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!

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!

On the record – Quirky, dancey, French (Weeks 37 to 40)

Here, in this bunch of albums, you can see the direct result of this year’s Apple Music Festival. I’d always planned to listen to Bastille and their new album, but their appearance at the Roundhouse only spurred me on to move it up the list. Christine and the Queens and Passenger also both came from that fortnight of music, as I wouldn’t have known to pick those albums up without it.

Mr C’s choices, meanwhile, offer a distinct range of songs, and I’ve noticed that we’ve started trying to pick different genres to each other. If I’m listening to alternative guitar bands, he picks 1980s solo female superstars. If I’ve gone for European dance music, he picks an evergreen male star with a rich history of songs (and drama)!

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 37
Wild World Bastille 2016 Listened to an older Bastille album just two weeks ago, and it’s interesting to hear the differences. Still a good album, still full of the drums and drama, but with more of an edge to it. Found the radio inserts a bit odd, but enjoyed the album from start to finish.
Heaven on Earth Belinda Carlisle 1987 I know the three main singles from this album but I’ve never really indulged in any extra-curricular Belinda tracks, and I thought it was a really solid album. It’s intensely eighties, obviously, but she has a great voice and it’s got some really catchy stuff in there.
Week 38
Hard II Love Usher 2016 I was sort of dreading this one because I’m still conscious of disliking Drake’s album. However, this was a really solid R&B/hip-hop outing, very relaxing and brilliant to drive home to of an early autumn evening.
Body Talk Robyn 2010 I only knew one song going into this album and it was a bit of a surprise, as the songs were all far more dancey than I had anticipated. I loved it though, really great songs, sort of quirky like Gwen Stefani, with some odd but brilliant lyrics.
Week 39
Chaleur Humane Christine and the Queens 2016 Saw Christine appear on the Elton John Apple Music Festival evening and was instantly obsessed. Watched her on her support act evening too, and then quickly downloaded the album. Amazing, love it all. Quirky, dancey, French, and Tilted gets right inside my head.
Faith George Michael 1987 It’s exactly what you expect from late 80s George, the songs sound mostly similar except for a couple of slightly out of place ballads – at one point he goes very Sinatra swing. However, very entertaining, if a bit “I’m so sexy” in places.
Week 40
Young as the Morning Old as the Sea Passenger 2016 Brilliant album. After embarrassing myself watching Passenger on AMF10, I figured I should listen to the new album, and I’m glad I did! Distinctive voice, great guitar riffs and lovely tunes – ranging from easy listening, to the more slow and depressing sort, it’s a relaxed album perfect for chilling out to.
Kick INXS 1987 Ah, I really enjoyed this album. These are one of those bands where I think I don’t know any of their songs but I knew at least three of them and they’re all good ones. It’s beautifully eighties, with those keyboards and drum kicks, but at the same time it hasn’t aged horribly, there are some proper classics on there. Also like how the songs lead into each other nicely, proper album work.

On the record – Full of drums and drama (Weeks 33 to 36)

What struck me most when putting together this round up of another four weeks of albums was how quickly the year is flying by! That’s always the case, but seeing it in black and white and in lists of artists and albums, it’s much more stark. It seems like only yesterday Mr C and I were discussing me listening to Bastille and OneRepublic to gen up on the Apple Music festival this year. And now I’ve listened to both of those, and moved on to more, and the festival has started and I’ve found a load more albums to listen to!

It’s also worth noting that three of Mr C’s picks this time were from 2013, a total coincidence but perhaps an indication that it was a good year for albums? It’ll be interesting when we get to the end of the year to see which years were featured and which were more popular.

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 33
Bury Me In My Boots The Cadillac Three 2016 I listened to this purely because they made an appearance on Nashville, and found it to be just a bit too country for me. However, there were some good songs on there (and some not so good, what is up with Ship-faced?) So many alcohol references, too, I felt drunk just listening!
Yourself or Someone Like You Matchbox Twenty 1996 Loved this album, it was so wonderfully of the 90s. It also reminded me of the scene in Ted where he talks about the vowel songs of that era. A-E-I-O-U! Fab stuff anyway, mostly upbeat pop rock, catchy lyrics, right up my street.
Week 34
Pure and Simple Dolly Parton 2016 You have to love Dolly Parton, she has a voice that is both powerful but also stacked with emotion and oftentimes seeming quite vulnerable. There’s just something about her voice and her songs that draws you in. The album also features her full set from Glastonbury, as sort of a second half, so that’s an absolute bonus!
Magna Carta Holy Grail Jay Z 2013 Good album, I love Jay Z’s style and he’s surrounded himself with a good variety of guests here. The Justin Timberlake track is a stand out one for me, but otherwise I’m not sure this is a total classic. Quite a lot of Beyoncé squeezed in, too. Good listen overall.
Week 35
Glory Britney Spears 2016 Great to hear Britney again, although this is a very mixed album – some of it is great but some is quite awful. Private Show, whilst catchy, is probably everything wrong with music at the moment! But still, there are some good songs and taken as a whole it shows how adaptable Britney is, and how she can move with the times.
Bad Blood Bastille 2013 I was worried about listening to this because Pompeii is such a storming tune, how can you expand on the brilliance of it? I needn’t have worried, the rest of the album is great too. Whilst it doesn’t quite match up to the opener, it’s still full of drums and drama, intriguing lyrics and the intensity to carry you through to the end.
Week 36
Dig Your Roots Florida Georgia Line 2016 Totally what you would expect, slightly poppy country music. I so wanted the Backstreet Boys track to be amazing but I didn’t think it was, sadly. There are a good selection of guests on there, but there are no real stand out songs.
Native OneRepublic 2013 Brilliant album, how could it not be with the remarkable Ryan Tedder? Pop royalty, catchy, sing along, impossible not to move to but equally emotional in places. Loved it.

On the record – That’s an impressive gauntlet to throw down (Weeks 29 to 32)

After the last roundup, I was looking forward to some slightly better and more fun albums, and this set really delivered. I also found myself listening to albums that I wouldn’t necessarily have picked but liking them anyway. Rihanna really wouldn’t have been my first choice, whilst I’d never heard of Blossoms but got sucked into the promotions on iTunes.

There are no top ten entries this time, but it was a lot better anyway.

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 29
Perspective Lawson 2016 Love this album! Guitar pop loveliness, really listenable, jolly for the most part and a few songs you can really tap your foot to. I just dislike the one song that is exactly like Teardrops from Eurovision.
Brothers in Arms Dire Straits 1985 A different, self-indulgent kind of experience. The songs are super long, so you have to settle in and go with it. Money for Nothing remains a favourite but I love how the songs are all so different with great layering and instrument work to make it a real gem.
Week 30
Love & Hate Michael Kiwanuka 2016 Wonderful album, soul with real heart, sultry movements and genuinely relaxing vibes. One of the tracks had just a bit too much repetition for me, but it’s a small complaint in a really good body of work.
No Angel Dido 1999 I knew far more of this album than I’d anticipated, so plenty to sing along with. Great songwriting skills and lots of interesting instrumentation and sounds to keep each song alive and fascinating.
Week 31
Anti Rihanna 2016 I have mixed feelings about Rihanna and this album does nothing to change that. Some of it is really good, intriguing pop with great vocals and some solid lyrics and songwriting. Others are way overproduced so that they only serve to distract from Rihanna’s talent rather than enhance it.
Hunting High and & Low a-ha 1985 Liked this album, it’s quite fun pop although it threw me off guard how very similar they sound to Duran Duran. Just ten songs, and none quite live up to the album opener of Take On Me, but that’s an impressive gauntlet to throw down. All good, though.
Week 32
Blossoms Blossoms 2016 More pop than indie rock, I really enjoyed this album. Although there’s a similarity to other bands, it stands out because of its nostalgic feel – the first half of the album is very 80s, and the second half sounds like it has been plucked straight from the 90s, and both are a lot of fun to listen to!
Nevermind Nirvana 1991 Was worried about listening to this one, it’s so highly regarded. Luckily, I quite liked it although some of the tracks verged into too much screaming, which I can’t stand. The more sedate tracks are brilliant, though, and there’s a clear and moving talent there.