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.
–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
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.