22 November 2015

Record Shopping in Osaka - Part 1

Tower Records in Osaka
Tower Records in Osaka
Osaka is a city that I have only visited once before back in March as part of a business trip. I flew in to Osaka for two days before getting the Shinkansen to Tokyo – I have written about this trip, including visiting the mega Tower Records in Namba, in a previous post. 

This time around, Osaka was the last leg of my journey following a visit to Tokyo (which you can read about here). My flight back to the UK (via a tedious stop-over in Dubai) wasn’t until late at night giving me a few hours to myself during the day. 

The sign at the entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are in Osaka
The sign at the entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are in Osaka
Afro Juice records in Osaka
Afro Juice records in Osaka
I don’t really know Osaka as well as Tokyo and not wanting to be trekking all around the city, I decided to stick to an area close to my hotel. A quick search online told me that an area to west of the Dontobori shopping area and just south of Shinsaibashi Station called Nishishinsaibashi would be worth hitting up.  

The entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are
The entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are
Nishishinsaibashi is a hipster enclave of small alleyways and streets littered with interesting looking independent shops and cafes, and populated by lots of trendy looking people. It was a bustling little area, and felt less manic than other areas of Osaka I’d been too. It reminded me a bit of the Northern Quarter in Manchester. The area sits like an island flanked by two highways, one of which separates Nishishinsaibashi from the tourist trap of the roofed Dontobori shopping area and is full of high end, eye-wateringly expensive shops. I had made a note of a small selection of records stores that I wanted to visit, but other than that I was more interested in having a stroll and taking in the sights. 

Newtone Records in Osaka
Newtone Records in Osaka
One of the first stores I wanted to try and find was Newtone Records. After walking around a few times around the block where Google Maps had taken I was sure it wasn’t there. Just as I was about to give up I spotted a sign outside the building. Not only was Newtone here, but the same building also house two other record stores – Afro Juice Records and Rootdown Records. I didn’t go in to these so I’m not sure what they’re like, but if you are reading this hopefully I have given you a good idea where they are so you don’t make multiple laps of the same block much to the amusement of suited salarymen like I did.

I did head up the stairs and pop in to Newtone Records for a little nosey around. It was a compact, yet well stocked and organised store. Their main focus seemed to be on a lot of house, dance, electronic stuff, with both new and used vinyl. There was a small section towards the front of the shop with a few rows of more rock and indie-orientated releases, but overall Newtone Records’ speciality was cutting-edge electronic and dance stuff. 

The building where Voxmusic is
The building where Voxmusic is
Voxmusic was another store in this area that I had read was worth visiting. Consulting my map I headed towards where it was and soon spotted the sign on the side of building. Entering the lift to go up to the 5th floor, as the doors began to close a man started to say something in Japanese to me, but before I knew it the lift had closed and deposited me at the top of the building. When I got there Voxmusic was nowhere to be seen. The only shop unit was closed and looked empty. When I got back to the bottom of the building the man was stood there waiting for me. Asking if I was looking for Voxmusic, he kindly told me that it had moved and pointed me in the direction of where it now is. How nice of him. It did make me wonder why they still kept the sign up outside the building though…

The entrance to the building where Voxmusic is
The entrance to the building where Voxmusic is
It was starting to get late in the afternoon by this point, but I did find the building where Voxmusic now is, but didn’t have time to go in as I was on a mission to track down King Kong Music. But first a little detour to Flake Records as it was sort out on the way, but sort of on the way. 

Flake Records in Osaka
Flake Records in Osaka
Outside Flake Records
Outside Flake Records
Records display in Flake Records
Records display inside Flake Records
Situated on the very edge of this area across one of the busy roads is Flake Records. Another store that was hard to find and I was about to give up after numerous walks up and down the same road until I eventually spotted a on the street pointing me in the correct direction. I really liked Flake Records. A narrow shop with racks taking up the majority of floor space, tidy display shelves on the walls, and the counter running along most of the back wall. The shop mainly stocked new releases on both CD and vinyl with an emphasis on modern pop, hip hop and indie-rock - the kind of stuff Pitchfork reviews. If I lived in Osaka I could see myself shopping here for new releases. 

Ishizue Music Osaka
Ishizue Music Osaka
Around the corner from King Kong Music I passed Ishizue Music – another record store squeezed in to this relatively tiny area of Osaka. It’s remarkable how a city like Osaka can sustain numerous record stores, but it does mean that the options for music lovers feels endless. 
King King Music in Osaka
King King Music in Osaka
King Kong Music is easy to spot with its pink columns and bargain bins stacked on the streets outside. Going down the stairs you are met by a huge room that’s probably similar in size to Recofan in Shibuya. In fact, King Kong Records reminded me a lot of Recofan – wall-to-wall second hand vinyl piled from floor to ceiling, a real crate-diggers paradise. 

Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
There was all sorts here and all neatly organised in to sections and genres, from rock, pop, hip hop, through to jazz and classical. There was also an impressive CD section and loads of LazerDiscs including some expensive Beatles ones. They also had a decent sized section of old Japanese music. Result I thought, they’ve got to have the elusive Takeshi Terauchi Rashomon album here. Although they did have a few of his records, it wasn’t to be. I even asked the man behind the counter who confirmed my suspicions. Much like Recofan, not only was in rammed with a gargantuan amount of viny, everything seemed fairly priced to boot. If I’m ever in Osaka again and I’ve got a bit more time and money I’ll definitely be going back to King Kong Music

The entrance to Time Bomb Records in Osaka
The entrance to Time Bomb Records in Osaka
Making my way back to my hotel, I accidentally found myself walking past Time Bomb Records. A store that I had seen mentioned on a couple of blogs, but didn’t really have any intention of going in. Curiosity took the better of me though and I thought I would go in for a quick nosey. It was a large open plan store divided by a partition going down the middle separating it in to two halves. The shop mainly stocked rock n’ roll, rockabilly and punk, while at the back I spotted a few racks of indie rock and krautrock; although it was definitely the former styles of music they obviously specialised in.

As I was leaving I saw a western looking man mysteriously being escorted out of a side door. Was he one of the elite record collectors that travel the world snapping up the rarest of the rare vinyl?

So no records for me this time in Osaka, but I did enjoy having a little wander around and discovering an area of the city that I hadn’t been to before. If you have stumbled across this post while searching about record stores in Osaka then at least I hope that it will act as a helpful little guide. 

Read my previous posts about Record Store shopping in Japan below: 
Bookmark and Share

31 October 2015

Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 3

Record Shopping in Tokyo
Records bought on this trip by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Takeshi Terauchi
This month I was back in Japan on a business trip. I was fortunate enough again to visit both Tokyo and Osaka. As with previous work trips to Japan, I had a little bit of time between appointments to be able to visit a few record stores. 
My time in Tokyo was very limited this time meaning I didn't have the opportunity to hunt out any new stores out of the 400-plus record stores that are in Tokyo. I used my time to visit two that I have been too previously, one of which is probably one of the best records that I have ever been to. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya
I managed to pay a couple of visits to Recofan in Shibuya. The first my time was very limited so after taking the lift up to the 4th floor of the Shibuya Beam building I immediately shot to the left and made my way where I remembered the Takeshi Terauchi records are. The selection was a bit more diverse than previously and I picked up an interesting looking record of his I hadn’t seen anywhere else before. It had a greying image of a married couple and Terry sitting on the steps below them with his guitar. My initial thought was that it was the elusive Rashomon LP, especially as the colours of the cover are very similar. It turns out the record is from a year later, 1974 and feels very much like it is part of a similar period. It has some seriously heavy jams on it and when I get a minute I will probably write a few words about it.   

As I usual when I visit Tokyo I was staying in Shinjuku. I hadn’t really had much success previously of visiting the many record stores in this area. Either due to time constraints, or due to iffy directions and Google Maps not being 100% accurate with Japanese address conventions, I have instead spent a lot of time walking up and down alleyways craning my neck with my eyes fixed upwards trying to find stores that apparently should have been there but just weren't. I did previously pop in to the Shinjuku branch of Disc Union which was just as impressive and well-stocked as its Shibuya counterpart.

This time I had read (I frustratingly can’t find the link now) that there was a record store on a road I was familiar with as I had stayed on a couple of hotels on it previously. So I marked on my paper map where the store was supposed to be according to the blog and Google Maps and took a stroll out to it. I ended up walking from Shinjuku to Yoyogi Station and back again along the road keeping my eyes out, but I was unable to find it. Tokyo has buildings on top of buildings and it’s easy to miss places especially if they’re small units and not well sign-posted. If you happen to be reading this post and know the store that I am on about, do let me know where it is

Disc Union in Shibuya
Disc Union in Shibuya
The following day was a Saturday and I had a couple of hours in the morning to myself after catching up with a few emails and so took the JR to Shibuya. In Shibuya, both Disc Union and Recofan are a couple of minutes’ walk from each other - very handy when time is limited.

I made my way up the stairs in Disc Union to the floor that has the second-hand vinyl. As with all of the record stores that I have visited in Japan they use their space well. Shelves and bins are stacked high and all usable space is utilised. The amount of stock is always impressive if a little overwhelming at times, and the lack of floorspace can make navigating around the shop floors a little cumbersome at times, especially when they are busy, as was this case on this Saturday morning. 

Popol Vuh records in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Popol Vuh record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Disc Union had had a little shuffle around of their stock since my last visit, although as they label their sections in English as well as Japanese, it was soon easy enough to get my bearings. I didn’t really have anything in mind that I wanted to buy, I just went for a browse more than anything.

I know Japan is known as a collectors market, but the sheer wealth of stuff they had was ridiculous. Loads of ‘classic rock’ stuff including insane amounts of records by the like of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones. In fact, British rock from the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s, seems to be something a lot of the second hand record stores specialise in. As a Krautrock fan it was exciting to see first pressings of stuff by the likes of Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Amon Dull II, records that I had only ever seen listed on eBay or Discogs or in limited amounts in second-hand stores. 

If you are looking to pick up some Japanese artists on vinyl Disc Union probably isn’t the place. Or I should say, its selection is much smaller than in other record stores that I have visited. Although they did come good this time and they had all of the just issued Kyary Pamyu Pamyu albums on vinyl. Part of me wanted to pick them all up, but I went for Namba Collection in the end. They also had this interesting looking Moomins record that I now regret not picking up. 

Moomins record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Moomins record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
After Disc Union I headed up to road to Recofan. The store is more like a warehouse with endless aisles of records and CD’s. I even found their LaserDisc stash this time around. They were all listed at 100 Yen each and even though I don’t have anything to play them on I do kind of regret not picking some up at that price. You never know, I could have used the opportunity to start up a LaserDisc film club in Nottingham. 

LazerDiscs in Recofan
LazerDiscs in Recofan
The store is sort of split in to two sections: As you go in, on the left is the Japanese-related stock, Classical, and bargain bins; while the much larger right-hand side houses the new releases, CDs, and various genres such as hip-hop, 60s/70s/80s, pop. And there’s loads with much of it very reasonably priced, and from what I could tell and from previous experience, most is in pretty decent condition too. I spent a bit more time looking around this section on the right hand side than I have done on previous visits and if I was up for a good old crate dig I would have had a field day. As it was, time was limited (as was money and space in my suitcase) so I just had a little stroll among the aisles having a flick through the racks every now and again. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya
I did end up picking up a couple more Takeshi Terauchi records for my friend back home. I should also add that the store had a sale on and those bargain bins were busy with shoppers studiously going through every record in every bin. That’s dedication.

The staff have always appeared very friendly in Recofan (as well as all the other stores that I’ve visited in Japan I hasten to add) and even with my lack of Japanese and their lack of English I have been able to get by. At the till they always offer if you want to get the record out of the sleeve and take a look before handing over your money. They also always throw in those plastic record sleeve protectors too. I also spied a little section tucked away at the back where they had a couple of turntables set up with brushes attached to the arms instead of needles, and they were using these to clean the records. Impressive. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya

Although I was able to pick up a few records and hit up a couple of decent stores, I’m still a bit gutted that I didn’t have time to hunt down a couple of record stores in Tokyo that I haven’t had chance to visit yet. 

I went to Osaka after Tokyo on this trip to Japan. I have written a post about visiting a handful of record stores in Osaka here

Read my previous posts about Record Store shopping in Japan below: 
Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 1 
Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 2

Bookmark and Share

1 September 2015

The Quietus Review of Urth By Kagoule

Following on from my review of Colossal Downer by Grey Hairs, the kind people at The Quietus were nice enough to let me have another opportunity to write for them. Again, I got to review a debut album by one of my favourite bands to come out of Nottingham (or anywhere to be honest), Kagoule. Urth is out now via the legendary Earache Records and my review can be read at the following link: http://thequietus.com/articles/18670-kagoule-urth-review

I also got to sit down with Cai from the band and interview him for a double-page spread in LeftLion. The above image is a photo of the page as it looked in the August issue of the magazine. I think this was the third time that I have interviewed the band. The first was when they played a gig for LeftLion that I put on at Nottingham Contemporary for Record Store Day in 2012. Then later in the same year, I spoke to Cai and Lucy for the band's first feature in the magazine. The online version of my most recent Kagoule interview can be read here: http://www.leftlion.co.uk/articles.cfm/title/kagoule/id/7623

 Urth by Kagoule can be bought direct from the band's webstore

Bookmark and Share

29 July 2015

Doggen Interview

This was one of those rare things, an interview that was actually enjoyable and fun to do. Totally worth the five years it took to sort out.

I think due to his long association with Julian Cope I was expecting some kind of acid-fried, speed freak, militant anarchist pagan with hippy tendencies. Instead he was nothing but charming, friendly, and accommodating. At one point he even asked the band he was recording at the time to stay out of the studio for a while longer so he could carry on talking to me.

This is a much longer version of the interview that's in LeftLion Magazine #69.

Doggen is the guitarist in Spirtualized, played with Julian Cope for a long time, (maybe, if Axl is reading) helped to write a few of the songs on Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 with members of Guns N' Roses, and has played on more Top 10 hits than he even cares to remember.

He has so many stories I could have listened to him talk for much longer than the hour and a half I sat down with him for. This was honestly one of my favourite, if not the favourite, thing that I’ve done for the magazine. Definitely worth the wait. 

He's proper Notts too.

Click here to read my extended interview with Doggen for LeftLion 

Bookmark and Share

14 June 2015

BBC Radio Nottingham Breakfast Show (8 June 2015)

BBC Radio Nottingham

I was invited on to the breakfast show on BBC Radio Nottingham last Monday morning in my guise as LeftLion Music Editor to discuss whether popular musical acts should always play their most famous songs live. I was on at around 7.15am and was still wiping the sleet from my eyes. 

Anyway, it's always nice to be asked to do these things and it was a fun, albeit short, discussion. The show can be heard at the following link. I'm on at roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes in: http://bbc.in/1dXsmqn
Bookmark and Share

1 May 2015

The Quietus Review of Colossal Downer by Grey Hairs

Grey Hairs Colossal Downer review for The Quietus

In the middle of last month Grey Hairs released their debut album Colossal Downer. Its 12 tracks of grizzled garage rock that their cues from the American underground of the 80s and early 90s, mixed with copious amounts of cans of Red Stripe and the general disappointment and kind of inert anger you get from working a day job from nine-to-five, Monday to Friday.

It's easily one of my favourite records of the year and I was well chuffed when The Quietus, one of my favourite websites, agreed to publish my review of Colossal Downer. You can read my review at the following URL: http://thequietus.com/articles/17677-grey-hairs-colossal-downer-review

You can listen to and buy Colossal Downer via the Grey Hairs Bandcamp page. 
Bookmark and Share

19 April 2015

Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 2

Disc Union Shibuya

Last October I wrote a post about my experience of record shopping in Tokyo for the first time. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to to visit Japan at the end of March and in between some work appointments I managed to find a little bit of time to visit a couple of stores one afternoon.

I was in Shibuya on the afternoon that I was free and decided to stay in that area. The first store I visited was the large Recofan, a shop that I went to on my previous visit. I cannot stress enough how large this place is. It’s vast. With racks upon racks containing new and used vinyl, CDs and DVDs. The vinyl section probably accounts for a quarter of the store. I could spend all day going through the rows of records, and as appears to be the case in the record stores that I’ve visited before in Japan, it’s all very well organised. Although they don’t sort their records like they do in the West in an obvious A-Z fashion, once you have got your head around how they do it, it’s becomes pretty easy finding the sections you want.

Recofan, Shibuya

Recofan Shibuya
As in all of the Japanese record stores that I have been to even though language may be a barrier the staff are always friendly and very helpful. Staff members have gone out their way to try and find a particular record or artist for me, and this time around in Recofan the assistant behind the till even threw in some plastic record sleeve protectors free of charge with my purchases. The stores also ask you if you want to check the condition of the vinyl before you buy, which is a nice little touch. But as with all of the records I’ve bought in Japan the vinyl is always in very good condition if not almost mint if we are going to use record collector lingo. They appear to know how to look after their records. Recofan has quickly become one of my all-time favourite record stores. 

I headed straight to the Takeshi Terauchi section and picked up the following. Note another purchase of Let's Go - Eleki Bushi, which seems to have had about three separate releases. Thanks to my friend Stephen for assisting in translating the following album titles. 

Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans - The Appeal of Country Guitar
Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans - The Appeal of Country Guitar (1975)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Complete Collection of Electric Folk Songs
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Complete Collection of Electric Folk Songs (1969)
Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys  - Golden Concert
Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys  - Golden Concert (1968)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Let's Go Eleki-Bushi
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Let's Go Eleki-Bushi (re-release, 1978)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Live In Moscow
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Live In Moscow (1977)
Disk Union, Shibuya
Disck Union Shibuya
Just down the road from Recofan in Shibuya is Disk Union. Disk Union is a large chain of record stores in Tokyo, possibly the largest, with various stores specialising in a particular style or genre of music; you get stores specialising in rock and pop, metal, jazz, classic, vinyl and so on.

The store in Shibuya was split over multiple floors with each floor focusing on a different style of music. I headed for the top floor which is where the rock and pop vinyl was stocked. Much like their store in Shinjuku that I visited previously, the selection here was much smaller than in Recofan and the majority of the stock appeared to be made up of Western music, both Japanese and US / European versions, rather than Japanese music, which Recofan had much more of. I didn’t see any new vinyl either, just second hand stuff, but that’s not to say that they don’t do new vinyl, I just didn’t come across any in the section of the store that I was in. Compared to their Shinjuku branch I much preferred this particular store.

After having a good rummage around and not really seeing much that caught my eye, I eventually stumbled across an amazing picture disc of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s recent album Pika Pika Fantajin. I’m a big fan of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and have written about her before on this blog. In fact, this visit to Japan was almost exactly a year to the day I visited in March 2014 when I was first introduced to her music. I liked that coincidence and took it as a sign that I should buy the album - even though I previously bought the CD version from Tower Records. I’m not a huge fan of picture discs but I enjoy the grotesque humour in this one and I think the image nicely sums of the oft-overlooked satirical nature in Kyary’s music. 

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin Picture Disc
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin Picture Disc (2014)
What always surprises me is how cheap the Takeshi Terauchi records are. They all ranged in price between £4 to £10 at the most. The Takeshi Terauchi records that I bought on this visit cost the the same price in total as just that one Kyary Pamyu Pamyu picture disc, roughly £18. It could be that no one knows who he is and there isn’t a demand for his records or perhaps in Japan there is just an abundance of them. The Takeshi Terauchi records that I am interested in buying are his 1960s to mid 70s records - from what I’ve heard the later one’s lack the excitement of those early records and suffer from rather ropey ‘period’ production like horrible synths. Despite there being numerous records of his, Rashomon still remains elusive.

It’s a shame that I didn’t have much time to visit other stores or to spend longer in the two that I did visit, but I am happy with my purchases. Also, if I had more time I probably would’ve bought more and my suitcase would have been dangerously overweight - it’s easy to forget how heavy vinyl records are. 

Tokyo really is a vinyl lovers paradise - the wealth of shops is overwhelming, not to mention the vast amount of records available. I would love to have had more time to really explore the city's multiple record stores.

Bonus Track:

Tower Records, Namba, Osaka
I also visited Osaka for the first time during this particular trip to Japan. I was only there for two very busy days and didn't have any free time at all. There was however a Tower Records very close to my hotel and even though I didn't have any intention of buying any records while in Osaka, I thought that it would have been rude to pass it without at least popping it. I had a wander around, and much like the one in Shibuya, Tokyo, it was huge, spread over multiple floors each dedicated to a particular style of music. Below is a photo I took of their Taylor Swift display on one of the aisles. 

Taylor Swift display in Tower Records Osaka
Taylor Swift display in Tower Records Osaka, March 2015
Bookmark and Share

26 February 2015

Ryan Adams - De Montfort Hall, Leicester (21 February 2015)

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on

The reason why I reactivated this blog last summer was to give myself a place to practice writing and force myself to be disciplined enough to make myself write something on a semi-regular basis. So far this year I have been in a start-of-the-year fug and haven’t felt very inspired or motivated to do much writing, either here or for LeftLion. I didn’t want a month to go by where I hadn’t written anything on this blog, as I have managed at least one post a month since last June, therefore I thought I would pen a few words about the Ryan Adams gig that I went to last Saturday night. 

Being a long-time Ryan Adams fan and having caught him on every UK tour since 2006, in London or in Nottingham, I know what to expect when it comes to him as a performer. Sometimes he can be amazing and other times really frustrating. Tonight was the later. 

I don’t know if something happens when he plays in a band, but  I’ve seen him both solo and as part of a band (The Cardinals), and the truly outstanding performances have been those where it has just been him along on stage playing guitar and piano. When I’ve seen him with The Cardinals his music often felt bogged down and stodgy with no room to breathe. He was playing with a band at this show, so the signs weren’t good. 

A prolific singer-songwriter with so many released and un-released albums under his belt, I’ve always thought as Ryan Adams as a modern day Neil Young. Someone doing his own thing and releasing musically that veers wildly between extraordinary and downright awful, and with such an extensive back catalogue, when you go and see him play live there is no guarantee that he’ll play everything that you want. 

A photo posted by Pawl K (@heypawl) on

It was a gig of two halves. It started off really promising, opening with the reverb-saturated Tom Petty 80s rock of Gimmie Something Good, the show mined the more countrified-rock aspect of Ryan’s musical personality, with a rolling version of Let It Ride following. There was also room for a sumptuous Dirty Rain from Ashes & Fire, while the bar-band take on This House Is Not For Sale really lifted the Love Is Hell song. Wrecking Ball, from his new eponymously titled new LP, sounded like classic Ryan Adams. While the run of Magnolia Mountain, New York, New York, Dear Chicago and When The Stars Go Blue was unbeatable. The first half finished with a brand new and (so-far) unreleased song titled Blue Light that jangled like The Smiths attempting to cover Ryan’s beloved The Replacements. 

Next-up was a cover of the support act Natalie Prass. Although I’m sure it was well intended it was also the moment where the show lost momentum and took a nose-dive from which it never really recovered. After this it felt like the show meandered along and needed an injection of pace. There was some stand out moments with My Winding Wheel, Oh My Sweet Carolina, La Cienga Just Smiled. But these were interspersed with drudgery like a lengthy Peacefull Valley and the dreary Everybody Knows. 

I See Monsters is always something special, and in fact much of Love Is Hell often seem overlooked by Ryan Adams when I’ve seen him live. The song eventually descended in to a wall of guitars that must surely be a nod to Oasis, a band Ryan is a vocal fan of. There wasn’t any encore and Natalie Prass joined Ryan and the rest of the band onstage for the closing Come Pick Me Up. 

Gimme Something Good 
Let It Ride 
Stay With Me 
Dirty Rain 
This House Is Not For Sale 
My Wrecking Ball 
Magnolia Mountain 
New York, New York 
Dear Chicago 
When the Stars Go Blue 
Blue Light 
Your Fool (Natalie Prass cover)
Everybody Knows 
My Winding Wheel 
Peaceful Valley 
Oh My Sweet Carolina (with Natalie Prass)
La Cienega Just Smiled 
I See Monsters 
Come Pick Me Up (with Natalie Prass)

Ryan Adams website
Bookmark and Share

27 January 2015

Alvvays - The Bodega, Nottingham (26 January 2015)

I was late coming to the Alvvays album, only really listening to it at the back end of 2014, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's an album packed full of natural sounding songwriting that's awash with jangly guitars, love-lorn lyrics and saturated in a hazy reverb that makes the whole record feel like one of those late summer evenings which are heavy with some kind of intangible sadness hanging heavy in the air. 

The band from Toronto have been slowly winning plaudits since the album's release last summer, with the song Archie, Marry Me becoming a 6 Music fave, getting named 'Track of the Year' by Drowned In Sound  and even being covered by Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard. All this is testament to the quality of the band's songs. 

Reaching Nottingham in the middle of their first headline tour of the UK, what was refreshing to see and pleasing for a band currently generating something of a 'buzz' is how pleasant and genuinely excited they appeared to be playing their songs for the sold out Bodega crowd. There was lots of talk from lead singer Milly Rankin including the best UK chocolate bars and how the band were looking forward to having a pint in the "UK oldest pub" The Trip To Jerusalem after the show. 

If some of the album can feel a little affected in its attempts to ape the lo-fi C86 sound of the late 80s, live, the songs stripped of the studio production, feel re-invigorated and get the chance breath. With only one 32 minute album to their name tonight's set was always going to be pretty short. All of the album tracks are enthusiastically received by the crowd, while the band pad out the show with a couple of covers - Nosebleed by Deerhunter and The Primitives' Out Of Reach - that are clear touchstones for the type of thoughtful indie-pop that Alvvays are striving to produce. 

Their set ended with a new song called Haircut - a melodic and fuzzy slice of power-pop that, fingers-crossed, points towards a second album that builds upon the promise of their debut and shows that the band are here for the long run. 

Alvvays website

Bookmark and Share

31 December 2014

Albums Of The Year: 2014

Taylor Swift 1989 2014 Albums of the year

It's the last day of the year and everywhere I turn people are doing end of year lists, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and use this as an opportunity to list my top 10 albums of 2014.

This year as been a strange one in terms of buying new music. Most of it has been spent saving what money I could for a house move, meaning I had to ban myself from buying as much records as I usually would. It was tough. Even so, I still picked up bits and pieces here and there, just not as much as I would have done previously. Although there are still many records from this year that I still need to check out or spend a bit more time with.

In alphabetical order these are the albums of 2014 that have brought the most joy and comfort to my tired ears:

Alvvays - Alvvays
Strong melodies, twanging, breezy reverb-saturated guitars. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed an indie-rock record as much as this. Just an utter pleasure from start to finish including a couple of stone-cold belters including Archie, Marry Me.

Beck - Morning Phase
I've always preferred the more downbeat, mellow Beck to the funky wannabe-Prince version and this album delivered that by the bucketful. With his Dad providing string arrangements and the Seachange-era band backing him, Beck put together an album that sounded hopeful while still shaded by a nagging sense of melancholy. Beautiful and my go to Sunday morning record. 

Camera - Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide
Their first album has been one of my favourite records of recent years and even though this follow-up is slightly more 'out there' and experimental than that first LP and doesn't quite match their debut, Camera are still one of the better modern-day Kratrock bands, and Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide still had enough going on to warrant repeated listens.

East India Youth - Total Strife Forever
Gentle, home-brewed electronica that mixed both instrumental tracks and songs with vocals and felt like being wrapped up in bed under a warm duvet on a cold winter's morning.

Ex-Easter Island Head - Large Electric Ensemble
The beginning of 2014 went by in a blur due to a lot of work-based travelling that saw me taking long-haul flights to Japan (twice), South Korea and Hong Kong for the first three months of the year. It was exhausting and made me a bit ill and spaced-out, but during that time I had this record on my iPod and it felt like much-needed nourishment for my soul every time I put it on. 

Future Islands - Singles
Yes, it was that Letterman performance that brought them to my attention. I didn't initially feel what this album was about, but after spending sometime with it, most notably on airplanes and in various departure lounges (this year's theme), something about being in those transient situations finally made this record click with me. There's much to explore within the emotional depths that this record reaches.

Hookworms - The Hum
I've seen this band graduate from the UK's underground music scene and start to make a noise on a wider national scale over the past four years, and their second album cemented their reputation as one of the country's greatest guitar bands.

Kogumaza - Kолокол LP
Another great UK guitar band and every time I listen to them I discover something else hidden in their music, a new texture or sound, like their songs are living, evolving organic entities. This album mixed speaker shuddering riffs, atmosphere, and volume to startling effect.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin
Not a J-Pop fan really but I was introduced to the strange, twisted world of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu on a work visit earlier in the year and haven't stopped listening to her or watching her gloriously oddball music videos - a place where she thrives. This album is unlike anything else I've heard this year, a full-on assault of pop that's slickly crafted and exists in its own world. 

Mark Kozelek - Sings Christmas Carols

Sun Kil Moon's Benji has been winning the plaudits this year, but this is the Mark Kozelek record that I've enjoyed the most. It shouldn't work, but his straight-faced, stripped back covers of well known Christmas hits and standards is perfect festive listening. Will become a festive go-to album for years to come. 

Neil Young - A Letter Home

Another album that on paper shouldn't work, yet it somehow transcends its basic ingredients. Recorded at Jack White's Third Man Studios direct to vinyl in an antique recording booth, the sound may be shaky and lo-fi, but the well-chosen covers and dedications to his mum make this a sentimental journey that isn't sickly and sweet, but full of romance and charm.

Sleaford Mods - Divide And Exit
An old fashioned tale of a band working hard for year before finally getting the break they deserve. A resolutely DIY outfit, from the record label through to recording and touring, Jason Williamson's barbed, spiked lyrics have clearly hit and nerve with a public desperate for someone to speak up and tell it how it is. Divide and Exit's gritty realism was just that.

Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments To An Elegy
The Smashing Pumpkins reunion has been patchy to say the least and even if it doesn't compare to past glories, Billy Corgan can still write a tune when he buckles down. Monuments To An Elegy is packed full of tunes that it came as a bit of a shock after the proggy, meandering Oceania. For Pumpkins standards, the 9 song MTAE was a concise, short shock of modern alt rock that tipped a hat to new wave of the early 80s. The tunes were back too.

Taylor Swift - 1989
It's easy to be sniffy about pop music, especially when the charts and radio stations are pumped full of flim-flam, but once in a while an album and artist will come along that transcends genres and becomes part of the cultural furniture. Think Madonna and Michael Jackson at their peak. Taylor Swift became a cultural icon with 1989, an album packed full of super smart songwriting, hooks and beats that even though it was released in 2014 it will be the sound of 2015 and beyond. 

Ty Segal - Manipulator
A double LP of garage rock that struck the right balance between fuzzed-out guitars and melody showing that Ty Segal is a modern day songwriter of some magnitude.

The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream
I loved Slave Ambient so much that I was scared of listening to this new War On Drugs record in-case it ruined my opinion of the band. Fortunately, it built upon the sound of that last album and took the band even further down the spaced-out Tom Petty vibe road. A faultless mix of shimmering guitars and Americana.

While we are on the subject of end-of-year round ups, I put together this article for LeftLion called Top of the Notts 2014 - a run through 20 favourite Nottingham-related releases of the year.
Bookmark and Share