So many great albums have dropped in the past year that I don’t know how to even make a list of the ones that I liked. How many can I list? Fifty? Sixty? More? Music blogs and magazines have already put out their top albums of 2013 lists. Some, such as Rolling Stone, have listed 50; NPR has 100 favourite songs and 50 favourite records; PopMatters lists 75 best albums of 2013; and many others have lists for every genre (tip: if you want to get a smattering of what was happening in metal last year, do check out Stereogum’s top 50 in that loud genre; I was happy when I took a peek there to see the only metal album of last year that I bought, Deafheaven’s Sunbather, was No.1). Read more
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Every other day, I have to lie on my back with a hot compress under my neck in a darkened physiotherapist’s room, a place I am forced to visit three or four times a week because of a combination of factors: 1) rapidly advancing age; 2) a vain attempt to compensate for 1) by loading more plates on the bars at the gym; and, 3) an old niggling problem with the neck, which has something to do with decades of sitting in front of a computer. The lying down period is followed by pulls and pressures, not always gentle, applied to my neck, back and arms by a well-trained therapist. Read more

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Okay, I’ll be honest about this. The reasons why I first tried the three bands mentioned in this week’s edition of DC had nothing to do with their music, at least initially. Later, once I had heard their stuff, I got hooked but that is another matter. But the reason why I first picked up each of their albums had little to do with their music. It was actually about names. Read more

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The first time I tried to watch Martin Scorcese’s Hugo I did so on an aircraft, on the piddly little screen on the back of the seat in front of mine in the economy section. Bad decision. Hugo is Scorcese’s first film shot in 3D and a tiny screen in the cramped confines of an airline seat does it no justice.

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Tomorrow is Monday. No matter how good or bad your weekend was, tomorrow is Monday. It’s been too many decades – far more than I would care to mention – since I left school, but the tendency to malinger on Monday mornings still lingers in me every time that first working day of the week looms ahead, precisely, invariably and without exception. So to dull the blow of Monday mornings, I try to put together a playlist for my commute to work, something to make it easier to get back to the grind. Last week, I surveyed my latest haul of albums, songs and podcasts and zeroed in on something that I hoped would be a good antidote to the Monday morning blues, the new Best Coast album, The Only Place. Read more

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My daughter, about to be eight, has an earworm. You know, a piece of music that seems stuck in your ear so seemingly permanently that you just couldn’t get it out. It’s a song that she hums, sings and dances with vigorously even though it’s not being played anywhere. And I’m happy. Delighted, actually, because the song happens to be Lonely Boy by The Black Keys. Actually, the duo that makes up The Black Keys may also seem like an earworm for Download Central, in case you are one of those readers who for some strange reason follows this column fairly regularly—I don’t know how many times I have written about them, obsessively, compulsively and, perhaps also, maniacally.
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One of my favourite podcasts—a free one to boot—is called The Roadhouse. It’s a weekly blues podcast that is into its 360th episode and, for the past five or six years that I’ve been a subscriber, a great way to discover blues music. Run by Tony Steidler-Dennison who calls his podcast a “true labour of love”, The Roadhouse is described is a podcast that gets you “the finest blues that you never heard”. That’s true. Listen to any of the hour-long episodes of The Roadhouse and, even if you’re a hard-core blues fan, you are likely to be surprised by the number of new artistes that you can discover. Read more

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I don’t remember waiting for any album as eagerly as I have been for The Black Keys’ new album, El Camino. In October, I heard a track from it, Lonely Boys, and ever since I have wanted to lay my hands on the blues duo’s seventh full-length album. Seven albums in less than nine years is a staggering achievement by any standard but not only have guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney been relentless with their releases, each of which is followed by hectic touring, but on each of their albums, they have tweaked and evolved the minimalist, near-purist blues sound that has become their hallmark. Read more

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Over-produced music has never really caught my fancy. I’m referring to the kind of music that producers or DJs sitting in their bedrooms conjure up using nothing much more than a laptop or two. They either mix and match sound samples or “create” compositions using synthesised sound. I’m probably a bit orthodox when it comes to musicians—I prefer mine to actually pick up instruments and play them rather than use the keyboards of their computers to tweak and program software to produce their music. There are exceptions, though. Read more

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Now that the headline above has managed to offend some readers who’ve turned their noses up in disgust and gone over to the next page, I can start my bigoted rant. Only, it’s neither bigoted nor is it a rant. It’s a rave actually, about bands that have the word “Black” in their names. How many of them have you come across? Countless, right? I sure have. Beginning with Black Sabbath (sorry, I promise that I shall not mention their name again; okay, maybe once more towards the end and that’s all) and moving to The Black Keys, Black Mountain, Black Crowes, Black Angels, Black Eyed Peas, Black Lips, or even simply Black. I did a search for bands with Black in their names and came up with a list that could possibly fill up several pages of tightly printed text. What is it, really, with bands and the word Black? Read more

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