Archive | November, 2009

Albums to look forward to in 2010!

28 Nov

1. TBA – Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was working with the likes of Will I Am and Akon right before his death but the album had been in the works for many years before that. It was planned to be released ages ago but Jackson kept pushing it back, but now we may fnaly get to hear it in 2010. This is the most anticipated album of next year because everybody is interested to see what Jackson was up to in his final years of productivity and how he would sound in the 21st century, working with some of the coolest names around. Who knows in what form we will hear material, we just want to hear it as he would have wanted.

2. TBA – The Strokes

We have been waiting for the next Strokes album for so long there is an almost certainty that it won’t live up to expectations. That said, ‘Phrazes For The Young’ was unexpectedly good and hopefully the next Strokes album (If it comes next year) can be even better. The chances of them pulling of another Is This It, or even ‘Room On Fire’ may be slim but most people would be happy with something more thought out than ‘First Impressions of Earth’ which wasn’t as bad as some people remember but hardly set the world on fire.

3. TBA – The Drums

Easily the most anticipated debut of next year, The Drums ‘mini LP’ released a few months ago was a breath of fresh air and hopefully the album will build on that. It’s not been said whether fan favourites such as ‘Lets Go Surfin’ will appear on the record but new songs including ‘Forever and ever amen’ almost certainly will.

4. Astro Coast – Surfer Blood

A great new band who combine surf punk and weezer-esque anthems, this album is out in January and is already getting a lot of buzz. Set to include the awesome ‘Swim to Reach The End’.

5. TBA – LCD Soundsystem

The follow-up to the best dance album of the noughties can’t be as good as ‘Sound of Silver, can it? The cynic in me says no way but if anyone can do it then LCD Soundsystem can.

6. Congratulations – MGMT

They have previewed a few tracks from congratulations and they all sound like classic MGMT. The album may be a double, with one disc dedicated to pop and the other psychedelia, or that may have been a massive joke. Either way this is going to be a big, crazy event.

7. Contra – Vampire Weekend

Cousins didn’t really live up to my expectations, it sounded too similar to what I have heard from VW before. Hopefully this isn’t too representative of the album because it would be a shame if ‘Contra’ is just a retread for the band. I really look forward to finding out.

8. TBA – British Sea Power

‘Do You Like Rock Music’ was so much better than I could have hoped, and it’s true follow up is due next year. No hint yet on which direction the band are going in but I doubt we will see much of a departure from the art rockers.

9.  The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack

At the beginning of the year The Soft Pack seemed to be the most exciting band in indie. At the end of the year they still haven’t released their debut and bands like Girls and The Drums have stolen their thunder. But finally The Soft Pack will be releasing their LP in January and I can’t wait.

10. TBA – Arctic Monkeys

‘Humbug’ split fans down the middle but it seems that their next album will see Arctic Monkeys repeating it’s hard rock and long hair formula. They say they want to record it fast and keep it heavy so it’s perfectly possible that we will get to hear the album late next year.

11. Odd Blood – Yeasayer

Yeasayer are one of the most innovative bands of recent memory, their sound is a combination of vocal harmonies, world music, tribal chants and electronica. ‘Ambling Alp’ was the first taste from album number 2 and if the rest of the record is as good then ‘Odd Blood’ should be one to look out for in 2010.

12. Gershwin/Disney projects – Brian Wilson

The Beach Boys genius has got two projects lined up for 2010. He will be reworking the music of Gershwin in the traditional Brian Wilson style and then he will be having a go at the Disney classics. Both albums will be released on the Disney label next year and whilst they could be disasters, if anyone can pull it off then Brian Wilson can.

New Yeasayer!

27 Nov

Yeasyer released on of my favourite albums of last year, and in 2010 they release the follow-up ‘Odd Blood’. ‘Ambling Alp’ is the first taster and it suggests the band will be heading down a slightly different route. It’s hard to pin down the sound of the song, its definatley yeasyer but a little more charged with some cool electro sounds. I can’t wait to hear more…

Fall Out Boy ‘Believers Never Die’ – Review

21 Nov

If Snow Patrol have demonstrated how not to make a greatest hits album then Fall Out Boy have released a very good example of how to do one. ‘Believers Never Die’ is a comprehensive yet cohesive album that traces the band’s career from their very first single up until the present-day. It has been organized chronologically which makes it easy and enjoyable to follow the group’s journey from pop punk upstarts to rock champions of sorts.

Fall Out Boy were one of the most important bands of the emo boom. Of course this was not emo as it once was, it was a watered down version for the post grunge generation. The songs on here from that early period sound exciting and you can see why the band became as popular as they did. Although the singles from their debut are not classics, the ones from its follow-up ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ are. ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ and ‘Dance Dance’ were big hits at the time and for good reason, they are catchy, witty and great to jump along to.

The Band’s next album was more ambitious, combining the band’s ’emo’ pop sound with strings, guitar solos and chart friendly melodies. It worked as this become their biggest commercial success and arguably their best album to date. The four songs that represent this album are all of a very high quality and keep the album rolling along very nicely until track ten. ‘This aint a scene’ and ‘Thanks For The Memmories’ were huge hits and they are probably the album’s defining moments, this was Fall Out Boys peak and it’s downhill from here.

After an awful cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ we arrive at the songs from the band’s most recent record ‘Folie a Deux’, which was badly received by many on relea: from the quality of these songs it’s not hard to see why. ‘I Don’t Care’ was a stab at something bigger than anything they’d done but ultimately it doesn’t match the quality of their earlier singles. In fact the album from here on in is very forgettable, the bands new mainstream rock sound is dull and lifeless and doesn’t make for a good end to a greatest hits. New single ‘Alpha Dog’ in particular sounds like a Queen parody gone very wrong.

‘Believers Never Die’ is not a bad collection of songs, it certainly gathers all the band’s best singles if not all their best songs (‘Thriller is not included for example) and presents a good overview of Fall Out Boys career to date. They have always been a singles band so this is probably their most enjoyable album so far, and for people with a passing interest in so-called ’emo’ (basically pop punk with eyeliner) this is the best place to start.

7.5/10


Snow Patrol ‘Up To Now’ – Review

21 Nov

Listening to Snow Patrol’s greatest hits collection ‘Up To Now’ makes me question the purpose of this compilation. We all have access to itunes, so we can all compile our own Snow Patrol greatest hits at the touch of a button by downloading the songs we like. Of course there is an appeal of having a single cd that contains a band’s finest moments but this certainly isn’t it.

‘Up To Now’ does exactly what a greatest hits should not do; its is a sprawling mess of an album, containing 30 tracks, terribly sequenced in no logical order and containing not only Snow Patrol’s hits but also b’sides, cover versions, new tracks and even side projects – ‘Run’ and ‘Chasing Cars’ are even on here twice! Greatest hits should serve up the very best the band has to offer, which means what you leave off is just as important as what you have on and Snow Patrol could obviously not decide because there is way too much to digest here.

The quality varies greatly over 30 tracks but in fairness we do get a very comprehensive view of the band’s output to date. ‘Run’ is still as great as it ever was, one of the best anthems of the decade but ‘Chasing Cars’ was never as good and I wouldn’t mind if I never heard it again. Their earliest material was promising and showed the direction in which the band would go but it was with Final Straw they found their wings and the singles from that album are the best things on here.

‘Eyes Open’ was a mixture of dire sing alongs and some pretty, understated ballads; we get a taste of both here. ‘All I Have’ sounds great, ‘Hands Open’ not so great. Their most recent album had no such highs or lows and is probably better best forgotten. The new songs may suggest the band will be heading down new roads for their next album which would be very welcome as there is very little diversity on this greatest hits – most of the songs are slow or slower, dull or duller.

Snow Patrol’s albums have always been patchy at best and I would like to say that this is a decent collection of their finest moments. But it isn’t. For every classic there is one rotten apple and a long-lost b side or new song you really couldn’t care less about. As such this is not really for the longterm fan or the new arrival, in fact I’m not really sure who it is aimed at. A missed opportunity.

6/10


Robbie Williams ‘Reality Killed The Video Star’ – Review

17 Nov

The last few years have been tough for Robbie Williams. After releasing the massive ‘Escapology’ and ‘Greatest Hit’s’ he all too quickly turned out the horribly bland ‘Intensive Care’ and the part brilliant part crazy ‘Rudebox’ that got him good reviews from the likes of NME and Mojo but a slating from his longterm fans and traditional supporters. During a 3 year break he has entered rehab, been accused of going insane and watched on as his former group reformed with great success. ‘Reality killed The Video Star’ isn’t really a comeback, but in the age of comebacks it’s being marketed as one and EMI are hoping it sells as well as the likes of ‘Sing When Your Winning’.

The album begins strongly enough with a Sgt Pepper horn section, some lavish strings and appropriate lyrics about dawn; ‘Morning sun’ is pretty good and it suggests from the off that this album is a clean break for Robbie. ‘Bodies’ isn’t an entirely convincing comeback single but it’s considerably better than anything he’s put out in years, even if it won’t be remembered as the likes of ‘Angels’ and ‘Rock DJ’ are. ‘You Know Me’ is more like the Robbie Williams of old, with a pretty melody, soppy (and humourous) lyrics plus nice doo wop backing vocals.

Robbie has never been a lyrical genius but he’s delivered as many clever lines as he has absolute stinkers (see Angles and Rudebox to see both ends of the spectrum). The nice puns in ‘Blasphony’ are very enjoyable, and some very sweet strings make this track another winner. So far, so good.

The album feels a little disjointed, the result of Robbie trying to find a balance between the classic pop of old and the more experimental dance orientated songs of Rudebox. After the front loaded singles the album starts to act like a teenager on acid. ‘Do You Mind’ has an odd AC/DC riff, and this is followed by the Pet Shop Boys sounding ‘Last Days of Disco’, in which he sings ‘don’t call it a comeback’. Decepticon is pretty awful, a complete and unjustified David Bowie Rip off, and this is followed by ‘Starstruck’ a song that sounds like it’s come straight from an M&S advert. Shock horror – ‘Difficult for Weirdos’ starts of sounding like Hadouken and actualy works a lot better than the songs that proceeded it.

The album ends strongly with the combination of the upbeat and sincere ‘Won’t do that to you’ and a reprise of the opening track; Normality resumed. This gives the album a nice rounded beginning and end even if the middle is a bit of a bumpy ride. Robbie Williams has never been an album artist, despite some huge selling, solid records; ‘Reality Killed The Video Star’ will ultimately be remembered on its singles – and how much it sells. This isn’t his best album and it suffers from sporadic sequencing and a few boring moments. At the end of the day there is nothing here to match his best work, nor is there anything as embarrassing or creative as what was found on ‘Rudebox’. It is a nice album that will sell millions and re-establish Williams as the country’s biggest pop star, and I think that was always the goal.

6.5/10


Biffy Clyro ‘Only Revolutions’ – Review

5 Nov

Many a band have shed their quirky and edgy skin to appeal to as large an audience as possible, it started with U2 and the trend continues well into the 21st century. The competition between bands to become the next Muse (even though they are still at a creative peak) has resulted in many groups from various more interesting sub genres of rock heading down a road which they hope will lead to Wembley way. For my money the two bands who in recent years have gone ‘big’ and remained as creatively succesful as before have been Fightstar and Biffy Clyro. Biffy’s 2007 album ‘Puzzle’ was one of the best pure rock albums of recent times, it trod a fine line between pop anthems, acoustic sentimentality and their post hardcore root. That album dealt with moving on after a loved ones death, and as such it seemed to mark the end of one stage of Biffy’s career and the start of a new, bigger chapter.

Our first hint of things to come came last summer with the outstanding ‘Mountains’ – a song that perfectly bridges the gap between ‘Puzzle’ and ‘Only Revolutions’. If everything was as good as ‘Mountains’ then this would not only be Biffy’s best album yet but also the album of the year. Obviously everything isn’t as good as this though…

Early single ‘That Golden Rule’ is surprisingly the album’s most intense song, but fans hoping this would be representative of the album will be massively disappointed; There is nothing that even comes close in terms of excitement or energy. ‘The Captain’ is the album’s opening track and also the one with the best sing along moment, although ‘Bubbles’ has a really good go at it despite being a bit bland. ‘God and Satan’ is a lot better, recalling the more emotional moments of ‘Puzzle’ whilst being a lot more vague. In fact this is one problem I have with the album; with ‘Puzzle’ the band dealt with concrete images of death, life, despair and love – on ‘Only Revolutions’ it’s hard to decipher what exactly the songs are about due to the many mixed metaphors and bizarre imagery.

The second major problem with the album is that it tries to hard. The slow songs, even the ones that start well, usually build to a lighters aloft choirs and strings climax. The beauty of ‘Machines’ and ‘Folding stars’ was the restraint and simplicity. Likewise when the bands rock out, they go ALL out (as on ‘The Captain’) and you wonder if they’ve forgotten what made their previous albums so magical. ‘Cloud of Stink’ and ‘Boom Blast and Ruin’ are amongst the albums more edgy moments, but compare them to anything of their first few records (or even ‘Puzzle’) and these songs sound absolutely tame and uninteresting. It’s not even as if they are good songs, they are completely forgettable, which can be said of too many of the album’s tracks. ‘Many of Horrors’ and ‘ ‘Whorses’ are a lot more interesting and even sound like classic Biffy; It’s moments like this that make this album a worthy listen.

There is no doubt that ‘Mountains’ apart this album fails to produce the big moments it so desperately searches for. They’ve added horns, strings, choirs and sing along chorus’s but without the lyrical wit, melodic warmth and quirky time signatures of yore those elements are redundant. Although ‘Only Revolutions’ is not the complete consolidation of success I was hoping for (nor is it the return to basics many older fans were wanting) it is by no means a bad album, just a disappointing one (by their standards). ‘Mountains’ and ‘The Golden Rule’ are as good as anything Biffy have ever done and there are plenty more songs to interest Biffy fans and newcomers alike. I suspect how much you like this will depend how much you have looked forward to it.

7/10

Michael Jackson ‘This is It’ – Movie Review

3 Nov

‘This is It’ couldn’t possibly replace the 50 concerts Michael Jackson was supposed to be performing at the O2 Arena in London this year. It is made up entirely of rehearsal footage where at best Jackson gives only 75% of what he may have at London. Costumes were not sorted, singing was restricted to keep his vocals fresh, dancing was still in the experimental stages and music and backing videos were still be worked on. Was Jackson alive there is no way he would have allowed this footage to be shown, the perfectionist that he was. However we all know what happened there and so to give the fans what they want (and to make some much-needed cash)  Sony have released this rehearsal footage in the shape of a movie.

And in fairness they haven’t tried to replace the actual shows. This is a sketch of a concert made up of different rehearsal footage, interviews, backstage banter and video footage Jackson was recording to accompany his performances. And as a behind the scenes making of this works very well indeed, and it will certainly please the fans who so desperately wanted to see him live.

What we get here is basically the full concert (Although some songs weren’t included, probably because the quality wasn’t good enough) made up of various days work, recorded on decent cameras and edited pretty well. The singing is live on all but about 2 songs, and the music sounds so fantastic, brought up to date but still kept largely as we remember it. During these songs the director has tried to feature as much of what would have actually appeared at the concerts as possible, so we do get to see the footage of what he had planned in terms of special effects, video and costumes. In between songs there is brief behind the scenes footage that is very insightful, if kept rather minimal. Below is the setlist as well as I can remember it.

1. Wanna be starting something
2. Jam
3. Don’t stop till you get enough  (we didn’t see Jackson perform this, but they played the instrumental which suggests it was planned to go here)
4. They Don’t Care About Us/ History/ She Drives Me Wild
5. Human nature
6. interlude
7. Smooth Criminal
8. The Way You Make Me Feel
9. Jackson five melody
10. I’ll Be There
11. Shake Your Body Down To The Ground
12. I Just Can’t Stop Loving You
13. Thriller/ Threatened
14. Beat It
15. Black Or White
16. Dirty Diana (we know Jackson was planning on performing this, though it isn’t featured in the film)
17. Earth Song
18. Billie Jean
19. Man In The Mirror

As setlists go this is a pretty amazing selection of songs. My one complaint would be the distinct lack of ‘Off The Wall’ material; his best album in my opinion. I also expected to see at least one brand new song performed live, but oh well. Highlights include Wanna be Startin Something, in which he would have opened with  explosions and stunts before hovering above the audience in a ‘video’ suit – it looked incredible but we only got to see a cgi mock-up. The suit would then be opened and he would step out and kick into a storming version of the opening track from Thriller.

Jam impressed; it was a vast improvement on the new jack swing influenced studio version that never really apealed to me. Smooth Criminal and Earth Song had impressive video sections and on Human Nature and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You Jackson proved he was as good a singer in 2009 as he was in 1989.

Thriller was the undisputed highlight of the movie; there was a short film that would have played behind Jackson that was basically a modern remake of the original video (minus story) that would have been in 3D! There was also a huge spider on stage that Jackson could climb into and ghosts and ghouls on wires would have flown across the audience and down the isles. The costumes on the dancers were so well designed and the music was excellent, plus new spoken part!

If there was a disappointment it would be Billie Jean, which was a world away from his famous Motown 25 performance. Here Jackson seems only half interested, only marking out dance steps, singing occasionally and not performing his legendary moonwalk or wearing the well known costume. It is here that we are most reminded of the nature of this film; it is nowhere near a finished product, merely the footage of a man in preperation for a concert that was never to be. It left me tantalised, wanting more and wanting to see the finished product.

For what it is ‘This Is It’ is virtually flawless. The fact that they were able to do anything with some simple rehearsal footage is an achievement in itself, and fans are extremely grateful for just this. The film has been edited almost perfectly with a tasteful opening and ending, and just the right amount of behind the scenes footage and interviews edited in. Overall I couldn’t have asked more from this film but that isn’t to say I didn’t want more. Go into this expecting to see a man in preparation for the greatest show on earth but don’t expect to see a finished concert because you will be disappointed. This truly was it for Michael Jackson, and if this movie proves one thing it’s that he left some amazing songs as his legacy.

9.5/10