Stuff That Actually Kicked Ass In 2011: Julie Finley

Published on December 28th, 2011 in: Best Of Lists, Movies, Music |

Coming up with a summary of what I liked that emerged in the current year is getting tougher to do, the older I’m getting. I’m harder to impress and surprisingly, I’m even more susceptible to boredom. I think I can chalk it up to the fact that the older we all get, the less time we have. So I don’t have the time to waste my personal life on bullshit. Its bad enough that I live in Clevehole!

So without further ado, here are some new records that I think are worthy of my precious time!

mick harvey

Mick Harvey, Sketches From The Book Of The Dead

This was, by far, my favorite album of the year (actually, the past two years). But first some background: Mick Harvey is one of the few musicians out there who doesn’t have any embarrassing bullshit in his discography. He continuously produces quality work and is prolific with his output, but is always viewed as a “collaborator” even though he has several solo albums. Typically Mick works with a lot of people; he’s been surrounded by many talented ones in his career (who would probably be useless if they didn’t have someone as organized and hardworking as Mick around to make sure shit gets done), but hasn’t ever really gotten the credit he deserves. (If there were an “Employee of the Year” Award for musicians Mick should’ve won it many times over!)

In Mick’s previous solo work, he’s done some very respectful interpretations of other songwriters’ compositions, but isn’t known for penning lyrics himself. Well, that’s how Sketches From The Book Of The Dead is different: he DID write all of the lyrics on this, and very well, may I add! In fact, after listening to his lyrics, it makes me wonder why he’s been holding out for so long, since he’s really good at it. Based on his extensive musical resume, however, it would’ve been pretty hard for him to even find the time to write any!

He’s been collaborating pretty much non-stop since the ‘70s and those collaborations have taken him around the world (quite frequently, too). Mick is based in Australia, but most of his career has been wherever the hell Nick Cave was needed (usually Europe). In addition to that, he became an in-demand musician for PJ Harvey. If he wasn’t on tour with The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds, or Crime & the City Solution… he’s been on tour with Polly Jean. If he wasn’t recording or producing an album for any of them, he was usually helping out other musicians in some capacity or doing film scores. The dude works his ass off. One of his most endearing qualities as a musician is that he doesn’t approach his career in music like a typical musician: he approaches it like it’s a job that needs to get done, and done well, and without cutting corners!

So, with all that said, Sketches From The Book Of The Dead is a prime example of Mick Harvey’s perfectionism and showcases the talents and capabilities he’s developed in his 30+ year career. Its the most “pure” work he’s ever done, and what I mean by that is that it’s purely Mick Harvey!

Best tracks: ALL OF THEM, but “October Boy,” “Famous Last Words,” “How Would I Leave You?”, and “Frankie T And Frankie C” are my favorites.

gavin friday

Gavin Friday, catholic

I have been waiting for a “pure” Gavin Friday album since 1995’s Shag Tobacco. So did catholic live up to my expectations? I’d have to say yes, but not at first. I liked a few songs immediately, as they are classic Gav ( “Perfume,” “A Song That Hurts”), but others were a slow burn. The opening track (and single) “Able” has the lyrics, mood, and voice which display what I love about Gavin Friday, but the music sounds a little chintzy. I still feel that way about it, although I like the song regardless. The reason? Gavin’s long-term musical cohort Maurice Seezer is no longer working with him. His new musical partner is Herbie Macken and his style is quite a departure from Seezer’s. It is definitely more pop-friendly/adult-alternative (instead of the dark-cabaret/electronic mix it used to be) which is something I’m not that keen on (but depending upon the vocals and lyrics, it can work really well). In other words, if this album didn’t have Gavin’s voice or words, I probably wouldn’t even like it, but since it does, I do indeed, LIKE IT!

Best tracks: “Perfume,” “A Song That Hurts,” “Lord I’m Coming,” and “Blame.”

pj harvey

PJ Harvey, Let England Shake

Miss Polly Jean has always been hit or miss with me, and this one is definitely a HIT! I was put off by the little-girl vocal style she was doing at first, but the music and lyrics more than made up for what was initially an annoyance. After listening to the entire album, that little-girl voice works really well in a conceptual way. As I mentioned, she can be hit or miss with me, but every time she works with Mick Harvey it’s always a hit! It’s clear that they are perfect collaborators.

Best tracks: “On Battleship Hill,” “The Glorious Land,” “The Last Living Rose,” “All And Everyone,” “Bitter Branches,” and my absolute favorite: her duet with Mick, “The Colour Of The Earth.” That song is just gorgeous!

duran duran

Duran Duran, All You Need Is Now

I’ll always love Duran Duran. I don’t care that they were/are fashion pin-up boys that dated/married models, or whatever. Duran Duran are FUN and All You Need Is Now is awesome – but Simon needs to shave that beard off of his face!

Best tracks: “Blame The Machines,” “Too Bad You’re So Beautiful,” “Girl Panic!”, “Before The Rain,” and my personal fave “The Man Who Stole A Leopard.”

patrick wolf

Patrick Wolf, Lupercalia

This is definitely the most “Pop” album Patrick has done, and definitely the happiest. He’s very upbeat in this one, and its clear he’s a happier person in general. I wish him the best, but he’s a better musician when he delves into subjects of darker nature. This isn’t my favorite album of his, but I still liked it, and its still a lot better than the majority of new stuff that came out this year.

Best tracks: “Time of My Life,” “Together,” “The Days,” and “Armistice.”


Manorexia, Dinoflagellate Blooms

No surprise that I really dig this one. No need to go into a JG Thirlwell history lesson here either, as he is already well-documented on this website. It’s truly a beautiful album. It’s a departure from the first three Manorexia albums, in that its even more experimental (if you can believe that).

Best tracks: “A Plastic Island In The Pacific,” “Hydrofrack,” “Ten Ton Shadow,” “Anabiosis,” and “Struck.”

amigo the devil

Amigo the Devil, Manimals EP

Here’s a release from a new act, and one that is remarkable! I wish the album was longer, but everything on this EP is excellent. I got turned on to this via my younger brother, who is acquainted with the guy (and I say “guy” because Amigo the Devil is a one-man band, also known as Daniel K). My brother didn’t even know he did any music, until he got in touch with him over the web and stumbled upon his music. My brother pretty much called me immediately and said “YOU GOTTA FUCKING HEAR THIS, I KNOW YOU’LL LIKE IT!” And he was right, I do. The genre that Amigo the Devil classifies as is “Murderfolk.” I can easily say this would probably appeal to fans of Michael Gira, Nick Cave, Death in June, and Current 93, but this guy actually has a really good singing voice. In fact, I’d say its more sinister because he sounds like a “nice guy” singing some sick and deranged stories without any emotion in the voice. It evokes a very calm sociopath, which makes it that much more unsettling. My favorite track is “Dahmer Does Hollywood.”

bryan ferry

Bryan Ferry, Olympia

This technically came out at the end of 2010, but I didn’t hear about it until around May of this year. This album is absolutely PERFECT, and probably one of the best albums Bryan Ferry has ever done (and that includes his work with Roxy Music). Speaking of Roxy Music, I read this was technically supposed to be a Roxy album, as it featured all of the members on various songs, here and there, but apparently Brian Eno got cold feet, so the album was put on hiatus (it had been in the works for awhile). Bryan Ferry didn’t want to let a good thing go to waste, so he finished the album and the results were outstanding.

Best tracks: “Shameless,” “Song To The Siren,” “You Can Dance,” and my personal fave “Alphaville.”


Honorable mention goes to Foetus, Hide

This came out in 2010, but I wasn’t 100% sold on it right away, and it took until mid-2011 for me to realize its greatness! HOWEVER, I don’t listen to Hide in it’s original sequential order. I rearrange the order of the tracks when listening, and it allows me to better appreciate the songs individually. When listening to Hide with the original track order, it reminds me of “The Hare” from that old fable “The Tortoise & The Hare.” “The Hare” in essence, blows his load too soon, which is something I can’t identify with, but is probably why rabbits repopulate at an alarming rate and have short life spans. So, by rearranging the order, the album has evolved into “The Tortoise,” and a tortoise (as well as other Testudines) is resilient and can out-live pretty much everything (and in the long run, so will Hide).

As far as concerts or films, I only went to two concerts this year (Bryan Ferry and Duran Duran), and both were spectacular, and more than made up for the fact I barely got to see anything this year! I didn’t see any films this past year I was particularly thrilled with, although I did see the 2010 Norwegian sci-fi/mockumentary called Troll Hunter and highly recommend it if you liked stuff like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, or Cloverfield. It’s in that vein, BUT it’s not scary, and way better!

One Response to “Stuff That Actually Kicked Ass In 2011: Julie Finley”

  1. Dawn:
    December 28th, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Wholeheartedly agree with you re the Mick Harvey album and everything you have said about the maestro. Also, agree with PJ Harvey review. Amigo the Devil sounds fascinating and something I am going to check out. Thanks for such honest reviews finally coming from someone I trust!

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