I always think November is a colourful month. Autumn is really kicking in, so the trees are rapidly changing hue and shedding their leaves. There are leftover Halloween themed items around, so orange and purple and green are scattered on doorsteps and in shops. Plus, of course, firework night – as annoying and loud as it can be – has a main promise of lighting up the sky with various shapes and colours.
So, that being the case, my November playlist is all about colour too.
- Little Blue, Beautiful South
- Red, Taylor Swift
- Back to Black, Amy Winehouse
- Yellow, Coldplay
- Mr Blue Sky, ELO
- Back in Black, AC/DC
- Paint the Town Green, The Script
- Green Light, Lorde
- Black or White, Michael Jackson
- White Flag, Dido
- Purple Rain, Prince
- 99 Red Balloons, Nina
- Purple Pills, D12
- Black Eyes, Blue Tears, Shania Twain
- Behind These Hazel Eyes, Kelly Clarkson
- Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell
- Black and White Town, Doves
- Fields of Gold, Sting
- Into the Blue, Kylie Minogue
- Little Red Wagon, Miranda Lambert
- Men in Black, Will Smith
- Pink, Aerosmith
- Red Alert, Basement Jaxx
- Supermassive Black Hole, Muse
- Welcome to the Black Parade, My Chemical Romance
I was really looking forward to Taylor Swift’s new album. I’ve been racing through her back catalogue in preparation, and was captivated by the four songs that were released ahead of launch day. Mr C, previously the biggest TayTay fan in this household, hasn’t been convinced by the new stuff but I’m all in.
Except, I’m not all in because I can’t listen to the album yet. Reputation has been kept off streaming services for at least a week, in a well-planned and manipulative launch schedule.
Now, I know that some artists don’t like the concept of streaming and I can understand that it’s not the perfect solution to earning a living from making music. But it’s the way music listening is going and you have to, at some point, go with it.
Taylor, previously, has rallied for higher pay for artists from streaming services. She won the battle with Apple on that front, after publishing an open letter to them to say artists should be paid for their work even if the subscription service is giving away three months free to new users. Apple agreed, adjusted their terms and conditions, and it seemed like she had fought a battle that really meant a lot to her.
And it seemed like all was lovely between the singer and the streaming service since then. Taylor has even featured in some adverts for Apple Music.
But now, no album.
It’s an artist’s absolute choice what they do with their music, but all I can say is that I hope it’s achieving what she wants because it just makes me dismiss it in favour of other, more accessible, works.
This is the penultimate round-up of albums for this year’s adventure and more than ever I am getting concerned about having to narrow down the incredible selection of music I’ve listened to in 2017 to just five best albums of the year, and which should be added to my top ten of all time.
These five weeks have had a great variety to them, with some excellent surprises. I loved Johnny Cash, and wasn’t so keen on The B-52’s, with the rest of pop and country filling in the gaps.
- Now, Shania Twain
Lovely album from Shania, it’s incredible to think it’s her first in 15 years. The songs veer from positive life-affirming pop to serious personal pain, but all with the sheen of pop-country that you come to expect from Shania. Never gonna beat Come On Over as an album, but an incredible return.
- With His Blue and Hot Guitar, Johnny Cash
Something about Johnny Cash’s deep and sultry voice just washes over you and wraps you in a comforting blanket – even when he’s singing about troubling topics. Prison, death, heartbreak, and just the occasional glimpse of love going right, this is a brilliant, if short, debut album.
- Beautiful Trauma, P!nk
Was really looking forward to this after the genius of What About Us, and for the most part it totally delivered. It felt like a rollercoaster of emotions on the first listen, but it really grew on me on the second. With the documentary giving a bit of extra insight to some of the songs, as well, it really helps make this one shine.
- Foreigner, Foreigner
I am adamant that if Cold as Ice was made today, it would sound totally legit and fit in with the current music scene. The rest of the album, not so much. It’s good but very seventies, very of its time. Things get off to a good start with Feels Like the First Time and Cold as Ice, but the rest of it is less memorable.
- Younger Now, Miley Cyrus
Wasn’t expecting too much from this – I’m totally on board with Miley reinventing herself whenever she has a mind too, but it was sold as an updated take on fifties beats. Odd. But actually it really works for me. I like almost all the songs, and they have a good, chilled out, mostly positive vibe.
- Camino Palmero, The Calling
Love this album. I know it from old, one of my favourites, and it’s still up there. Just plain simple guitar rock, tortured souls but great songs, and some real gems including Wherever You Will Go and Things Don’t Always Turn Out That Way. Could listen over and over.
- The Meaning of Life, Kelly Clarkson
Really solid album from Kelly Clarkson. It occurred to me before I listened that I only really knew the singles and very little else about Kelly, but still managed to love her. This album just adds to that: great vocals, some great hooks, and a nice overall positive feeling about love, life and everything in between.
- Cosmic Thing, The B-52’s
Hmm, not my cup of tea really. I like Love Shack, and the album is stacked full of the quirky nature that makes that song fun. But, I think it’s all quite samey and aside from one instrumental at the end, it could basically be a 45 minute version of Love Shack, and I’m not sure I like it THAT much.
- Unapologetically, Kelsea Ballerini
Love this album, it’s very much like the first – nice, simple, clean and crisp country songs with a youthful edge, and plenty of unique moments to make it stand out from the crowd. I thought this album indulged a little more in the “we’re not in high school anymore” vibe, with plenty of references to US high school tropes that I’ve only seen in movies, but even with that, it’s still up there with the best albums of the year.
- Eyes Open, Snow Patrol
This album speaks so clearly of a specific point in time, midway through the noughties, where music was transitioning from fun pop to the more grungy pop that it is today. Guitar bands were prevalent and Snow Patrol were one of the best. Some great songs on this album so that I can’t believe I haven’t listened to it all before!
I’ve been rallying for more music television content since they took Top of the Pops off the air, and the BBC have delivered somewhat in the form of Sounds Like Friday Night (half an hour isn’t really long enough for that kind of show, but I’ll take anything at the moment). Now I think we’ve got time and space on TV for the return of music quizzing as well, and that brought to mind Name That Tune.
I was vaguely aware of the concept of this show, and somehow “I’ll name that tune in…” was one of those things my family say all the time without me really knowing what it related to. I was super keen to see highlights of this show on YouTube.
Lionel Blair seems to me to be the kind of host that absolutely didn’t want to be there and was just banking the cheque and hoping for more. Peter, the contestant, though, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music that is almost scary!
This show was on in the 1970s and 80s, and then was resurrected in the 90s with Jools Holland. This is much more what I want to see back on our screens.
I reckon we could do with Name That Tune back, and if you combined that with a full half hour of the Intros round from Never Mind the Buzzcocks, then I’m all set.
Apple Music recently launched public profiles so that you can properly share playlists. My profile is here, and it’s small at the moment, but I’m hoping to publish regular playlists. This first one, Oct 17 – Eclectic Selection, features songs that I have been listening to and loving over the past month in an effort to show just how mixed and bizarre my musical adventures can be.
Some of the tracks are from albums that I’ve been listening to for On the Record, but others are songs I’ve listened to having been inspired by TV, film and musicals, as well as trying to play bass lines and generally listening to a lot of Beats1.
- Swinging With My Eyes Closed, Shania Twain
- New Rules, Dua Lipa
- Week Without You, Miley Cyrus
- I Walk the Line, Johnny Cash
- Cold As Ice, Foreigner
- Africa, Toto
- Believe, Cher
- Shape of You, Ed Sheeran
- What About Us, P!nk
- Havana, Camila Cabello
- Black Magic, Little Mix
- Gorgeous, Taylor Swift
- Only You, Yazoo
- Believer, Imagine Dragons
- Higher, Sigma
- Things Don’t Always Turn Out That Way, The Calling
- Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?, Moby
- Arms Open, The Script
- That Don’t Impress Me Much, HAIM
- Sorry Not Sorry, Demi Lovato
- Feel It Still, Portugal. The Man
- Feels, Calvin Harris
- I’ll Be Ready, Sunblock
- Can’t Stop the Feeling, Justin Timberlake
- Back in Time, Huey Lewis & The News
What have you been listening to this month?
I can’t believe we’re getting towards the end of the year now, if only because it means there’s just a few weeks of albums left before I have to start coming up with a top five list! It’s been an incredible year of music and there are some real potential highlights coming over the next few weeks as well. It’s going to be agonising forming the best of lists for 2017!
- Freedom Child, The Script
First listen through this was a bit disappointing – it doesn’t really stand out like previous singles and albums have, and it’s not as inspirational as previous work. However, second listen was better, there are some good ideas on there and it’s quite a chilled out album to relax with. The single Rain grew on me after many listens, so I reckon this album is also a grower.
- Control, Janet Jackson
I was highly anticipating this, but it didn’t quite work for me. No question Janet Jackson is fab but as a whole, it was all just a bit eighties and the songs never quite seemed to go anywhere. A few of them were too repetitive and although not a bad listen, I wouldn’t pick this out again.
- Broken Machine, Nothing But Thieves
Didn’t know this band before listening, but actually really enjoyed this one. They have a sort of blend of established guitar bands, like Muse, The Killers and Stereophonics, which kind of makes it a new take on a very saturated genre. Good stuff.
- The Truth About Love, P!nk
Really love this album, there are so many tunes on it, it’s a real collection of genius. Pink has always been kinda inspirational and her recent thoughts on just being yourself and proving you’re awesome by getting on with it and ignoring the haters just add to the weight behind great songs like on this album. Can’t wait for the new one.
- Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, Calvin Harris
This is a pretty good album to chill out to but I was expecting more of it to stand out than it did. The fun game of “who is going to guest on each song and what are they going to sing” only lasts for so long. I really like Feels with Katy Perry, and the Nicki Minaj song was good, but otherwise it wasn’t as memorable as I’d thought it might be, considering the calibre of talent on it.
- Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, Meat Loaf
Not sure you’d have got me listening to an album that kicks off with an 11 minute song this time last year, but I’m all on board now. Very similar to the first Bat Out of Hell, this is piano rock opera at its finest, but I think if you pushed me I’d have to say I preferred the first album to this. All good though.
- Wonderful Wonderful, The Killers
Great to hear The Killers again, such a distinctive voice and some great songs to go along with it. I didn’t really like the title track so the album got off to a very inauspicious start but it picked up as it went along, and I quite enjoyed the rest of the piece.
- No Need to Argue, The Cranberries
Really enjoyed this album – didn’t know very much about The Cranberries going in, other than Zombie. It’s all so very Irish, great accents, great instruments, and a lilting pain that pervades even through some of the more upbeat stuff. Perhaps some of the songs were a little samey, but overall a great album.
- Tell Me You Love Me, Demi Lovato
Was looking forward to this album and it mostly delivered, although I was curious about the tone. Kicking off with an empowering anthem then switching immediately to a weepy “I’m nothing without you” song is a bit weird. Demi gets quite personal, and there’s some good songs, but I didn’t enjoy the one with ridiculous amounts of swearing.
- Country Grammar, Nelly
I know a few of Nelly’s main singles but from this album I was only aware of Ride Wit Me (which I love). The whole album has a similar feel, a sort of chilled out vibe rather than angry rage rapping, and that makes it a really nice listen. It’s not all as strong as Ride Wit Me, but still I liked it.
I’m still quite new to the whole bass playing thing and I’ve been looking around the App Store for instructional apps. Whilst the scope is limited for bass guitar itself, the arena of musical tuition is incredible. I so wish these things existed when I was a kid and was trying my hand at all kinds of different instruments.
For now, though, I’ve settled on Yousician, an app that covers four instruments including bass. They have instructional video and exercises that can pick up your playing and make sure you’re doing it properly. Of course there are badges and rewards, and a daily goal, but for the most part, Yousician is just a good encouragement to pick up the bass each day, learn something new, and get a bit of practice.
At first, the app was straining to hear what was being played through the iPad microphone, but that wasn’t a very good solution. Built-in audio devices aren’t the best at picking up bass notes, so I kept missing out on full points despite playing as best I could. So, I invested in an iRig Pro kit that acts as a go-between for the guitar and the device, and now Yousician never misses a beat. I do, I miss plenty, but still.
Alongside working through lessons in the app, there’s also the joy of split-screening guitar tab apps and Apple Music. Listen to the song, work through the notes, play along. Once I start, I find this incredibly addictive – the joy of playing alongside the rabbit-hole of finding good bass tracks.
And once I’m done with all that, I watch videos of people, particularly Este Haim, playing bass and wish I was better. Like I said a couple of months ago, I really didn’t need another hobby, but this one has got right under my skin.