Saturday, 24 January 2015

Gigging Forever Awards 2014: Part Four

And so we return to our fictional awards ceremony - please make sure you pick up your goody bag containing Parts One, Two and Three on the way back to your table.

Actually, there's an awful lot of this “normal music” stuff to work our way through this year, so if you could maybe manage to get through this epic lot without going to powder your nose again, then next time we can finish up with some "funny music" which I know is what you're all waiting for.

Alright, rock on, Chessington...

Best album that Karin says I’m not allowed to call Swedish Country because then nobody will want to listen to it, but it’s made by Swedes and it’s sort-of-kind-of country-ish and yeah look it’s just a load of good songs really isn’t it?

The nominees:

- First Aid Kit: Stay Gold

A surprisingly unchallenging category to judge this year - if you wanted a load of gorgeous songs in a sort of folky-country-indie hipster-ish style sung in close harmony by two sisters from Stockholm, there was really only one place to go. A bit more polished and “American-sounding” than previously and with some string arrangements to melt your heart, this was the year they finally broke through their own previously set high standards and into the British consciousness. But Karin would probably like you to know that she was there first, alright?

And I would probably like you to know that I didn't cry during 'Cedar Lane' when we saw them live, but it wouldn't be true.

And the winner is: Um...

Yes, I stood this close to them. I like to think we had a little "moment".

Best combination of beats and violins on an album:

The nominees:

Clean Bandit – New Eyes

So, you think electronic music is boring? You think it’s stupid? You think it’s repetitive?” drones the ultra-annoying voiceover at the start of track 1, 'Mozart’s House'. No, I don't actually, but I do think this track which thinks it's oh-so-clever by mixing dubstep beats and rapping about Italian musical terms with a violin motif from Mozart’s String Quartet number 21 is more irritating than fibreglass underpants.

Much better are the tracks which try less hard, like the straight-ahead "pop classics with a touch of strings", 'Extraordinary' and 'Rather Be' (aka the 6 seconds of music that you know from M&S’s Christmas adverts.) But who cares what I think? They’re really going places with da kidz, innit.

- Owen Pallett: In Conflict

This is more like it. If I said this sounded like 90's alternative music crossed with 80's synth-pop, you'd probably say “that's a very lazy comparison”, and when you'd finished saying that, you’d probably also say “that sounds shit.” Add in a proper massive orchestra (which announces its intention to impress from the first second of the first track) and lyrics about not having children in case you eat them (?!), and you'd imagine a right old hodge podge.

But dammit, it works. It doesn't sound like anything else I've heard this year (or, possibly ever), and although he's not the world’s most flashy singer, his understated delivery is the perfect foil to the synth drums and brass of the dramatic material. But don't just take my word for it, put thine ears to good use and get thee to YouTube to check out 'Song for Five and Six',  'In Conflict', and 'Sky Behind the Flag'. See? Told you.

And the winner is… Owen Pallett. Not even close.

Best album by the frontperson of a now presumably defunct band (although A-ha have annoyingly announced a gig since I started writing this, but let’s ignore that for now)

The nominees:

- Morten Harket: Brother

I'm fairly sure this album was written and recorded by a giant computer into which someone has programmed the secret formula for getting onto the Radio 2 playlist. Still, 'Whispering Heart' is very good in a Keane-y/ Coldplay-y epic-y kind of way.

- Nina Persson: Animal Heart

It’s a bit like the Cardigans but less twee. Actually, that just means it's a bit like the later Cardigans albums from when most people had stopped listening to them. I only bought this because my Swedish teacher mentioned that it was coming out, and they're from Karin’s hometown, and, yeah I dunno. Can you tell that, although I like it, I don't really have much to say about this album? Shall I stop now? Alrighty then. Here's the title track.

- Jimi Goodwin: Odludek

I can't say I saw this one coming, mostly because I wasn't really paying attention. I've loved Doves since their first album, and kept up with what they were doing for a good 10 years – but it was only when this was announced that I suddenly realised they hadn't done anything for ages. Given that this album has been such a critical success and Jimi's now touring on his own to rave reviews, and that the “other two” have started a new band without the slightest hint of bitterness (oh no), I think this album is a fine contender for this category, which is just as well since I couldn't think of another one to put it in.

The music is all over the place, which is a fine thing, from the Phil-Spector produces the Manics (mit extra cool brass!) sound of ‘Terracotta Warrior’ to the none-more-Doves groovy melancholy of ‘Didsbury Girl’ and the rave’n’bass-tastic ‘Live Like a River’. And that’s just the first three tracks. Let’s not even get into the fake-gameshow theme meets frankly mental psychedelic circus of ‘Man v Dingo’… the mind boggles.

And the winner is… Jimi Goodwin. Doves who?

Best 2014 Mercury Prize-nominee that I had actually heard before it got nominated, yes really, honest, so there

- East India Youth: Total Strife Forever

This was an actually useful Amazon recommendation. (Hey, Amazon, here's a recommendation, would you like to pay some tax? LOOK AT ME SATIRING, EH?)

An interesting mix of frantic, nervous, and sometimes minimalist electronica (opener 'Glitter Recession', and the 'Total Strife Forever' suite) with some more conventional synth-y, shoegazey songs with echoey vocals like the lovely 'Dripping Down', this album didn't win the Mercury Prize, but it does win an award here today, which I'm sure will serve as reassurance to William Doyle (aka East India Youth) that he's on the right tracks.

The "Look, let’s not be too clever about this" award 

Let's be honest, sometimes you don’t want to listen to a 3-disc concept album about how Hannibal got the runs on his way across the Alps, or have your brain violated by clever-clever virtuoso playing – and it's at moments like this that you need some bloody good pop music.

The nominees:

- Foxes: Glorious

'Glorious' / 'Holding on to Heaven'

- Katy B: Little Red

'5am' / 'Crying for No Reason'

- Sia: 1,000 Forms of Fear

'Chandelier' / 'Burn the Pages'

- MØ: No Mythologies to Follow

'Maiden' / 'Red in the Grey'

But hold on, just because you fancy some of the fizzy stuff, it doesn't mean you have to settle for Wand Erection or Spitney Drears – there's some incredibly well written, well performed and excitingly produced stuff out there. From Dr. Who guest star Foxes (yes I nearly missed her, too), with her straight-ahead mix of intelligent uptempo stuff and ballads, to Katy B's more urban take on electro-pop, via MØ, who is “The Danish Robyn” (or so the "You must buy this cos we say so” card in HMV would have had me believe) – with an R&B tinge to her infectiously catchy tunes.

But this year was Sia's year – she's come a long way from being a guest vocalist on the first Zero7 album - and this was the year that she stopped giving her monster smash hits away to people like Rihanna, David Guetta and Beyonce and stepped up to take her rightful props with the stunning ‘Chandelier’ and another 9 tracks of equal hit potential. She even had Shia LeBoeuf in her video, which was fairly brave of her.

And the winner is… Sia. But give ‘em all a try.

Actually it’s just occurred to me that these are all female artists. Either men completely suck at making good pop music or I have some kind of issue...

“Nicest” Album of the year

Of course, when you do need a rest from having your ears assaulted by stuff that's so out there, it's in there again, you don't have to head to the pop music shelf - you could do worse than checking out one of these.

- Ben Watt: Hendra

- Elbow: The Take-off and Landing of Everything

- M83: You and the Night

I'm sure Elbow and their fans won't thank me for calling them 'nice' but this year's album was a bit less grandiose and epic than the last couple (the amazing 'Charge' aside), which worked in their favour, and M83's soundtrack to 'You and the Night', whilst not the barnstorming follow up to 'Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming' which I'd like them to hurry up, stop dreaming and make, did indeed calm my frazzled nerves at various times of stress this year.

But it's with Everything but the Girl’s Ben Watt that the title of "Nice" artist of the year should rest. Quiet, soothing, gentle acoustic led songs, it's a lovely album, but it chiefly wins for the very reason that it means I have an excuse to post this photo of David Gilmour playing live with Ben this year whilst my friend Tim and I stared open mouthed in the front row. I know, I’m a git.

Okay, I can see you're getting restless now, go and take a quick break and we'll be back soon with the last few clumsily worded categories...

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