End Of The Year List 2012

This is the time of the year when all the Best of..[insert year here] lists go out.

Seeing that I’ve been slightly ‘out of the loop’ and without a viable income since February, I thought I’d give you a list of 10 Noteworthy Albums Recently Added To My Collection. It delves back into acquisitions from 2011 [and some from 2012], and releases from way back.

Here goes:

1. Robert Plant – Shaken ‘n’ Stirred.

This is an often forgotten album from 1985. Like most artist, Plant was in his Electro Eighties phase. Despite this, the album contains some of my favourite solo-Robert Plant songs:

Recommended Songs: ‘Sixes and Sevens’, ‘Little By Little’, ‘Too Loud’

2. Sevara Nazarkhan – Tortadur

Sevara’s third semi-mainstream release from 2011 is simply a mind-pacifyingly beautiful work. Stripped down to her earthy vocals and sparse instrumentation, she succeeded in avoiding the seduction of Buddha-Bar-ism.

Recommended Songs: All (And if you haven’t yet – also get Yol Bolsin from 2003, and Sen from 2007.)

3. The Dresden Dolls – Yes, Virginia!

The Dresden Dolls are a Piano, Vocals and Percussion duo. This album is from 2006. Topics revolve mostly around sex and some form of debauchery. Amanda Palmer on vocals and piano and Brian Viglione on percussion. Lene Lovich would be proud.

Recommended Songs: ‘Sex Changes’, ‘My Alcoholic Friends’

4. David Kramer – Bakgat!

Most of these songs where performed in my parents’ lounge one evening some time before this album was released in 1980. This album makes David of the true masters of South African Folk music.

Recommended Songs: ‘Is Jy Bang?’, ‘Tjoepstil’

5. Tumi And The Volume – Pick A Dream

Tumi is another great storyteller / commentator. His poetry has balls and if you can’t hear it, you can still dig the beats. This album is from 2010.

Recommended Songs: ‘La Tête Savante’, ‘Number Three’, ‘Moving Picture Frames’, ‘Through My Sunroof’

6. Flevans – Unfabulous

The opening track on this 2007 album should have you sold. An as solid and funky beat as you’ll ever get.

Recommended Song: ‘The Greeting Song’

7. Flevans – 27 Devils

While you’re at it, this album from 2009 is a bit more balanced and has slightly more depth than Unfabulous. It’s not that it is all that much better - it’s just slightly different.

Recommended Songs: ‘Hold On’, ‘Pretty From A Distance’, ‘Flicker’

8. The Clash – London Calling

Don’t laugh. It took me long enough to get this 1979 album. I’m sure you heard enough about it by now.

Recommended Songs: ‘London Calling’, ‘Rudie Can’t Wait’, ‘Spanish Bombs’, ‘The Guns Of Brixton’

9. Pat Travers – Black Pearl

Going all the way back to 1982, this album is slightly out of place for the usually Bluesy Pat Travers. If you like your Rock straight up and solid, you should hunt this one down.

Recommended Songs: ‘Rather See You Dead’, ‘Who’ll Take The Fall’, ‘Misty Morning’, ‘Rockin’

10. David Bowie – Scary Monsters…and Super Creeps

I owned this 1980 release on CD a long time ago and I have had the vinyl for many years, but I had to replace the CD after it got stolen a couple of years ago. This is my favourite David Bowie album.

Recommended Songs: ‘Up The Hill Backwards’, ‘Scary Monsters…And Super Creeps’, ‘Ashes To Ashes’, ‘Fashion’

As I always say, when the music is good, it’s always good.


Valiant Swart - Kopskoot [1997]

I sometimes wonder about how well Valiant Swart could be received in a non-Afrikaans speaking, and more specifically – a non-South African environment. On an intellectual front, I think he is too often misinterpreted or lost between the likes of Koos Kombuis and Ralph Rabie [Johannes Kerkorrel], both who have achieved somewhat iconic status as musical / poetic masters. I think that it is quite tragic that he hasn’t got quite the same status – but it’s probably a blessing in disguise. Although he has gained huge popularity, Valiant has managed to keep his feet on the ground and has continued to write songs that are real. Not confused poetry or polished whateverisms. Thankfully, his skills have remained where it mattered.

Valiant had been hard at work for many years by 1997. Performing at probably every opportunity given – and taken. Two albums where released during that year. Together they covered much of what the Valiant Swart Band had entrenched as performance repertoire by this time. The second album is ‘Kopskoot’. It covers what was at that time his more recent work.

Some of the songs are a little scrappy. But that’s only compared to his own work. Valiant and producer Jurgen Von Wechmar at Sunset Recording Studios continued to work together through the years and eventually got it just right.

Valiant remains unique by being ordinary and unpretentious. His ability to make spoken language flow and sparkle is magical. Although he writes (and therefore sings) in both Afrikaans and English – his language is distinctly South African. The lyrical intricacies, however, make Valiant Swart’s work a little hard to write about. A listening session would be more appropriate, but I will to do a little run-through nevertheless.

The album kicks off with a reckless and simple ‘Syber Sakkie’. It has a careless edge that always made the band a pleasure to watch live. Guitarist Anton L’Amour is frenetic. ‘Tjank Stations’ has a similar style, but is marginally more sophisticated.

Almal Maak Haar Mal’ is a wonderful biographical description and touches on the frustrations of real-time Stellenbosch student-life issues.

Stylistically, ‘Oorlede Lettie’ is an early take on a Country / Elvis Presley theme that would reoccur in later work. On this album, parts of the vocal delivery on ‘Anyway, Alex Jay’ show more of Swart’s love for Elvis. This song is a simple anecdote based on a plane trip with Alex Jay – at that point a hugely popular radio personality - as a co-passenger.

(You Can’t) Fax Me Your Love’ has always been crowd favourite. The dilemmas of loveless technology – at that point still a fax machine.

Jacaranda’ is a reference to Pretoria, and offers more lyrical magic. I recently read somewhere that there are plans to rid Pretoria of its Jacaranda trees. How tragic.

Slawereen’ is one of those tracks that bring out the melancholic side of Swart. It’s pensive and African. Swart’s guitar playing is often reminiscent of Mark Knopfler. Just with a little more earth.

Mama Blues’ takes a trip to a land of slow and careful blues.

Hi-Fi Op Stand By’ is about how easily some lekker music can change any gathering into a party. Student life’s greatest moments. The solos are sublime.

Some of the word-play in songs like ‘Wanda’ would be almost impossible to translate effectively (to any language). The interplay between words and meanings are just too precise in Afrikaans.

Soos ‘N Vis’ is pure poetry. One should be reminded that the power of the musical contribution wonderfully disguises that poetry, keeps it balanced and increases its longevity. Wow. You should really have a listen [again].

Onna Cheeck’ is a wonderful excursion into reggae with a solid bass-line delivered by Casper Malherbe.

Lyrically, ‘Droomrivier’ is one of Valiant’s most enticing pieces. Set against a solid, driving, pounding beat that leaves you rather dazed when it’s over. I usually wish it would just go on forever.

Kake Van Die Leeu’ was also a huge crowd-participation moment at gigs. Clever lyrics and a thumping back-beat.

International Maria’ has long been one of my favourite songs. It soars and soars with an endless flow of [often almost bitter] memories of another truly South African dilemma: the effects of the fear of a dark and scary Africa. Many white folks had left the country. Some didn’t. There are no specific references to politics and no agendas. The references are to real life issues that can only be properly understood if you know enough about the time-frame during which the songs where written. At live performances, this song usually closed off proceedings in total musical mayhem and anarchy. It was beautiful.

Yes, and I almost apologise – it sounds a bit like an ingredients list. In a way I suppose it is.
Have you ever eaten the raw ingredients of your favourite [non-raw] dish and thought: “Oh, Yum…”?

In short: Slightly scrappy but fun album underlined by brain-tingling lyrical magic. And if you don’t ‘get’ South African – it’s still great rock and roll.

Good for parties. And poets. And perfectly pot-roasted potatoes.

Worth all your memories of Stellenbosch in the early Nineties.

Valiant Swart - Kopskoot [1997]
Valiant Swart - Kopskoot [1997]
Valiant Swart
Valiant Swart

(I’d like to get permission from the photographer to use this photograph, so please get in touch if you can help.)