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Top 15 Albums of 2011

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I know we’re now over a week into 2012, but I was thinking today about the best music that I heard in 2011, and I thought I’d turn it into a blog post. I’ve been told (quite often) that I have a very weird taste in music. I wouldn’t necessarily say weird, but maybe a little random and eclectic. I tried to put them into order, but that was too hard, so here they are in no particular order:

1. Wakey!Wakey! – Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You…

I love love love this album. I first heard the song Dance So Good on an episode of One Tree Hill and immediately fell in love with it. I’ve been to see Wakey!Wakey! live 3 times this year, twice in Nottingham and once in Manchester. Every time was completely epic, the songs have so much more passion live, and Mike Grubbs is hilarious. My favourite song is Almost Everything, the refrain of ‘It feels bad now but it’s gonna get better‘ is the best line from the album in my opinion. I only picked one Wakey!Wakey! album for the list, but I could easily have included others. A special mention to Wakey!Wakey! Wednesdays, which is a CD of cover songs, and of which I am the proud owner of a limited edition copy.

2. Chris Young – Neon

Over the past couple of years, I have developed a particular soft spot for country music, and Chris Young is my absolute favourite, his voice is so rich and smooth. I love the diversity of country music albums, from the completely random (but totally catchy) Save Water Drink Beer, to the completely beautiful Old Love Feels New. There’s no sad songs on this album like Flowers from his first album, which is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, although is also one of my favourites.

3. Luke Bryan – Doin’ My Thing

This album is another country music favourite, and like Chris Young, has a wide variety of songs on it. Rain is a Good Thing is about exactly what it sounds, but is so so catchy. Once I hear it, it’s in my head for the rest of the day. I have two favourites from the album, Do I and Apologize. Do I is a song from a guy asking his girlfriend is she still loves him, and the words are really emotional. Apologize is a cover of a OneRepublic song which was originally released in 2006, but I love the words, and I much prefer Luke Bryan’s version to the original.

4. Casey Shea – Love Is Here To Stay

Casey Shea is another artist that I have been to see live this year, twice – in Nottingham and Manchester. He has such a laid back style on his albums, which carried over into his live sets, although with a bit more oomph on the vocals. My favourite song is Good Man, I love the chorus: ‘When the black clouds come wash over you, will you stand tall and strong, or blame it on luck‘. I got his new album (In Your Head) towards the end of the year, but I haven’t really listened to it enough yet to include it on the list.

5. Pearl and the Beard – Killing the Darlings

I went to see Pearl and the Beard live in Manchester in November, and they were awesome. I found it hard to pick which of their albums to add on the list, but I had to narrow it down so the list didn’t end up 50 albums long! The catchiest song on this album has to be Douglas Douglass, its a floor stamping, hand clapping song that’ll be stuck in your head for days. I also love the cello and the soft vocals on The Lament of Coronado Brown.

6. To Kill a King – My Crooked Saint (EP)

I’ve seen To Kill a King live three times this year as a support act to Wakey!Wakey! I cannot wait for their headline tour this year, if I can get tickets and time off work. This album was much anticipated, I first saw them live in June, but the album didn’t come out until October. They released a series of videos to go with the EP, which were well thought out and very effective in combination with the songs. Even though the album only had 4 songs, I still had to include it on this list as I listened to it so much.

7. Brad Paisley – This is Country Music

I’ve got lots of Brad Paisley albums, so when this came out in May, it was a sure buy. I have two favourite songs from this album. Remind Me, which is a duet with Carrie Underwood about two people trying to remember how it was back when they were in love. My absolute favourite is One of Those Lives, which is a poignant song about how we should all stop complaining about bad days and think of those that have it worse than we do. I liked this song so much, I wrote a blog post about it earlier this year.

8. Blake Shelton – Red River Blue

I discovered Blake Shelton this year through an iTunes recommendation, and I’m so glad I clicked the link and found this album. My favourite song from this album is definitely God Gave Me You. The lyrics are really beautiful; For when I think I’ve lost my way, there are no words here left to say, it’s true. God gave me you. Other highlights from this album include Honey Bee and Addicted. 

9. Miranda Lambert – Revolution

Miranda Lambert is married to Blake Shelton, so its safe to say that’s a pretty talented couple. I’m not usually a fan of female country music singers, but Miranda Lambert is one of the exceptions, this album is so catchy. There are some pretty silly songs like Time to Get a Gun and That’s The Way That The World Goes Round, but then there’s also some really lovely songs like The House That Built Me.

10. Adele – 21

I was threatened with actual bodily harm if this album didn’t make the list (thanks Vicky), so it’s a good job I was going to add it anyway. There’s not really much to say about this album that hasn’t already been said by many people, so I’ll just say that I’ve sung along to this album a LOT of times in my car, and there isn’t a single song I don’t like.

11. Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops and Hooligans

I bought this album at the start of the year, and it’s so catchy. I listened to it a lot driving to Sheffield and back to pick Vicky up from work, so every time a song from this album comes on, I get flashbacks of the M1 at 10pm on a Saturday night, and completely random and bonkers conversations on the way home.

12. The Overtones – Good Ol’ Fashioned Love

This album is completely different to my usual kinds of music, but it’s one of my favourites. My iTunes library has classified these as a Doo Wop band, which is a pretty cool name for a genre. I just love the old songs like Blue Moon, and the covers of new songs like Only Girl in the World and Rolling in the Deep.  I was sent an email about tickets for their tour, and I was about to book when I realised it wasn’t until December 2012. Who knows what I’m going to be doing that far in advance, so I thought I’d better not!

13. Ron Pope – 26 Tuesdays of Music

Okay, so this one doesn’t quite classify as an album, but close enough. From July to December last year, Ron Pope released one song a week, delivered direct to your inbox. It was a great idea for getting new music out, and he used it as a chance to experiment with different types of songs. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I would probably go for Reason to Hope and Got My Mojo Working, along with a new version of I’m Yours. I’m seeing Ron Pope live for the first time next month, it’s gonna be awesome!

14. Tim Hughes – Love Shine Through

Tim Hughes is my favourite Christian artist, and I missed this album for a couple of months after it first came out. When I finally bought it, I listened to it on repeat for at least two weeks. It’s the kind of album where you really need to listen to the lyrics, which as usual for Tim Hughes, were completely fantastic. He has an amazing ability to write songs that you can immediately feel connected with, which I think is what makes this such a brilliant album.

15. Eli Young Band – Life at Best

After buying Jet Black and Jealous at the start of the year, I liked it so much I bought a few other albums later on in the year. This is one I bought in August, and was kind of the soundtrack to my summer. Even if it Breaks Your Heart is my favourite. The chorus line ‘Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart‘ is a great line. I think my favourite song from the album is I Love You, a very simple song but really connects with you.

Well this list kind of turned out longer than I thought, so if you’ve got this far, thanks for reading (or scrolling really fast)! Leave me a comment and let me know if you agree/disagree with any of my choices, and let me know your favourite album from last year.

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Family Records Rock My Socks

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This last week has been kinda tough, so when I got home from work this evening, I was pretty tired and not in the best mood. Waiting for me on the table was this package:

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When I saw ‘Family Records’ written at the top, I racked my brains frantically trying to think of what I had bought, really hoping that I wasn’t losing my marbles or buying things in my sleep.

I opened it up to a beautiful letter from Emma at Family Records letting me know I had been chosen for a secret customer delight package. The letter gave me the hugest grin on my face – it was a really kind letter, and I am honoured that they chose me 🙂

After I read the letter, I pulled the rest of the package out, and that huge grin got even huger (if that’s even a word). In the package was a copy of In Your Head by Casey Shea (featuring the songs from his recent shows) and a copy of God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson by Pearl and the Beard (featuring songs from their recent show).

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But what completely blew my mind was a copy of Wakey!Wakey! Wednesday’s, which was handmade with stamps by Wesley Verhoeve from Family Records and Mike Grubbs from Wakey!Wakey! Only 100 were made, and I am now the proud owner of number 58!

There was also a beautiful pouch from Wesley’s trip to India (in Wesley’s words – “It’s from 2003 so it’s kind of vintage…right?”, in my words – “It’s beautiful!”), and a selection of Family Records stickers.

 

So, if you want good music, and to know you’re buying from people who are awesome, go check out the Family Records Store. You really won’t be disappointed.

Wakey!Wakey!, Casey Shea, To Kill a King Part 2

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Firstly, I want to say a big thank you to the Family Records for this really kind blog post – it put a big smile on my face when I read it last night!

http://twitter.com/#!/familyrecords/status/123845324958744576

Yesterday was the second part of our Wakey!Wakey! October tour. Show-wise, it was better than Nottingham, but I have to say I enjoyed Nottingham more – although this had nothing to do with the show or the venue.

The problem was parking in Manchester city centre. After driving round in circles in rush hour traffic for an hour trying to find somewhere to park, and to get TomTom to figure out where we were, we finally found a multi-storey car park. Drove in, parked up, went to walk out and saw a sign that said it closed at 10pm. We knew the gig wouldn’t be over by that time, so we left straight away, but it cost us £3.90 to get out.

After driving round a bit further, we finally ended up in an NCP car park, but that would only let us park for a maximum of 4 hours, meaning we had to leave the gig while Wakey!Wakey! were playing their last song, and couldn’t stay around to meet them again after. We had to walk through the guys from To Kill a King to get out, so I definitely felt rude. The worst part was when we got back to the car park there were only about four cars in there, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t let you pay for more than 4 hours.

The gig was at a place called Night and Day Café, which seemed smaller than the Rescue Rooms, and was infinitely hotter. We were so hot stood watching, it must have been way worse on the stage under the lights. Lets just say everyone looked kinda sweaty – especially Casey who came back out wearing a different shirt shortly after he finished. That being said though, it was a great venue. I love the smaller places – the gigs seem much more intimate, and you’re guaranteed to be able to see the stage.

caseyshea_inyourhead_500x500_mediumAgain, Casey opened the show, and there were more people listening this time, which I was glad about. Another awesome performance, I’m hoping that he may release a stripped back CD with just him and his guitar, I can feel so much emotion when he sings like that.  I also picked up his new CD last night, which is not on iTunes yet. I have a feeling it’s gonna be on repeat for quite a while. I’m also hoping that he may come back to the UK for his own tour, so that he can play for longer than just the opening act!

To Kill a King had some equipment issues last night. Firstly, there were guitar cable problems and there was a quick scrabble to find another cable while they were still playing the first song. Then there was a drum issue, which meant that they had to improvise and play a song without the drums. I have to say, they played on really well despite the issues and performed another cracking set.

http://twitter.com/#!/ToKillAKingUK/status/123863401654005760

Wakey!Wakey! performed more songs last night than they did in Manchester (they didn’t have to finish at 10, which was great). They played a few more new songs, which I love already, and of course the old songs with most of the audience singing along. There were a lot more stories last night too, including a story of Casey Shea’s wild Karaoke adventure on the first night of the tour in Canada. The only thing that could have been better would be if we hadn’t had to leave early.

We’ll have to bear that in mind for our next gig in Manchester – Pearl and the Beard on the 5th November. Really can’t wait for that – tickets are only £5 too!

 

Wakey!Wakey!, Casey Shea, To Kill a King Part 1

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A.K.A ‘I don’t know any executives…’

Tonight me and Frank returned back to the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham to see Wakey!Wakey again. We saw them play there in June and it was awesome, and tonight just cranked it up to a whole other level. They’ve redone the stage since last time, and it was much better. We got quite  a lot closer too! Ed Sheeran was playing next door at Rock City and there were massive queues – those people don’t know what they were missing!

Opening the show was Casey Shea. I’d not seen him live before but I love his albums and he definitely did not disappoint. Just one man with a guitar, and boy does he have a great voice (and great hair too). I just wish that he could have played longer and that more people had heard him. Because he was on really soon after the doors opened, the room was not even half full until after he had finished. He sung some songs that I knew and some that I hadn’t heard before, but I was really happy when he finished his set with my favourite song – Love is Here to Stay.

After Casey came To Kill a King. They supported Wakey!Wakey! in June too, just before their single came out. They played a slightly longer (and louder) set than Casey and completely rocked it. Fictional State (their single from June) was brill, and they also played some songs from their upcoming EP – Bloody Shirt is my new favourite. The EP comes out on the 17th.

Then we get to the headline act: Wakey!Wakey! There’s not really much I can say that I haven’t said before – he is amazing! He talks a lot, but he’s hilarious too, and when he sings he just draws you in. I love War Sweater, and the refrain of  ‘What will your legacy be?’ sounds even more powerful live – it’s one of my favourite lines from all his songs. He played a couple of new songs which sounded great – I can’t wait for the new album! He finished his set with my favourite song – ‘Almost Everything’, I love the chorus – ‘It feels bad now but it’s gonna get better’.

After he had finished playing, he hung around after to meet everyone, and I got another autograph and picture. Just a shame that the venue didn’t close later so he could have played longer first.

The only downside to the night was driving home for 2 hours in the pouring rain, with nothing but silence from the passenger seat as Frank fell asleep shortly after we hit the motorway.

The best thing is, we are doing it all again tomorrow (well I guess it’s actually today now) in Manchester!!!