An unforgettable year, Getintothis’ Peter Guy offers a personal reflection on 2014.
I suppose I best start at the end. Quite simply as that’s what 2014 will forever represent. To me, anyway. The end of a relationship.
When I wrote about how context shapes music in my end of year album poll, I wasn’t kidding. This significant closure occurred just 24 hours before I was due to see Prince. Someone who long-time readers know, is more than just a musician in my eyes, but almost music incarnate.
Yet, this was my start of a new dawn. Emptiness. Bewilderment. A complete disconnect. Inexplicable loss. I travelled with two family members, a friend and a friend of the family. I barely registered anything except the diabolical half-cooked sausage & chips I slovenly walloped road-side of Manchester’s Printworks. Inside the Arena, amid the thousands, I registered what was missing. The band on stage only really managing to filter through in flickering waves. It didn’t make sense to my semi-conscious self. A small percentage willed myself to power through. You will/must enjoy it. But, something in the water did not commute.
Closer Purple Rain awoke me from a glazed spell and very nearly brought me to tears. I felt my chest caving inwards, my ribcage tighten as my eyes reddened and I had to repeatedly swallow. I was almost glad when it had finished. Exhaustion kicked in.
But sleep didn’t come. There followed the harder bit. Denial. Detachment. Derailment. Endless cycles of conversation; explanation almost line by line devoid of feeling – simply repetition. Getting it out the way. A necessary chore were a selfish impulsion to skip over the niceties led to me going against my natural instinct and avoiding people. But you have to connect.
That’s when the real difficulties occur. The first time it happened, inevitably, was inside a music venue. I felt my lower back grow stiff. My hands made fists til my nails dug into my palms. My shoulder blades ached. My heart raced and the conversation I was having simply stopped as I looked completely through the person opposite. Absolutely nothing registering. Except this internal seizure. Disconnected. Unplugged. Everything taut.
As the other person continued to talk, I drifted, recalling a time when a colleague plainly announced to me that he was ‘just having a panic attack,’ before walking off to the bathroom. This time it was happening to myself. But I couldn’t say anything because I was nervous. And confused. I almost gave a wry internal smile in recognition of the shared feeling.
This episode was simply the start. Sleep deprivation. Self doubt. Lack of drive and enthusiasm. A neediness I’d never experienced before and a discomfort with simple day-to-day tasks resulted in an existence completely alien. Noticing a change, albeit one that’s not physical, is scary. I am not like this. That’s what kept revolving inside my head. It’s an unknowing of the self. And when you’re aware you’re down, and fighting, it’s hard to know when the respite is coming. It’s a process, so I’m told. It’s a process, I’m quite frankly sick to the back teeth of.
The smallest, most odd detail could result in a spiralling loss of control. Plans or arrangements changed due to a minute irregularity. Late nights were nothing new yet nights rolling into days and straight through into smudged weeks of abandon became common place – all the while, little registered. I’d adopt a mask. Particularly when responsibilities were necessary. Two selves. One to exist/function. One to disappear – even in a crowded room. Nothing hit home any more. Just a vacuum.
Except, sometimes, the music. A source of escape. A realm to connect and disconnect in equal measure. A place to take solace.
Is this the place to discuss this? I don’t know. But 2014, for myself, has represented a sea change which rinse/recycle/repeat doesn’t even come close to describing. Aligned to the most eventful 12 months in Merseyside music’s calender in memory and you have a recipe for complete personal shut down. I’ve felt submerged. Deep.
Of course, there’s nothing new here. Yet, it’s alarming just how commonplace these personal struggles are.
Whether it’s Liverpool musicians, former X Factor contestants, rock & roll hellraisers or one of Hollywood’s greats. When you’re in it, you’re in it. And you can’t see out. I think Liverpool’s Faris Khalifa put it better than I ever could in his video posted in October of this year.
The following reflection then, is rich in pleasure, delight and joy yet comes tempered with a feeling which is inescapably sad.
The majority of 2014, for myself has represented a delirious moment in time; unprecedented musical highs all of the while battling personal lows. I guess, that’s what it’s all about sometimes.
I’m looking forward: onward and upward for an equilibrium in 2015 – and I’m confident our city’s music makers will retain such emotive delirium. Here’s to the new.
While on the subject of delirium it seems apt to dive straight into Merseyside’s electronic scene. We’ve alluded in previous end of year round-ups just how good Merseyside’s club scene is – but 2014 truly drove the message home.
The formation of new, innovative club nights is seemingly a weekly occurrence, yet in Liverpool 2014 there was credibility and sustainability as crucially, these club nights were aligned to innovative producers and DJs, savy bookers and networks of young teams at the very heart of those nights.
The club scene in Merseyside was in such rude health, that when our man Mike Townsend explored it’s rebirth back in the new year our inbox exploded with the nights we’d yet to touch upon. The likes of Abandon Silence, RUBIX, Waxxx, Luna, Freeze, MODU:LAR, Less Effect, Hustle, Release and Polka have joined the established big boys in transforming the city’s warehouse projects, intimate dives and disused spaces into something vital once again.
On the fringes of the region, Bugged Out celebrated their 20th anniversary in fitting style in Southport – check out David Michael‘s report of a quite phenomenal weekender here while the king of them all, Creamfields, once again took Cheshire by storm with three days of major league dance action (gallery).
Yet it was the rise of the warehouse parties which had greatest effect on Liverpool having a knock-on effect on inner city counter culture and exposing spaces for gigs to be held; the old form customary black box wasn’t a necessary requirement in the contemporary Liverpool scene as Joseph Viney reflected in his piece on the city’s new gigging landscape while the first marathon beat down, Baltic Block Party, acted as a dance culture tribal gathering pulling together all manner of people and venues within the Baltic Triangle for a heady stew harking back to the halcyon days of rave (review).
If the electronic scene was in little shortage of new promoters, the gigging scene had to largely rely on older, more trusty faces to set the agenda. Rising promo team I Love Live once again mixed it up with a crop of fresh talent (October’s Cyril Hahn show a particular stand out) and some sterling bigger belters (more of this shortly) while hosting neat boutique city festivities which only add to the sense of permanent live rotation; Fury Fest a welcome addition to the still under-performing heavier end of Liverpool’s spectrum, while X&Y Festival proves a fine distraction for younger audiences.
The everisland Chronicles also provided neat interludes with the expansive costumes and intriguing venues allowing something different to seep into the city’s veins; our favourite was the underwater love-in of Aquaria in Williamson Tunnels once again illustrating how performance and festivity has crossed over into live shows so successfully on Merseyside. A word for InkBeat too; hosted in 24 Kitchen Street this was another colourful offbeat delight.
On the down side, there were gigs we were genuinely hoping for yet didn’t happen: Linda Perhacs and War On Drugs (blame Jools Holland for the latter), to gigs that perhaps shouldn’t have happened: Warlocks; to gigs that were said to be happening but were never on the cards; Shellac (sidenote: the mischievous Organ Freeman have excelled in keeping us amused all year both on and off the stage. We can only speculate what’s further on down the line).
— Sean Bradbury (@seanbrad2) November 1, 2014
So, the cream of the crop?
Well, there were quite simply too many highlights in 2014 – once again, independent promoters, the likes of Evol, Harvest Sun, Mellowtone, Ceremony Concerts, Bam Bam Bam! and No Fakin led the way in bringing serious talent to the city while providing a strong platform with which to nurture the best new talent. And in 2014, it gotten serious.
No room for Daedelus doing glitter-ball mind-bending or Arabic post-rockers Jerusalem In My Heart churning cinematic film-reel-assisted madness, the likes we’ve never witnessed in a live context. No room for Caribou‘s Music Week stunner which thrilled on the opening night in Camp & Furnace or Parquet Courts proving there’s considerable guile to their garage guff.
No room for a returning Phantom Band being gloriously tribal, Ex-Easter Island Head‘s expansive ensemble work out in April, Lee Scratch Perry‘s delirious dub offering in March or SOHN reducing some Kazimier audience members to tears in Autumn.
No room either in our top 10 for Tamikrest as they brought their sandstorm groove to Liverpool or the Mogwai and Mugstar double-header at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall – a night which almost lifted out of our seats such was the brutal might of aural power on display.
No room for Jamie T‘s £200-a-ticket rampage, Neon Waltz‘s gig with Black Rivers in August which turned into all-night carnage over the road in the Berlin Bar. And in the purposes of balance and bias, there’s no room for our relaunch party which was an absolute beast as new talent Lo Five, D R O H N E, Queen Maud, Sophia Ben-Yousef and Strange Collective pulled in a crowd which stretched right down Duke Street.
So, without further ado, here’s our top 10 gigs of 2014.
Best Gigs of 2014
1. King Khan & The Shrines, Broken Men, Strange Collective: Korova, Liverpool (review)
Nothing came close. Crowd-surfing band members, voodoo blind percussionists, Berlin virtuoso mad-men musicians playing like their lives depended upon it, homeless men invited on to the stage to boogie and an entire room losing their shit to King Khan‘s naked belly and ball-crushing blues rampage. Unforgettable.
2. The Antlers, Cavalry, James Canty, Etches (review)
Restrained majesty married to profoundly moving beautiful love songs infused with brass, flute and soaring melodies – the highlight of Liverpool Music Week‘s 10th edition.
3. Satelliti, Germanager, Venusian: Mello Mello, Liverpool (review)
Italian duo Satelliti brought epic-prog grooves on a colossal scale – any other year and this one could have easily topped the pile.
The clear stand out from Sound City 2014; a relentless build aligned to some of the finest live drumming we’ve ever witnessed.
Pure party. Foals brought the big league tunes to a heady Arts Club and it went off in style.
6. St Vincent: O2 Academy, Liverpool (review)
I’d doubt Annie Clark will play shows of this size again as her blockbuster live show is now built for the Arenas. Choreographed class.
7. The Brian Jonestown Massacre: The Arts Club, Liverpool (review)
The eighth time we’ve seen Anton Newcombe‘s collective and probably their best – tight, super cool and loaded with riff after filthy riff. Marvellous.
8. Sleaford Mods, Evil Blizzard: Academy 2, Manchester (review)
An exercise in primal ferocity we’ve not seen in some time. Props to support Evil Blizzard too, a monstrous four-bass prog attack loaded with sinister grooves.
9. Future Islands: The Kazimier, Liverpool (review)
Way more than just that song, Future Islands brought the house down from beginning to end.
…okay, so we’re cheating, again…
10 (joint!). By The Sea, We Are Catchers, Gulf: The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool (review/gallery)
A celebratory homecoming which saw the crowd dancing in the aisles.
10 (joint!). Ian Broudie and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra: Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (review)
Broudie’s ‘testimonial’ felt like one big communal love-in with genuinely special guests peppered throughout.
Best Event of 2014
It feels like we’re repeating ourselves but 2014 was that kind of year. Relentless. Each and every month – with the possible exception of January – a non-stop ball.
So we’re having to leave out a weighty selection of events which in other years would be a shoe-in. However, we must salute The Wild Writer’s collective, and in particular, one of our own team Michael Fowler for his ambitious and super-fun wrestling-meets-music fandango; the quite remarkable Sancho Panza which saw a wrestling ring take centre stage inside the Kazimier as writers battled it out in a bizarre yet brilliant spectacle; read Emma Walsh‘s report here.
The various Syndrome events deserve a nod of approval for offering a sustained thread of live performance with stimulating ideas, not to mention musicians, at their core. Take a peak at our reports and images featuring Holly Herndon and Caroline Bergvall.
Our joint winners in 2013, FestEVOL (review/gallery) and Voodoo Ball (review/gallery) were once again book-ends to an extended summer of festivities in the city; the former showcasing a whole range of new artists who are destined for national exposure, the latter once again a visual feast few others events in the city can match. Above The Beaten Track (review/gallery) too returned offering a fine platform at the Bluecoat for all things roots and original.
They left it late, but the newly formed Vision Commission took centre stage in near sub-zero temperatures in December with the opening of The Invisible Wind Factory (review/gallery).
This hedonistic warehouse party had at it’s core a captivating performance by Dogshow with Sam and Laurie Crombie applying their hyper-kinetic oddball techno-fusion inside a circular stage which was lifted 40ft into the air while rotating and projecting neon lights as the duo continued their live display. It was breathtaking viewing – and almost, our annual highlight.
However, the Getintothis event of the year was unequivocally the Giant Spectacular: Memories of August 1914. An event which managed to capture the imagination of millions and bring Liverpool to a stand-still for three days of magical musical theatre.
My favourite element of this vast, hugely ambitious production was it’s untamed, anarchic spirit – from the slightly vulgar Grandmother, the wildly progressive improv soundtrack, the junk-yard Mad Max-like recycled mechanics, the sometimes feral puppeteers through to Royal de Luxes‘ writer-director Jean-Luc Courcoult perma-roadside quaffing ale or toking on his rollies.
For a mass theatrical pop performance, this was one that retained a wild underbelly full of irreverent wit and decadent abandon. It was of little surprise that after their week-long event, the entire production team saw out their time in the Kazimier with an all-nighter.
Watch our video production by Culture City TV below with a specially-created soundtrack by Liverpool producer Afternaut.
The GIT Award 2014-2015
Closer to home, the GIT Award 2014 saw it’s strongest set of nominees to date; 11 out of the 12 with record deals, all vying for significant critical acclaim and a shortlist which took the judges more time than ever to draw up.
Following sell out UK and European dates, Forest Swords then went on to soundtrack Assassin’s Creed, and complete a fine year supporting Mogwai in Liverpool. Fine reward for music which remains resolutely singular and enthralling both on record and in the live arena.
This year (it really doesn’t seem like a year at all…) the 2015 Award was relaunched in 24 Kitchen Street as part of Liverpool Music Week‘s closing party. Stellar sets by the likes of VEED, Queen Maud, Chemistry Lane and Låpsley set the tone for a quality evening of new Merseyside music, ably assisted by rising young DJ or:la.
Later in the year we were pretty damn chuffed with the judges we recruited too; adding industry pros from 4AD Records, UK Music, Amazing Radio and Clash Magazine. Check all the judges out in detail here.
We’ll leave the final word to Bella Union boss and GIT Award 2015 judge, Simon Raymonde, who said: “It is no exaggeration to say, without wishing to put the curse of ‘scene’ upon it, the most consistently exciting bands right now are from Liverpool. That is an irrefutable fact.
“I present a weekly radio show of new and unsigned music from all over the world, and you only need to listen to a cross-section of the shows from the last year, to hear that my claims are wholly justified! It is therefore an honour to be involved this year with Getintothis’ GIT Award.
“Forest Swords were worthy winners last year, and with such a wonderful array of talent again on show this year, I have no doubt, the judges will all pick an artist to make you all proud.”
The closing date is January 15, so there’s still time to enter.
Hero of 2014
Much of what’s written in this round up is subjective.
This year’s Merseyside Local Hero Award (sponsored as always by John Lennon) is not. There is only one. If you’re feeling, as I am right now, quite weary reading this lump of prose just put yourself in the position of one young man who’s actually had a hand in making virtually all of it happen.
Anyone who’s ever put a gig on knows exactly what a ball ache it can be. It’s an unforgiving routine of early equipment load ins, through to rider runs, liaising with tour managers, agents, artists and technicians, a late finish with extremely late load outs and an infinite amount of variables which lie in wait to completely throw you off your guard and fuck the whole thing up. Stress levels are high. And even when everything goes to plan, it’s the guy on the ground who can rarely switch off and actually take in, digest and enjoy the show.
In the last 12 months one of these such guys has had a considerable hand in ensuring the city’s most-loved venue, The Kazimier, has enjoyed a peerless year. It’s round the clock, on the money experience for gig goers grows with each passing year; from the bookings to the Garden space to the sound spec to the experience, the Kaz is the city’s musical home to many, and our man has a huge hand in shaping that.
Add to this being the guy on the ground ensuring Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia and Liverpool Music Week have run more smoothly than a Galaxy chocolate bar production line all in a venue which has notoriously struggled sound-wise in the past; factor in production at the GIT Award 2014, assisting with everisland spectacles, his own promotion company, Bam! Bam! Bam! (which regularly straddles hip hop and the heavier end of the spectrum, rarely touched upon in Merseyside circles) and you’ve a recipe for a dude who should be on his 49th breakdown.
Instead, you’ve a guy who’s as affable and level-headed as they come.
Someone who’s wit is infectious and his knowledge of music is second to none. Someone who’s name is known to almost everyone on the Merseyside circuit yet remains resolutely grounded and if anything a figure who stays in the background holding everything in the foreground together.
In 2014, nobody made it happen more than Christopher Tyler – Getintothis‘ Hero of 2014.
Label of 2014
As we touched upon in our albums poll, it was a fine year to be an independent label. Well, it was from a listener’s perspective. There was an ocean of new sounds from across an array of labels specialising in unearthing a multitude of sonic wonders.
The days of aligning yourself with a label because you know they’ve an ear for a good sound seem to be growing; the likes of Sacred Bones, Trouble In Mind, Rocket Recordings, Secretly Canadian and Temporary Residence are now well established as sure-fire winners.
Our top 100 contained almost 70 different labels with proven big-hitting indies Warp, Ninja Tune, Domino and Bella Union once again pulling in numerous weighty inclusions.
Our label of 2013, Mute released stunning records in Arca, Zola Jesus, Liars, Land Observations and Ben Frost while Big Dada continued their recent run of fine debuts with Kate Tempest and Mercury winners Young Fathers.
But it was an old favourite that once again tops our label of the year – 4AD.
Future Islands‘ released the single of 2014 on one of the albums of the year while Merchandise, SOHN, Tune-Yards, Ariel Pink and the much-debated over Sunn O))) collab with Scott Walker exemplified what this label’s all about. Hats off to them, once again.
Festivals of 2014
On the festival front, 2014 was the year we did an Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction and overdosed in spectacular style.
We started early, with SXSW overcoming tragic circumstances as Forest Swords was one of a number of stand out performances in John Siddle‘s report. Back home, as if to emphasise just how spoilt we are the UK Festival Awards showered the region with nominations in their annual round up.
Top of the list, Creamfields, who once again showed the world that the home of dance music was rooted firmly in the North West.
Sound City also collected a handful of nominations in what was a distinctly odd year for the festival. Despite a slightly underwhelming line up there were a handful of quite phenomenal individual shows and enough new curve balls to ensure we picked up some musical discoveries along the way. For our mammoth review round up plus top 10 bands of the festival check here.
But, let’s be honest, it’s Sound City 2015 we’re already amped up for.
The mouth-watering proposition of The Flaming Lips *and* Belle & Sebastian is a statement of huge intent – coupled with feisty guest speakers including Mark E Smith and the added bonus of a new docklands site (completely revamping the notion of an inner-city festival) as Beth Parker wrote back in October, it’s a gamble certainly worth taking. Oh, and I’m picking some of the North West’s bands – get involved.
Summer saw Africa Oye (gallery) enjoy a quite dazzling couple of days at Sefton Park – once again underlining it’s importance in terms of family vibes and rich musical heritage. If you’re in need of inspiration on the tunes front, there’s no better place to start than Josh Ray‘s piece exploring the roots of African music.
Another transitional phase saw Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF) succeed in many aspects while not quite in others; after the groundswell of goodwill and great weather married up to a series of fine events in year one, year two saw patchy shows and even patchier weather.
There were, however, some awesome segments, not least Ian Broudie‘s opening night with The Phil, a raft of new Merseyside artists and even better new LIMF Academy talent plus the experimental and ambitious Steve Levine all-star sessions in St George’s Hall. Just don’t mention Shaggy…
Here’s our reflection on August’s mammoth feast of largely free entertainment plus a round up video below. We’re rooting for them in Year Three.
A highly commended must be awarded to Threshold Festival, who despite having to issue an untimely statement about paying artists, managed to inject a genuine buzz between a ramshackle assortment of venues and hubs in the Baltic Triangle.
Most impressive was the genuine flow of the festival; a sense of purpose and energy coursing through the festivities – gone were the opening year’s sense of light-weight bills and somewhat thrown together grassroots arts – here was a festival which had credibility and sustainability as well as magnificent sculpture, installations and live offerings. Our discovery of the festival was Galaxians Yorkshire’s answer to Daft Punk who stormed 24 Kitchen Street. Read our review part one here, part two here plus a picture gallery here.
In terms of bookings, nobody could match Liverpool Music Week and Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia.
The former saw the benefit of a few years off and stormed back with big league bands while the latter perhaps knows it’s audience better than any festival (with the possible exception of Creamfields) by collating a schedule simply wall-to-wall excellence. Both festivals ran seamlessly and sounded (technically) quite frankly superb.
Hats must be doffed to Mike Deane and the Psych Fest collective for their respective work in shaping two inner city festivals which in years gone by could never have attracted that kind of talent and work to such an extent in Liverpool. See below for our mammoth reviews and commentary on each of these success stories for 2014.
But our festival of 2014 honour belongs to an event which goes way beyond a strong bill of musicians.
The town of Portmeirion is a cosmic delight in itself and what the organisers of Festival No. 6 have done is aligned the geographical wonders and first-rate artistic craft to something intangible that courses through the Welsh spirit. It positively swells with communal, good-times vibes.
Beck, Grumbling Fur, Steve Mason, Martha Reeves, Jon Hopkins, All We Are and more made this an unforgettable experience but the civic pride epitomised in the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir, who, celebrating their 50th anniversary, delivered one of the sets of any summer at one of the most enjoyable festivals we’ve ever experienced.
Revelatory. Stunning. How all festivals should aspire to be.
1. Festival No. 6 – read our full review
Listen to our Psych Fest tips here.
3. Liverpool Music Week – full reviews and pictures featuring the likes of Mogwai, Chvurches, Liars, Wild Beasts and much more here.
Read an interview with LMW highlights, Hookworms here.
Top 10 Getintothis‘ Post of 2014
It’s been all change on Getintothis in 2014. After almost eight years spent housed on The Liverpool Daily Post & Echo‘s servers, we finally made the break in early June announcing we were going independent and our man behind the scenes Simon Lewis spent many an hour reshaping the website. A big thanks also to Tom Webber for his redesign of our logo.
Here’s a quick recap of some of our most popular posts…
1. Footballers and music don’t go together. Who knew? That is unless it’s Michael Owen. Punditries answer to Paul Gambaccini waxed music gold when we spoke to him about his favourite albums of all-time.
2. Back to reality. We’ve never really covered Liverpool’s favourite musical sons on Getintothis. However, with the 50th anniversary of The Beatles‘ invasion of the US kick-starting the mania, we thought why not. With that in mind, we contacted our favourite Merseyside musicians and together with a few of our own contributors assembled The Beatles at 50 – a list of their much-loved songs, and what they mean to those who selected them.
The results were as surprising as they were a beautiful insight into the minds of those shaping the musical landscape of today. Poignant – and I’m very happy we put this together.
3. As we’ve eluded to, January is a real bummer. Thank heaven’s then for our Merseyside Ones To Watch.
THIRTY SEVEN new names assembled in one corking feast, headed up by the quietly rising All We Are. A few months later they continued their ascent with tours alongside Warpaint and London Grammar and finished 2014 with a debut album all set to go in February 2015. We’ve heard it, it’s an absolute treat. Expect a few more new names in the 2015 OTW.
4. One thing everyone seemed to be back enjoying in 2014 was buying records.
5. Our new website wasn’t perhaps ready for the day The Coral announced they were to return – our server crashing moments after we bagged the story. Patrick Clarke followed up the news with this fine interview about their ‘new’ old album and other such jibber jabber. It was great to have them back.
6. One of our most read stories of the year was a mere aside as Sheridan Smith turned in her Cilla Black portrayal a couple of weeks early stunning drinkers in the Dovey with an impromptu performance – check our report for details.
7. Our lass, Steph Niciu tackled the issue of gig accessibility and found Merseyside sadly wanting in some respects.
8. It’s not often you get a legend of Mick Fleetwood‘s stature dropping in for a quick chat. It’s not often that said legend drops a big news story either. But when Mick visited Oh Me Oh My in November to launch his new book, he also dropped into conversation that The Mac wouldn’t be headlining Glastonbury.
In an engaging chat, Emma Walsh reported on life behind the scenes with Fleetwood Mac ahead of their 2015 tour – ‘it was like boot camp,’ he proclaimed. We suggest it was a little more tasty than that of the X Factor variety.
9. Nostalgia. We like to think of ourselves as a forward-thinking webzine. New music is what we live for. However, 2014 presented a goldmine for our writers to explore their youth and teenage years of a sublime time in music history; 1994. While Britpop and its gratuitous underbelly may be maligned in some quarters, there’s simply no mistaking that 1994 was a great year.
Twenty years on Jamie Bowman reminisced on the joys of a quintessential English classic – Parklife. A world away from the Cockney knees up, Joseph Viney tackled the mental, physical and psychological tortures of The Holy Bible while also looking at The Manics’ new record Futurology. Elsewhere Dominic Allen relived the glory of Jeff Buckley‘s Grace while David McTague tells how Portishead‘s Dummy shaped his listening habits.
Topping all this lot in terms of nostalgia was Richard D James who reprised his Aphex Twin guise with Syro – a collection of tracks which while sounding 20 years old, were still utterly marvellous.
But rising above all of this in terms of excitement was the reunion of the criminally-underrated, Ride, a band who captured the imagination of a young Gareth Roberts for his first gig and will return after a long sabbatical next year, most notably at Primavera Sound.
10. It’s taken seven years and loads of contributors, but we finally reached our 100th Singles Club – that’s 100 columns of brand new music with videos and loads of other guff. Pretty impressive. To celebrate we asked a load of Merseyside musicians and industry types to reveal the first single they bought.
The results were, unsurprisingly rather bad, though we suspect some people were cheating to earn extra cool points. Here’s the good, the bad and the downright filthy.
Albums of 2014
This was the eighth annual end of year album review compilation we’ve produced on Getintothis – and it’s remarkable how times have changed.
Back in 2007, when LCD Soundsystem‘s Sound of Silver topped our poll, Myspace was the go-to digital hub as Tom Anderson‘s social networking site reigned supreme eclipsing even Google as the world’s most visited online platform.
It was a time when print still prevailed (or at least grudgingly held its own) and the term ‘blog’ was met with mild derision; a seemingly throwaway medium lacking in substance and credibility.
Conversely, end of year polls and lists weren’t as prevalent and the veracious appetite for clicks was less apparent compared to today’s all consuming need to be ‘first’.
In 2014, it’s all change and the end-of-year-ageddon is ubiquitous. There is no escape. In fact, like Christmas, in many cases it begins almost a month early.
This year, several end of year album lists were published during the second or third week of November – whether this was to shift units (in the case of record shops) or merely raise brand awareness, it’s notable how this gratuitous tidal wave of fodder has now changed the perception of the good ol’ fashioned annual polls.
Of course, some people simply don’t like music lists. It’s understandable. Ranking music or art could be viewed as crass as it is subjective.
However, we remain firmly in favour of them. They provide a snapshot of what a website or publication has to offer – 12 months condensed into something slightly more digestible, and if they’re done well, offer a colourful, constructive insight into what the collective whole aims to represent.
For us, they’re also a vital recommender – and this year there’s a handful of albums which have made our final 100 thanks to a few of those lists being published unfashionably early.
As always we’d salute the invaluable offerings via Piccadilly Records and the Quietus – two outlets which manage to consistently balance insightful knowledge, wit and corking personal taste. An unswerving passion courses through their annual album review round ups and it’s impossible not to be sucked into this well of fine new music.
Of course, that’s something we too aim to provide. And while there’s inevitably a wealth of music we will have missed, we can genuinely say 2014’s been another vintage year of new sounds and the list below could easily have swelled by another 50 or more records we have enjoyed.
We’d like to note at this point, we chose to omit mixtapes and compilations while including a handful of EPs (they were simply too good to leave out) and East India Youth is perhaps a glaring omission of the artists we champion simply because his superlative debut Total Strife Forever was included in our 2013 round up.
Beneath is our top 10 – you can view the top 100 in full here. As ever, we look forward to your feedback and recommendations in the comment section below, or alternatively join in the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.
1. The War On Drugs: Lost In The Dream
I can remember as a teenager my first work experience job in a printing factory having spent record vouchers on The Stone Roses‘ debut album and lying on my bed listening to this glistening, near-magical set of songs completely wrapped up in the moment. Engulfed by sound.
There was an otherworldly sensation to it yet it sounded so rich, colourful and alive with emotional energy and bristling confidence.
It was a transcendental experience. The best slices of music do that. And this is repeatedly the sensation I get while listening to the aptly-titled Lost In The Dream – a record which seems to epitomise much of my 2014.
Like previous #1 albums we’ve featured, from Sound of Silver through to Bon Iver‘s 2011 eponymous album they’re deeply personal offerings in which the song-writer’s message is so powerful it’s hard not to sometimes adopt it as your own.
If James Murphy‘s career peak was an ode to feeling alienated in the city that he so loves, The War On Drugs‘ Adam Granduciel‘s ‘dream’ concerns being abandoned in a wilderness where he finds no place to rest at all.
Self-doubt, depression, anxiety and inner turmoil are repeated themes amid a sometimes motorik, cascading landscape and yet the music juxtaposes a near-triumphant swell of rich instrumentation. Lustrous textures vie for attention against a cavalcade of guitars and clattering percussion driving off into an endless distance.
Similarly to it’s predecessor, Slave Ambient, Granduciel channels big, big sounds reminiscent of classic Americana – Young, Dylan and Springsteen are inescapable influences – yet his vision reminds me more of Pure Phase–era Spiritualized undulating, crackling and rippling; a constant battle of the bold with the wired.
A heartbeat which may rupture at any moment. The sound of man broken yet determined to continue on the road ahead regardless.
2. Run The Jewels: Run The Jewels Vol. 2
3. Future Islands: Singles
4. Merchandise: After The End
5. Liars: Mess
6. Mark McGuire: Along The Way
7. Goat: Commune
8. Watter: This World
9. The Antlers: Familiars
10. Hookworms: The Hum
Yanno 'Catfish & The Bottlemen' that 6music play 10 times a day?Remember this sign at their merch desk haha gr8 times pic.twitter.com/jN27dAA8Ht
— Gareth David (@grthdvd) July 8, 2014
Worst Albums of 2014
There’s only one thing worse than the Chris Martin Band – and that’s an album that’s yet to come out yet. Congratulations then, Llandudno wet wipes, Catfish & The Bottlefeeders.
A band so rubbish that when I heard them on Steve Lamacq‘s 6 Music show I thought it was an out-take from 1993’s Best of Shit Britpop.
Oh, and to make matters slightly worse, they’ve a pretty misogynistic sense of humour as evidenced by their merch stand (see above). Well in, lads.
1. Catfish & The Bottlemen: The Balcony
2. Chris Martin Band: Ghost Stories
3. Robin Thicke: Paula
4. Jessie J: Sweet Talker
5. David Guetta: Listen
Venues of 2014
The political football of 2014 has been all about spaces. Venues opening, closing and people actually attending. Or not as Scroobius Pip was keen to attest.
Following the sudden closure of Mello Mello (more on this later), the battle for Wolstenholme Square became the year’s big issue, making national music press in November as Nation and The Kazimier were the latest independent cultural hubs facing uncertain futures. An issue which has blighted Liverpool in recent years mirrored other cities across the UK. This time, political intervention resulted in calm. However, we suspect this one will run and run.
There was further big news in the city when Liverpool Guild invited us down to the unveiling of their impressive £14.5m renovation. There’s a whole load of big shows already in 2015’s diary including The Jesus & Mary Chain and Ryan Adams. Take a look at Simon Lewis‘ awesome gallery if you’ve yet to head down.
The Jacaranda threatened to come back in January. But didn’t. Then suggested an Autumn opening. But didn’t. Before finally, reopening it’s historic doors unveiling a completely revamped interior in November. Take a look, if you’ve yet to already, at our gallery as we chat to organisers about their new vision.
The Arts Academy shut with a less than convincing statement that the adjacent Kazimier Garden was safe from closure.
On the upside, The Magnet returned promising (and delivering) new live music while the Baltic Triangle’s Constellations finally emerged after plenty of blood, sweat and tears as revealed when we spoke to its creators back in July. Expect more from them in a busy 2015.
The finest example of DIY spirit to emerge in 2014 was the increasingly popular 24 Kitchen Street; this bare brink and wooden slats dive bar has an immediate charm and together with easy-going staff, fine bookings and a ‘where it’s at’ mentality meant it was on everyone’s lips throughout the year – particularly if there was an after-party in the offing.
So to over in the business district emerged 8 Water Street, an intriguing office-come-arts space which organisers hope will flourish in the next 12 months while down the north docks emerged DumBULLS and for a brief but eventful period the multi-media hang out Duke Street Creative Space.
All the while, Camp & Furnace, Leaf, District and The Arts Club had their best results in years, all pulling in considerable live drawers around the year. The Phil reopened after their makeover with John Grant but there’s more in 2015 so expect a busy one at the top of Hope Street.
Perhaps the biggest news, in terms of creative development was the announcement by several Kazimier staff of a new venture – The Invisible Wind Factory. Created by a new team, Vision Commission, the Wind Factory promised to reimagine the blank canvas of a disused north dock warehouse with performance, music and spectacle.
Yet in terms of day to day, the Kazimier not only remained the city’s easy number one music spot but perhaps improved upon it; the Garden became a hub in itself while the improved sound and lighting in the club ensured it could take on greater, more ambitious projects. Expect Stealing Sheep‘s New Year’s finale to round off another great year.
1. The Kazimier
2. 24 Kitchen Street
3. Mello Mello
Films of 2014
I’ll be honest, this is basically 10 of the 12 films I’ve seen this year. Cinema just gets worse. Or, perhaps my efforts are. Finding films which lure us to a cinema these days seems to be growing slimer by the year. Either way, send all suggestions into the comment section below because 2014, with the exception of a handful of efforts, was pretty lamentable…
1. 12 Years A Slave
2. The Raid 2
3. Gone Girl
4. Wolf Of Wall Street
5. Beyond The Beatles (preview)
8. American Hustle
If you’re after fine film commentary check out our (relatively) new film critic Adam Scovell who waxed lyrical on the likes of Lalo Schifrin, Ennio Morricone and Twin Peaks – all of his pieces can be found here.
Tracks of 2014
1. Future Islands: Seasons (Waiting On You)
2. Taylor Swift: Shake It Off
3. How To Dress Well: Repeat Pleasure
4. Sinkane: How We Be
5. War On Drugs: Red Eyes
For the complete top 40 and to listen to all our tracks of 2014, click here.
Downs of 2014
1. May 2014 saw the death of Alan Wills.
The man who shaped the lives of innumerable musicians on Merseyside through his record label Deltasonic died unexpectedly in a road traffic accident. His life and passion touched so, so many. Here’s some of the tributes from those who knew him best plus my piece about Alan here.
2. Everyone knew MelloMello‘s time in Liverpool was drawing to a close. But when news broke, late evening on September 23 through a short statement posted online announcing the sudden closure with immediate effect of the venue shockwaves were sent through the city. Few saw it coming. Not least musicians, promoters, performers and many of those with close ties to the fabric of Mello’s culture.
Read our feature on MelloMello – the end of a Liverpool music & arts institution plus it’s top moments here. And there’s a reflection on the emotional closing party plus gallery of Getintothis‘ photographers’ favourite moments here. And for a further in depth look at Liverpool’s independent music landscape, see Beth Parker‘s feature here.
3. Musicians who died in 2014. Our writers paid fitting tributes to the likes of Phil Everly, DJ Rashad, Frankie Knuckles – as Bobby Womack paid one last visit to Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall. Meanwhile, Merseyside paid tribute to Day With Mary‘s Greg McDonnell who died suddenly in March.
4. The increasingly worrying political climate on a national scale provoked heated discussion on a national scale with cultural diversity – our man Jono Podmore prepared this excellent feature on how the UK’s right-wing parties were seemingly determined to oppress or even destroy the best of British.
5. Bands splitting up; Vasco Da Gama who bowed out with great abandon alongside Tera Melos at the Kazimier (gallery), Spring Offensive knocking it on the head in September. And an oh-so-close but not quite yet, as Liverpool’s most ‘infamous’ band The Sneaky Nixons (read their interview, and possibly last here) hung in there despite personnel changes and all manner of hysteria. We hope they stick around longer, Liverpool needs young rogues like these.
But it was the untimely split of Bird which was most shocking. A band who garnered significant national momentum following the release of their fine debut record My Fear And Me came out of the blue late in the year. Talks of a legal dispute and changes of personnel mean a new beginning for Adele Emmas‘ band. Let’s hope they can rekindle that spark.
6. The run into Christmas was rubbish. Shaun Ponsonby captured the wilting British public’s sense of charity towards Band Aid 30 while the BBC Music Awards, Tom Odell and that penguin ensured the festive season carried a lamentably bad after taste.
7. There was more bad news from the print press music world. With NME‘s weekly readership shot to pieces, Richard Lewis pulled the pieces together in his excellent feature following the demise of Fly Magazine and Stool Pigeon.
8. I think we can all agree that Kasabian are now a joke band. And they’re actually excelling at it. The proof was in their album campaign which revealed the worst album title, cover art and song titles in the history of popular culture. The general public lapped it up. Of course they did, everyone loves a bit of banter.
9. Liverpool’s place has been firmly back on the gigging map over the last 18 months. And when the annual NME Awards tour returned in January it seemed to emphasise that assumption – specially given the fact that Merseysider’s Circa Waves were handed the coveted opening spot on the bill with Interpol. Fast forward to November, and it was announced the tour would be snubbing Liverpool once again thus raising the time-old debate over gig attendances. Whatever the case, the yearly big gig kick off hosted by the NME isn’t coming to the city in 2015. And that’s a bit rubbish.
10. Our final down of the year – inevitably, it’s U2. Managing to piss off the entire universe by hijacking people’s personal jukeboxes, our man Ian Salmon swam against the proverbial tide was actually pretty chuffed. Contrary, us?
Ups of 2014
1. Few music stories on Merseyside were better than the rise of Holly Låpsley Fletcher. Or plain ol’ Lappers to her mates.
When we first featured her on these pages in 2013 she was an unassuming teenager studying for her A-levels with but a few demos on a SoundCloud page. Yet it was these bedroom demos which would propel her into hundreds of thousands of homes around the world. Her track 2013 song Station went global. In February 2014 she dropped Painter (valentine) – another instant crossover before following it up with her debut gig at Leaf; a surreal sell out which saw school friends mix with a multitude of industry A&R. Rather than blow it, she nailed it, with a casual unassuming charm.
Industry backing followed; management, showcase gigs in London, a PRS-endorsed Momentum Fund in August and blanket online and print press. The fairytale was complete in October when it was announced she’d signed to XL Recordings – home to Radiohead and Adele and owned by Richard Russell – the guy who gave rise to The Prodigy and enabled Gil Scott-Heron to be reborn. Perhaps more tellingly, The xx, a band who similarly rose from obscurity with sparse yet sensual electronic excellence. Quite simply, Låpsley could hardly have found a better home for her music. Just days after the announcement, and with a new EP set to drop early 2015, she headlined the GIT Award 2015 launch at 24 Kitchen Street.
2. Hooton Tennis Club‘s rise is similarly a success story to be proud of. Having inked a deal with Edge Hill University’s cottage industry record label, The Label Recordings in March they then went on to play a series of high profile support slots including Night Beats,
In September they signed with iconic UK label Heavenly Recordings. Ace.
And there’s more as far as the Label Recordings is concerned with their latest signing Little Secrets maintaining their ear for a great new band.
3. Frack off! It’s been sometime since musicians in Merseyside made a stand, so it was healthy to see The Sundowners, Paul Molloy‘s Viper Kings, former Zuton Dave McCabe, The Coral‘s James Skelly and a host of others deliver a firm message to potential fracking in the region during a protest gig at District.
This was followed up by a gig at the Lomaz featuring Bez and a peaceful demo at Liverpool Town Hall which received the backing of Sean Lennon. Heavyweight support was further leant to their cause when Neil Young penned an anti-fracking anthem using one of his live cuts from his show at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
4. The year of hip hop on Merseyside.
Peanut Butter Wolf, Homeboy Sandman, Drake and The Weeknd, Jonwayne, Action Bronson, Ghostface Killah, Dead Prez, Jungle Brothers and more brought the ruckus to Liverpool in a relentless wave of Grade A rap icons as our Merseyside brethren Madnice, No Fakin and Triple Bam! ensured anyone within a stone’s throw of the pool had their chops licked with some lyrical delights.
Add to this the rise of new talent including Merseyrail Sound System winner Blue Saint and Liverpool’s hip hop scene suggested something of a comeback. We hope this is simply the beginning.
Meanwhile, newcomers Young Fathers, who have endeared themselves to Liverpool on numerous occasions in the last 18 months, managed to do the unthinkable – become worthy recipients of the Mercury Prize. It all made sense. For once.
To top it off, our man Jimmy Coultas chronicled Notorious BIG‘s Ready To Die – a classic which sounds as fresh as it did almost 20 years ago.
Another great thing to come out of this wave of hip hop was a swell of new listeners. Indeed, our own Emma Walsh penned this insight into the paradoxical world of being a feminist who grapples with enjoying hip hop’s more extreme end of the lyrical spectrum.
5. We thought last year was the year of Prince. Well, this year certainly seemed even more so. #PrinceWatch hit social media with a vengeance as his hit and run tours with 3rdEyeGirl saw UK cities awash with fans camping overnight for super-intimate one-off three hour gig marathons. First he stopped off in London before following up in Manchester. Tongues were wagging in Liverpool with rumours of a Cavern show. Reality kicked in when it was revealed the Cavern bosses were, well, in New York.
Following a further run of incredible Arena shows he closed the year by dropping two albums on the same day before deleting everything from his social media pages and vanishing into the purple ether. How very Prince.
6. There’s plenty of ‘dude done good’ kinda stories in this round up, but none really compare to that of Conor McDonnell.
When we first met Conor he was an affable, quite shy young lad hoping to get into live music photography. Six years later and he’s pretty much the same fella. Unassuming, humble and just up for doing anything that comes his way. Only in the last two years things have gone *big*. From back stage on the hop pictures of Rita Ora to full-time on tour shoots with Ellie Goulding, McBusted and Ms Ora followed by Q Awards and hanging out with The Arctic Monkeys and his idol Dave Grohl.
The peak of his year (aside from the Grohl bit) arrived out of the blue when he was whisked off to a secret location not really knowing what he was there for. It was only in the morning when he was taken to the private, super-exclusive ceremony of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian that things became clearer. Before he could say ‘Yeezus, Mary and Joseph,’ he’d taken their wedding pictures and what were to become the most viewed images of all time. The funniest thing about all this, Conor just gets on with it. Like he did right back on day one. Good job.
7. The institution that is 10 Bands 10 Minutes went from seriously fun night to seriously big deal in 2014. The Married To The Sea collective and their extended network of bands, friends and contemporaries only managed two outings in 2014 but it sheesh were those outings something special. January’s Michael Jackson (review/gallery) episode saw MttS recreate the entire Black & White Macauley Culkin video in hilarious fashion while the Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band brought new meaning to the track They Don’t Really Care About Us before Zangief stole everyone’s thunder with an incendiary Earth Song.
Six months later and Madonna‘s (review/gallery) back catalogue sounded fresher than if she were in the Kazimier herself with once again MttS closing in uproarious style with a full choir joining in on Like A Prayer.
We can but hope the formula and efforts are repeated in 2015, these nights are, like the artists they emulate, fast becoming the stuff of Merseyside legend.
8. We like to think we offer pretty on the money advice for not just music tips but life in general on Getintothis. Where to get your life insurance, betting tips and just general philosophical musings are a weekly norm on these pages. Oh, and French hip hop.
But this year we really taught you a few lessons. Our man Simon Lewis offered an insight into gig photography with his lights, camera, action feature, we showed you were to get boss new clobber, while The Motor Museum‘s head honcho and in-house engineer Al Groves provided an indispensable guide to new bands wanting to cut their first single with his top ten tips.
Best of all, Matt Eland offered the best advice of all to gig goers in his Tinnitus Awareness special – basically plug in, or face the prospect of going deaf. Specially if you’re off to see Sunn O))).
9. One of the best bits of 2014 characteristically may have slipped under many people’s radar, but that’s how Dave McTague and his Mellowtone operation go about their business. Ten years of making a quiet fuss over sharp new artists – mainly of the roots, folk and blues variety – was celebrated in fine fashion upstairs in their adopted home of Leaf on an indistinct, pretty average midweek night.
That didn’t stop around a dozen artists plugging (or not plugging, as is the usual way) in to show their support for a feature of the Merseyside scene for more than a decade. Epitomising Mellowtone‘s spirit, it was great to see a large number of fellow promoters in attendance (something which nigh on never happens at most events) as well as former players and figureheads from within the industry. See our feature and gallery here – it really was a good ‘un.
10. Our final ‘Up’ of 2014, has to go to the vast array of new artists we discovered during the last 12 months. Each and every one inspire and push these pages on into different realms every day of the week. It’s the reason why we do this. Here’s a quick list of my favourites – click on the artist to visit our piece on them and listen to their sounds.
The Demeanour ~ Glue Moon ~ The Little Secrets ~ A Lovely War ~ Colour ~ Blue Saint ~ Loveless ~ Holy Thursday ~ Visitors ~ Roxanne Jones ~ Rongo Rongo ~ Baltic States ~ Whyte Horses ~ Viet Cong ~ The Floormen ~ Hadakanacht ~ Jennifer Vaudrey ~ Tekla ~ V E E D ~ Queen Maud ~ Paddy Clegg ~ Adronite ~ Shrinking Minds ~ The Probes ~ The Tenements ~ LIVES ~ Nelson ~ Matt Lawton ~ Elephantom ~ Moats ~ Hooton Tennis Club ~ The Inkhearts ~ Thom Moorecroft ~ The Jackobins ~ Psyence ~ Buz Ludzha & The Cyclist ~ F.O.E.S ~ John McGrath ~ Soweto Necklace ~ Gulf ~ Shellsuit ~ Beach Skulls ~ Louis Berry ~ TVAM ~ Rugrat ~ Cavalry ~ Laura James ~ Etches ~ Sophia Ben-Yousef ~ Atlas Eyes ~ D R O H N E ~ Andrew Laval ~ Soho Riots ~ Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band ~ K Z M ~ Sub Blue ~ Tiz McNamara ~ Ed Black ~ Abe ~ Minnetonka ~ Aeroplane Flies High ~ Run Tiger Run ~ Double Echo ~ Menace Beach ~ Stephen Hudson & The Fiat Pandas ~ Ever Anew
It’s at this point that we usually reel off a great list of thank you’s – however, this year, we’ve taken up far too much digital web space already; we’re simply going to say, if you’re named or had a hand in any of the above – then you contributed to something truly special.
The next 12 months couldn’t hope to compare. Surely?
We’ve but two days to get ready. Thanks for reading. And Happy New Year.