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.

Next:
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).