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 2011 – Part Two

Here’s Part Two of my list of my favourite things from 2011. And by things, I mean albums, songs, and gigs, as opposed to huge steaming piles of crystal meth.

(Disclaimer: I do not have anything to do with huge steaming piles of crystal meth. It’s all meow meow round here, you know)

Part One is over here.

The Others

Elbow – Build A Rocket, Boys!

The Seldom Seen Kid was always going to be a hard act to follow. Instead of trying to copy it, or repeat it, they retreated into themselves and made a lovely, personal record, that I originally though wasn’t quite as compelling. Until I listened to it again a few more times before writing this, and realising that, you know what, it’s excellent.

Feist – Metals

Not content with earworming us into submission with the likes of “1,2,3,4”, Feist took some time away and wrote this gorgeous paean to loneliness. A far more complete album than anything she’s made so far; musically fascinating, lyrically enthralling, she’s a talent far above her peers. Her next record is eagerly awaited, and I hope her head is in a better place for it.

Wye Oak – Civilian

A band sadly ignored by most, this duo continue to write some damned fine songs, and Civilian is their strongest record by far. The title track positively roars in its melancholy fervour, and the rest of the record ain’t bad either. Miss them at your peril.

MP3: Civilian by Wye Oak

Antlers – Burst Apart

A record that drove into view in the slipstream of the (far inferior) Wild Beasts, Antlers do that whole windswept, broken-hearted earnest indie-rock that comes close to The National in terms of latching itself into the sadder parts of your heart with silver fishhooks, and refuses to leave. Perfect for your inner teenager.

The Scottish Duo Duo

Bill Wells and Aiden Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older

An album seeped in both the usual grimness of Aiden Moffett’s subject matter of death and f***ing, mixed with Bill Well’s beautifully understated music. “The Copper Top” is the album’s majestic highlight; anyone who has ever been to the funeral of a loved one will nod wryly and blink back the tears, but this isn’t the only highlight. “Glasgow Jubilee”’s circular, poetic tale of a series of sex-obsessed Glaswegians will simultaneously make you smile as well as disgust you. “Dinner Time” is utterly creepy up until the song’s final payoff line. Perfect for your inner miserable sex-obsessed loner.

MP3: The Copper Top (Radio Edit) by Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

Lyrically poles apart from Wells/Moffat but sonically a cousin, this is a much gentler listen. Apparently recorded in a Scottish tea-room, this pastoral gem takes a little while to settle in, but once it does, becomes the perfect go-to music for those nights when anything more dramatic might just send you teetering over the edge.

Wilco – The Whole Love

(Note: I forgot to paste this in on the first draft, so apologies to anyone who gets the email. Sorry!)

Being around for the best part of twenty years can mean that it’s hard to keep things fresh. Wilco, then, did superbly with The Whole Love, their strongest for years, if not quite at the heights of their best. I even wrote a review, you know.


That’s Part Two done with then. Part Three is over here.

I’m A Civilian Baby, So Why Don’t You Blog Me?

Last month, I had the joy of seeing Wye Oak play live (supporting Spoon). Very good they were too, with a set list heavily comprised of material from their upcoming album. Bit of a pain that, since I wanted to hear some oldies, but you can’t have what you want in this life, can you1?

You Have A Nice Lie Down, Then

Anyway, they’ve released their first song from upcoming record Civilian (out on City Slang on March 7th, 2011, fact fans), and it’s cunningly titled “Civilian”. Makes it easy to remember, I guess. “21st-century folk music”, they say, and I’m not disagreeing with that. I’d happily add “Rather good” to that description.

More later, if I get round to it, on Godspeed! You! Black! Emperor!’s London return last night.

MP3: Civilian by Wye Oak

MP3: If Children Were Wishes by Wye Oak

1 Unless you are exceedingly rich, or have no imagination, that is.

Buy Wye Oak’s “If Children” (CD)

Albums of 2009

After many months of deliberation here at L&L Towers (ok, it’s just me sitting there looking out of the window trying to remember what on earth I’d done all year), I’ve put together my top albums of the year. Like the Albums of the Decade (starting here), the idea was to only choose albums which I happily listen to all the way through, and had listened to a whole bunch of times. This time, rather than the album art, I’ve gone for YouTube videos. Enjoy!

The Top 5, not in any kind of order, except the first one.

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Horrifyingly predictable for anyone who’s spent any time reading this blog. Whilst it’s not quite up there with Yellow House, still more detailed, more melodic, more emotional and more surprising than pretty much anything else that came out this year. Returning to it after a few weeks absence has got me playing “All We Ask” many times a day. A thing of sheer, dark beauty which slowly unravels itself into your brain, like some odd robotic monster.

(Is this the oddest video of the year, or what?)

MP3: Cheerleader (Live) by Grizzly Bear

Buy “Veckatimest: Special Edition” (CD)

The Xx – Xx

Came out of nowhere, made by teenagers, and wonderfully quiet. The bastard child of Low and Burial. Talked about at some length here.

MP3: Crystalised by The Xx

Buy “XX” (CD/MP3)

Metric – Fantasies

Many people found this too shiny and strident. For me, it was the soundtrack of the first part of the year – deep in job-hunting mode, wandering around the City in jeans listening to Emily Haines’s metallic majestic marvel. A proper album too; well-paced, with a proper start and even more proper fists-pumping-in-the-air finale.

MP3 – Sick Muse by Metric

Buy “Fantasies” (CD/MP3)

Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

Again, came out of nowhere, and picked it up as a recommendation from another blog (the marvellous Fat Roland). Whilst other people have mixed folk and electronica (“Folktronica”, one of the worst genre names in history), to my mind Bibio have done it the best so far. For whatever reason, I never posted anything about this before, but it’s been happily playing away in my kitchen and in the car many times this year.

MP3: Lovers’ Carvings by Bibio

Buy “Ambivalence Avenue” (CD/MP3)

Mew – No More Stories….

Also horribly predictable. This album didn’t really make much sense to me until I saw them live, then it all started to click and fit together properly – ironic, given the complexity of their music. If you like your music a touch more unusual than the norm, but don’t feel warmed by the “Look at us, we’re clever, like”-isms of Animal Collective et al, this could be for you.

(Actual music starts about 2:20)

MP3: Introducing Palace Players by Mew

Buy “No More Stories” (CD)

Not quite the best, but still good

I couldn’t do an end-of-year list without mentioning Bill Callahan, Jason Lytle or Kingsbury Manx. All had albums out this year, and all had some highlights that were amongst their best songs, but the albums as a whole don’t quite make the top list. Still worth it though.

And Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is good too, but the chirpy popness doesn’t quite last the whole album, causing me to lose interest about half-way through.

Albums I need to listen to more, that would probably have made the list if only I had some more time to listen to them properly

Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter

Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs

Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Jim O’Rourke – The Visitor

Mark Eitzel – Klamath

Mastodon – Crack The Skye

I’ve listened to these albums a few times and they are starting to settle in nicely, but not enough for me to hand-on-heart call them albums of the year. Maybe they will appear on my list of albums I have loved in 2010 that were actually released in 2009 but I didn’t hear them then.

Albums I have loved in 2009 that were actually released in 2008 but I didn’t hear them then.

Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight

This’d be up in the top 5 above if they’d released this in 2009. A great record by Grumpy Scots, and I suspect they’ve got more to come in 2010.

MP3: I Feel Better by Frightened Rabbit

Buy “Midnight Organ Fight” (CD/MP3)

Wye Oak – If Children…

When I first started this blog, in the depths of January, I rooted around a bunch of sites looking for some new music. And I stumbled across Wye Oak, and after listening to a selection of tunes far too many times, I went out and spent a bit of my redundancy money on the album. Very fine it is too.

MP3: Warning by Wye Oak

Buy “If Children” (CD)

Albums by bands I love that I really should get round to listening to at some point

Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead

Flaming Lips – Embryonic

Yes, I know. Love both these bands but there just isn’t the time, you know?

The “People Tell Me I Should Love These Albums But I Just Don’t Get It” Award (sponsored by Kissing In Kansas)


Fever Ray – Fever Ray

Animal Collective – Merriwether Post Pavillion

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

And the winner is Animal Collective. People keep telling me to give it time, but as I’ve not even listened to the Twilight Sad or Flaming Lips yet, that’s pushing it. But you know, 2010 and all that.

(I still don’t get it, but have a listen and see what you think)

MP3: My Girls by Animal Collective

Buy “Merriweather Post Pavilion” (CD/MP3)

So that’s me albums done. Join me in a few days for the tracks. Some blinders in there, you know…

News – Wye Oak, And Stuff

Well, after nearly five months of being out of work I started a new job last week. It came somewhat out of the blue, but is hugely welcome and has more than a touch of irony about it, given that I worked at the same firm until just over a year ago. Which means I’ll have much less time to write this blog, so there won’t be so many updates here as of now. I’ll be concentrating more on the Pitchfork stuff, and I’ll still do some reviews and news, but with less time to search the web for new and interesting music, I need to focus on what I can do, and what I enjoy doing.

One of the bands I only heard because I was doing this blog was Wye Oak. They’ve got a new album out in June and the first track to see the light of day is “Take It In”. Not quite as immediate as the best of their last album “If Children…”, it’s nevertheless a cracking song and I fully expect it to take on earworm status over the next week.

The other nice thing about being back in work is that I can buy CD’s more. I’ve already bought Bill Callahan’s new CD, along with Super Furry Animals, so hope to have reviews of them posted in the coming weeks. Oh, and the new Kingsbury Manx should be coming through the letterbox all the way from the States soon, which I am very much looking forward to. See, RIAA, people do still buy CD’s. Remember: treat your customers well and they will treat you well.

That’s that for today. Hopefully I’ll have the next Pitchfork 500 post done and dusted in the next couple of days. In the meantime enjoy the new Wye Oak track, below:

MP3: Take It In by Wye Oak

Buy Wye Oak’s “If Children” (CD)

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More New Old Stuff – Wye Oak, Grizzly Bear

In my typical fashion, I heard some great new music the other day, only to discover that they had been around for ages. That’s what you get round here, year old news. Ah well.

Anyway, the two bands I was listening to were Monarch and Wye Oak. Both deal in that dreamy late-80’s, early-90’s British vibe, as perfected by My Bloody Valentine, Lush etc. And sounded oddly similar. Including having the same album title and a couple of tracks the same. So, with a bit more research, and finding a bunch of bands called “Monarch”, I managed to discover from here that Monarch had had the same problem, so renamed themselves to Wye Oak.

And what a lovely name it is, too, being the state tree of Maryland. I love that US thing of having state trees, state animals, and state moods (New Jersey: Angry, Idaho: Gloomy, California: Smug). You could never do that in the UK. The state tree of most of the north would be a “That shrubby bush that some kids have tried to set fire to”.

Anyway, Wye Oak. They are a couple from Baltimore, who sound about as far from the city of The Wire than you could imagine. A bit dreamy, a bit noisy, and really quite good.

In other news, I’ve heard that Veckatimoomoo by Grizzly Bear has been leaked. I am not going to post it as I’ve already had my ass busted once, thank you, and it just doesn’t seem the right thing to do to such a lovely band. Please pre-order it. Though if the band do release any more songs from the record I shall be sure to post it here, hopefully within a month or two. Cough.

Warning by Wye Oak

If Children Were Wishes by Wye Oak