My Record of The Year
Barely a day has gone by this year where I haven’t listened to this record in some form or another. I could go into the reasons behind this but on reading Robert Leedham’s (Drowned in Sound) blog today, he captures it all perfectly in a far more eloquent way than I ever could. It’s a beautifully sincere piece of writing and one which really touched me.
It highlights,for me anyway, why music is so important; it’s there when things are good and it’s also there when things are tough and you need some reassurance. Feeling some sort of affinity with the emotions evoked on an album is a truly powerful thing especially when you can’t comprehend your own feelings on something as heart-rending as death. Knowing that someone else feels or has felt the same way as you at some point is a definite comfort.
Thank you Local Natives.
Arctic Monkeys Review
Expectations were incredibly high for their return this year and it could all have easily been a massive flop….no-one could have pre-empted how utterly spectacular their assault on the charts and hearts of the nation would be. Arctic Monkeys fever well and truly hit following the release of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ and their dazzling headline slot at Glastonbury.
AM (stream on spotify below), their 5th album, made for one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the year, and boy did it deliver; no mean feat given how things have changed in the charts since they first burst on to the scene just shy of a decade ago. Back at their best, they’ve reinforced why we fell for those scruffy teenage boys all those years ago. They might look at bit suaver but the grit and energy is back in bucket loads.
Ashamedly, this Phones 4 U Arena date was to provide our first personal foray into witnessing the quartet live. Having been a devoted fan ever since the early demos, they provided accompaniment to our university days and many fond memories were made spasmodically dancing and screeching along to their anthems on dirty dancefloors. A nostalgic sentiment blatantly shared by many of the 23,000 strong crowd; the feeling that these boys somehow sound tracked a very decisive time in our lives.
Endowed with so many arena-perfect juggernauts; inevitably they couldn’t play them all but what ensued was a cavorting 21 song full blown assailment that would see stopping for breath the most unfathomable notion. With, arguably, the most infectious guitar riff of the year piercing through the laudation, as anticipated they began with ‘Do I Wanna Know?. The creeping dusty strings and pervading drums coupled with Alex’s reassuringly still Yorkshire “summat in your teeth” drawl igniting a fervour that lasted until the very last strum of the night.
Hot blooded, rip roaring renditions followed of ‘Brainstorm’, ‘Dancing Shoes’, ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, ‘Teddy Picker’ and ‘Crying Lightning followed with Mr Turner, much to the delight of his female fan club, treating us to a few thrusts of his snaky hips for his take on Kung-Fu fighting and the Macarena.
The set was disarmingly simple, with surprisingly little bravado; every track packing a visceral punch without the need for gimmicks or corny interactions. Alex comes in for a fair share of flack when it comes to his persona and a sold out arena tour could have provided the perfect opportunity for him to over egg the pudding so to speak, but he didn’t. He let the music do the talking.
Strikingly apparent when new material from AM came to the forefront was how they’ve become a far more polished act, less urgent and frantic with more sense of groove. There seems to be more depth and tone in there. ‘One For the Road’, ‘Fireside’ (with the addition of Bill Ryder Jones on guitar) and ‘No. 1 Party Song’ added a sonorous depth to proceedings and triumphantly nestled between their more frenzied odes.
‘Pretty Visitors’ saw the rammed to the rafters arena remodelled into to a sea of swaying arms, whilst ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ predictably sent everyone, for want of a better word, apeshit. However, it was the climactic ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ that provided the biggest highlight of the evening. Complete with ticker tape cannons, the track inspired by John Cooper Clarke’s poem of the same name, sublimely rocketed. With swathing guitars, epical lyrics shimmered under a shower of silver confetti and aroused the hairs on the back of our necks.
But of course, this is the Arctic Monkeys we’re talking about, there was no way they were leaving us on a swooning romantic note, they were leaving us with hooks and fire (and tinnitus). Back they came to coax us into another aberration. ‘Snap Out Of It’ with its snazzy earworming claps and clicks brought the vivacity and a semi-acoustic ‘Mardy Bum’ delivered the anthemic sing along, and with a “ just before we go I wanna ask you something….”, ‘R U Mine’ brought the ear orgasm.
Quite simply AMazing.
My preview of Michael Nyman at the RNCM for Creative Tourist.
‘Indecision’ by Sampha is my new jam.
My preview of Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia for Creative Tourist.
‘Scar’ by Cloud Control
'Got a lump in my throat from letting you in my mind'.
Leeds 2013 Review
Granted British bank holidays are notoriously wet affairs, but nothing could have prepared Leeds for the biblical rain that hammered down on the Thursday night, unfortunately halting Dutch Uncles headlining slot. However, battered and bruised and somewhat damp, Bramham Park had 80,000 revellers to entertain and they weren’t about to let a bit of the wet stuff and a few mud baths ruin the merriment.
Due to our own logistical nightmares, sadly, Friday was a write off and we didn’t even make it as far as the entrance gates, missing Phoenix and Haim the rotten icing on a particularly bitter cake. Nevertheless, Saturday was soon upon us, and with a smattering of sunshine and a few patches of grass still visible we got well and truly stuck in.
Kicking off our wet and wild weekend was Stockport’s finest; Findlay. Having burst on to the scene this year with enough gumption and attitude to rival any of her male peers, she prowled the stage with the same raw nature The Kills’ Alison Mosshart evokes. Fat riffs, swathed in blues accompanied by a frenetic deliverance, saw the likes of ‘Your Sister’ and ‘Gin On The Juke Box’ soar. Despite the meagre early doors crowd she most certainly proved herself worthy of all the hype.
Over on the Radio 1/NME stage we were greeted to Irish charmers Kodaline. Hot from the success of debut ‘In A perfect World’, the teeming tent served as an obvious sign of their ever growing popularity along with the mass crowd rendition of the stirring ‘All I Want’.
Top of our ‘must sees’ were New York’s Parquet Courts. Having only played a handful of UK shows and since NME declared their debut album ‘Light Up Gold’ “one of the best debut albums you’ll hear all year” in January, we were curious.
Bursting through riffs; unintelligible lyrics were submerged in urgent, infuriated garage-rock. A back to basics approach with no bravado, staccato pauses were punctuated with compulsory restarts and reprises making for a highly charged 30 minutes. ‘Stoned and Starving’, with its thumping post-punk basslines, serving as their set highlight. A heftier crowd and a more intimate venue will undoubtedly lead to all manner of chaos from these four.
It was then time for Kettering quartet Temples to unleash their psychedelia. Glittery threads and glistening face paints from front man James Bagshaw definitely putting the ‘glam’ back into rock. Having had them down as just another band du jour, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there’s real substance behind the aesthetic, and that they’re not just trying to make a fashion statement.
Whimsical and velveteen, each track built to a heavy climax with sophisticated guitar solos complimented by just the right amount of backing vocals. Refreshingly, Temples subscribe to the ‘less is more’ pack, allowing the intricate melodies and harmonies to reign rather than the discord.
Nestled between Skrillez and Major Lazor on the NME/Radio 1 stage was A$AP Rocky who brought some Harlem ardour to our evening. Unsurprisingly the crowd was largely made up of youngsters keen to flex their potty mouths to ‘P*ssy, Money, Weed’. With every crescendo and dropping of the bass, the tent erupted and it was quite easy to forget you were stood in all manner of mud in Yorkshire.
Drawing our Saturday to a close were Glaswegian trio CHVRCHES. Armed with a plethora of infectious pop goodness, they skyrocketed. Appealing and accessible, their secret weapon was their ability to merge tangled electronic soundscapes with a sweet-sounding vocal.
Pitch perfect and powerful, Lauren Mayberry’s lilting Scottish accent was both dynamic and vulnerable. The driving synths pulsated through our bodies and insisted on making our feet move. And with that, Saturday was done.
Thankful for our hot shower and proper bed but feeling for the thousands of soggy souls, we returned. And as a self-confessed guitar girl, Sunday’s line up was the one that had really got this scribe excited. Wasting no time, we joined the overflowing throng for The 1975; a band that have really grown on our delicate ears in recent times.
It’s easy to be snobby about bands like The 1975 and disregard them as un-original and mere chart fodder. There seems to be a strange mentality that you can’t be a “real” band if you make a popular song. Baloney. These boys can play.
Drawing the biggest crowd of the weekend at the Festival Republic stage, we didn’t actually get to “see” them such was the sea of bodies oversplilling from every part of the tent. But what we lacked in visuals was more than compensated for in razor sharp licks. Having gone from backroom boozers to headline slots at the likes of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire almost instantaneously, the quartet have fast become an incredibly tight outfit. And then there’s that playful edge that has seen them steal hearts and smash the charts.
‘Sex’ literally romped with growling guitars and the off-kilter vocals of coy Matt Healy whilst the supercharged ‘Chocolate’, with its cheery tropical riffs, secured its place as one of the catchiest songs of the year. Noticeably agog at the reception and declaring that it a dream come true to be on the other side of the barrier; it’s obvious that they fully intend to enjoy every step of this ascent and good on ‘em is all we can say.
Providing our first foray over to the main stage were White Lies. Having been quiet for the last year and a half, last month saw them make a triumphant return with third album Big TV. Known for toying between doleful, angst laden goth and big guitar pop; they’ve come back a little brighter.
The uniform of black has been replaced with splashes of colour and there’s a new found energy. Harry McVeigh’s commanding voice still intriguing and robust, lending itself perfectly to the big stage. Indie-disco favourite ‘Farewell to the Fairground’ and the menacing ‘Death’ both shone with revived force whilst the eighties synths of recent single ‘Getting Even’ saw abundant pogoing. They chose to close with the anthemic ’Bigger Than Us’, which represents White Lies at their best – heavy and tenacious pop-rock that really gets under your skin.
A quick change over and it was time for Foals. Riding on the crest of the Holy Fire wave and after their first festival headline slot at Latitude, they treated Bramham Park to a real spectacle. Foals’ set has become more and more dynamic, whereas once they would power through with guitars interplaying tenfold they now have the likes of ‘Bad Habit’ to inject with a more brooding, dark sensibility.
‘My Number’ and ‘Inhaler’ inevitably ignited push pits; the type of juggernauts made for festival consumption. Yannis’ beguiling showmanship that saw him launch into the crowd with frenzied strumming only adding to the giddiness.
‘Spanish Sahara’ provided, as always, an electrifying moment, and the pinnacle of the weekend – foreboding and poignant. Ending on ‘Two Steps Twice’ with its glorious instrumental echoing around the park; headline festival slots are destined to be the norm from here on in.
Bringing the weekend’s revelry to a close were locals Alt-j. Critically acclaimed debut album An Awesome Wave is one of those albums that needs to be experienced live. It translated in a most enchanting fashion, each track a story of sorts. Added bite and zeal saw the likes of ‘Tessellate’ and ‘Breezeblocks’ enthral; the pounding of the bass drum and jaunty keys filling every corner of the tent.
Alt-j are the masters of pace, and a suitably balanced set saw slower new track ‘Warm Foothills’ slotted in with the likes of ‘Taro’ perfectly. Their lyrics sometimes obscure and sometimes affable and touching, engaging each and every one of us. The spine tingling mass rendition of ‘Matilda’ providing a serene finale, closing another triumphant weekend of music at Leeds.
‘Lips and Limbs’ by Waxahatchee is my new jam.