Tuesday, 24 December 2019

My Tracks of the Year 2019

So I thought I'd do a playlist for the best of 2019. These aren't necessarily the songs released this year but the ones I've been listening to. Check it out on Spotify here.

Like An American - Vistas
This Edinburgh band had their first gig outside of Scotland in Sheffield to a sold out crowd. This single grabbed me for some reason.

Damage Done - Sea Girls
This track starts slowly but by the end I'm not wanting it to end, he even gets me singing "Darnce".

Hall of Fame - The Howl & The Hum
Sam Griffiths, lead singer and songwriter of the band, grew up in Colchester and then moved to the north in his later teens. The band are partly named after an Allen Ginsberg poem if that means anything to you. This is quite a short track but if you fancy a more epic, slowly building track then check out Godmanchester Chinese Bridge, it's had nearly 6 million streams on Spotify as I type.

Hypersonic Missiles - Sam Fender
We all need to be reminded of fake news (or propaganda as it was called before social media) and how it can be healthy to be cynical. Sam gives us that slap around the face.

Better Than Me - Ten Tonnes
This track can hardly be described as being missed by the mainstream, it was played to death on radio but it's great to revisit. G.I.V.E was another track of theirs that I enjoyed.

The Walker - Fitz and the Tantrums
OK so this is 2013 but it was one of the tracks for the Umbrella Academy and it's awesome. I've played this so much but I've also listened to some of their other tracks. Check out more recent releases All The Feels and I Just Wanna Shine, a belter of a song and anything mentioning climbing mountains gets a massive tick from me.

Symbols of Joy & Eternity - Sundra Karma
This is just awesome, love it, love it, love it! The way they use the speaking section and then bring the music back in, BOOM!

Your Girlfriend - Blossoms
As it's the season for unrequited love, or at least in one scene of Love Actually, then this song is perfect, it's a great pop record and the lyrics tell a story. What more can you want. Their follow up single, The Keeper came a close second best.

Dreamland (feat. Years & Years) - Pet Shop Boys
The best track I've heard from PSB for years, are there two bands more suited to collaborate?

Arriba (feat. Clean Bandit) - Little Big, Tatarka
Sprint standing up, sprint sitting down, sprint hover. Again! Now die. Why did I suggest this track to our spinning instructor?!

Can't Hold Us - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Another track from spinning, this one was released a while back, 2012 I think but I wanted to share it with you in case you hadn't caught it the first time around as I've been listing to it loads.

Love Runs Out - OneRepublic
Another spinning one and this one is 2014, I've got to share it though, what a track.

Vacation - Dirty Heads
Discovered after I shazamed a fishing programme advert in the middle of the Tour de France. From 2017 for those counting.

Story Problem - The Envy Corps
I did warn you they weren't all from 2019, this one is from 2007/08 and is a cracking tune. I think I picked it up off  Run Fat Boy Run, our go to film to watch the night before a big run. This year it was my wife's first marathon and she certainly hasn't let me forget it!

Excites Me - LIFE
This is one of my daughter's favourites, she's a bit of a rock chick and asks for it a lot, not just because it mentions dinosaurs either. Check out Bum Hour from their latest album as well.

Sean Connery - Allez Allez
Meet the groove, the hairy old man. He's not like anybody else.

Track Suit - Minor Mishap Marching Band
They are a "25 piece renegade brass band from Austin, Texas" and I discovered this track while watching Fargo the excellent TV series on Netflix. Check out the YouTube video of them performing the track here.

Rabbia e Tarantella (from Inglorious Basterds0 -  Ennio Morricone
What a great film and recently watching it again I shazamed this track. I've played it lots since, much to calls from my wife of "are you playing that Nazi music again". It's not Nazi music, it's just a score used in a film!

Kids Addicted - Red Rum Club
I woke up with this in my head the other day, always a good sign I think.

Thursday, 21 February 2019


HEYROCCO seem to be a band having fun and keen on enjoying the ride. Miles from home and leaving little ones behind, I couldn't work out whether they were insulting the venue or enjoying it by describing it as a back yard gig. Lead singer Nathan Merli had a real younger brother charm who you could imagine getting away with murder and his big sister always forgiving him.

Turning to Big Jeff in the crowd (Bristol's finest gig-goer) he proclaims "I love you man" much to Jeff's and all of our delight. "I love you all" he follows it up with. Jeff now has another string to his bow, as well as moshing along at all venues and bands, he now draws. So there he stood in his big frame, a little bit moshing, a little bit singing along, all the while adding to his portrait of Nathan.

Back to HEYROCCO and as a three piece they were making a lot of noise, drummer Christopher Cool adding backing vocals as well as beats to Nathan's vocals. Cool didn't look like a drummer, he was too clean cut, wearing a suit jacket over his Iron Maiden T-shirt. It was quite refreshing. Like Sean Penn's character in Carlito's Way, he's the one you least expect to go nuts but you get the feeling he enjoys the afterparty just as much as the gig.

Cool hit the skins big time but I'm not sure his energy was quite matched with the songs and you had this weird contrast of a band giving their all but the tunes coming out a bit downbeat at times. Mom Jeans is a song that stuck with me after the gig and I enjoyed their set. At times it was grungey at other times the vocals were more Semisonic.

With their set finished, Nathan came in to the crowd to see Big Jeff's drawing, introducing himself and saying hello. I think HEYROCCO are further along their artistic journey than Jeff but they were perfect buddies as the band joined the crowd to enjoy The Lemonheads from the not so active mosh pit. They had charm and style and I look out with interest for their next album, if it's a progression fuelled by their energy and charisma it could be something special.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

A Gig With The Ex

I came across an ex the other day, not a major flame, not one I think of regularly but an ex all the same. Going by the name of The Lemonheads, they were a band I really enjoyed at a time I was just really getting in to my music. Introduced to me by my two main musical influences at the time, my sister and my mate Michael, It’s A Shame About Ray was a great album and liked by my circle of friends – even Kris who I bet all these years later doesn’t own more than ten albums!

As with meeting any ex, it was weird to start off with. We’d both changed, I’d lost my hair and he’d, OK he’d still got his full head of hair but he looked older and maybe a bit worse for wear. A towering man, someone still able to pull off baggy clothes, he had a strange presence on stage. With a name like Evan Dando, his name is probably bigger than the band's – the fact that the guy at work knew him but not the band said it all.

Back to my love of them as a teenager and they were one of the first bands that I worked out that b-sides could actually be good. With my tickets not confirmed until close to the show, I hadn’t done my usual revision of their back catalogue and recent stuff, only having a quick flick through their latest covers album Varshons 2. Released ten years after the first Varshons, nothing had jumped out and grabbed me but I was still looking forward to the gig. Would they play much from It’s A Shame…, would they play the acoustic tracks I liked, would they play much old material at all?

As I said it was all a bit weird to start off with, they were on stage bang on time, in fact they hadn’t even stopped the warm up music by the time Dando had started playing and the rest of the band were playing catch-up. This quick start didn’t show any sign of stopping as they raced through the numbers and I was soon able to hear songs from my youth. He was certainly going to give us quantity and it was the rest of the band and sound engineer’s job to keep up and try to bring in the quality.

It was an odd sight to watch, after the opening tracks Evan grabbed himself some extra slack on his guitar lead so that he could get to the back of the stage to grab his bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon. This seemed to cause the rest of the band to raise eyebrows at each other but it didn’t perturb Dando and, just like meeting your ex’s family years after your relationship, it suddenly felt like we were seeing the inner workings of The Lemonheads, with equally awkward moments.

They have always been Dando’s band and he ran the show that way. Changing the set list at the whim of the crowd or his want, stopping songs suddenly and heading off in another direction without warning. Picking an enthusiastic lady out of the crowd and playing her song request “this one’s for you blondie”. As she successfully requested a second track he got half way through it and then just stopped and said he’d play it when they’d finished the set list. He started playing a cover and the bassist had no idea, turning to the drummer for help, mouthing “what’s going on”.

It wasn’t a shambles though. Dando did it with the style of an old rocker, pouring his whisky over his head to wet his hair and push it back. It would have been cool if he hadn’t got it in his eye and broke off from playing his guitar to wipe it out with his T-shirt. Looking like a bigger, stronger Iggy Pop, he seemed to grow in to the gig, starting to smile and talk a bit more.

There was no time for applause between songs and with my favourite tracks, singles, b-sides and album tracks all played they headed off stage for the customary calls for more. They soon came back on but with Mrs Robinson still not played it looked like there was only one way it could go. Of course we should have known there was no chance of that. A few songs played, he put his hand up, signalling what looked like five more minutes. But no. That was it. He turned, walked off stage and the band hurried after him. Another encore? Lights on, music playing. Like the ex heading off that you no longer have a connection with, there was no need for a long goodbye.