Thursday, 26 November 2009

My Albums Of The Noughties

Here it is, a list of my favourite 21 albums of the first ten years of the 21st century. There are 21 because that's just the way it panned out. The criteria is simply which albums have I listened to the most since the new millenium. 

I also cross referenced my fading memories of yearly album lists I compiled when I worked in a record shop and lists made with friends after this.  Here is a podcast released in Dec 2008 reviewing that year in music with Jack Mountain and TheoGb. My Lastfm profile is here. The decade list seems to favour the first half with no albums from 2007 at all. The list is currently in chronological order and features one act from the UK, one from Japan and two from Canada.

Tracks From My Albums Of The Noughties

Animal Collective - “Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished”
(2000) Paw Tracks, reiussed 2003 by Fat Cat Records

Related - Flaming Lips, Black Dice, Forever Changes, Roland SH-2, psychedelic, feedback loops

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (2000) Constellation Records

Related  - A Silver Mt Zion, field recordings, strings

Track - Storm

At The Drive-In - “Relationship Of Command” (2000) Grand Royal

Related Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, Texas, post-hardcore, afros

Cannibal Ox - “The Cold Vein” (2001) Def Jux

Related - Wu-Tang Clan, El-P, Harlem, backpacks, indie hip hop

Hood - “Cold House” (2001) Domino Records

Related - Doseone, Why?, Anticon, Yorkshire dales, lo-fi, shoegaze, electronic

Les Savy Fav - “Go Forth” (2001) French Kiss

Related Dismemberment Plan, Pixies, Talking Heads, live performance, art, indie

Do Make Say Think - “& Yet & Yet” (2002) Constellation Records

Related  –  Fridge, Hood, Kranky, jazz, post rock

Track - Classic Noodlanding

Xinlisuprime - “Tomorrow Never Comes (2002) Fat Cat Records

Related  Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Japanese noise, murder, death, kill

Track - Amaryllis

Sonic Youth - “Murray Street” (2002) Polydor/Universal

Related  –  Pavement, The Year Punk Broke, Jim O'Rourke,indie

El-P - “Fantastic Damage” (2002) Def Jux

RelatedEdan, Company Flow, Cannibal Ox,Brooklyn, indie hip hop

Track - El-P – Dr. Hellno & The Praying Mantus

Black Eyes - s/t (2003) Dischord Records

Related Silver Daggers, Mi Ami, Fugazi, rhythmical punk, two drummers

Track - Speaking In Tongues

Viktor Vaughn - “Vaudeville Villain” (2003) Sound Ink

Related  MF Doom, KMD, comic book, super hero rap

Track - Vaudeville Villain

Black Dice - “Beaches + Canyons” (2003) Fat Cat Records

Related  Autechre, Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, electronic, drones
Track - Big Drop

The Hunches - “Hobo Sunrise(2004) In The Red Records

Related- Sebadoh, The Replacements, In The Red Records, indie, garage 

Track - A Flower In The Ending

Meneguar - “I Was Born At Night” (2005) Troubleman Unlimited

Related  The Van Pelt, The Lapse, Bruce Springsteen, anthemic

Track - House of Cats

Shipping News - “Flies The Field” (2005) Touch & Go Records / Quarterstick

Related  June Of 44, Rodan, Enablers, Chicago indie

Track - The Human Face

Enablers - “Output Negative Space” (2006) Neurot Recordings

Related  Slint, Polvo, Shipping News, spoken word, post rock, indie

Track - Sudden Inspection

Marnie Stern - “This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That” (2008) Kill Rock Stars

Related Hella, Fleetwood Mac, Zach Hill, Kate Bush, prog, punk, indie

Track - Crippled Jazzer

Abe Vigoda - “Skeleton” (2008) PPM Records

Related The Mae Shi, No Age, LA, The Smell, tropicalia, punk

Track - Bear Face

HEALTH - “GET COLOR” (2009) Lovepump Unlimited

Related  – Squarepusher, Fuck Buttons, Crystal Castles, LA, avant rock, indie, punk

Oneida - “Rated O” (2009) Jagjaguwar

Related  Liars, Can, Neu, classic rock, avant rock, experimental

Track - Oneida – I Will Haunt You

Bubbling under - Radiohead - "Kid A" (2000), Tortoise - "Standards", Hot Snakes - "Suicide Invoice", Edan - "Primitive Plus", Tom Waits - "Real Gone", Clouddead - s/t, Dananananaykroyd- "Hey Everyone"

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Rap Obsession

It's hip hop phase time, chiefly hip hop from New York around the mid-90s. So I'm not talking about some office worker favourite Jay-Z accountant shit. Here is the current hall of fame:


Illmatic released in April 1994 is often considered the greatest hip hop album ever made whatever that entails! Tracks like New York State of Mind and Life's A Bitch demonstrate Nas' great lyrical flow and storytelling about the Queensbridge housing projects where he grew up in. Sample lyrics include:

It drops deep as it does in my breath
I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death
Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined
I think of crime when I'm in a New York state of mind

Add in DJ Premier from Gang Starr providing the production and it's the two most talented hip hop artists at the time. There's not a bad track on it as 'Nasty' Nas goes from thoughtful ballads One Love and Memory Lane to Moet-in-the-air party anthem Represent. The result is an inspired album that eats one dimensional MTV rappers for breakfast. (cough cough Jay-Z, 50 Cent). Also what a great cover!

His subsequent albums It Was Written (1996), I Am (1999) and especially in 2001 Stillmatic were all still far above the competition for those who rate great rapping, production and musicanship.  He has also released an untitled album in 2008, including a welcome diss against Fox News, aptly named Sly Fox. How many rapper would have the brains and kahunas to do this?

Slick shit, sensin' misinformation
Pimp the station, over stimulation
Reception, deception Comcast digital Satan
The Fox has a bushy tail and Bush tells lies and Fox trots
So I don't know what's real

Later on he gets quite specific.
 They say I'm all about murder-murder and kill-kill
But what about Grindhouse and Kill Bill?
What about Cheney and Halliburton?
The backdoor deals on oil fields
How's Nas the most violent person?
 Ah screw it here's the vide-e-i-o-a!


Nas' mate and made the only Illmatic guest appearance on Life's A Bitch. His verse on that matches Nas so I checked out his first album Doe or Die.

It does not disapoint and stands up to Illmatic. While superior to most other hip hop it's understandably not held in the same esteem as Illmatic, it's overlong and lacks the originality and range of Nas' effort, and it came out a year later. The rhymes are great though and delivered with intent as well as dexterity and speed.

Mobb Deep

More friends of Nas and AZ.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Travelling Around Canada/USA Pt III: New England


Harvard, UMASS, MIT, The Irish, College Rock, Funny Accents, Celtics, Red Sox, Mystic River and Cheers.

Had to go through a toll to get there. We didn't have exact money but ended up in the pre-pay lane and got some serious road rage directed against us for our crime against humanity. I made sure I looked like a terrorist as the impatient yuppie roared by. Before all that we crossed the border from Canada into Vermont and had our boot checked, as the official was going through my passport he saw that I had been to Ghana and wondered why I'd been there. I wearily replied that it had nice beaches but he preferred California because at least there you wouldn't get speared in your butt by a pygmy. I should have said that I travelled there so I wouldn't end up an ignorant red neck, but we needed entry into his great country.

On the plus side Vermont was beautiful. So named because of the abundance of tree-covered hills (literally in French means green mountain). We got lost several times and ended up in traffic in New Hampshire which was also scenic and as the name implies, like Middle England except with more pick up trucks. When we finally got to Boston it was late and we were pretty hacked off with everything and each other which climaxed when we tried to find parking and accommodation. I wanted to get settled and go out but my brother thought having a beer right now was a better idea. It wasn't pretty. And I thought he was suppose to be the older, responsible one. After being turned away from many of the cheap occupied hostels we settled for a upmarket place slightly away from the action and hit the bars.

We found one nearby which was supposed to be based on the bar in Cheers or was it the other way around. There's probably millions of them. Then we discovered a pub with a cheesy funk rock band and a no smoking policy. Needless to say there were people outside puffing. Soon we were tired so we had bagels and watched John Lydon on some American chat show being funny and taking the piss.

Next day we went to Cambridge a kind of suburb of Boston with the status all of its own. As the name suggests it is home to the elite academia of the US in the shape of Harvard. What we found was a huge shopping mall but with more character with nice pedestrianised streets and chic plazas. Two record shops stood out Planet which does second hand and Newbury Comics which despite the name is probably the best record store i have EVER been to. I measured this using the standard 'how much time/money am i going to waste here' test. It was cheap, had nearly every album by bands I liked, also some nice 7s and the odd vinyl gem. The staff looked a little sour but then i can't really talk. I spent a small fortune then, in order to wash ourselves of unabashed consumerism checked out the old style Harvard brownstone buildings in the leafy area.

We found some nice bars nearer towards Boston that obviously had the student bohemian indie rock dollar in mind. Although the jukeboxes were a little unimaginative. One pub had some quite funny improvisational comedy going down in the style of Whose line is it Anyway? Another earthy Irish type pub resembled one in the Boston-set film Mystic River when the girls start dancing on the tables (no, it's nothing like Coyote Ugly); as i was wearing a NY Yankees cap I inquired as to whether I was gonna get a beating from some Red Sox fan. It turned out one of the guys at the bar had a Yankees tattoo. Shame, I was looking forward to a tumble with some local ruffian. I guess this kind of sporting rivalry only exists in dead end parts of British cities where there's no room.

The atmosphere of Boston was noticeably different to that of Chicago, Toronto, Detroit which all had that Midwestern hospitality, even Montreal had its own kind of French thing going on. Boston, though, is East Coast aloof and more European, obviously with the whole Harvard connection and the strong British colonial influence. You'd think to us it would have felt more at home but the opposite was the case. Its hard to make these generalisations in short stays and I could give you specific examples but I learnt a lot by just merely observing and listening to people. My brother felt the same. Even though I should go back to learn more I'm not in any great hurry to return. Goodbye Boston, it was swell.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Travelling Around USA/Canada Pt II; Lost in the Midwest


The Windy City. Blues. Jazz. Soul. House. Gangsters. Home of the Skyscraper. Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan. Pizza. Sears Tower. Blues Brothers. Al Capone and an amazing local rock scene. Definitely open!

Its the weekend and Chicago beckons like the metropolis it is. Except we're stuck in some serious rush hour traffic. We book in at the Ohio hostel this time as camping isn't really the done thing when you're in Chicago or 'Chico' as me and my bro have renamed it for reasons of our own. We rejoice in having actual beds to sleep in although Dave looks like he's taking the floor because we could only afford two.

We watch the ridiculously entertaining if very flawed Alien 4 as we prepare to hit town. The first bar we discover has a pretty girl standing near the door to take your drink order, we all agree that this is the work of genius until we realise she wants a tip. There are complimentary nuts and offensive ciggarette machines. We feel a bit out of place as we seem to be mixing with the Ally McBeal type crowd when we're some losers from limey land who think AC/DC are clever. We try some more bars but they are worse with added arcade games and eurohouse.

Then the night takes a turn, reluctantly getting my guide book out I decide it would be good to walk to the more bohemian Westside. We walk for no more than 5 minutes when we notice the razzmatazz of before fading ominously, the streets are dark and it looks like a building site. Suddenly we hear a call from behind and see a guy approaching, he scares the fuck out of us by telling us that he overheard some guys saying that they we're going to jump us and that we were in the ghetto now. He offered to escort us back for some dollar which we duly obliged having just filled our pants. So we retraced our steps and gladly welcomed the eurohouse like a long lost brother.

The next day was sunny and touristy so we did Sears Tower which took over an hour just to get to the top. The views are amazing as is the surrounding architecture. Inside the top deck there are themes of Chicago such as its sporting history and entertaining natives and ex-resident funnymen, Murray, Belushi and Candy. Then we hung out in Grant Park where we saw a squirrel and attended a free Jazz Festival. We saw someone called Roscoe Mitchell but missed Elvin Jones who was John Coltrane's drummer because we had to go to a gig that night. Shame.

My brother had decided that we going to see some emo-pop punk band called Reggie and the Full Effects who were entertaining but the venue called the House Of Blues seemed to take the fun out of it. A security guard thought my bro was smoking spliff because he was using rolling tobacco and crowd surfers were stoically marched back into the crowd. What happened to the Mid-Western hospitality?

Before this we did manage to hang in the West Side which was one of my favourite places we visited the whole holiday. There was a nice bohemian feel to the neighbourhood with fly posters everywhere. It even had a Reckless Records, like the one in London town, apparently there's one in L.A. too. This one had things you wouldn't find back home and at unbeatable prices. I bought two CDs for a tenner. I had to prized away. Luckily there were many bars around.

One bartender told us about someone he knew who ended up in the back of a van confronted by several gun barrels owned by drug dealers. It seems Chicago can't shake its gangster past only now they don't dress as smart and are even more ruthless. Then to cap it all we almost ended up drunk in the same ghetto we were in before but only avoided it because we asked directions and got advised not to walk further but take the next taxi to the aformentioned gig. The hood we walked into, by the way is called Cabrini Green, see earlier link,  and is only a wrong turn away from the city centre. Avoid it, it's not clever.

After this exhausting day me and my brother decided to have a go at one another over probobly not much so I went and got some beers in to relax. We fell asleep watching The People vs Larry Flynt. The next day it rained so we left, besides we had to be back in Toronto by the next day. Driving across the boarder provided a moment when i'd accidently folded money into my passport which didn't impress the rather solemn boarder guard. The Canadian official on the other hand made nice conversation about back home. Everyone's got relatives there. We didn't get into bed till about 3am because we couldn't find the camp site so we forked out for a travel inn.