6 (and a bit) favourite musical encounters from the first half of 2011, around which the miscellany of life lies
Words: Tom Randall
Best Coast photography: Justin Edwards
Most are gigs. Music lives in open air.
Wire + HEALTH, Beck’s Festival Bar, 20 January 2011: I like HEALTH on record: I love the mass of seething sex that is HEALTH live. This was my second show of theirs. As for Wire, I am only really familiar with their first three albums, and recognised virtually nothing of what they played. But they were engrossing, displaying a keen power given buoyancy by what seemed like a grin that stretched across the entire band.
Bat For Lashes, warm-up show, the Sydney Opera House, May 2011: A guilty pleasure, but I’d rather listen to Natasha’s diary-plundering drama alongside her inventive melodicism and harmony than Florence Welch’s cliched histrionics steeped in lazy blues references.
DOOM, Oxford Art Factory: Genius of hip-hop, whose lyrical and musical sensibility is always rich but rough-hewn. A similar experience to Wire, in that (and in spite of the mask) I swear I saw him smiling the whole set.
Os Mutantes + Best Coast: having been disappointed by BC’s debut (no way did it live up to those earlier singles) those songs lit up in concert, surprisingly in spite of absence of vocal harmony wash. Good thing too – I had to miss Joanna Newsom (my ticket went to a good friend) as well as The Clean with Smudge to make this set. Marred by an unresponsive crowd of hipsters. Fuck, people! Os Mutantes played a brilliant set of ebullient and undulating rock, which woke the crowd out of its stupor.
I haven’t read very much this year due to time constraints. This, shamefully, includes a lot of worthy CB posts. But I count Hannah Golightly’s Odd Future and a Brave New World as among the best I’ve read on the issue, and more generally. That, and John Calvert’s piece for The Quietus.
A dead tie between Thurston Moore’s Demolished Thoughts and PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. Enough has been written on these two albums. Some of the best pure songwriting and structural and timbral experimentation of TM’s celebrated career. Polly made a concept album that didn’t suck, with a lightness and deftness of touch that draws the listener into the elegant pop architecture that wholly supported her theme.