The 1975 break into the stratosphere on ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’

The 1975 are provocative and genius (if a bit pretentious) or overrated, maddening and straight-up wanky, depending on who you ask. One thing that everyone should admit, even those who can’t stand the sight of Matty Healy before he even opens his mouth, is that there’s no band quite like The 1975 in music today.

They released their underwhelming self-titled debut in 2013 and were essentially written off critically – yet this didn’t stop them amassing a huge fanbase. However, rather than giving the critics the middle finger and continuing down the same path, they released their sprawling, near 75-minute sophomore record i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful, yet so unaware of it in 2016, a record where bubble-gum pop anthems rubbed shoulders with 6-minute instrumentals.

i like it when you sleep… remarkably won over some of the critics who had so vehemently trashed their debut, and by the end of that record’s touring cycle – The 1975, still one of the most divisive bands in music, had sold out the O2 Arena, Madison Square Garden and headlined Latitude Festival.

This meant that, in a weird way, the pressure was off when it came to making A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. If they were to look at it cynically, as long as there are radio hits (which The 1975 churn out for fun – just look at highlight It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) ), this album will send them into the stratosphere – as they proved on their first record, they don’t need critical acclaim, and already have a huge legion of fans who worship the ground they walk on.

But, rather than playing it safe, Healy and his bandmates (drummer/producer George Daniel, bassist Ross MacDonald and lead guitarist Adam Hann) revel in this, and make A Brief Inquiry…their boldest (and best) album yet. How To Draw / Petrichor is the best possible evidence – a reworked B-side from i like it…, the track’s first half is lullaby-esque – with gorgeously glittery piano and xylophone floating in and out of the mix, before Matty’svocals come in, absolutely buried in vocoder. However, then you have the second half – a production masterclass from Healy and George Daniel, an industrial dance beat with skittish beats that genuinely sound like an Aphex Twin track. Seriously, who would have predicted after The 1975’s debut that they would be drawing Aphex Twin comparisons on just their third album?

This Aphex comparison is a segue into a main point of discussion for this record. Matty is a huge LCD Soundsystem fan and in a manner similar to James Murphy’s LCD records, A Brief Inquiry…wears its influences very prominently on its sleeve – the intro track The 1975 – which has appeared in a different iteration on all 3 records – is a perfect example of this. A Brief Inquiry’s version hears Matty singing through a vocoder which sounds like a swarm of Matty robots, in a way that more than pays homage to Bon Iver’s 715 – CR∑∑KS.

Elsewhere on the record, the infectious single TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME sounds exactly like a dancehall Drake track, with breezy surface-level lyrics about infidelity. It’s undoubtedly generic and is the kind of track that those who love to hate The 1975 will latch onto, but somehow it’s irresistibly catchy and infectious.

There’s more Bon Iver influence on I Like America & America Likes Me (more like I Like Bon Iver and Bon Iver likes me, eh lads? Eh? Anyone?) where Healy’s voice is once again drenched in vocoder akin to 22, A Million. However, Matty is clever here – he knows he doesn’t have Vernon’s subtlety so substitutes this for his trademark brashness – America is carried by a massive trap beat and Healy’s lyricism is scatterbrain and manic, addressing the gun crisis in the USA (“kids don’t want rifles / they want Supreme”), but the unhinged and rapid-fire delivery and lyricism seems to suggest that Healy is using this rant as a way to deflect from his heroin addiction which saw him go to rehab during the making of this record – particularly as he howls “I’m scared of dying / its fiiiiiiine!” America is unhinged, wild and deranged – but it’s one of the best tracks this band has ever made.

While the rest of The 1975 are perfectly capable musicians, and George Daniel is a production wizard behind many of this record’s best moments. A Brief Inquiry…is dominated by the ever-fascinating Healy. This is especially evident on massive closer I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes), which sounds at some points like a Nickelback track and at other points like an Oasis track – Matty himself even called it “a gritty, English ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’” – it teeters right on the edge of being unbearably cheesy, but Healy’s earnestness manages to pull it off and then some – the bridge’s mantra of “if you can’t survive; just try”is genuinely tear-jerking and inspiring.

However, when discussing Matty, even the most loyal fans of his work will admit that he is prone to talking absolute shite from time to time, and if A Brief Inquiry…is a reflection of his personality, then it reflects this too. Lead single Give Yourself a Try is good but not great, and the idol worship elsewhere on the album is taken too far here as the guitar riff is a rip-off of Joy Division’s Disorder. Elsewhere, Surrounded By Heads and Bodies is entertainingly titled after the first sentence of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (“Because nobody reads it all the way!”) but that is unfortunately the most interesting thing about the track, as it is a forgettable acoustic track.

These are only small missteps in the album’s near-impeccable 59-minute runtime, and these are more than overshadowed by the band’s best song yet – the monumental Love If If We Made It. Released as a single before the album, the lyrics were released in advance of the track, and with lines as brash as “fucking in a car / shooting heroin” and “poison me, daddy”, even the most devout fans found themselves cringing. However, when the track was properly released it dumbfounded almost everyone who heard it.

It’s been called a millennial ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, as it simply lists the biggest news headlines and social events of the tumultuous past few years (“a beach of drowning 3 year olds / rest in peace Lil Peep”), Matty doesn’t give an opinion on any of these events and simply states the headlines, but his passion is evident. Particularly on the track’s incredibly moving bridge, where he quotes Trump twice, including the strangest pop lyric of the year “thank you Kanye, very cool!”

What brings this cultural melting point of a track together is the powerfully simple chorus when Matty declares “modernity has failed us, but I’d love it if we made it”; it’s an admission that our world is a mess, but what comes through in Matty’s impassioned delivery is a true desire and a plea for humanity and kindness. It’s a protest song of sorts, but as only The 1975, and only Matty Healy could pull off. As unlikely as it may have seemed in 2013, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships makes a very strong case for The 1975 as the band that the world needs in 2018. – andrew barr (@weeandreww)

Every National Album, Ranked From Worst To Best

Ohio based rockers The National have been ever-present in rock music for the better part of two decades: forming in the late 90’s and releasing their self-titled effort in 2001, Matt Berninger and co. have been at the helm of seven records of varying quality, usually finding at least one of their albums in an album of the decade list. Thanks to their arty sombre work, The National have found themselves appealing to people both young and old which have helped them to remain both commercially and critically viable.

Of course, we can’t simply sit idly by and not ask the question: what’s their best record? Well, you won’t have to ponder for much longer as Transistor’s fantastic four Andrew (@weeandreww), Callum (@cal_thornhill), Josh (@jxshadams) and Kieran (@kiercannon) have helped to 100-per-cent-definitively rank their albums – will there be hot takes? Absolutely. Will there be an obvious loser? Probably. Will you be pissed off at us? Most definitely.

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.


7. The National (2001)

Andrew: The National’s self-titled debut actually isn’t as bad as its made out to be. It’s certainly no Pablo Honey in terms of quality, but in a similar manner to Radiohead’s debut, it pales in comparison with the rest of The National’s discography (apart from the sophomore Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers). If I’m honest, this isn’t a record that has stuck with me anywhere near as much as the rest of the band’s discography and I rarely find myself listening to this record.

However, it’s not a complete dud. On tracks like American Mary, you can identify the elements that the band have refined in recent years to make themselves so adored – in Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s interlocking guitar/piano parts, Scott and Bryan Devendorf’s airtight rhythm section and Matt Berninger’s hazy, weary baritone.

Callum: Although this record is being ranked last, it is simply because the others hold more personal and sentimental value. The National’s self-titled debut was, for me anyway, a record I went back to and picked up on vinyl to simply complete my collection. But now, it is a record I dabble in when catching the train or in need of background music. There are some tracks, for example, Theory of Crows that have stuck over the years with the lyrics “I’ll suck off investors, I’ll suck off VCs
I’m losing my posture from time on my knees,” that proved to be the core of The National’s witty and charismatic lyrics. A good foundation of what was to come for the Ohio alt-rockers.

Josh: It has been claimed that the band’s self-titled debut was made simply just because they could, and it shows.  Whilst it undeniably has it charms in cuts like “American Mary” and “29 Years”, it lacks both the punch of their other earlier work and the sophistication of their later albums, opting for an alt-country twinge that never totally sits well with the New York group.  “The National” is the sound of a band searching for their idiosyncrasies, rather than one fully formed and ready to turn heads – not offensively bad, but definitely less than essential.

Kieran: Grammy Award-Winning Band The National are a rare breed – they have yet to release a dud. Although their first two ‘forgotten’ albums (S/T and SSFDL) aren’t quite on the same level as the ones that followed, they’re still enjoyable in their own right. Those who were introduced to The National post-Alligator will be surprised by the Americana-tinged style of the tracks, but there are more parallels to their later material than meets the eye. 29 Years, for example, is essentially a lo-fi draft version of Slow Show, where the same “You know I dreamed about you / For 29 years before I saw you” refrain gets immortalised in its climactic outro. S/T is a solid album, although it’s rather eclipsed by what comes after it.

6. Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers (2003)

Callum: Murder Me Rachael, Available and Sugar Wife. With a fine collection of other The National tracks it could be easy to forget about these gems, but when we reminisce about their 2003 sophomore record we can see exactly why fifteen years later they are continuing to put out tracks that echo the sounds from this sophomore record. Very rarely will you see The National slip a Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, which makes it a more ‘exclusive’ record for those daring to take a punt on them all them years ago.

Josh: There’s not much between their second LP and their debut, other than the permanent arrival of guitarist Bryce Dessner to the fold and a more formidable growl from singer Matt Berninger.  The instrumental palette is widened and the lyrical tone sounds less despondent, and more whiskey-soaked, allowing The National to bear their teeth on what are, not coincidentally, the best tracks here: “Slipping Husband” and “Available” drunkenly shuffle with barely concealed bitterness until the rage erupts in one of Berninger’s trademark screams.  What really lets “Sad Songs…” down though is its production: flat and lifeless, it ruins the good songs and only makes clear the flaws of the bad ones.

Kieran: On their second album, The National start to move away from the country roots of their debut and begin to forge their own brand of indie rock. Containing some of their heaviest bangers to date (Available and Murder Me Rachael) as well as the debut appearance of Matt Berninger’s infamous screaming, SSFDL is significantly more fleshed-out than S/T but it still lacks the polish and songwriting finesse of the subsequent five albums. That being said, it’s the first time Matt’s lyrics really start to demonstrate his dark humour and wry observation – the unique ways in which he discusses life, love, and relationships.

Andrew: Once again, I’ll have to admit that I haven’t listened to this record nearly as much as the rest of The National’s albums since it’s almost a universally agreed fact that the first two National records are almost stepping stones for the greatness that soon followed. However, Sad Songs is undoubtedly a step forward from the self-titled.

It perhaps showcases the heavier side of The National which the band have flirted with throughout their career more than any other studio album, with Berninger’s groan turning into a full-bloodied scream on Slipping Husband, Available and Murder Me Rachael. However, especially on Rachael, it becomes apparent that these tracks deserve better production than they have on the record, and you can’t talk about Sad Songs without mentioning the undisputed-worst-track-ever-recorded-by-Grammy-award-winning-band-The-National – the somehow reggae-infused Sugar Wife. However, it’s on the tracklisting beside tracks as beautiful as closer Lucky You, so, ultimately, Sad Songs shows a band who have potential, but are sadly yet to fully realise it.

5. Alligator (2005)

Josh: This is where The National hit their stride, and it was helped by the fact their backs were against the wall where success had eluded them for years.  The performances are powerful, the lyrics are powerful, and the track listing consistent: from “Secret Meeting” to the absolutely stunning “Mr. November”, it has something for everyone to latch on to and form memories from.  The only reason it’s so low down in the list is that it pales in comparison to the heights the band have gone on to achieve off the back of this record, which in itself is a testament to its quality.

Kieran: The step-up from SSFDL to Alligator is astonishing. Within two years, their maturity and songcraft multiplied exponentially without losing any of their youthful energy. The best way to describe this album is it’s the pal who comes round to your house with a crate of booze when you’re feeling a bit shit, sits and drinks with you until you’ve forgotten what was wrong in the first place. It’s wild, raucous and (relatively speaking) fairly optimistic but also manages to be hard-hitting when it needs to be (see Val Jester). It’s also massively underrated – so many relatively unknown tracks like Lit Up, Secret Meeting and Geese of Beverly Road deserve to rank among the band’s very best. It’s possibly my favourite National album, and I’ve been searching for any reason to rank it #1 but the margins between Alligator and Boxer really are very fine indeed.

Andrew: Here’s where it gets interesting. Alligator is the first great National record, at the band’s third attempt, and the beginning of the Brooklyn five-piece’s ridiculously consistent run. More than that, Alligator marks the first iteration of what is now The National’s trademark sound. The Dessner’s songwriting is laser-sharp, and its marriage with Berninger’s occasionally hilariously honest songwriting (“Karen put me in a chair, fuck me and make me a drink”) is seamless.

The finger-picked guitar of Secret Meeting is the perfect introduction to the band’s most eclectic record yet. There are tracks as plaintive and stripped back as Daughters of the Soho Riots alongside massive rock songs like Abel, and almost everything in between. What is particularly enjoyable about The National is you can truly pick out each members’ contribution to each track and record and it must be said that drummer Bryan Devendorf is incredible on Alligator, and is the driving force behind some of the record’s best moments – none more so than the incredible closer Mr. November, where the life-affirming chorus is backed up by rapid-fire drumming.

If there is to be one criticism of Alligator, it’s an understandable one – the production isn’t flawless, and on certain tracks, the guitars especially can sound quite tinny – however this can be put down to the fact the band weren’t blessed with a huge recording budget, as this is more than rectified on later attempts.

Callum: All The Wine is as lyrically succulent as The National get and Alligator is the perfect example of Berninger and co.’s turning point. From a cult, nichely appreciated into a majestic, celebrated festival headliner. Teeing up the release of Boxer, the band transition from the delicate to the angsty and the record mirrors how The National construct their live show; just when you are settling into a steady theme of swaying shoulders you’re smacked in the face with fan-favourite Mr. November. Glorious.

 

4. Trouble Will Find Me (2013)

Kieran: This is where the rankings get *really* tough. The beauty of The National, who have consistently matured and adapted over the years, is that the run from Alligator through to Sleep Well Beast is crammed with five records whose individual merits are all sufficient to see them take the #1 spot. Ranking them objectively is incredibly difficult and fans listen to the band for such a wide variety of reasons that an argument could justifiably be made that, perhaps, TWFM deserves to sit at the top. It’s one of their most candid and accessible records, but it certainly isn’t lacking in genius. Matt’s lyrical poetry is in fine form on Graceless as he delivers the line “god loves everybody, don’t remind me” with a hefty dose of sarcasm. There are countless gems to uncover throughout, like the perfectly timed key change on This Is The Last Time, but in my opinion Fireproof and Slipped are comparatively weaker tracks – hence TWFM stays at #4.

Andrew: Anyone at all familiar with The National will know that they’re hardly a band for parties or sunny days at the best of times. This reputation is largely justified – thanks, in no small part – to Trouble…, easily the gloomiest record the band have put out. If you were to assign a mood to this record it would be anxiety, which seems to permeate every kick drum and guitar lick on the record.

This is personified on Don’t Swallow the Cap, arguably the best track the five-piece have ever recorded. The track isn’t heavy, but moves at breakneck pace, with a breathless guitar line propelling Berninger’s frantic, stream-of-consciousness delivery which details a 4am drunken panic attack. The track is backed up by some rapid drumming and a haunting string score, adding up to the kind of track only The National could make.

Personally, when I think of Trouble.., its stunning ballads are the first tracks that come to mind. The five-piece are rarely as stripped back as they are on tracks like Slipped, I Need My Girl and Pink Rabbits, with Berninger’s heart-breaking lyricism taking centre stage with lines as stunning as “I was falling apart / I was a television version of a person with a broken heart”.

Callum: In my opinion, this is where critics realised that The National were far more than an underappreciated, cult-followed, niche band. Some of their most heartfelt tracks feature on this record and have been echoed back all around the world since it dropped in 2013. Kicking things off with, yep you guessed it, a hearty ballad in the form of I Should Live in Salt; what follows is an accumulation of brilliance which makes it extremely difficult to choose just one highlight. Dabbling in the poetic, e.g. Pink Rabbits and I Need My Girl as well as the abstract lyricism of Graceless, this is without a doubt one of the greatest records since the turn of the millennium.

Josh:  “Trouble Will Find Me” is a strange album, and, in a way, arguably the most “National” album of all in their discography.  At first it is an uneven listing, with some of their best tracks ever recorded rubbing shoulders with some of their worst (looking at you, “Don’t Swallow The Cap” and “Fireproof”), and the whole record has a grey, almost lethargic sheen to it; like a fog smothering a skyscraper in the Financial District.  But over time, it grows and opens up, allowing some of Berninger’s most striking lines to cut right to the bone: “You didn’t see me, I was falling apart, I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park” from Pink Rabbits is a personal favourite, and it sums up why this album is so good; because you don’t see it at first.

 

3. Sleep Well Beast (2017)

Andrew: The newest entry in The National’s discography saw a pretty seismic shift in the band’s songwriting. Sleep Well Beast is far more electronic than its predecessors, and for the most part, it is a remarkably subtle record. The National’s 7th LP is characterised by tracks like Walk It Back and Empire Line, subtle tracks that establish a mood and atmosphere and stick with it for their entire run time rather than building to any sort of climax.

This could easily have backfired and come off as boring, but by this point in their career, The National are masters of atmosphere, and these tracks are all the more fascinating for their refusal to build to a crescendo. Walk It Back in particular features a brilliantly piercing guitar line courtesy of Bryce Dessner while a lengthy vocal sample plays in the background.

That is the record’s mood for the most part. However, there is one beautiful outlier in the form of Turtleneck: a track that just scrapes the three minute mark where the band really lets their hair down. Berninger’s ragged vocals fire shots at “another man in shitty suits” currently occupying the White House, but the track’s best moment comes when the Dessner twins trade guitar solos on the ferocious bridge.

Callum: 2017’s dark and enigmatic Sleep Well Beast ties together everything The National has ever released, but with a subtle yet gracious twist. Using samples, electronics and most importantly cutting lyrics to portray love, loss, and desperation; the Ohio outfit delve deep into one’s core and submerges itself in a portion of self-deprecation. In the quieter ballads, for example Carin at the Liquor Store and Guilty Party, we are offered a voyeuristic glimpse of where relationships have faulted – but, the hastier tracks like Turtleneck reminds listeners of their tongue in cheek abilities. Similar to Mr. November in terms of style; Turtleneck, however, refers to Trump as “just another man, in shitty suits, everybody’s cheering for.” Classic.

Josh: Only The National, the musical epitome of the underdog, could provide one of their greatest this late into their career.  The band’s embracing of electronics into their otherwise consistent chamber rock proceedings gives each song an unusual yet captivating flavour, with eerie vocal samples and skittering drum machines bouncing between Berninger’s voice and secret weapon Bryan’s drums, often revealing themselves to be a welcome addition.  Whilst it may stumble off a bit towards the end with one too many slow burners, “Sleep Well Beast” is proof enough that The National still have plenty of fight left in them.

Kieran: Their latest and most experimental album to date, Sleep Well Beast was a radical departure from pretty much everything else they’ve released. Plenty of electronic bleep-bloops, unconventional song structures and – wait – is that a guitar solo?! The sense of freedom is palpable, as the band eschewed the tedious and meticulous sort of recording process they endured for High Violet in favour of a much more freeform and avant-garde approach. The record evokes feelings of winter and hibernation – saying no to the party invitations, closing the windows and shutting out the world until everything makes a bit more sense.

For this reason, it’s melancholic even by Ntl standards, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of tenderness. On album highlight I’ll Still Destroy You, Matt sings about his daughter – “Put your heels against the wall / I swear you got a little bit taller since I saw you” – a bittersweet remark about the downsides of being on the road, missing out on important stages of your kid growing up. It’s an intriguing new direction the Cincinnati sad dads are heading in, and it’ll be fascinating to see how it pans out.

2. Boxer (2007)

Callum: The only record by The National to warrant an official, full-length live recording (Boxer Live in Brussels), so that means something, right?! For me, though, as brilliant as Boxer is, it is an accumulation of banging tunes as opposed to an iconic album as a package. The two year period between Alligator and Boxer allowed The National to develop from a somewhat angst-saddled outfit into a maturer, emotion charging, dinner party band. Of course, you can’t drop Available or Mr November when you’re in red wine territory, but you definitely CAN pull out Guest Room.

Josh: And this is where it becomes controversial.  “Boxer” is often considered to be the point where the band finally broke through and became the sad dads we all know and love today.  Everything about the group that has remained steady well into the present was firmly established here: Berninger’s baritone croon, the lush orchestral arrangements, the driving guitars, the powerful drums.  It all comes together in a glorious mix that nearly lasts the entire LP, with “Squalor Victoria” and “Slow Show” being definite highlights; unfortunately, like most National albums it stumbles towards the end with one too many slow songs after a balanced entrance that contrasts their enthralling energy with their gloomy tendencies.  “Apartment Story”, “Racing Like a Pro” and “Ada” to their best to save a sludge of the second half, but not enough to make it the crème de la crème.

Kieran: This is it. Boxer. The album that arguably defines The National and captures their essence in a way no other album has managed so far. In terms of their progression musically, it’s difficult to exaggerate how important this record is. Its use of lush orchestral arrangements and synths lifts the melodies to new heights – and despite the grandeur on the fanfare at the end of Fake Empire, on other tracks the devil is in the detail. Green Gloves, for example: the keyboard part playing in the background of the final chorus brings the song to a subtle but incredible climax. The genius is that you don’t even notice until you listen to it a few times and really pay attention.

The album’s track order is perfect as well – slower tracks arrive at just the right time to let off some of the pressure built by upbeat, rapid-drumming songs like Apartment Story. The decision to end on three fairly low-key tracks – Racing Like a Pro, Ada and Gospel – could be considered a bold move, but in reality there’s no better way to wind down the album. The explosive nature of Mr November was the ideal way to end Alligator, just as Gospel is a fitting way to reflect on Boxer as a whole. It’s the very definition of a slow burner, but trust me folks – it’s well worth sticking by it.

Andrew: While Alligator was undoubtedly a huge step forward for the band, Boxer was the record when the world really took notice of The National, and for good reason. In 43 incredibly concise minutes, the five-piece announced themselves as the band everyone knew they were capable of becoming. The piano part that opens Fake Empire and the record is now nothing short of legendary, and the track’s politically-infused lyricism is as relevant now as it was in 2007.

Boxer just feels like the trademark National album. From the legitimately threatening Mistaken for Strangers to the brilliantly bullish Apartment Story (“we’ll be alright, we have our looks and perfume on”) this is a band on top of their game.

Perhaps the quintessential National track is Slow Show, a ballad beautifully incorporating acoustic guitar and piano, with Berninger describing his social anxiety at a party and his desire to rush home to his partner, with a vintage lyric “can I get a minute of not being nervous and not thinking of my dick?” If you ever find yourself doubting why The National are such indie royalty, just look at how moving their tracks can be while Berninger sings about his penis.

1. High Violet (2010)

Josh: Here we have the only National album that doesn’t stumble once throughout its 48 minute long run time – the closest the band have ever come and probably ever will to a perfect record.  It’s almost ironic then that it starts tentatively, with an echoing muted guitar strum to test the water before jumping straight into one of their most moving songs, “Terrible Love”, that features a monster of a chorus that feels like it was designed for the larger crowds the group found themselves playing for after “Boxer”.  Nearly every song builds to a climax or a certain moment that takes your breath away: the repeated mantra at the end of “Afraid of Everyone”, or the joyous crescendo of “England”, or the final, reverberating chorus of delicate closer “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”. Everything just works, and works staggeringly well at that. What more could you ask for?

Kieran: When I first started dabbling in The National, in all honesty, I wasn’t sold – that is, until I heard the opening drumbeats of Bloodbuzz Ohio. High Violet is the album that got me utterly, utterly hooked on the band. It’s an explosive, cathartic wall of sound and it’s so compelling I still find myself struggling to turn it off without listening to the entire album front-to-back. Terrible Love is the perfect way to start an album (although plenty of debate has raged about whether the alternative version on the extended edition is better) and is a case in point that the band have mastered the art of the opening track.

It’s much more polished and painstakingly produced than Boxer or Alligator, to the point where Lemonworld was rewritten 80 times in order to achieve the perfect sound – although the final version ended up resembling the original demo. I absolutely loved High Violet (still do), and although it got me into The National –  Alligator and Boxer made me stick around.

Andrew: High Violet is a flawless record. As much as I love them, if I was to nit-pick, I could criticise Sleep Well Beast and Boxer, but High Violet is a different beast. There’s not a weak track to be seen in the track listing. Hell, there’s not even a weak chorus, verse or bridge.

To discuss the actual songwriting of High Violet, it’s easily the most cinematic National record. It’s almost the antithesis of Sleep Well Beast in that it is thoroughly anthemic: High Violet is personified by colossal climaxes – such as “it takes an ocean not to break” on Terrible Love, your voice is swallowing my soul” on Afraid of Everyone and the huge wordless crescendo of Bloodbuzz Ohio.  Remarkably on a record with moments this huge – it’s not at all disjointed, the flow is incredibly natural and even the less ambitious songs on the tracklist, such as Little Faith and Lemonworld, serve as small but vital parts of the beautiful canvas.

Arguably the record’s most dynamic track is penultimate number England, which develops from a world-weary piano riff into a colossal emotional epiphany – worthy of closing just about any album. However, what comes after is one of the most beautiful tracks in the band’s discography – Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, a stunning acoustic track which features Berninger singing in an uncharacteristically high octave, seemingly suggesting there’s nothing this band and album can’t do.

Callum: Another accumulation of The National’s musical prowess here. High Violet is home to the commercially wonderful Bloodbuzz Ohio, but it is elsewhere that we find the ripe, unpicked fruit. From front to back, this record oozes powerful emotion and tracks perfect for all aspects of life – predominantly the themes of abandonment (Anyone’s Ghost and Conversation 16) and pining for the second coming of what has gone before (England). Teetering on the magnificent, majestic and all round.

Beach House reach the crest of their career on 7

words fae andrew barr (@weeandreww)rating 8

In 2018, Beach House are firmly established as indie royalty. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s dream-pop project already have 6 LPs under their belt, and even a glance at the reviews they have received over the course of their career would strongly suggest it foolish to call them anything but critical darlings. However, they are more than a critics’ band, as evidenced by their comfortable position near the top of the festival posters they appear on, such as Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival.

However, at this point, comfortable is a word that could be used to describe the duo in more ways than one. 2015’s surprise double release of Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars rarely faltered in terms of quality, but Beach House perhaps became too comfortable in their trademark dreamy, hazy sound which they have been exploring since their debut. The sound was consistent, but it led to some fans and critics feeling like they wanted to hear the duo explore some new soundscapes.

So in 2018, Beach House have returned with their 7th record, simply entitled 7 in what feels like an effort to strip away any bullshit before the listener even hits play on the record. Or in the band’s words – in the Father John Misty-esque “essay’ they published with the record – “we hoped its simplicity would encourage people to look inside.” It would be unfair to call this a make-or-break album for Beach House, as they are already more than successful, but it feels like an important album for the Baltimore duo – which they acknowledged in their essay when they said, “Throughout the process of recording 7, our goal was rebirth and rejuvenation.”

I’m delighted to say this quote couldn’t be further from how Simon Neil talks up the latest Biffy release (yes, I’m still incredibly bitter he said Ellipsis would sound like Death Grips) because the “rejuvenation” of the duo’s sound is clear from the opening seconds of the record.

Opener Dark Spring jolts to life with an onslaught of thunderous drums which gives way to a frenetic synth that echoes LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire, two bands to whom Beach House have probably never been compared over their 14-year career. However, what is most enjoyable about 7 is that Beach House are experimenting, but they aren’t throwing out what fans and critics love about them. Victoria Legrand’s vocals are a calming balm atop the (relative) madness, and her lyrics are as cryptic and (literally) spacey as ever, as she sings about constellations for the track’s remarkably concise 3 minutes.

The “rejuvenation” of the duo is also evident on lead single Lemon Glow, which opens on some subtle, fast-paced drums and rolling synths, and which sounds like a classic Beach House instrumental played at 1.5x the speed. This is also one of the only tracks on the record with an easily discernible chorus – a simple two-line hook where Legrand visualises the glow from a dimmed light.

7 then makes its way to easily its strongest three-track run, and perhaps the best three-track run of the duo’s entire discography. L’inconnue (which translates to “The Unknown”) is a fascinating song where Beach House’s trademark beauty is replaced by a nightmarish eeriness, opening with multi-layered hypnotic Legrand vocals, and these only give way to a single vocal track after a psychedelic chord progression, where she opts to sing in French, including counting from one to seven which sounds almost cultish and completes this track’s uneasiness.

Following L’inconnue, an undisputed highlight, is no easy task, but Drunk in L.A. does so effortlessly. True to its title, the track feels unhinged, built on a quick drum beat and synth flourishes which feel almost random, however this track’s beauty comes from Legrand’s poetic lyrics about ageing with the climax, “I am loving losing life”. The second verse finds the track subtly adding layers and complexity, echoing the album’s patchwork art, with so many layers and instruments merging into one to form a beautiful collage. In the least Beach House fashion, the track’s climax comes with a guitar solo, which doesn’t feel one bit out of place.

This stunning three-track run is completed by second single Dive, which is a traditional, beautiful slow-paced Beach House song with world-building lyrics. However, this is only until the 2:20 mark, where the beautiful layered vocals give way to a guitar riff which quadruples the track’s BPM and provides a sense of urgency which has rarely been heard in the Beach House discography this far. It suits them, especially if you consider the dreamy flourishes which sit atop the racing guitar.

The second half of the record is more typical of the Beach House we know thus far, but there are still clear signs of the duo’s “rejuvenation.” Lose Your Smile is carried by a warm acoustic guitar, which feels like such a natural fit in the band’s sonic universe, you wonder why the duo haven’t used it more throughout their career. By the time this track reaches its beautiful climax, the music is so heavenly you believe every word of Legrand’s promise that “dreams, baby, do come true.”

A theme which subtly introduces itself in the second half of this record is a celebration of femininity. On Woo, where a drum machine comes and goes subtly, allowing the pace to shift naturally, Legrand sings of “when she closes her eyes” and later adds “you will braid your hair” in-between fabulously multi-layered vocals in the track’s climax. This theme is more explicit on Girl of the Year, a track likely dedicated to Edie Sedgwick, who was one of Andy Warhol’s Factory Girls, called “girl of the year” in 1965. She died young of a drug overdose, but Legrand here celebrates her while bemoaning the tragedy, with lyrics like, “Get dressed to undress / Depressed to impress” before mourning “Baby’s gone / All night long.”

The album’s final track, Last Ride, subtly continues this theme, with Legrand repeating “there she goes” as she seems to narrate a romantic encounter between two characters over one of the album’s most beautiful instrumentals – opening with a grand piano which is overdubbed with distortion and is soon joined by guitars, drums and electronic keys, all joining and furthering the track seamlessly, forming another collage in the image of the album’s art.

7 is undoubtedly an album Beach House had to make. It’s the duo’s grandest album yet, which the band touched on themselves in their essay: “In the past, we often limited our writing to parts that we could perform live. On 7, we decided to follow whatever came naturally.” It’s a change that suits them. The extra instrumentation brings a new dimension and urgency to the two-piece’s sound while also making their trademark dreamy moments even more dreamy and beautiful. Album number 7 may well be Beach House’s best yet.

 

Every Arctic Monkeys Album, Ranked From Worst to Best

While they may have inadvertently caused a decade’s worth of sub-par indie rock acts to follow in their footsteps, it’s hard to argue that the Arctic Monkeys haven’t helped to define a decade of music, at least in the UK. Hailing from Sheffield, this band have managed to not only be critically acclaimed throughout their whole career but also commercial, managing to make it just as big across the pond as they did at home. With a new album set to drop anytime in 2018, Andy (@weeandreww), Ethan (@human_dis4ster), Oli (@notoliverbutler), Rory (@rorymeep) and Ross (@rossm98) determine which Arctic Monkeys album is truly the best. So, without further ado, let’s get this list built brick by brick…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.

5. AM (2013)

Rory [5th]: Perhaps the obvious choice for the last position on this list, but… that’s just because of how bad it is. AM is every inch a dud, and listening to it now provides just as much disappointment as it did back in 2013. Not even a Josh Homme cameo manages to inject any degree of passion or excitement into these tracks, with the majority just sounding half-arsed. Sure, there are a few gems, Do I Wanna Know? and R U Mine? are classics, but that just doesn’t obscure that the rest of the record is a total wet blanket. Gone is the energy of previous albums, and in its place a turgid, dull attempt at reinvention; the sound of a band who forgot what made them great in the first place.

Ethan [5th]: AM. What to say about this garbage. I really really hate this album and I don’t know what to say. It has 2 good songs? The rest all sound the same and it’s just a complete bore. Honestly what happened to Alex Turner? This album is creepy, it’s vapid, it’s devoid of personality, it’s trash.

Andrew [5th]: It will surprise no one to see the Sheffield four-piece’s latest record bottom of the list, and I am not going to buck that trend. However, I will stand in defence of this record against the hyperbole it has been tarred with since its release in 2013. It’s far from being vintage Arctic Monkeys, but the record has a very clear aesthetic running through every track – and when it’s executed well, like on the snarling one-two opening of Do I Wanna Know? and R U Mine?, it hears the band at their best with a sound that marks new territory on the 5th LP of their career – no mean feat.

However – while the dark, sultry aesthetic runs through every track – the execution is far less consistent, which leaves tracks like I Want It All and Fireside which sound lazy, unwritten and unfinished and that they only made it on the album for Alex Turner to swivel his hips to on stage in pursuit of his newfound sleazy persona. It’s worth noting though that for every Fireside, there’s a stunner like the Josh Homme-aided Knee Socks. The verdict: Arctic Monkeys’ worst album? Undoubtedly. A bad album? By no means.

Oli [3rd]: Humbug and Suck It And See were whelming at best, and largely underwhelming, so AM came like a breath of fresh air in 2013. Right from the rough mix of R U Mine, the hype was building for this new album, and it lived up to expectations. The slow, cool feel to this album is what makes it great. The smoothness of the tempo makes you feel you’re sat in a smoky club, bathed in a sultry red light. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High slaps with a capital S, and Arabella is an absolute must-queue when you’re driving in the later summer sun.

Ross [5th]: AM returns to where the Monkeys feel most at home: the club, the bar, the house-party. Unfortunately, it is incredibly hard to write music for these places that has an abundance of originality or complexity. However, it was clear that Alex Turner had a vision for this project, and it was expressed well in its tone. Despite this, for a band that’s been going for 10 years and are five albums in, this album seems to be a warning that things are getting a bit dry.

4. Humbug (2009)

Ethan [4th]: For me, Humbug is more interesting than it is loveable. It doesn’t have the replay value of Arctic Monkey’s other records but it is definitely their riskiest. At the time of its release, it perplexed many fans at first but all the key elements of the band were still there, most notably Turners lyrical ability still improving upon his already high standards. However, for me, the sound doesn’t have as much versatility as the band like to think it does and by the end of the album, it becomes slightly one note. Far from a bad album, even though it’s not their best many of the bands they originally impaired couldn’t make an album this innovative but it was an interesting detour and will always be definitive in their career as it showed they weren’t afraid to stray from the norm.

Andrew [1st]: Humbug is undoubtedly the weird Arctic Monkeys’ album. It was recorded in the desert and produced by Josh Homme, but it is the record’s songwriting that sets it apart from the rest of the Sheffield band’s discography – conscious of becoming pigeonholed as ‘just another indie rock band’, Humbug is a sharp left-turn, where the band largely avoid writing hooks in favour of moodier, more progressive, psych-influenced tracks. As you would expect, this bold move divided fans and critics, but personally, I think it’s the best record the band have released so far.

Sonically, it is their most consistent and cohesive album, with this plodding sound running through every track, the guitars are generally slower but sound almost quadruple-tracked with menace and there are keys on every track which adds a new layer to the record’s psychedelia. Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to this record is that Turner’s lyricism doesn’t shine as brightly as other records – because the instrumentals are so good. His role on Humbug is subtly different – it’s not a spoken word record but he typically sings less and more adopts the role of narrator on certain tracks – and he is a narrator who seems to revel in the eeriness of his tales.

Oli [5th]: Bollocks to you and your takes. “But Butler!” I hear you cry “Humbug is a GOOD album”. But it’s not. Of course, one album has to come last in this ranking, but this album deserves to come last. It was a case of third album syndrome for AM, as Humbug just didn’t do anything to further or build on what the first two albums, and it just felt like generic indie-by-numbers. Some sort of 2006 indie explosion offshoot, like it, could’ve been by a band called The Ejaculating Raspberries and just had AM’s name slapped on top of it, because they’d spent all their studio time playing Tetris or something. Crying Lightning is still a tune, but the rest of it? Disgusting. Get away with you.

Ross [4th]: One of the darker albums from the boy’s discography, resembling a product of The Doors or even Echo and the Bunnymen, Humbug seems a little too forgetful. Nevertheless, it was a change for Turner to write with heavy, sexy overtones and a necessary one at that. The project’s importance to the listener doesn’t quite match the importance of Turner’s style evolving. Its production is flamboyant and obnoxious, and a little too much. Humbug is like a good looking, well baked caked that, when it comes to scranning, is just too sweet.

Rory [3rd]: And now we get to the really good stuff. This one polarised, and continues to polarise, fans when it came out, and it’s not difficult to see why. While Favourite Worst Nightmare saw the band shake up their sound a little, Humbug saw the boys from Sheffield shed many of their established hallmarks entirely. In the process though, they crafted a pretty damn great album. These tracks double down on the darkness hinted at on their sophomore record, with some such as My Propeller coming across outright menacing. The added use of keyboards only adds to this wonderfully enthralling atmosphere, injecting tracks like Pretty Visitors, an all-time top 5 Arctic Monkeys tune if you ask me, with a brilliant sense of intensity. It’s not perfect of course, but it’s a damn sight more interesting than most third records and stands as the most recent truly great effort from the band. 

3. Suck It And See (2011)

Andrew [2nd]: On listening to the easy-going Suck It and See, it’s easy to forget how bold a record this truly is. British rock bands are given a particularly hard time when it comes to “selling out” – diluting their sound and its quirks for mainstream success (just look at the comments of a Biffy Clyro Facebook post). Therefore, it was incredibly bold for the Arctic Monkeys to make their 4th LP a straight-up, 60s-inspired pop record. The sound actually suits them down to the ground – Alex Turner’s lyricism perhaps shines brighter than on any other record, and the instrumentals are irresistible.

Tracks like Piledriver Waltz and Love is a Laserquest are built on warm guitar tones which feel uplifting and melancholy simultaneously – the title track and She’s Thunderstorms both have a classical sound to them which perfectly align with Turner’s lovesick lyrics – this album sounds like the instrumentals were written to match the lyrics which results in a beautifully inviting sound throughout. However, the Arctic Monkeys didn’t lose their edge – Library Pictures and Don’t Sit Down… are bangers nightmarish enough to fit on Humbug – so Suck it and See showcases the four-piece’s versatility – and their talent for being really fucking good at everything.

Oli [4th]: I remember being absolutely underwhelmed by this album. It came at a time where I was getting more and more into music, so I er, ahem, acquired it when it came out and spent much of my remaining study leave playing this album on repeat, and I just couldn’t grow to like it. Maybe I had high hopes for it being massively into indie and the like back then, and it didn’t live up to my huge expectations, but even today I still don’t enjoy it. It just felt a bit flat and didn’t feel as rough and edgy as the first two albums, and I still feel a bit bored with it today. However, Black Treacle still remains a sweet favourite.

Ross [1st]: This writer is prepared for impending hate but will firmly stand his ground on this one. In terms of writing, instrumentation, production and delivery, this is the Arctic Monkey’s best album. The timbre dances around a shoegaze tone that entwines beautifully with Turner’s poetry in ‘The Hellcat Spangled Sha la la’ and ‘That’s Where your wrong’. However, the band also stick close to their roots by coming out with other heavy ballads with their unique edge in ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ and ‘Library Pictures’. Alex Turner is without a doubt at his best lyrically, just off the back of writing the critically acclaimed soundtrack for the film ‘Submarine‘. In terms of technical ability, the Arctic Monkeys have never delivered so well as they did on Suck it and See. The album’s direction clear, Turner’s vision is displayed perfectly through his lyrics, which is emphasised through the backline’s performance and input on the tracks. It is a masterpiece.

Rory [4th]: It’s easy to forget just how decent this one is. While it doesn’t have the youthful bombast of their early work or the radio-friendly slickness of AM, this sunny collection of tunes remains a perfectly enjoyable, and occasionally great, chapter of the band’s discography. Admittedly, it contains a few dull exercises in mid-tempo balladry, but when all the parts click into place there’s some undeniably great music that often unfairly falls through the cracks. Black Treacle and The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, for example, both deserve to rank amongst the bands finest moments, and it’s a shame that their positioning within an otherwise average record tends to obscure that.

Ethan [3rd]: Suck It And See was yet another twist in Arctic Monkeys discography. Bar a couple of tracks, it is mostly a collection of much simpler, quieter tracks, showcasing Turner’s voice, lyricism and charm. Perhaps showing their growth as people as well musicians, the tracks focus less on tales of drunkenness like their earlier albums. Maybe disappointing for some fans to see this departure but it gave us beautiful songs such as Love Is a Laserquest so no complaints from me. It lacks the raw energy that made their first two albums truly great albums but it is still a worthwhile addition nonetheless.

2. Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)

Oli [1st]: You don’t headline Glastonbury after two albums for no good reason, and FWN proved that AM were no turkeys. From front to back, this is such an enjoyable album and built on that rough-but-refined sound that WPSIAM brought to the table. Right from the first frantic bar of Brianstorm to the anthemic 505, this represented an early peak in AM’s career. One of the definite standouts on this album is If You Were There, Beware. The way that every note on that riff is stabbed is absolutely sublime. That being said, the word sublime could be applied to every album.

Ross [3rd]:  This top 3 was the hardest to decide. It was migraine worthy. Delivering a follow-up album that was the same standard as their debut was always going to be a struggle for Turner, but this one was a real team effort from the band collectively. With Matt Helder’s explosive drums in ‘Do Me a Favour’ to Jamie Cook and Nick O’Malley’s punchy bass and electric guitar in ‘Old Yellow Bricks’, Turner took common, upbeat Alt. Rock and gave it a slick edge. In the second half of the album, he also shows the other weapons in his armoury, with ‘505‘ and ‘The Only Ones Who Know’ proving that he can go from a hard-hitting anthem to a slow, carefully crafted love song. This album quite simply shook up the foundation of Indie music.

Rory [2nd]: An altogether darker and more restrained effort than their debut, this second album still manages to run its predecessor close for the number one spot. Although more of a gradual progression in sound than a dramatic shift, these tracks simmer with a different kind of underlying intensity. Turner’s vocal delivery is sharper and more aggressive, and the same goes for the instrumentation, resulting in an album that’s effectively one long shot of energy. Tracks like Balaclava and D is for Dangerous deserve to be thought of as some of the best indie rock songs of that decade, and even when they play it a little safer, like on the Channel 4-core of Fluorescent Adolescent, they normally stick the landing. 

Ethan [1st]: Favourite Worst Nightmare could have been such a different result. Bands often define their career with their second album, either setting their sights on bigger and better things or staying content with what they are already doing and showing little desire to be truly great. While some seem to think FWN is similar to their debut album, that is far from the truth if you really delve into their best album. The biggest change is their improvements musically, it flows perfectly track to track and each member is in spectacular form, Matt Helders especially, and its distinct sound is forever immersive. Moving on thematically from their debut, this album is more sophisticated yet still holds Turner’s signature charm on tracks such as Fluorescent Adolescent yet foreshadows the darkness of Humbug on If You Were There, Beware. Favourite Worst Nightmare finds the band at their peak in every sense and leaves us with a perfect album.

Andrew [4th]: Favourite Worst Nightmare is a very good album – however it comes in second-bottom for me due to the Arctic Monkeys’ incredible consistency. On (almost) every record, the band have clearly tried to experiment and find a brand new sound – and this is where Favourite Worst Nightmare loses out for me. There is clear development from the debut (Alex Turner’s lyrical maturity and Matt Helders’ drumming have come on leaps and bounds, and shine on this record), however there is no reinvention of the band’s sound like there is from this record to Humbug.

That does nothing to discredit Favourite Worst Nightmare as an excellent collection of songs – Teddy Picker is arguably the first time the band brought a real sense of swagger to a track, Fluorescent Adolescent is arguably still the best pop song Alex Turner has written and on the other side of spectrum, Do Me a Favour is a brilliantly typical Arctic Monkeys moody banger. However, the showstopper is closer 505 – an eerily beautiful track beginning in a hush which grows in power and menace as it powers on, propelled by some of Alex Turner’s greatest lyrics, before it explodes into a massive climax which somehow still incorporates the track’s eeriness – a sign of the band’s mammoth potential and left-field leanings.

1. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)

Ross [2nd]: The reason this album is so impressive is the pressure put on such a young band from the get-go. They released the singles of WPSIA on SoundCloud for free and they blew up with popularity. Instantly dubbed ‘Britain’s answer to The Strokes’ and the band that ‘Is carrying the Torch of The Libertines’, you’d think any teenage band from Sheffield would crumble. Instead, the Arctic Monkey’s rode the hype and captured young, working-class British Culture in an album. This showed through it being the fastest-selling British record of all time. Its intimate production, rough grungy guitars and intense vocals came together to make one of the best Indie records of all time. But it’s not their best.

Rory [1st]: The first, and still the best. It’s the obvious choice for the number one spot but for very good reasons; all these years later it still manages to hold up as an exciting and engaging listen. Around every corner, there’s a track you thought you forgot about, but it’s not the nostalgia of rediscovering old favourites that makes this album great, it’s the sincerity. Whatever you feel about his later shifts in persona and whatnot, on this record, Alex Turner comes across at his most genuine, humble, and human, and that really lends these tracks a special feeling. Whether he’s cheekily recounting the tale of a run-in with the cops on Riot Van or just straight up singing about a Sheffield night out, it’s hard not to grin along and get wrapped up in the sheer fun of it all. Admittedly, it spawned a thousand painfully dull copy-cats, but that shouldn’t obscure just how good this debut was, and is.

Ethan [2nd]: An instant classic, Arctic Monkeys debut album is a burst of personality and passion. WPSIATWIN announced their arrival with so much confidence yet is endlessly likeable. Young Alex Turner’s performance is always the highlight, delivering his witty observational lyrics with sincerity. The album that transformed Arctic Monkeys into one of the countries biggest bands and birthed an entire era of music, WPSIATWIN is still equally as vital today, each song holding its own atmosphere and story yet they all come together in Turner’s fully realised world of Sheffield as a teen and it is still a joy to hear his stories each time he tells them.

Andrew [3rd]: The Arctic Monkeys’ debut arguably still characterises them in a sense that most band’s debuts rarely do – and for good reason. Whatever People Say I Am… has become nothing short of legendary since its 2006 release, propelling the band into superstardom almost overnight, and it’s easy to see why. The record is a concept album – a love letter to Sheffield nightlife and all its trials and tribulations, and Alex Turner’s poetry is told atop a fusion of Strokes-esque New Wave and punk, and it’s a sound that countless indie bands still pine for, long after Arctic Monkeys moving on.

What has made this album so legendary to this day is how relatable almost every track is to anyone familiar with clubbing – take Dancing Shoes’ anecdote of being too nervous to approach a love interest or Fake Tales of San Francisco’s snarling put-down of try-hard, inauthentic local bands. Both these topics could be perceived as mundane, but Turner’s lyricism elevates these tracks to anthem status, combined with the youthful energy of the instrumentals. Whatever People Say I Am.. was a record that boldly demanded the spotlight, and the Arctic Monkeys’ following output has refused to ever give that up.

Oli [2nd]: A staple of every pre-drink playlist from the years 2009 to well, today, WPSIATWIN is definitely one of “those” albums that represent the changeover from shy wallflower to overly noisy piss artist in my life. Walking around my mate’s uni digs, sinking a disgusting amount of spiced rum and letting tracks like Riot Van and I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor to permeate the excitement in the room. This album would follow us around too because somewhere around 2am, we’d all be flapping about to When the Sun Goes Down. The rough, live feel of this album really adds to it, and even when it first came out I was blown away by it, and sometimes still am.

MGMT’s new album ‘Little Dark Age’ marks a return to form

ALBUM REVIEW

by andrew barr (@weeandreww)

The story of Connecticut duo MGMT’s career sounds more like a work of fiction, straight out of a cheesy Netflix original, as opposed to a true story. Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser formed one of indie’s most iconic duos at university in 2002, united by a love of psychedelia and electronica. The duo saw pop music as a joke and so, for a laugh, decided to begin by writing pop songs, and in 2005, they released the Time to Pretend EP, featuring the title track and Kids.

By the time they released debut record Oracular Spectacular in 2007, Electric Feel, another pop song had joined Time to Pretend and Kids on the tracklist, effectively ending MGMT’s desire to write pop songs, particularly as the rest of the record was filled with a more experimental, psychedelic sound which the embers wanted to be defined by. The only problem? Their three “joke” pop songs transcended hit status, appearing in countless films, TV shows and video games, capturing the cultural zeitgeist perhaps more than any act in the late-00’s.

VanWyngarden and Goldwasser were disgruntled by the level of success the three singles achieved and the way they saw them defining the act, so in 2010 returned with the weirder, more experimental (and better) Congratulations. This was more like the music the duo wanted to make – however its reception was mixed, with some disappointed there were no radio singles in the vein of their debut. In 2013, they released their self-titled third record, which continued in the same vein as Congratulations, but the due ultimately became too self-indulgent and experimental and the record flopped.

With a fan base that’s been declining since their debut, it’s not difficult to see why MGMT’s fourth record sees them at a make-or-break point in their career, and the height of the stakes only adds to how enjoyable a listen Little Dark Age is. Put simply, on this record, MGMT has relearned how to write pop music.

Take the title track, for example, released as the album’s lead single – it’s a dark, moody track with more than a subtle nod to The CureVanWyngarden’s vocal is ominous and haunting as he illustrates a paranoid dystopia (“just know that if you hide / it doesn’t go away”). However, despite the track’s weirdness, at heart, it is a pop song, with a huge synth sound dominating the track, particularly on the brilliantly overbearing chorus. What furthers the brilliant pop appeal is the funky bass riff which pops up all over the track.

When Little Dark Age dropped as the lead single, it would have been reasonable to assume that the entire record would be similarly dark, however, darkness is more of a flirtation than a theme across the full LP. Follow-up single When You Die hears VanWyngarden playfully declaring “we’ll all be laughing with you when you die” over a light mandolin tone. In fact, if there’s one thing that shines on this record, it’s MGMT’s sense of humour that is infused on so many tracks. Rather than shooting for a Father John Mistyesque sense of irony, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser’s humour is more whimsical and bizarre.

This humour shines brightest on opener She Works Out Too Much, which speaks of a failed relationship with a girl who has an unhealthy obsession with both exercise and social media. The real genius of this track is that there is a vocal from a workout video interspersed with VanWyngarden’s vocal (“Remember to drink a glass of water before and after you work out”), creating a back-and-forth conversation between both voices on the funk-fest of a chorus. Track 1 ends abruptly with the voice announcing “Okay, we’re done!”, signalling an end to the track, workout and relationship.

Airy standout Me and Michael is another example of the duo’s tongue-in-cheek wit, with VanWyngarden declaring “Me and Michael / solid as they come” on the ‘80s-infused chorus. In an interview, VanWyngarden stated the lyric was initially “me and my girl” but they opted to change it to make the track virtually meaningless. Even when the duo’s sense of humour is more misplaced on Tslamp (Time Spent Looking at my Phone – a lyrical topic which feels worn to death in 2018), the rest of the track is too good to deny, particularly on the samba-nodding mandolin solo before the final chorus.

Speaking of highlights, perhaps the record’s best track is One Thing Left to Try, a soaring synthpop track which evokes CHVRCHES at their very best before descending into MGMT’s usual psychedelic territory. If that doesn’t sound appealing enough already – the duo borrows James Murphy’s cowbell – both in the intro and in the instrumental that closes the cut, pushing the track almost into disco territory.

Little Dark Age’s airtight closing trio is completed by When You’re Small and Hand it Over, with the latter serving as a kind of encore after the beautiful When You’re Small, which begins as a calm acoustic track before MGMT’s psychedelic tendencies get the better of them and synths give the track a woozy, atmospheric feel which could have closed the record beautifully. However, Hand it Over’s breezy rhythm provides a more than worthwhile encore, especially given how well-produced VanWyngarden’s vocals are.

The relatively understated finale aptly closes the best MGMT album since Congratulations and arguably the greatest they’ve ever made. After many had written them off after their self-titled record, it’s incredibly satisfying to have a great MGMT album in 2018.  While the gym coach from She Works Out Too Much’s words are largely shallow and meaningless, her opening of “get ready to have some fun” applies perfectly to any listener diving into Little Dark Age.

rating 8

Every Biffy Clyro Album, Ranked From Worst to Best

Considering they make up one half of this site’s name (you know, the one you’re reading from just now), it’ll come as no surprise that we’re big fans of Biffy Clyro and who can blame us. Having went through multiple iterations in terms of sound (from angsty grunge to awe inspiring weird prog rock), the divide amongst fans about which album of theirs deserves the crown has went on for as long as the band have been around: hell, we’ve already done this before when this site was just a small wee thing but much has changed since then both with us and the biff.

Today is the day the questioning will die though as Ethan (@human_dis4ster), Jake (@jjjjaketh), Liam (@blnkclyr) and Oli (@notoliverbutler) definitively answer which record from the Ayrshire trio reigns supreme – it’s time to build this fucker stone by stone…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.

 

7. Ellipsis (2016)

Liam [7th]: I still remember the slagging I got from Biffy fans when Wolves of Winter came out and I called it “more Biffy 3.0 than Biffy 2.5”, something that could be said for the entirety of this album. Ellipsis is by no means a bad album, featuring tracks that are honest to god great like In The Name Of The Wee Man, but it doesn’t feel unique enough to stand out from the previous three albums the band had dropped in this style – more disappointing than weak.

Oli [5th]: No, you’re stupid. Don’t care what you think, this might be Biffy’s softest record, but who can resist the charms of Medicine, People and Re-Arrange? The soulless, faceless consumers that have never loved and lost. I attach a special & emotional meaning to this record that makes it a cut above the rest for me.

Jake [7th]: Biffy’s latest is far from bad but it’s their weakest. In interviews prior to the album’s release, Simon Neil said Ellipsis was inspired by artists like Death Grips and Deafheaven, and when this turned out to not be true, fans of the band were understandably a bit ticked off. Songs like People and Herex are cookie cutter rock but there are some shining lights on the record in the form of Small Wishes and Wolves of Winter. The main event of the album is undoubtedly In the Name Of The Wee Man, which was, for some reason that is beyond this writer, relegated to a bonus track. It’s a furious jolt of adrenaline that, hopefully, we’ll get to see more of on LP 8.

Ethan [7th]: As time goes on, I dislike this album more and more and the same can be said about most of the tracks on here. Animal Style is exactly what I wanted from this record so when it turned out to be an anomaly, it made the rest of the album a bit of a chore. Clearly finding the band at an awkward stage in their career, Ellipsis just seems to lack any real urgency or ambition – it is hardly bad enough to ruin the band’s legacy but signals a need for a reinvention on their next venture.

 

6. Opposites (2013)

Oli [7th]: Much like myself, Opposites is bloated, unnecessary and largely forgotten about. Any Biffy list feels unfair because someone has to come last. Opposites produced a hearty handful of choice singles, but on the whole, felt a bit cumbersome & stodgy as a double album.

Jake [6th]: Double albums almost never work, but I think Biffy have come the closest ever to making a coherent one. Not to say Opposites is perfect, far from it with with tracks like Trumpet or Tap being weird for the sake of it as opposed to the natural oddity that Biffy tend to radiate and Opposite is just a bit bland. That’s not to say there’s not belters either: Accident Without Emergency is a soaring bit of stadium rock, as is setlist mainstay Different People, and tracks like Spanish Radio and Little Hospitals keep the weirdness factor at a cosy level. If some filler had been left on the cutting room floor, Opposites would be held in higher regard but as it is, it’s still a great, yet bloated record.

Ethan [6th]: The band, after the popularity of Only Revolutions, faced a dilemma with their sixth album, having to choose between continuing down a more commercial path or going back to their roots, and the band opted to do…both. A double album that contains more accessible tracks such as Biblical and Black Chandelier but also tracks that are reminiscent of their earlier years such as Trumpet or Tap, the band attempted to please both camps and unfortunately came up short on both. Still an adequate Biffy album, Opposites has many highlights but its length and inconsistency in quality and tone let it down.

Liam [5th]: I’ll be echoing the same sentiment as you lot have since, aye, there’s undeniably a bit of unnecessary flubber on this behemoth but when this beast roars, I’m left in awe; Victory Over The Sun manages to feel like an honest to god predator, a suspenseful intro paving the way for the chaotic hunt that makes up most of this track. In addition, Sounds Like Balloons is Biffy at their viscous best and while it may be a bit too polished, Biffy’s “pop rock” is miles ahead of most other rock bands. I have some attachment to this record, as I do with most of Biffy, but there’s a lot to love here for any fan of music, even if there’s some that you’ll pass on.

 

5. Only Revolutions (2010)

Jake [5th]: The true beginning of the mainstream Biffy we all know and love* (*have come to terms with), Only Revolutions is still a damn fine record. It manages to tow the line between “Weird Biffy” and “Straightforward Biffy” relatively well for the most part, songs like Born On A Horse with its driving synth and Cloud of Stink with it’s falsetto vocals are welcome spells of strangeness. But the weird is tucked in alongside some of the most straightforward Biffy songs to date in Mountains, God & Satan and Many of Horror. Still, straightforward doesn’t mean bad, not by a long shot, and this is a very strong pop rock record.

Ethan [5th]: The album that lost them hundreds of fans but gained them thousands, Only Revolutions was Biffy completely embracing their mainstream audience with huge singles such as Mountains and Many Of Horror. Their talent for instrumental structure and interesting lyrics was still there though it pales in comparison with their work before. An enjoyable listen rather than a truly great album, the album did its job as it propelled the band to arena status and made them Scotland’s biggest band but left fans like myself wanting a bit more and feeling cautious about the band’s future musically.

Liam [6th]: I feel like I’ll get butchered for having this below Opposites but where that album felt like it was trying to spice up the formula a bit, Only Revolutions kind of came off as that kid that copies someone (Puzzle) else’s homework and gets a grade below them. There’s some undeniable bangers on here, why else would I own it on vinyl, but this album’s peaks are only kinda high, compared to most other Biffy record where you feel like you’re getting vertigo.

Oli [3rd]: This is a fantastic album, and really began to prick up a few ears outside of their closed inner circle, culminating in a headline show at Wembley Arena, plus a support gig on one of Muse’s Wembley Stadium gigs (first time I saw Biffy, was mesmerised by the hard rock, shirtless Father Christmas called Simon Neil). Much as we like to poke fun at Matt Cardle’s version, Many of Horror is a banger, so it Mountains, so is God & Satan.

4. Blackened Sky (2002)

Ethan [4th]: Doing exactly what a debut album should do, Blackened Sky announced Biffy Clyro’s arrival and was bursting with potential. While their influences are easily distinguishable, this is common for a debut album and while that is probably its biggest weakness, Biffy added enough flavour of their own and their raw aggression and ambition overpowers the album’s flaws.

Liam [3rd]: Yup, it’s not the most original work ever made but that doesn’t mean that the sheer rawness of this angsty bastard isn’t deserving of critical applaud. Much like the rest of the original trilogy and Puzzle, there’s not one slip up, no weak moment to point out that feels like it could have been tweaked. While their fourth record had the saddest subject matter, Blackened Sky is my go to record when I want to feel miserable and enjoy it.

Oli [5th]: Justboy is the best Biffy song ever, fight me irl. Solid debut album from Biffy, introducing their electrifying brand of alt-rock to the world, and albeit not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, was the beginning of something very special.

Jake [4th]: What a charming wee record this is. The Biff’s debut wears its influences not just on its sleeve, but on every item of clothing it’s wearing. It’s obvious that the band had been listening to a lot of Nirvana, Pixies and Fugazi, and they channelled those influences to great effect on Blackened Sky. The loud/quiet/loud song structure on songs like Kill The Old, Torture Their Young and Stress on The Sky are complimented beautifully by the quieter songs like Christopher’s River and Scary Mary. Nothing groundbreaking, but a fantastic framework for The Biff to build upon.

3. Infinity Land (2004)

Liam [2nd]: Weird, erratic, random (but not the XD kind), Infinity Land would be the last record I’d recommend to first time Biffy listeners but that’s not to imply a lack of quality. Considering the underground success the band were experiencing at the time, it’s admirable that instead of going down the path they would trod half a decade later, Biffy chose to turn the dial up to 11 and make an album that, while sporadic in nature, was 100% them.

Oli [4th]: Another one where you pick it up because of how cool the cover art looks, which probably applies to the whole Biffy discography. Lyrically and sonically this was a much darker album compared to VoB and Blackened Sky, and got even crazier in terms of curveball riffs & manic time structures.

Jake [2nd]: I’d say Vertigo of Bliss was insane, and I mean it, but that must make Infinity Land a few steps above insane. Biffy just threw everyfuckingthing at this album, regardless if it made a modicum of sense, and by some miracle it worked. Si’s lyrics had always been a bit vague but the surrealness factor was turned up to 11 on Infinity Land, and it’s better for it. One of the most important rock records of the 21st century for me.

Ethan [3rd]: By far their darkest and perhaps their most obscure album, Infinity Land is maybe overlooked but personally I feel its Biffy at their most inventive. Simon Neil’s vocals are phenomenal  as he adapts to each track with ease and his delivery is commanding no matter what is required of him. The album is unpredictable and exciting even on the 100th listen as tracks such as There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake are heavy but are laced with surprises and twists that make it, and the rest of the album, so intriguing.

2. Puzzle (2007)

Liam [4th]: Out of the first four albums, this is the one that I’ve listened to the least though a) that doesn’t mean much considering I’ve probably listened to them nearly a thousand times collectively and b) this is down to just how cathartic and emotionally charged Puzzle is. True, it’s a lot more friendly to new comers but to imply that means there’s a dip in quality would be naive and flat out wrong: Simon Neil’s lyrics are authentic as well utterly heartbreaking and with how varied the instrumentals can be on here, it allows for a truly enthralling journey of grief.

Oli [1st]: This was probably the record that began the tip from Biffy being time-signature weirdos to hard rock megaliths. For instance, Machines is a song that speaks to everyone on every emotional level, and there’s a good reason Living Is A Problem is still in the setlist today. This record is a record that I can listen to anytime, anywhere.

Jake [3rd]: The opening chapter of Biffy’s second trilogy is the saddest album in their discography. Written in the wake of the death of Simon’s mum Elanor, the album is far more straight forward from a songwriting perspective than anything they’d released prior. The lyrics obviously centre heavily around death and dealing with loss and the instrumentation ditches the strange time signatures and use of left field instruments that had been the calling card of the bands first 3 albums, and instead they elected to things simple. And it worked. A heartbreaking album.

Ethan [2nd]: Perhaps the pivotal moment in Biffy Clyro’s discography, Puzzle is a complete departure from Infinity Land, while still remaining heavy enough to keep longtime fans happy, Puzzle ventured into more accessible territory that widened their audience. For that reason Puzzle was a crossover success, and deservedly so as it contains some of Biffy Clyro’s most emotionally powerful songs and further showed their range and versatility as a band.

1. Vertigo of Bliss (2003)

Oli [2nd]: Definitely one of those records you pick up because of how cool the artwork is, VoB was fully immune to second album syndrome, becoming a furious hard rock odyssey that only further Biffy as alt-rock darlings. Simon Neil teased the intro to With Aplomb during their 2016 tour, and arenas full of people constantly blew their beans at the prospect of with aplomb.

Jake [1st]: VOB is a smashing big cacophony of insanity that is the benchmark from which all subsequent Biffy Clyro albums will be measured against. It’s just a very weird and very, very good slice of alt-rock/post-hardcore and it cemented Biffy from relatively early on in their career as a band not to be ignored

Ethan [1st]: On their follow up, Biffy perfected the approach they had taken on their debut and capitalised on it massively. Crossing over a multitude of genres, Biffy invented their own brand and produced a stellar collection of songs that still stand as many of their best. From the delicacy of All The Way Down to the ferocity of Now The Action is On Fire, the band showed every aspect of their potential on Vertigo of Bliss, including Simon Neil’s lyrics being at their most subtle and sincere.

Liam [1st]: This was the album for me that not only solidified why I want to write about music but why I adore it. Zany, unpredictable, clamorous and, most of all, entertaining, Vertigo of Bliss may not be Infinity Land’s equal in terms of how unstable it is, but it more than makes up for it with how it balances the ferocity of Blackened Sky’s performances and the beauty of Si’s lyrics.

 

 

The BLINKCLYRO Christmas Wishlist!

Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat, we’ve had a fantastic year in music, and Morrissey’s still a fucking twat.

Despite the fact it’s been a scintillating year in the music industry, everyone here at Blinkclyro is salivating at the chops, begging for more in 2018. So we tasked our finest writers (that’s all of them) to write a letter to that nice man who lives at the North Pole, asking him for some musical gifts in the new year.

Those who failed to write letters will receive a copy of Divide by Ed Sheeran and will be forced to watch hours of Liam Gallagher footage, A Clockwork Orange style.


I would like double the amount of albums King Gizz managed this year. 4 (5?) just isn’t enough and I wanna hear them do a doom metal album. Some new Sigur Ros material would be lovely too, and could you throw in a Courtney Barnett / Kurt Vile UK tour while you’re at it! Please, could you also make Ed Sheeran go away, just for a year, I’m begging you.” – Rory McArthur (@rorymeep)

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“Hey Santa,

 I would like some new stuff from Chance the Rapper and The Wytches. It would also be great if Sky Ferreira could make a musical comeback and if someone could tell Weezer it’s not 1996. PS. I would also like to join Brockhampton, Thanks! x” – Isabella McHardy (@isabellmchardy)

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“Well, the same as every year, I want a White Stripes reunion, but that’s not happening anytime soon so I’ll settle for new La Roux and Drenge albums please and thanks, Santa! x” – Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

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” I would like a new Biffy Clyro album where half of it doesn’t sound like Hanson doing a Biffy Clyro impression. I’d also like Kanye West to release at least some of the collaboration’s he’s teased. Kanye with Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert and Kendrick sounds lovely and I’ve done the washing all year Santa PLEASE” – Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

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“Hey, Santa: Really excited to see what Frank Ocean has to offer considering he said “you’re gonna love 2018”, would love some more surprises from artists I haven’t heard before bringing out albums that I love and also albums being released by some of my all time favs like Bring Me The Horizon and MIKA!” – Will Sexton (@willshesleeps)

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“Dear Santa,

I’d like the new Father John Misty LP nearly as much as I want the press cycle where he bullies just about every journalist in music. CRJ following up the best pop album (and b-sides collection) of our times wouldn’t go amiss either, and, if I’m not being too greedy, a few reminders throughout the year that Frank Ocean still exists.” – Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

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“Dear Santa, some new material from Danny Brown would be quality! Also, hope to see The National finally recording a studio version of Rylan. Please though, for the love of god, somebody put LG in the bin. Cheers x” – Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

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For the bland white boy house/techno scene in Glasgow to become more interesting and inclusive: give us diverse lineups but like also maybe Gabber yaaas” – Liam Toner (@tonerliam)

“For LCD Soundsystem to do a Brockhampton and drop 3 masterpieces in one year, and for Eminem to retire to his slippers and anger management classes.” – Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

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“For Kanye West to get his finger out and give us that Turbo Grafx 16 LP he’s been promising. A new Death Grips LP will make me a very happy boy: as would the swift death of boring Lad Rock – cheers big man” – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

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“I would like to see a Muse album that isn’t complete garbage, an Ozzy Osbourne Birmingham gig and maybe some lost Motörhead tracks, I’ve been a good boy! But more than anything, I want Lemmy to rise from the dead.” – Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

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Well then.

We can confirm to Santa that all of our writers have been very good boys & girls this year, so we’re confident that all these musical wishes will appear under our trees, on our radars, and turned into quality content for your viewing pleasure.

Whoever you are (as long as you’re not a Nazi), whatever you believe (as long as you’re not a Nazi) and whatever you listen to (as long as you’re not a Nazi who listens to Catfish), we wish you a very Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a musical New Year!

10 Worst Albums of 2017

You’ll be happy, or sad, to know that this list is the last negative one to drop all year though all that means is that the team are gonna blow their collective loads over the worst music we’ve been subjected to all year.

Of course, this is entirely subjective and if you find any joy from the below albums then we’re glad you did: we didn’t. If you do have any grievances with our choices then you know where to send them so let’s batter on, shall we?

10. Wonderful Wonderful
by The Killers

If you’re familiar with The Killers, you might know that they have released their first album in five years in 2017. If you’re not, you might have not even noticed they were gone. Wonderful Wonderful picks up as if they never left, neither improving nor maturing upon their last effort, Battle BornWonderful Wonderful does not act as an improvement in The Killers’ discography, but instead, plays the same formula they’ve been following for the past 13 years.

Wonderful Wonderful would have sounded better had it been released in 2013, back when Get Lucky by Daft Punk was the biggest song in the world. Maybe then, The Man could have stood as a decent radio single. Almost every element of Wonderful Wonderful sounds incredibly stale in the current genre of indie rock. Making songs like Rut, fueled by frontman Brandon Flowers’s distress with trying to help his wife’s PTSD condition, feel passionless. Like Rut, most of the songs off Wonderful Wonderful try to sound like the grand stadium-closer track that electrifies the crowd and instead sound like the deep cut off their new album that nobody knows the words too.

The Killers lack a certain element that makes their songs sound as grand as they want them to sound. What made songs on Hot Fuss sound as exciting and fresh as they did at the time, and endless revisable as they do today, has been poorly executed throughout their following studio albums. Wonderful Wonderful, not acting as an exception, but further proving the point that The Killers are not as great as you would like them to be. – Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

FULL REVIEW HERE

9. Going Grey 
by The Front Bottoms

The Front Bottoms have been one of the biggest stars of the underground indie community of this decade. Originating as a duo of simple acoustic power chords, provocative lyrics, and catchy melodies, TFB have managed to retain their dedicated fan base since the release of their self-titled 6 years ago. Surely, fans must expect the raw, emotional, amateur sound of the early releases to evolve and mature over time.

This was hinted at with 2015’s Back On Top, which incorporated a fuller and more mainstream sound to what fans were used to expecting from the New Jersey duo. TFB’s latest, Going Grey, takes a strong lead into the direction Back On Top foreshadowed. With heavy synths, trap hi-hats, and minor use of the acoustic guitar, it’s leaving day one fans scratching their heads.

Going Grey plays front to back much less like an album but more as a collection of songs. There are too many skippable songs for an 11-track record and not enough heartfelt moments for it to even feel like a Front Bottoms record. The only consistent element throughout TFB’s discography is the vocal range that Sella has kept throughout the years. It’s the only thing that still feels in place about the band but also sounds so out of place when backed by a sound that sounds desperate for radio play. 

Going Grey may have added more elements, instruments, and layers to TFB’s early minimalistic approach, and there are definite highlights to be found in Vacation Town, but the result sounds less like an evolved, matured version of the band than a sell-out, cheapened version. – Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

FULL REVIEW HERE

8. Reputation
by Taylor Swift

When following up a successful record, 2 of an artist’s main goals should be not to repeat what they did on their previous LP, and for this progression to make the new record better as a result. However, on new album Reputation, Taylor Swift did neither of these things.

In short, her tacky new trap sound found on roughly half of the record’s tracks (…Ready For It?) was so hideous that it saw insufferable lead single Look What You Made Me Dovoted as Blinkclyro’s worst track of the year. On top of this, Swift made the bizarre decision to unsubtly write all her beef into her music for the first time, literally beating listeners over the head with the knowledge of how detestably petty she is.

To be fair, there were 2 excellent tracks on Reputation: Getaway Car and New Year’s Day. The only problem? Getaway Car sounds exactly like what Swift did on 1989 and New Year’s Day is a bizarre hark back to her Speak Now days.

The risks she took on Reputation flopped just about as badly as they could have, and anything good about the record heard her merely repeating what she’d done before. – Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

FULL REVIEW HERE

7. Low In Highschool
by Morrissey

Not since Breaking Bad can we recall the descent of a man quite like Morrissey: starting off in one of the most iconic bands of the 20th century, the quiffy man seems unable to close his big mouth and as he’s got older, the more he starts to resemble UKIP’s key demographic.

This bleeds into his latest album Low In Highschool, a record full of idiotic choices in terms of instrumentals & production (Spent The Day In Bed) to the idotic appraisal of war mongerers while…criticising warmongerers (Israel)?

The question of separating the art from the artist has come up time and time again this year but this Morrisey LP goes to show how near impossible it is to do so: it’s an insult to your brain as well as your ears. – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

6. Memories…Do Not Open
by The Chainsmokers

A wise man once said: The Chainsmokers are the musical equivalent of those weird twenty-year-old guys studying photography in college who message sixteen-year-old girls stating they’re “fascinated by their minds lol xD”. That man is Josh Adams and he owes me a fiver, so if you see him, break his legs.

Memories…Do Not Open is enough to make me feel the anguish those who regularly slate chart music must feel as they exclude themselves from pop bangers: unfortunately, said bangers will not be found in this album. On all levels apart from physical, this album is sheer shite.

If you’ve ever heard an EDM song in your entire life then not only will you get deja-vu but you’ll get the unshakeable feeling that you’re witnessing a murder scene as this duo show off the drained remains of anything that could be considered “a tune”. In addition to the lacklustre production, the attempts of singing on this record are utterly laughable: Break Up Every Night is the manifestation of everything bad about this LP, featuring some of the poorest vocals to be put into an album all year along with some of the worst lyrics I’ve ever heard in my life;

She wants to break up every night / Then tries to fuck me back to life

“She got seven personalities, everyone’s a tragedy.”

If their name is anything to go by then it’s only a matter of time until The Chainsmokers quit the cigarettes, pick up a vape, lose their cool cred and fade into obscurity like they should have after that dreadful selfie song.  – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

5. SCUM
by RAT BOY

Finally dropping their debut album SCUM, the album everyone wanted in 2015, Rat Boy added to the pile of mediocre indie rock to populate the British music scene. The only unique thing each track has is a different band or artist to rip off; think of any significant British act in the past 30 years and no doubt rat boy will have mimicked them with abysmal results on their debut album.

Any potential that the band had is buried in their influences and their desire for popularity has produced a safe and tedious effort that brings nothing fresh to the table at all. Even older songs such as Left 4 Dead have been butchered to death for the studio album and all the energy that the band could have had is replaced with cringe-worthy lyrics, forced themes and forgettable instrumentals.

Oh and if for some reason you actually still want to listen to this PLEASE don’t listen to the deluxe version; it has these radio “skits” that are just awful and make the entire thing even worse (if you can imagine that). – Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

FULL REVIEW HERE

4. As You Were
by Liam Gallagher

If there’s one positive thing I can say about Liam Gallagher, it’s that he’s got the marketing game down to an absolute tee: amassing a cult following thanks to his trademark Twitter ramblings, exposing a new age of fans to his erratic behaviour, it’s definitely helped him get back on his feet after the disaster that was Beady Eye and his media portrayal over the past few years.

That being said; why is his debut LP so painfully dull? I will admit that it was a clever move to get Greg Kurstin of Adele production fame on board to allow his songs to mutate into some earworms but there are delightful earworms and then there are the terminal ones that are injecting some sort of toxin into your membrane without you realising.

As stated, the biggest gripe I have with this album is just so by the numbers it is though unlike a coloring book, which provides some sort of vibrance, As You Were works with greys, dark greys and some slightly lighter shades of grey. – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

FULL REVIEW HERE

3. Erratic Cinematic
by Gerry Cinnamon 

What can be said about this Scottish upstart that hasn’t been said already? Plenty, apparently. Everycunt and their dogs seem to love Gerry Cinnamon and his HASHTAGRELATABLE songs. To be fair to the lad, they do cover a plethora of topics. From getting drunk to taking drugs… to girls… to… taking drugs and getting drunk! Truly a poet of our times.

If I hadn’t made it abundantly clear, I hate Gerry Cinnamon’s music and especially his latest album Erratic Cinematic. I really, really do. It’s the exact opposite of what I would choose to listen to regularly, but I saw Twitter ranting and raving about this man and his guitar, so I lamented and had a wee listen. This was all after I seen his “Legendary” set at TRNSMT festival this year, which I absolutely fucking hated every second of. But I thought it was only fair to give his studio album a wee try, see what the craic was.

I have now decided to never be fair again because honestly and truly, this is one of the worst albums I’ve heard in years. I’ve been known to be hyperbolic from time to time, but I genuinely mean it. It’s so bad that I can’t bring myself to listen to it again. Just listen to Sometimes and Belter and if any part of you enjoys it, let me know so I can entirely block you from my life.

The only slightly redeeming quality of this album is Gerry’s vocals, which are fine. But on record, they sound like they were recorded when he was trapped in a fridge that’s orbiting Jupiter. So tinny and manufactured sounding. To be honest the entire album was recorded piss poorly.

Who knows, maybe if Gerry stumbles into an actual working studio one day, he might do a Jake Bugg and end up maturing into a decent artist, but for the moment this is by the numbers, utterly forgettable, “for the people” lad-folk that will leave a bad taste in the mouth of any self-respecting music fan. – Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

2. Pacific Daydream
by Weezer

When I listened to Pacific Daydream, Weezer’s 11th(!) studio album, I wasn’t angry or even disappointed, I was sad. Genuinely, actually sad. Coming off of 2014’s return to form Everything Will Be Alright In The End and 2016’s genuinely fantastic White Album, it was a great time to be a Weezer fan.

They’d gone back to the halcyon days of masterpieces Blue Album and Pinkerton and seemed to have abandoned the overly poppy sheen that saturated albums like Raditude or Red Album. Weezer were doing the impossible, they were winning back the fans they’d lost, and convincingly at that.

Then, earlier this year, they dropped Feels Like Summer, the lead single from Pacific Daydream, and everyone started to worry. This wasn’t Weezer. This was the disgusting, mutated love child of modern Fall Out Boy and naughties Weezer, and it wasn’t even as good as either of them. Transparent, nothing backing vocals. A jaunty wee piano line. Shite lead vocals from the more often than mot serviceable Rivers Cuomo. What the fuck was this? More importantly, why the fuck was this?

They stopped trying, Weezer stopped giving a fucking shit. I don’t know if Rivers and the lads just decided they were bored of writing actual good power pop and decided to just completely pull the rug from underneath all of the OG fans who thought it was safe to go back into the Weezer-infested water for a laugh. I cannot wrap my head around it.

The whole album is just like Feels Like Summer; boring, bland as you like pop-rock. Mexican Fender is a bit catchy, but it just sounds like a song they knew wasn’t good enough for White Album. I’m getting all fired up now so I’m away for a lie-down. I expect a written apology from Weezer for this abomination, and FAST. – Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

1. Divide
by Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is a confusing man. Whilst he seems like a genuinely nice guy, his music is so bland and vanilla you’ve forgotten what the song sounds like before it finishes.

Despite the fact it was wholesomely boring, Shape of You seemed to be one of the biggest tracks of 2017, capitalising on a clearly large market of heterosexual couples who enjoy missionary sex, chicken kormas and racially abusing train guards after two mulled wines at the Christmas market.

Can you remember what Barcelona sounds like? Bet you thought Dive was on the last album, didn’t you? Whilst Multiply had a few choice cuts on it, Divide saw the ginger guitar grandmaster dive deeper into milquetoast music for people who just don’t care about what they listen to.

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“You know I had to do it to Ed”

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think either in the comments below or beef us over on our Twitter (@blinkclyro).

Top 50 Songs of 2017

We’ve been fairly negative this week, what with the moaning behemoth that was our ten worst tracks of the year list, but let us assure you that music in 2017 hasn’t been terrible: in fact, it’s arguably the strongest it has been since the glory year of 2015. There’s still another week to go before we give you the round up of the records we couldn’t get enough of but until then, the BLINKCLYRO team have a treat for you.

This year’s Top 50 Songs list marks the first year where it isn’t just Liam compiling his favourite tunes: all the writers for the site have submitted their top 10 tracks of the year and after compiling them, tallying the points and laying them out, this post before you is the end result of that. So strap yourself in, relax and prepare yourself for a bucket load of great tunes that’ll make you feel blessed to have ears.

50. Blaenavon – Orthodox Man

First heard in 2015 when played to a crowd of under twenty, Orthodox Man has remained very much the same between then and now. However, now played to sell out crowds it has become somewhat of a fan favourite and it is clear to see why. It is fun, it is exciting, it gets the crowd going. What more could you want from a debut record single?

49. The Xcerts – Daydream

What sets The Xcerts out from others is the vocal style, and Daydream is no exception. Murray Macleod’s Aberdonian accent beams through the track and the catchy riff and drums make it a dance along track. Throw in that beautifully constructed bridge and you have yourself an upbeat pop rock song, that is sure to send the Xcerts flying into 2018.

48. The War On Drugs – Holding On

Holding On is a highlight pick from the new War on Drugs album and makes for easy listening with a dreamy feel across the instrumentals and vocals. The fact that this song stands out on A Deeper Understanding, which is an already amazing album, testifies to the quality of the track. The winding journey that the track takes you on is definitely one to remember.

47. The Mountain Goats – Unicorn Tolerance

This funky pop track off this year’s Mountain Goats album is remarkable in both its familiarity, in terms of lyricism from Darnielle, and harmonised chorus, taken straight out of the bands previous works; it is notable too for its difference, with a very chill melodic pop beat going through, and an almost dreamlike feel, making something that old fans, as well as Mountain Goats VLs, will get.

46. Pip Blom – Babies Are A Lie

Hailing from Amsterdam, Pip Blom have been around for around half a decade now yet continue the evolution from, as they put it, the girl with little guitar to a full-on band that hit their stride on this tune; a chill track that eases in with a simple introduction and lets its hair loose on its earworm of a chorus.

45. Benjamin Clementine – Phantom of Aleppoville 

From this year’s I Tell A Fly, delivered by the avant-garde maestro Benjamin Clementine, this is very much a high point experimentally for the album, with a lon sweeping intro, blending in classical music, after an anxiety inducing chant early on with the track’s lyrics really shining as the song reaches its end.

44. The Smiths Street Band – Birthdays

I feel overwhelmed so I wanna be alone but then when I’m alone I feel lonely” were the words shared on the Australian rock outfit’Instagramam about Birthdays, a romance heavy tune that features on the band’s frankly underrated LP More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me. Transparent and deeply emotive, The Smiths Street Band manage to effortlessly discuss issues of mental health and desire over this tight 3-minute odd track.

43. Idles – Mother

2017 was a fantastic year for Bristol outfit Idles, and their single Mother punched and kicked straight into the music communities consciousness. With scathing, growling lyrics from frontman Joe Talbot, the song was a perfect shot of heavy guitar music arrived with aplomb this year. This track stands out on their excellent album Brutalism for its much-needed commentary on the social fabric of our country.

42. Woes – Losing Time

Opening with an excellent sounding pop punk riff, Losing Time doesn’t hesitate to go huge. The vocals are reminiscent of the bands’ self-titled EP released last year, and both singers vocals blend brilliantly to create a beautiful harmony. The bridge of the track slows right down, with lead vocalist David Jess passionately shouting, before getting back to business: Woes are definitely one to watch in 2018.

41. Tommy Genesis – Tommy

While there’s a solid bit of production in the form of a Charlie Heat beat, Tommy‘s main draw is the display and establishment of herself as an aggressive and hyper-sexual rapper who can stand her own ground. With the bravado and confidence that Tommy Genesis holms, we wouldn’t be surprised to see her come out with something major in the near future.

40. Dua Lipa – New Rules (Initial Talk Remix)

It’s no secret that Dua Lipa seemingly came out of nowhere to deliver one of the biggest pop tunes of the year, one with a great sense of empowerment. Initial Talk thought that New Rules was missing something and decided to give it a dollop of 80’s gloss, an odd decision but one that works very well for a song that could have easily found itself sang by the pop juggernauts from that decade.

39. Enter Shikari – Undercover Agents

Easily one of the best tracks off The Spark & one of the most accessible Shikari songs, Undercover Agents is a bouncy number that’ll get the whole floor howling at the moon. Is it a song about Facebook or Instagram, or is “I want to see your body” covering for something else?

38. N.E.R.D – Lemon

Though it could be argued to be more the “Pharrell and Rihanna show” rather than a full-blown N.E.R.D comeback, this song is still a bonafide club banger. Just like the lyrics, the production bounces along with deep 808 bass kicks and a high popping synth, while in the latter part of the song, Rihanna raps with a swagger that is seldom heard.

37. Rostam – Bike Dream

Aeronautical oranges, continental paintings, an uxorious pair of boys. These are some of the images that populate Rostam’s Bike Dream, the fanciful second track of his excellent debut Half-Light. Atop the synth-drum dynamo powering the song is the exultation of Rostam seeing himself in the myriad New Yorkers ambulating around 14th Street. Amid the chaos, Rostam reaches the bittersweet summation of his many romances: “Telling me something or nothing, never the one thing I wanna hear”.

36. St Vincent – Slow Disco

Near the culmination of Annie Clark’s neon pop masterclass, Masseduction, sits one of her finest songs yet. An emotionally affecting powerhouse, Slow Disco stands out as a work of stripped back beauty amidst the sea of oddball experiments. On first listen it may just seem a welcome variation from the robotic and futuristic sounds of the rest of the record, but with time it reveals itself as the albums powerfully vulnerable highlight.

35. Vistas – Retrospect

Latest single Retrospective is everything we know and love this Edinburgh pop-rock outfit for. Opening up with the catchiest of riffs, the nod-along melody kicks in with frontman Prentice Robertsons’ spectacular vocals create a happy, feel-good vibe. The band has worked tirelessly the past two years and it is now all beginning to pay off with this tune being evident of the progress they’ve made.

34. Protomartyr – My Children

The second single to be released from their latest album and one of the most complete songs they’ve recorded yet, Protomartyr have managed to distill almost every aspect of their music into a deeply satisfying 3 minutes and 42 seconds. An ominous, mumbled intro gives way to angular guitars as anti-frontman Joe Casey delivers a caustic take on issues of growing old, remaining childless and the implications that might have on his legacy.

33. Alex Cameron – Runnin’ Outta Luck

Who would have thought that a satirical concept album based around the trials and tribulations of toxic masculinity and fragile egotism could be so catchy? The third single from 2017’s delightfully playful Forced Witness epitomises the thematic musical and lyrical consistences that run deep through the record via a bombastic, synth-embellished sound that recalls the classic rock and pop of the 1980s with an unrelentingly ear-worming chorus.

32. Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

2017 marked the year that the members of One Direction stepped out on their own and released their debut solo material, and unarguably the best track born of the hiatus has come from unofficial band leader Harry Styles, who boldly emerged with Sign of the Times, a 5-minute epic which channels heroes Prince and David Bowie, effortlessly building from a solemn piano into to a rock opera without breaking sweat. Styles vocal performance is enthralling throughout, growing with the track from a brooding opening before howling “WE”VE GOT TO GET AWAYYY” in the epic climax, the track’s escapism aided by a choir and a glam-rock guitar tone elevating Styles’ already huge vocal into the stratosphere.

31. Clairo – Pretty Girl

Clairo seems to be fitting in remarkably well to her newfound position as a self-aware, bedroom pop artist. As you may expect, Pretty Girl is a relationship influenced song but one that finds pleasure in pointing out the flaws of superficially lead ones with a simple music video only exasperating the simplistic charm that she delivers in bucketloads.

30. Phoebe Bridgers – Funeral

A cut from her debut album, this track from Phoebe Bridgers is a real story of Bruce Springsteen proportions, delivering a thought-provoking, heartfelt and genuinely sad song, involving the artiste singing at a funeral: just as morbid and depressing as you would expect but with a glimmer of beauty.

29. Peach Pit – Being So Normal

Described as being “chewed bubblegum pop” by, well, themselves, Peach Pit manage to leave a muffled indent with this eponymously titled track off their debut LP; the lead smooth vocals may sound exhausted but when backed up by warm guitars and an undeniable crisp production, it’s hard not to feel yourself mellowed out and enthralled.

28. The Vegan Leather – Shake It

This paisley disco-pop outfit’s debut single was one of the hottest Scottish indie hits of the year, almost anthemic in its delivery; with a fantastic dance beat to accompany it. One of the most notable elements of the track is the harmonies between male and female fronts of the band, Gian and Marie respectively, working together to deliver a positively electric track.

27. King Krule – Dum Surfer

Dum Surfer, from King Krule’s album The Ooz, amplifies the very darkest aspects of his music. The lyrics are aggressive and unsettling. Krule’s deep and brooding voice matches the violent imagery which contrasts starkly with the jazzy saxophone and abundance of percussion. It sounds like nothing else but manages to stand by itself as one of the best tracks of the year.26. Young Fathers – Only God Knows

Young Fathers provided the backbone to the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack. Included was the beautifully layered track, Only God Knows. Accompanied by Leith Congregational Choir, the trio from Edinburgh create three and a half minutes heart pounding, distorted bliss: it’s impossible to not find yourself smiling when this song comes on. Not only does it undeniably bring the other songs from T2 together but also establishes the versatility of Scottish hip-hop.

25. Lil Peep – Save That Shit

The “Pt. 1” affixed to Lil Peep’s debut album Come Over When You’re Sober will forever serve as a reminder of what Gustav Åhr’s career might have been. A sense of death’s rapid encroachment pervaded much of Peep’s music, and last month, a fatal overdose granted his self-fulfilling prophecy.

Standing out among Åhr’s robust oeuvre is Save That Shit, a maudlin breakup song featuring spidery post-grunge guitars, tightly-wound trap drums, and Lil Peep’s trademark gruff whine. The details of the couple’s relationship are in constant flux: “All she want is payback,” “You ain’t getting nothing I’m saying, don’t tell me you is,” “Do I make you scared? Baby, won’t you take me back?

The optimist in him wants to salvage the relationship, but the realist in him knows he can’t save that shit.

24. Corbin – Giving Up

When Corbin dropped his album Mourn earlier this year, it showcased his soulful vocal talents over moody and mournful cloud rap and RnB beats which have stuck out in our minds over this year though Giving Up is the track that has remained at the forefront of our minds.

The synths create a very downtrodden atmosphere to begin with and bring you into a state of melancholy where you can then be lulled by Corbin’s silky smooth voice. The drums kick in about 2:30 into the song which lifts the track considerably but the depressive quality of this track just gets stronger as Corbin’s vocals become more powerful and desperate near the end.

Taking into account the song’s lyrics’ focus on suicide makes this track a total emotional barrage, but a fucking good one.

23. Sorority Noise – A Portrait Of

Although Sorority Noise have teased listeners with lyrics and themes meaningful enough to rip your heart from your chest, 2017’s A Portrait Of is when the depth of the band really hit home. All of YNA_AYT is a journey into the deepest crevices of your conscience, but when the sophomore track opens with “I’ve been feeling suicidal..” you know you’re going to be in for an emotional ride.

Roaring a mid-section poetical giving reference to living his life as a continuation of theirs, Cameron Boucher truly opens up here and by the end of the track you’re left speechless, in tears or both.

The instrumentation is not ghoulish, nor is it an overly slow ballad to emphasise the lyrics, it is standard Sorority Noise in-your-face riff-topia with cutting hooks, dominant drums and quite frankly an elegant yet boisterous glue holding everything in place.

22. SZA – Drew Barrymore

Throughout her debut album CTRL, SZA discusses both relationships with others and herself with remarkable honesty and this is most evident on Drew Barrymore.

An ode to SZA’s favourite actress, the song’s themes are reminiscent of Barrymore’s iconic roles of women finding their identities. Similarly, on the track, SZA admits her insecurities and instead of being embarrassed by them, she sees a piece of herself in one of her biggest idols.

It is rare to see such difficult emotions towards relationships expressed so directly and with that comes sincerity that makes this track resonate so deeply; anyone that’s ever felt inadequate will both appreciate those feelings described so accurately and also a reminder that even people as talented as SZA feel the same way.

21. Mount Eerie – Real Death

Artistic expressions of death and grief are rarely ever as direct as they are on A Crow Looked At Me, an album dealing with the of passing Mount Eerie mastermind Phil Elverum’s wife Geneviève Castrée at the age of thirty-five. Yet in the opening track, Elverum insists that his record is exactly not that: “Death is real… it’s not for singing about, it’s not for making into art”.

With every word his cracked and pained voice utters, the listener gains only a minute sense of what it must be like to have been put through such a traumatic ordeal, and then shift through the aftermath. It’s a song so heartbreakingly beautiful that I struggle sometimes to listen to it in full – but I’m still glad that such a succinct statement of personal loss exists in today’s world.

20. Everything Everything – Desire

Desire feverishly builds, reaching a chorus featuring so many layered vocals, it sounds like an entire choir made up of Josh Higgs’ indulgent falsetto. The guitar riff at times rings like early naughties math rock in the best possible way and topping it all off are some very on brand Everything Everything lyrics “I am a pencil pusher with the pencil pusher blues“.

The beat stomps on through from the start, breaking at times into a delicate two-step instantly transporting you to a sweaty dancehall. It’s a song that makes it near impossible not to dance; some of the best indie pop we’ve had all year.

19. Kirin J. Callinan – Big Enough (Ft. Alex Cameron, Molly Lewis & Jimmy Barnes)

This is one of the rare songs on this list that has to be heard to be believed, especially in conjunction with its fabulously grandiose music video. Country twangs, EDM drops, heavy metal screams and a fist-pumping, chest-burstingly triumphant list of arbitrary countries, continents and states for a conclusion that, similar to marmite or self-immolation, will change your life for the better or the worse.

The reason it works and not devolve into the aural equivalent of a thirteen-way pile up on the M8 is the strength of the songwriting and the dynamics of the production, both of which create an addictive cocktail of a serotonin rush that never fails to lift your spirits. That, or make your face cringe so hard it cracks in two, but if it does that then you probably hate fun.

18. LCD Soundsystem – tonite

If James Murphy and co.’s first two comeback singles were intriguing yet divisive, then tonite firmly solidified the validation for their return to the stage, whilst simultaneously setting the scene for the album upon which it settles into snuggly in the middle third.

Lyrically, Murphy rearms his iconically ironic New York cool stance but with an updated penchant for the self-aware, allowing himself to deprecate the stagnant state of the charts without ever falling into the “Old Man Yells At Cloud!” trap that haunts many of rock music’s elder statesmen.

Pounding behind the words is a groovy instrumental that takes its cues from Daft Punk and The Human League, and reaffirms LCD Soundsystem’s place on the dancefloor, and indeed our hearts. We’ve missed you, Murphy.

17. The Menzingers – Thick As Thieves

With February’s After the Party, Scranton natives The Menzingers reached a career peak. A wonderful record bursting at the seams with shout-a-long slices of life, it establishes the band as a bonafide grade-A rock outfit. An ode to reckless abandon, Thick as Thieves encapsulates all that is great about the album.

The whole track just drips with an endearing sense of nostalgia and sincerity, with vocalist Greg Barnett gleefully yelling of ‘building castles of cans and bottles’ without a trace of cynicism or irony. The chorus, perhaps the best the band has ever come up with, seems tailor-made for crowds to scream back at the stage; it’s just joyous.

If you can get it out of your head, you’re not human.

16. Remo Drive – Yer Killin’ Me

What a belter this track is. A slice of raucous, driving, almost poppy emo from the Minnesota 3-piece Remo Drive’s beauty of a debut album Greatest Hits (killer title).

There’s such an infectious venom in frontman Erik Paulson’s vocals and lyrics that you almost can’t help but be subconsciously pissed off at whoever’s wronged him.

The mathy breakdown towards the end of the track is delicious as well. Yer Killin’ Me is a perfect introduction to the world of Remo Drive, and one that would easily fit into your running playlist or your moody playlist. Brilliant.

15. Lil Uzi Vert – XO Tour Llif3

The king of emo rap’s magnum opus. XO TOUR LIiF3 by Philadelphia’s own Lil Uzi Vert manages to walk the tightrope between depressing as fuck and club banger with aplomb. Flexing about his car one minute and lamenting a failing relationship in the next, this is a deceptively complex slice of hip-hop from one of the most exciting MCs of 2017.

Mr. Vert explores concepts that most modern rappers wouldn’t dare touch, the likes of how maybe drug abuse isn’t that good and suicide. On a surface level it’s a cracking trap track, but if you listen to the lyrics it’s a sad portrait of a man who’s a bit lost in the world of hip-hop. And that’s what makes it so good.

14. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Open Water

Choosing a highlight from King Gizzard’s extensive set of 2017 releases is no mean feat. From tightly wound prog to loosely held together jazz pop, the range this band have displayed this year trumps what most bands achieve across their whole career.

Way back in February, the group released the finest of these efforts, Flying Microtonal Banana, and with it, Open Water, the seven-minute colossus that stands as the jewel in the crown.

Bursting with pitch black imagery and fluid, winding licks, it sees the band really push themselves to their limit. Their drums had never been quite so ferocious before, the atmosphere never quite so delightfully disorientating, and the end result rarely quite so brilliant. 

13. Carly Rae Jepsen – Cut To The Feeling

Carly Rae Jepsen‘s transition from early 2010’s meme to critically applauded pop artist has been one of the most interesting moments over the past few years and this cut for animated flick Leap continues the trend.

We could easily discuss the effortlessly ascending and descending bits of production that tie into the Canadian singer’s wonderful pipes or her delivery from hushful whispering to ambitious proclamations; the hook, line, and sinker of Cut To The Feeling is just how bloody fun it is and in another dark and dreary year, we need more of these than ever.

12. The National – Day I Die

Bryan Devendorf herein stakes his claim as one of indie’s pre-eminent percussionists, kicking off one of the highlights of Sleep Well Beast with a frenetic drum intro. Relentlessly uptempo and featuring guitar licks reminiscent of The Cure, themes of marital affairs are navigated with reference-laden lyrics.

Matt Berninger boasts that, “Young mothers love me, even ghosts of / Girlfriends call from Cleveland“, although he’s clearly still more concerned about the no-mans land his current relationship occupies, struggling to understand where exactly things stand.

During the bridge, further context is given to “great uncle Valentine Jester“, a character visited previously and, as it happens, someone who Berninger shares a lot in common with, particularly when he gets “a little punchy with the vodka“.

11. Lorde – Green Light

Fresh from a break-up, Lorde’s second album, Melodrama, explores dealing with losing someone for the first time and all the thoughts that come with it. The first single, Green Light, starts desperate and heart wrenching.

The song opens with her raw, slow vocals and simple piano, but builds quickly to a fast dance anthem, flinging her reputation as a moody teenage songstress into the mainstream. The sincerity in her vocals mixed with the constant change of pace creates a warmth inside your stomach. It’s a song to cry but also to move on to. Lorde is showing us how to dance through the pain.10. Frank Ocean – Chanel

Frank Ocean is famed as one of modern music’s lyricists for his complexity and deft storytelling talents. However, Ocean throws this subtlety out of the window in the mic-drop of an opening couplet to surprise single Chanel – “My guy pretty like a girl / and he got fight stories to tell”.

This sets the tone for Chanel’s lyrical tone – it’s part bashful, part confessional, varying as Ocean drifts between singing and rapping – displaying a mastery of each. The dreary beat is the perfect bed for Ocean’s varied delivery, and transitions into perhaps Ocean’s most iconic hook yet – “I see both sides like Chanel” – another lyrical masterstroke as he flips hip-hop’s obsession with brands into an expression of sexuality.

9. Stormzy – Big For Your Boots

Stormzy seems like one of the nicest guys in music, but Big For Your Boots is a definite warning to anyone tries stopping his rise. His flow is incredible throughout the whole song, and some of the lines are solid gold.

Had a peng ting named Amy telling me to come round hers on a Valerie ting“. Sublime. The whole of GSAP was one of the standout albums of 2017, but this was the biggest diamond in the jewelers.

8. Paramore – Hard Times

Where do you start with the summery, pop anthem that is Hard Times?! The emo, pop-punk icons of yesteryear seemingly flipped their iconic style on its head and replaced it with a neon light complementing, almost sickly pink doused, upbeat classic.

Hayley Williams’ voice sounds as good, if not better, as their Riot! days and the re-addition of founding drummer Zac Farro adds a warming, sentimental value for the old-skool Paramore fans.

What we have is effectively an infectiously catchy piece of pop elegance from someone who was the antithesis of Hard Times. A fluorescent burst of colourful chaos, synths galore and a something that is a simple yet strangely complex arrangement of upbeat fun.

7. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Father John Misty’s third LP is comfortably the most lyrically ambitious release this year – providing social commentary on the grandest scale imaginable. This is best executed on the record’s stunning title track where Josh Tillman gives his perspective on “the comedy of man” – beginning with the birth process and arriving at religion with a lot in between – on the most grandiose score Tillman’s voice has ever graced.

The lyrics are the star of the show here, however, with Tillman addressing the human race at large with observations like “their illusions they have no choice but to believe”, however, the lyrics never take themselves too seriously, especially as he smirks “how’s this for irony?” in a subtle nod to his Father John Misty persona.

6. Brockhampton – Star

In a year where BROCKHAMPTON dropped three albums, there were several stand-out tracks that defined their year but none more memorable than STAR.

This track has a unique theme with its constant pop culture references. From Dom McLennon’s rapid-fire name dropping from Matthew McConaughey to Liam Neeson to Ameer Van’s bragging about being “the black Tom Hanks” and being “kingpin like Jay Z, dance moves like JT”. The track finishes on perhaps their strongest verse of the year as Kevin Abstract pronounced himself “Heath Ledger with some dreads” in a hilarious yet vicious verse that mixes references to pop culture and his own sexuality with ease.

America’s newest boyband have been on fire this year and that’s no more evident than on STAR.

5. Gorillaz – Ascension (Ft. Vince Staples)

When Vince Staples strutted onto the stage unannounced midway through Gorillaz’ sold out Hydro show, it was clear that the already fantastic gig was about to reach a new level. Staples’ stage presence was electric, his short frame covering almost every inch of the arena’s huge stage.

Somehow, the Long Beach MC manages to convey that energy as well on record as he does live on apocalyptic banger Ascension. Beginning with a quick-fire Staples verse atop a wartime air horn which soon gives way to Staples’ nonchalant attitude to the end of the world with the lyrics “the sky’s falling baby / drop that ass ‘fore it crash”.Gorillaz latest record Humanz was criticised for being too guest-heavy, but with Staples in such electrifying form, you can’t blame Damon Albarn for giving him the spotlight across his 2 lightning-quick verses.

As much as Staples is on fire, this still feels like a Gorillaz track. An Albarn verse is interspersed between Staples’ and is the perfect foil: Albarn sounds his age in contrast with Staples’ youthful exuberance: his verse darker, gloomier and more measured. He is happy to give the spotlight back to Staples who trivialises the apocalypse once more; with Staples on the mic, the apocalypse has never seemed so exciting.

4. Vince Staples – Yeah Right (Ft. Kendrick Lamar & Kucka)

Wouldn’t you know it – two tracks featuring Vince Staples back to back and boy, does the man deserve the high rankings on this list; anyone with a vague knowledge of Odd Future will have been made aware of the rapper’s potential and while he’s released some solid solo material, this track off Big Fish Theory certifies that there’s gold in them there hills.

Packing in the stellar production that can be found over the course of the entirety of Vince’s sophomore LP, Yeah Right teases the listener with his trademark delivery and a subdued instrumental before it’s released like a pack of lions with Detroit techno coursing through their blood. The sheer velocity of the bass borderlines on untenable at moments which adds to not only the power this song possesses but how closely this album walks the line between experimental and excruciating.

Then there’s that Kendrick verse which may possibly be the best guest bars to have been spat all year with an abundance of meta, serious, humourous and braggadocious lines that’ll etch themselves into your cranium. Tie in that bridge by Kucka which has a reminiscent tinge of old school UK Grime and you’re left with one of the greatest hip-hop tunes of the year.

3. Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete The Kisses

Already known for being able to essentially do anything, Wolf Alice proved that once again when they defined the modern love song with Don’t Delete The Kisses.

Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics have never been better even though they are the most sentimental she’s ever written. “I might as well write all over my notebook that you ‘rock my world!’” she admits in one of two verses Rowsell delivers in an almost talkative tone that mimics the thoughts going through her head; it somehow encapsulates these thoughts that everyone experiences in a creative way.

Don’t Delete The Kisses is unashamedly lovesick and cliché, and it’s confidence forces a massive smile onto your face as Rowsell’s closing words “I see the signs of a lifetime, you til I die” would manage to touch even the most cynical of hearts. The second single from sophomore album Visions of a Life, such an instant classic was unprecedented and will be hard for Wolf Alice to top but for now, they can revel in the success of creating a song that will undoubtedly remind a whole generation of fans of the person that they love.

2. Tyler The Creator – 911 / Mr. Lonely

True to form, the 10th track of Tyler’s widely acclaimed comeback project Flower Boy is a two-parter – a reoccurring theme across each of his albums. It’s a perfect synopsis of the dichotomy between the two different personalities of the record – one side is airy, melodic and full of summery optimism; the other, introspective and brooding.

The beauty of this track and, indeed, the rest of the album is the way Tyler reconciles these aspects and lays them bare so candidly. Perhaps one of the most apparent throwbacks to earlier, darker material such as Goblin, he alludes to his erstwhile depression throughout – in 911 he takes a philosophical approach, realising his own experiences can help him relate to others. Portraying a soothing voice on the other end of the phone, perhaps an emergency call handler, he introduces himself: “My name is Lonely, nice to meet you”.

Soon, though, he finds himself the one most in need of reassurance as he lapses back into despair in Mr. Lonely. The beat becomes dark and snare-heavy as he condemns his outwardly loud and brash personality, also questioning whether materialistic pursuits have ever really helped to alleviate that omnipresent feeling of loneliness. The last line cuts the deepest of all: reaching for a friend “so I never have to press that 911”.

1. Kendrick Lamar – DNA.

Regardless of your opinion on DAMN., light 7 or not, there’s no denying that 2017 has very much been the year of Kung Fu Kenny himself. From the teaser track The Heart Part IV tearing apart America’s newly elected toddler/President to his comeback single Humble, along with its subsequent meme value, to the hotly discussed topic of how his fourth LP should be played, there are very few artists who managed to stay relevant for all the right reasons in 2017.

A constantly evolving artist, think back to K Dot on Good Kid, m.A.A.d City or the existential, jazz poet on To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar is the most important figure in hip-hop at the moment and certifies this perfectly with D.N.A. An introspective and aggressive behemoth, this track serves not only as a reflection of himself as an idolised and sought after celebrity (Only Lord knows I’ve been goin’ hammer / dodgin’ paparazzi, freakin’ through the cameras) but it’s so much more than that.

True to his roots and heritage, D.N.A is primarily about Kendrick as a black man and in a year where race was the focus of some of the most despicable moments of the year in America, its message is more important than ever: the feature of a Fox News anchor stating that his music “has done more damage than racism ever has” only provokes him into becoming the passion-driven, bar spitting activist that music needs more of.

As he ends on some vicious lines, the inclusion of “peace to the world” could be taken literally or be a homophone for the slang for a gun; either way, the intentions are made clear on a song that seems to sum up this year into a claustrophobically tight 3 minutes, six seconds. 

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/111518578/playlist/4T1V1dcSEhkDsZcyny9CWY


So there you have it, our definitive list of the best songs we’ve heard all year. I’d like to thank the following people for contributing not only their rankings which helped make the list but also the little write-ups they did for each track: 

The Best Gigs of 2017

It’s finally here: no, not Christmas, list season BAYBEE! A culmination of all the good, and bad, that the year has had to offer, we’re kicking things off with some positive content about the live shows that the team loved every second of.

Before we get into each team member’s choice, let’s have a glance at some of the honourable mentions that deserve a shoutout…

The Vegan Leather @ TRNSMT

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At a festival with some of the biggest names in music, it goes to show how utterly impressive this Paisley art-rock outfit were at the debut entry of TRNSMT. “Talking Heads meets Yeah Yeah Yeahs meet LCD-Soundsystem” is the only way we managed to describe their sound yet that still doesn’t do The Vegan Leather justice: if you’re lucky enough to have New Years free from work then be sure to boogie on down to see this foursome kill it at King Tuts.

FULL REVIEW HERE

SWAY @ Tenement Trail

Photo Courtesy of Cameron Brisbane | Twitter | Facebook
Photo Courtesy of Cameron Brisbane | Site |Facebook | Twitter

If our accolade of “Best Band At Tenement Trail 2017“, a prestigious award depending on who you ask, wasn’t enough to do SWAY‘s performance at Nice N Sleazy justice then let this be your final telling off. Presenting a beautiful blend of indie rock finesse with shoegaze and pop influences, the Paisley act put on an amazing show featuring great tunes, inflatable footballs and a bloody nose (#PrayForDanDrennan).

FULL REVIEW HERE

Wolf Alice @ Barrowlands

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Photo courtesy of Jose Ramon Caamaño | Facebook | Flickr |

Hot off the back of providing one of the best sophomore releases of the decade, lovely London lot Wolf Alice treated their Glasgow fans to not one but two shows at the iconic Barrowlands venue. Playing a healthy dose of the old and the new, along with some golden oldies like Blush, the indie rock outfit show that they deserve every morsel of hype they’ve accumulated over the past few years.

And now, onto the team’s top picks…

Isabella McHardy (@isabellamchardy)Strange Bones @ TRNSMT

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I hadn’t heard of them before but a friend suggested we go see Strange Bones – it was by far my favourite performance of the festival and ultimately the entire year. They played the tiny Jack Daniel’s Jack Rocks tent on the Sunday and it was perfect. They played with such an infectious energy, I couldn’t stop smiling the whole set.

The entire tent was jumping up and down and yelling even if they didn’t know the words. They were probably one of the heaviest bands at the festival but they still managed to pull in such an enthusiastic crowd. The band were crowd surfing and running into the audience throughout the show but no one got tired of it. It was the first gig I had been to in a while where I felt completely ecstatic. After their set, I couldn’t wait to get home so I could go through their discography.

Disappointingly, their EP’s don’t live up to how they perform live, but I would still go see them again just for the atmosphere and the ‘Theresa is a Terrorist’ t-shirts.

FULL REVIEW HERE

Callum Thornhill (@calthornhill) – Sorority Noise, Turnover & Citizen @ Camden Underworld

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They say good things come in threes. Wise men. Amigos. So on and so forth. For this ridiculously intimate show; it was American emo icons that arrived as a magnificent trio. Heading to Camden’s Underworld via stunning performances at this year’s Slam Dunk Festival came Citizen and Turnover; ‘supported’ by Sorority Noise.

What made this an incredible line-up was the enthusiasm shared by bands towards other bands, fans to bands and even bands to fans. Splitting the set times evenly, no band took the limelight, however, Sorority Noise were first up to get things going. With third LP, You’re Not as _____ as You Think released earlier this year, it was the first time many fans had heard tracks such as Car and No Halo; Cameron Boucher even recited Manchester Orchestra’s I Can Feel a Hot One ahead of No Halo. These new, heartfelt ballads combined with golden older tracks, e.g Nolsey and Using, made Sorority Noise the perfect opener.

Turnover were next up and thankfully, and I am sure fellow fans will agree, they decided to play a set full of classics rather than cramming their set full of Good Nature tracks. Peripheral Vision dominated the setlist with the crowd singing along to everything from Cutting My Fingers Off to the iconic Dizzy on the Comedown. A mellow atmosphere greeted the Virginia outfit, who took it in their stride to engage in a chilled out yet passionate vibe.

‘Headlining’ for the evening were Ohio/Michigan alt-rockers Citizen. Brutally belting out The Summer instantly showed what was about to unfold. The highlight of the set was How Does it Feel? purely because the dark, moody atmosphere perfectly complemented the pitch black surrounding of the Underworld. Giving Yellow Love and Cement air-time before The Night I Drove Alone closed their slot, Citizen gave a stunning performance to cap off an amazing night of bands from across the pond.

To conclude, good things do come in threes, and this line-up does nothing but emphasise that fact.

Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster) – Gorillaz @ Hydro, Glasgow

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In a year where I finally saw some of my all-time favourite bands (Radiohead, The Libertines) as well as seeing some old friends again (Wolf Alice, Basement), every gig stuck out in my mind but none more so than the Gorillaz‘s massive show at the Hydro.

Having been desperate to see them for years, it was such a joy to hear some of my favourite songs sung back by thousands of people in unison. Damon Albarn was in top form, a massive smile barely leaving his face except when he was stood at the edge of the stage trying to look menacing during Clint Eastwood. It’s commendable a man of his talent and success is still so humbled by fans singing his lyrics and his constant gratitude to his many guests and backing band members made for a wholesome sight. 

Speaking of his guests, they only added to the spectacle, from De La Soul to the show-stealing Vince Staples, each guest injected even more energy to the atmosphere and by midway through the set, the entire crowd was bouncing,

A truly mesmerising gig that had me smiling for the rest of the night after, Damon Albarn and his friends deserve the crown of best live show of the year.

Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182) – Childish Gambino @ Radio City Music Hall

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Photo Courtesy of Bradley Robinson

Seeing Childish Gambino co-headline an event at Radio City Music Hall with Dave Chappelle was truly something special but after his announcement earlier this summer that he would be retiring after his next album, it truly made the concert something to be cherished forever.

Being a massive Donald Glover fan, I had never seen him perform live as Childish Gambino except for a small radio show festival performance where he only did his biggest hits before exiting. Gambino at Radio City Music Hall exceeded my expectations from the multi-talented performer. He performed the majority of his new album Awaken My Love with the help of a full band, backup singers, and an incredible display of lights and visuals.

Hearing AML live without the vocal effects made for an entirely new experience of the album. The album sounded fresher, more exciting and more fun live. Gambino’s performance was incredible, filled with passionate shrieks reminiscent of Prince in his prime. He showcased his dancing skills throughout the set and was all over the stage, even moonwalking at one point.

Gambino’s decision to perform most of AML with exception to 3005, Sweatpants and Sober really showed how much Gambino has matured in recent memory and how he is beginning to grow out of most of his discography. This could be a partial reason for his decision to retire the Childish Gambino moniker and will almost surely affect his future touring schedule. One thing is for sure, if Gambino stops by your area, be sure not to miss out.

Andrew Barr (@weeandreww) – Frank Ocean @ Parklife

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Photos Courtesy of Parklife

Here lies the critical irony; my favourite show of the year, Frank Ocean’s surreal headline slot at Parklife festival could scarcely be considered a performance, serving as more of a glimpse into the elusive star’s psyche.

When Ocean stuttered onto the stage 40 minutes late and restarted opener Solo 3 times, it looked like his long-awaited live return could end in spectacular failure, however, Ocean managed to claw it back in a way only he could. His confidence and stage presence grew throughout the set dominated by Blonde and Endless material, and by the time he walked offstage during the Korean verse on the alt version of closer Nikes, it was clear; this wasn’t a show for everyone, but one that the many diehard Ocean fans will never forget.

Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr) – Run The Jewels & Danny Brown @ O2 Academy

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Photo Courtesy of Ryan Johnston | Facebook | Site

 

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone that this gig was a highly anticipated one for myself: Run The Jewels and Danny Brown are both Album Of The Year winners, in our 2014 and 2016 lists respectively, so the prospect of seeing both acts in the one night was too good to pass up.

It was no disappointment (I mean, it’s on this list, isn’t it?) as the Detroit king of rap Danny got things underway, storming through his impressive discography with some running man dancing and what can only be described as an intimate strip show for the thousands in attendance. Tracks from his magnum opus Atrocity Exhibition got just the reaction he must have expected, provoking a wave of moshing and rapping from the enthusiastic crowd.

Not to be outdone, RTJ made their way to the stage (albeit a bit late) and from start to finish, they undoubtedly affirmed why they were a force to be reckoned with. Not only that but there was a great deal of duality on show: Killer Mike is an absolute monster when he’s on the mic but the amount of compassion and love shown between songs, from a speech about mental health to a big fuck you to groping at gigs, the man is like Sully if he had an abundance of sick bars. Don’t worry El, I haven’t forgotten about you; RTJ is a two man show after all and if it weren’t for the bounciness, crassness and sheer bragadociousness of El-P then it just wouldn’t be the same.

Danny even showed up for his verse on Hey Kids, wearing only his underwear as the O2 Academy witnessed not only Mike giving the audience a glimpse of his ass, but two of the best acts on the fucking planet: and the crowd goes…

Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh) – Gorillaz @ Hydro, Glasgow

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Photos Courtesy of Getty Images

 

While I was ever so slightly underwhelmed by Damon Albarn and his band of merry primates’ latest effort Humanz (DO YOU GET IT BECAUSE GORILLAZ?) I still jumped at the chance to see them live at The Hydro when the gig was announced earlier and the year. And I’ll tell you something, I’m bloody glad I did.

Gorillaz live are a different beast entirely from Gorillaz on record. There’s something of a more immediate urgency about them in a live setting, particularly in the vocals of head gorilla Damon “I Love Witches” Albarn. I’ve never seen Blur live in person, but I’ve seen my fair share of their sets from the comfort of my own computer chair and Albarn seems to turn everything up to 11 when he’s performing under the Gorillaz banner. Gone is the subdued, mild-mannered, middle-class Englishman that belts out Tender with a quiet confidence, instead he’s replaced by a grown man doing his best impression of an actual Gorilla. To put it bluntly, when Damon Albarn is in Gorillaz mode, he is a fucking nutter. He jumps around the stage with a reckless abandon, screaming in innocent concert goers in the front row like a man possessed by a pure primal force. It’s a joy to watch.

As are the rest of his band, I was blown away by how flipping CHUNKY everything sounded in a live setting. The bass was lovely and sludgy, both drummers played flawlessly and the keys were whimsical one moment and downright demonic the next. Then came the guests: Bootie Brown, Zebra Katz, Vince Staples, DE LA BLOODY SOUL were all there in the flesh and it was chuffing magnificent.

I’d wanted to see Gorillaz in some capacity for over a decade, and holy fuck me did they deliver. This ranks as not only one of my gigs of the year but genuinely one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. So thank you, Damon and company, you bunch of fucking lunatics. We wouldn’t have you any other way.

Rory McArthur (@rorymeep) – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard @ Albert Hall, Manchester

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If you know me, this choice won’t come as a surprise; I may or may not have a little bit of a thing for this band. This was my fourth time seeing King Gizzard, but this was the first time it properly hit me how unfathomably incredible they are live. From the tried and trusted old favourites to the, at that point in the year at least, new microtonal tracks, everything went down an absolute storm with a suitably energetic crowd. The electricity inside the Albert Hall that evening was honestly breathtaking. I don’t think there’s another rock band in the world right now that can put on a show quite like Gizz. If they’d have decided to play all night long, I wouldn’t have minded one bit. 

Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon) – Protomartyr & Oh Boland @ CCA, Glasgow

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Protomartyr’s third visit to Glasgow in as many years takes place at Sauchiehall Street’s pre-eminent creative hub, the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Incidentally, this occasion marks their first time playing above ground in the city; apt, considering their meteoric rise from the underground to the forefront of contemporary post-punk, a sort of symbolism that isn’t lost on despair extraordinaire Joe Casey.

Joking that it’s a sign they’re finally moving up in the world, his self-depreciating humour is disingenuous to their cerebral yet deeply enjoyable brand of music. Turning up on stage without further ado, the band launch straight into lead single My Children. Casey’s appearance, grey-suited and formal, carries as little extravagance as his vocal delivery: barking and authoritative, the right level of Angry Da but never unintentionally bombastic. 

Audience interaction is sporadic and generally kept to a minimum, save for a few amusing exchanges; however,  such was the level of quality and electrifying atmosphere that the crowd quickly began dancing of their own volition. In contrast to the chaos of Casey’s performance, Greg Ahee’s guitar work is a controlled explosion of riffs and inventive, often unexpected chord changes complemented by a captivating dynamic between himself, bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard, whose stellar percussion work underpins every track, relentlessly propelling forward. While leaning fairly heavily on their latest material, Protomartyr nevertheless treated veteran fans to plenty of classics including two tracks from their oft-overlooked debut. 

Support act Oh Boland, covering the spot regrettably vacated by Sauna Youth, proved a worthy opener, commendably navigating one or two technical glitches to produce exactly the kind of high-octane introduction needed to prepare everyone for what lay ahead.

Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc) – The LaFontaines & The Dykeenies @ Barrowlands

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Having a gig at The Barrowlands is a massive achievement for any band. Tonight, The LaFontaines were ready to unleash their chaotic, charisma filled live show to the sold-out Glasgow crowd. The buzz in the buildup to the performance was surreal, with fans everywhere eager to see the fonts once again.

The band tasked with getting the crowd ready? The recently reformed The Dykeenies. The band played a good 50 odd minute set, with highlights being Waiting for Go and Sounds Of The City. The fans were ready and The Dykeenies job was done with success and the fonts took to the stage.

Opening up with Slow Elvis and going straight into Junior Dragon, the atmosphere was something else. The bands unique sound works beautifully live and the feeling in the crowd was magical. New songs Common Problem and Hang Fire went down great with the crowd, proving the band are not just a one album wonder and that their second full length is doing wonders.

If anything, this gig proved that The LaFontaines are going to get even bigger than what they already are. If they keep up the work rate and live shows they have going, it’s a bright future for the band that are already seen as Scottish heavyweights.

FULL REVIEW HERE

Tilly O’Connor (@tilly_oconnor) – Gorillaz @ Hydro, Glasgow

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Photo Courtesy of Aidan | Source

With the Autumnal gig season drawing do a close, I saw Gorillaz at the Hydro in Glasgow. As someone who normally consumes live music in dive bars, the stadium’s sheer size was daunting, even if it’s sticky floor felt like home. The crowd was full of groups of families with grownup-kids near my age. My parents got me into Gorillaz young and I credit them with playing a part in shaping my current tastes in music, visual arts and even politics. The group has always been all-encompassing, and their 29th November gig was no different.

The band rattled the room with M1 A1. This was followed by Albarn, mic in hand, asking the 13,000 strong crowd if we were the last living souls. These songs from the band’s earlier work set the tone for the rest of the show, as it would feature hits peppered with memorable album tracks. A high point for me was Dirty Harry. The live performers were accompanied by a disjointed choir of cartoon South Park-esque kids singing the chilling chorus to the delight and discomfort of all watching. The band’s alter egos played a huge part in the engulfing feeling of the show. Carrying out heists and racing games, 2-D, Murdoch, Noodle and Russell Hobs reached deeper into our collective consciousness, pulling out gleefull pockets of nostalgia, providing the perfect backdrop for the night’s music.

Along with visuals, the main band were accompanied by a vast amount of guest performers, most notably the hip-hop trio De La Soul who feature on one of the bands most famous songs – Feel Good Inc.

Hong Kong was the first encore song, and it provided the most haunting musical moment of the night. The song which plays heavily on imagery surrounding neon lights and electricity was spontaneously met with thousands upon thousands of glowing phone lights, bringing the previously black room to an eery yellow which shined down Damon Albarn’s face. Singing to us, an army of smartphone welding fans, with a wry smile “All the people in a dream, Wait for the machine” he brought the night towards its end. This scene felt stunningly fitting for a band who have continuously captured the zeitgeist. From their self-titled debut in 2001 to this year’s Humanz, the group have always painted a vivid picture of the world in the 21st century.

Will Sexton (@willshesleeps) – Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes @ O2 Academy, Bristol

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Photos Courtesy of Ashlea Bea | Twitter

Now I know what you might be thinking, “ooh pick the latest gig you went too” but people who are thinking that obviously have never seen Frank Carter live. The stage presence of this man is electric all in itself and arriving on stage with an absolute roar of noise and appreciation is so magical every single time. Frank has had a bit of a tough year but you wouldn’t have ever guessed, coming back from tonsillitis and taking a small break to help recover from the incredible work he has done over the last three years which was very well respected amongst the fans.

He came back with a total bang and every song from Primary Explosive right to I Hate You were electric. Filled with moshing and inspirational speeches about girls feeling safe at gigs, mental health and just straight up appreciation of us, it was a magical night!

Dominic Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo) – The Mountain Goats @ The Art School, Glasgow

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The Mountain Goats were awaited by the crowd with bated breath and I’d be lying if I said I was not amongst their number, in terms of the mob or the state of breath. North Carolina based folk rockers The Mountain Goats – consisting of the ever-present singer-songwriter John Darnielle and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas – ascend to the stage accompanied by cries of devotion from the loving Glasgow crowd. Opening with Have to Explode, the cheers and whooping give way to absolute silence. When the song ends so does the hush, the hanging silence expelled with thankful applause.

Honestly, for me the gig was a beautiful exhibition of long-crafted skill and art, showing how well playing to the crowd can be done. The innate crowd interaction from John Darnielle who was loving the little stand-up bits, made the night all the more special. If you have not seen The Mountain Goats live, I can recommend nothing more, and if you have never heard them, I would start now; on The Sunset TreeTallahassee, or Beat the Champ.

FULL REVIEW HERE

List Season Continues…

10 WORST SONGS OF 2017 – 11TH DECEMBER

50 BEST TRACKS OF 2017 – 15TH DECEMBER

10 WORST ALBUMS OF 2017 – 18TH DECEMBER 

25 BEST ALBUMS OF 2017 – 22ND DECEMBER