6 Favourite Musical Things in 6 Months Jan-July 2011

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Words + Photography: Tamsin Chapman

This list is one of the many reasons why nobody except Collapse Board would allow me to write for them. I’m making a list of my favourite musical things so far this year, and the thing that comes top by a country mile is not only not from 2011, it’s largely, not even from this century. In fact it’s five centuries old. I love rock’n’roll. I go to sometimes six gigs in a week. I’ve gone to many a gig and thought “yeaaahhh!”, I’ve been to a good few that have made me go “meh”. But I’ve never been to a gig that has made me cry.

Until this year, when I found what I’d been missing all my life was:

1. classical choral music
I was in one of the tallest churches in England, St Bartholomew’s Church in Brighton, listening to the Brighton Festival Chorus performing pieces by Eric Whitacre and John Tavener. I have never heard anything so beautiful. Not only did I cry, I had to stuff a scarf into my mouth to stop myself howling out loud. Since then I’ve become addicted to classical choral music (no, none of this Glee show-choir stuff) and have progressed to Monteverdi and Thomas Tallis. Bands like Sigur Rós are fakers, this is the real thing.

(video shows a different choir performing Whitacre’s ‘Sleep’)

2. Gropetown (see featured image)
As a complete contrast, my second favourite gig this year consisted of five or six Glaswegians wondering around the room and screaming very, very loudly. They were Gropetown. A woman and two men shriek and writhe and various guitarists stamp, prowl and skitter around with no boundary between stage and audience. But it’s not thoughtless noise, the beauty of this band is they’re incredibly rhythmic – you can dance to them! Right now, Gropetown and other bands with screaming female vocalists exploring similar territory, like DIVORCE and Woolf, are absolutely rocking my world.

Here’s just one example:

3. The Fembassy
Choral music. Screaming. The other theme for me so far this year, has been female rap. This fantastic website “Your # 1 Source for Femcees” has probably been going for years, but I’ve only just discovered it, and hey, at least it’s from this century right?The website features only female rappers and is a treasure trove of amazingness. There’s so much incredible stuff on here and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface yet.

4. Socialist Leisure Party
Another fantastic gig of righteous pure punk anger. SLP feature Andy Hitchcock, late of Sarah Records’ only good band, Action Painting! and last month Andy played his first Brighton gig in about 15 years. He got sweaty, pummelled the audience with ear-searing feedback and then insulted them. That’s my boy. They’ve got a new single out right now on Pebble Records, ‘She Will Flame’, but it’s not on Youtube yet, so listen to this instead. I just did, three times in a row. A wonderful pop song from a songwriter who actually knows how to write tunes and even rarer, lyrics (with – shock horror, chillwave fans – political content).

5. Suuns – Zeroes QC

Suuns live

I better pick a record now, but the truth is, although there have been plenty of albums I’ve liked a lot this year, there hasn’t been anything that has truly stopped me in my tracks. The good stuff, although good, has sounded like other good stuff. However, the album I’ve probably played the most is Suuns’ debut LP. OK, it does sound quite a bit like Clinic in places, but this album has a fierceness that a lot of other records I’ve heard this year has lacked. And live, they’re ace too. But now I feel slightly disturbed, because when I Googled for a Suuns link just now, I accidentally read a Pitchfork review of this album, which uses the word ‘prog’ five times. I HATE prog. Everybody knows that. Suuns aren’t prog, are they? [No – equally prog-hating Ed]

6. The Lovely Eggs

The Lovely Eggs live

So, on that bombshell, let’s hastily return to my comfort zone – female vocals, pop songs, punk attitude. I saw Jonathan Richman live for the first time last year and more than the actual songs he played, I recall the feeling of warmth and joyfulness that enveloped the whole audience. We all grinned inanely at each other and it was like we were in the Moonies or something. Now that’s not suprising, I mean he’s Jonathan Richman. However, a similar thing happened when The Lovely Eggs played in Brighton this year. Except this time there were no expectations, they earned the grins that built up into adoration by the end of the gig. They are so beguiling, so funny, so daft, play such good songs. But the thing about them that you wouldn’t necessarily realise if you only watched the video or listened to the albums (Cob Dominos came out this year and is great) is that they’re in no way twee and they’re not a novelty band. Holly Ross is a brilliant guitarist and they rock. Full fucking stop. Check out the picture above that I took if you don’t believe me.

Right now I’m off to listen again to my honourable 7th choice: a charmingly odd Radio 4 documentary about the history of humans teaching birds to sing, made by genius inventor, robot-builder and theremin player Sarah Angliss. This is why the BBC still rules.

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