Monday, December 29, 2008

funfunfun's Favourite Albums Of 2008 (15-5)

Merry Christmas readers! Hope you had a pleasant and relaxing festive time. I know I did.
But it is now that time again when me and every other person in the world compiles a list of their favourite albums of the year so lets get on with it.
This year's been great for music. There's been so many interesting and original albums released and even those which steal others ideas have been great too. There's only going to be a mp3 attached with the album if there's one freely available, I don't want to get trouble with them record labels. I'm going to skip quickly past the first five on my list, mainly because I've left this quite late and also because it gives me more time to write about the better ones, so here it is:

15) Fleet Foxes - Fleet F
14) Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules & Love Affair
13) Johnny Flynn - A Larum
12) Neon Neon -
Stainless Style
11) Vampire Week
end - Vampire Weekend

10) TV On The Radio - Dear Science
I'd never really been into TV On The Radio before Dear Science. I enjoyed a couple of tracks but nothing really excited me about them. I think that helped me with Dear Science as for many it was a disappointment but for me, it was eye-opening. The opening kick of Halfway Home with its rumbling undertone and handclap percussion shook me awake, it made me understand the band. Sitek's production is crisp and sharp and contributes so much to TV On The Radio's sound. Its groove-ridden and funky and I love its laconic excitement.

Favourite Tracks - Crying, Golden Age
Video - Dancing Choose
Download - None Available

9) No Age - Nouns
Even though it sounds like they recorded Nouns in a tin shed on a tape recorder, its the lo-fi scuzziness of Dean Spunt's and Randy Randall's first proper full length that most appeals to me. It permeates from every song, from every instrument, from every lyric and creates the atmosphere of a hazy, late-summer evening with your best friends. The hooks and riffs are distorted and fuzzy and while the album lags a bit by the end, Nouns sounds like it was fun to make and it sure is a good listen.

Favourite Tracks - Eraser, Cappo
Video - Teen Creeps (live)
Download - Eraser

8) Mystery Jets - Twenty One
Twenty One was the first album of the year that I really got into. It's singles are some of the best pop songs of the year. Two Doors Down is immensely catchy, odd love song, Young Love is a classic duet with the impressively young and talented Laura Marling and Half In Love With Elizabeth contains one of my favourite lines of the year ("how can you put your trust in a man who always sleeps in his clothes"). The album benefits greatly from Erol Alkan's production which add synths and an 80s feel but the songwriting does really shine through. A great pop record.

Favourite Tracks - Half In Love With Elizabeth, Two Doors Down
Video - Young Love
Download - Half In Love With Elizabeth (Delorean Remix)

7) Pete & The Pirates - Little Death
I received this album free with a one month subscription to the Rough Trade Album club and so didn't give it much of an opportunity to begin with but over months Little Death started to seep into my musical consciousness. Its incredibly, infectious guitar riffs and melodies become grafted to your memory after a while and you'll be humming the intro to Mr Understanding for days. Even their slow songs are catchy. A loveable racket of an album.

Favourite Tracks - Come On Feet, Mr Understanding, Knots
Video - Knots
Download - Mr Understanding (live)

6) The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby
After years of obscurity and self-releasing CD-Rs, The Wave Pictures finally found a little bit of success this year. Instant Coffee Baby came out on Moshi Moshi in April and has happily settled into my playlist ever since. While the guitar riffs are playful and simple and the solos are frenzied and raw, it's Dave Tattersall's voice and lyrics that really make the band their own. The songs are so detailed, transporting stories about mundane happenings and things into extraordinary tales and sounds. I love it when the whole band join in singing, turning a witty turn of phrase into a chanted mantra of extreme importance, and Strange Fruit For David has the oddest chorus refrain of the year.

Favourite Track - Kiss Me, Just Like A Drummer, Leave The Scene Behind
Video - I Love You Like A Madman
Download - Avocado Baby (demo)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ben Kweller @ Union Chapel

Going to church is always an odd experience for me. Not being a very religious person, my trips to religious buildings mainly stem from cubs, school or being dragged to them on family holidays. So it was with an unease that I stepped into Union Chapel to see the BK himself, Ben Kweller.
How unnecessary my trepidation was. Union Chapel was a gorgeous venue, all pillars, ornated stonework and stain glass windows. It was a pleasure to squeeze between the wooden pews to find a comfortable place to see the stage.
Ben kicked off proceedings with a track off his new album, Changing Horses, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and a rather rotund man playing slide guitar. It was a very countrified affair, in keep with the past couple of albums, and sounded old but electrified. Ben mixed up his set, playing songs off all his albums. Family Tree sat alongside Hospital Bed, Different But The Same next to In Other Words and Ben switched between guitar and piano with ease.
He also played a couple of covers. One was originally by Neil Young and was incredible and the other was by Willy Mason's parents and was even better. The acoustics in the church were amazing. Ben's vocals were so clear and sharp and the slight echoes off the domed ceiling served as backing singers. I have to say a word about Kit, the aforementioned slide guitarist. His guitar lines were the perfect accompaniment to Ben's sentimental melodies and were so good at times, he made Ben forget the lyrics.
The new tracks have a nostalgic feel to them. They take strong influence from Young, Springsteen, Petty to name a few but they fit well into his strong bundle of songs. Gypsy Rose and Sawdust Man are the best examples of the new album on show tonight.
The standard encore comes and while he doesn't give in to the pressure of some hecklers to do Lizzy, he plays a rousing version of Falling before ending on Penny On The Train Track, which sees Ben jumping around the stage, and its hard to see how he's been so overlooked in his career. Tonight's performance is intimate, tight and heart-warming and it's the closest to a religious experience I've had in a while.

Ben Kweller - Sawdust Man
Ben Kweller - Falling

Thanks to Steve for the photos. There's more of them on his flickr

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Shoes And Socks Off

This is just going to be a short one because I'm tired.
Ex-Meet Me In St Louis singer and amazingly bearded man Toby Hayes has gone all acoustic with his solo project Shoes And Socks Off. In between playing bass for Shield Your Eyes, Toby has pick up an acoustic guitar and created a bunch of tracks that share the same kineticism, the same nervous energy, as MMISL's Variations On Swing but covered with a wash of pathos and sentimentality. They are actually really pretty in places. Toby's vocals sounds as strong as ever, the lyrics are oblique and its good to see that he hasn't lost his knack for good song titles.
There's an album called From The Muddy Waters Of Melitzer coming out on December 15th on Big Scary Monsters. So go take your Shoes And Socks Off and get comfortable.

Shoes And Socks Off - I'm A World Class Assassin

Shoes And Socks Off - Vice Magazine Has A Lot To Answer For

p.s. Check out

Monday, December 01, 2008

Do you feel festive?

I don't yet. However much companies want me to, its just not happening so far. Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year with shops and stores filling their shelves with festive things in August. There should be a law that states that no one can mention Christmas until the clocks go back. At least then its getting dark early and fills a tiny bit more wintry.
Its all these TV adverts as well. They seem to want to shove xmas down everyone's throats as much as possible. Great, the coca cola ad is on again, it must be nearly time for Santa! I just wish everyone could calm down and treat Christmas as a normal holiday. Have a good time and don't stress too much, its not that big a thing. I'm looking forward to spending with my family and friends and having a jolly good time.
Now as we're in the month of advent, I got sent a track by a Scottish guy called Chris Flew. Its a nostalgic, sentimental number about yuletide fights and lost loves. Its very pretty in a bittersweet kinda way.

Chris Flew - Christmas On Ward #7

Here's my fav Christmas song, which is now on a bloody Argos xmas advert :(
Chuck Berry - Run Rudolph Run