Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Continuing Breezeblog’s countdown of my favourite albums of 2011. See yesterday’s post for albums 10 to 6. Here are numbers 5 to No.1:


5. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Gallagher, like estranged sibling Liam and his new group Beady Eye, didn’t take a radical new direction with his first solo album but there was plenty here to restate his position as one of Britain’s better songwriters and his voice has never sounded better. The best Oasis album since Morning Glory and perhaps a hint that some of his best work may still be ahead of him.
Favourite tracks: The Death of You And Me, If I Had A Gun, Stranded On The Wrong Beach

4. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

After the sparse and delicate songs of his critically acclaimed 2008 album For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon’s follow up was another thing of ethereal beauty but far more diverse and each listen seemed to reveal more layers and textures.
Favourite tracks: Perth, Calgary.

3. The Whole Love – Wilco

Wilco’s first album on their own label (dBpm) was certainly among the year’s most eclectic. The Whole Love switches gears effortlessly from Dixieland to 70s psychedelic and power pop via driving country-blues as only Jeff Tweedy and his ever-changing cast can deliver.  Their best since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Favourite tracks: Art of Almost, I Might, Born Alone

2. El Camino – The Black Keys

I have no idea why Akron’s finest have flown under my radar for so long. For straight-ahead, dirty, gritty bluesy-rock, few do it better right now than Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. The fact that this album made many year-end lists despite only being released in early December speaks volumes. With Danger Mouse on board as co-writer and co-producer, it simply takes off with the superb Lonely Boy and doesn’t let up until Mind Eraser, 12 tracks later.
Favourite tracks: Lonely Boy, Gold On The Ceiling

1. 21 – Adele

It’s been a while since an album has dominated globally like Adele’s 21 did in 2011, appealing to so many people across so many social, age and racial lines. Even though I’d tipped her for stardom even before her first album, 19, the scale of her success was as staggering as it is deserved. Inevitably the backlash has started in her native Britain about her ubiquity but make no mistake – this is an album that will be regarded as a classic 20 years from now. A suite of superb, emotionally powerful songs delivered by one of the great voices of our time and enhanced by the understated production of Rick Rubin and Co. Even when stripped back with just a guitar and piano, as it is here in this Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Radio, her voice is stunning. It is hard to believe she is still only 23.
Favourite songs: Rolling in the deep, Someone Like You, Set Fire To The Rain. 

Honourable mentions:

The King Is Dead (The Decembrists) – After the operatic scale of Hazards of Love, a winning return to their country-rock roots.

Ceremonials (Florence+The Machine) – no sophomore crisis on her strong second album.

The Old Magic (Nick Lowe) – Basher reached back to 50s country-blues for inspiration on one of his most finely crafted albums in years.

Battle for Seattle (Little Roy) – A reggae homage to grunge legends Nirvana? Somehow Jamaican veteran Little Roy pulled it off in style.

Young The Giant (Young The Giant) – I know it was released in late 2010 but I didn’t hear of these west coast indie rockers until this year. Besides, a special edition of their debut was released in 2011, so that counts. My Body is still one of the best songs of the past few years.

Ride The Wave, Volume 2 (Various) – A powerful riposte to ignorant claims that there is no good music in Bermuda. Produced by Tony Brannon and Michael Friesenbruch in aid of The Coalition for the Protection of Children, here were 37 rockin’, rappin’ and rhythmic reasons to proudly proclaim: ‘Bermuda’s Got Talent’. And it didn’t even include Collie Buddz or Heather Nova …

And talking of Bermuda, Proud To Be Bermudian might not have pushed any musical envelopes but Johnny Woolridge’s heartfelt song and video was our “We Are The World” moment. In a year of economic gloom and escalating gang violence, it was an emotional and much-needed call for unity and for that reason alone, it deserves to be Song of the Year. Why it hasn’t replaced the embarrassing God Save The Queen as the national anthem remains a mystery.


20 from 11

Posted: December 30, 2011 in music

Got Spotify? Then cop an ear to twenty of my favourite tracks from the past year featuring Anna Calvi [pictured], M83, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, Les Freres Gallagher, and many more.

Listen to the 20 from 11 playlist

The end of the year is nigh and who can resist a good list? For your sonic pleasure and enlightenment, Breezeblog has once again compiled its 10 favourite albums of the year.

Aside from the global domination of Adele (more of whom later), the best music this year was arguably made by women. The likes of Kate Bush, Bjork, PJ Harvey and Feist weren’t among my particular favourites but there was no doubt that they made some of the year’s most interesting and innovative records, challenging listeners and pushing boundaries. Lana del Ray’s hypnotic Video Games had a strong case for song of the year. Unusually, not one soul, reggae or hip-hop album grabbed my attention this year and I find myself gravitating to more roots/Americana music in my vintage.

Anyway, the list is what it is so – in reverse order – here is my top 10 (well 11, as I couldn’t quite manage a final edit). Part deux tomorrow.

10= Rave On Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly’s near-perfect pop songs of the 1950s still reverberate through music more than 50 years after his untimely death at 27. A host of big names lined up to pay their dues to one of rock’s pioneers on this excellent tribute. Cuts range from straight covers by Cee Lo Green on (You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care and She & Him’s Oh Boy, to Lou Reed’s grinding grunge version of Peggy Sue, Patti Smith’s Spanish take on Words Of Love and an extraordinary It’s So Easy by Paul McCartney.


10= Outside Looking In – Delta Maid

Katie Foulkes may be more Mersey than Mississippi, but her engaging heart-felt take on country blues was an unexpected pleasure. I hope she manages to retain her authentic Patsy Cline/Loretta Lynn sound above the inevitable attempts to market her good looks.
Favourite tracks: Of My Own, Picking Up The Pieces, Spend A Little Time.

9. Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\ – Glasvegas

The title says it all really. The Scottish band’s second album featured singer/writer James Allan’s emotional highs and lows in all their soaring, aching glory, delivered against a mesmerising wall of sound that adds some synth layers to the epic guitars of their first album. The effect is positively cinematic.
Favourite tracks: Euphoria Take My Hand, Lot’s Sometimes, The World Is Yours.

8. Wounded Rhymes – Lykke Li

My favourite quirky Swedish chanteuse followed up her left-field debut Youth Novels with an album denser in mood and texture that got more intriguing with every listen. She remains an intense and compelling performer whose beguiling vocals swing from bittersweet folk to powerful, thumping rock/dance anthems. A talent very much in progress.
Favourite tracks: Get Some, I Follow Rivers, Jerome

7. 360 Days At Sea – Heather Nova

After the delicately acoustic Jasmine Flower, Heather Nova’s eighth studio album marked a return to full-band mode with one of her best-ever albums. Inspired by discovering the Bermuda wreck of the Moon, the boat on which she lived as a child, it weaved poignant personal songs like The Good Ship Moon and Turn The Compass Around with sparkling pop-rock like Beautiful Ride. Her ethereal voice has never sounded better. But then I’d happily listen to her sing the phone book.
Favourite tracks: Beautiful Ride, Stop The Fire, Higher Ground, Save A Little Piece of Tomorrow.

6. Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars

The gorgeous harmonies of folk/Americana duo Joy Williams and John Paul White were one of the surprising discoveries of the year. Their debut album was a beautifully minimalist and intimate collection of songs that showcased their voices over the barest of acoustic arrangements proving that less is often so much more. The album includes a lovely version of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End of Love – and check out their version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean on You Tube.
Favourite tracks: Barton Hollow, Poison & Wine, I’ve Got This Friend.

>> Tomorrow: Countdown to Breezeblog’s No.1

My friend and former Royal Gazette reporter Neil Roberts is a man after my own heart. “What is life without football and music?” he asks towards the end of Blues & Beatles, his entertaining new book about growing up obsessed with Everton FC and the Fab Four – even though the band broke up the year before Neil was born … well south of Merseyside in St. Alban’s, Hertfordshire.

This book is in the same vein as Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch and will strike a familiar chord with us obsessives whose memories and moods are defined by the ups and downs of their chosen team and life’s milestones are marked by great albums and memorable gigs. I thought about writing a similar book about QPR and Rod Stewart – only I would have probably topped myself having to write about the R’s depressing 15 years in the wilderness and Stewart’s pitiful squandering of his God-given talent since the late 70s.)

In Neil’s case, his twin obsessions were passed down from his dad Colin, who hails from the Wirral, and the book tells how these become the touchstones through which father and son communicate and remain connected through the turmoil of a family breakup. I worked with both Colin and Neil at the Gazette (it was Colin, then the deputy editor, who picked me up at the airport when I first arrived in Bermuda in December, 1982), so I got a kick out of the island episodes – although knowing both of them, it was painful to read some of the more emotional episodes.

But as someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, that’s to Neil Roberts’ credit. A former BBC and ITN reporter, he writes in a short, snappy style almost as if he is talking to camera and is unabashed about revealing his feelings, which are frequently touchingly sentimental, whether he’s recalling grandparents, old girlfriends or nervously meeting his heroes like Duncan Ferguson or his beloved Paul McCartney. He is, and always will be, a fan at heart and that passion runs throughout Blues & Beatles which is all the better for it.

The person you end up really feeling sorry, though, for is young George, Neil’s son. At age 7 he is already following the twin family traditions (or curses?) even though he must already realise that Everton will only get into Europe again if there’s a war and that the chances of Macca making another decent album at his age are as likely as a Beatles reunion.

The poor lad is doomed to a life of disappointment. Still, it will give him something to moan about in later life – just like a real Scouser!

[adapted from original review on amazon.co.uk]

The great Nick Lowe with Word editor Mark Ellen.

For those of a certain vintage (OK, as old as me) who like a spot of rock nostalgia, I can’t recommend highly enough the latest edition of The World Magazine podcast which features a wonderful conversation with the esteemed singer-songwriter Nick Lowe, Esq.

The ex-Brinsley Schwarz, Stiff stalwart and Elvis Costello compadre and producer (amongst many others things) has a very entertaining natter about Dave Edmunds, the beginnings of pub rock, and bizarrely, his hippy commune days in Beaconsfield, Bucks, where The Band (that’s right, THE Band) once came to rehearse – who knew? I was living less than 10 miles away in Chesham at the time!

It’s worth downloading for the Keith Richards story alone …

Breezeblog’s Best of 2010

Posted: December 27, 2010 in music

For what it’s worth, here is Breezeblog’s annual list of my favourite music from the past year. There was so much great music this year, I had a hard time settling on the top ten – and as always there’s tons of music I just never got to hear. Enjoy – and let me know some of the good stuff I missed.

To hear a playlist of some of the best tracks from this list, click here

1. The Arch Android (Suites II and III) – Janelle Monáe

Can’t say that I’m usually partial to albums about time-travelling androids but then there has never been an album quite like this stunning debut from Janelle Monae. The pint-sized Monae, whose towering hairdo is almost as tall as she is, is an electrifying performer on stage and in video and one of the most exciting talents to emerge in years. ArchAndroid, the follow up to her 2008 EP, Metropolis, which introduced ArchAndroid’s heroine freedom fighter Cindi Mayweather, was an extraordinary genre-defying production that swung effortlessly from hip hop to classical via funk, jazz and punk. There are excellent standout tracks – Tightrope, Faster and Dance Or Die, for example – but this is one album that needs to be listened to in its entirety. Seven months after its release I’m still listening to it and hearing something different every time.  I hope she’s around for a long time its tough to see how she could ever equal, let alone surpass this.

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five alive

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Google, internet, media, movies, music

I am not techie enough to understand all the ins and outs of the new HTML 5 web technology that Apple, amongst others, believe will herald the demise of Flash. But this amazing site, developed by Google with the band Arcade Fire, for its Chrome browser, is an astonishing example of what it can do.

Go to www.thewildernessdowntown.com/ and enter the address of where you grew up and The Wilderness Machine, using Google Maps and Street View will magically transport you there via several screens that pop up and move around the screen, all set to Arcade Fire’s song “We Used To Wait” from their new Suburbs album.

Astonishing stuff.