2011 was the year that I truly fell in love with jazz. In the main, jazz made between 1955 and 1970 – when the fidelity was spot on, ahead of the 70s onslaught of slicker (horrible) production and the beast that is fusion.
I’ve listened to jazz more than anything this year, so with all that in mind, I’ve had to do two best of 2011 lists. The first consists of records released this year; the second is the top ten jazz albums I heard for the first time this year (with one exception.)
As ever, nothing work related. If I picked one, I’d have to pick them all… Picking your favourite child is bad parenting and all that.
Also as ever, I have to make some honourary mentions of the artists and bands who have ruled my ears this year but did not necessarily release new records. I have listened to and been obsessed by these folk more than many of my 2011 top ten artists: Neurosis (still reeling from the set I saw at ATP last year – jaw-droppingly powerful), American Music Club & Mark Eitzel (especially their live album, “A Toast To You”), Rachel’s, Neil Young (read “Shakey” this year, a fascinating book that inspired a thorough delve into the parts of his catalogue I did not know), Scott Walker (Scotts 1 thru 4 brought me endless joy all year), Boo Radleys, The La’s, Shack, Michael Head & The Strands (had my own personal Liverpool revival…not sure why but damn that’s some great music!) and The Doughboys (second band I ever saw live, made a lot more sense to my ears this year than in 1991!)
With no further ado……
1) The Men “Leave Home” (Sacred Bones)
I can see this being at the top of a lot of people’s lists this year. What a record! Intriguing, addictive, heavy and kinda all over the place (in the best possible way!) this had everyone in our office hooked. Kickass indie rock melody, crazy noise, a bunch of Spacemen 3 lyrics, some shouting, a surf-rock dance tune or two…MAGICAL!
2) A Winged Victory For The Sullen “A Winged Victory For The Sullen” (Erased Tapes)
Sublime drone and piano pieces. My favourite late night album this year.
3) Christoph Heemann “Rings of Saturn” (Robot Records)
Like the soundtrack to a dream in which you travel through a surreal, rural Europe, this is a beautiful and evocative trip.
4) Surgeon “Breaking The Frame” (Dynamic Tension)
A perfectly formed techno / drone masterpiece.
5) Andy Stott “Passed Me By” & “We Stay Together” EPs (Modern Love)
Gold Panda put me on to the first one of these, saying the vinyl sounded incredible…and he was right! Fuzzy, strange and deep as hell. The best house (?!?) music I heard this year by far.
6) Jim O’Rourke & Christoph Heemann “Plastic Palace People” (Volumes 1 and 2) (Streamline)
Two collections of early musique concrete and drone work by these two favourites of mine.
7) Jim O’Rourke “Old News #5″ & “Old News #6″ (Editions Mego)
And two collections of early solo work by my favourite musician of all time. Seeing him perform in 1992 changed my life, so it was a real pleasure for these pieces to finally surface.
8) Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto “Summvs” / Alva Noto “Univrs” / Cyclo “iD” (Raster Noton)
Another year where Carsten Nicolai could do no wrong, whether solo or incollaboration with Sakamoto or Ikeda. Honorable mention for his fantastic mix for Resident Advisor too.
9) Hans Koller “Cry, Want” (Psi)
Lucky enough to catch Hans Koller with a 13 piece band early in the year, this further cemented the jazz obsession and introduced me to the magical music of the Jimmy Giuffre 3.
10) All Pigs Must Die “God Is War” (Southern Lord)
Punishing and compulsive metal. So good.
1) John Coltrane “Live at the Village Vanguard – The Complete Recordings” (Impulse)
Reading Ben Ratliff’s brilliant book “Coltrane” over xmas and new year started me on a mission to hear anything and everything Trane ever recorded, and of them all, this was the highlight. The classic quartet (Trane, Tyner, Garrison & Jones) with guests such as Eric Dolphy recorded over 4 nights in 1961. It’s jaw-dropping stuff and worth the price of entry for “Spiritual” alone. My favourite piece of music this year.
2) Charles Mingus “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” (Impulse)
Mingus was a musical genius, nuff said.
3) Miles Davis “A Kind Of Blue” (Columbia)
Have owned this for a long time but reading Richard William’s “The Blue Moment” led to repeated listening and a greater appreciation of just how important this album is in the history and progression of modern music.
4) John Coltrane “Africa / Brass” (Impulse)
The album that Steve Reich says inspired him and the likes of Terry Riley and La Monte Young to experiment with the modal forms that led to minimalism, as well as being one of very few big band recordings Trane ever made. Absolutely essential.
5) Charles Mingus “Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus” (Impulse)
See number 2!
6) Curtis Fuller “Bluesette” (Decoy)
The trombone is a legendarily tough instrument to play soulfully. Did anyone ever do so better than Curtis Fuller? Rich and beautiful late night jazz perfection.
7) Eric Dolphy “Last Date” (Limelight)
Recorded in Europe with a set of Euro players who really seem to understand his idiosyncratic style, the reed playing legend shines. The last live recordings captured before his tragic and untimely death in Germany later that same year (1964).
8) Yusef Lateef “Eastern Sounds” (Prestige)
A beautiful, beautiful album. Got a lot of listens on the way to and from work.
9) Jimmy Giuffre 3 “1961″ (ECM)
Combining clarinet, bass and piano uniquely in gorgeous, sparse arrangements, this double LP collects together the group’s two 1961 Verve releases “Fusion” and “Thesis”.
10) Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers “Moanin’” (Blue Note)
A classic I went back to very often. Another popular one to soundtrack the cycle ride to and from work!
Fucked Up – David Comes to Life (Matador)
The best thing you could possibly, possibly say is that it’s nothing like The Who’s ‘groundbreaking’ Rock Opera, Tommy. The next best thing you could say is that it’s really great.
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost (Turnstile / Matador)
In order for Girls new album to be a shoe-in for an AOTY spot, they’d have to make ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ half as good as their debut. It was almost as good. So, pretty wonderful.
Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo. (Turnstile)
Gruff is The Greatest Living Welshman. This is my favourite record from the SFA family since Rings Around the World, so, that good. And seeing him play it live has been a total pleasure.
The Field – Looping State of Mind (Kompakt)
Basically picking up where he left off with ‘Yesterday and Today’, by making that sublime, fuzz-love propulsive electronica that’s both blissful and involving.
Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Rock Action)
George Square Thatcher Death Party. That is all.
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (deluxe edition) (SPRC)
Yeah, it’s a re-issue, but a proper good reissue. Stuffed full of brilliant demos and alternative versions, and its a genuinely good addition to the best rock album of the 90s. (sue me). The live DVD kicks seven bells of rock out of most badly-put together cash grab archives, and… it’s better than sodding Pearl Jam
Remember Remember – The Quickening (Rock Action)
Sad that it’s a bit of a lost jewel already. Happy that I get to keep it to myself in a selfish kind of way. Probably the most consistent soundtrack of my late evenings of the year.
Tom Williams and the Boat – Too Slow (Wire Boat recordings)
A record that just makes me happy. Carefully and lovingly put together, but carefree and honest to a fault. And just great songs. The fact that it was entirely self made and released increases it’s homespun beauty. I’m very excited for their next album.
The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
Everyone else seemed to bang on about the (also good) Kurt Vile solo record, rather than this, but for my mind, TWOD is a better album. And I’m not just saying that to be contrary.
Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino)
Didn’t get nominated for a Mercury, even though it’s better than the last one which did. But that’s not really too important, and I doubt that the WBs care, what with them being a proper grown up band that everyone likes, who put on fancy shows now. Their gig at Shepherd’s Bush was one of my favourites of the year. Pretty sexy for a bunch of northern lads singing in falsetto.
ASAP Rocky – livelovea$ap
Bright Eyes – The People’s Key (Polydor)
Darondo – Listen To My Song (Beat Goes Public)
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost (Turnstile)
Matana Roberts – Coin Coin (Constellation)
The Men – Leave Home (Sacred Bones)
Peaking Lights – 936 (Weird World)
Silky Johnson – Hater Of The Year
The Stepkids – The Stepkids (Stones Throw)
The Weeknd – House Of Balloons
EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain transmissions) (ALBUM OF THE YEAR)
Zola Jesus – Conatus (Souterrrain Transmissions)
The Men – Leave Home (Sacred ones)
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Island)
tUnEyArDs- w h o k i l l (4AD)
Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts (Matador)
No Joy – Ghost Blonde (Mexican Summer)
Slow Club – Paradise (Moshi Moshi)
Zola Jesus @ Toynbee Studios
Talk Normal @ XOYO
Galaxie 500 @ XOYO
Big Boi @ Primavera
EMA @ Botanique
Warpaint @ every show I saw them play
PJ Harvey @ Troxy
Electrelane @ Brighton Komedia
Pulp @ Reading Festival
Wild Flag @ The Lexington (breaking the no Wichita rule, but WILD FLAG!! at THE LEXINGTON!!)
We made a Spotify playlist featuring our favourite albums of the year which you can listen to here.
The Wichita Podcast is back!
After our SXSW special that we hold wholly accountable for the curse on all of our bands who subsequently DIDN’T play the festival, we went off the whole podcasting lark for a bit.
But we’re back, and we’re better than ever.
This month sees Wichita’s Mark Bowen in the podcast cupboard joined by Katie and Rosa from Peggy Sue to celebrate the release of their sophomore album ‘Acrobats’ this week.
Featuring new music from Peggy Sue, Los Campsinos!, Wild Flag, Spectrals, Mariachi El Bronx, Meg Baird and Bright Eyes.
The last few days have been crazy, confusing and incredibly sad times in London and across the UK.
Hearing on Monday night that amidst all the chaos the Sony DADC warehouse had been set ablaze and realising what effect this would have on many dear friends, colleagues and labels I have had huge respect and love for was a terrible feeling.
Gordon from Young Legionnaire and Bloc Party tweeted saying he’d like to see my list of tips for albums you could buy to support the many PIAS distributed labels that have been affected by the Sony DADC fire, so here it is.
I can’t find a definitive list of current PIAS labels, so apologies if any of these are no longer on their roster. I’m pretty sure they all are though. I’m also not going to put buy links on here. If you want to by them then you know where you like to buy from – try to start with the label’s own digital store if they have one.
Here we go, alphabetically by label, one album per label (mostly)…
THE SOFT PINK TRUTH Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want… (Accidental Records)
First of two (hugely different) albums of punk rock covers on this list. Here we find Drew Daniel of Matmos making inspired house/electro versions of the likes of Minor Threat, Swell Maps, The Angry Samoans and Crass. Genius from start to finish (especially the Black Box “Ride On Time” reference in “Out Of Step”… unless that is only in my head.)
OUTSHINE FAMILY Galeria De La Luz (Black Maps)
Hugely under-rated album from Australia’s Matthew Nicholson, I’ve lived with this album for a long time and I am yet to fall out of love with it. Some moments are just Matt’s voice and delicate guitar, at others he is joined by over 50 players at once – every listen reveals something new. Hard to classify or sum up satisfactorily but maybe along the lines of “Late Talk Talk meets Sufjan Stevens’ entire career via a lengthy rummage through the Morr Music catalogue”?? Or something. If you were to buy only one album on this list, well, maybe it should be this one.
LUKE ABBOTT Holkham Drones (Border Community)
Mad love to Gold Panda for turning me on to this one. Exceptional electronic buzz, pulse, click and whirr with a heavy krautrock (Cluster!) edge to it. This was the choice for a Mercury Prize nomination from an artist who should have gotten one himself! A high recommendation then.
MAGOO The Soateramic Sounds Of Magoo (Chemikal Underground)
First up, this is NOT the rapper of the same name. They’re a band from Norfolk. This one takes me all the way back to university when I lived with a woman who grew up with members of the band. Not seen her in years. Listened to this record a lot back then though, as well as the follow up Vote The Pacifist Ticket Today. They’re both great. Later I shared a flat in London with the dude who plays drums on this record. Not seen him in years either. Just realised I do not actually own this so I will buy it myself too.
ROBERT WYATT – BUY THEM ALL! (Domino Record Co.)
If you are yet to delve into the magical, MAGICAL world of Mr Wyatt then there has never been a better time. A living legend and a musical genius; I dream of the day he is offered an end of year honour, simply so he can turn it down. Start anywhere in Domino’s reissue series – nothing will disappoint – but my personal favourites are Shleep and Rock Bottom. (Honourary mention also goes to Jim O’Rourke – again, if you have never delved into his work then grab anything on Domino – he’s another undeniable musical genius.)
CRESCENT By The Roads And The Fields (Fat Cat Records)
Dark, dubbed-out, entrancing lo-fi layers, monotone mantras, saxaphones, melodicas, organs. Pastoral but still with an angst that suggests city life… another one for the fans of late Talk Talk, Bark Psychosis, Pram etc. Honorary mentions also to everything by Max Richter and Johann Johannsson on the 130701 sub-label also.
Groenland Records… buy some Harmonia or Neu if you never have. Hugely important music.
SUPERCHUNK Majesty Shredding (One Four Seven Records)
Indie rock does not get much better than this. From the off, this is hits and riffs and riffs and hits. Brilliant. Their best album ever? It probably is, according to the biggest fan of the band I have ever met (he is also part owner of this label though, so…) Just listen to “Learned To Surf” to experience four minutes of the catchiest music you’ll hear this year.
CHRIS BROKAW Incredible Love (Rock Action)
Did not know Rock Action had released this! Fantastic album from a man whose career has also included time in such hugely influential bands as Codeine, Come and The New Year. The title track also soundtracks one of the final scenes of series one of “Eastbound & Down”, so you know it’s great, right?!
JEFFREY LEWIS 12 Crass Songs (Rough Trade)
Could have picked so many records on Rough Trade but enjoyed this one so much when I listened to it again recently, so there you go. 12 unique takes on 12 anarcho-punk classics. I do wonder what Steve Ignorant made of it.
SONGS: OHIA Ghost Tropic (Secretly Canadian)
Maybe the first album I ever bought on Secretly? Took a chance on it as it was album of the month in the Neal’s Yard Rough Trade store around the time I moved to London and have loved it ever since. Have also bought it three times… left my LP out one day and it got melted by the sun, bought a CD and lost it, downloaded it. No regrets. Worth buying thrice. Bleak but so beautiful.
CHRIS BOWDEN Time Capsule (Soul Jazz)
What a wonderful record. What ever happened to Chris Bowden? Why is he not a huge, superstar producer?? Maybe because he does not want to be. I know he still makes music but nothing I have heard comes close to this record, sadly. Deep, deep jazz that has elements of Jean-Claude Vannier, Charles Stepney and maybe David Alexrod next to the more obvious influence of Coltrane.
BOBBY CONN The Golden Age (Thrill Jockey)
The enigma that is Mr Bobby Conn… This album was produced by the aforementioned Jim O’Rourke, and features a fantastic band (Glenn Kotche, Josh Abrams, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Jeb Bishop amongst others). It’s a bizarre mix of glam rock and all manner of 70s overload, moments of chamber music (the start of “You’ve Come A Long Way”…which then descends into fantastic cowbell rock!), Gainsbourg / Jean-Claude Vannier (the strings on opener, “A Taste of Luxury”!), bossa nova (“The Best Years Of Our Lives”) and so much more. Mental record. Always puts a smile on my face.
Touch & Go Records / Quarterstick… where to start?! Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, Slint, Shellac, Rachel’s, Rodan, Shipping News, Big Black, The New Year (and Bedhead), Nina Nastasia, Polvo… just dive in.
GRUFF RHYS Hotel Shampoo (Turnstile Music)
Another one that should have got a Mercury Nomination! Probably the best collection of Gruff’s songs to date, and that really is saying something, eh?! Like his many amazing albums with Super Furry Animals, every single song is filled with more ideas than most bands have across an entire album (entire career?) but they are put together with the delicate touch of a true craftsman – the subtlety is on another level. Like a stoned take on Todd Rundgren’s classic “A Wizard, A True Star” (an absolute personal favourite), there is never a dull moment. Without a doubt this should be up for a Mercury. Elbow?! FOR FUCK’S SAKE! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!
BLACK DOG Bytes or Spanners (Warp)
What can I say? Truly two of the greatest electronic albums of all time. Both utterly essential and both sound fresh to this day. Production that puts so much modern electronic music to shame, brimming with ideas and never short on melody. Classic material. When I listen to the new Zomby album I am always left thinking he could have made Spanners for this generation, if only he did not have such a severe case of pot-enduced, attention deficit disorder. The ideas are almost all there… they just needed the effort to expand and combine them all into something as complex and impressive as either of these albums.
The March Edition of the Wichita Podcast celebrates the excellence of Wichita’s talents heading to Texas for the annual SXSW Music Conference, and to co-host the show you get two for the price of one with Frankie Francis and Michael McKnight of Frankie & The Heartstrings.
The show features music from Those Dancing Days, Dam Mantle, Young Legionnaire, The Dodos, Times New Viking and Frankie & The Heartstrings.
Listen below or subscribe via iTunes here
This month, Gordon Moakes (Bloc Party / Young Legionnaire) joins Wichita’s Mark Bowen for a live special including new music from Frankie & The Heartstrings, Those Dancing Days, Times New Viking, Les Savy Fav, Cloud Nothings, Young Legionnaire and Bloc Party.
Subscribe on iTunes here or listen below
Ryan Jarman joins Wichita’s own Mark Bowen for the inaugural Wichita podcast.
This (the first of many) features some music from 2010 and stuff to look out for in 2011 including Cloud Nothings, Frankie & The Heartstrings, Simian Mobile Disco, Those Dancing Days and… of course, The Cribs’ ‘Housewife’.
To send your questions in for the next podcast, tweet @wichitarecs.
Tis the season to compile top 10 lists, so we thought we’d get in on the the action. These are our favourite album releases of 2010, along with selections from Those Dancing Days, First Aid Kit and Peggy Sue.
William Basinski – Vivian & Ondine
Black Breath – Heavy Breathing
Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?
Murmures – Murmuure
Retribution Gospel Choir – 2
Spectrals – Extended Play
Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime
Woods – At Echo Lake
Xasthur – Portal Of Sorrow
Y Niwl – Y Niwl”
Caribou – Swim
Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep
Fourtet – There is Love In You
Free Energy – Stuck on Nothing
LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
Mogwai – Special Moves
Perfume Genius – Learning
Rolo Tomassi – Cosmology
Bruce Springsteen – The Promise
Toro Y Moi – Causers of This
Kanye West – My Dark Twisted Fantasy
Caribou – Swim
Jim Sullivan – UFO
Actress – Splazsh
Amanaz – Africa
Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils
Big Star – Keep An Eye On The Sky
Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here
Freddie Gibbs – Str8 Killa No Filla
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Lloyd Miller & The Heliocentrics – Lloyd Miller & The Heliocentrics
Warpaint – The Fool
Perfume Genius – Learning
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
Marnie Stern – Marnie Stern
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Caribou – Swim
Glasser – Ring
She & Him – Volume Two
Kanye West – My Dark Twisted Fantasy
And from the bands….
Johanna & Klara, First Aid Kit:
Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Villagers – Becoming A Jackal
MGMT – Congratulations
Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy
Laura Veirs – July Flame
Dylan LeBlanc – Paupers Field
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
Die Antwoord – $O$
Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt
Olly, Peggy Sue:
Timber Timbre – Timber Timbre
Archie Bronson Outfit – Coconut
The National – High Violet
Mariners Children – New Moore Island (EP)
Grinderman – Grinderman 2
Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
Isobelle Campbell Mark Lanagan – Hawk
Peter Wolf Crier – Inter Be
Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here
Black Keys – Brothers
Rebecka, Those Dancing Days:
Bob Hund – Stumfilm (EP)
Mia – M A Y A
Dungen – Skit I Allt
Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Woods – At Echo Lake
Yeasayer – ODD BLOOD
Beach House – Teen Dream
Håkan Hellström – 2 steg från paradise
Robyn – Body Talk
One boy, one girl, a lot of noise. Currently producing tracks for M.I.A’s new record and coming to the UK soon.
Another noisy duo. Currently touring with Tune-Yards and Xiu Xiu in the US (amazing line up!) Playing UK shows in April and if their live videos on youtube are anything to go by they are going to be pretty spectacular.
Catchy tunes. New favourite band. Totally in love.
Girl group/surf pop by way of The Smell. Already released many brilliant 7”s, debut album in the works, can’t wait!