So you might be aware, or even participating in a challenge that sees the participant reading 52 books in 2019, so, one book a week, or one book for 52 days and spend the rest of it refusing to read. However, 52 books in a year is for wee guys, and TRANSISTOR is full of shaggers, which is why Oliver Butler has challenged himself to listen to at least 365 albums in 2019, one a day, for 365 days. Or 7 albums in January and 358 in December after he forgets to keep up with this challenge. But listening just isn’t enough; he also has to review them. Do 365 albums even exist? Let’s find out!
Some basic rules; A new album must be listened to at least three times, as per style guides and to give it a fair chance, there must be a mix of new, old, genres and recommendations and at least 7 albums must be listened to a week. Of course, no morally bankrupt/shitty/canceled artists. Bonus albums are allowed. With that in mind, let’s hit the ground running on January 1st with…
Artist: Royal Blood
Album: Royal Blood
Review Type: Re-Evaluation
New Year’s Day is a day dedicated to sore heads, hollow resolutions and a fresh outlook on the year, which becomes decidedly stale upon realising you have to spend the next year listening to 365 albums. So let’s start off with something soothing, and begin thumbing through the stack of vinyl that Father Christmas delivered at 33 1/2 rpm.
This might be a wild take, but Royal Blood are a very marmite-y band; you either adore every harmonised riff that falls from Mike Kerr’s bass, or you growl at the fact they’ve become so big so quick, but the truth is their self-titled debut album is choc full of bangers. It’s also organised upside down, because Out Of The Black should be the closer, and Better Strangers should be the opener. But seeing as there’s 365 albums to get through, let’s not dwell on where songs should and shouldn’t be.
It’s not hard to see why Royal Blood became so big so quick; songs like Come On Over and Little Monster are short rock bangers, perfectly crafted for radio play and to keep people captivated; big, simple riffs and unambiguous lyrics. You don’t have to think to listen to Royal Blood, you just get to sit, listen and enjoy it. Furthermore, when you consider what a rich tapestry of music we get to enjoy these days, with genres diversifying, dividing and developing with every recording, it’s actually quite nice to get back to basics and listen to a flat pack rock band. Music today is like a fine dining all-you-can-eat, with hip hop canapes, pop platters and rock smorgasbords, sitting down for three quarters of an hour and listening to big riffs is like having a burger and chips; not sophisticated, but damn if it isn’t enjoyable.
The band followed up their success with How Did We Get So Dark? in 2017, and you can only hope that 2019 sees them follow up two ridiculously strong albums with more of the same.
Album: The Greatest Showman (Original Soundtrack)
Review Type: Relevance
Your girlfriend’s a wonderful person. She sees the best in everyone and does her best to support you in everything you do. Life is richer for having her by your side, and every day is like Christmas. You tell her about your intriguing project to listen to 365 albums in a year, and she immediately suggests listening to 2018’s biggest album as a kickoff. Great idea! She pulls up the list. It’s The Greatest Showman. This must be a mistake. It’s not. It’s true. You look in her eyes, your mouth says “great idea”, but your eyes are so very tired, so devoid of life. She has sent you to your early grave.
First things first, The Greatest Showman is flagrant false advertising, because how the FUCK can you give a film that name and not include Freddie Mercury, who we all know, WAS The Greatest Showman. Second of all, how this is the biggest selling album of 2018 is a fucking mystery. George Ezra was second and that makes perfect sense, we can all enjoy a bit of George now and then. The only plausible reason is that a large majority of purchasers were half-arsed children buying a mother’s day gift, or a birthday gift, or a Christmas gift, because your mum saw it and said “eh, it was okay”, and somehow, that was the green light for you to go and buy it. She wrote you a fucking list, you lazy shite.
Third, this album is fucking dreadful. There’s slight high points, like opener The Greatest Show does have all the pomp and excitement of an album opener. However, on the whole, this album is just terrible. This is meant to be a musical and there’s like, no musical aspects to this album. The only settling thing on this album is Keala Settle’s voice, which is concerning seeing as Zac Efron was in High School Musical. The album has been streamed well over 100,000,000 times, a crime when you consider that the greatest album of 2018, Knowing What You Know Now by Marmozets has probably had less than 10% of that. It’s like that scene in Peep Show where they go to the play, and they’re imagining they’re watching Heat. That’s what you do, you listen to this and imagine you’re listening to something else. Like Marmozets.
On the one hand, this album lacking any kind of musical nuance is fine, it’s a film soundtrack, but when you consider other film scores, fuck, even the soundtrack to Hercules is 10 times better than this, a film score for a musical should be much better. On the other other hand, Marmozets should have sold more albums than this. This album is fucking dreadful. Three listens and each time you forget what you’ve listened to and get disappointed each time.
Artist: Susan Boyle
Album: I Dreamed A Dream
Review Type: Relevance
You know what? This album was picked because it was the biggest selling album of 2009, meaning all our bases are covered in relevant and landmark albums, and tongues were bitten at the suggestion of this. Not Susan Boyle. However, whilst The Greatest Showman was beyond shite, I Dreamed A Dream was a delightful piece of pickled ginger to cleanse the pallet after having to digest a fully formed turd roll from Hugh Jackman and friends.
The cynic in you says I Dreamed A Dream is nothing but a covers album, which it is, but seeing as Susan Boyle has regressed into our memories and the hashtag #susanalbumparty, you’ve probably forgotten just how beautiful her voice is. The album opens with a cover of Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones, and while the original is melancholic enough, Susanalbumcover adds a new layer of melancholy, tragedy and beauty to an already fantastic song. Her cover of Cry Me A River sounds like something out of a Bond film, not the opener, but maybe something as a centrepiece in the move.
Of course, there’s her version of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables, which leaves you far from miserable, and serves as a poignant reminder that everyone digged at her looks, then were promptly silenced by her voice. Rightly so, because you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, especially when the contents are this angelic. Whilst this caused a sulk at first suggestion, on reflection, it’s a good album. Not repeatedly listen and get the LP good, but definitely something you could stick on at dinner and seem sophisticated. Put it on for your next date night and do hand stuff to Amazing Grace. Su’s got you covered.
Review Type: Re-Evaluation
Christmas presents are mint, aren’t they? Jazz on its own is a fantastic album, but when you consider Queen’s output in the 1970s, Jazz is just a mere footnote in the band’s storied career. However, such was the law back then, every Queen album must have a era-defining song, and Jazz is no lawbreaker. For a start, Fat Bottomed Girls, which is, quite frankly, one of the greatest rock songs ever written. Still not enough? Bicycle Race, which was inspired by Freddie watching Tour De France cyclists, and apparently had a fling with one of them for a bit of trivia. More, you say? Let Me Entertain You, one of the finest set openers and contain’s a subtle wink to Freddie’s love of the New York gay scene, for those of you that like your Queen trivia.
And of course, of course, this album contain’s Don’t Stop Me Now, one of the finest Queen tracks ever written, and undoubtedly, one of the best rock songs ever. For some more trivia, Brian May’s noticeable absence on this song bar the solo is because he didn’t approve of Freddie’s hedonistic lifestyle of drugs, sex and partying at the time, worrying it’d all go horribly wrong. Don’t Stop Me Now is Freddie saying… er… don’t stop me now, because he was having such a good time, he was having a ball. However, it produced one of the best songs of all time, so who’s really in the wrong here? It’s you, Brian.
However, outside the big hitters, you have some underrated gems like Dead On Time, which contains a big riff and some of Freddie‘s strongest vocal performances. The man had lungs like fucking bellows. More Of That Jazz is a Roger Taylor classic, because he was a great vocalist. Dreamers Ball is a bit of the silliness that made Queen so great, but is still hugely enjoyable. Though probably lost in the ether of a decade of solid albums from Queen, Jazz was one component of an unstoppable beast that hasn’t really shrunk, despite the band not doing anything since Freddie’s death, because let’s face it, Queen + Paul Rodgers and Queen + Adam Lambert can get. To. FUCK.
Miss you, Fred.
Artist: Enter Shikari
Album: A Flash Flood Of Colour
Review Type: Re-Evaluation
Kind of a Christmas present, but a signed copy of this doesn’t come around often. A Flash Flood Of Colour still holds itself as a high point in Enter Shikari’s recording career. Their third album found them break new ground and really improve on their aggressive, electronic sound and add new depths to an already intricate sonic blueprint.
Interestingly, System uses the same synth as Common Dreads to open the track. Meltdown is a monolithic track, with a lyrical theme that remains truer now than it did in 2012. It’s quite hard to pin down the evolution, as tracks like Ssssnakepit and Arguing With Thermometers are more aggressive than their predecessors, but Stalemate and Constellations are still some of the most poignant Shikari tracks released.
On the whole, this album is flawless, even some of your ‘forgotten’ tracks like Pack Of Thieves and Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrranicide are sonic masterpieces. Whilst Shikari’s career grew more with The Mindsweep and The Spark, launching them to the echelon of arena sellouts and festival headliners, but AFFOC was the calm before the storm. It created a solid foundation to launch the band from cult heroes to superstars.
Album: Love Is Dead
Review Type: Re-Evaluation
Scottish bop exporters CHVRCHES have gone very far in a short period of time. From The Bones Of What You Believe in 2013, they’ve had a huge rise, with big pop synths, hooks and choruses proving a hugely successful approach, leaving them with a knack for creating big, BIG bops.
Love Is Dead was a hugely enjoyable album on the whole, but lacked the bop density of its two predecessors. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad either. It was somewhat average. However, tracks like Miracle, Graves and Get Out still qualified as bops. But overall, songs like Heaven/Hell, God’s Plan and Deliverance are just… nothing really. They’re not bad, but right after listening, you’ve forgotten how it goes. The National’s Jurgen Klopp, or Matt Beringer appears on My Enemy, which to be honest, his silky smooth voice fits it, but it’s still not great.
However, despite the negatives, it’s still a fun album to strap onto your turntable and listen to on a Sunday evening, because it’s a nice, poppy album with plenty of rich tones.