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.

Friday night live

When I read Not Going Out were doing a Christmas Special episode, I was very happy. Love this show, and any excuse for some more of Lee Mack’s fun wordplay is good enough for me. When I read on to see it would be a live show, then I was in two minds. Live shows are good, the additional adrenaline of ‘will they, won’t they mess up’ is an intriguing extra element, and it’s something to talk about whether it goes well or not.

However, the last few live things I’ve seen have all gone off flawlessly and, because they are usually dramas, there’s no room for anything other than perfection anyway. It sort of felt a bit pointless, previously, but this time I realised that with a sitcom, especially one helmed by a stand up comedian, you were probably in for something a little different.

And, I’d imagine, whilst nerve-wracking, it has to help the rest of the cast knowing that if it did all go spectacularly wrong, you’ve got a stand up comedian or two on hand to make light of the situation and talk their way out of it. And that’s pretty much what happened.

Mack had written in the odd aside to camera, a self-aware reference to the live show, but there were a few minor mishaps that he also managed to wrap up as part of the fun. It all went very well and was great fun to watch – one of those televisual events where you get to the end and whine ‘oh, it’s over already??’

It made me think, too, why we don’t have more of this. Broadcasters are always trying to make shows that are more of an event these days, because lord knows there’s enough programming out there to entertain even the grumpiest of watchers. You have to stand out one way or another. And I’ve often thought that the live audience sitcom format works well for this – they read through on the Monday, rehearse Tuesday-Thursday, then do the live taping on a Friday, before it all starts again the next week. Why not just make the live taping a live screening and be done with it?

You could even factor in additional time for any major errors. Say it’s a half hour show, allow 40 minutes instead, and if it goes well, just use that time for some nifty behind the scenes extras. If it doesn’t go well, you’ve got the time baked in for emergencies. I can’t always get myself in front of a television to watch something as it is broadcast, but I would certainly make more of an effort if I knew the show was happening live at that very moment. More please, people!

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.

 

On the record 2018, Week 49 – Don’t you worry about that

Penultimate week of albums for the year, it’s exciting! Almost time to reveal my top five and I still haven’t decided upon it, so that’s fun.

This week, it’s The 1975. I was not a fan of the last album I listened to but only because the title of it was quite interesting. I have enjoyed a couple of the songs off this new album, so it’ll be interesting to see what the full experience is like.

And, for reasons I can’t remember but may have to do with watching lots of country music late on a Friday night, Shania Twain is Mr C’s pick for the week. I’ve already done Come On Over, which is arguably her best work, so this time it is Up, which still has a couple of proper tunes on it.

Hooray for Shania!

Also, this week, I put together a page collecting all the albums I have listened to which is a useful resource for a) remembering if and when an artist has been covered and b) realising just how many albums I’ve listened to over the past three years. What an adventure!

 

Stern taskmaster

I’d never even heard of Taskmaster until this latest series, and it only crossed my path because I follow James Acaster on Twitter, and he was a participant in the latest series. I like Acaster’s work, and some of the clips and gifs I’ve seen have made me wonder what all the fuss is about.

I had to do a bit of digging to find where I could watch this show – it’s broadcast on Dave, which means it’s part of the UK TV family. There’s an on demand app called UK TV Play (I do not recommend this app, it’s very poor compared to other video streaming efforts). So, I downloaded and started watching.

Obsessed.

Genuinely, I thought, I’ll just check out the first episode of the first series and see what it’s all about. I binge watched that first series in a weekend, and started working on the second.

It’s crazy but brilliant.

In case you don’t know, five guests are put at the whim of Taskmaster Greg Davies and series creator/able assistant Alex Horne. Each episode features a handful of tasks, for which points are handed out, and one of the comedians will win the episode, and then the points are added together to get a series winner too.

Yea, Mr C didn’t seem all that thrilled when I used that explanation to try and convince him it was good, either.

Perhaps, with the admin out the way, it’s time to talk about the tasks. They are both weird, wonderful, genius and silly all at the same time. Getting three yoga balls to sit on a yoga mat at the top of a steep hill on a windy day. Finding the quickest way of emptying a bathtub without pulling the plug out. Painting a picture of a horse whilst sitting on a horse.

Some are more cerebral, some are basic, and the highlights are seeing how each contestant approaches the tasks differently. The good thing about it, too, is because it’s the same set of people over the course of a six-episode series, you get to know who will try and twist the rules for an easier life, who’ll think outside the box, and who will just jump right in with both feet and see what happens. I read somewhere that the producers approach it a bit like a continuing drama in that sense, and I think that adds to the fun.

So, there are seven series with Acaster in the latest batch that has just finished. I’ve got a bit of catching up to do but at the rate I’m going, I’ll be up to speed in no time. And then they’ve just realised a Taskmaster book, with tricks and tips and tasks to put on your own Taskmaster event. Wondering which of my family and friends I can convince to give it a go.

On the record 2018, Week 48 – Make a lot of nice friends

Eyes down, settle in, we’ve got three weeks to go. It’s crucial times now because my picks need to be selected carefully so they qualify for the top five list at the end of the year. Having said that, I think I’ve already got eight albums to choose from for that prestigious list, so any newcomers will have to be brilliant. (Hint: I don’t think this week is it.)

First up, Olly Murs – You Know I Know. And I’ll admit that we have had this on in the background of a busy afternoon. I wasn’t listening that closely, but I did notice that the second half of the album is all Murs’ previous hits – every one a choon. He’ll have to go some to make the album live up to that.

And then, another random selection from Mr C – Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens. Of which I’m aware of Father and Son, Wild World (which is a song I love), and of course the title track which I know from Extras.

On the record 2018, Part 9: One of the chillest albums I’ve heard in a long time

The penultimate round up of the year, a little bit later than planned, but I’ve been slightly busy plotting and planning which albums to listen to for the weeks that are left. At this point, there are just three weeks left, and that’ll be three years of album listening. Incredible!

As I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks, there are a handful of good albums being released before this year is over, and it’s getting harder to choose which ones to prioritise. But it also means there are a lot of good things to listen to and that’s where this roundup comes in. Here’s what I thought of ten of the albums listened to recently.

Week 41

  • VI, You Me At Six
    This is a band that I’ve heard of in passing but really couldn’t have told you anything about. On the first listen, I thought this was a pretty good album and then second time round I enjoyed it even more so that’s a good sign. It’s the first time in a while, too, that I’ve thought an album was just a bit short and I’d have liked some more.
  • New Eyes, Clean Bandit
    I have mixed feelings about Clean Bandit, because their songs can be so different that you never really know what you’re going to get (except a bit of bonus cello!) I really liked the album, actually, it’s stacked with tunes, but there’s one song that is hugely not for me. Come Over gets inside my head in the worst ways, so I dreaded the very middle of the album, but the rest was great.

Week 42

  • Living in Extraordinary Times, James
    As expected, this was a good album that just went a bit wonky in places. I said that about the last James album I listened to and this was more of the same. However, I also didn’t feel like I really enjoyed it first run through, but gradually it really did grow on me. Second time through I was on board, and Mr C suggests a sixth listen will sell it to me completely.
  • Along Came Jones, Tom Jones
    Tom Jones in his early career reminds me very much of Johnny Cash. It’s got that old school soul feeling about it, with stacks of shorter songs whipping you through a journey. Tom’s voice is unquestionably brilliant, and recognisable instantly, and they’re all solid songs. But of course, It’s Not Unusual stands out as a proper choon.

Week 43

  • Broken Politics, Neneh Cherry
    This was one of the chillest albums I’ve heard in a long time. I was quite keen to listen to it despite the fact I realised I don’t know any of Neneh’s previous work – I’m just aware of the family and like their output. There was nothing wrong with this album but it didn’t stand out particularly to me. It was perfect for background, chill music.
  • The Raw & the Cooked, Fine Young Cannibals
    I went into this album anticipating that the first song, the single, She Drives Me Crazy, would stand head and shoulders above the rest of the tracks. And it did. The rest was okay, but when you start out with a great tune like that, it’s hard to make it all stand out. I wasn’t totally convinced, either, by the cover of Ever Fallen in Love at the end.

Week 44

  • Empress, RAY BLK
    Love this album. Run Run is a great song to kick off with, and we travel through some great highs and lows to end with the inspirational Just a Kid. It’s a short album, just eight songs lasting thirty minutes, but it still had a pretty big impact on me.
  • OK Computer, Radiohead
    I was kinda hoping this would be better than it was. The album is billed as one of the greatest ever, and I do like some of Radiohead’s work. This album was perfectly good, with some real highlights, but I don’t know that I cared for the whole thing, particularly, and I certainly wouldn’t put it up there as one of the best ever.

Week 45

  • EL MAL QUERER, ROSALÍA
    I was quite excited about this album because I love the single Malamente, and Julie Adenuga has been bigging up Rosalía for a while now. I didn’t really get on with the album as a whole, unfortunately. There are some good tracks on there, but then there are also some songs which are quite warbly, screechy even, and I just wasn’t down with it.
  • Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Whenever I listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I tend to just think ‘this is good, sounds like Red Hot Chili Peppers, just as you would expect’. And this album was exactly the same as all that. It’s a long one, well over an hour, but never boring. Just lots of good rock tunes from a band who are very good at what they do.