Friday, 13 December 2013

Albums of 2013

2013 has been a bloody good year for music. There are signs that mainstream music is daring to branch out, which is great news for those that have always been forced to look under the radar for their musical fix. I've spent the past month going through the painstaking process of filtering through everything i've bought and listened to this year, narrowing it down to what I consider to be my 20 favourite albums this year. Of course you won't agree with them all, but that's half the fun. Without further ado:-

20. Volcano Choir - Repave

Volcano Choir - Byegone VIDEO
The last album to be put on this list arrives at #20. Repave is seriously chilled out and any fan of Bon Iver would love it.

19. Paramore - Paramore

Paramore - Now VIDEO
In my opinion the most complete album they've done so far. Like Gwen Stefani meets Cyndi Lauper meets every 80s pop song ever. 

18. Hot As Sun - Night Time Sound Desire

Hot As Sun - Desert Song VIDEO
Only came across this on a label sampler from another album. Would not sound out on place on anyone's summer soundtrack or just for anyone looking to get their groove on.

17. Kanye West - Yeezus

Kanye West - On Sight VIDEO
Yeezus is golden. Kanye's strongest album yet sees him team up with basically everyone. If he spent less time comparing himself to Nelson Mandela and more time in the studio he probably would be taken more seriously as a musician.

16. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe

Blood Orange - Chamakay VIDEO
Dev Hynes' 2nd album as his Blood Orange alter ego. As funky and jazzy an album you're bound to get this year.

15. Cults - Static

Cults - So Far VIDEO
Another album I came across completely by accident. Static is just seriously delicious indie pop.

14. Depeche Mode - Delta Machine

Depeche Mode - Welcome To My World VIDEO
Some may argue Delta Machine is perhaps not their finest work but I'd definitely regard it as their most progressive. The two intro tracks 'Welcome To My World' and 'Angel' are a formidable pairing though. 

13. M.I.A - Matangi

M.I.A- Matangi VIDEO
Matangi just makes you want to turn your cap back to front, beat your belly like a drum and start kicking trolleys over in Tescos but in a way that could be interpreted as art. 

12. MS MR - Secondhand Rapture

MS MR - Hurricane VIDEO
This was another late addition to this list, but one that is there purely based on just how effing cool it is.

11. Delorean - Apar

Delorean - Spirit VIDEO
Delorean are clearly one of Spain's best kept secrets. Not as solid as the previous album 'Subiza' but still a very decent daydream inducing dance record.

10. The Naked And Famous - In Rolling Waves

The Naked And Famous - Hearts Like Ours VIDEO
Emotion and catchy chorus aplenty. There is just something incredibly mesmerising about Alisa Xayalith's piercing voice. 

9. One Republic - Native

One Republic - Something I Need VIDEO
I'm actually very pleased at how well this album did commercially because it was about time people saw more in this band than just that song they did with Timbaland back in the day. Lyrically this album is superb and some of the album tracks especially Life In Color and Preacher are just excellent. 

8. Lights - Siberia Acoustic

Lights - Toes (Acoustic) VIDEO
How do you top an album as brilliant and as expansive as Siberia? You release an acoustic version of it of course! Featuring artists such as Owl City and Coeur De Pirate, Siberia showed a softer side to the full track counterparts.

7. Swim Deep - Where The Heaven Are We

(read my review of this album right hurrr LINK)
Honestly one of the happiest albums I've ever listened to. 

6. Biffy Clyro - Opposites

Biffy Clyro - Victory Over The Sun VIDEO
'Mon the Biff! There's a lot of pressure on a band willing to go down the double album route but Opposites delivers with flying colours. The songs are bloody awesome live as well.

5. Editors - The Weight Of Your Love

Editors - Sugar VIDEO
One of my favourite live sets this year, sat on a grassy Spanish hill directly opposite the main stage, sun beaming on your face, pint of beer by your side. Nothing else could top that.

4. Funeral For a Friend - Conduit

Funeral For a Friend - Conduit VIDEO
The solitary 'shouty' album on this list, Conduit is easily Funeral For a Friend's best album since Hours. This is album is just raw, loud, brash and unforgiving from start to finish.

these last 3 albums were very easy to place in my top 3. However, the hardest decision was which order they'd be in. Here goes-

3. Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks

Nine Inch Nails - Copy Of A VIDEO
The production levels of this album are far beyond anything I've ever heard before. Trent Reznor is just a master of electronics. I urge you all to find their festival headline sets from this summer on YouTube.

2. HAIM - Days Are Gone

HAIM - Forever VIDEO
This album is unbelievably good and is a massive triumph for all the producers that don't feel they have to make all their music loud for it to be heard. Days Are Gone has it's dynamics in all the right places.

1. CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe

This is the most perfect 48 minute collection of synthpop that you'll find this year. Though, simply calling it a 'synthpop album' reflects too vaguely the range that it has, in the sense that this band really could appeal to a lot of different music fans. CHVRCHES have become a big deal recently and I for one am extremely excited to see them in Amsterdam in 2014.

So how many of these do you agree with? Let me know.

Words by David Dring

Monday, 18 November 2013

Lisa Loeb - Tails album review

First of all, apologies for the lack of blogs recently. Not having a laptop for the last few weeks hasn't helped, although my social life (yes they exist!) has improved. It took me a while to choose something to review. My last two new album purchases (Haim and CHVRCHES excellent debuts) are ones that I'll be writing about for something in December that I do every year. So for now I'll leave you with a little something I've written for Lisa Loeb's 1995 album 'Tails'.

The mid-90s were notable for the back end of grunge and the reformation of popular garage rock bands. Professional wailer Alanis Morissette was topping charts, and along came Lisa Loeb with a voice a little easier to stomach.

Opening track It's Over is an earnest pop ballad, which this album is certainly not short of. Lisa's tongue in cheek, cryptic lyrics are surprisingly easily relatable and her voice is easy on the ear. Snow Day opens with a twinkling guitar melody before the amp turns on and the drums kick in and the chorus weaves and changes pace. Taffy is a pure blood 90s pop rock song. All the fast/slow and quiet/loud dynamics are there and it belongs on everyone's driving songs mixtape.
When All The Stars Were Falling slows the pace down a bit but Lisa still keeps the same witty lyrics. Do You Sleep? Is a charming little early adolescent tale of love. Plus the chorus is catchy as hell. Hurricane is a simple acoustic track which actually shows off some seriously mature songwriting. The quiet middle section builds into a grand ending, making this a gem of an album track. Rose-Coloured Times is a funkier number and sees Loeb at her most wittiest. One of the best things about this album is even when she decides to be honest and bare a little soul, her songwriting never falters. Something that sadly lacks these days.
Sandalwood is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The instruments are stripped back to just Lisa's voice and an acoustic guitar. It's another simple love song. It's quiet but that doesn't mean it lacks feeling. The middle section gets a little more frantic, repeating the first verse. It really is a brilliant little song. Alone takes influence from the embers of grunge gone by. 'Why do I feel so alone?' She ponders, before breaking into a guitar riff Mr Cobain would be proud of. Waiting For Wednesday sounds like R.E.M and Goo Goo Dolls in their prime and would fit right in to any 90s movie soundtrack.
Lisa Listen is a clever little song from the perspective of someone else. Garden Of Delights is another fast paced funky number with a very guitar heavy chorus. This and the previous song are polar opposites which shows just how versatile Loeb can be. And now on to the final track Stay (I Missed You) which is arguably her best known song. It was her big break. It won her the accolade of being the first unsigned artist to top the Bilboard 100. It's incredibly radio friendly and is hands down the best song on the album. 'You say, I only hear what I want to' still stands as one of the most memorable opening lines in any song.

Tails is such an easy album to listen to. The lyrics are all clever and Loeb sings them so sincerely that its hard not to fall in love with her. It's an album to escape to, to paint tales of better days and most importantly to remind us that amidst the shit, the 1990s had some truly brilliant music.

Words by David Dring

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Playlist 03-10-13

As I have just recently started work on my 2nd E.P, I've decided to put together a little playlist of all the music that most influences me when i make my own music.

1. 65daysofstatic - Crash Tactics
From 'We Were Exploding Anyway' (2010)

2. Atari Teenage Riot - Raverbashing
From 'Delete Yourself!' (1995)

3. CHVRCHES - We Sink
From 'The Bones Of What You Believe' (2013)

4. Cold Cave - Confetti
From 'Cherish The Light Years' (2011)

5. Daft Punk - Voyager
From 'Discovery' (2001)

6. Delorean - Endless Sunset
From 'Subuza' (2010)

7. DJ Mehdi - I Am Somebody feat. Chromeo
From 'Lucky Boy' (2006)

8. A Flock Of Seagulls - Electrics
From 'Listen' (1983)

9. Foals - Two Steps, Twice
From 'Antitodes' (2008)

10. Hot As Sun - Desert Song
From 'Night Time Sound Desire' (2013)

11. Imogen Heap - Goodnight And Go
From 'Speak For Yourself' (2005)

12. Lights - Fourth Dimension
From ' Siberia' (2011)

13. Little Boots - Strangers
From 'Nocturnes' (2013)

14. Nine Inch Nails - Head Down
From 'The Slip' (2008)

15. Robyn - Time Machine
From 'Body Talk' (2010)

So that's that. Also for some added shameless promotion, if you want to download my first EP "Centaur" you can do so here for free -

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Last Of Us - Personal opinions, synopsis, other bullshit *SPOILERS*

Okay, so it's fair to say Naughty Dog's very own The Last Of Us was a commercial success. Widely lauded as the greatest game of this generation so far, a plaudit which the game fully stands up to. After playing it to death upon it's release and then more recently I have more than enough to say about it. The bad news is that I have few people to share my thoughts and opinions with, so I thought a blog post was necessary. Also I shouldn't have to remind you that this will be ***SPOILER*** heavy. Let's begin.


First thing's first, you are not the main character. Yes, you control his movements, shoot enemies, pick up items etc but his thoughts and reactions are his own. This is a common recipe in recent games, and it's a clever strategy. You are not the hero. While the game moves at it's own pace, forcing you into decisions and putting you on emotional pedestals, it's important to know that while you control Joel, you are not Joel.
Some examples:-
-The final chapter; During the Ellie rescue mission from St Mary's hospital you encounter 3 surgeons in the operating room. Naturally you give them the bullet treatment, but only 2 of them. The third can also be stabbed, depended on if he moves towards you, resulting in the knife-happy reaction from Joel. This advances a few minutes later to the moment when Joel kills Marlene, something he didn't have to do.
-Not saving the world; Linked to the previous point, as Joel takes Ellie away from the hospital. About half the game states that as Ellie is immune, she is hailed as the vaccine for the infection. America is full of infected citizens and it is up to you to save it, but Joel has other ideas. He'd rather sacrifice everything, just to stay in Ellie's company. I'll explain more on this later. So without further ado:-


This is a big one, and one that will be mostly overlooked until the final two chapters, depending on how you attach yourself to Joel during the playthrough. By this point he has spent almost a year fighting alongside Ellie. But he has also manipulated and even lied to her. Evident in the final cut scene, after Joel rescues Ellie from the hospital. As they make their way back to Tommy's. He had previously lied to her that the Fireflies had given up on a cure, explaining how the two of them had left St Mary's together. She then stops and turns to him, begging him to swear that he was telling the truth. He again, and shockingly after all they've been through, lies again and says yes. The cutscene can be seen in full here:-

My opinion is that Ellie already knew he was lying, judging by how resigned she sounded in her response, but by this point the emotional bond between them was too strong for her to break. I would personally love to see a DLC released explaining their future, or better yet a sequel. Only time will tell.
So back on point, looking at the game from a wider perspective, we see that Marlene and the Fireflies want to save the world. She tasks Joel with smuggling Ellie to their Lab out west, where she will be operated on in the hopes that she produces a vaccine to save the world. Joel could quite easily have walked out of the facility knowing his job was done but decides against it. He instead attempts to 'raise the dead' if you like, essentially replacing the memory of his dead daughter with Ellie.
Even before this there were signs. His manipulation to use his brother Tommy against the wishes of his family. His claims of being on both sides of ambushes, including his awkward silence when Ellie asks if he'd ever killed any innocent people. Most of all it's during the moments when Joel proclaims they must kill all enemies, even in clear areas. Obviously this is gameplay based but Joel is never shy about his hunter urges and murderous tendencies. This is mostly evident during the scene when Joel kills David's two cohorts. First he captures them as they were running away, then tortures them for information before killing them. This is all while he was recovering from a near-fatal injury.
There is also the damaging effect Joel's killing spree has on Ellie. On more than one occasion she is forced to kill to survive. So it's interesting when you wonder at what point does a once smart and sweet girl (remember when she stole the toy for Sam) become a murderous monster.


I am speaking emotionally of course. Over the course of the game we see Ellie develop into a stronger person and a powerful ally, but the truth is that deep down she was already in a better place mentally than Joel. Lets take the facts. Joel witnesses the death of his daughter 20 years ago. Not much is known about him after that so we can assume he didn't lose anybody else close to him. Ellie on the other hand had already stated that she'd lost her parents during the outbreak and she is forced into a military school. She then explains her childhood friend Riley is killed from the infection. Then most recently she witnesses the death of her newly infected friend Sam. But she never lingers on these things. Her only remaining 'family' of sorts is Marlene, who Joel mercilessly guns down in the final chapter.
When Ellie first brings up Tess' death to Joel, he flies off the handle and tells her to button it. Again, he reacts angrily when she mentions the death of Sarah, his daughter. We assume that Joel is merely keeping things inside to keep composure, but it's plain to see how he mentally unravels as the game goes on.
My opinion on the final chapter is that Ellie knew he was lying, and by not acknowledging it to him that she knew, she was allowing him to play protector, and condoning his actions without them having to discuss it at that moment. I think she was trying to protect him from any further trauma.


This was a subtle reference, so a lot of people overlooked it. The first moment is when Bill mentions the death of his 'partner' Frank, somebody he cared about. The bigger key moment is during the drive away scene, in which Ellie is reading through the gay porno mag she stole from Bill, claiming the pages are stuck together.


Honestly, I did not see Sarah dying. It was incredibly bold of Naughty Dog, putting you in the perspective of Joel's teen daughter for the first 15 minutes. Witnessing the horrors of the outbreak through her eyes and being thrown along as the story picked up pace. So clever how the game forced you to be emotionally attached to this girl that when the death scene suddenly comes it puts you in shock. I am not ashamed to say I had numerous man cries during this game, starting with this scene. you can see it here:-


So Ellie mutters the final words of the game, "Okay", the screen fades to black and the credits roll, accompanied by the familiar chime of acoustic guitar. I am sat there, motionless, mouth open. The ending is so incredible and powerful and horrifying all at the same time that it's impossible to digest in your first sitting. From the 18-odd hours it took me to complete it for the first time it felt like a constant emotional rollercoaster. At this point I knew little of the bigger picture and ideals of TLOU, as it was a hard enough job keeping up with the evolution of Joel and Ellie. It's a game that i had simply bought on a whim and one that I am eternally glad I did. All credit has to go to Naughty Dog for their portrayal of two fictional characters, essentially putting them in the hearts of all who play the game.


So where does that leave us? The simple formula for this game would have been Ellie growing up, Joels evolution through grief and the world being cured of the infection. However, Naughty Dog cleverly set up the possibility of a sequel with their ending. Joel reinvents his daughter in Ellie and she goes along with it.. For now. It's fair to say she knows he lied to her so it will be interesting to see what her reaction is. She had always claimed that she was afraid to be alone so one wonders what the revelation of her only living 'family' lying to her will be, especially after everything. I don't think that we are done with Joel and Ellies relationship and personal battles just yet.
The bigger picture is that America is still infected. The world still needs saving. Naughty Dog would have to invent new characters however. With Tess, Marlene, Henry and Sam dead and Bill essentially cutting all ties it doesn't leave much current character development.
We also don't know much about Joel during the 20 years between Sarah's death and the start of the game. That's something Naughty Dog could touch on, either in a DLC or a sequel.

All in all The Last Of Us is a stunning and immersive game and one that I am glad I played. It has a solid and deep story and a high replayability factor. It's a game I had fun completing and I still enjoy playing it now. Thank you all for reading!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Playlist 07-09-13

Once again I bring you a little playlist of all my favourite sounds from the last few days. Belt up, you little cherubs-

1. Goo Goo Dolls - Slide
From 'Dizzy Up The Girl' (1998)

2. Robyn - Hang With Me
From 'Body Talk' (2010)

3. Nine Inch Nails - Copy Of A
From 'Hesitation Marks' (2013)

4. Big Country - In a Big Country
From 'The Crossing' (1983)

5. CHVRCHES - Recover
From 'Recover EP' (2013)

6. Flobots - Defend Atlantis
From 'Survival Story' (2010)

7. Jimmy Eat World - A Sunday
From 'Clarity' (1999)

8. Johnny Borrell - Joshua Amrit
From 'Borrell 1' (2013)
9. Kanye West - All Falls Down
From 'College Dropout' (2004)

10. Lisa Loeb - Sandalwood
From 'Tails' (1995)

11. Nirvana - Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
From 'In Utero' (1993)

12. Pat Benatar - Take It Any Way You Want It
From 'Precious Time' (1981)