Hello blogosphere! I guess I’m the first to arrive at the party and introduce myself. Let’s start with the basics – I’m Calum and I love music. To be honest that is probably how I would introduce myself at a party and my hope with this blog is that you – the readers – learn a plethora of new things from our team of writers just like you would after attending an incredible party.
Before I start rhyming off my top ten tracks of the year so far for you all I just want to apologise in advance as I am currently, and have been for a while a now, stuck in a deep soul hole. I just can’t stop listening to the smooth offerings of Atlantic, Motown and Stax and I’m sure as you know, well-read fan of music, this music comes from the ’60s! This list might not be the most adventurous but it’s got something for everyone, enjoy!
Paolo Nutini – Scream (Funk My Life Up)
Continuing with the soul flavour, the first track that came to mind when compiling this list comes from the irrepressible Mr. Paolo Nutini. Nutini bounced back after a five year hiatus with number one album ‘Caustic Love’ and with it he started a new chapter as a soulman. ‘Scream (Funk My Life Up)’ is the album opener and lead single – upbeat, full of joy and Nutini’s iconic grainy, rasping vocals. He incorporates zany electronic sounds and reverberations of groovy bass throughout this undeniable funk hit. Nutini’s vocals are powerful and absolutely on point – a true modern masterpiece. Fans of Curtis Mayfield would like.
King Creosote – Bluebell, Cockleshell, 123
Scottish folk artist Kenny Anderson, going by his alias King Creosote, very recently released an album entitled ‘From Scotland With Love’ which was created as the soundtrack to go with a BBC film of the same name. Atmospheric and haunting, the whole album compliments the grainy black and white archive footage of Scotland used in the arty flick. Though one track in particular stood out to as a gem. ‘Bluebell, Cockleshell, 123’ is the ultimate contrast song – on the face of it it’s an innocent, uplifting song with handclaps and harmonies from skipping schoolkids – but if you scrape a little beyond the surface you can here the pain in Anderson’s voice and lyrics and the angry drive behind his guitar work. Short and sweet and full of emotion: a treat for the ears.
Bombay Bicycle Club – Feel
After taking a few years out, London indie rockers Bombay Bicycle Club returned earlier this year with the stunning ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’. During this time out front man Jack Steadman went on his travels hitting The Netherlands, Turkey and India to name but a few: the influence of the latter certainly inspired one of my top tracks of this year – ‘Feel’. Think British Bollywood with some serious sampling and a catchy chorus. Bombay have absolutely nailed it with their latest reincarnation and that’s what I love about them, they are a band that’s not scared to reinvent themselves. The first album was very much a grungy, indie, riff driven rock piece, they returned quickly with the acoustic ‘Flaws’ and the more dancey ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ quickly followed, but after taking their time I think Bombay Bicycle Club have finally created their most well rounded, complete album to date. Feel is the highlight of that album as it captures that full journey from grungy bass beginnings to a more manicured Eastern sound with elements of dance still thrown in for good measure.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Call Me
‘Call Me’ by St. Paul & The Broken Bones is another which falls into a category which has gripped me of late – new soul. Hailing from the musical hub that is Birmingham, Alabama their roots are very much set in Southern soul and blues, particularly the Stax label which had so much success in the late ’60s with legends like Otis Redding and Booker T. & The MGs. Lead singer Paul Janeway directs the song with strong vocals as the large band around him play with a serious groove and funk in a way only a band with a large brass section could. We’ve recently seen a resurgence of Northern Soul themes in pop music through elements of John Newman’s and Pharrell Williams’ stuff but this new brand of Southern soul coming up in the US is going unnoticed and St.Paul and The Broken Bones are leading the way. It’s just a great heartfelt, toe-tapping tune that makes you want to dance and wail with Paul.
Calvin Harris – Summer
I’m not going to lie to you I had really started to go off Calvin Harris and felt he was stagnating a bit with all the collaborations he was doing with other artists. So you can imagine my joy when I heard ‘Summer’! Calvin. Just Calvin on his own. It just feels right, now that he’s a big household name he can afford to go back to the good old days of ‘Feel So Close’ and ‘I’m Not Alone’ and produce, sing and perform a massive hit single which is all his own. Simple and elegant as always, Harris captures the party feel that surrounds a summer adventure and fleeting romance between two people. The superstar DJ invites you to join him in the first verse of the track before a big drop throws you straight into the action. Trust me having experienced this live at T in the Park not so long ago it’s an amazing spectacle to watch a crowd cascade at once while singing along with Calvin (and a special guest). An instant dance classic, it has definitely been the soundtrack to my summer!
Twin Atlantic – Heart And Soul
“They’ve changed, it’s too fucking poppy”, “I’ve liked them for ages, their first album was way better”. You’d be forgiven for having these opinions after your first listen of ‘Heart And Soul’ because as a big Twin Atlantic fan I hated this song at first and I said these things. Now, however I’ve embraced the song for all it’s good qualities and after a few listen I’m very much anticipating the release of their third studio album ‘The Great Divide’ later this month. ‘Heart And Soul’ kicks in with driving bass and guitar riffs as Sam McTrusty assertively comes in and cries in his distinctive style “I flicked the switch on the generator so I could turn you on” and barring the chorus the whole song repeats this exact format so actually the poppier more uplifting chorus is a bit of light relief from the deep, driving, gloomy verses. The song breaks down near the end and you can practically envisage McTrusty standing on top of an amp leading the crowd in song, crashing his hands together above his head, it has all the makings of a great festival anthem and a defining song for Twin Atlantic.
Haim – If I Could Change Your Mind
Haim were a band I was always conscious of but I’d never actually listened to but after seeing them live I’ve been hooked. They have plenty of instantly recognisable ‘heard that before’ type tunes full of melodic riffs, poppy harmonies and R&B beats. The Californian sister trio have a funky soft rock sound that makes them accessible to the more pop orientated mainstream market but also a favourite of indie music fans. The big single for them this year was the incredible ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ – the jerky and jumpy guitars, bluesy bass and drums all intertwine at the most unexpected moments to create a unique Haim sound. Middle sister and lead singer Danielle stylishly and soulfully croons her way through the track backed up by oldest sister Este licking the whole song with infectious basslines all while youngest sister Alana twangs and bends notes on lead guitar.
Bombay Bicycle Club – Carry Me
I know, I know, I’m returning to Bombay Bicycle Club again but I actually had to limit the amount of songs from their new album I was going to include in this blog. Their lead single ‘Carry Me’ is a majestic dancey, futuristic stramash of samples and synth beats. ‘Carry Me’ incorporates everything that is great about Bombay’s new sound. The brass, the percussion, the synth and the echoing hushed female vocals all complimented perfectly by Steadman’s catchy line: ‘you carry me’. As soon as I heard this song I knew they were on to something special with their new album. I think they’d been listening to Chvrches when they wrote this one! If you’re a fan of Chvrches or like all the new synth pop stuff we’re hearing at the moment from former guitar heroes like Coldplay and Kasabian then you’ll love ‘Carry Me’.
Paolo Nutini – Recover (Chvrches Cover)
I’m gonna be wrapping things up now just as I started with a local boy from my home town of Paisley – Paolo Nutini. Not that I’m biased or anything but the guy can do no wrong at the moment. His comeback album was a roaring success, he’s lit up festivals all across the country so far this summer and he’s not bad at the old covers either. In a recent BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge performance Nutini covered Chvrches ‘Recover’ and completely transformed it, making it his own and even incorporating it into his sets. The original song is very sharp, electronic and atmospheric whereas Paolo’s version is elegant, brooding and full of emotion. He seems to change the tone of the song and give the lyrics new meaning. A superb cover!
Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky
Who needs an official video when your live session version is as good as this? I’m gonna leave you with what is undoubtedly my favourite song of 2014 so far. Just watch and enjoy the artistry and performance of Paolo Nutini as he belts out the intense, political and powerful ‘Iron Sky’. The sample of Charlie Chaplin from The Great Dictator, the lyrics “mass confusion spoon fed to the blind, serves now to define our cold society”. Simply stunning. Just wow. Enjoy…