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Best of 2012: A Conversation Well Rehearsed by The Birthday Suit

Second album in two years from Rod Jones’s new venture, and A Conversation Well Rehearsed does not disappoint. Lead single Less Worthless Years hinted at significant game raising (try getting that chorus out of your head), and the quality barely dips across the album. It’s a similar mix to last year’s The Eleventh Hour: there’s punch the air euphoria on You Hear The Drum, gorgeous wistfulness on Out Of This World and balls-out rock on Uh-Huh Uh-Huh (which comes with some excellent screams), but everything is just that bit tighter, that bit better, a little more sure of itself.
Jones’s songwriting is going from strength to strength, with even the big dumb rock moments displaying real heart, and there’s an obvious sense of pride and pleasure in each note. If The Birthday Suit can keep this up, this may be just the start of something very exciting indeed.

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Best of 2011: new albums

Wild Beasts: Smother

“If you’re not tired of such things, this is a love song,” came the introduction to Deeper at the Liquid Room last month. As if you could tire of love songs by Wild Beasts. After 2009’s pretty damn filthy Two Dancers (at the same gig,tAll The King’s Men was announced with “this is a song about fucking”), the utterly romantic core of this year’s Smother came as something of a surprise.  The heartbreaking Invisible, Reach a Bit Further (the devastating delivery of “Will you by any chance remember the olive branch?” is worth the price of the album in itself) and the trembling Burning stand out in an astounding collection which reinvents the very idea of the love song, made all the more impressive given its unlikely source.

Antlers – Burst Apart

I Don’t Want Love is a serious contender for best album opener of the year, and nothing that follows disappoints, particularly Corsicana and the panicked Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out. Sublime from start to finish.

The Birthday Suit – The Eleventh Hour

Certainly didn’t see this one coming. Rod Jones of Idlewild’s new outfit The Birthday Suit turned out a rather brilliant noisy indie pop album, full of gigantic choruses. Hope Me Home soars, On My Own‘s swirling guitars conjure madness, and They Say I Love You is an unashamedly soppy ballad, and a glorious one like that. When considered alongside Roddy Woomble’s folky solo efforts, it hints at the reason for Idlewild’s hiatus: Jones clearly wants to make a lot of noise, and on Do You Ever in particular, he does it beautifully.

The Wave Pictures – Beer in the Breakers

It’s becoming an ambition of mine to have a pint with David Tattersall  and just listen to him say words. His lyrical style is twisted, witty and utterly loveable. Two Lemons, One Lime features the line You said you wanted a white wine in red wine weather”, tossed out with a weary sigh as if it’s an unforgiveable slight. Elsewhere on The Wave Pictures’ third album, a more cohesive, addictive successor to If You Leave It Alone, Little Surprise shimmies with a knowing wink, and Pale Thin Lips, arguably one of their finest moments to date, dissects a past relationship with affecting clarity and genuine regret: “You can pretend you don’t know me… I like the times they had, I thought they weren’t all that bad.”

ANR – Stay Kids

Noisy, glittery indie-dance-pop beautifully done with falsetto agogo. Big Problem in particular demands the flailiest of dance moves.

M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

It’s testament to how good this album is that it contains saxophones – 1980s instant coffee-tastic saxophones – and is still one of the best releases of the year. Single Midnight City is not of this earth.

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Across the finish line – NaNoWriMo 2011

50,085 words, and I am done!

It was a tough one this year, and I’m far from in love with what I’ve created, but nice to know I can still do it. Mr Shaky is, as I type, finishing up lyrics for his lot of songs for this year, and he still has a day to go, so it’s looking doable.

This year’s experience has been odd. I really don’t feel like I’ve been as involved with my characters as I was last year, and that possibly shows, but it was an attempt at a different kind of book. That’s what I have enjoyed using NaNoWriMo for, exploring different ideas. Trying a writing style I’m not used to is fine for a few weeks of madness as if I hate it, I’m not too attached. This one went a wee bit haywire, and I think the end is possibly too satisfying, but at least it has an end, and that’s kind of the point.

To the following albums, I say thanks for getting me through this one: Mew – …And the Glass-Handed Kites, Wild Beasts – Smother, Antlers – Burst Apart and Hospice (sweet Lord, my post last week about songs that make me cry was pre-emptive given that I heard Epilogue for the first time at the weekend and just about combusted), The Birthday Suit – The Eleventh Hour, Roddy Woomble – The Impossible Song and Other Songs, The National – Boxer.

Now is most certainly the time for a beer.

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Rod Jones and the Birthday Suit

This year’s Edge Festival is boasting a rather decent line up – with the exception of Cast and Morcheeba, it’s significantly better than last year’s – and tucked away right at the end is the unveiling of the new project from Idlewild guitarist Rod Jones. Going by Rod Jones and the Birthday Suit – whether that’s a new solo moniker, his backing band or his attire, I’m not sure – he seems to be on a mission to shine up the rocky side of Idlewild’s coin while Roddy Woomble is off promoting lovely folky second solo album The Impossible Song and Other Songs. And if taster Do You Ever is anything to go by, we’re in for something rather special indeed. Available as a free download here, it’s a wonderfully raggedy surprise, all serrated guitars and unexpected stop-starts. If Idlewild’s hiatus turns out not to be permanent – please please please – then signs are good for future albums: the inventive spirit is in seriously good health. In the meantime, Rod Jones and the Birthday Suit play Cabaret Voltaire on 31st August.

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