Thursday, 30 December 2010

And the winner is....

Always guaranteed to include a number of albums not featured in many other 'best of' lists, the Pitchfork top 100 albums of the year is eye opening and controversial in equal measure. While it's great to see both Vampire Weekend and LCD Soundsystem featuring in the top ten, it is equally interesting to see Kanye West, Robyn and Erykah Badu's latest albums being hailed as some of 2010's musical highlights.

Check out the full list here.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Half Man Half Biscuit, Holmfirth Picturedrome

Looking back on 2010, I'm sure people would agree that highlights have been few and far between. A pitiful performance from our national side during this summer's World Cup, the General Election result and the spending review, the career trajectory of Michael Mcintyre, the death of Malcom Mclaren and the second series of True Blood have all been crushing disappointments that us mere mortals have had to contend with this year.

One highlight, however, which in many ways was brought about by people power, was the BBC's decision not to axe the digital radio station 6 Music. From the moment the BBC announced their plans to close down several of their digital radio stations, a groundswell of support for the beleaguered station gathered pace, and grabbed the attention of musicians and music fans from across the globe.

From social network campaigns to questions being raised in the House of Commons, the quest to save 6 Music took the establishment by surprise. Within weeks of their announcement, the BBC's Director General Mark Thompson was appearing on news programmes defending the decision, but doing so without any real conviction.

One of the campaign's masterstrokes was to use Half Man Half Biscuit's Joy Division Oven Gloves as an unofficial anthem for the station.  While somewhat of a throwaway track from the band's 2005 Achtung Bono album, the song seemed a perfect choice for spearheading the campaign, with the line 'talk to the hand, talk to the hand' coming across as an alternative two-fingered salute to the DG.

A rousing rendition of the song closes tonight's set in Holmfirth, which also included HMHB classics such as Dickie Davies Eyes and the timely All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit and new songs Left Lyrics in Practice Room and Tommy Walsh's Eco-House. Add to this a surreal stage invasion, a cover of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's Patio Song and an old cinema full of loyal and devoted fans singing every word as if their life depended on it, and you had all the ingredients for a cracking evening out.

Members of the Velvet Owl Gig Collective - Dukla Prague away kits hidden by their winter coats.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

And coming up on the rails....

A late contender for track of the year comes from Velvet Owl favourites British Sea Power with this majestic song from their new album Valhalla Dancehall.

British Sea Power - Living is so Easy

Monday, 13 December 2010

The next big thing? Just a band.

Over the past few years, the BBC's Sound of 200? list has had a decent success rate when it comes to tipping the acts that are going to make a big impression over the next twelve months. Adele, 50-Cent and Corinne Bailey-Rae have all been successfully identified as ones to watch, and their 2010 list included Ellie Goulding, The Drums, Hurts and Delphic, all who have enjoyed critical success during this passing year.

To gain entry to the list, acts must not have released an album or had a number 1 single before the beginning of November and must not already be famous by either appearing in the final stages of a TV talent show or being a former member of a successful band.

The 15 strong longlist (it will be reduced to the final 5 by the end of December) includes Warpaint, whose single Undertow was a Velvet Owl favourite this year.  The two acts we're looking forward to hearing more from in 2011 are James Blake whose single Limit to Your Love is simply beautiful and Jamie Woon who released the graceful Night Air last month.

The longlist in full:

James Blake

Anna Calvi


Esben & the Witch

Jessie J

Clare Maguire


The Naked & Famous


Jai Paul

The Vaccines


Jamie Woon

Wretch 32


2010 exit stage right….

As the year draws to a close I see numerous top 50 album lists in various places and for the first time I can remember I can honestly say I don’t know any of the albums being touted as the finest of the past 12 months. It’s a strange feeling but it’s a feeling I can’t seem to shake.

As the year dawned I was no longer involved in the music retail business having worked for various companies and even had my own small indie shop which meant I was constantly hearing new albums good and (mainly) not my cup of char.Living in rural Ireland meant that a trip to the city 40 miles away was my only way to see and hear anything released and this was also the first year that Cork my nearest city had no indie shop of its own (Plugd was a great shop everything a small indie should be and the good news is that after nigh on a year they have recently re-opened).So that left me with the internet and the reviews sections of magazines like Mojo or Uncut. Now I have stopped buying these publications after years of getting them and Word magazine and the like for years for reasons mainly economical (at around 7 euro a pop I can’t justify it) and also as there are only so many times I can read about the Beatles or Pink Floyd or other such cover stalwarts.

Downloads I just don’t really get , I’m old school I want a tangible piece of art in my hand preferably on vinyl so this year has been all about re-discovering my collection whilst of course adding to it with stuff I already knew about if you get me.

Of course I haven’t ignored new releases completely as I made journeys to pick up albums by Weller, Neil Young and Gil Scott Heron so you can see I’m at the fore-front of the cutting edge?!!

So I’m left wondering why I simply couldn’t be arsed to dig out new music after all the internet is perfect for doing just that. Maybe as I grow a bit older and have two young kids running round all day making all manner of racket I just want to relax and have fallen into the ‘play something we know’ trap that used to annoy the hell out of me? Often I hear new stuff and think it sounds a bit like such and such so I might as well go and listen to them?  Maybe I just feel that bit older and have internally realised that most of the new music released is just not aimed at me and that’s fair enough I’d hate to be the drunk uncle at the wedding.

Or maybe the new fads were right……


Monday, 6 December 2010

Half Man Half Biscuit

Next up for the Velvet Owl Gig Collective are the mighty Half Man Half Biscuit, who play the Holmfirth Picturedrome on Thursday 16th December.  The band don't often get out much, and the gig will only be their seventh of the year.

For the uninitiated, here's Restless Legs from their Achtung Bono album.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Velvet Owl's Best of 2010

In keeping with tradition at this time of year, here's a list of the albums that the Collective have been dancing round the kitchen to over at Velvet Owl Towers.

1. High Violet - The National
2. Broken Bells - Broken Bells
3. Congratulations - MGMT
4. Sky at Night - I am Kloot
5. Own Side Now - Caitlin Rose
6. Queen of Denmark - John Grant
7. I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers
8. Jungle Blues - C.W. Stoneking
9. Infinite Arms - Band of Horses
10. Teen Dream - Beach House
11. Darwin Deez - Darwin Deez
12. I Speak Because I Can - Laura Marling
13. Odd Blood - Yeasayer
14. Plastic Beach - Gorillaz
15. Many Moons - The Cavalcade
16. Heligoland - Massive Attack
17. Brothers - The Black Keys
18. North - Darkstar
19. The Courage of Others - Midlake
20. Here's to Taking it Easy - Phosphorescent
21. Boys Outside - Steve Mason
22. The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae
23. Seretonin - The Mystery Jets
24. Contra - Vampire Weekend
25. Magic Chairs - Efterklang
26. Sea of Cowards - The Dead Weather
27. Beneath the Burning Shoreline - Cherry Ghost
28. Fantasies - Metric
29. Tangalooma - The John Steel Singers
30. Wonderlustre - Skunk Anansie

Best of 2010 - NME stylee.

Here's what the kids have been listening to this year.

Great to see The Fall are still finding an audience amongst the nation's yoof.