Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tchotchke Table 3, Christmas Edition

Without wanting to get all het up and meta about years-end lists being arbitrary and unrepresentative, because what are records even for if you can’t use them to listen to years other than the one you’re in... Here are some things I liked this year which may or may not be from 2011.

  1. The Orchids – The Lost Star. Damn. I wasn’t going to put this list in order, but The Lost Star kind of demands it. It seeped into my bones over the course of several months, and is head and shoulders over their earlier comeback effort Good to be a Stranger.
  2. Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. More New Order than I had really been expecting (see ‘La Danseuse’), and with songs unexpectedly familiar via Kristin Hersh (twice, with ‘Coo Coo Bird’ and ‘Drunkard’s Special’), Bob Dylan and Nick Cave (‘Stackalee’), there was some serious underpinning here to the folkier side of all that I hold dear.
  3. Jon’s recommendations. However bookish this blog may get sometimes, the best thing about it has always been people getting in touch to say ‘I like The Pastels too’, which tends to lead in interesting directions. In the picture you can see some Django Reinhardt CDs, and one by Noël Akchoté. From this year he pointed out Azita’s amazing Disturbing the Air and from the ’90s, East Village, furthering the Dolly Mixture / Saint Etienne seam nicely. Thanks, Jon! (See also: the Brogues’ and Anneemall’s recommendations).
  4. Tenniscoats – Tokinouta. Told you these numbers were stupid. Pared back and extended, it never breaks the spell for a second.
  5. Laser-cut LP sleeves, specifically Bill Wells’ Lemondale and Muscles of Joy’s self titled debut. Beautiful objects, both. I don’t know either very well yet; it was only yesterday that S. said, of Lemondale’s title track, ‘“Lemondale”... “A Whiter Shade of Pale”’, and I felt daft for not getting it. The Muscles record has a great sound, not entirely un-late-Slits; the songs feel even less song-like than they do live, some interesting shapes going on.
  6. The Slap. I watched quite a lot of TV this year, and despaired of British series (apart from The Crimson Petal and the White, which was great), but from abroad, The Killing was utterly addictive, and The Slap was the kind of psychological, social, inter-relationship drama that the BBC can no longer do. The Hour and The Shadow Line were OK-ish in isolation, but very poor in comparison. Spiral was bonkers, and great too.
  7. Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking. Like the Harry Smith box, a tributary of Joe Boyd’s book White Bicycles. I was shocked how much I liked this, having dismissed the band years before on the basis of one pop-free album from later on. This one is so free and warm. Nico’s Desertshore (another Boyd production), so constrained and cold, can share the number seven spot.
  8. Insides – Euphoria / Disco Inferno – The Five EPs. It’s actually DI’s Technicolour on the table, but The Five EPs finally got a real release this year. ‘The Last Dance’ is one of the best songs ever. I’d heard parts of Euphoria before (on a Guernica label sampler), but not the whole lot. These two were prompted by Neil Kulkarni’s wonderful ‘A New Nineties’ series of articles at The Quietus. Nostalgia as they used to do it in the good old days.
  9. The Beach Boys – SMiLE. After one listen, but, y’know. There’s a hissy 15 minute cut of ‘Good Vibrations’ I have on a tape somewhere, and the 8 minute version at the end of disc 2 has at least some of those transcendently laid back moments which didn’t make it into the single. Incredible to hear it all cleaned up and shiny.
  10. The A-Lords, Veronica Falls, Kate Bush, Brown Recluse – Evening Tapestry, Momus’ ‘Precocious Young Miss Calloway’, Viv Albertine – Flesh, Rozi Plain – Humans, Hong Kong in the 60s – My Fantoms, Vic Godard – Blackpool, The Middle Ones – It is the Rehearsal That Will Make This. That last one should definitely be higher up, actually, such a joyful, unaffected record. I nearly left it behind in the shop, too.


Anonymous said...

The Harry Smith anthology is one of my proudest possessions
Like a musical history lesson
i would recommend The Folk Box Set on Electra Records as well.Vinyl only though.
Mark Wildhouse

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Great to see a mention for the wonderful Azita LP (which sadly seems to have ruffled nary a feather of even the savviest muso's) in your list. The Tenniscoats as well. Both are truly lovely records. The latter have a new one out on Hapna in January.

Merry Christmas!

Chris said...

Isn't it great, Mark? I think every single member of staff at Monorail made the same point over the six months I was badgering them to get it in (there was some hold up with the distributor I think). I hadn't heard of the Electra box, thanks for the tip.

Always great to have more Tenniscoats in prospect, Jon. That is such a shame about the Azita record, it deserves to make an impact. So full of lightness and dread, with the tunes to match. I haven't heard darkness taken on so unblinkingly, and with such grace, for a long time.

Hope you both had a great Christmas.

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