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

Album of the Year 2017

2017  was a year which saw the release of many massive albums, many of which challenged and changed the way we view music. The year was dominated by huge chart topping albums by globally recognised artists, like Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, many of which opened up the listener to a more intimate, sensitive side of the artist, by tackling so-called ‘taboo’ topics, such as mental health. There was also the return of politically loaded records, which were birthed from the political and social upheaval of the last few years, and we saw a whole host of women take the reins in the album charts with hugely deserved hit albums. It’s no surprise this year’s top five albums were the hardest to choose yet.

Here’s my top five:

5) DUMB BLOOD– VANT

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when I heard VANT’s debut album, DUMB BLOOD, for the first time all the way back in February. Pre-release the album already boasted a plethora of successful, punchy statement singles, including ‘FLY-BY ALIEN’, ‘PARKING LOT’ and ‘KARMA SEEKER’. The album- which was released on the hugely successful and influential major record label Parlophone– takes on current world events (such as war and climate change), the band’s shared frustrations about God and peace and, crucially, voices a ‘lost’ generation through a major platform. The album itself has an almost revolutionary punk feel, whilst remaining true to its indie-rock, guitar roots. It feels like a statement. Sadly, this will be the last album from the London based band, as they announced their indefinite hiatus later on in the year, but this is definitely one of the greatest things to have come out of 2017.

4) Visions of a Life– Wolf Alice

The second album is often said to be a tricky one, especially when your debut album gained you a Mercury Prize nomination and a Grammy nod, but Wolf Alice returned blasé about any of that. The album’s raucous lead single, ‘Yuk Foo’, thoroughly cemented their return, with its shouted lyrics and self-assured sentiment. Wolf Alice finally seemed comfortable with their sound, and didn’t really care if you didn’t. They went onto release the far from cheesy love song ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ and effortlessly cool ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ before the album’s full release, which exemplified their versatility. Their sound felt more sophisticated and polished than ever before, yet as experimental as ever. Songs like ‘Formidable Cool’, ‘Planet Hunter’ and ‘Space and Time’, which shows glimmer of a 1980s Blondie within it, are stand alone hits, which sit nicely within their already brilliant back catalogue too.

3) After Laughter– Paramore

I don’t think many people were expecting Paramore’s return so soon. The band had lost bassist Jeremy Davis, were caught in the midst of a fierce legal battle and lead singer Hayley Williams had been going through hard times of her own. But right from the heart of the flames, rose an After Laughter shaped Phoenix, which couldn’t have been any more triumphant. Ex-drummer Zac Farro rejoined the band and they managed to put together a bold 12 track album- produced by guitarist Taylor York and previous collaborator Justin Meldal-Johnsen. The lead single ‘Hard Times’ was a huge upbeat, 80s influenced, guilt free ‘pop’ song- a far cry from the days of Riot! and All We Know if Falling. So what though? The album is mostly upbeat, but outlines the struggles of the last few years, of love and loss, of mental health struggles and the strain of fame, with a melancholic undertone. It feels intimate and comfortable, as opposed to the experimental nature of 2013’s self-titled sensation, Paramore. Songs like ‘Caught in the Middle’, ‘Rose-Coloured Boy’ and ‘Fake Happy’ are songs you want to belt out in the car, in the shower, at huge sold-out concerts. Music can unite people and I think this album brought the band closer to the fans. Paramore have really regenerated themselves in a way which sees them bare all to the listener. It would’ve been very easy for Paramore to give up and yet from the turmoil came this gem of an album.

2) What Do You Think About The Car? -Declan McKenna

There aren’t many 18 year olds who can say they’ve put out a top 20 album, played some of the world’s biggest festivals and have already been recognised for their incredible success, but Declan McKenna has certainly achieved all those things. What Do You Think About The Car? is one of the year’s most thought provoking albums. It brings up questions of world politics and challenges ideas of society through McKenna’s cleverly written, witty lyrics. The debut album features previously released singles, including the FIFA 2014 World Cup corruption inspired ‘Brazil’, ‘Isombard’, where McKenna imagines the narrative of a right wing, ‘Fox News’ style character, and ‘Paracetamol’, which focuses on the representation of transgender people in the media, as well as exciting new tracks, such as ‘Why Do You Feel So Down?’ and ‘Listen to Your Friends’, which features a cleverly written bridge. He broaches subjects with a concise sensitivity, which questions the absurdity of the world we live in. It’s very refreshing to hear. The references are often subtle, so the songs can be enjoyed plainly as good, exciting indie-rock too. Declan Mckenna seems to be leading the way in up and coming music and I’m looking forward to seeing what else comes from his success.

1) Melodrama– Lorde

Each year there seems to be an album so clearly above any other album released that year, last year it was The 1975’s cinematic second album and this year it’s Lorde’s stunning Melodrama.

When Lorde released her debut album, Pure Heroine, she was 16 years old. She sang of love and lust, as well as the struggles of being a teenager who was ‘different’. She sang with a maturity which seemed far beyond her years, in a style that crossed genres and was championed by the likes of David Bowie. The album- and its hit single ‘Royals’- won the New Zealand born singer two Grammy’s, out of four nominations. So, where do you go from there?

Lorde returned early last year, off the back of her first major heartbreak, with the album’s lead single ‘Green Light’. The song went on to be one of the summer’s biggest releases, with its gloriously feel good, upbeat dance vibe and its infectiously catchy, in-part nonsensical- or rather metaphorical- lyrics. The song created a huge buzz for the new album.

The highly anticipated Melodrama was released on June 16th 2017 in the UK and I remember rushing out to buy it the next day. We played it for the first time in the car, whilst driving down country lanes on a hot and sunny summer afternoon, and I remember feeling as though the album was special. The album opens up with ‘Green Light’, but takes us on a creative vision and artistic journey into the minds of both Lorde and her collaborator/producer Jack Antonoff (who has also worked with Taylor Swift and Pink this year). It’s an album which demands to be heard in full. It commands the respect of vinyl, a format on which it is due to be released on early next year, whilst still allowing the listener to dip in to it for a quick fix. The lyrics seem more mature than that on Pure Heroine, as if she has had to grow up over the last few years, literally in age and through the experiences she has had. They centre on heartbreak and loss, as well as growing up on the whole. Notably, ‘The Louvre’ is the album’s obvious stand out. Lorde manages to encapsulate a feeling of intense infatuation, which many can relate to, through a doting love song. The lyrics “but we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in The Louvre, down the back, but who cares still the Louvre” are, by far, the greatest of 2017. ‘Liability’ is also extremely poignant. It focuses on self-image and introspection, which is incredibly intimate in itself. Lorde seems to focus on how she feels the world around her sees her and how she herself fits into it, whilst laying out the flaws she finds within herself. She releases her self-worth, as the song is reprised later on in the album. We grow up with her. In addition, ‘Writer in the Dark’ has an incredible undertone of Kate Bush within it, whilst the use of samples in ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ seems to add another dimension to the album.

Melodrama is a masterpiece.

 

Here it seems obvious to mention- despite just falling short of my top five- Ed Sheeran’s third album Divide. Any album which can hoard the top 16 of the UK singles charts (yes, that’s every single song on the album, including the deluxe bonus tracks), go double platinum immediately and outsell any other album in its first week ever, outselling the combined next 500 most popular albums that week, deserves some credit. The album- and Sheeran himself- is extraordinarily clever. There’s a song on there for every type of music fan- from dance to rap to ballads to pure pop. You literally cannot escape ‘Shape of You’ and I guarantee you that once it’s played you’ll have its catchy chorus and hook lingering in your head for hours.

Other artists to narrowly miss out on the top five were Blaenavon’s debut That’s Your Lot, Sundara Karma’s Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect, Marika Hackman’s I’m Not Your Man, Stormzy’s Gang Signs and Prayer, Will Joseph Cook’s Sweet Dreamer, Superfood’s Bambino, Dua Lipa’s self titled debut, Dua Lipa, amongst others.

In 2018, I’m looking forward to album releases by Fickle Friends, The Vaccines, The Wombats, The 1975 (with Music For Cars), and Arctic Monkeys. I’m saying Arctic Monkeys will resurface between September and November… Unless they’re feeling friendly and want to headline a summer festival- then they’ll be back by May! Who know’s what’ll make it onto this list in the next year, but I do know that I’m excited about what’s to come.

Album of the Year 2017

Reading Festival, 25th-27th August 2017 (Festival Review)

So Reading (and Leeds) Festival is over for another year and this year’s festival was a huge success. The event, held at Richfield Avenue, took place from Friday 25th August to the 27th August and was headlined by Kasabian, Eminem and Muse. There were a couple of (not so) secret sets over the weekend too, including appearances from Wolf Alice and Queens of the Stone Age (who will no doubt be back next year, perhaps the latter as headliners).

Here are my highlights:

Friday

The Magic Gang played a triumphant late morning set on the BBC/NME Stage to set off an exciting weekend of live music. The Brighton band played an enthusiastic and energetic set, filled with previously released songs- including ‘All This Way’ and ‘Jasmine’- as well as their latest single ‘Your Love’.

If you haven’t seen Declan McKenna in 2017 then I don’t know where you’ve been! He’s played pretty much every UK festival and Reading and Leeds was no exception. The 18-year-old played his first ever Reading and Leeds set (having attended Reading for the past two years) on the BBC/NME Stage to a packed out audience. McKenna sang songs from his debut album- What Do You Think About The Car?– and jumped into the audience a few times in the set, with the first time unsuccessfully ending up in the middle of a mosh pit. McKenna laughed off forgetting the words to ‘Paracetamol’ and continued to gleefully run around the stage as the audience sang, cheered and clapped along. Declan McKenna knows how to excite an audience.

Anne-Marie might not have seemed an obvious choice for Reading Festival, but by the sheer amount of people who turned up to see the ‘Rockabye’ singer she’s clearly a popular one. The singer played a mixture of singles, including ‘Do It’ and ‘Alarm’, and lesser known songs, before ending with the hit-singles ‘Ciao Adios’ and a stunning version of Clean Bandit’s ‘Rockabye’, which she features on. The audience were in awe as she sang pitch perfect songs and as she jumped into the crowd to take selfies with the audience.

It’s been quite a year for Two Door Cinema Club. Last year they headlined the BBC/NME Stage and now they’re creeping up the Main Stage line-up, with a new album and countless tours under their belts. Two Door Cinema Club know how to put together a good setlist, which featured hit after hit and a copious amount of fan favourites. They always put on a good, feel-good show.

Bastille brought the Wild Word tour to Reading Festival, with brilliant visuals and stories of politics and life laced throughout. The band played songs spanning their back catalogue and the radio-hits from their latest album. The drumming on Pompeii was an obvious highlight, as the audience loved singing along.

British rock band You Me At Six closed the first day of the BBC/NME Stage. The set- which featured huge pyrotechnic displays- was plagued by technical difficulties, which prompted a spine-tingling acapella rendition of ‘Lover Boy’ from the album Sinners Never Sleep. The band played under a sea of mobile phone lights and lighters during ‘Take On The World’, before bringing guitar lead rock hit after hit to the Reading Stage. The band treated fans to songs from their debut album- Take Off Your Colours– ahead of its 10 year anniversary next year, with front man Josh Franceschi telling his desires of wanting to do an anniversary tour next year. The band were on top form that night.

Saturday

The not-so-secret secret act Wolf Alice played to dedicated fans and festival goers at 11:00am on Saturday morning. The set was incredibly lively with famous fans, label mates and onlookers (including The 1975’s Matty Healy and Slaves’ Isaac Holman) stood side of the stage. The band played songs from their 2015 debut album, My Love Is Cool, and showcased new songs from their forthcoming second album, Visions of a Life, including the singles ‘Yuk Foo’, ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ and ‘Don’t’ Delete The Kisses’. The atmosphere was incredible.

Blaenavon played the BBC/NME Stage early on in the day. The band brought That’s Your Lot to Reading Festival and treated the crowd to their mature, alternative music. The band played songs including ‘Orthodox Man’, ‘Let’s Pray’ and the stunning ‘Prague’ before front man Ben Gregory jumped into the crowd.

Dan Stock played on the BBC Introducing Stage. Singer songwriter Dan Stock stood solo centre stage and played as if he were playing to an arena. His lyrically clever and satisfying songs echoed that of Alex Turner and his assured stage presence commanded the respect of Jake Bugg, Declan McKenna or Liam Fray. With the aid of a band (eventually) he could become pretty huge. He’s definitely one to watch.

A couple of weeks before Superfood released their triumphant ‘comeback’ album Bambino the band played Reading Festival. The festival gave a platform for the band to showcase songs from the upcoming album, including ‘Where’s The Bass Amp?’, ‘Double Dutch’ and ‘I Can’t See’, throughout which they encouraged the audience to dance. The band also played tracks from their 2014 debut album Don’t Say That, including the song ‘Superfood’.

Ahead of their biggest UK tour to date (which features shows at London’s O2 Brixton Academy) Sundara Karma delighted the Reading audience to a spectacular homecoming show. The Reading band played a no-gimmick set filled with tracks off of their (now extended) debut album, Youth is Only Every Fun in Retrospect, which was released earlier this year. The band opened up the Main Stage at Reading Festival last year in what turned out to be a career defining performance and this felt like a triumphant progression. Sundara Karma are continuing to make waves with their effortlessly cool, alternative music and the fans sure are loving it.

Everything Everything played a lot of their new album A Fever Dream at this year’s Reading Festival. The band’s set featured heavily a lot of new tracks, including the single ‘Can’t Do’, with the odd fan favourite peppered in to the audience’s excitement. The highlight of the set was the weirdly wonderful ‘No Reptiles’, with its absurd, yet clever lyrics and infectiously catchy nature, with songs like ‘Distant Past’, ‘Kemosabe’ and ‘Spring Summer Winter Dread’ also loved by the fans. It’s great to see Everything Everything back with refreshing new material though, even if it seems relatively toned down compared to what came prior to it.

Glass Animals are a band so powerful that they brought on an entire pineapple ban at this year’s festival. The Oxford band brought How To Be A Human Being to Reading with it’s chilled out, psychedelic (almost) tracks and performed in front of the world’s largest golden pineapple disco ball and a plethora of pineapples and cacti on stage. The ban on pineapples did not stop fans from smuggling the odd pineapple in, as those successful sat holding their prize goods high on top of the shoulders, commanding proud applause. The band opened up with the gloriously energetic ‘Life Itself’ and closed with the song that brought on an entire fruit ban, ‘Pork Soda’. Front man Dave Bayely even performed the entirety of ‘Gooey’, from their debut album, stood in the crowd. It was a sight to behold.

Sunday

Ten Tonnes played to a packed out tent full of festival goers on the Festival Republic Stage. The singer songwriter graduated from The BBC Introducing Stage, which he played last year, onto the Festival Republic Stage in a move that felt fitting with his growing audience. Ethan Barnett- as he’s formally known- is gathering momentum, with his catchy, easy to love, feel-good songs.

Up and coming London band King Nun played a raucous Sunday afternoon set on the Festival Republic Stage, where they showcased previously released singles including ‘Speakerface’ and ‘Tulip’. Their punk riddled indie-rock music proved popular with the young crowd who jumped, danced and moshed accordingly.

The Sherlocks returned to Reading Festival for the third year, having progressed up to the BBC/NME Stage this year. The tent was filled with fans and flares and had a similar feeling of excitement to that of a Courteeners concert. This came a week after their debut album, Live For The Moment, was released, so the band treated fans with hit after hit from the album.

Will Joseph Cook brought his gloriously, sun-kissed indie-rock tunes to a blissful Reading Festival late on a sunny Sunday afternoon. His set rivalled Giggs’ on the Main Stage- who brought pop/hip-hop sensation out Drake– and the atmosphere in the tent was chilled out in comparison. He played a whole host of songs from his debut album, Sweet Dreamer, and also treated fans to songs from his earlier EPs.

Blossoms played a tricky set before Liam Gallagher on the Main Stage. Blossoms are a band completely capable and worthy of playing huge stages, but this felt as though they were swimming against the tide, with crowds refusing to participate, Muse fans sitting about in preparation for the evening, huge lack of singing, support and engagement with the audience. The band seemed to pick up on this and it all felt a bit depleting. Having said this, the Stockport lads delivered a set full of the hits- with everyone going crazy for biggest hit ‘Charlemagne’- from their debut self-titled albums, with the usual gimmicks thrown in for good measure. I could probably recite the whole set by this point; it’s quite predictable now!

Liam Gallagher performed a gallant set on the Main Stage at Reading Festival before headliner Muse. The icon, clad in his usual green trench coat, sunglasses and iconic haircut, sang Oasis hits (including ‘Morning Glory’ and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’) and songs from his forthcoming debut album, As You Were, which is due for release in October. Gallagher ended his set with the indie classic and obvious anthem ‘Wonderwall’, which saw fans of all ages united in song. Liam actually sounded top of his game though and seemed as happy as ever.

Halsey played the BBC/NME Stage whilst her North American tour mate Charli XCX brought her iconic pop hits and bubble-gum pop to the Dance Stage. Charli XCX played surrounded by pink confetti, dancing blow up ‘people’ (I suppose) and her all-female band and brought the party to the festival. The tent overspilled with people jumping and dancing all around. Definitely a highlight.

Haim closed the BBC/NME Stage at Reading Festival with a spectacular headline set. The band’s performance was a year over-due, as they cancelled their headline slot last year due to wanting to finish up their new album, but it was definitely worth the wait. The band played hits from their first album- Days Are Gone – and their latest album, Something To Tell You. The set featured a lot of dancing, bursts of humorous chat, a bucket full of bass face and the most captivating drumming display ending. Definitely a huge highlight over the weekend.

Overall, it was another great Reading Festival and the strong line-up proves why the festival is still going so strong after so many years. The good festivals do it properly and well, setting them miles apart from the rest.

 

Reading Festival, 25th-27th August 2017 (Festival Review)

Declan McKenna- What Do You Think About The Car? (Album Review)

Declan McKenna released his debut album- What Do You Think About The Car? – on the 21st July 2017, on Columbia Records. The album is full of the songs we’ve been loving for years now and the album is nothing short of a success.

“Dec, what do you think about the car? Do you like it?” “I think it’s really good and I’m going to sing my new album now” sounds a sample at the very beginning of the record before bursting into the infectious single ‘Humungous’. The track is humungous and powerful. It’s full of energy. It leads the listener into tracks he’s previously released, tracks we’ve heard before as an audience. The mix of new tracks and established favourites makes this album particularly exciting. Singles like ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home’ fit perfectly into the context of an album, but are still strong enough to be popular singles. They’re statements. A collection of expressions and confessions.

If there’s anything Declan McKenna can do well it’s writing huge politically charged tracks which sound relatively uplifting and cheerful despite their often deep, reflective lyrics- see ‘Paracetamol’, biggest hit ‘Brazil’ and ‘Bethlehem’. He takes on the role of character and narrator to write incredibly introspective and a close, educated study of the world around him. Similarly, ‘I Am Everyone Else’ is a track about, according to McKenna, politicians pretending to represent the masses and how they try and act and appear ‘normal’. This theme appears a lot throughout.

Songs like ‘Mind’ and ‘Make Me Your Queen’ drawn on studies of love and loss. They work nicely between all the politically laced tracks. ‘Why Do You Feel So Down?’ feels sympathetic. It’s rooted with sadness.

The final track on the album ‘Listen to Your Friends’ is by far the most triumphant song on the album. It feels like he’s establishing something, a lasting message. There’s a spoken word bridge during the song, which again draws on global politics (covering the school holiday ban, the psychoactive substance ban, free health care etc.). It’s incredibly informed and interesting. It forces the listener to reflect, other than that it’s just an incredibly catchy song.

Overall, Declan McKenna’s debut album is a huge success and is easily one of the best albums of the year so far. It’s incredibly well thought out, tackles huge topics and thought provoking. I can’t wait to see what McKenna does next. I know it’ll be big.

Declan Mckenna sets off on a UK tour in October.

 

Declan McKenna- What Do You Think About The Car? (Album Review)

July 2017- What I’m Listening To

 

Wolf Alice have finally given us a taste of their upcoming second album ‘Visions of a Life’ with the explosive Yuk Foo. It’s thrilling from start to finish, with it’s no-nonsense attitude and lyrics. There’s elements that remind me a bit of Courtney Barnett within in.  The band went on to release the second track from the record, ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, which couldn’t be any more different from the first single. It’s lyrics are almost poetic and are simply quite beautiful. It tells a tale people can relate to personally, which I love. The inner tourment of a love, contrast with the story what’s going on in reality.  The two songs show Wolf Alice’s complete versatility and I trust them fully. I can’t wait to hear more from the album.

The first ever TRNSMT festival, which was held on Glasgow Green from the 7th-9th July, was a huge success. The event saw Radiohead, Kasabian and Scottish rock God’s Biffy Clyro headline, with acts like Stormzy, Catfish and the Bottlemen, George Ezra (who posted A LOT about how good the event was) and ‘special guests’ The 1975, who played one of their final shows from the I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It era, play accross the weekend.

Ed Sheeran announced a mammoth 2018 UK tour this month, which, obviously, sold out in seconds. The UK leg of the world tour see Sheeran play shows at Wembley Stadium and Manchester’s Etihad Stadium. Sheeran is no stranger to playing huge sold out shows- he sold out three nights at Wembley Stadium on his 2014 X tour. These shows sound absolutely massive and not one to be missed.

What the world definitely needed was a Mystery Jets Retrospective Tour, whereby the band will play each of their albums in full across five nights at The Garage in London. The residency kicks off on the 25th September with Making Dens. Personally, I’m more of a Twenty One person myself (it’s one of my absolute favourite albums).

Wolf Alice are back playing shows for the first time since they finished touring with My Love Is Cool last year.  The London band have released a set of dates at intimate venues across the country to celebrate where it all started. This includes a date at The Boileroom in Guildford at the end of August. I can’t WAIT to hear more new Wolf Alice material myself and the band are insane live. You’ll have to be extremely lucky to get tickets.

Lana Del Rey announced a one off date at the O2 Academy Brixton on the 18th July 2017. The event took place days later on the 24th and sold out instantly. It’s the American singer’s first UK show in four years and could be hinting at more in the future. The singer sang hits including ‘Born to Die’ and ‘Video Games’, as well as a few new songs from her latest album Lust For Life.

Liam Fray has announced a solo acoustic tour for the end of 2017. The now fully sold out event- with various upgraded venues to accommodate the huge demand- sees the Courteeners front man play acoustic versions of the band’s biggest hits. I was lucky enough to see Liam Fray sing at an acoustic concert at Banquet Records last year and it was absolutely brilliant. I couldn’t recommend it more.

Linkin Park’s frontman Chester Bennington sadly passed away on the 20th July. The news is extremely shocking and sad and my thoughts go out to all the friends, family and fans.

The BBC announced their Live Lounge Month line up this month, which sees a different band/artist play in the prestigious Live Lounge everyday throughout September. This year’s line-up includes sets from the legendary Foo Fighters, George Ezra and even Coldplay front man Chris Martin.

This year’s Mercury Award nominations have been announced. The shortlist includes incredible albums including Glass Animal’s How To Be A Human Being, Blossoms’ self titled debut album and Alt-J’s most recent album RELAXER. Other nominees are The XX, Loyle Carner, Stormzy, Ed Sheeran and The Big Moon. This year’s shortlist is the toughest yet, with competition being extremely tough. I might do a follow up post on all the nominees at some point because this year’s is an absolute gem.

Who isn’t in Charli XCX’s new video for ‘Boys’? There’s everyone from Liam Fray to Mac DeMarco, Joe Jonas, Mark Ronson, Brendan Urie and Fred MacPherson. I suggest you watch it… Playing spot the famous ‘boy’ is a lot of fun!

This month I’ve been listening to a lot of Haim’s latest album (which came out this month). I’ve also been enjoying a lot of Declan McKenna (as his debut came out this month too and it’s a hell of an album) and Dua Lipa. Tom Grennan is my spot of the month- he’s utterly brilliant! There’s vintage Courteeners and new Wolf Alice too.

Next month there’s so much to look forward too. The main thing being Reading Festival, of course!

July 2017- What I’m Listening To

Declan McKenna- The Hippodrome, Banquet Records, 21/07/2017 (Live Review)

You can’t deny that Declan McKenna works hard. It’s barely even August and he’s already been on two headline UK tours, an international tour, put out a brilliant debut album AND is playing pretty much every significant festival in the UK that you can name and yet his album tour seemed like the most exciting and intimate yet.

On the 21st July 2017- on the evening of album release day- 18-year-old Declan McKenna and his band (the emphasis on age is boring but important because his achievements are so huge) played to an enthusiastic, young crowd for Kingston’s Banquet Records at The Hippodrome. The set- whilst usually only half an hour at a typical Banquet Records release show- was worthy of a full concert title, as it lasted little under an hour. The best part being that he met and signed every single record in the record shop before hand, an appreciated move that made the event extra special (especially as it cost only the price of the CD, which felt like an absolute steal at around £10).

McKenna opened with EP favourites ‘Isombard’ and ‘Bethlehem’, before delving into tracks off his debut- What Do You Think About The Car? – as expected at an album release show. McKenna played new tracks at “a pocket sized Declan McKenna gig with allllll his frieeeennndssss”, including ‘Make Me Your Queen’, ‘The Kids Don’t Want to Come Home’ and latest single ‘Humongous’. He played ‘Listen to Your Friends’ after asking “if anyone actually knew that one yet”, which was, surprisingly, met with a roar of applause. The audience sung word for word to all the songs, new and old.  He regularly paused in between and even during songs to check up on the audience who were becoming increasingly squashed in the excitement. He urged everyone to “look out for each other”.

Declan McKenna popped up in all manner of places during the set. He regularly popped up along the front before running around the crowd to the back during an impromptu break-out into The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’ over chants of ‘OOOOH JEREMY COOOORBYNNN’ in the same rhythm. His playing in the middle of the crowd was short lived as he was swamped by fans and anxious security guards who couldn’t quite put their fingers on what he’d do next. His unpredictability made the set even more exciting.

‘Paracetamol’ was, as always, a highlight, as there’s nothing more exciting than a huge sing-a-long  to such a powerful, deep song, but, of course, ‘Brazil’ proved the most energetic closer. No crowd-surfing I’d like to add though. Not this time… I think he’d have been torn apart. The fans were pretty eager!

I’d like more “pocket sized Declan McKenna gigs” please, but I fear they’re only going to get bigger from now on and rightfully so.

 

Declan McKenna- The Hippodrome, Banquet Records, 21/07/2017 (Live Review)

Glastonbury Festival 2017 Review

*Apologies that these posts have taken an age. We’ve been without internet for nearly a month!*

This year’s Glastonbury Festival took place on Worthy Farm from the 22nd-27th June. The festival was headlined by Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran, with Bee Gee Barry Gibb playing the festival’s prestigious Sunday afternoon legends slot. Other notable acts across the weekend included Lorde, The Courteeners and Declan McKenna. The Killers performed a surprise set, which was headline worthy, on the John Peel Stage, and Elbow, too, performed a surprise set, which was on The Park Stage, on Friday.

This year’s festival felt very exciting. It came at a time of political unrest (a year on from Brexit), great new music- with grime deservedly taking centre stage- and a line-up sufficient to fill the Glastonbury shaped gap in the festival calendar next year, when they take a fallow year. This year’s festival was surprisingly sunny too- result!

Friday 23rd June

Glass Animals, BBC Introducing – There’s little more exciting than the opening act on the BBC Introducing Stage. It’s often big enough- yet secret and special enough- to rival whatever 80s legend is playing a killer set on The Other Stage, in this case it was The Pretenders (who played a pretty brilliant set). In recent years we’ve seen the likes of Circa Waves and plenty of other BBC Introducing alumni christen the stage, but this year it was the turn of glorious, indie art-pop band Glass Animals. The stripped back set was extremely short and sweet- a mere four songs long- but left the audience hungry (perhaps because of the sheer volume of pineapples dotted about the stage and throughout the audience) for their full band performance later that day. They played ‘Life Itself’ and ‘Season 2 Episode 3’, at the audience’s request, from their latest album How to be a Human Being, which was released later last year. They also played the hit ‘Gooey’ and ‘Black Mambo’, from their 2014 debut album ZABA.

Blossoms, The Pyramid Stage – It’s always brilliant to see a band graduate onto the prestigious Pyramid Stage (we saw Wolf Alice triumphantly do it in 2016), but none more refreshing, exciting or well deserved than that of Blossoms’ early afternoon set. The band played a setlist filled mainly with songs from their debut album Blossoms, which was released last year, with the odd B-Side and latest single ‘This Moment’ with Chase and Status thrown in for good measure. I’ve seen enough Blossoms shows over the last year to say that this was nothing much different to the rest yet this felt extra special. The sheer volume of the crowd reflected the huge year that Blossoms have had and it’s great to see them finally get the recognition they deserve.

Declan McKenna, John Peel Stage – 18-year-old Declan McKenna is no stranger to Glastonbury Festival, but this was his first taste of major stage success, despite being given the chance to play the same stage two years prior. The set came just weeks before the release of his stunning debut album, What Do You Think About the Car? It felt like a pivotal set of his career, with the chance to open up his already huge fan base to a totally different audience. His youthful depictions of life, love and-importantly- politics are refreshing and his energetic stage presence is exciting. He ran about and scaled things like any 18-year-old playing Glastonbury would dream of doing. He even crowd surfed, much to the securities dismay. He played again over the weekend (Sunday on the Left Field Stage, which seemed very fitting). I recommend you watch out for Declan McKenna; he’s only just getting started.

George Ezra, The Other Stage – George Ezra played the ultimate feel good, sing-a-long set on The Other Stage. His set rivalled an unannounced, not-so-secret set by Elbow on The Park Stage, yet the size of his crowd wasn’t hindered by this. Ezra played all the hits from his first album, opening with a jazzed-up, trumpet filled ‘Cassy-O’, closely followed by ‘Barcelona’ and ‘Blame It On Me’ and ‘Listen to the Man’, from his first album, Wanted On Voyage. George Ezra also showcased many a song from his long awaited second album, speaking tales of writing the album- like a delightful in person version of his weekly email updates- and what he learnt in the process of making it. He encouraged the crowd to sing along with his new songs, which they did and they did loudly. He even played his latest single ‘Don’t Matter Now’, which, at the time, had only been out for a matter of weeks and yet everyone knew all the words. When he ended with undoubtedly his biggest hit, ‘Budapest’, he seemed somewhat overwhelmed and moved by the audience’s reaction. He didn’t even need to sing it because the audience sang it so loudly for him! George Ezra is always a pleasure to see, but he really does pull out the stops for Glastonbury.

Lorde, The Other Stage – Lorde played Glastonbury for the first time this year, but she was welcomed as if she was a regular. There’s not many times that I’m emotionally moved by a performance, but Lorde’s set was something else. It seemed dramatic, theatrical, a spectacle- all words which, too, describe her incredible second album, Melodrama. Her second album was released a week to the day and Lorde described it as celebrating the album’s “birthday”. She performed in front of a moving glass cage-type contraption. Various actors would fill the container and interact to the music with one another, in front of a changing screen, using props. This was not a gimmick. At first I was confused, but the theatrical performance seemed fitting with the huge, dramatic production. Lorde opened with a short, orchestra lead version of ‘Green Light’ before bursting into a set full of new and old favourites. The pinnacle point of the set was Lorde performing ‘The Louvre’, from her latest album, which she explained was about “having a crush” and urged the audience to “close their eyes” and think of their crush when listening to the song. This flowed seamlessly into the emotional “The Louvre”, whereby Lorde sat on the front of the stage and explained how it was a song about “not feeling like you’re good enough”. It was highly emotional and felt incredible intimate, ironic given the setting. Lorde sang and danced throughout, even ending up in the crowd at points. She played an incredible set, one which topped my entire weekend.

Saturday 24th June

The Magic Gang, William’s Green – Brighton’s own The Magic Gang managed to bring their chilled indie-rock to an eager crowd on the Saturday morning of Glastonbury Festival. Many a huge band have played William’s Green at some point in their career and I’m sure this won’t be the last time we see The Magic Gang at the festival. The band played a selection of tracks from their EPs, including latest single ‘Your Love’, and the audience loved every minute of it.

The Amazons, John Peel – I’m a huge supporter of The Amazons and love their music, but if ever there was a moment you don’t want to have your electrics fail on you this was it. The set was laced with technical issues but proved triumphant nonetheless. The band played to a packed out John Peel tent, which is a promising sign for any up and coming artist, and played the majority of their 2017 self-titled debut album. The set was full of highlights, from the bold ‘Junk Food Forever’ to fan favourite ‘Black Magic’.

Katy Perry, The Pyramid Stage – When faced with the hideous clash between Liam Gallagher and Katy Perry, who do you choose? I spoke to a guy who saw both and his verdict was Perry. The risk of missing a potential- yet hideously unlikely- Oasis reunion tempted the masses but pop-sensation Katy Perry played to nothing short of a full Pyramid field. I find Katy Perry extremely fascinating and her bubbly stage presence and brash production overtly captivating. The set was odd from start to finish (what else would you expect?). Perry came out dressed as some sort of sparkly school child- pink hat and rucksack in tow- with latest album eye logo plastered pretty much everywhere. There was a huge pink moving eye, pom-pom clad dancers a plenty and confetti cannons to make any audience happy. Gimmicky? Maybe. Fascinating and theatrical? Absolutely. Perry played hits from her latest album, including the singles ‘Chained to the Rhythm’, ‘Bon Appétit’ and ‘Swish Swish’, but ultimately it felt obvious she was there to sell her latest album- Witness– which had recently (unfairly) flopped in the charts. Perry played unknown song upon unknown song from her latest album, which became slightly laborious after a while. Having said that, the odd hit she peppered in was absolutely incredible and the atmosphere was buzzing. The mash-up of hits and (infuriating) rearrangement of ‘Teenage Dream’ made up for the lack of desire for the newer songs. You can’t say she’s not entertaining though!

Alt-J, Headliners of The Other Stage – We tried the HUGE (on all accounts) Pyramid Stage set Foo Fighters, which was filled with hit upon hit from their massive expansive back catalogue, tributes to Florence and the Machine’s 2015 filler- but killer- headline set and two and a half or so hours of Dave Grohl being the absolute legend he is, but settled for Alt-J’s euphoric Other Stage headline set. Alt-J are a band I’m fascinated by. Their live sets always feel as though they’re an experience. A journey. This was no exception. The audience were taken on a journey through the last few years of Alt J material, as each song was seamlessly- and effortlessly- sewn together by instrumental and an impressive light show. Alt-J proved that they know how to navigate a good headline set.

Sunday 25th June  

Sundara Karma, John Peel Stage – You can’t go far without escaping the up and coming indie kings that are Sundara Karma and rightly so. Sundara Karma have picked up massive momentum this year, having released their huge debut album Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect, toured the UK both on a headline tour and with indie legends Two Door Cinema Club and set to embark on a huge tour which includes a date at the Brixton Academy. The tent was filled with new and old fans, as they played songs from their debut in both its standard and recently released extended form. I’m beyond excited to see where this leads them, but things are looking up- perhaps they’ll do a Wolf Alice or Blossoms and we’ll see them on the Pyramid Stage in a matter of years?

Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, The Other Stage – Is there anything Rag ‘N’ Bone Man can’t do? More specifically, is there anything he can’t do without total grace and gratitude? Brighton’s Rag ‘N’ Bone Man seemed to soak up and enjoy every minute of his Glastonbury set. He seemed genuinely grateful that so many people had turned out to watch his hour long set and that’s something that came through in his flawless singing. He sang many a song from his debut album ‘Human’, which was released earlier this year, including the pop-hit title track and others, including ‘Skin’ and ‘Wolves’. He even brought out and shared the stage with his previous rap collective, an understandable yet contradictory move away from his famous soulful voice. He’s a special act.

The Killers, The John Peel Stage – The weekend had been swarming with rumours as to what the mysterious Sunday John Peel Stage TBA act could be. The area was so heaving they had to block all entrances off and stop more people from entering the field and people spilled out of the tent in all directions (you were lucky if you could get close). Luckily, the set turned out to be none other than The Killers, who played a headline worthy set. The band rattled through their hits- ‘Somebody Told Me’, ‘When You Were Young’, ‘Smile Like You Mean it’- as well as their infectious new single, ‘The Man’. Brandon Flowers needn’t sing as the crowd sung along (loudly) word for word on every single song. It was pretty incredible really. The hightlights included the bridge of ‘All These Things I’ve Done’ where thousands sung ‘I got soul, but I’m not a soldier’ back to a blown away Flowers and, of course, Mr Brightside, which still remains one of the greatest songs of all times.

Biffy Clyro, The Pyramid Stage – Biffy Fucking Clyro played Glaston-fucking-bury for the first time in a few years and they had been missed. The band played a hit-filled, guitar fuelled set which could quite easily have filled a headline slot. It’s refreshing to see such an incredible rock act play at such an accessible, all-genre embracing festival and seeing the crowd- plenty of whom waiting for pop icon Ed Sheeran- enjoy it despite it being unusually different from the day’s headliner. Songs such as ‘Many of Horror’ provided one of the most goosebump inducing moments of the weekend, as the entire crowd sung back to Simon Neil (lead singer) and Co.

Ed Sheeran, Pyramid Stage Headliner – I’d been eagerly anticipating Ed Sheeran’s headliner set for the best part of six months, let along the few days of the festival that had already been. Sheeran played- entirely solo, with the help of his trusty loop-pedal- centre stage with hundreds of screens behind him projecting his face almost everywhere whilst he delivered a set everyone could sing along to. He made remarks about the audience ‘knowing it even if they didn’t like it’ and assertively directed the crowd to sing, jump and dance at intervals. I wasn’t disappointed by his set, but it had nothing on the likes of Biffy Clyro, The Killers or, especially, Lorde. He’s pretty admirable and gutsy to do it though, you have to give it to him.

 

 

 

 

Glastonbury Festival 2017 Review