Saturday 31 January 2015

The Genius Of... Jack White #6

#6: Icky Thump by The White Stripes

The White Stripes sixth and sadly final album 'Icky Thump' was their most musically diverse and, depending on my mood, my favourite. It marked a return to the stripped-back garage rock sound of their earlier work, but also featured a range of styles. Its title track, for instance, was raw enough, but it was owed a lot more to heavy rock than the blues and folk of their early days; more Led Zeppelin than Leadbelly.

It also saw Jack White adopt a political stance, attacking American immigration policy. The band had largely steered clear of politics throughout their career, but this was obviously an issue Jack felt strongly enough about to not only tackle it on the album's opener, but make it the lead single as well.

Icky Thump wasn't the obvious track to lead the album, nor the one you would have said would be the band's biggest selling (it went platinum in the States), but it turned out to be an inspired choice. It became the White Stripes' biggest hit on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US, it peaked at number 26, while in the UK it made number 2, held off the top slot by Rihanna's Umbrella! It was, to these ears at least, a great track reminiscent of their pre-superstardom years.

Friday 30 January 2015

50 songs to take to my grave #25: She Sells Sanctuary

I have a feeling this one isn’t going to go down too well with some readers, but I include it with good reason. Whatever your feelings about the Cult, there’s something about She Sells Sanctuary that brings out my inner rocker. Oddly, it also brings out MrsRobster’s inner rocker too, and I never realised she had one!

It takes me back to a difficult period in my life – the late 80s – when I was struggling to ‘find myself’, whatever the fuck that means. I found a sanctuary from my troubles in music and a group of friends who were into rock and metal. We used to go to clubs when they had a Rock Night or where the DJ would play a few rock records for us between the awful bilge the masses craved. She Sells Sanctuary was one of my fave tracks during this period (although it had been released a few years before) and in some ways provided a soundtrack to the things I was going through.

  “The world drags me down.”

Indeed, it was dragging me down. My mum was falling ill and I was falling for someone very bad for me. Neither ended well.

  “I’m sure in her you’ll find sanctuary.”

As I said, music was my sanctuary so the ‘her’ in the lyrics was essentially personification of this wonderful art form I immersed myself in day after day.

Ultimately it’s just a great song, one of those that MrsRobster is more likely to turn up rather than down when it comes on in the car. And that, my friends, is about as high an accolade as it is possible to get. Not even the haters among you can outdo that!

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Welsh Wednesday #21

#21: Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman by Future Of The Left

As I mentioned Monday, MrsRobster and I (ably accompanied by our mate Colin) will be seeing Future Of The Left this coming weekend. They are one of my favourite bands around at the moment and they're local, hailing as they do from Cardiff. They were always going to feature in this series, but the dilemma was which track to go for.

I plumped for Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman, a dig at the ever-increasing over-commercialisation of pop music. It opened 2012's 'The Plot Against Common Sense' album which was one of my fave records of that year, and also won the Welsh Music Prize against some particularly stiff opposition.

The song itself is hilarious, but its video is especially so. I suggest watching it a few times, paying particular attention to a different band member each time (especially drummer Jack, though I suspect many of you will prefer to gawp at the lovely Julia...). Really looking forward to Saturday night, expecting my ears to bleed and my sides to split!

Monday 26 January 2015

Independent Venue Week

This week is the second Independent Venue Week. Launched in 2014, IVW celebrates and champions the small, independently run live music venues across the UK. These places really are the lifeblood of our music scene and without them we really would be in trouble - completely at the mercy of the soulless corporations who seem intent on sterilising the variety and diversity we have, distilling it into easily consumable product for the masses. Yet sadly, small independent venues continue to struggle. Far too many awesome places have closed over the years, so we really should be supporting them.

Here's our chance. Visit the Independent Venue Week website and check out what's happening near you this week. If you can get along to a show, DO IT! I'll be hotfooting it along to Cardiff's Clwb Ifor Bach on Saturday night to see a hometown show by the brilliant Future Of The Left (who will feature in this week's Welsh Wednesday post).

The first time I went to Clwb Ifor Bach was in October 2011 to see Emmy The Great. This was during the looooong period that MrsRobster and I didn't get out much, restricting ourselves to a mere one or two gigs a year! However, the last two years have been much more fruitful now the Sprogsters are older. The majority of the 18 shows we've taken in since the start of 2013 have been at small independent venues. In fact, since that Emmy The Great show, I've returned to Clwb to see Masters In France, Public Service Broadcasting, Young Knives, Shonen Knife, Drenge and Eagulls. Along with the Globe (my fave Cardiff venue, also a tiny little place), it has become a semi-regular haunt. It's also crucial to the Welsh music scene in particular, and a passionate supporter of the Welsh language.

There are, of course, plenty of other small indie venues I've visited over the years. My all time favourite has to be Exeter's Cavern, a place I loved as much as my own home. I was also lucky enough to play there myself on a couple of occasions. It's still going, and I hope will continue to do so for many years.

Today's tunes, then: Frank Turner is Independent Music Week's official ambassador so you're getting one of his tunes. The other choice is by Emmy The Great in memory of my first time at Clwb Ifor Bach. I very strongly urge you to listen to her new single Swimming Pool if you haven't done so already. It is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Support your live venues folks. You'll never know how much you'll miss them until they're gone and replaced by Carling this and O2 that. Ugh! The very thought makes me feel quite nauseous...


Saturday 24 January 2015

The Genius Of... Tim Smith #6

 #6: In A City Lining by Cardiacs

In 1988, Cardiacs released 'A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window', their fourth album. It is, however, widely regarded as their debut being the first to be released on a format other than cassette. Yep, lovely vinyl. Mmmmmm... It was their best sounding record to date and featured a number of long-time faves from their live set, re-recordings of tracks that featured on the low-budget cassette albums from previous years, and a sprinkling of new songs. All these were the definitive versions.

In A City Lining had appeared on the live album 'Rude Bootleg' a couple years before but this was its first (and only) studio outing. It's another six minutes of madness - multiple time signatures, key-changes, speeding up, slowing down, stopping, starting, gleaming, shining... it's a rout, a tour-de-farce, a load of complete nonsense, and a total and utter delight.

It's hard to pick a highlight from 'A Little Man And A House...'. OK, no it's not - that has to be Is This The Life, the song that got me into them in the first place. In A City Lining runs it a close second though, probably. It's great fun of course, but also another audacious display of Mr Smith's specialness.

Friday 23 January 2015

50 songs to take to my grave #24: Night Terror

There’s at least one track on each of Laura Marling’s four albums that made me go ‘wow!’ when I first heard them. There’s one that still sends shivers down my spine.

Night Terror actually first appeared on the 'My Manic & I' EP in 2007 when Laura was a mere 17 years of age. SEVEN-bloody-TEEN! It is a remarkable achievement for someone so young, proving what a special talent she is. The first I heard of her was when she released her debut album the following year. Night Terror was included and it really did give me a tingly feeling. It’s one of those dark, eerie, desolate songs that requires no embellishment. Neither does it need much explaining – listening to it you either get it or you don’t.

Laura Marling is an extraordinary talent, with four critically-acclaimed albums to her name and a string of awards and nominations, and she’s still only 24. A new album, 'Short Movie', is due in March. According to recent interviews she’s been contemplating withdrawing from the industry, feeling she’s revealing too much of herself in her songs. It would be a great loss as she has so much more to offer. Night Terror is not a song most people would choose to console themselves, but if she does call it a day, it’ll be this one I’ll be playing to mark her retirement, and for some time to come.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Welsh Wednesday #20

#20: I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well by The Pooh Sticks

A classic bit of twee indiepop for you today from Swansea's The Pooh Sticks, a band who were famously two-thirds fictitious! While Huw Williams and Steve Gregory were real enough, the other four 'band members' - Paul, Alison, Trudy Tangerine and Stephanie Bass-Drum - existed only as credits on the band's records; though there are 'full band' photos from the era (see above), my guess is some of them were just staff at the record label or mates. Oh, and thinking about it, Steve wasn't technically 'in the band' either. He ran the label, wrote the songs and produced the records.

John Peel championed their early releases, including this charming little track from 1988 which ridiculed the very indie scene into which they dived headlong. It still raises a wry smile all these years later. In fact, the Pooh Sticks weren't averse to taking the piss. Those early records were pressed in ridiculously limited quantities, recorded in mono and actually weren't very good, musically speaking. But that was probably the point as a lot of indiepop from that period sounded pretty terrible.

In the early 90s the Pooh Sticks became a proper band and changed direction, adopting an American power-pop sound before splitting in 1995. They remain fondly remembered.

Monday 19 January 2015

From Inside The Pod Revisited #7

I've made much of the part R.E.M. has played in my life on this blog, but back when I was doing From Inside The Pod, they broke up. I marked the news by compiling a podcast of R.E.M. cover versions. It was one of my most popular postings when it first appeared.

Here it is again for your enjoyment, complete with the original notes. Enjoy.

Pod 19: A Carnival Of Sorts
(first published 23 September 2011)

REM split up this week. In a way I'm glad. They kind of lost the plot a while ago, and of the last five albums, there's only one I think I can honestly say I truly like - 2008's 'Accelerate'.

But I used to love REM. I mean really, really, really love them. When I was 16, a mate at college lent me the cassette of 'Document'. It was REM's fifth album, but the first thing I had ever heard by them. It blew me away, and for the next 15 years or so, I was a hopeless addict, a "DiStiple". When I think of the time and money I spent tracking down rare early singles, promos, collectables, bootlegs, videos... you name it, if REM had as much as breathed on it, I had to have it.

When Bill Berry left, something changed but I carried on regardless, defending the rather bloated 'Up' album in 1998 to the hilt. But when 'Reveal' came out in 2001, I just couldn't do it any longer. It was a poor, poor record by their standards, and by then, I had discovered the White Stripes who were infinitely more exciting. I hoped it was a one-off, but sadly, 'Around The Sun' was so stupendously dire, it was the first REM record I never bought. The candle was burning out.

Today, I still listen to 'Document', 'Lifes Rich Pageant' and 'Fables of the Reconstruction' (my top 3) with great fondness, and all those 80s records, going right back to Radio Free Europe in 1981, really mattered. REM mean a lot to me for all kinds of personal reasons too (which I won't bore you with here), but the time was right to call it a day.

So, as a mark of respect, I dedicate this very special, hastily-compiled podcast to one of the most important and influential rock & roll bands of my lifetime. A collection of REM covers by a myriad of artists ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, which in essence I suppose kind of sums up REM's career. I've tried to avoid most of the obvious ones - great songs they may be, but I'm just so utterly sick to death of Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts and Man On The Moon - and in the interests of brevity (a technique REM should have employed a little more often in their later years), I've kept it to 9 tracks which still takes it over the magic 30-minute mark.

The eagle-eyed among you may notice that for the first time there is no Welsh artist here. That's because I couldn't find any good REM covers by Welsh acts. The nearest I got was Feeder's Everybody Hurts, but aside from it being one of those aforementioned tracks, it really wasn't very good. However, Gene vocalist Martin Rossiter is Welsh. Not enough to merit a little Welsh flag though...

Finally, I could find no covers of any REM songs post-'Monster'. That in itself is telling...

1. Editors Orange Crush (2006, 'Q: Covered - 86/06')
original from 'Green', 1988
R.E.M.'s first Top 40 hit in the UK, it saw them debut on Top Of The Pops. At the song's conclusion, the moronic presenter that evening said: "Mmm, that would be nice on a hot day - 'Orange Crush' by R.E.M.", completely missing that the song was about chemical warfare and the use of the nerve gas Agent Orange in the Vietnam war! Editors' brilliant full-blooded cover was so well liked by Messrs Stipe, Buck and Mills that they returned the compliment and covered the Birmingham band's single Munich.

2. The Decemberists Cuyahoga (2011, free download only)
original from 'Lifes Rich Pageant', 1986
The latest album from the Portland, OR. folkies was not only heavily influenced by R.E.M., but also featured a certain Peter Buck. This version of Cuyahoga simply oozes the folk traditions the band tries to emulate while staying true to the utterly wonderful original which is one of my faves.

3. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Stand (1999, 'Plays the Music Of R.E.M.')
original from 'Green', 1988
The RPO have made a number of tribute albums, most of which are patchy, but contain the occasional gem. This is undoubtedly one of those gems. It's so unashamedly upbeat, it makes the original sound almost funereal!

4. Weezer Oddfellow's Local 151 (2008, b-side of Pork And Beans)
original from 'Document', 1987
'Document' has to go down as one of the most significant records in my life. It was my epiphany in so many ways. The first time I heard Stipe's rasping voice I was unsure what to make of it, but by the time the album's closer came around, with its almost desperate strains of "FIIIRRRRRRREHOOOOOOUUUUUUUSE!", I was totally convinced this was a band I would adore for a long time to come. Weezer's Rivers Cuomo doesn't attempt to emulate Stipe's conviction, but the menacing muted guitars are retained.

5. Grant-Lee Phillips So. Central Rain (2006, 'nineteeneighties')
original from 'Reckoning', 1984
This has to be right up there with the Editors on my list of best R.E.M. covers. While the original shimmers with Buck's Rickenbacker arpeggios, Grant-Lee Phillips' beautiful rendering adds a dark, almost vulnerable tenderness to the song and seems to also incorporate an element of Drive from 'Automatic For The People'.

6. The Moog Cookbook The One I Love (1996, 'The Moog Cookbook')
original from 'Document', 1987
I know I said I'd tried to avoid the obvious songs, but I just couldn't resist this. If it doesn't make you grin like a fool, you're probably dead. The Moog Cookbook were a duo who used nothing but vintage analogue Moog synths in their music. They released a couple of covers albums in the 90s, this version of R.E.M.'s breakthrough hit appearing on their debut.

7. Gene Nightswimming (1997, b-side of Where Are They Now?)
original from 'Automatic For The People', 1992
Despite being touted as a Britpop band, Gene had an awful lot more about them than the vast majority of others in that short-lived scene, releasing some of the best singles of the decade. The Morrissey-esque delivery of Martin Rossiter was definitely suited to Michael Stipe's paen to skinny-dipping in the dark.

8.Pavement Camera (1994, b-side of Cut Your Hair)
original from 'Reckoning', 1984
Californian indie legends who were simultaneously loved by fans and critics and loathed by the likes of Mark E. Smith, Billy Corgan and Beavis & Butthead! This re-styling of Camera featured on their classic single Cut Your Hair and features some rather, erm, challenging vocal work from Stephen Malkmus...

9. Blanche Find The River (2007, 'Drive XV: A Tribute To Automatic For The People')
original from 'Automatic For The People', 1992
At one time voted the best R.E.M. song of all time by fans, Find The River closed their biggest-selling and most well-known album, and it somehow feels appropriate to round off this tribute to the band's amazing career. This version appeared on a Stereogum covers project for 'Automatic For The People''s 15th anniversary, and is performed by Detroit's very wonderful Blanche who really do need to release a third album soon. It's been too long.

Saturday 17 January 2015

The Genius Of... David Gedge #6

#6: My Favourite Dress by The Wedding Present

Probably the first true sign of David Gedge's talent. My Favourite Dress was released as the Wedding Present's fourth single in 1987 and later that year featured (in a slightly altered form) on the debut album 'George Best'. It displays everything you need to know about Gedge's approach to songwriting, particularly in those early days.

Musically, it sums up what the Wedding Present were all about - jangly guitars, simple three-chord structures and that all-important extended coda. Lyrically, it's trademark Gedge. Our hero has been stood up, only to spot his girlfriend in the arms of another man:

  Uneaten meals, a lonely star
  A welcome ride in a neighbour's car
  A long walk home in the pouring rain
  I fell asleep when you never came
  Some rare delight in Manchester town
  It took six hours before you let me down
  To see it all in a drunken kiss
  A stranger's hand on my favourite dress
  That was my favourite dress you wore

My Favourite Dress was one of the first songs I ever taught myself to play on guitar (yes, it's that simple) and has remained a huge fave of mine over the years. On occasion I've shamefully forgotten what a good song it is. One listen, and I'm hooked once more.

Friday 16 January 2015

50 songs to take to my grave #23: White Lines (Don't Do It)

I don't really feel qualified to write about rap music as it isn't a genre I've ever really taken to. There are obvious exceptions though.

White Lines (Don't Do It) dates from 1983, yet surprisingly it stands up pretty well even today. OK, so rap music has moved on in leaps and bounds since those early days, but so have many genres. This doesn't stop some early masterpieces becoming timeless. White Lines has a fascinating back-story. For starters, it is often miscredited to Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel. This is because the record label, Sugarhill, deliberately tried to mislead the public. Grandmaster Flash had left the label by this point yet they were keen to cash in on the success he enjoyed while at Sugarhill.

The record was also the subject of a major lawsuit. The backing track, featuring that instantly recognisable bassline, was recorded by the Sugarhill house band and was an instrumental cover of a song called Cavern by New York post-punk band Liquid Liquid. It was their record label 99 Records who successfully sued Sugarhill for unauthorised use of the song. Unfortunately, they never received a penny as shortly after the case concluded, Sugarhill went into receivership.

I vaguely remember White Lines back when it came out. I was a 12-year-old football fan who really didn't know what to make of this new kind of music. I was pretty sure I didn't much care for it, but this song seemed to get stuck in my head somewhat annoyingly. It is ridiculously catchy and contains a number of killer riffs. As well as that bassline, the hyperactive horns in the chorus just hook into your subconscious and send you spinning. Then there's the backing vocals, those Twist & Shout-style "aaaahhhs" add an element of suspense as Melle Mel instructs us to "get higher, baby". More than 30 years later (yeah, I know - thirty!), it still sounds like a great record for these reasons. And its subject matter is still sadly relevant.

Don't ever come down.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Welsh Wednesday #19

#19: 531 Miles From Aberdeen To Cardiff by Barefoot Dance Of The Sea

I saw Barefoot Dance Of The Sea just before Christmas at a Gruff Rhys show in Cardiff. Supporting that night was Martin Carr - yes, him formerly of Boo Radleys - and he was accompanied by these three young ladies as backing singers. I'm not sure if they only played this hometown show or whether they did the whole tour with Mr Carr.

What they did do was add a little depth to the set with their tight three part harmony vocals. But Barefoot Dance Of The Sea are a band in their own right. Their debut album 'Beneath Closed Eyes' came out in 2012 and is a lovely example of harmony singing in the finest folk tradition backed with sparse, minimal instrumentation, often nothing more than a ukulele or a trusty acoustic guitar. It was also recorded completely live which makes it even more worthy of a thumbs up.

531 Miles From Aberdeen To Cardiff was originally their first release, featuring on a split 7" in 2011, and later appeared on that debut album.

Monday 12 January 2015

Vintage Vinyl #5

Jane Wiedlin - Rush Hour 7" picture disc
Bought from: Kelly's Records, Cardiff
Price paid: £3

My trips to Kelly's have yielded some interesting results. This item was picked up just as I ran out of browsing time during a recent visit. It was in the final box I looked in and near the back. I saw it and bought it almost instantly.

Jane Wiedlin was my favourite Go-Go in terms of cuteness, even though Belinda Carlisle has the better track record in terms of their respective solo careers. Rush Hour was the first single off Wiedlin's second album 'Fur' and was the standout track on an otherwise ropey record. In fact, Rush Hour was one of the 80s best songs in my opinion. It's a terrific pop record and still holds up today, in spite of that dated 80s production.

I really liked Rush Hour when it first came out in 1988, but as I was discovering 'cool' music at the time, probably felt it was not the sort of record I should be buying. Such a fool was I. I've put that right now, and in picture disc form too!


Saturday 10 January 2015

The Genius Of… Jack White #5

#5: There’s No Home For You Here by The White Stripes

In 2003, the White Stripes became the hottest property in rock music. Seven Nation Army became the anthem of the year, and its album ‘Elephant’ topped the charts and was critically lauded by just about everybody. In March 2004, a piece of 7” vinyl snuck out almost unnoticed; the fourth single from ‘Elephant’. It was the band’s most grandiose offering yet.

Dare I suggest There's No Home For You Here sounds like a Queen song at the start! That multi-layered vocal could have been lifted straight off any song from ‘Queen II’. Of course, we’d become well aware by now that Jack’s influences stretched far beyond the blues guitarists and garage bands that were clearly central to the White Stripes’ early sound, but it was also becoming clear that the band was making fuller use of the studio with each subsequent record, employing more elaborate techniques and ideas to enhance their sound.

OK, maybe not Queen then, but there’s certainly a lot more going on in this song than in earlier material. It jumped out at me excitedly on my first listen-through of ‘Elephant’ and remains my favourite song on the record. On the whole, ‘Elephant’ was a phenomenally complex record, choc-full of different sounds and textures that went way further than what many of us dreamed the White Stripes could be. The next two albums they would release would take this exploration to even further, far-off realms without completely taking their eyes off their garage-blues roots. There’s No Home For You Here aptly demonstrates the new exploratory direction the band was embarking on while tipping a nod to those tried and tested roots.

Friday 9 January 2015

50 songs to take to my grave #22: Sister Surround

The Soundtrack of our Lives was one of those bands I heard for the first time on Jools Holland’s show ‘Later…’. They performed Sister Surround and I remember being completely absorbed in their sound and performance, particularly the mock-rock posturing and an energetic display from their rather rotund and bearded singer Ebbot Lundberg bedecked in a black robe.

There was something about the sound of the guitars and the driving rhythm that just grabbed me. So I went on one of my explorations and tracked down as much music as I could find from the band. Sister Surround featured on the band’s third album ‘Behind The Music’ which proved to be their UK and US breakthrough record. (Prior to this they had been well-known in their native Sweden and neighbouring Scandinavian countries.) They became faves of Oasis who took them on tour in the States, and all of a sudden the music press over here took notice of them for that reason.

From that point on, I followed TSOOL (as us fans like to refer to them as) right up to their split in 2012. I loved their take on psychedelic alternative indie rock (for want of a better description), and all six of their albums contain some great material.

But Sister Surround remains their trump card as far as I’m concerned. I could put a case for a number of TSOOL’s songs, but it’s this one I keep coming back to as their high point.

And here's that out of this world performance on 'Later... With Jools Holland'.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Welsh Wednesday #18

#18: Ni Yw Y Byd by Gruff Rhys

In January 2005, Gruff Rhys released his first solo album 'Yr Atal Genhedlaeth'. It was in many ways the polar opposite of what the Super Furry Animals had been doing. While the band were sounding bigger than ever, with more ambitious and expansive sounds and production techniques, Gruff's record was very stripped back and basic. It was also performed completely in the Welsh language. This was clearly no cynical attempt to cash-in on the Furries' success, especially seeing as it was released with minimal publicity on the band's own Placid Casual label rather than through Sony who they were signed to at the time.

Ni Yw Y Byd (We Are The World) is typical of the album in that while it sounds deliberately low budget and low-key, it is ridiculously catchy, an example of one of Gruff's best qualities - the ability to pen a damn good tune. Its playful key changes lead up to what I suppose could be considered some kind of understated crescendo featuring a flute/recorder (I can't work out which) solo.

It has always been my favourite track from the album so that's why it's a Welsh Wednesday choice.

Monday 5 January 2015

Blues Monday #5: Long Tall Shorty by The Kinks

Long Tall Shorty was first recorded by Tommy Tucker in 1964, the follow-up to his big hit Hi Heel Sneakers. That same year, the song appeared on the Kinks' debut album which, let's be honest, will never be regarded as one of the great records of the sixties. Not even close. Regardless, this isn't a bad take on Long Tall Shorty and was one of a number of blues tracks included in their early repertoire.

It does display the Kinks' raw, energetic sound that was to set them apart from their peers and might be regarded as a forerunner of the sound that emerged in the late 90s/early 00s via the White Stripes, the Bellrays, etc. Probably.


Saturday 3 January 2015

TheRobster's Top 10 albums of 2014 (part two)

Here's the other five of my top 10 albums of 2014. One or two surprises? Or pretty much what you expected? Have I missed out something you love? Let me know your top picks of the year in the comments section.

'Pe'ahi' - The Raveonettes
Without a doubt the Danish duo's best album to date. It's definitely their angriest with buzzing guitars and wickedly nasty lyrics, yet still dreamy and tuneful in keeping with their previous work. My album of the year - it's that good!


'Indie Cindy' - Pixies
Look, Pixies circa 2014 were never going to be like the Pixies of 1989, even if they had never broken up in the first place. Once you consider that, you realise what a good record 'Indie Cindy' actually is. Although there's two or three songs on here that wouldn't have sounded out of place on 'Bossanova' or 'Trompe Le Monde', I wouldn't want the greatest band of my lifetime to make a record that sounded like one they made before, so good on 'em. Quality!


'Breakfast' - Teleman
One of MrsRobster's top picks of the year, and who am I to argue? In fairness, it is a really good record. Melodic and melancholic, it shows off the quality tunes and lyrics that graced the best work  of Pete and the Pirates (of which three-quarters of Teleman were members) while retaining enough originality to stand on its own as a more than worthy debut.


'Beauty And Ruin' - Bob Mould
It's Bob Mould - it's all you need. Chunky riffs, good tunes, a bit of screaming here and there - yep, all present and correct. Another triumph, and a great album for the car, especially to get you going in the morning.


'Soused' - Scott Walker & Sunn O))) 
Bizarre, compelling, difficult and terrifying in equal measures. The very idea of such a collaboration between a legendary 60s crooner and drone metal exponents is intriguing enough, but the fact I found myself gripped from start to finish proves to me it's more than pure folly. Great to listen to on headphones as there are all sorts of things going on in the background - just don't play it around small children or the easily frightened!


And a few honourable mentions...
'Inspiral Carpets' - Inspiral Carpets Really rather good comeback album;
'St. Vincent' - St. Vincent One of the critics' choices of the year, and for good reason;
'World Peace Is None Of Your Business' - Morrissey He's still got it, you know;
'Shelter' - Alcest Symphonic French shoegaze at its finest;

That'll do for now...

Friday 2 January 2015

TheRobster's Top 10 albums of 2014 (part one)

Fair to say 2014 wasn't a classic year for great music, but even so there were some gems that floated to the top of my pile. Today and tomorrow I present my top 10 albums of the year. They're not in any particular order, though there is one amongst them that I rate most highly of all.

'Eagulls' - Eagulls
I can't quite put my finger on why I like this record so much. It's not exactly varied in its approach, a little samey you might say. But I've probably played this album more than any other this year and haven't (yet) grown tired of it. They were good live when we saw them back in October, too.


'Futurology' - Manic Street Preachers
How do they do it? All the talk has been about their recently-announced tour playing the 'Holy Bible', but the Manics' latest offering is one of the best of their career. Its 80s Europop/Krautrock sound may be considered an ambitious venture, but 'Futurology' sounds like a record they were always destined to make.


'Stay Gold' - First Aid Kit
Another wonderful example of why First Aid Kit deserve the elevated status they've been granted over the last few years. 'Stay Gold' is beauty defined and only a cold-hearted old grouch with no appreciation of such things would disagree.


'IX' - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Back on form and as epic as ever. Trail Of Dead have rescued themselves from their mid-career slump and have now delivered two really good albums on the bounce. This one brings pianos and strings into the mix and a batch of songs that maintain an energetic momentum throughout. Even the instrumental tracks are superb.


'Dude Incredible' - Shellac
Steve Albini will long be remembered more for his production credits than as a musician, which is a shame as the latest Shellac record demonstrates. The riffs are plentiful, the recording minimal; the sound is tense yet welcomingly familiar; and the songs are in turns brutal and hilarious. 'Dude Incredible' is Shellac's first album in seven years. While on this form, let's hope they don't leave the next one as long.

Another five picks tomorrow...