Tag Archives: Hearts

Top Ten Albums 2011

Please forgive this wilful seasonal predictability, but I’m on a mission to give a shout to my Top Ten Albums of 2011. Yes, I know there are a thousand and one top tens in the culture mag & tabs this time of year. I will deviate slightly from the norm in that I don’t have ten and I’m not rating them. Playing albums is no game of chance. They need to fit the moment and the mood, and more importantly be to hand when you need them. Far more has been than will be in my attentive lifetime so I’m sure I have played more old music than I have recent. But despite the constant callings of Bob, Pink, Neil & Jimi there has been plenty to rock the lobes.

So, marching on, in no particular order, here’s my favourite moments from 2011……………………..

REM – Collapse Into Now

The bands last studio album. I’ve been a fanboy of the band since seeing them on the Oxford Road Show singing So. Central Rain in 1984. It’s a little sad that they have stopped the box car rolling but I’m sure they will all produce more music worth following.

This is the best song from the album. A slow burner with a beautiful Stipe vocal.

Peter Gabriel – New Blood

The ‘Scratch My Back’ & ‘New Blood’ projects by PG both received some negative fan feedback. This was totally undeserved. PG has always stepped up to new plates and whether its other artists songs or revisits of his own he has such a stunning and emotive voice, and talent for song writing, that you can’t ignore his output. I saw the 3D show of the ‘New Blood’ performance and it raised some neck hair. I hope we get the promised ‘I’ll Scratch Yours’ album with some great covers of PG’s songs by the great & the good. Lou Reeds ‘Solsbury Hill’ is a great start.

Here’s a brilliant song from the Jools Holland show…

J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

The best guitarist in world. Don’t argue, it’s true. His first properly named solo album (except the Amma record & ‘Martin and Me’) and a real doozie. Great songs, amazing playing. I had a ticket to see J & the Fog but it was cancelled. There aren’t enough people who appreciate this man. Pay attention to this…

I Break Horses – Hearts

Getting close to my favourite album. Maria & Fredrik from Sweden released their debut album on Bella Union mid year. Its an absolute joy of stargazzy electropop and ambience. I hope they do a more pronounced tour of the UK in 2012.

Lanterns On The Lake – Gracious Tide, Take Me Home

Another Bella Union band but this time from Newcastle. I saw them in the Bodega and had to buy the album. Looking forward to more from them in the future.

Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

As a male person of a certain age and socio/cultural background I am born’n’breed to give Kate my attention. Having watched ‘Wuthering Heights’ on TOTP back in my youth I’ll twitch to all new notes she drops. ‘Directors Cut’ was good and the new version of ‘The Red Shoes’ was worth the purchase, but to have a new-new album so soon after was a big surprise. It’s such an amazing album with incredible side shows and a stunning main act. Elton’s contribution has to be his best vocal in years and Stephen Fry’s alliteration and verbosity is engrossing and clever. Above all, Kate singing about her dreaming of humping a snowman and waking up with wet sheets & the snow flake animism of the opening song are worth the buy in.

This is a fan video of the song ‘Snowed In At Wheeler Street’.A  great effort by someone who cares.

Tom Waits – Bad Like Me

Anything that Tom puts out is worth some time. 8 years since the ‘Mule Variations’ with ‘Orphans’ & ‘Glitter & Doom’ inbetween. A brilliant studio album with some of the best musicians playing along. The duet with Keef and the excellent Marc Ribot on guitar. Tom stays at the top of my bucket list of artists to see.

One of the best lyricists writting words like “what sounded like fireworks turned out to be just what it was…” No one else comes close to Tom.

David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time

There is so little to say about this. David Lynch is simply an artist who is in the enviable position od doing pretty much what he wants. Make a movie on betamax, open a night club, have prom party. ‘Crazy Clown Time’ is completly original, a little bit funny and totally scary. It’s jostling for No1 on here and is mental enough to get the top slot.

If you didnt know, DL is into TM. That probably has something to do with this. Listen carefully for the link between happiness and good dental hygiene.

John Martyn – Heaven & Earth

John’s postumous album. Part complete when he moved on and completed by friends. It’s not quiet there with is great albums but it has a wonderful mumbling beauty that no one else could ever achieve. I saw him live maybe half a dozen times and he was a uniquely talented artist. Phil Collins contribution is good and brings back memories of ‘Grace & Danger’.

Radiohead – King of Limbs

Predictable. Radiohead can do no wrong. I’ll buy thier extreme product versions for random amounts of money and indulge the albums, remixes, versions, YouTube specials etc etc. Because they are good, unlike Coldplop, U-aswell, Snowshovell etal.

Thom can’t even dance which is admirable…..

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

The second album by Justin Vernon owes a lot I think to Peter Gabriel. Really interesting production, a bit themeic/conceptual with some moments of elation amongst the angst. PG covered one of his songs on ‘Scratch’ and I hope he returns the favour on ‘Yours’.

…..and finally…………………………..

JTP – Last of the Country Gentlemen

I guess he’s my No#1. I saw him live twice. It’s not the happiest record ever made. But there are so few other things it can be compared with. The playing is exemplary, the lyrics are so patently pawed over endlessly, the performance is dragged out from the bottom of a tainted soul. When he plays he breaks up the pain with blue jokes and prat falls, but nothing distracts from the huge talent that makes this happen. This is Josh T. Pearson on the shores of the Rivers of Babylon…..

So there you go.

My musical wishes for 2012 are …..

  • Something new from David Bowie (please, please, please….)
  • A Metal album from Josh T Pearson
  • A tour from I Break Horses
  • Finding the cash to see Tom Waits live if he plays ever…..
  • A new Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds record
  • An album from Liz Fraser
  • The lost/last Sparklehorse album gets released
  • X-Factor gets cancelled

Happy new ears tweeps……



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I Break Horses II

UPDATE 22/08/11

At last its release day for ‘Hearts’ the debut album from I Break Horses. Sadly my local HMV didn’t take delivery so I’m going to hit the Bella Union shop and order my copy now. Support independent labels and new artists by putting your hand in your pocket once in a while.

I would also like to thank Maria & Fredrik for their incidental sign post to Smog. I like a bit of lo-fi and everything I’ve heard so far works well. Some of albums are like finding 40mins of Sparklehorse ballads which can only be a good thing.

So, listen to the doctor, prescribe yourself some ‘Hearts’ and in the mean time listen to the wonderful and sparkly ‘Winter Beats’ whilst you read the review below.


About a month ago I posted some comment and links to a new band called I Break Horses. The band is currently getting some really good reviews for their forthcoming debut album ‘Hearts’.

I was very fortunate earlier this week to hear a pre-release of the album and it really is a beautiful thing. So before I move on, here is a track not on the album called ‘Good Bye Sweet Dreams’.

This track appeared on a compilation album ‘The Psychedelic Sounds of the Sonic Cathedral’. It’s a typically dense musical background with ethereal vocals, in this case fairly clear in lyrical content. A good early song and a nice place to start. The song is a cover of a Roky Erikson song but I can’t tell you much more than that.

A little over a month ago the track ‘Hearts’ was released with a lot of great reviews. There are many references to influences including Curve, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and of course the incredible Cocteau Twins. Here is the video for ‘Hearts’ again. Turn this up…..

‘Hearts’ is definitely one of the stand out tracks on the album but I was pleased to find that it’s not indicative of every track. Previously I made a reference to ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ the Godfrey Reggio film based around the musical piece by Phillip Glass. The structure of the music throughout the album reminds me of both Glass and Micheal Nyman. The elements of repetition, twinkling arpeggios, euphoric risings. A few reviews have used shoegazing as an adjective for the music but I would go with stargazing. Not unlike their label mates Explosions In The Sky, I Break Horses make music that lifts you up above the mundane. I don’t deny that the pushed into the mix vocals make this a more instrumental album in the manner of the Cocteau Twins, but in the same way the vocal, in this case by Maria Lindén, is a beautiful instrument. On initial listening I have absolutely no idea what any of the songs are about but this is more to do with my ability to give the music the attention it craves than it is an issue with production.

So what will you get for your money when you buy this album (which you need to do).

Well, before you start here is a quick biography. READ HERE then come back…….

So there you go. Swedish, young and according to another review both chronic hypochondriacs, that probably explains the song titles.

We have Cancer, Empty Bottles, Hearts, I Kill Love, Load Your Eyes, Pulse, Winter Beats & Wired. Eight great tracks, each with its own life & character. I was a little surprised by the range here. ‘Hearts’ isn’t indicative. There are tracks here like Pulse and Wired which are so close to synth / electro / pop that with a superficial remix they could chart (not a recommendation, but an indication that these really are songs and not just grand gesture soundscapes).

One thing I have found out today is that these songs make for great travelling music. They have pace. They let the sunshine in, they drown out the words in your head. Suddenly you get somewhere and no time has passed.

I had a lot of references in my head earlier. Many from a little while in to my musical past. Being of a certain age I think I may have been riffing on the Cocteau Twins, but in the more pop arena how about considering Shriekback, Furniture (anyone remember ‘Brilliant Mind’?? – Load Your Eyes hits here…) or even Danse Society (strangely expensive on iTunes –  Ok, not very pop but ….pppffttt …sue me). But I Break Horse are not a retro band. They are beautiful, conscientious, layered, thoughtful couple of musicians who have made a wonderful soundtrack for now.

One of the best things I have heard in a long time and it takes a lot to get me off my OCD back catalogue play lists. The album is released on the 30th of August but I hope the tracks above give you a lead into what to expect.

To close this, here is the song ‘Wired’ from Soundcloud, opens in a new Window, so if you don’t make back, thanks for getting this far…..

Wired (demo)

My apologies to the word ‘beautiful’ for wearing it out……but it really is….beautiful….

UPDATE 29/07/11

The wonderful I Break Horses album is still a little while away but here is the Tom Rowland REMIX of Hearts. Volume does it justice. I drive faster when this comes on!

Hearts is out now on vinyl from the Bella Union shop here and on iTunes. You need to get behind the Mule.

The opening track from the album is Winter Beats and you are so lucky because you can hear that little piece of sonic perfection here.

The debut album is available on the 15th of August from the Bella Union shop.

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