My favourite songs of 2011

I’m not one for doing all these “review of the year” type blog posts that normally show up in abundance, as often I’d normally prefer to look forward rather than back at stuff. However, I thought that I would use this post to share some of the music that I have enjoyed in 2011. Initially, I made it as a Spotify playlist like I did with the Christmas playlist I put in my last post, but then I decided to make a YouTube playlist, seeing as a few of the songs I wanted to put in it are not available on Spotify (and possibly never will be).  I was going to share the list at some point, so how about here? And with some notes on here about how and why I chose them?  Sounds like a good idea to me.

The playlist I created can be found here:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF3F2EFF1AB17F4AC&feature=mh_lolz

DISCLAIMER: One or two of the songs I have chosen may not have actually been first released in 2011. It was just that this year was when I got into them and the artist who made them. I have also in some cases included more than one track from an artist. I don’t see it as a problem although I know sometimes people try to restrict lists like these to one track per artist. I’ve tried to create a mix that doesn’t have one or two artists  dominating it even so. Oh and they’re also not in any particular order.

The track listing is as follows:

1. Matt Cardle – Letters:  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have never been one to be interested in an X Factor contestant, winner or otherwise, enough to actually buy their music, but  Matt’s debut album, (of which this is the title track), is a pretty decent one.  I’ve chosen a live performance for the playlist as I think that while the recorded version is very good, the live versions that I’ve heard are fantastic, especially the one I’ve picked for this.

2. Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks: Their album “Torches” was the soundtrack to most of my summer. This song in particular was on repeat on my iPod a lot long after summer had ended.

3. Florence + The Machine – Shake It Out: What can I say, I love Florence and this is brilliant.

4.  Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall: I confess, I didn’t like this at first (I speak as someone who has loved Coldplay from the moment they first heard Shiver). But gradually, it grew on me. Now, this is one song from the new album I am really looking forward to hearing live (I’m seeing them on the 9th June. Long way off, I know)

5. Adele – Rolling In The Deep: I’m not the biggest fan of Adele in the world but I can’t deny that she is an outstanding talent. This song is my favourite of hers.

6. The Special Ks – Get Down: First found out about this band on twitter. Checked out their music on YouTube, instantly fell in love with it. Their mini album “BOA” is well worth a download.

7. Clare Maguire – The Shield And The Sword: Not usually my kind of music but this is a great song. And Clare has an amazing voice. Her other song “The Last Dance” is also brilliant (it is only now I realise I should have added that one too).

8. Metronomy – The Bay : Another song that I heard a lot during the summer. I’ve been meaning to get their album “The English Riviera” for a while. I will get round to it at some point. An excellent track, and I love the video to it.

9. Lana Del Rey – Video Games : When I first heard this,  I thought it sounded like something that belonged on the soundtrack of an arty 60s American film. Then I realised it couldn’t be seeing as the song title referenced a relatively recent invention (ok, a 30+ year old invention, but still).

10.  Ed Sheeran – The A Team : Beautiful, end of.

11. The Feeling feat. Roisin Murphy  – Dance For The Lights : For me, one of the highlights of their album “Together We Were Made”.  No proper video for this, so picked one of those “lyric videos” that get made with Windows Movie Maker or similar software for the list.

12. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – AKA…What A Life! – Was never a massive fan of Oasis (got bored with them after their first two albums), but love Noel’s solo material. This is a tune.

13. The Wombats  – Anti – D : The best (if only) song I’ve heard that mentions citalopram.

14. Birdy – Skinny Love: Yes I know that it is a cover of a Bon Iver track, and I did know the original before I heard this. But this version is beautiful.

15. The Hoosiers – Squeeze: My favourite out of the bonus tracks from the trio’s “Bumpy Ride” album (which was a revamped version of their second album “The Illusion Of Safety”).

16. BOXES – Silent Alarm: The side project of Athlete bassist Carey Willets, this is a great piece of indie electro-pop.  WARNING: The video to the track has “Parental Advisory” in its description for a reason, so you may not want to view it if you have youngsters around or if you happen to be sensitive to the visual content. If the themes of the video don’t bother you, or you even like it, the uncut version is on Vimeo (link on its Youtube page).

17. Kaiser Chiefs – Little Shocks: For me, one of the comeback singles of the year. Pretty different from their previous material, but better for it.

18. Matt Cardle – Starlight : A catchy little number about the end of the world. Again, I’ve chosen a live performance of the song for the playlist.

19. Foster The People – Call It What You Want: Another highlight of their album. And like the previously mentioned “Pumped Up Kicks”, will stick in your head for days and have you shuffling in your seat (the type of shuffling you do when it’s not appropriate, or you’re too awkward to get up and dance).

20. Rizzle Kicks – Down With The Trumpets : Again, not the sort of music that I normally listen to but who cares? It is a great song. There is something rather charming about this duo too.

21. Josh Doyle – I Figured The World Out: At the start of the 21st Century, Josh was the lead singer of British pop punk trio The Dum Dums. Nowadays, he is a singer-songwriter living in America. If  you like this (and want to support an independent artist ), then you can find more on his website and Youtube channel. His EPs are also well worth downloading.

22. Coldplay – Paradise : At the time of writing, my favourite song from Mylo Xyloto.

23.  The Hoosiers  – Bumpy Ride: Deserves its place on the playlist for the Hangover- esque video alone. But I would still include it even if the video wasn’t so awesome.

24. Little Comets – Waiting In The Shadows In The Dead Of Night: I first got into Little Comets after hearing them on a playlist someone had made on Spotify. I suppose they are a bit like an English Vampire Weekend, with a lot of Northern grit. This track is from the recently released “Worry” EP, which I highly recommend.

25. Ivyrise – Line Up The Stars: I have been a fan of this band ever since I first came across them on MySpace a few years back (they were one of the first bands I became friends with on there, in fact). An awesome song.

26. Adam Parker – Smart Man: An artist that I invested in on the My Major Company website – the label that incidentally, Ivyrise are also part of. I invested in him after hearing this song. Hopefully, he will be successful in raising the £100,000 needed to fund his album like his labelmates were, as his music deserves to be heard by more people.

27.  Darwin Deez – Up In The Clouds: I heard and liked this song before it got used in an advert for New Look. I still love it.

28.  Little Comets – Isles: The song that first got me into this band. A commentary on modern Britain, the lyrics to this seemed to resonate more during this year’s riots. And the video to the song fitted it perfectly, as you will see.

29.  Elbow – Lippy Kids: Watching Elbow’s Glastonbury set on TV was one of my favourite moments this year. Indeed, watching it made me wish that I was there. The video on the playlist is not from the Glastonbury set  but it is still a brilliant performance.

30. Snow Patrol – Called Out In The Dark: Again, another awesome comeback song.

So there you have it. I know there are probably far more songs that I could include here, but 30 is enough. I’m surprised that I managed to write something for each of them (I am writing these quite late in the evening, so apologies if they look a bit rambling or like I can’t be arsed to write much/edit what I have written).

 

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Music polls and snobbish fools.

If there is one thing I hate, it’s snobbery. I’m pretty much against all kinds, but one form that really gets me going is musical snobbery. There’s nothing I despise more than people who look down at artists who they don’t regard as “cool”, regularly put down the music tastes of others and try to tell people what they should be listening to. So when something happens in the music world that really pisses off the jumped up critics, cool types and the self-proclaimed “guardians of taste” that make up a huge chunk of music journalism, I punch the air and laugh at how pathetic they are.

Today, the Guardian, that oh so liberal and pretentious broadsheet, announced the results of their reader’s poll for the best album and single of 2011. The winner of both polls was..wait for it…Matt Cardle, for his album Letters and the track Starlight respectively. You can imagine the look of sheer horror on the faces of their pop hacks when they counted the votes and realised that their pollsters had voted an X Factor winner as their favourite of the year. You can imagine how bitter the person writing the article result must have felt towards the voters, as well as their thoughts: “Oh why couldn’t they have voted for The Vaccines, or some dubstep act that nobody’s ever heard of?!” How I’d have loved to have seen them squirm.

The Guardian obviously felt embarrassed by the result, so much so that in the article announcing it the writer ridiculously claimed Matt’s victory was down to his fanbase “hijacking” the poll and “block voting” to ensure he won. For one, most people, except Guardian readers and visitors to its website, did not know that the paper was running such a poll. Two, you could only vote in the poll once as you had to register your email address when you voted – a tactic designed to stop block voting. Not even the most obsessive fan of an artist would have the time or energy to register 100+ email addresses just to vote in what is, for the most part, a not entirely important contest. Not even Directioners would do it, however they would give it a bloody good try (they’re very dedicated, those One Direction fans).

Seeing them try to deny the result was amusing, but at the same time so indicative of the attitude a lot of music journalists have towards people like us – the ones who actually buy records and pay to see the bands they love live. If you are going to ask members of the public what their favourites are, you must be prepared if the answer they give you isn’t necessarily what you expect or want. You don’t dismiss what the people tell you and you certainly don’t go implying that the winner won because of what you believe to be suspicious voting activity. Truth is, there are a lot of people out there who like Matt Cardle. Just as there are loads of people who love Coldplay, Keane, the soon to split Westlife, Stereophonics, James Blunt, Justin Bieber, and many other artists that are popular with the public yet often get stick from sections of the media.  There are a lot of bands and singers I don’t like, and some whose popularity I will never understand, but I would never put them or their fans down.  All music, whatever genre it is, whoever it is by, means something to somebody.  For someone to knock my taste in music would be like knocking my memories, the things that have happened in my life, both good and bad. And as for telling me what I should and shouldn’t like, well I don’t tell you to stop being a pretentious twat, no matter how much I would like to.

I admit, I have Letters on my iPod. I downloaded it as soon as it came out, and  I think it is a good album. Sure it is a little too slick and over produced in places, but it is still better than a lot of the rubbish that has been in the charts this year. It’s not cool, but then I don’t listen to music for that reason.  I listen to it because I like it. The people who voted for it in the Guardian poll did so because they liked it too. And whether the snooty journalists at the Grauniad like it or not, it won fair and square. Fuck da haters, as they say.

 

My one and only X Factor related blog post this year.

WARNING: Before I start this blog I should say that as the title of this blog suggests, this post will be heavily about the X Factor. If you don’t like it, then perhaps you had better not read this. If you don’t like the show yet still want to read this, then that’s cool. Just don’t troll me ok?

Right then, I’ll start…

I’ve always watched the X Factor, right from the very first series. Say what you will about the show, its contribution to the music industry, and Simon Cowell  (and a lot of people do), I enjoy it as it is a fantastic piece of entertainment. The sort of programme that you tune into and forget about the hectic week you’ve had. The type that brings websites like twitter to life. Indeed, I enjoy tweeting about it –  and reading other people’s –  as much as I enjoy watching the show.  This weekend sees the final of the X Factor, after what seems like a year’s worth of shows. Normally, I would be looking forward to watching it, getting excited (to a degree) about it even. This year, however, I am in the position where I’m not too fussed about it. Usually I have a good idea of who I would like to win or at least, who should win in my opinion. This year, I neither know or even care who does.

It’s not like this year’s series has been a bad one. I did wonder what the show would be like without Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue on the judging panel, but Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa have all done quite a decent job. Louis Walsh, meanwhile, has been his usual self (if there’s one judge I hope doesn’t come back next year it is him). There have been some good contestants and some great moments. The banter between Johnny Robinson and Gary Barlow was one of my highlights of the series. Johnny himself was one of my favourites, camp as, lovely and harmless who could sing despite Louis’ attempts to turn him into this year’s joke act. Kitty Brucknell was annoying, outrageous and desperate, yet you can’t say she didn’t have some vocal talent. As for Misha B, well I liked her at first and felt like I should support her because she is from Manchester. As time went on, however, I went off her and it wasn’t because of the “bullying” claims made against her. When Louis was going off on one saying that everyone in her hometown should pick up the phone and vote for her, I was thinking “F*** YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!” The Risk should never have left the competition so early, Janet should never have stayed in as long as she did (as much as I liked her). Frankie was just a silly little boy, who let himself down.  Craig was let down by his song choices. I still don’t like the name Little Mix, but the group has grown on me the last few weeks. Marcus is the only one of the final three who I thought would definitely get in the final. And while people still give Amelia Lily stick over the way she came back into the competition, I believe that she deserves her place as much as the others do. Indeed if the first live show had the public voting and not the judges, she would never have been sent home in the first place.

(I realise that I have missed some contestants out. I haven’t forgotten about them. Well, not all of them…)

Truth is, this series has not grabbed me in the way that previous years have. It is certainly not a patch on last year’s series, which for me was the first one that had at least one contestant that I genuinely cared about.  None of this year’s crop of contestants stand out for me as much as Matt Cardle, Rebecca Ferguson, Aiden Grimshaw, One Direction, Mary Byrne et al did last year. From what I see when I look through X-Factor tagged posts on Tumblr, I’m not the only one who holds this view. Some people I know online stopped watching the programme because of how poor this year’s show is, others have switched to the US version instead. If there’s one thing that has really ruined the show for me is the number of ad breaks that ITV have slotted into the show. We all know that the channel relies on advertising revenue to fund its programming, but going to a break   practically every five minutes is annoying to even the most loyal viewer, and actually ruins people’s enjoyment of a show.  The same thing has been done to ITV’s other major shows, like Downton Abbey which was stretched out to an hour and fifteen minutes thanks to multiple ad breaks (ITV have since been reported to be cutting Downton’s running time to one hour next series, thus fewer ad breaks). The only good thing to come out of so many breaks, (other than the chance to go to the loo or put the kettle on), is the chance to see the yeo valley advert (by the way, has anyone else seen an ad for Yeo Valley at any other time of the year?!)

I will still tune into the final this weekend, even if it is only just to see Coldplay perform on it. Seriously though, I will be watching hoping that the series finishes on a high of some note, especially seeing as the final is being held at Wembley Arena (no pressure for anyone there, then).

In the meantime, I’m going to end this blog by posting a video of last year’s winner Matt Cardle, performing  All For Nothing from his debut album, Letters, which happens to be a pretty good album imho. And this is coming from someone who has never bought any music by an X Factor contestant or any artist that has links to Simon Cowell for that matter (I realise some may think me a bit hypocritical after reading parts of this, but meh).