Sunday 21 December 2014

It's the end of 2014 as we know it, but what did I find...

A few people I follow on Twitter have written end of year blogs about the music and other such things that have inspired them during 2014. So, as someone never wanting to miss out on an opportunity to ramble, I decided to jump on that bandwagon and do the very same thing. This may not be a in-depth review of the things I have been listening to, but I hope it will read as some of the music that has captured my attention and soul this year.

Someone recently asked me what was my album of 2014 and I have to admit this did leave me pondering a bit. As much as I love new music and am always open to suggestions on what to listen to, for me this year has been mainly about rediscovery. Or being a bit late to the party I guess. I have been revisiting my youth and catching up with some albums that I unfortunately missed at the time. This post should probably be called 'Better Late Than Never Dear'...

Anyway, so what has inspired me this year? I guess I should start with new albums of 2014 that I have been listening to. Firstly, there is 'Caustic Love' by Paolo Nutini. I liked Paolo when he appeared with 'These Streets' back in 2006 and some tracks on that album are still great to listen to now. I kind of left him for a bit, but I was watching an episode of 'Later' which he happened to be on and I really enjoyed listening to him perform some songs from the new album. And it is a great album. Possibly his best work to date and you can tell that he has matured as a performer and songwriter. The wonderful 'Iron Sky' stands out for me and hits all the right buttons as a modern soul / R&B record.

Those of you who have read my previous posts will know that my all time musical hero is Neil Finn. Well, Neil released his third solo album earlier this year entitled 'Dizzy Heights'. I have to admit that it did take me a while to get into this album as it's a sidestep from what he has produced in the past. But this is something I do love about Neil. He is constantly looking for new ideas and in his own words he says "I am working hard to get better all the time". I have grown to love this album over time and in particular the title track and the songs 'Flying in the Face of Love' and 'Better Than TV'.

Neil has received a bit of moaning online about this album, but at the end of the day I think as long as he is doing what he loves and making the music he wants to make then the fans will follow him and appreciate what he does. I was lucky enough to see him live in April and it was a wonderful show and he completely held the crowd in awe as he usually does. He is such a talented performer and I have the utmost respect for what he does. He always has been and always will be my hero,

Beautiful backdrop from Neil's live show
Another of the usual suspects in many of my blog posts is Mark Morriss. Yes, him out of the Bluetones. He released his second solo album this year 'A Flash of Darkness'. It was originally funded through Pledge Music, but it then got a full release through Acid Jazz this year. This album is brilliantly written and performed and shows how Mark has grown musically since his first album 'Memory Muscle' in 2008. There's not a bad track on this album and the songwriting and thoughtful lyrics are a wonderful treat. When I first listened to this album all the way though I sat back and said to myself "Wow, what the fuck have I just listened to?" and then I put it back on again. True story.

There are a couple of cover versions on the album (Mark does love a cover) and I have to say this version of 'Nightcall' in my opinion is better than the original. Just saying. My favourite track (and possibly my all time favourite Mark song) is 'Life Without F(r)iction'. A gorgeous song which features the equally gorgeous guitar of the equally gorgeous Adam Devlin (yep, the little one off the Bluetones! His words, not mine!). The video for a live version of this song has been my pinned tweet on Twitter now for a long time and I don't intend to take it down any time soon. I think overall I can safely say that this album is my number one for 2014 and I can't recommend it enough.

My album of 2014
Now onto my rediscovery. I missed the release of a couple of albums last year, but have now caught up. Firstly, one of my long time favourite bands, the wonderful Turin Brakes released their sixth album 'We Were Here' towards the end of 2013. It came to my attention earlier this year when the second single 'Guess You Heard' was released. I love this album very much and that track in particular as it's beautifully written and performed as is the whole album. It reignited my love for this band and I went back to the previous albums to reaffirm my connection with them. The acoustic style was what brought me to them in the first place and their particular 'sound' is something that I truly love. I am eagerly looking forward to a new album being released hopefully next year and I really do hope there will be a tour to accompany it.

Now, not only do I love the band in it's entirety, I also love lead singer Olly Knights as a solo artist. He released his first album in 2012 entitled 'If Not Now When' and I have the pleasure of owning it on CD and vinyl. It was lovingly put together in his own home using a unique and personal recording style. His journey to make this album was one of inspiration and I have to say I am totally and utterly blown away by it. I have immersed myself in it so much it plays on pretty much a constant loop on my beloved iPod every day. I often tweet Olly and he is good enough to reply to my ramblings about music and other such nonsense and I consider myself very lucky to be able to do this. I was on a train recently with my headphones in listening to the opening track on the album 'Ripcord'. In the quiet of the carriage I could fully lose myself in the track and at 3.38 into the song the most exquisite change happened and my heart completely melted. So of course I had to tell Olly this. I mean, why wouldn't you?

This album is also my favourite discovery of this year, but in the category of 'better late than never'. I have previously posted the documentary that accompanied the making of this album and I would suggest you have a look at it so you can fully appreciate the background to this piece of work. My love of simple, stripped back acoustics is played out here and it has actually made me want to pick up my guitar again and get back to playing. Sometimes less is more, which is what the man himself told me.

I've also been listening to my back catalogue of albums by the Bluetones lately too. I won't go overboard as by now you should be aware that they are one of my most beloved bands and basically they represent my youth. Their final album 'A New Athens' which was released in 2010 has been on my playlist of late and features some really great, under rated songs. It deserves a wider audience and I hope that perhaps it's just a slowburner and that people will one day discover it and realise what they have been missing out on. I can also give a massive thumbs up to the 2006 self titled album 'The Bluetones'. I have no idea why this album did not do better on release as it's possibly the album of theirs that I like most of all.

So, here is a little round up then:

My number 1 album of 2014 - A Flash of Darkness by Mark Morriss
My number 1 better late than never album of 2014 - If Not Now When by Olly Knights

A couple of other things to mention:

Gigs attended in 2014 - 8 so far
New artist I was introduced to this year - Frank Turner
Upcoming artist to watch in 2015 - Leon Bridges
Band to watch in 2015 (cos basically they're gonna tear it up!) - Concerned Citizens
Other albums of note - Lost in the Dream - The War on Drugs / Interlude - Jamie Cullum
Who you should follow on Twitter if you aren't already - Adam Devlin

So there you go. A real mixed bag of stuff which I hope may be of interest to you. It has been a bit of a strange year for me, but I have been to a lot more gigs than usual thanks to my 'Year of Yes' decision and I hope to continue this into next year. I already have 2 gigs lined up for the New Year with the promise of a lot more. There are also some new albums to look forward to including a Mark Morriss covers album and I hope a new Turin Brakes album. I have a feeling 2015 is going to be a good one.

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