Tuesday, 27 December 2016

LISTEN: The Best Of 2016 (MIXTAPE)

All three parts of RW/FF's Best Of 2016 can be streamed in full below. 

Its been a year of contrasts. 2016 gave us one of history's greatest musical gifts in the form of David Bowie's phenomenal 'Blackstar'. Three days after its release, the world woke up to the shocking news that Bowie had died. In one sense, it's almost like cruel 2016 made the world pay the price for being given such an amazing album. The death of the world's greatest icon cast a massive shadow over the year and even over the year's best songs by other artists, as i will explain more about in a minute. 2016 also saw a number of other dark events, so it's a good job that the year also gave us some brilliant sounds. While the singles charts declined into an even worse state than before, it was a very different story in the wider world of music. 

A few things you need to know about The Best Of 2016 before you listen to it:

- David Bowie's final masterpiece 'Blackstar' sounded amazing the first time I played it; dark, mysterious, odd, challenging and brave. Three days later, we were all hearing it in a new context. The songs were incredible on a purely musical level before his death, but the album's greatness was now underlined by his passing. We could now also understand the genuine darkness and reflection at the heart of the album. The pain was real. While compiling The Best Of 2016, it was obvious that songs from 'Blackstar' would feature on it. How could they not? Not only was it the year's best album, but each and every song was just as good as any other song released in 2016. Even with tracks from the best albums of the last 19 years, I've had no trouble mixing them up and making them sound great as a Various Artists compilation. Yet the music on 'Blackstar' just didn't sound right in amongst songs by other artists. The album's title track was originally intended to be the opening track on this compilation and was followed by Suede's 'Outsiders'. But while listening to it, something didn't sound right. The overwhelming 'Blackstar' just made every other artist's music sound secondary and out of place, like massive jigsaw pieces trying to fit in a puzzle made up of small pieces. I mean absolutely no discredit to the other songs of 2016, there were some truly amazing tracks. It just wasn't fair to line them up alongside the momumental music from 'Blackstar'. Not only didn't it do justice to all those other artists, but interrupting the natural flow of the album as a whole didn't do the songs from 'Blackstar' justice either, since breaking them up into bitesize chunks gave an audiable sense of incompleteness. 

Therefore for the first time ever I have taken the unusual and unprecedented move of featuring an entire album from start to finish as the first part of my compilation, followed by two CDs worth of the year's best music from other artists. The power of Bowie continues, even after his physical death.

- The first annual compilation I made was back in 1997. With this year being the 20th anniversary of 1996, I decided to compile a Best Of 1996 and spent each week looking back at the Top 40 singles charts from each week that year. I added a few album tracks and some other songs that didn't make the Top 40, but after ending up with over 150 songs, it dawned on me that the vast majority of them were all chart hits. I doubt there even 150 entries in the Top 40 throughout 2016, let alone 150 good ones. In contrast to my 1996 compilation, I certainly wasn't looking to the singles chart to pick from for this year. Many of these songs were from LPs that did well in the album charts, which highlights just how odd it is for an act to have a hit album and yet no hit singles. With streaming, record labels, the internet and radio contributing to keeping the singles chart generic, stale, boring and dreadful, only a couple of this year's best tracks were to be found in the Top 40. So if you've heard nothing but chart music in 2016, prepare to hear the real treasures of the year. 

- The YouTube version of The Best Of 2016 is missing two Radiohead tracks, David Bowie's ferocious 'Killing A Little Time' (from the 'Lazarus' musical), Dodgy's wonderful 'Are You The One' and the brilliant Thought Forms instrumental 'Aeaea', none of which were available in the video streaming service. 

- 'Killing A Little Time' is also not available on the Spotify edition, and neither is Ultrasound's stunning 'Kon-Tiki'. If you play the Spotify version, then make sure you go over to YouTube at the appropriate moment and give the Ultrasound track a listen. It'll be well worth your time.

Happy listening.

Part 1 - David Bowie - 'Blackstar'
1. Blackstar
2. Tis A Pity She's A Whore
3. Lazarus
4. Sue (or In A Season Of Crime)
5. Girl Loves Me
6. Dollar Days
7. I Can't Give Everything Away

Part 2
1. Suede- Outsiders
2. Blossoms - Charlemagne
3. Ultrasound - Kon-Tiki
4. James - Nothing But Love
5. Radiohead - Desert Island Disk
6. Paul Draper - Feeling My Heart Run Slow
7. Kula Shaker - High Noon
8. Dodgy - Are You The One?
9. She Makes War - Drown Me Out
10. Iggy Pop - Gardenia
11. Slaves - Hypnotised
12. Green Day - Bang Bang
13. Biffy Clyro - Animal Style
14. Michael Kiwanuka - Black Man In A White World
15. Disclosure - Boss
16. HiFi Sean ft. Paris Grey - Lost Without You
17. Sigala ft. Nile Rodgers and John Newman - Give Me Your Love
18. Kungs vs. Cookin' On 3 Burners - This Girl
19. Underworld - Low Burn

Part 3
1. DJ Shadow ft. Run The Jewels - Nobody Speak
2. David Bowie - Killing A Little Time
3. Suede - Like Kids
4. Blossoms - Getaway
5. Radiohead - Glass Eyes
6. Primal Scream - Where The Light Gets In
7. Soccer96 - Let It Come
8. Michael Kiwanuka - One More Night
9. She Makes War - Paper Thin (ft. Tanya Donelly)
10. Julia Jacklin - Pool Party
11. Case/Lang/Veirs - Best Kept Secret
13. Iggy Pop - Sunday
14. Metallica - Moth Into Flame
15. Green Day - Revolution Radio
16. The Living End - Further Away
17. Kula Shaker - Mountain Lifter
18. Thought Forms - Aeaea
19. James - Girl At The End Of The World

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

YouTube version

Spotify version

Saturday, 24 December 2016

LISTEN: Advent Calendar (MIXTAPE)

A festive treat for RW/FF readers, an immaculate compilation featuring the 24 finest Christmas tracks. Some are well known and well-loved, others are lesser known gems. This playlist is perfect for listening to on Christmas Eve while wrapping the presents, or even while cooking the festive dinner. Just press play on this YouTube playlist. Merry Christmas.


Advent Calendar #1: My Christmas begins when I've heard this.

Advent Calendar #2: the greatest christmas song of all time? Def in my top 5. 

Advent Calendar #3: Infectious.

Advent Calendar #4: Officially the coolest version of this song ever.

Advent Calendar #5: another one of the greatest festive soul classics..

Advent Calendar day #6: another legend who we lost in 2016, and gow sad that he should pass away so close to Christmas. RIP Greg Lake.

Advent Calendar day 7: No explanation necessary, the Eels are amazing.

Advent Calendar day 8: some love it, some hate it. What about you? 

Advent Calendar day 9: sod the critics, i love Coldplay and always have 

Advent Calendar day 10: sweet, sweet soul music. This is sublime 

Advent Calendar day 11: from gun toting nutter Phil Spector's legendary Christmas Album. Beautiful. 

Advent Calendar day 12: a joyous festive soul treasure https://youtu.be/ZYPIgR-r8cI

Advent Calendar day 13: It's really odd that more people don't know this song, from one of the most loved singers of all time and one of the most stunning festive tracks you'll ever hear 

Advent Calendar day 14: "peace on earth, goodwill to men..."

Advent Calendar day 15: 12th century christmas carol arranged beautifully by B and S

Advent Calendar day 16: this yuletide offering is well overdue a critical reappraisal.

Advent Calendar day 17: i love the sweet, short subtlety of this cosy treasure...

Advent Calendar day 18: when i was young, we'd always gather at my Nan and Grandad's in the evening for presents, food and games on Christmas day. Roy Orbison was always one of my Nan's favourites, so this one's for her...

Advent Calendar day 19: happy yet sad take on the Slade classic. Nostalgic and endearing.

Advent Calendar day 20: one of my favourite things about Christmas and another reason why I always look forward to this time of year. One of the most bizarre Bowie moments ever, recorded in 1977. While punk rock was in full swing and during the icon's hugely creative Berlin period, he decided to duet with ageing crooner Bing Crosby. Another unexpected move. I still find it hard to believe that this is our first Christmas without Bowie, but moments like this will live forever. Long live the king. 

Advent Calendar day 21: Christmas is the only time of year i can listen to singers like Nat King Cole. This rendition of the traditional carol is not only brilliant because of this truly golden voice, but the arrangement and backing vocals are stunning. Powerful and glorious. 

Advent Calendar day 22: "war is over if you want it..." I often think about what Lennon would think of the world we live in today. Many years since this song was released, and its message rings truer than ever. 

Advent Calendar day 23:I love the spirit and sentiment of this track, made even more poignant when James Brown died on Christmas day 10 years ago.

Advent Calendar day 24: unbelievable that more people haven't heard this, a stunning message of festive hope from one of the all-time greats. "Someday at Christmas man will not fail, Hate will be gone love will prevail, Someday a new world that we can start, With hope in every heart..."

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Track Of The Day: Jagwar Ma - 'Say What You Feel'

One of the highlights from the Australian outfit's new album Every Now And Then. 

REWIND: Space - 'Neighbourhood'

More from 1996. Number 11 in the UK singles chart 20 years ago this week. This superb single is from the Liverpool band's debut album Spiders.

The Vault: Department S - 'Is Vic There?'

This post-punk classic reached number 22 in the UK singles chart back in 1981.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Track Of The Day: Avenged Sevenfold - 'The Stage'

From their new album of the same name, which is available now.

REWIND: R.E.M. - 'Bittersweet Me'

This track from R.E.M. was number 19 in the UK singles charts 20 years ago this week. From the superb 1996 album New Adventures In Hi-Fi.

The Vault: David Bowie - 'Black Country Rock'

Once again, no apologies whatsoever for featuring ultimate icon every week. This hard rocking treasure is from Bowie's third studio album, 1970's The Man Who Sold The World.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Track Of The Day: Muse - 'A New Kind Of Kick'

Muse's "Halloween Special", a cover of an old track by The Cramps. Happy halloween folks. 

REWIND: Gene - 'Fighting Fit'

This classic, life-affirming single from Gene was number 22 in the UK singles chart exactly 20 years ago this week. 

The Vault: The Beatles - 'From Me To You'

From 1963, The Beatles' first UK number 1 single. 

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Track Of The Day: Airbourne - 'Get Back Up'

Infectious hard rock with heavy AC/DC influences. From the Australian band's new album 'Breakin' Outta Hell'.

REWIND: Toni Braxton - 'Un-Break My Heart' (Frankie Knuckles Classic Radio Mix)

More from 1996. House legend Frankie Knuckles turned his ballad by RnB singer Toni Braxton into a club hit. The single went to number 4 in the UK singles chart 20 years ago this week. Another one I used to play a lot during my days as a very young club DJ. 

The Vault: Primal Scream - 'Deep Hit Of Morning Sun'

Opening track and one of the highlights from the mighty Primal Scream's 2002 album 'Evil Heat'.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Track Of The Day: The Living End - 'Further Away'

From the Australian trio's superb recent album Shift, one of 2016's finest rock records.

REWIND: Reef - 'Place Your Hands'

More from 1996. This classic rock anthem from Reef was number 6 in the UK singles charts exactly 20 years ago this week. It can be found on the British band's second album 'Glow'.

The Vault: K7 - 'Come Baby Come'

A naggingly infectious one-hit-wonder track by American rapper K7, from his debut album Swing Batta Swing. The song peaked at number 3 in the UK singles chart in January 1994. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Track Of The Day: Run The Jewels - 'Talk To Me'

The awesome hip hop duo Run The Jewels are back with a thunderous new track, brimming with suspense and contention. The track is available as a free download HERE from the Adult Swim Singles Program 2016, a series of digital single releases from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Oddly, Cartoon Network played a big role in the existence of Run The Jewels, after CN network executive Jason DeMarco introduced New York-based Killer Mike to the Atlanta-based El-P. Afterwards, El-P produced Killer Mike's 'R.A.P. Music' album, and Killer Mike returned the favour by appearing on the El-P track 'Cancer 4 Cure'. The two rappers soon toured together, leading to the formation of RTJ. The greatest hip hop act of this era? Very possibly.

Following on from 2012's 'RTJ1' and 2013's 'RTJ2', the release date for their third full-length effort 'RTJ3' is set to be announced soon, and with the release of the excellent 'Talk To Me', that announcement shouldn't be far off...

REWIND: Faithless - 'Insomnia' (Monster Mix)

Time once again to rewind back exactly 20 years ago for more of the wonderful music that entered the charts this week in 1996. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s, consider this a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

The UK singles chart from 20 years ago this week (20 - 26 October 1996) featured a varied mixture of the great and not so great. We'll focus only on the great ones. See the full chart rundown from that week HERE.

Here's a legendary dance track that catapulted London-based Faithless into the upper reaches of the mainstream. I'd be VERY surprised if any of you were unaware of this massive floorfiller. One memory of this song involves me and my childish school classmates laughing at the line about "making mad love on the heath, tearing off tights with my teeth". The band formed in 1995, and consisted of vocalist Maxi Jazz, producer Rollo (real name Rowland Constantine O'Malley Armstrong), and the multi-talented Sister Bliss, who constructed most of the music herself electronically, also adding piano, violin, saxophone and bass guitar. The trio were also joined by songwriter Jamie Catto and bassist Aubrey Nunn, who was also a member of indie band Heavy Stereo, who were led by future Oasis/Beady Eye man Gem Archer.

Faithless released their debut single 'Salva Mea' in 1995, which reached number 9 in the UK singles chart. It was followed the same year by the classic 'Insomnia', which reached number 27 upon its initial release. The song became a massive hit in clubs, and after its popularity grew, 'Insomnia' was re-released in October 1996, reaching number 3 in the UK singles charts. 
It features Maxi Jazz singing from the viewpoint of an insomniac while he struggles to sleep. The subject matter was one that many dance music enthusiasts could relate to, since use of ecstasy and other stimulants were common in club/rave culture, with insomnia being a common side effect. The original version of the track can be found on the band's 1995 debut album 'Reverence'. 

Faithless went on to release five studio albums (all of which either went Gold or Platinum in the UK), plus a number of compilations and remix albums, before splitting in 2011. Sister Bliss is also a prolific club DJ and remixer, while Maxi Jazz has also been involved in the world of motor racing and formed a new band Maxi Jazz and the E-Type Boys in 2015. As well as remixing and producing for other artists, Rollo founded the record label Cheeky Records in 1991, and co-wrote Felix's 1992 hit 'Don't You Want Me'. As well as releasing tracks under his own name, he has also been a member of dance acts such as Dusted, High On Love, Mr V, Huff and Puff, Our Tribe, The OT Quartet and Stoned Love. Rollo is also the brother of the singer Dido. Jamie Catto left Faithless in 1999 and formed 1 Giant Leap, who collaborated with a massive and diverse range of artists and vocalists. Aubrey Nunn has also worked with the likes of Tim Booth, Santana, R. Kelly and many others, while also working as an A and R man, a producer, and as a teacher in Thailand.

After breaking up in 2011, Faithless got back together only a few years later in 2015 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band.

The Vault: Pennywise - 'Fuck Authority'

Time for another edition of a brand new feature. While Track Of The Day brings you new music and Rewind takes you back 20 years, The Vault deals in amazing songs from random points in musical history. RW/FF will keep these posts short and sweet, with only a small bit of basic info. All you have to do is press 'play' and enjoy. 

Here's a track that I used to blast at top volume and shut to at the top of my lungs during my "punk phase" during 2003-2009. The raging 'Fuck Authority' was taken from American punk combo Pennywise's 2001 album 'Land Of The Free?'. A review on Allmusic opined that "Pennywise themselves are calling Land of the Free? 'a wake-up call,' aimed at the slumbering masses of America — an attempt to shake people out of their lethargy, and prod them into thinking about the world." Protest music at its very best.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Track Of The Day: The Hound On The Mountain - 'Salamander Propaganda'

A superb new track from 'Cernunnos', the debut EP from The Hound On The Mountain, aka singer/songwriter Jordan Whatley. I first discovered Whatley back in 2011 when I attended a gig at The Pilot, a pub just down the road from where I used to live in the village of Bowerhill, a part of my old hometown Melksham in Wiltshire. I was there to see my friend Paul 'Bean' Walton, who makes up part of the superb Melksham ska/metal/dub/punk/fusion outfit Hell Death Fury. On this occasion Bean was playing a solo set accompanied by his ukelele, and was second on the bill. When I walked into the pub I was surprised to hear someone singing a brave acapella version of 'The English Curse' by Frank Turner, who I was a big fan of at the time. This voice turned out to be that of Whatley, who also played a number of acoustic covers as well as a few of his own songs. 

Ever since that night in 2011, Whatley has gone from strength to strength, writing more of his own material and playing gigs in record shops, pubs and other venues. In those five years he expanded his musical tastes, listening to a wide range of music old and new and absorbing many different influences. In 2013 he released an indie/folk flavoured mini album, 'The Shadowed Planet' under his own name. Read my review of that HERE. In the three years since, he tired of playing acoustic covers and developed a love of electronica and psychedelica, two styles that led to the creation of 'Cernunnos', an EP bursting with fantasy-based lyrics, prog-rock sounds and dark atmospheres. It's his first release as The Hound On the Mountain. 

Whatley describes the EP as "years of folk oppression being set free into a rock album. I've been listening to so much weird stuff over the last year and after hearing so many sounds, I just wanted to put that into music and create something i would be proud of. I centred it all around a forest theme: dark and atmospheric in places, but with songs that at the same time can propel you into a catchy chorus. It kinda ties in the two aspects of music I love. Think Talking Heads catchiness meets the dark atmosphere of Esben and the Witch."

While the opening hybrid of 'The Forest' suggests a fuzz-heavy Sonic Youth and Hawkwind hybrid, 'Ghosts Of Your Past' is one of his earlier songs, built on his original folk influences, and coming across like the Levellers-meets-'OK Computer'-era Radiohead. Displaying his range of influences, the catchy 'Tin Can' is cosmic indie glam punk with shades of Britpop and Aladdin Sane-era Bowie. The claustrophobic 'Porcelain Trees' is a bleak moment that absorbs the heaving drone-rock of fellow Melksham group Thought Forms, while also sounding a bit like Joy Division and The Horrors forming a supergroup.

The EP's closing track is the brief, snappy and rather bonkers lo-fi fireball 'Salamader Propaganda', which "came about with a riff I was toying about with. I love the idea of a having a track on an album that is short and which I could keep coming back to in a live setting like, almost a hook to be repeated between songs. The lyrics are completely based around the idea of a giant salamander destroying a town, a bit like the old Godzilla in Tokyo idea."

'Cernunnos' is available now in digital formats, with full-band live shows planned soon. The Hound On The Mountain can be found on Facebook HERE.

REWIND: Cast - 'Flying'

Time once again to rewind back exactly 20 years ago for more of the wonderful music that entered the charts this week in 1996. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s, consider this a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

The UK singles chart from 20 years ago this week (20 - 25 October 1996) featured a varied mixture of the great and not so great. We'll focus only on the great ones. See the full chart rundown from that week HERE

Here's another one that always reminds me of the dark autumn evenings in 1996, and the exciting Britpop boom coming to an end. Fronted by ex La's man John Power, Cast were probably one of the most underrated guitar bands of the mid 90s, and people often forget that their 1995 debut album 'All Change' was Polydor Records' fastest-selling debut album of all time, shifting over a million copies. The breathtaking non-album single 'Flying' was one of Britpop's most magical moments and a snapshot of Cast at their peak. All the nostalgic memories of the era are impossible to forget while hearing it, and it's one of those songs that has grown even more powerful as the years have gone on. An underrated classic of the times. The single reached number 4 in the UK singles charts. 

A few years ago I reviewed Cast's entire back catalogue when they released deluxe editions of their first four albums. Read that review HERE. Recently, the band have been working on their fifth studio LP, and released the brilliant new track 'Do That', which you can read about and listen to HERE.

The Vault: The Flaming Lips - 'Race For The Prize'

Time for another edition of a brand new feature. While Track Of The Day brings you new music and Rewind takes you back 20 years, The Vault deals in amazing songs from random points in musical history. RW/FF will keep these posts short and sweet, with only a small bit of basic info. All you have to do is press 'play' and enjoy. 

Here's another track that reminds me of autumn nights. I presume that it's because I bought the Flaming Lips album that featured this track in the autumn of 1999. One of my favourite songs from the late 90's, the glorious 'Race For The Prize' was released as a single in 1999, and went to number 39 in the UK singles chart. It was taken from the classic album 'The Soft Bulletin', released the same year. The album was released to massive critical acclaim, and was a departure from their previous alternative rock sound, venturing into marvellously rich symphonic arrangements and melodic dream-pop sounds.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Track Of The Day: HiFi Sean ft. Jean Honeymoon - 'Monday Morning Sunshine'

It's safe to say that nobody expected a former singer from a Scottish indie band to produce one of the most essential dance albums of recent times. But that is exactly what Sean Dickson has done. Yes, THAT same Sean Dickson of Soup Dragons fame, who was last spotted in the early 2000s leading his imaginative and massively underrated outfit The High Fidelity.

In his latest marvellous act of reinvention, Sean has been a house DJ for the last decade or so, and now returns in his new incarnation with a fantastic record that soundtracks and reflects the many changes this artist has been though over his life. For a while now Dickson has been promising a new album that embraces his skills as a DJ and producer while still maintaining those skills as a songwriter and arranger that made The Soup Dragons and The High Fidelity so intriguing and enjoyable. "Its not a million miles away from The High Fidelity" says Sean, "lots of string sections and omnichords, but throwing into the mix myself as an electronic DJ". Released via Plastique Recordings, the appropriately titled 'Ft.' finds Sean teaming up with an incredible and diverse array of guests, including Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake, who grew up with Sean in the Scottish town of Bellshill and played with him in pre-BMX Bandits outfit The Pretty Flowers in the 80s. Other tracks feature funk bass icon Bootsy Collins, dance legend Billie Ray Martin, much-loved vocalist David McAlmont, house diva Crystal Waters, the unique Fred Schneider of the B-52'sYoko OnoSoft Cell keyboardist Dave Ball, and the late Alan Vega, whose haunting 'A Kiss Before Dying' was one of the final songs he recorded. This wonderfully eclectic album also features this blissful moment of sparkly euphoria fronted by Scottish-Thai nu jazz vocalist Jean Honeymoon. 'Ft.' is available now in various formats.

REWIND: Duke - 'So In Love With You' (Full Intention 7" Mix)

Time once again to rewind back exactly 20 years ago for more of the wonderful music that entered the charts this week in 1996. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s, consider this a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

The UK singles chart from 20 years ago this week (20 - 26 October 1996) featured a varied mixture of the great and not so great. We'll focus only on the great ones. See the full chart rundown from that week HERE

I knew absolutely nothing about Duke, except for that he released this brilliant single in 1996. It went to number 22 in the UK singles chart exactly 20 years ago this week. Again, it's another one I used to play a lot during my days as a very young club DJ when I used to take to the decks at a club in Corsham that my dad used to manage in the mid 90s. While the original version of 'So In Love With You' has more of a funk twist, this red hot deep house remix by Full Intention is the one that has the impact. Singer, songwriter and producer Duke was born Mark Carson Adams and hailed from Newcastle. After being a member of punk band Catch 22 and the frontman of One Hand One Heart, he released one album 'The Ten Commandments Of Love' in 1995, and brought out eight singles, plus two compilation albums. He has also written and recorded with the legendary Bobby Womack. Full Intention are an English house music duo made up of Michael Gray and Jon Pearn. They are prolific remixers and have released many records under various different aliases.