Tracks of 2016: #18 YJY


Backward to Track 17

Forward to Track 19

Altar Flowers, remember them from a number of tracks ago?

If you liked them…give “Summer Lifeguard” a go. Blimey Charlie this is good. It’s a touch of Wilco and Weezer, and a hell of a serving of the type of charming indie I thought had withered on the vine. It was an instant hit to my ears, and they’re sometimes very difficult to please.

Youthful attitudes, flippant  “Unless I’m drowning, don’t give a shit about me,” what a lyric. What else to do but smile? I don’t care that it hardly goes anywhere. Some of the best songs take a long time doing nothing. And when it’s this much fun, let’s get in the water.

Tracks of 2016: #14 Palomino Party


Backward to Track 13

Forward to Track 15

What the Hell are we listening to?

That’s a question often placed straight at my door. At work (because I try to sneak on 6Music for a bit). At home (because I try to sneak 6Music on for a bit). At house parties (because invitations to use Spotify always turns my head into a mush of mainstream chart music and cheese at the worst possible times).

Question me again, then, folks, because here’s Palomino Party and I haven’t got an inch of an idea. To what am I listening? To whom? For why?

Great though, eh? Unhinged at the start, in that way which would cause the unsuspecting outsider to reach for the “skip” button. And you’re talking to an expert here, I had a barmaid use the BIG BAD JUKEBOX SKIP RED BUTTON OF DOOM before “One Night In Bangkok” had got past the orchestral sweep of its introductory movement. “Black Russian” turns into a sludgy, murky, pop-sprinkled guitar wigout and I ruddy love it, so skip button be damned, I don’t know much about this band at all although I’m certain we could prop up a few bars.

Tracks of 2016: #12 The Capital


Backward to Track 11

Forward to Track 13

You know a good song when you hear it, yes? The innate sense of immediate approval, the pursed lips, the nod, the whispered “oh yeah”, the click of “Buy Now” or “Download This”. Something about a good old fashioned no nonsense song when all the elements of what has been recorded clicks with whatever you’ve been wanting to hear; that’s a darn good feeling.

In what I call a “previous life”, advice was given to me to never review guitar-based music as “raw”. It’s like saying “I support healthcare” as a politician: of course guitars are going to make a rock song “raw”, that’s the whole point. I retort now. many years later, how else could I describe “Hummingbird”, have you noticed the lyrics?

It’s not that this track, number 12 in my in-no-particular-order run down, happens to be the unofficial number 1 by the way. There’s been plenty of pursed lips and nods with my headphones in, let me tell you. “Hummingbird” blimey heck should be on far more lists than this one, and very high in the rankings too. What hits me about the song is how it’s clearly crafted but without any artificial polish: if there’s no way around the ban on “raw”, might I get away with “natural” ?

Or a less flim-flam way of putting it: a damn good song.

Tracks of 2015: #11 ‘The Ghosts of Beverly Drive’ (Death Cab for Cutie)


Forward to Track 12

Backward to Track 10

Guitars, chorus, action.

There’s a joyful, boundless spirit in this song, from a band I rarely listen to more than a man of my aged years should. At first hearing (much as with Taylor’s “Style”, actually), I just knew with a nod of my head that “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” was my kind of thing. Its drive and rhythm, so old fashioned as considerations in songs I concede, are made of classic elements. There’s even the merest hint of hand-claps in the background, for the love of all things holy. You can’t go wrong with hand-claps in the background!

For all its charm – and there’s ‘retro’ charm from the emo days of the 2000s as much as the 80s synth glory days – this is Death Cab for Cutie at their most fun and vibrant. It may not have fingers anywhere near the pulse of fashion, but it’s a darn good sounding, darn strong lasting song. I’m led to understand the album from which it comes is worth checking out too.

Tracks of 2015: #10 ‘My Amsterdam’ (Then Thickens)


Forward to Track 11

Backward to Track 9

Groggy, woozy, attacking, grungy. That’s my dating profile bio *and* a few words which spring to mind when thinking about Then Thickens.

Chorley’s down and dirty rock band Then Thickens just keep on producing gloriously sludgy music, thick with both melody and menace. “My Amsterdam” has its drug themed lyric and a spaced-out druggy guitars chasing one last punch before its closing wig-out reminds you that this is no ordinary ride. Songs don’t have to finish like this one does, but be not mistaken, this is bloody does with all hell raised.

I included Then Thickens on a previous end-of-year rundown for similar reasons to this: words like “honest” and “authentic” mean little in music reviewing because they have always had the whiff of obviousness about them. However it may be measured, “My Amsterdam” has the honesty of people’s poetry about it, and I would wager Then Thickens would appear next year if they wish to keep up sounding this good.

Tracks of 2015: #2 ‘Hôtel X’ (Richard Lomax)


Forward to Track 3

Backward to Track 1

I have an omnichord and I’m not afraid to use it.

Singing with his wry eyes glancing off to the right, as though the flippant poetry of his lyrics are just coming to him through a spirit guide, Richard Lomax has the great contradictory combination of puppy-dog innocence in the eyes and old-soak wisdom in the lyrics. It’s a great way to singer-songwrite.

‘Hôtel X’ is lyrical in the grand tradition of that word. World-weary without the aftertaste of bitterness, it’s undercut by what I suspect commercial radio would demand be more obviously blues-tuned guitars. Here those guitars are spiky and dismissive, countering the tone of the song up to the cluttered, tumbledown conclusion. As commentary pieces go, it’s far more enjoyable (and brief) than anything by Owen Jones.

Tracks of 2014 — #10 The War On Drugs “An Ocean In Between The Waves”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 9
>>>Track 11

I was not expecting to dive straight into The War On Drugs, though Blimey Charlie, how easy is it to let their album drift up track by track until you’re completely smothered? Their particular retro-charm is, of course, more middle of the road than neon lights, and I kinda like it. Written during a prolonged moment of personal heartbreak, “Lost In the Dream” is an album dripping with pathos and lost love, and yet there’s no sense that we’re just being allowed into the celebration of self-pity which can often happen under such trying circs.

This song clocks in at over 7 minutes, managing to take in a bit of Bruce Springsteen, a great swathe of Dire Straits and just a smidge of Fleetwood Mac as it does so. Beautifully crafted without ever feeling anchored a particular mood, I flagged this track up almost immediately as a standout of the year, and so it proved.