Monday, 20 December 2010

Albums of 2010

Well I'm watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation so it must be almost Christmas. As is the spirit it seems only right I give you my ten albums of the year two thousand and ten. You can enjoy a selection of tracks from these albums on the following Spotify playlist Albums of 2010 ( You can also download a selection of tracks from this list, and other standouts from 2010, using the following link Here goes...

10. The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green

Check out if you enjoy: Prince, Michael Jackson, Outkast

Good because: A welcome slice of funk in a year heavy on melancholy.

Even better if: If this was limited to the best ten tracks it could've been a real contender for #1 spot.

Stand out track: Bright Lights Bigger City

9. Interpretting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates by The Bird and The Bee

Check out if you enjoy: Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Rilo Kiley
Good because: Impossible to keep still to, rightly places pop melody at the core of dance music.
Even better if: Some tracks seem to end a little weakly with a rushed fade out so greater attention to closing the deal would be well received.
Stand out track: Heard It On The Radio

8. If Shacking Up Is All You Want To Do by The Roadside Graves 

Check out if you enjoy: Ray Lamontagne, Gomez, Bruce Springsteen
Good because: Simple, rootsy whisky soaked tales of America. The Dude would like this.
Even better if: It was five tracks shorter, quantity over quality leaves the album a little bloated.
Stand out track: The History of Lilies

7. Nice, Nice, Very Nice by Dan Mangan

Check out if you enjoy: Willy Mason, Ray Lamontagne,
Good because: shows a tremendous flair for infectious choruses.
Even better if: Showed a little more variation, follows a similar template throughout
Stand out track: Sold

6. God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise by Ray Lamontagne and The Pariah Dogs

Check out if you enjoy: Otis Redding, Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Good because: Strikes a nice balance between the majesty of Ray's voice on slower numbers and rootsy, uptempo stomps.

Even better if: It may well be that some tracks are slow burners but there does feel like a trio of fillers lurk on this record.
Stand out track: Are we really through?

5. Tiger Suit by KT Tunstall

Check out if you enjoy: Kings of Leon, Beck, Willy Mason

Good because: Shows a progression on previous albums with a willingness to experiment whilst still delivering classic songwriting.

Even better if: A predictable result of an experimental approach is that the album doesn't hold together.
Stand out track: Golden Frames

4. High Violet by The National

Check out if you enjoy: Wilco, Interpol, Editors

Good because: A vocal seemingly born to haunt the foreboding, paranoid tone of this album gives Berninger the chance to provide his finest performance to date.

Even better if: The first half of the album (opener apart) is lacking in pace and results in an already slow burning album taking far too long to ignite.

Stand out track: Bloodbuzz Ohio

3. Broken Bells by Broken Bells

Check out if you enjoy: The Shins, Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz

Good because: An unlikely collaboration between two of the most innovative interesting characters around could easily fall a little flat under weight of expectation - this doesn't.

Even better if: In a way it is so consistently good it can wash over you, it lacks a stand out track which hooks in your consciousness. A very harsh criticism admittedly.
Stand out track: The Mall and The Misery (hard to choose - see above)

2. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling

Check out if you enjoy: Johnny Flynn, Mumford and Sons, Joni Mitchell
Good because: Proves immune to trends and contextual influence, could have been written in any era.
Even better if: Hard to criticise anything but would hope for some variation on future releases.
Stand out track: Darkness Descends

1. The Head and The Heart by The Head and The Heart

Check out if you enjoy: Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes, Laura Marling

Good because: Beautiful heartfelt collection of classic song writing. Incredibly simple but utterly magical.

Even better if: It was longer! It goes against everything I believe in but leaves me demanding more!

Stand out track: Down in the Valley

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Mr Pattison goes to London

The story of sir staying out on a school night:

A fairly surreal spectacle unfolded on Monday morning as a frozen man paced around the foot of Big Ben singing manically to himself. Fear not, I have not entered that place but was manfully battling bracing cold to round up shuffling sixth formers ahead of an A level politics conference. Attempts to distract myself from the cold brought mixed results; 1) spending the best part of two quid on a flavourless tea at Cafe Nero was an error although is did Quantum Leap style view of what my life could have been had I become a commuter, 2) Jiggling on the spot with hands firmly tucked into pockets in between greeting youngsters is the kind of behaviour that raises suspicions that a man in my profession can ill afford, but 3) Listening to every single song by The National on my ipod managed to successfully transport my thoughts away from the numbness overwhelming my limbs and onto the exciting fact I was seeing the premier purveyors of North American indie that very night.

Fast forward through a stimulating conference and a delightful couple of hours devouring the brilliant Jonathon Wilson's 'Inverting the Pyramid' (essential reading on the history of tactics for the football geek) and I was enjoying the atmosphere at Brixton academy alongside my fellow mustachioed chum and blogger Mr Craig Armer (the taches were for charity for those losing respect for me). As it happens sporting a ridiculous middle-aged 80s business tache seems to be the norm in 'trendy London' anyway as people who live in the capital appear unable to resist the overwhelming desire to dress as a Shoreditch Dickhead.

The support was a band I had never heard of but Craig was very keen to see. As with most things in life; Craig was annoyingly one step ahead of me in coolness as what followed was comfortably one of the better support bands I have seen. Full credit to The National who resisted the usual label urge to promote some raw label mates and instead chose a band with three albums behind them who have yet to make waves over this side of the Atlantic. Menomena made an immediate impression with the full band lined up on the stage. No single member was given special prominence and the reason for this became clear - Karl Marx would adore this band - everyone plays their part. Every member takes on vocal duties at some point boasting an exciting range of styles from a Kings of Leon howl to a wistful tone reminiscent of Guy Garvey (Elbow). The eclectic nature doesn't stop there as the whole gamut of instruments are on show including saxophone and maracas as drum sticks. This could very easily descend into a muso-friendly smugfest yet each quirk is integral to the song and the band rightly resist the urge to show off. In my experience bands with vast instrumental talent often fall into proggy noodling much to the apparent delight of their worshippers, yet Menomena adopt a clean, almost clinical approach which delivers flair through the variety of components as opposed to a showy stage presence. As commendable as this might sound it would all be wholly redundant if the music was rubbish but the opposite was true. The highlight of this whole night for me was actually discovering Menomena and spotify has been well used as I greedily imbibe all they have to offer. Enjoy the videos below and I urge you to investigate this band.

The mixture of anticipation and impatience before a band come on is one of life's most frustrating experiences. Thankfully The National didn't force us to wait too long after the support and what followed was a quite brilliant performance. I'm not going to indulge in a detailed post-match analysis - I'm sure you will be able to find hundreds of gig reviews which will tell you all you need to know about the band's unexpectedly strong stage presence. Personally I was far more impressed than I expected - as stated earlier on this blog I have grown to really love the band but whereas some bands on record demand to be seen live I have never felt that about The National. The way that I was invited by Craig rather than pursue the tickets myself is testament to that fact. As things turned out the band were far more exciting live than presumed and the songs possessed more energy, passion and at times outright hostility than on record. The perfect example being the primal cry of the chorus on Squalor Victoria. Brixton Academy is perhaps London's finest venue for atmosphere and there was a tremendous sense that the people in the room would each be able to share a story related to how and why they fell in love with the band. I felt a triumphant sense of collective joy as England was sung with verve and defiance. The sense of community was further emboldened by Berninger's quite insane wander through the whole crowd whilst singing Mr November. My heart went out to the poor roadie/security bloke who's job was to follow him and hold up the implausibly long microphone lead. It was a hugely impressive performance, neatly capped off with an acapella performance of Vanderly Crybaby Geeks at the end of the encore.

By the time of the encore I was making ready for my dash to the door as the minutes ticked by ahead of my train home. Craig and I embarked on an exciting mission through the streets of London, guided by an i-phone sat nav which appeared to be on satellite delay a few dead ends were negotiated and the heart was racing. Thankfully by demonstrating the street smarts and courage that only Men of Kendal can conjure we made it to the station on time and the night had ended in triumph.

A good music week was further enriched by sneakily having a listen to the new release III/IV from Ryan Adams- a double album of previously unreleased stuff with The Cardinals which is as fantastic as expected. One thing I would say though is I am kind of glad they have parted ways as I feel far more connection with his solo work. Further to this delight my spiritual guide in the ways of music Ben passed on a fantastic collection from Bon Iver's label Jagjaguwar which neatly showcased a lot of artists I was previously unaware of but warrant further investigation.