2016 has been overshadowed by bad news, both politically and for the music industry itself.
Yet the shifting social landscape and loss of musical icons doesn't seem to have galvanised any one artistic movement in response, surely that's on the horizon for 2017. But while this annus horribilis may not be remembered for a particular genre or artist capturing the cultural zeitgeist, it did reinforce the simple point that the concept of an album is not dead yet. From Bowie and Cohen quite brilliantly using the format as a last will and testament, Beyonce's lavish visual album for Lemonade, to Kanye and Frank Ocean bypassing some methods of traditional distribution, it's clear that the digital age of single song downloads hasn't killed the album as an artistic statement. Vinyl has helped to massively bolster sales of physical products too, emphasising the artistic merits of the album beyond simply the music on the record.
With that in mind, many well-established artists delivered records vying for position with their best work. Bands such as Weezer, Green Day, Biffy Clyro, and Against Me! may not be making many end of year top ten lists, but their output in 2016 has been impressively solid. Even Metallica returned with a record that lived up to its hype. Elsewhere other artists produced records that at an earlier point in the year would certainly have made my list; Ray LaMontagne, Brian Fallon, Iggy Pop, Shearwater, Wye Oak, A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Mould, PJ Harvey, Joseph Arthur, and St. Paul & The Broken Bones, all comfortably fit into that category. Of particular note was the album, which kept appearing on my list and then just falling frustratingly into a lower position. Underworld's Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future is a glorious album. It's two men at a very different point in their lives using the music of their youth to paint a portrait of life post 50, and the result is uplifting and hopeful in a way that many other albums weren't this year. I'm delighted that Underworld has picked up a Grammy nomination for such a great record.
One final mention before sharing my ten favourite records of 2016 is for Jimmy Broomfield. Performing under the name Heart Of Oak, his debut EP, aptly titled EP 1, was released this year. It's a collection of songs that are deeply personal and wonderfully intimate with their bare bones performances. His song-writing is both clever and witty and if you're looking for some home-grown talent with a promising future you need look no further than Heart Of Oak's website.
Continue reading: Jim Pusey's Top Ten Albums Of 2016
As the winsome voice with a Scottish lilt declares "You died in your sleep last night" little more than sixty seconds in it doesn't take a genius to work out one must be listening to a Frightened Rabbit record. A decade may have passed since debut 'Sing The Greys' landed unceremoniously amidst the flurry of here today, gone tomorrow scenesters but their ability to orate every day tales of (mostly) misery and despair via the medium of music hasn't dissipated.
Of course it was 2008's follow-up 'The Midnight Organ Fight' that really set the cat amongst the pigeons as it were. A glorious celebration - if you can call it that - of a relationship breaking down piece by piece. Hailed as a masterpiece of its time and perched atop many an end of year list, it's a record that's both helped and hindered its creators future musings. Not least because everything they've subsequently recorded has been compared with that undoubted highpoint of their career thus far.
Indeed it's been a rockier road than many would have predicted ever since. Both 2010's 'The Winter Of Mixed Drinks' and their last record 'Pedestrian Verse' three years later suffered by way of comparison, and while it would be a tad unfair to judge everything Frightened Rabbit put their name to by 'The Midnight Organ Fight''s impeccably high standards, such casual treats are somewhat inevitable too.
Continue reading: Frightened Rabbit - Painting Of A Panic Attack Album Review
2013's been a year filled with great music but, at times, it has felt like you've had to search it out.
It's been a year of truly brilliant sounds even if there may have been a few disappointments along the way. Take hip hop, for example: unlike 2012's records by Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, there was nothing that really demanded your attention. Yes, Kanye's album 'Yeezus' was technically brilliant, but it's a record I'm still struggling to digest properly. Similarly, Jay-Z's 'Magna Carta, Holy Grail' (which, in my opinion, is as good as West's effort) was less immediate than the likes of 'Blueprint 3', which means it's got somewhat lost in the public consciousness.
Both those records had an interesting release as well, materialising on shelves seemingly from nowhere. They're not the only ones either; My Bloody Valentine's 'mbv' appeared online out of the blue in February after a gestation period of 20 years. Equally, Mazzy Star, Boards of Canada, Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie made unexpected and impressive returns following long hiatuses. There were also some great reissues and live records; Rilo Kiley's 'Rkives' acted as the epitaph the band deserved, Bob Dylan repainted his self-portrait with the 'Bootleg Series' and revealed songs well worth revisiting, Steve Albini finally got to share his vision for Nirvana's 'In Utero', The Velvet Underground's 'White Light, White Heat' finally got the deluxe treatment it deserved following Lou Reed's sudden death and Neil Young presented what could well be his best live album to date with the 'Cellar Door' addition to his archives series.
Continue reading: Jim Pusey's Top 10 Albums Of 2013
Laneway Festival hold their last event of 2013 in Detroit during their first US appearance.
The St. Jerome's Laneway Festival 2013 made its US debut as it hit Detroit over the weekend, bringing a hell of a lot of fun Sunday, September 15th 2013.
Musical celebrations kicked off marvellously with 7,500 in attendance. Among the definite highlights were early performers CHVRCHES, Frightened Rabbit and Deerhunter; Icona Pop also drew a massive crowd with a wonderful set of catchy tunes from their 'This Is . Icona Pop' album - number one hit 'I Love It' went down a storm! Up-and-coming Aussie musician Flume brought some life to the Meadow Stage, while Sigur Ros held the rapt attention of their main stage crowd. Co-founder Rogers was more than pleased with the turn-out. 'Our first venture into North America could not have gone better', he said. 'We were always confident that the people of Detroit would embrace this event. Not only did they come out in droves to see their fave bands but local artists, designers, painters and chefs turned on the hospitality of the region and all demonstrated why the city is on the brink of a major revival.'
Continue reading: Laneway Festival 2013 Makes Its Long-Awaited US Debut In Detroit
With less than 24 hours to go before Glastonbury Festival opens its doors at the Somerset site, it's always good to know which bands to see and when.
With such a ginormous festival site at 900 acres, and plenty of drunken hoardes and muddy puddles to fight through, the simple act of walking from one stage to another can be a difficult task. Throw in a lost mud-sucked welly and inebriated disorientation and you haven't a hope in hell of deftly navigating your way in between acts - even with that overpriced festival lanyard you spent half your first day's budget on.
Glastonbury returns in 2013 after having taking a well needed break in 2012 - the Eavis family, the cows and the grass all had a rest whilst the portaloos and crowd barriers were in London for the Olympics. The festival this year marks it's revival with an exciting line-up, including The Rolling Stones, Mumford & Sons, Arctic Monkeys, Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, Chase and Status, and Public Enemy.
However, with all star-packed line-ups comes inevitable clashes: fan of both Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds AND Smashing Pumpkins? Too bad - they're both on around 20:30 on the Sunday with a good half mile hike between stages, meaning you'll have to forego one sullen frontman for another.
Continue reading: Glastonbury Festival 2013: Your Guide To The Biggest Clashes!
Albums of Note... Mark Oliver Everett (better known as ‘E’) returns as eels, with new album Wonderful, Glorious. It’s a return to the form that we saw from Eels in the ‘90s. In recent years, Eels albums have been a rather bleak affair, as Everett has had to deal with the death of his parents, his sister and his cousin, all in a relatively short space of time. Wonderful, Glorious sees Eels get some of the fight back – literally, in ‘Kinda Fuzzy,’ in which he snarls “don’t mess with me I’m up for a fight.”“this teeth-grit, eyes ahead attitude is something we've come to expect from Eels, and Wonderful, Glorious is at its best when he's at his growliest… By the end you even sense a form of happiness has fallen upon this most maligned performer…"
Frightened Rabbit have parted ways with Brighton indie label Fat Cat and release their third album Pedestrian Verse on Atlantic Records. With most of the album’s tracks having been written around the time of Scott Hutchinson’s relationship breakup, it can make for a pretty uncomfortable listen at times. With a new producer at the helm the band seem to have developed a more free-flowing musical ideal, even if the emotions contained within are high in intensity.“In summary, 'Pedestrian Verse' can perhaps best be described as the sound of Frightened Rabbit doing what they do best. Just how many more fall outs and break-ups Scott Hutchison can through to continue the cycle remains to be seen, but for now this is up there alongside 'The Midnight Organ Fight' as one of the band's finest collections to date.”
Having created what many see as your definitive statement, coup de grace, or indeed whatever kind of superlative adjective numerous commentators choose to bestow on such a grandiose artefact, its difficult to envisage from where the next spate of divine inspiration will emerge. Certainly that was a fate Frightened Rabbit found themselves faced with not so long back. When second album 'The Midnight Organ Fight' dropped in 2008, it heralded their arrival as contenders for major league status. Oozing in dark, self-referential lyrics amid a musical backdrop capable of switching from the full-on dichotomy of 'Fast Blood' to the stripped down bleakness contained within 'My Backwards Walk' or 'The Modern Leper'. It wasn't so much the sound of a band reaching maturity but more about discovering a new found confidence to bare all; flesh, blood and soul; for the sake of something called art.
Which brings us onto the next chapter. Not so much maligned, but certainly a minor disappointment given the weight of expectation surrounding its arrival, 2010's follow-up 'The Winter Of Mixed Drinks' proved to be something of mixed bag in comparison to its predecessor. Initially more immediate than 'The Midnight Organ Fight', from a musical perspective at any rate, it somehow failed to convey the same emotions as their previous record and in hindsight feels as though it were a deliberate attempt to rid the band of the "dour miserablists" tags many observers had adorned them with.
So here we are, a further three years having passed for what marks a brand new chapter of new beginnings in the Frightened Rabbit story. Now fully fledged major label artists, having parted ways with Brighton independent Fat Cat on completion of 'The Winter Of Mixed Drinks', the final contractual obligation with their former suitors. They've also severed ties with long term associate Peter Katis, producer of their last two records and partly responsible for honing the band's distinguishable sound, if not identity. In his place is Leo Abrahams whose recent credits include David Byrne & Brian Eno's 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today', a record he also co-wrote and played on several tracks. What Abrahams seems to have augmented is a looser, less stifled climate for the band to operate in. What entails is an at times free-flowing vehicle; musically at any rate; for some of Frightened Rabbit's most unravelling prose thus far.
Continue reading: Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse Album Review