Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Nigel Thomas - Well Well [Album Review]

Nigel Thomas' latest album is 'Well Well', an album that harks back five decades to the sound of the experimental sixties mixed with elements of jazz. At its best during its more energetic first-half, it has echoes of The Beatles, alongside Franz Ferdinand's more recent albums, in its eclectic, often light-psychedelic sound.

Opener Rita is a perky, jazz-infused, off-kilter number dedicated to the titular lady. With a heady mixture of instruments, ragga piano and harmonica, it has the feel of a high-energy performance in a jazz club and you can almost picture Ryan Gosling bouncing along in a theoretical sequel to ‘La La Land’. Stepping Up continues the energy of the LP, offering up a quirky catchy number with some smooth instrumental solos, and a huge pop feel. With shades of Squeeze but more off-the-wall, it’s hard to listen to it without a smile on your face.

I’ve Seen Forever is a slower number with one ear towards the indie ballads of the early Kaiser Chiefs albums or the Hoosiers mixed in with the psychedelia of the Beatles whilst 
Your Fire, the highlight of the album for me, proves to be an upbeat and energetic number that bounces along with plenty of energy. It employs driving guitars, a catchy chorus, shifts in style and some nursery rhyming interpolated into the lyrics. Your Fire throws a lot at the wall but most of it sticks.

The title track Well Well is a more somnambulant number that ebbs and flows in a manner that Pink Floyd would be proud of whilst Alchemy Rose, a darker song in tone, is more focused on the guitar, with a 70s rock vibe at times, like a light Status Quo meets Franz Ferdinand.

I’ve Been Thinking continues with the theme of the guitar, this time going all Jimi Hendrix with its darker vibe. Its repetitive chorus will hook you in.

Spinning (Flat Earth Theory) is my least favourite on the album and it knocks things down a notch, though does it in a cool manner. It just lacks the spark of some of the earlier tracks.
Settle Down, which begins with the sound of a crackling fire permeating the background, is a dark and introspective number, and keeps the mood moving, before closer Smiling and Laughing lifts the album once more with an eccentric pop song, that sounds like a modern George Formby if he discovered more credible pop music.

Overall Well Well is another strong album from Nigel Thomas. At its best when its upbeat and catchy, the mix of crisp production, jazz and Beatles-like vibes work really well.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Kaiser Chiefs - Duck

The Chiefs are back with their seventh album, the randomly titled 'Duck', an LP that feels like it returns to the classic sound of their earlier albums, abandoning the more electronic-vibe of 'Stay Together', whilst keeping the strong production of 'Education, Education, Education and War', arguably the best of the set. With some retro flavours and plenty of catchy radio-friendly hooks this should keep the fans very happy.

'Duck' opens with the catchy second single 'People Know How To Love One Another' and though its chorus is pretty straight-forward the repetition does allow the hook to build, and the persistent drum beat drives it forward, with a break down that sounds like it is going to be great live. It's a strong album opener that sets out the stall for what's to come, with a foot-stamping big number, and establishes the influences of the Beatles that percolates through the album.

'Golden Oldie' harks back to 'Employment' in its lyrical style with another strong catchy chorus, and the recognisably retro production style. Track three 'Wait' boasts a brassy backing track, cool distorted vocals, and is the most sixties-sounding on the album until references to Stacey Solomon and clickbait showcase its gentle ribbing of modern culture. 

Track four 'Target Market' is one of the album's slower numbers, once more mixing modern and old-fashioned references, this time comparing relationships to a marketing meeting, all wrapped up in a gentle light production. The sub-3-minute 'Don't Just Stand There, Do Something' has the feeling of a popular and quirky live-favourite, throwing in references to some potential everyday situations with a fun, fast-paced poetic and visual delivery and the chantable titular chorus, plus the most abrupt ending to a song you can imagine. Imagine a 'Guilty Conscience' for the pop generation.

Lead single 'Record Collection' evokes the spirit of the bass-line from Queen's 'Radio Ga Ga' and the rhythm of 'Oops Upside Your Head' to most resemble their previous album. A strange one on first listen, the heavy production, rap-like delivery and singable chorus all work together. It's a bit over-egged at times like they're throwing the complete toolbox of effects at the wall but it feels like a successful experiment.

The album takes a little downhill turn at this point. 'The Only Ones' has a strong chorus but it feels a little bland after the energy of the previous track and comes across like a second attempt at 'Target Market'. 'Lucky Shirt' is a little better, with a smoother, gentler vibe and a cool series of synth lines that add some spark, but lyrically it's forgettable outside of the gambling-referencing building chorus.

Whereas many albums would taper out by this point, 'Duck' throws out some hard-hitters in its dying ten-minutes. 'Electric Heart', with its multi-layered vocal effects and the 'She's electric' hook next to some comparative lyrics, adds some care back into the process. This track, though, leads into the double-punch of the album's best two tracks.

The best song on 'Duck' is the quirky, funny and catchy in equal measure 'Northern Holiday' which builds up throughout its opening minute to paint a vivid picture of summer whilst reaching the very singable chorus with a big smile. Packed full of throwback references this is an absolute joy and is the album's true ear-worm; I can easily listen to this on a loop.

The party continues and wraps up 'Kurt Vs Frasier (The Battle For Seattle)' which keeps the references coming. With a jaunty swagger of a back-line the bridge and chorus work together to be a great little sing-a-long to bring 'Duck' to its 'Hey Jude'-esque conclusion.

The Kaisers' new album won't win over their detractors but that's no the point. It's unashamedly retro and kitsch in parts but does channel their earlier successes. If you want to hear some catchy, fun and outright poppy songs that will bring a happy smile to your face then you can't go far wrong with 'Duck'. (7.5/10)

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Top 40 of 2019 (So Far)

As we reach the half way stage of 2019 it's time for me to unveil my favourite forty songs of the year so far in order of preference.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on my list. Let me know in your comments which songs I've missed and which should be higher!


YouTube playlist: 40-31

40 Noble Jacks - Rely On Love (Feb)
39 Christian Loffler feat. Mohna - Like Water (Feb)
38 Mark Shepherd - The Grand Scheme Of Things (Feb)
37 Meghan Trainor - Badass Woman (May)
36 Nina Nesbitt - Love Letter (Apr)
35 The Young Punx - Wonderland (June)
34 Halsey - Nightmare (May)
33 Frankie Swain - Hook Line and Sinker (May)
32 Marina - Handmade Heaven (Feb)
31 Calvin Harris and Rag 'n' Bone Man - Giant (Jan)


YouTube playlist: 30-21

30 Larkins - TV Dream (Feb)
29 Tamara Stewart - Haunted House (Feb)
28 George Ezra - Pretty Shining People (Mar)
27 The Veronicas - Think of Me (May)
26 Sigrid - Don't Feel Like Crying (Mar)
25 Rayelle - Get Dat (Mar)
24 Lizzo - Juice (Jan)
23 Callum Beattie - Connection (Apr)
22 Lucy Spraggan - Lucky Stars (Mar)
21 Bob Sinclar feat. Robbie Williams - Electrico Romantico (Jan)


YouTube playlist: 20-11

20 Lewis Capaldi - Someone You Loved (Feb)
19 The Impersonators - Sad Café (Mar)
18 Spray - I Wonder Where the Wonder Goes (Original Mix) (May)
17 Sharon Van Etten - Seventeen (Jan)
16 Léon - You And I (Feb)
15 Rob Thomas - Timeless (Apr)
14 Dua Lipa - Swan Song (Jan)
13 Emma Stevens feat. Kevin Jeremiah - Because It's You (May)
12 Kaiser Chiefs - Record Collection (May)
11 slowthai & Mura Masa - Doorman (Jan)

Top Ten

10 Taylor Swift feat. Brendon Urie - ME! (Apr)
It may be much poppier and cheesier than much of her recent popular material, but if you can stomach the precocious promotional video you'll discover a rather catchy pop hit which benefits from the call and response vocals of the pairing.

09 Bear McCreary feat. Serj Tankian - Godzilla (Apr)
A more upbeat cover of the 1977 Blue Öyster Cult song, this is from the end credits of the recent Godzilla sequel and proved to be the best thing of the lacklustre movie. A strong tongue-in-cheek catchy number.

08 Busted - Shipwrecked in Atlantis (Mar)
Busted back to their best with their first album sound. It may come across as a cross between 'Crash and Burn' and their Thunderbirds song but it's fun and irreverent in equal measure.

07 Walter Martin - Do-Dilly-Do (A Friend Like You) (Apr)
From the delightful film 'Missing Link' this is a quirky and gentle little number with a sweet heart.

06 Keith Urban feat. Kassi Ashton - Drop Top (June)
Its lyrics aren't particularly highbrow but the tempo shifts and the country-pop vibe make this a great memorable number.

05 Keane - The Way I Feel (June)
Taken from their new upcoming album this bouncy ode to dealing with mental health is a strong juxtaposition between upbeat pop music and darker lyrics.

04 White Lies - Tokyo (Jan)
A very welcome return for 'White Lies', 'Tokyo' is a song that will quickly stick in your head thanks to its catchy, chantable chorus, which I imagine will be a live favourite.

03 Robbie Williams - I Just Want People To Like Me (Jan)
With some baiting lyrics aimed at his fans as much as his detractors, this lead single from his b-side collection is better than some of his bigger hits, and has a huge, singable chorus.

02 Ward Thomas - No Filter (Jan)
The duo that continue to release some brilliant singles as well as albums, this social media-referencing lead single employs one of the best bridges from verse to chorus in many years.

01 Georgia - About Work The Dancefloor (Mar)
Proving that YouTube adverts sometimes work when they're not trying to flog you a Netflix subscription or Grammarly, I discovered Georgia and this song through an advertised live set. The electronic style, strong production and quirky nature all work together to make this the best song of the year so far, and the video is excellent as well. It's been a long time since I've heard something as genuinely interesting as this.

And before I leave you to the comments, here are four songs I discovered in 2019 that would have appeared somewhere in the list had they been released this year!

  • Alice Merton - Lash Out
  • Andy Burrows & Matt Haig - Barcelona
  • Chasing Deer - Placebo
  • Kelsea Ballerini - Miss Me More

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Record Store Day 2019: Our Picks

Record Store Day is an annual day where local and independent record stores get a selection of exclusive vinyls to encourage music lovers and listeners to support their nearest small record store rather than the big hitters or online retailers.

Obviously in a year when HMV has been struggling due to online music consumption and other sources of music, the divide between the chains and the independents is no longer so clear cut.

Taking place this year on Saturday 13th April you can discover the whole list online but we've picked our selection of what we have our eyes on.

If you've got your own picks, why not share them down in the comments?

Fatboy Slim Right Here Right Now
12″ yellow vinyl, die-cut sleeve

Norman Cook's classic 1999 song, the one with that history lesson in its music video, gets a 20-year reissue on yellow vinyl. Includes some fun remixes and a brand new track from Mr Slim himself. Click here to find out more.

iDKHOW - 1981 Extended Play EP

Featuring the incredible 'Do It All The Time' as the closing track of this six-song EP, this rock duo from Salt Lake City fused electronic, indie and quirky pop on that single, and there's much to enjoy on the other songs as well. Click here to find out more.

Kaiser Chiefs Oh My God
vinyl EP 7" 45 rpm

The original version of the Kaiser Chiefs classic was release back in May 2004 on CD but has not seen the light of day since. Drag your passport before the EU borders close with this much sought after 7-inch. Click here to find out more.

Keane Disconnected / Sovereign Light Café
Green 7″ Single

Dave Fridmann has created new versions of these two songs from the band's fourth album 'Strangeland'. 'Sovereign Light Café' is one of our favourite songs from their canon, and we look forward to hearing these tweaked editions. The vinyl, on green, comes with exclusive artwork and a digital download card for those who want to keep the physical release perfect. Click here to find out more.

KT Tunstall - Extra Wax

We are big fans of Tunstall's recent 'Wax' album and the chance to own more is great. Including an exclusive cover, and two tracks from the album's deluxe edition, we want to grab this one!

Queen Bohemian Rhapsody / I’m In Love With My Car
7” Single – Coloured Vinyl

A delightfully coloured vinyl, there are some strong extras on this recreation of the classic a-side and the, er, memorable b-side. Click here to find out more.

Queen Bohemian Rhapsody Picture Disc
2LP – Picture Discs

We're not going to hide the fact that we're a big fan of the movie from the end of 2018 and a chance to own the soundtrack on vinyl, including the Live Aid set, is not one to be missed. Click here to find out more.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Eurovision You Decide: Our Thoughts

It's that time of year when the BBC reveals the six entries for this year's Eurovision You Decide, with one being picked to represent the UK, this year in Israel. With the songs now released to the public online and on BBC Radio 2, we've taken a listen and given our verdicts below, plus which we think is our favourite.

What do you think of this year's selection? Does the concept of having two different takes of three songs work? Who do you think should be picked? Will the first post-Brexit Eurovision be awful for us? Let us know in the comments section below!

Sweet Lies

The first of the three songs, this is lyrically simple but that's never been a problem for a Eurovision song. Here we have two distinctively different versions: a souped-up club version, and a stripped-back candle-light version.

Kerrie-Anne: The Soulful One

The clubbiest of the six tracks this is arguably the most commercial of the tracks, and could be easily ripped out of the charts with its familiar bridge build up and drum machine loops. Could that make it a little bit too credible for Eurovision? In my opinion the production is populist but also a little bland, and it could be any club-pop song from 2000 onwards.

Verdict: It has the commercial vibe and a catchy hook, and Kerrie-Anne has a strong soulful voice, but its production is a little familiar and forgettable. (6.5/10)

Anisa: The Mariah Carey One

Drastically slowly down the tempo for this take on it, this is much more Eurovision in its style. Anisa has a strong voice but her vocal style, with its wobbling element of fragility, is not to my particular taste. With its slow style it's much closer to X-Factor in its style but it fails to build to any sort of crescendo.

Verdict: The song works well in both versions and it's difficult to pick between them, but I would have to plump for the faster version as I'm not a big fan of Mariah Carey-style vocal trickery. (6/10)

Bigger Than Us

Two very different takes of the track here, but back memorable in their own distinctive ways.

Holly Tandy: The Country One

The country-tinged entry which ticks a box from me for my own personal taste. Holly's voice is powerful without being too over the top and it has enough of a hook to work, though it does run out of any ideas other than saying the word 'bigger' in different ways.

Verdict: I enjoy the country vibe, with echoes of Kylie Minogue's foray into the genre, but it lacks enough in the second half to keep you interested. (7/10)

Michael Rice: The X-Factor One

This second take on the song is much more stripped back, going back to a solo piano for the start and is, like I mentioned above on the first song, turns it into more of an X-Factor winner. Rice's 'Sam Smith' style vocals work well and there's plenty of heart in the song.

Verdict: With a key change and a soaring chorus this is definitely in reality television territory. A strong version but I prefer the style of the other version over this overly-familiar take. (6/10)


As noted online, there's a distinct 'Canon in D' vibe to the production of both tracks. I really like this song though it's rather downbeat lyrics aren't quite Eurovision, and I'm not sure going into a post-Brexit Eurovision with a song that could easily be twisted in headlines to be reflective on the UK's European motivations is a wise idea. Also I'm not sure how well they will translate to the stage as both are rather production-heavy.

Jordan Clarke: The Poppy, Well-Produced One

I'm going to paint my colours to the mast and say this is the poppiest entry on the list. With its mid-tempo swagger delivery and Rizzle Kicks-style production this has the most variety in style, though it feels like the cheesiest entry on the list but it doesn't quite commit completely to the Eurovision campness. Though I'm not sure how you can make rhyming 'locker' and 'soccer' sound so weird.

Verdict: My poppier side is won over by this version, as it feels instantly memorable. Eurovision is pretty camp (obviously) and this is almost ticking that box. (7/10)

MAID - The Little Mix One

Channeling the popular girl group, it's not a huge departure from Clarke's take, but the production box has definitely been cranked up for this version, with the bass-heavy soundtrack from Interstellar thrown in for good measure. It feels like the version where they're throwing lots of things at the wall in the hope that something sticks.

Verdict: The three-part harmony is great but I just don't think its slow RNB vibe screams Eurovision. (6.5/10)

My Choice

It's a difficult one as each one is good in a different way (there's a cop-out statement if ever there was one), but if I had to settle on a decision I'd go for Holly Tandy as my personal preference musically, but I'd go with Jordan Clarke as our best chance. Even though it's quite studio-focused it's catchy, upbeat and fun, which is everything Eurovision is about, though lyrically it's neither outrageously cheesy nor straight-faced.

Not that it matters, as we'll still be at the bottom!