Review Of 2010 – Songs, Gigs, Gubbins

So here we are then. The last part of my review of the year. Hope you enjoy. (Parts One and Two are here, and over there)

Songs of the year

Avi Buffalo – Truth Sets In

On first hearing, I thought this song was pretty good. On second, third, fourth, all the way up to the hundredth, I thought this song was the best I heard all year. I adore it. The lines “Witchcraft seems to unload and say\That you don’t love me anymore” are just wonderful. Truly, if you don’t like this, you don’t like music.

MP3: Truth Sets In by Avi Buffalo

Buy “Avi Buffalo”

Bright Spark Destroyer – They Already Know

A song of the year from an unsigned band? Off their first EP? How come? Because it’s great, that’s why. The moment, about 2 minutes in when singer James Ellis suddenly sings an impassioned “And if you say you love me”1, tears my heart open each time I hear it. If it doesn’t do that to your heart too, then truly it is made of stone.

MP3: They Already Know by Bright Spark Destroyer

Buy their stuff here.

The Morning Benders – Excuses

Borne aloft on a wave of hype, I expected big things of this record. The album didn’t quite reach those expectations, but this song did. Even more lovely in its acoustic form, here:

MP3: Excuses by The Morning Benders

Buy “Big Echo” (CD)

Local Natives – Wide Eyes

Borne aloft on a wave of hype, I expected big things of this record. The album didn’t quite reach those expectations, but this song did. What? Oh. “Airplanes” is damn good too, in case you’re interested.

MP3: Wide Eyes by Local Natives

Buy “Gorilla Manor” (CD/MP3)

Paul Thomas Saunders – The Death Of A Sports Personality

Haunting and quiet. I want to hear lots more from this chap. How he’s not got himself signed to Big Evil Record Company is beyond me.

MP3: The Death of a Sports Personality by Paul Thomas Saunders

Check out more of his stuff here.

The Songs Off The Disappointing Albums That Made You Remember Why You Loved The Band To Start Off With

Broken Social Scene – All To All

There’s always one truly great song on every BSS album (think “7/4 (Shoreline)”, “Churches…”). “All To All” is this year’s incarnation. Lisa Lobsinger comes of age.

MP3: All to All by Broken Social Scene

Buy “Forgiveness Rock Record” (CD/MP3)

Band Of Horses – Older

Saw them perform this live back in 2008, and hearing it again wonderful surprise. Hokey, sure, but marvellous. If only the rest of Infinite Arms had been so good.

MP3: Yeah, right, do I look that stupid?

Song of last year that I didn’t hear till this year (1)

Neko Case – People Got A Lotta Nerve

Great enough, and then the ascending vocals on the middle eight propel this song into whole new worlds of brilliance. So it came out last January. That’s January 2009. So?

MP3: People Got A Lotta Nerve by Neko Case

Buy “Middle Cyclone” (CD/MP3)

Song of last year that I didn’t hear till this year (2)

James Blackshaw – Cross

Astonishing. That’s the only word I can use for this song. Watch the video below of him playing this live, in a dusty park in Spain (possibly), and wonder how much time he’s spent learning to play this well.

Cross by James Blackshaw

Buy “The Glass Bead Game” (CD/MP3) (And you should)

Song Title Of The Year

Swans – You Fucking People Make Me Sick

Brilliant. The song’s not half bad either.

Gigs of the year, in reverse order

3. Russian Circles at Underworld, Camden

Small, packed out club – check. Devoted, slightly mental fanbase – check. Astonishing post-rock, post-metal music from just three blokes, who seem to have channelled the sound of the coming apocalypse to greater effect than anyone before, even Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

2. Swans/James Blackshaw at Koko, Mornington Crescent

Ow, my ears. And please stop staring at me like that. Preceded by oh blimey, how is he doing that? And can you all please shut up and listen?

1. Tortoise at Koko, Mornington Crescent

My word, I wish I’d been to see this lot in the past. I had a stupid grin all through the set, and still having it now typing it. The sound that aliens would make if you played them jazz.

Honourable mentions: Mastodon, Iron and Wine, Jason Lytle, The Xx, The Besnard Lakes, Joanna Newsom. I’ve been to a lot of great gigs.

Albums from 2010 That I Haven’t Really Listened To Yet And Might Be Good

The Walkmen – Lisbon
Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago

Considering I’ve loved albums by these two bands in the past, I really should listen to their new ones, shouldn’t I?

John Grant – Queen Of Denmark

Only given this one listen and am slightly intrigued, but having Midlake in full-on Minor Key Flutey Doomy Bollocks Mode has put me off a bit so far.

Which brings me to:

Albums From 2010 That I Was All Disappointed With, You Know (Redux)

Oh, Midlake, how could you?

And that’s it. If you’re lucky/unlucky, I’ll post something after the food and drink extravaganza that is Xmas in L&L&Family Towers. Hope you all have a great one, and don’t forget – a turkey isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for Boxing Day too, so stop stuffing yourself, eh?

1 Yep, I know that the first two songs are about broken love and all that, but aren’t the best songs?

Broken Social Scene/Tortoise Live At Koko, 2010

Once you see a band live a few times, you know what you’re going to get. With Broken Social Scene, you know there will be about ten of them; you know they’ll play a selection of great songs, which groove along1 with about twenty guitars and keyboards and a trombone and all sorts of other gubbins, Kevin Drew will tell us how much he loves and appreciates us (gotta love these Canadians), and there will inevitably be a few newer songs that make you go “Hmmm, they definitely went downhill after You Forgot It In People”.

But with Tortoise, I didn’t know. I’d tried explaining them to the missus as “Free-Jazz meets Post-Rock, played by aliens”. Which, as it turns out, is actually rather accurate. Yes, I missed off the bits that sound like a theme tune for a ’70’s French Open University programme (dig that xylophone!), and the dubby bits, and the two drummers, and the strange, strange sounds, and all the bits that suddenly twist and turn you inside out, and the floorshaking bass, and, and, and… reality, The Tortoise Live Experience needs to be Experienced and not Written About.

I can try, I suppose. In a word? IMMENSE. In some more words, “fucking brilliant”. Or even “So thunderingly good you cannot stop grinning or shaking your head in a strange way”. You know that when you’re dealing with a band that called a rarities compilation A Lazarus Taxon2, you may well be dealing with people significantly cleverer than you, and you know when you first hear a song like “Seneca” or “Prepare Your Coffin” that this lot know how to play, but the intensity and power they bring to their horrendously clever, yet oddly catchy music has to be experienced. I’d always thought there was a ton of studio trickery going on, but no; it’s five guys who can play horrendously well. Just the skeltering double drumming alone was worth the price of admission.

We’d managed to miss the first twenty or so minutes thanks to a babysitting snafu, and so I tried to relax and just enjoy the music. Some songs went by and I thought “They must be finishing soon, that’s nearly an hours worth”, then looked at my watch and saw only 20 minutes had passed. The music is so rich and dense with detail that your mind ends up abandoning all hope of unravelling this music entirely and you find yourself in a strange head-bobbing world, surrounded by this bizarre and wonderful noise. I can’t believe I’ve managed to miss Tortoise the last few times they’ve played in London, but you can betcha bottom dollar I’ll be first in the queue when they return.

Choosing Tortoise as the support was a brave move for Broken Social Scene, as there’s nothing more embarrassing than being blown off stage by your support act. But BSS have been touring in this configuration for a good five years, so they are a pretty sharp outfit, and know how to work that crowd. At first though, they seem a bit nervous, the opening section to “Pacific Theme” was tentative and it wasn’t until the song settles into its groove that the band visibly relaxed. But the problems inherent in BSS come to the fore with just their second song, “Texico Bitches”. Problems? Ok, one problem. But it’s a biggie.

The new songs just aren’t good enough. Sorry to say it, but most of Forgiveness Rock Record and Broken Social Scene, plus the “BSS Presents…” duology, are just a bit…meh. They have all the usual BSS ingredients – a lovely groove, little drum fills, deft guitar interplay, obscure lyrics – but they just don’t work particularly well. So, during a live show, you’re constantly wondering where the BSS Dice will fall. Good song, like “7/4 (Shoreline)”, “Cause = Time”, even the rarely played “Churches Under The Stairs” (more on which later)? All is good. BSS are one of the finest bands you’ll ever see. Not so good song, like “Texico Bitches”, “Sweetest Kill” or “Fire Eye’d Boy”, and you’re left wondering how a band with such obvious talents and track record can produce something so underwhelming. And it has to be said, the performance of “Fire Eye’d Boy” was about as good as you could expect – Andrew Whiteman on particularly fine form, but the song itself defines the mark 5/10.

Maybe I’m just a bit jaded after seeing them a bunch of times. When you first see them, they are a hugely thrillsome band. Three guitars! Loads of vocalists! Suavity! Horns! And as I already said, when in full flow on one of their good songs, like “7/4 (Shoreline)”, they are untouchable. They move like a massive motorik beast, utterly compelling. “Cause = Time” started a bit dull but soon sparked into life. They are also charming hosts. Kevin Drew in particular seems like a man who thrives on stage, shooting the breeze with us, telling us how much he loves Tortoise and how huge an influence they were on him and Brendon (Canning) – songs like “KC Accidental” and “Tortoise Jam/Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries” make much more sense once you know that – and generally does everything to make us enjoy ourselves.

Part of that enjoyment was bringing on Johnny Marr’s son to play on “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” (he seemed to have some of his dad’s talent, you know) and to grab a guy from the crowd to hold the lyric sheet to “Churches Under The Stairs”. The poor chap did seem a little embarrassed by the whole thing, but he got a huge hug from Kevin at the end, and the whole thing made everyone go “Ahhh!” 3 And the little pre-encore of “Lovers Spit”, mostly played solo, was a lovely moment, once the people at the back shut the fuck up4. The rest of the band provide sterling backup, with the Apostle Of Hustle himself Andrew Whiteman looking particularly dapper (and disturbingly like my mate Suave), Brendan his usual avuncular self, and the rest merrily swapping instruments and generally looking like they love the whole thing. Except Lisa Lobsinger, who still doesn’t look any more comfortable than on her first gig in London with them, five long years ago. Feist or Emily Haines, she ain’t. Come on, love, cheer up, you’re in BSS for God’s sake.


And good too to hear some obscurities (relatively) such as the aforementioned “Late Nineties…” and “Churches…”, and the great “Major Label Debut”, in full chaos mode, and finding that “All to All” definitely stands alongside their best material. So maybe I am just being a bit fussy, and that I need to forget BSS as being The Band That Did The Best Album Of The Naughties And Not Much Else, and redefine them as A Great Band You Should Go And See (And Forget The Slightly Boring Bits). Because in full flow, those massed guitars and everything, that wonderful baroque groove they have, is damn fine, and you wouldn’t change that for the world.

Still have no idea what they are on about, though.

1 Get with the program, daddio!

2 Go and look, then come back and tell me that’s not the most clever album title ever. Go on, I dare you.

3 And weirdly, he got on the tube and sat next to us at Earls Court, then got off at the same stop. Small world.

4 I must admit, I did have a bit of a go at someone for being an asshole. To her friend, if she is reading this, thank you very much for helping. You restored my faith in Canadylandians.

MP3: Churches Under The Stairs by Broken Social Scene Featuring Brendan Canning

MP3: World Sick by Broken Social Scene

MP3: Prepare Your Coffin by Tortoise

Amazon’s Broken Social Scene Store

Amazon’s Tortoise Store

Setting The Scene

More tracks from Broken Social Scene’s new CD keep popping out from the ether. This time, it’s the dual header Forced To Love/All To All. Whilst Forced To Love is a little BSS-by-numbers, All To All is one of those tracks they knock out to keep everyone on their toes. Remember how, when you first listened to “You Forgot It In People”, you were amazed by the constant shifts in style and tone, yet each song was distinctively theirs? “All To All” is like that. Like “Anthems”‘s older sister on amphetamines and meow meow, the song is simultaneously chilled-out yet thumping motorik trance. Ecstatically bursting into a Cocteau Twins-meets-Orbital chorus, you’re left open-mouthed at how this lot can constantly leave you wrong-footed.

Wide Angle Lens Essential

Bloody marvellous, it is. Buy the single here. And “Forgiveness Rock Record” is out May 4th. Can’t wait.

MP3: All to All by Broken Social Scene

Buy “You Forgot It In People” (CD/MP3)


Now this one came up out of the blue. Those lovely Canadyland folk, Broken Social Scene, posted the opening track to their new album “Forgiveness Rock Record” on their website today. It’s called “World Sick”. I know nothing about it other than it rocks, goddammit. Rocks, in that flailing-on-the-edge-of-chaos-that-only-having-26-guitarists can achieve.

Another Odd Cover?

Damn, I love this band. Massive hat tip to Knox Road!

MP3: World Sick by Broken Social Scene

Buy this album. Now. (CD/MP3)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Two)

Part two of my run through my favourite albums of the Noughties (will someone please think up a better name?). It’s a personal trip through what I’ve loved and listened to the most, and it’s not just a list of good albums with some great songs on that you get bored of half-way through (I’m looking at you Radiohead and White Stripes). These are all proper records, which I hope that people will still make in the age of downloads and blogs. You know, records you listen to all the way through. Remember that?

Part one is over here.

A Nerd, yesterday

N.E.R.D. – In Search Of… (2001, then 2002)

Main movers in the early Noughties explosion of forward-reaching hip-hop, this album rocks so much they re-recorded it with live instruments. For some reason not many people bought it. Maybe calling themselves “NERD” wasn’t a good idea. Shame, because it’s absolutely fantastic, and I’d forgotten quite how fantastic until I listened to it again recently. Better that Outkast.

MP3: <a href=’′>Truth Or Dare by N.E.R.D. Track removed

Buy “In Search Of…” (CD/MP3)

Love This Cover...

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Or how to be different, and how to use the Internet to get noticed, especially when you’ve been dumped by your record label. Not quite as forward-sounding now as it seemed then, but still a great record, and their best. See, Radiohead?

MP3: Jesus, Etc. by Wilco

Buy “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (CD/MP3)

Beautiful in its Simplicity

Queens of the Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf (2002)

Dark, funny, twisted – the ultimate post-drink-and-drug filled debauchery album. Or, how to sing about the problems of getting fucked up, without moaning about how bad it is and how they are terribly, terribly sorry.

MP3: Hangin’ Tree by Queens Of The Stone Age

Buy “Songs For The Deaf” (CD)

Great Album, Terrible Cover

Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People (2002)

If you have this album, and haven’t listened to it in a while, go and do it now. If you haven’t got this album, go out and get it. This record shows how a diverse bunch of musicians can make an album that is uplifting, eccentric, full of life and love and sheer bloody joy. Oh, and tunes. Lots and lots of tunes.

MP3: Stars and Sons by Broken Social Scene

Buy “You Forgot It In People” (CD/MP3)

Better than BSS, But Only Just

Josh Rouse – Under Cold, Blue Stars (2002)

An album that envelops you in warmth, emotion, and tunes. So many, many tunes. Not revolutionary in any way whatsoever, but I adore it.

MP3: Nothing Gives Me Pleasure by Josh Rouse

Buy “Under Cold Blue Stars” (CD/MP3)

About A Million Times Better Than Mew's Other Album Covers

Mew – Frengers (2003)

That voice. That music. Drama, twisted tales of obsession and love and the loss of innocence, all over beautiful, inventive, gorgeous rock music. And that voice, again.

MP3: 156 by Mew

Buy “Under Cold Blue Stars” (CD/MP3)

We Recorded The Whole Thing Together, Honest

Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)

Breaking up is so hard to do, so why not just do two solo albums together, and make the best damn funk/soul/hip-hop/kitchen sink record ever? (A real toss-up between this and Stankonia, to be honest. This just about edges it)

MP3: GhettoMusick by Outkast Track removed

Buy “Speakerboxxx / The Love Below”

Albums Of The Decade (Part One)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Three)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Four)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Five)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Six)

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New Music – Grizzly Bear, Broken Social Scene

First of all, I’ve been suffering from tonsilitis the last few days so I’ve been quiet.

The gradual release of decent-quality MP3’s from Grizzly Bear’s Veckitisawhatsitagain? continues, with “Cheerleader”, previously heard live, making its way out onto the big wide Interwebz. The live version, as you would expect, was rough and lacking their expert use of the studio, but certainly sounded promising.

Now, bizarrely, I got hold of this last week and thought it was fab. And thought I’d uploaded it here. But I hadn’t. Doh!

The word on the street is that it’s actually one of the weaker tunes from Veckatiswheresmyspellchecker. If that’s the case, then we’ve got rather a lot to look forward to when the album is released on May 26th. (Don’t you go and download the leaked version, as it’s pretty poor quality and you’ll miss out on all the detail. When I get the CD it’ll be ripped at about 14,000kbs, you know, and will take up half my iPod. And I’ve got a biiiig iPod)

“Cheerleader” is certainly a bit more relaxed and less ominous than tracks from Yellow House, it fair floats along in a rather dreamy way, with guitars cutting through Ed Droste’s beautiful singing, and yes, a children’s choir. A five minute slice of loveliness and I think, yes, I’ve got to mark it with my famed1 Sonic Cathedrals of Sound tag.

An album that passed me by last year, thanks to a continually changing UK release date that baffled the lovely folk at Rough Trade as much as me, was Brendan Canning’s “solo” album with Broken Social Scene. The founder of Broken Social Scene who’s not Kevin Drew, he’s the chap who looks a bit like a physics teacher who someone has put a bass on him and told him to be funky2. Lovely fella, having had all of a thirty second conversation with him and Kevin after their Shepherd’s Bush show last year. Anyway, I stumbled across their video for “Churches Under The Stairs” the other day, and rather fine it is too:

The band, who at their smallest number about 16 (ok, 8), do a Soundclash-style face off, Drew vs Canning. The song itself is almost Type-A BSS, with that wonderful motorik/New Order groove and great little drum rolls, fills and pauses that make your heart stop for an instant before suddenly throwing you forward again. Great interplay between Canning and Drew as well, as you’d expect.

Is it just me that prays every night to an uncaring God, to get all the top people in BSS together – you know, Feist, Amy Millan, Jason Collett, Emily Haines
3 – to make another album as good as “You Forgot It In People”? Yeah, I know, it’ll never happen.

1 Round here, at least.

2 The bassline of “Stars and Sons” was his work, and quite frankly is possibly the funkiest bassline in indie music since “Barbarism Begins At Home”:

3 Speaking of which, the new Metric album rocks.

Cheerleader by Grizzly Bear

Churches Under The Stairs by Broken Social Scene Featuring Brendan Canning

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