• 2013 Albums of the year

    Dic 22 2013, 0:00

    Art probably isn't real until you quantify it in some way, so here's an arbitrary list of my 10 highest rated albums from this year.

    #10 Long Distance Calling - The Flood Inside

    The 4th full length album from the German post-rock group. Maintains the high standards set by their previous records. Enthralling post-rock delivered with teutonic efficiency.

    #9 65daysofstatic - Wild Light

    5th album from the Sheffield post-(math-use guitars to produce excited bleepy-dancey)-rock group. Explosive and constantly on the verge of completely falling apart, an exhilarating album.

    #8 AdriAnne Lenker - Hours Were The Birds

    An album I just discovered a couple of weeks ago on Bandcamp, a great album with absolutely stunning vocals.

    #7 Mishkin Fitzgerald - Present Company

    First solo album from the lead singer of Birdeatsbaby. Dark, haunting and absolutely beautiful.

    #6 And So I Watch You From Afar - All Hail Bright Futures

    Bright and brash album from the Belfast boys. Full of energy, hits the ground running from track 1 and doesn't ease up.

    #5 Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle

    Folk chanteuse Laura Marling delivered another stunning album this year, velvet vocals and mesmerising melodies.

    #4 Russian Circles - Memorial

    Russian Circles usually deliver outstanding albums and somehow this year than managed to raise their game even further. A pulsating album.

    #3 Zaz - Recto Verso

    2nd album from French singer Zaz, 2nd albums can be difficult sometimes, but the best tracks on this album reach the same high standards as her first album. An arrangement of infectiously happy tunes mixed with songs of deep introspection. Get the extended version with Le retour du soleil which is electricifying.

    #2 Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing

    Possibly the best songwriter of his generation delivering some of the best songwriting of his career. Deep, complex and consuming.

    #1 The Impossible Girl - The Sky Is Calling

    Occasionally an album comes along that just resonates with my particular frame of mind at any given time. An electronic dance-fest this album literally starts from the beginning with an aural approximation of what the big bang might sound like before delivering the best summary of stellar nuclear processes ever delivered in a pop-song "And when I go you will get gold" remains one of my favourite lyrics of the year. The album narrows down to moments of deeper introspection all delivered over pulsating dance beats. This album just blew me away this year.
  • Architecture Dance

    Nov 4 2012, 2:27

    Sat 3 Nov – Marian Call

    They say that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, but I haven't tried writing about music for a while so perhaps it's time to put my metaphorical dancing shoes on, or something.

    Marian Call is a talented singer/songwriter currently residing in Alaska. She Kickstarted and adventure quested to source a European tour, on which she is currently embarked. On this venture she is joined by Scott Barkan, a great guitarist and Patrick who's surname I didn't catch who helps carry things and draws cool pictures in a notebook that I'm not sure he knew I was looking at while Marian and Scott play.

    Marian is also embarking on another adventure quest for the (re)release of her fantastic Something Fierce album. This quest involves doing things like constructing posts containing the elemental symbols. My week was chaotic this week, but I'd hate to pass up the chance to plant the chemical elements into things.

    How Her Lilac Beautiful Balletic Call Notes Only the Facts Necessary to create a Natural iMge. Although, Simply Put, She Clearly Arranges Kick-ass Cacophonies. Scintillating Timbre in her Vocals Creates aMnesia. Feelings Collide anNihilating Currency..... and it's one in the morning and my mind can't bend to incorporating Zn easily into something.

    Anyway, Marian and Scott were playing in The Forest Cafe in Edinburgh, and are very nice people. Marian even tolerates attempts by people who shouldn't really be allowed to talk to other people (me) to talk to her when she's attempting to eat and clearly exhausted, following two concerts and numerous hours travelling. Sadly at the end of the evening it transpired that someone had chosen to wander off with Marian's laptop at some point in the evening. Hopefully it will appear, or someone will know what happened to it.

    Before that unfortunate even Marian and Scott put on a great show. Can't remember exact listing but they played loads of songs off Something Fierce and [album artist=Marian Call]Got To Fly[/album, such as:

    Good Morning Moon
    Good Old Girl
    Vera Flew The Coop
    Got To Fly
    Dark Dark Eyes
    It's Good to Have Jayne on Your Side
    Nerd Anthem

    Whistle While You Wait
    I Wish I Were a Real Alaskan Girl
    Coffee by Numbers
    In the Black
    Highway Five
    Dear Mister Darcy

    Order almost definitely completely wrong.

    Good Morning Moon
    Is a ridiculously cheerful song for a song about waking up when it's still dark outside in the Northern hemisphere. Light and breezy with a punchy chorus. Do do do doo do dooo do do.....

    Good Old Girl
    A ballad to trusty reliable vehicles, whether earthbound or bound for the stars.

    Vera Flew the Coop
    Apparently everyone needs a Hamletesque song where everybody dies. This is a song about a woman who can't tolerate liars. Everybody dies.

    Got To Fly
    If I remember the explanation this is a track about why Marian creates art. I think the need to fly is a metaphor for making music, while she said later she's scared of flying, which I guess puts another dimension on it. A breezy jazzy tune

    Dark Dark Eyes
    A track from [album artist=Marian Call]Vanilla[/album], a dark dark ballad. Beautiful and hauntingly sad. Lovely song.

    It’s Good to Have Jayne on Your Side
    A drinking song, but without much drinking in the Forest. Audience participation at the end of verses was fun. just a great Americana song.

    I’ll Still Be a Geek After Nobody Think It’s Chic (The Nerd Anthem)
    One song for which I know the setting, was right at the end of the first set before a short break. A light-hearted song with typewriter percussion. A tribute to being who you want to be while not caring what the rest of the world thinks.

    Whistle While You Wait
    A song about being out of place. Pretty much me anywhere. Marian's vocals provide great dynamics through the verses while the guitar provides a massive thrust to power through the chorus. A great song.

    I Wish I Were a Real Alaskan Girl
    A jaunty ditty about aspiring to be a real Alaskan girl, like all those rough, tough Alaskan girls you think of..... not that one.

    Coffee by Numbers (Faon's Song)
    A track inspired by Marian meeting her best friend in a coffeeshop during a Wi-fi outage. A great jazzy track. Vocal melodies on this track are amazing.

    In the Black
    Apparently a song about relationships ending. Light guitar work with mournful vocals. Calm and peaceful.

    Highway Five
    An homage to the West Coast of the US. A ballad yearning for the time to explore an area while accepting that seeing everything isn't possible, but at the same time appreciating what you can experience.

    Dear Mister Darcy
    A song about miscommunication and remaining oblivious do hints dropping like bricks. Jazzy, poppy, bouncey. Great rhythm, great lyrics, fantastic song.

    Almost definitely omitted something they played :-S

    If you're still reading this and didn't already know who Marian Call is you're probably my brother. Phil - you should check out Marian Call's stuff, she's really good.
  • Humble Music Bundle

    Ago 7 2012, 15:33

    Eventually got round to listening to the Humble Music Bundle (http://www.humblebundle.com/, still available for 2 days at time of writing) since downloading it about a week and a half ago. Annoying when I get new music and let it stack up a bit. Anyway some thoughts.

    Hitoshi Sakimoto - Best of the Valkyria Chronicles

    Funnily enough music form Valkyria Chronicles, which I've never played. If you've played a traditional JRPG then you probably know what style of music this is. Good traditional Japenese gaming music, can't say anything particularly stood out, but a solid album.

    MC Frontalot - Favoritism

    Never listened to MC Frontalot before, know the name from Penny Arcade, believe he's played big shows at PAX's. Nerdcore Hip-hop is not exactly a classification that naturally shouts out to me....., but I must say this selection of songs is pretty damn good. I'll Form the Head particularly stood out. Good album, upbeat, lightly humorous, well worth listening to.

    Christopher Tin - Calling All Dawns

    If you've ever played Civ IV you'll probably recognise the first track off this album as the sweeping tribal theme from that game. The rest of the album explores around a similar tribal theme. I remember playing Civ IV the theme music always fitted with the epic scope of the game and building up a mighty civilisation from your tiny starting tribe. Music that takes you back to great games is always a great thing.

    They Might Be Giants - Album Raises New and Troubling Questions

    Ok, Birdhouse in Your Soul is a classic track, but apart from that I don't really know anything by them. Apparently album is a collection of rarities recorded during last album recording, with some live tracks at the end. Guess most of the songs have a similar sound and feel to Birdhouse In Your Soul, but don't really have the same dynamism. Electronic Istanbul (Not Constantinople) sounds a bit like a Daft Punk remix of the classic song. Geekyish, indieish, altish rockish genreish if I try to put a hatish type thing to pigeon holeish in an envelopeish a description with mixedish metaphors.

    Jonathan Coulton - Jonathan Coulton's Greatest Hit (Plus 13 Other Songs)

    From Still Alive fame, which I know mostly from: http://www.vgcats.com/comics/extras/stillalive.php (Mental Note: Need to get round to actually completing Portal, with the disclaimer that for years I didn't have a computer that would run it, desperately tries to figure out a way to regain Geekcred). Which is obviously a song and anyone who can make "These points of data make a beautiful line" actually work in a song is a genius. Been meaning to get more of his stuff for a long time, but will use excuses of only so much time/money/music I can spend/listen to at any particular time. Upbeat guitar rock, with light geek inspired lyrics, good solid song writing with foot-taping rhythms.

    And if you pay more than the average of $8.31, which is apparently £5.30 or about two pints in the more traditional monetary system.
    OK Go - Twelve Remixes of Four Songs

    Hmm, apparently I have only 2 scrobbles of OK Go, I seem to remember them being ok, guess I maybe haven't paid enough attention to them to listen to more stuff. They do have a reputation for making astounding avant garde videos, the one driving round the course and making the song while in a car was really cool. Guess it goes down as another too many bands, not enough time problem. Any remix albums can be difficult in nature due to the repetition of songs. Fortunately the remixes are quite good which allows quite a lot of variety despite being a remix albums. Dancey remixes of solid tracks.

    Still 2 days of Humble Bundle thing if anyone reading this wants some good cheap geek music. http://www.humblebundle.com/
  • Some thoguhts on new albums...

    Giu 2 2009, 14:17

    Just some quick thoughts on 3 new albums I've listened to recently, due to the recent death of my iPod I've only listened to each album once, so this will mainly contain first impressions, which are usually pretty malleable and can change on further listenings, as they have many times in the past.

    Where to start, Manatees Icarus, The Sunclimber is as good a place as any. A far better review from someone who's actually put some thought and effort into listening to the album can be found here. I found the album to be quite a nice bit of sludgy metal, didn't massively grab my attention, and doesn't really make me want to go and shout about it from the highest ramparts, but my opinion of it may improve with further listening. Manatees are a great band to see live if the opportunity should ever arise.

    Next up a live album from 65daysofstatic, Escape from New York. Live albums can always be hit or miss, often depending on the quality of the sound recording. I think the sound on this one is pretty good and gives a decent impression of 65dos live, the studio albums are obviously more robust and create a better starting point for anyone who's not already smitten with the band.

    Finally just listened to the new Silversun Pickups album Swoon on Spotify. Have quite like them ever since I saw them supporting NIN and Foo Fighters at Meadowbank Stadium. This album doesn't grab my attention as much as Carnavas though, they seem to have taken an altogether slower and more mellow approach on this outing. Might be a grower, but with so much music to choose from it's hard to tell if I'll give it the attention it needs to grow.
  • 15 albums meme

    Feb 24 2009, 17:29

    Apparently this is doing the round on Facebook, will try it just off the top of my head:

    [meme] Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world. When you finish, tag 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. [/meme]

    List as chronological as memory allows.

    1. Queen - Greatest Hits
    Yeah, greatest hits aren't the best measure of artists. There's nothing as good as a well composed and crafted album, but this is where the obsession with music started.

    2. Simon & Garfunkel - Sound of silence
    Just a beautiful album I Am a Rock described my outlook for quite a long stretch of time.

    3. Idlewild - Hope is Important
    Rebellious youth stage kick started, hearing When I Argue I See Shapes on the radio the first time probably had the most profound effect, but the fact that I got back to listening obsessively to Idlewild last year indicates the lasting impact of the album.

    4. Mansun - Six
    First heard this album when my brother brought it back from Uni one time, was just blown away by the whole proggy album telling a story thing. Plenty of melancholy introspective teenage stuff there too. Mansun later the first band I saw live when I was a first year at Uni.

    5. The Clash - The Clash
    First foray into punk, more rebelliousness and anger, yay.

    6. The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
    First year in Uni, £5 albums in Fopp, was clearly bright and happy at this time :-|

    7. The Doors - The Doors
    Up to Uni, think this was 2nd year, commuting on the train from Glenrothes, 1 hour each way, falling asleep listening to The End each night as I went to sleep. Yay, for melancholy youthoods :-)

    8. Pink Floyd - Meddle
    Echoes says it all I think.

    9. The Who - Live at Leeds
    LOUD, heavy *drools*

    10. Tool - Lateralus
    3rd year in Uni, moved in with Dave, started really listening to Metal, got a bit obsessed with Tool for quite a long time, stunning album with the ability to bring you from a complete rage to a quivering blubbering mess.

    11. A Perfect Circle - Mer De Noms
    MJK may have become a bit of a prophet to me at this point, usually go through periods of being obsessed by one song writer.

    12. Red Sparowes - At The Soundless Dawn
    The album that first made me really "get" post-rock I think, Buildings stretched wide across the sky..... just blows me away every time.

    13. Porcupine Tree - In Absentia
    Early PhDing with Sparowes and when I started going to gigs heavily.

    14. dredg - El Cielo
    Can't be bothered explaining them all....

    15. Belle and Sebastian - Tigermilk
    No idea why it took me so long to get into them, just did for some reason.

    Just quickly, without sitting down with all my cds and mp3's. Like in High Fidelity when you get asked for you top 5, or top 15 and have to do it quickly, probably has some notable omissions (no Dylan or Young, which albums of theirs really changed me, were they a bigger effect than x, y, z....?) But without giving up a week of my life to the quest this will do.
  • Hmmm, been a while...

    Ott 22 2008, 0:25

    ...since I could be bothered to write a journal entry about a gig, but this is as good a place to start again as anywhere.

    Got held up leaving work talking science with my boss, but wasn't too bothered, experience tells me that the tickets lie about the door times at the Corn Exchange.

    Errors were the first support band, and had started by the time I got in, don't think I missed much of their set though. One guitar, two guys doing electronic gubbins and one drummer. Sound pretty good, was listening to some of their recorded stuff earlier in the day, it's all pretty solid, nothing that I'd rave about though, needs more geetars, and more cowbell.....

    Second support were Fuck Buttons, which is an awesome name, with enough lee-way to make you wonder whether it's describing an object or giving an instruction. Just two guys, a tableful of electronic gubbins and a drum. Very loud, lots of bass noise, driving electronic noise. I prefer guitar based stuff, but they're pretty good.

    Main act were Mogwai with Celtic scarfs and green scattered around the stage, it's not hard to see which side of the Glasgow football divide they come down on, probably weren't feeling too great after the mauling the bhoys took at Old Trafford. I can never think of suitable superlatives to describe some bands, Mogwai definitely fall into this category, beyond awesome with sonic peak and feedback valleys, I wandered through the show happy to get lost in the musical foothills they created.
  • There must be a reason....

    Ago 25 2008, 22:05

    ...and there appeared to be 3 of them. Just another quick review.

    Supporting was Brendan Campbell, a singer songwriter from Glasgow. Pleasant enough, reminded me of early Paul Simon in places, with patches of light-hearted banter breaking up the songs, and accompanied by a pal playing rhythm guitar to complement his lead. Both on acoustic.

    Main act was Clare & the Reasons a pretty eclectic little group, with Clare on lead vocals and guitar. Accompanying her was her husband on just about everything, a cellist and viola complete the assortment. A good performance with quirky vocals and enchanting melodies. A nice little band well worth watching.
  • Bloody trains.....

    Ago 20 2008, 0:05

    Getting late and need to be up early tomorrow so only a quick review. First time I've been to Ivory Blacks, quite dark, fairly small but nice enough, pillars are a bit annoying, but tolerable.

    First support were Second Skin who I actually thought were quite good, liked the first and last songs they played quite a bit. Seemed quite well suited for this gig.

    Second support were Culann, had some technical difficulties, played a jazzy jam to pass the time while sorting it. Were a bit light and fluffy for support in this gig I thought. It was a bit like having bubble-gum as an appetiser to a sirloin steak. Might like them if I saw them supporting someone else, but didn't work for me tonight.

    Finally the sirloin steak Cult of Luna were quite frankly awesome, could try and describe quite how their sound rips your ears off and then slams them back on affixing them with some mystic gloomy post-rock adhesive, but I'm tired. Only down side was having to leave at quarter past 11 before they'd finished to get a train back to the 'burgh.

    Bloody trains.

    Oh and more bands should have a keyboard player who can play trumpet, and percussion, and act like a monkey....
  • Sad Frightened Rabbits in the Twilight....

    Ago 14 2008, 22:29

    3rd gig in three nights, I'm getting to old for this sort of behaviour. Title is the best amalgamation of the two headlining bands I could think of with my current tiredness.

    Support was John B McKenna, a solo singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitarist and clearly plagiarising my name ;-). From what I could hear of him, over the obnoxious twats who insisted on talking over his performance, he's got some quite good material although forgetting the starting lyrics to one of his songs must have been annoying for him.

    First headliners were Frightened Rabbit , I only started listening to them recently but am getting slightly obsessed with The Midnight Organ Fight, which is just fantastic. They played a decent proportion of the album tonight, the volume was a bit low, but they put in a good peformance. Poke performed with only an acoustic guitar and singing without a microphone was a nice touch, with the chastisement of the crowds accompaniment on the "ooo's". I do really like them, but then I think I'd like any band that can casually fit the lyric "or should we kick it's cunt in" into a song.

    Second headliners were The Twilight Sad 3rd time I've seen them, first time I've seen them headlining and they keep growing on me each time. I said when I first saw them supporting the Smashing Pumpkins at the Carling Academy that they'd probably be better in a smaller venue with more volume. Tonight in the Liquid Rooms with plenty of volume behind them they sounded superb. They seem to have expanded and obtained a second guitarist/keyboardist since I last saw them, which really bulks out their sound and adds some real meat and power to their performance. They really seem to have developed into a good droney post-rock band recently, fully capable of putting on an awesome show.
  • Paradoxical Undressing

    Ago 13 2008, 22:08

    The 2nd of 3 shows in 3 nights for me this week, anyone would think there's a festival on. Tonight's show was the preview of Paradoxical Undressing by former Throwing Muses member Kristin Hersh.

    The show consists of Kristin reading passages from a book she's written from the book synonymous with the show, which is inspired by her teenage diaries. The passages are accompanied by floating light phrases from Hersh's acousto-electric guitar, which accompanied by projections of artwork by Molly Cliff-Hilts creating a relxing a soothing backdrop to Hersh's anecdotes. The tales vary from light anecdotes, to some quite worrying tales and are separated from each other by short bursts of song, which were all warmly received by the audience.

    The show will be on at St. Cecilia's Hall in Edinburgh from the 17th to the 23rd of this month. Next show tomorrow I can go at see some Scottish men play some innovative rock music, and pretend I'm not obsessed with cute blond singer/song-writers contrary to what the other 2 shows would tell you....