Archive | December, 2019

My Favourite Albums of 2019

31 Dec
  1. U.F.O.F by Big Thief
  2. Morbid Thoughts by PUP
  3. Purple Mountains by Purple Mountains
  4. Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend
  5. Lover by Taylor Swift
  6. Shlagenheim by Black Midi
  7. Titanic Rising by Wyes Blood
  8. Ghosteen by Nick Cave 
  9. Dogrel by Fontaines DC
  10. Immunity by Clairo
  11. Basking in the Glow by Oso Oso
  12. Brutalism by The Drums
  13. i,i by Bon Iver
  14. Emily Alone by Florist
  15. House of Sugar by (Sandy) Alex G
  16. Lost Wisdom Pt.2 by Mount Eerie
  17. Let It Roll by Midland
  18. Norman Fucking Rockwell by Lana Del Rey
  19. Anima by Thom Yorke
  20. Two Hands by Big Thief
  21. Igor by Tyler the Creator
  22. Western Stars by Bruce Springsteen
  23. Jesus is King by Kanye West
  24. Breakup Season by Future Teens
  25. Crushing by Julia Jacklin
  26. Not Waving but Drowning by Loyle Carner
  27. Quiet Signs by Jessica Pratt
  28. Inflorescent by Friendly Fires
  29. Uknowwhatimssyin? By Danny Brown
  30. Remind Me Tomorrow by Sharon Van Etten
  31. I Am Easy to Find by The National
  32. Half Way There by Busted
  33. In Plain Sight by Honeyblood
  34. Remembering the Rockets by Strange Ranger
  35. Pony by Rex Orange County
  36. On the Line by Jenny Lewis
  37. I’m So Glad I Feel This Way About You by Insignificant Other
  38. A Distant Call by Sheer Mag
  39. Hypersonic Missiles by Sam Fender
  40. Safe and Also No Fear by Slaughter Beach, Dog
  41. Young Enough by Charly Bliss
  42. Fine Line by Harry Styles
  43. Atlanta Millionaires Club by Faye Webster
  44. Dude Ranch by Coleen Green
  45. Peter Doherty and the Madres by Pete Doherty
  46. Never Not Never Not Never Not by Rosie Tucker
  47. Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent by Lewis Capaldi
  48. A New Illusion by Rose Elinor Dougall
  49. With Time by Virginity
  50. Compliments Please by Self Esteem

My Favourite Singles of 2019

29 Dec

So I’ll be posting a list of my favourite albums from 2019 in a couple of days. For now here are some of my favourite songs. Lists like this are necessarily restrictive and exist in a constant state of flux. Nonetheless…

  1. Talking Heads by Black Midi
  2. Love Without Possession by Mount Eerie
  3. Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi
  4. Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend 
  5. Never Really Over by Katy Perry
  6. Boys from there Better Land by Fontaine’s DC
  7. Bags by Clairo
  8. What If I Never Get Over You by Lady Antebellum
  9. Follow God by Kanye West
  10. Motivation by Normani
  11. Hey Ma by Bon Iver
  12. Kids by Pup
  13. Light Years by The National
  14. The Third Degree by Honeyblood
  15. The Greatest by Lana Del Rey
  16. 17 by Sharon Van Etten
  17. Something to Believe In by Wyes Blood
  18. Cellophane by FKA Twigs
  19. The Borders by Sam Fender
  20. Leona by Strange Ranger
  21. Lark by Angel Olsen
  22. Not by Big Thief
  23. Darkness and Cold by Purple Mountains 
  24. This Time Around by Jessica Pratt 
  25. Spinster Cycle by Rosie Tucker
  26. Your Girlfriend by Blossoms
  27. Drunk II by Mannequin Pussy
  28. Frequent Crier by Future Teens
  29. 626 Bedford Avenue by The Drums
  30. About Work the Dancefloor by Georgia
  31. Better Man by Westlife
  32. People by The 1975
  33. Don’t Start Now by Dua Lipa
  34. Lover by Taylor Swift
  35. Heathers by Insignificant Other
  36. You’re so Hot it Hurts by Caroline Polachek
  37. Violet by Sea Girls
  38. Time is a Dark Feeling by Florist
  39. Summer Girl by Haim
  40. Hello Sunshine by Bruce Springsteen
  41. Patience by Tame Impala
  42. Be Honest by Jorja Smith
  43. Angela by Bill Callahan
  44. From Out of Nowhere by ELO
  45. Thinkin bout you by Ciara 
  46. Pressure to Party by Julia Jacklin
  47. Bromley by Joy Orbison
  48. Find U Again by Mark Ronson and Camille Cabello 
  49. Ladbroke Grove by AJ Tracey
  50. Cyber Sex by Doja Cat

Harry Styles ‘Fine Line’ – Review

27 Dec

Harry Styles appears to be on his own idiosyncratic trajectory, prompted by imagination, curiosity and a surprisingly deep knowledge of the cannon. If his debut ‘Harry Styles’ was a little too indebted to the classics to truly carve a mark, then ‘Fine Line’ finds a more satisfying way of forging its own path while slotting in to a familiar linage.

It begins with ‘Golden’, a springy, mid-tempo opener very much indebted to peak Fleetwood Mac. It sets the precedent. Mysterious sounds and expensive, psychedelic effects are used to invoke the 1960s without transporting you directly back in time. This is essentially a modern sounding pop album that uses the signifiers of the mid 20th Century.

‘Lights Up’ is an understated lead single that works effectively to bridge the gap between the bouncy opening numbers and the more somber middle stretch. It is though, decidedly, not your typical hit song. Neither are other singles ‘Watermelon Sugar’ or ‘Adore You’, though they try harder to be, by finding the middle ground between Tame Impala and Justin Timberlake. At these moments, when you suspect it really matters for the people upstairs at Columbia, Styles can’t help but reveal fundamental limitations in his songwriting ability. He is still a young man in the early stages of his career. His musical and lyrical capabilities are simple, his creative impulses, and particularly his melodic inclinations, are often rote or badly judged. 

 But at the centre of all that is good about ‘Fine Line’ is Styles himself, as charismatic and charming as ever, full of personality even when delivering lines that read as banal or trite on paper. Even in the album’s weaker moments he manages to salvage something memorable. Whatever he does here, he does with impeccable style and grace. ‘Fine Line’ is a relatively ambitious album where he has taken clear risks, exposed genuine vulnerabilities and avoided low hanging fruit. This moody album of moonlit soft-rock sends him down a more interesting path than you might have expected. Let’s see where it takes him.



Jeff Lynne’s E.L.O ‘From Out of Nowhere’ – Review

14 Dec

Electric Light Orchestra occupy an unusual position in the hierarchy of pop; too white, too Male, too rocking to be given a poptimistic reappraisal but too camp to be treated with the reverence of say Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd. But anyone who has truly listened to ELO will attest to their almost unique genius. What else sounds quite like ‘Mr Blue Sky’? Quite that big and bright and daft? At their absolute best, ELO made songs that were as uplifting as they were overblown, as catchy as they were naff. These intersections were often indistinguishable; a song like ‘Evil Woman’ hooks you in and makes you cringe almost simultaneously.

Four years ago Jeff Lynne returned with ‘Across the Universe’, the first ELO album in over three decades, a middling collection of spongy, nostalgic pop-rock. ‘From Out of Nowhere’ is, as you might expect following a couple of years on the road, a bit more energetic and finely tuned than that record. This is still ELO but in miniature, by comparison to classics like ‘Out of the Blue’ at least. Despite sounding smaller and more intimate it does contain much of what made their 70’s material so loveable. The melodies fizz and sparkle, operatic harmonies reverberate in the background. Melodic guitar solos soar. Jeff Lynne looks and sounds almost exactly the same as he did forty years ago and the music is nearly as good as well. In particular the double punch of ‘Out of Nowhere’ and ‘Hold On’, which open the album strongly, could have been pulled from the group’s 1970s heyday.

As with most E.L.O songs, these are best observed from a healthy distance. Close inspection, particularly at the lyrics, occasionally  reveals faded colour and rust on the spaceship’s facade. The theme of nostalgia that was ultimately a little too on the nose on ‘Across the Universe’ is still Jeff Lynne’s primary preoccupation and that occasionally becomes cloying. There is a constant romantic, wistful longing for glory days, which is relatable but predictable. Better, if a little corny, is ‘Time of Our Life’ which tells the story of the band’s recent sell out gig at Wembley Stadium. That night, and the song that chronicles it, suggest that in actual fact these are the good old days for Jeff Lynne.