Thursday, 30 December 2010

Best of 2010

The blog may have been quiet but as its the end of year it is time to roll out my top 3 albums of the year.
I am listening to a lot of music of late but its been difficult getting the time to write about it all, end of year and a moments reflection on what has made up the best album means that I need to find the time.
This time last year it was all about Hockey, NOFX and Mumford and Sons. They were floating my boat. The three albums that I thought were the best of the year, you are going to have to be lenient here, they were all released towards the end of 2009 if this were The Grammy’s we wouldn’t have a problem, it isn’t though so we may have.

OK on to the music. The third best album of the year for me was the Mercury prize winning debut by The XX. I think my wife heard a track and knew it was up my street, like Glasvegas and current squeeze, Mona they have a specific sound that seems to be swimming away from whatever the current crop of indie sounds like. The XX’s album doesn’t have big production, or massively clear vocals, but it supplied clarity from the start.
I loved The XX and when I went from car commute to train commute and heard it for the first time on my iPod I bombarded my wife with texts telling her that THIS was the future of pop music. She had heard it all before and reminded me of my past crimes.
Crimes schmimes. This album is an essential album from this year, perfect songwriting, lovely sparse production that makes you at times have to crane an ear to pick up just what the singer is saying and it won the Mercury Music prize, and anything is better than Paul fucking Weller.

Crystalised by The XX

My second favourite album of the year was also nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and this was also released towards the end of 2009, Biffy Clyro’s fifth studio album, Only Revolutions.
As I write this a Biffy Clyro song sits at number one in the singles chart, their original is at number 25, they are headlining a major festival next year and in Only Revolutions they have a platinum selling album. 2010, well it has been a good year for Biffy Clyro and the overnight success has only took 10 years.
So Only Revolutions, a magnificent polished album that moved away, for me at least, from the confused sound of Puzzle, to return more towards the sound they produced on Vertigo of Bliss, but a more professional developed and finer version.
Many of Horror, the song X factor winner Matt Cardle is cuurently sitting pretty with is one of many stand out tracks on this album and if tomorrows pop idols were looking to cover any of them they could take their pick of the exquisite God and Satan, Mountains or Bubbles.
So many stand out tracks on this album and any song could be a single. We had the pleasure of seeing them twice this year at an enormous festival and a tiny club and both times it was fantastic and to hear the songs that make up this album was a joy and a pleasure.

God and Satan by Biffy Clyro

My favourite album of the year though is the fantastic Revolution by Miranda Lambert. Its an album that just keeps getting played and played. I have to say pretty much solidly for the past 6 months I have listened to nothing but mainstream country music. Brad Paisley without a doubt has been my favourite artist of this year, the album though goes to Miranda.
This isn’t some obscure album though, this is a huge selling album in the states and every track tells you why, clever, funny, beautiful, some tugging at the heartstrings, some kicking you in the balls. Miranda Lambert isn’t Taylor Swift, she is Taylor Swifts crazy aunt.
The stand out track for me on the album is the US country number 1, The House That Built Me. A stunning stunning single, and with Dead Flowers, Airstream Song and Virginia Bluebell she continues in a similar vein musically if not lyrically.

The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert gets down and dirty when she needs to on songs like Somewhere Trouble Don't Go, but she is a girl that likes to keep the mood light, from Only Prettier, to the cover of Time to Get a Gun.
Lambert is the main songwriter but she gets a little help on this album from Blake Shelton her fiancĂ©, Julie Miller, Ashley Monroe and Natalie Hemby. The most surprising addition to the album and least country song on this album is her version of John Prine’s That's the Way That The World Goes 'Round. A song that Lambert definitely makes her own.
All in all, easily my favourite album of the year and one that you really need to hear.

Thats The Way The World Goes Round by Miranda Lambert

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Creepshow Live at Moho Live, Manchester

Kev it seems lords it up with the Chilean glitterati at Massive Attack gigs, over priced, it certainly seems by all accounts. Me, I have been to very few gigs this year, Leeds Festival, Biffy Clyro in Vegas and Neil Diamond. Last week saw an additional band added to that very small list and that was Canadian Psychobilly band The Creepshow and the Manchester date on their current European tour.
I haven’t been to Manchester to see a band since around 2000 and that band was Hefner. I heard gunshot that night, so ten years between gigs would be about right. In the meantime Manchester made itself easy on the eye, put in trams and made me feel that it was safe to walk the street without someone looking like a member of N-Dubz trying to mug me.
Our hotel was conveniently next door to the venue therefore limiting the chances of mugging even more.
So we took the short walk to Moho Live, a smallish venue near Afflecks Palace, small but really quite nice, not the cavernous room we last saw The Creepshow at The Asylum in Birmingham. Link to that review is over on the right there. Moho Live is more in keeping as a venue for the type of bands that play there.
The bar was a little pricey, not the average wage costing that Kev had at “Trip hop pioneers Massive Attack”, more that average wage of a paperboy. £6 a double tequila and coke. I tried singles and it was then that I realised that the measures my good lady wife serve at home are more generous than the 1 6th of a gill served in Manchester. Enough drink talk though.
When we walked in a three piece band were playing, Hyperjax. Vocalist/guitarist, vocalist/upright bass and a drummer. Playing punk infused rockabilly, erring at times towards very very early Billy Childish. They were it has to be said, excellent. They were energetic, raw and I suspect, if I knew what it meant, visceral. They were marvellous, a good mixture of original material and I think the odd cover. Their biography tells me that they have been doing this some time and in all likelihood I think we will be returning to Manchester in the New Year to see them supporting European Psychobilly band, Mad Sin. I liked Hyperjax a lot and their place on this bill was definitely welcome.
That brings me neatly to second support band, the London band Buster Shuffle. Buster Shuffle were only on this bill by virtue of them having a stand up bass. Their cockernee knees up love a duck chas n dave madness sound was extremely grating. They sound like a band that would be first on in a tent at Glastonbury and was as far removed from the other bands on this bill as you could get. Just thinking back to their set makes me swear massively. Jamie Cullum seemed like Black Flag in comparison.
We had to consume a lot more tequila to get over the shock of that performance. One T-shirt purchase later and finding a vantage point for the sub 5ft members of the party, The Creepshow came on and (excuse the expression) ripped Moho Live a new arsehole.
The Creepshow have just recently released their third album, They All Fall Down on Hellcat records, the follow up to Run For Your Life and Sell Your Soul. The latter album has had a more punk leaning but still maintains its Psychobilly roots.
Their set was raced through at pace drawing from all three albums but definitely highlighting the new fantastic material, notable favourite for me is Hellbound. Certainly a contender for a single. But the breadth of material from Rue Morgue Radio, to Hellbound, Cherry Hill, Zombies Ate Her Brain, You'll Come Crawlin and all points inbetween.
Vocal duties on the whole carried out by the petite Sarah Blackwood but ably assisted by Sickboy and The Reverend McGinty.
A really excellent night on the whole playing to an audience made up of punks, psychobilly and rockabilly people and everyone was into The Creepshow, a far cry from the Birmingham gig.
Towards the end Reverend McGinty made a comment about the Birmingham gig and we spoke about it at the end of the night, we both agreed Birmingham’s The Asylum is a shit venue, but Moho Live is definitely worth a visit to the north.
As for The Creepshow, excellent, really excellent.

Cherry Hill by The Creepshow