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  • My Top 10 Albums of 2012 + Review

    Jan 25 2013, 4h42

    Well I make no secret & apologise at the shameful lateness of posting this journal - this seemed to take a lot longer than usual to come up with a definitive Top 10 with a lot of head-scratching, re-thinking & juggling around of the order - but finally, here it is - enjoy!!! :)

    Album of the year - dEUS - Following Sea

    I've been a huge fan of these Belgian alt-rock renegades since their inception 20 years ago & this year they released their second album in as many years & their seventh album of their career to date. Following Sea is made up of songs that were left from the sessions from the making of their previous album Keep You Close from 2011 & far from being a stop-gap album of offcuts, this is, in my humble opinion, their best album since the landmark album In a Bar, Under the Sea - which for me is their masterpiece - this new album runs it very close & is fully deserving of its place at the coveted #1 position!

    It starts with Quatre Mains with a pulsating & driving melody & spoken word verses & sung choruses entirely in French. Its an insidious & vaguely sinister opening track.
    Sirens is classic dEUS with a tumbling, twinkling melody & great husky vocals from singer Tom Barman. Its the kind of track that they do so well - a seemingly effortless sounding song that sounds simple but has hidden layers that reveal themselves with every listen.
    One of my highlights of the album Hidden Wounds comes next. An epic, slow & swaggering rhythm with spoken word verses graphically describing the aftermath of a bombing. Its simple & deceptively effective & breaks into a gently sung & affecting chorus - a disarmingly great song that burrows its way into your psyche.
    dEUS have never lost sight of their crazy side & next track Girls Keep Drinking is a jagged, strutting song with stabs of edgy guitar that recalls the more off-kilter moments of their first two albums especially.
    dEUS also know their way around achingly pretty songs & the next three songs are three of their best songs showcasing their softer side. First up is Nothings that is short, sweet, simple & for me recalls songs like Serpentine with a disarmingly pretty guitar melody & minimal arrangement.
    Next song, The Soft Fall has yet more spoken word vocals before breaking into sweet & soulful vocals where Tom sounds like a complete innocent. Pretty strings underpin the chorus - a lovely song!
    For all their weirdness, I still think dEUS are at their best when they strip away all the complexity & come along with a song that is so sweet, so unutterably lovely & just such a song is Crazy About You. It has a beautiful stop-start circular melody & just the sweetest vocals. There's no pretension here, its just a simple & sweet song about being completely & utterly in love. Its one of the prettiest songs they've ever done, up there with The Magic Hour for sheer, unabashed loveliness - its just adorable! :)
    Next track The Give Up Gene starts gently with a curious melody then subtle & measured vocals kick in. It rumbles along in the same manner for the whole song & keeps threatening to burst forth but manages to stay reined in for the whole song.
    Fire Up the Google Beast Algorithm is as completely bonkers as the title suggests - a two & a bit minute blast of jagged guitars & rushed spoken word vocals that sound like the most bizarre but brilliant stream of consciousness - "Hypnotise the door so it closes itself everytime I fly through it on a carpet of neon" - how can you stare at a blank screen & come up with something as off the wall & brilliant as that?
    The album closes with One Thing About Waves that starts slowly & gradually builds itself layer on layer into a swirling, blasting crescendo before echoing away into gentleness. A terrific way to end the album.
    I was surprised when they unleashed this album as they usually take a little while between albums & I admired their reasoning for releasing this album which was "why just sit on a bunch of songs for three years when we could release another album?" I'm so glad they made the decision to release this as its up there with their best albums, second only, for me to In a Bar, Under the Sea. Comfortably my album of the year & these wonderful, quirky Belgians have added another stunning album to their catalogue - check it out! :)

    Stars make a welcome return to my albums of the year list at #2 with their lovely album, The North. Previous album Five Ghosts was good, but just lacked that certain something. This album has that certain something & more & sees the band back at their very best. Once again, the vocal duties are shared between the honeyed & lovely voices of Amy Millan & Torq Campbell & there is so much to love here! Opening track The Theory Of Relativity is a fantastic electroclash that comes across like a cousin of The Naked & Famous' mighty Young Blood, A Song Is a Weapon is one of their very best songs with a gently explosive chorus, Lights Changing Colour is all soft focus & 80's sounding & there are some beautiful patented Stars melancholia moments too - the title track & The 400 especially. I'm always a sucker for lovely boy/girl vocal bands & Stars are among the very best at this! Great to have them back!

    & talking of lovely boy/girl vocal bands, my favourite new band of last year Of Monsters And Men blast in at #3 with their adorable album My Head Is An Animal. Hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, they appeared seemingly from nowhere with their insanely catchy indie pop single Little Talks, which was one of my favourite songs of last year - its just glorious! They make an intoxicating brand of indie folk & the songs here tend to fall into two categories - the insanely catchy pop songs - Dirty Paws, Of King & Lionheart Mountain Sound & the aforementioned Little Talks & slower, more folksy songs - Sloom, Lakehouse & Yellow Light, for example. They both have such cute voices & they complement each other perfectly. This album is a little box of musical treasure & I'd advise digging it up & diving in as soon as possible - a wonderful album from a lovely new band!

    Band of Horses are another band making a welcome return to my annual Top 10, at #4 with Mirage Rock. Every time they release an album, it makes it into my year end chart & this fourth album continues the trend easily. Again, the songs tend to fall into two categories - the faster rocking anthems - the delirious Knock Knock, Feud & Electric Music especially & their trademark heartbreakingly lovely slower tracks where Ben Bridwell's angelic voice truly comes into its own - Heartbreak On The 101, Slow Cruel Hands Of Time, Shut-In Tourist & Long Vows are all among the best & loveliest songs they've recorded to date & the last two especially are right up there with still their most beautiful moment of all Detlef Schrempf from the Cease To Begin album. A great album from a consistently great band!

    A band making their first appearance in my annual chart are fun. & their intoxicatingly catchy album Some Nights at #5. The seeds of this albums success were sown from the moment the world heard We Are Young. Curiously skittering verses give way to the mother of all singalong choruses - this song couldn't have failed to be a huge hit & it was deservedly massive everywhere & making No.1 in the UK. The rest of the album follows in a similarly catchy vein - the title track, for a start is basically We Are Young part two. There are plenty of vocoder treated vocals on here, but the sheer joie de vivre of the band & the music allows them to get away with it. The album is sprinkled with killer choruses everywhere you look - Carry On continues the blueprint of We Are Young as does All Alright & even the slightly clunky One Foot succeeds where lesser bands might stumble. A glorious breath of fresh air of an album!

    For a long time, it seemed as though we would never hear from The xx again & we would be left with their debut album as a beautiful memorial to their music. Happily they went back to the studio & gave us the beautiful Coexist, that finds itself at #6 in my year end chart. The debut album was startlingly beautiful & this second album sticks to the concept of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Nothing has really changed musically - just a few more musical textures thrown into the mix, such as the lovely soft steel drum effects on Reunion. Angels is simply beautiful with Romy intoning about the simple beauty of being in love. That track is a a red herring, as the rest of the album returns to the formula of detachment, heartbreak & loss that they do so well. The xx make it a trio of boy/girl vocal bands in my year end chart & although they are still a young band, you do wonder how we managed before they came along. A beautiful album & a welcome return!

    A lot of the attention of Bat For Lashes new album The Haunted Man - at #7 in my year end chart - came from the striking cover art of a naked & make-up-less Natasha Khan with a man draped over her shoulders. This stripped back & vulnerable looking Khan of the album cover also applies to the music - a lot of the mystical lyrics have been replaced with heart on sleeve soul-baring. Centrepiece of the album is Laura - just a piano, subtle brass & Khan's voice sounding more beautiful than it has ever sounded - its a showstopping, heartstoppingly gorgeous song - the best song here & surely the most beautiful song she's recorded to date. Elsewhere, Oh Yeah comes across more strident with its jerky quasi-dancefloor musical textures & aching sensuality, Lillies is a startling opening track - defiant, yet fragile growing into an atmospheric statement of intent & when the music falls away & she sings "Thank God I'm alive", her voice soars, the goosebumps start a journey up your spine & the song swells once more to a glorious crescendo. All Your Gold is underpinned by a curious,clunky rhythm & slowly rises & falls with Khan's voice. She has always had a beautiful voice & it has truly never sounded more beautiful & affecting than on this lovely exorcising album!

    Sometimes an album comes along that is just a total "Where the hell did this come from?" moment & just such an album is Tame Impala's Lonerism that finds itself at #8. I was shockingly late in discovering this album, but I bowed to the universal critical acclaim this album garnered & dived in. its a stunning album full of woozy psychedelic textures & lovely vocals. Its also a perfect album for headphones as the sounds here swirl from one ear to the other - none more so than the breathtaking Mind Mischief. Music To Walk Home By is another glorious standout as is the stunning & pounding Elephant, but this album is best listened to as a whole rather than singling out individual songs as everything here coalesces into a mind-numblingly stunning soundscape. Nothing else sounded anything like this album this year...a mind altering & magical album!

    Shiny new band Oberhofer make my Top 10 at #9 with Time Capsules II. Deep & soulful vocals & killer harmonising are the order of the day here. Standout track is undoubtedly Haus, with its lovely repeated refrain "I wanna build a house with you....so we can be alone" - its disarmingly lovely & is blessed with a deceptively simple & pretty, twinkling melody. Landline is furiously catchy & OoOo, has the simplest of all choruses - basically the harmonised title repeated over & over. These wordless vocals are a common trait throughout the album & they help bind the album into a glorious whole & give the band a sound that even after just one album, sounds like theirs & theirs alone. A great discovery & a brilliant new band to have on the block!

    Rounding off my Top 10 of 2012 are yet another new band & another album that I came to very late, after bowing to the pressure of the praise heaped upon them. Alt-J's album An Awesome Wave sneaks in at #10. This was another album that sounded like nothing else released in 2012 & deservedly won them the coveted Mercury Music Prize for the best British album of the year. The voice is a curious, unusual & distinctive thing & musically it sounds completely off the wall & fresh. The songs sound disjointed but paradoxically they hang together perfectly. Tesselate, the sinister Breezeblocks & the plain off the wall Matilda are the best tracks to start with here - that last track is, to my mind, the only song ever written inspired by the movie Leon - with its repeated line "This is from Matilda" - the last words Jean Reno utters to Gary Oldman's evil cop character before they are blown sky high. This is an album that takes a little work to get into, but when the album clicks, its a great moment. Truly fresh & innovative from a band to watch for the future!

    Just to give some scope to the task to narrow this to a Top 10, there were also albums this year from Amy MacDonald, Band Of Skulls, Ben Gibbard, Bloc Party, Dry The River, Feeder, The Fray, Garbage, Graham Coxon, Guillemots, Jack White, Jake Bugg, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Keane, The Killers, Lana Del Rey, Lostprophets, The Lumineers, The Maccabees, Magnetic Fields, Maximo Park, Metric, The Mountain Goats, Mumford & Sons, Muse, Nada Surf, Passion Pit, Paul Weller, Pet Shop Boys, The Script, The Shins, Sigur Ros, Smashing Pumpkins, Soulsavers, Soundgarden, Temper Trap, Train, Two Door Cinema Club, The Vaccines, Violins & The Walkmen - a stunning roll call of albums!!!

    As always, THANK YOU for reading - hope you liked & here's to 2013 & another year of musical delights - happy listening to you all!!!

    =DDD
  • My Top 10 Albums of 2011 + Review

    Dez 30 2011, 4h14

    It was another spectacular year for music & another hard fought battle to make it into my year end Top 10, not least because a slew of my fave artists returned with new albums. A lot of painstaking decision making later, I've finally arrived at my ultimate Top 10! The hardest fought battle was between two of my musical heavyweights - namely two of my three fave artists in the world & it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which two they are! It was a straight fight between the UK & the USA & this time, the USA have come out on top. Most of this Top 10 is made up of well established acts, but there's space for a couple of great shiny new bands too! Enough preamble, on with the review!

    1) DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - CODES & KEYS

    Coming out on top are the mighty DCFC & this stellar album. Three years in the making & well worth the wait as Ben Gibbard & co gave us another lesson in literate, intelligent songwriting with bags of hooks & wonderful melodies. The relatively straightforward You Are a Tourist was the lead single & lyrically is less oblique than a lot of their songs - about feeling like a stranger in your home town. Its blessed with a beautifully simple yet effective melody with Ben's voice chiming like a bell & the most ridiculously catchy as ebola guitar hook that worms its way into your head & refuses to leave. This is a more electronic based album than previous albums, maybe a nod to Ben's side project, The Postal Service & this is most evident on the lovely Unobstructed Views which has an epic woozy intro & is as warm as a hug under a fluffy blanket - its a treasure of a song! Also blessed with a sweet warmth is the cute Monday Morning. There's also the defiantly joyous Stay Young Go Dancing, the ramshackle sweetness of Portable Television, the anthemic Underneath The Sycamore, the lyrically downbeat but curiously uplifting St Peter's Cathedral, the hypnotic beat that underpins Some Boys & the classic Death Cab of Doors Unlocked & Open. A simply breathtaking album & deservedly taking the top spot in my year end, ladies & gentlemen, I give you my favourite American band, DCFC! :)

    2) ELBOW - BUILD A ROCKET, BOYS!

    In 2008, Elbow were the bride with the all conquering The Seldom Seen Kid, but this year they have to make do with being the bridesmaid! Any other year, this would have been my album of the year, but not this time! For me, Elbow are one of those bands that when they release a new album, its a huge event & this new album is no exception. It picks up where The Seldom Seen Kid left off, with more beautiful epic songs & stunning songwriting with Guy Garvey's peerless vocals at the forefront. First single Neat Little Rows is jagged & in your face - atypical of the album, much like Grounds For Divorce was with the previous album. Opener The Birds is epic & beautifully slow-burning, High Ideals is gently danceable with a skittering beat, Dear Friends is a close relative of the previous album's Friend Of Ours & for anyone looking for another One Day Like This, look no further than Open Arms, that manages to be almost as euphoric & life affirming & is possessed of a glorious soaring choral chorus. Just another stunning album from one of THE best bands in the world! :)

    3) FOSTER THE PEOPLE - TORCHES

    Every so often, a new band appears seemingly out of nowhere & release a debut album that is so completely lovely that you wonder what you ever did without it. Just such a band are Foster The People & just such an album is Torches. I fell in love with it on first listen & I knew then, that it was going to feature very high in my year end top 10 & here it is at the dizzy heights of #3! The lead single Pumped Up Kicks was the song that inspired me to get the album.Its a curious, mellow song underpinned by an insidious beat & has slightly muffled vocals in the verses before bursting into a simple but glorious chorus. It was a real sleeper hit single - hanging around the charts for ages. The whole album is filled with songs that sound so simple & effortless & all the songs have razor sharp hooklines & killer choruses. Helena Beat, Waste, Don't Stop, Call It What You Want....I could go on...& I will, about one song in particular which hit me like some divine hammer the first time I heard it. The song in question is I Would Do Anything For You & its the sweetest, sunshiniest & just most downright adorable song you could hope to hear. Angelic vocals sing achingly sweet words in the verses & kick into a chorus that is so simple & so completely & utterly joyful, you can't help but bounce around the room. Its about the joys of being in love & oh my, the song just perfectly conveys the wonderful feeling of having someone in your life that you love more than anything. I adore that song, I adore this album & I adore this band! Buy it NOW & bring some perfect indie-pop sunshine into your life! :D

    4) FRIENDLY FIRES - PALA

    These guys kicked up a dust storm of wonderfulness with their debut, self-titled album & this second album is even bigger, even better & is a huge starburst of kaleidoscopic colours. The beautiful brightly coloured bird on the cover is an apt metaphor for an album that soars high & is drenched in colour. Opener Live Those Days Tonight is a barnstorming opener & the pace barely slows throughout the album. The title track is slower & utterly beautiful & apart from all that, it serves as a chance to catch your breath & is expertly placed right in the middle of the album. Hawaiian Air is another highlight, with its curious electronic 'whoop-whoop' hook & conjures up images of a hula party on a Hawaiian beach at sunset, its glorious. True Love is another divine slab of danceability with the pseudo-falsetto vocals in the chorus & there's Show Me Lights, Running Away, Hurting, Helpless.... A simply wonderful album that blew me away & is hugely deserving of its place at #4 in my year end chart! :)

    5) KASABIAN - VELOCIRAPTOR!

    Kasabian just seem to get better & better with every album. After the mayhem of the West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum album, this is actually a pretty straightforward album by their standards & it gives a nod to all their previous albums. It has the classic ballsy Kasabian anthems such as Rewired, Days Are Forgotten & Switchblade Smiles. The title track is playful, cartoonish chaos & there's even a relatively straightforward ballad in the shape of Goodbye Kiss. There's a nod to their electronica based side on I Hear Voices.The most adventurous song here is Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm) that is smart & complex & laden with Turkish strings. The band are one of the best & most consistently great bands of the moment & in singer Tom Meighan & guitarist Serge Pizzorno, they have a brilliant & charismatic double figurehead. A brilliant album from a brilliant band, put simply! :)

    6) DEUS - KEEP YOU CLOSE

    The words 'Belgian' & 'legends' probably aren't words that go together that often, but in the case of dEUS, they go together like strawberries & cream! For the last 20 years or so, they've been consistently wowing the alternative scene with their curious, quirky & glorious music & on 6th album Keep You Close, they continue the trend spectacularly. Title track is quintessential dEUS - slow burning with a quirky edge & an insidious melody that hooks you in. Ghost starts off all jangly & great much like Instant Street from their Ideal Crash album, but then descends gradually into a chaotic & wonderful shambles. The End Of Romance is mostly spoken word with a hushed & beautiful melody & is easily the softest moment on the album. Usually the mellowest track would be my favourite (as frequent visitors to my profile will already know!), but for once its a more umtempo track that takes that honour. Constant Now is an insistent, clanging track that is possessed of a curiously danceable chorus & is probably the most instant track here. Another stunning album from true Belgian legends! :)

    7) WHITE LIES - RITUAL

    With their debut album, White Lies asserted themselves as consummate purveyors of dark, epic indie in the Editors vein. On this second album, the epicness is multiplied tenfold & has electronic touches to broaden the soundscapes - these are more than just mere 'songs'. Also Harry Mc Veigh's voice seems to have grown in stature & sounds less like an Ian Curtis/ Tom Smith impressionist & more like he has found his comfort zone. The songs are huge - opener Is Love is mighty, Strangers is blessed with a massive chorus, Bigger Than Us is simply stunning, closer, Come Down is more pared back but no less powerful & my highlight Peace & Quiet is just breathtaking. A consummate second album from a band seriously in touch with their inner epic! :)

    8) SNOW PATROL - FALLEN EMPIRES

    On their 6th album, Snow Patrol consolidate their position as purveyors of beautiful, slow-burning mid-paced epicness. Lead single Called Out In The Dark is bold & brassy, second single This Isn't Everything You Are is everything that is great about SP in a single song - low slung, quietly epic & in possession of a huge chest-beating chorus & is probably the closest they get to a Chasing Cars on here. Songs such as New York & In The End are immense stadium-filling songs & of course there's a sprinkling of beautiful ballads - Those Distant Bells & The Garden Rules are sparklingly warm & utterly lovely & possibly the best of all is Life-ning - a stripped back wish list of hopes & dreams that no-one but Gary Lightbody could sing so openly, so heart-on-sleeve - just beautiful. A lot of music journalists single out Snow Patrol as bywords for boring & unimaginative, but this is so heartbreakingly to miss the point. They make beautiful music that people can identify with. Another wonderful album, put simply! :)

    9) GUILLEMOTS - WALK THE RIVER

    On their debut album, Guillemots gave us a beautiful masterclass in blending perfect pop songs, with heart-wrenching emotion, minimal beauty & stunning epicness. It was a hard act to follow, but they managed it on their second album Red, with a consolidation of their sound while simaultaneously broadening their already considerable musical horizons. Their 3rd album finds them effortlessly blending the sound of both their previous albums, while maintaining their unmistakeable sound & always with Fyfe Dangerfield's glorious, soaring voice flying high. Title track & album opener is a lovely statement of intent with its lyrical imagery of walking the river "like a hunted animal", Vermillion grows into a glorious crescendo, Ice Room is more aggressive, but invigoratingly so & I Don't Feel Amazing Now is simply beautiful with Fyfe's fractured, pleading vocals. Lead single The Basket is classic Guillemots with Fyfe's trademark soaring wordless vocalising at the forefront & just for good measure there are a couple of truly epic songs that clock in around the 9 minute mark - neither reach the unassailable peak of the near 12 minute Sao Paulo from the debut album - but they are both beautiful & unmistakeably Guillemots. A beautiful album from a unique & beautiful band! :)

    10) THE VACCINES - WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM THE VACCINES?

    Occasionally, you just need a dose of invigorating good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll to blow away the cobwebs & The Vaccines duly obliged with their breezy & cockily titled debut album. There's a rich vein of breathlessly brilliant songs here - Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra), the blink & you'll miss it Norgaard & of course the immediate If You Wanna with its effortlessly simple but enormously catchy chorus. Its a measure of their confidence that they can balance the blistering songs with slower, more controlled & even beautiful songs. Wetsuit is slower & more reined in, All In White is possibly the best track here, with a tangible vulnerability on show & the hidden bonus track Somebody Else's Child is stark, minimal & truly beautiful & shows that this band have far more than just one string to their bow. An immensely confident & endearing debut album that was fully deserving of the hype & equally deserving of a place in my year end chart! :)

    So there you go! As ever it was a tough bout of decision making to arrive at this Top 10 & it shows that 2011 was just as wonderful, rich & varied a year for music as there's ever been! To give an idea of the size of the task, there were also albums this year from Arctic Monkeys, Beady Eye, Bjork, The Boxer Rebellion, Bright Eyes, Chapel Club, Coldplay, Cold War Kids, CSS, Cults, The Decemberists, The Drums, Ed Sheeran, Fleet Foxes, Foo Fighters, Glasvegas, Iron & Wine, Kaiser Chiefs, Kate Bush, Lamb, Madina Lake, Manchester Orchestra, The Mountain Goats, My Morning Jacket, Noah & The Whale, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Peter Gabriel, REM, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers & TV On The Radio!!! An immense year of musical riches, I'm sure you agree! Can 2012 live up to the gauntlet that 2011 threw down? Only time will tell!

    Hope you enjoyed this little review, hope you all had a wonderful 2011 & here's to an equally wonderful 2012!!! :D
  • Death Cab for Cutie @ Brixton Academy, London - 7th July 2011

    Jul 19 2011, 1h29

    It had been a loooong time since I last saw DCFC, a whole three years almost to the day, so I had a huge amount of expectation for this Brixton Academy gig. Incidentally, this seems to be the default venue of choice for the band when they come to London - including this gig, the last three times I've seen them have all been here & that's a very good thing as, happily Brixton Academy is one of my favourite venues! :) I know they have grown in popularity since their last visit here, but I was staggered to see the ENORMOUS queue, several people wide, snaking all the way down the outside of the venue right to the end of the street & around the corner - it was amazing! Happily, the queue was pretty fast moving & within about 15 minutes I was inside.

    I hadn't looked at my ticket, so I assumed I was in the usual stalls standing part of the place, but was told that actually, I was upstairs, in the unreserved circle seating. That was fine by me. I grabbed a drink & headed right to the very top at the back with a spectacular view looking directly at centre stage. Even up here, the place was absolutely heaving & alive with the buzz of anticipation. Just after 9pm, the lights dimmed, to deafening cheers & these four, unassuming softly-spoken guys from Washington State walked on stage. I knew this was gonna be good, but I didn't realise quite HOW good...

    As far as set openers go, the epic, rumbling I Will Possess Your Heart, with its ominous extended intro, was simply spectacluar. To follow it with two more of the strongest songs in their considerable back catalogue - the crash-bang wake up call of The New Year & the insidious fan fave We Laugh Indoors, complete with its explosive midsection, where Ben truly let's rip - is nothing short of genius & makes you realise just how many spectacular songs they have that they can start a gig with three crackers like those.

    This was truly the gig where they threw their entire back catalogue in the air & plucked out songs randomly as they fluttered back down to earth. We were treated to a who's-who of the very best of their back catalogue with songs from almost all their studio albums, as well as a soundtrack song & a completely unexpected cover version, but more of that later.

    Earlier songs were blended seamlessly with later ones & it was about 30 minutes into the gig before we got a song from the new album Codes & Key - the pulsating Doors Unlocked & Open. Partway through the gig, there was a pared down section, that included the insidious & insufferably sad Summer Skin, complete with its militarily precise drumming & from that same beautiful album (Plans - naturally!) came the highlight of the gig so far. I wasn't up until now, too sure as to what was the British DCFC fans fave song of them, but going on this gig, I'd say that its probably one of their simplest & sweetly saddest songs - I Will Follow You Into The Dark. The stage darkened, leaving Ben alone in a spotlight with an acoustic guitar. He made a little speech about the support band & dedicated the song to them & as soon as that simple acoustic melody started echoing around, HUGE cheers skyscraped the venue & then - beautifully - as Ben softly sang, EVERY person in the place quietly sang along to EVERY word. It was simply jaw droppingly, spine tinglingly, goosebump-inducingly lovely in every way & as Ben strummed the final chord, the cheers were DEAFENING. I had to wipe away a few tears at the time & even now as I type this & think about that moment once again, I can feel the corners of my eyes getting damp.

    Other mellow songs were also given an airing tonight. Ben told us that he'd heard that British gig-goers liked to jump up & down & then said that the next song was kinda slow to jump around to so maybe we could sway along instead! We did & the song in question was Grapevine Fires & it was utterly lovely. To act as a counterpoint to the slower songs there was a scattering of their glorious uptempo anthems - Crooked Teeth, a stunningly pretty Soul Meets Body & a deliriously joyful Sound Of Settling - to name but three.

    Half a dozen songs from the new album were played tonight, my faves of which were the aforementioned Doors Unlocked... , the title track, the sweetly swaying & cute Stay Young Go Dancing & best of all, the glorious lead single You Are a Tourist - complete with a false start! - with Ben's voice ringing out like the chiming of some divine bell & that furiously catchy & joyously bouncy guitar hook rebouunding off the walls of the Academy - it was simply wonderful!

    This was also a gig of firsts for me, the first time I'd heard the often overlooked non-album track Photobooth live, the first time I'd heard the simple & naively lovely 405 from the We Have The Facts... album, live & the first time I'd heard their wonderful ominous & anthemic contribution to the Twilight Saga soundtrack, Meet Me On The Equinox, live - a song that Ben introduced as a song from a scary film about vampires! All just amazing.

    There were more highlights - the pounding & driving Cath..., the curiously playful Long Division, the sad & lovely Title & Regstration & more besides. After over 1 & a half hours of musical wonderfulness, they finally left the stage. Deafening cheering, whistling & clapping followed for a few minutes before they returned to the stage for a four song encore.

    It started with the scratchy & woozy Home Is a Fire from the new album. After this, Ben made a little speech about how much they owe to British music - greeted by big cheers - followed by a tribute to one of those bands in the shape of a swooning & swooping jangly cover of Twisterella from Ride. Time was ticking on & they had two more songs to play & while I was certain about which song they would end with, I had no idea what the penultimate song would be & how happy I was to discover that it was Marching Bands Of Manhattan - my favourite song from my favourite album ever & my second fave song ever of them! Oh my, it was just lovely - & once again I had to wipe away a little dampness from around my eyes.

    Before they launched into the inevitable final song, Ben got behind the piano, not for the first time tonight, & announced that this really was the end but then sweetly added, "but only for tonight!" Then the opening bars of Transatlanticism rang out, a wave of goosebumps swept all over me, my eyes dampened once again & we were treated to, what is now, for me, THE most beautiful song EVER. Its a song I can never talk about without rambling & I always say the same things about it every time I write about it, so this time I want to say something a little different to add to my considerable collection of rambling superlatives when it comes to this song - in my head, I've unofficially renamed this song Transcendentalism, because this song, put simply, is a religious experience & hearing it & hearing it LIVE, transports you onto a higher plane. Simply WONDERFUL - I & practically everyone else sang every word & I clapped along & waved my arms & when it had finished, I cheered & clapped until my throat was sore & my hands were practically bleeding...a jaw dropping finale to a simply spectacular gig! Ben thanked us all for coming out & wished us a safe journey home & they waved & trooped offstage to cheers, clapping & whistling.

    WOW - how good was that??? How can I sum it up in simple non-babbling words??? They played a pretty much flawless set of 25 songs, including pretty much all my favourites. They played for TWO hours. They covered pretty much every album in their back catalogue, played over half the new album, plus some less-often played songs & a completely unexpected cover version. In short, they absolutely nailed it tonight. They seemed to have the time of their lives out there tonight & it showed - this is the sound of a band at the absolute peak of their powers & my favourite American band ever delivered in style & over 3,000 people left very happy. There may be bigger & more successful American bands than DCFC, but, IMHO, none of them can touch these guys when it comes to giving you everything you could want in a band - huge anthemics, epic songs on epic scales, simple short sweet & bouncy songs, stripped back & heartstring-tuggingly, tear-inducingly beautiful songs, & always intelligent, literate, immaculately crafted music & lyrics that are clever without ever being smug. Some bands might be able to claim some of the above, but very few can honestly claim to do all that. DCFC can....

    Oh nearly forgot, here's the epic setlist -

    http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/death-cab-for-cutie/2011/o2-academy-brixton-london-england-23d35c03.html

    If you think I'm typing out that entire setlist, you must be joking, haha!! :P

    THANK YOU as always, DCFC - you scaled new heights tonight & we were happy to soar with you - beautifully happy! This has to be in my Top 10 gigs ever - enough said!

    =DDD
  • Elbow @ the O2 Arena - 29th March 2011

    Abr 5 2011, 1h43

    Anything related to Elbow is always an event & this huge gig - the second of two sold out nights at the O2 Arena was no exception. This gig was the finale to their first ever arena tour & shows just how far they've come from their humble beginnings. The Seldom Seen Kid was the springboard that catapulted them into the big league with its brace of singles, the brutal Grounds For Divorce & the gloriously life-affirming One Day Like This (both present here tonight) & new album Build a Rocket Boys! looks set to keep them there.

    Elbow gigs are always hugely enjoyable for several reasons. Firstly, of course, as always, are the songs that are skyscraping, epic, emotional & chest-burstingly beautiful. Secondly, they always seem to attract a genuinely nice crowd of people to their gigs & their music seems to transcend age - I saw people here tonight ranging from about 14 or 15 right up to people well into their 60's. Finally of course, the band are just a genuinely likeable & cheerful group of people & in Guy Garvey, they have, for me, the best frontman a band could ever have - warm, funny, charismatic, self-deprecating, great at rambling storytelling, loves to get the crowd involved & makes everyone feel like they are special & part of something truly wonderful! :)

    Before they came onstage, the backdrop was five what looked like portraits of each band member. But if you watched the portraits, they each moved for a split second - maybe a stretch here or a scratch there! The cleverest part was after the lights went down & everyone started cheering, the 'portraits' left their paintings & walked onstage - brilliant! Epic new album opener The Birds was the opening track here & was a great way to start, with its gentle vocals & slow-burning melody.

    With such a great frontman as Guy, you look forward to his between song banter almost as much as the songs themselves & tonight was no exception. He was on fine form tonight, so much so, that the next part of this review is a few examples of the warm & wonderful between song chat that Guy treated us to! -

    After The Birds - "If you've never been to an Elbow gig before, there WILL be a lot of cheesy audience participation right from the start!"

    Before Mirrorball - "I want to conduct a poll - can anyone who is in love, put their hands in the air?... I want to create a nice romantic atmosphere."

    While getting us to sing the hook from Grounds For Divorce - "They were better last night!... I'm just saying! Don't shoot the messenger!"

    Before Great Expectations - "This next song...is fucking great!"

    Before With Love - "We do have a choir for this, but they're not here, so you're on!"

    Before final pre-encore song Open Arms - "This is our last song. No, there's absolutely NO chance of us coming back on!"

    After every few songs - "Is everyone OK?" "Is everyone still OK?" "Is everyone STILL OK?"

    Before One Day Like This - "OK, we're gonna play one more song for you - no prizes for guessing which one!"

    That barely scratches the surface. There was also the moment when Guy encouraged the whole arena to give a standing ovation to the people who were sitting the furthest away from the stage or the time when he got us all to make that popping sound when you put your finger in your mouth & pull it out & then say that they should make it into a ringtone, or when he got everyone to simaultaneously click their fingers & then he exclaimed that it made him want to eat mussels, or the traditional mid-set drinks break, where tinkly cocktail bar music came on & the band all had a drink together & then raising their glasses & saying "CHEERS LONDON" & everyone raised their glasses back...I really could go on - the between song banter & chat & audience participation really do make such a lovely change from bands that just play their songs & hardly interact with the audience. IMHO, no-one makes the crowd feel happy & warm & makes them laugh like Guy Garvey - he is a complete legend! :D

    OK, back to the music, haha!

    The majority of the set tonight (14 out of 17 songs) was taken from the current album & the previous one & three songs from their thrid album Leaders of the Free World. This was the first time I've been to a gig of them where they played nothing from the first two albums - not even Newborn!!! O_O A song that is so huge, that you'd think it would be made for such a huge venue. But it really didn't matter as this was a sublime set of songs. Mirrorball was as twinkling & lovely as it always is. Grounds For Divorce was as ferocious as ever & just to go back to that quote of Guy's above, before this song - after Guy joked that the audience were better last night, one guy in the crowd shouted out "So were you!" which got Guy & everyone laughing, haha! Guy responded by asking the guy who shouted out to sing the hook from Grounds For Divorce on his own! Which he did & Guy said it was rubbish, haha!

    At one point, all bar two of the band left the stage & they moved to a little stage near the front with a piano. Guy told us that the next song is about friendship & he dedicated it to us - awww! :) It was the short & sweet Puncture Repair & it sounded beautiful. While still on their little stage, we had the dramatic sweep of Some Riot & suddenly the main stage lit up & the rest of the band were all back on stage.

    The new songs were received really well - Neat Little Rows was towering, Lippy Kids sounded delicate & sweet in this cavernous arena, The Night Will Always Win was minimal & utterly gorgeous, With Love was glorious with its little choral outbursts amplified by the crowd & in Open Arms, they have a song to rival One Day Like This for sheer chest-bursting euphoria with its glorious arms aloft chorus that sounded immense.

    Another treat at this gig was when they played Great Expectations. I heard recently that this song is one of the bands personal favourites of their own songs & they try & give it as many live outings as they can. In this huge arena, it sounded so fragile & heartbreakingly lovely. Its one of my favourite Elbow songs too! :)

    So once they came back on (of course they were always going to, haha!), we had a wonderful three song encore that started with the song that was the set-opener from the tours of the previous album. Of course it was Starlings with its beautiful burbling melody broken at regular intervals by those intense & eardrum shattering blasts of trumpet. At the end of the song, Guy did a little tuneless freestyle trumpeting which gave everyone yet another laugh! The glorious Station Approach (so glad they still play this one too!) came next with its elegant sweeping tune that built up & up into a magnificent thumping great finale.

    Then there was indeed only one song left to play & naturally it was One Day Like This. Guy told us to kiss the person we love the most before the song - awww! :D I've heard this live a few times now & you'd think I'd said all I could about this song & how utterly perfect & life-affirming it is & how it is multiplied by an unknown factor live. Well, maybe I have said all I can before, but I'm gonna say it all again! It really sounds like the most perfect & life-affirming song ever when you hear it live. The strings, the gently thumping rhythm, Guy's euphoric vocals - it was simply & utterly stunning. Everyone in the seated area was on their feet & when we got to the beautiful finale, I had a little look around me & everywhere I looked, people were swaying & singing along with their arms in the air & EVERYONE looked intensely happy. Its moments like this when you think what a special thing music is & how it joins everyone together. How these five unassuming guys from Greater Manchester capture our hearts & minds with such awe-inspiring, jaw-droppingly beautiful songs & this one in particular. Its my firm belief that if you don't love this song, you are either deaf or unconscious - I'll say it again & again but it is simply STUNNING & it always will be & I'll never EVER tire of this song - completely awesome! :D

    Well after that, there were rapturous cheers, applause, whistles & waving & Guy thanked us all & told us to take care of ourselves & the band all waved & walked off stage with the euphoria still ringing in their (& our!) ears.

    A purely awesome show - two whole hours of the most beautiful entertainment - perfect music, wonderful, warm & funny rambling from Guy between the songs & a feeling that 10,000 people left this arena having just been to one of the most wonderful gigs ever. So what if we didn't get anything from the first two albums? In the great scheme of things, it didn't really matter!

    Thank you as always Elbow, for the beautiful music from the best band in Britain, possibly IMHO the best band in the world!!! We <3 you! :DDD

    Ooooh & before I forget, the all important setlist -

    The Birds
    The Bones Of You
    Lippy Kids
    Mirrorball
    With Love
    Neat Little Rows
    The Night Will Always Win
    Great Expectations
    Grounds For Divorce
    The Loneliness Of a Tower Crane Driver
    Puncture Repair
    Some Riot
    Weather To Fly
    Open Arms

    ENCORE -

    Starlings
    Station Approach
    One Day Like This

    - just beautiful!!! :DDD
  • My Top 10 Albums of 2010 + Review

    Dez 22 2010, 4h47

    So finally, the year is at an end & the annual agonising (but pleasant!) decisions as to which albums of all those released in 2010 made it to my Top 10 albums of the year have finally been made! :) It's been a truly vintage year for music once again & this was the toughest Top 10 I've had to compile. At the end of this review, I'll give out some honourable mentions to albums that didn't quite make the cut & also, for the first time will be naming my favourite artist best of compilation of the year! So take the phone off the hook, sit back & enjoy my shamelessly self-indulgent rundown!! :D

    Well it was surely the worst kept secret ever that my album of the year would be Delays' Star Tiger Star Ariel! Really, it couldn't fail to top my charts - one of my fave bands ever releasing probably the best album of their career so far. Everything there is to love about this band is on this album. You have beautiful, heartfelt ballads (Hold Fire, Find a Home), glorious blasts of life-affirming pop (In Brilliant Sunshine), moments of aching sadness (Moment Gone) & sublime perfect songs that they do better than anyone (Unsung) & everything in between was also stunning. I've played this album about 35 times this year & it was only released in June & it has a whopping 10 hearts out of 11 tracks - making it a pretty damn near perfect album from a definitely perfect band! Thank you, Delays, for everything so far & in my eyes, this beautiful album is a worthy winner of my album of the year award! :D

    I adored Aereogramme, especially their last album, so when I heard that two members of the band (including the singer) had formed a new band - The Unwinding Hours - I was delighted! Their self-titled debut album finds itself in second place & what a breathtakingly gorgeous album it is. The last Aereogramme album was string soaked & full of plaintive vocals & achingly lovely melodies & this album picked up where that album left off. Musically, its stark & pretty minimal & combined with the lyrics & that fragile voice, its an album that is, put simply, a work of art. My fave is the tender acoustic lullaby Solstice, but practically every song is a highlight - the delicate Little One, the atmospheric Peaceful Liquid Shell, the hypnotic Knut, the ominous & eerie Child, the so quiet its hardly there closing track The Final Hour that suddenly bursts into life...its an utterly staggering album of delicate beauty. :)

    When I first heard about Freelance Whales, it was in an article that compared them to DCFC & The Decemberists. Those being two bands I adore, I was curious & I snapped up their debut album Weathervanes as soon as it was released. Now this album has found itself at #3 in my year end chart, for the simple reason that this is just a lovely album! There's no rough edges, no sinister undertones, just song after song of simple uncluttered loveliness. The songs either gallop along sweetly or are slow & stark but no less lovely. Hannah is my fave track, but I could equally pick out Starring, Generator First Floor, We Could Be Friends, Kilojoules, Broken Horse or basically any track on this simply lovely album. If you love sweet & simple pop songs that wrap themselves around you, then this is surely the band & the album for you!! Simply wonderful! :)

    I've loved The National for a while now - drawn in by their spellbinding brand of melancholia - & on their 5th album High Violet, the rest of the world finally woke up & smelled the coffee! It was a Top 5 entry on both sides of the Atlantic. What is especially great about this sudden success is that they have done it without compromising their sound or style or anything at all & just patiently waited for the world to recognise their sheer awesomeness. High Violet is no great departure from previous albums - the same propulsive & beautiful melancholia topped with the beautiful baritone of Matt Berninger. Highlights are many - best of all is the low-slung but breathtaking Conversation 16 - one of the very best songs they've ever recorded, but there's also the curious headrush of Bloodbuzz Ohio, the tender & stately ballad Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks & Terrible Love, England, Lemonworld, Afraid Of Everyone... Trying to explain why The National are so special is like trying to describe your favourite painting - trying to describe it can never do justice to it - you have to experience it for yourself. Please do!! :)

    Whenever The New Pornographers release a new album, its a certainty that it will appear somewhere in my year end Top 10 & this year is no exception, although maybe a little lower than you'd expect. But still, to be in 5th place is no mean feat & their 5th album Together was once again the perfect fusion of everything that makes them such a great band. You had the stomping great songs - Moves, Crash Years & (Your Hands) Together especially & a nice sprinkling of mellower & more measured songs & two especially come to mind. Silver Jenny Dollar is a gentle stomp sung in Dan Bejar's trademark unique, expressive & sleepy, laidback drawl of a voice. But my highlight of the whole album has to be the spectacularly pretty & delicate Valkyrie In The Roller Disco. Its gentle & lovely & has some beautiful harmonised singing & shared vocals & a simple & beautiful chorus. When I first reviewed this album, I likened this song to a warm blanket & its still true - its a song that is warm & comforting & Together is another great album from one of the best bands in the world IMHO! :)

    Another band that is always assured of a place in my year end chart when they release an album are Band Of Horses & third album Infinite Arms finds itself in 6th place, again a little lower than you'd normally expect, but that's just down to the sheer quality of the albums released this year. Its another simply beautiful album right down to the artwork & packaging which is my fave of the year - a beautiful cover of a night sky with one of those clever photos where the stars appear as curved lines & inside, their trademark style of sleevenotes - an individual sheet for each song, with a lovely photo on one side & handwritten extracts from the lyrics of that song with a little sketch - its this attention to detail that is the reason why I still love buying CD's. The album itself is once again, warm & lovely - from the swooping & swaying opener Factory, to more uptempo tracks such as Laredo & a trio of beautiful songs that are among the best they've ever done - Blue Beard, Evening Kitchen & the title track. That title track is the best song here - achingly simple, sweet & utterly spelbinding in its beauty & is a distant cousin of my fave song of theirs, the heartbreakingly lovely Detlef Schrempf from the previous album. This is another wonderful album from a wonderful band! :)

    After their bleaker & distinctly un-commercial previous album, Manic Street Preachers came roaring back with their 10th album Postcards From a Young Man & its here in 7th place in my year end chart. This is the Manics sounding their most upbeat & uptempo since the Everything Must Go album & is also lyrically, their least political album to date. They sound so fresh & invigorated & the music is an utter delight, from the barnstorming lead single Its Not War (Just The End Of Love), to the sheer headrush of A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun complete with one of James Dean Bradfield's most brilliant hollering choruses, to the sweet & optimistic I Think I Found It, to the lamenting of the death of British industry on All We Make Is Entertainment (about as political as this album ever gets), to the simply stunning Golden Platitudes & the beautiful cascading Hazelton Avenue, which is my fave song here. Its so wonderful to hear a band so far into their careers, sounding so fresh & full of life & this album was a triumphant return! :)

    After their debut album hinged on the death of various family members & their second album was an apocalyptically bleak affair, it was always gonna be interesting to see where Arcade Fire went next & the answer was the stunning 16 track sprawl of The Suburbs that finds itself at #8 in my chart. Lyrically, the bleakness is still there, but musically this is their bravest & most diverse album to date. Highlights are many - the loping bar room swagger of the title track, the ominous & driving Ready To Start, the punky rush of Month Of May, the clanging guitars of City With No Children & best & most surprisingly of all, the purely joyous, danceable & 70's disco-infused rush of Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). This is an album that surprises & delights as it twists & turns on its epic journey & begs the question, what comes next? This is a staggering, bleak, brilliant, brave & hugely diverse album from a band that are continually evolving with every release. A draining but breathtaking album! :)

    Fyfe Dangerfield is, of course the frontman with the glorious Guillemots, but this year he took time out from his band & released a lovely solo album - Fly Yellow Moon, that is at #9 in my Top 10. When you have such an expressive voice as he does, listening to this album is, in everything but name, like listening to a Guillemots album & that's a very good thing! So many highlights - opener When You Walk In The Room is one of the best songs here - a giddying, gleeful, shamelessly happy song. So Brand New is a hazy, summery 60's sounding track that sounds like nothing so much as The Byrds at their dreamy best. Faster Than The Setting Sun is another uptempo song with a magnificent hollering chorus, She Needs Me is lovely & shamelessly commercial, Livewire (my fave from the album) is acoustic, stark & really rather lovely & of course, the reissued album featured his simple piano-led cover of the Billy Joel song She's Always a Woman, that was used in an ad campaign in the UK & showed Fyfe to a wider audience & gave him a deserved Top 10 hit in the UK. A sweet album indeed & here's hoping this is a taster of the next Guillemots album! :)

    Rounding off my Top 10 are Yeasayer & their 2nd album Odd Blood. I knew absolutely nothing about them at all & was only convinced to get the album after reading rave reviews all over the music press. Well, what a wonderful surprise this album turned out to be! The curious, doomy, droning clank of opening track The Children aside, this is a cracking album of great electronic-based pure pop songs. Ambling Alp is defiant & optimistic, O.N.E. is hugely danceable, as is the frenetic Rome that sounds like an explosion in a robot factory. Madder Red is slower & elegant with some great wordless harmonising & my stand out I Remember is simply gorgeous - slowly pulsing along with little wobbly electronic shimmers thrown in & the most beautiful, heartfelt, pure, almost falestto vocals & a beautiful repeated refrain. I was so glad I read those reviews & picked up this album & its a lovely album full of gleaming musical gems! :)

    So that's my Top 10 - hope you liked! :) Now as promised, a few honourable mentions to albums that just missed out. LOSTPROPHETS super heavy new album The Betrayed blew me away & for a while was assured of a place in my Top 10. Standout is the epic & simply stunning The Light That Shines Twice As Bright. STARS are a fave band of mine & their new album The Five Ghosts also seemed certain of a place in my year end Top 10, but missed out. It doesn't quite scale the heights of their previous albums but there's still plenty here to love, especially We Don't Want Your Body, Dead Hearts, Fixed & He Dreams He's Awake. STORNOWAY kept the folk flag flying with a sweet & lovely debut album Beachcomber's Windowsill, bursting with lovely songs, best of all the carefree Zorbing & the defiant & stirring Fuel Up. THE DRUMS this year gave us a debut self-titled album of sunny 60's pop melodies married to sad stories, most notably on Best Friend about a mate who died too young. Down By The Water is hushed & dreamy & utterly lovely & Let's Go Surfing is a giddy, shamelessly grin inducing pop song. ELLIE GOULDING also burst onto the scene with her debut album Lights that fused electronica & acoustica with thoughtful & poetic lyrics topped by a cute warbling voice & single Starry-Eyed was undoubtedly one of the best pure pop songs of the year. EELS released not one but two albums this year - the bleak End Times about the end of a relationship & Tomorrow Morning about the start of a new one. Both albums were contenders at one time but the latter album came closest to making my Top 10. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM released supposedly his last album This Is Happening & if it is indeed his swansong, what a way to go! Drunk Girls, Pow Pow & I Can Change are just a few of many highlights! PETER GABRIEL came back with a beautiful covers album, unlke any covers album you'd ever heard. All the songs were reworked for orchestra & the effect was simply beautiful. Special mentions especially for his covers of Bowie's Heroes, Elbow's Mirrorball, Lou Reed's The Power Of The Heart & Magnetic Fields' The Book Of Love, but the whole album is just staggeringly beautiful! :) VAMPIRE WEEKEND blew away the myth of the 'difficult' second album with Contra, that saw them expand their musical range while remaining unmistakeably VW. There was more joyous Afrobeat on the frantic Cousins & California English. Horchata is unashamedly cute & there were some lovely mellower moments, my faves being the gentle thrum of Taxi Cab & the lovely Run, that bursts every now & then into a shimmering starburst! Lovely! :)

    All those & I haven't even mentioned albums by David Ford, Tunng, Nada Surf, Broken Social Scene, Massive Attack, Delphic, Frightened Rabbit, Scouting For Girls, Midlake, Broken Bells, Joanna Newsom, Lightspeed Champion, I Am Kloot, Tired Pony, The Coral, Klaxons, Feeder, Jimmy Eat World, Brandon Flowers, Here We Go Magic, Broken Records & Kings Of Leon!!! :D

    Also, an honorary mention to Suede who reformed this year & reminded us of what an astonishing band they were & are by playing comeback gigs & releasing a stunning two disc best of compilation - one disc that is a masterclass in the art of classic singles & the second a carefully selected pick & mix of the best of their album tracks & B-sides & it really was stunning to hear all these spectacular songs again! :)

    So, finally, that concludes my review of the year! Hope you enjoyed it! :) It was truly another monumental year in music & once again I ask the question - how can next year top this one??? It bodes well that there are certain to be new albums due out in the first few months of the year from Elbow, The Decemberists & DCFC, so bring it on, I say!!! :D

    Thank you for the music! :DDD
  • Delays @ The Relentless Garage, London - 6th October 2010

    Out 10 2010, 2h31

    Any gig of Delays is always an event & as this was the first time I was gonna be hearing songs from their beautiful Star Tiger Star Ariel album live - this was extra special! :)

    But before the gig I had my customary directional dysfunction, haha! Even though I knew the venue was pretty much opposite the tube station, I still managed to walk for 10 minutes in the wrong direction - just don't ask!!

    But once I found the place, I got in, got a drink, made a little trip to the merchandise stall & then found a very nice vantage point, just a few rows of heads from the front - yay! :D I've never been to this venue before but its a lovely cosy little venue holding a few hundred people. Roadies tinkered around on the stage for what seemed like forever, then finally, with the piped music still playing, Delays took to the stage! :D

    The piped music stopped & we were set. Or were we? A technical problem led to Greg giving us a lovely impromptu unaccompanied version of Hey Girl, while they ironed out the problems & it was the loveliest way to cover for a glitch I've ever seen!! :) Eventually things were fixed & the gig proper started with a glorious & euphoric Girl's On Fire that had everyone jumping!

    The unmistakeable intro to Lost In a Melody rang out next & we were in heaven! A lovely outing for One Night Away followed by a blistering & belligerent Friends Are False completed a great opening to the gig, but there was much better to come...

    It was at this point that I wondered if they'd forgotten they had a new album out as we hadn't yet had any songs from it! But then Greg announced that they were going to be plugging the new album like crazy tonight & we were treated to the low key & gorgeous Find a Home, the opening track from the current album & we all swayed along gently as this sweet & lilting song wafted around us.

    This was followed by pretty much the most perfect trio of songs you could imagine. Wanderlust, with its steel drum effects, never ever fails to be anything but utterly beautiful & my colony of goosebumps, which had been lying dormant for a while, suddenly sprouted into life. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, there was the slightest of shudders & a brief eye-moistening interlude. Damn, this sounded so beautiful! :D Next in this holy trinity of songs was my fave song from the current album, the unutterably sweet & lovely Unsung, ushered in on twinkling piano that sounded like a thousand tiny icicles raining down on us. It was just heavenly! :) Finally in this trio came one of my absolute fave Delays songs ever, the indescribably lovely Long Time Coming, with its intro (& I know I've used this analogy before, but I love it!) that sounds like the call-sign from a race of friendly aliens & wow, it was stunningly pretty & beautiful & everything that is perfect about Delays wrapped into 4 minutes & at the end,& not for the first time this evening, I clapped until my hands were sore.

    A brace of tracks from the new album followed - the trademark Delays anthemics of May '45 & the pure adrenalin rush of the Aaron-sung In Brilliant Sunshine that sounded like a call to arms to happy people & sounded like the biggest blast of aural sunshine & it got a stunning reception for what is, after all, just an album track. It sounded spectacular! :)

    A frenetic Panic Attacks followed by the unashamedly loved-up gallop of Hideaway (the first song from You See Colours played tonight - I was beginning to think they'd forgotten about this album!) came next & caused more outbreaks of mad crazy dancing & singing along. The sweet The Lost Estate (possibly the next single) & old fan fave Nearer Than Heaven completed a near perfect pre-encore gig.

    Then Greg announced that the next song was their last (before the encore) & I & my goosebumps had a feeling about what was coming & it was!! It was Valentine!! :D The whole place erupted into a frenzied & beautiful euphoria & everyone & I mean everyone (I know cause I looked back at the crowd!) clapped & bounced along & it was like the crowd were all suddenly on a giant trampoline! I will never, ever, ever, ever tire of hearing this song & hearing it live is just one of those wonderful & life-affirming moments that everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing in their life. I may be slightly biased because this is my absolute fave Delays songs & one of my fave songs ever full stop, but believe me when I say that it is truly a magical song & heard live, that magic is multiplied by a number that I can't even begin to figure out! Just jaw-droppingly beautiful, stunning, amazing & simply a song that embodies what seeing a band live is all about!! :DDD

    With my hands practically bleeding from clapping & my voicebox crying for mercy, they walked off the stage. Now, the usual thing that happens here is that the crowd starts slow-clapping to get the band to come back on. Not here! What happened here was that everyone started singing the "woo-woo-woo-wooooaah, woo-woo-woo-woooaah" refrain from Valentine over & over & faster & faster!! The roadies came on & gestured for us to carry on & get louder - we didn't need any encouragement!! We got louder & faster & the hand-clapping started & eventually & very happy Greg led his beautiful band back onstage! :D

    Once back onstage, we were treated to a wonderful three song encore that started with the epic & swaggering title track from the current album & it sounded just spectacular. For the next song Greg asked us to help with the intro. It was You And Me!! :D Greg sang the opening line, then everyone sang "now this cavalry is coming hoooome" & we kicked into the delirious scissoring synths & the place once again became a mass of trampolining bodies & it was just glorious!! :D The sweet, sweet rush of The Earth Gave Me You completed a pretty much perfect gig & with waves & thanks from the band, they trooped offstage & we were left nursing sore hands, sore voiceboxes, ringing eardrums & seriously sweat-drenched clothes! Just stunning & the best Delays gig I've ever seen! :D

    A few little extra bits that I couldn't squeeze into the review now. I lost count of the number of times that Greg asked us to put our hands in the air & clap along. Partway through, he asked us if we were sweaty & did we want some water!! He then proceeded to throw the contents of his water bottle over us & it was lovely! The light show throughout was simple but stunningly effective - flashing white lights for the faster songs & soothing blues & purples for the slower songs. The crowd were an intensely happy & lovely bunch & thank you for no-one tall standing in front of me, haha!

    Finally the setlist -

    Hey Girl (acappella)
    Girls On Fire
    Lost In A Melody
    One Night Away ~ Segue into...
    Friends Are False
    Find A Home
    Wanderlust
    Unsung
    Long Time Coming
    May 45
    In Brilliant Sunshine
    Panic Attacks
    Hideaway
    The Lost Estate
    Nearer Than Heaven
    Valentine

    ENCORE

    Star Tiger Star Ariel
    You And Me
    The Earth Gave Me You

    This is usually the point of the review where I have a mini-moan about what songs they didn't play but I'm not going to! There really isn't a single thing I can criticise about this gig - it was just perfect! Thank you Delays, thank you Relentless Garage, thank you, lovely Delays fans, thank you all!! :D

    Finally I dedicate this gig to dear friends who have yet to see Delays live & I so, so, so hope that you will soon!! Hold onto the dream - it will come true!! :D

    <3 <3 <3 you, Delays!! :DDD
  • The New Pornographers @ Electric Ballroom, London - 19th May 2010

    Jun 1 2010, 2h16

    Well, this review is a little late in coming, but I hope it's worth the wait :)

    I got to the Electric Ballroom in plenty of time & was greeted by the usual bunch of touts hanging around outside - quite worrying when they can't even pronounce the band's name right!! Also, plenty of people buzzing around the entrance like moths to a light & I was happy to be drawn into the light that is a gig of TNP! :D

    Got inside with the minimum of security checks, got a drink & watched a little of support band Here We Go Magic. If the few songs I heard are anything to go by, then I should really check out more of their stuff. I remember chiming guitars, anthemic songs & great boy/girl vocals. I'm always a sucker for bands with male & female singers & it sounded like TNP had chosen their support band well! They were very popular with the packed crowd in this cosy venue - always nice to see the support band having the attention of the crowd rather than them being treated as mere background music until the main act comes on & HWGM fully deserved the attention :)

    They went off to big cheers & then my mind turned its attention to the three questions that I always ask myself before a TNP gig - 1) What song will they open with? 2) Will they play The Bleeding Heart Show? & 3) Is Neko here? I thought they'd open with a song from the new album but I went for the wrong song as we shall see! TBHS is always gonna be the highlight of any TNP gig for me - if they didn't play it, it wouldn't be a disaster but it would be such a shame if they didn't. Scanning the stage, I noticed four microphones at the front of the stage & as they have four main vocalists (Carl, Neko, Dan & Kathryn) this was very promising!

    A couple of drinks later, I made my way to as close as I could get & got chatting to a happy little group of peeps & we exchanged hopes & wishes for what we wanted to hear them play tonight. Then around 9.30pm, the lights dimmed, everyone cheered & my favourite band in the world walked onstage & my spine tingled in anticipation! Oooh, who's that onstage? Is that Neko? It is!! Yay! :D You have to understand that the reason I was so glad that Neko was there is because I have never seen TNP with Neko before & also that she is an integral part of what makes TBHS such a special song :)

    The first thing Carl said to us was about the volcanic ash cloud that had recently caused travel chaos - "That ash cloud was so.....ash cloud" - whatever that's supposed to mean!! Then someone behind me shouted out "How 'ash cloud' was it?", haha! The last time I saw them, there wasn't much in the way of talking between songs, but there was plenty of between song chat this time & it helped to give the whole gig the air of a celebration & a lovely warm feeling that made it feel like they were talking to you individually - like they were playing in your front room! :)

    They kicked off with the joyful bounce of Up In The Dark from the new album - I thought they'd start with Your Hands (Together) but this was a great set opener & had peeps jumping around happily. Now before I go any further, you have to forgive me for not having a setlist. I remember the set opener & the last three songs but the rest of the setlist is a bit of a blur. I can remember pretty much everything that they played but not the order! So I'll just give you my highlights where I can & give you a rough idea of what they played at the end of the review.

    What I do remember is that they played songs from all five of their albums & the single song played from Mass Romantic (the title track), was a euphoric stomp & I happily sang along to its unmistakeable "radio, radio" refrain :) I was also extremely happy to hear Testament To Youth In Verse again - its one of my faves of them & was one of the highlights the last time I saw them - its a lovely gentle stomp of a song & I adore that midsection where they vocalise the sound of bells ringing :) Fan favourite Use It was greeted like an old friend & there was a lot of jumping & bouncing around & hands in the air for this one!

    The songs from the new album all went down very well especially Crash Years, Your Hands Together, a lovely turn from Neko on the gentler My Shepherd & the new album's most playful & bounce-along moment A Bite Out Of My Bed. But it was always gonna be the older songs that got the best reception & I was very happy to hear a lot of my faves tonight :) As well as the previously mentioned songs, it was great to hear the insidious & curiously danceable All The Old Showstoppers, the gentle & lovely title track from Challengers & the just wonderful The Laws Have Changed scattered into the set like magic dust :)

    We approached the end of the pre-encore part of the gig & there was a sense that something truly special was about to happen. A colony of goosebumps sprouted all over me, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, my heart beat a little faster & a shimmering wave of euphoria swept over me as the opening & gently strummed bars of The Bleeding Heart Show rang out around the venue & my gig mates turned to me & just smiled & I smiled back :D Well, what can I say? Its my favourite song in the world & it was just indescribably wonderful! This most perfect of songs slowly unwound before our eyes & ears, the pace picked up & peeps started jumping around but I stayed still, quietly singing every word & completely transfixed. Then we approached the crescendo with that short instrumental section & then it plunged headlong into the most glorious soundclash you could ever hope to hear, guitars rang out, drums pounded & that "hey la, hey la" section came in over the top & then the moment I was waiting for more than anything- the sound of Neko singing "We have arrived too late to play the bleeding heart show" over & over while the band crashed & thrashed around behind her. It was whatever is beyond perfect & I really can't explain how I felt other than to say that this song means more to me than any other & so you can probably only guess how I felt, but it was a beautiful, beautiful feeling :D

    Well, what can you say? Massive cheers all around & I clapped & shouted & cheered my little heart out. My hands were sore & this was the last song before the encore but I carried on clapping & didn't stop until they came back onstage & launched into the short & anthemic From Blown Speakers. There was time for one more song before they had to go & they saved their most joyful & bouncy song for last. It was, of course, Sing Me Spanish Techno & it was pure happiness & had everyone jumping like we were all on a massive trampoline. We clapped & sang along & I sang extra loud, even though my vocal chords were starting to beg for mercy! It was just spectacular & a perfect & utterly joyous way to end a perfect & utterly joyous gig from my favourite band in the world :D

    This is usually the part of the review where I mention the songs that wish they'd played - Valkyrie In The Roller Disco, Unguided, These Are The Fables, Adventures In Solitude to name but four - but really its pointless to bitch about the songs you didn't get - just look at the songs you did, for goodness sake!! Oh & talking of that, here's what they played, album by album -

    From Mass Romantic we got the title track. From Electric Version - From Blown Speakers, The Laws Have Changed & Testament To Youth In Verse. From Twin Cinema - Use It, The Bleeding Heart Show & Sing Me Spanish Techno. From Challengers - My Rights Versus Yours, All The Old Showstoppers & Challengers & from Together - Moves, Crash Years, Your Hands (Together), Sweet Talk Sweet Talk, My Shepherd, Up In The Dark & A Bite Out Of My Bed.

    A great 17 song set from, for me, the best band in the world. I heard a whisper that they might be playing in London again towards the end of the year - I sooo hope those whispers are right! But for now it was just wonderful to see this beautiful band live again! :D

    Finally, thank you to some lovely friends of mine that weren't able to be here, but were there in spirit & sang along with me!! :)

    Oh & finally, finally, thank you TNP for being here & giving the world the most wonderful music & come back soon! :D

    "We have arrived..."
  • Peter Gabriel @ The O2 Arena, London - 28th March 2010

    Abr 17 2010, 2h10

    So, my second gig in four days with my newest gig buddy again! :D This couldn't have been more different. The massive O2 arena had a very good crowd in for a Sunday night gig, but then again - how often do you get the chance to see a reclusive & true musical legend live? This promised to be spectacular & beautiful & it was all that & more. If you didn't know, Peter Gabriel has recently released an album of orchestral cover versions & this gig was the second of two consecutive nights here. The gig was divided into two parts - the first part was the new album played in sequence, in its entirety, then a break, then the second part were his own songs arranged for orchestra.

    The reclusive genius himself came onstage & welcomed us to an evening of New Blood - for they are the orchestra who provided the music on these dates. But before the main act, we were introduced to Belgian singer Ane Brun, who played a couple of beautiful songs. She was visibly humbled to be performing in front of such a massive number of people & she thanked us for listening to her - we were happy to! :)

    Then, via some elaborate effects, the orchestra was revealed & opening track from the new album, a cover of Bowie's Heroes, slowly swelled & soared to the roof. Let me just say, right now, that Gabriel's voice was just sublime throughout the gig - at times, gentle & soothing & then piercing & utterly skyscraping - astonishing for a guy who's 60+!!

    In such a huge venue & even given the fact that we had a very nice view from where we were, there needs to be visual effects & these were just incredible throughout the show. On some of the songs, the visual effects told the story of the song & nowhere was this more beautiful than during the gorgeous The Book Of Love (a Magnetic Fields song). Two stick figures - a man & a woman - recreated the lyrics. The part I loved the most was when we got to the part about singing & on the screen, the male stick figure was holding a microphone & serenading the female stick figure, who had her hands clasped together & between them, musical notes floated up - it was just beautiful, touching & goosebump inducing. Simply lovely! :)

    The Power Of The Heart was another beautifully illustrated song, with outlines of human figures & a bright red light to signify the heart. After the hushed & simple Randy Newman cover I Think Its Going To Rain Today, my friend & I collectively jumped as the frightening & ominous intro to the Regina Spektor cover Apres Moi burst out of the stage! Truly astonishing. Closing with the Radiohead cover of Street Spirit, which was all edgy & almost spoken word but with some beautiful & soulful singing of the "fade out again" line, there was rapturous applause & an annoncement from Gabriel that they would be back in 15 minutes.

    This, as we found out, wasn't nearly long enough!! We stepped out for a comfort break & only just made it back in time for the second part!

    We settled down again & the wonderful & epic San Jacinto slowly unwound before our eyes & ears. It was simply breathtaking & his voice as he sang the song's centrepiece "I'll hold the line" just soared to unimaginable heights. The song reached its crescendo, them went into its hushed & gentle coda & got quieter & quieter & one of the simplest visual effects occured. A single beam of light swept around & across the crowd like a searchlight & it was strangely beautiful & soothing.

    His classic from the Us album, Digging In The Dirt was next & sounded wonderfully sprightly. Rhythm Of The Heat was hypnotic with its insistent pounding rhythm & simple visual effect of the sun working its way across the sky & Blood Of Eden was, put simply, one of the most touchingly lovely gig moments ever & I had a lump in my throat throughout as this gorgeously gentle & tender song swirled around us.

    Throughout the gig, Gabriel repeatedly thanked the New Blood orchestra & we were happy to show our appreciation as the whole orchestra were complete stars throughout & at one point, he started listing every member of the orchestra & when he realised we weren't cheering after every individual name, he stopped & said "let's do this properly!" & we duly cheered as he announced the name of every member of the orchestra!

    We were also regaled with little anecdotes & stories & at one point, he talked about a place that he grew up near. That place was Solsbury Hill! :D Cue the biggest cheer of the evening & the galloping melody swept us up & carried us along on a tidal wave of euphoria. Everyone clapped along & sang the "my heart going boom boom boom" line & it was a musical rush & utter wonderfulness of the highest order! A large colony of goosebumps took residence in my spine throughout the song. It was frantic, celebratory, mesmerising & the absolute highpoint of the gig & at the end, the place was a storm of delighted clapping & cheering - wonderful! :D

    They then disappeared from the stage & an electronic safety curtain came down. A couple of minutes passed, then on the two smaller screens either side of the stage, a hand suddenly appeared & scribbled the word 'more?' on a blackboard - cue huge cheers! :)

    The 'curtain' came back up & we were treated to glorious colourful visual effects & the beautiful In Your Eyes, that is sad & full of longing during the verses but then burst into the most wonderful life-affirming chorus & it was simply lovely! :) Next up, Ane Brun reappeared on the stage & we were treated to the beautiful hopeful ballad Don't Give Up that was jaw droppingly lovely & I found myself having to wipe away a few tears to this touchingly beautiful & affecting song.

    One more track to go & there were shouts of 'Sledgehammer' from the crowd, but instead we got a simple & beautiful instrumental track. It was a shame to see large parts of the crowd leave at this point, but the majority of us stayed where we were & enjoyed the beautiful finale to this spectacularly lovely gig.

    My friend & I didn't want to leave!! We waited a little while & let the crowd disperse then we finally made our way out of the arena.

    Yeah, sorry - no setlist again, but hey, what are you gonna do?! :P

    I could add the odd quibble that there were some blindingly obvious songs that he didn't play - the aforementioned Sledghammer, Games Without Frontiers, Shock The Monkey... but how can you honestly complain when you've just been treated to over two hours of the most beautiful music, orchestral work & visual effects? It was just a feast for the senses & my friend & I had a lovely evening! :D
  • Editors @ Brixton Academy, London - 25th March 2010

    Abr 15 2010, 0h37

    Well, believe it or not, but this was my first gig of 2010! Shocking, I know, but I fully intend to make up for lost time!

    My newest gig buddy & I got to Brixton Academy about 8-ish, got in, got a drink & weaved our way down to as close as we could get to the front - only a few rows of heads separated us from the stage! :) But how is it that there were still taller people ahead of us??? My radical but frankly unworkable idea is that the shortest peeps should be allowed to go right at the front & the tallest peeps have to stand at the back so they don't block anyone's view - I know, I know, it'll never happen & it never could happen & its a ridiculous idea, so forget that, haha!

    Anyway, we still had a pretty good view from where we were & we were there early enough to catch support band Fujiya & Miyagi. A great krautrock-esque band who fuse electronica with guitars & make a great sound. I have their album Lightbulbs & they started with my favourite song of theirs - the playful & just plain daft Knickerbocker & they went down very well with an appreciative crowd - always nice to see support bands getting a good reaction from a receptive crowd! :)

    So after that, a little gap & time for a chat & then eventually the lights dimmed, the crowd cheered, moody lighting lit the stage & Editors strolled onstage & launched into the title track from their current album - In This Light & On This Evening. I just had a feeling they'd start with this song, if only for the line "in this light & on this evening, London's become the most beautiful thing I've seen" & it was a moody & beautiful opener.

    Now before I go any further, a couple of apologies - I have no setlist & only the vaguest idea of the order of the songs, so this review could be all over the place, so if you were there & are reading this, my apologies for the scattergun approach to this review!

    Editors did a very brave thing with their third album by ditching the guitars almost completely in favour of synths. This move may have served only to alienate quite a lot of the fans & while its true that tonight, most of the biggest cheers were reserved for the old favourites from the first two albums, the new songs were still warmly received.

    So the big singles from the first two albums got the biggest cheers & the most pogoing around. Their melancholy music really does translate so well to the gig set-up & nowhere was this more apparent than Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors, that was greeted like an old friend as the guitars screeched & peeps clapped along & danced. The Racing Rats was fast & frantic & rapturously received.

    New track & probably the weirdest song on the new album Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool, saw the stage bathed in a deep red light as its strange, stabbing synths rang out around the Academy & the place burst into life in the urgent chorus with the words 'you', 'him' & 'her' flashing up on the screen at the moment Tom Smith sang them - an understated but curiously effective effect.

    I was over the moon as the squalling guitars of Escape The Nest rang out - its my favourite Editors song & that repeated screaming guitar hook blazed a trail into every ear & down every spine in the place & it was simply spectacular!! Lovely new album track Bricks & Mortar was simply gorgeous & the repeated hopeful & lovely line at the end - "I hope life is good for you", caused a ripple of goosebumps down my spine.

    A brief pause, before the encore accompanied by the usual slow hand-clapping that got faster & faster & the foot stamping & before long our patience was rewarded. Tom Smith came back onstage & played a beautiful song on a piano, alone in a lonely spotlight. After this, the rest of the band rejoined their frontman & tore into new album highlight Papillon that caused mass hand clapping & mad-crazy dancing & we were treated to a spectacular & unexpected visual effect - every time Tom Smith snarled the song's hookline "It kicks like a sleep twitch", there was a huge eruption of fire about 20 feet high - awesome! :D We were so close, we could feel the heat from the fire from where we were - it was simply brilliant & we were feeling a bit chilly anyway, haha!

    They finished with their trademark set closer Fingers In The Factories that was huge, anthemic & everything a set-closer should be. Then halfway through the song a sudden & seemingly endless storm of red metallic ticker-tape erupted into the crowd & fluttered among us like a million tiny butterflies - it was a great & celebratory way to end a great gig & we were still finding bits of that ticker tape as we found our way back to Brixton tube station!

    So, a spectacular gig from a consistently awesome British band. Tiny quibble - no Open Your Arms, no All Sparks, no Camera - but you can't complain really - Editors delivered the goods in style, effortlessly mixing old guitar heavy favourites with new synthy songs. A glorious gig & I'm happy to be able to say that my newest gig buddy thoroughly enjoyed her first UK gig experience! :D

    So thank you Editors, thank you to my friend for coming along with me & thank you to a great crowd (even the taller peeps who occasionally blocked our view & whose heads & hands seemed to appear in nearly every photo we tried to take!!) - a great evening & an extremely welcome reintroduction to the gigging scene - I'm NEVER gonna go that long between gigs ever again! :D
  • Lowlands Festival 2009 - Welcome Home!

    Set 10 2009, 16h03

    So this is a lot later than I'd planned to write this & already it seems like a distant memory, but I shall do my best to give you the highlights of my annual festival of fun in The Netherlands!

    It started ominously before I had even left. I was still at my brothers place & it had been boiling hot (about 32 degrees), but that day, it suddenly got darker & darker & before long, we were treated to a spectacular thunderstorm with torrential rain & pink lightning! I waited out the storm before I left on the Thursday evening. The train journey was long & tedious & half an hour late & I finally got to the Lowlands site around 11.30pm. The part I dread the most is the queue to get in - sometimes it takes hours! But this year, I just walked straight up to the entrance & was inside within 10 minutes - result! :D Then followed about an hour of wandering around trying to find a tent sized patch of grass to pitch my tent. My usual campsite was full, but soon found a decent spot, a little way off the main path & 2 minutes from the shower block & 5 minutes walk from the festival entrance - double result! :D Had an early night to prepare for the three days of musical loveliness to come!

    Woke up around 11am on the Friday to blue skies & warm sunshine. Freshened up then took one of my two bottles of vodka & grapefruit juice (to save on buying a few drinks!) & joined the happy throngs of people as we crowded around the entrance with its big jolly sign saying 'Welcome Home' Gradually we inched closer & closer & finally got through the gates & into Lowlands Paradise once again - hooray! :D My first stop was the hallowed pancake stall. I've waited a year for these pancakes & oh my, that first bite was just wonderful! Just let the record show that I had three of these each day!

    My first port of call was to see White Lies, a band that I'd never seen live before. In fact about 3/4 of the bands I saw this weekend I had never seen before! A friend of mine promised me that they are even more spectacular live than on record & they weren't wrong. They tore through pretty much all of their debut album, the highlights of which were a stomping Farewell To The Fairground & a climactic set closer Death. An awesome start to the festival! Then a hop & a skip over to Passion Pit who filled an hour of the day with the most gorgeous, joyful, life-affirming, uplifting sounds - musical sunshine, put simply & a perfect feel-good festival band. With barely a pause for breath, headed over to Klaxons who were completely glowstick-tastic! :D Their anthem Golden Skans was cleverly thrown in midway through the set & it sounded stunning. The eerie Isle Of Her & the headrushing Its Not Over Yet were equally magnificent.

    There then followed a little break where I wandered around & refuelled with beer, cola & food before the first of this years festivals perfect moments. Faith No More have reformed & this evening they stormed Lowlands with their magnificent, deviant rock that manages to throw every genre you can think of into the mix. They wandered onstage to huge cheers & launched into the hopelessly naff Peaches & Herb song Reunited (because they're back together - get it?!) & it was brilliant. Then any cobwebs were blasted into oblivion as they blasted their way through From Out Of Nowhere that sounded truly formidable. A few songs later, came one of those perfect festival moments - they played Evidence - my fave song of theirs & it was understated, smooth as silk & fantastic. Its their mellowest song & it sounded incredible & gave me scores of goosebumps. Mike Patton wandered down among the front rows & asked people to sing along in Dutch!! For the rest of the set, we were treated to pretty much a greatest hits set - Epic, We Care a Lot, Midlife Crisis & their super smooth cover of the Commodores' song Easy. Mike Patton invited everyone to a party at their tent afterwards & asked anyone who wanted to come to ask for Mike Bordin! An awesome set by true deviant rock legends! :D Now my recollections of Kasabian are a little hazy - I don't know why, so I apologise for the fact that all I can reprt is that it was a stomping great set & Shoot The Runner & Empire sounded truly skyscraping. i was at a bit of a loose end afterwards & wasn't sure where to go so I wandered back through the site & walked in on something that sounded nice & fairly chilled. It took a while before I realised I was in the company of Grizzly Bear! A bit embarassing really, seeing as how I have their latest album! All I can say is that their set was generally mellow & lovely & a very nice way to end the first day of Lowlands 2009! :D

    So, onto Saturday then, which dawned ominously with the sound of heavy rain on my tent - uh-oh, I thought! But I needn't have worried - it was just a heavy shower & the skies soon cleared to blue sky & warm sunshine again :)

    Another pretty early start found me onsite & headed in the general direction of The Airborne Toxic Event. A friend of mine dearly wanted to see them with me but couldn't, so this set is dedicated to my dear friend :) What can I say? They were a complete headrush of rocking & rolling & rollicking good songs & the set centrepiece Sometime Around Midnight was slow burning & truly heart wrenching & just magnificent - another awesome festival moment! :D At every festival, I end up watching someone that I've never ever heard of, in the name of my endless quest for musical loveliness & this year, the accolade went to one Jessica Lea Mayfield. I was walking past the tent she was playing in (one of the smallest tents on the site) & something about her lilting acoustica & her voice just drew me in & it was lovely & folky. I was glad that I'd stopped :) A long gap followed, so I used the time to refuel & take in some of the wonderful sights of Lowlands, namely a game of musical chairs & a giant version of Tetris (renamed YouCube!), that involved a giant electronic screen & people having to build each block & then jump on podiums to position the blocks as they fell down the screen!

    Now onto today's highlight, the magnificent Maximo Park. In Paul Smith, they have one of the best frontmen in music - dapper, well dressed, chatty, charming & with the energy of a wind up toy on speed! Virtually every song was prefaced by a little intro from Paul Smith. A perfect festival moment came when he said that the next song was about being in love with someone who can't be with you & I knew what was coming & it was Books From Boxes (my fave song of them) & it was heartbreaking & beautiful & sad & a few tears leaked out. We also had Going Missing, Questing Not Coasting, too many others to remember, but one that I can't forget was a beautiful, desolate & rare live outing for Acrobat. Paul Smith said that its a song that they don't play live that often, but they hope we like it. Oh, we liked it! This song is nothing like anything else they've ever recorded - all slow, washed out backing, gentle sad spoken word verses & a gently soaring but crushingly sad chorus & it sounded beautiful & was another perfect festival moment. This was the biggest Dutch crowd they'd ever played to & I was hugely happy to be part of that crowd today! :D

    I know nothing at all about Wilco apart from the name, but I spent a nice hour or so sitting outside the tent where they were playing & made a mental note to stock up on their alt country/folk as soon as possible! I then went to get something to eat from the Indonesian food stall & was sat there eating when a girl came up & asked if she could have a mouthful of my food, then before I could say anything, she grabbed my fork & took a mouthful of rice & veg then said thanks & gave me an affectionate rub on my arm! A guy sat near me asked me if I knew who that was & when I said that I didn't, he said, that it was Lady Sovereign, haha! How awesome! :D

    Basement Jaxx, up next, were just spectacular & they peppered their dance-tastic set with the hits & a few little asides. We got Good Luck, the stunning Red Alert, Bingo Bango & Where's Your Head At amongst others. Thrown into the set were lots of great little moments, like when we suddenly had everyone singing the chorus to Kings Of Leon's Sex On Fire, or the trumpet soloist that played the riff to The White Stripes' 7 Nation Army, or the singing Happy Birthday to various band members or prefacing Where's Your Head At with the opening verses of The Commodores' Three Times a Lady! It was just brilliant & huge fun! Afterwards, headed over to catch a little of Kaiser Chiefs. Only caught a little of them, but was treated to a brilliant & furious The Angry Mob, some massive singalongs & ending with a truly epic version of Oh My God. Well what a great day! Roll on Sunday!

    Sunday dawned very very warm - far too warm to stay in my tent, so headed out early again & made for Squarepusher & a little completely mental drum 'n' bass. It sounded brilliant but it was just a little too early in the day & a little intense! So wandered over & watched Vampire Weekend who are just the perfect festival band. Anyone who can't move their feet & sing along to the likes of A-Punk, Oxford Comma, One, I Stand Corrected, The Kids Don't Stand a Chance & Walcott must have lost the ability to have fun & VW provided it in spades! A little break then over to see Victoria Hesketh AKA Little Boots & her lovely 80's sounding electronica was made for the festival! She bounded onstage dresses all in black & bounced through an immensely joyful & happy set that already sounded like a greatest hits set - Remedy, Meddle, New In Town, Symmetry, Stuck On Repeat....it was all just brilliant & hugely enjoyable & she was having the time of her life - a real feel good show! :D Then I hotfooted it over to Metric. The tent was almost empty until about 10 minutes before they came on but it filled up nicely & the band came onstage led by the bouncy Emily Haines dressed in a shimmering silver dress & they started in the best possible way with the hypnotically wonderful Help I'm Alive that had Emily bouncing around & banging a tambourine & it was brilliant - another great festival moment. gimme Sympathy sounded like a complete anthem & Blindness was pretty much one long chorus - awesome! But sadly I had to leave early as it was getting close to BP time & I wanted to get there early enough to bag a good spot!

    So to the highlight of the whole festival, namely Bloc Party. They were in the biggest tent & it was packed. Kele & co took to the stage & treated us to a breathless & truly breathtaking set that visited all their albums as wellas a few non-album songs. In short, we got This Modern Love (who's in love? asked Kele before the song), Mercury, Song For Clay that when it kicked into life sounded like the most intense thing you've ever heard, the stuttering Positive Tension, Two More Years, a beautiful gentle interlude with Signs. Before Once More Chance, Kele asked us how cool we were & after this glorious headrush of a song with its simple & lovely & euphoric refrain of "give me one more chance to love you", he realised that we were indeed very cool, haha! :D The set ended with two belters - Flux & Helicopter. I knew the songs were gonna sound awesome but I wasn't expecting Kele to be so happy & chatty! He has a reputation for being a bit intense, but this evening he was on the form of his life, chatting to us between songs, waving hello to everyone sitting on the hill outside, to asking the back, centre & front of the crowd to cheer in turn, to asking us to make the biggest noise ever & we responded with a deafening roar & the stomping of thousands of pairs of feet. BP were just brilliant but I have just one tiny quibble - they didn't play So Here We Are! :'( Apart from that - a pretty much perfect set & just awesome energy & everything! :D

    Then outside to sit by the lake & listen to a little bit of The Maccabees. The moody & atmospheric No Kind Words was my highlight. It was also thanks to them that I found out that England had won The Ashes against Australia in the cricket, when they dedicated the set to the England cricket team! Finally back to the biggest tent for Arctic Monkeys who played a bold & brave set that leaned heavily on their hugely different & experimental latest album Humbug. All I knew of the new album was Crying Lightning & it sounded awesome, as did the many other track from it that they played & a cover of Nick Cave's Red Right Hand was a curious surprise. The set ended with a brilliant & bouncy Fluorescent Adolescent & my fave of them, the epic & beautiful 505.

    So that was my festival more or less, so time for the dedications! Thank you for the pancakes, the beer, the cocktails, the cola, the exotic food, the lovely kind warm & sunny weather. Thank you also to my newest Lowlands buddy - it was so great to finally meet you! :D A hesitant thank you to the folks that I camped near - I'll never forget being woken up every morning with a CD that appeared to be called 100 best Dutch Folk Songs, haha! Thank you to the organisers of this wonderful festival, thank you to the beautiful bands that soundtracked my festival this year, thank you to the friendly & lovely Lolwnads festival-goers, thank you to all of you, to everyone, for everything! :D

    When I walked off the festival site for the last time on the Sunday night there was a little sign that simply said "Bye-Bye" & a few tears came to my eyes. But I was cheered by the thought that it is now less than a year to Lowlands 2010! :D Bring it on & here's to next year! The slogan for this year's festival was "Shake The Planet" & I think, for three days, just under 80,000 people & countless wonderful bands did just that!

    Do you wish you'd been here? I wish you'd been here! Thanks for reading & I'm now going to soak my poor tired fingers from typing this!

    Lowlands 2010 - the countdown has started!! :D