Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Year End Review of 2010 (The Stevies!)

Hellloooooo, is this on? Does this work? Can you hear me, testing 1-2 (Ed: yes we hear you, whatever you do, don't bang the mic) Hellooo, 1-2-3-4 testing (BANG!! BANG!! BANG!!) (Ed: why do I bother?) Mmmm, yep, seems to be working fine now...

Hi folks, welcome to yet another year of the most tawdry awards in the Universe, yes it's time for the Eighth Annual Stevies Awards, my own, highly personal look back at the year just past. Now some of my choices are not going to find favour, whereas others will but - as I say - this is a VERY personal view of whats going on around the Internet music scene, although I have been known to pick a winner or two in all the years I have been doing this. Like my reviews, I express my opinion and that is all, and I do it freely knowing that it is just that, one opinion among many. I try not to get hung up about this or that niggle, but whether the music moved me, or showed me something I didn't know.

Words On The Web

If you are reading this review on Soundclick, a few of those names I mention will be be completely unknown to you unless you are a regular reader of my reviews there and that is because over half of my review tracks these days come through the Rebel Riffs blog. Consequently they range all over the place, from artists like Inessa Lee (You Tube), Heavy Glow (Myspace), Reverbnation has supplied a decent soundtrack this year too. My critical reach right now is greater than it's ever been, and I am one happy bunny for that. It means that by harvesting (as it were) a really wide range of tracks from all these different places, I am hearing a much bigger slice of the internet music pie and - as a consequence - separating myself somewhat from a 'normal' forum based life.

What it has shown me this year, and this should come as no surprise to Soundclick forum regulars, is the whole emphasis has changed and that it's probably time to stretch yourself a whole lot more to get the comparable amount of attention as before. Obviously the deciding factor has the incredible rise of social networking which has taken a massive toll on a slew of music based forums. Personally, I wouldn't do either Facebook, Twitter or even Myspace but that is a personal opinion only and still rely on my presence on music based sites like Soundclick, Mixposure and others but I do network in a million other ways and unless a forum is really lively, it will lose people hand over fist to a more immediate medium. Moreover, IMHO virtual realities offer people like us by far the best way to reach a truly massive audience, and in the best way possible - with our music. Upping our game isn't just a good thing, it's probably vital.

In other words, as much as OMD's (online music distributors) such as Soundclick still continue to offer THE best site on the web, but at this moment more as a central point for our material but no longer a vehicle for promotion. Not knowing how the site works (I have no affiliation with Soundclick or any other site), I have no idea whether their own attempts at social networking have worked or not but truthfully, it hasn't for me. Still, it's my home and I will continue to based out of there because - in my eyes as a musician - it suits my basic needs, even if the forums have atrophied.

Mixposure, of course continues to do a sterling job, with some major changes happening over the past year including a new look, new forums and s-l-i-c-k music players. What more could a poor boy need? A welcoming and lively site helps and this is where Mixposure scores above many of the others in terms of musician-friendly outlook. My only real regret this year is that, because of my workload, I haven't been able to make a disgrace of myself in the chatroom of a Saturday night, or play much of a part in the social life of the site. I have, however, met some truly talented and professional (to their fingertips) musicians over there and do very much recommend it. If you like a site for musicians, run by musicians, then this is the place for you.

I have dabbled quite a lot this year and last in virtual worlds like Second Life, IMVU and a great many others (Ed: some of them naughty no doubt) and although I recognise the potential for musicians to break out from there, there still isn't one where it isn't cluttered up with copyright issues - especially where it concerns musicians like myself who use the Creative Commons system. Moreover, the push from commercial record companies into these worlds is efficient and brutal. At one point IMVU was a site where not only could you upload your own music, but you could sell it through their store. Now it's yer average tighter than a ducks ass music site that has literally strangled any chance whatsover of being something different; a place where musicians can actually meet their audiences. The same holds somewhat true of Second Life although it has to be said the possibilities there are so much better but it's still a very daunting place to set up shop.

No doubt, things will have changed immensely this time next year but I have a feeling that the coming year is going to be challenging in ways we couldn't possibly predict.

Enough of that, soapbox away and let's get to the meat and taters...


2010's Movers and Shakers

Those artists who have made an impression on me one way or another during 2010 are listed in no particular order:

Ska Rapples - Fear 2 Stop - Those Among Us - 333maxwell - Ralph Atkinson - Ron Vogel - Cam's Even Song - Avalanche - Azoora - JPC (NZ) - Howard Billington - Smoke It 'n' Die - Larry Ludwick - Alionsonny - Charlie A - Bright Midnight - Pilesar - Whitman Speck - Pidgeman - Cameron Pierce - Christopher Martin Hansen - Nuff X - Gabriel Sabadi - Steff Adams - Thomas J Marchant - Michael Hughes - Inessa Lee - Kiria - Reflexion X - Big Wheel - Maddie Jones - Rude Corps - Gangbangsters - Joseph Moore - Heavy Glow - Scheezy McGee - Guanoman - Rustik - Ratchet - Julian Shah Taylor - The Continentals - Satellite 3 - Hhymn

2010 Tracks Of The Year Overview

Last year I said 2009 was the busiest review year ever, but I've still managed to up the totals (and that doesn't include videos and other sideshows). I ended up listening and reviewing some 459 tracks over the last year, of which many were album and/or EP reviews. I didn't know busy, huh? Nonetheless, only 141 of those bad boys stuck around long enough on my playlist to become contenders today. This is slightly less even than last year, which just goes to show you how ruthless I have to be about this. Moreover, I suffered a REAL bad hardddrive problem early in the year so maybe the figures are a bit whack from previous years but hey, *** happens right?

Exceptional Tracks by the Month (either Highly Recommended or Must Have)

Link Key: (RR) Rebel Riffs (MIX) Mixposure otherwise Soundclick or a site such as You Tube etc...check the original review.

Howard Billington - He Stole My Girl
Alionsonny - Reggae (The Album)
JPC (NZ) - Dig Up, Stupid
Tedd-Z - Silver Spear
Daniel Eboli - Red Bells
Bright Midnight - Liberation
Rescue Cat - What Happened To Us (RR)
Rescue Cat - Fischer Vs Spassky (RR)
Alchemystic - Sweet Sorrow Ft Yolande Strauss

Sky Meets Earth - Turn It On
Ladybear - Catch 22 CD (RR)
Tarnish By Gray - Artist Overview (RR)
Four Course Five - Party Over Here
Thomas J Marchant - Sin Of Envy
M J K - Fix Me ***
Howard Billington - Love Can Wait
Ska Rapples - Wind Divine

Musicarian - Sailing through Dusk to Dawn
JPC (NZ) - F.I.O.F.O
333maxwell - Oriental Electronica
Densyl - Hope Is All About
ejhooker0is0my0name - Tie My Hands
Zebrabook - TDC The Buildings Are Dying
Alchemystic - Never Thought Ft Yolandé Strauss
Rude Corps - A Little Bird Told Me
Daniel Eboli - Paradigma
M J K - Without You

MJK - Wait
Steff Adams - Blue Pathways CD (RR)
BSM - Falling Apart EP
Thomas J Marchant - Keepin Up Appearances feat Chas Holman
Thomas J Marchant - It's A Hard Life (That We Are Living)
Christopher Martin Hansen - Passage
Avalanche - Be Good To Each Other
Jim Easton - My Romance In Rome (MIX)
Unread Pages - Time
Refrag - Light Metal

Vitamin D - Bartlett Bridge (RR)
Smoke It 'n' Die - Wondering If
Avalanche Ft Stephanie Krowka - Ring Around The Moon
Timmy Sells His Soul - Cop Cars Like Sharks
Dean143 - Each Man For Yourself
Barricades Rise - No Love Lost EP (RR)
Mike Prather - These Wounds
Freiflug - Liebesschlacht (MIX)
Cam's Even Song - Isreal's Real Thing
Bri-an - The Rat (MIX)
Michael Hughes - Cloudy
Those Among Us - Feel

Christopher Martin Hansen - 80 Days
Charlie Betts - Whatever It Takes LP (RR)
Danika Holmes - Lock Me In Tonight (RR)
Smoke It 'n' Die - By Morning
JCH (UK) - Painting By Numbers LP
Kevin Miller - Blood On Sandy River
Big Wheel - Like This Ft Damian Lee
Bodies Music - Shaking Hands
Thomas J Marchant - The Feather Demo
Gabriel Sabadi - Beauty On The Beach (MIX)
Reflexion X - God Vs Satan
Ska Rapples - Drop Dead Beautiful
Twisted Angel - Sippin' On Venom

Kiria - One CD (RR)
The Rascal Theorist - Alright
Shorthand Phonetics - 34 Minutes With Hide and Tubasa LP (RR)
Gangbangsters - Letzgetfuctup
Cameron Pierce - Polychrome
Azoora - Tension EP (RR)
Reflexion X - Mary Mo
Thomas J Marchant - Lifeboat
Rude Corps - Faster
JCH (UK) - Shooter
Christopher Martin Hansen - Sweetwater

333maxwell - Dooby Doo When You Walk In The Room
Those Among Us - A Chance To Die EP
333maxwell - That's Why The Band Keeps Playing
Joseph Moore - Whittle Little Figures (RR)
Whitman Speck - You Can't Survive
Maddie Jones - Green and Blue (RR)
Heavy Glow - The Filth and The Fury EP (RR)
Painted Water - Feastia of the Sun

Cam's Even Song - Reaching Door 19
Pidgeman - Letter Of The Law
Rustik - Monster
Bright Midnight - Hotel Saigon
Cardium - Blue Rose (RR)
Painted Water - The Chase Ft John Holgate
JPC (NZ) - Tin Man Friends EP
Guanoman - Minor Attack of Glass Sickness
Twizzie - Keep Doin You Ft Chelsea Tan
333maxwell - Walk Awhile

Smoke It 'n' Die - Taquilla Chihuahua
Ron Vogel - Our Way Home
Lewis Cat - The King Is Lonesome (RR)
Guanoman - Tawdry Seduction Disasters CD
Scheezy McGee - Hands
Burn Down The Charade - Revelations & Revolutions CD (RR)
Ralph Atkinson - Spaghetti Western Serenade
Rude Corps - Solidarity (Remix)
Esto - The Bedtime Tea EP (RR)
Michael Hughes - The Dreamers Waltz
Avalanche Ft Stephanie Krowka - Let Me
The Ran-Tan Waltz - Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong EP (RR)
Nuff X - Tunnel Vision
Larry Ludwick - Failing
Distant Autumn - You Know What You Do

Eddie Cohn - Stay With Me LP (RR)
Rustik - Smoke Rings
333maxwell - Where You'll Find You
Avalanche - Not My Style
Satellite 3 - Playing With Fire
Julian Shah-Tayler - Wetter (RR)
Ratchet - Compromise
Pidgeman - Beast Of Halloween
Zebrabook - Piercing
Sunburn in Cyprus - If It's Good For Me
Thomas J Marchant - Ego
Speak Words Speak - Out Of Love
Whitman Speck - I Love To Hate You
Inessa Lee - Living Doll tracks (RR)

Satellite 3 - Ghost
Densyl - Christmas is All About/I'm Gonna Get You
Moral Factor - Apagando la tele
Hhymn - These Hands (RR)
Pidgeman - We Won't Back Down
Avalanche - The Golden Sun
The Continentals - In A Circle With Our Friends EP (RR)
Ralph Atkinson - Winterkill
Rustik - Hoodie Back On
Cam's Even Song - Real Things Cast Shadows
Zebrabook - Boy In The Forest
Marc Blackwell - Bring Me Trouble (RR)
Thomas J Marchant - Clusterfvck in A Major
Ron Vogel - The Forest
Scheezy McGee - Be There
Pilesar - The Fingerling (Live)

2010 Tracks Of The Year

Howard Billington/Smoke It 'n' Die - He Stole My Girl/OCD Demo/Wondering If/By Morning/Keep Going On Demo/Taquilla Chihuahua
There is no doubt whatsover that this has been a great year for this UK based songwriter, scoring big in his own right then doing it all over again with the band Smoke It 'n' Die. Considering that he only came to anyone's attention a short while ago, he has made many friends very quickly. I first came across him with the awesome He Stole My Girl (January 2010) and he's followed it up with track after track of music that is so full of energy and a massive sense of fun, it can't fail. Certainly one of the main contenders for Artist of the year ever since that track really. Anyway, I've just listed the highlights from both Howard and the band and remember you heard it here first - watch this guy go...

333maxwell - Dooby Doo Etc/That's Why The Band Keep's Playing/Two Of A Kind/Walk Awhile/Where You'll Find You
What can I say? 2009's Artist Of The Year doesn't seem to be resting on his laurels, shovelling stuff out of the door at a frighteningly prodigious pace which, for me anyway, is true vindication for naming him so. While not such a hectic year as last (where he notched up nine Must Haves) our Max has continued to walk his own very distinctive path, and musically is probably the coolest cat on the planet. However, we can take comfort in the fact that he is no longer AOTY and he has to hand it on today but hey, that's the name of the game. Seriously, one of THE classiest musicians on Soundclick or anywhere on the planet, the man oozes charm and likeability, and his music ain't bad either.

Christopher Martin Hansen - Passage/Sweetwater/80 Days
Speaking of classy musicians, Christopher Martin Hansen has been at the top of my acoustic guitarist god charts for many years and 2010 saw some of his most liquid and stunning tracks in a long, long while. Passage (April 2010) started the cycle off, followed by an even better (of it were possible) 80 Days before finally putting the truly stunning Sweetwater into my hands. While he might well be an acquired taste - he is true guitar player in the style of the greats from flamenco to folk - over the years CMH has gathered a surprisingly steady bunch of fans of which I count myself. Nice to see him back in action and in fine, fine form

Gangbangsters - Letzgetfuctup /Yellow Haze/Brainwashed
There is no doubt that 2010 has been a great year on Soundclick for hip hop with a difference and one of my own personal favourites is La based Ryan Wixted (aka Gangbangsters) who has delivered three absolutely cracking tracks this year. Along with...

Rustik - Monster/Smoke Rings/Hoodie Back On
Rustik's had a great year too, starting it in big style with Monster (and indeed it is a monster), following it up by blowing Smoke Rings which in many ways even eclipsed even Monster for playability and if I didn't include Hoodie Back On my kids would beat me up.

Scheezy McGee - L.O.V.E/Hands/Be There
Scheezy McGee first came to my attention with L.O.V.E. (August 2010) and like Gangbangsters and Rustik adopts an entirely different approach to the genre, and these three tracks show the remarkable spread he can come up with. At the very least treat yourself to a blast of Be There - an instant, legal high. Note: not to mention many of the other musicians like Twizzie (Twisted Angel), Whitman Speck and others who have also delivered hip hop that is definitely not mainstream this year.

Avalanche - Be Good To Each Other/Not My Style/Let Me Ft Stephanie Krowka/Ring Around The Moon Ft Stephanie Krowka/The Golden Sun/The Road Less Travelled Video
One of my 2010 tracks of the year isn't a track, and it isn't even from this year! 2010 has been a quiet year for Avalanche releases but of the four official releases so far, all have been up to the band's usual extremely high standard, with Stephanie Krowka showing that she can rock with the best of them. The Road Less Travelled video is the one that has captured me though, both song and video. Definitely proving to be one of my favourite tracks of all time, I hear it up to three times a day, most days.

Cams Even Song - Isreal's Real Thing/Reaching Door 19/Ying Yang Great Things Cast Shadows ---------------------------------------------------
Artist Of The Year 2006 continues to shine his considerable light around Soundclick with the by now almost obligatory clutch of Must Have's - all so richly deserved. In my opinion one of the sharpest, concise songwriters on Soundclick and an instantly recognisable (and very upbeat) sound. Cam's Even Song just get better with each passing year and if you've never heard of them, time to do something about it.

Thomas J Marchant - The feather demo/Lifeboat/Keeping Up Appearances Ft 333maxwell/It's a Hard Life That We Are Living/Ego/Clusterfvck in A Major
Artist Of The Year 2007 has also had a great year, although not without its pain and frustration. Like many of this year, Thomas has been be-devilled by technical problems to the point that by the end of the year he was delivering some of his most stripped down work yet, and arguably some of his best too as it happens. See when Thomas gets his back against the wall, it comes out in his music and - whichever way its recorded - makes it all the more powerful for that. A true Soundclick talent.

I put these two guys together because they make a nice pair, don't they? Both, however, are excellent musicians and songwriters and both are rock based, but the differences between their work is what really seals the deal for each of them. Both scored this year with extended sets; John Crosbie Hancox (for it is he) for his excellent Painting By Numbers project and John Paul Carroll (for it is he too) for the Tin Man Friends EP that finally nailed his colours to the rock wall. Look out for good things from both these one man bands in the coming year.

Pidgeman - Letter Of The Law/Beast Of Halloween/We Won't Back Down
Like JPC (NZ) Pidgeman is another artist I have watched for years and seen them really come into their own this year, but Pidgeman - I have to say - gives me a real satisfaction because I finally get it. Either he moved further towards me or I moved further towards him but whatever happened, it worked big time. The later half of this year got studded by some of this musicians best work yet, but it was these three tracks that showed his direction has shifted, and his game is suitably upped big time.

Artist Of The Year 2010

In any other year there is no doubt that Howard Billington and Smoke It 'N' Die would be standing right here owing to their insanely upbeat musical style and born-with-it songwriting skills - but this is not an ordinary year. Not that Howard and crew should feel disappointed, I have a feeling they are only just getting into their stride and we'll be seeing much more of them.

So, what makes this year different from others? Nothing on the surface of it, certainly not in the early months of the year, but as the year rolled round I found myself contemplating the future more and more. As I mentioned in my opening statement, I think the online music scene is changing quite rapidly now and the word I keep coming back to time and again during the last months of the year was integrity. Mine, and other peoples.

In many ways, these AOTY awards have been as much about artistic integrity as they have been about the talent or the music and this year I finally realised that. What bought all of this to the front of my mind has been some work I did this year with tonights Artist Of The Year, and their particular place in the history of rock music. Although as I mentioned before, they haven't been that active this year, but I know what's coming your way REAL soon and it will adequately explain why this years winner can only be....


The reason they haven't been active this year is because they are working on a documentary of which The Road Less Travelled (a song btw about their 30 years as a band) is but the first part. If you have already seen this really astounding clip on You Tube then you will understand what I mean. However, as well as being one of the best rock bands on the planet, Avalanche happen to be also one of the most political and outspoken and it is that where their integrity comes fully into its own. Songs like Excessive, The Road, and many other favourites endeared the band to Soundclick and others very quickly, I think this documentary will show the real Avalanche and their plans for the future and it will be an eye-opener for many who think that this 'scene' has no real future.


Damn, is that it? Another year gone? Anyway, I hope you had a good laugh and heard some good music from these reviews over the last year so you'd better start piling them up at my door again because 2011 starts.......


1 comment:

Dean Brantley Taylor said...

Great column! Funny, interesting, opinionated.