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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!

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On Monday night, I went to the O2 Academy, Islington to see Sophie Ellis Bextor, supported by Sinead and the Dawnbreakers. This is Sophie’s first solo tour in over 3 years, so I was a little exited!

Sinead and the Dawnbreakers played an 8 song set including ‘Just A Ring’, ‘What Would I Do?’, ‘Yes Woman’ and their newest song ‘Down Your Gun’. They also played a fantastic cover of ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love?’ which had everyone singing along and clicking their fingers!

Sophie opened the show with ‘Dial My Number’ from her upcoming album which instantly got everyone dancing. She kept the high tempo going, following this with ‘Bittersweet’, which sounds even more incredible live than on record.

This lead into ‘Take Me Home’, ‘Me and My Imagination’, ‘Today The Sun’s On Us’ and we were treated to an outstanding performance ‘What Have We Started?’ which Sophie told us was her favorite track from her third album, ‘Trip The Light Fantastic’.

She then played ‘Starlight’, another new track from her upcoming album (which is sounding really beautiful) followed by an excellent cover of ‘Rebellion’ by Arcade Fire.

She followed this up with rare track ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’, and her latest trance single ‘Not Giving Up’.

We had a good bit of audience participation, singing the intro to ‘Get Over You’ and the chorus of her iconic anthem ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ which was interjected with the chorus of ‘Sing It Back’.

She finished her main set with ‘Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)’, my soundtrack to summer 2009. The electrifying strobe lighting set the room alight, keeping everyone’s hands in the air, clapping along.

As always a fantastic show left us wanting more. And more we got, with an encore of ‘Revolution’ – another brand new track – and classics ‘Catch You’ and ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’.

What an amazing night! All of the new songs are sounding fabulous, the old ones are sounding better than ever and there was such a brilliant atmosphere. Great to have you back Sophie!

Speaking to Sophie after the show, she told me that her fourth studio album is due for release in the Spring and is again titled ‘Make A Scene’ after a brief name change to ‘Straight To The Heart’.

Check out Sophie Ellis Bextor and Sinead and the Dawnbreakers’ facebook pages, or follow @SophieEB and @thedawnbreakers on twitter.

(Photos courtesy of Tom Sharpe)

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This is a new feature I’ve decided to bring in, to celebrate brilliant new albums released each month, or to just simply remember older classics.

This month’s Album Of The Month is…

The Hoosiers – The Illusion Of Safety

‘The Illusion Of Safety’ has a clear 80’s Dance influence, but through most of the album The Hoosiers manage to maintain their original odd-pop style with most tracks keeping pop/rock undertones.

Unfortunately this is something I felt that lead single, ‘Choices’ had very little of, but this is very much made up for with the likes of ‘Bumpy Ride’ and ‘Unlikely Hero’ which both stick to the band’s roots musically but also progress forward giving the band more versatility.

One of the (many) stand-out tracks on the album for me has to be ‘Glorious’. It certainly has something of the ‘Spitting-Feathers-Factor’ (see ‘Technical Terms’) from the second the track starts it sounds epic.

Overall the album is full of catchy tracks which command you to sing along. There are a few songs (mostly towards the end of the album) which I think need a little more time to grow on you, but there certainly isn’t a bad track on the album. And you can’t deny the power of Irwin’s voice – though used in different ways I think it could easily be compared to that of Muse’s Matt Bellamy.

Many have claimed that it’s not possible for The Hoosiers to top their debut ‘The Trick To Life’ but I think ‘The Illusion Of Safety’ has certainly equalled it’s predecessor and I would highly recommend it to anyone who does not yet own it.

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Who could forget June 2007 when The Hoosiers burst into our charts with ‘Worried About Ray’? Their debut  album ‘The Trick To Life’ spawned several other hit singles, such as ‘Goodbye Mr. A’ and ‘Cops And Robbers’. Ultimately, The Hoosiers were a little bit different. Their ‘Odd-Pop’ branded music was refreshing to see.

Well now they’re back with ‘Choices’, ahead of the release of their second album ‘The Illusion Of Safety’. Have they still got it?

Initially I was a little underwhelmed. ‘Choices’ is a much more Dance orientated song than any of their previous singles, and in many ways more mainstream than ever before. They seem to be following in the footsteps of Lady Gaga and the like and going down the 80’s road.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the resurgence of the 80’s in the charts, but I don’t want everything to sound the same! Initially, this resurgence provided a bit more variety in the charts, but I think it’s becoming too influential. Now it’s pretty much all we ever hear. If you look at the charts now you’ll find that there’s about 2 out of 40 singles which aren’t Dance or R&B.

Anyhow, enough of my rant about the charts. No one can deny that this song is catchy beyond belief. It commands you to sing along and you can’t resist the temptation to dance. It passes the ‘In My Head’ test, in that it’s in there most of the time, and I haven’t got bored with it!

And having recently heard ‘Bumpy Ride’, another track from their upcoming album, I am filled with hope for ‘The Illusion Of Safety’ which will be released 16th August.

4/5

‘Choices’ was released 2nd August.

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It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 10 years since Pop Princess, Sophie Ellis Bextor burst on to the scene with the fantastic ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’. Since then she has released three incredible albums (‘Read My Lips’, ‘Shoot From The Hip’ and ‘Trip The Light Fantastic’) and hit after hit of perfect pop and dance records such as ‘Catch You’ and ‘Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)’. And the latest addition? ‘Bittersweet’.

What can I say? She’s done it again! ‘Bittersweet’ is a wonderfully catchy dance track which I can instantly see being played on dancefloors up and down the country for years to come. With blissful beats and divine lyrics like ‘one touch and there’s a rush of electricity’ – you simply can’t help but dance and sing along to it!

And what’s more, it passes the ‘In My Head’ test with flying colours! Having had it in my head for several days, I’ve never for one moment become remotely irritated by it, in fact I just love it all the more! And the fact that it has remained in my head for so long just proves how catchy it is!

This has, of course lead to some embarrassing situations in public, when I have suddenly burst out with something like ‘Any time you call my name’ or ‘So won’t you show me all there is to know’!

So, to conclude: ‘Bittersweet’ is an absolutely fabulous track, (which I cannot stop listening to!) leaving me very excited for the release of ‘Straight To The Heart’!

5/5

Bittersweet will be released on 3rd May.

Sophie’s fourth studio album ‘Straight To The Heart’ is expected for release in August this year.

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Last night, I watched a 4 Music exclusive called Mika: Through The Looking Glass, in which Mika was interviewed about his new album “The Boy Who Knew Too Much” and performed some of his new tracks. Here are my first impressions:

A little similar to "Life In Cartoon Motion" - don't you think?

A little similar to "Life In Cartoon Motion" - don't you think?

Rain: Mika mentions in the interview that this song was originally written as a “break up letter”, which he turned into a song because he thought it would be “funny to put it into a dance track”.

The song gets off to a very promising start, it has a good dance beat to it, and the lyrics e.g “I’m caught in a trap, I can’t look back” do seem to have a darker and less childish feel to his debut album. Also I find it hard not to sing along to the line “I hate days like this”. However…

The chorus is where the song looses me I’m afraid. It’s not necessarily that the chorus is bad, and I’ll admit it’s very catchy, but it just goes on too long! All it basically is, is Mika saying “Rain” over and over again for approximately 30 seconds. If it had a few different words, or if it didn’t go on for quite so long, it would be a good chorus.

All in all, this song is good, it just could have done with a little more work.

Dr. John was written about a character Mika has made up who is “obsessed with voodoo”. This was inspired by Mika’s “fascination with dark magic” as a child.

UnfortunatelyLive performance of Dr. John this song also suffers with a chorus problem. Perhaps it had a lot to do with the performance and lighting, but once again I felt this song was a lot darker than his earlier stuff, and I was just getting into it when it was interrupted by a chorus very reminiscent of “Billy Brown”.

Of course once again it is a catchy song, I’ll admit I woke up with it in my head. This is not necessarily a good thing as it is already starting to really get on my nerves. Catchy songs are great in terms of record sales, but not always in terms of good songwriting.

So far my first taste of “The Boy Who Knew Too Much” has taught me that, just when you think Mika has put a different spin on his songs, “Life In Cartoon Motion” comes back to haunt you. Lets see if the next two songs can change my mind…

Blame It On The Girls Mika claims is written about his “sisters more than anything” and the people who brought him up which becomes clear early on in the song.

At this point I have to congratulate Mika, because this is the first Mika song (possibly ever) that I’ve heard which doesn’t overuse and over exaggerate falsetto. In fact there is very little falsetto used. This I feel has always been his downfall as well as his appeal. I don’t have a problem with falsetto in songs, in fact usually I’m a big fan of it, but when Mika does it I often find it a little too much, it just seems too squeaky and becomes very annoying.

The only real criticism I have of this song is that it is quite repetitive – but hey, a little repetition never hurt anyone!!

We Are GoldenMika then performed “We Are Golden” to see my review click here

I See You, like all of the new tracks so far, has a very promising opening… And a promising middle and end! It is a piano based song and the first verse and chorus are near on beautiful.

I have two main criticisms of this song. The first is that falsetto is not necessary in this song. The problem is that if his voice is at a similar pitch to the piano he is playing – it blends in with the piano music and sounds more like backing than lead vocals.

Secondly, by the second chorus, an R&B style beat has kicked in, which disappointed me, as this is not the direction I would’ve liked the song to have taken. I feel that this could easily have become a powerful ballad without the unnecessary falsetto and annoying beat.

 He’s getting there!

The clear overuse of falsetto is still there, and I would hardly describe it as sounding more “Gothic” (particularly in the choruses) but he’s definitely getting there!

Generally I would say that the new tracks are good, and are an improvement on “Life In Cartoon Motion”, but I don’t feel that this is Mika’s full potential. I think that given time these songs will grow on me, but I’m ultimately holding out for album number 3. I’m hoping that by then he will have improved his sound even more, in the same way that I feel “Final Straw” – Snow Patrol’s third album was when they really began to shine, and their music has continued to get better and better.

“The Boy Who Knew Too Much” is released 21st September.

Watch “Mika: Through The Looking Glass”

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This is my weekly feature (as you can tell from the title!) which will basically be a song which I feel deserves some attention! for example, a song that I can get out of my head at the moment, or a song which I feel demonstrates great musical talent and should be celebrated etc.

So, without further ado, this weeks song of the week is…

Paparazzi By Lady Gaga

Paparazzi

Now, I would not say I was a fan of  Lady Gaga’s music, in fact quite the opposite however, for some reason I can’t seem to get this song out of my head!

Her debut single “Just Dance” I found quite annoying (and overplayed!), and “Poker Face” didn’t seem much better, but maybe 3 is the magic number, as finally I have found something I like about her music!

I don’t deny, I still believe it is overplayed, it’s constantly on the radio and every music channel, and I don’t believe it showcases any extraordinary musical talent (sorry Gaga fans) but, for now at least I am enjoying Paparazzi… let’s hope it lasts!

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