2020 has it's last day and I am glad that it is over. This year brought experiences that I never expected. The pandemic changed nearly everything I used to have and I can't remember staying in distant to many friends before. Knowing that we start into the new year with the same routine my hope is that we will have a better time round next summer. The last songs for this year are from the French music collective Les Négresses Vertes take from their superb album 10 Remixes from 1993 where different artists remixed their songs from their first album.
Almost 40 years ago the first album Stands for Decibels by The DB's was released. In times where new sounds were created Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple dared to take a look back in history and combined 60's pop, collage rock and psychedelia to their own definition of power-pop. I have to admit that I always had an affection to jangly guitar pop and great short songs. Even if times fly away their songs still sound fresh and are worth to be played once again.
In 1993 David Sylvian released his first collaboration with former King Crimson's guitar player Robert Fripp The First Day. I knew Sylvian from his former band Japan and his album Tin Drum. It was a kind of music I don't listen regular to but sometimes I get into the mood of getting lost in this kind of dreamy and arty music. Fripp's guitar broadened Sylvian's music into another musical dimension. This video from the 90's shows exactly his ambition in searching for another piece of ambient psychedelia.
Damage Control by New York based duo The Vacant Lots was released earlier this month and didn't made it on my year-end list just because it was no regular album. It is a compilation of various EP's they made during the last years and well worth to be checked out because their own definition of droning, psychedelic sound that includes the best of Spaceman 3, JAMC, VU and sometimes Echo and the Bunnymen was one of the freshest ones I listened to this year. They don't definite this genre new of course but holding the flag of drone music high is not the worst thing in days like these.
Sometimes it makes you smile when you listen to a song in the radio that you have almost forgotten. This happened during Christmas time when we took a trip in the car to visit my former wife's mother. All I Need was released in 1998 by Air on their first and rightly high recommended album Moon Safari. I have to admit that I didn't listen to this record for ages but did it with joy after we arrived back home.
There were times when everyone told us that vinyl is going to die and the only media in the future is will be a compact disk. Like many others (and of course you could find less new records on vinyl) I started buying records on this format. I am thankful that times like this are over and nearly every new record will be released on vinyl as well. Sometimes good things come back. I found this track recently in my collection when I was sorting my CD-collection again. Neneh Cherry's second album Homebrew from 1992 is an underrated album because it is far away from the style the mass expected. A hybrid of jazz, hip-hop and rock music seldom made better. Trout is the best example that old fashioned music could be transformed into today's music. Based on the guitar lines of Steppenwolf's The Pusher and Led Zeppelin's When Levee Breaks Neneh collected it as a piece of her own. A forgotten classic.
This year is almost gone and looking back on it I have say it was a horrible one. Covid-19 changed our lives completely and I suppose the life after the pandemic won't be the same any more. The virus changed the way we met, the way we work and the public life at all. Incompetent leaders and governments made the wrong decisions or ignored the risk. I can fill the list with much more but I will stop now. One of the things that made life easier was music. Retrospective I can say that it was a good year for music. The main thing this year was the day Andrew Weatherall passed away. He was the one that gave us new music - always one step ahead of us all. A year ends list could be filled nearly with of his songs and mixes. But this was already made by others from us. So I decided to make a list based on a playlist I made on Spotify for new songs that was released in 2020. This is not an ultimate list because I find almost everyday new songs from this year that will be saved on this playlist. Also the songs are with any ranking. So let's start.
The Cry - Truth (Remix 2020)
Four Tet - Baby
Daniel Avery and Alesandro Cortini - Illusion of Time
Glok - Cloud Cover (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
Military Genius - L.M.G.D.
Nadine Shah - Ladies for Babies
Les Big Bird - Tinitus Aetérum
Andrew Weatherall - Unknown Plunder/End time sound (I couldn't resist)
Sonic Boom - Just imagine
Anna Calvi - Wish (Haunted Version)
Hot Since 82 - Make Up
Roisin Murphy - Murphy's Law
Golden Bug & Limininas - Variation Sur 3 bancs
Kanaan - Double Sun pt 2
Yard Act - The Trappers Pelt
Noun, Daniel Avery, Roman Flügel - Meeting of the Mind
Mogwai - Major Treat
Moon Duo -- Planet Caravan
Les Sympatics de Porto Novo - A min we vo nou
Woodleigh Research Facility - Aprés Le Villa 2
Gang Of Four - Forevers Starts Now
Michael Rother - Bitter Tang
Close Lobsters - Let The Day Drift Away (Canopy of Dust Remix)
Dan Wainwright - Rain Dance
Josephie Öhm + The Liberation - Rushing Through My Mind
Total Control - Glass
Steve Gunn - Tommy's Congo
The Oriells - Bobby's Second World (Confidence Man Remix)
As every year I compile a list of albums that was on on heavy rotation this year on my turntable, inspired me in any way or made me feel familiar with the music. I started a few weeks ago to collect a list and I couldn't decide which one doesn't make it on the final list of ten albums. For this reason fantastic albums by Daniel Avery, The Orb, Four Tet, Whyte Horses, SAULT, Kanaan or Little Barrie & Malcom Catto doesn't appear on the final list but are highly recommended. So here are ten albums without valuation.
Sonic Boom - All Things Being Equal: In the middle of the year former Spacemen 3 Pete Kember aka Sonic Boom released an album that has everything I expected from him. From spaced pop songs to Phil
Spector's wall of sound and everything in between is assembled on this beautiful album.
Michael Rother - Dreaming: After 16 years Michael Rother, one of the best living fossils from the golden krautrock days released a new album. From the first chords you realize that this guitar only could be played by the former member of Kraftwerk, Neu! and Harmonia. Timeless guitar phrases like played on his first album make a perfect combination with the voice of Sophie Joiner. Probably on of those albums that will be overlooked.
Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud: Katie Crutchfield released as Waxahatchee an album that could be filled under Americana but it is much more. Her voice, some big guitars, well-honed noise and battering sounds makes her different to many other singer-songwriters in these days and sometimes helped me making some days better this year.
Glok - Dissident Remixed: Last year one of the best albums and this year the remixes were played on heavy rotation when they were released. Andy Bell gave the tracks to some well known mates to develop the originals. Together they made their owns visions of the source material, delving into ambient techno, psychedelic acid disco, krautrock and beyond.
Rose City Bank - Summerlong: It seems like Ripley Johnson can't make any mistake in music. Either as Wooden Shjips or Moon Duo. Also laid back California psychedelic sounds are close to him. It is every time a pleasure listening to his beautiful guitar lines. A second album that has the same quality as the first.
Bob Mould - Blue Hearts: Every album by ex-member of Hüsker Dü Bob Mould is a good one. But this is maybe the best he recorded during the last years. He returns as an angry man shouting out what is going wrong in days like these. With the fury of Hüsker Dü he made the best songs since a long time.
Julian Cope - Self Civil War: This album is one of them I came back often this year. Not just because it shows how great Cope is. Returning after years on high level with 13 songs between his interpretation of rock music and krautrock added with orchestra and ballads. A weird bastard of an album but I love it.
The Long Champs - Straight To Audio: Welsh producer Lloyd Jones and his latest album was one of the discoveries I made this year. A collection of compositions that range from dancefloor to after hours drifting always with an upbeat mood and sinister soundscapes. This was a record that made the strange days of lockdown more brighter.
Richard Norris - Elements: The idea of making an album about earth, fire, water, air and space is probably not the first one ever but for me the best realization I heard. Far away from any cliché of modern music he invites us to a trip into ambient and space. An album that grew with every time I listened to.
Andy Bell - A View From Half Way Down: This album arrived in late autumn and I played it often since then. I like the perfect mixture of his warm interpretation of neo-psychedelia combined with shoegaze and dream-pop. For me the blueprint how an album should sound in 2020.
Velvet Dessert Music: Finally a compilation that was worth to be named in a year-end-list. Cologne's Kompakt-label released in spring a compilation of electronic variations of electronic sounds. The common sense of all is a new interpretation of dessert sounds. Sometimes it sounds like Ennio Morricone in a psychedelic style, sometimes like a downtempo variation of krautrock with psychedelia but always worth to come back to.
During the recent days I listened to Austrian radio once again and a song was played and I couldn't get it out of my mind. It was by the DIVES a three piece female band from Vienna, Austria. The song was nothing more a beautiful indie-ballad starting with a dominant bass inviting a guitar to join the lead voice with a bit of noise and surf. The song is from their last year debut album Teenage Years Are Over and I have to admit that I never heard from them before.
Further investigations generated that they built their superb sound on the holiness of garage-pop, surf-rock and a bit of punk added with great female harmonies. A fantastic find before the year ends.
Conrad Schnitzler was another electronic artist that was almost forgotten. He was a forming member of Kluster in 1969 and later a part of Tangerine Dream and the one who bought Kraftwerk their first synthesizer. He was always looking for new sounds in electronic music and one of the first ones experimentalise in ambient music. I found his record in a second hand store a few days before all the shops had to close. It is a warm and relaxed music and perfect to lose time when all public life is not welcome.
A few days ago me and a few co-workers were sent home from work because we had contact in the first degree to another fellow which was tested positive on Covid 19. As I arrived at home I got a message to come back to our office immediately to make a quick test. So I went for another hour riding on the train. As I arrived another 25 people are waiting for the test. It was very unpleasant to get the testing stick deeply into my nose and waiting 15 minutes for the result. Thank godness the result was that all of us were tested negative. We all got the news about the pandemic from television and newspapers but you think different when you could be the one taken by the illness. When I came home I thought a lot about the luck I had. Later this evening I found a show on the internet by Lucinda Williams performing the songs of Bob Dylan. Unfortunately I couldn't find a single link or video of a wonderful version of It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry so here's a link to the whole show.
There is one song in my mind that I should feature on our Monday's series and I have to admit that I remembered but forgot when I typed a new post. So here is a song that I always come back to from time to time. Roy Harper, a Manchester born folk/rock singer-songwriter is one of the artists that made great records but never made it to icons in music history. The way he plays his finger picking guitar and the way he arranges his complex songs is outstanding and extraordinary. This one is from his 1971 album Stormcock probably his best and an album I come mostly back to on cold and wet evenings in the winter.
In the early 1970's the international music scene was dominated by guitar slinging fossils and art-rock bands (if they wasn't named as glam). Many of them sounded identical to the same blues-rock pattern and you could be lucky to find a band that was different. One of those were Wishbone Ash, a British band whose originality consisted of going away from the worn out blues-rock schemes moving into an extensive use of harmony lead twin guitars. Of course they weren't the first one doing this kind but probably the best ones at these days. It is music I don't play often at my place but sometimes I just want to revel in nostalgia and remember the times of my first live concerts before punk broke and a lot of new and fantastic music came to my ears. This one is from their 1973 album Live Dates and shows exactly what they are famous for.
Australian sample artists returned after more than 15 years with a new album. I have to admit that I didn't heard in full length but what I heard fascinated me. Mostly spoken words over samples makes this sons different to many others I heard. Gold Sky with Kurt Vile on vocals might be the perfect example of what you can expect from them. Perfect for your Sunday morning coffee.
The recent days I heard a song by a collaboration I never thought it would happen. Burial and Four Tet made a jazzy, moody and well tempered song and asked Thom Yorke to lend his vocals for this song. The result is a perfect mixture of Yorke's falsetto with laid back electronic grooves. A surprise for me and a song for winter evenings.
While working on my year end lists I remembered Waxahatchee's last album Saint Cloud. I almost forgot about the beauty of this album and ask myself why I didn't featured once when I saw them live on a festival a few years ago. Catie Crutchfield's southern roots and her combination of Americana and emotional ballads were outstanding this year.
In times like these when you should keep distance to people from another household I turn more and more to Netflix during the weekend. And I suppose that we will get a dusk-to-dawn curfew because the numbers of new infected people is still on a high level and many intensive care units around my place are completely occupied. So me and former Mrs. W., who still can't go home to Sri Lanka, watched the series about The Queen and her first 50 years regency a few days ago. She was impressed about the history and immense on the tragedy that happened in Aberfan, South-Wales in 1966 when a colliery spoil tip collapsed into homes and a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults. We discussed a lot about the reasons and agreed that only profit and ignoring public rules made this disaster happen. In this context I remembered another tragedy, happened on Valentines day 1981 in Artane, Dublin when a fire in a nightclub erupted and killed 48 children because the fire escape doors where locked. I love Christy Moore for telling us the story in a wonderful song and all the other folk singers who commented occasions and tragedies in their songs.
Dan Wainwright, who brought us with Raindance one of the best songs this year with a new EP. What You Need Is Love sees him change the mood and direction of his music. Drifting away from dance floor business this EP shows more of his talents. Now his music is more relaxed and coquettes with Eighties Pop and Electronica with Balearic vibes and a bit of Psychedelic leanings. Seems like the sound I use to come down after another hard working day.
Django Django are a British rock band formed in 2008 and announced their new album with the same title during the next months. I always liked their psychedelic art pop because their songs make me happy and this is not the worst reason for liking any kind of music. Glowing In The Dark is nothing less than one of the best pop songs I heard this year. Dave Maclean aka Dance System re-moulded this song and morphed it into a pro-pulsing slice of techno. I know it is not everybody's taste but this song made me relax a few times after 10-hours shifts at the office.
Höga Nord from Gothenburg, Sweden is one of those labels that is always worth to an ear open to. Their latest release is from Deux Control, a French & Italian duo based in Mexico. They surprised me with a dominant bass line as basis for guitar improvisations and a few synths. What makes this hypnotic song also makes protrude from the average is the softly whispered voice of Jodi Sorder. Seldom played a song more than one time in a row during the last weeks.
Today we arrived at the last month of the year. In normal times I prepare for leaving Europe for a few weeks to spent Christmas and the change of the year in Sri Lanka. But this year it is impossible to fly so I will stay the rest of the year at my place spending time on work for a few weeks and will have two weeks off from the middle of December. Today's song is from a Shunt Voltage an electronic project from Manchester. I couldn't find more about this band in the internet but I like their relaxed stomping beat and electronic rhythms on their latest singles.