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   Saturday, December 31, 2005  
Sheer favouritism...

In spite of the tedious, tedious intrusion of real life, a list, there has to be a list. Browsing the zillions of Records of the Year surveys out there it becomes apparent just how much great sounding stuff has come out that this blog has simply not yet heard/haughtily ignored/been utterly oblivious to til just now/etc etc. Who is/are Testface, for instance? Absolutely no idea but Doctor Won’t You Get Us To Dawn ['like the lovechild of the Silver Jews and Grandaddy'] sounds well worth investigating. The snappily named Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson have, we're told, put out the Norwegian album of the year and by golly if it isn't 'world class post-rock' - being partial to a bit of p-r, reallyrather is right keen to hear Unnoticeable in a tiny town, invisible in the city. And The Pathways and Why? have both apparently made great little pop records trendily replete with 'challenging vocalist' syndrome. Will any of these ever get heard here? The old time/money equation presently bodes ill but hey...
Names already familiar have put out new records which this blog would almost certainly like, but 'like' hasn't, for some reason, translated into 'bought'. Mazarin, Oranger and Rogue Wave have doubtless hewn lots more smartly-turned psych-pop nuggets but merely knowing that appears enough; curiosity spiked. Then there are those acts which crop up on many lists which heavily overlap reallyrather territory and who theoretically ought to appeal but, er, don't really. Like the Mountain Goats, The Decemberists, Andrew Bird and Spoon. Also absent from this round-up are Rilo Kiley and Arcade Fire (last yr really) and reallyrather remains stoutly an Antony-free zone. The list won't be numbered but gradually increasing regard remains more or less the implicit assumption as is recommended purchase. Also, a natural pairing-off seemed to evolve.

Populating the foothills are an assortment of near-misses like the Bright Eyes country record (wholly admirable but ultimately lacking.. something) and the latest from Bristol's Gravenhurst [go]. Fires in distant buildings is a solid and rewarding set from Nick Talbot & co. Still preoccupied by Bad Things Which Could Happen At Any Minute, it's mostly extended quiet/loud folk-rockin' wistfulness with detours into Damien Rice-ness (Nicole), New Order-meets-The-Strokes (The velvet cell, ace!) and Jefferson Airplane do The Kinks (See my friends). A good trip.
Richard Hawley's Coles Corner is not 'genius', as Mojo asserted. Much as before, it's seductively vintage balladry and more luxe than ever. Slightly worryingly its more derivative than ever too and the man has also started trying to walk the walk (quiff, big black collar). And nicking already distinctive song titles is a telltale sign of limited imagination (Born under a bad sign?! You don't miss your water off the last one?). Reallyrather is enjoying it but sees through it and gently suggests Jens Lekman's "Oh you're so silent Jens" as a more stimulating alternative. A compilation of already released EPs and such, it's fairly stiff with '60s-influenced art pop both wistful and groovy and the titles are all his own (like I saw her in the anti-war demonstration). And ticking many of the same boxes (ie. Swedish, poppy, quirky/droll lyrics) is the debut from Annika Norlin aka Hello Saferide [go]. The delightfully perky Introducing... has plenty of jangletastic moments - tambos and handclaps ahoy!

And so to the sounds which have mostly coloured reallyrather's year...

Audible / Sky signal [see rr 04/04]
Saxon Shore / The exquisite death of Saxon Shore [rr 22/22]
Two sets of readily-digestible melodic indie-pop-rock. Audible's songs have words, post-rockin' Saxon's don't, the pair sharing a sort of whooshing quality to their guitar-synth sounds. Playing & production's a little clunky at times on Sky signal - 'Saxon Shore plays Audible', now that would sound great in the headphones...
[audible][saxon shore]

Biirde / Morning kills the dark [rr 02/05]
Bunky / Born to be a motorcycle [rr 06/03]
Quirky little one-word names beginning with 'B' aside, this pair have been played in equal measure for their big-eyed boy-girl indie-pop arrangments. Neither is wholly successful but what does work works really well. Bunky take mischievous delight in dropping the raucous and scatalogical in amongst some quite gorgeous torch-ery, Funny like the moon bolting the two sides together in one memorably incongruous number. Buy (buy) Biirdie for loved-up Jared & Kala's more orch-pop-inclined odes to music and, well, themselves...

Wolf Parade / Apologies to the Queen Mary [rr 16/10]
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah / s/t [rr 16/10]
Get 'em while they're hot.. and also because they're both about 90% excellent. Their varying takes on post-Talking Heads/Arcade Fire indie rock show no signs yet of losing any of their flavour. CYHSY is the more spry of the pair, Wolf Parade being, in the best sense, more heavy-handedly consistent, more 'rock'. Both feature yelping...

Denison Witmer / Are you a dreamer? [rr 20/08]
James William Hindle / Town feeling [rr 09/06]
Humble troubadours - polite, sensitive, well-intentioned types you wouldn't really fancy in a fight - supported by their empathetic musical friends. Witmer's is the superior work here, his most finished to date and scandalously overlooked in the year-end stakes. Mild and melifluous with pin-sharp compositions and cosy Don Peris production (Innocence Mission fans will want this record). Brit Hindle's breezier country-folk-pop delights, for the most part, like a jug of homemade lemonade on a warm afternoon.. or something...

The Boy Least Likely To / The best party ever [20/08]
The Magic Numbers / s/t [rr 30/06]
Bouyant feelgood guitar pop with big smiles disguising little worries. Both bands are at their best in their faster paces, interest generally waning in direct correlation with the bpm. But happily this matters not since their upbeat stuff is so great. The Numbers' record is too long but tracks 1 thru 9 work every time. The Boy's twinkly stomp and cultivated underdog profile looks set for greater exposure a whole year after their debut's release. The best party ever is fun for all the family and recommended for long car trips with the kids...
[fan boy][magic numbers]

The Diskettes / Weeknights at Island View Beach
The Diskettes / s/t [rr 09/06]
Aah, The Diskettes. What to say beyond the fact that feel like they've always been there. To this blog their sweet lo-fi DIY doo-wop was instantly appealing and reallyrather just knows it's charm will never fade. Take one nylon-strung guitar, some simple whatever's-to-hand percussion and enthusiastic but ordinary harmonized vocals, all applied to a string of original but timeless ditties. Something like Cabin by the sea is 1m36s of dance-around-the-room joy. The s/t disc is actually from last year but they're so cheap you should get 'em both...
[the diskettes]

M. Ward / Transistor radio [rr 19/03]
Sufjan Stevens / Illinois [rr 27/07]
It's becoming routine to expect greatness from these guys and once again they delivered and then some. Appallingly absent from so many lists from those who should know better (rr can only assume they forgot), Transistor radio is Ward's most completely winning set to date, endlessly and quite gorgeously refashioning what's essentially a quite basic folk-blues format. Picking highlights would be utterly pointless. And the same can be said of Stevens' unanimously acclaimed opus, so restlessly literate and musically fecund. It's overlong and occasionally echoes his previous work a bit too directly but the ability to focus and engage amidst so much activity (live as well as on disc) is marvellous. Illinois is enjoyable impressive, Transistor radio impressively enjoyable...
[m. ward][sufjan forum]

Clor / s/t [rr 08/08]
They stand alone, not just here but in the foetid swirl of UK indie rock dominated as it is by the twisty guitar-pop laddish legions. Sniffed at by many (who plainly just don't know Good Stuff when they hear it), rr was wholly won over by this unprepossessing muso quintet's home-fashioned stew of electro-funk-prog-dance-rock-whatever. You can usefully judge an act by the stuff it tosses away: Tough love is as good as anything on their album but you'll only find it as the 'b-side' to Love & pain ( itself a serious candidate for single of the year). Sleazy, hard-boiled, suggestive, sharp, Clor are mighty on disc and better still live...

..which just leaves..

matt pond PA / Several arrows later [rr 06/11]
Hey, Matt, looks like it's you! Scoring at no.2 with Emblems in this space 12 months ago, mpPA have only gone and fashioned something even better. Not that it's that much different really. Emblems saw things shifting up a gear production-wise and SAL is the natural conclusion of the process of tightening and trimming. Everything here is bolted down, tucked into place and the 12-song set has been honed to the point where it's duff-track free (Emblems had one right at the end). This is beautifully rendered mellow pop-rock, mostly mid-tempo (no slow songs at all, hurrah!), often driving & punchy, the durability of the super-strength melodies further enhanced by the opaque quality of Pond's lyrics and voice. Rather too consistent and neutral for some, reallyrather finds Several arrows later a pleasure from start to finish. Right, I'm off to listen to it again...
[matt pond pa]
   posted by SMc at 7:12 PM |