Monday, 31 December 2012

Our Favourite Albums of 2012 - The Top 30



2012's been a fantastic year - both for us (starting up this very blog on 21st August) and for music - having been to 11 gigs this year, we've seen more live music than in any previous years! These have been some of the inspiration behind our Top 30 chart - here are the albums which have made 2012 a great year in the world of indie and alternative music.

Of course, there are several albums we would have liked to have added to the list, but we can't include everything! So if you think this chart commits a couple of music injustices, feel free to let us know what you'd change. Anyway, here's to 2012 - and let's hope that 2013 can match this year's abundance of amazing albums (though that shouldn't be difficult - with Foals, Darwin Deez, Biffy Clyro, Vampire Weekend and Everything Everything announcing comeback albums, and new talent from the likes of Splashh, Novella, Dan Croll, S O H N and Swim Deep to name a few, this is already looking promising!)

All the best for the new year,
Isabella and Felicity - On The Jukebox

Now on with the countdown...



30 - The Temper Trap
The Temper Trap
29 - Battle Born
The Killers


28 - My Head Is An Animal
Of Monsters And Men
27 - The Only Place
Best Coast


26 - America Give Up
Howler
25 - All Our Favourite Stories
Dog Is Dead


24 - In Our Heads
Hot Chip
23 - Observator
The Raveonettes


22 - 2:54
2:54
21 - Into The Diamond Sun
Stealing Sheep


20 - Port Of Morrow
The Shins
19 - Babel
Mumford & Sons


18 - Coexist
The xx
17 - Gossamer
Passion Pit


16 - Manifest!
Friends
15 - To The Treetops!
Team Me


14 - Shields
Grizzly Bear
13 - Family
The Cast Of Cheers


12 - Four
Bloc Party
11 - Come Of Age
The Vaccines


10 - Walk The Moon
Walk The Moon
9 - Endless Flowers
Crocodiles


8 - Django Django
Django Django

7 - Enjoy It While It Lasts
Spector

6 - Lonerism
Tame Impala


 5 - Life Is Elsewhere
Little Comets
Newcastle's Little Comets returned to the indie scene in October 2012 with Life Is Elsewhere. Having released an album the year before, many worried they hadn't spent long enough writing. But Life Is Elsewhere proved to be some of their best work yet!


4 - Beacon
Two Door Cinema Club
The NI-based trio returned this year with their gem of a sophomore album, Beacon. Packed with catchy choruses and energetic guitar riffs, this didn't deviate too far from the band's debut, Tourist History, but nonetheless displayed a more mature sound than in the previous album.


 3 - Oshin
Diiv
An obscure debut album from Zachary Cole Smith's (of Beach Fossils fame) new band, having received little publicity - but good ratings from music critics. Oshin celebrates guitars (which are a more prominent feature than vocals), bringing back The Cure-esque post-punk; a much needed revival.


 2 - Given To The Wild
The Maccabees

The Maccabees released their third studio album in early 2012, leaving a lasting impression on existing fans and new fans alike. A more powerful sound overall, the band have expanded on their previously more 'Indie' albums, and created 13 tracks of brilliance.  


 1 - An Awesome Wave
Alt-J (∆)
This debut album has deservedly made it to first place: it is refreshingly different to most current alternative acts. Each song tells a different story; from Breezeblocks, which depicts an obsessive relationship, to Taro, the story of a real-life photographer. This is, in our opinion, the number 1 album of 2012.

Isabella and Felicity, OTJ x

Friday, 2 November 2012

Top Songs of Autumn 2012

Days are shorter, nights are colder, scarves are warmer, songs are better. This post is a shortlist of what's been playing through our headphones throughout the autumn.



1) Best Of Friends - PALMA VIOLETS




Hailed as the new future of British rock, here's the fresh, experimental sound of Palma Violets. The critics seem to be loving these guys, as do we. They've already nabbed themselves a front cover of NME, and after a summer of festivals (Reading, Leeds, Psych Fest, Eden Sessions - that's right, you heard it here first), they're ready to take the alternative music scene by storm. Brace yourselves, readers.


2) Something Good - ALT-J (∆)



If you're after a brief summary of this track, the clue's kind of in the name. The latest release from (Mercury Prize winners) Alt-J's recent debut 'An Awesome Wave' combines afrobeats with oh-so-pretty-sounding piano-led instrumentals, which together with Joe Newman's smooth vocals create the perfect track to listen to when you're in a melancholy mood. Their upcoming UK tour sold out like hot cakes, and if you've heard their music before, it's easy to see why.


3) Friday Night, Don't Ever Let It End - SPECTOR



Bored of listening to the same songs about Fridays (believe us, there are many)? Here's something new to add to that particular collection - it's Spector, and it's excellent. Featuring the synthy-guitarry riffs hooks that Spector do best and an anthemic chorus that was made for crowds to sing along to, who's complaining? No need to even mention Rebecca Black.


4) Cough Cough - EVERYTHING EVERYTHING



Well hello stranger! It's been too long since we've heard something new from the Manchester-based quartet, but GOOD NEWS - they're back! 'Cough Cough' is the first single from Arc, the follow-up to the band's 2010 album 'Man Alive', and promises more of Everything Everything's enthusiastic indie randomness. Glad to have you back, boys!


5) Tightrope - WALK THE MOON



After that impressive performance at the iTunes Festival in September, it's hardly surprising that we're mentioning Walk The Moon (yet again!) Their latest electric-guitar-loaded release is quirky and fun; this is a song that's guaranteed to brighten up any bad day and bulldoze through those November blues. As seen in the above video, dancing like nobody's watching is highly recommended.


6) Madness - MUSE



A rather sharp contrast to previous hit and official Olympic anthem 'Survival', Muse's controversial dubstep influences manifest themselves here - but fear not, bloggers, it's all good. Riffs, reverbs and hidden relationship advice (see online interviews) transform this into a track which could make a MUSEr out of anyone. You converted yet?


7) How Do You Do? - HOT CHIP



If, like us, you've been long awaiting the return of indie-electronic powerhouse Hot Chip, you'll love this second single from album #5, 'In Our Heads'. '80s-style synths are juxtaposed alongside lyrics which look on the bright side of life ("A heart is not for breaking\ It's for beating out all the life that is to begin"). 'How Do You Do' will remind anyone will remind anyone who was ever a fan, of the reasons why they first fell in love with this sound.


8) Ayla - THE MACCABEES



It's plain to see that pianos are back in the world of alternative music, with the likes of Alt-J (∆), King Charles, and now The Maccabees bucking this trend. 'Ayla' is quite simply a dazzling display of melodic excellence, which for us secures a place for The Maccabees' LP 'Given To The Wild' in our Favourite Albums Of The Year (a very prestigious title indeed). Both heartwarming and atmospheric, you couldn't want more from a ballad like this.


9) Worry - LITTLE COMETS



Another brilliant sophomore album? There are way too many of these at the moment; all this good music is eating up all of our time! Most well-known for their songs 'Joanna' and 'Dancing Song', Newcastle's Little Comets show that the UK music scene is far from running dry - their unique take on "kitchen-sink indie" makes for very good listening. Note their use of pots, pans and percussion (hanging conveniently on a rope suspended from the ceiling) during their live tours - one of which I (Felicity) was fortunate enough to see! :)


10) I'm His Girl - FRIENDS



Who says feminism is a thing of the past? Friends smash that thesis with a metaphorical sledgehammer, with their feisty new song 'I'm His Girl'. Far from your typical generic love song, this track certainly packs a punch as it addresses the issues of equality and possessive relationships, with a degree of sassiness that even Destiny's Child would be proud of. What a song.


11) Life's A Beach - DJANGO DJANGO



After groundbreaking performances at Reading and Leeds, we were very excited to see what this brilliant band would do next. The answer? Chilled-out, desert-esque 'Life's A Beach', which you'll probably want to sing/hum/whistle* constantly after a couple of listens, annoying nearby friends/family/flatmates* in the process. They'll never understand.

* Delete as appropriate.


12) Endless Flowers - CROCODILES



To cut a long story short, Crocodiles is the sort of band which makes you question why on earth you haven't discovered them before. The San Diego noise pop outfit (who recently played at Rough Trade East, London) have a similar vibe to The Drums and The Raveonettes, and this track from the band's third album (of the same name as the song) isn't one you'll forget in a hurry.

Isabella and Felicity, OTJ x

Saturday, 6 October 2012

"We rattle this town, we rattle this scene" (Anna Sun)



Walk The Moon at iTunes Festival, Roundhouse, London

It was our first visit to both the iTunes festival and London’s Roundhouse. As avid music fans (who would guess?!), we had both entered the competition to win tickets to many of the days of the month-long festival which takes place every September, and when we won a pair, we were surprised and very excited. 

Walk The Moon are a band from the USA, who are still relatively unknown, in the UK at least.  However, we discovered them a few months ago and were both immediately hooked on their music, especially our favourites ‘Anna Sun’ and ‘Next In Line’. 
Walk The Moon at iTunes Festival 2012

They were the support act of the night (although, in our opinion, capable of a headline slot), and had a reasonable 45 minute set.  It began with the song ‘The Liftaway’, which has a guitar riff which reminds me of Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’.  Not that Walk The Moon are particularly similar to them- they have a much more ‘indie sound’, with their super fast electric guitars and upbeat, uplifting tunes, they are more reminiscent of Two Door Cinema Club.

We were the only people we could see in the crowd who knew the band, but we still sang and clapped along as Walk The Moon performed song after song with an excited enthusiasm. The key moment was undoubtedly their performance of single ‘Anna Sun’, which sounded just as good live as recorded, but with an added energy that only comes with live music.

After seeing them live, we would definitely recommend Walk The Moon, and hope to see them becoming very successful in the UK and beyond.   

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Many surprises await you, in the basement, people, in the basement

Wristbands and coffee :)
 The day began early – we woke up when it was barely light outside, in order to be in Oxford Street, London by 9am to get our hands on the entry wristbands (of which there were only 400!). We arrived with plenty of time, and excitedly put them on, whilst drinking a much needed coffee after our early start!

The actual acoustic gig didn’t start until 6pm, but we arrived at the queue outside HMV’s flagship store just after 5 o’clock, and already a big line of excited Two Door fans (unofficially known as ‘Basement People’) had formed, all armed with copies of the new album ‘Beacon’, ready to be signed by Alex, Sam and Kevin themselves. We were allowed into the shop about half an hour before it all started, and found that an area of the building had been sectioned off especially for the event, with a small stage set up against the wall. As always, the wait for a gig wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but we were waiting amongst the shelves of CDs, so at least we had some time to check out what was in stock!


Armed with merchandise!

While we were waiting, with arms full of TDCC merchandise (two CDs – ‘Beacon’ and also their debut ‘Tourist History’, a DIY T-shirt emblazoned with the band’s logo and a rather battered copy of NME magazine), we were approached by a woman who had spotted the magazine we were holding. She explained to us that she was a reporter for the NME, and began to query us about what we like about Two Door Cinema Club. When she asked who the biggest fan of the band was, Isabella instantly pointed towards me (Felicity – I’m a big Two Door fan!). In response to the journalist’s questions, I described what I felt when I first listened to Tourist History (something along the lines of “it was like my ears were exploding – but in the best possible way”... hardly eloquent, but expressing what you think about your favourite band is a lot more difficult than it sounds!)

Before long, the audience started clapping and cheering as Alex, Sam and Kevin appeared from a stage door and took to the ‘stage’ – a small area at the back of HMV which had been cordoned off. They began their acoustic set with ‘Sleep Alone’, their most recent single to date, and the first single release from ‘Beacon’, which provided the audience with the perfect beat to clap along to (see our “Top Songs of Summer 2012” post for more reference to this!) Although it seemed that many of the audience didn’t know many of the words to Sleep Alone, they soon had the chance to sing along when the band broke out into a slower, folksy version of ‘Undercover Martyn’, which was followed by ‘Do You Want It All’, two songs from Two Door’s debut album which proved very popular.
TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB!

These were followed by the catchy and optimistic “Something Good Can Work”, which left a permanent smile on our faces for the rest of the evening, and guitar-based new album track “Next Year”, which may have been unknown to many of the audience, but was still enjoyed by everyone there. When lead singer Alex Trimble (who you may have seen singing at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in London this year) announced that they were to play one last song, everyone anticipated what would come next. Upon recognising the opening guitar chords of “What You Know”, the crowd descended into cheering, jumping and even screaming; this song provided the perfect end to the set.

Photo © Indscene
After Two Door had put down their guitars and stood for a few press photos, they sat down and prepared to sign albums for the ‘swarming hordes’ of fans that awaited them (anyone who owns a copy of Tourist History should get that reference ;] ). When it was our turn, we gave the band, who seemed to us like such genuinely nice people, our merchandise to sign (TDCC proving that signing a T-shirt is a lot more difficult than it looks); thanking them a little too excessively and telling them what a great gig it was. It didn’t seem real that one of our favourite bands, whose music we often play on loop, were sitting right in front of us, signing the CD that we’ve listened to many a time, casually speaking to us and complaining to each other about a broken permanent marker. I guess “surreal” would be the closest word to describe that moment.

Sam, Kevin and Alex signing our copy of Beacon!
Felicity getting a T-shirt signed by Kevin!
Isabella speaking to Alex and getting a copy of Tourist History signed!

Still in slight awe of what had just happened, we were walking out of the emptying shock, when we spotted Pete Robertson, the drummer from The Vaccines, buying 4 copies of The Vaccines’ “Come Of Age”, also released on the same day. A brief chat about the new album led to a great photo opportunity – and we soon realised that this was the second member of The Vaccines that we’ve met (the first being Arni the bassist at the Eden Sessions concert in Cornwall). We’ll never forget our trip to Oxford Street on Monday, 3rd September 2012, that’s for sure.

A picture with Pete!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Our Favourite Albums: The Drums- 'The Drums' (2010)

We're hoping to do a regular post on our favourite albums, reviewing each of them track-by-track, and The Drums' debut album, 'The Drums' (2010) is the first we're featuring.

After listening to the same old much-loved summery albums on a continual loop (Friendly Fires, Vampire Weekend, etc.), we were glad to add this to our collection of Songs To Listen To When The Weather’s Hot. Here’s our take on this refreshing mix of indie, alternative and post-punk, courtesy of NY-based band The Drums.

1.  Best Friend

The Drums waste no time with introductions – kicking off their eponymous debut  with their hit ‘Best Friend’; one of their best-known songs which depicts a hypothetical situation in which Jacob (The Drums’ guitarist) dies and his best friend Jonny (lead singer of The Drums) misses him, but eventually feels he has to move on. Confused? We are too. Nonetheless, it’s a good song combining an upbeat melody with deeper, darker lyrics; something which The Drums seem to do very well (this becomes clear as the album progresses).

2.  Me And The Moon

This is a great example of one of the Drums’ intriguing song titles- the track describes a cold, failing relationship as ‘is it me and you or is it me and the moon?’  The song strangely contains a section extremely similar to that of the single ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ (track 6), but apart from that, it is a catchy tune in its own right, with the synthy instrumental section sounding very post-punk.

3.  Let’s Go Surfing

This was the song which first introduced me (Felicity) to The Drums way back in 2010. Two years and several hundred plays later, I still love the song as much as the first time I heard it. Its feelgood chorus and distinctive whistle hook, alongside carelessly optimistic lyrics (“he’s going to make it all better”, “I wanna go surfing\ I don’t care about nothing”) and harmonised bridge, set this tune aside as a timeless summer anthem which will remain on our playlist for many summers to come.

4. Book Of Stories

This song is definitely more of a grower rather than one which is immediately a favourite. It isn’t one of our top tracks on this album, but fits in well with the overall sound of ‘The Drums’.  The lyrics are very typical of the band, with the somewhat depressing chorus ‘I thought my life would get easier, instead it’s getting harder’, contrasting with the upbeat, catchy instrumental.

5.  Skippin’ Town

Singer Jonny Pierce makes the most of his vocal range on this track, jumping from high to low and back again when singing the introductory “ooh ee oo ee oo-ooh”s which are recycled at various other intervals in the song. This is a track which definitely relies more on technicalities, such as vocals and instrumentals, than on lyrics – meaning that it is likely to stick in your mind very quickly.

6. Forever And Ever Amen

This is one of our favourite songs on the album- it’s just so happy and really stays in your head after you’ve listened to it. The positively sentimental lyrics ‘It’s forever, baby it’s forever’ make a change from the sadder, more downbeat lyrics of most of the album and the song just wants to cheer you up from beginning to end. If you’re only going to listen to one of the songs on this album, I (Isabella) would choose this one!

7.  Down By The Water

It may be one of the more melancholy songs on the album, but Down By The Water is by no means a disappointment. The beat is a lot more apparent on this track, providing a slow, steady, defined rhythm to accompany the tuba sound and Jonny Pierce’s vocals. The result is a hauntingly romantic ballad which blurs the line between lullaby and love song (the Cure reference there wasn’t intentional, despite obvious similarities between the two bands which become clear on track 12 – The Future). This is a song which could make you smile, or send shivers up your spine, or possibly both.

8. It Will All End In Tears

Don’t be put off by the supposedly bleak title of this song- in true The Drums fashion, the track is not all you expect it to be at first glance.  It is hard to call a ballad, as, despite it being about a dysfunctional relationship, the upbeat guitars and enthusiastic backing vocals make this track yet another of the band which easily gets stuck in your head.

9.  We Tried

Another more sombre, heartfelt track from The Drums, showcasing once again that sad songs don’t have to be downbeat; We Tried continues to keep up the tempo, regardless of the fact that this is a break-up song. Here, Pierce describes his feelings of loneliness after the breakdown of a relationship – which he attempted to rekindle (“We tried\and we died”).

10. I Need Fun In My Life

The song certainly wins the award for best song title. It begins with lead vocalist Jonny Pierce singing ‘oh oh, oh oh’, along to the opening guitar instrumental- something he does in a lot of songs, but always seems to work.  The playful, nonsensical lyrics ‘I need life in my fun fun fun’ are very easy to find yourself singing along with, and even if you’re not quite sure what they mean, they go well with this upbeat and toe-tapping album track.

11.  I’ll Never Drop My Sword

Upon reading this song’s name, you might not know what to expect. Although this track certainly suits the style of the album and band, the lyrics are difficult to interpret and a lot of repetition is used – this isn’t particularly a stand-out track. The lyric “do you think that Jesus loves me?” is the band’s first reference to the theme of religion, which is a lot more prominent in The Drums’ sophomore album, Portamento.

12. The Future

I (Isabella) often think The Drums sound like The Cure, and this track is the one which I would say reminds me most of the gothic post-punk band.  This is not a bad comparison at all- we both love The Cure, and it’s great to hear a band which has this sound to their music, as it is often hard to find at the moment.  This track smoothly finishes off one of our favourite debut albums, and it is clear, from The Drums even better second album, Portamento (released in 2011) that they definitely do have a future.

Friday, 7 September 2012

#TwitterBands

Some of you may know that we also have a twitter account @OnTheJukebox for this blog.  We have a number of bands which follow us, and here is a pick of some of our favourites.

1. LITTLE NIGHT TERRORS



These rising stars from Leicester, who recently played the UK festival Summer Sundae, have a fresh, alternative sound which is hard to put in a box (in a good way!). With their single ‘Pocket Rocket (Where The Light Is)’ proving very popular on iTunes, and a sold out gig at the O2 Academy Leicester to their name, we definitely think they are ones to watch. Check out their latest single ‘Young Lion’.

Listen to them if you like The View, General Fiasco and Various Cruelties.

2. THE CORNERSTONES


 

The band, from West London, are more alternative than indie, citing on their Myspace page influences ranging from Elbow and Kasabian, to The Beatles and Bob Dylan.  Their album, ‘Begin To End, Vol.1’ consists of mainly guitar-based soft-rock songs, which personally remind us of Oasis, especially the track, ‘Why Did She Leave Me?’

Listen to them if you like 90s-style alternative and Britpop bands, such as Blur, Pulp and The Levellers.


3. YOUNG ELECTRICS
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Young_Electrics
Facebook: http://facebook.com/youngelectrics
The first band we thought of when we heard Brighton-based band Young Electrics, were The Kooks.  They play good old indie music, with our much-loved guitar riffs, catchy drum beats and wide-ranging vocals.  If we were to recommend just one of their songs, we would choose ‘Caught In The Rain’, which would fit right in live at any indie music festival.
 
Listen to them if you like indie and Britpop, such as The Wombats, The Kooks and Arctic Monkeys.

4. THE HUMMINGBIRDS

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheHummingbirds



One of the most cheerful bands we’ve heard in a while. The sunny Scouser skiffle band released their first EP ‘Talking Of Tomorrow’ in 2011, and are now releasing their third, entitled, ‘Break Your Heart’. Over the past year, the band have gained success with gigs all over the country, especially in their home city of Liverpool. We recommend listening to ‘Back In Liverpool’. Look out for their debut album, which they are planning on launching next year.

Listen to them if you like indie-folk and country-inspired bands, such as Mumford and Sons or Noah and the Whale.

5. THE SILENT SIGNALS

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thesilentsignal



The Silent Signals are a band from Philadelphia, USA, who have an alternative/ grunge sound whilst also drawing inspiration from more electronic music genres. However, guitars remain a central part of their music, including a wide use of bass guitar.  Their album, ‘An Emotion Picture’ consists mostly of ballads, but the type of ballad which builds up into a crescendo of different instruments, making a bigger impact.  

Listen to them if you like bands which combine, to quote The Silent Signals themselves, ‘Music + Alternative + Electronic’

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

When the curtain falls, it's time to leave the stage...


Spector on the BT Vision Stage
While everyone else was going sports-mad around the time of the London Olympics, we were excited to hear about the fortnight of free gigs taking place in London’s Hyde Park. BT London Live was the name of the event where anyone and everyone had the opportunity to watch screenings of live Olympic events – and also to see a variety of live musical performances.
 
When we heard Spector were performing on 8th August, we were curious to find out more about the band who, before the gig, we associated with their radio-played song ‘Chevy Thunder’. For those of you who’ve never heard of Spector, think of vocals similar to those of Tom Smith from Editors with a White Lies vibe; their music is characterised by their love of electric guitar-powered intros and ambiguous, thought-provoking lyrics.

L-R: Jed Cullen, Fred Macpherson, Danny Blandy, Chris Burman, Tom Shickle

Anyway, here is our review:

Spector's Fred Macpherson singing 'Celestine'
We were surprised by the number of people who turned up for the gig, especially as Spector were not playing the main stage. The band opened with the recognisable intro of ‘Celestine’ (lyrics from which are in the title), which instantly kicked off the atmosphere and had the crowd jumping. We couldn’t help but notice their pride at their debut album, Enjoy It While It Lasts, being released the following Monday, as lead singer Fred Macpherson kept reminding us to buy it!

As we mentioned earlier, we were anticipating the aforementioned Chevy Thunder, which had introduced us to the band, so when Fred made reference to giving the audience “chevrything”, we knew what to expect. With a performance impressively similar to the studio recording, Spector had the audience singing along. Last, but not least, Spector treated the audience to a memorable performance of their latest single release, ‘Never Fade Away’, throughout which the crowd’s swaying gradually turned to clapping as the song progressed and the 30-minute set came to an end.

Enjoying it while it lasted; Spector

We’d definitely recommend seeing Spector; they’re one to watch for 2012, with both a crowd-entertaining stage presence and a sound which translates very well from recording to stage. “Enjoy It While It Lasts”? We certainly did.

Isabella and Felicity, OTJ x