The Top Five Albums Of 2017

The top five albums of 2017

It's almost tradition on this blog to post my album round-up unacceptably late...but I might be pushing it a little too far this time round.

Anyway, another year has been and gone! Plenty of stuff happened, good and bad, but more importantly some artists put out some pretty incredible bodies of work. So before we get into February comes around (when this whole thing would look more worrying than lazy) lets have a peruse through my top five albums of the year!

Starting with...

5.  Death From Above 1979 - Outrage! Is Now

Death From Above 1979 Outrage is Now

Having rejoined the alternate rock roster back in 2014 with the release of The Physical World, the death disco duo from Toronto Death From Above 1979 were quiet for around 12 months, and with the gap between their first and second records being 10 years, no one was really sure when we were going to hear some new music from them.

Luckily for us, the band weren't interested in radio silence for anything like the same amount of time and so Outrage! Is Now was born. Filled with melody, vicious riffs and alt rock bangers, it's pretty much wall to wall quality.


4. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory


Vince Staples Big Fish Theory

Vince Staples marked 2017 with a record which defined him as one of the leading lights in US hip hop. Never short of a word to say or an opinion to share, Big Fish Theory takes Staples razor sharp commentary and layers it on top of an EDM/electronica enthused soundtrack.

Whilst on first listen, this record could be mistaken for a collection of club bangers, it's much more than that. To quote Pitchfork this album is like an art installation installed in a night club. Bleak lyrics and often dark themes are explored in an up tempo environment, which come together to create an incredibly effective and very enjoyable listen.

Come for the party, stay for the beauty.



3. Enter Shikari - The Spark

Enter Shikari The Spark

Enter Shikari
 have a certain formula to how they do things. When word came from the grapevine that this album was more "poppy" than the last, it was almost redundant, because this band operate on a different level.

Softer melodies and extended ideas are present, but in a format which will have rock and pop fans alike appreciating the craft behind these nine tracks. The Spark is arguably Shikari's finest work to date and is a gamble which has paid off in spades.

 The band have taken their fans into new and exciting waters, and instead of sinking under the expectations founded by their previous output, are succesfully surfing on a new wave creativity.

 
2. Sorority Noise - You're Not As _ As You Think


Sorority Noise You're not as as you think


The topic of mental health and depression has been discussed a lot this past year. The idea that as a society we may not be giving enough credence to the struggle these afflictions put people through seems to be finally sinking in, although we still have a long way to go.

Sorority Noise have never shied away from confronting the realities of living with mental health issues, lead singer Cameron Boucher lives with manic depression and is honest and open about the condition and what it can do.

You're Not As _ As You Think is the bands most open and candid record yet, detailing stories of death and addiction in a very raw way. Musically, the emo-alt sensibilities are still present, and whilst the overall tone of the record is understandably sad, the melodies and twin guitars inspire hope and remind the listener that no matter how tough things get, there is always a way forward.



1. Kendrick Lamar - Damn

Kendrick Lamar Damn

What do you do after releasing one of the most definitive hip hop records of all time? Not many people face a question like this, but Kendrick Lamar did after his seminal record To Pimp A Butterfly. His answer came in the form of Damn, an album which stripped away the funk/jazz sensibilities of its predecessor and installed his brand of social commentary across a more straight laced 2017 rap soundtrack.

Lamar doesn't waste any time getting down to business and, in the first three minutes confronts his own death, attacks the right wing drivel of Fox News and plays homage to his genetic heritage, proudly exclaiming "I've got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA".

If TPAB was Kendrick's rallying cry, Damn is his statement of intent. He's still here and it doesn't matter what tools you give him, the importance and intensity of his message will not be silenced. He already made an important record, and now he's made one which is radio friendly.


New Music: LA Priest - All I Want For Xmas Is Rock & Roll

LA Wise Man All I Want for Xmas is Rock and Roll

It's that time of year again! The most wonderful time of year, the season of good will, the bringer of joy to all men.

Christmas.

I'm a big fan of Christmas, and I have serious respect for anyone who can write a festive song which sounds new and exciting these days, after all, the framework has kind of been done. It's because of this reason that I've decided to write a post today.

Sam Eastgate or LA Priest as he is known within his new musical persona has put together a slice of fuzz laden festive frivolity, which is a nice change of pace to the seasons usual sleigh bell doused soundtrack.

Released under the more festive pseudonym LA Wise Man, this sub three minute blast of indie pop goodness starts off with a wall of bass, which doesn't exactly scream Christmas cheer. Give it a few moments though and Eastgate's silky vocals soon creep in and unveil a melody which is as cool as it is catchy.

This tune is very much suited for a more party/upbeat Christmas atmosphere, perhaps around 6pm after a few glasses of gin. Why not eh? Listen to All I Want for Xmas is Rock & Roll below!

 
Gorillaz:Live @ London O2 Arena 04/12/2017

Gorillaz O2 Poster

The most famous (if not the only) animated band Gorillaz strode into London this Monday past, and brought with them a technicolour musical experience which was quite frankly, an assault (a nice one) on the senses.

Damon Albarn and James Hewletts' cartoon creations have become icons in their own right, and as such a performance befitting of their name is one that needs to carry some considerable weight behind it. Whilst touring their third album Plastic Beach a few years back, the tour had an almost world music/jazz vibe to proceedings. A myriad of influences all colliding into each other like a particularly volatile biological experiment.

This time round, Albarn and co have opted for a much more rock n' roll/night on the lash vibe. As soon as M1 A1 kicks in with its Day of the Dead sample and heavy guitar filtering into the ear cavities of the crowd, it's clear this tours vibe is a far more heavyweight affair.

That's not to say the juxtaposition of musical genres isn't just as evident with tonights tour, it's just the tracklist seems to veer towards the heavier/dancier aspects of the bands catalogue. From the addictive groove of Rhinestone Eyes to the short sharp burst of the self explanatory Punk, to the reggae/trap influenced Saturnz Barz this is a setlist for people to get down.



It's also a night which proves just how big Damon Albarn's contact book is. Every other song it seems, a new musical star joins the band on stage, and with very little fanfare.Vince Staples injects a burst of Californian hip-hop energy on the brilliant Ascension, Shaun Ryder pops up for DARE and We Got The Power boasts not one but three big stars in the form of Jehnny Beth, Graham Coxon and old advisory Noel Gallagher.

Of all the guest stars however, it's upcoming grime prodigy Little Simz who impresses the most. Teaming up for the outstanding Garage Palace, she commands the 10,000 strong crowd as if it was the most natural thing in the world. One to watch for sure.


All in all, it's a night which ticks all the boxes. With every song being accompanied with show stopping visuals the band have managed to create a show which is a real feast for the senses. Add in some anthemic sing alongs and break neck hip hop tunes and voila, you get a Gorillaz show which those in attendance will not forget anytime soon.

Not bad for some cartoons, eh?

Setlist

1. M1 A1
2. Last Living Souls
3. Rhinestone Eyes
4.Tomorrow Comes Today
5. Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
6. Saturnz Barz
7. Charger feat. Pauline Black)
8. 19-2000
9. Superfast Jellyfish feat. Gruff Rhys and De La Soul
10. On Melancholy Hill
11. El MaƱana
12. Ascension feat. Vince Staples
13. Strobelite feat. Peven Everett
14. Andromeda feat. D.R.A.M.
15. Sex Murder Party feat. Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz
16. Sweepstakes feat. Mos Def and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
17. Garage Palace feat. Little Simz
18. Punk
19. Broken feat. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
20. Let Me Out feat. Pusha T
21. Dirty Harry feat. Bootie Brown
22. Stylo feat. Mos Def and Peven Everett
23. Feel Good Inc. feat. De La Soul
24. We Got the Power feat. Jehnny Beth, Noel Gallagher and Graham Coxon
25. Hong Kong
26. Kids With Guns
27. DARE feat. Shaun Ryder and Roses Gabor
28. Clint Eastwood
29. Don't Get Lost in Heaven
30. Demon Days
And So I Watch You From Afar: Live @ KOKO London 23/11/17


For some bands, certain venues will hold more emotional weight behind them than others. For Northern Ireland's post-metal instrumentalists And So I Watch You From Afar, playing London's KOKO is a big deal.

"We used to read about KOKO in magazines growing up, so to play here tonight in front of you all, is unbelievable."

It's a beautiful venue, there's no disputing that, and as the band take to the stage in front of a baying crowd already whipped into a frenzy by support act (and bloody good one at that) Gallops, it feels like we're witnessing a moment.



And there are plenty of moments to witness in this set. With whirring guitars and arpeggios a plenty, it's a disorientating if not highly enjoyable affair. From the opening salvo of Search:Party:Animal to the anthemic BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION through to the audio assault of Wasps the crowd are dragged through soundscape after soundscape, the band stopping every so often to acknowledge how much they're enjoying the experience.

With new album The Endless Shimmering released a month ago, the new songs have had time to bed in with the fanbase and it's these new cuts which make a sizeable impact with the crowd. A Slow Unfolding of Wings and Dying Giants both go down a storm. You can't beat the oldies though, with the sing along to 7 Billion People All Alive At Once, sending shivers down the spine.


I'm a sucker for heavy guitars however so when Set Guitars To Kill comes around, I'm over joyed, and it's apparent I wasn't the only one. Pits, bouncing and head banging erupt and don't stop until the final chord has been rung. Where do they go from here? Well, by unleashing the best song in their arsenal the other worldly Eunoia/Big Thinks Do Remarkable. If you go away and listen to just one song from this band, I urge you for it to be that one.

By the time The Voiceless comes around and ends the show, KOKO is spent and so are ASIWYFA. It's been a night to remember, and as the band trudge of stage to the cheers of those in attendance an atmosphere of triumph lingers around the venue.

Until next time lads.

Setlist

1. Search:Party:Animal
2. S Is for Salamander
3. Like a Mouse
4. Terrors of Pleasure
5. BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION
6. Wasps
7. A Slow Unfolding of Wings
8. 7 Billion People All Alive at Once
9. Dying Giants
10. Don't Waste Time Doing Things You Hate
11. Marching Over the Coals
12. Set Guitars to Kill
13. Run Home
14. Eunoia
15. Big Thinks Do Remarkable
16. The Voiceless
Queens Of The Stone Age: Live @ London O2 Arena 21/11/17

Queens of the Stone Age Live o2 arena poster drew millward
Artwork by Drew Millward

"There is no present or future, there is only now." Josh Homme, the leader of the worlds most successful rock n roll gang, Queens of The Stone Age, is in a philosophical mood, and visibly moved by the seismic reaction they've just received to opening tracks If I Had A Tail and Monsters in the Parasol. 

"It's time to cut loose".



Homme has reason to be reflective of course. Having secured a UK number one album with their swing inspired record Villains, QOTSA have successfully navigated well over a decade at the pinnacle of rocks mountain and show no signs of stopping. Now in their natural habitat of cavernous arenas, the desert dwellers unload a treasure trove of hits upon those in attendance.

My God is The Sun inspires a frenzied reaction, Feet Don't Fail Me and The Way You Used To Do prove the new material can hang with the heavyweight tracks from the past, and if there was any doubt, Millionaire makes an appearance to remind people that when this band hit the accelerator they're pretty much untouchable.



Homme is famed for his ability behind the microphone, not just for his abilities as a rock vocalist, but for his talents as an entertainer, and he is on top form here tonight.

"I come bearing good news, it's Saturday night!" "Get loose, take your pants off".

His friendly, yet direct tone prove motivation enough for most of the arena to lose their minds for the entirety of the set. In fact it takes new cut Villains of Circumstance for things to simmer, with the epic I Appear Missing bringing proceedings dangerously close to boiling over.

It's the bands final flurry which really cements their position as the worlds finest rock band. Little Sister, Sick Sick Sick, Go With The Flow, Regular John and A Song For The Dead. It's a series of tracks which speaks for itself.

With a massive Finsbury Park date just announced in which Iggy Pop has been named as a support act (!?) QOTSA are at warp speed and showing no signs of slowing down. This rock n roll gang are taking over and there is nothing you can do stop them. The evil has well and truly landed.

Setlist

1. If I Had a Tail
2. Monsters in the Parasol
3. My God Is the Sun
4. Feet Don't Fail Me
5. The Way You Used to Do
6. You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
7. No One Knows
8. The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
9. The Evil Has Landed
10. I Sat by the Ocean
11. Smooth Sailing
12. Domesticated Animals
13. Make It Wit Chu
14. I Appear Missing
15. Villains of Circumstance
16. Little Sister
17. Sick, Sick, Sick
18. Go With the Flow
19. Regular John
20. A Song for the Dead
Listen to...PUP

PUP The Dream Is Over Album Art
I saw a very exciting tweet the other day. 


For those of you who are not in the know (and where have you been GOD) PUP are one of the best rock bands around right now. And it looks like they're starting work on recording a new record which is GREAT NEWS.

The band currently have two records out, their self-titled debut and the awe-inspiring The Dream is Over. Hailing from Toronto Canada, the band have been snapping necks and cashing cheques since 2013 and seem to be a nice bunch of lads who make seriously good music.

Why are they so good you ask? Well actions speak louder than words, so why don't we take a quick look at a live performance from the boys. And yes, it is an Audiotree performance because of course it is. As previously discussed Audiotree are brilliant.



I mean what's not to like? They play at a breakneck pace, their song titles emit an angsty dark humour and their tunes absolutely shred. Need convincing further? Fine. Let's take a look at the lyrics of their track Familiar Patterns...

"They used to all talk down to me, and now they're biting their tongues. Used to say, 'Don't quit your day job', Well guess what, I never had one."

Come on now. When I first heard that it just made me smile, what a great comeback to that terrible put down. I urge you to check these guys out and buy their stuff.

Oh and lads if you read this, come UK. Nice one.

Here's DVP. You're welcome





Album Review: Enter Shikari - The Spark

Enter Shikari The Spark Album Art

It's no secret that I'm a big Enter Shikari fan. I'm pretty sure I've banged on about them in this blog almost as much as another band. So when I heard the news that the lads from St Albans had been working on a sound much different from their previous output, I was on edge.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it... right?

Well not quite. The thing about one liners like that is, there's so many of them. So many, that more often than not, there's one to fit almost every opposing viewpoint.

For example, "nothing ventured, nothing gained" or "fortune favours the brave". Not only are these sayings just as legitimate as the first, these ones are used by the army, so win by decision.

So you can shove "If it ain't broke don't fix it". In the words of post rock Irish heroes And So I Watch You From Afar, if it ain't broke, break it.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. The Spark is great.

It is however different, and whilst I hesitate to say (like some) that they've gone pop, they have definitely mixed up things in terms of song writing and production. But in return, it's produced a rich tapestry of results.

From the opening salvo of The Sights, the distortion is turned down and Rory C's guitars are given a cleaner tone, the emphasis more on the chord progression rather than on the choice of fuzz pedal he's decided to treat us to this time round. It's also clear that melody was very high on the list of priorities for this album, which brings us to the second track.



Live Outside is up there as one of the best songs this band has ever done. That chorus. The beauty of it is they know it's good, so they just keep playing it over and over. I remember an interview with White Lies a while back when they were releasing their single Bigger Than Us, they said that the chorus was so big, they felt it would be a waste not to include it four times. Enter Shikari obviously had a similar epiphany with this tune, and I'm glad they did.

And it's not long before we get our next hit of pure uncut melody, courtesy of Airfield. A delicate piano number which eventually builds into an anthem so massive I'm not sure there's a venue big enough to hold it. It's also home to one of the albums best lyrical performances, delivered beautifully by Rou Reynolds.

"When the winds against you, remember this insight, that's the optimal condition for birds to take flight."

There's plenty of head banging moments on the album as well, Take My Country Back is a furious blast of post-brexit aggression whilst the grime inspired Rabble Rouser is a track that only Enter Shikari could make. Brilliantly bonkers.



Elsewhere Shinrin-yoku morphs from tropical house, to breakbeat, to thumping rock all in the space of four-ish minutes, whilst the synth-laden Undercover Agents is a brave step into the linear for a band famous for their mad scientist approach to song writing. It has the courage of it's convictions to stay the course in terms of atmosphere, whilst also managing to creep in a number of interesting left turns to ensure it isn't your stand "pop tune".

The album concludes with the jaunty Revolt of the Atoms which comes out of nowhere to deliver a knees up sci-fi ho down, before finale An Ode to Lost Jigsaw Pieces gets us all emotional sending us off in a hail of brass and white noise.

It's a real journey listening to The Spark. The album is a mish-mash of Shikari's patented abrasive rock stylings with some added alternative pop moments sprinkled across its run time like a welcome parmesan.

You won't find songs like this from any other band, Enter Shikari have a certain formula to how they do things. When word came from some that this album was more "poppy" than the last, it was almost a redundant statement because this band operate on a different level.

Softer melodies and extended ideas are present, but in a format which will have rock and pop fans alike appreciating the craft behind these nine tracks. Besides, in the grand scheme of things does it really matter if a band goes slightly of course? After all in the words of Mr Reynolds himself "we are the dust on the stain glass windows, trying to comprehend the cathedral".