Saturday, 31 December 2011

on-Tenori-on's Top 15 EP's of 2011

A note on the year-end lists: These lists have taken me ages to do, which is part of the reason they arrive so late, but the main reason is that I didn't want to cut out a large amount of December's releases like many high-profile publications tend to do. I've learned to listen to releases more thouroghly next time so that I don't have to spend as long trying to remember how much I like or dislike something all at the end. Needless to say many tracks, EP's and albums I initially dismissed I've fallen in love with now that I've returned to them, and others I praised highly (including on this blog) have fallen a little out of favour with me. Everything listed has been officially released between 1st January and 31st December 2011. I'll probably never be able to properly decide on the exact order of my favourites; this is just how they stand as of right now, but if I've listed something, it means I think it's worthy of your attention. And of course these aren't my only favourites of 2011: there are many albums in particular that haven't made the list, but check back thrrough my blog posts to see what they are. Feedback is always appreciated, so if you don't agree with something being here, if you think I've ranked something too high or low, or if  something seems to be missing leave me some comments.Thanks to everyone that has helped me in this project, and my first year of music blogging, and to all the artists I've tagged and discussed thoughout the year, please support them by buying their music, going to their shows, etc. And spread the word.

These are the rules I used to qualify my top 15 EP's of 2011:
  • Shorter than an album and longer than a single track. This goes without saying.
  • Basically, if a release goes under the name of EP (i.e. ends with "EP" or officially released as such), it qualifies. For example #2 is an EP even though it is only 2 tracks long.
  • Remix EP's qualify, although none have made it to the list.
  • A single and any number of B-sides are only EP's if they are released as such.
  • Free mixtapes are not EP's unless they are named so (e.g. #6).
And without further ado:

15. Colin Stetson - Those Who Didn't Run
14. Trash Talk - Awake
13. James Blake - Enough Thunder
12. Zomby - Nothing EP
11. Jens Lekman - An Argument With Myself
10. King Krule - King Krule
9. Kurt Vile - So Outta Reach
8. Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High
7. Toro Y Moi - Freaking Out EP
6. Black Milk and Danny Brown - Black and Brown EP
5. Burial - Street Halo EP
4. TV Girl - Benny and the Jetts

3. Clams Casino - Rainforest EP

The number of times I've peppered the tag "Clams Casino" throughout my too few blog posts surely testify to the reverance I have towards this guy. Released shortly after the Instrumental Mixtape, composed of the many beats made for Lil B, Soulja Boy, et al, Clams pursued the dense, cloudy production style in five solid new directions for the Rainforest EP. Released on Tri Angle Records, Rainforest fits right in with the beautiful, ethereal electronica of Holy Other and Balam Acab. And if you're unsure what my favourite track is, you might soon find out...

2. Nicolas Jaar - Don't Break My Love
 I reviewed this a few weeks ago. Read about it here. Instead I'll use this space to say how this EP has helped me rediscover Nicolas Jaar's debut album, Space Is Only Noise, after not quite "getting it" upon its release earlier in the year. Don't Break My Love is much more immedieate than its elder sibling; its two segnemts take their time to slowly build to form strange dancefloor manifestations. The kaleidoscopic shards that make up Space Is Only Noise work to form an organised whole. Don't Break My Love instead compresses the album's chopped vocal samples, feedback loops and clipped beats into utterly compelling modern electronica.

1. Hudson Mohawke - Satin Panthers

The most exciting EP of the year, Hudson Mohawke's Satin Panthers is brimming with more ideas than most full length albums you're likely to hear. A dizzying blend of past and future sounds bring a near-continuum of high after high; the enjoyment bought about by the number of things happening at once may only be rivalled by fellow Glaswegian Warp Records-signed Rustie (dream collaboration perhaps?), whose debut album Glass Swords was also released in 2011 (see below). HudMo seemingly accomplishes twice as much variety with Satin Panthers in less than half of Glass Swords' runtime. "Octan" starts things off with a 2-minute blast of rising and falling spacey synth textures, making room for "Thunder Bay", a rave/hip-hop mutation with strange synth-horn sounds. "Cbat" builds itself around a single chirpy phrase and grows as the drum patterns become more complex. On the other side, "All Your Love" couldn't sound more different: a highly-polished modern take of 90's rave and dancehall sped up way beyond what is necessary, and is just great fun. The final track "Thank You" serves as HudMo's victory lap, fusing everything incorporated so far: great drum programming, swirly, obnoxious synths and technicoloured Sega-esque charm. At less than 20 minutes, Satin Panthers is an essential sugar rush.

Click below for the rest of the 2011 year-end lists:
Top 100 Tracks of 2011
Top 50 Albums of 2011
Top 10 Music Videos of 2011

on-Tenori-on's Top 100 Tracks of 2011

These are the rules I used to qualify my top 100 tracks of 2011:
  • One per artist. This is pretty much the only rule, and is also true for my albums list. The others just qualify this rule. Just so that I cangive the most coverage to artists I like really. Also makes it a bit simpler for me.
  • Collaborative tracks and tracks by single artists are allowed if the artists are equally billed. I'm talking about #51 and #29.
  • Feature spots are allowed an unlimited amount of times. Yes this list has a lot of Danny Brown. This isn't true for the artist for whom the track is mainly credited for however, it counts as their track.
  • Also these are single tracks, regardless of whether it counts as an official single or just an album track. EP's have a seperate list, just in case you didn't notice.
Here we go:

100. Nas - "Nasty"
99. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "Ffunny Frends"
98. Big Troubles - "Sad Girls"
97. Jens Lekman - "Waiting for Kirsten"
96. Zola Jesus - "Vessel"
95. Tom Waits - "Bad as Me"
94. Kreayshawn - "Gucci Gucci"
93. Thurston Moore - "Blood Never Lies"
92. Bon Iver - "Holocene"
91. Foster the People - "Pumped up Kicks"
90. A$AP Rocky - "Palace"
89. Little Dragon - "Nightlight"
88. Adele - "Someone Like You"
87. My Morning Jacket - "Circuital"
86. Terius Nash - "Wedding Crasher"
85. Washed Out - "Eyes Be Closed"
84. TV on the Radio - "You"
83. Atlas Sound - "Te Amo"
82. Azaelia Banks - "212"
81. Korallreven - "As Young As Yesterday"
80. Russian Circles - "Mlàdek"
79. Trash Talk - "Awake"
78. Kate Bush - "Wild Man"
77. Wilco - "I Might"
76. Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire - "The Last Huzzah feat. Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown, EL-P"
75. Black Lips - "Spidey's Curse"
74. Jamie xx - "Far Nearer"
73. Youth Lagoon - "Afternoon"
72. Beastie Boys - "Make Some Noise"
71. The Antlers - "Parentheses"
70. Colin Stetson - "Judges"
69. Cut Copy - "Need You Now"
68. Beyoncé - "Countdown"
67. Tyler, the Creator - "Yonkers"
66. Lykke Li - "I Follow Rivers"
65. Jay-Z & Kanye West - "Murder to Excellence"
64. Africa Hitech - "Light the Way"
63. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Heaven's Gonna Happen Now"
62. Drake - "Headlines"
61. Charli XCX - "Nuclear Seasons"
60. Metronomy - "The Bay"
59. Real Estate - "It's Real"
58. Fucked Up - "Turn the Season"
57. Dum Dum Girls - "Bedroom Eyes"
56. Jacques Greene - "Another Girl"
55. Burial - "Stolen Dog"
54. The Drums - "Money"
53. Toro Y Moi - "New Beat"
52. Kendrick Lamar - "Rigamortis Remix feat. Busta Rhymes"
51. Black Milk and Danny Brown - "Zap"
50. JEFF the Brotherhood - "Hey Friend"
49. King Krule - "The Noose of Jah City"
48. Josh T. Pearson - "Sweetheart I Ain't Your Christ"
47. Hudson Mohawke - "Thunder Bay"
46. Nicki Minaj - "Super Bass"
45. Girls - "Honey Bunny"
44. The Roots - "Make My feat. Big K.R.I.T."
43. Panda Bear - "Last Night at the Jetty"
42. The Go! Team - "Buy Nothing Day feat. Bethany Cosentino"
41. Julian Lynch - "Canopy"
40. Four Tet - "Pyramid"
39. Jai Paul - "BTSTU"
38. Gang Gang Dance - "Glass Jar"
37. Gotye - "Somebody That I Used to Know feat. Kimbra"
36. Shabazz Palaces - "Youlogy"
35. Radiohead - "Give Up the Ghost"
34. Oneohtrix Point Never - "Replica"
33. SBTRKT - "Pharaohs feat. Roses Gabor"
32. Twin Sister - "Kimmi in a Rice Field"
31. Chelsea Wolfe - "Mer"
30. Rustie - "Ultra Thizz"
29. Danny Brown - "Monopoly"
28. TV Girl - "Benny and the Jetts"
27. Nicolas Jaar - "Space Is Only Noise if You Can See"
26. Cass McCombs - "County Line"
25. PJ Harvey - "The Words That Maketh Murder"
24. Kurt Vile - "Jesus Fever"
23. Yuck - "Get Away"
22. St. Vincent - "Surgeon"
21. Feist - "The Bad in Each Other"
20. The War on Drugs - "Baby Missiles"
19. The Rapture - "How Deep is Your Love?"
18. The Field - "Is This Power"
17. Iceage - "You're Blessed"
16. tUnE-yArDs - "Bizness"
15. Austra - "The Beast"
14. Fleet Foxes - "Grown Ocean"
13. The Strokes - "Under Cover of Darkness"
12. Thee Oh Sees - "Stinking Cloud"
11. James Blake - "The Wilhelm Scream"
10. Destroyer - "Kaputt"
"Wasting your days, chasing some girls - alright chasing cocaine, through the backrooms of the world all night", utters Dan Bejar's breathy voice. There are fewer opening lines that are both immediately striking and memorable, and place the listener straight into a certain part of musical history. The title track to Destroyer's Kaputt is a definite high point of the album, a 6-minute adventure through layers of saxophone and soft-rock guitar of early 80's radio. The atention to detail is fantastic: the synth patterns and the female backing vocals each help to create something wistful and forlorn.
9. The Horrors - "Still Life"
Less of a New Romantic revivalist throwback, more of an expertly crafted psychadelic gem. "Still Life" takes time to bring in its component instruments one at a time, beginning with backwards guitar, then drums, bass, keyboards and eventually erupts into colour when Faris Badwan's vocal leads the chorus. Eveything seems to be timed just right and on cue, and feels much too organic to be wooden. The catharsis of this chorus, joined by horns, seems well-earned for both the listener and the Horrors' frontman. "The moment that you want is coming if you give it time".
8. Death Grips - "Beware"
Even the opening interview segment from Charles Manson offers no warning for the terror in store. The opening track to Death Grips' debut album Exmilitary, "Beware" means exactly what you might think. If you can't take the sludgiest of beats (courtesy of Hella's Zach Hil), driving buried, monotonous guitar drones, underpinning MC Ride shouting a truly satanic mantra: "I close my eyes and seize it./ I clench my fists and beat it./ I light my torch and burn it./ I am the beast I worship", then you're not going to get on very well with the rest of the album. You have been warned...
7. Battles - "Ice Cream feat. Matias Aguayo"
Who would have thought that following last year's departure of vocalist and key member Tyondai Braxton, Battles would announce their return with one of the quirkiest pop tunes of 2011? "Ice Cream" is certainly different, even by Battles' standards. The jolly, cutesy, innocent keyboard lines and monstrous drumming of John Stanier that work throughout the band's second album Gloss Drop to create extended, intricate jams instead follow a typical verse-chorus structure, complete with guest vocalist Matias Aguayo's demented babblings.
6. Holy Ghost! - "Wait and See"
I've praised Holy Ghost! in the past for being an excellent singles band. "Wait and See" is what I meant by that. If the duo were under pressure by DFA Records to carry the mantle after the unfortunate departure of the much-loved LCD Soundsystem, it was because of their genuine talent to create meaningful, authentic synth-pop tunes that celebrate their influences as much as they indulge in them (and allow others to indulge). Even above the rest of the fantastic year Holy Ghost! had: working with Michael McDonald, covering Ministry, it's that hook that kills it every single time.
5. Big K.R.I.T. - "Dreamin'"
One of Big K.R.I.T.'s main selling points is the way in which he breathes new life into classic southern hip-hop, in both his lyrics and production style. As a result many hailed his 2011 mixtape Return of 4Eva as an instant classic. With "Dreamin'" K.R.I.T. documents his rise to success with real earnesty and conviction; and in doing so shows a side to southern hip-hop that is rarely seen. Hidden under vinyl crackle is the most simplistic of beats,soulful vocals and guitar, yet the whole experience feels simultaneously cinematic and sincere, as  K.R.I.T. addresses reputation, his religion and the measure of success.
4. Clams Casino - "Gorilla"
The final track of my third favourite EP of 2011, "Gorilla" sounds immense. Right from the beginning, a relentless march of cymbal crashes lead an army of deep, disembodied voices. Tension builds and falls as bass pulses carry the beat's momentum. Ultimately "Gorilla" may not be as different to some of the material on Clams' Instrumental Mixtape as other Rainforest tracks such as "Treetop" and "Natural" may be, but in other ways it's miles ahead: much too dense for a rapper or vocalist, it strikes a balance between the two releases, and sets a new standard for instrumental hip-hop.
3. Lana Del Rey - "Video Games"
It's really hard for me to come up with something to say that hasn't been written about this song, or to justify why I've placed it so highly, but I will try. None of the negative talk or the LDR hating can deny that we're in the transitional phase of a pop star being born. Regardless of any career decisions before or after Lizzy Grant's official debut single as Lana Del Rey, the song alone is a breathtaking, singular statement that we may only hope can be sustained throughout her debut album when it is released next month. "Video Games" is a beauty, that could exist during any point of the last 80 years.
2. The Weeknd - "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls"
From the first (of three) mixtapes the Weeknd put of during 2011, there have been few tracks that have matched the qualiy of "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls". Split into two halves, the focus of Abel Tesfaye's sharp lyricism brings the setting to within the party for a change, rather than before or after. The forced smiles for the decadence sex and drugs come through his aching voice, over the ironic "Happy House" sample. Through his storytelling and delivery, Tesfaye is able to make the most exciting of hedonistic temptations come across as grotesque.

1. M83 - "Midnight City"

After constantly revising the choices for the number one spot for the top 100 tracks of 2011, it became almost too obvious as to which track was going to win the crown. M83 have experimented with each album to portray Anthony Gonzalez's interpretation of a perfect pop song, and "Midnight City" is as close as he has ever come to manage the feat. Gonzalez claimed earlier this year that his new album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming was inspired to be the soundtrack to childhood, just as his previous album, 2008's Saturdays=Youth was an attempt to rekindle adolescence. As a result the track has both a fresh immediacy of an MGMT tune and evokes a worthy nostalgic quality through its shoegazey qualities; the kind of tune that could have appeared at any time in your life but is permanently lodged there after first listen. The lyrics are few, and not instantly noticeable: they paint a night time scene, a "ride in the dark" from a backseat vehicle, bringing back the magic to the simply mundane. The song closes with an unexpected but well-timed sax solo (and a closer look through this list shows that 2011 has had many of those), which only makes the fading out of the track more triumphant and euphoric. A new career high for M83; it's questionable whether anyone will be able to get this combination as right as this ever again.

Click below for the rest of the 2011 year-end lists:
Top 15 EP's of 2011
Top 50 Albums of 2011
Top 10 Music Videos of 2011

on-Tenori-on's Top 50 Albums of 2011

These are the rules I used to qualify my top 50 albums of 2011:
  • One per artist, as in the tracks list. Fortunately there were quite a few this year who decided to release more than one album.
  • EP's do not count under any circumstances.
  • Official mixtapes qualify, provided they aren't classed as EP's.
  • Reissued albums, compilations and boxsets will also not be considered. Otherwise The SMiLE Sessions would probably be #1, and that hardly seems fair.
  • Live albums and live mixes do count, but I tend not to listen to them, hence why they aren't here. You'll have to find them elsewhere.
  • The top 10 albums on the list get an honourary 10/10 from me, now that the year's out.
It's time...

50. Holy Ghost! - Holy Ghost!
49. Thundercat - The Golden Age of Apocalypse
48. Russian Circles - Empros
47. Twin Sister - In Heaven
46. Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra
45. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
44. Africa Hitech - 93 Million Miles
43. Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts
42. Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
41. The Antlers - Burst Apart
40. Chelsea Wolfe - Ἀποκάλυψις
39. Little Dragon - Ritual Union
38. Tom Waits - Bad as Me
37. Danny Brown - XXX
36. Atlas Sound - Parallax
35. Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
34. Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
33. The Horrors - Skying
32. TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
31. Rustie - Glass Swords
30. Julian Lynch - Terra
29. Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
28. Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
27. Clams Casino - Instrumental Mixtape
26. The Rapture - In the Grace of Your Love
25. Kendrick Lamar - Section.80
24. Beyoncé - 4
23. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
22. Battles - Gloss Drop
21. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
20. Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise
19. Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4Eva
18. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
17. Balam Acab - WANDER / WONDER
16. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
15. The Field - Looping State of Mind
14. Austra - Feel it Break
13. Iceage - New Brigade
12. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo
11. Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania
10. The Roots - undun
An extremely slick concept album documenting the life of fictional character Redford Stephens, the Roots' 13th studio album undun became 2011's last-minute surprise when it was released earlier in December. The Roots' usual blend of neo-soul hip-hop dominates the album, but every song hits its mark, and plays a valuable part to the bigger picture. Sufjan Stevens is enlisted to play out the incredibly moving coda, with his own "Redford". ?uestlove has called undun the album he has  always wanted to make, and the best Roots album so far. From what's on offer it's really tough to disagree with him.
SBTRKT's debut plays out like a dedication to the last 20 years of UK bass music, filtered through his contemporary "post-dubstep" production style. Whether the music is flavoured with nods to early house ("Pharaohs"), or dark garage ("Right Thing to Do"), the roster of fantastic vocalists under SBTRKT's employment mean that every track feels right on the edge of modern British electronica and dance. Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano, Roses Gabor and Jessie Ware form the female half of the album, but Sampha's high notes are the most infectious of all, perfectly married to SBTRKT's beats. An extremely strong debut set.
8. Destroyer - Kaputt
A very stylish album, Dan Bejar's Destroyer had a very clear artistic direction for Kaputt. Bejar is often likened to David Bowie; if this is the case Kaputt is Young Americans, a set of meticulously arranged, woodwind-orientated, poetic songs. The feeling of romanticism sweeps through the set, usually causing feelings of sadness and loss. Bejar takes the jazzier side to 80's soft rock with extended instrumental segments, bringing indie rock more "full circle" than ever before. But it's as a lyricist where Bejar excels, breaking your heart through his melted voice.
7. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l
An album that is as philosophical as it is sonically chaotic is hard to come by, and harder still to take seriously. The second tUnE-yArDs LP w h o k i l l is able to manage however, with Merrill Garbus's world music-leaning rhythm and vocal loops expressing postmodern attitudes towards issues of gender, race and violence, and sometimes completely smashing into them. The whole experience is both exhilarating and confusing, and very hard to put down in terms of classification, but stands as a reflection of our modern times: colourful yet irritating, familiar yet deceptive. With w h o k i l l Garbus presents us with today's ever changing face of human nature, in its boldest form.
6. The Weeknd - House of Balloons
The fact that the remainder of 2011 following House of Balloons saw Drake trying his hardest to successfully imitate his protégé The Weeknd's style speaks volumes of the the golden internet age of music discovery. The first Weeknd mixtape gathered the most hype in such a short space of time because of the conventions it seemed to break in bringing R&B a classier, more artistic end of a spectrum. And it was so fully formed right from the beginning to bring about this artistic change: fantastic production, a mysterious singer, and disturbing, masochistic tales that felt strangely relateable.

5. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
PJ Harvey has a reputation for reinventing herself with every album, and Let England Shake provides her listeners with one of her most consistent messages yet. An historical tribute to her home country, the album is a tight set of songs that serve as a particular temporal statement of the state of England in 2011, and in relation to the rest of the world. The choir of male voices, disillusioned bugles and the ethereal autoharp set the scene for the Great War storytelling, extended metaphors that serve as political foreshadowing to the backdrop of the events of 2011 and, what seems to be the unfortunate case, beyond.

4. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
There are no shortage of reasons as to why Fleet Foxes second album Helplessness Blues ought to be looked back upon as one of 2011's greats. A timeless set of songs that mature with every listen, Robin Pecknold's chamber-folk collective build upon their ambitious 2008 debut and offer a more varied sequel, stretching the boundaries of their unique blend of sounds. Pecknold questions the universe and one person's impact upon it; at times melancholic and others triumphant. Helplessness Blues is a whirlwind of emotions, and brings back into focus questions that have troubled the people of the earth for years.
3. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Perhaps above all else, one thing Strange Mercy proves is that Annie Clark is one heck of a guitar player. The instrument often sounds ferocious as off -balance phrases bolt out from under her fingertips, and leads a swirling mixture of swelling strings and magical-sounding synths. This art-pop brew serves to demonstrate the extent of how far indie rock has travelled from its roots in hardcore punk and post-punk. Clark's vocals are ever-present, and in equal measures as firey as her guitar lines, and as breathtaking as the synthetic mix. The songs of Strange Mercy are at times unnerving, but always strong and truthful.
2. James Blake - James Blake
As stale the hype for new artists may sometimes be, it's also refreshing for such an artist to meet and even surpass expectations their promising previous work was hinting towards. Following James Blake through 2010 to the start of 2011 was such an experience. Blake took an unexpected and ambitious turn when he released his self-titled debut: the amount of space on the album might force you to demand half your money back, if it wasn't for the fact that his tracks resemble traditional singer-songwriter tunes with a cavernous dubstep aesthetic much more than they do the work of an expert producer. Uniquely Blake is both.

1. Death Grips - Exmilitary

For many, 2011 in music began with the spotlight on a young MC called Tyler, the Creator and his collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, whose single "Yonkers" promised to bring forward a new interest in horrorcore and shock-rap. I choose to end 2011 with a sorely overlooked mixtape that did much more to genuinely shock and terrify than Tyler's disappointing Goblin had managed (though I will give it an honourable mention). Even at this stage there is little known about the Death Grips project, except it a collaboration of a rapper known as MC Ride and Zach Hill, who is most famous as the insanely technical drummer of the math-rock duo Hella. Ride has a voice similar in tone to the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, except he chooses to shout and scream for virtually the entire album, almost to the point of parody and self-parody. The urgency with which he does so makes every lyric as compelling as the last; Exmilitary's lines run like a modern day Inferno or Paradise Lost, and are worth reading just by themself. Instrumentally it feels very much like the same beast; the body to Ride's tounge. Even more experimental than Shabazz Palaces debut album Black Up, which turned up later in the year, Exmilitary uses Hill's hardcore punk and industrial influences searingly. Many of the tracks use electronic noises also: traces of techno, jungle and IDM are spliced into the album's centre especially. And samples as diverse as Link Wray and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown fall somewhere in between, dropped unexpectedly into the stormiest of moments, perhaps as a part of its twisted humour. A unique and unflinching (and free) album, the scariest element of Exmilitary is its ability to makeits listener feel pumped, as if it's relentlessness is pounding through to the brain and controlling the body from within, to become the beast you worship...

Death Grips - Exmilitary by deathgrips

Click below for the rest of the 2011 year-end lists:
Top 15 EP's of 2011
Top 100 Tracks of 2011
Top 10 Music Videos of 2011

on-Tenori-on's Top 10 Music Videos of 2011

This I threw together at the last minute, so no explnations given unfortunately. However a picture paints a thousand words, and these are moving pictures...

10. The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"

9. Times New Viking - "No Room to Live"

8. Is Tropical - "The Greeks"

7. Destroyer - "Kaputt"

6. Fleet Foxes - "The Shrine / An Argument"

5. St. Vincent - "Cruel"

4. Beyoncé - "Countdown"

3. Radiohead - "Lotus Flower"

2. Das Racist - "Michael Jackson"

1. Tyler, the Creator - "Yonkers"

Click below for the rest of the 2011 year-end lists:
Top 15 EP's of 2011
Top 100 Tracks of 2011
Top 50 Albums of 2011

Friday, 18 November 2011

Album of the Week: Drake - Take Care

I know, hardly surprising. To my credit my internet speed has limited my choice somewhat. Drake hardly needs any introduction: Toronto rapper plus R&B singer who made a name for himself largely on the popularity of his first album Thank Me Later. His follow-up album Take Care sees the light of day after the continuous leaking of singles, that hardly remove a sense of scope from the 18-track, 80 minute album. Drake's improvement as both a singer and a rapper can probably be best observed when compared to his collaborators, both outrapping Lil Wayne and holding his own against the other great R&B artist of 2011, the Weeknd. Not just a lot of care but also money has gone into the production of this album. Drake reunites with previous producers Noah "40" Shebib and Boi-1DA, but equal highlights go to Just Blaze and Jamie xx's beats. Despite its length Take Care has some of the year's best chart singles either out already or soon to be released. It's probably safe to say Drake's made it by now.

Take Care by Drake is out now on Cash Money/Universal Republic/Young Money Entertainment.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Single of the Week: Nicolas Jaar - Don't Break My Love EP

It took me a while to bring myself to listen to the new Nicolas Jaar 2-track EP, simply because after hearing Jaar's debut Space is Only Noise only twice through when it was released at the start of the year I didn't get what the fuss was about. Needless to say that album is due for a timely revisit (after all December's coming soon and we all know what that means). I've barely been able to help myself from playing "Don't Break My Love" and its b-side "Why Didn't You Save Me" over the last few days. True, they both play the same kind of tricks, by layering intricate Aphex Twin-like drum patterns over meandering synthetic melodies, and dissolving into silence before conquering with an infectious vocal hook. Still when they're executed in such a way it's tough not to admire. Admire and repeat. James Blake fans ought to pay attention. I'm really hoping for a 12" release of this single. Badly.

NICOLAS JAAR / Don't break my love EP by Clown & Sunset

Don't Break My Love by Nicolas Jaar is availlable for free download now, courtesy of Clown & Sunset.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Album of the Week: Russian Circles - Empros

If I'm being honest, this new Rusian Circles LP, Empros, has been the only metal album I've properly enjoyed this year. In fact this is the first metal post on this blog. Empros, Chicago post-metal trio Russian Circles' fourth studio release is a 45 minute, six track titan of a record. There's a real sense of interplay between the three musicians, especially the rythm section of Brian Cook and Dave Turncrantz. As a result the loud and quiet moments (there are often several per track) sound equally dynamic and compelling, and at times adventurous and beautiful. A must for metal fans, as well as fans of post-rock and other instrumental music.

*Russian Circles - "Mlàdek"

 Empros by Russian Circles is out now via Sargeant House

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Single of the Week: A$AP Rocky - "Bass"

A$AP Rocky's mixtape LiveLoveA$AP is on the tip of many people's tounges as of five minutes ago, and although not an entirely compelling listen for one blogger there are some pretty great standouts nonetheless. To me this mixtape's greatest asset is in the beats and beatmakers Rocky chose to work with. Regulars may be aware of my appreciation of up-and-comer Clams Casino's previous releases this year, and with "Bass" he has suitably altered his hazy, intoxicating trademmark style to make room for Rocky's verses. In future 2011 may be seen as a great year for hip-hop; A$AP Rocky and Clams Casino will be two names at the top of the list of artists that will prove it to be so.

A$AP Rocky - "Bass"

"Bass" features on A$AP Rocky's LiveLoveA$AP mixtape, download it for free here.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Album of the Week: Atlas Sound - Parallax

As I mentioned on Tuesday, this week has been kind to new releases so it was hard for me to come up with a 'winner' for this week. Hopefully my fanboyism of both Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound project and his band Deerhunter haven't influenced the decision too much. Cox has been gradually releasing Parallax tracks over the last few months, but this hasn't distracted from hearing the finished article. The album is made up of mostly quiet yet potent songs: here Cox uses multiple layers of both acoustic and electric guitars, sparse percussion and of course reverberated vocals to create what he himself usually describes as "ambient punk". Cox's idol Scott Walker's influence is clearly felt, but so are the voices of Peter Gabriel ("Te Amo"), Conor Oberst ("Mona Lisa", warmly greeted from its appearance on last year's Bedroom Databank series) and Lou Reed ("Lightworks"). Simply put, Cox is one of the best songwriters around, and Parallax only strengthens that claim.

Parallax is released on 7th November via 4AD. Visit the Parallax website here to stream and download "Terra Incognita". Even if you don't want the track check out the website anyway. I thought it was pretty cool.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Single of the Week: El-P - "Rush Over BKLYN"

We are currently undergoing the resurgence of El-P. This is a good thing. The ex-Company Flow member has enjoyed recent guest spots on releases by the likes of Das Racist and Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, and looks to release a new solo record, Cancer for Cure, sometime next year. In August he released the first single from that album, "drones over BKLYN", via Adult Swim's singles program. Now, using the new sample-clearing service Legitmix, El-P provides his own remix of the track entitled "Rush Over BKLYN", incorporating a sample of 70's prog giants Rush's "Tom Sawyer". Makes me think that DJ Shadow ought to have called El for his latest album with the prog-metal sounds he was using on his recent album. Next year can't come soon enough.


All proceeds from the sales of "Rush Over BKLYN" go towards a fund to benefit DJ Mr. Dibbs, currently suffering from liver disease. You can purchase the track here.

Here's the original, "drones over BKLYN":

Sorry I missed Album of the Week last Friday, had stuff on. Tom Waits' Bad as Me if you're interested. Won't happen this week, there's too many good releases right now.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Single of the Week: King Krule - "The Noose of Jah City"

Previously releasing material under the psudeonym Zoo Kid, King Krule, aka 17-year-old bedroom producer Archy Marshall will release his first EP via True Panther on 8th November. The EP's closing track, "The Noose of Jah City" showcases the deepness of Marshall's socially conscious baritone, quiet yet potent amongst sparse guitar work and a garagey hip-hop breakbeat. The vocals, covered in echo and reverb effects, compliment rather than obscure their lyrics and Marshall's knack for songwriting, and heighten a sense of isolation and uncertainty. Just as the vocals re-emerge after the instrumental break, the song abruptly ends, adding to the "one more listen" factor. Hopefully the EP as a whole will induce that similar feeling when its released.

King Krule- The Noose of Jah City by truepanther

"The Noose of Jah City" will feature on King Krule, which will be released on 8th November via True Panther.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Album of the Week: Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls

With the release of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's excellent follow-up LP Belong earlier this year, many bands dabbling in the same kind of British C86-influenced indie-pop may be overshadowed. Fellow Slumberland Records comrades Veronica Falls avoid this pitfall with the release of their debut album - constructed from songs recorded and released from 2009 onwards - by adding a very macabre, quietly potent flavour to their songwriting, delivered by the girl/boy vocal duo Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare. These songs are always quiet and melodic (reminiscent of Galaxie 500), drawing the listener even deeper into their often sinister narratives, be they of a lover's jealousy ("Wedding Day") or suicide ("Beachy Head"). It isn't until the final track "Come on Over" that any kind of resolution is found. Quite a different take on a popular style right now; if you enjoyed the likes of the Pains, Yuck and possibly Girls this may be worth investigating.

Veronica Falls LP sampler by Slumberland Records

Veronica Falls is out now on Slumberland Records/Bella Union

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Single of the Week: Oneohtrix Point Never - "Replica"

This is another new feature, the sister to my new Album of the Week feature I began last Friday. I'll try to go over the track in as much detail in as little time as possible. I'm using the term "single" to refer to any new track including album tracks not scheduled for individual release, but I may also use this space to talk about tracks with b-sides and even EP's depending on what I think is worth mentioning.

 A very Gothic piano loop forms the basis of the title track to the new Oneohtrix Point Never album, due 8th November. Replica is actually the fifth of Daniel Lopatin's albums under the OPN guise, who is also one half of synth-pop duo Ford and Lopatin, but it's fortunately clear he's sitting on potentially one of his best releases yet. The harrowing synth drones play backup on "Replica", instead of drowning out the forefront as in past OPN releases, and likely owes something to the "Returnal" remix featuring Antony Hegarty released last year. The most beautiful part may just be at around 1:30 when a rumbling bass synth shadows over the mix and grinds the track to a momentary standstill, only for the piano to rejoin a split second later. The video of slowed stock cartoon images capture the strange atmosphere surprisingly well. Many Oneohtrix Point Never tracks need to be twice as long to capture their sentiments, but "Replica" does it more or less straight off the bat.

Oneohtrix Point Never - "Replica":

Here's another track from Replica, "Sleep Dealer":

Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never is released 8/11/11 via Software/Mexican Summer.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Album of the Week: M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Yeah I'm doing this now, instead of bringing back the Mini Review series. Now I will be updating at least twice per week: every Friday for my Album of the Week; and starting next week every Tuesday for my Single of the Week. Helps me out a bit.

And what better album to begin the series with than the new M83 double concept LP, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming? Sole member Anthony Gonzalez follows the hugely successful Saturdays=Youth with an album even more ambitious, anthemic and enchanting, which despite it's length never feels tired or out of ideas (honestly it could probably all fit onto a single CD). The breathtaking, Zola Jesus-assissted "Intro" is just the beginning. Many tracks encapsulate a childlike wonder, with electronic harkenings as sporadic as Brian Eno's ambience, Animal Collective's reverb-laden fervour, and the Books' universal musings. Many tracks, such as the first single "Midnight City", herald an 80's synth radio sound, yet Gonzalez's approach feels entirely contemporary, with an ever-greater expanded lineup of instrumentation than ever: strings, the leftfield sax solo which closes aforementioned "Midnight City", the list goes on. Even coming from M83, this album feels special. Highly recommended.

Hurry Up, We're Dreanming is released on 18th October via Mute. Below, stream "Midnight City".

"Midnight City"

Friday, 7 October 2011

EP Review: James Blake - Enough Thunder

EP number four for hugely hyped London songwriter-producer James Blake, fresh from his stellar self-titled debut released earlier this year. Blake's no stranger to the EP format; indeed it was his triumvirate of EP's - The Bells Sketch, CMYK and Klavierwerke - that garnered praise from both sides of the Atlantic last year, elevating Blake into the most promising 21 year-old bedroom producer by the end of 2010. Admiration latched onto Blake largely due to the unique cocktail his minor handful of tracks stir: woozy R&B soundscapes, clattering piano chords, clipped dub beats and vast spaces of, well, nothing; and was eventually heralded as "post-dubstep" for those who care enough for names. Although a definitive aesthetic seemed to have been wrapped up in time for the album James Blake - signified but by no means limited to the forward single and Blake's most successful track to date, the cover of Feist's "The Limit to Your Love" - a familiarly disparate approach has returned to Enough Thunder, which goes on release next Monday.

During the release week of James Blake back in February, Blake identified two key influential albums which distinctly rub off onto the traditional singer-songwriter quality of his work: Joni Mitchell's Blue and Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago. Both albums and artists are represented here, much as Feist has been already (and with Blake's next biggest track "The Wilhelm Scream" actually being a cover/homage to his father James Litherland's "Where to Turn", might there be a trend emerging?). Blake's cover of Mitchell's "A Case of You" is finally made into a studio recording after its debut as a BBC Radio 1 session piece during that same release week. To be honest, it's the flat-out dud of the six tracks here, especially as James' often beautiful falsetto struggles to  keep the pacing of his piano arrangement (ironically if Blake is known for anything, it's the pacing in his music). Although some credit ought to be given for attempting to make an imprint on such a classic folk ballad, the moment James'  London accent hits the "Oh, Canada" part is it truly realised how disastrous the idea had been. The track feels especially naked when compared to the linear dubstep arrangement "Limit to Your Love" received, as well as the remainder of the EP for that matter.

Unfortunately the much-discussed Bon Iver collaboration "Fall Creek Boys Choir" isn't a major improvement. After multiple listens since it's drop last month it's hard for me to approach the track as anything other than a shorter, less adventurous "Wilhelm Scream" or "Lindisfarne" with Justin Vernon's mapped-on vocal. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but seems rather pointless when stacked up against those tracks. However much other fans of both artists (and believe me I am one of them) seem to enjoy the inspired-on-paper pairing, for me the novelty has very much worn off.

The other four tracks on the other hand are actually as good as to be expected, echoing all of Blake's previous releases up to this point and beyond. "Once We All Agree" opens the set and does well to fill in the space that was for some too abundant on the LP. His familiar vocal delivery, echoed and doubled, becomes twisted into a Strokes-like distorted filter as a floating bass pulse growls under it; and ultimately the whole package is enveloped in a guitar wall-of-sound crescendo which begins in the second half. But the track's most prevalent component is the uneasy, slightly dissonant piano chords (a clear Joni Mitchell influence), caging his voice throughout. The EP as a whole is particularly strong in its piano arrangements, an idea which comes full-circle by the final title track. "Enough Thunder"'s piano borrows from neo-classical, contemporary jazz and songwriters such as Randy Newman, and rarely has Blake's voice sounded so soulful and impassioned, and not struggling to extend its notes like in "A Case of You".

The second track "We Might Feel Unsound" incorporates vocal loops and samples as last year's "CMYK" did, but is more beat-centric, and is defined with a haunting, howling synth. In contrast to Blake's lead vocal the effect is especially chilling, and helps to make Enough Thunder to sound like his darkest release yet; and therefore the most refreshing change of pace for his music. Such has Blake progressed from the Burial-like "classic" dubstep range this is one of only two tracks that sound anything similar to the genre's beginnings. The second track which that statement identifies is "Not Long Now"; which features a "drop" of sorts after the slowly rising beat folds, giving way to a dub bassline similar to that in Radiohead's "The Gloaming", and in effect wipes away all other bubbling textures to build themselves up anew. Blake's multilayered vocals are especially languid, and the familiar pauses return, essentially culminating into the stereotypical James Blake track, and the EP is all the better for it. It takes its time to adapt, and makes "We Might Feel Unsound" feel a tad short in comparison.

Enough Thunder is released in the shadow of three EP's and a hugely acclaimed full-length, and it's great that such an acclaimed artist feels the pleasure of multiple further, diverse releases to compliment his short-so-far career, even if this one in particular lacks the consistency of its predecessors. The EP also follows a comment Blake made to The Boston Phoenix, comparing the modern "macho-ism" found in dubstep's "frat-boy market" to "a pissing competition", a comment that has been re-tweeted and has sent strong resonance throughout the blogosphere. Enough Thunder sees him searching and scooping out a range of alternatives, and although scattershot in comparison to the excellent James Blake (the deluxe edition of which is also being released on Monday, and features the Enough Thunder EP on a second disc; recommended value if you don't own the album), the range on offer, coupled with the knowledge this searching is set to continue, often makes it in some ways more exciting.


The full EP is available for streaming below, courtesy of

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Reading Festival 2011 - Report from the front line and playlist

So I'm back. I've bought back a terrible cold with me, and cold sores on both lips, but I'm still in one piece. So I'm going to talk about three bands from each day that I saw entire sets from, and how they defined the festival experience for me.
(All photos taken from the Reading + Leeds Festivals section of the BBC website, more of which can be found here.)

The Antlers
Festival Republic Stage, 17:25
Foster the People played the Festival Republic stage just before the Antlers, the second-smallest stage of the arena, and the influx of people wanting to experience their particular brand of "pumped up kicks" was so great we were forced to turn back. I managed to sneak back here later however, and happily the Antlers' set was one of the most intimate I had at the festival, with an audience of just a few hundred. Opener "Corsicana" unfortunately lost some of its studio sheen, but the closing three songs "I Don't Want Love", "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" and "Putting the Dog to Sleep" more than made up the distance. I also saw the start of the new Mercury Music Prize favourite Anna Calvi's set just before I had to leave too. Needless to say, I wish I could have stayed.
Dance Stage, 21:10
Hot new UK producer and masked marvel SBTRKT may have only released his debut album a couple of months ago, but festival organisers made the wise decision to give him second-headline slot on the one-day-only Dance Stage. He began with what can only be described as his remix of Radiohead's "Lotus Flower", that I reported a while ago. Now, I haven't been able to find supporting evidence for this anywhere, so you're going to have to take my word that he debuted it here and I will verify it assuming it sees the light of day soon. He also spun favourites from the likes of Jacques Greene and Hudson Mohawke, all in his signature "post-dubstep" style. The set finished with his signature hit "Wildfire", which surprisingly turned into a modest group sing-a-long, ending on a high. James Lavelle's mysterious UNKLE Sounds project was to follow, however despite being intrigued I left to go and see...
The Horrors
Festival Republic Stage, 22:30
A late-night show of Horrors indeed. Faris Badwan's vocals ached over the hour-or-so set that took cues from all three of the Horrors' albums. Though putting these songs side-by-side may not have quite done the set justice in terms of consistency and continuity, it was nice to hear a retrospect of the band's progress up to this point. Although I can see myself in danger of being biased I do think that the tracks from their most recent  album Skying translated the best into the small Festival Republic tent, the loud shoegazey guitarwork of Joshua Hayward resonated aggressively through "Endless Blue", adventurously through "I Can See Through You", and wistfully through "Still Life". A great way to see one of the most celebrated bands in the UK, and to end the first night of music Reading had to offer.

The National
Main Stage, 18:45
Working our way towards one of the best vantage points of the Main Stage, we started the magnificent Saturday three-band run with the National. Their particularly broody and angsty performance was the necessary polar opposite to the crowd-pleasers earlier in the day like Seasick Steve and Madness. Their set was nicely balanced between their huger cathartic ballads ("Terrible Love", "Bloodbuzz Ohio") and softer, more horn-led tracks ("England", "Fake Empire"), and represented their previous two albums, Boxer and High Violet, especially well. Although not as well-known as the Strokes, the National have been working together for just as long, and their expertise showed as the sun set over the festival arena, ushering in the night of fine indie-based rock music to come.

Main Stage, 20:15
"Are you ready?" read the backdrop screen, and again for what seemed like forever, until finally it read "Do you remember the first time?". Pulp had finally returned, and Jarvis Cocker made it clear to everyone that the gap between their first appearance at the festival in 1994 and 2011 would be bridged. Virtually every song from Different Class was played; but of course "Common People" was left for the grand finale. One of Britain's all-time great live bands were bound to attract the highest of expectations, but Pulp managed to easily meet and exceed what anyone could have expected, just as electrifying and more importantly relevant as the titular "first time". If you've never seen live footage of them before, I implore you to click here.

The Strokes
Main Stage, 22:15
If it wasn't clear before Pulp's set that the Strokes would have the most pressure to deliver their audience into the night, it certainly was afterwards. Julian Casablancas and co. threw as many great songs from their catalogue as quickly as possible to create a turbocharged run that ended with the heartfelt "Someday". Ironically it was down to "the Jarv" to pick the pace back up again, the Pulp frontman joining the stage to perform the Cars' classic "Just What I Needed". It was worth waiting for the encore; Is This It's "Hard to Explain" and "Take it or Leave it" ending just as the band had started, proving worthy headliners and reminding us which side of the Atlantic rock and roll really comes from.

Friendly Fires
Main Stage, 17:20
The image of the bird of paradise which features on the cover of Friendly Fires' recent sophmore LP Pala seemed to be the perfect indicator of what was to come during the band's Main Stage stint. They played as passionately as singer Ed Macfarlane danced, and the audience participation was so much that almost everyone got onto their feet. The crowd size also grew significantly as the set went on. "Hawaiian Air" introduced Hawaiian dancers, and "Kiss of Life" crescendoed into a rapturous grand finale, Macfarlane reminding everyone "This is your last chance to dance". Colourful, inspiring and energetic, Friendly Fires certainly delivered, no less weary after their huge UK festival tour they've already journeyed this summer. This is why they're favourites.

Death From Above 1979
NME/Radio 1 Stage, 19:00
I had to be sure that my most anticipated band of the festival, the one I had been waiting all weekend for, would not disappoint, and they certainly didn't. Death From Above 1979 played an hour-long set featuring every song from their sole album and more, and from the extended "Turn it Out" intro Sebastien Grainger and Jesse Keeler didn't let up once, thrashing monstrously in the same spot I'd seen the equally as energetic Odd Future and Fucked Up perform earlier. One of the highlights of the whole festival was when the newly beach-blonde Grainger jumped up from his drum kit during "Romantic Rights" and grabbed the microphone, and sang screechier then I'd ever heard him before, before returning to send the sucker home. You get the feeling these guys have four balls each.

The Streets
NME/Radio 1 Stage, 20:20
In a choice between Elbow and the Streets, Mike Skinner's long-running garage pop project came out on top. For me they turned out to be the best surprise of the festival. Skinner and the fans became one as they hung onto his every word, as though wishing him well in his new endeavours beyond the soon-to-be terminated Streets. Key singles "Blinded by the Lights", "Dry Your Eyes" and "Going Through Hell" were met with the most joyous singing, and it was hard not to get emotional each time Skinner announced "I die here tonight". Little did I know this was to be the Streets final performance, and I was so enthralled that the next day after returning home I went out and got a copy of Original Pirate Material on CD to find out exactly what I had missed out on. Best of luck in the future, Mike.

Other artists I enjoyed full or partial sets of, but are not mentioned here included Mount Kimbie, Kirk Spencer, Simian Mobile Disco, Seasick Steve, OFWGKTA, Fucked Up, Frank Turner and Muse.

If I were to make a playlist of the festival, it would look something like:

Moumt Kimbie - "Before I Move Off"
The Antlers - "I Don't Want Love"
SBTRKT ft. Little Dragon and Drake - "Wildfire RMX"
The Horrors - "Endless Blue"
Seasick Steve ft. John Paul Jones - "Walkin Man"
Mellowhype - "64"
The National - "Terrible Love"
Pulp - "Do You Remember the First Time?"
The Strokes - "Someday"
Fucked Up - "Queen of Hearts"
Frank Turner - "I Still Believe"
Friendly Fires - "Jump in the Pool"
Death From Above 1979 - "Pull Out"
The Streets - "Dry Your Eyes"
Muse - "New Born"
The Strokes ft. Jarvis Cocker - "Just What I Needed"

Watch clips/festival highlights of many of the artists at Reading Festival over at the Reading + Leeds Festivals section of the BBC website, here.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Top 10 bands I’m anticipating seeing at Reading Festival

I’m currently writing this from a café in the village of New Quay, Wales; the only place I can find with free Wi-Fi, and it’s been open since Saturday. The connection’s quite bad, but from what I am getting from back home I’m probably better off here for now, safe from the riots that have been happening across the country. I’m going to be at this year’s Reading Festival in a couple of weeks, as I’ve probably already mentioned, so I’ve decided to compile the top 10 bands I’m most looking forward to experiencing there. I was at first reluctant because I thought a report after I came back would be better, but I need something to do here, so here it is. The order is in how much I’m looking forward to seeing each group based on my experience of their studio output, and will probably change once I’ve actually been to the festival.

Note that line-ups for both Reading and Leeds festivals are nearly identical, the differences being Reading’s Friday will be Leeds’ Saturday, Reading’s Saturday will be Leeds’ Sunday, and Reading’s Sunday will be Leeds’ Friday. Also the Strokes and Pulp will switch times for Leeds, and there may also be minor differences I’m not aware of, so plan ahead if you’re going to Leeds. Of course if you are you’ll probably already be aware of these differences. I’ll only post Reading’s (approximate) times as that’s the festival I’m going to be at.

10. Metronomy
When?: Friday 26th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: Brighton dance project of Joseph Mount. Reading’s Friday will be the only one with the Dance stage, which will feature such great artists as SBTRKT, Cold Cave and Mount Kimbie, and I’ll likely spend a lot of time there. Metronomy just about pips them to the post in terms of priority. Their album The English Riviera released earlier in the year was pretty entertaining, and I hope they match its quality with their live set, given I see it.
Sounds like: Mostly like other UK non-subculture dance projects, for the most part, like Hot Chip or Friendly Fires (the latter are also incidentally playing on the main stage on the Sunday). Around half of their songs also show a casiotone influence which doesn’t sound too bad. Also reminds me of Passion Pit.
Song I hope they play: "The Bay"

9. Interpol
When?: Sunday 28th August
Where?: Main Stage
Who?: Modern post-punk band who made almost as big an impact as the Strokes did. In fact much of Reading and Leeds this year seems to revolve around bands celebrating ten years of something. However Interpol’s ultra-modern sound helps them sound essential and timeless. Much like the Strokes they’ve wavered a little as they’ve stepped further away from their debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, but manage to stay on top with quality songwriting, production and delivery. Recently they’ve been working with cult director David Lynch, so the set’s visual effects will hopefully be off-the-wall.
Sounds like: Joy Division is usually seen as the key influence, certainly Paul Banks' baritone vocals bear more than a similarity to Ian Curtis’. The post-punk guitar stabs draw as much from the book of Wire and Gang of Four.
Song I hope they play: "Obstacle 1"

8. 2 Many DJ’s
When?: Sunday 28th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: The side project of Belgian rock group Soulwax, who have been playing this spiel since the late 1990s. There are a few reasons why I’m choosing these over main stage headliners Muse. For one getting to the main stage at that time would be disastrous and I’d probably get a terrible view. Secondly Muse are playing their unfamiliar 2001 album Origin of Symmetry in full for whatever reason, and not being much of a Muse fan anyway I’d probably be less than impressed. 2 Many DJ’s on the other hand are the foremost exponents of a genre coming out of the early 2000s known as bastard pop, one that throws seemingly unconnected songs together to create something danceable and apparently shameful. Having recently got my hands on As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt 2, I can tell you it is a lot of fun.
Sounds like: Ever wanted to hear the Stooges’ "I Wanna be Your Dog" over Salt-N-Pepa’s "Push It"? Skee-Lo’s "I Wish" over the Breeders’ "Cannonball"? Destiny’s Child’s "Independent Women Part 1" over 10cc’s "Dreadlock Holiday"? Of course you have! That was from a set ten years ago though, so it’ll be exciting to hear what they have in store now.
Song I hope they play: N/A, sort of

7. The National
When?: Saturday 27th August
Where?: Main Stage
Who?: Having enjoyed something of a popularity boost recently, due to the release of High Violet last year, Ohio's The National have found themselves in the unlikely spot of the Reading Festival’s main stage, warming the crowd for the Pulp/Strokes double headline sets. A field full of thousands of people doesn’t quite seem the natural place for Matt Berninger's croon or the Dessner brothers’ cavernous instrumentation, but I won’t know until I see them. With these and the two headliners Saturday should be an unforgettable night.
Sounds like: A folkier-sided Walkmen perhaps, or a gutsier Grizzly Bear? Okay I’m stumped on this one.
Song I hope they play: "Bloodbuzz Ohio"

6. The Strokes
When?: Saturday 27th August
Where?: Main Stage
Who?: New York’s foremost rock & roll revivalists, that’s who. Headlining the main stage on Saturday in support of their latest album Angles no less. Though like most people there I hope they stick to the classics and don’t dig too deep into that album. Across their four albums they have enough quality tunes to make up a killer set, and being one of this festivals’ big four they’re expected by many to deliver the goods. And despite my thoughts on that last album, Julian Casablancas and co. are definitely going to keep me entertained, easily worthy headliners.
Sounds like: A modern twist of the 70s CBGB and Max’s Kansas City bands from their native city that made them so popular. Listening to their influence on any modern guitar band since ought to be evidence of their popularity and respect.
Song I hope they play: "Hard to Explain"

5. Fucked Up
When?: Sunday 28th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: Canadian punks fronted by man-mountain Pink Eyes, or Father Damien Abraham, who sound pretty much as their name suggests. After their 2008 album The Chemistry of Common Life wowed critics they returned earlier this year with the un-punk 78-minute rock opera David Comes to Life, a sure-fire Album of the Year contender. I missed the opportunity to see them on tour with Iceage a few months ago, a mistake which I hope to redeem myself on at Reading.
Sounds like: Very melodic as far as punk rock goes. I don’t think a Foo Fighters comparison is too out of place. Though your ears (and possibly eyes) will undoubtedly be drawn to Pink Eyes’ presence, his volcanic grumble and roar being the main live attraction. Just forget about your previous experience of "rock opera".
Song I hope they play: "Turn the Season"

When?: Saturday 27th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: OFWGKTA, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, or Odd Future are a group of rappers, skaters, producers and music video directors from California, USA. They rose to the height of white indie popularity back in February when leader Tyler, the Creator released his self-directed video for "Yonkers", and they’ve been inescapable since. Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that their set will be one of the most energetic of the festival, and as I sit more on the side of like than hate there’s no excuse for me not to be there. The noticeable lack of black music and musicians means this might be one of my few chances to enjoy such music during the weekend, albeit not in the traditional mould. Probably not the cultural revolution some thought they were going to be (ask anyone on the street who they are and you certainly won’t hear them say the next Wu-Tang) nevertheless they have one of the most loyal fanbases around, and are sure to draw a crowd.
Sounds like: The Wu-Tang Clan connection comes from the size of the group, with at least a dozen or so members. The rhymes have the dark humour and shock of Eminem circa The Marshall Mathers LP, though Tyler’s dark voice is his own. Their energy has also been compared to hardcore punk groups such as Black Flag and Fugazi.
Song I hope they play: "French!"

3. The Horrors
When?: Friday 26th August
Where?: Festival Republic Stage
Who?: At first they were perceived as nothing short of a fashion statement when they arrived in 2006, being hyped as NME’s next big thing, a clearly 80s goth image, appearances in TV shows like "The Mighty Boosh", a Chris Cunningham-directed video right off the bat ("Sheena Is a Parasite"), and names like Faris Rotter and Joshua von Grimm meant that even I ignored them until recently, with the release of their third album Skying, which I’m very impressed with. It’s a shame it’s taken me this long, I hear 2009’s Primary Colours was very good. It earned them a Mercury Music Prize nomination and proved they had added substance to match their style. Thankfully I’ll be forgiven for my sins when I’m baptised in the river of their headline performance at the Festival Republic Stage on the Friday.
Sounds like: A continuation of the psychedelically-looking New Romantic bands of the 80s, like the Psychedelic Furs and the Cure, who in turn owe a lot to Syd Barrett. And to all those who think the Horrors sound in any way like Simple Minds, they don’t.
Song I hope they play: "Still Life"

2. Pulp
When?: Saturday 27th August
Where?: Main Stage
Who?: If I envy the Leeds incarnation for anything, it’s that Pulp follow the Strokes, whereas it’s the opposite order for Reading. Both bands are probably equal in their contribution to rock & roll history, so it’s arguably a fair decision to co-headline the two, but I reckon that Pulp will manage to steal the limelight from under the Strokes’ noses. Last year they announced their comeback with a string of festival dates, the ones already crossed off leaving behind nothing but glowing reports: Isle of Wight, Primavera Sound, and their surprise set at Glastonbury almost upstaged Radiohead’s. Overlooked during their time between the two warring Britpop titans Oasis and Blur, Pulp nevertheless carved their own niche into the musical landscape of 90s Britain with their politically charged smash albums Different Class and This Is Hardcore, despite beginning their career in 1983. Given today’s political climate, they’ve returned at just the right time.
Sounds like: Pretty much what you’d expect from a typical British indie band in terms of sound. They stick out from the competition with their superior songwriting and lyricism, courtesy of Jarvis Cocker, one of rock’s greatest and most theatrical frontmen. Best of luck following them, Casablancas.
Song I hope they play: "Sorted for E’s and Whizz"

1. Death From Above 1979
When?: Sunday 28th August
Where?: NME/Radio 1 Stage
Who?: Another recently reunited band, DFA1979 almost broke Austin, TX’s SXSW Festival earlier this year when they played their first gig together since 2005, such was the rush to experience the power of their thunderous rawk. Like many garage rock bands, they create a huge sound despite being a two-piece: Sebastien Grainger covers drums and vocals, and Jesse Keeler handles bass and occasionally keyboards. They only released one studio album during their first lifetime, yet if anything has salvaged this holiday’s terrible weather, it’s staying in and playing You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine over and over. Originally simply known as Death From Above, the 1979 came about from James Murphy politely asking them to change their name (to avoid confusion with his DFA label, which also stands for Death From Above). He did them a favour.
Sounds like: I’ve heard them described as dance-metal before; although that’s kind of ridiculous, it gives an idea of the combination of incredible volume and slinky, tight grooves they achieve. Think about where the Black Keys and Lightning Bolt overlap, that’s as close of an analogy I can give.
Song I hope they play: "Blood on Our Hands"

And you can expect the report on how I actually found the festival’s artists to follow when I come back, around Tuesday 30th-Wednesday 31st August. I’ll come up with another format for that. That’ll explain both why there haven’t been any updates in the past week or the weekend Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August. Hope to post some reviews in the near future.

There are just as many I’m looking forward to seeing that didn’t make the list, and I’ll try to visit as many as possible to give you my best experience of the festival. I’m partially writing from memory as well, what with my currently limited internet access. There probably won’t be any photos when I’m there unfortunately. I’m a really bad photographer anyway.

If anyone has been to either the Reading or Leeds festivals before, are planning on going this year, or have seen any of these bands live before, I would like to hear, this being my first time and everything.