Monday, 10 December 2007

My 2007 Top 20

It is hard to remember a better year. Maybe there are fewer standout albums, but for strength in depth, 2007 has been a stunner. From over 150 albums reviewed, there was a strong case for about 50 making it to the Top 20... How to leave out Spoon and the Foo Fighters, Arcade Fire and MIA? In the end, these were my favourite ten albums of 2007, the ones I already go back to time and time again. 

1. Stephen Fretwell - Man On The Roof
    Britain's best singer-songwriter. This second album is a whole leap forward from his incredible debut, a remarkable achievement for anyone who started to doubt that this format could still sound fresh.
2. Delta Spirit - Ode To Sunshine
    An album that makes you care about music, so effortless and enthusiastic in its rock, its folk, its nods to other bands. Think Cold War Kids but with a Lennon-McCartney writing team.
3. Bruce Springsteen - Magic
    Not Springsteen's best, but for anyone who wanted a return to the rock sound, after the folk years, there is enough here to stun, please, and make you sing at the top of your voice.
4. Battles - Mirrored
    A band that divide opinion with a sharpened axe, Battles make the most addictive genre-bending music, built around a rock-solid live drummer, and endless loops, samples and tunes. Prog rock for the year 2008...
5. Radiohead - In Rainbows
    Radiohead's best album since OK Computer. Enough said.
6. Octoberman - Run From Safety
    Like some Beck/ Bright Eyes hybrid, there is something familiar and something wonderfully new about Octoberman's second album - melancholy, melody, compulsive rhythm.
7. Southeast Engine - A Wheel Within A Wheel
    If Wilco's your thing, but they can be a bit samey these days, throw in some Southeast Engine, a band from Athens, Ohio, which is almost willfully anti-fashion, but right on the moment. This album makes you feel good for having listened.
8. Will Stratton - What The Night Said
    Iron and Wine disappointed this year. Will Stratton didn't - a simply gorgeous debut disc that any Snow Patrol, Jose Gonzalez or Sufjan Stevens fan would love from start to finish. Sensitive singer-songwriters keep getting better.
9. Jacob Golden - Revenge Songs
    Like an on-form Jeff Buckley, Golden's voice can soar, whisper and haunt, while the songs are honed by living room shows, endless tours and wonderful observation. No album will make you ache the way this one will.
10. Dinosaur Jr - Beyond 
    Some way off to the left of Nirvana when Cobain was doing his thing, who could have hoped that Dinosaur Jr would make a listenable album in 2007. That they could make an album sound as though they'd never been away, despite a ten-year lay-off, was astonishing. Grunge never sounded better.
11. Akron / Family - Love Is Simple
12. Bishop Allen - The Broken String
13. White Stripes - Icky Thump
14. Beasts of Bourbon - Little Animals
15. Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
16. Annuals - Be He Me
17. Caribou - Andorra
18. Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
19. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation
20. The Boggs - Forts

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Adult Alternative Sessions - Will Johnson

In what I hope is the first of many such sessions, Will Johnson, of Centro-matic, South San Gabriel and solo fame, performed an acoustic set at the Chapel to an invited audience, and to video. (Jacob Golden played an amazing set a couple of months ago, but that unfortunately went un-videotaped!)

Videos here:
I See Through You
Nothing But Godzilla
Just To Know What You've Been Dreaming

Friday, 30 November 2007

Delta Spirit, Daytrotter

One of my albums of the year, here's a snippet from the review:
"...the album you'll wish The Cold War Kids had made - it's CWK meet the Beatles, and the Kinks, and the best folk music. It is joyful, melodic, anthemic and rootsy. The San Diego band make music that makes you wish you could listen to nothing else for a few weeks - and they sound as if they care deeply about what they're doing. Ten songs seems ten too few. When the electric guitars kick in, they mean it; when the choruses kick in, they sing with the evangelism of a Baptist preacher. Delta Spirit sound as though they could have existed any time since the '60s - the lead vocal sounds suitably sun-ripened - but it is so modern in its approach as well - a mixture of styles and genres, blended as perfectly as an Innocent smoothie. There is not a weak moment, not a filler song, not a thrown away note. There is no preaching, no overreaching, no preening. It has spirit, soul and boundless energy. You should own this record; you should head without waiting to with your $10 held tightly (or iTunes...) and buy it."

Daytrotter is a phenomenon. A virtual concert venue that ropes in the best US indie artists for an in-studio session, and then makes the songs available for free. Click here to hear and download the Delta Spirit session.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Great Lake Swimmers

The Great Lake Swimmers make magical music - as light as butterfly wings, but with real body and soul. They're wonderful live. Handily, they've made a free live EP available. Click here for a zip file download.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Josh Ritter

One of the great ones... Ritter, along with Stephen Fretwell, Will Johnson and Sam Beam are the new Dylan, Van Morrison and Springsteen.

His new album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, is possibly his best.

Here's the opening track: To The Dogs Or Whoever

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Akron / Family

There is no single band that sounds like Akron / Family - there are several that come to mind when listening, including III-era Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival, but that would ignore the euphoric harmonies and Annuals-like symphonic build and sweep. Love Is Simple is based on a lovely psych rock that doesn't ignore its Beach Boys pop - acoustic guitars drive a lovely hypnotic vibe. 

Here are two mp3s from Love Is Simple:

Monday, 17 September 2007


My album of the week this week: Run From Safety by Octoberman. Excellent stuff. Here's the title track, Run From Safety. And By The Wayside...

Friday, 14 September 2007


The site Blogotheque is an interesting 'virtual concert' site - performers film sessions for the site, and they put them up for viewing, or download (so, free iPod videos, if you're so inclined). Takeaway shows...

Here is the Beirut session, with two new songs.

You probably should download this new session at KEXP too...

Blitzen Trapper

I am a huge fan of the acoustic Rolling Stones bootleg featuring an amazing take of Honky Tonk Women (Unplugged 1968-1973). I am also a big fan of the new group Blitzen Trapper. Well, they've just produced a fantastic session for the music blog site Daytrotter, with four acoustic tracks for free download. Go here for the session.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Iron & Wine

One of the best songwriters around today, Boy With A Coin is from the album released end of September...

Friday, 7 September 2007

Bishop Allen

Just found these guys - some great hypnotic rock/ folk...

Monday, 3 September 2007


These songs from the new album (out in the next couple of months) are fantastic. Certainly fresher than the 'new' New Pornographers...

Sunday, 2 September 2007


Beirut - A Sunday Smile
New mp3 from album out in October