Yes, that’s right dear reader: such was the overwhelming amount of top music this year we’ve given our end-of-year list a dose of max enlargement pills and extended it to a mighty top twenty.
Those that didn’t make this engorged run-down and hence reside in our honourable bubbling under category include: Swans – The Seer; Toy – Toy; Monolake – Ghosts; White Manna – White Manna; Easter – Innocence Man; Bass Clef – Reeling Skullways; Umberto – Night Has A Thousand Screams; The Eccentronic Research Council – 1612 Underture; and Mouse on Mars – Parastrophics.
A special mention goes to British Sea Power’s EPs 1-6. Well it wouldn’t be one of our lists without them, would it? If we could have counted these as one album it would have made the top five. Obviously.
So here it is, Merry Listmas. Everybody’s having fun (somewhere else).
20. Eat Light Become Lights – Heavy Electrics
19. Alexander Tucker – Third Mouth
18. White Hills – Frying On This Rock
17. Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled With Light
16. Wishmountain – Tesco
15. Drokk – Music Inspired by Mega-City One
14. Mugstar – Axis
13. Fighting Kites – Fighting Kites
12. Belbury Poly – The Belbury Tales
11. Euros Childs – Summer Special
10. Egyptology – The Skies
This analogue symphony had us frothing on about ancient astronauts and the geomancy of Giza back in July. It’s still taking us somewhere weird and wonderful. The best of the seemingly never-ending fascination with old synths and arpeggiators that pervades the world of electronica. Long may this fascination continue.
9. Deerhoof – Breakup Song
All over the shop, but in a good way, Deerhoof’s Breakup Song threw all kinds of idea together to make another off-kilter pop hit. Needs to be played loud.
8. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
It came from nowhere, and nowhere on BBO will you find the review this album richly deserves. Yet it does exactly what you want a Godspeed! album to do, and then some. Colossal drones, magisterial builds and releases, and immense noise, all suffused with a politics for those that know.
7. Bill Fay – Life is People
Two astonishing albums at the start of the 1970s and then another one in 2012. The voice is warmer, but even more haunted, and Fay’s conviction still burns through as clearly as it ever has: “I personally need to believe that this world just can’t go on and on and on in the way that it goes.”
‘Be At Peace With Yourself’:
6. Beak > – >>
A marvellous pulsing head throb of analog musings and music from this threesome. Retro-futurism might not be a thing, but this sounds so extra-temporal we can’t help looking at the future through the past (and often vice-versa). If we had a record label of the year award it would probably go to Invada Records as well.
‘Mono’ (Ok, not technically on the album, but it’s a cracker):
5. Fang Island – Major
Like a cheeky-monkey off its bits on riffs. With shit-eating gurns and post-ironic chest bumps all round, Major is always there for the dark days and the light days. Simply…YES!
4. Plank! – Animalism
Owls and pigs. Owls, pigs and fighting ferrets. Animalism is nothing short of an extraordinary debut of Neu-proggish grooves and looped noodling and funk. Looked into the Owl’s eyes and agree. You now agree.
‘Dying for Pigs’:
‘King Rat I, II, III’:
3. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Crown and Treaty
Prog, pop, country – Sweet Billy Pilgrim will do you an album containing all of those elements, and live they’ll throw in an a cappella version of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ just to keep you guessing. Crown and Treaty is the sound of a great, genuinely original, band still discovering what they’re capable of.
2. Bob Mould – Silver Age
Ignore those people who tell you this is a ‘return to form’ – the amazing thing about Bob Mould is not that he’s produced an album reminiscent of the best of the Sugar records, but that he’s been writing songs this good since the early 1980s.
1. Goat – World Music
The hype realised for once. An album that possesses you. We called it a transnational psyche agenda for the weird underground and we stand by these words. Syncretic brilliance. Stunning.
Det Som Aldrig Förändras/Diarabi:
A massive thanks to everyone who has supported us, read these ramblings and listened to anything we’ve recommended this year. You probably will never know how much we appreciate it.
jkneale and angrybonbon
[All of these lovely records are available from shops – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their tax), 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]
Mr abb is right, this has been tougher than usual. I’m pleased we worked it out and even more pleased we’ve hit on a top four after extended negotiations more convoluted than the US healthcare wrangles and Copenhagen put together. Finally we can walk out to the armoured car in our blue UN flak jackets, shake hands, and pronounce the Big Four. A roadmap to tinnitus, essentially.
But before that, my other top records, following angrybonbon’s tremendous ten…
1 – Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men
I promised a review of this back in January, describing them as “one of the most interesting and completely underrated bands around”. I got a copy early, seemingly hand-posted from California by David Sylvian. Cue Mercury nomination, baffled reactions from all and sundry, etc. Did I review it? Did I hell. Anyway, it’s a superb album, developing the subtle craft of the first album into something much more expansive – especially the widescreen soundtrack of ‘Here It Begins’ – while still retaining the intimacy you get from recording in a shed. Still highly recommended.
Truth Only Smiles
There Will It End
2 – Fanfarlo – Reservoir
In the same post, I bade you all watch the glorious ascent of Fanfarlo. And didn’t review that album either, partly because it got released three times (I think). But it’s another surefire winner – the production does, as everyone noticed, conjure the Arcade Fire, but that just gives Fanfarlo another set of choices, a beefier sound to set against Simon’s voice and the spot-on instrumentation. This is great pop music and Fanfarlo’s hard work is surely winning them friends.
The Walls Are Coming Down
3 – Micah P. Hinson – All Dressed Up And Smelling Of Strangers
I’m a sucker for covers, and to be honest MPH could cover the oeuvre of Nickelback and I would have to consider buying it… but this goes beyond by-the-numbers stuff. Exhibit A:
In The Pines
4 – Bob Mould – Life And Times
Bob is a bit of a fixture here, but if your teenage heroes continue to make fantastic records, what can you do? Writing his autobiography is clearly making Bob go back to the different stages of his career – Husker Du, solo work, Sugar, it all seems to inform this album. Apart from the superb ‘I’m Sorry, Baby, But You Can’t Stand In My Light Any More’ this is a stand-out, a song for Bob’s gay punk band:
5 – Super Furry Animals – Dark Days/Light Years
There was stiff competition for the coveted 5th placing but I ended up going back to this. SFA have been around so long they might seem in danger of going stale but this is a cracking album. One of the Welsh ones:
6 – Lightning Bolt – Earthly Delights
7 – Circulus – Thought Becomes Reality
8 – The Flowers of Hell – Come Hell Or High Water
9 – Art Brut – Art Brut vs Satan
10 – The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning
Thanks everyone who visited or emailed us this year, and apologies if we haven’t replied to you – we’re a bit snowed under with other stuff. Anyway, cheers!
I haven’t consulted my partner-in-music-crime about this but after our triumphant round-up of 2008 we should probably do one of those posts where we say that x will be big this year. The only problem is that I seem resistant to various buzzes. The White Lies, for example… Jude Rogers’ review in the Grauniad today has confirmed my reaction to single ‘To Lose My Life’ (we agree on the ‘Girls on Film’ thing, though where she hears Joy Division I hear Dead Or Alive; so gloomy it’s camp). Or Florence and the Machine, briefly reviewed in horrified tones here, or to remind you: “If you think Kate Nash is irritating, avoid Florence and the Machine like the plague. My teeth are still grinding. It was so awful that I was driven to heckle”. Again, the mighty Jude is entirely in agreement with me here, down to the Nash thing. Funny – I sometimes think I’m doomed to disagree with Jude Rogers’ pop column, though I’m a big fan of Smoke magazine, but here we seem to be in agreement.
Similarly the always-excellent Sweeping The Nation provides a critical take on the excitable ‘these guys are going to be massive!’ stories the press always run in January… which are ‘groupthink’ because they always pick the same bands, in an PR-friendly kind of way; compare with STN’s much more interesting choices or Simon’s weekly trawls of MySpace.
So I’m not going to try to plug a band you can read about in those magazines. I’m not much good at the really under-the-radar stuff either; my colleague is more likely to find that kind of thing. So all I can tell you is what I’m looking forward to this year.
1. The apparently-imminent first album from Fanfarlo, who – believe it or not – are set to support Snow Patrol in various enormodromes soon. Institute for the Musical Paranormal video for ‘Harold T. Wilkins’ below:
2. The second album by Sweet Billy Pilgrim, one of the most interesting and completely underrated bands around. I’ve been playing their first to death since it appeared in 2005 and have high hopes for the next one. This (very pretty) video gives you the first third of ‘Stars Spill Out Of Cups’ from We Just Did What Happened And No On Came as a taster.
3. The publication of Bob Mould’s latest, Life and Times, which will be out in April. Sounds like it will be one of the raw ones, which should be interesting. And if we’re really lucky the autobiography too, written with Michael Azzerad, author of one of the best books on music ever, Our Band Could Be Your Life. Husker Du, the solo stuff, Sugar, LoudBomb, sexuality, and pro wrestling – it’s going to be a page-turner. Husker Du’s ‘Could You Be The One?’ below
Not sure what to call this kind of post but here is the news (from Drowned In Sound): some of the ATP/My Bloody Valentine-curated New York do will be streamed live on WFMU. I saw the line-up when it was announced and briefly thought of buying a flight over, before I realised it had already sold out. Featured bands include BBO favourites Lightning Bolt, Bob Mould, and Thee Silver Mt .Zion Orchestra as well as Dinosaur Jr,. Low, and Mercury Rev, amongst others. Shirley an unbeatable line-up for tinnitus and rictus grins.
The only question is (and this is where you have to start pinching yourself) why are they not showing us Fuck Buttons, the Meat Puppets, Tortoise doing ‘Millions Now Living…’, Mogwai etc etc. Oh and MBV, obviously. Maybe that’s the stuff that people are really paying for, but I will be squinting at my laptop all the same.
I’ve not been to Minehead for one of these shindigs yet, and I love ATP to bits, but why don’t we have this sort of solid gold line-up on this side of the Atlantic? Oh well – in the spirit of having-Glastonbury-at-home here are some of those artists, to put you in the mood:
Hang On To Each Other – A Silver Mount Zion – Horses In The Sky
Twisted – Sugar – Beaster
Birdy – Lightning Bolt – Hypermagic Mountain
Remember – if you’re going, take earplugs. Though I’m so envious that I hope you go deaf.
We often end up looking back on this blog. This gig was a case in point, because on this tour Bob Mould seems happy to play material not just from his solo records and Sugar, but from Hüsker Dü as well, just as he does on the excellent live DVD. I was in seventh heaven – I like the solo stuff (the most recent, District Line, is fine), but my god I love the older stuff. I can’t be certain of the setlist, but he started with ‘The Act We Act’. followed by ‘A Good Idea’. Not bad. More Sugar (‘Hoover Dam’, ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’), plus ‘I Hate Alternative Rock’, ‘Circles’, ‘Hanging Tree’ and more from solo albums… and then ‘New Day Rising’, ‘I Apologise’ and ‘Divide and Conquer'(!).
Then he played ‘Celebrated Summer’, probably my favourite song of all time, and it was just brilliant. At this point I turned to Al and said, jokingly, “He might as well play ‘Chartered Trips’ now”, thinking that he might draw the line at Zen Arcade’s intense shredders, but he bloody well played it. And it sounded fearsome, ending in a blur of guitars and screaming. He still does that weird running about while he’s playing, which I (still) find tremendously affecting – he obviously gets carried away with it, even after all these years.
So yes, a night for nostalgia. Some of the crowd were older than me, god bless ’em. Bob asked if anyone had been there last time, when it was the Camden Palace and Hüsker Dü played in 1985 (recorded for TV, recently out on DVD). I wasn’t there, but I was at the Electric Ballroom just up the road less than a year later. And really I know we should find new stuff, not bang on about how things are terrible now, but I don’t want to move on. My celebrated summer involved listening to that song and this music shaped a good deal of my taste, and who I am, I guess. For better or worse.
So watch, listen, and wonder, younglings. This is how it’s meant to be done.
Hüsker Dü, Camden Palace 1985: ‘New Day Rising’, ‘It’s Not Funny Anymore’. Proper Moshing:
‘I Hate Alternative Rock‘ – Bob Mould – Bob Mould
‘Chartered Trips‘ – Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade
‘Celebrated Summer‘ live – Hüsker Dü – The Living End
Buy Bob Mould, Sugar, Hüsker Dü here.
A while ago I ordered a DVD from the US, despite the fact that I could have bought it on Amazon.uk – it somehow felt right to buy this in the old Peel era way (though not with International Money Orders, do they still exist?). It’s a show Bob Mould did in his adopted hometown of Washington DC a couple of years ago, and it’s great. This is definitely the new Bob, the happy Bob, but miraculously it hasn’t made him rubbish. The quality is excellent throughout but what’s really exciting is that so are the songs – from 1984 through to 2005. Because what you get here is seven tracks from Sugar’s Copper Blue, the same number from Bob’s last CD Body of Song, three from the various solo albums… and six Husker Du songs. While he has been playing some of this material for years, what really struck me is the fact that he’s fucking grinning throughout the gig. He looks happy, relaxed, confident and really proud of these twenty-three songs, just some of the best bits of the one of the most amazing careers in popular music. Well, in my opinion.
Even if you don’t know the earlier material but thought that Copper Blue was one of the best records of the so-called ‘grunge’ era, this is worth a look (it was, and you get most of it, after all). If you’re a fan, and are excited by the fact that Bob has recruited the brilliant Brendan Canty of Fugazi on drums, as well as Richard Morel and Jason Narducy, then what are you waiting for? I can tell you that this version of ‘Hardly Getting Over It’ is less raw than usual, and more moving than ever. Elegiac, even. And ‘Celebrated Summer’ is as electrifying as I always want it to be. There’s even a cracking version of ‘Chartered Trips’! Only the churlish would want more (OK – ‘Beyond The Threshold’ would have been nice. Only joking, Bob).
Hell, if you just wanted to know what the trademark Bob guitar-playing stance-stumble-run looks like, well, it’s here too.
Some tasters from the DVD, though they’re only YouTube quality:
Bob Mould – ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’
Bob Mould – ‘A Good Idea’
And a scratchy from-the-vinyl track from Workbook for luck: ‘See A Little Light‘