Tag Archives: J Mascis

Yet another Annual Review of 2015

Really, I’m not big on lists, music criticism, reflection or history. Yet for some perverse reason I’ve posted Annual Best of posts pretty much since I started this blogging thing. The main reason being it compensates for poor memory. In doing this list I had to check my calendar and a pocket of receipts to verify what I’ve done over the last 12 months. Shocking isn’t it, age is catching up with me, living in the moment is the only option.

This years version is split over live & recorded. I’ve not included any musical purchases of music not released this year (unless indicated or where I’ve cheated). I’ve also cut back on the critique in relation to the recorded stuff, theres column inches of that self absorption out there. Lists and best off are just examples of the bubble that the commentator lives in, my aim if any above aid-memoire is to guide you dear reader to somethings that may have not burst your bubble. Also, don’t look for chronology or ratings, I’m not responsible enough for that. So, lets start with gigs, these chronologically listed.

British Sea Power - Derby Theatre

Jan 10th – British Sea Power – Derby Theatre

More intrigue than fandom. This was the tour where they played with a Brass Band. I only really knew their first two albums which I recall liking. The concept worked well when it gelled but I did find some of the orchestrated parts shoe horned in. Worth a look though.

J Mascis - The Rescue Rooms 2015

Jan 16th – J Mascis – Rescue Rooms

Slacker Prince of Shred. I’ve seen him a dozen times but never solo. A great way to start the year especially as it wasn’t that packed and I got to stand front & centre. He played a great selection of tunes from his not insubstantial song book. The treat though was up close view of his loop building on the fly. I would always jump at a chance to see J.

JAMC - Rock City

Feb 22nd – JAMC – Rock City

The first time I’ve seen these. Like many bands they were on a ‘play x album back to back’ Rock City was absolutely rammed and the sound was monstrous as you’d expect as they slowly pushed past 11. The album was Psycho Candy which to be fair is a great album, the first half of the show was best of the rest which I think I preferred.

Hookworms - Rescue Rooms

March 22nd – Hookworms – Rescue Rooms

These Sheffield boys share a label with some local bands so have played here before. They work on the long near drone punctuated by great melodies and a flying vocalist. Definitely worth a visit and really enjoyable event.

Wire - rescue Rooms

April 22nd – Wire – Rescue Rooms

Another band that I’ve enjoyed over the years but never seen live. This was a standout surprise of a gig. They played almost entirely new material and it held my attention throughout. They walk their own groove, a little like Hookworms with long limited chord songs but great dynamic and masterful sonics. A highlight of the year.

Nick Cave - RCH Nottingham

April 30th – Nick Cave – RCH

This came with a lot of loaded expectation. One of my favourite artists who I’ve seen several times over the years. The last time he played the Royal Concert Hall was on another ‘Nick Cave’ solo tour with the proto Grinderman line up. That was ‘intimate’. This was expansive. A near full Bad Seeds line up, lots of pretty lights and long long show. Cave is the king of stage craft, interacting with the audience, chatty light and full of jokes. And the songs are immense and played to perfection. Not just gig of the year but in the list of best evers.

Grey Hairs

June 19th – Prolapse / Grey Hairs – The Maze

I was attracted to this by the support band, local grunge paddlers Grey Hairs. They released their debut LP this year which is jolly excellent. They gave good gig on the small stage in the Maze. I think I missed Prolapse first time around. A post MBV/Curve/Slowdive shoe gaze band with added regional kitchen sink drama. It was good.

Ex Easter Island Heads

July 25th – Ex-Easter Island Heads – BoHunk Inst

I missed these when they played in 2014 so was keen to make sure to see them this time around. They play electric guitars, lain flat and in odd tunings by variously hitting them with batons & sticks. Invariably long tunes building on rhythm and repetition. It’s very hypnotic especially in a small gallery venue when you are standing at arms length from the performers. Look them up on Bandcamp. Worth a listen I guarantee.

Mike Watt

Sept 10th – CUZ – The Maze

CUZ are Sam Dook and ace of bass Mike Watt. Again great to see them in a small venue like the Maze and managed to chat with Mike a little before the gig. They played a hybrid pop, rock, world music set. Very diverse and quite unlike the album they had recently produced when played live. Watt is a master though and worth seeing in any setting. Apparently the last time he played Nottingham was with J Mascis & the Fog which I saw. Forever ago.

King Crimson BSH

Sept 14th – King Crimson – Birmingham Symphony Hall

Another gig proceeded by huge anticipation. KC don’t tour often and hadn’t played in the UK for several years. Now a seven piece band with three drummers and decades of incredible complex music to draw from. Unlike Cave they have no interaction with the audience. A pre-recorded message from band leader Fripp with a request to not take pictures before the band come out immaculately dressed in dark suits. Expertly rehearsed they played songs from their 50 year history including devastating versions of ‘Starlesss’ and ’21st Century Schizoid Man’. World class genius.

Hey Colossus - The Chameleon Arts Cafe

Oct 10th – Hey Colossus & Kogumaza – The Chameleon Arts Cafe

The Chameleon Arts Cafe has a performance space in the upstairs of an already small upstairs bar. They also have enough PA to put on a loud show in Rock City. Supporting were local hard drone (?) band Kogumaza (again, check Bandcamp, they are excellent) who use finely balanced analogue / retro effects with huge volume.
Hey Colossus release two albums this year and have rightly got them selves a lot of attention. Three guitarist, bass, vocals & drums, slow builds to roaring noise. There was paint falling from the ceilings at this one. Another stunning show and a must see band.

Sisters of Mercy - Rock City

Oct 15th – Sisters of Mercy – Rock City

From the distant 80’s Goth scene I couldn’t resist the pull of Andrew Eldridge and the current Sisters of Mercy. Rock City was again completely packed even though it was a early (7.30!) show. Barely visible through the dry ice Eldridge, two guitarists & Doktor Avalanche ripped through the hits. A dense mass of youngsters slammed and swayed their shoulder dancing girlfriends while I hid on the balcony. I hadn’t seen them since the late 80’s but they gave good gig. And of course closed with Temple of Love & This Corrosion.

The Space Lady

Oct 16th – Space Lady – The Chameleon

This was pure curiosity. The Space Lady (Susan) was a street performer from San Francisco who uses a Casio keyboard and a beguiling manner to re-interpret songs from the seventies mainly. A gig is like being introduced to an obscure mystic who has plainly discovered a level that you can’t quite imagine. Precious and as hard to nail down as smoke.

God Speed You Black Emperor

Oct 22nd – GSYBE – Warwick Arts Centre

From out of left field GSYBE announced a tiny handful of UK dates. Closest to me was Warwick Arts Centre which has been rebuilt since I was last there to see Bauhaus quite a few years ago. God Speed released a great album in the early part of the year which was essential a single 40min piece of music in four movements.
I arrived early and by immense fortitude managed to stand front and centre throughout. I had anticipated the kind of crushing volume used by Swans but it turned out they have a more user friendly approach. It was loud but clean and precise. Like King Crimson they avoid anything more than a quick wave hello and a nod of the head goodbye. In-between was tidal storm of music whipped up by musicians who knew each other intimately on stage. Unmissable performance which I won’t forget.

There was supposed to be one more but I ducked out due to frailness. Next up in 2016 is Bob Mould, ‘\w/’ as the kidz say.

Albums that crossed my horizon…..

So here’s a less than comprehensive list of albums I’ve enjoyed this year. To help you along I’ll include some YouTube videos (the only irritation being regional restrictions and future take down notices – get it while its hot I say).

No chronology here. Sorry. Probably available for academics out there.

Black Mass – Dumb Flesh

A recent find although this came out early in year. One of the guys from Fuck Buttons, I’m more with the noise than the groove. Side four of the vinyl is a long nameless ambient piece which is a stunner.

Hey Colossus – Black & Gold and Radio Static High

See above about their gigging. They put out two albums this year and I couldn’t choose between them. A cracking band with a signature sound. Nothing not to like. This from Blank & Gold.

Grey Hairs – Colossal Downer

Local vendors of post grunge Stooge noise. They have a knack with covers (Final Solution & Jump Into The Fire). This is from the album though. Honourable mention to Colossal Downer for an iconic cover image.

Pop Group – Citizen Zombie

From one of the standout gigs of 2014 to a great return to the studio in 2015. Mark Stewart and the Pop Group didn’t loose a beat from their 1980’s edgy punk funk conscious dance grooves. Immaculate.

BJM – Thingy Wingy & Musique de Film Imagine’

Always prolific (thats a dumb thing to say isn’t it) and always idiosyncratic and beyond the curve. Anton Newcombe gave us two BJM albums. Played the grooves off both of them.

BJM & Tess Parks – I Declare Nothing

Another Anton project from earlier in the year. This with Tess Parks who had appeared on the Musique de Film Imagine album. Absolute corker of an album. Tess growls through the project in the classic European ingenue style.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and other Distresses

Near gig of the year and near album of the year. Huge in scale but the result of tight personal connections in the band. This is the closing section of the album. Played live the entire piece was name Behemoth which is appropriate.

Rocket From The Tombs – Black Record

A surprise entry. Cult Cleveland progenitors of avant-rock came through with a new line up and finally put down some old songs. Given the age of these guys its a damn miracle. This might well be my album of the year. And of course David Thomas.

Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes

After the sublime 2014 album Benji this came with a heap of expectation and TBH it didn’t fulfil on first listen. A couple of months on though it started to sink in. Kozalek had dug even deeper into his personal life and took pretty much himself and drummer Steve Shelly into an acoustic orchestral fantasy life.The songs change pace and the though train derails before jumping back with such intricate detail you can smell the food he mentions and feel the cold on the film set. It needs slow absorption.

Jeff Bridges – Sleeping Tapes

The Dude made a self help album for insomniacs. Yep. Pretty sure its great but I have no idea what happens at the end. If you want we can pretend to be crows.

Steve Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase

I had some appreciation of Wilson from his ‘Raven Songs’ album. For a short period I played the hell out of this. Through this I also found his long form drone albums. Admirable artist with a wide interest and substantial talent.

Courtney Barrett – Sometimes I Sit & Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Acres written about Courtney. Great album, you can see why she hit a groove. But what do I know…. I’m a phoney..

Wire – Wire

30 years at the forefront of obscurity and they can still put out a ground breaking album. At this rate in tens years they will be an overnight success. Seriously though, epic album and they use beautiful guitars.

Bjork – Vulnicura

Appearing on lists all over the place. Bjork’s lack of given fucks helps but this albums narrative of relationship fracture made it into something more human than some of her previous albums. I still can’t got Moto Crash out of my head though. The videos though….

Bob Dyan – Bootleg – The Cutting Edge

My first cheat. Yes its old but there where literally hundreds of unheard versions, sessions, breakdowns and sweepings on this. Bobcats three years of wild mercury sound. The full release needed something like 19 hours to absorb. More of a historical artefact than an album release.

Bob Dylan – Shadows in the Night

And on the other side of his career, confounding fans and critics, Bob puts out a album of Sinatra covers and shows with a pitch perfect lo-fi band & production that He Can Still Sing. This is utterly sublime……

David Gilmour – Rattle That Lock

When I first heard this it didn’t ‘grab me’ but after watching the BBC Making Of doc I was persuaded by its merits. Still enjoying it but still waiting for Comfortably Numb. This track is about encouraging young people to social insurrection so not a bad message. So Long Syd.

Keith Richards – Crosseyed Heart

The vampiric eternal life form and human riff Keef came back with a solo album. What I loved about this was the production. They had gone with studio ambience, it sounds like a band in a room, its primal, no flashy solos. The soul of rock’n’roll. Its just music, man….

Twelve – Houston V – Houston IV (HERACLEUM MANTEGAZZIANUM) – Houston We Are All Going To Die – NO_COUNTRY

The most prolific artist in the country came through with four full Twelve albums in 2015. These have accompanied me on numerous journeys, each has a different tone but mines the same electro Kraut Rock / Motorik mines of beat and groove. The penultimate frontier.

Miley Cyrus – ‘Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz’

This might be considered a surprise last entry. This album was fascinating in the same way that being given strange food when blindfold and trying to decide if you like it or not is fascinating. The feeling on the palette is uneasy but the gag reflex hasn’t kicked in so it must be OK? Still undecided but would definitely advise you don’t play it on the school run. You go girl….

So there you go. There are about half a dozen albums that have been recommended that I didn’t get to, Joanna Newson, Father John Misty, Public Service Broadcast, Jenny Hval, Low (which I’m sure I’d like) and also a bunch I tried but (shockingly) didn’t get.

Apologies to all who tried to guide but for the life of me I didn’t get…….

Jamie xx – In Colour

Panda Bear meets the Grim Reaper

Sufijan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

New Order – Music Complete

Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

I promise to try again unless some fool brings another record out in the mean time.

Seasons Greeting to you all and remember as Uncle Frank taught us ‘Music Is The Best’.

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Album Review of the Year 2014

2015 Haul

It’s that time of year when the round up of the passing year in (name your preferred area of interest) get published. I’ve already harrumphed through a few lists, uttered a few ‘are you insanes’ and exercised some eye rolling. I’m terrible at lists, deeply inconsistent (I’ll leave that to @Bukowski, he’s organized and literate). I did however keep a list of the new albums (no re-releases or opportunist purchases) that came my way this year.

So avoiding any abstract rating system these are things that generated enough interest in my mind to incite the release of cash from my notoriously tight wallet.

I’ve included some video and a few mainly ill considered and badly formulated comments about the records under consideration.

January

Lee Ranaldo & the Dust – Rising Tide – Demos & Rehearsals

An early in the year release, and a bit of filler to follow on from the Rising Tide album from 2013. Pretty excellent filler tbh, with acoustic versions and extended demos illustrating the bands creative process during the recording of Rising Tide. Is was hoping to see the Dust but they didn’t get close enough this year.

I Break Horses – Chiaroscuro

The bands follow up to ‘Hearts’ which was a wonderful and original debut album. I was really looking forward to this and I’ll confess that it didn’t do it for me as I’d hoped. Still a very innovative and individual record but lacking some of the freshness of ‘Hearts’. They did get some great live reviews early in the year though, and Frederick & Maria seem like really nice folks.

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

The ‘Boss’. I picked this up firstly because me lovely wife bought me a vinyl record player for Christmas and the man in HMV persuaded me the free CD with every vinyl copy was a good deal. I used really like Bruce. Darkness & Nebraska are truly great records and there are a lot of other good ones. There are some good tracks on this, particularly the big electric version of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’

Thee Silver Mount Zion etc… – Fuck_Off_Get_Free_We_Pour_Light_on_Everything

There are three or four bands that even though I was aware of them previously, I really discovered in 2014. TSMZOATLLB are one of them. Either what was written about them didn’t resonate with me or I was paying attention before. This album is immense and totally engaging and I count the days until I get to see them.

February

Sun Kil Moon – Benji

I knew of Mark Kozelek & Sun Kil Moon but other than ‘Ghosts of the Great Highway’ didn’t know the music in detail. Benji was the catalyst to take a proper look. The album is probably, at push, with moral support and encouragement, in the running for best album of the year and if there was a list for it, best album of the decade. Its lyrical power is stunning and the band take the old quiet/loud dynamic of Nirvana & the Pixies into new territory with a quite quiet but loud formula. Incandescent beauty.

Peter Buck – I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again

Bucks second minor release solo album. Vinyl only, zero PR or distribution, definitely made a loss and no, he isn’t touring. After playing with REM forever Peter is having fun. He has the least commercially viable vocal style (unless you count Dylan who has worked for the title) but has a deep love for music and knows how to kick it out of the room. REM sidemen and friends contribute to a new age Americana classic. Loved the album and following single ‘Opium Drivel’.

Jim Jarmusch & Squrl – Only Lovers Left Alive OST

I found Squrl in 2013 with their two EP releases. Hanging their hat on a lot of feedback, twisted cover version and a willful ‘art’ aspect, the OST for Jarmusch movie was more traditional soundtrack in some ways but is still a peculiar event and very atmospheric thing. Jarmusch, like Lynch & Tarrantino takes huge interest in the soundscape of his films. As well as Squrl his collaborator Joseph Van Wissum appears, as do space rock duo White Hills.

Twelve – Tragik

Chris Olley continues with his electronic/Teutonic exploration during Six.BySeven down time. This was a much darker set than previous albums. Using ‘heritage’ electronics these are more visceral recordings than most current EDM recordings.

March

Peter Hammill & Gary Lucas – Other World

A cut-up soundscape collaboration from VDGG main man. Hammill is an inveterate experimenter and whilst he might not get the venues that Fripp does he’s his own master and has one of the most unfakeable voices in prog.

The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

I like this. Its high on the many lists of albums of 2014 but I couldn’t relate a song to you in retrospect. In style its light Americana, I thought Fleetwood Mac (later years) or Steely Dan. All great places to start, and it has some very handy guitar playing. Mark Kozelek did a song about them, now that was funny.

April

Bill Callahan – Have Fun With God

When it was suggested that Bill was releasing a dub version of his wonderful 2013 album ‘Dream River’ it might have sounded like an Aprils Fool gag. The record took longer to materialize than was first suggested but it was worth the wait. Another level of excellent was attained.

Neil Young – Letter Home

NY took a lo-fi line with this album, made in a ‘record yourself’ record booth in Jack Whites Tennessee studio. It’s not A grade Neil but a damn sight better than the mainstream. An album of nostalgic covers and letters home to Mum.

May

Sweet Apple – The Golden Age of Glitter

I chased this due to its inclusion of J Mascis. I’d have to say their first album was a little better. It’s big and loud and balls to the wall R’n’R. Some good riffs and verging on ‘Spinal Tap’ themes.

Pink Mountaintops – Get Back

Pink Mountaintops are another of the discovery bands of the year. Connected to God Speed You Black Emperor & Thee Silver…. They are a bit more of a straight song based band . This album is so broad in its references from indie, glam, noise and more it makes for great record. J Mascis also makes an appearance as does Annie Hardy on the pretty shocking ‘North Hollywood Microwaves’. I played the grooves off this for a month or more.

Swans – To Be Kind

This is big one. I had heard of Swans a little before but this was another level of noise. Not a song under 10mins and sound starting at loud and working its way up. I saw the band at the beginning of December and they exceed expectation. There was a genuine look of terror on the faces of some of the audience when they realized the scale of the sound coming out of the huge stacks of Orange amps. The volume was physical and the intent & execution of band meticulous. One of a kind.

June

Heavy Blanket – In a Dutch Haze

More J Mascis, this time with Dutch band Earthless and colleagues from Heavy Blanket. This is basically a single performance split over a double vinyl LP. It’s a long space jam, mainly improvised. It was a limited edition vinyl release and took a while to land but was worth the wait.

Jack White – Lazaretto

Like a lot of others I was hooked on the ‘super vinyl’ edition. Hidden tracks, playing from the center out, shiny holograms, click groove loops etc. The music is pretty good. Not peak Jack White but it has its moments. A stylish release but slightly dodging the core purpose of a great record by not having very memorable song. Awful pretty though.

Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin

A solid effort from Bob. He played a very small number of gigs in the UK but none close enough to attend. He’s an icon of a genre and this album got a good thrashing when it came out.

REM – Unplugged Sessions

This release of the two REM MTV Unplugged appearances was really overdue. One of my favorite bands of all time, in amazing live period piece recordings. I had the 1991 version in short on cassette for years and wore it out. Great to have the full sets now with some classic versions of their many classic toons.

JULY

Brian Johnstown Massacre – Revelation

It was probably ‘Dig’ that got me into BJM but I’ve seen then four times over the last few years. ‘Revelation’ was a great album, typical Anton anthemic songs with Icelandic influences and a top band whipped into obedience. They played the Rescue Rooms near the release date and it was a six guitarmageddon performance. I love the anti-industry approach of Anton and he’s a Twitter star to boot. I have no idea what Courtney is doing (actually they played the Rescue Rooms the day before and got great reviews) but I’d follow Anton’s output any day.

Kikagaku Moyo – Forest of Lost Children

These guys really are my number one of the year. I think I heard them via a Face Book record company site, they had crazy graphics, I got sucked in…. After getting this album it took me another month or so to get their two previous releases. Both small label releases, one from Greece strangely. They are a six piece prog/psych group from Japan who play mainly long improvisations and include a traditionally trained Sitar player. ‘Forest….’ is the most accessible album with some kicking & hard tracks.
When Damo Suzuki fell ill and couldn’t make a performance in Nottingham at a little Café venue the band took the slot. I think they played 5 or 6 UK gigs and I’m so pleased I managed to see them. Their set tore the room up and was a highlight gig of the year. I can’t wait for their next release and look forward to seeing them in front of a big crowd.

AUGUST

Pere Ubu – Carnival of Souls

David Thomas and his band are always bringing in their projects from places others don’t really visit. Pere Ubu fix things and are masters of Squonk (or so they pronounced) and anything else they turn their collective mind towards. My biggest disappointment was that when they played over here they did it on the same night as another band I wanted to see leading to difficult no win choices. CoS has still stayed on my playlist since it’s release. No one makes music like Pere Ubu.

J Mascis – Tied To A Star

J’s follow up to the 2011 album ‘Several Shades of Why’ and a step away from the big noise of Dinosaur and the many collaborations and contributions he makes. Scheduled to be my first live show of 2015 and I’ll be there early for a front row place. Melodic, twinkly and subtle, pure joy and warmth.

Joel Gion – Apple Bonkers

Joel, as tambourine man with the BJM, has a place in music history assured. This however took his pop-psych cred into less quarrelsome territory. With members of BJM at the side this was another surprise top gig of the year. A melodic record with well constructed songs but above all delivered with style and Joel almost aloof cool. The band stood shoulder-to-shoulder on stage and glowed through the set. They followed the album with a great little single ‘Over Throw’.

Aphex Twin – Syro

Snuck out guerilla style and heavily anticipated, I only had limited awareness of Mr Twin before this. It’s an odd one but I seem to keep coming back to it.

SEPTEMBER

Queen – Live at the Rainbow 1975

A long time coming official release for the much bootlegged shows, Queens two 1975 appearances at the Rainbow Theatre. The shows book end the period when they started to get wider attention. Songs are from the first three albums and as I still recall every word to all of them, for me it was the sing-a-long hit of the year. And Freddie remains one to best front men on any stage ever.

Tuatara – Underworld

Tuatara have been making records for a number of years but it was this one that found me first. The band includes Peter Buck and a number of other collaborators and is a musician’s band. The albums are mainly instrumental and mix up genres from folk, traditional & world. A very enjoyable and unique album.

Shellac – Dude Incredible

Audiophile quality thrash noise. More tuneful than a number of earlier Shellac records but retaining the metallic shards of guitar and trouser shaking bass.

Goat – Commune

The second album by the masked world music troop. Joyful and urgent with some stellar guitar playing and uplifting African chants. Apparently a great live band as well.

Thom Yorke – Tomorrows Modern Boxes

Thom popped this out by surprise and through the Bit Torrent channels more common amongst file sharers. An experimental album probably made using a new age reclaimed plastic iPad (sorry, that’s cynical). It’s an engaging and interesting record but as with some of the other high promise releases expectation possibly exceed delivery – but anyone wanting a new OK Computer is going to send a lot disappointment. On that note however the OK Computer/In Rainbows 0110010100110 splice reached broader public awareness and I did spend quite a lot of time trying to get my head around that.

OCTOBER

White Hills – Glitter, Glamour, Atrocity

I picked this up when they played at Spanky Van Dykes in Nottingham. White Hills are a great live band who shred space rock tunes and put out an invigorating performance. The album is verging on concept and plays with ‘B’ movie / noir themes. Best played loud.

Six By Seven – KluB MiX!33

The second entry here from Chris Olley who took a chance with the Six.BySeven name and mixed his Twelve electro/kraut rock solo stylings with the long dark guitar night of the soul moves more recognized as Six.BySeven. I really enjoyed it and the limited edition vinyl only release made for a special occasion.

Thurston Moore – The Best Day

If there was a rating system in place here this would be in the upper reaches. Thurstons new band that includes Steve Shelly & Deb Googe with guitarist James Sedwards are a top live band. I was lucky enough to see them on the last night of the tour in a completely packed Bodega. They improvise around the tracks on the album and it’s as close to classic Sonic Youth as you can get. Great interplay between Moore & Sedwards. Had the album on repeat for weeks afterwards.

Scott Walker & SunnO))) – Soused

Like the Bill Callahan dub album, when this was announced it sounded a bit ‘…..ok..?’. It came with expectations of extreme noise and obscure Avant-gaurdisms. It materialized with dark and beautiful artwork and what can only be described as real songs, albeit blackly themed and delivered with operatic singing and heavy drones. No other record has ever sounded quite like this. A high light of the year.

NOVEMBER

Pink Floyd – The Endless River

Announced as the last studio album by the Floyd with an ear to Richard Wrights contributions during the recordings for ‘The Division Bell’ in 1994. It’s mainly instrumental and includes a number of other musicians. There are some wonderful guitar lines from Gilmour, and prog staple drum solo and masses of lush keyboards. Only one track included vocals which is perhaps the only disappointment. I’m sure the Floyd have a stack of demos and live recordings kicking around so it’s unlikely to be the last we hear from them but this was a fine way to sail off into the sunset.

Einstürzende Neubauten – Lament

I nearly missed this. Blixa and chums released this broadly conceptual / themed album about World War One and it’s interesting to hear from the other side of football field of war for once. The album is poly lingual and not what I would imagine the band to sound like. It took a few listens but it’s grown on me. Its mixes poetry and historical recordings with multiple musical styles. Music to think about.

And thats about it. I havn’t purchased anything so far in December and its typically a month for ‘Pop Party 53’ or ‘Thats What I Call Music 1059’. But so we go out on a high, I received the wonderful ‘In the Orbit of Ra – Marshall Allen presents Sun Ra’ as a birthday gift. So Happy New Year, this is jazz from another planet…. See you same time next year.

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My Albums of 2012

It’s been a funny year for new music, not many of the old artists bringing new records out (just re-releases and re-markets) and a awful lot of new music from big contemporary artists being pretty ropey and second rate. The nastiness of X-Factor  & BGT still pervades the UK airwaves and TV…..shudders….

Still there have been some interesting events and I have to thank @thisismyjam and the enthusiasm of the users for introducing me to artists that had passed me by before. So in no particular order, here are a few high points from 2012.

Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man In The Universe

Stunning comeback album for a soul legend.  Assisted by Damon Albarn & Richard Russell. www.bobbywomack.com 

Tame Impala – Lonerism

These discovered through This Is My Jam. Psychedelic tinged indie from Australia. They must have absorbed a lot of prog and more than a little Hawkwind to sound like this.

Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky

The third album from the fully reformed Dinosaur Jr. The formula still works but this album even had keyboards. Played this a lot when it came out.

Sun Kil Moon – Among The Leaves

Another Jam discovered band. There are a lot of American artists hanging out in the folk field. These guys stand out though. Particularly liked the first album but this is from the 2012 album of the same name.

Neil Young – Psychedelic Pill

Neil back with Crazy Horse. Following up on the Americana album. A double album of long jam based songs. Maybe patchy but classic Horse.

Grizzly Bear – Shields

This kept showing up on my Amazon page as ‘recommended for you’. Once I looked it up I understood why. This the opening track is excellent.

Heavy Blanket – Heavy Blanket 

I was really excited when I heard about this. Instrumental jams by J Mascis and two school friends, pre Dinosaur but re-recorded for this. Just noise, great noise though…

David Byrne and St Vincent – Love This Giant

A wonderful oddity, DB, Annie and a brass band. How could that ever work? This is my favourite track from the album. I ended up digging out the Knee Plays album after this came out.

Bob Dylan – Tempest

Bob came back with this his 35th studio album. Now in his seventies this is as dark as it gets. Utterly poetic, obviously deeply researched and referencing the history of humankind. I have played this endlessly, trying to pick through the themes. The opening track is the lightest lyrically but he undermines it with this cruel video about a stalker getting beaten up in the name of love or lust. The only one that You Tube has and probably soon to disappear.

Patti Smith – Banga

Another poet who really just gets better & better. Banga is a brilliant record that covers so much ground across many years. This song written for Johnny Depp who also plays on the album.

 

So there you go. A quick trawl through the thousands of hours of music I have been playing over the last year. I hope you found something you like and maybe something new.

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Dinosaur Jr

This evenings post is based on pure self-indulgence. Low impact comment backed up with enthusiasm for subject.

Before proceeding, please press play…….

I’ve mentioned before my admiration for J Mascis & Dinosaur Jr. Having seen DJ four or five times and J & the Fog once, they rate with the best of up lifting live music experiences. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mahler’s Symphony of 1000, Kate Bush singing with Peter Gabriel, John Martyn marginally sober….. J Mascis on a good night with viable amplification can step up to the plate and physically move you elsewhere.

The last time I saw J was for  a gig supporting the release of ‘Beyond’. That was excellent but prior to that was a Fog gig at the Boat Club in West Bridgford, in support of ‘The Light’. Probably the loudest experience ever. A million watts of volume in a room the size of my office. A cigar chomping Mike Watt, George Berz blew the doors off the joint and had my ears spinning for days.

J is one of the most elemental forces of guitar nature and in my view is up there with Peter Green, Jimi, Santana, McLaughlin and John Martyn.

So here’s a whole load of J fun. Lou Barlow @LouBarlow announced on Twitter that Dinosaur are recording a new album which I can’t wait for. I so hope they tour it in the UK and do more than three gigs. I would happily promote a Nottingham gig and I know the local wildlife would turn out to see these guys.

I strongly suggest you hit the iTunes store, search the NPR podcasts for Dinosaur Jr at the 9.30 Club in Washington. In mArch theres a DVD of the gig and it is twisting. Songs from the entire period ‘Repulsion’ through to ‘Over It’.

Speaking of which……..

Here’s one more.  ‘Feel The Pain’ live from 2007….

And for no other reason than gratiitous file sharing, a full live show. A brilliant audience recording from less than a month ago. Sorry to the original source for going all MP3 but this is about coverage not purism. Original links available on request. Excellent sound and a typically genius performance. Just remember, three blokes, analog tech, massive voltage…..

Dinosaur Jr
Grand Central
Miami, FL
January 23, 2012

Setlist:

01. tuning/intro
02. Thumb
03. The Lung
04. Budge
05. They Always Come
06. No Bones
07. noodling/banter
08. Little Fury Things
09. Out There
10. Feel The Pain
11. Kracked
12. Freak Scene
13. Forget The Swan
14. encore break
15. In A Jar
16. Just Like Heaven
17. Mountain Man

Don’t be subtle. Turn it up.

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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……

A4

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J Mascis II

 I can’t rate the new J Mascis album ‘Several Shades of Why’ any higher. Its a work of sublime beauty. I hope it reaches a decent audience.

J has been playing around the SXSW festival recently so here are two pieces of fresh fruit.

First, this is title track from the album. The studio version features a wonderful interplay of guitar and violin. This however is J on his own playing it live…..

I’ve played the album a dozen time in the last week and it just gets better. Treat your self.

Now here’s the full audio set from SXWS.

Date Recorded: 2011-03-16
Date Added To Archive: 2011-03-17 
Venue: SXSW 2011 RollingStone Showcase
Austin TX USA
Artist: J Mascis
Style: Acoustic / Electric
Artist Names: J Mascis
Media Type: MP3 256 

J Mascis – SXSW 2011

1 Noodeling 
2 Listen To Me 
3 Several Shades of Why 
4 Circle 
5 Get Me  
6 Not Enough 
7 Ammaring 
8 Little Fury Things  
9 Not You Again  
10 Alone

It doesn’t get much better than this. Audio and video from www.freesofree.net. Thanks to J for being a complete genius.

As always, if any one has issues with this being available, please let me know and I’ll remove all content & links.

Please have a good look around J’s website here http://jmascis.com/ It’s full of joy!

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