My Top Albums of 2014

This is All Yours – Alt J

Alt J’s eagerly awaited second album ‘This Is All Yours’ dropped in late September, followed by a national tour and worldwide appearances. The progression from their last album is clear to see, but for me, the singles shone brightest. Hunger of the Pine, Left Hand Free, and my personal favourite, Every Other Freckle are perfectly paced, atmospheric tracks and are a credit to the band. However this is not to dismiss the other tracks. Beautifully delicate melodies, such as in Garden of England and Bloodflood II sparkle wonderfully and the charming duet in Warm Foothills add to the ambiance of the album. ‘This Is All Yours’ should be listened to as one piece of music. The electronic tones melt into each other and the gentle ebb and flow of vocals washes over you. It’s all part of Alt-J’s genius musical talent, and their ability to entice and submerge a listener into their dreamlike, slow motion lives.

Favourite Tracks:

  • Every Other Freckle
  • Bloodflood II
  • Hunger of the Pine

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Wanted on Voyage – George Ezra

Injected with life and spontaneity, Ezra’s debut crackles with a folk pop style which addicts even the most cynical of critics. Influenced by his travels and idols like Ed Sheeran, Tom Odell and Mumford and Sons, ‘Wanted on Voyage’ managed to capture my interest and, somewhat unexpectedly, hold it for a whole year. Ezra exploded in 2014, and what with performing at Glastonbury, bringing out his first album and touring he has managed to stick to his roots and stay down to earth. This humbling LP is joyful and warms the soul.

Favourite Tracks:

  • Blame It On Me
  • Listen to the Man
  • Leaving It Up To You

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St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Quirky lyrics and a bold sound gratify the mind and ears in St. Vincent’s self titled LP. Sweeping an extraordinary number of accolades, nominated for a Grammy and NME awards, and a shower of five star reviews, this LP took over 2014 in a big way. Still seemingly remaining under the radar, Annie Clark’s alternative electronic rock has really made an impact in the critics world and justifiably. She weaves and interconnects synth sounds, harmonies and heavy basslines with the epitome of sophistication and class. In this vein, it seems suitable that she sits on a pink throne on her latest album cover, claiming her place as queen.

Favourite Tracks:

  • Prince Johnny
  • Digital Witness
  • Rattlesnake

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Major Lazer – Jessica (featuring Ezra Koenig)

So this song is on repeat on my phone at the moment – I just love it! It’s quirky, catchy and a little weird. It comes from Major Lazer’s latest LP ‘Free The Universe’. For those who don’t know, Major Lazer is an electronic music project created by Diplo in which he collaborates with artists from various genres, the latest being Ariana Grande with All My Love. ‘Jessica’ features a lot of double meanings and puns, which are ingenious and different and it also includes lyrics sung in German. Electronic, futuristic and sensual, ‘Jessica’ is one to listen to, even if you don’t think it will be your thing – I promise it will stick in your head and you’ll HAVE to listen to it again (and again and again).

Julian Casablancas+The Voidz – Human Sadness

Aggressive melancholy is the first thing which comes to mind upon hearing this epic, distorted 11 minute single from Julian Casablancas’ new project. The Strokes’ front man, who has an infamous knack for writing catchy and short songs, presented his fans with this deeply emotional and drawn out song, proving to them and to everyone else that he is one of the best songwriters of this generation. With the clearly painful and personal lyrics, this song has a way of connecting with every single person who hears it, which is an extremely rare and incredible thing to achieve. These lyrics are painfully poetic and I have not felt anywhere near the same level of grief and pain needed to try and understand or analyze them, I just know that they are beautiful and distressing.

This song is a journey. A twisted, brutal, depression-driven journey which has an ironic and troubled beauty to it. Take, for example, the fact that a clear and catchy riff can be heard throughout the song. It contrasts completely with the atmosphere and meaning of the song but it sounds amazing and gives the feeling of a warped and crazed pop song. There are clear stages and sections to this piece which are highlighted by explosive guitars and separated by varying crescendos. Casablancas wanted to use this song as way of delivering a message, portraying emotional torment and baring his soul. At least that is the way I see it.

Buy ‘Human Sadness’ and their new album ‘Tyranny’ here 

 

“Human Sadness” – Lyrics

Put money in my hand
And I will do the things you want me to.

Vanity, overriding wisdom,
Usually common sense.

Should I delete it,
You said you’d read it
You promised you would never ruin it with sequels,

I wake for you, on and on

Beyond all ideas of right and wrong there is a field,
I will be meeting you there.

The moon’s a skull, I think it’s grinning
The room is full of people now I think it’s spinning

Wanted you, didn’t ask for nothing.
Wait for you, on and on

And I don’t need your tie, I don’t need to, tired of saying it.
We don’t need more talk, don’t empty out your canteen on the desert floor.
Ahhh, it’s all my fault

Never wanna spell it out,
I just want to say that it is all my fault,
I could never spit it out,
I don’t wanna fix your tie.

Never want to say we’re sad,
Thankful that we got some chance,
I know you won’t get back your time,
I wish that you could take it back.

Beyond all ideas of right and wrong there is a field,
I will be meeting you there.

He wanted it more than me, I suppose
I was in a rush to wait in a line.
Now I hear echoes of my old self,
This is not the way to be.
All at once,
I lost my way.

Is it not true, the things that we did?
Come here at once and look what they did
Come here shut down and tune in tonite,
Learn the words that they teach you without you realizing it
Come here sit down and watch some TV

Mine all mine, wait your turn,
Cross my cross, slice his hand,
Not your son, not your friend, not your enemy.

I rely on the little things to get me by,
Conscience says, “I’m okay”,
You don’t hear what they say.
“He’s not my son, search his home”
Off to war,
It’s time to go hide inside.

Soft skin,
Weak chin,
Just walk me thru it, tell me what to do I’ll do

Hurry hurry, that’s my baby
Ohh, do what you can.

All the time – he waits for me.
And now we talk from time to time,

Hits you on the head when nobody’s there,
Then he says, “come here could you fix my tie?”

It’s never gonna be,
To be is not the way to be.

Show me where to go, don’t get angry so quickly,
Fuck depression.

Beyond all ideas of right and wrong there is a field,
I will be meeting you there

Understanding is more important than love,
If not money will always trump justice

All is lost,
I’ll find my way.
So I say,
To be is not to be.
To be is not the way to be.

Garden City Movement

Garden City Movement are an electronic chillwave trio based in Germany and Israel. Having seen their music video for ‘Move On’ which is beautiful and brave, I was intrigued to find out more. Although their following is fairly small, the fans are dedicated, and this band are set for huge things. So far they have released two EPs; ‘Bengali Cinema’ and ‘Entertainment’. Both are interesting, fresh and intuitive. These chilled, synth driven, electronic tracks are wonderfully immersive and totally addictive. The combination of cultures is very interesting, and something worth exploring more for these guys. Garden City Movement have a great balance of delicate and subtle vocals combined with repetitive beats, which echo that of very popular bands like Clean Bandit and Gorgon City. Pay attention to these guys – big things are coming their way; I can guarantee it.

My favourite track is ‘Move On’, mainly because I can’t stop listening to it. I love the effortlessness of the lyrics and the clear images throughout the track. It’s memorable, sexy and a genuinely good song. Here are a couple of my favourite stills from the video

 

Reading Festival 2014

‘Reading and Leeds’ is one of the biggest festivals in Britain, with over 90,000 festival goers piling into both sites on the August Bank Holiday weekend. This was my first festival, and it was definitely a ‘go big or go home’ situation. Before the festival started I was so anxious about not being able to see my favourite bands and missing some really great performances. Of course I didn’t need to worry at all; everyone is so helpful and I felt completely at ease. Although the site is huge, it feels so intimate. One of the best things I found is that it’s totally up to you how involved you are in the festival, whether you want to be deep in the mosh pit or relaxing in the sun you feel immersed wherever you are. The weekend was amazing and totally overwhelming.

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Favourite Stage

The Festival Republic Stage had a great atmosphere and the sound quality was awesome. Some of my favourite bands played there, like Wolf Alice and Drowners and both had great turn outs. It had a huge mixture of different bands and genres which is great, as well as having well known artists and really small artists which made it quite unique. It felt very intimate and it was a fairly small space which is why I think I really liked it.

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Best New Discovery

On Friday, I felt quite chilled so we sat down by the main stage and took in the music. ‘Blood Red Shoes’ were very good, they had a big crowd and a lot of energy for such an early set. I will definitely check out their album, not only because they were really excellent, but also because their lead vocalist was also the drummer, which I have never seen before!

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Best Experience

During Vampire Weekend I met a lovely boy called Andrew who kindly enough offered to lift me up on his shoulders, which I accepted very gratefully. During ‘Cousins’ I had a great view of the stage and it was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. Their whole set was probably my best experience at the festival. It was a fun, quirky atmosphere and my favourite band in the whole world were performing.

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Best Slot

The Kooks and The Horrors had a joint slot in the Radio 1/NME tent before the 1975, which for me was an amazing way to spend two hours. With electric energy and infectious enthusiasm the Kooks had the tent bursting at the seams, and the loudest crowd singalong all weekend. The Horrors had a less of a crowd but their set was by no means smaller. The spectacular light show and exciting guitar riffs lit up the tent, and they had the best ending to a set in one minute I have ever seen.

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Who I Want to See Again

For me, a gig has a very different atmosphere to a festival. At a festival you might get some people who are just there for the experience, and some people who are invested in music and music culture; it’s a lottery in the crowd. At a gig, everyone is there for one specific artist, nearly everyone has heard their music before, and they appreciate the band completely. Keeping this in mind – I would probably want to Peace again, as I would definitely like to see a longer set, but also Jake Bugg, as I feel like somewhere like Alexandra Palace, where he is playing later this year, would be very atmospheric and intimate.

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Unexpected Favourites

I was not expecting to see any bands that massively exceeded my expectations, or at least not in the way this band did. I saw the Drowners in the Festival Republic tent on Sunday and for me it was the best set that day. I was very close to the front, with only a couple of people in front of me, and the band blew me away. Matt Hitt and Co had an effortless stage presence, causing girls to chuck their bras on stage from left to right. Clearly influenced by The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and the best of early brit pop, each catchy and irresistible tune was played in true rock and roll style.

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Best Line Up

The best 3 sequential acts for me happened on Saturday night. Imagine Dragons put on a friendly, enjoyable and feel good show which attracted a huge number of fans. Dan Reynolds, their frontman, seemed genuinely grateful and humbled at the number of fans present, and their enjoyment of the music. In turn, I was happy and excited to be a part of their set, especially when Dan ran down through the crowd, which felt very heartfelt, but also surreal, probably for both him and us. Next up; Jake Bugg. Without fail, listening to Jake Bugg’s music always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach, and at Reading Festival, that familiar feeling was so much better. With a gorgeous summer sunset as his backdrop, Bugg delivered a refreshingly simple and very rewarding set. His stage presence was incredible, but he didn’t seem at all obnoxious or grumpy as he is sometimes shown to be. His setlist was evenly split between his two albums, and he encouraged a whole crowd sing-a-long of ‘Broken’, a very beautiful song for such a magical moment. Then came the big on; those Arctic Monkeys. Swaggering onstage with hair gel by the bucket load; Alex, Matt, Nick and Jamie began an epic headlining set. From the very first riff of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ the crowd were in the palm of their hand; screaming and jumping around, arms flailing in the air. Drawing perhaps the largest and most invested crowd of the whole weekend, the Monkeys delivered classics like ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ and ‘Teddy Picker’ along with a multitude of hits from their bestselling album, AM, as well as the odd Oasis reference thrown in there. Without a doubt, the best set, crowd and atmosphere of the whole three days.

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I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the weekend any other way and I hope to return to Reading for next year and for many years to come.

 

My Favourite Soundtracks

Soundtracks are essential for any great movie, and they can range from epic symphonies in ‘Lord of the Rings’, to a collection of indie songs written specifically for the movie, like ‘Submarine’, one of my absolute favourites. This list is not the best soundtracks of all time or anything like that, it’s just a summary of soundtracks which I love to listen to, and that I would highly recommend to anyone and everyone. It helps that the movies and television shows are excellent as well.

5. My Mad Fat Diary

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‘You can spend the rest of your life being afraid of people rejecting you. You have to start by not rejecting yourself. You don’t deserve it’

Set in the 90’s, ‘My Mad Fat Diary’ follows the true story of Rae Earl, a girl with a lot of problems and a huge heart. Rae is utterly obsessed with music, especially Oasis, so naturally the show follows along with her taste, and it is superb. The soundtrack bursts with Brit-pop and awesome 90’s classics. I think this show and the music really connected with me because the songs didn’t just accompany the drama of each episode, instead they were very much part of Rae’s story and have a lot of bearing within the plot. You can listen to a compilation playlist from Season 1 here.

4. Girls 

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‘It’s hard to tell someone so young that things don’t always end up the way you thought they’d be.’

‘Girls’ is without a doubt one of my favourite TV shows ever. It’s funny, heart warming and moving. It depicts a misfit group of girls living in New York who have far from perfect lives, which is actually quite comforting. The soundtrack (in particular that of Season 2) includes some of my favourite artists, including Jenny Lewis, Jake Bugg and Vampire Weekend. The tracks are light-hearted, innocent and ultimately quite sweet. Most are indie pop songs that will lift your mood instantly and warm the cockles of your heart. Buy it here.

3. Slumdog Millionaire

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‘Money and women. The reasons for make most mistakes in life. Looks like you’ve mixed up both.’

To be honest, what are you doing with your life if you haven’t seen this film. It is such a classic, plus I love Danny Boyle and he pulls this off so well. The songs in this film are so upbeat and fun. I’ve loved ‘Paper Planes’ for so long (I even have a dance routine to go along with it) and ‘Jai Ho’ is probably one of the best songs to play at a party ever. As a whole soundtrack though, the tracks fit perfectly with the film and are very important elements in the story and cinematic experience. Without music the film wouldn’t have nearly the same amount of charm, especially the ending scene. Buy the soundtrack here.

2. (500) Days of Summer

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‘Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn’t mean she’s your soul mate.’ 

This one of the most misunderstood romance films of our time. ‘(500) Days of Summer’ follows Tom, who believes in love at first sight and that he will eventually find the one, and Summer who is completely the opposite and doesn’t believe in true love. Tom and Summer connect over the Smiths in an elevator, and they fall in love (kind of). Tom is more in love with the idea of the perfect girl than Summer herself. The music is so wonderful in this film. The soundtrack is unique and bubbly, and a couple of the songs are covered by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel themselves. It includes a classic from Hall and Oates which was part of a fantastically over the top musical number, a lot of the Smiths and even a french song. Buy it here.

1. Submarine

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‘Jordana hates any place that could be termed romantic. With this in mind, I took her to one of my favourite industrial estates, for some quality one-on-one time.’

‘Submarine’, directed by Richard Ayoade, is an indie film about young love and the pressures of being a teenager. The film itself is obviously great, but the soundtrack, composed and performed by Alex Turner, is breathtakingly beautiful. ‘Stuck on a Puzzle’ is such a quotable song, every word drips with love and romance and ‘Glass in the Park’, much like the other tracks, has a fairly simple melody and composition, but totally enchanting lyrics. All of the songs are sung straight from the heart so naturally they are very mushy and adorable, very different from the Alex Turner we know now! A mellow, almost melancholy mood and sickly sweet romance fills the soundtrack and the film.

Bastille – Bad_News

 

It’s just over a year since Bastille released their debut album ‘Bad Blood’ which brought them huge success having sold over 2 million copies in the UK alone. The band have been touring constantly since the release of their first LP, and have also been writing new material alongside this, according to front man Dan Smith. Their new album is set to be released soon, and will have a variety of sounds, such as rock, electronic influences, and songs more similar to ‘Bad Blood’. When the full album will actually be launched is down to pure speculation, but it is unlikely to be in the near future as the band are still playing festivals and have many more arenas to fill before then.

However, on Thursday of this week at 12.20am (ironically the day of A-Level results) ‘Bad_News’ was first played on Radio 1. I stayed up for this late night broadcast with my friend as although I am a huge fan, I was also intrigued as to what this new track, so soon after their debut, could have to offer. I was not disappointed. Undoubtedly, ‘Bad_News’ is somewhat of a departure from singles like ‘Pompeii’ and ‘Laura Palmer’, in terms of the depth, and more electronic sound. But there is a similar vocal range and a familiar melody here, mainly due to the steady marching beat which is recognizable from their previous tracks. ‘Bad_News’ is fresh and upbeat, while in keeping with the current 90’s electro pop trend. They have also joined Ed Sheeran and One Republic in using mainly falsetto backing vocals, which is no bad thing I hasten to add. The repetitive lyrics and steady beat are complimentary, just like in their mash up ‘Of The Night’.

Whether this single precedes an upcoming album, EP, or is just to quench the thirst of their multitude of fans, Bad_News is satisfying, fun and a single worth investing in.