Picking albums this week crept up on us a little bit, hey, it’s the weekend again already?? But here we are and here we go! Very eclectic selection this week, so let’s dive right in.
My pick is the lovely Neneh Cherry. I feel like I love her but actually I don’t know why. I’m also a fan of Mabel, Neneh’s daughter, and we’re all waiting for the inevitable duet, aren’t we? Anyway, Neneh has a new album out called Broken Politics, which Apple call “poetic avant-pop” whatever that may be.
And Mr C’s pick this week is Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw & the Cooked for which I can tell you nothing, except I know and love this song.
This week’s new album is nominally my pick but actually came from Mr C, and it is James – Living in Extraordinary Times. This was released back in August, and apparently Mr C has been enjoying it ever since. We saw James perform on Jools Holland and Better Than That was a great tune.
I have previously listened to a James album and enjoyed it, although said it went a bit wonky in the middle. Mr C says this album is also greatness with the odd wonky moment, so I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
His own pick this week saw us digging way back into the archives. We settled on Tom Jones relatively easily, but then it’s like… where do you even begin with Tom Jones? Acts like this have such long and varied histories – do you start at the beginning, or at the peak, or nearer the modern day? We settled for the album that has It’s Not Unusual on it, because, well you know, choon!
I can’t quite believe we’re heading into the final stages of this year’s album journey. I don’t feel like it’s been anywhere near a standout year as 2017, but there’s still time and I know there are some good releases coming up soon, so watch this space!
With ten weeks to go, I’ve started posting what I’m listening to ahead of the week so you’ll get a sneak peek of what’s coming up from now until the end of the year. And I’ve got to start thinking about the end of year top five and top ten lists. Already! Let’s just get on with it, while I put that to the back of my mind again.
- Runaway, Passenger
Lovely chill album, this one. I think I liked it more than the last one I listened to and there were no embarrassing “who does his voice remind me of” moments. It was just a nice, relaxing album with intense but reflective vibes. I feel like this is the kind of music you could have on in the background and never get bored of it.
- It’s My Life, Sash!
I used to listen to Sash albums by stealing them from my brother’s room, so this was nice and familiar. Encore Une Fois! Stay! Ecuador! Good nineties dance beats, but I think it’s mostly nostalgia for me at this point, and I’ll stick with the singles rather than indulging in the album too often.
- Language, MNEK
I was really looking forward to this album coming out, having listened to a handful of the singles and loved them, as well as Julie Adenuga on Beats1 really bigging it up. I loved the album, but could really have done without all the chatting and interludes along the way. They’re fine(ish) once, but not necessary time and time again. Otherwise, it’s a brilliant album, love it.
- Blue Lines, Massive Attack
I loved Mezzanine, one of the early albums in this adventure of mine. This album didn’t really do it for me at all. Unfinished Sympathy is the best thing on there, and even that wasn’t exactly a favourite. The rest of it wasn’t memorable and wasn’t something I’d choose to listen to again.
- Cry Pretty, Carrie Underwood
I was super keen to listen to this because I loved the last album from Carrie, but this one was something different. It’s clear that Carrie has been through a lot, and of course we’re in a different and more difficult world now, so it was a more contemplative and slightly more downbeat offering. Good album but not up there with Storyteller.
- August and Everything After, Counting Crows
I really enjoyed this! Weirdly, I thought I knew something about Counting Crows but I didn’t know any of the songs and can’t remember why I’ve heard of them. However, it was a good album, a genre of music I really like, and one I will likely to listen to over and again.
- Chris, Christine and the Queens
This took a few listens to grow on me, if I’m honest. I’ve been waiting and waiting for the album to be released, and was superbly excited for it so expectations were high. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d been let down – the songs are all great but did it live up to the previous work? I listened a couple more times though, and loved the Beats 1 special Chris did running through all the tracks, which has really helped open it up to me. I still don’t know which album I like better, but at the moment it doesn’t matter!
- Different Class, Pulp
Loved this. A bit of nineties Britpop to get the week going nicely. As always, I knew more of the songs than I thought, and although I was worried William Shatner would have ruined Common People for me, he absolutely hadn’t. So, fab work from Jarvis Cocker and his crew!
- Queen, Nicki Minaj
I was a bit intimidated by this album, if I’m honest, but I really quite liked it. There’s the odd moment where Nicki goes into her weird voices mode which I’m not so keen on, but overall it’s a lot of fun. I don’t know if it feels like a body of work as opposed to a collection of songs, but they’re good so I don’t think it matters.
- A Flock of Seagulls, A Flock of Seagulls
Up until this point, Flock of Seagulls was just the punchline of a joke about Chandler’s hair, but this week I discovered I really enjoyed their debut album! The stand out tune is I Ran (So Far Away) obviously, but actually they all stood up to the test of time, and I really liked the pop from the first moments of listening.
For the last ten weeks of this year’s album adventure, I thought I’d mix things up a bit and post about what albums I’ve got to listen to before I’ve listened to them. The usual reviews (if you can call my brief thoughts a review) will follow, but this is a fun heads up of what is on the menu this week.
So, it looks like some really good albums are coming up, but releases over the last couple of weeks haven’t totally stirred my blood. For the new album, my choice, this week, I’ve gone for You Me At Six, with VI.
I feel like I should know this band but as always, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about them. I will probably find out I know all the songs later, that’s what always happens.
And the older choice, from Mr C, is Clean Bandit, with New Eyes.
Clean Bandit are the type of band where every song can be completely different so a whole album is going to be an interesting one to digest.
I will report back!
The past five weeks have seen a really solid selection of albums that have made it a really pleasant time to be doing this adventure. I can’t promise that I remember every track or even liked everything I heard, but an over-arching theme of the recent records has been nice to listen to and just more to go in the memory banks of my musical education.
I do think I’m missing the critical stand-out albums this year, which makes me concerned for my top five/ten lists in a couple of months (yes, time is going by that quickly). I’ve got one, maybe two, definite contenders and the rest is totally up for grabs. But there’s still time. If there’s anything I’ve learned across the last couple of years it’s that the music just keeps on coming.
- MASSEDUCTION, St. Vincent
Enjoyed this album. I wasn’t really aware of St Vincent before seeing her perform Los Ageless on a couple of TV shows, but I was keen to hear the full album. I don’t think it was as outstanding as I thought it would be, but certainly enjoyable from start to finish. The two singles stand out, and I really like Slow Disco although think it’s been slightly ruined by the Fast Slow Disco version.
- Remain in Light, Talking Heads
I had never heard of Talking Heads and when I started listening, I did wonder what I’d let myself in for. Most of the tracks didn’t really work for me, but of course, Once In a Lifetime is a proper tune which almost makes up for the rest of it.
- Pray For the Wicked, Panic! At the Disco
Good album this one. Only discovered Panic at the Disco relatively recently so it’s nice to have a new album almost straight away. I liked all the songs on here but have to admit it felt quite a short album, almost over before it’s begun. Few of the songs are longer than three minutes, but they’re all good so I just wanted more.
- Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons
I know a few Mumford & Sons songs, and they’re the kind of band where you actually know more than you think you do. The trouble is, as this album demonstrates very well, is that whilst they are good tunes, they sound quite similar. Listening to 12 in a row was a nice experience, it’s good music, but I can’t lie and say I could distinguish one song from another.
- Know., Jason Mraz
I love Jason, his witty lyrics and fast-paced patter and this album is another one to add to the collection. There were a few good tunes on there but actually, as an overall effect, I found the album to be oppressively saccharine. The guy is clearly in love, which is great, but every song was about how he likes to watch her sleep and doesn’t want to do anything but be in love with his partner. At which point I start wondering if he needs a hobby. Nice songs but perhaps needs more variety.
- Dookie, Green Day
I don’t think there was too much memorable about this album but there doesn’t really need to be. It is exactly what you want it to be – Green Day through and through. Strong guitars, solid beats, that recognisable lead vocal… enjoyable album but perhaps not my favourite of their work.
- Sweetener, Ariana Grande
At first I really wasn’t sure about this one, it’s quite warbly in places, but parts of it started to grow on me. No Tears Left to Cry grew on me enormously after a couple of listens, and I cannot get the ‘mix it, and mix it, and mix it and mix it’ thing out of my head. It’s clearly a departure from Ariana’s previous efforts, more adult, more soulful, and I quite liked it despite its oddities.
- Organisation, Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark
A great album, this one. I only knew the song Enola Gay and I really wasn’t sure I knew what OMD were, but the rest of the album was a triumph. It didn’t stand out as much as the lead single but even so, I liked the moody synth overtones and the general feeling that it left with me after a full listen.
- B. Inspired, Bugzy Malone
I really, really liked this album. Its been a while since a rap or hip hop album has appealed to me but this one was great. I love the main single with Rag N Bone Man, and generally speaking all the features are really good. Top notch and a welcome change of genre for this year.
- An Innocent Man, Billy Joel
I don’t know how I’ve managed to get this far without listening to any Billy Joel but how can you not love this? Happy, optimistic, joyful music that sort of sweeps you along and doesn’t put you down for 40 minutes. I thought I would only know Uptown Girl but I also knew Tell Her About It.
A while back, I talked about how I was just starting to figure out how awesome Manic Street Preachers were, and that I felt I’d missed out on a significant chunk of their career. On the flip side, good friend Lukeh is an absolute expert on the subject and should be considered a super-fan.
So, Mr C plied the man with mango-flavoured beer and demanded that he concoct an incredibly specific playlist of ten songs that would introduce a new fan (me) to the band, digging a little deeper than the obvious but not being too obscure as to be off-putting. All this after a drink or two and completely on the spot with no research.
This, then, is the Lukeh-approved new-fan Manics playlist.
- You Stole the Sun From My Heart
- Little Baby Nothing
- The Masses Against the Classes
- Walk Me to the Bridge
- Some Kind of Nothingness
- Roses in the Hospital
- (It’s Not War) Just the End of Love
I must say I really enjoyed the full list and it did help me further appreciate the Welsh band. I want to dig in even further and that can only be a good thing.
I also really like the idea of this version of essential mix-tapes. Apple Music may have their own Essentials Playlists going on but going to the super-fans and getting a specific selection of ten means you really have to pick the very best rather than just the singles. And it’s a great result.
And then, just like that, we’re over halfway through the year and the adventure. I feel as though the last few weeks have taken another dip wherein I haven’t enjoyed the albums quite as much as others, but then up popped George Ezra and the sun came out and the world was just a little bit better.
The rest of the albums vary in quality and in interest to me, but I’m still really enjoying the variety.
- Wildness, Snow Patrol
A good, solid album this one, but perhaps a little bit on the depressing side – whilst I quite like the defiance of Don’t Give In (a really good song), there’s also a track called “What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get?” which really was a downbeat listen as you might imagine. Good album though, you just have to be in exactly the right mood for it.
- Pure and Simple, Hear’Say
I like this album because it’s familiar to me, I know most of the songs, and listened to it quite a lot when I was younger. It’s not good though. This is the pinnacle of manufactured pop, and that shines through from start to finish. I think Hear’say came too late in the pop cycle to really have any major success – they were more of a nineties band but hit in the early 2000s. Earlier, they might have done better, but as it is, we’ll have to put up with Monday Monday being the best they can do.
- High As Hope, Florence + The Machine
I’ve not always been a Florence fan, but the latest single Hunger had really turned me around so I wanted to check out the rest of the album. I’m not sure it lived up to the lead single, really, it was a mellow listen but didn’t really capture my attention as I’d hoped it might. Also, a couple of the tunes were so reminiscent of the music on Westworld that it was quite distracting. Hunger is still a winner though.
- Wanted On Voyage, George Ezra
George’s second album very quickly became one of my all-time favourites, so I wanted to see what the debut effort was like. I really enjoyed this too, although I think I prefer the second one as a complete piece of work. Loving Ezra’s relaxed summer-time feel though, it just fits the mood at the moment perfectly.
- Palo Santo, Years and Years
Really loved Sanctify when it was released, so was keen on hearing the rest of the album, and it loved up to my expectations. A really solid pop work, with many of the feelings from Sanctify spread across the rest of the songs. I think it didn’t quite get into my soul as much as it should have on only two listening, so I may have to listen a few more times, but otherwise a winner.
- The Fabulous Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash
Yay for the third album along my journey through the history of Johnny Cash. Whilst this is very similar to the previous two albums, I felt like I preferred it to the second record but not quite as much as the first. Good songs, great guitar work, and nice rhythms that keep you entertained. What’s not to like?
- mau5ville: Level 1, deadmau5
I quite liked the last album I listened to by deadmau5, it wasn’t my usual kind of thing but I really got on with the dance beats. This one was a bit of a departure for that and it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. Good songs, but they’re all the same thing and with the guest vocalists it wasn’t so much dance music as just one actual song done six different ways. Good, but not great.
- Out of Time, R.E.M.
I vaguely remember being disappointed by the last R.E.M. album I listened to – good songs, obviously, but not a cohesive work that I liked. This time, I really dug it. The singles stand out, as always happens with such classic songs, but the rest of the tracks fill in really well to make it a good listen from start to finish.
- Expectations, Bebe Rexha
This is a really good, strong pop album, some nice songs from Bebe, but I have to be honest, it wasn’t all that memorable. I’ve forgotten pretty much all of it only a day or two after the last time I listened to it. Also, it feels like she popped Meant to Be on the end begrudgingly, whereas it actually would have fit earlier in the track listing quite nicely.
- International Velvet, Catatonia
Mulder and Scully popped up on a radio stream I was listening to and I thought it would be fun to listen to a full album, but actually it turns out I was only really bothered by the two main singles. I had that weird feeling, too, when you know someone’s super distinctive voice for just one or two songs, when you hear them singing other stuff, it sounds really odd!