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mixtape (detail) - sakura snow

Although this time last year I relented to the whole end-of-year list thing, through a combination of laziness and principle I’ve decided to retire from that and instead focus on more practical list-making (e.g. “Top 5 Ways To Thread The Shoelaces Of My Work Shoes” or “Top 10 Items I Discovered In My Stool This Morning”). This is not to say I don’t very much enjoy trawling the various End Of Year Best Ofs that populate the interwebosphere every January – they are a great source of new listening inspiration, and can be a useful nudge in finally going ahead and procuring that ‘buzz’ album that you’ve been meaning to check out but haven’t yet got around to (but no, that Bon Iver chappie is not for me). Particularly those lists that attempt to add a little bit of context as to why a particular recording is worthy of attention, as opposed to those un-annotated lists which I myself was guilty of. This is one I like, or this… (and for group-compiled, consensus-based lists you could do worse that check this one out).

But this does not mean I’m above trying to foist my questionable tastes on others…

Each year I make myself a “Best Of…” compilation, trying to encapsulate the best of that year’s listening (and live) experiences over the course of a couple of mastered CDs. And so in a rare act of magnanimous generosity, I’m making that compilation available here for your listening pleasure.

NarcoAgent – Best of 2008 volume I
NarcoAgent – Best of 2008 volume II

If you’d like an aurally-tangible run-through of the releases that caught my ear in 2008, right-click, ‘Save As’ and put ’em on the portable music player of your choice . Hopefully you make some enjoyable discoveries (or at the very least supress those sociopathic thoughts for an hour or two – it works for me!).

mixtape (detail) - sakura snow 

This first NarcoAgent ‘podcast’ also marks the launch of the Mixtapes page where I’ll occasionally upload other collections for your listening pleasure.
Tracklistings & associated info to be found there too.

mixtape (detail) - sakura snow


Having once been a relatively enthusiastic proponent of the end-of-year ‘best of’ list, a few years ago I stopped putting these together in favour of just creating an aural review of releases I particularly liked in the form of a CD compilation. I suppose I rejected the idea of trying to rank the year’s releases, to come up with the ‘best album’ of that particular year, as this was forcing me to evaluate the music on a critical/intellectual level that doesn’t work for me – for me music is about feeling; from wanting to bang my head or creep myself out, from getting goosebumps of euphoria to twinges of melancholy… But I suppose it is sacrilege for a music-related blog to come to the end of a year and not attempt some sort of round-up, so rather than create a ranked list justified by socio-political contexts or clever meta-musical references, these are the records (in no particular order) and live performances that have rocked / droned / folked up / brokebeat / hiphopped my world in 2007, that have made me feel

Top 25 Albums of 2007

NarcoAgent Top 25 Albums of 2007

from top, l-r:

Magnolia Electric Co : “Sojourner” boxset (Secretly Canadian)

PJ Harvey : “White Chalk” (Island)

Angels Of Light : “We Are Him” (Young God)

Low : “Drums And Guns” (Sub Pop)

Liars : “Liars” (Mute)

Mammal : “Lonesome Drifter” (Animal Disguise)

Grinderman : “Grinderman” (Mute)

Boris with Michio Kurihara : “Rainbow” (Pedal/Drag City)

El-P : “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” (Definitive Jux)

Vic Chesnutt : “North Star Deserter” (Constellation)

Nina Nastasia & Jim White : “You Follow Me” (Fat Cat)

Om : “Pilgrimage” (Southern Lord)

Scout Niblett : “This Fool Can Die Now” (Too Pure)

Shellac : “Excellent Italian Greyhound” (Touch & Go)

Epic45 : “May Your Heart Be The Map” (Make Mine Music)

Magik Markers : “Boss” (Ecstatic Peace!)

MIA : “Kala” (XL)

Sigur Rós : “Hvarf-Heim” (EMI)

Stars Of The Lid : “And The Refinement Of Their Decline” (Kranky)

Jesu : “Conqueror” (HydraHead/Daymare)

Alela Diane : “The Pirate’s Gospel” (Holocene/Names/Fargo)

Six Organs Of Admittance : “Shelter From The Ash” (Drag City)

Bracken : “We Know About The Need” (Anticon)

Future Of The Left : “Curses” (Too Pure)

Earth : “Hibernaculum” (Southern Lord)

Top 5 EPs/Singles of 2007

NarcoAgent Top 5 EPs of 2007


Efterklang : “Under Giant Trees” (Leaf)

Zonderhoof : “Zonderhoof” EP (Sound Devastation)

Joanna Newsom : “Joanna Newsom & The Ys Street Band” EP (Drag City)

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy : “Ask Forgiveness” EP (Drag City/Domino)

Jesu : “Sundown / Sunrise” EP (Aurora Borealis/Daymare)


Top 10 Gigs of 2007

NarcoAgent Top 10 Gigs of 2007

Future Of The Left + Infants @ The Luminaire, London (10 March 2007)

Josh T Pearson @ ATP festival, Minehead (27 April 2007)

Nick Cave / Grinderman @ ATP festival, Minehead (28 April 2007)

Dirty Three @ ATP festival, Minehead (29 April 2007)

Scout Niblett @ Bush Hall, London (21 May 2007)

Isis + Boris @ Koko, London (02 July 2007)

Liars @ Madame Jo Jo’s, London (03 July 2007)

Six Organs Of Admittance @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (12 August 2007)

Sonic Youth do “Daydream Nation” @ The Roundhouse, London (30 August 2007)

Jesu @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (05 December 2007)

Correctly guess which picture was taken at which gig and I will send you a copy of my “Best of 2007” 2CD compilation (once I’ve pulled my finger out of my ass and actually made the thing). Use the contact form on the Disclaimer page to submit your ‘entry’.

Epic45 are for me one of the most underrated bands in England. Schoolfriends Ben Holton and Rob Glover have been making music together since their mid-teens, drawing inspiration from the rural countryside around the small Midlands village of Wheaton Aston that is their home. Like contemporaries Hood and Piano Magic, Epic45‘s music evokes a particular Englishness: a nostalgic view of hazy late-summer afternoons, of woodland walks, of lush greenery and Autumn leaves, of childhoods whiled away in a more innocent time… but sometimes undercut with an insidious dread, that England is fucked, fallen over, and that modernity/urbanisation has destroyed a better way of life. I find Epic45 the perfect soundtrack to long train journeys through England, the music providing evocative accompanient to both the railside dereliction & industrial architecture of the urban and to the unfeasibly green & gentle countryside.

Epic45 - May You Heart Be The Map

Epic45 (along with Hood) are the current evolution of a lineage that takes in Talk Talk, Bark Psychosis, Disco Inferno, but they also mix in the shoegaze wall of sound of early Slowdive and the fuzzfolk of Flying Saucer Attack. In a live setting the guitars really come to the fore, but for new album “May Your Heart Be The Map” they’re at their most restrained, with increased use of acoustic guitars in amongst the atmospheric ambience and poignant pastoral postrocktronica.

The album is apparently inspired by 70s UK TV series “Survivors”, a post-apocalyptical tale in which a mysterious plague wipes out most of the Earth’s population, leaving a handful of survivors to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins of their ‘civilization’. Although there are snatches of eerie, desolate sound throughout “May Your Heart Be The Map”, its tone is far more upbeat than such a muse would suggest, wistful rather than bleak, but still evoking a world that is by no means as pleasant a place to live as it once was.

Although there are no standout tracks that grip me like “England Fallen Over” (from the “England Fallen Over” EP) or “I’m Getting Too Young For This” (from “Against The Pull Of Autumn”), this is Epic45’s most consistent effort to date, serving as a poignant moodpiece to rival Bark Psychosis’s “Hex” – but more twilight country lanes than the late-night East End. Hopefully this album will finally garner Epic45 some of the wider attention they so richly deserve.

Epic45’s recordings are available via Make Mine Music, a label run with a collectivist ethos where the bands (Epic45, Portal, Yellow6, July Skies and others) all help each other out but pay for (and take all profits from) their own releases. So support Epic45 directly by purchasing their recordings here.

Could Have Been A Contender

Torche : “Torche” (Rock Action, 2007)
Originally released in 2005, this has been remixed & remastered (the band were unhappy with the original release) and released on Mogwai‘s Rock Action label. Torche mix the chugging riffs of Black Sabbath and Helmet with anthemic vocals to create a heavy sound dripping in scooped-EQ-sludge yet still able to break free of its earthbound shackles. Chart (weekly)

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