Number 4. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice.
Let’s admit it, this collaboration was bound to happen. Both Vile and Barnett are similar in their musical M.O. : a mixture of 90’s alt, some country and a way with words and in this album they play off each other brilliantly.
Lotta Sea Lice has a bit of a mix tape feel to it. Both Barnett and Vile cover each other songs, chuck in some cover versions and play some originals. Despite having the appearance of a cobbled last minute idea, Lotta Sea Lice exudes cozy vibes, it’s like having a duvet over you on a cold day, with a mug of hot chocolate next to you. These songs are great and I’m REALLY hoping that this is not a one off.
Number 3. Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts – Milano.
One of my favourite eras of music has got to be the post punk one. Obviously I was only a few months old when it flourished but I was lucky to be in my mid 20’s when there was the revival and, trust me, I immersed myself totally in both the 1978(ish) and the 2003 wave.
Daniele Luppi is an Italian composer and a few years ago he helmed a thematic album about Rome. This time Milan gets the treatment and he teamed up with indie band Parquet Courts, with Yeah Yeah Yeahs Karen O guesting on a couple of tracks. Since Milan is considered the New York of Italy, there’s a huge post punk influence spattered throughout the record.
It is first class.
Rumbling bass, choppy guitar, saxophones, abstract lyrics, and more importantly, every track is catchy as hell. I feel that Milano was tailor made for me because it touches upon EVERYTHING that I like in guitar rock. All the tracks are brief, snappy and pack a punch. I always feel joyous inside when I listen to this album. An underground surprise.
On my TBR pile (214 books waiting to be read) I have a lot of slim graphic novels and books which I’ve had for a while so I’m trying to get through some of them and I’ve had Can’t get no for 10 years.
Can’t Get No was a let down. In actuality I thought the story was great! A corporate slave, one day finds himself marked all over with the super permanent pens that his company sells. He then sees himself as a freak but then 9/11 happens and then he experiences the ugly side of America via a road-trip. Eventually the marks rub off and he comes to a full circle.
There’s a lot of symbolism. Excellent artwork and it is a strong story.
The whole thing is told in verse. Now I am a fan of experimental writing but this 350 page verse reads like something a secondary school student would write, and there’s a TON of bad lines that make the reader cringe, Which is a pity because if this was a silent comic, the message would have been stronger.
I’m a lousy liar so I’ll tell you all how I came across Kate Beaton: I saw a quote written by her on Isabel Greenberg’s rather astounding The Hundred Nights of Hero and I felt like checking out her work.
Hark! a Vagrant originally started as a web-comic and this collection features the best strips and some annotations by the author, which are included in the web-comic as well. Beaton’s specialty is focusing on a certain detail in history or literature and making a sly comment about its absurdity. For example the comic begins with the Brontes fantasising about their ideal men. While Charlotte and Emily admire the douche-bags, Anne prefers the morally upright ones. As a riposte Charlotte and Emily just laugh at her and point out that is the reason why her books don’t sell as much as theirs.
Other people who Beaton makes fun of are Canadian figures of history, Nancy Drew, Robinson Crusoe (those made me laugh loudly) Shakespeare and tons more. The artwork is simplistic but it’s the jokes that count.
Really it’s a matter of taste. If you like clever off kilter humor then rush out and get this. I can say that I’m a fan and I’ll definitely invest in more of her books, or , duh, just read the comic online.
After reading the, quite frankly, stunning Hundred Nights of Hero, I HAD to check out Isabel Greenberg’s debut graphic novel, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Needless to say that I wasn’t disappointed but compared to Hundred… there is a marked difference.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth showcases Greenberg’s ability to create a complicated story and yet make it so effortlessly. If one were to pick apart the book’s plot one would get a story of a story of many stories leading one main story. To make it less confusing it is about a couple who are from different polar regions, unfortunately they cannot be near each other so the husband talks about his life story. It turns out that he is a storyteller and on his travels he collects stories from different areas around the globe. Like all good stories the one about the couple as its own conclusion as well.
The Encyclopedia has a lot of traits that Greenberg uses to the full on Hundred Nights of Hero. There’s the aforementioned multi-leveled storytelling. There’s the homages to various myths around the world with focus on Sumerian/Babylonian and Norse mythology. Even the same characters such Bird Man and his offspring Kid and Kiddo are first introduced in Encyclopedia and used to a greater effect in the next volume. I also like the fact that we get glimpses of some details in this volume, one example being the three moons of the early Earth, which is further developed in the Hundred Nights of Hero.
The main message of this volume is the power of stories and the spoken word. By mixing and matching various myths Greenberg has created her own unique take on mythology and like all myths they interconnect in clever ways.
However since I read the second volume first, I felt like this was a prelude. It did help me understand the origins of the Bird Man mythology but I felt that everything, including the artwork was executed in a better fashion in Hundred Nights of Hero. Nonetheless The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is an essential gateway of this intricate story that Greenberg is slowly shaping.
Number 6. Cigarettes After Sex – Self-titled
Cigarettes After Sex frontman, Greg Gonzalez embodies the image of the lonely heartbroken guy writing poetry in his bedroom. Look at the opening lines of the first song, K:
I remember when I first noticed that you liked me back
We were sitting down in a restaurant waiting for the check
We had made love earlier that day with no strings attached
But I could tell that something had changed how you looked at me then
That verse is this album in a nutshell. Gonzalez expresses his views on love and he uses the type of observational lyric that singers like Ray Davies, Jarvis Cocker and Morrissey perfected.
Music-wise Cigarettes After Sex has that spacious and dark quality that one finds in albums by The XX and Beach House. Chiming chords. Loads of space for the instruments to breathe and a Night time vibe.
Speaking of nighttime, this record is totally made for that. This album will soundtrack those nights when you walk in an empty road, or stare out of the window when it is raining or just before a restaurant date. This is music that enhances the situations mentioned. If you want shivers and gooseflesh then do listen to this record.
Number 5. The Big Moon – Love in the 4th Dimension
One thing 2017 did bring was a lot of great indie rock albums. My absolute favourite of the crop is The Big Moon. It’s everything I ever wanted in an indie album. There’s choruses, great riffs, some swooning moments and a bit of quirk to spice things up. I have played this album countless times and with each spin it seems that the fun factor grows. Plus the track Pull the Other one made me pogo, umm privately in my bedroom as my pogoing skills should not be seen in public.
Number 8. Ryan Adams – Prisoner
To be 100% honest after Ryan Adams second solo album, Gold, I lost complete interest in what he recorded. Sure I heard a few tracks here and there but nothing really compelled me to listen to the post Gold albums. Then I heard some buzz about Prisoner and I gave it a listen.
I was hooked. With prisoner Adams channels a strong Bruce Springsteen vibe (Shiver and Shake could have been something The Boss would have knocked off in his early days) and yet doesn’t really stray too far from his country roots. Compared to the other tracks I’ve heard Prisoner sounds bouncier and has a ton of sing along moments. I wouldn’t be surprised if be people wave their mobile flashlights to the Prisoner tracks when he performs them live, oh and opening track, Do You Still Love Me has Adams in full stadium rocker mode AND he pulls it off!
Number 7. Sheer Mag – Need to Feel your Love.
I first heard Sheer Mag back in 2015 when I received a compilation of their early singles. Despite the fact that the production values were rough and scuzzy, the band’s melodies were so strong that they dominated the mix and I felt that this band will release one amazing debut in the future. Fast forward to 2017 and that debut has landed.
Sheer Mag’s music consists of full on Southern Rock with classic earth quaking riffs that make you want to boogie. This is serious rump shaking music and that the fact that the band added a tiny bit of polish to the songs help the catchy factor shine. However there is a caveat and that is Tina Halladay’s voice, which is distinctive and could be the deciding factor on whether you’ll be a fan of this band. Personally I think Sheer Mag are great and this debut was my soundtrack for the summer months.
Once again another year has gone and that means. LISTS!!! As always, there will be one for music and books and then, hopefully next year i’ll include films.
2017 in Music
I felt that 2017 a good year for music, not a great year, but rather one where releases trickled at a constant rate. Strangely enough, the usual staples of my top 10 will not be in there. Thus no Arcade Fire, Mac DeMarco, Liars (a first), Queens of the Stone Age and even LCD Soundsystem. This is not to say that these albums were weak but I listened to others a bit more during the last twelve months. In fact, with the exception of one band, all the entries in my top 10 are in there for the first time.
Before I put together my top ten, I list down all the albums I’ve listened to and that see which ones got the most plays. 2017 was a year of guitar bands, which has been quite rare for me in the last few years.
Due to the fact that I was super busy during 2017, I did not manage to listen to quite a few major releases, including Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. Whoops. Maybe i’ll fix that in 2018. Anyway here we go:
Number 10. Beck – Colors.
After a disappointing run of albums Beck bounced back with an album of unabashed pop. Track after track in this album is stuffed with colorful pyrotechnics, sky high choruses and a general sense of fun and optimism. Despite a couple of weak moments, a lot of the music here recalls Beck’s days when he was a tastemaker albeit with shinier production values.This is the Beck album I have been waiting for.
Number 9. Pumarosa – The Witch.
London band Pumarosa’s debut album The Witch was a total impulse buy. I have heard the group’s name mentioned a couple of times in the press so I just decided to risk it. I was not disappointed. The Witch is a great album that mixes indie rock with hypnotic dancebeats. The stronger songs on this record start slow and then build up to a dizzy climax with a lot of instruments being thrown in the mix. Sometimes I feel that the band are still experimenting with their sound but I feel that one day Pumarosa will release a killer record. The seeds are definitely are present in this debut.