To celebrate the end of 2010, some of 4fortyfour’s contributors share their favourite musical moment of the year.
Wild Beasts suppported by Villagers live in Cyprus Avenue, Cork, Friday, March 26.
Wild Beasts’ Two Dancers was a 2009 album that passed me by until 2010. Conversely I had been following (and lapping up) everything that Conor O’Brien’s Villagers had been up to since March 2009. But when the two came together, supported by Leeds’ Lone Wolf, it seemed almost too good to be true.
Everything just seemed right about that night in Cyprus Avenue, Friday, March 26. The crowd was in stand-offish mode for Villagers, that inescapable feeling they are on the cusp of something big. But still not there yet. It was a matter of weeks…
But Wild Beasts put on a show that left me breathless. If you haven’t heard Two Dancers yet, then you really are missing out. The slow, building ‘Fun Powder Plot’ was perhaps the only breather the crowd had for an hour as the likes of ‘Hooting and Howling’, ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’ and the previous album’s ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ laid siege to Cork.
In a time when bands are struggling to stand out, it is great to know there is a band like Wild Beasts out there showing the young up-and-comers like Villagers just how jaw-dropping a show can be.
There was no coincidence that instead of shouting the clichéd ‘one more tune, one more tune…’ when the band left the stage, the crowd chanted ‘All The King’s Men’s refrains. Magical.
I first heard Bloodbuzz Ohio when in the back of a car with two friends, giggling, huddled together for warmth. The driver decided when the moment was right and pressed play. This wasn’t the 1950s, when music was spread by word of mouth and kids cruised in cars all night long. This wasn’t even the 1980s when people queued all night to get the first copy of U2’s The Joshua Tree. This is 2010 when music is a solitary pastime. People download online at home, often while checking their emails, wearing pyjamas for added glamour.
The National are not lookers, or superstars. They are perfectly representative of the indie beard-stroking mentality: men listen to them at home, think about lost loves, and write passionately about them on faceless forums. There are some bands, however, that bring people out of their houses and searching for like-minded sensitive souls. The National are one such band. With the release of Bloodbuzz Ohio off the then-forthcoming ‘High Violet’ hipsters sought each other out to listen together, to assure each other that the driving drumbeat, Matt Berninger’s flatly despairing voice and the repeated refrain “I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees” made sense, because it did. We all knew exactly what he meant. Didn’t we?
My favourite musical moment of the year happened one night in late November, the night it began to snow. This great band from Ennis, C!ties, were playing a set in my friend’s front room at an after-party for their single launch. It’s a long story but we organized the gig ourselves and it was lots of fun. BATS and Guilty Optics played too, the place was jammed, loads of lovely people having a great time with great music.
Anyway, the night wore on, and eventually C!ties played. They started at around half three in the morning and my favourite musical moment of 2010 happened during that set. Their last song, ‘Satellites’, was a real cracker. There’s this bit in the middle, a so-cheesy-it’s-good, IDM-style breakdown part. The lads bring it down quiet, everybody hunkers down on their hands and knees, pulsing as one for a minute or so. Then, bang, Sean sweeps the filter, the drums come back in and the whole room jumps as high as they can in the air. There was half a second there, when everyone was airborne at once. That was my moment.
My musical highlight of the year was Vantastival which debuted on the Festival scene over the May bank holiday in Dunary, Co. Louth. There were many mistakes made by the organisers of the event such as an obvious lack of PR, an over reliance on the campervan enthusiasts for a crowd and poor marketing in the local area.
However there was a wonderful atmosphere and almost a sense that this was a festival by artists for artists as everywhere I looked I caught bands enjoying the act of spectators rather than performers. With nearly 100% all Irish line-up including the likes of Kila, Jinx Lennon, Mick Flannary and Jack L; Vantastival was a perfect festival for me as writer of 2UIBestow Irish Music blog. The musical highlight was seeing The Dublin City Ramblers perform the Sunday afternoon slot in front of a few hundred people. It quickly became a massive sing-song and my kids loved the old ballads. Other highlights for me include hearing Anthony Furey & The Young Folks live for the first time, dancing with my twin boys to the ska sound of The Bionic Rats and jumping around while Tucan performed the Daft Punk classic ‘Around The World’’.
The best new artist I saw was the wonderful Valerie June from Memphis. Valerie’s voice is both delicate and immense and I thank Vantastival for introducing me this amazing talent.
I’ve experienced some incredible music-related moments in 2010. Most of these happened while travelling across the United States; from seeing the Bowery Ballroom and Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village, New York to walking down Beale St. and seeing Sun Studios in Memphis, last summer was one of the greatest times of my life. One thing I was particularly excited about was getting to visit Wolf River Harbour, a channel of the Mississippi River, where Jeff Buckley drowned in 1997 (I’ve always had a morbid curiousity for seeing the places where music stars died).
But if I had to pull one particular event out of them all, it would be seeing Sarah McLachlan perform at the Lilith Fair music festival in Camden, New Jersey in July. I have been a fan of the Canadian singer-songwriter since I was thirteen, when I got a copy of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and always seemed to be out of the country when she visited Ireland. It was amazing to finally see her live. In a perfect set showcasing her haunting and emotion-filled vocal tones, McLachlan treated her fans to their favourites from her extensive back catalogue, including ‘Angel’, ‘Building a Mystery’, ‘I Will Remember You’, ‘Adia’, ‘Sweet Surrender’ and ‘Possession’, as well as tracks from her 2010 album Laws of Illusion.
Seeing Courtyard Hounds (two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks), Missy Higgins and Sara Bareilles, who also took to the stage at Lilith, was certainly the icing on an already fantastic cake. I can only hope 2011 is as exciting. Happy New Year everyone!
There was so much great new music in 2010, especially Irish music, it seems odd that my musical moment of the year stems from an album released over twelve years ago. You see, my grandmother, Sinead Connolly, died in June this year in Tullamore hospital. Though she’d fought a long illness, her death was still a shock.
I was at home when my father called to break the news and just happened to be listening to Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs. It was a record I hadn’t actually listened to whole in more than five years but I’ve always found its sparse winter soundscapes strangely comforting.
I’m still not sure why I chose to search Deserter’s Songs out that particular morning but losing myself in songs like ‘Tonite it shows’, ‘Endlessly’ and ‘Opus 40’ provided just the crutch I needed to get through a really difficult time. Don’t get me wrong, it still broke my heart to lose one of the few people I’d literally known all my life but there was something so consoling about listening to that album – at that particuar time – that it had to be my musical moment of 2010.