heard on the wire

A festive fifty — part five

Any self-respecting blog would conclude its annual review within the eponymous time span. I’ve overrun; what with New Year and that small matter of a trip to Bruges, the fifth and final part of my “festive” rundown of 2017’s top 50 tracks has had to wait.

So, and without further idleness, here are the last 10 records, in no particular order save the final — and to my mind surprising — choice, my record of the year.

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A pinch and a punch…

…for the first day of the month¹ and a return to blogland following a self-imposed hiatus. It’s good, at times, to be quiet.

But noisy is equally essential, so let’s start with 2011’s winning song-from-each-year-of-my-life. Decibelles are three women from Grenoble, France, who know how to rock. The LP, Pedro Joko, is available for free and worth every byte of your bandwidth.

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At the sign of the swinging cymbal

And so my musical odyssey through the 45 years of my life comes to an end, almost. But before I reveal my final choice, a countdown of numbers 1966 to 2010, cue music….

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You’ll never feel so high

So few bands that show such early promise go on to exceed all expectations. So many peak early, usually on that first LP, whose songs they painstakingly assemble, refine, reject and revamp as they seek that elusive record deal. The second LP, written to order, proves that much more difficult.

I expected that to be true of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, an american indie pop band with a sound that came straight out of the mid-80s. The band themselves denied any knowledge of their C86 predecessors and with much justification, since they hadn’t yet been born.

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I have tried to break unbroken chords

Singer songwriter is an odd label. You might think it it applies to anyone who writes songs and sings them, but it’s not so. Without the requisite degree of plaintive acoustic strumming or over-earnest entreating, you’re just a singer, or a songwriter.

Thereby excluded, I can claim allegiance to Bragg, Cave and Weller without ever having to admit to a penchant for the singer-songwriter genre. This worked fine until 2004 when I first heard Langhorne Slim — inevitably it was on the genre defying John Peel show.

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They make this awful sizzling sound

What’s your favourite song from 2008? is not a question I hear too often — at all in fact. Which is probably a good thing, since it’s a year that offers plenty of choice.

There was a Half Man Half Biscuit LP, the brilliantly titled CSI:Ambleside, which offers up National Shite Day and Took Problem Chimp To Ideal Home Show — if only. And the year’s standout singles include Have You Ever Heard a Digital Accordion? by the Lovely Eggs and Pete Green’s Best British Band Supported by Shockwaves.

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Well I tried but I can’t behave like others

I am a lucky soul, I discovered Lucky Soul, the finest among several fine bands who, in recent years, have drawn their inspiration from the 60s to make thoroughly 21st century pop records

I first heard the single, Lips are Unhappy and was charmed without being wowed. But charmed enough to buy the debut LP, The Great Unwanted, and very quickly fell in love.

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Chocolate on the boil, steamy windows when we met

Belle and Sebastian

And so to 2006 and the genius of Belle and Sebastian. The Life Pursuit may not have been the Scottish band’s finest LP, but it provided the musical highlight of my year.

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Each day I’ve been wondering

Misty's Big Adventure

If the number of 4- and 5-star ratings in iTunes is any indication, then 2005 was a musical zenith, eclipsing any other year not just for the number of great records that were released, but also the diversity.

There was one great LP — Half Man Half Biscuit’s Achtung Bono is their finest work — and several very good ones, but it was a year chiefly marked by standout singles and tracks.

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I’m a cool rocking daddy in the USA

The Facebook response to my 2003 song-from-each-year-of-my-life was a pleasant surprise. So much so that I decided to change the first song in my new blog series — The Cover Art — a look at the craft of the cover version.

It must be to Bruce Springsteen’s eternal chagrin that is lament for a victim of patriotic war was taken up as an anthem by the supporters of Ronald Reagan’s successful bid for re-election in 1984.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.


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