WOW! It’s been a while (10 months in fact) since I last blogged, my only real excuse for my absence was that I lost a bit of faith in the music industry through the constant drivel of the One Direction/ Justin Bieber generation. In reality, it was more over I’ve been busy at work, have a lovely new girlfriend, a heap of top mates and basically had myself a bloody spring and summer drinking, partying and gigging J
Enough about me, It’s cold and I’m tired so I’ll kick off my special end of year blog and say thank you to all 12,500 of you for checking out my blog over the last 2 years...
10. Jake Bugg
Did I miss the note that said Arctic Monkeys were suddenly a point of nostalgia? Are you original enough as an artist to have longevity? Does Noel Gallagher adopted patronage make you the new proud Mary? How real can you be when you only co-write?
Regardless of all these questions, back in summer having only heard a handful of his material, nevertheless I followed Jon McClure from Reverend and Makers recommendation in the festival program and saw Jake’s set at this year’s YNot! Festival (which I must add was a brilliant weekend and well deserving of the ‘best small festival of the year 2012 award’). In short, I was blown away and I caught the ‘Bugg’; very rarely does an artist’s material have such an immediate impact; packed with humour, pathos and heartbreak all delivered by a kid barely old enough to buy a pint, he’s not trendy which is always a bonus, greatness and ubiquity beckon.
It would be a tough choice to decide on his best track from his shiny debut single ‘Lightning Bolt’, the fantastically honest ‘Taste it’ and ‘Seen It All’, however for me it has to be the brilliant ‘Two Fingers’ for the lad-ish sing-a-long chorus alone:
“I drink to remember, I smoke to forget, some things to be proud of, some stuff to regret.”
9. Tame Impala
What an epic year for Kevin Parker and his alter ego Tame Impala, massive praise this side of the water from his fellow Australasian, king of indie Zane Lowe and scooping NME’s album of year for the brilliantly trippy ‘Lonerism’. The album was put together soley by Kevin in various places around the world, influenced by Supertramp, Led Zepplin and load of red wine he is quoted as saying “You never really finish an album, but simply run out of time”. My standout track ‘Elephant’ sits incongruously on the album and serves a brief but nevertheless bluesy psychedelic wash of reverby synths, schizophrenic conversation loops and what f*cking phat beast of a riff....absolute genius.
8. Kendrick Lamar
My list of artists of the year would not be complete without a flavour of old skool, easily my hip-hop track of the year ‘Swimming Pools’ harks back to the tones and melody of Dead Prez’s ‘Hip Hop’. Lamarr’s flow is versatile contrasting with the tracks brilliant beat and his honest storytelling with an edge. His debut album, ‘Good kid, Maad city’ is definitely worth a listen. Even more worth a listen is this special mashup version created ESPECIALLY for this bearmusic 'best of 2012' by my mate Ste Davey aka Neoclassical Champion Rockers (@N_C_R), enjoy...
7. The Cribs
How a band can deliver a lead single from their fifth album with that same youth and vitality they started their career with is beyond me. This year’s offering ‘In the Belly of a Brazen Bull’ follows a hectic time for the Cribs lads but I was lucky enough to catch their homecoming gig earlier this year in Wakefield (aka ‘Wakey’) after a short trip across the Pennines in deepest, darkest Yorkshire on a cold, damp Tuesday night...they still managed to make it the highlight of my week. Back to their best and never failing to deliver, the Jarmin brothers, now minus Smiths legend Jonny Marr, left me deaf for the next two days at work from relentless awesomeness. Highlights from the album that was recorded in both NYC and at the legendry Abbey Road studies include the shiny ‘Chi-town’, ‘Glitter like Gold’, ‘Anna’ and the fantastically raucous, soaring sing-a-long anthem ‘Come On, Be a No-one’ with lyrics straight out of a ‘90s Seattle grunge poetry open mic:
“...Sometimes I’d rather feel cheap, you can’t keep suckling me”.
6. EE [Everything Everything]
Not to be confused with the new super mega, Kevin Bacon promoted mobile merger of T-Mobile and Orange; Everything Everywhere - I have been a huge fan of these guys for some time now since my mate NCR [@N_C_R] introduced me to their brilliance and they since (well still do now) follow me on twitter following some minor stalker age/ fan-boying of their debut album ‘Man Alive’.
This year the band continue to go from strength to strength managing to get their hands on some HUGE playtime in morning, drivetime and day time commercial and the newly revamped radio 1 team for their stand out single ‘Cough Cough’ championed by the likes of Gregg James, Fearne Cotton, Nick Grimshaw and the godfather of new(ish) music Sir Zane of Lowe himself. The Manchester quartet comeback single keeps hold of the guys loveable kinks and proves they remain the kings of staccato pop offered up on a platter of a genius stop/start opener segued into a melodic ‘widescreen’ chorus, keep up the top work.
“...and that eureka moment hits you like a cop car, and you wake up just head and shoulders in a glass jar”
5. Reverend and the Makers
Returning to form with a fantastic online ONLY release of ‘@Reverend_Makers’, promoted solely via twitter and other social media sites they broke the UK Top 10 albums chart on its week of release, with a little help from me downloading 5 copies. I got the opportunity to see the mighty Rev ride again this year, for the 1st time since back in 2005 and they NEVER disappoint. Drunk as a skunk me and the mrs’ raved our tits to his old stuff and new material alike at YNot! Festival. Standout tracks from the album tracks include indie disco floor filler ‘Bassline’, the massively dub-step influenced ‘Depth Charge’ and the debut reminiscence of ‘Warts N All’ and ‘the Wrestler’. As far as a favorite track goes it HAS to be Jon back to his swaggering, lyrically legendary, whitty, normal kind of c*ntish self with this 'Shine a Light':
“I dreamed of Euromillions, I dreamed I’d scooped the lot, I’ve two words for my boss, and the second one is ‘Off’....I’ve already spent it 10 times over in my head, I’ve swapped this Fiat Punto for a yacht down on the Med”
4. Jack White
Old Jack knows his way around a single or 50, drifting from side project to side project (namely: the Raconteurs alongside Brendon Benson and the Dead Weather with Alison Mosshart) following the end of the White Stripes, briefly dipping his top in the world of a solo material a few years with Alicia Keyes’ to write and perform the song to Daniel Craig’s second outing to revamped, ‘cool’ again Bond in the ridiculously named ‘Quantum of Solice’.
He has now, jumped head first in the mercy depths of soloism with his debut album ‘Blunderbus’. A brilliant piece of old skool garage blues it IS Jack White back at his best, standout tracks include ‘Missing Pieces’ and his softer side on ‘Lovee Interruption’ and the fucky ‘I’m Shakin’ but my track of choice is the lead single ‘Sixteen Saltines’ for its sardonic, stabbing riffs and lyrics steeped with hatred from his divorce:
“She’s got a big mailbox that she puts out front...garbage in, garbage out, she’s gettin’ what she wants, If i’m getting’ busy then I couldn’t care less ‘bout whatcha do”
3. The Maccabbees
Having been around a fair while I used to always be put off from calling myself a Maccabbees ‘fan’ due to the band members being named the upper class names of Hugo, Felix, Rupert, Sam and a bizarre incident in there early days when I was in my early 20s at Reading Festival. In short, on my way to see their set I totally freaked out on my way there that I was “waaaaay to OLD for this stuff maaaaaaan”, due to a HUGE heard of 15 to 16 year olds meandering around hoping to sneak a perve at front man Orlando Weeks.
However, these days, the lucky git I am, have a beautiful girlfriend, 8 years my junior (I’m 28 now and thus NOT a spawn of Jimmy Saville) and a mate of hers encouraged me listen to their latest album. Everything about this album oozes a mature, rich sound, from the insanely contrasting colours of the albums cover (earthy termite nest threatened by a bright orange scrub fire amongst a tranquil savannah with a vast blue sky) to the title tracks blissfully serene intro. Its just generally a beautiful peice of music as an album but stand out tracks include the beautifully sublime ‘Feel to Follow’, ‘Glimmer’, ‘Went Away’ and my personal favourite, sing-a-long indie anthem (sung at tempo, sounding very much like a Ladysmith Black Mambazo track)...‘Pelican’:
“So soon we, so soon we, so soon we too old to carry, And we knew we, and we knew we, and we knew we only had a little...”
2. Bloc Party
Probably my favourite band of my generation, this year finally made their come back with their forth studio album, the imaginatively titled ‘4’ (if Led Zep can, why can’t they?) following a long hiatus and namely Kele, Russ, Gord and Matt Tong’s solo/ side projects. I have been a massive fan since I randomly stumbled across a gig of theirs back my early uni days pre release of their debut album and the fame and critical acclaim it brought with it. Having seen them 5 times thereafter, at regular intervals throughout their career from the humble Liverpool Academy 2 thru to the main stage at Reading Festival I simply couldn’t turn down the chance to see them at what is accentually a rave venue @WHP (Warehouse Project) in Manchester this Autumn. I was absolutely blown away and can confirm they are probably the only band I’ve seen that just keep getting better and better.
Every track on the album is faultlessly tight, from the brilliant opener ‘So He begins to lie’, the rousing chorus of ‘3x3’, the lead single ‘Octopus’ and the meandering ‘Real Talk’ you can instantly the lads are back to their best ‘Silent Alarm’ form. Not being a HUGE fan of their 2nd and 3rd offerings as albums (a large handful of tracks aside) this album really is them back to form. My personal highlights from the album come in the form of the big 2nd single ‘Kettling’, the fantastic ‘V.A.L.I.S’, euphorically epic ‘Team A’ and the absolutely awesome ‘Colliseum’ has to be up there with my top 3 tracks of the year, with it dual melody, phat riff and lyrical genius:
“...nightmare walking on two legs, there's a word for people like us, can't shake the feeling, why even bother, we're moving backwards, history repeating, ain't got the time...”
And the winner is...well the artists behind an album that has single headedly restored my faith in a lost generation of music, proving there are new bands out there that truly can a longevity on the music scene. Ok, it may well be early days as far as their career goes but scooping the Mercury prize is no easy feat. I first started banging on about them at the start of the year as one of my ‘ones to watch’ (ref: an earlier blog from January that I can’t be bothered looking for, it was pre NME though I may add, if you care to argue look for yourself...) and their career has since skyrocketed. After the mercury win, there’s been alot of debate as to wether ‘An Awesome Wave’ captures the “sound of modern Britain” as if:
1. That’s what Alt-J set out to do and
2. It’s something the Mercury’s have history of rewarded.
The truth is, it is a remarkable debut album, released back in May when much fewer people felt obliged to have contrarion opinions about it. Well if this sort of smart, sleak, sexy ‘baby-makin’ music isn’t the sound of modern Britian, I certainly wish it was.
Standout tracks from the album include the brilliant ‘Fitzpleasure’, ‘Matilda’, the epic ‘Something Good’ and the absolutely delightful, debut single, the awesomely hipster ‘Tessellate’. For me though, take away the fact they may look like a bunch of clean cut post grads with Joe Newman’s trembling vocals slinkily rubbing up against Gwil’s sparse guitar plucking, the opening 10 seconds of ‘Breezeblocks’ alone would have been enough to secure the tracks place in this year’s top 10; add a walloping of Gus’ and Thom’s thug-step beat, juddering helicopter funk and sinister lyrics lifted straight from an art-rock reimagining of Silence of the Lambs:
“Germonline, Disinfect the scene...I’ll eat you whole”.