Musical Highlights of 2016

Below is my annual recollection of some music highlights of the year, for the good guys and gals at [sic] Magazine who introduce me to so much of it.

Although the twelve months of 2016 are likely to be remembered as much for who left us, as for what was left for us, (not to mention leave-ing) there were as always some great records, including Savages, Kiran Leonard, Ed Harcourt and Radiohead. Bowie‘s Blackstar – with the mystique surrounding the timing of its release – was a great record to start a year, and set the tone for tragedy-turn-triumph; the late Viola Beach were immortalised at Glastonbury, and also by achieving a number one album of their own (crucially, not a cash-in job), and there were countless events such as the ‘Glabstonbury’ all-day event I attended, which saw a host of bands and musicians generously coming together for a worthy cause. Here follow my ten highlights of the year. Continue reading

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Psychfest 2016

Some photos from the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia 2016, Camp and Furnace, Blade Factory and District.

Saw lots of great bands over the weekend, most of them very loud. Was also good to catch up with friends. Very friendly crowd, including people kindly giving us drinks tokens, and Faris badwan chatting to me after their set and discussing the line-up for the rest of the night.

The Stone Roses – Etihad Stadium – 17th & 18th June 2016

A short video and some photos from two of the Stone Roses’ 2016 Manchester shows. A fantastic couple of days, ending up at Star and Garter. What the world was waiting for.

 

Review: Hot Hot Heat – ‘Hot Hot Heat’

Review of the self-titled farewell album by Canadians Hot Hot Heat, written for (sic) Magazine.

“The final release from a band that has innovated the indie-rock scene since 2002 when they shook dancefloors with the release of their explosive debut album, Make Up The Breakdown, via legendary Seattle-based label Sub Pop Records,” reads the press release. The winning formula on Make Up The Breakdown for Vancouver’s Hot Hot Heat was to combine the North American punk-funk scene of that time with synth-driven, hook-filled pop music. Those dancefloors did indeed shake. Unfortunately for the band, standout track ‘Bandages’ was removed from BBC Radio 1′s UK playlist – apparently its title was too sensitive during the time of the allied forces invading Iraq – and with it the four-piece’s best chance of those dancefloors shaking in arenas as well as clubs.

The follow-up album, Elevator, was a long time in the making, which, coupled with sounding a watered-down version of its predecessor, meant that many had moved on and few took notice. Three further records on and still to reach the commercial or critical heights of Breakdown again, could the band’s epitaph be tinged with resignation and bitterness of what might have been, or is it determined to drag you in for some final shape-throwing before last orders?

It’s certainly reflective; ‘Some days were daydreams/Some days were sun beams… We were the sweet and the bitter’, sings vocalist and keyboard player Steve Bays on opening track ‘The Kid Who Stays In The Picture’. It won’t get you to your feet, although its mid-tempo stomp and signature melodies are pleasing enough. Such description could be applied throughout the album; there’s a shortage of spiky ‘No, Not Now’ rhythms to grab you but plenty of nice-enough pop hooks to pull you back in as you’re about to leave. ‘Modern Mind’ picks up the tempo, but its chorus is sadly forgotten by the time the lethargic ‘Pulling Levers’ rolls in, building to an equally weak vocal centrepiece. ‘Magnitude’ belies its title in length – at over five minutes an epic by Hot Hot Heat proportions – if not in musical adventure.

The second half of the album does mercifully burst into life with the jagged, punchy ‘Mayor of the City’ and the 129-second thrill of ‘Alaskan Midnight Sun’, the latter of which brings back memories of vintage Hot Hot Heat, complete with Bays’ unique syncopated, beating vocal delivery in amongst his instant melodies.

Prior to the album’s strange choice of a closing track – the unusually experimental ‘The Memory’s Here’, which moodily simmers with Maccabees-style sparseness – two more tracks keep the pace up, ‘Comeback of the Century’ and ‘Sad Sad Situation’. Neither of these song titles quite sum up this final Hot Hot Heat album; there is not enough here signifying a return to that early-noughties form, but for the band’s fans – to whom this album is dedicated – there are certainly reminders of what initially drew them to that dancefloor in the first place.

6/10

~Hot Hot Heat is released via Kaw-Liga Records on Friday, 24th June 2016.~

 

 

Manchester United 1-1 Leicester City – 1st May 2016 – Old Trafford

UWS 258 Interview – Lippy Kid Music

For issue 258 of United We Stand, I interviewed United season ticket holder and electronic music-maker Paul Scott, aka Lippy Kid. During the interview, Scott told of his love of the Hacienda, how he started following the Doc’s Red Army, and the recent 6 Music and Mary Anne Hobbs support for his music.

Lippy Kid

Here is a link to the Lippy Kid website, which contains a free download of the Echoes and Answers album.