Albums of the Year 2015

Here it is, later than last year, my albums of 2015, give it a read, give them a listen, let me know what you think, let me know your favourite albums of last year, enjoy.

 

  1. Beach Slang  – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us

Beach Slang

“Good love is not safe”
Anyone who knows me will know that I was excited for the release of this album all year. Last year the guys from Philadelphia released two EPs that impressed me greatly and now they’ve put together one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time. Now I want to make it clear, this album doesn’t have the greatest musicianship, production or variety of songs. But for me it is perfect, it’s a 10 song tribute to love, loving music and being young.
The lyrics could seem cheesy or be used in inspirational quotes, but that’s what I feel it’s striving for. They want to inspire you, they want you to remember what it’s like to be young, drunk and stupid, they want you to fall in love, they want you to fall in love with music.
I went to see them on my own at Hafenklang in Hamburg and it was the kind of concert where I didn’t care that I was at the front, screaming out songs on my own, it made me feel alive and what more could you want from punk rock music!

Best Song: Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas

 

2. The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven

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I remember hearing The Wonder Years first album “Get Stoked On It!” in 2007 and thinking they were just another generic pop punk band with keyboards and overly long song names. The amazing thing is, with every album they’ve released, they’ve progressed as musicians and Dan Campbell has become one of my favourite lyricists in the scene.
With “No Closer To Heaven” the guys have moved away from just pop punk to a full blown rock band. The songs on the album are full of sing along choruses and clever, incredibly personal lyrics.
There’s a lot of sadness and anger on this album, the songs feel like they are gospels for the disaffected, but they always try to find the bright side to it and come away with their best work yet.

Best Song: Cigarettes & Saints

 

3. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

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The best rapper without a doubt. This album covers so many subjects but is primarily about being a black man in the modern world. This is a progression from the incredible Good Kid M.A.A.D. City where Lamartalked about growing up in Compton.
His musical style and flow is so far ahead of any other artist around right now. It definitely has a huge jazz and funk influence and the bass playing of Thundercat is a standout contribution. It’s not always the easiest of
listens but it has so many layers and styles it’s worth every second.

Best Song: The Blacker The Berry

 

4. Doomtree – All Hands

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Still by far the best hiphop collective out there. These 7 guys, 5 MCs and 2 Djs are constantly pushing boundaries and mixing up their style with every release.
This one is less poppy and more dense than their last release “No Kings” it’s still filled with an eclectic mix of indie rap, party bangers and classic Doomtree cuts. There’s more of an electro feel definitely influenced by POS’s “We Don’t Even Live Here”. They also put on one of the best live shows I’ve seen, and I was lucky enough to see them on one of the hottest days of the Summer at Molotow in Hamburg.

Best Song: Gray Duck

 

5. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

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Comprised of just vocals, banjo and piano this album feels so intimate and incredibly sad but still also so beautiful.
Named after his Mother and Stepfather and dealing with his feelings about her death, his childhood and relationship with her.
There are so many wonderful moments on this album and really display his strengths as one of the best folk singer/songwriters of his generation.
It’s not easy listening but definitely worth spending some quiet evenings with it on the stereo.

Best Song: Should Have Known Better

 

6. Red City Radio – Titles & S/T

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These guys were probably my discovery of the year. And in the best way possible I heard of them after a late night drunken conversation with a lovely person in my favourite Nightclub in Hamburg. I started listening to 2013’s Titles, which was the perfect mix of gruff vocals mixed with pop, punk and Americana style ballads. The lyrics, guitar riffs and vocal harmonising of the band blew me away and this album was on rotation all year.

Halfway through the year came their new Self Titled album. Off the bat I actually was a little let down, they’d polished off some of the rougher punk edges and most of the songs had the same up-tempo pace.
But upon further listens I realised the sound and lyrics had matured and that’s a good thing, there’s not a bad song on the album and the stand out “In the Meantime” is one of the best songs they’ve ever written.

Best Song on Titles: Joy Comes With The Morning
Best Song on S/T: In The Meantime

 

7. Noah Gunderson – Ledges & Carry The Ghost

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So, Ledges came out in 2014 and I only heard of him from someone else’s 2014 list (and later on the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack), and it was a great introduction to him. Ledges is quite simple when it comes to musicianship, acoustic guitar drums and violin/vocal accompaniment from his sister Abby. There are some absolutely heartbreaking songs, but also some lovely gospel-y feeling tracks, especially the opener Poor Man’s Son, which is almost completely A Capella. This was his solo album, unbelievable!

Then this year came Carry The Ghost, Noah has added a full band, with piano and electric guitar. Normally, I’m not a fan when a quiet, intimate artist starts adding more and more layers to their sound, but this completely works, the feedback and melodies add extra emotion to these beautiful songs. And the overarching strength of both albums is his lyrics. They are incredible, so much more world weary and wise than a guy of 26 should ever write.

Best Song on Ledges: Liberator
Best song on Carry The Ghost: Slow Dancer



8. Caspian – Dust & Disquiet

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Post-Rock, Post-Metal, Instrumental Metal; these genres are normally fairly predictable but still enjoyable for me personally. But this album takes it to another level. For one thing, this isn’t just instrumental, there’s singing, and my goodness can Calvin Joss sing.
The album has a great mixture of classic post rock and more progressive sound akin to 65daysofstatic, it’s impressed me so much that I’ve even moved it up my list while listening to it again

Best Song: Darkfield

 

9. The Front Bottoms – Back On Top

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“This is what I want, Motherfucker make it happen for me”
The Front Bottoms are one of those bands that I keep expecting to get a radio hit and get big. They’re the perfect mix of pop-punk and indie, with truly funny and heartfelt lyrics. Several of the songs off the album are some of my favourites of the year, and some of the catchiest lyrics get stuck in my head for days.

Best Songs: HELP & Cough It out

 

10. Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear

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Epic psychadelic folk, funny and sad at the same time from the drummer of Fleet foxes. Love songs for his wife and a song about the financial crisis. This album is full of lovely surprises.
He has a lovely 70s style voice, feeling like a mixture of a bitter Neil Diamond and Jackson Browne. The subjects of the songs sound like people you wouldn’t want to spend evenings with but make for great story telling material.

Best Song: The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.


11. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

12. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

13. Deichkind – Niveau Weshalb Warum

14. Jamie XX – In Colour

15. Deafheaven – New Bermuda

16. Great Cynics – I Feel Weird

17. Foxing – Dealer

18. Miguel – Wildheart

19. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

20. Pentimento – I, No Longer

21. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time

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Albums of the year 2014

It’s that time again. One of my favourite times actually. Nothing to do with Christmas or excessively over eating. It’s the time of end of the year lists. I love reading them and finding hidden gems I have never heard of or not bothered to listen to because they have terrible artwork.

So, here is a disclaimer; These are my favourite albums of this year, several were not released this year but I didn’t get round to listening to them last year, some of them are EPs and I don’t care, they’re my favourites. Hope you enjoy reading my opinions and send me a message with any comments or your lists! I love lists!

1. The Hotelier – Home, Like NoPlace is There

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As soon as I heard the first few words and notes of this album from the band formally known as The Hotel Year I knew this would be a favourite album. The more I listened to it, the more I loved it. It has the feel of early Jimmy Eat World and such raw emotion in places it’s heartbreaking especially on Your Deep Rest. I love the way his voice breaks when singing loudly and there is incredible intensity in the 9 songs. There’s is not an ounce of filler and if this spearheads a revival of late 90s style post-hardcore/emo/whateveryoucallit I am ready!

Best Song: Housebroken

2. The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

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This album came out in 2013 but I didn’t listen to it until half way thorugh this one. I had heard their first album when it came out and the production had been so rubbish and the lyrics slightly childish that I was put off listening to this one. But I wish I had, I was missing out. These guys have matured and turned their pop punk, into a real emotional rock sound.
It’s a dark record, talking a lot about death, regrets, ancestors and ghosts but the lyrics are brilliant, with so many sing-along choruses that I really hope they tour Europe soon so I can be in the middle of the crowd singing out of tune (as always).

Best Song: The Devil in my Bloodstream

Side note – Front man Dan Campbell released an album this year under the moniker Aaron West & the Roaring Twenties, it’s a semi-acoustic concept record about divorce, and while it’s great, it’s depressing as hell and not something I could listen to every day.

3. The Menzingers – Rented World

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The Menzingers are currently my favourite band. This changes every few years, but right now, their music is what connects with me at this point in my life more than any others. There will always be Springsteen, Brand New, early Gaslight Anthem and others on my mind, but right now I could listen to the Menzingers all the time.

So why would their latest album be only number 3?

Because while it’s good, really good, great in fact; It’s not On the Impossible Past. For those who don’t know OTIP is their previous album, released in 2012, and in my opinion a near perfect album, I listen to it a few times a week every week and there’s nothing I would change about it.
So Rented World is great, it has great lyrics, they have progressed musically and written a follow up album that most bands would kill for. But for me it was spoiled by that it wasn’t a second perfect album.

Best Song: I Don’t Want to be an Asshole Anymore

Side note – I got to see them live this year, one of my favourite gigs, in my favourite venue in Hamburg, Hafenklang.

4. Augustines – S/T

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The Gaslight Anthem have been one of my favourite bands of the last ten years. And this year they released their 5th album, Get Hurt. What a massive disappointment it was. Luckily, this year Augustines released their second album and it filled the gap that Gaslight had left.
Previously called We Are Augustines, I had heard of them but never actually listened. And now I’m so glad I did. Their self titled album has an almost religious to it, their are big organs, choir sing alongside and plenty of Woah-ohs. There isn’t one bad track on the album and at least 4 or 5 are exceptional. I feel this will be an album I will listen to long into the future. William McCarthy’s voice has a well travelled feel to it and the lyrics are instantly singable. I really can’t wait until they tour again, I think their live show would be an almost spiritual experience.

Best song: Nothing to Lose but Your Head

5. Front Bottoms – Rose EP

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The first EP on my list but these 6 songs sound as good to me as many full albums and there’s definitely no filler.
Named after the lead singer’s grandma and the first in what is meant to be a series of grandparent EPs, I don’t think any of these tracks are particularly new but that doesn’t stop them being tremendous.
For some people these guys might be putting off for two reasons; 1, their terrible name and 2, the lead singer’s voice is very american and come across as a little whiny but for me neither is a problem.
The lyrics are, funny and heartbreaking at the same time and the tunes are catchy and foot tapping, and the track twelve feet deep contains my favourite lyric of 2014: “Since when did ‘I wanna hear your voice’ not become a good excuse, calling you at 3 in the morning, laugh at sleep we’ll both lose.”
Their album Talon of the Hawk was one of my favourites of last year so if you haven’t heard either, check them out.

Best Song: Twelve Feet Deep

6. Cro – Melodie/Materia – Zum Glück in die Zukunft II

When I moved to January at the beginning of the year, one thing I didn’t realise was how massive German HipHop is. The only German acts I really knew were Rammstein, Lena and one track by Peter Fox that was covered (ripped off?) by Plan B.

So, much to my delight I started getting recommendations from friends and the magic of Spotify.
These two albums, by two different artists, while probably poppier than my normal hiphop taste have the best tunes and choruses of all the albums I’ve heard. And seeing as I still don’t really understand all the lyrics then this what I judge them by the most.

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Cro is a panda-masked rapper from Baden-Württemberg, with an unashamedly poppy style, his music is fun and the choruses great to sing along to. (Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, which I do now, mostly, thanks Google translate).
With a great sense of humour in the songs and his music videos, I’ve listened to some of his songs more than any other American or English hip hop artist.

Best Song: Meine Gang(Bang Bang)

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Marteria is a gravel voiced ex footballer, model and currently rapper from Rostock. Slightly more serious than Cro, slightly less accessible as he raps a lot fast and his vocals often quieter in the mix. But still I love the feeling of the album and the first couple of tracks on the album are catchy as hell. When I moved to Germany the adverts for this album were on every billboard so my inquisitive nature brought me to listening to it.

Best Songs: Kids (2Finger an den Kopf) or OMG!

7. FKA Twigs – LP1

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I didn’t know what to expect when I first listened to this album. I don’t even remember why I did. I’m a big fan of The Weeknd and this has a very similar feel. But where I can’t listen to one of his albums all the way through without drifting off, this had me all the way through!
It is very stark and almost basic comprised mostly of beats and Tahliah’s vocals. But the pacing and atmosphere is excellent and nothing like anything else released in 2014.

Best Song: Two Weeks (seriously, stop what you’re doing and listen to this)

8. Beach Slang – Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street/Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken

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Beach Slang haven’t released their debut album yet, but these two EPs released in 2014 have gotten me so excited about it. Sounding like a cross between Blake Schwarzenbach’s Jets to Brazil and Jawbreaker. With lyrics reminiscent of the first Gaslight Anthem album and some great choruses, I can’t wait to hear what these guys do next. They released both EPs on Tiny Engines, the same label as The Hotelier’s Home, like NoPlace is There.

Best Song: American Girls and French Kisses

9. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

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Angry.
Every hipster’s favourite HipHop duo who give their albums away for free and are recording the best rap music around. El-P and Killer Mike deliver an absolute banger!
There is no better way to describe this than angry! It’s focused, immediate and in places catchy. Run the Jewels aren’t about choruses and sing alongs, it’s antithesis of all that and that’s what makes it so great.

Best Song: Zac De La Rocha makes an incredible comeback as a guest on “Close your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”

10. Punch – They Don’t Have to Believe

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19 minutes of vicious, female fronted hardcore/power violence. Absolutely incredible musicianship with lyrics mostly focusing on feminist issues. They really remind me of American Nightmare who happen to be one of my favourite bands, so that’s a good thing. This sadly seems like their last album though as lead singer Meghan left the band just after the album was released. Still, a good way to sign off!

Best Song: Not Sorry

11. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety

12. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

13. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream

14. Great Cynics – Like I Belong

15. Jamie T – Carry On The Grudge

16. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss it All

17. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell

18. Against Me – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Albums of the year 2013

I’m sure many people have been wondering, “what were Matt’s favourite albums of 2014?” Well, wonder no more. I have to say I thought this year was really disappointing for music in general and especially the alternative scene. Pop ruled the roost although I honestly can’t imagine looking back and really wanting to listen to a lot of them all the way through. But still, here are the ones that I enjoyed the most.

1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

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By far my most listened album this year and keeping up the impeccable high standards of the Brooklyn band. Melancholy and humour wrapped in a perfect package.

 

2. The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk

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Stumbled across these guys thanks to a Spotify recommendation. Similar to The Menzingers and other American pop rock. Witty lyrics and catchy tunes and not one bad song on the album won me over straight away.

 

3. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap

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Best Hip Hop album of the year by far. Even better, he released it for free

http://www.datpiff.com/Chance-The-Rapper-Acid-Rap-mixtape.483826.html

Two of the catchiest songs of the year in “cocoa butter kisses” and “favourite songs”.

Have a listen you won’t regret it.

 

 

4. Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal

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Best metal album of the year and even though I’m not a fan of their members I think BMTH are the best british metal band around. With every album they’ve improved and refined their style. Still can’t get enough of “shadow moses”.

 

 

5. Lorde – Pure Heroin

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Brilliant pop music and she’s only 17.

Not one bad song on this album.

 

 

6. Deafheaven – Sunbather

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Hipster Metal…supposedly. It was heralded as original by a lot of people who have never heard Isis, Envy or Neurosis.

But it is still brilliant the musicianship is incredible and brutal.

 

 

7. Touche Amore – Is Survived By

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Brilliant modern take on post hardcore. Great lyrics and music, slightly easier on the ears than the previous two excellent albums.

 

 

8. Haim – Days are Gone

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Great pop music, shame it took so long between the singles coming out and the album as I’d listened to them to death. But still “falling” is pop perfection.

 

 

9. Kanye West – Yeezus

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Absolutely stunning production with some terribly ridiculous lyrics make for a great album about racism and other stuff. Glad Rick Rubin got involved to cut down only the essential songs needed for the album. Also the car crash interviews he’s been doing recently are amazing.

 

10. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

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Brilliant as always from these New York Boys. Not too dissimilar to their previous too but not one bit of filler on the whole album.

 

11. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

12. The 1975 – S/T

13. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

14. Peace – In Love

15. Dessa – Parts of Speech

16. J Cole – Born Sinner

17. 65daysofstatic – Wild Light

18. Arctic Monkeys – AM

19. Drake – Nothing was the Same

20. Hot 8 Brass Band – Tombstone

Would love to hear anyone else’s lists via the medium of social media.

Why I think Android is greater than iOS

Android Apple

I’ve been into technology as long as I can remember. And I’ve been an advocate of Android since I got my first smartphone in 2009 (a HTC Hero, if you must know).

I’ve always respected the open source nature of it and the fact that a lot more of the apps were/are free.
I also hate iTunes, it’s one of the most frustrating pieces of software I have ever used. I hate the fact you are tied to it to update your phone and to upload music.

Apple has done some things really well, their strict design rules and App Store vetting process means everything getting through is a lot more polished than some of the crap you get in Google play. The fact that they only release one new product at a time also prevents all the problems with fragmentation of resolution and firmware versions you get with all the different Android devices.
iPhones are also ridiculously simple to use, which means they seem to be the new midlife crisis purchase for a lot of the older generation. They really only use it to make phone calls, send text messages and play a couple of games of angry birds.

The app design and iOS design were world leading a couple of years ago but Apple have seemed to rest on their laurels since the death of Steve Jobs, the last iPhone offered nothing new or revolutionary as did the new iPad. I think skeuomorphism is on the way out and Google’s new flat design aesthetic will be the new market leader.

In terms of innovation, at least Google are trying. Glass looks interesting if completely impractical and Android is improving in leaps and bounds with every iteration. Apple’s maps were a complete failure and retina display hasn’t really taken off in the design world as much as I guess they hoped it would. A lot of companies who were  designing exclusively for iOS are now branching out and releaseing for android concurrently. Take Facebook Home for example, while it may be pretty useless it’s a massive bonus that it’s android exclusive.

There are a lot of people wary of Google’s data gathering and their access to your personal information for the purpose of selling ads. But that really doesn’t bother me, what are they going to do, try to sell me something I might have searched for, big deal.

Not sure if this post has really explained why Android is better than Apple but I hope to hear peoples opinions on it.

As a side note, one more thing apple have is customer care, if your iPhone breaks Apple will fix it or replace without much fuss, unfortunately Android is always installed on a 3rd party handset which is where the problems appear. HTC’s sense and Samsung’s TouchWiz are tow of the biggest downsides to Android and the problems that I have ever had are normally down to some bloatware app that they have pre-installed.

Changes

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We’ve been moving again!
This time Lucy and I have moved to the delightful Leamington Spa.
We’ve got a two bedroom flat in the town centre, should be great when we’re settled and the weather’s warmed up. Spent the last two weeks carrying overly large furniture up four flights of stairs and building lots of lots of Ikea furniture.

I’ve also changed job role, I’m now an Associate UI Artist and getting to grips with Actionscript 3 which is an enjoyable challenge.

Finally a couple of entertainment updates:
Best new TV show I’ve watched is Person of Interest.
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It’s a great buddy series using lots of unoriginal police ideas but improving them and adding it’s own stylistic touches. It’s great fun, with a character that needs saving every episode and a drip feed of the main characters backstory along the way.

Also, we watched the final season of Fringe.
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It was disappointing but I guess a fitting ending. The whole of season 5 is set in the future timeline and I found it the least interesting and found it hard to get into the story as much as any of the previous series. Still, great work from John Noble and Joshua Jackson.

Anyway, going to try and do at least one update a week, but I doubt that’ll happen.