It seems that the real cool kids on the blog don’t do end of year lists. Well we like them and hope that those miserable sods slip in their paper shoes and find other people’s dirty hankies in their bobble hats.
Those artists who will be sobbing into their pillows tonight because they didn’t quite make it onto our list include blistering aural adventures by: Wooden Shjips, Cave, Dead Skeletons, Eat Lights Become Lights, The Field, Moon Duo, Blanck Mass, Hills, Benjamin Shaw (sorry, Jamie), Gruff Rhys, Dels, White Denim, King Creosote & John Hopkins (robbed!), and Mike Watt.
So let’s get down to it boppers. In now traditional reverse order:
10. The Indelicates: David Koresh Superstar
How do you follow two great albums of bile and wit and proper pop songs? You make a concept album about the Waco siege, that’s what. Thoughtful and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, the scope of this record – the research and understanding – made most of the year’s records seem pretty unambitious. jkneale treasures his lyric booklet.
Indelicates – ‘I Am Koresh’:
9. Parts & Labor: Constant Future
By the time this list is published Parts & Labor will have done their penultimate show before going on an ‘extended hiatus’. On the strength of Constant Future this ‘break’ should and must be stupidly short. Rock n’ roll needs forward thinking bands like Parts & Labor. We will miss them.
Parts & Labor – ‘Echo Chamber’:
8. Jonny: Jonny
Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub joins forces with Gorky’s Euros Childs for thirteen songs of slightly off-kilter pop and gorgeous harmonies. “Could be in Mexico, could be Japan, could be in Fishguard with another man”. Sunshine on a rainy day, and jkneale’s most-listened to this year.
Jonny – ‘Circling The Sun’:
7. GNOD: INGNODWETRUST
Two songs equalling two assaults on all that is holy and sacred. A lesson in sonic desecration and sense fucking. GNOD can and will save us all.
GNOD – ‘Vatican’:
6. Pete and the Pirates: One Thousand Pictures
A dark horse this one. It’s here because of two killer singles heard on the radio and loved immediately – you know, like it’s still 1986 or something. Wriggling with earworms; jkneale has played this to death.
Pete and the Pirates – ‘Half Moon Street’:
5. The Advisory Circle: As The Crow Flies
The pinnacle of all that is deemed hauntological. Electronica that makes you misty eyed for all the things you thought you’d forgotten and thought that bored you in the first place. Remarkable.
The Advisory Circle – ‘Modern Through Movement’:
The Advisory Circle – ‘Learning Owl Reappears’:
4. EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints
This is on a lot of lists this year but that’s only right. BBO is old and grumpy enough to know hype when it sees it, and you could be forgiven for fearing a bit of that with EMA, but this is such a strong record. One of the live performances of the year, too (for both of us).
EMA – ‘Endless Nameless’:
EMA – ‘Angelo’:
3. Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Are you over post-rock (or ‘hipster jazz’ as Jamie Audio Antihero has it)? Don’t let any of that nonsense stop you from listening to one of Mogwai’s best albums for some time. One of us saw them twice this year and is still twitching.
Mogwai – ‘Music For A Forgotten Future’:
Mogwai – ‘Mexican Grand Prix’:
2. White Hills: H-P1
Guttural glitter soaked sleaze, experimental guitar spanking, wheeling circling solos and pummelling interference: White Hills took what can be nominally called space rock and made it as mesmerising, hypnotic and intergalactic as you’d always it hoped it could be.
White Hills – H-p1 (Live at SXSW 2011):
White Hills – ‘The Condition of Nothing’:
1. British Sea Power: Valhalla Dancehall
At #1, the band who are pretty much guaranteed a place in our end of year lists every time they issue an album (see the 2009 and 2008 lists). This came out so long ago that you might have forgotten what a blast it is and how much we need bands like British Sea Power right now. It’s them or the book burning rats.
British Sea Power – ‘Who’s In Control?’ live at Westminster Reference Library:
British Sea Power – ‘Mongk II’:
We hope you like our likes and thanks to anyone who has read our mutterings this year.
Jkneale and Angrybonbon
[All of these lovely records are available from shops - independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones, ones where there isn't really a shop but you have to email some bloke. We like buying records - actually, we really do. And we think you should too, so if you like any of this and haven't already bought them, go on! They'll be cheap by now]
If my memory serves me right, just before School’s TV in the seventies and early eighties there was a countdown which consisted of a circle made up of dots that would gradually disappear as the time came closer for the programme to start. Given it was such a treat to be watching telly at school this used to fill me with excitement and such anticipation that it seemed that those little dots would never, ever disappear. The Advisory Circle’s As The Crow Flies manages to rekindle that sense of exhilaration and expectation (and more besides).
The Ghost Box records brand aesthetic is a tightly and seamlessly organised one built around library recordings, vintage synths and retro-futurism. This release from Advisory Circle (aka Jon Brooks – see also his amazing ‘Music For Thomas Carnacki’ here) further underscores the themes that Ghost Box have pretty much made their own.
In addition to the aforementioned School’s programmes, As The Crow Flies evokes Ladybird books, Tomorrow’s World, scuffed knees, grey flannelling, over-strong orange squash and sticky chops. Yet The Advisory Circle don’t just peddle a predictable nostalgia. Instead they manage to reawaken a sense of hope long since repressed. It’s an album that fills you with yearning for a past now changed (see Ronald Hutton’s sleeve notes), but a hopeful future still possible.
This past as newly evoked is mostly a rural and bucolic one. Yet just under the surface there is a sinister element to this pastoral vision that tells of such things as the dangers of swimming in reservoirs and beds of stinging nettles or, darker still, The Wicker Man’s horrific folk. Elsewhere, the melancholic atmosphere – especially on last track, ‘The Lonely Signalman’ – is so palpable it actually hurts.
As The Crow Flies is an achingly beautiful album. I can’t recommend it enough. Purchase.
And here’s a series of clips: