A large dose of real life and a new job has left it nigh on impossible to give the blog much attention, so this is just a quick cobble together of some of my favourite music bits of the year.
Jake Bugg – Kiss Is Like The Sun
This song finds Jake in a flirty and carefree mood as, by the sound of it, he could roger the world and not give a damn. More importantly, the feel of this single takes us back to Jake’s early and hugely successful debut album – we’ve got a bluesy slide guitar accompanying a toe tapping, hand clapping beat that gives the track an irresistible upbeat energy.
And therein lies a bit of a theme this year – artists who go back to music that made them popular before they tried other things. Take Kaiser Chiefs – latest album Duck took them back to their indie rock roots with those smart observational lyrics that somehow went missing on the last album.
Kaiser Chiefs – Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something
“She were lying in the bathroom, I was banging on the door, She was lying in a puddle on the laminate floor. I was screaming out, “Let me in, you’ve had too much gin, you better come out or I’m kicking it in.” The door unlocked, my heart stopped, I froze…”
This song is about a guy who seems clueless as to what to do when faced with a tricky situation, whether it’s a drunk missus, a confrontation at the petrol station which leaves him barefoot or a pub garden barney with “lager tops flying everywhere”. It’s like Very British Problems given the Ricky Wilson treatment.
Liam Gallagher surprised many with the quality of his debut solo album two years ago, but with Why Me, Why Not he has surpassed himself. Much of the subject album revolves around family and relationships and yes, that brother. Liam is rightly proud of the gorgeous Once, a wistful look back at times gone by and the realisation that what you thought would be forever was just for a period of time.
Liam Gallagher – Once
Not many artists have the strength of character and utter self belief to be as straightforward in what they believe in musically (or to get away with singing “skoo-ell” and “poo-ell”) and his devotion to a band sound and rock and roll deserves a massive amount of respect when the modern pop sound is so much of the opposite.
Elbow – Dexter and Sinister
Reminiscent of the sound of their Mercury Prize winning album, The Seldom Seen Kid, this track is a rich mixture of musical stops/starts/blasts and sweeping lushness as Guy Garvey ponders Brexit. Drawing upon symbolic heraldry for the song title, you sense his disregard for the upper class conviction that somehow everything will be ok in the end because we are British. With his heavy heart jackhammering in him, he looks with Eastwood eyes to the horizon – exquisite words as always from one of the greatest lyrical poets in music. There’s an imperfection in this song – some of the timings seem a little out, but maybe it’s just reflecting the fact that we are now out of step with the rest of our continent.
Foals – Exits
When the news of two album releases from Foals this year landed along with this opening song, it seemed like there was a heck of a lot of pressure for this year to be successful for the band. The video for Exits alone looked like it had the budget of a hyped up Netflix Miniseries. And Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part One was an interesting album which was a collection of textures and rhythms, but was beaten to the top of the charts by rapper Dave.
However, Part Two was where it really got tasty. When Black Bull arrived it was clear that there was some snorting rock music in the offing as we had full on angry-peperami-man-Yannis deployed.
Undoubtably my favourite album of the year, there’s everything to love and nothing to dislike here – The Runner and Like Lightning are brilliant songs that feels familiar in the sense that a few years back, before the charts got daft and incomprehensible, you would have heard them everywhere. And there are the stunning epics – 10,000 Feet and Neptune. Finally they got their richly deserved first chart topping album.
Lastly a word for another of my favourite listens of the year – amo by Bring Me The Horizon. This was an example of how doing something a bit differently really worked. There is still the heavy rock in the magnificent Mantra, Wonderful Life and Heavy Metal but there’s also some exploration into trance music and more delicacy – Nihilist Blues and Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down are particularly sweet. It makes for a far more interesting listening experience than a pure thrash.