Favourite Songs of 2011

So many people are starting to base their listening on songs these days, such is the reduction in attention spans, the proliferation of YouTube browsing and the ease of compiling ones own playlists featuring the best stuff you want to hear. Separate to my Top 50 LPs of 2011 I’ve also put together a list of songs that caught my ears and became hard to shake. There were of course dozens of others that could be included here but this is a lucky dip of sorts into some of my favourite tunes of 2011 that might lead you further into the artist’s work if you havent checked them out yet…

In no particular order as they are all great…

Dick Diver – On The Bank

Those Darlins – Screw Get Loose

J. Mascis – Not Enough

Total Control – One More Tonight

Light Asylum – Dark Allies

The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness

Iron & Wine – Tree By a River

Timber Timbre – Bad Ritual

Little Dragon – Ritual Union

Wilco – I Might

Two Tears – Eat People

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Belong

Iowa – Complete Control

The Laurels – Black Cathedral

The Adults – Nothing To Lose

Austra – Lose It

Atlas Sound – Te Amo

Twerps – Dreamin

Royal Headache – Really In Love

Melodie Nelson – Waiting

Black Lips – Spidey’s Curse

Crystal Stilts – Shake The Shackles

Jamie XX – Far Nearer

The Felice Brothers – Ponzi

The Paper Scissors – Lung Sum

Robag Wruhme – Thora Vukk

Wavves – I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl

Wild Flag – Romance

Leader Cheetah – Crawling Up A Landslide

NEWS: Sydney Festival 2012 program unveiled…

The Sydney Festival has announced its official program for 2012 with an excellent music line-up as has become the norm over the last few years…

  • Amiina
  • AA Bondy
  • Andrew Weatherall & Neville Watson
  • Animagica
  • Assembly
  • Asa & Fefe
  • Beth Orton
  • CANT
  • Clairy Brown and the Bangin’ Rackettes
  • Dan Deacon Ensemble & John Maus
  • Dan Sultan & Busby Marou with Kasey Chambers
  • Deerhoof and DJ Yamantaka Eye (The Boredoms)
  • Ed Kuepper
  • Eleanor Friedberger (Fiery Furnaces)
  • Fatoumata Diawara
  • Future Classic DJ Koze & Prins Thomas
  • Holly Throsby presents See!
  • I Am Eora
  • IOTA: Young, Hard and Solo
  • J Mascis
  • Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau
  • Juliana Barwick
  • KORT
  • Kurt Wagner
  • Lambchop
  • Mad Racket: Peven Everett
  • Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane
  • Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro and Electric Empire
  • New Navy
  • Nick Zinner’s 41 Strings
  • Norman Jay
  • Shabazz Palaces, Taylor McFerrin & Shangaan Electro
  • So Frenchy So Chic: Nouvelle Vague & Moriarty
  • Sons & Daughters, Songs & The Laurels
  • Taraf de Haidouks & Kocani Orkestar – Band of Gypsies
  • The Jolly Boys
  • The Pedrito Martinez Group & Watussi
  • The Stepkids & Electric Wire Hustle
  • The Whitest Boy Alive
  • Tune-Yards & Jonti
  • Vintage Trouble
  • Washington presents Insomnia

ALBUM REVIEW: J Mascis | Several Shades Of Why

written by Chris Familton

J Mascis solo versus J Mascis guitarist/singer of Dinosaur Jr isn’t the massive shift in rock that you would expect from someone who trades in extremes of texture, noise, sonics and melody with that band. He has dropped the drums, dialed back the bite and growl of his distortion pedals (for the most part) and brought his plaintive, aching voice to the fore but it is still immediately recognisable as J Mascis.

Several Shades of Why can give the impression of sameness and a loose meander at first but by listen #3 the secrets and gems rise to the surface and an absolute classic record emerges. Listen To Me is a deceiving opener with its simple structure and gentle warm strum yet it works to enhance the impact of the following title track with its beautiful, weeping riff and the unexpected and soothing sound of strings. This is Mascis at his gentlest and folkiest and it works wonderfully.

Mascis voice always sounds like a woolly jumper – all cosy, worn and familiar – and here it fills that description even more so. The yearning tone and the way he rises into a thinner falsetto a la Neil Young are two of the elements that make his singing so damn emotive, even if his lyrical content never strays far from affairs of the heart, indecision and confusion. He reins in a few friends to help him out on Several Shades Of Why and they are great additions, particularly the backing vocals of Ben Bridwell (Band Of Horses) Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) and Kurt Vile on Not Enough. They add a country sing-a-long mood to the song and give it a real communal swing that Mascis doesn’t always possess on his own.

The theme of questions manifests itself all over the album and so it probably seemed like a foregone conclusion for Mascis to name it Several Shades of Why. He constantly queries and ponders everything from the mysteries of love to the basic confusion of existence and though he rarely provides answers it matters little when the result is such bittersweet songwriting.

Is It Done shows that Mascis can’t keep a great guitar solo down. The killer distorted solo that comes in two thirds of the way through the track is the closest thing on the album to the sonic buzz of Dinosaur Jr. It somehow sits perfectly with its acoustic surrounds and leaves before it overshadows the subtle beauty of the song. The closer What Happened revisits the same concept of disparate guitar sounds working in harmony and it is just as effective at tugging on melodic heartstrings.

The one track that Mascis allows to stretch beyond the five minute mark is the slow and dark Can I displaying an overt Neil Young influence both in his voice and the way he walks the fine line between electric and acoustic moods and sounds. Strings twang and rattle like open wounds while Mascis is content to let his fingers create the narrative as much as his voice. Like Young’s epic moments Can I feels like it could and should drift on endlessly.

Mascis has proved with this album that he can step back from the wall of amps and racks of effects pedals to reveal songs that can convey as much their heavier cousins. These songs may be more exposed and at times fragile but they carry themselves just as majestically as anything in Mascis’ back catalogue.

this review first appeared on FasterLouder

J Mascis | Not Enough:


NEWS: J Mascis to release first solo album…

On March 15th Sub Pop will release Several Shades Of Why, the debut solo record from Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis. Guests on the predominately acoustic album include Kurt Vile, Sophie Trudeau (A Silver Mount Zion), Kurt Fedora (long-time collusionist), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Ben Bridwell (Band Of Horses), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Matt Valentine (The Golden Road), and Suzanne Thorpe (Wounded Knees).

 

J Mascis | Not Enough

 

Check out this revealing interview with J…

REVIEW: DINOSAUR JR – Farm

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Dinosaur Jr are now into album #2 as the reunited original lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph. Many people expected the reunion to be short lived and that the bitterness of old times would rear its head to scuttle the union like it has for so many other bands. 2007’s Beyond was as good a return to form as anyone could have predicted and their live show proved to be as searing and joyous as ever. The question still remained if that was their last flash of genius or if they had plenty more sonic adventures ahead.

The brilliance of Dinosaur Jr can be defined by the way in which they identify their strengths and play to them. There is no more grandstanding and battling over songwriting credits. Mascis is the leader, the somnambulistic Womble who can create an electrical storm with his guitar while appearing to be fast asleep. Barlow is still the angrier melodic foil, contributing his golden batch of songs and some attacking bass playing. Murph is the loyal drummer, solid and reliable and content to play what Mascis tells him to play.

If Beyond was their revitalised calling card to remind everyone they were still here then Farm is a settling in album. It doesn’t have the sharpness and abrasive qualities that Beyond had and even the cover art reflects the state of mind of the record with sleepy (stoned?) tree creatures lumbering across the landscape, cradling children. It is exactly how Farm feels – big warm and cozy. Taking you away from reality to another place, unknown yet comforting.

The epic strains of ‘Oceans In The Way’ sets the tone early with its widescreen sound and the quintessential peals of guitar notes that Mascis showers over nearly everything he writes. It is almost like his voice is the backing track and his guitar is the lead vocal creating the drama and emotion in the songs.

“I’ve got nothing left to be, do you have some plans for me” sings Mascis on ‘Plans’ and he seems to be both content with everything he has yet still a mite curious about what else is out there. Lyrically Dinosaur Jr songs tend to be circular musings without any great meaning but it does feel like there is a wistfulness that emerges on Farm, a reminiscing and a questioning of everything around him. When Mascis sings “I got lost in thought, I’m over it” on ‘Over It’ he almost seems bewildered as if he out of step with the times.

Lou Barlow continues the pattern of contributing a handful of key songs on their albums and again he doesn’t disappoint with the grinding ‘Your Weather’. His vocal style is such a contrast that it provides a relief of sorts to Mascis’ endless guitar and stoner singing. Barlow has a melodic psych-folk tone that lifts songs in a unique way and its essential to the brilliance of the band and the album.

The guitar playing of Mascis is again the centrepoint of Farm. Like Neil Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival filtered through hardcore and punk it is such a distinctive sound that somehow never seems to become tired. To the uninitiated it may appear he is recycling the same bunch of riffs over and over but on repeated listens there are gems galore at every turn. The brief descending notes in ‘Friends’ are crunching and military like and the solo in the song is as bright and soaring as you’ll find anywhere. Contrasting that is the slow motion and swaying ‘Said The People’ that could be a metal ballad in another parallel world. In the hands of Mascis it is heavy with real drama and gravitas.

The highlight of the album is ‘See You’ is an absolute delight with its simple skipping guitar jangle and warm buzzing meanderings. It Is Mascis at his sweetest and most pop. It shuffles along like a sunny sunday morning and will have you humming the central hook long after it has finished. It shows that they aren’t just a one trick guitar solo band and that they can mix things up and still use the same ingredients that are in all their songs.

One minor complaint is that Farm is overlong by a couple of songs, yet even so, it is right up there with the best of their early albums and the classic Green Mind. Like their contemporaries Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr are still on a winning streak, proving they can outlive fashion and rise above musical trends. They meld dissonance with melody and they do bruised beauty better than anyone else. Extinction is a long way from the minds of J, Lou and Murph.

Reviewed for FasterLouder.

MP3: Dinosaur Jr – I Want You To Know

dinosaur_jr

Mascis, Barlow and Murph are back again with the new album Farm due out on  June 26th. From the sound of things nothing has changed which is a good thing! Dinosaur Jr rate up there as one of the seminal bands of the late 80’s, early 90’s alongside Jane’s Addiction, Pixies etc… I read recently that Mascis is constantly seeking to emulate Ron Asheton’s guitar sound from the debut Stooges album and you get the sense he is never far off the mark.

Check out the new track…

DINOSAUR JR – I WANT YOU TO KNOW