2017

Ahhh, 2017. I don’t quite know where to begin! In a world of Brexit talks and Trump’s tweets, music lead the way for unity. From the tragic terror attack at the Manchester Arena after the Ariana Grande concert in May, which sparked international unity and created the “One Love Manchester” movement, to the rise in musicians speaking out about ‘taboo’ subjects, it really has been a big year for artists and fans alike. Ed Sheeran rewrote the chart rules (literally) and couldn’t be escaped and there were plenty of leading ladies who made their way firmly into the top spots this year too, with Dua Lipa becoming the first female British solo artist to top the charts with her single ‘New Rules’ since Adele in 2015. Oh, and there was a Glass Animals inspired pineapple ban at Reading and Leeds Festival.

Personally, I’ve had my ups and downs this year. Musically it’s been absolutely incredible though! I muddled my way through A-Level exams- with the help, exclusively, of Alt-J- passed my driving test and somehow ended up touring the UK for two months, in what was the most incredible and exciting experience of my life so far. I was incredibly lucky this year to see 167 different live music sets (through a mixture of festival sets, concerts, support acts etc), go to two weekend festivals, three day festivals and 12 concerts (excluding the many Happy Mondays gigs I saw and including four incredible Banquet Record shows).

Here are three of my biggest musical highlights:

1) I got to see Paramore play on my 18th Birthday. Paramore are my favourite band ever, and they have been for the last goodness knows how long. Somehow, after weeks of trying, I managed to get tickets to the sold out gig, whilst sat on the bus with a massive stomach ache (the things you remember, eh?). The day itself was absolutely incredible and the atmosphere was truly buzzing. They played a venue far smaller than they’re capable of, which made it feel really intimate, and the crowd sang along- loudly- word for word. It felt like the most triumphant welcome back for the band and made my birthday the best yet.

2) I had my mind sufficiently blown by Haim at Reading Festival. This year was my fourth Reading Festival and somehow I ended up winning VIP tickets. I’ve been going for years and have been lucky enough to see some of the most exciting live sets, but nothing else has been as awe-inspiring as Haim’s closing set on the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage this year. The band played what felt like the quickest, most fun set ever, with dancing interludes, an abundance of crowd interaction and the most incredible drumming to close the set- not to mention Este’s bass face! It was the first time I’d seen the trio and it definitely won’t be my last.

3) By far the biggest highlight of the year was Lorde’s Glastonbury debut. In fact, in many ways it ruined my Glastonbury as everything else didn’t seem quite as good after that. In my eyes, she could’ve headlined. Lorde played the Other Stage on the one week “birthday” of Melodrama’s release. She opened by teasing the crowd with an orchestral version of ‘Green Light’, before playing a mixture of tracks from her both her albums.  The highlight of the set for me though was ‘The Louvre’, which she introduced by talking about “crushes” and the “rush” you get from them. She then sat on the side of the stage- to be closer to the fans- and sang ‘Liability’, which she told the audience was about “not feeling as though you’re good enough”. The set felt special. It was a real spectacle, with dancers in tilting glass boxes and huge graphics projected onto large screens, but one which didn’t feel too brash or gimmicky. It was absolutely breathtaking.

In other news, it was a year of politics too, with the line between artist and political stance becoming increasingly blurred. From snap elections to “youthquakes” to “OOOOHHH JEREMY COOOORBYNNN” being shouted at almost every music event this year, it’s been an exciting year of political unrest. This, along with other global events (Trump, climate change etc), has inspired a wave of new music, with the likes of VANT and Declan McKenna leading the way. It’s been exciting to follow. It would be crazy not to mention the thousands of people who flocked to see Jeremy Corbyn speak at Glastonbury Festival. It felt like some sort of revolution was stirring.

By far the most exciting thing I’ve done this year is tour for a couple of months with the Happy Mondays selling their merchandise. I got to meet and work with some of the most incredible, creative and inspiring people ever, which was absolutely crazy. It was a brilliant experience. As well as this, I got to see a lot of the country and visit a whole load of exciting venues, in cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. I also got to see first hand how hard the security guards work in order to keep everyone safe and that, in itself, deserves some credit.

This year I listened to A LOT of Declan McKenna. I started the year off by listening- like every other person on Earth- to a tonne of Ed Sheeran. He was simultaneously the only person I wanted to listen to and the last person I wanted to listen to. It sounds dramatic, but no one could escape Sheeran’s grasp… I distinctly remember working one Saturday morning and listening to his latest album, Divide, on repeat for four and a half hours. I also kick started the year with a bit of Sundara Karma and Blaenavon, both of which released triumphant debut albums this year. Lorde soundtracked my summer though, along with Anne-Marie, Little Mix, Clean Bandit, Haim, Glass Animals and Dua Lipa. In the Autumn I was obsessed by Wolf Alice, Blondie and Marika Hackman, whose album I’m Not Your Man was one of the best released this year. Recently I’ve been loving Rex Orange County’s “Best Friend” and a whole load of other up and coming artists. I’m so excited to see what 2018 brings for them.

So, what’s to come? This blog is going to undertake a big makeover at some point. I’ve got SO much planned, which I’m really excited to share. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of up and coming artists release their debut albums, to going to many festivals and concerts and to seeing what the year brings in terms of comebacks.

Thank you for reading this blog. I know I’ve not been so good at blogging over the last couple of months, but I’m going to change that.

 

 

 

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2017

November 2017 and December 2017- What I’m Listening To

Apologies… It’s been an absolute age since I last wrote a blog post, but what an exciting few months it has been. For the last two months I’ve been doing the merchandise on tour for the legendary late 80s/90s Manchester band the Happy Mondays and it’s been the most incredible experience ever. However, it has been time consuming and full on, so I’ve neglected the blog a bit. I’m back now though- and more inspired and excited about music than ever!

This post is going to feature two playlists, so I can catch you up a bit on what’s been going on…

So, November. Quick round up. The Wombats are back and releasing new music (“Turn” and “Lemon in a Knife Fight” are an exciting taste of what’s to come in 2018),  The Vaccines are teasing an immanent new album and the 2018 festival season is shaping up to be huge. My playlist includes Rex Orange County’s ‘Best Friend’, which I absolutely adore, Noel Gallagher’s latest scissor-tastic single ‘Holy Mountain’, E^ST, Tidal Waves and The Charlatans, as I’ve just finished watching E4’s My Mad Fat Diary, for which the music is heavily influenced by the music of the 90s.

December has been a bit more hazy! The festival announcements keep coming- the most notably exciting so far has got to be the one day Finsbury Park event, Community Festival. I, however, spent the month over indulging in glorious, guilt free pop music, with Camila Cabello’s ‘Havana’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ (not the Beyoncé version though) and Taylor Swift’s ‘Gorgeous’ on repeat.  Yes, you read that right (and I’m not even sorry).  There’s even Elbow, who seem to have soundtracked what I’ve managed to squeeze in of Christmas over the last month, with their cover of The Beatles ‘Golden Slumber’. There’s a couple of new tracks from Peace and The Wombats and a large helping of the Happy Mondays, who I’ve fortunately managed to catch countless times over the last month.

New year means new music, Paramore at the O2, more festival announcements and the start of something new- hopefully!

https://open.spotify.com/user/undercovermixtape/playlist/3D3s48RSCYP8ZLy3sXRSoQ

November 2017 and December 2017- What I’m Listening To

Jake Bugg, All Saints Church for Banquet Records, 31/08/2017 (Live Review)

Just hours before his fourth album- Hearts That Strain– was released, Jake Bugg played two very special album release shows, for Kingston’s Banquet Records, in the heavenly surroundings of the All Saints Church.

Picture this, an ornate church filled with beautifully and carefully crafted Biblical sculptures, with candles and pews destined for dedicated worshippers part of the usual furniture, with colourful stained glass windows depicting an amplitude of Bible stories covering almost every wall. In the middle of the room stands 23 year old Jake Bugg (only slightly elevated) and his guitar- no band this time- in front of a gathering of people who are peppered in between large columns and refreshment stands. The whole thing seems almost evangelical.

Jake Bugg- who “hasn’t finished practising all his new songs”- opens with the album’s title track ‘Hearts That Strain’ before treating the audience to stripped back favourites from his now expansive back catalogue. Songs like ‘Trouble Town’, ‘The Love We’re Hoping For’ and ‘Simple As This’ encase songs from his new album, including ‘Southern Rain’ and his latest single ‘How Soon The Dawn’, reminding the awe-struck audience that this is an album release show. Bugg takes time to tune his guitar and ponder over how to play old tracks and songs straight from the studio; he hadn’t quite started touring the album yet.

The highlight of the set was ‘Broken’, a song from his first self-titled record. This came as no surprise as it always has a huge live appeal. Bugg played and sang as his audience sang with him- it felt almost gospel. The whole performance felt special and somewhat spiritual, if you will.

What struck me most about the event was how intimate it felt. How unpolished and imperfect it was, which made it feel extraordinarily special. Bugg has refined his performance, grown comfortable and confident performing solo- proving he definitely doesn’t need a band- and has stripped back to his roots. He revisits and reimagines the acoustic roots which made him famous in the first place. Interestingly, the room was filled with an older audience, showing Bugg’s mass appeal. He can easily draw a crowd of teenage fans at Reading Festival, but can also attract middle aged concert goers and seemingly ‘unlikely’ fans at a midweek concert in a church. That’s a real skill.

Jake Bugg, All Saints Church for Banquet Records, 31/08/2017 (Live Review)

Lorde-Melodrama (album review)

Lorde released her second studio album, Melodrama, on the 16th June 2017. The album follows up from her stunning debut album, Pure Heroine, in 2013. So far only two singles from the album- ‘Green Light’ and ‘Perfect Places’- have been released. The album focuses mainly on Lorde’s break-up with long term boyfriend James Lowe in 2015.

The album opens with the explosive hit Green Light. It’s the ultimate break-up song. There’s something so personal about it, whilst the lyrics are overlaid with a heavy syncopated piano and a strong dance feel. It’s an infectious opener, which stands strong as a single. It sets the tone of the album, as a break-up track- a theme which Lorde draws on a lot throughout.

Sober (again, with it’s syncopated beat) tells tales of growing up, late nights and love. It remains close to Lorde’s usual style. It incites a feeling of wanting to dance, the perfect party song.

Homemade Dynamite remains close to the style that made Lorde famous. It’s a brilliant song that is set to get crowds singing.

The Louvre is by far one of the strongest tracks on the album. It’s different to Lorde’s usual style, so much so that it’s refreshing. It’s a song about “having a crush”, Lorde told the audience at Glastonbury Festival, and that feeling of having a crush- the rush. The song encapsulates that ‘rush’, if you will. It’s filled with obsession, love, promise and hope. It holds a strong narrative, too.

This is followed on by the piano lead ‘Liability’, which is about that feeling of not fitting in, feeling too ‘different’, ‘weird’, “not good enough”, hopeless, almost. It’s gut wrenchingly poignant. I think it’s something most people can relate to in some respect and I think that’s why it commands so much respect as a song. It feels as though Lorde understands and connects with the audience, despite being personally confessional. It showcases her vulnerability as a writer and artist. A reprised- albeit more optimistic- version of Liability (‘Liability (Reprise)’) features later on in the album. It creates a somewhat theatrical sense, which makes it exciting to listen in full.

‘Hard Feelings/ Loveless’ is a post break up song. It’s incredibly sensitive and beautiful for a break up song. Lorde’s good at that. After 4 minutes, ‘Loveless’ plays after a sample- “what is this tape?This is my favourite place”- as if it’s almost not meant to be found. It’s a welcome treat.  Lorde sums up the modern generation as a “L-O-V-E-L-E-S-S Generation”, due to the way we love, through smartphones and Snapchat, as if it’s how she feels that she is meant to feel. She voices what is expected, what happens now, the norm. It’s interesting how she can go from writing such a reflective, passionate song and juxtapose it with a more generic, blunt break up song.

‘Sober II (Melodrama)’ feels like a triumphant reprise. It follows a narrative, like a show. The album is a spectacle itself and the almost theatrical side aides it. It feels like the album deserves to be played as one whole piece.

‘Writer in the Dark’ feels like it could’ve been a Kate Bush song. There’s something beautiful and fascinating about it. It’s one of the album’s key stand out tracks and unlike anything Lorde has done before. This versatility is what makes her so admirable.

‘Supercut’ seems almost like an epilogue for The Louvre. It feels reflective. Reflective of the last few years, of love, of fame, of friendships. It’s a beautiful song.

The final song on the album is ‘Perfect Places’. It’s the perfect closing track because it feels like it sums up the album. It sums up the life she appears to lead, the feeling of euphoric rush that comes with being young and tales of love and loss. It epitomises life. It feels triumphant, yet not overtly optimistic.

The concluding line “what the fuck are perfect places anyway?” is a lasting sentiment.

Lorde’s Melodrama is easily one of the strongest album’s of the year so far. It could quite easily have been a disaster, but Lorde pulled off the tricky second album with effortless ease. She did something different. She took risks. Ultimately, she told the story of life, of being young, of falling in and and out of love, of self deprecation and self worth and I think everyone can relate to that in some way. Lorde was young when she released Pure Heroine, she was championed by David Bowie and thrusted into the public eye, yet she has managed to grow and produce an incredibly mature, phenomenal record, which feels timeless.

 

Lorde-Melodrama (album review)

BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend Hull 2017 (Review)

This year’s BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend was held in Hull, at Hull’s Burton Constable Hall, on the 27th and 28th May 2017. The free music festival was jam packed with the biggest and hottest names in the music industry and was a huge success.  Katy Perry and Kings of Leon headlined the two day bank holiday weekend event, with acts like Two Door Cinema Club, Bastille and The Amazons playing across the weekend. It’s always one of the most fascinating and exciting music festivals of the summer, for where else can you watch Kings of Leon, Little Mix and Twin Atlantic all within a matter of hours?

I was lucky enough to attend the festival on the Sunday this year and the day was full of glorious pop music and all things Radio 1. Bands and artists played short hit fuelled sets (exactly the sort of thing you’d hear on the radio) with the station’s DJs playing in-between sets.

Here are my highlights (a very small selection of them)-

Little Mix opened the main stage on the Sunday. The X-Factor winning girl group played a phenomenal confetti filled set, full of all the hits (that you’d know even if you don’t- or rather won’t admit to- like), dancing timed to the second and huge, captivating graphics. It was totally feel good and empowering and distinctly awe-inspiring for the many families in the crowd. Little Mix are very clearly the biggest girl group in the music industry currently and what they’re doing for music is very significant, even if you don’t like it personally. The set felt special and unifying (especially considering the huge amounts of families, mainly children, in the crowd) after the tragic events in Manchester, which happened a matter of days before.

Bastille brought their worldwide tour (in support of their latest album, Wild World) to a sunny Hull and played an energetic afternoon set. The band played sing-a-long hits from their first album, Bad Blood, including ‘Flaws’ and the iconic ‘Pompeii’, as well as a whole host of songs from their UK number 1 2016 second album, Wild World. The highlights of the set was definitely when the single ‘Good Grief’ was played to a backdrop of post-modern, satirical, futuristic collage graphics.

Pop sensation Shawn Mendes brought illuminations to Hull with his Sunday set. Mendes brought all the hits to Burton Constable Hall in what transpired to be a huge sing-a-long spanning all ages. He played a selection of songs from his new album Illuminate, including the singles ‘There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back’, ‘Mercy’ and ‘Stitches’. It was the Radio sensation’s first ever festival performance and he performed it with ease.

Brighton’s brilliant rock duo Royal Blood played a huge set headlining the Where It Begins stage at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. The band played what could’ve been an arena show to a packed out tent, just before the release of their second album How Did it Get so Dark? (June 16th 2017). The band played a blend of stunning instrumental and memorable hit, including ‘Two Tonne Skeleton’, ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Figure it Out’ (from their 2014 debut album Royal Blood). The band also played new single ‘Lights Out’, which was met by applause from the eager crowd.

Scotland’s finest Twin Atlantic played the Where it Begins tent on Sunday afternoon to a captivated audience. The band played a riff filled set featuring songs from all four of their albums, including the latest album GLA (which was released last year). Frontman Sam McTrusty was full of energy as he leapt into the crowd and crowd surfed at the end of the set. Twin Atlantic are one of my personal favourite live bands ever because the energy their shows give off is just electric. You just have to experience it.

Alternative icons Circa Waves brought sun-kissed tunes and an overdue dance session to the sunny Hull festival. The band, who are consistently brilliant live, played a short set filled with songs from their 2015 debut album, Young Chasers, including ‘Fossils’, ‘Stuck in my Teeth’ and the fan favourite ‘T-Shirt Weather’, as well as a handful of tracks from their latest 2017 album, Different Creatures, including the mosh-pit inducing ‘Fire That Burn’s, ‘Goodbye’ and the single ‘Wake Up Call’. It was definitely one of the highlights for me.

Stockport’s finest Blossoms brought their huge debut album tour to Hull, one year on from their return to the festival as special guests on the BBC Introducing Stage in Exeter. Blossoms played a set filled with crowd pleasing hits, including ‘Blow’, ‘Blown Rose’ and ‘At Most a Kiss’. Like at ever Blossoms show, the band dedicated acoustic hit ‘My Favourite Room’ to a member of the crowd who had “recently been dumped”, an appreciated gesture. Lead singer Tom Ogden effortlessly merged the ending of the song into an impromptu mash-up of Babybird’s ‘You’re Gorgeous’ and Oasis’s ‘Half The World Away’, which the crowd loved. The band played latest single ‘This Moment’ (featuring Chase and Status) at the end of the set, before ending with the indie anthem ‘Charlemagne’, which never fails to excite a crowd.

The day was headlined by American rockers Kings of Leon, but their set was slightly lack lustre, bar the handful of iconic anthems the band have, which the audience and atmosphere made entirely. The band, whilst still sounding brilliant in instrument, played a 50 minute long set, which saw the audience consistently disintegrate throughout the set. The band’s iconic status made their headline set fitting, but their lack of connection to the mainly young, radio listening crowd seemed uncomfortable and awkward in part. It seemed as though the set was a year too late, as the hype for their latest album, Walls, had somewhat fizzled out. The band are set to headline British Summer Time in July though.

Overall the weekend was brilliant with plenty of huge sets. I’d like to mention how brilliant the tail end of Anne Marie’s set was (with the singer performing hits such as Christmas number one single, ‘Rockabye’, which was originally sung with Clean Bandit and latest single ‘Ciao Adios’), how fascinating Christine and the Queen’s captivating dancing was and the star filled Clean Bandit set, which was perfect for a Sunday afternoon dance.

BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend Hull 2017 (Review)

The Kooks- Best Of… So Far (Album Review)

The Kooks released a greatest hits record, Best Of… So Far, on the 19th May 2017, in support of their May 2017 greatest hits tour and Autumn/Winter UK arena tour. The album cements what makes the Brighton band and their infectious late 00’s indie-rock music so loveable, with a perfect blend of golden oldies spanning their impressive ten year career (including ‘Naïve’ and ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’), as well as brand new tracks, including the latest single ‘Be Who You Are’.

The albums with the band’s biggest hit ‘Naive’, which creates a buzz. The hits sound as good as ever, with iconic indie tracks such as ‘Shine On’, ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ and ‘Ooh La’ making the album. The album is a nostalgic dive into the band’s back catalogue, which is pretty respectable as they’ve been around for over 10 years. The band are the soundtrack of many people’s teenage years or childhood, so it’s nice to have all the songs you’ve loved over the years in one place (and there are many).

The album also features brand new songs, including the huge, optimistic ‘Be Who You Are’ and ‘Broken Vow’, which is all about the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. ‘Be Who You Are’ sounds similar to the band’s original material (which was the aim) and it’s unbelievably upbeat, catchy and optimistic. It also sounds pretty good live!

Overall, the album is an obvious choice for any fan of The Kooks or anyone who’s ever like ‘that song’ of theirs because I strongly believed you’d know loads of them and not know why. They’ve got some absolute bangers.

The Kooks- Best Of… So Far (Album Review)

The Kooks, Alexandra Palace (13/05/2017)

The Kooks played to a sold out crowd at London’s prestigious Alexandra Palace, on the 13th May 2017, on the final night of their sold out UK tour. The band were supported by Fickle Friends and Clean Cut Kid. The Kooks played a mix of new and old songs, as it was meant to be a greatest hits tour. They played a staggering 25 songs in total.

The band opened with ‘Eddie’s Gun’ from their first album, Inside In / Inside Out, which was released in 2006 (10 years ago!!) In total they sung 10 songs from their classic debut album, which were favourite amongst fans. The crowd went wild when songs like ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ (which they joked was their “only hit”) and ‘Ooh La’ were played.

The band debuted two new songs from their greatest hits album, which came out in late May. They’ve been playing ‘Be Who You Are’ and ‘Broken Vow’ on this tour, both of which translated well live and didn’t distract too much from the band’s performance of hits (a good choice when they could quite easily have overwhelmed everyone with unknown new tracks and really artsy B-Sides).

They played handfuls of songs from all of their albums (with it being a greatest hits tour and that and 10 years since the release of their debut), including ‘Bad Habit’ and ‘Down’, from their 2014 album, Listen, and ‘Always Where I Want To Be’ and ‘Sway’, from their 2008 album Konk. They also played ‘Pull Me In’, an initial EP B-Side that never saw the light as an album track. The band left the stage having played Junk of the Heart (Happy) (from their 2011 album of the same name) to a buzzing sold-out Alexandra Palace audience, who all sang and danced along (and even started a few unexpected moshpits).

The band played a three song encore. They played ‘Around Town’, the huge ‘Shine On’ and the band’s biggest hit and undeniable mammoth indie anthem ‘Naïve’, which was the highlight of the night for me. The crowd went wild for this song and confetti rained from the sky over a sea of excited concert goers. The night was a triumphant success.

The band then went on to play across Europe with Blossoms and are set to tour with the DMAs across the UK on another greatest hits tour at the end of the year, which, I’m sure, will be just as much fun.

The Kooks, Alexandra Palace (13/05/2017)