Archive for December, 2005

Justhipper’s Top 15 Gigs of 2005

  1. Arcade Fire, Manchester Academy, May 4th/Leeds Festival, August 28th
  2. The Tears – Manchester Academy 2, February 13th/Liverpool Academy, April 23rd
  3. Antony & the JohnsonsManchester Hop & Grape, June 28th
  4. The DecemberistsToronto Phoenix, May 21st
  5. Editors – Manchester Night & Day, January (15th?)
  6. EelsManchester Apollo, October 13th
  7. The PixiesManchester Apollo, August 30th
  8. Richard HawleyManchester Hop & Grape, November 14th
  9. Interpol – Manchester Apollo, July 8th
  10. Echo & the BunnymenLeeds Festival, August 26th
  11. Joanna NewsomManchester Academy 2, April 14th
  12. The DearsManchester Academy 2, February 4th
  13. The Wedding PresentLeeds Poly, March 6th
  14. Clap Your Hands Say YeahLiverpool Academy, November 21st
  15. The Go-BetweensLiverpool Academy, May 10th
Posted by JustHipper on 24th December 2005 at 12:12 am | comments (0)
File under Lists.

Justhipper’s Top 15 Albums of 2005

2005 is the year in which I got to grips with all the CDs we bought in 2004, which made this list really difficult. Ledge has spent the year acquiring the critics choices for the year, yet I feel I really got to know very few of them well. The list below represents the ones that stuck in my memory most, and the list of CDs for which I’m going to spend the most time getting to know every blip and squawk in 2006. There’s so many more sitting near the CD player waiting for a first play, including Elbow, Teenage Fanclub, Wolf Parade, Animal Collective, Okkervil River and Calexico & Iron & Wine. But here’s the list, as unrepresentative as it may be.

  1. Arcade Fire – Funeral
  2. Realising that this came out in 2004 in North America, we didn’t hear it until December 2004, and didn’t own the album until it came out in the UK properly in February 2005. It was probably the most startling and striking thing I heard in 2005 (short of Antony Hegarty’s voice) and was at once the most celebratory and vibrant album I’ve heard in years.

  3. The Tears – Here Come the Tears
  4. I have always been a massive Suede fan but was not expecting much from this reunion of Brett Anderson & Bernard Butler because these things are never as good as you want them to be. Not so The Tears. While the album itself is far from perfect, it does reflect a new direction for their songwriting and a brilliant jumping off point for their new project. It showcases some of the strongest aspects of their musical talents including the beauty of Brett’s descriptive storytelling, Bernard’s meandering guitar melodies and a flair for both lavish overproduction that complements the more ridiculous lyrical excesses and pop moments as well as a real understanding that sometimes the silences and the gaps make the songs.

  5. The Decemberists – Picaresque
  6. This is simply one of the most unusual and charming records to grace anyone’s record collection in years. How can you possibly find fault, or, in fact, not grow to love an album about double suicides, revenge, giant whales, spies, sporting failures and war?

  7. My Morning Jacket – Z
  8. The first play of this record resulted in shock and horror. Subsequent plays have implanted it in my consciousness. It’s such a strange mix of lush melodies, twangy guitars and reggae beats yet it works on a really basic level of making me want to dance around the kitchen everytime I hear any track from it.

  9. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  10. Once I got used to the vocals sounding like a cross between Bob Dylan on a bad day and David Byrne (whose voice I loathe), I really really grew to love this record, mainly because of the lovely guitars and the perky melodies.

  11. Editors – The Back Room
  12. As much as I loved the intensity of the early singles, I wasn’t expecting much from this record. It suprised me a lot with the depth of the subject matter and the strength of the songwriting. Few new bands these days can do loud and quiet on separate songs but Editors manage to capture both intense anger and vulnerable melancholy on a really really strong debut.

  13. Eels – Blinking Lights & Other Revelations
  14. Antony & The Johnsons – I am a Bird Now
  15. Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock ‘n’ Roll
  16. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
  17. Clor – Clor
  18. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
  19. Richard Hawley – Coles Corner
  20. Rufus Wainwright – Want Two
  21. Sons & Daughters – The Repulsion Box
Posted by JustHipper on 23rd December 2005 at 11:51 pm | comments (14)
File under Lists.

The Ledge’s Top 20 Albums of 2005

  1. Funeral – The Arcade Fire
  2. Yes, I know it was released in 2004 but we didn’t get it over here ’til this year. And 2005 totally belonged to The Arcade Fire; this is the best album of the 21st century so far and they are possibly the best live band ever.

  3. Illinois – Sufjan Stevens
  4. This would probably have won in any other year. A widescreen spectacular in which intimate folk songs about serial killers and dying of cancer sit comfortably alongside epic showtunes about zombies. With cheerleading.

  5. A River Ain’t Too Much To Love – Smog
  6. A major return to form which saw Bill Callahan, in reflective mood, produce an album up there with his previous high water mark of Knock Knock

  7. Z – My Morning Jacket
  8. Hated this for a while, then went back to it and it suddenly clicked. Yes, it’s a new direction, but a good one, and maybe the right one. Every song is a winner, but “it Beats 4 U” is perhaps the most beautiful thing I heard all year.

  9. The Great Destroyer – Low
  10. Another band benefitting from a change of direction, though they’ve been threatening to turn their amps up to 11 for a few years now. And, hey, it worked.

  11. Silent Alarm – Bloc Party
  12. Best Brit album by a long way. Great guitars, great tunes and great integrity. Much needed antidote to the ills of The Kaiser Chiefs.

  13. Picaresque – The Decemberists
  14. An album chock full of epic tales of mariners, infantas, footy players, barrow boys, train drivers etc. The usual Decemberist’s fare, then, only more so.

  15. Blinking Lights And Other Revelations – Eels
  16. 33 tracks over two discs. Some are brilliant, some are merely very good. This is easily E’s best work to date and I seriously doubt that he’ll ever top it.

  17. Black Sheep Boy – Okkervil River
  18. Leaders Of The Free World – Elbow
  19. Superwolf – Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
  20. I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning – Bright Eyes
  21. Tanglewood Numbers – Silver Jews
  22. Clor – Clor
  23. Humming By The Flowered Vine – Laura Cantrell
  24. Oceans Apart – The Go-Betweens
  25. I Am A Bird Now – Antony & The Johnsons
  26. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  27. Coles Corner – Richard Hawley
  28. Takk – Sigur Rós
Posted by The Ledge on 23rd December 2005 at 10:17 pm | comments (2)
File under Lists.

The Ledge’s Top 10 Gigs of 2005

arcade fire

1. The Arcade Fire, Leeds Festival, 28th August/Manchester Academy, 4th May
2. Pixies, Manchester Apollo, 30th August
3. Joanna Newsom, Manchester Academy 2, 14th April
4. Smog, Manchester Roadhouse, 10th June
5. The Wedding Present, Manchester Academy, 12th November
6. The Decemberists, Toronto Phoenix, 21st May
7. Laura Cantrell, Manchester Hop & Grape, 14th September
8. Antony & The Johnsons, Manchester Hop & Grape, 28th June
9. Eels, Manchester Apollo, 13th October
10. Okkervil River, Manchester Night & Day, 26th September

Posted by The Ledge on 19th December 2005 at 5:03 pm | comments (5)
File under Lists.

Gig Review: The New Pornographers, Manchester Night & Day, 4th December 2005

new pornographersThe one thing we were most looking forward to at this gig was seeing (and hearing) Neko Case again. How we love Neko Case at The Indie Credential. Neko is a member of Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers, though they are just a sidebar to her own rather wonderful solo career as an siren. Alas, when the projection screen which masks the stage between sets at the Night & Day rose there was no Neko to be seen. Hearts sank. “Where’s Neko?” someone cried, except they pronounced it “Necko”, which sounds stupid. The question remained unanswered. And after three songs, irrelevant, almost. Having breezed through “Twin Cinema” and “Use It”, excellent renditions both, they came to “Mass Romantic”, a brilliant Neko song from the album of the same name. Kathryn Calder, on Neko vocal duties, nailed it; her voice similar to Neko’s though not as strong, but you could barely tell the difference through the poor sound mix. The rest of the set was a relentless barrage of the catchy, up-tempo pop for which head Pornographer AC Newman is renowned. “Bleeding Hearts Show”, “The Laws Have Changed” and the superb “Sing Me Spanish Techno” were highlights of a vibrant performance which had the crowd rapt from start to finish despite the truly dire sound. They closed with “Letter From An Occupant”, Kathryn Calder again excelling, and returned for an all too brief encore including a suitably electric version of “Electric Version”.

A great gig, and the final one for us in 2005. I can only imagine what they must be like with some decent sound and Neko in the line-up.

Posted by The Ledge on 18th December 2005 at 1:51 am | comments (7)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Nephew, The Motorettes, Ezra Reich at The Late Room. Manchester, 2nd December 2005

We made our way down to The Late Room last Friday night to catch Nephew, who were playing in support of Ezra Reich (me neither), and who we’d last seen at the Drowned In Sound 5th birthday bash at the Night & Day in October where they played a damned fine set, possibly the best of the day. They were bottom of the bill on Friday night but played a blinder in front of, oh, about 20 fortunate punters. Nephew are a five piece based in Salford who play lush, introspective pop songs which have a habit of bursting into flames at regular intervals. They remind me a lot of Elbow but with a rather effective quiet/loud dynamic going on. Their opener had definite post-rock leanings with a brooding Godspeed You! Black Emperor style guitar motif and delicate violin suddenly crashing into an all-out sonic onslaught that Mogwai might be proud of. The violin is an integral part of the Nephew sound, lending subtlety to the quiet parts, being sampled and looped à la Final Fantasy to create the effect of a larger string section, and soaring above a thundering rhythm section when things get louder. Aside from their very fine sound and excellent band dynamic, Nephew have some marvellous songs only one of which I know the name of, that being “High Rise Buildings”, I think, which as I recall had a suitably skyscraping chorus. An EP is due out sometime in the new year and they will hopefully be out on the road to promote it. Go and see them, give them an audience they deserve.

The crowd swelled to upwards of 30 people for The Motorettes, a no-nonsense three piece from the North East, who are signed to Kitchenware. Initial impressions were that they were a Futureheads tribute act such was the similarity of the tight vocal harmonies, Geordie accents and edgy guitar work but a couple of songs in those thoughts subsided and I began to quite enjoy their rather catchy throwaway power pop. “Death On The Radio” was particularly excellent and and showed that they have a way with the three-minute pop song that should see them reaching a wider audience in 2006.

Wearing a blue boiler suit and a huge orange cravat, Ezra Reich cut a rather odd figure behind his keyboard, flanked by two guitarists and obscuring our view of the drummer. Ezra is the son of minimalist composer Steve Reich but plays a familiar style of 80s synth pop favoured by the likes of The Killers and The Bravery. It was all very ho hum. The songs just didn’t grab the attention and were little more interesting than the average Bravery fare. Ezra, however, played it like he was playing in front of thousands, rather than the 20-odd people who were still there. He threw rock star shapes, gurned through guitar solos and occasionally ventured off-stage onto the empty dancefloor before him, presumably searching for his fans. It was an admirable performance by the frontman but could not disguise the fact that the evening’s bill should have been in the reverse order.

Posted by The Ledge on 13th December 2005 at 9:44 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Black Mountain, Dead Meadow, Wolf Parade at Manchester Roadhouse, 26th November 2005

wolf paradeWolf Parade have been garnering rave reviews across the pond for their “Apologies To The Queen Mary” album and look set to be the Next Big Thing to break out from the increasing healthy Montreal music scene. So, I was surprised to find them bottom of the bill to Dead Meadow and Black Mountain at the Roadhouse last Saturday night. Or should I say afternoon. Due to the club night that the Roadhouse runs on a Saturday Wolf Parade were actually on stage by 6:30pm by which time barely 50 people had turned up to see if the hype is justified.

It was a short, energetic set and the band certainly made an impression on the few watching punters as they ran through a number of thrilling hi-octane pop tunes. Vocal duties were shared between the guy on keyboards and the guy on guitar; the one with the straight hair, not the other one with the huge wind chimes dangling from his mic stand. Another member standing stage right was in charge of bleeps and loops armed with a small mixing desk and synth, while the drummer, as is usual in this venue, was barely visible at the back of the tiny cramped stage. Unfortunately the sound mix was appalling and all these instruments which should have come together to produce something bordering on the epic were melted down into a one-dimensional sonic stew. Wolf Parade however overcame this obstacle to show glimpses of why they are so highly thought of in their homeland and why 2006 will undoubtedly be a momentous year for them. I look forward to seeing them then, headlining venues much larger than this.

black mountainDead Meadow are very different; a three piece from Washington DC playing spaced-out stoner rock. Think The Jimi Hendrix Experience playing Spacemen 3 covers. I liked them to begin with but there’s a fine line between being mesmerised and being bored; a line they eventually crossed. I was particularly impressed with their musicianship, however: these guys can play. The drummer and bassist layed down some pretty impenetrable rhythm tracks while the singer/guitarist did his singer/guitar thing over the top, a la Hendrix, but thankfully not as showy. The final two songs seemed to last an age so it was a relief when they finally finished.

Black Mountain have also received much praise this year for their debut self-titled album and reminded me of pre-Z My Morning Jacket, but nowhere near as good. I spent much of the set in a trance, unsure if a was hypnotised by their droney, southern rock or was just plain bored. At one point the keyboard player played a note so low and loud that it momentarily jolted the audience out of its reverie/slumber as we all feared that just one more notch on one of his dials would liquify our internal organs. It was a thrilling moment and the only definite thing about their set that I could remember after coming to around 9:00pm and heading back up the steps onto Newton Street and back to cilvilisation.

Posted by The Ledge on 4th December 2005 at 7:21 pm | comments (1)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

NME: Now Minus Ethics

A post went up on the Londonist (via Chromewaves) earlier today claiming that the NME had doctored its end-of-year albums list, presumably to make it more reader-friendly. The story got taken down after a “communication” from the NME but it’s still in the Google cache here. This isn’t the first time the once-esteemed weekly has been under suspicion of fixing its reviews to suit its reader demographic. A review of The Others’ album in Stylus Magazine claimed that they had to search high and low to find a freelancer who would give this appalling piece of shit a reasonable review, while the writer of the NME review of The Tears’ Here Come The Tears album said on The Tears’ Forum earlier this year that he wanted to give it a 10 but the NME knocked it down to an 8 yet still printed his gushing review in its entirety. The writer’s PM to a member of The Indie Credential team went as follows:

Hi there.

I’m not actually employed by the NME, I’m freelance, but I’m sure that they do have an agenda with certain bands and that marks get changed all the time. On the one hand, yeah, it does sort of suck, but at the same time a magazine of that size has to maintain good relations with the PR side of the industry, which sometimes means that the outcome of a review is ‘pre-determined’. It’s politics, but it’s not really politics that the NME dictates, more just the way of the industry.

But yeah, I did give The Tears album 10 and would have liked it to be at least a 9 – I think the 8 looks a bit silly given the review…

No surprise then that Here Come The Tears was bumped off the final list. Allegedly.

Posted by The Ledge on 2nd December 2005 at 7:41 pm | comments (3)
File under Rant.

Gig Review: The National, Manchester Hop & Grape, 20th November 2005

I barely know anything about The National but they seem to have garnered a fair amount of critical praise for the Alligator album from certain reputable journals as well as receiving rave reviews on their notorious tour with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah where they played to half full venues every night with much of the crowd leaving after CYHSY’s support slot. By happy coincidence we had tickets to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in Liverpool the following night.

Support came from Film School who impressed when supporting Okkervil River at the Night & Day earlier in the year. Again, they were very good but didn’t make me want to rush out and buy any CDs. The excellent rhythm section drove the songs along while the effects-laden guitars floated menacingly above like fog above a motorway. They brought to mind shoegazing, and The Cure, and drew warm applause from the crowd.

The National, however, did make we want to rush out and buy their CDs, or at least put them on my Christmas list. I was expecting some sort of retro Americana (I expect this from any band endorsed by Uncut magazine) but instead The National are more like an American Tindersticks with singer Matt Berninger’s low croon recalling the Tinders’ Stuart Staples and occasionally Mark Eitzel. Berninger looks like an ungainly cross between Thom Yorke and Tom Hanks but his onstage demeanor is thankfully closer to the hunched intensity of the former rather than the vomit-inducing schmaltz of the latter. The rest of the band provided excellent backing with the twin brothers on guitar duties particularly catching the ear.

“Wasp’s Nest” and “Daughters Of The Soho Riots” were mesmerising, atmospheric slowies while “Mr November” was an intense rock out which drew an ecstatic response from the enthralled crowd. The one song I’d heard previously, “Karen”, sounded better than it’s recorded version and the band claimed it was the first time they’d ever played it live, though I’ve no idea if this was true. The Clap Your Hands Say Yeah gig the following night was good but didn’t come close to matching this.

Posted by The Ledge on 2nd December 2005 at 6:11 pm | comments (63)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.