2018 music highlights


Apple Music

KT TunstallAs someone who pretty much shuns the mainstream for the corporate beast it has always been in favour of the less celebrated or lesser known artists, this year a few albums have been in heavy rotation on my iPhone.  Firstly the return of KT Tunstall with her surprisingly enjoyable and polished album ‘Wax’ which harked back to that skillfull song writing that made her name in Eye To The Telescope, and well just has some really good pop-rock songs on it.

PearlHartsThen we come to the stripped back, moody guitar simplicity of ‘Glitter and Spit’ the brilliant debut from female duo The Pearl Harts, who initially grabbed my attention when they supported Garbage during part of their UK tour in 2016.  This album has a resemblance to The White Stripes but also adds gritty punk rock to it that made me think of Suzy Quatro.  The guitaring and the attitude driven vocals make for a very promising start to a career in my book.

ChvrchesChvrches impressed me previously with their excellent second album Every Open Eye, and even if their latest ‘Love Is Dead’ seems overly mainstream and a little bit lazy in places, it still has a sheen of slick production and Lauren Mayberry’s angelic vocals to carry it through.  Not a massive highlight but an album I’ve enjoyed none the less.

Against The CurrentAgain favouring a more mainstream sound than their last records, Against The Current still delivered a polished and entertaining second album in the shape of ‘Past Lives’ which features several decent songs even if some of their punk-pop sensibilities are mostly absent.

For a re-issue Garbage’s 20th anniversary of ‘Version 2.0’ not only brought with it a stellar remastering that made the album sound amazing, but a wealth of quality b-sides that made for a hell of a package.  Version 2.0 is not only my favourite Garbage album, it’s my favourite album … period.  So this version, despite some odd tinkering on certain tracks was a genuine highlight of 2018 for me.  Add to this the fact I got to experience it’s entirety live in concert at Brixton Academy, and well I think you can guess how happy that made me.

Garbage

Music for me is certainly still a difficult hobby to truly embrace.  I find myself trapped in the 90s or only listening to the same handful of artists.  We live in a culture that favours repetition and mediocrity and worships heavily promoted familiar names rather than promoting the freedom to go and seek out something ‘different’.  I feel it’s the only entertainment industry that really shuns creativity in favour of whatever music execs and narrow-minded radio stations consider the current cool trend, and so finding music that I can identify with and appreciate gets harder and harder every year.  The above named albums seemed to stick with me this year and stood out when so much else just felt boring.

Craig.

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Garbage autobiography


For an avid fan of alt-rock veterans ‘Garbage’ the long-awaited announcement of a book being released that covers their 20+ year career was huge news.  It’s been often rumoured and never really dismissed, but nothing had been heard of the book in well over a year. 

Garbage autobiography

So the news today that the book had not only an official name ’This Is The Noise That Keeps Me Awake’ (a lyric taken from their hit song Push It); but that it’s also been put up for pre-order at all good book retailers like Amazon was a big surprise.  The book promises to be a thorough exploration of the band’s career, from their humble beginnings at the legendary Smart Studios in Wisconsin through their rise to Grammy nominated multi-million selling rock stars right up to now, independent darlings of the live arena doing things on their own terms.  With full colour pictures and written by the band members themselves, this will surely be a cherished possession of any genuine Garbage fan – such as me!

The book which will be released in hardback is currently pencilled for a July 11 2017 release, and that date can’t come quick enough.

Garbage – Strange Little Birds


(updated 24/06/2016)  After a long wait the one album I have been looking forward to for the last few years has finally landed.  Yes ladies and gentlemen my favourite band Garbage are back … and could this be one of the best things they have ever created?  Let’s see…

Garbage logoAfter extensive play over the last two weeks I can confidently say this is a particularly polished, quality album from the alt-rock pioneers who first made waves back in 1995.  21 years later and Garbage have still got it, even to the point of further developing their sound to create something with a well defined mood through the whole album, which I feel the band hasn’t totally nailed in years.  Strange Little Birds tells a story of obsession, jealousy, regret and eventually hope.  It’s really quite powerful.  Personal highlights include the sublime rock-ballad ‘Night Drive Loneliness’, the powerhouse anthem ‘So We Can Stay Alive’, moody stadium rocker ‘Blackout’, and the heart-breaking ‘Even Though Our Love Is Doomed’ – but really I like every track and I haven’t felt that way since Version 2.0.  ‘Sometimes’ whilst possibly my least go-to track, is still a perfectly ominous opening and powerfully introduces ‘Empty’, which is the most radio-friendly track at least as far as today’s radio songs go.  Yet there’s a lot of potential here for singles; Night Drive being an obvious one as well as ‘If I lost You’ with it’s decidedly Madonna-like chorus.  I also really enjoy the slightly trippy vibe to ‘Teaching Little Fingers To Play’.  I should also add the closing, suitably epic ‘Amends’ makes me think of a moody western about a woman seeking redemption.

25.-Garbage

‘Magnetized’ is possibly the only track on the album I don’t totally enjoy … but I still like aspects of it.  Also the subjects explored, despite best intentions are not exactly new ground for this band.  However it’s the delivery and the craft that impresses most.  It’s also an album that left me wanting more … no bad thing, but I’d have loved a couple more tracks than the 11 we get here.  So overall, stellar work from Shirley Manson and her band mates; musicians & producers Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson.  You’ve proved the nay-sayers rather foolish indeed and have delivered some of the best work of your career.  I’d say Strange Little Birds will surprise a lot of people, critics especially, and in this homogenized, cookie-cutter musical landscape we find ourselves in – that’s a very good thing indeed.

Verdict:  4 /5

My music memories


I have thought this might be a good idea for a post for a while.  It’s very much off topic for this Blog but then this is MY blog and I guess I can write about whatever I want … so let’s take a look back at the singers and bands / artists who have meant the most to me throughout my life.  My tastes have varied wildly and I see I have never been just into one type of music, but many genres and styles.  Hardcore music fans may cringe at some of my choices here but rest assured I’m being honest and every name mentioned still means something to me even if my interest in them in some cases has lessened over the years for whatever reason.

Michael Jackson

michael jackson

I grew up loving his music, his dancing and his music videos.  He was as a kid to me, the epitome of cool and although his standing was wilted over the years due to the controversies and accusations, I still can’t skip a song of his when it appears of the radio or my brother throws one of his on the stereo system.  I have his greatest hits on my i-pod and although with his death I’ve sometimes found it difficult to listen to his music, I still find myself going back to the greats like ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Billy Jean’ from time to time.

John Lennon / The Beatles

john lennonI’m an admirer of The Beatles but more of John Lennon both as a cultural icon and for his solo music.  I have found his songs incredibly thought-provoking and meaningful and also find much of The Beatles back catalogue as iconic as everyone has said them to be.  They are as a band a bit before my time, but during my early years Lennon’s solo songs like ‘Imagine’ or ‘Woman’ seemed to strike a cord and still do.

Abba

abbaI loved and still love Abba … the writing talents of Benny and Bjorn and the incredible vocal performances of Anni-fred and Agnetha.  Timeless songs with a lot of meaning and well, their stuff is legendary and incredibly enjoyable.  They were fantastic performers, icons and their music deserves to last forever.  I think songs like ‘Super Trooper’. ‘Does Your Mother Know?’ and ‘Chiquitita’ will remain firm favourites of mine forever.

Bananarama

bananaramaForget The Spice Girls, this was the first really popular girl group if you don’t count The Supremes.  I loved this band and enjoyed a lot of their music over the years even following several line up changes.  Catchy pop songs like ‘Venus’, ‘Cruel Summer’ and the powerful ‘Robert DeNiro’s Waiting’ are firm recommendations.  What can I say I’m a sucker for a catchy pop song and not many had as many as this band.

Belinda Carlisle

belinda carlisleI love a strong female vocalist and I think in the 80s Belinda Carlisle was one of the best, and doesn’t really get the appreciation she deserves beyond the universal love for ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’.  She had some great songs and her best of is very enjoyable and packed with solid tracks and good song writing.  My favourites would be ‘Circle In The Sand’, ‘Summer Rain’ and ‘Leave A Light On’.

Kylie Minogue

kylie monogueI can’t say I have loved her entire career, but there was a time in the nineties and some of her early 2000 stuff where she had some amazing songs.  She’s a bit of a early boyhood crush of mine too and when she transformed from pop-princess into pop-vixen, I was sold.  Favourites are ‘What Do I Have To Do’, ‘Better The Devil You Know’ and ‘I can’t Get You Out Of My Head’.

The KLF

the klfThis short lived band in my opinion were my first real obsession.  A creative and unique duo of music producers who had their own style and experimented with sound and music like nothing else around at the time.  They only had one album and a handful of chart songs but tracks like ‘3am Eternal’, ‘Last Train To Transcentral’ and ‘What Time Is Love’ still for me, pack a hell of a punch.

Britney Spears

britney spearsYep, I love pop music and some of Britney’s stuff is still some of the best I’ve ever heard.  Dancey and catchy and with tons of sex appeal.  Spears for me was sort of a guilty pleasure but I don’t care and still love songs like ‘Oops I did It Again’, ‘Baby One More Time’ and ‘Toxic’.  I think it’s a real shame she’s never quite got back that midas touch she once seemed to have.


I think as the nineties came around and such eras as Brit Pop became all the rage I think I discovered music on a more serious basis.  Looking back I would never put music as high as movies or video games in my interests, but at this particular time and as I matured and life became more involved and about responsibilities and work etc. … music hit home more personally than ever before.

Radiohead

radiohead

One of the most acclaimed and influential British bands of all time and multi-award winning for especially their albums ‘OK Computer’ and ‘The Bends’.  There are songs on these albums that have struck a cord both emotionally and sonically.  Thom York’s vocals are at times heart-breaking, even if I can’t say I always understand what he is singing about.  But something about this band went deeper than maybe any other band ever has.  Sad then that they’ve never really seemed to hit the highs of these two albums since.  Favourite songs are: ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, ‘High and Dry’ and of course their industry defining ‘Creep’.

The Manic Street Preachers

manic street preachers

Guitar rock at it’s finest.  Catchy, rebellious and iconic.  Songs such as ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘A Design For Life’ are genuine classics and rock the house down, and with a troubled history such as Guitarist Richey Edwards’ disappearance their legacy and stamp on British music should not go ignored.  Still making music today and I’d love to see them live.

Oasis

oasis

Who wasn’t into Oasis at this time?  Liam Gallagher’s swagger, their don’t give a shit attitude, their slightly misjudged belief they were the next Beatles, the squabbles but most importantly – the music.  For a brief period Oasis could do no wrong and although I feel I have moved on from their style, tracks like ‘Live Forever’, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and ‘Roll With It’ will always be favourites.  They did a lot for British music at the time and seemed to really put us on the map back in the day, and Noel Gallagher continues to still be an icon.

Garbage

garbage

What Can I say that I haven’t already said about this band?  At the time I was searching for a band that I could follow and for twenty years (off and on), I have never looked back.  I wouldn’t say they quite made a mark on the industry like some of the other artists I’ve mentioned here, but for me personally with my love of dance beats, guitar rock and female vocalists, Garbage brought all my tastes together in one perfect combination.  They still manage to surprise and excite me even five albums later…and I can’t say that about any other band.    Favourite tracks are ‘Why Do You Love Me?’, ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ and ‘Queer’ among many more.

Avril Lavigne

avril lavigne

Never before has an artist so let me down when I loved her so much.  Her first and second albums were ahead of her years, angst-filled classics with stand out tracks like ‘Sk8terboy’, ‘My Happy Ending’ and ‘Nobody’s Home’ but then she just seemed to turn into a silly teenybopper, which she never really was.  People once compared her to Alanis Morrisette and that was justified, but hasn’t been for many years.  Like Britney Spears she once could do no wrong.  A real shame in my opinion.

Pink

pink

I think there was a time when Pink’s style of attitude driven pop was all the rage and her brand of two finger salute female sass seemed to work fantastically in a way similar artist alike Katy Perry haven’t quite managed to do justice.  Songs like ’Don’t let Me Get Me’, ‘Just Like A Pill’ and ‘U + Ur Hand’ will liven up any party.  I think she’s failed to really re-capture that sound and attitude since which is a shame, but for a moment there she kicked all sorts of ass.

Kelly Clarkson

kelly clarkson

One of the best female vocalists I have ever heard who can effortlessly jump genres and is equally suited to rock, pop and love songs.  Her latest album ‘Piece By Piece’ may have been a bit of a let down but for a while and hopefully for a long time to come she has been my favourite female solo singer.  Favourites include ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, ‘Because Of You’ and ‘Stronger’.


Today, I can’t say I’m as strongly into music as I was during the nineties and early 2000’s, and my focus is less diverse as I try and fail to seek out new bands I can get into.  I still find myself listening to a variety of bands like R.E.M. The Foo Fighters, Green Day, Placebo and singers like Lenka and James Morrison, but can’t say I really listen to them all that much.  As much as I feel the need to branch out from my obsession with Garbage, they currently fill a musical gap in my hobbies meaning I’ll probably remain fixed on them … for now.  The above however should give readers here a clear idea of my tastes and where I’m coming from when I say I like a certain song or band.  As I said I don’t focus on a particular type of music but a catchy song, a great beat or guitar riff will sell me every time.