March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland by Beirut. I’ve been following Beirut, which either is, or is very heavily driven by, the multi-talented, multi-located Zac Condon, since the first album, the completely wonderful Gulag Orkestar. This latest collection is essentially two EPs: in the first, Condon is backed by The Jimenez Band, a 19-piece brass outfit from Teotitlan del Valle, wherever the hell that is; the second contains a handful of electronic pieces under Condon’s pre-Beirut moniker of Realpeople. If that all sounds like a bit of a mess, it is, but it’s a delirious mess – ‘My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille’ sounds like an early Depeche Mode b-side, while what’s on March of the Zapotec could easily have appeared on Gulag, which sounded like a bunch of Eastern European men getting really hammered on crap-house vodka, but managing to make great music while they were at it. Charming, melancholic, flawed. Perfect, in other words.
Primary Colours by The Horrors. These guys have been on my radar for a while now, though they never really stayed there because they look like comedy Goths. But this album is a pearler: My Bloody Valentine is a clear influence, but ‘Scarlet Fields’ and ‘Sea within a Sea’, which closes the album in the most majestic manner imaginable, are worth investigating. Produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, and on the latter it shows.
Over the Stones, Under the Stars by Ned Collette & Wirewalker. I first heard of this guy – or should that be guys? – when Rage played the video to ‘Come Clean’: not only is the film-clip a ripper, the actual song is bloody brilliant, in fact I’d go so far as saying it’s one of my songs of the year (stay tuned for another best-of list, it seems). Sure, in parts this collection sounds like a wondering drunk bemoaning the fact that life, at times, actually a fair bit of the time, can be very shit, but it’s all done with such a keen attention to detail that it’s pretty hard to ignore. I hear in this more than a dash of Red House Painters, if that bunch of misery guts were fronted by a more tuneful Bob Dylan, and that’s a compliment. Into the bargain, this album is a true grower: it might not get you first time around, but be patient and it’ll come back like a sad wet dog. Perhaps.
The Bachelor by Patrick Wolf. I’m a fan of Master Wolf: he’s as camp as all buggery (yeah yeah, I know), but he sure can write a tune, and he’s also interested in mucking around with sounds and forms, often shoving into one song as many things that squeak and moan as possible, probably thanks to Pro-Tools. And there’s more than a bit of Celtic rock here, which may or may not be a mistake, not to mention quite a few choirs…possibly children’s choirs, which are never easy to make work. But if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s this guy, even though he might look like the bastard son of some Morrissey-Bowie coupling action (whoa, no one should have to imagine that).
Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective. This is a pretty special album to me because, by design, it was the CD I had playing in the car when I was down at Bundanon in April/May this year – it made that long, windy trip to and from the rather downtrodden Nowra completely magical. There’s such joy in this music; at times it’s hands-in-the-air ecstatic. I’m sure I’ll still be listening to this in ten year time…when I’m fifty-one years old…Christ.