Sunday, 27 December 2015

Top Ten Live Bands I Saw This Year

This year has probably been the best for me, in terms of seeing so many bands I love play live. I've been able to see (and meet) bands I've loved for years, and never thought I'd get the chance to see, as well as newer bands I've fallen in love with.

It was so hard to narrow this down to just a top ten; especially as I decided to list by bands rather than gigs, meaning I considered opening bands separetely (hence The Tuts being there at number 9!).

1. Jack Off Jill - Gorilla, Manchester - Reviewed here!
Jack Off Jill have been an important part of my life for over 13 years, so naturally I peed my pants a little when they announced a Manchester date as part of their final three shows. I got to meet the band before they played, which was a dream come true in itself, and they played a great set, squeezing in the majority of their discography.

2. Sleater-Kinney - Albert Hall, Manchester
Definitely one of the best reunions this year (a bold statement considering how many there have been!). It's hard to believe they even took a break as they play so seamlessly with each other, their new material slipping in comfortably with the rest of their material, which still possesses that tense urgency that makes it so captivating.

3. Babes in Toyland, Gorilla, Manchester
Another band I never thought I'd have the chance to see, this gig means even more now that bassist Maureen Herman isn't in the band anymore. I'm glad I got to see and meet the band while she was still in the line-up.

4. L7 - The Garage, Glasgow
Some of the best gigs are the ones where the band look like they're having just as much fun onstage as the people jumping up and down in the crowd do - this was definitely one of those gigs.

5. Garbage - Academy 3, Manchester - Reviewed here!
This date was part of the bands "20 Years Queer" tour, and was the perfect celebration of their self-titled debut. Even when bands do decide to play a whole album on tour, it's rare that they'll also throw in all the b-sides, but that's what Garbage did. Getting to hear "Subhuman" live was definitely my favourite moment!

6. The Selecter - Academy 2, Manchester - Reviewed here!
At times, this gig felt more like a party. The Selecter are one of the most energetic bands I've ever seen, and barely seemed to break a sweat onstage!

7. Ex Hex - Soup Kitchen, Manchester
I pretty much love anything Mary Timony is involved in - Autoclave, Helium, The Spells, Wild Flag, her solo stuff, and now, Ex Hex. She's been one of my favourite musicians for a while now, and this was my first time seeing her play, in the flesh. Ex Hex are a great band, and definitely worth going to see live, and getting to meet the band afterwards was obviously fun too!

8. Mudhoney - 02 Ritz, Manchester
Not only did Mudhoney put on an awesome show, but my boyfriend and I managed to get ourselves backstage afterwards - if you're interested, the band had a lovely cheese platter in their dressing room.

9. The Tuts (opening for The Selecter) - Academy 2, Manchester
The Tuts are one of my favourite bands to see live,  they never disappoint. I can't stress enough how empty your lives will remain until you let The Tuts into your life.

10. CHVRCHES - 02 Academy, Newcastle - Reviewed Here!
Since first seeing CHVRCHES play at Glastonbury, I was amazed at just how far they've come when I saw them again this year. They have so much more confidence on stage, and as soon as they left the stage, I immediately wanted to see them again.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Fear Factory - 02 Ritz, Manchester

This week saw Fear Factory play the 02 Ritz in Manchester as part of their current Demanufacture tour, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the album's release (and also 25 years of being a band).

There were two support bands tonight, the first of which being Dead Label. Hailing from Ireland, they played a solid set, their enthusiasm having the audience on their side from pretty much the get-go.

Once Human took to the stage next. Formed by ex-Machine Head member Logan Mader, their debut album only came out a few months ago, but they seemed to already have a few fans in the crowd tonight. Vocalist Lauren Hart has to be the happiest metal vocalist I've ever seen, a huge smile on her face even as she delievered her gutteral Angela Gossow-esque screams. The crowd reacted well to their original material, and they threw in a cover of Machine Head's "Davidian" which everyone seemed to love.
We didn't have to wait long for Fear Factory to take to the stage. With an industrial cityscape backdrop and plenty of lighting effects, they'd created the perfect setting for hearing their cyberpunk-themed Demanufacture album in full. Launching straight into the title-track, they barely stopped for breath as they made their way through the album's ten tracks, each one greeted with a loud mix of cheers, gruff yells of "yeah!" and, of course, horns in the air.

One thing that was immediately obvious was the fact that this album really hasn't aged at all. Who knows, maybe that's the real reason for its futuristic theme?

After playing through Demanufacture, the band left the stage briefly before returning to play some other favourites, including a few songs from their new album which I hadn't heard yet but am now looking forward to listening to.

Overall, the band put on a great show, one definitely worthy of celebrating such an iconic album. It was great to see both support bands hanging round afterwards, happy to chat to and meet the new fans they'd gained.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Top Ten Albums of 2015

There's less than a month left of the year, which means lots of tinsel, lots of colourful lights and lots of -end-of-year lists.  So, in the interest of conformity, here are my favourite albums of this year!

1. Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love
After being on a ten-year-hiatus, Sleater-Kinney blessed us with this piece of magic. In what was possibly the stealthiest reformation ever, the band managed to record the whole album, in secret, before even letting the world know they were back together.

2. Veruca Salt - Ghost Notes
Reviewed Here!

3. The Juliana Hatfield Three - Whatever, My Love 
Let's be honest, Juliana isn't really capable of making a bad album, is she?

4. Grimes - Art Angels
Reviewed Here!

5. PINS - Wild Nights
Whereas PINS debut Girls Like Us slowly grew on me and climbed it's way onto my mental list of albums I love, Wild Nights was an album I instantly fell in love with

6. CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye
A bolder album than their debut, The Bones of What You Believe, without losing their knack for a catchy hook. The vocals are stronger, the music more confrontational.

7. Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool
8. Jennie Vee - Spying
It's been an exciting year for ex-Tuuli frontwoman Jennie Vee; as well as touring with Courtney Love as her bassist, she also released her first solo album.

9. Kitten Forever - Pressure
Cramming 13 tracks in just under 23 minutes, every second counts on Kitten Forever's second album.

10. Girlpool - Before the World Was Big 
"Before the World Was Big" is the perfect title for this album, it sums up everything this record is about. Girlpool's songs take an introspective look at what it means to enter adulthood and leave the comparative simplicity of youth behind. In ten short songs, they manage to paint such vivid pictures, towing the line between nostalgia and realisation.

So, those are my picks! What albums have you enjoyed this year?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Selecter - Manchester Academy

2 Tone legends The Selecter played Manchester Adacemy last night as part of their Subculture tour, promoting their newest album that was released last summer.

Support tonight was from one of my favourite bands (which may make me slightly biased but, whatever, I'm right anyway), The Tuts. They've been opening for The Selecter for this whole tour, and once you've seen them play, it's easy to see why Pauline Black chose them. This was my fourth time seeing The Tuts, and they really do keep getting better every time; no matter how big or small the crowd is, they put so much passion and energy to every show they play.

Among their setlist, they played a great cover of The Bodysnatchers "Do Rock Steady" and, as it's now December, ended with their festive number "Christmas Is In The Air".

Next on stage, of course, was The Selecter, with the crowd well and truly warmed up from The Tuts infectious energy.

Their setlist perfectly interspersed newer material with the old, proving that bands can get back together and record new material that is just as good as the early stuff. The crowd reacted to each song, new and old, as though it were their favourite, skanking furiously. As Pauline Black herself said on stage, "we are not going to be a heritage band".

Among the new songs that were played, "Breakdown" was my personal favourite, with its lyrics that tackle the disproportionate number of black people who are killed by police.

We were also treated to ska-riffic cover of Patti Smith's "Because the Night" which, controversial as this may be, I actually preferred to the original.

The iconic "On My Radio" was, of course, one of the most exciting moments of their set and had everyone shouting along with its infectious chorus.

Afterwards, I headed over to the merch table, and was lucky enough to meet The Tuts (again!), and Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson. Everyone was really happy to chat and sign things, with Pauline making sure she personalised everything.

Tonight proved that, 35 years on from bursting onto the scene, The Selecter are still just as relevant today. If you get the chance to see them live, make sure you grab it. Unless you don't like fun, then don't.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Built to Spill - The Art School, Glasgow

Built to Spill returned to the UK this week to promote their latest album, Untethered Moon, their first new album since 2009.

Tonight's support came from Swiss band, Disco Doom. They formed in the late 90's but, I'm sad to say, I hadn't heard of them before. After seeing them perform though, I can officially say I'm a fan, and their perfectly blended noise-rock made them a good fit for the night.

To see Built to Spill on stage, it's easy to forget that they've actually been a band for around 25 years. On stage, they possess an unassuming, yet warm, presence, their set-lists for the night scrawled out on scrap pieces of paper. Their crowd interaction is minimal but meaningful, the occasional "thank you" thrown in between songs. If you weren't actually familiar with the band, chances are you'd be surprised by the full, flawless layers of music they produce.

Built to Spill are known for having lengthy instrumentals in some of their songs, which can sometimes be a struggle for bands to translate to a live setting, not just sound-wise, but in terms of keeping the audiences attention. Thankfully, this didn't seem to be a problem tonight; the long, swirling journeys taken by the guitars held just as much meaning as frontman Doug Martsch's lyrics.

For me, personally, the highlight of the set was "Center of the Universe", though this set was one with no low points.

Built to Spill are, without a doubt, a band worth experiencing live. They still possess all of the qualities that made them so great in the beginning of their career, and continue to add to this with each new album. Hopefully, it won't take so long for them to play in the UK again!

Oh, and here's an obligatory "Yay, I met them!" pic: