Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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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#Harkive: My day in music 21st July 2015

July 22nd, 2015

Excellent, it’s Harkive day, or at least it was yesterday. For those that don’t know (how could you have missed last year’s thrilling update?), Harkive is a day where people are asked to make a record of the music they listen to and how they listen to it. Everyone’s listening habits are collated and create a picture of music across the world.

Now there are loads of different ways to submit your listening but I’ve stuck with an old school blog post. Mainly as it gives me something to write but also this is turning into the only place to find a comprehensive record of car stereos I have owned.

car_stereoYesterday started off with a meeting in town so I was listening to Six Music in the car at 9:30. I was pleased to find out Shaun Keaveny was on holiday. I’ve no idea what they were playing as I was utterly shocked to find out Craig Charles was not only out of bed but on the radio at that time on the morning. I think he played something by the Wedding Present.

After my meeting I was back in the car listening to Lauren Laverne, also on Six Music, playing Sympathy for the Devil. It seems that if schools aren’t open you can easily get from the centre of Birmingham to Moseley in just over a full version of Sympathy for the Devil. I used to be completely incapable of listening to Lauren Laverne but I’ve noticed recently I seem to have changed. I even buy albums she tells me to.

media_monkeyBack at home I needed to send some emails so listened to Wilco’s Star Wars album through Media Monkey. Media Monkey reads everything that we’ve got on our server and as Wilco were kind enough to give me this album last week I needed to make sure I’d put it in the right place. I hadn’t got round to listening to it before but it’s alright, not a classic but still worth a listen. Go and give it a go, it’s free.

Whilst I was doing that I decided to buy an Unknown Mortal Orchestra album (Multi Love) because Emma had told me that she’d heard them on the radio and they sounded like Prince.  Surprisingly that isn’t the most spurious reason I’ve ever had for buying an album. I bought it through the Amazon PC app. This is one of the worst bits of software ever written. Every button you click has a 30 second lag to it and if you buy an album you need to shut the whole thing down and restart before you can download it. I miss just downloading things from a website. I miss the days when we didn’t need apps.

pioneerOne of the benefits of self employment is being able to work in the conservatory, so after buying Multi Love I sat in our conservatory and listened to it through Spotify. Yep, I bought an album then went downstairs and listened to it on Spotify. There is no reason or sense in doing this.

Just about everything I listen to is through Spotify these days. This is entirely down to Spotify Connect. Connect allows you to open an album in the Spotify app and then send it to any device on the same network that is Connect enabled. We now have Connect enabled devices in just about every room so you can just move about the house listening to the same thing.

So I listened to:-

Unknown Moral Orchestra – Multi Love
Trembling Bells – The Sovereign Self
Tame Impala – Currents
Tame Impala – Live Versions

That was July the 21st. Other than that I played quite a bit of Destiny on the PS4 but that’s probably more relevant to a completely different archiving project.


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Top 12 Albums of 2014 (yes 12)

December 11th, 2014

Sun-Kil-Moon-Benji-608x540The one thing that is certain with this blog is that I will knock out a list of albums at the end of the year. This year I decided to mix up the format a bit and go for 12 albums. You might think that would mean one album for each month, you’d be wrong. I just couldn’t get my list down to ten, and let’s face it ten is entirely arbitrary.

It’s traditional that I start this off saying what a great year  for albums it’s been. I think I’m beginning to notice that every year is a great year for albums so let’s take that as a given. I’ve actually been able to put a bit more time into new music this year so you be reassured this is all quality stuff. After completing listening to 1001 Albums to Listen to Before You Die I really appreciated the opportunity to finally get back to things I wanted to listen to.

A few things to say about this list. There are very few new bands on there, possibly four. I’m not sure if this is because I’m just missing new bands, I’m sure that isn’t the case as I’ve got a lot more albums this year. As always, tell me about the albums I’ve missed.

In a bit of a reverse order (I haven’t really thought that through properly) including Spotify links where available or you can listen to them all in one go here.

Temples – Sun Structures – At the end of 2013 everyone was going on about Temples but  I didn’t really know who they were. I missed a chance to see them at the Hare and Hounds mainly because I didn’t really understand what I was being asked. I did get to see them earlier this year at the Institute. That was an odd gig. A 50/50 split of painfully young kids and uncomfortable middle aged men with beards (I was in the latter). There’s a lot of Marc Bolan in this with a bit of the Byrds thrown in and you might be forgiven if you thought someone had resurrected Kula Shaker. That isn’t to say it’s derivative, it is original. The world might not have asked for psychedelic pop to come back, but it has, so we  better make the best of it.

Royal Blood – Royal Blood – This is an album I’d been waiting for ever since seeing Royal Blood on the Glastonbury coverage. The drums and bass combo thing is more than adequately covered by Lightning Bolt but Royal Blood seem to carry it off equally well. I’m never sure whether being limited to just drums and bass is a statement of some sort or just because that’s all they’ve got. Either way it works. I have to say that this does get a bit samey, which at 32 minutes long is a bit worrying.

Moodoid – Le Monde Moo – Do you remember when we all got excited about Air because they were French and Moon Safari wasn’t shit? Moodoid are very French as well and this album has got some fantastically weird bits to it which also aren’t shit. I’ve no idea where I came across this but over the year I’ve gone back to it loads of times. I don’t speak French but I’d love to think this is a cow based concept album.

Motorpsycho – Behind the Sun – It seems absolutely ridiculous that Motorpsycho have been knocking out albums for over 25 years now. I will have to take Wikipedia’s word for  that as I’d never heard of them until a couple of years ago. But in the last couple of years I’ve spent a lot of time listening to both them and the amazing collaborations they’ve done. This is all about Scandinavian progressive rock and I don’t think that is anything to be embarrassed about. Yeah, there are some weak songs in there but they’re more than compensated for glorious epicness.

tUnE-yArDs – nikki nack – Just an awesome album. Whokills was one of my albums of 2011 and this is as good. There aren’t many bands that just ooze originality and there aren’t many (any) that sound like tUnE-yArDs. There also aren’t many bands that make it such a pain in the arse to type their name.

Metronomy  – Love Letters – I had a real problem with Metronomy’s first album, The English Riviera. It came out at about the same time as Menomena’s Mines. I developed this weird mental block where I couldn’t tell the difference between the two, even though they sound nothing like each other. Love Letters has solved this problem for me because I can now remember that Metronomy sound a bit like Steely Dan. Sounding like Steely  Dan is a good thing. If I was going to have a guitar solo of the year it would be the one from The Upsetter.

St Vincent – St Vincent – An excellent follow up to Strange Mercy (I choose to ignore the album she did with David Byrne). Also one of those albums that on first listen I had no interest in whatsoever (just like Strange Mercy) but over the year it easily made it onto this list as one of the best albums of the year.

Ariel Pink – Pom Pom – I’ll never be able to comprehend how Ariel Pink goes about writing songs. If you were in his band and he explained the basic concept you’d obviously think it was ridiculous and leave the room. If you did leave the room you’d miss out on songs that just work. There is a lot of Zappa in here, but more tuneful.

Ty Segall – Manipulator (No Spotify link) – I’ve bought a few Ty Segall ablums over the years and none of them quite worked for me until Manipulator came out.  I’ve seen it described as Glam Rock but can’t really see it myself. It has a lot of Hawkwind about it.

Arc Iris – Arc Iris – I came across this on the radio whilst driving home from a bluegrass rehearsal. There was something a little bit weird about it, so I bought it and I’d say this is probably my most listened to album of the year. I liked the Low Anthem (Jocie Adam’s other/former band) but they were always a little bit too conventional for me to make much effort to listen to. I got to see Arc Iris at this year’s Moseley Folk Festival and they were an easy highlight of a weekend with a lot of highlights.

GoGo Penguin –  v2.0 – At last some jazz. I quite liked Fanfares but there wasn’t a great deal to differentiate it from a number of piano based trios (that’s actually quite harsh). v2.0 is just a massive step up in originality. Parts of it are up there with the best of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio but with elements of electronica in there as well. They fully deserved to win the Mercury Prize this year and in some way demonstrate that jazz will never win it.

Sun Kil Moon – Benji – So this is my album of the year. The first time you listen to this album you will wonder if it has been released by mistake. Every song on it is deeply deeply personal and reveals things about Mark Kozelek’s life that you wonder whether or not you’re supposed to know. To the point of the prospect of seeing any of this live would just be awkward. Starting with the horrible story of his second cousin who burned to death in a rubbish fire and then going through revelations that make you realise that rubbish fire deaths seem to be a bit of a thing in the Kozelek family. It sounds grim, and some of it is, but it’s a great album.

There you go. 2014.


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1045 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

August 12th, 2014

1001_AlbumsI should make clear that nothing about this advocates on any level that there are any number of albums you should hear before you die. The numerical consumption of popular culture in no way signifies a successfully completed life.

Last year I had a bit of time on my hands and in February I noticed someone I knew had started to work through Robert Dimmery’s book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. My first thought was that my record collection is epic in range and size so it would be odds on that I’d be more than familiar with every album on the list. A quick scan of the list and I was convinced that I knew virtually all of them. Still I like a good list and sort of enjoyed working through Empire Magazines List of 500 Films. Looking more closely at the list it became obvious that there was a certain amount of confirmation bias in my first reading. It turned out that I owned, or knew well, somewhere between 300 and 400 albums. That persuaded me that I should give it a go and work my own way through them.

Did you know 1001 is really big number? I didn’t. 19 months later I’m very aware that 1001 is a very big number.

I decided to listen to each album in order and didn’t really bother writing down what I thought of each one. Some days I listened to four or five in a day and it didn’t seem fair to inflict abstract  reviews on people. I should explain the title of this post. It seems that over the years as new editions of the book have come out, taking the final year from 2006 to 2012, some albums have been removed to make room for new ones. Over the years 44 albums have been removed. I decided to listen to them as well.

As  I’ve banged on endlessly about doing this for over a year the one question people have asked me is “what’s been your favourite album?”. That’s really difficult to answer, I know hundreds of the albums on this list really well, I’ve not come across any new ones that have become my new favourite and many of my favourite albums aren’t included. But if one stood out then I’d have to say  Arctic Monkeys  – Whatever People Say, That’s What I’m Not. This really surprised me, I’ve liked this album a lot since it came out but I didn’t realise how much I liked it.

Many people have asked me how good the list is and whether it really is or ever can be definitive.  I’d say,  no it isn’t and no, nobody could create a definitive one. It’s subjective and both suffers and benefits from that. There is a very broad range of stuff in there (I was particularly pleased to see African Jazz so well represented) including obviously populist and deliberately obscure. It does a good job and has given me access to loads of music that I’d never heard of or wilfully refused to listen to (who knew I liked Christina Aguilera? I  didn’t). It’s also helped validate my smugness. I knew Travis and Coldplay were terrible, now I’ve sat down and listened to them I know I was right.

More importantly have I learnt anything? The most important thing I’ve learn’t is a proper chronology of music. Seeing how individual bands evolved over time and how bands influenced each other has been really good. Recognising how each year influenced the following year has given me a sense of how much music has just got better. Leaving aside the 50s where popular music was essentially jazz and just brilliant in its own right, every decade has been better than the preceding one. People tend to fixate on their safe decade and mythologise it as a perfect period of music. This isn’t true, the 60s weren’t as good as the 70s. The  70s weren’t as good as the 80s…… you get the idea. Equally the period since 2000 has by far the best selection of albums but is horribly under represented. The people who make the book seem to have got a bit bored at the turn of the century so, for example, 2003 has six albums whereas 1973 has twenty eight. 1973 was an awful year for music. Whenever a new update of the book has come out they seem to have instinctively removed post 2000 albums and replaced them with slightly later post 2000 albums. This has just slanted the whole thing further to older decades. Overall this was the most disappointing thing about putting this much time in.

Other areas where the list seems ridiculously biased is a seeming obsession with Morrissey and the Wu-Tang Clan. Both need to be in there but not everything linked to them. Most of Morrissey’s solo albums sound the same and every spin off solo Wu-Tang album is excessive.

Some other things I learned:-

1) If you’re making an album and don’t get Brian Eno to produce it you’re an idiot. Everything he touches turns to gold.

2) Kanye West has had a surprisingly musical influence on hip hop. You can tell anything he’s produced because it is musically more challenging

3) Some of the best albums have been removed from the book

4) There isn’t any real relationship between how good something is and how many people bought it.
My lasting lesson has been that it probably isn’t worth putting in 19 months just to find out that the music that is coming out today is better than the majority of the music from the past. It was fun but an ultimately draining experience.


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