Wednesday, 30 December 2009

I've made it!

Yes, folks, it's happened. You know your blog has made it when you receive a "DMCA takedown notification‏"! In English, this means that some official record company bod has objected to me sharing an mp3 and gone crying to Blogger like the big baby that they are, DESPITE my little friendly disclaimer at the bottom. Some people, eh?

The problem here is the "offending" blog was my Top 10 albums list...with 10 mp3 links...and no specification which link it was. I said e-mail me directly - it's not hard, you know. I've got to bloody well guess now haven't I? And I'm guessing it was the Depeche Mode mp3, ironically enough. Favourite band they may be, but they will come with baggage. Namely being on a major record label in the USA with the sort of unforgiving attitude towards even the slightest bit of friendly sharing. I believe the same happened to The Vinyl Villain shortly after he posted his first and only DM mp3.

Consequently I've replaced the link with the video for Fragile Tension. Mainly because the vid for Hole To Feed is somewhat on the fucked-up side. All the other links are staying because I'm confident they're safe.

It amuses me as the RSS feed of the blog is already stuck in my Facebook note feed, so that mp3 is still there for folk on my friend list. Oh well. Never mind, etc.

What do you think about it, Jarvis?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Albums of the Year 2009

10) STEEL PANTHER - Feel The Steel (Island)

It's probably heresy to include such an album in a serious review of the year. There's no way anyone could possibly consider a full-on comedic pisstake of the idiotic excess of '80s glam metal in an end-of-year spotlight - it's bad enough it was enjoyed in the first place! Well, comedy or not, this is certainly one of the most enjoyable records of the year, both in daft, exaggerated lyrical output ("What'd you have to do for that backstage pass, 'cause I found a poisoned laminate inside of your ass..." - Girl From Oklahoma), to gloriously questionable song titles - Asian Hooker, Fat Girl (Thar She Blows) - to some of the best glam metal hooks heard in many a year. The sound of men old enough to know better, and doing it anyway 'cause they're bloody good at it.

Check Out: Eyes of a Panther

9) VITALIC - Flashmob (Citizen)

If there's one thing we've learnt in recent years, is that it's never a bad idea to give anyone of Gallic persuasion some synthesizers, samplers and all the rest as they'll probably get it absolutely right. Pascal Arbez's second offering under his Vitalic pseudonym picks up where debut OK Cowboy left off - subtle bleeps and beats juxtaposed alongside robotic lady vocals and introverted rhythms. With a sound more interesting than fellow countrymen Justice and Chromeo, the likes of Terminateur Benelux, Your Disco Song and the title track prove that Arbez is the natural successor in a line including Jean Michel Jarre and Daft Punk. French hands are good for something after all.

Check Out: Station Mir 2099

8) ALICE IN CHAINS - Black Gives Way To Blue (Parlophone)

There are rules in this business. Your first album after fourteen years should be a tepid and slack-jawed affair with only a hint of the fire that kept you going in your classic period, even if there has been a tragic event since. The last thing we should expect is such an assured belter that draws on history whilst adding something new. AIC's return effort takes that distinctive sound but applies it to an epic assurance where there was once utter despair. Check My Brain and Lesson Learned are righteous classics while the title track and Your Decision reminds us that a delicate touch was as much their forte as their riffs. A justified comeback.

Check Out: Lesson Learned

7) MANIC STREET PREACHERS - Journal For Plague Lovers (Sony)

If the headlines were a bit predictable ("The Holy Bible, the sequel", etc.), then the album wasn't. Yes, it was the most caustic and visceral they'd been after a lengthy period of daytime-radio friendly material, but it was by no means a complete retreat to a time when they were the UK's angriest rock band. If anything, delving into missing guitarist Richie James' remaining lyrics book allowed the band to tap into the unique catharsis that they had left behind and apply it to the maturity and assured grasp of songwriting they've developed since the mid-90s. As a result, tracks such as Me and Stephen Hawking and All is Vanity summed up all of the Manics' best attributes from the last 20 years.

Check Out: All is Vanity

6) FLORENCE + THE MACHINE - Lungs (Island)

As much as it's easy to disregard folk who blindly follow hyped artists like they eat cake, we shouldn't forget that those who purposefully avoid said artists are just as foolish. Now and then, there will be a damn good reason why there's hype and Florence is it. Even before the album's release, her live show with her band The Machine was getting justified good press for it's energy and great tracks - tracks which are kinda folk, but a bit rock, and very pop, and slightly dancey, and just plain unique. It translated to an album that was as breathtaking and beautiful as it was epic and hard-hitting. "Worth a listen" doesn't even come close.

Check Out: Howl

5) BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME - The Great Misdirect (Victory)

I have no idea where to start. Is it the Grand-Guignol-organ inspired madness that permeates through the lurching death metal of Disease, Injury, Madness? The jazzy honky-tonk that underpins the ragged hardcore of Fossil Genera..? The sublime bliss of the Western-tinged semi-acoustic Desert of Song? Or do I go with the truly epic brutal prog that is Swim To The Moon? What I will say is this is as good and awe-inspiring as previous effort Colors, and that enough is all you need to know.

Check Out: Desert of Song

4) DEPECHE MODE - Sounds Of The Universe (Mute)

If anything, SOTU is a relief. Previous album Playing The Angel was solid but seemed to tread water and felt frequently uninspired. While nothing on their twelfth album can be described as a radical departure, there's definitely some newly-discovered life in these synthesized bones. The likes of Fragile Tension and Peace are respectful additions to their established canon, but it's tracks such as the grandiose Wrong and disturbing Corrupt that prove that something a bit different is still in reach. There's also the likes of Come Back, which could be their most impassioned offering since Condemnation in 1993. The best thing is, there's nothing to suggest they should call it a day just yet.

Check Out: Come Back

3) LA ROUX - La Roux (Polydor)

It's guaranteed that duos and synthesizers are winners. Soft Cell; Eurythmics; Yazoo; Pet Shop Boys; Erasure; La Roux. Granted, the final name may be twenty-odd years too late, but Elly and Ben are worthy additions. At worst, they're a fantastic '80s tribute act. At best, they're a talented partnership that have mastered the art of colourful songwriting in one shot. Such a triumph will always yield the obvious classy singles (In For The Kill, Bulletproof) but will throw up more aggressive fare in Tigerlily or something as dreamy as Armour Love. Debut of the year, but only just.

Check Out: Tigerlily

2) CONVERGE - Axe To Fall (Epitaph)

British metal fans will probably be a bit fed up with the ignorant criticism "It's just noise" after recent events in the national singles charts. However, it's always been a compliment with Converge, as they have spent the last fifteen years taking the concept of noise and twisting and fucking it into something uniquely primal. The applause that Axe To Fall justifies is not that they continue to do it so well, but that a cleaner, more pristine sound still results in one of the harshest things they've done. Dark Horse, Reap What You Sow and Cutter are relentless bouts of the kind of calculated-but-unhinged savagery we've come to expect, but better. However, it's the unsettling one-two climax of Cruel Bloom and the disturbing ambiance of Wretched World where Converge prove that whatever they do, they are rarely bettered. The other argument of its comparison to the legendary Jane Doe is not one I want to get into right now, but give me a couple of years.

Check Out: Reap What you Sow

1) METRIC - Fantasies (Last Gang)

Simplicity is the key. Stripping rock music to its core and just nudging the vitriol away with a bit of warmth and reason. Taking the bare elements of pop music and adding some epic flourish. You could end up with Fantasies, but it's unlikely now as it's been done and probably won't be done again. These Canadians continue to confuse logic by not being bloody huge already. This is rock music without the headache. Pop music without the feeling of a saccharine overdose. Dance music without the established boundaries. There is no question that this band should be loved and adored by everyone, but they're not. And maybe that's part of their mystique and appeal.

The whole thing is proof that with the right ingredients, magic can be conjured up. Help, I'm Alive is epic beauty without an epic touch. Gold Guns Girls is what a driving compilation really craves. Satellite Mind and Front Row are perverse little bastards that you know you want more of while Sick Muse and Gimme Sympathy are very different but still the two best pop songs you'll hear all year.

Whether they'll be as effective without Emily Haines' dreamy vocals is worth a debate, but there's no denying this is a fantastic group effort. Beautiful, inspired, sexy, magic and pretty much every other positive adjective you can think of - Fantasies should be the album to convert you to this stunning and individual band.

Check Out: Satellite Mind

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Boogie days

Cheers to Rol.

List 10 musical artists (or bands) you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below). Really, don’t read the questions below until you pick your ten artists!!!

1: Lostprophets
2: Depeche Mode
3: The Knife
4: Rocket From The Crypt
5: Ladytron
6: Lamb of God
7: Pantera
8: Alexisonfire
9: Crystal Castles
10: Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine

PS - Facebook readers - visit the original blog cos there be videos embedded. Yay.

What was the first song you ever heard by 6?

The title track of the second album As The Palaces Burn - Autumn 2003 on a Metal Hammer mag compilation. I wasn't too sure at first - I was impressed by the scything viciousness but craved a bit more brutality. I quickly realised that the aggressive approach of a deranged heart-surgeon was as good as a hooligan with a sledgehammer.

What is your favorite song of 8?

Really not sure of this one. At the moment, I'm loving Sons of Privilege off new album Old Crows/Young Cardinals more than anything. That'll do for now.

What kind of impact has 1 left on your life?

Where do I start? Seriously, I haven't got a clue, and a few words can't really sum it up.

The band themselves struck a chord being the young British geeks they are who preferred Star Wars over Rock 'n' roll excess. I probably also started to wear clothes that actually fit me as a result of listening to them. I'm not ashamed of it - someone had to do it!

Apart from that, let's just say that I've met people through this band who, honest to God, I love. I don't ever say it, and I don't really talk to them enough - mainly because I'm just a bit crap socially - but these are people who I don't ever want to lose contact with and now hold in higher regard than other folk I've known for as long or longer.

What is your favorite lyric of 5?

Seventeen , Light & Magic (2002)

They only want you when you're seventeen,
When you're twenty-one you're no fun,
They take a Polaroid and let you go,
Say they let you know, so come on

Not from a sing-a-long fun point of view, 'cause that would be just a bit weird. From a poetic view, however, it stands out a bloody mile.

How many times have you seen 4 live?

Never. *Sniff*

What is your favorite song by 7?

Tough one, again. Just like the band. I'm going to put it out there and say Heresy off Cowboys From Hell.

Is there any song by 3 that makes you sad?

I wouldn't say so. There's a particular melancholic euphoria about a lot of their work, but no sadness, not for me anyway. I get sad that most people haven't heard them, though. Not to worry, here's an education.

What is your favorite song by 9?

Air War - Cracking. Not an official video but it bloody works.

When did you first get into 2?

At either end of 1998, at ages 17/18. That probably makes no sense but it's fairly true. At the beginning of that year, I picked up latest album Ultra. I'd always liked what I heard from the band since I first heard Enjoy the Silence at age 10 in 1990 but I never became a fan. As '98 started, I was quite the metalhead, but became aware of Depeche's influence on a few rock bands I was into at the time. Being aware of their '80s pop history swayed me.

I enjoyed Ultra but didn't dive headlong into them as it was metal, metal, metal at the time. At the end of 1998 at Art College, I discovered a small indie record shop in Epsom. They still had a lot of MC cassettes, including all of their '80s albums @ £2.50 each. I started with 1984's Some Great Reward and scooped up the rest just after new year. They became my favourite band a handful of years later.

How did you get into 3?

My first exposure was coming across Heartbeats - yes, a song made famous by some folkie with a load of colourful bouncy balls. This is actually the far superior original. However, it was through reading the second volume of Phonogram that I became curious about them and started digging a bit more. For secondary reference - Phonogram is brilliant and I recommend it for any passionate music fan.

What is your favorite song by 4?

Born in '69. Essential

How many times have you seen 9 live?

None. Yet. Roll on the second album.

What is a good memory concerning 2?

If anything, seeing them for the first (and only so far) time back in 2001 on the Exciter tour. Don't get me wrong, their music is as good as it gets for me, but as none of my mates share those feelings, I've not had any "good times" socially where this band have been the center of great attention. If that makes sense to you.

Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad?


What is your favorite song by 1?

Last Summer - does it for me every time.

How did you become a fan of 10?

Fan is probably the wrong word. Again, they're a band I liked through Top 40 listens due my early teens, but I never got into them - they never really fit into any big trends at the time, even though they had a solid fan base. What's attracted me in recent years is their identity - I can't think of any band that they sound like. JimBob's poetry is inspired and for me, they remain one of the most English of bands all things considered. So here you go: