Aural Delights Radio Show – 7th December 2011 – Albums of the Year Part One

Yes folks it’s that time of year again where people huddle in darkened corners to make lists of the things they have been listening to during the year in an effort to remind you of the cool things you may have missed. Last year I did something like this but was a bit more specific and did radio shows on best gig, best act, best album etc – but I only had one show then so I was limited on what I could ram down your ears during the last few weeks of the year.

This year – with a little more air time available – I thought I would concentrate on albums for this show – so for this week and the next three in the run up to Christmas I am playing a track each from what I and a select bunch of chums (Fall Fans and DJs mostly) feel have been the best releases in the long form format during in 2011. This proved exceedingly difficult of course in that people are troublesome types and when you ask them to list their five favourite albums of the year they deliver lists which numerically vary between 0 and 30 odd albums. So I have to use my judgement and skill (don’t laugh) to get down to around 50 albums which at least made us smile amongst all of the Elbow/Muse/Coldplay clones out there in the wide and wacky world of rock and roll.

The criteria for getting on the list is that it must be a full album, not a re-release and have been released during 2011.

You are not going to see a great number of local bands in this list as they will be dealt with in a “review of the year” run of shows on Salford Music Scene.

So the first batch – in no particular order – as nominated are:

PJ Harvey – The Last Living Rose – Let England Shake (February) – I have to admit to initially being a bit disappointed with this after the magic of “White Chalk”, however it holds up well ten months later and at least she is back to her best on the words side of things after the dip in quality on the last album with John Parrish. This is probably her most political album to date and reflects the state of the nation quite effectively. There are one or two Polly Jean classics on here and the stripped down sound suits her best. Begs the question mind you where she goes next with her music.

Dave Graney – I’m Gonna Release Your  Soul – Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Where I Hide (April) —  an abiding obsession for me, wherein the high priest of coolness reinvents a number of tunes from his back catalogue.  The album was recorded at Soundpark in Melbourne by Graney and the Lurid Yellow Mist and mixed by Victor Van Vugt in New York.  It was released with Graney’s second book, 1001 Australian Nights, by Affirm Press, which concentrates on his life as an artist and performer, which I must track down and read – not had the time. The excellent track featured is actually an old Coral Snakes number from 1994 which was  released on the “You Wanna Be There But You Don’t Wanna Travel”  album (also on The Baddest compilation).

Ryan Adams – Chains of Love – Ashes and Fire (October) – back to his very best after a long lay-off. Incredibly laid back and a little less angry than he has been previously. Some commentators likened it to Bob Dylan in the 1970s which I think is a little lame frankly. This is an artist who, after many years of mis-direction, appears to have found his inner voice and how to express it coherently and cogently.

Earth – Old Black – Angels and Darkness, Demons of Light Volume 1 (February) – Dylan Carlson, like Ryan Adams, had been on an extended break (five years) and came back with a totally re-invented sound for Earth. The trademark drones are there but this is an altogether more ambient and laminal sound. The restrained tension in this music creates a unique listening experience and removes the band from the general melting pot of doom to create something rather special. A perfect example of less is more in music.

The Raveonettes – Recharge and Revolt – Raven Is The Grave (April) – the one album which caused the greatest amount of debate amongst the participants in this little exercise. Views varied from admiration to “I only play the first track” through to “very disappointing”. Given I came to this band late in their existence I found myself erring on the side of positive – the reviewers felt that the sound had got “more pop” and “less guitar” – coming at it cold, with no back history as such, I found it to be a good listen. The band have defined sound of their own which is well worth over a listen.

Rocket from the Tombs – Sister Love Train – Barfly (October) another gap between initial formation and release (however in this instance some 36 years) the band that would become Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys, returns with it’s debut album. Uniquely quirky and rather marvelous in a way that anything associated with David Thomas usually is. Sounds nothing like the original band of course, for any number of reasons, but mostly I guess the experience of the collected members from their other work has taken the initial plan and moved it on somewhat.

Atlas Sound – Mona Lisa – Parallax (November) – Bradford Cox, of Deerhunter of course, in his solo guise. The third “proper” album after the flurry of Bedroom Databank releases last year. There is a clearer link between his main bands work on this release which moves between a populist sound and the more experimental end of his work in this incarnation.

Grails – All the colors of the dark – Deep Politics (March) – a little self indulgence from me here as no-one else picked this album but I think it is so marvelous that it requires inclusion. The Portland bands back catalogue is replete with some excellent instrumental, and mostly post-rock, music – however in this instance they have upped their game considerable with some excellent writing – touching on an almost cinematic approach to their writing. This track alone is worth the price of the album.

Mogwai – San Pedro – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (February) – Ten albums in and the grandaddies of post-rock seem to have gone back to their initial agenda for an album which, whilst not their best, still kicks the bottom of most of the young pretenders out there. There is enough variety in here as well to keep the most jaded of listeners entertained.

The Ettes – Excuse – Wicked Will (August) – some would argue (and I would be one of them) that Greg Cartwright’s production on the predecessor to this release removed a lot of the primal cohones of The Ettes. This album gets us back to the core garage rock sound of the group. Thus demonstrating no doubt that recording garage rock in London works, but it completely fails in Nashville.

The Strange Boys – Punk’s Pajamas – Live  Music (October) – a group feted by the Alliance DJs on Salford City Radio after hearing their sophomore outing “Be Brave” in 2010. This is better and just as weird/strange/unique/wonderful as the first two albums. This can sound as though they are doing things without much effort until you start to burrow deeply into the layers of musical history that makes up this bands work.

Boston Spaceships – Tourist UFO – Let It Beard (August) – if you have immersed yourself into the music of Guided By Voices over the years then you are duty bound stick with Robert Pollard to see what madness he is going to deliver next. Pleased to say that five albums in to this ongoing  endeavour  with John Moen of The Decemberists and Chris Slusarenko of The Takeovers that he hasn’t lost his ability to be utterly unigue and surprise the listener. There are a fair few guest guitarists on this if you would to play spot the star – Colin Newman, Steve Wynn etc etc

65 Days of Static – Space Montage – Silent Running Rescore (November) – gone are the angry young men of the previously releases with their intense and breathtaking re-invention of math and post rock – instead we have an excellent soundtrack to an excellent movie. A band that deserves a lot more attention than it has got hitherto has grown up somewhat.

To listen to the show – click the link below

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aural delights – 2nd March 2011 – 11pm (Farley’s Fumbles Special)

Regular listeners to this show and its predecessor “Reformation” will know  there is a semi-regular feature called “Farleys Fumbles” which is essentially a series of musical selections  by my chum Fothergill Farley aka Mark Harris.

I have not been able to play any “Fumbles ” for a while so I set aside some time in diary to record a show with a good selection of them. Mark emigrated to New Zealand last year and has been living and working in Christchurch . I was putting this show together before the earthquake hit that city, and recorded it before the event so there is no reference to it in the show. We spent a few anxious hours waiting to see if Mark was OK and thankfully he was. Others were not as fortunate so this show comes at a difficult time for all in Christchurch and New Zealand as a whole.

I dedicate the show to the good people of NZ , especially the fire and rescue service, and all those working hard to assist in recovery from this disaster.  The show is also dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives.

  1. The Fall – Hey Student – Middle Class Revolt – originally called “Hey Fascist” in the early days of The Fall this powerful piece of garage rock finds Mark E. Smith at his most acerbic with bile directed in any number of directions. Pearl Jam fans look away now!
  2. Cornelius – New Music Machine – Fantasma – Japanese pop-noise artist Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada) is a self-taught guitarist inspired early   by Kiss and Black Sabbath, his musical alias was  chosen from  a character in the Planet of the Apes film series. His merging of pop and avant garde on this 1998 album is refreshing. Farley Fumble #01.
  3. Amplifier – The Wave – The Octopus – I’ve had this double album for a few weeks now and have been wanting to play something from it. Guitarist/vocalist Sel Balamir formed the band with drummer Matt Brobin and bassist Neil Mahony in the early 2000s in the heart  of  the post-punk madness of Manchester. They owe no allegiance to the Madchester sound offering a more progressive rock agenda. This self released third album is an epic piece of writing and performance. Show favourite Charlie Barnes guests on keyboards.
  4. Fairport Convention – Now Be Thankful –  The History of Fairport Convention – Arguably the best British folk-rock band of the late ’60s, they did more than their contemporaries to develop an authentic variation on the folk-rock prototype by drawing upon traditional material and styles. This 1972 album is a good primer for the earlier work of the band. Farley Fumbles #02′
  5. New Order – Procession –  Substance – as I remark on the show their is an uncanny resemblance between the opening and closing sections of this song and “Watcher of the Skies” from “Foxtrot” by Genesis. Substance collects the best of New Orders  remixes, and in doing so showcases the  innovative nature of their work, but also the best of their songwriting. Farleys Fumble #03.
  6. Glassheads – Young Lady – Demo Track – another demo from this new band from Wigan.
  7. Spirit – I gotta line on you – The Family That Plays Together – a bit of an indulgence from me with a classic. The second Spirit album, from 1968 saw the group put all of the elements together that made them legends.  The album’s hit single, “I Got a Line on You,” has strong vocal harmonies as well as one of the greatest rock riffs of the period.
  8. Lilys – The Hermit Crab – Ecsamme The Photon Band – ostensibly the vehicle of singer/songwriter Kurt Heasley, the group’s founder and sole constant member. Their third album from 1995 dabbles in dream pop, a genre they soon abandoned. Farleys Fumble #04.
  9. PJ Harvey – To talk to you – White Chalk – her new album has got mixed reviews with obvious comparisons made to the excellent album which features on this show. Some would argue she needs to strap on an electric guitar and get back to the harder side of her work. Farleys Fumble #05.
  10. Greg Allman – I can’t be satisfied –  Low Country Blues – his first album in four years Gregg has teamed up with T-Bone Burnett to re-imagine obscure blues tunes. A very satisfying record and probably his best solo effort to date.
  11. Bruce Springsteen – Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street – The Prodigal – this classic song from the first Springsteen album is re-released in a revised form on the recent Prodigal album. This is Bruce at his most playful with strong lyrics and a great song which shows strong influences.
  12. Portishead – Chase the Tear – Chase The Tear – Portishead joined forces with Amnesty International to release  this tracks  on the eve of International Human Rights Day. Farleys Fumble #06.
  13. Danny Short – Rossiter – Love Has Gone. To signal the release of our second free download – Danny’s Reputation EP – click here to get your FREE copy  -I feature a track from his excellent new album “Love Has Gone” which will be released in April.
  14. Amplifier – The Chase – Fractal – those of us who bought “The Octopus” album mentioned above also got a free digital EP a couple of weeks ago which features improvisations from the sessions that produced the album.
Listen to the show by clicking on the link below……..
 

Aural Delights 2nd March 2011 by Bobonscr on Mixcloud

Polly(Jean)-emics

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Somewhat coincidentally the opening track of the new PJ Harvey album sounds remarkably similar to something – tonally at any rate – that the recently deceased John Barry would have dreamed up to support the wacky adventures of Moore and Curtis in the late 60s/early 70s.  After that we get back to the angular guitar rock we associate with Ms Harvey – albeit somewhat translated into a lighter mode getting close to “White Chalk”. There is a theme throughout this album about the dissolution of empire, the foriegn policy of the last ten or so years and the position of England in the great scheme of things in the 21st century.

It is only by the third track “The Glorious Land” that I start to get comfortable with what I am listening to. Polly’s scribbled guitar and folky refrain seem right for her at this point in her career. The lyrics are more mature than the previous album with John Parish, and the wacky use of a bugle makes sense. What really makes me smile is the use of the voice, which is back to her best. “The Words that Maketh Murder” continue this with the vocals taking centre stage – adopting a minimal blues type feel crossed with something from the english folk tradition – there are elements of Percy Plant doing the folk stuff with Led Zep, and possibly something Country Joe and the Fish might have dreamed up. There is also a direct steal from the lyrics of “Summertime Blues” which is a hoot.

“All and Everyone” sounds vaguely 60s protest song – which fits in well with the themes approached throughout the album – all lo-fi organ and acoustic guitar – but then sort of gets a bit prog and serious – Moody Blues perhaps – I don’t know. Doesn’t sound like Polly Jean though – sounds like someone else…..not sure about this one at all. Things continue in this vein with the traditional 50s guitar progression we all know and love which then rather wonderfully moves into something rather magical – harking back to to the work on White Chalk  – “On Battleship Hill” is Polly at her best – high register vocals and ethereal guitar and piano. “England” is interesting – ululating backing vocals underpin a wracked and tortured lead vocal over strummed acoustic guitar – this is probably the performance of the album, heart felt and emotionally strong, and with a complex musical structure which takes the music somewhere new and unique.

The baleful slow rock of “In the dark places” is more typical of earlier work but still manages to capture the essence of more recent releases. At this point it really does sink in that it’s all about the voice and what you put round it to strengthen the delivery – the theme of war, loss and anger with that comes to the fore here reflecting, with real passion, the disappointment around the changes to the nation’s status in the world and its actions in that context. “Bitter Branches” takes us back a couple of albums again and I’d guess this is a song from around that period given the similarity in feel – however the more upfront use of guitar makes this a little different – again its intense but maybe the vocals are a little too low in the mix. “Hanging on the Wire” also fits in this overall feel.

“Written on the Forehead” is a strange melange of soulful ragga backing vocals and typical Polly melodies – another highlight for me in that it manages to sound new, although it does get noticeably close to McCartneyesque chorusing in parts. I love the shuffling feel to this track – a real mojo mover. Matters conclude with the folky protest song “The Colour of the Earth” where John Parish takes the lead – almost child-like in its delivery it has a real 60s feel.

Overall there are some highpoints here but I get a sense that this is not a selection of tunes that were all done at the same time and there is a sort of schizophrenia between the White Chalk era type tunes and the folk oriented elements of some of the later songs.  Can’t help feeling though that if she strapped on an electric guitar and gave it all a bit more mojo then it would be more satisfying overall. A curates egg of an album probably sums it up.