Thursday, December 21, 2006

Not the usual kind of post for this site, but here are my top 10 list of the things that have occupied me this year ..

Albums of the Year
Picking my favourite 10 albums of the year was actually very hard this year, whilst 7 jumped straight in, there were then about another 10 that were all worthy of taking one of the final 3 spots in my list, so a pretty good year on that evidence. However, to keep things to 10, my list (in no particular order) is:

1. Bruce Springsteen - The Seeger Sessions
Who would have thought that an album of Pete Seeger covers would result in one of the finest albums of Springsteen's career? This album is just a joy. It really is impossible to play this and not end up singing along with the likes of 'Oh Mary don't you weep' and to do so with a big smile on your face. Quite probably my album of 2006.
2.The Flaming Lips - At War with the Mystics
From the sing-a-long joy of 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah song', 'It Overtakes Me' and 'Race for the Prize'; through to the psychedelic wonderfulness of 'The Wizard Turns' and 'Pompeii am goetterdaemmerung' this is just a fantastic record, indeed maybe the band's best - just edging out The Soft Bulletin in my view. [Also one of the live highlights of 2006]
3.The Dresden Dolls - Yes Virgina
I’m taking back the number of the beast, cause 6 is not a pretty number, 8 or 3 are definitely better, a is for the address on the letter, to my alcoholic friends ... Punk rock cabaret? Who knows. What I do know is that, in songs like 'Backstabber', 'My Alcoholic Friends', 'Delilah' and 'Shores Of California' Amanda and Brian delivered a handful of the best songs of 2006.
4. The New Cars - It's Alive
Considering this was recorded when they had only played live together a couple of times, I think this is a pretty decent record. I come at this as a fan of both the original Cars and of Todd Rundgren, and not only is it great to hear these songs live - and a number of them sound much better live than they ever did on record - but also the surprise is actually what a good fit Rundgren is vocally - although he does perhaps try a bit too hard on a couple of numbers to be Ocasek-ish. The three new studio cuts all grown on you and give a hint of possible things to come if they so decide to record a full 'Cartopia' studio album. Highlights for me are: 'Let's Go', 'You Might Think' and 'Not Tonight'.
5.Union of Knives - Violence & Birdsong
It is really great to see another Glasgow band on the scene and making a quite exceptionally good debut album. A fantastic blend of dance beats and rock music result in one the essential records of the year. "You won’t be disappointed, easily one of my favourite tracks at the moment… bit of Radiohead, DJ Shadow, Aphex Twin, The Eels... incredible" - Zane Lowe (Radio 1) on 'Operated On'
6.Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Suddenly that classic 60s soul sound is back with this very retro sounding album by Winehouse. What makes it work is that the quality of the songs; from the brilliant opener (and first single) 'Rehab', through the fuckery, tongue in cheek fun of 'Me and Mr Jones', the class of the title track and the lovely ballad 'Love is a loosing game'. This album was perhaps the biggest surprise of this year, and one I would never have predicted liking.
7.Giant Drag - Hearts And Unicorns
I love this record. I love Annie Hardy. I love Giant Drag. Take one part My Bloody Valentine (Kevin is Gay) add to one part Pixies/Breeders (Pretty Little Neighbor , YFLMD) add a bit of insanity and Voila. 'This isn't it' is one the songs of 2006. They were also bloody good live too. Although there is some sad news, founding member and drummer/keyboardist Micah Calabrese has departed the band for unspecified reasons, which just leaves Annie in 'the band'.
8.Thea Gilmore - Harpo's Ghost
Just piping The Lemonheads into the final pace in my list, Gilmore's latest album, most of which was co-written with Mike Scott (Waterboys) provides apple evidence of why she is one of the best singer songwriters in the UK.
9.Neil Diamond - 12 Songs
What does Rick Rubin put in the water when he goes to work with people? It had been about 30 years since Diamond had made an album which was even remotely listenable to, and suddenly out of nowhere he delivers a piece of work equal to anything he did in his late 60's early 70's prime.
10.Killers - Sam's Town
Ah, difficult second album time. Not to worry, the band seem to have decided to rock a bit more. Kicking off with Sam's Town, followed by the brilliant 'When we were young' this album hits the ground running. There is a little bit of filler, buy with other tunes such as This River Is Wild and Bones, it is mostly killer(s).

Honourable mentions, and lots of them too: The Lemonheads - The Lemonheads (The return of Evan Dando just misses out on my top 10. I wasn't sure about this album when it first came out, but as the year has gone on I have found myself listening to it more and more); Jarvis - That Jarvis Cocker Record (Disney, fat children, Live-8 ...Jarvis takes a pop at them all in this very welcome return by the ex pulp front man); Bob Dylan - Modern Times ( just a great record ); Camille - Le Fil (whilst re-released, this really came out in 2005, otherwise it may just have made the top 10); Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones (very close to making the top 10 list. A very fine record); Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Stadium Arcadium (hard not to like this record, but also hard to get overly enthused by it) ; Muse - Black Holes and Revelations (one part spinal tap, one part prog rock sad bastards, one part genius); Graham Coxon - Love Travels At illegal Speeds (fun punchy rock); Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther (weird and wonderful); Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways (a fitting tribute); OutKast - Idlewild (by all accounts the film sucked, but the album was full of pleasing tunes); Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not; (certainly not even half as good as people and hype would have you believe, but still a strong debut effort); Shawn Colvin - These Four Walls (I just love Colvin's voice, and frankly the woman doesn't make bad records) ; Allison Moorer - Getting Somewhere (enjoyable songs from the latest Mrs Earle); Basement Jaxx - Crazy Itch Radio ( Just a great dance record ) ; Rosanne Cash - Black Cadillac (moving stuff); The Like - Are you thinking what we're thinking (no, not an album of Tory party tunes, but a surprisingly good pop debut); Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam ( a good, if slightly disappointing album); and Lady Sovereign - Public Warning (not actually released in the Uk until February, but already out in the US, I have to confess to actually quite liking our very own queen of chav rap. A Little Bit Of Shh is just fabulous.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

And a partridge in a pear tree

Q. Here's a strange thing. Did you see that Todd Rundgren, whom you fought with so much when he produced "Skylarking," is touring around as the lead singer of the Cars?

A. I always thought the Cars were frighteningly bland. I thought they were like the food that people serve in old people's retirement homes, the stuff where there's somebody behind the screen chewing up the food before they serve it.

From an interview with Andy Partridge in the Boston Globe last week.

Monday, December 18, 2006

End of Year - Singles of the Year

In no particular order - although the first 5 are are those that would be in my top 5.

1. Christina Aquilera - 'Aint No Other Man'
2. Union of Knives - 'Operated On' EP
3. The Lemonheads - 'Become the Enemy'
4. The Killers - 'When We Were Young'
5. Amy Winehouse - 'Rehab'
6. Pearl Jam - 'World Wide Suicide'
7. Nerina Pallot - 'Everybody's Gone to War'
8. The Dresden Dolls - 'Backstabber'
9. Kasabian - 'Shoot the Runner'
10. Depeche Mode - 'Suffer Well'