Archive for June, 2011


James Christopher Sheppard
on his Top Ten musical highlights of 2011

As we hit the mid-point of the year 2011, James Christopher Sheppard takes a look back and charts his top ten musical highlights of the year so far. With stellar performances, standout single releases and albums that will be listened to for years to come, here’s how James’ top ten shapes up, in descending order, starting with the tenth best highlight.

10

P!nk ‘Fuckin’ Perfect’

New Mum, P!nk, released the second single from her Greatest Hits… So Far!!! album in March, to much critical acclaim. The video portrays a girl with self-confidence issues, who dabbles in self-harm, but ultimately grows into a beautiful women and mother. As corny as it sounds, it really is a moving song and video and incredibly apt for P!nk at this time in her life. I can not wait for the follow-up to the incredible Funhouse album.

 

 

 

9

Britney Spears ‘Hold it Against Me’

Britney smashed back onto the scene after a short break at the beginning of the year with the dub-step tinged monster hit ‘Hold it Against Me’. The song is a new direction for Britney, and while the album Femme Fatale may not live up to the standard set here, ‘Hold it Against Me’ is one of the best Britney singles ever.

 

 

 

 

 

8

Lady GaGa ‘The Edge of Glory’ performance at Radio One’s Big Weekend.

Lady Gaga had run into all sorts of critical indifference at the beginning of the year as the response to the first two singles from her album Born This Way were not met with the same ecstatic reception in the UK that she was used to. While ‘Born This Way’ slowly built on people and sold steadily, it still was the least original single she had put out, and ‘Judas’ didn’t do a great deal to help matters. Cut to May and Gaga headlined Radio One’s Big Weekend in Carlisle and performed a piano only version of third single ‘The Edge of Glory’. With no gimmicks, no crazy outfit or political message, ‘The Edge of Glory’ proved Lady Gaga’s musical talent was still as evident as ever and stands as one of her most emotional and powerful performances to date.

 

7

Blondie Panic of Girls

Returning with their ninth studio album, Blondie proved on their stunning new album that they are still a force to be reckoned with. The band sound younger and fresher than they have done in years, with Panic of Girls being innovative and full of energy. Stand out tracks include ‘Mother’, ‘What I Heard’, ‘Girlie Girlie’ and ‘Wipe off my Sweat’. Get the limited edition collector’s pack if you haven’t already, featuring an exclusive magazine, prints, a poster and bonus tracks.

 

 

 

6

Lower Than Atlantis World Record

The second full-length album from melodic hardcore band, Lower Than Atlantis, arrived in April and saw Mike Duce and his band-mates establish themselves as one of the leading alternative rock bands in the UK, getting air-play from Radio One and Kerrang, amongst others. World Record managed to outshine their outstanding debut, Far Q, with killer tracks like ‘Beech Like a Tree’, ‘(Motor) Way of Life’, ‘Another Sad Song’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’. World Record is only the beginning for these guys, which makes them so exciting to watch. Definitely a band and an album to check out if you haven’t already.

 

 

5

Adele 21 and that Brit Awards Performance

You must have been in a coma for the past six months if you’ve failed to notice to phenomenal success of English singer/songwriter Adele’s second album, 21. The album is now established as the longest running UK number one album since Saturday Night Fever in 1978, that’s sixteen weeks so far, and as it stands 21 is still #2. First single, ‘Rolling In The Deep’, was a huge success pretty much everywhere, and has just spent its seventh week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, while ‘Someone Like You’ rocketed to number one in the UK following the heart-wrenching acoustic performance at the Brit Awards in February. There’s even more to 21 that the massive hits however, with gems such as ‘Turning Tables’, a cover of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ and ‘Set Fire To The Rain’. 21 is a record-shattering album, with over seven million sales since its release in January, and its obvious why- just seriously good music.

 

4

Incubus If Not Now, When?

Following a five year gap since their last studio album, Incubus finally ventured back into the limelight over the past few months to announce the forthcoming release of their seventh studio album. If Not Now, When? is delicate and mellow, yet mesmerising and powerful, with new Incubus classics such as ‘Adolescents’, ‘Isadore’, ‘ Defiance’ and ‘In the Company of Wolves’ to add to our already lengthy Incubus playlists.

 

 

 

Complete the Top Ten and see the final top three highlights, including Kylie Minogue, Patrick Wolf and Within Temptation, at Eyewear.

 

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I’m going to the Wireless festival in Hyde Park on Sunday so thought I’d best get listening to some of the bands I am less familiar with that are playing so I don’t miss out on anything. One of the bands I am surprised at how decent their music is, is The Pretty Reckless. Pretty certainly being an appropriate name, as their lead singer, Taylor Momsen, is an actress and model; you may know her from Gossip Girl. 

Having never seen an episode of Gossip Girl and having never heard of Taylor, I am judging what I am hearing purely on that- what I am hearing. Yeah, their music is nothing new- it’s melodic rock music with a female singer, but it’s done very well indeed, and there isn’t a lot of new artists emerging lately doing it as well as they are. Through checking out some forums and last.fm I wasn’t surprised to see the lack of respect the band has, from learning who Taylor is, and it seems to be because she is hot. If she was singing electronic music and trying to be Ke$ha, surely that would go in her favour? How often have you heard people complain that Lady Gaga isn’t attractive or has a dick (not my opinion, I might add)? If she was a rock star, you can bet no-one would say a word. No-one ever moans about the attractiveness of Courtney Love or Alanis Morissette– and they aren’t models. It seems then, that pop seems reserved only for the beautiful and rock only for the un-model-worthy folk. What a crock of shit. Why can’t people just judge what they hear and not what they see or use what the singer did before against them? Fightstar are a brilliant example of how fucking awesome a band can be when their lead singer began in the poppiest of bands. Yes, Charlie Simpson was of course, in Busted.

Judge The Pretty Reckless for yourselves, here is the video for ‘Miss Nothing’


James Christopher Sheppard reviews Lupercalia by Patrick Wolf

 Lupercalia is the fifth studio album from underrated British singer songwriter and all-round musical genius, 27 year old, Patrick Wolf. Each of his previous four albums branch out in different directions, with Patrick experimenting with folk sounds, electronic music, brass lead pop, haunting piano melodies and just about everything in between. Lupercalia was originally intended as part two of concept album The Bachelor, but Wolf dispelled this theory in August 2010 through Twitter, claiming that the concept and original name, The Conqueror, had changed. The theme of the album is reflected in the title, with Lupercalia referring to the ancient festival of love and fertility around Valentines Day. Wolf told Digital Spy that despite the album being about love, which is the most common theme in pop, he ‘wanted to approach it in a way that has not been done before’.

‘The City’ 10/10

Easily the most flamboyant song that Wolf has released since 2007’s live favourite ‘The Magic Position’, ‘The City’ is a joyous celebration of not letting ‘the city destroy our love’. Brass is used heavily throughout the song, which suits the theme as it seems to have an element of standing proud, defiantly, and announcing that it is here to stay. With more songs like this on radio, I’m sure we would notice a much happier Britain.

‘House’ 10/10

Even from the charming intro, ‘House’ is one of the most exhilarating and happiest love songs I have heard in years. If ever there was a song that might make you want to get married- this is it. And somehow, Wolf manages to evoke this feeling without straying into cliché or cheese-land. ‘House’ is an absolutely beautiful, upbeat, shiver inducing love song. Watch a video I recorded of Patrick performing ‘House’ at his exclusive album launch show here: 

‘Bermondsey Street’ 8/10

Less upbeat than the celebratory first two songs, but still very much on the love boat, ‘Bermondsey Street’ has a simple sweet melody and has the sense of walking through your favourite street with the sun beaming down on you.

‘The Future’ 10/10

Possibly Patrick’s most radio-friendly ballad ever, ‘The Future’ builds beautifully around a chorus that relies on some stunning female backing vocals that compliment Patrick’s vocal in a similar way to the Snow Patrol hit, ‘Set the Fire to the Third Bar’, does with Martha Wainwright. The only thing that could improve this song would be more of it!

‘Armistice’ 10/10

The first song to really resemble Patrick’s haunting balladry featured throughout his past works comes in the form of ‘Armistice’. And a striking example it is, easily matching the splendor of ‘Magpie’ from 2007’s The Magic Position or ‘The Sun is Almost Out’ from The Bachelor, only ‘Armistice’ is a song about love surviving throughout the darkest times. Very subtle and moving.

‘William’

‘William’ is less than a minute long and is more of a mid album interlude than a song by itself. ‘William’ appears to be a short poem dedicated to Wolf’s future civil partner, the man who supposedly inspired this entire album.

‘Time of My Life’ 10/10

First single from the album, ‘Time of My Life’ is finally available to own on CD and digitally, following it’s release exclusively on vinyl last December. The song has gone on to become a live favourite, as the already ecstatic crowd at Monday’s album launch show became particularly excited when the first few bars kicked in. ‘Time of My Life’ is a string heavy uptempo song that has a shiver-enducing sentimentality as it features the chorus ‘Happy without you’- presumably about acknowledging the good times through a break-up, wishing the other party well, all while trying to pick yourself off the ground. Pretty heavy song- this deserves an Ivor Novello award.

‘The Days’ 10/10

This song begins very delicately and beautifully and builds into string lead moving finale. ‘The Days’ is an example of Patrick Wolf at his emotionally moving best. With lyrics of yearning and regret leading towards the haunting ‘But when we come ghost, I will promise I will meet you, I will meet you at the end of the days’. ‘The Days’ is the saddest moment on Lupercalia.

Read the rest of the review at Eyewear


James Christopher Sheppard reviews If Not Now, When? by Incubus

It’s getting on for five years since established American rock band, Incubus, last released an entire album of new material, so expectations from their legions of fans are astronomical for new release If Not Now, When? This new album is their seventh release since Fungus Amongus, their 1995 debut and follows their longest break between releases. Fans will be pleased to know that If Not Now, when? does not disappoint…

‘If Not Now, When?’ 8/10

The first track is minimalist and a calm introduction to the album, lead largely around Brandon Boyd’s mesmerizing and unmistakable vocal. The sound Incubus have spent years crafting is as present as it was on 2001’s Morning View. ‘If Not Now, When?’ may not be an instant thunderbolt of a song, but with each listen, improves and yearns to be heard over and over.

‘Promises, Promises’ 8/10

First fully released single from the album, ‘Promises, Promises’, is not what is typically expected from a lead single from a new Incubus release. This is less ‘Megalomaniac’ or ‘Anna Molly’ and more ‘Are You In?’. Still, ‘Promises, Promises’ is an uplifting piano lead moment of funky lightheartedness and one that will be welcomed by many.

‘Friends and Lovers’ 7/10

Another chilled out track, ‘Friends and Lovers’, has a sweet melody and is executed brilliantly, but is not a stand out moment amongst the collection.

‘Thieves’ 9/10

Out of soppyville, ‘Thieves’ provides some brilliant lyrics and the most upbeat song yet. ‘Everything is fine, so long as you’re a god-fearing white American’ Boyd sings against the charming mid-tempo backdrop. Nice to see Boyd is his band mates haven’t lost their provoking lyric writing talents!

‘Isadore’ 10/10

The beats are slightly harder and heavier, yet the laid back mood continues. The lyrics here are the most vivid and story-telling on the album. Erica and Isadore appear to be riding a balloon to the moon, but Erica takes the only parachute, abandoning Isadore. I’d love to see an animated video for ‘Isadore’. This is addictive and layered and deserves several listens.

‘The Original’ 8/10

Boyd’s velvety tones are what makes ‘The Original’; that and the progressive build. The last minute builds into an epic mutli-layered which is very welcomed at this point in the album, but the lyrics are a little too sickly for me, with ‘Girl you’re the original. Always were, always will be’, nevertheless I’m sure many guitar playing boys will enjoy serenading their girlfriends with this one.

‘Defiance’ 10/10

A purely acoustic guitar driven song, ‘Defiance’ is a stunning song that shows the band’s raw talent and ability to really deliver in a minimalistic way.

Read the full review at Eyewear


James Christopher Sheppard

reviews Panic of Girls

by Blondie

 

After some record company issues spanning almost a year, Blondie independently release their ninth studio album, ‘Panic of Girls’, on 4th July 2011. For die-hard fans, the special collectors edition of the album is available in UK from the beginning of June, complete with a 132 page magazine featuring an exclusive glance at the story behind the album, images, interviews and an overview of the band’s incredible career. So how does it sound? Impressively, Blondie seem to have come up with their freshest sounding collection of new songs in years. Panic of Girls furthers Blondie’s domination over the new wave genre and brings them into their fifth consecutive active decade as a band.

 

‘D-Day’

Establishing Blondie’s new sound as evolved and as edgy as ever, ‘D-Day’ is an up-beat, synth-tastic, addictive opening. This song has more punch than ‘Maria’, with an athemic chorus, big beats and Miss Deborah Harry’s voice sounding young and passionate. Fans of early Blondie will go crazy for this. 9/10

 

‘What I Heard’

The second offering continues the up-beat new wave electro feel of ‘D-Day’. ‘What I Heard’ is catchy, punchy and would sound brilliant on radio. Definitely a contender for a single. 10/10

 

‘Mother’

First single from the album, ‘Mother’, is a great tool for getting lovers of Blondie and new listeners alike excited about the new album. With a simple video featuring the band performing the song is a zombie-filled club, that is exactly what ‘Mother’ is about, a band clearly having fun and loving what their doing. 9/10

Watch the video for ‘Mother’ here:

 

‘The End The End’

The fourth track takes the album in a completely different direction, but doesn’t stray too far from the many incarnations of Blondie over the years. ‘The End The End’ is the first of many chilled out, laid back reggae tinged song made for summer listening. Harry stays in the higher register of her voice here which gives a really old school Blondie feel to the song. 8/10

 

‘Girlie Girlie’

Continuing the summery reggae vibe, ‘Girlie Girlie’ includes some of the funniest Blondie lyrics I know of, and even includes a cheeky giggle from Harry a couple of verses in where she is clearly acknowledging the ridiculousness of what she is singing. The giggle and the tongue in cheek lyrics make ‘Girlie Girlie’ a great and memorable, feel-good moment so far. 10/10

 

‘Love Doesn’t Frighten Me’

Back to a more contemporary Blondie sound, ‘Love Doesn’t Frighten Me’ rocks the tempo back up to where the first three tracks left us. Following the reggae break, this is a decent example of the band rocking out. 7/10

 

Read the rest of the review at Eyewear and see the overall album rating. Let us know your thoughts about the new album below.