Monday, December 08, 2014

Feel good hits of the 8th December: bumper edition

1. 'Speak To The Wild' - Thurston Moore
It will come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever that The Best Day is right up there with my favourite albums of this last year. Opening track 'Speak To The Wild' doesn't exactly deviate far from the course Sonic Youth were plotting with The Eternal, but that's no bad thing at all.

2. 'Dominican Fade' - Battles
A track I was earworming constantly while writing up the Battles-curated ATP day recently, and one that helps build the case that they're above all a party band.

3. 'Continental Shelf' - Viet Cong
Women may have had a pitifully short existence before self-imploding in the most spectacular fashion, but out of the ashes come Viet Cong, picked up by the ever-reliable Jagjaguwar. 'Continental Shelf' has a nicely sinister (and NSFW) video and sounds rather like, well, Interpol stuck in a snowstorm.

4. 'Central Park Blues' - Ultimate Painting
A Velvets-inspired instant hit from my first sighting of them, supporting Parquet Courts in June, and one whose merits were reinforced by further exposure at Southsea Fest in September and then to the self-titled album.

5. 'Starla' - Smashing Pumpkins
I'm not entirely sure what possessed me to revisit the Pumpkins' stop-gap B-sides-and-odds-'n'-sods album Pisces Iscariot, but I'm glad I did - it's a pearler, and this track in particular, which as a 17-year-old, I recall, I had ambitions of covering with a string section... A bit of research led me to this cover by Adem of Fridge, underlining that it's tailor-made for a loop pedal. Will I be buying Monuments To An Elegy? No.

6. 'Caught In A Dream' - FF
The latest Insound recommendation to catch my ear. Uncomplicated but tastily raucous - file next to Cloud Nothings.

7. 'Lemon' - Maiians
Maiians might be new kids on the block here in Oxford - and a side-project at that - but many more songs like 'Lemon' (think post-rock under the influence of Battles) with similarly genius videos and they may well end up making big waves.

8. 'Opaque' - Eagulls
To these ears, Eagulls' largely unremarkable debut album is at its best when they stop fighting the urge to sneak in a bit of melody - such as on 'Possessed' and this track, tucked away towards the end.

9. 'Argent' - Jane Weaver
When Piccadilly Records publish their end-of-year lists, I've learned to sit up and take note, and their #1 album of the year is Jane Weaver's The Silver Globe. One listen to 'Argent' and it's immediately obvious how she's ended up as tour support to Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier - though you do wonder whether audiences will have been able to tell where she finishes and Sadier begins...

10. '9th & Hennepin' - Tom Waits
I'm slowly getting into Rain Dogs, and this spoken word piece is absolutely superb - as you know it will be from that early line "All the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes"...

11. 'Waterfall' - Ex Hex
While Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss have reformed Sleater-Kinney, fellow former Wild Flag member Mary Timony has moved on too. The demise of her previous outfit doesn't seem to have got her down, if 'Waterfall' is anything to go by - a splendid slice of bubblegum glam with more than a little nod to T Rex, Roxy Music and Cheap Trick, with a video featuring Kid Congo Powers among others.

12. 'Zombie' - Fela Kuti
Part of the crash course in African music a friend is insisting on giving me. When it comes to Fela Kuti, though, I'm not complaining - I wanted to hear more after enjoying his son and heir Femi at Glastonbury four years ago.

13. 'High Town Crow' - The August List
More Oxfordshire hopefuls, vying with Maiians for the title of most promising newcomers. This is a standout from their debut album O Hinterland - folky and bluesy, but with a touch of darkness and a latent sense of violence in its tale of small-town paranoia.

14. 'Medicine' - Trash Kit
Trash Kit are a trio whom Thurston Moore has not only namechecked in interviews but also invited to support his short-lived Chelsea Light Moving last year. With their wiry guitar lines, frantic percussion, inventive rhythms and sense of fun, it's hardly surprising they've been compared to The Slits.

15. 'Teenage Exorcists' - Mogwai
As has become standard practice, Mogwai have followed up an album with a bits-and-pieces EP released later the same year. I haven't bought Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1 yet, and to be honest 'Teenage Exorcists' (despite the typically great title) doesn't induce me to do so. While it's great that Stuart Braithwaite has finally ditched the vocoder, the song itself feels far too conventional even by their own recent standards. Certainly it's no 'Hound Of Winter' or 'Christmas Song'.

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