Best of 2011, 20-11

Last one for this bit, with the remaining ten(ish…) getting a page to themselves.  And thank the stars for that, as it’s such a bugger to go on about ten things at the same time whilst trying (and probably failing) to remember which adverbs I’ve already used.  What I’ve found interesting so far whilst doing this and looking at the many emerging lists from other sites and proper media (and confirmed during a brief conversation with a friend on Twitter earlier today) is that while there’s been a lot of good, very good and great albums out this year, nobody seems to be agreeing on pretty much anything – the standard this year is of a very high average, with little common ground as to what is considered essential.  This may sound as if this state of affairs is anything but a very good thing indeed, but the opposite is true; musically-independent artists have been coming up with their own visions without consideration to what anyone else is up to and largely without interference from marketing, in a direct inverse to what is going on in a mainstream seemingly happy to strangle itself with its own banality.  There seems to be more and more little labels springing up all over the place, and there are more and more cheap/free ways for artists to reach an audience than ever before.  It’s like 1976 and 1987 all over again…


Half-term Musings, Random Favourites So Far

Well, everyone else has done one.   I guess it’s the immediacy of the internet nowadays that lists simply can’t wait until the year end.  I did try to do this properly, but trying to whittle down about 40 or so absolute corkers so far this year I soon realised that it’s all far too much work, especially as I’ll be doing it all again in December.  So the following fifteen albums (no singles or EPs, will be saving those for year-end also) are in no order and their selection has been completely arbitrary in a daily mood-matching way.  Some of those will be high up my (and most others’) list in the deep midwinter, some may well have dropped off a bit and others replaced by whatever is going to pop up between now and the end of the year.   What I’m trying to say is that it’s all a bit random.  As is the accompanying text; I copy/pasted it from my Facebook entries over the past fortnight and the tenses are all over the place.



Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi Present Rome

It’s not unfair to say that I have been looking forward to this one for a bit.  I’ve liked a lot of what Danger Mouse has done previously, I’ve enjoyed what little I’ve heard so far of Daniele Luppi’s orchestrated work to date (my fault!), and I really loved their previous album together.

And I utterly adore the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s and Ennio Morricone’s place in them.

On an initial small budget and at the beginning of a hip new era of cinema (amongst everything else), Morricone bolstered his relatively modest musical arsenal with an electric guitar (taking the idea of Monty Norman’s James Bond theme and running amok with it) and the characteristic whistling of Alessandro Alessandroni in amongst the mix of various other atmospheric bits and bobs (not least, director Sergio Leone’s fondness for exaggerated gunshot sounds).  So, right at the start of Fistful of Dollars, before The Man With No Name (or Joe as he’s named and credited) plods silently down the street atop his mule, and even before anyone can mutter “hang on, isn’t this Yojimbo?”, the stage is set for something new, visceral, and a little bit funky thanks to its slightly odd but utterly compelling opening credits sequence.

So anyone deciding to do anything in the spirit of these pioneering compositions and arrangements would really need to do their homework.  Thankfully, Messrs Burton and Luppi have managed this with amazing aplomb, capturing the spirit, landscape and indeed several musicians of the originals and spending five years making something very special indeed.


End of Year Doings, Part 3

Yes, quite.

Just realised that in doing a top 35 (which isn’t exactly 35 anyway), splitting it into chunks of ten will eventually offend some law of mathematics or other.  Whoops.

Undeterred by this, the last five(ish!) will be individually added daily next week from Monday – although as I’m attempting a jaunt off down to the South Coast on Wednesday for three days this might get delayed a bit depending on internet connection and whether or not I stuff the car into a snowdrift on the way down there.  Will be brilliant when/if I arrive (not least because of a gig I’ve been looking forward to for months), must admit to being a bit twitchy about the journey although I’m sure it’s nothing that a shovel, spare socks and a flask of Bovril can’t sort out…  Will certainly be finished by next Sunday anyway, as I’m getting to the point where I just want it done and out of the bloody way!


Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night Of The Soul

Musical collaborations can be a wonderful creative experience, both for the artist and consumer.  A coming together of ideas from people already on top of their game, wishing to try something new with either peers or opposites, can bring great results and introduce fans to someone new in the process.

Where collaborations become a pain is when business interests become involved – those “…appears courtesy of…”s don’t always appear with the contract holders’ fondest regards or cheapest deals, or put the mockers on the whole project.  Protracted legal wranglings prevented Dark Night Of The Soul from being released when it should have been, and now it stands as a sad epitaph to two people rather than being recognised purely for being a bloody good record.