Ben Walton picks out ten of his favourite albums of 2015
10. Metz - II
Toronto's Metz returned with their obviously titled second outing this year, offering up a relentless 30 minute blitzkrieg of feedback riddled guitars and pounding drums. They didn't make any huge changes to their usual formula, but II adds some impressive new tunes to the bands back catalogue, including the unhinged opener Acetate, the aggressive dirge of Spit You Out and the blistering I.O.U. Metz are an incredible force and are fast cementing themselves as, if not the best guitar band on the planet right now, then certainly the noisiest.
9. Ringo Deathstarr - Pure Mood
For a few years now, Ringo Deathstarr have plied their trade as a solid, if fairly unremarkable shoegaze act, but on Pure Mood - their third album in four years - their time spent touring with The Smashing Pumpkins has rubbed off, and the grunge dial has been turned all the way around to 10. There's big riffs aplenty splashed all over Heavy Metal Suicide and guitar histrionics in Guilt. This album is a huge step forward for Ringo Deathstarr.
Continue reading: Ben Walton's Top Albums Of 2015
Andy Peterson's picks his top albums of 2015
10. King Midas Sound ft. Fennesz- Edition #1
Kevin Martin (AKA The Bug), poet Roger Robinson and singer Kiki Hitomi joined forces with Viennese avant garde composer Christian Fennesz to chart almost certainly the most enveloping travelogue of the year. The journey itself proved deep and magical.
9. Gengahr - A Dream Outside
One of the features on 21st century music is how 2nd and 3rd generation disciples of truly great bands - in this case golden oldies like the Beach Boys and Teenage Fanclub - are managing to make their inspirations sound so cool. London quartet Gehgahr replaced the now departed retro-future outfit Avi Buffalo in our hearts, to great effect.
Continue reading: Andy Peterson's Top 10 Albums Of 2015
Josh Tillman, better known as his cool, charismatic, sarcastic and relentlessly sexy alter-ego Father John Misty is currently embarking on his tour for his second album I Love You, Honeybear. Released in February of this year, it merges both the beautiful and brutal honesty of love in all its forms. It touches on the adoration of your loved one when by yourself with them, to the self-loathing and paranoia one may develop in relation to that and every funny minutiae of detail in between. It's lovely, melodramatic, truthful, heartfelt, meta and bloody hilarious. That's the condensed review of the album and description of its creator, so you can imagine how good it and he is. If you haven't listened to it yet make sure you rectify that immediately.
Father John Misty's music has the capacity to draw in an incredibly diverse crowd. His soaring and crooning vocals alongside the bands beautiful composition juxtaposed with his ridiculous, LasVegas-esque caricature and witticisms draws in those who take him more seriously than he would ever care anyone to, those who find him hilarious, couples who he resonates with both young and old, and fundamentally, people who either want to sleep with him or learn how to become him (mostly they desire both). That aside, everyone is there simply because this man, Father John Misty, Josh Tillman or otherwise, knows how to perform.
He was welcomed warmly to the stage as he broke into the title track I Love You, Honeybear while he spread across a stage which seemed frustratingly too small for him. Lifting the mic stand above and around his neck and dropping down to his knees and gyrating into the air there was little to do but be absolutely mesmerised by his captivating stage presence from the moment he sauntered into view. After a couple of songs he briefly talks about spending the day in Sheffield and describing it as "absolutely lovely" (as a first time visitor myself, that is the most apt description of the city), interestingly, it seemed as he let his guard down a little bit and somehow sprung more into his eccentricity by the time he performed When You're Smiling and Astride Me and instantly merging it with a Fear Fun favourite I'm Writing a Novel.
Continue reading: Father John Misty - Plug, Sheffield, 26th October 2015 Live Review
What's to look forward to with this year's Green Man?
Tickets for Green Man Festival 2015 are now totally sold-out, and looking at this year's stellar line-up so far, there's no surprise there. With just eleven weeks to go, Green Man continue to unveil more upcoming surprises, so we take a look at what we know so far.
There's already a ton of great acts listed to play at the Brecon Beacons event in Wales, with a bill headed by Oklahoma singer St. Vincent, London collective Hot Chip, who have just released their newest album 'Why Make Sense?', and local Welshmen Super Furry Animals.
Producer Emile Haynie teams up with Andrew Wyatt, Lana Del Rey, Brian Wilson and others.
Grammy winning record producer Emile Haynie makes a career turning point by unleashing his first album as a recording artist, 'We Fall', complete with collaborations with some of the biggest talent in the music industry today. But who exactly is he?
Emile Haynie releases debut album 'We Fall'
His name will be doubtlessly familiar to those fans of the rap world, having began his career in hip hop, but now he's set to make waves as a songwriter, enlisting some of the greatest vocalists and performers to work with him on his first release; an impressive feat for someone who started out working in a home studio in New York before dropping out of school. Luckily, it wasn't long before his work was picked up by Proof from D-12, who introduced him to Eminem, and the rest is history. He won a Grammy after producing Eminem's album 'Recovery', went on to discover Kid Cudi and worked with some of the world's greatest rappers including Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg to name but a few.
Continue reading: Who Is Emile Haynie? New Album 'We Fall' Features Some Impressive Guests
When Father John Misty announced that his second album under that name would be both a concept album and something of an unashamed open love letter to his wife, I felt a slight twinge of uncertainty. Had Father John Misty gone off the deep end? Would this album be just too ridiculous for words? Is self-indulgence ever a good thing? On 'I Love You, Honeybear', the artist formerly known as Josh Tillman (ex-Fleet Foxes drummer) demonstrates that the answer to all three of those questions is probably a resounding 'yes', but sometimes pompous, ridiculous albums are just the best.
It begins with a title track which acts like a perfect overture for the rest of the album, as it demonstrates almost all of the sounds showcased throughout in microcosm. You get delicate acoustic guitars interplaying with gently fingered piano keys, which mutate into blustering melodrama by the conclusion; you get tasteful string arrangements that both compliment and drive the song into the stratosphere, you get Tillman's deep, soulful voice and you get amazing referential lyrics such as, 'You're bent over the altar and the neighbours are complaining that the misanthropes next door are probably conceiving a Damien'. If that isn't one of the greatest lines ever written, I don't know what is - the man has quite a way with words.
Up next is recent single 'Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)', perhaps the most saccharine moment of the LP. This mariachi assisted blast of folk pop is somehow mellow and smooth while also being more upbeat than a Duracell bunny on crack. It is also somehow sickeningly sentimental while staying pretty tasteful.
Continue reading: Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear Album Review
Better known for his drumming duties with current indie-folk kings Fleet Foxes, Josh Tillman presents himself on Year In The Kingdom as something of a multi-instrumentalist, stepping away from his guitar staple-diet and making use of banjo, recorder and, perhaps most interestingly, the hammered dulcimer. In fact pretty much every sound heard on this his sixth album, with the exception of the semi-dictated string arrangements performed by Jenna Conrad, has been made by Tillman himself, further enhancing his reputation as a home-grown solo artist.
Tillman explains that Year In The Kingdom is an essay in lyrical creativity based on an end-of-life perspective; '[It's] about looking back and remembering things in a totally inaccurate way, a way that's maybe more joyful than it actually was'.
Tillman has certainly succeeded in producing an album with an air of reminiscence about it, a sensation of time standing still. Opening the title track with just a guitar and his dulcet tones, there's something liberating about Tillman's surrender of the materialistic; although a little cringe-inducing at times ('What I stole was yours to keep/It's no more mine to reclaim than the rocks and the trees'), the open gestures of the lyrics are in-keeping with the laid back lilt of the musical accompaniment.
'Crosswinds' introduces an almost cinematic feel to proceedings with the untamed wilderness sounds that are kept at bay by the flaming torch of the guitar and the dulcimer. But perhaps it is here where difficulties begin to creep in; while there is certainly something deeply soothing about Tillman's relaxed vocals and the self-assurance of his lyrics ('We'll find each other where we promised/Where the tide is low for man and spirits/I put aside the yearning of my voice when I was young') it's hard not to begin to feel a certain uncomfortable distance emerging between him and the listener. In his passive expression, it almost feels like there is a human element missing, a connection with the real world that has been severed.
Of course, this isn't necessarily a bad thing; the ability of Year In The Kingdom to numb your awareness of daily life is startling and almost therapeutic, allowing you to truly recognise the beauty of his music. Piano-topped 'Earthly Bodies' is a truly gorgeous piece of song-writing, and the feeling of repose it induces allows you to appreciate the eastern flavour of 'Howling Light'.
Unfortunately it's a lack of variation that ultimately brings the album down. The music is always extremely pleasant but you reach a point in listening where you realise that each track is almost indistinguishable from the last, and if you're looking for anything up-tempo then a quick dredge of Year In The Kingdom will yield nothing. Tillman's voice also remains a constant throughout; as wonderful as it is, its unchanging tranquillity makes it difficult to connect it with the vivid lyrical subject matter. When he sings of holy visions in such a tone, it hardly invokes excitement, and when he opens a song with 'There is no good in me/I have a taste for blood', it sounds about as credible as Aled Jones proclaiming a passion for rape and pillage. That said, once the initial paradox is out of the way, 'There Is No Good In Me' evolves into an affecting narrative of someone coming to terms with their own infallibility, the choir-lifted climax a definite album highlight.
With Year In The Kingdom, J. Tillman presents us with a truly beautiful album but sadly one that is hard to enthuse about, perhaps due to a seeming lack relevance to life today; maybe this just stems from the reverie the music often induces. Consequently, at the very least, this album offers a quiet place to go when daily toil becomes a little too wearing; just don't expect to remember it all that well when you return.