There’s been so much hype about Celebration Day, the name of the 2007 concert by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, who reunited to play just one gig at London’s O2 arena as a tribute to the legendary producer and music industry executive, the late Ahmet Ertegun, that even after the recordings – both video and audio – of the concert were released late last year, I hesitated to check them out. Big mistake. I should’ve. Read more

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When I was small and taking the first baby steps into the world of popular music, it was a few vinyls that one of my uncles played on which I cut my teeth. Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley… he even had a Nana Mouskouri album. I actually remember the Nat King Cole album that he had—a 10-inch LP named Nat King Cole Sings For Two in Love (the slightly tattered cover—it was released in the early1950—didn’t show King Cole but a white couple who seemed to be out on a date). The eight or ten songs on that album, as on most of my uncle’s vinyls, were about love. I was seven or eight when I heard those records and quite possibly didn’t know what the heck they were about but they were an introduction to pop songs, jazz, blues and all of what shaped my later taste in music. Read more

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I don’t know why but a lot of the indie bands that I like are Scottish. I like the nervous anxiety of Frightened Rabbit, the shoe-gazing, understated sound of The Twilight Sad, the post-rock experimentation of Mogwai, the lo-fi appeal of Meursault, the irreverent playfulness of Dogs Die in Hot Cars, the cute yet edgy music of Belle and Sebastian, the instantly likeable pop of Camera Obscura…. I could go on. There’s nothing really common between all the Scottish bands that I like. Alright, there is. I like the quirky accent that is common between many of the vocalists of these bands—notably, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison and The Twilight Sad’s James Graham — but the music of each of these bands is not very similar.

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I don’t know if it happens to you but every so often I go through these fairly extended phases when I’m listening to not much else than one band or one musician almost all the time. When I first discovered The National, the Brooklyn band that is hitting the headlines right now, I became a serial listener of their albums, all five of them, which were in heavy rotation on my iPod for more than a month. Through the years I’ve had that kind of infatuation with many a band. There was a Rolling Stones phase; a (late-blooming) Morrissey phase; a (very prolonged) Radiohead phase, which roughly, but not accidentally, coincided with a very prolonged low period in my personal life; a fairly long Phish phase, which quite fittingly overlapped with a very happy period in my aforementioned personal life; and, of course I’ve mentioned this before, a hugely extended Grateful Dead period. Read more

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When one of your favourite pieces of music becomes Muzak, piped into an elevator or played in the background at an airport, you can sometimes feel indignant. When I heard the Garcia-Hunter track, Crazy Fingers (off The Grateful Dead’s 1975 album, Blues for Allah) playing in a muted sort of way at an American airport, I was genuinely upset. I mean, come on, when we used to listen to that album it had to be in a darkened room, everybody had to be quiet and the use of additives was, well, let’s just say not actively discouraged. And here I was at a bustling JFK terminal and I could almost hear the late Jerome J Garcia’s voice going “Your rain falls like crazy fingers/ Peals of fragile thunder keeping time/Recall the days that still are to come some sing blue….” and so on. Only it wasn’t him singing but a synthesized, unreal sounding electronic tune of the song. Read more

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Pink Floyd released The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973 and it became an instant hit, selling 45 million copies and remaining on the Billboard charts for 741 weeks, which is a record that is still unbroken. I don’t know how many million people have tripped on Dark Side over the past 37 years. I know I did back in the mid-1970s. And although I don’t really like Pink Floyd very much (except maybe for 1967’s The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, the only album released while the band was still helmed by Syd Barrett), it was de rigueur in my high school days (yes, yes, in the 1970s) to own a copy of the album, which, incidentally, I still do—on vinyl, on cassette and on CD. It’s a different matter that I can’t recall when was the last time I took any of these out and played them. Read more

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If there is one band that has steadfastly stuck to its indie-ness, despite huge success and critical acclaim, it is The National. Till last week, the Brooklyn-based band of some 10 years or so had four full-length albums out, two of them – Alligator and Boxer – catapulting them to popularity (make that popularity in indie terms and not multi-platinum sales). Read more

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I have gushed before about The National’s Matt Berninger and his deep baritone voice and their songs with highly literate and intimate, if a bit self-absorbed, lyrics. The two albums of the Brooklyn-based band that I like—Alligator and Boxer—do routine overtime on my playlists. I like the sad (yet not soppy) undertone in many of their songs and the nice dose of intellectualism and wit. It would be fair enough to say The National is among my favourite bands.
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It’s the curse of plenty. When collecting tends towards hoarding, choice becomes a real problem. And that has been happening to me. The rate at which I’m amassing music—courtesy the scores of feeds from mp3 blogs that I subscribe to and the huge number of podcasts that unfailingly land in my iTunes each week—is far higher than the rate at which I can listen to them all. Some weeks back, a reader and occasional admonisher, Sanjay Ghosh, while commenting on the web version of this column, observed how when you have hundreds of albums, your attention per album gets really small. I couldn’t agree more. Read more

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Last weekend, I did something that is totally at odds with what Download Central is supposed to do. Instead of sitting at my computer and scouring the Internet for downloads or streams of new music, I actually went out and watched a rock band performing live. The gig was at Delhi’s kitschy Hard Rock Café (but then aren’t all HRCs meant to be kitschy?) and the band was Hurricane Bells who hail from Brooklyn, New York.

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