Category Archives: Music

Best of 2017 so far…

Slightly later than usual, due to a much later Easter than normal, here is a quick rundown of my favourite tracks of the years far.  Eighteen in total, which is actually slightly more than in my 2016 ‘Q1 report’ at this point last year, so things are shaping up well. Apologies for any typos or spacing issues, but the latest wordpress ‘improvement’ lurches around like a drunken uncle at a wedding reception.

Public Service Broadcasting’s last album was a concept album about the space race, their next is about the rise and fall of the coal industry, so this lead track, ‘Progress’, probably needs to be heard in that context as opposed to taking it’s wide-eyed lyrics literally. As with ‘The Race For Space’ and ‘the War room’, the album will have a tale to tell..

This is a simply stunning track by Tom Adams. No video, just close your eyes and float away. Yet another Nils Fram collaborator, hailing from Cambridge, this is from his imminent debut album. In a perfect world this would be number one for five weeks. Sadly as 2016 so painfully demonstrated, this is not a perfect world, but ‘hold on, keep breathing…’

This next one is ‘Babes Never Die’ from Scottish duo Honeyblood, the title track of their second album.

Slowdive are back. With new material! and it is fantastic. I saw them live stream a concert from the Islington Garage a couple of weeks ago and was as mesmerised as ever. This is ‘Star Roving’ from the imminent album ‘Sugar For The Pill’. Again, no video, but it really doesn’t matter…

This is ‘No Reason’ from the latest Bonobo album, featuring Nick Murphy on lead vocals

Here’s another track without a video (well a proper one anyway) . This is  the catchily titled ”Transient Program For Drums & Machinery’  from Belgian Duo Soulwax. This is taken from their album ‘From Deewee’, which was recorded in one take and as a result has a pleasing sharp rawness to it reminsicent of German electronic pioneers like DAF and Connie Plank.

Another proper video – Isle of Arran by Loyle Carner. I heard an interview in which he said her grew up in Croydon but used to enjoy family visits to Arran. How that relates to this song I am unsure, but I’m a sucker for a gospel choir…

Earlier we had the first new track from  Slowdive in 23 years and following in its shoe (gaze)s is the first single from Ride for 20 years – ‘Charm Assault’. First time I heard this I really liked it but assumed it was indeed something from the 90s. Nothing wrong with that of course…

Less of a gap since the last Gorillaz music, just five years – this is my favourite track so far, Andromeda:

“We’re going down like BHS, while the able bodied vultures pick at us’ – A 2017 anthem for Brexit Britain from Sleaford Mods:

From the excellent ‘Drunken Songs’, I give you Julian Cope’s answer to ‘Heart Big As Liverpool’ by Pete Wylie, which is called ‘Liver Big As Hartlepool’. Shame the director of this User Genetrated Content couldn’t get in focus, but the sound quality is great.   “Never got to flirt with Polly James/ never took a trip down Carla Lane/ When two sevens clashed on Merseyside”  Saw him at The Roundhouse on this very tour back in January. 60% music, 40% monologuing, but in his defence he does give good banter  .

Next up ‘Give Me A reason by Ibibio Sound Machine. It preserves the unique sound of their first album, but adds in some 80s sounding synths very reminiscent of William Oyeabor

Talking of the Eighties, this track from De La Soul features a prominent sample from Musical Youth. I wonder if it is as obvious to American listeners as Pass The Dutchie was such a massive number one hit over here, but only top 10 in the US – at least according to wikipedia.

A slight swerve in musical direction now with Grandaddy, who have featured in our musical reviews of the year, but not chosen by me up till now. Excellent song based on a nice scrunchy keyboard riff, but not much effort gone into the video sadly…

This is a band new to me – The Amazons with ‘Little Something. Our second live performance video, this one shot with proper cameras and all, taken from a Radio 1 session. Does Radio 1 really play this sort of music any more though?

Nice to see Guy Garvey cropping up in a cameo in Peter Kay’s Car Share last week. it seemed a good fit. This track, from their Little Fictions albums kicked off their set with them performing it in front of the curtain – a nice stripped down feel, fairly representative of the album, which is less overtly ‘anthemic’ than recent efforts.

The XX have finally released an album I actually like. I tried hard with the first two as I definitely approved of the concept of the band and some of the singles, but perhaps Jamie XX’s solo work has introduced a more dancey feel to this album and this lead single is certainly very accessible…

Finally, to wrap things up, some new Numan. From the upcoming new album, this is from the Ghost In The Shell soundtrack. I have heard it before as I am signed up on pledge music as a ‘sponsor’ of his new album, which means I get sent demos and reports on tracks as they arrive. Do check out the excellent ‘Android in La La Land’ documentary that aired on BBC 4 recently, which was almost painfully candid, yet ultimately uplifting.

So that’s it. Thanks for making it this far. If we do get through nine more months of Trump and Brexit we will see how many of these make it into our year end lists.  If you feel I have missed anything out please do feel free to post it below.

Top tracks of 2016 – Our Number Ones: Michael Kiwanuka, Teleman & David Bowie (again)

We’ve been exchanging these lists of our favourite tracks of the year for a couple of decades now and decided to do this more recently in a daily online format in the hope it may encourage readers to get into artists and bands they might otherwise have missed alongside the obvious ‘heavy hitters’.

Whilst we play with the conceit of a TOTP style countdown, to a certain extent that is really just to make things interesting for us and hopefully for you, dear reader.  That said it is always fun to see what single track we reckon is our favourite of the year.

This year that has been a real challenge for me, because we work to an entirely arbitrary self-imposed rule that our individual lists can’t feature multiple tracks by the same artist, whereas in reality both the top two slots in my list would have been by Michael Kiwanuka. I agonised over the merits of Love & Hate and Rule The World and eventually plumped for the latter on the grounds it has less YouTube plays and I heard it less on the radio.  Please do check out the album.

So after a quite tempestuous and dark year, reflected in some of our choices, it feels appropriate for my final track to be something a bit more contemplative and hopefully uplifting. Here is a fantastic live take on ‘Rule The World’ from the excellent album ‘Love & Hate’.

Happy Christmas to one and bugger off 2016, you won’t be missed.

Over to Andy:

“And so to my number 1. First, a heartfelt preamble. 2016 had the potential for being the most disruptive and depressing year in recent memory for me. We all have busy lives but when one’s very existence is thrown into uncertainty the future seems a very scary place. I felt like I was in a tunnel and there was no way out. And then one day everything changed. I could see a future, I was having fun and as is so often the case, music was at the centre of this emotional rollercoaster. I went to the Cambridge Junction to see this band, and this was the first song this band played. It was a hugely enjoyable evening for many different reasons. Who knows where 2017 will take any of us, but I can certainly say that that night changed the whole complexion of how I felt about the last two months of 2016 and how I felt about certain people (you know who you are!).”

Merry Christmas to all, and here’s to a better 2017.

And finally over to Roy:

“Only  one choice for number 1 this year of years.

After Bowie’s passing in January, a theory started doing the rounds that Bowie was the cultural glue that held the universe together. Post Brexit/Trump I’m inclined to give it some credence.”


So that’s it – except to say that you can review the full 20 days of choices here.

Top tracks of 2016 #2 – David Bowie, The Wedding Present, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Yesterday Andy described what David Bowie meant to him and chose ‘I Can’t Give It All Away’ from the amazing Blackstar album. My choice today is the lead track, ‘Blackstar’ which I was intrigued by when I first heard it last December and it led me into the album.

I don’t think I am as big a diehard fan as Andy or Roy, I tracked his career mostly through singles rather than albums and the many of my favourite artists he influenced from Numan to Kraftwerk to Suede amongst many many others.

I know that some Bowie fans find this album very difficult to listen to, particularly Lazarus, but it is one of the very few albums released over the last few years that sounds entirely ‘new’, music beaming in from a different place and the title track in particular arguably achieves more in nine minutes than most artists will manage in an entire career.

It is such a cliche to call this album a fitting epitaph, but I really can’t think of a better way of putting it.

Over to Andy for his fine choice today:

“Oh no, they’ve fallen at the final hurdle again! David Gedge and his cronies had the number 1 within their grasp but let it slip in the final analysis. The accompanying video is taken from a Seattle radio station live acoustic session, the entirety of which I heartily recommend checking out if you’re a Weddoes/Cinerama fan. I should add that this is a completely different version of the song from their “Going Going” album, but I think it captures what I’ve loved about this band for the past 30 years. This contains my favourite lyric of the year…”The pain of failure is so much greater than the pleasure of success”. Wise words, Gedgey, and so I hope he isn’t too disheartened by once again being the bridesmaid…”

Meanwhile Roy’s penultimate choice is below, plus the list so far is here.

Top tracks of 2016 #3 – Radiohead, David Bowie & Underworld(again)

Some music becomes irrevocably linked to the year or the events it accompanied –  Ghost Town, Shipbuilding, What’s Going On, Ball Of Confusion, even Nessun Dorma. We’ve questioned on this blog before where all the political pop has gone, but  ‘Burn The Witch’ by Radiohead really is 2016 in four minutes. The video in particular perfectly captures that chilling moment (at exactly 3 minutes in) when you realise that the country you live in has gone completely and irrevocably insane  That guy is me.

Apparently Radiohead did not get permission for this obvious Trumpton homage, presumably on the grounds that it would have been denied, given it fuses cosy childhood nostalgia with The Wickerman to stunning effect.

Musically it’s one of the best things Radiohead have ever done, the edgy strings accompanying subtle lyrics –  presumably written before this car crash of a year – perfectly anticipating the  ‘low flying panic attack’ that has been 2016.

Abandon all reason
Avoid all eye contact
Do not react
Shoot the messengers

This is a low flying panic attack
Sing the song of sixpence that goes:

Burn the witch
We know where you live

Sure, as Roy has pointed out the album could not follow up on the promise of the single, but really how could it? There is also a great live version posted by Roy as his number 5 pick here.

Talking of Roy, his number 2 is below along with Andy’s.


Top tracks of 2016 #4 – Primal Scream, The Wytches, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard


Earlier in the countdown, Roy nominated Primal Scream’s ‘100% Or Nothing’ from the ridiculously named but ludicrously good ‘Chaosmosis’ album. I usually allow myself at least one album track in my Twenty and this is it – the stunning Burning Rope. No video and hardly anything on Youtube, so here for the first time is a soundcloud embed, so you can just focus on the glory of the audio without any distractions.

For me Primal Scream are never better than with gospel choir assistance. I remember seeing this live at the London Palladium and still recall having to duck as Roy flung his arms (very) wide at around 3:14 to sing along, perhaps preparing for the exultation he would feel at the European Championships in the summer.

Scroll down for some interesting choices from Roy & Andy, plus the countdown so far is here.

Top tracks of 2016 #5 – Suede, Massive Attack & Radiohead

Into the all important Top Five with a track from my favorite album of the year. This is a tricky one. A recent GQ list has Night Thoughts as one of its albums of the year and comments that it succeeds because it sees the album as an art form in its own right as opposed to a collection of very good songs. The album tells a strong story, has recurring musical and lyrical themes and doesn’t overstay its welcome. As a Suede fan of long standing I would say perhaps controversially it is their best album. They may have recorded  better individual singles, but as a piece of work it is flawless. Here is ‘What I’m Trying To Tell You’ but really I could have nominated any of the tracks as indeed another contributor may perhaps do…

Scroll down for Andy and Roy’s choices, whilst the list so far is here.

Top tracks of 2016 #7 – Pet Shop Boys, Mogwai & Last Shadow Puppets

Something a bit more upbeat for my number seven choice, a great  pop song and classic Pet Shop Boys. I play the ‘Super’ album a lot and there are some great tracks on there, but this is the obvious choice and the first single. There is no official video, but hidden deeper in YouTube is this rather lovely fan animation by Caranella. It picks up on the point that the couple in the song clearly aren’t Neil & Chris, as they were well over a decade into their career in the Nineties.

So after a couple of choices from me very relevant to the 90s, let’s head back to the 90s…

Roy & Andy’s choices for today are below..,