It’s been a FANTASTIC year, folks
- Singing Adams – Everybody Friends Now
- Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
- Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Unentitled
- Morton Valence - Me & Home James
- Low – C’Mon
- Misty’s Big Adventure – Family Amusement Centre
- Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
- Tom Waits – Bad As Me
- Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me
- Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness
- Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest
- Peaking Lights – 936
- PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
- Skull Defekts – Peer Amid
- Tim Hecker – Rave Death 1972
- Cornershop – And The Double O Groove
- Dirt Daubers – Wake Up Singers / Laura Veirs – Tumble Bee
- Half Man Half Biscuit – 90 Bisodol (Crimond)
- A Winged Victory For The Sullen – s/t
- Amanda Palmer – Goes Under
- Earth – Angels Of Darkness. Demons Of Light Pt 1
- Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older
- Gyratory System – New Harmony
- Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds – Gorilla Rose
- Johnny & Lucy – Kite
Filed under: 2011 Top 25 | Tags: AOTY11, Everybody Friends Now, Singing Adams
Singing Adams – Everybody Friends Now (Records Records Records)
(In which your intrepid hero tries not to mention T** B****n F****y B**d)
It’s no slight to Everybody Friends Now that this being number one was as much of a surprise to me as anyone (except Pete Hart, who for the second year running guessed and thus won the competition). It’s not radical, noisy, innovative, extreme or anything. It’s not a fusion of the latest urban styles. It’s not a long cry of existential pain. It’s just fucking brilliant.
Bass, drums, two guitars, vocals. We’ve had decades of this stuff and we’re always being told this rock’n'roll thing must be dead or dying. And then people – people like Steven Adams and his new band, Melinda, Matthew and Michael – come and make new magic out of it. Like I said, there’s nothing to frighten the horses here. If you looked for this in a record shop, it’d definitely be in the Indie Section. But this is songwriting at its very best – wry, disappointed, sharp, resigned, loving, lovelorn, bitter, hopeful. The songs maybe have a lightness of touch and a variety that Steven’s previous albums didn’t, the arrangements are cleverer and more involving. His lyrics, while still very funny in places, aren’t quite so… snarky as before (don’t get me wrong, I love snarky), not so played for laughs; and you get the feeling he’s hiding less of himself on this album. Fuck knows, that’s all projection I’m sure.
Me and the missus totally rinsed this album this year, especially on a 2 week trip in the summer, singing along over Welsh mountains and through Dorset country lanes. It totally suits that sort of thing.
Yeh, anyway. Album of the year, for the sheer joy of hearing the sound a band being a band and writing proper songs that make you feel things and stuff.
(oh, and go see them, they’re ace. Easily as good as The Broken Fam.. oh, bugger)
Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
I spent the first half of this year telling everyone that Wounded Rhymes was the only contender for album of the year and anyone who thought differently had to be a cloth-eared muppet. Well, if the album I HAVE picked as number one wasn’t so bloody wonderful, this album would have got top slot, easy.
There are problems with Lykke Li: she comes across as a bit of a dick, to be fair, and her label still seem to be keen to market her as some sort of Hoxton-friendly pop moppet. But there is SO much more going on. This is bleak girl group pop, offkilter, warped, depressed. There are pop songs here for sure, the percussion-driven Get Some, the catchy as hell Youth Knows No Pain, but Lykke is so seemingly heartbroken and despairing, everything is infused with darkness and perversion and a bitter tang. This is nothing like her first album, which was a Robyn-esque, chart friendly affair (not a bad thing – Little Bit was a gem). This is an ambitious second effort from a woman who clearly has her own vision. And it’s a thing of wonder.
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Unentitled (Alternative Tentacles)
To say Unentitled is less gloomy than Slim Cessna’s Auto Club‘s last ‘proper’ album Cipher isn’t to suggest it’s big dumb fun. It’s still dense with the country gothic subject matter that made their name – fighting and fornicating and sectarian squabbling and drinking and twisted small town tales. But musically at least it has a lighter touch, even having a happy clappy gospel feel on stand-out track A Smashing Indictment Of Character. But it’s still basically the same kind of gothabilly country polka Harry Smith Violent Femmes Shackshakers kinda deal, just with more choruses. There’s some proper dancefloor shitkickers on here, folks. And it’s an absolute stormer. It also contains the word guffaw.
I’m now on This is My Jam – another way of banging on about what I’m listening to, but luckily for you, there are lots of other people banging on too so you might find it interesting.
My current “jam” is this absolute gem, which I first heard Johnny Marr play on Pete Paphides’ ace 6Music Vinyl Selection show. Found out all about Mina from a houseguest this Xmas – fascinating woman, radical for 60s Italy (Mina, not the houseguest) – and this Ennio Morricone number is just astonishing. Starts overwrought and keeps building.
Morton Valence – Me & Home James (Bastard Recordings)
Two years ago I made the debut Morton Valence‘s debut album my Album Of The Year. Since then, they’ve got so much better (as with Los Campesinos!, lower placing equals tougher year, not inferior album), turned into a really fantastic live band (due in no small part to new drummer Darryl) and basically continue to be fucking fabulous.
This was supposed to be a sort of anti-Americana Americana album, which isn’t entirely the case but from the mariachi rock of Red Rock Mountain to the steel guitar on Me & Home James (one of several tracks dragged out of contractual limbo to finally get a well-deserved proper release) to the mournful Johnny Dowd-ish duet of These Were The Things, there’s more than a hint of country here. There’s also soaring indie-electro-pop (Sailors), a Captain Beefheart tribute (Bad Times For The Hare Krishnas) and a helluva lot more. This album is rich and varied and smart and ace and while they’re getting more and more attention – here and overseas – they’re still not getting ENOUGH attention. So sort it out, okay?
A bit late, but here’s their Xmas song
Low – C’Mon (Sub Pop)
All I have to do is listen to Low and everything’s OK. Without doubt the most beautiful music on this list, or any other I’d be likely to come up with. I’ve got a shitty cold so I’m saying no more. Just listen. Everything will be OK..
Filed under: 2011 Top 25 | Tags: AOTY11, Misty's Big Adventure, Not Wacky
Misty’s Big Adventure – Family Amusement Centre (Grumpy Fun Recordings)
As I drunkenly tweeted after their recent Newcastle gig, “The sort of people who think Misty’s Big Adventure are wacky are the same sort of people who think Oasis were a great live band”.
Sure, they have a glove-covered whirling dervish called The Erotic Volvo. Sure, there are sort-of dance routines and a fair amount of showbiz (low budget, but show business none the less). But that stuff doesn’t work if the songs are crap, if there’s no content. In that sense, Misty’s remind me a bit of a much skinter Flaming Lips (but not really in any other way, their’s is a very different take on psychedelia).
Ah, the songs. Misty’s manage to mix up Lionel Bart, psychedelia, Burt Bacharach, Two Tone, The Shangri-Las, fellow Brum bands like Pram and Broadcast (R.I.P. Trish), Ivor Cutler, 70s pop. Etc etc etc… It’d be a mistake to see any of this as whimsy – listen closer and there’s a quiet anger, a resigned withdrawal from the worst bits of modern life. As Grandmaster Gareth, the Scott Walker / Julian Cope-voiced frontman has it, “I’m not some hippy after peace and love, just sick of everybody trying to act so tough“. Misty’s is 7 musicians and a dancer coming together to create something smart and sad and joyful and fun and exciting and heartfelt and innovative and pretty fucking unique. And Family Amusement Centre is their best album by far, the ambition matched by the arrangements, the songs just spot on. Go see them, buy their album, insist on the girl group spin off The Dumbettes making an album so Hannah gets her bench overlooking the Lickey Hills.
This isn’t on the album but I don’t think they made any videos for it yet. This is an old song and I’ll keep posting it till you all accept Misty’s into your heart like Jeebus only better.
Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will (Rock Action)
Mogwai still do the quiet / loud, soaring noise thing better than anyone, but nowadays they do so much more. As with their last few albums, there are shifts and developments. Vocals are still cropping up, there’s an almost Stereolab-style motorik groove to Mexican Grand Prix. The palette’s getting more varied but the key strengths are intact. In fact, as an album per se (rather than a collection of amazing tracks padded out with some dicking about), this might actually be their best. As a drunk Glaswegian once said to me at a Mogwai show, “this is what heaven sounds like, big man”.
Tom Waits – Bad As Me (Anti)
It’s been said that this is like a Tom Waits greatest hits compilation made up of new songs. And apparently this is a criticism. Bollocks. The last few Waits albums have been clanky and innovative and anything but an ageing performer resting on his laurels, so why not have an album that has all the Toms on it – the junkyard poet, the drunk tank philosopher, the oblique social commentator, the hopeless romantic. Criticising this album for being too Tom Waits would only make sense if the songs were in some way under par, and they’re obviously not. This is ace, fuck the haters.