Sunday, 19 July 2015

2000 Maniacs. Live review of 2000 Trees Festival

2000 Trees*****
The middle of buggering nowhere.
Near Cheltenham. Apparently.
9th-11th July 2015

Because HTML and CSS are, effectively crap (especially on Blogger). I've started putting reviews and stuff into a much neater, nicer Ezine kind of format thru Issuu.

It's a bit skeumorphic, but looks heaps better than a shitty linear blog.

It works nicely on a destop or laptop and will work on smartphones and tablets, but if that's where you want to look at stuff, then I recommend the Issuu app. It's much neater and you can access all manner of functions, and, of course other mags too. Oh, and it's FREE.

I'm going to keep this blog open as a kind of portal to the new stuff, but won't really be writing directly on here any more. It's kind of the end of an era and over 400,000 of you saps have ogled my word farts and dribblage over the last 4 or 5 years. So cheers.

Anyway, here's the link to the 2000 Trees Ezine:

Here are some of the pics. For old time's (skool's) sake. 

Cheers, Bwoooar.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Slam Drunk - words & pics from Slam Dunk South and more

Slam Dunk South ****1/2*
The Forum, Hatfield, May 23rd 2015
Pvris, Set It Off, Thy Art Is Murder, Shvpes, We Are The Ocean, Don Broco, Lower Than Atlantis, While She Sleeps, Architects, You Me At Six

Been a busy month. Many shows. 
Many bands. Many friends. Many cold frothy glasses of medicine.
Over the next 50 pages or so is a motley collection of iPhone pics from the pit and from the hip. Usually after many cold frothy glasses of medicine.
Along with the random word farts, hopefully the spirit, energy and joy of live rock music is captured. 

Well, kind of. 

Dive in...

So, to Hatfield. The second leg of what’s becoming one of the UK’s most important festivals. Definitely aimed at the younger end of the market, Slam Dunk has led from the front alongside other one-dayers like Hit The Deck, Takedown and a handful of others, but has grown a bigger beard and bigger set of danglers as it’s matured a little quicker than its notional siblings. The strongest line up to date boasts big names from just about every genre in  rock pantheon. From pop punk and ska punk to deathcore and pop rock, there’s a leader of every pack here today. While She Sleeps, Architects, YMAS, Don Broco, Less Than Jake, The Bronx...the list is as exhaustive as it is extensive, with the only problem of the day being who to actually watch and who to painfully forego. So, onwards and upwards...

Set it Off *****
Kicking off on the nightmare opening slot on the main stage are the frothy and teeny Set it Off. An impressively sizeable crowd has already gathered and dutifully loses its collective shit as front man Cody Carson leads the poppy, pleasant enough and creditably performed set of sing-a-long soaked, smile-inducing sass. A bit cheesy and high school-friendly at times but a tasty starter on the packed menu that gets the hungry young ’uns digging in greedily. As a starter, think prawn cocktail. But washed down with a Blue WKD. Burp. 

PVRIS *****
The hype around this lot is unrelenting and gathering considerable momentum. So, is all the fuss worth it? Well, if big power pop with an electronica-infused and a smattering of faux-heaviness is your thang, then it’s easy to see why all the column inches and pixelated prose have been spouted and expounded. They’ve certainly got the songs, the hooks and the energy. A feisty and charismatic front woman. And a fairly original sound. There are moments of Issues or AWOL Nation, but generally they’re on a path of their own. Pvs mvl. Vrviment.

SHVPES *****
Getting things started on the ‘heavy ‘ stage are another band with an oh so cvrrent vse of the letter V. Shvpes (formerly Cytota) And that’s pretty much all that’s terribly cvrrent. Their tuneful metalcore is far from unlistenable though. Ticks all the boxes. Well played, well put together and enthusiastically performed. A developing bvnd who will surely develop their sound as they continue to cook. Just need a bit longer in the oven. But palatably meaty.

Thy Art is Murder *****
Not really my bag. It may be deathcore. Or death metal. Or death of a salesman. Whatever it is, in reality, it’s little more than a bit of a din. Angry, gruff, sweary  ‘singer CJ McMahon has a go at pop punk (fair enough) , calls just about everybody in the world a cunt and wild boar  squeals, burps, roars, growls and screams through a heavy as a randy rhino’s balls set. There’s a lot of machine gun blast beats. Loads of downtuned riffage. Dollops of sub bass and a lot of finger pointing and of course, loads of cunting, fucking bastard swearing. As I say, not my bag. 

We Are The Ocean *****
So, it seems the former darlings of the post-hardcore/ladcore scene (if that was actually a thing)  from a few years back have been locked in a log cabin with a bong, an ounce of Lebanese or Moroccan resin, the complete works of Led Zeppelin, Free, Bad Company, 
Pendragon, Budgie and the odd T.Rex single. And, tell you what, the results are a proper grown up casserole of cock rock, prog, boogie, soul and good, honest hard rock. Led by gritty-voiced, snarling and sneering, gum chewing headbanging Liam Cromby, the Essex quintet produce a blistering, boisterous and big-balled set of proper bloody rock and roll. 

Not that most of the alcopop-swigging teenies gathered in front of the main stage seem to be totally captivated though. Nevertheless, a new found maturity, some sodding great tunes, smart grooves and frenum-tightening riffs hint that it won’t be long before this lot are headed for more grown up, and hopefully bigger, audiences.
Have no clue what an architecture of time is though. And certainly wouldn’t know how to build one. Pass that bong. Think we’re going to need it. Heady and hearty stuff.

Lower Than Atlantis *****
A hugely busy schedule for the always entertaining and über-honest pop rockers seems to have blunted Mike Duce’s normal spit and spite this afternoon. Although they manfully plough through the prime fillets from their fabulously catchier-than-chlamydia eponymous last long player, something doesn’t appear to be turned all the way up to eleven. Saying that, the biggest crowd of the day so far has gathered in a drooling and enthusiastic throng doesn’t seem to give a rodent’s anus. All the biggies from the album are given an outing and the adoring crowd, bounce, mosh, jump, jiggle and sing back just about every syllable. Duce’s radio pick up on his acoustic fails during an aborted attempt to perform the always goosebump-inducing Another Sad Song from among his fizzy-drawered  acolytes, but he brushes it off and the deservedly popular boy-next-door band crack on with a couple of old faves (Beech Like A Tree and the S.T.D. paean Deadliest catch)
before ending with the brilliant Here We Go. For clearly tired lads, they do a bloody good job. 

Don Broco ****1/2*
Next up on the main stage are the loveable perma-grin wearing and inducing Beds bad boys Don Broco. And from the off, it’s clear they’re here to party. Aren’t they always? Having been largely locked away for aeons concocting the next chapter in their manual of how to take over the world by seduction and being just bloody nice blokes, they’ve emerged on the run-up to the launch of their long-awaited new album Automatic to start the foreplay. And a typically boisterous and beautifully played set hints at what’s to come. New choons, Automatic, Fire and What You Do To Me from the album that are already out in the public domain are smoothly assimilated into the bill of fare alongside all the existing party tuneage with a wildly moist and aroused young crowd already fluent in the lyrics (albeit nowhere near as clever, smart or neat as their previous librettos). There’s even room for a Bad Rabbits/Hot Chocolate/RHCP soul explosion mash up new tune Superlove which is about as far from fan favourite Thug Workout as spit is to lube. We get the walk, the wall of death, the sass, the sing-a-longs and more bouncing than a fat lass’s buttocks on a trampoline before the final call to arms of You Wanna Know wrings the last energy and drop of Jager bomb infused sweat from the spellbound and smiling masses.

Architects *****
Closing the ‘loud’ stage tonight are Britain’s very best heavy band. Architects. Having seemingly finally to have found themselves after wrestling with demons, identity issues, cancer and crises of confidence, the Brighton quintet, tonight are bringing down the curtain on the most successful stanza of their career so far. The absolutely spellbinding Lost Forever//Lost Together album chapter is coming to an end. But this evening, in front of thousands of baying and loved-up apostles, it feels as far from a wake or a pyre-lighting as one could imagine. In fact, it almost feels like the launch of a new ship before the old one has even been brought into dry dock. The ever-articulate, ingratiating and charming Sam Carter leads the ‘celebration’ from the front. A totally controlled, powerful, but expressive and emotionally charged set truly sets them apart from the chasing pack. It’s raw, challenging, visceral, thought-provoking, testicle twisting genius. A good handful of tracks from the last album are interspersed with older favourites, prompting frenzied sing backs, collective shit being not just lost but sent into orbit and, of course the bizarre nihilistic but neck hair erecting sights and sounds of thousands of collective throats roaring YOU FUCKING PIGS in unison, unity and unbridled affection. What a band. What a show. What a way to start the next chapter.

The rest 
And so it ends. And what a day. The vibe couldn’t have been better. The rain more or less stayed away. Of course, there weren’t enough bogs; it wouldn’t be a proper festival if there were. I got to see most of the bands I wanted to. Caught some I didn’t expect to. Missed some I’d really wanted to (couldn’t get near the attic for either Baby Godzilla or Fort Hope). Drank far too much cider. Danced too much for a man my age. Met up with so many great buddies and bands and met some new friends too. All-in-all, a total triumph. And a marvellous celebration of everything that is right about rock music and the wonderful, weird, whacky and whacked-out people who love it. Long may Slam Dunk continue to support, celebrate and inspire the musicians and fans alike.

PS. Knuclepuck were alright. But although While She Sleeps were immensely popular and their set was tight, explosive and raw, poor Loz’s vox were really straining and just hope he regains some of the napalm-soused face-melting power he used to possess. Missed The Bronx, Gallows and a bunch of other great bands. Caught about half an hour of YMAS and must admit, did mouth along to more of the words than I’d ever admit to knowing. And I’m going to have one hell of a hangover in the morning. Cheers.

Arcane Roots *****
Oslo, Hackney, Friday 22nd Saturday 23rd May 2015

First Night
Hackney is a shit bunker. Let’s be honest. No amount of pop up shops, fixed gear bikes, no-socked  beardies and pho bars will ever make it anything else. It’s rubbish. There, I said it. However, it is the setting for two hugely important nights in the career of one of the very best bands in the land. Two nights to round off an intensive and gruelling UK tour. Two nights with two different sets. On the Friday, pretty much a run through of the astonishing Left Fire ‘mini’ album from 4 or 5 years ago cut with quality cuts from the equally brilliant Blood & Chemistry album and a couple of new ones thrown in. From the off, Andrew Groves and co tear the place apart. And the enthusiastic, appreciative and sweaty crowd love every second. The band are note perfect but this is no slavishly dot-for-dot, indulgent muso fest; oh no, this is raw, emotional, important, soulful, joyous, integrity-drenched genius. Simultaneously ripping the flesh from our faces and caressing our soft bits. The perfect balance between technical virtuosity and heartfelt expression. There are few bands who can amalgamate the raw power, the fragility, the melody, the bombast, the light, the shade, the tightness and the expression in such a spellbinding way. Very few indeed.

Second Night
Surely they couldn’t? Could they? It is too much to ask to improve on what, last night was nigh-on live perfection. Well, they’ve only bloody gone and done it. Seriously. Publicising tonight’s menu as a fans’ special, Messrs Groves, Burton and Wrench (the amazing last minute stand in sticksman for this tour) put together a set that is seriously from another planet. No, fuck it, from another parallel universe. Everything is, well, just perfect. The playing, the interplaying, the vocals, the emotion, every squealy and pinch harmonic, every razor-sharp time signature diversion, every missed beat. Everything. Groves even treats us to a beautiful homage to BB King, further cementing him as one of the great contemporary  guitarists who’s not afraid to play his instrument rather than just use it a s a blunt downtuned riff cudgel. An impassioned speech half way through proceedings confirms that the lads know they’re in the midst of something pretty special too. And they proceed to shower the heaving crowd with gifts aplenty in the form of coruscating new tunes, slotted into a mesmerising and masterful collection of almost embarrassingly perfect contemporary rock music.Tonight, Arcane Roots have produced, not the nigh-on perfection but absolutely stunning, engaging, bowel-shifting, heart-melting genital stirring perfection.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim *****
Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, Thursday 28th June 2015

They don’t get out much. But tonight, Sweet Billy Pilgrim are out and proud to support their dazzling latest long player Motorcade Amnesiacs with a show in the bowels of Hoxton Square. A decent sized crowd of industry types, accountants, not-so-young professionals and serious looking discerning, beard-stroking musos are gathered to worship at the pulpit from where garrulous, deliciously dry and ever-charming front man Tim Elsenburg conducts his preaching to the largely converted.

The new album is given a fair airing and the new songs, although shorn of the studio layers, instrumentation and massive production, sound absolutely bloody splendid. Wearing their multi-inflences clearly on their wizard’s sleeves, the six piece live line up counjor up Steely Dan, Captain, The Kane Gang, Prefab Sprout and even moments of Tool: the result is a refreshing, comforting but wonderfully original creamy cocktail with traces of raw, powerful spirit not far form the lips. Elsenburg seems to be enjoying himself throughout and shows genuine emotion at the spine-tingling, tear-jerking  multi-harmonic crowd participation in the spellbinding Blue Sky Falls. A truly gorgeous evening in the presence of a truly gorgeous and clever genre-defying band. Amen.

Rolo Tomassi *****
Our Black Heart, Camden, Tuesday 2nd June 2015

Let’s keep this brief. No one does what Rolo Tomassi do. No one. Their fucked up, thought-provoking, intelligent melange of metal, jazz, neo-classical, ambient, experimental, mathrock, mathcore and electronica either flicks your switch or it doesn’t. For the record, I’m firmly in the flicked switch camp. And tonight, I’m not alone. 

A sold out Black Heart fan oven is absolutely rammed with fellow supporters and followers of the oft weird but always wonderful Sheffield five piece. Tonight is the second date on a four date dart around some of the capital’s smaller and sweatier venues to get behind the launch of their stunning new album Grievances. And although short and sweet (if you can call being eviscerated and having the top of your bonce brutally drilled into sweet), the gathered disciples are treated to a perfectly balanced set of mayhem and melody, brutality and beauty, vitriol and virtuosity. And, in short, it’s brilliant. 

Now, here's what the blog would look like if it wasn't designed in shitty HTML in Blogger:

Monday, 1 June 2015

Camden Cocks - live review and pics of Camden Rocks Festival

Camden Rocks*****
Bad Sign, Attention Thieves, Press to Meco, Samoans, Polar, Max Raptor, Axis Of, Skindred, Beer, Cider, Jagermeister. Oh dear.

Another book type thing with pics from the hip and a few words about some of the great bands at this year's Camden Rocks Festival. Just click and read...

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Pit shots

A bunch of drunken pics from a whole bunch of shows from the last 9 months or so.

All on the iPhone. All taken while probably a bit bladdered. All real. All great bands. Apart from THE HELL, who are obviously cunts.

Have a look:

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Take Me Down. Review of Takedown Festival 2015

Takedown 2015
Ft. Black Peaks ***1/2** Hawkeyes***** InMe***** Rolo Tomassi ****1/2* Arcane Roots ***** And more
Southampton University, Saturday 7th March

Well, It's been a while since I've pulled the quill out and emptied my brain bin's foetid and oozing contents onto the page in celebration of live rock music (other ongoing but exciting music projects have got in the way). But, I'm glad to be out of the enforced semi-retirement to be back at Southampton Uni for what promises to be a splendid and diverse day.

However, true to form and due to the tardy arrival of certain colleagues, I'm a bit late starting, so sadly miss the playful and always good value Zoax.

So, cheap Cider in hand, it's into action and into the Stygian gloom of The Cube...
Black Peaks ***1/2** 
A cracking start to the day. A grungy, dirty, hugely enjoyable, twisty and turny journey through post-rock forest, mathy meadow and heavy hollow. So many influences and reference points. Think Bovine and Mastodon chucked into a silage tank then mixed with a good sludgy dollop of Intronaut and more than a whiff of Katatonia and Karnivool with surprising traces of Mogwai and even Blakfish. 

Throughout, mustachioed charismatic front man Will Gardner impressively growls, cajoles, spellbinds and assaults ears and arseholes alike cutting sharply across the deep and involved grungescape.

A curious but surprisingly original and very fertile mixture. Can't wait to see how it matures and develops.

So, a quick waddle over to the main stage in the scout hut to see Alt metal spacey, fantasy-soused genuine top geezer legends playing their seminal masterpiece Overgrown Eden.  

A surprisingly early mid Saturday afternoon football kick off slot hasn't stopped the punters careering through the turnstiles and a packed, sweaty room welcomes the Essex lads with the fervour normally reserved for a lager-pickled home end at Upton Park (or whatever the fuck it's called these days). Mercifully without bubbles - but with huge swollen rock God balls in their stead.

The set is delivered perfectly, energetically and with huge clown-face grins. So stunning to think this record was produced so long ago. And it hasn't aged a bit. Still sounding fresher than a newly baked baguette smothered in that delicious French butter (never tastes the same over here). The playing, as one would expect from such sensational musicians is note-for-note perfect even allowing for Dave's mildly anachronistic flabby phased, flanged guitars on the slower ones. Just splendid though. Splendid.

And to top off the loveliness, as an extra treat Mr Mikey Chapman from the fenland parish of Mallory Knoxville joins the boys on stage for a rip-roaring canter through Faster The Chase. Pure, timeless class throughout and an appetite whetter for the forthcoming tour and imminent epic triple long player. Brilliant stuff.

I fucking love these bums. Unreconstructed, straight up and down, honest genital furtling and squeezing ballsy rock and roll. Massive riffs. Just massive. A truly dirty, filthy, hairy, sordid and brutal onslaught but with the heart the size of a watermelon.

Playing the Obsidian stage rather than a more apt dingy, Jager-soaked hovel may not be the greatest venue for this blend of filth, but the boys manfully career through their canon of huge riff bombs with the new material off the sublime Everything Is Fine album regardless of the brightly lit, 'oh-so-funky' student bar setting.

Honest and truthful brilliance. Oh yus.

Rolo Tomassi ****1/2*
There's nobody on the planet that comes close to this crazed, mashed-up, amalgamated and generally fucked-upness of this oh so special quintet. Seamlessly mixing mathcore, noise rock, jazz, screamo, metal, (and its core cousin), industrial electronica, brass band, kazoo orchestra and roadworks, the Spence siblings front up a truly original and breathtaking and magical melange that has to be on everyone's bucket list.

The tiny and hyperactive Eva quacks, barks, roars and seduces as she almost epileptically spasms, contorts, flounces and hurls herself around like a crazed acrobat full of crack and speedballs being repeatedly stung up the arse by killer hornets. All backed with such tight and surgically sharp heaviness and power and mind melting electonic beeps, farts, burps and pads.

New drummer Tom Pitts ably takes over the reins from the departed Ed Dutton and pilots this fucked up tossing and turning heavily armed Hadean torpedo boat  through the tumultuous and brilliant set. The new tunes aired, serve only to whet the slavering appetite even more for the next stage of this truly unique band's sensational career. Amazing stuff.


Arcane Roots *****
Next in the main stage scout hut are the incredible Surrey shredders Arcane Roots and they've come armed with an arsenal of new claymores, IEDs and napalm cluster bombs to launch into the packed hall alongside their tried and tested weapons of choice from the remarkable Blood & Chemistry and its equally incendiary predecessor, Left Fire.

And what results is just ridiculous. Carnage. Destruction. Sodom and Gomorrah. But laser guided, precise and flawlessly executed destruction. Not random bomb tossing. Oh no. The playing, is, as always, flawless; as are Andrew Groves' searing and razor wire sharp vocals. 

All the way through, from the chugging splendour of Resolve through to the brooding malevolence and brilliance of Million Dollar Que$tion, the set is so beautifully and cleverly constructed. The pits open up, the bodies gyrate and contort: like Picasso's Guernica, there's a distorted, abstract, challenging  and chaotic discomfort but the overall effect is mesmerising and, frankly,  just remarkable.

And if the hugely anticipated new album is even one iota as brilliant as the freshly baked genius of If Nothing (Breaks Us, Nothing Moves), then the very cream of British rock music will be giving birth to one of the greatest rock records imaginable. I can't bloody wait.

Seriously, live rock music doesn't get any better. Any.

So, That's the main stuff that I have managed to see. I must admit after the total splendour of Arcane Roots, everything else is going to suffer by withering comparison. But Moose Blood**1/2*** and the always beautifully harmonised Decade***** strut their pop-punky, alt-infused rifftastic stuff with aplomb. The Blackout***** emotionally do their thang for the last time at a festival. Charlie Simpson***1/2** strums and croons through a typically melodic and mellow collection of niceness and I'm sure the always fabulous Mallory Knox slay it with their classy brand of pop rock - but by this time I am otherwise involved with beverages and chats with other boozers, losers and jacuzzi users and frankly too pissed to care.

But, once again, Takedown have produced, curated and delivered a spectacular day. The feel-good vibe here is like nowhere else. Brilliant diversity. Good friends. A top, top day. Oh, and did I mention how bloody amazing Arcane Roots were.

Now, if only they were doing a 30 odd date UK tour soon....

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

8 Wonders of the world. 8 of the best singles of 2014

Singles, songs, EPS, odds, sods, widows and orphans of the year. 
As well as some cracking long players (top ten here) , there have been some terrific tunes, songs, eps and one-offs sent out to infiltrate, violate and seduce our ear holes this year. Here are 8 (no reason) of my particular favourites:

8: The Chronicles of Gnarnia - Gnarwolves
A kind of gnarly, fucked up anthology of gnarly, fucked up brilliance rather than a true album or ep but fuller than a well stoked bong packed with mind-altering, nihilistic, raw, catchy, grimy noise. Real 'pop' punk. Fuck it, just real.

7: Here We Go - Lower Than Atlantis
Down-tuned rifftastic first public offering from their brilliant eponymous fourth long player. A statement of intent and a life-affirming anthemic slug of raucous pop rock. Surely a staple for the sports channel music editors to accompany stirring, rallying victory montages. 

6: Shaking In The Water - The Xcerts
Pop. With a huge throbbing cock. Catchy, radio-friendly and hummable but with heavy fish hook barbs stitched into its lapels. A stonking proper single from one of the most enduring, endearing and hardest working bands in the land. Culled from their amazing new album and set to become an absolute non-negotiable indelible inclusion in their sets to come as they rise to inevitable stadium and world domination.

5: Slipshod - Enter Shikari
This was going to be The Last Garrison from the forthcoming new long player, but then, those crazy cats from St Albans dropped this masterpiece. Armed with a Ren and Stimpy animator and a tale seeming inspired by frustrating sub optimal service, they go to places not even these most pioneering of mavens haven't dared to tread. Fresh, crazy, challenging, fucking hilarious (butchered chicken cunt). Lordy lordy.

4: Money Power Fame - Don Broco
A tantalising and majestic portent of more success to come? Oh yes. Having been squirrelled away writing, recording and perfecting a new long player set for release hopefully next spring, the lad core lovelies give us a taster of what's hopefully on its way with this riff-driven monster of a tune. Lyrically not their wittiest, cheekiest, driest or cleverest, but compensated by crushing guitar, slap bass and infectious melodic chicanery. Next year will be absolutely huge for these loveable rogues. Money. Power. Fame. Indeed.

3: Over & Over - Arcane Roots
Following up from  Blood & Chemistry, their 2013 album masterpiece, a brilliant, heart-stopping, stadium-rocking and multi-layered single which hopefully indicates that Arcane Roots are well on the road to becoming even better and cementing themselves as one of the UK's very best proper rock bands.

2: It’s Hard to Be a Gentleman/All those things you hate about me, I hate them too - Jamie Lenman   
I'm spent when it comes to superlatives and glowing, warm words when it comes to the UKs most brilliant and influential, challenging and charming genius. Suffice to say, this double headed Janus of a single is simply a masterpiece. (As an aside, anyone who hasn't checked out the amazing alchemy that happens when Muscle and Memory from last year's phenomenal album are played at the same time, find it online and listen to it immediately - as I say, Mr Lenman is just a bally genius.)

1: Drown - Bring Me The Horizon
I never truly know how I feel about BMTH. On paper, they're not my thing at all. But last year's Sempiternal was undeniably a work of considerable prowess. Bordering on genius. Well, this year, the shape has been cleverly shifted again and this single marries melodic pop sensibilities, electronica and shards of lingering metalcore to produce an undeniably catchy, memorable and bloody brilliant tune. And after all, that's what it's all about about. 
Well, isn't it?

Oh, and here are my top 10 albums again:

Long Players of a long year.

A purely personal take on the best recorded music of the last year. Not trying to be clever, trendy, outré or affected; just what I consider to be bloody good records from what's been a pretty bloody good year.

10: The Narrator - The People The Poet. 
Not totally sure this was officially released in 2014, but certainly one of my most listened to albums of the last 12 months. A truly co-created effort, taking stories from their fans and building a stunning, narrative, deeply touching and emotional anthology. 

Veering between Springsteenesque blue collar coal dust imbued grit to polished stadium-friendly bangers with beautiful and clever harmonies from the angelic Greta Isaac throughout lending the perfect counterpoint and complement to Leon Stanford's gruff, Joe Cocker like growls and deep brown soulful seductions.

Wearing a bright, unashamed cloak of multi-influences from Counting Crows, through to Coldplay and The Allman Brothers. Beautiful stories. Beautifully told.

9: Rooms Of The House - La Dispute

A wonderful, illuminating and fascinating mash up of spoken word, US post hardcore, melodic jazzy reveries infused with a punky 'couldn't give a fuck' seam. Delicious, thought-provoking, melodic, off beam and truly original. A modernist masterpiece.

8: Groovehammer - THE HELL



7: Fair Youth - Maybeshewill 
As post rock goes (if it's actually a thing at all) it doesn't come any better than this. An emotionally charged tour de force of harmony, melody, texture and depth. Genuinely spine tingling at times and like a gorgeous warm hug at others. A record to get lost in. And to lose your shit to. A sublime, well-honed and hench semi-classical, moduar torso but with menacing rock gonads. A heady and intoxicating mix. Stunning.

6: Glory - Axes
A spectacular instrumental collection of futuristic, mathtacular, technically stunning, choppy, polyrhythmic ups and downs, swings and roundabouts, riffs and rants, light and shade, melody and dissonance, power and seduction. If you do nothing else next year, catch this space-aged, grinning, other-worldly quartet live. Seriously a breathtaking and life-changing experience. Glory is about as close as the mesmerising live side of the band gets on record. Amazing.

5: Old Bones - Yearbook
Ok, by today's crazy rules, not technically an album, but fuck that. It's a wonderful collection of off-kilter, off-beam and off its tits alt rock. Clever, heartfelt, beautifully and thoughtfully crafted and packed full of originality and quirkiness. Displaying a songwriting maturity that belies the bands' callow yoof. A truly superb debut effort that sets the bar ridiculously high for the subsequent bombs they're hopefully loading in their bomb bay as we speak. Delicious. 

4: Lower Than Atlantis - Lower Than Atlantis
A somewhat controversial album. But a bloody triumphant one. Selling out? Softening up? Wimping out? Nah. Just a superb collection of killer pop songs with a rock and punk skirt on. A clever shift and an opening of hearts and minds. The band claim that they just let the music they like come out, regardless of expectation or genre. Well, what did come out is a true work of poptastic genius. Hum them. Sing them. Shake your arse to them. Whatever. It's nigh impossible to get them out of your head. So good.

3: There Is Only You - The Xcerts
An absolutely astonishing 4th album from the edgy alt power pop trio. Every song has a hook like Mike Tyson. But delivered with power, passion, integrity and hearts the size of cabbages. Murray Macleod's voice has never sounded better. Or more honest. There are heart-melting moments of tenderness and frailty married with massive riffs, stadium-friendly choruses and woo hoos. At least 5 of the songs are instant hit single material (if hit singles are still a thing!) If there's any justice in the world, this masterpiece should now catapult these loveable slackerpopsters to serious heights. Brulliant. Bluddy brulliant.

2: The Weird And Wonderful - Marmozets
Mashing up mathcore with grungy northern pop replete with astringent, thrilling, eviscerating riffs, spikes and hooks and rhythmic fuckery, this isn't just one of my favourite albums of the year, but has carved its antisocial yet beguiling way into my all time list. So unbelievably confident and competent for a band so young. Every tune reeks of scuzzy and punishing life on the road. It stinks of sweat. Shit. Passion. Brio. Beer. Jager. And love.
So much love. Colossal sing-a-longs juxtaposed with H-bomb destructive violence and almost a simmering malevolence. You wouldn't wan't to pick a fight with this record. It'll tear your fucking face off. But might kiss it better afterwards. Wonderfully weird. And weirdly fucking wonderful.

1: Lost Forever // Lost Together - Architects
In what has been a brilliant year for quality (if not quantity) it's just so hard to pick one album as the stand out. But, for me, even though I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool metal head and I abhor so much me-too metalcore, Lost Forever // Lost Together is quite simply a classic. Aside from the laudable and searingly acidic political and edgy subject matter of much of the content, the musicality, the braveness, the technicality and the middle finger in the air attitude set this astonishingly powerful and moving album apart from the chasing pack.

Aggression, pathos, anger, bewilderment, frustration and fuck you are all delivered almost concurrently; but it stays single-mindedly sharp. Clean. Pointed. Thought-provoking. And seriously fucking heavy. The drops, the sub bass, the bleuurghs (although maybe slightly overdone), the towering guitar work and crushing drumming all support Sam Carter's amazing talent for being able to scream like a Euro Fighter in a broom cupboard, but maintain melody, nuance and versatility. A huge, unapologetic explosion of a record that puts Architects in a place of there own. Genuinely stunning. In every sense of the word.

And that's about that for the year. There were other great albums, songs, singles, soundfiles, demos and tuneage that nearly made the cut. Others that showed moments of enormous potential and promise for the future. Some that fell on stony ground. Some that ticked boxes but didn't quite break hearts. Some that were total shit. But all recorded with belief and a love for music. Overall a pretty decent year for recorded music. With this selection being at the very top of my personal tree.

Here's to more next year.