Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Best Records of 2011


01. Mike Viola | Electro de Perfecto


















The ex-Candy Butcher, mostly known for singing the lead vocal on the track 'That Thing You Do' from the film of the same name, has delivered his best record in years. It's smart, song-focused, hook filled and thematically, a bit off-kilter. The arrangements & instrumentation have been honed down to the bare essentials of guitar, bass & drums, which has not been the case with recent efforts. To be honest, my first listen came across as somewhat dull, but it just kept getting better and better and better and better.....



02. Centro-matic | Candidate Waltz

















Seamless, powerful, and songs that require repeated listens, Will Johnson has created his best record to date in an already deep catalogue.



03. Daniel Romano | Sleep Beneath The Willow

















Written, recorded & played mostly by Daniel, these songs add up to the traditional country record of the year.



04. The Vinyl Skyway | Return of The Dead Surfer




















Excellent "Sunday a.m." pop record, replete with strong melodies, hooks and well done vocals. While guitars jangle, vocals and counter harmonies twist and move, as if to summon their inner 'Byrds'. Just about every song was stuck in my head at some point or another. 'Misty Morning Fog' is easily one of the best songs of the year.



05. Richmond Fontaine | The High Country

















Concept record (songs done with spoken word & instrumental interludes) set in a rural logging community in Oregon. This is a bleak record set in a world of madness, drugs & loneliness and offers no redemption. It does offer up the moving title track, one of my favorites of 2011, sung by Deborah Kelly of The Damnations. I also recommend picking up any of Willy Vlautin's three novels if you'rea fan of John Fante & Raymond Carver.



06. An American Underdog | Always on the Run

















Andy Reed certainly knows his way around a song as he delivers the goods on this exceedingly tuneful record done at his very own 'Reed Recording Co'. I can't help but think of a "young" Jon Brion while listening to this, especially on some of the later tracks on the record. Expect to hear great things from Andy in the future.



07. Peter Bruntnell | Black Mountain UFO
















In Britian they call him the godfather of UK Americana and why his songs should be taught in schools. Hyberbole or not, Black Mountain UFO isn't as complete as previous efforts and it took a few plays to kick in, but it contains excellent material and is a worthy entry into the Bruntnell book of songwriting.



08. The Booze | At Maximum Volume
















I wanted to hate this record cos there wasn't a single, original thing about it. I caved. RIYL : The Stones & rock n roll.



09. Pugwash | The Olympus Sound
















Thomas Walsh continues the trend releasing his fifth platter of Beatlesque, ELO power-pop, or variant thereof. He's a first class songwriter and the best kept secret in all of Ireland.



10. Hayes Carll | Kmag YoYo

















I heard this for the first time in December, 2010 and kept coming back to it again and again all year. Country, honky tonk and songs of gravity and humour. Hayes is one funny mother-effer. What's not to like?



11. The Gourds | Old Mad Joy

















They're back with their best record in years. This time they plugged in the electric guitars.



12. The Breakdowns | The Kids Don't Want To Bop Anymore
















Perfect amalgamation of '77 New York City & 50's DooWop fabulous. Play it loud.



13. Jason Isbell | Here We Rest















I heard & read varying opinions on this all year, but finally took the plunge in mid November. I'm ostensibly dubious with just about every record I hear for the first time and this was no different. It came across as bland alt-country with paint by number chord changes. After a few plays, and then several more, things started to settle in. Makes me wonder if DBT miss his contributions. Alabama Pines, Codeine, Daisy Mae = some of his best work to date.



14. Gillian Welch | The Harrow and the Harvest

















Some find it boring, repetitive and "old timey." As a friend of mine who likes the record pointed out, "the problem with modern music, is that there's too much of it and most of it just isn't good." I may not entirely agree, but here, that's not the case. After eight years, I 'm thankful Gillian & Dave decided to give us another platter of good songs.



15. Raphael Saadiq | Stone Rollin'
















Throwback irony ? Retro? Call it whatever you want. It's my first taste of Mr. Saadiq and I'm not ashamed to say I love this record.




16. Dum Dum Girls | Your Only Dream

















Guitar & surf beats drowning in reverb with a bit of Chrissie Hynde thrown in for good measure. It doesn't matter if the songs are delivered cleverly or not, cos this record delivers a lyrical punch to the gut.



17. Joe Henry | Reverie

















Mining the same territory of recent efforts, Joe delivers another record of style and class.



18. Robert Pollard | Space City Kicks

















The avuncular one from Dayton releases his poppiest records in years.



19. Fleet Foxes | Helplessness Blues
















My interest in this somewhat waned over the course of the year, but I've been revisiting the last month or so and I've come to the conclusion that it surpasses their debut offering. If lush, orchestral folk is your thing, look no further. The title track is still one of the best of the year.



20. Tommy Keene | Behind The Parade

















Power-popper from the 80's releases another record of smart, melodic, power chord, rock n roll.


Honorable mention :



Cirrone | Uplands Park Road
















Italian power pop. RIYL : Badfinger and plenty of melody.



Daniel Tashian | Arthur
















70's AM radio done the "right" way. I look forward to the new Silver Seas record.



Richard Buckner | Our Blood

















Any other year, this would be Top 5 cos it's Richard Buckner. It does have plenty of redeeming qualities, mostly his delivery & lyrical content. As an aside, I wish someone would've asked him if it was necessary to employ that horrible sounding Fender Rhodes on just about every song.



John Moreland | Everything The Hard Way




















RIYL : Lucero meets Slobberbone meets The Replacements.



The Phoenix Foundation | Buffalo

















This record moves its way through several genres ending up with an epic, intelligent, pop record.



Ralph Covert & The Bad Examples | Smash Record


















Three-chord, old school, Beatlesque pop. Fun record, not meant to be taken seriously. Just play the opener 'Big E Chord' and you'll be hooked.



Here's looking at you 2012

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pugwash Collection












The Skinny :

Using the money from a compensation award following a childhood accident, Irish born Thomas Walsh set up a recording facility in a shed in his parents' garden. In the early 1990s, Walsh adopted Pugwash as a stage name and began recording some 150 demos to 4 track and, in 1995, one of those was named Demo of the Year by Irish zine Hot Press. In 1997 he signed a record deal with the now defunct Vélo Records and in 1999 released debut album Almond Tea. Within four weeks of its release it had been placed at No 23 in a list of the top albums of the millennium in Hot Press. In 2002, Pugwash released second album Almanac featuring contributions from collaborator Jason Falkner. Almanac was another collection of similarly melodic and retro-styled songs which invited comparisons to classic 1960s and 1970s pop. The record caught the ear of Andy Partridge, who would go on to name the single "Apples" as the most exciting track he had heard that year. In 2003, they returned to the studio to record a follow-up to Almanac and was involved with the setting up of 1969 Records with Daragh Bohan. The label would go on to release the next two Pugwash albums.
The recording of Pugwash's third album Jollity began after Walsh contacted Dave Gregory of XTC through a friend to ask Gregory to write some string arrangements. Impressed with the demos, Gregory readily agreed. After recording at Abbey Road Studios, Gregory introduced Walsh to Andy Partridge, following which Partridge went on to co-write the song "Anchor" with Walsh. Jollity was released on 1969 Records in Ireland on September 23, 2005 and was met with numerous glowing reviews.
Walsh announced he had started recording the follow-up to Jollity in May 2007. Later that month he revealed the working title of the record was 11 Modern Antiquities. The record was released on March 23 featuring contributions from Jason Falkner, Dave Gregory, Brian Wilson collaborator Nelson Bragg, Michael Penn and Andy Partridge. Partridge also co-wrote two of the tracks, "My Genius" and "At the Sea". Eleven Modern Antiquities was once again met with acclaim by critics. In January 2009, it was announced that Pugwash had signed a five-year deal with Partridge's Ape House label. The band's first release on Ape House was the compilation album Giddy, a collection of songs from Pugwash's four studio albums as selected by Partridge.

The new record, The Olympus Sound was released in August, 2011.

For what it's worth, Thomas Walsh is the real deal. If you can find their records, buy them. All of them.


RIYL : latter day XTC, Zombies, Beach Boys, harmonies a-gogo, melodies, superb songwriting and all the craft one would want in three minutes.

01. The Season of Flowers & Leaves
02. Apples
03. It's Nice to Be Nice
04. My Genius
05. Answers On a Postcard
06. Monorail
07. Fall Down
08. Cluster Bomb
09. Sunrise Sunset
10. Take Me Away
11. At The Sea
12. I Don't Like It But I Gotta Do It
13. Anyone Who Asks
14. Finer Things In Like  
15. Two Wrongs
16. Following Down
17. Song For You
18. Everything We Need
19. Keep Movin On
20. Anchor
 
The Olympus Sound (2011)   5-7-12
Eleven Modern Antiquities (2008)   4-8-10-11-17
Jollity (2005)   3-20
Almanac (2002)  1-2-6-9-13-16-18-19
Almond Tea (1999)  14-15
 
+++

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Boston Spaceships Collection

















With the new Boston Spaceships record, Let it Beard set to drop on August 1st, I've taken it upon my self to create an opener, an appetizer if you will of the Boston Spaceships back catalogue. It's pure rock n roll. Play it again & again & again.

Everything I've read about the new record is summed up perfectly here :

"Let's begin with a bold and yet entirely defensible premise: The new Boston Spaceships double album, Let It Beard, is the most ambitious, varied, sprawling — and yet entirely coherent— record that Robert Pollard has made in his entire career".

01 The Comedian
02 How Wrong You Are
03 Heavy Crown
04 Come On Baby Grace
05 Question Girl All Right
06 Canned Food Demons
07 Let It Rest For A Little While
08 Radical Amazement
09 Queen Of Stormy Weather
10 Meddle
11 Exploding Anthills
12 Winston's Atomic Bird
13 Go For The Exit
14 Freedom Rings
15 A Good Circuitry Soldier

File removed by request

#1-2-5-7-8-10-11-15 - Zero To 99
#3-6-9 - Planets Are Blasted
#4-14 - Our Cubehouse Rocks
#12-13 - Brown Submarine

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Richard Buckner Collection
















After a five year wait, the new record from Richard Buckner, Our Blood is set to drop on August 2nd via Merge Records. As a result, I thought it high time to post a collection from a highly regarded songwriter and certainly one of the finest lyricists to ever grace a groove. Enjoy!

Goner With A Souvenir
Lil Wallet Picture
The Ocean Cliff Clearing
Faithful Shooter
Ariel Ramirez
4am
Jewelbomb
When Love Is Gone
Julia Miller
Fater
Town
Blue & Wonder
Born Into Giving It Up
A Chance Counsel
Firsts
A Goodbye Rye
Do You Want To Go Somewhere
Coursed
Put On What You Wanna
...& The Clouds've Lied
Emily Sparks
Boys, The Night Will Bury You
The Tether and The Tie
Song of 27
The Last Ride
Once

+++

#1,3,4,5,7,18,22,26 - Since (1998)
#2,6,10,16,24 - Devotion & Doubt (1997)
#9,21 - The Hill (2000)
#11,23 - Meadow (2006)
#13,19,20 - Impasse (2002)
#12,25 - Bloomed (1995)
#14,15 - Dents & Shells (2004)
#17 - Sir Dark Invader vs. The Fanglord (2005)
#8 - Real (Tom T Hall Tribute) (1998)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Peter Bruntnell : Black Mountain UFO






















ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO POST


Recorded in his home studio in Devon, "Black Mountain UFO" sees Peter finally making the great pop album he has always threatened to produce. It mixes West Coast harmonies with the requisite dab of psychedelia, all delivered in a characteristically British fashion (song titles name-check Reggie Perrin and Penelope Keith). The startling sleeve depicts the story which has emerged as the title track. A psych masterpiece, it sits comfortably on the album alongside other new Bruntnell classics like "St Christopher" and "Bruise On The Sky". The most interesting thing about Peter Bruntnell's music, and the reason for his devoted following, is the indefinable knack the songs have of locking into the listener's emotions, but no one quite understands how or why. There's no one else like him around, and now he's made the perfect pop record.

Courtesy of PeterBruntnell.net

Monday, February 21, 2011

Joe Henry Collection




Revered among songwriters and pundits for both his music and producer skills, Joe has been making records for twenty-five years. From his early alt-country leanings (backed by The Jayhawks),to his more recent jazz excursions, Joe Henry oeuvre spans several genres while retaining class, integrity and a sense of adventurous spirit.

01 Richard Pryor Addresses A Tearful Nation
02 Stop
03 Rough And Tumble
04 Fat
05 Mean Flower
06 Curt Flood
07 Monkey
08 Skin And Teeth
09 This Afternoon
10 Civilians
11 Fuse
12 Trampoline
13 Angels
14 Ohio Air Show Plane Crash
15 Fireman's Wedding
16 Parade

+++

#1,2,3,5 - Scar
#4,6,7,8,11,13 - Fuse
#10 - Civilians
#12,14,16 - Trampoline
#9 - Tiny Voices
#15 - Kindness of The World

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Yep






















01. Make It Always Be Too Late (J.Currie)
02. Crestfallen (J. Pernice)
03. Rocket Man (E. John, B. Taupin)
04. Just Getting By (J. Currie)
05. The Rain Song (M. Caputo)
06. Hesitating Beauty (W. Guthrie, J. Tweedy)
07. Sleeping With The Lights On (M. Bronleewe, T. Lassen)
08. Waterloo Sunset (R. Davies)
09. Noise And Confusion (A. Wauters)
10. So Sad (D. Everly)
11. Once (R. Buckner)

Yep

The game plan for the debut album by Yep seems straightforward enough. Al Chan (of The Rubinoos) and Mark Caputo (of Belleville) teamed up and cherry-picked some of their favorite songs from all over the pop continuum. They demonstrated great taste and impressive record collections in the process, creating a songwriters’ universe in which Don Everly, Ray Davies, Woody Guthrie, and Elton John stand shoulder to shoulder with Joe Pernice, Justin Currie, Teitur Lassen, Richard Buckner and Alan Wauters. The songs (ten covers and one Caputo original) are presented in rich, uncluttered arrangements. Around them guitars twang and jangle, occasionally kick up some distortion but never enough to kill the mellow buzz. Producer John Cuniberti finds the exact right balance between technologically pristine and organically natural.

And then those voices enter the picture, and suddenly nothing seems straightforward anymore. The vocals of Chan and Caputo wind around each other in such stunning harmony that they invoke a sense of utter timelessness. It’s like the Everly Brothers smashcut into a new millennium. And that’s not to suggest an old-fashioned approach. There’s no rose-tinted grasp at the past here, just as there’s no auto-tuned plasticity begging for mainstream approval; this is a simple, unadorned flexing of talent that should intimidate other singers and delight everyone else.

Some music just seems to stand outside of time, completely impervious to passing trends and fleeting style. It makes its own rules, defines its own sense of cool. A pantheon of greats already inhabits such rarefied air. Is it possible that Chan and Caputo have joined them? Yep. Yep. A thousand times Yep.

Andrew McEvoy

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