Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Years Eve-Sandbar Manchester

I was half tempted to do sod all this new years as more often than not they are a bit of a anti-climax. However, a friend remembered he was DJing with a host of others at the wondeful Sandbar on Grosvenor Street for NYE and he has invited me down to throw down a couple of tunes during the night. It's free in and open till 2am and it's a cracking bar with a great selection of drinks. Expect to hear all sorts from house, disco, funk and post-punk. Forget paying expensive entry to somewhere not very good where you can't even get a pint, come to Sand! You'll be warmly welcomed.

Happy NYE!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sonic Youth

With all the Christmas hecticness and the impending New Year bollocks, I'd forgotten all about being New York noise legends, Sonic Youth coming to Manchester. The Pop Group will also be in attendance, shouting their insane post punk aggressive dub reggae type weird shit, and I can't wait. London will be treated to a New Years special featuring a midnight show from the Youth and additional support act from Steve Albini's Shellac. A great way to end the year, albeit in Manchester a day early. Last time I caught them was at Coachella in 2007 where they started with 'Candle' and it just went off. It's a shame both shows are now sold out. If you aren't a lucky bastard like me, enjoy what's below and take it as a late Christmas present, which these shows most certainly are.

Sonic Youth-Candle

Shellac-Prayer to God

Friday, 24 December 2010

Low Christmas

Most of us feel the need to wince when you start hearing traditional Christmas songs. We all hope (or we should do) that one day Christmas songs by the likes of Slade, Wham, Mariah Carey, Cliff Richard etc. will be consigned to dust and never hit our unfortunate ear drums again. We all know too well that this isn't going to happen. However they are some exceptions. Sufjan Stevens' mammoth 5 volume Songs for Christmas collection certainly had it's moments, and there's probably at least 1 or 2 Christmas songs we actually like (but are afraid to admit). Several indie/alternative bands usually have a stab at a covers too with the results being along the lines of excellent to downright bloody awlful.

My favourite Christmas music is courtesy of slowcore pioneers Low (I'm certainly byest as Low are quite possibly my favourite band of all time). I sometimes find myself listening to some these songs away from Christmas time, more often than not due to the wonders of shuffle. Each song on this album has something for everyone; the upbeat poppy seasonal charm of 'Just Like Christmas'; haunting and beautiful covers of yuletide staples such as 'Long Way Around the Sea' and 'Silent Night'; and thoughtful reworks of the popular Christmas songs of 'Blue Christmas' and 'Little Drummer Boy'. Their original compositions of  'If You Were Born Today' and 'Taking Down the Tree' contain their own special Christmas messages; where the latter is a comment on how brief the Christmas period can be; the former is their own take on the togetherness of the Christmas season, complete with it's own religious message.

The album has also recently rereleased on vinyl. It is also available on CD and are both at a very low price. Shame it's a little late for Christmas but this is an album you will want listen to each and every year. Get it here.


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Tracks of the Year 10-1

Top Ten. Enjoy the holiday season!

10. The Drums-Down by the Water (buy)

Despite the near pop perfection of tracks such as 'Best Friend' and 'Me and the Moon', it was slow burner 'Down by the Water' which I felt best exemplified where their future could lie. A great 50s throwback ballad and it was a great way to end their set when I caught them in Leeds earlier this month.

9. Toby Tobias-Macasu (Motor City Drum Ensemble's Loft Party Mix) (buy)

Motor City Drum Ensemble has made plently of waves and lots of friends over the last couple of years. From his old school bangers to his deeeeep remixes, he's been everywhere on the scene and all over town. While his more high profile remixes of the year still the hit spot (Caribou- 'Sun' for example), his remix of Toby Tobias was nothing short of perfection. A simple catchy piano hook and a sultry female vocal together with MCDE's signature heavy rolling beat provided us with a fantastic summer house track. 

8. Onra-High Hopes (featuring Reggie B.) (buy)

This track may well be the cheeseist thing in the list, but who cares. It's 80s pop sensibilities together with it's quite ridiculous lyrics from Reggie B works perfectly. A homage to what was good in the 80s of modern soul and disco-boogie sounds works wonderfully here by French workaholic Onra.

7. Wild Nothing-Bored Games (buy)

For an artist and an album labelled as perfect 'bedroom music', Wild Nothing did none more so to fit this description than on 'Bored Games'. The scene is set with a lonesome fellow sat on his bed saying everything to his wall he'd much rather say to the girl he probably shouldn't be with (Mum probably wouldn't approve).One of the most exciting new acts of 2010.

6. Space Dimension Controller-Transatlantic Landing Bay (buy)

This young Belfast prodigy got a lot of people excitied this year with his eclectic mix of cosmic disco, house and electronica. This culminated in his mini album (double LP) 'Temporary Thrillz' released in November. Whilst all of the tracks are excellent, 'Transatlantic Landing Bay' really hit the spot on his recent RA podcast and has been on my record player ever since. A big 2011 for this young man is a certainty.

5. The Walkmen-Woe is Me (buy)

This track may have an outlandishly depressing title, but it's great song. Miss this song and more importantly this band at your peril.

4. The Fall-Bury Pts 1 & 3 (buy)

When this song begins it sounds like it's been recorded through a 1980s plasterer's radio; all scuzzy, dishevelled and barely audible. However it quickly moves into clearer territory and into a incessant stomp whilst Mark E. Smith puts his signature wisdom of the hour over it.

3. Retribution Gospel Choir-Hide it Away (buy)

By the first bar of 'Hide It Away', the opener of Retribution's Gospel Choir's second album 2 hits; it's a further indication that they have produced a fuller, more anthemic album away from their debut. While that was still excellent it was a much darker affair, and many of it's best moments, would end up on Alan Sparhawk's regular band; Low's last album Drums and Guns. Sparhawk doesn't let back here as he would often a on Low record. His recognisable voice hits home together with the searing guitar and rhythm section that makes the track uplifting and one of 2010's best rock moments.
2. James Blake-I Only Know (What I Know Now) (buy)

Wunderkid James Blake hit many high notes over 2010 with 3 notables 12" releases, more often than not without a dancefloor in sight which would set him apart from many of the early comparisons labelled against him. On 'I Only Know (What I Know Now)' he features his now recogniseable vocal loop which is tweaked suffciently to create thoughts of both hope and despair (Burial comparisons are easy to make but it's certainly justified and deserved high praise). A great talent one who is creating his own space in both terms of innovation and it's unique sensitivity.

1. The National-Afraid of Everyone (buy)

In an album blessed with greatness throughout there's still going to be little parts of songs that 'get you' and you end up rewinding the part of the song over and over to grasp it in full. When 'Afraid of Everyone' kicks in, the guitar crunches and the soaring 'oooh's fill the air, it's probably the most desperate moment in the album, but also my defining highlight of any track for me this year. Behind any contentment, often lies despair.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Tracks of the Year 30-11

More Tracks of the Year. This time 30-11. Top ten will follow early next week as I've got a busy weekend ahead! I'm sure you can't handle the excitement.

30. Ray Mang-Look into My Eyes (buy)

'Look into My Eyes' swirls around with steady handclaps and melodic keys which chuggs around beautifully.  My favourite 12" release on DFA in 2010.

29. Fantastic Man-Look This Way (buy)

This EP was only released last week but it quickly got my attention for it's mix of disco, house and old school sounds from 4 exciting artists. My highlight was Fantastic Man's 'Look this Way' for it's house reworking of the Erykah Badu track. I just love how the beat alternates throughout from deep house and two step.MINT.

28. Sammy Bananas-My Body (download)

Sampling R.Kelly and making a track into a Casio style banger doesn't sound particulary easy. However Sammy Bananas makes many tracks using old R&B/Hip Hop samples into electronic nuggets. He hit gold with 'My Body'. I'm not sure if it even came out this year. But get on it.

27. Kez YM-A Cup of Ocean (Gerd Dub Bounce Remix) (buy)

Gerd slowly slipped back onto many people's radar's in 2010. Admittedly I'd never heard of him, but the middle-aged Dutch man was a big techno head back in the early 90s apparently. Aswell as releasing several 12" with notables remixes by people such as DJ Koze, he also did his fair share of remixes. His rework of Japanese upstart Kez Ym hit the spot as it title suggests, a bouncy house track to get everyone going. 

26.  Surfer Blood-Harmonix (buy)

Surfer Blood scored a big Pitchfork hit in 2009 with 'Swim'. Their album followed in early 2010 and it didn't disappoint with plently of uplifting sunshine harmonies. However with 'Harmonix' they proved they have much more to them than that.

25. T. Williams-Heartbeats (Mosca Remix) (buy)

Another late edition to the list, where UK Funky (what a shite name that is) meets deep house/techno under this remix from Mosca with vocals by jazz singer Terri Walker. I like how this remix attempts to blur what we expect from traditional genres. Put it this way, it would usually take more than a twist of my arm to listen to something called 'UK Funky'.

24. iLIKETRAINS-Progress is a Snake (buy)

The Leeds quartet released this autumn one of the albums of my year, full of soaring tales of regret and disappointment. On 'Progress is a Snake', they lament people's failure to understand the mistakes of human history and their unwillingness to change. Once again they base topics of songs on history and human fallibility. I could have included the majority of this album in the list, but it's best served to listen to the full length in it's entirety.

23. No Age-Glitter (buy)

No age returned in 2010 with 'Glitter' a midtempo track full of screehing feedback and muffled vocals. Sort of what I expected from them. The album is well worth a look.

22. Joey Negro Presents Kola Kube-Why (Hot Toddy Remix) (buy)

Anyone reworking a 'classic' must have doubts about how it will all work out. No problems here as Joey Negro and Hot Toddy served up 4 belters on this release on exciting new label Surround Sounds. My favourite was the nice chugging deep rework from Hot Toddy. This will not be going far from my rather thin bag of vinyl in the near future!

21. Alicia Keys-Unthinkable (I'm Ready) (buy)

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Alicia Keys since her worldwide mega hity 'Fallin'. Whilst the content of each album isn't always to my taste, she is always capable of a wonderful track, such as the excellent beatless B-side 'Dreaming' released last year. Drake co-wrote 'Unthinable, I'm Ready' apparently, which makes it more the surprise how good this track is. A song full of lust that has reached the surface and won't go away.

20. LCD Soundsystem-Home (buy)

LCD's album had many great moments, but my favourite was 'Home'. Sounds of a man tired, at the end of a long road, hoping home is round the corner, where only the future matters.

19. Anton Miller-Can't Hide It (buy)

The house legend returned with the excellent soft deep house of 'Can't Hide It'. It was called upon release 'the true and pure sounds of house music'. What that is, I'm not sure, but it's an excellent track. Probably the DEEPEST I've heard in a long time.

18. The Walkmen-Angela Surf City (buy)

Having a track like 'The Rat' hang over may have it's good sides, but it can also have it's bad, as people will always be expecting you to produce something similar if not better. I think with 'The Rat' it's nigh on impossible as it's one of the best rock songs of the past ten years. However 'Angela Surf City' on their excellent new album, Lisbon certainly has a go. It shudders into life when lead singer Hamilton Leithauser screams "You took the high road, I couldn't find you' which is almost as anthemic as the high points on their biggest hit.

17. Joy Orbison-Ladywell  (buy)

Joy Orbison returned with some what of a surprise with his latest 12" (this time on his own label), two Detriot inspired house tunes, of which 'Ladywell' was a highlight. The 'oohs' on this release is catchy, in a more altogether different way than his big hit of last year, Hyph Mngo. Sold out everywhere on 12". Seek and ye shall find. Probably.

16. Women-Eyesore (buy)

'Eyesore' is the excellent conclusion to Women's 2nd album. Full of now familiar screeching guitars, high pitched melodies, little interludes and a hard hitting end, it's the best Women song to date.

15. Moody-It's 2 Late 4 U & Me (buy)

On his last release, the one real club jam was this 9 minute stormer. I'd like to think he's got other tunes like this still in him (see Shades of Jae, J.A.N. etc), as this was a rework of an earlier tune he's been working on. It's still fucking ace though, and it officially came out this year, so there.

14. Caribou-Odessa (buy)

An excellent start to an excellent album. 2010 was Caribou's year. Hitting us in January, it marked what would be the most successful year to date for the genre-hopping Canadian.

13. Trujillo-Baby Your Still The Same (Social Disco Club Feat. Lucy Walker Sexual Flashback Mix) (buy)

Stringently only releasing records on vinyl is happening less and less now, so it's usually a surprise when a record label insists on doing so. This release was well worth getting wax instead of a shitty disposable mp3. All three tracks are absolute gems, from the tenderness of the original to the balearic ten minute haze of Mark E's remix, it's all good. I decided to go for the 'sexual flashback remix' from social disco club. It gave the track a bit of urgency on the dancefloor (not that it necessarily needed it). Wonderful.

12.  Tracey Thorn-Oh! The Divorces (buy)

A distressing tale of modern woes is sung effortlessly by Tracey Thorn on 'Oh, The Divorces'. Tales of relationship breakdown are a common topic in pop music, however, getting divorced, who gets to keep the children and who gets visitation rights aren't. An album focusing on middle-aged issues, but for all who enjoy Thorn's fantastic voice and songwriting.

11. The Radio Dept.-Heavens On Fire (buy)

The Radio Dept. returned in 2010 after a four year abscene with a new album which was full of angst about the challenges that life throws up. 'Heaven's on Fire' was a lead single and a clear highlight and one of the best pop songs of my year. 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Tracks of the Year 50-31

My tracks of the year. 50 of them. Many have sneaked in at the last minute whilst others will count themselves unlucky not to be included (I'm sure their hurting right now). Feel free to add your opinions and better yet suggestions for tracks I should have listened to. Cheers!

50. Ramadanman- Work Them (buy)

Ramadanman continued in 2010 where he had left off the year before with an impressive amount of impressive releases. Off all his cuts, 'Work Them' did it for me for it's sheer intensity coupled together with it's epic breakdown of euphoric noise, when all you can do is wait for it to go off and hope you survive.

49. Gayngs-The Gaudy Side of Town (buy)
Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) certainly kept himself busy with guest spots in 2010. He grabbed the headlines guesting on Kanye's megahit with Jay Z etc etc. but it was his soothing vocals to a project entitled 'Gayngs' which grabbed my attention. Taking their cue from Manchester and Salford's very own 10cc; 'The Gaudy Side of Town' is a sultry 7 minute smooth jam. Another impressive release from Chad Van Gaalen and his Jagjaguwar label.

 48. Surround Sounds-Beyond the Dance (12" Extended Mix)  (buy)

New label Surround Sounds is featured twice on my list, firstly with 'Beyond the Dance'. Labelled 'boogie-house' by Piccadilly Records (no, im not sure about that either), the track is a late night dancefloor killer. Just wait for the bass to drop! A label to keep your eyes out for.

47. Jamie Woon-Night Air (buy)

Burial-produced 'Night Air' created a mini crossover hit for relative London-based newcomer Jamie Woon. What is essentially a dark pop song is moulded by Burial's sharp arrangement and turns out to be a perfect foil for Woon's high pitched wail. His album will follow next year and it will be interesting to see if he gets Burial on board again. If it all works this well, the result could be very exciting indeed.

46. Erykah Badu-Window Seat  (buy)

The video may have caused a stir (and got Miss Badu in a bit of trouble) but the track was what did it for me. The track is a slow laid back jam for a slow summer afternoon. Wonderful.

45. Broken Social Scene-Meet Me in the Basement (buy)

On a really special and at times beautiful and subtle album, Broken Social Scene changed tact with 'Meet Me in the Basement'. A three-minute uplifting instrumental stomp, once it sets off there really is no stopping it. Crescendo after crescendo builds and it's a shame when it all ends so soon.

44. David Dondero-Building the New Berlin Wall

A song yet to be released, but it has been a big hit in David Dondero's live set of late and was a highlight of the Conor Oberst organised 'Concert for Equality' which wanted to highlight the oppressive legislation introduced by some border states against immigrants and actual U.S citizens. Lets hope it secures a release in the very near future.

43. Perfume Genius-Mr. Peterson (buy)

Perfume Genius emerged with his broken tales from many misguided and painful experiences from a tortured youth. Describing a relationship with an older man, it was never going to end well with the old man jumping off a building just before sharing a Joy Divison LP. Certainly bleak, but touching and beautiful. 

42. Tensnake-Coma Cat (buy)

A breakthough year for Tensnake. His brand of updated disco hit the heights with Coma Cat in early 2010. Almost impossible not to like, it's catchy hook was also impossible to ignore and before the summer was out, it was everywhere.

41. Jimpster-Inside The Loop (Buy)

'In the Loop' is an absolute classic timeless house tune and Jimpster at his best. Just watch out for those old school handclaps!

40. Wild Nothing-Your Rabbit Feet (buy)           

After the success of Wild Nothing's full length debut Gemini, their main man (well their only initial member), Jack Tatum quickly released a 3 track EP Evertide. It's highlight was 'Your Rabbit Feet',  a continuation of the great work from their album; shimmering guitars, a melodic bassline and a yearning, pleading voice. This EP was unbelieveably only one of 75 to launch a new label. Fortunately it has been re-released as new EP entitled Golden Haze. Get on it.

39. Pursuit Grooves-Whisper (buy)

I'll have to tip my hat to a mate of mine as until about 3 weeks ago, I'd not heard of Pursuit Grooves and didn't really care for this kind of music. However this EP and this track I've warmed to. 'Whisper' is a very dark track indicating it's no party song, but a very deep soulful dubby track. It is me or does it sample a song from the Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream? Put my mind at rest please.

38. Kaine feat. Kathy Diamond-Loves Saves the Day (Mario Basnov Vocal Remix) (buy)

I was suprised to learn that Balearic smash 'Love Saves the Day' wasn't on Permanent Vaction as it sounds like the usual sort of tune they would churn out for breakfast. Mario Basnov's subtle vocal rework gives the track an 80s disco feel but with the added bonus of the production quality of today. Kathy Diamond is often the go to girl for tunes such as this as it pleasing to see her display he vocal talents here again.

37. James Blake-CMYK  (buy)

Now safely in the public consciousness after being tipped as one of the sounds of 2011 by the BBC, James Blake hit plently of heights with 'CMYK' earlier in the year. Watch this kid go.

36. The National-Bloodbuzz Ohio (buy)

The most successful year to date for The National began with the release of their 1st single 'Bloodbuzz Ohio'. Track contains some of my favourite lyrics of the year"'I still owe money to the money to the money I owe". You should already own this album and have played this song to death.

35. Midlake-Rulers, Ruling All Things (buy)

Midlake's new album, which dropped in early 2010 certainly didn't hit the peaks of their predecessor The Trials of Van Occupanther, however it did have it's moments, none more so than 'Rulers, Ruling All Things'.

34. Marius Våreid-Vallefaret (buy)

Scandinivian cosmic disco this time from Maris Vareid. It's gentle beat builds slowly against soothing synths which beams effortlessly. No surprise that this release was from Prins Thomas' label.

 33. Four Tet-Sing (buy)

Kieran Hebden once again displayed his ability to take on the dancefloor and the headphones at the same time and create catchy beats and infectious hooks with little tiny vocal fragments. In my opinion this method reached it's peak on 'Sing'.

32. Les Savy Fav-Sleepless in Silverlake (buy)

No Les Savy Fav album will ever live up to their live shows which are brutal and frenetic where we see a display of how fucking mental lead singer Tim Harrington really is (crowd surfing on a mattress last time I saw them). Their new album felt less like a new album but a continuation of the last album Lets Stay Friends but unfortunately nowhere near as good. It still had its highlights though, none more so when they moved into poppier fare with the mid-tempo 'Sleepless in Silverlake'.

31. Mark E-Nobody Else (buy)

Mark E once again treated us to plently of outstanding 12" releases on a variety of excellent labels. Released on Gerd Janson's Running Back, 'Nobody Else' is what did it for me, full of his signature disco-heavy bass together with a more electronic feel than his usual productions.