Albums of the year 2016

No, this isn’t a misspelling.

Despite doing my annual Festive Fifty tracks at the end of last year, I never published my albums of the year list. For those that might care – and you’ve read this far – there were a handful of reasons for this.

Firstly, that I was trying to agree on an order. The final two choices I couldn’t quite make up my mind about. Secondly, there were a couple of albums I wanted to hear before I did the list that for one reason or another I hadn’t heard then. And as life changes, sometimes it’s just not possible to hear fifty albums well enough to rank them in order.

So, with that in mind, I’ve put together a top ten from last year, with a number that can be considered to have been worthy runners-up.

  1. David Bowie Blackstar
  2. Michael Kiwanuka Love And Hate
  3. K Fellowship (AKA Kate Bush) Before The Dawn
  4. Skepta Konichiwa
  5. Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool
  6. Kano Made In the Manor
  7. PJ Harvey The Hope Six Demolition Project
  8. Mogwai Atomic
  9. Frank Ocean Blonde
  10. Beyoncé Lemonade

…and worthy runners-up (in no particular order)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree

Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker

Shirley Collins Lodestar

Dexys Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish And Country Soul

Kristin Hersh Wyatt At The Coyote Palace

Modern Studies Swell To Great 

Emma Pollock In Search Of Harperfield

Underworld Barbara, Barbara We Face A Shining Future

Scott Walker The Childhood Of A Leader

Wedding Present Going, Going…

Lest we forget…

2015 Bjork Vulnicura

2014 Lisa Gerrard Twilight Kingdom

2013 Dead Flowers Midnight At The Wheel Club 

2012 Grimes Genesis

2011 PJ Harvey Let England Shake

2010 DeLorean Subiza

2009 Broken Records Until The Earth Begins To Part

2008 Cave Singers Invitation Songs

2007 Burial Untrue

2006 Camera Obscura Let’s Get Out Of This Country


Christmas Posts 2017 part 9 – Pale Waves

I don’t know if this is a cheat or not – but as New Year’s Eve is part of the Christmas season, I’m going to include this. Whether this will proceed to throw the internet into another long debate about whether or not it should be considered Christmassy, in the way that people have got worked up over East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’ single or Die Hard…only time will tell.

Pale Waves are Heather Baron-Gracie (Lead Singer and guitarist), Hugo Silvani (guitar), Charlie Wood (bass) and Ciara Doran (drums). Having released a number of acclaimed tracks over the course of 2017 -‘There’s A Honey‘ made the 17 Seconds Festive Fifty (!) -their debut EP New Year’s Eve will be released on January 18 2018.

Also on the EP will be the equally fine, if not Christmassy ‘My Obsession.’


17 Seconds Festive Fifty 2017

  1. Young Fathers ‘Only God Knows.’
  2. Lana Del Rey ‘Love.’
  3. Stormzy ‘Big For Your Boots.’
  4. Meursault ‘Klopfgeist.’
  5. Deerhoof feat Jenn Wasner ‘I Will Spite Survive.’
  6. Dave ‘Question Time.’
  7. Breeders ‘Wait In The Car.’
  8. Siobhan Wilson ‘Whatever Helps.’
  9. Playing House ‘Jelly Legs.’
  10. Attic Choir ‘shHAarp.’
  11. National ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness.’
  12. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds ‘Holy Mountain.’
  13. Jammz ‘Oh Please.’
  14. Meursault ‘I Will Kill Again.’
  15. Mogwai ‘Party In The Dark.’
  16. Belle & Sebastian ‘I’ll Be Your Pilot.’
  17. Wolf Alice ‘Yuk Foo.’
  18. Mark Lanegan ‘Nocturne.’
  19. Loyle Carner ‘No CD.’
  20. Go! Team ‘Semicircle Song.’
  21. Cigarettes After Sex ‘K.’
  22. Sparks ‘Edith Piaf (Said It Better).’
  23. U.S. Girls ‘Mad As Hell.’
  24. Future Islands ‘Ran.’
  25. Erasure ‘Love You To The Sky.’
  26. Mogwai ‘Coolverine.’
  27. LCD Soundsystem ‘Call The Police.’
  28. Arcade Fire ‘Everything Now.’
  29. Alvvays ‘In Undertow.’
  30. Ice Cube ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop.’
  31. Lana Del Rey featuring The Weeknd ‘Lust For Life.’
  32. Lorde ‘Green Light.’
  33. Gold Filter ‘Dust.’
  34. Chilly Gonzalez & Jarvis Cocker ‘Tearjerker.’
  35. LCD Soundsystem ‘American Dream.’
  36. Spook School ‘Less Than Perfect.’
  37. Parcels ‘Overnight.’
  38. Deerhoof featuring Awkwafina ‘Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You.’
  39. Belle & Sebastian ‘We Were Beautiful.’
  40. Cigarettes After Sex ‘Each Time You Fall In Love.’
  41. London Grammar ‘Rooting For You.’
  42. Big Shaq ‘Man’s Not Hot.’
  43. Morrissey ‘Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s On the Stage.’
  44. Young Fathers ‘Lord.’
  45. Jesus & Mary Chain ‘Amputation.’
  46. Pale Honey ‘Why Do I Always Feel This Way?’
  47. Alvvays ‘Dreams Tonite.’
  48. Depeche Mode ‘Where The Revolution?’
  49. Pale Waves ‘There’s A Honey.’
  50. Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert ‘Bad And Boujee.’

Lest we forget

2016 Christine and the Queens ‘Tilted.’

2015 Courtney Barnett ‘Pedestrian At Best.’

2014 St. Vincent ‘Digital Witness.’

2013 Daft Punk ‘Get Lucky.’

2012 Grimes ‘Genesis.’ 

2011 Hiatus featuring Linton Kwesi Johnson ‘Insurrection.’

2010 eagleowl ‘No Conjunction.’

2009 Peter Parker ‘Swallow the Rockets.’

2008 Wedding Present ‘The Trouble With Men.’

2007 Emma Pollock ‘Adrenaline.’

2006 Long Blondes ‘Weekend Without Make-Up.’


Christmas Posts 2017 part 8 – Spook School


Having written about Spook School from their very early days (and indeed early tracks appeared in the annual 17 Seconds Festive 50 lists in years gone by), it’s good to see just how much progress they have made.

The band will release their new album – their third –Could It Be Different? on January  26 2018. In the meantime, this Friday (December 15) they will release a Christmas single ‘Someone To Share Christmas With.’

Bass player Anna Corey says: “This is a song about figuring out how you want to conduct your own relationships when it feels like the world is full of conflicting advice about the ‘best’ way to do it, whether that be monogamy, polyamory, or something else entirely. The refrain relates to the ideal of having one important person in your life with whom you’ll always spend your special occasions. Merry Christmas from The Spook School!”

…and as a taster for the new album, the rather gorgeous ‘Less Than Perfect’:

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Still Alive
2. Best of Intentions
3. Less Than Perfect
4. Keep in Touch
5. Bad Year
6. Alright (Sometimes)
7. I Only Dance When I Want To
8. Hope She Loves You
9. While You Were Sleeping
10. Body
11. High School

Gig review: Mark Lanegan/Duke Garwood

Mark Lanegan/Duke Garwood

Edinburgh Liquid Rooms, December 4, 2017

Duke Garwood sounds like he should be from the southern states of America. As I comment to the soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds, I assume (having heard a fair bit of his music) that he’s from one of the southern states. Actually: he’s actually English. But to hell with geographical and bibliographical concerns – his swampy, slow solo blues with his gravelly vocals is rather fine. And it serves as an apt opener for a headline set by his sometime collaborator Mark Lanegan.

Mark Lanegan couldn’t really be from anywhere else than the greater Seattle area. Four decades into his career, much has been written about those he knew no longer with us. But let us dwell on the present. Lanegan opens with ‘Death’s Head Tattoo’ – the opening track from new album Gargoyle before going straight into the equally fine ‘Gravedigger’s Song’ from 2012’s Blues Funeral album. That, young uns, is how to get your gig off to a fine start.

In the spirit of his last few albums, it’s a bluesy grunge sound with hints of southern gothic – that design on the front cover of the new record evokes decaying churches, and whilst simplistic, it’s just so apt. While both Gargoyle and Phantom Home showed that he’d perhaps (re-)connected with the 80’s college rock of his youth, it’s telling that live he’s less 80s sounding than the album. That voice, of course, is gravelly, yet warm, and it’s clear why he comes across as survivor.

Not least on standout tracks like ‘Emperor’ and the utterly brilliant ‘Nocturne,’ the latter one of the best songs he’s ever but his vocals to. Sure I could draw comparisons to other artists, musically and in terms of longevity, to say nothing of reeling off the long list of those he’s collaborated with- but why bother? He’s doing just fine as he is.

Christmas Posts 2017 part 7 – Holy Moly & the Crackers

The painfully slow-running of this computer would drive me to drink had I not given up many years ago.

So tonight’s post is a bit shorter than it might otherwise have been.

Holy Moly and the Crackers released a wonderful album a few months back called Salem, which you should check out below:

They have also released a Christmas tune entitled ‘Punch Drunk Christmas Eve’ which you can stream at the top of the page. It’s a great introduction to the band if you haven’t checked them out already. It’s great to have new tracks to add to the Christmas arsenal, rather than just the familiar favourites.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to lie down in a darkened room for a bit…


Gig review: faUst/James Yorkston

Edinburgh Summerhall, November 29

‘There’s a woman knitting in stage!’ I remark to my +1 as I find my way back from the bar.

‘It’s Edinburgh,’ he observes.

True. This is a city where if you think you’ve just seen a pink elephant, you probably have. Even outside of August. And it’s Faust (well, faUst). Thank God for bands and places that challenge our idea of what is normal.

The evening begins with support from a solo James Yorkston. If the Scottish singer-songwriter and the legendary German rockers seem an odd pairing on paper, in the flesh it actually works. Yorkston is shortly to release his twelfth studio album on Domino, and while he admits to being nervous about doing his first solo performance in nearly a year, he is warmly received by the crowd. Like Faust, of whom he has been a fan since hearing them on the John Peel show, he is a performer who knows how to connect with crowds. It’s both focused and spontaneous; he hadn’t planned to play ‘St. Patrick’ but when someone yells for it he does indeed perform it a couple of songs later (that person was me). He’s amassed a great body of work, and it’s great to hear songs like ‘When The Haar Rolls In’ up close and personal.

I’m not sure how our knitting heroine comes on stage, but when she clocks me staring at her puzzled, she meets my eye and carries on.

This version of faUst are so spelled to distinguish them from another version of the band touring known as Hans Irmler’s Faust. This version of the band are the original rhythm section Jean-Herve Peron on bass and drummer Werni ‘Zappi’ Diermaier, joined by a guitarist cum keyboardist and our mysterious knitter. Band come on, bow a bass and guitar, while ‘Zappi’ stands and plays drums with one arm, building to a glorious crescendo.

Peron may be a little eccentric but in a good way, for after a couple of numbers, he actually reads out a list of people to thank. Somehow this seems far more sincere and genuine than  so many others doing this. James Yorkston joins them for ‘Chromatic’ and the set provides a wonderful example of what make the band so beguiling.

Sure there’s the famous ‘motorik’ rhythm that they and other bands from the German scene of the seventies pioneered – proof that repetition is not a lack of ideas but somehow the enchantment of listeners. They mix it all up with samples, rhythms, drums, motorik, drills, sparks – yes you did read that right. Not bothering with health and safety Peron proceeds to use a drill or some device (I can’t quite see but it seems to be more to do with DIY of a Homebase sort than a selling cassette tapes to hipsters-in Hoxton type thing) which produces a huge amount of sparks that fail to unsettle our knitter, nor indeed to bother the crowd. One guy seems to be determined to catch them (seriously, who  needs drugs? There’s often enough weirdness in life to enliven normality). And that’s with vocals in English German and French, too.

The term ‘Krautrock’ has been much disputed – is it offensive? should we just say ‘German progressive rock?’ (Always so much more progressive and exciting than most of its British counterparts). Faust, of course, went so far as to name a track ‘Krautrock’ and open their very fine Faust IV album with it. Live it grooves and rocks harder than on record. And, as with their latest album Fresh Air, they finish with the meditation on the sea that is ‘Fish.’

There will be those who cannot see past the noise and sparks to understand how vital and energetic Faust always were. There were no cement mixers on stage tonight, but you sense that Messrs Zappi and Peron are still so far ahead of the pack. This is one pact you should be happy to make.

Christmas Posts 2017 – part 6: Cocteau Twins

Not for the first time, life got in the way.

But it’s still a delight to share this double A-side from 1993, the Cocteau Twins’ Snow, which contains two covers’: ‘Walking In A Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Frosty The Snowman.’

Now, I have long bemoaned the fact that it’s hard to get hold of these tracks. However, at the moment, you can buy ‘Frosty’ in the UK on iTunes (on a compilation called 90’s Rarities Vol.1), though not ‘Walking.’ However, this year saw long-awaited vinyl re-issues of their final two albums, Four Calendar Café and Milk and Kisses, the era which Snow comes from, so I am hopeful, that one day…