First a word from our sponsor...
Finger exploded. Getting better now.
Now, your featured programme...
Music. I do music, but in blogs that seems to be my pal Roger's domain. He does the reviews, gets the free copies and generally has built up a little niche for himself and bloody good on him too, I say. I encouraged him to write more and it pays off sometimes. http://astoundedbysound.blogspot.com/ is worth a read, especially if you want to be confused and think the author is considerably better than you, by virtue of him having heard things you weren't even aware existed.
However, I'm not averse to music reviews. I mainly do gigs though. I'm just never particularly confident about tackling full album reviews because... well, because. Plus, I like a lot of stuff that doesn't have words and trying to review an album of instrumentals is a bit like reviewing a turnip. Or something like that.
I do get excited about things and try to convey that to people who stumble my way, as often as I can. It's just your fault if you've never taken my recommendations seriously. I tend to know a good thing when I hear it.
Anyhow, this is just a preamble because I feel the need to share with you the several albums that have been on heavy rotation this year - or at least the ones I can remember.
I think this year probably started with last year's North Atlantic Oscillation; a 21st century prog album with countless other influences. Grappling Hooks is wonderful and I can completely understand why people wouldn't like. It's a bit too cerebral for the likes of you.
Kwoon appeared on my horizon this year and their Tales and Dreams album is proof that French music does not begin and end with Air. I was considering yesterday whether I Lived on the Moon was quickly becoming one of my three favourite singles of all time. The album it is from is shades of light, dark and neopolitan and made me realise that post-rock was now my staple musical diet. Plus, if you think North Atlantic Oscillation is high brow, then this album will probably make your nose bleed.
Through a bit of an accident I discovered Nyctalgia - an Italian guy who traded rave beats for M83-styled ambiance. His album has apparently barely sold 1,000 copies - this is a travesty. If you can find it, it's music for a breezy summer's day. The same has to be said for El Siete Es La Luz, which as Roger pointed out is in Spanish and the band are called French Teen Idol and the guy behind them is Italian. Go figure, but the album is quite delightful for allowing the day to drift past.
The spring also saw the triumphant return of Ulrich Schnauss, this time working with Manual's Jonas Monk on a shoe gazey, ambient, indie dance groove thang, which like many of the albums I've listened to this year can be labelled 'Epic'. For a while, I thought this might be my best album of the year.
The late summer brought two albums which had a profound effect on me. Bon Iver's self titled album was a revelation and considering his/their previous albums had washed over me like distant memories; I found myself falling totally for this unusual album. Highly recommended.
Also as the sun wandered over the equinox came M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, which we'll come back to.
I had a flirtation with Iron & Wine, a kind of folk version of Mercury Rev; but as I was given their back catalogue, I can't really pick on particular album to single out.
The surprise of the year was undoubtedly The Horrors 3rd album Skying, which as I touched on the other day usurped anything they had ever attempted. It's a great throwback album and another that I recommend wholly to people of the same age and musical influences as me.
The new Jane's Addiction - The Great Escape Artist - was possibly the most eagerly anticipated album of the year. I have a deep love of this band and regardless of what the critics think, JA are one of the best rock bands of all time. The new album was disappointing to start with, but after three plays I'm really beginning to think it was worth the wait - and it's not often you can say that.
The new Florence and the Machine album - Ceremonials - is pretty fucking epic as well. It does what other artists touted as superstars haven't been able to do with their follow up albums; produce something truly excellent. Second album syndrome is a killer and Flo has ripped up the stereotype book. This is likely to win lots of awards.
Steven Wilson released his second solo album and to be honest it's been tough to get into. Don't get me wrong, it's actually a really solid double album; but, you know, I sorted of expected something different and found I could have been listening to a Porcupine Tree rarities CD.
Mylo Xyloto deserves a mention purely for the fact that Coldplay have produced an album that is probably better than the sum of its parts. The album hangs together very well and it surprised me. I can't however see me having this on rotation.
My mate Chev drew my attention to an album from 1986 by the CA Quintet, which despite being something of a mystery made me realise that Pink Floyd sometimes wore their influences on their sleeves without people ever realising it. The title track of the CAQ's only album Trip Thru Hell is quite remarkable.
I've also been listening to the first Genesis album again, a lot. I don't know if I have a penchant for 1968 (and 69), but I've been impressed by how this From Genesis to Revelation curiosity stands the test of time.
Other mentions in dispatches for Ladytron, whose latest album is as good as previous efforts. The new British Sea Power album which got into my play list during August. The quite amazing Zola Jesus, who sounds like Souxsie Soux meets acoustic industrial metal. She also appears on M83's new album doing stuff she doesn't normally do and very well she does it.
The Pierces latest album is fabulous and for a while back in the early summer it was on constant rotation, despite the feeling that I was selling out. The Engineers released a 3rd album quickly after their 2nd and featured a new line up. Despite the presence of Ulrich Schnauss and KScope records, the new album was better when all the lyrics were removed - the bonus instrumental CD has been played far more than the main disc.
Of course, falling just out of the period, was Amplifier's The Octopus, which was released for the great unwashed in January (after the fans got theirs before Christmas). It is also epic; confirms they are the kings of space rock and rock prog (yes, I did get that round the right way). In a normal year, The Octopus would win my album of the year.
But with two months of the year left and more possibilities on the horizon, I think my album of the year has been Hurry up, We're Dreaming. It's an odd album because it has very little subtlety; it is, as the Observer noted, an album of epic proportions. It's dancey, it's rocky, it's indie and above all it sits together far better than any of Anthony Gonzalez's other M83 albums. It is his best so far and it has been played probably more than anything else I've acquired this year.
My musical year has been very eclectic and that's just how I like it.