Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Gigging Forever Awards 2014: Part 6 (The 'Funny Music' edition)

Okay, this is really it, I promise. I've held you captive here so long at this fictional awards ceremony that Earl's Court itself has become fictional (Yes, it saw its last ever gig this year and the demolition men moved in shortly after...) Go, read, and then fly and be free, my pretties...

(but don't forget to check out all the previous parts before you go.)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 (The moany edition)
Part 4
Part 5

This time around, we are dedicating our attention to 'Funny Music' - music that is never going to get played on mainstream radio, music that your mates have never heard of, music that strives to go where nobody has gone before, music which last year I would probably have called 'Prog' but I'm so sick of the bloody word that I've nicked an alternative expression from 'Funny Music' Pioneer Matt Stevens which says it far better, especially since none of the albums below really fall into that increasingly narrow bracket, yes, what's that, you'd like me to shut up and get on with it? Oh, alright then.

The "How to Run a Record Label" Award (part 1)

So last year I had something to say about how a couple of my mates had started up a record label and released a couple of albums largely played on my more of my mates (don't worry about going to read it cause that's pretty much exactly what I said), and I cunningly separated those albums out from the rest of the countdown so that I didn't have to rate them and upset anyone.

This year, I actually got involved (in the smallest possible way) in helping out with said record label, so I feel even less like I ought to rave about them this time around but, dammit, they've only gone and released some of the finest and most interesting music of the year.

For that reason, I can't possibly award them Record Label of the Year, however, I could direct you to "Prog" magazine's critics end of year lists, of which no fewer than 7 contained one or more BEM albums (even though 3 out of 4 of them aren't really Prog.)

I could direct you to the times raw and noisy rock band Trojan Horse got airplay on BBC6 music, to the time celebrity Waterloo Road acting Mark Benton gave The Fierce and The Dead a namecheck on Twitter, or to the many, many times that snooker legend Steve Davis has bigged up BEM acts on his Radio show or in the press. I could even direct you to Norman Wisdom impersonator Simon Godfrey and his 'Letters from America' magazine column, his beautifully personal 'Motherland' acoustic album, or his legendary Facebook statuses, each eagerly awaited by his army of followers, but your lives would probably never be the same again.

I suppose I could even mention that instrumental masterpiece album 'Bloody Marvels' by Emmett Elvin (which, frankly, sounds like Michael Nyman, Anthony Phillips, Stephane Grappelli and King Crimson decided to take some 'shrooms and have a jam) beat out competition from Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett, The Enid and Yes in a public poll in which over 500 fans of interesting music voted.

I could do all that, but I'd better not.

The "How to Run a Record Label" award (Part 2)

I'm fairly convinced that if Kscope didn't already exist, I would have tried to set them up by now. The type of label that's a mark of quality, that makes you sit up and think "Well, it's on Kscope, it must be good." (Even if you don't get it - sorry Gazpacho.) A label where even the artwork looks reassuringly expensive (and I'm not just saying that because senior artwork designer Scott Robinson was in my class at school.)

The kind of label that doesn't just release the same old safe-sounding stuff over and over again, but encourages acts who want to take a risk with their music and create weird mixes of genres that shouldn't work, like Shoegaze and Prog, Metal and Indie, Celtic and Doom, ok you get the idea. Perhaps Kscope has a reputation as a Prog label, but if you examine its output, certainly in 2014, you won't be finding any 'Supper's Ready' rip-offs, and hobbits remain distinctly unbothered.

In fact, a sense of musical adventure and willingness to push the boundaries is really all the above-displayed albums have in common, which is probably why Kscope released more albums that were serious contenders for my 'Best of the Year' list this year than any other label.

From 'Distant Satellites' , the latest in a trilogy of epic, widescreen, emotionally draining albums from Anathema, which saw them experimenting with a few different sounds this time around to an admittedly mixed reception, to 'Magnolia', The Pineapple Thief's most recent collection of catchy but edgy alternative rock tunes with strings, quality album after quality album tumbled out of their stable this year, encouraging me to check out all kinds of things based largely on the Kscope reputation of quality.

There was even a collection of cover versions from some guy called Steven Wilson, which showed promise (I reckon he might go places in 2015), and an album from a new duo called Se Delan which someone else on the internet (Femme Metal Webzine, to be exact) described as not being "out of place in a David Lynch movie", so I won't bother trying to come up with anything more descriptive than that.

But there were two Kscope albums this year which really got me going in all the right places, and we shall call them (for these are their names)...

North Atlantic Oscillation: The Third Day

Last year, Sam Healy's 'SAND' side-project raced up the rankings even as I was writing my list, so it's hardly surprising that I was eagerly awaiting what the band had in store next. And from the first few notes of opener 'Great Plains II', off I went on yet another voyage of discovery; from the drum'n'bass meets Porcupine Tree sound of 'Elsewhere' to the horror movie 'tron of 'A Nice Little Place' , all the way through to the wonderfully uplifting penultimate track 'Dust' and closer 'When To Stop', which is accompanied by what sounds like someone bouncing Christmas Tree baubles on a glockenspiel.

Along the way, there's the mighty instrumental 'Penrose' which (if you'll allow me a little Genesis ultra-geekery here) sounds much like Tony Banks' 'Charm' would have sounded if he'd invited Phil Collins along to play Duke-era toms all over it and got Steve Hackett back in to do some of his patented scratchy guitar in the background.

Plus, the cover looks a lot like one of the bizarre objects you're expected to decipher and open in iPad game 'The Room', which is never a bad thing.

Engineers - Always Returning

I once picked up Engineers' first album in a charity shop for a quid, brought it home, listened to it, and thought "Yeah, that's alright," and promptly forgot all about it.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my mate Tim brought their new album round for a double date and I ended up asking it to move in with me. Everything about this album is exactly what I wanted to hear in 2014, the warmth and cosiness of the sound (analogue loveliness FTW), the dream-state it invokes from start to finish, the echo-ey, reverby, space-y wonder that is 'Fight or Flight', the mix of sequenced bass parts and real drums, the close harmony vocal wonder of 'Drive Your Car', the fact that it sounds bloody marvellous reverberating around in my new kitchen, you name it. There are even a couple of instrumentals, one of which ('Smoke and Mirrors') accidentally sounds a bit like 'Poor Leno' by Royksopp, which is a mighty fine thing.

I *think* I might even love it more than NAO, but it's ok, there are no winners and losers this time around, everyone on Kscope gets a gold star this year. It's just that a couple of albums are a fair bit more equal than others...

The 'Best Funny Music album that isn't on BEM or Kscope', yes I really am running out of inspiration now award

Ok, let's not pretend that my two favourite labels have the monopoly on all the interesting music this year... Here's a few others:

Matt Stevens: Lucid

I reviewed this before it was even out, you know.

Tim Bowness: Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

Good on Tim for deciding he didn't want to be 'The Warm-up Man Forever', sticking two fingers up to old Chuckletrousers and putting out this material which could have been a No-Man album all by himself. Well worth a listen. And then another one.

Knifeworld: The Unravelling

I'm still not sure whether I love Knifeworld or am just terrified by them, but this year's album put me the closest to the former camp that I've ever been, so they must be doing something right.

Lazuli: Tant que l'Herbe est Grasse

French world-rock music made by Medieval biker blacksmiths - it's all in French, which you might think would be an issue if you can't speak it, but to be honest, I can and I'm none the wiser really, so I wouldn't sweat it. Just sit back and groove to the Gabriel-esque rock, and try not to crap your pants when Fish suddenly pops in and starts singing in Scottish. And GO SEE THIS BAND LIVE, because they are in the top 5 live acts I have ever seen, and I don't say that kind of thing lightly unless I've just had 5 bottles of Big Big Train Chocolate Porter.

And the winner is... Matt Stevens. Obviously. 

The "Completely Sodding Bonkers" Award

Ashley Reaks - Compassion Fatigue

An album where the first song is in the key of A and is one minute long, the second is in B, and is two minutes long, and so on. It's probably lucky that an octave only contains 8 notes otherwise I'd still be listening to it now...

Actually, that sounds ridiculous but it works surprisingly well, with the first couple of short tracks being punchy and fierce and the later ones being allowed to stretch out in a groovy sort of way. Some of the lyrics are off-the-scale weird and frankly slightly scary, but who cares about such things when the music rocks?

Just don't look at that album cover too close to bedtime and give yourself nightmares, will you?

Most "Better Than It Had Any Right To Be" Album

A hotly contested category this year...

And the nominees are...

Manic Street Preachers: Futurology

I lost track of the Manics several albums ago, as they seemed to be releasing one every few hours - so much so that I had this album on my Spotify 'To Check out' list for about 4 months before I could be bothered to even listen to it for free. More fool me - this is a fine return to form with nice short, punchy songs, a bit of Kraftwerk influence and some guest vocalists.

Pain of Salvation: Falling Home

An acoustic album with some reworkings of their old songs in jazz/rockabilly/country stylee, a Circus-music sounding version of 'Stress' and a comedy cover version of Dio's 'Holy Diver'. Sounds rubbish, doesn't it?

NO. NO IT DOESN'T. It's amazing. Bad luck in Eurovision this year, though, Daniel... :(

Pink Floyd: The Endless River

Yeah, the cover is a bit self-help book / inspirational Facebook meme, isn't it? And the idea of a bunch of leftover fragments from The Division Bell sessions cobbled together isn't exactly inspiring. And no 68-year-old man should use the word 'Diss' in any kind of song lyric.

But, bugger me, this is lovely. Mostly soothing, chilled and gentle, recalling 'Shine On' and other more ambient moments of the Floyd's history, it rocks gently when required, and showcases the beautiful sound of Rick Wright's organ and piano in one last fitting tribute, which, let's be honest, was the whole point here.

And the winner is.... Pink Floyd. It's their last chance, so it'd be churlish not to.

My Actual Top 16 Albums of the Year

Oh come on, it had to happen in the end, didn't it? We've had all the messing about and silly categories, trying to shoehorn in as much music as I can possibly claim to have liked in one year... but here's the real deal - the best of the best of the best. (Sir)

In no special order:

That is to say...

Emmett Elvin, Jimi Goodwin, Snarky Puppy, I Break Horses
Engineers, Owen Pallett, iamamiwhoami, St Lucia
Todd Terje, Royksopp & Robyn, SOHN, Temples
First Aid Kit, Sia, North Atlantic Oscillation, Matt Stevens

Cheers to all of the above, and indeed everyone I've mentioned during this 6 part epic, for making my 2014 so pleasurable. Apart from the people I was slagging off, obviously. You can all sod off.

And another thing,,,

If you want to get an idea of why I'm a bit fed up with the whole Prog scene, you could do worse than click this link and have a gander at this well-intentioned but unfortunately unintentionally hilarious Wikihow article about "How to Enjoy Progressive Rock". It seems to start from the premise that most normal people will find Prog far too complicated for their tiny little minds, which pisses me off right from the start, and then moves on to assuming that the best way to get into Prog is to listen to ALL OF THE GENESIS and then stick your head out of the cave and see what else is going on.

Here's a sample picture:

Quite why 'Duke' makes this woman pull a face like Kryten's spare head in the Red Dwarf IV episode 'DNA', I'm not entirely sure.

Sample text: "Pay no attention to the people who say you need drugs to enjoy and create progressive rock."


Thursday, 29 January 2015

Gigging Forever Awards 2014: Part Five

Oh good, you're back... I thought you might have nipped off in the back of that limo with All Saints and Robbie Williams.

The ‘Less Is More’ Award

This year's outstanding achievement award for "Less is More"ing goes to Röyksopp. Evidently inspired by me moaning at them last year to ruddy well get on with their new album, they went and gave us two – or one and an EP, at least.

Summer's 'Do It Again' EP with Robyn was mostly a success – with the exhilarating title track, the sombre 9 minute electro-sax-fest that was opener 'Monument' and the insanely dirty 'Sayit', in which Robyn has phone sex with the speaking clock (“I. WANT. YOU.” “I want you too…” "WOMAAAAAN") – that’s at least a 60% strike rate.

By the time winter rolled around, though, they’d also released “The Inevitable End”, which will supposedly be their final full length album – and maybe it’s just as well. Two less-good remixes of tracks from the ‘Do It Again’ EP, both A and B-sides of last year’s (admittedly excellent) ‘Running to the Sea’ single, and a brace of frankly slightly dull, slow, sombre tracks like ‘You Know I Have to Go’ and ‘Thank You’.

Still, with the uplifting ‘Running to the Sea’, the dark and gritty ‘Skulls’, the chillsome ‘Sordid Affair’, and ‘Save Me’, which recalls all the things I liked about Royksopp in the first place, there’s still enough to enjoy –  but perhaps they have the right idea sticking to EPs and singles from now on.

P.S. Nobody is going to convince me that you hadn't just heard Guru Josh's ‘Infinity’ when you wrote ‘I Had This Thing’, Röyksopp. But it can be our little secret.

Most Random Old Band Discovery

James & Karin

You know there’s a band called James and Karin, right?”, said Karin’s friend Kit one day.

Um, no, no we didn't, but now we do. I wouldn't normally make such a thing out of this, but for there to be a psych-y folk duo recording children's songs in the 70's, with the same names as me and my girlfriend (not the two names you most often see together), basically blew my mind. They were also a Swenglish couple who achieved some fame in Sweden in the 70’s with such children's classics as ‘Jag är ett Litet Brev’ (I am a Little Letter) and 'Älgarna demonstrerar' (The Elks Are Demonstrating). Watch this if you want to improve your Swedish. But don't blame me if it never gets out of your head.

Best electro-R&B album

The nominees:

- Little Dragon:  Nabuma Rubberband

- Sohn: Tremors

I learned a new term whilst researching this category: PBR&B. PBR stands for Pabst Blue Ribbon, a type of beer apparently beloved of US beard-having hipsters who are too white for proper Urban music and prefer it distilled with a spot of electro or indie stuff. I don't know, don't ask me, I don't make this crap up.

Anyway, I like both these albums for a similar reason – they're both laid back and cool, but make my genius sensors stand up on end by mixing this effortlessly chilled vibe with some more exciting sounds. In Sohn's case, skittering electronica and beats are layered over the top of what could be depressing ballads like 'Bloodflows' to make something completely unique, and that's not to mention the syncopated computerised barbershop of ‘The Wheel’.

And Little Dragon obviously get props just for being Swedish, but quite apart from that, they've got some seriously dirty and funky beats to lay under the smooth, soulful vocals of their wonderful vocalist whose name I may or may not get around to looking up once I get off this plane. (It's Yukimi Nagano, by the way...)

But just, seriously, listen to ‘Underbart’. This is my music, right here.

And the winner is: I think Sohn, but only just. See, I didn’t let the Scandinavians win *all* the awards.

Best pun or other wordplay-based joke in a track title:

Todd Terje: Inspector Norse

Trojan Horse - Juraspsyche Park

Emmett Elvin - Nocturine

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - Costa del Sombre

And the winner is:  Todd Terje – Inspector Norse...

...mostly because it gives me a chance to mention the album ‘It’s Album Time’, which is easily the best space-disco/dance/whateveritis album of the year. Dancefloor fillers like ‘Strandbar’ and ‘Delorean Dynamite’ rub shoulders with funky stuff like ‘Svensk Sås’, where a samba-lounge track is built up by using only layers upon layers of vocal samples, and the dangerously-close-to-prog polyrhythms of ‘Alfonso Muskedunder’. Plus, Brian Ferry pops up for good measure to do a very laid-back but surprisingly touching cover of ‘Johnny and Mary’.

(Don't worry, the other albums may crop up again next time...)

The "I really should have listened to this sooner" award

-Beck: Morning Phase

-Robert Plant: Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar

-Tin Spirits: Scorch

I listened to all of these on Spotify as part of a quick check before I started writing this, to make sure I hadn't missed out anything potentially awesome. I evidently had – all three of these are worthy of anyone's investigation but especially mine.

Best album that was actually from 2013 but I discovered it in 2014 and actually it's not technically even available in this country yet, so perhaps it's actually from 2015

-St Lucia: When the Night

You know how last year I chose CHVRCHES as my number 2 album? Someone contacted me to basically say “PAH! CHVRCHES? If you thought that was good, you obviously missed St. Lucia!”

They were damn right: electronic-based pop music from South Africa via Brooklyn, with the shimmery sound of summer in the Caribbean, real drums and guitar, and soaring, uplifting tunes to make you feel alive. Also the only artist I can remember name-checking Phil Collins as an influence in the last 20 years. Yes, this is a good thing.

Just, just… listen to 'Elevate'. Best single of the last 10 years? And then if you find that too simple, there’s the epic ‘Too Close’.

By the way, they were also the best live band I saw in 2014. Just FYI.

Next time: Some 'funny music'. Cause, you know, all this stuff is just soooo mainstream.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Gigging Forever Awards 2014: Part Four

And so we return to our fictional awards ceremony - please make sure you pick up your goody bag containing Parts One, Two and Three on the way back to your table.

Actually, there's an awful lot of this “normal music” stuff to work our way through this year, so if you could maybe manage to get through this epic lot without going to powder your nose again, then next time we can finish up with some "funny music" which I know is what you're all waiting for.

Alright, rock on, Chessington...

Best album that Karin says I’m not allowed to call Swedish Country because then nobody will want to listen to it, but it’s made by Swedes and it’s sort-of-kind-of country-ish and yeah look it’s just a load of good songs really isn’t it?

The nominees:

- First Aid Kit: Stay Gold

A surprisingly unchallenging category to judge this year - if you wanted a load of gorgeous songs in a sort of folky-country-indie hipster-ish style sung in close harmony by two sisters from Stockholm, there was really only one place to go. A bit more polished and “American-sounding” than previously and with some string arrangements to melt your heart, this was the year they finally broke through their own previously set high standards and into the British consciousness. But Karin would probably like you to know that she was there first, alright?

And I would probably like you to know that I didn't cry during 'Cedar Lane' when we saw them live, but it wouldn't be true.

And the winner is: Um...

Yes, I stood this close to them. I like to think we had a little "moment".

Best combination of beats and violins on an album:

The nominees:

Clean Bandit – New Eyes

So, you think electronic music is boring? You think it’s stupid? You think it’s repetitive?” drones the ultra-annoying voiceover at the start of track 1, 'Mozart’s House'. No, I don't actually, but I do think this track which thinks it's oh-so-clever by mixing dubstep beats and rapping about Italian musical terms with a violin motif from Mozart’s String Quartet number 21 is more irritating than fibreglass underpants.

Much better are the tracks which try less hard, like the straight-ahead "pop classics with a touch of strings", 'Extraordinary' and 'Rather Be' (aka the 6 seconds of music that you know from M&S’s Christmas adverts.) But who cares what I think? They’re really going places with da kidz, innit.

- Owen Pallett: In Conflict

This is more like it. If I said this sounded like 90's alternative music crossed with 80's synth-pop, you'd probably say “that's a very lazy comparison”, and when you'd finished saying that, you’d probably also say “that sounds shit.” Add in a proper massive orchestra (which announces its intention to impress from the first second of the first track) and lyrics about not having children in case you eat them (?!), and you'd imagine a right old hodge podge.

But dammit, it works. It doesn't sound like anything else I've heard this year (or, possibly ever), and although he's not the world’s most flashy singer, his understated delivery is the perfect foil to the synth drums and brass of the dramatic material. But don't just take my word for it, put thine ears to good use and get thee to YouTube to check out 'Song for Five and Six',  'In Conflict', and 'Sky Behind the Flag'. See? Told you.

And the winner is… Owen Pallett. Not even close.

Best album by the frontperson of a now presumably defunct band (although A-ha have annoyingly announced a gig since I started writing this, but let’s ignore that for now)

The nominees:

- Morten Harket: Brother

I'm fairly sure this album was written and recorded by a giant computer into which someone has programmed the secret formula for getting onto the Radio 2 playlist. Still, 'Whispering Heart' is very good in a Keane-y/ Coldplay-y epic-y kind of way.

- Nina Persson: Animal Heart

It’s a bit like the Cardigans but less twee. Actually, that just means it's a bit like the later Cardigans albums from when most people had stopped listening to them. I only bought this because my Swedish teacher mentioned that it was coming out, and they're from Karin’s hometown, and, yeah I dunno. Can you tell that, although I like it, I don't really have much to say about this album? Shall I stop now? Alrighty then. Here's the title track.

- Jimi Goodwin: Odludek

I can't say I saw this one coming, mostly because I wasn't really paying attention. I've loved Doves since their first album, and kept up with what they were doing for a good 10 years – but it was only when this was announced that I suddenly realised they hadn't done anything for ages. Given that this album has been such a critical success and Jimi's now touring on his own to rave reviews, and that the “other two” have started a new band without the slightest hint of bitterness (oh no), I think this album is a fine contender for this category, which is just as well since I couldn't think of another one to put it in.

The music is all over the place, which is a fine thing, from the Phil-Spector produces the Manics (mit extra cool brass!) sound of ‘Terracotta Warrior’ to the none-more-Doves groovy melancholy of ‘Didsbury Girl’ and the rave’n’bass-tastic ‘Live Like a River’. And that’s just the first three tracks. Let’s not even get into the fake-gameshow theme meets frankly mental psychedelic circus of ‘Man v Dingo’… the mind boggles.

And the winner is… Jimi Goodwin. Doves who?

Best 2014 Mercury Prize-nominee that I had actually heard before it got nominated, yes really, honest, so there

- East India Youth: Total Strife Forever

This was an actually useful Amazon recommendation. (Hey, Amazon, here's a recommendation, would you like to pay some tax? LOOK AT ME SATIRING, EH?)

An interesting mix of frantic, nervous, and sometimes minimalist electronica (opener 'Glitter Recession', and the 'Total Strife Forever' suite) with some more conventional synth-y, shoegazey songs with echoey vocals like the lovely 'Dripping Down', this album didn't win the Mercury Prize, but it does win an award here today, which I'm sure will serve as reassurance to William Doyle (aka East India Youth) that he's on the right tracks.

The "Look, let’s not be too clever about this" award 

Let's be honest, sometimes you don’t want to listen to a 3-disc concept album about how Hannibal got the runs on his way across the Alps, or have your brain violated by clever-clever virtuoso playing – and it's at moments like this that you need some bloody good pop music.

The nominees:

- Foxes: Glorious

'Glorious' / 'Holding on to Heaven'

- Katy B: Little Red

'5am' / 'Crying for No Reason'

- Sia: 1,000 Forms of Fear

'Chandelier' / 'Burn the Pages'

- MØ: No Mythologies to Follow

'Maiden' / 'Red in the Grey'

But hold on, just because you fancy some of the fizzy stuff, it doesn't mean you have to settle for Wand Erection or Spitney Drears – there's some incredibly well written, well performed and excitingly produced stuff out there. From Dr. Who guest star Foxes (yes I nearly missed her, too), with her straight-ahead mix of intelligent uptempo stuff and ballads, to Katy B's more urban take on electro-pop, via MØ, who is “The Danish Robyn” (or so the "You must buy this cos we say so” card in HMV would have had me believe) – with an R&B tinge to her infectiously catchy tunes.

But this year was Sia's year – she's come a long way from being a guest vocalist on the first Zero7 album - and this was the year that she stopped giving her monster smash hits away to people like Rihanna, David Guetta and Beyonce and stepped up to take her rightful props with the stunning ‘Chandelier’ and another 9 tracks of equal hit potential. She even had Shia LeBoeuf in her video, which was fairly brave of her.

And the winner is… Sia. But give ‘em all a try.

Actually it’s just occurred to me that these are all female artists. Either men completely suck at making good pop music or I have some kind of issue...

“Nicest” Album of the year

Of course, when you do need a rest from having your ears assaulted by stuff that's so out there, it's in there again, you don't have to head to the pop music shelf - you could do worse than checking out one of these.

- Ben Watt: Hendra

- Elbow: The Take-off and Landing of Everything

- M83: You and the Night

I'm sure Elbow and their fans won't thank me for calling them 'nice' but this year's album was a bit less grandiose and epic than the last couple (the amazing 'Charge' aside), which worked in their favour, and M83's soundtrack to 'You and the Night', whilst not the barnstorming follow up to 'Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming' which I'd like them to hurry up, stop dreaming and make, did indeed calm my frazzled nerves at various times of stress this year.

But it's with Everything but the Girl’s Ben Watt that the title of "Nice" artist of the year should rest. Quiet, soothing, gentle acoustic led songs, it's a lovely album, but it chiefly wins for the very reason that it means I have an excuse to post this photo of David Gilmour playing live with Ben this year whilst my friend Tim and I stared open mouthed in the front row. I know, I’m a git.

Okay, I can see you're getting restless now, go and take a quick break and we'll be back soon with the last few clumsily worded categories...

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Gigging Forever Awards 2014: Part Three (The Moany edition)

Welcome back to Earl's Court, where you join us for part three of our annual awards ceremony, hope you've got your hard hats on, don't mind the demolition men... No, Sam Fox, we're good thanks...

(Don't tell me you missed Part One and Part Two, did you? Well, definitely don't tell me that now, because I just made sure you didn't.)

Ok, it's time to dole out some musical "Razzies" for the stuff that just really didn't hit the spot this year - I think it's only fair in the interests of balance, and let's be honest, praising stuff isn't as much fun to read or write.

The "I Don't Get It" award

The nominees:

- Gazpacho: Demon

- D'Angelo: Black Messiah

Both of these come highly recommended by people I trust. Like, seriously raving and drooling about them. Neither are in a genre that I know I hate, so neither could be said to be "not aimed at me". 'Black Messiah' was only released just before Christmas and already it is the number 2 top rated album of 2014 on RateYourMusic. 'Demon' is at number 46,  by the way, which is pretty good for an album on KScope.

I accept, therefore, that there is something pretty ruddy awesome about both these albums. It's just that apparently, whatever it is, I was innoculated against it sometime in my childhood. Those damn vaccinations...

I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

Feel free to enlighten me, please.

Most utterly, soul destroyingly pointless compilation

-Queen: Queen Forever (or "Queef Forever", as I just accidentally typed, perhaps appropriately...)

"Hey guys, I've just found this unreleased song from 'The Works', shall we put it on the remaster as a bonus track? What's that? You think we could milk a lot more money out of it? Have we got anything else to put it together with? A rubbish duet with Michael Jackson, yeah that'll do. Anything else? No? How about we remix one of Freddie's old dance tracks as a ballad? Ok, great, that'll make a good EP. What's that? Nobody would buy a 3-song EP? I suppose we'd better fill up the remainder of 2 CDs with a selection of album tracks and hits chosen by a blindfolded marmoset and randomised in a concrete mixer. Sweet. Do it."

If ever there was an argument for illegal downloading...

-Genesis: R-Kive

1. Shit name ("the kind of pun a 5-year old would come up with", says Karin. "It's not even an actual pun", says I.)
2. Shit album cover
3. Shit selection of previously unreleased material (i.e., um, nothing.)
4. Just a completely bizarre idea. Who listens to a CD which contains both "The Knife" and "I Can't Dance"? Who wants to hear both "Solsbury Hill" and "Over My Shoulder"? Oh, I know who. Genesis fans. Who already have all this stuff. Several times.

And the winner is... Genesis. For sheer brazen cheek. (See, there's a face on the front, which has got cheeks! That's a better pun than "R-Kive".)

Worst Album Art

The nominees:

Corvus Stone - II

I've never heard this album, by the way. I can't think why I'm not that inclined to check it out. I like the way they stole the woman-turns-into-crow thing from Kate Bush, but I'm not sure they really nailed the tone in quite the same way that she did.

United Progressive Fraternity - Fall in Love with the World

I think a rainbow unicorn just took a wizz in my eyes...

Schnauser - Protein for Everyone

Something about this just makes me feel very ill. Meat doesn't belong under a hat. It's a bit like the mixture of the Dolmio Puppets and a real spag bol. I accept that it must happen, but it doesn't mean I want to look at it.

(The music, by the way, is actually pretty cool...)

And the winner is... I don't know, my eyes are irrevocably damaged so I can't read what's on the card.

I've got the URL for Steve Hackett's new album ready for a quick CTRL-V into next year's awards, by the way.

The "Please, for the love of God, just make it stop" award

(Aka the one in which I lose most of my regular readership)

The nominees:

- Yes: Heaven and Earth


(I'm pretty sure nobody's ever made that joke before...)

- Mike Oldfield: Man on the Rocks

 I know we've already had this, but look, it was just so terrible it's worth pointing out again. 

- Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope

Today, for the first time ever, having pre-ordered the deluxe edition, I actually managed to listen to the whole of this album in one go - purely for the purposes of writing this. I hope you appreciate it. Here are the notes I made, which I can't even be bothered to make into real sentences, that's how much I want my time back:

liked TA but this is same old same old, stupid growly voices, WHY? Don't let Pete sing. Just not very good songs, sorry. Black as the sky is kind of cool but it is basically Devil's Got my Throat from Snow so it ought to be

Look at that, I didn't even want to waste another full stop on it.

- IQ - The Road of Bones

Today, for the several hundredth time since it came out, I did not listen to this album. In fact, I tried to listen to it once when it did come out, and it didn't go very well, so I try to avoid it whenever possible. To mangle a saying from my friend James Allen, when people make suggestions for things for him to listen to: "But I've already heard an IQ album."

- Opeth - Pale Communion

I'm sorry, Sweden. I've let you down. I tried and failed to get engaged by this. It just sounded like more of the last album, and I wasn't that excited about that one. I shall go henceforth and give myself numerous lashings with an ornäsbjörk twig.

- Just basically all Prog

Ok, I don't know what it is, either I'm "growing out of" it, or it's stuck in a horrible rut in 9/8, or I'm just in a bad mood with the world in general, but me and Prog are not getting along this year. We've had our differences in the past and made it work, having that counselling session with Big Big Train last year certainly patched things up for a while, and that Lazuli/Moon Safari gig just before Christmas was a wonderfully illicit thrill, but I think for the sake of everyone, especially the kids, me and Prog are going to have to go our separate ways.

"Pleeeease come back, we can change...."

No, I'm sorry, that's my final decision. I'm not buying any more Prog albums. I'm just going to buy music from artists who push the boundaries, make interesting and innovative albums which demand a bit of thought from the listener - artists who aren't afraid to do different things with chords, rhythms and sounds, take on different influences from the whole world of music, maybe use some interesting instrumentation, who aren't constrained by things like song length, don't follow prescribed formulas, and who take me on a journey, maybe even tell me a story. Yes, that's right, progressive music.

P.S. For the love of all that is good and holy, can we stop calling everything Prog this and Prog that? Prog Curry? Prog Cruise? Prog Avocado? Are Sparks Prog? Is Nirvana? Are the Cheeky Girls? What are the most Prog words? How about which Christmas Carols have the most Prog in them? (Two genuine forum threads I read this year.)

This cushion, is that Prog? What's the most Prog fish in my aquarium? Oops, hold on, I think I may have just had a particularly Proggy bowel movement...

Next time: Some more stuff that I actually did like. I promise.