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Review: The Antlers at Scala

I’ve seen The Antlers loads of times now:

A fantastic band. This performance was marred slightly by the chap who puked everywhere a couple of rows behind me. The smell lingered for a good 30 minutes. Ew ew ew.

I can’t really say anything new. Listen to The Antlers! Go see them live!

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The Antlers Comic

Here is a comic about a day when I watched Jurassic Park 1 and saw The Antlers:


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Review: The Antlers at Union Chapel

I really love The Antlers. Hospice is such a beautiful record, so well executed. It’s brilliant. I got to see them play five times last year and I don’t think I witnessed a more heartbreaking moment than Peter’s acapella opening to Epilogue at Bush Hall. That line ‘now it’s not a cancer ward, we’re sleeping in the morgue‘ pretty much killed me.

Opening the show at Union Chapel was Marques Toliver, violinist extraordinaire. I was pretty keen to check him out; I really love his work with Holly Miranda (check out his wonderfully gorgeous violin parts here). He looked very dapper in bow tie and waistcoat and treated the audience to a few compositions. He’s very talented and I enjoyed his set.

The Antlers took to the stage. They sold out Union Chapel, which was hardly surprising considering how great they are. Nonetheless, the venue was several times the size of the venues they played at on their first shows here, and there were probably ten times as many people at this show than at their 229 show last September. It’s pretty epic, and great to see them doing so well. This show went by really quickly… they opened with Thirteen. I love how that song sounds on the record, with Sharon singing, but they do it so beautifully live as well.

Peter has such an incredible voice, and Darby is a multi tasking whizz… making bass sounds with his foot pedals, playing keyboards with his hands and singing. I love all the subtleties Michael adds. The show was undoubtebly beautiful, but perhaps a tad bit restrained and certainly not as rockin’ as the shows I caught last year. But really, it suited the venue best. They were joined by a couple of brass players and Marques Toliver for a few songs. Set highlights for me were the set closers, Wake and Epilogue. The band returned for an encore of Cold War.

The band have a show at Scala on May 19th and play End of the Road festival in September. Pick up Hospice if you haven’t already, listen to them here.

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The Antlers Take Away Show


[vimeo 8329608]

I was pointed in the direction of this via Twitter on Christmas Eve; if I had less good control of my consciousness I would have fainted because it is SO GOOD.  You can also watch Shiva here. I love Epilogue so much, I am ridiculously excited at the prospect of hearing it in Union Chapel on March 3rd. I can’t wait!

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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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