TRANSISTOR’S 10 Best Albums of 2018 (Mid-Year Update)

intro and thumbnail fae liam menzies (@blinkclyro)

While we could start this off with some drivel about how 2018 has been fraught with political debate, general discourse and a shaky quality in memes, we know what you’re here for: a ranking of subjective apart, decided by people you don’t know and/or care about. We might not be in the same league as Pitchfork and the likes but we feel our contribution to the discussion is… somewhat worthy, plus, we’ve got some solid patter so why not get into the list season spirit early?

10 Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer

Josh Tillman is a man on a hot streak. Since leaving the Fleet Foxes in 2012, he has reinvented himself as folk rockstar Father John Misty – releasing 3 critically acclaimed records, 2012’s psychedelic Fear Fun, 2015’s wildly romantic I Love You, Honeybear and 2017’s world-weary Pure Comedy – which topped many end of year lists. However – Pure Comedy also proved somewhat divisive – with many criticising its 75-minute run time, filled mostly by less-than-energetic instrumentation.

Tillman’s response? He’s returned just over a year later with God’s Favorite Customer – his shortest record yet at just 39 minutes. GFC feels like more of a sequel to Honeybear than Pure Comedy, detailing a rough patch in Tillman and his wife Emma’s relationship when he was living in a hotel –hilariously depicted on lead single Mr. Tillman, with the lyrics coming from the perspective of a hotel receptionist concerned for Tillman’s welfare.

However, things get considerably darker on other tracks, like Please Don’t Die, where he details “pointless benders with reptilian strangers” and the chorus comes from the perspective of Tillman’s wife, begging him not to take his own life. Remarkably, on the darkest moments of this incredibly personal record, Tillman keeps up his absurd sense of humour which has been a staple of his FJM records. On the solemn The Palace, Tillman undercuts his confessional to declare “last night I wrote a poem/man I must have been in the poem zone” and perhaps even references the internet’s favourite Jeff meme. In a sentence – God’s Favorite Customer is hilarious, heartbreaking and incredibly catchy – all at the same time. It’s just what we expect of Father John Misty now. – Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

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9Jeff Rosenstock – POST

POST- is an album rife with conflict, vacillating between furtive political references and forthright internal turmoil. Yr Throat questions the efficacy of self-expression as the narrator’s body and mind lock into a stalemate: “What’s the point of having a voice when it gets stuck inside your throat?!” All This Useless Energy stages a contentious dialogue between under-informed neurotypicals and frustrated depressives: “You’re not fooling anyone when you say you tried your best.”  I’m worried of abandoning the joys that framed my life, but all this useless energy won’t hold me through the night.

Whatever the meaning you choose to ascribe to the term “post” (Post-Obama, Post-Trauma, or for the overdramatic, Post-America) POST- refers to the end of an era. Every generation grapples with its social and political conventions, and now the Millennials have been called to action. A daunting task, to be sure, for a throng of young people consistently written off as thin-skinned, lazy, and disinterested. But with Jeff Rosenstock at the forefront of punk’s socially-inclined philosophes, we’re sure not to be tired and bored with the fight. May we never be again. – Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

8Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin

Last January, Ty Segall quietly delivered one of the finest records of 2017. That is, of course, quiet as in it was met with little fanfare. The music, on the other hand, was a short, sharp shot of frenetic energy that blew the new year’s blues away with consummate ease. And now, almost a year to the day, a new project, entitled Freedom’s Goblin, has been unleashed upon the world to do the same. A double album of 19 tracks, the record sees Segall at his most dynamic, hopping nimbly from futuristic disco to some of the fuzziest rock seen since Dwayne Johnson grew out his beard last year. In lesser hands, this sort of smashing together of styles could have resulted in a disjointed mess of a record, but instead, the constant variation creates an exhilaratingly sprawling joyride of ups and downs that at the very least, will leave you with a gigantic ear-to-ear smile.

According to the man himself, the concept of the album was to effectively eschew one altogether, and it undoubtedly has been a resounding success. Not all of the tracks work, Shoot You Up, for example, sounds a little too similar to last years Break a Guitar to really satisfy, but the general level of consistency across such a mammoth and diverse tracklist is nothing short of astounding. Segall tips his toes into disco, metal, and a whole host of other styles and comes out of the other side a bona-fide genre-hopping hero.

This may well be the musician’s finest release yet, at the very least standing toe to toe with some of his previous classics. It’s a treasure trove that demands multiple listens to uncover its hidden gems, of which there are a great many, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone begrudging a few extra listens to really get to grips with it when the music is this good. – Rory McArthur (@rorymeep)

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7 A.A.L – 2012-2017

Returning with a surprise album under his Against All Logic (A.A.L) moniker, leading electronic producer Nicholas Jaar ditches most of the experimentation for what could be pretty much summed up as a deep house album. Now, as this Jaar, this isn’t your chart-ready, sanitised house. Here, Jaar again samples with aplomb, but unlike other releases where the samples are manipulated into something totally new, here Jaar lets these groove-laden samples sit by themselves, letting the samples play out, with expert flourishes of percussion and electronic trickery to flesh out the instrumentation.

It might be contentious to some to include what is essentially a compilation album of previous songs onto this list, but it is for good reason. Here, Nicholas Jaar has arguably made a house album that will transcend normal genre barriers; this is an album that will go down in the history books as one of the best house albums ever made. Funk and soul samples are paired with some of the smoothest percussion heard this year, to make an album that is oozing style, charisma, and panache. – Charlie Leach (@yungbuchan)

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6UMO – Sex & Food

On their newest release, Unknown Mortal Orchestra hone in on the best aspects from each of their previous projects and produce some of their best work yet. The album swings from 80s pop to the psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s so effortlessly and constantly applies a modern spin to each song, whether it be from the lyrics or production. On ‘Sex and Food’ an excellent mix between a vintage sound and modern ideas if found, as UMO refine their sound and deliver a cleaner than usual selection tracks that may be some of their best yet.

The brilliant songwriting and interesting production of Unknown Mortal Orchestra are sounding as good as ever with this latest project. Sex and Food sees new inspirations emerge and blend with the signature sound of UMO to continue the great track record that the band have formed since 2011. The album also finds more of a cohesive and clean sound than some of the distortion-heavy releases prior to this, which works well with the grooving baselines and beautiful melodies that can be heard throughout the project. Overall, it seems that Unknown Mortal Orchestra have matched, if not exceeded, the quality of Multi-Love, and continue to add to their already intricate and unique sound with a great album that continues to impress. – Ewan Blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

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5Confidence Man – Confident Music For Confident People

When Australian dance-pop four piece Confidence Man burst onto the scene amidst a flurry of Triple J hype and YouTube comment section detractors with a stunning live rendition of their first single, “Boyfriend”, few expected them to capitalise on that potential and become 2018’s most surprising success story.  It goes without saying that a key component to this sudden rush in popularity is down to their near-flawless debut LP, which is in itself the most fun you’ll have with an album all year.  It kicks off the party with “Try Your Luck”‘s earworm of a melody and doesn’t let go until the final echoes of “Fascination” fade out into the night as you stumble out, breathless and hungry for more.

In the rest of its forty minute runtime, Confidence Man cover a lot of ground for a band who could have been a one trick pony, taking the best bits of house, techno and disco and repackaging them in a contemporary format that recalls the best of Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, and Fatboy Slim.  Along the way, they will make you dance, laugh, sing, dance some more, and be oh so grateful that they exist in such dour times like this. – Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

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4Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

After 2013’s still-quite-good-but-underwhelming AM, you’d be forgiven for writing ArcticMonkeys off for good, god knows I did. But now the naysayers as a collective have egg on their ruddy faces! The Sheffield 4 piece are back in town, and they are back with a vengeance. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is the self-inflicted kick up the arse the band had simply to give themselves after the AM album cycle left them positively stagnant.

Gone are the grease and leather jackets from AM, replaced with a Hugh Hefner-esque robe, a stiff whiskey and a wee pipe. TBH+C is lounge music for the modern era. A trip through an astral Las Vegas through the eyes of an aging patron. It’s straight out of left field and it’s all the better for it.

Each song weaves into the last effortlessly. This isn’t an album you can put on shuffle, it’s as deliberate as it is sexy. There’s no banger single on here (bar maybe the album’s centerpiece Four Out of Five), but what you, dear listener, gets instead is an album from a band finally totally free from the shackles of indie rock, and finally comfortable in their own skin. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino sounds, to me, like the album Alex Turner and the boys have wanted to make for a long, long time. It is truly out of this world. – Jake Cordiner (@j4keth)

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3 Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Who would’ve thought that four white guys playing in a punk outfit in 2018 could sing about how “woke” they are and make it sound convincing? Parquet Courts have long played the role of rock and roll philosophers; co-songwriters Austin Brown and Andrew Savage often dive into popular rock fodder like relationships, travel, and technology, detailing each phenomenon with an enlightened, if blunt, sentiment. And on Wide Awake!, the group return with their trademark urban nervousness, this time with a wider musical palette, courtesy of guest producer Danger Mouse.

Removed from the context of the music, Brown, and Savage begin to sound like paranoiacs, their lyrics veering close to the basket cases spouting off outside of grocery stores and banks. “Lately I’ve been curious/ Do I pass the Turing test?” Savage sings on Normalization, his voice not so much panicked as it is angry, demanding. But for all the furor, the Brooklyn quartet remain woke, even if it’s the kind of social awareness that keeps you up at night: “Mind so woke cause my brain never pushes the brakes!” As always, Parquet Courts make anxiety catchy—to them, the human condition is a mix of mundanity and revulsion, terror and desensitisation, and on Wide Awake!, it’s never without a strong hook.

Oh, and fuck Tom Brady. – Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

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2Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

One of the most exciting acts Scotland has seen in years, Young Fathers returned this year with the much anticipated Cocoa Sugar, an album which continues to showcase their ability to create an explosive collection of innovative and experimental tracks. On Cocoa Sugar, Young Fathers are catchier and poppier than before but sacrifice none of their talent for packing so much intricate detail into short but powerful blasts of music.

The Edinburgh hip-hop trio are as versatile as ever here as well, going from almost spiritual places on tracks such as In My View and Lord to the grit and sinister tones of Wow, Wire, and Toy. Cocoa Sugar gets more impressive with each listen and it’s most impressive aspect is just how layered each track is with its intertwining vocals, driving beats, backing choir and many minor details that you appreciate more and more with each listen. – Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

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1Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

What to say about Twin Fantasy that hasn’t already been said? Will Toledo’s lo-fi opus is a source of inspiration to all indie fans of this generation. Toledo’s enormous presence mixed with honest but cryptic storytelling led his diehard fans to pick and dissect every bit of truth behind the album. Usually, this kind of reaction would generate a pretty negative feeling towards the album from the musician’s standpoint, but the art Toledo created in 2011 stood the test of time.

Prompting him to redo the album completely; submerging himself in lyrics and feelings from years prior. This led him to create what is arguably his most grand record to date, labeled as (Face to Face). The structure from the original album is there but everything has been redone in the best possible way. There is enough for fans of the original to feel it has been done justice, but it also stands on its own enough to attract new fans. It’s the perfect love letter to what Car Seat Headrest used to be, written from where the band is now. – Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

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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.

Guessing the Reading & Leeds 2018 Headliners

by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

The only enjoyable thing at the start of any year is that festival line ups are now starting to break cover, like springtime buds shooting through the freshly tilled soil. As the low winter sun burns through the clouds, bands are added to line ups, either to the excited squeals of diehard fans, or audible gulps of disappointed punters who’ve bet their summer on this.

Me, you ask? After completely blowing my load at the Download headliners for different reasons, I’ve wanted to blow chunks at everything past that. Volbeat? Fucking VOLBEAT? Furthermore, with no Glastonbury to get wet and wild at this year, I am technically festival freelance and will be calling 2000Trees my home this year.

However, what say you, dear reader? Are you holding out on the Reading & Leeds lineup being announced? To help you out, I’ve put together a little list of who you might find topping the bill over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Disclaimer: The probability for each act comes down to how likely I think they are to headline, something that is entirely subjective – I believe each artist here is more than capable of headlining.

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Arctic Monkeys

Well, it just has to be, doesn’t it? Every other fucking festival in the known universe has managed to bag these suave simian songsmiths as a headliner, so for Andy Copping to miss out on these boys as headliners would the biggest musical foul-up since St. Anger. It’s been five long years since AM, and most of the Arctics have kept busy; frontman Alex Turner dicking about with Miles Kane in the Last Shadow Puppets, Matt Helders has been dicking about with Iggy Pop and Joshua Homme in Post Pop Depression, so all in all, a lot of dicking around has been done since AM and their 2014 headline slot at R&L.

With a whole plethora of festival dates announced for AM, plus constant tongue cluckings that new material is but a hair away from being released, don’t be surprised if the Monkeys take to the coveted Main Stage Sponsored by Tuborg – Liquid Soundtrack to the sound of a new album. Do bear in mind though that the boys have already confirmed their festival dates for 2018 and R&L is weirdly absent though this could merely be a case of keeping things under wraps for an announcement extravaganza. 

Probability Rating: Andy Copping never usually misses a trick, so for him to let AM slip by would be a huge surprise. 8/10

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Guns ‘n’ Roses

The last time GnR headlined the Carling Weekender, it went pretty fucking wrong, pretty fucking quickly. A waylaid Axl Rose showed up some thirty hours after stage time and then incited a riot after they cut the power on him. However, reunited with Slash & Duff, things seem to be a lot smoother, and the ‘Not In This Lifetime’ tour seems to be the show of a lifetime. Guns are already headlining Download this year, but big mad Andy knows that booking this band is a licence to print money, and big mad Axl knows that this tour is a licence to print money. It’s a match made in heaven!

Considering that many people’s festival plans have been cemented, R&L needs to bring in some big marquee names to try and get day punters coming through the door, and a line up consisting of either GnR or Arctic Monkeys, or both, could be enough to tip the scales for a lot of people.

Probability Rating: Quite high, but should still be considered an outside bet. 7/10

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Paramore

Rumour has it that we’ll see a complete mirror image of the 2014 lineup at the top, minus Blink 182, and few bands are more deserving of top billing than Paramore right now. After Laughter was a smash hit, and they’ve been wowing UK arena crowds in 2018 already, so for them to carry that momentum forwards into an August headline slot would be of no effort at all.

R&L also needs a strong, female-fronted headliner too. Too many festival lineups these days are a boys club, and to overlook such a solid headliner as Paramore would be beyond the pale, you hear me, Copping?! Beyond the pale.

Probability Rating: 2014 was a good year, Donald Trump was just a television sex pest instead of a sex pest who could nuke Korea. Good times, lads. 9/10.

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Queens of the Stone Age

Are QotSA still cancelled? Joshua Homme kicked a girl in the face which is an objective dick move, but I genuinely think he needs some help to be less of a cunt his whole life. Either way, with the rumour being that we’ll get a mirror image of 2014, QotSA are in pole position to headline the festival, instead of a co-headline spot with Paramore, and cancelled or not, Villains was a world-beater of an album.

Further to this, Queens are holding a little festival of their own in Finsbury Park, featuring them, obviously, Iggy Pop, The Hives, Run The Jewels and many more! I see a lot of promoted ads for it, so I don’t think it’s sold or selling out. The Hives though, and Iggy Pop.

Probability Rating: 2014 was a good year, we’d not yet gone full Tory, instead of a full Tory that’s likely going to drive us off a cliff. Good times, lads. 9/10

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CHVRCHES

ALL CAPS! CHVRCHES are clearly a new band, because they’ve had to resort to alternate vowels to find a new band name, but since their debvt they’ve been vnstoppable, with Lavra Mayberry’s soothing silky voice settling like fresh snow on their ethereal beats. With a new album on the horizon, it’s a risky business to promote anyone as yet untested up to the headline scene, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Get two veterans, like AM and GnR for instance as the ‘safe bets’, then give CHVRCHES the Saturday slot to let them spread their wings.

We gave Biffy & Foals the same chances in recent years, let’s move another great British band up the ranks now.

Probability Rating: A woman?! Headlining MY festival?! It’s more likely than you think. 6/10

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Metallica

YEAHEAHEAH. As covered earlier, Copping needs some serious firepower to get people coming through the gates, and who better than 2015 headliners Metallica to add that star power? Metallica sell arenas out worldwide and could sell a day at Reading & Leeds out with the first bar of Enter Sandman. Metallica played an arena run in 2017, but haven’t headlined a UK festival since R&L in 2015.

I’d had them as surefire Download headliners this year, but as per usual, I was wrong. Metallica are metal, yes, but their uber-corporate image has allowed them to transcend the heavy metal label & become mainstream darlings. Do NOT count this band out.

Probability Rating: I’m pretty sure I’m just booking the lineup now. 6/10.

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Wolf Alice

Much like CHVRCHES, Wolf Alice are new blood, mere wolf cubs than big adult wolves, but have absolutely set the world on fire since their debut. Visions of a Life was one of the best albums of 2017, and Ellie Rowsell’s screams would gladly rock the foundations of the Main Stage Sponsored by Volkswagen – Liquid Soundtrack to its very core.

Same principal as CHVRCHES, sandwich them between two heavyweight veterans, get people along for the weekend, let them spread their wings and prove their worth on the main stage. Nobody ever got famous for being careful.

Probability Rating: It’s a good concept, getting two heavyweights, selling people into weekend tickets and give a young’un a chance, which is why it’ll probably never happen; 5/10.

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Royal Blood

Now, there IS an outside chance that could come true. Sold out arenas across the world, two hugely popular albums, Glastonbury sub-headliners, which is basically your ticket to headline any other festival, there’s no barrier to the Brighton two-piece taking the top bill.

Setlist wouldn’t be a problem, as their UK arena setlist was essentially the first two albums but slapped like all hell. You’d be an absolute sausage to rule out these boys taking the Sunday or Friday headline slot.

Probability Rating: I know you hate them, but you can’t hate them as much as Andy Copping loves money. 7/10.

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Lorde

Another outside bet, but if two juggernauts were to top the bill, rolling the dice on someone like Lorde could pay dividends. Plus, if you end up getting two male, rock headliners, getting a female pop sensation could offer balance and something other than a rock band on one of the nights. Melodrama was a huge, huge album & she headlined the Other Stage at Glastonbury last year but curiously only did a small hall/academy tour of the UK. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough is the saying, and Lorde is more than capable of taking a headline slot.

Probability Rating: Maybe this time I’ll remember to get fucking tickets. 5/10

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Chase and Status

Genuinely not the stupidest festival rumour you’ll hear this year, Chase & Status sub-headlined to Eminem in 2013, and have their new album, Tribes, just dying to be played. With a rock-heavy lineup, Chase & Status could be the tonic in the gin that this lineup needs, with international clout, an absolute armful of hits and guest stars, it’d be madness to rule out the kings of drum & bass this August.

Probability: Actually not a bad shout, well done me. 7/10

See also: Pendulum; that’s a 2/10 chance, but have that comeback clout behind them.

Killer Finales: Albums That Finish With Their Strongest Tracks

Whether your album goes on for an hour or ten minutes, the general rule of thumb is to finish things with a bang rather than a fizzle. Sure, there are a handful of albums that could be considered one of the greatest whose best track is somewhere in the middle (hell, maybe all the tracks are so great it’s hard to pick a definitive one) but that’s not what we’re talking about today. So strap yourselves in folks because today, the good folk of blinkclyro are going to go through a host of favourites that made sure to bow out in the best way possible.

The Velvet Underground – Sister Ray
White Light/White Heat

17 and a half minute long epitome of the legendary band’s sophomore avant garde quest to create something new from the thunderous noise rock they hammer out via tribal drums, buzzing organs and melting guitars – so brutal the producer walked out half way through the recording, but so very good.

Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

The National – Mr November
Alligator

The ultimate send-off for the album which represented a turning point in their careers, the twilight zone of a band on the verge of critical and commercial success. An explosive 4-minute distillation of everything they’ve done up to that point, Matt’s voice nears breaking point as he yells “I won’t fuck us over / I’m Mr November” with steely conviction.

Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

Carly Rae Jepsen – Roses
EMOTION SIDE B

WILDCARD BITCHES! Nothing omitting a cheeky wee b-side album, not as long as I’m running this site, which means the once meme turned queen of Partrician can make an appearance with this stunning track. If you’re gonna title two of your albums with EMOTION then you gotta show it and Roses just oozes heartbreak, whether it be the flower imagery or Jepsen’s vocals that at times sound like she has a legitimate lump in her throat. 

-Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

The Clash – Train In Vain
London Calling

Initially elided from the track listing and kept as a secret cut on the record, The Clash opted to close out their sprawling, genre-swinging double album London Calling with a modest breakup song. Detailing the dissolved relationship between vocalist Mick Jones and Viv Albertine of The Slits, the band turn their politically keen focus inward. Easily the most personal song on the album, Jones reaches an invaluable epiphany in the throes of his heartbreak: “You don’t understand my point of view/ I suppose there’s nothing I can do.”

-Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

Fatherson – Foreign Waters
I Am An Island

Just sums up Fatherson and their debut in every way possible. Slow, sad moments mixing with huge chorus and drum – throw in the addition of the wee 2 minute hidden track at the end and you’ve got a superb finale.

– Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc)

Radiohead – Motion Picture Soundtrack
Kid A

So much has been said and written about the icy atmosphere of that record and MPS continues this to the n-th degree with the chilling organ backdrop, however the twinkling harp that comes in combines with some of Thom’s best ever vocals to bring a beautiful sense of humanity to the record, and “I will see you in the next life” has to be the best album-closing lyric ever.

-Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

Gaslight Anthem – National Anthem
Handwritten

An album that shows so much ‘in your face’ guitar angst is closed perfectly with a delicate, emotional ballad. It shows the versatility of their sound & that they have much more to offer than riffs, hooks & drum fills – for me, this is the peak of the most rounded album The Gaslight Anthem have ever put out.

-Callum Thornhill (@cal_thornhill )

Biffy Clyro – Now The Action Is On Fire
Vertigo Of Bliss

It (somehow) manages to condense everything that made very early Biffy so special into one song. It has a bit of everything, a frantic string section, some of the best vocals the trio had ever and will ever put down, some gloriously heavy instrumentation and weird as fuck lyrics that were fast becoming a signature part of the Biff’s repertoire. It’s bombastic, loud and by all accounts it shouldn’t work but THAT’S why it’s so good. In a word, masterful.

-Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

Arctic Monkeys – 505
Favourite Worst Nightmare

At this point in their career 505 was the most emotionally bare Turner’s lyrics had been and still today remains arguably their best song and suitably ends most of their sets with that unforgettable riff sounding better each time you hear it. On an album where the band improved in every way, 505 embodies that change during its climax.

-Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Muse – Knights Of Cydonia
Black Holes & Revelations

The epitome of bombastic rock and roll grandeur, from the giant opening stabs to the infamous “No one’s gonna take me alive” bridge/ending, it could be used as a blueprint to end an album. It’s overblown, in your face and pompous, making it the perfect song for the credits to roll.

– Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Death Grips – Hacker
The Money Store

Described by cuindependent.com as “the moment when all shit breaks loose and all that’s left to do is riot”, Hacker is the point in Death Grips’ career where they realised that they were the shit and wanted everyone to know about it. They’re in your area, whether you fucking like it or not. 

-Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
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LOOKING BACK AT…FAVOURITE WORST NIGHTMARE by ARCTIC MONKEYS

By Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

If you strike up a conversation about Arctic Monkeys with people, it will mostly lead to a discussion on Alex Turner and his recent persona, perhaps a speculation of when and if they will make another album or maybe just agreeing on how great their debut is. Even if you were to have a more in-depth discussion on their music, it seems that the primary focus is usually on Whatever People Say I Am Is What I’m Not and if it ever does deviate, it tends to swing towards their strangest album (Humbug) or their most divisive (AM). Whilst their debut more than deserves its timeless recognition, it often seems to overshadow the very thing it created.

Just teenagers when they were propelled to fame, the Sheffield foursome quickly because one of the biggest bands in the world following their debut album in 2006. Already having amassed a following of loyal fans, some may have been skeptical when a follow-up album was arriving little over a year later. Thankfully, ten years later we can look back and, if anything, be grateful that it came so soon. Favourite Worst Nightmare is the perfect blend of a second album as it has the same energy that made us love their debut so much. In addition, Alex Turner’s wit is still at large and, coupled with improved lyricism from their debut, it shows growth that fans would have hoped for. In this instance and almost every other aspect, Favourite Worst Nightmare is essentially WPSIAIWIN 2.0 but what stops it from being just a repeat, and the very fact that we are even talking about it ten years on, is that Arctic Monkeys were just that good at this point: 4 musicians at their peak just making music they enjoyed and while that sounds cliched, it is the very reason that Favourite Worst Nightmare is a classic.

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Just as WPSIAIWIN was mostly a collection of stories and observations of life in Sheffield, FWN is similar in the way most of the tracks are still observational but have a broader scope. Album opener Brianstorm is literally just about a guy the band met on tour and somehow Turner manages to turn this into one of their most iconic singles and, as on the entire album, Matt Helders drumming alone is enough to cement the album into our memories. A noticeable difference on Favourite Worst Nightmare is a stronger focus on relationships and having Turner’s attention on such matters leads to album highlights such as hilarious one-liners on Fluorescent Adolescent. However when he isn’t comparing penis sizes and referring to them as a “Mecca Dauber or a betting pencil“, Turner proves to have grown along with his bands sound as The Only Ones Who Know is an emotive track about the feeling of a new relationship that seems to make everything else seem obsolete. It is perhaps an often overlooked Arctic Monkeys song but provides a more optimistic outlook on love than usual and is yet another surprising highlight that makes Favourite Worst Nightmare as vital to Arctic Monkeys‘ discography as it is.

Although these tracks are highlights, they by no means overshadow the rest of the album and each track feels necessary. The transition from This House Is A Circus into If You Were There, Beware is memorable in its own right and the album is full of moments of pure musical enjoyment such as that. However, it is undeniable that musically Helders is the stand-out, so much so that he deserves a second mention as it’s hard to imagine this album existing without him. Fortunately, Favourite Worst Nightmare finishes as strongly as it starts with 505, a now universally adored song that Arctic Monkeys play with limitless glee at the end of every gig and with every listen, it instantly states itself as being a career defining track.

What could have been just a carbon copy of their acclaimed debut, Favourite Worst Nightmare is the perfect response, an album that feels like a natural growth that stands on its own and, even ten years, on remains a masterpiece.


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TRACK REVIEW: The Last Shadow Puppets – Miracle Aligner

“It’s about a yoga teacher” Alex Turner says in his Yorkshire heavy tone when Zane Lowe asks what his and long time friend Miles Kane’s latest single is about. You’d think considering the weight of the situation, promoting their upcoming second LP as the duo The Last Shadow Puppets named Everything You’ve Came To Expect, that he would take it a bit more serious but that’s arguably the charm of the Arctic Monkeys frontman: he doesn’t give a fuck.

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It’s all fine and dandy to have the care free attitude as long as you’re delivering the goods. Turner could afford that whenever AM came out as regardless of how divisive their new sound was, it sold a fuck ton meaning he could wear that slick back hair and leather jacket without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately it seems like the ego has got the best of him as we get a track that feels like a retread with very little attention paid to it.

Whilst it’s not a horrendous track by any means, Miracle Aligner evokes all the low points and issues I had with the Arctic Monkey’s last outing (slow tempo with an uninteresting vocal delivery and very little in the way of variety) and from what has been presented so far, this LP seems more like an Alex Turner solo project than a collaboration with little to know influence from Kane’s music whatsoever on here. Very safe and borderline bland, it’s a shame that years and years of waiting for The Last Shadow Puppets to return has resulted in a mess of singles which, while all different from one another, feel like this upcoming album has been rushed rather than polished.

Miles Kane and Alex Tuner of the Last Shadow Puppets.

That could arguably be the charm of this record, an album that may reek of carelessness but is fueled by two artists that have a great chemistry and work off one another. Time will tell if that’s the case but from what has been delivered so far, that third album we’ve been teased about may have to go back to the drawing board.

Fingers crossed.

Arctic Monkeys – AM

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     With four albums under their belts, many would think that Arctic Monkeys could perform a “Jay-Z” of sorts and just release a similar sounding album to anything they’ve released previously and sell millions due to the popularity the band have internationally. Thankfully, this isn’t the case and they’ve delivered quite a different album which is as stylistic as it is well made.        

Arctic Monkeys have been critically applauded since their 2005 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not so it should be no surprise to anyone that Do I Wanna Know? is a brilliant opener that is full of fluent, romantic lines that show off the talent Turner has with “been wondering what time your heart’s still open and if so I wanna know what time it shuts” being a memorable one. Another classic stadium rocking gem for the band follows in the form of R U Mine? which features a catchy beat and strong performances from Alex, Jamie, Nick and Matt. The atmosphere soon changes though in the track One For The Roadwhich is more chilled out and this same vibe carries on to Arabella which also contains a strong chorus followed by even stronger performances on guitar which mantains the same back up vocals that are difficult not to sing along with so there should be no surprise that this is a personal favourite of mine on the record. Want It All, which should be pointed out for a great beat that’s hard not to nod your head along to in appreciation, is the preceding track to No.1 Party Anthem which is one of the more unique tracks which represents how stylistic this album is. Mad Soundscomes after this and is an average track which will most likely be lost amongst the other tracks. The same can also be said about Firesidewhich feels more filler than killer. Thankfully Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? redeems that and it’s lovely tempo and beat make it a track which is difficult not to like. Snap Out Of It features the same great vocals that can be seen on the whole of AM  as well a great beat to go with it and Knee Socks keeping up the record’s reputation of great tracks. I Wanna Be Yours retains the same chilled vibe from One For The Road and Arabella and although it is a good track, compared to the rest of the album it can be seen as being lacklustre.

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       Suck It And See is regarded by some fans of the band as one of their best pieces of work while others see it as their most dissapointing. Fortunately, this split opinion shouldn’t be the same case for AM as the band have proved themselves yet again by producing a great record that every music fan should give a listen to as even though it has a few lacklustre tracks, it’s an album that’s worth your attention.