Not to be outdone by those good folks over at Dot Dash here are five albums that moved me this year and one that didn’t.
Ty Segall: Manipulator
The brilliant Sound Opinions podcast where Greg Kot and Jim De Rogatis hold forth on all matters music is where I get most of my new beats these days. The boys reviewed San Franciscan native Ty Segall’s new offering a couple of months back and a few bars into The Clock I was hooked. The guitar riff is Mick Ronsonesque and it’s not pushing it to say that it would fit nicely on either Hunky Dory or Aladdin Sane. Throw in a bit of T-Rex and a Tony Iommi lick or two and you’re getting there. Hardly relevant to the music but Segall does remind me of the “Scorpio” killer from Dirty Harry played by Andy Robinson. Maybe that’s where his edge comes from.
Real Estate: Atlas
It’s no coincidince that the person who introduced me to Real Estate also introduced me to the marvellous music of the mighty Teenage Fanclub 17 years ago. I caught them with my great mate Bobo in Whelans at the end of May and as their gorgeous sound washed over me I heard the Go Betweens, The Byrds, Steve Kilbey, R.E.M, and Norman Blake all rolled into one. It’s very hard not to be moved by the warm sound of Atlas but it isn’t all peaches and cream as the underlying tone of the music is sadness as the boys take a wistful look at life rolling by and aren’t able to do anything about it. Past Lives is the song that resonates the most and captures that strange feeling of passing an ex’s old stomping ground better than any other.
Mark Lanegan: Phantom Radio
Mark Lanegan is “the voice.” Lots of whiskey, cigarettes, a bit of heroin thrown in there along with meths. If I could sing, I’d like to sing like him. Some compare him to Tom Waits but when I hear him I’m always reminded of Luke Kelly. In fact, I’d love to hear him give Scorn Not his Simplicity a go. His excellent solo output since 1990’s The Winding Sheet has been overshadowed by his high profile collaborations with the Queens of the Stone Age and Isobel Campbell, and that’s a shame. This year’s Phantom Radio continues the synthy approach introduced on 2012’s Blues Funeral and in Harvest Home, Floor of the Ocean and The Killing Season Lanegan has penned tracks that are the equal of anything else in his cannon.
Bob Mould: Beauty and Ruin
The last few years have felt a bit like the early nineties and some of that may be down to Bob Mould continuing on a hot streak similar to his brilliant Sugar period. The music journos hyped 2012’s Silver Age to be Copper Blue reincarnate and a rebirth. Not sure about that. It’s a great listen and definitely up there with his best in terms of consistency from beginning to end, but District Line (2008) and Life and Times (2009) were practically its equal and I’m struggling to find anything on it that is as good as Who Needs to Dream or City Lights (Days Go By) – to these ears, two of the finest tracks he’s recorded. Beauty and Ruin may not have the immediacy of Silver Age but as the months have passed I’ve been reaching for it more and more. There are nods to practically every phase of his career with personal favourite Nemeses Are Laughing almost a reprise of Copper Blue’s Slick. I don’t think anyone has ever blended the beautiful with the nasty as compellingly as Bob and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
Ex Hex: Rips
I could listen to every garage rock album ever made and find something to like. Ex Hex, Mary Timony’s latest project does nothing new and that’s fine. Don’t let the Joan Jett and Elastica comparisons put you off. It’s as addictive as crack from beginning to end and guaranteed to get you a speeding fine if you play it too loud in the car. It could have been released at any time in the last 35 years and tracks like Waterfall wouldn’t feel out of place on Blondie’s Parallel Lines
Rancid: Honor is All We Know
I revisited Rancid’s Clash pastiches ….and Out Come the Wolves (1995) and Life Won’t Wait (1998) this year and probably played them more than when I first heard them. They’re fantastic punk albums. I was in a good place then to forgive them for releasing the awfully titled Honor is All We Know – their first in 5 years. In keeping with the name, they’ve produced in Neil Young’s words a “piece of crap” that sounds as forced and unimaginative as guitarist Lars Frederiksen’s love of Milwall football club – I wonder how many times he’s actually visited the New Den. Rancid was always about good catchy punk tunes and there are none on this.
And on that note, Happy Christmas everyone!