Monthly Archives: December 2011

Richard’s Top 20 Songs of 2011

 

1)  Dawes-Band-Pic[1]    Dawes – A Little Bit of Everything

 This is my favourite track off my album of the year. Every track on ‘Nothing Is Wrong’ is a gem but this closer is for me the highlight and like 3 or 4 tracks on the album sounds like it could be released as lost outtakes to Jackson Browne’s ‘Late for the Sky’ (also see Moon on the Water, My Way Back Home). Haunting, wry and at times a funny narrative based around three vignettes, a suicidal man overwhelmed by loss and life, an old man reflecting on life’s challenges while finding comfort in simple pleasures and a disillusioned groom to be challenging the pre-determined course life has set out for him.  Even the guitar break conjures David Lindley’s haunting and distinctive guitar sound and the simple piano motif sticks in your head without jarring. Great to see Jackson Browne backing up these boys earlier in the year (and singing on the album too)- he can spot a talent and whether he is recapturing his Laurel Canyon days it feels less affected than Jonathan Wilson’s efforts. To me this sounds like timeless songwriting and exactly like a final track on a 70’s Californian album classic should.

 

 

Fossil Collective 2jpg[1]2)      Fossil Collective – Without a Fight (Dark Dark Horse Remix)

Although the song came out on the wonderful Honey Slides EP in 2010 this remix was given away by Johnny and David the duo behind the Leeds based duo The Fossil Collective this year. As I have been waiting with baited breath for their forthcoming album, this remix provided some recompense. Born from the ashes of indie-rock contenders Vib Gyor (also worth checking out)the EP sits well next to Midlake’s Van Occupanther with a Fleetwood Mac seventies slickness but also a vulnerablility that the original band didn’t seem to tap into. This remix adds another dimension and diverts the slide guitar led epic ballad into a completely different thing. It has to be a good remix and an even better composition if I can’t work out which I prefer.

  

3) Dry the River – Weights & Measures

Epic and beautiful track that soars with the simple but beautiful chorus: ‘I was prepared to love you, never expect anything of you,’  mixes Fleet Foxes with soaring indie sensibilities swelling with strings and brass. A truly wonderful vocal that wavers and tugs at my heart strings like no other track I have heard this year.

   

4)      Indigo Girls – Yoke 

Stunning Amy Ray track as good as anything they have ever done and the best thing by a country mile from their mediocre ‘Beauty Queen Sister’. Although I have history with this band and saw their first ever appearance in the UK at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club in the late eighties (on my work experience at Greater London Radio) their many offereings have been patchy. This track reminds me that keeping on top of their output still pays dividends. Atmospheric with an gritty, brooding vocal from the edgier and darker of the duo with a trance like fiddle, vibes and with understated backing from Emily Saliers ensure I will always keep up with whatever they do together or apart.

 

5)      Beirut – The Rip Tide

 Never bonded with Beirut until this album – pleased to see the songs taking centre stage and not the influences and stamps in Zach Condon’s passport. This track possibly is the most straightforward track that he has ever done but feels all the better for it.

 

6)      Jordie Lane – Not From Round Here

 I think this Melbourne songwriter wears his colours and love of US seventies singer/songwriters for all to see yet there is no doubt this is an Australian. Maybe it’s the space in the music and the simple, earnest no- nonsense lyric. This is a haunting, rambling song with a chorus that reaches a beautiful peak behind Cohen-esque picking and a wash of banjo. Confusingly his Blood Thinner album was recorded in a windowless room in California and in the motel Gram last stayed in Joshua tree. I would’ve thought there are plenty of ghosts closer to home.

 

7)      Roadside Graves – Double Feature

Great slice of Americana with a delicious resonating guitar and a  few twists and turns. Couldn't find a clip but is available on itunes.

8)      Daniel Martin Moore – In the Cool of the Day

 Absolutely beautiful and sparse piano led version of the ol’ Appalachian Jean Ritchie song.

 

9)      Lau Vs Adem – Ghosts

I think Kris Drever is such a talent - an amazing guitarist with such a unique voice and hopefully more songs like this up his sleeve.

 

10) Abbe May – Cast That Devil Out

From isolated Bunbury in Western Australian (150 Km south of Perth- and where I considered emigrating to) – grungy blues guitarist one part Black Keys, one part PJ Harvey with a dash of Australiana thrown in. Love her ‘Design Desire’ album – check out ‘Blood River’ from that album as a contrast to this pumping pile-driving number.

Not the best youtube clip I'm afraid

 

11)      Fionn Reagan – 100 Acres of Sycamores

 

12)      The Middle East – Land of the Bloody Unknown

More aussies – this time from Townsville over in the East. Great music from an unlikely source.  

13)      Emilie Simon – Mon Chevalier

Although this is used in the film Franky Knight with Audrey Tatou this song is steepd in the sadness of the sudden passing of Emilie's fiance.  

14)      Jones Street Station – The Understanding

Lots of fun, makes you want to be impulsive in a crazy rom-com way. Always brings a smile to my face. Love the video too.

 

15)      Bryan John Appleby – Noah’s Nameless Wife

He has the beard and the voice and a rather lovely song too. Watch out Bon Iver.

 

16)      Girls – Vomit

I love the Dark Side Of the Moon ending to this song. 

 

17)   The Antlers – No Widows

 

18)   Cass McCombs – County Line

 So melancholic and soulful with that lovely warm Fender Rhodes sound - brave to have this as the lead track off your album. It is something special though. You never know what Cass McCombs will come up with next having released 2 records in the past few months – both of them very good.

 

 

19)   Dolorean – Country Clutter

I love this band so much and Al James is the nicest guy in music and I hope one day he is a household name. This first clip is from one of my fave gigs of the year. Love the lyric to this too.

 

 

20)   Neil Halstead – Home for the Season

I forgot about Neil Halstead and have been a fan since Mojave 3 days, although this has an Xmas theme I am sure I will listen to this year round.

 

The Unthanks at St James Church Piccadilly, Dec 2nd 2011

To my shame I’d never seen the Unthanks play before (except on the tele) and this in spite of being quite awestruck by their music.  And the fact that in their album released this year, “Last” they have produced an extraordinary set of songs. The title track just haunts you and stays in your head long after the notes have died away.  They were great on Later in April doing that. But, but, but…it’s not the same as being in the presence of people singing right there for you, or indeed with you…

I had this feeling of having already missed out on many stupendous gigs featuring their own material down the years and I still don’t know how that happened when I do have folk on my musical radar (and I usually agree with Paul Morley who lavished such praise on the spine-tingling Bairns album and its even better follow-up Here’s the tender coming).  Anyway, that was the feeling as  I approached a sold out St James Church in Piccadilly last Friday night for the start of their tour singing the songs of Antony and the Johnsons and Robert Wyatt. And, as it turns out, a lovely New Year’s song written by Rachel and Becky’s dad.  I would like to hear their material but these cover versions might be quite good, I was thinking…

Unthanks St James

And I’m sure the purists would have preferred the things they usually do but…I needn’t have worried; the arrangements of these songs by other people (including Robert Wyatt, one of my heroes) were gorgeous and the sound of the sisters’ voices hung beautifully in the air.  Never mind the lack of beer or the very restricted view, this was great music from first to last, soothing our slightly weary souls.  Compelling music played by people with real heart.  It’s the sisters, for sure, but it is also the tremendous arrangements of Adrian and the sensitive playing of the whole band that it all comes together.  If you can get in anywhere to see them play these songs, you really should.  From the first songs, through the stories, the small snippets of clog dancing, the feeding of the baby (whilst the band played Alfie), the jokes, the childhood stories, the mentions of the fabulous sounding singing weekends ( I wish for one of those), the gorgeous playing, right up to the New Year’s singsong at the end, it was a healing evening, great company and great music.  They just create an atmosphere full of the warmth and mystery of great music and song.  We arrived in a bit of a state, after one of those weeks. We left much, much happier.