Well, that’s 2011 more or less wrapped up.
Where the bloody hell it went, I have no idea, but, as I do most years, I thought I’d finish it by wrapping up my favourite albums of the year. Now, I should probably add at this point that, because I’m no longer a teenager who buys NME every week, or even a 20-something buying a monthly music magazine, I don’t hear as much new music as I’d like. So, whilst many of these albums were released in 2011, some are actually older but were new to me in 2011.
Anyway, here we go, in no particular order:
- Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part Two: I’ve never actually been a massive Beastie Boys fan, and have always liked the idea of them, more than the reality. But Hot Sauce Committee Part Two was an absolute belter from first to last, was utterly life affirming, probably because one of the Beasties was recovering from cancer during its recording, highlighted how small-minded the OFWGKTA clique are, and it’s promo film was ****ing genius.
- The Streets – Computers And Blues: The Streets, or Mike Skinner as he’s known to his friends, is, I think, a perfectly English genius. This was his last album under The Streets moniker, and is, I think, a very fitting obituary. It mixes his trademark engagingly everyman raps with some lovely beats, and includes much of the (slightly cod) philosophy from his (amazingly under-rated) last album. I’ll be sorry to see The Streets go, but his new outfit The D.O.T. sound like they might be quite good, if their first track is anything to go by. It’s called Trouble and features a young man called Ghostpoet.
- Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam: His taste for bad puns reminds me slightly of Carter USM, but don’t let that put you off. He’s signed to Gilles Peterson’s excellent Brownswood label, his album is a brilliantly captured time-capsule of Britain in 2011 and it’s a crime that he didn’t win the Mercury.
- Lee Fields & The Expressions – My World: Released in 2009, but to be honest it doesn’t matter as it sounds like it was released in 1969, this is an amazing piece of pure R&B soul delivered by a true soul survivor, and one that I discovered through the marvelous Hunch FM. Honeydove is possibly my favourite track of the year.
- DJ 2 Tone Jones – Shaolin Jazz: This is brilliant – a bunch of tracks by the Wu-Tang Clan, and is constituent members, with the backing tracks replaced with samples from classic jazz. Seriously. It’s what the wannabe hipsters would call amaze-balls. And his similar re-imagining of classic Gil Scott-Heron tracks is not to be missed either.
- Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues: Nothing particularly different from their first album, but when you have a début as beautiful as the Fleet Foxes did, why would you want to change that? Music to get lost in.
- The National – High Violet: I know, this was released in 2010. But I’m getting old, I’m not as up to date as I was, and this is simply too amazing not to put in a Best of list. Also, there might be people who are like I was – ignorant of the splendour of The National: possibly better than Arcade Fire.
- Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys: A couple of the tracks sounded like attempts to replicate One Day Like This, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a truly beautiful record. Build a rocket boys indeed.
- SBTRKT – SBTRKT: Soulful house music made by a man wearing a massive African tribal mask – what’s not to love? Listening to this today it occurred to me that it bears a lot of similarities to the all-time classic All Systems Gone by Presence which, if you don’t own, you really should.
- Gilles Peterson – Masterpiece: Part of a series of mix albums released by Ministry of Sound, this 3 part epic shows why Radio 1 are fools to have let him go: like a 20th Century John Peel, he touches everything from techno to jazz and just about everything in between. Worth the price for just one of the three free extra mixes alone.
So, there you go. Hopefully something for everyone and some things that will be new to you and should get you through the festive season and into 2012.
*New to me.
Photo of Ghostpoet performing at Whelan’s in Dublin in September 2011 by yours truly, with a little help from Instagram.
Andy Smith’s Essential Selection mix for Radio 1 is one of my favourite ever DJ sets. Almost as good is his mix album The Document, which led to a number of sequels. And now, years after it first came out, he’s uploaded what would have been Document 4 to SoundCloud so that anyone can have a listen to a previously unreleased masterpiece.
[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/17521402" params="show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=0040ff" width="100%" height="81" ]
In Smith’s own words:
Delivered to Universal records in 2008 to be released as a double pack CD with Document 1 & 4 (to celebrate 10 years since Document 1) but it never came out – I think Universal just wanted to sell the Amy Winehouse CD to every human being on the planet and couldn’t really be arsed about anything else but hey, thats major labels for you! Its been sitting on my harddrive for 3 years so you may as well hear it.
Smith’s mixes are almost instantly recognisable, so if you like the Document 4, why not head over to Andy Smith’s site and actually pay for some of his music.
And now, because you really shouldn’t need a reason, the 1st track from Andy Smith’s Document 4 mix, LL Cool J’s incredible Mama Said Knock You Out
Documents by Jeremy Keith on flickr
So apparently Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide show has been on Radio 1 for ten years. As with so many other things these days, that makes me feel a bit old as I still remember his show on Kiss (as I’m sure many others do too) and actually still think that the slot he had on a Sunday evening was the perfect one for his music and is one that Radio 1 should put him on at. They should certainly take him out of the grave-yard slot he currently lives in (2am on Wednesday night/Thursday morning).
I was chatting with someone about Mr Peterson the other day and we were saying that it’s a national disgrace how the BBC simply don’t recognise what they have in Gilles: as far as I’m concerned he, more than Steve Lamacq, Zane Lowe or Colin Murray (FFS!) he is the true successor to the late, great John Peel. His talent for mixing up genres and his obvious passion for music in all its many forms, means that he’s the one now doing what Peel used to do so well – introducing people to music they simply wouldn’t hear elsewhere.
Anyway, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Worldwide being on Radio 1, Brownswood are putting on a gig at The Roundhouse with a rather fantastic line-up.
In the recent All Winners poll of the best records of 2008 Q-Tip’s track with Norah Jones, Life Is Better, was named as the best track whilst the album it comes from, The Renaissance, came second after Erykah Badu. All very satisfying as it’s not too different to my own selections of the best songs & albums from last year.
Anyway, with Q-Tip and the excellent Little Dragon (whose debut album I reviewed on Fly) playing live, and Benji, bPm & Gilles spinning tunes, it should be an amazing night. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it (though I’ll be in Dublin with some very lovely people so don’t think I will be too sad) but I would very much recommend that everyone else tries to get tickets. And in the meantime you can check out this awesome Q-Tip mix that someone called Lefto has done for Gilles or listen to Scribbled Paper, the achingly beautiful closing track from Little Dragon’s album.
And I’ve just realised that this is only the first of a number of events to be held at The Roundhouse to celebrate 10 years of Worldwide so I will definitely be seeing you at the second!
King Britt is a man of many talents as a remix (using a pseudonym) of one of his own tracks (released using a pseudonym) goes to show…
I’m so busy at the moment that I never seem to get a chance to blog (at least not here) so, in an effort to rectify that, will be keeping posts short & sweet.
I’ve been a huge fan of this track ever since I lived in Sydney back in 1999 and a friend, having been to see family in England, came back with a tape of a Gilles Peterson show which included this track. It prompted another mate to buy the Gilles Peterson INCredible Sound Of.. mix CD which also featured the amazing Flower (Scuba Mix) by Soul Dhamma.
Now as far as I can tell both Soul Dhamma & Scuba are pseudonyms used by the multi-talented King Britt, but whether that’s 100% true or not, this is one epic tune, and one that whoever had a hand in it can be well & truly proud of.
It has a long, moody intro featuring a sparse vocal sample, some mellow bass and great synths. It never exactly rocks, but just builds and builds and, just when you think it’s all going to break, slowly winds down again.
I find it harder to describe house music (which this is, if of a very high quality) than just about anything else, but I’ll give it one last try: it sounds like the sort of song that Gilles Peterson would put at the beginning of an excellent mix to get things going nicely!
INCredible Sound Of Gilles Peterson has sadly been deleted but I was able to track it down on Amazon Marketplace; whilst it’s awesome I’m not sure it’s worth the Â¬Â£100 that some sellers are asking for it. Or maybe it is….
Random flower photo: Hamed Saber on Flickr
The new Beatles album Love, which mixes their classic songs together for a Cirque Du Soleil soundtrack, proves how far ahead of their time they were…
The idea of a Beatles musical is one that would normally make me wince. But seeing as the creation of a Beatles themed spectacular from Cirque Du Soleil has resulted in the Love album, I won’t complain. George Martin, who produced all the best Beatles albums in the 60s, has worked with his son Giles to mix the best Beatles songs into an incredible composition.
It takes clips & excerpts from out-takes, live shows, and a miriad of sources and comes up with something that is, amazingly, even greater than the sum of it’s parts. And when you consider that those parts include songs such as Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Help and other tunes that are now part of the global consciousness, that is some achievement.
Classic songs are layered over each other (a particularly great example being the medling of Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite, I Want You & Helter Skelter), songs considered untouchable are hinted at & then discarded. It’s truly amazing. And more than anything Love goes to show how far ahead of their time The Beatles were (every song still sounds fresh, and would win songs of the year contests even now) and just proves that The Beatles really are the best rock/pop band ever (& Radiohead shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath).
Some people say that there is no skill to being a DJ. But the 10 best DJ Mixes are more innovative & exciting than most of the ‘real’ music being released..
I’ve been taking part in a discussion on MOG to come up with the 501 greatest ever albums and was thinking of adding a DJ Mix (the one that I’ve put at No. 1). I thought that it would probably get rejected so decided to compile my own list of the 10 DJ mixes that changed music (for me at least.)
- Coldcut – 70 Minutes Of Madness (Journeys By DJ): An incredible mix of everything from drum & bass, to soul, to the theme from Dr Who. Truly groundbreaking.
- Andy Smith – Essential Selection (Radio 1): As the DJ for Portishead he was at the forefront of trip hop & this mix shows why. Jimi Hendrix to The Beatles, with lots in between. It was never released so why not check out The Document, or stream it here.
- David Holmes – Essential Mix (Radio 1): Voted one of the best ever Essential Mixes, this is a tour de force in taking old funk & soul and making something new with it.
- DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist – Brain Freeze: Another marvel of soul, funk & hip-hop. Most of the excerpts barely last a minute, yet it never feels disjointed.
- RJD2 – Your Face Or Your Kneecaps: A delightful name for another album making something new out of something old. The mix of old breaks & soul tracks beats any of his own compositions.
- James Lavelle – Cream Live 2: A stunning mix of beats, hip-hop & drum & bass. Released at the height of his fame as the Mo’ Wax boss, the scratching was apparently all actually done by The Psychonauts
- Gilles Peterson – Desert Island Discs (Journeys By DJ): Gilles has always been at the forefront of contemporrary music, and this album is like a time-capsule from mid 90s London. Drum & bass, house and old soul are mixed seamlessly.
- The Psychonauts – Essential Mix: Amazing 3-deck wizards manage to make tunes blend together in a way that seems impossible. Including Oasis’ Wonderwall with breakbeats behind it. No, really.
- DJ Premier – The Kings Of Hip Hop: The man behind the beats for Gang Starr puts together a mix of the records that inspired him, and from where he took those beats. 50 Cent & the like should be forced to listen to this.
- Bentley Rhythm Ace – FSUK: Part of the much maligned big beat scene, Bentley Rhythm Ace show a very eclectic taste in tunes, and mix up a storming dance floor set.
As you may gave guessed, I’m not much of a fan of house music, so haven’t included any house mixes. If you feel that there are any that I really should have included, then please let me know.
And as a final thought, Morrisey famously once sang “Hang the DJ”. And where is he now? Trading on his past glories like an old pantomime dame, whilst all of these DJ sets sound fresher & more invigorating than anything that he has released in the last 20 years.
UPDATE: An unforgivable ommission:
11. Soulwax – 2 Many DJs (As Heard On Radio Soulwax Vol 2): The mix that really gave birth to the mash-up explosion. Belgian DJ/Producers mix up everything from Nirvana to Basement Jaxx, Salt & Pepa to Iggy & The Stooges. Truly seminal.
Earlier this summer I went to the rather excellent Lovebox Weekender Festival in London, hosted by Groove Armada…
There were performances from Ben Westbeech, Coldcut, Norman Jay, Jamiroquai and Gilles Peterson to name but a few. And now, to bring back the happy memories, I’ve discovered some podcasts that were done for the Lovebox website.
They inlude mixes by the aforementioned Coldcut, X-Press 2 (whose track Lazy, is another of the tunes covered by Barefoot), Tom Findlay (of Groove Armada) and the excellent hip-hop/funk crew Breakin’s Bread. But the one that has really taken me is by Blacktronica which includes an excellent cover of As, by Stevie Wonder (the 2nd song at my wedding since you asked). But I have no idea who this Stevie cover is by and it’s driving me mad. Have a listen to the Blacktronica mix here, and if you recognise the cover of As, please let me know who it is!
New York based DJ illJazz provides a hip-hop mix to put the summer in everyone’s life…
Well, we lost. But the sun is shining and I’m off on holiday tomorrow. And one thing that I will definitely be taking is a great mix I found. It’s by a guy calling himself illJazz and it’s a proper party mix of hip-hop, soul & house. It starts with a great track by De La Soul and gets better from there.
You can either stream it or download it, but whatever you do, check out illJazz – you won’t regret it….