Albums of 2014

Here’s my favourite albums of 2014, following on from yesterday’s Songs Of 2014. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Album By Grumpy Scots That I Haven’t Quite Listened To Enough Yet (Redux)

The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave

After a somewhat disappointing third album, and severe financial difficulties making the band seriously consider packing it in, NWTBHANWTL had to be good. It’s more than good. Their most coherent album, featuring slow songs and everything, it rightly gave them more of the limelight than previous records, and has even gone on to win some Album of The Year awards. I would have done too, except, honestly, I haven’t listened to it enough. Whether it’ll bring some more money in remains to be seen; if they can break America in the same way as Frightened Rabbit (who have 10x the YouTube views for their videos) and get some of the daytime play Chvrches get, they’ll be made. I certainly hope so. There’s no band out there who deserve a bit of success more than this lot.

Buy “Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave” Here

Album By Slightly Less Grumpy Scots

King Creosote – From Scotland With Love

This was my soundtrack in the runup to the Scottish Referendum, listened to before it had the opportunity to be reclassified as World Music. Boom tish. I’m here all week. Try the ribs.

In seriousness though, this was a lovely, warmhearted paean to Scotland, created for a documentary made from archive footage. As ever with KC, you’re coccooned in his soft voice, beautiful instrumentation, and hardly a chorus or middle eight to ruffle the feathers.

Buy “From Scotland With Love” Here

Album by A Band That Had Hit The Wall

Wye Oak – Shriek

Where to go for Wye Oak, who’d taken the guitar+drums formula about as far as they could? Keyboards+bass, of course. Normally this can spell a bit of a disaster, but with Jenn Wasner’s ambition, focus, and freakishly good bass playing, they made a record that almost stood up to “Civilian”.

Buy “Shriek” Here

Guiltless Pleasure Album

The Vaselines – V For Vaselines

Sheesh, another Scottish album, though I thought this lot were from Noo Joisey or Ohio or somewhere similar, holed up in a garage, rather better appointed now that they had nice jobs in selling insurance or something. They’ve been around for years, apparently, and this was a comeback album of sorts. Still filled with vim and vigour and pop nous. An excellent album to play when you don’t want to think too hard.

Buy “V For Vaselines” Here

Post-Rock Album Of The Year

Jakob – Sines

A comeback album from a New Zealand band whose three members had all had major hand injuries in the last three years. I must say I know nothing about them other than the fact that they are from New Zealand and they have all had major hand injuries. And that this is a comeback album. Errr….maybe I should try doing some research. More on the Russian Circles side of the post-rock continuum, it doesn’t break any new ground. Great album though.

Buy “Sines” Here

The Album Of The Year

Spoon – They Want My Soul

How does a band keep going after x albums and y years? You can change your sound (see Wye Oak, above), or just refine and tighten until every song on the new record is a glistening jewel. God only knows how many times I’ve played this record this year. It’s been my go-to album on the commute, in the office, and at home. I’ve had to stop playing it as I feared I’d wear out the memory on my iPhone.

Buy “They Want My Soul” Here

So, there we go for another year. Hope you have a fantastic 2015, and please visit the site from time to time to see if I’ve managed to drag my sorry ass to the computer to actually post anything. Unlikely, but you never know. Thanks for reading.

Albums, Songs, Gigs 2011 – Part Three

Here’s the third (and final, you’ll be pleased to hear) round up of the year’s music. Or at least the year’s music that I could give a toss about. Parts One and Two here and here.

The Albums You Wish The Artist Would Re-Record As A Solo Acoustic Album

Ron Sexsmith – Long Player Late Bloomer

When I saw Ron Sexsmith perform “Get In Line” on Later…. I was smitten. Not with his looks, of course (he’s hardly Feist, is he?), but with such beautiful tunesmithery sung in such wonderfully world-weary tones. Unfortunately the record from which it stems has been MOR’d to within an inch of its life. If Ron wouldn’t mind re-recording it with just him and an acoustic, I’d be a happy man. Or a slightly less unhappy one.

MP3: Get in Line by Ron Sexsmith

Iron And Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog was a pretty good record, and an extremely good one in demo acoustic form. I’d love to see what he could do with Kiss Each Other Clean without all the bumpf, because, as it stands, it’s a bit of an overblown mess.

The Nirvana Unplugged Award for an Acoustic Album/EP From A Band You Wouldn’t Expect It From

The Twilight Sad – Acoustic EP

A study in demonstrating that you aren’t just angry noise-merchants. Both “I Became A Prostitute” and “Interrupted” are probably better than their original, noisy incarnations.

MP3: That Birthday Present (Acoustic) by The Twilight Sad

New (non-album) Songs Of The Year

Battles – Ice Cream

Along with its fantastically mucky/arty video, a real odd-pop treat. Makes you think of horribly trendy young people in Barcelona. Damn them.

MP3: Ice Cream by Battles

Errr….that’s it. Sorry. It’s been all about the albums and the old songs this year. Which brings me onto:

Old Songs Of The Year

Bizarrely, this year three of my favourite non-album songs have been ones that have sat on iPod/iPhone/iWhatever for many, many years, yet for some reason haven’t registered with my brain until this year.

The Clientele – We Could Walk Together

I’ve listened to this song more than any other this year. One on hand, I can easily tell you why; the song is beguiling, with three verses, an instrumental chorus (if such a thing exists), and some wonderfully opaque lyrics (“Like a silver ring thrown into the flood of my heart”, a line apparently stolen from an Italian poet). On the other, I can’t explain why it’s caught hold of my heart after ten or so years of being sat in my collection, being occasionally played. Sometimes you just have to be ready for a song, I suppose.

MP3: We Could Walk Together by The Clientele

Low – Laser Beam

See later in this article, but in short, hearing a song live can sometimes take it from its source album and shine a whole new light on it.

Yo La Tengo – Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House

Unlike “Laser Beam”, I didn’t get to hear this live, which was a shame. I did shout out for it though. As I’ve mentioned before, the manifest charms of Yo La Tengo somehow passed me by for many years, and despite owning “And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out” since its release, I’d never picked up on how great this song was. Until now. Oh, and it’s the best ever song inspired by a Troy McClure line.

Best Gigs

Bill Callahanfor staring at us during “Baby’s Breath”. My wife was heavily pregnant at the time. We were hugely disconcerted.

M Ward – for making everyone just stare and go “How, but how, are you doing that?”

Low – one the finest live moments of a long gigging career was hearing the wonderful “Laser Beam” as the final encore. Thousands of people left utterly silent and speechless by this pure, simple song. The cheering at the end was almost as spine-tingling as the song itself. Watch this video of a live performance and notice firstly how the audience go from irritatingly noisy to raptly silent within about five seconds, and secondly, just how astonishing Mimi Parker’s voice is.

The rest of the gig was superb; even from our vantage point up in the rafters I loved every moment. Next time, I’m at the front, suckers.


That’s it for 2011. A year with some highlights, sure, but also some horrendous lows that I hope to not experience for a very, very long time. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and hope to see you in 2012.

Last Year’s Music – The Twilight Sad

In my Albums of the year post at the tail end of 2009, I mentioned that there were a bunch of records by bands I loved that I hadn’t got round to listening to yet. This week, I finally got round to listening to The Twilight Sad’s second album, “Forget The Night Ahead”. Long-term readers may recall me getting earache following their tinnitus-inducing show at the ICA. Quite frankly, it was worth it.

The Sun! It Burns!

The funny thing about hearing tracks like “Doonstairs” (ok, “Reflection Of The Television”) on record is how well I remember them. Sure, they are cleaned up of much of the huge wall of noise that is a Twilight Sad live show, but they lose little of their power in their transition to a bunch of bits. “I Became A Prostitute” is absolutely cracking and has been on near-constant rotation on my poor iPhone; there’s something of the grim, cold rainy day in their music which perfectly reflects the current weather round here. The album as a whole seems a bit more sludgy than their debut, a bit more oppressive, but dammit, fine music is fine music.

But they are miserable blighters, aren’t they?

MP3: I Became a Prostitute by The Twilight Sad

Buy “Forget The Night Ahead” (CD)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Six), And A Song

This is the final part of six-part series, of my albums of the decade. It’s a totally personal view, of albums I’ve listened to tons and love dearly, rather than good albums with some great songs on.

If you’d like to read the rest, here’s Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five.

Another Cracking Cover

The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (2007)

Moaning about your teenage years has never been as elegaic as on this album. Anger, betrayal, loneliness, that sense of not belonging anywhere, and realising that some people are just plain nasty, it’s all here.

MP3: Walking For Two Hours by The Twilight Sad

Buy “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters” (CD/MP3)

The Toughest Rubik's Cube In The World

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid (2008)

Or how a band can go from pretty damn good to superb. Dropped by their label, self-recording the album in the keyboardist-cum-producer’s house, this is a 56 minute long tribute to sticking together through thick and thin and sticking at what you do best, and waiting for the world to catch up with you.

MP3: The Bones Of You by Elbow

Buy “The Seldom Seen Kid (Abbey Road Live Edition)” (CD)

Where's Wally?

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008)

Even more backwards looking than Midlake, but with a pastoral beauty that just cannot be denied. My son was two when this came out and he couldn’t stop listening to “White Winter Hymnal” and “Oliver James” (though the lyrical content was perhaps not suitable for a young child).

MP3: Oliver James by Fleet Foxes

Buy “Fleet Foxes – 2CD Special Edition” (CD/MP3)

So that’s it. I know that at 3am tomorrow, I’ll awake with a start and remember a great album I missed. But that’s always a peril with writing lists; if I thought about them any more I’d never post the bloody thing. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and maybe found something new. My absolute, top albums? Probably “You Forgot It In People” and “Yellow House”, but that’s just me.

And to finish off with, here’s my song of the decade:

Her Name Is Yoshimi

The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

Because it’s a song about love, death, the mystery of life; manages to be slightly melancholy yet hugely uplifting; and is filled with a true, real joy that makes your soul yell out at the sheer beauty of life. Played it at my wedding, and they’d better play it at my funeral, or I’ll be haunting their sorry asses. Probably by singing it, out of tune, in a ghostly voice. That’ll be fun. Anyway, this is Oklahoma’s state song for a reason. It’s brilliant. If you’ve never heard it before, what on earth have you been doing with your life?

MP3: Do You Realize?? by The Flaming Lips

Buy “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (CD/MP3)

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EEEEEEEEEE – Live Review – The Twilight Sad, ICA, London


The Twilight Sad are LOUD. About 25 years ago, Swans played the ICA in London, a gig which has gone down in London gig folkore as the loudest ever. Apparently, people were being sick and in all sorts of trouble. Having seen Swans the following year, when apparently they’d calmed down, and not being able to hear at all after, I know what loud is. And Twilight Sad are loud.

Not quite that loud though. But loud enough to make my ears go EEEEEEEEEEEE. They’re doing it now. Getting to sleep tonight’s going to be fun.

This being a showcase of a couple of record labels – One Little Indian and Fat Cat – we were meant to be treated to three bands tonight. Sadly, Kill It Kid were unable to play thanks to “a case of th’ no’wells”. Shame, as Martyn has been singing their praises and since he’s a man who knows his stuff, I was rather looking forward to seeing them. Ah well, next time. EEEEEEEE.

So it was up to We Were Promised Jetpacks to be the only support act. And they did what every good support act should do – be good, but not so good as to upstage the main act. Noisy and bouncy, like a really good C86 band. Christ, first Swans, now C86, I’m really showing my age here.

I don’t know much about The Twilight Sad. I know they are from the edge of Glasgow, that singer James Graham obviously hasn’t got over his teenage years, and that they have a great line in song titles, but I’d no idea what they look like. What do they look like? A bunch of Glaswegian lads, pretty much. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to meet James in a dark alley, with his shaven head and air of coiled intensity. EEEEEEEEE.

Mine's A Guinness

Mine's A Guinness

Saying that, a few songs in, he looked at the crowd and said “We’re amazed you’re all here. We thought no-one cared about us”. We do, of course, because you’re a damned fine band.

What a noise they make. It’s glorious. A wall of sheer fury comes from Andy McFarlane’s guitar (a white Fender Jaguar with a Tortoiseshell pickguard, I’ll have you know – the guitar of all the best alt-rockers). Much of the time you can’t hear the lyrics, especially on the tracks from the new album, but when they fall back to stuff from “Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters”, James’s voice shines through. EEEEEEEEE.

“That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy” was absolutely fantastic, with just enough noise to make it special without drowning out the shining glory of the song. Or rather, it’s called “Hit Single”. Ah, irony. In fact, I’m not even going to bother listing the new songs. Just look at the set list:

Set List.  These Aren't The Proper Names.

Set List. These Aren't The Proper Names.

See? “Mooth”?

The new tracks, as ever when you hear new songs live for the first time, weren’t quite as convincing as the older ones, but they’re definitely expanding their repertoire, rather than making “Fifteen Autumns and Sixteen Winters”. Looking forward to hearing what it sounds like on record rather than through a big bunch of speakers. EEEEEEEEE.

Early in the first song, “Doonstairs”, in the middle of a frenzy of feedback, Andy kneeled down and changed a setting on one of his many guitar pedals. Just a little bit, you know, to get the wall of sound just so. Attention to detail is where it’s at, you know. Not just any noise for these boys.

Pride of place, of course, went to “Cold Days From The Birdhouse”, first half sung pretty much unaccompanied, second halves’ “Where Are Your Manners?” drowned beneath that squall of sound. The night ended with a wall of feedback, detuned guitars and basses, with James standing in the centre of it all, eyes squeezed shut. He seemed happy. We certainly were.

You have to admire their ability to create a definitive sound – part Mogwai, part Arab Strap, part Proclaimers-after-doing-acid-and-primal-scream-therapy-and-no-sleep-for-9-days. There’s more than a bit of Mew and Joy Division in there too. But it sounds all them. I love bands that just seem to fall together, and sound like they couldn’t do anything else even if they tried. EEEEEEEE.

And one last point – I love it when a band makes an effort with their record covers. Just check out the cover of “Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards, It Did”:

The Importance Of Having An Image In The MP3 World

The Importance Of Having An Image In The MP3 World

Brilliant, isn’t it? The whole website follows the same design. See, you don’t get that with an MP3 download.

Anyway, it’s late, my ears are ringing, and I need sleep. Enjoy these tracks from The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks from the Fat Cat sampler. I suggest you go and see both bands when you get a chance. Take earplugs. EEEEEEEEEE.

MP3: That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy by The Twilight Sad

MP3: Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards, It Did (Live) by The Twilight Sad

MP3: Tiny Little Voices by We Were Promised Jetpacks

Buy “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters” (CD/MP3)

Buy We Were Promised Jetpacks “These Four Walls” (CD/MP3)

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