Record Collection: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – ‘Chasing Yesterday’ (2015)

This is the first of the 2015 albums I bought that I thought deserved a bit of love. I will be giving some love to some more beauties later.

Chasing Yesterday

These days it is not cool to like Oasis and in extension the Gallagher brothers, but I luckily never was one for caring about being cool. I am happy to admit that Oasis was one of the first bands I really loved.  I remember buying ‘Definitely Maybe’ and just playing it over and over again. I simply loved it. Its sound was completely new to me as a fifteen-year-old. The love stuck throughout the ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory’ era, but faded when their follow-up albums just lost that special something. Though I have little interest in the younger brother (after all he didn’t write any of the good songs), I was glad when Noel decided to do his own thing.

I have heard plenty of criticism of Noel’s songwriting in the past. The ‘they are just copying the Beatles,etc’. But whenever I hear that I remember hearing Noel in an interview back in the day. He responded to the criticism by asking ‘If it’s so easy, why isn’t everyone else doing it?’, which was a fair point, as it was making him shed loads of cash.

I liked his first HFB album a lot. There are some really good songs on there and already showed that he had rekindled his love for music and songwriting. But with self-produced Chasing Yesterday he has proved that he can still move forward and is still perfecting his craft.

My opinion:

I really love this album. For me, it’s easily on par with everything Noel Gallagher did with Oasis. It was the first album of 2015 I really looked forward to (out in February) and it did not disappoint me. In fact, I am incredibly impressed with this album, mainly because it’s great to see that someone who has been around for so long and is, let’s face it, getting on a bit, can still improve as a songwriter. I think it is especially the lyrics that have improved. Yes, the rhyming dictionary is still there, but there appears to be a depth to the words that there hardly ever was in his Oasis days. It feels like he has finally come of age. About time too.

It’s rare that I have something to say about every song on an album, but because this is an album that both me and my husband like a lot we have played it an awful lot, so all the songs have started to have their own life in a way.

The album starts with ‘Riverman’ a highlight for me with it’s lovely almost soothing guitarwork and then the lovely sound of the saxophone. ‘In The Heat Of The Moment’ is a song I took a little while to warm to and I still much prefer the Toy Drum Mix, which comes as a bonus track and misses out the slightly annoying na na na na nas. There’s a bit of an echo of Bowie in ‘The Girl With X-Ray Eyes’ and it reminds me a bit too much of the old Oasis B-sides, but is a pleasant song.

‘Lock All The Doors’ I believe is one the oldest songs on the album, written during early Oasis times and it sounds like it too. You can imagine how great it would have been sung by Liam (early on when he still had a decent voice). Nevertheless, I love this song, it’s got great energy and the chorus just makes you want to shout along, which is exactly what a great Gallagher tune does. ‘The Dying Of The Light’ is a gorgeous tune that just invites me to relax and close my eyes. It’s bloody lovely! In between that and ‘While The Song Remains The Same’ sits ‘The Right Stuff’, which is a song I needed some time to get used to, but actually ended up being one of my favourites on the album. I would be happy if Gallagher decided to pursue that type of sound for a whole album.

The backend of the album remains strong with the to my ears slightly dirty sounding ‘The Mexican’ (It’s not the words that make it dirty, it’s the riff I think. It is hard to explain – more a feeling than anything.) and ‘You Know We Can’t Go Back’ in which I strangely love the drumming in particular.  Chasing Yesterday finishes with ‘The Ballad Of The Mighty I’, another highlight. With handy guitarwork from Johnny Marr and a great beat, it’s a wonderful track that shows a glimpse of Gallagher’s love for dance music.

So bookended by two great tracks with plenty to enjoy inbetween this is an album I have really enjoyed this year. Of course the fact that my husband loves it as well means we simply played it a lot!

I am looking forward to the next one!

One word to describe this record: Solid

Play it when… Relaxing, driving, working… any time really

Songs you need to hear: The Dying Of The Light, The Right Stuff, Lock All The Doors, Riverman

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Record Collection: Ash – ‘Meltdown’ (2004)

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I was going to highlight a different album from my shelf, until I discovered that Meltdown was released exactly 11 years ago today, on 17 May 2004.

My opinion:
This is one of my favourite (if not my favourite) Ash albums. I had not heard it in full until I got it about a month ago when I rediscovered the band. I had heard the singles ‘Orpheus’ and ‘Starcrossed’, and I had always loved ‘Orpheus’ in particular when it was on the radio, but for some reason never bought the album. Now I have and I love it. I mean, really love it. I just get a kick out of the energy of this record. It’s fairly loud, but still manages to sound like that summery brand of pop rock that feels so synonymous with Ash for me.

I trawled through some reviews on the interweb, and they are incredibly varied. I like reading reviews. They are simply opinions, but it is amazing how much stock people put in them. One day I should amuse myself by collecting ridiculous quotes from reviews. Anyway, getting back to Meltdown. Some reviewers thought the album was a step back from 2001’s Free All Angels, some really liked it. Quite a few reviewers seemed to think it was too heavy sounding for Ash and that they should stick to poppy ballads. That amused me for a start, because is that grungy, punky sound not where Ash came from to start with? I think I actually prefer this album to Free All Angels, which almost feels a bit too…clean to me.  What I like about Ash is that no two albums sound quite the same, but they all sound like Ash.

Meltdown opens very strongly with the title track, ‘Orpheus’, ‘Evil Eye’ and ‘Clones’, all songs I absolutely love. ‘Starcrossed’ follows, a soppy ballad that somehow manages to sit comfortably between the noise. Although the second half is not quite as strong, it never flags and still offers stellar tunes like ‘Renegade Cavalcade’, ‘Won’t Be Saved’ and the song that reminds me of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (showing my age…) ‘Vampire Love’.

All in all this is a very strong album with no dud songs. It’s a fantastic driving record by the way, but be warned, because Meltdown is a speeding hazard!

One word to describe this record: Rock!

Play it when… Driving

Songs you need to hear: Meltdown, Orpheus, Clones

Record Collection: The Killers – ‘Hot Fuss’ (2004)

Hot Fuss

This is a record that was released during my musical wilderness and another that my husband introduced me to. Although I have always liked it, I never paid much attention to it and that now seems very odd to me.

It’s hard to explain how I felt about music for much of the last ten years, mainly indifferent I suppose. But as I am coming out of my musical slumber, I am realising how much decent music was out there that I have either missed or just did not take the time for.

My opinion:

Playing Hot Fuss today I discovered how familiar I actually am with all the songs and how much I actually like them! I found myself singing along quite loudly and really enjoyed it too!

The first half of the album is particularly strong with the first two tracks ‘Jenny Was a Friend of Mine’ and the always infectious ‘Mr Brightside’ particular favourites. But the album is strong throughout with catchy tunes and is varied enough to never get boring.

I like the recognisable sound of Brandon Flowers’ voice and the way influences from various decades of music are layered into something that sounds so thoroughly modern even now, ten years later. It really is quite clever.

All in all, a very strong album all round and I would strongly recommend it to… well, anybody really!

One word to describe this record: Strong

Play it when… In a good mood

Songs you need to hear: Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine, Somebody Told Me, All These Things That I’ve Done

Record Collection: Supergrass – ‘Road To Rouen’ (2005)

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My opinion:

This is an album that my husband brought into our household and over time it has become one we both really love and listen to regularly.

It is quite orchestral and slightly trippy (if that is the right word) in places and we often put it on in the evening when we are quietly doing our own things, may it be reading, writing or browsing. It suits that sort of time of day and civilized activity so perfectly. If that sounds boring, think again!

It’s a gem of an album that too many people overlook. People tend to think of Supergrass as those smiley side-burned cheeky Britpop lads, but by this stage they had gone way beyond that. Gaz’s vocals sound awesome on this record and the music is amazingly well put together. Particular favourites are the title track and one of my all time favourite songs ‘St Petersburg’, but the opener of ‘Tales of Endurance (Parts 4,5 & 6)’ is also much loved.

The album is, though not depressing, darker than people are used to from the band and it received a mixed reception at release. For me, this is the only Supergrass album I go to again and again. If it was lost I would get it again.

So if you have never listened to this album before, get it now, wait for a time when you’re in the mood to unwind. Put it on, close your eyes and enjoy… You’re welcome!

One word to describe this record: Relaxing

Play it when… You want to unwind

Songs you need to hear: St Petersburg, Road To Rouen

Record Collection: Ash – ‘1977’ (1996)

1977

I have been listening to a lot of Ash lately, so I thought it would only be right to go back to where it all began for me. This one is quite special to me and I imagine it still will be when I am 90!

My opinion:

I was 17 at the time of release, only a couple of years younger than Tim and Mark from the band. 1977 just seemed to hit the spot at the time quite brilliantly. I played it so often (and loudly) I am sure it drove my parents mad. Although my folks were quite into the Stones and Hendrix, I am not sure what they made of Ash.

Listening to it now, I still love it as much as I did then. To me 1977 is the epitome of youthful abandon. These days it makes me feel incredibly happy and a bit sad at the same time. Happy that there is a record that portrays that feeling of being young so well and sad because it makes me realise I am no longer (that) young! Don’t worry, I am not as bitter as that sounds – Being in my mid thirties is much easier than being a teenager!

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The opening of of ‘Lose Control’ always reminded me of something being ripped open, a can of awesome songs in this case 😉 . Although I do think that the singles ‘Kung Fu’, ‘Girl From Mars’, ‘Angel Interceptor’, ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ are the strongest songs on the album, there is no filler on it. I think I read somewhere that Tim Wheeler wrote ‘Lost In You’ under pressure one evening while they were recording the album, because they needed one more song. No idea where I read that OR whether it is true. ‘Kung Fu’ apparently only took five minutes to write and one take to record. Pretty awesome stuff. ‘Innocent Smile’ has always been a favourite and so has the opener (Lose Control). Every single song is worth listening to… Well, apart from ‘Sick Party’ the hidden track. I thought it was hilarious when I was 17 – now I simply shrug and shake my head at youthful foolishness! 😉

One of the great things about the album is that Tim’s vocals do sound young and undeveloped. It adds something incredibly unique. You don’t want a band of teenagers to sound too… formed, if that makes sense. And Ash didn’t. They sounded like the young guys they were, like they were having a blast making the album and taking a good shot at being what they wanted to be.

That Ash have been around for over twenty years now is crazy. That it has taken me fifteen years to rediscover them is even crazier and I feel deprived that I have not taken the journey with them. Now Ash are extremely experienced and accomplished musicians, who have done things their own way, though not always through choice, and that deserves a lot of praise. Their new album Kablammo! is out at the end of the month and I am looking forward to at least hear this one straight away. But, however great that record may prove to be, no other Ash album could ever beat 1977 in my mind, simply because of the memories that go with it.

One word to describe this record: Youthful

Play it when… You want to feel like eighteen for an hour

Songs you need to hear: Girl From Mars, Kung Fu, Oh Yeah, Lose Control

Record Collection: Coldplay – ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’ (2002)

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I can’t remember whether it was me or my husband that brought this album into our house, but I suspect it was him, as it was released during my music void!

My opinion:

It was quite fashionable for a time to hate Coldplay. I never did. Never quite understood all the hatred really. I suspect it was simply because they got so big. They were never a band I was really into, as I never really felt the urge to see them live or anything, but I often seem to like their songs.

I do not tend to care what ‘celebrities’ do in their private lives, but as far as I can care to get into it this animosity towards Chris Martin is quite unjustified. I seems quite a funny guy, who just takes himself a little too seriously every now and then. Don’t we all?

Anyway, I felt like a bit of Coldplay this morning and decided to play ‘A Rush Of Blood…’. Good choice. I have not listened to it for a few years and I had forgotten how good it actually is. It has many of my favourite Coldplay songs on it, like ‘Clocks’ ‘Green Eyes’ and ‘The Scientist’. I am really enjoying it this morning!

One word to describe this record: 

Play it when… You feel relaxed

Songs  you need to hear: Clocks, The Scientist