Look Ahead to End of Year Album Reviews – Plus Musical Smugness!

Regular readers may be looking forward to our end of year album countdown. This year we will be running it from December 17th – 19th so you still have a few days to go and buy the recommended albums as Xmas presents for your loved ones!

Then, between Xmas and New Year, a special feature for my last few days as Spend Matters UK/Europe Managing Editor.  We’ll be looking at the best albums of the last ten years and choosing my favourites from the time I’ve been writing here (including one year when it was my old Procurement Excellence blog).

So, something to look forward to for our music loving reader. But I do apologise in advance now for a bit of musical smugness today. Let me take you back to Reading Festival Sunday, 2013. A lovely day, so the kids sit outside and crowds in the indie-based Festival Republic tent are not as big as when it rains! But this is what I wrote in my review of the day on Spend Matters, relating to a band that was pretty unknown in the UK at that point.

“But one band that did draw a crowd on that stage and proved one of the absolute festival highlights were Twenty One Pilots. A duo, but it’s hard to know how to describe them. One minute, a ukulele led, sweet song about taking care of your Mum, the next, a full-on rock thrash and the drummer doing a back-flip off the keyboard. The lead singer raps like Eminem as well as having an excellent, powerful voice, their songs have strong hooks, and I’m sure everyone there would jump at the chance to see them again. They over-ran, and I suspect even the stage manager was happy to see an extra few minutes of a truly excellent set.  Future super-stars without a doubt”.

Future super-stars indeed – and this week Twenty One Pilots were announced as one of the headliners for Reading / Leeds Festival in 2019! Here is a sample of their set at Reading in 2016, in the big Radio 1 tent.

Smugness part 2 - in February of 2013 we saw another young British band, with about 100 other people in our local venue (the West End Centre, Aldershot). Here is a video from that – not great quality, I should say, but you get the feel of the gig hopefully.

And this is what we said about the first album from that band a few months later, after ”Chocolate”,  their first big single, had broken the band via Radio 1 airplay.

The 1975 – The 1975

The biggest new rock / indie breakthrough act of the year, with a debut album that fully lives up to the expectations set by a couple of strong singles. Lyrics about sex, drugs, whether you should steal someone else's girlfriend and whether he could beat you up if he finds out... a fairly accurate representation of the concerns of 16-21-year olds I suspect!

But it's all put over with clever, slightly dark and off kilter lyrics. The musical arrangements, with both guitars and electronic sounds, are quite complex but the overall effect is light without being simplistic, and they have that valuable knack of writing tunes that don't sound too memorable on first hearing but really get into your head - Sex and Chocolate probably the two best examples.

It’s all quite 1980s (anyone remember Haircut 100, Aztec Camera, The Cars...)?  But some of the lyrics and the final short track - an atmospheric piano ballad which could be an undiscovered Randy Newman or Leonard Cohen composition, show there may be even more to the band than this very impressive debut suggests. Ones to watch, as well as enjoying where they’re at today. Reading or Glastonbury headliners by 2017 is my prediction.  9/10


OK, I was 2 years out in my prediction – The 1975 is also headlining the 2019 festivals! The Foo Fighters are back headlining too for the umpteenth time, and other announcements look good, so yes, we’ll be back to Reading next year. No doubt I will find somewhere to publish my reviews …

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