vendredi, décembre 24, 2004

You rock my world

Who are the artists' artists of the year? From Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand to the R&B singer Jamelia to the chanteuse Françoise Hardy, the stars reveal to James McNair the records that have been the soundtrack to their past 12 months

24 December 2004

Elvis Costello, singer-songwriter

Real Gone by Tom Waits

This is my absolute favourite. This one lets us see Waits detached from the words "gravel", "gutter" and "gin-soaked". Behold the righteous anger of "Hoist That Flag", the Turkish mystery of "Trampled Rose", the mad roll call that closes "Don't Go Into That Barn", and the frightened sanity of the soldier in "The Day After Tomorrow". There is real beauty in this record; the elusive ear of Kathleen Brennan [Wait's wife and musical collaborator] in the heart of the words; son, Casey, on traps; and the untameable guitar of Marc Ribot, who once described a track as, "like rock and roll after America has been conquered by a Small African Republic". It's all here, and "Horse Face Ethel" and her marvellous "Pigs in Satin".

Mel C, solo artist

Happiness in Magazines by Graham Coxon

Sometimes I have to rack my brains with questions like this, but this year it's easy: Graham Coxon, Happiness In Magazines. It's had the monopoly on my iPod. I'd heard his earlier solo stuff, but this was the first album of his I really got into. When he was still with Blur, I think he was a bit overlooked, but on this record everything seemed to come together. The songs are great, his voice is great, and the recordings are great, too. There's a lot of humour in a song like "People of the Earth", so it was great to see someone with so much credibility just having fun. It's the perfect song to dance to drunk at a party. Overall, it's quite a rocky, poppy album. You can really hear how influential he was in creating the Blur sound.

Robert Plant, singer

Rubber Factory by The Black Keys.

"I like my coffee in the morning, I'm crazy about my tea at night. Sugar mama, where'd you get your sugar from?" Skip James, Jack Owens and Bentonia Mississippi come screaming out of this collection. Praise the Lord.

Tom Chaplin, singer, Keane

Want One by Rufus Wainwright

Near the beginning of the year, I was introduced to the Rufus Wainwright record Want One. I immediately fell in love with his melodies and arrangements, but most of all with his beautifully observed lyrics, from acutely personal love songs like "Vibrate" to world-weary songs of loss like "11:11". The journey was completed later in the year by seeing his live show at The Barbican, in London. In a year of personal highlights for me, it has been great to discover that there are songwriters who can still inspire and move me in such a strong way.

Jared Followill, bass guitarist, Kings of Leon

Hot Fuss by The Killers and Antics by Interpol

The thing that I've been listening to most is The Stills' Logic Will Break Your Heart, but maybe that came out at the end of 2003? As a band we really liked Hot Fuss by The Killers and Antics by Interpol, but The Stills' album is the one that's constantly been on my stereo. It's an awesome record that's brilliantly recorded. It always puts me in a happy space, and it reminds me of being home in Tennessee driving around Nashville or going to parties with my friends.

Baxter Dury, singer-songwriter

The Libertines by The Libertines

I've chosen this mainly because that's the album I was closest to. They are friends of mine and I know the uncut, un-tabloid story behind them, so I listened passionately. "Music When the Lights Go Out" is dark and poetic and beautiful. I love "What Katy Did", too. It's a great rock 'n' roll tune. As musicians they can be great and terrible, but I like the honesty of that. They were writing brilliantly about chaos as they were going through it, and that's quite a skill. As an album, it's the musical equivalent of war journalism. People are genuinely worried about those boys.

Jamelia, R&B singer

Scissor Sisters by Scissor Sisters

This is an amazing album. It's on my iPod all the time. They write really great songs. There's definitely something for everyone on the album. No matter what sort of thing you are normally into, there will be at least one song you will love.

Tim Burgess, singer, The Charlatans

Five Guys Walk Into a Bar by The Faces

If someone else has picked The Libertines album, I'll choose The Faces box-set reissue, Five Guys Walk Into A Bar. I was fortunate enough to get my copy as a signed present from Ronnie [Wood, ex Faces guitarist], so that meant a lot to me before I'd even played it. I had all the individual albums already, but hearing the out-takes and everything made me realise what a fantastic band they were. They were on fire, and nobody had a voice like Rod Stewart's. The haircuts, the ciggies, the clothes - so many bands have tried to base their look on The Faces. And any group with an instrumental called "Oh Lord I'm Browned Off" has to be worth a listen.

Christine Tobin, jazz singer

Egypt by Youssou N'Dour

Back in the spring, I heard a snippet on BBC Radio 3. The combination of his voice and the Egyptian orchestra is amazing - the scales and harmonies are very evocative. I was a fan of Youssou's before, but I hadn't heard him in such a traditional and moving context. I got goose bumps down my arm, and thought: "I have to get this record." There's a quote on the back of the sleeve which says love in Islam is not intellectual, but visceral, and that's how the album hits me. It gets you in the guts while putting over a lot of compassion. When he performed the album at The Barbican, I was in the second row. I wanted to make sure I caught everything. The audience was really moved. You could see it.

Grasshopper, guitarist, Mercury Rev

Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

The production and the use of the gospel choir is very powerful, and I think "Breathless" is an amazing love song. A friend of mine thinks it's a love song to God, but I'm not so sure. Nick's a great lyricist, and Warren Ellis and Mick Harvey are fabulous musicians. I really liked [former Bad Seeds guitarist] Blixa Bargeld, too, but maybe his departure lead to new ways of working. We toured with Nick, and it was really intense. He had the gospel singers with him, and every song he did from the new records worked perfectly. I also loved Real Gone by Tom Waits.

Ian Broudie, songwriter and producer

These Were The Earlies by The Earlies

I always liked The Beta Band, and to me, The Earlies' album had that kind of vibe about it: free-spirited, with interesting soundscapes. They're really on to something. These days, I'm into hearing strong group performances rather than constructed records, so I liked the Bees' Free The Bees album as well.

Dizzee Rascal, MC and producer

Showtime by Dizzee Rascal

Nothin' else even comes close.

Graham Coxon, singer-songwriter

The Libertines by The Libertines

Pumpin' hearts worn on bloody shirt-sleeves. The sound of brogues a-stampin' and drums a-poundin', drivin' ciggie-ripped voices to the confessional. And sweetness, too. Tenderness to the brim. Peter and Carl, England's most precious for 20 years.

Grant Nicholas, song writer, guitarist, Feeder

Talkie Walkie by Air

I got into them after hearing "Sexy Boy", which I instantly loved. I like their romanticism and melody, and they have a unique way with textures. Talkie Walkie was a return to the more direct sound of Moon Safari, which was probably the most overplayed lift music ever, but still undeniably great. Their attention to detail is never diluted. French electro at its best. Love it.

Rachel Stevens, singer

Scissor Sisters by Scissor Sisters

I loved Scissor Sisters, especially "Return to Oz", "Laura" and "Take Your Mama Out". It's just the right mix of trashy disco - perfect for getting ready for a night out with the girls. They've got a great look and I think they're a breath of fresh air. I'm going to make a point of seeing them in 2005 as everyone who has seen them live has said they are amazing.

Andy Scott, guitarist, The Sweet

Smile by Brian Wilson.

Having been a Beach Boys fan for many years, I found it incredible that they were going to re-record an album that had been shelved for so long. I'd heard snippets of the original recordings in bootleg form, but to hear it in its entirety was wonderful. He was working with huge vocal swathes almost in a choral way, and some of the record is really off the wall. I bought it on the day of release and I've been playing it in my car ever since. Back in the early Seventies, when The Sweet were mixing harmony singing with hard rock, Brian Wilson's vocal arrangements were definitely an influence.

Liela Moss, singer, The Duke Spirit

Fur by The Archie Bronson Outfit.

I found it very inspiring. They make tense, raw, brutal blues music and their drummer Mark writes all the lyrics. The song titles and their use of imagery really turn me on. They have this song, "Armour for a Broken Heart", and I liked that idea of having to bolster something that's been shattered, and the idea of the song being a kind of armour in itself. They also have this song called "Blood Heat" with a very menacing groove. Their music obviously dwells in a dark place, but it never comes across as a clichéd, Gothic thing. There's a yearning about it and it's totally honest.

Will Young, singer

Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon

My favourite of 2004 has been the reissue of John Martyn's 1977 album, One World. The production is really special, and it sounds totally unique for that time - I love it. What's so great about John is that he never sounds the same from album to album. The other band that I've been into this year is Kings Of Leon. Aha Shake Heartbreak is fantastic.

Richard Jones, bassist, Stereophonics

Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon

This was the first album in a long time that I instantly liked. Good songs that take you through different moods, and a big step on from their first album. "Milk" was totally unexpected and blew me away! "The Bucket" was a real stand out single, too.

Estelle, singer-MC

College Dropout by Kanye West

This was my favourite because it had consistent bangers that were about more than who was having sex and who had the most diamonds. It is a good barometer of how complex life is right now for a young person.

Jamie Cullum, jazz singer

Strangers by Ed Harcourt

This works effortlessly on many levels - as a pop record and something rather more rewarding. Tracks like "Born in the '70s" glisten with pop hooks while transporting you somewhere with imagery and poetry. The instrumentation is varied (with Ed playing many of the instruments himself) and the performances mostly sound like fresh, first takes. This is a near-perfect album from a UK songwriter who deserves a worldwide reputation. I am totally inspired by his work.

Françoise Hardy, singer-songwriter

The Girl In the Other Room by Diana Krall.

The tunes are of excellent quality and she plays piano with great sensitivity. My performer of the year would be the beautiful Katie Melua. I saw her play "The Closest Thing to Crazy" on French television, just her and her guitar. Très minimalist and completely mesmerising.

Glen Tilbrook, singer, songwriter

Who Killed The Zutons? by The Zutons

No one else has nominated it? I find that really strange. I saw them supporting The Coral at Lancaster University about three years ago and thought they were fantastic. The album seemed to take ages to come out, but when it did I was delighted with it. They take a disparate bunch of influences and create something that's completely their own and they have nothing to do with what's going on in the mainstream. That's a Liverpudlian trait, which I endlessly admire. When I saw them at the V Festival last year they were wearing weird yellow outfits, which is always good.

Aidan Moffat, of Arab Strap and L Pierre

Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team

There are too many great records to pick one true winner, so I'll choose the most mood-altering - The Go! Team's Thunder, Lightning, Strike is by far the happiest album of the year, and I would defy anyone not to smile when it's on. Its highly illegal sampling lends it a rock 'n' roll attitude and displays a very eclectic palate, too. It's a perfect morning album and a perfect night-out album and it makes me want to jump about and hug people. I can only hope they'll be enormous next year and do a Christmas single.

Cheryl Tweedy, singer, Girls Aloud

Floacism "Live" by Floetry.

The dynamic between the two girls is amazing and I think they have a unique style combining singing and rapping - so much more exciting than all the samey R&B that has been around all year. The singer has an incredible vocal range and is probably one of the best soul voices from the UK. I can't believe Floetry aren't bigger in this country. I've been playing the CD on our tour bus a lot. "Say Yes" and "Headache" are my two favourite songs.

John Yates, singer, songwriter, Ella Guru

Micah P Hinson and The Gospel of Progress by Micah P Hinson

The sound of lost Texan soul let loose in England, with great arrangements by our new friends The Earlies. It is a collaboration fitting for the album's bleak but strangely positive outlook. Warm, comforting, honest songs.

Jimi Goodwin, singer and bass guitarist, Doves

Bubblegum by Mark Lanegan

My favourite album of the year without a doubt is Mark Lanegan's Bubblegum. The flow of the album is great and I think he's got the most blinding voice.

Matt Hales, singer, Aqualung

A Ghost Is Born by Wilco

I was introduced to Wilco last year while working on my second record. Their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album blew my mind, showing me that the combination of Jeff Tweedy and Jim O'Rourke could produce miraculous music. When A Ghost Is Born came out, I rushed out to buy it, which is not something I often do. Everything from the typeface on the cover to the music within is so tasty you feel you could eat it. It's slightly austere, yet fascinating, and almost sculptural in the way they work with sound. It's been a constant inspiration.

Laura Veirs, singer-songwriter

The Milk-eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom

My favourite album of 2004 was - hands down - Joanna Newsom's The Milk-eyed Mender. Her lyrics are masterful, deep and strange, her voice is unusual and elf-like, her harp (harp!) playing is polyrhythmic and wonderfully complex, yet so simple at its root. I was baffled seeing her live: she was part mysterious forest creature, part dextrous musical prodigy, part classic American songwriter. She reminds me of a fresh, organic Northern California salad. Full of wild, colourful, delicious things.

Alex Kapranos, singer, Franz Ferdinand

Bomb Romantics by The Blood Arm

The album we've been listening to this year is by the Los Angeles guitar band The Blood Arm. It's called Bomb Romantics, and it's only out as a limited release at the moment. We've played with them a couple of times in LA and they are highly original and innovative. If there's any justice they'll get the acclaim they deserve in 2005.

Ed Harcourt, singer-songwriter

Bubblegum by Mark Lanegan

This is my album of the year. Listening to this feels satanic and angelic at the same time. It makes me want to make better records

Mylo, electronica producer

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned by The Prodigy

When it came to rock records there were two that stood out - The Killers' Hot Fuss and Franz Ferdinand's eponymous debut. Both are exciting guitar pop albums with no discernible filler. My favourite electronic albums of the year were Air's Talkie Walkie and The Prodigy's Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, both striking returns to form from two of the genre's biggest acts. There were also two double mix CDs I loved this year: Optimo's Kill the DJ compilation, and Tiefschwarz's Misch Masch. Optimo is a Sunday-night club in Glasgow and indisputably the best club in the world right now. The mix is cacophonous but fabulous - imagine an esoteric version of 2manyDJs' monster, As heard on Radio Soulwax part 2, and you wouldn't be far off.

Colin Macintyre, songwriter, The Mull Historical Society

Fly or Die by N.E.R.D.

Because I made an album this year that was pretty much all my head's internal radio could take, but Fly or Die by N.E.R.D. broke through and has often been playing at home. I love the diversity of what they do. I have some other records they've made, because, as a producer, I need to steal (maybe I mean "learn", or maybe "borrow") from other places. It's not as good as the first N.E.R.D. album, but they keep challenging and changing and that's the only way to go as far as I'm concerned. But I think they can do better still across an entire album.

©2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd. All rights reserved