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.

On the record 2018, Part 1: Hard rock, maybe, but no screaming

Album time!!

I had a bit of a crisis of confidence at the beginning of the year, realising there’s no way the next twelve months could be as good as the previous twelve – all those incredible albums that came out last year and made it a brilliant journey, it’s impossible to repeat that, isn’t it?

Well, we’re off to a good, if not exceptional, start. Pop, folk, country, rock, and even a bit of reggae. A little bit of everything to kick the year off right.

Week 1

  • Gang Signs and Prayers, Stormzy
    Stormzy burst onto my radar over the last few weeks, and so I had to start the year with the album everyone is raving about. I enjoyed it, although found it to be quite eccentric, a lot of different pieces thrown together. Still, there are some real highlights, and of course, Blinded By Your Grace is a wonder.
  • Wish, The Cure
    I’ve been waiting to listen to this just so I can quote The Wedding Singer legitimately, but I’m glad I finally got round to it. This is a slightly happier sound for the band, and I really enjoyed it. It was quite distracting how much the songs and particularly the lead singer reminded me of The Killers, but hey, The Cure came first!

Week 2

  • hopeless fountain kingdom, Halsey
    Great album this one, I loved it. Having only heard Bad at Love before, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed the concept and the way the album worked together. It kicks off with a bit of Shakespeare and winds through love and hate and many great songs.
  • Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), Duran Duran
    The thing about Duran Duran, and I think I found this when I listened to Rio as well, is that I really enjoy the music. Yay, Duran Duran, great songs, great voice, fun to listen to. But if you asked me anything about this album now, just a few days later, I couldn’t tell you. Ordinary World is fantastic, the rest mostly forgettable. But it’s so good when you’re in it! Weird.

Week 3

  • Camila, Camila Cabello
    I was expecting quite a lot from this debut album from Camila, and in the end I think I’ve ended up a bit disappointed. It’s a really strong debut, lots of good songs and I like the pop vibe tinged with the latin edge, but it’s very short and I’m not sure it’s going to end up as a top five.
  • Tease Me, Chaka Demus & Pliers
    This was a bit of a weird one for Mr C to pick, but actually, I really loved it. The famous songs, Tease Me and Twist & Shout, obviously are fab, but I enjoyed all of it. Lovely, chilled reggae vibes and lots of Chaka Demus saying, hey Mr Pliers, my turn. Such fun.

Week 4

  • Ruins, First Aid Kit
    Mixed feelings about this album, really. The two are exceptionally talented and their songs and harmonies are really clear and good and strong. The trouble is, the style of music is, for me, better suited to background listening, which is fine, except I find the close harmonies quite distracting (in a good way), so can’t just let it wash over me. I’m not really sure where this album fits for me, but that’s not to say it isn’t a good one.
  • Hysteria, Def Leppard
    I was a bit nervous about this, thinking it was going to be quite hard, heavy music but it wasn’t. Hard rock, maybe, but no screaming and shouting, so all good. It’s not an album that had huge standout songs, although Pour Some Sugar on Me is fun, of course. But otherwise it’s just some really good, solid rock.

Week 5

  • The Time is Now, Craig David
    This is just Craig David through and through, exactly what you’d expect from the guy and pretty much what his sound has always been (perhaps a little more grown up than before). The only oddity is his song with Bastille, which is great, but sort of sounds different to the rest of the piece.
  • Sings the Songs that Made Him Famous, Johnny Cash
    My obsession with Johnny Cash is growing, so this is his second album and I loved it, naturally. It’s similar to the first – lots of short snappy songs, great train-like guitars and fab beats. There were more backing vocals than before, I felt, which gave it a different ambience, but it still worked for me.

All about that bass

U2 made an appearance at the Grammy’s last night, playing in the apparent freezing cold grounds of New York’s Statue of Liberty. Now, I’ll be honest, Adam Clayton isn’t exactly one of my bass heroes, but I’m rapidly rethinking that after seeing his instrument of choice for this performance.

I’m still not clear on how one plays guitar with gloves on – fingerless or not. But I don’t blame them, it looks flipping freezing out there.

It’s so pretty!

(And so expensive!)

Shame it’s a limited edition otherwise I’d start saving up right now.

Mr C’s top five songs of 2017

This annual tradition has had its ups and downs. Initially, Mr C enjoyed the process of selecting his top five songs and films of the year gone by. Then he started agonising over the choices and gradually began to hate this time of year. But I care not! It’s a tradition and we’re doing it for 2017 just like all the years gone by. This time, to appease him and because we really weren’t inspired by cinema so much, I’ve said just songs, not films.

So here they are: Mr C’s top five songs of 2017.

1- What About Us, P!nk

2- Green Light, Lorde

3- Right Now, HAIM

4- Plot Twist, Sigrid

5- Hard Times, Paramore

A quick word from the man himself on the state of music this year:

“A year dominated by female artists and exceptionally good albums. Every song on the list is backed by an equally good album. We lost the iTunes music festival which, in previous years, was the go to place. But we had Glastonbury and a lot of documentaries – Beats 1 put out a lot of strong content – that gave us context that we’ve been missing previously. Albums and songs got to mean more rather than just existing in a vacuum.”

Mr C would like me to mention that Kelsea Ballerina had the best album of the year, but none of the songs were strong enough in themselves to make the top five. She has, in fact, become a better Taylor Swift than Taylor Swift is these days.

Finally, the shortlist that he worked from to come up with this top five. I suspect it was the biggest shortlist to date, so goodness knows what will happen next year.

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

On the record 2017 – wrap up

I’ve been dreading this moment pretty much from the second I hit publish on last year’s round-up of my musical adventures.

Now it’s time for me to pick not only my top five albums of the year just gone but also update my top ten albums of all time. Naturally, this only includes the ones I have listened to in the course of this album adventure nonsense, so it’s actually the top ten albums of all time out of 200 options. But that’s double last year, and the more I listen, the more I learn.

It’s worth a moment here just to remind everyone, and myself, what this album adventure is all about. Each week, myself and Mr C choose an album for me to listen to. I get to choose current stuff, so this year or the previous year. Mr C has the rest of musical history to choose from. I try and listen to each album twice, because sometimes they need a moment to grow on you.

This goes on for 50 weeks, and then I spend the remaining two weeks trying to fathom how to make a top five and top ten list. So, here goes nothing, the top ten albums of all time:

  1. Come On Over, Shania Twain
  2. Something to Tell You, HAIM
  3. Songs in A Minor, Alicia Keys
  4. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys
  5. WALLS, Kings of Leon
  6. Evolve, Imagine Dragons
  7. With His Blue and Hot Guitar, Johnny Cash
  8. Native, OneRepublic
  9. Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
  10. Camino Palmero, The Calling

It’s interesting to compare this to last year – OneRepublic and Tracy Chapman have drastically dropped down the order, whilst my love for Shania’s classic album only increased with her return to the music world. Kelsea Ballerini dropped out of the top ten altogether, despite creating another album that I love to pieces, whilst Johnny Cash stormed straight in to number seven, with the start of what could be a big obsession.

Now down to the business of 2017’s top five albums. It has been an EPIC year of music, so many fantastic albums from so many brilliant people – especially the girls, they’ve been killing it this year. Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Lorde, Shania, Miley, Kelsea, Demi, Katy Perry, Dua Lipa, the list just goes on and on. Narrowing it down was hard, although I had my top three spots picked out pretty quickly. Eventually I picked number four and then had a top five for all of a moment before switching out the final album at the very last minute.

45 of the 50 albums I selected this year were from 2017, which is up from 38 relating to 2016 last year. A lot of them I listened to the moment they came out, and others I was actively waiting for them to be released, which just shows I continue to be keen even after two years of this listening pressure.

Enough wittering, here are the top five of 2017:

  1. Something to Tell You, HAIM
  2. Evolve, Imagine Dragons
  3. After Laughter, Paramore
  4. Unapologetically, Kelsea Ballerini
  5. Who Built the Moon?, Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds

Interestingly, I’ve become so hooked on music this year that I’ve introduced several Beats1 shows to my listening schedule as well, and my podcast listening has drastically fallen off a cliff. I’m all about the songs right now, and so looking forward to year three of On the record.

On the record 2017, Part 10: Full of innovation and wonder and tension

Here we are with the final round-up of 2017, another 100 albums done and dusted and what a brilliant journey it has been. This selection takes place amongst the time I was eagerly anticipating Taylor Swift’s album, and then doing my best to avoid it. Weird times.

With all the albums listened to and reviewed, now I have to go away and think about my top five of the year, and the more difficult question of which are the best albums I’ve listened to across two years. No biggie!

Week 46

  • Crooked Calypso, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott
    A nice selection of songs that are exactly what you’d expect from these two Beautiful South alumni. Finely crafted, expert lyrics and some catchy sing-a-long beats with hidden depths. I really love Jacqui’s voice, and it’s great how the two work well separately and together within songs.
  • Toto IV, Toto
    Loved it. The album is bookended by two fantastic songs, starting with Roseanna and ending with Africa, but in between is a wealth of 80s fun and games. It’s not necessarily aged very well, but equally doesn’t sound horribly dated, you just sort of engage in the 80s sound and go along for the ride.

Week 47

  • Flicker, Niall Horan
    This album is exactly what I expected it to be – perfectly pleasant but not exceptional. I really like Slow Hands, but the rest of it doesn’t really stand out. It’s a good, solid work, and I like it better than Harry’s experimental efforts, but I can’t say it’ll stick with me.
  • Breathe, Faith Hill
    This is a proper country album, good work from Faith Hill, with some classic country songs on there. It meanders through love and loss, what ifs and maybes, and is your standard country rollercoaster ride. Nice but probably not one of my favourites.

Week 48

  • Who Built the Moon?, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
    I wasn’t sure what to make of this one initially, but it grew on me on the second listen. It felt like Noel was distancing himself from previous work but didn’t go as far as, say, Harry Styles did. It’s definitely more experimental than Oasis’ work which I liked, but still has great tunes and interesting lyrics.
  • Tango in the Night, Fleetwood Mac
    Ooh, I really liked this album. For a brief moment I thought I liked it more than Rumours but then I came to my senses. Some great songs on there though, and kicking off with Big Love really sets the scene for the rest of the brilliant album.

Week 49

  • Songs of Experience, U2
    Nice album, this one. I feel like it’s a return to form by the band, more relevant than some of their other work, but I do think it’s lacking some big memorable songs. The single is good but otherwise nothing really stands out. Good music to work to though.
  • Lungs, Florence and the Machine
    I’ve never really been a fan of Flo, I think she’s got an incredible voice and is exceptionally talented but it’s just not really been to my taste. So I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy the album but actually it was much better than I thought. You get used to the voice after a while and the songs are marvellously eclectic.

Week 50

  • Visions of a Life, Wolf Alice
    This is a great album, full of innovation and wonder and tension, guitars and rock and rhythm. I’m not always so keen on the songs that experiment from popular formulas but I really liked Sky Musings, and Don’t Delete the Kisses is a classic. Great rock that will be listenable over and over for a while yet.
  • Millennium, Backstreet Boys
    I mean, I love this album. Mr C very kindly gave me the choice of BSB albums to round off the year with, and although I didn’t know it before I made the selection, this one is my favourite. It’s the boys at the height of their fame, at the height of my fandom, and it’s stacked full of pure, unadulterated pop pleasure.

Playing with playlists – Colour chart

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.

  1. Little Blue, Beautiful South
  2. Red, Taylor Swift
  3. Back to Black, Amy Winehouse
  4. Yellow, Coldplay
  5. Mr Blue Sky, ELO
  6. Back in Black, AC/DC
  7. Paint the Town Green, The Script
  8. Green Light, Lorde
  9. Black or White, Michael Jackson
  10. White Flag, Dido
  11. Purple Rain, Prince
  12. 99 Red Balloons, Nina
  13. Purple Pills, D12
  14. Black Eyes, Blue Tears, Shania Twain
  15. Behind These Hazel Eyes, Kelly Clarkson
  16. Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell
  17. Black and White Town, Doves
  18. Fields of Gold, Sting
  19. Into the Blue, Kylie Minogue
  20. Little Red Wagon, Miranda Lambert
  21. Men in Black, Will Smith
  22. Pink, Aerosmith
  23. Red Alert, Basement Jaxx
  24. Supermassive Black Hole, Muse
  25. Welcome to the Black Parade, My Chemical Romance