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List: Favourite Records From 2009

Here is a monumental essay I’ve been working on for a little while about my favourite releases from this year. I love music so much, there’s so much goodness out there. Check out these records and fall in love with them. I don’t ever claim to be a writer or even the slightest bit articulate, so please forgive my writing and occasional use of shouty caps (I can’t help it). I’m also fully aware that I need to learn some new words (do a search for how many times I use the word ‘love’ on this post). Here are my favourite albums that have blessed my ears this year:

1. The Antlers-’Hospice’:

This record is beautiful, heartbreakingly wonderful. It’s a real album; so much more than a collection of songs. Each track flows so brilliantly into the next. Lyrically, it’s beautiful, and musically, it’s stunning. There’s so much feeling and emotion in this record… it’s more affecting than any other album that I’ve listened to this year. Every song is so detailed and rich. The story itself is about loss and a really (REALLY) difficult relationship. It hooks you in and it’s hard not to feel connected to the characters, from the beginning when the narrator  says ‘I didn’t believe them when they told me there was no saving you‘ right to the end, when ‘now it’s not a cancer ward, we’re sleeping in the morgue‘. It’s made even more haunting by Peter’s perfect vocal delivery, ranging from quiet to completely crushing. It’s a masterpiece, and not just one of my favourite records from 2009, but one of my favourite records ever. I could literally go through every track on the album and write a thousand words about why I love it so much. Sharon’s vocal contribution on Thirteen is haunting, and one of my favourite parts of the album. I love this so much that I can’t even articulate it. It’s amazing.

2. Wildbirds & Peacedrums- ‘The Snake’: Wildbirds & Peacedrums are such a special band to me, I love their music so much. The Snake holds so much energy and is really exciting to listen to. Mariam and Andreas are such a brilliant duo, and you can really hear their passion for making music together throughout the album, especially on album closer My Heart, which is such an unbelievably fantastic song. When Mariam sings ‘you see I’m lost without your rhythm‘ it’s so honest and true, which only makes the line sweeter. There’s a tribal quality to the record, which is completely unique in it’s own right. I can’t think of a band quite like Wildbirds & Peacedrums. LOVE IT!

3. Forest Fire- ‘Survival: Gloriously lo-fi, Survival feels very cosy and real. It’s a bunch of really great songs, laid out bare. Forest Fire haven’t bothered to put any shine on this record, which is what makes me love it so much. The songs are catchy and there’s not a single track on the album that I ever want to skip. Sunshine City in particular is especially beautiful, with gorgeous guest vocals from Sharon Van Etten, it’s just so heartwarming; the song has such a beautiful sentiment. At just half an hour long, it’s leaves you wanting more. I want more Forest Fire! I don’t even know what it is about it that I love so much, I just do.

4. Scary Mansion- ‘Make Me Cry‘: Scary Mansion. Oh, Scary Mansion. I love Scary Mansion. Leah Hayes is incredible. Ironically, she’s composed a really dark, melancholy record that brings me nothing but joy. I love listening to Leah sing, her voice is so amazing and wonderful. The way she sings words, extends and bends them, makes me listen so carefully to everything she sings. The thunderstick she plays gives the album such an interesting sound- and the band is so tight: the violin in Mighty is so beautiful, the drum rattle in Over The Weekend or the bells and drum intro to Yer Grief, the bass scale in One Percent… IT’S PERFECT! The loud parts highlight how brilliant the quiet parts are. One Percent is my favourite from the record, purely because I will listen on repeat just for the way Leah sings ‘your family tree, eventually, will hit the ground’. The way she repeats the line is swoon-worthy. The lamenting, piano-heavy On My Mind and the glitchy, electronic Look Through illustrate Leah’s talent and versatility. This is a brilliant record.

5. She Keeps Bees- ‘Nests‘: Something about this record feels really homely and warm. Maybe it’s because you can hear that it’s home-made. It’s raw; it hasn’t got buckets of glisten and production- and that’s what I love. It’s just 26 minutes long and so easy to listen to, I usually listen to it all in one go… once I start listening I just don’t want to stop. The force in the drums and the weight of Jess’ deep, powerful voice atop the dirty, bluesy guitar is perfect. The way the guitar bends in Cold Eye, the crashing drums at the end of Focus, the tempo change in Ribbon… there’s just so much to love. I love this record. I love She Keeps Bees.

6.  St. Vincent-’Actor‘: I really loved Marry Me, and I really love Actor. The record feels like a natural progression from its predecessor, with so much extra brilliance… Annie Clark really outdid herself. The instrumentation is so rich! The Van Dyke Parks-esque horns and clarinets play victim to the rough, menacing guitar- the album has so much life! It’s like going to the theatre. The little vocal melodies and the way Clark sings her own back up vocals makes everything feel so immediate and close and personal. She always sounds so composed, but can add so much feeling into her voice with such subtle nuances in the delivery, my favourite being in The Neighbors with the line ‘tomorrow’s some kind of stranger who I’m not supposed to see‘. The way her voice shakes when she sings the word ‘supposed‘ gives me chills. Marrow is easily one of my favourite songs of the year. The quiet, tense opening verse and the way it leads into the manic, frenzied chorus of ‘H-E-L-P, help me, help‘ me is genius. Annie Clark is a mastermind.

7. Alessi’s Ark- ‘Notes From The Treehouse‘: What I love about Alessi’s music is her songwriting and her beautiful, amazing voice. She’s so talented, and her voice is so precious. It’s so special; you can really hear what a brilliant person she is when she sings. You can hear it! I think hearing the songs from this record played live so much has somewhat affected my view of the album itself- beyond the polished gleam and beneath all the layers, at the core of each track is a wonderful, heartfelt, honest song. And that’s what’s beautiful about this album. Perhaps my most favourite of all is Hummingbird. It’s epic, a masterpiece of storytelling, showing just how brilliantly talented Alessi is. There’s plenty more win in store from Alessi, I really believe in her and her songs. I know it!

8. Soap&Skin- ‘Lovetune For Vacuum‘: 19 year old Austrian Anja Plaschg is phenomenally talented. She has composed an album that is so dark, so harrowing, and just so beautiful. The gentle, soft piano is the light amongst the creaks, mechanic beats and moaning cello beneath Plaschg’s tortured, intense vocals. At times she sings with such a delicate beauty that really lifts the songs up and pulls them away from the darkness. For example, in Cry Wolf, the lullaby-esque calmness is disarming, only to lead right into the apocalyptic Thanatos, with heavy piano and the clamoring howl of the Plaschg bellowing: ‘Ages of delirium! Curse of my oblivion!‘. Spiracle is my favourite from the record, with the screams and cries of the verses leading to the heartbreaking, torturous pleas of the chorus: ‘please help me, please help me, please help me’. It’s chilling, it’s enchanting. I love this record.

9. Cryptacize- ‘Mythomania‘: If this record was a scene, for me, it would be a roundabout on an empty sandy beach by the sea at sunset. And it’s also really foggy. Maybe sunrise, even? Who knows. Either way, this album has a real ‘feeling’ that takes me to a different place. The guitar has a 1960′s pop jaunty-ness, the drums sound playful, Nedelle’s voice is so animated in a very showtunes kind of way… it’s brilliant. The lyrics are sweet and dreamy – ‘every time we turn around the moon is laughing at us‘. The album ends on the absolutely wonderful New Spell. Nedelle almost sounds like a lecturing teacher singing ‘I’ve got a new spell, be careful what you say and do‘. A teacher in the most AWESOME school where the only subject is how to make hypnotic, brilliant music. 

10. Fever Ray- ‘Fever Ray’: A seemingly mandatory inclusion on any end of year list, Fever Ray is a brilliant album. From the rumbling bass introduction to If I Had A Heart and Karin’s baritone drone of ‘if I had a heart I could love you, if I had a voice I would sing‘, the album is an attention-stealer right from the start. The contrast of the deep voice against Karin’s regular voice is so effective, and works so well together. The electronic beats, pings and pangs throughout the album are excellent. Lyrically, it’s completely bizarre: ‘last night I saw a funny man with dark eyes and a hanging tongue‘, and even lyrics that would otherwise sound inane instead sound fascinating- ‘I’m very good with plants, when my friends are away they let me keep the soil moist’ or, in Seven, she sings ‘we talk about love, we talk about dishwasher tablets‘. It’s so brilliant! There’s a sense of mystery to Fever Ray, which is what hooked me in so much in the first place. There’s not a song or even note out of place on the album, everything is perfect. Even if you don’t normally go for anything remotely ‘electronic’, I can’t recommend this album enough, I love it. 

11. Marissa Nadler- ‘Little Hells‘: Marissa Nadler’s light, breezy, dreamy vocals are beautiful. The sombre tone and sorrowful lyrics only make the album more swoon-worthy. Rosary is easily one of my favourite songs of the year, the harmonies are gorgeous, and the lines ‘I’m a troubled, troubled heart… thought I’d sing at the boats, trouble away, but they swam back to me today. My troubles are never gonna leave me a lone‘ kills me. The title track is perfect. The steady piano and repetition in The Hole Is Wide supports the narrative; it’s is like being lead through tunnels in a trance. I love this album.

12. Alela Diane- ‘To Be Still’: A beautiful collection of traditional sounding folk songs, with such beautiful instrumentation and Alela Diane’s perfect, calm, seemingly effortlessly brilliant voice. The album conjures up scenes of mountainous valleys and horses and all that kind of thing, all in a very real, honest, heartfelt way. The harmonies provided by Alina Hardin and Mariee Sioux are perfect, and the sunny steel pedal in songs like To Be Still or the violin in Take Me Back just make listening to the record such a rich experience. Perhaps my favourite from the album is The Ocean, opening with just a thumping drum and Alela’s magical voice, building up to the stunning choruses with some beautiful tremolo mandolin and Alela singing ‘in spirit she’s drifted to the ocean, all those years of waiting for the water‘. The a’cappella ending of the song is incredible. Such a great album.

13. Laura Gibson- ‘Beast of Seasons‘: This is a simple album. What’s so wonderful about it is that it stands so strongly just with how careful and sweet Laura Gibson’s voice is. Every annunciation sounds so precise and exact, and the little flourished of piano, violin and banjo are so subtle, but add so much wonderful texture to the record. Funeral Song is one of my favourite songs of the year. Just the way Laura’s voice drifts along like a dream, moments like the way her voice strains so delicately in lines like ‘if I could stretch my years into a grand procession‘ are gorgeous. Plus, the presence of musicsal saw = plus one million bonus points. Love love love.

14. Music Go Music- ‘Expressions‘: This is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. The first time I heard Music Go Music, over a year ago (I was in the height of my Bodies of Water love) I really did not like it. I thought it was cheesy. I love Bodies of Water, their music is so sincere and epic. I don’t know why, but hearing Warm In The Shadows completely changed my opinion on Music Go Music. What I previously thought was cheesy I now think is genius. I suppose it is kind of cheesy, but in a classy, uplifting way. This song is mostly made up of songs from the two EPs but with a few new songs. Music Go Music shares the epic-ness of Bodies of Water, but with catchier melodies and unashamedly poppy tunes, all with a wonderful quirkiness (like Meredith’s wailing introduction to I Walk Alone, or the tongue in cheek ‘live on Face Time’ music videos). Meredith has an incredible voice, and the instrumentation is excellent. Some of the religious undertones remain, but the uplifting sentiment is universal and completely heartwarming. I love Music Go Music.

15. Andrew Bird- ‘Noble Beast‘: Andrew Bird is a mastermind! He’s composed such a full, detailed record that is so rich with textures and lyrical gems. Just what is he singing about? The man has a vocabulary un-rivalled by pretty much anyone on this list. The arrangements have such a charming playful element – the handclaps and postman-on-the-way-to-work-esque whistling in Oh No or the plucked violin introduction to Tenuousness and the tongue in cheek lyric ‘can’t stand to stand, can’t stand to sit, who would want to know this?‘, for example. Anonanimal is wonderous. There are so many amazing parts to this album, I love it.

16. Sharon Van Etten- ‘Because I Was In Love‘: There’s no trickery on this album. It’s just raw beauty. Sharon Van Etten has such a wonderfully expressive voice. The songs are bare, it’s Sharon’s voice that guides you through the album. The melodies are sweet and memorable, which make you want to listen again and again. For You was always my favourite, I loved the home recordings version and I love this version too, the way she sings ‘oh but you knew, you knew, you knew‘ at the end of the song just kills me. It’s amazing. Listening to this album on a train while looking out the window and watching the world go by is enough to send you into a coma of joy. So beautiful.

17. Au Revoir Simone- ‘Still Night, Still Light‘: I’ve loved Au Revoir Simone for so long! The Bird of Music is such a special record for me, I love it so much. There’s always the danger when you love all the older stuff so much that the new stuff just won’t live up to it, but Still Night, Still Light is brilliant and has some wonderful songs. When I first listened to this record, it kept making me feel dizzy. The songs are mesmerizing and have alot going on; it all feels very full. Take Me As I Am is my favourite from the album- a truly lovely song with such a beautiful feeling: ‘did you know when you were already born, you were already you and I already me? So take me as I am‘. The harmonies and over lapping vocals have always been my favourite part of Au Revoir Simone, and it’s still here, and still as brilliant as ever- the ending to Organized Scenery is stunning.

18. Taken By Trees- ‘East of Eden‘: What a fantastic album! There’s the distinct Swedish charm blended with South Asian rhythms and melodies… it’s GENIUS! The cover of Animal Collective’s My Girls (titled My Boys) is so ridiculously brilliant. They’ve turned it into an incredibly poppy Anna is another favourite, opening with some tribal chanting before the gloriously sweet, dreamy wash of back up vocals and the so sweet ‘you will never see what you mean to me, dear Anna, dear Anna‘.

19. Phosphorescent- ‘To Willie‘: It’s hard with albums composed entirely of covers to make something feel fresh and exciting, but Phosphorescent’s jaunt on a covers record is more than worth investigating. To Willie is a lovely collection of Matthew Houck’s take on a selection of Willie Nelson songs. Matthew has a wonderful voice so full of feeling and the covers are brilliant. There’s a real heartfelt, truth in the way he sings…. you can really hear just how much he loves the songs he’s singing. The sparser arrangements really allow you to hear just how special Matthew’s voice is. I LOVE HIS ACCENT. This is such a lovely album.

20.  Dirty Projectors- ‘Bitte Orca’: This album is incredible! How do you come up with stuff like this? Dave Longstreth’s falsettos and warbles are a love them or hate them kind of thing, and I love it. The female backup vocals are stunning- right from the start on album opener Cannibal Resource. Stillness Is The Move is easily one of my favourite songs of the year, the rhythm is incredible and the guitar riff sucks you right in, and those vocals! The vocals! How!? Amazing. There’s so much going on, it’s such a busy album, but it never feels like too much. The strings in Two Doves are wonderful, the build up of Useful Chamber into the chants of ‘Bitte orca! Orca bitte! Bitte orca! Orca Bitte!‘. Amazing.

21. Girls- ‘Album’: This record was made for summer. It conjures up beaches and sunshine and all that kind of thing. It’s a pop record, with alot of darker undertones hidden under cheery melodies. Christopher Owens has composed some really personal, heartfelt songs- in Lust For Life he slips in ’I wish I had a father, maybe then I would’ve turned out right’ amongst the more trivial things like ‘I wish I had a pizza‘ or ‘I wish I had a beach house‘. Or in Hellhole Ratrace he sings ‘I don’t want to cry my whole life through, I wanna do some laughing too’. The song is washy and dreamy and clocks in at just under seven minutes, and yet it’s interesting the whole way through, it sort of hypnotizes you, so you can’t change song once it starts, even if you wanted to. It’s the same for the whole album. And also, you gotta love a band that calls themselves ‘Girls’ and their album ‘Album‘.

22. Julie Doiron- ‘I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day‘: I love Julie Doiron’s voice and the way she tells little stories in her songs. I love her previous record Woke Myself Up, and this one has some really sweet songs too. One of my favourites is Tailor- the relaxed picked guitar over the top of the jaunty drums is brilliant, and the lyrics really are so sweet ‘if I was a snow flake I would fall right new to you‘- AWWW. It can be that sweet without being cheesy, it can! It can! Just listen. Nice To Come Home is another favourite, it’s just over a minute and a half long- the tune and the way she sings ‘I think of you in New Brunswick…‘ is so wonderful and makes me listen to that song on repeat. It’s got a light hearted, cheer to it, but it’s so sparse- just Julie and the guitar. It feels like she’s singing right to you. And then it leads right into the more rockin’ Consolation Prize, and the playful smash glass and yelps of ‘lookout! lookout!’ in the middle of the song. Love love love.

23. Dead Man’s Bones- ‘Dead Man’s Bones’: I was sitting in Rough Trade East when I first heard this record. It was playing on the PA and I could hear the children’s choir and I thought it was brilliant. I asked at the desk what it was. This album is the work of actor Ryan Gosling and friend Zach Shields, with accompaniment courtesy of the Silverlake Children’s Choir. It’s spooky and atmospheric, and show tunes-y in a Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of way. There are so many great moments, Mr Gosling has a wonderful baritone rumble which suits the songs so perfectly. The drums and handclaps in The Room Where You Sleep is excellent. My Body’s A Zombie For You is my favourite, it was the song that hooked me in so much- the children’s choir is SPECTACULAR! I adore it. The joyous little piano and the tambourine…. and the group vocals after the yells of ‘my body’s a zombie for you!!‘ gives me chills, especially after the crash of the cymbal and when all the other instruments besides the drum drop out… genius! Pa Pa Power is so poppy and cements itself in my head, and there’s something so eerie about the choir singing ‘please make me better’ repeatedly through the song. The barber shop style doo-wop introduction to Paper Ships is perfect. So much goodness on this album.

24. Neko Case- ‘Middle Cyclone‘: Neko Case has such a phenomenally strong voice! The album features contributions from special guests including Sarah Harmer, Lucy Wainwright-Roche and M. Ward. It all sounds so clean and perfect. There are lots of nice little touches, like the music box introduction to The Next Time You Say Forever or the interlude in the title track- I love that! People Got A Lotta Nerve is probably my favourite, the way her voice rises with the scale is amazing! The cover of Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth is wonderful. A really great album.

25. Timber Timbre- ‘Timber Timbre‘: I love this album! Demon Host is such an incredible song. The whole album is really captivating lyrically; there’s a wonderful bluesy edge to Taylor Kirk’s deep, warm voice. And so much feeling- the way he sings ‘it was real‘ or ‘I was on the fence, and I never wanted your two cents’ is swoon worthy. And the way the music swells at the end of the song gives me chills. The album is just half an hour long and leaves me wanting more Timber Timbre; each song flows perfectly into the next. The record sends me into a log cabin in the woods somewhere, it has such an earthy feeling. The chorus of Lay Down In The Tall Grass almost makes me want to cry, the song builds up and he sings ‘and only you could revive me, so badly decomposed’. The melody in Until The Night Is Over is brilliant, his voice is incredible. Brilliant album, I think whatever he releases next will be just as, or even more, amazing. There’s plenty more in store from Timber Timbre, I’m sure of it.

26. Chris Garneau- ‘El Radio‘: All the songs on this album are brilliant. The opening harmonium and cello of Leaving Song builds the atmosphere and is nothing but beautiful. Chris has a voice that can be so sweet and contemplative, like in Leaving Song, or playful and jaunty like in No More Pirates. The album feels much richer than it’s predecessor, 2007′s excellent Music For Tourists. The arrangements are gorgeous, the cello and flutes in Dirty Night Clowns are magnificent, and the backing vocals sound so playful and fun. The cello throughout the album is really special, and the percussion is wonderful. Pirates Reprise is a charming re-working of No More Pirates, the tempo is slowed and the piano lingers and it all sounds so dreamy and calm. It’s beautiful. 

27. Lightning Dust- ‘Infinite Light‘: This album has grown on me so much after seeing them live. I always adored the first half, but I felt the second half tailed off a bit… but hearing the songs live has made me appreciate the album so much more as a whole. The songs are soothing and dreamy and Amber Webber has a wonderful, fragile yet strong voice full of so much character. Antonia Jane is just one of those songs; when I first heard it I fell so in love, and listened constantly on repeat. The cover of Wondering What Everyone Knows is brilliant, it eases in gently then the drums kick in and it’s epic in a very subtle, beautiful way. Can’t wait to hear more from Lightning Dust.

28. Tom Brosseau- ‘Posthumous Success’: This album grew on me so much! There are so many great moments on the album, it’s a lovely collection of folk songs. Tom Brosseau is a master of story telling (he’s really good at rhyming too). Been True is one of my favourite songs of the year, just because of how heartfelt and earnest he sounds when he asks ‘haven’t I been true to you?’. Another favourite is New Heights. There’s just this one verse that absolutely hypnotizes me as he tells of a tattoo he spots on a girl’s arm, and how he asks her about it and she says it used to be a name. The scale that leads into the chorus is perfect, the rhyming is excellent and never seems forced or unnatural. A really lovely album.

29. Ah Holly Fam’ly- ‘Reservoir‘: I can’t remember how I stumbled upon Ah Holly Fam’ly, but I remember hearing them for the first time and that wonderful sense of ‘oh golly this is absolutely amazing, swoon swoon swoon’. I was at work browsing the internets, and the track that I heard was All Unfolding. If I was a caricature my jaw would have dropped, I fell so in love with the song and sent it to everyone and swooned at my desk for the rest of the day. It’s so soft and subtle, the strings and clarinets are magnificent, and Jeremy Faulkner’s straining, fragile heartfelt vocal delivery is incredible. The back up vocals during the ‘give it up for the moonlight, oh yeah‘ part of the song is stunning. The rest of the album has a warm, lo-fi, home made feel which I really love. Another favourite is Loneliest City, with the gorgeous harmonies provided by Becky Dawson; Jeremy Faulkner’s wife. Their voices sound beautiful together. I’m so glad I found this band and their beautiful music.

30. Handsome Furs- ‘Face Control’: You know when you’ve got lots of tidying to do? You want it done fast don’t you? It’s hard to move fast listening to washy, dreamy folk. Instead, I turn to Face Control. If I’ve gotta do something in a hurry, I’m going to listen to Face Control. If I’m walking somewhere in a hurry, I’m going to listen to Face Control. If I’m confused, I’m going to listen to I’m Confused. If I’m going to hit up White City, I’m going to listen to (White City). Something about the pace of this record really motivates me to do stuff, even though it’s not even all that fast all the way through. There are moments where it just feels really apt. I love it.

31. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros- ‘Up From Below‘: A joyously jolly record, full of life and energy. It’s instrumentally rich, with horns and handclaps in all the right places. The album feels very immediate and real, there’s such a charm to it. The songs boast poppy, anthemic sing-a-long choruses and catchy melodies you can whistle. Home was my first favourite, a country tune which breaks in the middle for a sweet (if not rather cheesy) spoken word part. Janglin is another favourite, with singer Alex Ebert really belting out his lines before leading into a cheery sing-a-long chorus of ‘we want to feel ya! We don’t mean to kill ya!‘. Awww. Big things for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, I’m sure of it.

32. Fiery Furnaces- ‘I’m Going Away‘: This album is so incredibly poppy! Songs like Ray Bouvier, Even In The Rain and Cut The Cake all managed to cement themselves into my head for weeks. The record is so rich, it has a real rock feel with a bunch of blues, soul and R&B thrown in for good measure. Eleanor Friedberger’s vocal delivery always sounds very intense and forceful, something I noticed even more after hearing the songs live. Great album.

33. Heartless Bastards- ‘The Mountain‘: Erika Wennerstrom has such a brilliant voice full of raw energy and power. The pedal steel parts and chunky, distortion heavy guitar are excellent, particularly on tracks like The Mountain or Early In the Morning respectively. The gentler So Quiet is beautiful with its swoon worthy chord changes; its my favourite from the album, along with the comforting and reassuring Hold Your Head High. I definately feel I need to catch the band live to perhaps appreciate the album more; the polished production adds a gleam to the songs, whereas live I imagine they feel alot dirtier and perhaps even punchier. 

34. Emmy the Great- ‘First Love’: This was one of my favourite records during the first half of the year. It has a dry wit and charm lyrically, and even though Emmy’s voice isn’t powerful or quirky, it’s melodic and addictive. When I look at the playcounts on my ipod for this album, I’ve listened to it alot, and I can’t pinpoint why. It’s just a really simple album that’s so easy to put on.

35.  Dent May- ‘The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele’: Pop crooning, ahoy! Dent introduces the album (literally) with Welcome, singing ‘welcome to my record, please enjoy the show‘. It’s tongue in cheek; the album isn’t meant to be taken deadly seriously. It’s a really fun pop record full of fun ukuele-centric tunes. The whole album is brilliant, You Can’t Force A Dance Party was what hooked me in so much to begin with. I DARE YOU TO LISTEN TO THAT SONG AND NOT FEEL HAPPY. I dare you! TRY!

36. Martha Wainwright- ‘Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, à Paris‘: I like Martha Wainwright. I like Edith Piaf. I like French music. It’s a recipe for a winner, really. The arrangements are magical and Martha’s voice is as perfect as ever. The album sends me straight to a smoky club in 1940s Paris. The accordion is so kind to my ears, I love its sound. Martha sings amazingly in French, the faster lyrics are particularly impressive. Lovely.

37. Emily Loizeau-Pays Sauvage’: An album part in English, part in French, with a ton of charm. A fan of Emily Loizeau’s last album, L’Autre Bout Deu Monde, I didn’t initially love this album. Then I saw her perform the songs live, and it clicked. The tribal beat of Fais Battre Ton Tambour became a favourite, and I found myself whistling the introduction to Sister whilst out and about, on the tube, in my room… it got stuck in my head. This album has some brilliant moments.

38.  Nurses- ‘Apple Acres‘: Falsetto vocals, group harmonies and jangly percussion… this band make wonderful, trippy pop music. The album is just half an hour long, and, while I only discovered it recently, I keep wanting to come back to it. Winter is my current favourite, the piano is wonderful and Aaron Chapman’s unintelligible, waily vocal delivery is like syrup. Great album, I think whatever Nurses release next could be really, really brilliant.

39. Tiny Vipers- ‘Life On Earth‘: The minimal, sparse arrangements give the songs on this record an eerie quality. Jesy Fortino’s voice is mesmerizing and her precise, deliberate delivery of every word she sings is beautiful. You can hear her draw her breath between her words, and her fingers slide along the guitar. It feels so close and intimate, I love it. There’s a gorgeous flow to alot of her songs, they drift along and end up being quite long (the title track is over ten minutes long) but it feels very natural and suits the music so well. 

40. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down- ‘Know Better Learn Faster’: Opening with a group chant and manic clapping in The Clap, it sets the tone for the rest of the record: FUN! It’s a record full of bouncy pop songs, it’s no departure from Thao’s earlier records, and it’s just as brilliant. None of the songs go over four minutes long, it’s short, sweet amd straight to the point. 

41. Amy Millan- ‘Masters of the Burial‘: I love love love Amy Millan’s voice. My favourite songs from Stars’ Set Yourself On Fire are Calendar Girl and Celebration Guns, and I adore her first solo record, Honey From The Tombs. It took a while for me to fall so much in love with Honey From The Tombs, and I think this album will grow on me even more too. Day To Day is my favourite, it has a Wildbirds & Peacedrums-esque brilliance, and the studio recording of her I Will Follow You Into The Dark cover is great.

42. Immaculate Machine- High On Jackson Hill’: Not all that different from Fables, High On Jackson Hill delivers lovable punchy rock music with catchy choruses. My favourite from the album is You Got Us Into This Mess, the repetition in the chorus is brilliant and the back up vocals during the verses is beautiful.

43. Motel Motel- ‘New Denver’: Harlem is an amazing song that I love hugely; it starts the album off so well. The strings are beautiful, and the piano sounds glorious under singer Eric Engel’s country style croon. The way he drags out his words is brilliant, putting emphasis on certain words, making everything he sings so much more interesting. He sounds frantic and full of energy, and the songs sound big. Love it.

44. Múm- ‘Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know’: Múm! This album has such a wonderful cuteness to it! It’s so instrumentally rich with such wonderful textures. If I Were A Fish is so sweet, and I don’t see how anyone couldn’t be charmed by the playful, wondrous Hullaballabalú. The lyrics are all a bit odd (‘you are so beautiful to us, we want to lock you in our house‘- it could be sinister if it wasn’t so cute) but that’s what’s so special. I love it.

45. The Leisure Society- ‘The Sleeper’: This album is lovely, it just makes me really happy listening to it. Love’s Enormous Wings is a beautiful song, and the lattter half of A Matter of Time is particuarly excellent. It’s just a really nice record executed really well, the flute, strings and harmonies are all lovely. Lovely lovely lovely.

And a few more artists whose records I like and think you should check out: Great Lake Swimmers, Bowerbirds, Sky Larkin, Hildur Guðnadóttir (epic, apocalyptic cello brilliance), Lisa Hannigan, Tune Yards (I’m pretty sure I will fall madly in love with this once I see her live), Bishop Allen, The Avett Brothers (once again, I think hearing these songs live will make me love them much more), Jeffrey Lewis, Here We Go Magic, Slow Club, Animal Collective, Le Loup (again with the need-to-hear-live thing). 

EPs & Compilations:

I just wanted to recommend some EPs and things that I think are wonderful (in no order):

Alela Diane featuring Alina Hardin- ‘Alela and Alina’: Alela + Alina = harmonies to kill you with. Their voices are both so beautiful and complimentary of each other. I was about to say which parts of the EP are incredible, then I realised I was about to list every part of the EP. So much love for this.

The Whispertown 2000- ‘Done With Love EP‘: I LOVE WHISPERTOWN SO MUCH. So, inevitably, I love this release. Hometown is on here! Hometown is one of my favourite Whispertown songs, Whispertown’s contributory song to a split 7″ record with Jenny Lewis; which did NOT come with an mp3 download (might I add), but I had a live mp3 of it that I would listen to on repeat. The re-recording of Restless is brilliant. Morgan’s voice is so good. So good. They’re just one of those bands that I love a ridiculous amount.

Chimes& Bells- ‘Into Pieces of Wood‘: I want everyone to know about this band, I can’t believe they don’t have some sort of giant following yet; they are amazing. The songs are epic, and have a Wildbirds-esque energy mixed with a laid back, Beach House-esque dreaminess.  The title track is especially excellent. What’s not to love? This EP is just a teaser of what I’m sure is just the start of all the magic Chimes & Bells have to offer.

Beautiful Star: Songs of Odetta: I wanted to give some praise to this brilliant triumph. Beautiful Star is a collection of covers of Odetta songs curated by Wears The Trousers, all put together for charity. With contributions from Ane Brun, Marissa Nadler and Linda Draper, it’s nothing but incredible. Such a lovely compilation.

Caitlin Rose- ‘Dead Flowers EP‘: I love Caitlin’s music! Her voice is stunning and has so much power. The songs have such an earnest, country music charm,  and some brilliant, tongue in cheek lyrical gems. There’s not a weak song on the EP, Caitlin Rose is amazing.

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LIST: Live acts of 2009

What an epic year of gigs! It’s been a privilege to see so many brilliant acts. Here are my top 50 live acts, not gigs, but acts in general. I computed it based on ‘overall joy’ a live act brought me through the year in each of their gigs. It was really difficult, and all the bands in my top 50 are absolutely brilliant, top quality bands. I probably could have done a top 80 of solidly great bands. It was hard to order them, I mean, how do you compare seeing Alessi over 20 times to seeing Scary Mansion just once? It’s tricky, and maybe the lines are all blurred and it’s not as rigid as being my ’46th favourite live band’ of the year, or whatever, but I thought it would be fun to make a list and gush praise for 50 bands that I think are stunning live.

All photos by me except Lisa Hannigan, by Bobbles. So, here we go. My top 50 acts of 2009:

TIE:  Wildbirds & Peacedrums & The Antlers:

Oh! What a bother. I could not humanly say which band  is my favourite live act of 2009. I saw Wildbirds nine times and The Antlers five times. Wildbirds brought me so much happiness and excitement, and The Antlers moved me to tears. What both bands share is a relatable sincerity and passion that makes hearing the songs so live so special. Furthermore, both acts really build upon their recorded material in a live setting (the added steel drum parts in My Heart or the a’cappella opening to Epilogue, for example). The reason why I love live music so much is because it’s so visceral and involving, even more so than just listening to Hospice or The Snake at home. Both of these bands are nothing but stunning live. I laughed out loud with how brilliant My Heart was at Union Chapel, and had to hold back from bawling through Wake and Epilogue at Bush Hall. These bands are so special and I can’t recommend them enough.

3. Alessi’s Ark:

Alessi is something special; she’s in a whole league of her own. I think I saw her play 24 times this year. That’s more than anyone, and I still love her a bit more every time I hear a play. How is that even possible? She has like a movable ceiling on how much love I can have for seeing her live. And it’s super high. She’s so talented and wonderful, her voice is beautiful, her songs are beautiful. She is amazing, in the true meaning of the word. It’s unbelievable how incredible she is. What a complete and utter joy. Go see her live!

4. Whispertown 2000

Whispertown! How much do I love Whispertown!? LOTS. I’ve loved them for years and I was so hugely excited to see their first UK show back in May. I caught them five times in total this year, and joined them on stage twice to sing and clap along. They’re so much fun, seeing them live just makes me so happy. Morgan has a stunning voice and their good spirits are infectious. 

5. She Keeps Bees

Love. Ohhhh. Love from the start! As soon as I saw them at The Britannia in June I was hooked. I saw them eleven times over the summer and I still wanted more by the time they went home. Jess has such an incredible voice and Andy is a brilliant drummer and they have such a good energy. They brought me so much happiness throughout the year, I want everyone ever to go see them live and to love them. I don’t think Jess realises just quite what an amazing talent she is, she’s completely brilliant. She Keeps Bees! I love them.

6.  St. Vincent

H-E-L-P, HELP ME, HELP ME! This lady is such a brilliant guitarist; she’s so hugely talented. I love her voice. I saw her both solo and with a band. I enjoyed her every time I saw her play. She adds parts to the songs and they sound even more excellent live. Actor is such a great follow up to Marry Me, and it’s all so wonderful live.

7. Scary Mansion

I love Scary Mansion. Because this list is the collated happiness a band brought me, they are seventh, but in some ways, they are first. All the bands before Scary Mansion, I have seen four or more times. I saw Scary Mansion just once. But that one time was so brilliant it left a huge impression on me and I really, really can’t wait to see them play again. They are a wonderful live band, it was such a treat to hear them live. Leah had a sore throat, and if anything, it just made me love her voice even more. She is amazing, I love Scary Mansion so much. I will see them more in 2010 and it will be amazing.

8. Beach House

Beach House send me into comas. The good kind of comas. Despite mixed reviews of their Union Chapel show, I loved it. It was a treat to hear an old song followed by a new song throughout the set. But the real winner was their set at the Fleapit. A tiny, intimate venue tucked away in East London; it felt like a really special show. That’s because it WAS a really special show, all of the new songs are incredible and so wonderful to hear. Heart of Chambers made me swoon pretty epically, Victoria’s voice is so engulfing, and Alex’s guitar parts carry you away to… a coma. COMATOSE WIN!

9. Cryptacize

Cryptacize were an unexpected little joy in May. I got to see them a few times and I enjoyed their set so much every time. The music is quite playful and Nedelle’s delivery is animated and fun. Their 2009 record Mythomania is full of brilliant songs which were wonderful to see them live. I can’t wait for them to come back.

10. Soap&Skin

CURSE OF MY OBLIVION! I only got to see Soap&Skin once this year, but that one time was absolutely incredible. It was such a compelling, exciting performance, completely unique to any other show I saw this year. The young, Austrian pianist exudes darkness and is entirely hypnotic. There were moments when she would just scream, and at one point she left the stage and walked through the audience howling… it could have been cheesy, but instead it was brilliant. There was so much passion in her performance, the theatrics worked so well. The delivery of the songs was perfect, she played alone (though I would love to see her play with an orchestra) and at no point did the set lull. The encore performance a’cappella of an old Yiddish holocaust anthem was stunning.

11. Forest Fire

I love the Forest Fire record so much. There’s always a danger that when you love a record so much the band won’t be able to pull it off live.  I love that record, and Forest Fire are even more brilliant live than on record. I absolutely loved their show at the Luminaire and I can’t wait until the next time I see them play.

12. Sharon Van Etten

Sharon is magic! Her voice is something incredible. I know the whole ‘voice like an angel’ thing is tired and old, and a lame example, but really, if anyone on this list has a voice like an angel, it’s got to be Sharon. I got to hear her sing a few times and she was stunning every time. You need to hear Sharon Van Etten live.

13. Ane Brun

Oh, Ane Brun and her diamonds. They need to play in Union Chapel every single time they come here. She has such a wonderful voice that is complemented so brilliantly by her three, wonderful, amazing back up singers- which she calls her ‘diamonds’. And on top of that, the acoustics of the chapel work a charm, and just lift their voices and echo them around so perfectly… there’s nothing like it. There was a warm atmosphere at both shows, it was something really special, that I really hope I get to witness again. Cross your fingers and toes that she plays in Union Chapel again, though, she’s so brilliant I’m sure she’d be wonderful anywhere with sound that lets the natural beauty of her voice and songs shine.

14. Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird is wonderful live, both when playing with a band and when playing solo. He’s an excellent performer and a very talented musician and it was great to hear him perform songs from Noble Beast as well as older ones. It’s so intriguing watching him play because he adapts and re-works the songs; and the new arrangements are always interesting to hear.

15. Fever Ray

I feel really very lucky to have seen Fever Ray perform twice this year. They are an incredible live band. I love when seeing a band live makes you view the album in a different way, and that was definately the case with Fever Ray and their self titled album. After catching them at Shepherd’s Bush Empire it made me love the album so much more. I was so excited to catch them again, and they were wonderful. It’s all about the show with Fever Ray. The costumes, the lazers, the smoke… it all adds to the dark mystery of Fever Ray, which is what makes the show so exciting. They sound perfect as a live band and Karin’s voice really is incredible

16. Music Go Music

Opening the show shrieking the introduction to I Walk Alone, and with a giant hourglass and venetian mask on stage; it’s clear Music Go Music are not subtle. Unashamedly over the top pop, Music Go Music are a brilliant live band who play with alot of energy and enthusiasm. Meredith Metcalf is a magnetic front woman, often outstretching her arms and dancing along. It was a wonderful show.

17. Jeffrey Lewis

I’ve seen the wonderful Jeffrey Lewis play quite a few times now and I love it every time. Every show is so unique, I just adore the fusion of art and music that he does so well. He’s a master of story telling and I love his shows.

18. Au Revoir Simone

I love Au Revoir Simone. I saw them play a few years ago and it was so wonderful to see them this year. The Bird of Music is a really special record for me, it was lovely to hear a few songs from that as well as songs from their latest record Still Night, Still Light, which I also enjoy alot. The Union Chapel show felt like something of a celebration… there was such a warm atmosphere.

19. Neko Case

This woman has such a powerful voice! Her band are tight and she has some amazing songs… it was a treat to see her perform at the nice, intimate Bush Hall, and then at End of the Road. I loved it both times.

20.  Bishop Allen

Bardens Boudoir was ram packed for Bishop Allen’s first London show in support of their new record. Pleasingly, they played a wonderful mix of old and new and put alot of energy into their show… I’ve only seen them once and I’m pretty keen to see them play again. Songs like Butterfly Nets are so swoon worthy.

21. Dirty Projectors

Dirty Projectors seem to polarize people. Some people I know absolutely adore them, and others loathe them. I think they’re brilliant. The sheer vocal power of the three ladies during Stillness Is The Move was absolutely incredible. I loved their whole set at End of the Road and I really would love to catch them in a proper venue.

22. Handsome Furs

There’s such a magnetic chemistry between Dan and Alexei that works so perfectly with their music! They play with so much passion, Dan sings so intensely. They seemed so appreciative of the audience and you could tell they were thoroughly enjoying themselves playing, which is so endearing to watch. A brilliant duo.

23. Frida Hyvönen

Oh! It seems like so long ago I saw Frida play. Her voice is amazing and I’m so glad she played with a band; the songs all sounded really full. It was perfect.

24.Peter Broderick

This man is so talented. So many artists do the whole looping tricks now, but Peter Broderick does it so well. His songs are all so rich and his performances are so special… I really think there are big things in store for Mr. Broderick.

25. Chimes & Bells

This band are brilliant. They’ve released an EP but I think they’ve slipped largely under the radar and alot of people have missed this little gem. I hope 2010 is the year for them. They make wonderful, rich, epic music and Caecilie Trier has such an incredible, deep voice with alot of power.

26. Laura Gibson

I saw her solo three times, and caught her playing a little acoustic session to my friend and I. She is amazing. Her songs are sparse, highlighting her beautiful voice and how she takes so much care over evert word she is singing. I listened to her soundcheck Take This Waltz with her band and it was so brilliant. 

27. of Montreal

of Montreal are so much fun.  Ninjas, tigers, pigs… no other band has this in their live show. I am pretty sure ninjas could make every show more fun.

28. Matt & Kim

Matt and Kim were an unexpected huge amount of fun. I didn’t realise their live show would be quite so energetic. Matt and Kim were obviously enjoying themselves so much and seemed really happy to be playing, it was really endearing to watch. And crowd-surfing in the Old Blue Last is genius. The place is so tiny and intimate. It was brilliant

29. Alela Diane

Alela Diane has a stunning voice. Singing with Alina Hardin and playing with a band, it’s nothing but perfect.

30. Chris Garneau

Almost a year since I last saw Chris Garneau, I caught him once more at The Luminaire. This time the band included a drummer, Ben Shapiro, which added so much to the set, especially on the new songs. I love Chris’s music and I should think I’ll try to go to all his London shows… he’s consistently lovely.

31. Julie Doiron

There was something really charming about watching Julie Doiron play. At the Pure Groove show she took requests, and I asked for Me and My Friend. She played it and it was such a treat to hear, after loving that song for so live. I thought it was very kind and she was amazing the next day at the Luminaire.

32. Lulu & the Lampshades

Fun fun fun! I think 2010 will be an amazing year for Lulu & the Lampshades, I’m glad I got to see them play so many times this year.

33. Tom Brosseau

I think the best word to describe Tom Brosseau is ‘charming’. His songs are like stories that pull you in and have you hanging on his every word. His latest record Posthumous Success has some great songs on it, and I enjoyed hearing them played in a more stripped-back fashion, with Tom playing solo the two times I saw him.

34. Emily Loizeau

Emily Loizeau is an AMAZING live performer. She sings with so much gusto, and her cellist and drummer are both incredible at their instruments. There were a’cappella parts where her voice was just stunning, and her ability to involve the audience (clapping and stomping in Fais Battre Ton Tambour, performing in the centre of the crowd) was brilliant. I thoroughly, thoroughly recommend catching her play next time she’s in London.

35. I’m From Barcelona

I defy ANYONE to go to an I’m From Barcelona show and not have fun. It was so magical to catch them in the intimate Favela Chic and watch them turn the room into one giant party.

36. Caitlin Rose

Caitlin has a brilliant, amazing, powerful voice and her live performance is stunning. She’s got some great songs that seem so genuine and real, and I can’t wait for her to back over here and to see her live again.

37. Black Lips

The whole band are so rowdy and up for fun, it’s great. Underneath all the fuzz and feedback, the songs are actually really poppy and so much fun. It was a treat to see them to an acoustic Bandstand Busking session including the punk-gospel gem Bow Down And Die (now an Almight Defenders song), I loved it.

38. Ghost Bees

These twin sisters harmonize so beautifully! Their voices combine and create something beautiful, which contrasts so perfectly with the dark lyrics of some of their songs. 

39. Lightning Dust

I really enjoyed catching Lightning Dust at Bush Hall. Their show was really laid back and relaxed and Amber Webber’s voice is just a amazing live as on record. Antonia Jane = SWOOON.

40. Amiina

This show was beautiful! The fusion of animation and music was something that I enjoyed hugely. The three ladies from Amiina are very talented musicians, and the involvement of musical saw was enough to give me chills and a little swoon. Musical saw is my favourite, and Amiina used it so perfectly. Seeing those animations to such lovely music was a truly gorgeous, beautiful experience.

41. Final Fantasy

This was a sweet show, with projections being beamed all around the chapel. You could just shut your eyes and slip off into a dream…. it was lovely.

42. Efterklang

Such a rich show! The Barbican is a wonderful place to hear music and the orchestra was beautiful. 

43. Lisa Hannigan

An unexpected treat! I went to see her play after being given a spare ticket by a friend who loved her. I listened a bit and was quite excited and intrigued to see Lisa Hannigan and her band. I was curious; the singer had been nominated for a Mercury award earlier in the year. Going to a show without any expectations and being so ‘wowed’ is always a lovely surprise and joy. Lisa and her band were tight and there was a warm, intimate feeling, despite being in the pretty big Royal Festival Hall. Lille is a stunning song.

44. The Tallest Man On Earth

What a magnetic performer! Kristian Matsson played as a lone troubadour but totally commanded the audience and ruled the stage. He had so much charisma and was so fun to watch.

45. Beirut

Beirut were consistently good all through their set at The Forum, but it wasn’t until the encore of Siki Siki Ba Ba that I really swooned. I adore the song and it was just as epic live as I had hoped. 

46. Vetiver

Vetiver! I have to admit, at first I wasn’t exactly bowled over by their live show. I saw them at the Roundhouse and Pure Groove, and while I thought they were pleasant, I didn’t really give them much of an afterthought. Then, five months or so later, I saw them at Union Chapel. The acoustics there worked perfectly for them and it made me enjoy them so much more. They have some really sweet songs, and at Union Chapel I could actually hear the lyrics. I Must Be In A Good Place Now really hooked  me in, in particular. The lyrics were just really sweet and the song had such a warm feeling. I was completely won over and caught them again at End of the Road and loved it.

47. Girls

Girls get so much love around the blogosphere. I only caught them at Pure Groove, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Their songs are dreamy and summery and it was perfect for an afternoon instore. I’d love to catch them again in a proper venue.

48. Dent May

Dent May makes music that makes you smile. It’s light hearted and fun, and his accomplice Bobby provides brilliant back up vocals. I’m always down for some ukulele fun!

49. Taken By Trees

Swedish poppy goodness with projections of cats and red pandas on the screen behind them… PERFECT!

50. Fiery Furnaces

Eleanor Friedberger is an intense singer; she really glares into the audience while she sings. I like the latest Fiery Furnaces record and it was good to hear those songs performed live.

And there we have it. My favourite 50. Just because a band isn’t in my top 50 doesn’t mean I didn’t love them, my top fifty is pretty ram packed with brilliance. Go see all these wonders! Swoon.

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Special Special Special

I go through bouts of love for atcs. Like, I’ll consistently love stuff, but then there’s times when I love certain things even more and I just want everyone to get to hear these artists that I love so much and believe in completely. Here are a few of the special ones that I am feeling the love for right now:

She Keeps Bees: I love  this band so much. I’m so so so happy that they’re playing The Allotment, it will be amazing. They are two of the loveliest people playing music; such a joy to be around. Jessica has such an incredible voice, with so much power. I’ve listened to Nests over and over and over, all the songs feel so familiar and it’s so warm, putting the CD on feels a bit like going home on a cold day and having a nice warm meal. TATSY. Listen to these wonders: She Keeps Bees.

Alessi: All of Alessi’s new songs are on a whole new level of greatness. Go see her live an hear them for yourself! You can hear what a brilliant person she is when she sings. And you can feel it from just being around her. Really, go see her live and you can see what I mean. Alessi’s Ark.

Ema & The Ghosts: This lady is so talented. I love all of her songs; everything she’s done is wonderful. No fancy production, it’s just great songs being performed wonderfully. I think that Ema is wonderful and I would love for everyone to hear it: Ema & the Ghosts.

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Review: Alessi’s Christmas Crackers

Swoon swoon swoon gush gush gush Alessi is the best win win win win. Anyway. I’m cosy where I’m sitting so I’ll do a long, historical, review. Be forewarned…

Many a year ago I became a big Neva Dinova fan. Jake Bellows writes such lovely songs full of minor chords aplenty and dark, often tongue-in-cheek, lyrics. 

Skip forward a few years to 10th of December 2008. I didn’t get a press ticket to Land of Talk so I went to see Ora Cogan at the Wilmington Arms. I don’t know what is about the 10th of December, but I was feeling pretty down that day. I hated my university course so much at that point and didn’t know what I would do. So I walked in the cold (and got lost) until I found the Wilmington. It was a bit early so I sat in Subway eating a muffin while they played the Mamas & the Papas on the PA.

Then at the show Ora Cogan played and it was nice, but Alessi was headlining. She was amazing. My old review is pretty bad and it feels weird to read it, because I was even more ramble-y then than I am now (actually, maybe not) and I didn’t bother to format my posts so the text isn’t aligned (geez!). But anyway, in my stupid review I made quite an understatement; I said: “She was quite unique and special“. Massive understatement. She is totally unique and so special.  The one thing that hooked me so hugely was that she covered a Neva Dinova song, A Man And His Dream. I thought it was brilliant. I also said “I look forward to hopefully seeing her play again soon“. Amazing. I love how we can’t see the future.

So, I saw her play over 20 times since then and got to know that she’s probably one of the most amazing people ever. Every time I saw her play she was wonderful, and we spent alot of the summer eating ice cream and doing fun stuff like riding pedallos and redeeming free chicken at Nando’s.

Now we’re up to December 10th 2009. I love that symmetry! How brilliant! A year to the moment since I first saw her play. This day wasn’t all that dissimilar from the one a year ago. Alessi let me provide ‘winter wins’ in the form of DJing. The Antlers, She Keeps Bees, Scary Mansion and Forest Fire are a fix on any mix! Jake Bellows played a wonderful set, and was joined by the Ark for some songs. It was a treat to see him play again; his new songs all sound lovely. He tried to play Yellow Datsun but forgot how it went. But the part he did was great. Treetop Flyers played and they were lovely.

Then Alessi’s Ark played.  Hurrah! What a joy. She is wonderful. Nothing but pure win. They played songs from the new EP and Jake joined to sing on The Dog and The Horse. There’s not much I can say that I haven’t already said a million times before, but Alessi really is so amazing and wonderful and you should listen to her music here. There’s something really beautiful about watching her play, it makes me super happy. She’s such a talent, she has a gift of being completely wonderful and bringing goodness into everything she does. She shares that with other people. She just makes everyone happy so naturally, and I don’t know if she realises just how amazing she is. It’s really special. She’s incredible, I feel lucky to know her and proud to see her be so brilliant. Who knows what’ll be the score on December 2010… Alessi for Prime Minister. Yeah man.

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Heartwarming things to investigate

I haven’t really had a chance to blog lately, and probably won’t until Sunday, but that’s only because I’ve been lucky enough to be spending time with some of the most amazing people in the whole world who do so much for me and for music. I am sitting here now listening to beautiful sounds and I am truly heartwarmed. I don’t think my friends realise just how amazing, talented, special and wonderful they are. It’s an honor to be in the company of such brilliant people, I am not worthy! And so, here are a few friends and things I’d like to recommend for you to investigate:

Broken Sound: Yesterday I spent the day with a wonderful person called Chris, who is one half of the brilliant Broken Sound Music label. It’s a label run purely out of love for music and with so much care. I’ve always wanted to start a label and Chris was more than happy to talk and give me some tips and ideas. He’s got such a good heart and you should take a look at the label site here and especially listen to Forest Fire because they are absolutely incredible and you should love them. And once you’ve listened you should go here and buy the album Survival and the single Fortune Teller, and come see them live when they’re back. The music world is so lucky to have labels like Broken Sound. 

Here is a video of Forest Fire, to represent Chris:

How ridiculously brilliant is that video! And even better that it’s at Leah Hayes’ and Michael Leviton’s appartment. So much goodness!

Alessi’s Ark: There aren’t even words to describe what an amazing person Alessi is and how proud I am of her and how much I believe in her and her music. I think so highly of her and I really mean it when I say that there just aren’t words for it. Her music is beautiful, and so honest and real. I feel privileged to have seen her play so much; she’s by far my favourite in town, and even after seeing her play a couple of dozen times, it’s still a complete joy to watch her play. When you listen to her music you should just know that she’s one of the most wonderful people I know/EVER and then I hope it can warm your heart like it does mine. Listen to her songs here, and if you’re in London (or in a 200 mile radius) you should come to the Luminaire show on the 10th of December with Jake Bellows and Treetop Flyers. It will probably be the nicest night… in the history of the lunar cycle. Yes, EVER. You can get your ticket here. I can’t wait. And also, in a beautiful act of symmetry, that show is exactly a year since I first saw Alessi play. 

Here is Alessi playing at the Allotment:

The Allotment (/the WHOLE WORLD) is blessed to have her. 

She Keeps Bees: Every time I think of She Keeps Bees I can’t help but swoon with how much I absolutely adore Jess and Andy. Knowing the people making the music you love are so kind and warm makes listening to their songs so special. They are an amazing band, and so fun to see live. Nests is a great record which I’ve been listening to every day lately (there’s always time for some Nests!). I don’t think Jess realises how talented and amazing she is, she’s most certainly left a giant effect on me and I can’t wait for her and Andy to come back to London. I don’t even feel worthy to know such humble and lovely people. Please listen to them and go see them live.

Here are She Keeps Bees playing in The Britannia:

That video makes me miss them so much. One of the nicest days was when Alessi and I walked over there after work and sat around in the sun and ate ice cream and just got to see this amazing band play.

Sharon Van Etten: This lady is amazing. Her voice absolutely kills me, it’s got so much soul and feeling and is straight from the heart. She was here in London for such a short time but the time I spent with her has made me think so highly of her; she’s a completely inspiring person. She cares about music so much and so genuinely; it was her that introduced me to She Keeps Bees. I think sharing music is such a great gift to give, and I feel so grateful to Sharon. Chris and Alessi both love Sharon too, and so I often find myself in conversation about how amazing she is. I think eveeeerybody is just a bit in awe in the force of wonder that is Sharon Van Etten. She has such a great ear for music! I am looking at an old note and she also recommended Timber Timbre, Here We Go Magic, Glass Ghost, Forest Fire (YES!) and in an email earlier today- Dearly Departed (another winner!). I listened just now and the songs are brilliant. Check out all of her recommendations, and most importantly, listen to her songs.

Here is Sharon playing Consolation Prize:

So beautiful.

So there are the people and things that I am feeling the love for right now. You’d be very well off if you investigate each and every one of those people who just bring alot of light and joy into the world. Music and people are amazing.

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