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 Radio Show – 5th October 2011

On this show :

  • Half Man Half Biscuit – Left Lyrics In The Practice Room – 90 Bisodol (Crimond)
  • Ryan Adams – Dirty Rain – Ashes & Fire
  • Audio Asylum – Into the fire – Demo Track
  • Silent Cities – All These Winds – Dream
  • Honey – Nowhere Floating – Single
  • Mike Patton – Cicatrix 11 – The Solitude of Prime Numbers
  • Bailer – Sometimes – Single
  • Firesuite – Sci-Fi Lullaby – You’re An Ocean Deep, My Brother
  • Gong – Perfect Mystery – You
  • Half Man Half Biscuit – Descent of the Stiperstones – 90 Bisodol (Crimond)
  • Bonny Prince Billy and the Phantom Family Band – Suddenly the Darkness – The Mindeater
  • Ryan Adams – Do I Wait – Ashes & Fire
  • Death In Vegas – Black Hole – Trans Love Energies
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 4 + 20/Helpless – Deja Vu

aural delights….show one

Broadcast : 1st September 2010

After wearing myself out somewhat with the “high pressure – lots of guests” show “Reformation” I decided to have a break from a radio show that was non-jazz, newer music. However after a lot of comments from friends about the abrupt ending of the old show, I reconsidered and  I asked the station if I could slip into a new later night slot where the emphasis would be more on music with less chat and no session guests – working on the assumption I could put together a show like that with less effort and stress. Fortunately a slot came available at 11pm on Wednesday so a new show called “Aural Delights” emerged. The emphasis, to kick off with, will be catching up on new releases or things I have come across via my nocturnal scouring of the ‘net. Eventually I will want to focus on unsigned bands from the Salford and Greater Manchester area, and this will tie in with a feature Tony Thornborough (Mondays at 9pm) and I will be doing on the station’s website.

So to kick the balance is towards a variety of material from across what might loosely be called the “rock” spectrum. I came across the first band “Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia” on a progressive rock blog. They are best described as post-rock, they played between 1999-2004 before splitting into several directions. Their album “My Elixir, My Poison” takes the post-rock mores into a different area with Emily Gray’s monologues which make for interesting listening. The track played is “Chinese Lantern”.

Australian band “All India Radio” follow with “Four Three” from the 2006 album “Echo Other” – the music of the group described elsewhere as a mix of Portishead, Boards of Canada, Brian Eno, Massive Attack and Cinematic Orchestra. Frankly those comparisons are a tad weak and the band has a great  fresh feel of its own. I was taken with the arrangement of the songs and the atmospheric quality of the production.

“Johnny Dowd” is a not so guilty pleasure. Not necessarily a big Country and Western fan it’s of interest to me to find an artist who can de-construct the medium and make it a little more edgy and less glossy/glitzy than is the norm. There is a sense of the gothic with a rich undercurrent of black humour in his work as typified by “Rose Tattoo” from “The Pawnbrokers Wife” album. I’ve whittered on about the new “Dave Graney” album on these pages in a separate blog so I won’t over-egg the mix – suffice to say he is one of our greatest songwriters and the arrangements on the album “Supermodified” are stunning especially “All our friends were stars”.

In the same ilk as Johnny Dowd, “Those Poor Bastards” are “gothic” country and western and definately not for the faint hearted – with “My Last Dollar” from the aptly entitled “Songs of Desperation”. Californian band “The Plimsouls” have been around since 1978 and after a split in the mid 80s have re-united sporadically since then. The track “Shaky City” is from this years “Live, Beg, Borrow and Steal!” album which is a recording of a gig in 1981.

A touch of jamming psychedelia up next with “Major Stars” and “No Higher Meaning” from “Distant Effect”  who go at it full tilt in retro rock fashion calling to mind late 60s Cream and Hendrix albums … which reminds me I must track down their new album. After that a bit of a career shift from the “I’m having a gap year” work of “Ryan Adams” with the metal influenced “Disappyramid” from the “Orion” album, which is definate move. away from his most recent work with The Cardinals.

After all that loud rock music a bit of progressive ambient music with Boston-based indie electronic artist “Helios” (who is Keith Kenniff) and the track “The Toy Garden” from the “Eingya” album demonstrates his mastery of the post-rock world. Continuing in a similar vein “Hammock”, who effortlessly mix beats with guitar drones to create a lush sound – the track played is “Kenotic” which is also the title of the 2005 album from which it came; and then “God Is An Astronaut” who make a strong claim to being the best Irish indie export of the 2000s (maybe neck and neck with “And So I Watch You From Afar” , thanks to epic melodic of post-rock and a smidgen of Kraut and Space rock. To conclude the prog section of the show a dip in the archives to one of the earlier “Yes”  albums and “Sweet Dreams” from “Time and A Word” with the signature Hammond Sound from Tony Kaye and the pre-Howe stylings of Peter Banks.

The show concludes with a couple of local bands “Suzuki/Method” with “Purple Aki” from their forthcoming EP on Factory Foundation (the band is appearing on Shell Zenner’s show at 9pm Thursday 2nd September on Salford City Radio) and Irlam’s finest “The Black Knights” from with “Vampire Rave” from the great album “Sickle Sell Saturday Night”.

Listen Again Here