Friday, 18 January 2013

My 20 Favourite Songs Of 2012

It's the time of year again for me to pick my favourite songs of 2012. Again, this list has a greater emphasis on artists who generally a little more under the radar - so I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I did discovering them.
Favourites of 2012 by Jack Pitts on Grooveshark

Saturday, 31 December 2011

My 20 Favourite Songs Of 2011

It's the time of year again for me to pick my favourite songs of 2011, exception being the offering this time around has doubled to 20 entries. Whilst last year's list had many established artists (Pearl Jam, Klaxons, MCR, Linkin Park etc.) this list has a greater emphasis on artists who generally are a little more under the radar - so I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I did discovering them.

20 Nine Equals Nine 

19 Chops 
Inspired And The Sleep 

18 Lotus Flower 

17 If You Think This Song Is About You, It Probably Is 
Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows 

16 The Drug In Me Is You 
Falling In Reverse 

15 New Black 
Piano Rach 

14 Thanks For Nothing 
The Downtown Fiction 

13 Amsterdam 
Imagine Dragons 

12 Bigger Than Us 
White Lies 

11 Death As A Fetish 

10 Deadliest Catch 
Lower Than Atlantis 

9 Simple Math 
Manchester Orchestra 

8 Pumped Up Kicks 
Foster The People 

7 Another Sad Song 
Lower Than Atlantis 

6 Olegna Vaughn; The Troubadour 
Undesirable People 

5 This City 
Patrick Stump 

4 Golden 
Farewell Fighter 

3 A Crush Is A Crush 
Victorian Halls 
'Scene swept along in a rush, shudder to worry enough, I guess a crush is a crush.'

It would appear recently that songs sung by squealy males with high-voices has never before provoked a bigger reaction and Victorian Halls are no exception. But A Crush Is A Crush is more pitched towards Anthony Green than Justin Bieber. Nevertheless the song generates flush responses such as "sounds like his pants r to tight...", "kid needs to hit puberty. no offence" and "or his balls are chopt off.", courtesy of YouTube viewers' interest in artists with high vocals (Justin Bieber's "Baby" has 675 million views, remember). All things aside, Victorian Halls are definitely no hardcore band, but the song is still catchy, the creativity tilt is high and apparently their live shows are amazing. Hell, the song is so good that if you watch the music video you'll see that the lead dashes around looking like a gormless tart who doesn't want to be there, yet the droste-like effect that occurs at here is one of the best moments I've seen in a music video.

2 It's Time
Imagine Dragons 
'I don't ever want to let you down, I don't ever want to leave this town, 'Cause after all, This city never sleeps at night.'

I happened to come across Imagine Dragons on the website Liisten, a music project that's dedicated to streaming an album or EP from a local, often unsigned act. With that in mind, you'd be surprised that Imagine Dragons were ever unsigned in the first place because their latest EP is simply outstanding, and they got what they deserved when they signed to Interscope Records in November 2011. Their music is Indie Rock, similar to bands like The Killers and Athlete and It's Time is my favourite song off the record. This band really should blow up soon, and one of their songs was used on an advert for American Idol.

1 There Was A Thump, Then Another
You, Me, and Everyone We Know 
'I wouldn't call it love, but my heart sure is pumping blood.'

My favourite song of 2011 also has the best song title. You can hear from the vocals that this band are heavily inspired by bands such as Say Anything. And a vocal chorus in the bridge may have been inspired from Del Shannon's Runaway. Nevertheless this song manages to remain fresh and catchy in the chorus.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

My 10 Favourite Songs of 2010

Last year, I posted a list of my favourite songs from the decade gone by. This year has also seen an influx of great songs from both mainstream to lesser known acts - thankfully you won't see any auto-tuned plastic pop stars in sight.

10 The City
The Chariot (Did not chart)
The only "surrender" tonight, shall not be our own.
This song is the least known on my list and the only metal song but it certainly isn't any less brilliant. I'm into the "occasional" metal song but I'm not a hardcore fan - however, The City is more than just a metal song; it's an amalgamation of forceful metal, booming vocals, and melodramatic chants. The middle of the song to me, is a bit like a thrashing metalcore monologue - before the song erupts into an unexpected but nevertheless cool full-blown stadium anthem with echoes of "ohh"s.

9 American Slang
The Gaslight Anthem (Did not chart)
While you told me fortunes, in American Slang.
American Slang is the title track from the album with the same name released by the New Jersey rock band. The overall style of this album is one that is obviously reminiscent of the 80s rock era - with very strong influences of Bruce Springsteen. American Slang is a perfect example of a simple but effective song that will please most contemporary rock music fans, and consequently gets a well deserved ninth place on this list.

8 Amongst The Waves
Pearl Jam (Did not chart)
But I am up, riding high amongst the waves, I can feel like I, have a soul that has been saved.
For a band that was very successful in the late 90s, but with popularity waning in recent years it was good to see Pearl Jam refreshed with last year's release, Backspacer, which brought the band to healthy placings in album charts worldwide and was eventually certified gold. My favourite song from the album, Amongst the Waves, was released as a single in June 2010. The song's title suggests a theme to do surfing, but rest assured, any allusions to do with surfing in the song are entirely lyrical - lead vocalist Eddie Vedder exclaimed that the song is about "life". I love this song, both as a lyrical masterpiece and as a great alternative song.

7 Echoes
Klaxons (#55)
Echoes, many otherworlds true horizon takes a turn. Echoes reflect and change, they serenade.
Klaxons are a psychedelic pop group who burst into the mainstream with their 2007 album Myths of the New Future which won the Mercury Music Prize. Their latest album, Surfing the Void was released this year with the lead single providing number 7 on the list (and the most awesome album art I've ever seen). I seem to remember that during the release several review sites were critical of the fact that it was over three years between the two album releases, so what? Have people not got any patience for good music anymore? Besides, Klaxons had sophomore slump to conquer (i.e. second album syndrome) and this release has succeeded. Echoes has a wonderfully similar composition to Golden Skans that you could rave to any day whilst still maintaining a coherent vibe of musical genius.

6 Spanish Sahara
Foals (#148)
I'm the fury in your head, I'm the fury in your bed, I'm the ghost in the back of your head
There are some songs I like because they're memorable, others may have catchy lyrics. But the best songs are often the most beautiful - and Spanish Sahara is no exception, from a band I've not previously heard about. It's a 7 minute encapsulating prog rock piece that's very relaxing, but also when, at 4.10 the song gradually evolves into an intense ballad that's greatly relaxing and mellow.

5 Na Na Na
My Chemical Romance (#31)
I'd rather go to hell, than be in purgatory, cut my hair, gag and bore me, pull this pin, let this world explode!
There have been many songs throughout history to utilise a "na na" chant. In fact, there's more than you think, So What (Pink!), Kick in the Teeth (Papa Roach), All The Small Things (Blink-182), Charmless Man (Blur), Give It Up (KC & The Sunshine Band) etc. to name but a few. This latest song from My Chemical Romance, definitely presents a new, pop direction for the band, departing from rock opera album The Black Parade and post-hardcore album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. It's a move that has opened the band to a more mainstream rock audience, and this song is not to be taken seriously - and the bizarre outlaw gun-fight music video reinforces that.

4 The Catalyst
Linkin Park (#40)
Lift me up, let me go, lift me up, let me go.
Another band that has taken a new direction is Linkin Park, which some could argue is the most successful rock band of the noughties [citation needed]. The band started off as Nu Metal (Hybrid Theory and Meteora) and then on to a concept album whose song The Catalyst contains obvious elements of a band that's changing into a more mature sound. This has angered some traditional LP fans, but bands move on. When I first listened to The Catalyst I was unsure, but soon grew into it, it's a beautiful mix of rock and techno, in fact, I'm happy for LP not to go back to the old Nu Metal stuff.

3 Say You Don't Want It
One Night Only (#23)
The big screens, the plastic-made dreams, say you don’t want it, say you don’t want it.
Now into the top 3, Say You Don't Want It is a signature indie pop song from Yorkshire band One Night Only. The band scored a hit with their 2008 song Just For Tonight, but I feel this song is miles in advance of that. It's a song with a hugely catchy chorus (The big screens the plastic-made dreams/Say you don't want it, Say you don't want it./It's our world the picture-book girls/Say you don't want it, Say you don't want it). With a melody to match, this song could just be the most catchy and well orchestrated indie pop anthem that I've ever had the privilege to listen to, that's how great I feel about this song.

2 Renegades
Feeder (Did not chart)
If I was a prophet, if I was a saint, sent here to save you, to bury the pain, Would I be different? Would I belong?
Feeder are a British band formed in 1991, who have been described by Kerrang Magazine as "One of the most successful British bands of the past decade", indeed they are, with several singles charting in the top 40. Despite their latest album (an independent release) reaching #1 on the UK Rock Chart, none of the three singles managed to chart at all, and response to the album hasn't been overwhelming. However, I love the new album, in fact, I dare say that the title track, Renegades, is one of Feeder's best songs. The style goes back to a more natural, uncommercialised and heavier sound, reminiscent to the band's earlier stuff. The song has this magically undistorted, yet refined guitar riff, with this whole underlying portion seamlessly blending in with the traditional Feeder vocals. It's slightly similar to Seven Days in the Sun, but with a bit more bite.

1 Schoolin'
Everything Everything (#152)
But infinite and joyless little high fives are singing "praise the lord" and "pitter patter this schoolin'? Is this schoolin'?" and "you matter not, and you matter not".
My favourite song of 2010 is Schoolin' by Manchester math rock band Everything Everything (I'm still not familiar with the "math rock" genre but it's got the word "math" in it so it sounds interesting). This song is great, with most songs it's the music rather than the lyrics that make the song better, but that's ok, because with Schoolin' the lyrics are bizarre, but strangely compelling i.e. (Brother you look like the Taj Mahal - one colossal dome above you and the smell of something other, a pillar and a scimitar a little...) etc. But even if you don't get the lyrics it's still a song to be appreciated. Combining math rock, electronica, indie and slight hip-hop with a robotic boo-boo-boo-boo-beep tune, enchanting strings and a hot bassline - which really comes alive in the song's second section. It has the catchiness of MGMT, lyrical craft of Foals, but an experience like no other band.

Other songs from 2010 that I enjoyed:
Enter Shikari - Destabilise
Biffy Clyro - Many of Horror
Delphic - Doubt
Crystal Castles - Not in Love
Bullet For My Valentine - Bittersweet Memories
Brandon Flowers - Crossfire

Sunday, 23 May 2010

"Maps" Backwards is "Spam"

No matter what company it is, a B&B, hotel or local business it's essential that their websites contain directions and perhaps a map to their venue. I have no idea who creates the maps; but quite often they are simply littered with errors. Most of the time the mistakes are:
  • Incorrect route numbers
  • Incorrect route designation (i.e primary, trunk)
  • Poor alignments (for example, a bypass built in the 1980s being missed out!)
  • Spelling mistakes
You can perhaps let people off for getting a primary route wrong, but most of the time the mistakes come from simply not checking their custom maps against a modern road atlas (I go against Google Maps; they get primary and B-roads mixed up quite often). Take this map for example from a bed and breakfast, it contains each of these errors and appeared in a recent forum discussion:
The mistakes here being:
  • A1060 is numbered "A1050".
  • Primary A414 is missing.
  • Bypasses for Chelmsford, Braintree, Great Dunmow and Coggeshall disregarded.
  • Halstead is misspelt "Halsted".
Another shocking example, this map appearing in the local newspaper:
I'm sure you've spotted the obvious mistake, the A131 being the A313 (a slightly out of zone road). There's also the yellow road (B1256), continuing east of the "A313" [sic] which should be the A120.

The B1256 is mistakenly shown as the "B1255" (which in turn is a road in Yorkshire). This final one was actually found just by typing "B1256 road" into Google then simply browsing the pages of results. Amazing at the mistakes you find just by searching for the roads in a single region.

This next one amazingly contains two errors on just one PDF page, one on the close up map, and the other on the broader one and both are road numbering mistakes. Astonishingly, the maps feature on Stansted Airport's official website! Good riddance! The PDF file can be viewed here but for convenience I'll post both extracts (click to view large).

And now for your delight here's a business-related grass roots level error:

This next one was found on the pdf of a leaflet for the institute of customer service. Here we go:
Not only are the roads extremely straight (although I think this is done for clarity) but this "new road" is listed as the A1036, as opposed to the A1306, over 200 miles from its righteous place in Yorkshire. What's worse though is if you look at the map on the first page of the file. It's correctly listed as the A1306 that time!

This next map yet again fascinates me because it's local, the pdf file is here
Where on earth did that extra B1022 come from!

This final map of Chelmsford is from Northumbrian Water's website, link.
This is also a numbering error, it's the A1099, not the A1090 (which is in Thurrock).

Thursday, 31 December 2009

My Favourite Songs Of The Decade

The 00's was the decade that I really discovered music during my youth years. My taste is centred on a variety of genres including rock, pop, indie, acoustic but also occasionally wonders to the darkside of alternative music. In true reality TV words "it's in no particular order". I've decided to do this as pretty much everyone everywhere is doing some sort of decennial list of something. It's not a list of the best, but more my personal list of songs that have amazed me.

Coldplay (1998 - Present)
The Scientist (2002)
This is a piano ballad and is one of my favourite songs, the music video also uses a quality reverse narrative.

Snow Patrol (1994 - Present)
Hands Open (2006) & How To Be Dead (2003)
My two favourite songs from a great alternative rock band.

Peter Bjorn and John (1999 - Present)
Young Folks (2006)
This is a great indie pop song featuring Victoria Bergsman. The only song I've ever come across that does whistling pretty well.

Athlete (1999 - Present)
Vehicles and Animals (2003), Tourist (2005), Beyond the Neighbourhood (2007) & Black Swan (2009) 
An Ivor Novello Award winning band from London whose indie music I love due to its sheer consistency throughout all four albums that have been released biannually. My favourites include Street Map, Twenty Four Hours, Dungeness & Superhuman Touch.

Secondhand Serenade (2004 - Present)
Your Call (2008)
An acoustic rock band with very strong lyrics.

Alkaline Trio (1996 - Present)
Private Eye (2001)
I remember listening to this song when it was released in 2001, and I like it a lot.

Gary Jules
Mad World (2003)
Gary Jules' cover was featured in the soundtrack for the film for Donnie Darko (2001) and became Christmas #1 in 2003. I embarrassingly sang it at a karaoke in my primary school in 2005.

Rage Against The Machine (1991 - 2000, 2007 - Present)
Killing In The Name (1992 (Reissued 2009))
Although released in the 90's this song became the hit for an internet campaign to stop the X-factor winner getting the Christmas #1. It was successful and became #1 for Christmas 2009.

Other songs include:  
Klaxons - Golden Skans (2007)
The All Starz - He's Drunk (2004)
Elbow - One Day Like This (2008)
The Feeling - Sewn (2006)
Hoobastank - The Reason (2003)
I'm From Barcelona - We're From Barcelona (2006)
Kings of Leon - Use Somebody (2008)
My First Radio - Progress (2008)
Plain White T's - Hey There Delilah (2005)
System of A Down - Chop Suey (2001)
Taken By Trees - Sweet Child O' Mine (2009)
Wilco - Hell Is Chrome (2005)

Here then are my two favourite bands of this decade:
2. Unwanted Superheroes (2002 - 2006)
You Don't Need This As Bad As I Do (2004)
Unwanted Superheroes were a post hardcore band from Florida. Their first album is my favourite as it combines fantastic melodies with epic lyrics. It can all be heard here.  My favourite song is Read Between The Lies, which combines fantastic piano bits with hardcore guitar and drums.

1. The Crimea (2002 - Present)
Secrets Of The Witching Hour (2007)
The Crimea are an indie band based in London. They decided to make this album a free download on their website. So I went ahead and thought every song on it was excellent. Each song has been descriped as mini-epics, which is true, but most noticeably my favourite, Raining Planets.