Thursday, January 2, 2020

My favourite albums of 2019

It has been a while since I sat to write one of these blog posts, 7 years to be precise. A lot has changed in the way we listen to music, in the way I listen to music. I don’t even remember when was the last time a bought a physical copy of an album.

This year, while I listened to a lot more music than in the previous years, I didn’t listen to as many albums as I would have when I used to write these posts more regularly. My “listening” attention is being pulled between albums, streaming services, podcasts and why not, reading.  Thankfully I can listen to some podcasts while I play the “occasional” game of Two Dots.

Looks like I have settled on a process to discover music that seems to be working. I listen to a couple of podcasts that recommend new music, then I listen to a few songs and albums from there on Spotify, and I let Spotify suggest more. Finally, what I truly want to listen to, gets added to my iTunes library for repeated listens.

There are a handful of albums that made me sit down and listen, sharing in no particular order:

Better Oblivion Community Center

Phoebe Bridgers was one of my favourite artists of the last few years (including boygenius).  She teams up with Conor Oberst for a fantastic folk-rock album.  I hope it's not their last one!

Better Oblivion Community Centre on Spotify

Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe

At only 24 years of age, her music sounds a lot more mature than that. I love the sound of her guitar and I hope this is the signal of many more good things to come.

Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe on Spotify

Marika Hackman ‎– Any Human Friend

Don't know how Marika Hackman has flown under my radar for so long.  This is probably the album that I listened to the most. This is a strange one for me, I identify a lot with the melodies, but not so much with the words.  The album tells the life of a twenty-something living in a big city... I am not that anymore.  For younger people, it probably has a different meaning, for me it's all about the pop melodies.

Marika Hackman ‎– Any Human Friend on Spotify

FINNEAS ‎– Blood Harmony

Finneas O'Connell is the lesser know of the O'Connell siblings, but I would say, the creative force behind her sister Billie Eilish.  This EP is a small collection of finely crafted pop songs.  For me "I Don't Miss You at All" is contender for the song of the year

FINNEAS ‎– Blood Harmony on Spotify

No-Man ‎– Love You To Bits

I am not going to try to describe this one, from the "Art-Rock" duo of  Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson. Pop Matters describes it as their Disco White Whale and most other reviews are in prog rock sites, well, you will just have to try it for yourselves.

No-Man ‎– Love You To Bits on Spotify

Other notable releases for me, include Big Thief's 2 albums, Angel Olsen's All Mirrors, Clairo's debut (Alewife is another contender for song of the year!) and Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow

Enjoy, and share your music!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Favourite Albums of 2012

Another year has gone by, and although I didn't get enough time to blog about music, I was able to listen to a lot of new stuff, primarily thanks to iTunes Match and Spotify, that make music more accessible even for when I only had a few minutes to listen here and there.

The list this year seems a bit more mainstream than other years, not sure what it actually says about my music tastes, in saying that, the first entry in the list is not your typical pop record...

5. Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion

This is a collaboration between Mikael Åkerfeldt, best known for his work in Prog Metal Band Opeth and Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree, No Man, etc. Despite their background, this is not a metal or prog album.  Although very difficult to label, this can possible be best described as experimental or avant garde.  One thing is very definite, it has a very eerie feel to it and at times a bit disturbing.  The video for Drag Ropes will help you understand what I mean by this.

Storm Corrosion is difficult to get into, but once you do, it is rewarding.  Interesting orchestral soundscapes and excellent musicianship make this album a rare gem.

4. Field Music - Plumb

Plumb is the 4th instalment from the Brewis brothers from Sunderland.  This one was very anticipated and it certainly didn't disappoint.  Contrary to previous albums by Field Music, this was full of very short songs which was viewed negatively by some critics who said the album lacked the cohesion of previous work by the band.  I have to say that I particularly liked that.  Short musical ideas, direct and to the point.  Having said that the musical themes spread through the whole album and come back again and again giving this album a structure that perhaps escaped in the first few listens.  I think this was the album I listened to the most in the first few months of the year.

3. Julie Feeney - Clocks

I may have mentioned Julie once or twice before here. Her second album 'Pages', featured as one of my favourite albums back in 2009.  Clocks is the long awaited difficult third album for Julie.  It was crowd funded through irish website FundIt and self produced by Julie in a very busy year that saw her have a 10-night run at the Irish Arts Center in New York and 10 choral concerts around Ireland the that finished the week before the official album launch shows in Galway and Dublin in early December.

Clocks has won multiple accolades here in Ireland, and it is for good reasons.  It is full of fantastic melodies and complex arrangements yet its simplicity is beautiful.  I was lucky enough to see one of her 10 choral concerts back in November where the songs took a different life when sung accompanied by a choir.  Stand out tracks for me are Galway Boy and Every Inch a Woman.  I haven't had time to listen to this one again and again, I have a feeling that this album would have ranked higher if I had given it a few more listens.

2. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do

Or simply referred to as 'The Idler Wheel...', it is the long awaited 4th album from Fiona Apple.  It only took 7 years to be released and it was worth the wait.

This is another difficult album to get into.  Demanding, but it is definitely worth the effort as you come out on the other side feeling that you have experienced something that was carefully crafted and pull together but at the same time is full of the volatility and anxiety that have made Fiona Apple so successful since she first appeared back in 1996.

1. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

I discovered Sharon Van Etten back in April through an eMusic article about women singer songwriters. I quickly fell in love with her music and this album in particular.  I can listen to te melodies over and over again and I have often finished listening to the album only to start it again and again.

I find the combination of the melodies, her voice and the simplicity of the music beautiful.  Give Out and Serpents are contenders for my song of the year.

I was delighted when a little later in the year, this album broke and was much talked about in the media.  I think everybody should go and listen to Sharon Van Etten!

Other Stuff

Other albums that deserve a mention include The Temper Trap by The Temper Trap, Coexist by The XX, An Awesome Wave by alt-j, Shields by Grizzly Bear,  Jack White's Blunderbuss and the Debut album of Django Django, to name a few.

As for the best Irish Albums, you can find an extensive list on swear I'm not Paul, although he is missing Clock's there!  For me stand out ones here Kingdom by Heathers and Family by The Cast of Cheers.

As for the song of the year, for me it was Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men.

Next year, I will look forward to the new Villagers album as well as new songs from Birth of Youth.

Hopefully I will get  chance to listen and write more about music.  But if not, see you here next year for another eclectic collection of music.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

This is it!

Here it is... It looks like the wait is nearing the end... Could this be the cover for the long awaited 4th album?

Published on Fiona Apple's Facebook page earlier today...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fiona Apple's new album is coming

It looks like the 7 year wait for Fiona Apple's new album is finally close to the end. June, if the blogging guesses are to be trusted.

Meanwhile, we have to make do with the fantastic title:

"The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do."

By the way, haven't had a chance to write up a review of Field Music's latest album Plumb. It is fantastic, don't let those reviews saying that the short songs don't work out you off,  specially those who always tag artist with long prog like songs as too up their own arses. Who understands these people!

Meanwhile, I will leave you with this link to the review of Plumb in State Magazine. Anybody that can use the word aubergine in an album review, deserves to be re blogged. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Field Music album on the way

Just received a notification that the new Field Music album Plumb is available for preorder in iTunes. The release date is set for February 12th. Should be worth listening!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Favourite Albums of 2011

Contrary to what I hoped at the end of last year, and as you can see by the very meagre output on this blog, I didn't get enough time to listen to new music. I still managed, however, to find a few gems here and there. As with the last couple of years, most of my music came in through eMusic. I didn't get enough time to trawl through sites like Bandcamp or even Twitter for new music. Bandcamp is high on my music searching agenda in 2012 as is Kompoz.

It seems to me that this year, a number of Folk bands on both sides of the Atlantic made it heavily into the mainstream media and had a bigger influence in music. I think this influenced my list this year a little bit.

Girls is a an American indie group (more like a duo) that came into prominence with their first album back in late 2009. There was a lot of buzz around at the time and I dutifully checked their album. I remember thinking this is to raw for my liking and the sound is a bit off. It never grew on me.

Much to my surprise, I really liked "Father, Son, Holy Ghost". It has a fuller sound, better production and it feels overall like a better thought out and more structured album. The record is divided in two parts. The first few songs are pretty up tempo and cheerful, while the second part turns more introspective. I'm sure there is more to get out of it if you pay attention to the lyrics, I never do! The single Vomit received a lot of praise from bloggers and established magazines alike when it came out. My favourite track of the album however is Forgiveness.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart took me by surprise when I discovered Belong as one of the featured albums en emusic back in April. Another American indie band, this time from NY, but with a very different sound. It took me back to the days when I was in college and I listened to music all the time, yet the sound was fresh and new to me despite the fact that you can hear the early 90's fuzzy indie scene influences all over it.

I am not sure whether this is an album that will last the test of time, but in 2011, I listened to it over and over again.

I simply love Heart in your heartbreak.

Bird of Youth is one of those folky acts I referred to at the top of the post. Not sure if this particular one has actually made it into the mainstream yet! I don't know anything about them except the brief bio on their website that mainly talks about Beth Wawerna's musical birth and not much else. The Album was released by Jagjaguwar records and produced by Phil Palazzolo along with Okkervil River’s Will Sheff. However it is not listed on the label's website except for a reference where they were supporting Okkervil River on a show back in December.

Another emusic discovery, this is a pretty folksy album with good melodies and an overall feel good element to it, I had to listen to it over and over again. I couldn't get enough of it.

I hope they don't fade into obscurity!

My list wouldn't usually include Grammy nominated albums. However, in early December, GFD was nominated for a Grammy in the Category of Best Surround Sound Mix.

I think Steven Wilson is one of the musical geniuses of the 21st century. A very prolific artist with a number of different outlets primarily driven by Porcupine Tree. Despite this prolificness, GFD is only Steven Wilson's second album. For me, this was one of the most anticipated albums of 2011. Back in the summer, SW put out a teaser on his website with cuts from every single track of the album. From there, I knew that GFD was going to be something special. This is a complex album that is difficult to explain. I hesitate to call it a prog rock album for a number if reasons, but it definitely is one, it is more eclectic than that though. It has some pop elements but also borrows heavily from jazz. One of the biggest achievements in my mind is the fact that despite being a huge piece of work, it doesn't suffer from the over the top flamboyance very commonly associated with prog rock groups.

You can see videos of some of the songs, including some live cuts on the album link above and judge for yourself. Simply beautiful.

And from the expansive musical landscape that is GFD, I move to an album that used as a first sigle a song that starts with a Ukulele.

It is no secret that I think Lisa Hannigan is one of the best Irish musicians out there. I simply loved See Saw when it came out back in 2008. It made it to my first list of albums of the year. I was a bit apprehensive about Lisa's new album. What if she turned out to be a one trick pony that only managed to get from under the shadow of one Damien Rice for a brief moment. I shouldn't have worried, I feel that with Passenger, Lisa Hannigan planted herself firmly amongst the leading group of Irish artists currently out there.

Passenger is a beautifully crafted album that just begs to be listened over and over again. As with See Saw, this is one of those albums that I see myself going back to from time to time in the years to come.

Other Stuff

Some other interesting albums included the third installment of one Matt Stevens, mentioned a few times around here before. Also some new music by ASIWFA, The Aristocrats, Laura Marling and Adele.

Probably the most interesting discovery I made this year was the Australian brother and sister duo of Angus & Julia Stone and their related solo albums.

The biggest musical disappointment was definitely the new Yes album.

As for Live Music, this year I didn't go to as many concerts as I would have hoped and will forever be marked as the year I saw Justin Bieber live in concert! On a more serious note, over the summer there were a few good gigs, including Journey and Foreigner. I saw Rush with Geedy Lee play live (and they played La Villa Strangiato!). But the event of the year had to be Roger Waters' show The Wall.

It might sound like a strange choice after you have read the full post above, but the track of the year for me was Adele's Someone Like You.

Even if I don't get enough time to listen to all the music I want in 2012, I know I will discover some new and noteworthy music worth talking about at the end of the year.