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?

End of the Road ’12 – Best Sets of the Weekend

So that was End of the Road. Lordy!

I had a ball, really, a much brighter experience than Green Man this year. To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s because of the weather (GM = foul; EotR = mostly fine), but for me End of the Road far outshone Green Man in pretty much every respect. I was very impressed with EotR – they just seemed to do everything right.

Hmmm… next year…

Lucky Seven – Best of End of the Road ‘12

I’ve not been entirely idle since then. As usual I have a mountain of recordings, some of which I’ll post about soon, some of which I may never use. But while I’m sorting myself out, I thought I’d put together a Best of… compilation of some of the recordings I have. It’s hardly exhaustive – I saw some great sets and by all accounts missed some great sets too. Also some of the great sets were not unfortunately great recordings (combination of wind on the mic / being surrounded by gibbering ninnies / being a gibbering ninny myself…)

Anyway here goes:

Midlake – “Roscoe”

A combination of a long day and the first rain of the weekend meant I was hanging on a bit when Midlake made their way onto the Garden Stage. Pretty much straight away however, I was woken up by a really accomplished performance, mixing material from The Courage of Others and The Trials of Van Occupanther with a few new songs. Lovely set which the band themselves seemed to really enjoy. All very good mannered too…

 Alt-J – “Tessellate”

Nearly missed this set altogether, drinking and chatting with friends, and when we rolled up at the Big Top, we were met with the biggest crowd I saw in there all weekend. Once we’d elbowed our way in (and I’d lost all the people in was with), Alt-J put on a really tight performance, going through most of their record, in what felt like an absolute sauna. Indeed at times it felt like listening to the recording itself so polished was their performance (I don’t mean that in a bad way…)

Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard – “Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song”

Didn’t really know anything about Jeffrey Lewis and actually missed his scheduled Garden Stage spot earlier on the Friday. Fortunately, he did a few songs later on that evening in the Tipi Tent. What a character he is! His songs were alternately garage-y, throw-away, poignant and always funny. Another highlight was his PowerPoint presentation on the history of Punk Rock on the Lower East Side 1950-75, all written in limerick form, which really needs YouTubing…

First Aid Kit – “Emmylou”

Another set that was packed out, and which I also nearly missed part of was this one by First Aid Kit. I really didn’t realise they were so popular, but with hindsight there was a bit of a buzz about them for most of the previous day. Just the three of them but they made an enormous noise and went down very well.

I Was Gone – Woods

The reason I was late for First Aid Kit was that I simply couldn’t tear myself away from Woods on the Main Stage, who were a bit geeky at first but really started to cut loose about half way through and by the end were really “wigging out” (I think the term is…). Once I’d got used to Jeremy Earl’s high pitched vocals, it was all good from there…

Analogue Wheel – Yeti Lane

About half way through the weekend I started to feel that I was spending too much time seeing bands I knew, (and in some cases had seen before), and not enough time investigating new bands. So for that reason, I ditched Patti Smith and went to see French psychedelic duo Yeti Lane. Best decision of the weekend, didn’t regret it for a second. The duo consisted of a drummer with electronic noodling duties and another “wigging out” guitarist. Particularly liked their retro, Doctor Who-style electronics desk…

Ghost of St Paul – Gravenhurst

Last set of the weekend was Gravenhurst, who again I didn’t know at all, but was realty impressed by. A really quiet, precise set that finished rather too quickly and prompted me to buy the last two releases.

A lovely weekend altogether…

Best of End of the Road ‘12