Album Review: Foo Fighters – Concrete & Gold

rating 7

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Foo Fighters are a rock ‘n’ roll anomaly. The sonic equivalent of Schroedinger’s cat. At any one time, they may be on hiatus and not recording an album, whilst also in the studio with new material. There may be as many as six members in the band, or there may only be one. They are the dad rock quandary.

After the recording and release of 2014’s album/documentary, Sonic Highways and the subsequent tour that saw Dave Grohl fall off the stage, break his leg, somehow manage to carry on playing and continue the tour in some sort of wacky moving throne, the Foos were done for now. Except they weren’t. Then they released the Saint Cecilia EP, then they were done again. But then the release of Run and their Glastonbury headline slot told us that they were back.

Back for however long a piece of string may be, Concrete & Gold is their ninth full-length studio offering, and enlists the helping hand of producer Greg Kurstin, a man not renown for his hard-rock production pedigree, instead producing pop bangers such as Chandelier by SiaHello by Adele and yer da tracks like Wall of Glass by Liam Gallagher. Surely a poppy producer couldn’t extract gold from the hard rock concrete?

Oh but he could.

Concrete & Gold, as an album, feels big. That’s the overriding theme throughout this album. Yes, a band with six members should be big, but it feels though their sound has been padded out, the riffs have been taken to all you can eat buffets and poured lard into the mixing board. Beard enthusiast Dave Grohl himself said that Kurstin took the riff from Run from “bewdewdewdew” to “BEWDEWDEWDEW” to turn it into this monolithic rock anthem. The singles released in the run up to this album’s launch are some of the stronger tracks on this album as well, with The Sky is a Neighbourhood being an airy, etheral rock track with a beautiful choral/gang vocal chorus that was purpose-built to get purpose-built stadiums rattling along to it.

Much like a late-stage series of The SimpsonsConcrete & Gold is littered with guest stars. However, it’s done so tastefully that you wouldn’t even notice Justin Timberlake’s backing vocals on Make It Right or Paul McCartney’s drumming on the slow-jammed, almost Beatles-esque Sunday Rain. They are merely the guests at a musical party, the salmon canapés on the side table.

Whilst Wasting Light was a bit more of a hard rock hallelujah, and Sonic Highways being a conceptual documentary soundtrack, Concrete & Gold feels like a more accessible Foo Fighters record, something they’ve always been. Your dad likes them, your brother likes them, even your down-with-the-kids boss likes them, and they can all sit down and share this album together.

However, where there are hard rock thrusts, they don’t impact as they should. Arrows and The Line are enjoyable tracks and should be familiar to any Foos fan, be they casual or hardcore, but it almost feels like they’ve gone through the motions here. Almost as if you gave a team on The Apprentice £250 and told them to write a Foo Fighters song. La Dee Da however, leaves a bit of a heavier mark, with muddy, driving bass rattling the foundations of the song, but the hard rock reprisals on the whole feel familiar, but a bit cold, like you’ve just seen an old friend or flame and you’re forcing yourself to be nice.

On the whole, this album is very much concrete, as it’s solid, sturdy and everyone has a need or use for it. The slower, poppier jams & simple executions compared to Sonic Highways make this album more accessible than Foos albums of late, with the harder tracks, especially Run and La Dee Da enough to keep the Foos faithful happy & the dad rockers tapping their sensible shoed feet.

However, whilst Greg Kurstin’s production has added a bigger, meatier feel to an already big and meaty band, it doesn’t feel gold. It feels silver, because there are some absolutely brilliant tracks on here, but it’s another case of a band coming into their twilight years, whereby they can still run (whey! Geddit?) with the best, but it’ll never quite be the blistering performances they used to put in. That being said, this is a thoroughly enjoyable album from front to back, with A-grade production and songs that were designed to be played in the Foo Fighters’ natural habitat: the stadium.

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FESTIVAL REVIEW – Gettin’ Glastönbutlered

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

The key thing you need to take into consideration with Glastonbury is that it is not your common garden music festival. I mean, first of all, it’s actually a ‘Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts’, which is true, because no matter where you go in those trillion square acres of Somerset countryside, there is always something weird and wonderful going on.

Whilst yer da was at home complaining about how Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Sheeran was on his telly with 6,000 other available channels, there were a million other things happening. People were indulging themselves in ancient cultures, sampling some of the world’s hottest and most loved musical and artistic acts, and slightly overweight music writers were permanently sipping beer as they thought of what they were actually going to say about Glastonbury.

https://twitter.com/notoliverbutler/status/877657321886896129

Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no perfect way to describe it. As soon as you sweep through the sleepy village of Pilton, Somerset, you’re greeted by sights that would put Disneyland to shame, and it really is Disneyland for grownups. There’s so much whimsy, magic and wonder as you stroll about Farmer Eavis’ Gigantic Farm of Banter, and the view at night from the hill on which the Glastonbury sign sits is unparalleled.

In every sense of the matter, this festival is huge, and the big name bands are merely just a side show. If you spend an entire Glastonbury weekend just watching bands, then buddy, you done fucked up.

However, my job for this website is literally writing about bands, so let’s talk about that, shall we?

Thursday

Old Dirty Brasstards

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ga25UP2Lt8

Ooooooooh I’m drunk, and these boys are the perfect accompaniment to any decent session. The tweed-clad army of lads play up-tempo covers of some of your favourite pop and rock songs, opening 2017’s set with a beautiful rendition of QotSA’s No One Knows, followed by Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, and of course, for the stars of Friday’s show, a cover of Radiohead’s Paranoid Android, all expertly communicated through the jovial means of brass and percussion. Without hyperbole, if these boys played a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, there’s every chance I’d have sacked one of the headliners off to see them. The Brasstards are the perfect feel good start to a weekend of quality music.

10/10

BANDS SEEN: 1

BEERS DRANK: Got a bit hazy around twenty. Went to Pimp My Fries, then strolling around the legendary South East Corner, on the hunt for some good times. Threw up. A lot.

Friday

Oh God. Is it possible to be this hungover? I can just about move my body and that’s to poke my head out of the tent pod’s little window to retch the last of my pimped fries up. Damn you Pimp My Fries. This Friday at Glastonbury is going to suck even more as in the evening, Radiohead, Lorde, Sleaford Mods, Dizzee Rascal AND Clean Bandit all clash. Fuck this festival and the sheer amount of quality musicians on offer.

Nothing But Thieves

They’re nonces, Jim.

Royal Blood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8AuiZ0O6Qg

Here’s another hot-as-bollocks band with a second album that’s come out in 2017, which, at first was a bit disappointing, but has grown on me, with live performances of Where Are You Now?, Lights Out, Hook Line and Sinker and Hole In Your Heart strengthening the love for How Did We Get So Dark? 

But it just wouldn’t be a Royal Blood set without jams like Figure it Out, Little Monster, and the almighty Out of the Black closing the set, with a massive cock tease as sticksman Ben Thatcher went into the crowd just before the final riff, only for the camera to pan to LARS FUCKING ULRICH FROM FUCKING METALLICA, maybe nodding to the fact that Lars took over the drums once before whilst Ben got closer to the crowd. However, it wasn’t meant to be, but Christ almighty, what a set!

8/10

The XX

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhZTexVqRCI

I’ll level with you here. I watched these guys from my chair back at the tent which overlooks the Pyramid, because I couldn’t face standing up for a few hours waiting for Thom Yorke and His Gaggle of Weird Lads to show up. But having never really given them the time of day before, they were very impressive, and their airy, synthy sound was the perfect relaxer for a man with a devastating hangover. However, I did have a can. Lovely.

Look, if you’re looking for someone who spent his weekend sober, whilst sticking religously to his itinerary, trying to review as many bands as he could, you’ve come to the wrong place.

7/10 

Radiohead

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGFg0FN2yBU

Bucket list band time here gang. Ever since I got my pubescent paws on a copy of OK Computer and The Bends whilst only really knowing the words to Creep, I’ve wanted to see this band, but in my heart of hearts, I knew they’d disappoint me because of how much I wanted this.

The first bar of Daydreaming and there was zero possible way that Radiohead could disappoint me tonight. I was stood around the WORST people, including a group of LadBible fanatics doing keys of MD, a man in slacks and a fleece taking photos of EVERYTHING, a couple who wouldn’t stop fucking kissing and literally Your Dad singing every word of every song but sulking through Creep.

However, the set was perfect, the notable highlight being the eerie silence during Exit Music (For a Film), turning that song from a 10/10 to a 20/10. Songs such as Ful Stop, Weird Fishes, Lotus Flower, Bodysnatchers and Nude made an appearance because I’m Thom fucking Yorke mate. A friend commented that they’ve got to play Pyramid Song because they’re on the Pyramid Stage, and they did! But probably not for that reason, probably because I’m Thom fucking Yorke mate.

Whilst some bands stick to their vanilla setlists to please all palettes, I can’t even work out what flavour this set was. Aged pistachio or something. But when you get Fake Plastic Trees and Karma Police as some of the final accents, it can be whatever flavour you want it to be. Truly one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. Ever.

10/10

BEERS DRANK: Two! Two!

BANDS SEEN: Four. Ish. 

Saturday

Fresh as a daisy mate. Fresh. As. A. Daisy. I’ve probably had 10 hours sleep, and I’m ready to have halloumi for breakfast. I think I had halloumi. Really it’s hard to work out what happened and when, but one thing I can tell you for definite is that Saturday started with…

Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6naZMWemDs

No word of a lie, there were fewer bands I was more excited to see this weekend. When he’s not walking backwards in a studio introducing bands, he’s an accomplished blues pianist, bringing boogie to all the land, and with his full orchestra, oh my, it’s a party!

Jools and his guests played a variety of covers, getting an early afternoon audience up and ready, pumping them full of feel good, including a joyful cover of Enjoy Yourself by The Specials, and an appearance from my favourite, the Queen herself, Ruby Turner.

One thing I would recommend is getting tickets to go and see this man. You won’t have a better evening, I guarantee.

9/10

Craiiig David

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuUZh81B27I

Re-rewind, when I run back to the tent for more beers!

Straight off the bat, Craiiig David was a delight to see, playing a mix of orignal garage, soul and R&B classics, plus a few covers and a TS5 DJ set. It also led to the theory that Bo’ Selecta! did actually ruin Craiiig David‘s life, in that when introducing the stone cold banger that is Rise and Fall, he spoke about coming through adversity and how writing music helped him get through some tough times. Bo’ Selecta! came out in 2002, Rise and Fall came out in 2003. Your honour, no further questions.

But needless to say, Craiiig David had the last laugh, as he’s had a number one album, a UK wide arena tour, played the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury whilst Avid Merrion being about as funny as a haemmorhoid being Keith Lemon. So who won that round? Ya boi Craig did.

8/10

Jeremy Corbyn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVGFi8balOM

“WOAAAAH JEREMY CORBYN! I don’t give a fuck about him, I voted UKIP” – those lads doing MDMA behind me at Radiohead.

Still never know which way Glastonbury leans. Whilst it’s an inherently left leaning festival in that it used to be a CND festival, it is chock full of Tories, and when they try to mosh, they endager the lives of everybody in that pit. That being said, worst you could do is give them a head injury and create a Lib Dem front bencher.

Oh yeah, Jeremy Corbyn.

It was a rapturous reception for the Labour party leader, with the field surrounding the Pyramid packed to the rafters (there are no rafters in fields, but fuck you) for his address, stirring the souls of every person in that field, giving a lucky young boy named Michael Eavis a signed copy of the Labour manifesto. Well jel. Whilst he was preaching to the many converted, undoubtedly there were a few who couldn’t help but be enthused by his message.

1 billion/10

Run the Jewels

Image result for run the jewels glastonbury 2017

Another tent special. Good guys, good sound, good message.

7/10

Liam Gallagher

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xo_GcOsp4k

Oh my God. This guy is literally Your Dad. He’s in his anorak, trying to sing Oasis coverOH it’s Liam Gallagher. If you were at that gig, please let me know if you were also there, purely for him to say “Oh and by the way, this is my brother Noel“.

In defence of the lesser of the two evils, sound quality plagued the Other Stage for the entire weekend, but the sound quality was still dire, as an anaemic crowd tried to pretend they gave a shit about Wall of Glass. Sure he played Rock n Roll Star, Morning Glory and Slide Away, plus an emotional rendition of Don’t Look Back In Anger, but there was little substance to this set, making the fact I ran out of cans even more upsetting. Jesus.

4/10

Katy Perry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5vp6usKX_Y

Caught the last bar of Roar, because it takes 9 years to walk anywhere ¯\_()_/¯

The National

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBg9xysCYwU

Mad how Jurgen Klopp manages Liverpool and also fronts The National. Top boy all round. Being honest, I’ve got little to no interest in The National and couldn’t work out why they were sub headlining Saturday but the Eaviseseseseses are absolute r/madlads, so you’ve just gotta ROLL WITH IT, GEDDIT?! Oh wait, Liam Gallagher was the last act.

Yeah these guys sounded pretty good, and drew a decent crowd, but I can’t say I’d ever listen to them again.

7/10

Foo Fighters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2ER7ChXX6s

The more I think about it, the more I realise Foo Fighters is a ridiculous name for one of the world’s biggest bands, but Dave Grohl could start a band named All My Fans Are Cunts and I’d still lap up every note.

Two years ago I was pencilled in to see the Foos twice in two weeks, once at Wembley, and once at Glastonbury, until Dave selfishly broke his leg. Bastard. So this, in many ways, was a redemption gig. Opening the set with Times Like These, dedicated to Florence from Florence and the Machine, who performed the same song two years ago in their headline slot, you knew it was gonna be a good’un.

The thing about Dave Grohl, much like Thom Yorke, means that little to no fucks are given about setlist content. Which is why cats like Cold Day in the Sun, Wheels and Skin and Bones were thrown in amongst the pigeons of All My Life, The Pretender and Monkey WrenchSonic Highways hit Something from Nothing also seems to be a setlist mainstay these days, which is good, because it’s a high-grade banger, along with medium-grade banger Congregation. Brand new banger Run also got a… wait for it! Run out!

The negative points on this report card? No guests. I’ve seen these guys perform motherfucking Under Pressure with goddamn John Paul Jones and christing Roger Taylor before, but there were no special guests this time. But a cover of Under Pressure performed with Taylor Hawkins doing the vocals so that counts, I guess?

The high point of this set? The Everlong ending. Because quite frankly, if anything could ever be that way forever, if anything could ever be that good again, my word.

10/10

BANDS SEEN: Seven. Ish.

BEERS DRANK: So many. At least thirty. Ended up at a silent disco and a communal sleeping tent that honked of incense. N.B. It was a communal sleeping tent, and not an invasion of someone’s tent. 

Sunday

Hungover as fuck, gotta go load the car, so the first band I saw today was in the late afternoon and it was…

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2oqXN06ffE

He’d be the first to admit it, but Frank Carter is a bona fide madman, and his Sunday teatime slot with The Rattlesnake just adds to that theory. Clad with pink hair, white jeans and a sheer white shirt, the punktastic prince angrily wrangled his way through Sunday afternoon, stopping to throw an entire bottle of piss back in the face of a lad who threw piss at him first during Juggernaut. A madman. A legend. An idol. Tried to start a circle pit through the whole of the tent. Killers fans weren’t having it. Mugs,

The beauty of a Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes set is that you’re guaranteed hits, and with Snake Eyes, Jackal, I Hate You and Lullaby being charmed out the snake basket, it was business as usual from an energetic and enthusing set. Another particular highlight was getting a girls-only crowdsurf during I thiiiiiink it was Devil Inside Me, threatening to decapitate any handsy male who tried groping them, stating that we are all equal, to which the Andy Dick looking motherfucker creepily rubbed his hands together when the subject of groping young women came up, and sulked when Frank said that we were all equal. I hope you do get decapitated, pal.

9/10

The Killers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRF0q6z60hc

Best part about where we camp is that we can hear about four stages clearly. I heard The Killers. In this same time period, I had violent diarrhoea. Go figure.

Chic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2khokvlf_Y

I also heard funktastic disco legends Chic from our tent, which was much, MUCH better, for am I of the opinion that there are few finer guitarists in this world than Nile Rodgers. This set delivered by the bucketload, featuring, Everybody DanceGood TimesLe Freak, fucking He’s the Greatest Dancer, Let’s Dance, GET FUCKING LUCKY, and Good Times. Also featuring a funk off between Nile Rodgers and Jerry Barnes. Jesus Christ.

9/10

Biffy Clyro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlPt8C5Fnxk

First things first. Biffy should have headline before Sheeran. They’ve got greater pedigree, more albums, more prowess and more fucking everything than someone playing a small guitar. There. I said it. Although someone leaving Chic was saying “I hate Biffy Clyro, he(?)’s shit, ooh, Courteeners are on”. Confusing.

But then again, Biffy were a wildcard. I’d have never painted a band of their demeanour as Glastonbury sub-headliners but they made sure that they secured themselves a second invitation. Definite 2019/20 headliners.

The set was a mix of old and new, opening with Wolves of Winter and ending with Stingin’ Belle,whist throwing Who’s Got A Match?Bubbles, Medicine, Re-Arrange and Animal Style in between those two delicious slices of bread. Also they threw in Puzzle album track 9/15ths because why not? It’s fucking brilliant.

Seriously though, Biffy delivered in a big way, and proved their worth as certified festival headliners.

9/10

Boy Better Know

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_BzqnpyVM8

My relationship with BBK is strained at best. Whilst I remember the days before JME and Skepta had albums and were world renown, I just can’t seem to enjoy a live set, and neither did Glastonbury, as barely anybody showed up. To be honest, the only song I really recognised was That’s Not Me, leading me to realise I’m quite behind on the times with BBK, but will forever remember playing songs like Serious and Doin’ It Again on repeat. Sometimes, the past is best left in the past.

6/10, I guess.

WEEKEND VERDICT

Yet again, this magical festival met my expectations and exceeded them. I had a fantastic weekend with quite literally, all my friends, having a laugh, getting drunk and mooching around the numerous exciting and interesting areas, sights, sounds and indeed, smells, this festival has to offer. Sure I could’ve spent my weekend religiously seeing a lot of bands, but there’s no fucking fun in in that. I could’ve been up, bright and breezy to see someone I’ve never heard of who might be alright, but I’d be on my own, or I could’ve gone for a greasy breakfast and had a few cans with my friends.

What I’m trying to say is that music is beautiful, it’s wonderful and it’s lifesaving, but it’s meaningless if I can’t enjoy it with my pals. They’re the real headliners of any festival, and the highlight of any set. I had a fucking great weekend and had gotten my money’s worth by Wednesday evening, because we were all having a laugh together.

So here’s my final review:

My Pals

A great set from the 14-piece roast-and-booze ensemble, notable highlights including Broken Chairs, Stone Colding Beers, Dancing to Bassline Junkie in the Tent and of course, Saturday Night Piss Up. Could never ask for more from an act.

14/10


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Foo Fighters – Run TRACK REVIEW

Written by Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

After being announced as headliners for what feels like every festival on the circuit, including a rescheduled slot at Glastonbury’s iconic Pyramid Stage, Foo Fighters have released a surprise new single – well, as much of a surprise as it could be in the circumstances. Foo Fighters’ comeback comes in the form of a 5-minute epic, simply titled Run.

It is crucial to discuss that despite being a hot property on the festival circuit, Foo Fighters need a return to form as a recording band after their previous LP Sonic Highways and 2015’s Saint Cecilia EP received mixed reviews. So, does Run see the Foo Fighters return to their frenetic best?

The answer is both yes and no. The first 40 seconds or so act as a red herring, with Dave Grohl crooning softly over a dreamy, finger-picked guitar backdrop. The first lyrics “wake up / run for your life with me” marry the tone perfectly. However, the song grows out of subtleness in no time at all, with pounding drums getting louder and louder before a snarling, looping guitar riff hijacks the track.

This riff allows the Foo Fighters to transition into their best: Grohl swaps croons for screams in the track’s verses, intertwined with a more polished, produced vocal which only seems to add even more intensity.

However, as scintillating as the verses are, they are let down by an average-at-best chorus where it feels like Grohl et al are doing all they can to make Run tick the “anthemic” box purely for live sing-alongs. The chorus lyrically is just a repeat of the intro, and the same lyrics feel far more tedious here without the dreamy intro.

Perhaps the track’s biggest flaw is its 5-minute length, which leaves it feeling extremely bloated, especially when the track is completed by a guitar solo which threatens to throw it into full “da rock” territory, which Foo Fighters’ previous 2 releases have flirted with. Overall, Run is not a bad track, but it will take more from the Foo Fighters to justify being booked on their current material rather than their greatest hits.

7/10


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Rewind: Best Of 2014

2014. What a year. It may have the blockbuster nature of 2013 but that’s what made it all the better as new artists that were previously unknown to the masses made a name for themselves with some of the most impressive records in their retrospective genres. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any big names releasing albums this year. If 2013 was a AAA film directed by Tarantino then 2014 was a Zach Braff film with Bill Murray and who could deny the appeal of both of them.
Albums
  1. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End

1996. 5 Californian boys in an alt rock band write what’s been hailed as one of the greatest albums of the 90’s. The band in question is Weezer and for the past decade or so they’ve suffered from the success of Pinkerton. With every new release, fans are expecting a worthy successor to the album and are regularly disappointed but this was all changed with the release of Everything Will Be Alright In The End. Featuring some of the best songs that the band has produced in recent memory, arguably their whole career, EWBAITE is an apology letter to the fans and one that makes it hard not to forgive Rivers Cuomo and co.
  1. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
“I feel sort of weathered and beat down and grown up all of a sudden. I’ve always had some kind of plateau that I wanted to reach, and now I just can’t see the next one.This is how Canadian musician Mac DeMarco felt after his extensive touring that lasted over a year and you can really hear it. Salad Days , recorded in DeMarco’s apartment, is laid back and relaxing, drawing you in with unwinding melodies like Let My Baby Stay and Blue Boy. It’ll be a hard feat to find any other album that can calm and entertain you as much as this psychedelic pop beauty.
  1. Aphex Twin – Syro

2014 wasn’t just the year of the up and coming, as proved by the return of this borderline insane genius. Announcing his return by flying a small blimp over London carrying the trademark Aphex logo, master of ambience Richard D. James came out of nowhere to clinch the bronze with an album full of a sound that is brand spanking new yet quintessentially Aphex Twin. Starting off with what is arguably the best song of the year, Syro manages to captivate its audience from beginning to end with lovely minimalistic piano solo aisatsana [102] delivering an amazing end to an amazing album.

  1. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
Fans of Bombay Bicycle Club can relax knowing that the boys have cemented themselves as one of the best in the current wave of British indie bands with such a tremendous album, infusing everything from synth pop to RnB that transfer to their live performances seamlessly. It’s odd to think how a band could create a record that has every single track bringing something new or tremendous to the table but Bombay Bicycle Club have managed it and from the looks of things, it’s not set to be the last time.
1. Run The Jewels – RTJ2
Hip Hop was a dominating force last year with Drake, Kanye, Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt and A$AP Rocky just a small slice of what the genre had to offer. However no album last year could prepare you for what Run The Jewels have to offer. You need proof? Take Blockbuster Night Part 1, a song true to its name as Killer Mike and El-P rap over a Godzilla-like beat, rap’s equivalent to the Jaws theme tune. Every track is dark and fresh, I could honestly write page after page on why I love this abum. I’ll save you all the earache and just tell you to go pick up Run The Jewels 2, it’s in a whole fucking league of its own.
4.Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Mark Kolezek, love him or hate him, is undoubtedly one of the best songwriters of all time. And Benji (his 6th record under the Sun Kil Moon moniker) has cemented that claim. Benji isn’t an easy ride, but it’s a vital one. All of the album’s 11 tracks are heartbreakingly sad, from album opener Clarissa (which tells of one of Kolezek’s relatives who died in a freak fire at the age of 25) to closer Ben’s My Friend (Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie being the Ben in question), each and every song paints a vivid picture of a man who doesn’t truly know how to express himself outside of his music. Look past the public beefs and media bullshit and lose yourself in the mind of the 21st century’s finest solo artist.
3. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
If you’d have told me that the girl who sang Bulletproof would one day write one of my favourite pop albums of all time I would have laughed right in your face, yet here we are. Trouble in Paradise is a pop masterpiece. It’s 9 tracks are nothing short of pop-funk brilliance and I urge anyone and everyone to listen to it as soon as possible if you haven’t. The departure of founding member (and Elly Jackson’s former boyfriend) Ben Langmaid was, at the risk of sounding like a dick, the best thing that could have happened to La Roux from a creative standpoint. It gave Jackson more freedom to experiment with funk, afro-pop and Caribbean sounds, and these influences compliment Jackson’s voice greatly. Songs like Kiss and Not Tell and Sexoteque will instantly put a smile on your face, and remind me of Prince at the height of his powers. In short, this album is absolutely essential.
2. The Xcerts – There is Only You
Ah, the Xcerts. Hailing from my hometown, I couldn’t help but feel a wee twinge of pride when listening to their latest LP “There Is Only You”. This record is an absolute monster. It’s relentlessly catchy (I can say with complete honesty I get at least one song from the album stuck in my head a day, and I’m still not sick of it) but underneath the catchiness lies real lyrical heart. Songs like Pop Song and Kick It, while feverishly memorable, are truly sad at their core. This, from an outsider’s perspective, sounds like the album the Xcerts have always wanted to make. Heavy, poppy, sad, brilliant.
1. Taylor Swift – 1989/The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pick between these two albums. I tried, so hard to make a call and I just couldn’t. They’re both the best albums of the artists’ respective careers and they’re both absolutely stunningly brilliant. Content-wise, however, these albums couldn’t be any more different from each other.
Taylor Swift has perfected the art of the pop song. She’s 100% the best pop star of the 21st century, and she may well end up being the biggest pop star ever. Songs like I Know Places and Blank Space solidify this, some of the best pop songs to come out in YEARS. I could have used any song on the album to make that point thought: from start to finish it is nothing short of pop perfection.
Now onto the Twilight Sad, the polar opposite to Swift’s bubblegum sweetness. The Twilight Sad are gritty, raw. Their songs have no happy endings, and they couldn’t give a fuck. There’s more heart and sadness poured into this album than there is in all the album’s released this year put together. From the devastating Drown So I Can Watch to album closer Sometimes I Wish I Could Fall Asleep and all the songs before and after, you’re grabbed by the throat and taken on a journey. It’s not an easy album to listen to, it’s a harder album to truly enjoy, but it is crucial to listen to.
Favourite albums of 2014:
FKA twigs-LP1
Although Britain can boast about its electronic success stories like James Blake, Jai Paul and Jamie XX, female artists in the genre are few and far between. However this year, Tahliah Debrett Barnett, aka FKA twigs, served the U.K (and the rest of the world) a plate of female electronic goodness with her debut album LP1. The album is an absolute beauty, combining experimental pop, R&B/hip hop beats, and layered whispery vocals to create an original, almost angelic sound. LP1 undoubtedly features the newest sounds I’ve heard in British music in a while and is definitely the coolest, most weirdly seductive release this year.
Favourite track: Give Up
Nicki Minaj-The Pinkprint
Nicki Minaj is easily one of the most hard working women in mainstream hip hop at the moment. Throughout 2014 she created buzz for the follow up to Roman Reloaded, releasing single after single, controversial video after controversial video and presenting the MTV EMAs. After all the hype I was worried that The Pinkprint wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but if anything, it exceeded them. Minaj is no one trick pony. The record is full of variety, going from emotional looks into her past, sultry duets with the likes of Beyonce and Ariana Grande, heart breaking ballads, pop bangers and impressive examples of her sheer rap talent. Trash talking Nicki is old news. The Pinkprint is fierce, fantastic; and makes her numerous skills absolutely undeniable.
Favourite track: Feeling Myself
Warpaint-Warpaint
Warpaint are talented ladies. As impressed as I may have been with their debut “The Fool”, this follow up is so, so much more mature and developed. With production and mixing assistance from the likes of Flood and Nigel Godrich, and a new band line up, it seems Warpaint has truly allowed the girls to find their sound. As the songs were written mostly during jamming sessions the record has a raw, experimental feel to it, and as expected the vocals feature heart stopping harmonies that are hauntingly atmospheric. Alongside the indie dream pop vibes there are also aspects of shoe-gaze, electronic music, and most notably hip hop and R&B which gives the album a feel of originality. It’s a stunning release that can be left on repeat and still somehow manage to leave the listener fascinated.
Favourite track: Biggy
Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters’ eighth studio album received mixed reviews but you can’t deny they’ve still got it. The theory behind Sonic Highways- recording each song in a different city- flaunts the creative ideas of the band. Using the influences of each location, each track is distinctive but the classic Foo’s clash of guitars and strong vocals is still recognisable.
Most of the mere 8 songs are on point and carry a punch, making up for the limited length. As a stand-alone album, the music is more important than the concept, but the Sonic Highways documentary provides a deeper insight into the record.
Listen by The Kooks
From the first time hearing Listen, it felt like a world away from The Kooks’ earlier albums. They’ve gone in a completely different direction, experimenting with a variety of ideas. No more indie rock, although the guitars are still there, disguised under layers of funk, tambourines and claps. If you don’t want to sing along then you’re not listening properly. Each track is individual, standing out from the others, making their fourth album the most diverse one yet. Their older fans may not like the big change but some may be pleasantly surprised by this fun, upbeat release.
There Is Only You by The Xcerts
You can’t help but keep coming back to this album. The Xcerts put so much passion into their music and There Is Only You is no different. Blending rock with a small amount of pop, they’ve found the perfect balance of not-too-heavy but still rough enough. Even from the first listen, the songs leap out and don’t all mix into one. Catchy? Definitely. And the elegant title track is an unusual but beautiful finish. Touring recently with fellow Scottish band Twin Atlantic helped to boost their popularity along with this energy-filled album.
Royal Blood by Royal Blood
You only need to listen to this to see why Royal Blood have become so popular in such a short space of time. This self-titled debut has propelled their career- going from small shows to supporting Foo Fighters next year. It’s incredible how full and heavy the sound is for just bass and drums. Every song is epic in its own way, whether it’s for the pounding drum beat or the killer riffs. This album is filled to the brim with energy and it would be amazing to see them play live for it to come to life.

Big love, Liam x

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BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend 2015 Review, 23/05/2015 – 24/05/2015

Festival season is coming.

Soon the flower head dresses will be donned, the tents miserably pitched up and the cliché face-paint put on by every guy in sight (happy/sad to admit I did the same at T last year). With Glastonbury just under a month away, the BBC have got music fans hyped for the season ahead with their annual Big Weekend event which graced Glasgow last year. This year it was Norwich’s turn and god did they luck out, with what is probably the best line up the event has ever had. Unfortunately I never got tickets but this didn’t stop me from enjoying the coverage provided by BBC Three from the comfort of my bed. Instead of giving you a Top 10 style list a la WatchMojo, I’m just gonna give my thoughts on the different acts I managed to catch over the weekend. As always, this is my own opinion and my favourites and least favourites are gonna differ from yours. Regardless, let’s get started.

Foo Fighters
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ight let’s get something out of the way first: I’m not a fan of Sonic Highways. Maybe it was the hype, maybe it was the fact it played it too safe even though it’s the band’s eighth record, it just didn’t sit well with me. However, as soon as Dave Grohl and co. came on stage, as soon as he welcomed the crowd and started playing the opening chords to Everlong, none of that mattered. It was like being transported back to the very first time I listened to their greatest hits compilation and I loved every second of it. This feeling lasted through the entire set, a true testament to the band’s ability to perform. Watch out Glastonbury, you’re in for a treat.

Muse
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Saturday’s main stage headliner were none other than Muse, a band who, like Foo Fighters, have been a favourite of mine for as long as I’ve been a fan of music. However just like Foo Fighters, their recent music has been rather disappointing in comparison to their older material but regardless of the fact that they’ve nearly been around for as long as I’ve been alive, they still know how to put on a show. Their setlist showcased some tracks off  upcoming album Drones with Psycho being a highlight, accompanied by a drill sergeant appearing on a screen behind them yelling as if he was saying to the crowd directly if they were ready. Closing track Knights Of Cydonia was a real treat for fans, regardless if they were new or old, leaving those who attended satisfied as well as excited for June 8th when the band’s new album drops.

Alt J
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I’ll admit now that I was worried about this one. I love Alt J to bits, An Awesome Wave effortlessly making its way into my favourite debut albums list that’s unofficially written in my mind. However the odd vocal style and even odder sound that the band have has always had me questioning whether or not it can transfer to the stage well. Thankfully after the Miley Cyrus featuring Hunger Of The Pine and the even more mesmerizing Fitzpleasure, my worries were laid to rest. As off as some of the vocal performances may have been at times, to me it added to the band’s unique charm. Predictably enough the Leeds boys finished with Breezeblocks, a crowd and fan favourite which is just as much an anthem as you’d expect, resulting in a surprisingly sweet set by the band.

Jamie T
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t’s odd to think that Jamie T is actually back. For 4 years after his sophmore album Kings & Queens he just disappeared, fans left wondering what had happened to him and if he was ever gonna come back. Unbeknown to fans though, he was crafting 140 songs with only 12 getting hand-picked for 2014’s critically acclaimed Carry On The Grudge. The luck has continued for the Wimbledon boy with a set of festival appearances lined up, Big Weekend being the lucky one to host him first and he didn’t half arse it. There’s not much I could say that could do his performance justice as it was hands down my favourite of the weekend but I’ll try my best. Sheila, an indie anthem in its own right, had the crowd chanting along as Jamie controlled the crowd without any effort needed and this continued during the remainder of the set, especially during If You’ve Got The Money. There was some quiet moments during the atmospheric Don’t You Find as well as Emily’s Heart, both highlighting the natural skill Jamie T has as a songwriter. This performance showed why his albums will no doubt stand the test of time and why Jamie T is one of the most exciting and talented acts Britain has to offer.

Taylor Swift
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Confession time here: I used to hate Taylor Swift. Maybe it was cause I was 15 at the time and at that age you tend to jump onto whatever seems cool at the time, as proved by the Gangnam Style phase which was a dark time for us all. In my defence though I think it was because I didn’t like the style of music she was going for at the time with her country sound which in itself is a pretty Marmite genre. However her opening track We Are Never Getting Back Together was a glimpse of things to come when it was released on 2012 album Red and I’m not ashamed to admit how much I enjoyed it. Other tracks off last year’s surprisingly great album 1989 went down well with the crowd and if this performance was just Swift getting prepared for her BST gig next month then we should all be really excited.

Slaves
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Fun little story: back in November I was off to see Biffy in London and as such I was excited to say the least. When I heard that a little Kent duo called Slaves were one of the support acts, I didn’t think about it twice. Who would have known they’d become one of my favourite bands at the moment and take the music scene by storm. Their performance on the In New Music We Trust stage was a testament to the sheer power the duo can deliver, enough to put Royal Blood to shame. From White Knuckle Ride to closing track Hey, Slaves kept me entertained via the TV more than most acts I’ve saw live. The stories that vocalist Isaac told alongside bandmate Laurie had me laughing as well as intrigued, something that a lot of acts only wish they could do. If you get the chance to see this band live then do not miss out, you’ll heavily regret it.

And more…..
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I managed to watch a lot of acts over the weekend but the 6 above were my stand outs favourites. There were some other great artists there such as Fall Out Boy whose golden oldie tracks managed to outweigh the mediocre new ones. Florence + The Machine as always put on a stunning performance packed to the brim with quality that is now expected of them and will surely come in handy at Glastonbury. Lastly The Vaccines  put on a rather good performance as well, nicely tying into the release of their album English Graffiti today. BBC’s Big Weekend was well worth watching and with even more festivals on the way, music fans have more than enough entertainment sorted for the summer.

What were your favourites acts? Did you have a least favourite? Comment below or tweet me @blogclyro , thanks for reading to the end!

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