Thursday, December 29, 2011

G.R.O.s Best of 2011

It's time to break the radio silence on BTA, and bring you my best albums and tracks of the year 2011. A year that belonged to Ms. Harvey. Since Let England Shake was released early in the year no-one else had a chance.

Top 10 Albums:
10. Big Deal - Lights Out
9. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
8. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
7. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
6. Metronomy - The English Riviera
5. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
4. Black Lips - Arabia Mountain
3. Pete & The Pirates - One Thousand Pictures
2. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l
1. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

And here's my Best of the Year mix:
1. This Many Boyfriends - Young Lovers Go Pop
2. Black Lips - Modern Art
3. Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks
4. Adele - Rolling In The Deep
5. Lykke Li - Get Some
6. Metronomy - The Look
7. Los Campesinos - By Your Hand
8. Herman Dune - Tell Me Something I Don't Know
9. Jens Lekman - Waiting for Kirsten
10. The Vaccines - Norgaard
11. Big Deal - Talk
12. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
13. Laura Marling - Sophia
14. The Naked & Famous - Young Blood
15. Lana Del Ray - Video Games
16. PJ Harvey - The Words That Maketh Murder
17. Fanfarlo - Replicate
18. Gill Scott Heron (Jamie XX Remix) - I'll Take Care of U
19. Bon Iver - Calgary
20. Pete & The Pirates - Half Moon Street

Download it here

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fix This!

Has anyone else picked up on the impatience of the music press right now? Over the last couple of week's journos have been falling over themselves to proclaim the best albums of the year so far, even though it's only June. Here's a selection that's caught my eye:


If that's not premature enough, we've now started debating who's going to breakthrough next year. One band who's especially prevalent, and deservedly so, are Fixers. Their songs vacillate from Animal Collective style experimentation to Beach Boys pop euphoria.

Iron Deer Dream by Fixers.

Another Lost Apache by Fixers.

They're playing in London at the Shacklewell Arms on 16th August, tickets here. It'll probably be your last chance to catch them at such a tiny venue.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

AIAS at The Great Escape

Ah, The Great Escape. Whatever SXSW can do, you can do, only colder and with a pebble beach. Still you do have the slight adventure of being 100s of miles closer and still put on probably the best value music festival in the UK.

The boat has long sailed into the distance for a full fest review, but I really must share this band as they provided the most enduring memory of the event. AIAS hail from Barcelona and are signed to Captured Tracks which seems a pretty categorical stamp of approval right now (see: Veronica Falls, Dum Dum Girls, Wild Nothing et al).

These girls craft condensed, lo-fi surfer-pop with scuzzy guitar sounds and hooks-a-plenty. When darting from venue to venue in Brighton, it was their sugary harmonies that I kept catching myself humming along to. Their debut, "A La Piscina" comes highly recommended, especially the opening "Tu Manes", a perfect calling card.

AIAS - Tu Manes
AIAS - Moto

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bandstand Busking

Summer in London means snacking on bread & hummus on a picnic rug; sipping Pimms and lemonade whilst basking in the sun; watching the deluded hysteria over a Brit winning Wimbledon and Bandstand Busking.

For the uninitiated, this is a delightful venture where established and up-and-coming bands come play, mostly acoustically, in some of the capital's disused bandstands. It's totally free, available to the masses and the highlights of the shows are put up on the website so you can re-live the moment. Like the Black Cab Sessions, only without having to cram into the back of a taxi to share the experience.

The alumni is pretty impressive with Of Montreal, Wild Beasts & Black Lips amongst those who've graced their stages. Here's a selection of my favourite busks from last year:

This year's busk season has now kicked off in earnest with their second collaboration with Meltdown festival at the Southbank Centre. There's more in the pipeline so sign up to their mailing list and we'll see you at the next busk...

Driver Drive Faster!

Ever since I relented and joined the Apple cult, John Hilcock's weekly New Noise podcast has proved essential listening. The sheer diverse array of sounds on offer in each morsel amaze, challenge and entertain at every turn. Probably the greatest thank you card I owe him is for exposing my ears to the delightful Driver Drive Faster. Their slices of lush, dreamy pop remind me of Mercury Rev and more recent stand-outs Avi Buffalo. "It's All Over, It's Everywhere" is definitely one of my finds of the year.

I picked up their self-funded debut "Open House" last night at their free gig at the Shacklewell Arms. Here's my pick of the highlights:

Driver Drive Faster - It's All Over It's Everywhere
Driver Drive Faster - Gravel Dents

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Live Review: Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Singer-songwriters rarely successfully walk the tightrope of critical acclaim and commercial success. Having already secured support from Edith Bowman (BBC Radio 1) and Mark Riley (6Music), Benjamin Francis Leftwich may have the potential to achieve this potent mix.

Live, the most striking impression is how he stretches and elongates key words to lend them an immense poignancy, regardless of subject matters. The lyrics seem to cling desperately to the sides of his mouth before slipping helplessly into the room. Melancholy is not Mr Leftwich's only setting though; “Pictures” displays a charming wit with it's climatic final verse.

You've been around and you've seen / The way that things work / But you need a compass / To get around your house.

Penultimate track of the night, and debut single “Atlas Hands” best demonstrates his understated charm. It results in an eruption of cheers and wolf howls from the crowd, which feel remarkable given the isolation he faces onstage, whilst singing his acoustic laments.

I've got a plan / I've got an atlas in my hands / I'm gonna turn / When I listen to the lessons that I've learned.

On the strength of tonight, it's a plan we'd been foolish to ignore...

Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Pictures by Mud Hut Digital

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The RAA release Departing to Canadians ahead of schedule

The Rural Alberta Advantage notified fans via Twitter yesterday that their new album Departing is available to Canadian iTunes customers ahead of the scheduled March 1st release date. I'm already a huge fan of the band, so had high hopes that the sophomore release could match the intensity and quality of their debut, Hometowns.

Fortunately, it doesn't disappoint. Every single track is extremely strong; "The Breakup", "Under the Knife", "Tornado '87" and "North Star" in particular are immediate stand-outs. Long-time live show staple closing track and fan favourite "Good Night" finally makes an official appearance as the perfect bookend.

Only after many more listens will it be clear whether or not Departing has actually eclipsed Hometowns, but I'm looking forward to each and every one of those run-throughs. This album will be on heavy rotation for the foreseeable future, and I anticipate returning to it on a regular basis in the longer term.

The whole album can be streamed at until the end of this month.

Canadians can buy Departing via iTunes now; everyone else can grab it on March 1st from Saddle Creek.

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Under the Knife
The Rural Alberta Advantage - Good Night

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Sasquatch Music Festival 2011!

The Official lineup for the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival was recently announced. And since then, all the web chatter, and conversations overheard throughout town have been about what an amazing four days this years festival will surely turn out to be. Although there has been some shoulder shrugging over the headliners, the rest of the line-up is sure to please any music aficionado. Of course the main buzz has been over the reuniting of DFA-1979, which was almost expected after their earlier Coachella announcement. Nevertheless, it's exciting! Other notables include RATATAT, Wold Parade, Chromeo, Yeasayer, and so many more! Head on over the the Sasquatch Festival site to get all of the info and get your tickets fast!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Comfortably Numb

Who knew that Pink Floyd would make an appearance in the grimy world of Dub step? Check out this take on Comfortably Numb done by Vancouver's Stylust..