Monday, 23 December 2019

Best albums and gigs of 2019

Top 10 albums of 2019

It’s been really difficult whittling it down to just 10 albums but after much deliberation here’s my favourite albums of 2019. All highly recommended!

Click to go to the Bandcamp page and buy/ listen to the album. Thanks!

Now for the impossible task!

Top 10 gigs of 2019

This year I’ve gone to 33 gigs and a festival. Compiling this list hasn’t been easy! So many incredible gigs that I haven’t mentioned, so please go and have a look here

Putting a festival at number 1 feels like a bit of a cheat but Kendal Calling was a special and magnificently muddy weekend. It's also the first festival I've covered (guestlist and everything). Highlights included Hands Off Gretel (pictured), The Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra and The Manic Street Preachers.

You can read my review by clicking the links. Thanks!

*The Kontiki review is of a different night as I didn't do a full write up for The Triangle gig.

So much fantastic live music this year! Here's some other highlights from 2019 - Acid Mothers Temple , Du Blonde , London Afrobeat CollectiveThe Wave PicturesThe Bug and Miss Red, Charly Bliss , BabybirdBilge Pump and The Mountain Goats . Lots more over on my Soundblab page. 


And if all that wasn't enough here's a massive playlist. Enjoy!

See you in 2020!!!!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Best Albums and Gigs of 2018

Anna Burch - Quit the Cusre

Anna Burch - Live at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds

It’s that time of year again. It’s time to sharpen my quill and dip it into the deep pot of inky goodness that is 2018. It’s always difficult to commit to just 10 solitary albums but this year has been particularly tricky. There have been a lot of fantastic long-players, making an absolute mockery of all those ridiculous ‘is the album dead?’ articles.

I’ve re-written this list far too many times, wracked with guilt about those I’ve had to leave out. Considered making it a Top 15 or Top 20 albums instead (but that’s just cheating isn’t it?). So I don’t lose any sleep over it here’s some other acts that have released great albums over the last 12 months. Click for more info- one of my reviews, a track from the album, the artists website or a link to the albums Bandcamp page:

So without further ado (drum roll please!) here are my ten favourite albums of 2018 (with links to either my review or something relevant)

                                                            Albums Aplenty

With Quit the Curse Detroit’s Anna Burch has produced this year’s perfect indie album. 32 minutes of sunny, Lemonheads-esque pop and seductively melancholic melodies. I’ve had it on heavy rotation all year and was even lucky enough to see her perform the songs live at Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds. Faultless.

The bands Go-Betweens connection piqued my interest yet it’s this Brisbane trio’s gorgeous indiepop that had me returning to We’re Not Talking again and again. I saw them perform at Headrow House in Leeds too, further cementing the love affair. A great band!

I managed to see The Lovely Eggs three times this year, each time an absolute treat. This is Eggland might just be their boldest statement yet. Punk thrash meets psychedelic, early Flaming Lips-esque shenanigans. 2018 truly was the year of the egg.

A true indie-underground success story, the brilliant Brace for Impact saw Laura Kidd aka She Makes War climb up the Independent Album Charts on the back of fan funding and some of the finest songs she’s written. The album and subsequent show at The Brudenell Social Club emphasised what I already knew- She Makes War rocks!

Glorious post-punk from Manchester. We Are ILL is just over 40 minutes of state of the nation, post-punk madness and politics. All carried off with a wicked sense of humour and some of the most original and inventive music I've hear all year. I was thoroughly hooked after seeing them live at Wharf Chambers in Leeds. Highly recommended!

No one does it quite like Leeds post-punk poets The Wind-Up Birds. The soundtrack to austerity and a sonic response to bigotry and Brexit Britain. An album infused with anger, disenchantment and revolution. While many of this year’s albums cast an eye over current affairs, no album sums up the mess we’re in quite as well as Desire Paths (and yes, I saw them live this year too- at Wharf Chambers).

An album of funky post-punk released by Nottingham’s consistently ace Gringo Records and named after the city I’ve spent the last 17 years calling home- what’s not to like? Limber, danceable grooves, hard-rock riffs and Gemma Fleet’s impossibly cool vocals make Living in Leeds one of this year’s finest underground albums. It’s fun and kinda makes me feel like dancing (which isn’t something that happens all that often).

Like watching Papa Lazarou riding over the hillside with his freakish carnival in tow, Evil Blizzard are Preston’s very own punk-rock ringmasters. The Worst Show On Earth sees the band flesh-out their bass-heavy sonic assault to stunning effect. Their Halloween show at The Brudenell Social Club was one to remember too!

Perhaps this year’s most immersive album, The Light is Leaving Us All pulls you into its dark yet hypnotically beautiful world from its opening moments. David Tibet’s lyrics remain cryptic yet full of sorrow and mystery. An album I’ve played late at night many a time this year.

Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker and Steve Garrington are pretty consistent- Low remaining one of the most fascinating and unique acts of the last 24 years. On a personal level they always manage to hit the spot. Yet even by their impossibly high standards Double Negative is something genuinely strange and wonderful (and yes, I saw them live this year too- shaking the roof at The Brudenell Social Club).

                               Gigs Galore

Now for some live music. Having attended 32 gigs over the last 12 months I’ve certainly got plenty to choose from. Again, it was tricky to narrow it down. The likes of Hot Snakes, Bob Log III, Anna BurchAidan Moffat & RM Hubbard, The Breeders, Screaming Females, Bardo Pond, Grails, The Goon Sax, Sly & The Family Drone, Low and Horse Feathers all putting on some mighty fine shows. And so many more I haven't even mentioned (find the rest here:

It’s been hard to choose but here are Ten of the Best Gigs I Went to in 2018 and links to my reviews:

And, because I like to spoil you, here’s a rather sizeable playlist of some of the years finest songs. Enjoy!

                                              Andy B's Amazing 2018 Playlist Extravaganza!!!

Friday, 2 March 2018

Escape from Middle England with The Wind-Up Birds!

One of my favourite bands has a new album out. The Wind-Up Birds have been going for 15 years and are the best kept musical secret in West Yorkshire. Their new album, Desire Paths, is a short but concise document and quite possibly the best thing they've done. Read my other reviews about the band over at Soundblab too. 

Live photo by me. Band photo by someone else. 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Drama, disaster and triumph: A few words about Mark E Smith 1957 - 2018

I was lucky enough to see The Fall a few times but my abiding memory is probably their set at Skipton’s Beacons Festival in 2014. The weather had been, to put it mildly, absolutely horrendous. Less dancing in the rain and more hoping your tent could withstand the gale force winds sweeping, unrelentingly, across the North Yorkshire countryside (my £10 tent, unsurprisingly, didn’t).

It was Sunday evening and the terrible weather had hit some kind of peak just in time for The Falls set. The band were on fire from the start but the weather had other ideas, water started to leak through the marque’s roof and on to the stage. Now, even a cursory knowledge of science will tell you that water and electricity are uncomfortable bedfellows at best.

A member of the Beacons team appeared and tried, in vain, to get the band off stage. Every time Mark shrugged off the increasingly concerned staff member the crowd cheered. The Fall weren’t going anywhere. I felt pretty bad for the woman trying to convince Smith, quite rightly really, that he should stop the set. Eventually, and to the relief of the entire health and safety team, the band left the stage.

When they returned an hour later, Smith seemed invigorated as they threw themselves into a sublime rendition of ‘Mr Pharmacist’. A mere glimpse into the drama, disaster and unlikely triumph that helped define what it meant to be The Fall. Storm-like conditions could only ever hope to temporarily halt the band. Like their leader and only constant member, Mark  E Smith, The Fall often seemed unstoppable.

It’s with this in mind that last night’s news seemed like such a shock. Yes, there had been various reports of Smith’s ailing health. And yes, his passing had already been falsely reported only last year. But this was Mark E Smith we were talking about. A man who, like Shane Macgowan, could weather any storm. Was a world with no prospect of a new Fall album even possible?

For the fans, he leaves us with an impossibly huge and endlessly impressive amount of music. Releasing Live at the Witch Trials way back in 1979, The Fall would go on to produce an absolutely staggering 32 studio albums. That’s without mentioning the live albums and various compilations. A band in a constant state of evolution, thanks to Smith’s unsentimental approach to hiring-and-firing band members, The Fall would outlive many of their contemporaries.

Despite a brief mid-nineties dalliance with advertising, The Fall never became a household name. Yet their influence on any number of artists is undeniable. Some of my favourite things simply wouldn’t have existed in quite the same way without the influence of The Fall. Pavements Slanted and Enchanted LP, the witty lyricism of Jeffrey Lewis and Stewart Lee’s deliberate use of repetition spring to mind. And it wouldn’t seem right not to mention the bands inexorable ties to the late, great, John Peel. It sounds silly but I think I assumed The Fall would always be there. Sometimes drifting into the background but always, always appreciated.
The Fall refused to rest on their laurels and simply ‘play the hits’, more of an ongoing experiment than your typical band. Everyone has a favourite song or album but ultimately you knew that their next release had the potential to be your new number one Fall record. Many who worked with Mark have said he could be a little awkward, a little uncompromising at times yet The Fall was, by their ever-changing nature, an extremely positive and forward thinking proposition. And, after all is said and done, who was The Fall? The hip priest himself, Mark E Smith.

Across the country there’s an odd silence filling up the local record shops, a nod of respect and an acknowledgment that we’ve lost a true original. Thanks for the tunes Mark. RIP.

Here's a snap I took when they played The Brudenell Social Club in 2014

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Best Albums and Gigs of 2017

Fix yourself a cup of eggnog, throw another log on the fire and crack open one last box of chocolates because it’s time for my Top Ten Albums of 2017. As usual it’s been genuinely difficult to whittle the contenders down to a mere ten. There’s a lot of albums I’ve heard this year that, on a different day, could have ended up in the final list.

So besides the one’s I’m about to go on about, I’d also thoroughly recommend albums by The Bug vs Earth, Laura Marling, Bjork, Alvarius B, Mogwai, Boris, Run the Jewels (OK, technically this one was Christmas 2016 but close), Flogging Molly, Earthen Sea, James Murray, Six Organs of Admittance, Grails, Jessica Moss, øjeRum , Melvins, Euros Childs, Action Beat and Tunabunny.
2017 really has been a great year for new music.

Anyway, here’s my top ten!

1.       Pissed Jeans- Why Love Now
One of my favourite bands of the last ten years, Pissed Jeans can always be relied on to provide an intelligent, fun and scuzzy take on punk rock. Why Love Now is one of their strongest records to date. Matt Korvette’s lyrics still go places others don’t while the band has never sounded better. Riffs, humour and 21st Century anxiety. 

2.       Piano Magic- Closure
It’s somewhat frustrating to finally discover a band only to find out that they’re calling it a day. Closure is one hell of a closing statement though. Sprawling, melancholic indie with some of the finest songwriting I’ve heard in recent years. The title track is nothing short of breath taking.

3.       The Fall – New Facts Emerge
It’s very sad to hear that our beloved Mark E Smith hasn’t been too well recently. He is, however, sounding on fine curmudgeonly form on this cracker of an album. Hard to say if it would win round any doubters but New Facts Emerge is a fresh, muscular and noisy highlight in a discography littered with great LP’s.

4.       Nadah El Shazly- Ahwar
Nadah El Shazly provided one of the year’s most unique and startling musical statements. Ahwar may require patience and a few listens before it starts to really make sense but persevere and you’ll be rewarded. It’s an album rich with invention, experimentation and inspiration. Here’s my review.

5.       Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley- The Blow Volume 3
Vibracathedral Orchestra’s Julian Bradley teamed up with fellow sonic adventurer Sophie Cooper to create one of the year’s finest experimental releases. 40 minutes of avant-garde soundscapes comprised of ambient drones, ethereal voices and hypnotic sounds. Undeniably strange and unquestionably beautiful.

6.       The Cribs- 24/7 Rock Star Shit
For a while there I think I lost touch with The Cribs. 24/7 Rock Star Shit pulled me right back in though. Ticking all the boxes my inner teenager would demand; engineered by Steve Albini? Check. A raw, catchy and uncompromising return to their roots? Check. A really enjoyable album of fuzzy indie-punk? Check. Here's my review.

7.       Colossloth- Heathen Needles
On one of my trips to The Golden Cabinet night in Shipley I was lucky enough to catch a set by Leicester’s Colossloth. Heathen Needles replicates all the intensity while taking us on an intriguing, densely layered sonic journey of twisted electronica, drone and noise. An album that balances the ambient with the unforgiving; expect the unexpected. 

8.       Crystal Fairy- Crystal Fairy
I was lucky enough to see the Melvins again this year yet despite releasing a rather brilliant album of their own I have to go for this collaborative effort. Recorded with Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López of Mars Volta fame and the irrepressible Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherette’s, Crystal Fairy is a non-stop riff ride. Bender’s performance is magnetic throughout.

9.       Sleaford Mods- English Tapas
Everyone’s favourite sweary East Midlanders Sleaford Mods have continued to plough their own furrow. Williamson’s lyrics mix social commentary with a healthy dose of surrealism while Fearn’s beats take us into hypnotic and strange places with the likes of ‘Time Sands’. English Tapas couldn’t have been made by anyone else. Here’s my review.

10.   Gnod- Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
The album title alone could secure its place in many a top ten list. Thankfully, Manchester’s Gnod back up the bold statements and iconic album artwork with something genuinely powerful. With a host of bludgeoning riffs and an axe to grind, Gnod have never sounded so vital.

OK, so if you’ve made it this far you may be interested to hear a little about my….drum roll please...

Top Ten Gigs of 2017

I’ve spent most of my year hanging out in my favourite venue, The Brudenell Social Club but have still found time to venture elsewhere. Including a couple of arenas. So many great shows to choose from but this is what I’ve decided on. Click to get the review. See what you think:

3.       Iron Maiden- Leeds Arena

I also managed to see Swans, Hookworms, Goat Girl, Sunn0))), The Mountain Goats, Julian Cope, Cherry Glazerr, Nadia Reid, Jeffrey Lewis, Wolves in the Throne Room, JK Flesh, Part Chimp, Demdike Stare, Hawkwind, Girl Band, Six Organs of Admittance, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers, Blood Sport, Bong and…well, all the others too. Thanks to Soundblab I really do get to go to a lot of gigs. Here’s to going to more in 2018!

  And if all that still isn’t enough. Here’s a YouTube playlist I’ve made for 2017.

Have a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year