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Archive for January, 2011

I know we’re nearing the end of January now – but I thought I’d take this opportunity to take a look back on 2010 to give you my thoughts on last years musical offering. I’m also very interested in your opinions, so do be sure to leave a comment.

January brought us the wonderful ‘dream-pop’ of Owl City’s ‘Fireflies’, a single which really captured the hearts of the nation. It was refreshing to hear something a little bit different, not just the same R&B and Dance music that’s been dominating the charts for so long. Don’t get me wrong, it has it’s place, but I just prefer to have more diversity in the charts. And no, I’m not referring to that dance group off ‘Britain’s Got Talent’…

However last January also brought the unbelievably irritating noise of Justin Bieber into our charts, who’s songs are just another bit of the same old stuff, except in a higher pitch. And this of course lead into more insufferable singles from the X-Factor manufactured JLS.

Rant over, I bring you to quite possibly my favorite month for music last year – May. At the beginning of the month we were treated to, in my opinion the best single 2010 had to offer, Sophie Ellis Bextor’s ‘Bittersweet’.  We also had ‘Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)’ by the phenomenal Muse, released as part of the ‘Twilight: New Moon’ soundtrack.

But most importantly for me, May was the month that brought my favorite gig of the year. It was of course The Feeling at The Water Rats on the 5th of the month. The band took the gig as an opportunity to preview some of the new material for their upcoming third album (expected May/June this year) to their fans. It was the place they were first signed from, so it was also a nice chance for the band to go back to their roots. Read the full review of the gig here.

The summer brought us the care-free tones of Eliza Doolittle’s ‘Pack Up’, Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ and Example’s ‘Kickstarts’, along with one of the most infuriatingly catchy tracks in all of history, ‘We Speak No Americano’. Scouting For Girls even bothered to write us a few new songs, unlike their debut album, which was full of remixes of the same song.  How thoughtful of them!

August brought us an eagerly anticipated follow-up to ‘The Trick To Life’ from The Hoosiers. ‘The Illusion Of Safety’ is full of instantly catchy tunes to really get you dancing. Initially I thought it may even be better than their debut,  but in retrospect, I feel it  just lacked something the first album had. But still a brilliant second album from them.  I Am Arrows released their debut album ‘Sun Comes Up Again’ which became Radio 2’s album of the week, and subsequently ended up being the soundtrack to my holiday!

In September, The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers went solo with ‘Flamingo’. I really feel this album was overlooked a little in the media. I would personally have said that it was the best album of the year, but if an album isn’t given the right media coverage, it just doesn’t get very far in this business. Shame.

Muse also played two nights at Wembley in September. I was at the second, which, for a big Muse fan was great as they played a few older tracks which are virtually unheard of these days; the likes of ‘Citizen Erased’ and ‘Bliss’. It was a shame that they were at the expense of more recent tracks ‘Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)’ and ‘I Belong To You’ which they had played the night before, but hey, you can’t please ’em all. A stunning performance as always.

Take That re-united with Robbie Williams this year, releasing ‘Shame’ in October. Understandably, many of us didn’t know what to make of this. Anyone can see that musically the song wasn’t brilliant. But do we just take this as a send-up? Or is this really the level we can expect from Take That and Robbie in the future?

This of course lead into Take That’s ‘Progress’ at the end of the year. Take That back as a five piece, there was so much hype surrounding this phenomenon, but does it really live up to the hype? I’m aware I may alienate a lot of people with what I’m about to say, but it’s just my opinion, please hear me out.

In my opinion, ‘Progress’ just doesn’t match up to the heights of  it’s predecessors ‘Beautiful World’ and ‘The Circus’ – both albums full of beautiful song-writing and lyrical genius. There are some stand out tracks for me ‘The Flood’ ‘What Do You Want From Me?’ and ‘SOS’ spring to mind, but the majority of them just haven’t got me hooked yet. You can say it’s a grower, but by now I would have expected it to have grown on me. It just hasn’t. And where the Hell is Gary Barlow on this album?! He only sings one song! The majority are sung by Robbie – I may aswell have purchased a Robbie Williams album!

Now I’m not saying by any stretch that it’s a bad album (and by some of the standards of recent times, it’s positively amazing!) but it’s just not up to the quality of Take That music that I’m used to. I don’t know if it’s down to Robbie, or whether (and I suspect the latter) they simply didn’t put the effort in. ‘Hey, Robbie’s back in Take That. Don’t worry, people will buy the album anyway.’ I really hope this isn’t the case, because this is not like them, but the whole album, to me, just looks like a big publicity stunt.

December also brought us a tour from Squeeze, and Sophie Ellis Bextor’s first solo tour in over three years. She did not disappoint! All of her new songs sounding fantastic leaving me very excited for the album (currently scheduled for March). Read my full review of the Sophie gig here.

And unfortunately Christmas was once again ruined by The X-Factor and Matt Cardle. It’s such a shame. Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many Of Horror’ is an awesome tune, but now it’s just another song added to the long list of X-Factor victims. It’s been given the typical X-Factor (verging on Westlife) treatment, of that generic, diabolical key change to signal the final chorus. But perhaps the most unforgivable of these sins is the name change to ‘When We Collide’. It’s unnecessary. It’s an insult to its audience really, as if to say they wouldn’t know the song if they gave it its proper title.

Is it really too much to ask to get a CHRISTMAS song to number one next year? It’s not as if no-one’s writing them! Last year we had some fantastic offerings from both The Killers and Coldplay. Rage Against The X Factor worked a treat, lets do that again but with an actual Christmas song. Now that’s something to aim for.

So what’s happening in 2011?

So, what can we look forward to this year? Well, we can expect albums from The Feeling, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Florence + The Machine, Lady GaGa, Adele, Britney Spears, R.E.M and Elbow over the coming months.

The new artist I’m most excited about for this year, and my ‘one to watch’ as they say, has to be Clare Maguire. I first discovered her when ‘You’re Electric’ was made iTunes single of the week. Since then I’ve been hearing so much about her and listening to more of her material. You can download ‘Strangest Thing’ for free from her Facebook page. Her debut album ‘Light After Dark’ will be released 28th February.

Well I’ve had my say, but now it’s your turn. What are your favorite and least favourite tracks, albums and gigs from the last year? What are you looking forward to this year?

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From the start of next month two of the UK’s major record labels will make singles available to buy from the day they are first aired on the radio.

Universal Music UK chairman, David Joseph has said: ‘On Air, On Sale is good news for any music fan and exciting for our artists who can now go into the studio knowing they don’t have to wait weeks, or sometimes months, to see the music they have created go on sale.’

The scheme may also help to cut down on music piracy, which is good news for artists. Jessie J tells her fans: ‘I’ve had a lot of people rip music off YouTube but I won’t be able to make another album if no one buys this one.’

However, there is some concern that without radio air time leading up to a single’s release, there will be less public awareness of the single. This could particularly affect new artists who don’t already have much of a following.

Let me know what you make of this new development. Will the decision help or hinder the music industry in the long-term?

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