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  • My Favourite Songs 2009

    11. Dez. 2009, 18:59

    Having moaned at my general disinterest at the state of music in 2009 it’s now time to talk about what I did like. Choosing my favourite songs is always a lot of fun – in a way it’s more satisfying than albums and not only because there are more to choose from. It’s also because the sheer number of listens brings a certain familiarity with individual songs that can be so great they really become an integral part of your life. This year even as I was left cold by the vast amount of new music and new hypes I still had no problem finding a bunch of songs to keep myself warm and contented. And here are they are – in an order that is likely to change daily;

    25. Papillon – Editors

    A pure excitable burst of song!

    24. 1901 – Phoenix

    A little happy indie pop rock electronic gem!

    23. Mowgli’s Road – Marina & the Diamonds

    A perfect single from the endless talent that is Marina & the Diamonds.

    22. I am not a robot – Marina & the Diamonds

    Better to be hated than loved for what you’re not. Way too much to love about this lady to even entertain the word hate.

    21. Gone too Far – Dragonette

    One of the many addictive songs from Fixin’ to Thrill. This one featuring Cotton Eyed Joe like banjo – I kid you not!

    20. Winter’s Carol – Tori Amos

    A return to form from her surprisingly wonderful Winter album

    19. Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool – Editors

    Not only one of the most bizarre song titles it also displays one of the most brilliant rhythms of the year. A feast for the ears.

    18. People Got a Lotta Nerve – Neko Case

    'We know, They call them killer whales
    But you seem surprised
    When it pinned you down to the bottom of the tank
    Where you can’t turn around
    It took half your leg, and both your lungs
    And I craved I ate hearts of sharks'

    A little like The Decemberists below this is a surprisingly catchy tune and one wich proved to be a fine introduction to her exceptional album.

    17. My Boys – Taken by Trees

    In my opinion far more interesting than the Animal Collective original.

    16. Horchata – Vampire Weekend

    Every bit as delicious as anything on their debut.

    15. Lisztomania – Phoenix

    A prefect indie pop song – never gets old even after countless plays!

    14. Can you Give it – Maccabees

    One of a handful of gems from this year’s album. Boy can they give it!

    13. The Great Detector – Bell X1

    Impossible not to love – why? Because it’s so catchy? Maybe. Because it’s the best Talking Heads song of the year? Possibly. Or could it be the line ‘You’re the chocolate at the end of my cornetto‘? That’s got to be it :-)

    12. Effigy – Andrew Bird

    From his wonderfully understated album this is my top pick, mainly due to the sublime harmonies. Simon & Garfunkel eat your heart out.

    11. Heavy Cross – The Gossip

    It is always comforting when a good song is popular enough to get air play on commercial stations. It happens so rarely. But here is a song that is almost impossible not to love – whoever you are or what your musical leanings might be. A faultless, rocking, kick into the blandness of pop radio. We need more, please!

    10. Crystalised – The XX

    Probably the most atmospheric song I’ve heard this year. I love the dark and moody feeling it broods. It exudes late night moments of discovery. The almost nonchalant vocals slowly guide you around the melody that hooks you in and declares this a definite classic from 2009.

    9. Fixin’ to Thrill – Dragonette

    The most intriguing voice in pop. Dragonette have the crossover appeal of the Ting Tings but then with a truck load more grit. Fixin to Thrill was indeed one of the most satisfying pop singles of the year. They deserve to take over the world but they’ll settle on thrilling you.

    8. This Tornado Loves you – Neko Case

    Neko Case’s charm is exceedingly hard to explain. The closest I could ever come to showing someone why I love her music would be to draw their attention towards the end of this song – specifically the first time she sings 'This tornado loves you – what will make you believe me’. That voice, that phrase – what a way to close the opening track of her perfect album. Is it Americana, alt country, folk? Who cares - it’s her voice and songs that make me believe her!

    7. He Falls to Me – The Hidden Cameras

    This is all about the big sound. It’s brash, bombastic and glorious. It’s also wonderfully original and refreshing. The Hidden Cameras, without doubt, made the most unique music I heard this year. Whatever their sonic experiment might have been it certainly worked and He Falls to Me could very well be the signature tune for their stunning album. It is also my signature tune for not giving up on a year when there was very little music of any decent innovation. Thank God the Hidden Cameras came along.

    6. Obsessions – Marina & the Diamonds

    A simple piano driven introduction with a sweet vocal brings one in mind of Tori or Feist. But don’t be fooled Marina & the Diamonds is wholly original. This is a song on the far from usual topic of trying to choose from a collection of identical crackers in the supermarket.

    Cheeks are on fire; just choose something, something, something
    Pressure overwhelming
    Next minute I am turning out of the door, facing one week without food

    Those vocals, that piano, that stunning melody all explain why Marina & the Diamonds have been my obsession of 2009.

    5. Love you Better – Maccabees

    The guitar playing that introduces us to this tune is almost summoning your attention with the promise of an anthem. And it is an anthem! And a promise! !nd a damn good tune! And it certainly made me love the Maccabees better. Like all the songs on this album the whole package is perfect. Songwriting, instrumentation, production, vocals – wonderful music.

    4. The Rake’s Song – The Decemberists

    A thumping great song with a a crazy rhythm and an outrageously murderous lyric. How a song about killing your children can be this fun is beyond me – well I guess that’s the magic of The Decemberists. Play loud and sing along – it’s compulsory.

    3. Sugar Tongue – The Indigo Girls

    Simply put, this has most beautiful melody I heard this year. While The Indigo Girls have a certain amount of nostalgia for me this track is easily on par with any one of the wonderful songs they’ve made throughout their career. The musical phrasing on the lines I’ve got the blackest boots, the whitest skin, satisfy my sugar tongue again is pure magic while the harmony on we’ll teach them how to talk and whistle while they walk couldn’t be more perfect. Exquisite!

    2. Alone Like That – David Kitt

    Like The XX this is all about late night. And I am not talking about late night coming home from the pub or club. This is about a late hour when you are awake and for all you know you might be the only one not asleep in the world. You’re not particular down or happy but your mind is unusually sharp as your thoughts take on very specific direction influenced by the dark, the quiet or just the fact that there is nothing else to do at that time of night but think. When you wake in the morning it’s business as usual – until you play this gorgeous song. Kitt is a criminally underrated song writer as displayed by this melody, this beat and this atmosphere.

    1. 5Rebeccas – The View

    This would have to be my favourite track of the year, based on number of plays alone. It’s loud, it’s fast, catchy as hell and it’s about five girls called Rebecca! One of my favourite music moments of the year is that middle eight that manages to bring cool back into key change. A simple rock song that put a smile on my face countless times in 2009. Just what was needed!
    Neko CaseDavid KittThe ViewDragonetteThe GossipThe Indigo GirlsDecemberistsMaccabeesMarina & the DiamondsThe Hidden CamerasThe xxBell X1PhoenixTaken by TreesEditorsTori Amos
  • Motel Mozaique Saturday 11 April 2009

    17. Apr. 2009, 17:50

    As with all music festivals you have to make your call and pick who you want to see and forget that anyone else is playing. The three choices we made were Nina Kinert, A Camp and 2 Many DJS. With The cardigan’s Nina Persson fronting A Camp I was telling everyone I was going to see 2 Many Ninas followed by 2 Many DJs.

    And sadly the night turned out to have one too many Ninas and 2 too many Djs for my liking.

    Nina Kinert and her band were magnificent. Playing songs mainly from last year’s wonder album Pets & Friends she won the audience over within the first two minutes. The band were wonderfully arresting with two drummers (playing facing each other and jumping up and down), cellist and guitar. Nina herself had her piano from which she produced spectacular arrangements for her haunting melodies. The two new songs she performed were among the highlights which bodes very very well for the next album. Loving Pets & Friends as I do I had very high expectations for the gig and I was blown out of the water - she is stunning live - a strange sweetly dark performer - not to be missed. Sigh!

    A Camp were next and within minutes of them beginning I began to make shopping lists in my head. Nina P is a stunning lady with a sweet voice and it surely shouldn’t take much to stand out. Unfortunately the music they made sound woefully uninspired and generic. At one point Nina walked off stage for two minutes or so while the band played an epic intro. I can honestly say that was the most boring two minutes of live music I have ever witnessed. You could sense the disinterest from the audience and at one point Nina even remarked on how quiet everyone was. There’s a reason for that I thought as I remembered to put fresh milk on my list. Both Ninas performed in The Rotterdam Schouwburg which is a surprisingly great venue for live music.

    I was quite excited about 2 Many DJs being somewhat different to what I would normally go to see. I loved the CD they brought out finding it deliciously fun, quirky and funky. I was looking forward to finally seeing a DJ play good music rather than just a boring repetitive beat over naff remixes. Unfortunately there were just like the rest - a boring persistent beat that rarely changed over unoriginal dance music. Why oh why? What’s the point? I also think it’s a bit of a scam as they were just playing CDs. Really, can’t anyone do that? And why does it take two of them to do that? It couldn’t have been further from what they presented on the CD - shame really. In addition the venue was Watt which is the old Nighttown. The dance floor was way too packed and despite a €30 fee for the festival ticket they charged €1 every time you went to the toilet. How anyone can justify that is beyond me.

    A CampNina Kinert[/artistMotel Mozaique2 Many DJ's
  • Not such a great welcome to Tori's new album

    17. Apr. 2009, 17:45

    Tori Amos’ new single is Welcome to England It is taken from her forthcoming album Abnormally Attracted to Sin and to say I am underwhelmed is an understatement. I am a very very big Tori fan but this track is as dull as they come which has me very very worried. In fact, the other two songs that have leaked 500 miles and Fire to your Plain are no better. It’s horribly middle of the road and the drums and instrumentation are as offensively generic as the melodies. Hard to understand how she is happy to release this substandard material. I’m still hoping that the rest of the album will prove better but it’s increasingly looking very much like a career low. What a shame. Perhaps it is time she stopped producing her own music and invited in some fresh talent. Cutting an album to about 12 tracks each might also raise the standard, I get the feeling she’s not too hot on editing with this album having 17 tracks and the last three having 22, 18 and 19 tracks. Fingers crossed that this is just a temporary blip.Tori AmosWelcome to England
  • Favourite albums 2008

    15. Dez. 2008, 19:29

    (in full colour glory with links here http://frmckenzie.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/favourites-albums-2008/)

    What a satisfying feeling to be able to say in mid-December, It’s been a great year for music. The only problem with so much great music is trying to pick your favourites. It’s been a very, very tough task but I’ve finally finished. From 15 to 1 I’ve compiled my favourites. It is utterly thrilling to be so confident that most of these are albums I will love forever. So raise your glass to 2008, it’s been mighty fine.

    15. Neon Neon - Stainless Style

    The eighties never sounded so great. Honestly, this is surely what it should have sounded like. With some extra talent this is how it could have sounded. A great spunky album thick with lively pop songs that sink their hooks into your head for weeks. This is the best possible quality pop music. Hard to work out if they are serious or just having fun. Whatever the intention these are wonderfully crafted tunes that I keep coming back to. Also they were runner up in the Title of the year award.

    I saw her on Alderaan, Dream Cars and Belfast all had me searching for a pair of funky leg warmers.

    14. Cut Copy - In Gost Colours

    This is an album packed with energy and fun. Served with a confident slice of the 80’s and laced with endless dancing possibilities. Having been courted by Lights & Music it was a pleasant and great surprise to discover that there were lots more where that came from. This album was one of the most original of the year. I wouldn’t know who else to compare them to. Electronic meets indie rock meets disco? Who knows? It’s just a bunch of great songs which is why I love it so much.

    Lights & Music , Unforgettable Season and Hearts on Fire will have you wondering why they’re not constantly on the radio and MTV. Actually, maybe they are I never listen to such things.

    13. Bowerbirds - Hymns for a Dark Horse

    Friends and musical chums of the much lauded Bon Iver, the Bowerbirds did not enjoy the media love-in that he did but this is much more my cup of tea. This album has originality, melody and a voice and instrumentation that is both satisfying and thrilling. It’s the irregular drum rhythms that make it stand out to my ears from other folk albums this year.

    Bur Oak, In our Talons and My Oldest Memory enchanted me so much I went to a gig and asked them to sign my CD!

    12. Martha Wainwright - I know you’re married but I’ve got feelings too

    Definitely wins Album Title of the Year in Conorland. This is a sixties folk album for the noughties. Instantly likable and packed with lyrics and melodies so strong you’d never even have to mention she has a brother.

    Bleeding all over you, You cheated me, and Jesus and Mary had me wishing that more people would just quit posing and make more quality music like this.

    11. Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

    This understated gem is a glorious series of simple songs that are deceptively good. It takes about four listens to hear beyond what is overly apparent and it’s a wonderful surprise when you realise that these are songs that are made for long-time listening rather than pleasant background music which is what one may think on first listen.

    Pistachio, Ocean and a rock, and Lille had me making soft contented sighs

    10. R.E.M. - Accelerate

    Whether or not it was a return to form is irrelevant - it’s loud and it’s great! Each short song packs a wallop of a punch and I love to turn it up loud. It’s not an angry loud but rather a release of energy loud. And it sounds as if R.E.M. enjoyed that realease as much as I did.

    Living well is the best revenge, Man-sized wreath and Horse to water had me wondering if my speakers could go even higher.

    9. Mother Mother - O My Heart

    Clearly influenced by Pixies these Canadians managed to avoid sounding like a tribute band and instead borrowed the best parts of Pixies; that delicious bass and the girl/boy rock harmonies and added it to their own quirky musical spice to produce a fabulous album. These songs are gloriously good with some inspired musical twists. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, and it fills part of the hole left by The Chalets. But Mother Mother are their own - don’t get me wrong, and O my heart is a gem!

    Burning Pile, Ghosting and Wrecking Ball had me utterly delighted that such tasty music delights are still hiding out there waiting to be discovered.

    8. The Heart Strings - Try Fly Blue Sky

    Well this was an album I had to fight to get. After reading a gushing on-line review I decided to buy the album without having heard one note. All very well except this album is not available anywhere except one on-line record shop linked on their very fun website. I ordered and waited and when asked what was going on weeks later was send a replacement. This happened a total of three times until I actually finally got the CD. It was exhausting but the sounds I heard totally make up for the hassle. These songs are like a musical version of Dr Seuss’ characters. What I mean is they’re cute, quirky, inspiring and simple yet strangely substantial. I played the album non stop for weeks - I just couldn’t get enough. And when I thought I’d had enough I looked more closely at the words, and that kept me going for another good month. Very fine stuff!

    Pedalo, Nina and her very long hair and Jose Fernandez had me stumped that nobody has ever heard of them. Seriously, sometimes the world makes no sense.

    7. Santogold - Santogold

    Santogold’s album sounds more like someone’s greatest hits rather than debut album. Her songs are just so strong that every one could be released as a single. This lady has one hell of a song-writing knack. She is often compared with M.I.A. which is something I don’t completely hear myself. For me Santogold has a much greater sense of melody, which is why I’m a fan. Santogold’s songs hint that she has many varying influences and she manages to make each song sound different. Interestingly the only M.I.A.esque song on this album is Creator and it’s the only one I don’t like.

    Lights out, L.E.S. artistes and Say aha had me covering myself in gold glitter.

    6.Tegan and Sara - The Con

    Rarely do I come across an album as satisfying as The Con. I find Tegan and Sara’s music difficult to describe as it is not entirely pop although has definite pop elements and not exactly folk although it often exhibits a folk melody in the midst of what is nearer to rock music. What makes it stand out for me is its quirkiness and its indefinable quality. It’s a little gritty, a little clever, exceptionally cool (whatever that means) and packed with brilliant tunes. The Con is a truly magnificent album.

    Relief next to me, Are you ten yeas ago and Like O, Like H had me wishing I had a talented lesbian twin sister.

    5. Ane Brun - Changing of the Seasons

    When you listen to a lot of music it is all too easy not to give a full chance to some albums that fail to deliver immediate value. This is what happened with Ane Brun’s achingly beautiful Changing of the Seasons. I had decided all too quickly that these songs were not as good as her older ones. After a couple of listens I could barely remember a song or distinguish one from the other. But circumstance occurred that had me put it on once or twice a month as the year progressed - and as the seasons changed, I fell in love. This is a delicate and wonderfuly atmospheric album. In fact in many ways it may be the most rounded collection of songs on this list. It’s just that it demands time to appreciate and that is something that people are not inclined to give.

    The Treehouse Song, Gillian and The Fall had me gazing dreamily at the falling leaves.

    4.Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

    Just a fun bunch of catchy songs. It’s as simple as that. Nothing particularly inventive or exciting. But they’re great those songs. They are really, really great. Quite the achievement.

    Oxford Comma, A-Punk and M79 had me jumping up and down and cursing with glee.

    3. Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers

    An instant pop classic Mojo said at the time and I couldn’t agree more. Aimee Mann has always been a terrific song writer and with Smilers she has has managed to make an album consistently brilliant from start to finish. Having had the pleasure of seeing them performed live this year it was noticeable how well they stand up against her older classics. If only more artists could continually produce such quality as their career progressed. She is an inspiration.

    2. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

    The first song I heard from this album was Bones of you and it appealed to me hugely. Later on I listened to the album in full and discovered that Grounds for Divorce was also excellent, incidentally featuring my favourite line of the year ‘I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds for Divorce’. Some time later I fell for An Audience with the Pope only to be dazzled a day later by Weather to Fly. One day, on my own I listened to One Day Like This and was totally overcome by it. It has to be one of the most beautiful love songs written in a very long time. They manage to express without the tiniest bit of over-sentimentalism the happiness you feel when in love. I find it easy to put myself in that position when listening to this song and more than once the feeling is so strong it has moved me to tears. As did Bones of you when, six months after first listening to it, I read the lyrics. Describing how the notes of a song can transport you back to a time of love, a time that’s now gone. Exceptionally described;

    'And I dealt with this years ago

    I took a hammer to every memento

    But image on image like beads on a rosary

    pulled through my head as the music takes hold

    and the sickener hits; I can work till I break

    but I love the bones of you

    That, I will never escape'

    This is a gentle monster of an album. One album like this a year would suit me right, for life!

    Bones of you, Weather to fly and One Day Like This had me either laughing or running for a tissue.

    1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

    This group’s debut is an unusual cross between Simon and Garfunkel, My Morning Jacket and The Beach Boys. They have made what in my opinion is the best album of the year. A modern classic! These songs sound almost timeless. Their almost overpowering harmonies guide you through melodies that are lush and spirit-lifting. The force of this album is how unusual it sounds in today’s music landscape. An excellent ,original piece of music that will be listened to for many long years to come. Stunning!

    White Winter Hymnal, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and Blue Ridge Mountains had be wondering if it really is possible to pick my favourite Fleet Foxes song.
    =====================================================

    And pipped at the post with a photo-finish for spot No. 16 are Last Shadow Puppets, Shearwater and Ra Ra Riot. Bless them.

    —————————————————————————————–

    Previous winners:

    2007 - Cathy Davey -Tales of Silversleeve

    2006 - Kila & Oki - Kila & Oki

    2005 - Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

    2004 - The Innocence Mission - Befriended

    2003 - Autamata - My Sanctuary

    Fleet FoxesStainless StyleIn Gost ColoursHymns for a Dark HorseI Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings TooSea SewAccelerateO My HeartTry Fly Blue SkySantogoldChanging of the SeasonsFleet FoxesThe Seldom Seen Kid@#%&*! SmilersVampire WeekendThe Con
  • Best of 2007

    14. Dez. 2007, 11:05

    Put on your best suit, dust down that tiara, fill up your champagne flute and sit back for this year’s best of list. The votes are in and counted. I’ve simply discarded those that I didn’t agree with and came up with my own bunch anyway. Hey, I have never claimed that Conorland is a democracy!

    Well, all in all, I have felt that 2007 was certainly not a great year for music. There - I’ve said it! Very little to get excited about and lots of disappointments (my beloved Patty Griffin winning my prize for that). There were a lot of pretty good albums but very very few outstanding albums in my opinion. Uncut magazine awarded their best album title to LCD Soundsystem. That says it all - a couple of good tunes sure but it’s an album that will surely be forgotten by March next year. The Arcade Fire won the title from the gone to the dogs Q magazine. That indeed has some great moments but too many weak ones for me to call it a great album. Again, I can’t see it standing the test of time. Maybe Mojo will yet come up with something worthwhile. Still and all, there were a lot of great tracks and many decent albums.

    So for the little that it’s worth I have compiled my yearly favourites. I refuse to worry about petty things such as official release dates and not being eligible. There is also the horror of inevitably discovering lots of greats two months too late but let’s not think too long about such things (and sorry again Thom Yorke for taking so long to discover The Eraser).

    10. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga



    Great funky rock ‘n’ Roll pop! I’m surprised I don’t hear this belting out of more shops and students’ homes. Fabulously tight tracks with the potential for a string of hit singles, if only that kind of thing were still possible. I often find that great music that’s also fun is few and far between - thank God for Spoon I say! Check out Rhthm and Soul and The Underdog to turn your home into the best student nightclub.

    9. Rilo Kiley - Under The Blacklight



    Another album full of hits. This reminds me a lot of Fleetwood Mac (but) in a very good way. Strangely for me, this is again a very uplifting album. Very few songs about splitting up can bee as gleeful as Breaking Up. In many ways the sound here could be deemed old fashioned but unlike many other bands making older-sounding music (half of Britain’s indie bands) if you heard this on the radio your ears would prick up and the hooks would sound refreshingly delightful. It’s kind of like a good G ‘n’T - reliable, refreshing and hard to beat! Let Breakin’ Up and Silver Lining be your slices of lemon.

    8. Over The Rhine - The Trumpet Child



    Subtle brilliance for the noughties. This is a band who have dabbled in more styles of music than Britney Spear’s has been photographed without knickers. When I first heard them, they reminded me somewhat of Tori. On this year’s release they’ve developed their more jazzy slinky side. And it’s gorgeous. I almost have to pinch myself that this album really exists as nobody has seemed to have heard of it or reviewed it. What’s going on? Anyway, who cares - they’ve quietly crafted one of this year’s best. Worth the money alone for the best Tom Wait’s track you’ll hear all year - Don’t Wait for Tom. Don’t let the fact that he had nothing to do with it put you off. It’s fabulously pure Tom

    ‘Workin’ for the circus X railroad bum
    Carnival barker for kingdom dot come
    Dusty ol’ Gibson, opposable thumb
    Bangs out the rhythm on a 50-gallon drum’

    That, I’m on a Roll and The Trumpet Child will be the best silent snow flakes you’ll hear all year

    7. The Innocence Mission - We Walked in Song



    Not so different from their last album Befriended. They’re continuing their mission with their characteristic sound of innocence. Just as exquisite as ever, these are gentle songs punctuated with musical tones that sound like slivers of light in a dark wooden mansion. They have perfected their craft - there isn’t a note out of place and it sounds as if each sound has been written and produced for a wonderful reason. This music isn’t as bubbly as Rilo Kiley or rocking as Spoon but it never fails to make me smile. Even if I may sometimes have watery eyes at the same time and for the same reason. And sure isn’t that what life is all about? The Innocence Mission remains one of my very favourite groups. Check out Love that Boy and Happy Birthday to see if you could ever feel the same.

    6. Tori Amos - American Doll Posse



    I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better Tori album this year. She’s been one of my favourite artists since I first bought Little Earthquakes all those years ago. She’s dibbled and dabbled and plinked and plonked (I know what I mean) in the intervening years and managed to amass a back catalogue of music that would put any artist to shame. What else is there for her to do - she’s set aside the piano, picked up and put down guitars, been plugged and unplugged, had choirs and sang on her own - what’s left to do? Make an absolutely brilliant album that’s what. One that’s chock-a-block with classic Tori songs. It’s an album more for the fans than the casual listener I feel. It has elements of everything I have always loved about Tori and the songs are so diverse - there are some you will adore, some you like less, some you’ll grow to like more a year down the line when someone points out something and no two people will agree on what’s what. I’ve already written way too much about it here. Listen to why Conortje loves Tori by playing Bouncing off Clouds, Father’s Son and Mr Bad Man. She’s an MILF don’t you forget!

    5. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha



    This man is so talented I want him to just touch me to see if some will rub off. Thankfully I restrained myself from actually requesting this when I saw him in concert in Rotterdam in May. But it was hard task let me tell you. His songs are enormous. He juggles words in a way that would have Tom Waits squirming with envy. He also likes science and words that are impossible to spell. All those quirky sounds and funky notes you hear on his records - he’s made them all. It’s incredible to watch him recreate it all live. But it’s his songs that captivate me. Sometimes I get all worked up and excited listening to them - even for the hundred time - as my brain and heart try to keep up. It’s purely delicious. And not just that, it’s nourishing too. Have a slice of Heretics and a spoon of Scythian Empire to keep all sorts of hunger at bay.

    4. The Sounds - Dying to Say this to You



    This album only made it to these shores this year but it was worth the wait. Impossibly infectious bubble gum punk. If you like CSS at all you’ll love this. The songs bounce along after each other and before you know it you’ll be swinging your bits to their hits. They even manage to fit in a gorgeous ballad all the while maintaining their gritty loud and brash style. And boy do they know a good melody. I challenge you not to bounce along merrily to Tony the Beat and Queen of Apology.

    3. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand



    Every tiny last detail about this covers album is perfect. It’s been a very very long time since I’ve heard such a perfect sound. The two voices weave melodies over what has to be the best production of the year, possibly of years. Each note, from each instrument, brings a shade of colour on which the songs float. The sound is reminiscent somewhat of Bob Dylan’s Desire. I guess that is mainly down to the gypsy violin sound (something I am quite partial to). The songs they have chosen here fit snuggly with each other. Wait’s Trampled Rose never sounded better and Sam Phillip’s Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us is breathtakingly impressive and I mean it literally in my case. Killing the Blues is similarly magnificent. This whole album is a treat and most artists who made albums this year could only dream of coming up with something so memorable.

    2. DeVotchKa - How it Ends



    Speaking of perfect - here it comes again. It might seem like it but I honestly do not use this word lightly. This album is actually years old but it only came out in europe this summer and I first heard it then. I fell in love, as you can read about here and here. This really is a magical album. I get the feeling that it is something that could never ever be repeated. The songs are too good - their aching melodies guided by these talented group of musicians who must have let their souls bleed into the music. It is all astounding evocative. Some make me think of a dusty old circus tent (Charlotte Mittnach (the fabulous destiny of), some of Mexican weddings (We’re Leaving) and others of the frailty of life (How it ends).

    “And in your soul they poked a million holes. But you never let them show. Come on, its time to go…” How it Ends

    1. Cathy Davey - Tales of Silversleeve



    When I first heard this album I was happily impressed by what a wonderful bunch of songs it was. And I listened a few times very enthusiastically. Then I moved on and spent about two weeks listening to other music and forgot about Tales of Silversleeve a little. When I put it on again, this time with knowledge of the songs, I heard it in a completely new way and quickly realised just how good this actually is. And it is consistently great! All my top three albums in this list share a similar element in that they hit all buttons. Production, song quality, voice - overall sound. Song and after song Cathy packs a punch. My favourite keeps on changing. Just when I have decided, another one comes on and I think ‘oh yeah, there’s this one too….’. This album really works as a whole - definitely better than the sum of its parts. I can happily isolate a track and dance about my living room to it but together they have a force - a happy, colourful, musical brilliant force that has propelled it to being my favourite album of the year. I fully expect this album to be ridiculously successful when it gets its worldwide release next year. No Heart Today and Moving will have you wondering why Cathy isn’t a megastar. Reuben and Mr Kill will have you realising that she already is, it’s just that most people don’t know that yet.

    Finally before I put this to bed for another year I would like to finally add that Coco Rosie’s The Adventure, Spinvis’ Goochelaars en Geesten, Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars, Bjork’s Volta and Rosin Murphy’s Overpowered also helped keep me warm and happy in 2007.

    Previous winners:

    2006 - Kila & Oki - Kila & Oki

    2005 - Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

    2004 - The Innocence Mission - Befriended

    2003 - Autamata - My Sanctuary

    SpoonGa Ga Ga Ga GaRilo KileyUnder The BlacklightOver the RhineOver the RhineThe Trumpet ChildThe Innocence MissionWe Walked In SongTori AmosAmerican Doll PosseAndrew BirdArmchair ApocryphaThe SoundsDying to Say This to YouRobert Plant and Alison KraussRaising SandDeVotchKaHow It EndsCathy DaveyTales Of SilversleeveTales Of Silversleeve
  • You don't make it easy babe

    31. Okt. 2007, 20:20

    A friend of mine recently confessed that she didn’t like Josh Ritter’s music because she found it bland. Now being a huge fan of the great man I was instantly disappointed but at the same time understanding for I too had been there. I had been a ‘non-believer’.

    For years I just didn’t get the hype. Okay, there really isn’t any hype outside of Ireland – but in Ireland it’s there in spades – the man is gigantically popular and I couldn’t fathom why. I had heard the radio hits and could even sing along if pushed but I couldn’t smell the magic. And then, all of a sudden, one winter morning around the time my father died I found myself singing a song over and over again and it was only after some time that I was able to identify it as one of Josh’s. It was 'California', from the album 'Hello Starling'. It dawned on me what an incredible song this was. And particularly it was the way he sings the line 'California doesn’t seem to think I’m ready yet'. That’s when I finally understood. It made sense. Josh’s music is simple, pure and sincere. It’s not going to knock you on the head with clever tricks and funky bells – no hugely original sounds you’ve not heard before but it is more essentially the sound of man’s soul and this is a million miles from bland. It is in fact the total opposite.

    In the true tradition of the best song writers his song are effortlessly touching and deceptively simple. They are far too easily overlooked. They’re like a friend who you need to get to know well to really love. Strangers will look at them and not see from the surface how unique and wonderful they are. This is Josh Ritter’s music.

    And as for packing a punch he does it all the time if you take off your boxing gloves and let him take a swipe.

    'All the other girls here are stars you are the northern lights'

    from his song 'Kathleen'. Who wouldn’t want somebody to write that about them?

    'birds beneath my window dustying their wings upon the lawn
    Hear ‘em in the morning light a last amen to a migratory song
    they’re never looking round for me—their eyes are on the sky or the ground below
    I’d rather be the one who loves than to be loved and never even know'

    'Snow is Gone' (from 'Hello Starling')

    'Girl in the War' from the album 'The Animal Years' is a song that gets better and better with each listening. A finer written anti-war song I have never heard. And he gives the mp3 away for free – got to love that.

    'I got a girl in the war Paul her eyes are like champagne
    They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain'

    'Do open windows keep the rain away?
    Do open eyes keep the ghosts at bay?
    I thought an open door would bring you in
    I guess I’m going to have to guess again'

    From 'Open Doors'

    I’ve since seen him live twice – both times were stunning. I am fan for life and wonder now why it took me so long. Some times I guess you just need to be ready for it.

    Josh RitterHello StarlingCaliforniaGirl inthe WarGirl in the WarThe Animal YearsKathleen
  • DeVotchKa Amsterdam, 25th of August 2007

    27. Aug. 2007, 20:27

    They were 40 minutes late. An extra 40 minutes in an unventilated small venue on a hot August evening feels like an eternity. People were beginning to act restlessly. There was a slight wave of tension building up and sweat beads began to form on every forehead when they finally came on stage.

    It was incredibly hot. Sizzling. The music and the temperature. What an incredible show. The energy and atmosphere were as close to perfect as possible. The heat and the desperate desire for them to come on stage added to the experience. This is music that deserves a feeling of longing. They themselves looked a gypsy, a rabbi, a wedding singer and an accountant and they managed to make me melt into their dirty, Balkan beatastic music. The singer guzzled red wine straight from the bottle pouring some over his head at one point - probably trying not to overheat. Tom Waits eat your heart out! This is dirty, lusty, meloncholic, tender and thrilling all at once.

    To say that they are an extremely talented group of people is a complete understatement and I had the widest grin possible the whole time they were on. Sweat was dripping off everyone in the small room. Jeanie had her massive sousaphone decorated with party lights in the shape of flowers and looked to be enjoying every single note she played. They picked up new instruments for some songs and swapped some around for others. They had us swaying, rocking, stunned and moved. They are not to be missed live. My love affair has only just begun.

    DeVotchKaDeVotchKa , Amsterdam, 25th of August 2007
  • American Doll Earthquakes

    20. Jul. 2007, 20:47

    In 1992 I was fifteen. I can barely remember what that was like but I am pretty sure I had the world figured out and knew everything that needed to be known. Of course I had to wait another fifteen years for that really to be true :-)

    From a really early age I had always been ridiculously into music starting off with songs from The Jungle Book and Mary Poppins, then graduating to Chris de Burgh (We’re talking about pre Lady in Red days here folks) and then the ultimate… The Beatles. I would also dabble in and out of the charts buying the odd single or album from whoever the kids were swinging their bits to at the time. But back to 1995, I had a part time job in a shop and for the first time in my life had some cash. I saved up and bought my first CD player, the cheapest one in the whole town. At the time the thing most important to me was if you could record CDs on to tapes as there were very few CDs available and I listened to my walkman all the time. So I bought it in a whirl of excitement and then the next step of course was to purchase some CDs. I bought two the same day (a lot of money for me at the time). They were Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes and Van Morrison’s Moondance. The former because I loved Crucify which was getting a lot of airplay in Ireland, and the later because I always had a thing for the title track. I spent hours and hours in my bedroom listening to Little Earthquakes and pouring over the lyrics in the book. If I could draw I would have been able to reproduce every picture in it by memory from that of Tori in a box to the phallic yoke on the back. This was an album about growing up and change and there was I a fifteen year old fully aware that my path was going to take me down the road less travelled.

    That was only the beginning. Tori has continued releasing albums every year or two up until this year’s ninth one, American Doll Posse. Her music has basically been the soundtrack to my life. Right there in the background of leaving school, going to university, being away from home for the first time, first girlfriend, first boyfriend, all the highs and lows, deciding to live in The Netherlands and all the difficulties and fun that brought. Tori’s been my constant. Unlike The Beatles, who I also adore, I have had the privilege of that huge excitement on the release day of a new CD of hers. And I have been to a record shop on the very day of release of all the subsequent eight since that day I bought Little Earthquakes. Her latest was far from a disappointment to me. It has everything I love about Tori in it actually. In fact I find it to be the most 'Tori' album of all of them. It’s quirky, melodic, surprising, touching, unconventional and challenging. It confirms exactly why I love her so much and for me is one of the very best albums this year has produced so far. The day I’d listen comfortably to a Tori album would be a disappointing one indeed. I love how some tracks grab you straight off, some you think ‘nah, don’t think so’ and others ‘hhmmmm has potential’. With each listen the songs swap categories and create new ones of their own. 'Big Wheel' is about as fun a Tori song as I know and I can hardly get enough of it. Likewise 'Bouncing off Clouds' is pop genius. As for melodies 'Father’s Son', 'Mr. Bad Man' and 'Programmable Soda' are among her finest. But get back to me later as the songs bobbing about the end of the CD (especially the final two) are sure to raise objections in time to come. I began writing this to talk about seeing her in concert in Amsterdam last month but I leave that for another time because my enthusiasm has fired me up and I’m off to listen to American Doll Posse again.

    Tori AmosVan MorrisonLittle EarthquakesLittle Doll PosseMoondance
  • The Best of 2006

    7. Dez. 2006, 18:17

    Good music certainly abounded this year. 2006 was definitely packed with hits in Conorland with big releases by big artists such as Paul Simon, Damien Rice and Tom Waits ……. and big releases by the lesser knowns like Camille, M Ward and Guillemots…. The Beatles released yet another repackaged/rehashed CD but this time it was worthy. A very special collection of slightly juggled Beatles tracks that make them shine as if brand new - you can almost pretend that it’s your first time hearing these foundations of modern music!

    I’ve had a year to enjoy and digest it all and I’m ready to announce my nominees for the best in Conorland 2006. I need another week or so to choose the overall winner but it will be one of these - Are you sitting down? Here it comes ………

    Best Album (in no order as yet)

    1. Bell X1 - Flock

    At the start of the year I would have put money on them conquering the word - in fact I have an awful feeling I might have. It would seem the world is going to make them wait a while longer and yet again I remain baffled. Madonna releases an Abba song and is declared a genius while Bell X1 release a masterpiece and are made plod along almost forgotten. Flock is a ridiculously strong and infectious album. From the perky funk of Flame to the superbly smooth Bad Skin Day this album never lets you down. Plus it has one of my favourite rock/pop songs in years Rocky took a lover written about a homeless man the band knew (called Rocky) and his homeless girlfriend - it’s a modern non-christmassy Fairytale of New York and it’s exquisite! Oh and it contains the fabulous line ‘I don’t believe in any old Jesus - if there was a god then why is my arse the perfect height for kicking’.

    2. The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea

    Ahhhh this was the secret jewel of the year. I have yet to meet anyone who has even mentioned this great group to me and yet they are a wonder! I got this album after a gushing review in Uncut and boy was it worth it. Kind of like a poppier Innocence Mission they really know how to write a good and catchy song. Plus I am always a sucker for mixing a man’s voice with a lady’s (Damien Rice/Lisa Hannigan, The Chalets etc) and I love the way they swap lead vocals. Their tunes are so melodic and uplifting it can’t but put a spring in your step - or at least make your ears tickle! Don’t Know Why, Rue de Lis and Slope Song particularly suck you in - from which there’s little chance of escape.

    3. Cortney Tidwell - Don’t Let Stars Keep us Tangles Up

    Who is this lady who seemingly arrived from nowhere with this incredibly special album. You don’t know where she’s going to take you from one song to the next. Don’t try to compare her to anyone because just as you’re about to imagine it might be Bjork she wrecks that idea and leads you up the Stina Nordemstam path only to ditch you at a sharp corner to Morcheeba meets Vic Chesnutt - ah to hell with it - she’s just Cortney and I can’t imagine any star getting her tangled up. I totally fell in love with Our Time, La La and Society (a duet with Kurt Wagner).

    4. Neko Case - Fox Confessor

    After listening to this it’s tempting to think that Neko should just quit now for she could surely never again create an album this great. It is a classic - pure and simple and one that will keep us happy for years. The tunes just keep coming, with this haunting and powerful voice that lifts them from simply being great songs to American anthemic hymns. Star Witness, the absolutely perfect Hold On, Hold On and Maybe Sparrow being my personal favourites. Ahhhh Neko ……..

    5. David Kitt - Not Fade Away

    I was absolutely not expecting this. Little did I think Mr Kitt would ever rise to such heights as to grace my best of year list but with this album he most certainly deserves his place. He’s a quiet star really and it’s perhaps his subtly that I have always found so appealing. Not fade Away however knocks some of that subtly away and what we get is gloriously catchy tunes that have been going round and round in my head for way too long. It took me a couple of listens before I fell in love but when I did it was passionate! One Clear Way, Up to You and Nothing Else had me sending Valentine cards.

    6. Kila & Oki - Kila & Oki

    Now I have loved Kila for years and years - ever since I first heard On Taobh Tuathaill Amach. Their lively blend of Irish trad music with other world music has always been miles better than all the other imposters. Their musicianship is unparalleled and to top it all they know exactly what a good tune is. And because of my long term admiration I bought this new album which features the Japanese musician Oki as soon as it came out without listening to it. To say that it blew me away is an understatement. The words best Irish album in years springs to mind. Kila & Oki rock, they sing, holler, rap, make their instruments soar and their rhythms delicious. They have produced such a fine selection of tunes that my only sore point is that they really really really leave me wanting more. These songs are perfect. Topattumi, Ni Liom Fein and Ororo Raha are good indications of how great this is.

    7. Cansei de Ser Sexy - Cansei de Ser Sexy

    These ladies scare me - honestly. They also make me laugh, a lot. They know how to party that’s for sure. They also know how to create fun, poppy brash songs. Just who could think up songs like Let’s Make Love and Listen Death From Above? As if it wasn’t obvious enough that they don’t take themselves seriously they even have a track called CSS Suxx. It works perfectly as a package for me because of their stompingly good tunes - and you can have hours of fun trying to figure out what it’s all about. Thank god for CSS I say - man cannot live on Waits alone. Fuckoff is not the only thing you have to show, Music is my hot Sex and Alala are particularly ace.

    8. Cerys Matthews - Never Said Goodbye

    and thank God that she never did because we still need her. While her first solo album was sweet and sound this one gets the chance to be a bit rougher - which suits her voice so much more. She hasn’t lost the ability to write a great song and this time gives herself the chance to rock out a wee bit again. It’s a solidly good album that rewards with repeat listening. She might not still be all over the front page but she certainly hasn’t lost it! Streets of New York, Oxygen and Ruby are giving me road rage!

    9. Anna Ternheim - Separation Road/Naked Versions II

    I am including the extra cd that came as a package because without it the album would not make my list. If you consider the two together though they provide enough to thoroughly merit their place here. It’s actually quite baffling to me why some much stronger tracks were relegated to the second bonus CD. Regardless, the fact is that Anna has produced another bunch of perfect tunes. She brings these songs to life with her unique spark that makes it clear that she is not just another singer/songwriter. With a voice that sounds innocent and almost naive she sings words that are anything but. If I hadn’t seen her in person with my own two eyes I wouldn’t believe she is so young. No Subtle Men, Black Widow and Highlands are my personal highlights - although they change regularly as befits songs this good.

    10. Howling Bells - Howling Bells

    Again I picked this up from an Uncut review having previously known nothing. Almost a throw back to my Pixies, Breeders, Belly, Throwing Muses student days this is a rock album to play loud and rejoice in loud melodic tunes. God I love rock chicks! This is a thrashingly good indi-ish album. Low Happening, Setting Sun and Broken Bones will have 4AD weeping.

    So there you have it - my ten for 2006. The ones that are just bubbling under are Josh Ritter - The Animal Years, Beck’s The Information and Sufjan Steven’s The Avalanche. There were many other good albums with some amazing tracks but that I felt were not consistently great such as Basement Jaxx, Junior Boys, and Koop.

    Ane Brun’s - A Temporary Dive, The Chalet’s - Check In and Andrew Bird’s - The Mysterious Production of Eggs were among my favourites this year but seeing as they were all 2005 releases I’ve been a good boy and resisted the urge to include them. If I could and would though they’d be there because all three are excellent!

    Best Song (in no order as yet):

    1. 9 Crimes - Damien Rice

    2. Rocky took a lover - Bell X1

    3. Hold On, Hold On - Neko Case

    4. Hey You - Basement Jaxx

    5. Our Time - Cortney Tidwell

    6. Within You - Ray LaMontagne

    7. Valentine - Delays

    8. LDN - Lilly Allen

    9. Music is my hot sex - Cansei de ser Sexy

    10. Girl in the War - Josh Ritter

    Bell X1The Essex GreenCortney TidwellNeko CaseDavid KittKila & OKICansei de Ser SexyCWCerys MatthewsAnna TernheimHowling BellsJosh RitterBeckSufjan Stevens
  • Sufjan in Amsterdam

    13. Nov. 2006, 10:32

    Having bought the tickets way back in July it was certainly worth the wait. Sufjan set the Paradiso in Amsterdam alight on Saturday night - well him and the nine other musicans. Five brass instruments, electric guitar, drums, banjo, grand piano, another upright one, clarinet and lots and lots of blow up santas and supermans (supermen?). It was a frenzy of music almost two hours long and every last drop was delicious.
    All the musicians and Sufjan himself was dressed up for the ocassion with special winged costumes and a big screen showing super 8 pictures - it just all added to the ambiance of the night. Sufjan also had a badge for Michigan and a badge for Illinois on his shirt - I wonder if he plans to fill it up the rest as the years progress. My personal highlights were the new song Majesty Snowbird, The Dress Looks Nice on You and John Wayne Gacy Jr and of course the story he told about the Predatory Wasp. John Wayne Gacy Jr. was so delicate and heartfelt it was incredibly beautiful - quite amazing really considering the topic. The last thing Sufjan said was ‘I hope we touched your heart tonight’ and without any doubt he certainly did. It was a very very special and unique evening. Here’s the set list;

    1. Sister
    2. The Transfiguration
    3. Man of Metropolis
    4. Jacksonville
    5. A Short Reprise for Mary Todd..
    6. Casimir Pulaski
    7. A Good Man Is Hard To Find
    8. Detroit
    9. Predatory Wasp of the Pallisades..
    10.Seven Swans
    11. That Was The Worst Christmas Ever
    12. Dear Mr. Supercomputer
    13. Majesty Snowbird
    14. Chicago

    Encore

    15. Concerning the UFO sighting
    16.John Wayne Gacy Jr.
    17. The Dress Looks Nice On You


    As if one great concert wasn’t enough I had the good fortune to see Cortney Tidwell and Tunng the next night in Rotterdam. Cortney was wonderful in her short set which really left you wanting more and more. Afterwards I met her and she signed my CD and even gave me a hug and a kiss - what an incredibly sweet lady! Tunng were very unusual to say the least - English folk music with electronic samples - quite fun and melodic actually and featured amongst others a man playing seashells with his toes, horses teeth and a lady playing a toy butterfly and a weird drum with a tail (you’d have to see it to believe). A fabulous weekend all round really ………………..

    Sufjan StevensTunngCortney Tidwell