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Thursday, 17 December 2009

2009 Part 4: Top 50 Songs

A few points:
1) Limited to one song per artist, to prevent those whose albums I've liked most hogging the list
2) Songs from 2008 albums that have been (re)released as singles this year have been included, unless they were on the “'08 Tape” (this is because I didn't do a countdown last year) and therefore because of space, I'm having to save Vampire Weekend's 'Cousins' for potential inclusion next year (as the album is are due early 2010).
3) These are songs I've liked this year and are listed in an entirely subjective and arbitrary way, existing more for me to make a playlist than anything else. Also, it's my list and I can cheat if I want to
4) This list was really hard to narrow down and lots of really good songs didn't make it. For some reason 2009 has been a top year for weird and wonderful music coming out of everywhere...
5) But still feel free to tell me what I've missed out or got wrong
6) Most of these songs can be listened to here, in a Spotify playlist



#50) 'Shut Your Mouth' – The Von Bondies
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#49) 'Around The Bend' – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
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#48) 'Empire State Of Mind' (featuring Alicia Keys) - Jay-Z
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#47) 'Sweet Child O' Mine' – Taken By Trees
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#46) 'Soldier On' – Richard Hawley
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#45) 'Be The One' – Jack Peñate
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#44) 'Moth' – Burial & Four Tet
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#43) 'Death' – White Lies
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#42) 'Dominoes' – The Big Pink
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#41) 'Rambling Through The Avenues of Time' – Flight Of The Conchords
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#40) 'Journal For Plague Lovers' – Manic Street Preachers
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#39) 'Stranger' – Noah and the Whale
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#38) 'Knotty Pine' – Dirty Projectors + David Byrne
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#37) 'Throwing Bricks At Trains' – Future Of The Left
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#36) 'So Far Around The Bend' – The National
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#35) 'Inaugural Trams' – Super Furry Animals
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#34) 'In For The Kill' (Skream's Let's Get Ravey Mix) – La Roux
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#33) 'Papillon' – Editors
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#32) 'Relentless Fours' – Grammatics
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#31) 'Untouchable' – Girls Aloud
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#30) 'Lisztomania'– Phoenix
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#29) 'DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake' – Art Brut
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#28) 'Let's Lightning' – Pull Tiger Tail
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#27) 'There Are Listed Buildings' – Los Campesinos!
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#26) 'Dog Days Are Over' – Florence and the Machine
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#25) 'You Should Have Called' – The Answering Machine
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#24) 'Sweet Disposition' – The Temper Trap
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#23) 'The Kids Are Sick Again' – Maxïmo Park
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#22) 'Cradle' – The Joy Formidable
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#21) 'Hysteric' – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
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#20) 'Molten' – Sky Larkin
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#19) 'Skeleton Boy' (7” Version) – Friendly Fires
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#18) 'French Navy' – Camera Obscura
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#17) 'Oblivion' – Mastodon
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#16) 'So Tomorrow' – Official Secrets Act
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#15) 'In The New Year' – The Walkmen
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#15) 'Spaceman' – The Killers
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#14) 'Billionaires' – Your Twenties
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#13) 'Resistance' – Muse
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#12) 'Who Can Say' – The Horrors
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#11) 'Desolation Row' – My Chemical Romance
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#10) 'Criminals' – Johnny Foreigner












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#09) 'Arcadia' – Ash












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#08) 'Crying Lightning' – Arctic Monkeys












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#07) 'The '59 Sound' – The Gaslight Anthem












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#06) 'Dinosaurs' – The Maccabees












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#05) 'The Fear' – Lily Allen











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#04) 'I Never Said I Was Deep' – Jarvis Cocker












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#03) 'Remedy' – Little Boots











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#02) 'Uylsses' – Franz Ferdinand













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#01) 'Don't Take Me To Space (Man)' – Brakes

Monday, 14 December 2009

2009 Part 3 : Top 20 Albums

If you've just joined me then welcome to Keep Pop Loud's End of Year Lists. My introduction is here and my Top 5 Non-Studio albums of 2009 is here.

Before you get to the list of my Top 20 Albums of the Year, just bear in mind that it's completely subjective and arbitrary. It's also just Studio Albums (in the traditional sense) that're eligible. Lots of good albums didn't make my Top 20, but I really don't see any point in listing all of them.

So... this is the Top 20:

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20) MJ Hibbett & The Validators - Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez
Florence & The Machine was going to be taking this spot, but after a last minute re-think the spectacle-over-substance that is Lungs has been replaced by the latest album from Peterborough's greatest musical export. As always with MJ Hibbett albums it's the songs that really matter and similarly the songs are all strong and full of heart. In Hibbett's world you may be old and tired and wanting to go home or one of the walls of your house might have metaphorically fallen in but there's still room for anecdotal humour and everything will be OK in the end. Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez is an album as an advice manual, but it's never pretentious and for that alone deserves this place over someone who already has enough End of Year List accolades to last her a lifetime.

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19) Muse - The Resistance
The weakest output from Muse since their début still has a lot going for it. The problems may stem from one adventure too many into pretentious (see the second half of 'I Belong To You') or the fact that a lot of the record doesn't really sound like A Muse Album, but there's no denying the futuristic R&B grind of 'Undisclosed Desires', the stadium rock-out of 'Unnatural Selection' or all-round brilliant single-in-waiting that is the title track.




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18) Jack Peñate - Everything Is New
Gone completely is the Cockney knees-up pop rock of Matinee, and in place is... well Balearic dance grooves. In a move that should have been an utter mess Peñate salvaged his career with the most appropriate album title of 2009. With some deep set bass and all manner of instruments on the high-end Everything Is New became the soundtrack to the summer, helped immensely by brilliant singles 'Tonight's Today' and 'Be The One'




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17) Maxïmo Park - Quicken The Heart + Future of The Left - Travels With Myself And Another
In their own rights Quicken The Heart and Travels With Myself And Another are excellent albums, yet unfortunately for both they've followed two of the greatest albums of the past ten years and don't quite live up to the standard set. Still Maxïmo Park's taut post-punk is pulled so tight and sparse that it's always in danger of breaking completely, and that in itself lends for an exciting listen, that the lyrics document not only the tiny crevasses of life but the massive spaces between these moments only adds to its brilliance. Future Of The Left on the other hand have pulled out all of the stops and created a monster of a post-hardcore influenced rock album that manages to be both passionate and menacing.

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16) Super Furry Animals - Dark Days / Light Years
When I read that this album was going to be based around grooves and riffs from jamming sessions I dreaded what would come out. Image the delight I felt when it transpired that: 1) this wasn't self-indulgent waffle, 2) songs were not only present, but actually great, 3) there's a fantastic summery, blissed-out vibe that lasts the length of the album without growing tired, 4) Super Furry Animals had recorded their best record since Phantom Power.




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15) Noah And The Whale - The First Days Of Spring
I'd be lying if I said that I expected a follow-up album from Noah and the Whale so soon after their début to be really quite good. Brilliantly, this wasn't a record that was rushed in a keen attempt to capitalise on the success of '5 Years Time' it was the sound of a heart breaking and a man putting himself back together again. Slowly but surely Charlie Fink used music for the age-old use of mending a broken heart. Stunning catharsis and the most emotionally exhausting album of 2009.




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14) The Horrors - Primary Colours
If the return of Noah and the Whale so quickly was a surprise, the reinvention of The Horrors nearly caused me a heart attack. How any band could go from the hilariously awful garage-goth shite of their first album to a jaw-dropping post-punk-prog-shoegaze act I will honestly never know. In today's Twitter-heavy days any mystery in music is increasingly rare and that Primary Colours sounds so mysterious, dark and actually magical is a feat in itself. Then there's the songs. Blimey!




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13) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
I've been largely in the dark when it comes to the blog-hype albums of 2009, but one that couldn't help but catch my ear was Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Without a doubt it's the most sophisticated pop album of the year and the best thing to come out of France since Daft Punk were at their peak. Cliché's aside this is just a really listenable record, going from joyous instrumentals to danceable indie-pop, and all with a stylish gloss.





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12) Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
It's safe to say that Humbug will appear in the annuals of rock history as one of the great under appreciated and misunderstood albums of it's times. I'd love to say that I think it's a classic album and the Monkey's first masterpiece, but I doubt that it is – for the primary reason that unlike most 'classics' I actually get it. Gone is the dancefloor fodder band of boys, present in place is some men who know how to rock out and conjure a genuinely menacing atmosphere at the same time. No mean feat, and assisted greatly by Alex Turner's finest ever lyrics. He's practically a poet now – albeit less pretentious.



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11) The Answering Machine - Another City, Another Sorry
There's no gimmicks here, The Answering Machine are just good. Listening to their fast-paced guitar pop I can't help but assume that these lads and lass have grown up with many of the same reference points that I have (Franz Ferdinand, Idlewild, fidgety-ness with the hometown) and somehow have articulated them into universal songs that reach for the stars. Not amazingly original perhaps, but straightforwardness can often be a blessing. In a year where decent new guitar bands have been few and far between I've taken The Answering Machine to my heart.



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10) Art Brut - Art Brut Vs Satan
Album number three from Eddie Argos and co, and there's not really a lot left to say. I love Art Brut Vs Stan for the same reasons that I love the previous Art Brut records: the songs. Eddie always manages to bring a smile to my face and a spring to my step. Weather he's geeking out ('DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake'), demanding tea ('Alcoholics Unanimous') or talking and talking about music ('The Replacements', 'Demons Out', 'Slap Dash For No Cash') he reminds me a little bit of me.




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09) Johnny Foreigner - Grace And The Bigger Picture
My favourite musical discovery of 2009 was the début album from Johnny Foreigner, and truth be told, that may have helped Grace And The Bigger Picture climb a place in this countdown. Nonetheless it's a superb album in it's own right, with fractured sections of songs sitting jammed together on the same recording, it's energetic, sugary and schizophrenic in all of the right ways. Not as good as Waited Up Til It Was Light, perhaps but in giving Kelly a slightly larger role and with the use of recurring lyrical themes and musical motifs JoFo showed us that they were in this for the long haul, and before long are probably going to be one of the best bands EVER.


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08) Sky Larkin - The Golden Spike
OK, so by the time it gets to here I have to admit that a lot of my Top 10 this year lacks a little in variety. What can I say, other than when given the choice I gravitate towards little-known UK based bands who write excellent pop music. Female members helps. Sky Larkin, therefore ticking all of the boxes here, put The Golden Spike out back in February and it's been on regular rotation since. Their early demos have been expanded upon brilliantly and the new songs sit well with old. In singer Katie, we've also got my favourite new vocalist of the year.



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07) GrammaticsGrammatics
Such a wonderfully complete and majestic record, it's nothing short of astounding that any group could produce such a thing, never mind doing so on their début. As a four piece (including a cellist) they're able to move between glacial a'capella and juddering rock all within perfectly realised pop songs. Needless to say, it's not the most immediate album on the countdown, but it is the most special. Multiple listens reward as the layers of the song peel away. It's utter bliss and I can only assume that Radiohead wish they sounded like this.



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06) Brakes - Touchdown
Brakes know how to rock the fuck out. Brakes also know when to play a country-influenced ditty about … actually, what is 'Ancient Mysteries' about? Nonetheless, Touchdown is the best album so far from the boys, and it's one we gave a proper review to right the way back in January. So there's not really any need to go into detail again – other than to say Eamon Hamilton fell in love and wrote one of the greatest songs of the decade ('Don't Take Me To Space (Man)')




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05) The Maccabees - Wall Of Arms
After Colour It In blew everyone who heard it away, a LOT was expected from The Maccabees second album. Somehow they blew all expectations out of the water, creating a beautiful and soaring soulful album that really only has competition from Arcade Fire. Guitars, bass, strings and brass wrap themselves around stunning melodies and Orlando Weeks breathtaking vocal performances. I can only assume that everyone who's put Grizzly Bear's album high in their End of Year lists hasn't heard Wall Of Arms. It may only be Number Five here, but all five are so close that this could be Number One



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04) Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
The greatest ever singer/performer/pop star's best album this decade. Skirting knowingly close to MOR, Jarvis let rip with his savage wit on a thoroughly deserving target – himself. After lusting after girls twenty years his younger he calls himself shallow and a dinosaur, before closing with eight minuets and forty five seconds of disco. Nobody but Jarvis Cocker could make this album work and certainly nobody else could make it this affecting. More please.




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03) Mastodon - Crack The Skye
Yes, a prog-metal album coming in at Number Three on a End of Year countdown on a Pop Blog. If I've complimented Arctic Monkeys and Super Furry Animals for creating a lasting and distinctive enveloping feel across the album then I'm pretty much fellating Mastodon for it, but believe me when I say that Crack The Skye is easily one of the all time greatest metal records. Sure, Mastodon have been heavier, and there's legs in the argument that they've had moments that are musically superior to Crack The Skye but they have never before created such a complete, thunderous, innovative, forward thinking and emotional record. Near perfection.


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02) Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand / Blood
Do I really think that Franz Ferdinand's third record is better than the Mastodon album? Well, probably not but I have enjoyed it more. Franz will always hold a special place in my heart for changing the way I thought about music and altering what I believed music could do, and as such will likely always ride high in my countdowns. Slightly more objectively though, the band have really stretched themselves here by traversing from standard Franz-pop ('No You Girls') to live dance work-outs ('Lucid Dreams') via glam-ROCK swagger ('What She Came For'). Bowie would be proud. It's a classic in my book and perfectly complemented by the (also separately released) CD of dub mixes (entitled Blood) that give further evidence that these boys take influences from far outside the general indie cannon.
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01) Little BootsHands
OK, so we know objectively that Hands isn't The Best album of the year. What it is however, is my favourite and subjectivity is the order of the day. Little Boots is a fantastic Pop Star in every sense and with Hands has released an album that encapsulates that as much as is actually possible. I've found it hard this year to put into words why it actually is that I love Little Boots' music so much, and therefore haven't written about Hands on this blog in any great detail, suffice to say that all of the songs are perfectly constructed – both catchy and with multiple layers and tracks of electronics and vocals, yet they never become cloying or sickly. In producing what is pretty much, the perfect contemporary pop album Little Boots may have just beaten Girls Aloud at their own game.

So that's the list of my favourite albums 0f 2009.

The list of the Top 50 Tracks of 2009 will be up in the next week or so

Friday, 11 December 2009

2009 Part 2: Best Non-Studio Albums

Firstly, if you missed it the introduction to 2009 is here.

But more (or arguably less) importantly; today marks the first of my Keep Pop Loud End of 2009 lists. To save blowing my load at the very start I'm beginning with the less than spectacular list of the Top Five Non-Studio Albums of 2009. Eligible for this list is any CD/LP/download release that, simply wasn't an actual album - so 'best of's, live recordings and compilations basically.

Here they are

#5: War Child: Heroes
Decent collection of covers with only one real dud (supplied by Duffy). The Hold Steady continue to pretend to be The E-Street Band on a cover of Springsteen's 'Atlantic City' whilst the two greatest highlights come at the end when Yeah Yeah Yeahs rock out on Ramones 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' and Franz Ferdinand take Blondie's 'Call Me' through it's paces in a live environment. The presence of Scissor Sisters also reminds us that they really need to get their act together and put out a new album.



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#4: (500) Days of Summer OST
(500) Days of Summer will forever live in the shadow of Juno, likewise will its soundtrack. Nonetheless every song here is pure cinematic indie gold, combining legends like Doves and The Smiths with newcomers Black Lips and The Temper Trap whilst digging up the fantastic Mumm-Ra (RIP) and Hall & Oat's 'You Make My Dreams', which although cheesy makes us want to recreate the dance scene from the film.




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#3: The Cribs - Live At The Ritz
The main event may not have been much cop, but its bonus disc showed that the Wakefield three piece (plus one) are strong enough a band to weather bad records well. Nearly all of their best songs from their four album career are present and in the case of 'Hey Scenesters!' improved by the presence of a certain Johnny Marr on guitar.




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#2: Blur - Midlife: A Beginners Guide To Blur
Blur are easily one of the greatest bands ever to have walked God's green Earth and in a year that's seen so many greatest hits compilations, have provided us with perhaps the only decent one. Whilst I already owned many of the tracks here on their parent albums Midlife makes this list for providing alternate takes on 'Death Of A Party' and 'Girls And Boys' whilst giving me the chance to own classic lost single 'Popscene' on CD.




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#1: Dark Was The Night: A Red Hot Compliation
Just nabbing the Top Stop over Blur, this Various Artists compilation showcases the best of the US indie scene with exclusive new tracks. A lot of the groups here were unknown to me before this and I can therefore thank it for getting me to enjoy The National and Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings. The many collaborations here, especially the David Byrne/Dirty Projectors duet, also mean that there's so much to investigate and explore.



Coming next: the Keep Pop Loud Top 20 Albums of 2009

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

2009 Part 1: Introduction

There's many an account of the year that has been 2009 (with relation to music) elsewhere, so it is nothing that I need to go into here; suffice to say that in my view the state of the album charts (if not the corresponding singles one) has nicely summed up the direction that music has taken in this much wrapped up decade.

The most significant aspect for me to cover here, in my view, is concepts of how my listening patterns have changed across the past twelve months and how this has affected what I have been listening to. In this case the first half of the year was unremarkable in all but the fact that I spent it unemployed and therefore listening to more music than I have done in the past, whilst conversely being able to afford to buy less. Still, thanks to Spotify I was able to source out what it was that I actually wanted to be buying and conversely what was mostly hype or that could wait a few months. This extra time also meant that I was investigating more and more records that were released in the previous year and that had appeared on many 'Best of 2008' lists, and spending less time proportionally on current releases. (As a side note: had I known them when making last years list TV On The Radio, Friendly Fires, Johnny Foreigner and The Gaslight Anthem would have all made appearances).

Come the middle of 2009, I moved into a new flat with just the missus and started working. This has meant that I have much less time to listen to music than I previously was used to (both because of working and partly because of having less personal space) whilst simultaneously placing me near many a decent charity shop where I've been able to buy a massive amount of older music. It's been a combination of all of these factors that has meant that my short-list this year of my favourite records of the past 12 months has been much smaller than it was in 2008. Still, that's not to say that it's been a Bad Year For Music, on the contrary, there's many albums that I'm currently wanting to investigate but being limited in what I can by both time and money.

Through having less time, since moving, to listen to music I decided during the summer to invest in an MP3 player that could store my entire collection (having long overfilled my beloved 20BG Creative Zen Touch). This has meant not only my buying a 160GB iPod and therefore re-evaluating my principles regarding this (and following that many other music related issues) but converting my extensive library into MP3 (from WMA) through using different media software (Media Monkey as opposed to WMP). Further changes have occurred in that I once again own a record player (a Birthday present) giving me the chance to invest in more vinyl, both from the aforementioned charity shops and new 7”s.

The fact that my mind is now more open than ever to most types of music has had consequences. Namely, the most pressing issue on my mind the past five(ish) months has been my relationship with music and how it is altering as I age. Unsurprisingly, the recession coupled with the ever shifting and unpredictable nature of the music industry means that I am not the only one grappling with this. Further and better dissections of the tumultuous dialogue between fan and material can be found here.

What is funny is that in the middle of all of this I am contemplating on writing about how happy I am that the current UK album charts are showcasing such a variety of artists from all different eras and styles whilst I'm bombarded by all of them and wondering when I'm going to get the time to listen to all that I have purchased. I currently have, sat on my shelves La Roux's début album along with R.E.M.'s classics Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, none of which have been properly listened to but all of which I'm sure I'd love given the chance. Even more amusing is that I'm fighting off the itch to buy Paramore's Riot!, and contemplating if I can really put Beyoncé's cracking single 'Sweet Dreams' in my end of year list when I've no intention of ever actually buying it legally, be it on her album or as a paid-for download.

There's no real solution to any of these conundrums, especially the question of how I'm going to find time to listen to everything I want to whilst forming close relationships with all of the records that I know deserve it. And that for me is 2009. Fraught with paradoxes and overshadowed by the fact there's just too much music out there. Therefore the following lists (which will be put up across the next couple of weeks) are anything but comprehensive, contradictory amongst themselves, and my opinion only.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Keep Pop Loud Tour of Yorkshire - Part 3

The Keep Pop Loud Tour of Yorkshire may be a concept that's way past tired, but as an excuse to sum up the last few gigs of the year it's one that I'm sticking with. Don't worry; this time I'll keep it brief.

Firstly, I went back to the Harley in Sheffield (25th November) to see The Answering Machine, and their supports, whose names escape me at this precise moment in time. The Answering Machine are four young 'uns from Manchester and have made one of my albums of the year. Their Harley set put a massive smile on my face, especially seeing as I'd only found out that the gig was happening two or three days before it actually happened. I'll spare you any more details here, partially because I've already written it up 'proper' for This Is Fake DIY (follow the link to the review).

The main reason for this instalment however is the gig that took place in the Doncaster Dome on December 5th. Under the banner of The Cribs, and something of a homecoming gig for them (they're from Wakefield, so it's apparently near enough) with support from Sky Larkin, Los Campesinos! and The Slits. In other words there was plenty to recommend it. However, it didn't occur without it's problems. Being a sort-of-homecoming there was something of a 'local' crowd present. Of course, there's nothing wrong with the good people of Doncaster, but the crowd was comprised partially of closed-minded 'lads' of the type who would have been more comfortable at a sports bar.

Sorry for the stereotyping, but after a short but perfect set from Sky Larkin (the makers of another Album Of The Year) Los Campesinos! took to the stage. This vocal lad segment voiced their disgust that Los Camp! would dare to make music other than four-four jangle rock, first by making faces and later by throwing cups of water at the group. My blood was boiling by this stage and it was becoming difficult to take the lead band's advice and ignore the ignorant. Nonetheless, Los Camp! played a great seven song set, closing on personal favourite of mine: 'Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks'.

Next up was post-punk legends The Slits. The aforementioned twats in the crowd had decided that they didn't like The Slits before they even played a note, and as tools are warrant to do, they booed as soon as some forty-something women with dreadlocks walked onto the stage. It escalated from there with increasing booing from (and it has to be said) only a few in the crowd, and the throwing of more cups of drink. The Slits took it all and gave back as good as they got. Being feminists, and with a deliberately confrontational agenda, it was to be expected. The reggae influence of the group was a bone of contention for this segment of the crowd who voiced their disgust loudest when the band mentioned playing a reggae-punk number. Singer Ari Up told these twits that they were chauvinistic racists and once they finished their set she mooned the crowd. Feminists 1, Sexists 0.

Thankfully The Cribs set went much better, opening with one of my favourites 'The Wrong Way To Be' and including everything that I would have wanted them to play (bar the never aired 'You Were Always The One'). Whilst on record I feel that new member Johnny Marr detracts from The Cribs dynamic, in the current live arena he brings an air of utter cool to the otherwise chaotic nature of their shows.

It's ironic that the same idiots who booed the feminist Slits were singing along to the material off the latest two Cribs record which tackled the same gender politics: 'Emasculate Me' and 'Men's Needs' being prime examples. The band didn't take their own advice thankfully and the ignorant were chastised by Gary and Ryan Jarman from the stage. The message was basically “you're not welcome at our gigs again”. Well said.

Focusing on The Cribs set now though; highlights included a riotous 'Hey Scenesters!', bouncy classic 'Mirror Kissers', oldie (but goodie) 'Another Number' and of course 'Be Safe' which gives me goosebumps EVERY TIME. In other words it was great and shows that even though The Cribs latest album was, at best, hit and miss, here's a group that can weather bad records and will be around and strong for quite a long while.

And 'quite a long while', is exactly how long it feels that I've been stretching out the KPL Tour of Yorkshire for. There was plans to go and see Grammatics at the Harley yesterday (December 6th), as a nice, quiet little conclusion to the tour, but with one thing and another that hasn't happened. As such, the tour ends on a high note and a large scale and has, over the past eight weeks enabled me to see seventeen different bands (one of them twice) across five venues in four different towns/cities across Yorkshire. It's been a tiring and expensive couple of months, although sadly I've bought a pitifully small amount of merch....

Still, come back Keep Pop Loud over the next couple of weeks to see the End of Year round up where you can see my Favourite Twenty (or so) Albums Of The Year and my Top 50 (ish) Tracks Of 2009 along with some commentary and summary on the twelve months past.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Track Of The Week #7

Taken By Trees - 'Sweet Child O' Mine'

The KPL TotW is going to be taking a break for a few weeks so that I can, as tradition in December dictates, sort out the End of Year nostalgia-fest in the form of lists. Before that though, I'm going to leave you with this little festive number to enjoy.

Taken By Trees are fronted by Victoria Bergsman, who has emerged as one of the most distinctive vocalists of the decade, (first by fronting The Concretes and more recently providing vocals for Peter Bjorn and John's mega-hit 'Young Folks') and from the sounds of this track specialise in a rather pretty blend of folk and indie.

As you can probably tell from the title, this is a cover of the Guns N Roses track and words cannot express how much better it is than the original. It's much slowed down, understated and instead of Axl Rose's parrot-like warble we've got a delicate and heartfelt vocal.

Bizarrely it's soundtracking the current John Lewis Christmas ad campaign. Not sure when or if it's going to be properly released (beyond the limited 7") but it's probably the best cover version that I've heard this year.

Enjoy!