The annual tradition, Porky’s favouritest albums of the past 12 months, this time in two parts, with part 2 tomorrow.
In no particular order:
The Phoenix Foundation: Give Up On Your Dreams
I can’t help but feel that if the Phoenix Foundation were based anywhere but New Zealand’s capital they’d be playing to stadia in the United States and Japan. And it grates that a far inferior outfit such as The National can scoop up such acclaim and sales, not that there’s a great deal of similarities between them.
Bob Lennon John Dylan is a pop classic; Mountain’s whooping and hollering suggests they’re having an absolute blast making music together. And Playing Dead is repetitive, blatantly straightforward and captivating.
Paul Weller: Saturns Pattern
Saturns Pattern was always going to be compared to the startling guitar-fuelled Wake Up The Nation (2010) and the Teutonic-tinged Sonic Kicks (2012).
But it’s a different beast from those two: more ambitious, too far-reaching perhaps. It’s a soulful, crunchy, electronic and folky collection of songs. I can’t say I found it to my liking at first, it seemed lacking in an edge or was incohesive. But after a fair number of listens I’m now more attuned to it; I can see where he’s coming from. Not in the same league As Wake Up The Nation, but there’s merits contained within.
Sara Lowes: The Joy of Waiting
Lowes’ second album is achingly poptastic with gems such as I Find You that gush forth with melodies and heart-achingly simple lyrics.
Little Fishy goes full-tilt into the chorus: “on the end of my line, little fishy of mine, heading straight to my plate” which could be reference to the test of survival in some communities, or, well you could look beyond the basic lines and wonder what Lowes is actually fishing for.
And then there’s Chapman of Rhymes, which is strangely reminiscent of 70s rock revivalists but is actually a harmless and mundane track that is easily passable. I’m taken by the strange turns this album can take, from the effervescent and the beautiful to the dark and sublime.
The Fireworks: Switch Me On
The Fireworks know how to hit the guitar strings hard, and do so with some oomph on the opening two tracks, With My Heart and Runaround but just as I’m concerned about the pace, there’s a sparkler in Let You Know, which is fantastically melodic, a short track that is full of heartfelt, plaintive vocals and tidy drumming. It’s full of summer; a summer spent on the beach getting a tan and watching the love of your life waltz by.
Switch Me On is my end-of-winter upper, a fantastically unpretentious, superfast with slower bits, dreamy pop supersized album. Play loud.
The Fall: Sub-Lingual Tablet
Every year more brilliantly incoherent ramblings from Mark E.Smith and band. How could December pass without an outpouring of crisp guitars and demented lyrics from the ageing Mancunian. Sub-Lingual Tablet is the same, but different. Quit iPhone is a plea to ditch a technological fad with Smith making it clear that “I don’t want to look in people’s homes”. Meanwhile, Auto Chip 2014-2016 is ten minutes of engrossing and fanciful art rock. Barmy.
Richard Thompson: Still
Thompson has admitted that Still isn’t a move forward, though he quantifies it by saying that it isn’t “playing the same old stuff”.
He is spot on. There’s the typical swing of moving to moveless on Still; uplifting to mundane. It’s a cycle that is tantalising; while you know the routine, you’re never quite sure of which order it will come in, or how it will be delivered.
Patty Don’t You Put Me Down is the kind of edgy ditty that could open a gig to warm up the crowd, while No Peace No End is a relentless charge through Main Road, lots of guitars and quickly-rattled off verses.
Elsewhere, there’s ballads and blues stompers; Still has the distinctive stamp of Thompson.
The School: Wasting Away and Wondering.
Titles such as Put Your Hand In Mine and My Heart’s Beating Overtime suggest an early 60s simplicity and an intricate beauty that reminds one of the 80s twee fad.
It’s heartening to indulge in lyrics such as “First time I saw you with that smile upon your face/ I knew I would have to make you mine,”. Easy-on-the-ear soundscapes that ease you into the day or make the pre-bedtime routine so much more happier.
Melodies are everywhere but Wasting Away and Wondering has some swoonsome influences, notably from Motown on Do I Love You? but you can detect the effervescent candy-pop glory of the Altered Images on the title track.