Reviewing Dead Flowers’ debut album Midnight At The Wheel Club at the end of last year I wrote: ‘I think most people would agree that there are songs that make you want to cry, and songs that make you want to dance. But the opening track on Dead Flowers’ debut album ‘Make It Bright’ makes me want to do both of those. And I think that’s got to be a first.’
As it happens, the album topped my end of year list, and ‘Make It Bright’ was no.11 in my Festive 50 list.
And ‘Make It Bright’ is out now as a single in its own right. It still deserves five stars. And if you haven’t heard the album yet…what are you waiting for?
1. Dead Flowers Midnight At The Wheel Club
2. Arcade Fire Reflektor
3. Arctic Monkeys AM
4. Janelle Monae Electric Lady
5. Savages Silence Yourself
6. Laura Mvula Sing To The Moon
7. Chvrches The Bones Of What You Believe
8. New Model Army Between Dog And Wolf
9. Steve Mason Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
10. Paul Haig Kube
11. Mogwai Les Revenants
12. eagleowl This Silent Year
13. Sleepmakeswaves And So We Destroyed Everything
14. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away
15. Luke Haines Rock’n’Roll Animals
16. Foals Holy Fire
17. National Trouble Will Find Me
18. Haim Days Are Gone
19. David Bowie The Next Day
20. Fall Remit
21. Fuck Buttons Slow Focus
22. John Grant Pale Green Ghosts
23. Richard Thompson Electric
24. Pictish Trail Secret Soundz Vol. 2
25. Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito
26. Pastels Slow Summits
27. Low The Invisible Way
28. Daft Punk Random Access Memories
29. Frightened Rabbit Pedestrian Verse
30. By The Rivers By The Rivers
31. Midas Fall Wilderness
32. Laura Marling Once I Was An Eagle
33. Phildel Disappearance Of The Girl
34. Galleries No Miracles
35. Edwyn Collins Understated
36. Yo La Tengo Fade
37. M.I.A. Matangi
38. Prefab Sprout Crimson/Red
39. Sparrow and the Workshop Murderopolis
40. Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts Right Words Right Actions
41. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Live From KCRW
42. Mark Lanegan Imitations
43. Anna Calvi One Breath
44. Boards Of Canada Tomorrow’s Harvest
45. RM Hubbert Breaks and Bone
46. Zoo Zero Zoo Zero
47. Glasser Interiors
48. Those Darlins Blur The Line
49. Camera Obscura Desire Lines
50. Stephen Kellogg Blunderstone Rookery
I tore my hair out over this list, I nearly decided to chicken out and then I disciplined myself to sit down and do it. I’ve heard over 300 albums this year and there may be albums I have overlooked or I’ll look at this list in a year and go what??? But for now this is it.
And yes, some people will accuse me of various things, but I think there’s a lot of Scottish stuff in there, a lot of stuff that was commercially big and some albums that were very small releases. It’s certainly not just white boys with guitars…
Dead Flowers -‘Midnight At the Wheel Club.’ (Hee Haw)
I think most people would agree that there are songs that make you want to cry, and songs that make you want to dance. But the opening track on Dead Flowers’ debut album ‘Make It Bright’ makes me want to do both of those. And I think that’s got to be a first.
Based around the songs of Ian Williams, this is far from another British band playing Americana. Williams’ voice has – rightly – drawn comparisons of Bill Callahan, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. A bold claim, perhaps, until you hear the album. He’s got one of the deepest, gruffest voices on record. And to paraphrase Wilco, it sounds like he really is trying to break your heart.
These eight songs hang together like a journey – no surprise, then, to discover that he wrote these songs on a trip up America’s East Coast, from Coney Island to Montreal. It’s like taking a journey at sunset to a gorgeously sad, ultra-melancholic (I don’t know if that’s a word but it should be) soundtrack. It’s dark, but there’s a beauty here. Heck, if this was a classical work it would be a requiem.
There are fiddles and pump organs, songs that sound like hymns and a piece of work that were it any longer than 34 minutes might be too much to bear. If there’s any justice, this record will come to rank alongside the likes of Things We Lost In The Fire, The Boatman’s Call and Third/Sister Lovers.
Truly, truly exceptional.
Midnight At The Wheel Club is released on Hee Haw on November 11.