Sunday, 11 December 2011

Top 10 album listening during 2011 meme...

Compiled mainly from instinct as well as a detailed perusal of my iTunes stats and Spotify playlists... have stuck to albums that I listen to all the way through, as it is important to appreciate the the complete 'work' these artistes have created:
  1. Peter GabrielNew Blood.
    At the moment this is the CD I'm listening to the most and I cannot stress how much I absolutely love it! I am very much one of the compact Peter Gabriel (PG) post Genesis appreciation society that is delighted he is no longer part of his prog rock heritage. Apart from the hints in PG's evergreen 'Solsbury Hill', he very much chooses to leave the past where it belongs. Now his lyrical focus is less personal having become predominantly concerned with topics of international justice.

    This latest collection forms the 2nd part of this major orchestral project, the 1st release, 'Scratch my Back', featured covers from a variety of artistes who, in turn, would release covers of their fave PG song. New Blood is an intriguing selection right across PG's solo career, a subset of songs that were filmed in March this year (2011) for the DVD/BluRay and 3D concurrent release.

    As mentioned in my reviews, (Scratch my Back - New Blood) John Metcalfe's arrangements are seriously stunning, Tom Cawley's piano playing sublime and, along with Peter's brilliant vocals, they are the standout elements that make this such compelling listening. It is also important to note these arrangements are in a full, classical symphonic format. This is NOT Peter Gabriel's songs simply accompanied by orchestra, it is a much more significant piece of work than that. A surprising outcome is that some pieces that were favourites on his original recordings have been overtaken by some of the ones that, perhaps, were not appreciated so fully. For example, the wedding favourite 'In Your Eyes' is outshone by the more epic 'San Jacinto' and 'Digging in the Dirt', the latter my current top choice.

    Both 'Scratch my Back' and this 'New Blood' project have puzzled some of PG's ardent 'rock' fans, yet throughout the 3D filming session at the Appollo I noticed there was a more rapturous reception than at the initial outing in the 02 the previous year. Furthermore it is clear that this has gained PG a additional audience that now have now been seduced by the depth of his musical art through this adventurous and risky exploration of a radically different approach. It is a bit of an irony that such an established rock icon has found that this more orthodox classical accompaniement has enabled him to express himself with greater clarity than ever before.

    There are a number of formats to buy this fantastic release, with or without DVD, a version with instrumental only recordings on a bonus CD and a deluxe edition all packaged up together (yes, you've guessed, that's what I went for!)

  2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs.
    This year I went to see Arcade Fire with another one of my fave bands, Mumford and Sons, perform in Hyde Park. Along with a supporting cast which included the very wonderful Beirut it was a seriously splendid eve! There is something unique about Arcade Fire's music which sets them apart from many other bands. There is a sense of 'musical' anarchy where both instrumentation and song arrangements do not, in any way, follow the usual tried and trusted paths. The overall impression one gets listening to them live is how much energy comes over from an essentially acoustic line up: great vocals, great sounds and thoughtful lyrical ideas. I have already featured an excerpt from the album here, the transcendent 'Sprawl (Flatland)'

  3. Hope & Social - April.
    I saw this band at this year's Greenbelt Festival and they completely blew me away. With many bands that can really deliver live, hearing the recorded output can be tinged with disappointment, yet Hope & Social do not suffer from this problem. The band have set up their own studio and are clearly masters at capturing the characteristics of their endearing live performances. If you see they will be playing nearby, do not miss it, they are seriously good and superb fun. Fave track currently 'A Darkness Now Is Coming'.

  4. Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What?
    The Beeb recently ran a documentary about the album 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' that both lifted Simon and Garfunkel into the music biz stratosphere yet paradoxically became their swansong as a duo. This prompted me to re-discover their output and Paul Simon's repetoire of solo work. His new album is delightfully quirky, utilising a return to basic methods of recording which gives it a freshness that more produced work would not have. And, of course, if you want some evergreen Paul Simon, you need look no further than the influential Graceland album.

  5. Jónsi - Go.This is the solo output from the guitarist and singer of cult Icelandic megastars Sigur Rós. Do check out the videos of the stage show, an assault of jaw dropping lighting and projected imagery that becomes one with the band of multi instrumetnalist musicians. I find the music deeply moving, the kind of music that 'gets to you' despite, on the whole, being created with an array of electronic synth type gizmos.

  6. Brandon Flowers - Flamingo.
    The Killers front man has turned in a really respectable solo effort and, despite the expectation of it being a 'Killers Lite' soundalike, allows Brandon to express more of himslef than he might do otherwise. So not only is he a great front man with a wonderful voice he now shows that he is a man of considerable depth. The lyrics include many religious references which the handful of videos made to promote this release bear out, see earlier post here.

  7. Coldplay - MYLO XYLOTO.
    Yes, OK, I confess, I actually like Coldplay! Although their latest offering seems to play very much into the stadium rock genre (including songs for the acoustic section in the middle of the set!), what entices me is the optimism of their music. It is as though they are done with experimentation, they've found their sound and now they can create song after song that seems to celebrate our very existence. Even the potentially sombre 'Fix You' from the X & Y album has hope for the future and lifts the spirits, whilst MYLO XYLOTO packs a joyful, foot tapping punch all the way.

  8. Owl City - All Things Bright and Beautiful.
    Whilst many music pundits think that Adam Young's voice is yet another Autotune special the simple fact is not only can he sing but his voice actually sounds like his recordings! The Owl City concept is very much his and indicates what a prodigious young talent he is, which I discussed briefly here. I love 'Deer Caught in the Headlights' with its audio, lyrical and visual nod to the 80s, and I'm sure I recognise those synth riffs?! Check out this unplugged version, too. I love the finely crafted tracks this guy produces, not too dissimilar to the amazing Imogen Heap, another artiste for whom it will be equally intriguing to see how they develop over the next couple of decades.

  9. Arvo Pärt - Spiegel im Spiegel.
    I remember it was one of those wonderful moments making a long journey that one of the Soul Music series on BBC Radio 4 covered this piece. It was rally interesting to hear directly from violinist Tasmin Little about how she approached this minimalist music score. Of course, its simplicity masks the technique needed to allow the very beauty of its emptiness to lift the listener into the emotional heights which,ironically, reach down into your very core enabling succour to the spirit. It is, what I may venture to call, 'universal music'. By that I mean that it would be appreciated by folk from different cultures, disparate status and by every musician regardless of their chosen genre. Something to listen to either lift or soothe the spirit.

  10. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More.
    I have to include this, despite its 2009 release date, as I still listen to it so much! It's an amazing debut album, it doesn't suffer from many band's first studio efforts when they are prone to try lots of different styles and techniques once given the freedom of the recording process. I love the depth of the lyrics, love the energy that comes over even as an acoustic band and having heard some of their new songs live in Hyde Park very much looking forward to their next release.
Over to you, look forward to reading your compilations?



Graham said...

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins- listened to the CD and saw them live. Don't know how you could miss this!

Gruff Rhys: Hotel Shampoo. Fortunate to see him live.

And right out of leftfield- James Blake/James Blake.

How about Mogwai 'Hardcore will never die, but you will', particularly the 2nd CD on the special edition version tht features the incredible 'Music for a forgotten future'?

I also confess to liking the Q freebie (unusual for a freebie as it is all specially comissioned) '(Ahk-toong bay-bi) Covered'- Jack White's version of 'Love is Blindness' a particular favourite.

Aggressive Rhubarb said...

Wasn't fond of Scratch My Back, but then it's all covers and I didn't like some of the original versions either, whereas New Blood is phenomenal! Did you spot the exclusive track only available with the iTunes version...?

Owl City - top banana! Bonnie has claimed that CD as her own!

As The Crow Flies by The Advisory Circle I've played a lot, but you've got to like Radiophonic music or old Public Information Films or something else which I can't quite put my finger on but which is rooted somewhere in the past. Basically anything that Jon Brooks (who IS the Advisory Circle) turns his hand to is worth a shufty, but particularly 'Music For Dieter Rams' which is a work of technical genius: every track on the album - every note in fact - is taken from the sound of a Dieter Rams alarm clock.

Other faves, that I listen to all the way through? Fly From Here by the retooled and revitalised Yes. I A Moon by the North Sea Radio Orchestra. And growing to love new albums by Thomas Dolby and Moon Wiring Club. Not sure where I stand on the new Kate Bush. Difficult to pick 10 though, because a lot of what I'm listening to isn't new releases from this year...

Jonathan Evens said...

Dead Rock West - Bright Morning Stars

Florence + the Machine - Ceremonials

Low - C'mon

Robert Randolph and the Family Band - We Walk This Road

Buddy Miller - Majestic Silver Strings

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Gungor - Beautiful Things

Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest

Peter Case - The Case Files

Mojo presents - Communion

nevell said...

Hi, Peter
I mostly seem to catch on to music when it's no longer brand new. Like you, I can ever listen to "Sigh no More" by M&S. I have also discovered Noah & the Whale this year, but not yet their new CD - we have "First Days of Spring" & their 1st CD. Paul Simon - yes, but in our case "Songwriter" which is a superb compilation, coming right up to date. "One way Ticket" by Bryn Haworth also came in a year late, but did not disapoint at all, after not having heard him for about 25 years! I think "Chasing Light" by Gareth Davies-Jones is also from 2010, but always sounds fresh. Maybe we should also mention a certain live double-bill release called "One Rule" which demonstrates that a near 30 year gap & some new blood are no bad things when we're talking about Bill Mason & ATF - there are no dead horses here to flog!
Thanks for your tips, especially Arcade Fire, who are remarkable! Can't get into the new Coldplay really, and feel like Peter Gabriel is more than I'm prepared to take on at present. I think we need time to let music filter in sometimes ;-)

nevell said...

Aggresive Rhubarb mentioned "Fly from Here" by Yes. Think I'll have to work up to it - I just have too many mental prejudices about the line up, but hey, I've survived ATF ! :-)

Peter Banks said...

Cheers guys, always knew your selections would be more esoteric than my rather middle of the road stuff!

Seasonal Greetings one and all...