Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2006 - Best ofs

Well, it's fun, isn't it. Though this year I purchased even less new albums than last year. One big thing this year was delving deeper into music from Germany, both past and present, mainly Tocotronic, but also reading the great "Verschwende Deine Jugend" docu-novel about the early punk/new wave days in Germany and listening again to Fehlfarben and co.

Anyway here's a few I liked this year:

Sonic Youth: "Rather Ripped" - I don't always get their new records but I love SY. I think this was the last one I got since, uh, which one? Can't remember even...agggh "A Thousand Leaves". That's quite a long while ago. I'll go see them live anytime though. It was on my birthday wishlist, and it was bought for me, and it was a while before I gave it a few closer listens. It's poppy in places and quite typical sounding but after a while the trademark noise rock textures and the slightly faded washed up vibe they do so well becomes, ermm, clearer. I love "Rats", and quite a few others. They hold up well. I really like this album.

Tool: "10.000 Days" I tried not to like them or find them embarrasing. I just can't. Their live show is incredible, it's so switched into the way i subconsciously feel about a lot of things it's uncanny. Tunnels. Double worlds. Cyberpunk. Paranoia. Disintegrating images. Strangely constructed music. Guitarists who play music as if it's some weird science. And a great, slightly detached frontman, posing in front of the giant screens with their trippy slowly morphing images. Where do they come from? How do they do this? It's so assured. Anyway, I think this album is strong and enjoyable, I played it a lot this year. It's quite good at work too, a bit of background trance :-)

Isis: "In The Absence of Truth". More ambient heaviosity. I love the way they build up a tension, eventually switching into full on screamo metal mode, then retreat back into dark abstract Mogwai-style territories. Great live! I love the DVD "Clearing The Eye" too, was that released this year? it features a full live show...

The Melvins: "A Senile Animal". Yesterday I walked through boggy fields in the Chilterns on my New Years Day walk with the highly recommended old Melvins album "Bullhead" on the headphones. I love that sludgy, doomy, kinda underdeveloped sound. It could almost be "Faith" by the Cure in its stark minimalist stance but it's more formless and weirder. And this new record still has that essential sound, now with two drummers and backing vocals.

TV on the Radio: "Return to Cookie Mountain" I'm still digesting this but it's tremendous. Isn't it amazing that, 24 years after "Treasure" and 17 years after "Doolittle", 4AD can still release albums that gracefully piss over anything that calls itself "indie"? But don't let that put you off :-)

And two more from these awesome art rock veterans, so glad they're still around/around again:

Mission of Burma: "The Obliterati"

The Flaming Lips: "At War with the Mystics". Don't know why but this is my favourite Flaming Lips release by now. Really worked for me.

Robert Pollard: "Normal Happiness" For some reason, "From a Compound Eye" was last years record in my head, even though it was released this year too. Okay both of them, amazing, still! NH is shorter, but there's no shortage of wonderful little pop moments that will hook themselves into your head. I fear this record is not getting the response it deserves, it seems to sell more like a Fading captain-style side project, maybe two major albums a year IS too much (not for me though). He's giving up touring apparently too. It's a shame the solo career seems even less lucrative than GBV. And that he's seemingly given up on his overseas fans. But he still knows what he wants and he's still doing it. And the songs are still there. And for that I am grateful. Looking forward to the Circus Devils 2-disc set and the Best of Fading Captain next year.

Oh, and "The May Releases" on Bob's long running side projects label Fading Captain(the 50th release comes this year and will close the series!): The Keene Brothers, Psycho and The Birds, and The Takeovers. I like them all, it took me a while, but I think now I appreciate Psycho and the Birds and The Takeovers too for their assured smudginess, they're like strange low-key sketches, but it mainly works. The Fading Captain series really has come into its own, there's a lot of charm and confidence in what he puts out there, maybe too much for some, but I'm still interested. Keene Brothers, Bobs collaboration with current touring partner Tommy Keene, is great old school power pop and lovely mid tempo wistfulness and was an immediate hit in my house, right from the under-a-minute opener "Evil Vs. Evil".

Okay, my most important music purchase this year however probably was "The Best of Tocotronic", released 2005 I think. German Indie Gods not very well known outside German speaking countries. I knew them before, but not that well, and listening to this made me slowly but surely fall in luv. I've got pretty much everything by them now. It really started the ball rolling and I spent some time listening to German music again this year and reconnected with stuff I had halfway forgotten. That felt good and it will continue.

Greatest Gigs in 2006:

The Cure: Royal Albert Hall. I've seen them quite a few times since, uh, 1984 but this may be the Cure show I always wanted to see. Absolutely mindblowing.

Teenage Fanclub, The Bevis Frond: The Forum

Pere Ubu: The Mean Fiddler

The Silver Jews: Green Man Festival, Wales. I was in a shitty mood, it rained, we stood in the extra muddy bit and it couldn't have been more morose. Pavement's Steve West filled in on drums. Strangely perfect.

The Books: Queen Elizabeth Hall. A long time ago I walked through Marseilles and had this idea to record street noises and make music over it later. I thought that was a really original idea at the time. It's cool to see that people are making such great music with found images and sounds, though it's quite a slick, highly edited show.

The Wedding Present: The Forum (signs from the WP asking people not too smoke. Yay!)

Yo La Tengo: Bush Hall. (Smoke Free, double yay!)

Depeche Mode, Gang of Four: Hyde Park. A day after my birthday.

Deerhoof: The Scala. Just before their (second?) guitarist quit and reaching the same dizzy heights as about a year before at the ICA. When they're on, they're ON!

Of Arrowe Hill & The Lilys: The Luminaire. Great double bill, ATP warmup.

Patti Smith & Kevin Shields: Queen Elizabeth Hall. "The Coral Sea". Patti Smith was reciting a long poem about her old friend Robert Mapplethorpe, while Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) was sitting on a sofa on stage playing these long, abstract guitar noise motives, gradually reaching a dazzling intensity. Was recorded and will be released eventually.

That's probably enough for now. Happy new year!

No comments: