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My Favourite Songs of 2016 (In No Particular Order)

Wye Oak- On Luxury: From the in-between album this dreamy atmospheric track really has an addictive quality. Meaning I keep going back to it. It is in many ways a typical Wye Oak song wonderfully ambient, clear yet sort of murky. On Luxury is another must listen from the band which celebrated their 10th anniversary this year.

Night Verses- Night Verses A Dialogue in Cataplexy:  What to add to my write up about the first single of July’s LP release? Nothing really except it is a daily listen and was for all of 2016.

KT Tunstall- On My Star: Off her latest record this one comes, but unlike the majority of the album it is one of the less energetic numbers, it is still hopeful and happy though. At its centre is a magical vocal singing about the one person you’d take to a new planet. It is a lovely love song that is the sweetest of instalments.

KT Tunstall- The Healer (Live)I praise the marvel here.

Flock of Dimes- Ida Glow: Here is the second entry from the top Jenn Wasner this time from her latest solo outing. This is the umpteenth time I have written about this number so it is safe to say it deserves a spot on this list. Plus it had a hand in making it one of my albums of the year as well.

Peggy Gou- Gou Talk: This was one hell of a decision as all her work was fantastic with the latest release Seek for Maktoop is Acid House perfection. Eventually deciding by shuffling the EP it landed on Gou Talk. It keeps you locked in with a familiar pace and beat all the way until the last millisecond, the small hooks throughout are embellishments of brilliance. Gou Talk is a clinic in not only electronic house music and beat placement but creating music that is legitimately special.

King Creosote- Love Life: Stunning, spectacular and sublime. Are three words that describe this recording. It has great vocals with the additional/layered ones really adding a characteristic akin to most pop hits, it is really, really singable. Both in the shower or out in public not many songs have that effect on me. Plus King Creosote penned one of my favourite lyrics, “Her jealous accusations know no bounds, Scarlett Johansson was never in my house”.

Nina Diaz- Screaming Without a Sound: Can you be hooked on a song after hearing a 15 second clip? Yes. This track proves it. I was obsessed with it ever since the clip was released as a teaser in her Facebook page. So when I eventually got my ears on the full version I was not disappointed, with its deeply distorted hard rock guitar melded with Diaz’s reverbed/breathy voice that explodes in the choruses there is too much to mention. Let’s just say it is one of the most sonically interesting expeditions from the past 12 months.

WHITE- I Liked You Better When You Needed Me: A constant throughout the year ever since I heard them for the first time live earlier in the year. Cuts That Don’t Bleed was amongst my favourite releases and this pipped the other WHITE tracks by the closest of margins. Within the 3:11 run time there is a riff to die for, vocals to admire and music to groove to all in one place. It is art-rock Glaswegian gorgeousness that deserves to be in your ears as much as it has been in mine.

George Cosby- Glamour: Gothic, darkly moving grand art from the up and coming artist. I was immediately fixated with his voice as you’ll be after giving it a listen. Musically it uses strings, piano and a strong bass to underlay the one of a kind voice that is at Cosby’s disposal. Music that I found late in the year but made it’s mark none the less.

All Them Witches- Bruce Lee: A first highlight from the up and coming fourth album Sleeping Through the War out 24th February 2017. Which is as you probably guess is atop my most anticipated releases list. Anyway the single is more rocky than psychedelic this time around, with the psychedelia is more in the vocal effects instead of the music. Lyrically it is rather disturbing with it getting a tad stalkery “I follow you home for no reason, Nothing there reminds you of me, I follow you back to sleep for the second time this week”. Also to end the chorus is a great two beat blast on the Rhodes. I love it.   

Warpaint- The Stall: This list was originally going to be 10 songs but I couldn’t leave some off and this was one of the two extra songs. A fresh take on ‘indie’ music with the stupendous heads Up album. With all the great recordings that make it The Stall has something that I gravitated towards, it isn’t really different from everything else on the album I just love the musicianship vocal arrangements and the flow of the overall number. There is a place for it amongst this end of year list.

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2016’s Love Letter: Orange Juice- Freshly Squeezed Pips ‘n All

A Fantastic Interview in Uncut 2014

Knowing that I’m not the healthiest of people I often swear to myself that I will change my diet for the better. I often wonder why I haven’t already as many of my friends are vegetarian or vegan you’d think that it would have had more of an influence on my eating habits. This year I have been telling them I have been consuming more fruit juice specifically orange juice though I actually meant the Glaswegian band.

Before I really get into it here’s a little ‘history lesson’. The band formed in 1976 named Nu-Sonics (after a brand of cheap guitar) the members where Edwyn Collins (Vocals/Guitar), Alan Duncan, James Kirk and Steven Daly. Orange Juice became the name of the band in June of 1979, by 1982 the core members changed with Daley and Kirk forming Memphis. Replacing them where Malcom Ross (Guitar/Vocals/Keys), Zeke Manyika(Drums). This stayed mainly the same until 1984 where Collins and Manyika stayed recording the last album The Orange Juice alongside Clare Kenny taking up bass duties.  

A humongous reason why I have had them on none stop all year is because they’re not definable by a single genre. Various people have said that they are new wave (the guy in the record shop said so), art-rock, post-punk, jangle pop (new favourite genre to say aloud) and indie pop. The fact that there are so many genres connected to them shows how much they didn’t fit into any. With no concrete classification on what style of music they made may lead any new listener to anticipate a sonic mess. But once you throw on their first record (You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever, February, 1982,on Polydor) it is clear that Orange Juice are fun, youthful, funky, just plain class and weird.           

Like most people (especially post 1984) the first exposure to the band was through the only Top 40 hit they accomplished, Rip It Up (highest charting #8). It is made up of everything that I’ve fallen for: that Saxophone, funk rhythm guitar and alluring pop vocal melodies. Not to forget the lyrics, it is a love song but from the point of view of writing a love song/poem. So began the year long delve into a band that would soon become one of my favourites of all time.

As the band only went for 5 years (as Orange Juice) the amount of music produced was very high including 4 albums being released in a two year span (1982-1984). Pre-mentioned debut You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever is looser; wilder just like the band members themselves. They didn’t always see eye to eye though the music didn’t take a hit fortunately. James Kirk was the quirky member musically, the band themselves have said so in a great interview (linked below the pictures at the top) with Uncut. Satellite City shows just how catchy a great horn section can be, Felicity plus In a Nutshell are indie jangle tracks at its finest. You Can’t hide Your Love Forever is certainly the most out there record of the four, its underground ethos/DIY approach makes it as unique an album you’ll ever come across.

Rip It Up, (NO DON’T DO THAT! It is a brilliant album not an instruction!) came out in November ’82 was certainly a more disco influenced LP leading some fans away, but it did help get them the hit they had craved for Postcard (though fleeting). The next single Flesh of My Flesh didn’t make it into the top 40. Though I struggle to see how the record didn’t have any other hits as it is both wonderfully catchy and instrumentally complex. I Can’t Help Myself follows a similar route to the smash hit but it is longer making it more awesome. Breakfast Time is full of hidden treasures with each listen. Turn Away also rules and has warranted much of my time in 2016. Zeke Manyika sings in one of the 16 native languages of Zimbabwe (I really tried to find out which one) on A Million Pleading Faces and Hokoyo adding even more aspects to the already broad range of sounds they disposed.    

The final two releases in 1984, Texas Fever (February) embraced more of a rock edge and The Orange Juice (November) smoothed out the sound. Not to fear though as that contagious sound I came to need on an almost daily basis is still there. Texas Fever a mini-Long Play holds such crackers as Punch Drunk, what a rhythm guitar juxtaposed with the slightly off-kilter chorus lead line/vocals, A Place In My Heart is a sweet ballad that has more of a soul dynamic. Weirdness is still incorporated in Craziest Feeling the third act of the track is filled with a very deep voice that downright creeps you out. Who else would do that?

The Orange Juice has a handful of my most listened to songs; The Artisans follows a prominent organ amongst lines like:

‘I used to spend each afternoon,
Just locked in the confines of my room,
‘Cause my mother told me that I never should,
Play with the gypsies down in the wood

and

‘Gonna trade in my snakeskin boots’
Gonna trade in my rhinestone suit’
‘Cause I’m in cahoots with the ‘Artisans’
.

Lyrics like this are playful and witty a theme that spreads across everything Edwyn Collins has ever done both in Orange Juice and after. What Presence?! (bonus video of Edwyn Collins performing an intimate version in Venice with a hell of a saxy Saxophone,  2011) Somehow wasn’t a hit but it has all the ingredients needed harking back to their earlier days of pure indie sounding guitar/bass. Ending on Salmon Fishing in New York where the phrasing from Collins really gets you, on the last line of this verse:

‘In some parts of the world,
They still hold to believe,
That a camera can steal your soul,
And I go along with that,
Lock, stock and barrel

He stammers on the ‘stock’ making a memorable moment again through unconventional means then ending abruptly shortly after.

Coals to Newcastle (2010 is the whole discography of Orange Juice in one place. All the B-sides, extra tracks, alternate versions, live renditions, demos and live sessions you could need totalling 6 CDs plus 2 DVDs. A few extra special mentions for the golden Move Yourself highlighting more of the disco-esc side to them plus more vocal mischievousness, Snake Charmer with its bassline bopping with the best of ‘em, Tongues Begin to Wag featuring Paul Quinn (see here for extraordinary composition), Blue Boy (the second single, Falling and Laughing being the first), Lovesick, Barbeque (more oddness!), Two Hearts Together… Oh how I could go on but you get what I am saying. Orange Juice ARE, not where, an astoundingly talented band.        

The endless fountain of creativity and young vibrant colour which is put into every single track they put out fuels my belief that the music still sounds fresh some 32 years on.

Orange Juice’s openness to experimentation, blending every influence whilst still putting their own personalities into the music has truly solidified them as the cult legends they are.Though this is all good and well ‘I do profess, That there are things in life, That one can’t quite express’, and trying to do so would ‘be like trying catch a salmon in New York’.

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He Woke Us Up Before He Went. George Michael Thank You.

There is so much I can say about the heartbreaking passing of another musical Icon who has been taken far, far too early this year.

It is another massive shock. A master of writing smash hits as part of Wham! and as a solo artist George Michael took over the charts in the 1980’s with pure magical pop that are some of the greatest of all time.

Why can that claim be made? Well he sold over 100 million! records worldwide for one. Barely any musicians can say that. As well as those astronomical sales the music is freaking brilliant evidently backed up by how many people know his hits, not only do they recognise them but can sing their hearts out to, dance their asses off and have the most fun time doing so.

Music that makes you feel that carefree resulting in you forgetting about all your worries and you are truly happy in that moment is the mark of an extraordinary artist.
 
George Michael Thank You for all that you created you made mine and many others lives better.

 

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The Sleeping’s First Show With the Original Line Up in 10 Years! At The Paramount, Huntington, Long Island:

‘I Hope You’re Sitting While You Read This’ because in a few short hours over the other side of the Atlantic Ocean the original members, Cameron Keym (Guitar), Sal Mignano (Bass), Joe Zizzo (Drums) and Douglas Robinson (Vocals) will be on stage for the first time in decade (The Official Announcement).

The Sleeping’s performance at the The Paramount in the ‘Big Apple’ is literally the first time in my life that I have wanted to be in New York. Yes that is the impact this one time reunion has for me and fellow fans.

As it is the first four members the set list will mostly be made up of songs from the first couple of long plays, Believe What We Tell You which came out in 2004. The other is Questions and Answers, 2006, an album that would make it onto my Top 20 albums ever. It is the best known off it came Don’t Hold Back which featured on Guitar Hero 3.

Believe What We Tell You is the rawest record put out by the band which often is with debuts but it has a charm about it. On songs like Broadcast Silence plus Fleet there are the foundations for the following LPs but unlike those the vocals are at their harshest. The harsh vocals did not disappear from the other albums just on this one it was more guttural the music also mirrors that distinguishes it from every other of their releases.

My thoughts on Questions and Answers where expressed in last year’s 12 Albums of Christmas here.

The recommendations below are not what I would wish to hear tonight if I was going as I never pick out certain songs I hope a band plays at a gig I’m going to, just songs from the albums you should check out for a quick little taster (though I hope you listen to the albums in full at some point).

Believe What We Tell YouSunday Matinee (Reel to Reel), If Your Heart Was Broken… You Would Be Dead, Fleet , The Big Breakdown: Day I and The Big Breakdown: Day II. 

Questions and Answers- The Climb, The Big Breakdown: Day III (The Escape), 3 Cigarettes and Dearest Mistake,.   

What a night it will be.

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12 Albums of Christmas #12 Night Verses- Into the Vanishing Light (2016):

                                                  Into the Vanishing Light Album Stream

 

Going full circle from the 2015 list that ended with this band’s first album (Lift Your Existence, 2013 is a perfect album) there was no way I would not be including their second album that was released on the 8th of July.

There is a stark difference between the albums as I said the first is a technical, emotional recording that will stand the test of time in my opinion. Whereas Into the Vanishing Light keeps the emotion that the previous had it is a lot more primitive. That is not implying that the technicality is missing either, the four men just apply it differently. A large factor why this is the case is due to the producer Ross Robinson whom has worked with many heavy/metal bands over the past decade and a half to name just a couple At the Drive In and Slipknot.

Interviews with the band described the recording processes they went through as the most intense they’d ever experienced. Aric Improta (drums) recalls getting coins thrown at him randomly to keep the intensity going for example (a very insightful interview pre-album release).

The unique way in which the album was put down and produced screams throughout this album. Even in the slower tracks there is an added dark element that gives an eerie/broken (in this case it isn’t a bad thing) sound to them. From the first millisecond this is evident The Future as History: I Love You Dead for a lot of fans didn’t hit straight away. Me included I didn’t really know what to feel I liked it but felt the direction of it was nothing like anybody was expecting. Over time though and in conjunction with the other 10 constructions it is the perfect way to open the LP. It lets you know that this is not an Into the Vanishing Light 2.0! That is done and we have gone in a new direction, a direction that we wanted to go in no matter if it may have turned some fans away.

I gained even more respect for Douglas Robinson, Improta, Herrera and DePirro after not only following through on the music they wanted to make but also creating a truly menacing yet beautiful album.

Into the Vanishing Light does it all makes you uncomfortable, sends you into a chaotic frenzy and calms you at times. I could not be happier with the album. It is a completely different beast to what all were expecting and that is why it is a masterwork just like its predecessor. Get it this Christmas.

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12 Albums of Christmas #11: Flock of Dimes- If You See Me, Say Yes (2016)

                                                                     Ida Glow

Flock of Dimes’ September release is one of the top albums for me that this year has yielded. I loved it so much I made it my album of the year for Stencil Mag (Page 223).

So this is the third different article about the album showing just how impressed I am with the record.

It all works so well as a whole with its fluid movements from song to song ll grounded in electronics with more traditional pop elements in places or atmospheric in others. Both singles Semaphore and Everything Is Happening Today explode with colourful synths whilst the vocals from Jenn Wasner are freeing. It has a chorus that raises your spirits despite the contrasting lyrics:

‘And everything that ever was,
Is happening today,
Everything I’ve ever done,
Has happened in the wrong way,
Pull the thread and draw the line to,
Find time in a different place,
Everything that ever was,
Is happening today’.

Whenever I have written about this album (Album Review) I have mentioned the masterful Ida Glow (I’m going to writing about it again before the year is out too). Which is a 21st century sounding song with the soul of a 1990s Moby creation. For me that is what really attracts me to it as far as house/dance/rave music goes I gravitate mostly to that decade (obviously because that is the one it came from) or artists that are inspired from it also, Acid House is so awesomely tripy! Which for me this track takes a lot from it is made in a similar fashion, they’re both spacey at time, use repetitive vocals or certain beats here it is the vocals. Additionally the effects used on the vocals make them sound as if they could be placed straight into the most famous of House hits.

If You See Me, Say Yes stood out amongst all releases of 2016 as a benchmark for electronic dreamy and joyous pop even if lyrically it isn’t all the time.   

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12 Albums of Christmas #10: Jeff Buckley- Grace (1994)

                                                                    Dream Brother

One of ‘Those’ albums that all music lovers should have is up for today’s album you have definitely recognise its iconic cover.

I purchased it on one of many trips (almost daily at one point) to the local That’s Entertainment whilst perusing the rows of CDs I paced this album and thought to myself, ‘Why is that album held so highly? Let’s find out.’ So for a couple of quid I had a gem of an album apparently.   

Rushing back to the Bastion of the North (My flat 2014/2015) going straight to my room and whacking it into the CD player perched atop my castle of CD’s. Not knowing if the newest would take the King of the castle.

It did! I was completely blown away by Grace the entirety is beyond spectacular.

A song that is fitting for the festive season is his cover of the Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah which is linked heavily to the Christmas period. Many artists have recorded it plus it’s made it to the top of the Christmas charts.

As you’ll more than likely know that song let’s move on though only to one song, I’m not singling this one out because it is the only one worthy they all are. I just want you to find it like I did with little knowledge of the album then have the same wonderful feelings as I got from the experience.

Eternal Life is the song that got me more than any of the others. The introduction reminded me of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Can’t Stop before it’s cranked up with the rest of the band joining. Notice the thick bass here adding depth to the rocking vibes. Buckley’s phrasing of his top lyrics increased my love for the penultimate number especially the word ‘trail’ near the start. I join in every time.

Let Jeff Buckley gracefully play Grace for you this Christmas to make it that even more magical.

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