Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thank you for the music

One of my projects for 2010 was to record some more of my music/songs and as a result there are now 12 songs on my MySpace site. It’s a mixed bag musically (including a couple of instrumentals), but it has, for the most part, been fun playing around and putting them online. In the words of a wise man – don’t quit your day job.

More songs are planned for 2011 and maybe some better production values as I get a bit more savvy with the software I use. But until then, if you’d like to experience my ‘unique’ vocal styling’s and musicianship, then you can have a listen here. [Oh that’s such a bit of bad Internet-ing there, having a click here link essentially. ]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

To be honest, I don’t think 2010 will be remembered as a ‘great’ year music-wise, although some good stuff did get released. It was a year when the hip and happening people told me I should be listening to Tame Impala, Gold Panda, Deerhunter, Beach House and others. And, I did. All were perfectly fine, but none really grabbed me, and I can’t help feeling that tame Impala sounded much better in the context of a Soundtrack album than they did on a full album of their own.

So leaving those aside, was there one album that stood head and shoulders above all else this year? Not for me. There were several albums that held my attention at different parts of the year but only a few which didn’t fall away, and less still that made last gasp dashes to improve with time. So, what follows are 20 albums I have enjoyed for various reasons during 2010. If I were doing it another week, maybe O Children, She and Him, Warpaint, Pull in Emergency, Thea Gilmore, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Liz Phair may have got a look in, but for now, this is my list.

The list is not in any particular order , although I will say if pushed, that the 3 albums I have gone back to the most this year, I have listed first. For your added pleasure I have included a link to a youtube clip of a track off each album. Roll on 2011.

1. Drive by Truckers – The Big To Do [Check out: Drag the Lake ] I came to the party a bit late with DBT, but I loved this album from first listen, and is probably my most played record of 2011.
2. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I can [ Check out: Devils Spoke ] Marling’s talent is actually quite frightening. Still only 20, this album and her debut album feature songwriter ability well beyond her years. Ryan Adams was in awe, and I’m with him totally. She’s also a fantastic live performer.
3. Dan le Sac V Scroobius Pip – The Logic of Chance [ Check out: Get Better ] The Americans maybe better at doing mainstream rap, but when it comes to more inventive and heartfelt stuff, I think we are unmatched. Taking a similar ’spoken’ approach used by Mike Skinner, Scroobius Pip weaves inventive and meaningful stories in his raps. I love it.
4. Robert Plant - Band of Joy [Check out: Angel Dance ] In danger of becoming a bit of a national treasure musically is old Percy. After years of indifference along came the third album in a row that was really rather splendid, and the second taking a more country blues lilt, and featuring the pairing of his voice with a country great. A joy indeed.
5. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever [ Check out: Rock Problems ] I really do think THS are truely starting to find themselves as a band. Returning to a more straight ahead sound, this record also saw a bit more musical development, and in the song We Can Get Together, they had the finest song of 2011.
6. Grinderman – Grinderman2 [ Check out: Palaces Of Montezuma ] Could they top the majesty of the debut album ? – a previous album of the year for me – Not quite. But not quite still meant it was a great record.
7. Stone Temple Pilots - Stone Temple Pilots [ Check Out: Behind the Lines ] Been away for far too long, but with Scott Weiland back in his rightful place, they delivered the most enjoyable ‘big rock’ record of the year.
8. The National – High Violet [ Check out: Bloodbuzz Ohio ] The album from 2011 that probably snuck up on me the most. I pretty much dismissed it out of hand after buying earlier in the year, but it crept up on me, and turned out to be one of the highlights of the year.
9. Sleigh Bells - Treats [Check out: Infinity Guitars ] This is ‘noise pop’ apparently. Whatever it is, I like it and I like it a lot.
10. The Divine Comedy - Bang Goes the Knighthood [Check out: At the Indie Disco ] Still turning out quirky quintessentially English music. I smile when I play this album.
11. Bettie Serveert – Pharmacy of Love [Check out: The Pharmacy ] Dutch rock bands? Anyone? Golden Earing …ok, and another? Thought so. So, let me point you in the direction of this band. Another record that I ignored for a while and then found myself humming tunes from. One to watch.
12. Midlake – The Courage of Others [ Rulers, ruling all things ] The ‘mellow’ album of the year. David Hepworth famously said they only have one tune (he may even be right), but I like the tune.
13. The Weakerthans - Live at the Burton Cummings Theatre [check out: Tournament of Hearts ] A greta live album from a great live band. Period.
14. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs [ Check out: Modern Man ] It is kind of compulsory to like this, isn’t it? What can I say. A great band and another great record. Does it have the legs to be a ‘classic’? I’m not sure.
15. The Pretty Reckless - Light me Up [ Check out: Miss Nothing ] I know. I should be ashamed. Bubble gum rock music. And yes, she is trying way to hard to be ‘a rock chick’, but she is only 17, so I think we can give her a break. I also have a soft spot for this kind of pop/rock stuff, and I actually do like Taylor Momsen’s voice. If she doesn’t crash and burn, I think she may prove the doubters wrong and have a bright musical future ahead.
16. Jesse Malin and St Marks Social – Love it to Life [Check out: All the Way from Moscow ] I wasn’t too fussed with this album when it came out, despite being a JM fan, but I have to say it has come into its own in the last few months. More straight ahead rock than usual, and it works.
17. Ryan Adams – III/IV [ Check out: Breakdown Into the Resolve (no actual video)] Only came out last week. Recorded back in 2007, and sees Ryan and the boys rocking out. This easily sailed into what would have been my top 10 list.
18. Yea-sayer – Odd Blood [Check out: Ambling Alp ] One of the stand out albums from thr start of the year. A mix of 80s throwback and modern invention. Whilst it did start the fade away as the year progressed, it still has hidden delights.
19. Loudon Wainwright III - 10 Songs for the New Depression [Check out: Times is Hard ] I don’t think Loudon has ever really got the respect he deserves as a songwriter – perhaps because he songs have often contained elements of humour (a skill he shows off again in this collection) but songs such as House show why anyone who does write songs can find a lot to learn and appreciate in his songwriting skills.
20. Marina and the Diamonds – Family Jewels [ Check out: Hollywood ] This is one of the most enjoyable pop records of 2011. Some nice lyrics, fun tunes, and a very engaging live performer.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jesse Malin @ 02 Academy, Islington, London 08/12/2010

This was the fourth time I have seen Jesse live, but the first with a band. Previously it had been acoustic only shows (He excels at this being a natural raconteur and someone who truly engaging with the audience). Whilst the full on band experience meant less chat with the crowd he still found time for repeating a trick I have seen him do before where he jumps down into the crowd mid-song, wanders around, sits down on the floor and gets the rest of those present to follow suit. He then tells a story before heading to the bar, climbing up and finishing off the song.

For me he is one of those artists who I'd never tire of seeing live because he is such a natural performer with just natural stage presence and an attitude that means he looks like he is enjoying being on stage (Craig Finn of the Hold Steady has the same thing)

The current iteration of the St Marks Social was put together by guitarist Todd Youth – who he played with back in his D-Generation days, and who was also in Agnostic Front. The band are tight, and they rock.

The guys played for around two hours and covered most of the latest record 'Love it to Life' and a good selection of old favourites. Highlights? : Wendy, Solitaire, All the Way from Moscow, Hotel Columbia, In the Modern World, Bastards of Young, and The Archer (which will be in soundtrack for film documentary by Shane Salerno (writer of "Armageddon," "Shaft," "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem") about writer JD Salinger based on the book "Salinger: A Biography" by Paul Alexander. Malin wrote 5 songs for the film.

Whilst I did see some people recording with their phones can't see any clips from gig on Youtube, so here's clip from earlier gig this year.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Todd Rundgren's Musical Survival Camp

Whether you are veteran player or an avid music consumer, this 5 day inter-disciplinary romp with one of the 'industry's' most notorious survivors will open your mind and prepare you for the future. The man behind the 5th all time best-selling album Bat Out Of Hell, the 8th video played on MTV, the 1st interactive music disk, and predictor of the current demise of the music business has assembled a stellar staff of counselors and guest speakers (see COUNSELORS link above) and a curriculum of activities that will leave you informed and energized to face the challenges of making and consuming music.

A typical day at camp includes 3 meals, morning and afternoon counselor-led activities, free time and one-on-one counselor sessions, evening entertainment and late night jams. All this set within the beautiful Catskill Mountains Full Moon Resort grounds, just a stone's throw from Woodstock NY.

The curriculum includes not just the mechanics of music making, but the full range of issues facing todays performers, songwriters and support personnel.

Sounds fun.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marina and the Diamonds @ HMV Forum , London 90/11/2010

Rightly indentified by the BBC as an artist to watch in 2010, I was looking forward to seeing Marina play her debut album – one of the year's best pop records – live. I and her other fans in the audience were not disappointed as she rattled through the album, plus a new tune – Jealousy - (a bit too La Roux for my liking), managing a couple of costume changes along the way.

Kicking off with The Family Jewels and The Outsider, and rolling through the show stopper Hollywood 75 minutes later the band: Drummer, bass players and two Keyboard/Synth players immediately rose to the task, as Marina herself strutted the stage like a woman born to perform. Oh, and the voice, just sounded great live, especially in quieter moments – such as first encore song Numb - when she could really showed off her inner Amanda Palmer/Lena Lovich quality.

Indeed it all sounded great. An therein lay the problem for me. Maybe it's due to my age, I don't know, but I couldn't help being disappointed by the decision to used tracked backing vocals for every song. Yes, it meant that the band to recreate almost flawless renditions of the songs off the album, but by the end of the set, it had left me cold and taken away much of the genuine personality and stage craft that Marina possesses. Of course, people will say, well, Queen used to use backtracked vocals when doing Bohemian Rhapsody live, A fair point, but it was for one song in a 2 hour set. It wasn't the default position.

She certainly doesn't need – as some modern artists do – to hide behind the backing track. I would have preferred to have seen her try some songs without the tracked vocals altogether, or if still want the backing vocals there, then ask the band to handle some backing vocals or maybe to get a couple of people back of stage doing so (and yes, I also know it is cheaper not to hire extra people) All these would have helped to make the 'live' experience more different from the 'studio' experience.

I think Marina is a hugely talented performer. I love the album, so I loved hearing the songs live, and it WAS a good gig, but for the most part I could have easily just have been sat at home listening to the CD. I'm sorry, I am old fashioned, I quite like things to sound a bit different live than on record. I hope one day Marina is brave enough to back her own talent and do so. If she does, I'll be first in the queue for tickets, until then, I'm not sure I would be back for seconds.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Song

Have posted another new tune to my Myspace site, called Moon's a Balloon

Thursday, August 26, 2010

myRecordFantasy with Todd Rundgren

with Todd Rundgren January 17-19, 2011
The Track Shack Studios,
Sacramento, CA

No Experience Necessary!
Up-close, hands-on, behind-the-scenes look into the recording of Todd's new album.
Receive credit on his new album.
Audition for me Todd expert judges to play and perform on the album.
Go out with Todd on outings and "field trips" full of hijinx and fun.
Co-star with Todd in a Web-based reality show documenting myRecordFantasy with Todd Rundgren.

Enjoy an intimate, exclusive, VIP-only finale concert with the band playing selections from the new album along with classic Rundgren songs.
Surprise guest appearances by Todd's rock star friends.
Jam with Todd and his rock star friends each night.
Meals, drinks, and fun!

Swag bag including cool limited-edition, autographed collectables.
Top secret surprises that Todd don't even know about!

And much, much more!
First Come, First Served! This is your chance to be part of the making of Todd Rundgren's new album and it's gonna be TONS of fun! Early Bird pricing for this once-in-a-lifetime experience is only $4,999. Register today as Early Bird Pricing ends soon and space is SUPER LIMITED!
We're looking forward to seeing you at myRecordFantasy with Todd Rundgren January 17-19, 2011 for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pull in Emergency @ Camden Barfly 23/07/10

I like to get out and see new and up and coming bands and last night I went along to the album launch for a Band called Pull in Emergency. As is the case most times for these types of gigs, there were also 3 other bands on the bill, and I have to say that all had something to offer.

Hella Better Dancer

The night began with a bunch of 16 year olds, fronted by Tilly Scantlebury. They are a band that mange to fuse elements of early Cure, and PJ Harvey in a pleasing manor. I really liked the guitar work by Soph Nathan. Like all good guitarist she adds colour where it is needed without over powering the songs.

Of the songs they played I really liked 'The City Sea' and new rocky song 'Say it' ? This is certainly a group worth keeping an eye on. They don't quite have the stage presence mastered yet, but time will bring that, and I'm already looking forward to what they'll sound like in a few years, but don't wait until then to check them out.


If there is any justice in this world this band will be huge. Like a UK version of Weezer, they play fun songs, with big hooks, but which also rock. Axe Behind My Back, We Got Tazers, Ice Age ... great stuff. And all this with the added joy of Al Murray's love child playing Mandolin (on EVERY song) . I loved the energy of this band. They doing the festivals at the moment and we a bit of a push I think they could really 'go places' as the old line goes.

Certainly one of the best bands – of any level – I have seen live this year. Catch them now before they become MONSTER. [I hereby apologise to the band for just placing kiss of death on their career]

Stricken City

Yeah Yeah Yeahs/St Etienne/Japan/MBV ... I got hints of all in this band, who are lead by the suitably 'kookie' sounding Rebekah Raa. She said all the songs they were playing were new. Some sounded pretty good, others not so, but I left wanting to hear what they sounded like on record.

Pull in Emergency

Having started evening with 16yr olds we ended with a band aged only a couple of years older. Like Hella Better Dancer (whose fan base they seem to have in common) the band centre around a female singer Faith Barker (who had a touch of the Kirsten Dunsts about her) and guitarist (and main songwriter) Alice Costelloe. Costelloe, comes across slightly shy, behind her long blonde hair, but when called upon to add a vocal layer to some of the songs shows she has a good voice herself.

If fact given how good looking Faith and Alice are – and the boys seem to be pleasing enough on the eye too if the response from ladies present as any guide, it is nice to see the band spurning any attempt to milk this and leaving off any kind of band photos from their album packaging [The gig was for the album launch and I dually bought a copy].

Musically the band have hints of the Smiths, and a few current indie pop acts, but
vocally Barker reminds me a bit of Kate Nash, but in a much less annoying way and oddly enough also Laura Marling on songs such like Cold Hands.

Song-wise. I Loved guitar riff at the start 'Everything is the Same', and I also I really liked '15 Years','Cold Hands' and 'Song 11'.

I was pleasantly surprised by all the bands in what turned out to be a very good evening. The Pull in Emergency album is just about to come out, meanwhile you can purchase/download music by each of the other three bands if you have an eMusic account - as I did earlier today.

I would happily see all the band again, and indeed, hope to do so.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Song - Yes, another

Just a week after I posted my last new song, I have been at it again. This side of the Morning is now on my MySpace site.

Song dates back to around 1987/88. I liked it back then, and I still do now, so thought why not let it out for people to hear.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Pretty Reckless @ 02 Academy, Islington 19/08/10

When I first heard The Pretty Reckless around 5 months ago, I was not actually aware that singer Taylor Momsen was also an actress (Gossip Girl), I just knew that the song - 'Make me Wanna Die' was rather fine. Anyway was interested to find out if they have any other decent songs and could cut it live.

The answer is yes.

Their short set demonstrated that Momsen has the voice and the stage presence to carry it off, and Zombie, Miss Nothing, and My Medicine are fine songs. The album could be a pretty decent debut. Also nice to see an acoustic version of Nick Lowe's masterful Peace, Love and Understanding as an encore.


Light Me Up
Since You're Gone
Miss Nothing
My Medicine
Make Me Wanna Die
Factory Girl


What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding
Nothing Left to Lose

This clip is not from last nights gig - th quality of which are all poor. This was from 3 months ago, last time they were in London. Taken by KevKevTubes

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Song

Almost a year since my last effort, I have posted an all new (rough mix) of a new song 'Forgive and Forget' on my myspace site.


The trailer for the Toddstock film is now out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Paul Gilbert

The latest offering from guitarist Paul Gilbert, Fuzz Universe has an instrumental cover of Todd's 'Blue Orpheus' (from A Capella album). This is not Gilbert's first piece of Todd action. He has also covered 'Hawking' (from Nearly Human album) on a compliation album Warmth in the Wilderness - A Tribute to Jason Becker

In an interview in Ultimate Guitar this is what he had to say about covering Todd

Q: ”Blue Orpheus” is Todd Rundgren’s song from A Cappella where Todd uses voices to do all the instruments. What so intrigued you with this Rundgren song?

A: I'm a huge Todd Rundgren fan, so I wish I could cover all of his songs. Todd is a master of songwriting and arrangements. I enjoyed playing all his vocal parts on guitar and seeing how so many different parts can fit together. I wish I could write like this. But until I can, I'll have to keep covering Todd songs.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Todd interview

Backstage AXXESS has an interview with Todd

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Liz Phair - Funstyle

I've been listening the New Liz Phair album – pretty much on a loop this past 24 hours. It is an album that some people online and many critics are already calling the 'worst album ever made', 'career suicide'… yadder yadder yadder. If you've heard that – ignore it. Funstyle (and the clue is in the title here folks) is Phair doing just that – having some fun with a mix of musical styles.

On her website (currently the only place you can buy the album – for $5.99 I got it in320k MP3 and raw WAV formats) Phair says

"Here is the thing you need to know about these songs and the ones coming next: these are all me. Love them, or hate them, but don't mistake them for anything other than an entirely personal, un-tethered-from-the-machine, free-for-all view of the world, refracted through my own crazy lens."

Quite right. This is not a polished collection of songs - and some things definitely sound better produced and arranged that others - but all the things that ever made me like Phair are all still there – including the humour, which has always been a big component – this is, after all, the woman who once asked us the give her our hot white cum (this was on her commercial 'sell out' album – which I personally loved. After Exile it remains, for me, her best record) This period of her life is actually referenced on the track And He Slayed Her where she attacks the head (Andy Slater … get it) of her then record label Capitol

The Weird Stuff (the reason for the critical response) … These are tracks with lots of talking such as U Hate It and Smoke, which reflect on the entertainment industry and her own battles with them. There is a great 'missed the boat' line in Smoke. Also, I love the juxtaposing of the screeching vocals and the chat. Bollywood is probably also included in the 'weird' group as it features Liz rapping. Yes, the rapping is bad, but I kind of think that is part of the point. It is part the character and of what makes the song a lot of fun. Beat is Up is the final of these tracks which blends more chat about creating pop music and a chorus that could be Miami Sound Machine! The thing is these songs just reminded me of Frank Zappa – whose music I love, so I don't really have a problem with them.

Satisfied and Miss September could have been on last album
You Should Know Me and Oh Bangladesh – could have been on any album pre Liz Phair
My My … is pure Lenny Kravitz. Great fun.
Bang! Bang! … this is one of the best tracks on the album. Def not a typical Liz song, but I like it.

I, for one, am glad these songs have seen the light of day. Of course it is not her best work, but this record – if you want to call it that – is a damn sight more interesting than most of the records I have heard this year. If you're the kind of person who only liked Liz low-fi back in her Exile days or only liked her when she 'sold out' then you probably wont like this. If you have liked all her stuff up until now and actually get her sense of humour I think you'll find a lot to make you smile here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Album and myRecordFantasy Event

Seems Mr R has yet another new label and the promise of another new album. "Rundgren will be recording a new 15-track album and will invite fans into the studio to participate in the project via Gigatone's myRecordFantasy three-day fantasy camp."

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Heaven Is Whenever

There's a wonderful song on the new Hold Steady album called ' We Can Get Together', which at it's heart is about how powerful music can in our lives, although is also about Mathew Fletcher, the drummer in Oxford band Heavenly, who committed suicide in 1996.

In the Guardian last week the band's singer, Craig Finn explained the story behind the song.

If you love music this is a must read as it really puts into words what I have always felt about music and the power of music and songs.

"It's a song about how fans use songs to communicate with each other. It's about the way a couple, or prospective couple, can build their own little world sitting in front of a turntable, playing their favorite songs for each other. It's about how sometimes the songs we love can often say things so much better that we can. It's about how we can make these songs our own, injecting our own feelings and meanings into words and music played by someone we don't know."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

TR - Fidelity

Ed Vigdor, Todd Rundgren’s videographer during the 1988-89 Nearly Human recording sessions, recently posted a rare video edit from the recording of the song “Fidelity”.

Latest Podcast

Pete and My latest podcast now up. Albums under discussion this month are:
Hole - Nobody's Daughter
Scouting for Girls - Every Body Wants to be on TV
The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
Paul Weller - Wake up the Nation
MGMT - Celebrations
Kate Nash - My Best Friend is You
We also have music from Paul Micklethwaite in our Undiscovered/Uncovered slot.

A Wizard , a True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio

New book due out later this year by Paul Myers, looking at Todd the Producer. Includes exclusive new interviews with Robbie Robertson, Patti Smith, XTC, Sparks, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Meat Loaf, Jim Steinman, Cheap Trick, Grand Funk, The Psychedelic Furs, The Tubes, Steve Hillage, all members of Rundgren's legendary band, Utopia, and many other key Rundgren associates.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ronnie James Dio

I was saddened to read yesterday of the death of Ronnie James Dio, after losing his battle with Cancer.

He was a little man – with a big enough sense of humour to call an early band, Elf – with a big and powerful voice.

I remember seeing Dio on The Last in Line tour back in 1984. Glasgow Apollo it was – 23rd September. If I remember correctly it also featured Queensryche – with high pitched singer Geoff Tate decked out in white leather – as support, plugging their debut album (they were awful and Geoff picked up the Geoff TiT nick-name among my friends that I still find hard to not revert to – They did eventually make the album Operation Mindcrime, which is really rather good). I remember it being a good gig – probably improved no end in fact by us having to stand through Mr Tate and Co beforehand. The little guy could certainly sing.

Rainbow was where he really cut his mustard. He managed to put up with Richie Blackmore for 5 years – no mean feat as anyone who worked with Dame Richie will attest – making 3 very good studio albums (and one patchy Live album). Songs such as Man on the Silver Mountain, “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, Lady of the Lake, L.A. Connection, and Gates of Babylon, were all gems. He then moved to another bunch of Brits, replacing Ozzy in Black Sabbath. Now whilst your Sabbath purist will argue that they’re only really Sabbath with Ozzy, the two studio records Dio made with Sabbath - Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules – were both pretty good. With songs like Turn Up the Night, The Sign of the Southern Cross, Neon Nights, and Heaven and Hell, how could they not be?

Eventually he formed his own band and Holy Diver and The Last in Line – the first two albums, both contained enough fun to make them worthwhile – even essential for the teenage me, but after that things became a bit blander.

I'll remember the good times, Ronnie. RIP.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bits and Bobs

  • So, I noticed that Todd is out on the road and doing a double bill of Todd/Healing albums for 6 date US tour. That sounds like an interesting mix.
  • The New Hold Steady album ' Heaven is Whenever' is out next week. UK peeps can stream it at The Guardian's website. First impressions is that the progession missing from last album has returned. Seeing them again in June. Will be interesting without Franz Nicolay
  • What I'm listening to: Drive by Truckers - Big To Do; Dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip -Logic of Chance; Paul Weller - Wake Up the Nation; Diane Birch - Bible Belt; Juliana Hatfield _ Peace and Love.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Todd Podcast

The latest podcast from my mate Pete and I takes a look at AWATS and AWATS live. AS expected I hog the mike on this one.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Albums of 2009

Uncharacteristically I realised the other day that I had not posted my albums of the year for 2009. Not a bad year 2009 in the end with a number of interesting releases. It also proved hard to pick an overall favourite, so I'm going to jointly award it to The Decemberists, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Reginia Spektor. Anyway in no particular order the best 25 albums of 2009 were:

1.The DecemberistsThe Hazzards of Love. Never really been convinced by this band until now, but this concept album is a delight.
2. Yeah Yeah YeahsIt's Blitz. A band that manage to retain a 'sound' whilst playing around with that sound and the injections of 70s/80s synth (which did seem to be compulsory this year, especially in the UK) suited this album perfectly.

3. The Duckworth Lewis Method - The Duckworth Lewis Method. Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh, of Divine Comedy and Pugwash respectively - deliver a ‘Cricket’ concept album. Madness, but a joy. Fun lyrics combined with the myriad of musical style employed – 20’s Jazz, Gilbert and Sullivan style opera, Glam Rock, and thrown into the mix. A joyous listening experience, and you do not need to know anything about Cricket to enjoy it.

4. The Editors - In This Light and on This Evening . Who knew they had an album as good as this in them? Must confess to always finding them a bit dull before this record, but this is a majestic record and one that was a serious contender for my album of the year. First two tracks are as good as any released this year.

5. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug. Another example of a band I liked but didn't love. This album changed that. It wasn't to everyone's taste but hanging out with Joss Homme seemed to work wonders for them.

6. Steve EarleTownse. Steve tackled his old mate Towse Van Zant's back catalogue, and whilst leaving out some tunes I may have chosen, delivered a heartfelt and compelling collection.

7.Kris Kristofferson - Closer to the Bone. A bit like Marmite, you either dig Kris or you don't. I do and whilst not his best album, this once again showed what a fine songwriter is his. The album is indeed stripped down to the bone musically too.

8. Nell BrydenWhat does it Take. The live revelation of 2009 for me, and then this album explained just why. A great collection of tunes, beautifully sung by a woman with a fine pair of lungs on her. Musically like early Elvis when he mixed country, rock and roll and anything else he could find. Do yourself a favour and check her out.

9. Regina SpektorFar. Hard to find a dud track on this album. Took her basic quirky sound and made it even better. If you like people like Tori Amos, you'll love it.

10. PhoenixWolfgang Amadeus Phoneix: French indie music? No, don't laugh, this is a bloody great record. Sung in English and if you weren't told they were French I'm not sure you'd guess. A band to watch in the next 12-24 months as I think they're going to become big sometime soon.

11. Dinosaur Jnr - Farm. JM showed he still had it. Memories of 'Start Choppin' came flooding back.

12. Mos Def - Ecstatic The only rap album released in 2009 worth owning. A return to form.

13. Low AnthemCharles Darwin. Last year it was Fleet Foxes, and now it's The Low Anthem's turn. More great folk inspired music. Great stuff.

14 Placebo - Battle for the Sun. The best sounded Placebo since their debut in my mind. Still hit and miss, but a lot more hit.

15. Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew . Having started off singing with Damien Rice, Lisa at last decide to strick out on her own, and delivered another of the years folk tinged pop offerings.

16. Lily Allen – 'It's Not me , It's You'. I really really didn't like Allen's first album, and a friend who has experienced Ms Allen in person at an event has nothing but bad words to say about her and her behaviour. All that said, you'll be hard pushed to find a better pure pop record this year. Less mockney than before but retaining the witty lyrics, this is actually a very good record.

17. The VeronicasHook Me Up. Released in the UK this year after being released just about everywhere else in either 2007 or 2008. Shameless pop/rock, with catchy hooks, nice melodies and a pair of twins who can belt out a tune – as they proved live.

18. The Hold SteadyA Positive Rage. Recorded on the Boys and Girls in America tour, this is a great record of what THS are all about. Bring on the new album in 2010.

19. Florence and the Machine - Lungs. Top or close to top of many a critics' albums of 2009. Whilst not as great as they would have you believe, it was still an impressive debut.

20. Leonard Cohen Live at the 02. Listening to this certainly make me wish I have been there. He may be in his mid 70s but there is still more grace and power in this record of this performance than you'll find in most Rock bands' entire back catalogues. Add to this the release of classic 70's recording of his Isle of White gig – also excellent – and it was a good year for Cohen fans.

21. New York DollsCause I sez so. So, the remaining Dolls re-united with Todd Rundgren (who produced their seminal debut album) and the result was actually a very good album. The boys wrote some songs,Ttodd added a bit of structure advice, and then kept the sound clean. Good stuff.

22. Pearl Jam - Backspacer . A bit like R.E.M last year Pearl Jam decided to keep things short and sweet, which means this 33 mins of music flies by, which results in your not tiring of it – other bands – including ones in this list take note!

23. Madness The Liberty of Norton Folgate. Yes those nutty boys are back with a rather splendid record, that is at once recognisable as Madness, but also has a new depth in the material that might surprise a few people. Not full of the jolly hits that made their name but still arguably one of the best albums of their career.

24. Ingrid MichaelsonEverybody. A slightly disappointing record to be honest, but hopes were perhaps too high. Why is it in here then? Well, becuase when it's good it is VERY good. 'The Chain' is one of the best tunes of this year.

25. Weezer - Raditude. Not the best Weezer album, true, but enough to make it worthwhile, as well as some surprises - check out 'Love is the Answer' (not not the Todd classic.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Todd Rundgren @ Hammersmith Apollo 06/02/2010

When I first heard that Todd was going to perform his A Wizard A True Star album live, I was both excited and a bit worried. Whilst it is one of my favourite Todd albums, it is also one that was very much about 'The Studio' and not really about 'Live'. I was therefore concerned that certainly chunks of what we - in the olden days - would call side one, might not really work live.

Despite these thoughts there was a high level of anticipation as I took my seat at the Hammersmith Apollo. As an appetiser we also had Todd providing the support in the form of a preview of his soon to be released Todd Rundgren's Johnson – a selection of Robert Johnson covers. Todd versions – whilst enjoyable - didn't really break any new ground musically, but it did provide an opportunity for the man to flex his guitar-hero muscles.

When this finished we had around 45 minutes to wait until the lights went out again and the opening bars of Feel International blasted out, as the curtain rose on the band and Todd appeared in spacesuit to the delight of the audience. What followed was a performance in every sense of the word, as Rundgren dashed back and forth changing costumes - classical conductor, 70's spandex, Camp 60's lounge lizard, Mad Chief, Fat Kid and many more to fit the style of next track.

It was all totally daft, totally ridiculous, and totally captivating – a point proved by at least one Todd virgin beside me clapping as cheering as enthusiastically as any fan in the building.

Yes there were a few bum notes musically and vocally, and some of the tracks didn't quite come off, but when it did all come together as it did on the majority of the songs - 'Just Another Onionhead/DaDa Dali', 'La Feel Internationale', 'Tic tic tic it wears off You need your head', 'Never Never Land', 'Sometimes I don't know what to Feel' etc - the sound more than matched the spectacle.

It wasn't all about Todd though.

The band made up of Kazim Sulton, Greg Hawkes, Prairie Prince, Bobby Strickland, Jesse Gress and Ralph Schuckett also played their part. Kazim provided additional vocals on Sometimes I don't Know, and took centre-stage for ‘Does Anybody Love You'. Sax player, Bobby Strickland also got in on the act first by asking the crowd to stand up (at Todd's request – a relief for those of us who were disappointed that it was a seated gig in the first place) and then by revealing his dancing ability as he and Todd demonstrated just how to 'Cool Jerk'.

It was soon all over though, with 'Is It My Name' flowing into (the only 'moved' tracks in the running order) ‘When The Shit Hits The Fan / Sunset Boulevard'. Of course it wasn't all over as we knew that traditional set closer and album closer 'Just One Victory' was still waiting for us to all sing along to, as we dutifully did. And then, it really was all over. As those assembled made there way back out into the cold night air, none were in doubt that they had indeed just spent an evening with a wizard , a true star.

Monday, January 25, 2010

CTTB - New home

I think I have mentioned this before, but I will be blogging more about music - and podcasting - with a friend of mine at our new site Come taste the Band.

We've only just started, so not very good yet, but we hope to get better in the next couple of attempts.

The Record Producers - Todd Rundgren

BBC radio 6Music broadcast another fine ed of The Record Producers, with Richard Allinson and Steve Levine. This edition profiled the work of Todd Rundgren (if you're in the UK you can listen via iPlayer for limited time here)

This was a wonderful 90 minutes, including interviews with Sparks, Tom Robinson, Andy Partridge, and or course Todd himself, as well as a very close look at how the track Bat out of Hell was put together for Meatloaf.

Loved Sparks saying that whether you liked Sparks or didn't like Sparks, the man to blame for their existence is Todd, and Andy Partridge of XTC on why, despite the horror of recording Skylarking with Todd - "one bunker with two Hitlers" - he still thought he should be considered in the top echelon of producers: "not a very good engineer; his people skill are that of a Darlek, but as an arranger he's pretty god-like"

If you fancy listening to a selection of Todd tunes and have a Spotify account here is a random playlist of Todd tunes and one of some tracks off albums produced for others [If you don't have an account and would like one, the first 2 (need to be uk based) people to leave comment on this post can have an invite.]

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Todd Biog: Vol 2

A Dream Goes On Forever: The Continuing Story of Todd Rundgren Vol. 2 is now out. Ordering info:

FMQB Review