Friday, December 30, 2016

Rollasoc's Top Ten albums of 2016

2016 has been a mixed year for me.  Musically we have lost many great artists, but there is still great music to be had out there.

In the age of streaming, I have listened to probably more new albums this year than the last few, but to make it into my top ten, I must have physically bought the CD or Vinyl or Download.

I have been listening to a lot of ambient stuff this year. But playing catch up and listening to some oldies.

So here is a much more sparse than normal (three post) look at my top ten albums this year.

Nearlys / disqualified.

Some great EPs this year from the likes of Paul Draper and Bryde.  Looking forward to albums from them in 2017.

Paul Draper- Friends make the worst enemies.

Bryde - Help Yourself

Nearly made the top ten:-

David Bowie - Blackstar
I will buy this at some point

Paul Simon - Stranger to Stranger.
Another album I have listen to quite a bit this year, which I will buy sometime.

Garbage - Strange Little Birds - Glad to see the return of Garbage, need to listen to this more really, nothing currently standing out as classic.

Nils Frahm - Tag Eins Tag Zwei
As with a lot of the ambient music I listen to, I probably won't end up purchasing it, since I am unlikely to listen to it at home, so streaming it, to help me concentrate at work is great.

Steven Wilson - 4 1/2 - disqualifed for being half an album.
Steven Wilson - Transience - disqualified for being released on vinyl in 2015 then CD in 2016.

Beth Prior - Little Acts of Kindness -  Acoustically I love Beth's music and her voice. As a band, this is more reggae that I normallt like.  There are some great moments on it (like Fallen Trees and Certain things), but I keep going back to her acoustic outings. Sorry.

My Vitrol - The secret sessions - After too many years waiting for this album, I'm not sure it could ever live up to the expectation.   I am liking this album, but need to listen to it more.

Madness - Can't touch us now.
I have listen to this a couple times on Spotify, but only bought it yesterday.  Too early to tell, if it should be in the top ten or not.

P J Harvey - The hope six demolition project - I really want to like this, but not liking it as much as her earlier work.  The last two albums have been heavy going and not a great listen, to be honest.They are both good, just not great.

Jean Michel Jarre - Electronic 2-
A continuation of JMJs collaborations project, this has been a nice collection of tunes, with some artists I knew of (Cyndi Lauper, Gary Numan, Julia Holter etc) and some I didn't know of (Siriusmo, Jeff Mills, Rone). 

Thinking I prefer volume 1 though.

So here goes, my 2016 top ten.

10 Bat For Lashes - The Bride

I don't think this is as good as the last couple of albums, not sure if it is the concept or not that has restricted my love for this.   Some great tunes, like Sunday love, but some forgettable ones (whose names escape me).

Bat For Lashes - Sunday Love

9 Blue Rose Code - .​.​.​And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing

Another great album from Blue Rose Code. Beautiful lyrics and melodies.  Just wonderful.

The only one of the top ten, that I managed to catch on tour this year, which is a bit dissapointing.

Blue Rose Code - Grateful

8 Heidi Browne - Holiday For your heart

Local (to me) girl Heidi releases another, just lovely lovely album. From the title track, via the beautiful "Under the weather".  Great stuff.

Heidi Browne - Holiday For your heart

7 Radiohead - Moon shaped Pool

Radiohead are a starange band for me, I think I like them, I buy their CDs then rarely listen to them, (a bit like the Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics).

This album is an exception then, I have listen to it a lot since it has been released.  It is a bit of a return to form in my eyes (ears).  Plus how can you not love the Burn the witch video!

Radiohead - Burn the witch

6 The Anchoress - Confessions of a Romance Novelist.

 Double dipped on the CD and have the vinyl version.  Not obsessive at all?

After a couple of great singles in 2015, expectation was high and the album doesn't disappoint.  From slow burning opening Long Year (which was a b-side) to the proggy title track an album of all potential singles. Not a massive fan of some of the swearing, but that might just be me getting old...  ha ha

And why oh why wasn't "Once upon a lie" not on the deluxe version?

The Anchoress - You and Only You feat. Paul Draper

5 Iamthemorning - Lighthouse

Simply just another beautiful album from our favourite Russian Progmeisters.  Though where are the intermissions? 

Iamthemorning - "Lighthouse" feat.Mariusz Duda

Iamthemorning - Chalk and Coal

4 New Model Army - Winter

Been a casual NMA fan since the mid '90s.  Seen them live a few times, though kind of lost touch with them over the last few years, so bought this on a whim, when I spotted it in HMV when I was browsing. 

Blown away, with the album to be honest, up there with some of their best. Made me go back and buy some more of their back catalog.

New Model Army - Die Trying

New Model Army - Winter

3 Agnes Obel - Citizen of Glass

Sparse backing and simple melodies, just make a beautiful album.  I'm a sucker for piano, strings and some electronica, so this albums ticks all the boxes and makes me very happy.

Agnes Obel - Familiar

Agnes Obel - Golden Green

2 - The Pineapple Thief - Your Wilderness

Initially, I didn't get this album, coming into their catlog late, with "All the Wars", the last two albums have both been departures from that more rocky style and have been slow growers. 

I think this is more like Bruce Soord's solo album, than The Pineapple Thief's early back catlog (which was more Radiohead crossed with The Smashing Pumpkins).

I have grown to love this album though.

The Pineapple Thief - In Exile

The Making of In Exhile

The Pineapple Thief - Tear You Up (Acoustic)

1 She Makes War - Direction of Travel

I discovered She Makes War on a podcast by Andy Mort, talking about songwriting.   So I checked out her music on Spotify and found I was listening to it everyday, so I have started buying her back catalog.

Allegedly, this is ‘gloom-pop'. Lyrically beautiful, sonically light, I really do love this album, and have pretty much listened to it (at least partially) almost everyday since I bought it. There isn't enough ukulele in modern pop.

Stargazing, is also my song of the year.  I even worked out how to play it.  (which is a rare thing for me to do).

She Makes War - Stargazing

She Makes War featuring Tanya Donelly - Paper Thin

So that was 2016.  See you in 2017.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


The last few months have been a bit topsy turvy in the world of The Hair Thieves, due to some family and work commitments plus holidays.  So progress has been a bit slow.

EP8 has been recorded and is in the process of being mixed and mastered. 

This will be out in January 2017, though we will try and get the first track "The Distance" out around Christmas or New Year.

EP9 is currently being recorded.  A couple songs are close to completion or completed.  The first of these is the track "Lies" which has been released onto Bandcamp and a video has been made using the game Kerbal Space Program.

Lies has also been released as a single to Amazon / Spotify etc.

As you may notice, from the picture at the top, this release does not feature our usual manikin character.  We have decided to retire him (and her) after ten years of being on our covers.  (Nothing to do with Kate Bush using one on the cover of her live album).  We used to photograph physical manikins, before computer generating them for the last few covers.

As some of you may know, I (rollasoc) dabble in photography.   E suggested we use some of the smoke photography I did between 2007 and 2012.   So the "Lies" image is from that period.

I recently spent two evenings doing some new batches of smoke images.  So I now have about a thousand images to choose from for further covers.  The first has been edited.

This may very well be the cover for EP8.  

I doubt it will be the last we see of the manikin though.  We shall see.

As we may have mentioned proviously.  EP9 is likely to be all instrumental. 

Failing that, we might just gather the 8 instrumetals from the first 8 EPs, the four tracks written for EP9 and some really old Hair Thieves songs (Tilly, Fables and the Deconstruction, Cases of Conscience, Silverpit etc) and release a compilation of instrumentals as an album.

We are undecided at this point.

E has started writing for EP10.  We have a little buffer of songs we could use, so we will go through these and see what is worth salvaging.

Next blog will be about the song "The Distance" the lead song of EP8.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

EP1 revisited.

2016 is the 10th anniversary of EP 1.   Earlier in the year I had some time to reflect upon its release and to actually dig out the recorded files and see what state the projects are in, given the advancments of software in the last 10 years

I tried this at the beginning of the year with, but our recording software (Cubase)  that has been updated many times, in the intervening years and some of the plugins would no longer run.

I knew the latest Cubase wouldn't open the project file from 2006 directly, since that format in no longer supported.  I did have a converted copy, but wanted to go back to the actual last used version that we created the wav files to mastered from.

So I had to go and find the version of Cubase we were using back in 2006.    This was a little troublesome and meant I spent several hours in the loft looking for the original disks.

This initally failed to install, due to the copy protection mechanism being updated.  Luckily Steinberg (makers of Cubase) provide a new installer that bypasses the old copy protection on installation.

 We were also missing some virtual instruments and synths and some effects, or (and this is the frustrating one), the latest version of the virtual instrument had changed filename, so would not open nor tell me which patches it used.

So I have spent quite a few hours over the last two months (and on and off for the last two years), trying to track down all the old versions of virtual instruments and effects I used back in 2006 / 2007 when we recorded the first couple of EPs.

I think I am pretty much there now.  I have managed to open all four tracks from EP1.   I am still missing one effect, but think I can get by with out it.

It has been an interesting exercise for me.  Looking at the original files and seeing how it was recorded and mixed.    It is interesting to see how naive we were putting it together and how far we have come in both our production  techniques as well as how we organise songs.

So the idea now is to render out the individual tracks for each song, to preserve them in a non proprietry format, just in case we ever decide to remix them.

Then work through all the other EPs.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

2, 4 , 8, 9

Finally, we have re-released EP2 (via Ninja Kitten Records) into the streaming media world.

As well as Bandcamp, it is now available at Amazon,Spotify (see below), iTunes, Napster, Deezer etc.

Here is a very rare live outing of the lead track "Shorewards".

So that just leaves EP4 that isn't available everywhere.  The plan is to re-release it soon.

The summer, is usually a bit of downtime for us.   Holidays, festivals, the odd day of sun and other complications, means we generally don't record much in August.  This year was no exception.

We are reconvening this coming week, to drink tea and take stock of the current state of EP8 and EP9.

EP8 has been 99.9% recorded (just needs something adding to one of the middle 8's) then it will be ready for mixing.   I think we will be looking for an early November release for this.

EP9 we have three instumentals in various states of completion.  At them moment, it looks like we will break with tradition and release an all instrumental EP.

We shall see when and how the final track progresses.

More soon....

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Summer time

Seems to have been a very long time since we blogged.  Shame on us.

We have been busy.   We have far too many songs on the go for a single EP.  I think it is sixteen songs at the last count.  So as well as EP8, we are working on EP9 also.

The final lyrics were written last week for EP8.   So that song is now in the process of being recorded. 

As can be seen from the above image, we now have a makeshift vocal booth to play with.

The rest of the EP has been recorded and is ready for mixing.

We haven't decided a song order yet.  But titles are probably.

The Distance
Hometown Heart

Two songs about hometown's I hear you ask.  Yep.   We both did a songwriting course earlier in the year, the task was to write a song about your hometown.   So we thought we would put both on the EP and see what people think.

So EP8 will be the forst EP, where we haven't re-recorded an old song.

We are thinking of revisiting the way we do CD covers also.  The previous seven EPs all used artists manikins on them.  We are unsure if we are going to continue this or try something different.

E has suggested we could use some of the smoke photography I used to do.

I suggested I do more images, given it has been far too long since I last did them.

We shall decide over the next few weeks, which way we are going.

EP9 is currently being written, whilst we finish up EP8.   So it is all go.