Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Favourite Albums of 2010

2010 was a great year for music, although I wasn't able to listen to as much as I would have liked, here are my top 5 albums of 2010 in reverse order:

Third full length studio album from Field Music, English band led by the Brewis brothers. This one got me by surprise as I hadn't heard of the band or related side projects before. It was a suggestion from eMusic.com, and it hit the mark! A well thought out album well worth checking out!

I love prog rock, but lets be honest, prog rock is more often than not pretentious and self indulgent. And there are only a handful of groups that can pull it off these days. My favourite group of the new breed of prog rock musicians is Porcupine Tree. After I discovered them I went looking for similar artists and I haven't found many that come anywhere near. The Pineapple Thief do, and in my opinion, with Someone Here is Missing, they are finally standing on their own with their individual sound. A fine modern prog rock album and the best of 2010!

3. Matt Stevens - Ghost

Matt is from a new kind of musician that does it for the love of the art (obviously selling his music is what allows him to keep going, so I encourage you to drop by his site to get some pay what you'd like music). He is very active on the social media (twitter, facebook, ustream, you name it) and is always available to engage on conversation. You can ask him about his techniques, chord progressions or even what he had for breakfast, if you are so inclined. What this really does is to make the music more personal and accessible. He plays solo guitar by looping parts of a song and layering more sections on top of each other.

Ghost is a solo guitar album like you have never heard before. It is a must!

2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

I came late to the Arcade Fire party. Having only bought Funeral earlier this year means that I haven't been enjoying their collective music as long as most people out there. When I saw their Glastonburry set (on TV only unfortunately) they really drew my attention. I saw there was substance to all that craze around them. I bought Funeral shortly after that and The Suburbs a few weeks later. If ou haven't yet, check this one out, you won't regret it.

In theory compilations are not allowed on a favourite albums of the year list, however this one is slightly different. As I have mentioned somewhere else on this blog, I have been a big fan of Suzanne Vega since I heard Luka for the first time back in 1987. The Close-Up series features re-recorded versions of some of her most memorable songs. What makes these recordings so powerful is the way Suzanne Vega has managed o make them more raw. They feel closer. You almost feel like she is playing in your living room. Volume 2, People & Places was released a few weeks ago, and it is also worth checking out.

Other Stuff
Some other good albums to check include:
  • Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love
  • The New Pornographers - Together
  • Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart
  • Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back (still waiting for the second album!)
  • Eels - Tomorrow Morning
  • Villagers - Becoming a Jackal
  • Polar Bear - Peepers
My favourite non-single track of the year is Crash Years by The New Pornographers

My favourite Irish single of the year is This Is Goodbye by CODES

The concert of the year for me was Julie Feeney live at the National Concert Hall back in February. Magical!

And finally, the weirdest opening act has to be the acoustic set by French prog rockers Averse when opening for Lisa Cuthbert (another interesting album to check)

I hope to have more time for more interesting music in 2011. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Porcupine Tree Live at Tripod in Dublin - October 11th, 2010 - Setlist

Fantastic show yesterday evening in Tripod. Just the setlist for now. I will publish a review later on.

Set 1
  • Even Less
  • Open Car
  • Lazarus
  • The Sound of Muzak
  • The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)
  • I Drive the Hearse
  • Anesthetize
Set 2
  • Occam's Razor
  • The Blind House
  • Great Expectations
  • Kneel and Disconnect
  • Drawing the Line
  • Blackest Eyes
  • Time Flies
  • Sleep Together
  • Trains

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Suzanne Vega Live at The Village in Dublin - June 10th, 2010

Despite the fact that I have seen Suzanne Vega live 6 or 7 times, I still get a sense of anticipation every time. I first listened to her when back in 87 on a rare day I stayed home from school and the local rock station had a feature on her. Her voice captured me instantly and I went on a quest to get her first 2 albums (not easy to get imports in Mexico back then!). I had become a true fan.

I have seen her with a number of different backing bands, including 3 piece (guitar, bass & drums), 4 piece (keyboards, guitar, bass & drums) and even just herself and a bass player, usually Mike Visceglia. However this time she was joined on stage by Mike, and by Dubliner Gerry Leonard on electric guitar, giving her performance a whole new dimension.

This tour is to promote Suzanne's new album "Close-Up Vol 1, Love Songs". the first in a series of 4 that are planned to be released over the next 2 years and are more raw re-recordings of Suzanne's songs. This tour also marks the 25th anniversary of the first album, so a good few old songs were included in the set, sadly no Undertow (I have never heard it live!), although she told me after the show that she still plays it occasionally. Here is hoping for the next time!

The show started with "Marlene on the Wall", her voice sounding as good as ever, and the crowd of mainly seasoned fans enjoying every bit of it. She played the usual suspects of Luka, Gypsy, Left of Center and The Queen and the Soldier. She played some new ones for me live: New York is a Woman, Frank & Ava and a rare gem for me Some Journey. The setlist also included the DNA version of Tom's Dinner which was fantastic!

She was more talkative than I have ever seen her before, telling stories before every song, and not the same ones I have heard before! This time I learnt that the guy behind Gypsy was the Arts and Crafts councilor in the boys camp... which brought a chuckle to the audience. There was no reading before Neighborhood Girls, which thankfully didn't skip like on my original vinyl. (Well, I couldn't travel back to the States to return it so I had to leave with it... to this day 23 odd years later, I still expect the CD to skip when I am listening to the song!)

I got the setlist from stage, if you are wondering what are the numbers beside every song, it is for Suzanne to know where to place the capo on her guitar. I then went to the the merchandise stall to buy her new CD (well worth a listen) where I was told that she would be coming out to sign autographs in 5 minutes, so I decided to stick around and she kindly signed my setlist.

If Suzanne Vega plays anywhere near you, go and see her. I hope she keeps coming back to Dublin tour after tour. I will keep going to enjoy what has always been a great night!

  • Marlene on the Wall
  • Small Blue Thing
  • Caramel
  • Frank & Ava
  • New York is a Woman
  • Pornographer's Dream
  • Gypsy
  • Harbor Song
  • Tombstone
  • Left of Centre
  • Blood Makes Noise
  • Solitaire
  • The Man Who Played God (A Sparklehorse song)
  • The Queen and the Soldier
  • Neighborhood Girls
  • Some Journey
  • Luka
  • Tom's Diner

  • Calypso
  • Rosemary
  • In Liverpool (it was on the setlist but it wasn't performed!)

Autographed setlist!

Live picture of Suzanne from the flickr photostream of zoomzuzaki

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Julie Feeney Live at the National Concert Hall - May 29th, 2010

When I was telling people that I had tickets to see Julie Feeney at the National Concert Hall, I was always asked: What kind of music does she play? Answering the question is not straightforward. Julie's style can best be described as "classical pop".

For last Saturday's concert, Julie was accompanied on stage by the Pages Orchestra, a 20+ piece orchestra with piano, strings (violins violas, cellos and a double bass!), winds, harp and percussions. Julie played the piano, recorder, accordion and her trusted harmonium.

She played a selection of songs from '13 Songs' and 'Pages' in full. As always, the arrangements are very different from the album versions and really emphasize her beautiful melodies and harmonies. She also added a couple of covers, including a great version of Halleluja, and excerpts from Philip Glass' Songs from Liquid Days.

I was lucky enough to get 2nd row tickets despite the fact that I only bought them 5 days before the concert and it was fully sold out by Saturday. And the acoustics of the National Concert Hall really made for a fantastic show.

Aching sounded beautiful with the full orchestra, as opposed to last year in Crawdaddy when she sang it with the harmonium only. One More Tune is a favourite of mine live, she gets the crowd really engaged clapping and singing. Myth went down very well as Julie walked around the theatre while interacting with the crowd. And of course the encore of Love is a Tricky thing, followed by Impossibly Beautiful finished what was a fantastic night and a very different concert.

Julie's songs, interwoven harmonies and poetic lyrics are truly beautiful. I hope that she releases a live album to enjoy the experience over and over again.

  • Autopilot
  • Monster
  • Alien
  • Grace
  • Instrumental Interlude 1,000,001 (instrumental version)
  • Valentine's Song
  • Stay
  • Nothing to Declare
  • Knock Knock
  • Wind Out Of My Sails
  • Myth
  • Excerpts from Songs from Liquid Days
  • Fictitious Richard
  • Mr. Roving Eye Guy
  • Aching
  • You Broke The Magic
  • Life's Nudge
  • Hallelujah
  • One More Tune

  • Love Is A Tricky Thing
  • Impossibly Beautiful
Update, June 5th, 2010 - I received a message from Julie yesterday where she kindly told me that the first instrumental was a special arrangement of 1,000,001 that she prepared for the show, so I have changed the setlist accordingly!