Thursday, 22 December 2011

A very indie Christmas...

In a time when pop groups claiming to have the 'we can make Simon Cowell a lot of money' factor dominate the charts, it's easy to feel a bit cheated that Christmas no longer means a congregation of new festive themed songs. But fear not, the trend for covering old favourites and releasing original Christmas tracks seems to be on the up among folk and indie bands. Hurrah!

Unfortunately these songs will never be Christmas number one, so you do need to know where to look to get your Christmassy fix these days. I've pulled together six of the best from the last couple of years to get you feeling all festive again...

Sunday, 18 December 2011

This year was brought to you by the letter B

Well, I can hardly believe it but somehow it’s the end of yet another year, and that means (among other, more important things) writing about a few of my favourite albums for my seriously neglected blog! Instead of last year’s rather lazy approach, I’ve actually put a bit of thought into selecting this year’s top three. It was tough though, because I think it’s been an amazing year for music. In fact, this should probably be a top 11, because the albums listed at the end of this post are also bloody brilliant.

Some of the albums have probably missed out on being in the top three simply because they were released later in the year. And it’s also telling, that the top three are all bands that I managed to catch live – perhaps if I’d seen some of the other bands with new releases this year I would have picked them. Anyway, this is a run through of my top three albums this year.

And weirdly, my favourite artists of this year all begin with the letter B…


Beirut – The Rip Tide
This whole album is just kind of magical, and despite its short length (I think the running time is just over 30 minutes) I could listen to it over and over again, and still enjoy it as much as I did on the first listen. I mean, I defy anyone not to crack a smile at some point during Santa Fe. And if, like me, you’re someone who’s borderline obsessed with musical instruments of various shapes and sizes, then this band will never disappoint you. Afterall, it’s not often you get to see a guy performing a sousaphone solo, but Zach Condon’s bandmate pulls it off.

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind Of Fix
This was the soundtrack to my summer. Well, actually this was the soundtrack to my ‘summer holiday’… to Cornwall… in October. Me and eight or so friends packed our bags with boardgames, CDs and, in my case, a ukulele and left the big smoke for a beautiful house on the cliff’s edge in Port Isaac. We spent a week just hanging out and drinking (and eating, the boys even caught us some fish), but this album was often on in the background. The increasing and decreasing energy of the tracks mirrored our own (yeah, drink-induced) highs and lows... much like the ebb and flow of the tide outside the window.

Bon Iver – Bon Iver
This is an album that crept in as one of my favourite listens while I wasn’t really paying attention (I was probably busy avoiding haircuts, or wondering if flowery Doc Martens were acceptable for work). Plus, Bon Iver’s gig at the Hammersmith Apollo in October was one of the most emotional I’ve ever been to. The title of most emotional belongs to Blur at Glastonbury 2009. Just ask my friends – blubbering wreck doesn’t even cover it, I'm surprised they still speak to me. Anyway, the girls sitting in front of us back in October sobbed all the way through, and although I managed to keep it together, there is no denying the enchanting quality of Justin Vernon’s almost otherworldly music. The band is one of the tightest I’ve ever seen live too, and create sounds that can really transport the listener to another place. 

Special mentions:
Alexander – Alexander, Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues, Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials, Metronomy – The English Riviera, Other Lives – Tamer Animals, Primal Scream – Screamadelica 20th Anniversary Edition, Slow Club – Paradise, The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?