This is a remarkably coherent record, which is slightly surprising given that it is a collection of three EPs issued this year and last, and that it demonstrates a very healthy eclecticism in terms of influences, sounds and rhythms. The sinuous melodies, woven from Dearbhla Minogue’s voice and guitar playing and Daniel Fordham and David Stewart’s lightfooted drumming and bass, are twisty but often irresistibly catchy, and the record – particularly opener ‘Microsleep’ – grabs your attention in the way all good pop music should. The songs dip and shift from genre to genre, including a lovely afrobeat section on ‘Playground’, and these dramatic changes of direction have encouraged reviewers to make comparisons with Deerhoof, perhaps prompted by Minogue’s pure, high, voice, or the Breeders, or Pixies. Not bad company to be keeping, if you’ll pardon the pun.
This blog was very keen on post-rock marvels Fighting Kites,who we reviewed here and elsewhere, and we’re very glad to see that Fordham and Stewart are keeping busy while the Kites are on a hiatus… having seen them live I can tell you that it would be a shame for such talented players to be idling their thumbs. Minogue, who is also in the Wharves, is equally gifted and her lyrics match the complexity of the songs. All in all, this is a surefire recipe – these twelve songs sound like they were recorded together, despite the differences between and within them, which suggests that alongside all that talent they have a remarkably clear vision of how the band is meant to sound.
Here’s hoping they take over the world.
Big-hearted Jamie Audio Antihero has put together another excellent charity compilation – in fact I think this is the best yet. There’s the big names – well, you know what I mean – who are already Friends of the Label (Jeffrey Lewis, Darren Hayman, both lovely songs); the amazing turn-out of the label’s own stars (Wartgore Hellsnicker, Ben Shaw, Jack Hayter, Paul Hawkins & the Awkward Silences, Broken Shoulder and Fighting Kites… plus new AAH band Cloud, who we will be hearing more from soon); the post-AAH bands (The Jonbarr Hinge); and some established/emerging bands like The Society of Poor Academics and Internet Forever.
That sounds like a lot of tracks? Damn right it is – 31 songs, nearly 2 hours. And it’s great. The mighty Wartgore contribute nearly 8 minutes of craziness, the rest of the AAH roster contribute alternative takes and hard-to-find stuff, and there are other crackers scattered throughout the rest of the collection. It manages to be both a great AAH sampler and an end-of-term report on the class of 2013, like those cassettes you used to get on the front of magazines.
And it supports a very good cause – Rape Crisis England & Wales and Rape Crisis Scotland. You can get the compilation for a minimum donation of £3.99 or you could pay more. £4+ for 2 hours of music. What are you waiting for? Stream the lot then buy it here – though I should warn you that Jamie’s track-by-track guide includes puzzling wrestling chat.
If you want a taster then I suggest these two tracks. First, this lovely version of Jack Hayter’s ‘Sweet JD’, one of my personal favourites from his Sisters of St Anthony singles series, which is also highly recommended; find it here.
And second, this little belter from Internet Forever, from their album of last year. This is perfect pop, somewhere in the vicinity of Helen Love. The album can be found here.
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]
Audio Antihero has released this fine seasonal single from label stalwarts Benjamin Shaw and Fighting Kites, who I was lucky enough to see perform as ‘The Benjamin Shaw Band’ at AAH’s second birthday bash last year. ‘This Christmas (I Just Want To Be Left Alone)’ is a lovely song, with some of the pleasure coming from hearing Fighting Kites playing a more straightforwardly-structured song than usual and the rest coming from Ben’s voice – which also works really well with a fuller sound – and his lyrics. Is he looking forward to Christmas? It’s not immediately obvious whether he’ll be putting the tinsel up, though despite the title I detect some ambivalence about the festival. Maybe this is his answer to ‘Last Christmas’.
This was actually brought out last year, on Darren Hayman/Fika Record’s brilliant advent calendar – which contained no end of fantastic tracks like this and was mentioned in this post. It’s been re-released, presumably because it’s ace and all good Christmas records should be re-issued every year, and because it’s a charity single – pay as much as you like, with all proceeds going to Shelter. Buy it from Bandcamp here.
Mr Shaw made this slightly odd video out of film scraps and it’s quite affecting.
The first album from London’s Fighting Kites is a beautiful thing. We knew it would be from the split EP they did with Broken Shoulder on the Audio Antihero label (mentioned here) but this Variant Records release is really lovely. If it’s post-rock – the label everyone has to dance around when reviewing it – it’s definitely in the Tortoise corner. None of these ten instrumentals travels in a straight line, they weave and bob and dip like birds in flight, or kites on a fitful breeze. Melodic guitar and subtle rhythms make this pop music of a sort – catchy, smile-on-the-face, sunny – but it’s the sort we rarely get. It really should be the soundtrack for this summer, all over the radio and the football round-ups until we get sick of it like you get sick of over-indulging in ice cream or other good things.
Here’s ‘Carlos Mends Shoulder’, available to download too:
And a video for ‘Chuck Close’ (I had to watch bits of this through my fingers):
Highly recommended, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t like this. Buy it here – the cd will be available on the 7th of May but you get an immediate download.
Audio Antihero is two years old. The label, ‘specialists in commercial suicide’, have released an amazing series of EPs over the last two years, bookended by Benjamin Shaw’s new album (reviewed here) and of course by the Nosferatu D2 album that started everything. And now Jamie Halliday is throwing a party, pretty much everyone associated with the label is playing or DJing, and YOU’RE INVITED.
So for absolutely nothing you’ll get to hear (deep breath) sets from Broken Shoulder, Jack Hayter, Benjamin Shaw (+ band!), and Fighting Kites; and DJ sets from AAH artiste Paul Hawkins, Ben Parker (Nosferatu D2 and now Superman Revenge Squad), and promoter Stroke Your Beard. Not bad for free, eh? All at the Miller, 96 Snowsfields Road, London Bridge, London SE1 3SS (click for more on gig and venue), doors at 7pm. Free entry.
To put you in the mood here’s two snippets from the split Fighting Kites/Broken Shoulder EP AAH put out earlier this year. A ‘side’ of Fighting Kites’ sunny post-rock and a ‘side’ of Broken Shoulder’s minimalist electronic noise, both highly recommended. You can still buy the EP from AAH here.
‘Wotjek The Bear’ – Fighting Kites
‘Organomegaly’ – Broken Shoulder
Anyway – any BBO readers in the London area should get themselves to this. Given our enormous audience it might be foolhardy to say I’ll buy you all a drink, but if you can work out who I am and say hello I might just do that…