Saturday, January 28, 2006

Pet Shop Boys Ultimate Megamix

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All I know is that the fella is called Renton F and he's from Belgium, but he's done a PSB megamix which extends to nearly 2 hours and includes snippets of nearly every song they've done! :D

Pet Shop Boys - renton f. Pet Shop Boys Ultimate Megamix (114 min,
allmost all PSB songs)

It can be uploaded from the link above, but obviously it's gonna take a while to get it all :D Well worth it if you're a PSB fan (and have a spare two hours to listen to it).

Lindsay Lohan - A Little More Personal (Raw)

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Well if I'm correct the, pretty abysmal, Herbie:Fully Loaded marked the end of Miss Lohan's tenure as Disney's leading lady. And let's face it, even if it didn't, the drugs and bulemia confessions may well have taken care of that.

It's immediately noticeable upon the start of this album that Lohan, or someone behind the project, wants to make it totally clear that this isn't the Disney version of Lohan presented to us on her last (rather surprisingly good all things considered) album. Indeed "Confessions Of A Broken Heart (Daughter To Father)" makes a pretty brave stab at a confessional torch song with just one's ever so slightly dull. This is the kind of song that Evanessence could do and sell millions, but whatever the real sentiments behind the song, this listener was never totally convinced. And co-icidentally, or maybe not, Ben Moody is one of the pro's roped in to bring this whole album together

The trick is repeated to similar effect elswhere. "My Innocence", for instance, is in some ways a stirring piano-driven ballad with a rousing chorus, but again in the final analysis it fails to convince.

Much like many a band with serious pretensions, Lohan is actually better suited to the tracks where she bypasses her angst and troubles and just concentrates on belting out a great pop-rock tune. "A Little More Personal" cranks up the fun and is the kind of song that deserves to be a huge hit. The likes of "Fastlane" (which reminds me of the fantastic and much over-looked Katy Rose) and "Who Loves You" (which somehow manages like Goldfrapp producing the Nine Inch Nails) have their angst-driven lyrics, but these are somewhat hidden by their catchy pop tunes.

There is also the surprise of two rather good covers. The Cheap Tricks "I Want You To Want Me" literally had me dancing around my room when I heard it and even a stab at Stevie Nicks' "Edge Of Seventeen" isn't the unmitigated disaster you might fear and is probably the higlight of the album as far as I am concerned.

The problem is of course is that Lohan's previous audience may well have matured in the past few years, but will they appreciate the change of direction? There is also the slight problem that Kelly Clarkson may well have cornered the market already for this kind of thing (although a Billboard Top 20 entry for the album suggests that Lohan may carry it off).

Much like "Speak" this is a surprisingly good album, although how much input Lohan had into it in terms of everything but singing in open to question. And of course, because it's Lindsay Lohan, it won't get the accolades that it deserves. This is a brave stab at a "proper" music career, and I for one hope it pays off.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ashlee Simpson

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Not a review, no doubt that will come, but this is just to inform you that I think I love Ashlee Simpson.

So bear in mind when I get around to reviewing her album you'll probably find that I review the album in a disproportionate level to her actual talent but don't worry. It's because I love her, not because I've suddenly lost all musical taste.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cat Power - The Greatest

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Ok, so I've already imparted to you the fact that the single The Greatest was, well, great, but now I'm here to tell you just how great the album is. It takes a certain amount of nerve to call an album "The Greatest" but in terms of Chan Marshall's fantastic catalogue, she's just about got it right with the title.

"The Greatest" is every bit as good as I said it was but it's by no means the only highlight on this brilliant album. "Could We" sparkles and shimmies, whilst "Willie" starts off sounding like a Ben Folds song but transforms itself into something else entirely over the course of a listen. "Hate" is earthy and raw and whilst somewhat out of place in some senses on this album, does hark back to some of her previous work.

My personal pick of the bunch is "Love And Communication." Right at the end of the album (ignoring the bonus 'unadvertised' track) I was already enthralled by the album, but this track quickly was stuck on repeat play with its blaze of guitars and strings.

You don't look to a Cat Power album for a cheery, laugh a minute, session and whist on the surface the tunes, such as "After It All" may make this seem like some kind of departure, but before you get too carried away lyrics such as "I hate myself and I want to die" remind you just who you are listening to.

It's perhaps not the leap that Marshall may have made, but this is still a fantastic collection of songs, which certainly does live up their with her greatest work and certainly defies any easy catergorisation. It's a liitle bit country, it's a little bit soul, but it's a whole lot Cat Power. She's pulled it off again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Single Releases - 23/01/06

Analogue (A-Ha) - Just what you needed huh? Another return from A-Ha...well fear not, this actually isn't too bad at all. The chorus lets it down, the moody verses stealing the show, but it's not a bad effort by any stretch of the imagination.

Boys Will Be Boys (Ordinary Boys) - So if you needed any clue as to why young Preston would want to go on Celebrity Big Brother, then you will get your answer here. I am reliably informed that this is their "hit"...well if that is the case, I don't want to hear their lesser tracks. Ok, so to be fair its not bad, but it's not very good either. To put it into context, Madness were doing this kind of thing, but better, 25 years ago.

Honesty (Alex Parks) - Well at least she's lasted longer than David Sneddon and One True Voice. I have to say though that this is a cracking slice of up-tempo pop to an extent, albeit one that really doesn't stand out from the crowd. Put it this way...I'd listen to it but I wouldn't buy it.

Angel (Pharrell) - She's got an ass like a loaf of bread you want to slice! Excuse me? See I really don't know how Pharrell keeps getting away with it. Yes, he's done some cracking tunes under various guises, but then it's always sandwiched between stuff like this, which is a good idea gone wrong. Still, the ladies will go wild over it.

Where's The Pleasure (Protocol) - Despite what you think from the first 10 seconds, this is NOT Blondie. I do like this one though. It's got a kind of 80's pop rock feel to it, which results in a much better song than you might think. It's the sort of song that the Bravery would do if the Bravery had more than one half decent song.

Going Nowhere (Cut Copy) - This also sounds like Blondie. And it's very good. So, two of this week's best singles sound like Blondie...go figure. But get this, this track is also very Pet Shop Boys-esque in my warped little mind, so this is quite literally bloody brilliant.

This Time (Starsailor) - Good god, these guys don't cheer up much do they? If you like them, you like this. If you don't, then don't bother.

Ramblin' Man (Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan)- Sometimes something completely unexpected that should be completly rubbish actually turns out to be bloody good indeed. So it is with this. You can almost see the wizened old man picking on his guitar in the corner of the saloon when you listen to this one. Will it sell many copies? No. But it's a quality tune.

Slipping Away (Moby) - Oh if only you were slipping away instead of torturing us with this rubbish.

Just Like The Rain (Richard Hawley) - There has been ungodly blanket praise for his latest album, from which this is taken, but really I just don't get it. I'm sorry, but to me he's just a gravelly version of the Beautiful South. I'm sure my dad would love this, but for me its just a nothing tune.

Far Away (Nickleback) - Well finally the 'Back lads have astounded us with their Russian Folk comeback album. Ok, so they haven't. And yes, this sounds exactly like every other song you've ever heard by them ever. Avoid like the plague.

Dance Me In/La Lune (Sons & Daughters) - Ok so Dance Me In was released last year, and this release is only 1 12" vinyl, but it's a bloody fantastic record. So if you haven't heard it, GO AND CHECK IT OUT!

I Love Your Smile (Javine) - Sorry...i'm losing the will to live.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

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Well if one thing is certain, this should win the award for the most hyped album of 2006 by quite some way. You can criticise your Mariah's and your Justin's all you want, but when it comes to over-blown hype, the indie crowd can ruckus with the best of them.

Indeed the barrage of "the future of British music" hype that has surrounded the Monkeys in a way kept me away from them for quite some time. In fact, I'd completely ignored "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" apart from the occasional MTV video watching spree, and it was only upon hearing latest single "When The Sun Goes Down", on Soccer AM of all places, that I really started to think that there may be something to them after all.

The pleasing news is that this indeed is a corking debut album, if not quite the corking debut album the "10 out of 10" NME review made it out to be. (Don't worry, I haven't resorted to buying the NME, my "hip" mate had a copy). The two singles are quality indeed, and are only amongst the highlights on the album. "Mardy Bum" lives up to the promise of it's classic title, and the album kicks off on a stormer with "The View From The Afternoon". The pleasant surprise on the album is the slow-burning "Riot Van" which suggests there might be even better things to come from the band.

Lyrically the album is up there with Pulp for its quirky and unique look at British life (there must be something in the water in Sheffield) but the tunes don't always quite manage to live up to the words. Still it's an instant crowd-pleasing album and whilst it never quite totally lives up to the hype, there is enough here for you to see why the hype was forthcoming from certain circles.

And let's face it, anything which shows up the Kaiser Cheifs for the posturing show-ponies they undoubtedly are is worth a recommendation in my book!

We Are Scentists - With Love & Squalor

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Ok so when I saw WAS support Editors my thoughts were along the lines of "perfectly plesant but unlikley to buy one of their records." Which may well have remained my thoughts for ever if I hadn't seen the video to "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" on MTV2. And to be quite frank, that video is awesome.

And the more you watch the video, the more the catchy tune sticks in your brain...until you are walking down a busy street and find yourself humming it, to very bemused looks from passers by.

The rest of the album isn't half bad either. Clocking in at 3 minutes shy of the magic 40 (40 minutes is the optimum length of an album for me) there isn't much of it that you would want to skip. Neither however is there the out and out standout track that would set them off to the big time. The afforementioned Nobody Move gets close, and other tracks such as "In Action" are bang up there, but their "Take Me Out" remains tantilisingly out of reach.

Speaking of the Franz, there is definately an element of the Franz Ferdinand sound to this, but they also reminded me of the much under-valued XTC with their wit and quirky style.

If you've heard the singles and liked them, then buy this album, you won't be disappointed. But if the singles left you cold then don't come looking here for a good time. If they sound your kind of thing then you'll probably love them, but they won't convert any doubters.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

2006 Concert List

11th Feburary - Jenny Lewis - Manchester Academy 3
27th February - Editors - Manchester Academy
1st March - Fun Lovin' Criminals - Liverpool Academy
2nd March - Gemma Hayes - Liverpool Academy 3
9th March - The Like - Manchester Academy 3
18th March - Sugababes - Liverpool Philarmonic Hall
30th March - Depeche Mode - MEN Areaa, Manchester
25th April - Flaming Lips - Apollo, Manchester
27th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester
30th May - Nerina Pallot - The Lowry, Salford

Jenny Lewis - Rabbit Fur Coat

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Jenny Lewis is a fox. There, I've got that out of the way from the start. Also, I love Rilo Kiley. So as you can see, I'm not exactly approaching this from a neutral standpoint. Prior to listening to it, I want to love it. In fact, even if I didn't I'd be tempted to lie on here anyway and say it was brilliant safe in the knowledge that most people in the world will never listen to it anyway. But thankfully I don't have to lie, because the album is bloody fantastic.

For want of a better term, this could almost be described as Jenny's "country" album, although its completely unlike any country album you might have ever heard in quite a long while. Whilst the music may have headed to Nashville country, the lyrics, often a strong point of Rilo Kiley's albums, remain as thoughtful, acerbic and whilstful as ever. Connor Oberst (who's record label released this effort and who guests on a couple of tracks) is often lauded as the preminent songwriter in Modern America (the new Bob Dylan if you will), but for my money he's not a patch on Lewis, as evidenced on the likes of "Rise Up With Fists", "You Are What You Love" and the title track.

At times it gets a little too miserable for its own good, and is hardly a mainstream album (and as such won't represent something of a break-through that certain critics have suggested) but that doesn't change the fact that it is a bloody good album and certainly one that deserves the almost unanimous praise that its been getting.

Hell, even the Travelling Wilbury's cover, which could have been awful, is good. All in all this is a triumph. And who cares if it won't sell in it's millions, because at the end of the day, it's the millions who will be missing out.

Single Releases 16/01/06

A new development this is, but I've decided that once a week, time permitting of course, I will cast my eye over the big (and sometimes not so big) single releases of the week and pass my judgement. And also bear in mind that sometimes I'm crap, so may actually review singles that aren't out on that particular week :D

Anyways, on with the show.

All Time Love (Will Young) - Ok, look past the unremittingly dull and boring video (yes there is a lot going on, but it's all bloody miserable) and this isn't actually that bad a tune. It's certainly better than Will trying to be funky, which is just a route that he is so totally not suited to at all. The sooner he forgets about trying to be a pop star and sticks to what he's good at, the better off we'll all be.

Check On It (Beyonce) - Ah yes. The curse of an R'n'B artist. Look love, its not big and its certainly not clever to release singles without any discernable tune for us mere mortals to sing along to. If this is the kind of stuff we can expect from the next phase of her solo career, I don't think Beyonce can conut on Destiny's Child level of success. It'll chart well I'm sure, but it doesn't deserve to.

Nasty Girl (Notorious BIG and every other rapper, EVER) - If there is one thing worse than a "live" album, its a "dead" one. The modus operandi in this one seems to have been to round up every rapper who's still alive to sing a line or two. Thus the only fun in this one is watching the video (in a "Perfect Day" style) and seeing how many rappers you can spot. And on the plus side, there is the off-chance that you'll be concentrating so hard on the quest that you'll forget to listen to the abysmal song.

The Greatest (Cat Power) - Mournful, sorrowful and absolutely brilliant. Which of course means it will fail to chart in the top 500 or so, but still, who cares? A great prelude to what will hopefully be a great album.

Sawy (Little Derek) - Against all the odds I can say that this isn't too bad. Sonically from the R-Kelly range of R'n'B slowies, but lyrically nothing to do with pissing on 13 year old girls. Tell your friends about it now, just in case he happens to make it big in 2006.

Changes (Chris Lake)- A dance tune, but one that has been described as a "piano monster" (well, ok it was his own website that described it as such). It's a million miles away from the crap likes of that recent dance version of "You Only Get What You Give" which is a good thing, believe me! It makes me want to dance, and these days very little makes me want to dance. So check it out.

Warm Sand (Tina Deco) - This starts off with Piano as well, but don't worry I'm not going off on a dance trip here, this is a Delta Goodrem/Lucie Silvas style ballad, without ever threatening to be as good as anything they could do. This is bound to get lost in the shuffle.

Twelve (Forward, Russia) - This is the kind of thing which sends all the trendies wild, but leaves me utterly cold. It's not bad, but there are a hundred and one better songs released that never get anywhere near the hype that this gets.

Funny Little Frog (Belle And Sebastian) - Thankfully this is not one of their miserable efforts and is actually is wonderfully poppy tune which doesn't take long to lodge in your brain.

Eddie's Song (Son Of Dork) - Yes its rubbish...but it's better than Fightstar, which has to count for something does it not? Having said that, if they were American this would no doubt be at number one for weeks or something.

When The Sun Goes Down (Arctic Monkeys) - Ok, so the whole Arctic Monkey's thing is getting terribly over-hyped but this song proves that they are, to some extent, the real thing. Still don't get me started on the Love Machine cover... Still, for once a song that deserves to get to number one probably will :D.

Haley Hutchinson - Independantly Blue

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Oh, all hail Terry Wogan, he who loves Nerina Pallot's "All Good People." Well actually he might have been told to play Hayley's "Deadman" single on his radio show for all I know, and he most certainly didn't make me change my CD's over in my car at the very moment the song came on his show, but that my friends is fate at work.

At first I was convinced I was hearing either A) A new Liz Phair single I hadn't known of of B) A Sheryl Crow single that I'd missed of Wildflower on account of that being a pretty rubbish album. Actually it was neither, and as it goes, the above descriptions won't really give you much of a clue as to the overall impression of the album.

Whilst "Deadman" can be described in such terms, the rest of the album is a much more mellow affair and is akin to what Katie Melua might come up with if she wasn't ever so slightly piss poor. "Here's The Love" is a wonderful opener and the title track is a wonderful slice of folk-esqe pop which, if there is any luck, will send the Radio 2 pop lovers into a frenzy when they hear it.

The album is mixed between acoustic, stripped down songs and those with a bit more of an electric, and dare I say it, lively feel. For my money, the latter tracks work better as some of the more basic tracks have little to distinguish themselves from any other similar tracks you might hear anywhere else. Still this is a great little discovery and I certainly would reccommend it and I look forward to hearing more from Haley in the future.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'm Broke

Dudes, at the moment I am broke, so January became a "don't buy any CD's" month. But fear not, new reviews are on their way, including a couple that I got at the back end of last year but didn't get aroudn to reviewing.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Top 20 Concerts 2005

20. Franz Ferdinand (26th November) – Ok so perhaps the hype has gone a little out of control, but there is no denying that an evening with Franz Ferdinand promises style and swagger, and this delivered plenty of both. They also had the absolute BEST video screens I’ve ever seen at a concert and they paced the show very well (meaning that they spread out their best songs). HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Take Me Out (much like it was last year).

19. Natasha Bedingfield (1st March) – Oh no, we don’t want to see her supporting Sheryl Crow. Erm, wait a minute, she’s not that bad, lets go and watch her. Yes, and that was ALL my fault I would admit. She is very underrated for sure, and this was a good night of sing-a-long fun. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Probably her version of This Love. Maroon 5 have never sounded so good.

18. REM etc. (17th June) – The big event of the summer, being as it was something of an all-dayer. Idlewild stole the show for me. Feeder were a bit subdued and The Zutons were, well, a bit rubbish. As for Michael Stipe and the boys, they were good and rattled through most of the hits and did it with aplomb. Although really, having now seen them once I don’t really think I’ll ever feel the need to do the experience again. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Losing My Religion

17. Lucie Silvas (6th November) – Oh Lucie. You’re not all that bad are you? Can’t say I was, or indeed am, over-enamoured with her stuff, but you can’t deny that she can belt a tune or two out. As certain people have pointed out as well, she didn’t look half bad up there on stage. Still, I could have done without the Coldplay cover. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Nothing Else Matters

16. Supergrass (9th October) – Having been so cruelly, and painfully, denied the opportunity to see them do an acoustic set earlier in the year, it was nice to be able to see the ‘Grass in all their plugged in glory. Support act Son Of Dave was one of the worst of the year, but the main event was worth enduring that. They didn’t play a couple of classics, probably because they don’t like them now or something, but that didn’t overly hurt the overall impression. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Richard III

15. Fun Lovin Criminals (17th September) – You know what you’re getting with an FLC show, and this didn’t disappoint. Ok, so there were a few too many songs of the latest album, and they all seemed to be lumped together, but once you’re bouncing along to the likes of Scooby Snacks, The Fun Lovin’ Criminal and Love Unlimited who cares? And Huey is STILL the coolest man on the planet. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Scooby Snacks

14. Shakin Stevens (27th November) – In the words of that dull metal group, it’s been a while, but the Shaky bandwagon was back in town. And as the great man might say himself, Rock ‘N’ Roll never goes out of fashion and this was a top-notch night. Granted, Shaky was a little bit croaky in the first half (but still belted out one hell of a show) but after some half-time interval herbal tea (or something) Shaky was in full voice for the second half, which saw many ladies who should know a lot better whoop themselves into a frenzy! Shaky’s still got it. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; With My Heart.

13. Editors (28th September) – Finally Gee gets something right!!! I still don’t think the Editors are the best things since sliced bread, but they are very good…especially when you catch them live. This was basically the album done live, but even the weaker album tracks were pumped up with a sense of clarity that the Dean enjoyed. And I am going watching them again in 2006, so that says it all doesn’t it? HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Sparks.

12. The Like (12th November)– Confession time. I nearly forgot to put this is, so apologies to Nine Black Alps (who were down at 20 until I realised my error) but this concert had to go in the list somewhere. To be honest, I can’t remember all that much about it as a concert, but I can remember that it was quality, and that I recognised a fair few of the tunes. AND I met the three lovely ladies afterwards. Which was nice…no, actually, it was bloody lovely. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Erm, What I Say And What I Mean is pretty good isn’t it? Or maybe the highlight was Tennessee “maybe knowing” where Wigan was/is! :D

11. Aimee Mann (15th July) – She’s not toured for ages, and certainly not when I could go to it, so it was with great excitement that I trundled up to this concert. And I was not disappointed. Even though the set-list was heavily favoured towards her latest (somewhat average) album, there were enough of her old classics to make this a night to remember. And perhaps it’s a testimony to her continued brilliance that songs from right across her impressive back catalogue were all met with warm audience applause. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Driving Sideways

10. Ben Folds (15th December) – In some ways it may be a bit of a surprise that this is not higher up. After all it was a top quality night all round (Gee getting the come on from the ladies in the restaurant, getting to meet more of the Tunstallation Nation) and it was a great concert (as you would expect). And anything in the top 10 this year was excellent, but when it comes down to it I cannot justify it going any higher. I suppose its my slight disappointment that he didn’t do more Ben Folds Five stuff. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Bizarre Christmas Incident.
9. Jem (4th December) – See this is an example of letting other people’s feelings put you off something slightly. I’d heard some bad reports about Jem’s supposed lack of “live” singing voice, and it had slightly dampened my expectations about the concert. But, once she kicked off it was full on happy, happy, joy, joy all the way. She sure knows how to write a catchy tune, and she’d assembled a great band to play them. Forget the doubters, this girl is here for the long-haul, trust me! HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; They

8. Girls Aloud (27th May) – Now you see this is a perfect example of how many intangibles go into making a ranking list like this. If this was done purely on “musical worthiness” this would be lower down the list, but if it was done on pure enjoyment it could probably be top 5 material no doubt. Quite frankly, if you were looking for an all-out pop extravaganza in 2005, then you didn’t need to look any further than Girls Aloud. All their hits were belted out in great style and there was just enough costume changes to keep me entertained. Throw in the front row seats in Liverpool and you have one hell of a night to remember. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Girls Allowed (funnily enough, considering the album version is a bit pants).

7. The Subways (2nd November) – We saw them before the album release earlier in the year, and then they cancelled on us in the mid-summer. But The Subways made up for any earlier disappointments with this absolutely cracking concert. They’re hardly pushing back the musical boundaries, but they do what they do with an energy and youthfulness that all too easily seduces you. This was a full-tempo, loud noise shebang all the way and was one of those concert nights that just flew by. And it didn’t hurt that Charlotte is a “little firecracker” either did it? HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Mary.

6. The Donnas (7th March) – Oh they broke my heart last year (or may it even have been 2003…in fact I think it probably must have been) when they cancelled their UK tour, but they finally came back to make it up to me. Scary rumours about more band ill-health left me fearing the worst, but when the time came, the shackles of flu were thrown off by the lovely Brett. This was another rockin’ night, and whilst some of my favourite tracks by the girls were missing, there was such a varied choice from their back catalogue that there wasn’t a duff song in the set. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Take It Off

5. Weezer (25th August) – I still harbour a small grudge over the ticket prices for this (not the most expensive ever on the whole, but still by far the most I’ve ever had to spend in Manchester Academy) but really, when a concert is as good as this one there really is little point in complaining. Quite frankly this was a brilliant concert from start to finish, and, as any of the top 5 could have done this year, could have come out on top in this list. Virtually ignoring their latest album (only 4 tracks from it) Rivers and the boys proceeded to belt out classic after classic from their extensive back catalogue, which gave the night a feeling of a “greatest hits” concert. Add in the fact that I’d had a few and was dancing like a loon all night with Xavi and you have a truly memorable night out. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; El Scorchio

4. KT Tunstall (18th February) – Oh back in the days when really I’d only bought her album on a whim and not having many concerts lined up I decided to grab a pair of tickets to this. I am so glad I did. Whilst subsequent Tunstall concerts (and there were three more in the year) suffered mildly from repetition and having too much of a good thing, nothing could sully this first night. A small, intimate venue. Me and Gee being very drunk. And a concert which just blew me away. Before this night I’d feared KT might have been another one of those great artists I discover who then disappear, but after this night I knew I was safe and that KT was going to go places. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Black Horse & The Cherry Tree

3. Laura Veirs (11th October) – See this is the kind of concert I probably wouldn’t have gone to this time last year, but the concert bug well and truly got me and I began to actively seek out strange and wonderful acts to go and watch. Her Year Of Meteors album blew me away and despite the fact that this concert probably had THE worst support act of the year (and that terrible moment of horror when you realise that he’s also part of her band), what followed was nothing short of brilliant. Of course she’ll never make it “big” but who cares? HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Spelunking, which was pretty “atmospheric”.

2. Suzanne Vega/Nerina Pallot (22nd June) – Whilst I suppose any of the top 5 could have sat happily at the top of the list, when it REALLY came down to it, it was only between this one and the next one for the ultimate honour. Vega’s decision to completely by-pass the North West of England actually worked out rather well as we decamped to Coventry (a trip that effectively became my “holiday” for 2005) and the rather delightful Warwick Arts Centre. I did think about splitting this concert into two in terms of this list, but in the end went for the joint thing. First up was Nerina, and I don’t think she’s ever been in better form (at least when I have seen her) than she was that night. It was the only time I’ve seen her when there wasn’t a load of people jibber-jabbering away during her set. And I really don’t think there was a person in the audience who didn’t like what they heard. Throw in the photo opportunity during the interval (complete with the now legendary “you miss Suzanne Vega if you don’t hurry up” conversation), me using my “celebrity contacts” to get Gee a special birthday message and me feeling like a proud parent when all her CD’s sold out then you already have a special night. But then it (almost) got better…despite Nerina’s prediction that I’d miss the start proving true and me missing half my favourite Vega song “Marlene On The Wall.” Still, she’s another funny woman and put on a great show, including singing songs so new that she had to have the lyric sheets in front of her. At the time I thought I couldn’t possibly leave a concert in 2005 as happy again, but I was just about wrong…. HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; For Nerina it was Damascus, for Suzanne it was probably Tom’s Diner, because Greg Rusedski got quite animated during that.

1. Martha Wainwright (18th November) – Ultimately, when it was all said and done, I couldn’t look any further than this for the best concert of the year. This was the perfect example of not having a clue what to expect when walking in, and walking out convinced you’d just seen something of rare splendour. She’s nuts, make no bones about it, but she also put on not only one of the most musically exciting shows I’ve ever seen…she was funny and smart to boot. She also got the crowd warbling like Native Indians, got a woman out of the crowd to sing backing, and cut songs off in the middle of a verse because she had some wisdom to impart. She also was having so much fun during her “solo” section that the concert over-ran by about 15 minutes when all was said and done. This was the sort of great evening that concert-going was invented for. This wasn’t only the best concert of 2005, this was also one of the best concerts I’ve EVER been to. And you don’t get a much better recommendation than that do you. Well maybe other than the fact I met her afterwards and she was a real sweetheart. Ready Steady Cook awaits!!! HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT; Me being chatted up by Alison Goldfr…no, wait. It was Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole.

Top 20 Albums of 2005

Right lets get a few small matters out of the way first. Jem and KT Tunstall don’t count towards this list, as they were in my 2004 list, despite “re-releases” of the albums in question. “I Confess” by Holly Palmer would certainly make it in the list if I thought it was only released in 2005, but I’m sure I only discovered it this year and that it was out in 2004. Ditto for “Let It Die” by Feist and the Nouvelle Vague album. The Greatest Hits collections by Shakin’ Stevens and Basement Jaxx were ineligible (the old “Greatest Hits compilations don’t count” rule). Other than that, let battle commence! And let it be known this list was an absolute bugger to come up with. Oh, and those of you with time on your hands may notice that the marks “out of 5” I gave these albums upon their initial reviews may not necessarily correlate with the order in which they are ranked here, but as we all know, time changes opinions and some things grow on you whereas others don’t seem quite as good in retrospect.

BUBBLING UNDER – These couldn’t quite squeeze into the top 20, but deserve mentions nonetheless. Confessions On A Dance Floor (Madonna), Wayward Angel (Kasey Chambers), Fisherman's Woman (Emiliana Torrini), Super Extra Gravity (The Cardigans). The Dark Room (Editors).

20. Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (Shout Out Louds) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “perfectly formed collection of pop-rock tunes. Get it now, before they become massive.” WHAT I SAY NOW: Ok, so as of yet they’ve not become massive, but they were in the NME best albums of the year list (shudder), so that must count for something right? Anyhoo, I still have faith that this is going to break huge in 2006 and I shall be very angry if it doesn’t. I mean this beats the pants off album releases this year from Kasier Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand, although admittedly it probably doesn’t have the killer single to sell it to the masses. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; 100, A Track And A Train.

19. Pretty In Black (The Raveonettes) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “a 50's pop feel… and often the feel that the songs would play off wonderfully in a David Lynch or Quentin Tarrantino production” WHAT I SAY NOW: This really is the kind of stuff that the Everley Brothers might come up with today if they were a hot new band. It’s certainly not for everyone, but anyone with a liking for the old Phil Spector sound will find much to admire in here. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Ode To LA, Love In A Trashcan

18. Everything Is (Nine Black Alps) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “Much like Cobain, Nine Black Alps probably wont appreciate talk of pop "sensibilities", but that's exactly what they have.” WHAT I SAY NOW: They aim for Nirvana-esque sounds and that’s what they deliver. It’s hardly “new and fresh” sounds, but when what they do is as good as this, who cares? Whether they have the advancement in them for a propserpous career is debatable, but that shouldn’t detract from the album. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Not Everyone, Unsatisfied, Ironside (which even if it hadn’t been any good would have got massive brownie points just for the title).

17. Set Yourself On Fire (Stars) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “Stars never lose sight of the fact that it is the melodies that make a great pop song. And the result is a charismatic, energetic set of tunes” WHAT I SAY NOW: Ok, so they weren’t quite ready to challenge Arcade Fire for the “Best Band In Canada” award (if such thing actually exists in the real world) but this is still a fantastic album which gives us the kind of intelligent pop that has been missing for far too long. Pity about the abysmal cover though. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Your Ex Lover Is Dead, Reunion.

16. Songs For Silverman (Ben Folds) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “Ben's still on form, but now he's playing a different game.” WHAT I SAY NOW: I’m still ever so slightly disappointed that this is more “Rheinhold Messner” than it is “Whatever And Ever Amen” but you cannot deny the quality of this album which has led to something of a career renaissance for Mr Folds. Landed should have given him a long-overdue chart smash, whilst Bastard harks back to the “glory days” of Ben Folds Five . Add in the likes of Grace, a potentially mawkish song about his daughter which is actually quite touching, and Late and you have a quality album, although I do still think the album does meander out towards the end. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Landed, Grace.

15. The Repulsion Box (Sons And Daughters) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “a stunning collection which will enchant all those that listen to it.” WHAT I SAY NOW: Of course it failed to propel Sons And Daughters to super-stardom (as I sadly predicted it wouldn’t) but then sometimes, the record buying public just simply don’t get it do they? Or perhaps smart intelligent pop by one Scottish band (Franz Ferdinand) is enough for most people. Still, it’s the public’s loss isn’t it? RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Dance Me In, Medicine, Choked

14. Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking? (The Like) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “this is a great album and bodes well for a long and prosperous career” WHAT I SAY NOW: Ok, so the single tanked in the UK charts (failing to even crack the top 250), but I don’t care. This is still a quality album which WILL be a success when it gets it’s UK release. I sort of guarentee it. They should really clear up the charts because the music is great and they’re not bad to look at are they? RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Too Late, What I Say And What I Mean, Under The Paving Stones.

13. Young For Eternity (The Subways) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “it’s brash, it's cocky and it's hormonal” WHAT I SAY NOW: This is one of those that has grown in stature over the months. Initially I was slightly disappointed by it, but it quickly began to eek its way into my conscience and pretty soon I was loving most of it like a long-lost child. There is an energy to this that is, quite simply, infectious and you just hope that there is more to come in this vein and that “maturity” doesn’t set in any time soon. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Mary, Holiday, Oh Yeah

12. More Adventurous (Rilo Kiley) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “One listen through is all it takes for most of the delicate melodies to lodge inside you brain” WHAT I SAY NOW: Whilst it certianly wasn’t all that “more adventurous” from their previous albums, there was a definte swing upwards on the quality-o-meter with this release. The catchy melodies hides venemous, biting lyrics, and this juxtaposition is a huge part of the band’s appeal. There is an occasional tendency to lay on the schmaltz just a little too thickly for my liking, but that doesn’t detract too much from what is a great pop album. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; It’s A Hit, I Never, Portions For Foxes

11. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning (Bright Eyes) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “music making stripped down to it's rawest form. It's unadorned, naked, and beautiful” WHAT I SAY NOW: Wow I was being slighly pompous when I wrote that wasn’t I? Anyway, the sentiment is still true. People still argue that this album is simple rather than simplistic, but it has an effortless charm that is hard to ignore. It’s the one album from Connor Oberst that I can return to time after time. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; The First Day Of My Life, At The Bottom Of Everything

10. Chemistry (Girls Aloud) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “this is quite frankly one of the best pop albums EVER. No seriously, it is.” WHAT I SAY NOW: Well, it still is you know. Many “worthy” musical magazine have snottily given this album 2 or 3 out of 5 which really just means they can’t look past their own snobbery and recognise a fun and innovative album if it’s not in their preferred genre. But I understand that; our musical tastes take many forms. But if you’ve ever liked a pop song then you really shoul have this album in your collection. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Wild Horses, Biology, Swinging London Town

9. Maximum Minimum (Kraftwerk) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “a superb collection from one of the most influential bands in history” WHAT I SAY NOW: What is there to say? An astounding live album, featuring most of their best work and it still sounds as fresh today as it did all those years ago. All the pretenders to the throne take note, the bar has been raised again! RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; The Model, The Robots, Autobahn

8. Martha Wainwright (Martha Wainwright) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “at times hauntingly beautiful and at others filled with raw, flamed propelled, energy” WHAT I SAY NOW: Another album that grew on me over the year. Whlist certain tracks did jump out straight away, others took their time to work their magic, but most of them did in the end. You’d expect the weight of a musical family would weigh on her, but it doesn’t show. Straight off the bat she has her own voice, and if her form continues like this, she’ll end up with a legacy to match her brother Rufus. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole, Ball & Chain, When The Day Is Short

7. Lullabies To Paralyze (Queens Of The Stone Age) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “rock as it should be. Dark, edgy and, above all, sexy.” WHAT I SAY NOW: If there was one album to rock out to this year, this is the one! Its heavy, its sweaty, its loud…It’s a classic! It’s even better than previous albums, which could be patch in parts. Looks like the Josh Homme roadshow is ready to run on and on, and long may it continue to do so. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Little Sister, You Got A Kiler Scene Man

6. Year Of Meteors (Laura Veirs) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “Constantly knowing, articulate and hauntingly beautiful throughout, always drawing the listener in deeper and deeper with each play.” WHAT I SAY NOW: Another nice discovery this year. Her previous albums had completely passed me by, but this was quite the gem. Veirs paints the picture of a world rammed full of eels, snakes and homing pigeons and whilst it is loosely a “folk” album, there is enough variety to enchant anyone who just happens to like great music. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Galaxies, Black Gold Blues,

5. LCD Soundsystem (LCD Soundsytem) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “a must have CD from a man more interested in producing genuinely exciting and exhillarating music than by the notion of being cool and/or hip." WHAT I SAY NOW: A classic trio of singles in years past had made the wait for a full-on LCD album a tense one indeed. Could James Murphy really match those, never mind beat them? Well I’m glad to say that he indeed came up with the goods. This is dance music, without ever limiting itself to the boundaries placed upon that genre. There’s a sheer wealth of reference points to be heard, but the striking thing is just how fresh it all sounds. A truly unforgettable experience. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Daft Punk Is Playing In My House, Tribulations, Too Much Love

4. Fires (Nerina Pallot) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “This is just full of great track after great track with memorable tunes, and great lyrics.” WHAT I SAY NOW: An album I thought I’d never hear after Nerina’s long absence from the scene following Dear Frustrated Superstar…but it was worth the long wait. After this album was brought to my attention ,by the woman herself I might add, I was just so made up that there was finally a second album that I would have probably have loved it no matter what it sounded like, but there was no need for that as it really is a fanstastic album and you just knew that it would lead to bigger and better things (which it seems to have done in terms of a new record deal). The comeback of the year! RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Geek Love, Sophia, Damascus

3. Funeral (Arcade Fire) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “its underlying message is that love truly can conquer all. Let this album conquer you.” WHAT I SAY NOW: I was in a pompous mood when I wrote that review too I see! Either that, or I was drunk. But still, this is a bloody fantastic record, which is so good that its difficult to imagine that this really is a long-player debut. As I point out, some have labelled this an album of despair, but whilst it has its dark moments, ultimately this is an uplifting album which is a delight from start to finish. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Neighbourhood #2 (Laika), Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out), Rebellion (Lies)

2. Blinking Lights And Other Revelations (The Eels) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “this {collection} is a thing of rare beauty.” WHAT I SAY NOW: This is without doubt E’s masterpiece, the second disc especially. In fact if it wasn’t for the slightly inconsistent Disc one this might just have sneaked the top spot. Given the fact that E has lost most of his family to illness one way or the other its not surprising that there is a slightly dispairing feel to the album, but whereas Electro-Shock Blues was relentlessly dour, this has its moments of relative joy. It’s not easy listening, but it does reward any listener with the perseverence. RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; I'm Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart, Ugly Love, Trouble With Dreams.

1. Extraordinary Machine (Fiona Apple) – WHAT I SAID THEN; “There isn't a duff track on the whole album.” WHAT I SAY NOW:In the end, this had to be THE choice as my favourite album of 2005. From start to finish this is superb and to my lovely ears there isn’t a track I would want to skip past. It took six years, and prolonged record label wranglings, for this to reach the shelves and it was everything you could want it to be. Unmistakably Fiona Apple, but with renewed vim and vigour. I just hope I don’t have to wait six years for the follow up to this! RECCOMMENDED TRACKS; Get Him Back, Extraordinary Machine, Window, Better Version Of Me.