Sunday, 8 December 2019

Memories of 2019 gigs #1-2

You probably won't have noticed, but the one thing I have been doing during my extended hiatus is working on my gig list and keeping it up-to-date. It's been a strange year for shows really. There haven't been as many as in recent years, they've all been in Cardiff and most of them have been for, what you might call, 'bands of a certain vintage'.

I know some of you used to enjoy my gig reviews, so I'm devoting Sundays this month to my live experiences of 2019, starting with these:

The Coral
Tramshed - Thursday, 14th March 2019
Support: Cut Glass Kings, Marvin Powell

I said once before on this blog - I fucking love the Coral. But, somewhat bizarrely, I had never seen them live before this year. Can you believe that? Shocking. So I was excited for this one. Both support acts are signed to the Coral's own label, though we arrived too late for opener Marvin Powell. We walked in to a gargantuan noise in the form of Cut Glass Kings, a two-piece in the mould of Black Keys and Royal Blood. And that's pretty much what they sounded like, to be honest. Some good tunes too.

My anticipation of seeing the Coral might well have led to disappointment. They are one of the most consistently brilliant singles bands of the past 20 years, and most of their albums are top notch too - 2016's 'The Distance Inbetween' being the highlight IMO. Such a solid back catalogue should lead to a cracking live set, shouldn't it? Thankfully, there was no disappointment. What a good band The Coral are live. Forget that the set was rammed with classics, crowdpleasers and all the best of the recent material - this was one of the tightest, best-sounding shows I've been to in recent years.

I often point out highlights in my reviews, but that would be impossible in this case. I've taken the liberty of including the setlist below so you can see what they played. If you're a Coral fan you'll probably wet yourself.

Sweet Release, Chasing the Tail of a Dream, Something Inside of Me, Outside My Window, She’s a Runaway, Jacqueline, Pass It On, Bill McCai, In the Morning, Holy Revelation, Miss Fortune, In the Rain, 1000 Years, Reaching Out for a Friend, Eyes Like Pearls, Heart Full of Soul (Yardbirds cover), Stormbreaker. Encore: Goodbye, Dreaming of You.

Here's a sublime, beautifully rich rendition of Eyes Like Pearls. Stunning!

The Wedding Present
Tramshed - Thursday, 2nd May 2019
Support: The Flatmates

Yeah yeah, another year, another Wedding Present gig. Nothing to see here? Well, maybe, maybe not, but think about this - and prepare yourselves... this was the tour to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the band's second album 'Bizarro'. Let that sink in a moment - THIRTY YEARS since the release of 'Bizarro'. If that depresses you, I suggest you go and give the record a spin at high volume. It'll make you feel better.

As if that isn't enough to make you feel old, the re-emergence of fellow C86-ers The Flatmates surely must evoke some distant memories in some of you. There was bound to have been some murmurs of "Now this is what you call music, not like the crap you hear today..." etc from certain members of the audience. To be fair, I never really got into the Flatmates - this was a time when I was in flux between being in school having crap music taste to going to college and discovering the Wedding Present, so I guess they flew under my radar first time around. They did only release five singles at the tail end of the 80s so that's understandable I suppose. But there were still plenty of knowing smiles in the crowd when Happy All The Time was aired.

The boy Gedge has tweaked the Wedding Present line-up yet again, but drummer Charles Layton is revealed as being the longest-serving member of the band bar Gedge himself, having been a constant fixture behind the kit for a whole decade now. However, I'm not sure how old the female members of this line-up would have been when 'Bizarro' came out...

Of course, all songs from that record were played in order, although they were interspersed with choice cuts from the Wedding Present's vast back catalogue - some obvious, but many not so (I mean, when was the last time they opened with two b-sides like Dan Dare and Nothing Comes Easy?). But that's the beauty of a Wedding Present gig nowadays, you always know what you're going to get, while never really knowing what you're going to get

While performance-wise this wasn't one of the best Weddoes shows I've been to, it was still a Wedding Present show, so hugely enjoyable.

Very little decent live footage from 2019 online, but I found this from a show in Sweden later in the tour. I'm sure it won't disappoint...

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Class of 2019 [1]

Off we go then. To start off, here's a taste of what's to come this month - a few of my very fave records of 2019. I've been buying plenty of vinyl ("Too bleddy much!" ~ MrsRobster) and here's a few that have graced the turntable more than a few times...

Fontaines D.C. - 'Dogrel'
If you haven't become intimately acquainted with Dublin's finest this year, then really, where have you been? I hate to say I told you so and all that, but I did big them up last year when I saw them support Shame. Although, I did get their nationality wrong... oops! Anyway, I could play Boys In The Better Land on a constant loop 24/7 for a month and still not tire of it! The debut album 'Dogrel' is an absolute blast - but then, if you have any sense, you'll know that already, right? My album of the year...

And running a very, very close second...

Stella Donnelly - 'Beware of The Dogs'
Another debut and another stunner, although in a very different way. Stella Donnelly has the most gorgeous voice, so sweet it can melt even the hardest of hearts. But beneath the surface, it's clear Stella has scores to settle, as some of the songs on 'Beware Of The Dogs' reveal. One of my biggest disappointments of 2019 is not getting tickets for Stella's show in Cardiff - it sold out super quick! Lunch is one of my top three songs of the year - simply wonderful. Oh, and you'd be right in detecting the Australian tinge in her voice (she's lived there since early childhood), though Stella is actually one of our own - she was born in the (Old) South Wales town of Morriston. There's a really nice full-band version of Lunch here, but I actually prefer this captivating stripped down version:

Le Butcherettes - 'bi/MENTAL'
You know I love Le Butcherettes, don't you. Five albums in now for the Mexican maestroes, and I reckon this is their masterpiece - no doubt their best set of songs to date. Teri is still gloriously bonkers too which adds to the appeal. give/UP is my fave track, but there isn't a duff one on there if I'm honest. There's a new EP due in February so keep your eyes and ears open for that.

Aldous Harding - 'Designer'
Talking of bonkers... New Zealand's Aldous Harding flew under my radar until she released The Barrel this year. Intrigued, I bought her third album 'Designer' and now I can't get enough. Very understated her music may be, but there aren't many singer-songwriters out there with as much startlingly original talent as her around. In this video, she makes Teri of Le Butcherettes seem shy, reserved and rather conservative... Nowadays she lives in Cardiff (yay!) with local legend Huw Evans, who you may know as H. Hawkline.

That'll do for now. See you at the weekend for some gigs.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

December Will Be Magic Again (or the slight return of ITTL?)

...and from out of the darkness, it returned...

Don't get too excited. I'm not back for long. I just have a few things I want to say and then I'll be on my way again. I have to be honest, in my year off from blogging, I haven't missed it one jot. I've actually found it quite liberating not having to think about it, which merely confirms that letting it lay dormant was absolutely the right thing to do. It had become a chore, not something I enjoyed. That also goes for not visiting or commenting on other blogs (though I have secretly dropped in on one of two of them in that time).

So what's prompted a revival of ITtL? Well, there has been some amazing music this year and I wanted to share with you what I've been listening to. I've been preparing some pieces since the autumn as I didn't think I could be arsed to sit down and trot them all out in a week. It also means I don't put pressure on myself and end up hating writing. It also doesn't matter if no one reads it - I'm doing this for me, simply to satisfy an urge, nothing more. But hey, if you are reading, do say hello in the comments. I actually missed you guys.

So I've therefore decided that twice a week up to the New Year I'll share some music and thoughts with you - the music I've been listening to, the records I've bought, the gigs I've been to and one or two other things I think of as I go. After that, I'll probably crawl back under my comfy little rock and hibernate again.

So by way of announcing my underwhelming comeback, I thought I'd post another one... Sleeper released 'The Modern Age', their first record since 1997's 'Pleased To Meet You' this year. It was everything I expected of a Sleeper album: two or three decent songs and quite a bit of below average filler. That pretty much sums up their career. This was by far the highlight of the thing - the comeback single Look At You Now. Nowt different for them but a good choon nonetheless.

I have better stuff lined up, I promise...

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Best of 2018 #7

Here's three of my favourite songs of 2018 that don't feature on my fave albums of the year.

Echo And The Bunnymen - The Somnambulist
(The highlight of a rather strange album of remakes of old Bunnymen songs. The fact this was one of two new songs on it shows they don't need to retread the old days, they should just keep moving forward.)

Hatchie - Sure
(I featured this one earlier in the year, so here's an also-rather-excellent live version.)

Boy Azooga - Loner Boogie
(Another one I posted a while back so another live version for you. Apparently, Davey was shitting himself (his words) when they did this, but they didn't do a bad job considering...)

And finally... a couple more best ofs...

TheRobster's top 3 gigs of 2018:
1. The Breeders - Very close, but being in the presence of the genius that is Kim Deal edges it every time!
2. Idles - Absolutely immense.
3. Shame - Two or three others almost made the list, but Shame really were special.

MrsRobster's albums of the year:
I knew I was asking for trouble. For all her wonderful qualities, MrsRobster is not known for her decisiveness. So asking her to choose her top 3 albums of the year was like asking Theresa May to come up with a good Brexit deal. She narrowed it down to 10, but couldn't choose three from them. So in no particular order, she went for:

Idles - 'Joy As An Act Of Resistance'
Estrons - 'You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough'
The Wombats - Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life'
Shame - 'Songs Of Praise'
Spring King - 'A Better Life'
The Beths - 'Future Me Hates Me'
Teleman - 'Family Of Aliens'
James - 'Living In Extraordinary Times'
Muse - 'Simulation Theory'
Slaves - 'Acts Of Fear And Love'

MrsRobster's top 3 gigs of the year:
She did a bit better with the gigs but still couldn't get it down to three. She has her top 2, and the other three are tied in third:

1. Ride - Certainly in my own top 5 but just missed the top 3
2. Public Service Broadcasting - A bit predictable. She just LOOOOOOOOOOVES the PSB boys.
3=. Idles
3=. Shame
3=. Estrons - The other one from my top 5, a great way to end the year.

And that's it from me for 2018. And, in fact, for the foreseeable. I had planned to do another Bowie Week in January, and put the blog on an indefinite hiatus after its fifth birthday in February. But instead, I'm calling it a day now. I'm bored of the thing and need to stop.

So until I have something to say that I feel you may be everso slightly interested in, I declare Is This The Life? closed for business. Thanks for everything - the support, the contributions, the fun. Have a good holiday everyone. Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Best of 2018 #6

Final lot of my top album releases of the year, but there's still another post to come tomorrow.

Cabbage - 'Nihilistic Glamour Shots'

Half Man Half Biscuit - 'No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut'

Slaves - 'Acts Of Fear And Love'

Friday, 21 December 2018

Best of 2018 #5

Yet another selection of my fave albums of 2018...

Amber Arcades - 'European Heartbreak'

Blackwater Holylight - 'Blackwater Holylight'

Spear Of Destiny 'Tontine'

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Best of 2018 #4

Bored of this yet? Hope not. Three more of my fave albums of the year...

The Coral - 'Move Through The Dawn'

Gwenno - 'Le Kov'

The Wombats - 'Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life'

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Best of 2018 #3

Today's triptych of totally top tunes from 2018. Or something...

Emma Ruth Rundle - 'On Dark Horses'

Shame - 'Songs Of Praise'

Goat Girl - 'Goat Girl'

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Best of 2018 #2

Here's the next triple billing in my Best of 2018 non-articles... Three more I bought on lovely coloured vinyl (see above).

The Beths - 'Future Me Hates Me'

Estrons - 'You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough'

(and here's a bonus one for MrsRobster, 'cause she really likes this song...)

Belly - 'Dove'

Monday, 17 December 2018

Best of 2018 #1

I was going to do my usual round-up of the year, but the malaise that bit me at the end of last year is getting worse and I really cannot be arsed to write anything. So instead, I'm just going to post three videos a day for a week that represent my albums of the year. No particular order (though for reference, Idles tops the list, closely followed by the Breeders) and no write ups. You'll notice the overwhelming prevalence of female and female-fronted acts, continuing the trend of recent years. Ladies, take a bow.

Today and tomorrow, I'm featuring the six new albums I purchased on limited edition coloured vinyl (as per the pic above). I bought a few nice reissues as well (Pixies, Super Furry Animals, etc) but obviously they don't count. Here's today's trio.

Idles - 'Joy As An Act Of Resistance'

The Breeders - 'All Nerve'

Courtney Barnett - 'Tell Me How You Really Feel'