Thursday 27 December 2012

Top 10 Albums 2012

Throughout the year I keep a list of records that potentially can make my top ten year list, that I have to make for ROAR E-Zine every year. I extract the final list from it, which will change several times before I'm happy with it. It's a hell of a job that causes me many headaches.

01. Tame Impala - Lonerism
This year's top position was clear right after playing Tame Impala's record a few times. Lonerism is a master piece, a great trip from start to finish.
Play in Spotify

02. Shaking Godspeed - Hoera
Quite a few Dutch productions made it into my concept list. But Shaking Godspeed had to end high. These guys have so much power and Hoera is a delicious rock album.
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03. Jack White - Blunderbuss
With Blunderbuss Jack White is showing that he can make great music all by himself as well and is proving once more to be a musical genius.
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04. Deftones - Koi No Yokan
Suddenly Deftones came up with a terrific album. Just in time to make it into this list. Koi No Yokan is one of the best albums in their impressive catalogue and may even challenge White Pony.
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05. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
Out of nowhere came Alabama Shakes with their mix of blues, soul and rock. They were the talk of the town and with this record showed this was completely justified.
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06. Toy - Toy
This London band debuted with their eponymous record full of great, eighties inspired psychedelic shoegaze songs.
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07. Benjamin Herman - Deal
Saxophone player Benjamin Herman took care of the soundtrack for the Dutch movie Deal and did a brilliant job. It resulted in beautiful movie music, proving once more that he's one of the best musicians in this country.
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08. The Horse Company - Calypso
Also from The Netherlands, this band from Zwolle surprised with a gorgeous album filled with atmospheric rock songs.
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09. Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
British soul man Michael Kiwanuka released a beautiful album. Home Again may not always be consistent, but it's a great recording nevertheless and Kiwanuka's voice and songs are just lush.
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10. Blaudzun - Heavy Flowers
Dutch musician Blaudzun established himself as one of the most remarkable and most talented artists in our country.
Play in Spotify

There you have it, ten beauties. There were so many more great albums, which makes it so hard and a bit unfair to only name ten. Time for some aspirin now and bring up 2013! Happy New Year!

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Friday 21 December 2012

Aging De Dijk Never Getting Old

Yes it's that time of the year again, De Dijk playing Paradiso. This time I'll let the pictures do the talking. You can read about past shows over here, there's not much difference between them. But every time they're great, playing some brilliant music and creating a beuatiful and cheerful atmosphere. The band is taking a well earned one year sabbatical, so next year we'll have to look for some other form of entertainment halfway December. And of course we'll back for them in 2014.

De Dijk at Paradiso Amsterdam, December 15 2012

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Saturday 15 December 2012

The Horse Company and Phantom Limb Warm Up Club Ziggo

The Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam can hold over 15,000 people. Attached to it is a small stage called Club Ziggo where a lot is happening as well. It is mostly used for special show cases, where the entrance is free when you can get on the guest list. When The Horse Company and Phantom Limb were announced, I made sure I was on it.

The Horse Company at Club Ziggo Amsterdam, December 9 2012
These guys from the town Zwolle in The Netherlands took me by surprise this year. They released a great album Calypso, which turned out to be their third. Somehow they flew below my radar for the past years, so I took this chance to check them out for the first time.

Club Ziggo feels like a cold place lacking atmosphere. The Horse Company know how to turn this around with their warm rock songs. The focused musicians are calmly playing their skilful songs, that sound just as good as on their record. It's a blend of Americana, pop, rock and country. Some songs start tiny but slowly grow into grooving rock songs. I'm definitely going to get me their first two albums as well and keep a close eye on this band.

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Phantom Limb at Club Ziggo Amsterdam, December 9 2012
The English band made a huge impression on Lowlands this year, where they were filling in for a cancellation at the last minute. Not the least because of singer Yolanda Quartey's strong voice. Although their music, soul mixed with country and gospel, isn't quite my taste it was a treat to see them again. And they would even play two sets: an acoustic and an electric set.

In the acoustic set, the band is laying down the perfect foundation for Quartey to excel. Her voice is really impressive, so strong with a lot of depth. The electric set shows that the band have a lot to add. They make the music breath and offer just enough counterweight to their singer to nicely balance the sound. Once again I'm impressed with this band and even though it may not exactly be my cup of tea I feel the urge to buy their CD that Quartey is happy to sign for me.

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It has been a very good night on a bit of a bleak location. That's too bad since the initiative is a great way to watch bands from up close and for them to present themselves. So I'm definitely in for a next time.
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Wednesday 12 December 2012

Colourful Yeasayer

You have got to give Brooklyn band Yeasayer credit for trying to reinvent themselves on all three albums they released so far. After the highly successful second one, Odd Blood, they travelled into a different direction again. Fragrant World sounds more electronic and for some fans this is hard to get used to. How is this band going to put this together live on stage?

Yeasayer at Paradiso Amsterdam, December 5 2012

Well, they need a lot of equipment apparently. Paradiso's main stage is full of keyboards, samplers, drum machines and other electronics. Together with a huge backdrop, consisting of numerous triangular mirrors, and colourful lights there's hardly any room for the band members themselves. When the show takes off it's clear right away how effective these lighting effects are. Together with the new electronic direction it's as if we're looking into the future.

One thing that sticks out is that there's no drum kit any more. New drummer Cale Parks is not seated but is standing in the middle, surrounded by samplers, drum machines, pads, cymbals and some drums mounted to a rack. He's playing them ceaselessly during the show, producing great beats and rhythms. Contrary what you may think the music still sounds human, which is quite impressive. Every band member has transformed his sound accordingly. Anand Wilder's guitar produces synth like sounds instead of guitar riffs, while it's hard to believe what Ira Wolf Tuton is able to make his bass sound like.

Songs of Fragrant World sound very organic live. The gentle 'Henrietta' has gained more depth. It's hard not to move to 'Fingers Never Bleed' and 'Demon Road' with their groovy tribal like drums. Older songs got new arrangements so they fit in as well. 'Wait For The Summer' never sounded better. From time to time it's almost like everyone is a bit stunned by the music and the colourful lights. Chris Keating is telling us so many times how much they love playing here, that it's hard to believe him. But after an impressive one hour regular set and a half hour encore, it's easy to forgive him.

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1. Blue Paper
2. Henrietta
3. 2080
4. Longevity
5. O.N.E.
6. Don't Come Close
7. Madder Red
8. Demon Road
9. Wait for the Summer
10. Reagan's Skeleton
11. Ambling Alp
12. Fingers Never Bleed
13. Devil and the Deed
14. Tightrope
15. Folk Hero Shtick

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Sunday 9 December 2012

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Come Back Hard

For over twenty years The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have been making gritty blues rock mixed with several other styles. This resulted in many a good record. They also weren't afraid to experiment. In 2005 the threesome decided to take a break. Now they are back with a new record, Meat And Bone, the first one in eight years. And they want us to know they are back!

The John Spencer Blues Explosion - Meat And Bone (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

The record opens convincingly with the hard rocking 'Black Mold' to be continued with an honest blues rock song 'Bag Of Bones' including the harmonica. But still these songs are just a warmup for the rest of the album. Because in 'Boot Cut' the band is really getting loose. An irresistible distorted bass riff is keeping the lovely rough song together, which is also provided with some spacy sounds. It is followed by a whole range of great songs: the swinging 'Get Your Pants Off' wíth cowbell and the nasty 'Strange Baby', the great 'Danger' that reminds of The Rolling Stones on speed now and then.

Only towards the end of the record is the band taking it a bit more slow in the ballad 'Unclear'. You need this break, because they have been rocking hard for nine songs straight at that point. The instrumental 'Zimgar', a somewhat experimental swinging song, is the worthy closing track. It's quite an insane ride the gents are treating us to. But it's one that stays interesting throughout. They are living up to their name, because the mix of styles with emphasis on great dirty garage rock, results in an explosive mixture beyond control. It is about to burst anytime and just has to explode in the end. Added to that is some healthy tongue in cheek.

Without a doubt it is fair to say that Jon Spencer and his Blues Explosion truly have returned. Their break must have done them well, because the threesome sound very energetic and convincing. At the end of last month they started a short tour in Europe, but unfortunately excluding The Netherlands for now. This is too bad since the new songs will most definitely go down well live too.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

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Monday 3 December 2012

Soundgarden Reclaim Their Throne

In the heyday of the grunge era in the nineties, Soundgarden were one of the most creative bands out there. The band threw some stoner and psychedelic influences in the mix resulting in a big and heavy sludgy sound. That slowly transformed into a more polished and balanced sound and peaked at the epic albums Badmotorfinger and Superunknown. After disbanding in '97 the band now returns with a new album King Animal.

Soundgarden - King Animal (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

After the band fell apart, drummer Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam. Singer Chris Cornell chased a solo career that got off to a promising start but reached an alltime low with the collaboration with Timbaland and the dreadful album Scream. He was more successful in Audioslave halfway his solo attempts. Guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd kind of disappeared from the spot lights. In 2010 the band announced their reunion and after a few shows revealed the work on a new album.

These kind of band reunions can have dubious results. Musicians are often chasing faded glory and releasing music that is just a shallow copy of what used to be. When playing King Animal, the album opener doesn't promise much. 'Been Away Too Long', also the first single, isn't bad, but sounds pale compared to their old work. It's a polished rock song with some good bits, but already is forgotten when it's finished. Fortunately after that the old band is picking it up. Next song 'Non-State Actor' already sounds familiar after a few seconds with a killer riff and Chris Cornell screaming. It turns into a great heavy stoner-like song with Cornell whaling like in the old days.

The album holds more songs that definitely are great additions to the Soundgarden catalogue, including the occasional time scale tricks we know so well like in 'By Crooked Steps'. 'Blood On The Valley Floor' is an old fashioned slow heavy groover. 'Worse Dreams' is a no nonsense straightforward rock song. Some of the slower songs show what they are all about: 'Bones Of Birds' has every band member at its best and probably is the best song on the album. 'Eyelids Mouth' has Soundgarden written all over it. There are a few misses as well though, 'Attrition' really sounds like filler material.

All in all this is not a bad start for a reunited band. They didn't try to recapture the old glory days but really went out there to make a good rock album. Especially the fans will be relieved and pleased to hear Soundgarden still is up there with the best.

Listen to 'King Animal' on Spotify.

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