Thursday, December 27, 2018

Songs About People # 763 Sonny Chiba

An early morning decision to watch True Romance brings me quickly to Carl Orff 's Badlands theme and Sonny Chiba.

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2017

My list of favourite albums last year:

And now my own chart...

1. Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent
2. Les Amazones D'Afrique - Republique Amazone
3. The Feelies - In Between
4. Big Thief - Capacity
5. Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins
6. Oh Sees - Orc
7. Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
8. Kelley Stolz - Que Aura
9. Benjamin Clementine - I Tell a Fly
10. Dag - Benefits of Solitude
11. Ratboys - GN
12. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile -Lotta Sea Lice
13. Kevin Morby - City Music
14. Girl Ray - Earl Grey
15. Perfume Genius - No Shape
16. La Feline - Triomphe
17. Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
18. James Elkington - Wintres Woma
19. Mick Head & the Red Elastic Band - Adios Senor Pussycat
20. Holiday Ghosts - Holiday Ghosts
21. Jesca Hoop - Memories Are Now
22. Peter Perrett - How The West was Won
23. H.Grimace - Self-Architect
24. Baxter Dury - Prince Of Tears
25. Wild Pink - Wild Pink
26. Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator
27. Amadou & Mariam - Le Confusion
28. Novella - Change Of State
29. Tim Cohen - Luck Man
30. CTMF - Brand New Cage
31. '68 - Two Parts Viper
32. Trevor Sensor - Andy Warhol's Dream
33. Faith Healer - Try
34. Mary Epworth - Elytral
35. Grandaddy - Last Place
36. NE-HI - Offers
37. Entrance - Book Of Changes
38. Catholic Action - In Memory Of
39. This Is The Kit - Moonshine Freeze
40. Guided By Voices - How do You Spell Heaven
41. French Vanilla - French Vanilla
42. Spinning Coin - Permo
43. Ibibio Sound Machine - Uyai
44. Travis Bretzer - Bubble Gum
45. Sweet Baboo - Wild Imagination
46. Fresh & Onlys - Wolf Lie Down
47. The New Year - Snow
48. Kacy & Clayton - The Siren's Song
49. Bread & Butter - Bread & Butter
50. Karen Elson - Double Roses

There were lots of others that might have been there. Including these:

Priests, The Mountain Goats, Broken Social Scene, Waxahatchee, Beach Fossils, Bonny Doon, Sneaks, Stef Chura, Surfer Blood, Black Springs, Century Palm, DUDS, Mount Eerie, Bedouine, Ron Gallo, Sinkane, Flat Worms, Happyness, Valerie June, Zara McFarlane, Bill Baird, Chastity Belt, Wand, Rhiannon Giddens, Jay Som, Laura Marling, Tinariwen, Spoon, Rose Elinor Dougall, Moon Duo, Julien Baker.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 17 Roy Orbison

Song(s) of the Day # 1,803 Princess Chelsea

Christmas of course can be the most magical, evocative time. So, here's a magical, evocative record from this year year that sounds rather Christmas-ssy to my ears. Three songs from The Loneliest Girl, the fourth album from Auckland New Zealand's Pricess Chelsea. It's by no means an unprecedented sound. David Lynch, Bats For Lashes and Lara Del Ray to name but three have trodden similar paths over the years. Princess Chelsea inhabits the fairy tale pastures of this territory. A nice place to be in between mince pies and Disney films.

Echoes of Girl Bands and juvenile Pop, (I heard echoes of Barbie Girl at one point), there are also direct steals, the title track rips off St.Etienne's Only Love Can Break Your Heart rotten. It hardly matters. So much music has been going back to similar sources for the last Sixty years. The Loneliest Girl is a nice place to spend a while...

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Billy Idol

it Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2016

I've been doing these countdowns for three years now. Here's the first. From the year that Bowie died.

By no means definitive. It was just records from 2016 I like and I made the order up as I was counting down to Bowie. Plenty of good and some great stuff missing. It was a dreadful year for music deaths; a wonderful one for new music; a bewildering one for the world!

1. David Bowie - Blackstar
2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
3. Regina Spektor - Remember Us To Life
4. The Avalanches - Wildflower
5. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker
6. Kacy & Clayton - Strange Country
7. Kevin Morby - Singing Saw
8. Sunflower Bean - Human Ceremony
9. Nap Eyes - Though Rock Fish Scale
10. Lambchop - FLOTUS
11. The Moles - Tonight's Music
12. Agnes Obel - Citizen Of Glass
13. Fantastic Negrito - The Last Days of Oakland
14. Warehouse - super low
15. Parquet Courts - Human Performance
16. Helado Negro - Private Energy
17. Eerie Wanda - Hum
18. Childish Gambino - "Awaken My Love!"
19. Kikagaku Moyo - House In The Tall Grass
20. Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution
21. Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
22. Big Thief - Masterpiece
23. Black Marble - It's Immaterial
24. Nothing - Tired Of Tomorrow
25. Xenia Rubinos - Black Terry Cat
26. Allah-Las - Calico Review
27. TOY - Clear Shot
28. Wilco - Schmilco
29. Omni - Deluxe
30. Chris Cohen - As If Apart
31. Exploded View - Exploded View
32. Goat - Requiem
33. De La Soul - And The Anonymous Nobody
34. Lawrenca Arabia - Absolute Truth
35. Fumaca Preta - Impuros Fanaticos
36. Public Access TV - Never Enough
37. The Coathangers - Nosebleed Weekend
38. Teleman - Brilliant Sanity
39. Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve - The Soft Bounce
40. Papooz - Green Juice
41. Cool Ghouls - Animal Races
42. Eleanor Friedberger - New View
43. Alex Cameron - Jumping The Shark
44. Angel Olsen - My Woman
45. Holy Wave - Freaks Of Nature
46. Ulrika Spacek - The Album Paranoia
47. Cate Le Bon - Crab Day
48. Steve Gunn - Eyes On The Line
49. Beth Orton - Kidsticks
50. DIIV - Is The Is Are

Twelve Days of Christmas # 13 Courtney Barnett

Breaking the rules for Courtney...

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 18 Aretha Franklin

This year's great musical loss...

Song(s) of the Day # 1,802 Free Cake For Every Creature

Some cake left over from Christmas. Proper fey Philadelphia based indie band. For those who like their indie that way!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year Playlist

And here's the playlist! Not in the same order given last minute adjustments.

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year

That's me. And here are my Top 50 albums of 2018. It's been a great year for music. I can vouch for that by the number of fine records that haven't made this list. Among them; Ty Segall, Sons of Kemet, Kadhja Bonet, Hovvdy, Spare Snare, Clint Michigan, Wooden Shjips, Parquet Courts, Walter Martin, Loose Tooth, The Plastic Shoelaces, The Saxaphones, Joan As Policewoman and many more. Here are the the ones that made my list.

1. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
2. The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Merrie Land
3. U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited
4. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
5. Elza Soares - Deus E Mulher
6. Lawn - Blood On The Tracks
7. Low - Double Negative
8. Phosphorescent - C'est La Vie
9. Emily Fairlight - Mother Of Gloom
10. Gwenno - Le Kov
11. Bill Ryder- Jones - Yawn
12. Cat Power - Wanderer
13. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
14. Trembling Bells - Dungeness
15. Blood Orange - Negro Swan
16. The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking
17. The Lavender Flu - Mow The Glass
18. Richard Swift - The Hex
19. Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar
20. Papercuts - Parallel Universe Blues
21. Natalie Prass - The Future & The Past
22. Olden Yolk - Olden Yolk
23. Tomberlin - At Weddings
24. Say Sue Me - Where We Were Together
25. Alela Diane - Cusp
26. The Essex Green - Hardly Electronic
27. Vital Idles - Left Hand
28. Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound
29. Elephant Micah - Genericana
30. Amen Dunes - Freedom
31. Air Waves - Warrior
32. Emma Tricca - St.Peter
33. Fog Lake - Captain
34. Rosali - Trouble Anyway
35. Cafe Racer - Famous Dust
36. The Innocence Mission - Sun On The Square
37. New Silver Girl - New Silver Girl
38. Blue Orchids - Righteous Harmony Fist
39. Whyte Horses - Empty Words
40. The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment
41. Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples
42. Yo La Tengo - There's A Riot Going On
43. Adrianne Lenker - abysskiss
44. The Shacks - The Shacks
45. Santigold - I Don't Want: The Gold Fire Sessions
46. Frankie Cosmos - Vessel
47. Wussy - What Heaven Is Like
48. Nap Eyes - I'm Bad Now
49. Amaya Laucirica - Rituals
50. Holy Tunics - Butterdish

Gigs of the Year # 3 Trembling Bells at the Cumberland Arms in Ouseburn

An evening out in July and the best gig I saw this year:

The Cumberland Arms is a community style pub on a small hill above the Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle. In addition to the normal social drinking that goes on there, it arranges a range of different events including hosting regular gigs in its small upstairs room above the bar. I've had some wonderful nights there over the years; Thurston Moore with Michael Chapman, Subway Sect, The Blue Orchids and The Nightingales and just last Wednesday Trembling Bells. An evening fit to compare with any one of them.

I went alone, taking the taxi from Central Newcastle in a foul mood. I'd had a run in with a dreadful corporate drone at work which had depressed and angered me, and I'd thought about passing on the gig. This however is not a good idea in my experience, always leaving a 'what if?' question mark hanging which I've always harboured since missing an early Stone Roses concert on the cusp of their fame in my university days, when I'd come down with a slight cold and stayed in. After all, if things don't work out you can always leave early. I certainly did the right thing this time round.

The Cumberland Arms is a very pleasant venue, particularly during this apparently endless, glorious summer. I sat in its front garden supping beer rather than watching the support acts, who veered towards the more conventional kind of Folk that I've always been wary of. Various members of the band wandered past at various points and we exchanged pleasantries. I also saw a good friend of mine, Steve Drayton who's a local celebrity and all round man on the scene whose Record Player  evenings at the Tyneside Cinema were a definite inspiration leading me to start writing this blog more than five years back.

Needless to say Steve was great company as always and his friends were fine people too and this all helped to while away the time 'til The Bells were due to play. Just beforehand I found myself inside the small back bar when Alex Neilson the drummer, main songwriter and leader of the band came past me. I told him that Christ's Entry into Goven (the centrepiece of their wonderful latest albumDungeness),was my favourite song of the year, which it is, and he thanked me, shook my hand and asked my name, then went off to prepare to play. I thought nothing more of it at the time.

A few minutes later upstairs dramatic rumours were whispered. Alex was not well at all, (food poisoning apparently), and wasn't sure to play. The rest of the band assembled somewhat nervously onstage without him while he hovered at the doorway uncomfortably. 

Just as they seemed about to set off without him he made his way though onto the low stage and they started to play. What followed was the finest hour or so of live music I've experienced this year.

Trembling Bells aren't for everyone, partly because they aim high. Their music is perhaps best described as Cosmic Folk although there's a large dose of Prog in their mix. They remind you of things, how could they not given their sound? In my case these are a lot of things from the early Seventies that I probably wouldn't choose to listen to myself, (not being a Prog man by any stretch of the imagination), but in their hands it all becomes deeply palatable and appealing.

Perhaps the most immediate set of references for what they do come from main singer Lavinia Blackwell who was perched at the front of the stage on keyboards and mic. As soon as she opens her mouth and sings, the reference points are undeniable; Sandy Denny, Grace Slick, Mariska Veres and Sonja Kristina inevitably come to mind and the spirit of their most wonderful records is invoked. 

That the band, (and Neilson most of all apparently), become slightly disgruntled by such comparisons, is understandable because of how good they are, but the comparisons are inevitable and its actually a veiled compliment to them as what they do is so powerful and thought through.

The evening passed in a happy blur. It felt like 1972, (when I was six and into Chicory Tip). The fact that the walls of the room were visibly sweating was little more than an irritant. At a certain point Neilson from his drum stool made a reminder between songs to, 'Go and buy our records'. In many respects he was quite right to do so. They're far too great a band to still be playing venues this size at this point of their career. Frankly, it's a damning indictment of our time and tastes.

And then the  highlight. At least for me! When it came to playing Christ's Entry, Alex said, 'I'd like to dedicate this to Bruce...' and off they went. I found the gesture incredibly touching and if it incurred Mr.Drayton's humorous wrath the next day in a message to me on social media, 'As their Number One fan, I should have had it...' , so be it. I left the venue sated and momentarily freed from the grip of the  corporate drone. Pretty much only music can do things like  that. So, Trembling Bells, you were and are wonderful, Dungeness is a genius album and I'm now an even firmer devotee than I was before Wednesday night. Many thanks!

Pop Culture Books of the Year # 1 Duncan Hannah - 20th Century Boy Notebooks of the Seventies

The ultimate 'I was there and I knew it...' document. A more complete review will follow, in the meantime I suggest you hunt down the book.

Twelve Days of Christmas # 12 The Beach Boys

Songs of the Year # 1 Trembling Bells

The first of a couple of awards for Trembling Bells this year.

Albums of the Year # 1 Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer

My album of the year. It felt like one of the most apt records of 2018. Reminders of the past and pushing into whatever comes next. Review from September:

'There was a lot of confusion and nonsense where I grew up, so I reacted by creating my own little world. (...) I began to see how music could change lives, and I began to dream about a world where every day was like anime and Broadway, where music fell from the sky and anything could happen.'

In some ways for me, 2018 has been The Year of Janet Jackson, at least in part. Not for the things Janet's put out herself, though she did make a return a few weeks back. Just that for me personally I've learned to properly appreciate all of those great records she put out in the Eighties for the first time. Mainly because I've heard the echoes of it in a couple of wonderful albums that I've liked a lot this year.

The first is Natalie Prass's The Future & the Past, which I'll write about more when I come to do my countdown of favourite records in November and December. The second is Janelle Monae's genuinely noteworthy Dirty Computer, which came out in April but which I've only just caught up with. My loss.

Dirty Computer reminds me of Janet though it's a heck of  lot franker and deeper in terms of its concerns than Janet ever was. It reminds me of Prince. Of Lauryn Hill. And also of Kelis whose Milkshake has been going round my head for weeks unknowingly waiting 'til I got round to listening to Janelle. At a certain point it even reminded me of Anita Baker (Don't Judge Me). 

It's a dirty record, (hence its name, a reference to Dirty Mind?) in the way that black artists  have always done them best. It's also sensual, sensitive, funky and smart. It makes political comment whenever it wants to, (it's almost the ultimate reverse-Trump statement in terms of its sensibility). All the time it's non-stop fun and fantasy. It also packs in big hitting collaborations, Pharrell Williams, Grimes, Zoe Kravitz and even Brian Wilson, (of all people), show up at various points. It will remind you of no end of classic records, (Make me Feel, is purely and quite deliberately a transition from Kiss) while being an absolute classic record itself.

It's a statement too of self-liberation. Read the gushing Pitchfork review for further detail None of that particularly needs to be itemised here, investigate further if you want to, but Dirty Computer is certainly a statement of pride and intent. It's also the best Pop album I've heard this year. And much more than that too!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 19 The Contours

Song of the Day # 1,801 Gwen Guthrie

Monday, December 24, 2018

Gigs of the Year # 2 Courtney Barnett at Northumbria University

Courtney Barnett has been the most constantly re-occurring contemporary artist I've written about over the last five and a half years on this blog. Last night I saw her, for the third time in Newcastle. The difference this time was that not only was she great, (she had been both previous times that I saw her in smaller venues), but that she was evidently now a star! Pleasingly, she played a set that cherry-picked from her career of seven years or so as a recording artists, back to her earliest EPs. She also played a beautiful cover version of The Go Betweens Streets of Your Town, which was both loving, respectful and renewing. She continues to go from strength to strength!

Pop Culture Books of the Year # 2 Chris Stamey - A Spy In The House Of Loud

The memoirs of Chris Stamey of the dBs and multiple other projects. Incredibly insightful, informative and entertaining in all kinds of respects. Full review will be forthcoming in a while.

The Guardian - Albums of the Year

The list with least in common with mine generally in terms of texture. Though we do share ten of the same records.

1. Christine & the Queens - Chris
2. Robyn - Honey
3. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
4. Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy
5. Mitski - Be the Cowboy
6. Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
7. Kamasi Washington - Heaven & Earth
8. Kasey Musgraves - Golden Hour
9. Low - Double Negative
10. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
11. Sophie - Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-Insides
12. Sons Of Kemet - Your Queen Is A Reptile
13. The Internet - Hive Mind
14. NoName - Room 25
15. Natalie Prass - The Future & The Past
16. Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar
17. Pusha T - Daytona
18. Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears
19. Julia Holter - Aviary
20. Ariana Grande - Sweetener
21. Kali Uchis - Isolation
22. Yves Tumor - Safe In The Hands Of Love
23. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!
24. Shame - Songs Of Praise
25. Virginia Wing - Ecstatic Arrow
26. Nao - Saturn
27. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
28. Travis Scott - Astroworld
29. Blood Orange - Negro World
30. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
31. Rosalia - El Mar Querer
32. Confidence Man - Confident Music For Confident People
33. Tirzah - Devotion
34. The 1975 - A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships
35. Lonney Holley - MITH
36. Snail Mail - Lush
37. Troye Sivan - Bloom
38. U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited
39. Gwenno - Le Kov
40. Lily Allen - No Shame
41. Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
42. Skee Mask - Compro
43. Courtney Marie Andrews - May Your Kindness Remain
44. Neneh Cherry - Broken Politics
45. Serpentwithfeet - Soil
46. Tracy Thorn - Record
47. Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo
48. Cat Power - Wanderer
49. Jon Hopkins - Singularity
50. Goat Girl - Goat Girl

Twelve Days of Christmas # 11 Say Sue Me

My own personal Christmas song of 2018. From the quite wonderful Say Sue Me.

Songs of the Year # 2 Frokedal

An absolutely heart-stopping song from Norwegian artist Frokedal a few months back.

Albums of the Year # 2 The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Merrie Land

This felt like the last album I really listened to in 2018. It soundtracked much of my November and December as the long countdown to Christmas and a proper break from work proceeded. Of course it's blatantly apparently a state of nation address and will turn many off, aside from the fact that it's fronted by Damon Albarn, once as divisive a figure in British music as Tony Blair became in British politics.

Over the last twenty years Albarn has gradually rehabilitated himself into a place where he's a highly respected figure following his worst crimes of the Parklife period. Not least in terms of this process of cultural reconstruction was the fine eponymous Good, The Bad & the Queen  debut album which came out eleven years back.

That record focused on what it means and feels like to be English, as Albarn so often has throughout his career, (Gorillaz being the obvious exception). It was almost inevitable that he'd have something to say about Brexit, the cloud and condition Britain has been dragged under in recent years, and he Paul Simonon, Simon Tong and Tony Allen have now made their statement on all that in Merrie Land, the band's second album and the accompanying round of gigs and interviews.

The record's a music hall, end of the pier dub elegy and a wonderfully atmospheric and evocative one. Like Brexit, it's divisive and won't be for everybody but I think it's a record that reflects the country I live in better than any other I've heard this year. It's by turns wry, mournful and melancholic. It reminds me of poetry, of classic Victorian novels, black and white movies and the great wave of British political music of 1978 to 1981. Oh and cold windy late nights in train stations, seaside towns in winter and evenings spent in Weatherspoon Pubs. And lots more. Britain for better and worse.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 20 The Ronettes

Song of the Day # 1,800 Le Superhomard

Another impeccable piece of Indie product from earlier on this year on the Elefant Record Label. Immaculate promo too!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Gigs of the Year # 3 Neon Waltz at Think Tank, Newcastle

Not particularly a great year of gigs for me. Oh Sees and Ty Segall, both of which I'd anticipated greatly felt like slightly heartless displays in technical trickery. Both playing at The Boiler Shop by Newcastle Central Station, a rather soulless  venue even if Robert Stephenson's Rocket was designed and built there. By comparison this young band, from close to John O'Groats were altogether much more heart-warming. Playing  a fine set in a small indie club just round the corner from me, they have the tunes and draw on influences such as Grizzly Bear and The Band that auger well for whatever they choose to do next. They were also very friendly and likeable when I spoke to them after the show. 

Pop Culture Books of the Year # 3 Can - All Gates Open

Didn't read many Pop Culture books published this year. Haven't actually read this one, though it's on my 'to buy' list for between Christmas and New Year. Can need and deserve a decent book and this is it. A band at least thirty years ahead of their time.

Uncut Magazine - Albums of the Year

Probably the most interesting and least compromised list this year. Nine of these on my own...

1. Low - Double Negative
2. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
3. Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin
4. Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
5. Yo La Tengo - There's a Riot Going On
6. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
7. Gruff Rhys - Babelsberg
8. Beak - [[[
9. Christine & the Queens - Chris
10. Sons of Kemet - Your Queen is a Reptile
11. Richard Thompson - 13 Rivers
12. Neko Case - Hell-On
13. Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar
14. Ry Cooder - The Prodigal Son
15. Elvis Costello & the Imposters - Look Now
16. Ezra Furman - Transangelic Exodus
17. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
18. The Breeders - All Nerve
19. Cowboy Junkies - All That Reckoning
20. Jack White - Boarding House Reach
21. Kamasi Washington - Heaven & Hell
22. Father John Misty - God's Favourite Customer
23. Kurt Vile - Bottle It In
24. Paul Weller - True Meanings
25. Courtney Marie Andrews - May Your Kindness Remain
26. John Prine - The Tree Of Forgiveness
27. Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
28. Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose
29. Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears
30, Melissa Laveaux - Radyo Siwel
31. Gazelle Twin - Pastoral
32. Gwenno - Le Kov
33. Connan Mockasin - Jassbusters
34. Hookworms - Microshift
35. Go Kart Mozart - Mozart's Mini Mart
36. The Lemon Twigs- Go To School
37. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Sparkle Hard
38. Calexico - TheThread That Keeps Us
39. Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound
40. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
41. Cat Power - Wanderer
42. Melody's Echo Chamber - Bon Voyage
43. Tracy Thorn - Record
44. Ryley Walker - Deafman Glance
45. Anna Calvi - Hunter
46. Kathryn Joseph - From When I Wake The World Is
47. Julia Holter - Aviary
48. Laura Veirs- The Lookout
49. Mary Lattimore - Hundreds of Days
50. The Necks - Body

Twelve Days of Christmas # 10 Peanuts

Songs of the Year # 3 Childish Gambino

Also promo of the year.

Albums of the Year # 3 U.S.Girls - In A Poem Unlimited

Still a fabulous sounding record, even ten months after it first came out when I wrote about it in February:

Until earlier on this week I was quite unaware of the existence of U.S.Girls, the project of multi-media Canadian artist Meghan Remy. But I started hearing tracks from her sixth album In a Poem Unlimited,  before its official release on 4 A.D on Friday and became intrigued. On listening to it in its entirety, I'd say it's destined to be one of the records of 2018. It's a quite blistering album.


An angry, defiant record, walking the line between art, pop and protest in a quite brilliant way. A State of the Nation address. Whereas Remy has previously drawn on the Ronettes and the girl group sound, In a Poem Unlimited fast forwards into the seventies and beyond, feeding off Blondie, ABBA, Disco 54 and Madonna to create a glorious, swirling feast,tipping a nod to the avant garde with eight minute closer Time, but elsewhere just revelling in the most wondrous grooves and melodies,

So, a highly political and timely album in a week where Alela Diane, Joan as Policewoman and Courtney Barnett have all put out great records focusing on different aspects of the world that women live in. U.S.Girls in many respects is the bleakest and most furious of the lot, commenting on the #me too campaign, male violence and abuse of power, Obama's drone bombing campaign and now to the times of Trump. The promo videos posted here attest to that. It's artistic and social statement but also a wonderfully seductive pop album.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 21 The Crystals

Song(s) of the Day # 1,799 Cyanide Thornton

Cyanide Thornton are yet another Melbourne-based band. Is everyone in Melbourne in a band? Discovering this information didn't come as an enormous surprise to me after the most rudimentary of research as their sound is almost midway between Courtney and Jen. Their eponymous debut album from earlier this year is well-worthy of investigation.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mojo Magazine - Albums of the Year

Ten of these on my list.

1. Kamasi Washington - Heaven & Earth
2. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
3. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
4. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
5. Christine and the Queens - Chris
6. Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
7. Ryley Walker - Deafman Glance
8. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
9. Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
10. Breeders - All Nerve
11. Fatoumata Diawara - Fenfo
12. Pusha T - Daytona
13. Kurt Vile - Bottle It In
14. Paul Weller - True Meanings
15. Tracy Thorn - Record
16. Cypress Hill - Elephants On Acid
17. Gaz Coombes - World's Strongest Man
18. Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar
19. Low - Double Negative
20. Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears
21. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!
22. Field Music - Open Here
23. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour
24. Oh Sees - Smote Reverser
25. Cat Power - Wanderer
26. Elvis Costello & the Imposters - Look Now
27. Paul McCartney - Egypt Station
28. Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound
29. Gwenno - Le Kov
30. Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mondo
31. Anna Calvi - Hunter
32. Gruff Rhys - Babelsberg
33. Ry Cooder - The Prodigal Son
34. Insecure Men - Insecure Men
35. Suede - The Blue Hour
36. Sleep - The Sciences
37. The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking
38. Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin
39. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Sparkle Hard
40. Maisha - There is a Place
41. Richard Thompson - 13 Rivers
42. Prince - Piano & A Microphone 1983
43. Chris Carter - Chris Carter's Chemistry Lessons, Volume I
44. Yo La Tengo - There's a Riot Going On
45. Wye Oak - The Louder I Call, The Faster it Runs
46. Binker & Moses - Alive in the East
47. Imarhan - Temet
48. Phosphorescent - C'est La Vie
49. Villagers - The Art of Pretending To Swim
50. Hookworms - Microshift

Twelve Days of Christmas # 9 Julian Casablancas

Songs of the Year # 4 Courtney Barnett

Albums of the Year # 4 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs

From June.

Hope Downs, the debut album from Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever out yesterday from Sub Pop, a record I had no little anticipation for and one that didn't disappoint me in any respect. The Melbourne band have been showered with critical garlands over the past couple of years with their two splendid EPs laying the groundwork for this, surely as good a guitar album as anyone will put out this year.

The record sparkles in a remarkable way that will remind those of a certain age of those of their youth, the songs and albums that made you fall in love with this stuff in the first place. The band are well aware of this themselves, commenting on the amount of 'grey hairs' that tend to attend their gigs. There's good reason for this as their songs are distinctly reminiscent of a fabled lineage of bands, The Go Betweens most obviously, but also Flying Nun bands The Clean and The Bats and the still thrilling guitar play of Television. They had Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd while Rolling Blackouts go for a three pronged attack both in terms of guitars and songwriters and lead vocalists.

There's a restless spirit and forward momentum from first to last. Also a determined positivity which is wonderful to hear in these most troubled of times. The record comes racing out of the traps and never once lets up, ten tracks of small characters on a vast landscape, quite clearly an Australian album that evokes sky, sand sea and outback like the best Triffids and Go Betweens records. The band themselves give an apt description of their sound and approach as 'tough pop - soft punk', they're Indie but more expansive and in some ways more ambitious than their immediate peers

It's a record that just invites you to come back to it again and again. Lyrically flowing and continually interesting, picking up the baton from McLennan and Forster and running freely with it. So while this is not necessarily anything new, there's so much invention with familiar ingredients, Hope Down is an album of eternal return and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever a band of current wonder and future promise.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 22 Darlene Love


Song of the Day # 1,798 Go-Kart Mozart

Good to see Lawrence's Go-Kart Mozart getting some attention in the end of year album polls with their record from this year, Mozart's Mini-Mart. Personally, I'd say you'd do well to get through it all at one sitting, so full-on is its nostalgia kitsch but in limited doses it's sweet and winning. Here's the stand-out track.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Twelve Days of Christmas # 8 Frightened Rabbit

Q Magazine - Albums of the Year

The Q Magazine Albums of the Year rundown. Eleven are in my list too.

1. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
2. Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears
3. The 1975 - A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships
4. Robyn - Honey
5. Parquet Courts- Wide Awake!
6. Christine & the Queens - Chris
7. Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
8. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
9. Paul Weller - True Meanings
10. Anna Calvi - Hunter
11. Interpol - Marauder
12. Kacey Musgroves - Golden Hour
13. Gruff Rhys - Babelsberg
14. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
15. Blood Orange - Negro Swan
16. Mitski - Be The Cowboy
17. Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin
18 DJ Koze - Knock Knock
19. Pusha T - Daytona
20. Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
21. Low - Double Negative
22. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
23. Tracy Thorn - Record
24. Elvis Costello & the Imposters - Look Now
25. Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer
26. U.S. Girls - In a Poem Unlimited
27. Daniel Avery - Song For Alpha
28. Neko Case - Hell-On
29. Gaz Coombes - World's Strongest Man
30 Kurt Vile - Bottle it in
31. Florence + the Machine - High As Hope
32. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Sparkle Hard
33. Shame - Songs Of Praise
34. Go-Kart Mozart - Mozart's Mini-Mart
35. Julia Holter - Aviary 
36. Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound
37. Beach House - 7
38. Bill Ryder-Jones - Yawn
39. Cat Power - Wanderer
40. Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts
41. Lykke Li - So Sad So Sexy
42. Sophie - Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides
43. Everything Recorded - Everything is Recorded by Richard Russell
44. Panic! at the Disco - Panic At The Disco
45. Mac Miller - Swimming
46. Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy
47. The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Merrie Land
48. Kamasi Washington - Heaven & Earth
49. Manic Street Preachers - Resistance is Futile
50. The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment