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……………………..
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.
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…
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.
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.
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’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’.
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…..
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’.
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……
You Don’t Believe In Witchcraft, Do You?
Taking a small cue from the current season of Halloween, I’d like to introduce my latest tune. I’m often on the side of not providing deep deconstruction of creative pieces but as I’m only going to skirt around the broader themes and add some rough background and some treats.
Before I start wittering on, this is the meat and bones of the post. A new song, a long song, and one I’m quite pleased with for its continuity and its formation.
In a quick answer to the opening question, no, I don’t. I’m sure there are folk who would intentionally mystify their activities to gain favour, power and money but I doubt they are truly dangerous or possessed of otherworldly powers. Of a more fatal type historically have been those ‘gifted’ with a skill to spot a Witch and claiming of a divine right to persecute and punish any that slip outside of their sphere of control. A nasty business from both sides and sadly perpetuated today across many communities. Fear in the unknown is a powerful persuader.
The mythology of witchery is pan-continental and with extensive history. Folk stories exist from ancient Greece, China and across Europe. Africa and its vast diaspora embrace it and continue to use its power throughout Africa and the West Indies. It’s endlessly occupying in the darker sides of life and bleeds out into fiction of all types. From schlock pulp, comic books, magical realism and beyond we love witchery in all its forms.
Since I was a 11-12 year old staying up with my Dad to watch Hammer movies I’ve always loved the horror genre. I’m less inclined to watch some of the contemporary gorefests that arise. The sense of mystery and the unseen is far more powerful. Along with the ‘Wicker Man’, ‘The Devil Rides Out’ the classic Dracula/Mummy/Werewolf movies I’ve had a long appreciation for ‘The Night of The Beast/Demon’. As it wasn’t readily available I bought an import VHS copy about 10 years ago. More recently I found an import DVD copy.
Now it’s even on You Tube?
Its a brilliant cross over UK/USA production made in 1957. Lots more about it here. It’s interesting to me in that it proposes the relationship between belief in outcomes and how belief can lead outcomes. The original story was written by M.R. James, an historian and academic who wrote several ghost stories. Apparently a new film version of this particular story has been proposed.
My song uses as its lead in an exchange between the two main characters of film – Dr. John Holden, the American rational psychologist and Dr. Julian Karswell, the professorial academic with a leaning towards the dark side. A far more well known use of text from this film is found in Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’….Its in the Trees! Its coming!…
For your further enlightenment, this is the film in question. Its a wonderful thing.
Sonically the tune progresses in a simple linear way – Introduction>Consolidation>Expansion>Proclamation>Disintegration. Most of this achieved through layers of rhythm and increasing distortion, I did want to include something nailed to reality and was inclined to find a real Witch.
Like the fictional Carswell in the movie, Aleister Crowley was an historian & academic. He was a great self promoter and was variously known as the ‘The Great Beast’ and the most evil man in England. In more recent times he has been further mythologised by references from Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan and any other Satanic referencing Rock/Metal band.
Many years ago I borrowed ‘Magik in Theory & Practise’ from my local library with one or two strange looks. Its a lengthy and mainly unreadable book that serves in many ways as a diary of Crowley’s onianism and its outcomes. Crowley travelled widely and assisted many archeological expeditions in the mediterranean, south America and China and was undoubtably committed to research and comparative cultures. He was worldly and well informed as well as being somewhat deviant in other areas. Its proposed that during the early years of the Second World War he worked with MI5, along with Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl & Dennis Wheatly producing mystified disinformation for Nazi opponents – it was even suggested that he came up with the popularised ‘V’ for Victory sign.
In the song , during the middle section I’ve used a recording of Crowley intoning a ‘prayer’ about America. One of the main edifices of Witchery is presentation, intonation…. ‘giving it some scary’. Crowley achieves this better than most. There’s a touch of the William Burroughs about it.
This is the recording I used for the song.
The song use a number of processes and apps. Mainly produced using Garageband with added Rev loops. The main guitar was my Eros Les Paul copy (£45 in 1985, nice pots) recorded in Amplitude. I guess I had some God Speed You Black Emperor In mind, or maybe Swans. I’m consistently surprised these things turn out without being completely discordant.
I’m working on that though.
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Tagged as Aleister Crowley, bones, Dr. John Holden, GarageBand, Halloween, Hammer Horror, Ian Fleming, Indiana Jones, Jimmy Page, Kate Bush, Les Paul, M R James, Night of the Beast, Ozzy Osbourne, Post Rock, Rev, Roald Dahl, The Great Beast, Wicker, Wikan, Witchcraft