Category Archives: Andrew Bird

Pretty Good Year

Having moaned at my general disinterest at the state of music in 2009 it’s now time to talk about what I did like. Choosing my favourite songs is always a lot of fun – in a way it’s more satisfying than albums and not only because there are more to choose from. It’s also because the sheer number of listens brings a certain familiarity with individual songs that can be so great they really become an integral part of your life. This year even as I was left cold by the vast amount of new music and new hypes I still had no problem finding a bunch of songs to keep myself warm and contented. And here are they are – in an order that is likely to change daily;

25. Papillon – Editors

A pure excitable burst of song!

24. 1901 – Phoenix

A little happy indie pop rock electronic gem!

23. Mowgli’s Road – Marina & the Diamonds

A perfect single from the endless talent that is Marina & the Diamonds.

22.I am not a robot – Marina & the Diamonds

Better to be hated than loved for what you’re not. Way too much to love about this lady to even entertain the word hate.

21. Gone too Far – Dragonette

One of the many addictive songs from Fixin’ to Thrill. This one featuring Cotton Eyed Joe like banjo – I kid you not!

20. Winter’s Carol – Tori Amos

A return to form from her surprisingly wonderful Winter album

19. Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool – Editors

Not only one of the most bizarre titles songs it also displays one of the most brilliant rhythms of the year. A feast for the ears.

18. People Got a Lotta Nerve – Neko Case

We know, They call them killer whales
But you seem surprised
When it pinned you down to the bottom of the tank
Where you can’t turn around
It took half your leg, and both your lungs
And I craved I ate hearts of sharks

A little like The Decemberists below this is a surprisingly catchy tune and one wich proved to be a fine introduction to her exceptional album.

17. My Boys – Taken by Trees

In my opinion far more interesting than the Animal Collective original.

16. Horchata – Vampire Weekend

Every bit as delicious as anything on their debut.

15. Lisztomania  – Phoenix

A prefect indie pop song – never gets old even after countless plays!

14. Can you Give it – Maccabees

One of a handful of gems from this year’s album. Boy can they give it!

13. The Great Detector – Bell X1

Impossible not to love – why? Because it’s so catchy? Maybe. Because it’s the best Talking Heads song of the year? Possibly. Or could it be the line ‘You’re the chocolate at the end of my cornetto‘? That’s got to be it 🙂

12. Effigy – Andrew Bird

From his wonderfully understated album this is my top pick, mainly due to the sublime harmonies. Simon & Garfunkel eat your heart out.

11. Heavy Cross – The Gossip

It is always comforting when a good song is popular enough to get air play on commercial stations. It happens so rarely. But here is a song that is almost impossible not to love – whoever you are or what your musical leanings might be. A faultless, rocking, kick into the blandness of pop radio. We need more, please!

10. Crystalised – The XX

Probably the most atmospheric song I’ve heard this year. I love the dark and moody feeling it broods.  It exudes late night moments of discovery. The almost nonchalant vocals slowly guide you around the melody that hooks you in and declares this a definite classic from 2009.

9. Fixin’ to Thrill – Dragonette

The most intriguing voice in pop. Dragonette have the crossover appeal of the Ting Tings but then with a truck load more grit. Fixin to Thrill was indeed one of the most satisfying pop singles of the year. They deserve to take over the world but they’ll settle on thrilling you.

8. This Tornado Loves you  – Neko Case

Neko Case’s charm is exceedingly hard to explain. The closest I could ever come to showing someone why I love her music would be to draw their attention towards the end of this song – specifically the first time she sings “This tornado loves you – what will make you believe me’. That voice, that phrase – what a way to close the opening track of her perfect album. Is it Americana, alt country, folk? Who cares –  it’s her voice and songs that make me believe her!

7. He Falls to Me – The Hidden Cameras

This is all about the big sound. It’s brash, bombastic and glorious. It’s also wonderfully original and refreshing. The Hidden Cameras, without doubt, made the most unique music I heard this year. Whatever their sonic experiment might have been it certainly worked and He Falls to Me could very well be the signature tune for their stunning album. It is also my signature tune for not giving up on a year when there was very little music of any decent innovation. Thank God the Hidden Cameras came along.

6. Obsessions – Marina & the Diamonds

A simple piano driven introduction with a sweet vocal brings one in mind of Tori or Feist. But don’t be fooled Marina & the Diamonds is wholly original. This is a song on the far from usual topic of trying to choose from a collection of identical crackers in the supermarket.

Cheeks are on fire; just choose something, something, something
Pressure overwhelming
Next minute I am turning out of the door, facing one week without food

Those vocals, that piano, that stunning melody all explain why Marina & the Diamonds have been my obsession of 2009.

5.  Love you Better – Maccabees

The guitar playing that introduces us to this tune is almost summoning your attention with the promise of an anthem. And it is an anthem! And a promise! !nd a damn good tune! And it certainly made me love the Maccabees better. Like all the songs on this album the whole package is perfect. Songwriting, instrumentation, production, vocals – wonderful music.

4. The Rake’s Song – The Decemberists

A thumping great song with a a crazy rhythm and an outrageously murderous lyric. How a song about killing your children can be this fun is beyond me – well I guess that’s the magic of The Decemberists. Play loud and sing along – it’s compulsory.

3. Sugar Tongue – The Indigo Girls

Simply put, this has most beautiful melody I heard this year. While The Indigo Girls have a certain amount of nostalgia for me this track is easily on par with any one of the wonderful songs they’ve made throughout their career. The musical phrasing on the lines I’ve got the blackest boots, the whitest skin, satisfy my sugar tongue again is pure magic while the harmony on we’ll teach them how to talk and whistle while they walk couldn’t be more perfect. Exquisite!

2. Alone Like That – David Kitt

Like The XX this is all about late night. And I am not talking about late night coming home from the pub or club. This is about a late hour when you are awake and for all you know you might be the only one not asleep in the world. You’re not particular down or happy but your mind is unusually sharp as your thoughts take on very specific direction influenced by the dark, the quiet or just the fact that there is nothing else to do at that time of night but think. When you wake in the morning it’s business as usual – until you play this gorgeous song. Kitt is a criminally underrated song writer as displayed by this melody, this beat and this atmosphere.

1. 5Rebeccas – The View

This would have to be my favourite track of the year, based on number of plays alone. It’s loud, it’s fast, catchy as hell and it’s about five girls called Rebecca! One of my favourite music moments of the year is that middle eight that manages to bring cool back into key change. A simple rock song that put a smile on a face countless times in 2009. Just what was needed!

Advertisements

Andrew Bird, De Duif, Amsterdam 25 November 2008

Has there ever been a better reason to go to church than to see Andrew Bird perform tracks from his forthcoming album? And to church in Amsterdam I went last night to see the mighty man in the flesh.  It is impossible to describe what an amazing live performer he is. As soon as I heard he was playing in this little church in Amsterdam I told every music fan I know not to miss it and unfortunately not one went. It’s hard to blame them as it is so incredibly hard to describe what he does without it sounding slightly nerdish. The opposite is true though – he is by far and away one of the best live performers I have ever seen, displaying skills and talent greater than most everyone I have ever witnessed make live music. 

He is one performer I think everyone should try and see at least once – he is truly spellbinding. He builds up the enormous sounds he makes by recording live, and looping at various intervals, the sounds of him plucking violin strings (which usually makes the rhythm – sounding like a cross between a piano and a banjo), playing dizzy violin patterns, clapping, whistling and of course singing. The result is the very best one-man-band on earth. It is simply stunning to watch such beautiful music being born right in front of you till the climax is this wall of incredible music that has been created in mere minutes before your very eyes.

The new songs which will feature on his new album out in January sounded magnificent. My favourites being Fitz and the Dizzy Spells and Anonanimal. You can catch a stream of the first song Oh No from the new album on his website here.

A bird in the hand

Be still my beating heart and all that. I have just seen the fabulous news that Andrew Bird will have a new album out in January. That’s only two full months to wait (if you are generous counting). I can’t wait. Time for a little reminder of why I love this man then.

Skin is, my – Andrew Bird

Music up above – My Favourite Songs from 2007

It’s not yet time to loosen your tie or knock back the final drops of bubbly. We’re not quite done yet. For those with nothing better to do, those with a limited attention span or those who simply like a decent tune here are the songs that had me clicking the repeat button this year.  

11. Beck – Timebomb

Just where this came from I don’t know but it has got to be one of the year’s best kept secrets. Built to be played loud. Very!

We’re going sideways
Highways
Riding on an elevator
Cold just like an alligator

10. Spoon – Rhthm and Soul

 My favourite track from this great album. It’s as catchy as hell – a total joy of guitar pop rock. You got to sing along at the top of your lungs. This is clearly better done in private, which is something I have only recently learned to my utter embarrassment.

Remember, the winter, gets cold in ways you always forget

9. The Sounds – Tony The Beat

Anyone who dares think that Rihanna had the best pop song of the year had better given this a listen. Quickly now, there’s no time to waste.  Tony the Beat is ridiculously good – you won’t want to stop listening.

Hey, let’s kick it .Stop, just lick it
let you start it – ’cause ’cause it’s so easy
you like it my way, and I know it
so let’s do it  – do it do it real good

8. Bjork – Earth Intruders

Such filthy rhythms should almost be illegal. She’s not let us down with this year’s offering. It was a toss up between this and the wonderful Wanderlust. This won for that freakin’ rhythm.

I have guided my bones through some voltage
And love them still
And love them too

7. The White Stripes – Icky Thump

Icky Thump

Definitely the best named single of the year. It’s also the song I yearned to hear on my many nights out in The Netherlands listening to both the good and the bad that the pubs and clubs have to offer. Never once did it come on. What I’d give for an Icky Thump was fast becoming my motto. I love it that they are so popular (at least in some countries)  and that they still make such good singles. Plus a million extra bonus points for the below lyrics.

white Americans, what?
nothing better to do?
why don’t you kick yourself out
you’re an immigrant too.
who’s using who? what should we do?
well, you can’t be a pimp
and a prostitute too.

6. CocoRosie – Animals

Dirty, gooey, bitter-sweet brilliance and an infectious beat to rival Bjork’s. If you’re sick of going around the merry-go-round of usual sounds, jump off and stick this on your stereo. Delightfully quirky – a real gem.

Like memories of porno and tearstains
and tobacco Oh, its a miny disastro

5. Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard – If you Want me

Probably the most stunning scene from the movie Once. The gloriously simple image of Marketa walking back home from the shop, in her slippers listening on her discman and singing along. Stunning! Best song from the soundtrack too in my opinion. Just utterly delightful. I’ve played it hundreds and hundreds of times and still adore it.

When I get really lonely and the distance calls its only silence
I think of you smiling, with pride in your eyes, a lover that sighs

4. Rufus Wainwright – Between my Legs

If only he could make songs as good as this all the time. My problem with Rufus has always been that I only like three or four songs on each of his albums but the ones I do like I really love and this is as good as it gets. For me the unquestionable highlight from Release the Stars. It’s as great and theatrical and bombastic as the man himself – in the best way of course!

Again, I’m afraid of one thing,
Will I walk away from love knowing nothing, wearing my heart between my legs?

3. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Sister Rosetta Goes Before us

Written by Sam Phillips this song is delicate and soaring. The finest point on the Raising Sand album and one of the most perfect songs I have heard in years. It has grabbed me and made me stop what I was doing on countless times upon hearing it. Gently wonderful.

Strange things are happening everyday
I hear the music up above my head
Though the side of my heart has left me again
I hear music up above

2. DeVotchKa – How it Ends

This is simply one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. If you were to listen to this without the lyrics you would probably feel a sense of yearning, sadness, perhaps a lack of hope, but not completely lost? With the words, your feelings would likely be proven right. Although it’s not entirely clear what exactly the singer is singing about (death?, God?) the feeling is clear. It’s surely one of the most emotive songs I’ve ever heard. And that is really saying something. 

Hold your grandmother’s bible to your breast
Gonna put it to the test
You wanted it to be blessed
And in your heart
You know it to be true
You know what you gotta do
They all depend on you

1. Andrew Bird – Imitosis

The word juggler at his finest. This is such a fun burst of music I can’t help but laugh and sing along – each and every time. I can never keep up and constantly trip over words that seem to be strewn here and there. It’s fabulously clever – both musically and lyrically. Mr Bird is a genius.

We were all basically alone
And despite what all his studies had shown
That what’s mistaken for closeness
Is just a case of mitosis

Previous Winners:

2006 – BellX1 – Rocky took a lover

2005 – Patty Griffin – Top of the World

2004 – The Postal Service – Such Great Heights

2003 – Autamata – Out of This

How it Ends – My Favourite Albums of 2007

Well, all in all, I have felt that 2007 was certainly not a great year for music. There – I’ve said it! Very little to get excited about and lots of disappointments (my beloved Patty Griffin winning my prize for that). There were a lot of pretty good albums but very very few outstanding albums in my opinion. Uncut magazine awarded their best album title to LCD Soundsystem. That says it all – a couple of good tunes sure but it’s an album that will surely be forgotten by March next year. The Arcade Fire won the title from the gone to the dogs Q magazine. That indeed has some great moments but too many weak ones for me to call it a great album. Again, I can’t see it standing the test of time. Maybe Mojo will yet come up with something worthwhile. Still and all, there were a lot of great tracks and many decent albums. So for the little that it’s worth I have compiled my yearly favourites. I refuse to worry about petty things such as official release dates and not belonging to a 2007 list. There is also the horror of inevitably discovering lots of greats two months too late but let’s not think too long about such things (and sorry again Thom Yorke for taking so long to discover The Eraser).

10. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Great funky rock ‘n’ Roll pop! I’m surprised I don’t hear this belting out of more shops and students’ homes.  Fabulously tight tracks with the potential for a string of hit singles, if only that kind of thing were still possible. I often find that great music that’s also fun is few and far between – thank God for Spoon I say! Check out Rhthm and Soul and The Underdog to turn your home into the best student nightclub.

9.  Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight

Another album full of hits. This reminds me a lot of Fleetwood Mac (but) in a very good way. Strangely for me, this is again a very uplifting album. Very few songs about splitting up can bee as gleeful as Breaking Up. In many ways the sound here could be deemed old fashioned but unlike many other bands making older-sounding music (half of Britain’s indie bands) if you heard this on the radio your ears would prick up and the hooks would sound refreshingly delightful. It’s kind of like a good G ‘n’T – reliable, refreshing and hard to beat! Let Breakin’ Up and Silver Lining be your slices of lemon.

8. Over The Rhine – The Trumpet Child

Subtle brilliance for the noughties. This is a band who have dabbled in more styles of music than Britney Spear’s has been photographed without knickers. When I first heard them, they reminded me somewhat of Tori. On this year’s release they’ve developed their more jazzy slinky side. And it’s gorgeous. I almost have to pinch myself that this album really exists as nobody has seemed to have heard of it or reviewed it. What’s going on? Anyway, who cares – they’ve quietly crafted one of this year’s best. Worth the money alone for the best Tom Wait’s track you’ll hear all year – Don’t Wait for Tom. Don’t let the fact that he had nothing to do with it put you off. It’s fabulously pure Tom

‘Workin’ for the circus X railroad bum
Carnival barker for kingdom dot come
Dusty ol’ Gibson, opposable thumb
Bangs out the rhythm on a 50-gallon drum’

That, I’m on a Roll and The Trumpet Child will be the best silent snow flakes you’ll hear all year

7. The Innocence Mission – We Walked in Song

Not so different from their last album Befriended. They’re continuing their mission with their characteristic sound of innocence. Just as exquisite as ever, these are gentle songs punctuated with musical tones that sound like slivers of light in a dark wooden mansion. They have perfected their craft – there isn’t a note out of place and it sounds as if each sound has been written and produced for a wonderful reason. This music isn’t as bubbly as Rilo Kiley or rocking as Spoon but it never fails to make me smile. Even if I may sometimes have watery eyes at the same time and for the same reason. And sure isn’t that what life is all about? The Innocence Mission remains one of my very favourite groups. Check out Love that Boy and Happy Birthday to see if you could ever feel the same.

6. Tori Amos – American Doll Posse

I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better Tori album this year. She’s been one of my favourite artists since I first bought Little Earthquakes all those years ago. She’s dibbled and dabbled and plinked and plonked (I know what I mean) in the intervening years and managed to amass a back catalogue of music that would put any artist to shame. What else is there for her to do – she’s set aside the piano, picked up and put down guitars, been plugged and unplugged, had choirs and sang on her own – what’s left to do? Make an absolutely brilliant album that’s what. One that’s chock-a-block with classic Tori songs. It’s an album more for the fans than the casual listener I feel. It has elements of everything I have always loved about Tori and the songs are so diverse – there are some you will adore, some you like less, some you’ll grow to like more a year down the line when someone points out something and no two people will agree on what’s what. I’ve already written way too much about it here. Listen to why Conortje loves Tori by playing Bouncing off Clouds, Father’s Son and Mr Bad Man. She’s an MILF don’t you forget!

5. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

This man is so talented I want him to just touch me to see if some will rub off. Thankfully I restrained myself from actually requesting this when I saw him in concert in Rotterdam in May. But it was hard task let me tell you. His songs are enormous. He juggles words in a way that would have Tom Waits squirming with envy. He also likes science and words that are impossible to spell. All those quirky sounds and funky notes you hear on his records – he’s made them all. It’s incredible to watch him recreate it all live. But it’s his songs that captivate me. Sometimes I get all worked up and excited listening to them – even for the hundred time –  as my brain and heart try to keep up. It’s purely delicious. And not just that, it’s nourishing too. Have a slice of Heretics and a spoon of Scythian Empire to keep all sorts of hunger at bay.

4. The Sounds – Dying to Say this to You

This album only made it to these shores this year but it was worth the wait. Impossibly infectious bubble gum punk. If you like CSS at all you’ll love this. The songs bounce along after each other and before you know it you’ll be swinging your bits to their hits. They even manage to fit in a gorgeous ballad all the while maintaining their gritty loud and brash style. And boy do they know a good melody. I challenge you not to bounce along merrily to Tony the Beat and Queen of Apology.

3.  Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

Every tiny last detail about this covers album is perfect. It’s been a very very long time since I’ve heard such a perfect sound. The two voices weave melodies over what has to be the best production of the year, possibly of years. Each note, from each instrument, brings a shade of colour on which the songs float. The sound is reminiscent somewhat of Bob Dylan’s Desire. I guess that is mainly down to the gypsy violin sound (something I am quite partial to). The songs they have chosen here fit snuggly with each other. Wait’s Trampled Rose never sounded better and Sam Phillip’s Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us is breathtakingly impressive and I mean it literally in my case. Killing the Blues is similarly magnificent. This whole album is a treat and most artists who made albums this year could only dream of coming up with something so memorable.

2. DeVotchKa – How it Ends

Speaking of perfect – here it comes again. It might seem like it but I honestly do not use this word lightly. This album is actually years old but it only came out in europe this summer and I first heard it then. I fell in love, as you can read about here and here. This really is a magical album. I get the feeling that it is something that could never ever be repeated. The songs are too good – their aching melodies guided by these talented group of musicians who must have let their souls bleed into the music. It is all astounding evocative. Some make me think of a dusty old circus tent (Charlotte Mittnach (the fabulous destiny of), some of Mexican weddings (We’re Leaving) and others of the frailty of life (How it ends).

“And in your soul they poked a million holes. But you never let them show. Come on, its time to go…” How it Ends

1. Cathy Davey – Tales of Silversleeve

When I first heard this album I was happily impressed by what a wonderful bunch of songs it was. And I listened a few times very enthusiastically. Then I moved on and spent about two weeks listening to other music and forgot about Tales of Silversleeve a little. When I put it on again, this time with knowledge of the songs, I heard it in a completely new way and quickly realised just how good this actually is. And it is consistently great! All my top three albums in this list share a similar element in that they hit all buttons. Production, song quality, voice – overall sound. Song and after song Cathy packs a punch. My favourite keeps on changing. Just when I have decided, another one comes on and I think ‘oh yeah, there’s this one too….’. This album really works as a whole – definitely better than the sum of its parts. I can happily isolate a track and dance about my living room to it but together they have a force – a happy, colourful, musical brilliant force that has propelled it to being my favourite album of the year. I fully expect this album to be ridiculously successful when it gets its worldwide release next year. No Heart Today and Moving will have you wondering why Cathy isn’t a megastar. Reuben and Mr Kill will have you realising that she already is, it’s just that most people don’t know that yet.

Finally before I put this to bed for another year I would like to finally add that Coco Rosie’s The Adventure, Spinvis’ Goochelaars en Geesten, Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars, Bjork’s Volta and Rosin Murphy’s Overpowered also helped keep me warm and happy in 2007.

Previous winners:

2006 – Kila & Oki – Kila & Oki

2005 – Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

2004 – The Innocence Mission – Befriended

2003 – Autamata – My Sanctuary