20 Of Our Favourite Albums From The First Half Of 2020

A quick trip back through the memory cells and some scanning of my music library has thrown up these twenty artists (in alphabetical order) who have released some of our favourite albums of 2020 so far. There are plenty more I haven’t heard yet, hopefully some gems among them. In the meantime, I hope this throws up a few that you may not have had a chance to check out yet. They come highly recommended by Doubtful Sounds.

Andrew TuttleAlexandra
Baxter DuryThe Chancers
Bob DylanRough And Rowdy Ways
CalifoneEcho Mine
CorikyCoriky
D.C CrossTerabithian
Drive-By TruckersThe Unraveling
Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters
James Thomson Golden Exile
Jason Isbell & The 400 UnitReunions
Luke VibertPresents: Amen Andrews + Presents: Modern Rave
MoodymannTaken Away
Neil Young Homegrown
Rolling Blackouts Coastal FeverSideways To New Italy
Rose City BandSummerlong
RVGFeral
Shopping All Or Nothing
Suicide SwansThrough The Years
Tony Allen & Hugh MasekelaRejoice
ZelienopleHold You Up

LIVE REVIEW: Neil Young & Crazy Horse @ Sydney Entertainment Centre (10/03/13)

photo by Leticia Nischang
photo by Leticia Nischang

by Chris Familton

The previous night at the Bimbagden Estate winery in the Hunter Valley was a superb 2 hour show from Neil Young & Crazy Horse with only one thing missing – his full stage setup. Of course musically it didn’t matter, everything still sounded as widescreen and epic as usual but it certainly felt comforting to arrive at the Sydney Entertainment Centre to the sight of those giant road cases and mad scientists busying themselves onstage. It’s all part of the grandeur and eccentricity of Crazy Horse and particularly Young’s quirky sense of humour.

The start of the show, with the giant mic stand being lowered to the stage before an Australian flag appeared as the backdrop and the national anthem played with Young and Crazy Horse standing hands on heart was a tad cringeworthy. Neil has never shied away from some cheesy elements in his performances; Greendale comes to mind, but it mattered little in the context of the show and was no doubt included with good intentions. From the opening clarion call of regular set opener Love and Only Love and into Powderfinger it was clear that the band were firing on all cylinders. Those long wandering solos and riffs of Love and Only Love separated by comparatively brief verses really summed up the essence of Crazy Horse and they way they balance beauty and brutality in simple yet challenging musical contexts.

photo by Leticia Nischang
photo by Leticia Nischang

Everyone who had half a brain should have been aware that this was the tour in support of Psychedelic Pill, the expansive album from last year that captured the spirit of Crazy Horse after 96’s wayward Broken Arrow. The highlights of the new album were again the highlights of the live show with Walk Like A Giant and its contrasting sections of whistling, beautiful vocal harmonies and crackling, electrical storm soloing lumbering across nearly 20 minutes of sonic landscape, culminating in a wasteland of decaying sound, rumbling low frequencies and mechanistic snare shots from Ralph Molina that sounded truly astounding. Discarded newspaper tumbled across the stage, Young reached into his amp to physically wring more caustic distortion and feedback from the speaker while flashes of the band at various stages of their lifetime appeared on the screen as if we were experiencing cracks in the time/space continuum.

After the intensity of Walk Like A Giant the sweet lilting refrains of the new song Hole In The Sky sounded positively angelic, belying Young’s stinging critique of the environmental practices and the damage we are doing to the Earth. It is surely one of the sweetest sounding Crazy Horse songs since Change Your Mind. That change in musical mood led to the solo acoustic rendition of Heart of Gold to massive cheers of recognition for Young’s only #1 song. It still sounds perfect, now with even added meaning to the line “and I’m getting old”. Twisted Road worked well acoustically with its catchy chorus and it should have concluded the mellow section of the set as Singer Without A Song was the only song of the show that failed to generate any kind of spark as Young played upright piano and a ‘lost’ girl wandered aimlessly around the stage with a guitar case.

In the live setting Ramada Inn has emerged as a real tour de force of the band’s new songs. With Young’s best set of lyrics in years it detailed a relationship poisoned and threatened by alcohol yet maintained by love and devotion. The closeups of Young’s face on the screen as he delivered the words “she does what she can” portrayed real emotion and you wonder if there was more to his recent decision to give up alcohol and pot or if he merely used that change as seed for a great lyrical idea. With each verse/chorus he stepped back from the mic and leaned into a new solo, each one more intense than the last. With Billy Talbot and Poncho Sampedro pulled in close he delivered some truly visceral moments on his guitar Old Black, hitting his pedalboard to dial in apocalyptic crunch and distortion and coruscating notes that tore through the air and throughout the Centre.

photo by Leticia Nischang
photo by Leticia Nischang

The final third of the show was given over to some of the seminal moments of the Crazy Horse discography from a primitive, stomping Cinnamon Girl, to a blasting Fuckin’ Up that descended into an ad-libbed rap comedy act but was still hilarious. Buffalo Springfield’s Mr Soul was a highlight with its borrowed Satisfaction riff before they wound up the main set with one of the best versions of My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) that I’ve seen. It was ferocious and anthemic and was the perfect culmination of all that preceded it.

At the previous night’s show we were left on a mellow note with Roll Another Number as the encore. In direct contrast Young pulled a couple of real surprises out of the bag with the rarely played Prisoners of Rock ‘n’ Roll from their Life LP and Opera Star from Re-ac-tor. Both are songs that reaffirm the band’s commitment to the essence of rock ‘n’ roll and the pride they, or primarily Young, take in their autonomy and habit of doing only as they want to do. We may never see Neil Young perform in Australia again with Crazy Horse. Let’s hope that isn’t the case but if it is this was the band at the top of their game, displaying the full range of their sound from epic to intimate, doo-wop vocals to thunderous rock. It was an astonishingly good show, a testament to Young’s pig-headedness and boundless creativity. Long live Crazy Horse.

2012 | Twenty First Half Favourites

We’re already half away through 2012, crazy huh? It felt like it was a slow start to the year in terms of standout album releases but slowly things have picked up pace and some (in our ears) essential purchases have emerged. Here, in no particular order are twenty LPs that have captured our attention over the last six months.

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LAMBCHOP | MR. M

This is their best since Nixon, majestic, intimate and ethereal.

NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE | AMERICANA

The long awaited return of Crazy Horse to the NY fold and they recommence work with brilliant primitive garage rock interpretations of folk classics.

EARTH | ANGELS OF DARKNESS, DEMONS OF LIGHT II

Dylan Carlson and co continue to explore parched and ghostly americana doom.

SHACKLETON | MUSIC FOR THE QUIET HOUR

This music for the head, food for the ears and possesses an astonishing range of electronic composition.

TORCHE | HARMONICRAFT

The sludge metallers continue to refine their heaviosity with their most realised collision of melody and surging heavy rock.

JOSEF VAN WISSEM & JIM JARMUSCH | CONCERNING THE ENTRANCE INTO ETERNITY

A fascinating journey into experimental post rock with this collaboration between a lutist and the acclaimed indie film director on electric guitar.

DR JOHN | LOCKED DOWN

The Night Tripper hooks up with a Black Key and produces his finest work in years. New Orleans voodoo swamp blues and jazz at its finest.

SINEAD O’CONNOR | HOW ABOUT I BE ME (AND YOU BE YOU)?

O’Connor gets personal and raw on one of her best collection of songs in years. FULL REVIEW

OREN AMBARCHI | AUDIENCE OF ONE

Ambarchi’s exquisitely recorded guitar compositions are stretched fleshed out with vocals, whirs and patter making this his most holistic release to date.

DEEP SEA ARCADE | OUTLANDS

Sydney quintet Deep Sea Arcade deserve to top charts and win hearts with this stellar collection of infectious indie guitar pop. FULL REVIEW

FATHER JOHN MISTY | FEAR FUN

Josh Tillman discards his dark stark folk and reveals an album brimming with hooks and a sharp wit. FULL REVIEW

SUZY CONNOLLY | NIGHT LARKS

An early candidate for my album of the year. Night Larks is heartfelt and mature songwriting of the highest order. This will take up residency in your heart and ears. FULL REVIEW

THE CARETAKER | PATIENCE (AFTER SEBALD)

Arcane, lost and forgotten sounds in a bed of crackle and hiss. Pick the right time (night, wine and headphones) and prepare to be transported through space and time.

DAMIEN JURADO | MARAQOPA

Jurado follows up his excellent Saint Bartlett with another LP of classic troubadour songs, this time a tad more psychedelic and swirling in the hands of collaborator Richard Swift.

OPOSSOM | ELECTRIC HAWAII

Essentially the solo project of ex Mint Chick Kody Nielson, this is technicolor pop music at its finest. FULL REVIEW

THE MEN | OPEN YOUR HEART

A real mix of post punk, hardcore and indie rock. The songs tumble from the speakers leaving a trail of carefree gems scattered in their wake. FULL REVIEW

PUBLIC IMAGE LTD | THIS IS PIL

The return of John Lydon and his band of merry men and what a welcome return with this dub heavy excursion into indie, post punk, industrial rhythms and rhymes.

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE | NOTHING’S GONNA CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT ME NOW

Earle is now beginning to expand his sound, taking it into Memphis soul territory with horns aplenty and a bigger band sound to match his outstanding country and folk songwriting abilities. FULL REVIEW

CHARLIE HORSE | I HOPE I’M NOT A MONSTER

A record from Sydney’s Blue Mountains that takes strong and sultry country rock vocals and marries them to some Peter Buck and Neil Young guitar anthems in waiting. FULL REVIEW

VCMG | SSSS

Who’d have thought original Depeche Moders Martin Gore and Vince Clarke would collaborate again/ They did and the results were surprisingly dark and fun on this techno collision between two stalwarts of modern electronic pop music. FULL REVIEW

WATCH: The Bridge School 25th Anniversary DVD trailer

This year is the 25th Anniversary of Neil and Pegi Young’s Bridge School benefit concerts that has seen a plethora of big names play the charitable event. This year’s show happens on October 22nd and 23rd at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.To celebrate they are also releasing a 3DVD and 2CD commemorative package. Check out the trailer below…

Lineup

  • Neil Young
  • Dave Matthews
  • Arcade Fire
  • Foo Fighters (Sunday only)
  • Eddie Vedder
  • Los Invisibles, featuring Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana & Guests
  • Beck
  • Mumford & Sons
  • Tony Bennett (Sunday only)
  • Diana Krall (Saturday only)
  • Jenny Lewis

VIDEO: Neil Young | Angry World…

It’s a big Neil Young day today with the unveiling of the first track from his new record Le Noise, recorded solo with Daniel Lanois providing studio effects. Angry World is a fantastic swirling sonic wash of Neil’s gritty guitar, vocal effects and typical railing against the world lyrics. Definitely a departure from the recent garage rock and country folk and it sounds brilliant!

You can also catch another track Walk With Me over at NPR…. Listen

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NEWS: New Neil Young album ‘Le Noise’ out in September…

Neil Young has announced via Facebook that his new album, recorded with Daniel Lanois, will be released (digital/cd/vinyl) on September 28th. Le Noise, obviously a play on Lanois’ name features 8 tracks, many that have been aired on his recent Twisted Road solo tour.

Last month Lanois told Rolling Stone…

We cut a couple of solo acoustic songs, but the rest is very electric. There’s no band, but I got in there with my sonics. There’s nothing else out there like it.

The album will also be released on Blu-Ray in November as well as an iPhone and iPad apps.

Tracklisting

1. Walk with Me

2. Sign of Love

3. Someone’s Gonna Rescue You

4. Love and War

5. Angry World

6. Hitchhiker

7. Peaceful Valley Boulevard

8. Rumblin

Young is also about to embark on a Gulf Coast tour next month:

Sep 20 – Marina Civic Center – Panama City, FL

Sep 25 – IP Showroom – Biloxi, MS

Sep 26 – Saenger Theatre – Mobile, AL

Sep 28 – Saenger Theatre – Pensacola, FL

Additional dates not part of the “Gulf Coast Tour”

Sep 22 – Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL

Sep 23 – Seminole Hard Rock Casino – Hollywood, FL

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NEWS: NEIL YOUNG’S Archives Vol II first glimpse…

photo: Kevin Scanlon for The New York Times

It seems that Neil Young’s team are hard at work on NYA Volume II and the first titbit of info that has come to light is that there will be 4 unreleased albums from the late 70s/early 80s that will see the light of day. From NY Times…

Four unreleased albums from this period are being rebuilt and will be available in the NYA Special Release Series. Chrome Dreams, Homegrown and Oceanside-Countryside are the three unreleased studio albums. Also from this period is the unreleased Odeon-Budokan live recording produced by David Briggs and Tim Mulligan. These albums initially will be released in vinyl from analog masters as they originally were created for that format.

NEWS: NEIL YOUNG recording new album with Daniel Lanois…

Neil Young recently confirmed he was writing for a new album and is about to embark on an acoustic theatre tour called Twisted Road which may or may not end up being the title of the album. It is a tactic he has employed in the past on the Silver & Gold and Harvest Moon albums.

The latest news to leak is that Young is working with producer Daniel Lanois (U2’s Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree, Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind and Oh Mercy). David Crosby told Rolling Stone “Neil told me last week that he was having a great time talking music with him and just relating to him. I think that Neil’s been a little lonely for someone to interact that way because his best buddy [Larry “L.A.” Johnson] died and that just really left a hole there.”

TOUR DATES

18th May Palace Theatre, Albany, New York

19th May Shea’s Performing Arts Center, Buffalo, New York

21st May Hanover Theatre, Worcester, Massachusetts

23rd May Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, Connecticut

24th May Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.

26th May Louisville Palace Theatre, Louisville, Kentucky

27th May Knoxville Civic Auditorium, Knoxville, Tennessee

29th May Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia

30th May Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg, Sth Carolina

1st June Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee

2nd June Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee

4th June Jones Hall, Houston, Texas

5th June Bass Concert Hall, Austin, Texas

7th June Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, Texas