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Top 10 Christmas Songs

Everyone has their favorite Christmas Songs, but here are ours.  Merry Christmas to all!  And yes, this is the best Top 10 Christmas Song list ever.

1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love

2. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues

3. White Christmas – Bing Crosby

4. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town – Bruce Springsteen

5. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Frank Sinatra

7. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

8. A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives

9. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – The Ronettes

10. Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade

 

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Top 25 Albums of 2015

1. The Districts – A Flourish And A Spoil

When we reviewed “A Flourish And A Spoil” back in February (The Districts Review), we had no idea the lasting impact this album would have on us for the remainder of the year.  We did, however, proclaim that they were not  reinventing the wheel on the surface.  “On the surface” is the key term here because as you dive more and more into these tracks, you understand why we have it as our Top Album of 2015.  Lyrically, feelings of youth, loneliness, and despair get paired with an overwhelming confidence.  Musically, unreal guitar hooks, and splattering drums get paired with emotional acoustic ballads.  Combined, “A Flourish and a Spoil” provides one of the most relatable, and connecting rock and roll albums we have heard in years.

2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

In what is the most beautiful album this year, Sufjan Stevens gets deeply personal. A sentimental journey, Carrie and Lowell subtly portrays life and death with fierce emotion.  On a simple front, it’s a heartbreaking story of a distant mother and a lost son searching for answers.  However, on a deeper level and what we stated in our review earlier this year (Sufjan Stevens Review): It makes you appreciate life, but more so death.  It’s a reminder to not take advantage of the former nor the latter, no matter what is thrown your way.  It teaches you to be faithful, no matter the self-pity and doubt.  More importantly, it reminds you to love, and to forgive. Finally, what’s most impressive is that Sufjan touches so many intricacies, that this personal story actually becomes directly correlated to each individual listening.

3. Grimes – Art Angels

Art Angels, is such an exciting piece of work.  It is mainstream when it wants to be, but eccentric when it needs to be.  Which makes the album such a relevant piece of….well, art.  Claire Boucher is a no frills, DIY genius who incorporates so many different styles of music into her own.  It makes for an exciting album which flows with anticpation.  It doesn’t harp on one subject rather multiple in which she describes such things as the industry (California), an old faded friendship (Flesh without Blood), and just pure emotion (SCREAM).  She has always seemed to be a modest individual, but Grimes should understand she is changing the industry and paving the way for others to follow.

4. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

There is a reason Courtney Barnett is one of this year’s best new artists.  Her masterful album is heartfelt, witty, and descriptive, while still maintaining all the core components to a great record.  There is bang your head guitar licks (Pedestrian at Best), faintly gorgeous riffs (Depreston) and just all out bliss (Elevator Operator).  Her songwriting is right there with some of the best this year.  Musically she proves rock and roll doesn’t need tricks and sometimes being down to earth, can make you make you badass, which is purely what this record is.

5. Roadside Graves – Acne/Ears

The title track off Acne/Ears is a prelude to a deeply intimate album.  Something new for the New Jersey rockers Roadside Graves.  Lead singer John Gleason describes physical attributes that coincide with raw emotion and continues to flow throughout the album. A quintessential blue collar NJ teacher, Gleason’s songwriting portrays what all of us middle of the road NJ loners can visualize.  The album points to seasonal mood swings “The weather affects me more than you’ll ever know so let’s go to the beach and be miserable”.  In a standout track,City”, Gleason sings “Lose myself in the land, because I can’t stand the city–die right where I am–and pretend that I am happy” swapping potential urban success with a preference of rural mediocrity.  Similar to Sufjan Stevens’ “Fourth of July”, “The Whole Night” is a haunting visual of loved ones deathbed.  It’s a gorgeous album that never relents and adds Roadside Graves to the list of NJ’s best indie bands.

6. Nap Eyes – Whine of the Mystic

7. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

8. FIDLAR – Too

9. WILCO – Star Wars

10. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

11. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Style

12. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

13. Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People

14. Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?

15. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Harmlessness

16. Blur – The Magic Whip

17. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

18. Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs 

19. Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon

20. Mas Ysa – Seraph

21. Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands

22. Built To Spill – Untethered Moon

23. Destroyer – Poison Season

24. Hop Along – Painted Shut

25. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

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The Charlatans – Concert Review – The Usher Hall Edinburgh December 14 2015

“It’s awfully quiet out there, Edinburgh, what’s that about?” says Tim Burgess half way through The Charlatans gig in Scotland’s capital.

The curse of The Usher Hall strikes again, after almost sparking transatlantic Back Of The Crowd / Across The Pond war by sucking the life out of War On Drugs.

The lavish theatre just isn’t that great for gigs. It’s a bit too cavernous for great sound, a bit too opulent for rock’n’roll, and the Edinburgh crowd is as standoffish and hard to please as ever.

It didn’t help that the band played their subdued but at times exceptional current album Modern Nature in its entirety, when judging by the crowd reaction they could have happily pogoed along to 1997 chartbuster Tellin’ Stories all night.

The Charlatans politely played one or two tracks from most of their impressively consistent 12 album back catalogue in between times, including essential early hits The Only One I Know and Weirdo.

Their 1995 magnum opus The Charlatans (originally titled First Shag In Ages in early promos but now unofficially known as The Black Album) was represented by the sublime Just When Your Thinkin’ Things Over and jubilant Here Comes A Soul Saver.

One To Another, a contender for their greatest song ever, was the ambassador for Tellin’ Stories alongside the Dylan-influenced North Country Boy and the album’s title track.

Notable absences were anything from the just-a-bit-too-ahead-of-its-time Up To Our Hips and the first entirely post-Rob Collins album Us And Us Only which showcased the early talent of latter day organist Tony Rogers.

I fell out with the Charlatans after Us And Us Only when they released the electronic sample heavy Wonderland in 2001, but a broken toe on holiday forced me to review their later back catalogue while confined to my sun lounger and it’s not too shabby.

Simpatico from 2006 is wonderfully eclectic, spanning punk, reggae, soul and R&B. They played Blackened Blue Eyes from the album at The Usher Hall.

I’ve even grown fond of Wonderland, now that I’ve finally got over the death of Hammond hero Collins (it’s only taken 20 years). They played You’re So Pretty in the encore.

Modern Nature is still taking its time to settle in, but it’s as good as anything they’ve done this century (their 1990s releases are just untouchable).

They consciously set out to make a soul record, but few bands can successfully step out of their own oeuvre and it takes a while to get your head around the fact it sounds nothing like Some Friendly.

There are some awesome tracks on there, channelling that late 60s/early 70s soul groove of bands like The Moody Blues, Procul Harum and Dark Side-era Floyd.

There’s brass and broads singing backing vocals, but the production is a little flat. The album was self-produced by The Charlatans themselves, who have become adept at using digital studio software, but it would have benefited from a bit of analog oomph from the likes of Phil Spector.

The brass and broads sadly haven’t accompanied The Charlatans on tour, but a lavish Modern Nature Live album with all the trimmings would really bring out the best in the songs.

Sadly, The Usher Hall was never going to.

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Twilight Sad – Concert Review – Glasgow Barrowlands – December 12 2015

I’m too young and too Scottish to have seen Joy Division.

In truth, most people old enough and Mancunian enough to have had the opportunity weren’t cool enough or weird enough to go and see them in their day either.

The band’s appeal was so limited prior to the death of Ian Curtis that they rarely played outside Manchester, and the prospect of international stardom is thought to have contributed to his suicide on the eve of their first scheduled US tour.

It is left to their imitators to try and capture the atmosphere of those press photos of Curtis’ haunted stare, and rare videos of his unnerving stage presence.

Glasgow band The Twilight Sad are among those that have adopted Joy Division’s introspective post-punk mantle, and much like the band that would become New Order was impossible to stand still throughout much of their set at their triumphant homecoming show at The Barrowlands.

The set was an incongruous mix of beats, soundscapes and cold, observational lyrics which were almost indistinguishable in the noise, making them much less bleak onstage than on record.

Their devoted fan base shuffled along, but a few brave souls let loose and let the beats carry them on.

Singer James Graham was one of them. He has the demeanour of a shoe gazing wallflower sticking his fingers in the electrical socket, one minute standing stock still and the next exploding into staccato bursts of dancing in a performance both restrained and uninhibited.

Industrial volumes of smoke filled the stage through much of the set, atmospherically lit by a few simple coloured strobes and strip lights, making James appear to float above the audience.

The standout track of the night was Cold Days From The Birdhouse, stripped of the twee slide guitar and metronome on the album and leaving just the unnerving sci-fi feedback sample and James’s voice.

The “red sky at night” chorus was greeted with plumes of red smoke, then the strobes kicked in and the crowd roared for the closing freak out as James pounded the air, ducking and diving around the stage.

The Twilight Sad had clearly just about mastered it by their Baby’s All Right Gig in Brooklyn in February, judging by a fan video online, and it was let loose before a sold out home crowd.

James’s emotion at the goodwill blasting back at him was palpable, and he was moved almost to tears at the roars and applause that greeted every song.

“Thank you Glasgow for making a bunch of miserable bastards very happy,” said James as the band closed its set.

There’s something special about watching a band on the cusp of greatness, playing to 2,000 local friends, family and well-wishers before they embark on a US and European tour with The Cure – including three almost sold out nights at Madison Square Garden.

There’s still a few tickets left for the Monday night, so if you’re an occasional Cure fan looking for that extra impetus to head to MSG then the support band will knock your black stockings off.

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Top 50 Songs of 2015

2015, another great year for music.  This year gave us unbelievable music from rock legends, fresh faces, guitar gods, long established bands, artists on the rise and so many more.  For everyone that says, “there is no good music anymore” take a look at our list, the music is definitely out there.

 

1.  Pedestrian at Best – Courtney Barnett

Congrats to Courtney Barnett in grabbing a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.  Unfortunately for her, she probably won’t win because of the idiotic ideals and politics of the forgotten Grammy.  With that being said, she is #1 on our list.  “Pedestrian at Best” is our Song of the Year for 2015 as its lyrically innovative, while also paying homage to good old fashion Rock and Roll.  The riff is like nothing else you’ll hear all year, and will keep your head banging for days.  Most importantly for us, it gets better with each listen, and has an ever lasting impact live.  Congrats to Courtney on a fantastic year!

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2. Young Blood – The Districts

The word “Epic” is an overused term, we get it.  Half of the time it’s not even articulated appropriately, and has even become more of a slang term.  In this instance we don’t give a shit.  “Young Blood” is about as epic as a song can be.  A 10 minute story that plays off like it’s about heartbreak between a girl and boy.  However, what it focuses in on, is lead singer Rob Grote’s personal yearning. Like all of us, we have been in relationships where love fades, for no other reason than its not new, or fresh.  It’s an interesting feeling of disappointment, but also regains your hunger for love.  It’s just like Grote states in the monster finale “It’s a long way down from the top to the bottom, it’s a long way back to a high from where I am” before the pounding drums and wailing guitar display the emotional distress, and thirst for more. 

3. Gospel Radio – Roadside Graves

Roadside Graves’s standout track off their excellent album “Acne/Ears” is a welcome change for fans of the band.  It sticks to the bands core, yet incorporates some synth work that works nicely into the final progression.   However, what really hit home for us are the poignant lyrics that deal with a broken family and a son left with a burden of trying to keep them together as best he can.  It accurately displays the difficulties of divorce, as well as the ups and downs that follow.  What it possibly best explains is the spiritual, as well as, social aspects it can have on not only the family itself, but the world around them. At the end of the track, the song appropriately switches gears, and we get chills every time we hear lead singer John Gleason heartbreakingly proclaim; “Ain’t no static on the Gospel Radio, Everybody paid, everybody paid, everybody paid for a show!!!!”

4. Should Have Known Better – Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens’s career has been wildly unpredictable, but also exceptional.  The journey he takes us down on this years “Carrie and Lowell”   is his best work to date.  It is an extremely personal story between a distant mother and son.  At times existent and other times wishful, these thoughts are translated in to one of the most private stories one has ever put on record.  “Should Have Known Better” best describes that heartbreaking journey, but unlike most of “Carrie and Lowell”, also provides a glimmer of hope or “illumination” as he describes in the end.    More importantly, Sufjan doesn’t shy away from stating that suffering is real and life is hard, and no matter what you should have done, death is imminent.  You need to move on living.

5. Flesh Without Blood – Grimes

Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, may be the most impressive artist on our list this year.  While we continue to live in a pop society that’s dictated by zero talent, she is about as refreshing to this world as one could be.  She single handily writes, produces, and successfully experiments with various music styles, while other pop “artists” relay on a team to do so.  The result is one of the best albums of the year in “Art Angels” and what we think is the staple track “Flesh Without Blood”

6. Dream Lover – Destroyer

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7. Pretty Pimpin – Kurt Vile

8. Speed Trap Town – Jason Isbell

9. No Fear of Hellfire – Nap Eyes

10. Depreston – Courtney Barnett

11. How Could You Babe – Tobias Jesso Jr.

12. Look Up – Mas Ysa

13. 6 AM – The Districts

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14. Julia – Fast Romantics

15. West Coast – FIDLAR

16. Blurred Time – Total Babes

17. Magnetized – Wilco

18. Coming Home – Leon Bridges

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19. Living Zoo – Built To Spill

20. Something – Julien Baker

21. Howling At Nothing – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

22. Corner – Night Beds

23. In Films – Chromatics

24. Something Soon – Car Seat Headrest

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25. Cutting My Fingers Off – Turnover

26. Aerobed – Cymbals Eat Guitars

27. Night of the First Show – Nap Eyes

28. Lonesome Street – Blur

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29. Sedona – Houndmouth

30. Loud Places – Jamie xx

31. Lover Come Back – City and Colour

32. Lousy Connection – Ezra Furman

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33. Silver Car Crash – Majical Cloudz

34. I Don’t Mind – Twerps

35. Let It Happen – Tame Impala

36. Lock All The Doors – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

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37. City on the Hill – Desaparecidos

38. The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment – Father John Misty

39. Highway Patrol Stun Gun – Youth Lagoon

40. Fired Up – Titus Andronicus

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41. Willow Lane – Ryan Adams

42. Things Happen – Dawes

43. Realiti – Grimes

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44. Wastes of Time – Elvis Depressedly

45. 24 Frames – Jason Isbell

46. Margarita – Mas Ysa

47. Bad Blood – Ryan Adams

48. Let It Go – James Bay

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49. Silent Key – Frank Turner

50. Trouble – Keith Richards

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