We recently published our Top 20 Albums of 2016, but this only reflected a section of the amazing songs that came out this year. There were great albums we missed, albums that just missed out and songs that came out on single this year. So, as a bit of an end of year bonus, here are the best songs of 2016 that didn’t feature in our end of year album list.
16. ESP Ohio – Royal Cyclopean
It wouldn’t be Neon Filler without a Robert Pollard track, and this horn driven gem from his latest collaboration with Doug Gillard is one of his best this year.
15. The Wedding Present – Rachel
There are rumours that this year’s Wedding Present album may be there last, if that is the case then they are finishing on something of a high.
14. Childish Bambino – Me and Your Mama
Donald Glover is a successful comic actor, the face of the young Lando Calrissian and a Grammy award-winning singer, sickeningly talented.
13. The Shins – Dead Alive
The Shins releasing a song that sounds like they could have recorded 15 years ago may not seem that exciting, unless you think early Shins is about as good as music gets. Which I do.
12. Allo Darlin’ – Hymn on the 45
Allo Darlin’ sadly called in at day in 2016, but just as they played their final shows they released one last single. A final document, if nothing else, of why they’ll be missed.
11. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
Car Seat Headrest is the work of Will Toledo, this year’s bespectacled indie geek de jour. The album justifies the hype this time around.
10. The Avalanches – Subways
The new Avalanches album may not be much of a step forward given the huge gap between this and their debut recording, but there were enough good songs to make it worth a listen.
9. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
The New York band have been releasing consistently great music since they broke through with Light Up Gold in 2012. The title track from their latest album shows them in almost subdued mode.
8. Angel Olsen – Shut Up and Kiss Me
2016 was a bit of a breakthrough year for Angel Olsen, her 4th LP getting a lot of attention and radio play. This track showcases as much fuzz-pop as folk and is a bit of a break from the softer country vibe she’s associated with.
7. Case/Lang/Veirs – Best Kept Secret
Three of the best vocalists in country-pop come together and, unsurprisingly, the results are great.
6. Okkervil River – Judy on the Street
Every two or three years Will Sheff’s band release an album and they all range from good to excellent. This track from Away is no exception to the rule.
5. Teenage Fanclub – Thin Air
More than a quarter if a century in and Teenage Fanclub can still produce some of the best melodic guitar pop around.
4. Girl Ray – Trouble
One of the best bands that we saw at Indietracks this year and one of the bands to watch out for in 2017.
3. Field Music – Disappointed
Due to its release at a busy time we sadly didn’t get round to reviewing Field Music’s excellent 2016 album Commontime. We still loved it though and can assure you it was a typically excellent release from the Brewis brothers. This was a single and one of the best tracks.
2. Luke Haines – Smash The System
Smash The System saw Haines revisit some of his previous themes, with a number of nods to his Baader Meinhof album. The Monkees references in this song are confusing but welcome.
1. Eyelids – Slow It Goes
Eyelids didn’t have a new album out in 2016, that is coming next year, but they did release this song and showcased what we can look forward to. Excellent video as well.
Full of smiles, School of Language kicked off their Spring tour in Bristol, with an amiable and fun gig at the Exchange. Although a solo pop/funk project of Field Music’s David Brewis, this tour has a full band feel with his brother and Field Music co-creator Peter on drums, along with Hazey Jane’s Andrew Mitchell on guitar, Andrew Lowther on bass and The Futureheads’s David Craig on synth.
School of Language
Even before they started playing the audience were aware this is a band with a sense of fun, as they made light of having to be their own roadies by taking to the stage to set up in ‘Field Music Productions’ branded caps and boiler suits, smirking throughout.
A quick change into shirts and in David’s case a rather smart grey suit jacket and they take to the stage, with smirks turning to smiles as one member of the audience shouts out “where’s Devo” in reference to their earlier attire.
David is on the road to promote Old Fears his second School of Language album. Although unmistakably Field Music with its angular chops and changes, it is a far more funkier/pop affair, with Prince’s Dirty Mind as an influence.
Live the guitars are much more to the fore, giving the album a far more Field Music feel, which in particular for tracks such as set finale So Much Time, give David and the band a chance to really show off their intricate playing.
School of Language
Highlights were key Old Fears tracks such as Between the Suburbs as well as highlights from his first school of Language album Sea From Shore, especially Rockist (Part 1) which was greeted with rapturous applause.
During each song David is exemplary in his focus, concentrating on hitting just the right notes and just the right intricate guitar lick as he interweaves superbly with Mitchell. Peter too on drums is full of focus playing the drums like he’s operating some kind of giant computer from the 1950s. All throughout they give each other knowing smiles. This is a bunch that clearly enjoys the whole process of performing and making music, something that the audience really picks up on and revels in.
Thankfully David and the band didn’t slip into any Field Music songs, even to fulfill a an audience members’ encore request for “covers.” In the end the encore was turned down “not because I’m being coy, we just don’t have anymore songs,” explained an apologetic David at the end.
Support was provided by London’s Barbarossa, a synth, drums and beards duo who are also on Field Music and School of Language’s label Memphis Industries. Their sound quality wasn’t as clear and crisp as School of Language’s with one particular bass buzz driving a few to the toilets, but there was enough tonight to know this is a fine act, with vocalist James Mathé superb singing, which is reminiscent of Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, shining brightly among their electronica. Mathé tells us that a new album is in the offing and is one I’ll be looking out for based on this performance.
Every few years Field Music’s brothers David and Peter Brewis venture into solo waters; Peter in 2008 with The Week That Was and David in the same year and this year with School of Language.
At times its hard to distinguish these different acts, all are unmistakably Field Music and David’s second School of Language album Old Fears is no exception, with his brother as well as other Field Music regulars also contributing.
But there are some small, notable differences. Field Music’s more recent releases have a greater focus on guitar interplay and a 70s production, whereas The Week That Was and School of Language have more of a 80s feel to them, with the latter venturing into pop funk at times.
On this latest School of Language release David Brewis is even channelling his inner Justin Timberlake, particularly on the slick track Dress Up (see the track’s excellent Talking Heads style video here). He admitted to The Quietus recently that rather prog and inventive rock by the likes of XTC and King Crimson, it is the pop of Shalamar and Prince that are his key influences on this album.
There is indeed some great pop on display, with Between the Suburbs and Dress Up in particular standing out. But the album still lacks the knockout killer pop blow that was Sea From Shore’s Rockist Part 1. That track’s beatboxing vowel intro proved a highlight of that debut but thankfully there’s still some similarly inventive vocal work on this latest release, most notably on the track Suits Us Better.
Despite the pop feel to Old Fears, the Field Music progressive rock sound is not far away and there’s still plenty of the King Crimson and XTC-esque guitar trickery that has typified Field Music’s most recent releases, especially on tracks such as Distance Between, Small Words and A Smile Cracks. The production though is far cleaner, dazzling with a Top of the Pops 1983 shine rather than chin stroking with a Top of the Pops 1975 straggly-haired prog rock vibe.
The main point to get across when reviewing this album is that, yes, it is a solo off shoot project from a much loved band, but no, it is no diversion. It has the same core Field Music sound that has garnered a growing fan base and a Mercury nomination (for 2012’s astonishing album Plumb), albeit with a slower, relaxed, chart friendly groove.
What makes a great gig? We are looking to compile a list of your best ever gigs via the comment box in this article and to get you thinking our contributors have taken a stroll down memory lane to revisit some of their favourite concerts.
The Flaming Lips’ explosive Greenman 2010 set. Pic by Arthur Hughes
For some of our writers a great gig is simply being in the right place at the right time, when a band at the peak of their powers performs at a stellar venue. For others it is one of their first tastes of live music, while for others it has been seeing musical history being made. Judging by the responses from our writers going to see the The Flaming Lips, almost anywhere and at any time, is also a sure sign of a gig’s greatness. So stand up, get your lighter and mobile phone out and settle into a feast of great gig memories. Look forward to reading about your gigs.
Joy Division, Assembly Rooms, Derby, October 1979
Joy Division were the support for The Buzzcocks and played in semi darkness, four stark immobile Mancunian stick insects. It was loud, brutal and threatening, then Ian started doing his mad dancing during She’s Lost Control; some people laughed, we hated them for laughing as for us here was something new. As Shadowplay echoed around this architectural monstrosity we looked at each other and realized punk was over, something had eaten its corpse and was spitting out blood, Ian was dying for us and nobody had noticed. (John Haylock)
Fugazi, Zap Club, Brighton, November 1989
Back in the late 1980s the now closed down Zap Club regularly booked up and coming alternative bands from the US. The legendary and superb bands I saw at this sweaty damp venue, nestled into the old fisherman’s arches on the seafront, included Mudhoney, The Lemonheads, Rollins Band, Teenage Fanclub and Hole. But for me the best of the bunch was Fugazi. I was tucked up just to the side at the front of the packed venue, half on the stage as lead singers Ian Mackaye and Guy Piciotto, together with the precision rhythm section of Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, powered the band through a remarkable set. The timing was shortly after their first EP Margin Walker had come out and before 1990’s Repeater. Breathless, exciting and superb. (Joe Lepper)
Faith No More, Reading Festival, August 1990
In many ways this wasn’t an ideal gig. Sat between Nick Cave and The Cramps on the bill Faith No More were a bit of an oddity. The 1990s were also the decade when Reading was at it’s least “Rock”, it was the most “indie” of all the festivals during this period. The sound quality was also terrible, something that Reading was often guilty of, and a bootleg cassette I picked up some years later sounded pretty terrible. But it was my first real full-on festival rock experience and it seemed pretty wonderful at the time. The band arrived on stage to billowing smoke and an orchestral soundtrack (2001 perhaps?) before launching into a breakneck version of ‘From Out of Nowhere’. They rocked, they sneered (a snatch of New Kids on the Block in the middle of ‘We Care A Lot’) and front-man Mike Patton (replete in a kilt) scaled the stage scaffold. That was how to do it, something that The Pixies failed to emulate with a phoned in headline slot on The Sunday. They clearly already wanted to call it a day. (Dorian Rogers)
Nirvana, Astoria, London, October 1990
Friends at university told me that Nirvana were the next big thing. They played me Bleach, their only album at the time, and I was quite impressed even if it did sound like a Mudhoney rip off act. Turns out my friends were right, live they were sensational and across the 19-strong set Bleach’s tracks and Cobain’s vocals were filled with a passion I hadn’t grasped before. We were also treated to two new songs, Lithium and In Bloom, both destined for their forthcoming album, 1991’s Nevermind, which catapulted them to legend status. This was one of those great, ‘I was there’ moments in music history. (Joe Lepper)
Julian Cope, The Event, Brighton, September 1995
This gig happened at a point where Cope’s popularity (he had a top 40 hit with ‘Try,Try’Try’ from his then latest album 20 Mothers) was slightly out of kilter with his overall trajectory, having been dropped by Island a few years earlier. It may have been at the beginning of the end for Cope as a popular recording artist, but it was an exemplary live performance. Three sets were played that night involving 39 songs in total, the first being heavily drawn from his most recent albums and including a host of excellent cuts from Peggy Suicide. After this the band left the stage and Cope treated us to a set of solo acoustic numbers, chatting jovially and taking requests from the audience. And as is this wasn’t enough the band returned to the stage and treated us to a full greatest hits set featuring his best known songs both solo and with the Teardrop Explodes. Everything sounded great and at that moment he seemed like the best live performer in the world. (Dorian Rogers)
Neil Young, Phoenix Festival, Warwickshire, July 1997
After an eternity of soundchecking and with a minimum of fuss Young tore into Hey, Hey, My My. It was akin to being in the eye of a screaming tornado of sound and unbelievably it got better with Sedan Delivery, Why Do I Keep Fucking Up, Cinnamon Girl and Down by the River all having their entrails ripped open and fed through sixty thousand watts of amplification. It was guitarmageddon in a cowboy hat as he carried on, nailing acoustic versions of Sugar Mountain, Heart of Gold and Needle and the Damage Done. Forty six bottles of Evian water later I remember encores consisting of Like a Hurricane, Dangerbird, Rockin’ in the Free World and of course Cortez the Killer. My review in a word – legend. In another – goosebumps. (John Haylock)
Oasis, Cardiff International Arena, December 1997
My first ever gig – this is where it all began. The excitement, anticipation and the immortal feeling of being 15 years old and experiencing your musical idols for the very first time. I remember hearing ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ over the loudspeaker before the large curtain at the front of the stage suddenly opened and the band launched into ‘Be Here Now.’ The volume of those guitars hit me in the chest like a sledgehammer (in the best way possible) and, with that, I was born as an Oasis fan, gig goer and music fan for life. (Scott Hammond)
The Flaming Lips – Various, 1999-2012
Bowlie Weekender, Camber Sands, April 1999 – On the main stage were Divine Comedy, on the smaller stage were The Flaming Lips. Their album Soft Bulletin had just come out and I’d only heard the name not the music before. But as soon as lead singer Wayne Coyne took to the stage, bashing away at a giant gong with his giant personality and tiny, passionate voice, I knew this was no ordinary live band and the Divine Comedy could do one. The Flaming Lips didn’t even need animal costumes and giant space balls back then to be great. (Joe Lepper)
The Flaming Lips, Greenman 2010, pic by Arthur Hughes
Bristol Academy, January 2003 – My 18th Birthday night saw a busload of mates journey to see The Flaming Lips at the peak of their powers. Peerless pop conducted by Wayne Coyne’s all-engrossing showmanship. (Matthew Nicholson)
Greenman Festival, Wales, August 2010 -They were totally mindmeltingly awesomeballs. The grandiose epicness of the music married to the everything but the kitchen sink pyrotechnics of a stage show was so out there it would have put the big bang to shame. The power of live music to make you love this beautiful world, this, ladies and gentlemen is what it’s all about. (John Haylock)
Primavera Sound, Porto, June 2012 -I was excited when they were announced as part of the Primavera Sound festival lineup in Porto, but wasn’t prepared for the utter elation I felt seeing them live for the first time. They’re one of the best live acts ever – the colours, the spectacle, the songs – it all makes for a surreal, psychedelic explosion of music, complete with dancing girls and glitter cannons. I defy anyone to come away from a Lips gig feeling anything but on top of the world. (Patrica Turk)
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Bowlie Weekender, Camber Sands, April 1999
This is my second entry from this excellent festival, which was curated by Belle and Sebastian and kick started the All Tomorrow’s Parties events. Watching Jon Spencer’s trio for the first time made me feel like a 1950s, Tennessee teenager at an early Elvis gig. I’d heard of Spencer’s band, I heard the odd track on CD, but nothing could prepare me for the incredible performance of dirty rock ‘n’ roll from this incredible front man, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins. To this day the most exciting live act I’ve ever seen. (Joe Lepper)
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Radiohead, South Park, Oxford, July 2001
A wet homecoming night in which my favourite band headed a stupendous line-up (Humphrey Littleton, Sigur Ros, Supergrass, Beck) and delivered a heavyweight set of alt-rock anthems. (Matthew Nicholson)
Guided By Voices, ULU London, September 2003
This was the last time that Guided By Voices played in England, and possibly the only time that I’ll ever get to see them play. Bob Pollard’s famous hatred of travelling and their aborted ATP show in 2012 give little hope of a UK gig any time soon. Many people are stuck on the “classic” line-up of the band, but this gig featured the twin guitars of Doug Gillard and Nate Farley and they sounded pretty amazing to me. Blasting through a set that drew heavily from the then-current Earthquake Glue album we were treated to dozens of oddities and classics with fan favourites ‘Game of Pricks’, ‘I Am A Scientist’ and ‘Echos Myron’ getting a particularly enthusiastic reception. This is a band that works hard playing a huge set (around 45 songs on this occassion) with an encore that lasted longer than some acts entire back catalogue. Legendary. (Dorian Rogers)
Guided By Voices
Roger Waters, Hyde Park, London, July 2007
As with many 16 year old teenage boys, desperate for intellectual stimulation and strange sensations, I was drawn to the minimalist soundscapes and sixth form philosophy of Pink Floyd. Listening to Dark Side of the Moon while staring at the ceiling and broodily muttering about the evils of Money was heaven to a tubby pubescent teenager with few social skills and no girlfriend. Seeing Roger Waters make a rare performance of the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon at this central London park, arms wrapped around fellow Floyd Fanatics, was made all the more luscious as the moon came out and he sang the final refrains. (Conal Dougan)
Monsters of Folk, Cardiff Coal Exchange, November 2009
An intimate gig in front of a seated audience, the supergroup played for a whopping 2 hours and 45 minutes. Playing the MOF album in its entirety along with a panoply of Bright Eyes, M Ward and My Morning Jacket tunes, I couldn’t quite believe I was bearing witness to two of my all-time musical heroes (Conor Oberst and Ward) on stage in this tiny space in Cardiff Bay. Costing less than £15 a ticket and with only 300 people in attendance, I truly blessed the world for its lack of taste. (Scott Hammond)
Blur, Glastonbury Festival, July 2009
Watching a reformed band on the heritage rock scene can offer be a sad experience. Not so when Blur decided to reform for a run of gigs that included a show stopping set at Glastonbury. They played everything you hoped they would but it was Tender that provided the real spine tingling moment and, indeed, the mass singalong. (Matthew Nicholson)
Pulp Brixton Academy, London, September 2011
Growing up in Australia, Pulp were a band that I thought I’d never get to see live. But then, as so many do, they reformed and toured. They’re the songs from my teenage years and seeing Jarvis up close and personal was a girlhood dream come true. Nothing compares to hearing and seeing your old-time favourites performed live and it was a terrific moment of past-and-present excitement all rolled into one. Jarvis is still my hero. I even have his face on my tea mug. I’m 30. (Patricia Turk)
Pulp, Brixton Academy, 2011. Pic by Patricia Turk
Field Music and Stealing Sheep, The Fleece, Bristol, February 2012
Sometimes gigs are just perfect in every way from venue to support to crowd to stage banter. Field Music’s musical talent is well known on record, but live their mixture of King Crimson prog rock with the jerky pop of XTC is even more incredible. Here they were on top form, rattling out 23 tracks, from their back catalogue and to promote their then latest album Plumb. They were funny as well in between songs and just about the most engaging band you’ll ever see. To top it all the support act, Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, left the packed crowd at this legendary venue in awe with their blend of folk, hippy chic and surf rock. The best support act I have ever and probably will ever see. (Joe Lepper)
Field Music, The Fleece, Bristol, 2012
Django Django, Bestival, Isle of Wight, September 2012
The highlight of an astounding festival, featuring knock-out gigs by De La Soul, Stevie Wonder and The XX, was a small tent performance by Django Django. With the speaker volume tempered to make later headline acts more of a spectacle, the crowd was pulled ever closer to the stage to be immersed in their folktronica rhythms. The crowd joined to become a single amorphous beast, embracing each other to shift body weight and crouch for the peak of Default. Jazz fags and rum punches were merrily shared with trucker women and inebriated Glaswegians as the best weekend of my life got off to the perfect start. (Conal Dougan)
First Aid Kit, Moles, Bath, September 2012
Enjoying a pre-gig pint in a quiet pub adjacent to Moles, I suddenly saw the young Swedish sisters emerge from a neighbouring building and casually walk towards the venue completely without regard from anyone passing by. It was almost like they weren’t brilliantly talented, precocious songwriting prodigies or something. I got to the door, handed over my £10 ticket and was astonished to find that the 220 capacity venue hadn’t yet sold out. I then found my standing space just 10 feet away from Klara, Johanna and those gorgeous vocal harmonies. (Scott Hammond)
First Aid Kit, circa 2012. Pic by Joe Lepper
Tame Impala, Primavera Festival, Barcelona, May 2013
Primavera Festival is renowned for its outstanding sound quality above its atmosphere, with main stage headline sets sounding intimate and personal. Upon arriving early on the first day, however, we really were treated to an intimate gig, with Tame Impala rehearsing their full set to only a handful of us. Frontman Kevin Parker’s remark that “we thought there would be more of you here” came just before we were escorted out by a security team, embarrassed from mistakenly letting us in early. The brilliant set they played later that night to a huge crowd, the balmy sea breeze flowing through Parker’s hair as the band waded through their psychedelic back catalogue, was made all the more magical by having seen them rehearse for our sole pleasure. (Conal Dougan)
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Glastonbury Festival, June 2013
Nestled about 20 people back from the main Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2013 on a Sunday evening I was expecting to be impressed by Nick Cave but not completely blown away by his brilliance. Across his hour long set he provided a masterclass in live performance. The whole experience was made even better by his scheduling just before the Folk-lite of Mumford and Sons. Their eager young fans being beaten back verbally by Cave’s middle aged hardcore fans was great to see. The poor Mumford dears that sneaked through were left open mouthed as Cave showed them how live music should be played. And as if that wasn’t enough, during Stagger Lee Cave moved into the crowd and serenaded a female fan dressed entirely in white, who appeared atop a pair of shoulders like Kylie’s ghost rising out of the swamp. (Joe Lepper)
Nick Cave crowd schmoozing at Glastonbury, 2013. Pic by Joe Lepper
The National, Roundhouse, London, June 2013
When a snap show at the Roundhouse was announced I was more than prepared to spend an hour and half in an online queue to see one of my most favourite bands in one my most favourite venues. It was everything I wanted it to be. The National are a special band of super talented musicians, led by an extraordinary voice in Matt Berninger. The songs are emotional, intelligent and epic, and the gig was intense, driven, amazing. There’s nothing like being part of an audience that adores the band they’re seeing. Spectacular. (Patricia Turk)
Melody’s Echo Chamber, Greenman Festival, August 2013
Propelled by Melody Prochet’s ethereal floaty vocals, the band add crunch and added freak out, I stood there entranced like a good looking deer in the headlights of a pop car, that is until I got so carried away during Crystallized that I became a danger to passing aircraft. They swept me up in a whirling vortex of sound that I keep playing back in my mind like some antiquated reel to reel tape recorder. A week after this gig and I wanted to see them again and again, I want to go to every gig, become an uber fan, have Melody’s poster on my wall. (John Haylock)
Remember to tell us about your favourite gigs in the comment box below.
The culture of illegal downloading and Spotify playlists have conspired to give the album a torrid time this year. According to latest figures from industry body the BPI, album sales fell by 13.8 per cent during the first half of the year and in the second week of August Rhianna’s album Talk That Talk became the lowest selling UK number one album when it shifted just 9,758 copies.
Albums are arguably becoming a more niche purchase among consumers, which is why there will be a whole bunch of albums in this best of list that you will have never heard of and by bands whose names will be new to you. But that doesn’t mean the quality of these albums is diminished. We have at least one enormous seller, a couple of concept albums as well as some stunning debuts by brand new bands. Above all all those on our list are interesting, have tales to tell and are showcasing artists doing interesting things with music. Album sales may be down, but the quality of music produced this year shows that critically at least 2012 was a great year for the album. Sit back, get your Christmas lists ready and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top 20 Albums of 2012.
20.North Sea Scrolls
North Sea Scrolls is an album that brings together two celebrated musical grumps, Luke Haines and Cathal Coughlan, along with journalist Andrew Mueller, to create an alternative history of the British Isles. That’s right its a concept album, but one that has a worthy place on our list due to its notion of a Britian where the broadcaster Chris Evans is ritualistically sacrificed, 60s producer Joe Meek is culture minister, Enoch Powell is poet laureate and Ian Ball, the kidnapper of Princess Anne, has a crisis of identity in Broadmoor about Ian Ball the singer from Gomez. (DR) More
19. Jack White – Blunderbuss
We are proud to admit that foppish indie bands who struggle to shift a few thousand CDs are our usual review fodder. It is unheard of for us to review an album that is top of the UK and US albums charts at the time of writing. But for Blunderbuss, the stunning solo debut of former White Stripes man Jack White, we will make an exception. (JL) More
18. Lambchop – Mr M
As Lambchop albums go Mr M lurks somewhere between the soulful sound of Nixon and the intimacy of Is A Woman. Its tender subject matter and strings give the impression that Lambchop leader Kurt Wagner is drifting up to heaven with Vic Chesnutt, the late singer- songwriter and friend to Wagner who the album is dedicated to. One of the most beautiful albums of the year. (JL) More
17. Shearwater – Animal Joy
Shearwater have come along way since they were formed by Okkervil River man Jonathan Meiburg as a folky side project. Now signed to Sub Pop and with Meiburg long departed from Okkervil River, they are a fully fledged indie rock band in their own right. This is arguably their most accessibly release yet, with Meiburg’s fiercely environmental lyrics blending well with a raft of powerful and thought provoking indie rock tracks, with Breaking the Yearlings and centrepiece Insolence among many highpoints. (JL) More
16. The Shins – Port of Morrow
James Mercer’s Shins are back and getting regular play on alternative and mainstream radio stations alike. There aren’t many acts that can appeal to such a large demographic, but then not all acts are able to expertly serve up one of the best summer pop music albums of the year. Mainstream music with an alternative edge doesn’t get better than this. (DR) More
15. Efterklang – Piramida
This is the least orchestrated album the Danish band has produced. It takes time to reveal itself, but it is worth the initial persistence to let it unravel its charms. It is not an album that will appeal if you are looking for catchy melodies or a sing-a-long chorus, the songs brood and build and work their way into your brain over time. (DR) More
14. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
As you would expect from frontman John Darnielle’s writing there is still a hell of a lot of lyrical self-help, with the track Until I Am Whole a fine addition to the Darnielle survival songbook. But with the birth of his son Roman this year he has presumably less time to wallow, as his life fills with even more hope and optimism. The use of brass, arranged by Matthew E White, across the album probably best typifies the uplifting feel, particularly the trumpets on the relentlessly upbeat Cry for Judas and the sumptuous horn arrangement on White Cedar. Another great release from the man many believe is one of America’s greatest living lyricists. (JL) More
13. Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament – The Violence
In the final instalment of the former Hefner man’s trilogy about his native Essex he turns his attention to the horror of the county’s 17th century witch trials. This double album is packed full of history, subtle melodies, powerful images and above all a sense of humanity typifies so much of his songwriting. The Violence has been a huge hit among critics this year who admire Hayman’s attempt to find Albion, a quest that has been in decline in the music industry since the 1960s and early 1970s heyday of The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention. A modern folk classic. (JL) More
12. Hospitality – Hospitality
Central to the success of this Brooklyn indie-pop trio’s self titled debut album is the singing and songwriting of lead singer Amber Papini. Her turn of phrase, effortless vocals and keenest of ears for a catchy single are only hinted at on opener Eighth Avenue, a kind of Belle and Sebastian rip. But as the album progresses track after track of hook laden, memorable, potential singles follow. If you don’t believe us, then maybe Rolling Stone will convince you. The magazine has named it among their Top 50 albums of the year. (JL) More
11. Beach House – Bloom
Beach House’s fourth album is called Bloom for good reason, as it emerges spring like from the icy cold wintery pop of 2010’s breakthrough album Teen Dream. As with Teen Dream, Bloom is still full of wonderful dreamy synth and guitar pop but the duo, of singer and keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally, are no longer walking with snow crunching under foot. They are now in a sunlit meadow somewhere gazing at the dandelions and marvelling at the world. (JL) More
10. Django Django – Django Django
Good old-fashioned pop with some modern art rock sensibility is key to Django Django’s appeal. Storm and the insane Duane Eddy-meets-astronaut-meets-Cairo market trader single Wor are included and are immediate standouts. But there’s plenty more pop up the sleeves of this London based band that topped our Bands to Watch Out for in 2011 list and met while studying art in Edinburgh. (JL) More
9. The Walkmen – Heaven
To use an REM comparison, The Walkmen’s latest album Heaven is their Lifes Rich Pageant moment. Just like that fourth album by REM, Heaven is an album by a band on top of their game in life and career and enjoying every moment. Some fine work behind the production desk by Fleet Foxes, Modest Mouse and Built To Spill producer Phil Ek has helped create this joyous sound. He’s not only added some pastoral Fleet Foxes moments, but has also roped in the Foxes’ Robin Pecknold for backing vocal duties. Think Fleet Foxes with balls. (JL) More
8. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
The road to Nebraska is littered with the ghosts of Americana and getting there demands a humble homage to the stoic wraiths of bearded plaid shirts to navigate its precise route. It’s rare for outsiders to succeed and unknown for the path to start from suburban Sweden, yet First Aid Kit have majestically transposed their whimsical folk deep into the mid-west, repairing the genres often passive conservatism, to redefine the contours of alt-country. (DN) More
7. Bob Mould – Silver Age
The former Hüsker Dü and Sugar man has gone back to basics for his first album in three years. Amid an eclectic career, which has included devising TV wrestling shows and DJing, Mould has returned to what he does best for this album; fronting a three piece indie rock band with his gigantic voice and crunching guitar. (JL) More
6. Frankie Rose – Intersteller
Well this was a surprise. There we were bracing ourselves for another standard indie-pop release from former Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls member Frankie Rose when this pops into our in box . Turns out she has created not just one of the best indie-pop release of the year, but one of 2012′s best pop albums. More
5. Field Music – Plumb
If you haven’t been sold on Field Music by any of their previous releases you are unlikely to be converted here, but you are clearly a lost cause. If you love their previous work you may find Plumb takes some time to reveal its brilliance, but once it does you’ll be hooked by their XTC and King Crimson-style riffs and quick fire pop. (DR) More
4. Guided by Voices – The Bears For Lunch
Release the Bears is an excellent record by a seminal 1990s act enjoying their productive renaissance. This is album number three for the band in 2012 alone and is the best of the bunch. Sure, there are a couple of underdeveloped tracks and throwaway numbers, but us die-hard GBV fans wouldn’t have it any other way. (DR) More
3. Tame Impala – Lonerism
It was no surprise to see MGMT, Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridman credited with applying the finishing touches to Tame Impala’s second album of psychedelic pop. Largely recorded by Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker at home, in hotels, studios and even a plane, Fridman has added that final pop savvy touch, just as he did to the band’s stunning debut Innerspeaker (2010). The end result is something that perfectly blends the care free attitude of a bedroom recording act with the swagger of a seasoned old pro behind the mixing desk. (JL) More
2. David Byrne and St Vincent – Love This Giant
Collaborations are something to approach with caution, for every example where the combining artists bring out the best in each other (Iron & Wine and Calexico) there is another where the worst of both is brutally exposed (the appalling Lulu by Lou Reed and Metallica). The good news is that Love This Giant, the work of David Byrne and Annie Clark AKA St.Vincent, falls firmly into the former category. Love This Giant, from the opening seconds of the brilliant ‘Who’ shows itself to be a fun, high quality, set of pop music. It is clever and sophisticated, but never in a way that stops the music being accessible. (DR) More
1. Tigercats Isle of Dogs
Our only 10/10 score for a new album this year and our only ever top mark from our co-editor Joe Lepper for a new album. As an indie-pop album goes this is as good as it gets. It’s teaming with radio friendly, infectious hooks, especially on Full Moon Reggae Party, Easter Island and Banned at the Troxy. It also has a sense of completeness as the band take us on an indiepop road tour across the east end of London. This is an album that may take time to find a wider audience but over the next decade will gather more and more fans. (JL) More
Reviews by Joe Lepper, Dorian Rogers and David Newbury
We make no secret of or love for Field Music here at Neon Filler, they topped our album of the year poll in 2010 and have received numerous live reviews on the site since we set it up in 2009. I have no reservations in saying that they are the best band operating out of the UK today and thoroughly deserve their nomination for the Mercury Prize this year. As such it was a great feeling to see them play such a confident set at the Haunt in Brighton last Thursday.
The set started with the first three tracks from Plumb, a near perfect sing suite and a brilliant prog-pop opening to the evening. Several songs from Plumb featured in the set, including a brilliant encore of ‘(I Keep ‘Thinking About) A New Thing’, but the evening was notable for how widely they picked from across their career to date.
Measure featured strongly, and the tightly wound new-wave funk of ‘Let’s Write A Book’ was just one of the songs played during the evening that deserve to have been bigger hits when released as singles. Another “lost 45” candidate was ‘Rockist’, from the School Of Language side project, a staple in the Field Music set since the end of their short hiatus.
As someone who came to the band via 2006’s Tones Of Town it was ‘In Context’ and ‘A Gap Has Appeared’ has stood out as the two high points in a set that no weak moments. It seems strange to think that these songs are 6 years old, the fresh faced brothers now veterans of the music scene.
It was also of note just how much the band has matured and grown as a live act over the past few years, and how strong their sound has become. This was no fey indie show, the guitars crunched and the drums pounded to produce a big sound that carried the songs with a punch.
The band state that this tour, with only a sold out Newcastle date remaining, will be their last shows for a while. We can only hope that this means more recording and the Brewis brothers will be back instrument hopping with a set of new songs sometime soon.
There are some ground rules for a successful cover version that apply to all but the ropiest of lost cause tribute bands. Ensuring the cover sounds different to the original while avoiding parody is key. An admiration for the original also helps give authenticity and passion but the crowning achievement is to produce a cover version that sounds even better than the original.
Few have achieved that, with Jim Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower and Johnny Cash’s Mercy Seat being among the rare exceptions. With this in mind we find ourselves listening to an eight track mini-album by newly Mercury Music Prize nominated Field Music, bringing together their covers of tracks from the likes of John Cale and The Beatles that have already appeared on charity singles, magazine give aways and B-sides.
The tracks that work best are when they successfully put a Field Music spin on it, filling it with tempo changes, jerky arrangements and their, perhaps now trademark, guitar string bending. Opener Terrapin is perhaps the best example of this and achieves the rare accolade of bettering the original, which is a painfully dire psychedelic mess by the late Syd Barrett.
Another success is their take on Roxy Music’s If There Is Something, which takes away the original’s cheese factor, plays around with its intricate guitar arrangement and benefits from Field Music brother Peter and David Brewis having similar north east of England accents to Roxy frontman Bryan Ferry. The Beatles Don’t Pass Me By is another triumph, with the original’s psychedelic rock and change of pace proving the perfect foil for Field Music. Their version also benefits from not having Ringo Starr singing on it.
Less successful is John Cale’s Fear is a Man’s Best Friend. It’s a great song and while they do a passable version, they don’t add much more to it or attempt to play around with its stomping piano moments. Born Again Cretin, originally by Robert Wyatt, is full of admiration for the original, but fails to top it. But then again who can? And while I like the two Pet Shop Boys covers, of Heart and Rent, it is the latter that really shines. David Brewis’s vocals brings out the sadness in this pop gem perfectly. Once again the similarity in accents between the brothers and North Shields born Neil Tennant helps.
Here is our October preview of the best music releases and events in the coming month. Items marked with an * are currently scheduled for review on the site.
Album of the month: The Greatest Hits Of Boston Spaceships – Out Of The Universe By Sundown*
We wouldn’t normally pick a best-of collection as our album of the month but as this is the first Boston Spaceships album to get a UK release we’ll make an exception. Collecting 15 tracks from the bands five albums it represents some of the best music of Robert Pollard’s career. (Out on Fire Records on the 8th October)
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Lost Songs
Of Montreal – Daughter Of Cloud*
Peter Broderick – These Walls Of Mine
Neil Young – Psychedelic Pill
Madness – Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da
Gigs and tours
Tour of the month: Field Music
Field Music have been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and you have the opportunity to see them on what may be their last tour for some time.
Oct 03 2012, Aberdeen, The Lemon Tree
Oct 04 2012, Glasgow, Oran Mor
Oct 05 2012, Leeds, The Cockpit
Oct 06 2012, Liverpool, Kazimier
Oct 10 2012, Southampton, Cellars
Oct 11 2012, Cardiff, clwb Ifor Bach
Oct 12 2012, Wolverhampton, Slade Rooms
Oct 17 2012, London, Electric Ballroom
Oct 18 2012, Brighton, The Haunt*
Oct 19 2012, Bath, Komedia
Oct 20 2012, Coventry, Warwick Arts Centre
The Twilight Sad tour the UK in October:
18 Thur NEWCASTLE Cluny
19 Fri WAKEFIELD The Hop
20 Sat MANCHESTER Sound Control
22 Mon BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds
23 Tue LONDON Dingwalls
24 Wed BRISTOL Louisiana
25 Thur CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
26 Fri LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
27 Sat PRESTON Mad Ferret
Cheatahs – The new Wichita Records signings on tour, including several dates with The Cribs
17 October – London, 100 Club w/Veronica Falls & Mazes
23 October – Oxford, Academy 2, w/The Cribs
24 October – Norwich, Waterfront w/The Cribs
25 October – Liverpool, 02 Academy w/The Cribs
26 October – Manchester, Apollo w/The Cribs
29 October – Manchester, 02 Academy w/The Cribs
30 October – Sheffield, 02 Academy w/The Cribs
01 November – Leicester, Academy w/The Cribs
02 November – London, The Others
06 November – London, Village Underground w/Cloud Nothings
The Tallest Man On Earth – Dates across the UK and Ireland through October
HMV Forum Kentish Town, London, Oct 23
Colston Hall Bristol, Oct 24*
Vicar Street Dublin, Oct 25
Mandela Hall Belfast, Oct 27
HMV Picture House Edinburgh, Oct 28
HMV Ritz Manchester, Manchester, Oct 29
St Bartholomews Church Brighton, Oct 31
Efterklang – The Danish band play live with the Northern Sinfonia
23.10 GATESHEAD, NEWCASTLE, UK – The Sage
24.10 EDINBURGH, UK – Usher Hall
27.10 COVENTRY, UK – Warwick Arts Centre
28.10 BRIGHTON, UK – Dome
29.10 MANCHESTER, UK – Bridgewater Hall
30.10 LONDON, UK – Barbican
The festival season is over in the traditional sense, but there are still interesting festival events happening through the Autumn.
Oxjam is a nationwide music event throughout October with events nationwide raising money for Oxfam. Our event featuring Rotifer, Tigercats and Danny Kendall is sure to be on of the best but you can look for events throughout the month in your area on the Oxjam wegottickets portal. You can find out more about the event, and about the good work that Oxfam does with the money raised, by visiting www.oxfam.org.uk/oxjam.
A Carefully Planned Festival
A Carefully Planned Festival is a multi-venue festival featuring 100 acts in Manchester on the 20th and 21st October. Amongst the bands playing is Neon Filler favourite Free Swim who will be playing track from their brilliant new EP She Dreams In Lights. More details can be found at www.acarefullyplannedfestival.wordpress.com.
Magical Mystery Tour on DVD
On the 8th October you will have the opportunity to purchase a the much maligned 1967 Beatles film on DVD and Blu-Ray. The soundtrack has considerable high points, including ‘I Am The Walrus’, but the jury is out on the film that was considered one of the band’s bigger follies.
The Magical Mystery Tour
To get your album/gig/tour/film/book/festival/t-shirt included in our monthly preview please send details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow is Record Store, a celebration of music and all the things that make record stores such an integral place in the music industry. The widespread move to MP3s and online consumption models has made a big impact on the industry and seen many shops close over the last few years, but many independent retailers have hung on and maintained a large loyal customer base that enjoys the tangible elements of music consumption.
Record Store day is in its 4th year and as usual a huge quantity of exclusive and limited records is available for those prepared to get up early and join the inevitable queues. You can visit the Record Store day website for a full list of titles on release and there is something to appeal to most musical tastes with vinyl being the primary format on offer.
I’ll be queuing myself with the hope of picking up records by Field Music, Guided By Voices, Ryan Adams, the Wedding Present and maybe an early release of the box-set of the Mermaid Avenue Sessions by Billy Bragg and Wilco. As usual I will set myself a strict budget, but in the heat of the moment, with a queue behind, it is easy to get carried away and come home with a handful of unexpected items. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop Dr Who sound effects record is one item that may well make it into my bag, despite the fact that I am unlikely ever to play it more than once.
One thing about Record Store Day does bug me, and that is the way it is used as amoney making exercise by some. In 2010 I just missed out on a copy of ‘Fool’s Day’ by Blur, their much anticipated reunion single. That very same day it was available on Ebay for hugely inflated prices, and not just a couple of copies but dozens and dozens. Each year the same thing happens, sealed copies of hard to get records are sold on Ebay as soon as they fly off the shelves.
In the NME this week a feature on Record Store day (and kudos to the paper for such a big feature) had some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ for the day. One of the ‘don’ts’ listed was:
Don’t play any of the records for Heavens sake. This will sharply diminish their value.
Now, this list was intended to be comic, and I don’t want to be too pious, but it does highlight a nasty truth about the day. If it is about a few individuals making a quick profit at the expenses of others, then is that really a celebration of the record shop? Or does it turn something fun and celebratory into a kind of Bargain Hunt with queues?
I know people who used to habitually buy up tickets from popular concerts and then sell them on Ebay at a profit when the shows had sold out. You could argue that is just people using their common sense to make some money, or you could argue that it is a nasty reflection on a greedy capitalist society. if you actively reduce the supply, then it isn’t a fair state of supply and demand.
The same is true of Record Store Day purchases, the price charged in the stores on the day is a fair reflection of the supply and the demand. If people who have no interest in owning or listening to the records, then buying them just to sell them at a profit denies people who really want them the opportunity to get them at a fair price. The shops restrict purchase to one item per person, but I have seen people come in with friends to get extra copies (and even coordinate other groups of friends at other shops). Even if only a few people try and use the day as a money making experience then it can ruin it for dozens of others, there are only small amounts of many of the records on sale.
So, if you want to really celebrate the music and the record stores you love, then go down tomorrow morning and buy yourself some musical treats. And then take them home, rip off the plastic and play them. After all isn’t that what a record is for?
With Glastonbury taking a break during 2012 there’s the possibility of around 200,000 revellers looking for an alternative trip away. To offer some of those Glastonbury regulars and others decide where to spend their festival cash we’ve selected our pick of the best the UK has to offer. Our focus is on the best line-ups, those that give new bands a chance to get a bigger audience and those located in unusual and excellent settings. For those looking for the type of middle of the road bore fest that T in the Park or V Festival have served up once again this year then our list will not be for you. For those looking for an excellent, interesting and diverse line up then read on.
All Tomorrow’s Parties
Jeff Mangum Curates, March 9-11; The National Curates, Dec 7-9, both at Minehead
The ATP format, of a band curating a weekend of music at a holiday camp, has taken a few knocks in recent months from disgruntled fans. The Jeff Mangum event was moved back to March from December last year by ATP without explanation, leaving many fans who had booked transport out of pocket. ATP has still not given an explanation. The move also meant a number of bands, by strange coincidence mainly those with mammals in their names (The Mountain Goats, Fleet Foxes, Panda Bear) had to pull out. The resulting line-up is still stellar, with Mangum’s oddball tastes represented in the likes of Sun Ra Arkestra, sitting along side ATP regulars such as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Joanna Newsom, Sebadoh, Thurston Moore and The Magnetic Fields. The event is also a must for fans of the Elephant Six collective that Mangum is part of, with Oliva Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo and an Elephant Six Holiday Surprise set completing one of the most eclectic line-ups of the year. Hopefully The National curated festival doesn’t suffer the same postponement without explanation. It is already shaping up to being a great festival with the US band already selecting among others Owen Pallett, Suuns and My Brightest Diamond for the bill.
Dry The River: One of the highlights of The Great Escape 2012
Get your running shoes ready for this Brighton based festival that features 300 bands at 30 venues across the city. Our advice is make sure you arrive at venues in good time as they can be tough to get into at this increasingly popular event. Among the line up, which focuses on new and emerging talent, is Django Django, who topped our ones to watch list for 2011 , and Dry the River, who made our 2012 list after we caught their energetic performances at last year’s Great Escape and Glastonbury.
This 20,000 strong one day festival in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London, is now in its fifth year and in the past has hosted the likes of Battles, Foals and Laura Marling. This year’s line-up is among the most interesting of any UK festival, featuring Neonfiller favourites such as Django Django, Revere and Andrew Bird alongside more mainstream attractions such as Metronomy and The Vaccines.
For the last two years we’ve made sure we cover the Indietracks festival. Not only does it offer visitors one of the most scenic and unusual settings, at a vintage railway centre in Derbyshire, but the line up is often a who’s who of indie pop. Teenage Fanclub, Pains of Being Pure At Heart and The Primitives are among previous headliners. This year’s event is shaping up to being one of the best yet with US indie-pop label Slumberland Records teaming up to curate. Neonfiller favourites Tigercats, Allo Darlin and Veronica Falls have already been confirmed among a line up that also includes The June Brides, Tender Trap, Evans the Death, The Sunbathers, Gold-Bears and Sea Lions.
Set in Glanusk Park, Wales, this three-day event offers an enticing blend of folk and alternative acts. This year sees Feist as one of the headliners on a bill that includes Neonfiller favourites CW Stoneking, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Field Music. Further down the bill we urge you to check out Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep, one of the best acts we’ve seen this year.
The stunning setting at the Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset is almost a big a pull as the line-up, which always delivers one of the year’s most interesting mixes of the unknown and more well known alternative acts. This year Beirut, Joanna Newsom, WildBeasts, Laura Marlng and Mogwai are among the major draws on a line up that also includes Best Coast, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and one of Neonfiller’s favourites The Leisure Society. Also watch out for Canadian act Timber Timbre and This Is The Kit, whose recent albums have impressed us.