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Faded Glamour’s Top Twenty of the 2000s

January 26, 2010

Saam over at Faded Glamour (though in my heart it will always be Keep Hope Inside) has started posting the long-awaited results of his massive ‘Top Twenty British Albums Of The Decade’ poll. It includes a couple of contributions from yours truly. The top four are tomorrow. Am looking forward to it.

This One’s Optimistic

January 24, 2010

I first got into music aged about 15 or 16. For a couple of years, almost everything new sounded really good and exciting. This was about the time that bands like Franz Ferdinand, The Rakes, Bloc Party and The Futureheads burst onto the scene with fantastic debut albums, hot on the heels of The Libertines a few years before. History has not judged all of the bands from this period as kindly as my fresh-faced self did at the time, but I still feel the debut albums from those bands I’ve mentioned are very good indeed.

Since then, I don’t know whether the standard of music dipped slightly, or whether I just grew a bit cynical and less willing to seek out new music with much enthusiasm, but it hasn’t felt like there has been as much quality music floating around, particularly in terms of popular ‘indie’ (whatever that means anymore) music. Of course, there have still been many excellent albums released, but they have often seemed like anomalies, and I just haven’t been as excited about the general state of music as I was when I was 16 and everything was new.

However in the past year or so, I feel like there has been an upsurge in the amount of quality music released, like we are in the midst of some sort sort of cultural ‘peak’. Last year America really came to the fore, with bands like Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors all releasing masterpieces. Meanwhile in Britain, bands like Wild Beasts and The XX produced albums that were progressive and full of fantastic ideas, whilst also being accessible and fairly popular.

And this year, despite being not even a month old, has already produced a host of good (or better) albums. Obviously some are not out yet, but in this technological age we live in, it often feels like release dates don’t matter. The newness of them means I haven’t been able to give them all the time they deserve, but based on a few listens, they certainly seem very good indeed.

Some of the exciting new releases/leaks already out there to be listened to in the internetosphere include:

Odd Blood – Yeasayer
Heartland – Owen Pallett
One Life Stand – Hot Chip
Contra – Vampire Weekend
Hidden – These New Puritans
There Is Love In You – Four Tet
Romance Is Boring – Los Campesinos

I’ll review some of these in due course.

And the year also should see new releases from Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, The National, and Joanna Newsom. Things seem pretty exciting.

Gigs of 2009 – Radiohead, Reading Festival

January 11, 2010

For the first time since I was 16, I wasn’t going to bother with Reading Festival this year. When you are 16, it’s incredible, but when you are 5 years older, all those kids running round with such unbridled joy seem like twats, and you feel very old indeed.

But I had to see Radiohead, so I ended up buying a Sunday day ticket. Somehow I’d never seen them before. They are the greatest band around, up there with the best ever, and their back catalogue is breathtaking in its depth and quality.

It’s a shame for some that they still think Creep is their best song. They are missing out a lot. I have heard tales of friends watching Radiohead, stationed next to beered-up louts requesting Creep for the whole set. So it was brilliant that here, they opened with it. Some people seem to wait years to hear it live, and for me it’s the first song they play. It was good to get it out of the way, so they could concentrate on their really good stuff. They immediately launched into The National Anthem.

Me and my friend Nick had ventured forward during Bloc Party’s preceding set, and managed to end up about 4 rows from the front. Here we seemed to be amongst proper fans, which sounds kind of snobbish (and perhaps is), but I feel it was important to my enjoyment of the concert because during the quieter, more fragile songs, the crowd around me afforded the band the reverent atmosphere they deserve. During the beginning of Exit Music (For A Film), for example, just Thom and an acoustic guitar, the awed hush around me was electric. And during the sing-a-long parts, the crowd joined in with religious gusto.

Before this gig, I was quite nervous. I was so looking forward to finally seeing Radiohead, who are probably the epitome of what one could hope a band to be, that I was worried it could not possibly live up to my lofty expectations. And of course, there were songs I would have loved to have heard that I did not. But they have such a vast amount of incredible, life-affirming songs, that this was bound to happen, and in fact it was as good as I could have ever possibly dreamed of it being.  The setlist was packed almost entirely with highlights, and it’s pretty much impossible to name one particular peak moment from this performance.

Only during the not-that-great-by-Radiohead’s-standards new track These Are My Twisted Words, played during the encore, did the magic slightly diminish, but in many ways this let the crowd catch their breath, and try to absorb what had come already, before the trio of Jigsaw Falling Into Place, Paranoid Android, Everything In Its Right Place closed the show in majestic fashion. During the “Rain Down” refrain on Paranoid Android the whole crowd raised their hands to the sky, seemingly pleading with the heavens to answer this magnificence with a well-timed downpour. But of course nothing could compete with the perfection onstage.

Gigs of 2009 – Blur at Glastonbury

January 4, 2010

My mate Tom was so keen on seeing Blur in as close proximity as possible that he went down to the front about 5 hours before they were on.

I myself hung out with some other friends, but they were not as keen as me as being near the front. I suppose there’s a certain benefit in being quite far back, you perhaps get more of a sense of the scale an occasion such as Glastonbury, but I wanted, like Tom, to be amongst the action. I hesitated for a while, but then hitched onto the back of an intrepid train of strangers venturing forwards. I ended up packed tight next to a bunch of morons, who inanely gushed about how much they were looking forward to Song 2. It suddenly seemed a long way back to my friends.

I needn’t have worried. One good thing about the massive numbers of people in front of festival main-stages  is the way the whole crowd surges and you get swept along. Within a few minutes of Blur finally coming on a wave of bodies took me away from the idiots and into a section where everyone knew the words to everything. I was very close to the front, and it was a great novelty to be able to see the band themselves more clearly than their images on the screens to either side of the stage.

The whole Blur saga from part-break up to this reunion has been well documented, and it was wonderful to see them all looking so pleased to be there, all bad memories forgotten, concentrating on what’s really important, namely the music. Coxon even played on the couple of tracks from Think Tank, the album from which he got kicked off, just to show that it’s all patched up properly now. I don’t know if Damon Albarn was very drunk, or just back in the mindset of someone a good ten or fifteen years younger, but he bounced and span around the stage in a manner belying his 41 years of age.

Pretty much everything about this performance was perfect – the setlist was a brilliant collection of their many highlights from their many albums, the crowd went wild, and it was a fitting end to my first Glastonbury.

Gigs of 2009 – Whitest Boy Alive, Scala, April 16

December 28, 2009

I brought a book to this gig. Well not to the gig specifically, but to read on the tube. The bouncers found it on the way in, and seemed delighted with what their search had produced.

“He’s got a book!” exclaimed one.
“You won’t read in there,” another gravely responded.
Didn’t know Dickens was so noteworthy.

He was right, although I hadn’t planned on doing so anyway. Maybe if the gig had got boring, but there was never any danger of that. Whitest Boy Alive started out as “an electronic dance music project,” something that is not always entirely obvious on record, but comes across very strongly live. Unlike lots of gigs, where the kids and the drunks crash about at the front, and everyone else stands statuesque, here almost everyone was dancing, actually proper dancing. And there’s something very special about a whole room of 800 people being really into something so uninhibitedly, being so carried away with the music that any classic London gig notions of hip aloofness seem completely irrelevant.

The band were incredibly tight, at times almost veering towards the realms of a jazz band with their jams, but never losing their groove, especially on tracks with particularly funky basslines, such as ‘Keep A Secret.’

Frontman Erlend Øye worked the crowd brilliantly, inciting mass sing-a-longs with energetic call and responses with the crowd. Originally known because of his work as half of quiet-merchants Kings Of Convenience, you can see why he formed Whitest Boy Alive; he seemed to be having brilliant fun. Not least when, during a fantastic cover of Robin S’ Show Me Love, he abandoned the stage, and ran round the crowd, dancing with everyone.

Like me, my friend had come to the gig with Great Expectations. He’s a massive Whitest Boy Alive fan, and knew how good they were live; his were of the anticipatory rather than the literary kind. Sadly however, he had not, like me, come with his ticket, having somehow lost it before this gig. He somehow managed to persuade them to let him in regardless, as in his joyous anticipation he’d taken a photo of the tickets beforehand, and this seemed to be good enough. His excitement was certainly justified.

Gigs of 2009 – The Drums, The Flowerpot, September 19th

December 16, 2009

as december is seemingly devoid of any sort of new release,{great time to start a blog} I shall join the rest of the music-loving world in looking back. including at some of my favourite gigs, like this one.

Saturday 19th September, The Flowerpot.

It was their first London show.

It was free.

Boy George was there.

They were fantastic.

I was introduced to them by a guy I met in New York, over the summer. [Oh look at me , seasoned traveler]

He mentioned his friend was in a band. ‘The Drums’ he said. Did this ring a bell? I wasn’t sure if it did, or whether my mind felt like it had to have heard of a band called that. Probably had just heard of the instrument [Drums].

Apparently they’d been signed almost immediately after starting to gig, he said.

I sounded excited, but was secretly skeptical. All hype and no trousers, perhaps?

Anyway I arrived home, hopelessly jet-lagged, dazed by light where my body clock said there should be night, and found this song. And what a fine song it is too.

Prior to the gig, I only knew this song. I feared a flat half-hour, boredom punctuated only a 3 minute burst of excitement. i thought they might be cool and aloof, New York swagger looking down on the London masses gathered to greet the hype.

But I was wrong. They burst on stage, delighted to be there so it seemed. They had female backing singers on stools, they had a hyperactive tambourine-player. The singer danced round, like Ian Curtis if he had loved ecstasy instead of gloom.

And there was so much to dance to. Every song jumped out as immediately catchy, immediately danceable. Contrary to my expectations, the crowd were the ones left looking aloof, surprised perhaps by these Hip Brooklyner’s unbridled joy.

Eventually people started dancing, and when eventually the song I knew came, it was wonderful, but it didn’t stick out as much as I’d thought it might. Every song was seemingly a potential single, sing-alongable even to a first time listener.

Like everyone else, I left smiling.

Song/Link/Quote Of The Day 001

December 15, 2009

in a soon to be regular feature, YDT will post three things of interest harvested from the vast plains of the internet. generally unrelated (to each other).

Yeasayer – Ambling Alp

yeasayer release their second album, odd blood, in february. this is the first song to be released off it, and can be downloaded for free from here . {the album has recently leaked, if you’re into that sort of thing}

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Cleaners ‘worth more to society’ than bankers

from bbc news

“Hospital cleaners: Play a vital role in the workings of healthcare facilities. They not only clean hospitals and maintain hygiene standards but also contribute to wider health outcomes. For every pound paid, over £10 in social value is created.”

“Tax accountants: Every pound that a tax accountant saves a client is a pound which otherwise would have gone to HM Revenue. For a salary of between £75,000 and £200,000, tax accountants destroy £47 in value, for every pound they generate.”

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“When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don’t see heaven, or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and human tragedy.”


yossarian, in catch-22, by joseph heller.