1 February 2010

Music Review of 2009

Steal from the best*. That's my philosophy on life. So, in that spirit, I have decided to pinch an idea from Piley, the author of the excellent 'Start The Revolution Without Me' blog. The idea, as presented on his blog, was thus:

E. F Rice hit on the genius idea that we all create a CD made up of your favourite tunes from the last 12 months, burn enough copies for everyone and then dish em out. The rules were simple, all of the tracks had to either:
a) be taken from an album released in 2009; or b) from an album you bought in 2009 Either way, the CD was to contain songs that had shaped 2009 for you.

Seems like a rather good idea. Therefore, for your listening pleasure, I present to you my songs of 2009.

Note: I have removed all links to music where there is a potential copyright claim. Blame the Digital Economy Act. Those that remain are either available for free online from the artists in question, or in the case of Baddies, one of them is a friend of mine and I'm sure won't mind me giving them some free advertising.

*Stolen from Francis Ford Coppolla.

Artist: Cybraphon
Album: Automaton Number One (2009)

Track: Coxsackie

This is an odd one. 'Cybraphon' is a project by an Edinburgh-based collective called FOUND. Essentially, it's a collection of robotic instruments residing in an antique display case, and the music it plays is affected by any comments made online about itself. It's mood changes from 'Desolation' all the way up to 'Delirium'. Utterly bizarre, of course, but it's been producing some rather impressive music. This track in particular, 'Coxsackie' reminds me a bit of recent Tom Waits' fare like his 'Black Rider' album and I keep half expecting a gravelly drawl to begin floating around over the whole thing. A very interesting piece of esoterica.


Artist: Brand Violet
Album: Retrovision Coma (2005)

Track: Alien Hive Theme

I'm not sure what's happening with these chaps as their website states "Brand Violet have released two albums and have plans to release a third album in 2009", yet this fabled third album has yet to make an appearance. Despite this, their first album, 'Retrovision Coma', makes my list of 2009 purely because I'd never heard of them until a few months back. They were brought to my attention by a Twitter chum, @GarethDEdwards who has been responsible for directing me towards some fantastic music this last year. This track in particular simply delights me every time I hear it.


Artist: Sparks
Album: Hello Young Lovers (2006)

Track: Dick Around

If you're a follower of Piley's blog 'Start The Revolution Without Me' (and if you're not, then shame on you) you'll be well aware of his devotion to, indeed 'obsession with', those insane Mael brothers and their creation Sparks. Like many others, I thought Sparks had done one song years ago and disappeared off the face of the planet. I was very, very wrong and Piley has successfully coaxed me onto the path of enlightenment. Sparks are very much alive and kicking, having produced something like 22 albums, and their later work is absolutely wonderful. Their 2006 album 'Hello Young Lovers' is that CD you simply can't stop listening to, no matter how much you might want to. I've played it so many times I should really be sick to death of it, but it's a truly wonderful accomplishment. Piley himself has described this track 'Dick Around' as a song on a par with Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in terms of its epic scale. Worryingly, I don't disagree with him...


Artist: ThumperMonkey Lives!
Album: We Bake Our Bread Beneath Her Holy Fire (2009)

Track: If it works for the cast of LA Law, it's going to work for me

Another recommendation from @GarethDEdwards of Twitter fame, this album has been a firm favourite on my MP3 player for some months now. How to describe Thumpermonkey Lives!? Well, their own website says, "Over-egging the pudding of good taste, Thumpermonkey shake up an ill-advised cocktail of post-metal sludge, Bowie-esque warcries and mathematics homework; dropping in a brine-tinged olive of 70's progressive rock, and finishing it off with a gaudy little umbrella."
I think that sums them up quite nicely, actually, even though it is cheating for me to use their own press in such a lazy manner. This album is, quite simply, wonderfully moreish. Most times I listen to it, I immediately put it back to track 1 again and sit through its insanity at least twice more in a sitting. Amazingly, their earlier albums are available online completely free of charge so, as the man says, "Fill your boots".


Artist: ThumperMonkey Lives!
Album: We Bake Our Bread Beneath Her Holy Fire (2009)

Track: Abyssopelagic

Thumpermonkey Lives! again. I make no apologies. They're wonderful.

Artist: The Clockwork Quartet
Album: None released

Track: The Doctor's Wife

OK, I have to admit that I'm a fan of Steampunk - that glorious medley of Victoriana and steam-driven futurism. It's an extraordinary world. But, for me, there has never really been a Steampunk band that I could get behind. Sure, there are some who claim to carry the Steampunk banner, but as soon as I hear an electric guitar in there, the bubble is burst and I'm no longer lost in that world - yes, I'm looking at you Abney Park. Until, that is, The Clockwork Quartet came to my attention. This group of people (actually 13 of them, not 4 as the name suggests) create their music with banjos, accordions, violins and even typewriters. Yes, that's right, typewriters. Their sound is quite unique and utterly addictive. They have an album in the works, but there are two songs available on their website, both of which I have played far more than is actually healthy or sane. I'm actually giddy with anticipation about the release of their new album which, I'm hoping will be available some time in 2010. Listen to them. Fear them. Then love them.


Artist: The Clockwork Quartet
Album: None released

Track: The Watchmaker's Apprentice

Another from the undisputed masters of Steampunk music. Did I mention that they're brilliant? OK, just checking.

Artist: Baddies
Album: Do The Job (2009)

Track: Open One Eye

I've mentioned Baddies in the past and I continue to be amazed by them. Their debut album is an utter joy and has been in my CD player so many times over the last few months that I've now resorted to just leaving it in there at all times. I saw them play live in Southend around Christmas time and it was a fantastic gig. Piley was there too and seemed to really like it, so I feel I've repaid the favour of him introducing me to Sparks. This particular track was my favourite from day 1 and continues to be the one that always makes me grin like a shitting chimp. Buy it, listen to it, then thank me later.


Artist: Diablo Swing Orchestra
Album: Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious (2009)

Track: Lucy Fears The Morning Star

Diablo Swing Orchestra are, I believe, clinically insane. But I love them all the more for it. They're a Swedish avant-garde metal band who...wait, wait! Come back! Trust me, these guys are good! Right, what these lunatics produce is some of the most epic, swelling, thumping, tracks you're likely to hear. It's utter madness and sounds rather like a Friday night in the bowels of Hades where, of course, you can most definitely still smoke at the bar while sipping your fire-water. I'd like to see this group live, but fear I might never recover. You'll love them or hate them. Or fear them.

Artist: Matt Stevens
Album: Echo (2009)

Track: Spencer Park

Of course, no review of 2009 would be complete without mention of Mr. Matt Stevens. He was, you may recall, my blog pick for this year. You know that bit in The Big Lebowski where The Stranger says, "It's good knowin' he's out there, the Dude, takin' her easy for all us sinners." Well, I kind of feel that way about Matt - I find it strangely comforting that in the helter skelter insanity of modern life, he's out there somewhere, with his guitar and a bottle of something beery, happily making this wonderful music. The dude abides.


Artist: MooV
Album: Fold (2008)

Track: Fall Away

In the continuing spirit of lazy theft, I shall quote this: "Led by composer Colin Riley and featuring the distinctive voice of Norwegian vocalist Elisabeth NyƄgard, MooV are made up of the enticing combination of voice, 'cello, bass guitar, percussion, keyboards and electronics'. Following three years of exploratory recording and development this bewildering band of cross-genre musicians has put together a musically aesthetic & evocative album of songs which challenge the rich territories between pop, electronica, the avantgard and jazz. Categorise if you can."
Yep, that about sums them up. One minute you're listening to a track which reminds you of early Diamanda Galas and her insane glossolollia, the next there are beautiful Bjork-ian melodies. This one, as they say, is a keeper.

There were, of course, many other songs/albums that I loved over 2009, but these are the ones that have sprung to mind. I hope they give you as much pleasure as they did me.

Next time on The Blog of Eternal Disappointment: something shouty about an unimportant event that is of little consequence even to me. Stay tuned!


The Clockwork Quartet said...

Thanks for the shout... album and more in the works! Hang onto your hats for a few months...

Dan said...

You are most welcome. Really looking forward to that album...

Rachel said...

Three words.

Ruddy, bloody brilliant.

My particular highlights were:

The Clockwork Quartet (who, as we know, are brilliant)
Diablo Swing Orchestra
ThumperMonkey Lives!

Do this every year please. That is an order.

I bid you good day, sir.

Dan said...

Rachel - really pleased that you found a few bits and pieces there that you liked. I think, out of all of them, Sparks, Thumpermonkey Lives! and The Clockwork Quartet are the ones with the huge replay value. Indeed, I'm listening to Thumpermonkey Lives! right now as I type this. A wonderful album. Buy yourself a copy and wallow in it!

Piley said...

Dan, i'm humbled that you thought one of my half-arsed posts worth borrowing! Thank you Sir! I've given the lot a play, here's my thoughts:

Cybraphon – odd… VERY odd!! Is this the Marvelous Mechanical Mouse Organ from Bagpuss???

Brand Violet is right up my sleazy alley! The intro reminded me a bit goth-rock Cramps kinda vibe. By the time the vocals kicked in it reminded me of Echobelly! (anyone else remember them??!) Vocals are very Echobelly too. Great find this one, will investigate further…

Sparks – I’ve heard this before somewhere, I’m sure of it….

ThumperMonkey… hmmm, this is heading back to Cybraphon territory!!! The 2nd track was better, and more of an ‘70’s experimental’ Bowie feel to it…

Reckon the Clockwork Quartet could be a little gem too. Initial thoughts were that it reminded me of early Divine Comedy… and as they are in my top 3 bands of all time, that’s a good thing! Also can hear a little 60’s Bowie in there too (his Anthony Newley phase)… Man I love that stuff too. Definitely interested in hearing more of these.

Baddies were my ‘new band’ find of 2009, and t’was indeed your good self that put me on to them…. I’ve played this album so much, and that gig at the end of the year was dynamite.

Diablo Swing Orch – Very original, yes I like it! Is that Russell from Sparks on vocals??! ;-)

Matt Stevens – Quite a nice relaxing sound, which is good, but strays a bit into Mark Knopfler territory at times, which is bad…

MooV – Intro reminded me of Japan (is it a bit ‘Visions of China’??), but once the vocals kicked in, it reminded me of Bjork. the vocals are quite haunting, but not sure if I liked it or not!! (I’m never quite sure if I like Bjork either, so at least I am consistent!) Will need to play it a few times…

Brand Violet and Clockwork Quartet were the best new finds for me… an interesting selection Dan, thanks for sharing!


Dan said...

Piley - absolutely delighted that you found a few bits there that you like. Clockwork Quartet are, without a doubt, the ones that I'm watching out for.

Also, Brand Violet are a good pick. That particular track is their most accessible, in my opinion. Absolutely love it.

Glad you liked it, Sir. :o)