My 2019 Music Review

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2019 has been a pretty good year for me in general (if you can ignore the dire politics and planet destruction). Esp. a great year for music, it’s been a lot of fun for me and lots of good times with friends. I counted 66 gigs, Including playing with The Postcards, and The Big Light, discovered some great new music and I also started to get back into recording too (more next year).

Best Gigs –

A very close run decision since I had so many outstanding ones, but my Gig of the Year award has to go to Kagoule at Broadcast in February … Perfect set, perfectly played … a superb performance all round from one of my favourite bands.

Impossible to choose a top 5 though, since I was so lucky to witness some other really special gigs, the best of which included Penelope Isles, black midi, Björk, Snarky Puppy, Shame, Pom Poko, Lewsberg, Jarv IS, Anais Mitchell, Suede, Donny McCaslin, Man Of Moon and the amazing musical Hadestown. A playlist of associated videos below !

Best Albums

Still eagerly awaiting the new Man Of Moon album to top next year’s 2020 list! But this year my new faves were (with Spotify links) –

  1. Until The Tide Creeps In – Penelope Isles
  2. Schlagenheim – black midi
  3. Lewsberg – Lewsberg
  4. Naked Flames – TC&I
  5. Polar – Helge

Best New Discovered Artists

Always lots of great new music out there if you care to look! Blown away this year by –

I hope 2020 is a happy and safe year for all of us. Live Long And Prosper!

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Penelope Isles – The Cluny 2, Newcastle – 1 Dec 2019

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You know when you come across a gem of a new band and you can’t stop listening to them or needing to go and see them? You don’t? Aye ye do! Well that’s me and the amazing Penelope Isles … you have to go see them too! Originally from the Isle of Man, but via Brighton, the band started by Jack and Lily Wolter have come a long way in a short time, especially since being picked up by Simon Raymonde of Bella Union records who knows something special when he sees it. Brilliant songs, complex but catchy, veering from sweet melodies and harmonies to wig-out post-rock noisy … they have got everything that pushes my musical buttons perfectly!

Since debut album ‘Until The Tide Creeps In’ came out they have been working and travelling non-stop. Jack told me this was their 90 somethingth gig of the year and will be over 100 soon. That shows in the flawless performances in the 3 times in 3 weeks I’ve seen them since Iceland Airwaves, and the music sounds even better to me live than recorded as a result. I couldn’t make their show in Glasgow, so why not take the easy trip to the Toon?! Go see Penelope Isles too. Chat to these friendly people afterwards, and buy their CD. Now!

Attended by George

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Man Of Moon / The Twilight Sad – Usher Hall, Edinburgh – 30 Nov 2019

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A packed Usher Hall and a great celebration atmosphere for the end of a European tour and Twilight Sad’s return to Edinburgh. Of course we came primarily to see Man Of Moon and we were not disappointed with another great performance in front of a big, appreciative home crowd. Well done guys! So excited to hear the new album asap in 2020.

I’m not that familiar with the music of The Twilight Sad, but they certainly smashed it in what was their biggest ever gig. Fans I know say they were at their best and absolutely loved the whole show and very emotional occasion. At the back of the Upper Circle is not a great place for pics … but luckily Fleur Neale is a super photographer and kindly allowed me to remember the gig better from her brilliant shots. Check out her great work at her website, @fleurneale on Twitter, @melbourneflower on Insta or Melbourneflower Photography on FB.

Atended by George, Karen, Jan & Mhairi

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Björk – Hydro, Glasgow – 25 Nov 2019

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I have been a ‘superfan’ of Björk for so many years, starting when I first heard ‘Birthday’ in 1987 and rushed out to buy it. I’ve seen her a number of times since and her music has been a big part of my life. I have to admit though that her last two albums have left me cold (though I tried), but I’m still supportive, so I had much tredipdation going to this ‘Cornucopia’ tour show after the relatively underwhelming occasion last time I saw her 3 years ago.  Well I needn’t have worried since the show was very, very good and she reaffirmed some of my faith in her.

What an incredible visual spectacle. Huge multiple screens including in front of the stage, incredible digital movie projections, amazing set design and eye catching costumes. Also a massive 3D surround sound system, brilliantly immersive and effective (though sometimes boomy bass and overdone crunchy beats did my head in). All off the scale bigger and better than anything ever seen before. Simply stunning.

Great to hear so many older songs too including some of my all time favourites from her ‘Homogenic’, ‘Vespertine’ and ‘Medulla’ era. These songs re-imagined though were of course not quite as good as when originally performed (some a bit messy really), but thanks for doing them and I sang along blissfully! Some of the latest ‘Utopia’ album songs also worked better live and made a bit more sense to me. But I still think many are rambling and unsatisfying. Luckily the visuals, sound and performance were good distractions from my thinking that they don’t work so well as ‘songs’. The many musicians with flutes were cool, but for me the musical stars were the 16 strong Hamrahlíðarkórinn choir who opened the show and appeared throughout. Absolutely wonderful.

Björk’s ‘ Utopia’ concept has a big environmental message which was reinforced, not only by the music, lyrics and visuals, but by some projected narrative culminating in a special video message from Greta Thunberg. Quite brilliant. I hope many people took note and will act upon the crystal clear and compelling message (but probably not).

Overall, was I impressed? Most definitely. Was I moved? Not as much as I hoped for unfortunately. Just making everything bigger and more spectacular doesn’t create more engagement. Ultimately, I go for the music, and though this was pretty good, she has done much better on many occasions before. Still the queen of everything though!

Björk requested no pics or videos and I, like most people, politely complied, so pics above are from Björk’s Facebook and no live videos, so these will have to do just now! …

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Bat For Lashes – Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh – 23 Nov 2019

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Natasha Khan is one of my favourite singer/songwriters, always puts on a different kind of show which is a brave choice. This time ‘stripped back’, as she said, just her with keys and vocal support from the talented Laura Groves. She has a beautiful voice and distinctive style, but I admit I’ve found her latest albums less interesting, a few good tracks but overall underwhelming. Live though, it was an intimate experience with a very warm appreciative audience. However she chose to keep all of the songs at a slowish pace, which though it suited most of her yearning type songs, after a while with limited instrumentation … it’s was all too samey and could have had a lot more variation and interest. Hope she has a full band next time! Still, a nice evening with nice people watching a very nice person!

Attended by George & Karen

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Snarky Puppy – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow – 16 Nov 2019

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What an amazing group. I’ve followed Snarky Puppy for a while, loving their jazzy instrumental masterpieces. But even after many line-up changes it was still a treat to get so many key members this time including leader and bassist Michael League, Justin Stanton on keys and trumpet, Mike Maher on trumpet and flugelhorn, Shaun Martin on keys, Mark Lettieri on guitar, Bobby Sparks on keys and Chris Bullock on sax and woodwinds. Joined by new to me Zach Brock on violin, Keita Ogawa on percussion, Jason Thomas on Drums … you rarely get such a collection of stellar musicians on the same stage!

The set was full of newer ‘pieces’ ( I only really knew two) but so good you really don’t mind. But less jazzy and much more funk … one long groove from start to finish, everyone dancing along all night! Getting the audience to clap along in different times and rhythms says as much about the crowd as the band. Impressive and memorable.

Attended by George


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Iceland Airwaves Day 1 – Reykjavik – 6 Nov 2019

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We were so excited to be going back to our favourite city for the very special Iceland Airwaves festival. Not just for the music but for a nice holiday in our favourite place with such nice people, locals and festival goers … so blog posts here are separate or combination multi-gig reviews and holiday travelogues! Iceland Airwaves is a bit different from most music festivals in that multiple venues are used around the city centre and other smaller bars run many ‘off-venue’ performances during the day so you can see lots of acts all day ’til early morning, running between them! Also, a well curated roster of artists gives a huge range of styles, either established and well loved acts or up and coming from Iceland and many different countries.

I had high hopes but was not really blown away by any acts on this first evening. I was looking forward to Kaelan Mikla and they were the most interesting of the night … gothy, synthy, screamy, a bit samey but still good. AYia, I thought were very forgettable. There was a lot of buzz in advance about Orville Peck, the Canadian new country singer with the mysterious fringe mask. Though I liked the few songs I had heard before, I felt his deep baritone singing was a bit forced and artificial, so didn’t enjoy as much as I expected, though still good music. All of these were at the Art Museum, but for light relief later we went ‘Off Venue’ to Hressingarskálinn and caught some nice pop from Konfekt and Tomas Welding before calling it a long and tiring day!

Attended by George & Karen – playlist with multiple relevant videos below!

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