So I’m choked with the cold….AGAIN!! arrrgggghhh. I just cannot shake this bloody illness. I have been trying for weeks now and it just keeps coming back again and again and every time it seems to bring reinforcements. It’s 6.30am. I’ve been awake since 5am. I have been unable to sleep due to a runny nose or being blocked up. So I’ve been downloading music, working out Graveyard Tapes stuff and just listening to very chilled out music. The Rustle of Stars by Richard Knox and Frederic D. Oberland to be precise. It’s just stunning. Review to follow shortly.
Anyways, as you may know, being a blogger and being based in Scotland I have been involved for the past three years with the Scottish Bloggers and Music Writers (BAMS) award run by Lloyd who writes Peenko. The Phantom Band won the first year and last year it was The National who came out on top. Well, this year the votes have been counted and verified and the winner of best album of 2011, as voted by the BAMS, is Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat with their debut record ‘Everything’s Getting Older’. A fine winner. A worthy winner. This pleases me greatly. Anyways, if you’d like to know more and read a wee interview Lloyd did with the pair you can do so HERE. Enjoy.
Here’s a list of tracks you really should check out. Which means you probably have to check out the artists themselves and since it’s 23 December and I have gardening to do (yes, gardening) I cannot be bothered linking every single artist. Check them out when you can.
Grouper – Come Softly; The Antlers – No Windows; Bon Iver – Holocene; Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top; Chris Tenz – Birth; Conquering Animal Sound; Bear; Fionn Regan – Sow Mare Bitch Vixen; Gem Club – Black Ships; Wilco – One Sunday Morning; Josh T Pearson – Woman, When I’ve Raised Hell; Caught In The Wake Forever; Fragments Turn To Dust; Mogwai – Death Rays; Nils Frahm – Less; The Antlers – Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out; Bright Eyes – Ladder Song; The Felice Brothers – Ponzi; Lozninger – Moving Targets; Explosions in the Sky – Postcard from 1952; Gem Club – Lands; Josh Ritter – Change of Time; AA Bondy – Drmz; Boduf Songs – Decapitation Blues; Death Cab For Cutie – Home Is Fire; Ryan Adams – Come Home; Sleepingdog – He Loved to see the World Through His Camera; Remember Remember – The Quickening.
That will do for now.
No contest really. I think behind Wilco, The Antlers are the band that excite me most. Such great songs. Two great records. Where Hospice was something new and stunning in no way does ‘Burst Apart’ ever try to recreate the feel, tone or sound of that record whilst retaining the identity of the band. You know, I have no idea why this band are not much, much bigger than they are. I saw them at King Tut’s earlier this year and I still cannot understand how on earth they were playing Tuts. Such a shame. They should be playing much bigger venues based on their two records to date. Fingers crossed it will happen for them. I am sure it will. You can read my review of the record here.
And here are a few highlights of the record for me.
Number 2 on the top 10 list is occupied by the brilliant ‘Everything’s Getting Older’ by Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat. A problem that I have with this record is that too many people seem to be referring to it as an Aidan Moffat record. This is exceptionally unfair as the contribution of Bill Wells should not be underestimated. It’s the brilliant juxtaposition between the beautiful jazz and lounge music of Wells and the usual vitriolic ramblings of Moffat that make this record so special. There are the usual themes of love, lust and sex in Moffat’s work but in the simply sensational ‘Copper Top’ the themes of death, loss and regret are conveyed simply, stunningly and with genuine feeling. It’s this wonderful ability to convey emotion so poignantly that makes Moffat a master of his art and combined with the brilliant accompanying music this record sparkles as Scotland’s finest in 2011 by a small country mile.
You can read my original review of the record here. And you should own this record if you don’t already.
Well, number three on the top ten list goes to the awesome Bon Iver. It would have been so so easy for Justin Vernon to have bashed out another ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. It really would have been. Keep it simple, uncomplicated. But he didn’t. He took a risk. He added in drums and a lot more texture and padding. It never strays far from what made him appealing in the first place but it does enough to say that this is different and something special. It is. The thing about Bon Iver is that it is an album that needs time invested in it. Each play reveals new layers, things missed on the previous listen. It is subtle and is not designed to scream immediacy. It certainly doesn’t do that but with time invested this record really is quite exquisite.
I have read people call it boring. To be perfectly honest, to me, that shows a complete lack of understanding of what this record is all about. That this record could surpass in quality and impact such a fine debut record is testament to the brilliance of the artist. If you don’t like this record I think you might have no soul.
Check out my review of the record here. Check out Bon Iver. Enjoy.
Nuumber 4 in the top 10 list comes from Grouper. I was going to include both albums she released on the same day as a joint number 4 but then, whilst I think that they work very well together as a piece of work, I don’t think it’s fair to include it as a double album as it’s not, technically. So ‘Alien Observer’ it is because the first time I listened to it I was completely blown away by it. I was already a fan of her work but when I heard ‘Alien Observer’ my levels of love for her music skyrocketed. (This was reinforced by ‘Dream Loss’). It’s such an amazingly beautiful record, which I tried to write about earlier in the year. The whole sound of the record gives the feeling of listening to Liz Harris sing under water. It’s just eerily beautiful and when she unleashes ‘Come Softly’ at the end of the record my heart just skips a beat. One of the most hauntingly beautiful tunes that I have ever heard.
Her skill as a manipulator of sound, tone and texture to create these ethereal worlds is second to none. A real star. She deserves to be heard by more. Check out ‘Dream Loss’ too because it’s equally brilliant. And if I was cheating the pair of them together would definitely be pushing towards the top of my top 10 list. But I am not cheating. So number 4 she is. And deservedly so for a brilliant album.
Check out Grouper here. Enjoy.
Wilco are my band. Everyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is my all time favourite record and that I absolutely adore this band. Whilst others have struggled with recent releases (Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (The Album)), I have simply considered them to be natural progressions in the evolution of one of the world’s most important bands. My review of ‘The Whole Love’ explains this in more detail but the simple fact of the matter is that Jeff Tweedy was, and is, one of the most important song writers out there, in my opinion.
‘The Whole Love’ is a mix of an album bringing together sounds from all the previous records and combining them to create a vibrant record packed with cracking tunes and moments of real beauty. ‘Capitol City’ is the perfect example of this. This song has been kicking about since the band recorded ‘Being There’, it’s just never really come together as a song until now. It gives a great insight into how some things just don’t work until you find the right people to work with. Anyone who has witnessed Wilco live knows that Jeff Tweedy has finally found the right people to work with.
Regardless of where you fall on the Wilco debate there can be no doubt that ‘Black Moon’, ‘Rising Red Lung’ and ‘One Sunday Morning’ are three of the best tracks of the year, with the latter possibly Tweedy’s masterpiece to date. Utterly brilliant.
Coming in at number 6 on my top 10 list is the wonderful Nils Frahm and his gorgeous new record ‘Felt’. I could spend a lot of time telling you why I think Nils Frahm is such an amazing artist but I only recently wrote my review of this record and it is all explained in this, as well as the other various articles I have written on him over the years. It’s another wonderful release from Erased Tapes who appear to be going from strength to strength and deservedly so because Robert is such a lovely bloke. Anyways, you can read more about Felt here.
Please do check out Nils Frahm as he is simply awesome. Enjoy.
Coming in at number 7 in my top 10 of 2011 is the wonderful debut record by A Winged Victory for the Sullen or, if you know the artists individually, Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid/Sleepingdog).
I have to be honest, I am not sure why I would place this record higher than Tim Hecker’s ‘Ravedeath, 1972’. My only explanation is that I am a total sucker for a good bit of piano and Dustin O’Halloran never fails to deliver on that front. I mean, I think the honest truth of the matter is that if you know the music of each individual in this project, then you will have a fair idea of what is on offer from A Winged Victory. In a nutshell the record mixes melancholic piano with sonorous, droning soundscapes. Somewhere, in the middle of the two’s individual work, is where this record falls. But this is no bad thing because together they have created a quite beautiful record which I could drift away on for hours on end.
I could harp on about this record a little more or alternatively I could suggest that you read my review of it here.
You can check out A Winged Victory for the Sullen here. Enjoy.
Canadian Tim Hecker is pretty much a master when it comes to creating atmosphere. Drone based compositions that can, at times, be fearsome have propelled him to the top of his field along with the producer of this record Ben Frost. Combining their undoubted talents on this record is a master stroke. Hecker has created a record that, yes, is full of fear but equally highlights his amazing understanding of melody with subtle and brilliant bursts filtering in throughout yet remaining part of the texture rather than a focal point of the tracks.
Fascinatingly, this record combines the organic process of recording pipe organ in a church hall in Reykjavik with the digital process of adding layers and texture once back in the studio. The result is something all consuming, suffocating, claustrophobic. A record that is equal in discord as it is in beauty and one that challenges the listener to dare to find time to breathe. A record that batters the living hell out of the organ through digital processing. And yet, at the end of it all, it’s the organ that sustains longest and has the final word on the record.
Herein lies the beauty of this record: the concept behind the music. It serves as an examination of how music is threatened by technology. And the combination of the use of an organic organ and the digital noise of the studio highlight this perfectly. One being pure and acoustic, the other processed, modern and, at times, aggressive. It’s almost like Hecker was trying to batter the organ into submission using technology and yet, after all is said and done, the organ remains. It’s certainly the work of an artist who understands and values traditional as much as he does contemporary. And it’s brilliant.
You can check out Tim Hecker here. Enjoy.