Thursday, 16 June 2011

Best Records of 2011 (so far)

Inspired by NPR All Songs Considered doing their midway wrap of the year's best, here is my own list. With videos of the standout track from each. There is a big list here to help you compile your own.

1. Destroyer - Kaputt

2. Toro Y Moi - Underneath the Pine

3. Cass McCombs - Wit's End

4. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

5. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

6. Bill Callahan - Apocalypse

7. Smith Westerns - Dye it Blonde

8. Panda Bear - Tomboy

9. Low - C'Mon

10. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The best song longer than ten minutes. What is it?

A new, random blog post, my first in ages, and I don't know where it came from but here it goes...

My favourite songs, in my own collection, that crack the magical ten minutes in duration.

10. Cowgirl in the Sand - Neil Young (10:03)

Down by the River? Yeah, almost. Had I chose it I could have posted this amazing video of CSNY playing it by a pool in Big Sur. It was a close call. Both appear on Neil's first really great album - Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. And to my mind "Cowgirl" is the stronger song. I love the uplifting jolt into the chorus. I love the "old enough now" bit and the scatter-gun, gritty guitar solos. And the lyrics are so rich and evocative. "Hello Ruby in the dust", "Purple words on a grey background". What does it even mean? Who cares. Neil was running a fever when he wrote it. I dig that. The song stretches out to over 16 minutes in the "Live at the Fillmore East" recording, but only 3:59 in acoustic mode for the Four Way Street live record with CSNY. Neil does what he wants, dig it?

09. Pass the hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind - Yo La Tengo

You can't not put Yo La Tengo in a list like this. No one can stretch out like New Jersey's finest. And you have to take your hat off to a band that spits out something this heavy, funky, nasty and noisy... and has the guts to put it as the opening cut on their record. In your face!

08. Bros - Panda Bear (12:30)

If I ever get the urge to take acid and you are hanging out with me, holding my hand, waiting for the dragons to appear, please don't play this song. I reckon my brain might do a kick-flip in my skull, shoot out my ears and go dancing down the street to escape. It's just tooooo much. Don't show me this video either. It's too intense. I can hear someone crying in it.

07. Sister Ray - The Velvet Underground (17:27)

I'm going to let this guy do all the talking: "This is rock'n'roll, I don't know anything else. Get a turntable, get the vinyl, get some JBL's, get a rotten sofa, some bottles of red wine, one of whiskey, long cold whiskey, maybe some amphetamines, a dark room except for the fucking red light, I mean: fuck. I'll have all of this RIGHT NOW." - MrHitmewithaflower (Youtube)

06. Spaceship Landing - Kyuss (34:04)

You know how everyone these days uses the word "epic"? Well, they are fakers. There is only one thing in the world that is truly, honestly EPIC - the first 30 seconds of this song. And, no, this isn't cheating by including it in this list. Yes, there is a giant slab of silence in this track, but it easily cracks the ten minute mark before hitting it.

05. Diamond Sea - Sonic Youth

Yeah, so the extended version drags on a bit. But it is the standout track on Washing Machine and the band stretch out into some wonderful, lovely, dark, gentle, playful places. Watching them perform an even longer version of this at the Summersault Festival in 1995 turned me back onto the band and led me deeper into their back catalog. All my friends hated it.

04. Indian Love Song - Dirty Three (10:12)

There were too many extended jams from the Dirty Three to choose from. Ocean Songs (my favorite of their records) has a couple of classics that flicker past ten minutes. Nothing compares to this. It is just so iconic, so brutally honest. It has a compelling, ragged intensity that sustains across it's entire duration. Plus, it's a live favorite that can sustain well beyond its recorded length: building, crashing, ebbing, flowing. Bluesy, angry, urgent. Just, almost perfect.

03. Sad Eye Lady of the Lowlands - Bob Dylan (10:44)

It was so hard to avoid choosing Desolation Row. In so many ways it is more potent, powerful, and "important" than "Sad eye". It is so much more worthy. But this song, for me, is heavier. I feel it. There is that wonderful point, where it inches beyond five minutes, and you cannot imagine it will end... where it's ebb and flow seems to have an unstoppable momentum. Will it ever end? Maybe not, lets keep listening... And don't get grossed out too much but the loping, fast and slow rhythm has almost a sexual tension-and-release vibe. Sexy yes? What is the song about? I always imagine Joan Baez as the the Lady. She has eyes like smoke. She also does a sweet cover of it too (see above). But she doesn't crack ten minutes. Boo! Wake up Joan.

02. I Dream a Highway - Gillian Welch (14:40)

Just kill me now. I still can't listen to this without breaking inside. It is so very, very heavy. Whatever you do, don't dump someone, then realise you love them, then have them reject you when you come back crawling, then listen to this song all day. Don't do it. Put on some Sabbath or ESG. You idiot.

01. Marquee Moon - Television (10:40)

Is it the intricate, spidery guitar parts in this magnificent song that makes me love it so much? So clean, and raw. The rhythm so loose but tight. The vague, mysterious lyrics hint at something mystical and nocturnal. Something unsafe but profound. Do I love it because it is one of those rare songs that make me wonder about the enormity of the universe and my place in it, across every brilliant moment of its 640 seconds? I'll keep wondering this forever, as I reach for the repeat, for one more go around. Brilliant stuff.

What's your favourite LONG song...?

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Favourite Albums of 2010

It has taken me until the first day of January 2011 to finally get around to posting this list. Most people had theirs published by the first week of December. But a lot can change in a month, and it felt only fair to allow these albums time to order themselves properly in my head (and to a certain extent, on my profile).

So, here it is, my favourite albums released in 2010... with videos for the top ten!

** Update - realised that the Girls album came out in '09. Added Surf City from NZ **

1. Avi Buffalo - Avi Buffalo

When I first heard this record I realised there was no way another record could eclipse it in 2010. And it contained my fave song of the year too, check it out below and find out more about Avi Buffalo on their subpop page.

2. Tallest man on Earth – The Wild Hunt

3. Wild Nothing – Gemini

4. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

5. Damien Jurado – Saint Bartlett

6. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

7. Sally Seltmann – Heart That’s Pounding

8. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

9. The Ancients – The Ancients 2

10. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker

11. Sun Kil Moon – Admiral Fel Promises
12. The Morning Benders - Big Echo
13. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti – Before Today
14. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
15. The Black Keys – Brothers
16. Lower Dens - Twin Hand Movement
17. Magic Kids - Memphis
18. Woods - At Echo Lake
19. Parades - Foreign Tapes
20. Surf City - Kudos

For a glimpse at what others are putting into their lists check out this aggregated top 20 from the NME.