Playlist of the Month: January

Welcome along to a brand new series here on Music 4 The Masses and I am going to call it ‘Playlist of the month’. It is a basic premise and it will come to you every single month where I will publish the ten songs I have been listening to most over the past month. The songs can vary from brand new to very old, from trap to acoustic; but one thing is for certain and that is that all these songs are absolutely brilliant. I hope you enjoy this new idea and I look forward to documenting my personal music choices to you each and every month. Let’s crack on with it.

Migos – Bad and Boujee (feat. Lil Uzi Vert)

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Anyone who even remotely knows me won’t be shocked to see this song in there, it is the best song of all time after all. Labelled ‘the new Beatles’ by Donald Glover, Migos have broke the mainstream and are now cult figures, just months after being rejected by every single station and talk show for their style. Bad and Boujee is a song that has now got over 100 million plays on Spotify and for a group like Migos to have achieved that in such a small space of time is remarkable, but don’t think they’re done here. The future is Migos, I assure you they won’t be like Desiigner.

Travis Scott – beibs in the trap

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Now in my initial review of this album I rated this as a fairly middle of the road song in comparison to the other songs, I still enjoyed it I just felt other songs were better (wonderful, pick up the phone etc.) but I have rediscovered this song and now adore it. Nav’s feature is fantastic and for me it ranks up there with Andre 3000’s performance as one of the best features on the album. It’s just a class trap song and if you’re not into that then you won’t like this song but if you are then please give it a bash. Is it really a list of mine if Travis Scott doesn’t make an appearance.

Mac Miller – Dang! (feat. Anderson .Paak)

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I think I have been bumping this song for a bit too long now, like it is approaching half a year of this never leaving my playlists and still it sounds slick and cool to me. Easily my favourite Mac Miller song and it comes mainly thanks to the brilliance of feature artist Anderson .Paak, aka the future of music. The soul and the funk he adds to this song is just special, a truly awe-inspiring talent who is destined for greatness and he has helped Mac Miller create a real toe-tapper here. I also really like the cheeky lines in this song and the beat break-ups to throw in a few ad-libs.

Underworld – Born Slippy

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With T2 Trainspotting arriving at it’s destination (the cinema) this month it was hard to not include the song which, arguably, makes the film so memorable. It really is incredible how a film about heroin addicts has become such a cult phenomenon across the United Kingdom but we are grateful for it featuring this, only rivalled by Faithless’ ‘Insomnia’ as the greatest dance track of all time. If you can meet someone who knows all the words to it then do me a favour and shake their hand, that is some accomplishment and a serious amount of dedication.

The xx – Test Me

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This is the last song on The xx’s new album which was released this month, so I was always going to be listening to it a lot because of how much I love The xx. The reason I picked this one over a very good selection of songs is because it is the one that reminds me most of an older xx sound, one that brings me back to that stunning debut album and that is the sound I think they should crave to find once again. The vocals sound like they’re directed at each other so that direct address makes for fantastic listening and well, what more can I say about Jamie xx’s production skills? The man is a borderline genius and is yet to show me otherwise, he has not a single blemish on a staggering collection of music. Dark, haunting and down right mystical, I love this song so much.

The Stone Roses – Elephant Stone

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I have had a bit of a Stone Roses revival recently after having a serious detox from that summer of constant lemons and singing I Am The Resurrection full blast. But now I am back on the bandwagon if you will and this song has stood out above all others as the one I keep going back to, mainly for that drum beat at the start of the song which is just different class from Reni. The whole song, much like many songs from The Roses, has a beautiful sense of freedom and Britishness to it, it’s like having a weight lifted off your shoulders every time you hear it, top draw stuff from a top draw band.

Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White – Thinking Bout You

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Now I’m not usually one who goes crazy for cover albums but I know a blinding rendition of a song when I hear it and this one from Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White is absolutely that. It takes a couple of brave souls to cover any Frank Ocean song given the dexterity and variety he possesses in his vocals, but the duo pull it off incredibly and maintain the structure and context of the song while adding a completely new genre to the mix of this one, using the wonderful synthesisers and autotune devices to maximum effect. Flo is amazing on the chorus and she really steals the show. I am sure Frank will approve of this as they do the song massive justice.
Young Thug – Wyclef Jean
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 The music video that everyone is talking about, Young Thug is without doubt one of the more polarising figures in music and it is this song that confirms all of our beliefs that he is truly a global treasure. If you haven’t seen the music video then please watch it because it will change your opinion on the song itself as well as the policy of music videos as a whole. There is a post coming up about the video and how it could change the way artists do videos from now on so look out for that, but for now just bump this song from Thugger, a legend in the making.
Post Malone – Big Lie
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 This for me confirmed what we could see for a while, that Post Malone has achieved a sonically better album than Bieber could manage with ‘Purpose’ and this song played a big part in the decision process. Post was a support act for Bieber on his Purpose tour and we knew he would walk in similar areas to JB to we didn’t think he had the quality to make an album this good. Trap bangers, soulful acoustics and White Iverson, what more do you want? Big Lie is my choice for the catchy hook and the great beat drop on it but it really could have been any of them because I have been listening to this album cover to cover all month.
Kasabian – Vlad The Impaler
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Ever since they were announced to be headlining festivals I became giddy with excitement at the prospect of seeing them live, something I am unfortunately yet to experience. Those who will attend Benicassim or Reading & Leeds are in for a treat given the reputation Kasabian have as live performers, not to mention the fact they have bangers like this one. The bass riff on this tune is the stuff of gods from Leicester’s finest export Sergio Pizzorno and the whole aurora of the song is full of attitude and it’ll drive a crowd crazy with energy. With a comeback album on the way and a new song that has been previewed on the new FIFA game, it is a very good time to be a Kasabian fan that is for sure.
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50 Songs you have to hear before you die

Everyone has different music taste’s, that much is just basic knowledge to us all. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all come together as one over certain songs which are truly timeless, songs which will always be remembered for the incredible work they have done for the development of the industry and the originality that music continues to bring us. I am someone who claims to enjoy most walks of musical life, of course I draw the line at genres which I will find insufferable (Country, Metal & EDM) but I would like to think I am well equipped to create a list like this where people will see the magnificence of many different musical genres and how incredibly lucky we are to have lived through these particular eras. These are my personal 50 tracks that I think everyone needs to hear at least once before their time runs out, feel free to leave other suggestions that I may have missed and of course, enjoy.

Nas – N.Y. State Of Mind

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Could well be the greatest hip-hop song of all time for the simple reason that nobody had ever heard anything like it at the time and it has influenced a wave of spoken word rappers who want to be role models like Nas was to them. His flow is ridiculous, the beat is just as mad and the whole thing just clicks, creating an unstoppable sound which made Nas the biggest deal in music back then, not just in the hip-hop genre. He never once falls off on this song, not even slightly and if you don’t believe me then just listen for yourself, iconic from Nasty Nas.

Underworld – Born Slippy

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If you’ve seen Trainspotting, you’ll know why this song is so memorable and such a big hitter. It fills me with both sorrow and joy that this song has become somewhat of a meme because even if it does tarnish an absolute classic it means more and more people are hearing what an anthem it is. Simply timeless and thoroughly enjoyable for the whole 7:37 it lasts for, get all over it and bring back the times of 90s jungle raves, what a time to be alive. “SHOUTING LAGER LAGER LAGER”.

Kanye West – All Of The Lights

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The biggest hype track you’ll ever hear, this is a song that at least three generations of music have embraced and enjoyed, and that is pretty specialist for a rap song. It is some of Kanye’s finest work and if you aren’t his biggest fan then fear no longer, as Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Fergie, Hype Williams and even Elton John have credited features on this track so there’s a bit on here for everyone. If you find a better hip-hop instrumental from this century I will be very impressed, this one brings the house down every single time it is played. The word that comes to mind is glamour.

Prince – When Doves Cry

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Purple Rain is the obvious choice if you want a Prince song in this list, but I always have and always will prefer When Doves Cry, I just think it is so slick and cool and it epitomises Prince as an artist in every possible way. The attitude he shows in it almost eclipses the immense talent on display and people have been listening to and enjoying this song long before his passing, and they’ll certainly be doing the same long after it. A true icon who’s timeless classic deserved a spot on this list without question.

Ian Brown – F.E.A.R.

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The Stone Roses frontman has never sounded more poetic than on this, it demonstrated a skill set none of us knew he possessed. The song title is done in this way for one simple reason, on every single verse line in the song, the first letter of each word spells out ‘FEAR’. With lyrics as wonderfully crafted as “for everything a reason” and “freeing excellence affects reality”, it is hard to question the man’s talents and to label this as anything other than the most expansive and genius piece of music of his illustrious career. So there you go, he isn’t just a cocky frontman in a great band, he’s actually a stunning musician.

Kendrick Lamar – How Much A Dollar Cost?

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It was Barack Obama’s favourite song of 2015, that should be enough to sway it really. A magnificent tale of Kendrick himself and his encounter with a homeless man and what he does best his build the story up for a shocking finale, it is almost like a playwright rather than a song. The religious imagery of the song is genius, creating a picture with his words and helping us see what is going on in their minds rather than a face-to-face confrontation. The homeless man turns out to be God by the way and it is done to change people’s perceptions of fame and selfishness, truly a prophet of our time, God bless you Kendrick Lamar, God bless you.

Michael Jackson – Earth Song

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Do you ever sit and wonder how we have deserved to live on such an incredible planet? Well this song will sure as hell help you on your way. My favourite Michael Jackson song simply because he spreads the most damning verdict you can, stating that we are destroying the precious ground we step on. It is also immensely progressive and the further on it goes, the angrier and louder MJ gets, clearly showing his frustration at the human race and he’s got a point. His voice gets better and better the further along the song we go and it gives me chills to this day. If we didn’t listen to Michael then what hope does this planet have of survival?

2Pac & Elton John – Ghetto Gospel

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Elton is chilling on that piano it has to be said, it is such a beautiful mood setter for the rest of the song. The best part of this track is the switch from poetic piano keys to a bouncy hip-hop beat but there’s always that undertone of the instrumental Elton plays. What makes this song stand out more than anything, however, is the lyrics Pac uses. A man who was taken from us early and we can’t say he didn’t give us enough warning about this messed up planet. “It ain’t about black or white because we’re human” is the most truth you’ll hear on a rap bar ever, and it’s only competitor is another line from this song. “Before we find world peace, we gotta find peace in the war of the streets” is a direct quote I used in my GCSE English exam, so thanks Pac.

The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

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Yes it’s morbid, but it is the touch of an absolute genius. Morrissey was far too psychologically advanced for the music industry and it is songs like this which prove that point, it is more of a diary extract or a tragedy play than a song but that is what makes it so blissfully unique. Johnny Marr does such a good job in keeping the instrumental together too with a beautiful and catchy acoustic riff but this song truly is all about Morrissey. The title is one which will stay with me forever and a day, and it is perhaps my favourite song of all time.
MGMT – Kids
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A bit of a left-field choice but it is genuinely one of the most iconic tracks of the 21st century and it is the prime example of how to write a modern day classic, meshing the ideas of a classic band concept with the addition of modern technology and electronics, simply perfection. Everyone knows the chorus, everyone. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar and is trying to uphold any form of false integrity they may contain for some unknown reason, just chill out and sing along to this absolute classic.
Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
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A song about an argument so surely it isn’t that technical? Incorrect. The song speaks in metaphoric harmony by relating the island of Mykonos to a rehab centre due to it’s history of seclusion. The first part is describing the argument and then how it will unfold but as the bridge kicks in the instruments become louder and more aggressive as they desperately try to amend the situation and remind him that it doesn’t have to be this way. Another metaphor of “the ancient gate” implies that he is waiting there with open arms as these gates become symbols of forgiveness. It’s just bloody phenomenal and even if you don’t study the song’s meaning it sounds top draw.
Foals – Spanish Sahara
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A blinder in every single sense of the word, this song will rip out your insides and hit you right in the feels whether you like it or not. Listen to this and tell me that Yannis’ hushed tones at the start don’t give you chills, I dare you to even deny that they do. The chorus is gorgeous and makes you close your eyes and want to raise your arms in a fit of smooth energy. It takes the song a good four minutes to kick into overdrive but the build up to it is just as good as the loud instrumental itself. “I’m the fury in your head” is a brilliant line and moves us elegantly into this stunner of a guitar solo before a loud instrumental brings the song to a close. A real journey this one, so strap yourself in.
David Bowie – Space Oddity
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Let’s be honest, I could have done a list solely on Bowie songs you should hear before you die, so picking one was a real struggle. I picked Space Oddity simply because of how brilliantly he crafted the character of Major Tom and the success it gave him. It had people rooting for Major Tom from the moment it was released and we didn’t even know who he was. It was such a brilliant show of emotion from Bowie in this performance as he plays the fear of Major Tom as he fades away and the professionalism of Ground Control who are desperate to hear his voice. All of this from one man and his guitar, faultless and the staple of a man who went on to achieve mind-blowing things and create many more well-loved characters in his 69 year stay on this planet.
Daft Punk – Around The World
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This is just out and out filth from start to finish, a certified finger snapper and a definite toe tapper from the French dance duo who were complete unknowns at the time and to release this is just audacious. The big thing with a song like this is no matter how brilliant it sounds today, it may never compare to how foreign and unusual it must have sounded at the time, because trance and jungle were a dying breed and rock and roll was taking charge. Daft Punk and particularly this song changed the waves of the music industry and created a new era of dance music, an era that I would say we are still heavily involved in.
Jamiroquai – Canned Heat
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Fans of Napoleon Dynamite know why this is here, that dance scene will live in film infamy and it is part of the reason this song is so memorable. Beyond that scene, though, this is just out and out funk music; Jay Kay sure was a funky slick dude, that’s for sure. It is guaranteed to get everyone up and moving and will never get old I promise you, no matter how many times you listen to it. Let me tell you one thing, this boogie sure is for real and it will remain real until the end of time.
Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
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This is a contender for the best song ever written I’m not even joking. No song can make so many people go so crazy in a chorus quite like our own Diamond can on this one, so much so that it has been revolutionised by the Northern Island football fans and was sung with full aplomb at Euro 2016, becoming the highlight of the tournament for many. The song may as well start when he starts singing “reaching out, touching me, touching you” because that’s when people come alive and really go for it. It is the ultimate sing-a-long tune and it takes some topping.
The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
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Another real finger snapper here and what makes this song so brilliant is the space-age and psychedelic verses which give you the cloud floating feeling before we move into this upbeat and jolly chorus with a classic 1960s bop to it. It is basically two genres rolled into one song and it is such a cool and clever style from start to finish, switching up and remaining original at every given opportunity. The best song from one of the best bands we have ever seen so it would be harsh to rule it out.
Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name
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Quick disclaimer, this has a slightly different vibe to Neil Diamond and The Beach Boys if you didn’t know, but it is still one of the biggest tracks ever nonetheless. The first track on this list so far with this kind of punk stance and Rage do it better than almost anyone in the history of the genre as they combine thrashing guitar riffs from Tom Morello with rebellious attitudes from the lead singer Zack De La Rocha and the sound it creates is just incredible. Hilariously, this song became Christmas number one in the 00s thanks to an internet campaign and we were all grateful to hear it again above all, especially that possessed guitar solo from Morello which defies the laws of logic even to this day. A middle finger to the system and society, an outburst of attitude and it’s just class.
OutKast – Hey Ya!
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This one will get you moving, your parents moving, your grandparents moving, literally the whole planet jumps in unison to Andre 3000’s swagger and persona on this cheeky R&B classic and it just couldn’t be left off. It has remained relevant even to this day and if anything it is only getting bigger and better, I genuinely believe it will go down as one of the biggest hip-hop songs of all time if it isn’t already, the whole world has jumped on board and it’ll only get bigger.

Vampire Weekend – A-Punk

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The riff is infectious and Ezra Koenig’s bubbly energy shines through on this noughties indie banger which sounds just as good today as it did in 2008 when it was released. Whether it be Just Dance or Guitar Hero, this song has not only dominated the radio but also video games over recent years and it is plain to see why with it’s fun and quirky style. It is guaranteed that everyone likes this song, whether it be infants who sing along to the radio, teenagers discovering their tastes or fully-fledged adults who were around in “the good old days”, it is a near impossibility to dislike this song and for that reason it has to be included on this list.

 

The xx – Intro

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The most haunting yet brilliant song on this list, it was the soundtrack to every single moody and dark scene on television around the time of it’s release and even to this day it’s genius lives on. Jamie xx is an absolute maestro on production and he creates an atmosphere designed to take you to the lowest ebb of humanity, it challenged all that was previously known about music and to this day goes down as one of the most memorable opening tracks on an album in a long time. If I ever create a short film, mark my words that this song will be the background of it all.
Radiohead – Paranoid Android
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An emotional journey which pushes the boundaries of the ideology of modern music, this song came at a time when bands such as Oasis and Blur were at the peak of their powers and creating music designed to get crowds going and make people feel good about themselves. Radiohead were already a household name at this point too, but this is the pinnacle of their musical ability in terms of depth and layering within the subject matter of a song. We dive head first into the twisted and mysterious mind of lead singer Thom Yorke and what is produced as a result of this is truly spell-binding, from the chilling vocal to the shredding guitar solos from the immensely talented Johnny Greenwood. A song for the voices you hear in your head and to show that even the most genius of brains can be conquered by evil at times.
Oasis – Champagne Supernova
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Speaking of Oasis, here is perhaps their best ever song, a true masterclass from Noel Gallagher with his wizardry in the writing of this song and massive props have to go to Liam Gallagher for the performance of it as he manages to capture the perfect emotion necessary for a track like this. The magic of this song lies mainly with the fact that it can sell out a stadium, it can sound incredible live and yet it can still be raw and beautifully emotional, discussing the idea of death and how sometimes we just wish that life could go on forever, seeing as it is the most incredible gift we can ever be given. It is often the song I would describe as the song I want people to remember me with, a song I would describe as one of my favourites of all time and if you’ve got any sense it should be one of yours too.
John Lennon – Imagine
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Why didn’t we just listen to him while he was here? Much like Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’, Lennon creates a blissful aurora that the world in which we live in is truly gorgeous and we need to realise that before it is too late. The constant use of the word “imagine” says all you need to know about the state of the world, the fact that we are just so far away from perfection on earth and those who strive for it are far too isolated; as Lennon suggests, the world is full of people who could live in harmony and peace but it needs everyone to join together and unfortunately there are too many people who tarnish the reputation of the human race. “I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will live as one.”
Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine
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Perhaps the most celebrated black artist of all time, Marvin Gaye was a true pioneer for the rise of African-Americans creating music and becoming a crucial part of the industry. His voice is remarkable and it is hard to not sway along to the suave and sophisticated style of this song which will forever go down as a timeless classic. It really is staggering how a song so old and so specific for it’s time can still sound cool and passionate to this day, but that is just the superhuman talent that Marvin Gaye possessed.
Stevie Wonder – Superstition
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Picture the scene, you’re walking down the street with music in your ears, and suddenly this song comes on; now if you tell me you won’t walk with a serious bounce and swagger while snapping your fingers and doing the occasional spin to this song then I am afraid you are a blatant liar. It is undoubtedly the coolest song of all time and it’s Stevie’s most well known work for a very good reason. Generation after generation have adored this song and that trend will only continue for years to come, plus I can smash it on Guitar Hero.
The Prodigy – Out Of Space
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Who would have thought that a few lads from Essex could create a sound as iconic and game changing as this? The Prodigy were complete unknowns until this blessed our ears in 1992 and it kickstarted a career which has now spanned over two decades, and it’s still going strong to this day. Those keys at the start of this song are just unreal and the way the song moves into this complete mesh of samples is just a complete mind-bender but the whole thing collates together to create something truly special. Trance and rave music became stronger than ever around this time, mainly thanks to tunes like this from the UK’s biggest bunch of lunatics.
Faithless – Insomnia
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The best beat drop in the history of mankind, discussion over. It is probably the most well-known dance track of all time thanks to the enchanting instrumental and the lyrical flow of Faithless himself as he sings about being an insomniac and it gives us the best final line of a song ever, just raise your arms aloft and bellow “I can’t get no sleep” before closing your eyes and feeling the drop take control. It is a travesty how good of a dance track this is, and that’s coming from someone who actively dislikes the direction it has gone in with all this brainless EDM, if they all took the lead of this song, the genre would be far better trust me.
The Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
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No 70s disco playlist is complete without the smooth tones of Barry Gibb in your ears and it doesn’t get better than Stayin’ Alive. There is of course the iconic music video, which basically invented the walking to the dancefloor dance as they strut their stuff with maximum attitude and groove. It is a floor filler for sure and it brings out all the novelty dance moves, from the arm barrels to the Saturday Night Fever star reaching, young and old can vibe to a song like this and that is testament to how funky and cool it truly is.
Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven
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The best progressive rock song there ever has been and ever will be, fact. The work that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant do on this song will live in infamy and as a song it will never die, the meaning is too strong for it to become irrelevant. It is just a genius tale about a lady and her journey to heaven, as simple as that and it just works beautifully. The guitar helps so much with the progression of the song and by the end, the vocals join it’s intensity and it becomes a classic rock track with a stunning guitar solo. It is as close to biblical as a song can get and in terms of sheer quality, it has to be one of the best of all time.
Blink 182 – I Miss You
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Alongside Adam’s Song, this is the saddest and most heart-breaking of all Blink-182’s songs and from a musical perspective, it is absolutely incredible. Co-written and co-sung by lead singer Tom DeLonge and bassist Mark Hoppus, the pair work together brilliantly to add their own vocal styles onto the song, with Hoppus giving us the mental image of a broken and devastated figure, while DeLonge uses his voice to sound cut up and highly emotional in his words, particularly in the chorus which can bring an arena of thousands to their knees in sheer emotional heartache. With that being said, it is a brilliant song to sing along to and is my favourite of their songs.
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
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 The most recognisable song you’ll hear from the Joy Division discography and it is mainly thanks to that bloody incredible guitar riff. Ian Curtis as we know was a very deranged and bizarre man who clearly had a lot of personal issues, but the way he transcended those issues into his music was exemplary and has been a benchmark for many others to follow; most notably of course being Morrissey of The Smiths. Love Will Tear Us Apart can suit any mood whatsoever, it can be a funky indie banger you can listen to on the highest of highs, and it can be a mood setter in the lowest of lows.
Rod Stewart – Maggie May
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Arise, sir Rod. Recently knighted for his services to music, Rod Stewart soared to fame with this song about losing his virginity to a much older lady and it has stuck ever since to be his most famous and best song. The Robin Hood-esque intro is great don’t get me wrong but when the song really kicks in you just ride this gorgeous cloud of infectious joy as Rod sings about his prosperous and exciting youth of wooing women the lucky devil. Still rocking the stages to this day, Rod Stewart seems immortal and we can only hope it continues for many years to come.
James – Laid
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 If you’ve seen American Pie I have no doubt that this song is your absolute jam, if not it probably still is anyway. A very cheeky indie track about sex, there’s no other way of putting it really but it has a crowd go absolutely berserk every single time without fail. The opening line is just so iconic and once it starts you know it’s really going off, “this bed is on fire with passionate love” says all you need to know about the motive of this track. A 90s classic which has spread to the modern generation, as is often the case.
R.E.M. – Losing My Religion
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 R.E.M. were given a fair amount of flak for being a bit morbid at times but the songs they created were genius and this one tops the lot. Michael Stipe does a fantastic job on this song as the song flows beautifully from verse to chorus and it is hard to miss a word on this one given it’s memorability and the great harmonising he manages to put on most words throughout. The early 90s didn’t know what had hit it when this one came out that’s for sure.
The Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy
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 I could have picked literally any song from Biggie, simply because he is THE GREATEST RAPPER OF ALL TIME. Nobody comes close to him at all and it is songs like this that truly prove my point. Biggie was a visionary and knew exactly what direction he wanted the industry to go and this song helped him on his way to re-shaping music forever. The power of the sampling, the female vocals on a catchy chorus, all sound familiar? That’s because Biggie invented what we hear from rappers on the radio today. Juicy itself is a life tale about he rose from nothing to something and it is a true life celebration, a proper feelgood song.
The Streets – Has It Come To This?
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 Early noughties is the era where Mike Skinner became a middle-class poet, a wordsmith of our time and a cult hero in a way. This track was all about the build up from council estates to wanting to make something of his life, moving on from benefits and drug abuse. Nobody made music like this around this time, musicians were selling unrealistic fantasies about lavish lifestyles and nobody could reach that without supreme talents, something every ordinary figure lacked. Mike Skinner came along and gave people faith, a lad from a council estate who remembered his roots.
The Stone Roses – I Am The Resurrection
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 Just turn this on and enjoy the wave, the eight minute wave of passion and true Mancunian style. Every part of this song is magical, from the drums to the bass, from the riff and solos to Ian Brown’s cocky persona, I just adore this song and always will. For around three minutes the song is fairly normal and you have a sense of build up with every passing verse, so once that third verse is done and Ian Brown belts out those infamous words “I am the resurrection and I am the life” you get an enormous feel of passion and emotion spilling through the speakers, as well as a continually rocking instrumental obviously. For the next four minutes you have a stunner of an instrumental interlude, solo upon solo of genius from all involved, particularly Mr John Squire on lead guitars who shreds it into the next century.
Dr. Dre – The Next Episode
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 Probably the most famous hip-hop song of all time, coming courtesy of legendary rapper and producer Dr. Dre and his California icon, marijuana connoisseur of a friend Snoop Dogg. The song is just perfect West Coast rap music, portraying the image that Dre basically invented for the West not only in his NWA days but also with his previous works. The fact this song is so recognisable to so many says all you need to know really about the hype and respect this song has been given over the years as an iconic rap record. Snoop and Dre smash their verses and who could possibly resist bashing out that intro at the top of their lungs? Not me.
The Cure – Just Like Heaven
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 This song is worthy of it’s place on the list just for the wonderfully crafted progressive introduction, which slowly and effectively beds in all the instruments for a rousing vocal display from Robert Smith captures our imagination once again. This is one of the best performances Smith does in his entire career and that is some achievement given his incredible track record as a part of The Cure for being a fantastic vocalist. What I love most about this song is that it is just completely typical of The Cure and their style, it is a love song in a crafted poetic rhythm that only they can perform and the unique nature of them as a band is hard to knock.
Arctic Monkeys – A Certain Romance
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 This song goes in there not only for the legacy of the band and in particular this album, but for the sheer brilliance of the local and patriotic sound. Shoutouts to classic Reeboks, scrapping with pool cues and tracksuit bottoms tucked in socks all come in between mesmerising intros and outros to this song, something a song will usually only have one of, logic tends to dictate that having both won’t work. But whoever came up with that clearly never listened to A Certain Romance did they. Just do yourselves a favour and belt it out forever and ever, it’s a classic British indie banger and our current prized assets at their absolute best.
Tame Impala – New Person, Same Old Mistakes
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 A psychedelic rollercoaster ride delivered to us by Australian indie band Tame Impala, it is the final song on their incredible 2015 album ‘Currents’ and it has also been used as an advert track for Donald Glover’s comedy-drama ‘Atlanta’ which gave it yet more of the praise it thoroughly deserves. Every aspect of this song, from the production to the instrumentals, is just heavenly and truly mind-blowing, it explores avenues you never knew existed and flows angelically through from start to finish. Bravo, Kevin Parker; we are not worthy.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge
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 I have had the absolute pleasure of witnessing this song live and let me tell you it as just as good live as it sounds on recordings. The atmosphere this song brings, whether you’re in a muddy field with thousands of people, or simply in your room relaxing, it never fails to make you smile and sing along to that incredible chorus. John Frusicante is a phenomenal guitarist and although he is known more for his insane pace on solos, the acoustic job he does here is divine. A blinding tune from a magnificent band.
Primal Scream – Loaded
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 The Peter Fonda sample at the start of the song creates such a brilliant build up atmosphere to this song and it has soon become a legendary staple of the band’s image, mainly thanks to the widespread success of this song. Everyone knows and loves this song, with NME ranking it as the 59th best song of all time, that is some serious going for a little Scottish band. It is in fact a remix of an earlier Primal Scream song titled “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” and the success that came from it couldn’t have been in their wildest imaginations, but it very quickly surpassed it’s original and became a 90s classic in the Britpop era. It’s also on one of the greatest albums ever in ‘Screamadelica’ so the growing list of reasons to include this song could have me here all day.
The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger
Image result for chelsea dagger the fratellis
 I don’t need to remind anyone of how this song goes because it is literally impossible to avoid it, from adverts to club nights every man and his dog blasts this tune out and cranks it up full volume. I hate to sound snobby and pretentious but I was on this song long before others, mainly thanks to the release of their album ‘Costello Music’ which was bloody fantastic (thanks for buying that one mum). It was evident that Chelsea Dagger would be the song that came out of the track list as a leading pop single and a decade later we are still enjoying it and loving the slight country twinge on it. That bridge is fantastic and it’s one of the soundtracks to the darts, different class.
Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere
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 Fleetwood Mac are one of the greatest bands of all time and their greatest strength was the intimacy between all the members, quite literally in fact. Every song they wrote was about one another and sometimes that wasn’t in the nicest of words, but in cases such as this one they were very kind and warming to each other. It may not be a track from ‘Rumours’, an album widely regarded as one of the best albums ever, but it certainly had longevity and it also carries that wonderful sound of the 80s, an absolute definition of the era it came from. It gets your grandparents up dancing, it gets everyone singing along to the chorus and it makes us all fall in love with the band one last time.
Toto – Africa
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 Almost a meme now at this stage but a bloody good meme at that. If you find me a single soul on this earth who actually dislikes this song, not the kind of person who pretends to dislike it for attention or to seem cool, like someone who genuinely doesn’t rate it then I’ll give you this blog and I’ll retire. Toto is hardly a name you’d put alongside Jackson, Bowie and Lennon but he contributed to the world one solitary moment of genius, this song. A Twitter account has been created solely dedicated to this song and it’s lyrics, if that isn’t timeless and legendary then I don’t know what is. Shoutout the spinning globe in the music video, iconic.
New Order – Blue Monday
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 When Ian Curtis committed suicide, Joy Division were back but they were under a new name and had a couple of fresh faces enter the fray. They had a new image and a new sound under New Order and this was the highlight of their very successful careers, creating one of the best songs ever to be created. An electronic masterclass from start to finish and it really is hard to believe this was a band who once created ‘Unknown Pleasures’, one of the most gut-wrenching heartache albums ever to have existed. This sound was to be the future of electronic music and groups such as The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers took full advantage of this change in the murky musical waters.
Dusty Springfield – Son Of A Preacher Man
Image result for dusty springfield son of a preacher man
 Pulp Fiction fans are all over this one I am sure but that’s not the reason it is on this list. The reason it is here is because it quite simply is one of the best songs ever to have bee written and performed. It has all the fundamentals of a classic song: great vocals, catchy lyrics and a toe-tapping instrumental alongside it, and Dusty Springfield does a brilliant job with this one. It is a song that has been covered numerous times, with Aretha Franklin and Eva Cassidy trying to do the song justice and they’re both good, but they aren’t quite Dusty.
Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
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 A song fuelled with emotion for me, it is one of my mum’s favourite songs of all time and without meaning to get too stroppy at modern music, the recent remix of it by Jonas Blue is an absolute disgrace, mainly because it completely ruins an absolutely stunning piece of music. Tracy Chapman has an unbreakable spirit on this song and her vocal delivery is full of passion and beauty from start to finish, as well as every string being played on that guitar sounding so raw it is just amazing. The mere thought of it gives me a lump in my throat because it floods back so many memories of growing up and how much has changed but most of all; how much I am truly grateful for my mum. I didn’t want it to become this but it has so tough luck, thank you mum, this one is for you.

Podcast: Top 10 underrated rappers

In this week’s podcast I was joined by regular visitor Callum Galloway and he brought Connor Welsh and Liam Jones to discuss the top 10 underrated rappers around, ranging from the underground scene to famous offspring (listen and you’ll see what I mean). This was a difficult list to decipher from and it posed the question of what underrated truly is, whether it comes from a lack of commercial recognition or maybe they are superior rappers but don’t get given the praise they deserve. From Denzel Curry to Young Thug, from Big Boi of OutKast to Pusha T; who did we rank where? Find out for yourselves here and let us know any we may have missed. This was so much fun to record and I would like to thank all three of them for joining me for this podcast. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did and apologies for the occasional crackle in audio that was due to varying volumes coming from the microphones and it won’t happen that often I promise!

The Reading & Leeds Line-up so far: Snoozefest

So we are now two announcements deep into this year’s Reading & Leeds festival line-up, and what do we know? Well, in terms of calibre of names, the headliners themselves (Muse and Kasabian) are a huge point of attraction for many people given their big names in the industry. Beyond that, we have next to nothing. I’m not Muse’s biggest fan so I won’t be watching them; Kasabian however are one of my favourite bands so they’re top of the priority list for me this time around. Hearing songs like Underdog, Club Foot and Shoot The Runner live will be a biblical experience and one I’ll cease to forget that’s for sure. So there you go, out of the two headliner she I’m only watching one of them, they’re already behind on last year when they announced Red Hot Chili Peppers and then a co-headline slot for Foals and Disclosure, two of which I saw (RHCP & Foals). In terms of stature, the headliners this year are good, in terms of originality? They really aren’t.

Beyond the headline slots we have next to nothing to shout home about. In fact, I will go on record and say of all the acts announced so far that aren’t headliners, I will watch a solitary THREE of them. They are Two Door Cinema Club, Danny Brown and legendary DJ Fatboy Slim. Acts like Bastille, Major Lazer and Tory Lanez do nothing but confirm the state of this music festival and what it could be becoming, a plain and stale festival desperate to please all parties but instead it only pleases 14 year old white girls who’ve never been before. It is rumoured to only get worse as another big name is in the frame to headline, none other than the narcissistic, bigoted egomaniac that is Eminem. Yay. Another nail in the coffin.

Now, you’ve all seen my moaning about this line-up and are probably wondering what I would have done? If we are being realistic then Reading & Leeds aren’t going to build a Coachella style line-up but that doesn’t excuse the poor selection they have supplied here, one glaring thing is the lack of women in the line-up and in my mock announcement I have amended this and quite frankly made a better line-up. Here it is:

leeds-fest-mock-up

Now let me explain my reasons. I don’t like Catfish but they are a Reading & Leeds band without doubt. Similarly, Courteeners had a fairly big year so it was difficult to leave them off, not to mention that they’re ever presents anyway. Two Door have made the step up and I think third from the top is a fair location for them, especially considering it is behind a returning icon in Richard Ashcroft, who I think would set people up for the Roses absolutely brilliantly. Jamie T has made his comeback and I think that if hip hop and R&B hadn’t been so huge he would have been second from the top but Frank Ocean makes sense there given the buzz around his name last year as well as his headline slots being announced elsewhere. Skepta is a huge call to be a sub-headliner but he is the Mercury prize winner and is one of Britain’s biggest treasures now, there’s no disputing his credentials. Expect usual appearances from the likes of Frank Turner and Frank Carter on the main stage.

The NME stage is one I think has masses of potential. If they do it the way people want them to do it that is what the three headliners of that stage should look like. The xx are no-brainers for that stage as are MGMT if they release their album as expected. Liam Gallagher will bring the house down over there, much like Nas did last year but on a grander scale to mark his solo endeavours. But no, Major Lazer seems like a better idea doesn’t it… Female acts such as Wolf Alice, Angel Olsen and Savages would go down a hit with the crowd and the fact Reading & Leeds are yet to announce any of them is massively frustrating. Hip-hop fans would like the inclusion of Run The Jewels and ScHoolboy Q, with RTJ heading on a European tour it is easy to see why they could make an appearance and ScHoolboy has become a huge name since his last appearance at the festival. Craig David and ‘Black Beatles’ stars Rae Sremmurd will make the crowd go wild and Post Malone would sauce on everybody.

The Dance stage is one I struggle to get along with because it simply isn’t my genre, but there are some acts this year that, if announced, would appeal to me greatly. Fatboy Slim has already been announced and his set will be legendary I am sure of it, as will Flume’s who was also given the nod. Don’t be surprised to see someone of Steve Aoki’s credentials tearing up that stage and hopefully we get an appearance from upcoming Canadian producer KAYTRANADA because he would smash it. Basically my lack of faith and knowledge in that stage means I have been forced to put myself on the list because I am confident my playlists would blow people away, long live Ellis Karran’s Spotify.

I’ll explain now, where it says ‘Lock Up Stage’ it is meant to be the ‘1Xtra stage’ but I couldn’t find an adequate template so that’ll have to do. After Travis Scott’s absence last year I don’t think they’ll be too quick chasing up again. One thing they have done well is getting Wiley and Danny Brown on board, both of whom will be fantastic on one of my favourite stages at any festival. If my predictions come true about this stage I am camping there, I will never leave it because it’s hard to ignore any of those acts; from the American trap vibe of Migos and Anderson .Paak to the gritty British sounds of Giggs and Loyle Carner. Please come through with a madness guys, please. The female influence is evident here with Lady Leshurr, Noname and Nadia Rose getting my seal of approval to make the stage jump around this year, however given the reputation of the festival, don’t expect to see any of them make an appearance sadly.

So what do you think? Who’s festival would you rather see? Is the lack of female artists on the festival circuit becoming an issue? Let me know your thoughts and please acknowledge that I am well aware how optimistic I am being about this festival, but it is the standards you expect when you’re paying the same as you would for Glastonbury.

 

 

 

 

Music 4 The Masses Quiz #1: Callum, Liam and Connor

This is the first of many of these interactive quizzes I am bringing to the Music 4 The Masses podcast and I am excited to bring these to you. In this the first episode, Callum Galloway, Liam Jones and Connor Welsh challenge each other in a quiz structured mainly around the hip-hop genre with a few twists along the way. These are great fun to do and I am sure they’ll be just as fun to take part in, so if you think you can do better then be sure to play along for yourself while listening and see how you do compared to my studio guests. Let me know how you get on and of course, enjoy!

 

 

Album Review: The xx – I See You

The xx are a Mercury Music Prize winning group hailing from London and they are true pioneers of the modern era of alternative electronic music, particularly with their stunning 2009 eponymous debut album. This album is their third release and it comes four and a half years after their second album ‘Coexist’ which saw the band take new turns in their musical endeavours and we have the same expectations for this one here, especially after hearing the singles they have had to offer us. They are one of my favourite bands and as soon as this album was announced my levels of excitement soared through the roof so I have increasingly high hopes that they can deliver once again and confirm their place as the top dogs in the alternative music genre.

Dangerous – 9/10:

It is apparent to see the influence of producer Jamie xx here as this rocking electro-funk beat dominates the track and starts this album off with a certain attitude and persona unlike anything the band have attempted before, but it is certainly something Jamie himself has explored in his debut solo album of 2015, ‘In Colour’. The introduction of the haunting vocal duo of Romy and Oliver really gives this song a new dimension and sound and it creates a great personality for the band here, suggesting perhaps a pick-up in mood and emotion from their previous two albums which have often been described as very moody and upsetting pieces of work, irregardless of the brilliance they show within them. A really great start to this album and the unique flavour it brings makes you very excited for what is to come.

Say Something Loving – 9/10:

When I first heard this song as the second single, I really wasn’t that blown away but after giving it more of a chance, it just works brilliantly and now I love it. The vocal performance is one of the best on the album and it’s a personal favourite performance from Romy in particular as she demonstrates her range to devastating effect. The best element of this song is without doubt the connection that Oliver and Romy get as they sing together about love and the words we use to describe the love we have for someone, it is like they are singing it to each 0ther and this is a technique that is essential to the style of The xx in my opinion. The chorus is one of the most catchy ones I have heard in a while and above all, the track fits in fantastically with the flow of the album. Great single.

Lips – 8/10:

Starts off sounding like a Fleet Foxes song with the haunting vocal harmonies but it quickly strays off into it’s own direction, mainly in thanks to the steady progression of yet another high quality Jamie xx instrumental. The thing with this song that makes it so cool is the layers of it, especially in the chorus where we hear that choral harmony again but it is then overlapped by the typical xx vocals of Romy and Oliver and it sounds great. The beat switch-ups are poignant and unique as we here a huge variety of sound coming from this one and that makes it all the more interesting. Not quite on the level of the first two but it certainly is a good track.

A Violent Noise – 8.5/10:

This is the first song of the tracklist so far to have more of a throwback xx sound to it as this one carries a bigger echo and a steadier state of progression in the verse, that is until Jamie puts in a layered beat that sounds like it could smash an Ibiza club night and the whole thing gets louder and louder until we hear the lyrics “a violent noise” where everything comes to a halt and we seem to start over again with the instrumental and Romy takes over as opposed to Oliver in the first verse. It is a great song and I am glad it doesn’t veer off into the tangent of EDM music because it could have very easily done so with a beat like that.

Performance – 9/10:

The bass riff on this song is so stubborn and poignant it reminds me of a classic xx song with that increasingly heavy string playing and the simplicity of their chords. A really haunting performance from Romy and the song itself is just as dark and mysterious, something which has become a staple of the band’s image and style. It makes me really glad when they make songs like this because although I do enjoy seeing bands progress and going off in new directions, it is always nice to hear the occasional journey back to what made people love them, and that’s exactly what they have done here. The orchestral involvement in the backing track is fantastic and adds real legs to the isolated guitars and helps with the eerie nature of the song. Brilliant.

Replica – 6/10:

The funk is brought back to some extent here as we hear a very subtle piece of smooth guitar playing and a finger snapping drum beat. Unfortunately no album is perfect and this track is the weakest song on here, there are a few aspects I enjoy but as a whole it’s just a bit of a dud track. I do enjoy the harmonies in the chorus where the vocals join together and create a big sound but the verses are just a bit dull and the whole thing is a slight anti-climax really. There are also quite a few loose ends in the instrumental which I find odd given how much of a perfectionist Jamie is, but it seems a bit scrappy and thrown together in places. This one is a bit of a disappointment in all honesty and I am not sure why it is included really.

Brave For You – 8.5/10:

A beat which sounds fresh off his solo album, Jamie xx bounces back again with a huge instrumental and a wonderfully structured song. It warms me inside as to how fantastic they are as a group at making what could quite easily be club bangers into something experimental and unlike anything you’ve heard, it is a rare and quite remarkable skill that they possess. Romy once again delivers a great vocal performance and a backing track like this suits her style down to the ground as she can do her thing in somewhat of a varied tone, whether it be dominant on the odd occasion or more hushed in certain areas. In short I really enjoy this song and all the avenues it explores in the short time it is on for.

On Hold – 10/10:

Released at the latter stages of 2016 and it rapidly became one of my favourites of the whole year. With a comeback song it can often be very difficult to prove to fans what they have been missing but when you have a man like Jamie xx at the helm of your projects, there is no need to worry. Sampling Hall & Oates in the most fantastic way imaginable, the whole song is just destined for magnificence from start to finish, whether it be the combination of Romy and Oliver bouncing off each other’s parts of the track perfectly, or the brilliance of the track’s instrumental and it’s staggered snares. It is just stunning and goes down as one of the best songs they have ever released, it is right up there with the likes of Islands and Crystalised.

I Dare You – 8/10:

This follows on from On Hold quite well actually and as you are about to discover, it sets us up steadily for the final song on this album and it is this structure which makes this song so essential to the album’s flow. It isn’t the best song I will ever here in my life but I definitely enjoy it and I particularly enjoy the constant drums to keep the track in place and keep everything in check. Once again the vocal harmony between Oliver and Romy in the chorus is majestic  and thoroughly listenable to say the least. The bridge is probably the highlight of this song as it fades beautifully into the final chorus and adds a real echoing sound to the whole track and it really wraps things up very nicely for a more than tolerable track. Good stuff once again.

Test Me – 10/10:

The vocal and the beat go hand-in-hand here to create a big finale to the album and leave you hanging on the end of an emotional rollercoaster, not least from this song which is a heartbreaking ballad about arguments within relationships and the effects they have on those involved. The tone of the vocal is once again delivered with absolute perfection to fit the atmosphere created by the song itself and credit has to go to Romy for that who I’ve been rightfully praising throughout this album, it’s hard not to when she does her job this well from start to finish. Easily the most chilling and moody song on the whole album as it destroys emotion and really brings you onto their level and the instrumental in the latter stages of the song are magical in the sense that they are used to show the voices in the head of these people and the struggles they deal with. Incredible stuff.

Overall – 9/10:

It is hard to say a bad word about this thing really. Apart from Replica, in my opinion it is right up there with their other work and could well be one of the best albums 2017 has to offer and considering we are only in January, for me to make a statement like that then it must be pretty good. I absolutely love the structure of this thing as each song flows very nicely, particularly towards the end of the project where we slowly begin to fade into this slower sound but it is still sonically incredible. The singles are great, the rest of it is just as great and the production is masterful as always. This lot never fail to deliver do they.

Desert Island Discs Episode 1: Callum Galloway

This is the first episode in a series which I hope becomes a staple of my podcasts, something which certainly isn’t original but it is massively entertaining and intriguing to listen to. For the first episode of ‘Desert Island Discs’, in which my guest of each week will choose five songs to take with them on a desert island and have them be the soundtrack to the remainder of their life, is my good friend Callum Galloway and there are certainly some interesting choices in there for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to listen for yourself and have your say on these choices. As always thanks to Cal for taking part and hopefully you enjoy it.

Donald Glover: The Man with the Midas Touch

It has been a remarkable 2016 for Atlanta born personality Donald Glover. Whether it be getting cast in the new Spiderman film, being given the role of Lando Calrissian in a Han Solo spin-off Star Wars film, or maybe even writing and starring in his own television series ‘Atlanta’; he has had the acting world at his feet in this calendar year and it has been hard to begrudge him of his accomplishments. Oh yeah, and he released one of the most diverse and brilliant albums of the year under his rap name Childish Gambino with “Awaken, My Love!” which contained songs in the style of stories he is telling his new child, who was also born in 2016. So to say he has been busy would be an understatement, but how did he reach these heights and what has been the process of greatness for the once struggling comedian.

We will start with ‘Atlanta’ which is perhaps the project he will be most proud of this year in terms of creating media, especially when he was awarded with two Golden Globe awards for his work (Best Music or Comedy TV Series & Best Actor in a Comedy Series). For those who haven’t heard of it let me give you a bit of background information, it is an American comedy-drama series which Glover himself wrote and stars in. It is about the Atlanta rap scene and focuses on two cousins who manoeuvre their way through the local game to improve the lives of their struggling family. The show was an instant hit and after just two episdoes FX signed it to a second series, which is due to air in 2018. Also, the main rapper is called “Paper Boi” and he makes bangers so what more can you ask for? Online review site Rotten Tomatoes ranked it with an average of 8.9/10 for the first season which goes a long way towards demonstrating how good it is. Considering this is an avenue Donald Glover had yet to explore and that this is his first shot at writing his own television series, it is remarkable and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone, whether music is your thing or not it is gripping and tense while also balancing sheer hilarity with some brilliant one-liners. I cannot wait for season two I am counting it down already.

We will now move on to his musical endeavours because this is the field I am most knowledgeable about when it comes to Donald Glover or Childish Gambino as he prefers to be called in the music sphere. Gambino has enjoyed a lot of success with his music which had been, up until 2016, very much hip-hop and R&B oriented. His first full studio album was titled ‘Camp’ and was released on November 15th 2011, it contained very witty wordplay as well as the complete explosion of noise and energy we heard from lead single ‘Bonfire’ which is still to this day one of his best songs. Critically and commercially, it did okay but nothing too spectacular, peaking at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and selling 52,000 copies in the first week.

A year later he released the mixtape ‘Royalty’ and although it was another strong body of work, it just felt to be lacking something. That something was soon discovered on ‘Because The Internet’ which was released a year later and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the Grammy’s, while possessing some of his biggest hits, such as ‘3005’ and ‘Sweatpants’. he also released a 72-page screenplay to go alongside the project, showing us all his mesmerising imagination. As of November 2016, it has sold 992,000 album units in America alone, incredible stuff. Another mixtape followed in ‘STN MTN / Kauai’ and it was a change in style, very much a singing project and looking back it was maybe a sign of progression and evolution, moving away from the hip-hop genre. He certainly did that with this 2016 release. “Awaken, My Love!” arrived on December 2nd 2016 and not even the biggest of Gambino fans could have predicted this. It was a soul and funk album which channelled all of his influences together and it was just fantastic. ‘Me And Your Mama’ and ‘Redbone’ were the singles to come from it and it debuted in the Billboard 200 top five, his best performance yet. If you haven’t heard it then change that and listen to it, a simply phenomenal album which I rated 2nd in my top 50 albums of the year list.

Incredibly, that isn’t it for Glover’s dominant 2016, as he was also cast in two huge films and roles, undoubtedly the biggest of his career by a long way. The first of which came in June 2016 when he was cast in Spiderman: Homecoming and although his role is yet to be discovered, just the fact he has been put in a Spiderman film is a huge deal and he must have surely thought it couldn’t get any better than that. Oh yes it could. On October 21st, the world was told that the new man to be playing Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo Star Wars spin-off would be Donald Glover. Yes, that’s right, the man who played Troy Barnes in Community is now going to be in Star Wars, that is how far he has come in not that long a period of time. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Glover revealed that the first action figure he had was a Star Wars Lando figure so it was a “lifelong dream”.

I am truly like a proud father typing all of this out, I have been with Gambino/Glover for a long time now and throughout that period I have been saying he deserves more than he has, and he is finally reaping the rewards for his immense work ethic. Someone who works this hard and is this talented will always succeed so it was only a matter of time before a year like this happened for Donald Glover and something tells me we won’t be rid of him on our screens for a while yet. I don’t have a problem with that whatsoever as long as he makes some time to give us more music. So to sum up, 2016 was the year of the Glover and if you didn’t know that before, you sure as hell do now.

Top 10 Bands Podcast

This week’s podcast comes courtesy of myself and James Crossan as we discuss the hot topic of who the biggest band of the last 30 years is. With names such as Oasis, Radiohead, Nirvana and The Smiths fronting the discussion, you don’t want to miss our lists as well as the joint list we create at the end. Don’t agree with our choices? Not a problem, just let me know who you would put in instead and that way everyone wins and there’s no arguments. I would also like to thank James for being a part of this, he was brilliant and I hope to have him on much more in the future. So, give it a listen, let me know what you think, share it far and wide and of course, enjoy!

2016: A Year In Music

2016 has been a year full of twists and turns in the music industry, we have had soaring highs and plunging lows, we have seen comeback kids and new kids on the block (not literally) bless us with releases and as a result it has been a fruitful 12 months of high-quality music. Last year I did one of these year in review posts for hip-hop, mainly due to the massive push the genre had, but seeing as it has now become a major fabric of the industry and is probably the number one genre, I figured I would incorporate all walks of musical life in this year’s one. So kick back, relax, and let us reflect on a crazy year in the musical sphere.

January:

January 2016 started full of expectation and excitement, mainly through the return of pop icon David Bowie and his new album ‘Blackstar’; little did we know that this would be a parting gift from the Starman as he would pass away two days after it’s unveiling after a long battle with cancer, something he kept secret from us all in order to keep us all positive. This meant that the month of January became immensely reflective, looking back at our favourite Bowie tracks or albums, wondering how this man wasn’t immortal. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as we in fact were given some big releases in this month. Anderson .Paak released his debut album ‘Malibu’ which was immensely well received and has since gone on to be nominated for a Grammy and deservedly so. Another huge name release was Rihanna who brought out ‘ANTI’ and many enjoyed it, I did not but who am I to judge a woman of Rihanna’s stature and calibre? Sia also brought out ‘This Is Acting’ in January and has enjoyed a lot of success as a result, becoming a regular in the charts and being granted a top five place in Spotify’s most played artists of 2016 list.

Kanye released ‘Real Friends’ and ‘No More Parties In LA’ in the build up to his latest album and they were stunning, giving us hope that Yeezy would once again deliver with a top draw album. Panic! At The Disco were now a one man band in Brendon Urie but that didn’t stop him releasing a very good project in ‘Death Of A Bachelor’ which is a front-runner to win Best Rock Album at the Grammys. Zayn Malik released his eagerly awaited ssong ‘Pillowtalk’ and it was a huge success, with non-1D fans taking notice of his R&B roots, while Drake continued his fast paced releases by giving us ‘Summer Sixteen’ which did what it said on the tin, it set us up for a Drake dominated summer.

  • High point: Anderson .Paak’s debut
  • Low point: Bowie’s death

 

February:

We were finally given Kanye West’s album, after three name changes it was now called ‘The Life Of Pablo’ and it was a wonderful treat to finally be given after such an eager wait. Future also released a new project in ‘EVOL’ less than a year after his widely successful album ‘DS2’ and it contained huge club bangers including a spicy hit with The Weeknd. Sticking with hip-hop, the controversial Macklemore & Ryan Lewis followed up their Grammy award winning debut album with the sophomore release ‘This Unruly Mess I’ve Made’ where he explained the controversy of beating Kendrick to the award at the Grammy’s as well as his struggles with fatherhood and his strong beliefs on black oppression. The 1975 gave us their second album and it is easily the weirdest and most self-indulging title you will hear all year (‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware’), cringe. The album actually wasn’t half bad in fairness and it helped them break America, as well as winning the not-so-prestigious Album Of The Year award from NME.

Critic’s Choice winner at the BRITs Jack Garratt released his debut album and proved why he is the literal example of an Ed Sheeran-Disclosure love child with this pulsating electronic love album, one of the highlights of the year in my opinion. There were also releases for Young Thug, BJ The Chicago Kid and Majid Jordan, all of which you could say were underwhelming given the hype surrounding them. A little known Australian group called DMA’s released their debut album ‘Hills End’ in February and initially it was tucked under the carpet and it wasn’t until later in the year people realised how good an album it was. February also became the month where chart music took a turn, with acts like Fifth Harmony and The Chainsmokers becoming headline news, never a nice thing to witness.

Another crashing low hit us in February, with the devastating news that young Warrington group Viola Beach, who had played at the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds in 2015, died in a car crash in Sweden after a gig. The boys were going on to fantastic things and as you will see later, would have been proud of how their album went when it was released. A week after the crash, ‘Swings & Waterslides’ entered the charts at number 11.

  • High point: Kanye’s album
  • Low point: Viola Beach’s death

 

March: 

Kendrick Lamar stunned us with a new project completely out of the blue, but quickly after seeing the title ‘Untitled Unmastered’ it was apparent to see that this was a B-side project, it was still fantastic though and it is always great hearing new Kendrick songs. Denzel Curry released his debut album ‘Imperial’ which was eagerly anticipated after his breakout hit ‘Ultimate’ which has now become the sound track to the Bottle flip challenge. Young Thug released ‘Slime Season 3’ and it was great, probably my favourite Thugger project to date as he used his typical insanity to create eight trap bangers. XXL Freshman Lil Yachty released his debut mixtape ‘Lil Boat’ and it was one of the best releases of the year in hip-hop thanks to hits like ‘One Night’, he soon became a loveable character with his infectious personality. Kano brought out ‘Made In The Manor’ and made people sit up and notice that maybe it isn’t just about Skepta and Stormzy in the grime genre. Finally, Flatbush Zombies announced themselves in a big way with bouncing album ‘3001: A Laced Odyssey’ which gained them a very big boost in fanbase.

Outside of rap, we had a lot of returning heroes in the month of March, with Iggy Pop teaming up with Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders in his new album ‘Post Pop Despression’ which was very well received indeed. As well as Iggy Pop we had Scottish Britpop outfit Primal Scream return with ‘Chaosmosis’, an album which was a bit of a dud sadly. The Coral rose from the ashes and released a decent album with ‘Distance Inbetween’, but it wasn’t just about the oldies as Zayn Malik brought his long-awaited debut album out ‘Mind Of Mine’ and many people have forgotten it exists, that is all I shall say on the matter.

  • High point: Kendrick Lamar’s shock drop
  • Low point: Zayn Malik’s huge flop

 

April:

Another 2016 month, another tragic loss in the industry. This time, American pop icon Prince was taken from us suddenly on April 21st after a swift deterioration of health. Much like the death of Bowie, people were reflecting on the career of Prince and would play his biggest hits as a homage to his legacy. This was the tip of an hugely eventful month, where arguably the two biggest names in music released new albums, Drake and Beyonce. Beyonce’s became headline news as she made it Tidal exclusive and has kept it that way to this day, while Drake’s was accessible to all and it broke records, going platinum in one week and having every single track feature in Billboard’s Hot 100.

Weezer came back with an eponymous album and it was as well thought of as their debut some two decades earlier. Alex Turner joined up with his old pal Miles Kane and as a result, The Last Shadow Puppets were reborn and they released their second album ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ which I really enjoyed, as did many others. Lukas Graham’s debut album came out and went down well after their breakout hit ‘7 Years’ which has been widely award nominated. In terms of singles we were gifted two of the best songs of the year courtesy of Drake (One Dance) and D.R.A.M. (Broccoli) which have only gone on to get better as time goes on.

  • High point: Beyonce being Beyonce
  • Low point: Prince’s death

 

May:

In terms of quality, you will do well to find a better month for albums than May, with three of my top 10 albums of the year coming out in this month alone. The first of which to be released was Skepta’s ‘Konnichiwa’ which has been regarded as one of the most important British albums in a decade and has gone on to win the Mercury Prize, not bad for a lad from North London. Two days later Radiohead released ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ and it was biblical, my review describes it as more than music and I stand by it, the album is a religious experience and one which I am eternally grateful for. Third up was Chance The Rapper’s third mixtape ‘Coloring Book’ which was better than anyone could have hoped for and it really took some beating this year, with most major news outlets rating it very high in their end of year lists. Big things ahead for Chicago’s new hip-hop prodigal son.

As well as these three, we had Canadian producer KAYTRANADA’s debut album ‘99.9%’ with big features including Anderson .Paak and Craig David and it was fantastic, taking the genre in a new direction and making the future very bright indeed. Flume also did major things for the electronic genre with his debit album ‘Skin’ which was one I enjoyed massively. James Blake released ‘The Colour In Anything’ and it was everything we have come to expect in a James Blake project, a very moody but harmonic anthem and I enjoyed it. Pop releases came from Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor and they were as painful as they sound, with Meghan Trainor being a major contender for the worst album of the year. Speaking of shoddy albums, Catfish & The Bottlemen blesses us with a half-arsed, lazy project that was exactly the same as their debut just worse, glad we have cleared that up.

I couldn’t talk about May without mentioning the triumphant returns we had, with Richard Ashcroft releasing his album ‘These People’ and pleasing plenty of people with his typically solid sounding acoustic tracks. As well as Ashcroft, Manchester heroes The Stone Roses released their first song in over 20 years with ‘All For One’ and although it wasn’t mind-blowing, it was great to hear new sounds coming from them.

  • High point: High quality albums (Radiohead, Chance, Skepta)
  • Low point: Catfish’s brainless release

 

June:

June was an up and down month in terms of releases, with plenty of strong projects coming out but also plenty of disappointing ones too. One of my favourite bands The Strokes returned this month with a snippet of what could be to come in the form of the ‘Future Present Past’ EP which contained three new songs and a remix. The songs have grown on me but they are hardly classics and the same can be said for the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album ‘The Getaway’ which had so much promise with the release of lead single ‘Dark Necessities’ but all in all it was an inconsistent piece of work. Taking the prize for the biggest flop of the month was Desiigner, who’s mixtape ‘New English’ was diabolical outside of the singles, it was just so lazy and thrown together.

There were very good releases, however, such as Vic Mensa’s ‘There’s Alot Going On’ EP which came out following the mass police shooting in Chicago and the statement it announced was huge, it was also very good and showed Vic to be an immensely talented artist. Compton rapper YG also shocked us all with his fantastic release ‘Still Brazy’ which was a West Coast delight in the modern day. Jake Bugg’s ‘On My One’ album didn’t do necessarily well with critical acclaim and I don’t understand why, I think it was fantastic. Last but not least big shouts to Paul Simon who is still going strong releasing albums as he did in June.

  • High point: YG becoming a serious rapper
  • Low point: Desiigner’s embarrassment

 

July:

We were hip-hop heavy in July, with some of the other big hitters taking a back seat while lesser known artists made a name for themselves with immense projects. No more so than female Chicago rapper Noname, who’s album ‘Telefone’ was one of my favourites of the year with that feel-good vibe oozing out of it, Logic also released a huge mixtape in ‘Bobby Tarantino’ which confirmed his place as the best of the underground rappers. There were some big names who dropped this month too, most notably so are DJ Khaled with ‘Major Key’ and ScHoolboy Q with ‘Blank Face LP’ and of the two, ScHoolboy easily had the better project despite Khaled’s stacked feature list of rap’s biggest names. 21 Savage released ‘Savage Mode’ with Metro Boomin and raised a few eyebrows with his abrasive rap style but plenty of people enjoyed it too. Gucci Mane announced his release from jail with a new album and despite a couple of shining lights, it was fairly underwhelming.

It wasn’t all about rapping in July, legendary punk-rock band Blink-182 released their first album without lead singer Tom DeLonge in ‘California’ and it was…. DREADFUL. On the other hand, Biffy Clyro released ‘Ellipsis’ and that was a return to form for the Scottish rockers. We also heard Viola Beach’s post-humous self-titled album and it was great, an absolute tragedy that these boys were taken so early. Good will prevailed when the album made it to number one in the album charts and the boys were given the send off they deserve. On the singles front, Major Lazer took the cake with his hit ‘Cold Water’ with MO and Justin Bieber.

  • High point: Viola Beach’s number 1
  • Low point: Blink-182’s travesty of an album

 

August:

They should rename this month to ‘Frank Ocean month’ because he was all people spoke about in August. The album was taking it’s time and we were wondering if we were ever going to get it, then bang, that crazy weekend. TWO ALBUMS. ‘Endless’ was followed by ‘Blond’ a day later and we were eternally peaceful, Frank was alive and well and was giving us these two pieces of art. ‘Blond’ is album of the year, hands down, by the way. Other things did happen, however, both Vince Staples and Young Thug released projects that were well received and set them up nicely for the future. Rae Sremmurd brought us ‘SremmLife 2’ and thus the anthem of the Mannequin challenge, ‘Black Beatles’, a song which surely even they weren’t expecting to take off like it did. We were also treated to PARTYNEXTDOOR’s new album, but it turned out to be less of a treat and more of a criminal offence.

Blossoms released one of the biggest buzz albums of the year in their eponymous debut and it didn’t disappoint, cementing their place as one of the stand-outs of new-age indie music, while we also saw unexpected returns from Bon Iver and Green Day, both of whom released incredibly sub-par singles and left us all dreading their albums (rightfully so as you will find out). Speaking of dread, Crystal Castles brought a new project out and it takes you to dark places you didn’t think existed, and not in an experimental musical way at all, it is just appalling and the absence of Alice Glass is being felt more than ever for the progressive trance group. If dull pop vibes are your bag, then you’ll love the new Britney Spears and Carly Rae Jepsen projects released this year, I don’t but that doesn’t mean you won’t either. Quick mention of Tory Lanez’s sub-par record too, must do better.

  • High point: Frank Ocean being alive
  • Low point: Bon Iver and Green Day damaging their reps

 

September:

September was a very busy month for us music connoisseurs as so many big names released big albums and for the most part they were big hits, particularly the likes of Solange (Beyonce’s sister), Angel Olsen and Usher who all did good jobs on their work. The stand outs of the month, though, were rappers; which will come as no surprise when you hear the albums released this month. Right at the start of the month we had my Houston man Travis Scott releasing his ‘Rodeo’ follow-up, bizarrely titled ‘Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight’ and it was brilliant, as expected. It wasn’t ‘Rodeo’ but you can hardly blame him for falling short of one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade, especially if he isn’t falling that far short with it. We then had Isaiah Rashad of Top Dawg Entertainment release his album ‘The Sun’s Tirade’ on the same day and it was just as good, if not better, than Travis’. He took the crown of the best TDE project of the year and that is a huge accomplishment in itself. Mac Miller returned later in the month with ‘The Divine Feminine’ and tried his hand at the new wave of funk rap and it turned out to be a success but all of these were trumped by borderline psychopath Danny Brown in his new album ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ and to say it is unorthodox would be the understatement of the century. This album is bonkers, the whole thing is just an unveiling of his inner demons displayed in a crazed serial killer fashion and I love it.

Let’s not forget about the comeback singles of R&B’s king The Weeknd, who teamed with Daft Punk on his track ‘Starboy’ and it shot to number one, he was well and truly back. ‘False Alarm’ was and still is woeful, though.  Another chart hero returned this month, none other than Lady Gaga who bounced back with authority in her comeback track ‘Perfect Illusion’ where she is seen strutting her stuff with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker in the music video, cool as anything I have seen all year. Bastille had the difficult task of following up their huge debut album ‘Bad Blood’ and it went exactly how I expected; an inconsistent project which was inept of a set theme or image, a real transition phase for the London boys. We also saw Jamie T continue his comeback with his fourth album ‘Trick’ and it went down a storm, with lots of people enjoying his latest direction and rekindling the love they first found for him. As well as Jamie T, we also saw Nick Cave make a return with his new album ‘Skeleton Tree’ and although I wasn’t the biggest fan of it, the album was immensely well praised. Is that because it is Nick Cave and he can do no wrong in the eyes of NME? I’ll let you decide…

  • High point: Hip-hop’s domination thanks to Danny, Mac and Travis
  • Low point: Bastille’s flop follow-up

 

October:

HOLD THE PHONE, STOP THE CLOCKS, PAY ATTENTION. MICHAEL BUBLE RELEASED AN ALBUM THAT HAD NO INVOLVEMENT WITH CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER 2016. That was always going to be the headline of this month which was relatively quiet in all honesty, perhaps because we all needed a detox from last month’s stack of releases. In all seriousness, however, we did have some big name releases this month, most notably so from Lady Gaga, who’s album ‘Joanne’ went completely full circle from her previous albums and was far more stripped back than we would have expected from such an eccentric artist and personality. It was pretty good as well  but not my favourite Gaga release. Green Day and Tove Lo had a battle to see who could release the biggest heap of tosh this month as ‘Revolution Radio’ became Green Day’s worst work to date and ‘Lady Wood’ was as pathetic as it sounds from Tove Lo, an artist who I have enjoyed in previous years but no longer. There was also a late runner for the worst album of the year on behalf of Manchester faithfuls The Courteeners, who manage to blow us away in all the wrong ways with ‘Mapping The Rendezvous’, sporting some of the worst and unoriginal sounds of the year, such a shame to see a band like that fall so dramatically.

It is difficult to not get negative about this month when the shoddy releases just kept on coming. Meek Mill’s ‘DC4’ and A$AP Mob’s ‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 1 – Friends’ were a big snooze-fest bar stand out singles coming from them both, which actually contain guest verses that are the highlight of the album, never good. Sum 41 and Kaiser Chiefs made my head explode thanks to mind-numbingly bad releases and Two Door Cinema Club’s comeback album wasn’t much better. Okay, I am giving you the impression that nothing good came from October, but actually there were one or two highlights. Kings Of Leon came back with their seventh album ‘WALLS’ and it was one of my favourites of the year from one of my favourite bands. As well as that we had a good release from XXL Freshman rapper D.R.A.M. which contained ‘Brocolli’ featuring Lil Yachty of course. Leonard Cohen released a surprise album and it soon became apparent as to why he did so.

  • High point: Kings Of Leon’s new sound
  • Low point: Where do I start?

 

November

It’d been quite a while since we lost Prince and there was faith that in terms of musical legends we were safe for the rest of the year; how wrong we would be as Leonard Cohen died in the month of November, less than a month after his final album release, suggesting that he had done what Bowie did and given us a parting gift. Despite the tragedy of this news, we were given a big piece of positivity courtesy of A Tribe Called Quest and their first album in almost 20 years with ‘We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 The Service’. It was like they never left and a fitting tribute to the late member Phife Dawg, providing something he would’ve been very proud of. Their album was somewhat overshadowed, however, by the release of The Weeknd’s album ‘Starboy’ which confirmed all of our suspicions that he could be the modern answer to Michael Jackson, providing soul and attitude over stunning instrumentals. We also had the release of another man who has been related to MJ, and that is Bruno Mars, who brought out ’24k Magic’ out as an album in this month and I enjoyed it, seeing it make my top 50 albums of the year.

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy every album put out this year, mainly because Metallica brought one out too. Now I find Metallica insufferable at the best of times, but at least their old music produced technically good songs, this is just poor from top to bottom. My favourites in the entire world, The Chainsmokers, released the best album I have ever heard in my entire life and ever will here in my entire life with their ‘Collage’ EP (please recognise this as sarcasm because it is, the EP made me physically ill). Little Mix brought out a new album and you’ll be shocked to hear that it sounds like every other girl band ever, oh wait no you won’t. On a lighter note we had singles from The xx and Run The Jewels which were really really good.

  • High point: A Tribe Called Quest’s smash return
  • Low point: Leonard Cohen’s passing (The Chainsmokers can count themselves lucky here)

 

December:

And here we have it, the final month of 2016 and this is right up there with my favourites, mainly due to the fact that some of my favourite artists waited until the burning embers of the year to release their music and it was some of the best we have heard all year. I’ll run you through some of the names now: Childish Gambino’s stunning “Awaken, My Love!” which boasted the most passion and soul since James Brown’s prime, Post Malone’s ‘Stoney’ which was everything we wanted and a lot more as Post sounded like a grittier version of Bieber behind hard beats. J Cole stunned the world with his return and ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ has got better and better each time I hear it, would probably push my top 10 of the year now. The Rolling Stones sounded fresh and 40 years younger on blues cover album ‘Blue & Lonesome’ while Kid Cudi was rejuvinated and beyond his dark days of ‘Speedin Bullet’ with his new album ‘Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’. ‘Run The Jewels 3’ was the best Christmas present any of us could ask for and Peter Doherty waved his poetic wand and sounded like a musical George Orwell in ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’.

I’m still not done, by the way. Gucci Mane changed my opinion on him with his hilarious titled banger album ‘The Return Of East Atlanta Santa’ and Ab-Soul proved he isn’t a weak link amongst the Top Dawg giants with his hard-hitting album ‘Do What Thou Wilt’. Jeremih and Chance The Rapper brought out a joint festive mixtape called ‘Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama’ and it was as heart-warming and classy as it sounds. There were only one or two poor showings in this stacked month and one of them is a single from Yung Lean, ‘Frost God’ is just strange but not experimental at all. That is just about all I can see in terms of negatives for this month, not bad going that and it was clear these artists wanted us all to have the merriest of Christmases.

There we are thinking this musical Christmas is perfect, and then we find out it was George Michael’s Last Christmas on this planet before a peaceful passing at his home. Listening to Wham with your pigs in blankets or listening to Club Tropicana snapping your fingers will never be the same again. A truly devastating passing to end a horror show of a year in terms of musical icons proving they too are human beings.

  • High point: Every man and his dog brought out a banging album
  • Low point: Yung Lean made me a sad boi and not in a good way 😦 but seriously it’s probably George Michael dying

 

So there you are, a crazy year full of loss, love and bangers. If 2017 can emulate the headlines and the quality of music created in 2016, I will be a very surprised person. Just for the love of god don’t take any more icons, I’m looking at you Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and most importantly, Rick Astley.