Most Appreciated Releases 2015

The albums released in 2015 that kept endlessly repeating in my head and my player the most often were:

Editors - In Dream
Killing Joke - Pylon
Faith No More - Sol Invictus

Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How BeautifulRaketkanon - Rktkn#2Dez Mona - Origin

 

  • With the In Dream album Editors have gone to a seemingly small-scale sound. Until one starts discovering the layers, the sounds, the interwoven patterns. They seemingly picked up where they left off with the slightly disturbing (and pretty electronic) In This Light and On This Evening. It seems they had to go through their identity and personnel crisis with The Weight Of Their Love. Which re-established them as a band. Allowing them to move towards In Dreams. In Dreams has a bonus disc, Phase 2. The bonus songs add depth to the regular album. It is indispensible.
  • Coleman, Jaz - Letters From CytheraWith the Pylon album Killing Joke produced another greatly balanced work in the original line-up. Maybe less indispensible, but the bonus disc widens the album’s horizon even more. What helped me personally in appreciating the album, but also the band’s complete back catalogue, was reading Jaz Coleman’s self-published book Letters From Cypher. It shows the unified life of the band, against its founding, its history, its coming and going of people, its relative stability, its philosophical foundations, the joker and the back jester.
  • After the return on stages around the world several years ago, Faith No More confirmed their musical status with the great album Sol Invictus. The album demonstrates their grand and fluent mix of pathos, lyricism, hard rock, funk, engagement.
  • If you didn’t like Florence + The Machine before the crisis that knocked out Florence for a while, but helped her look for exotic places to record How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, you won’t like her/them now. I guess. But if you did like her/them before, you will do even more now.
  • Many bands are into the Steve Albini (and Shellac) musical school of directness. Fewer get Steve Albini to produce their album, and release an album that is not a copy-paste, but shows identity, is powerful and totally true to the band’s proper musical identity. It’s what Raketkanon did with their second album Rktkn#2.
  • For too long, Dez Mona is being ignored by the masses, mistaken as they probably are because of the -agreed- somewhat cultish image that singer Gregory Frateur has. The Origin album shows a very diverse side to the band, but also a very sophisticated side, very rhythmic, very passionate, but never over the top. Time to get some recognition.

A Long Way to the Light

When, at the age of 16 (1986), I started going out, a lot of people around me were seemingly seeing the whole of the moon. I didn’t. I even managed to ignore The Waterboys for the full first 2 decades of their existence. My ignorance was brutally ended in 2000 when being fatally attracted by the electrifying album A Rock In The Weary Land. Lucky me. A great journey of revelations started, greatly supported by the re-releases of all their early, and very fine albums.

Mike Scott - Adventures of a waterboyIn 2013 we had set out to go see them wandering boys live in Antwerp in August. Shortly before that very non-disappointing appointment a tweet by Belgian rock journalist Bart Steenhaut pointed me to Mike Scott‘s autobiography Adventures of a Waterboy. I took it with me to read on our yearly family holidays, to be better ‘prepared’ for the live gig, to have a better understanding of the man we were going to witness on that stage. In my imagination he was a wild man, a shamanist, and totally music. Would he actually be such, I wanted to find out.

What a revelation the book turned out to be!

I soon fell for the honest and open tone, the eloquent language, poetic like the lyrical foundation of his songs. I felt the man’s excitement in every page, even when going through the dreary moments of his career, the months and years of searching. I liked how he, almost casually, pictured the occasional lack of discipline, the quarrels with managers and producers, the quests for band members to record albums with or go on tour.

There are a couple of lady stories, but they always serve some musical purpose. The stories are relevant, musically. My heart broke over the heartbreaks and the various friendships, established, broken, lost, fixed. But then again, also in this domain, at the heart of the story is always the Music, Big or small (or both), folk or rock (or both).

The book obviously has quite some room for the becoming of Fisherman’s Blues (1988), without doubt their most known work. In great detail the emergence of the album is described, with its many back and forth movements, the declines and the falls, before and during its making, before and after its release and the touring. The reading takes the reader beyond the endless changes of names and the special, sticky relationship with Wickham and Thistlethwaith.

What I did miss was some deeper backgrounds on the becoming of the first 2 albums, The Waterboys (1983) and A Pagan Place (1984), 2 albums I still hold very dear. Overall I felt there is a sort of gap between Mike’s early teen and high school years and This Is The Sea (1985), the finality of the Big Music.

But, no worries, Adventures Of A Waterboy is a highly fascinating insight into some decades of musical adventures, a journey full of exploration, whether actually inside or outside of the music industry, always about music, at least in the end always pointing the man back to music. The book offers a look behind the scenes that goes way beyond the superficial glamour and public perception. It also shows the persistence, the hard work that is required on top of the talent. The work illuminates Mike’s brainwaves and how they helped him shift worlds, from the early years of aspiration to the rock business to the spirit of the Celts and the god Pan.

Adventures Of A Waterboy turned into one of those rare books that lifted me with my feet from the ground and transcended me completely to the described places and times. With its colourful descriptions of landscapes, cities, venues, islands, rooms and places. Enticing. A mesmerising journey through ink, letters, words, pages.

As a music-affinate reader I really got dragged into some threesome decades of up and down emotions of the passionate wanderer that Mike Scott seems to be. He gave me an insight into his life with the spirits; the spirit of the Big Music, the spirit of Pan, the spirit of Celts, the spirit of light and Love, the spirit of the mysteries, the spirit of outerworldly muses, gnomes and elves. I was energised by the man’s will, his drive, his ambition. All for greatness. Through the book I sensed a seeker, one who will never stop seeking, meanwhile adding characters to draw from, a shape-shifter swiftly moving between worlds. He is a wild man. He is a shamanist. But -above all- he IS music.

Intuitively I stopped reading when entering chapter 15, “The Philosophy Room”, and listened to the song Long Way To The Light first. After the chapter, I stopped again and listened to the full album Bring ’em All In (1995), one of Mike’s solo albums, before continuing my read. It helped me get this era of his life much better. It helped me understand that one sometimes has to keep up, slowly putting one foot in front of the other, do what one does best.

Mike Scott - Adventures of a waterboy -RugAlthough first published in 2013, these Adventures Of A Waterboy are not described beyond 2001-ish, shortly after the release of A Rock in the Weary Land. And that happens to be the time where I strangely picked up. I haven’t stopped following them since then.

I have enjoyed this autobiography the most because it’s an authentic story, all included, the better and the worse, of an artist and his music. No gossip. No dirt. No ego. Just music. And the god Pan. One of the better musical (auto)biographies around.

Top Music 2013

Looking back at the year in music that 2013 was for me, I can only conclude that it’s been an exciting year with a superb mix of music.

A Top 5:

  1. Editors - The weight of your loveEditors have grown into being one my of my all-time favorite bands, and that is not to be underrated, as it puts them next to a band like Bauhaus. 2013 saw the release of their “The Weight Of Your Love“, a fantastic resurrection after the near-death situation of 2012 with original guitarist Chris Urbanowicz leaving. The Weight Of Your Love combines the wide stadion rock music sound with their old indie background, desire for grandeur and acoustic silence. All at once. And then they are still widening their spectrum by intelligent use of the additional musicians but also in Tom’s singing.
  2. Arcade Fire has not only released the album Reflektor, but are also performing at some occasions under that name. It is a great double album, that made it very close to my number 1. With every album they release a work of integrity, intelligence, lots of folk influences and electric eclecticism, centered around a theme. The double album set up allows them to wander and search without too many limitations. The small contribution of David Bowie to the title song is a great plus.
  3. Nick Cave released a somewhat slow album, Push The Sky Away, with his Bad Seeds. I am very fond of the rather relaxed sound and production which holds many subtleties. The opening song, We No Who U R, and the closing title song cut deep into my soul and brain every time again.
  4. David Bowie made a completely unexpected sort of come back with The Next Day. Although, ‘come back’ feels quite inappropriate in case of a chameleon like mr. Bowie. The album is full of references to his career, the music he created, the places he visited, the people he met. Yet, it is clearly out of time music, immediately recognizable as Bowie’s.
  5. The Clash - Sound System Ghetto BlasterAfter 3 years of work behind closed doors (much by bass player Paul Simonon), The Clash released a brilliantly packaged overview of their career with the Sound System collection. A great way to finally catch up with this phenomenal band. In their brief existence they produced an enormous variety of tunes and dubs, but always remained true to their punk-style principles and ideals. All of these and a bunch of great extras were re-edited and re-issued and complemented by some little collectibles in a Ghetto Blaster format. Counting 5 regular albums over 8 CDs, and 1 extras album over 3 CDs, a poster, badges, dog tags and a manual.
    This collection got me into buying the Live At Shea Stadium album, where in 45 minutes or so they showed their greatness and forward rock approach, blowing away a crowd of 72000 rainy people waiting for The Who.

Other much liked music was released by:

  • Eels, “Wonderful, Glorious”. I also read mr. E’s autobiography which helped understand his personal and musical universe a lot better. And even besides that advantage, it is a worthwhile work full of humor of a survivalist kind. Much like the music. A true free spirit.
  • Bent Van Looy, lead singer of Das Pop, has released a bright and vivid solo album Round The Bend. The album was intended to be mostly piano, but ended up full of beautiful strings and light orchestral arrangements.
  • Suede did release a real come back album with Bloodsports. It has the old fierceness and wild pop orientation. The only minus I felt was the limited lyrical spectrum.
  • Agnes Obel gave us a beautiful follow-up to her debut album. Aventine resides mostly in the same universe as Philharmonics, but the intelligent and sparse use of classic piano, cello and silence does not feel ‘have heard’ at all.
  • Nine Inch Nails were brought to life again by Trent Reznor with Hesitation Marks. Although much more electronical again, less rock and -certainly- much less desperate and self-destructive, it reminded me much of The Downward Spiral, in a good way. Not that the latter gets surpassed, but that’s probably never going to happen anyhow. A good thing that mr. Reznor has found ways to collaborate.
  • Franz Ferdinand, much like Editors, conquered that little special place in my heart. I even lively remember how their debut album (2004) raised my hope again about music, after some years of disillusionment. With Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action they stick to their hyperactive danceable rock style funk something, highly recognizable, yet very fresh.

Top Music 2012

In 2012 it seemed I wasn’t involved in music too much. Not enough, that’s for sure. Result of being a workaholic? Anyhow, I still wanted to share:

Album of the Year (2012): Swans – The Seer

Swans - The SeerAfter rebooting Swans around 2010, Michael Gira released the epic double-sided The Seer album in 2012. It’s been repeatedly, including by the man himself, described as THE ultimate Swans album that Michael Gira not only had in mind during all of his Swan years, but also has been working on for over 30 years.

Gira has transformed totally into the master of his self-shaped universe of martial music with much varying song lengths, styles and tones, with songs that fade away into a gloom an then restart to burst into total fierceness. But these time around Gira often adds a touch of brightness and even some folky tunes to the dark repetitive mantras and drones. He even creates some acoustic drones, quite hypnotic. In a very clear production Gira lyrically sounds familiar with his themes of children of love, mother earth, holy gods.

Bezeten Vuur Brandt

Bezeten vuur brandt in Samizdat, de nieuwe worp van Aroma di Amore. Het album opent met het beklemmende en desoriënterende Schoenen. Even lonkt het vermoeden dat de oude heren van stand de vroegere bloedlijn van pan-europese wave-waanzin wensten door te zetten. Maar met Stront en Hunker ontploft het album in post-industriële kortklanken die de scherpte en stacatto maanzin van Wire op het album Send lijken te evoceren, de vertaling ervan maken naar lokale kleivarianten.

Steeds baadt het album in een verontustende sfeer veroorzaakt door de unieke, bijtende teksten van Elvis Peeters en zijn unieke, bijtende voordracht die perfect versmelten met de muzikale onderbouw van de companen van nu en van weleer. Soms zakt het tempo, en nemen de beats en elektronica de tripperige overhand, met krakende en andere ontstemmende uitwaaiieringen. Dan weer exploderen de neuroses van stem en gitaar in gezamenlijke zenuwuitbarstingen en drift. Opvallend hoogtepunt is de dubbele uitvoering van de korte-benen-pijn en snijdende eenzaamheid in Nu we allemaal alleen/bijeen zijn.

Alhoewel een aantal nummers qua aanpak en sfeer herinneringen aan de jaren van de zwarte jassen oproepen, is Samizdat eerder een uitspansel dat Aroma di Amore bouwt op de wegen die onze eigenste Elvis reeds insloeg met De Legende dan een louter nostalgische trip naar de oude jaren 80. Geen verloren taal. Gelukkig maar.

Omdat de heren ook live een ode brengen aan Wire, hierbij:

Another sound year gone by, 2011 (Top Music)

2011 in retrospect turns out to have been an exciting year. Some bands produced great music; some as they have always done, some as they once did (and then left off a bit, so we can use the word ‘comeback’), some as they did for the first time. I’m glad I postponed this overview a bit, as I purchased some (what turned out) great recordings last-minute in the year. I also caught up with the past, so I’ll be mentioning some older recordings in 2011 although they should have had a place in previous Top Music overviews (2008, 2009, 2010). Or much longer ago.

Top 5

  1. dEUS – Keep You Close
  2. Snow Patrol – Fallen Empires
  3. Agnes Obel – Philharmonics
  4. Smith & Burrows – Funny Looking Angels
  5. Elbow – Build a rocket boys

dEUS released a simply brilliant album with Keep You Close. It shows a sound and cohesive band, not afraid of alt.rock breaks and rhythms, subtle background noises and little bites but still manages to be funky, steamy or romantic while keeping an eye on melodies and pop-ear friendliness. The album is full of great arrangements and orchestrations, and integrates their well-known indie weirdness into a very mature approach to modern rock. dEUS made me realize the mistake of not buying their previous work (Vantage Point), although I already had all of their albums, including a whole bunch of singles and some specials.

dEUS ran a close race with Snow Patrol, whose new release Fallen Empires I only decided to get on the verge of 2012. I am absolutely fond of the band and its down-to-earth charismatic singer/writer Gary Lightbody. But I didn’t feel like buying their previous collector album, and their new singles felt over-familiar. But how wrong was I. They expanded their sound pallet enormously with subtle key boards, synths and electronics. But they managed to keep their essential integrity although I feel even the approach to their guitar playing has been shaken up a bit. I hear them immersing the later rock orientation of Eyes Open in the indie sound of Final Straw (my first love) and still opening that up to wider horizons and stadions.

Agnes Obel surprised me with the sheer beauty and stillness of Philharmonic. I didn’t buy it upon the Riverside single on the radio, but after seeing her playing it live at some television show. And although it is a fantastic song, the album has more than enough besides that single. There’s the follow-up Brother Sparrow for instance, but I have a personal favor for the interpretation of the John Cale song Close Watch. Because I waited long enough I was able to buy the “Deluxe Edition”. It is a terrible insult for the early buyers to release such editions later, but maybe they find rest if I tell them that the additions (“Live In Copenhagen” versions and “Piano Sessions”) don’t add too much as far as I’m concerned.

The only regret I have over the winter album Funny Looking Angels by Smith & Burrows is their band name. Well, it isn’t really a band name, and that’s what I regret. But, hey, the album itself is a terrific combination of own material and carefully selected covers. From the care put into them, in the singing, the (re-)arrangements and the instrumentation, you can’t tell them apart. Both artists turn out to be great singers ànd musicians. The first being a sort of surprise as far as Andy Burrows is concerned, the latter for me not really, being a gigantic fan of Tom Smith and Editors. Music to listen to while slowly drudging through the snow, replacing a warm fireplace, or -better- sitting by a warm fireplace you longed for during that long drive.

It’s too easy to say that Elbow has confirmed their quality with Build A Rocket Boys. Although they did, their standards for intensity, beauty and withheld charms are so high that even just confirming earns them a place amongst the best albums of 2011.

New

The last days of 2011 gifted me with the debut of Belgium’s School is Cool. And I must admit that I am highly surprised by the song material, the overall sound and production, the drive and the variation on their debut Entropology. Sort of too bad of the silly band name, but luckily I overcame that and got their record.
Intergalactic Lovers
is another Belgian band that released their debut in 2011, called Greetings & Salutations. But unlike School Is Cool, the album isn’t convincing overall. The singles are great, but stick out too much compared to the rest of the album. In their lyrics I feel Intergalactic Lovers need to grow while in that area, School Is Cool shows much more maturity.

Old New

I would absolutely like to mention the new Waterboys album, An appointment with Mr. Yeats. In several interviews over the last years, Mike Scott pointed out that he had been around for so long and had lived and survived so much in music that he was having a hard time working out new songs. Although their live shows are superb and energetic, yondering from past to modern with great improvisations and full of musical drive, the Book Of Lightning album did prove Mike’s point. However, the boys did not only find inspiration in Yeats’ poetry, they turned it into vivid songs, grabbing what made them so great in the past and mixing that in a melting pot with rock and folk ingredients, and layering it with great backings, violins and flutes to spew a wild, organic and enthusiast set of multi-layered songs.

Gavin Friday produced a very alienating album catholic. Although not co-written with long-time companion Maurice Seezer, the overall arrangements are equally subtle, emotional and rich. It sometimes revives the past (in a good way) to show us the wild performer, but mostly Gavin sings of the emotional rollercoaster that ran over him during the last 5 years. To date I still feel that he’s showing and hiding at the same time in his lyrics. He’s being very personal, but it feels like at the same time he runs from it by generalizing his expressions in order to hide. His completely authentic approach to (pop) music suffers a bit from it, but his amazing live performances totally stand out.

For various reasons I intensely enjoyed following albums:

  • Axelle Red manages to take different directions with each album. Although probably not always too successful in it, Un Coeur Comme Le Mien knew to convince me in combining the French language with some country feel and Axelle’s chansons.
  • I had lost sight of Heather Nova, except for her radio singles, for many years. But 300 Days At Sea showed her using her roots to update her sound, and focus on song quality again (over production). Glad to have seen her play live as well.
  • Editors gave us the low-cost collection You are fading (part I-IV), combining some great songs, new or alternative versions of existing material, as well as sometimes showing that some materials were rightfully not included on the regular albums.
  • Nid & Sancy gave us the free collection of songs bundled as Add Nightmare And Rinse, that -to a certain extent- blew me away. They certainly know how to mindblowingly combine electronics with soft shocks of infused guitars and voice noise.

The Kaiser Chiefs (The future is medieval), The Horrors (Skying), British Sea Power (Valhalla Dancehall), Florence + the Machine (Ceremonials), PJ Harvey (Let England Shake), Beirut (The Rip Tide) and Arctic Monkeys (Suck it and see) all showed their star quality and their status as firm and standing rock artists.

New Old

As mentioned, I wanted to hear the previous work of dEUS in its current incarnation of people. And Vantage Point (2008) is worthwhile. It lacks the broader perspective of Keep You Close, but it’s certainly more coherent than Pocket Revolution. I can’t tell whether it would have made my Top 2008, but I do know that The National would have made my Top 2010 with High Violet. Because it is a work of staggering intensity, driven guitars and killer rhythms and percussion.

2011 proved again that you can’t get your youth completely out of your system. Siouxsie and the Banshees with Tinderbox (1986, remastered 2009) and The Dead Kennedys with Fresh fruit for rotting vegetables (1980) have been in my favorite playlists for quite some time. And not only did they not bore me, they still give me much joy.

Nederlands – Dutch – Niederländisch – néerlandophone

In ons Nederlandse taalgebied, en met Nederlandstalig werk, bevestigde Yevgueni met Welkenraedt wat we al enkele malen live hadden meegemaakt, namelijk dat ze stevigere rockers, eerder dan folkies, zijn dan eerder werk misschien deed uitschijnen.

Mira liet met het gelijknamige album een zachtere zijde zien, zonder haar spitse taalkunde uit het oog te verliezen. Alhoewel de muzikale songinslag van Hannelore Bedert gevoelsmatig knapper lijkt, kan haar Uitgewist mij niet ontdoen van een voyeuristisch gevoel, dat net iets te mono-thematisch is. Maar, let wel, het blijft huiveringwekkend knap soms. Tegenstrijdige gevoelens dus. In lijn met het album?

Luc De Vos bracht met zijn vehikel Gorki allicht zijn beste album sinds enige tijd uit, Research en Development. Maar hij blijft lijden aan het syndroom dat hem tegelijk zo sympathiek maakt, namelijk dat het allemaal niet te ernstig moet zijn.

Via Radio 1 ontdekten we onze lokale zigeunerkoningin, Lady Angelina. Met Amor y Caracon bracht ze ons vertederende, licht-droevige maar steeds warme en tedere beschouwingen.

Mira Mira

Op Mira heeft Mira, zonder aan scherpte of woordkracht in te boeten, toch haar bijtend, woordgegeven cynisme omhuld met een zachtere poëtische laag. Ze is even woordkrachtig maar minder sarcastisch. Haar prachtige meesleepstem en haar haarfijne uitspraak zijn op dit Mira-product, haar 3e al, ingebed in schaarse en fraaie arrangementen van roffels, riedels en geklop. De ritmes zijn gebroken, maar meeslepend en ondanks de felheid toch vol van een lichte tristesse. Het gaf me een enkele maal het gevoel van tango, maar vervuld van weemoed en van deemoed, een lichte vorm van medelijden daar waar haar vorig werk eerder een verbale aanslag was.

Een schitterend album van een artieste die niet stilstaat, maar blijft gaan voor vernieuwing en diepgang. En, overbodig om te vermelden maar toch, een stem herkenbaar uit de duizenden. Mira verstaat de uiterst zeldzame kunst om een zacht dialect te gebruiken dat ontzettend past, niet geforceerd, ook niet storend. Een madam met een plan.
Van schoenen en planeten.

Meetlatpoëzie

Naar Parijs in statig roze. ONaangekomen NOg terug in rafelgroen.

Dat is de informele ondertiteling (thema?) van mijn eerste poëziebundel:

La NOuvelle Cycluste (ONgekelderd en NOg dicht)

En ik zelfpubliceerde dit debuut via Unibook.com. Je kan er via de webshop mijn bundel kopen, en wel via deze link: http://www.unibook.com/nl/Gunther-Verheyen/La-NOuvelle-Cycluste-%28ONgekelderd-en-NOg-dicht%29

De typografie en de drukte?

Het is gewild. Het moest zo zijn. Met 1 lezing niet aan te komen. Aan mij, in mij. Terug te keren. De (meeste) gedichten zitten vol rechte lijnen en hoeken. Dat is te wijten aan de analytische lever (van het werkwoord “leven”) in mij, de overmatige denker, de ingenieur. Overgestructureerd.

Met als resultaat: kubistisch-hoekig gedoe.

M e e t l a t p o ë z i e

Swoon was zo vriendelijk om op basis van een proefbundel een gedichtje te laten inspreken door Arlekeno Anselmo en te onderbouwen met geluid, klank en beeldvormingen. Hij koos “Geheimpje van de dichter” uit. Een grappige keuze want het valt net buiten de bundel. Het bekijkt de dichter en zijn bundel van op een agnostische afstand.

Dit gedicht gaat over het dichten zelf. En ook weer niet. Als het allemaal voorbij is, de bundel gelezen, komt het zeggen dat al die voorbije woorden zichzelf niet waren, want dat er teveel verzwegen bleef. Moesten ze gesproken zijn, ze zouden zich moeten bewijzen, tonen dat ze waar zijn, en kan de dichter dat wel aan?

ps. Van deze site maakte ik met mijn Team nota bene in 2006 een eerste versie voor Peleman Industries, als Wwaow.com (“Worldwide Association of Writers”). Met de naamsverandering, naar analogie met het hoofdmerk Unibind, is de buitenkant blijkbaar hard veranderd, maar ik herken wel ‘onze’ binnenkant nog helemaal. Het ziet er allemaal wat meer flashy uit terwijl wij bewust sterk voor soberte hadden gekozen. En wij maakten zeker geen fouten in databaseverwijzingen, zoals gebeurt bij het opvragen van mijn bundel!