Seven Great Records of 2012

Bobby_MooreI have loafed about this Christmas – reading, drinking, watching films and generally living the life, which has been great, but now I find myself with just a few hours in which to throw this together…

To be honest, it feels like I’ve already done this once already having been asked to nominate five 2012 records for the January Lpgrp session. I managed it with some difficulty (particularly as my Lpgrp line manager made me nominate one to be the best of them all – wild stab…), so seven should be a piece of (Christmas) pudding, eh?

Well, no. Partly because it means I’m only allowed to add two more, and partly because I change my mind as frequently as night follows day. (In fact, I can’t actually remember which one of my five was the top-rater… Just as well…)

Should give a few honourable mentions to records I really liked but didn’t quite make the cut – today’s cut at least… Really liked the best bits of the TOY record, the poppier efforts from Django Django and Alt J, the garage/psych labours of Goat, Pond and the Allah-Las and that hefty ska record from Prince Fatty and Mutant Hi-Fi. Coming up on the rails, Clear Moon by MountEerie has also grown on me an awful lot…

Anyway, here, in no particular order, my Lucky Seven for 2012

 

Bend Beyond – Woods

A real sixties-fest, this, bubblegum-ish vocals, garagey guitars and woozy, effect-laden keyboards. The album’s full of great pop songs and on stage, Woods showed a heartening willingness to “wig out” when given the chance. Great record and great live.

 

 

The Marble Downs – Trembling Bells with Bonny “Prince” Billy

Was loving this album, heaps and heaps, even before their brilliant stop off in Cheltenham… Lots of humour, a fair amount of pathos and a fascinating clash of British and American folk traditions – brass bands wrestling Americana stylings to the ground, even down to the derby/darby pronunciation clash in Ferrari in a Demolition Derby

 

 

Plumb – Field Music

Thrilled to bits to see the fabulous Brewis Boys getting a Mercury nomination, and had even begun to think they might sneak off with the prize themselves (a tad over-optimistic, I know). Still a sparkling record, chaotic, complex, fidgety and damn clever. Somebody on Twitter described Plumb as being like seeing Funkadelic covering the King Crimson back catalogue… [This is a great clip…]

 

 

Young Man in America – Anaïs Mitchell

Another fine record, massively augmented by a couple of very memorable live performances. I can’t remember if this got my Top Vote for lpgrp, but it may well have, and I’ve certainly bought this for a friend this Christmas claiming it‘s the one record of the year he should listen to. Haunting, intelligent and at times crushingly bitter. A magnificent piece of work…

 

 

Lions’ Roar – First Aid Kit

Another glimmering country gem, only this time cooked up on the wild plains of Sweden. Saw First Aid Kit at Green Man a couple of years ago and they were pretty good. One for the future, I remember thinking. I didn’t anticipate a record as strong and as fully formed as this coming out as soon as it has, though. Probably the standout track is “Emmylou” but, again, this is another collection remarkable for a whole range of very strong songs throughout.

 

 

CYRK – Cate Le Bon

Seem to have written quite a lot about Cate Le Bon over the last month or so, most of it incidental, and a slightly luke warm performance at Green Man took the sheen of this for a while. But a couple of days reacquainting myself with this gawky fizzer of a record reminded me what a cracking piece it is. Anyone know who the drummer is on this clip? (I don’t want to know…)

 

 

The Echo Show – Yeti Lane

Haven’t seen this show up on any one else’s lists, but I absolutely love it. Another band who impressed themselves upon me at End of the Road, with a graceful and stylish set on the last night, none of which was lost in this their second record, their first as a duo. Smooth, experimental and somehow very French, it reminded me of Air or Stereolab, but with a bit more oomph and a dash more geekiness.

 

 

There it is, then. Probably should’ve found space for the Gravenhurst record, and probably should’ve listened harder to the new Grizzly Bear and Tame Impala ones, but, hey! Whaddya gonna do, eh?

2012 – Seven Woo-Hoos and Seven Dohs

Homer-Simpson-psd24858I trust you all had a decent yuletide. Time for some looking back…

2012 – Seven Woo-Hoos

  • The Killing – Series Three

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in the previous couple of years, but it’s gratifying to know that the third series was as strong as ever (may even have been the best of the three to be honest). It’s some sort of tribute to the writers that even though the novelty of the Scandi-crime Thingie has receded somewhat, The Killing has itself got stronger and stronger, and truly went out on a high. Sara Lund remains gratifyingly terrier-like and as socially inept as ever, but I have to say I never saw THAT coming…

  • Nigel Davies

Nigel Davies is the coach who took over at Gloucester RFC this season, the lastcampaign having crashed and burned in the most dramatic fashion, after coach Bryan Redpath had had his head turned by Sale. Davies appears to be composed, inspiring and seems to have the winning touch. The Cherry & Whites are currently in fourth spot, regaining some of their past fire and dynamism, and playing some decent rugby too. Lordy, we’ve even got a couple of players on the fringes of the England team…

  • Tim Parks & Serie A

It’s about ten years old or so, but this year I picked up a copy of Tim Parks’ superb A Season with Verona, in which he details a season following Serie A team Hellas Verona, home and away. It’s fascinating hearing about some of the characters he meets at the club and in the Curva  – as good a way to read about Italy and Italian footie as any I can think of…

  • George Pelecanos / Cormac McCarthy

And speaking of books, I must’ve read 7 or 8 Pelecanos books over the year, favourites being The Turnaround and Soul Circus. Pacy, hip and full of striking characters, they’re hard to put down once started. I’m reading them all out of order, as they seem to turn up in charity shops everywhere, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ve also just discovered Cormac McCarthy, having read The Road and Blood Meridian, both of which are truly remarkable pieces of writing which I can’t get out of my head. Looking forward to getting into the rest…

  • The Olympics

Impossible to ignore this summer, the whole country seemed to become obsessed with a whole new range of ways to throw things, ride things and score with things. It was also impossible not to be moved by the efforts of Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis and (my personal fave) Mo Farah. I think most people here were more than a little surprised at how well the whole thing went, couldn’t believe we managed to pull it off…

  • Coffee Machine

One of my personal highlights, this was… Tutoring as I do around some of the posher houses in Regency Cheltenham, I’ve been struck by some of the fabulous coffee making gadgets the Other Half appear to use.  So, with some money given to me by a grateful parent, I splashed out on my own modest version. What can I say? My life has been transformed…

  • Gene Clark

Ah, yes, where’s the music?, you say. Well apart from the new records of the year that I’ll be coming to in the next couple of days, 2012 has for me become one with  a bit of a Gene Clark theme. I’d heard people saying that he was the real power behind the Byrds’ throne (not quite sure about that, I’m still a huge McGuinn fan), but I’d never quite realised what a genius the feller was. I’ve been listening to White Light and his records with the Gosdin Brothers and with Doug Dillard, it’s like a whole new set of Byrds’ records to discover. Again, I’m a big Gram fan, but you do wonder how Clark managed to miss out…

HomerSimpson2012 – Seven Dohs

(I’ll try not to rant too much here..)

  • The English Premiership

Greedy owners; racist fans; greedy, racist players – I can’t stand it any more. And before you say it, I’m well aware that Serie A is hardly a temple of purity, but at least they don’t have John Terry.

  • The BBC

I’m not talking about the Jimmy Saville stuff (vile though it is, and the BBC seem to have behaved very badly indeed). I find myself increasingly depressed at how idle, insular and just plain dull it is. And don’t get me started on MOTD…

  • “Reality” TV

And that goes for the rest of you lazy, celebrity-obsessed bunch of ne’er-do-wells! (I may be generalising here…)

  • Festivals

A bit of a heavy heart to say this, really, but I didn’t enjoy my summer festival going nearly as much as previous years. Lots of good music, true, and great company as ever, but this year for the first time, I found the whole camping thing and the shitty British weather really got to me… ATP?

  • Bryan Redpath

See above. Sale have started this season just about as badly as it was possible to do and Redpath quickly suffered a humiliating demotion. I try to be a decent Christian bloke, mostly, but it was hard not to smirk…

Actually that’s about all I can think of – I’m two Dohs short. I could go on about Cameron & Clegg or Boy Bands (“Please don’t…”), but maybe I’ll leave it there. On the whole there’s been more Woo-Hoos than Dohs in 2012, and you can’t ask fairer than that…

D’oh…

james_finlayson___our_relations

Oh brother, I’ve got this whole Welsh scene thing wrapped round my neck…

Got a message from my mate Arth the other day politely saying as much, and this evening I’ve had another one from a feller called John White (again very polite) who actually did the drumming on the Fist of the First Man release, but who’s not played with Hawkline or Cate le Bon. Shall we just establish that I clearly am not the master of my subject, I’d be better off not making any more confident statements about Welsh music and that it’s all Very Complicated…

John also said he’d be doing a one-off gig with Cymbient, this Thursday at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, and in the light of my cack-handedness, I thought the least I can do is give it a mention.

Cymbient are band I’ve been meaning to follow up for a while, and as they have a record due out in March on Folkwit Records it gives me a good three months to get my shit together…

In the meantime, this rather fine tune has surfaced

 

[BTW a cursory fumble around online reveals that Cymbient are led by a guy called Andy Fung, who has apparently drummed with Cate le Bon, but let’s not go there…]

Lucky Seven – The Joy of Sets

dexys2OK, regular Christmas readers of this organ will remember that it often takes me a while to get into this end of year malarkey, but once I’ve warmed up…

So, anyway, I’m venturing forth and starting with some great gigs I’ve been to this year. I’m always a bit sheepish about recounting my gig tally for the year – usually I can do this on the fingers of both hands, although this year I’ve had to take off my shoes and socks too. (I have buddies who talk about getting close to three figures, think about it…)

That being as it may… here we go, chronologically:.

 

February: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins @ The Fleece, Bristol

My first visit to the Fleece, if I remember rightly, and really enjoyable evening it was too. Hot, pubby, beset with sound problems yet still gentle and intimate. Spent a lot of time following Creosote and his warm, delicate songs, but Hopkins impressed too, sympathetically colouring in around the King’s bold lines. Really nice support spot from Withered Hand too.

Only Living Boy in New York

 

April: Trembling Bells with Bonnie Prince Billy @ Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham

Possibly my highlight of the year. Oldham was as unconventional as you’d expect, by turns daunting, witty and self-effacing, employing a new and impressive set of quirky gestures and never less than whole-hearted in the delivery of a terrific bag of songs. Trembling Bells were also powerful and more than a little scary, and a storming set was delivered with what can only be described as Gusto.

Every Time I Close my Eyes (We’re back there)

 

June: Anaïs Mitchell & the Young Man Band @ St Bonaventura’s, Bristol

Another massive treat in the warm, DIY surroundings of one of my favourite venues. Performed most of the wonderful Young Man in America record, and a good selection from her earlier stuff, all with affection and intelligence, and was supported expertly by one of the most talented bunch of musicians I’ve seen for ages. And she signed a copy of Hadestown for me.

Saw her later in the year solo in Oxford, which was also brilliant but didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of this gig.

Tailor

 

June: Andrew Bird @ Trinity Centre, Bristol

Another debut venue, and another beautiful evening in Bristol; and if we’re talking expert musicians you’ve got to tip your hat towards Andrew Bird. I’ve never seen a man play the fiddle like this guy, bowing beautifully, then strumming it like a yuke, then back to the bow all within a verse sometimes. Played a good long, occasionally theatrical set and finished it up with an Ol’ Timey clutch of toons. Didn’t know whether to stroke my beard or grin like a loon…

Desperation Breeds

 

July: Wooden Shjips @ The Fleece, Bristol

This was the steamy, roller coaster of an evening you kinda hope for when Ripley Johnson and his awkward crew lumber on stage. You know what you’re going to get with the Shjips, meandering, uncomplicated and repetitive yet somehow fascinating and complex at the same time. The Elevators of the 21st Century… Another evening where the support band, three young lads from Weston called Towns, added to the fun.

Flight

 

August: Dexy’s @ Green Man

So to the festival season.

Despite the rain, there were some fine moments at Green Man as usual –some of them young (TOY, Savages, Field Music), some of them old (Van) and lots of them Welsh (Cate le Bon, H Hawkline, Sen Segur, Pen Pastwn). But the most enjoyable set of the weekend came from the wild-eyed bugger himself. Only managing to get through 5 or 6 numbers in his hour (so gloriously teased-out was each one), Rowlands, and a band that included long-suffering confidante Pete Williams; Mick Talbot and spurned chantoose Madeleine Hyland mugged their way through a hugely pleasing set. Highlights included This Is What She is Like, Lost and a gigantic version of Come On Eileen. Wow!

Lost

 

August: Woods @ End of the Road

There were some even better sets at my End of the Road debut this year too. Honourable mentions should go to Yeti Lane, Gravenhurst, First Aid Kit, TOY (again) and a bedraggled Midlake, but my favourite section of the weekend was Saturday afternoon’s belter from Woods. Their records often major on the slightly fey, slightly geeky tones of Jeremy Earl’s vocals and Woods’ bubblegum sound. On stage. however, the shackles were off and some great garage-y, psychedelic meandering went on. We also heard a lot of stuff which was new then, but which appeared on Autumn’s Bend Beyond.  Happy daze.

Cali in a Cup

Elle est rouge et piquante

the-liminanas

 

I’ve a feeling that as a responsible member of the Blogging community, I probably should be working on my End of the Year lists, beavering away at reviews and making sure I’ve not missed any 2012 classics that are going to come back and haunt me. I definitely shouldn’t be using up my last Emusic credits on new stuff like this…

The Limiñanas

The Limiñanas are French, and are the project of Lio and Marie  Limiñana . They’re also another band in an exclusive line of acts whose PP Instant Classic credentials are so impeccable that I can only presume that they’ve spent many long nights studying these pages.

Reedy sixties organs fight it out with feisty banjos and mighty fuzz tone guitars in a feast of all that is good and right, before respectfully making way for breathy Gallic vocals. In fact, the special, charming something that floats from every shuddering, fuzzy chord, is that the Limiñanas are really very French indeed. Not your studied, gitanes-infused cool, but more your quirky Serge Gainsbourg / Melodie Nelson goofiness. And maybe a little erotic too…

The band’s second album, Crystal Anis, has been belting out from the car speakers all week, and I guess I’m going to tire of it soon. It’s not got a 2012 Classic quality, and won’t be featuring in many end of year lists, I’m imagining, but right now for this week, and probably the next, I’m finding it damn irresistible. There’s a first, self-titled record to track down as well, and if the YouTube clips are reliable, that’s pretty good too.

Here’s a YouTube clip of Longanisse, not a proper video, I’m afraid…

 

And, I know this is going to make the Liminañas look like pale copy-cats, but I’m powerless to resist this…

Fist of the First Man

Sp894_headerince the last week’s R Seilliog post, confidently establishing that I had a good handle on the incestuous Welsh music scene and boldly predicting that I’d squared the Hawkline-Baboo-leBon circle, well, predictably, it’s all got a bit murky again…

Turns out that although R Seilliog does drum with Hawkline and Cate le Bon, and most certainly has released a cracking EP called Shuffles, it wasn’t him drumming at Green Man. My mate Arth, (henceforth known as the PP Welsh Correspondent -Gohebydd Cymru?) informs me that the drummer I saw with Hawkline and Cate le Bon is in fact a different feller altogether. This guy drums with Cardiff band Cymbient (who also sound pretty fine on first listen, but will have to wait for another day), and apparently the new project by Zwolf, a terrific record called Fist of the First Man.

Zwolf / Fist of the First Man

Now this record, I like.

Zwolf is some sort of studio guru whose name I’ve seen linked with a good few projects over last year or so, but whom I’ve never quite caught up with. So I’m glad to find something that really looks to have legs.

The record’s a strong collection of beaty songs. Not much in the way of vocals, just a few “c’mons” and the like, but a full set of gangly anthems, heavily dependent on rough, leering bass lines, abrasive guitar hooks and big-beat drums. All good rousing stuff, drawing healthily on Sxities R’n’B and a bit of Ventures-style theme tune hum-a-long. Really like it…

And, in a rare instance of my catching onto something at the right time, it turns out that the Fist of the First Man record is having its official release bash in Cardiff this very Friday. You can stream the whole record from the band’s Soundcloud page, or you can watch Volta Regulat here…

Ravi Shankar

You’ll have heard today that Ravi Shankar has died aged 92.

Can’t claim to be any sort of a fan of his and have never really bothered to spend much time listening to his music, but a friend of mine pointed me towards this… wonderful…video.

It’s spellbinding stuff which actually made me late for work this morning – I literally could not tear myself away from it.

 

 

Apart from the playing, it’s a great video in itself, a bit like the Band diary video I linked too in the summer, with some great shots of hippies and assorted Monterey revellers gingerly rousing themselves and making their way over to the main stage. And then the main performance footage also has some great shots of a mesmerised public, (Hendrix and Mickey Dolenz among them), and a compelling, longish take of Shankar’s foot beating insistently, to an entirely different time signature to everyone else. Fine stuff.

Fitting tribute, I reckon…

 

Many thanks to @Country_Steve for pointing me thisaway…