A couple of weeks back, I listed five albums that stood out for me in 2012, five that I would certainly take with me into the next year. All five—Sigur Ros’s Valtari, Patti Smith’s Banga, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, and Dr. John’s Locked Down—are doing heavy-duty shifts on my playlists and, I’m quite sure, shall continue to do so for a bit. But if I look back again at 2012, there are a few albums that I wish I’d spent more time with. Some of them are gems that are sitting there to be discovered. Read more

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Many new musicians can remind you of older (and sometimes more famous) ones. Three years ago, I’d written about the Rhode Island-based alternative folk and blues band, Deer Tick, and mentioned how uncannily Bob Dylanesque their lead singer, John McCauley sounds—so much so that a colleague after hearing them play even dubbed him ‘Baby Dylan’. But they’re not the only ones. Whenever I hear New Jersey’s rockers, The Gaslight Anthem, I’m reminded of Bruce Springsteen—and, in fact, that association is not without basis: The Gaslight Anthem are quite heavily influenced by The Boss; they’ve opened for him; and he’s played with them. More recently, I heard Charles Bradley who is known as ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’ and at 64 has just one album (No Time For Dreaming) to his credit. Bradley has his own style of singing funk, soul and R&B tunes but you can also distinctively discern strong influences of two legends, the late James Brown and the late Otis Redding. Then I read that Bradley began his career as a James Brown mimicker on stage before he found his own groove.

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My new friend Shazam and I are sitting in a tiny bar swigging beer and eating some not so healthy food (actually, I am drinking and eating; my new friend is not up for much of that, but more about him later). And listening to an eclectic playlist of songs that the bar’s DJ has lined up for the afternoon. The music is good so the afternoon turns out to be a long one. Several familiar tunes roll out. I hear a couple of Pearl Jam songs – Alive and Yellow Ledbetter. You feel good when you hear songs that you like or, even better, songs that you like but haven’t got around to listening to in ages, when someone unexpectedly plays them in a public place, like a bar or a restaurant. Read more

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It began a couple of weeks back when, to mark Jerry Garcia’s death anniversary, I wrote a piece remembering my own dalliance with the music of Garcia and his erstwhile band, The Grateful Dead. For much of the next couple of weeks, I found myself delving deeper and deeper into music that I’d first heard decades ago. I fished out a DVD (a gift from a friend) of Blind Faith’s concert in Hyde Park in 1969; I rummaged through my music collection to look for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats (1969); I found a New Riders of The Purple Sage album, The Adventures of Panama Red (1973) that I hadn’t heard in ages and so on. In other words, I turned retro. But it wasn’t too long before I was jolted out of my nostalgia-laden reminiscing by some astoundingly good new music. Read more

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After a rather loud beginning to the New Year, when I spent a week blasting the cobwebs of my mind out with heavy black metal bands (as I wrote last time), things have turned much mellower. I’ve turned to alternative folk, blues-infused rock and even some experimental music.
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It’s only a few days into 2010 but I can’t wait to hear some of the new music that’s going to come along pretty soon. On my playlist are tracks of bands that I know are all set to put out new albums this year and some of the tunes that are doing overtime on my burgeoning playlist I know are precursors of what we’ll get from them in the coming months.
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I don’t know how many people read this column regularly (four, perhaps?) but ever since Download Central began a little over a year back, I’ve heard one common response: “Why do you write about bands that we’ve never heard of?” This has become such a refrain that I’ve often felt a twinge of self-doubt. Am I really writing about completely obscure bands that no one knows or cares about? If that was indeed true, what was the point of writing the column?
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I know we’re barely into the tenth month this year and November and December are still left, but 2009 has thus far been such a hyperactive period for music that I couldn’t help writing about the best that I’ve heard till now. It’s not easy to do a list of the best new albums but let me try.

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