Do awards really matter anymore?

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So, i was sitting here, thinking of something to write about, when i realised just how irrelevant awards are nowadays! At least for me anyway…

If i saw an album in a shop, saying ‘Winner of …….’, i wouldn’t immediately think “ooh, i wonder what that album is like” – in fact, i don’t think i would spend any more time than a second thinking about that statement. That is how little i think of awards nowadays! I mean, who can actually name an award that is credible anymore???

I suppose i am more of the opinion that, if something is good, then an artist, or filmmaker or whoever, should be pleased with the fact that they have made a product that meets their ideas…and should therefore not try to promote the fact that they have won ‘awards’. For example, film adverts always include ‘Nominated/Winner of 2 Academy Awards’, and then have, in tiny writing, ‘…for best costumes and best toilet facilities’…i mean, they are normally awards that have no real purpose to a viewer!

Companies try to suck people in with boasting about such and such an award, but i bet that most people only buy/listen to what they actually want to buy/listen to, not just what is forced down their throats by the big corporations…

…at least, i hope that people are still capable of independent thought…

Right, now i’m going to go out and buy Mark Ronson, Kate Nash and Arctic Monkeys

(I’m not really, this is just a comment about how little i think of the Brit Awards or any other award ceremony that is dictated by the mainstream…or is hosted by Sharon Osbourne!!!)

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Anticipation…the curse of the human mind?

          I don’t know…whenever i hear that a band i like is going to be releasing a new album, i get really excited, and usually start to build it up in my head…then, when i hear some snippets or the first single, i either get even more excited, or become worried that it is not meeting my expectations. This is why, anticipation is the curse of the human mind – if we did not anticipate something, or build up expectations, then there would be no disappointment – and who likes to be disappointed?

Luckily, 2007 was not that disappointing in terms of album releases – i probably built up the new Autumns’ album way too much, but i was not at all upset with it when it came out… On the other hand, the Smashing Pumpkins album did not fill me with joy – yes, we got the awesome Tarantula, but we also got the last few songs, which i can barely stand listening to…if i’m too tired to change the CD, then i will listen to them, but i don’t enjoy it! Another album that i was disappointed with, was Battles – again, Atlas was a great song, but i got so bored when i first listened to the album, that i actually started to work (!) to give me something to do!

Anyway, the whole point of me writing this, is to have a quick run-down of some of the albums / artists i’m looking forward to hearing to this year (in no particular order & i may also forget to include some on my list…i don’t have a brilliant memory!) :

The Futureheads: ‘This is not the World’ – May 2008

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With the follow-up to 2006′ ‘News and Tributes’ The Futureheads sound like they have gone back to their rockier roots – i love both the first and second albums equally, so i can’t wait to get my hands on this album…their myspace page has a few new tracks on it, all of which sound immense…

Futureheads Myspace

The Dears – Unknown title and release date

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I have been listening to The Dears so much recently, and ‘No Cities Left’ is a masterpiece – a true work of beautiful art, so my expectations are high for the new album, which should be out this year – i have a feeling that this is going to be their best yet…so i’m hoping that they will prove me right!

The Dears Myspace

Brendan Benson – Unknown title and release date

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Brendan Benson is one of the best singer-songwriters around, and his new album is certainly one that i can’t wait to get my hands on – if it is as good as the last two, then i know that i’m in for a treat! Here’s hoping we get some news soon!!

Brendan Benson Myspace

The Raconteurs / Jack White solo

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I thought i would combine these two to save space…The Raconteurs album is going to be good – no question about it! If you put two amazing songwriters like Jack White and Brendan Benson together, then it is impossible for the music to be bad!

As for Jack White, supposedly, he is working on 2/3 albums besides The Raconteurs for 2008, one of which is rumoured to be a solo album – i shall be constantly on the look-out for information!!

The Raconteurs Myspace

The Kills – ‘Midnight Boom’ – March 10th

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Referred to as being nothing more than music for ‘scenesters’, i really don’t care, the first two singles off of ‘Midnight Boom’ are so damn catchy, that i am listening to them virtually every day, which means that i can’t wait for this album!

The Kills Myspace

Guillemots – ‘Red’ – March 24th

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I thought that their ‘Through The Windowpane’ album was beautiful, but also a bit hit-and-miss at times, so i’m hoping for a more consistent album this time, but with all the quirkiness of the first still there – we shall see!!!

Guillemots Myspace

That is it for my main focus, as i know that these albums are definitely coming out this year (all being well!), but i am also hopeful that new releases from Modest Mouse (Starting to record next month), Andrew Bird (currently recording) and The Cribs (have been in the studio with Johnny Marr) might be popping up at some point in 2008, but there are obviously no guarantees!!!

I also wish for new releases from Iron Maiden and The Autumns, but the chances of that happening this year are slim-to-none, so i will have to make do with all my expectations for the others…

…sigh…i hope they’re good…

…peace…a.b…

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Albums of 2007 – Number 1: The Autumns

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The Autumns – Fake Noise From A Box Of Toys

Well, did you really expect me to put anything else as my best album of the year??? Seriously???

Sure, Radiohead almost took it, and many others were close, but for me, there is no better album in 2007 than The Autumns’ ‘Fake Noise From A Box Of Toys’…as i stated at the start of my review in September!!!

So why is this album the best??? Quite simply, it is the amazing songs, the high quality musicianship and the fact that you can listen to this album again, and again, and again…and so on…I certainly have listened to it repeatedly since i got my copy of it! How many other albums can you seriously say that about?

There are many highlights on this album, and if i listed them all, then i would be writing for hours – there are so many layers to the album that you discover new ones every time you listen to it…and this is one of the main reasons as to why it is such an enjoyable listen, as The Autumns have crafted an album so beautiful and complex, that you can uncover these hidden gems and appreciate the album even more!

Sometimes, i feel that i can not fully explain The Autumns as i would like to…at times i feel that nobody can put into words just how – for want of a better word – perfect this band is! I don’t know, perhaps i am being a crazy fan, or maybe, i just get this band (i like to think it’s the latter)…as no other band at the moment has such an influence on me as The Autumns do, and at the end of the day, if a band can move you emotionally, or influence you musically, then that band has to be doing something right!!!

In terms of musical quality, ‘Fake Noise…’ is superb, as you get a diverse range of styles and influences evident in the songs. For me, the best tracks on the album (at least, at this moment in time), are ‘Clem’, a ferocious yet beautiful track; ‘Killer In Drag’, a supreme example of top-class indie rock; ‘Night Music’, one of the most gorgeous vocal performances you could ever hear; ‘Glass Jaw’, great musical shifts with rocky guitars and fun vocals; and finally, ‘Adelaide’, which is again, another fun, upbeat number!!!

However, i also love the moments of sheer beauty on the album – ‘The Midnight Knock’ and ‘The Beautiful Boot’ – which add a nice ambient/shoegazer element to the otherwise more uptempo stuff such as the pounding guitars and beats of lead single ‘Boys’.

Then, of course, you have the epic nature of ‘Turning Strangers…’ and ‘Oh My Heart’, which… WAIT A MINUTE …am i just writing a full review again…yikes, i think i might…

So, if you hadn’t already guessed it, i love this album…and i’m not just saying that – this album would be in my Top 10 all-time greatest albums…and that means a lot in my book!!! If i had one recommendation of an album to buy from 2007, The Autumns would win every time…and i just hope that we don’t have to wait another 3 years to get the next album…as i’m sure it will be just as good!!!

And this concludes my ‘Albums of 2007’…i’m sure that many would disagree with me on some or all of my choices…but these are my favourites…and that is all that matters to me!!!

…all i have to say now, is HAPPY CHRISTMAS…i am sure that i will post again before the new year, so keep reading…

…Thanks…a.b…

The Autumns Official

The Autumns Myspace

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Albums of 2007 – Number 2: Radiohead

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Radiohead – In Rainbows

Ok then, i am going to start this short review with an admission…and a shameful one at that…this Radiohead album is probably my album of the year – it was so, so close between this and my number one that there was nothing between them!!!

So why then, is Radiohead my number two??? Two words for you – “Disc Two”…yes, that is right…after hearing the second disk of In Rainbows, it is impossible for me to put it at number one – not because the songs on disc 2 are bad…but because they are so good, in particular ‘Down is the new up’, ‘Up on the Ladder’ and ‘Banger and Mash’ – i cannot believe that these songs were not deemed good enough to be put on the main album, as only ’15 Step’, ‘Bodysnatchers’ and ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ are of the same quality on the actual album…

And this leaves me wondering why Radiohead couldn’t find a place for these songs on In Rainbows…yes, i can see that they maybe don’t fit the mood – they are more ‘rocky’ than the bluesy tone of In Rainbows…but the songs are that good, that they would find a place on any other bands albums!!! I think that this might be the curse of ‘Hail To The Thief’…which is a great album, but is let down by a few songs…some filler…and it would have been a much better album if it was only 10/11 songs long…and so, in a way, i guess Radiohead might have been a bit scared by this!!!

This is the reason why In Rainbows is not my number one, because i have to judge it on the 10 songs that make up the album, and i feel that they left 3 of the best ones out…but it is still a fine album!!

I am sure that it will probably go down as Radiohead’s ‘love’ album, as Thom Yorke has claimed that many of the songs relate to relationships, and the tone of the album is soothing and romantic, except for the vicious ‘Bodysnatchers’, which is probably the best track on the album – the heavily distorted guitars, Yorke’s paranoid/parasitic lyrics and its amazing tempo…one of Radiohead’s best songs full stop!!!

I have already mentioned my other two stand-out tracks…the dance beat majesty of ’15 Step’ and the great ‘Jigsaw…’, but the other tracks are good aswell…much more romantic than any other Radiohead album, it is an intriguing new direction from Radiohead…and a good one at that!!!

In my first review of this album, i questioned whether In Rainbows could ever be deemed a classic album as OK Computer is…two months on, and this Radiohead album is already a classic in my opinion, even without the second disc!!! It has everything that you love about Radiohead, and at the end of the day, that is all you need to know when reading this review…In Rainbows is just pure Radiohead, and i love it!!!

…My album of the year shall hopefully be revealed tomorrow…to mark Christmas Day…so read it when you can…

…a.b…

Radiohead Official

Radiohead Myspace

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Albums of 2007 – Number 3: Andrew Bird

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Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

In my mind, there is no doubt that Andrew Bird’s latest album is one of the best of 2007!!! There is such pure beauty in this album that it amazes me how Andrew Bird made it…after the promising ‘Mysterious Production Of Eggs’ album, Andrew has honed his skills and crafted an album that puts many to shame!

The layers of different instruments create a magical effect, as the sound builds up into an amazing collection of pure music…something natural and untainted, compared to the gloss of modern mainstream music! I don’t know if you can understand what i’m saying…i’m not even sure i understand what i am saying – but there is something about this album that leaves the listener lost in the sounds…mesmerised by its release of emotion and feeling…

Erm, i think i might be losing the plot a bit now…so moving on to more conventional analysis…Andrew Bird is a gifted musician, as he plays violin majestically, and his voice has obvious comparisons to Jeff Buckley, for his range and style!!! That is not all however, as Andrew is also a very talented whistler, and he often incorporates it into the music, adding a further layer to it!!!

The songs are all very strong, with my highlights being ‘Imitosis’, ‘Simple X’ and ‘Scythian Empires’, but all deserve a listen, as Andrew tries many different styles on each of his songs!

Special mention goes to the closing track ‘Yawny at the Apocalypse’, which, although it is only a short instrumental, has one of the best titles ever (in my opinion!), and has the special quality of leaving the listener wanting more and more…

‘Armchair Apocrypha’ is therefore an exciting and mesmerising listen, and is certainly one of the best albums you could hear from 2007…and Andrew Bird seems to be going from strength to strength, which suggests that we may be hearing a lot more about him from the media in the future…here’s hoping at least!!!

Number Two next…a.b…

Andrew Bird Official

Andrew Bird Myspace

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Albums of 2007 – Number 4: The Cribs

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The Cribs – Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever

2007 will forever be known as the year that The Cribs produced the album they had always threatened to make. ‘The Cribs’ and ‘The New Fellas’ are lo-fi classics –  the basis  of the sound that they have produced on ‘MNWNW’, as the band have adapted the anthemic qualities of their previous two albums, and polished it up into an album that  sounds great.

Of course, this was to be expected when the band brought Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos in as their producer, as he knows all about producing commercial gems…songs that can appeal to the masses…and this is what The Cribs do. So many tracks on ‘MNWNW’ have sing-along choruses and memorable guitar riffs that should  firmly place The Cribs into the mainstream audience…

However, as the music industry goes, good music gets ignored, and although the band are now attracting a larger crowd, they are still not selling the amount of albums that they should be selling!!!

On the other hand, it is perhaps not crazy to suggest that the band are probably pleased about this, as they seem to be fuelled on anger towards the music industry and the ‘hipster scene’, as evidenced on their previous albums. Whilst the band do still take shots at the music industry (‘Our Bovine Public’), they have also matured, not only in their sound, but in their lyrics as well! The Cribs seem to have made the conscious decision to move away from their past, and are now adopting a much more mature and well-rounded approach to writing music!

Moving back on to more general issues…the album is an engaging listen, as it shifts from vicious slices of punk rock, ‘Men’s Needs’ and ‘Major’s Titling Victory’, to the almost lullaby-esque ‘Shoot The Poets’, to the more experimental, ‘Be Safe’, which is the most surprising track on the album, as it features Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo ranting/reciting poetry over the top of The Cribs’ wall-of-noise, with interjecting choruses from the Jarman brothers. This song could be a glimpse of the future in terms of The Cribs, and if it is, then it should be interesting to see what they sound like, as although it is the most different track on the album, it is also one of the best!!!

Other highlights include the slow-groove of ‘Women’s Needs’, the catchy rock of ‘My Life Flashed Before My Eyes’, and the all-out rock of ‘Ancient History’, with the great chorus of “I drag up ancient history, hope that they’ll forgive me”…Heck, if you keep producing great music like this Jarmans, then i would forgive you anything!!!

The key impact of this album, is that the sound is so crisp…the guitars are strengthened by layers and keyboards; the vocals, although still raw and aggressive, sound much more powerful; every song on the album is an immense listen; and the album as a whole just seems so perfectly finished and polished!!!

So, if this is the future of The Cribs, then i like it very much, and i can’t wait to hear what they are going to come up with next!!!

We hit the top three tomorrow…can you guess who they are and what order they will be in…argh…the suspense!!!

…a.b…

The Cribs Official

The Cribs Myspace

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Albums of 2007 – Number 5: Modest Mouse

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Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Well, as we pass the halfway mark, the decisions are getting so much harder! “Why?”, i hear you cry – well, it’s quite simple – the top five albums are some of the strongest albums you are ever likely to hear…perhaps not in my all-time top-10, but at least in my top fifty…and that’s saying something!

Modest Mouse have posed quite a dilemma for me, as recently, i have not been able to get enough of this album – for the past two weeks, only this and Radiohead have been played in my car…and i’ve been doing a lot of driving!!!

Therefore, it is strange that i have only put it at number five, and the reason for this, is that when i first heard ‘We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank’, i did not think it was a good album – i could not get into it…i didn’t like Issac Brock’s voice, i didn’t like the style of lyrics, and i thought it was way too long…

So how did i change my mind? I guess, something just clicked in my head – i gave the album another go, and i fell in love with it!!! Now, Issac’s voice sounded raw and edgy, rather than out-of-place and weird; the lyrics made sense, instead of sounding like random words strung together; and i realised that all the songs were strong on the album.

Now, from what i have read, this album has proved to be quite controversial amongst the Modest Mouse faithful, with some stating that the band have now gone too commercial, and that the album is just bad – too different from the older material! My finger is tending to point towards Johnny Marr’s influence, as you can certainly hear his distinctive guitar sound on the album…but that improves the music in my opinion. I like the fact that the songs sound like they do – i often find myself singing along with them in the car – and the band sound like they are on top form.

There are so many strong songs on this album, that i would basically be writing out the tracklisting if i wrote them down, but i love ‘Fly Trapped In A Jar’ and ‘Invisible’…

It could be argued, when trying to find negatives with the album, that it is perhaps a bit too long, for example, ‘Parting of the Sensory’ and ‘Spitting Venom’ take a while to get into their groove, which can be a bit annoying when you want to get to the best parts of the song, which often come half-way through. Similarly, i find ‘Fire It Up’ a bit tedious after a while – i can put up with it, but i often find myself skipping it, as it doesn’t really go anywhere…it just plods along!!!

These criticisms are valid, but can easily be overlooked, purely because the rest of the album is so strong!!! So no matter what anyone else says, i reckon this is a great Modest Mouse album…and one hell of a listen when you get into it!!!

…a.b…

Modest Mouse Official

Modest Mouse Myspace

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