You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Here are my picks from 2011’s releases. It’s been a good year, with several debut albums making my list alongside some firmly established favourites and even a new Radiohead album. I’d love to write a bit on why everything is where it is, but who has the time?

Just remember, I’m not saying these are the best, they are just my favourites, and we all have different taste. If you agree with anything though, feel free to compliment me on my excellent taste.

 Holocene by boniver

Albums of the year
  1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
  2. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
  3. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
  4. The Drums – Portamento
  5. Yuck - Yuck
  6. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
  7. James Blake – James Blake
  8. The Kills – Blood Pressures 
  9. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
  10. Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm
Honourable mentions: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues, The Horrors – Skying, I Break Horses – Hearts, The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar, Ben Howard – Every Kingdom, Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong, Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys, Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials, Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes, Daughter – His Young Heart EP + The Wild Youth EP.

Crystal Fighters - Plage

Songs of the year
  1. Crystal Fighters – Plage
  2. Metronomy – The Bay
  3. Anna Calvi – Desire
  4. Laura Marling - Sophia 
  5. Bon Iver – Holocene
  6. Summer Camp – Better Off Without You
  7. The Drums – Money 
  8. Bombay Bicycle Club – Shuffle
  9. James Blake – The Wilhelm Scream
  10. Yuck – The Wall
  11. Ghostpoet – Liiines
  12. Metronomy – The Look
  13. I Break Horses – Winter Beats
  14. Little Scream – Cannons
  15. Lykke Li – Jerome
  16. The Kills – Baby Says
  17. Daughter – Candles
  18. Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Butterfly Culture
  19. Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
  20. Ben Howard – Old Pine
  21. Florence + the Machine – What the Water Gave Me
  22. Radiohead – Separator
  23. Outfit – Two Islands
  24. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
  25. Noah and the Whale – Waiting for My Chance to Come

Although this is a music blog, here are a few films I’ve liked this year, in no order because I’m lazy.
  • Drive
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • 50/50
  • Submarine
  • Black Swan
  • The Rum Diary
  • Bridesmaids
  • The Fighter
Merry Christmas and thanks for reading this year, here's to a successful 2012

Friday, 16 December 2011

Festive Three for all.

It’s the week before Christmas and we’ve all been saturated with the same old stuff for going on a month now, is anyone else fed up yet?

It’s still hard to pick out just three Christmas songs though, knowing I may never do so on this blog again (my effort lasting until next December is questionable). There has been some debate, with a colleague pushing for the 'breathtaking buoyancy and melodic momentum' of Elton John’s Step Into Christmas. Ahem, I’ll leave him to it on that one.

While my favourite Christmas song is the obvious and most played of the 21st century, The Pogues and Kirstie MacColl’s Fairytale of New York, I’d like to highlight a few lesser-known or just alternative Christmas songs. Of which there are a surprising amount, with The Ramones, Smashing Pumpkins, The Raveonettes, RUN-DMC and The Killers amongst many to have released credible efforts.

I should preface my list by saying that, although I am no Scrooge and enjoy Christmas as much as the next guy (in spite of annual comparisons to Tiny Tim), I’m particularly fond of melancholy Christmas songs. The long dark nights, the bleak weather, the excessive drinking, the arguments, spending time with family, it’s a perfect time of year for being justifiably miserable.

And this has been reflected in music over the years, with a number of seasonably sorrowful songs making it into the mainstream xmas canon. The aforementioned Pogues, Mud’s Lonely This Christmas, The Pretenders’ 2000 Miles and even Wham’s Last Christmas are all stories of misery.

So first up, from a festive EP released a few years ago called A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss), a perfectly melancholy name indeed, is Glasvegas’ Please Come Back Home.

Raw, emotive and containing one of the most poignantly realistic lyrics ever put in a Christmas song - ‘The beauty and the elegance of this time of year only heightens all the darkness in me’ – this tale of lost love is tragic and yet hopeful. Perfect for a post-argument moment of reflection.

Next up is Joni Mitchell’s River. Famed for her lyrics of longing and disillusionment, Christmas was probably a pretty easy target for her, and this piano ballad with an arrangement similar to Jingle Bells certainly resonates.

From her celebrated Blue album, it tells of a longing to escape from the Christmas spirit around that we can all identify with sometime over the festive period.

And, just to put my credibility through the roof, Robert Downey Jr. did a pretty good version on Ally McBeal, which you can see here. Everyone loves RDJ.

Finally this week, to lighten the mood somewhat, is a new song I heard this week from Gruff Rhys. The Super Furry’s frontman, who I caught at Moseley Folk earlier this year, will release the brilliantly titled Athiest Xmas EP on Monday (19 December). But its more upbeat than its name suggests, even this track, Post Apocalypse Christmas, a jaunty romp about, well, what the title suggests.

 Gruff Rhys - Post Apocalypse Christmas by PIASGermany

And because this blog is the gift that keeps giving, I’d also recommend a couple of new albums for Christmas 2011. Firstly, A Very She & Him Christmas, an album of reworked classics and a few lesser-known covers featuring Zooey Deschanel’s beautiful, old-timey vocals, check out a live vid here. And for something a bit more alternative and fun, This Is Christmas from Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great, featuring songs such as Zombie Christmas and Jesus the Reindeer, and Home for the Holidays.

No one can say I haven't got in the spirit now, just look at this picture.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Three for all.

Apologies for missing last week’s Three for all, a late night at work combined with a weekend in London meant time was limited, plus I bet no one noticed anyway. So, my festive Three for all will be pushed to next week, and my end of year lists will also appear sometime soon.

My three songs this week (technically from last week) are all courtesy of the fine people of 6 Music, having heard all these singles played recently, and, to be honest, it's not my most diverse selection, featuring three young bands who fit the classic ‘white, male, guitar-based indie’ label. Comparisons can be easily drawn between them, but what’s wrong with consistency?

First up is Geordie three-piece Little Comets, whose song Worry has been doing the rounds for a few weeks and has worked its way onto the A list at 6, quite an achievement in itself. The band has already had an eventful career, including signing with a major label and then acrimoniously leaving, before releasing their debut album in early 2011.

This song has a sound reminiscent of Vampire Weekend, particularly its riff and vocals. It’s a burst of sunshine, full of bounce and intricate guitars, perfect for forgetting the dreariness outside.

Taken from an EP of the same name released on 12 December, Little Comets are one to watch for next year.

 Little Comets - Worry by indieisnotagenre

Next up is Bear Cavalry, increasing the tempo with new track Roman Summer. This four-piece from Hampshire formed in 2008 and have released several EPs to date, this song is the first song on their latest EP, Maple Trails, also released on December 12.

The precise intertwining riffs that start the song and provide a balance after the louder moments are what grabbed my attention when I first heard it on 6.

The variation between the delicate and technical verses and the raw and noisy chorus suggest a band still finding their sound, but of one technically capable of creating any sound they want. It reminds me of Foals’ Cassius, which is not a bad starting point for any band.

 Roman Summer by Bear Cavalry

Coastal Cities’ Thinktank is the last song this week. The song has been around a while, but was rereleased on an EP of the same name on 5 December, and has been getting some decent airplay over the last two weeks.

Coastal Cities are five guys from High Wycombe, the founding members met in detention when they were 17, I like stories like that.

And Thinktank is full of pacey guitars and drums, projecting a real youthful energy, drawing comparisons with early material from The Drums, who took a liking to the song and tweeted about it upon its first release earlier in the year.

The heartbeat of the song for me is the overlapping guitar lines that soundtrack the short but catchy exclaim of ‘It’s just a thinktank, It’s just a thinktank’ in the chorus.

 Coastal Cities - Thinktank by CoastalCities

These three songs can hopefully help drag you through these short and dark winter days with a bit of energy and brightness, and provide you with a brief respite from the endless repeats of Slade and Wizard that haunt this month every year.