Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Top 10 Albums 2014

To be fair, I don't really care too much about year lists. They don't mean a lot, even though many music magazines aggregate them from many personal lists of people in the industry. But they aren't saying that much, especially when it comes to albums that are not in the top 3. At most the top 3 are albums that are generally considered favourable this year. But people tend to like those lists and ask about them. Since I'm a writer for FestivalInfo and ROAR E-Zine I also have to send in my top ten for their list. So without too many more words, here's mine. Have a great 2015! See you on the other side.

1. The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream
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2. Shaking Godspeed - Welcome Back Wolf
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3. Temples - Sun Structures
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4. Spoon - They Want My Soul
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5. Future Islands - Singles
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6. Ty Segall - Manipulator

7. Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots
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8. Beck - Morning Phase
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9. Fratsen - Caspar

10. TV On The Radio - Seeds
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Monday, 29 December 2014

Spinning: Hookworms - The Hum

Within two years after their first album Pearl Mystic English collective Hookworms already dropped its successor. The new release, The Hum, shows the band has made a lot of progress. The debut was a dark and exciting record, but also somewhat out of balance. On the new album the band are more in control and the songs more finished and focused, without losing strength.

Hookworms - The Hum

The title of the record is a reference to the phenomenon that some people hear a continuous low hum, that varies from being annoying to intolerable and driving some of them crazy. The band uses a lot of "drones" in their music, repeating elements that, like this "hum", keep on playing imperturbably. The band emphases this with short tracks in between the songs, that keep playing such a drone. These tracks are simply noted with a Roman numeral like on the previous record and are sequentially numbered, continuing from the debut. An example is 'iv', where the guitar feedback keeps ringing. Many songs are glued together like this, making the record keep its momentum.

This is quite clever and it slowly transforms the sometimes heavy songs and emphases the repetition. It gives the record its coherence and it's where the band made big steps. Fortunately the punkrock influences and sometimes hysterical vocals remain, like in the opening song 'The Impasse'. In 'Beginners' we can hear an organ, that keeps on playing louder in 'v' and then continues in 'Off Screen' on a normal volume. This way the songs are forged together again into one piece. The now and then derailed organ returns more often and elements like this add exciting moments.

It turns The Hum into an intriguing record, that won't get boring quickly. Hookworms seem to have found their identity and strength, and deservedly turn up in several end of the year lists. Live on stage this should result in an interesting performance as well, so keep an eye on this band and their tour schedule.

This review has been published on Festivalinfo in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'The Hum' on Spotify.

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Monday, 22 December 2014

On Stage: dEUS

Twenty years ago Belgian band dEUS formed and surprised pleasantly with creative experimental rock songs. They soon evolved into one of the most admired and successful Belgian bands both in their own country as far across the borders. In order to celebrate their anniversary they are doing a series of club shows. And a night with dEUS is always a treat, especially when you know you'll get the best of the best.

dEUS at Paradiso Amsterdam, December 18 2014

Everyone here tonight knows we can expect a greatest hit show, an overview of what dEUS was all about the past two decades. So the set list may not pack many surprises, but it is simply wonderful to hear all those classics in one night. And when you hear fan favourites like 'Instant Street' and 'Hotel Lounge' you can only watch and listen in awe how relevant and strong those songs still are.

But most of all, once more you notice what an extraordinary band this is. So many good songs in twenty years, it just keeps going on and on. Hearing those compositions back to back, it is clear that their catalog is of unique quality. The current line-up has the longest streak of all dEUS line-ups so far and still looks very stable. The musicians work so well together and only need to look at each other to see what's going on. A tedious cable? It doesn't worry any of them, they have seen it all.

And so front man and master mind Tom Barman looks very pleased and relaxed tonight as well. And for good reason since it's a celebration and nothing can get anyone down. They fly through the set smoothly and only take a small break in the middle of the set when they bring 'The Magic Hour', 'Secret Hell' and 'Smokers Reflect' acoustically. It is a sneak preview of the tour they have planned end of next year.

Then it's time to pick it back up again, since the crowd is getting restless. We get exactly what we want, a grooving 'Quatre Mains' and the perfect duo 'Nothing Really Ends' that flows into 'Bad Timing' like on the album Pocket Revolution. The wild young lads in front of the stage that are jumping around throughout the whole gig get one more chance to go nuts in the encore that of course ends with 'Suds & Soda'. And since this is a birthday party, Barman invites everyone over to join the band on stage for one final celebration. At least twenty more years please!

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01. Via
02. The Architect
03. Constant Now
04. Eternal Woman
05. Instant Street
06. Fell Off the Floor, Man
07. Girls Keep Drinking
08. Morticiachair
09. The Magic Hour
10. Secret Hell
11. Smokers Reflect
12. Little Arithmetics
13. If You Don’t Get What You Want
14. Quatre Mains
15. Sun Ra
16. Hotellounge (Be the Death of Me)
17. Nothing Really Ends
18. Bad Timing
19. Theme From Turnpike
20. Roses
21. Suds & Soda

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Friday, 12 December 2014

On Stage: The Deaf

When you're a musician and have some time to spare what do you do? You start another band. All members of The Deaf are in separate musical projects but still have time left to play together. If you think that means this is just for fun and nothing serious then think again. Just listen to their new album Deaf and you will hear that besides the fun they obviously have playing together, the music also is top notch.

The Deaf at Paradiso Amsterdam, December 10 2014

Live on stage this is nothing different. The band, fronted by Di-rect guitarist Spike, are playing with a lot of heart. Spike, or Frans van Zoest, is asking time and time again how everyone is doing and if we're having a good time. It's obvious he's not too happy with the somewhat reserved response and so he keeps firing up everyone until at the end of the show half of the hall is dancing to their catchy rock songs.

Since it's really hard to stand still to their energetic and convincing rock music, founded on good old rock 'n roll and punk. Many songs are up tempo and are asking for your best dance moves. Live they sound as tight as on the record and played with so much enthusiasm it gains even more power. Once and a while bass player Janneke Nijhuijs is singing lead vocals and Spike moves to the back where he continues to scourge his guitar. In case you didn't know, this guy knows how to handle his six string well.

Now and then the foursome throws in a more quiet song, a moment to relax and for themselves to catch their breath. Then it's full speed ahead again, where they will never let the momentum slip or are slumping. This band is on fire, and won't rest until they have won everyone over. All four of them show the right amount of skills, heart and energy that I am looking for in a performance. After an hour it's time for an encore where they knock out three more songs before they leave the stage for a well deserved drink.

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Friday, 5 December 2014

Spinning: TV On The Radio - Seeds

Slowly Brooklyn Collective TV On The Radio have been transforming their sound during the course of their existence. From the slightly rough and experimental sound in the beginning into a more accessible sound you can hear on their last album Nine Types Of Light. It resulted in a larger fan base although they lost some down the road because of this transformation. But it keeps me looking forward to new music from the band, so it's good news they have released their fifth record Seeds.

TV On The Radio - Seeds

On this album they are trying to balance their sound even more, patiently crafting their songs. You can hear this in songs like 'Test Pilot' and 'Ride' where they carefully build them up, layer by layer. Effectively they know how to create the right atmosphere for the tracks. It results in another colourful and detailed record which once again shows their talent and skill. They didn't get rid of the experiment completely, but it's evened out more. Some may regard this as less adventurous, but that's not entirely fair. The band just uses it less frequently, making those moments stronger, like they do with other elements. Patience is a virtue my friend and yes, this is the concept of "less is more" which totally works for them.

It doesn't mean they have completely lost some of the roughness of the earlier songs, although they do pace themselves a lot more. But a song like 'Lazerray' is a more old style straightforward track, that has plenty of impact between the other ones. Making use of lots of electronic drums and effects, many songs get a bit of mechanic feel but at the same time sound swinging. Together with the soulful vocals it sometimes results in a nice contrast and somewhat awkward atmosphere, like in title track 'Seeds', but in a good way.

Seeds shows TV On The Radio are still trying to find the right balance in their sound and music. They keep shaving their compositions until they eventually will make it perfect. It's not quite their yet, but they have taken another step. It doesn't make this record necessarily better or worse than previous ones, but it's an obvious step into the right direction. I'm confident they will find the perfect balance some day. Until then great and interesting albums like this one will keep us more than busy.

Listen to 'Seeds' on Spotify.

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