Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Wishes

I want to wish all my followers and any readers alike a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I will be spending the rest of Christmas with family before heading over to Northern Ireland for a few weeks to be with my Jonathan. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family and friends, I think that's probably what I'm most thankful for this year. (I'll do a full review on 2013 and my hopes and goals for 2014 when I come back mid-Jan)

We have my younger sister and my 2 year old niece staying with us this Christmas and already I've been touched with the magic that is Christmas through a child's eyes. I cannot wait to see her expression tomorrow morning!

I've been busy this Christmas Eve as well! I spent all afternoon and evening slaving away in the kitchen. I've not been well the last few weeks and I really wasn't feeling festive but that time baking goodies and trying some new things out really set the mood for me. I've managed to steam my Christmas pudding, make some fresh cranberry sauce, prepare my veggie pie for dinner tomorrow, make my first attempt at nut brittle (burnt the sugar a bit so its a little smokey but I kind of like it!) as well as baking my yearly tradition of shortbread and mince pies. All food being vegan, as this is my first vegan Christmas! I was vegetarian last year before I went fully vegan on the first of Jan 2013. All I have left for me to do tomorrow is put the pie in to bake, steam the pudding for two more hours and whip up some vegan yorkshire puddings! Yummy!

I really hope you have a wonderful time and you get to spend some down time with loved ones, especially those who are having hard times at the moment for whatever reason. :)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Top Ten Albums of 2013

2013 has been a good year for music fans, with several legends returning to the industry and some new talent managing to path their own way onto the airwaves and into our mp3’s. (I assume I’m not the only owner of an iPhone who still uses an iPod/other mp3 player here?!) I found this list really hard to pick after setting myself the challenge of only picking my top ten, though I couldn’t resist adding some special mentions as there really has been some corking albums this year that I don’t think my Spotify and youtube has seen so much use! With technological advances within the music industry with recording and how to play/use instruments I really feel like we’re entering a new age of music and I’m hoping that some new bands make the cut in 2014 and grace us with their beats. I’ve probably missed a few albums off my final top albums list as I’m going on memory of the last year (and thankyou google for making sure I got the right year, has it really been well over a year since The XX’s Coexist already?!). 

Arctic Monkeys - AM

Back in 2006 when the Arctic Monkeys skyrocketed to fame in the British music scene I hated them. They were too popular and my angsty, teenage hipsterisms didn’t allow me to even listen to anything they wrote for years. Bar ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ which, let’s be honest, anyone in my generation who doesn’t know the lyrics and start dancing at the opening beats has been hiding under a rock! By 2009 I was forced by my ex to give them a chance and so I finally listened to their discography all the way through and I was as hooked as all my friends were years earlier. With AM I feel they’ve taken a different route, it feels a little old school and sexy. I fell in love with the opening bars to ‘Do I Wanna Know’ when the single was released and was counting down the weeks during the summer until the albums release this Autumn. Not only the Arctic Monkeys back, but they’re back with a bang! 


Daughter - If You Leave

This is only one of two new bands who have reached my top ten list, but Daughter deserve to be here. I first discovered them when iTunes had their single ‘Human’ as their single of the week (a really great way to discover new bands and get a free single) and I loved the gentle, folksy feel to their music and Elena Tonra’s vocals are memorizing and comforting. The songwriting is excellent and catchy with lyrics such as ‘and if you are in love, then you are the lucky one. ‘Cause most of us are bitter over someone, setting fire to our insides for fun to distract our hearts from ever missing them’ fueling many tumblr lyric posts. That aside, the raw emotional feeling behind the songwriting is perfectly accompanied with the whimsical music supplied by Igor Haefeli and Remi Aquilella. I’m really looking forward to what this band delivers in the future. 


London Grammar - If You Wait

This is the only other album that has made my top ten that’s a new band. I’d heard of London Grammar down the grapevine but it wasn’t until iTunes had their single ‘Shyer’ as single of the week that I actually paid much attention. I was blown away with the single, Hannah Reid’s almost ethereal voice is not only memorable but a sound of beauty. The album suits my taste excellently reminding me of The XX, Bat for Lashes and Florence and the Machine but holding out on their own. This is perfect chill out music and music you smile when listening too. London Grammar are on my list of bands I want to try and see live and I’ll be looking for nearby gigs with eager anticipation. They also featured on the track ‘Help Me Loose My Mind’ for Disclosure, who feature on my ‘special mentions’ list. This is a young band and I’m hoping one who manages to stay around for a while but for now I’ll keep this album ready to play when necessary. 


Stereophonics - Graffiti on the Train

I saw Stereophonics in March with my boyfriend and his Mum, though it was my second time after seeing them at the 2009 Isle of Wight Festival it felt more intimate being at the sold out Belfast Waterfront set. Their new album had been released a few days before and I hadn’t really had time to listen to it so I was quite excited to see how a band who’s been with us from the nineties has managed to make their music sell a decade and a half after their debut album release. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they didn’t need to change much their original format still working. Fueled with Kelly Jones gravelly, iconic voice and sing along anthems such as ‘Indian Summer’ this might not be a groundbreaking album but it’s on this list because they still have it. 


Foals - Holy Fire

Another band I discovered in my late teenage years thanks to my ex’s friend. ‘Antidotes’ was one of my first year of uni albums and I still listen to it regularly. I wasn’t the biggest fan of their second album ‘Total Life Forever’ but ‘Holy Fire’ has restored my love and faith.  It might just be me but I feel like the album grows into itself the more you play it and I really feel they learnt from their previous two albums to make this one standout. The energy is infectious and I’ve caught myself putting it on when I need something energetic - like when doing boring jobs like cleaning - to keep me upbeat. I feel like it’s more laid back than their previous work and may be a sign of where the band is going, just following the music rather than trying to control it. Any alternative, electronia fans need this album in their collection, as well as really all their albums to date. 


Johnny Marr - The Messenger 

I’m a big Smiths fan, I have been since my teenage years when Morrissey’s crooning voice and Marr’s unrivaled guitar skills voiced my inner emotions. Although I’ve never ‘got on’ with Morrissey finding alot of his opinions bigoted and self righteous I’ve always loved Johnny Marr, and have followed his several other projects with other bands over the years. When I saw on NME that he was releasing his own album I was pumped, I’d never really heard him sing and here was one of the forerunners of The Smiths, back and dare I say it sexier than ever? It took me a few listens for me to get The Messenger, it took me that long as I had to get rid of my expectations that it would sound like The Smiths; or even like Morrissey’s solo work. It doesn’t, it feels fresh and experienced and I love that. I’m so happy this album has came out while I’m in my early twenties, I feel like I can appreciate the mature vibe more after having The Smiths as part of my life for so long. 


My Bloody Valentine -  M B V

Any fan of Lost In Translation will know of the band ‘My Bloody Valentine’ a Dublin foursome whose iconic track ‘Sometimes’ is played during the taxi ride after the karaoke scene. So, I was pretty late coming onto the scene (they formed in 1987) and by the time I’d heard of the band they had already broken up. Yet, all was not lost with their reunion in 2007! It’s been years in the making, including work from the nineties, but finally MBV was released this year and fans of the band, new and old, were not to be disappointed. The dream pop, ambient with just a hint of post-punk band I eagerly searched out back in 2005, after first watching Lost in Translation, were back and this is another ‘comeback’ album to make my top ten. One of the reasons I really like this band is that they’re happy to experiment with sound and to me each track and each album is something special. They’re already working on a fourth studio album so I’m already excited for the future of this band. 


David Bowie - The Next Day

How could any top album list of 2013 be complete without mentioning the return of the Godlike musical genius that is David Bowie? After turning into a recluse and making few public appearances since his heart problems in 2004 the announcement on his 66th birthday that he was releasing a new album caused a media storm. I remember finding out that day on Twitter and along with other Bowie fans I listened to the ‘Where Are We Now’ religiously. Upon listening to the album on it’s release in March I’ll admit I wasn’t as blown away as I expected. I think this album suffered from the mass hype surrounding it and although it’s good it’s not like some of Bowie’s classic albums. Maybe it’s his age or maybe it’s just me but I did feel like a spark was missing. I would love to see him preform this album live but he insists he will never tour again - and given his age I don’t blame him due to all the mental and physical stress causes. 


John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts

I’m a little ashamed to know that until last year I’d never heard of John Grant. It wasn’t until my boyfriend put his album on while we were sat in his room that I realised what I was missing. His Queen of Denmark debut album alone was fantastic and I was doubtful he could master that again, I was so wrong. With Pale Green Ghosts he brings more of an electronia theme and has several collaborations other artists. His music is personal and to date he’s one of my favourite ‘confessional’ songwriters being able to allow me to listen to an hour of him hating on his ex without me wanting to scream at him to ‘get over it’, Taylor Swift and Adele take note! I think overall I prefer Queen of Denmark, and I’d suggest that to a new listener but Pale Green Ghosts still comes out on top for me. 


Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork

Told you my list was full of classic bands who have made a comeback! Queens of the Stone Age were part of my teenage angst years but they’ve grown with me and as I’ve got older I’ve appreciated their unique style in the rock genre. I really enjoyed the collaborative work Josh Somme did with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones with Them Crooked Vultures.  But seriously, there just isn’t a band like them and I can’t see one appearing they really are in a class of their own. With ...Like Clockwork Dave Grohl makes a return on drums after Joey Castillo left the band, but really I’m not complaining with Grohl being one of my all time favourite drummers! The album has the seduction I felt has been missing since Songs for The Deaf but also brims with that classic, grungy rock fans love. Again, another band I really want to see live and I’m hoping good things will keep coming for another decade, at least! 


Special mentions to: 

The Stokes - Comedown Machine
The National - Trouble Will Find Me
Noah and the Whale - Heart of Now
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito
Vampire Weekend - Vampires of the City
The Flaming Lips - The Terror
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
Birdy - Wings
Boards of Canada - Tomorrow’s Harvest 
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
She and Him - Volume 3 
Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob
Disclosure - Settle

Arcade Fire - Reflektor
HAIM - Days Are Gone