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=16. 366 Days Later.

A year and a day ago. I’d just woken up at my mate’s house, knowing not how I’d got there. Scrambled eggs in a bowl for breakfast. My mother drunkenly FaceTimed me from an Australian apartment she was in with her best mates. She was ahead of me in time but I was ahead of her in the hangover stakes.

An arrival from another mate, a borrowed t-shirt, four necklaces and a fur coat later, I was drinking some inexplicably intense coffee from a mug with the words ‘Perfection isn’t as easy as it looks’ written on the side. Fitting. Fast forward twelve hours and we’d narrowly avoided buying a bottle of brandy purely because ‘it was shaped like an AK47’, seen Foals live at Alexandra Palace and descended upon a party we weren’t exactly overenamoured at attending. It had been a long few days. Yet, none of us were sitting there frantically asking, “What are we doing with our lives?“; we were more saying passively, “We seem to be doing this with our lives. We’re not dead. Let’s plough on.” We left shortly afterwards.

Saturday the fifteenth of February marked a mid-point in what has been dubbed since as The Month of Anarchy; much like the Feast of Fools, lives were sent into disarray for a number of different reasons: break-ups, blackouts and general misrule started and ended with continuous debaucherous events – events such as ‘Going Out To A Student Night On A Tuesday Until 2am’ and ‘Why Are We Four Buying A Bottle Of Prosecco Each On A Wednesday’. We had more impromptu parties than that Eddie Murphy single and I watched The Shawshank Redemption for the first time, which – I can tell you – gives you mixed emotions when watching it with your housemate on a Valentine’s Day.

The following week, I was to lose my voice, have a fantastic skiing holiday, and return to the country for a wholly unexpected metaphorical punch in the face. It did indeed swing from The Best Of Times to The Worst Of Times in the drunken making of one cocktail. There were tears, there was emergency absinthe, and there had to be a subsequent period of unconsciousness.

I just didn’t remember any of it.

Cue consciousness. Cue, well, the rest of the party. Cue merrily going about the aftermath as ‘normal’. Then cue several tons of stark reality throwing itself down the phone and into my ear from a very close friend that evening, which, y’know, was not so great. The following week was relatively disastrous. But for all those sober thoughts, bleak staring into the abyss and a strong desire to drink the entirety of the Gun Brandy (which had, in fact, made it into my possession the night before), everything did work itself out.

It was March by then.

I don’t think anyone involved in February 2014 had any idea of what was to come from the outset; I had no idea I was going to be five parts awe-inspiringly euphoric to three parts dark and down. But I guess that’s what a real hangover feels like. It was one of the most intense, eye-opening and important months of my life.

Why? Well, friendship. Camaraderie.

The break up wasn’t mine. No one really knows how many blackouts there were. And as for general misrule? That struck like an electrical storm. But being there, when we all needed each other the most, was the one thing that kept us together. When the break up kicked in, we acted like an emergency emotional penguin huddle. In the blackouts, taxis were caught, water was prescribed and eggs were served in a bowl. And when we’d poured our fourth Long Island Iced Teas into champagne flutes at 1am on a Wednesday morning, we simply encouraged each other appropriately.

And when it all fell apart, we had our phone calls and our debriefs, our looks and our laughs. We had our friends.

Thank God for February 2014. I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.

– TB

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=15. The Top Ten Albums of 2014, Part Two: 5-1.

Started this fella off and got side-tracked in The Pixies. I mean, I’d apologise, but.

Anyway…here’s 5-1. 10-6 is here.

five. The War on Drugs – Lost in the DreamLost In The Dream

As soon as someone thrust “Red Eyes” at me on Twitter or through Pitchfork or something, I looked forward to this Lost in the Dream being unleashed on us in 2014. Largely a rumination on suffering (well, there is a track named that after all) and loss, the album really did embody the title, and it wasn’t without its 2am listens in my humble abode.

Our Lovefour. Caribou – Our Love

Though Liminal and Syro really did do it for me electronically this year, it was Dan Snaith’s Caribou that stole the show. “Can’t Do Without You” infected the mind for way longer than it should have, and when the full album hit the digital shelves, I made my purchase and lost myself for a good couple of days to rhythms, beats and bars; evoking enthusiasm and positivity in that most precarious and fragile of feelings.

three. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You TomorrowSo Long See You Tomorrow

There’s a reason why I’ve seen this band four times this year. It lies in every song you hear along the way in So Long, See You Tomorrow. From the triumphant, confident, jubilant opening of “Overcome” to the closing title track, Bombay have done it again. A perfect choice to close Earls Court, and a night not quickly forgotten. And it’s safe to say, a strong future lies ahead of this foursome (…and Lucy Rose).

Jungletwo. Jungle – Jungle

They came out of absolute nowhere. They played on dry ice-filled stages to hide their identity. They were simply ‘J’ and ‘T’. And they owned Glastonbury 2014 from the John Peel Stage.

I saw them again in the tiniest of venues, and – somehow fitting seven people onto a stage not much bigger than a shoebox – they owned that too. Jungle is a delight to hear; genreless perfection, and I predict they’ll only explode further this year. (Even my mom likes them.)

one. Future Islands – SinglesSingles

…was it going to be anything else? Was it going to be a band whose lead singer has t h e m o v e s ? It wasn’t. It never was. Future Islands came into their own in 2014. I hadn’t heard of them, despite a not unreasonable back catalogue, and I’d inadvertently been recommended “Back in the Tall Grass” – but that Letterman performance. That song. The rest of the album. Quite frankly, superb. And if you don’t like a bit of goth screaming with your synthpop, you’re not human.

So, there you have it. Hope you liked. More to come this year, guys. So hold onto your hats.

=14. The Top Ten Albums of 2014, Part One: 10-6.

I thought I’d see out the whole year (and allow my extended hangover to wear off) before popping this up.

I liked 2014 for music. So many comebacks, a few surprise album or song drops, and the live music tally – for me, anyway – was extremely healthy. So here’s the first half of my top ten. Second half will be coming up over the weekend.

ten. U2 – Songs of InnocenceSongs of Innocence

Those old Irish juggernauts perhaps didn’t go about releasing their thirteenth studio album in the best way – ‘a dash of megalomania’, I believe the statement was – but once I decided to download it from iTunes, I was rather impressed with the only free album on this list. It’s at least as good as How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, anyway – with some songs on here that stand strong against some of the very best of U2’s not inextensive back catalogue.

Seedsnine. TV on the Radio – Seeds

I started 2014 listening to TVOTR’s “Staring at the Sun” on repeat (probably last year’s hangover making its presence known), only to be pleasantly surprised by the announcement later in the year of Seeds – around the same time I had “Happy Idiot” on repeat. Tunde Adebimpe and Dave Sitek’s band exude equal parts elation and melancholy in a fashion not dissimilar to, say, Bloc Party or The Maccabees – and this, their fifth album, did not disappoint.

eight. Interpol – El PintorEl Pintor

Finally, they’re back – and how. Interpol disappointed with their self-titled album a couple of years back, but they still hold a place in my teenage heart and mind. Seeing them perform in oh-so-perfect weather conditions on the Other Stage at Glastonbury really cemented my feelings on them…and then they brought out El Pintor. From the opening bar of “All The Rage Back Home” to the closing roll of “Twice As Hard”, Interpol show they’ve still got it – and I, for one, am grateful.

Tough Loveseven. Jessie Ware – Tough Love

Jessie Ware oozes talent. Her voice is audio-silk. She is – to a point – genreless. Neo-soul on the title track, Metronomy-electronica in “Want Your Feeling”, and an almighty game of Jacks where she takes acoustic, soul, pop and gospel in one fell swoop on “Say You Love Me”. To some, Jessie Ware is ‘just another singer’, but she just does it all so so well that Tough Love is head and shoulders above the rest.

 six. Chet Faker – Built on GlassBuilt on Glass

First I ever heard of this Chet Faker bloke, he broke Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” into pieces and poured his smoky caramel voice into the cracks. The next I knew, he’d thrown some pianos on top of Burial’s “Archangel”. (Bold.) Obviously, I was hooked. With Built on Glass, he’s managed to bring us two sides of expertly produced and perfectly formed music, the latter half slightly more industrial that the former – but no less beautiful in its execution.

As mentioned, Part Two will be up in the next few. Keep an eye out.

– TB

The RNM Files. #10: Jamie T – “Don’t You Find”

In which the boy makes a comeback to talk about a comeback a boy has made.

It was going to happen eventually; we just didn’t know when. Not even I knew. But if it was going to be one thing bringing me back to the blogosphere, it was gonna be that scallywag Jamie T.

So I’ll make it as short and sweet as he did, although marginally less handwritten. Welcome back, J. Downbeat and unique, “Don’t You Find” is an understated return for the noughties indie star.

Enjoy:

The RNM Files. #9: Arctic Monkeys – AM.

In which the boy salutes a return to form.

arctic-monkeys-am-album-artwork

It was somewhere between the third or fourth drunken drumbeat on opener – and second single – “Do I Wanna Know?” when I realised the Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album was going to be good. Like, really good. As naughty as that house party you shouldn’t have had, and as cool as Ferris Bueller about it. (Actually, it might have been when the guitar-line burst through the french windows on “R U Mine?”, swigging arrogantly from its can of Red Stripe. I don’t really know. It’s quite hazy now.)

We’d had hints along the way that AM was going to be a barnstormer. Last February, the aforementioned swagger of “R U Mine?” dropped into our lives akin to a weekend back in your hometown; unexpected, riotous, and worthy of one thousand hangovers. Then came a tweet from drummer Matt Helder’s mother…and they were back.

At least twelve months in production – and well over two years since their previous outing with Suck It And See – this has been the longest gap between albums since the band’s inception. But it’s well worth the wait, obviously.

The three preceding singles – the third being “Why D’You Only Call Me When You’re High?”, stumbling across the grass to be sick in next door’s hedge – are fresh, even on their seventy-fourth listen. As for the album tracks? Single-worthy, each and every one of them. Blistering, either in their sparseness or their pomp.

AM finds itself simultaneously copping off with the ex at the same time as texting its three new female targets; tight basslines, tighter drumbeats and Alex Turner’s sultry tones making both things possible in the world built up around these dark, deep tracks. If “Arabella” is the woman we’ve always wanted, “No. 1 Party Anthem” is where we’ve found ourselves, ‘Leather jacket collar popped like Cantona/Never knowing when to stop‘, in search of her.

Future singles “Snap Out Of It” and “Knee Socks” compliment one another perfectly, Turner finding his higher notes on the former and losing his ‘sky blue Lacoste‘ on the latter. The songs (again, like that house party) ooze sex, discovery, lust and longing, from the urge to ‘grab both shoulders and shake, baby‘ to getting ‘hold of the sweet spot, by the scruff of your/Knee socks’.

Though, the standout track here has to be the closer. In a spectacular collision of events, a moment of true genius has been found. First off, Alex Turner has always shown to have an affinity with Sheffield-based beat poet John Cooper Clarke; alongside this, Arctic Monkeys have always been good at closing an album – from Whatever People Say I Am…‘s “A Certain Romance” to Favourite Worst Nightmares “505”; hell, even “That’s Where You’re Wrong” was bloody decent. The band’s reworking of Cooper Clarke’s poem of the same name, “I Wanna Be Yours” is equal parts haunting and unforgettable.

With drumbeats and guitar hooks akin to those from Led Zeppelin (see: “Arabella”) alongside basslines and harmonics that come from The Chronic (see: everything), the evolution and inspiration of the band is evident; gone are the days of the ‘awkward third album’ in Humbug; out with the marginally immature lyricism of the first two albums. In taking time over AM, realising their strengths as a band and making a solid album in these modern times of short-term fame – Arctic Monkeys have shown they’re here ’til the party’s over.

Pass the tequila.

– TB

Alive & Kicking. |06| Mausi, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London. 03/09/13

In which the boy sees the future of music. Well, one aspect of it anyway. And by gosh, is it enthusiastic.

mausi

The crowd was electric at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen last Tuesday, as Mausi – supported by Iyes and Avec Sans (can you tell we were practically in Shoreditch?) – took to the stage to unleash their inner Alphabeat.

Tremendous energy combined with a whole bunch of stunning basslines and a brother-sister combination at the forefront of the band saw their six/seven song set (depending on whether you cut their mash-up of Solange & Destiny’s Child into two) extremely well received in the back room.

Lead singer Daisy Finetto brought one of the final summer evenings to a close by bounding around gleefully onstage, while backing vocals from the rest of the foursome had the front rows feeling the love. Background images of beaming days, smiles and sunglasses were superimposed with lyrics emblazoned across them, akin to a pop version of the most recent of Kanye West sets. “Move” & “My Friend Has A Swimming Pool” were definite highlights in an all-too-short set, emphasising a breadth in their abilities to skip from genre to genre in the space of a 3-minute song.

No wonder The Line of Best Fit and BBC Music have highlighted Mausi as ones to watch: they certainly hit a peak at this gig.

More to follow, I hope…

– TB

The RNM Files. #8: London Grammar – “Wasting My Young Years”

In which the boy discovers his new musical kryptonite.

London Grammar

I’d heard spits and spats about London Grammar:

  • “Great”
  • “Shit”
  • “Gonna be huge”
  • “Hipsters”
  • “Who?”
  • “Well, frankly their grammar is atrocious. Learn the fucking difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, you stupid cockneys.”

…some video surfaced where things were moving slowly in black-and-white stop motion and the music sounded like Antony (from ‘& The Johnsons’ fame) had spawned a sister who someone had left in the cold for too long.

So i ignored it. Big deal, fourteen people watched the video seventeen times and told their 20/20-vision-but-still-wear-glasses-and-plaid friends about it.

Oh, and then I listened to it.

Today.

On repeat.

Twelve times.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s the mood I’m in. Maybe it’s the early-noughties ethereal Kosheen-esque music they’ve tapped into. Maybe it’s lead singer Hannah Reid’s absolutely gorgeous vocals. But something about “Wasting My Young Years” has stuck. And I just can’t get enough. The gentle drumbeats over the prominent piano-led track can’t help but bring a lump to my throat, with the softest inclusion of guitar.

London Grammar won’t be flash in the pan, Ting Tings, Hoosiers, Gotye, Nizlopi, one-song-cash-in young year wasters.

I’ve a feeling this is another xx moment. Another Antidotes eye-opener. Another “Oh, I’ll just check out this Burial fella. He’s probably shit.” situation.

London Grammar are the next big thing.

– TB