A couple of weeks ago Pitchfork revealed their People’s List, an interactive list of the best albums that have been released since the site’s formation in 1996. Their database to pull from was extensive, and if there was something you wanted to add to your own list but they didn’t have it, you could just add it yourself.
So I got the team together and we fleshed out our top 100 albums from 1996-2011 over the course of the last seven days, but instead of just making the list I went one further and created a Spotify playlist of all 100 albums on our list, in order, from 1-100, which you can listen to below (if you have Spotify). They cap the size of the playlists to 1,000 song so I made an extra playlist of the last 302.
You can check out our entire 100 list on Pitchfork, check out the top 10 below, or just get stuck into the Spotify playlist and spend the next week being awesome. Let us know what you think of our list and share your own with us.
- Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)
- Radiohead - OK Computer (1997)
- Daft Punk - Homework (1997)
- The Avalanches - Since I Left You (2000)
- Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
- Burial - Untrue (2007)
- Radiohead - Kid A (2000)
- Belle and Sebastian - If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996)
- The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin (1999)
- LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver (2007)
We’re happy to present the noirish and haunting video for Lone Wolf's reinterpretation of Talk Talk’s “Wealth”, which is also the opening track for a tribute album to the band. Spirit Of Talk Talk unites thirty contemporary acts in a double album, to be released by Fierce Panda on September 3rd. Some of the other artists featured are Recoil (Alan Wilder, ex-Depeche Mode), White Lies, Zero 7, Joan As Police Woman, King Creosote and Richard Reed (from Arcade Fire). You can pre-order the album over the website of Fierce Panda.
The video, directed by Danny North and Tim Blackwell, was shot on the east cost of UK on a very cold day, which gives the perfect ambience for Lone Wolf’s intense interpretation of the song. You can watch it below.
Since 2009’s Sigh No More, London’s Mumford & Sons have become worldwide stars, selling millions of copies of the album and playing sold-out shows and festival headline spots the world over.
In the three years since then they’ve also found time to finish their second album, Babel, due for release on September 24th/25. Speaking to Rolling Stone the band revealed that most of it was written on the road in their tour bus, and was produced by Markus Dravs who worked with them on Sigh No More and who has also worked with Coldplay and Arcade Fire.
There’s no word yet on when we’ll start hearing some new (studio version) music but they’ve been playing some songs live lately, and last year we heard "Ghosts That We Knew". Check out the tracklist and five new tracks below including ”Lover Of The Light”, “Whispers In The Dark”, “Hopeless Wanderer”, “Broken Crown”, “Below My Feet”.
- "Whispers in the Dark"
- "I Will Wait"
- "Holland Road"
- "Ghosts That We Knew"
- "Lover of the Light
- "Lovers’ Eyes"
- "Hopeless Wanderer"
- "Broken Crown"
- "Below My Feet"
- "Not With Haste"
As Twin Shadow, George Lewis Jr. digs into the pop-friendly realm of blistering self-assessment where the only obvious method is to pump out insanely engaging, dance-friendly numbers. Throughout Confess, listeners aren’t sure whether to root for Lewis or hope he’ll just stop investing in unrequited love. Regardless, his latest record sees him getting over his humble debut album, Forget, as an electronic star with a predisposition to bad decisions.
Throughout Confess, he is thematically bound to his own heart and how it may affect others. On “Five Seconds,” he sings on the chorus, “Five seconds in your heart/Straight to the heart/I can’t get to your heart.” Much of the song is concerned with his heart, your heart, and the absolute impossibility of getting into either. “Five Seconds” has been in heavy rotation across music sites this summer and the biggest reason is his delivery; the pure frustration when he belts, “That’s no way to get it on” is a side of Twin Shadow that hasn’t yet been fully explored. His obsession with lust and romance comes genuinely from his persona, seen on the cover wearing a leather jacket and come-hither demeanor. However, he follows “Five Seconds” with “Run My Heart” where he sings “You don’t run my heart/So don’t you dare,” and he seems too preoccupied by the word “heart.” Also, while frequently singing about love, he continually dismisses his feelings. In “Golden Light” he sings “Some people say there’s a golden light/You’re the golden light/And if I chase after you/Doesn’t mean that it’s true.” This is not to suggest poor songwriting on his part, just that Twin Shadow as a persona is fundamentally flawed and repeatedly brings himself to the brink of affection, but reserves just enough gusto to pull himself away at the last second.
Confess has given Lewis a chance to develop songs further than Forget, which was much more synth-heavy, featuring vocals that were slightly warped. “Golden Light” plays around with some steel drums, featuring a return to the quiet-verse and loud-chorus method that worked so well on “Five Seconds”; thankfully the approach doesn’t feel gimmicky. “The One” sounds like a Morrissey collaboration with Depeche Mode. The change in his inflection to fit the down-tempo beat and the overall sound keeps with his previous work in the New Wave genre. As the track blossoms, he assumes the same vocal style of Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and the purpose of his confusing display of impersonations becomes difficult to pin-down. “I Don’t Care” sounds eerily similar to One Republic’s “Apologize,” but only because of the piano and, thankfully, less because of Lewis’ performance. His music adheres to a genre of his own creation, which appears to be a collage of sounds from the 80s. “Beg For The Night” ends with a sweet guitar solo accompanied by Lewis’ crooning and sweeping synths. What I like most about Twin Shadow is that, though he’s not the strongest vocalist, he absolutely devotes himself to his melodies and never falters from being a hopeless romantic in the process.
Twin Shadow comes across as an old soul, touching on timeless concepts such as waiting home alone on a Friday night or being together because it’s the summer. Confess gives insight to the complex life of Twin Shadow, heavily emphasizing tortured love songs. We’re fortunate that he’s complex enough to avoid outright happiness and write an album that shows notable growth and development.
After the release of their likeable but frankly unremarkable first album "Resevoir", Fanfarlo received more attention for their similarity to other acts than for their own innovations, of which there were few: the emotionally frantic chamber-pop of "Resevoir" was inescapably indebted to Arcade Fire and Beirut. With 2012 looking to be free of any releases from those two bands, just as 2009 was, you could be forgiven for eyeing the timing of the release of Fanfarlo’s second album, "Rooms Filled With Light", a little cynically. Listening to the album for the first time, I decided to play a game: how long could I listen to "Rooms Filled With Light" without feeling compelled to make some comparison to either of the above acts?
Three seconds. Three seconds into opening track "Replicate" lead singer Simon Balthazer utters the words “it’s gonna” with his finest Win Butler quiver over some taught violins and I just can’t help myself: this track has Arcade Fire written all over it. And the bridge could definitely have come from a Beirut track too. "Replicate" might just be the most unfortunately named track of all time.
Fortunately, it’s a misleading opening. Upbeat and synth-heavy track "Deconstruction" is a far more fair reflection of the somewhat new direction Fanfarlo have taken on this album. Yes, the violins and horns are still there, but together with electronic elements that are new to this band if not to popular music the song’s sound ends up falling somewhere in between the bands of today that Fanfarlo have aped before and 80s post-punk and new wave heroes like Echo And The Bunnymen.
This happy balance of continued cribbing of contemporaries and new wave nostalgia is maintained for most of the rest of "Rooms Filled With Light" and is perhaps most successful on "Tightrope", a super catchy tune principally driven by a perfectly perky little bassline. All horns are kept at bay until the very climax of the song and absence, it transpires, does indeed make the heart grow fonder: deploying bombastic horns with a little more care than usual makes "Tightrope" one of the highlights of the album.
At times, though, like on "Everything Turns", Fanfarlo just can’t help themselves and instrument heavy chamber pop remains the order of the day. Not only that, but I’d be remiss not to mention that, yeah, Arcade Fire had a few synths on their last record too. [Remember "Sprawl II"? Damn that’s a fine track.] Still, that comparison would be as cruel a note to end on as "Replicate" is an unfortunate track to start with. When they imitate others on this album, Fanfarlo do it well, like on the fabulous “Tunguska”, whose drunken horns that recall Radiohead’s "Life In A Glass House", and elsewhere they show signs of development beyond their influences that have me, if not excited for their next album, at least interested. Arcade Fire junior could be set to fly the nest.
I’ve often admitted that I’m not a huge fan of the Spanish music scene. There are very few bands that I’ve found myself enjoying, and most of the acts I do listen to (such as Polock or The Sunday Drivers), happen to sing in English. One welcome exception to this trend is vetusta morla (who prefer to keep their name lowercase), from Tres Cantos in Madrid, and on first listen to pretty much any of their songs it’s easy to see why.
After about a decade of playing together and a series of self-released demos and EP’s, the band released their first full-length album, “Un Día En El Mundo” (A Day In The World), in 2008 to rave reviews. The six-piece group, led by the charismatic Pucho on vocals and backed by David “el Indio” (drums and backup vocals), Álvaro Baglietto (bass), Jorge González (percussion), Guillermo Galván (guitar, keyboards and backup vocals), and Juan Manuel Latorre (guitars and keyboards), presented a fully formed sound reminiscent of the Brit-rock sounds of Coldplay's ”Parachutes” or “The Bends”-era Radiohead, infused with the majestic energy of Arcade Fire. The songs featured swelling guitars and adrenaline-filled builds that fueled their meteoric rise to fame. The record was so strong that one of the standouts from the album, “Copenhague” (Copenhagen) was voted one of the three best Spanish indie songs of the last 30 years, which is no small feat.
With such a solid debut on their hands, it was difficult to imagine how the band could possibly top that. With this year’s “Mapas” (Maps), released in May on their own label, Pequeño Salto Mortal, they may have done just that. Musically, the band has maintained the same formula that worked wonders for them, but has managed to find ways to perfect it. The band looked for a studio in which they would all be able to record simultaneously to analog tape, resulting in a very organic and live feel that is impossible to obtain otherwise and that shows a group dedicated to their craft and who pay great attention to detail. This organic energy becomes immediately apparent in the opening track, “Los Días Raros” (The Weird Days) which begins with a somber piano, slow guitars, and delicate vocals and finishes with an arena-ready build that’s pure ecstasy (an effect that’s amplified tenfold when seeing their live act).
Although “Los Días Raros” sets the bar incredibly high, the rest of the record does not falter and hits you with track after track of intricate lyricism (sorry to all the non-Spanish speakers reading this) and masterful instrumentation. Regardless of whether you understand the lyrics or not, what the band conveys is pure emotion. Pucho’s vocals carry the record throughout, never showing signs of weakness and displaying a wide range of emotions varying from the quiet “Maldita Dulzura” (Damn Sweetness), a lyrical standout, to the almost yelling of “En El Río” (In The River). Live, his vocals display the same range (if in doubt, check out this acoustic version of "Maldita Dulzura") as they do on record, making it a real treat to watch the band perform on stage.
“Mapas” has become, on its own merits, one of my favorite albums of the year. The album is infectious and offers something for both those willing to enjoy the music as is and those looking to analyze every lyrical phrase. Currently the album is streaming in full on their webpage, and I highly recommend you give it a full listen; it doesn’t disappoint.
A quick update on the music news for the week before I get started: The Righteous Brothers' cover of “Unchained Melody” is on jukeboxes everywhere; anticipation for The Beatles' up-coming album “Help!” is reaching fever pitch; and The Ronettes' latest, “Is This What I Get For Loving You?”, has flopped, rather embarrassingly. That's right: it's 1965.
Relax, you’ve not really gone back in time. But there are moments on El Paso-fivesome The Royalty's self-titled debut when you could be forgiven for thinking that you have. As they openly admit, there's more than a touch of ’60s pop influence. Brass stabs, doo-wop backing vocals, and some really, really satisfying drum fills all add up to one fat, old-school Wall of Sound. That's fine by me: I love Phil Spector - not necessarily his life choices, but at least his production techniques.
The four gentleman members - Jesus, Dan, Will and Joel - have been playing together in various projects since they were in their tweens, but the real lethal weapon in the arsenal is their most recent addition, singer Nicole. She’s gifted with a voice that might hit sweet highs at times, but make no mistake: it could knock divots out of concrete. At times there’s a hint of Rainer Maria’s Caithlin de Marrais, and you know what? I like Rainer Maria; Pitchfork be damned.
There have been a few stabs at recreating the girl-group soul magic (in the “Supremes” rather than “B*Witched” sense) in recent years, most notably The Pipettes. But where The Pipettes feel like a lab experiment that didn’t quite work out (+5 points for science gag), The Royalty feel much more natural. There’s no sense that they’re deliberately trying to mimic a sound; just that they like to make music, and the music they like happens to include a big whack of Phil Spector.
This avoidance of pastiche allows them to bring in more contemporary influences, such as Pixies (okay, slightly more contemporary influences). They also look to the current glut of surf-gazers: Best Coast, Surfer Blood and the like. Overall, though, their sound is very much their own. “Every Little Bit” opens with a big all-members-in yell-fest worthy of Arcade Fire; “Chinese Fire Drill” deploys angular guitars that any British indie rockers of the past ten years would be happy to call their own (I’m looking at you, Bloc Party).
When I asked them what inspired them to start a band, the reply was simply, “because we love music.” It’s a sentiment I couldn’t agree with more, and it shows through in the quality of the song-writing. I can’t imagine The Royalty are going to be anything like under the radar for much longer, with a new album due later this year and tours to follow. In the meantime, though, you can grab “The Royalty” free on a track-by-track basis, or $1 (very much worth it) for the whole shebang, over on Bandcamp. If you still need more convincing, check out the highlights below.
It was almost exactly a year to the day when Arcade Fire started dropping some 12” vinyl singles in record stores across the world, much to the surprise of everyone. People were cropping up online posting pictures of this vinyl that wasn’t announced by the band, something that shoppers were finding randomly littered amongst other vinyls in their local shop.
That was "The Suburbs"/"Month Of May", the first new music from the band in three years since 2007’s "Neon Bible". From that point on, 2010 was Arcade Fire’s year, blowing the fuck up all over the shop, winning awards, having a trillion-selling album, headlining numerous festivals, and saving the world too. Oh, and they confused the hell out of anyone who hadn’t heard their name in the last ten years when they won a Grammy for album of the year.
Now they’re readying a deluxe version of that album "The Suburbs" (out June 27th) as well as a Spike Jonze-directed film called “Scenes From The Suburbs” including two previously unreleased/unheard/unknown tracks. Tonight Zane Lowe had the world premiere of both songs and below you can hear radio rips of both of them, “Speaking In Tongues” featuring Talking Heads’ David Byrne, and “Culture War”.