The Specs’N’Rugs 2017 Album Top 5

It’s the time of year when the annual lists are compiled, be it best song, best album, best book, best film. You name it, there will be a ‘Top 5’ of it. So, rather than be left behind, I’m going to join in the fun with my Top 5 albums of the year.

As You WereIn fifth place, because after one play, I can only manage to listen to two tracks more than once, it’s Liam Gallagher with ‘As You Were’. The stand out tracks for me are ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Wall Of Glass’. The rest are just meh.

 

Kicking Up The DustIn fourth place, the latest release by Cast. ‘Kicking Up The Dust’ was a long time in waiting – I made my purchase via the Pledgemusic website sometime last year – but worth the wait when it arrived at the end of April. I received a signed copy (as did every purchaser) and it’s had regular play ever since. Stand out tracks for me are ‘Do That’, ‘Paper Chains’ and ‘Baby Blue Eyes’.

 

Crack UpIn third place, purely due to the need to listen carefully, and sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen carefully, is the long awaited Fleet Foxes third album, ‘Crack Up’. Six years after the release of it’s predecessor, this album is a step forward in musicality, songcraft and song titles that are difficult to remember! My favourite tracks are ‘Naiads, Cassadies’, ‘Third of May/Odaigahara’ and ‘Fools Errand’.

 

Who Built The MoonIn second place, with it’s boombastic sound, is ‘Who Built The Moon?’ by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Only released at the end of November, it has come close to the top spot in my countdown, but not quite achieving the pinnacle. Which is not to say that this lacks anything – in another year, it would be at the top – on the contrary, tracks like ‘Holy Mountain’, ‘Fort Knox’ and ‘The Man Who Built The Moon’ are absolutely amazing played obscenely loud.

 

Pure Comedy 2And the best album of 2017 as far as I’m concerned, is by far and away ‘Pure Comedy’ by Father John Misty. Seriously, how amazing is this album? Melodically and lyrically streets ahead of anything not in my top five, I seriously struggle to pick out favourites, but in order to continue the pattern of this post, I’ll try to. ‘Total Entertainment Forever’, ‘Ballad Of The Dying Man’ and probably ‘The Memo’ are just three of the albums outstanding tracks. And to top it all off, I saw him perform these songs live in November. Oh yes I did!!

 

 

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Albums You Should Own – Part 15

If you’ve been following this series carefully, you should have a music collection almost as good as mine by now. I say almost, because I’m sure there are some things in there that I would disapprove of (and I have no doubt there is stuff in my collection to make you roll your eyes). But the subject of this entry is one, I’m sure you’ll agree, that should be in everyone’s collection. No, not One Direction, but this…

Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones
The minute you see the iconic album cover (and the reverse), you know this is something special. And then you put it on and ‘Brown Sugar’ explodes from your speakers. How can things get better? They can, trust me. This is an album that showed the Stones at the peak of their craft. After the up-tempo opener, we slow down for ‘Sway’ and the dreamy ‘Wild Horses’ which is, for me, one of the highlights of the record. Just when you are lulled into a false sense of security, you get taken back up a few gears for the lengthy ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ with it’s crunchy guitar riff. Then you have a rarity by now, a non-Richards/Jagger composition in the form of ‘You Gotta Move’ which leads on to ‘Bitch’, a song I’d like to think was written about my ex-wife, but probably wasn’t! sticky

Time for another breather, and this is what we get with ‘I Got The Blues’, and this is my favourite track on the whole album. It’s got a swooning melody, Jagger’s delivery of the lyrics are perfect, and if you’ve got the blues, this is the perfect accompaniment. Keeping the mood low, we then get ‘Sister Morphine’ which is self-explanatory in it’s subject matter, but another of the band’s truly great tracks. To finish the album, ‘Dead Flowers’ is a countrified little rocker to lighten the mood before the final track, ‘Moonlight Mile’, an almost six minute slow end to proceedings.

Albums You Should Own – Part 14

Good music is subjective, that much is true. One man’s masterpiece is another’s dirge. However, this is about albums I feel are essential to one’s music collection. Recently, I have begun a new adventure in vinyl thanks to my dear old brother, and with this adventure, I have the opportunity to add to my collection some real classic gems of historical musical importance. And the subject of this post is such a momentous release, you could say music in England wouldn’t be the same without it…

The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses
Stone RosesThe eighties were, on the whole a mixed bag when it came to music in the UK. But in Manchester, there were The Smiths, and then, as the decade drew to a close, The Happy Mondays burst on to the scene. Also part of this new ‘Madchester’ scene were The Stone Roses. This, their debut album released in 1989, encapsulates their sound perfectly – Mani’s funky bass, Reni’s drums that sounded like they were just a programmed beat on a drum machine, John Squire’s guitar licks and topped off with Ian Brown’s distinctive vocals (some might suggest it was the sound of a man who couldn’t sing for toffee). When you put the record on, you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve bought a duff copy, but then the sound coagulates together and you get the bass thumping in, followed by the rest. An epic beginning that is ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. From there, we are treated to more magic. ‘She Bangs The Drums’ is faster, instantly exploding through the speakers. ‘Waterfall’ follows on, and as you work through the album you get treated to other great tracks such as ‘Made Of Stone’, ‘This Is The One’, and the finale, ‘I Am The Resurrection’ – an eight minute closing masterpiece.

If you only buy one Stone Roses album, buy this one.

The Saturday Shuffle – Week 11

Another Saturday means another shuffle extravaganza is upon us. Thanks to the magic of technology, I’m actually busy doing something else right now, but here are the five tracks my phone shuffle threw up this week (not literally, of course)…

  1. Grown Ocean – The Fleet Foxes. Another of my favourite bands, the Fleet Foxes are just brilliant. This is the last track from their second album, ‘Helplessness Blues’, and it’s a treat.
  2. The World Tonight – Paul McCartney. Remember when it was the cool thing to mock Mr McCartney for ‘selling out’? Well, the Beatles Anthology thing came along and the next year, we got his ‘Flaming Pie’ album full of groovy tracks like this.
  3. Simple – Nick Harper. More of the magnificent Mr Harper. This is a simple song about simple stuff. It’s a little over-produced (I’m a sucker for his live act), but still a great song.
  4. Across The Universe – The Beatles. Carrying on with yet another brilliant song, this is one of John Lennon’s spiritual tracks written during the Rishikesh stay when they were all seeking a meaning to everything. There is a sub-standard cover version currently doing the rounds on a Samsung advert.
  5. Return To Sender – Elvis Presley. Remember the days when you had to write a letter to people in order to tell them things? Well, this is a song about writing to that special someone, only for the damned letters to come back to you, unopened. Call it unrequited love, or maybe just a crap postman…

And that is the end of that. With the start of the football season now upon us, this is the last shuffle for the time being – my Saturday afternoons will be filled with avoiding football…

The Saturday Shuffle – Week 10

Well, stone me if it isn’t Saturday again already! Since the last post, I’ve turned 37, and today is my first wedding anniversary. And now on with the shuffling…

  1. Driftwood – Travis. One of their singles from the successful second album, ‘The Man Who’. If I’m honest, I preferred the first album…
  2. I Went To The Store One Day – Father John Misty. If you know me, you’ll know that I’ve been raving about this guy since last year. Josh Tillman’s post-Fleet Foxes alter-ego, Father John Misty has soul, style and panache. Plus he writes some pretty awesome tunes. This is the album closer of ‘I Love You Honey Bear’ and it’s melancholic and beautiful.
  3. Familiar Love – William Shatner. You’re probably thinking ‘What the fuck?!’ But bear with me, even though it’s spoken word, it’s done brilliantly. His delivery suits the song, and it’s like he’s regaling you with stories from his life, albeit to a backing track.
  4. Empire – Kasabian. The title track and single from the second album. It’s a foot stomping, sing-along anthem type song. Probably still one of their best songs to-date.
  5. Jump Into The Fire – Harry Nillson. Another foot-stomping, head-nodding beast of a tune to finish. Brought to my attention thanks to the iconic ‘Goodfellas’, this featured in the film – if you’ve seen it, it’s the section of the film “Sunday May 11th” – Henry Hill’s manic day that starts with a line of coke and finishes in police custody.

There’s your five for today. A pretty eclectic collection if you ask me! Until next time…

The Saturday Shuffle – Week 9

Hello Saturday! And Saturday means Shuffle time.

  1. Sorrow – David Bowie. What can I say about David Bowie that you don’t already know? Nothing…
  2. By My Side – Kasabian. One of the less well-known Kasabian songs off their second album – ‘Empire’. I think you can call it an ‘album filler’. Some think the band are overrated, others disagree. I would say I’m comfortably on the fence.
  3. Get Rhythm – Johnny Cash. The Man in Black. A legend. One from the end of the fifties with, well, rhythm!
  4. Way Into Your Heart – The Hummingbirds. I’m biased here, but this band from Liverpool are pretty damned good. This track is off their album ‘Pieces of You’ and is quite low-key and has a Country-style twang to it. Highly recommended listening.
  5. Black Or White – Michael Jackson. A bit of Jacko to finish, then. Maybe they should play this song to all the American cops before they go out on patrol to teach them a bit of racial harmony!!

And that’s your five for today. Before you know it, it’ll be Saturday again! Although it’s not just any Saturday next time – it’s my 1st Wedding Anniversary. Time flies, huh?!

The Saturday Shuffle – Week 8

As if by magic (bad magic at that), we are at the end of another week. Half way through the month already, which means two things – firstly it’ll soon be the kids’ summer holidays, and secondly it’s my birthday. Whoop! Whoop! Right, on with the business of shuffling…

  1. Man In The Mirror – Michael Jackson. Remember when it was uncool to like Jacko because of the court cases and rumours? I admit I stopped listening to him, but only after ‘Earth Song’ – he went a bit shit. This is a cool song, from the ‘Bad’ album, of that there is no doubt.
  2. Always On My Mind – Elvis Presley. Ah, the King. A song with such random cover versions as The Pet Shop Boys and Mike Reid (yes, he of Frank Butcher fame), this is by far the best. A tidy love song.
  3. Where Ya Going? – Gomez. A band I lost touch with, but recently re-connected with and discovered a treasure trove of awesomeness. This features Ben Ottewell’s distinctive gravelly voice (he’s had the same voice for, like, nearly twenty years) and a dirty guitar sound.
  4. Thriller – Michael Jackson. The song that defined his career. It’s got funk, it’s got soul, and it’s got horror icon Vincent Price’s macabre spoken ending. And that video!! *insert evil laugh*
  5. Message In A Bottle – The Police. We finish off with a sting in the tail. See what I did there?! Yeah, okay, it’s a bit of a ‘dad joke’. I once got a message in a bottle – it was a beer bottle, and the message said “drink responsibly”…

And that’s the end for today. Until next week!