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Monthly Archives: December 2016

My Top 10 Albums Of 2016

RIGHT. So, here we go. That time of year again. All the other ‘albums of the year’ lists have been written and released. Most of them wrong in my opinion… *cough* NME *cough*

I really don’t need to say anything more about that, but they more or less recommended me to my local GP upon coming across my Twitter reaction to their No. 1 position. Read this article and scroll three-quarters of the way down the page for more information if you’re interested – http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/readers-best-reactions-nmes-albums-year-2016-1873931

Alright, let’s crack on.

 

10) Jack White – ‘Acoustic Recordings: 1998 – 2016’

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Number 10 is a compilation album! It’s unusual that I would include a comp in my annual list but this one is an exception. Comprising of unplugged ditties from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and White’s solo work; this double LP spans through eighteen years of wonderfully crafted songwriting from one of modern music’s most loved guitarists. Stand-out moment, ‘Carolina Drama’ tells us about Billy and his junkie family when they get involved in a bloody brawl with a priest. This is one of many brilliant little stories that White has managed to pick out of his brain over the last two decades. ‘Acoustic Recordings’ is lovely to listen to in front of a roaring fire, give it a try.

 

9) David Bowie – ‘Blackstar’

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Oh God, please don’t get me going. I can’t believe that it’s been nearly a year since Bowie left us, and this was his final hurrah, for now anyway. We all know about his sad death and this is how he said goodbye. It is a fantastic goodbye as well. With only seven songs on the record, ‘Blackstar’ portrays Bowie at his arty best; with influences of jazz, minimalism, experimental and guitar music all mixed up in one big blender of genius. The lyrics, ‘look up here, I’m in heaven’ are already infamous, and hit every Bowie fans’ heart on listening. It’s just such a shame that we’ll never get to see him perform these great songs, rest in peace to one of the greatest musicians that’s ever lived.

 

8) James Blake – ‘The Colour In Anything’

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This year has irritated me in a way because so many great albums have been completely forgotten about and overshadowed by utter crap like Beyonce and Kanye bloody West. I mean, really? Listen to ‘The Life Of Pablo’ and tell me what you REALLY think. Anyway, this is one of those albums that’s been swept under the carpet. Preceding his excellent Glastonbury performance in June, headlining the West Holts Stage on the Saturday; fans could own the songs written by James Blake that pleased them so much on that night in Pilton, in the form of ‘The Colour In Anything’. At 76 minutes long, it’s a stupendously long album, full of beautiful moments as well as head-nodding moments with discordant time signatures. It’s very much worth spins a-plenty though. The artwork is also awesome, shout-out to Quentin Blake for taking me back to my childhood when looking through the album sleeve!

 

7) Iggy Pop – ‘Post Pop Depression’

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This is undoubtedly the coolest and sexist album to grace my list this year. The indefinable, sensual, waxwork-like character of rock and roll that is Iggy Pop came back with a bang in 2016 after being away from the limelight for long enough, and he wasn’t messing about. With members of Queens Of The Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys to band him up, we were guaranteed to get something remarkable. ‘Post Pop Depression’ is an incredible jaunt through pouncing riffs and songs of prowess, with some insanely witty lyrics throw in. On ‘Paraguay’, Iggy screams in anger about the digital age, shrieking, ‘You take your motherfucking laptop, and just shove it into your goddam foul mouth’. This is an issue that musicians seem to be addressing more, and about time too. No-one does it like Iggy, though. An absolute must-own.

 

6) Skepta – ‘Konnichiwa’

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2016 has without a doubt been the year of grime. It’s owned the clubs, it’s owned the charts and it is dominating UK culture as we know it. Grime’s current poster-boy, Skepta, on receiving the Mercury Music Prize for his fourth solo effort, ‘Konnichiwa’, was a clear recognition of that. That aside however, ‘Konnichiwa’ is a great piece of work. It exploits Skepta’s London roots as well as his new friends from across the pond, including a certain Pharell Williams. I’m not sure any party this year has been without at least one of ‘Shutdown’, ‘That’s Not Me’ or ‘Man’. This is grime’s most important record since ‘Boy In Da Corner’. It’s officially come up out of the basements, and onto the Radio 1 A-list thanks to ‘Konnichiwa’. Incredibly story when you think about it.

 

5) Deftones – ‘Gore’

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We’re getting to the business end of the list now, and at Number Five, it’s one of metals’ most exciting and daring bands; the one and only Deftones. ‘Gore’ is the eighth studio album released by the band, and the first since former bassist, Chi Cheng, sadly died after going into a cardiac arrest in 2013. And if anything, Cheng’s death inspired the rest of the band to make one of their finest records to date. Full of ideas and innovation as always, the LP ranges from the shocking blast of ‘Doomed User’ to the heart-wrenching balladry of ‘Hearts/Wires’. After seeing some of these songs live in the pouring rain in the East Midlands in June, they seemed even more poignant. I’m also really looking forward to their Wembley Arena gig in May. Long live the might of Deftones.

 

4) DIIV – ‘Is The Is Are’

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To say the least, it’s been a turbulent few years for DIIV’s frontman, Zachary Cole Smith, since the release of breakthrough debut record, ‘Oshin’ in 2012. Himself and partner, Sky Ferreira, a successful solo artist in her own right, have been arrested on grounds of drug possession and driving under the influence. They’ve also faced battling respective heroin addictions and spent time in rehab. We were honestly probably lucky to hear the new hour-long album from DIIV all the way back in February, and I’m so glad we did. Touching heavily on the addictive lifestyle of Smith, some of the most startling lyrics are heard in tracks like ‘Mire (Grant’s Song)’. ‘I was high, but now I feel low, my own private, I dunno’ whispers Zachary. ‘Is The Is Are’ is a massive, dream-indie-pop soundscape of the past four years of Smith’s life, and it’s one you can get beautifully lost in.

 

3) Frank Ocean – ‘Blonde’

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There is only one Frank Ocean, only one person like him in the whole universe. After what felt like twenty years of delaying this stupidly anticipated album; he goes and releases it exclusively on Apple Music, just days after teasing the world with his visual album, ‘Endless’, which was able to stream on the same service. I eventually heard it when it became available to stream on Spotify, and I was blown away. You know what I love most about this album though? It’s not the dreaminess of it, or the incredibly mesmeric vocals that Frank exploits hugely throughout… it’s actually the hope that one day I’ll be able to physically buy the album and listen to it on my stereo, therefore experiencing it yet again in a different light. I feel like you have to listen to ‘Blonde’ at least ten times to even start to get a grip on just how stunning it is. The man has clearly had ideas pouring out of him since ‘Channel Orange’. ‘Facebook Story’ is my personal highlight. It’s a big middle finger to the digital age, dawning the realisation that people take social media far too seriously, causing the downfall of genuine relationships. This album has cemented Ocean’s status as one of the greatest modern musicians on the planet, he’s simply in a different league.

 

2) Savages – ‘Adore Life’

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It’s not been a particularly grand year for concept albums, but this is by far the best of the few we’ve had. The coolest ladies in town, Savages, released ‘Adore Life’ way back in January. One of the most relatable of the year, this album is one about love, lust and desperation. ‘Is it human to adore life’ is the powerful message that rings through on stand-out moment, ‘Adore’, a five-minute crescendo of ear-splattering guitar playing from Gemma Thompson, who plays the best she ever has on this fine record. Great to listen to in a dark and gloomy room, this is a phenomenally dynamic LP from a band who can’t do any wrong and are keeping post-punk alive and kicking. With albums like this, they’ll easily be headlining festivals in the next five years. Keep it up, girls.

 

1) Radiohead – ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’

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OKAY, I KNOW. I just couldn’t resist! My Number 1 album of 2016 is, without a shadow of a doubt, Radiohead’s ninth studio effort, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’.

Goodness me, where do I even begin? I should probably begin by saying that it’s incredible that after twenty (plus) years, Thom Yorke and company can release some of their finest ever work; keeping their whole discography so consistently different, thought-provoking and imaginative. ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ came out after more teases than Kanye West and Frank Ocean on the tube with masks on, with a political message more than anything.

The ‘Burn The Witch’ video was released to the world just before Great Britain decided to leave the European Union. Produced in stop-motion animation, this video, according to writer Mark Hogan, ‘reflects the rhetoric of family values used by right-wing politicians such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and members of the UK Independence Party’. Funny, that. Cherished with wonderful orchestration that was mostly directed by Jonny Greenwood (guitarist) and Nigel Godrich (producer), this track gives life to a body of work that doesn’t come around too often. The second track, ‘Daydreaming’, is something I too have to mention. This is a six-minute stop-traffic moment that is beautiful, eerie, pulsating, demonic, lazy and dreamy, all at the same time. I’ve listened to this song at 6 in the morning when getting up to go to work, and at 6 in the morning when I’ve got in from a night out. It works anywhere and everywhere, and is probably my song of the year.

What’s most incredible about ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is that, even after I’ve been praising it as I have above, I don’t believe it’s their best album. It’s not even their second best. For me, this album only just falls behind ‘OK Computer’ and ‘In Rainbows’. That is staggering when you listen to the album and think about it. Radiohead are just one of those bands. They’re never going to get boring because they’re never going to run out of ideas or ambition. People probably think their music is boring, but I see the bigger picture. This year, I’ve seen one of the biggest and best bands of our time release an album that will stay with me forever. Seeing them perform these songs at Glastonbury in June is going to be magical for me, I’m literally counting down the days! Thank you Radiohead, thank you so bloody much.

 

 

Well, that’s it. I think I’ve wittered on enough now. Hope you enjoyed the post. Tell me if you agree or disagree, and what your favourite albums of 2016 are. See you next year folks, keep listening!

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The New Norm

Woah, it’s certainly been a while since I’ve written anything on here. Truth be told, I did mean to write about the whole Fabric saga, but thankfully this blog post will relate to that in some ways.

So I had a little bit of a gig bender this weekend, beginning with travelling to Blackpool on Friday to see the awesomeness of the Chemical Brothers deliver some block-rockin’ beats to the Empress Ballroom, then straight into Sheffield to watch Bobby Gillepsie and the rest of the Primal Scream lot play a brilliant set of feel-good classics and new, more electronic-inspired numbers. A bit of a ’90s gig bender really!

All I wanted to write about really was what seems to be the norm in music venues and clubs all across the country; hard drug-taking, and a lot of it at that. In Blackpool, I was a bit taken aback at one point to find that some older bloke than me who looked like an accountant attempting to relive his youth, offered me some chewing gum. Now, for those who might not be as familiar with the effects of ecstasy, the chemicals in MDMA cause people to ‘gurn’, meaning that their jaws swing, sometimes uncontrollably, from side to side. You know when someone’s gurning basically, and I’m led to believe that chewing gum helps ecstasy users to resist biting the insides of their mouths or gums, and therefore not damaging their mouths as much.

I can quite honestly say that I did not partake in the consuming of MDMA at the Chemical Brothers gig,  nor any drug for that matter, so I’m not sure why my accountant friend presumed I was high.

I’ll tell you why, it’s because I was thoroughly enjoying myself and bouncing up and down and dancing just as much as the people in that crowd who were in fact on drugs. And you know why? Because I’m a music fan. I was out with my good friend seeing a DJ duo I’d always longed to see live. In 2016, it now seems to be the norm to take a copious amount of narcotics in music venues, clubs, and even pubs to some degree. Therefore, you’re an unusual part of the experience if you’re not delving into that world through choice.

That’s pretty much my conclusion on the matter. When my accountant friend offered me some Wrigley’s, it got me thinking about the state of the live music and nightlife culture in the UK. People for whatever reason need to accessorise these experiences, whether it be through Class A drugs or getting your phone out and spending an hour on Snapchat rather than actually physically enjoying yourself with your mates. The same can be said for alcohol however, and we’re definitely all guilty of that. Swings and roundabouts possibly? As for the technology aspect of it, that’s a whole different conversation altogether, one which I can’t get into, otherwise I’d be sat here all night typing. It is deeply fascinating though, as well as hugely worrying at the same time.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2016 in Uncategorized