail what I missed. I don’t really know what post punk means. Shouting? It’s a bit shouty, but pleasantly shouty.

3 – LowHey What
Over the years I’ve never really been sure how I feel about Low. That’s not strictly true. Generally I’ve found them a bit dull. This album is a notable journey into lo-fi Americana, a relentless listen and not at all dull. This would have been a strong contender for my album of the year but it’s been a busy year.

2 – Dry CleaningNew Long Leg
I love Dry Cleaning. Florence Shaw’s observations on life are just funny and relatable. They’re not a million miles away from the Sleaford Mods but just much easier to listen to. Rather than relying on fairly standard backing tracks they are a really tight band that in many cases are just going for it behind a woman talking about bouncy balls. This is the content we want.

1 – Little SimzSometimes I Might Be Introvert
In 2019 Little Simz made one of the best albums of the year (Grey Area) but I didn’t really notice it until it was too late to add to my list. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a very different album. It’s almost cinematic in scale. Not just scale in terms of 19 tracks but also scale in terms of production. Every track just sounds enormous. It’s been a great year for Little Simz. Although she has obviously been held back in touring just seeing how much her tickets go for you can tell she is going to end up being really really famous. She also had Venom used in the soundtrack for Venom: Let There Be Carnage. It might have been the serendipity of having the film name in the title of her song but it was also by far the best part of a terrible film. Ignoring my adhoc film review, go and listen to this album.

That’s my list.

One of things that is also worth mentioning is that 2021 has also been a year of really good remix albums. I mentioned Nubya Garcia’s SOURCE#WEMOVE but there was also GoGo Penguin’s GGP/RMX, Jazz is Dead’s Remixes JID010 and Caribou’s Suddenly Remixes. Are there always a lot of remix albums? I’m not sure whether I include remix albums in my list but there are all worth listening to.

Until next year.


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Albums, Albums, Albums (from 2020)

December 16th, 2020

Keeping up my relentless pace of one post a year I thought it was vital to share my favourite albums of the year with you. I first started listing my favourite albums of the year in 2010 so this is a bit of a milestone.

Looking back on 2010 there’s probably only three that I’d bother to listen to now. Three isn’t bad is it?

I’m not going to waste your time giving you any context about 2020. I imagine you’ve done the same thing that I’ve done, stayed at home and bought more albums than you should have done. Which of these did you buy? Or more importantly what did I miss.

As always I’ve created a playlist that has just about all of my favourite songs from albums I’ve bought this year (and were released this year). You can play my playlist on Spotify.

Anyway, let’s get on with it. In reverse order because this is how suspense works.

10) Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club – They’ve been about for a while and I always wondered when they would get round to releasing an album. It turned out it would be this year. It was worth the wait.

09) Georgia – Seeking Thrills – From very early in the year this was an album that Spotify recommended to me. I bought it, I listened to it, I thought nothing of it and forgot it for a month or two. And then just kept going back to it. It’s a grower.

08) Caribou – Suddenly – More than anything I’ve listened to this because Never Come Back is probably one of the songs of the year. I seemed to hear it all the time. I was going to say it was everywhere I went. Which is true but that’s largely in my house.

07) Holy Fuck – Deleter – I was really looking forward to seeing Holy Fuck again this year. I didn’t. I’ve always had a soft spot for them but this album is definitely a step up. Even though I’ve listened to it loads I still seem to relentlessly Shazam the song Deleters.

06) Run The Jewels – RTJ4 – In a year with a baffling number of things to be angry about there is no substitute for how eloquently angry RTJ are. This album is immense. Even with cheeky bit of jazz on the last track.

05) Sault – Untitled (Black Is) – Nobody knows who they are. They’re a mystery. Some people say they sound like any number of the London acid jazz bands back in the 90s. I don’t agree with that. They released two albums within 12 weeks of each other but I reckon this is the better one.

04) Motorpsycho – The All Is One – Norwegian prog rock. That’s it. It has songs with numbers in the title like it is trying to tell you a story. Perhaps it is. Motorpsycho have been going for 31 years now and I think this is the point they’ve peaked. Though that sounds a bit negative about their next album.

03) Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension – Has Sufjan Stevens really released a great album since Illinoise? I’m sceptical and I’ve bought all of them. Carrie & Lowell was good but, I think, not great. The Ascension on the other hand is great. Ask me about this in a years time and see if I agree with myself.

02) Thundercat – It Is What It Is – After Drunk was my favourite album of 2017 I was really excited about this. And it is another classic album. Nobody does whiny vocals and widdly bass like Thundercat. And he does that with relentlessly good guests. For example watch this video of Thundercat with Ariana Grande doing Them Changes. The look of “Why is this happening?” in the perfectly long bass solo is great.

01) Nubya Garcia – Source – My album of the year and unapologetically jazz. Nubya Garcia must be the most talented saxophonist in the world at the moment. In a world that is full of ridiculously talented jazz saxophonist. This album sums up why London is the centre of the jazz world at the moment. Even if you don’t like jazz you will like this (you probably won’t).

There you go.

I’m not leaving here without mentioning that I’ve also released my 4th album this year. You can listen to Legitimate Concerns About Quality on all streaming platforms.

Well that’s all the WordPress plugins updated and the site seems stable. So, I will leave this here until this time next year.


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Simply the Best (Albums of 2019)

December 16th, 2019

I did it. I managed to go an entire year without putting anything on my blog. An entire year.

But that’s not important. What is important is that I know what my favourite albums, released in 2019 are. It’s been a good year for albums. Nine years into making these lists I think the thing I need to grasp is that it is always a good year for albums. I’ve been maintaining a playlist of my favourite songs from 2019. You can listen to it and judge 2019 for yourself, through my ears.

But what are my favourite albums? Here they are in order, just to build tension and to encourage you to read all the way the bottom.

10) Ibibio Sound MachineDoko Mien – I’ve not paid a lot of attention to Ibibio Sound Machine before but this album is great. It seamlessly combines afrobeat with analogue (sounding) synths in a way that shouldn’t work but really does. A band I managed to miss seeing quite a few times this year.

09) Bill CallahanShepherd in Sheepskin Vest – It’s been quite a few years since Bill Callahan released anything. I assume he has been saving up songs for this hour and three minute epic undertaking. Largely just one man and an acoustic guitar his songs are always poignant and usually funny.

08) Sturgill SimpsonSound and Fury – Genuinely, what is this nonsense? The first time I listened to this I thought it was one of the worst things I’d ever heard. But I kept going back. A frightening mixture of disco, country music and ZZ Top means this shouldn’t work. Maybe it doesn’t and I’ve now become hostage to it.

07) FoalsPart 1 Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – They released two albums this year (Part 2 being the other one) but I really like this one. Part 2, not so much. I get the feeling people are starting to get a bit bored of Foals now. I’m not. I still think they are one of the most inventive bands around, even though everything they invent sounds a lot like Foals.

06) The Comet is ComingTrust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery – After two years off this is a relentless return to form. This is also the only thing close to jazz on my list. Which is a shame. I can’t listen to this without wondering how quickly Shabaka Hutchings could blow a balloon up. He must have lungs like a steam engine (I’m not sure that’s a good analogy).

05) DavePsychodrama – I’d missed Dave’s first album in 2017. When this came out, with really good reviews, I was dubious. I didn’t think he’d put enough effort into his name. But I did listen to it and it’s amazing. Stunningly personal songs make fifty minutes fly by. He got the Mercury prize for this. One of the few years I completely agreed with their choice.

04) Floating PointsCrush – If you’re looking for outstanding electronica then stop now. You’ve found it. Even though this appears in the top half of my list I can’t think of anything to say about it. It’s largely a load of harmonising bleeps. Which is a good thing.

03) Flying LotusFlamagra – Just about everyone turned up to take part in this (George Clinton, Anderson .Paak, Thundercat). In some ways it is a summary of all of 2019. Many of the guests on this have, in turn, made outstanding albums in their own rights. I don’t think there is a bad song on it, and that says something as it has 27 tracks.

02) LizzoCuz I Love You – Name me one person that hasn’t been empowered by Lizzo this year. You can’t can you? That’s because she’s been everywhere. Everywhere, empowering everyone. Leaving the empowering aside this album is a stone cold classic. I can also guarantee that now I’ve reminded you that Juice exists it will be going round your head for the next week. Because it is the most catchy song ever written.

01) Billy Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Well this surprised me. Though it probably hasn’t surprised all the people who I have endlessly banged on about it to. When I started collating these lists it never occurred to me that at some point my musical taste would synchronise with a generation of 13 year old girls. But there you go. This is one of the most inventive albums I’ve ever listened to. And I’ve listened to this a lot.

There you go. My 2019.

Actually, one more honourable mention .Kamaal Williams – DJ – Kicks was one of my most listened to albums. But as it’s essentially a mix rather than an album it fails against certain arbitrary rules I’ve made up. But definitely worth listening to.

See you next year for another list.

If feel like a bad person. Like I’ve let everyone down figuratively and literally. How could I have forgotten Anna Meredith. So here’s an extra one.

– – ) Anna Meredith – FIBS – Anna is unique in what she does. Is it electronica? Is it jazz? Is is classical music? Nobody knows. Though we all claim to know. This album spans all of the above and is a little ray of cheerfulness for it.

I’ll make better lists in future.


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The Finest Albums of 2018

December 13th, 2018

It’s here. You’ve all wanted to read it. My list of the best albums of 2018. Why does this differ from everyone else’s album list? It’s made up of the albums I bought this year so is utterly skewed by my odd music taste but isn’t everybody’s list? 

As always, there is a playlist which has my favourite songs from albums I’ve bought. It’s here. Also, as has become customary, I need to plug my third album that came out this year. You can listen to Outsourcing Efficiency here.

I’m not going to bother telling you how there were loads of great albums this year. There are always loads of great albums. It’s relentless. It is worth mentioning that only four of my top ten albums have any vocals on them. That’s a bit odd. 

Here we go. My favourite albums in some sort of reverse order. 

Singularity – Jon Hopkins This came out in May this year and is a fantastic sweeping electronic album with lots of nods to 90s/00s techno. It’s exactly the sort of thing I thought I’d stopped listening to many years ago but it seems not. 

Heaven and Earth – Kamasi Washington 2017’s – The Epic was an astounding first album. It was as described, epic. Could that be beaten? I’m not sure if this is better, mainly because the sheer scale of it is too enormous to be listened to in one go. Unless you have a spare four hours. Even at four hours long it isn’t just filling up CDs for the sake of it. Kamasi has a vision of jazz that goes back to the large jazz orchestras of the 30s but is very much based in the 21st Century. 

All Melody – Nils Frahm More jazz. Well much more on the electronic end of jazz. Loads of synths and piano creating long atmospheric sounds. It’s the best album of the year to have a nap to. That wasn’t quite the complement I intended. 

Wonder Trail – Dinosaur At this point it looks like this is my list of jazz and electronica albums of the year. Dinosaur are one of the most gifted bands I’ve ever seen. Laura Jurd plays the most amazing trumpet, frequently whilst playing a synth with the other hand. This album fluctuates between a straight up jazz album with crazy synth bits popping up randomly. 

Performance – White Denim Yay, an album with proper songs. White Denim have changed a lot over the last few years. Personnel changes have driven them to sound much more like singer James Petralli’s solo Bop English project. Which is fine with me. Adding in Michael Hunter, playing keyboards, makes bits of this album sound like Hawkwind. If you’re looking for a Texan version of Hawkwind then this could be for you.

Komischer Laufer – The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Programme 1972 – 83, Volume 4 I’ve included this less for the album itself and more because despite having been told about the series for years it’s the first time I paid attention. It is claimed that all four of these albums are undiscovered electronic music written to inspire the East German Olympic Team. Yeah, I did believe that for a couple of hours. All the albums are amazing but volume 4 is one of the best. 

Remain in Light – Angelique Kidjo This album is a song for song cover of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. All done as sort of afrobeat. I can’t say I know the original Remain in Light that well, beyond the obvious songs. I love this album. Every song works and sounds very different to the original, yet obviously the same.

Hormone Lemonade – Caverns of Anti-Matter I’m not sure who Caverns of Anti-Matter are. This album is a psyche rock instrumental thing. This is by far the album that I’ve listened to the most this year. 

Twenty Two in Blue – Sunflower Bean There isn’t a bad song on this album. There is so much of the 80s in this but obviously made today. I need to stop comparing them to Fleetwood Mac because that is just lazy. They do sound a bit like Fleetwood Mac though. Also the best gig I’ve been to this year. They deserve to be massive and I hope that they get to break through to the sort of places that pay you enough money to make a living in music. 

Twin Fantasy – Car Seat Headrest In some ways this is a cop out for my favourite album of the year. Will Toledo originally recorded this in his house and released it in 2011. He was obviously quite attached to it as he went back and had another go at it. Not just sitting down and recording it again but rewriting all of the songs. It’s an amazing album with much deeper and creative songs than you think when it starts. If you buy one album this year, buy this. If you’ve got to December and not bought an album so far I have a feeling that you won’t like this much.

That’s my albums of the year. Much less varied than normal but I’m getting old. 


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The Greatest Albums of 2017

December 14th, 2017

To liven things up a bit this year I’ve decided to turn up the hyperbole. These aren’t the best albums of the year like last year. These are the greatest albums of the year. Bearing in mind this is taken from the stupidly narrow selection of albums that I bought this year.

I’ve got through about 130 albums this year and I’ve been tracking them all through my 2017 Spotify playlist. They weren’t all great but as per usual, there were a lot of really good albums released this year. I’m obviously going to plug the release of my second album, Embodiment of Privilege. It took a great deal of resistance to not add it to the top ten for 2017. I’m biased.

So here we go in reverse order:-

Dedicated to Bobby Jameson – Ariel Pink I look back on these lists and realise that I tend to include the same bands each year. Ariel Pink’s gets on my album lists whenever he releases an album. This would be on my list just for Time to Meet Your God. I’ve been humming it in a threatening way for months. It’s a typical Arial Pink album, lots of strangeness and a nod to 60s psychedelia.

Ressemblage – Visible Cloaks Spending most of the year making electronic music has meant I’ve also spent most of the year listening to electronic music. I’ve no idea where I came across this. It’s a great mix of 80s synth sounds done in the sort of way that reminds me of the early 90s stoner stuff. That weirdly still works over 20 years later. Listening to it you can easily imagine the terrible computer graphics that we all thought were amazing in 1994. If you look up any Visible cloaks videos on Youtube you’ll see they have those terrible graphics.

Hang – Foxygen For some reason I’d thought Foxygen had split up and were lost to the world. It appears not. This is exactly the album you’d expect them to release. A chaotic mix of styles that shouldn’t work but does. It’s a short album, at 32 minutes. Give it a go.

Luciferian Towers – Godspeed! You Black Emperor I wasn’t expecting a Godspeed! You Black Emperor album this year so this came as a nice surprise. Honestly, as much as I like them I’ve been a bit underwhelmed since they started releasing stuff again. This is back to the same standard as Yanqui U.X.O. Which came out 15 years ago. That’s ridiculous. Epic instrumentals that wash over you and leaving you like you’ve been given an important social message but you don’t have a clue what it is.

Masseduction – St Vincent St Vincent is still one of the most talented people around. I think she lives in a different world from everyone else. This album appears to have a lot more really personal songs on, or I managed to work out what they’re about this time around. Masseduction and Los Ageless are the stand out songs.

Colors – Beck You know those fairly introspective albums Beck’s been knocking out for years? This isn’t one of those. He teased us with Dreams in 2016 and then took his time producing an album. This is the most unashamedly pop album I’ve listened to this year. It’s like every song on there was specifically designed for radio play. The strange thing about that is how well it works. Beck might be in need of hard cash.

Death Peak – Clark More electronica. It’s strange how many albums on this list don’t have words. Rather than the retro synth sounds of Visible Cloaks this a much more contemporary mix of strange sounds. It’s got Warp records written all over it and in some places, it isn’t that pleasant to listen to. Which is why I love it.

Murder of the Universe – King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard They released four albums this year and I’d have been quite happy to take up half my list with all of them. Murder of the Universe is my favourite of the four. A triple album telling three different stories. Three different stories that don’t make any sense. I don’t care if it makes sense or not. We’d been promised five albums this year but I think I’m going to let the delay in the fifth one go. By far the most productive band in the world at the moment.

Damn – Kendrick Lamar Kendrick Lamar seems to define just about everything I listen to these days. From introducing me to Kamasi Washington to collaborating with Rapsody he seems to be everywhere. Damn throws out a lot of the massive orchestration that was on To Pimp a Butterfly and is a very different album for it. You have to listen to all of it to hear how the start links up with the last track. I like that; I think he’d be upset if I described it as a concept album but it is a concept album.

Drunk – Thundercat I knew this was going to be my album of the year the first time I heard it and nothing else that’s been released managed to change my mind. It features a ridiculous collaboration with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald and a great song about cats. Effortless bass and falsetto singing make this a masterpeice. If you haven’t listened to it then go and listen to it now. Then listen to it again.

These are my greatest albums of 2017.

So what did I miss?


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Best Albums of 2016

December 13th, 2016

Well that was a year wasn’t it? A proper shit show as far as small minded politics and the fragile mortality of light entertainers goes. But a good year for albums, a very good year for albums. I’ve bought 125 albums that were released this year, more than any year I can remember. I’ve kept a track of the ones available via Spotify on my 2016 playlist, it’s a nice eight and a half hour trip through 2016.

Besides the albums this year’s been a personal musical odyssey through playing the ukulele at proper gigs and festivals with Moselele, to playing the banjo in public with We Ain’t from Alabama and releasing an album of my own stuff. My album didn’t make it into my top ten.

I managed to fairly easily filter 125 albums down to a top ten. So here you go, my favourite albums of 2016 in reverse order (Including links where available).

10) The Lemon Twigs – Do Hollywood – It’s difficult to write anything about The Lemon Twigs without having to mention how young they are or that they sound like a cross between The Beach Boys and The Beatles. It’s a shame, neither of these things really make a difference to how good this album is. I’d say this album owes more to Foxygen than many of the bands from the 70s that spring to mind. The Foxygen link isn’t such a leap as the album is produced by Jonathan Rado. One day The Lemon Twigs will have their quirkiness produced out of them and they’ll become a massive band for it, listen to this now while you can.

09) Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger – There’s no Spotify link to this album, Ty Segall seems to specialise in making his albums really hard to buy. You can probably find it on iTunes if you do that sort of thing. I’ve grown to love Ty Segall, his first few albums came across as a shambolic version of Hawkwind when they were a bit folky. That’s fine but I couldn’t be bothered to listen to them. This album has followed on from Manipulator, sounding very much like Marc Bolan. An angry Marc Bolan who hasn’t got time for songs about wizards and swans. I’ve seen this album described as “garage punk” and it does have a feel of something that they only had a day to make it and weren’t too bothered about how clean it sounds.

08) Black Peaches –  Get Down You Dirty Rascals – Black Peaches were formed by Rob Smoughton, the drummer from Hot Chip and Scritti Politti. I mention that because it makes it all the more surprising that this is a guitar album all the way through. Epic guitar solos over swirling electronic pianos and no fear of a seven minute song. There is a hint of the Allman Brothers in there. This is something that came up through Spotify’s Discover Weekly, thanks Spotify. Anyway, it sounds nothing like either Hot Chip or Scritti Politti.

07) The  Avalanches – Wildflower – It’s an album that everyone waited sixteen years for. Based on the hype I’d decided I wasn’t going to like it. I was wrong, it’s a great album. Unmistakably The Avalanches and, surprisingly, that still works.

06)  Venetian Snares – Traditional Synthesizer Music – I thought I’d put electronic music behind me at the turn of the Century. Apparently I haven’t. As I’ve spent a lot of the year mucking about with synthesisers I’ve noticed I’ve started listening to more stuff made with synthesisers. I’m probably looking for stuff to steal. This is Venetian Snares’ twenty third album and the first one I’ve listened to. Crazy time signatures and improvised analogue synths, this is sometimes hard to listen to I can’t stop going back to it. I’d try and nick something like this but every time I listen to it I’ve not got a clue what is going on.

05)  Anna Meredith – Varmints – Anna Meredith is apparently the composer in residence for the Scottish Symphony Orchestra and this album won the Scottish Album of the year award for 2016 (thanks Wikipedia). I’d go along with that, it’s easily the best Scottish album I’ve heard this year. What is the line between being a classical composer and programming stuff on synths? There’s probably a proper answer to that but this sounds like electronica to me. Especially as it uses that bass sound that goes wub wub wub.

04)  The Comet is Coming – Channel the Spirits – This album should have one the Mercury prize this year. It’s got everything from Sun Ra, to the Orb, to Fela Kuti in there. It makes no sense that this is just three people. There should be ten of them. I have listened to more jazz this year than ever before (and I used to listen to a lot of jazz). The Comet is Coming seems to be part of a trend to incorporate Afrobeat and electronic stuff together. I like that as a trend.

03)  Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!” – Through out 2016 Donald Glover seems to have always been there doing things. Atlanta was easily the stand out TV series of the year but he still found time to make one of the best albums of the year. If George Clinton were dead then this album would be channelling him. As he’s not I think it’s a safe bet that Donald Glover really likes Parliament/Funkadelic, and so do I. It’s not a straight rip off, there are elements of early N.E.R.D in there. It’s just a great album and a real surprise having only been released a few weeks ago.

02)  Yussef Kamaal – Black Focus – I know nothing about Yussef Kamaal other than just looking them up. Two blokes from London, apparently, who play piano and programme drums. It’s another one where I don’t really know if it’s jazz or not. I want to say it is but there is so much of it that sounds like dance music. Usually when I have that sort of difficulty (pigeon holing things into genre) I play it someone that doesn’t like jazz and they tell me quite firmly that it is jazz. As I’ve been writing these I’ve noticed that I’ve stopped listening to things with words in.

01)  King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity – So, my album of 2016 is Nonagon Infinity. I knew this from the first time I listened to it. There seems to have been a resurgence of prog rock this year. At least I’ve bought a lot more of it than I was expecting, though this is the only obvious prog rock album that has stood out. This is basically one really really long song that is utterly relentless. Relentless to the point that if you listen to it on a loop it seamlessly goes from the last song back into the first. You can listen to it forever. This was also my standout gig of the year. When I first listened to this I thought there was no chance this could ever be recreated live, as it turns out it can. It can also be recreated live in a small pub down the road from me. Go and see them if they ever come back to the UK or, at the very least, listen to this album.

That’s my top ten albums of 2016.

There was one other album that I would have included but I think deserves to stand on its own. David Bowie’s Blackstar was easily one of the best albums of the year. Not just because it was an epitaph to his career, it stood up on it’s own as a great album for the few days we got to listen to it before we knew he died. It’s not often that someone gets to sum their career up so concisely and it’s not often that someone can make an album that sets the theme of many of the albums that I listen to for a year. Blackstar seamlessly incorporated jazz into typical Bowie songs and the crossover of jazz into other music has been the thing of 2016. This is a great thing.

As usual this is the point where I start to find out the hundreds of albums that I’ve missed this year.


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How Do You Buy Music?

January 22nd, 2016

supportI don’t think I’m carrying out a survey which means I might only have a passing interest in how you buy music. This is more of a rant about how buying music is becoming increasingly difficult and I’m not really sure who this benefits.

I like to buy music as I want something that I know I own and I want to see artists that I like being obviously rewarded. Having said that my preferred way of listening to music is Spotify. The app has all the functions I need and it’s much quicker to find things than sorting through my file structure. Even though I tend to stream most things I still like to buy albums so I’ve got an electronic copy of them. I don’t buy CDs any more after noticing they turned up, I ripped them to MP3 and then they sat on a shelf. That’s a waste of precious plastic.

My difficulty is that the majority of big sellers for MP3s are increasingly hiding behind Apps that I have no interest in and pose a barrier to buying things. I don’t use iTunes because all I want to do is download files. I don’t need anything to manage my files, I don’t need anything to listen to stuff on. The alternative for a while has been Amazon. They have a big library and are quick and easy to buy things from.

They used to provide a handy download client and when you bought stuff it would help you choose where you wanted to put files and then leave you alone. Now Amazon insist that you use their player to manage the music you buy. The player insists that it needs to sync with your music. I’ve been there before, syncing over 600gb of files can take around a week. I don’t understand why Amazon needs to know what I already own before I can buy anything off them.

Having compelled you to use their App they also impose a limit on how many devices it can work on. If like me, you forget to deauthorise old phones, in a couple of years you can find that you hit the limit of 10 devices. This happened to me this week when I was told by Amazon that if I wanted to set up their App on a new PC, and download an album I’d just bought, I needed to wait for 30 days. This is a limit imposed by rights holders. Note I don’t want to use their App, it’s a clunky mess, I just want the stuff I’ve bought.

Google Music similarly insists that you use an App. It does provide you an option to download things you’ve bought twice but it really wants you to have the App. But Google Music has some massive gaps in albums you can buy. It’s not that practical.

The only system that works is Bandcamp. They understand that downloading the things you’ve bought is most important and then provide an App to stream purchases as a bonus. I’d buy everything on Bandcamp but not everyone puts their stuff on there.

This means that more and more I’m being pushed into just using Spotify and not buying the back up copies of albums. If you want to create a sustainable market don’t make buying things massively more complicated than streaming, or even just stealing.

You can tell me how you buy music if you want but I think I just wanted to rant.


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2015 – Albums of the Year

December 21st, 2015

bop_englishAfter dabbling with bending the format last year with 12 albums, this year I’m back to the conventional decimal format with 10 albums. It’s taken me quite along time to try and figure out what 10 I’d go for this year as I’ve been making more of an effort to pay attention to everything I’ve bought. I’ve been keeping Spotify playlist of everything I’ve bought (one song from almost every album) just so I’ve got a record.

Though forgetting I’ve bought an album surely must be a sign that it wasn’t all that good.

It’s been another great year for albums, notably with a much more diverse range of music. These ten are only a small section of the things I’ve spent the year listening to, but these are the best bits.

So in reverse order (including Spotify links to albums), because you need an element of suspense.

10) Grimes – Art Angels – I didn’t really get Grimes first album, I liked listening to it but it wasn’t something that I went back to more than seven or eight times. I’d also heard that this new album was less accessible than the first. I really don’t understand that description. This is a great pop album, really nice accessible pop. Featuring Janelle Monáe it was always likely to win me over and it did. This is probably the most “pop” album I’ve loved this year.

09) BC Camplight – How To Die In The North – This was one of the first albums I bought in 2015 and I think I spent most of the year thinking “It’s all right”. But it really grew on me. I was looking forward to seeing him play at the Hare and Hounds in February but because of our stupid immigration laws he wasn’t allowed into the country. I’m not sure I ever got a refund for tickets. Oh well. There are some classic songs on here that you’ll hum forever.

08) Deafheaven – New Bermuda – I’d never heard of Deafheaven before this year, I’m still not really sure who they are. If you love ridiculously well made 10 minute black metal songs (I’m not even sure this is a real thing) then you’ll love this.  This is probably some sort of concept album, I’ve no idea, I can’t understand a word he sings, but don’t underestimate how epic this sounds.

07) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly – One of the main things I can’t explain about this album is why I’ve only made it number seven. Every time I listen to it I’m surprised quite how good it is. It’s actually a bit draining getting all the way through it. Kendrick Lamar is 28, I can’t really fathom how good his albums are going to be in the future.

06) Leon Bridges – Coming Home – I love Leon Bridges story. After being heard by Austin Jenkins, from White Denim, they helped him make an album. And it’s a great album. He sounds like all of the classic 60s soul singers all rolled into one, but still sort of unique. It doesn’t sound like an album from 2015 but there is a freshness that means it doesn’t sound like the 60s either.

05) Holy Holy – When the Storms Would Come – I heard You Cannot Call for Love Like a Dog early in the year and instantly bought an advanced copy of their album. It’s everything I thought it was going to be. Clashing guitar solos and well made songs. It’s got a bit of Midlake about it and that’s no bad thing.

04) John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure – John Grant just keeps making albums that get better each time. Nobody else makes songs that are this melodic yet make you laugh. It’s not a weird comedy thing, it’s a real album. Definitely a step up from Pale Green Ghosts and that’s one of my favourite albums ever.

03) East India Youth – Culture of Volume – East India Youth’s first album was good, I still listen to it every now and then, but I don’t think I ever seriously considered putting it on my 2013 list. This album is amazing. I sort of knew that this was one bloke making it up as he goes along but it was only when he was on the BBC Glastonbury coverage that I realised he could make really intricate songs happen all by himself. There are quite a few of my favourite songs of the year are on this album. I genuinely think that there isn’t anyone that won’t love this.

02) Kamasi Washington – The Epic – One of the things that fell out of Kendrick Lamar’s album was discovering Kamasi Washington, who had done much of the musical arrangement for To Pimp A Butterfly. I’m not sure how true it is that record companies suddenly became interested in him and then he “remembered” that he had The Epic sitting around ready to release. I doubt anyone forgets they have a triple album of jazz on a par with Giant Steps sitting about unreleased. I don’t think the John Coltrane analogy is over the top, this is the most amazing jazz album I’ve heard in years. Certainly the most amazing jazz album that I’ve heard that’s been released in my lifetime.

01) Bop English – Constant Bop – The first time I heard this I knew it was going to be my album of the year. Ten months later and it still is my album of the year. It’s another spin off from White Denim. I suppose that the fact my top ten albums have two White Denim linked albums in it shows how much I really want another White Denim album. This album has a little bit more psychedelia in it than I had expected but it works. I was also lucky enough to see them playing in my local pub, making my best gig of the year and my best album of the year nicely linked.

So that’s 2015. Another amazing year for albums.


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