Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #20: Top 8 Albums of 2011 - Part 1

Written 1st December 2011:

Top 8 Albums of 2011 – Part 1

So today rather than write an album review, I’ve decided to pick and reflect back on my top 8 favourite albums of the year for 2011. I plan to give a bit of an overview of each album (most of which I have previously reviewed on here during the course of the year) so I’ve decided to split this into two parts, first counting down from #8 to #5 in part 1 and then of course #4 to the inaugural #1 ‘Flynndie Album of the Year’!

Now of course these choices are just my personal preferences and I have no special criteria in picking which album I’ve rated higher than another, after all this list is purely for fun and are my own choices, other than which albums I’ve genuinely enjoyed listening to the most, yet it has still taken me some time to decide on my Top 8 albums this year and even more difficult to decide on their order but this 2-part Blog will reveal my overall choices.

However, if you do disagree or feel I’ve missed an album out on this list, I would be more than happy to view and listen to other reader’s favourite albums of the year, so feel free to post any comments or recommendations at the end of this Blog. You may also notice that I’ve rated some albums higher than others, despite me awarding a higher-score on my initial reviews, but this is due to my marks being given in my reviews on my initial first impressions of the album and over the course of the year, I’ve at times found myself listening to a high-rated album more hence it’s higher position on this list.

So let’s get this show on the road then and weighing in at #8 pop-pickers is………

#8. Kaiser Chiefs – The Future is Medieval (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #14 – 8/10)

So the Kaiser Chiefs who had been on the quiet side the past couple of years suddenly popped back on the scene again, with a previously unannounced album and an excellent promotion of their new album whereby they let fans compile their own choice of 10-tracks from an available selection of 20 from their website. After this, demand led to a full CD release containing 13-tracks, one previously unheard, and to be fair I thought it was a real return to form for them and back on a par with their decent 1st two albums ‘Employment’ and ‘Yours truly, Angry Mob’. The album very much goes back to the sound of some of their early material with songs such as ‘Little Shocks’, ‘Dead or in Serious Trouble’ and ‘When all is quiet’ but as I said previously in my review I felt their new songs, such as ‘Child of the Jago’ and ‘If you will have me’, now showed a more mature side of the band than some of their earlier material yet still retaining the light-hearted, cheeky, charm the band are known to bring to their music. I think this album as a whole really does contain a good range of songs that collectively sum up what the band’s music to date is all about.

Recommended Songs: ‘Little Shocks’, ‘Child of the Jago’, ‘If you will have me’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Heard it Break’

#7. Ben Howard – Every Kingdom (Previously un-reviewed)

So a lot of readers first thought’s here maybe “Who’s Ben Howard?” To be honest it was quite by luck that I came across his music having heard early single ‘The Wolves’ used on the amazing short-film ‘Industrial Revolutions’ featuring free-style cyclists Danny Macaskill (which you can view here I instantly fell in love with this track and upon hearing a couple of other tracks from the forthcoming album ‘Every Kingdom’ I started to develop high hopes for this debut album and fortunately it didn’t disappoint. With a very acoustic, rural and folk feel throughout the record, I often feel an album as stripped down as this need to have songs and guitar playing to the highest quality and Ben happily delivers just such in this debut effort. You can really tell how much thought and care has been put into each note on every song on this record and for me this is a fine debut, acoustic effort.

Recommended Songs: ‘Old Pine’, ‘Only Love’, ‘The Fear’, ‘Keep your head up’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘The Wolves’

#6. R.E.M. – Collapse into Now (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #10 – 9/10)

In at #6 on the list turned out to be the swansong album from a band that had by now seemed to be around forever (or at least the past 25 years!) Some R.E.M. albums can be a little bit hit and miss for me and personally I find myself mostly more into their earlier material, with their last truly great album being ‘Up’ in my opinion. However, refreshingly for a change I think R.E.M. finally delivered an album that lives up to their great legacy and have made an album where I don’t find myself skipping the odd occasional track. Admittedly, upon listening to this album I found myself comparing tracks similar in sound to previous R.E.M. tracks (for example ‘Oh My Heart’ sounding like a follow-up to ‘Houston’ from the album ‘Accelerate’ and last track ‘Blue’ having a very similar style to ‘E-Bow the Letter’ from ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’) but when the tracks sound as good as those it’s hardly a criticism of the album. Whether the band were already conscious that this would be the last R.E.M. album or not, I think they certainly made a worthy record to encompass the band’s legacy and a fitting album for their send off and in my opinion their best for some 10 years!

Recommended Songs: ‘Oh My Heart’, ‘Mine Smells like Honey’, ‘Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘ƜBerlin’

#5. Kasabian – Velociraptor! (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #18 – 8/10)

Now we’re starting to reach this year’s ‘big-hitters’ and in at #5 for me are Kasabian with their latest effort named after, of all things, a dinosaur ‘Velociraptor!’ I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the latest offering from Kasabian, however, the band have delivered their 4th successive, solid album while encompassing a fair range of sounds from different genres yet all the time retaining a trademark Kasabian feel about them on this album. The album itself features the band dabbling with retro guitar-fused-jazz with opening track ‘Let’s roll just like we used too’, from the typical guitar anthems we all know and love from Kasabian on tracks such as ‘Days are Forgotten’ and ‘Rewired’ to the more electronic, Indie-club style tracks of ‘I hear Voices’ and ‘Switchblade Smiles’. For me though personally, the standout track on the album is ‘Turkish Acid Bath (Shelter from the Storm)’. It’s actually quite a different track from anything Kasabian have done in the past, featuring verses backed with sounds associated with a Turkish folk-market used on films, but featuring deliciously dark lyrics and snarls throughout, this is certainly a brooding track and my personal favourite. Suffice to say Kasabian have returned again with another album to add proudly to their ever-developing legacy.

Recommended Songs: ‘Let’s roll just like we used to’, ‘Days are Forgotten’, ‘Switchblade Smiles’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Turkish Acid Bath (Shelter from the Storm)’

So that covers my first four selections in my ‘Top 8 albums of 2011’ list, needless to say in the 2nd part of this Blog, I shall reveal my #4 to 1 albums, mention a few other albums I liked that just fell short of my Top 8 and list a few band’s whose records I’m already looking forward to into 2012!

Still Rocking in 2011 ‘Flynny’

Friday, 18 November 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #19: Howler - This One's Different EP

Written 18th November 2011:

Howler – This One’s Different EP

The Band: Jordan Gatesmith (vocals, guitar), Max Petrek (keyboards), Brent Mayes (drums), Ian Nygaard (guitar).

So today’s review, much like the record in question, is a little bit different as rather than reviewing a full album, I’m going to review a recent EP of an up-and-coming band, Howler, hailing from Minneapolis in the States with their ‘This One’s Different’ EP which was released at the start of August. The band are currently on tour in the UK with ‘Frankie and the Heartstrings’ and ‘The Vaccines’ so now seems an ideal time to take a look back at this early EP from them, as I suspect songs from this will feature on the tour, and I’ve been listening to this record for a good few months now.

Running Order

1. For All Concern
2. I Told You Once
3. This One’s Different
4. You like White Women I like Cigarettes
5. 14 Days

Right so things get away with a buzzing, garage-rock-like riff kicking-in for opening track ‘For All Concern’. This won’t be the last time I say this in this review, but as the track steadily flows along you instantly pick up the ‘Surfer-vibe’ type sound the band intentionally re-create throughout this record. As an opening-track I think this is a great way to start the record with a catchy main guitar-riff throughout and simple but effective lines “I’m easy to love/But easy to hate” and through the chorus as lead singer, Jordan Gatesmith, croons “I can’t be you’re only one/It’s not me that’s on the run” holding the song together nicely and is a great way to start to the EP.

‘I Told You Once’ follows which initially has a much more acoustic vibe than the frantic pace and rhythm of the EP’s opener while still retaining a big-sound for the band. As the track gets into full-swing, the band re-creates the sound of an easy-going, beach-party in my opinion despite lyrics “I wish there was something that I could do/Cause I hate myself more than I hate you” suggesting that the song implies a strain on couple’s relationship but this song has anything but a downbeat vibe about it and it is more likely you would get caught up in the easy-flowing rhythm and sound of the track.

Title-track ‘This One’s Different’ is probably the stand-out track on the EP. Again with a very much garage-rock feel to it, this returns to a fast and furious pace of opening track ‘For All Concern’. Possibly the biggest complement I can pay this track is that it sounds very much like The Strokes if they had been up all-night taking Speed and features some excellently-timed guitar solos that pulse through the veins of this song and ultimately the EP overall!

Next up with have the excellently titled ‘You like White Women I like Cigarettes’ and this track features the biggest ‘Surfer’ feel about it yet on the EP! The song has a real ‘Beach Boys’ feel about it in my opinion and certainly wouldn’t be out of place on ‘The Happy Days’ Jukebox (Ask your parent’s kids!) Flying past quickly at just 2 minutes, the song manages to cram in yet another catchy guitar track, with some backing-keys thrown in for good measure on this one too.

The EP closes with ’14 Days’ and we go back to the garage-roots-rock from earlier, but this time certainly at a more leisurely tempo than ‘For All Concern’ and ‘This One’s Different’. The track literally coasts along nicely and cleverly towards the end of the track, the band slowly start to reverse back through the sound of the first two choruses of the song and most likely reverse back into a garage where it’s clear the band have rehearsed so hard to nail their unique but accomplished sound throughout this EP.

I think fans of the early Strokes records and the recent Vaccines album will take to this EP like a surfboard-to-water (see what I did there?!) The band clearly had a defined sound that they wanted to create for this EP and through all 5 tracks I feel they nail it to a high standard each time! As I said early in this review I’ve had the EP for a few months now but I still find this EP refreshing to listen to with each listen and 20 minutes just fly-by when I put this on in the background. I’m very keen to see how many of these tracks, if they decide to use any, make it on to the band’s first full debut album but bearing in mind how young a band they are too I’m hoping to see them go on to big things in the future and for the EP for the time-being I’m going to award it 8 Howls out of 10! The EP is currently available from ‘Rough Trade’ records on 12” vinyl (nice!) or as a download so feel free to check it out some time (, as this is one band I’m keeping a close eye on for the future!

Always the Same ‘Flynny’

Track 1 ‘For All Concern’

Track 4 ‘You like White Women I like Cigarettes’