On the record 2017, Part 4: Great for a bit of nostalgia

I was having a bit of a panic over the last few weeks that I’ve listened to lots of albums but can’t remember them all. What do I like? What don’t I like? Why so manyyy? And then I took a step back and realised this project isn’t about learning every single song I listen to. I compared it to the Film Watch odyssey, which isn’t about remembering all 700+ films consumed. Both projects are about immersing yourself in a medium, soaking up the general love and enjoyment of the genre, learning, growing, and, dare I say it, being in the moment.

For the music project, it’s not about being an encyclopedia of pop, it’s about vaguely knowing a band when they are mentioned, or finding a new album to love and one to hate, and most of all, it’s about having context for the songs rather than just knowing them from a five second clip on Peter Kay’s Car Share.

Relax, enjoy, it’s music and it’s wonderful.

Week 11

  • The Breaker, Little Big Town
    I was expecting better things from this, if I’m honest. It’s a perfectly pleasant album but it’s just not memorable. It’s got a very laid back, relaxed, California beach vibe to it, which is nice, but the best songs are the first and last one, bookending the album. Everything in between is instantly forgettable.
  • Actually, Pet Shop Boys
    I wasn’t sure I’d like this album, Pet Shop Boys are great but a whole album could have been too much. Thankfully, there’s a mix of songs: slow and fast, meaningful and just fun, catchy and forgettable. It’s not one of my favourites but certainly a listenable 50 minutes of music.

Week 12

  • So Good, Zara Larsson
    Good album this, I knew more of the songs than I thought I did and it’s a fine pop album – lots of catchy songs that will make you dance. It’s reminiscent of Rihanna, so some of the tracks I wasn’t so keen on, but overall the balance makes for a strong first international album.
  • Speak Now, Taylor Swift
    It feels like Taylor really had some things to say with this album, a lot of the songs sound more personal and meaningful than previous efforts. There are some great songs on here, I love Story of Us, but some of the slower ballad types didn’t really do it for me. I like the increased amount of storytelling, though, you really can get invested in the songs.

Week 13

  • Wonderland, Take That
    A perfectly pleasant album but nowhere near as good as I was hoping. A bit plodding in places, but mostly a feel good hour of tracks, unfortunately for the most part instantly forgettable.
  • Celebrity Skin, Hole
    This is a fantastic album – it’s grungy rock but with a melody, epic guitars but with good purpose, I love it. Great songs, starting with Celebrity Skin which is a proper choon, and could threaten to overshadow the rest, but thankfully the full album stands up to the challenge.

Week 14

  • The Afterlove, James Blunt
    I pre-judged this album, as many have, so was pleasantly surprised by it. It’s a good, modern, pop album, and you can really feel the influences from Ryan Tedder and Ed Sheeran – both on the songs they wrote and throughout. The lyric “I’d say you’re beautiful but I’ve used that line before,” is fab.
  • All Mod Cons, The Jam
    Loved this album. I knew the main Jam songs but anything outside that was lost to me. I was amazed at listening to a full album, the songs haven’t really aged at all. You can picture The Libertines or similar doing all these tracks and more. Great stuff.

Week 15

  • Pure Comedy, Father John Misty
    This is not really my cup of tea at all. Good voice and superb musicality, it reminds me of modern day Elton John. But it doesn’t grab me, it’s all a bit of a drag, and when your single average is almost six minutes, I’m always going to struggle.
  • Love, Aztec Camera
    Gets off to a slow start, but picks up speed and the brilliant Somewhere In My Heart is the turning point. Great eighties pop, not sure it’s aged particularly well but is very of its time and therefore great for a bit of nostalgia.

Been a while since I found an album I really didn’t like, but make that two now – Drake and Father John Misty. Otherwise it’s been an interesting few weeks where for the most part I have preferred the older albums to the newer offerings.

On the record 2017, Part 2: A certain kind of dance pop that is hard to explain

Another five weeks completed, so that makes ten overall in 2017 – incredible how quickly the musical weeks go by. I’m still hugely enjoying this album adventure, well into its second year now, learning more about music and artists and songs every single day.

I’ve also realised how brilliant this album lark is for being open to new genres and artists – when you don’t have full control over what is picked, you just have to go with the flow. A friend of mine often asks what my album selections are for the week and then pulls faces at the options, but even ones I am dubious about, I enjoy the process.

So let’s see what has been on the playlist recently!

Week 6

  • Little Fictions, Elbow
    I read an NME review of this album before listening, that described it as “13 tog duvet” music, and it is just that. There’s no thumping albums, it’s easy listening all the way, and I guess in the end I found it quite dull because of that. Perhaps good to de-stress and unwind, but not my favourite.
  • Fearless, Taylor Swift
    Good second album from Ms Swift, it’s quite fun working my way through her albums knowing how she develops and where she goes in the future. This, though, is solid country pop with some great singles, and a good mix of other tracks – none of which are a letdown, which is the sign of a good album.

Week 7

  • Human, Rag’N’Bone Man
    Great album. I had high expectations because he’s being talked about a lot and Human is an incredible song. Thankfully the rest of the album lived up to the hype, with brilliant soul vibes throughout but leaving you with an overall feel-good mood.
  • Purple Rain, Prince
    Liked this much better on the second listen through, I think the first time some of the screaming got to me but second time it wasn’t so bad. Love a few of the tracks on there and it stands up as a whole really well. Glad this has finally come to streaming so I can have a listen!

Week 8

  • The Waiting Game, Una Healy
    I’ll admit, this only grabbed my attention because of the single featuring Sam Palladio from Nashville, but it turns out to be quite a good album. It’s sort of a mashup pop and country album, but it’s definitely more bubble gum than country – good songs but it lacks the emotion you often get from country artists.
  • Garbage, Garbage
    Love this album. Shirley is brilliant and you get really drawn in to each and every song. I wish I’d listened to this album as a teenager, it’s got that intense brooding nature that you could really hibernate in a teenage room and shut out the world with.

Week 9

  • Joanne, Lady Gaga
    I knew this was a slightly different album from Lady Gaga, but it was far more intense and introspective than I’d anticipated. It’s good, some incredible vocals with well-crafted songs and I particularly liked the duet with Florence Welch. It’s not to be taken lightly though, this album, you can tell it’s more personal and meaningful than other efforts.
  • The Innocents, Erasure
    I’ve loved A Little Respect forever so was prepared to love the album that followed it. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say I loved it, but I did enjoy it. The songs are cheesy in places, and it’s a certain kind of dance pop that is hard to explain, but still somehow quite compelling. And A Little Respect is still awesome.

Week 10

  • Divide, Ed Sheeran
    I’ve not been a huge Ed fan in the past, but gradually his evident talent and good songs have mellowed my stance a little. This is a good album, far better than I thought it would be, with the singles as stand-out songs and the rest doing a good supporting job. The end is a little melancholy and left me feeling depressed, but overall a really good job – even if I still don’t totally get the hype.
  • Days Gone By, Haim
    Really loved this album. I’ve spent plenty of time listening to Haim’s Beats1 show but not really paid much attention to their own music – and I’ve been missing out. They have a brilliant, unique sound, full of bass notes and guitar riffs and stop/start moments. Definitely a highlight of the year so far.

That last week was epic. Ed Sheeran’s talent and Haim’s rhythm really meshed well together and made me want to listen over and over to both. I hope there are more weeks like this in the future.

On the record 2017, Part 1: Fifteen in a row is a bit much

A brand new year means a new batch of albums to get through, and I’m really excited about what the next fifty weeks have to offer. If you’ve not been following this brilliant album adventure of mine, here’s a quick recap:

Listen to two new albums each week, one selected by me and one by Mr C. Mine will be a current album (ie. this year or the last), whilst Mr C has the rest of musical history to choose from. I try and listen to each album at least twice during the week to give them a fair shot.

So, on with the first round up, and I’m sticking with the five weeks at a time plan that finished off the 2016 adventure.

Week 1

  • Starboy, The Weeknd
    The thing about this album is, it’s good enough, but it starts and ends with two brilliant songs that feature Daft Punk. So should I really be listening to a Daft Punk album instead? Love The Weeknd’s voice, it’s reminiscent of Michael Jackson in places, and carries the album through despite it being quite lengthy!
  • M!Ssundaztood, P!nk
    Ahh, I love Pink so it’s a surprise that I’ve never listened to a full album by the pop superstar. This, her first, is a great mix of songs and tests out various genres. There’s a hint of Alanis Morrisette, and an occasional feel of Alicia Keys, but all of it is just great work from Pink. Strong, confident, with a good message to not stand for any nonsense. Love it.

Week 2

  • Long Live the Angels, Emeli Sandé
    It’s a good album, she has a great voice and the musicality is amazing. I’m just not totally sure this kind of music is for me – I found an entire album of it to be a bit intense, a bit too dramatic. The individual songs are great, but I found 15 in a row to be a bit much.
  • Word Gets Around, Stereophonics
    Really enjoyed this one. Great guitars, interesting song titles and concepts, fab lyrics that avoid all the normal clichés. Like the singles, of course, A Thousand Trees is a stand out, but actually it works together as a whole really well.

Week 3

  • I See You, The xx
    Had no idea what to expect from this album as I didn’t really know the band, but I loved it. It’s not quite chill out music but is relaxed and moody, thoughtful with some great backing beats. It feels quite intimate, and I think there’s a great quality in both their voices that really resonates.
  • Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan
    Beautiful album, this one. It’s interesting having listened to it off the back of Emeli Sande last week, this is just so much better. Sweeping, soaring, an incredible voice and great instrumentation work to make it a wonderful listen from start to finish.

Week 4

  • 24K Magic, Bruno Mars
    Interesting album this one, because overall I liked it but it sort of left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. It’s good pop, Bruno has an incredible voice and great rhythm, but if the lyrics are anything to go by, he’s a bit obsessed with how girls look. Chunky was a particularly weird one.
  • Beauty and the Beat, The Go-Go’s
    Enjoyed this album, and expanding my knowledge about 80s bands. Loving the girls with guitars awesomeness, and it’s a really upbeat kind of album. My only issue is that a lot of the songs sound the same, so it’s hard to distinguish sometimes, but as they’re all good, it’s not really a huge problem.

Week 5

  • a girl a bottle a boat, Train
    Good, pop album, although it’s a bit cheesy in places. Play That Song being a particular example, it’s so saccharine it hurts, and using that riff is almost as bad as Cliff Richard’s Millennium Prayer. Still, the rest of the album is fine, but I’m not sure it’s worth many more listens.
  • Random Album Title, deadmau5
    Dance music has never really been my thing, but I did quite like this selection. I don’t think I would particularly seek out an album like this to listen to, but it was good for keeping a steady pace whilst out for a walk and quite handy to tune out to doing some admin work.

It feels as though it’s been a slow start to the year in terms of album releases – I assume this is because everyone tries to get music out before Christmas to cash in on holiday sales. Which is lucky because I have a list to catch up on, until the next big release!

Terrific tea tasting – Detox

I thought I had given up this tea tasting lark, but I was walking through the tea aisle of my local shop recently and all the packaging is just so tempting. I figured if I was going to ease myself back into the world of fruit and herbal tea, I should probably do it cost effectively, so I opted for a box of mixed flavours.

tea-pukka-collection

And given that it is January, there’s only one option on that list that seems appropriate – detox! At first glance, the list of ingredients doesn’t sound all that appetising. Aniseed isn’t my favourite flavour, but mix it with coriander, and fennel, and even celery? What’s that about?

tea-pukka-bag

I’ll tell you what it’s about, it’s delicious! I don’t understand it at all because there’s nothing about this I should like but somehow the mix is incredible. I’ve already drunk all the sachets that came in this pack and am now thinking it’s time to buy a Detox-only pack.

tea-pukka-detox

I’ve never really done a detox so I don’t know what they’re like, but this tea does have a clean feeling about it that I imagine would work very well for anyone embarking on such a thing. This was an excellent tea to restart my tasting adventure on. Top marks.

On the record – 2016 wrap up

It has been an incredible year for me, listening to 100 albums in total across 50 weeks and learning an enormous amount about albums, artists, and music in general. The biggest lesson, though, is that there is so much more to learn. This album listening thing will continue into next year, but it seems only right to wrap up what has been a brilliant 2016 of albums for me.

Firstly, it’s worth saying that whilst I’ve always been a bit skeptical of the subscription music business model, this album adventure couldn’t have happened without it. When I was a listener of “just the songs that I like” then I wanted full control over what I did with them, which playlists I put them in, and wanted to hoard them which meant subscription services weren’t the right thing.

Now that I’m all about albums, which cost at lease a fiver a time, then there’s no way I could afford to listen to 100 in a year, and so the model is perfect. Thanks music subscription services, and thanks particularly to Apple Music.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of weeks and have narrowed down my top ten albums that I’ve listened to over the course of the last twelve months. Here goes nothing!

  1. Native by OneRepublic
  2. Come On Over by Shania Twain
  3. Tracy Chapman by Tracy Chapman
  4. The First Time by Kelsea Ballerini
  5. WALLS by Kings of Leon
  6. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
  7. Chaleur Humaine by Christine and the Queens
  8. Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morisette
  9. Get Weird by Little Mix
  10. The Chaos and the Calm by James Bay

It’s tricky compiling a list of best albums ever, because some albums are amazing but not really to be listened to all the time. For example, I loved Paul Simon’s Graceland but feel like I want to listen to it on special occasions. Similarly, Straight Outta Compton was top of my list for a while, until I realised that it’s reserved for when I’m angry.

Now, Mr C requested a top five list of specifically 2016 albums, of which I listened to 39.

  1. WALLS by Kings of Leon
  2. Chaleur Humaine by Christine and the Queens
  3. Oh My My by OneRepublic
  4. Wild World by Bastille
  5. Glory Days by Little Mix

Finally, a couple of honourable mentions, not because they are anywhere near the top ten but because they managed to get some special awards of their own.

  • Nine Track Mind by Charlie Puth, for the best timing ever. I wouldn’t have been able to listen to this one AFTER we watched Fast & Furious 7, so it was all very lucky.
  • Debut by Bjork, for turning out to be not intimidating at all. I was properly scared to listen to this one, but it was brilliant!
  • Thank You by Meghan Trainer, for being the biggest disappointment. I had been so looking forward to some great pop, but it was an eclectic mix of crazy.
  • Beneath the Skin by Of Monsters and Men, for being something I wouldn’t usually listen to, and turning out excellent.

A fantastic year of music, I can’t wait for 2017’s batch to begin!

On the record – Full of the angst you’d expect (Weeks 46 to 50)

Here we are then, the final five weeks of albums for this year’s incredible musical adventure. It’s been a brilliant year, I’ve listened to 100 albums! How is that even possible. I know so much more than I did this time last year, but equally I know there’s still so much more to learn. It’ll come as no surprise then, to find out that this album fun will continue into next year.

Before that though, there’s just time to recap the final five weeks, and then I must knuckle down and start deciding on some top ten lists and 2016 awards. Watch this space.

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 46
24 Hrs Olly Murs 2016 Good, solid pop album, I’m not sure there are any stand out songs though, like there have been in previous years. None of it feels particularly fresh and original, but it’s still good to listen to. Although it really, really bugs me that the chorus to Private is exactly the same as Cake by the Ocean. I mean, exactly the same.
Full Moon Fever Tom Petty 1989 The album begins with two great songs, so it’s off to a fab start, and although I don’t know any of the other songs, the guitar work is a lot of fun. If you want to air guitar, I reckon this album could be a good choice. However, there’s a moment of chatter about CD users waiting for record listeners to turn over for part two… probably funny at the time, but hasn’t aged so well!
Week 47
DNCE DNCE 2016 I loved this group’s EP, so was looking forward to the full album, and it didn’t miss the mark! A good, solid, pop album – a lot of fun and with just a bit of the quirky edge that you’d expect from this band of cute misfits. Some tracks are better than others, naturally, but the good ones really make you struggle not to dance along. Or DNCE along, I suppose.
Take That and Party Take That 1992 A great pop album that takes you right back to where it all started. It’s easy to laugh at some of the horrific nineties tunes here, and some of the slightly dodgy singing (I’m looking at you How Can It Be), but there are some real classics tucked away on the album, and it’s great to hear boy band pop from its fledgling days.
Week 48
Glory Days Little Mix 2016 Another crazy good album from the successful girl group. I loved their last album and this one is just more of the same. It’s perhaps another step more grown up, more sexual references and that kind of thing, but it retains the beating heart of the album – incredible vocals over solid melodies with fun pop beats underneath.
Rio Duran Duran 1982 I really enjoyed this album, far more than I thought I was going to. They have such a distinctive sound and from the moment the first song starts, they’ve got you bouncing along. I love, as I’m sure most people do, Hungry Like the Wolf, and the rest of the album lives up to the high standards set by that song!
Week 49
This House is Not For Sale Bon Jovi 2016 Good album, perfectly pleasant to listen to, but there are some odd moments where it all feels quite familiar. Not in a rip-off kind of way, just in a ‘I’ve heard this idea before’ way. I like the mix of songs though, and the foray into country music – I didn’t know Bon Jovi did that kind of song, must check out more.
The Bends Radiohead 1995 I enjoyed listening to this album, although it did cause some consternation in terms of how and why I knew some songs and didn’t know others that I probably should have done. It’s a nice listen though, full of the angst you’d expect and quite heavy going but falling short of full out unlistenable rage. High and Dry is a favourite.
Week 50
Night Driver Busted 2016 This is plenty good enough as an album you could listen to as background music, but I found myself a bit disappointed. I know the boys took a new direction and it is far less reliant on rocking guitars, so I wasn’t surprised at the different sound, but it just didn’t quite tick the boxes for me. Totally listenable, but perhaps not as special as I hoped.
Rumours Fleetwood Mac 1977 It’s only fitting to finish the year with the album that started this entire process, and what an album! It’s stuffed full of brilliant songs, and even the ones that aren’t super hit singles are still great to listen to. The stories behind this album make it incredible but even standing on its own two feet, it’s a wonderful listen.

On the record – Both familiar and brand new at the same time (Weeks 41 to 45)

We’re mid-way through November now, and I’m starting to think about how this album adventure challenge will end. It was intended to be a year-long mission to expand my album horizons, but gradually, as the year has gone on I have learnt two things. 1) I love it and 2) There are a lot of albums out there!

So the answer is, it’s not ending any time soon. I’m going to keep listening to albums into 2017 and goodness knows how long. But I’ve also made plans for how to wrap up the year. I’m going to 50 weeks, rather than the full 52, leaving the final two weeks to review what I’ve listened to over the previous 11 and a half months, and evaluate the good, the bad and everything in between.

I’m even tasked with creating a proper, definitive, top ten list of the albums I’ve indulged in so far. Now I understand what pains Mr C goes through every single year for his top fives.

Anyway, on with the latest update – as there are just ten weeks left to cover, I’ll make it two posts of five each, rather than the four you’ve seen previously.

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 41
Oh My My OneRepublic 2016 Love this album. It’s maybe not got quite so many instant classics as the previous album, but it’s stacked full of good songs, and they span quite a variety – from looping Bieber-style pop, to more gospel choir piano tunes, plus bonus Peter Gabriel! And if you don’t like that stuff, there’s enough OneRepublic anthems to get you through. Quality.
Club Classics, Vol 1 Soul II Soul 1989 They must have been really confident that these were a) classics and b) just the first volume. Luckily, it is a great album, and so although the title makes it look like a compilation, it is actually a solid body of work by one group. It makes for some relaxing listening, especially starting with Keep on Moving, and ending up with Back for Life.
Week 42
WALLS Kings of Leon 2016 This was a pleasant surprise for me. I thought I perhaps didn’t like KOL because they were overplayed or something like that. However, this album was brilliant! Some of the guitar riffs felt familiar but then the songs developed in a completely different way so it was fun to listen to something that felt both familiar and brand new at the same time. Great stuff!
Taylor Swift Taylor Swift 2006 Mr C is obsessed with Taylor so he’s planning for me to work my way through all the albums, starting at the beginning with baby Taylor. This is a cute album, so very country in places, but with good heart and good songs and just a nice start to what has become an incredible career. Particularly enjoy how very country Our Song is.
Week 43
Version of Me Melanie C 2016 Enjoyed this more than I thought I would, it’s not like Mel C was ever my favourite Spice Girl but I quite like what she’s done here. It really feels like grown up pop, like a Spice Girl album that has gone through puberty and now has actual problems to deal with. Pop but with just a bit of an edge, I like it.
The Joshua Tree U2 1987 Good album, from start to finish, but the problem I have with it is that it starts with Where the Streets, Still Haven’t Found, and With or Without You, so you have to ask yourself, what is the point of the rest of the album? Those three songs are incredible, and whilst the rest is fine, they are overshadowed by such an amazing start.
Week 44
The Wave Tom Chaplin 2016 In places, you can hear the Keane-ness of the album shining through, but it’s not as close to the band’s music as I expected. There’s more production to it, more instruments and actually more upbeat songs as well. That isn’t always a good thing, it’s missing that wistful edge of Keane music. Some of this you can tell is influenced by Tom’s personal struggles but it’s an overall positive experience.
Jagged Little Pill Alanis Morrisette 1995 I love Alanis so I sort of can’t believe I haven’t listened to this one all the way through before. It’s so good, full of angst and rage but a real sense of self belief. Some great songs, even if you can’t take Ironic seriously anymore. But You Learn gets stuck in my head in the best possible way. Great job, definitely one I’ll listen to over and again.
Week 45
HERE Alicia Keys 2016 Alicia’s debut album was one of the first and few that I bought and listened to in full over and over. This one is stacked full of wonderful songs, feel good music that is inspirational and uplifting – desperately needed this year! I wasn’t too bothered about the interludes but the songs themselves are great.
The Script The Script 2008 Great album, I like The Script. Good songs, fresh perspective, slightly Irish lilt and (more than) a hint of U2 in places. I feel like it’s not their best work, but half the songs on the album were singles so it can’t have been too bad a start for their career!