Sunday, December 31, 2023

Coming Up in 2024!

  1. The Weather Station
  2. Kamasi Washington
  3. Richard Thompson
  4. Mercury Rev
  5. Michael Head & the Red Elastic Band
  6. Ride
  7. John Grant
  8. Phosphoresescent
  9. Bill Ryder-Jones
  10. Grandaddy
  11. The Libertines
  12. Declan McKenna
  13. MGMT
  14. Marika Hackman
  15. Sleater-Kinney
  16. Gruff Rhys
  17. Ty Segall
  18. Hurray For the Riff Raff

It Starts With a Birthstone - Review of 2023


A busy year for me. On here and in life in general. I saw any number of gigs in Newcastle in the first half 2023 and wrote a lot of reviews throughout it. My rundown of favourite albums rose from 100 to 150 this time round. I wonder whether I'll be able to continue at that rate next year, Time will tell.

Revewing so many records, you do detect trends of some kinds, movements rising and falling. Young or not so young  bands playing the Post Punk card in rather tiresome, knowing and frankly careerist manner seemed less prevalent trend thank god. 

Dry Cleaning, who I've come round to after initial suspicion, are off on a seemingly endless World tour. Spreading the gospel of glum indie sprechgesang to the global masses. The other main players seem to have kept a lower profile than normal or else moved onto other territories themselves. I wonder about the whereabouts and activities of Goat Girl last year, the band which appealed to me most from that original Brixton, Windmill set which that scene stemmed from. I hope they make themselves known again in 2024.

Where Post Punk's tide seems to have ebbed, a strange successor scene seems to have gathered in the shadows and taken shape. Lankim's False Lankum was my record of the year along with almost everybody else's. I'll see them at the end of January and look forward to my date with them. .Lankum seem to bring a whole mad chorus of not disimilar bands and artists in their wake.  The new Dark Gothic Medieval Folk thing. Call it what you will. I'm sure it has a name or if it doesn't it soon will.

Men with long beards, women in floral dresses. People for whom Folk is not a dirty word as it pretty much was when I was coming of age in the Mid Eighties. Lisa O'Neill, John Francis Flynn, Richard Dawson. Name your own suspects. Perhaps not a scene as such. But musicians whose music bears similar hallmarks obsessions and sensibilities. A willingness to embrace the times before we were born.

I wonder whether this kind of thing will begin to pall too, given overfamiliarity in 2024. I suspect it might. What next? A Mod or Afrobeat Revival ? We wait and will see. There are certainly a lot of new records I'm looking forward to hearing as the new year takes its shape as it inevitably does and will.


  1. Shane MacGowan
  2. Jane Birkin
  3. Tom Verlaine
  4. Harry Belafonte
  5. Tina Turner
  6. Sinead O'Connor
  7. Burt Bacharach
  8. David Crosby
  9. Jeff Beck
  10. Alan Rankine
  11. Andy Rourke
  12. Robbie Robertson
  13. Steve Mackey
  14. Ryuichi Sakamoto
  15. Linda Lewis
  16. Astrud Gilberto
  17. Blackie Onassis
  18. Tony Bennett
  19. Sixto Rodriguez
  20. Denny Laine

Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 65 Nas - Illmatic


Song(s) of the Day # 3,606 Oscar Scheller


Picture the scene if you will. It's December 31st 2023. The end of a year of my life that's been action packed to say the least. I won't bother you with tiresome biohtaphical detail. I can't sleep. It's five-ish in the morning. Pitch darkness outside. I'm in the front bedroom of  a portly family house on the corner of a modern avenue of smiilar buildings in Canterbury, Kent.  I'm staying with beloved parents for Christmas and New Year. Typically it's blowing the gale to end all gales outside. But It's snug and warm in here.

I get up, go downstars and make myself a mug of tea. I take it back to my room, careful not to disturb my parents, sit down, put headphones on and start listening to Coming Of Age, by Oscar Scheller an album I chanced upon yesterday evening.

It's a Bedroom Pop album, so appropriate to be listened to in a bedroom early in the moning on the last day of the year., Scheller has a rather glum, unvarying and electronically treated delivery, the musical setting is slightly unremarkable. I won't come back to the record.

But it's the kind of record that I write this blog for. Moments of discovery. Wildlife spotted on the grassland on the plain in front of my hideout hole.. I mark this 7, don't listen to the whole thing because it's samey frankly and look for something else to listen to which will detain me more.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Album Reviews # 115 Orange Juice - The Orange Juice

 'I used to spend every afternoon. Locked in the confines of my room. My mother told me I never should. Play with the gypsies in the wood...'

Possibly the most Ironic Rock & Roll Album, with a Capital I and in Italics, ever made. Certainly not the most successful. or the most any means. So laid back it threatens to subside in a heap of self-satisfied sniggers at any moment. 

If the third album by Orange Juice were a short story it would be one by Donald Barthelme or Richard Brautigan. One far too clever for its own good laughing up its own sleeve. Not for everybody probably. Where you stand on this may depend on your positions on attitudes like wry and fey. 'A wink and a knowng grin' in the words of opener and flop single Lean Period,

The band's moment in the sun had long passed by the time this came out in 1984..The glorious Postcard singles, tours and interviews where they were clearly far and away the coolest kids on the block and also the ones most likely to.for a few seasons After Postcard came a redraft band wise and an actual bona fide with Rip It Up. Top of the Pops  appearances and Smash Hits covers.Their brief lived but inevitable destiny.But by the time this came to be recorded the game was clearly up.

By 1984, it seemed their very reason for being seemed somewhat questionable. They were on a major label, Polydor, but not one that seemed to have much faith or belief in them. Essentially they weren't really even a band any more with key members James Kirk, Stephen Daley, David McClymont, (on sone but not all I think). and Malcolm Ross having dropped out of the frame.

This left OJ as the core duo of Edwyn Collins, who has always been the figure you'd most readily associate with the band and drummer Zeke Manyika. Supplemented in the studio by the likes of Dennis Bovell and various session guys. On the surface the record might have come across as an afterthought, a shrugged apology before Orange Juice finally making their apologies at the end of the Pop Party and disappeared off into the night in different directions.. 

But there's more to Orange Juice than that. And the tecord makes a glorious listen in 2023. Sounds like a Lost Classic to me,  'Let's talk things over. In the Old Rover. Lets drown our sorrow's like there's no more tomorrows' . From Lean Period. Great punning that would never make it onto Top of the Pops or daytime radio.

As well as the most Ironic,this could be the best Punning album ever made. Collins seems twinned belatedly with Oscar Wilde. An Oscar with a fondness for The Velvet Underground, The Byrds, Dub and Dance Music. You can tell Bovell is involved this time.

I could go on about this at length, How it contains What Presence?! Surely the great lost Orange Juice hit single that never was. The Velvet Underground meet Al Green. In Bearsden. But let's face it all Orange Juice singles apart from Rip It Up, (which actually made and stayed in the charts), were great lost single hits. Orange Juice in retrospect didn't put a foot wrong. Even when what they were recording didn't fit in with what NME or Smash Hits were looking to put on their front cover that week. They were truly a band for the ages.

I've listened to this record a number of times in the last couple of days and now I'm viewing to hunt down a vinyl copy for my record player in 2024.It's an album that has an incredible sense of literary drama which foregrounds itself on virtually every moment of the record and seems to demand another listen when the album finishes its run so you can check out again just how good this is as if you can't actually believe your ears. 

 Like I just said, I'd contest it's one that would benefit from a reassessment in the scheme of things. . Not one that was destined to trouble any actual charts at the time it was released. In the same way as The Velvet Underground, Edwyn's heroes weren't. Many of the best records don't do that well in the actual charts, but wait for thir moment with stoical restraint and after you' grace. for their moment a few decades down the line The charts? How terribly vulgar. Hear this!

Covers # 213 Shakey Graves


A sign that I'm older than when the original of this came out. John Waite's single, Missing You, left me totally cold in 1984. It was the kind of thing which Jonathan King featured n his, to me, deathly dull weekly rundown on what was happening Stateside. I was far more interested in when the next Bunnymen single was coming out.

I've softened, and find this, Shakey Graves take on this paen to Romantic loss rather lovely.  Poignant frankly. Nicely done.

Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 66 The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland


Song(s) of the Day # 3,605 Noname


Hey Hold the Front Page! I've finally found my favourite R& B / Hip Hop / Rap whatever you call it for this year. Oh I guess that ship has already sailed!

Well never mind.Noname's Sundial covers a lot of ground in just over half an hour. That's all I ask of a good record in this genre and have done since De La Soul first arrived and shook me up properly back in the late Eighties.

This is Noname's first album for five years and she's in indecent haste to make up for lost time here. I don't claim to be an authority on the streets this walks, I'm more in my neighbourhood with Wedding Present records but I enjoyed this more than most Wedding Present records lve heard for a while.

This is sparky, bright and bouncy and never once stands on a spot. Each track goes in multuple directions like the best Hip Hop and never goes for easy options, I reckon it's a keeper. It grows with every play. Sometimes these things take time and effort and return your investment with interest. Such is certainly the case here.

If you want more detail I direct you to the Pitchfork review of the record or, oh I don't know, Hip Hop Monthly ? Down on the Corner ? As i said I'm no expert  here but I know what I like and I like this a great deal. Ir's a superb album. 

Friday, December 29, 2023

Billy Nomates


Covers # 212 Cat Powers & Iggy Pop


Cat & Little Jimmy Jewel.

Songs About People # 1,379 Felix Baumgartner


                                                            One for the Austrian daredevil.

Ratboys - The Window


Sometimes you miss some. An occupational hazard of writing a blog like this. You don't get round to listening to and writing about evrything you'd like to. For example the latest record by a band who you've written and raved about before. There are only so many hours in a day and I don't spend every hour of every one of them  glued to ,a chair in front of my laptop writing on here, much as though it must seem like I might sometimes.

So, belatedly here I am listening to The Window by Chicago's Ratboys. They're a fine band who've been making records for over a decade now. This is the first time they've recorded away from their home town. The Window was recorded in the Hall of Justice Recording Studio in Seattle, with producer Chris Walla, who's also wrked with Death Cab For Cutie.

It's a pity I missed out on this when it came out because it's a tight, urgent and varied record which knows when to take its foot off the accelerator pedal and take a look around it.  Ratboys are well-versed and know their game by now. Vocalist Julia Steiner has a wistful, keening voice which will go down well with anybody who's ever enjtoyed a Breeders, Belly, Betty Serveert or Madder Rose record.

If The Window belongs anywhere it probably is the Mid Nineties as spiritually this is where its signature sound hails from. This is another fine record and I hope and trust it keeps pushing them onwards, because the thing Ratboys do is neat indeed.

Ten Years High & Rising - It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2016 - 2023


I started posting on It Starts With a Birthstone in 2013. Originally as a way of recording my memories, feelings and thoughts about favourite albums from the Eighties, the decade when I first started buying records. Over time this has mutated into something else that's easier to do and more organic. A prompt to encourage me to listen to and write about music that's largely being released now. Or as near to now as I can get..

 Over time the blog has begun to dictate it's own shape and character, A routine has established itself, This is the direction I will continue to take from now on. A song and record every day. Building day by week by month. Eventually to a rundown of my favourite albums of the year. as darkness falls at the end of each year.  All this supplemented by posts on books and compilations that have taken my fancy and anything else that catches my notice and interest and  that I hope might interest others.. No big deal but a nice thing to do and I'll continue in the same manner from here.. 

Three years in, from 2016 I started listing my favourite albums and songs of on an annual basis. Something else to focus me as winter approached. So that year I wrote my first annual list of favourite albums, topped with Bowie's final record and the most recent one Radiohead have released, accompanied in the Top Three by Regina Spector who I fell completely in love with for a few years.. 

Here are my top three records for each year since then. No artist has recorded two entries as of yet. Not deliberate on my part. Just the way it's gone. But something I'm quite pleased with. I try to be reasonably eclectic.

There are some pretty good records here. Perhaps I should give some of them another listen. But then the remit I've given myself here for the most point is to keep moving forward, and that for the most part is what I intend to do. Foot on the accelerator, into 2024....


1. David Bowie - Blackstar

2. Radiohead - Heart-Shaped Pool

3. Regina Spector - Remember Us To Life


1. Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent

2. Les Amazones D'Afrique - Republique Amazone 

3. The Feelies - In Between


1. Janaelle Monae - Dirty Computer

2. The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Merrie Land

3. U.S. Girls - In a Poem Unlimited


1. Bill Callahan - Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

2. Sarathy Korwar - More Arriving

3. Vanishing Twin - The Age of Immunity


1, SAULT Untitled (Rise)

2. Sufjan Stevens - Lamentations

3. Billy Nomates - Billy Nomates


1. Greentea Peng - Greentea Peng

2. Little Simz - Sometimes I Might be Introvert

3. Jane Weaver - Flock


1. Joan Shelley - The Spur

2. Big Thief - Dragon New Mountain I Believe in You

3. Naima Bock - Giant Palm


1. Lankum - False Lankum

2. John Cale - Mercy

3. Craven Faults - Standers

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2023


  1. Lankum - False Lankum 
  2. John Cale - Mercy
  3. Craven Faults - Standers.
  4. Paul Simon - Seven Psalms
  5. Yo La Tengo - This Stupid Year
  6. Paper Bee - Thaw, Freeze, Thaw
  7. Blur - The Ballad of Darren
  8.  Lil Yachty - Let's Start Here
  9. Lisa O'Neill - All Of This Is Chance
  10. Sufjan Stevens - Javelin
  11. The Finks - Birthdays at Solo Pasta
  12. En Attendant Ana - Principia
  13. Feist -  Multitudes
  14. Joanna Sternberg - I've Got Me
  15. PJ Harvey - Inside The Old Year Dying
  16. Baxter Dury - I Thought I Was Better Than You
  17. Meg Baird - Furling
  18. Loney Holley - Oh Me Oh My
  19. Protomartyr - Formal Growth in the Desert
  20. Index For Working Musik - Dragging the Needlework for the Kids at Uphole
  21. The WAEVE - The WAEVE 
  22. Robert Forster - The Candle & The Flame
  23. Ulrika Spacek - Compact Trauma
  24. Warrington- Runcorn New Town Development Plan - The Nation's Most Central Location
  25. Wilco - Cousin
  26. Califone - Villagers
  27. Wednesday - Rat Saw God
  28. Anohni & The Johnsons - My Back Was a Bridge For You To Cross
  29. Ora Cogan - Formless
  30.  Dignan Porch - Electric Threads
  31.  Lael Neale - Star Eaters Delight 
  32. Bonnie Prince Billy - Keeping Secrets Will Destroy Me
  33. Fog Lake - Midnight Society
  34. Radiator Hospital - Can't Make any Promises
  35. Water From Your Eyes - Everyone's Crushed 
  36. Amy Mae Ellis - Over Ling & Bell
  37. U.S.Girls - Bless This Mess
  38. Sunny War - Anarchist Gospel
  39.  maya ongaku - Approach to Anima
  40.  The Murder Capital - Gigi's Recovery
  41. Mega Bog - End Of Everything
  42. Shirley Collins - Archangel Hill
  43. Isolated Gate - Universe in Reverse
  44. Kara Jackson - Why Does The World Give Us People To Love.
  45. Nabihah Iqbal - DREAMER
  46. Holiday Ghosts - Absolute Reality
  47. Modern Kosmology - What Will You Grow Now
  48. Alasdair Roberts - Grief in the Kitchen & Mirth in the Hall
  49. Being Dead - When Horses Would Run 
  50.  Tinariwen - Amatssou

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2022


 Records I liked this year. By no mea s definitive. I only came up with a Number One that seemed right a few days ago, so was shuffling and changing right to the end, chucking out records that I loved along the way. I guess this describes my musical year fairly well though. I was a little bit 'Indie' for the most part in 2022. Perfectly happy with that. It also shows that female artists are generally the spine of my taste these days. There might be something in here you'd like to investigate further. Here's my favourite music related photo of me this year. That's me with Richard Dawson, a local hero where I live. I happened to bump into him in a quiet Saturday evening at my local in Newcastle and he was the most delightful of people. Giving a lot of his time incredibly generously and allowing me this fabulous photo too. Wonderful man. 

  1. Joan Shelley - The Spur
  2. Big Thief - Dragon New Mountain I Believe in You
  3. Naima Bock - Giant Palm
  4. The Smile - A Light For Attracting Attention
  5. Danger Mouse & Black Thought - Cheat Codes
  6. Aldous Harding - Warm Chris
  7. Bill Callahan - YTILAER
  8. Fortunato Durrutti Marinetti - Memory's Fool
  9. Horsegirl - Versions of Modern Performance
  10. Nilufer Yanya - PAINLESS
  11. Kikagaku Moyu - Kumoyu Island
  12. Santigold - Spirituals
  13. Weyes Blood - And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow
  14. Kevin Morby - This is a Photograph
  15. Katy J Pearson - Sound of the Morning
  16. Say Sue Me - The Last Thing Left
  17. Gwenno - Tresor
  18. Wilco - Cruel Country
  19. Lady Wray - Piece of Me
  20. The Stroppies - Levity 
  21. Jake Xerxes Fussell - Good & Green Again
  22. Beach House - Once Twice Melody
  23. Green / Blue - Offering
  24. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Dear Scott
  25. Hurray For The Riff Raff - LIFE ON EARTH 
  26. Belle & Sebastian - A Bit of Previous
  27. Sessa - Estrella Acesa
  28. Ezra Furman - All Of Us Flames
  29. Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra - The Unfolding
  30. Park Jiha - The Gleam
  31. Laura Jean - Amateurs
  32. Kiwi Jr. - Chopper
  33. Mattiel - Georgia Gothic
  34.  Dry Cleaning - Stumpwork
  35. String Machine - Halleujah Hell Yeah
  36. Smidley - Here Comes The Devil
  37. Jesca Hoop - Order of Romance
  38.  Elvis Costello & The Imposters - The Boy Named It
  39. Jonathan Personne - Jonathan Personne
  40. Silvana Estrada - Marchita
  41. Vinyl Williams - Cosmopolis
  42. Seapower - Everything Was Forever
  43. Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector 
  44. Erin Rae - Lighten Up
  45.  Father John Misty - Chloe & the Next 20th Century
  46. Young Guv - Guv IV
  47. C. Duncan - Alluvium
  48. Papercuts - Past Life Regression
  49. Daniel Rossen - You Belong Here
  50. Moor Mother - Jazz Codes

Best Ever Albums - Albums of the Year


Hipster Amerucan site. 13 in my 150
  1. Sufjan Stevens - Javelin
  2. Lana Del Ray - Did You Know There's  - A Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard
  3. JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown - Scaring The Hoes.
  4. Caroline Polachek - Desire, I Want To Turn Into You
  5. Boygenius - The Record
  6. Jessie Ware - That! Feels Good
  7. Black Country, New Road - Live at Bush Hall
  8. Parranoul - After The Magic
  9. The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein
  10. Slowdive - Everything is Alive
  11. Lil Yachty -Let's Start Here
  12. Foo Fighters -But Here We Are
  13. Mitski - The Land is Inhospitable And So Are We
  14. Paramore - This s Why
  15. Blur - The Ballad of Darren
  16. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal - Maps
  17. Wednesday - Rat Saw Good
  18. Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy
  19. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Petrodragonic Appocalype
  20. Olivia Rodrigo - Guts
  21. P J Harvey - I Inside The Whole Day Dying
  22. Queens of the Stoneage - In Times New Roman
  23. Anohni & The Johnsons - My Back Was a Bridge For You To Cross
  24. Gorillaz - Cracker Island
  25. Squid - O Monolith
  26. Yves Tumor - Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Conseme (Or Simply Hot Within Words)
  27. Depeche Mode - Memento Mori
  28. Shame - Food For Worms
  29. Sigur Ros - Atta
  30. The Rolling Stones -Hackney Diamonds
  31. Yo La Tengo -This Stupid World
  32. McKinley Dixon - Beloved! Paradise! Jazz !?Fever Ray - Radical RomanticsSlowthai - Ugly
  33. The National - Laugh Track
  34. 100 gecs - 10,000 Gecs
  35. Jeff Rosenstock - Hellmode
  36. Lankum - False Lankum
  37. Parranoul - After The Night
  38. Model / Actriz - Dogsbody
  39. Yeule - Softscars
  40. Belle & Sebastian - Late Developers
  41. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Weathervanes
  42. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Council Skies
  43. Susanne Sundfor - Blomi
  44. George Clantin - Ooh Rap I Love You
  45. Kelela - Raven
  46. Swans - The Beggar
  47. Danny Brown - Quaranta
  48. Peter Gabriel - i/o
  49. Fever Ray - Radical Romantics
  50. Noname - Sundial

Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 67 Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell


Thursday, December 28, 2023

Song(s) of the Day # 3,604 Small Isles


Grandaddy will be back in 2024 with their first album since 2017's Last Place. They're a band whose return is aways a cause for celebration, certainly for me. I come to appreciate their music and sensibility increasingly with the passing years. They're that rarest of beasts. A band with a genuinely sustained worldview and perpective. One that deserves a large illustrated book or a documentary.

With their return in mind it's worth listening to Everything on Memory  the lastest record from Small Isles which features guitarist Jim Fairchild, who has done time with Grandaddy and Modest Mouse among others down the road.

There are seven largely instrumental tracks here. All of them veined with the spacey, uneasy melancholy which makes Grandaddy such a special project. These are tracks which are sad, but where you can't quite identify exactly where the sadness stems from precisely. If asked to specify the reason for that sadness I guess I'd say it's largely focused around a sense of loss. This seems to be a record about 'loss' but it's a quite wonderful one perhaps most when it's at its most downcast . 

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2021


Now onwards into 2021.

This one feels like it's been a long, and very interesting year music wise. Here is a list of albums that I've gone for. I actually started way back in September at # 100, but here is the Top 50. From ones that I've loved to ones that I've liked. No attempt at academic distance and judgement. Just records that have bought me joy. The photo here is one of me, a long, long time ago:

1. Greentea Peng - Man Made

2. Little Simz - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

3. Jane Weaver - Flock

4. Parquet Courts - Plant Life

5. The Weather Station - Ignorance

6.  St. Lennox - Ten Songs of Worship and Praise For These Tumultuous Times

7. Dark Tea - Dark Tea

8. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises

9. Fievel Is Glauque - God's Trashmen Sent to Right The Mess

10.  Dean Wareham - I Have Nothing To say To The Mayor Of LA

11. Low - Hey What

12. Cool Ghouls - At George's Zoo

13. Goat Girl - On All Fours

14. Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee

15. Bendigo Fletcher - Fits of Laughter

16. Drug Store Romeos - The world within our bedrooms

17. Courtney Barnett - Things Take Time, Take Time

18. John Grant - Boy From Michigan

19. Astral Swans - Astral Swans

20. The Goon Sax - Mirror II

21. The God Fahim & Your Old Droog - The Wolf on Wall Street

22. Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victim

23. Lost Girls, Jenny Hval & Havard Volden - Menneskekollektivet

24. The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings

25. Adrian Crowley - The Watchful Eye of The Stars

26. Tronco - Nainoia

27. Fog Lake - Tragedy Reel

28. TEKE::TEKE - Shirushi

29. Elephant Micah - Vague Tidings

30. James Yorkston & The Second Hand Orchestra - The Wide, Wide River

31. Cassandra Jenkins - An Overview of Phenomenal Nature

32. ABBA - Voyage

33. Vanishing Twin - Ooki Gekkou

34. Pye Corner Audio - The Spectral Corridor 

35. The Telephone Numbers - The Ballad of Doug

36. Hannah Peel - Fir Wave

37. El Michels Affair - Yeti Season

38. Black Twig - Was Not Looking For Magic


40. The Killers - Pressure Machine

41. Orla Gartland - Women on The Internet

42. Dusted - III

43. Fruit Bats - The Pet Parade

44. Mega Bog - Life, And Another

45.  Valerie June - The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers

46. Floatie - Voyage Out

47. Saint Etienne - I've Been Trying To Tell You

48. Durand Jones & The Indications - Private Space

49. Albertine Sages - The Sticky Fingers

50. POSTDATA - Twin Flames

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2020



At the end of a year that none of us have ever seen the like of, here's It Starts With a Birthstone's countdown of my favourite fifty albums of the year. I like my list not unnaturally. I think it's eclectic, varied and reflects a lot of the things I've enjoyed and listened to during 2020.

1. SAULT - Untitled (Rise)

2. Sufjan Stevens - Lamentations

3. Billy Nomates - Billy Nomates

4. CHOPCHOP - Everything Looks So Real

5. Shabaka & The Ancestors - We Are Sent Here By History

6. Cornershop - England Is a Garden

7. Protomartyr - Ultimate Success Today

8. Bananagun - The True Story of Bananagun

9. East Man - Prole Art Threat

10. Fontaines D.C. - A Heroes Death

11. The Mountain Goats - Getting Into Knives

12. Saint Savior - Tomorrow Again

13. Brona McVittie - The Man in the Mountain

14. Rufus Wainwright - Unfollow The Rules

15. Bo Ningen - Sudden Fictions

16. Fiona Apple - Fetch The Boltcutters

17. Lawn - Johnny

18. Nathalie Shah - Kitchen Sink

19. Arbor Labor Union - New Petal Instincts

20. Ora Cogan - Bells In The Ruins

21. Wire - Mind Hive

22. Isobel Campbell - There is no Other

23. The Homesick - The Big Exercise

24. Daniel Romano - How Ill Thy World is Ordered

25. Jeremy Tuplin - Violet Waves

26. Coriky - Coriky

27. Grimm Grimm - Ginormous

28. Kevin Krauter - Full Hand

29. I Break Horses - Warnings

30. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Sideways To New Italy

31. The Innocence Mission - See You Tomorrow

32. U.S. Girls - Heavy Light

33. Perfume Genius - Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

34. En Attendant Ana - Juillet

35. The Cool Greenhouse - The Cool Greenhouse

36. Latitude - Mystic Hotline

37. This Is The Kit- Off On On

38. Emma Kupa - It Will Come Easier

39. Drab City - Good Songs For Bad People

40. James Elkington - Ever-Roving Eye

41. No Age - Goons Be Gone


43. Aoife Nessa Frances - Land of No Junction

44. Jenny O. - New Truth

45. The Strokes - The New Abnormal

46. Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song

47. Galore - Galore

48. Arbouretum - Let It All In

49. El Goodo - Zombie

50. Death Valley Girls - Under the Spell of Joy

Song(s) of the Day # 3,603 Chester Jonson


Do you need to know anytthing at all about the artist you're listening to in order to appreciate the record they've made that you're listening to. I don't really think so, though if of course if you're planning to tell others about them and recommend their product  it obviously helps to have some basic biographical detail.' Joe Bloggs comes fom blah blah, blah  and this is his third album. I think it's his best yet.  It's out now on the Tutti Frutti label out of Squattsydip Vermont..'

I don't think even that much background detail is required really. Particularly when the record you're focusing on and appreciating is as damned good as today's record of the day. Namely Chester Jonson's Lake Erie, the latest must listen for depressive Indie types that don't feel like playing their pile of Elliott Smith and Beck records today.

For that seems essentially seems to be where Lake Erie comes from. I was also reminded of East River Pipe. A rather obscure indie loner I latched onto for a while in the late Nineties. J.Mascis, Lou Barlow. That's the gene pool and sensibility we're talking here. Slacker American types in nowhere towns. Staring at the holes in their jeans and their battered sneakers.Wishing they had a girlfriend.  Deciding whether to do a hit, sniff some glue, clean the porch or just generally feel sorry for themselves on an overcast Saturday afternoon in October.

Perhaps I'm not doing Lake Erie justice because this a really fine record considering the slightly bleak premise and departure and arrival points it's decided upon for itself. In fact I think it's a quite brilliantly realised record. More grog for First Mate Starbuck / Darren Jones who brought this to the Captain's Table lads. Steady on your feet Starbuck. You've had so much grog already this week you might come to regret it. 

Uncut Magazine - Albums of the Year

The magazine for all things Americana. 18 in my 150.

  1.  Lankum - False Lankum 
  2. Paul Simon - Seven Psalms
  3. Wilco - Cousin
  4. PJ Harvey - Inside The Old Year Dying
  5. Yo La Tengo - This Stupid Year
  6. Lana Del Ray - Did You Know There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard
  7. Lonnie Holley - Oh Me, Oh My
  8. The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein
  9. Julie Byrne - The Greater Wings
  10. John Cale - Mercy
  11. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Weathervanes
  12. Slowdive - Everything is Alive
  13. Blur - The Ballad of Darren
  14. Corinne Bailey Rae - Black Rainbows
  15. Margo Cilker - Valley of Heart's Delight
  16. The Clientele - I Am Not There Anymore
  17. Lisa O'Neill - All Of This Is Chance
  18. The Rolling Stones - Hackney Diamonds
  19. The Coral - Sea of Mirrors
  20. Hiss Golden Messenger - Jump For Joy
  21. The Necks - Travel
  22. Shirley Collins - Archangel Hill
  23. Sam Burton - Dear Departed
  24. Robert Forster - The Candle & The Flame
  25. Kassi Valazza - Knows Nothing
  26. Bitgenius - The Record
  27. Matthew Halsall - An Ever Changing View
  28. SBT - Joan Of All
  29. Depeche Mode - Memento Mori
  30. Wednesday - Rat Saw God
  31. Baaba Maal - Marathom
  32. Jaimie Branch - Fly Or Die Fly Or Die Fly or Die
  33. Arroj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily - Love In Exile
  34. Sunny War - Anarchist Gospel
  35. Teenage Fanclub - Nothing Lasts Forever
  36. Billy Valentine - .... And The Universal Truth
  37. Eddie Chacon - Sundown
  38. Anohni & The Johnsons - My Back Was a Bridge For You To Cross
  39. Califone - Villagers
  40. Israel Nash - Ozarker
  41. Unknown Mortal Orchstra - V
  42. BC Camplight - The Last Rotation of Earth
  43. Blake Mills - Jelly Road
  44. Everything But The Girl - Fuse
  45. Feist - - Multitudes
  46. Modern Nature - No Fixed Point In Space
  47. Cian Nugent - She brings Me Back To The Land of the Living
  48. Sllisson Russell - The Returner
  49. Margo Price - Strays
  50. Craven Faults - Standers.

Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 68 Van Morrison - Astral Weeks


Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Covers # 211 Naima Bock


Naima Bock does Laughing Len. Rather beautifully. I'm hoping for more Naima in 2024.

It Starts with a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2019



This is me. Looking a bit worse for wear and wist ul midway through the calendar year in my new local. Here is the final rundown of my favourite records of the year. It's the fourth year I've done this Top Fifty on here, counting down one day at a time from the beginning of November. This one seems like my best list, not necessarily because the records are better this year but because the process has been the most thorough it's ever been. I can vouch fully for every album listed here. Many very good records haven't made it; Lana Del Ray, Bubblegum Lemonade, The Murder Capital, Ona, Mac Demarco, Wives, Sleaford Mods, The Persian Leaps, Jeanines, A.A.Bondy, Divino Nino and myriad others. Check out the upcoming playlist for specifics.
  1. Bill Callahan - Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest
  2. Sarathy Korwar - More Arriving
  3. Vanishing Twin - The Age of Immunity
  4. Big Thief - U.F.O.F.
  5. Lightning Dust - Spectre
  6. Robert Forster - Inferno
  7. Aldous Harding - Designer
  8. Wild Firth - Lawn Memory
  9. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
  10. Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel
  11. Big Thief - Two Hands
  12. Mega Bog - Dolphine
  13. The Mystery Lights - Too Much Tension
  14. Wilco - Ode To Joy
  15. Cate Le Bon - Reward
  16. Little Simz - Grey Area
  17. Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
  18. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
  19. Damon Locks & the Black Monument Ensemble - Where Future Unfolds
  20. Joan Shelley - Like The River Loves The Sea
  21. Olden Yolk - Living Theatre
  22. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Colorado
  23. Elva - Winter Sun
  24. Jeremy Tuplin - Pink Mirror
  25. Shana Cleveland - Night of the Worm Moon
  26. Hand Habits - placeholder
  27. Joanna Sternberg - Then I Try Some More
  28. Adam Green - Engine of Paradise
  29. Trash Kit - Horizon
  30. Possible Humans - Aspiring to be a Bloke
  31. Kevin Morby - Oh My God
  32. Fat White Family - Serf's Up!
  33. KOKOKO - Fongola!
  34. Tiny Ruins - Olympic Girls
  35. Good Morning - Basketball Breakups
  36. Rustin Man - Drift Code
  37. Program - Show Me
  38. Neutrals - Kebab Disco
  39. Boogarins - Sombre Duvida
  40. Penelope Isles - Until The Tide Creeps In
  41. Parsnip - When The Tree Bears Fruit
  42. James Yorkston - The Route To The Harmonium
  43. Kit Sebastian - Mantre Moderne
  44. Modern Nature - How To Live
  45. Kelsey Lu - Blood
  46. John Southworth - Miracle In The Night
  47. International Teachers of Pop - International Teachers of Pop
  48. Half Japanese - Invincible
  49. Doug Tuttle - Dream Road
  50. Jenny Hval - The Practice Of Love

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2018


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 

Mojo - Albums of the Year


The venerable Mojo, 18 in my long list/

    1. Blur - The Ballad of Darren
    2. PJ Harvey - Inside The Old Year Dying
    3. Lankum - False Lankum 
    4. Robert Forster - The Candle & The Flame
    5. Young Fathers - Heavy Heavy
    6. Lana Del Ray - Did You Know There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard
    7. Jaimie Branch - Fly Or Die Fly Or Die Fly or Die
    8. Paul Simon - Seven Psalms
    9. Everyhing But The Girl - Fuse
    10. Julie Byrne - The Greater Wings
    11. Wilco - Cousin
    12. The Coral - Sea of Mirrors
    13. The Necks - Travel
    14. Grian Chatten - Chaos For The Fly
    15. BC Camplight - The Last Rotation of Earth
    16. Arroj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily - Love In Exile
    17. Boygenius - The Record
    18. James Holden - Imagine This is a High Dimensional Space of all Possibilities
    19. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Council Skies
    20. Pretenders - Relentless
    21. Bily Woods & Kenny Segal - Maps
    22. John Cale - Mercy
    23. Teenage Fanclub - Nothing Lasts Forever
    24. Lisa O'Neill - All Of This Is Chance
    25. Yo La Tengo - This Stupid Year
    26. Anohni & The Johnsons - My Back Was a Bridge For You To Cross
    27. Mozart Estate - Pop Up! Her-Ching! And the Possibilities of Modern Shopping
    28. Fatoumata Diawara - London Ko
    29. Billy Nomates - Cacti
    30. Sparks - The Grl is Crying in Her Latte
    31. Sufjan Stevens - Jvelin
    32. Bill Orcutt - Jump On It
    33. SBT - Joan of All
    34. Shirley Collins - Archangel Hill
    35. Corinne Bailey Rae - Black Rainbows
    36. Depeche Mode - Memento Mori
    37. Sleaford Mods - UK Grime
    38. Gaz Coombes - Turn The Car Around
    39. Slowdive - Everything is Alive
    40. The Tibs - Daed Meat
    41. Gina Birch - I Play My Bass Loud
    42. Lloyd Cole - On Pain
    43. Kassa Overall - Animals
    44. Ian Hunt - Defiance Part 1
    45. Sussane Sundfor - Blomi
    46. Rickie Lee Jones - Pieces of Treasure
    47. Animal Collective - Isn't It Now
    48. Dexys - The Feminine Divine
    49. Osees - Intercepted Message
    50. Jana Horn - The Window is the Dream

    Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 69 Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation


    Song(s) of the Day # 3,602 La Billy


    Sacre Bleu! Le Billy are a French Psychedelic Pop Dance band that, according to their Spotify dexription ' sharp ears shall recognise Gainsbourg's touch, and hypnotic vocals mixed just like in Tame Impala's psuchedelic rock L'Imperatrice's dance music.'

    As so often Spotify bios tell you most of what you need to know, except perhaps precisely how good La Billy's latest album Ollie Queen actually is. Tout simplement, c'est fantastique.

    It's a record you can dance to. Imagine you're on the continent, living it up with cool young bohemians.  Funky. afros and loose threads.

    It's a record to marvel at where it comes from and immerse yourself in where it's gone.One of the purest 'fun' records I've heard for an age. Just in time forthe Post Christmas come down.

    Tuesday, December 26, 2023

    Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums # 70 Sigur Ros - Aegetis Byrjun


    It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2017


    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.

    It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2016


    Previous Rundowns
    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!

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