The MOJO CD - 2015
1. Courtney Barnett - Pedestrian At Best
First up, someone I've never heard of, old fart that I am. Ms Barnett chanels Elastica chaneling Wire. Enjoyable enough, with lots of punky pizzazz, unremarkable but for Courtney's declamatory vocals.
2. Sleater-Kinney - Bury Our Friends
So, this is what Sleater-Kinney sound like. From The Libertines school but less messy, just. Gets by on pure charm.
3. New Order - Restless
Like Sleater-Kinney, another band with a comeback album out this year. New Order had their moments for me, but quickly became formulaic. They now have a replacement doing a wan impersonation of Hooky, and it sounds like it always sounded like. All rather predicatable.
4. Songhoy Blues - Soubour
A great band from Mali, a place that seems to be the current centre for interesting African music. A beguiling mix of African blues, rock'n'roll and punky energy. Championed by Damon Albarn, the Blur frontman knows a good thing when he hears it, obviously.
5. Gaz Coombes - 20/20
Some really nice modern pop from the Supergrass frontman taken from his highly acclaimed Matador album. If I was not up to my eyes in reviews to do, I might have bought this.
6. Bill Ryder-Jones - Two To Birkenhead
This could easily have come out in 1978, a mix of Nikki Sudden & The Jacobites louche indie rock meets Neil Young moves, and Wreckless Eric's failed romantic bittersweet swagger. It seems prog is not the only genre to be stuck on past glories.
7. Jim O'Rourke - Last Year
From the musical polymath's marvellous Simple Songs album, the only release on this compilation I already own. It's not simple, at all, but it certainly is a song, and a bloody good one too.
8. John Grant - Down Here
I quite like this guy, he writes some good songs, mostly bitching about broken relationships. If you get too close to him and it goes wrong, he'll almost certainly tear you apart in song. Here, he sounds like late 70s Bowie, and there are worse things to ape.
9. Matthew E. White - Rock & Roll Is Cold
Very Velvets/Lou Reed. There is nothing new under the sun. Apparently it's meant to be knowing, which kills it for me, but probably an unfair way to judge the previously unheard.
10. Sufjan Stevens - Should Have Known Better
I have a couple of albums by this highly individual and remarkable talent. Classy modern folk-pop Americana...sort of. Very nice indeed, and the best track so far on this rather average compilation.
11. Father John Misty - Bored In The USA
The wonderfully acerbic Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman, ex of Fleet Foxes) here takes on American consumerism and religion. Is there actually a difference, one wonders? A sad Nick Drake-meets-Randy Newman ballad in melancholic reply to Springsteen's tub-thumping similarly titled anthem, countered by biting lyrics..."Save me, President Jesus, I'm bored in the USA". Marvellous! I might have to buy this album.
12. Low - What Part Of Me
This band have been around for a long time. Over twenty years in fact, and are now up to their eleventh album. And I know nothing about them. This is a short, classy, effortless and oddly upbeat yet slighly miserablist anthem, which if I guess right is what they're known for. Can't say it makes want to delve deeper.
13. Julia Holter - Feel You
The album this is lifted from is MOJO's choice for Album Of The Year. This is pleasant enough, a piece of lightly orchestrated intelligent pop. One track out of context is not enough to go on, but it sounds promising.
14. Joanna Newsome - Leaving The City
Joanna Newsome's elfin warblings invite inevitable comparisons to a young Ms Bush, and so does the structure of this song. I saw Joanna live a few years ago at a festival where her lone presence on stage was dwarfed by her harp as she struggled to make an impression on the huddled masses in the field in front of her, later made all the more difficult by a persistent rain shower, when I and many others drifted back to our tents. Judging by this intimate slice of cleverly instrumented escapism, I may have to investigate further.
15. Jason Isbell - If It Takes A Lifetime
"We have both types of music here, country AND western". Jason does country rock. Not for me.
As ever, a mixed bag, and you can check out MOJO's full list HERE. Obviously, some truly innovative releases have been left out completely, but this mag, jointly with Uncut are the two best mainstream music monthlies (extra helping of aliteration, there!) by a country or indeed, urban mile.