Saturday, 29 December 2007

2007: A Year in Music [Part 6: Re-evaluation of 2006 list]

Time to re-evaluate my top 5 albums of 2006 post to see how my opinions have changed over the course of the year. Maybe some albums which I initially praised too highly have over time lost their appeal. And maybe some other albums which I didn't like too much at this time last year have grown on me (as many great albums do). In addition to this, I have also purchased many more albums from 2006 which I didn't have when I made the list last year.

These were my top 5 albums of 2006, as published at the end of last year:

1. Joanna Newsom - Ys
2. Augie March - Moo, you bloody choir
3. Belle & Sebastian - The life pursuit
4. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
5. Yo La Tengo - I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass

And here are the albums from 2006 that I have purchased since I made that list:

Thom Yorke - The eraser
Tom Waits - Orphans
TV on the Radio - Return to cookie mountain
Paul Simon - Surprise
The Knife - Silent shout
Camera Obscura - Let's get out of this country
Loose Fur - Born again in the USA
James Dean Bradfield - The great western
You Am I - Convicts
Regina Spektor - Begin to hope

The eraser is a decent album, but nothing mindblowing. In terms of Radiohead albums, it definitely has the most in common with Amnesiac. Considering that Amnesiac is probably my least favourite Radiohead album, this isn't really a compliment. That's not to say there aren't some choice cuts on The eraser -- Harrowdown hill is an amazing track which could quite comfortably fit amongst some of the finer cuts in Radiohead's catalogue, and Cymbal rush is a highly effective closer.

Return to cookie mountain was highly praised by many critics as one of the finest albums of 2006, but after many listens, I'm not sure I quite understand all the praise that it is getting. There are some great songs on there, don't get me wrong, but so many of the songs aren't particularly memorable for me. Wolf like me is one of the greatest songs of 2006 though!

I have already discussed Orphans and Surprise in my musical discoveries post, so no need to repeat myself here.

While I am not generally a fan of the dance/electronica genre, there are always exceptions to this rule. Silent shout by Swedish band The Knife is one such exception. It was actually voted by Pitchfork Media as the best album of 2007. I'm always a sucker for a great review, so I picked it up this year. It's a highly recommended album: a haunting slice of electronica with eerie vocals and atmospheric beats. Kind've like a more scary version of Björk, but there's a male vocalist in there as well to mix it up a bit.

While Scottish band Camera Obscura sounded like Belle & Sebastian clones on their previous album Underachievers please try harder, they carved out a really unique sound for themself on their follow-up Let's get out of this country. It's a fantastic indie pop album with a Motown/soul feel in parts, and comes highly recommended. Very catchy stuff indeed.

Loose Fur (a supergroup consisting of Wilco members Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche, together with Jim O'Rourke) released the follow-up to their self-titled debut with Born again in the USA. I was very underwhelmed with their debut album, but Born again is a much better album; while Loose Fur was more jam-based, Born again is more song-based. It's a very solid album that comes highly recommended.

I recently purchased The great western (the first solo album by Manics frontman James Dean Bradfield) and Begin to hope (an album by the quirky anti-folk artist Regina Spektor). Unfortunately I haven't given these albums enough listens to comment on them.

Which leaves You Am I's latest album Convicts, which I recently picked up cheaply on eBay. I know two of my friends Pete and Dean aren't into this album and they summed it up as fairly generic rock music, and a shadow of their former brilliance. So you could say I went into listening to it with extremely low expectations. While I agree that it's a very patchy album, and nowhere near the heights that they reached in their glory days, I also don't think it's all worthless. Thuggery, The sweet life, Gunslingers, Explaining cricket and I'm a mess are all very catchy songs that wouldn't sound out of place on a compilation CD amongst some of their older classic rockers. One of the main problems with the album is that the opening track (Thank God I've hit the bottom) lacks a real melody, and it's unfortunate because I can see how it can put someone off the album from the start.

Okay, so that's a rundown of the more recent 2006 albums purchases. Initially when I made my top albums list of 2006, I didn't have enough to make a top 10, which is why I only made a top 5. Now I have 21 albums from 2006, so I think I can make a top 10 list. Without further ado, here's my (updated) top 10 albums of 2006 (old positions are in brackets):

1. Tom Waits - Orphans [New entry]
2. Joanna Newsom - Ys [1]
3. Paul Simon - Surprise [New entry]
4. Augie March - Moo, you bloody choir [2]
5. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis [4]
6. Belle & Sebastian - The life pursuit [3]
7. The Knife - Silent shout [New entry]
8. Yo La Tengo - I am not afraid of you and I will kick your ass [5]
9. Camera Obscura - Let's get out of this country [New entry]
10. Loose Fur - Born again in the USA [New entry]

Summary of changes:
  • Tom Waits' brilliant 3-CD compilation Orphans has usurped the top position from Joanna Newsom's excellent Ys album. But it's a compilation! I hear you say. Yes, but many of the tracks on it are newly-recorded ones that have never been released before, which makes it eligible for the top 10 albums of 2006 list. My list, my rules.
  • Paul Simon's excellent Surprise album has also come in near the top, overtaking Augie March's Moo, you bloody choir which has slipped down two positions to number 4. I know some people who will be upset by this decision, but I love Surprise and time has not been any kinder to Moo for me.
  • Jarvis Cocker's debut solo album Jarvis has over-taken Belle & Sebastian's The life pursuit. Over time that album has continued to grow on me, and I think it's up there with some of the more classic Pulp material.
  • Yo La Tengo's long-titled I am not afraid of you and I will kick your ass has had its ass kicked down 3 positions, mainly because there's other albums which I have listened to more and appreciate more than that one.
  • Other newly-purchased albums have made the list: Silent shout, Let's get out of this country and Born again in the USA.
And that concludes my 6-part extravaganza on the music of 2007, musical discoveries, and the 2006 re-evaluation. I hope you have enjoyed reading it!

Happy new year everyone! I hope you all have a happy, healthy and safe new year.

Friday, 28 December 2007

2007: A Year in Music [Part 5: Musical discoveries]

Now we come to the part of my 2007 summary that I like best -- the bit where I talk about some great music from the past that I have gotten into this year. I like this best because my musical appreciation lately has been less focused on the present and more on the music of old. So any discussion of the year that was 2007 will be incomplete unless I talk about some of these discoveries.

There's quite a few albums here, so I'll try to keep my descriptions brief and let the song samples do the talking for me. But I'm not promising anything, as I do have a tendency to ramble on. It all started back in nineteen dickity six; we called it dickity because my primary school had temporarily banned use of the word eighty due to [...]

Albums that I have discovered

Spoon - Kill the moonlight

Of course I loved Ga ga ga ga ga; it was one of my top 5 albums of 2007. Before getting their latest, I started to delve into their back catalogue. Prior to picking up Kill the moonlight, I only had Gimme fiction which was one of my top 10 albums of 2005. Sensing a trend here? Three albums of theirs, two in my best of the year lists and one in a list of my musical discoveries of the year. Yep, they are a great band, and I'm excited that I still have their first three albums to discover as well. One of my new favourite bands -- The way we get by is as close to a perfect piano-based pop/rock song that I could imagine hearing.

MP3: Spoon - The way we get by [Song link removed]

Tom Waits - Orphans

Seriously people -- I hate to sound all elitist on you, but one day (mark my words) you will discover the genius that is Tom Waits. Unfortunately he'll probably have to die before he gets the recognition he deserves, which is a tragedy. Right now I'm happy for him to be a cult hero known by little but loved to death by those who appreciate his songwriting brilliance. He's an incredibly difficult artist to get into, and yes you have to get past that voice which has been described by many friends as a human incarnation of the cookie monster. But if you are open minded enough to spend time exploring his music, you too will discover one of the true musical geniuses of our time.

Orphans is a 3-CD compilation of new tracks and older rarities which have either never been released, or were scattered across movie soundtracks and other compilations. Each CD represents a different aspect to his sound: Brawlers consists of his barroom bluesy stompers, Bawlers is filled with alcohol-soaked ballads and Bastards has his more weird and surreal moments. They are 3 CDs that many lesser artists could build their entire career around, but merely a drop in time for Tom.

MP3: Tom Waits - Widow's grove [Song link removed]

Paul Simon - Surprise

In a discography which has been reaping diminishing returns for many years, Surprise certainly lives up to its title. This collaboration between Paul Simon and Brian Eno is truely a match made in heaven; combine the unique and effective vocals of Mr. Simon and the ambient electronica of Mr. Eno's soundscapes and you have an album which sounds unlike anything in Paul Simon's discography. Quirky pop (Outrageous, Sure don't feel like love), melodic gems (Father and daughter) and gorgeously epic ballads (Wartime prayers, Another galaxy) gel together to form a surprisingly (there's that word again) cohesive statement from one of pop's elder statesmen.

MP3: Paul Simon - Wartime prayers [Song link removed]

The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic

The Exploding Hearts were a punk/pop quartet from Portland, Oregon who were relatively unknown. They released only one album (this one) before tragedy struck in 2003 when three of the four band members were killed in a car accident. After all of this, they were still relatively unknown.

On paper, this album sounds like it shouldn't be that impressive: take a band who's influences range from Ramones, Clash and Buzzcocks and release an album which builds upon these foundations and adds a power-pop twist to everything. Sounds a bit Green Day doesn't it? I don't know what it is about this album, but it's absolutely magical to me. Their influences are certainly obvious, and it would certainly be right to call them derivative, but they have also fused these influences into an album which is entirely their own and possibly even better than many of the albums made by their predecessors.

This album is a modern lost classic which deserves to be heard by many more people.

MP3: The Exploding Hearts - Sleeping aides & razorblades [Song link removed]

My Morning Jacket - At dawn

When I included Z in the list of my top 10 albums of 2005, I hadn't heard any of their previous albums. It's always exciting going backwards through a band's discography to see how their sound evolved, albeit in reverse order. I soon realised (thanks to recommendations from Pete) that they were quite a different band back when they released At dawn. A much better band with a fantastic southern reverb-based sound that owed a lot more to Lynyrd Skynyrd than the Flaming Lips of Z-era MMJ.

At dawn is an album that can only be described as epic. The opening title track takes about 2 minutes before the vocals even kick in. The way that he sings is really all he sings. What a voice. What a great band these guys were -- the downside of getting into this album is that Z seems quite poor in comparison now!

MP3: My Morning Jacket - The way that he sings [Song link removed]

Johnny Cash - At San Quentin

It's amazingly how different the common public perception of Johnny Cash is from the reality. Those who only know him by name (and not by his music) probably think of him as an old daggy country music star (who sadly passed away in 2003 at the age of 71). But the reality is a very different thing indeed -- this man was punk. Yes, his music could be classified in the country music genre (that's certainly where JB Hi-Fi file his CDs) but it's so much more. This is rock-n-roll, rockabilly, gospel, blues and too. He even throws a bit of western in there.

But these are just labels! Don't let the daggy stigma of country music put you off the genius that was Johnny Cash. This is a man who's two most famous albums were recorded in jails to an audience of convicted criminals! How punk is that? At Folsom Prison may be the more cohesive album (all the songs are about prison) but this is the better album. It has the songs, the atmosphere, the vibe and is also quite hilarious in parts -- notably the classic A boy named Sue, and the almost-title track San Quentin which he plays not once but twice, almost inciting a prison riot.

I'm not usually into live albums, but this is a special album.

MP3: Johnny Cash - A boy named Sue [Song link removed]

The Kinks - Muswell hillbillies

This album will come as a bit of surprise to those who only know the Kinks by their big hits from the 60's (e.g. You really got me, Lola, Waterloo sunset). Many probably don't realise that the Kinks continued recording from the 70's to the 90's -- technically they haven't actually broken up yet even though they don't really record together anymore.

This album from 1971 is considered their last great album, even though it is very different to their 60's work. It's a bit all over the shop musically, covering a wide variety of genres from rock (20th century man), blues (Acute schizophrenia paranoia blues), music-hall (Holiday and Alcohol), country (Muswell hillbilly) and of course no Kinks album would be complete without their trademark British whimsy (Have a cuppa tea, Complicated life). And it all works remarkably well.

They probably would have been better off calling it quits after this album, as they would have certainly ended on a high note. Better to burn out than fade away, as a wise man once said.

MP3: The Kinks - Alcohol [Song link removed]

Badfinger - Wish you were here

Before you go accusing Badfinger of stealing the album name from Pink Floyd, this album was released in 1974, a year before the Pink Floyd album. I've said many times before that I love uncovering lost classics from the days of old, and this is one of those albums.

You know the old album review cliche where the reviewer says that this is the kind of album that the Beatles could have released if they didn't break up in 1970? Well, this is seriously one of those sort of albums. It helps that their career was actually kick-started by Paul McCartney, who wrote their early single Come and get it for them. But this album is not about hits; none of the songs are well-known, but it's got an unmistakeable vibe to it and so many of the songs sound like instant classics that you wonder why it didn't receive more acclaim than it did.

Reading about what happened to the band next only adds to the mystique of this superb album (I won't go into detail here, but please check it out on their Wikipedia page).

MP3: Badfinger - You're so fine [Song link removed]

Randy Newman - Good old boys

I had a few Randy Newman albums before this one (Little criminals, Sail away and 12 songs) but this one is in a league of its own, mainly for its thematic unity. This is a great concept album about the American south, all told through Randy's warped vision. The man has a hilariously dry sense of humour and his musical arrangements are up there with the best of the 70's singer-songwriters.

This is an album which is worth your time, and I would recommend it as a great entry-point to Randy Newman's vast discography.

MP3: Randy Newman - Birmingham [Song link removed]

The Divine Comedy - Casanova

The Divine Comedy is basically the moniker for Neil Hannon, a British singer-songwriter who writes songs in an old tin pan alley style. I've heard him referred to as the Scott Walker of the 90's, which is a fairly good comparison (although the comparison only applies to 60's-70's era Scott Walker, not his more recent avant-garde material).

This is a great album of impressive melodic and lyrical depth. There's some classic material here, and you can't help but smile and tap your foot along with the great run of songs from Songs of love to Through a long and sleepless night.

An artist definitely worth exploring. I recently picked up the out-of-print Promenade album on eBay, and look forward to receiving it based on the excellent reviews I have read!

MP3: The Divine Comedy - Songs of love [Song link removed]

Compilations that I have discovered

Pet Shop Boys - Discography

Tom Petty - Greatest hits

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle

I have grouped these together, as they are all 'greatest hits' or 'best-of' compilations which are worth your time. In the past I have been against compilations, but if you are in any way interested in any of these artists, I would recommend any of the above compilations without reservation. Considering you can pick them up for around $10 each, take a risk -- you won't be disappointed.

No need to go into great detail about these artists as their hits are pretty well-known, but if I have to sum them up in a few words: Pet Shop Boys make highly-polished 80's pop music which is almost the best of their genre; Tom Petty records songs which are instant-classics even if they aren't particularly innovative; Creedence Clearwater Revival are the masters of the blues-rock genre and they released a ridiculous amount of fantastic material in the late 60's-early 70's, the best of which is perfectly documented on Chronicle.

MP3: Pet Shop Boys - It's a sin [Song link removed]
MP3: Tom Petty - You got lucky [Song link removed]
MP3: Creedence Clearwater Revival - Green river [Song link removed]

Soundtracks that I have discovered

Saturday Night Fever

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (one of the highest selling records of all time) epitomises the disco genre. It is predominantly made up of tracks by the Bee Gees, many of which are now radio staples. But it also includes other classics like Yvonne Elliman's If I can't have you (also written by the Bee Gees), Boogie shoes by K.C. & the Sunshine Band and Disco inferno by the Trammps (also known as "burn baby burn"). A great soundtrack and time capsule of the 70's.

MP3: Yvonne Elliman - If I can't have you [Song link removed]

Jackie Brown

I don't know why I didn't get this sooner. Quentin Tarantino is a master film writer and director, but he is also the master at creating the perfect movie soundtrack, and this is no exception. While Jackie Brown is definitely not one of his better movies, the soundtrack almost makes up for what the movie lacks. I love how Tarantino is able to uncover hidden gems that you have never heard but after listening to a few times feel like you have known your whole life. Across 110th street by Bobby Womack is the best of the bunch here, but the whole soundtrack is definitely worth your time.

MP3: Bobby Womack - Across 110th street [Song link removed]

Artists who I have discovered

Bruce Springsteen

Yeah, the man has been overplayed to death on the radio. But in the year that I started to make an effort to get into a lot of older music, he was an artist who I felt I had overlooked for too long. And I soon discovered that there's a lot more to him than his radio hits.

I had actually picked up his most critically acclaimed album Born to run a few years back, and while it had some fantastic songs it, I also found it frustratingly uneven. I picked up the stripped-down Nebraska shortly after, and soon discovered that this is an album which needs a lot of time invested in it before it will (hopefully) reap its rewards.

Since then, I have picked up Born in the U.S.A., The wild, the innocent & the E-Street shuffle, Darkness on the edge of town, Tunnel of love and double album The river. Each has slowly painted a bigger picture about the man who is Bruce Springsteen, and while he has a tendency to sing a helluva lot of songs about cars and girls, he really epitomises the working class rocker.

The wild, the innocent & the E-Street shuffle (his 2nd album from 1973) is the pick of the bunch for me so far, even if it's a bit of a red herring in his discography. It has a much more jazz-blues based sound, and is even a bit musically quirky in parts. A highly recommended album.

MP3: Bruce Springsteen - 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) [Song link removed]

Joe Jackson

Radio listeners may know Joe Jackson by his hits Is she really going out with him? and Steppin' out. I picked up his debut album Look sharp! (from 1979) on a whim this year, and found that he started out as an artist knee-deep in the new-wave sound of the late 70's-early 80's. An artist very similar in style to Elvis Costello in the early days, but not quite as good in the songwriting department.

Since picking up his debut, I have been lucky enough to find three more of his albums on eBay for $4 each (!) - I'm the man from 1979 (similar in style to his debut, but a bit more developed), Night and day from 1982 (where his songwriting started becoming more sophisticated) and Beat crazy from 1980 (which had a bit of a reggae influence).

Night and day is probably my favourite at this stage, as it is the best example of the more sophisticated and interesting side of his music. It's still early stages for me with all of these albums, so time will tell whether he will become an artist that I will cherish.

MP3: Joe Jackson - Real men [Song link removed]

UPDATE: Song links removed.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

2007: A Year in Music [Part 4: Top 5 albums of the year]

Time to talk about my top 5 albums of the year (at the time of writing this). Enjoy, and feel free to chime in if you disagree or can recommend any other great albums from 2007!

5. Crowded House - Time on earth

Reunion albums can be dangerous affairs, especially when talking about a band with the stature of Crowded House. They released 4 studio albums in their original line-up, which ran from 1986 until their breakup in 1996. Frontman Neil Finn has had various side projects since then, including a couple of impressive solo albums and collaborations with his brother Tim under the name The Finn Brothers.

Former drummer Paul Hester tragically took his own life in March 2005, and the mourning in the aftermath of this became a catalyst for Neil Finn and bassist Nick Seymour to get back to recording music together. Neil Finn was working on a solo album at the time (the follow-up to 2001's One nil), and this eventually morphed into a new Crowded House album Time on earth.

While there are probably only a handful of tracks here which have the potential to go down in history as classic Crowded House tracks (Don't stop now, She called up, English trees), this is an amazingly consistent album which at almost an hour hardly outstays its welcome.

Rather than trying to re-create one of their late 80's - early 90's masterpieces, the line-up instead try to branch out experimentally on this album: A sigh is all atmosphere, Transit lounge is a strange jazz-tinged oddity that doesn't quite work for me and Neil's inner crooner comes out on You are the one to make me cry.

You can have the "is it a Neil Finn or Crowded House album?" argument ad infinitum. At the end, with results like this, it doesn't really matter. Great music is great music no matter what name it is released under.

4. Spoon - Ga ga ga ga ga

The title of this album has been a subject of amusement for many reviewers of this album, so I won't go there. With every album we are waiting for this Texas band to trip-up, but they just keep on subtlely evolving and continue to impress with their amazing rock minimalism.

They strip music down to the raw elements and get to the heart of why many of us love music. There's the emotion of frontman Britt Daniel's voice, the tight rhythmic foundation of Jim Eno's drumming, the lyrics which veer from abstract to personal; the parts on their own are impressive enough, but then there's that old cliche about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

Spoon try a few new things on this album: there's the sheer spookiness of The ghost of you lingers, the brassy Underdog and You got yr. cherry bomb, the abundance of typos in the song titles (yr? evah? rhthm?). If they can continue to churn out quality releases like this every few years, the world will be a happier place.

3. The Good, the Bad & the Queen

The last track on this album is called The Good, the Bad & the Queen. I thought this was kind've cool, because for the first time in my CD collection, the track name, artist name and band name of a track were all the same (I don't have Iron Maiden's debut album, but I believe the opening track on that album fits the critieria as well).

I can say that for the purposes of an anecdote, but strictly it's not true! You see, the band that released this album doesn't actually have a name. You see, The Good, the Bad & the Queen is actually the album name by the unnamed musical line-up consisting of Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Paul Simonon (The Clash), Simon Tong (The Verve) and Tony Allen (Fela Kuti). A bit of a British supergroup when it's all said and done.

The fact that this album only has a title is quite appropriate in a way, since this album almost has a very cinematic feel to it and could almost be a soundtrack to a unreleased noir film about life in Britain in the 00's. It has an incredibly dark feel throughout (musically and lyrically) which doesn't really let up through the 43-minute running time. It's also one of the biggest growers I have heard this year, and is a perfect example why professional music reviewing is a double-edged sword; an album like this which could quite easily be called boring on the first or second listen eventually reveals its magic by the seventh or eighth listen. This is an album worth investing your time in.

2. The Arcade Fire - Neon bible

Funeral was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2004, and while it was certainly very impressive, a couple of tracks fell a bit short of the other tracks in my opinion which made it mildly inconsistent in parts for me.

I could make this analogy with other bands I'm sure, but Gomez is a band that springs to mind; Neon bible is to Bring it on what Funeral was to Liquid skin. In summary: Neon bible is the more consistent album overall, with no sub-par tracks in the bunch; however, the highs on Funeral outshine the highs on Neon bible.

While Neon bible thankfully demonstrated that The Arcade Fire are more than one-album wonders, calling this merely another excellent album is underselling it a bit. This album has cemented the reputation of this Canadian line-up as one of the great bands of this decade. This is intelligently well-written music with energy, passion and real soul lacking in so many of their contemporaries. Listen to Intervention, Ocean of noise, and No cars go; the highlights of this album and also of 2007.

1. Radiohead - In rainbows

The unique marketing strategy has been discussed to death in reviews of this album, and I've already discussed it enough in some previous posts on this blog. There's really no need to discuss it much further in this review, so let's focus on the music instead.

Their previous album Hail to the thief (from 2003) was an impressive return to form for me after the disappointing Amnesiac. While in my opinion it was 4 tracks too long (I have come up with an alternate 10-track 39-minute track listing which could rival OK computer as their best album), it brought pack the power of the song and importantly brought real melody with it. Songs like A punch up at a wedding showed that a band who had alienated their listeners with the disturbing electronica on many of the Kid A/Amnesiac songs still had a soul at the heart of their sound.

In rainbows is in many ways a continuation of the accessible sound that Radiohead started returning to on Hail to the thief. The first few seconds of 15 step are a red herring, with a burst of electronica suggesting that this was a retreat to the sounds of Amnesiac, or even Thom Yorke's solo album The Eraser. Thom's still amazing vocals kick in, and thankfully (for me anyway) the guitar comes in shortly after this.

There are tracks on In rainbows which impress on the first listen, and successfully draw the listener back for subsequent listens -- Nude is a beautiful epic ballad that wouldn't sound out-of-place on the alienating OK computer, Faust arp is a gorgeous string-laden piece which sounds like nothing they have released before and All I need almost sounds like something that could be on The bends.

Then there are the tracks which pass the listener by initially, and slowly reveal themselves like a magic eye picture on additional listens -- Bodysnatchers sounded like pretty generic rock on first listen, but has revealed itself to be an epic song of considerable depth; Videotape also reveals its charms over time and has become a perfect closer for the album.

With In Rainbows, as with all of their albums, Radiohead have successfully been able to re-invent themselves as the definitive alternative band of this generation. That they can continue to impress so much seven albums in, and never be accused of repeating themselves, puts them up on a pedestal so far away from their peers that I often wonder what the temptation is like for the others to throw in the towel.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

2007: A Year in Music [Part 3: Cutting room floor]

We'll continue the rundown of 2007 with the albums which didn't make the cut of the top 5 list of my favourite albums of the year. Some of these were disappointments, and some were simply pushed out of the top 5 by fierce competition.

There is no order to these, so they are simply sorted alphabetically by the artist or band name.

Manic Street Preachers - Send away the tigers

A bit of a return to form for these veteran rockers after their partially successful attempt at fitting in with the Coldplay crowd on 2004's Lifeblood. Many reviewers have called this their best album since their 1996 classic Everything must go (their first post-Richey album). I've never understood how critics could pan 1998's This is my truth tell me yours; in my opinion this was a classic album of the late 90's. Although I'll admit I am a bit biased as that album has nostalgic value for me as it was the first Manics album I had heard, and I got into it at a time of my life when discovering new music like this was still pretty exciting. I'm also a big defender of 2001's Know your enemy; while I agree that it is over-long and could have been trimmed down to a tighter album, the best songs on that album are up there with some of the best that Manics have released.

What of Send away the tigers, then? This is just a solid Manics album; at 38 minutes it is nice and concise, but most importantly there is an abundance of great tunes. There are some anthems here that only a band like Manics still record (the title track, The second great depression, Autumnsong), a surprisingly effective duet with Nina Persson from the Cardigans (Your love alone is not enough), and in something which has become par for the course for latter-day Manics albums, a few filler tracks which don't quite work as well (Underdogs, Imperial bodybags). Not a great album, but certainly not an embarrassment and better than we should be expecting from them after all these years.

The Polyphonic Spree - The fragile army

2004's Together we're heavy was a massive leap over their debut album, mainly because I started to believe that this crazy 24-piece band could really shed the novelty aspect of their cult-like status and be real players in the indie music biz. It was for this reason, and also because it was a corker of an album, that it was in my top 5 albums of 2004.

The fragile army is unfortunately more of a sideways step rather than a leap to something new. There are some new elements to their sound on this album (a music-hall movement on the title track, for instance), but for me to take a band like this seriously, the songwriting needs to make me forget that I'm listening to a 24-piece band, and unfortunately it all feels a bit over-the-top this time. While most bands can still remain interesting by making gradual progressions between albums, it doesn't seem to work as well for these guys...maybe the progression that is required to remain interesting is proportional to the size of the band?

Gruff Rhys - Candylion

The second solo album from the quirky Super Furry Animals frontman, Candylion continues to prove that this guy has a bottomless pit of fantastic melodies just waiting to be recorded and released to his legion of happy fans around the world.

These songs are mellower and a bit less strange than those from 2007's SFA album Hey Venus!, and it's only for this reason (and the fact that Gruff handles all vocals on this one) that one can differentiate this from just another SFA album (not that an SFA album is particularly easy to pigeonhole).

There's really not a duff track here, and many of the songs are instant classics (The court of King Arthur, Beacon in the darkness and the hilarious closer Skylon!) that sound like stuff the Beatles may have recorded in their later days if they were from Cardiff instead of Liverpool.

The Shins - Wincing the night away

The first Shins album to be released since Natalie Portman famous hyped them up in Garden state. It has become customary to mention Ms. Portman in the opening sentence of any review of this album, so why should I be any different?

This is the 3rd album from these Milwaukee tunesmiths who have almost become the defining indie popstars of this decade. And there's not a lot to fault on this album; these guys are masters of their craft, and many of the songs here are not only classic Shins songs, but classic songs of their genre (melodic indie folk-pop is probably the best way to describe it). They even try a few new things here (a short segue track in Pam Berry, a mellow hip-hop beat in Sealegs), which show that they are at least up for trying new things even if they don't always work.

The only real criticism I can give this album is that these guys set the bar too high with their previous album Chutes too narrow, which over the years has grown on me immensely and I now think of it as one of the greatest albums of the decade so far. But we shouldn't penalise them for past glories now, should we?

Elliott Smith - New moon

This is disqualified from the running of the top 5 as it's not an album but merely a compilation of tracks recorded by the late indie folk genius. What can I say about these tracks? The man never released a bad song in his short life, and these tracks are no exception.

Most of the tracks on New moon were recorded at the same time as his 2nd self-titled album from 1994 and his 1997 masterpiece Either/or, so quite naturally they share a fairly similar sound to the songs on those albums (although I would say that they share more similarities with the stripped-down songs on Elliott Smith).

Unfortunately I probably haven't given attention to these 2 discs, so many of the tracks blend into each other for me and I find it difficult to pick standout tracks. But, if I had my arm twisted, I would probably pick out High times, Whatever (folk song in C) and Either/or as standouts. I look forward to more songs being squeezed out of the vaults for future CD releases.

Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus!

Many critics called this a return to form after 2005's Love kraft, but I for one loved that album and included it in my top 10 albums of 2005. This is probably their most straight-forward (read: less weird) album since their debut Fuzzy logic in 1996, but there is no shortage of amazing songs on this album: Run-away is already an SFA classic, Show your hand and The gift that keeps giving are ridiculously catchy and the fascinating Carbon dating almost picks up where the subdued Love kraft left off.

8 albums in, SFA are a band who continue to impress with each and every release and while they definitely have a sound of their own, you could never accuse them of repeating themselves. One negative - bring back Pete Fowler to do the artwork for the next album! The Hey Venus! artwork sucks.

Wilco - Sky blue sky

This was one of the more debated albums in the Internet community this year. Pitchfork summed it up for many fans when they referred to this album as "dad-rock". Many other reviewers praised Wilco for making the album they wanted to make.

From the start, every album that Wilco has made has been different enough from the previous album that they have never been a band that you could accuse of repeating themselves. A.M. was the alt-country album. Being there was the rough and dirty (and not filler-free) double album, their Exile on Main Street if you will. Summerteeth was their Beatles album. Yankee hotel foxtrot was their re-invention album. A ghost is born was their avante-garde krautrock-influenced album. And yes, Sky blue sky is most certainly their back to basics album.

What about the songs then? Look, there are some really impressive songs here -- Impossible germany features some great Marquee moon-esque guitar interplay, Side with the seeds and Walken almost sounds like Ghost outtakes, Hate it here is just a great pop song with a fantastic guitar hook. Then there are the songs which just blow by in an air of inoffensiveness - Either way, Sky blue sky, Please be patient with me, Leave me (like you found me), On and on and on...all nice songs, don't get be wrong. But for the first time since they formed, I don't feel challenged by this album, and for that reason I can't help but call it a slight (albeit still impressive) disappointment.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

2007: A Year in Music [Part 2: Top 10 songs of the year]

We'll continue the run-down of 2007 with a list of my top 10 favourite songs of the year. The MP3 files will stay up for a week and then they will be removed. Please give them a listen; if you enjoy them, please purchase them legally.

10. Manic Street Preachers - Send away the tigers [Song link removed]

With the benefit of hindsight, I can now comfortably say that 2004's Lifeblood album was a bit of a disappointment. It did have some good songs on it, but it just didn't feel right; it felt like a too-deliberate attempt to try something different and I felt they should have tweaked their existing formula in subtle ways rather than attempting such a radical reinvention. Props to them for giving it a go, but in my opinion it wasn't entirely successful.

Their new album Send away the tigers is a much more solid album, easily their most consistent effort since This is my truth tell me yours from 1998. These Welshmen have been going about their business for almost 20 years now, and some would argue that they've been going about 10 years too long. If they can keep churning out corkers like this, the opening self-titled song from their latest, then they won't be embarrassing themselves in the short-term.

One could argue that this is Manics-by-numbers, and I wouldn't disagree here. It starts out with a few simple chords before the lead guitar riff and drums come in, and then the (still excellent) lead vocals of James Dean Bradfield take centre stage. The lyrics are the typical fusion of personal and politics that dominate most of their songs. But this song, like most great Manics tunes, is all about the chorus. And when it first comes in at 1:05, you can't help but smile, close your eyes and pretend that it's 1996 all over again.

9. The Shins - Australia [Song link removed]

From a band (the Manics) who once recorded a song called Australia back in 1996, to another (albeit completely different) song from 2007 also named after the place we call home. It starts out very strangely, this song, with one of the band members saying something that I can't understand in a language that appears to be German (Ed: I just looked this up on the internet, and he is saying Time to put the ear googles on. Hmmm.) This soon gives way to a great bouncy riff, a few shouts of "la la la" from James Mercer, and then a moment later, the real vocals and the gorgeous melody kick in.

The best Shins songs are always about the vocals of frontman James Mercer, and as good as the music is here, it is his voice which carries the fantastic melody and turns the song into an absolute Shins classic. I don't really know what the song is about, as Australia isn't even mentioned in the lyrics, but it doesn't really matter. This song is up there with the finest songs from their 2003 masterwork Chutes too narrow, and I can't give it a much bigger compliment than that.

8. Spoon - The underdog [Song link removed]

If you've ever seen the 1991 Bill Murray movie What about Bob?, you'll understand the concept of "baby steps". It's a way of dealing with problems, and the basic premise is that you shouldn't be too ambitious in tackling problems, but try to reach your goal by taking small, or baby, steps.

Sometimes I feel that Spoon use the same philosophy with their music. Each of their albums is a subtle tweaking of their formula; not too subtle that you would ever accuse them of repeating themselves, and not too much of a step that they will lose sight of what makes them such an amazing band.

The underdog is a perfect encapsulation of this subtle re-invention on their latest album: take the Spoon formula (minimalistic rock music with Britt Daniel's amazing nasal vocals), add some baby steps (in this case, some well-placed brass instrumentation and handclaps), and you have yourself another Spoon classic that is so identifiably Spoon while still sounding like nothing else they have ever recorded. That the lyric has a certain charm of its own (especially the line about having a pipe and slippers set out for you) doesn't hurt either.

7. The Good, The Bad & The Queen - 80's life [Song link removed]

Some songs are so special that they can capture the feeling of a particular era so aptly that they become almost a musical time capsule. Despite the misleading title, this song is not about the 80's, even though Damon Albarn draws parallels between the current day and some of the darker times in the 80's.

Like much of the album from which this song is taken from, this song has a very cinematic, almost film noir quality to it. It starts out with a tinkling piano riff which continues throughout most of the song, before the guitar and some other hard-to-identify instruments join the mix. Shortly after, Damon Albarn's world-weary vocals come in, and he's not a happy chappy; it sounds like he's had enough of all the bullshit he's being fed on a daily basis and this song is his catharsis.

What elevates this song above a lot of the others on this line-up's sombre debut is the melody in the chorus, which is propelled by some superbly-placed "oooh oooh" backing vocals. Doo-wop has never sounded as dark as this.

6. Crowded House - Pour le Monde [Song link removed]

Pour le Monde (literally, "For the world") is to me the emotional centrepiece of the excellent new Crowded House album Time on earth. While Neil Finn has never said this, whenever I listen to it I assume it is about the late Crowded House drummer Paul Hester who tragically took his own life in 2005. This elevates the song to another emotional plane for me; even if isn't about him, isn't music interpretation in the eye (or ear) of the beholder?

Lyrical interpretation aside, nobody can deny that this song still has one of the most emotionally affecting melodies on the album, and deserves pride of place next to previous Crowded House classics. That Neil Finn can still write songs as stunning as this 30 years after he first joined Split Enz is a true testament to his songwriting genius.

5. Spoon - You got yr cherry bomb [Song link removed]

I love how when Britt Daniel sings, he sounds like he needs a Kleenex. That quality alone elevates Spoon above so many other rock bands. Yes, they wouldn't be where they are without the rest of the band, but oh that stuffy nose. I wish Spoon all the success they deserve, but I hope they are always shy of the funds to buy that elusive tissue box.

What can I say about this song? Well, it's a Spoon song, and the baby steps I mentioned in my review of The underdog are also present here. Some well-placed brass, a great blue-eyed soul nasally performance from our good man Britt, and a real sense of space between the instruments that give it a real live feel. It feels like a studio outtake masquerading as a polished studio number, and this only adds to its considerable charms.

4. Super Furry Animals - Run-away [Song link removed]

This song is based on a true story. Which would be fine, if it wasn't auto-biographical.
Gruff Rhys, circa 2007

So begins Run-away, the finest song from 2007's Hey Venus! album, and an SFA classic for the ages. From the get-go, the Phil Spector drums and wall of sound kick in (think Be my baby), and Gruff puts on his best white soul man impersonation. The melody of the chorus is absolutely gorgeous, possibly in the top 10 SFA songs if we are just talking about pure songwriting.

I'm on my second spin within the space of five minutes as I write these words, and the more I listen to it, the more I realise that this is one of those timeless songs which could have been written in any era from the mid-60's to now; it has this magical quality that makes it sound familiar even when hearing it for the first time. It takes a special type of artist to write and perform a song as beautiful as this one. It's now over ten years since their debut album, and these quirky Welshmen continue to impress.

3. Radiohead - Jigsaw falling into place [Song link removed]

Younger Radiohead fans who started out on their naughties (Kid A onwards) material probably don't realise that they were once a band who were able to rock your socks off. While their previous album Hail to the thief had a few rockier songs, In rainbows had two absolute belters on it. Bodysnatchers is a great song in itself, but this one (named after yours truly) is an absolute corker.

It starts out with some great finger-picking and cymbals before the bass and drums kick in. Like many songs on In rainbows, this song is dominated by the rhythm section, with the guitar providing necessary embellishments when required. Oh yeah, and we can't forget Thom Yorke's vocals, which suffer from multiple personality disorder throughout this song. He starts out singing like he is half asleep, and within a few minutes he is rockin' away and then wailing like a hyena. Like many great songs, the last minute delivers the money shot, where everything gels together perfectly and you can't help but smile. I need to hear this song live.

2. The Arcade Fire - Intervention [Song link removed]

A time may come when The Arcade Fire's formula outstays its welcome, but right now I'm happy for them to milk it for all it's worth. If we were to represent their music as a chemical reaction, it would go a little something like this. Organ-based dense wall of sound + Over-emotive vocals + Dark obscure lyrics + Inflated sense of self-importance = Musical bliss.

This song ticks all of the boxes, and that alone makes it the highlight of their excellent new album Neon bible. This is the type of song which could turn even the most hardened cynic into a true believer. Sing hallelujah!

1. Radiohead - Reckoner [Song link removed]

It's amazing that a band who have been around for as long as Radiohead and have released so many amazing songs can still write a song which practically re-defines who they are and where they are heading. But this is one such song, and even though LP8 has yet to be released, I cannot help but interpret it as a mission statement for their musical future.

Reckoner is a predominantly percussion-driven song with unintelligible wailing from frontman Thom Yorke, and an amazing string breakdown in the middle of the song where Thom croons like a man possessed. It doesn't matter one bit that I find it difficult to decipher a single lyric in the song, as his amazing voice and the music speaks for itself.

While many of the other songs on In rainbows have their ancestral roots in previous Radiohead songs, Reckoner sounds unlike anything they have recorded before. It's not rock, indie, electronic or dance -- it's just Radiohead, a band who are synonymous with "radical reinvention". And it's my song of the year.

UPDATE: Song links removed.

Monday, 24 December 2007

2007: A Year in Music [Part 1: Overview]

I can't believe how quick this year has come to a close. It seemed like only yesterday when I was writing my analysis of the music of 2006, and here we are again.

In usual Wireless Cranium tradition, my summary of all that was music in 2007 will be broken up into 6 posts for your reading pleasure:

Part 1: Overview
Part 2: Top 10 songs of the year
Part 3: Cutting room floor
Part 4:
Top 5 albums of the year
Part 5: Musical discoveries of the year
Part 6: Re-evaluation of 2006 list

I have taken a hybrid approach this year, combining aspects of my 2005 and 2006 lists. In 2005, I did a top 10 albums list as well as a top 10 songs list. Last year, because I hadn't purchased as many CDs from 2006 at the time of writing, I only did top 5 albums and top 5 songs lists. This year, the number of CDs purchased from 2007 still doesn't justify doing a top 10 albums list. But I'll still be doing a top 10 songs list.

Without further ado, it is time to start this 6-part extravaganza. I hope you enjoy reading this, and I encourage you to comment with your opinions about what made this year great/not so great for you in the realm of musical appreciation. You don't even need to talk about music that was released this year; just chime in if you have something to contribute.

Part 1: Overview

2007 was a year which started out with a lot of promise. After the disappointment that was 2006 (at least at the time of writing up my overview of the year), 2007 seemed like it had the potential to be a great year in music, at least judging by the list of artists who had albums scheduled for a 2007 release.

Did the year live up to the high expectations that I had set for it in late April? Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes in that many of the artists who did release albums in 2007 failed to disappoint, and many exceeded my already high expectations. No in that many of the artists who were supposed to release albums in 2007 slipped their release date into 2008. It's good to see that the software development industry is not the only one prone to release date slippages.

Oasis, Noel Gallager (solo), Blur, Doves, Massive Attack, The Notwist, The Streets, The Wrens, Wolf Parade, The Cure, The Pixies, Portishead. All great artists and bands who disappointed not with a poor album, but no album at all. Maybe 2008 will be the year for them to happily shine or sadly disappoint. At least we are going into the new year with a large backlog of upcoming albums in the pipeline.

The subsequent posts in this 2007 extravaganza will go into more details about which artists/songs pushed my musical buttons this year, so I won't go into specifics here. What I'd like to ramble a little bit about is how my own personal music tastes have evolved this year.

While I had already started heading this way musically last year, 2007 was the year in which my tastes become both older and more mainstream. Allow me to clarify this - I don't mean mainstream in a modern sense; while I admitted that I went to a Robbie Williams concert in late 2006, I am not about to invest in his back catalogue. Nor am I about to proclaim my love for the misunderstood genius that is Fergie. Quite frankly, she can keep her lovely lady lumps all to herself, and she should probably get those lumps checked out to ensure that they aren't malignant.

I say my musical tastes became older in that I really started getting into a lot of music roughly covering the era from the late 60's to the early 80's. Not that I hadn't been into music from these bygone eras in a big way before, but my appreciation for the music from these years skyrocketed this year.

I say my musical tastes became more mainstream in that I started getting into some fairly popular (by my tastes anyway) artists/bands through the purchase of some excellent compilation CDs and movie soundtracks. I have talked in the past at great lengths about my dislike of best-of compilations, but my opinion on this topic really changed this year. One reason for this is that, with the iPod changing the way I listen to music, I have a much greater appreciation for the power of the song. While I still appreciate a good album (and would still call myself primarily an album fan), I can now appreciate that a well-made compilation CD by a great artist/band is not only a great way to get into that artist, but a great way to quickly get a heap of their best songs on to the iPod and into some playlists. Also, I have discovered that there are good and bad compilation CDs; making a bad one is all too easy, but making a good one is almost an artform of its own. (I will dedicate a future blog post to some of my favourite compilation CDs of all time.)

Some great compilation CDs that I have purchased this year are by Tom Petty, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Pet Shop Boys. This is what I mean when I say more mainstream (and for the record, I'm not ashamed to say I have a Pet Shop Boys compilation in my collection -- it honestly contains some of the finest pop songs I have ever heard and I will not let musical snobbery change my opinion of this).

Some great soundtracks that I have purchased this year are the disco-rific Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (almost a Bee Gees compilation) and more recently the superb Jackie Brown soundtrack. How Quentin Tarantino is able to uncover so many hidden gems from the 60's and 70's is beyond me, but his ability to compile a great soundtrack is up there with his stupendous writing and directing skills.

No discussion of 2007 would be complete without a mention of the fantastic marketing event that was the digital release of Radiohead's 7th album In rainbows. Firstly, a message on their blog on October 1st saying that their album was being self-released in digital format on October 10th. That was exciting enough, but then there was the news that people could choose what they wanted to pay for it. From all reports, it sounded like this worked fantastically in their favour, raking in an average price of £3 - £4 per download. With very little in terms of overheads, they raked the money in while simultaneously sticking up their middle fingers to dirty money-grabbing record companies like their former EMI. But what was the album like? You'll have to read the following posts in this series to find out.

There was sad news this year when my favourite music website Stylus Magazine ceased publishing. In the days since its closure, I have come to the sad realisisation that no other music website will be able to take its place. Ahh well, one day maybe.

It was a fairly quiet year on the gig front, with only 3 live concerts - Rodriguez in April, Something For Kate in September and Crowded House in November. The highlight? Well, seeing Rodriguez probably took the cake here, because he's just a cult hero who I never thought I'd get to see live, let alone meet and speak to. A very exciting night all round.

I've also recently been reading up on the depressing music industry practice of dynamic range compression after this fantastic article on Stylus Magazine triggered my interest. Take a look; it truly is a fascinating read and it will change the way you think about and listen to modern music. Let's hope that something positive is done to steer away from this nasty practice soon!

I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts in this series!

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Crowded House gig [8th Movember* 2007 @ Rod Laver Arena]

It has been 22 years since Crowded House formed from the ashes of Split Enz, 11 years since they broke up for the first time, and I have finally seen them live.

Crowded House reformed in 2005 in the wake of former drummer Paul Hester's death. What originally started out as a Neil Finn solo outing turned into their reunion album Time on earth, which was released earlier this year to generally positive reviews. While many reunion albums can spell "cash-in" and "disaster", Time on earth was a very solid Crowded House album even if it didn't quite live up to the lofty expectations set by the outfit's previous albums.

With a reunion album comes the inevitable reunion tour. I was fortunate enough to secure 4th row tickets to the gig at Rod Laver Arena, which is by far the closest I have ever sat to the stage at a venue as large as this. I equate this with flying business class instead of cattle class; will I ever be able to go to another gig now that I have been spoilt with these great seats?

Interestingly, as good as the seats were, there were also a few downsides to sitting so close at such a large venue. Sure, you get to see and smell the band by being so close, but you also lose the sense of enormity of the venue. This makes the concert a lot less epic in nature, and although it almost felt like a private show being played in my living room, there's a real sense of excitement in looking at the stage from afar and taking it all in.

Augie March (one of my favourite bands) played support. It was probably about the 10th time I've seen them live, and they played a solid set, even though the excitement of seeing them live has long since passed. Frontman Glenn Richards wasn't quite into it, excusing himself by saying that he wasn't very well and felt like he was going to be sick.

Crowded House took to the stage shortly after, opening the gig with the superb Private universe from their (IMHO) best album Together alone from 1993, which was their swansong from the original line-up. While there is no denying that it is one of their best songs, I don't think it really worked well as an opener. They rocked it up a little bit from the album version, and I'm sure it would have worked better as a lighter-waving ballad at the tail end of the gig.

The rest of the set uncovered a few small surprises -- Whispers and moans from Woodface (one of my favourite CH cuts) was great to hear even if it didn't quite reach the heights of the version on the live album, and the epic Hole in the river from their eponymous debut sounded really good live. They covered a good cross-section of their first 4 albums; interestingly, 2nd album Temple of low men was under-represented with only 2 songs. They also played about half of their new album Time on earth. The sigh was the most surprising inclusion from this album, and it worked really well live.

I'll admit that I was feeling slightly disappointed as the first set came to a close; Don't dream it's over had come too early in the set, and I was expecting it to be the lighter-waving closer just as it had been at their original farewell gig at Sydney Opera House in 1996. Also, many of their classic hits had yet to be played, and I was wondering whether I was going to hear them.

Luckily, the 2 encores changed all of that. All the hits came out one after another, and it was a joy to behold. Neil had everyone stand up for Distant sun, which is still in my top 5 Crowded House songs and possibility a perfectly written song. For the rest of the set, we were all boogeying like it was 1996. World where you live, Something so strong, Weather with you, Fingers of love, Locked out...the hits kept on comin'. Neil poignantly had the house lights turned down, with only a single lamp illuminating the stage, and dedicated Four seasons in one day to the late Paul Hester, the Melbourne man. They closed with Better be home soon, which closed Temple of low men, and is one of their most well loved songs.

Crowded House are a band that demand respect, and they are one of the few bands where people from all walks of life, with different tastes in music, can find common ground. They have a formidable catalogue of classic songs, and it would be asking too much for them to play all of my favourites. It would have been good to hear Sister madly, which goes off in a live setting. Or perhaps Not the girl you think you are, a song released only on their best-of compilation Recurring dream. I also read that they played the Hester-penned Italian plastic in Sydney, which would have been great to hear as an alternate tribute to him.

In the end, it's just splitting hairs. The fact of the matter is, Crowded House are the sort of band where I can play their entire catalogue on shuffle on my iPod, and the first 10 songs that come up will most likely be classics. They are one of the great bands of our generation, and I'm just glad I got to see them live.

And now for the inevitable bootleg media:

A few shots of Crowded House in action.

Greyhounds who came on stage at the start of the 2nd encore. This was to raise awareness for greyhound adoption programs.
Many greyhounds
are put down yearly when they are too old to race anymore.

Farewell to the world - Take 2?

Glenn Richards from support band Augie March.

Crowded House performing "Whispers and moans".

Crowded House performing "She called up".

Support act Augie March performing "There is no such place".

* sic