Friday, 26 September 2014

The music that mattered - 10 songs that soundtracked my degree


All over the country, thousands of freshers will be descending upon our Universities, putting their childhood behind them and getting ready to throw themselves headlong into young adulthood with all the euphoria, silly mistakes and large piles of ignored washing that it involves. I can't believe that three years ago this week, that was me. My three years as a Music Journalism Undergraduate at The University of Huddersfield were some of the best of my life, and naturally, music played a large part of that. Whether it be the songs that I busted a (drunken) move to in the clubs, the records I returned to when I felt homesick or the tracks that remind me of the wonderful friends I made, here are the top ten songs that will forever make me nostalgic for September 2011.

10) Azealia Banks - 212



It's big, it's naughty and it was the most permanently requested track on every night out. Still sounding as fresh as it did three years ago, it reminds me of Leeds Festival 2012 and the anticipation of getting ready for every night out, often involving stupid fancy dress or rummaging for those long lost club vouchers that would mean a much needed free Pot Noodle on the way home.

9)Brand New - Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't



Bit of an odd one I know, but having made friends with two girls who shared my love of Brand New, this became a bit of Karaoke anthem for predrinks on Rock Night, for 3am walks home, and actually, pretty much whenever we fancied a sing song. Bonus points for the time we managed to legitimately mash it up with One Direction and make it sound okay.

8)Pulled Apart By Horses - Yeah Buddy



Like a lot of songs on this list, this song is on here mainly because of a gig I went to in first year, at Sheffield Leadmill, where I saw PABH for the first time live. I was very drunk (a theme is emerging here) but I can honestly say I had the most fun moshpitting my way around to their unique brand of big, dumb but somehow sharp rock. Whilst that evening got more than a little blurry on the bar crawl that followed, it still brings back fond memories of being spoilt for choice with the northern live music scene. 

7) Twin Atlantic - Make A Beast Of Myself

 

A less emotional story on the whole, but this song does remind me of one of the best interviews I did as a student journalist. I got to go on my first ever tour bus, the band were entirely lovely and when Sam McTrusty told me it was the best interview they'd had all tour, it was the first time I felt like I might actually make a decent writer. Less awesome was the great but freezing cold gig, followed by the longest wait ever at Leeds Station for the delayed train. Grim. 

6)The Wanted - Glad You Came



Everyone has their freshers anthem that leaves something to be desired in the taste stakes, but is certain to get you on the dancefloor nonetheless. 'Glad You Came' was mine - it became a little bit of a joke how fast I could make it out of the toilets/from the bar to the Camel Club dancefloor when that naff Balearic beat kicked in, and to this day I refuse to acknowledge it's vaguely dubious lyrics.

5)Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness



You know when you like a band, have their first album but somehow manage to neglect the rest of their back catalogue? Such was my relationship with Los Campesinos! Fully embedded in the local music scene and on the train to Constellations festival with a guy on my course, he was totally baffled at how I'd missed out on their last three records. He placed his headphones over my ears, pressed play and introduced me to 'Hello Sadness.' It was love at first listen, and prompted a year of listening to basically nothing but Los Campesinos!, before interviewing their lead singer and cementing them as one of my favourite bands of all time. And that guy who gave me his headphones? I ended up falling in love with him too, so a pretty sweet deal all in all.

4)Grizzly Bear - On A Neck, On A Spit



As a Music Journalism student, the pressure was on to be on top of the new thing and the hipster mania that greeted Grizzly Bear's return really stands out to me as being one of the most important of my degree. I knew fairly little besides 'Two Weeks' previously, so it was a fairly big punt to by a £25 quid ticket to see them in Manchester but I'm so glad I did it. It also holds a little space in my heart as their Manchester concert was the first official 'date' night that my boyfriend and I went on despite having been an item for several weeks and friends for a year before even that, and so hearing 'On A Neck, On A Spit' was rather special to us in our new found loved-up ness. Vom.

3)Dog Is Dead - Glockenspiel Song



Whilst their debut album didn't really meet my expectations, Dog Is Dead were a huge part of my first year of uni - they supported Bombay Bicycle Club at the first gig I went to in Sheffield with my new coursemates, and their headline show at Leeds Cockpit was a strong bonding sesh with the boys who ended up being my housemates in second and third year - I believe at one point my coursemate Will pretty much ended up on stage with his new bezzies. 'We are a mess/we are failures/ and we love it' the perfect soundtrack for drunken runs for the last train, overly emotional conversations with people you didn't really know well enough to do so and general feeling on top of the world at the dizzying newfound freedom of University.

2)Bombay Bicycle Club - Shuffle



The temptation was to plump for 'Evening/Morning', as my most requested track on Indie Disco nights at Tokyo, but for one reason alone, 'Shuffle' is my second most important uni track. When I moved to University, I was terrified of making friends, convinced that everyone around me would be Skins-like hipsters who I had nothing in common with. This fear almost consumed me in the weeks prior, so that by the time I visited Aspley Hall for the first time, I was genuinely rehearsing conversation starters in my brain for fear of coming off like a proper Hermione. As a huge Bombay Bicycle Club fan, their album 'A Different Kind Of Fix' had been on heavy rotation on my iPod despite only being released a few weeks prior, and when I stepped into halls on that first day and heard 'Shuffle' playing, I thought I must have put my iPod on loudspeaker. However, I quickly realised that the record was playing in the room next to mine, and so I met Charlotte, the biggest Bombay addict I've ever met aside from myself and my partner in crime for the entirety of my degree and beyond. We've just started living together again and even now, the opening strains of this song remind me of the plethora of crazy nights out we shared together in that first year. Totes emosh. 

1) Jay Z & Kanye West - Ni***s in Paris



Two of the best memories of my entire life are attributed to this song, which makes it secure the number one spot. The first was my 19th birthday, which spectacularly fell on the day of our last exam of first year. Everybody was in the mood for celebrating, which meant almost the entire course turned out to Verve, where my coursemates were DJiing and played this track pretty much at the height of it's hugeness. Having all my new friends there really cemented how happy I was at the time, and brings back that classic 'Uni really was amazing memory' of being entirely carefree and liberated, a feeling I doubt I'll ever feel in the same way again. The second was an experience I'm so grateful to have shared with my best uni friend Charlotte. When, in my hungover birthday state, she told me that extra Watch The Throne tickets had been released for just £25, I thought she was having me on, but nonetheless we snapped some up and on June 21st, 2012 at Sheffield Arena, I witnessed the best concert of my entire life, incredibly powerful and summative of why I'd wanted to study Music Journalism in the first place. We 'that shit cray'ed for days after and it was such a lovely way to bookend my first year as a fresher. 



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

REVIEW: Lower Than Atlantis, 'Lower Than Atlantis'



 In a world seemingly full of calculated choruses and faux punk angst, it's been fairly easy to overlook Lower Than Atlantis. Swept along in the British invasion wave that made bigger stars out of You Me At Six, Kids In Glass Houses and Twin Atlantic, there's never been anything wrong with the Watford' quartets chipper radio rock, but something was failing to ignite.

Having signed up to Sony records for the release of their self titled record, it quickly becomes apparent that the band have gone for the slow burn rather than the media inferno. It would have been easy to make a record bemoaning their peers, but instead, this is an album that fizzes with determination, sounding like they're having more fun that ever before.

Opening with the well radio-rotated 'Here We Go', it's clear they mean business. A chugging riff that would make 'Puzzle' era Biffy Clyro happy, it's their strongest track to date, epic strings just low enough in the mix to recall some sort of heavy take on a James Bond theme. The cinematics are upped even further for 'Criminal', which lets Mike Deuce's vocals shine as the bands strongest asset. When he sings about the perils of selling out and how he's 'taken shit before', you can really believe how much trash-talking must go down in the alternative scene. Whilst the message could be considered a cliche, his delivery definitely isn't.  

English kids in America wins points for being featured on MICNYC with an American eagle of a chorus that will see them taken even more firmly into the hearts of the tumblr generation. It's stateside inspiration nestles nicely alongside 'Emily', an infectiously bouncy track that would have fit comfortably onto any American Pie OST, summarising the woes of a million teenage boys with the line it sucks that you’re cool and I’m not.’  

If power rock isn't your thing, 'Lower Than Atlantis's latter half may be of more interest. 'Word's Don't Come So Easily' is a touching acoustic ballad that quickly turns into a suprisingly thumping chorus, whilst 'Just What You Need' is really interesting – changing pace all over the place until it becomes nearly genreless, almost RnB like in it’s sexy come-ons .‘If you want love let's make some’? Ooer.

If 'Lower Than Atlantis' does have a downside, it is perhaps that the record is a little one dimensional. Although there are moments where they flirt with other genres and some tracks are truly standout, each song does tend to feel more like a race to the chorus line rather than anything you might truly take to your heart. However, their songwriting has improved beyond recognition, boding well for their future. Fancy a set of lyrics for a new tattoo? You might be better off looking elsewhere. But fancy packing all your best mates in a car and heading off an a super fun road trip? You best get downloading.

6.5/10

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Safety In Sound's Mercury Music Prize Predictions

It's that time of year again... the UK music scene's best, brightest and hippest cram into a room to watch Jools Holland/Lauren Laverne announce the best record of the year, on musical merit alone. Whilst the 'pay to enter' scandal may have marred it's potency somewhat, it's still my favourite musical event of the year and a welcome alternative to the corporate shock factor fest we're presented by the Brits and the VMA's. With the nominee shortlist due to arrive on Wednesday, here's my look at the 12 bands I think will be nominated. Best get down the local betting shop...

SAFETY IN SOUND'S MERCURY MUSIC PRIZE SHORTLIST


 Wild Beasts – Present Tense
After the great ‘Smother’ snub debacle of 2011, I have a good feeling that 2014 might finally be the year that our Kendall kings get what they deserve. Well known and respected but not necessarily the most commercially successful in this list, the prize money and media attention post-win could greatly benefit the production of their next (hopefully world dominating) record.





Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
Whilst Scotland is still attached to the UK, I’m betting that Chvrches debut will be making it’s way onto the list. With Lauren Mayberry making her voice heard in the music press with THAT incredibly eloquent summary of misogyny in the music industry, here's hoping that the profile raise from winning the mercury could help elevate their platform of social consciousness and great electro-pop.





Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
A SIS favourite, Bombay's slow burning rise to the top has seen them finally become the mainstream radio dominating force they've always threatened to be, without compromising any of their musical integrity on the way. Their colourful, multi-tonal fourth record is a masterclass in cultural appreciation over appropriation.







Sam Smith - In The Lonely Hour
A populist choice, but a likely option for nomination, even if it doesn't win. Most likely to donate the money to charity instead of adding it their empire.









FKA Twigs – LP1
This year's potential newbie curveball choice, FKA Twigs embodies the quirky spirit that usually demands a Mercury nod. Her smoky, sultry record would be sure to be performance of the night if she were to be recognised.








Drenge – Drenge
They'd no doubt be fairly indifferent to a nomination, but the Mercury Music Prize would definitely tip the world off to one of the north's best new bands of the past two years. Drenge's debut is remarkably self-confident and would definitely add fuel to the rumour that rock music is well and truly back in vogue. 






Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love
Another popular choice, but Nutini's latest record has garnered almost universal critical acclaim and definitely ticks the 'wouldn't look out of place on a Guardian readers record label' box that makes any artist a shoo-in for the prize.








Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
It wouldn't be the MMP if there wasn't the Classic returning artist nomination, so that slot falls surely to Damon Albarn in 2014. Whilst 'Everyday Robots' was not without fault, Albarn may well fancy his chances now after rescinding Gorillaz nomination back in 2001.  







Jungle - Jungle
Bringing something a little different into the mix, South London's Jungle have been taken into the hearts and minds of media types this year, and are likely to rank highly on the perpetually middle class Mercury panel. Not that I'd mind too much though - they're a genuinely promising outfit who could probably do a lot with the money.





Kate Tempest - Everybody Down
Whether her record label will want to cough up the nomination cash is another matter, but poet Kate Tempest is surely another high ranker who's crossover appeal from spoken word to music will make a great story in the gear up to election year. I call this the M.S Dynamite effect... just wait and see.
Royal Blood – Royal Blood
I’d probably rather see a nomination for Drenge’s self titled debut, but whilst  Royal Blood are reining high at the top of the charts, they make a good case for the populist ‘rock’ choice and it would certainly be the cherry on top of their recent chart reign. 








Temples - Sun Structures
The retro stylings of Temples fill the glam void needed for the Mercury party, and their straightforward jangly indie is a crowd pleaser that almost anyone could find some solid enjoyment in. A current way to round off this year's list.