Elsewhere by Graham Reid

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Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion by writer Graham Reid

best of elsewhere 2007

best of elsewhere 2007 on Elsewhere by Graham Reid - browse 86 items of content tagged as 'best of elsewhere 2007'.

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Lucinda Williams: West (Universal)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Lucinda Williams: West (Universal)

Although saturated in the sadness which has affected her in recent years -- the break-up of a relationship, the death of her mother -- it would be unwise to presume that everything here has turned on those events: Williams is too smart and too poetic a writer to be quite that literal. That said, she concedes the opener Are You Alright? was...

Yoko Ono: Yes, I'm a Witch (Astral Weeks) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Yoko Ono: Yes, I'm a Witch (Astral Weeks) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Billed as simply "Ono" this is Yoko's vocals from various albums extracted and new backings added by a cast of luminaries which includes Peaches, Le Tigre, Porcupine Tree, DJ Spooky, Cat Power, Polyphonic Spree, the Flaming Lips and many more. Yoko's singing -- her screaming and childlike ballads -- was always controversial but to...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Arcade Fire: Neon Bible (EMI)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Arcade Fire: Neon Bible (EMI)

Yes, after the towering success of their debut album Funeral, you will be reading any number of reviews of this lavishly orchestrated, dramatic follow-up by this big Montreal-based ensemble. Let me be the first to say then that there are as many resonances of Echo and the Bunnymen/Teardrop Explodes here as there are of stadium-shaped...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Tinariwen: Aman Iman/Water is Life (Filter)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Tinariwen: Aman Iman/Water is Life (Filter)

The previous album Amassakoul by these extraordinary musicians and desert tribesmen from the southern Sahara was one of the Best of Elsewhere 2006 and turned up in quite a few critics picks of last year. If anything, this album -- dense, driving, intense, poetic and shot through with mercurial, stinging guitar work -- is superior to...

Richard Swift: Dressed Up For the Letdown (Secretly Canadian) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Richard Swift: Dressed Up For the Letdown (Secretly Canadian) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The previous album by this Californian singer-songwriter -- actually a double disc collection of his previously released singles and EPs -- made an appearance on Elsewhere many months ago and I hailed it to the skies. And I've played it with alarming frequency ever since a first hearing. This is his fully-fledged debut album proper, and...

Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha (Spunk) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha (Spunk) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Years ago this Chicago singer-songwriter-violinist helmed his band Bowl of Fire through strange back-alleys of music which referred to blues and jazz of the 20s, circuses and travelling shows, low-rent bars and brothel music of old time New Orleans, and a bit of Tom Waits. After a while I gave up telling people how good he was. It's that...

Bright Eyes: Cassadaga (Polydor) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Bright Eyes: Cassadaga (Polydor) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

A couple of years ago -- around the time Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst to his parents) broke biggish with the two 2005 albums I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (the former of songs, the latter electronics) -- I was in Tower Records in Seattle. I spotted a seven album Bright Eyes box set (yes, all vinyl) for some...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Ibrahim Ferrer: Mi Sueno (World Circuit)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Ibrahim Ferrer: Mi Sueno (World Circuit)

Knowing that these were the final sessions by the late Buena Vista Social Club's star singer means that perhaps many will cast a more sympathetic ear over them than they might have otherwise. And let's be honest the other "final session" thing -- his duet with Omara Portuondo on As Time Goes By which appeared on the Rhythms Del Mundo...

Soulsavers: It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land (V2) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Soulsavers: It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land (V2) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Suffused in religion, redemption, Christian imagery and dark melancholy (aside from the uplifting opener Revival which deliberately recalls Knocking On Heaven's Door), this is an exceptional album -- and one which seems a very long way from what we might loosely call "rock culture". With guest vocalist Mark Lanegan's solemn baritone...

Vieux Farka Toure; Vieux Farka Toure (World Village) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Vieux Farka Toure; Vieux Farka Toure (World Village) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

In the Western world the offspring of famous musicians often have a hard time if they choose to follow in the footsteps of their parents: witness the case of Julian and Sean Lennon. But in other cultures, notably in India and parts of the African continent, there is not only an acceptance but an expectation that children will take up the same...

Mavis Staples; We'll Never Turn Back (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Mavis Staples; We'll Never Turn Back (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The great gospel-soul singer Staples -- now 66 -- was a member of the legendary Staples Singers founded by her father Pops Staples, a close personal friend of Dr Martin Luther King. During the Civil Rights period the Staples' music was on the frontline so to speak. Much of their music was political or inspirational and gave comfort to those...

Tord Gustavsen Trio; Being There (ECM) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Tord Gustavsen Trio; Being There (ECM) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

This is Norwegian pianist Gustavsen's third album on the prestigious ECM label and his self-described style of "loving every note" is the hallmark of these often beautifully spare tracks where there is sometimes a hymnal quality, sometimes an intensity of focus that recalls Bill Evans, and at others times an almost ambient Eno-like...

Cowboy Junkies; At the End of Paths Taken (Zoe) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Cowboy Junkies; At the End of Paths Taken (Zoe) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

When the Cowboy Junkies' breakthrough album The Trinity Sessions arrived in '87 music was getting noisy and Guns'N Roses stomped the planet. But the Junkies' famously cheap album -- recorded in a church for a couple of hundred dollars apparently -- captured the imagination, especially their version of Lou Reed's Sweet Jane. The mood of the...

Explosions in the Sky; All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Explosions in the Sky; All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Billy Bob Thornton has made some pretty bad movies, but among his best is Friday Night Lights in which he played a football coach at a small town in Texas. It is a wonderful movie full of small telling detail about dreams, promise denied and the expectation a small town places on its college football team. Thornton is a man under pressure as...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Watermelon Slim and the Workers; The Wheel Man (Southbound)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Watermelon Slim and the Workers; The Wheel Man (Southbound)

To be honest I didn't quite "get" the last, self-titled, album by this rough'n'ready bluesman, but I was clearly in the minority: the album won the Mojo magazine and the Independent Music Awards for blues album of the year, got six nominations at the Blues Music Awards and so on. And this album -- which I have to say I...

JJ Grey and Mofro; Country Ghetto (Southbound) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

JJ Grey and Mofro; Country Ghetto (Southbound) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Of course there is white country soul -- and here is the evidence, a voice from the white trash ghetto which aches like a Southern soul singer. There is a backwoods quality here -- real steamy Georgia funk -- but it is offset by the spirit of Memphis soul, the Allman Brothers, James Brown and the blues. Quite a meltdown and if it isn't...

Findlay Brown; Separated by the Sea (PeaceFrog) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Findlay Brown; Separated by the Sea (PeaceFrog) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Earnest young men of the Anglo-folk persuasion aren't exactly thin on the ground these days, but Brown is worth your attention. His voice is gentle but has some depth and restrained power, and if his lyrics stray sometimes into that self-obsession/broken love/"darkness of the soul and mind" axis then that pretty much comes with this...

Nick Lowe; At My Age (Proper) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Nick Lowe; At My Age (Proper) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

To be honest, I consider Nick Lowe's '98 album Dig My Mood so outstanding that anything he does subsequently will pale in the comparison. By the time of that album, the former English pub-rocker in the post-punk era and friend of Elvis Costello had taken a considerable career turn and was now a gorgeous country-soul singer whose songwriting...

Rufus Wainwright; Release the Stars (Geffen) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Rufus Wainwright; Release the Stars (Geffen) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

As with Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, alt.country acts and Bjork, Rufus Wainwright is one of those artists who are only tangentially part of what we might call "rock culture". As with the above, his albums get reviewed in rock magazines and newspaper columns -- but he also exists outside of the parameters: he famously recreated Judy...

Bruce Springsteen, with the Sessions Band; Live in Dublin (Sony) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Bruce Springsteen, with the Sessions Band; Live in Dublin (Sony) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Springsteen's live shows with a band have, for the most part, been celebratory affairs: initially celebrating the spirit of rock'n'roll; later his connection with an audience; and then increasingly with a vast catalogue of songs whose meanings often changed over time. After his last album We Shall Overcome when he explored the catalogue of...

Robbie Fulks: Revenge! (Yep Roc) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Robbie Fulks: Revenge! (Yep Roc) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The witty and iconoclastic Fulks has a marvellous distain for convention, the country music establishment (he wrote Fuck This Town about Nashville), and record sales. He also unleashed the sometimes terrific but scattergun Georgia Hard two years ago on which he released his inner George Jones to great effect -- but also included his component...

The Clientele; God Save the Clientele (Popfrenzy) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The Clientele; God Save the Clientele (Popfrenzy) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Whispery pop of the old style (verse, chorus, verse, chorus etc) always gets a good hearing at Elsewhere. There is something magical and dreamy about the best of it -- and this is one of the best. And both magical and dreamy. This London-based band have now added violin and string arrrangements to their breathy songs, and recorded this...

Bonde Do Role; With Lasers (Domino) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Bonde Do Role; With Lasers (Domino) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The little I knew of Bonde do Role on the release of this was this much: they were from southern Brasil. Oh, and this -- they are mountains of eclectic fun. They sounded as if they had thrown some rock guitars, funky beats and hip-hop into a blender and pushed the button which says "random chop". They mashed it all up with some...

Malouma; Nour (Harmonia Mundi) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Malouma; Nour (Harmonia Mundi) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The shrink-wrap that this exceptional album came in provides the clue: "blues woman mauritanienne, transcende les frontieres musicales". And Amen -- or more correctly Allahu Akbar -- to all that. Malouma isn't "blues" in the same way that say Etran Finatawa or Tinariwen (see tags) are: if you are desperately looking for a...

Various; Tropicalia, A Brazilian Revolution in Sound (Soul Jazz) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Various; Tropicalia, A Brazilian Revolution in Sound (Soul Jazz) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Don't know about you, but all that cooler-than-thou, soft-voice badha-badha-doobee-doo stuff from Brazil (Bebe Gilberto et al) gets right up my nose. It seems to be favoured by "sophisticated" people and such soft samba seemed obligatory as the theme to any arts show on television for decades. My turning point into Brazilian music...

Various; Contemporary New Zealand Poets In Performance (AUP) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Various; Contemporary New Zealand Poets In Performance (AUP) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

This second volume of an excellent series (with CDs) of New Zealand poets reading their own work came from Auckland University Press and was edited by Jack Ross and Jan Kemp. It followed the previous volume, Classic New Zealand Poets in Performance. This one includes poems by Bernadette Hall, Sam Hunt, Bill Manhire, Ian Wedde, Keri Hulme,...

Joe Henry; Civilians (Anti/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Joe Henry; Civilians (Anti/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

With a small band, and guests Bill Frisell (on guitar) and Van Dyke Parks (piano), the much ignored Henry continues his singular path which owes a little to a less grumbly Tom Waits but remains properly in the singer-songwriter tradition with nods to folk and the blues. Here are classically-framed ballads (You Can't Fail Me Now) and songs...

Hossam Ramzy and Samy El Bably; Cairo Nights (Arc/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Hossam Ramzy and Samy El Bably; Cairo Nights (Arc/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Elsewhere listeners know it is unwise to judge an album -- especially a world music album, and most particularly a bellydance album -- by its cover. Beneath the bejewelled, bikini-top breasts on this unpromising looking album are the two key features: the names of Ramzy and El Bably. Ramzy is a prolific writer (over 20 albums for the Arc...

Thione Seck; Orientissime (Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Thione Seck; Orientissime (Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

There are some who think that "world music" is corrupted by outside influences, and that the folk musicians of various parts of the globe should be time-locked so as to retain some degree of authenticity. Such paternalistic purists bang on about how tragic it is that musicians from the Sahara use synthesizers, or that sitar players...

Linda Thompson; Versatile Heart (Decca) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Linda Thompson; Versatile Heart (Decca) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Few would make the mistake of coming to Anglo-folk legend Thompson for their jollies -- but even the well-prepared might gulp at the melacholy mood in which this is suffused. While the country twangin' foot-tapper Do Your Best For Rock'n Roll includes the promising line "take me to a bar" it ends with "and leave me there to...

Bettye LaVette and Drive-By Truckers: The Scene of the Crime (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Bettye LaVette and Drive-By Truckers: The Scene of the Crime (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

This is an unexpected pairing: soul-singer LaVette with alt-country rockers Drive-By Truckers recording in Muscle Shoals in Alabama. A marriage made in heaven (or a somewhat hotter place) as it turns out: the band are edgy or supportive and nudge LaVette (who needs little prompting it must be said) through a collection of gritty songs which...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Iron and Wine: The Shepherd's Dog (SunPop/Rhythmethod)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Iron and Wine: The Shepherd's Dog (SunPop/Rhythmethod)

Sam Beam -- who is Iron and Wine -- really sounds like he has hits his stride with this exceptional, engaging and folkadelic outing, and he's achieved that by just continuing on the same, mildly eccentric and determined path as he has taken on his previous albums and EPs. This time however the songs sound more full and fully formed, the array...

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss; Raising Sand (Rounder) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss; Raising Sand (Rounder) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

From what seems a most unlikely pairing -- the former Led Zepp frontman and the "new bluegrass" singer/fiddle player -- comes one of the best albums of the year: an often eerie folk-framed collection in which the duo engage the heart of songs by Townes Van Zandt (the other-world sound of Nothing), Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan...

Levon Helm: Dirt Farmer (Vanguard) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Levon Helm: Dirt Farmer (Vanguard) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

If anyone has won the right to sings songs of life on hard scrabble farms it is Levon Helm, the former drummer/singer/mandolin player in the Band who grew up on a cotton farm near a town called Turkey Scratch in Arkansas. His group -- called for a time Levon and the Hawks -- backed Ronnie Hawkins, linked up with Bob Dylan and became simply...

Beirut; The Flying Club Cup BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Beirut; The Flying Club Cup BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Ambitious and slightly eccentric pop music doesn't come much more ambitious and eccentric as this, the second album by Zach Condon (aka Beirut), an American with a European sensibility whose musical reach encompasses indie Anglopop, French chanson, nods to Scott Walker, hints of Spanish or mariachi music, snippets of conversations, swooning...

The Phoenix Foundation: Happy Ending (Flying Nun) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The Phoenix Foundation: Happy Ending (Flying Nun) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

In a cover so cheap-looking and unpromising that it reminds me of an intermediate school kid's doodle comes one of the best New Zealand albums of the year. Let's hope that godawful "artwork" doesn't put off any prospective buyers because if it does they will be missing one of the most nuanced, textured, seductively melodic and...

Jim White: Transnormal Skiperoo (Luaka Bop/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Jim White: Transnormal Skiperoo (Luaka Bop/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

White came into something close to mainstream attention with his droll film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus, a poke around the backroads and backwoods of the American South and the music and characters that make it so distinctive. It was at times uncomfortable viewing, but also an essential documentary if you want to get a handle on...

Josh Ritter: The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Josh Ritter: The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Elsewhere has been around long enough to do a bit of bragging about bringing certain people to your attention long before anyone else: one of them being this American singer-songwriter whose previous album The Animal Years (see tag) was such a gem. I just kept bringing it back and named it as one of the Best of Elsewhere 2006. Then he was...

Sigur Ros; Hvarf/Heim (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Sigur Ros; Hvarf/Heim (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

More mysterious loveliness on a double-disc which, in the release schedule of most bands, might have seemed like a stop-gap measure: previously unreleased tracks and rarities, and stripped-back versions of other material. If Eric Clapton or the Arctic Monkeys had done this you'd be yawning. But Sigur Ros from Iceland create such eerie...

Band of Horses: Cease to Begin (SubPop) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Band of Horses: Cease to Begin (SubPop) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Increasingly I am liking contemporary rock albums that annoy me because I can't quickly figure them out -- and this is one of them. Not having heard their "critically acclaimed" debut Everything All The Time I can't say how much this Seattle-based band have changed since they lost their co-founder. But what I hear on this album...

James Luther Dickinson: Killers From Space (Memphis/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

James Luther Dickinson: Killers From Space (Memphis/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

In a cover which looks like it was thought up by a couple of drug-addled on-line kids -- and with a title from a B-grade movie -- comes the latest album by one of the great ignored/overlooked/wayward talents from the South. This is a man for whom a never-recorded, whiskey-soaked Sun session overseen by a voodoo priestess with Mick'n'Keith (c...

The Broken Heartbreakers: The Broken Heartbreakers (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

The Broken Heartbreakers: The Broken Heartbreakers (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

With a sound which draws equally on the Left Banke, the Everly Brothers, Brian Wilson, Beatles, alt.country harmonies and the Anglofolk tradition, this Auckland group can hardly fail. In songwriter John Guy Howell they also have someone with a genuine gift, and the arrangements here -- minimal guitars, a lovely drone quality in Angels,...

Joe Henry: Blood From Stars (Anti)

Joe Henry: Blood From Stars (Anti)

There is something pointless and not a little depressing writing about another fine Joe Henry album: the 18 people who love his work probably already know of the album, and as for the rest . . . ? I guess Henry is always destined to remain something of a private passion, but it is one that Elsewhere would (again) like to share. His last...

Grand Archives: Keep In Mind Frankenstein (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

Grand Archives: Keep In Mind Frankenstein (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

It would be fair to note that after saying very favourable things about this band's impressive debut The Grand Archives, I fully expected to never hear another note by them. Not that they would break up, but that their particular charms would go past so many people that whatever they did next might not get released in New Zealand. It is...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Midlake: The Courage of Others (Inertia)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Midlake: The Courage of Others (Inertia)

This quintet from Texas -- now on their third album -- has only appeared once previously at Elsewhere, a wonderful track on the collection Secret Love 4. That piece (the sample track posted with that album) was so impressive their name imprinted itself on my memory -- and then this album turns up. In the absence of hearing much else by them...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Eels: End Times (Shock)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Eels: End Times (Shock)

The last album by Eels/Mark Oliver Everett was the split personality of Hombre Lobo where gritty and sexually aggressive  songs were alternated with lovely ballads as if he was exploring two sides of the human condition. It is a terrific album (you may only like half the tracks depending on your current frame of mind) and was Everett...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate: Ali and Toumani (World Circuit)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate: Ali and Toumani (World Circuit)

When the great guitarist Ali Farka Toure from Mali died in late 2005 he left an exceptional legacy of wonderful albums, not the least being the exceptional In the Heart of the Moon with kora player Toumani Diabate. That album was why sites like Elsewhere exist (J.Lo hardly needs our help. right?) Their mesmerising music was like a portal...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Mumford and Sons: Sigh No More (Universal)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Mumford and Sons: Sigh No More (Universal)

This four-piece from London may have a banjo on hand and a similar way with an archaic lyric and alt.folk melody as Fleet Foxes, but here on their debut album with widescreen producer Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire's Neon Bible) they bring some dramatic urgency which kicks them clearly into the alt.rock territory. With songs which have a...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Roky Erickson with Okkervil River: True Love Cast Out All Evil (Unspk)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Roky Erickson with Okkervil River: True Love Cast Out All Evil (Unspk)

The most recent album by the emotionally damaged Daniel Johnston, Is and Always Was, found his often fragile and shaky acoustic pop placed in the context of a band -- and while it was fine to hear his songs that way (as he wanted) there was also a sense that their nakedness had been sacrificed. That isn't the case here as Roky Erickson -- the...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Willie Nelson: Country Music (Rounder)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Willie Nelson: Country Music (Rounder)

Willie Nelson makes so many albums these days – from Western Swing with Asleep at the Wheel and Tex-Mex to jazz stylings with Wynton Marsalis – that it's helpful this title is a product description. So here's Willie – now 77 – going back to songs by Ernest Tubb, Doc Watson, Hank Williams and others, as well...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 John Grant: Queen of Denmark (Shock)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 John Grant: Queen of Denmark (Shock)

Although he recorded three albums with the band the Czars, we should perhaps treat this quite exceptional, moving, funny, droll and heart-breaking singer-songwriter as a new artist. And on those terms he immediately places himself in the company of early Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and a more humorous Rufus Wainwright for songs like Sigourney...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Black Keys: Brothers (Shock)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Black Keys: Brothers (Shock)

Albums are usually far too long these days, and this is no exception -- but just when you think you might lose interest here the Keys pull out another angle: around the midpoint there are some superbly dark and soulful blues (Ten Cent Pistol, Sinister Kid) which sound steeped in Howlin' Wolf/Muddy Waters, then a new classic on The Go Getter...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Junky Star (Lost Highway)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Junky Star (Lost Highway)

The name "Ryan Bingham" has been getting a lot of eartime recently -- it was the name of George Clooney's character in the movie Up in the Air. But more importantly in the real world it belongs to one of the most interesting Americana singer-songwriters of the past deacde -- the man who picked up an Oscar for his song The Weary...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Marilyn Crispell and David Rothenberg: One Dark Night I Left My Silent House (ECM/Ode)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Marilyn Crispell and David Rothenberg: One Dark Night I Left My Silent House (ECM/Ode)

American pianist Marilyn Crispell is one of those rarities: classically trained, she jumped in at the very deep and demanding end of the jazz pool – free jazz, Cecil Taylor, the ferociously intellectual Anthony Braxton Quartet – and used her instincts and training to keep afloat. Then she struck out confidently. Crispell...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Richard Thompson: Dream Attic (Proper)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Richard Thompson: Dream Attic (Proper)

Quite what has enraged the exceptional and much admired English guitarist/songwriter Richard Thompson we can only guess, but let's hope he stays angry because this blistering live album -- of all new material, recorded at various venues in the States -- finds him in top form. With a small band -- guitarist Pete Zorn also pulling out saxes,...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Arcade Fire: The Suburbs (Merge)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Arcade Fire: The Suburbs (Merge)

The first film by many aspiring directors is often a low budget affair about hookers, junkies or/and zombies. Being young they believe there is drama (or at least cool dress-ups) in these worlds -- but as many later realise there is more true human emotion and drama in that most mundane of subjects: life in the suburbs. Behind the curtains...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Justin Currie: The Great War (Ryko/Southbound)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Justin Currie: The Great War (Ryko/Southbound)

Some of these songs heard at a distance -- just the sharp pop and guitar jangle coming through -- and you'd pin Justin Currie as a smart power pop singer-songwriter who might give the charts some real damage. But my guess is most people don't want emotional pessimism, venomous songs about partners and a seething rage bordering on...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Black Crowes: Croweology (Silver Arrow)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Black Crowes: Croweology (Silver Arrow)

Two decades ago when the Black Crowes launched their career with the swaggering Shake Your Money Maker they came off as a version of Rod Stewart and the Faces with a little of the Allman Brothers thrown in: theirs was party-style rhythm'n'booze played out in front of a marijuana leaf banner. But more recently – with vocalist Chris...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Devils Elbow: Sand on Chrome (Hit Your Head)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Devils Elbow: Sand on Chrome (Hit Your Head)

This raw, sometimes wilfully ragged and largely terrific duo of Alec Withers (vocals, guitars) and drummer-singer Andrew Gladstone formerly in Garageland (and a couple of friends in places) deliver up hook-filled alt.country rock which owes a nod to Joe Strummer as much as Steve Earle, and they also possesses that free-wheeling spirit which made...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Robert Scott: Ends Run Together (Flying Nun)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Robert Scott: Ends Run Together (Flying Nun)

The last time Robert Scott (of the Clean, the Bats and Magick Heads) appeared at Elsewhere it was for the cupboard cleanout of tapes which made up the lo-fi Tascam Hits. This collection of much more polished, expansive and augmented songs from the sagging shelves of his tapes enjoys assistance from Clean guitarist David Kilgour and...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Naked and the Famous: Passive Me Aggressive You (Somewhat Damaged)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Naked and the Famous: Passive Me Aggressive You (Somewhat Damaged)

From She Loves You and She's a Mod, pop music has always rung to the affirmation of "yeah yeah yeah" -- and to hear this Auckland band work it so well on their newly minted classic single Young Blood (which recently won the Silver Scroll for songwriting) was thrilling. This debut album has been so well canvassed and reviewed that...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest (4AD)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest (4AD)

After their last album Microcastle (one of Elsewhere's best of '08) this beguiling outfit seemed to go off the map, perhaps in part because of mainman Bradford Cox's side project as the equally fascinating (but different) Atlas Sound. If that last Deerhunter sounded like an astute distillation of diverse influences this slightly more low-key...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ben Sollee: Learning to Bend (Shock)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ben Sollee: Learning to Bend (Shock)

Here's a striking opening couplet on an album: "If you're gonna lead my country and you're gonna say it's free, I'm gonna need a little honesty . . . just a few honest words, it shouldn't be that hard". That these spare but blunt sentiments are delivered over cello rather than angry guitars make them even more powerful, and when...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Neil Young: Le Noise (Warners)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Neil Young: Le Noise (Warners)

A preference declared: I've never been as smitten as many by Neil Young's acoustic albums -- never had a copy of Harvest for example, although I hardly needed it, everybody else played it incessantly. But I have always cranked up his rowdy albums with Crazy Horse (most of them) and believe albums like Rust Never Sleeps and Arc-Weld are among...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Jim Jones Revue: Burning Your House Down (Liberator)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Jim Jones Revue: Burning Your House Down (Liberator)

You really gotta love the JJ Revue who deliver hotrod rock'n'roll which draws from the Fifties (Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis) as filtered through the most wild and dissolute of Rod Stewart/Faces (or the Quireboys with more rocking honky-tonk blues in their soul) with the kind of trash energy of Grinderman. Produced by Jim Sclavunos (who...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Dear Time's Waste: Spells (DTW/Isaac)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Dear Time's Waste: Spells (DTW/Isaac)

The previous EP in '08, Room for Rent, by this Auckland singer/writer Claire Duncan was notable for its droning and hypnotic qualities (guitar washes) alongside delicately realised folk, and you detected a talent which could stretch in many directions, from a constrained Bjork-meets-JAMChain to slightly disconcerting meditations on love . . ....

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Great North: Newfoundland (GNMR)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Great North: Newfoundland (GNMR)

This Auckland band impressed mightily with their Soldiers EP of last year and this debut album really steps up to the plate. Coming from an alt.country end but with discreet influences from the likes of Springsteen, Dylan, Neil Young and the Waterboys as much as muscular poetry and indie.rock (the landslide of guitars which bury All Eyes...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Young Veins: Take a Vacation! (One Haven/Southbound)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Young Veins: Take a Vacation! (One Haven/Southbound)

Here's my theory about The Young Veins, for what it's worth: they are aliens who crashed landed secretly in California behind a music store, got on the computer late at night and Googled "pop music". Disturbed by the cops they grabbed some band names and songs at random, fled with some instruments and have subsequently launched...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Llyria (ECM/Ode)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Llyria (ECM/Ode)

Because music on the ECM label often invites a litany of familiar adjectives -- austere, cool, detached -- it's a pleasure to throw this disc into the player and find yourself thinking more along the lines of . . . muscular, vigorous, assertive.   Even the cover here suggests fireworks --- and while the music isn't exactly incendiary...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Various Artists: Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Various Artists: Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

Subtitled “Alternative Takes on Congotronics”, this well-annotated double disc lets loose alternative and post-rock acts on the lo-fi but compelling music from Kinshasa dance clubs where cheap keyboards and beat-machines were slammed alongside traditional thumb piano, found instruments (pots'n'pans), megaphones, electric guitars...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Bruce Springsteen: The Promise (Sony)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Bruce Springsteen: The Promise (Sony)

“You know kids go, 'Hey, when are you gonna make a record?',” Bruce Springsteen said in March 77, “I say, 'One of these days'.” And they were difficult days for the man they call The Boss. After his breakthrough album Born to Run in '75 – which sold around 10 million globally and took him to the covers...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Giant Sand: Blurry Blue Mountain (Fire/Southbound)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Giant Sand: Blurry Blue Mountain (Fire/Southbound)

The next few months sees the re-presentation of the Giant Sand back-catalogue, the Tucson-based band helmed by singer-songwriter Howe Gelb for these past 25 years which has had among its ranks the core of Calexico (John Convertino and Joey Burns) and a guest list which has included M. Ward, the late Vic Chestnutt and Rainer Placek, Steve Wynn of...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Sven Olsen's Brutal Canadian Love Saga: Songs from the Bottom of a Hilltop (SOBCLS)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Sven Olsen's Brutal Canadian Love Saga: Songs from the Bottom of a Hilltop (SOBCLS)

Recently I heard this collection -- 400 copies only, two CDs, a thick booklet of artfully rendered lyrics, posters and more delivered in medium-sized pizza box -- being described as a cult item, bound to lose money, an ambitious conceit . . . but also pretty terrific. Right on all counts. Naming your ensemble after an obscure Norwegian...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Eva Prowse: I Can't Keep Secrets (Eva Prowse/Rhythmethod)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Eva Prowse: I Can't Keep Secrets (Eva Prowse/Rhythmethod)

Prowse -- here with her debut album -- has probably crossed more people's paths than they might think: she has toured with Fly My Pretties, opened for Wanda Jackson and appeared on the excellent album Trouble on the Waterfront by her father Chris Prowse. That is emblematic of her musical dexterity, and the fact she has the Phoenix...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010: READERS' CHOICES

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010: READERS' CHOICES

And the people have spoken. In addition to my own Best of Elsewhere 2010 list below, this year readers got to have their say -- and pleasingly many picked albums which I simply didn't get. Sorry, the National still don't do it for me  . . . but came through with a lot of fans. No matter: it's all down to taste, the mood of the...

Hossam Ramzy: Rock the Tabla (Arc Music)

Hossam Ramzy: Rock the Tabla (Arc Music)

With the kind of diverse guests only this acclaimed Egyptian percussion player could call on -- jazz drummers Billy Cobham and Manu Katche, A.R. Rahman (aka "the Mozart of Madras", of Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack fame), guitarist Phil Thornton, taiko drummer Joji Hirota, Indian and Egyptian ensembles -- the great Ramzy once...

Bierut: The Rip Tide (Pompeii)

Bierut: The Rip Tide (Pompeii)

Within the very bland cover - despite the gold impressed lettering -- lies the typically colourful, romantic sound which we have to come associate with Zach Condon and his associates who bring accordion, horns, a touch of "South of the Border" as well as ukulele and pump organ. Although scrupulously crafted -- you don't write horn...

Tinariwen: Amassakoul (Wrasse/Shock): BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Tinariwen: Amassakoul (Wrasse/Shock): BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Tinariwen were from a group of stateless wanderers who lived at the whim of weather and changing political climates in the greater Sahara, and were educated in the language of armed struggle. In the 80s they developed their music of exile. But just as blues singers from America's south found acoustic guitars didn't cut it in the hard-edged...

James Hunter, People Gonna Talk (Rounder/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

James Hunter, People Gonna Talk (Rounder/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

This unashamedly enjoyable album is crammed full of songs where Hunter's velvet soulful r'n'b vocals are placed alongside a superbly tight little band of upright bass, saxophones and locked-in drums. It is only when a sometimes skittering sax or Hunter's angular guitar parts come in you realise this isn't some 60s reissue or lost Sam Cooke...

Katia Guerreiro; Tudo ou Nada (Le Chant du Monde) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Katia Guerreiro; Tudo ou Nada (Le Chant du Monde) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

World music purists -- those who think listening to international music is morally empowering, as opposed to just plain enjoyable -- don't like to admit that there are waves of fashion in world music just like in Western pop. The juju of King Sunny Ade gave way to South African music (thank you Paul Simon), and the Cajun/zydeco years which...

Jason Collett; Idols of Exile (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Jason Collett; Idols of Exile (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

This Canadian singer-songwriter makes a big impression on this very likeable and diverse debut album: at times he sounds like a less irritating David Grey, elsewhere he reveals some beautiful pop sensibilities, sometimes there is a touch of blues from the guest guitarist, and damn if the guy doesn't sound like he's been a Verlaines fan at one...

Miriam Clancy; Lucky One (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Miriam Clancy; Lucky One (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

I was sent an early copy of this album and invited to write the bio for Clancy -- an Auckland-based singer-songwriter I had not met or seen live. I had no hesitation: this 11 song debut of originals was so full of lyrical maturity, sophisticated song writing, heartfelt songs and raw emotions (I'm now quoting from the bio, obviously) that I...

Bob Dylan; Modern Times (Sony/BMG) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Bob Dylan; Modern Times (Sony/BMG) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Bob Dylan's 31st studio album in the 44 years since his self-titled folkie debut -- confirms his status as one of the great songwriters whose powers are undergoing a late-career reinvigoration. Lyrically this is a dense album -- a beautiful song like When the Deal Goes Down edges its way between the spiritual and the secular -- yet Dylan has...

Hacienda Brothers; What's Wrong With Right? BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Hacienda Brothers; What's Wrong With Right? BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

The self-titled 2005 debut by these old hands -- singer-songwriter Dave Gonzalez from the rockabilly outfit the Paladins, and guitarist/accordionist Chris Gaffney from Dave Alvin's band -- sounded somewhere between Waylon's wobbly warble and Willie's languorous delivery, and their album came with impeccable credentials: it was produced by Dan...

Josh Ritter; The Animal Years (V2/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Josh Ritter; The Animal Years (V2/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

From Moscow -- the one in Idaho -- Ritter has been championed by New York mainstream and American indie press for his literate and passionate singer-songwriter style, and here that is combined with gripping and memorable songs with lyrical and melodic hooks which grab like a gaff. Latterly he's been wooing them in Ireland. The album is...

M Ward; Post-War (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

M Ward; Post-War (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Matt Ward could easily be a musicologist's research assignment: this album -- his fifth -- roams effortless from hushed balladry to guitar work which sounds like the Shadows on a surf-rock kick, and from alt.rock to something Paul Simon would be proud of. And in many places he sounds like someone a few decades older -- and blacker -- than he...

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