Posts Tagged ‘Robyn Hitchcock’

features, music

The 10 best psych pop albums of 2013 (and a couple from last year)

By Stefano on March 7th, 2013

It might only be March, but already it has been a vintage year for lovers of wonky sixties influenced pop aka psych.

Last year’s great hope, Jacco Gardner, has already treated us to a very fine album that delivers on the promise of his exceptional early singles. While Robyn Hitchcock, the spiritual godfather of British psych has turned out an album that rivals the best music he has ever made.

And then there’s an American band Foxygen, who might just be the best 60s influenced band that country has produced since The Strokes and The White Stripes.

Here then are 10, ok 8, great albums from this year plus a couple from the tail end of last year. Spotify new Psych playlist – which features many of the bands – below the pics.

If you want more then here are the top 15 Psych albums from last year

Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.

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Picture 10 of 10

And so to the album that already is a shoe in for album of the year - and it only March remember. Put simply Foxygen are, IMO, the best American band, since oooh The Strokes. Their debut EP, Take the Kids Off Broadway, was fun but their new album which came out a few weeks ago, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, I do not think will be bettered this year. It really is that exceptional. Admittedly ace producer Richard Swift has shorn the band of some of their quirkiness, but by making them focus on the songs themselves, and the superbly clever arrangements, he has done them a huge favour. That isn’t to say you haven’t heard some of the music before. But this is no Oasis style slavish homage to long gone musical era. For me the band’s spiritual forbears are the incredible US psych band The United States of America, a band whose only album drew heavily on all manner of American music – from classical through to gospel and folk – to create what was for the time an astonishingly ambitious record. And so it is with Foxygen. There’s a whiff of Elvis here, a Dylan touch there. I can also make out snatches of cult acts like The Music Machine (in On Blue Mountain) and The Zombies too. But even if moments of the songs sound familiar the tracks themselves are utterly unique and never ever short of incendiary. Best tracks? Well all of them. But you have to love the opener In The Darkness for its Magical Mystery Tour era Beatles sunny optimism and Shuggie for its really clever structure and killer chorus. And then there’s No Destruction already infamous for its line – ‘You don’t have be an asshole you are not in Brooklyn any more,’ pay off line. In San Francisco (see above) they have a gorgeous tune that sounds like Syd Barrett fronting Belle & Sebastian. Also in an era of faceless musicians, frontman Sam France has the swagger, the self-belief and the hair to rival Jacco Gardner as the poster boy for a new generation of psych acts Just pray that the don’t do a Strokes and piss any momentum they had away by hanging out with models and starring in lame fashion shoots.

Gallery, music

Robyn Hitchcock’s 60th Birthday Bash at London’s Village Underground

By Stefano on March 1st, 2013


I do find it astonishing that Robyn Hitchcock isn’t celebrating his 60th birthday with his rock royalty chums at Wembley, rather than with a few hundred diehards at a lovely, but small-ish East London venue. After all what is not to like? He has a voice like Lennon, songs that recall both Barrett and Dylan, jangly guitar episodes that summon up The Byrds and The Smiths, harmonies akin to the Wilson Brothers and surreal excursions influenced by the likes of Captain Beefheart and early Steeleye Span. He is a one man Spotify of all that’s great in intelligent pop. And yet he sounds utterly distinctive too. If ever her maj needed to appoint an pop laureate he’d be the perfect person for the gig – though his late 80s track The Veins Of The Queen would probably be enough to ensure he didn’t make the shortlist.

Tonight we are treated to a romp through his back catalogue in reverse chronological order. And even from the off the parallel universe pop hits come thick and fast with the stunning Goodnight Oslo from a couple of years back with its mesmeric guitar (originally supplied by one Peter Buck) and the Johnny Marr co-penned uplifting pop gem of Ordinary Millionaire early highlights.

A few songs in and we are transported to his more introspective period of just over a decade or so ago (which I gather was largely a reaction to major label push of a few years before), where gentle pop tunes are fleshed out by a cello and delicate female harmonies. The stunner here is No I Don’t Remember Guildford, which soars away on gorgeous vocals and subtle strings.

The first half of the two sets take in Hitchcock’s pop years when a cast of minor rock deity – Nick Lowe, Terry Edwards and Green Gartside to name but three of his conspirators, help him run through his very Beatley almost hit So You Think You Are In Love and the psychedelic vaudeville of The Wreck Of The Arthur Lee. Both wonderful songs that should have given the man his big breakthrough.

After a quick break and a poem from John Hegley the man returns with several songs from his mid-80s albums, including the glorious paean to an Isle of Wight beach, Airscpe, and the anti-Thatcher Barrett-esque blast that is Brenda’s Iron Sledge.

Finally the time travelling troubadour arrives back in the late 70s with songs from his first band The Soft Boys. From an embarrassment of riches on the classic Underwater Moonlight album to choose Hitchcock, backed by two of the three original members of of the band, opts for a spirited Kingdom of Love rather than the more obvious new wave racket of I Wanna Destroy You or the perfect jangle pop of Queen of Eyes, but then you can’t have everything…

Finally the whole cast are back on stage including, bizarrely, publishing guru and all round top bloke Mark Ellen and Adam Buxton of Adam and Joe fame, to climax with a track from the singer’s latest album Love from London. That song, The End Of Time might be fresh to most of the people hearing it, but it fits in perfectly as yet another jewel in the career of a singer who hopefully will have many more songs to come.

Robyn and Acapella guests

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Picture 1 of 3

Including Green Gartside, Time Keegan, Terry Edwards and a very beardy Adam Buxton

If you have never heard Hitchcock, probably best to start here.

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