On the record 2018, Part 5: A little bit warbly in places

With the exception of James Bay, my choices in this collection of albums are all about fab females doing their thing. Kylie’s new adventure, Jorja’s debut and Lily Allen’s return. I’ve got mixed feelings about most of them, but it was still a fun journey devouring them all.

Meanwhile, Mr C’s selections proved just how eclectic this album adventure business can be – from a Latin goddess, to the King of Pop, including rock and… well, whatever words can be used to describe Madness.

Week 21

  • Electric Light, James Bay
    I really enjoyed the previous album by James Bay so was looking forward to this – it’s a good follow-up, although I don’t think it quite lives up to the great poppy-folky standards of the last. The intro and interludes don’t really seem to add anything to the story, but the songs stand up and it’s an easy-listening endeavour.
  • I’ve Been Expecting You, Robbie Williams
    Ah, great times with Robbie. He’s hit and miss and has a career as varied as you could ask for, but this was early solo Robbie and probably when he was at his best. Some strong hits in here, mixed in with other good songs, there’s no real dip in quality and there’s a variety of tempos and sentiments to enjoy. Top work.

Week 22

  • Love is Dead, CHVRCHES
    I really loved this, which was a surprise as CHVRCHES have only really appeared on my radar recently. But it’s a really strong album, all the songs are solid rock although it’s worth mentioning that they all get quite samey towards the end. Love their work though.
  • Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Gloria Estefan
    Saw Gloria promoting the musical about her life and realised I haven’t listened to any of her stuff, although I know some of the songs, obviously. I quite liked this album, although at this point in my musical journey it felt a little cheesy. She’s got such a good voice and a personality that comes across in every song, so it’s a lot of fun.

Week 23

  • Golden, Kylie
    I was dubious about this one, really, and probably wouldn’t have listened except I really liked Stop Me From Falling. Unfortunately, the rest of the album was kinda what I was expecting. It’s listenable but it suffers from not being one thing or the other – not really proper country and not really pop either. It didn’t quite stack up for me but I admire Kylie for constantly trying new things.
  • A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Panic! At the Disco
    We suddenly realised that most of the Les Mills tracklists are propped up by Fall Out By and Panic! at the Disco so it was about time I listened to one of them. Opted for the debut album by P at the D, and whilst I enjoyed the songs, I sort of couldn’t get over the titles having absolutely nothing to do with the content within. Good fun rock, but not something I can get on board with!

Week 24

  • Lost & Found, Jorja Smith
    I was really looking forward to this debut release from Jorja, as the huge coverage she’s had on Beats 1 has hyped me up as intended. I was really impressed with the album, it’s very mellow, chilled out and easy to listen to. I thought it went a little bit warbly in places, but for the most part a really great album from Jorja.
  • Bad, Michael Jackson
    Really loved this, obviously, some of the great songs from the great man all packaged up in one neat album. I actually knew a few more of the songs than I thought I did which made it even better. But really, marching along the streets on a sunny lunchtime walk, with Bad blaring in your ears is basically as good as it gets.

Week 25

  • No Shame, Lily Allen
    I’ve only recently realised how much I like Lily’s work so far, and this album is another great addition to her body of work. It’s slightly different to what has gone before, though, and has a much more mellow quality than the rest. It’s also quite depressing, if you listen to it all in one go, very much instilling the loneliness and restlessness that Lily must have been feeling at the time throughout the tracks.
  • One Step Beyond, Madness
    In stark contrast to the low-key Lily Allen I listened to the same week, Madness are just a barrel of fun. A lot of it sounds the same, it all has the same reggae beat underneath and you just go along for the ride – great fun.

Not just anybody

We watched the Westworld edition of Carpool Karaoke yesterday, and thought “Yea, I know there’s a Paul McCartney one out but it can’t be as good as this.” Evan and James had great chemistry, great fun and got up to some fab antics with bonus Westworld memes thrown in there for good measure. So, we turned to the Paul McCartney and James Corden episode and… well, we couldn’t have been more wrong, could we?

(As an aside, how have we managed to get into a situation where there are two editions of the same show made by different people released on the same day to compete against each other?)

You’ll have seen this, by now, I’m sure. Everyone has and everyone is in agreement – this is a fantastic twenty minutes of television.

It was amazing that Paul agreed to do this, and he was a fantastic sport throughout the whole thing. His nostalgia tour of the streets and buildings that influenced the early songwriting days was inspirational and emotional, and the moment where he comforts James and follows it up with a comfortable silence was wonderful.

It’s also incredible that just his mere presence can still draw crowds – the guy is just walking in and out of a house, and there’s a huge crowd waiting to see him, touch him, tell him they love him, just be in his vicinity. And he handles it all with good grace.

Plus, of course, the jukebox gig in the pub is great and showcases what a wide variety of demographic the Beatles music still appeals to. Young and old appreciate the man and this twenty minute episode was a great way of proving it.

On the record 2018, Part 4: Synth music is right up my street

The year is certainly picking up bit by bit and I’m starting to love more of the albums than I’m not. Having said that, there are still a couple in the list below that I was hugely looking forward to but then found myself disappointed by. That happens, I guess!

In other news, I discovered new-found fondness for Manic Street Preachers and Depeche Mode, two very different bands. Read on for more!

Week 16

  • Resistance is Futile, Manic Street Preachers
    My first pass through this album left me thinking ‘pretty good, sounds just like what you’d expect from the Manics.’ Apparently that hasn’t always been the case for the last few albums, so that’s a start. On the second pass through, it all started growing on me. The first three songs are brilliant, and the rest stacks up pretty well too. Definitely one to re-listen to a few more times yet.
  • Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent
    I was quite excited to listen to this but actually it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Solid hip hop and the singles are good but it didn’t blow me away. A bit too much Eminem, as well.

Week 17

  • 44/876, Sting & Shaggy
    You would never put these two together, would you? What a weird partnership but it totally, totally works. This is such a gentle but good album to listen to. It’s clear and open, honest and simple. From the UK to Jamaica, criss-crossing styles all the way. Nice and relaxing and probably perfect for summer.
  • Misplaced Childhood, Marillion
    I only know the song Kayleigh from this, played as the last song of series two of Car Share, but I can’t say I particularly liked this album. It’s okay as music goes but I really don’t like the way the tracks all blend into each other and nothing particularly stood out for me even after two listens.

Week 18

  • Speak Your Mind, Anne-Marie
    I’ve loved pretty much all of Anne-Marie’s singles, so this album was a long time coming and delivered exactly what you want – more of the same! Fun pop with the occasional serious edge, but lots of catchy choruses that draw you in from the start of the album to the very end.
  • Speak and Spell, Depeche Mode
    Well this was a revelation to me. I loved the album, and the band that I am now calling The ‘Mode, much to Mr C’s disapproval. I’d never realised it before but am suddenly growing to understand that synth music is right up my street and Depeche Mode are one of the key bands in this genre. Good stuff.

Week 19

  • Cool Like You, Blossoms
    Having recently discovered a love of synth it was brilliant to find that Blossoms are basically a modern synth band. I really enjoyed the album, although I’m not sure it’s quite as strong as the first one – I’m going to have to listen to that one again now!
  • All Saints, All Saints
    All Saints was my first ever album purchases, and so I know it quite well. I really like the funky nature of it, the kick-ass attitude of these girls who were trying to be the antithesis to the squeaky clean pop acts out there. It seems a lot safer compared to more recent artists but it still holds a fond place in my heart.

Week 20

  • Voicenotes, Charlie Puth
    I’ve been looking forward to this one and was disappointed when Charlie pushed the album back to make sure it was finished to his own high standards. Eventually got to listen though, and enjoyed it. I’m not sure it’s better than the last album, and the Boyz II Men song, whilst good, brings the mood right down in the middle where it would be better at the end. But otherwise, a good solid set of songs.
  • The Weight of These Wings, Miranda Lambert
    I did not enjoy this. I’ve enjoyed some of Miranda’s other songs, but this one was back to the roots country, with slide guitar and crazy Southern accent and all. Not only that but it’s a double album, so lasts about 90 minutes. It was a bit of a slog to get through it twice, I’ll be honest.

Super-sub bass

The BBC hosted their replacement for the absent Glastonbury festival this weekend, putting on four huge shows across the UK and welcoming the great and the good of the music world to play at them. There was far too much content to enjoy in one weekend, so I’ll be perusing the iPlayer for at least the rest of this week and maybe longer.

Crowd cheering at a gig, stage obscured by smoke

One performance that did stand out, however, was the Manic Street Preachers on Friday. I’ve been growing more and more fond of this band, from a sort of “mild indifference nodding at the occasional tune” to a more steady “well I need to listen to the entire back catalogue asap” situation.

The band were scheduled to perform in Belfast but unfortunately had to go on without bassist Nicky Wire due to a family emergency. All best wishes to him, of course, but I found the situation entirely intriguing. They went on instead with a super-substitute bassist, who did a stand up job under what must have been huge pressure.

The guy was adorable, in his efforts to ignore the limelight and just get through the songs without making any errors, rarely making eye contact with the band even, and stubbornly ignoring James Dean Bradfield’s efforts to give him any credit for turning up. I loved it.

But it got me wondering all sorts of questions about what went on behind the scenes. Do you just have super-sub instrument players waiting to go on? Was he a bod that just knew the sets and could step up without a second thought? If that’s the case, who then does the job he would ordinarily be doing? Also curious if it’s his own guitar, if he brings it along with him wherever he goes, if he ever jams with the band in their downtime.

It was also interesting to ponder how this was a unique set of circumstances that wouldn’t have worked out if it was any other way. If it was James who couldn’t participate, then presumably they would have to call the gig off. The super-sub bass didn’t appear to sing, didn’t even have a microphone, so presumably if there were bigger backing vocals required, again, they would have had to rethink. And also… at what point does it not become fair to go on?

For example, if I was going to see U2 (that’s a big if, trust me), and the Edge wasn’t there, I’d want my money back. It can work sometimes if you replace them with someone more famous – I know Chris Martin of Coldplay has done some super-subbing as singer in the past – but for the most part, people want to see who they came to see. I guess also it’s more relaxed at festivals than a specific artist’s gig. This way, there’s a huge bill of people and you’re unlikely to be there just for the one band, but even so, at what point does a band not still be the band as advertised?

Just some thoughts, no answers, and in this particular instance it didn’t seem to harm the set too much to have a competent, if slightly less flashy, bassist hammering out the notes.

On the record 2018, Part 3: One whole piece of art

Last time out, I was worried about the year so far, and whilst it still hasn’t grabbed me as much as last year’s musical efforts, it certainly has picked up. We’re heading into the spring and summer seasons, so there are good vibes coming from artists. George Ezra was a particular highlight of this particular batch, but read on for the full list!

Week 11

  • Gone Now, Bleachers
    I was curious about this one because Jack Antonoff writes so many good songs, it’s a wonder he has anything left for his own outlets. I wasn’t sure about this album for the first listen through, but second time round it started to come together for me. I liked how the songs linked together and there were little callbacks throughout making it one whole piece of art.
  • Bella Donna, Stevie Nicks
    Lovely Stevie’s first solo album is a really great listen. I can’t lie and say it stood out as separate to the work that Fleetwood Mac do, it had all those influences and more, but it was still great to listen to – particularly Edge of Seventeen with it’s Destiny’s Child bounce.

Week 12

  • Superorganism, Superorganism
    I was dubious about this one – a glimpse at the craziness on TV had made me wary, but then I heard Everybody Wants to Be Famous a billion times on Beats 1 and fell in love with it. Actually, the album is great. It is crazy, sure, but it also has that glorious lazy summer vibe so you just kind of chill and go with it.
  • Alright, Still, Lily Allen
    This is one of those albums where I know a lot of the songs but have somehow never actually listened to the whole thing. I really liked it. Lily is one of those artists that you either love or hate, and thankfully I love her. Don’t always agree with her and think some of the songs push it a bit, but ultimately they’re catchy and meaningful, clever and fun, so why not?

Week 13

  • Staying at Tamara’s, George Ezra
    Really loved this from George. I was a fan of Budapest but wasn’t really sure I’d manage to sustain interest over a full album. Couldn’t have been more wrong! It’s fun and quite preppy, sweeps you up in its summer holiday, leave all your cares behind, kind of way. A new favourite.
  • B*Witched, B*Witched
    I thought this would be your run of the mill pop album but it’s more eclectic than that. The singles are the normal saccharine denim-laden pop that we know, but the rest is all a bit of an oddity. It kicks off with some bizarre folk-violin-drum-and-bass dance mix, and indulges in some feisty female rock as well as super slow ballads along the way. Weird.

Week 14

  • Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
    This album has gained a lot of supporters in the short time it’s been out, and I have to be honest, I’m not 100% sure I get what the fuss is about. It’s a good album, and stands apart from the more traditional country and from the more pop-orientated modern stuff, but it’s darker more downbeat tone didn’t quite do it for me. Good songs, great voice, but as a whole it didn’t quite work.
  • Waiting For My Rocket to Come, Jason Mraz
    I do so love Jason and his witty words, fast-paced songs and interesting subject matter. I learnt a lot of these songs listening over and over again to a live version so hearing them in their studio format was a bit odd, but it still works. Lots of craft has gone into these and that shines through. They’re intensely catchy tunes and I’ll listen over and over again once more!

Week 15

  • Bye Bye, Annalisa
    This was recommended by a friend of a friend and whilst I wouldn’t normally stumble across Italian pop, I really loved it and I’m glad I got to listen to it. It’s just pure, catchy pop music, and even though I don’t speak Italian it doesn’t matter at all, you still get the same good pop vibes. Annalisa has a great voice too.
  • Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond
    I only know a couple of Neil Diamond songs, and so for my first album of his, it was lucky that it had one song on it that I knew. The album reminded me quite a lot of Johnny Cash – not in terms of sound, but just the sort of genre. Shorter songs, quite odd topics (the horseflies round your face thing really confused me, I think he thinks it’s a compliment). I quite liked it but I’m not sure I’d particularly seek it out again.

Friday nights dreaming of summer mornings

I’m due an album update on the site but in the meantime, let’s just say I’ve been totally loving George Ezra’s Staying at Tamara’s. It’s unfortunately timed, really, because it would work so much better in glorious sunny weather and we’ve only been lucky enough to have a day or two of that. In a couple of months though, I’m hoping this album will totally come into its own because it’s sunny and peppy and cheery and I really love it.

George was on Sounds Like Friday Night yesterday (second series much better than the first!) with his new song Shotgun and there was so much to love about this. Mostly, of course, I had my eyes on the bass player, who was doing great work with that Paul Simon-esque bass-line, and singing backing vocals at the same time. For goodness sake, these superbly talented people are so annoying.

Love the final thirty seconds, too, where they are singing in rounds. Good times. Bring on the sunshine!

On the record 2018, Part 2: I didn’t mind the sheer randomness really

I’m finding this year a real struggle compared to 2017. There are a few new albums that have raised my eyebrows but nothing that’s getting me excited. I know you can’t have great stuff all the time, but I’m just hoping this year picks up soon!

Week 6

  • Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake
    I was surprised how much I liked this one. It’s stacked full of great rhythms and hooks, which you can tell came from the great mind of Pharrell more than anyone else. Some of the more mushy interludes aren’t my favourite but I do like the down-to-earth natural feeling of it all.
  • Touch, Eurythmics
    I think I was expecting a bit more from this album, given how epic Annie Lennox is, but even so, this is full of great songs. I’m not sure it’s as memorable as I thought it would be, but still totally enjoyable to listen to.

Week 7

  • Always Ascending, Franz Ferdinand
    I haven’t really even thought about Franz Ferdinand for years so it was nice to hear them again – it’s all very similar to how they used to be, perhaps progressing to a slightly more adult and adventurous sound, but for the most part just solid guitars and that recognisable voice. Good stuff, but never going to be a particular favourite.
  • Performance and Cocktails, Stereophonics
    I really enjoyed this album. At first glance, I thought I only knew one of the songs but more of them were familiar than I had anticipated. The songs are well put together and with the dulcet tones of Kelly Jones to ease the way, it’s just a really nice, solid listen.

Week 8

  • I Like Fun, They Might Be Giants
    I didn’t get on with this album at all, I was expecting it all to be a bit random which it was, and I didn’t mind the sheer randomness really but it needed to be backed up with some good songs. I didn’t enjoy the construction of the songs, and that made it a bit of a slog to get through.
  • Brave, The Shires
    I’m fond of The Shires because it takes a brave duo to try and take on the might of country music from the UK, and they’re doing pretty well and gaining respect for it. The songs are what you’d expect from a country album, my only real complaint is that there’s a disconnect between songs that celebrate being from the UK, and then others that talk about ‘dimes’ and ‘state lines’. Doesn’t quite stack up.

Week 9

  • American Teen, Khalid
    Incredible debut, really. I love Young Dumb and Broke, which is why I chose this album to listen to in a very quiet week of music. The rest of the album is filled with more of the same, which makes it both really good listening but also perhaps just marginally too long. Great work though, refreshing soulful sound.
  • Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston
    I can’t quite believe this is Whitney’s debut album, it’s got such incredible songs on it and of course her powerful voice just blows everything out the water. Such a strength shines through the album even in her first recording, and it almost feels like a privilege to listen to.

Week 10

  • Love is a Basic Need, Embrace
    Embrace do one thing and they do it really well – the songs that start slowly and softly, have a bit of piano come in, and gradually build to a big, soaring, string-enhanced ending. Much of the album follows this pattern which is nice for a while but perhaps doesn’t sustain a whole record. Still good though.
  • Spice, Spice Girls
    What a classic album this is. I was, obviously, a huge fan in the 90s, and so this was like diving into a wonderful world of pop-soaked nostalgia. It’s short and sweet, this album, with female-power lyrics, bopping tracks and ultimately just some fab pop. There’s also some dodgy rapping but that just adds to the enjoyment, really.