Monday, February 01, 2016

EDWYN COLLINS (London Roundhouse, 29/01/16)

Review: HERE 
DANIEL KNOX (London The Islington, 26/01/16)

Over the Christmas break I, for reasons only known to myself, listened to all of the 400+ songs on NPR's "Top Tracks of 2015" playlist. Some tracks I already knew, some made me want to throw my speakers into the depths of Mt. Doom (i.e. anything in the "country and western" genre) and an odd couple went so far as to pique my interest. One of these was "Blue Car" by Illinois native Daniel Knox, which sounds like a lullaby sung by John Grant and remixed by DM Stith. It is a thing of bewitching wonder and I'm happy to report it's just as magical live, even if it's not particularly representative of Knox's general sound, which falls more into "Divine Comedy-meets-Tiger Lillies" territory (that is, honky-tonk melodies mixed with archly macabre lyrics.) A very impressive performance, and one that hopefully heralds a bright future.
SAVAGES (London 100 Club, 26/01/16)

A McDonalds Egg and Sausage McMuffin and an injection of pure caffeine is all well and good, but to my mind there's no better way to wake yourself up on a morning than to have Jehnny Beth scream "Husbands" directly into your face. No holds barred post-punk par excellence.
DAUGHTER (Oxford Academy, 16/01/16)

Being stuck at the back at an over-sold, overheated Oxford Academy didn't help, but sadly I still have the same overall opinion of Daughter as I did when I first reviewed them at the Brixton Windmill five years back- tremendous voice, shame about the songs.
DIET CIG (London Lexington, 14/01/16)

Exuberant, tongue-in-cheek lo-fi pop-punk from a New Paltz duo whose youthful vim and vigour makes me feel exceptionally old.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

DILLY DALLY- London Rough Trade East (06/01/16)

I can only imagine Katie Marks has an industrial-sized vat of Benylin stashed somewhere, because the brutal raw-throated scream that propels Dilly Dally's potent grunge-pop must do havoc to her vocal chords.

Monday, January 04, 2016



2015. The year I finally breached the 1000-gig barrier and cemented my reputation as an irredeemably awful human being. Nonetheless, it's been another incredible year for live music- dare I say one of the best ever?- so apologies to the likes of Two Gallants, Ibibio Sound Machine, Oneida, No Cars, Tweak Bird, Will Butler, Ibeyi, The Julie Ruin, HEALTH, Lightning Bolt, Todd Terje, Ex Hex, Circuit des Yeux, Liima, The Go! Team, The Strokes, Public Service Broadcasting, Pika, Sons of Kemet, Roy Ayres, Meilyr Jones, The Drink, Songhoy Blues, Television, Metric, Masayoshi Fujita, Caspian, Car Seat Headrest, Built To Spill, Mercury Rev, EL VY, Hauschka, Mew and Neko Case, all of whom put on great shows that nonetheless didn't quite make the cut.

50. NATALIE PRASS- Green Man Festival, Glanusk Park, Powys
For a lady whose oeuvre mostly concerns heartbreak and the causes thereof, the Natalie Prass live experience is a decidedly uplifting one. The former Jenny Lewis keyboardist may not have achieved the success she deserves just yet, but her winsome alt-country - shot through with almost preternatural charisma - surely heralds a bright future.

49. PHARMAKON- London Tufnell Park Dome
The noise Milo Yiannopoulos hears when a woman opens her mouth. So apocalyptically intense, a speaker literally burst into flame.

48. ST VINCENT- Green Man Festival, Glanusk Park, Powys
Annie Clark's 2013 collaboration with David Byrne resulted in a truly sublime live experience, but his impact on her own style hasn't been entirely positive. It's hard to deny St Vincent's early shows were a little hit-and-miss, but they had a spontaneity that isn't really present in the visually spectacular but sterile theatre of her latest tour. Can't knock the songs, mind.

It's amazing what enchantment one can weave with just a cello and a loop pedal. Whilst the former Mùm musician underplays the influences of the Icelandic landscape on her work, her half hour set nonetheless exudes a bewitching starkness that could only come from that land of black sand and glaciers.

A short, sweet, oh-so-sweaty set from the chiptune masters, whose glistening synth-pop and neon aesthetics are the musical equivalent of downing a skipful of sherbet inside a malfunctioning Gameboy.

45. MISTY'S BIG ADVENTURE- London Islington Academy 2
An 80's prog re-interpretation of "The Snowman". Christmas ditties involving Nice biscuits and Blairites. Nightmare-inducing interpretative dancing from "Erotic Volvo". Half Man Half Biscuit may be this island's premier musical eccentrics, but the veteran Brummies come in a close second.

44. HOLY FUCK- London Oval Space
It's been five years since anyone heard a peep from Canada's foremost "analogue electronica" band, but on the strength of this set of almost entirely new material, it's clear they've got no intention of relinquishing their title as Tim Horton Land's most visceral live act.

43. ZUN ZUN EGUI- London Cafe Oto
Not all gigs start with a traditional Mauritian ritual to wake the spirits of music, but then again not all bands were Zun Zun Egui. It's a shame they imploded in acrimonious fashion three months later, but I'll fondly remember their vibrant polyrhythms and boundless energy.

42. BATTLES- London Tufnell Park Dome
"FUCKING BATTLES! BOOM BOOM BOOM!" The avant-garde Brooklynites were a tad out-of-practice after a couple of years off the road, but there's nothing like watching John Stanier pummel the literal fuck out of a drum (not to mention his absurdly lofty hi-hat) to reinvigorate one's love of live music.

41. KIKAGAKU MOYO- London Lexington
Japanese psych hippies bring the spirit of Haight-Ashbury to Pentonville Road. Long hair, electric sitars, mind-expanding riffage- they're essentially "Bo Ningen at Woodstock", and no worse for it.

40. SUFJAN STEVENS- London Royal Festival Hall
It may be that I'm a bitter, burned-out husk of a man, but Sufjan's sad-jams did little to stir the ol' heartstrings despite spectacular lighting and Nico Muhly's cacophonous pipe organ drone. Partially redeemed by a marvellous encore that went some way to reminding me why his 2011 Copenhagen show remains one of my all-time Top Five.

Two guitarists. Two bassists. Two drummers. One harmonica player. Dozens of crowd surfers. Gallons of sweat. ALL THE RIFFS.

38. NISENNENMONDAI- London Heaven
Minimalist motorik grooves courtesy of the ever-brilliant Japanese three-piece. No less an authority than John Stanier declared Sayaka Himeno to be one of the best percussionists in the world, and watching her relentless, superhumanly tight assault on her drumkit, it's hard to disagree.

37. SUN RA ARKESTRA- Green Man Festival, Glanusk Park, Powys
Sun Ra may have departed to the third ring of Saturn twenty years hence, but his spirit lives on through his 91-year-old protégé Marshall Allen and the be-sequined, free-jazz wizardry of the Arkestra. Space is indeed the place.

36. DESTROYER- London Islington Assembly Hall
Has there ever been a more unlikely crooner of louche soft-rock than Daniel Bejar, he of the ever-cryptic lyric and perpetually moody temperament? While the mellow, sax-heavy jams occasionally threaten to go full Mick Hucknell, Bejar's natural inscrutability and his band's effortless proficiency ensures an experience more celebratory than cheesy.

35. AURORA- Green Man Festival, Glanusk Park, Powys
The latter half of the Noughties: a golden age for high-energy, effortlessly infectious Scandinavian music. But at some point the joie de vivre gave way to ever-paler imitations of The Knife (or worse, Mumford and Sons), and everything went a bit Pete Tong. Yet one afternoon, in a soggy field in the Brecon Brecons, I witnessed a performance by an 18-year old Norwegian that recaptured that old Nordic spark, and made me realise there's still hope for our Northern cousins yet.

34. THE BESNARD LAKES- London 100 Club
Some mediocre bands sell out headline arenas, some amazing ones are destined never to graduate from the pub circuit. Such is the fickle nature of the music business. But it's a particular shame to see the Besnard Lakes play a half-full 100 Club, as their Fleetwood Mac-go-shoegaze grandeur is really bloody good.

33. CHAIRLIFT- London Oslo
I suspect quite a lot of people at this show were expecting an hour of bouncy indie-pop a la "Bruises" (admittedly one of the more charming songs to soundtrack an overplayed Apple commercial). What they actually got was an eclectic and compelling mix of sultry 80's jazz grooves, moody electronica and R&B-influenced bangers. Sucks to be them.

32. TV ON THE RADIO- London Roundhouse
Several years of lacklustre releases can take the shine off even the best bands, but with Tunde Adebimpe on truly blistering form and a sound mix that wasn't actually entirely terrible (Kyp's vocals are supposed to be audible, who knew), this show was a welcome reminder than when it comes to stone-cold indie classics, TVOTR are up there with the best of them.

31. JENS LEKMAN- London St John-at-Hackney Church
The Swedish crooner has kept somewhat of a low-profile the last few years, so it's was a particular delight to see his erudite brand of upbeat balladry get a rare airing as part of the otherwise underwhelming Visions Festival. The opposite of the opposite of Hallelujah.

30. SCREAMING FEMALES- Brighton Hope & Ruin
Wednesday Addams cosplayer unleashes brutal, unforgiving sonic assault, decimates significant proportion of South Coast.

29. CALEXICO- London Shepherd's Bush Empire
Calexico have long been one of the most dependable live bands on the circuit, but the addition of guitar-shredding Spaniard Jairo Zavala has raised their evocative blend of Americana and mariachi traditions to new levels of greatness.

28. JAMBANAI- London Rich Mix
Combining lushly atmospheric post-rock with Korean folk instrumentation, Jambanai are a welcome antidote to waegukin under the mistaken impression there's nothing more to the South Korean music scene than "Gangnam Style."

27. THE EARLIES- London Shacklewell Arms
Back in my student days, I discovered a superb half-Texan, half-Mancunian outfit named the Earlies, who combined 60's West Coast harmonies, psychedelic prog and several hundred assorted instruments. Then they disappeared for ten years, a period within which I lost most of my hair along with my dignity. But then, on my 30th birthday, they reformed for a one-off London show and it was pretty wonderful. THE END.

26. TONY ALLEN- London Royal Festival Hall
A monumentally groovy collaboration between "The Godfather of Afrobeat", kora masters Toumani and Sidike Diabate, Francophone rapper Oxmo, Senegalese baritone Baaba Maal and, somewhat inevitably, Damon Albarn, who might well be the Candyman of world music at this point.

25. BEIRUT- London St-John-At-Hackney Church
Arch-practitioner of maudlin brass-tinged folk Zach Condon may have once indirectly referred to me as a "bum", but after this wonderfully nostalgic amble through Beirut's greatest hits, I'm willing to let that slide.

24. BOREDOMS- London Barbican
THINGS I LEARNED IN 2015: sitting six feet from 88 people smashing cymbals in unison is something you'd probably want to experience with earplugs. Not quite the otherworldly experience Boredrums was, but an astonishing spectacle nonetheless.
23. THE DECEMBERISTS- London Brixton Academy
"When we give you the signal, we want you to scream like you're being eaten by a whale". Colin Meloy and co. may rock a pronounced dad-core vibe these days, but they're still dab hands gothically-tinged folk-rock and the odd morbid sea-shanty.

22. OWEN PALLETT- Green Man Festival, Glanusk Park, Powys
I've seen the Artist Formerly Known As Final Fantasy no less than nineteen times now, and I'm frankly running out of new superlatives to employ. So here's a video instead:

21. DAHKABRAKHA- London Village Underground
Can't say I've seen many self-described "ethno-chaos" bands in my time, but if they're half as good as this Ukrainian four-piece I've clearly been wasting my life. Marko Halanevych's vocal style, veering between high-pitched falsetto and guttural Eugene Hutz-ish growls, is a unique experience in itself, but it's the stunning Slavic-style harmonies of Olen Tsybulska, Iryna Kovalenko and Nina Harenetska that make DahkaBrakha such an exceptional experience.

20. ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE- London Tufnell Park Dome
Venerable Osaka psych-wizards form alliance with ex-Afrirampo drummer Pika to lay waste to the collective eardrums of Tufnell Park and possibly the Northern hemisphere. If I could live inside a song, "Pink Lady Lemonade" would be very high up on the list.

19. STARS- London Scala
One of the survivors of the mid-Noughties golden age of Canadian alternative music, Stars are masters of a type of earnest, hand-on-heart indie-pop that doesn't innovate or challenge, but is delivered with a sincerity and passion that more than compensates. I've seen objectively better bands this year, but very few have come close to the goosebump-inducing magic of "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" with the whole audience singing along.
18. CHARLES BRADLEY- Green Man Festival, Glanusk Park, Powys
It's easy to be cynical about an artist with a "compelling back story"- remember Seasick Steve? But Charles Bradley is the real deal, a man who worked his way up from the streets to become one of the most genuinely life-affirming practitioners of old-school soul touring today.

17. LUBOYMR MELNYK- London Cafe Oto
Lubomyr Melnyk is a pretty odd guy, but there's no denying his shimmering "continuous playing" style can produce some impeccably gorgeous music. He's certainly not a man who has much truck with variety but when he hits his stride on the likes of "Windmills", his fingers moving like lightning across the ivories, it's simply one of the most transcendental things you'll ever hear in concert.

16. CHILLY GONZALES- London Rough Trade East
70 minutes of prime Chilly, tinkling the ivories and imparting unto us compositional theory with trademark flair and humour - at a free Rough Trade in-store no less. This time round he was joined by a string quartet who both ornamented his own material and provided colour to his lectures on the mechanics of music, covering everything from violin techniques utilised in Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" to the use of arpeggios by artists ranging from Beethoven to Daft Punk. A true original.

15. BLUR- London Hyde Park
I survived the moshpit for Song 2. Surely that's reason enough?

14. TUNE-YARDS- London Royal Festival Hall
Despite the excessive quantity of bellendry in the audience, this may have been Merrill Garbus' finest performance since the legendary Cargo show five years back. From being somewhat superfluous on the "whokill" tour, her band are now an absolutely essential part to proceedings, augmenting Garbus' kaleidoscopic vision with breathtaking harmonies and rhythmic intensity.

Bit gutted Anna Van Hausswolff didn't feel the need to drag the 9,000-pipe organ she used to record her latest album to Hackney, but nonetheless, "Evocation" and "Come Wander with Me/Deliverance" sounded like the literal apocalypse.

12. THE OCTOPUS PROJECT- London Shacklewell Arms
Anyone who has ever had to endure my awful views on music might know I solemnly believe Austin's The Octopus Project to be one of the most underrated live bands in the world. An psychedelic take on Holy Fuck with additional theremin, their electrifying fusion of propulsive percussion and kaleidoscopic progginess should see them headlining the Brixton Academy rather than the back of a pub in Dalston.

11. DEERHOOF- London Oval Space
Deerhoof have been around for over two decades now, but they remain more exhilarating, energetic and original than almost any band that's emerged since. Yeah, they're not fans of coherent time signatures; yeah, their vocals tend towards the "cutely enthusiastic" rather than "in tune" but damn, watching them in full eccentric flow is one of the most vital experiences live music has to offer.

10. FFS- London Troxy
Despite their arch-eyebrowed protestation that "collaborations don't work", this team-up between Franz Ferdinand and Sparks results in a match made in heaven. Ron Mael is still a terrifying, terrifying man, Russell has more energy in his late 60's than I did in my late 20's, and the whole set, from the Sparksified version of "Michael" to the camp majesty of "Achoo" is an vibrant, tongue-in-cheek delight from start to finish.

9. COLIN STETSON AND SARAH NEUFELD- London Islington Assembly Hall
I'm not sure how Colin Stetson coaxes such sounds and timbres from three saxophones and some strategically-placed microphones, but I'm pretty sure witchcraft has something to with it. Add in the exceptional string arrangements of Schroedinger's Arcade Fire Member, and you've got a sound that seems to derive from another world.

8. THE POLYPHONIC SPREE- London Electric Ballroom
Texas' foremost pseudo-cultish music ensemble may be diminished from their mid-Noughties heyday (now featuring a mere fifteen members rather than thirty), but to hear "The Beginning Stages Of..." performed in its white-robed entirety was as close to a religious experience as you can get in a room reeking of BO and out-of-date Stella.

7. TITUS ANDRONICUS- London Village Underground
Titus Andronicus have struggled to match the quality of the rollocking, impossibly anthemic masterpiece that is "The Monitor" over the last half-decade, but damn, if their live shows aren't still an absolute grin-inducing, sweat-filled, hoarse-throated riot. My vocal chords will never be the same again.

6. JOANNA NEWSOM- Brighton Dome
Long live the Queen of Harps.

5. KAMASI WASHINGTON- London Barbican
While Kamasi Washington has been declared by several reputable sources to be the "new great hope of jazz", I personally feel that might be an understatement. Combining multiple traditions of the genre into one scintillating, visceral, unpredictable whole, Kamasi and the West Coast Get Down produce the kind of music that bypasses your brain and dives deep into your soul.

4. SON LUX- Green Man Festival, Glanusk Park, Powys
I always feel at a bit of a loss when it comes to describing Ryan Lott's music ("Deerhoof goes trip-hop", I guess?), but what I do know is that as a guy who's gone to quite a considerable amount of gigs over the last decade, Son Lux are one of those once-in-a-blue-moon bands that still have the power to dazzle me with their uniqueness. What was particularly striking about this set is that on paper, they're far from crowd-pleasing festival fodder - but damn, did they knock this one out of the park.

3. DAN DEACON- London Oval Space 
There may be a castle of snow up past the big glen, and that castle may have a fountain, a bear and a sick band of some critical acclaim, but everyone knows the real party is in a converted pharmaceutical warehouse in Bethnal Green. For those who have never experienced a Dan Deacon gig, it’s difficult to convey the strange euphoria they elicit but it’s almost if, for the space of ninety minutes, the denizens of the capital’s live music scene are given a free pass to shed their inhibitions and have genuine, non-ironic fun for once in their lives.

2. EZRA FURMAN- London Lexington
What Ezra Furman has taught me is that there's not enough transgender Jews channelling the spirit of Springsteen in modern popular music. His covers of Arcade Fire's "Crown of Love" and Jackie Wilson's "Higher" alone may have elicited more joy from me than half the gigs on this list combined.

1. PATTI SMITH (PERFORMING "HORSES")- Field Day Festival, London Victoria Park
Yeah, my favourite gig of 2015 was actually a run-through of an album released four decades ago, sue me. But this was far from some hackneyed nostalgia trip- Patricia Lee Smith is even more of a potent force at the age of 68 than she was in those heady CBGB days; a roaring, electrifying prophet delivering a sermon that's just as relevant as ever. And indeed, this show probably would have topped my list just for her performance of "Birdland", the kind of song that, frankly, makes you think why anyone else even bothers.

(And for previous editions of this self-indulgent nonsense, now in its 10th year, here are the lists for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.)

(All photographs property of the author.) 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

MISTY’S BIG ADVENTURE (London Islington Academy 2, 22/12/15)

As good as Mew’s brand of Danish post-rock was last week, I'm glad my *actual* final gig of 2015 involved 80's prog interpretations of "The Snowman", Christmas ditties featuring Jeremy Corbyn, Nice biscuits and the nightmare-inducing antics of Erotic Volvo. For a band often dismissed as a bit of a novelty, they’re also a surprisingly competent set of songwriters and musicians. God bless Misty’s, and all that sail within her.
MEW (London Village Underground, 14/12/15)

The Danish post-rock veterans have never really clicked for me live, but tonight’s intimate set, featuring both acoustic and standard versions of twenty songs from their back catalogue was certainly a cut above. Great sound, fantastic lighting, and a timely reminder that Mew have a more eclectic output than they perhaps get credit for.
A WINGED VICTORY FOR THE SULLEN (London Barbican, 12/12/15)

Whilst I went primarily for Hauschka’s customarily brilliant prepared-piano antics, AWVFTS weren’t too shabby themselves, adding some orchestral flourish to Stars of the Lid’s classically-styled ambiance.
EL VY (London Electric Ballroom, 10/12/15)

I’m not sure this louche lovechild of The National, Menomena and Wye Oak transcends the sum of its parts, but that full-throttle cover of the Fine Young Cannibals “She Drives Me Crazy” must be a contender for one of the most gleeful gig moments of 2015.
ANNA VON HAUSSWOLF (London Oslo, 08/12/15)

I must admit a certain degree of scepticism that Anna Von Hausswolff would be able recreate the gloriously OTT gothic majesty of her recent release “The Miraculous” in a sweltering attic next to Hackney Central, but as usual, I was proved embarrassingly wrong. Music to herald the literal Apocalypse.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

CHAIRLIFT (London Oslo, 01/12/15)

Review: HERE
NEKO CASE (London Lexington, 30/11/15)

Neko Case's last London show was a pretty big disappointment. They'd had major technical problems, they were suffering from flu and end-of-tour fatigue and quite simply, they look like they couldn't be arsed. This time round it's quite the opposite - Neko's in extremely chipper form and babbling about the Kaiser, and the band's actually putting in the effort to bring the songs to life, rather than listlessly going through the motions. A very enjoyable performance, albeit a little brief for the asking price.
LIGHTNING BOLT (London Electric Ballroom, 26/11/15)

I deeply regret not seeing Lightning Bolt when i) they played on the floor guerilla style and ii) I was young enough to have the energy for this sort of thing, but regardless of my ill-disguised scorn for the over-stimulated youths determined to elbow me in the torso, their noise-rock onslaught certainly blew away a few cobwebs from the ol' earholes.
BUILT TO SPILL (London Electric Ballroom, 25/11/15)

Doug Martsch is a little greyer around the whiskers than the first time I saw him in 'aught seven, but Built To Spill's lo-fi, hook-heavy indie rock remains as fresh as ever. Bit gutted "Conventional Wisdom" and "Distopian Dream Girl" didn't make the cut that night, but 1999's eight-minute epic "Broken Chairs" is one hell of a closer.
MERCURY REV (London Oval Space, 24/11/15)

Review: HERE
EZRA FURMAN ( London The Dentist, 19/11/15)

An acoustic set from Ezra in a venue so trendily deshabille, you could see mice peaking through the holes in the ceiling. Good fun.
CAR SEAT HEADREST (London Rough Trade East, 18/11/15)

Crap name, decent band. Will Toledo's tendency to overuse the same chord progressions makes it hard to distinguish between songs at times, but he's got a good ear for melody and an engagingly nonchalant lyrical style.
TITUS ANDRONICUS (London Old Blue Last, 17/11/15) 

I first listened to Titus Andronicus the day after they played the Old Blue Last in 2008, and after watching YouTube footage of "Fear and Loathing In Mahwah, NJ" from that gig, I knew that I'd missed something pretty special. So to hear them play that very song at the very same venue seven years later was a really rather cathartic experience.
THE BESNARD LAKES (London 100 Club, 16/11/15)

Some mediocre bands sell out headline arenas, whilst some amazing ones are destined never to graduate from the pub circuit. Such is the fickle nature of the music business. But it's a particular shame that the Besnard Lakes are playing to a half-full 100 Club, as their Fleetwood Mac-do-shoegaze grandeur deserves a far larger audience.
KAMASI WASHINGTON (London Barbican, 14/11/15)

Kamasi Washington's been declared by several reputable sources as the new great hope of jazz, and on the basis of this, that might be an understatement. Combining multiple traditions of the genre into one scintillating, unpredictable, breathtaking whole, it's without a doubt the most sublime hour of jazz musicianship I've ever had the pleasure to see.
MONO (London Electric Ballroom, 06/11/15)

I'm not sure why one would book Mono to play a 70 minute set given that timeframe allows them roughly two and a half songs, but if I'm to be entirely truthful, that's not entirely a bad thing. For as brilliant the Japanese post-rockers can be at their ostentatious best, they're not the most varied band in the world, and the brevity of the set meant what we did get was all-killer, no-filler.
TITUS ANDRONICUS (London Village Underground, 05/11/15)

I think it's fair to say Titus Andronicus have struggled to match the quality of their second album "The Monitor", that rollocking, impossibly anthemic masterpiece that could well be my favourite album of the last half-decad. But as a live act, they remain an absolute riot. I've been to a lot of gigs this year, but the audience response to the likes of "No Future Part 3" or "Four Score and Seven" was simply unmatchable in terms of vitality and good old fashioned, beer swigging, singalong bonhomie.
CASPIAN (London Dome, 02/11/15)

For reasons too boring to iterate here I was unable to stay for the whole of Caspian's performance, but the thirty minutes of uncompromisingly abrasive post-rock I did catch did leave a most satisfying ringing in my ears for several days afterwards.
JOANNA NEWSOM (Brighton Dome, 01/11/15)

After being left curiously unmoved by Sufjan's sad-jams earlier this year, it was left to popular harp-caressing songstress J-New to successfully elicit emotion from my black and joyless heart. The new material happily lived up to expectations (even if there was perhaps one too many mid-tempo piano ballads), it was nice to be reminded that "Have One On Me", despite its 500 hour running time, actually has some stunning moments, and of course the classics remain some of the most sublime works of music these ears have ever heard.
PATTI SMITH (London Roundhouse, 31/10/15)

Patti Smith is cooler than you. Indeed, Patti Smith is cooler than pretty much any other live act out there. Yeah, her band does at time tend to adopt a pub-rock bludgeon on songs that demand a bit more nuance, but to hear "Horses" in full is one of those majestic, electrifying, heart-swelling, experiences few others could possibly come close to replicating.
DESTROYER (London Islington Assembly Hall, 30/10/15)

Has there ever been a more unlikely crooner of louche soft-rock than Daniel Bejar, he of the ever-cryptic lyric and perpetually moody temperament? Yet, while the mellow, sax-heavy jams may occasionally threaten to go full Mick Hucknell, Bejar's natural inscrutability and his band's effortless proficiency ensures an experience more celebratory than cheesy.
MATES OF STATE (London Birthdays, 29/10/15)

The last time I saw Mates of State, I was twenty, had considerably more hair, and was pointedly not writing my dissertation. Many things have changed since then, but their sugar-coated synth pop remains as straightforward a delight as ever.
RATATAT (London Electric Brixton, 28/10/15)

I still maintain their Cargo show in '08 was one of the most fun gigs I've ever been to, but the limitations of Ratatat really came into sharp relief tonight, despite an impressive light show. Their signature sound still works well in short doses, but their reliance on backing tracks and significant quantities of filler are all a bit "B-rate M83".
MASAYOSHI FUJITA (London Vortex, 26/10/15)

It's not often an artist piques my interest purely through description, but then again, not many artists dabble in vibraphone-based minimalism. Masayoshi Fujita's sound is very much as you'd expect for an act associated with Erased Tapes, but his cute stories around each piece and Hauschka-esque creativity adds a unique and endearing character to his music.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

THE SUN RA ARKESTRA (London Cafe Oto, 25/10/15)

One of the great things about watching the Arkestra perform during daylight hours was watching people walk by Cafe Oto and gawp in bewilderment at the be-sequined free-jazz space wizardry contained within. Of course, there's a whole load of other great things about watching the Arkestra, not least Marshall Allen's forceful, eccentric presence, which remains undimmed at 91 years of age.
REVERE (London Lexington 23/10/15)

Nine years ago, I went to see a short-lived Hope of the States spinoff band at the London Water Rats (remember that place?), and to be perfectly frank they were dull as hell. Their support, however, was not. Revere trod an intriguing line between post-rock and orchestral indie-pop (my two favourite genres at the time), and although nearly a decade later I'm not so in love with that sound as I used to be, on the evidence tonight they're still a band that deserve to be much bigger.