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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 GUYDbut 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-Saturns Patternfuelled 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 Sara Lowesthat 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 Fireworkssome 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 Sub-Lingual Tabletband. 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 Stillquantifies 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.

The School

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.

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This is Porky’s annual round -up of, not necessarily the best albums of the year, – we haven’t heard the Leonard Cohen one after all – but the ones that endeared us the most.

The Black Seeds: Dust and Dirt (Rhythmethod/ DRM)

Solid Ground from 2008 moved the Seeds in a slightly different direction, one that encompassed more fluid influences. They haven’t strayed from that ubiquitous path on Dust and Dirt, although the trademark Jamaican grooves and skanks are very much in abundance.
You can imagine they’ve been listening to early 70s funk, 90s acid jazz and Curtis Mayfield on the tour bus. There’s an enormous amount of great ideas on this album, which is undoubtedly their finest yet, and the one that could smash open doors in North America, Europe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

———————-

Paul Weller: Sonik Kicks (Universal)   SonikKicks_Cvr

In a 21-year solo career, Weller has never dwelled on the successes; every album is a new adventure, and to be truthful, some have needed to be to make amends for a lapse in judgment. Such an accusation can’t be levelled at Sonik Kicks, a glorious ride through rock and electronica’s magnificent history. Dragonfly soars like Goldfrapp with the scent of sci-fi wafting throughout; Around the Lake is a course, bitter fruit, with drumbeats and screechy effects mingling with guitars-a-plenty; Drifters has a flamenco touch, while Paperchase has ‘a slight Blur feel to it’ says Weller and it’s hard to disagree. Like Bowie he is a living legend but like The Grand Dame, he has that innate ability to change and move in a new direction, without sounding like a bandwagon hopper.

———————–

The Heartbreaks: Funtimes (Nusic)

Funtimes is jaunty, effervescent and joyful, while referencing the decline of the great British seaside resort. You can imagine they spent their pre-teen years on the coconut shy and ungainly wrapping their arm around a girl, “I’ll be waiting outside the Winter Gardens, feeling slightly worse for wear; if talk of romance thrills you, honey, maybe I’ll see you there?” coos Matthew Whitehouse on Winter Gardens.
Standard indie guitars abound and it’s reminiscent of Tom Allalone and the 78s, who promised more than they actually delivered but the vigour, passion and northern Englishness of Funtimes is winning me.

———————–

Madness: Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da ( Lucky Seven)  
Ah Madness, they call it gladness. The London boys have always had a place in the heart of this porker. Their tenth album, with a title that seems like it was taken from a Bad Manners b-side, won’t pretend to be their greatest but is one of the highlights of a grand year. It’s the poppy, ska-lite, soulful work I fully expected. My Girl 2 harks back to the single of 1979, and that feeling of nostalgia worms it’s way in syubtle ways throughout. Download-contender How Can I Tell You has a jolly ol’ knees-up Mother Brown feel to it, “the last chocolate in the box, a pair of mittens and some cotton socks”.
Madness always wore their influences proudly on their jackets, it was what endeared them to millions in the 1980s, so it’s only natural that will wear them loudly again in 2012.

——————————-
The Proclaimers: Like Comedy (Cooking Vinyl)  LIke Comedy

This is the sound of two men maturing: “A hundred years ago/ I thought happiness was ice cream and football/ But time went by so fast/ Till I couldn’t see their attractions at all.”
Nevertheless, despite their affection “for the lassies” there are the occasional nods to the national game, such as on the opener, where the brothers hope for a good season on account of their main foes’ poor defence.
It’s a typical Proclaimers mix of folk and country lurching from the reflective Dance With Me to the stirring There’s, though the highlight is the title track, which starts with one of the Reid brothers (they’re twins so fuck knows who’s at the mic) singing plaintively before both Craig and Charlie rouse their vocal chords with enough energy to wake up a morgue as they observe how life moves on form the days of hellraising.

———————

Richard Hawley:  Standing At The Sky’s Edge

Sitars mingle with distorted guitars on the seven-minute opener,  She Brings The Sun, and I’m transported back to the meeting that never happened between The Beatles and The Byrds.
Later, a surge of guitars drone out from the start to Down Into The Woods and the incessant hum continues for the remainder of this wonderful little buzz. It’s surprising, and refreshing to have a massive gear change, with Seek It offering beautiful harmonies, a love song without the clichés.

———————

Factory Star: New Sacral (Occultation recordings / Fishrider records)

Mini-album New Sacral is a work that delves into the darker side of life, with an eerie, yet invigorating Strangely Lucid being the focal point of the release. It does share an affinity with Blue Orchids’ Greatest Hit album from 1982, (which I was coincidentally listening to before receiving this), notably on Incorruptible where Martin Bramah (ex-Orchids) intones the title track numerous occasions with a grim knowningness. It would fit in perfectly on the Flying Nun label but much kudos to Fishrider records for picking up on this.

———————–

Bruce Foxton: Back In The Room (Basstone)

Back In The Room sees Foxton’s oft-fracticious relationship with Paul Weller seemingly fully repaired as the legend appears on three tracks, and that Weller-Jam influence is fairly obvious, sometimes too transparently, but that is far from a fault. It means enchanting pop dongs like Number Six, the blues-driven verse-chorus-verse anthem Find My Way Home and the essence of Motown in Don’t Waste My Time.

Piano playing augments The Gaffa, a trip back to the days of rock’n’roll; there’s a couple of pleasant instrumentals while there’s a feeling of contendness on the breezy Drifting Dreams.

———————-

Ultrasound: Play For Today (Fierce Panda)  Ultrasound

It’s been a whopping 13 years since Ultrasound released their one and only platter. Money wasn’t a motivator, but a need to prove that they could have made an impact is.

It is somewhat fitting then that the opening track is Welfare State, released in an era where the unemployed are regarded as pariahs, on a level slightly below Middle Eastern bombers and child-snatchers. “We are the greasy, unwashed scum/ We are the paupers on the run/ We’ve never done a day’s work in our lives.” intones Wood, mimicking hundreds of right-wing, snooty tabloid headlines.

Long Way Home is gloriously upbeat, as it purrs along like a Japanese car on the fastest highway in the country. These two plus Twins more than mitigate for some of the lesser lights, such as Glitter Box that seems out of place.

———————–

Jim Jones Revue: The Savage Heart (Play It Again Sam)

Jim Jones and his Revue offer no surprises, no charm offensive .. it’s the bare-bones rock’n’roll rampage of a band born with The Cramps and Bo Diddley playing at their birth, and Iggy and Jerry Lee Lewis at the first birthday party.

Radio won’t play them but word of mouth has seen the not-so-young rockers with greased-back quiffs move up from the toilet circuit to proper venues.

Needless to say there’s no room for electronics; it has strong whiffs of 1950s attitude, 70s raw power and the proto-goth rock of the Birthday Party in the 80s. Rock on.

——————–

Madness: Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da ( Lucky Seven)  
Ah Madness, they call it gladness. The London boys have always had a place in the heart of this porker. Their tenth album, with a title that seems like it was taken from a Bad Manners b-side, won’t pretend to be their greatest but is one of the highlights of a grand year. It’s the poppy, ska-lite, soulful work I fully expected. My Girl 2 harks back to the single of 1979, and that feeling of nostalgia worms it’s way in syubtle ways throughout. Download-contender How Can I Tell You has a jolly ol’ knees-up Mother Brown feel to it, “the last chocolate in the box, a pair of mittens and some cotton socks”.
Madness always wore their influences proudly on their jackets, it was what endeared them to millions in the 1980s, so it’s only natural that will wear them loudly again in 2012.

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Bruce Foxton: Back In The Room (Basstone)

Foxton hasn’t quite had the breaks that’s been afforded to Paul Weller since The Jam was broken up by Weller in 1982.

One formed the Style Council and has had numerous excellent solo albums, the other was a member of Stiff Little Fingers in their comeback years, and formed From The Jam with fellow ex-Jam-mate rick Buckler, which came across as a cry of ‘hey we were in the band too’.

But Foxton was an integral part of The Jam and his edgy bass playing and electric movements on stage were crucial to the sound and vision of that band.

Back In The Room sees Foxton’s oft-fracticious relationship with Weller seemingly fully repaired as the legend appears on three tracks, and that Weller-Jam influence is fairly obvious, sometimes too transparently, but that is far from a fault. It means enchanting pop dongs like Number Six, the blues-driven verse-chorus-verse anthem Find My Way Home and the essence of Motown in Don’t Waste My Time.

Piano playing augments The Gaffa, a trip back to the days of rock’n’roll; there’s a couple of pleasant instrumentals while there’s a feeling of contendness on the breezy Drifting Dreams.

It may be an unfortunate appraisal of the state of new bands, or it may be that Porky is getting closer to the knacker’s yard, but a good percentage of the best albums being released in the 2010s are from artists who would have been forceably retired by the age of 23, in the 1960s.

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Who: Paul Weller 

Title: Sonik Kicks

Label: Universal

Tell me more: Has he still got the fire in his belly? Was the magnificent Wake Up the Nation a last hurrah?

The Lowdown: In a 21-year solo career, Weller has never dwelled on the successes; every album is a new adventure, and to be truthful, some have needed to be to make amends for a lapse in judgment. Such an accusation can’t be levelled at Sonik Kicks, a glorious ride through rock and electronica’s magnificent history. Dragonfly soars like Goldfrapp with the scent of sci-fi wafting throughout. Around the Lake is a course, bitter fruit, with drumbeats and screechy effects mingling with guitars-a-plenty. Krautrockers Neu! are an influence on this record – Kling I Klang is the most obvious reference point – but Drifters has a flamenco touch, Paperchase has ‘a slight Blur feel to it’ says Weller himself and it’s hard to disagree. And while all this sounds mesmerisingly dynamic, the finale, Be Happy Children, is a beautiful ballad which features his own kids. Like Bowie he is a living legend but like The Grand Dame, he has that innate ability to change and move in a new direction, without sounding like a bandwagon hopper.

 

Who: Mystery Jets 

Title: Radlands

Label: Rough Trade/ Rhythmethod

Tell me more: Siblings are common in bands, but fathers and sons in the same group are far less so: in the Jets case it was Henry (dad) and Blaine. The Jets had a very promising start releasing excellent period piece singles like On My Feet and You Can’t Fool Me Dennis, from 2005 which formed part of the following year’s excellent Making Dens album.

The Lowdown: If truth be told, the Mystery Jets have hit some turbulence since then, Serotonin – released in 2010 – was remarkable for its insipidness. I have hopes that Radlands will be a return to form but, alas I’m unable to say that. For a start the cover has the band within a map of Texas, which reflects the recording location, but looks like a corny country or MOR album from 1975. They arrived in Austin for the recording process only with guitars, and borrowed “all this amazing valve gear from an old guy called Jack,” but Radlands still sounds contrived. This isn’t the same band who created Making Dens, this is a four-piece who’ve matured, and the joyful pop sounds have dissipated. A shame as there is a majestic break-up song about who takes what from the record collection. Greatest Hits namechecks Paul McCartney and Mark E.Smith and Blaine Harrison tells his spurned lover: “You can take the Lexicon of Love but I’m keeping Remain In Light”. Hale Bop is cringeworthy but would go down a storm in a rural bar where they have both types of music: country AND western.

 

 

Who: Alabama Shakes 

Title: Boys & Girls

Label: Rough Trade

Tell me more: Gaining some attention in their native USA and beyond, the Shakes are three guys and one girl, vocalist/ guitarist Brittany Howard.

The Lowdown: Much of the publicity for one of the band’s gigs in London this year was due to the presence of Russell Crowe who is either an Aussie or a Kiwi depending on his behaviour. I don’t know anything about his taste in music but he isn’t exactly an expert on new music. And therein lies the problem with a A-List celeb endorsements: they know little more than me or you. Crowe and everyone else in the sweaty venue may have loved the Shakes that night, but alas, I find it hard to get remotely excited by this record. Howard overdoes it, coming across as a new Joss Stone, while the band do their best with the material they have at hand. Overwhelmingly disappointing but they are trying too hard to sound like other people.

 

Who: The Heartbreaks

The cover from the promo copy, which I find better than the commerical one

Title: Funtimes

Label: Nusic

Tell me more: Edwyn Collins is one of the producers on this debut album by a bunch from the seen-better-days English resort town of Morecambe. They are supporting Morrissey soon.

The Lowdown: If what some people wrote were to be true, The Heartbreaks are the new James or Libertines. They are neither of course, but such attempts of hyperbole reek of smoke and mirrors, or just simply becoming carried away.
Funtimes is jaunty, effervescent and joyful, while referencing the decline of the great British seaside resort. You can imagine they spent their pre-teen years on the coconut shy and ungainly wrapping their right arm around a girl, “I’ll be waiting outside the Winter Gardens, feeling slightly worse for wear; if talk of romance thrills you, honey, maybe I’ll see you there?” sings Matthew Whitehouse on Winter Gardens.
Collins’ influence is noticeable on Remorseful but not overly so. Standard indie guitars abound and it reminds me Tom Allalone and the 78s, who promised more than they actually delivered but the vigour, passion and northern Englishness of Funtimes is winning me over with each listen.

 

 

Who: Some Velvet Morning  

Title: Allies

Label: MyMajorCompany

Tell me more: Anyone who names themselves after a Nancy Sinatra/ Lee Hazelwood song needs more investigation. The morning is Des Lambert, the velvet is Rob Flanagan and the some is Gavin Lambert who hail from London. Porky hasn’t sniffed them before but they have released several singles and an album since 2006.

The Lowdown: It’s telling that Chris Potter, who has worked with Verve and U2, is involved. Des Lambert wants to be both Bono and Richard Ashcroft at the same time, with a dash of early Coldplay and perhaps the Cure. That sounds like an impressive roll-call, but it is a little deceiving. Black and white artwork and band photos and a track with a German title (Unterbrechen) makes them seem dark and mysterious. But musically they’re fairly one-dimensional. It is one of those albums that’s both rewarding and frustrating. One the one hand there’s some epic soundscapes like the single How To Start a Revolution that make you feel like reaching for the sky and shouting the lyrics. But the frustrating side is that they aim for that orgasmic feeling at every opportunity, and, like Usain Bolt, you can’t run a world record in every race.

Anything else: MyMajorCompany operate by crowd funding, a way of raising money to be able to raise the capital for an album, and SVM raised £100,000 in this way.

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Paul Weller: Find the Torch, Burn the Plans (Island)

The heart of this bountiful DVD/ CD package is the documentary that provides the title. In this illuminating film, punk director Julien Temple gives Weller free reign to ruminate about his London, the London that inspired last year’s magnificent Wake Up The Nation album; the London that’s been his home since 1977. Speaking from a red telephone kiosk Weller bemoans the loss of the traditional British post box, the Routemaster double decker buses the city was once famous for and the very telephone box he is standing in. Meanwhile, two cabbies take a break from the drudgery of the city’s traffic with a cup of overbrewed tea and a glorious English fry-up to herald a great icon of London, the greasy spoon, to complain that the congestion charge, the recession and inflation is hitting their business while bicycle couriers say email means less darting in and out of heavy traffic to deliver crucial documents. Welcome to London in the 21st century. Or any city for that matter.
And, either side of these proclamations on modern life, Weller and his band give fantastic renditions of Wake Up the Nation, the title track to the magnificent album of last year, and No Tears to Cry from the same work.
While it is ostensibly about Britain’s capital city, the film is also about how a middle-aged man found his mojo again and recorded what Porky considers to be one of the albums of 2010 (https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/albums-of-2010). Temple gets some young Mods in a Carnaby St boutique to explain the logic and the meaning behind the album; takes Weller to a traditional fish and chip store (where real spuds are fried), to the trendy Savile St and, in the finest moment, to get his usual short back and sides at a City barber where the 87-year-old scissorman tells the former Jam frontman he has a haircut fit “only for a woman”.
Later, Weller says that, despite what’s been lost, London is much improved: the shops now have colour and vigour, you can get a decent coffee and the multi-cultural make-up provides a varied palate.
After watching the handful of performances of Wake Up tracks performed in an old-style pub that form a crucial part of the film, I’m ready for the second chunk of this DVD, the entire live show for one of his Royal Albert Hall shows from May last year.
I saw Weller at Auckland’s Powerstation in October, a far cry from the RAH perhaps, but the venue is irrelevant given this was his first ever show in New Zealand. Don’t you like sheep Paul? One show was booked but interest was so high three gigs were held at the same venue and the original booking was an absolute stormer, Weller dipping into the past (five Jam tracks, one from the Style Council era) and heralding the present with several tracks from Wake Up the Nation.
I was impressed by how much the new stuff stood up against classics like Pretty Green and That’s Entertainment so I was drooling at the mouth as I clutched at disk one. 28 tracks with a varied mix, starting with last year’s Andromeda, re-awaking 1978’s Strange Town, and featuring a guest performance from the abysmal Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics who is allowed to attempt to butcher Eton Rifles.
The CD includes much of these tracks while there’s six songs from In Concert at the BBC Theatre with Richard Hawley appearing on No Tears To Cry.

It gets no better.







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Paul Weller: Wake Up The Nation

Seeing Weller in Auckland in October was my gig of the year. He tore at his set-list with gusto, making the new tracks sound as impressive as Jam or Wild Wood-era solo output. Wake Up the Nation is surprisingly excellent, not just a return to form but possibly his best yet, a rallying call to all those who suffer from apathy and disinterest. Weller hasn’t made a comeback after a couple of iffy albums, with As Is Now and 22 Dreams both good career moves, but few people were expecting him to hit the mark so often, as he does on Nation, especially on Fast Cars/ Slow Traffic and the burning, angry title track.

The Courteeners: Falcon (Polydor)                
Falcon is an album born of the musically-rich north-west of England, the lyrics resonating with Mancunian landmarks, of lovers being in faraway London, and all the things that working class people in the towns across the breadth of dear old England do. There will be comparisons to Editors, the typical “indie-rock band” but the Courteeners are the mature version of the Arctic Monkeys, their tales being of late 20s heartache and exuberance.

Phoenix Foundation: Buffalo (EMI)

Please take a trip with the Foundation through Wellington’s Town Belt and hill suburb of Mt Victoria on Eventually, and take your brolly with you. Be enchanted by the child-friendly Flock of Hearts, be invigorated by Pot and singalong like a mad thing to the wonderfully fruity lyrics of Orange & Mango. Buffalo is a gloriously simple record, one that is very New Zealand in its themes, but also sounds like it could traverse traditional musical snobbery and parochialism, and appeal to, say, indie fans in Manchester.

The Burns Unit: Side Show (Proper Music)                       
Given that the backgrounds of the Unit are folk, alt-country, rap and a band that can best be described as indie-Indian there is a fascinating breadth of ideas and sounds on Side Show. There’s the Kate Bush-esque Sorrys, featuring the enchanting vocals of Emma Pollock, the campfire niceties of You Need Me To Need This and the emotionally, and politically, charged, Send Them Kids To War. With such a range it almost feels like a compilation.

Natacha Atlas: Mounqaliba (World Village)
Mounqaliba is written almost entirely by Atlas and Samy Bishai, who grew up in Egypt, the orchestral players are Turkish and Atlas sings in Arabic, with interludes in French on a Francoise Hardy song and English on Nick Drake’s River Man. Atlas moves easily through the languages, adding beauty and grace to the non-Arabic tracks while adding some bite when she sings in Arabic. It would be difficult to pigeon-hole this album as World, something Putamayo would make a compilation out of, but like a band she performs with Transglobal Underground this is an album that reflects the sounds, sights and feel of the modern world.

Chris Difford: Cashmere If You Can (Saturday Morning Music Club)
A wonderfully Squeezy title from a songwriter who keeps the curious English observational style very much alive. Cashmere If You Can jumps from one joyous catchy singalong to another. On Like I Did, Difford tells a familiar parental tale, of how kids do exactly what they did once: “He’s getting stoned (like I did), he plays bass (like I did), he lays in bed like I did, how can I complain.” Society is awash with vacuous lyrics and music, so it’s refreshing to hear tales of regret, of young men leaving their loved ones to go to war, and the problems of noise in a small house, sung by someone who’s not just observing society, but who has lived some of the tales he puts to tape.

 

Belle and Sebastian Write About Love (Rough Trade)                                                      
The basic tenets of a B & S album are all enclosed: dreamy vocals, plaintive melodies, and beautifully penned songs about relationships that never happened, schoolyard bullying and, a tale of the toxic friend who only calls at midnight when a relationship with a muscleman goes awry. There are some lovely tracks with ’60s bounce; it’s impossible not to be entranced by the hook-heavy I Can See Your Future or the escapist harmonies of the title track featuring actress Carey Mulligan.

 

Ten City Nation: At The Still Point (Sturm Und Drang)
As the band have progressed from their days as Miss Black America, they’ve become even more nihilistic. More guitars, more anger, more Stooges and more Nirvana influences. The opener, Flashing Lights is very accessible – punk with discipline – but Room 10101 is, shall we say, the kind of thing that would scare mothers around the world. At times we need noise in our life. Not the Korn or Green Day form of noise, but something more digestible, even though At The Still Point might give you that bloated feeling after listening to all 12 tracks in one go.

Howl Griff: The Hum (Recordiau Dockrad)
A single, Crash and Burn, is a cosmic outpouring of twee, delirious pop, reminiscent of a lovely Canadian bunch called Cinderpop and shares a sense of the surreal with The Coral. And, like those scousers, Howl Griff tell stories of real characters, such as a lady who “can help you in the dark of night and improve your memory”, on Jean’s Therapy. Meanwhile, on Uduhudu, spirits are raised from the dead in a spangly, manic and effervescent shanty. Glorious, bonkers stuff only the British can do, and the Welsh do best for some reason.

Goldfrapp: Head First (Mute)                                
Goldfrapp have revisited electro-glam with an album that’s unashamedly steeped in the glorious synths of the 1980s. The opener, Rocket, sounds suspiciously like The Pointer Sisters’ Jump, and is followed by Believer, a beauty that harks back to the radio-friendly Supernature album of 2005. It ends with Voicething which wouldn’t sound out of place on the last Kraftwerk album.

FParom 1977 to 1982 Paul Weller was

the driving force behind the Jam,

a Mod band that had the energy

of punk. All guitars and rousing

statements, the Jam enjoyed an amazing

run of numbers ones in the UK. Cocktail

pop came in the form of his next band

The Style Council and since 1991 has

been a solo star.

In recent years, Weller’s credibility has

dripped and some people have written

him off. However, Wake Up The Nation

is, well a wake up-call, to the Modfather

and to his fans. And to Britain to shake

off its apathetic lumber and get groovy

again.

The 16 tracks here crackle and fizz,

proving that no matter his age (over 50)

Weller remains a formidable force. The

edginess of his early solo career is mirrored

on the opening track Moonshine

and its equably impressive cousin, the

album’s title track.

Paul Winders and The Goodness prove

that the Dunedin sound is very much

alive. You Can Have It All has the kind

of nicely-scripted lyrics, tuneful observations

of New Zealand life and the

easy-going manner that reminds me of

bands like The Chills, The Bats and The

Verlaines, who Winders was a member of

once. Best of Friends is so dammed hummable,

and Thank You is as good as anything

the above bands have recorded.

On our world trip, we now take in

Argentina, the beef, rugby and, above all

football-loving South American country.

And music: ah yes, the tango. The Gotan

Project are its 21st century flag-bearers

giving latino music a modern update,

fusing the traditional dancefloor freneticism

with jazz and a touch of electronica.

Not too much though. Gotan cut and

paste the Argentinean commentary of

Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal

against England in the 1986 World Cup

and immserse passages of a famous local

novel into Rayuela. Somehow I can’t

imagine Latin America’s biggest star,

Shakira, doing things like that.

 

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