Sunday 26 December 2021

Best of 2021 (part 4)

The final few...

PARQUET COURTS - 'Sympathy For Life'
Another act that eluded me for way too long, at least until I heard Walking At A Downtown Pace played on 6 Music. A variety of sounds permeate the NYC band's eighth album, but it's largely influenced by frontman Andrew Brown's newfound love of dance music and nightclubs. And while their familiar post-punk sound still finds its way to the fore, there's no doubt there's something rather danceable about these songs. They even sound like 'Remain In Light'-era Talking Heads in places.

LUMP - 'Animal'
Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay released their second set of songs and it continued the sounds and themes of their debut collaboration from a couple years back. Some really good songs on this one, and an interesting direction, far from the acoustic folk sounds both are known for in their full-time "jobs".

QUIVERS - 'Golden Doubt'
A lot of really good music coming out of Australia of late, and Quivers is another name to add to the growing list. Imagine taking all the best bits of the Go-Betweens and adding some US West Coast sunshine circa 1967 and you're pretty much there. Obviously our good friend Brian is all over this, and he's a man of impeccable taste.

With the pandemic making it difficult make a record with the Bad Seeds, Nick and Warren - who are practically joined at the hip nowadays - made their first non-soundtrack record as a duo. I have to say, I prefer it over the last two Bad Seeds efforts. Minimalist and electronic, it also sounds as menacing as some of Nick's best work. White Elephant is the highlight for me - laced with references to recent political and social events and concluding with a rapturous epiphany.

Honorable mentions well worth checking out (in alphabetical order):

DJANGO DJANGO - 'Glowing In The Dark'
FOO FIGHTERS - 'Medicine At Midnight'
GOAT GIRL - 'On All Fours'
ICEAGE - 'Seek Shelter'
JAMES - 'All The Colours Of You' (recommended by MrsRobster)
PIP BLOM - 'Welcome Break'
SQUID - 'Bright Green Field'

And to round off, a song that has proven to be the biggest surprise hit of the year. With only four songs released to date, this lot will likely take over the world when their self-titled debut album is released in 2022. So if you haven't heard this already, you're probably dead. It's brill.

I'm off to my burrow again. There will be a few sporadic pieces cropping up here from time to time throughout the next 12 months, but a full return is certainly not imminent. See you whenever, have a good 2022.

Sunday 19 December 2021

Best of 2021 (part 3)

OK, after last week's all female selection, it's time to give the fellas a look-in. Here's four more excellent records that have lit me up over the past 12 months.

IDLES - 'Crawler'
If you thought all Idles did was make loud shouty politically-correct punk songs, think again, for 'Crawler' sees the band make quite a dramatic shift in their approach. Yes, the shouty punk songs are still there, but you also get dark electronica, discomforting soul and, in Progress, something so haunting and ominous, it sounds like another band entirely. It's arguably their most triumphant attempt at experimentation and production. Trust me, put the headphones on and turn this one up. Stunning, possibly my favourite Idles moment to date.

THE CORAL - 'Coral Island'
The 10th album from our favourite Scousers has drawn comparisons to classic 60s records like 'The Village Green Preservation Society' by The Kinks, and the Small Faces' 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake', and it is a concept record crammed to the brim with the band's trademark psychedelic folk. Telling the story of a fictional seaside town and its people, it features narration from Ian Murrary, none other than the grandfather of the Coral's own Skelly brothers James and Ian. Some cracking songs on this, but then it is The Coral after all.

GRUFF RHYS - 'Seeking New Gods'
It would, of course, be remiss of me not to include at least one album from the Land of Song in my rundown, and there can be no finer ambassador than Gruff, who delivered one of the best solo records of his career. Rather oddly (which itself is perhaps not surprising), it's influenced by Mount Paektu in North Korea and was recorded partly in the Mojave desert and partly in, erm, Bristol... Wherever they come from, the songs on 'Seeking New Gods' are pretty damn infectious.

LIARS - 'The Apple Drop'
You never quite know what you're going to get from Liars. They lurch from style-to-style, often during the same record, with little regard for genre or theme. While that can be said to some extent of their 10th album, it all seems to hold together pretty well and contains some really good songs. It's like dark, synth-infused post punk with traces of Nick Cave and 'Kid A'-era Radiohead thrown in. It's certainly, for me, their most enjoyable record since 2014's 'Mess'.

More next Sunday. Merry Christmas.

Sunday 12 December 2021

Best of 2021 (part 2)

This week's pick of my favourite albums of the year features a really diverse range of stuff, all of it by female artists. You may enjoy them, you may not, but I love every one of these.

LITTLE SIMZ - 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert'
You may remember I mentioned back in the summer that I was blindsided by Little Simz's incredible track Introvert. The album that followed is well worth a listen too, displaying her enviable talent for rhyme and rhythm, as well as a range of musical styles. On this brilliant Afrobeat-infused track, she teams up with fellow British-Nigerian artist Obongjayar.

KING WOMAN - 'Celestial Blues'
I was turned onto this record by Shirley Manson of Garbage. Not that I know her personally or anything - she was speaking to Steve Lamacq on 6 Music and mentioned that this was what she was listening to at the time. Doom metal meets shoegaze - sounded right up my street, and it definitely is. Play this one LOUD!

MARISSA NADLER - 'The Path Of The Clouds'
To calm us down a bit after that, though no less ominous, here's another wonderful moment from Marissa Nadler. Her 10th album draws on themes of metamorphosis, love, mysticism, and murder, and the result is arguably her best record yet. Gorgeous, as always.

SHE DREW THE GUN - 'Behave Myself'
For some reason, prior to last year's brilliant one-off single, the Frank Zappa cover Trouble Every Day, I was unfamiliar with She Drew the Gun, other than my mate banging on about how good they were. I really should listen to other people more. Their third album has been a highlight this year, and MrsRobster in particular is a big fan, especially of the title track which she says makes her feel a bit mischievous! She Drew The Gun will become our first gig in two years when we see them in February. Oh, and a word of warning: do not watch this video if you are offended by words.

 Another selection next week.

Sunday 5 December 2021

Best of 2021 (part 1)

It's that time of year again. I've been really enjoying my blogging hiatus, and truth be told, I can't really be arsed to start up again. But as this is something of a tradition, I've decided on a few short posts to summarise my favourite sounds of the year. Perhaps unsuprisingly, there's a predominance of female artists in here which continues the trend of recent years. 

As usual, they're not in any particular order, but here's my top four, and the first one probably pips the others to the coveted title of 'Robster's Album Of The Year', but it's a close call.

YUNG - 'An Ongoing Dispute'
It took Danish upstarts Yung five years to follow-up their debut, and it was quite a tumultuous period by all accounts. But my word, what a return. As good a record as I've heard all year, it came out in January and still deserves regular plays.

TORRES - 'Thirstier'
For her 5th album, Mackenzie Scott (aka Torres) didn't stick to any formula and as a result we got a stylistically diverse offering and her most adventurous to date. Some great songs on it, but this is the one I come back to again and again, a track in which she channels Springsteen and the Killers while remaining very much herself. This could well be my song of the year.

DU BLONDE - 'Homecoming'
The artist formerly known as Beth Jeans Houghton delivered her third - and best - album this year and it's absolutely riddled with riffs and quirky musings on life and relationships. With the added bonus of special guests including Shirley Manson, Andy Bell and Ezra Furman, its a fun ride in spite of its rather short duration.

Another masterpiece of psychedelic pop from Jane Weaver who, even this long into her career, seems to be churning out her best work in recent years. 'Flock' really should have been the album of everyone's blissed-out summer. Of the four videos on show today, there's little doubt that this one for Solarised is by far the best, though granted, the bar was pretty low...

Four more next week...