Archive for December, 2007

The Ledge’s Top 40 Albums of 2007

So, that was 2007. Wasn’t that bad, was it? Been too busy wrapping presents and making mince pies to write any in-depth insights to the 20 records that made the list this year but here it is anyway with some crappy soundbites for the top ten and not a torpor inducing Panda Bear or Animal Collective record in sight.

20. Widow City by The Fiery Furnaces

The Fiery Furnaces – Restorative Beer

19. The Reminder by Feist

Feist – Past In Present

18. Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? by Of Montreal

Of Montreal – A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger

17. Challengers by The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers – All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth

16. Three Easy Pieces by Buffalo Tom

Buffalo Tom – Bottom Of The Rain

15. Wincing The Night Away by The Shins

The Shins – A Comet Appears

14. The Flying Club Cup by Beirut

Beirut – Cliquot

13. Beyond by Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr. – Been There All The Time

12. In Rainbows by Radiohead

Radiohead – House Of Cards

11. Spirit If… by Broken Social Scene presents Kevin Drew

Broken Social Scene presents Kevin Drew – Safety Bricks

10. Grinderman by Grinderman

The sound of Nick Cave and a handful of Bad Seeds venting their sexual frustrations with gallons of sleaze and some downright dirty rock ‘n’ roll.

Grinderman – Go Tell The Women

9. The Shepherd’s Dog by Iron And Wine

Sam Beam’s most confident and fully realised batch of songs to date. The presence of a full band – a natural progression from his work with Calexico a couple of years ago – is a more than welcome addition.

Iron And Wine – Lovesong Of The Buzzard

8. Yes, U by Devastations

A brilliant album of moody melancholia from the Aussie rockers. The superb production and subtle washes of electronica really set this apart.

Devastations – The Pest

7. Neon Bible by Arcade Fire

Obviously nowhere near as good as Funeral but it grew on me over the year, its excellence really hitting home after seeing their incredible performance at the MEN Arena in October.

Arcade Fire – Windowsill

6. Boxer by The National

Again, not quite as great as their previous effort but the subdued quality of Boxer made for another grower that clicked after seeing the songs played live.

The National – Apartment Story

5. Night Falls Over Kortedala by Jens Lekman

Marvellous album from the Swedish pop genius, packed with humour, melancholy and great tunes swept along by some magnificent orchestrations.

Jens Lekman – The Opposite Of Hallelujah

4. Mirrored by Battles

Battles’ inspired math-rock took a few listens to sink in but when it did it was easy to see why every blogger and his dog has been salivating over this record since its release. It’s a multi-layered beast of an album, each listen revealing new twists and turns in Battles’ melodic madness.

Battles – Ddiamondd

3. Sound Of Silver by LCD Soundsystem

From the opening Talking Heads-meets-Kraftwerk groove of “Get Innocuous!” onwards, this album was the perfect showcase for James Murphy’s brilliant fusion of disco and indie.

LCD Soundsystem – Get Innocuous!

2. Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters by The Twilight Sad

A colossal debut from this Glaswegian quartet where the incredible drama of the lyrics and vocals is surpassed by the monumental guitars.

The Twilight Sad – mapped by what surrounded them

1. Are The Dark Horse by The Besnard Lakes

For the third year running a Canadian band takes the honours. If Neil Young made a shoegaze album – and it was a good Neil Young album – then it might sound like this but probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as good.

The Besnard Lakes – Ride The Rails

Posted by The Ledge on 24th December 2007 at 11:27 am | comments (11)
File under besnard lakes,Lists,mp3.

Beth Ditto really needs to get over herself and see a doctor

Now, we’re not usually ones to comment on nonsense in the gossip columns here at Indie Cred, but a story I read this morning on Teletext really got me seething. Beth Ditto has apparently issued a press release thanking Keira Knightley for saying she has an “amazing body.” Now the irony of that strange celebrity pairing aside, I have, frankly, reached breaking point for being showered with a one-trick pony of a singer constantly drawing attention to herself by making it all about her weight.

The first I heard of The Gossip was at ATP two years ago where I had a couple of people tell me I should watch their set. They praised her amazing vocals, her stage presence, the fire behind the music, the merging of indie and retro electro sounds, of the sheer danceability and catchiness of the band’s sound. Not once did anybody mention her weight. In fact, the only person who mentioned Beth Ditto’s weight that day was Beth Ditto – when she apologised for being constantly out of breath and having to keep stopping for long breaks because her weight made it hard for her to keep up the pace.

A year later and The Gossip were everywhere with their mediocre teen anthem “Standing in the Way of Control” and suddenly Beth Ditto is in the media not talking about the band and the music she writes, but constantly talking about her weight and how people should see her as beautiful. Now, pardon me, but it seems to me that Miss Ditto seems to constantly go on about her body shape because she seems to need some reassurance that it’s ok to be morbidly obese, and she needs to know that her fans don’t mind the fact that she can’t perform as well as she should because she’s just too damned fat.

Now, certainly nobody should be judged on their appearance. We shouldn’t buy records because someone is attractive or unattractive and weight should never be an issue in whether somebody can sell records or write songs or, hell, run for public office, become an astro-physicist, etc. What all of this body image nonsense that comes out of Beth Ditto’s mouth ignores is that the issue with weight – whether you have too much of it or not enough – is health. We don’t find obesity unattractive because we’re anti-fat, we naturally find it unattractive because somebody who is morbidly obese is more likely to have health problems and die young from those health problems and, quite frankly, that is in itself highly unattractive.

The fact of the matter is that Beth Ditto already has trouble doing her job to the highest possible level because of her weight so no matter how many times she tells members of the press that “fat is beautiful” and it’s some sort of media conspiracy to say otherwise, she is simply wrong. I’m not talking about being a few pounds overweight or struggling to keep to the perfect size 10, I’m talking about someone who clearly struggles to perform on stage because she’s carrying so many extra pounds around that she gets out of breath easily. The media saying she’s beautiful and praising her body image is frankly just as bad as the media pointing to a stick insect like Keira Knightley and saying that should be some sort of beauty ideal (frankly their weight shouldn’t be a major issue in the media at all, but hey ho). A person at either weight is going to feel vile most of the time and have associated health issues.

Now all this nonsense about how the media should promote an atmosphere which makes young girls think it is ok to be so overweight as to be unhealthy so they don’t feel ugly aside (personally, I’d rather be skull-crushingly ugly than suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and be prone to all sorts of cancers and other nasty illnesses), the remark that really pissed me off was Miss Ditto saying “I don’t judge women for feeling they have to be thin, because they’re conditioned their whole lives to ‘hate yourself, hate yourself, hate yourself’. I judge the world for being so anti-female.”

Now excuse me, but what?

The whole world is anti-female because magazines have a bad tendency of showcasing unhealthily skinny models?

Ok, yes, telling young girls that they have to be ridiculously thin is wrong, and saying that women should aim to be the ideal size 10 is idiotic because we’re all differently sized and shaped. But how does this make the world anti-female, and how does this amount to conditioning women to hate themselves?

Women are universally worshipped in art, in literature, in music. According to Greek mythology, two countries fought an all-out war over a woman. All around me all my life I have always been told that being a woman should not stop me from achieving anything I wanted, and never once did any of this come down to my weight or appearance.

The fact that girls want to look pretty and want to emulate their heroes has nothing to do with society as a whole having it in for its women or forcing them to starve themselves to meet some vile idea of beauty. Surely the problem is more that we give far too much space in the media for vapid “celebrities” and we suggest that girls should strive to be famous rather than striving to make the world a better place. The problem is that we are making the wrong people role models for our children by equating visibility in the media with greatness.

Beth Ditto, in my mind, is doing just as much harm as any vastly underweight celebrity by telling girls that they should be focussing on body image and by suggesting that it’s ok to be unhealthy and that society has it in for them and by also focussing on these same vapid, useless celebrities instead of the types women they should be trying to emulate.

Surely a strong female role model should be encouraging impressionable young women that they can be however they want to be so long as they don’t sell themselves short or settle for less either by thinking they have to accept their body shape if it stops them from feeling healthy and doing things that they want to do or by allowing anybody to tell them that something is out of their reach simply because they are female. We should be encouraging young women to strive for more than five minutes on the news or a story in a tabloid. We should be telling these girls that their appearance is not important, that what they do for the world they live in is key; that having a snapshot in a magazine is hardly an achievement when they could be working to educate people, to save their lives, to find cures for diseases, create great works of art, invent things that will make people’s lives better, work towards peace, towards helping end poverty or any of these great ideals which drive society forward, not hold it down by keeping it engaged in a pointless debate about whether some moderately-talented singer should be on the cover of some useless music magazine simply because she has an unhealthy diet.

And now for some strong, female music to wash that rant down:

Sonic Youth – Swimsuit Issue

PJ Harvey – 50ft Queenie

Echobelly – Give Her a Gun

Posted by JustHipper on 20th December 2007 at 1:05 pm | comments (112)
File under female singers,Random comment,Rant.

Justhipper’s Top 10 Gigs of 2007

  1. The Decemberists @ Manchester Academy 2, February 5th (review) & @ Sheffield Leadmill, February 2nd (review)
  2. The Hold Steady @ Sheffield Leadmill, February 21st (review) & @ Manchester Club Academy, February 13th (review)
  3. James @ Manchester Club Academy, April 30th (review)
  4. The Arcade Fire @ Manchester Evening News Arena, October 27th (review)
  5. The Shins @ Manchester Academy 2, March 27th (review)
  6. Jarvis Cocker @ Manchester Academy 1, February 19th (review)
  7. Joanna Newsom @ Manchester Bridgewater Hall, January 15th (review)
  8. Broken Social Scene @ Manchester Club Academy, October 16th
  9. New Pornographers @ Manchester Academy 3, November 20th (review)
  10. Devastations @ Leeds Faversham, November 24th (review)

Like The Ledge, I went to less festivals this summer and owing to circumstance, did not get around to reviewing T in the Park at all, even though it was, as expected, great fun. I found the live music I saw at festivals this year (ATP excepted) was no match for last year, but a few sets did stand out. I really should have reviewed that Hold Steady set from T in the Park at the time. They only did 3 acoustic songs, and it wasn’t even the full band because most of their equipment didn’t make it from Oxygen and they had no bass at all, but because of their determination to play and give us a good time, and because of the fantastic crowd who had been waiting for them with a lot of anticipation (and swapping Hold Steady gig stories with us), it was the best 15 minutes I’ve had at a festival since I saw the Arcade Fire at Leeds in 2005.

  1. The Hold Steady @ T in the Park, July 8th
  2. Nick Cave / Grinderman @ ATP, April 28th & 29th
  3. Low @ ATP, April 28th
  4. The Hold Steady @ Leeds Festival, August 24th
  5. Einsturzende Neubauten @ ATP, April 28th
Posted by JustHipper on 19th December 2007 at 11:36 am | comments (2)
File under Lists,the hold steady.

The Ledge’s Top 10 Gigs of 2007

  1. The Hold Steady @ Sheffield Leadmill, February 21st (review)
  2. The Arcade Fire @ MEN Arena, October 27th (review)
  3. Joanna Newsom @ Bridgewater Hall, January 15th (review)
  4. Jens Lekman @ Sacred Trinity Church, November 27th (review)
  5. The Hold Steady @ Liverpool Academy 2, July 11th (review)
  6. The Decemberists @ Manchester Academy 2, February 5th (review)
  7. Beirut @ Manchester Club Academy, November 6th (review)
  8. Broken Social Scene @ Manchester Club Academy, October 16th
  9. The National @ Manchester Academy 2, November 4th (review)
  10. The Besnard Lakes @ The Night & Day, May 23rd (review)

I only went to a couple of festivals this year and while ATP was as great as it always is the Leeds Festival was pretty awful on the whole, though The Hold Steady and Dinosaur Jr both put in spectacular sets. I don’t think we’ll be going back any time soon. Anyway, my top 5 festival sets were:

  1. The Hold Steady @ Leeds Festival, August 24th
  2. Nick Cave / Grinderman @ ATP, April 28th
  3. Low @ ATP, April 28th
  4. Dinosaur Jr @ Leeds Festival, August 26th
  5. Magnolia Electric Co. @ ATP, April 27th
Posted by The Ledge on 15th December 2007 at 6:39 pm | comments (1)
File under gigs,Lists.

Gig Posters: Jay Ryan & Diana Sudyka: Un-natural Selection @ The Richard Goodall Gallery, Manchester until 5th January 2008

Jay Ryan Decemberists PosterCurrently showing at the Richard Goodall Underground Gallery in Manchester is an exhibition of posters by Jay Ryan and Diana Sudyka. We’ve been fans of Jay’s work for ages and there are a fair few Jay Ryans adorning the walls of the Indie Credential residence. However, his wife, Diana Sudyka, has been quietly building her own impressive portfolio of gig posters over the last couple of years and, though we went to the exhibition opening on December 1st with the express intention of not buying anything, we were quite taken aback by the quality of her work and ended up splashing out on her beautiful Low poster (below) for their Nottingham Rescue Rooms gig earlier in the year and getting it personalised by the artist herself. It was either that or the typically brilliant Jay Ryan Decemberists poster to your left but then we’ve already got three Decemberists posters in our collection.

Diana Sudyka Low PosterThe images on this page don’t remotely do justice to the posters themselves so if you’re in Manchester at any time over Christmas then get along to the Richard Goodall Underground Gallery on Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter and see them in the flesh.

Links:

The Bird Machine

Jay Ryan at Gigposters.com

Diana Sudyka at Gigposters.com

Low – Just Like Christmas

The Decemberists – Shankill Butchers

Posted by The Ledge on 14th December 2007 at 7:22 pm | comments (7)
File under diana sudyka,Gig Posters,jay ryan,News,richard goodall gallery.

Gig Review: Interpol @ Blackpool Empress Ballroom, 28th November 2007

Interpol @ Blackpool Empress BallroomI can feel Interpol and I drifting apart. Their new album, Our Love To Admire, hasn’t set my pulse racing in the way that its predecessors, Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics, did. It’s more of a straight forward rock record and is missing much of the dark, angsty flavours of the band’s earlier work. At the Leeds Festival earlier this year they put in a decent set but playing outdoors and in broad daylight are not exactly the ideal conditions for a band on the darker side of the indie rock spectrum.

Blonde Redhead @ Blackpool Empress BallroomThe grandiose setting of the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool was certainly promising, and Blonde Redhead did a fine job in opening the proceedings, their noisy, blissed-out indie rock going down well with the large crowd though they were helped along the way by the contributions of Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino on the last two songs and Paul Banks playing guitar on the last. 2007 has been a good year for the band with their excellent 23 long player garnering rave reviews and destined to appear ahead of Our Love To Admire in many an album of the year list.

Interpol bored me. There was no spark; none of the bristling menace of previous shows. Older tracks were played more in the style of the newer material. “Obstacle 1”, despatched early on, sounded pedestrian and was an early indication that this wasn’t going to be a vintage night. I snoozed though selections from the new album, interspersed with flat versions of stuff from Antics and a disappointing rendition of “Say Hello From The Angels”, my mind more occupied with the baffling attempts by security to stop anyone taking photos. I’m sure they ruined the show for many people with their perpetual haranguing of innocent punters, their flashlights constantly searching the crowd for offenders who were invariably pounced upon by a wannabe Gestapo, despatched from the barrier in a disturbing flurry of activity. “The Lighthouse”, a slow burner from the new album, almost had me nodding off, kept awake only by the chatter of fans who were obviously just as enthralled as I was.

Interpol @ Blackpool Empress Ballroom Part of the problem was the abject performance of Carlos D. Where he was previously a brooding, bass-wielding presence, prowling the stage with an unflappable sense of cool, here he was almost anonymous, often looking bored, though there was a touch of Vaudeville about his facial hair that fitted in with the surroundings. In contrast, Daniel Kessler, was the life and soul, his chicken-legs dance routine bringing back memories of Fine Young Cannibals on Top Of The Pops back in the Eighties. This is not necessarily a good thing.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. “No I In Threesomewas very good indeed, though it is my favourite from the new album and they certainly did it justice. Things picked up towards the end with “Evil” and “Not Even Jail” finally hitting the mark, though the encore was another letdown with “Untitled” lacking its usual moody atmospherics (too many lights! Interpol shows should be played in the dark) and “Stella” speeded up and suffering a similar fate. The closing “PDA” was probably the best moment of the night but by then I could barely care less. They say that form is temporary, class is permanent and hopefully this is just a temporary blip for Interpol though, judging by the rapturous reception they were given by almost everyone else in the ballroom, I’d guess that they probably won’t be changing tack for a while.

Blonde Redhead – Maddening Crowd

Interpol – No I In Threesome

Posted by The Ledge on 7th December 2007 at 12:28 am | comments (5)
File under blackpool empress ballroom,boring gigs,Gig Reviews,interpol,mp3,Reviews.

Gig Review: Jens Lekman @ Sacred Trinity Church, Salford, 27th November 2007

About a month ago I stuck Jens Lekman’s new album, the magnificent Night Falls Over Kortedala, into the swanky new CD player we have in our bathroom. It seems that hearing the first four tracks on this album for five days straight had quite an adverse effect on JustHipper – who had previously been fairly receptive to this Swedish pop genius – and on the fifth day she burst into the lounge and screamed something along the lines of “if you don’t get that pile of moany shite out of the CD player ASAP then I will kill you and Jens Lekman, what with him all whining on about his first kiss and his lesbian friends and referencing himself in every fucking song. Aargh!” I swear that if we ever split up it will be because of “musical differences”.

And so she didn’t make it down to the gig, sparing both mine and Jens’ life in the process, and allowing a fortunate history student called Luke the opportunity to witness one of those rare gigs that in five years time he’ll be telling everyone “I was there.” Pews had been dragged to the wings and the “stage” set up at the business end of the church, though there wasn’t an actual stage which made viewing very difficult for most. First on was Neil Burrell who I’d seen at Islington Mill last year and who was even stranger here than he was back then. It is very difficult to define his sound as he sounds all over the place with vocals that veer unexpectedly into wildly out-of-tune falsetto and songs that seem to end abruptly just as they’re getting going. I swear that he was actually un-tuning his guitar between songs rather than tuning it up. With a complete absence of stage presence and the shortness and downright weirdness of the songs it was very difficult to get a handle on him and much of the audience seemed to lose interest pretty quicky. It was nothing if not intriguing, however, and the final song, a more linear folksy effort in which he put on a very strong, almost comic, Scottish accent, was pretty excellent.

Next up was Magic Arm who was quite impressive with his use of the looping pedal; building up backing tracks with great skill, using all manner of instruments. Folktronica is, I believe, what they call it these days and, yes, he was a veritable one man Beta Band. He played covers of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Ballade de Melody Nelson” (translated into English, no less) and LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” and they were both superb while his other stuff wasn’t too bad either.

Jens Lekman @ Sacred Trinity Church, SalfordThe congregation shuffled forward to the altar to greet Jens Lekman, the few sitting on the floor at the front remaining seated to literally worship at his feet. It was an odd atmosphere; the crowd very quiet and reverential, not just for Jens himself but for the venue. To describe it as intimate would be an understatement. Jens judged it perfectly, starting with “Into Eternity”, just him and an acoustic guitar, though he was quickly joined by a curiously dressed young lady on bongoes and backing vocals. He told stories as he strummed along during the segue into “Sipping On The Sweet Nectar” and everything was all mellow and relaxed until halfway through when a backing track suddenly kicked in, surprising everyone; even the two performers struggled to get into sync with the drums and blaring horns for a couple of bars. The storytelling continued through the sublime “A Postcard To Nina” as Jens added even more detail to the story of a nightmare dinner with his friend’s Catholic parents, pretending he was engaged to her to deflect the fact that she was going off to set up home with her girlfriend.

Though the backing tracks were used sparingly throughout the evening they were always welcome and superbly judged; during the marvellous “The Opposite Of Hallelujah” we got Chairman Of The Board’s “Give Me Just A Little More Time” bursting through the monitors fitting in perfectly with the song’s chord progression. He also used the increasingly ubiquitous looping pedal to build up vocal harmonies on a number of tracks before encouraging an initially reluctant audience to do the harmonies for him. It was difficult not to feel self-conscious in such an intimate setting and Jens struggled to get people to even clap along in the early stages. “A Sweet Summer’s Night On Hammer Hill” found moderate success in the sing-a-long chorus but it was “Pocketful Of Money” that won out with much of the male contingent, me included, singing the deep vocal refrain of “I’ll come running with a heart on fire” under their breath to produce a quite beautiful cumulative effect.

Jens Lekman @ Sacred Trinity Church, SalfordThere were so many other highlights and there wasn’t a single moment when the performance flagged. “The Cold Swedish Winter” was a quiet joy while “I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You” and “Shirin” managed to be both uplifting and melancholy at the same time. He was generous with the encores and by the time we got to “Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo” and “Black Cab” everyone was up on their feet, dancing and singing along. He ended with the gorgeous “Tram #7 To Heaven”, a fitting end to what was a quite extraordinary and unique gig-going experience.

Jens Lekman – A Postcard To Nina

Jens Lekman – Tram #7 To Heaven

Posted by The Ledge on 1st December 2007 at 12:19 pm | comments (7)
File under jens lekman,mp3,sacred trinity church,salford.