Bringing this exciting series up to date, let’s have a look at some of my favourite albums of the last few years. Well actually, the decade is almost over isn’t it..!
Frank Turner: England Keep My Bones – Once upon a time I was reminiscing with a friend about the time we saw Million Dead in London. The Garage, Islington was my favourite venue. Large enough to cram a good few people in, yet small enough to give an intimate show, and then the bands themselves would sell merchandise afterwards. I’ll always remember the singer’s kindness when I was embarrassed to be buying an XL t-shirt from him. “Oh,” said my friend, “you know he’s making solo albums now?” Well, I wasn’t aware, but I went right out and bought his then latest album. As the title may suggest, the entire album is about England and his love for his country. A departure from Million Dead, this is a folksy affair. Some powerful choruses punctuate a fine collection of songs.
Jamie Lenman: Muscle Memory – A few years ago my wife and I were guests at a Humanist wedding in the woods, and we were certain we recognised one of the guests. He was regaling others with his book of Doctor Who sketches and stories, his distinctive dress fitting well with the setting. A few weeks later, when the couple returned from honeymoon we asked who was this man? “Oh that’s my cousin, Jamie Lenman.” Jamie Lenman was once the singer of one of my wife’s favourite bands from the 00s, Reuben. We sought out his new solo album, and fell hard for one half of it. You see this is an album of two parts – disc two is a folksy affair not similar to Frank Turner above though with a distinctly American flavour, whereas disc one goes all out angry, buzzing metal. The first half is not to my taste honestly, it’s a bit…. simple as metal goes. But the second half is truly sublime, with fantastic use of harmony. A secret Easter egg exists, which is in itself quite genius – the final tracks of both sides can be combined, on top of each other, to make a third song! Here it is:
Muse: The 2nd Law – Prior to The 2nd Law, I had but one Muse album, The Origin of Symmetry. Whilst a fantastic album, it never quite encouraged me to get into the band. Then, in a whim, I purchased The 2nd Law, one of only two albums I’ve bought through iTunes! An instant hit, I loved it. Powerful songs with a strong message of hope, the Queen influence (that some people seem so offended by) is clear, and a reason why this one stands out for me. Well-produced and with fantastic playing from the band throughout, this one deserves its place on this list.
Queen: A Night At The Opera – As I mentioned on a previous post regarding Queen’s Greatest Hits, I hadn’t really heard any of Queens albums besides the two Greatest Hits compilations for years, despite considering myself a huge fan based on them. When a friend at work encouraged me to dig deeper into their library, he loaned me the albums Sheer Heart Attack and A Night At The Opera. It was the latter that stuck first, though it took a while. Less of an album and more a collection of songs, it took several attempts at listening to the whole thing before the songs started to make sense together. But once they did – oh boy is this a fine one! The album contains Bohemian Rhapsody, probably the first song Joe Bloggs would think of when you say “Queen”, but there are even finer pieces of songmanship on display here.
Metallica: Lulu – Just kidding, this is shit.
Slaves: Are You Satisfied? – Until recently, a friend and I used to swap CDs for Christmas, and there was usually a bit of a reason behind each choice. In 2015 he gave me this one. That year I wrote and recorded a song every week, primarily punk songs, and he felt that Slaves sounded an awful lot like me. They kind of do, I see where he was coming from. Thoroughly English, with great hooks. I was less impressed by their next two albums, but this one is great.
Queens of the Stone Age: Like Clockwork – Having not cared so much for the two albums after Songs for the Deaf, this one took a while too. The slower tempo threw me off at first, but I slowly began to feel the groove, until finally this became my favourite of their albums. Sometimes it’s worth giving something a chance over an extended period.
Blur: The Magic Whip – This one came out of the blue one day, when a friend mentioned a new single on Twitter. Blur’s first album since they disbanded 12 years previously, it had to be worth a listen. It sure was – the single Go Out was fantastic, and a great choice for first single. Blur haven’t release two albums that sound alike, and they continue the trend here. Not strangers to dark subject matter, this album is particularly dreary at times, which fits with the general social unease at the time of its release. One of their strongest efforts and well worth the wait.
Royal Blood: Royal Blood – A year and a half ago, as one band ended, and another rose from the ashes (myself and the guitarist), we started to write and record some songs. I played bass, he played guitar, and it was good. As he was writing the majority of the songs, he introduced me to a number of his influences to get me in the right mindset – Electric Wizard, Sleep, and Royal Blood. I knew already of a few two piece bands that had managed to create a full band sound – White Stripes, Death From Above 1979, and Slaves, but Royal Blood have something special. Watch them live, you’ll see them get lost in what they’re doing. It’s great.
Daft Punk: Random Access Memories – Here we end on what is easily my favourite album of this decade. Beautifully produced, it’s a joy to listen to. I had a vague interest in some of their earlier albums, so when I picked this one up I expected to kind of enjoy it – instead I realised immediately that this album had been tailor made for me. Eliciting a strong emotional response with each and every song, this has become a staple part of my testing repertoire for new audio equipment. I listen to it any time I’m struggling to decide on what to listen to, or any time in need a lift. It never fails me.
That’s it then, you’re now up to date with a good selection of my favourite albums from various stages in my life, albums that remain in regular play in our house. I’ll finish up with one more post – of albums from my very early life, and before it, the albums of my parents that have stuck with me through my life.
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