Friday, 23 January 2009

The Aye Tunes Awards - Everything Else

Lets see if we can get this out the way before January finishes, eh?
To be honest it's taken me so long to shift my arse and actually finish these off that I've ended up dumping half the stuff I'd planned on mentioning, since I'll be here all year getting round to doing it all.
Remember that shouting at me in the comments or in email to get my lazy arse in gear and do something should shame me into posting more.

Also, it seems I'm an idiot and saved this post instead of publishing it. Oh well, it's here now.

"Where'd My Indie Cred Go?" Album of the Year:
Metallica - Death Magnetic. Point and laugh at me all you want, but as far as balls out, OTT riffing, headbanging, posturing thrash goes, this is the best aexample since, well, Ride The lightning or ...And Justice For All. I could live without The Unforgiven III, but hey, I can't have everything. Where would I put it? Also, severeal great Three! Word! Phrases! that just beg to be yelled along with. Also, the demo versions are great fun, with their nonsensical, unfinished lyrics. When I eventually get this for Guitar Hero I may have to give up blogging, as my hand might become crippled. Does everything you want from a Metallica album, and I make not the slightest apology for loving every bit of it.

Best Cover Version:
I briefly touched on covers when I was talking about debut albums, particulary the few lovely ones that Mark Morriss did last year, so here's a whole category of them. Althought Frightened Rabbit made a valiant attempt at nicking this award by doing N-Trance's Set You Free on the b-side of Heads Roll Off and The Saw Doctors took on The Sugababes About You Now to fine effect, the winner is The Wildhearts.
Their Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before cover version album was quite the treat, the only downside being that it was occasionally just too faithful to the original songs. There's a cover of the largely forgotten Glasgow/Ayrshire band Baby Chaos on there and everything, which means I get to talk about it here without wandering too far off the Scottish Topic. The best of the songs and winner of this award is their take on Warren Zevon's Carmelita, if for no other reason than every time I hear it, it puts a massive grin on my face - no easy task for a song about a heroin addicted writer it must be said. Sung by bassist Scott Sorry, it's a rip-roaring version of Zevon's already brilliant original.
The Wildhearts - Carmelita

Best Album - Scottish
Again Frightened Rabbit were the main rivals to our eventual winner, The Midnight Organ Fight is a really, really good album. Chances are were they not up against one of my personal favourite bands they'd have nicked top spot, but they'll just have to settle for second.
For our winner we are going way back to the start of 2008 for Sons & Daughters - This Gift.
It had been a long wait between This Gift and previous album The Repulsion Box, but thanks to regular gigs in between Sons & Daughters managed to firmly nail themselves into my brain as a great band, particularly in that live setting. This Gift is a slightly more polished album than what came before, no doubt due to producer Bernard Butler. Don't worry, he didn't turn Adele into, well ADELE or anything, just maybe sandpapered down some of those rougher edges, leaving a fine slice of pop-rock-country-blues-country-folk fabulousness. My only complaint about the album at time of release was that Scott Paterson's vocals seemed to be a bit downplayed, losing a bit of the boy/girl dynamic of previous songs, but that's not a huge problem, and one much less apparent live too. If you can, try and get hold of the intitial CD release, which came with a bonus CD of half a dozen songs - five from This Gift and the cracking Iggy Pop version of Johnny Cash that the band had been playing live - recorded in Chemikal Underground's CHEM13 studios.
Sons & Daughters Website

Best thing I Bought But Can't Listen To:
If you don't have a turntable, like me, buying vinyl is really rather pointless, so I'm usually sensible enough to not do it. I did have to make one exception though for Aloha Hawaii's Towns On The Moon EP. Aidan Moffat, Stuart Braithwaite, 10" vinyl, no CD or digital release. One day I'll own a turntable and actually be able to tell you what it sounds like. Until then, I have a rather nice T-shirt to wear, since I bought the bundle pack.
Chemikal Underground Shop

Best Album - Other:
I won't run through the list of contenders, there were lots.
Half Man Half Biscuit - CSI: Ambleside takes the prize. Some people will tell you that HMHB aren't as good as they used to be, these people are wrong and aren't to be trusted. CSI is as good as an album as any of their others, packed as usual with tunes, wit and more refrences than an episode of Spaced and thus fantastic.
HMHB - Took Problem Chimp To Ideal Home Show

"Ah, There's My Indie Cred!" Special Award:
Zoey Van Goey haven't done much so far. Loads of gigs, but just the two singles to date. Those two singles though? Lovely indie-folky pop. Hope to hear much more from them this year.
Zoey Van Goey - Sweethearts In Disguise

Eh, I reckon that'll do us then.
Comments, emails, abuse about not posting etc to the usual places please, cheers.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Aye Tunes Awards - Debuts (Updated)

Or a load of random mutterings, prompted by guilt at having almost nothing here in the six months we've been up and running. It wasn't the original intention, but I'll be breaking this down into parts, since it's already way overdue and I'd quite like to get something posted before the end of 2009... Over the next few weeks I'll either give up or post more, one of the two.

For the curious, here's a list of stuff I liked in 2007. Apparently I couldn't spell when I wrote that, and I can't be bothered fixing it now. You are too late to mock me for it now too.

I'll note right now that when I say "best" in the categories, I by no means mean best, but favourite just doesn't sound as good. It's my list, so I make the rules, which are vague, unspecified and subject to change at any point. In some, if not all, categories I'll be splitting them up into Scottish (since that's ostensibly the focus of Aye Tunes) and otherwise. Told you my rules were vague.

Without further stalling for time:
Best Debut Album - Scottish
Quite a few contendors for this one actually. Aidan Moffat put out his first solo album, in a way. While there's a bunch of L. Pierre albums "I Can Hear Your Heart" is the first album Aidan has put out under his own name. It's an odd duck, part spoken word, part music, with a short story in the packaging too. Great piece of work and gorgeously packaged, but not the best thing this year. Mr Moffat has a new album out on Valentines Day by the way, called How To Get To Heaven From Scotland. A preview copy found it's way to me just today, so hopefully I'll give that a listen soon.
Another debut that isn't would be Colin MacIntyre's "The Water". It would be stretching things a bit to call this Colin's debut album, since other than ditching the Mull Historical Society name there's no difference from his previous work, so we'll disqualify it on those grounds. Still had to give it a mention though, since Colin is as good - if not better - a songwriter as ever.
Errors finally stuck out an album - It's Not Something, But It Is Like Whatever - after a few singles and EPs over the last few years, and it was also really very good.
Glasvegas of course showed up to release their album and torment blog owners by pulling anything with an MP3 attached too. They didn't lose this category because of that whole thing, the album did that for them, but it certainly didn't help their cause any.
Laki Mera didn't just release a great little album (which if you want to get technical snuck out at the end of 2007, but wasn't available to buy in shops till 2008) but followed it up with a nifty EP later in the year too, both of which are well worth your time if ambient electronica stuff is your bag.
Make Model recorded an album, then misplaced their singer/guitarist and then pretty much vanished. Seems unlikely that the album will ever see the light of day, which is a wee bit of a shame since it wasn't bad, if a bit like bis but less shouty.
Speaking of bis, Manda Rin put out her first album too. I always roundly mocked bis at any opportunity, only to find a few years later that if I bothered to listen to them a bit more I actually quite liked them... Manda's album isn't far off what bis were doing in their later years (which is miles away from Kandy Pop, which I still can't tolerate) and so also pretty good.

Coming it at a close second for the best Scottish debut album award is Correcto. Their self titled album seems to have been missing from pretty much end of year list I've seen, which has taken me by surprise a bit. Easy to dismiss as a side project, given that the band features one of Franz Ferdinand (another band with a new album imminent) and Richard Wright of the now-defunct The Royal We (who have spat out a few other bands now, like Remember Remember and Sexy Kids) but the album is a whole lot better than something knocked out on days off from the "real job". Especially worth a listen if you like Josef K and the like.

Drumroll please for our winner then....

Popup's "A Time And A Place" has been quite a while coming - over two years since I picked up their first couple of singles by my count - but just goes to show that taking your time can be worthwhile.
Packed full of killer melodies, smart and witty lyrics, lovely boy/girl harmonies and just all round great tunes it's a perfectly formed beauty of a debut. My only quibble with it is that of the 13 tracks on it I had six of them from singles already, but that's only a quibble because I was greedy for more songs.
Not only a fab band but really nice guys too as I found out when having a chatter with them after a challenging gig in Paisley a few months back, where not only did miserable weather mean that the crowd was pretty small, but the band were plagued by technical difficulties throughout, but still managed to send me off home happy.

PopUp - Love Triangle

Outwith the Scottish contenders there were quite a bit fewer stunning debuts in 2008, so it's a good bit easier to pick my favourite, but I'll do a quick rundown of stuff I liked anyway.
In no particular order there was good stuff from The Beep Seals (whose album was produced by Norman Blake, which almost qualifies them for the Scottish part of the award, but not quite, and who were also the first band in ages to send me a promo, which I promptly forgot to review. Err, sorry...), Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip showed that there's life in UK hip-hop yet, and that you can still make intelligent hip-hop too - Thou Shall Always Kill is getting a re release soon and is well worth your time. Saturnalia by The Gutter Twins nicked a Wedding Present album title and was excellent, though not exactly happy easy listening stuff. Not that you'd expect that from Greg Dulli, right enough. Ida Maria, Beth Rowley, Lykke Li, Jenny Lewis and Laura Marling all did decent work, to differing levels of quality, for the girls, while Katy Perry made me want to punch people when I was forced to rely on Radio Clyde for music at work for a while and managed to almost single handedly wipe out any goodwill I had towards anyone at all, but luckily I'm too nice for that. Former Bluetones front man Mark Morriss covered Alcoholiday on his debut album which is splendid, then he put Girls Aloud & Pixies covers on the B-side of his "I'm Sick" single, which put my faith back in humanity nicely. Go grab the single from eMusic, his version of Call The Shots is great. MGMT, Bon Iver, Santogold, She & Him and the like have all had plentiful coverage, so you don't need me to tell you any more about them, so I'll skip on ahead and name my winner.

Best Debut Album That Isn't Scottish

Eureka Machines - Do Or Die
An album that I'm going to guess almost none of you have heard, sadly. If I hadn't gone to see Ginger earlier in the year I probably wouldn't have either, but I did. Eureka Machines were the support that night - or more accurately one of them, front man Chris Catalyst, was. Chris did a solo set made up of a bunch of cover versions and his own songs and blew my little tipsy head off with a fantastic performance, which ensured that I'd keep an eye on the band for the rest of the year. I had some demos & acoustic stuff to tide me over till the album came out, which I hammered enough that there was a risk that by the time I got the album I'd be overly familiar with it, but thankfully that wasn't the case. Like PopUp it's packed with killer melodies and smart as a whip lyrics, but it's an entirely different beast to A Time And A Place, and it's certainly the best power-pop/rock album I've heard in, well, ages. Another thing the bands have in common is that they've pretty much stuck the albums out on their own, so if you want to hear either of them please do spend money on them rather than nicking them off the internet. Both are available on eMusic, so even if you just get a trial to that for them that would be better than using more illicit means (and yes, given my blogging history I know I'm the last person that should really be talking about paying for what you like, but indulge me...)

Eureka Machines - Scream Eureka (Demo)

That's the debuts taken care of then. I'll get on to the best albuums as soon as I can bother myself, then we'll see about getting some new stuff written about, shall we?

PopUp Myspace
Eureka Machines MySpace

Note: if either PopUp or Eureka Machines want those songs removed, just give me a shout.