Saturday, 31 December 2016

Nuggets of my 2016

The main achievement was completing university, in one piece with the grade that I feared I would never get and after a tire replacement got to Carlisle to officially make the graduation ceremony. Here is me hiding the fact that I had been freezing in Hexham, pulling my hair out and had officially given up just 1 hour before hand.
The Begining of the year saw the release of my album of the year; David Bowie's Blackstar. Not a instantly blown away by it but as the year went on it took on greater significance when only a few days later he passed away. Me and Vincent (who has recently updated his website) made him the poster boy for the local indie night as a tribute.
I handed in my dissertation which was the hardest piece of writing I have ever had to do. It was painful for a number of reasons; 1) No matter how many revisions it never seemed to get more "academic" 2) It took so much time away from designing things. 3) The need to print out two double spaced 10+ paged documents costs quite a lot of money. The Feedback on the dissertation was just as painful to read (I got a 2:2) and in the other comments they said this;
I went on a Design trip to London to meet Young Minds to help produce the design piece I am most proud of "Young Minds Vs Uni Stress Zine". I met the wonderful and talented people that work for and with them and they have extended my knowledge of the plight of young people's mental health and to the real extent of the problem. It was a great trip to the big city. I took Phillip too and he seemed to like it. We nearly didn't make it back after Phillip made us late for the train but instead of missing it we caused a technical fault so the driver let us sneak on while he fixed it. Oops.
I have applied to 80+ jobs this year with about mere 15 replying to me at all and 4 interviews. With this volume of applications a sense of doubt starts to hit you; is it me or the job market? Naturally we blame ourselves but when you see more talented people than yourself struggling you realise that it's the job market. The market wants boring, clinical and functional designers so those with a bit of creativity or offering something different just get rejected. I am not saying I am exceptional but that is just based on what I have seen. I also saying this is not always the case; creative people have been snapped up into jobs too.
The country voted to leave Europe and America voted to let a satsuma with a toupe into the white house; both events I watched live. Things like these don't happen on the regular so made sure to stay up with beer and energy drink (the beer helps you get through the bits you don't like and the energy drink makes sure you get through it all). It's now traditional. Also my vote in the EU referendum didn't count and it hurts my soul.
 We gone made an Graphic Design and illustration exhibition at university. It was a lot of hard work by the half of the class that actually wanted to help with it. The final product was no where near anything that I thought it would be. We had paper leaves for reasons that no one explained to me. We has Coors instead of Becks for reasons that no one explained to me. but it was an interesting experience.
I got a placement at a media company who's boss is a polygamist and had a lecture about what it means to be a heterosexual male and on why Britain is a third world country. I also did some graphic design work for this associated companies (Go Marry and Treadmill Gym) and made some friends.
I don't often put value on a signed piece of merchandise but that was until I received a certain tube in the mail. Sent from Vincent Walden from Carlisle a few days after The Damned played the Brickyard. It was an honour to do the poster for the Punk legends but to have it signed by Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible! I could of cried. No photo will do this justice. Thank you Man!
I got a custom Nintendo Wii and GC controller from the exceptional talent that is Isaac Caplan Wilson AKA Design Out of Shield. I'd always been a fan of the Super Smash Bros Franchise but this man took my love of it to another level so kitted me out with a crystal Gamecube Controller with my logo on and an orange Nintendo Wii with the work of Andy Warhol and Sir Peter Blake on it, so that I could get good.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Top 25 tracks of the Year

The music landscape in 2016 had been varied to say the least. I have experienced some sublime albums this year to some tearful lows. I mean this in every sense; albums have left my ears astounded, songs that have made me within seconds turn them off and music related deaths that I have sobbed at.

For this year I have compiled a list of the top 25 albums of the year and Top 25 singles of the year. It was gonna get messy if I covered more than this. Please remember this is my opinion; I often joke that the music papers are wrong when it comes to this sort of thing but at the end of the day that is just their opinion.

Secondly; singles
  1. We the People by A Tribe Called Quest - After all that's happened in the US this year. It seemed like a perfect summary.
  2. Lazarus by David Bowie - The video and the words just chill me to the bone; given the context.
  3. Ultralight Beam - Kanye West - The best redeeming feature of a flawed and messy album.
  4. I Exhale - Underworld - Grade A banger from the latest LP.
  5. Fill in the Blank - Car Seat Headrest. I don't like the chorus lyrics but the music is infectious.
  6. Ain't it a Sin - Charles Bradley - This is the sound of Funk funking too hard.
  7. Nobody Speak -DJ Shadow feat Run the Jewels - Great guest appearance by RTJ on the poor DJ shadow album.
  8. Steps - Malcolm Middleton - Heard on a podcast and just had it on repeat for days.
  9. Doing it to Death - The Kills - Highlight of their album this year.
  10. Really Doe - Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Ab Soul & Earl sweatshirt - Posse rap cut with some of the great voice of hip hop this generation.
  11. Gardenia - Iggy Pop - The Idiot style teaser track to the album didn't disappoint.
  12. City Lights by The White Stripes - This unreleased White Stripes track is a gem in a collection of pre-existing material.
  13. Older and Taller -Regina Spektor - Beautiful song from her glorious album.
  14. New Song by Warpaint - Dubbed their answer to Get Lucky by Daft Punk and it's fabulous.
  15. I don't wanna be funny anymore - Lucy Dacus - Opening track to this new artists fabulous  debut album
  16. Control - Chase and Status feat Slaves - This songs sounds like classic Prodigy, this is not a bad thing.
  17. T5 - Swet Shop Boys - Politically charged hip hop from the star of Four Lions.
  18. Gimmie the Love - Jake Bugg - Joyous stand out track from a messy album.
  19. Zipperface - the Pop group - Lead single from the bands new album.
  20. Raise Up - Tim OT - Songwriter a-la Billy Bragg with a political anthem.
  21. Atlas, Rise! - Metalica - The gateway metal bands best track of the new album all six minutes of it.
  22. Mr Apples - Madness - Classic Madness sound to this little ditty. Could be In the Middle of the Night Part 2.
  23. On Hold - The XX - Teaser track of the new album with great cut up sampling and more upbeat than the past ventures.
  24. Uber Capitalist Death Trade - Cabbage. Manchester punks fuse P.I.L and Dead Kennedys to blow your mind.
  25. Untitled 08 | 09.06.2014 - Kendrick Lamar - K dot brings the soul in this outtake. 
Honourable mentions.
Three Packs a Day - Courtney Barnett - There just aren't enough songs about packet noodles.
Burn the Witch - Radiohead - highlight of the quietest Radiohead album yet.
Move - Rat Boy - Sounds like Jamie T and the Beastie Boys.
Wow - Beck - Bizarre Hip Hop by the every changing musical outsider.
Ordinary - Jagwar Ma - the only highlight from their difficult second album.
Old Skool - Metronomy - DFA could of produced this groovy yet solid track.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Top 25 Albums of the year

The music landscape in 2016 had been varied to say the least. I have experienced some sublime albums this year to some tearful lows. I mean this in every sense; albums have left my ears astounded, songs that have made me within seconds turn them off and music related deaths that I have sobbed at.

For this year I have compiled a list of the top 25 albums of the year and a Top 25 singles of the year. It was gonna get messy if I covered more than this. Please remember this is my opinion; I often joke that the music papers are wrong when it comes to this sort of thing but at the end of the day that is just their opinion.

First up; Albums.

25; Shine a Light… by Billy Bragg and Joe Henry. I figured that I could not put this album any higher on this as it is a covers album however it proved a more enjoyable listen that a lot of the hyped and disappointing albums. Basically, classic americana songs by leftie song writer Billy Bragg and country star Joe henry recorded on location at various train stations across the US of A.

24; Changes by Charles Bradley. I love soul music and I think we should all love soul music. It’s pure and comes from the heart and thats what this album is; all heart and soul. Mr Bradley’s voice is amazing and the band he has behind him are perfect; tender in the slow songs and funky when needs be.

23; Bottomless Pit by Death Grips. I really want to like this band but they don’t make it easy with the rest of their output but I have found a route in. This has been dubbed by the bands fan base as the most accessible album by the band so I gave it a shot and I really liked it. It’s aggressive, and loud and still not easy by any means but it does let up…a bit…sometimes.

22; Compulsory Songs by the Lucid Dream. Carlisle based psychedelic dub outfit come up with some more spacey, dreamy and repetitive rock with this new album over here. Always shocks me to here this band came out of the city I went to uni in which seems to thrive on bad clubs, overpriced bars and EDM.

21; Going Going… by The Wedding Present. Cult heroes The Wedding present take a new angle on their distinctive “all the songs sound the same” style with some more softer tracks allowing for more space in the mix and their is even one track where Gedgie try to take on The Fall.

20; Femejism - Deap Valley. It took two listens to get this but when you do; your head will start banging and them riffs will get to you. Certainly, a logical progress from the band's first album too. We also see a really strange album cover too.

19; Ash and Ice - The Kills. I haven't listened to this bad as much as I think I should of; not since I am sure the sampled Gang of Four. This is a more polished and higher production thean some of the other material I have heard. Some great tunes too.

18; King gizzard and the lizzard wizard. Heavy heavy pych rock. Noisy guitars, pounding drums and a seemingly indistinguishable tracklist.

17; Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future - Underworld. An early in the year highlight. Underworld back in the studio producing some absolute bangers. With a mid LP ambient track to track you down before the beauty continues.

16; IV - Bad Bad Not Good. Future Jazz. What an utterly meaningless title but it seems to suit this album. with some great guests appearances. the LP sound absolutely amazing. Really great record to chill out to. Listening to it as I write this post infact.

15; Konnichiwa - Skepta. Hip hop may have taken higher places on this list but this was the year of Grime if you read the music press. Skepta was a shock to me. Grime has always seemed Hip Hop's cousin with lower production value and London centric lyrics but this broadened that out so liked it a lot more.

14; Take Control - Slaves. Louder Faster and more angry than Are You Satisfied. Witty lyrics, back to basics sound and you just gotta love these guys. The fear was this was going to suffer from difficult second album syndrome but it shouts at you for doubting them.

13; Birth / Death - The computers. A live highlight of last year and this is just a fabulous album of tight, rock n roll songs with really great choruses and tunes. For what looks like a bunch of misfits the harmonies are glorious (See Leave Home by Ramones).

12; Blisters on my heart - Martha. The logical progression of the first and awesome album by the Durham band. Catchy hooks, quirky lyrics and my live highlight of the year. It’s just a joy to listen to. I found myself smiling a lot while listening to this.

11; Skeleton tree - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Fabulous, in short. (James we are gonna need a few more words to review it than that). It’s dark and menacing and Brooding. I love this man's voice; It reminds me a lot of Leonard Cohen (RIP).

10; Friends -White Lies. I didn't know Julian Cope had reformed Teardrop Explodes? What he hasn't? White Lies return with album I like after the last two failed to move me at all. And yes it sounds like Julian Cope and it's glorious. This album has Some tunes on it too, unlike previous two.

9; Let them eat Chaos - Kate Tempest. The return of the word smith that won me over everybody Down. It good to have ambition, it keeps us moving forwards, this album aims high and hits, thus achieving the rewards. Nearly an hour long and you hang on every word. Even on repeat listens the story tosses and turns.

8; Kendrick Lamar- Untitled Unmastered . A hip hop demos and unreleased tracks album that sounds better than most of the full and proper albums of this year. It’s amazing how this sort of thing can happen but K dot is just on fire at the minute.

7; Remember us to life - Regina Spektor. I was given a regina Spektor album Before this by a good friend but never listened to it. At the time I was staying in my comfort zone. however I listened to this one and fell in love. Her Lyrics are full imagery, added to interesting arrangements and augmented by her really great voice.

6; Human Performance - Parquet Courts. sunbathing animal is amazing and this is upon first listen was more accessible but I realise it's not now. It sees the band slow it down a bit but when they go off on a riff. You go places in the school of Sonic Youth; use repetition, add noise, and it's glorious.

5; Iggy Pop -Post Pop Depression. Legend! God father of punk makes a throwback comeback with an album that I knew I was going to love after I heard Gardenia on Colbert. Homme and his backing band of QTSA, arctic monkey and raconteurs brings new life to the veteran rocker.

4; Teens of Denial - Car seat Headrest. Not what I expected at all. The wild card. Its like the Modern Lovers first album everywhere which I love. Never heard of this guy before ( it's a band name but mainly spearheaded by a lone bloke). It's polished slacker rock album ( it's off kilter but with a high production value).

3; Atrocity Exhibition -Danny Brown. Another great year for alt hip hop and this one stands out. Joy Division reference in the title, dark atmosphere and some of the paranoid lyrical phrasing is this thing is really disturbing.

2;  We got it from here...thank you 4 your service - A Tribe Called Quest. Where do I begin? Hip hop veterans finish off their discography with this instant classic. Great collaborators, poignant lyrics and stunning beats. Q Tip is on point with the production here, quirky use of sampling and maintains your attention; 1 hour albums aren't normally my jams but it hold your attention all the way through.

1; Blackstar - Bowie, David. Most of you will of guested this album. Second album since his return and his last album released while he was alive. Love the space Jazz sound, the cohesiveness as an album and heart breaking lyrics. There are undertones of hip hop in some of these tracks in the beats and the phrasing goes long them same lines. Beautiful lp and CD packaging too. RIP

Hounrable mentions;

Not to Disappear - Daughter. First Album I loved this year but so many great ones took over.

 Meet the Humans - Steve Mason. Very pleasant album, kinda sounds like Elbow.

You Can't Touch Us Now - Madness. Delightful to hear the Nutty Boys still on form after all these years.

Trick - Jamie T. Never been a big fan but some glorious tracks from this guy.

You Want it Darker - Leonard Cohen. Dark, Brooding, slow album by the veteran of music and now sadly no longer with us.

Splendor and Misery - Clipping. Abstract hip hop concept album about being lost in space.

and the Anonymous Nobody... - De La Soul. More down tempo, less quirky but a great roster of guest yet with mixed results.

Songs For Our Mothers -  Fat White Family. I didn't get it on first or second listen and on the third; I liked it quite a bit.