Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New albums ahoy

There are two new albums I'm looking forward to this month. Schengen's new album, they're stuff on the Flow compilation was the best yet so it is going to be interesting to see what they have been up to. The other is a new Biosphere album, always welcome with me.

Bleep also have the Artic Monkeys (gotta give into the hype), the new album from Clearlake (they have had their moments in the past but what is this release like?) and an oldie from Mogwai, Rock Action which I don't have.

Roll on pay day (and release dates)...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Top Tens

Since we are only into the New Year properly now I thought I would have a look at some lists of 2005 records. There's an element of music navel-gazing here but on the other hand I felt 2005 was quite a good year for music.

First let's have the Observer Music Monthly Top Ten

  1. I am Bird Now - Antony and the Johnsons
  2. Demon Days - Gorillaz
  3. Illnoise - Sufjan Stevens
  4. Chavez Ravine - Ry Cooder
  5. Get Behind Me Satan - The White Stripes
  6. You could have it so much better - Franz Ferdinand
  7. Late Registration - Kanye West
  8. Want Two - Rufus Wainwright
  9. Le Fil - Camille
  10. Funeral - Arcade Fire

Excellent, like all good muso lists there is plenty of obscure stuff but what surprised me was that there was a lot of stuff I had heard of but actually didn't like all that much.

Okay, now for the reader's list from the same magazine.

  1. Arcade Fire
  2. Franz Ferdinand
  3. Gorillaz
  4. Antony & The Johnsons
  5. Kaiser Chiefs
  6. Bloc Party
  7. Magic Numbers
  8. White Stripes
  9. Coldplay
  10. Madonna

This seems to me to be a more accurate list based on buzz, the charts and what people were actually talking about. Personally though I think there is something hideously wrong with people who rate either the Kaiser Chiefs or Bloc Party above the Editors. The only real WTF is the presence of Coldplay and Madonna. Coldplay had a good video, a good single and an album that was the aural equivalent of vanilla blancmange, it gave coffe-table music a reputation for being edgy.

Again there is some taste differences. The White Stripes are a good band and their album was probably equally good but I didn't like it, the Magic Numbers seem too retro to actually be interesting.

Right, finally we have my own list, which is actually a bit more than ten because I forget a few that were actually made this year so they had to be slotted in later.

  1. Murcof - Remberanza
  2. Rhythm & Sound - See-Mi-Yah
  3. Editors - The Back Room
  4. Death Cab for Cutie - Plans
  5. Mogwai - Government Commissions
  6. Gravenhurst - The Velvet Cell
  7. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
  8. Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
  9. Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase
  10. The Go! Team - Thunder Lightning Strike
  11. Autechre - Untilted
  12. Antony & The Johnsons - I am a Bird Now
  13. Ladytron - Witching Hour
  14. Isolee - We are Monster
  15. FourTet - Everything Ecstatic
  16. Goldfrapp - Supernature

So, comments on my list. Well the ranking is based on how much I liked the album as a piece of music but really the sign of true value for me is how long I listen to an album after the initial appeal has worn off. With Teeth for example was really a bit of a placeholder record but you have to credit it with a number of grooves that kept me coming back.

The disappointments were FourTet and Goldfrapp, neither seemed too certain where they were going after a good previous album. In FourTet's case his mix compilation was actually better than his own release, not that has to hurt. The new BoC album was a bit uneven as well and while I liked the new Autechre it hasn't exactly been on continual play since its release.

The top four really deserve their rankings and I was disappointed to see no intersection at all on these (although Death Cab and Editors made the Top 100 in the Observer). See-Mi-Yah might pip Remberanza in terms of number of listens since release but Murcof managed a great job of moving his sound on while retaining its essential qualities (in case you haven't heard it: Electronica in a fusion with Contemporary Classical). The same was true of Death Cab for Cutie, the melodies, lyrical keystones and style from previous albums were all present but the product as a whole was buffed and styled to perfection. The opening two tracks are an example of pure pop songs that don't insult the listener.

Editors were a revelation for me this year, seeming to pick up the musical threads where Joy Division left off (only with a lighter tone to the lyrics). Their only deficiencies are a lacklustre drummer in the studio and vocalist live. Other than this they have a powerful indie rock sound that is incredibly slick for a debut.

They've had a lot of stick for their obvious roots in The Cure, Joy Division and lesserly The Smiths but I don't buy it. Sure they have their roots in these bands but they do not sound like any one of them, they are their own thing. As for being some kind of retro indie nostalgia piece... well to me the Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party sound like the poor man's Jam tarted up for the disco. For me the Editors didn't just create a pastiche they reinvented.