2015: Music of the Year

As much as I love music and seeing music being performed live and sharing the music I like with people, it’s finally dawned on me that I actually suck at writing about it. I have no sense of how to describe how something sounds, and my working knowledge of terminology, or coming up with comparisons, or even placing bands or songs into subgenres, is pretty ropey. It’s a pain to write, it’s not entertaining to read, so let’s cut to the chase, and present – largely without comment – my favourite albums released this year.

1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

I will just say something about this, out of all the gigs I saw this year (admittedly not many, but some good stuff at Glastonbury, Future Islands/Beck/The Strokes at Hyde Park, Garbage at Brixton Academy…), Sufjan Stevens at Royal Festival Hall was a highlight. Impeccably performed renditions of the latest album, but when Sufjan finally got chatting with the crowd, what could have been a beautiful but sombre occasion became filled with remarkable levity, cracking jokes, fluffing lines as he got the giggles. And to cap it off, a finale that made full use of the venue’s pipe organ filled the hall with a swirling rumble that felt like a UFO landing. Extraordinary and memorable.

2. Grimes – Art Angels
3. The Dø – Shake Shook Shaken
4. FFS – FFS
5. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense
6. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
7. The Go! Team – The Scene Between
8. John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
9. Tame Impala – Currents
10. Lianne La Havas – Blood

And what with a music wrap-up be without one of my Viewing Gum Listening Posts? Largely compiled from my VGLP playlists, this bumper edition will hopefully in the grand tradition offer a little something for everyone. Stream below or click here.

 

 

And that’s not all, for in my occasional duty as resident DJ of GamerDisco, I also listen to a lot of chiptune, synthwave, video game remixes, soundtracks and more. And so I also compile a Spotify playlist with some of the best tracks that you might hear at our events. Please enjoy!

 

 

Viewing Gum Listening Post #30

The Viewing Gum Listening Post hits the big THREE OH. Welcome to VGLP30 which will serve as the final regular playlist of 2015. Coming by the end of the month (or perhaps early 2016) will include my regular Best of the Year articles, and with them accompanying playlists. So do follow me on Spotify, Twitter and the like to access them as soon as they appear. The year is running out of steam yet (and there are some singles here from some much awaited albums in the new year too, so plenty to look forward to in 2016).

Stream below or click here to hear all dem songs..

 

  1. Hot Chip – Dancing In The Dark
  2. Neon Indian – Annie
  3. Missy Elliott – WTF (Where They From) [feat. Pharrell Williams]
  4. Santigold – Can’t Get Enough Of Myself (feat B.C)
  5. Grimes – World Princess part II
  6. André Bratten – Philistine
  7. Eagles of Death Metal – Save A Prayer
  8. Savages – T.I.W.Y.G.
  9. Field Music – The Noisy Days Are Over (Single Version)
  10. Ghostface Killah, BadBadNotGood – Ray Gun (feat. DOOM)
  11. Guy Garvey – Electricity
  12. David Bowie – Blackstar

Viewing Gum Listening Post #20

Viewing Gum Listening Post hits the big TWO ZERO. And to mark this special event, I have done something amazing: I have gone and changed the playlist title from “Viewing Gum Listening Post” to…wait for it…VGLP. THIS. CHANGES. EVERYTHING.

Okay, perhaps not, but apart from that, everything is same as ever – old and new, silly and serious, upbeat and downplayed, everything you could hope for. So enjoy the dozen tracks handpicked by yours truly by clicking here or streaming below!

 

  1. Buffalo Daughter – Oui Oui
  2. Nina Persson – Catch Me Crying
  3. La Roux – Let Me Down Gently
  4. Grimes feat. Blood Diamonds – Go
  5. Cabaret Voltaire – I Want You (7″ Version)
  6. Jungle By Night – Attila
  7. The Notwist – They Follow Me
  8. Sparks  – Why Did You Make Me Care?
  9. Dylan Howe – Art Decade
  10. Alvvays – Next of Kin
  11. Slow Club – Everything is New
  12. Keaton Henson – Elevator Song (feat. Ren Ford)

2012: Albums of the Year

If you’ve been listening to my Viewing Gum Listening Posts or Tokyo Soundscape episodes (and if not, why not?!), you should probably already have a fair idea of my musical consumption the past twelve months. But luckily, it’s time for a good old recap, and a fully interactive one at that. So, besides a top 10 rundown, as well as a bunch of other recommendations that didn’t make the cut, I’ve also put together a Viewing Gum Music of 2012 playlist on Spotify, but for those after the bigger picture, clicking any of the covers featured in this article should also warp you straight to the full album itself on Spotify. And if you don’t have Spotify? Err…my words will have to suffice. First off, here’s my TOP 10:

As much as I have enjoyed Hot Chip’s singles and live performances, their albums have never quite clicked with me. That changed with their fifth release, In Our Heads, perhaps their poppiest record yet, but this isn’t a case of dumbing down. As much a summation of everything they have achieved thus far as it is a celebration of their influences, it also feels like a new lease of life for the Chippies. A total joy from start to finish.

#2. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

Dirty Projectors’ previous albums have been easier to admire than to actively enjoy – there’s often a lot going on, but to what end is often garbled, resulting in an uneasy listening experience. However, with Swing Lo Magellan, Dave Longstreth finds melody to match the madness, without losing the distinct quirks and tics with which he has made his name. No finer trio of opening tracks you’ll find anywhere else as here: ‘Offspring Are Blank’, ‘About to Die’, and the haunting ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ (translated into Sumerian Akkadian Cuneiform of all things by my good friend Willis!). Rest of the album’s damn fine too.

#3. Django Django - Django Django

An early frontrunner for my favourite of the year, it perhaps became a victim of ear-exhaustion on my part through heavy rotation. But that’s what Django Django does to you, providing a magical sonic backdrop to any endeavour. Still the best debut release I heard though, groovy beats with a hint of the exotic, and although the lyrics are unremarkable, they add to the overall texture. Every song sounds timeless yet completely of the time too, with rhythms so catchy it’s as if they’ve always existed.

#4. Grimes - Visions

 Like other feted electronic mood-makers The xx and James Blake, there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening on first listen to Visions, but the calm surface belies a constantly churning sound that’s otherworldly without dissolving into New Age muzak, dreamy without being indistinct. There’s a real pulse throughout, reaching peaks with ‘Genesis’, ‘Oblivion’, and ‘Nightmusic’, but the whole album ebbs and flows nicely.

#5. Field Music - Plumb

 Brothers Peter and David Brewis operate on a highly-skilled level of technical songcraft, with unconventional instrumentation and shifting time signatures, buoyed by quintessential English eccentricity and humour. There’s a classic pop-rock sensibility on show, but Plumb takes you down unpredictable paths. An absolute pleasure.

#6. Jack White - Blunderbuss

It’s fair enough how long Jack White has taken to release a solo album having kept himself occupied with two extra bands (with two albums each) alongside The White Stripes, but now that time has been called on his breakthrough duo, Blunderbuss has landed, and it’s a hoot. Though armed with a few full-on rockbusters, White more often indulges his bluesier side, but either way, there’s not a duffer to be found.

#7. Grizzly Bear - Shields

 It’s become somewhat easy to take Grizzly Bear for granted. As expected, Shields is another batch of gorgeous impeccably-crafted tracks, and while there may not be one standalone stunner as ‘Knife’ was to Yellow House or ‘Two Weeks’ to Veckatimest, it is perhaps their most consistent and complete record thus far. A grower to be sure.

#8. Adrian Younge - Something About April

 Adrian Younge builds on his work as composer (as well as editor) on cult comedy favourite and affectionate Blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite with concept album Something About April. With a rich blend of cinematic soul, it’s a warm sensuous record that’s far more than just a nostalgia exercise.

#9. The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends

 Psyche-rock mischief-makers The Flaming Lips flip through their eclectic rolodex, bringing in “fwends” old and new to contribute samples, licks, or full-blown vocals to this musical oddity. The results aren’t as mixed as one might fear, but there are some exceptional highs, notably the Cyberman-sampling ‘2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)’ and the pounding ‘This Ain’t My Trip’, as well as Neon Indian-collaboration ‘Is David Bowie Dying?’, and controversial cover ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’.

#10. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant

David Byrne teams up with St. Vincent on a funky song selection, filled with character and bolstered by its brass section. It’s a shame sometimes Annie Clark’s voice gets lost sometimes under Byrne’s, but when they are on equal footing or flying solo, it works like a charm. Bouncy bouncy bouncy bouncy fun fun fun fun fun.

So those were my total besties of 2012, but here is a selection of 20 other albums I enjoyed which are all absolutely worth your time too. Hover over the cover for the title and artist, then click to be whisked away to listen to it on Spotify!

Alt-J - An Awesome Wave Animal Collective – Centipede Hz Beach House - Bloom Best Coast – The Only Place Bo Ningen - Line The Wall Busdriver - Beaus$Eros Crystal Castles - (III) Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Here Electric Guest - MondoThe Gaslamp Killer - Breakthrough Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! Jesse Ruins - Dream Analysis Keaton Henson - DearNorah Jones – Little Broken Hearts Opossom - Electric Hawaii salyu x salyu – s(o)un(d)beams Sigur Rós - ValtariTame Impala - Lonerism Turntable Films - Yellow Yesterday   The xx – Coexist

And in case you just want to cut to the chase, and sample the best of the best, here again is the Viewing Gum Music of 2012 playlist embedded below.

 

Viewing Gum Listening Post #1

Welcome to the Viewing Gum Listening Post! I’ve decided to start collating what I’ve been listening to recently on Spotify into some sort of order, selecting favourite tunes of mine from the past few months, and putting them together into a handy playlist for everyone else to enjoy. It’s a real pic ‘n’ mix, from all new American indie to Icelandic electronica, and from krautrock to Chinese rock. Should give you a flavour of my own music interests, but by all means, recommendations are most welcome.

VIEWING GUM LISTENING POST #1

  1. Field Music – (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing
  2. The Shins – Simple Song
  3. The Leisure Society – It Dissolves in the Writing
  4. Can – Mother Sky
  5. Neu! – Hero
  6. New Pants – Go East
  7. Apparat Organ Quartet – Polynesia
  8. Grimes – Genesis
  9. Yukihiro Takahashi – The Words
  10. Andrew Bird – Dissent
  11. Gillian Welch – Dark Turn of Mind