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Top 20 Albums of 2017 – Part Two

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Top 20 Albums of 2017 – Part Two

Posted on 20 December 2017 by Joe

Welcome to the second part of our end of year round up of the best albums 2017. This latest instalment reveals who has earned a coveted place in our top ten. The first part (20-11) can be found here

10. The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir

Magnetic Fields 50 Song Memoir

In which Stephin Merritt celebrates his 50th birthday by writing an auto-biographical song for each year since his birth. The results are pretty great and it is his best hit-rate since 69 Love Songs in 1999. Sprawling concept albums clearly suit him.

9. Guided By Voices – August By Cake

Guided By Voices

This 32 track double album is the 100th album that GBV frontman Robert Pollard has released. It is also the first album released with the latest Guided By Voices line-up, which brings Doug Gillard’s guitar skills back to the fold. Every band member gets some songs on this one, and the results are typically uneven in excellent GBV fashion.

8. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

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Perhaps the only act that can compete with Robert Pollard’s production rate is Australian psychedelic rock outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They set themselves the ambitious task of releasing five albums this year, with a fifth due to be released “very very late in the year” according to frontman Stu Mackenzie.

Of the four released so far this is our favourite for our best albums 2017 list – full of prog rock/jazz treats like 10 minute opener Crumbing Castle and psyche pop gems such as Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet. And what’s more it is available as a free download.

7. Mile Me Deaf – Alien Age

MMD1400

Sound the breakthough album klaxon. Wolfgang Möstl’s Mile Me Deaf act  has always been experimental but they are on the cusp of the big time on the basis of this Best album 2017 release

On previous album’s he’s been looking to push the boundaries of indie rock and guitar pop. Here he’s pushed, then smashed his way past them, veering off into trip hop, dub, jazz, and ambient. Above all, as XTC once proudly sang, This is Pop. Lead single Blowout is a great jumping in point for this entry into our Best albums 2017 list . Read our full review here.

6. The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

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This is best Lips release since they unleashed Yoshimi on those evil bastard pink robots during their last pop phase. After the mildly entertaining albums Terror and the awful Embyronic, Wayne Coyne and co have gone accessible again, with new classics such as How?? and There Should Be Unicorns among their best ever. Read our full review here.

5. Girl Ray – Earl Grey

Girl Ray - Earl Grey

We are delighted to include this impressive debut from Girl Ray, a quirky lo-fi pop trio from North London. This will particularly appeal to fans for Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci with Don’t Go Back at Ten among our favorites. Read our full review here.

4. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

LCD Soundsystem

The LCD Soundsystem split didn’t last too long, and this album is a high-quality return by the band to recording. The sound is unmistakably LCD Soundsystem (even down to the usual influences) and there are a few playful tracks among some slightly sombre numbers. This is a welcome entry into our best albums 2017 top ten.

3. Robyn Hitchcock – Robyn Hitchcock

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It’s taken 21 albums but Robyn Hitchcock has finally gone down the self-titled route for a release, which by happy coincidence just happens to be one of his best in years.

From its purple, cat stroking, cover to its backwards guitars, it is a psychedelic explosion of awesomeness, with oodles of noodles of nods to the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The twinkling, shiny pop of Mad Shelley’s Letterbox is a particular highlight. Read our full review here.

2. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

Hug-Of-Thunder

Just like the Flaming Lips, the almighty Canadian collective of Broken Social Scene also saw a return to form in 2017. The return of Leslie Feist to the line up takes them back to their early hey-day, especially with her jaw droppingly awesome vocals on the title track.

New member Ariel Engle, who takes lead vocal duties on Stay Happy, is another impressive addition. While Halfway Home is A fantastic alternative rock anthem that shows just how good this album is within their already prolific two decade spanning back catalogue.

1. Eyelids – OR

Eyelids Or

Featuring members of the Decemberists, Guided by Voices and Stephen Malkmus’ Jicks, Eyelids have leapt to the top of our list thanks to their sweet, jangly melodies on tracks such as Falling Eyes.

This second release from the band also adds ex-REM man Peter Buck into the mix as producer to give it extra class and a 1980s alternative rock feel. A triumph and deserved number one album in our best albums 2017 list. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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The Flaming Lips and Friends – Birmingham 02 Academy (Aug 12, 2017)

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The Flaming Lips and Friends – Birmingham 02 Academy (Aug 12, 2017)

Posted on 14 August 2017 by John Haylock

It has been at least two months since my last dispatch from the Flaming Lips tour, so this latest review is well overdue!

On that occasion it was a mad night in Manchester, tonight a visit to the not very car friendly Birmingham (whose city motto appears to be ‘road closed’) is called for.

The astrological signs were perfect.

Virgo was in Uranus, there was a lunatic in the Whitehouse and it was the height of the hemorrhoids meteor shower. The conditions were ripe for some psychedelic shenanigans with The Flaming Lips.

Bearded Jesus lookalike and all round groovy guy, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, is treated like the messiah.

“We love you,” shout the faithful as he prepares the band for orbital insertion. The stage is set for another acid pantomime – where’s the evil giant pink robot? He’s behind you!

The keyboard intro for the opening number, Race for the Prize, now surpasses the five minute mark as it builds the tension. We space cadets are ready and primed then BAM! The academy explodes into a multi coloured explosion of light and confetti as this track kicks off the gig in a blitz of ecstatic sing-a-long joy.

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For the next ninety minutes we scream like teenage girls at a Beatles gig. We laugh at the budget unicorn as it makes its wobbly way around the crowd, Wayne astride it laughing and singing.

Wayne gets in the inflatable hamster ball for a cover of Bowies Space Oddity. Two giant eyeballs on legs go-go dance either side of the stage and we sing happy birthday to a girl called May. I then witness J Wilgoose from Public Service Broadcasting hanging off the balcony laughing and shouting down at Coyne on the unicorn.

I look around and a girl who has never seen them before is grinning from ear to ear, a complete stranger kisses me during A Spoonful Weighs A Ton, and How? from the new album reduces me to an air punching crying lunatic.

Wayne Coyne

Wayne Coyne

It’s all in a days work for these guys. But every time it’s special and unique – an almost spiritual occasion and the camaraderie at a Flaming Lips gig is like nothing I have ever witnessed.

You will leave with new Facebook friends, a camera full of wonderful memories and a feeling of optimism that verges on the obscene.

Then they do Do You Realize. As the massed happy throng sing this desolate yet beautiful song at the top of their knackered voices the band send out telepathic vibes of universal love to send us on our way. They then disappear back to whatever planet they come from.

The Flaming Lips ‘ support tonight came from Amber Run (don’t worry, not the Home Secretary Amber Rudd), who are a Nottingham band of fine distinction.

They play epic rock tunes that would make Springsteen jealous and have a frontman in Joe Keough who looks like Neil Young circa Tonight’s the Night. He sings like a fucked up angel and is quite the best vocalist I’ve heard for ages.

Their tunes are memorable and the execution riveting.

At one point Joe mentions they were on the point of packing it all in, seeing no money and no girls they contemplated calling it a day but judging by the crowds vociferous and appreciative reaction this should be considered a criminal act.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting

As for Public Service Broadcasting, what can you say about a band who have been into space, piloted a Spitfire climbed a mountain and now descended into a Welsh mine. The band is now fleshed out with an extra guitarist and three guys on brass, one of whom thinks he’s in the James Brown band.

They look like teachers in a 1970s school staff room, All suits and ties, but they really rock. With a simple but effective back projection of images and cracking, albeit difficult to pigeonhole, tunes they are a must see/must hear innovative live experience.

Right, now how do we get back on the M6?

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Preview: The Flaming Lips – Birmingham (August 12, 2017)

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Preview: The Flaming Lips – Birmingham (August 12, 2017)

Posted on 08 May 2017 by John Haylock

Pump up the giant pysche-bubble, saddle up the unicorns and set the controls for Birmingham on August 12 when The Flaming Lips will be beaming down.

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These Oklahoma aliens have selected the Arena, one of 11 The Rainbow Venues located in diverse, industrial spaces in the Midland’s city’s Digbeth area. There they will  play a set that is expected to contain a fair amount of classics from their long career as well as highlights from their latest album, Oczy Mlody.

As we can testify, having dropped down to see them in Manchester earlier this year, they have taken their animal themed live shows to new extremes with a unicorn joining their stage throng.

unicorn

Mind expanding visuals and musical mayhem awaits in a show that should not be missed, especially as support is provided by the equally adventurous Public Service Broadcasting.

For more information and how to buy tickets visit The Rainbow Venues site here.

By John Haylock

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Mile Me Deaf – Alien Age

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Mile Me Deaf – Alien Age

Posted on 03 February 2017 by Joe

Sound the breakthough album klaxon. Wolfgang Möstl’s Mile Me Deaf act  has always been experimental but they are on the cusp of the big time on the basis of this latest, ambitious release

On previous releases he’s been looking to push the boundaries of indie rock and guitar pop.

Here he’s pushed, then smashed his way past them, veering off into trip hop, dub, jazz, and ambient. Above all, as XTC once proudly sang, This is Pop.

MMD1400

Of course it wouldn’t be a Mile Me Deaf release without some left-field caveats to it.

It is pop with a massive alien, psychedelic twist, as the album is a loose collection of tracks about the end of the human race. But you’d never know its content was so dystopian with a sound more akin to a Flaming Lips festival headlining set, with its mish-mash of infectious melodies supplemented by a rag-tag collection of riffs, loops, twists and turns.

This is best typified on lead single Blowout, which follows the same successful template Tame Impala have pursued in recent years – make them dance, make them feel weird.

Then on Shibuya+ he hands lead vocal duties over to Katarina Trenk, and another great single is born, as he channels the spirit of Bristol’s early trip hop scene.

Among other high points is Headnote#2, which has a neat Massive Attack shuffle to it and a fantastic rock film score middle section.

The klaxon has sounded, its now up to you and a bit of luck to make this the hit it deserves to be.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Mile Me Deaf visit their bandcamp page here.

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Top Ten Indie/Alt Music Producers

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Top Ten Indie/Alt Music Producers

Posted on 27 July 2011 by Joe

While bands hog the limelight we thought it about time to pay tribute to those hardy souls sitting behind the mixing desks, dealing with all the tantrums and egos and helping to create some of our favourite indie and alternative albums of all time. This bunch of super indie producers have even managed to turn the most rough and ready artists into successful chart acts while ensuring they retain credibility.

Ladies and gentlemen, pull up a Phil Spector biography, sit back on the mixing desk chair, twiddle some knobs and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top Ten Indie/Alternative Music Producers.

10. Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley

Clive Langer (right) and Alan Winstanley (left)

These guys have been around for ever, well since the mid 1970’s anyway, and have worked with more artists than it’s possible to list here. They are best known for a 30 year association with Madness for whom they have produced 8 albums. Other career highlights include two early 1980’s masterpieces, The Tear Drop Explodes’ seminal 1980 classic Kilimanjaro and Dexy’s Midnight Runners 1982 celtic blockbuster Too-Rye-Ay. Kevin Rowland and Julian Cope are two of the real ‘nutty boys’ of English pop quite capable of giving Brian Wilson a run for his money in the eccentric genius stakes, working with them may not have been easy but must have been rewarding.

Add to the mix production credits on albums by Elvis Costello, Morrissey and Aztec Camera and Langer and Winstanley are worthy entries on our list of Top Ten producers.

9. Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie

If you listened to American indie-rock bands from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s then it is pretty likely you owned something produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie.  Working out of the legendary Fort Apache studios they produced a number of genre defining albums including the Lemonheads’  Lovey, Hole’s  Live Through This, Buffalo Tom’s Let Me Come Over and Morphine’s Cure For pain. As well as this Belly, Big Dipper, Firehose and the Gigolo Aunts all had albums produced by the prolific pair.

If you add their engineering duties to the list you can include the Pixies, Throwing Muses, Dinosaur Jr, Come and The Blake Babies to the list. Added together a pretty comprehensive list of American alternative rock from the era. They didn’t only record out of Fort Apache and decamped to Chipping Norton to work with Radiohead in their nascent form. The pair produced the debut album Pablo Honey featuring ‘Creep’, the song that would break them in America.

8. Martin Rushent

Martin Rushent tragically died earlier this year (2011). He left behind a legacy as being the go-to man for punk and new wave bands wanting chart success.  Among those he helped into the charts were the Buzzcocks, Human League, Altered Images and The Stranglers. His work helping the Buzzcocks to create their stellar first two albums Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (both 1978) is among our key landmark in his career.

But arguably he is more famous for turning the rather dour electronica of Human League into one of the most successful bands of the early 1980s through his production of their breakthrough 1981 album Dare. He died while working on a 30th anniversary edition of this seminal album. Other notable landmarks in his career are The Stranglers’ 1977 album No More Heroes. His workload slackened off towards the end of his life, but he still found time to work with Carl Barat and The Pipettes among others.

7. Jim O’Rourke

Jim O’Rourke is another producer who has a relatively small body of work behind him, but his work as a musician means that producing albums is purely a part time vocation. He has released a number of solo albums as well as records as part of Loose Fur, Gastr Del Sol and famously as the fifth member of Sonic Youth for six years up until 2005. His leftfield musical style is informed by jazz and electronic noise as much as indie rock music and that has informed his collaborations and production style.

In his career he has produced albums by Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Superchunk, Quruli, John Fahey, Smog, Faust, Tony Conrad, The Red Krayola, Bobby Conn, Beth Orton and Joanna Newsom. As a producer he is probably best known for his work with a fellow Chicago act Wilco, and was a big part of their move from being a popular Americana act to achieving widespread critical acclaim. It was his mixing work that gave Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the left-field sound that alienated the band from their record label. O’Rourke returned to produce A Ghost is Born, the album that won Wilco a Grammy Award for the best alternative music album in 2005.

6. Don Fleming


Don Fleming is one of the peripheral figures of alternative rock music. His work with Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L and Gumball is not widely known and his collaborations with bigger artists have garnered him with little attention. As a producer he hasn’t got a huge body of work to his name, but in his case it is quality not quantity that is the significant feature.

First off he produced ‘The Wagon’ the greatest single that Dinosaur Jr have released, and one of the best singles in the history of indie rock. He has also produced music by a number of other alt-rock acts such as Sonic Youth, Hole, Screaming Trees, Peter Yorn and (ahem) Midway Still. However, his greatest contribution to music is producing the two best power pop albums of the 1990s, Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub and Frosting on the Beater by The Posies. In those two near perfect sets of indie rock perfection he has a place in musical history.

5. Gil Norton

Gil Norton has had an incredibly prolific career. He’s from Liverpool and worked with fellow Liverpudlians China Crisis on their 1982 debut album Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, their synth pop sound beautifully illustrated by their second single Christian. Among his best work has been with Boston indie rock acts the Throwing Muses,  whose eponymous debut album he produced, and the Pixies, for whom he produced their classic 1989 album Doolittle that includes the tracks Debaser and Monkey Gone To Heaven .

But we, and he, don’t just dwell in the 80’s. Bringing you right up to date in 2011 Gil has worked with the Futures on their forthcoming debut album and Scottish alternative rock act Twin Atlantic.

4. Phil Ek


If we may have strayed slightly towards pop territory with some of the other producers in our Top 10 we’re firmly back in the land of indie with American producer Phil Ek. He is the man behind both Fleet Foxes critically acclaimed albums  as well as work by Modest Mouse, The Shins, Les Savy Fav and Built To Spill. As a young man he moved to Seattle just when Nirvana were helping to establish the city’s musical reputation, as The Beatles had done with Liverpool several decades before. It was here that he began to learn his trade and build connections with the Sub Pop Records and Up Records labels whose artists helped define his career.

3. Dave Fridmann

Fridmann is another musician who decided to spend more time behind the mixing desk. As bassist and founding member of Mercury Rev his place in indie and alternative music history is already assured. But it was his decision in 1993 to focus on producing that gives him a special place in our hearts. Described by Mojo as “the Phil Spector of the alt-rock era” his focus is often on big epic sounds, with The Flaming Lips, MGMT and Sleater-Kinney among those that have worked with him.

Fridmann is not without critics. His Grammy award winning work on The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics (2007) sparked a fierce debate about loudness in mastering. But his work on The Flaming Lips’classic Soft Bulletin (1999), Ok Go’s best album Of The Blue Color Of The Sky (2010) and Tama Impala’s wondrous Innerspeaker (2010)  more than make up for this blot on his otherwise superb CV.

2. John Leckie


By far the most mentioned producer in our Top 100 albums of all time list is the eclectic and prolific John Leckie. His work with XTC’s psychedelic alter egoes Dukes of Stratosphear, The Fall during their mid 1980s heyday, helming Radiohead’s breakthrough album The Bends and his  innovative work behind the decks on the Stone Roses’ debut album means he has a deserved place in our list.

His ability to find the best in each band he works with, whether its honing the indie rock of Radiohead or allowing  The Stone Roses’s creativity to shine, is perhaps his greatest talent. To this day he is still working with a diverse range of artists across the alternative and indie music world. Among our highlights from the last few years has been My Morning Jacket’s Z.

1.Steve Albini

From the Pixies to Nirvana, from Wedding Present to PJ Harvey, Steve Albini is perhaps the most prolific producer in alternative and indie music. Part of his popularity is his lack of ego as a producer. He prefers either no credit or to be credited as recording engineer and his hallmark is to ensure the album is a reflection of the band’s true sound without interference. He encourages bands to play live as much as possible and achieves a warmth to the recording though a careful attention to mic positioning.

As a former member of Big Black and more recently Shellac Albini is very much a musician and a  producer, which adds to his popularity among the bands he works with. Those such as David Gedge and Jon Spencer often returning time and again to Albini, who each year produces between 10 to 20 different albums.  The sheer range of artists and ground breaking albums he has worked on, including Pixies Surfer Rosa, Mclusky’s Mclusky Do Dallas and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, make him for us the greatest indie and alternative producer of all time.

Compiled by Martin Burns, Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper

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