Viewing Gum Listening Post #14

Okay 2013 – this year is getting RIDICULOUS for music from some of my favourite artists. Not only that, so many great new side projects and emerging talents too. It’s hard keeping track, even on a weekly basis, of all the neat stuff coming out, but hey, I’ve tried my best to distill a selection here, and there are some big hitters too. Click here to launch the playlist, or stream below!

 

  1. Janelle Monáe – Givin Em What They Love [feat. Prince]
  2. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
  3. Franz Ferdinand – Evil Eye
  4. MGMT – Mystery Disease
  5. Kings of Leon – Supersoaker
  6. Golden Suits – Swimming in ’99
  7. CHVRCHES – Lungs
  8. Big Black Delta – Capsize
  9. Chrome Canyon – Generations
  10. Baths – Ironworks
  11. Goldfrapp – Drew
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Viewing Gum Listening Post #10

The Viewing Gum Listening Post hits double figures, and given it’s highly unlikely it’ll reach triple figures (let’s get real here, guys), let’s celebrate! And what better way to do so than with another bumper playlist. Yup, despite my Spotify discord (new problem: massive font/spacing), there’s just too much music out there to not keep compiling these cross-sections of my listening habits over the past what-have-you. I’ll be honest – it’s pretty much all over the shop this time round and has gone through many alterations, some stuff I’ve just whacked in having only listened a couple times (the new Janelle Monáe), some I’m not instantly sold on but hope it will grow on me just by virtue of being on my new playlist (the new Daft Punk) – but hey! There’s something for everyone here, make no mistake. You can click here to open on your Spotify, or stream below. 10/10!

 

  1. Peace – Toxic
  2. Guards – Resolution of One
  3. Kurt Vile – Shame Chamber
  4. François And The Atlas Mountains – Les Plus Beaux
  5. Janelle Monáe – Q.U.E.E.N. – feat. Erykah Badu
  6. Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky
  7. Ghostface Killah, Adrian Younge – Blood On the Cobblestones
  8. The Knife – Without You My Life Would Be Boring
  9. The Flaming Lips – Always There, In Our Hearts
  10. Duologue – Gift Horse
  11. Ólafur Arnalds – Sudden Throw
  12. British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy
  13. The Leisure Society – Forever Shall We Wait

2011: Gigs of the Year

And so beginneth the first in a series of top 2011 lists, starting with my favourite live performances of the year. All images were taken at the Glastonbury Festival by me, and you can see all my other festy snaps here, and I’ve also thrown in some YouTube links – I mean, all those guys with their cameraphones out at gigs weren’t just recording their crummy footage for nothing, right?

1. Janelle Monáe (Glastonbury)

Though on sparkling form at her Roundhouse show earlier on in the year, that was marred by overcooked sound levels. No such problem here, in easily the slickest and downright most entertaining performance I’ve seen this year. With the ArchOrchestra on top form, Monáe, polished but still filled with soul and bundles of energy, effortlessly rattled through her set with a bonus note-perfect cover of ‘I Want You Back’ to boot. My crowd-surf super-lucky photo-op (which was exhibited at The Guardian offices in London, dontcha know) was just the icing on the cake.

2. Guitar Wolf (Islington Academy)

Legendary leather-clad riotous rockers Guitar Wolf touched their space battleship down in London for a non-stop tour de force leading to puddles of sweat, an audience member attempting a guitar solo, a human pyramid and, when the lights came on and the power was pulled by venue management, an acoustic finale out of necessity as Guitar Wolf battled on regardless. Factor in support from London-based psychedelic noise merchants Bo Ningen and you have one hell of a show.

3. Pulp (Wireless)

For their first announced comeback show, tickets for Pulp’s headlining day at the Wireless festival were rather bafflingly not sold out. But other people’s loss I guess, as Cocker and chums delivered a stonking set filled with their biggest hits and plenty of fan favourites. And Pulp are arguably even more necessary today than at the height of their Britpop popularity.

4. Foo Fighters (Roundhouse)

I am no great Foo Fighters fan, more a casual appreciator, but there was no question that their iTunes festival gig was something almighty. From Dave Grohl appearing behind the audience on top of the bar for a guitar battle, and then later getting an unruly attendee thrown out for picking a fight, to special guest appearances from Lemmy and Queen’s Roger Taylor and Brian May, it was two-and-a-half hours plus of rock excellence.

5. Darwin Deez (Glastonbury)

Darwin and his fellow Deezers know how to put a performance together. Not content with playing their already wonderful tunes, they drop instruments for impeccably choreographed dance interludes to a jukebox jamboree. Not to mention a side order of sweet rapping. Fun fun fun.

6. Mono and Holy Ground Orchestra (Koko)

First time I saw Japanese epic rock instrumental group Mono, they were supported by the astonishing World’s End Girlfriend who somewhat stole the show. But in the European debut of their orchestral accompaniment set, they really came into their own. A beautiful and memorable evening.

7. DeVotchKa (Glastonbury, Wireless)

Perhaps best known for their big Little Miss Sunshine-featured themes, live DeVotchKa have no problem rocking with the best of them, with pounding gypsy-infused stomps amongst the more sensitive sections. Plus, a bit of theremin action, a great big horn, and even a banana maraca.

8. Portishead (ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror)

Though ATP’s inaugural I’ll Be Your Mirror festival was hardly without teething problems, they sure had a doozy of a curator for their first effort. If Beth Gibbons’ voice sounds hauntingly flawless on record, live it’s astonishing. So glad to have finally seen them live.

9. Grinderman (ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror)

For snarling sweaty rock that’s raw, ready and rough around the edges, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds side project deliver in buckets. Shame to hear they may be pulling the plug on Grinderman for the time being, but great to see them run riot in Alexandra Palace.

10. Grace Jones (Wireless)

With multiple hat-and-accessory changes on top of an already revealing outfit (for 63 years old, she still cuts a striking figure), Grace Jones is also a great entertainer. Witness her closing number as she rocks a hula hoop for the whole of ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ and then continues to keep it spinning as she introduces all the band members and still keeps it going as she leaves the stage. Very not bad.

2010: Music of the Year

I spent every one of the preceding three hundred and sixty five days, now lost to the annals of history and all things intangible, filling my earholes with someone else’s made-up words and noises, and now I present to you ten such collections over that course of time that particularly tweaked the part of my brain that responds favourably to music.

10. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards

Little Jack White has so many thumbs in musical pies at any one time, it seems like everyone forgets to bat an eyelid his way when he unleashes yet another rock glob on the populous even if it is still royally deserved. So, with a quick turnaround second album from the other band that isn’t The Raconteurs, it was like Consolers of the Lonely all over again. Which is a shame, as it is rollicking good fun from start to finish, with piss and vinegar seeping from its wet black jeans. Not a pretty image, but an image nonetheless.

> > > Hustle and Cuss

9. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

I’m pretty late to the LCD Soundsystem party (a great oversight on my part), but thankfully rectified with Mr James Murphy’s third (and final?) outing of liquid crystal disco. It sounds effortlessly cool, but there’s so much going on, it’s just plain fun to listen to, dance to and do just about anything to – be it the washing up, filling out an application form or being attacked by PANDUHS!

> > > Drunk Girls

8. Fukurouzu – Loop Suru

A pure punt of a purchase based on hours spent in HMV and Tower Records in Shinjuku and Shibuya at their countless listening posts sampling as much as was currently riding the Japan-o-charts, and it’s only really a mini-album, comprising seven tracks from this new indie group. But every track is superb, each different but just as good as the last. I look forward to whatever they do next.

> > > Dekinai

7. PVT – Church With No Magic

An interesting departure from 2008’s brilliant O Soundtrack My Heart (under their then-name of Pivot), with a darker moodier synth-led atmosphere and added lyrics, though ultimately the singing is just another layer of sound than making their output any more conventional. In fact, it’s probably a harder sell than their instrumental-only work. Still, despite the decidedly iffy title track, Church With No Magic (the album) is an overall success from a band that won’t let expectations get in the way of invention.

> > > Window

6. Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM

Sure, she’s not the greatest singer, but, aware that her personality and heritage are integral to her success, she clearly knows who will best utilise these to create terrific tracks. 5:55 saw her collaborate with Air, Neil Hannon and Jarvis Cocker. But this time around it was Beck on songsmith duties (a role repeated as principal penner for Sex Bob-omb in the year’s third best movie Scott Pilgrim vs The World), and such a creative union brought about this rather fine selection of ditties.

> > > Heaven Can Wait

5. MGMT – Congratulations

With many a semi-psychedelic catchy-riff festival anthem under their belts (despite still being a disappointing live act) from Oracular Spectacular, follow-up Congratulations could have easily been more of the same. Instead, they went and did something even better, creating a spiralling dizzy mix of magic and wonder that harked back to decades gone by with both joy and sadness. A surprising and mature album that defies the flash-in-the-pan success I expected from them. Congratulations.

> > > Congratulations

4. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Blah-blah-blah, not as good as Funeral. Blah-blah-blah, no-one liked Neon Bible anyway. Well, The Suburbs, on its own terms, is a plenty good album. Sure, it could probably lose a few tracks around the middle, but it manages to capture a different feel to their previous offerings, yet still remains distinctively Arcade Firey. There are obvious highlights (Ready to Start, Rococo, Empty Room, Sprawl II) from the get-go, but as a whole, it’s a definite grower and one I’m looking forward to returning to in the months and years to come.

> > > The Suburbs

3. World’s End Girlfriend – Seven Idiots

Is there no end to this man’s mind-boggling talent? A release on his new Virgin Babylon Records label and a late entry into my top ten, it’s also my favourite Japanese release I’ve heard this year. A throwback to the electro-scrambling of his earlier work but still retaining the classical beauty and dark atmosphere of Hurtbreak Wonderland, Seven Idiots is hard to pin down, but an irresistible treat for WEG acolytes, and probably as good as any place to begin for the freshman.

> > > Les Enfants du Paradis

2. Yeasayer – ODD BLOOD

If I still had albums on cassettes, Yesayer’s latest would be one worn-out tape this year, which would have required a lot of unspooling and respooling when not jammed into my chunky old walkman. Luckily, the digital age avoids such wear and tear, so I was free to enjoy every one of the wonderful songs in ODD BLOOD on heavy rotation. Refreshingly upbeat and positive, it’s stirring stargazing stuff.

> > > Ambling Alp

1. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid

My new favourite lady of song and dance, and while I would usually do that terrible thing one does about things they love by secretly hoping it’s never popular so it can be your own special thing, I wish Ms Monae every success that comes her way. In this day and age of Lady Gaga left right and centre, here’s an artist with style AND substance. And some killer moves to boot.

The ArchAndroid represents Suites II and III of her Metropolis saga (begun with the equally wonderful The Chase EP), featuring a time-travelling plot of forbidden love, the suppression of robotkind, and t-t-tipping on a tightrope. But what really marks The ArchAndroid out from the pack is the diverse range of musical showmanship and craft throughout the album, hopping from genre to genre with every track, yet all tied together by the narrative through-line and Monae’s incredible range. Rock, jazz, classical, folk, funk, soul, electronica…all bases covered, all boxes ticked, all with relish and fun, but with surprising depth and meaning.

It’s wonderful to have an artist so resolute in breaking down boundaries, avoiding categorisation and celebrating differences rather than conforming to mainstream expectations or whatever is ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ in any given week. What the world needs now is a little bit of Janelle Monae.

> > > Tightrope

If the list and YouTube links were not enough to satisfy, I’ve also knocked up a playlist featuring tracks from some of the albums above, as well as a bunch of my other tip-top tracks of the year, in a handy one-size-fits-all Spotify playlist.

LISTEN NOW: 20×2010