It’s that time once again, as the countdown to the end of 2016 quickly approaches we take a personal look back on familiar names, features and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. In what has been a crazy year of highs and lows it’s the releases that have pulled a lot of people through the year. Now in it’s 6th year, Circuit Sweet will be hosting takeovers from the featured artists/musicians/labels and promoters of the site with their personal top 5 releases of the year.
Our annual end of year tradition is where we let our favourites take over the site to tell us the records that have made their end of year lists, their favourite events/gigs and what we can look forward to from them next year.
Our next Rad Releases take over comes from Leeds-based Chicagoan sound artist and multi-instrumentalist Jeff T. Smith who this year has dropped a momentous record with new outfit Living Body. Living Body is a new project built with a collective of renowned musicians creating a must hear master-piece and their debut album ‘Body is Working’ is exactly that. Living Body consists of Jeff T. Smith (Juffage) and longtime collaborators Katie Harkin (Harkin, Sky Larkin, Sleater-Kinney, Wild Beasts), and Tom Evans (Vessels). We hand over to Jeff to find out more about his year in music…
Top 5 releases of the year:
1) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seeds Ltd.)
2016 has been a pretty miserable year, so it’s not hard to see why a pretty miserable album has defined it for me. I was actually never much of a Nick Cave fan until his last record Push The Sky Away, where his straightforward songwriting seemed to take on a much more meandering and hypnotic approach. This LP is achingly beautiful (no doubt Warren Ellis played a large part in this), and a brilliant statement of direct honesty.
2) Colin Stetson – Sorrow (52Hz)
I used to play this record really loud at my old work and scare the shit out of all the yuppies buying their evening bottle of wine. I had the privilege of opening up for Colin when he came to Leeds in the pre-Living Body days of 2016, as Juffage, and his solo show on bass saxophone was a real eye-opener. Circular breathing, multiphonics, percussion via contact mics, and humming through the instrument create huge and heavy drone-line textures. The guy has the lung capacity of a humpback whale. This LP is his reimagining of Henryk Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony, a confused success in its original form, given a heavy new lease on life.
3) Matthew Bourne – Moogmemory (Leaf)
Much like Stetson, this guy is a modern-day innovator of an instrument that’s been around for years. It’s hard not to watch Bourne play his modified MemoryMoog and not think of Jimi Hendrix 50 years ago. This album is entirely made up of solo MemoryMoog pieces and is amazing. No one is doing anything like this. Matt is also from Leeds!
4) Mi Mye – The Sympathy Sigh (Philophobia / Hide & Seek)
Jamie Lockhart, who is the songwriter and bandleader of Mi Mye also co-runs a studio in Leeds called Greenmount, which just happens to be down the road from my house. I was procrastinating finishing Body Is Working and would spend days mixing a song before deleting everything and starting over. I went there so Lee Smith (mix engineer and other main dude behind Greenmount) could whip my ass into shape and make me finish my record. Apparently, all my perfectionism, agony, and despair wore off on Jamie and he later told me my dedication to my record is what motivated him to start writing The Sympathy Sigh. Well, it’s definitely the best record they have ever put out. I know I can’t take too much credit for that, but it feels pretty good to inspire someone in this way.
5) Tim the Mute – Take My Life… Please! (Kingfisher Bluez)
Tim Clapp is a pretty strange guy that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a lot better this last year as he is releasing our record in North America. He is a true believer in artists finding their own identity with the music they create, and his music as Tim the Mute is no exception. His lyrics are brilliant and really get at the duality of the ups and downs of living with depression, both seemingly mundane and deep, hilarious and sad, questioning the very purpose of our own existence. When I first heard his previous album Why Live?, I was like “this guy can’t actually sing… is this even any good?” Take My Life… Please! is his next record, and while he still can’t sing very good, I really don’t care. His songwriting is great and honest and thought-provoking. Thick with synths and meaning, this record is 10 times better than his last.
Honourable mentions: The Notwist (Superheroes, Ghostvillans & Stuff), Radiohead (A Moon Shaped Pool), Deerhoof (The Magic), Tortotise (The Catastrophist), Adam Betts (Colossal Squid).
The best show you have played this year and why:
This is a really tough one, but I’d probably have to say the first Living Body show in Leeds in July. It was a free show at the Brudenell Social Club, probably our favourite venue in the UK. The show was packed out, and being our first ever hometown show there was a genuine electricity in the room. We’ve probably played “better” shows since, including two more shows at the Brudenell, tours and lots of fun festivals, but there was something quite magical about this one. It felt more effortless and fun than usual, a real exorcism of sorts.
The best gig you have attended and why:
I go to a lot of shows, but they normally never cost more than £10. This show cost £55 and was at a huge venue, but I don’t think that heightened my expectancy or pressure to enjoy it. It was Neil Young at First Direct Arena. There are things you normally don’t see at shows if you’re used to going to DIY or small-scale gigs. For example, he brought a humungous pipe organ, which he only played in one song and then it got wheeled off the stage. His band were exceptionally tight, and it was great to see someone who genuinely loved and lived this stuff, kind of like a more successful Mike Watt, with unbridled enthusiasm. Another show I find hard not to mention was Television at Leeds Irish Centre. Not only did they play a new 20-minute instrumental, the gig was also opened up with a solo show by our very own Harkin!
Highlights of the year:
For me, finally releasing this album is the best thing that happened this year. I not only found two great people on both sides of the Atlantic to help release it, I also managed to put together a great live band and stop playing solo! We got to play our first ever show at Tramlines Festival in Sheffield (where our drummer managed to fly in from New York City 20 minutes before our stage time), SWN Festival in Cardiff, Carefully Planned Festival in Manchester, and about 20 other shows around the UK. In a way, playing with this band was a highlight of the year pretty much every time it happened.
Artist/Band to watch out for in 2017:
Ten Sticks are friends of ours from Newcastle and the one UK band that I think everyone should be watching out for in 2017. They are a relatively new band that put out a two-track cassette earlier this year. A two-piece comprised of drums/synth/guitar/drone, they are carving out a unique identity and are one of the best live bands I have ever seen.
Plans for the new year:
We have lots! Basically shitloads of touring! How can one relax when there is so much wrong with the world and everything feels urgent? A nuclear war feels more real right now than it ever has in my lifetime, so I should probably get out and play more shows if we are going to all die soon. We have been invited to play SXSW in March, and are organizing a lengthy tour of the USA and Canada around it, with our first European tour to follow. I also have tons of half finished songs I need to finish, so getting some work done on Living Body LP2 would be nice. Hopefully meeting lots of nice people along the way as well…
A huge thank you, keep an eye on the site for a special album review but for now we wish you all the best!