Stuff that pops into my head. Innit.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Top 10 Albums of the year

Before we get to the main meat of this post, there's a couple of albums worthy of mention that didn't quite make it into the top 10. Bjork's "Biophilia" and Radiohead's "The King of Limbs" were both excellent returns to form, although at the same time falling a long way short of their artists' stellar best, and Lupe Fiasco's "Lasers" was a minor disappointment -very good but missing something indefinable.

Anyway, onto the list.

10. Mariachi El Bronx -II.
Following up the Bronx' excellent first Mariachi album was always going to be hard, but they've managed to make another one that's actually better than the first attempt.

9. Electric 6 - Heartbeats and Brainwaves.
You pretty much know what you're going to get with an E6 album -insanely catchy pop rock with a slightly unsettling edge to it. This one is better than most of theirs and contains one of the years best tracks in "French Bacon".

8. Janes' Addiction - The Great Escape Artist.
This is way better than I expected -I actually suspect it's way better than JA themselves expected- and well worth a purchase if you like the band.

7. Bon Iver - Bon Iver.
The next big thing. If you're unfamiliar with these guys, you won't be for long. Brilliant folky rock from very accomplished musicians. Check out the song "holocene" to hear them at their best. Also good for fans of bands with missing letters in their name.

6. Skindred - Union Black.
There aren't many truly unique bands about, but Skindred are certainly one of them. They effortlessly fuse metal, ragga and dubstep into one massive thunderclap. Brilliant, but best heard live -and that's the reason they're down at No.6. This album also contains the best version of the British national anthem ever.

5. Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math
Don't go into this one expecting something you've never heard the like of before, because on first listen, it's a fairly bland poppy album sung by a man with a pleasant if slightly whiny voice. Simple Math, however has hidden depths -and what depths they are. Lyrically, this is perhaps the most brutally honest album you'll ever hear. Keep listening to it and you'll fall in love with it.

4. Cage The Elephant -Thank You, Happy Birthday.
Conceptually a million miles away from "Simple Math" this is more of a "Happy" album - put this on when you're in a good mood and you'll soon be dancing around the room. I've just realised that that might just be me, but never mind, it's still a cracking album. It's only made No.4 because it's essentially a Pixies tribute album but if you're going to rip off someone, make sure it's someone unspeakably brilliant.

3. Mastodon - The Hunter.
Fan opinion on The Hunter was split, some seeing it as an incoherent piece of rubbish, others -like me- feteing it as Mastodons' finest hour. Rather than an album wide concept the Atlanta boys have given us a collection of largely unrelated songs, but what songs they are.

2. The Black Keys - El Camino.
The worlds' most underrated band return with their second brilliant album in as many years. This is the best rock album of the year by far. No arguments, go and buy it.

1. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake.
I didn't want to name this as the best album of the year -mainly because it seems nearly everyone else has- but you really can't deny the fact that it is. And it's the best by quite a large margin.
Musically, it's beautifully arranged and Harveys' voice is clearer and sharper than ever. Lyrically it's both powerful and sensitive without ever becoming maudlin or depressing, and she handles difficult subjects with subtlety and ease. It's not far short of a masterpiece.

PJ Harvey, yesterday. Brilliant.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Worst Albums of the year 2011

This kind of falls into a couple of distinctly different categories -those albums which are not terrible but a bit dull, those which are disappointing because they've been made by bands who are usually ok and those which are frankly, poo.

In the "not terrible but a bit dull" section first up, it's the Subways.
Their album "Money and Celebrity" can best be summed up as a party album for people who like rock. It's not all bad -indeed, the first single from the album " We don't need money to have a good time" is quite good, but everything else on the album sounds the same to the point where they all meld into one whiny singalong mess. Not good.
In the next category are Kasabian, which I have to say came as a bit of a surprise.
To my mind at least, Kasabian had been steadily improving, each album showing some progression -but "Velociraptor!" is a massive leap backwards. It also features some of the worst lyrics I've ever heard. The album comes across as an incoherent mess. Must do better lads.

Ok, now we're into the "Poo" section.
Normally, in any other year I could think of, Gold Cobra would have run away with the worst album of the year award, for reasons I -and quite a lot of the rest of the web- have discussed before (hint ; He stands at the front and wears a cap).
Sorry Fred, this year you've been blown away in the crap stakes.

Enter Metallica and Lou Reed with "Lulu".
A double album, no less.

I'm not a Metallica fan, but I can't imagine many of their fanbase will be happy with this. Kirk Hammett's signature guitar solos are largely missing, and bassist Rob Trujillo seems to have been on holiday at the time of recording, so the whole thing is driven along by James Hetfield's chugging rythmn guitar. Terrific. Never mind though, here comes Super Lars and his pet Snare Drum to save the day!
Um, no. Lars' answer to the assault on your ears is to hit everything very hard. All the time. Thanks.
Lou mumbles and stumbles his way through the lyrics at one point shouting "JACK" for what seems like forever. He also pretends to be a girl in one song. No, I'm not making it up.
In what appears to be a desperate attempt to distract the listener, James Hetfield tries to convince us that he's a table. Yes, you read that correctly. Listen

Sadly, and remarkably, these are the better efforts on an album that's best quickly forgotten.

Lou Reed and Metallica yesterday, being poo.

Monday, 5 December 2011


Hello all, I'm back. I'm refreshed, recuperated , re-energised and several other things that begin with "R" as well. And, as a copy of El Camino is in my possession, I'll be doing my top ten albums of the year in  a couple of days -shortly after my worst albums of the year, there's some crackers in that one- and this post which is neccessarily sombre in tone.

In the space of little more than a week, 3 of my favourite sportsmen ever have died.

Last weekend former Everton captain Gary Speed took his own life, seemingly with everything to live for. He was 42. Gary was a husband, father, gentlemen and an Evertonian. That's as fitting an epitaph as you can have.

A couple of days after Gary, Rugby League great Arthur Beetson passed away from a heart attack, aged 66.
In a sport filled with remarkable athletes and tough men, Artie was the most remarkable, the toughest, and -in his position- the best.
Just to let you know how good he was, he played for Queensland and I still loved him-that's something no-one else has managed since.

And this weekend, brazilian football legend Socrates has died.  He was a chain smoker, a qualified doctor and , in a time where the word is overused to describe people , he was truly unique. He was a big man -maybe 6'4- yet he danced and skipped around the pitch with more grace than any footballer I've seen before or after, he had a mass of curly hair, often enhanced with a bandana and a raggedy beard. He was also one of the shining lights of the best national team I've ever seen.