It’s no great mystery

Mr C and I don’t go much in for the Valentine’s Day thing but something happened this week that it’s important to document. After years of searching (more than a decade), I have finally found OUR SONG.

It turns out, this On the Record thing that I’ve been studiously documenting for the last 3+ years has finally been worth it. This week, Mr C selected Huey Lewis & the News (he doesn’t always get his picks from Carpool Karaoke, honest), who of course I only know from Back to the Future.

Except there was one other song I knew and loved, although I have no idea how or where I’d have heard it.

We’ve had our doubts, we never took them seriously
And we’ve had our ins and outs, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be
We thought about giving up, but we could never stay away
Thought about breaking up, but now we know it’s much too late
And it’s no great mystery
If we change our minds
Eventually, it’s back to you and me

Yes, it’s true, (yes it’s true) I am happy to be stuck with you
Yes, it’s true, (yes it’s true) I’m so happy to be stuck with you
‘Cause I can see, (I can see) that you’re happy to be stuck with me

Ahhh, romance.

On the record 2019, Part 1: The disco numbers are untouchable

Before you know it, another year begins and it’s time to start listening to more albums. As an annual tradition to kick off the year, let me just run through the rules of the game:

Each week, I listen to two albums. One is selected by me and must have been released this year or last. I usually pick something that has been released that very Friday. The other album is selected by Mr C and he gets all of the rest of musical history to choose from.

The point of this challenge started way back when, and although I’ve now resolved the issue, I’m still keen to keep on listening. This is the fourth year and it turns out there’s still a never-ending list of albums to get through. So we should begin!

Week 1

  • beerbongs & bentleys, Post Malone
    An alright album, this one. I’m a bit surprised by how massive Post Malone is, everyone seems to be talking about him. The album didn’t blow me away, a couple of good songs on there and generally a solid listen, but not a huge deal in my eyes.
  • Reputation, Taylor Swift
    I had such a rollercoaster with this album, was looking forward to it, then was mad that it wasn’t available, then avoided it for as long as possible. Actually, I liked it. First listen through, by the end I was like “enough angst already TayTay” but on the second listen it started to grow on me. Some of those songs do get stuck in my head though.

Week 2

  • Love Monster, Amy Shark
    Great album, this one. I sort of lost track of Amy Shark after she was featured as a Beats 1 Up Next artist, but realised I hadn’t listened to the album. It was brilliant and I’m now annoyed that I didn’t listen to it last year as it might have appeared in my top five somewhere. Great songs, lovely music, and it’s quite an unusual, offbeat and unique sound in the current climate.
  • C’est Chic…, Chic
    Well this is just a great classic band, and the disco numbers on this album are untouchable. I wasn’t quite so keen on the instrumental stuff but that’s just me, really, and not a reflection on them. I’m interested to hear more of Chic and find out if it’s all quite a lot of the same stuff, or if they progress in any way.

Week 3

  • Honey, Robyn
    This was an okay album, listenable, but I didn’t really rate it as much as I had been hoping to. Missing U is a great song, but the rest of it kinda pales into comparison. Not memorable but worth a go if you’re a Robyn fan.
  • Every Picture Tells a Story, Rod Stewart
    I was kinda hoping to really like this album, what with Rod Stewart being a legend and all. I like the songs that I already knew, the classics, but the rest of it wasn’t that interesting. It’s a shame but I’m glad I gave it a go.

Week 4

  • Delta, Mumford & Sons
    The thing about Mumford & Sons, to me, is that they make good albums, they’re just not at all memorable. They’re great background music, steady, folky, and all really nice. But it doesn’t stand out and it doesn’t make me want to seek out any more. Nothing wrong with it at all but not my favourite.
  • Laundry Service, Shakira
    Lovely Shakira, this is a great album. It starts with three classics, and has great latin rhythms from there. The only downside to it is the same thing I complained about on Enrique’s album – putting the same songs at the end only in Spanish is cheating a little bit. Somehow I forgive Shakira more though, because they’re such good bops.

Week 5

  • DNA, Backstreet Boys
    My Backstreet Boys fandom sort of took a dip in the middle there, the last few albums I’ve not really paid too much attention to. But now I’m back on it, and thankfully, so are they! I really enjoyed this one, there are some great tunes on here and yea, they have grown up and are more reflective and thoughtful, but that’s no bad thing.
  • Daydream, Mariah Carey
    Mariah Carey’s diva reputation means I haven’t always wanted to pay attention to her, but you can’t argue that when she put her mind to it, she made a lot of good music. This album is stacked with some great tunes, although I was surprised at the cover of Open Arms – how did I miss that Mariah did this Journey cover? Anyway, all good, I enjoyed the listen.

Amy Shark was the real hit of the bunch and I was annoyed at how much, in the end, Taylor’s album grew on me. Now, at least, having heard the album, I can watch the concert that’s also available on Apple Music. Five weeks down, forty-five to go!

Something up their sleeve

Weezer surprised everyone last week by releasing a covers album stacked full of proper tunes. I had a listen through and it’s good, although I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of covers for the sake of it. Many of their versions sound just like the originals, so then you’re left wondering exactly what the point of it is. Having said that, their version of No Scrubs is fabulous, a stand out song.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a review of the album. The interesting thing that came with this unexpected release was that, in Apple Music anyway, the album also came with extended notes. The band gave their thoughts on each song, track by track, running through the full album.

Mr C has long been calling for the return of so-called sleeve notes, arguing that the additional information gives you a greater connection to the album you’re listening to. I was dubious at first, because I grew up with CDs where the little booklets you got were mostly filled with lyrics, glossy photos, and thank-you-god speeches.

But properly done sleeve notes give you greater access to the thoughts and meanings behind songs, and that’s something I can always do with. Alright, in Weezer’s case, it’s mostly just why a song was chosen because the band themselves didn’t actually write it, but even that gives you more insight into what they were thinking and makes me feel more forgiving towards them for the slightly less interesting covers.

I know that when I watch a documentary on a band, or catch one of the Apple Music exclusive short films where an artist discusses their upcoming album, then I do feel more of an attachment, more of an understanding about where they’re coming from. And that can only be a good thing.

These extended notes feature above the album tracks in Apple Music. It’s not the ideal place to read such things, and it looks like there’s only space for text without huge amounts of formatting. But it’s a good start. All additional information we get helps – how else would I have known to go back and listen to how he does actually pronounce ‘this’?

Mr C’s top five songs of 2018

For the second year in a row, Mr C’s top five lists have been limited to songs rather than both music and films – and that’s partly because we spent a lot of the year watching 80s movies, and partly because he could only think of Black Panther as a stand out watch.

I don’t think film-land is so bad but hey, this is his space to get listing so please find below, Mr C’s thoughts on the year in music, followed by the top five songs from the past twelve months, and finally the shortlist from which he was choosing.

“Coming off the back of an exceptional 2017, it looked like it might be a tricky year for music especially with no Glastonbury – a place where we often find new acts and new music. There was also no iTunes Music festival, as that’s been canned.

So, it looked like it might be a troublesome year, however, a third, maybe two thirds of the way through the year it was clear there was still a decent selection of music around, a decent selection of artists. There was a good cross-section: we had a bit of country, we had pop music. Pop music made a good come back in 2018, a lot of good, really solid pop records.

Also, musicals featured more heavily this year than I would have perhaps expected/wanted. I think P!nk’s entry of A Million Dreams is my first ever musical entry in my shortlist, it hasn’t made the top five but that’s a worrying sign for the future.

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2019, Glastonbury obviously returns which is going to be a big thing. Pop music is still in its ascendancy so we’re looking for more amazing pop tunes this coming year.

To wrap up: 2018 was better than expected, a solid year in its own right and with much music to love.”

1 – Get Out, CHVRCHES

2 – Fine Line, Mabel & Not3s

3 – Don’t Give In, Snow Patrol

4 – Hold My Girl, George Ezra

5 – Missing U, Robyn

The shortlist

Previous years available here: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

On the record 2018 – wrap up

Hooray and eek in equal measure, it’s time for a round up of my year in albums! Another 100 albums listened to and enjoyed (for the most part), hours of songs consumed and pretty much the same amount of time deciding which belong in my top five of the year – and which, if any, can break through into my top ten.

I feel like it’s been a good year for music, perhaps not as strong as last year, but solid. Lots of good albums were released but I found there were many that I enjoyed but had just one or two things that sort of put me off: too short, too long, one dodgy song, a change in tone that didn’t fit, that kind of thing. It’s interesting for me to feel this way because the whole point of this adventure was to teach me about the concept of an album, and to be picking up reasons why it’s not quite working for me means I’m obviously starting to understand what an album is.

But… the top five!

  1. Staying at Tamara’s by George Ezra
  2. Chris by Christine and the Queens
  3. Resistance is Futile by Manic Street Preachers
  4. Pray for the Wicked by Panic! at the Disco
  5. Love is Dead by CHVRCHES

George Ezra was an easy winner but the rest were on a shortlist of quite a few and picking the order was tough. Other contenders included Ray BLK, Bugzy Malone and, of course, Imagine Dragons.

And so, do any of the above merit a position in my top ten of all time? I’m less convinced about this list because… meh, of all time it just changes doesn’t it? Depends and changes and moods and situations and all other sorts of excuses. But let’s go with this lineup:

  1. Come On Over by Shania Twain
  2. Something to Tell You by HAIM
  3. Songs in A Minor by Alicia Keys
  4. Staying at Tamara’s by George Ezra
  5. Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
  6. WALLS by Kings of Leon
  7. Evolve by Imagine Dragons
  8. With His Blue and Hot Guitar by Johnny Cash
  9. Chris by Christine and the Queens
  10. Native by One Republic

I still have a lot of questions about how the best album of all time can be decided… because every time I look at this list (once a year), I feel like my musical tastes have changed so much I don’t even know what I was thinking. Oof, there’s more work to be done here, I may have to revisit in another post later.

So then, for now, the 2018 adventure is done and 2019 is just around the corner. I’m still massively invested and enjoying this album lark and I can’t believe that is the case after three solid years of non-stop listening. Turns out, music’s quite good, isn’t it?

On the record 2018, Part 10: Pop grooves to boost your confidence

And we’re done! Another 100 albums in the bag, and 300 in total. I am really proud of keeping this up for so long, and it still being incredibly fun. My music knowledge just keeps growing and my respect for the album process is also taking huge strides forward.

Week 46

  • Simulation Theory, Muse
    I liked this, I mean, it was very Muse-y, so you know what you’re getting. I know that Muse can write about deep and meaningful topics but I don’t know if I got in that zone in just two listens. But what I did find is that I really enjoyed the music behind the words, and found it great to listen to, regardless of subject matter.
  • I Love Rock ‘N Roll, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
    Loved this! I know Joan Jett from Bad Education, but that album wasn’t available on Apple Music so this was a close second. It was great, just some pure pop rock from a kick-ass lady who can pull off a tune, whether original or a cover. I Love Rock ‘N Roll is a great title track too.

Week 47

  • LM5, Little Mix
    I like the direction the girls have taken with this – standing up for themselves, not caring what people think, and championing all the right things: feminism, feeling good about yourself, not taking any nonsense. The singles are good, the rest of it didn’t really stand out but was exactly what you’d want from Little Mix – pop grooves to boost your confidence.
  • Living Years, Mike + The Mechanics
    Right, there are two parts to this. First time through, I couldn’t really look past The Living Years. Why would you bother with the rest of the album when you have such a good song to start with. But then, of course, the second time I listened through, I quite enjoyed the rest of it too. It’s wonderfully eighties, of its time, and just a solid listen.

Week 48

  • You Know I Know, Olly Murs
    The thing about this album is, it’s exactly what you would expect. Olly Murs makes good pop so it’s a perfectly pleasant and listenable album with a few good guests. The one mistake he’s made is, on the version I listened to, he finished off the album with a handful of his other singles, like a greatest hits. And that meant I preferred those a lot more than the new stuff.
  • Tea for the Tillerman, Cat Stevens
    Ah, what a lovely album. I recognised the title and the title track from the theme tune to Extras, and of course there are a few great songs on there – Wild World, Father and Son, etc. It’s a really good, quite relaxing, occasionally moving, piece of work. God I really do love Wild World as a song.

Week 49

  • A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, The 1975
    I have mixed feelings about The 1975, they make good songs but I don’t like the quirky edge they force upon themselves. The name of that last album gives me rage every time I see it. However, this is a new one with a reasonable album title and some really good choons included. I love the songs that sound like real songs, they’re right up there with some of the best of the year, but then the weird stuff just isn’t for me at all. The “song” that is actually a tale about a robot was even less fun second time round.
  • Up!, Shania Twain
    Lovely Shania produced another album with lots of great crossover country/pop tunes, and there’s not a lot to dislike about this. The only thing that raises question marks is why there are three different versions – country, international, and you’re regular pop. And the mix and match that goes on in Apple Music is crazy. But I like what I heard and I still love her.

Week 50

  • Origins, Imagine Dragons
    I’ve been looking forward to listening to this since it was released, but it’s always dropped down the order because I knew exactly what it was going to be like – and it was as predicted. Another solid Imagine Dragons album, stacked full of great songs, but sounding very much like the previous work. If you bundled Evolve and Origins together, they would make one cohesive mega album. Still good though!
  • So, Peter Gabriel
    I really liked this! Mr C has been talking about Peter Gabriel for a while now, every now and then pondering whether to pick this album and finally it gets its chance. There’s a nice selection of songs, most slightly different from each other, but with some really good ones tucked away. Sledgehammer is the main one, of course, but I thought Don’t Give Up was just lovely.

And that’s it! Already I can’t wait to select my albums for the first week of 2019, but before that, I’ll be doing some wrap up posts – including the one where I tell you about my top five of the year just gone. Eek, I’m just off to listen to the shortlist again.

On the record 2018, Week 50 – Rather be the hunter than the prey

The final week of albums, and I’ll be honest, I completely forgot to write this preview post, but am completing it a bit late just for consistency. With only two slots left to fill before a two week, end-of-the-year break that allows me to think about what I’ve listened to this year, and more importantly make another banging Christmas playlist, then the choice was important, but actually quite easy.

My selection is one that’s been on the list for a while but other albums kept jumping ahead of it. Finally, Imagine Dragons get their chance.

And Mr C’s choice this time is a real classic to end the year on (or so he says, I shall be the judge of that!).

This video, by the way, whilst I appreciate it was groundbreaking and love that it was some of the early work of Aardman Animations… it really freaks me out.