Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Harkive: My day in music 9th July 2013

July 11th, 2013

I really liked the Harkive idea of trying to catalogue how people listen to music these days. You can, of course, click on the link but for the lazy; they asked people all over the world to submit a whole days worth of music listening stories. It looks like people have contributed in many different ways. I decided to write it all down here.

This is less about what I’ve been listening to and more about how I listen to things and, more importantly, how I seem to be able to keep a really accurate record of what I listen to with no effort.

One of the things I noticed on thinking about the 9th was trying to make a really conscious effort to not listen to things I wouldn’t ordinarily listen to,  that turned out to be quite hard.

I also noticed that other people have made an effort to keep a record of extraneous music they listened to; I haven’t done that, I’ve kept to stuff that I sort of chose  to listen to.

pureSo starting the day I ended up listening to Sean Keaveny on 6 Music whilst I was having a shower. We’ve got a little Pure Oneflow  radio in the bathroom which I bought fairly recently. I bought it because it has a DAB radio but it also accesses our network via wifi so I can stream all music off of our server. As it turns out it’s a bit rubbish and it only just about functions as a DAB radio, I bought two of these before I noticed that they’re a bit rubbish.

Sean played me Dirty Water by the Standells and Dark and Stormy by Hot Chip. Neither really left a lasting impression, I’ve never heard of The Standells and I actively dislike Hot Chip. You can claim to have invented an indie rock/dance music hybrid  all you like but if  you can’t do either particularly well then just try and concentrate on one of them and practice. The only point of note here is how I know I listened to both of these.

Fortunately I managed to find a web site (http://nowplaying.jameswragg.com/) that’s keeping a track of everything that’s playing on 6 Music. I used to use the what’s playing on 6 Music twitter account but that seemed to stop on the 15th April.

I would like people to note that Sean talked a fair bit so I did have a fairly reasonable length shower.

I was made redundant recently so have had a fair amount of time to listen to music and that will also explain why I wasn’t at work on a Tuesday. I’ve also been trying to work my way through 1001 Albums to Listen to Before You Die. As of Tuesday I was utterly in the middle of 1975 (actually as I write this I’m still utterly  in the middle of 1975) so much of what I listened to was fairly dictated to me. The whole album listening thing was going to be a series of blog posts but I haven’t got round to it yet.

Just about everything I listen to sits on our Synology Server, every device in the house can access the server and every device records everything I listen to on my Last FM profile. It does mean it’s a fairly easy to go back and look at what I listened to, and when I listened to it.

conservatoryMuch of my music listening these days seems to be  through the stereo in our conservatory, it’s stupidly hot and it’s just  like sitting in the garden. We moved quite recently and I found an old Cambridge Audio amp and some Eltax speakers in the loft of our old house. They still seem to work and I’ve added a Denon Media Streamer to be able to access the network and Last FM.

Part of listening to albums from a book is you get a bit of a surprise when something you weren’t expecting (and something you know very well) turns up. My first album of the day was Led  Zeppelin’s – Physical Graffiti, a true giant of an album and one I’m sure I haven’t listened to in years.

After getting that out of the way I went over to Harborne to meet someone I used to work with. That meant getting in my nuclear heated car.

When listening to music in the car I stream it straight off my phone. I’m probably alone in this but I think the A2DP Bluetoooth profile is one of the pinnacles of human ingenuity. For me it means that whenever I get in the car, my stereo detects my phone is close and automatically resumes playing music off of it.  At the beginning of the week  I tend to set up a really lengthy queue of music and just work my way through it as I travel about.

powerampI use Poweramp to listen to music on my phone. It’s the only App I’ve found that works with A2DP properly and it has a really good pre-amp built into it.

Going over to Harborne I got  to listen to the end of Vampire Weekend’s new album, I bought it based on recommendation and seeing a bit of the gig they did at Glastonbury. They’re a band that I’ve never really understood and on listening to this album I’d say I still don’t. That was followed by Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart. I bought this months ago and just never got round to listening to it before. I wish I had, it’s great. I’m still not quite sure  why I own it, I imagine it was an Amazon £4.00 deal on the day it was released and I just took a chance on it. To be honest I’m not sure I even know who Frank Turner is either.

A trip to Harborne and back doesn’t quite cover two albums but I got through a fair bit of Frank Turner.

Having devoted a fair amount of time to listening to 1001 Albums I’ve realised that it is really rare that you get to listen to something truly amazing that you’ve never heard before. Surprisingly I got home to get just that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Keith Jarrett before (on reading about him I realise I must have heard him many times on Miles Davis records) and I’d certainly not listened to the 1975 Koln Concert before. An hour of improvised jazz that, in parts is astounding.

At the beginning of the 1001 Albums chronology it was almost all jazz (it starts in the ’50s) but as I’ve hit the ’70s there has been less and less, it was nice to get some back.

Over the next week Moseley will be hosting its annual festival (one of three festivals, we really like festivals) and I had agreed to post programmes through doors. This was a really stupid thing to volunteer for as the temperature and my level of fitness are not conducive to carrying and walking.

It did give me an opportunity to listen to more stuff that’s queued on my phone. I have a pair of Sennheiser headphones that also use A2DP, so when I turn them on they instantly find my phone and resuming playing where the car left off. I love these headphones and can’t stress to you enough that you should get some.

Whilst walking about I listened to the end of Frank Turner and Snarky Puppy album GroundUP that  I bought at the weekend. I’d never heard of them until Sunday, but they played at the Mostly Jazz festival and were one of my highlights of the weekend. An almost perfect blend of jazz and funk, GroundUP is a great example and you should buy that as well.

Another band I’d heard of, but wasn’t that familiar with was the The Haggis Horns but I got their Keep On Movin’s album and listened to it. Again, really good.

My trip delivering stuff was slightly more jazz funk than I was expecting but that’s not dangerous, is it?

Getting back to 1001 Albums was another album I hadn’t listened to in years, Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic. They’re not a band I’d really consider listening to these days but Toy in the Attic is about their best. Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion are why they still get away with it. It doesn’t seem right that it came out 38 years ago.

My last musical contribution of the day was David Bowie’s Young Americans, a much underrated album with a  truly horrendous cover of Across the Universe on it.

There you go, my day. It was more interesting listening to all that  than it probably was reading about me listening to it

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2012 – My Year in Albums

December 20th, 2012

My consistent obsession with imposing a decimal format on my annual music buying is, as it turns out, a good opportunity to gauge my commitment to keeping this blog updated. A quick glance at the dashboard shows that, since my Albums of the Year 2011 post I’ve only managed to write seven updates, and none since July.

That obviously has nothing to do with what I’ve been listening to.

I always say this, but 2012 has once again been a great a year for music. It’s also been the year that I’ve moved to almost exclusively digital purchases. I must have bought about 6 or 7 CDs this year and I think my shelves thank me for the restraint.

I seem to have adopted a format for this now so here are my top 10 albums of the year, counting down to number one. It’s exciting isn’t it?

Grizzly Bear – Shields – I liked a Veckatimest a bit when it came out. I think I was always a little bit wary that I’d never be able to say it out loud so I’ve always avoided discussing Grizzly Bear in public. Shields is really easy to say and its been a excellent addition to my ever growing collection slightly glum American Lo-Fi.

Animal Collective – Centipede HZ – I think all Animal Collective albums seem to sound like nothing else but also all the same.  This isn’t that different to Merriweather Post Pavilion but I really liked that as well. My nod to electronic music this year.

Band of Horses – Mirage Rock – I’ve  always quite liked Band of Horses, I’ve worked my way through all of their albums and thought all of them were “not bad”. Mirage Rock surprised me, it’s rare that a band suddenly produce something very very good after having already made quite a few albums. It’s also odd that it isn’t that different to what they’ve done before, they just seem to have perfected it. It has all the spirit of the 70s Laurel Canyon stuff but doesn’t sound like a dodgy 21st century Eagles.

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar – As I like to make clear every time I do one of these lists, I hate folk music. Every year it is getting more difficult to make this claim. This is obviously folk, or country folk or even just country, though I didn’t notice what it was the first few time I listened to it. I didn’t even notice it was two women either. I didn’t notice much about this other than it has nothing to do with lions.

Jack White – Blunderbuss – Jack White is consistent in making albums that I really like. I preferred his incarnations in the Ractonteurs and the Dead Weather to the White Stripes and I think his solo album is most like the Dead Weather. It’s one of those things that just grew on me over the year and was an easy addition to this list. He also gave me the second best gig I saw this year, an exceptional tour through pretty well everything he’s ever done. It would have been the best gig of the year but I saw Funkadelic in the park over the road from my house and there isn’t really a great deal of competition to that.

Django Django – Django Django –  There was much of the year where I was convinced that this would be my album of the year. You see I did start thinking about  this months ago rather than scratching my head in December trying  to remember what came out. It’s an album that weirdly has got a lot of publicity from the claim that nobody had heard it. As far as I could work everybody had heard it so I’ve no idea where that came from.

Cody Chesnutt – Landed on a Hundred – I loved Cody Chesnutt’s random The Headphone Masterpiece from 2002. It was an exercise in throwing any old nonsense onto a CD, of 36 tracks only about 20 really worked, but that’s still 20. Ten years later I was really looking forward to the sequel and it is great. Much more polished (clearly not made in his bedroom) and a real throwback to traditional soul (can soul be traditional? Who’s tradition?). A real mainstream contribution and hopefully one that makes him the money that I think he needs if he is going to stick to a once a decade release schedule.

Godspeed You Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – This is just an exceptional album. It was always going to be a thing of note to see Godspeed You Black Emperor reform but I didn’t think they would be able to make something that is a substantial step better than their previous albums.
Chromatics – Kill For Love  – I was intrigued by this album as Pitchfork seemed really enthusiastic about it (not that unusual) and I couldn’t seem to buy it anywhere. I ended up getting it imported and it took weeks to turn up. I listened to it and then didn’t really like it much. I liked the Neil Young cover at the beginning but the rest of it was quite dull. Though I did stick with it and looking back it has just grown on me to the point that I know this is an album that in ten years time I will be listening to just as much as I do now.

Field Music – Plumb – Progressive rock from Sunderland. I’d like to just leave that there but I’m not sure it does justice to my favourite album of the year. I think this does single my acceptance that all those types of music that I grew up with, and tried to run away from are the things I still love most. I suppose that isn’t a great surprise but it is frank personal admission that I’m in my 40s and my musical highlight of the year is progressive rock. I don’t really need to say much about at as between the Mercury Awards and Six Music they have had more coverage than any band deserves in a year.

 

So there you go, my favourite albums of 2013. Interestingly no jazz this year. I’ve bought a lot of jazz and liked a lot of jazz but none of it quite as much as the stuff above.

Also looking back on the list I can tell my taste is becoming ever more conservative, there are no particular surprises on there and everything is eminently listenable.

So until next year when I fully expect I will once again be massively surprised at how good music is.

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Home Taping

June 20th, 2012

If you’re as old as me then you probably remember when all the music died. Not Don McLean’s rambling nonsense about…. I have no idea what American Pie is actually about. I mean the 80s when home taping killed music.  Do you remember when there used to be music, but then it all stopped because everyone just nicked it and it wasn’t worth it any more so people didn’t play guitars, they just worked in shops?

I exaggerate.

Music didn’t die. Someone invented CDs and we were all forced to buy all the music that we previously owned on a different format thus massively increasing the income of both artists and record labels. It was a close run thing though. I understand at one point it looked like Sting might not be able to afford his tea.

As I do remember this it is with some amusement that I greet the protestations that the music industry is about to suffer a similar fate to that it suffered in the 80s, simply because, once again, all the music is being stolen.

I should probably clarify that I see a fundamental distinction between the music industry and musicians. I hate the way this entire debate is framed from a capitalist point of view, that defines success and quality of music to be entirely correlated against its ability to generate a return in cash.

I do have some sympathy that the free exchange of digital music is undermining some musicians earning potential. Equally the freedom of digital distribution and production has given many more artists the potential to earn an income where they otherwise wouldn’t.

My personal perspective from the 80s and 90s is that the free exchange of music massively increased the range of music I like and consequently increased the range of musicians that now get money off me.  I now spend much money on music than at any point in my life. This is because it is so easy to access. If I hear something on the radio I can download it to my phone (and pay for it in seconds).

I also give much more money directly to artist through things like Bandcamp and Pledge Music.

I have to say that of the 45,ooo (give or take) songs that sit on our home server I didn’t buy all of them. I have bought the vast majority and the shelves of CDs that never leave their case is a testament to that.

So that is a convoluted way of trying to justify my interest in writing this.

This morning I got to read David Lowery’s open letter to Emily White. This letter was in response to a post that Emily posted on the NPR Music Blog. Emily’s post is a quite reasonable explanation of how she believes her generation (which I assume is younger than me) is moving away from traditional, tangible music media such as CDs. David decided to wilfully misunderstand this and launched into a long old letter about how Emily owes musicians about $2000 for all the stuff she nicked.

This seems to me to be completely symbolic of how the music industry wilfully misunderstands the changing environment  they now live in. David might have a point about streaming platforms, such as Spotify, undermine artists. To my mind that is a failure of collective bargaining rather than yet another stick to beat the youth of today with.

For a different perspective on being a musician in todays world it is well worth following Steve Lawson on Twitter. I thought it would be useful to add a link to his blog as well as it is often interesting, though just searching for the link I noticed he has already written about this today. As I’ve already got this far I didn’t really have the motivation to delete it all.

I just don’t believe there will ever be a point where young people stop picking up guitars and stop trying and make music. That’s because the rewards that people expect from music are not purely economic. Music is also about confidence, wellbeing and credibility. BitTorrent will never take these from people.

We might live in a time where musicians are no longer able to buy islands but is that so bad? Do we want to continue to perpetuate a world where Bono has influence because his set over ran at Live Aid in 1985?

People aren’t advocating that we live in a world where all culture is free (even Emily, if you read what she actually said), we are living in a world where we are redefining how people will benefit from artistic production and hopefully stop the horrendous commodification of music.

 

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Albums of the Year

December 19th, 2011

It’s the time of year where I habitually start making a list of my favourite albums of the year. Closely followed by other random lists, because everything is better when it is in a list.

I started thinking about this list a few months ago and had come to the conclusion that I probably wouldn’t be able to get together a list of 10 albums that I would really recommend to other people. I’m not quite sure why I’d come to that conclusion as looking back this year has been yet another really good one for music.

I think I end up saying this every year but I think we are living through a bit of a golden age for music. Social networks allow us much greater opportunities to have things recommended to us and bands can get much more direct access to an audience. I know this year places like Bandcamp have had a big impact on the way I buy music. Actually this is the year where I reckon about 80% of my music has been purchased electronically so that says something. Mainly that I don’t have to increase shelves at the same rate.

One thing that has popped out at me is that I’ve been listening to much more folk music. This might be an unavoidable consequence of aging or it might be an improvement in folk music. I have a feeling it is likely to the former.

So here we go. My top 10 albums of the year. [edit] I should have mentioned that they are in some sort of order and count down from 10 to 1. I could have just edited this and added numbers but….[/edit]

John Grant – Queen of Denmark
The best way to find out about an album is someone texting you out of the blue and telling you about it. Though this only works if the album is good. If it isn’t we just all agree to not talk about it. This one is very good. The best way to sum it up is it sounds a bit like Midlake. I really like Midlake because they sound a bit like Fleetwood Mac. Weirdly I don’t really like Fleetwood Mac, I have no idea how this works.

Dissolved – Snowy Psychoplasmics
Through a deal I don’t want to talk about I’ve had access to all of the Daddy Tank Records releases over the last year or so. When I was given this I was explicitly told I wouldn’t like it. I haven’t added this to my list just to be awkward though I have a feeling that not many people would be surprised if I did. I’ve added this because I stopped listening to electronic music years ago and this changed my mind.

tUne-yArDs – Who Kills
What I still don’t quite understand how someone could sit down and think that any element of this album would work. In my mind “world music” has a really bad reputation. When people say world music it conjours up images of earnest yet insincere harmonies and irritating drumming. This album has nothing to do with world music but I always have niggling feeling that it could veer in that directions at any moment, it doesn’t. This the most inventive thing I have heard in many many years.

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
I do make a habit of going through the Pitchfork reviews as more often than not they make me buy something that I’m really grateful for. This is an excellent example. I know nothing about them other than the fact that they’re not scared to throw in a guitar solo every now and then.

The King Blues – Punk & Poetry
Do you remember when the country was on fire and everyone wanted to listen to anarcho punk poetry with a hint of ukulele? Well I do. That sounds like the most atrocious combination of music that has ever been conceived but it isn’t. As far as I’m concerned no other band summed up the sentiment of the summer like The King Blues did. They are also really really angry, this is best demonstrated in their song We Are Fucking Angry.

St Vincent – Strange Mercy
Another Pitchfork recommendation. I initially bought it gave it a listen and thought I wouldn’t bother again. Then on a train journey I noticed it and decided to give it another go. This album is great. This would be what Goldfrapp were like if they were good. I don’t have anything in particular against Goldfrapp but their peculiar brand of bland means nobody has much more than a passing interest in them.

Many of the songs on this album sound very much of the Goldfrapp mould but then go offf in a crazy direction, I love them just for that.

Iron and Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
I’ve been reliably told that Iron and Wine are proper folk music. They don’t sound like it to me. They sound about as far from folk music as it is safe to be. This is a great album and I have no idea who to compare it to.

Battles – Gloss Drop
I love Battles. I loved Battles before I even knew who they were. They did the music to one of the levels on Little Big Planet and I’d always wondered who they were. It was @shymmetry mentioning them in Twitter that made me speculatively buy their fist album and discover it was a band I had been looking for. This new album isn’t that much of a departure from the first but  is a departure from everything else you’ve ever heard before. Unless you listened to King Crimson in the 80s. They do sound quite a bit like King Crimson but that’s not a bad thing is it?

This is also the band I most regret not getting to see this year.

Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs
I’ve been properly playing the ukulele now for nearly two years with Moselele. It’s strange that something that started off as an attempt to do ironic covers on an unusual(ish) instrument has now become and interest. Having said that it is the ukulele that made me aware of this album but it’s the quality of the songs that have made me listen to it as much as I have. I don’t really know Pearl Jam and wouldn’t say I’m great fan of them but this does give some insight into how some of their songs are written. Strangely I’m too lazy to bother to find out whether the songs on here are actual Pearl Jam songs or are just for the this album. At a guess, I reckon it’s a mixture.

This album does sound folky, well it would, it’s a man strumming a long on a tiny guitar.

White Denim – D
White Denim seem to have been round for a while and unusually I bought this based on hearing them on 6 Music. I haven’t really listened to 6 Music a lot recently so tend to get less stuff recommended to me through them. White Denim have definitely got a modern Lynyrd Skynyrd about them, yes I do realise that will put pretty well everyone off listening to them.

They differ from Lynyrd Skynyrd in that:-

1) They’re not dead
2) They are very musically diverse
3) They sound nothing like Lynyrd Skynyrd

So there you go. Not a hell of a lot between any of them.

If you want a taste from most of them then here is YouTube playlist with one song from all except Dissolved.

 

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Home of Metal

September 12th, 2011

I thought it might be an idea to write something on here that wasn’t based on my simplistic 6th Form analysis of recent political events.So instead I’m going to write about Heavy Metal, which is much more sensible.

Yesterday I went to visit the Home of Metal exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. I’m not a great museum visitor, they tend to bore me, but an exhibition devoted to Heavy Metal seemed like something I should do. Though it has been on since July and I only got round to it a week before it finished.

I think I should start this with stating that it is a great exhibition, it’s well made and does a good job of holding your hand through a very different bit of Birmingham’s history. I also recognise that Capsule, who put it together, have done a vast amount for music in Birmingham over the last decade, they’ve let me see Lightning Bolt and Shellac for a start.

With that caveat I have to say I left the Home of Metal feeling at a bit of a loss.

One thing I’ve learnt in the 20 years I’ve been living in Birmingham is that it has always been seeking an identity to distinguish itself from other cities. It’s constantly fighting to define itself as the second city of the UK, when I say fighting I’m not really sure that Manchester is aware that there is a fight going on nor is actually that bothered about how UK cities are prioritised.

Birmingham is jealous that other UK cities appear to have a more defined musical heritage. I don’t think other cities have a greater heritage of music but they do seem to be able to bundle things together. Liverpool had Mersey Beat and Manchester had the MADchester thing of the early 90s. Birmingham hasn’t had anything equivalent. Birmingham has had international fame with ELO, Duran Duran and of course Black Sabbath but there hasn’t been a unifying marketing ploy behind them.

These themes, or close groups of bands, are nothing more than a device by record companies to promote bands that otherwise wouldn’t get anywhere. As such I don’t think Birmingham has really missed out.

This lack of a Birmingham “sound” now seems to have been addressed by the attempt to claim the genre of Heavy Metal as being a product of Birmingham (and the Black Country to an extent).

Heavy Metal is a really difficult type of music to define. It is incredibly subjective to distinguish where hard rock stops and heavy metal begins. Essentially it is a semantic difference but one that still seems to be a pre-occupation for some people. It is also a semantic difference that seems to be at the heart of Birmingham’s claim on musical history.

Whilst growing up in Eastbourne (the home of The Mobiles and Top Loader) I listened to a lot of Heavy Metal, I’m not proud of it but it is a fact. In the 80s we were probably past the first blossom of Metal as a genre and just at the beginning of what I’ve been repeatedly been told was a new wave of British Metal (the NWOBHM).

I missed the early 70s on account of not being born so am on delicate grounds to refute Birmingham’s claims to have invented a musical genre. Whilst I was aware that Black Sabbath existed I couldn’t have told you they came from Birmingham and I would have struggled to explain to you why they were more important historically than Thin Lizzy, Rainbow or any number of other bands.

Before I started writing this I did spend a bit of time looking at Wikipedia, it was useful to try and get a sense of what happened before I was born. I have many albums from before I was born but little knowledge of when they came out and no real understanding of their impact or relative sales. I was struck that Black Sabbath do indeed seem to be considered as some sort of originator of this type of music.

This confuses me quite a lot. I am at a complete loss to figure out what is that different about Black Sabbath (the album) and Deep Purple’s In Rock, or King Crimson’s In The Court of the Crimson King? All dabbled with occult(ish) references, all relied on riff based songs and all came out at roughly the same time (King Crimson the year before and Deep Purple a few months later). Certainly sales don’t seem to distinguish Black Sabbath from the others. This is before you consider Born to be Wild which came out two years before Black Sabbath and mentions Heavy Metal in the lyrics of the title song.

Obviously one band doesn’t mean the birth of a movement (I know Heavy Metal cannot be defined as a movement). The Home of Metal appear to emphasise this by devoting a fair amount of space to Judas Priest who are from Walsall (a bit). I don’t know what to make of Judas Priest. As I grew up I had always assumed they were a joke band, apparently they’re not a joke band. They didn’t seem to innovate anymore than any other band around and when their first album came out in 1974 they were considerably behind bands such as Kiss and Aerosmith in terms of world wide profile.

Which leads on to the main point that is only hinted at in the Home of Metal. Of the time when Black Sabbath came to prominence the biggest band in the world, after The Beatles, were Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin II predated Black Sabbath and much of it seems to be a template for Metal/Hard Rock through the last four decades. The problem with Led Zeppelin is that their Birmingham/Black Country roots are shakey. Yes Robert Plant grew up in West Bromwich and John Bonham was born in Redditch but the other two were born and bred southerners. Can Sidcup claim to be the home of rock because John Paul Jones was born there and Keith Richards went to college there? No, that would be tenuous.

The second part of Home of Metal relates to Birmingham’s role in the 90s with Napalm Death. I’ve always had a soft spot for Napalm Death but it is really hard to say they set the world on fire. They defined a new type of metal (Grindcore) but were relatively unknown outside of Birmingham, except to a core group of fans (and are massive in Mexico). Were they more influential than Anthrax, Metallica or Slayer? It would be difficult to claim they were.

The reality of the early 90s was that Heavy Metal was largely defined in LA through cocaine fuelled hair bands like Guns N’ Roses and Motely Crue. It wasn’t pretty but was strangely popular. It also, almost managed to kill the concept of Metal for a generation.

My point, and it has taken me a while to get to it, is that Birmingham did play an important role in the creation of Heavy Metal, but so did Hertford (Deep Purple), Sheffield (Def Leppard), London (UFO, Iron Maiden, Uriah Heep, Motorhead, and even Barnsley (Saxon).

It is no more the Home of Metal than any of these cities.

Birmingham does have a really disparate history of bands and it would be better off celebrating the difference in these rather than attempting to a create an artificial construct after the fact.

I know this comes across as quite sniffy about something that was created through a lot of hard work and with only the best of intentions. On the plus side it did provoke me to think about this in considerably more depth than is probably sensible, so on that level it worked very well.

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Bring Me the Music of 2010

January 10th, 2011
I’m not sure if it is legitimate to persist with “best of 2010” lists this far into 2011. It seems like the moment has gone. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to bother this year, it just means I recognise it is an unseemly use of the worlds precious web space.

I think 2010 was a pretty good year for music. I think the range of new stuff was fairly diverse, though part of me thinks this could be because I was better informed. In previous years I’ve relied on recommmendations from friends for new stuff. Whilst that works for a bit it does require making a lot of new friends to find completely new stuff. That’s clearly unsustainable.

I’ve been actively searcing Pitchfork for new bands/music and I seem to agree with their reviews.

So, this is my top ten albums of the year. Not eleven, ten. Some people might like to mess with the format but I believe a random adherence to decimalisation is what seperates us from the animals.

The Kings of Leon 1st album, Youth and Young Manhood is still one of my favourite albums in all of time. I don’t think anything else they have created has done anything than be a poor copy of it. Until this year. Come Around Sundown isn’t going to set the world on fire, it’s a very basic well made album where, crucially, for the very first time I can work out what the hell they are singing about. They make it onto my list for, finally, trying to put gibberish behind them.

I don’t really know who Plan B is. I vaguely know he raps, I’ve never heard him do it. I saw this album in an advert by ASDA and thought I’d give it a go. To be honest I had very low expectations but it turned out to be a bit of a gem. Overall I think it is more admirable in what it tries to do than what it delivers. His voice is a bit weak for this sort of souly, Mowtowny stuff but he gives it a go and I’ve listened to it loads.

This was a random suggestion through Twitter from @nicktheowl. I reckon there is a perception that I have a soft spot for progressive rock. That’s not wrong, I do. I heard a bit of a sample and ended up getting it imported from Australia. Between the time of it setting off from the other end of the world it was released in the UK for half the price. There’s a lesson there. At first I really didn’t like this. I thought it was formulaic nonsense. Since then it has grown on me. I’d sum it up as a cross between Yes and The Beatles. I doubt there is anyone that would think that sounds like a good idea.

I’m pretty sure this came from a review on Pitchfork. I have no idea what prompts me to buy things but there was something in the review that sounded interesting. It sounds very unfinished, which in an age of over produced perfect sounding CDs is refreshing. I can’t really think of anything to compare it with.

A rare, for me, inclusion of something vaguely electronic. I think it was one of my first albums of 2010 and I still listen to it.

Apparently Yeasayer have been round for years, I’d never heard of them. I think I saw them on the coverage of Leeds during the summer. Based on that I bought this and never looked back. A bit progressive but with a healthy dose of ’80s pop thrown in. My descriptions sound appalling don’t they?

Araced Fire are another band that, I believe, got off to good start and then went downhill. Neon Bible was a bit boring after Funeral. It’s not a bad album but why bother to listen to it? I can answer that, I don’t. The Suburbs does sound different and is good. I’m pretty sure it is compulsory to include this album on any list involving 2010.

Yes, another recommendation from Twitter, this time from @craigfots I didn’t know anything about this nor what to expect. Buy this album now. It isn’t just one of the best of 2010, you’ll be listening to it in the future, maybe as far as 2013. It has a bit of folk about it, but don’t let that put you off. Actually folk combined with the Animal Collective. That should put off people that like folk and people that like the Animal Collective.

For quite a while this had got the highest score of any album on Pitchfork. It sounds very lofi, sort of like Grandaddy or Mercury Rev. It was a close run thing for this being my favourite album of 2010. Deerhunter were my favourite new band.

I love Jaga Jazzist. What We Must is my favourite album of all of the albums that have been made by all the people. I’m not quite sure but I’d got it into my head that they’d split up years ago and had resigned myself to no new electronic jazz. Well, at least no new electronic jazz from Jaga Jazzist, other people are still allowed to make it. As it turns out they’re still about and this year they made the brilliant One-Armed Bandit. If you don’t like jazz you probably won’t like this, it’s a bit of combination of jazz and electronica and is the best thing made in 2010.

It is an odd thing to look back on the previous year. Particularly because there are quite a few things that I’d assumed had been released in 2010 but it turns out they were 2009.

There is also a bit of a temptation to include as obscure stuff as possible. Looking back at my list I realise that I’m gravitating towards all the albums that appear on every best of the year list. Getting old obviously does make you more conservative in your taste.

I thought it might be an idea to make a Spotify playlist of all of these albums. So I did. Except there is no Arcade Fire.

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Blues

May 3rd, 2010

It’s fair to say that as soon as I stated recording games I’ve finished I lost interest in playing games really quickly.

As nothing seems to have got completed in ages I decided to make a playlist.

I used to obsessively listen to Blues. It was the  music that started me playing the guitar because it was deceptively simple. Over the years I’ve lost most of the really good stuff I used to own, mainly because it was on tape and I don’t own a tape player.

I thought it would be plan to try and put together everything I could remember into one playlist. So here you go,  the blues, as remembered by a bloke from Eastbourne.

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The Courage of Others

February 1st, 2010

It probably isn’t appropriate to blow your album of the week on a Monday.

What if a better one comes out tomorrow? What if a better one came out today and I just didn’t notice it? That’s entirely possible, I’ve only heard one album today and that’s the one I’m going for.

So I heartily recommend The Courage of Others by Midlake.

Midlake are the band I always think of that best demonstrate how copying music is really good for bands. I’d never heard of them until someone gave me a copied CD of  The Trial of Van Occupanther. As a result of that I ended up buying myself a copy and have bought it numerous times as Birthday presents for people as well as buying everything else Midlake have ever done. One copied CD has actually sold them many CDs.

In contrast in the same time I’ve bought no Metallica CDs. Though that is more as a result of them being shit than anything to do with copying CDs or their fruitless fight against piracy. I just raise it as an issue. A rather abstract issue.

So if you want to explore The Courage of Others you can listen to it here.

Or you can watch this. Which isn’t on The Courage of Others  but I really like it.

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Last time I mention it….

January 4th, 2010

After banging on about my favourite albums of the last decade I decided to make a much longer list of my favourite albums. It’s probably much too self indulgent to go through the entire list on here but I’ve attempted to convert it into a playlist.

Yes, it’s yet another play list on Spotify.

Hopefully I can come up with more creative blog updates soon.

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Funk

December 27th, 2009

I’ve been mucking about with Spotify.

I’m not completely sure if it is that useful and I can’t really see a great deal of difference from Last FM Radio.

The playlists do seem like a good way of sharing stuff you’re listening to and, hopefully develop it a bit.  Unfortunately music in Spotify is limited to say the least. In my first attempt at a playlist I’d say about 50% of the stuff I wanted to use is missing.

Anyway I bring you the gift of Funk. It’s a collaborative list so feel free to add stuff that you think might fit. Please don’t dump whole albums in there. I’ve tried to plan this a bit with songs that do fit together.

The list is:-

Spirits Up Above – Rahsaan Roland Kirk
What-cha Feel is What-cha Get – The Wallace Brothers
This Time (I’m Gonna Try It My Way)  – DJ Shadow
Save Me – Wanda Davis
It’s Just Begun – The Jimmy Castor Bunch
Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker) – Parliament
Miss Kane – Donald Byrd
Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Power of Soul – Idris Muhammad
Color Me – People in the News
Higher Ground – Stevie Wonder
Cosmic Funk – Lonnie Liston Smith
One Nation Under a Groove – Funkadelic
Reasons – Minnnie Riperton
Spear For Moondog, Part 1 – Jimmy McGriff
Omuti Tide – Fela Kuti
Up for the Down Stroke – Parliament
Pick Up the Pieces – The Funk Groove Connection
Afro Strut – The Nite-Liners
Hang Up Your Hang Ups – Herbie Hancock
Luv N’ Haight – Sly & the Family Stone
Starsky & Hutch – The James Taylor Quartet
If There’s Hell Below (We’re All Going to Go) – Lou Donaldson
Funky President (People it’s Bad) – James Brown
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