Music To Fergal’s Ears (2016)

 

It’s the time of year that Loosehandlebars invites anyone who rocks up & can be bothered, to contribute their picks of the year. First up is Dr Fergal Corscadden, guitarist off of Derry noise merchants the Gatefolds. Dr Fergal is a real doctor just not a medical one. I’m still going to get him to take a look at this embarrassing rash of mine though !

 

Image may contain: 1 personA suck bag of a year: the death of some of the most celebrated musicians to have ever walked our polluted planet – mix into that a year scourged by a rapid, domino-effect decline in sensible politics (if ever such a thing existed) and you’ve got your suck bag. Yes, some would say 2016 has been evil; a fucking tremendous annus horribilis. But, this isn’t a blog-piece about that. No, I’m here to talk all things my top 3 releases of the year. I’m not choosing some of the more obvious choices among the massive hits this year, I guess that many fellow bloggers/contributors will no doubt mention those. Instead, I’m going to talk about ones that fell slightly below the radar and/or which merit greater attention.

 

I’ll not say that there was so much to choose from, but, well, yip, there has been. From what I have managed to listen to so far it’s all been good. In my traditional style (“borrowed” from the Miss World pageant), the run down will be in reverse order from 3rd to 1st . Believe me, this has changed a lot over the last week or so.

 

 

3       And, nudging fellow Manchester no-wave outfit Cabbage out of 3rd place, is DUDS. Like many new bands I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in 2016, BBC 6Music has been my main source so hats and scarfs off to them. DUDS released 3 EP’s in 2016, two of these, “NLP” & “Unfit For Work” are available (name your price) at their Bandcamp page . The 3rd EP, on physical release October 28 2016, gave us the jerky, quirky angular guitar laden ‘No Remark’. If young bands today are writing stuff like DUDS (and there are many…. Institute, Cabbage, Ulrika Spacek, Kane Strang to name a few), then there is a great future for music as we approach the end of the 2nd decade of the 21st Century. Every time I listen to this, it sounds like my very first time and at the end of it I want to hit repeat. So, go on, you know you want to…. DUDS/’No Remark’

 

 

Image result for preoccupations band2    #2 slot is firmly occupied by ‘Preoccupations’, by Preoccupations. The Canadian band described as ‘labyrinthine post-punk’ and formerly known as Viet Cong, released a substantial album in September 2016. Under their old moniker they threw out jams like ‘Continental Shelf’ and ‘Bunker Buster’ from their self-titled debut album ‘Viet Cong’. With the name change comes a change in sound. I think the new album, the difficult 2nd one, has a much more mature and focused approach. Take ‘Memory’ for example, at just over 11 minutes you might think that things could get a little samey, and that’s when they crank things up, change direction once again and finish the track off with 6 minutes of dreamscape ambience; you have to watch the video for more on this. Their sound, while holding onto their uniqueness, which comes from the very 80’s sounding vocals of Matt Flegel, is difficult to pin down, but why would you want to, their fantastic music is already enough of a preoccupation… Preoccupations/’Memory’

 

 

And…drum roll…the winner is…the tenth studio album from the incredibly talented Joshua Paul “Josh” Davis, aka DJ Shadow. Every single track on every album release since 1998s ‘Endtroducing’ stand out as masterpieces to me. This guy had me right from the start of his 18+ year musical career as DJ Shadow. The new album ‘The Mountain Will Fall’ is no exception folks. Related imageRight from the get-go, opening track and album title track, we get a “Hi” to welcome us in. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album because it is a down-beat instrumental hip hop track that grabs you by the shoulders and gives you a hug and says, “come on in, sit down, enjoy yourself, now, are you ready?”. The other outstanding tracks for me are track 4 ‘Bergschrund” featuring the German composer/producer Nils Frahm’, track 6 ‘Depth Charge’; and the final track on the album ‘Suicide pact’. I have to say, this is one of those special albums that upon repeat listen, you hear more and more each time. Happy listening folks! DJ Shadow/’Bergschrund (feat. Nils Frahm)

N.B. If Loosehandlebars hadn’t pulled rank & grabbed Underworld’s ‘Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future’, that would have been my No. 1 album, ya sod ye! ;).

 

This year Fergal treated me to my first ever gig in the Republic of Ireland, a fine night with good people seeing Hookworms do their thing in Letterkenny. Now he’s handed me 6 minutes of “dreamscape ambience” & a hug from DJ Shadow. Let’s hope there will be more nights in 2017 including a show by the Gatefolds who, I’m told, are ready to go with some new material.

Music From The Future (From Mid-September 2012)

There is so much great music in the world and not enough time to listen to it all. I am not stuck in some late-60s/early 70s bubble. It was the music of my formative years. A time when I had nothing else to do but have a good time…all the time. I mean..come on…”Electric Ladyland”, “Astral Weeks”, “What’s Goin’ On”, “The Gilded Palace Of Sin”, “Raw Power”…these are timeless works of art. I hear something good now & because I have listened I know that someone has done this sort of thing before & they have probably done it better. I love “1960s What” by Gregory Porter but I have heard Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scot-Heron & Willie Hutch and I know that these guys made album after album as good as that.

Any road up…I need to hear something new. I need to confirm that the music is not over yet. Here are some tunes that are not released yet on album and sound good to me.

Band of Horses have their 4th album out this month. Over here in the UK you don’t get to make four albums unless you sell a shitload of the first three. A band needs the room to mature and grow into the sound they want to make. Look at poor old Alex Turner. He wrote some wonderful teenage songs about hanging around Sheffield bus stops, going to clubs for the first time and the Arctic Monkeys just took over. Now he is 26, a wealthy young man who wants to write about grown-up stuff and maybe sound like Scott Walker. His audience don’t want to hear that, they want “Mardy Bum” and re-writes of “Dancefloor”. I hope he gets a chance to be heard because I think the guy is a talent. (check for the soundtrack of “Submarine”, it’s good).

So, the Band of Horses…I have friends who like them more than I do. I am a little too far down the line with the Drive By Truckers who, I think, can be more angry and more subtle. However they always have an attack about them and the template seems to be that of Crazy Horse. As we all know the secret of Crazy Horse is never to let the rhythm section play anything but rhythm. Neil Young insisted on “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (another one !) that Talbot & Molina played strictly no frills. There are Y-tube clips of the band doing exactly the same in 2012. If the Band of Horses remind me of the Horse then that is no bad thing. This first single sounds good enough. I don’t want to damn them with faint praise and will be listening to the rest of the record with interest. I will have no choice because there are people out there who make sure I listen.

Now we are talking. DJ Shadow has a fine pair of ears. Should I say out loud that sometimes I prefer his selections to his records. There I’ve said it. “Entroducing” was a landmark album. When a guy is sampling Murray Roman, Georgio Moroder and Nirvana on the same track you know that respect is due. He made plenty of good music in the early 21st century and then took 5 years away. This track is a new one from a best of collection released this month.

If you read this and are already a fan of Terry Reid then send me a “friend request” on the F-book. You are obviously a person of taste. I don’t buy into all that “shamefully overlooked” blah, blah about some artists when it has never been the case round our yard. He is a household name in our household anyway. Terry, famously, turned down Led Zep & put them on to Robert Plant. He liked the L.A. lifestyle a little too much to bust his ass selling his brilliant 70s LPs so perhaps the great British voice of his generation did not sell as many records as his contemporaries. Give me a day or so & I’ll get on the case. He is a treasure.

Terry always had a coolness about his work. He was not a blues shouter but needed to hit the groove first. When he did …well. People who saw him play this year say he still has the pipes and is a great gig. It is so great that DJ Shadow has chosen to collaborate with Terry to complement the fine groove of his new track. The feelgood hit of the late summer I think.

OK, out next week is the 2nd LP from the xx and it’s going to be a big one for the band. The debut was the flavour of more than one month, winning awards and praise from all over. I liked it but there was a touch of the Sixth Form about them. Like they were the best band in the school but lacked the emotional range in the music and lyrics that I wanted from my music. Jamie did not screw up his remix of Gil Scot-Heron’s last work “I’m New Here”, kudos to him for that. His DJ mixes are interesting too.

I have heard a couple of tracks from the new record “Coexist” & I am liking them. I chose “Chained” because I like the vocal interplay between Jamie & Romy. The mood of the song is established and that’s enough. It’s an admirable trait when bands are writing songs with the singalong of a festival audience in mind. I am more convinced by the emotional pitch now they are all 3 years older too. If the xx are the big new UK band then it will be a good thing. The stadium fillers of today just make an empty noise. The boys on their gap year are hobbyist musicians. this bunch sound serious about it.

Well…I found 3 tracks I want to share from this month’s releases. Sometimes I think that I am lucky to hear 3 songs a year I like. I may try this again sometime.