Saturday, 6 December 2014

Flynndie Reviews #52: Top 10 albums of 2014

Written 6th December 2014

Top 10 Albums of 2014
So as the jingle of Christmas Bells is nigh on the horizon the start of December also signals the close of 2014 and that time of the year where I try and put together some sort of list of my favourite albums from the past 12 months.  It has to be said 2014 really has been a ‘Cracker’ for fans of Indie and Alternative music and I’ve found myself really enjoying a lot of new records this year from both old and new bands and this has probably been the most difficult in the four years I’ve been doing these reviews to rank this year’s albums, so needless to say any records in this year’s top ten I would highly recommend if you previously missed them.

So put on your dancing shoes and pack your air guitars as we head out on tour and check out 10 of the top albums from 2014.

#10. Reverend and the Makers – ThirtyTwo (Released 24th February)

February saw the release of the fourth album from Sheffield’s own Reverend and the Makers with their latest record ‘ThirtyTwo’.  The album picks-up well from their previous album ‘@Reverend_Makers’ with a more upbeat feel and vibe from the lively, suggestive innuendo opener ‘Detonator’, to some more chilled-out Dance (‘I-Spy’) while ‘The Devil’s Radio’ and ‘Different Trains’ are laced with witty lyrics from The Reverend himself, Jon McLure, before the album closes with solid single ‘The Only One’ followed by a hard, banging dance tune ‘Your Girl’.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Detonator’, ‘I Spy, ‘The Only One’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Your Girl’ -   

#9. Maxïmo Park – Too Much Information (Released 3rd February)

February also saw the return of Newcastle’s energetic, Indie pop-pickers Maxïmo Park with their fifth record ‘Too Much Information’.  Possibly the band’s most diverse album to-date ‘Too Much Information’ saw the band return with their familiar, frantic guitar tracks (‘Give, Get, Take’, ‘Her Name was Audrey’), to subtle, lo-fi electronica (‘Brain Cells’), the jangly 'Lydia, the ink will never dry', a gentle sprinkling of soft, tender moments (‘Leave this Island’, ‘My Bloody Mind’) also thrown in with some playful, groovy numbers (‘Drinking Martinis’, ‘Midnight on the Hill’) which in all saw another fine album added to Maxïmo Park’s back-catalogue.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Give, Get, Take’, ‘Brain Cells’, ‘My Bloody Mind’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Lydia, the ink will never dry’ -

#8. Nick Mulvey – First Mind (Released 12th May)

If you’re a fan of laid-back, stripped-down acoustic tracks then ‘First Mind’ the debut record from Nick Mulvey is recommended listening.  A beautifully crafted album, laced with charm ‘First Mind’ demonstrates Nick’s vast range of styles while armed with an acoustic guitar featuring charming, gentle pop ballads (‘Fever to the Form’ and the wonderful ‘Meet Me There’), to the tropically sounding ‘Juramidam’ and intricately picked guitar rhythms on ‘Curcurucu’ and ‘Venus’, this is truly a beautiful debut album from a genuinely talented guitarist.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Juramidam’, ‘Fever to the Form’, ‘Curcurucu’ 
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Meet Me There’ -

#7. Royal Blood – Royal Blood (Released 25th August)

Back in March I was lucky enough to go and see this year’s NME Tour and second on the bill that night was this Brighton duo Royal Blood.  I didn’t know what to expect from this two-piece at the time but after watching them that night, they reminded me a little of another famous two-piece the ‘White Stripes’ but more so I was also impressed with their intense, heavy-rock sound also reminding me somewhat of early sounding Muse and Led Zeppelin.  The band’s eponymous debut album didn’t disappoint either and despite its short running-time of 33 minutes, its more than enough for the band’s large sounding, heavy-bluesy rock to deliver a short-sharp, ferocious kick to the balls and still leave you wanting more, with headline tours for the band now selling out within a matter of minutes.

Recommended Songs: ‘Out of the Black’, ‘Come On Over’, ‘Blood Hands’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Little Monster’ -

#6. Nine Black Alps – Candy for the Clowns (Released 21st April)

If it’s hard, industrialist rock you are looking for then ‘Candy for the Clowns’ by Manchester’s Nine Black Alps might just be the album for you.  Opening with full-on, no-nonsense rock ‘Novokaine’ to the coasting guitar sounds of ‘Blackout’ and the edgy cool, swaggering ‘Supermarket Clothes’ before industrialist live favourite ‘Patti’.  While midway through the record is the standout track for me featuring some bitter sweet rock on ‘Morning After’.  The band dabble with American college-rock on ‘Take Me Underground’ while the deluxe version of the album closes with a couple of raw acoustic numbers ‘You Don’t Need Me’ and ‘Power Failure'.  ‘Candy for the Clowns’ sees Nine Black Alps deliver another solid, underground guitar album with well-written tracks.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Novokaine’, ‘Supermarket Clothes’, ‘Patti’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Morning After’ -   

#5. The Rifles – None the Wiser (Released 27th January)

For ‘None the Wiser’ to only be in 5th-place in this list shows some of the quality albums it has been up against this year, as for me this album saw The Rifles really back on top-form.  Returning with some brillantly, fun and catchy mod-rock tracks with openers ‘Minute Mile’ and ‘Heebie Jeebies’, it was perhaps an early indication the band were returning more to their sound of debut album ‘No Love Lost’.  However ‘None the Wiser’ also showcased the band’s sound maturing with the dreamy, acoustic sounds of ‘You Win Some’ and the assured number ‘The Hardest Place to Find Me’ before finishing with epic closer ‘Under and Over’ and this album set the bar high immediately from the start of 2014.

Recommended Songs: ‘Minute Mile’, ‘Heebie Jeebies’, ‘You Win Some’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Go Lucky’ -

#4. Interpol – El Pintor (Released 8th September)

September saw the return of one of New York’s finest Interpol with their 5th studio album ‘El Pintor’, Spanish for ‘The Painter’ but also doubling as an anagram of the band’s name.  Released 4-years after their eponymous fourth album, for me ‘El Pintor’ saw Interpol back on top form.  Building with a tender guitar-riff and Paul Bank’s distinct vocals ‘All the Rage Back Home’ is a great opener which slowly builds into a full crescendo of a solid guitar track.  The band are noted for their post-punk, brooding guitar sound with intricate guitar riffs found here on ‘Same Town, New Story’ and there are further fine examples here with ‘My Desire’ and standout number ‘My Blue Supreme’.  ‘Anywhere’ and ‘Ancient Ways’ finds the band hitting back with some great full-on guitar rock, and brooding album closer ‘Twice As Hard’ is one of my favourite closing Interpol tracks since ‘Leif Erikson’ from debut album ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’.

Recommended Tracks: ‘All the Rage Back Home’, ‘Anywhere’, ‘My Blue Supreme’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Same Town, New Story’ -

#3. Howler – World of Joy (Released 24th March)

Early Spring saw the return of young Minneapolis upstarts Howler with their second album ‘World of Joy’.   Lead-singer Jordan Gatesmith described this album’s sound as “supposed to be almost like a jukebox at some sloppy bar in Minneapolis” and that really hits the nail on the head with this record.  From the Thin Lizzy sounding opener ‘Al’s Corral’ making a great start to the album, we hear the band sounding like The Ramones on ‘Drip’ and capturing a raw, garage-rock sound with a number of tracks such as ‘Yacht Boys’ and the fun guitar-rock of ‘Louise’.  For me it’s the jangly guitar sounds of ‘Don’t Wanna’ and ‘The itch that creeps through my skull’ that are the standout tracks of this record surely influenced by The Smiths and this second album really saw Howler mature and show a diverse range of tracks they can create on this brilliant record which I’ve had on constant repeat throughout 2014.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Al’s Corral’, ‘Don’t Wanna’, ‘Louise’

Personal Favourite Track: ‘The itch that creeps through my skull’ (live) - 

#2. Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony (Released 15th September)

With their full-on explosive, rock ‘n’ roll sound ‘The Balcony’ was the excellent debut album from Catfish and the Bottlemen.  Four young, cocky but fun lads originally hailing from Llandudno, Wales these boys have spent a good number of years dedicated to live touring and honing their explosive rock sound.  With thoughtful opener ‘Homesick’ setting the pace, this quickly gets build on with the excellent track ‘Kathleen’ which I previously described in my review of this album as Indie-Rock tracks go this is nigh-on fucking perfection”.  ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Pacifer’ further demonstrate the fun, cool, loud rock sounds of this band with infectious guitar riffs and rhythms and lead-singer Van McCann’s distinct, crisp vocals throughout.  The hits continue with further incredibly tight rock tracks ‘Business’ and the up-tempo ‘26’ before closing with the brilliantly cool live favourites ‘Sidewinder’ and ‘Tyrants’. The Balcony features 11 easy-listening but incredibly well-written and exciting rock tracks that will surely see Catfish and the Bottlemen go onto much bigger things. 

Recommended Songs: ‘Homesick’, ‘Cocoon’, ‘Pacifier’, ‘Sidewinder’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Kathleen’ - 

#1. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave (Released 27th October)

Returning with their fourth album this year were the distinctly Scottish band The Twilight Sad with the incredibly, beautifully crafted ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave’ and finds itself in the #1 spot on my albums of the year list.  Returning with ‘There’s a girl in the corner’ this saw the band retain their brooding, edgy guitar sound while ‘Last January’ featured a more upbeat yet haunting guitar rhythm with the beautifully crafted tales lead-singer James Graham masterly paints on this album.  A dark, thoughtful yet tender and gentle record throughout laced with charming, hauntingly sounding fairy-tales (‘Pills I Swallow’) we also have an agonisingly beautiful standout track with ‘It Never Was the Same’.  This is yet another finely crafted, edgy, haunting record by The Twilight Sad and is one of the standout albums of 2014 for me.

Recommended Tracks: ‘There’s A Girl in the Corner’, ‘Last January’, ‘Pills I Swallow’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘It Never was the Same’ -

So that covers some of my favourite albums of 2014. Many thanks for taking the time to read and if you have any recommendations of records for me to check out as well, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section below or send them across on Twitter.

Here’s to more Alternative, Indie and Rock music in 2015!


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Flynndie Reviews #51: The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave

Written 28th October 2014:

The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to be here and Nobody Wants to Leave

The Band: James Graham (vocals), Andy MacFarlane (guitars) Mark Devine (Drums), Johnny Doherty (bass)

This week sees the return of Scottish alternative-rockers The Twilight Sad with this their fourth album ‘Nobody Wants to be here and Nobody Wants to Leave’.  Originally hailing from Kilsyth, Scotland the band have built a loyal and dedicated following with three well-received albums under their belts from their full-debut record ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’ receiving critical-acclaim back in 2007, followed by 2009’s excellent, brooding and guitar-distortion heavy second-album ‘Forget the Night Ahead’.  2012 saw the band’s third album ‘No One Can Ever Know’ still capturing the band’s intense and cavernous live sound while the record was more laced with synths and electronics throughout, now leading us up to this week’s latest album release.

Nobody Wants to be here and Nobody Wants to Leave

1.     There’s A Girl In The Corner
2.     Last January
3.     I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want
4.     It Never Was The Same
5.     Drown So I Can Watch
6.     In Nowheres
7.     Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
8.     Pills I Swallow
9.     Leave The House
10.  Sometime I Wish I Could Fall Asleep

With a nicely picked electric-guitar riff and an arena-filling drum-rhythm ‘There’s a Girl in the Corner’ opens the record with distinct backing-synths helping to set the dark, haunting tone for this album alongside James’ distinctly Scottish vocals “You’re not coming back/She’s not coming back for more…There’s a girl in the corner/and she’s crying for you”.  It’s a slow-burner and deliberately crafted track that sets the early dark tone for ‘Nobody Wants to be Here’.  Second-track ‘Last January’, previously previewed by the band online and in recent live performances, has a more up-tempo rhythm and percussion to it with spooky synths and a nice bridge “And they say you can’t be won/And it’s your eyes…touching my eyes”.  ‘I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want’ continues with another upbeat tempo and particularly a driving bass-line at its heart from Johnny intertwined with electric-guitar strums from Andy before we have a stand-out track on the record ‘It Never Was The Same’.  Initially another slowed-down, synth-driven song it has real endearing and touching vocals midway through the track from James “So we danced to save them all/We asked to save them all/We tried to save them all/You didn’t have to kill them all”.  This track is a strong highlight early on in the record.
  • The Twilight Sad previously stormed through a headline set at The Boston Rooms, Camden
‘Drown So I Can Watch’ despite being a brutally bleak track-title sees guitars and bass pulse this track along, while James’ vocals portray a rocky relationship between a couple “I put you through hell/But you carried it all so well/You carried it all so well”.  This is a heartfelt, honest track yet with a captivating, alluring charm about it.  Midway through the record ‘In Nowheres’ is the loudest track on the album so far, featuring heavy guitar-riffs from Andy and James’ vocals coming across with a distant effect here creating a broad and large sounding rock-track, before title-track ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave’ sees guitars, bass, synths and percussion all chug-away together in union as one with the real-focus on James’ cryptic story-telling here “Can you stay tomorrow?/You won’t leave tomorrow/I don’t know where we went wrong?”  This an atmospheric, brooding track, a featured trademark sound of The Twilight Sad.

‘Pills I Swallow’ is another bleak track-title but also another charmer of a track, again with a haunting sound about it featuring a sweet, twinkling gentle synth-melody hand-holding the track along nicely “It’s you/It’s always you/Telling me what to do”.  It’s like the soundtrack to an eerie, unrequited fairy-tale.  Lovely stuff.  Penultimate track ‘Leave the House’ is another, stripped-down, slower affair with organ-like synths and gentle percussion featuring alongside James’ dulcet tones gently repeating lines “And I see you/I see you/It’s lonely in the dark/Lonely in the dark” and more intensely further into the song “I’ve been put to bed/I’ve been put bed/I’ve been put to bed/I don’t know what you know” with a more rocky guitar-riff midway through the track, before we have album closer ‘Sometimes I Wish I Could Fall Asleep’.  Again another stripped-down haunting track with gentle piano notes being featured here it’s very much a closing ballad for the record with soft percussion coursing throughout it and crisp, tender vocals here again from James “You don’t love me anymore/You don’t need me anymore/And we’ve been left behind” and is possibly the most moving track on the album.

‘Nobody Wants to be here and Nobody Wants to Leave’ doesn’t pull any punches with its content; it’s a dark, bleak and brutally honest record yet at the same time an amazingly haunting and beautiful piece of work all the same which flourishes with repeated listens.  If you’re familiar with the band’s previous albums you will have expected nothing less here but let’s be clear here that The Twilight Sad are a band that masterfully hone and carefully craft the songs that they write and this album arguably sees the band at the height of their song-writing.  As I say I found this to be a tender and sublime record, that has a tendency to reveal further charms with repeated listens and I’m going to give this one 9/10 as it’s refreshing to see a band, pushing and challenging themselves to create a sound that’s really true to them.  I highly recommend to watch the acoustic session below to see the amazingly beautiful sound the band create on this latest record.    

It Never Was the Same

Track 1 ‘There’s a Girl in the Corner’

Track 2 ‘Last January’

The Twilight Sad - Acoustic Session for Tenement TV

Band Website: