The Extra Terrestial
Kids on BMXs sticking it to the man. What could be better.
19th Dec 2017Read more 5 star reviews
Intricately plotted, but seamlessly crafted into a lighthearted modern classic.
20th Oct 2017Read more 5 star reviews
Great 90s blockbuster, with Harrison Ford carrying the movie on top finger-wagging form.
18th Mar 2017Read more 5 star reviews
Classy, emotional, unpredictable sequel. Head and shoulders above the other 5 at every turn.
10th Aug 2015Read more 5 star reviews
The ultimate cops and robbers movie has only got better with age. Epic, stylish, tense and thoroughly gripping.
16th Jan 2015Read more 5 star reviews
Intense, paranoid drama about the tobacco industry. Super stylish, riveting and genuinely shocking.
12th Dec 2014Read more 5 star reviews
Beautiful, epic, poignant film in the endless churn of war. Beautifully shot, acted and directed.
13th Jul 2014Read more 5 star reviews
Breathless story boarding, note perfect script and vintage Harrison Ford. All time top five.
2nd Jan 2014Read more 5 star reviews
Masterful modern classic. Funny, sad and ultimately uplifting - Jim Carrey's finest hour.
17th Nov 2013Read more 5 star reviews
Beautifully handled, genre blending western with standout script, acting, direction.
Halliwell says: Humorous, cheerful, poetic, cinematic account of the two semi-legendary outlaws, winningly acted and directed. One of the decade's great commercial successes, not least because of the song 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head'.***
14th Oct 2012Read more 5 star reviews
On The Beach
Who knows why this masterpiece spent so long unreleased? "Revolution Blues", "Walk On". Etc.
12th Jun 2012Read more 5 star reviews
Brutal masterpiece. Outstanding direction, assured writing and performances, amazing photography.
5th Mar 2012Read more 5 star reviews
Newly extended scenes only highlight how good every scene is in this masterful western.
19th Jan 2012Read more 5 star reviews
Note perfect action comedy from Martin Brest. Movies don't get much better than this.
18th Jan 2012Read more 5 star reviews
Spielberg's flawless classic still hits hard, even if my bike still can't fly.
24th Dec 2011Read more 5 star reviews
31st Oct 2011Read on Twitter
Unique, ambitious, hypnotic masterpiece that makes it's own rules. Arthouse cinema on an epic scale.
27th Sep 2011Read more 5 star reviews
Outstanding multiple stories of 70s Brazil slumdog kids, drugs, gangs, growing up. Great OST too.
23rd Aug 2011Read more 5 star reviews
Impeccable period drama, combining a riveting portrayal of life at sea with action and emotion.
11th Jul 2011Read more 5 star reviews
Dug this classic out today. 70 mins of pure genius mixing. Highlight is King Of The Beats
30th Mar 2011Read more 5 star reviews
Timeless, spectacular, epic swashbuckler - with beautiful Technicolor cinematography.
Halliwell says: A splendid adventure story, rousingly operatic in treatment, with dashing action highlights, fine comedy balance, and incisive acting all round. Historically notable for its use of early three-colour Technicolor; also for convincingly recreating Britain in California.****
2nd Jan 2011Read more 5 star reviews
Just because most of our 2010 reviews have been happening on Twitter doesn't mean quality music hasn't be coming in thick and fast this year. Here's my top 5 for 2010:
Abe Vigoda - Crush
Probably my most unexpected favourite for 2010, Crush finds LA Smell regulars Abe Vigoda moving up a notch to make their most accessible album yet. If a band like this can ever hit the mainstream, this is certainly great prep - like Interpol with more ideas and better beats.
The Soft Pack - The Soft Pack
The San Diego post-punkers graduate from community college with straight A's in 'chorus'. After a lot of hype and a fairly average live sighting, I was surprised to find myself so engaged with this first album proper. Side A rules.
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
The bubble may have burst as LCD Soundsystem set to disband, but there was still time for one last go-around. Not quite as ace as Sound of Silver, but with tracks like 'All I Want' and 'Home', it's still stuffed with classics.
Spoon - Transference
Harnessing all their studio 'accidents' into another masterfully produced masterpiece, Spoon yet again deliver a five star album. So consistent I almost forget about them. Some great slow burners on here.
Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart
Almost forgot this one ...which is a surprise considering how bombastic it is. After the note perfect In The Future, Black Mountain had no hope of topping getting even better just yet, but the least they could do was shore up their legend. Old Fangs and the title track cruised into their best-ever playlist.
DULY NOTED: Weezer - Hurley / Pinkerton Deluxe
With their departure from a major label, it seemed certain that Weezer would put aside all the contractually-obliging crap they're been churning out and finally release a great record again. Nope. Hurley crawled back up to a 3, but luckily the time had come for a deluxe edition of 90's classic Pinkerton. A re-release shouldn't be anyone's best album in a decade, but this one is stuffed full of long-lost tracks, b-sides and oddities - plus it's getting a five star rating for being overlooked the first time round.
Read more 5 star reviews
Monsters was a great movie. Somewhere one of the worst ever. Kings of Leon, The National and Band of Horses all disappointed. Roll on 2011.
Impeccable writing and direction, plus a near-career best turn from Harrison Ford. Flawless.
23rd Dec 2010Read more 5 star reviews
Flawless 80's classic, with a killer soundtrack and endless scene-stealing turns from James Spader.
6th Nov 2010Read more 5 star reviews
Beautifully shot, acted and directed - Nicolas Ray's masterpiece is still ahead of it's time.
Halliwell says: The first film to suggest that juvenile violence is not necessarily bred in the slums, this somewhat dreary melodrama also catapulted James Dean to stardom as the prototype fifties rebel.**
8th Sep 2010Read more 5 star reviews
Stellar script, flawless performances and deceptively casual direction. The Dude still abides.
16th Aug 2010Read more 5 star reviews
Classic Texan coming of age tale, complete with moody photography and great performances.
18th Jul 2010Read more 5 star reviews
Union Chapel, London
Jeff Tweedy cemented his position at the top of the league this week, with another top-notch performance - this time without the help of backing band Wilco and in the serene setting of Islington's Union Chapel. I've been looking forward to this one since missing his 2005 solo show in favour of seeing an ageing Bob Dylan at Brixton. A shocking mistake that I have regretted since, particularly as Dylan has returned several times since.
With just a guitar and his booming voice, the Wilco front man worked his way through a diverse range of classics from Wilco (Jesus Etc, Via Chicago, Kidsmoke), Uncle Tupelo (New Madrid, Acuff-Rose), Loose Fur (Laminated Cat, The Ruling Class) and a good selection of tracks from the Woody Guthrie albums on which Wilco teamed up with Billy Bragg (Remember The Mountain Bed [awesome], California Stars). He even bowed to "some asshole's" request for a Bob Dylan cover.
There was one exception to the solo status, as Tweedy was joined on stage early on by his 'hero' Bill Fay, with the two singing a charming duet of Be Not So Fearful. The more delicate setting placed a real emphasis on the lyrical quality of many of Tweedy's songs, highlighting his real talent as a talented and prolific songwriter, rather than just the front man of a brilliant rock band.
New tracks also made for some of the highlights (One Wing, Impossible Germany), but the star of the show was Tweedy's charming presence and wit - making the choosing of tracks by the audience like an episode of VH1's Storytellers starring Jack Dee. Brilliant.Read more 5 star reviews
Disintegration (Deluxe Issue)
On it's impending release I remember thinking of Disintegration as something of a sell out. A mainstream album on a major record label, which was getting the kind of promotion a new Kings of Leon record would get today. In hindsight, it is perhaps The Cure's darkest and most complete album - focussing their attention in a way that the singles-orientated band had not managed before, into what might as well be one, long brooding composition.
Which begs the immediate question of whether this 12 track masterpiece really needs an expanded, 44 song edition? The answer isn't exactly yes, but if taken as 'extras', this is a fantastic release, which honours the original beautifully. The first disc features a newly remastered version of the original album, making it easy to switch off when that finishes. If you're on a mission, disc two should perhaps be listened to first - as the variety of demos from different periods in the production really show the evolution of the album, without the dull repetition that so many deluxe issue succumb too. Songs evolve from Robert Smith's home demos, through band rehearsals, band demos and studio outtakes.
Delirious Night, Pirate Ships and Babble offer notable non-album tracks on this disc, perfect for mix-tapes - but the more up-beat nature and tempo of each makes it easy to see why they didn't make the cut for the sombre/uplifting final record.
Disc three features the entire album, live (from Wembley Arena! Sell out). Stick this one on last and the evolution of the record is complete, transporting you back to a packed concert as the alum is majestically and triumphantly performed.Read more 5 star reviews
In no particular order:
Animal Collective – Feels or Strawberry Jam
I remember getting very scared, when I was a kid, that, mathematically, there was only a limited number of songs possible - limited number of notes and limited number of combinations. When would they run out? ARRGGH!!!! Then I heard Animal Collective and I realised it was all going to be alright. Feels probably gets the nod from me. Saw them live – bit disappointed. But YOU won’t be if you pipe them in through your headphones.
The Strokes – Is This It
Neither before nor since have I experienced such excitement about a new band and a new album. Debut single “Last Nite” blew my socks off. Seeing them live twice – in Barcelona (buying tickets from an old woman the afternoon of the gig – unimaginable in the UK) and Brixton confirmed their greatness. Shame they’ve got bloated and tired since.
My Morning Jacket – Z
Shit. Seriously. Don’t mess about. This album is fuqing brilliant. From the “burrm burrm” opening through to the long rock out bit of Lay Low and right through to the end, this album is a vortex of mind blowing ness. (Ok - apart from “Into The Woods”, but I read the lyrics for that the other day, realised it was about crackin on off in the shower and changed my mind). I saw these dudes on the Okonokos tour at the Astoria – One of the best gigs I’ve been to.
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
I’d heard of them before I heard them, and this was a most unexpected treat of an album. This surprising sub pop fare is up there as my most played album ever ever and is still on rotation now. Beautiful. And good live too (saw them at the roundhouse)
Lamchop – Nixon
Having never heard of them before, I have no idea what compelled me to by this album (ok it was £3 in the Virgin Megastore sales). Very pleased I did mind. Ok, so I skip a few of the later songs, but this is a special album. It still holds a special place in my heart. I saw them at the Barbican (mwah) when they performed a soundtrack to a silent Russian film... or something. Yawn.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – CYHSY
Apart from the first weird track (sign of things to come with their 2nd album), every song on this record is super. Easy to play on the guitar, but hard to sound as good. I drunkenly saw them at ULU with Chimpovich and his sensei bro. They were alright, but the support act - Hockey Night - were better.
M.Ward – Post-War
Ok – I’m not sure which is my favourite M. Ward album of the last 10 years, so this one’ll do. Cripes - this chap can write and sing a song. Not seen him live yet.
Yo La Tengo – Prisoners of Love (Compilation)
Not an album album, but rather a low price gem of a comp. This 25 odd track bad boy introduced me to Yo La Tengo and I’ve never looked back. These elder statesmen can seemingly do the lot – short pop numbers to 16 minute thought pieces and everything in between. Magic. Seen them about 4 times since (USA / Spain / UK) and they never disappoint.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
KA-BOOOOOM! – this album is nothing short of mega. It came along just as I was getting into Jim O’Rourkes solo stuff and his production really elevates this album above all others ever. Some beautiful and funny lyrics blended with amazing riffs and loops – the soundtrack to many a long walk. I saw them at the Hammersmith Apollo, but I was too far away up in the gods to really dig it.
Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin
Yeah Yeah. I know. It was released in 1999, but tough tits. It’s on my list. Seen these chaps live lots of times (highlight was seeing your man Wayne in a big zorb in Royal Albert hall). So influential, I even model my hair / beard combo on him.
Track worth a notable mention:
The Truth – Handsome Boy Modelling School
Oh my me. This song is so sweet. Staple song on nearly every mixrtape I made in the (early part of the) noughties. Before Minidiscs came along and ruined everything!
Awesome film. Brilliant Font. Cracking soundtrack. Wes Anderson is preternaturally gifted. I bet he stands up in meetings.
If you care to, you can listen to a selected track from each album (where available) on this Spotify playlist: - Locochimpo: 2000-2009Read more 5 star reviews
A Chorus of Storytellers
The Album Leaf’s new record ‘A Chorus of Storytellers’ is a very nice album. They’ve been recording for the last ten years and are signed to Sub Pop records, which should tell you something, although I’ve never heard of them before. Possibly because they’re so nice. You know like one of those people that you get introduced to when you meet a friend, say, outside the cinema. Who’s that with Alex, you think. You say hello, shake hands – even if it’s a girl. It feels a bit odd shaking hands with a girl but then kissing someone you don’t know is a bit odd too. They seem very nice. They don’t say much but look friendly enough and while you end up chatting to your friend they smile and laugh along with the jokes. You’ve got to go in, your film’s about to start. Plus you still need to get popcorn (mix salt/sweet of course) so you say “Nice to meet you!” and never think of that person again.
So, uh, yeah that’s this album. Warm and electronica-tinged, some vocals but mainly instrumentals. Definitely not unpleasant to listen to. Not really saying anything though. Like if you’re at a party in one of those bars where you have to shout everything although you haven’t drunk enough for the shouting to come naturally. Just as you’re thinking to yourself about how stupid it is that these places actually make you have to get pissed as a basic operating requirement. You’re about to head to the bar, or better still maybe just disappear entirely when someone says hello. You don’t even recognise them but they know your name. It’s bad enough forgetting someone’s name but forgetting their whole face is terrible. Eventually you piece it together, you ask if they’ve seen Alex, yes, he’s coming down later. Then that’s it, you’re just making excruciating small talk with someone, desperately scanning the room for one of your friends even though you hate people who scan the room, and so you’ve become something that you hate and all because this person is just nice.
Oh yeah, sorry, the album. That’s what happens. You start off listening to it – then four or five minutes later you come out of a train of thought and remember you were supposed to listening to it.
It would make good film soundtrack music. It’s melodic and courses with pleasant emotion and I can imagine Gael Garcia Bernal doing something cool up the side of sunbaked mountain with ‘A Chorus of Storytellers’ playing in the background. But I’d get someone else to write the main theme.
3/5 (Although if you’re building an Ikea wardrobe it gets 5/5)
Underrated, but still awesome - with one of the best cliffhangers ever.
Halliwell says: Extraordinarily raucous, confusingly plotted, poorly performed (rarely have actors aged so unconvincingly) sequel that amounts to little more than a trailer for the third part of the series.
3rd Jan 2010Read more 5 star reviews
The 00s have certainly been a turbulent decade for the music industry, from the rise and fall of Napster, through the MP3 and iPod revolution and on to the reality TV dominated close of the decade.
Drum and bass infiltrated pop music so throughly that it's now just part of the furniture, while Hip Hop blew up to dominate the US charts, nabbing a guest spot on dozens of chart toppers.
Filtering through the hundreds of albums released in the decade is no mean feat, so we've kept our list strictly democratic, with the top 10 derived from those albums most nominated by our reviewers.
Read a lazy, sprawling list of 82 others that come very highly recommended, here.
And in ascending order, here are the most nominated chimp favourites....
10. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Beard rock really came back into it's own at the end of the decade, with this debut from the Seattle harmony combo channelling their inner CSNY - while managing to retain some kind of contemporary edge. Bon Iver, Midlake, Grizzly Bear(d) and others supplemented the genre to great effect.
9. Band of Horses - Everything All The Time
Add some heavy rocking to those beards and Band of Horses stepped away from the MMJ-soundalike shadow to really prove themselves with two killer albums. The Funeral probably ranks up their as a song of the decade, while third album Night Rainbows should usher in the '10s nicely.
8. Black Mountain - In The Future
While not sounding that much like their debut, Black Mountain's second album still seemed to sound exactly as hoped for, turned up to 11. By side-stepping the cheesy homage of Wolfmother, the Canadian band delivered a classic rock album that never, ever fails to deliver.
7. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
While it's been a little tarnished by the band's self-conscious later moves, the CYHSY debut was a much needed jolt to the system, reviving Talking Heads and heading out into a twisted genre of it's own. Special nod for track 1 as the most skipped track in iTunes.
6. The Strokes - Is This It?
From dancing like twats in the bedroom to Last Night over and over again, to seeing them four times in a year - it's safe to say that The Strokes' shadow loomed large over the decade. Second album Room On Fire disappointed - and the media frenzy had passed by the time overlooked stellar album First Impressions Of Earth arrived.
5. My Morning Jacket - Z
For a couple of years My Morning Jacket were THE band of the decade. While It Still Moves bridged the gap between the low-key At Dawn and it's polished follow up, Z was where the potential all fell into place. Cutting back on the sprawl and honing the results, every track was a winner - with mind blowing concerts supporting the band until it all went to their heads with Evil Urges. A return to form is demanded.
4. The National - Boxer
Sleeper hit Alligator was a favourite for a long time, until follow up Boxer completely over-shadowed it. Took quite a long time to get into, but once there, it stuck. Slow Show was one of many, many stand-outs.
3. LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver
A perhaps surprising highlight - considering the mere novelty value of Daft Punk Is Playing At My House - Sound of Silver took an unconventional left turn, channelling David Byrne (again), plus a myriad of other styles and influences to form a beautiful whole.
2. Wilco - A Ghost Is Born
Another record relatively over-looked by the critics, with the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot faithful often dissapointed by this way-out follow up, which found Jeff Tweedy enlisting Jim O'Rourke's radical production to pound home the alt-country message with bombastic flair. Any album that starts with a sprawling guitar jam is always going to get chimp votes. Never disappointing.
1. Radiohead - In Rainbows
As the major labels slowly started to embrace the digital model, it took their former golden egg to shake things up again. While the decade opened with the trickling out of the Kid A / Amnesiac double bill, it was the surprise release of the label-free, pay-what-you-like album-with-no-cover In Rainbows that possibly defined music and the music business in the 00s. One day Radiohead haven't been heard from in a while, the next you're listing to the album of the decade over and over again. While other records were good, this one was immediately great - reminding everyone what was so great about Radiohead to begin with, while still forging on with new sounds and new directions. Play it tonight.
The 00s have certainly been a turbulent decade for the music industry, from the rise and fall of Napster, through the MP3 and iPod revolution and on to the reality TV dominated close of the decade.
Drum and bass infiltrated pop music so throughly that it's now just part of the furniture, while Hip Hop blew up to dominate the US charts, nabbing a guest spot on dozens of chart toppers.
Filtering through the hundreds of albums released in the decade is no mean feat, so we've kept our final list strictly democratic - with the top 10 derived from those albums most nominated by our reviewers.
Read the top 10 here - but if that's not enough, here's a lazy, sprawling list of 82 others that come very highly recommended, in no particular order:
Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
Killer track: PDA. More New York cool, a 'go-to' album for so many occasions
TV On The Radio - Dear Science
Pearl Jam - Riot Act
Doves - Kingdom Of Rust
At the Drive In - Relationship of Command
Killer Track: Enfilade. A welcome dose of anger after the fallow years of the late 90s. Added bonus that it was released on the soon to be bust Grand Royal label.
Justice - D.A.N.C.E.
Santogold - Santogold
Smog - Dongs Of Sevotion
Cornelius - Point
Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
Mugison - Lonely Mountain
Midlake - The Trials Of Van Occupanther
Electralane - The Power Out
Radiohead - Amnesiac
Beth Gibbons & Rustin' Man - Out Of Season
PJ Harvey - Stories From The City
Caribou - The Milk Of Human Kindness
Pearl Jam - Bearoya Hall
Unusual in that it's a live album, this double acoustic set pulls together all that's great about the much-maligned grungers. Spine tingling.
Fugazi - The Argument
Not their best, but still one of the best
Low - The Great Destroyer
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days
Killer track: Passing Afternoon. We live in noisy times, everyone should have an album like this to retreat to now and again
Bruce Springsteen - The Rising
The only artist capable of an appropriate 9/11 album.
Blond Redhead - 23
Grandaddy - Software Slump
John Frusciante - Shadows Collide With People
The Early Years - Early Years
Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
Killer track: Fast Blood. One of those albums that just clicks straight away, some brutally honest songs but never a hard listen
The National - Alligator
Jay-Z - The Blueprint
Despite his fame, his only album that's solid throughout.
The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
Portishead - Third
Spoon - Girls Can Tell
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga
Spoon - Kill The Moonlight
Spoon - Gimme Fiction
Yes, we like Spoon.
Stephen Malkmus - Pig Lib
Elbow - Leaders Of The Free World
CJ: Their strongest album from a solid bunch of releases.
Kings Of Leon - Because Of The Times
7 minute opener followed by track after track.
Electrelane - No Shouts, No Calls
Johanna Newsom - Y's
Band Of Horses - Cease To Begin
Radiohead - Hail To The Thief
Buck 65 - Talking Honky Blues
Common - Like Water For Chocolate
Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
David Berman finally made sense.
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Guided By Voices - Human Amusement at Hourly Rates
Finally a solid album from GBV. One of the best best ofs going - up there with Neil Young's Decade.
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
The Good The Bad And The Queen - The Good The Bad And The Queen
Another surprising side-project from Damon Albarn
TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Red Hot Chilli Peppers - By The Way
Titus Andronicus - The Airing Of Grievances
No Age - Nouns
Jay-Z - The Black Album
The Wedding Present - Take Fountain
An awesome return for the Indie legends, embracing a move to the US for Uncle Gedge
Kanye West - College Dropout
John Frusciante - To Record Only Water For 10 Days
Paving the way for Frusciante's magnificent return to form.
The Cave Singers - Welcome Joy
Low - The Great Destroyer
Catfish Haven - Devastator
The Strokes - First Impressions Of Earth
The Invisible - The Invisible
Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
The Decemberists - Picaresque
The Coral - Magic And Medicine
Killer track: Liezah. Some strictly Liverpool uncool. A Coral album is a comforting thing.
Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
Radiohead - Kid A
Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein
DJ Shadow - The Private Press
Great at home or on the dance floor.
Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
It shouldn't work, but it does. Comedy genius.
Interpol - Antics
Take you on a cruise. Awesome
The Walkmen - You & Me
Killer track: In the New Year. Band of the decade for Chimpovich.
Arcade Fire - Funeral
Why? - Alopicia
Weird indie hip-hop that just works.
Ladyhawk - Shots
My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
White Denim - Workout Holiday
Killer track: Lets Talk About It. Chaotic, energetic, sounds like a good time was had making it.
As a quick precursor to the Best of the 00s list I'm currently editing, here's my Top 5 albums of 2009.
Not a stellar year compared to 2007 or 2008, but there's certainly been a few stand outs.
John Frusciante - The Empyrean
He didn't tell us he'd left the Chili Peppers, but Frusciante's latest solo album certainly upped the anti on 2004's marathon of low-key releases, blending epic guitars, a stellar guest list and a near-perfect cover of Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren.
Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
Amber Webber was missed on the aforementioned Pink Mountaintops tour, but luckily that's because she was polishing up her own project. Taking the promise of their debut, Lightning Dust moved forward with grand strides on this haunting ethereal masterpiece.
Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
The old favourites pulled virtually no surprises out with this one, just another handful of great rock songs with mind-blowing musicianship - and again backed it all up with one of the gigs of the year.
Flight of the Conchords - I Told You I Was Freaky
One great album seemed like a fluke, but the soundtrack to season two expanded the comedy duos surprising knack for blending piss-take and homage in an accomplished way, laced with fits and giggles. I'm in love with a sexy lady, with an eye that's lazy.
Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances
The XX - XX
A late entry
John Frusciante - The Empyrean
Mr prolific returns
Doom - Born Like This
Quality in a struggling genre
Ian Brown - My Way
Despite his pedestrian lyrics still doing his own thing well.
Gig of the year (didn't go to enough)
Micah P Hinson - Zaragoza, Spain
Often underrated, it's still a total classic. Spielberg + Ford at their best.
23rd Dec 2009Read more 5 star reviews
It's been a crazy old year 2009, not quite the end of the modern world as predicted from the rubble of 2008 but strange nonetheless. And what better soundtrack for utter misery than the New Jersey new boys Titus Andronicus who stole the show for me early on this year. Heavyweights Sonic Youth returned with the solid The Eternal and Doves continued their run of form. Punk duo Japandroids were the unexpected highlight this year with Post Nothing. They sat proudly on top of an over subscribed DIY noise scene. Disappointment came in the form of the bloated Decemberists album and the equally bloated Monsters Of Folk gig at The Troxy Here's my lists...
Titus Andronicus - The Airing Of Grievances
It's pretty sad when the album of the year arrives in January and technically this is a 2008 release but really, who even reads this shit? No matter what came after this nothing could match the shear might of this debut.
Japandroids - Post Nothing
This came out of nowhere and has been rocking my world ever since. It's raw, simmering energy just makes you wish you were young again, when making out and living forever were as important as as likely as eachother.
Doves - Kingdom Of Rust
They've been pumping out solid albums since the start of the decade but Kingdom Of Rust seemed to be the most perfectly formed of them all. The opening 3 tracks are the strongest starting line up this year.
Girls - Album
This gets my award for the most original release, even though it sounds like so many other things. Achingly sad from start to finish but utterly uplifting nonetheless.
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Loney Dear - Dear John
Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
Why? - Eskimo Snow
Japandroids - Heart Sweats
Sonic Youth - What We Know
Doves - The Outsiders
Animal Collective - My Girls
Girls - Hellhole Ratface
How come ATP get it so right? Sponsorship free, friendly and helpful, smooth organisation and a great fan-base - and the music. Imagine, a festival where the music is the important thing - not the TV exposure or the availability of drugs to make you dance - a place where the crowd will listen patiently to new music instead of baying for a chart-topper. Well, that's ATP. For the 10 year anniversary, the organisers invited back the bands who had curated past festivals (plus some ATP favourites) to come and play together for the fans. There is so much to see and hear at this event, you just couldn't pack it all into one weekend, so there are some tough choices to be made from time to time. I've seen so many bands this weekend, that in order to keep things to a reasonable length and in tribute to the 10 year thing,
I'll say just 10 words about each band I saw -
Bardo Pond - psychedlic washes of strange yet beautiful noise, flute 'n all
Battles - Didn't really gel on the night. Somewhat of a disappointment
Beak> - Amazing when they're being Can, but boring when playing dirge
Deerhoof - If you fail to enjoy them, your mind is broken
The Drones - All the attitude, proper angry rock music - Aussies done good
Edan - Edan shows how to DJ - choose great records, mix well
Growing - stuttering sheets of broken distortion, almost certainly good on drugs
The Magic Band - Fast and Bulbous, Drumbo and Rockette do it all justice
The Mars Volta - Omar seemed subdued, Cedric lively, and what? another new drummer?
Melvins - You don't mess with Jared - Jared only plays for keeps
MuM - (pronounced Moom) Icelandic dreamscapes - first brilliant set of the weekend
Om - That's a huge evil noise right there (overlooking the vocals)
Papa M - Pajo stunning with drumless trio - sublime and understated - beautiful music
Shellac - Highlight of the weekend, both sets superb. A real band.
Tortoise - Suitably late night slot in the best sounding room. Sweet.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - brashly rocked a restless crowd after keeping them waiting ages
Special mention to Butlins staff also - the security are friendly and everyone is helpful. The accomodation is more than 1000 times better than sleeping in a tent on a lumpy field, but you'd do well to take your own pillow. Long live ATP.Read more 5 star reviews
I can't claim to be any kind of authority on video games. My history of gaming is patchy to say the least, having been an early gamer back when we used "home computers" for such things, but then never owning a PS2. Also, I tend to stick to games which involve shooting at things - so if you're looking for a well-balanced, concise round-up of the gaming year, you might want to look elsewhere.
My gaming life is divided between the Xbox and the DS. The DS is still the best hand-held gaming device on the planet - with an almost resolutely lo-fi approach both sonically and graphically, it's success is down to gameplay and elegant programming. The PSP (with it's high-end graphics and sleek design) is not pulling in the kid-gamer dollars. In the world of so-called casual games (video-crack, more like), the monkey on my back was mostly Peggle and Scribblenauts. Oh, and re-playing the mind-numbingly addictive Cradle of Rome line-'em-up. As for the Xbox, now I look at the amount of games I've been through this year, I can't believe I had much time for anything else.
The much hyped Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 has been ridiculously successful (sales-wise at least), but in my opinion they done jumped the shark. Brilliant, visceral and engaging for sure, but also short, non-sensical, and rather too easy. It certainly delivered plenty of "fuck me!" moments, with breathtaking use of lighting and sound, but they messed with the multi-player, which is clearly a case of fixing something that wasn't broken. Infinity Ward are edging dangerously close to believing their own myth rather like Bungie have with Halo - all self-aggrandising seriousness and stirring martial music that can't be optioned out of your gameplay experience.
Special mention for post-release support goes to two games in particular. Firstly, Burnout Paradise: here's a rare example of a games developer (Criterion) being willing and able to respond to feedback from gamers. On it's initial release, Burnout Paradise was laced with flaws (ie not being able to instantly re-start a race), but Criterion got on the case - addressing issues, improving gameplay, adding decent downloadable content, and then re-packaging the whole lot at a mid-range price. Excellent work those men in Guildford. The other impeccably supported game was Gears of War 2 - with regular DLC packs of high-quality maps, top-notch graphics and sound, and new gameplay features. Had a lot of good times with online friends fighting off the dirty horde.
We nearly saw the birth of something revolutionary this year, with the release of the most ambitious Xbox Arcade game yet - Battlefield 1943. This was only available as a download, and did not feature a solo campaign. Instead, 4 large maps of territorial contest, planes, boats, jeeps and bombing raids with 24 people fighting online. Sounds good, but bit off more than it could chew. To start with, this game didn't even work properly online for the first week due to "unexpected high demand" or something. Then, once it was working, it wasn't quite as smooth as it should have been. Call me old fashioned if you like, but when I point a machine gun at another player who is only 5 virtual meters away from me, I'd sort of expect him to fall down - all dead, like.
A couple of this year's releases didn't quite make the top-list but are worth a mention (a mention? Hey, thanks Pilton, they only took two years to develop). Wolfenstein (not Return to the Son of Castle Wolfenstein, or Wolfenstein 3 or...) is a game I was getting pretty juicy about. Loved the originals and raised my expectations. Turned out ok, but fell a bit flat for me when (after much enjoyable gameplay) my save file corrupted and I couldn't be arsed to go back through it. Batman Arkham Asylum looked great and played really smoothly - yet was the most on-rails game I played all year. Still good though. Also Flashpoint delivered some enjoyable play - the polar opposite of MW2 this is a game that strives for realism even if that meant spending a large percentage of your mission time walking or running over endless landscapes in order to avoid combat with enemy patrols. Realistic, yes, but essentially lots of dull moments punctuated by some very tough firefights. Halo:ODST was the game for which Blockbuster was invented. A week's hire, rinse it out and forget it ever existed. Nothing original about it, but nothing really wrong with it either. Halo is Halo is Halo - the game that thinks it can fart higher than it's own arse.
This year also finally saw the release of Resident Evil 5 - in which the musclebound Chris ventures into Africa for some wholesale zombie slaughter (sorry, 'infected'. They're not zombies anymore). Jill doesn't nearly become a Jill sandwich this time - and in fact those Japanese translation quirks are wholly missing from RE5 - it plays like a global release, looks like a global release and - my goodness - it was a global release. Once I got used to the lumpy control system, and acquired some decent weapons, I had a wail of a time wading through the increasingly ridiculous scenarios and quick-time fights right up until the bit where you get to fire two RPG's into Wesker's eyes (while he's in a volcano). Beat that.
So, you may ask, since you've wasted so much of your time playing video games this year, what turns out to be game of the year for Harris Pilton? The answer comes with the unexpected late arrival of a classic shooter - Borderlands. A first person shooter with a visual style somewhere between Tank Girl and Metal Hurlant. The joy of this sandbox shooter is that it never forgets it's a video game - never tries to be realistic, pitches it's dark humour just right, and constantly serves up new weapon variants and character abilities. It works well online as a co-op, and the game adjusts the enemy AI to match the skills of the human players - getting considerably tougher when gamers have more collective experience. Borderlands has already delivered an excellent download pack and has promised a sequel for release in 2010, and the completion of the trilogy a year later.
Sadly, there's only so much time a man can devote to the noble art of videogaming, and thus I can make no comment on a slew of other much touted releases including Assassins Creed 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Forza 3, and Sheffield Wednesday nil.Read more 5 star reviews
Heavyweight epic from the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, who died before publication.
Divided into five parts -
The Part about the Critics
The Part about Amalfitano
The Part about Fate
The Part about the Crimes
The Part about Archimboldi
- this is a novel that starts out following four university literary critics on an obsessive search for an obscure German author, which then explodes to take in everything from philosophical rants, to politics, to the second world war, to Harlem boxers, making reference to everyone from Duchamp to David Lynch, all the while circling around a horrific series of murders and rapes in the Mexican border town of Santa Teresa as the various characters are drawn there for different reasons.
Just short of 1000 pages in the English translation, it's a demanding work that draws you in to multiple storylines and mysteries, offering up densely fascinating and accurately drawn portraits of all the many characters we meet without losing any momentum or drive. 2666 veers off into uncharted territory, shifting tone and style as it jumps around different moments in history and countries, and yet it feels entirely focused. It's brutally shocking, beautiful, dark and arch; funny, warm and moving - a thrilling vision of how much novels can still do. If you read one book this year (and if you're a slow reader, it literally might be one with 2666...) you won't be disappointed.Read more 5 star reviews
Concorde 2, Brighton
The latest video from Dinosaur Jr features the three original band members J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and ‘Murph’ (Emmett Jefferson Murphy) trying to pull off the tricks of their youth on skateboards and a BMX – a self-conscious admission that past glories are almost always impossible to replicate. Happily Dinosaur Jr, with past feuds now behind them, manage it, even if they can’t ollie like they used to, because they have always been about the music. The most ardent fan would never claim that you go to a Dinosaur Jr. gig for the lightshow, political messages or the witty banter between songs. No. You just get three men, barely able to fit on stage because of the six Marshall stacks surrounding them, heads down, tearing through a stentorian catalogue of rampant songs. Mascis, with his metronome of flowing, now silver, hair, stands in front of a collection of pedals that pin him to his amp, while he assails the audience with a barrage of noise that never quite obscures the sonorous, occasionally soporific, melodies.
There was little sign of an evolution in their sound in the three decades that have elapsed between ‘In A Jar’ from 1987’s ‘You’re Living All Over Me’ that they opened with and ‘I Want You To Know’ from their new album ‘Farm’ that came next. Concorde 2 is an intimate and relaxed venue but it gives you nowhere to hide. ‘Over It’ and Freak Scene’ were predictably thrilling, tighter than Slayer, and almost as loud, it was a series of audible epiphanies with none of the self-obsessed bollocks referred to as showmanship these days. They haven’t aged in outlook and neither have their audience, all wearing the same brands as twenty years ago, (although, I did see quite a few resorting to day-glo ear plugs in an attempt to limit the damage to their not quite so young inner ears) and perhaps this is a generation that never will age in the same shuffling, resigned manner of the current crop of oldies. We’ll be wearing Vans, grubby jeans and check shirts while skateboarding through the corridors of our nursing homes with Dinosaur Jr on a loop through our hearing aids. A throbbing encore including ‘Kracked’, with an epic guitar solo finale that reminded everyone why Mascis is so revered as a guitar player, brought things to a close. He offered a single word, ‘thanks’, as they all trudged off the stage. The only full word he uttered throughout the entire ninety minute set.
Photo by Rachel Poulton. See more here.Read more 5 star reviews
Indie moviemaker site Shooting People don't seem impressed by the contents of the video shelf on the International Space Station - which is disclosed here. Regarding classics such as Beverly Hills Cop (an easy 5 stars IMHO) as inferior, they are running a poll to select more suitable 'highbrow' titles to suggest.
I dunno, I suppose if you're used to living in somewhere really hot like Australia or the Nevada desert, then maybe the thought of leaving your nice cool house to make a journey on public transport into a stifling metropolis would be no challenge, just normal really. Here in southern England, where the indiginous population carry a complexion that is like the ghost of skimmed-milk, 30-degree plus temperatures make us feel like we're hog-tied in a duffle-coat. There was supposed to be a motocycle protest in London today - I should think that went well - bet they couldn't wait to put on leather, crash helmets and sit astride a slow-moving combustion-engine. Anyway, it's hot, and I didn't much feel like going into London.
Glad I did tho', otherwise I'd have missed a gig that I could easily put in my all-time top 10. The Scala (perhaps London's perfect venue) played host to this triple bill, and first up were Rumspringa - which I'd been rather mistakenley informed were an Amish Ska band. They weren't, and I'm glad. A blues-based guitar and drums duo, the larger half of which is guitarist/singer Joey Stevens. He has a fantastic voice, and plays great blues guitar, writes good songs, so what's not to like? A good start to the evening, in the nicely air-conditioned Scala. Second on the bill was French band Anabel's Poppy Day who came over from Paris on the bus for this gig. Well done, and all that, but an extra rehearsal and the Eurostar might be better next time. A bit too naive and sloppy to be really good, but there were a couple of catchy melodies and some charming audience chat from squeaky singer (you guessed it) Anabel.
Seeing Deerhoof was one of those rare and wondeful experiences for me - when a live band just takes you to that "other place", when their sound, the atmosphere and the performance all came together just right. They are undoubtably a band at the top of their form, the perfect blend of tight and energetic playing with sweet pop melodies and keep-you-guessing arrangements. The guitar interplay of John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez is world-class but never in the form of noodle-based fretwank, while drummer Greg Saunier flails his kit with some kind of furious joy. Singer and bass-player Satomi Matsuzaki is so tiny she barely rises above the audiences heads - and she's on stage. She has the most wonderful clear flat-toned voice and an onstage presence which says so much more than "just cute". The band play a lot of material from their two most recent albums (Reviews: 1 / 2), plus cover versions of The Ramones Gabba Gabba Hey and Canned Heat's Going Up The Country. Not a note out of place, and the crowd really showed their appreciation. Everybody left happy AND I had a totally smooth ride home on the train.Read more 5 star reviews
(dir. Michael Mann)
After an unfair dismissal from his scientist job at a big tobacco company, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) intends to honor his confidentiality agreement - until the company's bullying tactics compel him to speak to 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino).
Then: Something of a departure for shootout specialist Michael Mann, The Insider blended a great script, fantastic cinematography and superb acting. Al Pacino puts in the kind of shouting-free performance that is now a distant memory, while Russell Crowe was nominated for an Oscar for his submerged portrayal of the troubled protagonist.
Now: There might be little action in the conventional Michael Mann sense, but that doesn't mean he can't expertly draw suspense out of the smallest details - a child having a dust reaction, a conversation by fax. While it may be short on guns, this film has been described as "Mann's most fully realised work" - and it is perhaps his most flawless.
As usual with Mann's movies, the scale of this film is almost undefinable. There's never any question of sets, or repeated locations and no scene is anything short of measured and perfect. A house-bound scene where Pacino arranges the West's first interview with Hezbollah ends in him opening the curtains to reveal a wide shot of a middle eastern city. A windscreen wiper, a slow-motion golf ball. Every shot is perfectly considered, building up the intense pressure and unique atmosphere - helped in great part by the excellent music.
So, cigarettes are bad for you? No shit, but when the actual facts come out in the interview you will be shocked - as well as saddened by the tangible cost of telling the truth.Read more 5 star reviews
It's been a pretty good year for music according to my ears, and I've struggled to prioritise my top 5. The fifth place provided the most struggle and I narrowed it down to two albums I've overplayed and am currently on hiatus from - TV On The Radio and Vampire Weekend. I suspect they will both remain firm favourites, but song for song I'm going to have to bump Vampire Weekend into 6th place. Other notable mentions go to No Age (fuzzed up easy listening), Silver Jews (these guys finally clicked for me), Tapes and Tapes (an uncut diamond marred by shoddy production), Tindersticks (a comeback I would have betted against), The Wedding Present (it's all fours) and White Denim (lo-fi grandeur).
4. Ladyhawk - Shots
"Ladyhawke is in the toilet, she'll be here in a minute" joked band leader Duffy Driediger, as the original Ladyhawk launched into an awesome show at the Borderline - cementing beer-swilling, hard-rocking second-album Shots into a place in my list. No frills rock, with a lot of personality.
3. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
On paper, this record had to stink. Who wants to listen to the same gags over and over again? In reality, every song provides a remarkable understanding of music history, picking just the right sounds to serve the story - with so many jokes you hear a new one every time. Never, ever fails to light up Chimp HQ on a dreary day.
2. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Another one that may have been temporarily overplayed, but this 70's throwback has been a pretty remarkable debut. Almost slipping unnoticed when it arrived in the office, it has been a solid player all year and I can't help but feel like it's greatness will soon be overshadowed by an even better follow-up. Unless they crack under the pressure.
1. Black Mountain - In The Future
Since it arrived on my desk in December 2007, In The Future has held the top spot for the year - and it still shows no sign of slipping. After a debut and a few side projects that paved the way, this was somehow exactly the record I expected and it never fails to impress me. Every note, every riff, every drum fill is just when and where I want it.
Best Songs: Portishead - The Rip, Port O'Brien - Close The Lid, Catfish Haven - Set In Stone, Fleet Foxes - Your Protector (for keeping BW running, if nothing else).
Best Gigs: Black Mountain rocked hard (again) at The Scala, Davin Berman's Silver Jews thoroughly proved their worth at ULU, Ladyhawk + The Dudes led the Canadian invasion at The Borderline, Oxford Collapse went under-appreciated at The Windmill and Jim James brightly shone a small light for the future of MMJ.
Live Clangers: Ween were truly disappointing.
Best Movies: In Bruges was a must-see despite an awful trailer, Iron Man andThe Dark Knight proved pretty solid superhero action, while This Is England and Dead Man's Shoes proved to be overlooked gems. Perhaps the biggest shock was the fact that the Sex And The City movie didn't totally suck - and in fact addressed the TV shows many shortcomings to make for a great movie.
Movie Clangers: Indiana Jones was as forgettable as you hoped it wouldn't be, while Somerstown didn't follow it's siblings in quality. There Will Be Blood did follow it's predecessors, with style over substance.
TV: The Wire came to a fantastic finale, Entourage continued to provide lifestyle envy, Breaking Bad took an original direction, Mad Men provided some slow-burning drama, while Summer Heights High provided some simple laughs. Undeclared and Freaks & Geeks finally caught my attention this year, wishing I'd caught both much earlier.
TV Clangers: Heroes just gets more and more contrived.
As a final note, headline of the year goes to chimpovich, regarding Men Called Him Mister's support slot for Foals in Madrid: "Band of Small Horses"Read more 5 star reviews
I've been trying to come up with a 2008 top five, I hardly thought I'd bought five albums this year. Pathetic. However, here goes;
1. Bob Dylan; 'Tell Tale Signs'
2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; 'Dig Lazarus Dig!'
3. Sons and Daughters; 'This Gift'
4. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy With Harem Scarem & Alex Neilson; 'Is It The Sea?'
5. Silver Jews; 'Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea'
It was a good year for Hip Hop with some real heavyweight contributions from the likes of Lil Wayne, The Roots and Kanye West. Q Tip came out of retirement with a great album and Atmosphere gave us the fantastic When Life Gives You Lemons Paint That Shit Gold. But ultimately these 5 rocked my world.
Why? - Alopecia
This record dropped pretty early this year but has remained a permanent fixture ever since. Building on the clever songcraft of Elephant Eyelash, Alopecia is almost too packed with ideas to fully comprehend.
Black Milk - Tronic
Just as the year draws to a close, Black Milk drops his best work yet: super tight production mixes with raw old school might to produce a hip hop classic.
The Roots - Rising Down
Thank God for George Bush or we may not have ever had a record as venomous and thoroughly pissed off as this. Leaning more on the classic hip hop than the live band, the Philly boys really delivered here although the guest MC's nearly stole the show.
The Cool Kids - The Bake Sale EP
From out of nowhere came this EP full of playful bravado and classic old school hooks. "The new black version of the Beastie Boys."
lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
The most anticipated hip hop record of the year actually made good on its promise.
The Roots - Rising Down (feat. Mos Def & Styles P)
Black Milk - Losing Out
Why? - By Torpedo Or Crohn's
Hercules & Love Affair - Blind
Lil Wayne - A Milli
The Mighty Underdogs
Sounded good on paper, especially with Def Jux behind them, but in reality was a pile of shit.
Subtle - Exiting Arm
It was their most commercial release and certainly promised great things. But somehow it lacked some of the quirky excitement of all of their previous work.
The X Factor
That duet between Beyonce and Alexandra...nuf said.
Sex And The City (Only because I went to the World Premiere and sat near SJP and Gary Lineker, it's the only way I see movies so was the only one I saw)
Its feels like I spent the whole of 2008 blinded by a career blizzard but when the weather did clear and some visibility was possible I did manage to spy a view highlights...
Album of the Year - Wagonwheel Blues - The War on Drugs
Though I risked the presence of much egg splattered all over my face by nominating this as album of the year after only a few listens providence has nevertheless confirmed the judgement of my hot headedness. Faith in the Secret Canadian quartet was bolstered by a blistering summer set at Brixton's Windmill. An album of mighty ambitions and glorious intensity it remains an absolute corker.
Gig of the Year - Broken Social Scene at Shepherds Bush Empire
Tunes multiplied by talent to the power ten. I'm not sure as I've ever heard a more haunting live performance than Kevin Drew's solo rendition of Lover's Spit - sublime.
Book of the Year - The Book Thief
Tear jerking yet mirth making, doom laden yet life affirming this is surely destined to be a 21st century classic. Genuis.
Let Down of the Year - Steve Coogan Live
Sure we fans chuckled along and it was great to see my idol Partridge in the flesh but oh dear; Steve you do seem tired!
Moment of the Year - Barak Obama's Chicago Victory Speech.
Like a Marvel comic character, minus the mask and the magic powers, Obama seemed to be the hero the people of the world had turned to as the only one who can save us. Tough kids at my South London school actually cried. Referencing Sam Cooke, with oratory skills from yesteryear, he realised and embodied the soul man's prophecy that 'a change is gonna come'. Let's hope nobody steals his kryptonite!
Not been a vintage year in terms of quantity for me. El Rey by the Wedding Present and Living on the Other side by The Donkeys got a lot of listens. I haven't yet got round to listening to You and Me by the Walkmen, but reports suggest it's as strong as we've come to expect from them. But in loose order, my standout albums of the year:
Damien Jurado - Caught in the Trees: Not convinced at first, but grew and grew and grew. Lovely stuff.
Ladyhawk - Shots: Dirty rock n roll. Brains, booze and plenty of heart
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes: Yes!
Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight: An early release and still on heavy rotation. How can someone so miserable write such catchy and rocking tunes. Some great lyrics too.
My Morning Jacket - The Forum: as reliable as ever when playing live
Frightened Rabbit - Madame Jojos/Sala Sol: Poor in a poor venue in London. Much better and relaxed in front of about 30 people in Madrid
Damien Jurado - Moby Dick (madrid): Warm and Intimate as Winter approached
Foals - Mynt (madrid): From the rousing drum intro. Through to the guitarist playing whilst walking along the bar. The tunes rocked and they gave it their all.
Bunk, Cutty, Clay, Daniels, Rawls, Omar, Snoop, Chris, Avon etc etc etc. Just (and only just) behind a niece and nephew as my favourite thing this year.
No Country For Old Men - welcome back Brothers
Into the Wild - Dam(n) that river!