stevensounds

A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Friday, 22 December 2017

My Favourite Albums Of 2017

Another year, another 100 albums. Some familiar names, some new discoveries. So much brilliant music.

I can’t remember another year when my favourite kept changing so much (at one stage or another each album in the top ten below all held number one spot I think).

Here goes...

1) Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up (live review)
2) Elbow - Little Fictions
3) Oddfellow's Casino - Oh, Sealand
4) Grandbrothers - Open (album review)
5) HAIM - Something To Tell You
6) Hannah Peel - Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia
7) The Charlatans - Different Days (live review)
8) Slowdive - Slowdive (live review)
9) Amadou & Mariam - La Confusion
10) Dutch Uncles - Big Balloon
11) Ariel Pink - Dedicated To Bobby Jameson
12) James Holden - The Animal Spirits
13) Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - The Kid
14) Max Richter - Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works
15) Penguin Cafe - The Imperfect Sea (live review)
16) Forest Swords - Compassion
17) Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins
18) Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life
19) Balmorhea - Clear Language
20) Grandaddy - Last Place
21) Ed Dowie - The Uncle Sold
22) Les Amazones d'Afrique - Republique Amazone
23) Bing & Ruth - No Home Of The Mind (live review)
24) The Weather Station - The Weather Station
25) Oumou Sangaré - Mogoya
26) Ifriqiyya Electrique - Rûwâhîne
27) BNQT - Volume 1.
28) Nubya Garcia - Nubya's 5ive
29) Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Luciferian Towers
30) Gareth Sager - 88 Tuned Dreams
31) This Is The Kit - Moonshine Freeze
32) Girl Ray - Earl Grey (live review)
33) Colleen - A flame my love, a frequency
34) Fizzarum - Frisson
35) From The Mouth Of The Sun - Hymn Binding
36) I, Ludicrous - Songs From The Sides Of Lorries
37) The Bug v Earth - Concrete Desert
38) Eluvium - Shuffle Drones
39) Björk - Utopia
40) Alessandro Cortini - AVANTI
41) Justin Walter - Unseen Forces
42) Martin Glass - The Pacific Visions Of Martin Glass
43) Ryuichi Sakamoto - async
44) The Necks - Unfold
45) Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Adiós Señor Pussycat
46) Mogwai - Every Country's Sun
47) Yasmine Hamdan - Al Jamilat
48) William Basinski - A Shadow In Time
49) Martyn Heyne - Electric Intervals
50) Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner & James McAlister - Planetarium
51) Euros Childs - House Arrest
52) The Shins - Heartworms
53) David Crosby - Sky Trails
54) Fiium Shaarrk - We Are Astonishingly Lifelike
55) Poppy Ackroyd - Sketches
56) State Broadcasters - A Different Past
57) Ride - Weather Diaries (live review)
58) High Plains - Cinderland
59) Visible Cloaks - Reassemblage
60) Seamus Fogarty - The Curious Hand
61) Iron & Wine - Beast Epic (album review)
62) Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness
63) Natasha Barrett - Puzzle Wood
64) Moon Diagrams - Lifetime Of Love
65) Richard Dawson - Peasant
66) Prins Thomas - Prins Thomas 5
67) Högni - Two Trains (album review)
68) Human Pyramids - Home
69) Jessica Moss - Pools Of Light
70) Gwyneth Glyn - Tro
71) GAS - Narkopop
72) Esmerine - Mechanics of Dominion
73) Ex Eye - Ex Eye
74) Giulio Aldinucci - Borders And Ruins
75) Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
76) Hidden Orchestra - Dawn Chorus
77) Gaussian Curve - The Distance
78) Msafiri Zawose - Uhamiaji
79) Lung Dart - Some Other Hunger
80) Bola - D.E.G
81) Masaki Uchida - Xenolinguistics
82) Kronos Quartet & Trio Da Kali - Ladilikan
83) Loney Dear - Loney Dear
84) Ellen Arkbro - For Organ And Brass
85) Nadia Reid - Preservation
86) Goldfrapp - Silver Eye
87) Laura Marling - Semper Femina
88) Saltland - A Common Truth
89) Mark McGuire - Ideas Of Begnnings
90) Clocolan - Nothing Left To Abandon
91) Hammock - Mysterium
92) Blanck Mass - World Eater
93) Snow Palms - Origin And Echo
94) Dustin Wong - Are Euphoria
95) Children Of Alice - Children Of Alice
96) Maya Youssef - Syrian Dreams
97) Ben Gibbard - Bandwagonesque
98) Flying Saucer Attack – In Search Of Spaces
99) Andrea Belfi - Ore
100) Sampha - Process


Thursday, 22 December 2016

My Favourite 100 Albums Of 2016


Another year, another 100 albums.

2016 may have been a depressing and exasperating year in some ways but it was another excellent year for music. As always, I’ve enjoyed exploring my way through the new releases, making new discoveries and re-establishing old acquaintances before seeing how they ultimately settle into a list of favourites (although there’s probably more in the way of familiar names in the below list, certainly towards the upper end). I’m certainly more than happy to be defined by the below 100 albums. As other people have said when publishing their end of year lists the top 20 is pretty accurately ordered, after that it becomes a little more arbitrary and changeable.

Will by Julianna Barwick narrowly edged out False Readings On By Eluvium to claim my top spot. Both ‘broke free’ from other albums by October and it was just a case of seeing which album would remain in front. Both artists have featured in my previous end of year lists and these albums saw them operating at an extremely high level, both arguably approaching the peak of their powers. The Julianna Barwick album is a stunningly beautiful and concise piece of work while (under his Eluvium alias) Matthew Cooper excels himself once more with his ecstatically charged ambient music. At times it seems like his music has a direct connection to the heavens, full of emotional direct hits and able to achieve a transcendence rarely found elsewhere. To me, both albums represent a voyage through the human psyche, body and soul. They both have depth and longevity in abundance (two qualities I always look for in albums). In some ways it seems unfair to have to place one above the other (sorry Matthew).

Elsewhere, Noura Mint Seymali consolidated her position as one of the most exciting artists around and we saw the welcome return of my beloved Teenage Fanclub. At the start of the year if someone had told me that one of my favourite albums of the year would feature guest vocals from Craig David it’s fair to say that it would have been met with a degree of scepticism but that’s what actually happened with the excellent 99.9% by Kaytranada clocking in at number eight (it is sort of like a distant cousin to Ego Death, last year’s similarly impressive album by The Internet). The Cocteau Twins sound more influential with each passing year and I loved how C Duncan incorporated some of the sounds and textures found on albums like Victorialand on his second album The Midnight Sun. Meanwhile albums by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Badbadnotgood, Eighth Blackbird, Agnes Obel, Peter Broderick and Plaid (amongst others) also made lasting impressions. I could go on making similar testimonies about all of these albums to be honest.

Given the context/circumstances behind their creation and release it may seem surprising that albums like You Want It Darker (Leonard Cohen), Skeleton Tree (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) and Blackstar (David Bowie) occupy the relatively lowly positions they do but I probably didn’t listen to them enough to allow them to take higher spots.

I didn’t review as many albums this year (a pitiful, shamefully paltry seven in total) and didn’t do much better on gigs either (ten, if you include the always life-affirmingly brilliant WOMAD festival). I definitely need to try harder on the reviewing front in 2017. As always, radio proved the best way for me to discover new music and I’m grateful to Late Junction, Gilles Peterson, Gideon Coe, Marc Riley and others for bringing many of these artists to my attention.

Here is my top 100 in full:

100) Las Kellies - Friends And Lovers
99) Illum Sphere - Glass
98) Sara Neufeld - The Ridge
97) Various Artists - Space Echo (The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed)
96) Cavern Of Anti-Matter - void beats/invocation trex
95) Margaret Glaspy - Emotions And Math
94) Aisha Orazbayeva - Telemann Fantasias
93) Mary Lattimore – At The Dam
92) Yorkston/Thorne/Khan - Everything Sacred (Old Queen's Head live review)
91) Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra - Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra
90) The Besnard Lakes - A Coliseum Complex Museum
89) Various Artists - Soul Sok Sega (Sounds From Mauritius 1973-1979)
88) Leverton Fox - Velcro Bird
87) Solar Bears - Advancement
86) M. Ward - More Rain
85) Belbury Poly - New Ways Out
84) Jessy Lanza - Oh No (album review)
83) Damien Jurado - Visions Of Us On The Land
82) 75 Dollar Bill – Wood / Metal / Plastic / Pattern / Rhythm / Rock
81) Karl Blau - Introducing Karl Blau
80) King Creosote - Astronaut Meets Appleman
79) Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop - Love Letter For Fire
78) Kel Assouf - Tikounen
77) Rokia Traoré - Né So
76) Aziza Brahim - Abbar El Hamada
75) Morgan Delt - Phase Zero
74) Eleanor Friedberger - New View
73) Tycho - Epoch
72) Keaton Henson - Kindly Now
71) Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
70) Claire M Singer - Solas
69) Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker
68) Imarhan - Imarhan
67) Konono No. 1 Meets Batida - Konono No. 1 Meets Batida
66) Explosions In The Sky - The Wilderness
65) Donny McCaslin - Beyond Now
64) Guy Andrews - Our Spaces
63) Sarathy Korwar - Day To Day
62) Loscil - Monument Builders
61) Lisa Hannigan - At Swim
60) Jason Sharp - A Boat Upon Its Blood
59) Arborist - Dark Stream
58) Xylouris White - Black Peak
57) Yussef Kamaal - Black Focus
56) Immix Ensemble - Transition
55) Azymuth - Fênix
54) The Comet Is Coming - Channel The Spirits
53) Ryley Walker - Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
52) Turin Brakes - Lost Property
51) Family Atlantica - Cosmic Unity
50) PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project
49) Mica Levi/Oliver Coates - Remain Calm
48) Klara Lewis - Too
47) Meta Meta - MM3
46) Baaba Maal - The Traveller
45) Bonnie Prince Billy/Bitchin' Bajas - Epic Jammers And Fortunate Little Ditties
44) Mogwai - Atomic
43) Lambchop - FLOTUS
42) Ian William Craig - Centres
41) M Craft - Blood Moon
40) Szun Waves - At Sacred Walls
39) Various Artists - Orbital Planes & Passenger Trains, Vol. 1
38) North Sea Radio Orchestra - Dronne
37) Be - One
36) Steve Mason - Meet The Humans
35) Federico Albanese (album review)
34) Botany - Deepak Verbera
33) Patten - Ψ
32) Brian Eno - The Ship (album review)
31) Shirley Collins - Lodestar
30) Amiina - Fantômas
29) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
28) David Bowie - Blackstar
27) Oliver Coates - Upstepping
26) William Tyler - Modern Country
25) Tortoise - The Catastrophist
24) Tindersticks - The Waiting Room
23) The High Llamas - Here Come The Rattling Trees (album review)
22) Ben Lukas Boysen - Spells
21) Jóhann Jóhannsson - Orphée
20) ISAN - Glass Bird Movement
19) Mono - Requiem For Hell
18) Petrels - Jörð
17) Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS
16) Badbadnotgood - IV
15) Peter Broderick - Partners
14) Agnes Obel - Citizen Of Glass
13) Plaid - The Digging Remedy
12) Anoushka Shankar - Land Of Gold
11) Brigid Mae Power - Brigid Mae Power
10) Eighth Blackbird - Hand Eye
9) Whitney - Light Upon The Lake
8) Kaytranada - 99.9%
7) Douglas Dare - Aforger (album review)
6) Regina Spektor - Remember Us To Life (Royal Festival Hall live review)
5) Teenage Fanclub - Here
4) C Duncan - The Midnight Sun
3) Noura Mint Seymali - Arbina (album review and interview)
2) Eluvium - False Readings On
1) Julianna Barwick - Will (Pickle Factory live review)


Monday, 28 December 2015

My Favourite 100 Albums Of 2015

I always seem to begin these end of year album lists by remarking on how good a year it was for music. In this respect 2015 was no different to previous years, proving that if you have the time and desire to seek out and listen to music there’s an absolute abundance of stuff to discover. It was also no different to previous years in that the pace and volume of releases made keeping up a challenge. There were lots of albums ‘on my radar’ that probably would have featured here that I simply just didn’t get round to listening to due to lack of time/lack of cash to buy etc.

There are lots of familiar names on this list that have regularly appeared in my end of year round ups since I started them back in 2009. It also features many of my favourite bands. It also features lots of new artists/bands that I discovered for the first time in 2015. In the end, my favourite band of all time narrowly eclipsed arguably my favourite band of the 90s to claim top spot. Ones And Sixes by Low proved they are one of the most consistent and enduring bands of the last two decades. It saw them refocus on their core strengths whilst introducing newer elements and had everything you’d want from a Low album. It may seem like a predictable choice (especially given posts like this) but it’s actually the first Low album to top my list (other albums have been edged out into second and third place in 2013 and 2011 retrospectively). In a way it’s a shame that Modern Nature by The Charlatans didn't get past it to claim number one position – it’s a fantastic album that also re-establishes a classic, immediately identifiable sound. Given their recent history its positive, euphoric, feel-good nature is even more remarkable and it would have been a justified number one.

Elsewhere, the two bands that I’d rank as my second and third favourite bands of all time (Yo La Tengo and Mercury Rev) returned with solid offerings and other recent favourites like Beach House, Jaga Jazzist and Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat also released excellent albums. Albums by bands/artists I’ve admired for a long time like Sleater-Kinney, Sufjan Stevens and Calexico also all stood out.

There were also two excellent releases by two of the key players in contemporary, experimental classical music – Bang On A Can All Stars and Eighth Blackbird - and the adjacent genre of neo/modern classical continued to be productive with notable releases by the likes of Rachel Grimes, Lubomyr Melnyk, Michael Price, Iskra String Quartet and Nils Frahm. 

In terms of global music I really enjoyed the albums by Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal, Trio Chemirani, Bixiga 70, Mbongwana Star and Shye Ben Tzur/Jonny Greenwood & Rajasthan Express. Two big musical names from India – Anoushka Shankar and Jyotsna Srikanth - also impressed once again. And then there were those excellent albums that either came out of nowhere or were pleasing difficult to easily categorise – Ian William Craig, Matana Roberts, The Internet, Finland, Kathryn Joseph, Felicia Atkinson and Petrels just to name a few.

Anyway, here’s the list including links to reviews I wrote for musicOMH.

100) Biosphere/Deathprod - Stator
99) Nadine Shah – Fast Food - album review
98) Helen – The Original Faces
97) Jib Kidder – Teaspoon To The Ocean - live review
96) Terakaft - Alone (Ténéré)
95) Luke Abbott – Music For A Flat Landscape
94) Arca - Mutant
93) Mount Eerie - Sauna
92) Romare - Projections
91) Tyondai Braxton – HIVE1
90) Linden – Rest And Be Thankful
89) Jyotsna Srikanth – Bangalore Dreams
88) Bixiga 70 – III
87) Sexwitch - Sexwitch
86) Polar Bear – Same As You
85) Philip Jeck - Cardinal
84) Jeremy Young & Aaron Martin – Pulse Passes From Hand To Hand
83) Eivind Aarset – I.E.
82) Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band – Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band
81) Yo La Tengo – Stuff Like That There
80) Colin Stetson/Sarah Neufeld – Never Were The Way She Was
79) Thundercat – The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam
78) Portico – Living Fields
77) Ibeyi - Ibeyi - album review
76) Various Artists – A Guide To The Birdsong Of South America
75) Kathryn Williams - Hypoxia
74) Anoushka Shankar - Home
73) Felicia Atkinson – A Readymade Ceremony
72) Goldmund - Sometimes
71) Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Ba Power - album review
70) L A N D - Anoxia
69) Erland Dahlen – Blossom Bells
68) Steve Hauschildt – Where All Is Fled
67) Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
66) Jan St Werner - Miscontinuum
65) Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets Grim Reaper - live review
64) Pure Bathing Culture – Pray For Rain - album review
63) Haiku Salut – Etch And Etch Deep
62) Mercury Rev – The Light In You
61) Secret Pyramid – The Silent March
60) Cass – Magical Magical
59) Cinerama - Valentina
58) Nils Frahm - Solo - blog post & Prom 27 review
57) Huntsville - Pond
56) Bruce Brubaker – Glass Piano
55) Flying Saucer Attack – Instrumentals 2015
54) Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
53) David John Sheppard – Vertical Land
52) Olan Mill - Hiraeth
51) Iskra String Quartet - Iskra
50) Jerusalem In My Heart – If He Dies, If, If, If, If, If, If
49) Blanck Mass – Dumb Flesh
48) Eric Chenaux - Skullsplitter
47) Ryley Walker – Primrose Green
46) Björk - Vulnicura
45) Michael Price - Entanglement - album review
44) Esmerine – Lost Voices - album review
43) Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer
42) John Carpenter – Lost Themes
41) Tame Impala - Currents
40) Ian William Craig – Cradle For The Wanting
39) Lau – The Bell That Never Rang
38) Inventions – Maze Of Woods
37) Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness
36) Eighth Blackbird - Filament
35) John Grant – Grey Tickles Black Pressure
34) Rival Consoles - Howl - album review
33) Trio Chemirani - Dawar
32) Ballake Sissoko & Vincet Segal – Musique de Nuit
31) Christina Vantzou – No. 3
30) Floating Points - Elaenia
29) Eska - Eska
28) Colleen – Captain Of None
27) Calexico – Edge Of The Sun
26) John Metcalfe – The Appearance Of Colour - album review
25) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
24) Petrels – Flailing Tomb
23) Holly Herndon - Platform
22) Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Three
21) Kamasi Washington – The Epic
20) Helios - Yume
19) Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood & Rajasthan Express - Junun
18) Julia Kent – Asperities
17) Lubomyr Melnyk – Rivers And Streams - album review
16) Mbongwana Star – From Kinshasa
15) Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Most Important Place In The World - album review
14) Mark McGuire – Beyond Belief
13) Finland – Rainy Omen
12) Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
11) Rachel Grimes – The Clearing
10)The Go! Team – The Scene Between - live review
9) The Internet – Ego Death
8) Kathryn Joseph – Bones You Have Thrown Me And Blood I’ve Spilled
7) Vetiver – Complete Strangers - album review
6) Joanna Newsom - Divers - live review
5) Jaga Jazzist – Starfire
4) Bang On A Can Allstars – Field Recordings
3) Beach House – Depression Cherry
2) The Charlatans – Modern Nature - live review
1) Low – Ones And Sixes - interview with Alan Sparhawk




Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Bach To Baby

I'm sure I've said before on this blog that one of the things I like best about living in London is being able to take my children to so many concerts and musical events designed especially with them in mind. Most recently, I took my 5 year old son to the Barbican to see the New York Philharmonic and Giants Are Small play Petrushka by Igor Stravinsky in a quite brilliantly theatrical concert (witness his excitement in the below pre-concert photograph). Over the last few years I've also taken him to see a Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, various concerts across the Southbank Centre, several Daylight Music shows at Union Chapel, child-friendly concerts at Kings Place and two outdoor music festivals (End Of The Road 2012 and WOMAD 2013).




Clearly, my 8 month old daughter has a little bit of catching up to do with her brother on this front. We took her to her first concert in February - one of the 'For Crying Out Loud' shows for babies at Wigmore Hall and earlier today we took her to her second concert - one of the excellent Bach To Baby shows at St. John of Jerusalem church in Hackney.

Bach To Baby promises "outstanding musicians, exhilarating performances and inspiring locations across London and the South East" and on the basis of today's show all pledges were comfortably met. It is the idea of pianist (and mum) Miaomiao Yu who wanted to be able to expose her own children to the type of concert she would enjoy. I totally understand this - if I'm honest the main reason I've taken Dhruv and Fiza to all of the wonderful places mentioned above is that I love experiencing concerts in these venues myself and get a special, additional thrill from experiencing them with my children - seriously, I remember practically being in tears when I took Dhruv to Union Chapel for the first time back in 2011. And also when we first went to the Royal Albert Hall for the CBeebies Prom last year. And also when we went to the Purcell Room in the Southbank Centre for a children's Impropera show. I could go on...

I read a story in the press recently where musician Nicola Benedetti argued young children should be exposed to classical music whether they like it or not. I can understand the point she was trying to convey but I'm not sure I agree with how she worded aspects of her argument. Doing it in a positive, relaxed, non-confrontational way is quite important I think (as is being able to accept any initial disinterest). James Rhodes covers this quite well in this piece and makes some other good points (especially on debunking the lazy assumption that listening to classical music automatically makes a person/child 'more intelligent'). 

I would definitely agree however that showing children that music can be a source of huge enjoyment from an early age is a good thing. What I've enjoyed doing with my son is playing him different pieces/genres of music and letting him work out for himself if he likes it/what he thinks of it/how he would describe it (and then seeing what he asks to listen to going forward). I think the different sensory/shared/social experiences of a live music performance must contain some positives at a very basic level for babies/children (gaining a greater awareness of sounds and instruments, getting more experience of concentrating on something not necessarily visual and simply spending time in a different environment away from the familiar distractions of home for example). 

Anyway, back to Bach To Baby - today's concert featured Miaomiao on piano and Katie Stillman on violin playing an all Mozart programme. It may have understandably featured Mozart's junior crowd-pleaser of 12 variations on "Ah vous dirai-je Mamam" (more commonly known as 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star') but there was no sense of dumbing down - the music ran for over an hour, included context and background on each piece in a way both adults and children could appreciate and featured a full Violin Concerto (Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219).



To begin with Fiza sat with her mum on the carpet in between the rows of pews at the front of St John Of Jerusalem and clapped her approval throughout the early stages, clearly interested by what was happening in front of her (and by the other babies surrounding her). Later, I held her and she showed her appreciation of Mozart's Violin Sonata No. 17 in C major, K 296 by dropping pieces of wet, half-eaten raspberry rice cakes down my shirt and wiping her sticky fingers over my face. Lovely.



The excitement all got a bit too much for her towards the end and she fell asleep for the last 15 minutes (missing sadly the final stages where the children are encouraged to gather around the piano to hear their favourite nursery rhymes).



I think it's clear that the quality of the overall Bach To Baby experience was reflected in its popularity - I think today's concert was attended by over 40 Mums (and a couple of Dads). The venue was beautiful also - a spacious, well maintained Victorian church. There are currently Bach To Baby concerts programmed up to July - if you have small children I'd recommend trying to get to one. I'm already trying to single out some dates in June...

More details can be found here and photographs from today's concert are available to view here.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Gigs Of 2014


2014 was one of the best years for gigs that I can remember. 

Here is a list of the 35 shows I went to...

Raajmahal @ Cafe OTO, London - 5th January

Withered Hand @ The Lexington, London - 10th January

Mogwai @ Royal Festival Hall, London - 24th January

Rafael Anton Irisarri @ Cafe OTO - 27th January (review)

Bill Callahan @ Royal Festival Hall, London - 8th February

Penguin Cafe @ Union Chapel, London - 15th February (review)

Anaïs Mitchell @ Little Theatre, Gateshead - 21st February (review)

Loscil @ Mining Institute, Newcastle - 22nd February

Midlake @ Shepherd's Bush Empire, London - 26th February (review)

Jóhann Jóhannsson: The Miners Hymns @ Barbican, London - 9th March (review)

The Necks @ Bishopsgate Institute, London - 21st March

Laetitia Sadier @ Water Rats, London - 24th April

The High Llamas @ The Islington, London - 25th April

Devendra Banhart & Rokia Traoré @ Barbican, London - 2nd May (review)

Natalie Merchant @ Milton Court, London - 11th May (review)

Neutral Milk Hotel @ Roundhouse, London - 21st May

Anoushka Shankar @ Royal Festival Hall, London - 23rd May (review)

Emmylou Harris playing Wrecking Ball @ Barbican, London - 26th May (review)

Dawn Landes @ The Lexington, London - 30th May

Caitlin Rose @ Union Chapel, London - 11th July

Kelis @ Somerset House, London - 14th July (review)

Jon Auer @ The Islington, London - 14th August

Prom 50: Dvořák, Beethoven & Janáček - Czech Philharmonic/Jiří Bělohlávek  @ Royal Albert Hall, London - 24th August

Michael Price @ English Speaking Union, London - 11th September

Sahara Soul (Aziza Brahim, Noura Mint Seymali, Tartit, Nabil Baly Othmani) @ Barbican, London - 27th September (review)

King Creosote @ Milton Court, London - 27th September (review)

Vashti Bunyan @ St Pancras Old Church, London - 9th October

Haiku Salut @ St John on Bethnal Green - 11th October

Withered Hand, Darren Hayman & The Understudies @ Scala, London - 14th October

A Winged Victory For The Sullen @ Milton Court, London - 20th October

Karen Gwyer, Wanda Group, Basic House, HOLOVR @ Star And Shadow Cinema, Newcastle - 29th October

Royal Ballet (Ceremony Of Innocence/Age Of Anxiety/Aeternum) @ Royal Opera House, London - 8th November

Goldfrapp playing Tales Of Us @ Royal Albert Hall, London - 18th November (review)

The Jesus And Mary Chain playing Psychocandy @ Troxy, London - 24th November

The Manic Street Preachers playing The Holy Bible @ Roundhouse, London - 15th December

Monday, 29 December 2014

Top 100 Albums Of 2014

In previous years (20092010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 specifically) I’ve compiled a list of my favourite 10 / 50 / 100 albums of the year accompanied by some words about what I liked about each. I didn’t have the time to do that this year sadly (hello 5 year old son, hello 4 month old daughter). In some ways it’s a shame as there have been many excellent, interesting records released that deserve lots of words of praise written about them. This year I’ve just included links to the album, live reviews or interviews that I wrote for musicOMH. I’m sure there are many others that would have made the list had I got round to listening to them properly.

The list is similar to previous years in being a mix of familiar names and new discoveries. The album at the top was undoubtedly the one that had the greatest emotional impact on me, which fundamentally is the thing I’m looking for most in music I guess. Until early November I wasn’t sure on what album would claim the top spot (in this respect it was probably the most finely balanced year since I’ve started writing these lists) but eventually it firmly established itself at the top. This piece explains and puts the album into context very well.

Technically I think the Malayeen and Dalglish albums may have came out in December 2013 but I’m including them here anyway.

In the end I could have comfortably listed over 150 albums...

Anyway, here’s the list:

100) Cooly G – Wait ‘Til Night (Hyperdub)
99) Aisha Orazbayeva – The Hand Gallery (Prah Recordings) - album review
98) Fatima Al Qadiri – Asiatisch (Hyperdub) - album review
97) Marissa Nadler - July (Bella Union)
96) Alsarah & The Nubatones - Silt (Wonderwheel)
95) Tara Jane O'Neil – Where Shine New Lights (Kranky)
94) Deerhoof - La Isla Bonita (Upset The Rhythm)
93) Christina Vantzou – No. 2 (Kranky)
92) Lawrence English – Wilderness Of Mirrors (Room40) -album review
91) Mogwai – Rave Tapes (Rock Action)
90) Chris Herbert - Constants (Room40)
89) DakhaBrakha – Na Mezhi (DakhaBrakha)
88) Toumani & Sidiki Diabate – Toumani & Sidike (World Circuit)
87) Fennesz - Becs (Editions Mego)
86) Tape - Casino (Hapna)
85) Deaf Center - Recount (Sonic Pieces)
84) Kasai Allstars – Beware The Fetish (Crammed Discs)
83) Djessou Mory Kante – River Strings Maninka Guitar (Sterns)
82) Hieroglyphic Being & The Configurative Or Modular Me Trio – Cosmic Seer Of Visions (Planet Mu)
81) Withered Hand – New Gods (Fortuna Pop)
80) Kasse Mady Diabate - Kirike (No Format)
79) Oren Ambarchi - Quixotism (Editions Mego)
78) Thug Entrancer – Death After Life (Software Recording Co.)
77) Lucinda Williams – Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (Highway 20 Records)
76) Olan Mill & Keung Mandelbrot - Seismology (Hibernate)
75) Hakon Stene - Lush Laments For Lazy Mammal (Hubro)
74) Snarky Puppy – We Like It Here (Ropeadope)
73) Hallock Hill – Kosloff Mansion (Hundred Acre Recordings)
72) Vashti Bunyan - Heartleap (Fatcat)
71) Bixiga 70 - Ocupai (Mais Um Discos)
70) Sophia Loizou - Chrysalis (Astro:Dynamics)
69) Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards - Distance (The State51 Conspiracy)
68) Dalglish - Niaiw Ot Vile (PAN)
67) Sam Amidon – Lily-O (Nonesuch)
66) Second Storey – Double Divide (Houndstooth)
65) HOLOVR – Holo Earth (Opal Tapes)
64) Douglas Dare – Whelm (Erased Tapes) - album review
63) Tindersticks - Ypres (Lucky Dog)
62) Remember Remember – Forgetting The Present (Rock Action) - album review
61) Half Man Half Biscuit – Urge For Offal (Probe Plus)
60) Land Observations – The Grand Tour (Mute) - album review
59) Klara Lewis - Ett (Editions Mego)
58) Guy Schalom – Baladi Blues Reloaded (Ethnomusic Records)
57) Neneh Cherry - Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound)
56) Glottalstop - Woodsmoke (Tartaruga)
55) Ikebe Shakedown – Stone By Stone (Ubiquity)
54) Ibibio Sound Machine – Ibibio Sound Machine (Soundway)
53) Porya Hatami - Land (Inner Ocean Records)
52) Polar Bear – In Each And Every One (The Leaf Label) - album review
51) Quantic - Magnetica (Tru Thoughts)
50) Hauschka – Abandoned City (City Slang) - album review
49) Dawn Landes - Bluebird (Western Vinyl)
48) Alvvays - Alvvays (Transgressive Records)
47) William Ryan Fritch – Leave Me Like You Found Me (Lost Tribe Sound)
46) I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro (Bella Union)
45) Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything (Constellation) - album review
44) Fatima – Yellow Memories (Eglo Records)
43) Ariel Pink – Pom Pom (4AD)
42) Xylouris White - Goats (Other Music)
41) Loscil – Sea Island (Kranky)
40) Lee Gamble - Koch (PAN)
39) Imed Alibi - Safar (IRL)
38) Jacaszek - Catalogue Des Arbres (Touch)
37) Poppy Ackroyd - Feathers (Denovali)
36) Alexis Taylor – Await Barbarians (Domino)
35) Fofoulah – Fofoulah (Glitterbeat)
34) Jozef Van Wissum – It’s Time For You To Return (Crammed Discs)
33) Metá Metá – Metal Metal (Mais Um Discos)
32) Ashlar – St James’ Gardens (Hibernate)
31) Richard Dawson – Nothing Important (Weird World)
30) Petrels - Mima (Denovali)
29) Lone - Reality Testing (R&S Records)
28) Hiss Tracts - Shortwave Nights (Constellation)
27) Origamibiro – Odham’s Standard (Denovali)
26) Clark - Clark (Warp)
25) Kiasmos – Kiasmos (Erased Tapes) album review
24) Mica Levi - Under The Skin OST (Warners)
23) Marconi Union - Weightless - Ambient Transmission Vol. 2 (Just Music)
22) Aziza Brahim – Soutak (Glitterbeat) album review & interview & Sahara Soul at the Barbican review
21) Wye Oak – Shriek (City Slang) album review
20) Flying Lotus - You're Dead (Warp)
19) Vessel – Punish, Honey (Tri-Angle)
18) Nadim Mishlawi – Dreams Of The Primitives (Annihaya)
17) Plaid - Reachy Prints (warp)
16) Malayeen - Malayeen (Annihaya)
15) Pyramids Of Space – Pyramids Of Space (Mordant Music)
14) Kim Hiorthøy - Dogs (Smalltown Supersound)
13) Penguin Cafe - The Red Book (Penguin Cafe) review of Penguin Cafe at Union Chapel & interview with Arthur Jeffes
12) Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni (Glitterbeat) - review of the Sahara Soul show at the Barbican
11) Grouper – Ruins (Kranky)
10) Franz Kirmann - Meridians (Denovali)
9) Kronos Quartet – A Thousand Thoughts (Nonesuch)         
8) Keaton Henson – Romantic Works (Oak Ten Records)
7) A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos (Erased Tapes) - album review
6) Orlando Julius with The Heliocentrics - Jaiyede Afro (Strut)
5) Circle Of Sound - Anti Hero (Baithak Records) - album review
4) King Creosote - From Scotland With Love (Domino) - review of King Creosote at Milton Court
3) Inventions – Inventions (Temporary Residence) - album review
2) Kelis – Food (Ninja Tune) - review of Kelis at Somerset House
1) Elbow - The Take Off And Landing Of Everything (Fiction)



Friday, 19 September 2014

Weekends In London With Children

I know London has a lot of bad points but the amount of art and music related activities for children to enjoy (mostly for free) at weekends always amazes me. Over the last 3-4 years I've had some of the best weekends of my life adventuring around London with my little boy. I thought I'd summarise the sort of choices on offer each weekend.

This weekend sees the Open House event return with art-related events at City Hall, Leadenhall Market and the Brunel Museum. There's also events on both days at the Royal Academy Of Arts including a Lego themed event on Saturday (their monthly family studios are arguably the best in London). At the moment I'm hoping to make it to both Leadenhall Market and the Royal Academy on Saturday.

The National Gallery meanwhile has their regular storytelling sessions and art workshops and there are more art and storytelling activities around the corner at the National Portrait Gallery. Keats House in Hampstead Heath has a family event where children can make their own kites. Tate Modern open studio is also taking place (as it does every weekend). The studio coinciding with the Matisse exhibition I took my son to recently was wonderful. He didn't want to leave. There's also art workshops themed around mudlarking at the Museum Of Docklands as part of the Totally Thames festival. There's also the regular Sunday Spot art workshop at the South London Gallery.

Next weekend will see Dulwich Picture Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery and William Morris Gallery offer more in the way of art workshops.

For older children there are digital workshops taking place at the British Museum (as part of their Ming exhibition) and at the Design Museum (for the London Design Festival).

In terms of music, the Southbank Centre is offering children the chance to learn about South Asian instruments and singing as part of the Darbar Festival. Both are sold out unfortunately (must remember to book in time next year). Over at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green the Mwalimu Express returns, offering more in the way of global, family-friendly sounds. The Royal Opera House also host their monthly family event with singing and dancing related activities. Finally, the autumn season of Daylight Music kicks off at Union Chapel. 

If cinema is more your (or your children's) thing the weekly Framed Film Club takes place at the Barbican on Saturday morning. This weekend also sees L'Institut Francais continue their programme of both English and French animated children's films.

There's loads of other regular activities I haven't even mentioned yet that take place at the Science Museum, the V & A, the British Library, Somerset House, the Grant Museum Of Zoology & the Museum of London).

What to choose?

How to choose?

How many places is it possible/sensible to visit in a day?

'Interesting' versus 'practical' when deciding on public transport options?

These are all questions I ponder as the weekend draws nearer.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Mogwai Gigs


Last night I saw Mogwai at the Royal Festival Hall.

In the lead up to the show I was scanning through my gig ticket scrapbooks which showed it was the eighth time I've seen them play (pleasingly all at different venues). I thought I'd summarise them in a blog post, although admittedly not quite as epic a post as my piece from last year on seeing Low twenty times (incidentally, also a favourite band of certain members of Mogwai I believe).

When writing this post I stumbled across the Bright Light unofficial Mogwai fan site. If you're a Mogwai fan I'd strongly encourage a visit. It is an amazing source of information - including a comprehensive gigography and setlist information.

Last night's gig took place in slightly different and grander surroundings to the first two times I saw them  play in back 1998 (16 years ago!)

Mogwai Gig 1: Sheffield Boardwalk, 30th January 1998

My first Mogwai gig was at the Sheffield Boardwalk in January 1998, in the final months of my time at university. Support came from Aerial M. There's no setlist available but it would have been dominated by the first two albums.


This was followed by my second gig later in October upstairs at the Newcastle Riverside (when I had returned home).

Two very small venues, both of which are now sadly closed.

Mogwai Gig 2: Newcastle Riverside, 29th October 1998


I can remember the Riverside gig quite well. It was part of the BBC Radio 1 Sound City event which was taking place in Newcastle that year and they played as part of Mary Ann Hobbs' Breezeblock show. I think the band came on well after 01:00. I have no idea how I got home.

I remember half-seriously noting mid-gig where the emergency exit was just in case the overwhelming volume/power of the show made the vibrating walls and ceiling collapse (at the time it felt like a genuine possibility as Like Herod mercilessly tore out of the speakers). According to Bright Light this was only Barry Burns' second show with the band and they give the set list as follows:

Mogwai Fear Satan
Ithica 27-9
Rollerball
Christmas Steps
Like Herod
May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door
New Paths To Helicon Pt 1
Summer      

Mogwai Gig 3: Kentish Town Forum, 18th September 1999.


When I moved to London in 1999 Mogwai were the first band I saw in the capital, at the Kentish Town Forum. I arrived late after coming straight from work so was further back in the crowd than I would have liked. Bright Light give the setlist as follows:

Superheroes Of BMX
Christmas Steps
May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door
Summer
New Paths To Helicon Pt 2
Small Children In The Background
Stanley Kubrick
Ex-Cowboy
Christmas Song
New Paths To Helicon Pt 1
Like Herod

Bright Light's review is here.

Mogwai Gig 4: Shepherds Bush Empire, 19th April 2001


In 2001 I saw them play Shepherds Bush Empire. I remember Christmas Steps in particular being punishingly, brilliantly loud and that Gruff Rhys joined them on stage for Dial:Revenge. Bright Light have the setlist as below:

Sine Wave
Stanley Kubrick
You Don't Know Jesus
Christmas Steps
Dial:Revenge
Small Children In The Background
New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1
Secret Pint
(Punk Rock sample)
2 Rights Make 1 Wrong

Take Me Somewhere Nice
Jewish Hymn

Mogwai Gig 5: Brixton Academy, 10th November 2001


Five months later I saw them again at Brixton Academy. It was great to see Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home, Like Herod and Ithica 27/9 return to the set. This is the only time I saw them close with My Father My King also. Full setlist from Bright Light below:

Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home
You Don't Know Jesus
Like Herod
Christmas Steps
Secret Pint
New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1
Ex-Cowboy
Ithica 27/9
2 Rights Make 1 Wrong

New Paths To Helicon Pt. 2
My Father My King


Mogwai Gig 6: The Scala, 22nd May 2003.


Two years later I saw them play a smaller show at the Scala ahead of the release of Happy Songs For Happy People. Quite a contrasting opening - the understated delicateness of Kids Will Be Skeletons being followed by the unforgiving guitar onslaught of Mogwai Fear Satan. Setlist below:

Kids Will Be Skeletons
Mogwai Fear Satan
Golden Porsche
Christmas Steps
Hunted By A Freak
You Don't Know Jesus
Stop Coming To My House
Ex-Cowboy
Ithica 27/9
Two Rights Make 1 Wrong

I Know You Are But What Am I?
Ratts Of The Capital

New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1

Mogwai Gig 7: Alexandra Palace, 26th May 2012


I have to confess that, quite puzzlingly, I lost track a little bit with their live shows over the next few years (I blame getting married, the birth of my son, regular trips to India and discovering other music) and didn't see them play again until I saw them headline I'll Be Your Mirror at Alexandra Palace in 2012.

It was magnificent and reminded me how great a band they are. Here's my review for musicOMH. The setlist was as follows:

Sine Wave
Rano Pano
Ithica 27/9
Stop Coming To My House
I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead
Travel Is Dangerous
How To Be A Werewolf
2 Rights Make 1 Wrong
White Noise
Mexican Grand Prix
Auto Rock
Hunted By A Freak
Mogwai Fear Satan
Batcat

Mogwai Gig 8: Royal Festival Hall, 24th January 2014.


Disappointingly, their Zidane soundtrack show at the Barbican last year fell on the same weekend I was going to WOMAD otherwise I would definitely have been there. 

So gig number 8 was last night's show at the Royal Festival Hall. The setlist featured tracks from their latest (very good) album Rave Tapes. Other highlights from their back catalogue included Rano Pano (which still seems to capture the sound of cities being brutally razed), the beautifully shaded subtleties of I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead, an exquisite version of New Paths To Helicon Pt. 2, a blisteringly powerful and perfectly executed Christmas Steps and a phenomenally loud and rampaging version of Batcat to close. 

During the gig Stuart said how earlier in the day they had drove past the first venue they played in London (supporting Urusei Yatsura). It would have been the Camden Monarch or Water Rats I think. He mentioned how incredible it was how they ended up at the 2500 capacity RFH. It did feel like a long time since I saw them in a room that could barely hold 100 people. The full setlist is below (as well as a photo):

Deesh
Friend Of The Night
Master Card
Rano Pano
Take Me Somewhere Nice
I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead
Heard About You Last Night
How To Be A Werewolf
The Lord Is Out of Control
New Paths To Helicon, Pt. 2
White Noise
Remurdered
Mexican Grand Prix

Small Children In The Background
Christmas Steps
Batcat

Mogwai on stage at the Royal Festival Hall, Friday 24th January 2014.

Hopefully I'll get to update this post next time they play in London...