Tag Archives: Live Music

Top Ten Releases of 2012

This was originally published on Zine and Not Heard as part of a few contributors’ Top Tens. You should check them out.

2012! (insert the world didn’t end joke here). Music happened. Lots of it. These are the records that weren’t necessarily the best, but the ones that meant the most to me, or that grabbed me in a particular moment, or a particular way, and in a manner that was important. Because y’know that’s what rules about music. So in order of occurring to me:

First up, Londoners Apologies I Have None with…. London. I have to stick a note in here about the record version, if you were foolish enough with your money you got all manner of hand drawn, wax sealed, fit as hell extras. The sound was pretty good too. Steady anthemic driving punk with exactly the right amount of gruff clarity to the vocals. Proper soars in places. I injure myself exercising to this album. Stand out track for me is Concrete Feet, which picked the pieces of my head up halfway through the last month of a PhD and pushed me forwards. Replace ‘city’ with ‘academia’ and that song was written for me. Like the best songwriting often feels.

Second one is a more recent discovery, about three months ago some link chain-clicking on bandcamp brought me to the scotmo sounds of Bonehouse. Last year my list was heavy on the Derby, well this year, it’s all about Scotland. Dundee lads Bonehouse’s July-released four track demo BLEW MY AUTUMN SOCKS OFF. Guitar and vocals that swirl around you with a math-y touch the the rhythm that is downright yummy, the joint vocals make me melt a little, too, with perfect sin-a-long moments. If I had to recommend one track it’s the glorious abandon of The Bonehouse Summer Jam – it’s breathless, against-the-odds stuff. I will see this band live next year even if I have sell possessions to do so.

This feels like a nice playlist follow up to one of the slower Bonehouse tracks, and probably the best band I saw live this year. Soaring, gorgeous, fist clenching, breathless stuff. Among Brothers (variously from Cardiff and London) make orchestral electronic poppy sounds, with real lyric craft;  “I felt the blood rush from my lips as you spoke your name/Each bruise on your thigh resembled a dying star”. I only discovered Homes last winter, but picking that is ‘2012 post’ cheating, so I’m going with their 7″ release I Am Certain/I Do Not Believe. They’re such storytellers, it’s a sound that’s more composed than devised, like the difference between poem and prose, form and content come together offer you the edge of a smile. If you can see them live, please do. They have a sound which is so much more 3D than recording gets across. But the recording is ace too, obvs.

Back to Scotland now for a band I’ve already waxed emphatic about over here. Carson Wells’ Wonderkid is such a well structured album, vocals that trip between spoken and melodic scream, drving guitar, math-y leanings. The songs fit together really well, but stand out tracks for me possibly the itchy feet of A Great Weight or the big epiphany-moment of Three Months in Canada. Check out the tour as well – some amazing support coming from primarily Your Neighbour the Liar, but bonus appearances from the likes of Bonehouse, Crash of Rhinos, and Plaids among others, it’s pretty stonking (I believe Zine&Not Heard may be hosting a show). Also stonking is a word we use in the north. Stop laughing.

Screamier, now, with Vales (previously Veils) who offer Cornish melodic hardcore. Well, they’re from Cornwall and they play melodic hardcore. I caught them underground (literally, I mean) somewhere in Manchester with Cavaclades and Speedboat Salesmen. MAN the vocalist blew me away. She’s properly strong. Powerful lyrics too, rushing guitars and throbbing drums that make each song a stinging vignette. Stallions (Adrenaline) is my favourite. Possibly because I do too much sport, but it describes perfectly in form and content that feeling of immediately tangible perseverance;  sure there’s 10k to go, but right now, right here, we put one foot in front of the other. That.

Along a similar screamo/hardcore vein, a late-ish in the year discovery for me was Sweeden’s August 4-track release from Heart On My Sleeve. Stand-by, We’re Going in For Life plays with its lyrics and delivery really interestingly; in Forever Summer snippets of really evocative sensory moments begin to fall apart like memories do when you play them over and over too often; whereas Today is the Day slips between third and first person, spoken and screaming. The guitar soars, dulls, breaks up, thrashes, the drums drive, mash, throng. Someone should bring them to the UK soon.

Are you bored of me yet? I am, only four more to go. Bringing us down from the hardcore spiral let’s head towards Fine Before You Came, with Ormai. Irresistible, this. Melodic Italian punk that just brims with expectation. Drumming on the first track drags you in like a whirlpool, in fact all the drumming is immense.  Sing-along moments abound, even if all you can do is make the sounds and hastily google-translate when you get home. Guitars pull you through, sometimes-melodic sometimes-discordant always catchy deliciousness. I have no idea about the Italian punk scene, I hope it’s all as good as this. Let’s go on an adventure there? Song that gets me moving against both my will and mood award 2012 goes to Per non essere pipistrelli.

Third-to-last, is a record I picked up at a 49s Vs. Dolphins show in Nottingham, in case you don’t know, JT Soars and 49 Vs. Dolphins are doing some real cool stuff in the East Midlands. It’s a bit of a sneaky pick, because it’s a remaster, but I’m TOTALLY HAVING IT. Ravachol‘s Great Moments In The Void. Sadly Ravachol are no more, but I love them for their rough edges and radical sentiments, a lot of the stuff here has been a bit inward looking, but Ravachol are openly and unashamedly political “know your own mind and learn the rest” is something I want to write down on a scrap of paper and press into the hand of everyone who says they ‘can’t understand politics’. Trad contemporary shouty punk, really; leap-along guitar and screamy vocals. Love it.

Bringing it down in tempo a little now with a release that I’d been looking forward to for a while following Blue Bottle Flu and Ghost Rides the Whip (all with Superstar Destroyer Recs), Liverpool-based Ninetails‘ 5 track EP Slept And Did Not Sleep. Some might find this record a bit… odd, though – it’s a way from the straight up math-pop of the previous two releases, at least. And I didn’t quite know how to take it at the beginning, but there was something about it that just dragged me back and back again. I don’t think it helped I spent an exhausted train journey back from London drifting in and out of sleep to it, which was really disorientating but again, in an oddly satisfying way. I guess you could say this is more now towards the proggy end of map-pop. Slippery, trippy, skims like a stone in places, drags you under in others, weird in a beguiling kind of way. Try it. Beautiful artwork on the CD, too.

Et ENFIN, number 10. A quiet little split to send us off into post-festive drink and food-induced slumber, Nai Harvest and Five Leaf Nettles‘ 4 track tape available via So Foreign Recs. Quiet, sad, delicate little acoustic emo songs with found sounds from Five Leaf Nettles, and likewise quiet distant acoustic offerings from Nai Harvest, with their usual cult/pop culture references. Autumn, in particular, makes me stop and stand whenever it comes on my headphones. Here you go.

So that’s it, my picks of 2012. Lots to look forward to in 2013, particularly have my sights set on confirmed releases from Crash of Rhinos, Papayér and Without Maps, and in general hoping for full-lengths from Bonehouse and Among Brothers. Also in January I WILL be at one of the Edinburgh, Nottingham or London Carson Wells shows. Say hi if you’re around.

Happy New Year.

How I Got My Head Back

Image by me, from the Story Map I worked on in Stockton-on-Tees

Image by me, from the Story Map I worked on in Stockton-on-Tees

So it’s been 2 years and 5 months, and it turns out that I actually have to write a PhD, now. Quite a lot to do really; have started actually saying ‘no’ to brilliant arts practice opportunities (sob), and am gearing up for May-September being Just PhD Months. In starting to ease into that it turned out actual sustained and deep concentration seems to have been an ability I’d lost. I’ve been busy levelling up all my multi-tasking, map-view, tabbed-browsing, horizontal thinking attributes, but try to settle to just one detailed task and my brain just sits there and FIZZES. So I fixed it. A bit like getting better at exercise, by throwing myself in at the deep end/just seeing if I could hit a half marathon distance in one go (what, no one else does that?). Anyway, I’ve been spending time away from the internet. And you know what? It’s fucking amazing. Like realising there’s a buzzing in your ears only when it stops. I am so much less stressed. I have the room for my brain to sink into things, I feel actually, genuinely productive, and when I return to the web, much more refreshed.

HOW HAVE I ACCOMPLISHED THIS INHUMAN TASK?

That discipline stuff, partly, but mostly a Chrome extension called ‘website blocker‘; I’ve pasted in amazon, bbc, guardian, Google reader, twitter, Facebook, etc., urls in, set my blocking hours of 9.30-1.30 and 2pm-6.30, and defeated that breaker of discipline: habit. Now when my click wanders to the Twitter or Facebook shortcut in a ‘something to do while I remember why I opened the window in the first place’, or an unwitting link takes me there, I get a lovely message that reads “Relax, you don’t need to fill your head with this stuff, You should probably be doing some work, yes?” And it’s almost always right. Coupled with new rule ‘the world will not end if you do not reply to the email immediately’, a muting of both computers’ email alert noises, and a phone with data and WIFI signal turned off from 9am-6pm I’M FUCKING FLYING. And while I love the people I know online, and respect what it offers me (almost all of the work I’ve had in the past few years for example, and some brilliant places for learning, finding cool stuff, and having my mind widened) I suddenly, suddenly find myself productive, concentrating, and to be honest, happier. Which is nice. Something something ‘in moderation’ something.

In that productive vein, here’s a few things wot I have done/am doing, UPDATE COMMENCE: Continue Reading →