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So it’s the start of a New Year, so what better time to look back at some of the great music 2011 had to offer us.  Here are my top 10 songs of the year (I made a rule of only one song per band to make it fair), be sure to vote for your favourites and have your say!

10. Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall

As the first single from Coldplay’s fifth studio album ‘Mylo Xyloto’, ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’ is your standard Coldplay song. Like many of their previous hits it sounds big and anthemic, which don’t get me wrong is great, if a little predictable.

9. Ed Sheeran – The A Team

Ed Sheeran really captured the nation’s hearts last year with debut single ‘The A Team’. It’s subtle melodies and soft vocal make the track easy to listen to.

8. Elbow – Open Arms

This track from Elbow’s fifth studio album ‘Build A Rocket Boys’ is such an uplifting and powerful song, of which there is unfortunately very little of in UK music charts today.

7. Clare Maguire – The Shield and The Sword

It was a great year for singer-songwriter Clare Maguire, releasing her debut album ‘Light After Dark’ in February last year. This was my favourite track from the album, the electro-dance melody beautifully compliments her strong vocal on the track.

6. Adele – Someone Like You

I had to include this song, as one of the best-selling and most played of the year. It’s a beautiful ballad, guaranteed to tug at the heart-strings on every listen.

5. Take That – The Flood

The Flood was the first single from the album ‘Progress’ and served as a promising preview for what the album was to bring. It’s catchy, it’s dramatic, it’s cheesey – everything you need from a Take That record. It’s just a dreadful shame that the rest of the album didn’t quite live up to this potential…

4. Snow Patrol – This Isn’t Everything You Are

I feel like this song manages to encapsulate Snow Patrol at their best. For me it falls somewhere between ‘Chasing Cars’ and ‘Crack The Shutters’, capturing a perfect balance between the emotional extremes of melancholy and hope.

3. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Dial My Number

Written about a text stalker, this track from Sophie’s fourth studio album ‘Make A Scene’ simply defies you not to dance. It was difficult to pick a favourite from the album, ‘Off & On’ and ‘Starlight’ were also strong contenders, but ‘Dial My Number’s killer riff won out in the end.

2. Sinead & The Dawnbreakers – Don’t Pretend

I have had this song on repeat for months! Their 60’s-esque style makes them pretty unique on the current music scene and this track is really upbeat and fun – guaranteed to make you smile.

1. The Feeling – Say No

My number one track of 2011 has to be ‘Say No’ from The Feeling’s third studio album ‘Together We Were Made’. From the moment I first heard this song live I adored it, and the final recording keeps all of the emotional build up, heightened by the additional vocals of Sinead Quinn. If ever there was a perfectly crafted song, this is it!

Well I’ve had my say, now it’s your turn – vote now!

On Friday night The Feeling concluded their Together We Were Made tour at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The nine date tour took them to Bournemouth, Bristol, Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester and London.

I went to two of the shows, Nottingham (Rock City) and London, here’s what I thought.

For the first 7 dates of the tour electro-pop band, Bronze Medallists opened the show. Their set included debut single ‘Mathematics’ and the instantly catchy ‘Headspace (It’s Your Birthday)’ (seriously, you’ll be whistling it for weeks after!) which they dedicated to a member of the audience who’s birthday it was.

For the last two dates, Sinéad and The Dawnbreakers opened the show. Their 60’s Rockabilly style defies anybody not to dance. Having seen them a few times now, I must say they just get better and better and Shepherd’s Bush Empire gave them a very warm reception. They opened with ‘Can’t Please ‘Em All’  and got everyone clicking their fingers along to ‘What Would I Do?’ For me the highlight of the set was the upbeat, ‘Don’t Pretend’.

Danish songwriter Mads Langer also supported throughout the tour playing tracks from his debut album ‘Behold’. He opened with the delicate ‘The River Has Run Wild’ and got the audience joining in with the harmonies of ‘Fact-Fiction’ which was a wonderful moment.

The Feeling opened with a new tour video, featuring some of the band’s most loyal fans singing along to some of their biggest hits. It was fantastic to see the energy explode in the room on both nights as the drums of ‘Set My World On Fire’ sounded out.

The evening proceeded with fan favourites ‘Fill My Little World’ and ‘Never Be Lonely’ which as ever, got everyone clapping and singing along.

‘Say No’ sounded heartbreaking as ever (in a good way, if that makes sense!). It’s such a powerful song, and seeing it live sends shivers down my spine every time. ‘Another Soldier’ made great use of the screen, with a black and white image of front man, Dan looming over the audience on the screen.

The band then played a stripped down, piano version of ‘Rosé’ (to coincide with their new Abbey Road recorded version of the song for Burberry) but for the final chorus they blew the audience away with full-on guitars. This lead into the almighty ‘Helicopter’ from debut ‘Twelve Stops & Home’.

The band have been playing their duet, ‘Leave Me Out Of It’ during the tour, with a video of Sophie Ellis Bextor on the screen behind. But at Shepherd’s Bush there was a surprise appearance from the lady herself who sang from the balcony, joining the band on stage for the final chorus.

Possibly the highlight of the set for me was ‘Still You Want More’. They played the track from the second disc of their double album after a fan vote on their facebook page. It was nice to hear them play a slightly rarer song, and one that is a personal favourite of mine. It has been getting a massive cheer from the crowd throughout the tour and it was performed perfectly. I hope they continue to play songs from ‘The Bees’ in the future. This flowed brilliantly into their 2006 hit, ‘Sewn’.

They kept the energy high with latest single ‘A Hundred Sinners’, Paul Simon cover ‘You Can Call Me Al’ and Roisin Murphy duet ‘Dance For The Lights’ (sadly no appearance from Roisin though).  The set ended, as ever with ‘Love It When You Call’, which even got the balconies bouncing.

They gave us an encore of ‘I Thought It Was Over’, ‘Undeniable’ (during which, their old spiral graphic made a reappearance on-screen) and finished with Join With Us, before launching into a mental improv, throwing a space hopper into the audience and completely trashing the drum kit!

The Feeling were on top form for the tour and the production was slick. Next morning – sore feet, sore neck, ears ringing – the sign of a great night out!

After ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ was released from their second album ‘Everybody Wants To Be On TV’, I have to say I switched off from Scouting For Girls. Their style just seemed so ‘samey’ and repetitive that I felt, once you’ve heard ‘She’s So Lovely’ you’ve pretty much heard all Scouting For Girls have to offer. However, having recently stumbled upon ‘Love How It Hurts’ I feel ready to give Scouting For Girls another chance.

I must say that I am very impressed. After (I feel) a very repetitive sounding first two records, ‘Love How It Hurts’ is refreshing to hear. Having said this, it isn’t the most groundbreaking song in the world – something you could easily hear Westlife or The Script releasing, with a fairly generic structure within pop music. Yet there is something about it that makes me want to listen over and over again.

There is no doubt that Scouting For Girls have always been able to produce catchy pop-music, but it was always that little bit too repetitive. Their first album particularly seemed a little childish, they seemed to be playing it quite safe with very simple songs. With ‘Love How It Hurts’ I think they have shown potential. It’s still fairly simple, but just has that edge of something a little bit more. Scouting For Girls have grown up.

As I said before, it isn’t the most ground-breaking song ever written, but it’s certainly a start. Who knows in a few years time they may even produce an entirely original album!

4/5

‘Love How It Hurts’ was released on 10th July. A bonus track edition of ‘Everybody Wants To Be On TV’ including this track is expected later on this year.

Ok, so as this is an album of two halves, I thought I would review each disc separately.

It’s been over 3 years since their second album ‘Join With Us’ topped our charts, but now The Feeling are back with their third album, ‘Together We Were Made’. There is a single and double disc version of the album, The two discs are referred to as ‘The Birds and The Bees’.

So, let’s start with the first disc – The Birds;

The album begins with the familiar sound of lead single ‘Set My World On Fire’ which has recently had a lot of airplay on Radio 2 and was the BBC’s soundtrack to the cricket world cup. As you may have seen in my recent review of the single, it’s a sun-drenched, catchy pop tune with a calypso beat you’ll be tapping along to all day!

The overall feel of the album seems much more slick and sophisticated than some of their previous material. The band have worked with producers The Bullitts on track 8 of the album, ‘Mr.Grin’, polishing the track to perfection, emphasised by the honkey-tonk piano outro. Freemasons also helped to produce the album, who’s influence is most noticeable on glitter covered dance track ‘Searched Every Corner’.

The band have claimed in several interviews that there is a more ‘grown-up’ and ‘experimental’ feel to the songs on ‘Together We Were Made’. One such song where this really comes through is ‘Another Soldier’, a heavy guitar-based track made to head-bang to. ‘Build A Home’ continues this experimentation, showing off the band’s spangly new omnichord, whilst ‘A Hundred Sinners (Come And Get It)’ is a typical Feeling song, and possibly the catchiest yet!

As well as working with The Freemasons on the album, The Feeling have also collaborated with the likes of Sophie Ellis Bextor and Roisin Murphy on the wistful ‘Leave Me Out Of It’ and disco-centric ‘Dance For The Lights’ (respectively). There is a lot of variation throughout the album in terms of style and genre. And like any good record, this comes with a variety of moods – you can be bouncing one minute and weeping the next!

For me, the highlight of the album has to be the ballad, ‘Say No’. For those who’ve read my review of The Water Rats gig from last year, you will know that this track has always been a favorite of mine, and they have just got the production spot on for the album. The guitar solo in the middle is phenomenal and the song builds up to such a climax, with the additional vocals of Sinead Quinn, Marva Lamey and Jasmine Denham. It still sends shivers down my spine just like it did the first time I heard it. Perfect.

Another highlight for me is ‘Another Life’. The twinkly piano, combined with the 12 string guitar give the song excitement that just makes you wanna bounce! I felt like a kid again this afternoon jumping up and down, punching the air and yelling ‘Hey Hey Hey Hey!’ at the top of my voice. Nothing beats that feeling.

‘Back Where I Came From’ is a really powerful and heartfelt track, filled with nostalgia, which is complemented by piano lead ‘Love And Care’.

The album closer ‘Undeniable’, is another epic, following in the footsteps of ‘Blue Piccadilly’ and ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ from the previous two albums. Having seen the song performed live before the orchestral arrangement for the album really completes the song.

And those who buy the physical version of the album are treated to bonus track ‘Hardest Stone’, a 60’s-esque acoustic song, at the end of the album.

It’s not often you get an album that you literally cannot stop listening to. By the fourth listen I was trying to pick favorites, and it has changed at least 26 times over the last 24 hours. There’s certainly a progression and variation of musical style throughout, but at it’s heart ‘Together We Were Made’ is still a typical Feeling record, with lyrics that can break your heart and riffs that command you to dance.

5/5

Who could forget 2006 when The Feeling burst onto the scene with ‘Twelve Stops And Home’. The debut album spawned hit after hit singles such as, ‘Sewn’, ‘Fill My Little World’ and ‘Love It When You Call’. This success continued into 2008 landing the band a number one album with ‘Join With Us’.

Now the guys are back with new single ‘Set My World On Fire’, do they have another hit on their hands?

Well, it’s been over a year since I first heard the song, acoustically in a bar in South London and then I instantly fell in love with it. It’s upbeat, catchy and just makes you wanna dance – everything a Feeling song should be! As I write this I have the song blaring out, with the sun shining in through the window – I am in Heaven.

Having known the song for over a year it has been great for me to watch it evolve and develop over that time, and hearing the final mix just brings back so many memories of hearing it live. It also means that I can assure you it stands the test of time, it still sounds just as fresh as the first time I heard it, and I can tell it’ll stay firmly stuck in my head for years to come!

And as always with The Feeling there are some beautiful, heartfelt lyrics in there like ‘I can feel you in my heart, every time we part’ which is reinforced with a heartbeat-style drumbeat running through the song. But the line that really sums the song up for me is this: ‘It’s a little bit more than I ever hoped for!’.

‘Set My World On Fire’ is just perfect for a sunny day. It has the ability to put a smile on your face whenever you hear it, which for me is what perfect pop music is all about.

5/5

‘Set My World On Fire’ is released on 2nd May, followed by The Feeling’s third album ‘Together We Were Made’ on 20th June.

The news broke today that Mercury Records are to stop making physical CD singles.

Mercury records manage artists such as The Killers, Arcade Fire and U2.

Ian McCann of Record Collector magazine has said ‘Major labels have struggled to find a way of coping with the relatively small runs that a physical single entails’.

There has also been speculation that data from streaming sites may be incorporated into the charts in future.

Personally I’m a big fan of the CD. Call me old-fashioned, but there’s just something so much more special about owning a physical CD than just a digital download. The day a new single comes out from your favorite band, you have the excitement of going out to the shop specially to buy it. Or if you’ve ordered online, you spend all day hoping and praying that it turns up on time! It’s just something I’m not quite prepared to be without.

But that’s just my opinion, why not have your say? You can vote in the poll below, and be sure to leave your comments on the matter.

Back For Good

Take That. They dominated our charts in the early 90’s producing two of the best-selling albums of the decade, before their split in 1996. Since their return in 2006 their popularity has grown phenomenally, leading to their latest album, ‘Progress’ becoming the fastest selling album of the century and the second fastest selling album of all-time.

On Saturday night, I went to the Ipswich Regent to see Back For Good, one of the most critically acclaimed Take That tribute acts around. Back For Good are: Dan Maines (Gary Barlow), Matt Hall (Mark Owen), Steven Craven (Howard Donald) and Jay MacGregor (Jason Orange) with the recent addition of Tony Lewis as Robbie Williams.

But are they as good as the real thing?

And the simple answer, is yes. I was really blown away by their performance.  Matt and Dan are vocally stunning, and having seen Take That several times before I can safely say they’ve got their performance off to a tee. You can tell that a lot of work has gone into this show, the attention to detail is immaculate, from the costumes and set right down to each members individual mannerisms. In fact, the only thing they were short of was an elephant!

They opened the show, with Greatest Day, mimicking The Circus Tour, which was followed up with Hello – in which the guys came down into the audience to say ‘hello’!

This was followed with old favorite ‘Could It Be Magic’, Take That’s comeback single ‘Patience’, and a polished performance of the inconceivably impossible ‘Pray’ dance.

They played all the old favorites throughout the night ‘Relight My Fire’, ‘A Million Love Songs’ and even the Clown Medley from The Circus tour in 2009. Which brings me on to a topic which often causes much debate. Which are better, small gigs or big gigs? Personally I’ve always been on the side of small gigs, and the evidence from Back For Good certainly supports that. They could do all the same routines (all be it scaled-down) yet they could also connect with the audience in a way that you never could in a big stadium.

A few of the new ‘Progress’ tracks were also thrown in towards the end, starting with ‘The Flood’. I was pleasantly surprised to see ‘SOS’ in there aswell. I hadn’t expected it as it isn’t a single, but their performance had so much energy! It’s a song that from first listen I’ve always thought will work well live, so I look forward to how the real Take That perform it in the summer.

We were also treated to a beautiful rendition of ‘8 Letters’. I’ve got to say, even though among the Take That fans the song is often seen as a favorite, it never really grabbed me hearing it on the record. However, I think it could just be one of those songs that sound so much better when you hear them live. For the first time, I really got into this song that night.

‘Up All Night’ and ‘Hold Up A Light’ brought the audience to their feet, leading to the guys sitting on the edge of the stage for a nostalgia filled performance of ‘Back For Good’.

They Finished the show with ‘Rule The World’ and an encore of the undeniably brilliant ‘Never Forget’.

I do wish we’d had some input from the ‘Beautiful World’ tour – ‘Reach Out’ and ‘Beautiful World’ for example are some of my favorite Take That songs. However I do understand how difficult it must be to put together a set list which will please all the fans – you can’t have it all!

I would highly recommend this show to any Take That fans out there – particularly if you’re gutted on missing out on tickets to the Progress tour. It’s a fantastic night out, and not to be missed!

Check out the Back For Good website and Facebook page.

Photos courtesy of Ramona Crofts.

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