Saturday, 31 December 2011

Schönbys 2011 - Best album

The Schönbys are fictional, made-up awards for me to let you know what I've enjoyed listening to during 2011. Winners and nominations are drawn from music I have seen, heard or bought during the preceding 12 months.

2010, to me, seemed a poor year for music. When it came to choosing my top albums of the year I struggled to come up with a top 5. Was it a general dearth of good music, or just the fact that having a young baby meant I had other things on my mind? Maybe both these things transpired to cause me to buy precious little music. In order to make sure 2011 didn't go the same way I vowed to purchase at least 12 albums in the year, one a month if possible, so that I could get to this point in the year with a considered view on the best album of the year to share with you.
In the end I bought 18 albums, and had access to a few more, so here, for your delight, or ridicule, or (hopefully) comments, is my top 10 of the year.

10. Young Knives - Ornaments From a Silver Arcade
Young Knives' third full-length album may have only reached #80 (and lasted only 1 week) in the official album charts, but displays a progression from their early rawness, whilst still keeping the infectious riffs and humorous lyrics.

Stand out track: Human Again
Young Knives - Human Again by

9. Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!
I would get lynched if I didn't include Elbow in my top 10 of the year. Could easily have been a shadow of 2008's Seldom Seen Kid, but stands up well. A poignant, compelling story throughout.

Stand out track: Lippy Kids
Elbow - Lippy Kids by gwehen

8. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From...
Initial disappointment that The Vaccine's debut album was not 11 versions of 'Wreckin' Bar' was slowly but surely replaced by an appreciation of the indie pop melodies. Not punk, but still well worth a listen.

Stand out track: Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra) by The Vaccines

7. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
I came late to the Mercury Music Prize winner, but listened to it almost continuously whilst on business in the South of Italy. Wilfred Owen with a guitar, this album is classic Polly Jean; sad, soulful and uplifting all at the same time.

Stand out track: The Last Living Rose
The Last Living Rose by PJ Harvey by coolhunting

6. White Lies - Ritual
It seems an age since White Lies released their second album. To many this was not a patch on the debut album but to me it was an obvious progression towards a more electronic feel to the music. Think more Depeche Mode than Joy Division.

Stand out track: Is Love

5. The Horrors - Skying
Another band attempting to better a previous Mercury Prize nomination this year were The Horrors. I guess there was quite a bit of hype surrounding this release, and when 'Still Life' was released I knew that the album would be close to another classic. The Horrors are become somewhat of a chameleon band, the style of each of their three albums so far have been distinctly different, and some compared this particular incarnation to Simple Minds. There are some early Simple Minds influences in the album, yes, but why is that a bad thing?

Stand out track: Endless Blue (but I can't find it to stream so here's Still Life)
The Horrors - Still Life by The Recommender

4. White Denim - D
I was amazed to find out that White Denim were formed in 2006 and had six studio albums to date, as previous to the release of 'D' they were not on my radar. That could have something to do with the continuous metamorphosis from punky, garage band to fully fledged 70s americana. The album is a collection of fantastic riffs and cool, lazy vocals.

Stand out track: Bess St.
White Denim - Bess St by ProspectPark

3. The Strokes - Angles
I've already waxed lyrical about the return of the Strokes. The band won this blog site's album of the decade with it's 2001 debut release, but since then there's been a steady decline in the quality of the bands output. Cue an extensive break and band members' solo projects, and then just when everyone was finally forgetting about The Stokes, bang! They release 'Angles' and they're back to their best. The album returns to the basics of 'Is this It' without the layers of overproduction and has some very catchy tunes.

Stand out track: Under Cover of Darkness
Strokes - Under Cover Of Darkness by flogase

2. Metronomy - English Riviera
Looking around the internet, I can't add anything to the plaudits that this album has received. The third release from Devon's finest really brought them from electronic experimental instrumentalists to the doorstep of mainstream. Don't take my word for it, this is what the NME wrote; "With this, his third full-length album, Joe Mount has transformed his Metronomy project from a jaunty, brilliant, yet ultimately niche electro outfit into one of the most expansive and visionary pop bands in the country"

Stand out track: The Bay (downloadable)
Metronomy - The Bay by acrylica

1. Pete and the Pirates - One Thousand Pictures
I wasn't interested in Pete and the Pirates' first album release in 2008, I thought they were forgettable indie pop, however after the release of 'Winter' and 'Come to the Bar' I realised that this indie pop had an edge to it, and the more I listened the more I could hear the post-punk suburban rock of The Buzzcocks or The Undertones in there. The album does not have one bad song on it, why it only reached #75 in the official charts is beyond me. Anyway, I hope the stand out track below will change your view of Pete and the Pirates like it did me.

Stand out track: Half Moon Street (listen to Blood Gets Thin too, but it's not on Soundcloud) Pete and The Pirates - Half Moon Street by Jaumita

Fairly decent top 10 don't you think? No? Well, if you want to tell me where I went wrong then leave a comment with your top 10 - we can compare and contrast.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Schönbys 2011 - Best single

The Schönbys are fictional, made-up awards for me to let you know what I've enjoyed listening to during 2011. Winners and nominations are drawn from music I have seen, heard or bought during the preceding 12 months.

2011 has been a great year for the single, so great that I came up with 15 songs for my top 5 singles of the year. It really was difficult to choose, my first attempt at picking my favourite 5 resulted in an all-female line-up. However, I don't want to be accused of sexism like the Sports Personality of the Year people (congratulations Mark Cavendish by the way!) so I had a few more goes at it before finally arriving at my final choice below.

Those not quite lucky enough to make the top 5 are:

Anna Calvi - Blackout
Tom Vek - Aroused
Pete and the Pirates - Come to the Bar
Young Knives - Love my Name
Kasabian  - Days are Forgotten
Chapel Club - Surfacing
Arctic Monkeys - Don't Sit Down Cause I've Moved Your Chair
Ghostpoet - Survive It
Justice - Civilization
Friends - I'm his Girl

The top 5 are:

Don't Look At Me (I Don't Like It) - The Lovely Eggs

The Lovely Eggs may not make it onto many end of year lists, but "the sausage roll thumb song" was most played on my iPod, primarily down to my 3-year old daughter adopting it as her song of the year. The song is catchy, fun and quirky - perfect for a little girl to jump around to, but delivered with edgy, punky guitars and colloquial vocals (perfect for an ageing rocker like me). You'll either love it or hate it, why not find out?

Don't look at me (I don't like it) by The Lovely Eggs

Still Life - The Horrors

I loved the last Horrors album, Primary Colours, and was worried that any new material would never live up to their mercury prize nominated 2009 release. When Still Life was aired this year, I knew that I shouldn't have worried. A lot of press likened the single's sound to Simple Minds, which in my opinion wasn't a bad thing. From the backwards, swirling opening to the anthemic chorus, this track is a classic.

The Horrors - Still life (BBC session) by mysteryfallsdown

Everything Goes My Way - Metronomy

Metronomy have already scooped my 'best live act' award this year, but their set at the Leadmill in Sheffield didn't include this track. This, I'm guessing, is because the track would not be the same without the guest vocals of Veronica Falls frontwoman Roxane Clifford. There are many great songs on the English Riviera, but Roxanne's vocals bring another layer to the already complex sound.

Metronomy - Everything Goes My Way by dustblaze

Is and Is and Is - White Denim

White Denim are on their fourth album apparently, but this song was my first taste of them. When I heard it on the radio, with it's prog-rock arrangement and powerful riffs, I just had to hear the rest of the album, and it didn't disappoint. If you like things like Wolfmother and, well, I can't think of anyone else, then you'll like this.

And the winner is...

Video Games - Lana del Rey

In a year when Adele made the album that adorns every middle-class coffee table up and down the country and female vocalists became commonplace in the alternative and indie charts, this track stood out above them all. Should it worry me that Lana del Rey (not her real name) is not the "resident of a New Jersey trailer park recently emerged from smalltown USA" that her record company blog stated, but the daughter of an internet millionaire? Probably, but the song sounds great.

Lana Del Rey - Video Games by The Vinyl District

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Merry Christmas!

This is a pre-recorded post, so please don't get in touch as I'm not here.

So it's Christmas day, and I'm guessing that by now you're sick to your back teeth with The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, The Waitresses and Jona Lewie, so here's one of my favourite 'alternative' Christmas songs, kudos to Billy2Tails for introducing me to this great track.

Merry Christmas and a music-filled New Year to all of our listeners!

Space Christmas by Shonen Knife

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A quick playlist for the holidays

In order for me to attempt to get some use out of my (increasingly) neglected iPod, I tend to put short playlists together of tracks that I'm currently listening to, so that I can turn the radio off on the way to work and enjoy some cool tunes without the banal chat you tend to get in the morning. My commute is less than an hour, so between 10 and 20 tracks does it perfectly.

So that I can keep up my promise of at least one post per week, I've decided to post this playlist to keep your appetites whetted before I share with you best single and best album of 2011 (due to be posted between Christmas and New Year).

Anyway, this is the playlist that will be on repeat when Mrs Schönberg and I take the Schönberinos down to see Jal and Co for Christmas. It is made up in the main of tracks introduced to me by the great man himself.

Let me (and Jal) know if any take your fancy. Enjoy!

Blue Cassette - Friendly Fires
True Romance - Citizens!
Think Tank - Coastal Cities
The Dark - Peace
Origins - Tennis
Death by Diamonds and Pearls - Band of Skulls
Lonely Boy - Black Keys
Raw Meat - Black Lips (with thanks to Fuck Yeah! Go Team!)

(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing by Field Music
If you hurry, you can download this fantastic track for free from the band's website here.

The Maccabees - Pelican (Official Audio) by leonardalbert

Friday, 16 December 2011

Schönbys 2011 - Best new artist

The Schönbys are fictional, made-up awards for me to let you know what I've enjoyed listening to during 2011. Winners and nominations are drawn from music I have seen, heard or bought during the preceding 12 months.

The next award is for best new artist, but what is a 'new artist'? I can't profess to ever being there at the beginning of any band, so my definition of 'new' is a band, possibly unsigned but not essential, who have released their first official recording in 2011. As I said before, crystal ball gazing is not one of my strong points so the list of new acts that I've happened to spend money on this year will be small. But, lets have a look anyway.

Hmmm, Chapel Club, Vaccines, Yuck, etc, all had debut albums this year but all had releases in 2010 so they don't count. Jonny released their debut album in 2011, which was a welcome interlude from the serious, heavy guitar based music I was listening to early on in the year, but I can't possibly call Norman Blake and Euros Childs 'newcomers' so it really leaves the award as a one horse race.

It's such a pity that This Many Boyfriends released 'Getting a life with...' in 2010, as otherwise they may have been a contender for the new artist award. Sounding like a poppy version of the Wedding Present, they sing songs of love and relationships in an infectious indie/punk style.  Their 2011 debut single release 'Young Lovers Go Pop' was likened to the Cribs by Steve Lamacq, and hailed as an indie anthem by others. Tragedy struck the band late in the year with the sudden passing of guitarist Peter Sykes, but I'm glad that they are honouring his memory by continuing as a band and I expect to hear a lot more from them in 2012.

Young Lovers Go Pop! by This Many Boyfriends

So it seems that the only artist that I have had some interaction with this year that can truely be called a new artist is Fear of Men. I paid to see them in Leeds this year and was pleasantly surprised by their sound. I would liken them to The Smiths fronted by Sonya Madan (from Echobelly), or maybe The Sundays at a push. Their cover art and demo names are also reminiscent of Morrissey and The Smiths, tipping a hat to their obvious literary background. Oh, and the guitarist wears nice t-shirts. So congratulations, Fear of Men, hope to see some fantastic releases in 2012.

Ritual Confession by FEAROFMEN

There were other notable new artists this year (kudos to Cults, Fiction and I Break Horses), unfortunately my enjoyment of these bands was through the medium of radio only.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

All I want for Christmas...

I've made my first iTunes purchase with my recently-redeemed voucher that I told you about earlier this month. I made my purchase after dreaming about the song last night. I say dream, what I mean is it was the song going round my head at 3am whilst sat up listening to my young boy babbling to himself.

Lonely Boy is the first single from the seventh album released by The Black Keys earlier this month. I would have bought the whole album, but you can't go doing rash things like that this close to Christmas, can you? If you've never heard The Black Keys then seven albums is a bit daunting to wade through, so I would have a listen to their latest stuff and, if you like, check out their 2004 album 'Rubber Factory' to get a good synopsis.

Anyway, I'm off to give my earworm a spin...

The Black Keys - Lonely Boy by MMMusic

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Schönbys 2011 - Best International Act

The Schönbys are fictional, made-up awards for me to let you know what I've enjoyed listening to during 2011. Winners and nominations are drawn from music I have seen, heard or bought during the preceding 12 months.

The second award is Best International Act. Here's the measily list I had to choose from; gigs from Band of Horses, Warpaint, Phosphorescent and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, albums from White Denim, The Strokes, Foo Fighters and Airborne Toxic Event, singles from Beastie Boys and Friends.

I must admit that I've been fairly non-plussed by the overseas showing this year, especially as looking at the list above, they're all from the good ole U S of A. However, I have been mightily impressed with The White Denim album from this year (D) which may possibly get a mention in another award category, but the biggest success from the United States this year has got to be the re-awakening of The Strokes.

Angles has got to be one of the best returns from hibernation ever. Apparently, the band recorded the album in 2009, but didn't get round to releasing it until 2011 after disagreements over the album's readiness. Amazingly, until the release of the album and the subsequent tour, it had been 5 years since the band had taken to the stage together. Anyway the album, for me, is classic Strokes.

The Strokes - Machu Picchu by UKPlaylist

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Schönbys 2011 - Best Live Act

The Schönbys are fictional, made-up awards for me to let you know what I've enjoyed listening to during 2011. Winners and nominations are drawn from music I have seen, heard or bought during the preceding 12 months.

The first award is Best Live Act. Here's the list I had to choose from; Goldheart Assembly, Mojave 3, Band of Horses, Oxo Foxo, Laura J Martin, Jonny, Warpaint, Fiction, Metronomy, Yuck, Phosphorescent, Ash, Los Campesinos!, Futureheads, Dananananackroyd, Standard Fare, This Many Boyfriends, Fear of Men, Dutch Uncles, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Ringo Deathstarr and Outfit.

Notable commendations go to:

Band of Horses - Leeds O2 Academy (Town and Country Club)
If there was a sub-award for 'live act that made me shed a little tear' it would have to be Band of Horses. The gig was everything that you would expect from BoH; tight playing and fantastic harmonies, and a bit of humour thrown in for good measure (the "de jour of the day" cover of a Neil Young classic was particularly noteworthy), but the crowning glory was the acoustic rendition of 'Evening Kitchen' played through just one microphone - simply awe-inspiring.

Evening Kitchen by bandofhorses

Laura J Martin - Sheffield Harley
I wasn't expecting to see Laura J Martin. There was no talk of support for Norman Blake and Euros Childs (Jonny) in this small Sheffield venue, and after the fire alarm had gone off a few times before any band came on I was fully expecting any support to be swiftly curtailed. What happened, however, was that the small crowd were treated to not only Oxo Foxo (local looping songstress) but also Laura. I had no idea what to expect, but her command of looping machine, flute, mandolin, and other objects was attention grabbing and very entertaining.

Spy by Laura J Martin

Phosphorescent - Leeds Brudenell Social Club
The venue is small, the band is many. Phosphorescent took to the stage and looked like the video to The Cure's Love Cats - elbows everywhere and moustacheoed axemen ducking and weaving their way out of getting a base guitar enema. The band played for what seemed like all night, the room getting sweatier and sweatier, but each blues/rock number played with feeling and gusto. Even a few issues with feedback on the microphones (they were on top of each other after all) didn't dampen the enthusiasm.

Phosphorescent - The Mermaid Parade by createspark

But the winner is:

Metronomy - Sheffield Leadmill
What can be said about Metronomy that has not already been said? I remember posting on Facebook that 'Metronomy rocked' after this gig. Not the words you would relate to the band, but they were extremely watchable, had excellent timing, and rocked in a sense that is difficult to explain. The best thing is, if you haven't already, is to go see them and make up your mind.

Metronomy - We Broke Free by FranklinP

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Next year's thing?

So, the BBC's sounds of 2012 list was released yesterday. I don't understand these lists - they may as well call it the "here's some artists that we know will be releasing material in 2012" list. Conveniently all genres are covered and everyone's happy because there's someone on there that they can root for. Looking at this year's list (naturally) there's not a great deal I know much about. Friends (who I blogged about a few days ago) have made the list, and there's also Dry the River who I've heard of in passing, but the big name in indie guitar band circles is Spector. I became aware of these guys because I heard (incorrectly) that they were from Sheffield - I looked them up and found that they're actually from London. I walked past the stage that they were playing on at the recent Constellations festival in Leeds (on my way to seeing Marc Riley in the queue for a pasty) but didn't really take them in. Anyway, as they've made the list, I'm sure that means that there will be enough record company clout behind them to make sure that we hear more from them. If you don't know of their work, they are described as East London's answer to The Strokes (by the BBC), and this is what they sound like...

Spector - Grey Shirt and Tie by Luv Luv Luv

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Schönbys 2011

If you hadn't noticed, it's December. The Christmas decorations in our shopping malls are already covered in dust, un-easy silences are developing in offices up and down the country after the annual party, and bloggers and journalists alike begin to think about their end of year lists.

I've seen and heard quite a bit of music in 2011 (I set new year's resolutions to make sure I did!) and therefore would like to impart to you the music that has tickled my fancy over the last 12 months, and in order to do that I've devised the Schönbys - a bit like the Grammys but with better music.
I've decided on the following awards; best band, best single, best album, best live act, best new-comer and best international artist. I don't know whether I've got something that qualifies for all these yet, nevermind a winner, but let's have a go anyway!

First up will be best live act. Keep checking the blog for the nominations and winner, but to whet your appetite here's a track from what would have been my 2010 album of the year.

The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio by clubthemammoth