Sunday, January 02, 2011


419 sets, 341 individual acts, 151 gigs. Considerably less than last year. I’m clearly getting old.

50. PAVEMENT (New York Central Park)
This year I’ve seen Steve Malkmus’ ramshackle mob in Brixton, Barcelona, California and New York. Don’t know why, I’m not even that much of a fan, but their first Big Apple show in over a decade did feel pretty special.

49. !!! (Toronto Lee’s Palace)

Ah, for more venues like Lee’s Palace - give me character over corporate branding any day. Gig was excellent too; being a Sunday night it wasn’t as manic as you might expect, but good craic nonetheless.

48. THAO WITH THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN (London Camden Barfly)

Thao Nguyen will never redefine the way you think about music, but her charming shows always make me smile.

47. DIRTY PROJECTORS (London Barbican)
Let’s be honest, this was pretty pretentious. But you wouldn’t expect any less from The Dirty Projectors, and when their intricate, offbeat guitar works and gorgeous harmonising meshes together it sounds bloody marvellous. I also learnt a valuable lesson about not drinking too much before a seated gig, especially if you’re mid-row. Hmm.

46. JAPANDROIDS (Primavera Festival, Barcelona)
Saw ‘em at Pitchfork. Hated ‘em. Saw ‘em at Primavera. Loved ‘em. So it goes.

45. BEACH HOUSE (London Roundhouse)
Some people think Beach House are an amazing live band. They’re not. But when they’ve got a sound system to do their gorgeous dream-pop justice, that doesn’t mean they can’t sound mighty fine.

44. AMADOU & MARIAM (ATP: Curated By Matt Groening, Minehead)
This most eclectic of ATP’s showcased a lot of interesting bands, but few brought the dance-party more ably than the groove-laden Malian duo.

43. WHY? (London Heaven)

Heaven may be to London gig venues what Nickleback is to proof of a benevolent God, but I’ve never seen Yoni Wolf in such exuberant spirits. Excellent setlist too.

42. GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT (London Islington Academy)
One of the more \m/-tinged headliners I’ve seen this year, they (along with support band Caspian) almost single-handedly reinvigorated my faith in post-rock shows.

41. FANG ISLAND (London Madame JoJo’s)

Riff-tastic indie-pop. If the Mae Shi could play their instruments, they might sound like this.

40. SLEIGH BELLS (London Lexington)
Glorified karaoke perhaps, but a damn sight more fun than the vast majority of 2010’s hype-magnets.

39. MATT & KIM (Primavera Festival, Barcelona)

Any band that covers “The Final Countdown” is A-OK by me.

38. DEERHOOF (ATP: Curated by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Minehead)

Another excellent set from this most reliable of live bands; their poppier, more melodic new material works a real treat. PANDA PANDA PANDA etc.

37. PONYTAIL (ATP: Curated by Matt Groening, Minehead)
Not the best I’ve seen them thanks to crappy mixing but they’re still by far my favourite band fronted by an androgynous child-thing.

His last ever London show, and as understatedly poignant as you’d expect. Sad I may never hear “Jeanne, If You’re Ever In Portland” again. :-(

35. THOSE DANCING DAYS (London Lexington)
Five pretty Swedish teenagers with a superlative ear for indie-pop gorgeousness. What’s not to like?

34. THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS (End Of The Road Festival, Dorset)
The New Pornos play the hits straight and simple, but there’s sometimes nothing wrong with that- when you’ve got a back catalogue as strong as theirs, there’s no need to faff about.

33. MARTHA WAINWRIGHT (London Jazz Café)
A beautiful, heartfelt show from my favourite member of the Wainwright clan, featuring a sublime selection of Edith Piaf covers.

32. FAITH NO MORE (Coachella Festival, Indio, California)
EPIC. Also, I’d quite like to be Mike Patton.

31. PETER BRODERICK (London St.Giles-In-The-Fields)
One day, he’ll get the critical acclaim he deserves, but for the time being I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see this immensely talented multi-instrumentalist in such intimate settings.

30. THE NATIONAL (London Electric Ballroom)
“High Violet” may be the National-by-numbers, but Matt Berninger’s blossomed into quite the front man. Brilliant, visceral encore made up for the so-so new material.

29. FIGHT LIKE APES (London Bull And Gate)
Despite a group of overzealous moshers threatening to ruin everyone’s day, the cynical Irish synth-popper’s talent for obscenely catchy melodies made the bruises more than worth it.

28. THEM CROOKED VULTURES (Coachella Festival, Indio, California)
No-nonsense heavy rock from Grohl, Homme and Jones. Perfect festival fare.

27. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE (London Forum)
No “Anthems” or “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement”, but a celebratory two hours nonetheless. Kevin Drew still babbles on too much, but the songs more than compensated.

26. BO NINGEN (London Macbeth)
Long-haired Japanese men play loud, chaotic psychedelic rock; cause mild tinnitus.

25. DAN DEACON (London Fabric)

His ensemble shows may have diminished the impact of his solo sets for me, but he played ‘Wham City’ and that’s all that matters.

24. JANELLE MONAE (London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen)

Leaving aside the sauna-like atmosphere of the venue and the sheer gall of her trying to demand £50 for a “Meet-And-Greet” session, there’s no denying Ms. Monae has the kind of star quality that’s rarer than hen’s teeth these days. Also, “Tightrope” is one hell of a tune.

23. MENOMENA (London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen)

Although they were a great live band in years past, I always felt they struggled to fully capture the density and texture of their recorded work. Expanding to a four-piece has rectified this.

22. JENS LEKMAN (London Union Chapel)
Most definitely *not* the Opposite of Hallelujah.

21. OF MONTREAL (London Koko)
A typically exuberant camp-fest from Kevin Barnes and co. - and with “She’s a Rejector” and “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal” sounding better than ever, they didn’t skimp on the musical quality this time.

20. FEVER RAY (London Brixton Academy)

Moody, atmospheric and with bass to shake the heavens, Karin Dreijer Andersson’s side-project almost made me think that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Knife never reformed. Almost.

19. TOUMANI DIABATE (ATP: Curated by Matt Groening, Minehead)
Intricate, engaging and thoroughly danceable, Toumani Diabate’s ATP set was an unexpected but welcome highlight of this year’s festival season.

18. COCOROSIE (ATP: Curated by Matt Groening, Minehead)
Always dismissed them on record, but they were a revelation live. Angelic sopranos and luscious melodies married with hip-hop elements and incredible beatboxing... fantastic way to finish a festival.

17. MELT-BANANA (London Islington Academy)

Japanese noise-rock par excellence. My ears were ringing for four days after this.

16. JOANNA NEWSOM (ATP: Curated By Matt Groening)
"It's a particular honour to be playing ATP: Matt Groening, as people have told me I sound like Lisa Simpson for years."

15. MONOTONIX (End Of The Road Festival, Dorset)
Monotonix are not a band. They're a force of nature.

14. SOAP & SKIN (London Union Chapel)
Almost uncomfortably bleak at times, I’m not entirely sure if Anja Plaschg’s unsettling intensity
is genuine or a cleverly constructed act, but in either event it’s something quite memorable to behold.

13. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (London Alexandra Palace)
In a less shit venue, this may well have been in my Top 3. “Dance Yrself Clean” is a BEAST of a live song, and “All My Friends“ has rarely sounded better.

12. WOLF PARADE (London Borderline)
It’s a shame Wolf Parade have decided to go on “indefinite hiatus,” because as live shows go, they’re at the top of their game. And even though the last two albums haven’t been stellar, they’ll always have “I’ll Believe In Anything”.

11. OWEN PALLETT (Primavera Festival, Barcelona)
The Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Final-Fantasy never disappoints, and “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” has to be one of the most wonderful live songs in existence. Brillaint cover of Caribou’s “Andorra” too.

All-female Japanese krautrock/noise trio with one of the most dazzling percussionists I’ve ever seen. When John Stanier calls you “sick” you know you’re doing well.

9. JONSI (Coachella Festival, Indio, California)

“Grow Till Tall” + sunset over the mountains: the very definition of epic.

8. TWIN SISTER (London Lexington)
“Vampires With Dreaming Kids” was my favourite EP of the last year, and to hear those songs delivered with such enthusiasm made me incredibly happy. Talented, versatile and great fun to watch, I think 2011 is going to be a good year for them.

7. TUNE-YARDS (London Cargo)
Merrill Garbus must be one of the most startlingly brilliant vocalists in the world right now. Charismatic, quirky, unique and almost impossibly versatile, she weaves more magic with just her voice and a loop pedal than 99% of bands do with all the personnel and instruments they desire.

6. DRUM EYES (End Of The Road Festival, Dorset)
I had no expectations at all, none whatsoever, but then it turned out DJ Scotch Egg’s new project sounds like Dan Deacon covering Melt-Banana and all was good with the world.

5. ARCADE FIRE (London Hackney Empire)
Crown of Love->Tunnels-> Keep The Car Running->Wake Up. ‘Nuff said.

4. BOREDOMS (ATP: Curated by Matt Groening, Minehead)
Any band with less than nine drum-kits clearly isn’t trying hard enough.

3. BOBAN I MARKO MARKOVIC ORKESTRA (ATP: Curated by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Minehead)
After three solid days of atonal noise, the 11-piece Serbian marching band almost single-handedly rebalanced ATP’s fun deficit with one of the most joyous festival sets I’ve ever seen. For hours after they’d finished, you could hear the refrain of “Siki Siki Baba” reverberating through Butlins. Incredible scenes.

2. TITUS ANDRONICUS (London CAMP Basement)
One big, fuck-off anthemic knees-up of a gig; 90 minutes of sweat, screaming and what loosely could be described as “singing.” Altogether now: “YOU WILL ALWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYS BE A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSER…”

1. WILDBIRDS & PEACEDRUMS (London Union Chapel)
I didn’t think gigs could make me feel like this any more. The Swedish husband-and-wife duo have been slowly moving up the ranks of my Top 10 lists since I first saw them in 2008, but with the sublime acoustics of Union Chapel and a 20-strong choir in tow, this show stands not only as my Gig of 2010, but also as one of the finest live music experiences of my life.

Photo Credits:
Anika Mottershaw (Of Montreal/Beach House/tUnE-YaRds/Wildbirds & Peacedrums)
John Gleeson (The National/Fever Ray/Monotonix/Drum Eyes/Arcade Fire)
Tim Boddy (Sleigh Bells/Dan Deacon)
Sebastian Faber (Those Dancing Days)
Biostuart (Nisennenmondai)
ACB (Twin Sister)
Mark Thomsett (Boredoms)
Stefanos Zachariadis (Boban I Marko Markovic)
Stinker (Titus Andronicus)


The Plastic Pals said...

That´s a great list! Wildbirds & Peacedrums are ace. Great to so Jens Lekman there too.

Hawk, The Plastic Pals

Unknown said...

Yes, the Wildbirds & Peacedrums Union Chapel gig was spectacular...

Wondered if you might be interested in coming to the firefly album launch at the vortex next month... find us at myspace/fireflyburning and drop us a line at wearefirefly AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk

Sam / firefly