It is roughly a year since I stumbled into an independent record shop in Brighton. Something in the window caught my eye, and I’m thankful that it did. When I went in, as well as rows of records and the new releases, the shop had their ten albums of the year on display. And more than that, they had a write up about each of them, and an annual in which the people who staff the shop wrote with passion, style and charm about their favourite records that had been released that year.
That’s my sort of record shop. And I haven’t had that sort of relationship with a record shop in a long time, not since I left Lincoln and Radio City. A shop where people don’t just sell music, they love it. And they want to help you find stuff you’re going to love too.
I bought the release that had caught my eye, and two other albums from the top ten. Artists I’d never heard of and they blew me away. Over the last six weeks of 2015 I bought everything from their top 20 choices in the annual, and didn’t regret any of them.
Every week Resident send me a newsletter by email about the new albums coming out on a Friday, and a little pen portrait of each. I usually end up buying three or four a week, and put them on my ipod and listen to them on my way to work, on my way to Court, on my way to meetings, on my way home. It makes it a treat to be travelling, because I’m accompanied by music.
So since I found Resident Music in Brighton, I’ve bought about two hundred albums that they recommended – some very obviously right up my street and some that pushed me into new corners, different places. Of those two hundred, there have been two that I didn’t like (and I didn’t HATE those, I just didn’t get that fast connection that I’ve had to anything else they recommended)
Resident are publishing their next annual tomorrow, and are having a little party to celebrate. If you like music, and feel like you’ve gotten a bit rusty, or a bit predictable in what you listen to, or you’ve lost touch with what’s going on out there, pick up the annual and read the little reviews, and take a chance on a couple that grab your attention.
If you don’t live in Brighton, you can still get in on the action by visiting their website http://www.resident-music.com and you can order from them and sign up to the newsletter.
Here are a few of my favourite albums of this year. Whilst it has been an utterly terrible year for politics and losing talented humans (see below, which is NOT SAFE FOR WORK ) it has been a GREAT year for music
Not in any particular order, just albums that I really really liked.
Drive-by Truckers – American Band
If what’s happening over in America at the moment is making you feel pretty down on the country, then this is a bit of an antidote – punchy, crunchy, full of hooks and ideas and damn political too. It’s a great listen, and my best description is Springsteen and Michael Stipe getting drunk in a bar that is playing GOOD country music and decide to write songs about the state of the nation. It’s not bleak or worthy, it is medicine for the soul.
The Avalanches – Wildflower
If you want an album to listen to whilst drinking beer or wine and lying in a field feeling like you’re in love and everything’s going to be fine with the world (or even just something that makes you FEEL that way, in the bleak midwinter) this is a fine choice. This is an album by a band who were throwing away more ideas than most ever come up with – don’t like this song? Don’t worry, the next one sounds nothing like it.
Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
There are loads of ways to make a great album – one of them is to push the boundaries and stretch what the form is capable of. Another is to just write ten songs that are absolute bangers and put them in a good order. You may already have heard “Ready for the Magic” as a car advert, particularly if you watch Sky, because that ad is on a LOT. You know when you’re listening to an album and you say “Oh, turn it up, I love this one” ? Well, that’s the whole album. You’re just going to want to keep turning it up. Resident’s description of a “Scottish take in Courtney Barnett” is a cracking one, and if Courtney Barnett doesn’t mean anything to you, then you’re in for another treat when you discover her.
Car seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
As a big fan of Pavement and Flaming Lips but wanting a modern take on it, I was always going to like this – lo-fi pop about peculiar themes and people on the edges of society and the edges of their lives. Clever, full of ideas and funny as hell. Loads of tunes you’re going to really want to wig out to, and it is almost impossible to resist the “Friends are better with drugs are better with friends are better with drugs” hook that is the centrepiece. Love it love it love it
Kate Tempest – Let them eat Chaos
I can’t think of anything I dislike much more than spoken word poetry, so when I read the description of this in the newsletter I had decided to give it a miss. Thankfully, when I went into the shop it was playing, and I stood rooted to the spot listening to it, heard three tracks, bought it, and it didn’t come off the playlist for a month. And I listen to it at least once a week, in full. It’s an album that made me feel okay about Southern Rail cancelling trains because I’d get to hear this again whilst I was waiting.
It is so sharp, and vivid and occasionally vicious, but it is shot through with kindness and decency of spirit and hope. The best storytelling I’ve heard on an album in years – the characters in the songs have distinctive voices and Kate changes her style around throughout and makes all of them real – flawed and battered but real. In a year of sensational music, this one is my absolute favourite. It makes me grin like a wolf, it brings tears to my eyes, it makes me punch the air, it makes me laugh out loud. The closest I can get is that it makes me feel the way I felt when I was first listening to the Streets Original Pirate Material – that this was bringing the streets to life in a fresh, funny, interesting and occasionally challenging way. You can’t get a taste less you’re taking a bite. And it is damn funky. The beats in it really work and her voice is a delight. It’s a truly outstanding record, and I am really looking forward to seeing her do a live set next Wednesday.
(I don’t work for Resident, nor do I have anything to gain by this piece – it is just that if we want people to carry on making great music then we need to put money in the pockets of the artists making it – the internet has made us all think that content should always be free, but if you hear music and love it and want more of it, then it is cool to give the people who make it and bring it to the attention of listeners some money to help them keep doing it. Sermon over)