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  • Best of 2010

    Gen 5 2011, 15:02

    So last year, my number one album turned out to win the mercury music prize.. not a word of thanks as yet from the xx... the bastards!

    This year - albums were released from 3 of my all time favourite artists/bands, however, I'm just going to go for a top 5 this year, and top 10 songs.

    So here goes:

    Albums

    5) Beach House - Teen Dream

    Lovely dreamy album. Doesn't work as well live as it does on CD, but the lead singers voice is powerful and fits the music perfectly.


    4) Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

    The follow up to one of my favourite albums ever, and over 5 years in the making. The problem for Sufjan, it seems, is that he wanted avoid producing a replica of Illinois. As a result, he ditched the banjos, and embraced wierd noises and electronics. The effect is fantastic, the album is dense with layers and sounds and interesting structures/time signatures.

    Whilst this album produces a fantastic listening experience, it is one of those albums you really need to sit down and listen to a few times with no distractions to really appreciate. Whilst there are some immediate moments on here, a lot of it grows on you, and I occasionally find it quite a challenge to listen to. As one reviewer put it - "an album to admire, rather than love".


    3) The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

    After the general consensus of Funeral being amazing, Neon Bible definitely split opinion. Personally I though it was substantially more derivative and with a lot less depth and didn't really have me coming back to it very often.

    The Arcade Fire are back on form though with the new album. Some fantastic individual songs, as well as a great overall sound and consistency to the album. The lyrics seem obsessed with his childhood, and his desire to return to family life, which whilst seems quite a tedious theme, is executed very well and with little annoying nostalgia.


    2) Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

    Over 2 hours long, 3 CDs, 18 songs. Joanna doesn't do conventional.

    ...and whilst at first this album is a little bit daunting and hard to get into given it's length, I found breaking it down and treating each CD separately, allowed me to properly indulge in the album.

    Only Joanna Newsom could write this stuff, ambitious, intricate, achingly beautiful, and with such a unique voice (now finely tuned into a thing of beauty, for those of you who were initially put off by her voice on her previous work.



    1) The National - High Violet

    Is this better than Boxer? Not sure, but the argument is irrelevant really. Both albums are fantastic. And this one continues with the trend of me having just about every single song stuck in my head at some point over the past year. Great stuff. Driving rhythm section with fantastic creative beats, as a foundation for some intelligent and catchy songwriting.

    Songs like Afraid of Everyone and Bloodbuzz Ohio are possibly the best songs the National have done to date.


    Honorable Mentions

    Bright Spark Destroyer - Holy Yell EP.
    unsigned band featuring an ex band mate of mine, released a fantastic EP that's getting plenty of attention on 6music.
    Caribou - Swim
    Great experimental electronic album.
    Radio Dept - Clinging to a Scheme
    Great understated Swedish album.
    Maximum Balloon - Maximum Balloon
    TV on the radio spin off - lots of guest vocalists, and the music always suits their style, but the album keeps a consistency despite this.
    Wild Beasts/Grizzly Bear - released albums last year but didn't make my list and should have. Grizzly Bear best band I've seen live this year!

    Songs

    20) Sing - Four Tet
    19) I Want To Be Well - Sufjan Stevens
    18) Pap Smear - Crystal Castles
    17) Tenderoni - Kele
    16) Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - The Arcade Fire
    15) NY Is Killing Me - Gil Scott-Heron vs Jamie xx
    14) Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do - Robyn
    13) Norway - Beach House
    12) Token Of Gratitude - The Radio Dept
    11) Me and the Devil - Gil Scott-Heron
    10) Odessa - Caribou
    9) Tiger - Maximum Balloon
    8) Bloodbuzz Ohio - The National
    7) The Shortest Distance - Bright Spark Destroyer
    6) California - Joanna Newsom
    5) Futile Devices - Sufjan Stevens
    4) Limit to Your Love - James Blake
    3) Toy - Toodar
    2) Not in Love (feat. Robert Smith) - Crystal Castles
    1) Afraid of Everyone - The National
  • Best of 2009

    Gen 1 2010, 16:29

    Once again, I have decided to compile a quick list of my favourite albums of the year. Having previously only picked 5 albums in 2008 and 2007, this year has been a fantastic year for music, and lots of great albums have been released. As a result, I struggled to pick just 5, and have gone for 10 instead. So, here goes...

    10) Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

    Dave Grohl (on drums!), Josh Homme, and that bassist fella from Led Zeppelin. Need I say more. They sound like they enjoyed making the album, some great tracks, and Dave Grohl's drumming is impeccable.

    For Fans of: Queens of the Stone age, Foo Fighters

    9) Junior - royksopp

    Royksopp return with a fantastic dance album. Featuring some great vocalists, including that-bird-from-the-knife-who-also-does-her-own-stuff (see Fever Ray below!), and respectable pop artist Robyn. It's just a really nice happy, summery album, with some fantastic dance production.

    For Fans of: Royksopp's earlier stuff (Melody AM), Chemical Brothers

    8) Fever Ray- Fever Ray

    Off the wall crazy synth stuff from the girl that is in the Knife (Karin Dreijer Andersson). really interesting and some incredible songs with fantastic unexpected melodies. Not for the feint hearted though, experimental is the word.

    For Fans of: The Knife, Bjork

    7) Manners - Passion Pit

    Fantastic alternative pop album from new american band. The songs made me smile lots in the summer. Some killer melodies and great chirpy soundscapes. The singer's interesting voice prevents some of the songs from crossing the line to cheesey pop, but they're forgiven these moments given the fantastic production and creativity throughout.

    For Fans of: Phoenix, TV on the Radio

    6) Bitte Orca - Dirty Projectors


    Don't really know how to describe this album. Some of the most original stuff I've heard in a long time (not including animal collective). Great male and female vocals, interesting stuttering intricate guitar parts, and non standard structures which meander but never go too far from the common theme to render the song unlistenable. Fantastic album and really should be higher on my list but I have not given it the listening time it deserves. A new year's resolution methinks...

    For Fans of: Animal Collective, bands that sound nothing like you've heard before.

    5) Dark Was the Night - Various artists

    Usually charity records are Lame. This is the exception that proves the rule (or whatever the saying is). Anyone who is anyone in the alternative indie scene is on this record. The National, Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens, Feist, The Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer, Yo la Tengo, the New Pornographers, Kevin Drew, the list goes on and on. And each have put forward fantastic original songs or intricate covers, not just some b-side cast offs by the looks of things, given the high quality throughout.

    This was also how I discovered a number of new aritsts this year - Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer, Grizzly Bear, Bon IVer (having previously avoided his music after a recommendation from the horrendous Jo Whiley).

    For anyone who wants to try out one of the albums on this list, I cannot recommend this one highly enough as a starting point.

    For Fans of: Any of the artists mentioned above

    4) Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix

    Stunning Indie pop album. Every song is fantastically composed and written in that immediately accessible way, but is still rewarding and fresh sounding on the 10th, 20th and 30th listen.

    For Fans of: Stars, Passion Pit, Blur

    3) It's Blitz! - The Yeah yeah yeahs

    Never really been a big fan of the YYYs before this album. But I think they have pulled together all of their best influences here, and produced a heavily 80s dance influenced rock album. Karen O's voice is as great as ever, but more controlled, and the songs are catchy, bouncey, and spectacular.

    For Fans of: The Arcade Fire

    2) Merriweather Post Pavillion - Animal Collective

    I never quite got into their music before this album, other than a couple of incredible songs, but the level of experimentation and weird yelps made it slightly too hard to enjoy whilst listening to it.

    With this album, Animal Collective have combined all of their best attributes, Experimentation, Originality, creation of beautiful soundscapes, and the ability to write amazing melodies, to produce what many have called the album of the year. I can't believe something so different and interesting can also sound so accessible. I even heard "My Girls" played on Radio 1 a few times this year! Which, by the way, has to be one of the songs of the decade.

    For Fans of: Original music, Dirty Projectors

    1) The xx - The xx

    Stunning debut album. Focuses solely on great melodies, and basic guitar and bass lines, interacting beautifully but leaving so much space in the mix the songs sound sparse and simple. The result is extremely intimate and beautiful experience. Geat album, can't wait to see what they do in future.

    For Fans of: err... I suppose Jeff Buckley and Belle and Sebastian, though they sound nothing like them!


    Honorable mentions:
    The Prodigy - Great return with invaders must die.
    Bon Iver - Only just got into him in the last 20 days, otherwise I think he would have featured in the top 10. His EP "Blood Bank" released this year is beautiful.
    Grizzley Bear - should probably feature in my top 10 but haven't given their album a proper listen yet.

    Here ends a fantastic year of music which has reminded me why I love it so much! Here's to a 2010 filled with even more great music.
  • Best of 2008

    Feb 4 2009, 19:56

    Following on from last years Best of 2007 journal, I have decided to do a brief run down of my 2008 faves.

    Top 5:

    5. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

    Mercury music prize winner and rightly so. Surprisingly eclectic album, with some very "massive" moments. Even better live! I was blown away at their gig at the Sage in Newcastle this year. They have just done a concert with the BBC concert orchestra available on the BBC red button and that also seemed incredible. It's a testament to the depth of their songs that such beautiful arrangements can be built around them. Guy Garvey's voice is stunning as usual!

    4. Burial - Untrue

    I never thought I'd be loving Dubstep, but here we are! An excellent dubstep album, brilliantly produced, complete with all the record crackles and Lo-fi beats. Dark and eerie - perfect record to freak you out walking through a city at night.

    3. Toodar - White Elephant (Toodar)

    Ok, maybe I'm a little biased on this one. But this is genuinely some of the best music released in 2008, by my good friend Tom Grundy.

    Great mix of well written acoustic guitar riffs, subtle backing, unique melody lines, and effective electronic beats. Recently played on BBC 6 music, let's hope that's his first step on the way to success. He deserves it.

    2. TV on the Radio - Dear Science

    Great change in direction for this lot. I loved their last album, but this poppy, well produced follow up really steps it up a notch. I don't think they could be possibly be any cooler too. DLZ contender for track of the year too!

    1. Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP

    Maybe a bit obvious to pick Fleet Foxes, but I have played both their album and EP so much this year. I think the EP is slightly better on strength of songs and consistency (then again it is shorter). Ridiculously beautiful harmonies and well written melodies - that does it for me! Awesome.




    There we go! A few obvious choices maybe. Justice narrowly miss out - awesome album though.

    I get a feeling Animal Collective are def going to be in next years top 5...
  • Best of 2007

    Gen 9 2008, 15:01

    As a bit of a follow up to the journal (check it out here!) I wrote earlier this year, I thought I'd compile a list of my favourite albums of 2007 and try to justify them.

    So here is the top 5:

    5) Boxer - The National

    Great Songwriting, and though I usually prefer a more expressive voice, this turned out to be a great slow grower. Lovely stuff. The interaction between piano and guitar on songs like Ada is magnificent, beautiful interacting riffs, and the drumming throughout is imaginative and drives the songs to their climax!

    4) Mirrored - Battles

    Amazingly unique and extremely challenging album. I can't imagine how much effort it must have taken to construct this album. These guys are so technically amazing it's sickening. My only issue with the album is perhaps it's slightly mechanical feel means it doesn't quite have the emotion evoked in other music, but it certainly acheives what it sets out to do (i.e. produce awesome and interesting music!).

    3) Alive 2007 - Daft Punk

    Unexpectedly brilliant. After a disappointing and aptly titled "Human After All" album, this album is effectively the most awesome best of album ever! Recorded live at one of there gigs (How I wish I'd been there... I think I would have had a heart attack induced by the awesomeness), they perfectly mix a great selection of their best songs into a thrilling and exciting album. I usually find live albums and best of's rubbish, but the effective use of mixing together popular songs and often improving on existing songs makes this genius!

    Highlights have to be the mixes of Aerodynamic with One More Time, and Around the World with Harder Better Faster Stronger.

    2) The Reminder - Feist

    At a time when I was obsessed with listenning to unique, bizarre and in anyway different and experimental music, it was a lovely surprise to find myself obsessed with listening to an album which was so ... how can I put it... easy on the ears (and brain) I suppose.

    Still unique because of her wonderful voice and approach to songwriting (a lot of which derives from her involvment in Broken Social Scene), but what is most impressive is how eclectic this mix is. From the almost mainstream 1234, to the beautifully layered Honey Honey, or the bluesy Sealion, theres a great mix on here. The subtle layering throughout ensures none of the songs reach saturation point for your attention, and it's just a pleasure to listen to whatever mood your in!

    1) In Rainbows - Radiohead

    Obviously! For me nothing else this year even comes close (which may be a criticism of the lack of truely great albums released this year). Their domination of the last.fm charts is a bit of a shock but fully deserved, and is probably mainly as a result of the original way in which they distributed it.

    No one else writes music quite like Radiohead, and this is a welcome return to form after the disappointing Hail to the Thief. Relaxed, fresh, and with some amazing compositions (15 Step, Wierd Fishes/Arpeggi) and some beautiful moments (Nude, Reckoner) It whoops the bollocks off anything else released this year.

    Not quite up to the Kid A standards though....


    Others that come in my top 10 in no particular order:

    Silent Shout (live) - The Knife - some great new interpretations of the classic tracks! (released on the special edition of Silent Shout)
    Sound Of Silver - LCD Soundsystem - not as great as some people say, but definately v good.
    The Shepherd's Dog - Iron & Wine - prefer the stripped down stuff but nice songs and eclectic mix.
    Neon Bible - The Arcade Fire - Not up to funeral's standards but still great.
    Population - The Most Serene Republic - Interesting, upbeat and exciting, but heavily influenced by Broken Social Scene


    Potential top 10 that I haven't heard enough of yet:

    Beirut
    Kevin Drew

    Coming soon on the bottom of this journal...
    Disappointments (inc. Bjork and Biffy Clyro)
  • Best (and worst) of my recent purchases!

    Mag 7 2007, 18:18

    Best album:
    Ys
    Joanna Newsom

    By far the best album released for a long time. Ambitious. Beautiful. Original. Lyrically amazing (reading the sleeve is like reading a novel). Absolutely stunning. And as far as musical talent/songwriting goes it far surpasses any other release in the past year. How many artists could come up with such intricate, epic compositions as she does on this album.

    The only problem is every time I listen to it I feel I should dedicate my entire attention to it!

    Biggest shock (good):
    Nite Versions
    Soulwax

    Having recently got into a lot of Dance/Electronica, I decided to try this album out as I saw it cheap on ebay. Basically a remix album of their own songs (and apparently much better than the original, that I haven't heard), it flows together and sounds like a missing daft punk album. Upon first listen it went over my head a little, but as these excellently crafted dance tunes burned themselves into my memory, I realised how unexpectedly brilliant it is. A must for any electro/dance fan who enjoys their "as heard on radio soulwax" mixes and The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk or Faithless.

    Biggest Shock (bad):
    Black Holes and Revelations
    Muse

    So many albums have been a shock to me recently. Disappointing efforts from The Cooper Temple Clause, Bloc Party, Red Hot Chili Peppers, (and I'm even a bit disappointed by the new Bjork album, but only because of my ridiculously high standards for her!) have left me wondering why bands seem to depart from the musical background and beliefs that they based their previous excellent albums on.

    Muse's new album was by far the worst for me. Having been a fan from an early age, to hear them spit out such rubbish really disappointed me. They seem to have lost all musical integrity. If I had played Matt Bellamy Starlight when he was first writing tracks for Showbiz, he would have laughed and told me he would never write such a crappy commercial pop tune with such a boring riff in his career. It's happened....it's a shame.

    Best Debut:
    Passing Stranger
    Scott Matthews

    Surprisingly good debut from this singer songwriter. Similarities to the excellent Jeff Buckley are immediately obvious, but his intricate guitar playing and interesting songwriting (which departs from the standard strummy singer/songwriter stuff) set him apart from other artists around at the moment. He still has some way to go, but a great opening effort, except for the random harmonica/slide guitar bits which aren't to my taste!!

    Honorable mentions

    The Knife - Silent Shout - very interesting and ambitious electro album.
    TV on the Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain - wonderfully produced and some great catchy songs!
    Thom Yorke - The Eraser - Although I expected a bit better from this genius, it's still a great album with some excellently crafted laptop songs on there.
  • World Cup FINAL!! + Prize details and praise for dedicated users!

    Lug 22 2006, 11:29

    In the first round, we said goodbye to lesser known bands and artists such as The Radio Dept., Elbow, Mew, Joanna Newsom and Tom McRae, and also lost a number of heavyweights including Muse, Bloc Party and Sufjan Stevens.

    In The Quarter Finals, the next to go out were Broken Social Scene, The Futureheads and Thom Yorke, while Bjork lost a tough battle against favourites Radiohead.

    The Semi Finals saw Radiohead storm to victory against Sigur Ros, and Jeff Buckley beat The Arcade Fire in extra time!

    So the FINAL is:

    Radiohead vs Jeff Buckley

    Will Radiohead be "lucky" enough to win, or will they be left "High and Dry"? Will we be saying our "last goodbye" to Jeff if he Buckles under the pressure, or will he be singing "Hallelujah" whilst lifting the trophy?

    3rd/4th place playoff:

    The Arcade Fire vs Sigur Ros

    Will the Fire knock the "Power Out" of Sigur Ros, or can the Icelandic band....err.... *shrugs*

    Your vote is important as the winner will get:

    1. 50 extra plays by me as I listen to them constantly for a day as a tribute to their win.
    2. Which probably means they'll get my 3000th play!
    3. An Album review in my journal.
    4. The winner will also be tagged "World Cup winners"

    ...OK so the prizes are all pretty lame but their better than nothing!

    Honorary mentions go to the following users who voted in at least 2 (some even all) of the previous rounds. Dedications what you neeeeeed.....:

    Anteru
    andylambert17
    lazyhannah
    squell82
    CrotchMaven
    mwparker2
    tranquil_demon
    Llopin
    TheCreeden

    Sorry If I missed anyone!

    Finally, and honorary mention to The Carter Manoeuvre who pulled out to allow Thom Yorke in the competition, as The Carter Manoeuvre are but a small amatuer (yet amazing) band who wouldn't get many votes!

    GET VOTING!!!
  • World Cup Semis! I've definately got one anyway! Too exciting!

    Lug 19 2006, 7:59

    In the first round, an incredibly close encounter between Sufjan Stevens and Sigur Rós resulted in Sigur going through in extra time. Meanwhile, The Futureheads beat Mew, Björk thrashed underdogs The Radio Dept. and Radiohead easily beat Joanna Newsom.

    Also, Muse lost to Jeff Buckley, Broken Social Scene beat Bloc Party, and Thom Yorke won the battle of the T(h)oms against Tom McRae. Finally, The Arcade Fire beat Elbow.

    In The Quarter Finals, Sigur Ros, Jeff Buckley and The Arcade Fire all went through easily and Radiohead won a tough match against fellow heavyweight Bjork.

    So the Semi Finals are:

    Sigur Ros (4) vs Radiohead (14)

    Jeff Buckley (10) vs The Arcade Fire (9)

    GET VOTING you crazy dutch bastards!!
    (NOTE: That is a quote from Austin Powers by the way, I love the Dutch really! They're so cuddly!)

    VOTING OVER!
  • World Cup Quarter Finals...tension mounts!!

    Lug 15 2006, 17:17

    In the last round, an incredibly close encounter between Sufjan Stevens and Sigur Ros resulted in Sigur going through in extra time. Meanwhile, The Futureheads fought off stiff competition from Mew, Bjork thrashed underdogs The Radio Dept and Radiohead easily beat Joanna Newsom.

    Meanwhile, Muse lost to one of their biggest influences - Jeff Buckley, Broken Social Scene won a tough game against Bloc Party, and Thom Yorke won the battle of the T(h)oms against Tom McRae. Finally, The Arcade Fire beat Mancunian band Elbow.

    So the Quarter Finals line up as follows:

    Sigur Ros (13) vs Broken Social Scene (6)

    Bjork (8) vs Radiohead (11)

    Thom Yorke (6) vs The Arcade Fire (13)

    Jeff Buckley (13) vs The Futureheads (6)

    So the Semi-Finals are decided!
  • World Cup a little late!!!

    Lug 13 2006, 13:53

    Just picked up on this World Cup thing and thought it's quite a good way of finding out which of my top 16 are most popular. So randomly drawn we have:

    Sufjan Stevens(12) vs Sigur Ros(12)

    Mew(10) vs The Futureheads(12)

    Bjork(20) vs The Radio Dept(4)

    Radiohead(19) vs Joanna Newsom(5)

    Muse(8) vs Jeff Buckley(14)

    Broken Social Scene(13) vs Bloc Party(11)

    Elbow(6) vs The Arcade Fire(18)

    Tom McRae(5) vs Tom Yorke(18)

    So Quarter Finals are almost all decided... get voting for sigur or sufjan and QFs will be drawn later...
  • Mixing songs

    Giu 7 2006, 10:54

    Basically I was just wondering if anyone had any ideas for mixing a couple of well known songs together, producing a wicked new mix? (i.e. like 2 Many DJ's) For example taking the melody/lyrics of one song and putting it over the instrumental of the other.

    Here are some I came up with:

    Crazy
    Parallel Universe

    - you may be shaking your head but trust me it works, I've been humming the parallel universe melody along to Crazy since it came out.



    Day in Day Out
    We Used to Be Friends

    - That one is a bit of an obvious one



    Whole Lotta Love
    Cochise
    - they're practically the same song!!! Scary, listen to them simultaneously.



    Hump de Bump
    Supermassive Black Hole

    - Doesn't work brilliantly but the SMBH chorus can be sang over the "the way we make out" section and the verse over the verse, and also the whispering SMBH could go over the pots and pans solo bit etc...could work with a bit of mixing and matching!


    What have your guys come up with! let me know. Oh and have any DJ's actually done any awesome mixes like this themselves and want to show them off?