Λίστες, λίστες, λίστες.. Αν περιμένετε μία απαξιωτική και μπλαζέ αντιμετώπιση του φαινομένου, του στυλ, "δεν είναι σωστό να ταξινομούμε τη μουσική με αξιολογική σειρά" κλπ, τότε καλύτερα να απευθυνθείτε κάπου αλλού. Όπως ίσως θυμάστε και από πέρυσι, στη Χειμερινή Ακαδημία είμαστε φανατικοί των λιστών και των αξιολογήσεων, οπότε στο τελευταίο post της χρονιάς, στις 27 Δεκεμβρίου, θα παρελάσουν, μεταξύ άλλων, τα 50 πιο αγαπημένα άλμπουμ του γράφοντα για τη χρονιά που τελειώνει. [ευχαρίστως θα συμμετείχα κι εγώ στην αξιόλογη και κοπιαστική προσπάθεια του gone4sure, αλλά απλά δ.ε.ν. προλαβαίνω..]
Καθώς λοιπόν έχουν ήδη βγει αρκετές λίστες περιοδικών με τα άλμπουμ της χρονιάς, εκτός από τα διάφορα φαβορί και αουτσάιντερ, υπάρχουν και μερικά άλμπουμ, τα οποία είτε δεν ήξερα καθόλου, είτε δεν μου κίνησαν για κάποιο λόγο το ενδιαφέρον, είτε τα άκουσα με μικρότερη προσοχή απ'ότι θα έπρεπε. Η 'επιβράβευσή' τους λοιπόν στο τέλος της χρονιάς με την εμφάνισή τους σε μια τέτοια λίστα μου έδωσε το κίνητρο να τα ψάξω [αυτό δεν είναι άλλωστε και το ζητούμενο?]. Ορίστε λοιπόν 11 επιλογές από τις πρώτες ανασκοπήσεις της χρονιάς..
για τις λέξεις : last.fm [κυρίως]
1. eleni mandell - miracle of five [paste magazine, #37]
[mp3] : miracle of five
Eleni Mandell, a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles, California, often cites Tom Waits and X as her biggest influences. Mandell self-released her Jon Brion-produced debut album Wishbone in 1998. Thrill followed in 2000 on Zedtone Records - the label that has released all of her subsequent full-length albums: Snakebite, the all-country album Country for True Lovers, Afternoon, and Miracle of Five. Mandell also has several releases on the Minneapolis based Heart of a Champion record label: vinyl pressings of Snakebite and Country for True Lovers, two 7" singles, and a limited edition jazz vocal CD EP titled Maybe, Yes. Mandell's songs have appeared in several movies and television shows (including Six Feet Under), and she received much acclaim for her cover of the song "I Love Paris", which was used in a fast food commercial starring Paris Hilton. Mandell also sings, plays guitar, and writes for the L.A. pop supergroup The Grabs.
2. future clouds & radar - future clouds & radar [harp magazine, #4]
[mp3] : back seat silver jet sighter
Robert Harrison, the creative force behind Future Clouds & Radar, set an ambitious goal for himself and his musical cohorts: to create a double album that sustained itself in every regard from beginning to end. Having suffered a serious spinal injury five years ago, he was confined to his bed for a couple of years as he slowly recovered. The 27 songs he brought to his band are not so much a portrait of a man on the mend as a look at the emotional and creative forces that whirl through an active mind in a still body. While the utter sprawl of pop smarts, riveting hooks, mesmerizing arrangements, and alluring lyrics bring forth comparisons to Robert Pollard, there's greater sonic variety (including judiciously deployed horns at crucial junctures) and painstakingly finessed production decisions. The songs call out for attention on first play; subsequent listens yield a world of subtle nuances and surprises. Harrison met his goal: file this next to the White Album.
3. monkey swallows the universe - the casket letters [stylus R.I.P. #48]
[mp3] : science
Acoustic five-piece playing bittersweet and beguiling folk-indie-pop songs about love, jealousy, apathy, imaginary friends, and pirates.
4. the avett brothers - emotionalism
[mp3] : die die die
The Avett Brothers are a non-traditional bluegrass band that originated in Concord, North Carolina. The two brothers, Seth and Scott, formed the group after the breakup of the former rock band, Nemo, adding a third member, Bob Crawford. The Avett Brothers combine old-time country, bluegrass, punk, pop melodies, folk, rock and roll, honky tonk and ragtime to produce a sound described by the Washington Post as "post civil-war modern rock", or by other reviewers as "grungegrass". The group themselves eschews labels, feeling that "none would do the music the justice. It's simply left up to each person to extract his or her own account from the Avett's music."
Their live performances, generally at smaller venues, showcase their use of three-part harmony and southern rock feel, and are admired for being intense, energetic, and soulful.
5. ted leo & the pharmacists - living with the living [paste magazine, #19]
[mp3] : colleen
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists is an indie band, with roots in traditional rock, formed while Leo was living in Washington, DC, but now with members based around the northeast of the United States. Leo originally comes from Bloomfield, New Jersey.
The band consists of singer-songwriter and guitarist Ted Leo, bassist Marty 'Violence' Key, and drummer Chris Wilson. After his previous band, Chisel, broke up in the late 1990s, Ted recorded the Tej Leo(?) Rx Pharmacists album in 1999, followed by the Treble in Trouble EP in 2000.
His next album, 2001's The Tyranny of Distance, quickly gained him a cult following and critical praise. Dave Lerner and Chris Wilson became permanent members of the band during the tour that year, as did keyboard player Dorien Garry. James Canty (ex-The Nation of Ulysses, Make Up, etc.) also played with the band during this time.
The album Hearts of Oak followed in 2003, which also saw the release of the concert film Dirty Old Town and the Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead EP. Garry left the band before the recording of 2004's Shake the Sheets, which has led them into their current setup as a power trio. The new record featured fewer obscure references and more overt political content than his previous releases did, though his music has always been known for its engagement with politics.
The band tours extensively around North America. Leo is a strict vegan. His brother Chris Leo is also a singer/songwriter and a member of The Lapse. Ted Leo graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1994 with a degree in English.
6. voice of the seven woods - voice of the seven woods [uncut magazine, #18]
[mp3] : the fire in my head
Voice of the Seven Woods is Rick Tomlinson, a psychedelic folk artist from the UK
7. great northern - trading twilight for daylight [filter magazine, #9]
[mp3] : home
Solon Bixler – vocals/guitar
Rachel Stolte – vocals/keyboard
Ashley Dzerigian - bass
Davey Latter- drums
Great Northern: The name evokes a feeling of a place and time in which . . . to dream, perhaps, to get away from it all, or away from oneself. It’s late afternoon, strolling into night. There’s a slight breeze – but you’re warm in your coat, or bundled in cotton as you gaze out the window…
An appropriately evocative soundtrack for all this – widescreen grand nudging fuzzy intimate – is something akin to what Solon Bixler and Rachel Stolte sought when they formed Great Northern. The two longtime friends had often talked about making music together and Bixler eventually approached Stolte with material he’d been developing quietly.
“Rachel and I had known each other for about seven years,” says Bixler, “and I was touring and playing a lot with this four-track on the road with me, just writing songs.”
“We had similar tastes in music,” says Stolte. “I was taking a break from being in a band, and one night he gave me all these tapes he’d been working on and said, `Do you want to play piano and sing on these?’ And I was like, `Yeah!’ We went back and forth from my four-track to his for six/seven months and then finally got in the studio together and started recording.”
After juggling various lineups, Bixler and Stolte settled on a satisfying equation when they nabbed drummer Davey Latter and bassist Ashley Dzerigian. “We all traveled in the same circle of friends so we’ve known Davey for a long time,” explains Bixler. “It’s like having a member of your family join your band.”
Stolte recalls, “It was fate that brought Ashley to us. We met her at a party we didn’t even want to go to, and found out she played bass. When we woke the next day, we thought, ‘Hey, what about Ashley?’ By then, she’d already learned all our songs.”
The thriving L.A music scene proved an invaluable experience in developing Bixler’s expertise as a guitarist, composer and arranger, skills that had been nurtured by the influence of his father, a composer and conductor. When it came time to do his own music, he was ready to present a fresh point of view. But he was also prepared to venture beyond the familiar comfort zone and allow for an outsider’s perspective.
Great Northern found fertile creative ground when they met engineer/producer Mathias Schneeberger through a mutual friend and recorded Trading Twilight for Daylight at Schneeberger’s Donner & Blitzen studio in Arcadia, CA. Schneeberger (Greg Dulli, Joseph Arthur, Queens of the Stone Age, Earthlings) “just gets it,” says Bixler, “he just understands. He wants to make music beautiful, make it important and stand out.”
“Mathias has an amazing ear for getting really great sounds,” he continues, “and he’s a good orchestrator as well; he plays keyboards and guitar on the record. He was living at his studio working until four in the morning so when we showed up the next day, he’d already created this whole crazy thing. He’d then say, `It’s cool if you don’t like it, we can just trash it,’ but nine times out of ten it was really great.”
Trading Twilight for Daylight is a collection of shimmeringly lovely yet wildly contrasting shades of the pop song experience. Densely layered melodies are draped with Stolte and Bixler’s signature velvety chimes, stately piano, luxuriant keyboard string flourishes and smartly counterpointed electric and acoustic guitars. The songs’ very point often seem to suggest the rich emotional textures of a daydream afternoon, as sunshine gently dims into the dark. The sensual fullness of the sound is like soaking in a bath of warm frequencies. “Doesn’t it make you feel good?” sings Stolte. And later, “Was I dreaming? Was I awake?”
Great Northern songs are genuinely, memorably melodic, and it’s the several coatings of so many melodies within each track that makes them something to return to again and again.
“It’s important to Solon and me that the songs have a lot to offer,” says Stolte. “The songs on my mind are the ones that you hear over and over and you hear something new every time.”
The very moody “lOw IS a hEIghT” is inarguably a gorgeous song, but what’s it about? A crucial ambiguity raises its pointy head when the band embarks on an extended instrumental coda that brings variation to the main theme, as if crystalizing the essence of the mood the song seeks to convey.
Building to a caterwauling intensity, “Telling Lies” flirts with the epic (in short form, of course) by fusing tremeloed multiple guitars and voices as drummer Davey thrashes artfully. Exhilarating dervishes of high whining keyboard strings and guitars lure you to the bridge, where you might find yourself utterly addicted when they snow this glorious mountain of sound with spine-tingling counterpoint backing “aaah”s.
“There isn’t any specific formula for crafting a song – the song will just tell you what it has to be. It can stem from an emotion, which then evolves lyrically or otherwise. Ultimately, when you listen to a song in your bedroom with headphones, it should be able to take you away, maybe on a little journey.” And for Great Northern, that journey has just begun – and the horizon has never looked so magnificent.
8. elvis perkins - ash wednesday [filter magazine, #6]
mp3 : ash wednesday
Elvis Perkins was born in Manhattan in February 1975 and raised in New York City. His father is actor Anthony Perkins and his mother is photographer Berry Berenson. He began working on his debut album, Ash Wednesday, in 2002.
His sad lyrics reflect the tragic events in his life since Perkins was 16 and his father died of AIDS. His mother was on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on 9/11. Ash Wednesday is a chronologically sequenced album of songs written before and after his mother's death.
9. cherry ghost - thirst for romance [Q magazine, #14]
[mp3] : mathematics
Cherry Ghost is a British indie rock band led by Simon Aldred. They formed in Bolton in 2005 and currently enjoy considerable airplay on BBC Radio 2. Their debut album, Thirst For Romance, entered the UK album charts at #7.
The band have supported Amy Winehouse, Crowded House, Polytechnic, Fields, The Spinto Band, and more recently announced Manic Street Preachers on tour.
The band's Myspace states that they have been "inspired by the haunting melancholy of acts such as Sparklehorse, Smog, Johnny Cash and the ceaseless hope to be found at the heart of this Northern landscape." The name 'Cherry Ghost' is a lyric taken from the song "Theologians" by Wilco.
10. the rumble strips - girls and weather [Q magazine, #20]
[mp3] : alarm clock
The Rumble Strips originate from South Devon town Tavistock, near Plymouth, but are now based in London, having moved to further their musical career.
In the past, the band have been on tour with Good Shoes, The Young Knives, Dirty Pretty Things and The Zutons, and have also played various festivals this summer including Glastonbury and Cardiff Calling. The band are currently now on their own headline album tour hitting many venues around the UK and Ireland, including a trip to home-town Tavistock. The album (created with Tony Hoffer - The Kooks, Beck, and The Fratellis), was released mid-September 2007. The band gained alot of recognition when single "Alarm Clock" was played on Radio 1, when lead singer of Snow Patrol took over Zane Lowe's evening slot as a one-off.
Past releases include the single "Motorcyle" (December 2005 and re-released June 07), single "Hate Me (You Do)" (June 2006) EP "Cardboard Coloured Dreams" (November 2006), single "Alarm Clock" (March 2007), which has received numerous plays off of Virgin Radio and on MTV 2 programme "Spanking New Music", and single "Motorcycle" (June 2007) which also received plays off of "Spanking New Music".
"Girls and Boys In Love" is the next song due to be released as a single, and also features in the film "Run Fat Boy Run", a Simon Pegg film.
The music could be desrcibed as a mix of rock, soul, indie, pop, and even ska. Their songs are often quite light-hearted, with tracks titled "Alarm Clock", "Motorcycle", "High St. Heaven", "Born Bored", and "Building A Boat" for example.
Band members include:
Charlie Waller – Lead Vocals and Guitar
Tom Gorbutt – Sax, Vocals and Bass
Henry Clark – Trumpet, Vocals and Piano
Matthew Wheeler - Drums
Lead singer, Charlie Waller, was also in the band Vincent Vincent and the Villains at the same time as playing with current band The Rumble Strips. An attack from his conscience lead him to leave both bands before The Rumble Strips were offered to release a single under record label Transgressive.
11. st. vincent - marry me [harp magazine, #33]
[mp3] : landmines
Signed to Beggars Banquet, St. Vincent is the band of singer-guitarist-composer Annie Clark. Hailed by the Boston Globe as an "adorably spunky guitar prodigy," 25 year-old Annie has been building a buzz opening for such acclaimed and diverse acts as The National, Television, Arcade Fire, John Vanderslice, Tracy + the Plastics, Tuck & Patti, Sufjan Stevens, Midlake and Xiu Xiu. An inventive and versatile guitarist, Annie has played with avant-garde composer Glenn Branca and is a member of symphonic pop spectacle The Polyphonic Spree.