Saturday, 12 January 2013


I did it!! Last January when I set out to write this blog it was my intention to keep going for a whole year. Success. Things have just progressed much further and faster than I thought possible to be honest. I'm thrilled I'm getting such promising daily traffic although it is ever the intention and hope to smash all records and get promoting even more this year.

So...yeah. Apparently it is now 2013?! How did that happen so fast? Can anyone tell me what the heck happened to December? Hell, what the heck happened to 2012? I can still feel the heat from the friction as it sped by! As for resolutions, I'm making no strict ones as such, other than the usual. More exercise, less endulgent foods, that sort of thing. I have also signed up to Cannonball Reads 5 which you can learn more about via this link >><<. Given my lack of time and the commitments I have I can only sign up for the quarter cannonball at 13. To accomplish, you have to write and publish a review for each book you read as part of it. So expect many more book reviews on the blog over the coming year as well as loads more music I'll be sharing via reviews, updates and the blogcasts. I'd love to do the full challenge and I'm hoping I can upgrade to 26 but we shall have to see.

It's a shame I just finished the third Game of Thrones book, A Storm of Swords because it has been the pure embodiment of the term 'page turner', let me tell you! There's so much I need to discuss with people about how awesome that book is but I cannot because it will spoil what is undoubtedly coming up in season three of the TV show this year. I've been told by several other people (all of them fans of the books) that book 4, A Feast for Crows is a somewhat slow and tough read in comparison. The one after, and most recent, is back on form so all can be forgiven. After such an amazing feat with Storm of Swords I'm not surprised #4 was a disappointment. Martin exhausted all the greatness in that book that he could spare at that time. My eyes are still befuzzled I read all 1000+ pages so fast.


When I started picking out bits and pieces for this post, more and more bits and pieces presented themselves. It was kind of like a bits and pieces snowball that started rolling with a tiny stone to create a thunderous avalanche. It is remarkably difficult to summarize a whole year of music that has really stood out above so much else. Especially with so much of this being fantastic in its own right. As there has been so much and I've taken so very long to get words on the screen (put words down doesn't look right in this digital blog writing on a laptop age) I've split the post into 2 parts. While the below (and next post) represents much that left a huge impression there are going to be bands, solo artists, albums, songs and videos that I neglect to mention. This is not only due to time and space (woohoo - I have a TARDIS shaped mug now by the way folks - no, it is not smaller on the outside but it is fab!) but also my rather faulty (at times) memory.


As seems typical I was intending to do this as a proper countdown. Top 10 or 5 perhaps but it is just too damn hard to really choose them in any such ordering. These albums have all touched me somehow and I enjoy them for many different reasons. All the emotions attached or reasons for liking them cannot easily be converted into a score to label any particular one a winner, or as the number one of the lot. Therefore, as this is my post I'm satisfied to simply list them. So, in no particular order then, my top albums of 2012 are:

#1 Valtari by Sigur Ros

I played a song from this album on my first Band of Badgers Presents...Something Else show and for very good reason. I rarely go a whole week without listening to it in full at least once. And usually more than that. Released in May, it marks the Icelandic band's sixth studio album. Keeping things in the family, the album cover is by Jónsi's sisters, Lija and Inga Birgisdóttir.

For me the album plays out like a story of sorts. It feels like a concept record even though each song is distinct and special in its own way. What I love most about all of this band's work is how it transcends the usual boundaries. If I've had a particularly bad day I can play this while sitting in total darkness with the heating on. It will almost induce some form of stasis perhaps. It is perfect to meditate to. It makes a superb soundtrack for most reads. Overall, it is a beautiful piece of work from a talented group of very interesting musicians. Expect plenty of excitement from me over the next few months as I'll be seeing Sigur Ros live in March. Excited muchly! Visit the band's website at

#2 They May Put Land Between Us by Joyce The Librarian

This one I received as part of a review pack but sadly, I just did not have time to write up any review for it in time for the release. I did manage to review the single released prior to the album launch however. Follow Me I'm Right Behind You encompasses much that the album has to offer so is a perfect way to get a feel for the delicate grace the album presents on the whole.

I did mention the album a fair bit at the time and tweeted loads about how wonderful it is. The cello plays a prominent part which entices me in deep, especially on Turn Yourself In. Add to this some ethereal harmonies by way of aaah aaaaah's on Over Dinmore that have you swaying from side to side and fully immersed in this luscious library. It is a contemplative and deep song. Commanding and yet so delicate with it. There's much to lap up here and I imagine they put on one heck of a live performance. I hope I get chance to see them sometime soon. Visit the band's website at

#3 The Water's Edge by Luke Ritchie

This was the first album I reviewed and I wouldn't have even heard of Luke had it not been for my interest in a TV comedy programme his sister stars in, Fresh Meat. Charlotte tweeted a few videos of her providing backing vocals for a gig Luke did at Bush Hall. Watching those was enough to get me looking up more from this wonderful singer-songwriter. I bought the album more or less straight away and it featured on my personal playlist for quite some time. 

Notable sensational tunes on the record include opening track Lighthouse, which really is just something else; Off Your Guard which conjures up such a depth of emotion and has one of the most beautiful yet relatively simple melodies I've heard; Northern Lights goes further with a serenely sublime string arrangement that wraps you up warm before Luke's soft vocals buffer you gently to farthest north under the magical aurora; finally Right Then and There is, for me, the most poignant. The gentle and faultless harmonies are haunting yet beautiful encouraging me to make up a word in the review: baunting. The Water's Edge is an inspired and accomplished debut from someone who is going to be around for many years to come. Visit for lots more information about Luke.

#4 Brothers In Brooklyn by The Dreaming Spires

Although only a debut, The Dreaming Spires brothers Robin and Joe Bennett have been heavily involved in music all their lives. Having played previously with Goldrush and Danny & the Champions of the World and being big fans of bands like The Byrds and Teenage Fan Club, these influences are evident throughout. Don't be mistaken however because these guys have a universe-sized amount of unique and original input they have poured into Brothers In Brooklyn. Their hearts and souls are present, intertwined with their wealth of experience leading me to describe it in my review as an album with a powerful soul. After seeing them perform twice this year I can confirm the quality is of the highest calibre. This is British americana at its best and if you don't own this album you should rectify this folly immediately.

Visit the band's website at

 #5 On An On by Syd Arthur

An album from a band such as this has been a long time coming. It is special, unique and amazing. Time travel wrapped up in music that still retains something as distinct and original is no easy thing but Syd Arthur succeed with a near genius debut. Heck, what am I on about? It is genius. Psychedelic sounds will draw you in before something grabs on and sucks you through the portal. That's it then! You will be on a magical music trip of tremendous splendour. The momentous journey culminates in the nine minute stonker that is Paradise Lost. Reminiscent of something like Led Zeppelin's No Quarter in scope it nevertheless leaves you in no doubt of its own originality.

#6 Do We Burn The Boats? by Ben Glover

Ben's third album in as many years oozes a charm, quality and confidence and it is clear his sound has been found. That isn't to say his previous efforts, The Week The Clocks Changed (The Ballad of Carla Boone from even this early a work is a phenomenal song in my opinion), Through the Noise Through the Night and Before the Birds are not worthy because having listened to them all I can say with confidence that they truly are. Following my review of this latest album, Ben contacted me personally and kindly sent me his previous albums. I'm not going to deny that with finances being on the tight side it would have taken me a fair while to be able purchase them myself so I was and remain sincerely grateful to him for this. Like with all artists (and bands) what came before all forms a learning curve to where artists want to be now, today. The future is the next project always in sight but what counts most of all is what is being done today in their creative lives. Do We Burn The Boats is an accomplished record serving to solidify Ben's abilities and achievements. There really is no slacking here and every song has an important part to play.

Visit Ben's website at

#7 Gathered by Nick Burbridge and Tim Cotterill

I know Nick's music work more so from McDermott's 2 Hours Vs The Levellers. I count myself fortunate I got to see him with McDermott's at what was my first ever Levellers gig back in 2005 at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff. We arrived early, were in a rather excited state and I was standing at the bar waiting to get a pint when the distinct fiddle intro of Song Of A Leveller began playing. I'd been served after what had felt like a million years waiting but I lost several large gulps of beer to the floor as I dashed back to where my friend was. What a night! Happy music memories and getting a lift back afterwards with Russ & Marie. Russ looked strikingly like Ozzy Osbourne's by then 'famous' (or rather, just well-known) son, Jack. We'd never met them before but such is the cameraderie of the Levellers fanbase. It is a community and society of sorts. And one you want to be a part of as every year at Beautiful Days emphasizes.

Anyway, I'm rambling (must be Tuesday - in fact it's a Thursday today)...I contacted Nick earlier in 2012 asking if I could play one of his songs on my podcast, which I'd only just started at the time. He replied with a yes and would I like a copy of his new album Gathered. Needless to say I didn't need to think about it and snapped up the chance to get a copy directly from the master himself. The album is packed with his trademark honesty wrapped up in inspirational multi-layered musical poetry. These are songs that mean something. They have real depth and demonstrate why Nick Burbridge is one of the UK's, even the world's, greatest artistic talents! Visit Nick's website at

#8 Shallow Bed by Dry The River

Anyone who has kept up with both the podcasts or the blog will be fully aware of my Dry The River woes. I booked tickets for a Cambridge show months in advance but then couldn't afford to get to Cambridge when the gig came around. Given the awesomeness of the band and how much their popularity has swelled to near epic proportions I am still mopping up the tears. I only hope I'm able to slip into a gig at some point this year before they make it to the kind of status Mumford & Sons now enjoy. If that happens, it is unlikely I'll get to see them at this more close and intimate kind of show.

This woe aside, the release of Shallow Bed - as great as I was expecting it to be after seeing them support Bombay Bicycle Club in 2011 - really did blow me to Timbuktu with its sheer force of grandeur! Sounding notably different to Fleet Foxes, they nevertheless hit the very spot that US band did when I first saw them play on Later With Jools Holland years before, and then subsequently the million or so times I played their debut album back to back. When a band, or more so an album from a band can do that each time you play it and it never wears thin, never gets tired, then you know it is something special. It is something unique as is Shallow Bed. Every milisecond of every song bleeds itself into your very soul. It's like there's some kind of musical osmosis whereby the tremendous talents of these gifted musicians seeps through the skin as the tension and shitness from the mundanity of this forced capitalist nightmare we are forced to live through pours out. Apologies, getting rather serious there but it is albums such as this that really make a difference to me. They make me feel connected to something greater and more profound than everyday nonsense ever can. There's not a weak or poor song on this album! I best not even get started on the closing track Lion's Den because that mammoth-sized marvelousness deserves its very own full length blog post come essay. Amazing! So yes, as you can maybe tell, I really rather dig this album. This makes it a bit more understandable as to why I am still crying now over not getting to that gig in October. *sniffles*
Visit the band's website at

En fin

Okay, okay, okay! I better stop there or I will be listing and writing about loads more! Other top albums of the year though - just to get them a mention in - are The Innocent Left from Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts, Hidden People from Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, Static On The Airwaves from The Levellers, The Ragged Rhythm of Rain from Under A Banner, Live At Blue Rock from Mary Gauthier, The Nebraska Sessions which was a tribute album from Clubhouse Records, More Than Boys from Luke Jackson, From The Lowlands from Tom McRae, Open The Door from Andrew Page, One Dress from Brooke Sharkey, Wide-Eyed Crossing from Michele Stodart, Trippin' The Light from Julie you can tell, even this is not an exhaustive list but I simply must move on now....Apologies to any I've missed out but there are countless more that have inspired me and made an impact.

I would share my thoughts on all the above here if I could but then it would be 2014 by the time I'd finished and I've still got to get on with the next part and all the other stuff from 2012 that needs to be mentioned!


You will know I'm not the type to use any overt negative criticism and I'll maintain that here. I merely wished to express my disappointment with the latest offerings from three bands who, not only should know better but who should have done better.

  1. Babel by Mumford & Sons - There is still time for this one to grow on me, admittedly. I just don't have the time available these days to spend letting that happen though. I've not written off Babel completely just yet but I am disappointed it didn't grab a hold of me and whisk me off on the kind of musical journey Sigh No More did. That was always going to be a hard record to follow up on but Mumford are a band I wasn't doubting for a second. Now I'm not so sure.
  2. Battle Born by The KillersI don't think too many fans were very hot about Sawdust when the band released it as an album of B-sides and covers. While I admit it never burst on to any top albums list of my own around the time, it is one that grew on me. I actually really enjoy listening to it several years later. Battle Born I didn't even manage to get all the way through a first listen. I made it quite far but as you know I'm always going on about a lack of time so I just had to stop. It wasn't doing a thing for me. As much as I was kind of expecting this to be the case, I was nevertheless saddened. I so wanted this to be an album that saw The Killers returning to the form of Sam's Town
  3. North by Matchbox Twenty - I haven't really kept fully up to date with these guys or what they have produced since 2002's More Than You Think You Are, which I thought was a bit of a way to returning to the more rockier sound of the smashing 1996 debut, Yourself Or Someone Like You. It didn't quite have hit after hit but it was very close. Even though all this time has passed and another album was put out in 2007 (Exile On Mainstream, albeit a compilation record), for some reason I was getting my hopes up with the release date of North fast approaching. Again, a few repeated listens may well change my mind but even that is stretching hope a little too far. We'll see. First off, and to be fair I have listened a couple of times, it has not impressed me in the slightest.

By the way, I have not forgotten how to record the podcast and yes it has been a considerable amount of time since #11, which I agree is totally unacceptable. I have set myself a little schedule however so I'll bring in another resolution type thing to stick as closely to that as I possibly can in order to get a show out every fortnight. Wish me luck. #12 should be with you by next weekend as a podcast but the blogcast may follow a week later. Coming up in Part II of the overview/review of 2012 will be the gigs and live music that really wowed me into wowsville as well as a number of bands, artists and whatnot that I feel privileged to have come across, been introduced to and some I've even got to know on a kind of personal level. Until next time I hope your new year has started brilliantly. May it continue thus.


PART II  >>here<<
PART III >>here<<
PART IV >>here<<

No comments:

Post a Comment