Archive | December, 2015

Top 30 Albums of 2015

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Top 30 Albums of 2015

Posted on 18 December 2015 by Joe

It’s been such a great year for albums that we’ve upped our usual 20 strong end of year list to 30. There will be some in run down that will be on many other end of year lists, but we’ve also tried to include some of our favourites from emerging artists, who unfairly find themselves struggling to get publicity at times.

If there is a theme to our list it is that it was a good year for pop and yet again another year where the quality from both new acts and experienced artists was equally high. Here is our Top 30 Albums of 2015.

30. Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets (1967-1980)

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So it appears Hot Chocolate used to be cool. Who knew? Well, Ian Button, who releases under the Papernut Cambridge moniker, did. The former Death in Vegas/Thrashing Doves man is something of a 1970s pop expert and this fine collection features ten covers of his favourites from around that time. Read our full review here.

29. The Bevis Frond – Example 22

The Bevis Frond

There is no more underground act than The Bevis Frond, aka Nick Saloman. For many a year he’s been releasing quality psychedelic rock across more than 20 releases, relentlessly ploughing his own guitar driven furrow much to the delight of a devoted fanbase.

Here on the band’s latest release are no radical departures from previous works, just steady as she goes, bloody good rock songs with riffs a plenty and solos to make your knees go weak. Read our full review here.

28. Matt Creer – The Leeward Tide

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As calms after the storm go this latest album by Isle of Man singer songwriter Matt Creer is just about perfect. We first heard his beautiful take on folk music via a Tweet from Chris TT. We hope this placing in our Top 20 albums of the year so far prompts others to discover his remarkable talent. Read our full review here.

 27. Small Feet – From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean

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The pool of talent in the Swedish folk scene just got deeper. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Tallest Man on Earth and First Aid Kit is Stockholm based trio Small Feet. With the epic folk of the Fleet Foxes, a band who inspired First Aid Kit, coupled with the intimacy of Ireland’s Villagers, Small Feet certainly have the sound to match their countrymen and women. This is a remarkable debut. Read our full review here.

26. Darren Hayman – Florence

Darren Hayman

A simple idea, of a short winter holiday in Florence staying at the apartment of his indiepop chums Elizabeth Morris and her husband Ola Innset, of Allo Darlin and Making Marks respectively, provides the inspiration for this melancholy collection of songs. While a rare solo project it is far from being a lonely or sad album. Friendship is a key theme and there’s a cosy warmth to its winter setting too. Read our full review here.

25. Ricked Wicky – I Sell The Circus

Ricked Wicky I Sell The Circus

Robert Pollard has basically existed as a solo artist with a rotating team of supporting players for his whole career, but he always seems most energised when he is operating in band mode. Ricked Wicky is his latest band identity and this is the best of the three albums they have released in 2015 as Pollard remains music’s most prolific recording artist.

24. El Vy – Return To The Moon

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This collaboration between The National’s Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf is a mixed bag, but a consistently entertaining one. A captivating blend of pop and melancholy that makes good use of Berninger’s trademark baritone.

23. Public Service Broadcasting -The Race For Space

Public Service Broadcasting

As much as we enjoyed PSB’s first album there were doubts about the staying power of their approach to creating music. Their second album, about the golden years of the space programme, allayed any fears and is just as much fun as the first. Sounds even better live as well.

22. The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ

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Fronted by John Darnielle and still very much a three piece, with Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster in tow, the Mountain Goats’s latest is a concept album about the very human tales of wrestling, from their young fans to the stars of the ring themselves. Heartbreaking and joyous. Read our full review here.

21. The Wave Pictures – Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon

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Is this the best dirty rock n roll album of the year? We declared as such back in February and so far few have come close. With Billy Childish on board for production duties the trio get down and dirty and even roll out a couple of Creedence Clearwater Revival numbers. Read our full review here.

20. Tame Impala – Currents

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With this their third album Tame Impala have truly emerged from mere interesting Australian psych rock act to global pop sensation in waiting. The weird trippy psych rock of their debut album Innerspeaker and the stomp of its follow up Lonerism are still here. So too are the synths you can lose yourself in and the quirky, phasered drum rolls and guitar licks. But here they sound far more pop, far more danceable, with the bass squelchier and the band’s key figure Kevin Parker’s vocals purer, almost soulful at times. Read our full review here.

19. SLUG- Ripe

Slug

Any album that is connected with Field Music is likely to be enthusiastically received at Neon Filler towers. The band have produced some of our favourite music over the last decade. Ripe is the twisted brain child o their touring bass player Ian Black and has both Brewis Brothers on board for the ride. Imagine Queen producing their music in 21st Century Sunderland and you get a flavour of what is on show here.

18. Calexico – Edge of the Sun

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You know what you are going to get when you play a Calexico album, the smooth sounds of Californian country rock with a consistent undercurrent of Marichi brass. Edge of the Sun offers no surprises, but is their most satisfying release in years. Iron And Wine’s Sam Beam, Neko Case and Gaby Moreno all pitch in with vocal support on an album that would sound best listened to in a desert.

17. Evans the Death – Expect Delays

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The despair for young people under coalition and now Conservative government since 2010 is embedded in every scream, guitar riff and drum beat on this incendiary latest album from the London four piece. This is what it feels like to be young and pissed off in all its magnificent angst. Read our full review here.

16. Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek

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Mammoth Penguins, the new band formed by Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa, are one of the best new acts to emerge this year. At it’s heart it’s basic indie pop of drums, crunchy guitar chords, bass and bitter sweet lyrics. But an elevation comes from Kupa’s distinct vocals, which here seem clearer and more powerful than on Standard Fare releases. Plus there seems to be a sharper focus to the songs as well, which pack a real punch. Read our full review here.

15. Ralegh Long – Hoverance

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Gare Du Nord label artist Ralegh Long takes the listener into the world of the English countryside for a beautiful, rural inspired collection of romantic and thoughtful songs. Read our full review here.

14. Wilco – Star Wars

Wilco Star WarsWhen Wilco announced an unexpected new album it was a pleasant surprise, the four years since their last being the longest break yet in their career. But is this giveaway album any good? The answer is a pretty emphatic yes. Wilco don’t do bad albums and they haven’t decided to break their 20 year run of form, even for a freebie. Read our full review here.

13. Co-pilgrim – Slows to Go

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In song writer and frontman Mike Gale, Co-pilgrim they have one of UK music’s best kept secrets, with his bittersweet lyrics merging beautifully with ’60s guitars and melodies. How his tracks are not well known is seemingly a mystery and this is yet another stellar release from the band. Read our full review here.

12. Bjork – Vulnicara

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As break up albums go Bjork’s return to form this year is up there with the best of them. Written about her emergence from a crumbling relationship this is one of the year’s most emotional albums with tracks such as Lion Song, Stonemilker and the 10 minute long centrepiece Black Lake among the best of her career. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and there may be tears when you listen but this is a deserved entry from an artist who very evidently put her heart and soul into this album.

11. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

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His 2010 album The Age of Adz may have been his most successful to date but it never sat quite easy with us. Granted its electronica was innovative but Stevens always sounds best to us with a stripped back sound and a hanky to wipe away the tears from his sad lyrics. Here he reveals his most intimate album yet focusing on his uneasy relationship with his late mother Carrie and his adoration for his step father Lowell Brams, who he runs his label Asthmatic Kitty with. This album is magnificently sad and uplifting in equal measure, as all great Sufjan Stevens albums should be.

10. New Order – Music Complete

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New Order returning with a new album was a small surprise, it being their best album since Technique (17 years ago!) was a bigger surprise. Gillian is back on board but Peter Hook is not, compare this to Waiting For The Sirens Call and make your own decision about who is a more important member of the band

9. Destroyer – Poison Season

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Four years on from the breakout success of Kaputt we find Dan Bejar delving further into the pool of ’80s jazz pop. If anything this is a stronger, more entertaining set than the predecessor and one of the best albums lyrically you’ll hear for a long time.

8. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

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Following a five year break between albums the Scottish indie pop legends were back with one of the best releases. With added disco chic on The Party Line they even dip their toe into politics, with The Cat with the Cream and its heart breaking take on coalition government era Britain.

7. Villagers – Darling Arithmatic

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There’s something so wonderfully precise about Villagers’ frontman Conor O’Brien’s voice. Each line is told with such clarity and on this, their third album, the messag O’Brien wants to convey is loud and clear; this is a love album and one made by a gay man from Ireland. Read our full review here.

6. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes

Like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I too love rock and roll. But sometimes the idea of putting another dime in the juke box baby fills me with horror. Then just when you’d almost given up hope an album comes along and renews your faith in rock and roll. This is that album. Read our full review here.

5. Southern Tenant Folk Union – The Chuck Norris Project

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The Folk and bluegrass collective took a bold step using the film titles of right wing action star Chuck Norris to take on the weighty issues of the world, from gun crime to racism. Thankfully it worked, especially on Slaughter on San Francisco, where their singer Rory Butler delivers one of the vocal performances of the year. Read our full review here.

4. King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard – Paper Mache Dream Balloon

Paper-Mache

On Paper Mache Dream Balloon out go the distorted guitars and lengthy conceptual moments and in comes purely acoustic instruments. The result from this Australian psychedelic rock outfit  is a fantastic whimsical album, like the soundtrack to a lost kids pop show from 1969. Fans of more latter day psychedelic exponents such as Dukes of Stratosphear and more recently Papernut Cambridge will love this especially as it harks back so vividly to those innocent days of lava lamp pop. Read our full review here.

3. John Howard and the Night Mail

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John Howard’s story is one well told tale by us, of a singer-songwriter that almost made it big in the 1970s, dropped out of recording and performing for the next 20 or so years only to return around a decade ago to be greeted by a new, younger fan base. Here with a stellar band of performers and co-songwriters in tow, of Robert Rotifer, Ian Button and Andy Lewis, this is arguably one of his best releases and certainly one of the year’s best pop releases. Read our full review here.

2. FFS

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This merging of art rockers Franz Ferdinand with 1970s oddball pop duo Sparks is one of the few collaborations in music that works. The Sparks brothers of Ron and Russell Mael look to have the upper hand in directing this, at times utterly bonkers, collection of pop songs. Alex Kapranos and co seem content to follow their lead and enjoy the ride. Read our full review here.

1. The Go! Team – The Scene Between

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The whole album from start to finish is teaming with singles, with wonderful hooks, riffs and choruses shining throughout. Its perfect pop and we challenge anyone who professes to have any form of appreciation for a good pop song to dislike this album. This gained a rare 10/10 from us when released and deservedly tops our Top 25 Albums of 2015 list. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers. Additional photos by Joe Lepper and Nic Newman

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Top 10

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Top 10

Posted on 16 December 2015 by Dorian

This week sees the much-anticipated release of the latest instalment in the world’s most popular space opera series, Star Wars: The Force awakens. It is impossible to avoid such a big release and media saturation is reaching fever pitch as the premier approaches.

When we see a bandwagon of this magnitude the only realistic option is to jump aboard. Luckily space is just as rich a source of inspiration for songs as it is for films. So here, for your listening pleasure, is the top 10 songs about space.

10. The Byrds – Mr.Spaceman

Early Byrds records were dominated by Gene Clark songs and cover versions, until Clark quit after two albums. This left Jim/Roger McGuinn to write the bulk of the songs, including this novelty from their 3rd album in 1966.

9. Pere Ubu – I Hear They Smoke The Barbecue

For a short period in the early 90s Pere Ubu decided to try to be a pop band, with mixed results. This track, about aliens among us, is one of their more successful attempts at being radio friendly.

8. Ash – Angel Interceptor

Ash’s first album, 1977, is very appropriate here as it is named after the year when Star wars first hit cinema screens in the US. ‘Angel Interceptor’ is named after the aircraft in the TV show Captain Scarlet. ‘Girl From Mars’ may have been a more appropriate choice for this list, but this is a better song.

7. Rotifer – The Cosmonaut Who Never Flew

This track is taken from the Vostok 5 EP that was part of an art show about people and animals in space. I could have picked any of the tracks from that EP (they are all pretty great) but this contribution from Robert Rotifer is a wonderful reflection on the Soviet space programme.

6. Sun Kil Moon – Space Travel Is Boring

I’m not a huge fan of Sun Kil Moon, whereas I’ve always loved the work of Modest Mouse. This cover of ‘Space Travel Is Boring’ is great though, and eclipses the original.

5. Robert Pollard – Love Your Spaceman

Superman Was A Rocker was one of Pollard’s least successful solo releases, an overtly lo-fi collection of forgotten songs that should have mostly remained unreleased. However, this is a Robert Pollard album, dig in the dirt and you’ll normally find a diamond. “When Fred says Rock ‘n’ Roll!” indeed.

4. The Beastie Boys – Intergalactic

When the Beastie Boys first hit the scene in the mid-80s it seemed unlikely that they would be releasing critically acclaimed chart topping albums 15 years later, but they were and this track is one of their best.

3. The Star Wars Rap

15 years ago I had no idea what a viral video was, or what a meme was or even what social media was, but I did know that this video was funny. Luke’s whiny delivery, and the slightly odd gin and tonic reference, have stuck with me that whole time. Classic.

2. Hefner – Alan Bean

This was the lead single from Hefner’s “difficult” final album and is one of the band’s most evocative tracks. It tells the story of the 4th man on the moon, who devoted his post-astronaut years to painting pictures of the lunar landscape.

1. Neon Neon – I Told Her On Alderaan

Super Furry Animal Gruf Rhys and Boom Bip collaborating on a song named after Princess Leia’s home planet, on a concept album about the inventor of the DeLorean. Near perfect pop.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Bert Jansch – Moonshine

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Bert Jansch – Moonshine

Posted on 15 December 2015 by Joe

Just what was the peak of Bert Jansch’s remarkable, five-decade spanning, folk music career?

For some it was his early albums that rode the wave of the 1960s folk music explosion across Britain and the US, while for some it was his Pentangle super group, folk rock hey-day in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

moonshine

Moonshine (1973) , recorded as Pentangle were breaking up, though puts forward as good a case as any for being Jansch’s peak.

Not only has he assembled one of the best group of backing musicians and production teams, but he still manages to ensure this release is intimate and embedded with his rootsy, warm charm.

Released this month as part of Earth Recordings welcome re-issuing of Jansch’s albums, this is one of the best folk rock releases of the time, unsurprising though given he had drafted in Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson, Fairport Convention percussionist Dave Mattacks as well as David Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti for production and arranging duties.

The stellar cast doesn’t stop there with Ralph McTell joining on harmonic, Ali Bain on fiddle and Mary Hopkin on backing vocals.

The results are often flawless. On opener Yarrow the medieval woodwind and Jansch’s honest vocals create a perfect opener with the title track another high point as he sings this tragic tale of a prisoner awaiting his fate with genuine “sweet music to drag my grief away.”

On Night Time Blues the full band feel is perhaps best revealed, especially with the violins and on Oh My Father the electric guitar folk that Jansch used to great effect in Pentangle, gets a welcome outing.

The only weak point for me is an overly ambitious version of Ewan MacColl’s The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, where the vocal interplay with Hopkins gets a little too tangled in places. It’s only a small gripe though on what is a fantastic chance to rediscover one of UK music’s best artists, arguably at his peak.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

More details about Bert Jansch – Moonshine can be found here.

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