Tag Archive | "Wilco"

Calexico – Algiers

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Calexico – Algiers

Posted on 11 September 2012 by Joe

On the evidence of Algiers, the seventh studio album from Calexico, this Tuscon, Arizona, act is settling into middle-age rather nicely. Algiers is among their more laid back collections and has some echoes of the likes of the Doors, with some alternative indie rock twists along the way.

As with their last album Carried to Dust, Algiers shows a remarkably high quality throughout, with Joey Burns’ vocals and the band’s trademark trumpets shining  on an album you can put on from start to finish,  be transported to their hybrid world of American indie rock and mariachi and crave more beyond its 12 songs.

The recording in Algiers, New Orleans, is perfect for the Calexico sound; joyous, carefree but with a darker edge. In discussing the recording setting Burns says: “The place is strong and bold, soulful to the core, but surrounded by a sea of darkness.”

The Doors moment comes on third track Sinner in the Sea, which features some of the album’s best keyboard moments as Burns freaks out Morrison-style, breaking on through to the other side. Fortune Teller, with its similarities to The Shins track New Slang, is another high point and is sure to attract similar attention among TV, film and advertising companies with its sublime backing vocals.

The only slight curveball in this collection is the instrumental title track, but that is only in it not having any vocals. It matters little though, as it contains among the best melodies on the album, and gives the band a chance to show off their range in this well crafted jam, from guitar solos, slide guitar, trumpets and accordion.

Algiers is the kind of album fellow alternative music veterans The Shins and Wilco also release these days; showing supreme confidence in both their musical legacy and enduring ability to win over new admirers.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

Calexio are planning a UK tour next February:

Feb 15 Glasgow ABC
Feb 16 Manchester Ritz
Feb 17 Leeds Metropolitan
Feb 18 Bristol Academy
Feb 19 Brighton Corn Exchange


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Billy Bragg & Wilco – Mermaid Avenue The Complete Sessions

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Billy Bragg & Wilco – Mermaid Avenue The Complete Sessions

Posted on 29 April 2012 by Dorian

Mermaid Avenue was the road where Woody Guthrie lived in New York, and was the name given to the first volume of songs that Billy Bragg and Wilco collaborated on in 1997. The songs were taken from lyrics that Guthrie had written but never recorded, for which there was no known melody, with around 3000 of these songs in the archive of his daughter Nora. Initially Billy Bragg was invited to record the songs and then he invited Wilco to join the project.

Mermaid Avenue Complete

Volume one of the sessions was a brilliant album, the differences between the writing style of Bragg and Wilco (principally Jeff Tweedy and the late Jay Bennett) added variety but also sat well together. Bragg’s work is more traditional, and closer to the style of Guthrie, with Wilco sounding typical of the Summerteeth era, and both acts produce some of their best work on the album. A second volume followed which featured another fifteen brilliant tracks, it was a little less cohesive as a collection but demonstrated just how much great music had been written and recorded.

Volume three is a real surprise showcasing another seventeen tracks, most of which are of as high a quality as anything from the first two collections. There are obvious reasons why some of the songs were left off first time around, ‘When Th Roses Bloom Again’ was found out to not be a Guthrie tune, ‘Gotta Work’ was written and sung by Corey Harris and wouldn’t have fit the brief of the original album and ‘The Jolly Banker’ was recorded in 2009 by the modern incarnation of Wilco. Why some of the other tracks weren’t consider is more of a mystery, the quality is so consistently high.

Also featured in the set, released to celebrate Woody Guthrie’s centennial year, is a DVD of ‘Man In The Sand’ a documentary about the original project and the recording of the album. It is fascinating viewing and gives a nice summary of Guthrie’s life as well as the processes that went into putting the original album together. It also shows some tensions between Bragg and Wilco during and after recording, largely about which songs to include and who should get to mix the songs for the album. This is perhaps understandable given that the artists didn’t know each other well before the recording and had to learn how to work together and what the boundaries of the project were.

What is a lot more surprising about the project is just how many great songs it produced and what a satisfying listen it is over the three discs in the complete set. As a package it is pretty hard to beat and recommended to fans of Guthrie, Bragg or Wilco as well as anyone who is interested in country, folk or protest songs.

If you already have the first two albums then the third set of songs is available as a digital download separately, and is well worth adding to your set.

10/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2011

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Top 20 Albums of 2011

Posted on 02 December 2011 by Joe

We have to admit the year started badly in terms of album releases.  By March we were struggling to think of more than a couple of excellent album releases let alone begin a shortlist of 20.

Then winter turned to spring and the flood gates opened with  new bands emerging and some old stagers reliving their glory days and in some cases bettering them. We have our first ever classical music entry in an end of year album list, some great new UK folk music and a staggering achievement in song writing by one familiar face in our end of year lists.

We’ve even found room for an album about 1970/80s wrestling by one of the music industry’s funniest and most caustic writers and artists.

In the end its turned out to be a pretty fine year for releases, as two of the biggest names of 1990s alternative music battle it out for our top two places.  Get your bus fare ready, prepare to race down to your local independent record store, and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top 20 Albums of 2011.

20. Johann Johannson – The Miners’ Hymns

In a year of public sector cuts, strikes and the Gleision mining tragedy this soundtrack by  Jóhann Jóhannsson to Bill Morrison’s mining documentary of the same name helped it become our first classical music entry in an end of year list. The haunting and powerful music he creates to depict the brutal hardships of the industry and the chaos of the 1984 strike were recorded live at Durham Cathedral, which gives it added gravitas. Read our full review here.

19. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

This Texan band’s follow up to its critically acclaimed previous albums The Stage Names and The Stand Ins brings more fire and bite to their sound as frontman Will Sheff took co-production duties. At times cinematic, at others indie rock not one of its 11 tracks are skippable. Among are highlights are opener The Valley and one of its singles Wake Up and Be Fine.  Read our full review here.

18. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves

Former Ariel Pink collaborator John Maus has plunged deep into the murky waters of the early 1980s to deliver one of the most stark, fascinating and strangely enjoyable slices of synth pop you will hear all year. Among our highlights on this, his third album, is the track ‘Cop Killer’. Read our full review here.

17. The Leisure Society  – Into The Murky Water

This second album by The Leisure Society gives us the urge to jump in our Neon Filler branded Morris Minor, dress up in our  Prisoner gear and take a dip in the murky waters of Bognor Regis or Portmerion, stopping off for some fish and chips and a pickled egg. This eccentric, most English of albums was one of the highlights of our summer. Read our full review here.

16. Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin On

Featuring core multi-instrumentalist members Taylor Kirk, Mika Posen and Simon Trottier this peach of an album by Canada’s Timber Timbre seems to inhabit another universe where 1950’s B-movie soundtracks and dirty rock and roll rule supreme. It’s a strange mix that works thanks to Kirk’s soulfully odd (or should that be oddly soulful) vocals and the added instrumentation of pianist Mathieu Charbonneau and saxophonist Colin Stetson to add to its vintage charm. Read our full review here.

15. Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell – Kite

Just like the Mercury nominations we like to feature a new folk act in our end of year round ups. This year’s slot goes to the excellent Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell. Nominated for a 2011 BBC Folk horizon award, given to emerging new talent, they have clearly caught the ear of Radio 2’s Mike Harding and his production team. Rachel Unthank and her husband Adrian McNally are also admirers and produced this wonderful debut from the pair  in Northumberland. Read our full review here.

14. Singing Adams – Everybody Friends Now

This debut album from former Broken Family Band man Steven Adams’ latest project was one of the best indie-pop releases of the year, mixing Adams’ clever and poignant lyrics with a fine bunch of melodies. His band are a bunch of seasoned indie and alternative musicians and live they are well drilled outfit. We have been so impressed that they topped our Top Ten bands to watch out for in 2012 list. Our highlights on this excellent album include the singles I Need Your Mind and Injured Party. Read our full review here.

13. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

With its stripped back feel, punctuated with squealing electric guitars and flutes, Apocalypse can be an unsettling listen at times, but not for too long as Callahan’s luxuriously deep voice has a calming influence and can easily draw you back to normality.  Read our full review here.

12. Battles – Gloss Drop

There are so many striking aspects to Gloss Drop, the follow up to the crazy, cartoonified thrill ride that was Battles’ last album Mirrored.  The range of singers including Gary Numan, the sense of fun and above all some superb drumming are just some that immediately spring to mind. Read our full review here.

11. David Lowery  – The Palace Guards

The Palace Guards is the first solo album from  Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front-man David Lowery. It’s taken a while to come out but  its been worth the wait. This is among the best work from one of alternative music’s most engaging songwriters. Read our full review here.

10. The Miserable Rich – Miss You In The Days

Three albums in and The Miserable Rich are really hitting their stride as one of the UK’s most innovative acts, mixing compelling story telling with chamber pop and most importantly some damn fine tunes. Among the highlights on this their third album is the swirling Ringing the Changes. Read our full review here.

9. Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?

This  solo album from New Pornographer Calder has the professionalism and confidence you’d expect from a seasoned performer and her personality shines through lifting it above the norm and adding real charm to proceedings. The album was recorded while looking after her mother who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. This gives the album an underlying sense of melancholy in places that adds an emotional depth few songwriters can manage. Read our full review here.

8. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s song writing and survival instincts grow stronger with each release.  With three different producers there’s a surprising consistency as he exposes his hidden demons and offers up  some bittersweet tales of the famous along the way, from Charles Bronson to Judy Garland.  Uplifting stuff.  Read our full review here.

7. Low – C’Mon

C’mon may just be this year’s great American album, with echoes of Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons throughout. With very precise production from Matt Beckley and the band,  which is fronted by husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, they have created an album that is melancholy, epic and just plain beautiful in places. Read our full review here.

6. Destroyer – Kaputt

An immaculate attention detail in recreating the sounds and production of the 1980s has helped Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) become the second member of Canadian super group The New Pornographers to enter our Top 20.  Bejar has never sounded better as he takes the role of world weary rock star reminiscing in style. Part New Order, part Prefab Sprout, this is arguably his best album to date.  Read our full review here.

5. Wilco – The Whole Love

Wilco - The Whole Love

The Whole Love is probably closest in style to previous album Wilco (The Album) but  that little bit better. It also shows  a band at the peak of its powers, playing with confidence, inventiveness and real skill. You get the pop Wilco, the rock Wilco, the experimental Wilco and the soft melodic Wilco, all of which adds up to one of the most satisfying releases of the year. Read our full review here.

4. Luke Haines – 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s and Early 1980s.

Luke Haines Wrestling

The former Auteur and author of the excellent  book Bad Vibes returns from a two year recording break to turn his attention to the world of British wrestling from around 30 years ago. Witty, concise, well executed and completely unlike any other album we’ve heard this year. Haines clearly isn’t quite ready to throw the towel in just yet on his recording career. Read our full review here.

3. Darren Hayman – January Songs

Busy doesn’t even come close to describing  Darren Hayman’s year. He was involved in the  Vostok 5 art exhibition and album about space explorers, released an album of piano ballads  The Ships Piano, plays bass in Rotifer and  is involved in all sorts of Christmas releases for  Fika Recordings. His crowning achievement though for us was to write,  record and release a song a day during January. The end product January Songs, which is available to download and from January 2012 in CD format, contains some of the former Hefner frontman’s best work and offered a  great example of social media interaction between artist and audience, who helped him along the way with lyrics and ideas.  Read our full review here.

2. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

Thanks to production from Beck the former Pavement frontman has ditched some of his rock star, guitar squealing cliches to reveal one of  his best albums for years and certainly his best since his Pavement glory days. The finely honed  single The Senator is among our many highlights. Read our full review here.

1. Boston Spaceships – Let It Beard

Let It Beard

Narrowly pipping Stephen Malkmus to the top spot is another veteran of the 1990s US alternative music scene, Robert Pollard and his act Boston Spaceships. The album echoes a number of Pollard’s favourite classic acts, the Beatles are in there, but it is The Who that are the most obvious influence on this guitar drenched album. It has the Pollard stamp throughout and you can’t imagine anyone else producing a record quite like this now, or any time in the last 30 years. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

See also: Spotify - Neonfiller.com’s Best of 2011 Spotify List.


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The Worst and Best Ever Collaborations In Music

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The Worst and Best Ever Collaborations In Music

Posted on 07 October 2011 by Joe

After hearing a brief clip of ageing rock dinosaurs Metallica and Lou Reed’s album it got us thinking about some of the best and worst collaborations in music.

Lou Reed and Metallica

Sometimes giants of rock can get together with startlingly good results, other times these musical link ups end up being complete tosh.

Among our list of terrible partnerships we’ve got a former glamour model and an iconic heavy metal act, a country music great’s flirtation with house music and the most absurd take on Mozart you are ever likely to hear.

Among our best of collection we have one of the best indie dance crossovers of all time and a transatlantic tribute to one of the great pioneers of US music.

 Top Five Terrible Collaborations In Music

5. Jack White and the Insane Clown Posse

Jack White and Insane Clown Posse cover Mozart. What on earth can go right? This mess is as bad as you’d expect. I think both ICP and Jack White thought it’d be funny, but as Tomservo3 who posted it on Youtube says “it was fun to listen to the first few times, but listening to it again it’s just getting boring.”

4. Tammy Wynette and KLF

There’s something chilling about Tammy Wynette singing lines such as “they’re justified and they’re ancient” alongside this house revamp by KLF of their track Justified& Ancient. Wynette puts on a good front and her pay cheque must have been nice as this turned out to be a mega hit, but deep down she must have been wondering what the hell she was doing there. The track, renamed Justified and Ancient (Stand by The Jams), is a terrifying mash up of styles and a welcome entry into our terrible collaborations list.  But hey, it reached number one in 18 countries, so what do we know anyway?

 3. Sam Fox and Hawkwind

For those of you who didn’t have to grow up in the UK and much of Europe in the 1980s Sam Fox has probably passed you by. The former glamour model found  unlikely fame as a kind of soft rock singer across Europe as her modelling career wavered. Along the way she teamed up with metal dinosaurs Hawkwind for a homelessness charity version of the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter. While I applaud their sentiments the only way this link up was ever going to earn money was if music fans paid them to stop doing it.

2. Metallica and Lou Reed

These giant craggy dinosaurs of rock met at a rock and roll hall of fame event in 2009 and hit it off as they performed a terrible, squealing guitar version of Sweet Jane together. Two years on and they have an album out called Lulu “inspired by German expressionist writer Frank Wedekind’s plays Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box, which tell the story of a young abused dancer’s life and relationships”, says their website. This is every bit as dire as you can imagine, with the end result essentially Lou Reed talking inanely over squealing guitars.


1. Lemonheads and Kate Moss – Dirty Robot

We got a bit of a ticking off a while back from Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando’s mum for suggesting that his 2009 album of covers Varshons was terrible. For us this version of Dutch duo Arling & Cameron’s Dirty Robot, improbably featuring model Kate Moss on vocals, was an all time career low for Dando. Nevertheless Evan’s mum raved about Moss’s efforts. We’ve revisited it and sadly have to confirm it’s still terrible. “I don’t care for your bleeps and bloops. Go away, why don’t you just shut up” sings Kate on this track. Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Top Five Excellent Collaborations In Music.

5. Morrissey and Siouxsie Sioux

Interlude, originally recorded by Timi Yuro in 1968 was among a number of covers presented by Morrissey to Siouxsie for a possible collaboration. They agreed this fitted their styles perfectly and the two got on famously during the recording.  But divas that they are, they soon fell out and even refused to film a video together. EMI finally released this winter track improbably in the summer of 1994. It still reached number number 25 in the UK singles charts. Great stuff from two of the most iconic figures in UK music.

4. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and PJ Harvey – Henry Lee

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 1996 album Murder Ballads is packed with excellent collaborations, with Kylie Minogue and Shane McGowan among those excelling across these epic crime tales. For us though its PJ Harvey’s duet with Cave on the traditional Henry Lee that is the standout track. They sing this like they really mean  it, with their performances oozing emotion throughout.

 3.Teenage Fanclub & De La Soul – Fallin’.

1993’s Judgement Night was a film soundtrack with a twist. Every track was a collobaration between a hip-hop artist and a rock act. Somehow Teenage Fanclub found there way into the project and their collaboration Fallin’ with De La Soul is the best of the bunch. Laid back, summery, this will take anyone of a certain age right back to the mid 1990s.

2. Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

Narrowly, and I mean very narrowly this missed out on top spot. MacColl and Pogue’s frontman Shane MacGowan’s voices are wondrous for this love song that ended up a Christmas hit in 1987 and for many years to come. There’s an added poignancy as the years roll by due to McColl’s untimely death in 2000. This is as perfect as a duet can be.

1. Wilco and Billy Bragg

Wilco and Billy Bragg’s two volume collaboration to add music to Woody Guthrie’s lyrics has the edge over all the others for the sheer effort and love involved in the project. They also ended up creating some of the best songs of either of their careers including California Stars and one of our Top Ten Tracks About Being A Parent Hoodoo Voodoo.


by Joe Lepper, with ideas from Nic Newman, Barnaby Salton and Dorian Rogers

 

 

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Wilco – The Whole Love

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Wilco – The Whole Love

Posted on 30 September 2011 by Dorian

Sky Blue Sky, Wilco’s 2007 album, turned out to be a significant turning point for the band. Out went the experimentation and angst that had made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born so exciting, and in came a pastoral rootsy feel and a more relaxed outlook. It also marked the first album by a line-up that would prove to be the most stable in Wilco’s 16 year (and counting) career.

At first this was a disappointment, but as that album’s many strengths became apparent it became a firm favourite. Conversely Wilco (The Album) in 2009 initially impressed me with the variety of sounds on show, but has been the Wilco album I have listened to least since their debut record A.M. The Whole Love is probably closest in style to Wilco (The Album), but it does everything just that little bit better and is one of the most enjoyable albums of the year so far.

Wilco - The Whole Love

Bookending the album are two of the best songs in the Wilco catalogue, each reflecting the different sides of Jeff Tweedy’s musical palette. ‘Art of Almost’ is in the vein of ‘Spiders (Kidsmoke)’ or ‘Bull Black Nova’ with the steady rhythms and a motorik groove building to a dissonant coda. At over seven minutes it is some way shorter than the closing track ‘One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend’ which is all calm and beautifully subtle guitars that seems to fly by despite being more than 12 minutes in length.

Between these two long tracks sit ten songs that seem to span the whole Wilco career, not just the classic rock sounds of Sky Blue Sky or the experimentation of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot but also the fuzzy pop of Summerteeth and some of the genre hopping confidence of Being There (the album that originally demonstrated what a force to be reckoned with the band are).

Nels Kline is a great guitarist and all three guitar players put in sterling work throughout. In general Nels Kline keeps his guitar antics at bay on this album, and when he does let rip the results are more interesting than before, the squeaky discord of the solo on ‘Dawned On Me’ being a case in point.

That doesn’t mean that the band have totally forgotten how to rock. ‘Standing O’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album and makes me wish that the band would up the pace and volume more often. You just know that this song is going to be a highlight of the bands’ excellent live show.

That said, the softer more acoustic songs are a joy as well, the aforementioned ‘One Sunday Morning…’ and ‘Rising Red Lung’ being as pretty and well played as anything you’ll hear all year. “Sumptuous”, I think, is the word to use here.

Wilco
It isn’t just the guitar work that deserves a mention, all the band play a considerable part in the songs. The rhythm section of Glenn Kotche and john Stirratt (the only original member other than Tweedy) are steady, tight and inventive throughout ogften offering more of a groove than people might expect. Refreshingly the bands keyboard players get a stronger roll this time around which gives the album more depth and also plays to the more pop orientated tendencies on ‘I Might’ and ‘Dawned On Me’.

The quality is very high throughout, with only the faux music hall of ‘Capital City’ not quite working (Tweedy has done this kind of thing much better before), and even that example is by no means a bad song. It would be churlish to complain about any minor missteps on an album this good, by a band that is playing with confidence, inventiveness and real skill. You get the pop Wilco, the rock Wilco, the experimental Wilco and the soft melodic Wilco, all of which adds up to one of the most satisfying releases of the year so far.

Physical CD purchasers (yes we still exist…just) can pick up a special edition of the album that features a colour booklet and a second CD featuring four bonus tracks.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 100 Albums (The Top 10)

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Top 100 Albums (The Top 10)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

So here it is. After two months of releasing this list in stages we’ve finally arrived at our Top 10 indie and alternative albums. Hope you enjoy this final instalment. Feel free to browse through the rest of the top 100 here and leave a comment about some of your favourites.

10. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses


This debut by The Stone Roses is an old fashioned album, full of 1960s influences. This is perhaps unsurprising given it was produced by John Leckie, whose previous efforts include two albums by XTC’s psychedelic alter egos Dukes of Stratosphear. Yet in 1989 when it was released it sounded like the most exciting and different album for years.  Decades on and it’s lost none of its energy and is arguably the best album to emerge from the so called ‘baggy’ scene of late 1980s Manchester. Highlights include the indie-dancebility of final track ‘I Am The Resurrection’, ‘Waterfall ‘and its backwards companion piece ‘Don’t Stop’, and ‘She Bangs the Drum’. In an interview with Quietus Leckie, who is the most name checked producer in our Top 100, explains that the album’s success was down to the band’s confidence and open minded approach to making music. “They seemed to have had experience, they were very well rehearsed and they wanted to try lots of things. But they weren’t frightened,” says Leckie.

9. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

After an underwhelming debut with 1995’s AM Jeff Tweedy’s post-Uncle Tupelo band have released a string of brilliant records from 1996’s Being There through to 2009’s Wilco (The Album). Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the album that demonstrates all that is good about America’s best rock n roll band. Recorded with a line-up that featured the late Jay Bennett, the multi-instrumentalist who would leave the band prior to the albums release (tensions during the recording are brilliantly documented in Sam Jones’ film ‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart’). The album earned the band the tag of the alt-country Radiohead due to the more experimental production techniques and sounds used by producer Jim O’Rourke. The albums reputation as being challenging is more down to the record labels reaction (and refusal to release it) than it is to the songs themselves. ‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart’ has a weird feel and an erratic beat and ‘Radio Cure’ has an uncomfortable starkness but most of the record is very accessible and features some of the bands best realised songs. ‘Kamera’, ‘War On War’, ‘I’m The Man That Loves You’ and ‘Heavy Metal Drummer’ are all great catchy tunes that sit comfortably with the more cerebral tracks.

8. Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand

Bee Thousand, originally released in 1994, represented a turning point for Robert Pollard’s Guided By Voices. It was intended as the band’s swansong due to the lack of attention and money their previous five albums had garnered. The album was recorded in various basements, rather than the studio, and was primarily the work of Pollard and Tobin Sprout (with various members of the “classic line-up” pitching in). The songs were recorded in just a few takes on to simple 4-track equipment and the rough and ready sound is one of the album’s charms. Guided By Voices albums from this time are an acquired taste, with half formed song snippets sitting alongside  rough diamond pop classics like ‘I Am A Scientist’ and ‘Echos Myron’. However, this is all part of the magic formula that makes Bee Thousand so special. There are no songwriters out there like Robert Pollard, no bands like Guided By Voices and no albums like Bee Thousand – this is a pretty special record.

7. The B-52s- The B-52s


Two years after performing their first gig at a Valentine’s Day party in 1977 in their hometown of Georgia, Athens, the B-52s self titled debut hit the stores. It was a sleeper hit in 1979 reaching 59 in the US Billboard 200 but has since been widely recognised as one of the best alternative albums of all time. Blending new wave, punk, 1950’s sci-fi kitsch and Duane Eddy style guitar playing the tracks have a strange timeless feel. Above all they are fun. There’s some silly stuff like ‘Rock Lobster’, but tracks like ‘Hero Worship’ and ‘Dance This Mess Around’ are serious, emotional stuff and showcase the powerful vocal talents of singer Cindy Wilson. For more about The B-52s read our Top Ten Artists That Changed Our Lives feature here.

6. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise

Sufjan Stevens probably regrets his claim that he would release an album for every American state, a feat that would be difficult to achieve and probably not an enjoyable or ultimately successful task. Illinois is his second and, thus far, last in the series. Nobody likes a show-off but it is hard to resent Steven’s ability to play every instrument under the sun when he produces music as wonderful as this in the process. The album covers a sprawling 22 eccentrically titled tracks ranging from the soft and sombre (‘Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois’) to the exuberant and celebratory (‘Come on! Feel the Illinoise!: Pt. 1: The World’s Columbian Exposition’). The album tells an expansive story about the people, places and history of the state and listening to the album is like being taken on an exciting road trip. The brilliant ‘Chicago’ has been used on many a soundtrack, but for me the desert island pick from the album is ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’ a song so sad and beautifully played that it made it to number 1 in our Top 10 Tearjerkers chart.

5. Lemonheads – Shame About Ray



Shame About Ray from 1992 is a masterclass in making two to three minute pop songs. Across its tight-as-you-like 12 tracks (bumped to 13 on reissues to include their excellent cover of ‘Mrs Robinson’) each is perfect indie pop. An album you can listen to from start to finish can be rare thing, but an album with 12 (13) potential singles that still retains an alternative edge is worthy of a Top Ten place in anyone’s indie and alternative books. The title track is an undoubted highlight, but each has its own merit, from the hooky ‘Alison’s Starting to Happen’ to the cover of ‘Frank Mills’, from the film and stage play Hair. We’ve been listening to this a lot in preparing for this list and are staggered each time at the energy and consistency of  this fifth album from the band

4. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes

When Gordon Gano, Victor DeLorenzo and Brian Ritchie took their busking trio intro the studio to record their debut album it is unlikely that they could have realised what an iconic record they were producing. Their acoustic blend of Lou Reed, the Modern Lovers and punk crackles with youthful angst and pent up anger over the tens songs here. ‘Blister In The Sun’ must be the most shamelessly ripped off tune in advertising and bursts the album into life, and ‘Add It Up’ stands as an indie disco classic due to the stark dropping of the f-bomb early on in the track. The album has more subtle moments and album closer ‘Good Feeling’ is sad, simple and honest. The band would release more good songs throughout their career but they could never quite match up to a debut as perfect as this one. The 20th anniversary reissue is a lovely package with demos, early singles and a live concert on the second disc.

3. XTC – Drums and Wires


Following the departure of keyboardist Barry Andrews in 1978 XTC opted for guitarist and fellow Swindon resident Dave Gregory to replace him. It turned into the making of the band, transforming XTC from a quirky, tight new wave outfit to a bonafide great English rock and pop act. Drums and Wires from 1979 was the first album to feature Gregory and his 1960s influenced electric guitar style as well as a new bigger drums sound, hence the title. It also gave the band far greater chart prominence through singles such as ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ , while losing none of their creativity.  Tracks such as ‘Complicated Game’ and Roads Girdle the Globe’ are among the most inventive you will hear in this Top 100. Amazing what a band can achieve with some drums and a bunch of wires. For more about XTC read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

2. Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs

Stephin Merritt originally conceived this album as being 100 Love Songs before scaling back the idea out of practicality as well as adopting the rather appropriately more salacious number of tracks. Released as triple album, each disc containing 23 songs, it was an incredibly ambitious undertaking. Each track deals with a different aspect of love and relationships and the album covers a wide range of styles from piano ballads to synth-pop to jazz to noise and beyond. Merritt’s wry gay new Yorker personality could overwhelm you over so many tracks and he wisely uses a team of vocalists (two male, two female) to record a selection of the songs. This adds depth to the record but also a more universal feel; relationships are kept unclear so that as a listener you can’t tell if the protagonist is singing to another man or woman. The result is that songs like the sprightly ‘I Need A New Heart’, the downbeat ‘I Don’t Believe In The Sun’ or the vicious ‘Yeah, Oh Yeah’ can speak to anyone.

1.The Clash  – London Calling


Tommy Tomkins excellent book on London Calling sums up the album perfectly as being about ” roots, with a sense of place.” For the band the roots were not just in London, but across the globe, especially through singer Joe Strummer and bassist Paul Simenon’s love of Caribbean and US culture. The range of styles on London Calling from punk to rock to blues to reggae showed The Clash to be arguably the most mature and musical act to emerge from the UK punk scene. This double album has gone on to receive widespread critical acclaim and we are delighted to add our voices to that. From the pounding bass line of the title track, heartfelt lyrics of ‘Lost in the Supermarket’ and pop savvyness of ‘Train in Vain’ London Calling still thrills us decades after its 1979 release. Read our full review of London Calling here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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End of the Road Festival, Sept 2010

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End of the Road Festival, Sept 2010

Posted on 22 September 2010 by Joe

The End of the Road Festival is one of the UK’s most eclectic musical events, where folk, Americana and indie rock come together across the three day event in the Larmer Gardens of Dorset.  Here is Neon Filler’s day by day review of the 2010 event, where our editor Dorian Rogers and photographer Zeina Clare got to see among others Wilco, Modest Mouse and Darren Hayman.

Thursday

Arriving on the Thursday, before the official festival start time, proved to be a smart move. The tent was pitched in dry sunny weather, and things were relatively quiet. It was a good opportunity to check out the festival site before things kicked off in earnest.

First impressions were very good, the site is very well laid out, enough space without being sprawling, and a very pleasant atmosphere. The food and drink  is excellent, good quality and reasonably priced. This may not seem a top priority but for anyone (like me) who has only gone to ATP for the last few years that is a real bonus. No Burger King or low quality fish and chips anywhere.

End of the Road Festival Library

So, to the real business, the music. Thursday night only had a few acts playing. By the time we got settled and to the tent Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan were drawing to a close. By the reception they received it had a good performance. But one of the nice things about the festival “vibe” was that the crowd were attentive and appreciative in general.

Next up were the charmingly named Allo Darlin’. They played an excellent and upbeat set of the kind of indie pop that you don’t hear around much anymore. Pitched somewhere between Hefner and Go Sailor they flew through a batch of poppy bouncy numbers and set a pretty high standard for bands to follow. Their habit of throwing in snatches of other peoples songs (including an brilliant tune about Weezer) may be foolish from a royalties point of view, but it was a lot of fun.

Up last was Neon Filler favourite Darren Hayman. He was playing his fifth set in five years of the festival. He is the house band equivalent of Shellac at ATP. Most people in the street aren’t going to know his name, but to EotR regulars he is a must see act.

Darren Hayman

His set was pretty special. Accompanied for most songs but a lone fiddler (with later songs backed by members of Allo Darlin’) he played a set that was Hefner heavy with a number of solo songs as well. Hefner classics went down a storm but his solo songs were just as strong. Hearing him live I was reminded of what a brilliant and unique song writer he is. The perfect start to a festival like this.

Today is looking pretty packed with stuff to see and a race from stage to stage will be in order later to make sure to see enough of Modest Mouse and not miss a minute of The New Pornographers. With The Mountain Goats, Edwyn Collins, Here We Go Magic and more on stage (plus the prospect of some secret surprise slots) it looks like a great day ahead. And maybe the sun will come out as well.

Friday

The second day of the festival (the first proper day) was an opportunity to get a sense of the festival environment. Larmer Tree Gardens are a beautiful and unique place to hold an event like this. It may not be very rock and roll but seeing peacocks on top of a mock Tudor house or a makeshift library erected in a woodland clearing beats a muddy field as a place to spend your time.

Walking through the various hidden environments is pretty magical, whether you are discovering a decorated vintage car or playing the piano on a theatre set style Victorian drawing room. Of all the festival sites I have been to this is certainly the most charming, and a great place to hang out whilst waiting for the music to start.

First up was Australian oddity CW Stoneking. His music is a strange timewarp jazz blues and manages to be extremely enjoyable without slipping into pastiche. You get the sense that he thinks he is living in that era and we are the people who are out of time. He looks like he should be playing in a band on a cruise ship in an early “talkie”. Great stuff.

CW Stoneking

The southern hemisphere delivered more rewards next with New Zealand’s The Ruby Suns playing a set that had the appeal of an edgier Vampire Weekend (without the preppy style) and really should have been on later in the day to get the people dancing.

Early evening saw The Mountain Goats take to the main garden stage. Their performance was skilled and spirited but did lack something. It may have been my lack of familiarity with their songs, or the limitations of the guitar, bass, drums arrangements but it didn’t quite grab me. The next act on stage, Wolf Parade, was a different story. I stared off half listening to them as we explored the woods some more but was soon drawn in to watch the end of the set. A brilliant big sound and, along with CW Stoneking, my personal discovery of the day.

Modest Mouse are an odd choice of headliner for an event like this. Their live sound can be a little rough and ready and I imagine that beyond ‘Float On’ their songs haven’t permeated the general consciousness that much. They played a good set, tighter than I have seen them before and a good choice of songs. Isaac Brock is one of the most menacing singers around and his howl and growl was in excellent shape. A little more audience communication would have been nice, but he doesn’t strike me as the chatty type.

The end of Modest Mouse was abandoned so that I could see a few songs by Edwyn Collins. I’ve never been a big fan but have enjoyed his hits and didn’t want to miss seeing a living legend(ish) take to the stage. Accompanied by an odd looking band, including Sex Pistol Paul Cook, he was in good voice. Seated throughout due to the brain haemorrhage he suffered he struggled to speak clearly but could sing as well as ever. The band played well and the finale of ‘A Girl Like You’ was a lot of fun, although the soloing heroics of his lead guitarist was perhaps a little laboured.

The New Pornographers Sign A Fan's Arm

The end of the night (for me anyway, the festival continued for hours after) was Canadian power pop troupe The New Pornographers. AC Newman’s act is for me the best buitar pop act since Blondie, and I am bemused that they aren’t one of the biggest bands on the planet. On the night they didn’t disappoint. In their core form (Neko Case and Dan Bejar not present) they blasted through pop classic after pop classic from opener ‘Sing Me Spanish Techno’ to the finale of ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’ they didn’t put a foot wrong. Newman is a more awkward figure than his records suggest but a capable front man who lets the songs do the talking. Kathryn Calder is an amazing vocalist in support of Newman and handled Neko Case’s parts brilliantly, Kurt Dahle is a great classic drummer who isn’t afraid to miss the odd beat if he can do some stick spinning or throw one in the air.

Day three looks to be another classic, with the rain kindly appearing overnight and clearing in the morning. The big clash of the day is between Iron and Wine and Brakes, but having that kind of choice to make is no bad thing.

Saturday

Blogging a bit later today due to seeing “TV’s Russell Howard” in the comedy pavilion, and being distracted by the lawn scrabble tournament…

Saturday started with further exploration of the garden area of the site. The comedy pavilion was discovered, the croquet lawn and, best of all, the illuminated woodland dance floor. The dance floor would be returned to later, but most of the day was spent in front of the main garden stage seeing some of the best music so far.

Initial signs weren’t good, neither Forest Fire or Snowman really grabbed me. Giving up on the main stages for a while I enjoyed some pleasant, if a little twee, folk from Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrel in the Tipi Tent. This was enough to cheer me and send me back into the sun in search of some bigger sounds.

Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrel

It was when Phosphorescent hit the stage at 3.15 that things started to come together. They are a band I’d heard of, but never been tempted to listen to before. They are a country rock combo, shades of The Band and Sunday’s headliners Wilco about their set. It was a great show and the first set I’ve seen that has made me go straight to buy the album from the merchandise stall. Brilliant stuff. They were followed by the similar, but distinctly less hairy, Deer Tick for another superb set. The best two hours of the festival so far.

The Unthanks proved to be a nice change of pace, their Northern folk was superbly performed and I doubt I’ll see any better clog dancing all weekend. Bonus marks go for some of the best audience patter yet.

After a bit of a fan boy dalliance at the signing tent (all three of Yo La Tengo’s signatures!) it was time to make some difficult decisions. First up Brakes or Iron and Wine? I chose to be loyal to one of the few British acts on the bill and see Brakes. I’ll never know if it was the right decision, but I can’t imagine that Iron and Wine would have been as much fun. Full pelt, daft and entertaining it was as close to moshing as I’ve got in a long time and a perfect festival tent set.

The next decision was easier, Black Mountain or Yo La Tengo? I’d have liked to have seen Black Mountain but a long standing love of Yo La Tengo drew me to the Garden Stage. The set was good but doesn’t rank as a festival classic. Was it necessary to play such a long version of Sun Ra’s ‘Nuclear War’ that early on? How often do we need to be treated to an identi-kit guitar feedback breakdown? Probably not as often as we were. When it was good it was great and the trio (Georgia brilliant on the drums) made a pretty glorious noise.

Time to give the bands a rest and out for some dancing. First to the illuminated disco floor for some student disco classics and then on to “The Local” to see Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker spin some discs. Jarvis shaded it on the night, his tunes were that bit more fun and he looked to be enjoying himself. Hawley was in the right though when he looked disgusted at Jarvis playing Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name Of”, it really is a terrible record.

The write up of day 4 will have to wait until I get home. I think it is pretty safe to say that Wilco will be brilliant. One of the best live bands around playing one of the nicest stages.

Sunday

Sunday started with a trip to the comedy pavilion. An early start was essential to beat the crowds to see Russell Howard. The opportunity to see a big name comic in a small venue seemed too good to miss. The reality was somewhat disappointing. He was funny enough, but really didn’t seem that enthusiastic to be there and got away as soon as he could. The compere, Gordon Southern, was much better and managed to keep the crowd laughing harder than the bigger name to follow.

A fairly relaxed approach to seeing the music followed for a few hours. Sitting in the sun watching the Sunday scrabble and spotting exotic birds was a perfect way to hear the music drifting from the main stage. Smoke Fairies worked particularly well, their Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention sound drifting through the gardens.

Philip Selway

The first focused band watch of the day was Radiohead’s Philip Selway in the Big Top tent. His set was very professional, but it was by some distance the dullest set of the weekend. His songs were fine, if unremarkable, but his early career decision not to be a front man was definitely the right move. I wish I had gone to see Singing Adams. When I abandoned Philip Selway I could hear the crowd going wild at the finale to his set.

After further exploration, some food and a drink at the tent it was time to get in position at the main stage for the final three acts of the day. First up, The Felice Brothers and early signs weren’t good. They seemed a bit flat, and the songs weren’t grabbing me. Halfway through the set things really started to pick up and they turned into an Americana party band. The most enthusiastic washboard playing I think I’ve ever seen, and a lot of fun.

The Low Anthem

I purchased The Low Anthem’s album after a series of rave reviews, but I wasn’t overly impressed by it. After seeing them live I will be returning to it with a renewed enthusiasm. The performance was one of the best of the weekend and captivated me from start to finish. The final song, sung by the four band members crowded round a single microphone, may well be the best single performance of the weekend. Magical stuff.

Wilco don’t seem capable of playing a bad set, and they played a set that was deserving of closing the festival main stage. It rocked from start to finish, no mucking about and some fantastic guitar heroics throughout. I’m hard pressed to think of a better live guitar act around and the packed garden crowd lapped it up. The only criticism I have is the lack of their “poppier” numbers from the set. It would have been nice to hear ‘Can’t Stand It’, ‘Wilco (the song)’ or ‘Kamera’ amongst the rockier numbers, Tweedy can write brilliant pop music and it gets neglected in their live shows. That is just a small criticism though of what was a pretty flawless performance.

And for me at least that was my festival over. It really is a unique and pretty special festival. The music was fantastic and the environment pretty magical. Money permitting I’ll be back next year to do it all over again.

Word and pictures by Dorian Rogers,  additional pictures by Zeina Clare

More pictures can be found at our Facebook page here.

Sunday started with a trip to the comedy pavilion. An early start was essential to beat the crowds to see Russell Howard. The opportunity to see a big name comic in a small venue seemed too good to miss. The reality was somewhat disappointing. He was funny enough, but really didn't seem that enthusiastic to be there and got away as soon as he could. The compere, Gordon Southern, was much better and managed to keep the crowd laughing harder than the bigger name to follow.

A fairly relaxed approach to seeing the music followed for a few hours. Sitting in the sun watching the Sunday scrabble and spotting exotic birds was a perfect way to hear the music drifting from the main stage. Smoke Fairies worked particularly well, their Sandy Denny era Fairport Convention sound drifting through the gardens.

The first focused band watch of the day was Radiohead's Philip Selway in the Big Top tent. His set was very professional, but it was by some distance the dullest set of the weekend. His songs were fine, if unremarkable, but his early career decision not to be a front man was definitely the right move. I wish I had gone to see Singing Adams. When I abandoned Philip Selway I could hear the crowd going wild at the finale to his set. 

After further exploration, some food and a drink at the tent it was time to get in position at the main stage for the final three acts of the day. First up, The Felice Brothers and early signs weren't good. They seemed a bit flat, and the songs weren't grabbing me. Halfway through the set things really started to pick up and they turned into an Americana party band. The most enthusiastic washboard playing I think I've ever seen, and a lot of fun. 

I purchased The Low Anthem's album after a series of rave reviews, but I wasn't overly impressed by it. After seeing them live I will be returning to it with a renewed enthusiasm. The performance was one of the best of the weekend and captivated me from start to finish. The final song, sung by the four band members crowded round a single microphone, may well be the best single performance of the weekend. Magical stuff.

Wilco don't seem capable of playing a bad set, and they played a set that was deserving of closing the festival main stage. It rocked from start to finish, no mucking about and some fantastic guitar heroics throughout. I'm hard pressed to think of a better live guitar act around and the packed garden crowd lapped it up. The only criticism I have is the lack of their "poppier" numbers from the set. It would have been nice to hear 'Can't Stand It', 'Wilco (the song)' or 'Kamera' amongst the rockier numbers, Tweedy can write brilliant pop music and it gets neglected in their live shows. That is just a small criticism though of what was a pretty flawless performance.

And for me at least that was my festival over.

It really is a unique and pretty special festival. The music was fantastic and the environment pretty magical. Money permitting I'll be back next year to do it all over again.

Here below (for what its worth) is my top ten acts of the festival.

1. Wilco
2. Brakes
3. The Low Anthem
4. The New Pornographers
5. Phosphorescent
6. Allo Darlin'
7. Darren Hayman
8. Deer Tick
9. The Unthanks
10. Modest Mouse
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Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Joe

Critical and commercial success for 2002′s album Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and two grammys for 2004′s A Ghost is Born has arguably placed Wilco among the giants of modern alternative rock.

The rule that applies to members of this elite is that new releases get event status and Wilco (the album)  – the band’s seventh studio album  – is no exception.

Expectation has been high; especially as Wilco’s previous album 2007′s Sky Blue Sky received such a lukewarm critical reception, with the likes of Pitchfork deriding it as “dad-rock.”

The question some critics and fans were beginning to ask was had the band peaked? Judging from Wilco (the album) the answer is an emphatic “no”.

Wilco (the album) shows a band basking in self-assurance, unafraid to straddle genres ranging from country folk to 60s New York underground through to 70s Californian rock.

The title alone shows the confidence in the way the band have approached the album.
As does opening track, you guessed it, called ‘Wilco (the song)’, a Velvet Underground inspired chugging anthem that pays tribute to the bands’ fans and is sure to win over others. With tongue in cheek lyrics such as, “put on your headphones before you explode,Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love ya, baby,” this is a storming, uplifting  first track.

Next up the alternative country edge comes in on ‘Deeper Down’ and ‘One Wing’, which both showcase guitarist Nels Cline’s beautiful arrangements.

Fourth track ‘Bull Black Nova’ is a rollercoaster of 70s rock, with the final quarter taken up by an extended frenetic instrumental and wailing vocal segment, more Deep Purple than deep south.

At just over five minutes ‘Bull Black Nova’ is not long in the grand scheme of things, but the wailing does grate after a while and feels longer when sandwiched between the softer ‘One Wing’ and next track ‘You and I’, a sickly, syrupy sweet duet with Leslie Fiest.

On first listen ‘You and I’ felt like a disappointment. Far too sweet, far too much like the Eagles and a waste of Leslie Fiest’s distinctive voice. But after a few more listens my opinion turned. It’s the one I keep humming and at its heart it is just a good old-fashioned love song.

The remaining tracks are far from filler status as some forum commentators have said.
‘You Never Know’ is a George Harrison inspired track, the first to be released as a single (albeit on vinyl only). The more folk orientated ‘Solitaire’ is steeped in the music of Nick Drake and Elliot Smith and ‘Sonny Feeling’ evokes the music of Big Star.

Final track ‘Everlasting Everything’ with its orchestral flourishes and Eric Clapton-esque guitar is another highlight as is the Rolling Stones sounding ‘I’ll Fight’.

Wilco (the album) shows a band at one with itself, happy with its elite alternative rock status and confident of its talents. It is likely to give Wilco a far broader appeal and could, dare we predict, even eclipse the commercial success of the 590,000 selling Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, while still appealing to its loyal fans.

9/10

by Joe Lepper, July 2009

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