Friday, 19 December 2014

2014's best live performances

I was asked to put this list together for another site, so I thought I'd share it on here as well. It's been a great year for music, both live and recorded, so to go with my selections of best tracks and best albums here are my favourite gigs and festival appearances.

Top Ten gigs:

  1. Marijuana Deathsquads - Black Heart, Camden
  2. Flying Lotus - Roundhouse, Camden
  3. Scott & Charlene's Wedding - The Lexington, Islington
  4. Sinkane - Oslo, Hackney
  5. Clint Mansell - The Barbican, London
  6. Neil Young + Crazy Horse - Hyde Park, London
  7. James Holden - Purcell Room, Southbank
  8. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - the farewell gig - The Forum, Kentish Town
  9. Johnny Marr - Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
  10. UNKLE - Royal Festival, Southbank
Top Ten festival appearances:
  1. Jagwar Ma - William's Green, Glastonbury Festival
  2. Young Fathers - Visions Festival
  3. St. Vincent - The Park, Glastonbury
  4. Songhoy Blues - Visions Festival
  5. Damon Albarn 0 BBC 6 music festival
  6. John Grant - The Park, Glastonbury
  7. Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Victorious Festival
  8. De La Soul - Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury
  9. Dirty Beaches - Visions Festival
  10. Elbow - Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Albums of the Year 2014 - the top 20

As is compulsory for music bloggers (and music fans generally) I've spent the past couple of weeks pulling together the list of what I think are the best albums of this year. It's been tough to get this into any sort of static order, as I think there's been a lot of good stuff around this year, but there comes a time when you just have to press stop and see how they fall. Drum roll please...

1. 'Everyday Robots' by Damon Albarn

Featuring undoubtedly the best, most consistent writing of Albarn's career, this is a heartfelt, confessional album that shows Damon to be at peace with himself and middle age. Produced by Richard Russell, featuring contributions from Brian Eno and Natasha Khan, and with song subjects ranging from drug use to baby elephants, it shows that he needs neither cartoons or real bandmates any more to create brilliant material. Moving and ultimately uplifting. Full review here.


2. 'St. Vincent' by St. Vincent

Whether it was working with David Byrne, or whether she's just 'found herself', this is the sound of the real St. Vincent, free to be herself and say what she wants. Musically it's powerful and spiky, with punchy electronics and roaring guitars, while lyrically it's one of the most subversive records you'll hear all year. This is probably in my all-time top 5 albums by female artists - that's how good it is. And don't get me started on how good her live show is or we'll be here all night.


3. 'Dead' by Young Fathers

First mentioned on this blog back in March 2013, Young Fathers have continued to garner critical acclaim culminating in their Mercury Prize win for 'Dead'. It's hip-hop like you've never heard it before - not surprising as they're the only Scottish /Nigerian / Liberian act I can think of. The music is a melting pot of influences, the lyrics are powerful, and the whole thing is imbued with an amazing energy. Plus they're absolutely incredible live. Full review here.


4. 'Liminal' by The Acid

Atmospheric and moody, with brilliant production and some speaker-rumbling bass, this is the closest thing you'll find to 21st century trip-hop. The trio of Ry X, Steve Nalepa and Adam Freeland have created a real late-night burner of a record. It's sparse but not bleak, fragile but not broken, electronic but not cold, and I absolutely love it. If you've never heard of them I urge you to check it out.


5. 'Our Love' by Caribou
Maybe not quite as great as I was expecting, but a good Caribou album is still well worth having. There are some tracks on here that are gonna sound immense live ('Our Love' and 'Mars' for example), not to mention my favourite track of the year, 'Can't Do Without You'. If only I didn't dislike 'Julia Brightly' so much this would probably have been even higher up the list. There have already been some killer remixes off here and I'm sure there's more to come. You'll be hearing this throughout the festival season next year.



6. 'Shaker Notes' by Paul White

Like Albarn's album, this is a very personal affair from Paul White. He's ditched his previous sample-heavy material and instead plays all the instruments on here and even sings on a few tracks. The music is an eclectic mix, part hip-hop, part film soundtrack, part swamp-blues, but it always retains a sense of intimacy. On top of that the red vinyl copy I've got looks great as it spins on my turntable. Full review here.


7. 'You're Dead' by Flying Lotus

By no means an easy listen, this is surely FlyLo's masterpiece and the record that he's been working towards for all of his career. It's committed, unflinching, uncommercial and the product of a highly creative mind really setting himself free. The guest spot from Kendrick Lamar is a highlight, but there's so much good stuff in here that you could spend a week talking about it. The lavish boxset was beautifully put together too. Full review here.



8. 'Run The Jewels 2' by Run The Jewels
The plaudits for this album are coming in so fast it's hard to keep up with them. It's a rabble-rousing call for social equality masquerading as a knockabout hip-hop record. Hard beats, hard rhymes, maybe one too many vagina references, but overall a fucking powerful record. The fact that I met them on my trip to New York just before they went stratospheric was the icing on the cake. Full review here.


9. 'Close To The Glass' by The Notwist

As far as I'm concerned this is The Notwist's debut album. I know they've had 5 out before but a) this was the first one I've heard and b) it's so chock-full of ideas and energy it's got the same vibe as the 1st album put out by a bunch of 20 year olds. If you're partial to an electronic-indie hybrid with the odd bit of lo-fi acousticness thrown in then give this a spin. The sound of people doing whatt hey do really wellFull review here.



10. 'Total Strife Forever' by East India Youth

This was actually the first album I bought this year, way back at the start of January. It's a great mix of wistful pop songs, euphoric dance moments and atmospheric instrumentals that all combine to show the breadth of Will Doyle's talents. Beautifully crafted and full of class, this is one to savour. Full review here.






11. 'Morning Phase' by Beck. A masterclass in how to make a grown-up, mature record. Hard to believe he once made a track called 'MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack'

12. 'Lazaretto' by Jack White. The perfect summation of all the preceeding part's of White's career, all wrapped up in one (ridiculously over-engineered) piece of vinyl.

13. 'The Light Brigade' by Daedelus. Like the soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist, The only album this year inspired by the 1853-56 Crimean War (!). Full review here.

14. 'LP1' by FKA Twigs. A powerfully strong album from this independent-minded girl. The sort of role model our daughters need.

15. 'New Gods' by Withered Hand. Classic heart-on-your-sleeve singer-songwriting from one of Scotland's finest. Full review here.

16. 'Whelm' by Douglas Dare. Sweeping melodies, a fantastic voice, soaring emotions and moments of calm. Full review here.

17. 'The Take Off and Landing Of Everything' by Elbow. A real return to form for the lads, featuring some of Garvey's best lyrics for years and some really hummable tunes.

18. 'Mean Love' by Sinkane. A brilliantly stylish album that switches effortlessly from Afrobeat to funk to soul and back again. Full review here.

19. 'Black Hours' by Hamilton Leithauser. Like a record that's slipped through a musical wormhole from the late '50s or early '60s. Full review here.

20. 'Built On Glass' by Chet Faker. There seems to have been a lot of what I call 'white boy soul' records out this year. This is by far the best.

Honourable mention: 'The Long Goodbye' by LCD Soundsystem. a lovingly crafted boxset that was a fitting way to mark the end of one of my favourite ever bands.

Ten that nearly made it (in no particular order):

'Familiars' by The Antlers
'Ghosts of Then and Now' by Illum Sphere
'Frozen By Sight' by Paul Smith & Peter Brewis
'The Inevitable End' by Royksopp
'Stateless' by Dirty Beaches
'Annabel Dream Reader' by The Wytches
'Wonder Where We Land' by SBTRKT
'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' by Thom Yorke
'Lese Majesty' by Shabazz Palaces
'Divine Ecstacy' by Supreme Cuts

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Albums of the Year 2014 - top 3 mixtapes

That's mixtapes in the hip-hop, new artist trying to break out sense of the word, rather than a tape you've made for yourself or to give to someone you fancy. Each of these three releases is available to download for free (links are in the full reviews) but each is actually worth paying for. The quality of some of the tracks here is so good I'm convinced that every one of these guys is gonna become a star in 2015 (and if they don't then they bloody well should've done).

1. 'Indigo Child' by Raury

Raury

He's only 18, but I reckon Raury is very quickly shaping up to be the new Frank Ocean. He sings, he raps, he covers a whole variety of styles, but one thing's for certain - everything he does is excellent. You've only got to hear his starring role on the new SBTRKT album to get a sense of where he could go with a few major collaborations. A guy with shy-high ambitions but, importantly, talent to match, he'll take on the world in 2015. Click here for full review and download details.

2. 'Grey Skies 3' by Genesis the Greykid


Atmospheric, poetic hip-hop with a soul and a conscience. This is the third mixtape from Genesis the Greykid a.k.a. Russell McGee, over the course of which he's really developed as an artist, to the point where he should now be on the brink of stardom. Owing as much to DJ Shadow as it does Kanye West, this album rewards repeated listening, with great samples, dialogue clips from Christopher Nolan's movie 'The Prestige' and brilliant little hooks and melodies. To my mind the downbeat, more introspective tracks are the most successful, but it's all great. Click here for the full review & download link.

3. 'A Little Late' by Loyle Carner

BFG

Quality UK hip-hop can be a hard thing to find, but Loyle is beating his own path, steering clear of imitating gangsta clichés that would just sound daft coming out his mouth, and instead creating intelligent lyrics and upbeat vibes that remind me a bit of Oddisee. He's garnered some good press lately, making a track for the Turner Prize and doing something with Mercury-nominated Kate Tempest, so I'm sure you'll hear more of him in 2015. Click here for the full review & download link.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Your Love Will Set You Free (c2's Set U Free RMX)' by Caribou

One of the best tracks from Caribou's 'Our Love' album gets a remix from the wondrous hands of Mr Carl Craig. The result is a bass-heavy beast of a tune that feels gritty and dangerous - you're never really sure if it's going to ask you to dance or punch you in the face. It's out now on vinyl and download and has instantly become one of my favourite remixes of the year.


Albums of the Year 2014 - top 3 compilations

As a prelude to my full list of albums I've decided to call out some records in a few different categories that might have slipped under your radar. So here's my favourite three compilation / various artist records of the year. Each one of these is really special, and if you bought all three your music collection would have improved immeasurably.

1. What?! - William Onyeabor / various (Luaka Bop)


One of my favourite purchases on Record Store Day this year, which was subsequently given a full release by Luaka Bop. The album features a rang of cover versions, re-interpretations and remixes of tracks from the 'Who is William Onyeabor?' album, With the artists involved as diverse as Hot Chip (who made my favourite track here), Scientist, The Vaccines and Daphni (a,k,a, Caribou) the record manages to expand the sonic frequency of Onyeabor's music while still retaining the essence of who he is and what he does.

2. The Time and Space Machine presents The Way Out Sound From In - Richard Norris / various (Ample Play records)


A collection of some of the best remixes Richard Norris has produced over the past few years in his Time & Space Machine guise. If you don't recognise his name then you might be more familiar with him as being half of both The Grid and Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve, The standout tracks for me here are his mixes of Jagwar Ma and A Mountain of One, but he also does great stuff to Temples, Warpaint and lots more. (full review here)

3. Bleep: 10 - various (Bleep / Warp)


Bleep is the online store originally set up to sell Warp releases, which soon expanded to sell all manner of great music. They celebrated their 10th birthday this year, and as well as having the obligatory birthday bash (which I reviewed here) they also put out this excellent album of tracks from artists who are have been favourites in the store. Featuring exclusives from Autechre, Fuck Buttons, Lone, Modeselektor, Machinedrum and loads more, if you've ever bought anything on the Warp label then you're pretty much guaranteed to like this (full review here).

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Tracks of the Year 2014

It's always a struggle to pick my favourite tracks at the end of the year. What criteria should I use - tracks from my favourite albums? Songs that remind me of good times. This year I've kept it nice and simple - you could subtitle this list as "Songs that I have to turn up when I hear them on the radio". It's as easy as that. Consequently it's quite a mixed bag in terms of styles and genres, but they're all tracks that have had me reaching for the volume button this year. I've sorted the top 10 in order, and give you the next 20 randomly just so you've got some stuff to go and seek out.

1. Caribou - 'Can't Do Without You (Extended Mix)'. When the original version of this song came out there was one single thing wrong with it; it felt a few minutes too short. Three weeks later this version appeared and it was perfect. This is the track that's had me reaching for the rewind button most often this year.



2. Flying Lotus - 'Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)'. Pretty much encapsulates FlyLo's magnum opus album 'You're Dead' in 4 minutes - jazzy piano, frantic bass from Thundercat, and spot-on flow from Mr Lamar. 


3. Kendrick Lamar - 'i'. While we're talking about Kendrick, here's his comeback single which points to the fact that his next album will be immense. One of those classic hip-hop uses of a sample - The Isley Brothers song is exactly the right track used in exactly the right way


4. Jack White - 'Lazaretto'. Almost the perfect Jack White song - a great fuzzed-up riff, a brilliant solo, a change of pace, even the violin gets a chance to let rip. A classic that he'll be playing for years to come.



5. Jenny Lewis - 'She's Not Me'. Really I've got no idea why I love this song so much, it's not normally my sort of thing. I've come to the conclusion that everything in it is just done so well I can't help but love it. Great production, great lyrics, a great hook, a catchy, sing-able chorus and proper old-school guitar solos in the middle and at the end.



6. Johnny Marr - 'Easy Money'. The most effortlessly simple and effective indie pop song you'll hear all year. More reminiscent of Marr's stuff with Electronic than The Smiths with a melody that most professional songwriters would kill for.



7. Little Dragon - 'Klapp Klapp'. Another catchy and upbeat tune, and one that moved the Swedisg band up a league or two in 2014. Totally infectious.



8. Maxïmo Park - 'Leave This Island'. A change in style for Paul Smith & the boys (which sadly wasn't repeated on the rest of the album), I love the moody electronic feel to this, which goes well with the dark lyrics.



9. Jessie Ware - 'Tough Love'. I'm pretty sure my love of this track is entirely due to the fact that it reminds me of 'Raspberry Beret' by Prince every time I hear it. But I don't care, it's a great song.



10. Hot Chip vs William Onyeabor - 'Atomic Bomb'. My favourite track from my second-favourite purchase on Record Store Day this year (the LCD Soundsystem boxset wins of course). This is a brilliant reinterpretation of the song, with a gentle reggae bassline and a hypnotic groove.



The next 20 are in no particular order, but I guarantee you that they're all worth a listen.

Röyksopp - 'Skulls'. Their new album is like a cross between Justice and Jean-Michel Jarre (which is obviously a good thing).

Hudson Mohawke - 'Chimes'. You know, the one off the Apple Macbook advert.

Daedelus - 'Onward'. A hauntingly moving track, from his album about the 1853-56 Crimean War (!).

Francis Lung - 'A Selfish Man'. A brilliant warts and all account of leaving his former band Wu Lyf.

Warpaint - 'Love Is To Die'. Featuring the most surprising key change this year, it really catches you off-guard (in a good way).

Hamilton Leithauser - '11 O'Clock Friday Night'. Great production, and I love the way it builds over the percussive backing.

The Wytches - 'Wire Frame Mattress'. A brilliantly disturbed slice of garage-psyche-rock.

Metronomy - 'Love Letters (Soulwax Remix)'. Great track, even better remix which, with the way the girls' vocals are brought to the fore, reminds me of the Human League.

Jane Weaver - 'Argent'. From her excellent album 'The Silver Globe', here the Liverpudlian lass makes French-sounding Krautrock!

Elbow - 'Fly Boy Blue / Lunette'. A great return to form from Elbow, the 'Lunette' part of this track features some of Guy Garvey's best ever lyrics.

The War on Drugs - 'Red Eyes'. Classic mature guitar-rock that sounds more than a bit like Bryan Adams.

Jungle - Busy Earnin'. In a year which featured an over-abundance of white-boy soul, this track stood out for me above the rest.

Sylvan Esso - 'Hey Mami'. Like one of those old-fashioned round songs they used to make you sing in the school choir, updated for the 21st century.

Mogwai - 'Remurdered'. Proper pounding  classic Mogwai.

St. Vincent - 'Digital Witness'. Working with David Byrne has clearly had an effect on Annie Clarke, and this track kick-started her startling re-birth.

New Build - 'The Sunlight'. Evokes the spirit of every great Balearic blissed-out moment.

Redinho - 'Playing With Fire'. Sleazy electro-funk with Zapp-style vocals.

Wild Beasts - 'Wanderlust'. "Don't confuse me with someone who gives a fuck." Perfect.

Young Fathers - 'LOW'. One of the best tracks from one of the best albums of the year.
https://soundcloud.com/bigdadasound/young-fathers-low
Son Lux - 'Easy (Switch Screens)(feat. Lorde). One of my favourite tracks from last year gets a re-boot with one of the ladies of the year.



When I get the chance I'll do a podcast of them all in an order that makes sense for listening and post it on Mixcloud and here (and maybe even give it away if I don't get caught). Enjoy!

PS Just so you know, I very nearly put 'Shake It Out' by Taylor Swift and 'I'm Not The Only One' by Sam Smith in this list...

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Video of the Day: 'Gagarin' by Public Service Broadcasting

The lead track from PSB's new album 'The Race For Space' is a gloriously funky, brass-laden tribute to Yuri Gagarin. It comes with this amazingly enjoyable video, which is a brilliant idea excellently executed. I can't wait to see J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth knocking these moves out of the park on their Spring tour next year.