Saturday, January 30, 2010

Albums Of The Year 2009 - Numero Uno!

Something strange happened to me musically in 2009. While I've never been opposed to it, that was the year that it struck me; The kind of electronic/dance music being made was far more interesting than what guitar-based bands had to offer. It was more original, more exciting, and it was breaking down barriers between chart/D&B/dubstep etc. It was creating an entirely new genre. From Miike Snow to Calvin Harris, 2009 was the year Dance Music took a massive leap forward.

Easily the best dance album since Leftfield's debut, or The Prodigy's 'The Fat Of The Land', Fuck Buttons came from nowhere to deliver a record of such beauty and intensity, it gives a different experience every time you listen to it. And they're not pulling punches either; rather bravely for a debut, most songs are 9 minutes plus. Yet each track has its own story, its own emotional journey, and - crucially - it's entirely at the listener's discretion what you make of it.

'Surf Solar' is an absolute beast of a song; a 10 minute gentle assault on the senses, with more layers in it than you'll ever notice. 'Olympians' is a true thing of beauty, again employing 10 minutes with gorgeous, emotive sounds that change just as you're getting used to them.

I cannot rate this album highly enough. In a year of great music, Fuck Buttons delivered a real sucker punch, from a genre I didn't expect and simply made me re-evaluate how I listen to music. This album, quite simply, made me more excited about music than I had been in years.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Albums Of The Year 2009 - No. 2!


I first heard the gorgeous Emmy during Adam & Joe's Glastonbury radio show. Sitting in a noisy field, she strummed away on an acoustic guitar and sang the single 'First Love'; a tragic yet comic account of a relationship that was saved by a love of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'. The sound was ramshackle at best, marred by wind noise and rowdy passers by. And I was in love.

The true brilliance of Emmy is not the best/most powerful voice you've ever heard, or the cleverest guitar work. It's the absolute honesty and use of storytelling in her work. She uses humour like other artists use a paintbrush or a guitar solo, then suddenly undercuts it with the harsh realities of daily life. And she is keenly aware of the humour you can find when looking back at your toughest times, yet isn't afraid to wrap it all up in music so beautiful that it becomes her greatest weapon - it catches you off guard.

'We Almost Had A Baby' is a chilling assault on a former lover who "didn't stop" and resulted in a pregnancy scare, but it's given to us in a 50's doo-wop style that wouldn't be out of place in Grease. 'Dylan' tells of feuding brothers, but in an upbeat bluegrass tempo. And in the afore-mentioned 'First Love' she name checks the song 'Hallelujah' but even takes the time to make sure we know she's talking about "the original Leonard Cohen version". In an age when awards are being chucked at every female solo artist, it's refreshing and important to find one that actually deserves it.

Albums Of The Year 2009 - No. 3!

The xx

Beautiful, haunting, solemn, possibly the most romantic record of the last decade... Yep. All superlatives, all cliches, and all accurate. I'd never heard of this lot before New Music God Huw Stephens started championing them on the radio, and I was immediately hooked.

Calling them lo-fi is selling them short, as the craft in the songwriting is immense, but there's no denying their sounds defines the phrase 'stripped down'. Barely using more than a plucky guitar, bass, occasional drums and call-and-response male/female vocals, the music they create tends to float around your senses until it truly becomes something tangible to your mind-brain.

Even more incredible, for what I truly believe is an out-and-out romantic record, it never becomes hackneyed. In fact, at times The xx seem unsure whether love is a good or bad thing. At moments, this album will make you think love is the greatest thing in the world, at others it'll make you wonder why people bother with it. Yet it's never saccharine or cynical. It's just totally, brutally honest. And that's why it's the best debut in years.