2016: Album Of The Year

2016: Album Of The Year

Following on from Movie of the year it’s now time to run down the best music released in 2016 but before that here are some special mentions.


Enter Shikari: Singles.

Enter Shikari haven’t released a full new record since last year’s The Mindsweep, they did, however, release a small selection of new music this year and it was fantastic. Redshift started the year off with a softer, pop rocky ode to the universe and Hoodwinker closed the year out with a stomper of a track, one of the heaviest Shikari have made in a while. they couldn’t be put in any slot on the album of the year list but they more than stand up with the best music here, keep it up Shikari!

Busted: Night Driver.

Their first album in 13 years Night Driver is a departure from the teenage pop rock sound that defined this band for the opening years of their career. This album starts off with smooth synths and goes from strength to strength. It’s an uninhibited pop record and goes to prove how good this genre of music can be when it’s made by damned good musicians.


5: Panic! At The Disco: Death Of A Bachelor.

Death Of A Bachelor is the first official record where Panic! At The Disco means Brendon Urie and that means Death Of A Bachelor is the product of Urie’s creative process alone. For the most part this is a damn good thing. Panic!’s fifth album is made of a combination of modern pop rock and Sinatra-esque, 50’s style, swing jazz. On paper it’s an odd combination but Urie’s smooth voice does a fairly good job of pulling this all together. The only real failing of the album is that it doesn’t commit to that crooner style more. None the less it’s a fantastically produced collection of songs that shows just how talented Urie is as a musician.

 

4: Little Bribes: Obstacles.

Little Bribes are, in no uncertain terms, one of the most interesting independent bands of the last few years. Full of energy and buzz, it’s rare that you hear a band both so heavy and so authentic. Their debut E.P. released this year is chock-a-block with catchy, guitar driven music, the likes of which will have you humming and head banging along in no time. The best way to describe Obstacles is: If Taking Back Sunday made their best, heaviest record yet, but recorded it in a garden shed. And if that description doesn’t tempt you to listen to this band, who knows what will. Little Bribes are a fantastic breath of fresh air which they’ve managed to bottle perfectly on Obstacles. They very much deserve your attention.

 

3: Radical Face: The Leaves.

Every record from Radical Face’s The Family Tree has been an easy inclusion on each of these lists and The Leaves is just as deserving. The Leaves is the final part in a series of albums designed to tell the story of a family during turn of the century America with a super natural twist. This time round the album features more obvious use of electronic instrumentation and even stronger use of percussion than its predecessor. One of the most defining things about The Family Tree has been its subtly haunting tone and The Leaves captures that ethereal sense perfectly for a final time.

 

2: Good Charlotte: Youth Authority.

Good Charlotte are one of the most underrated bands on the planet and Youth Authority is absolute proof. The album starts off with bright vibrant guitars, on point drums and vocals that catch your attention and for the next 12 tracks it just gets better. Perhaps the best thing about Youth Authority though is the way in which it genuinely captures the feeling of pop punk from the early 2000’s. A genre that Good Charlotte arguably helped to define. This record is fun, fast and joyous and if you grew up listening to this kind of music, you owe it to yourself to hear Youth Authority.

 

1: Green Day: Revolution Radio.

By the end of 2016 people were calling for Green Day to release American Idiot part 2. What they didn’t know is that Green Day already had. Revolution Radio is one of the most mature, politically motivated records Green Day have ever made. But mature does not mean quiet as this record is also the most lively, punky album the band have put out since their classic rock opera of 2004. Green Day deserve this year’s top spot because of how perfectly written, performed and produced this album is. From the very first song it’s tone and message is consistent and on point. Every piece of instrumentation is as good as Green Day have ever been and the album flows from track to track perfectly. Revolution Radio is by far the best album of a very dark year.


This is the last blog I will publish in 2016, if you’ve taken the time to stop and read anything published on this blow in the last 12 months thank you so so much. See you in 2017.

Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Gareth Edwards captures the feeling of Star Wars in a movie whose genre far far removed from the franchise.

Rogue One tells the story of Jyn Erso, the daughter of a family influential to the creation of the Death Star. Many years after our first introduction to her Jyn is used by the Rebel alliance and it’s from here that she learns of her connection to the Death Star plans, the might of what those plans can do and why she, along with her band of fellow rebels, has to stop it.

The story starts very quickly, introducing Jyn, her family and her initial motivations in very quick succession. In fact it’s a little too quick, as many of the motivations of early characters get lost or misunderstood. But as the story moves on it’s key focal moments become much clearer and by the middle of the second act many audience members will be rooting for the hero’s of the piece.

Visually the film is one of the most striking things put to screen in 2016. It is utterly gorgeous. Star Wars movies are known to be bursting with all sorts of life and characters and oddities, creating a sense of something alien in a way that only Star Wars movies can. But this film manages to recreate that world with a much more desolate set of scenes. The opening sequence is a perfect example of this: An alien planet with no living creatures or agriculture save from one family in a muddy home. The entire scene Is shot with three main colours on the palette and it uses them perfectly. This scene sets the tone for the entire movie. This is Star Wars but it’s darker, grimier and more grounded than you’ve ever seen.

The score for the film is similar to that of the visuals. It’s new and different, but it feels right. It’s interesting to note that this is the first score for a Star Wars movie which has not been touched by John Williams. Instead Micheal Giacchino is the person responsible for this score and it is fantastic. It emulates Williams enough to evoke everyone’s child hood memories of Star Wars sounds. But it also takes risks with Williams trademark sounds and does so to fit the more mature tone of the film. An educated ear will be able to tell the difference but even then will respect the intentions of Giacchino’s score.

The biggest issue the movie faces is in it’s pacing, the beginning of the story happens far too quickly and the movie keeps up this fast pace. So the films initial hooks are left a little flat. It could be argued that the movie is hoping for the audience’s prior knowledge of the franchise to do some work here, but none the less, there’s a first act that requires slightly more screen time than Rogue One is able to give it.

However, what it does manage to do is take the Star Wars franchise and turn it in to a fantastic Sci-Fi war movie. It’s utterly gorgeous to watch and listen to despite it being not quite perfect in telling a story. Gareth Edwards deserves a huge amount of credit for stepping in to such lofty unfilled shoes and doing a very good job.


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story scored: 8.7/10

Review: Get Better: A film About Frank Turner

Review: Get Better: A film About Frank Turner

A well-made film that leaves you wanting more, mostly for the right reasons.

On a purely mechanical level Get Better is fantastic. It’s a rugged but clearly passionate documentary that has a genuine air of honesty about it. the captured shots are often playful and filled with an energy that you’d expect considering the subject matter. Visually the film is a little rough around the edges  but it  manages to combine enough recent footage with archive footage to touch on every major milestone you’d want to see in an account of Turners (to date) career.

One of the ways in which the film really shines is, appropriately, in the use of music. Director Ben Morse clearly knows Turner’s back catalogue inside out and does it serious justice. For example: when a studio track is shown over shots of the band in concert, it’s clear that the images which are used have been carefully chosen to capture the feel of the track being heard.

But even better still is the underlying score, for which versions of Turner’s original tracks have been slowed down, tweaked and recorded instrumentally. Hearing familiar songs played in a different way to evoke a new emotion can be a powerful hook In to a scene and it’s cleverly used here in a film which demonstrates how powerful music can be.

But whilst the documentary is created fantastically it’s the source material that causes the biggest issue. To put it simply: It ends far too soon.

A documentary of this form usually tells the story of a person or event reaching the peak of their success or notoriety. But this film does a good job instead of, quite literally, highlighting and demonstrating Turner’s steady Rise. This is definitely to be respected but as a result there is no crescendo, it always feels as though Turner (and Morse alongside) are destined for bigger things.

Is this bad? No, the film clearly does what it sets out to do: it tells the story of Turner’s career up to this point and there’s obviously a story to be told. Managing to go from rooms of 6 people to headlining Wembley is damned impressive. But no matter how good the documentary is, there’s always a feeling that there’s a third act over the horizon, a sudden gasp or rug pull or dynamic change that just doesn’t happen.

To call a documentary ahead of its time is highly presumptuous. So it’s a testament to Turner, his music and Morse’s portrayal of him that this documentary feels like it ends too early to truly record his best moments yet. If you’re a fan of Turner’s work, or good music stories it will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. Now all we have to do is hope Turner and Morse go on to even bigger things, so they can give this film the third act it deserves.


Get Better: A Film About Frank Turner scored 7.7/10

The Best Of October’s Releases.

The Best Of October’s Releases.

Green Day: Revolution Radio.

Bang Bang was one of the heaviest, meatiest first singles Green Day have released since 2004’s American Idiot, it was full to the brim with Acid and fire and it was the perfect way for the band to introduce Revolution Radio, because acid and fire are what this record is made of. Revolution Radio is full to the brim with all the things that make Green Day great. Biting lyrics penetrate every track whether it’s the rousing chorus of “I put the riot in patriot” from opening track Somewhere Now, all the way to the more personal but still punchy “fuck you, I’m from Oakland” of Youngblood. With the current state of society at large many were looking to Green Day for American Idiot 2, a reprise of their political anger, another groundbreaker for a generation of political lost souls to rally around. Does it break that new ground? No, but it doesn’t really need to, as once again with a guitar, a bass, a drum kit and three of the most talented musicians in punk; Green Day have recaptured the fighting spirit that put them on such a pedestal over a decade ago and made it relevant for a generation of people who are growing up with Social Media, right wing fanaticism and Trump Campaigns as a part of their daily lives. The record itself says it best: “we live in troubled times”.


Enter Shikari: Hoodwinker

Take To The Skies; Shikari’s first record is barely ten years old. Which is a pretty difficult fact to swallow when you consider that, since then, Enter Shikari have put out 3 other studio albums, 2 compilation albums, more live recordings then you can shake a chaos pad at and many many one off singles. Hoodwinker fit’s in to that last category, a one off single to keep your taste buds flowing whilst Shikari hibernate in a distant studio coming up with Album number 5, and blimey, what a track it is. Heavy doesn’t even come close to describing this behemoth of a song. Beginning with a pounding bass guitar and drums combo it leads quickly to Rou Reynolds bellowing “This is the voice of god” in the lowest register he’s been heard screaming at in years. Shikari always know how to leave your earlobes wanting more and Hoodwinker is no exception, from its thundering intro to its playful ending Hoodwinker is another example of Shikari demonstrating how they are very much the kings of the UK’s heavy music scene.


Telltale’s Batman: Episode 3.

Telltale are indisputably some of the best video game story tellers in recent memory, their episodic formula is well known to produce tense and emotionally driven stories where player’s join the dots to make the experience even more personal, and as a result of this, even more harrowing and Episode 3 of Telltale’s Batman is no exception. One of the things that makes Telltale’s stories so good is their ability to write characters who are varying shades of grey. Who’s morality and trustability is hard to nail down and who, as a result, are far more human and far harder to decide between. Episode 3: New World Order, picks up after one of the toughest early decisions in any of Telltale’s games to date and over the next few hours players watch as Batman and Bruce Wayne’s world is torn down from around them. Doing all the running you can to stay in the same place is a very unpleasant feeling but Telltale always manage to keep the carrot dangled close enough to the players face that they want to keep pushing forward. It’s interesting to see this dark brooding hero be put in such a powerless position and it’s a dynamic that works perfectly with Telltale’s bleak approach to storytelling. If you have any connection to the world of Batman you will undoubtedly love this series and the tense situations it puts you in as both the playboy billionaire and the caped crusader.


Did you enjoy anything on this list or think I missed something off it? Feel free to leave a comment on this article or get in touch with me. I hope you’ll look forward to the next list in this series, at the end of November/beginning of December. Thanks for reading!

The Best Of April’s Releases

The Best Of April’s Releases

May is upon us, the first third of 2016 is now finished, so it’s time to look back on the best releases from the month just past.


Captain America: Civil War.

Marvel’s latest entry in to their ever expanding cinematic universe opts to shed the traditional Sci-fi MacGuffin and replace it with a deep, clever story of human and political conflict. It’s a smart and engaging approach from a studio who are undoubtedly the industry leaders in the superhero genre right now. Couple this great story with a vast, diverse ensemble cast, stellar performances and great cinematography and you have what is undoubtedly one of the strongest movies of 2016. Civil war represents a massive increase in quality from Marvel and if you’re a fan of the Superhero genre, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.


Little Bribes: Obstacles.

Little Bribes can be summed up as a “DIY punk band” and their first release captures that feeling perfectly. The EP is a mix of strong, driving guitars, tight drum work and vocals that run the gamut from dark and melodic to gritty and aggressive. Across the EP’s five tracks Little Bribes present a mature, deep sound that is reminiscent of Biffy Clyro or Taking Back Sunday (from their Louder Now days). Obstacles is an impressive first release from a band who are not shy about the kind of music they want to be creating and if you’re a fan of the heavier things in life, this is an that deserves your attention.


Tron Run/r (Xbox One Release)

At first glance Tron Run/r may look like a shallow iPhone style endless runner, A neon-y temple run clone, if you will. But it won’t take much playing before you realise that this is a fast paced, challenging and well balanced video game that’s a surprisingly good use of the Tron License. Developer Sanzaru Games has built an endless runner which features tight combat and combo mechanics, to give a new edge to the genre. But as well as being a good game it’s also a good entry in to the Tron franchise, with lovingly crafted character models, vibrant levels and game play that feels fitting of the Tron universe. It’s an engaging, enticing game with a fun game play loop and great visuals to match.


Did you enjoy anything on this list or think I missed something off it? Feel free to leave a comment on this article or get in touch with me. I hope you’ll look forward to the next list in this series, at the end of May. Thanks for reading

Track By Track Review: Little Bribes – Obstacles

Track By Track Review: Little Bribes – Obstacles

For a note of disclosure regarding this review, please see the comments section below.

Little Bribes first release is an EP laced with aggression, tension and a sense of conflict bubbling under the surface.

  1. Between Blood.

The EP opens with a blast of guitars and drums in a mood that very much sets the tone for the rest of the record. Gadd’s vocals follow soon after establishing a strong, recurring chorus. The song is punctuated by slower, melodic guitar riffs and sudden bursts of aggressive vocals. It’s a strong opening track which immediately grabs hold of its audience.

  1. Deadname.

Deadname starts off equally punchy with drums and brittle guitars quickly building to a more traditional punk sound. The vocals here turn gritty and aggressive, where between blood is melodic and dark, Deadname is kicking and, literally, screaming. The whole songs builds up to a crescendo of screamed gang vocals and then its finished as fast as it started. This is the kind of low budget punk that mosh pits and head banging were invented for.

  1. Cartography

Cartography is the opposite side of the scale from Dead Name, this is a slower, more melodic effort. That is until a moment two thirds through the song when Little Bribes come alive once again, the track is a great mix of smooth, vibrant and lively. Cartography’s lyrics are some of the strongest of the album, some of the recurring lines are full of imagery that feels deep and gloomy.

  1. Raggy Dolls

The guitar work is very much the star of the show on Raggy Dolls, there is barely a moment on the track without a strong riff or surprising break down. The Vocals again are packing dark imagery and are delivered, for the most part, with punk stylings, aggressive and powerful. Sometimes the screamed vocals feel a little washed out, but for the most part the song packs a surprisingly nuanced punch.

  1. Living Room.

The final Track on the EP Doesn’t quite standout in the same way as its predecessors, but it’s still strong. It starts off with vocals being the highlight but the real flare here comes from the drums which start as the tracks backbone but go on to give it a real sense of flare. Living room closes the EP in as strong a manor as it started, a rare occurrence in a band this young.


Obstacles is a surprisingly deep and mature effort from a band that have no other releases to their name. The record combines traditional punk sensibilities with melancholy and melody in a manner that is reminiscent of Biffy Clyro and Taking Back Sunday circa 2006. At times its DIY style production undermines some of its more punchy moments, but these slumps are few and far between on an effort that comes out the gate swinging and is fantastically consistent throughout.

Obstacles Scores 8.9/10

The Best Of March’s Releases

The Best Of March’s Releases

Sorry for the slight delay on this one, we’re a fair few days clear but none the less here are some of the best things that were released in the month of March.


Radical Face: The leaves.

The Leaves is the third and final part in a trilogy of albums by Indie Folk outfit Radical Face, as part of a project known as The Family Tree. If you’ve heard any other part of The Family Tree you know what you’re in for with this third release. Or at least you might think you do. See whilst The leaves stays true to the style of the family tree it’s also the most experimental part of the trilogy. Ben Cooper plays with structures and instrumentation to bring together an album that successfully rounds out this trilogy of efforts. Its full of melancholy, darkness and sadness but it also has an overwhelming sense of personal hope. It’s exactly what you want from a Radical Face release.


Hail, Caesar!

Hail Caesar is a great film which has been marketed badly. Almost every audience member will go in expecting a thrilling romp from the golden age of cinema when In reality it’s more of a Coen Brothers sketch show. With widely varying scenes taking places in a brilliant imitation of 1950’s Hollywood. But if you can get past what the film is not, then what it is,  is highly entertaining, beautiful down to the last shot and witty in a way that only the Coen Brothers can be. It’s packed to the brim with magnetic performances from a Clooney, Brolin, Tatum and many more. In it’s full review Hail Caesar scored a 7.4, and whilst that is somewhat under the better review on this blog, it’s a film that’s definitely worth your time, and is great fun to boot.


Dark Souls: Prepare to try. 

In Prepare To Try IGN UK challenges one member of their team to complete the original Dark Souls before the latest installment in the series (Dark Souls 3) comes out in the west. What makes this series so enjoyable is how intimidating dark souls is as a series. The games are known for being for the hardest of hardcore gamers. But watching Rory (powers, IGN UK’s News host) play the games makes it seem far more enjoyable, and far less daunting. Couple that with the great dynamic between the IGN UK team and you have a surprisingly compelling video series. Whether you’re watching the series for entertainment, or as an informal guide to the game. Prepare To Try is a great way to experience the original Dark Souls without feeling quite so overwhelmed at the challenge.


Did you enjoy anything on this list or think I missed something off it? Feel free to leave a comment on this article or get in touch with me. I hope you’ll look forward to the next list in this series, at the end of April. Thanks for reading.