Radiohead


Round Three.

It was an odd year. With music a less dominant part of my life these days, what I came into contact with tended to be directly related to what I was writing or talking about for DIY or FFS. I heard about a a heap of great albums (I will never tire of great music writing), but the amount of pure listening I did was far than it has been. Which is why, as I sit with headphones over my ears and a full pack of chocolate buttons melting in my mouth, I’m finding it hard to decide. When the albums you’ve loved in a year have been far less listened to, the amount you can critically discern between them is a lot less than it might otherwise have been. But here we go.

Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams

After ‘Coming Down’ swept across the blogs, many, notably myself, were somewhat jazzed about the idea of a epic-scale, anthemic gloom-rock approach from the L.A. four-piece. We didn’t get it. What we got was an album that embraced a true idea of evolution in sound – a step along the girl-group, surf-punk, fuzz-friendly Ascent of Man chart if you will. It refined, retuned and ultimately improved in every way on the group’s debut and, with ‘Coming Down’ as centrepiece and ‘Hold Your Hand’ as finale, indicated what the next image of Dum Dum Girls might look like too.


Dum Dum Girls – Coming Down

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for my Halo

This was a grower, and by “grower” I mean that I was completely unimpressed, put it aside in some distant corner of my iTunes library, lost the CD copy and forgot it had been released at all. Then, four months later, it was played at work and I realised how brilliant it is. I mean just great. That there is a grower. Mixing experimental ambience with the drive of classic rock, Smoke Ring… is a wonder, a beautiful comedown. The whole thing envelops you like warm rain, Vile’s voice soothing as drums pound and guitars chime all around you. Easy listening in the best possible way.

Kurt Vile – Baby’s Arms

Future of the Left – Polymers are Forever

There are some certitudes in life that we must be aware of. Examples: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; Alan Rickman is the best; any Future of the Left release will make it onto my end of year list. EP though it may be, this is still one of the best collections of music this year. Maniacally leaping between styles (even within songs) throughout and even more maniacally approaching lyrical output (relationships, Joe Pesci, international relations) this is everything I could want from a FotL release: ferocity, insanity, hilarity.


Future of the Left – Polymers are Forever

Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis – Come on Board

I promise I’m not being (too) wilfully obscure with this one. Yes, it may only have been available from the pair’s live shows, and yes it might have taken me a month to find the album artwork, but you can find it online. Somewhere. Whatever the difficulties, this is most definitely worth its placing. This the sound of two kindred spirits separated only by their particular decade of musical popularity. Each complements the other’s own brand of weirdness spectacularly, with Stampfel’s gurgling squeals and Lewis’ croaky drawl mixing to make the best set of badly sung anti-folk tales I’ve heard all year.


Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis – He’s Been Everywhere

The Antlers – Burst Apart

I don’t like this much as Hospice. But that was never really going to happen, was it? Frankly, the best complement I can personally give Burst Apart is that it isn’t Hospice and it still ended up as one of my albums of the year. A definite step away from the “concept album”-as-concept album, The Antlers treated this one as an experiment, simplifying into indie-rock (‘Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out’), playing at being their heroes (the Kid A/Amnesiac-isms of ‘Parentheses’) or messing with new genres (the distorted soul of ‘Putting the Dog to Sleep’) and succeeding at each and every one. This doesn’t need to be Hospice anymore, it’s brilliant in and of itself.


The Antlers – Parentheses

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

I genuinely can’t understand the backlash against this one. I know, I know, I’m a Radiohead douche but seriously, how can this be a bad album? “Not as good as In Rainbows,” fine, but a bad album? Nah. This is complex, beautiful songcraft with a spectacular generic twist halfway through – what introduces itself as a beat-heavy album, some naturalistic iteration of the aforementioned Kid A/Amnesiac era, between ‘Feral’ and ‘Lotus Flower’ becomes a more vocal affair, and with a hilarious non-sequitur punchline for the more desperate of us fanboys (that line in ‘Separator’) to boot. Time will prove people wrong on this one.

Radiohead – Separator

Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

Smog and Bill Callahan have been skirting around the peripheries of my music collection for years now, but have always seemed too revered, and perhaps too obscure, to simply dive into without a useful introduction. How kind of Bill to do that for me. Apocalypse is simultaneously traditional and experimental in its take on country-folk, sounding unmistakenly American, but in a distinctly literary fashion – this is more exploration (hence the experimentation) of a sound rather than a retreading of it. It makes for an album that’s as intriguing for its context as its overt content, and, by association, Callahan’s back catalogue looks just as enticing to me now.


Bill Callahan – Drover

Other Lives – Tamer Animals

There haven’t been many new bands in recent years that have grabbed me, shaken me awake and metaphorically said ‘LISTEN TO HOW AWESOME WE SOUND!’ like Other Lives did for me in 2011. Their music sounds so magnificently grand, so all-encompassing in its earthiness that it seems paradoxically unearthly (captured beautifully in their video for ‘For 12’). Clutching at the heady ambitions of classical music and expressive soundtrack work and roping it together with grounded, traditional folk sounds should simply not be this effortless, but they soar together somewhere in between in wonderful fashion. I need more of this in my life, and quickly at that.


Other Lives – Dark Horse

Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On

If Kurt Vile was a grower, this was a revelation. I was actively irritated with this album at first. Where were the folk creaks and strains I loved so much from before? Why was Taylor Kirk crooning? And what THE HELL was a saxophone doing there? It can’t be overstated that I’m an idiot. As Kirk himself sings on ‘Black Water’, ‘All I need is some sunshine.’ Once I saw that light, there was no turning back. Timber Timbre’s exercise in creepifying the sounds of old-fashioned pop is remarkable, showing the talent they have for subtly twisting the familiar into unsettling shapes in a completely new way.


Timber Timbre – Woman

Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen

This started at the top of my list and never left. It’s simply one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard – and I’ve put enough thought into that to say it without pretence. I could expend mountains of hyperbole to explain that, but since Pearson himself kept it so simple, it would seem false to do so (that and I’ve done it elsewhere). What I will say is that this album can take your breath away, such is the depth of the emotions, it can drain you, such is the starkness of Pearson’s troubles, and it can (if I’m any example) completely affirm any pretentious belief you may have in the transcendent power of music. It may not be straightforwardly enjoyable, but by fuck is it satisfying, beautiful, devastating and incredible.


Josh T. Pearson – Woman, When I’ve Raised Hell…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Oh god, Christmas has begun.


Withered Hand – It’s A Wonderful Lie

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It’s Sunday, it’s past 1pm and that means you missed my radio show again, didn’t you? Don’t worry, I’m not angry with you. Just play that little embedded podcast above and we’ll forget it ever happened. Ok?

This Is Ivy League – London Bridges (YSI)

Ash Wednesday, 8.30am 2004/5 by George Shaw

Yes, this is a music blog, but here’s a post about some “visual art” I witnessed recently. Deal with it.

Until May 15th, the BALTIC (a contemporary art gallery in Newcastle) plays host to a retrospective of George Shaw’s series of paintings, The Sly and The Unseen. A collection of unpeopled images of the Tile Hill housing estate in Coventry, each painting has been completed using only Humbrol model-painting paint, giving each photorealistic picture an odd gleam under the light, making muddy puddles suddenly captivating and even the darkest, greyest images seem somehow effervescent.

Shaw equally captures a hidden beauty in the mundane and reveals the empty gloom of the kind of purpose-built, suburban estates that surround cities up and down the UK, alternating between the dark geometric shapes of houses and the seemingly out of place position of the natural, often placed behind, or around the human dwellings. Shaw’s work is, for me, about borders, liminal spaces, memory and humour – from the simple use of the kind of paint a child would be familiar with to the wonderfully-titled ‘This Sporting Life’ (a picture of broken public football goalposts) or the self-reflexive recreation of others’ graffiti (“Pete is a twat” was a particular favourite), each seemingly mundane image seems to hold something deeper for both Shaw and the viewer.

If you’re anywhere near Newcastle, I can’t recommend the exhibition enough – if you’re not, look out for when one might come your way, or just google him, it might not hold the same effect without seeing the paint, but the image above shows the sheer quality of his work.

Radiohead – How To Disappear Completely (YSI)

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted here. It’s been even longer since I posted about Radiohead. You will, I assume, have heard today’s news. How did you react? I ran breathlessly around my house trying to find someone who was in/up to tell. No-one was so I rang my friend and ranted at him happily. I haven’t felt like that since… well, since I found out about In Rainbows probably.

Now that the excitement’s sink in and I’ve, predictably, ordered the full “newspaper” set (I learnt my lesson by missing out on the Disc Box last time around), all I can do is wait. It’s unnerving. But brilliant. No indication as to how it will sound, what songs will be on it, how the band have progressed, nothing. It’s like going to see a film when you haven’t heard or seen a thing about it.

Saturday suddenly seems very far away, doesn’t it?

I love Radiohead.

Radiohead – I Am Citizen Insane (YSI)

Here’s the second chunk of tuneful wonderment, and if you want the whole list in one easy-to-download package of delight, here’s the whole damn heap.

Manic Street Preachers – Me and Stephen Hawking (YSI)

I’ve heard the whole album in different sittings, and it really should be on my list, but I never actually bought it in the end, so here’s my favourite song so far – the perfect connection of Richey Edwards’ incredible lyrics and James Dean Bradfield’s rockstar guitar tendencies. The Manics recaptured their greatest form here, I just hope they’ve got more of the much-missed Mr. Edwards’ notebooks hidden away somewhere.

Meursault – William Henry Miller Pt. 1 (YSI)

Meursault have firmly rooted themselves on my ‘favourite new bands’ list, with their debut album and latest EP releases each blowing me away for different reasons. This song has an oh-so-catchy handclap chorus and lyrics about a hermaphrodite politician who had strange burial requests. What more could you want?

Meursault – William Henry Miller Pt. 2 (YSI)

I just couldn’t decide ok? The second half of this story sees a far slower, wail-filled affair, bringing the whole mood done somewhat, but for an entirely good reason. By the way, the band have just released new, more electronic, versions of both of these songs as new singles – get ahold of them from Song By Toad, it’s bloody worth it.

Phoenix – Lisztomania (YSI)

What list this year would be complete without Phoenix? This and ‘1901’ are just incredible singles, sure to become classic pop hits, and whilst I like both, there’s something about ‘Lisztomania’ that oozes cool, seeming to explode with noise at points, and yet never losing its feeling of easy-going charm.

Radiohead – These Are My Twisted Words (YSI)

Ah, Radiohead. How they can make me like what’s essentially a five and a half minute sinister freak out (not my favourite style I have to say) is a marvel. There’s something so beautiful about the directions and left turns they take, letting it wash over you before switching up again, never quite allowing one idea to go on for too long. It felt perfectly at home in their live set too, bridging the gap between their more abstract songs and the hits.

The Second Hand Marching Band – We Walk In The Room (YSI)

Making beautifully constructed songs must be difficult if you have a shifting set of over 20 musicians, but this song proves it can be done. Adapting a Beirut sound into a far more expansive and ever-growing proposition, the mass chants sound like a rallying call for fey indie kids everywhere, and it doesn’t succumb to the crescendoed heights it seems to suggest it will at points, a nice exercise in restraint that shows how such a large band can make understated music.

Shift-Static – Father’s Footsteps Pt. 2 (YSI)

Shift-Static describe their genre as shoe-step, embracing the disparate influences of shoegaze’s wall of sound techniques and dubstep’s shuffling, occasionally mournful beats. It doesn’t get much clearer that this is a perfect description when you listen to this. All Kate Bush swirling vocals to begin with before suddenly mutating into some quietly throbbing, beat-laden beast, it’s bloody weird, and bloody brilliant.

Thom Yorke – All For The Best (YSI)

This cover of a Mark Mulcahy song takes the best of Thom Yorke’s solo work and marries it to louder sound, allowing guitars and real drums to seep in somewhere along the way, perfectly complementing the sad yet ultimately redemptive tone of the lyrics.

Tom Williams & The Boat – Bonkers (YSI)

Tom Williams may be adept at creating folk-pop tunes that I love, but this hoedown version of Dizzee Rascal’s horrible, horrible song made me love the band for a whole new reason – their sense of humour. This just sounds like friends making music because they love it, with no ulterior motive.

Two Door Cinema Club – Something Good Can It Work (YSI)

This song can cheer me up in mere moments. There’s something so bloody wonderful about listening to a band just say, ‘yeah, things can be good’ and back it up with the most upbeat music you’ve ever hear. At the time that I heard it, they were unsigned and still playing little gigs; now they’re signed to cooler-than-thou Kitsuné and I saw them play Glastonbury. They’re going to be big, they’re going to make a lot more amazing songs, but this will always be the one I cherish most, because it feels like a band just believing in themselves, even when they haven’t achieved anything just yet.

Vampire Weekend – Horchata (YSI)

I simply cannot wait for the second album from these guys, and by the sound of this track they might have some new tricks up their sleeve. This takes all the African influences they love so much, cranks them up higher than they’ve ever gone before and puts it all on an avant-garde dance track. Freakin’ awesome.

The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa (feat. Ezra Koenig) (YSI)

Just after I talk about Ezra Koenig making an African-themed dance track, we have this, an… African dance track, featuring Ezra Koenig. It somehow sounds completely different though, using actual African samples as a base and building up from there. It’s an unadulterated slice of sunny pop, and a sure-fire dancefloor hit.

Withered Hand – Religious Songs (YSI)

Technically, it’s a song from 2008, but I’ve only heard this year’s Good News album version so I feel no shame in including it here. The lyrics are what makes this so brilliant, at times a twisted love song, at others a meditation on happiness and all the time wonderful. Lines like ‘How does he really expect to be happy/when he listens to death metal bands’ and ‘I knew you so long I ran out of cool things to say’ make me smile instinctively, and turn this into an instantly relatable song, totally human and never pretentious.

Having written this, I realise I’ve definitely missed some out, so if you want to tell me what you think I’ve omitted, comment me up!

What with the spirit of goodwill that’s being bandied around at the moment, I thought it only proper to recognise the achievements of those bands whose albums weren’t quite good enough (or didn’t exist enough) to be included on my end of year album list. So here we go, the unrecognised gems of this fair year of music.

I read this on Condemned To Rock ‘n Roll and liked their answers so much I thought I’d try it myself.

List 10 musical artists (or bands) you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below). Really, don’t read the questions below until you pick your ten artists!!!

1. Radiohead
2. Muse
3. Andrew Bird
4. The White Stripes
5. We Are Scientists
6. Future of the Left
7. Tom Williams & The Boat
8. Johnny Flynn
9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
10. Arcade Fire

What was the first song you ever heard by 6?

‘Manchasm’ – I’d heard a lot about how crazy the band were, but never expected to go on Youtube and find a band sounding like an evil B52s with lyrics about a sound engineer and a cat called Colin. I’ve loved them since.

What is your favorite song of 8?

‘The Wrote and the Writ’ – It’s one of the most perfect pairings of beautiful songwriting with poetry I’ve ever heard.

What kind of impact has 1 left on your life?

They changed my entire musical perspective, opening my eyes to things like intelligent rock to rampant experimentalism and a whole heap in between. I can only fault one of their albums (and let’s be honest Pablo Honey doesn’t really count, does it?) and I think they’re the best band in the world, ever.

What is your favorite lyric of 5?

They’re breaking both my hands
They’re breaking both my hands
And telling me to
Take it like a man
And take it like a man
Well fuck that.

There’s something simultaneously very angry and very vulnerable about that, somehow.

How many times have you seen 4 live?

None, although I’ve seen The Raconteurs once so does that count as ½?

What is your favorite song by 7?

‘Wouldn’t Women Be Sweet’. It’s a little different to their other tracks, a bit more of a downbeat folk track with some very odd lyrics and a beautiful lilt to it, it’s wonderful.

Is there any song by 3 that makes you sad?

I haven’t known of his work for long enough yet to have a real emotional connection to any of it, to be honest.

What is your favorite song by 9?

‘Maps’ – isn’t that everyone’s favourite?

When did you first get into 2?

I think I heard about Muse just before Absolution came out (Wikipedia tells me that’s 2003, making me 14) and went out and bought Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry and bloody loved both of them.

How did you get into 3?

Heard about him on Hype Machine, listened to ‘Tenuousness’ and that was that!

What is your favorite song by 4?

‘Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine’ – Just a raucous slice of guitar brilliance, and so visceral.

How many times have you seen 9 live?

Once, Reading Festival this year. It was brilliant, so brilliant in fact that Thom Yorke did an impromptu mini-cover of ‘Maps’ just before the final song later that night.

What is a good memory concerning 2?

Listening to Origin of Symmetry very loudly with my two best friends when we were all young and impressionable was somewhat wonderful. Seeing them at Wembley Arena wasn’t too bad either.

Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad?

Again, ‘Wrote and the Writ’. The lyrics are purposely slightly obscure, but there seems to be something tragic about the priest figure he mentions.

What is your favorite song by 1?

Frankly, that’s a little impossible to choose. ‘Just’, ’15 Step’, ‘2+2=5’ and ‘Paranoid Android’ all spring to mind, but I already know I’ve missed some.

How did you become a fan of 10?

Shamefully, ‘Funeral’ completely passed me by, and so it took Neon Bible’s amazing reviews to make me take notice, and once I’d heard that there was no going back.

Arcade Fire – Antichrist Television Blues (YSI)
Radiohead – Videotape (YSI) [That’s another favourite…]

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