Thursday, 6 December 2012

Flynndie Reviews: #35 - Top 10 Albums of 2012 - Part 2

Written 7th December 2012:

Top 10 Albums of 2012 – Part 2

Ok, so following on from my last Blog here is the second part of my favourite 10 albums from 2012.  If you missed Part 1, fear not dear reader as you can still find the Blog here or by simply scrolling down the page to after this post.  However, if you did read Part 1, well firstly many thanks for the support and secondly I hope you enjoy reading Part 2 which, with air-guitars still at the ready, we shall jump straight into with a great up-and-coming young band hailing from The US-of-A, Minneapolis.

#5. Howler – America Give Up (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #22 – 8/10)

Arriving on the scene in early January this year, young up-starts Howler released their debut album ‘America Give Up’.  Now long time readers may know I’m quite a fan of this bright, young band’s slasher, surfer-rock Indie style and this debut album certainly didn’t disappoint when it arrived.  With a collection of fast, catchy garage-rock tracks the band very much remind me of a lite version of The Strokes from the beach-party styled opener ‘Beach Sluts’ to ‘This One’s Different’ reminding me very much of the juke box from the old TV series ‘Happy Days’ (ask your parents kids!).  ‘Told You Once’ continues the classic 60’s Diner theme, while uniquely titled ‘Pythagorean Fearem’ reminds me a lot of the dark, sinister sound the band ‘80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster’ were famed for.  Throw in more fast, paced garage-rock with incredibly catchy tracks ‘Wailing (Making Out) and excellent closer ‘Black Lagoon’ and what we have here are a fun, exciting young band, which if you’re a fan on band’s like The Strokes, The Vaccines and to an extend The Libertines and missed this early album from 2012, then I would highly recommend it!

Recommended Tracks: ‘Beach Sluts’, ‘Wailing (Making Out)’, ‘Told You Once, ‘Black Lagoon’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘This One’s Different’ -

Howler brought their Surfer, Garage-Rock sound to The Garage back in January
#4. Maximo Park – The National Health (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #26 – 9/10)

Our next stop on this journey through 2012 see’s us arrive in the North-East; Newcastle to be exact with the long-awaited return of Maximo Park and their 4th studio album ‘The National Health’.  And in my opinion it was well worth the wait as ‘The National Health’ saw the band on real top-form this year, really pushing at the boundaries of the fast, paced guitar sound the band are famed for.  From opening piano ballad ‘When I was Wild’, a surprising start to the record but sets it up nicely, we then had the more ‘traditional’ Maximo Park guitar sound on title-track ‘The National Health’ and the sound continued to be found on tracks ‘Until the Earth would Open’ and ‘Wolf Among Men’, which I always find I can’t help but dance to every time I hear it.  Also featuring more, ‘darker’ electro-pop on previous single ‘Hips and Lips’ and ‘Banlieue’; we also then had the sweeter, more romantic side of Maximo Park on tracks ‘The Undercurrents’, ‘Reluctant Love’ and ‘Unfamiliar Places’.  It’s fair to say the band really challenged themselves and packed quite an impressive range of tracks into a 40-minute record and again this has been another record I’ve found myself listening to a lot this year.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Hips and Lips’, ‘The Undercurrents’, ‘Reluctant Love’, ‘Wolf Among Men’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘The National Health’ -

#3. The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #24 – 9/10)

We next head further North still to Kilsyth, Scotland as The Twilight Sad released their 3rd album in February this year with ‘No One Can Ever Know’, the follow-up to their fantastic second album ‘Forget the Night Ahead’.  The distinctly Scottish band returned with another collection of dark, intense and cryptic songs with a generous dose of synths, electronics and even accordions applied to tracks throughout the record.  Each track acts very much as a ‘chapter’ through the record, ranging from opener ‘Alphabet’ setting the more synth-based direction of this album, to the more traditional guitar tracks by the band in the momentum building and fast paced guitar track ‘Dead City’ and then the excellently told tale by third track ‘Sick’.  More synth-heavy tracks appear on the album in the form of ‘Don’t Move’ and ‘Don’t Look at Me’, while we have two excellent Indie-dance tracks closing the album with Joy Division-esque track ‘Another Bed’ and the excellent, building closing track ‘Kill It in the Morning’.  The Twilight Sad seem to remain another very underground Indie band but their style of dark, cryptic and intense guitar and synth-based tracks have a real charm about them and ‘No One Can Ever Know’ is yet another brillant album by a band I would highly recommend to check out and especially go see live.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Alphabet’, ‘Sick’, ‘Don’t Move’, ‘Don’t Look at Me’
Personal Favourite Track(s):
‘Dead City’ -
‘Kill It in the Morning’ - (Live)

The Twilight Sad stormed through an intense set at The Borderline earlier this year

#2. Two Door Cinema Club - Beacon (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #30 – 9/10)

From Kilsyth, Scotland, we next travel to Bangor, Northern Ireland as September saw Two Door Cinema Club release their much anticipated second album ‘Beacon’ the follow-up to their successful debut album ‘Tourist History’.  ‘Beacon’ was released the same week as The Vaccines album ‘Come of Age’ and while the latter may have won that particular chart battle that week, I’ve found myself listening to this album slightly more of the two over the course of the year.  A record laced with the band’s now more familiar fast-paced, guitar and synth pop tracks this album really builds on the band’s debut record for me.  Each track tends to unfold a tale through lead singer Alex Tremble’s falsetto voice and lyrics; this is particularly evident on tracks such as opener ‘Next Year’ and previous single ‘He Sleeps Alone’.  Some of the tracks on the album are just brilliantly put together and build slowly then explode lavishly bold in their style of music and vocals see ‘Sun’, ‘Settle’ and particularly ‘The World is watching (with Valentina)’ for examples of this and overall this has been a highly enjoyable album.

Recommended Songs: ‘Sun’, ‘Sleep Alone’, The World is watching (with Valentina)
Personal Favourite Track(s):
‘Someday’ - (Live at Reading Festival 2012)
‘Settle’ - (Live at Brixton Academy)

#1. Bloc Party - Four (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #29 – 8/10)

So the final date on our tour of 2012 sees us arrive in London as Bloc Party returned with their cunningly named fourth album ‘Four’ also ironically released four years after their previous album ‘Intimacy’.  There was a lot of speculation as to what direction the band would take with this album, after their very rocky, Indie-based debut ‘Silent Alarm, to the more ‘chilled-out’ ‘A Weekend in the City’ and the previously mentioned ‘Initmacy’ which showed more of a nod to the Indie Dance scene.  I think what we got with ‘Four’ from Bloc Party was actually a blend of all three of their previous albums to date, making for a unique, eclectic range of tracks from intense, guitar-heavy Indie rock on tracks ‘3x3’, recent single ‘Kettling’ and ‘V.A.L.I.S.’, to the more serene, softer tracks such as the banjo-featuring ‘Real Talk’ and the beautifully sublime ‘Day Four’, to the post-punk sound found on closing track ‘We’re Not Good People’.  Throw in some dance-vibes on comeback single ‘Octopus’ and the excellent and urgent ‘Team A’, plus a couple of old-school sounding Bloc Party bonus tracks in ‘Mean’ and ‘Leaf Skeleton’ on the deluxe version of the album and basically this album formed a great return from the band.  I said at the time I reviewed this, the album felt like ‘a grower’ and this has certainly proved to be the case for me during 2012.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Octopus’, ‘Day Four’, ‘Real Talk’, ‘We’re Not Good People’
Personal Favourite Track(s):
‘Kettling’ -   
‘Team-A’’ - (Live at Koko)

So that concludes my Top 10 albums of 2012, I hope you’ve enjoyed my selections and if you have any good recommendations of albums I may have missed this year and are not on my list, feel free to send me some recommendations across on Twitter or leave them in the comments section below.  Many thanks for taking the time to read the Blog and here’s looking forward to some great Indie and alternative music in 2013!
Rocking into 2013


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Flynndie Reviews #34: Top 10 Albums of 2012 - Part 1

Written 4th December 2012:

Top 10 Albums of 2012 – Part 1

So following on from last year, I’ve decided to compile my favourite Indie/alternative albums from the past 12 months and list my personal favourite selections here again. I personally think 2012 has been quite a good year in general for fans of Indie and alternative music, with the main theme seemingly to be all about ‘the comeback album’ with quite a few bands returning with either their eagerly anticipated follow-up to a decent debut record but also in some cases the long-awaited return from popular, fan-favourite bands with the big question being: “Have they still got it?”

I’ve again decided to split this Blog into two parts with 5 albums each and of course these choices are just my personal preferences. I have no special criteria in picking which album I’ve rated higher than another, after all this list is purely for fun, other than which albums I’ve genuinely enjoyed listening to the most through the year. Yet even putting this list together it has really taken me quite some considerable time to pick an order for the ‘top ten’ so basically if an album appears on this list then at the end of the day it’s an album I would recommend checking out. You may also notice that I’ve rated some albums I previously reviewed with a lower mark higher than others but this is purely because of what mark I gave the albums when I reviewed them at their time of release while this list focuses more on what I’ve eventually found myself listening to more during the course of 2012.

Anyway, that’s enough of the introductory waffle for now, let’s pack our air guitars and head out on tour, starting in Llandudno, Wales…

#10. Catfish and the Bottlemen – Beautiful Decay EP (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #25 – 8/10)

Right, so I’m ‘breaking the rules’ slightly on the list straight away by sneakily sneaking in an EP at #10 here but having listened to this band a lot in 2012 I felt it would be a shame for them to not feature in an end of year review. So the EP in question is the ‘Beautiful Decay EP’ from Llandudno’s very own Catfish and the Bottlemen. What we have here is an excellent, tight, Indie-Rock 6-track EP, kicking off with two excellent tracks ‘Sidewinder’ and ‘Bodies’ both of which would make great debut singles for most bands. The EP is packed full of the band’s distinctly, incredibly catchy guitar melodies and solos, not too far off capturing the type of sound of some of the early Arctic Monkey’s material in my opinion, while lead-singer Van’s crisp, clear vocals depict tales of the fast-paced, hustle and bustle of life and every day relationships, a tried and tested formula but one that everyone can relate to and really done to great effect here on the record. The most impressive thing about this EP for me though, is how tight and spot on the band are with their timing but this is surely down to the fact that these lads tour relentlessly! Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen many other bands put in a commitment to a live schedule in 2012 as much as these lads and I genuinely believe they are one to watch for 2013 which will hopefully see the release of a full debut album by them.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Sidewinder’, ‘Harlot’, ‘Tyrants’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Bodies’ -

Catfish and the Bottlemen played Queen of Hoxton earlier this year

#9. The Vaccines – Come of Age (Previously un-reviewed)

Early September saw the return of garage-rock favourites The Vaccines with the follow-up to their 2011 debut ‘What did you expect from The Vaccines?’ with this year’s release ‘Come of Age’. And for me this is an appropriately fitting album title for the band, with this year’s follow-up really seeing the band progress and mature musically from their previously successful debut record. ‘Come of Age’ saw the band cleverly put together a record featuring tracks of nicely written Indie-Guitar-Pop on tracks like opener ‘No Hope’ and ‘Teenage Icon’ to the desperate, urgency on ‘Bad Mood’ to charming tracks ‘Aftershave Ocean’ and ‘I Wish I was a Girl, while yet, and here’s the clever bit, blending them with very much 60’s Blues sounding tracks such as ‘I Always Knew’, ‘All in Vain’ and ‘Weirdo’ and while the mention of Blues may set off alarm bells ringing for some, I genuinely think the band capture the style very well here on this record, giving them a much more distinct identity and really see the band ‘Come of Age’. (Boooooo, terrible pun!)

Recommended Tracks: ‘No Hope’, ‘Aftershave Ocean’, ‘Bad Mood’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Teenage Icon’ - 

#8. Muse – The Second Law (Previously un-reviewed)

Moving swiftly on, 2012 saw the long-awaited return of Muse with their 6th studio album ‘The Second Law’. Arguably one of the biggest band’s in the World these days, there is always extremely high-anticipation when a new Muse album is released and I think that while not quite on par with their first four albums, ‘The Second Law’ mostly delivers another great Muse record to the fans with a few ‘marmite’ tracks on it that you’ll either like instantly or take time to get into. Packed with some great tracks throughout from the very James Bond-esque opener ‘Supremacy’, to the epic building ‘Follow Me’ and then the low-fi piano and bass driven, old-school sounding Muse on ‘Animals’ there are a great range of tracks throughout the record as well as debut lead vocals from bassist Chris Wolstenholme on tracks ‘Save Me’ and ‘Liquid State’. While I initially struggled with previous singles ‘Madness’ and ‘Survival’ they have grown on me with more listens and overall I felt this was another great, ambitious album in Muse’s repertoire, with a hint of Queen thrown in throughout the album as well.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Supremacy’, ‘Madness’, ‘Follow Me’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Animals’ -

#7. Reverend and the Makers – @Reverend_Makers (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #28 – 8/10)

Our next album on the list sees us arrive in Sheffield with the return of ‘Reverend and the Makers’. After their excellent debut album ‘The State of Things’ and it’s follow-up ‘A French Kiss in the Chaos’, 2012 finally saw the band return after a long hiatus with their latest effort '@Reverend_Makers'. Going back much more to their roots of the first album, this latest record from the band sees them effortlessly blend a great range of Indie tracks with very much a dance vibe at the heart of them, with tracks like ‘Bassline’ and ‘Depth Charge’ restoring memories of the Hedonistic sounds of the Ibiza Clubbing scene back at the end of the 90’s. However, the real credit to the album has been its success despite very little mainstream airplay and this is because the tracks on the album really stand out on its own and has built a good following via word of mouth. Throw in a bonus CD with remixes and a further few extra tracks and this year’s return from Reverend and the Makers was certainly worth the long wait and a real return to form.

Recommended Songs: ‘Bassline’, ‘Warts ‘n’ All’, ‘The Wrestler’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Out of the Shadows’ -

#6. Nine Black Alps – Sirens (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #32 – 7/10)

From Sheffield we next head to Manchester and the return of Indie, grunge rockers Nine Black Alps with this their latest fourth album ‘Sirens’. This album goes much more back to the band’s roots of the grunge rock which featured heavily on their debut album ‘Everything Is’. Featuring, instant, catchy rock tracks throughout from opening tracks ‘Be My Girl’, ‘Don’t’ Forget to Breath’ and ‘My One and Only’ the album has a real feel of a personal note from the band back to the fans with tracks having a traditional Nine Black Alps feel to them. The album also features cleverly layered Indie tracks that build throughout, for example on the brilliantly titled ‘Phospherence’ and ‘What You Wanted’, but for me one of the stand-out tracks on the album is the brilliant acoustic ballad ‘Waiting Room’, showing the real-depths of song writing the band are capable off. Nine Black Alps still remain quite an underground Indie-Rock band but this album sums up the sound of the band very well and is a good starting-point if you have not heard any material from them before.
Nine Black Alps rocking the Borderline back in October

Recommended Tracks: ‘Be My Girl’, ‘Don’t forget to Breath’, ‘Phospherence’, ‘Penny Cinderella’
Personal Favourite Track(s):
‘My One and Only’ -
‘Waiting Room’ -

So that covers my first five selections in my ‘Top 10 albums of 2012’ list. Needless to say in the 2nd part of this Blog, which I plan to post up within the next week, I shall reveal my top 5 albums of the year!

Still Rocking in 2012