Archive for November, 2009

Top [X] Albums of [Arbitrary Time Period]

November 18, 2009

In keeping with the spirit of the times. Here is a speedily knocked together list of the albums released within the last ten years which I consider the finest. This list supercedes all previously published lists, including this one.

1. Arcade Fire – Funeral
2. Joanna Newsom – Ys
3. Fiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat
4. Radiohead – Kid A/Amnesiac
5. Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
6. The Strokes – Is This It
7. Boards of Canada – Geogaddi
8. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
9. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
10. Aphex Twin – Drukqs
11. Four Tet – Rounds
12. Napoleon IIIrd – In Debt To
13. Radiohead – In Rainbows
14. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
15. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
16. The Knife – Silent Shout
17. Fennesz – Venice
18. Delgados – Great Eastern
19. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
20. Low – Things We Lost in the Fire
21. The National – Boxer
22. Broadcast – The Noise Made By People
23. Jim O’Rourke – Insignificance
24. Sonic Youth – Murray Street
25. Max Tundra – Parallax Error Beheads You
26. Battles – Mirrored
27. TV On The Radio – Dear Science
28. Clinic – Internal Wrangler
29. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
30. Mat Riviere – Follow Your Heart

Notes:

i) Yes I have counted Kid A and Amnesiac as a single album. They are inseperable in my mind. Individually they are patchy. Taken as a whole they are sublime. Shut up.
ii) I don’t care what you think the Sufjan Stevens album is actually called
iii) I know the Mat Riviere album isn’t out yet. But I’ve had it for months and by the time I’m able to include it in next year’s ‘best of year’ list I’ll have forgotten.
iv) The only truly difficult decision in compiling this list was whether ‘Funeral’ was better than ‘Ys’ – really you can’t compare the two sensibly.
v) Yes I do genuinely think the Napoleon IIIrd album is better than all those other albums.
vi) Yes I have almost certainly forgotten about the existence of some albums which i would have included. Leave me alone.

Brain Dump 2009

November 2, 2009

So for the first time in about three years I find myself with no gigs booked* and about to go on a very short ‘hiatus’, as they call it, for a few months. (I’m not quitting doing gigs, just having a break from booking them for ‘personal reasons’ – nice ones mind – so if yr interested in me playing then please do still get in touch).

So here’s one of my regular ‘taking stock’ kind of posts…

There are a few new releases planned. First will be a download only single of ‘Pockets in Shrouds’. The b-sides will be the other two tracks from the ‘Omega Point’ EP which collected the ‘outtakes’ from the album sessions.

Next up is an EP called ‘Pervert Oven’. This will be 5 tracks dating from 2007 to now, all of which fall into a broadly ‘garage rock’ vein. Probably going to be self-released. Possibly on cassette.

In the last few days I’ve also been offered a chance to be on a split EP with a band I like, my half of which will be a cleaned up version of the track ‘judddr’ that I posted on here a few weeks back. Probably limited cd-r’s from the people who brought you ‘Two of the Beatles Have Died’. So that’ll be nice.

THEN… the new album. Probably. I’m currently tying myself in knots over this.

I had a chat recently with John ‘Brainlove’ Brainlove about what should go on it. An album’s worth of stuff was basically finished by the time ‘Fight My Battles For Me’ came out, but I’ve since started to start writing in a different direction. A few songs I’ve cooled off on. Some contain sentiments I’m not sure I’ll want to get up and sing for another 12 months or so.

The stuff I’m currently writing is quite different, both lyrically and musically, from what I’ve become known for, and whilst I don’t think it’s million miles away it does seem suitably distant from the old-new record as previously conceived as to be a little jarring. So I had some vague concerns about combining the brand new and older-but-new-to-the-listeners stuff into an album which would have been a little contradictory and schizophrenic.

John, pragmatist that he is, suggested that the new album should just be ‘all the best songs you have’. I can’t really fault the logic of that, can I?

So I’m currently trying to decide which are the ‘best songs’. Some have been road-tested and had good responses, some only I’ve heard so far – not a good position to make a decision from. I have a bad track record of knowing which songs are going to go down well. For example I thought ‘Our New Hospital Sucks’, ‘Perfection or a Simple Life’ and ‘The Tree of Knowledge’ were all a bit slight but they’re clearly amongst my most popular songs. I was actually not planning to put any of them on the album, although in the case of ToKN that would’ve been madness (I kind of regret not including the other two now).

So what’s the new stuff like? Hmmm… The intention is that it’s a bit more ‘lush’. Not as consciously lo-fi as before. Less of the convoluted structures. More drums, fewer beats. Moving closer to songs you could get a band to play. However I can think of numerous examples that would contradict every one of those descriptions. So there’ll be a noticeable difference, but not a seismic shift. People have commented that it’s ‘dark’.

Lyrically there’s a crop of what I was starting to feel were by-the-book Pagan Wanderer Lu songs. I continue to care about politics, social issues, and the role personal apathy plays in making things worse. But I’ve started to feel I should just draw a line under writing about that stuff. So all my new-new songs are more personal, more abstract, hopefully with a bit more human warmth. More along the lines of ‘Repetition 1’ and ‘Knight -> King 4’ than ‘The Gentlemen’s Game’.

This is where the schism came between old-new and new-new. The old-new/political songs are among my most cutting, people who like my ‘political’ songs will like them. People who wish I’d cheer up will find them amongst my most disagreeably angry songs. The new-new songs, well… I’ve been playing ‘A Girl Named Aeroplane’ for over a year now. It’s an imagining of the feelings around bringing a child into the world (which I have no experience of), which mixes warmth and anxiety. The new stuff is more on those lines. Some of it anyway.

In my head I’ve been working on two albums with slight overlap, and neither of them are really finished. So I’d been thinking I could do one last ‘angry political’ EP before moving on to the more pastoral, humane new album. But I’m not sure if people actually give a rats ass about conceptual coherence across an album. And I do, ulitmately, want to make a record which people like. So ‘just put all the best stuff on it’ seems like fine advice.

So, given that I have a ‘comment’ function, what do you think? Can you think of any albums where you find the lyrical themes jar so much that it spoils the effect? Or is it night to temper full on ranting with other themes? Any of the new songs you’ve particularly liked?

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*This post is essentially based on a lie – I’m down to play the Brainlove Xmas party.

PS – Reading back over this for typos. It occurs to me that ‘KK4’ and Rep1 both shared an EP with ONHS and Rep2 – two of my most overtly ranty songs. No one ever commented on this at the time. Am I worrying about nothing?