2015 has seen the release of an incredible array of new music, and picking the very best songs of the year is a challenge. Fortunately, the Insanity Radio music team are here to bring you their favourite songs of the past 12 months! Maybe you’ll find a new favourite yourself…
We got our music team to review “Sax”, the new single from last year’s X Factor runner-up Fleur East, using only one sentence each! Listen to the song below, and see whom you agree with!
It’s the 7th and final day of #Woraklsweek so let’s end with a fantastic finish. Throughout the course of this week I have posted a different song by the amazingly talented French DJ, who as of yet has not even remotely gained the appreciation he deserves. Worakls specialises in Minimalist House and constructs some truly beautiful atmospheres for us to just melt away into. I really hope these songs have given you an awesome insight into his work and have opened your eyes to the possibilities of electronic music today.
Our final song is “Chemin”. I won’t say too much about how Worakls put this one together, as I’m sure you’re already aware of how beautiful Worakls weaves different melodic fragments in and out of focus, creating an amazingly mellow vibe to chill you out. What makes this song particularly amazing is the different pitched percussion instruments that are use to simulate the different noises that rain can create in a city. Hearing this song while out and about is definitely the best experience it can give you as it really makes you think about how different each and every sounds can appear to you if you give it the chance. The overtones are all there in our natural world and through this change in perception – as cheesy as this is going to sound – music really can be anywhere.
So one final time for this week, and hopefully in the future if you stumble across more of the genius of Worakls in your travels, I give you this parting gift: “Chemin.”
~ Adam Hitchen
Day 6 of #Woraklsweek. Each day I’ll post a different song by the amazingly talented French DJ, who as of yet has not even remotely gained the appreciation he deserves. Worakls specialises in Minimalist House and constructs some truly beautiful atmospheres for us to just melt away into.
Saturday is a day for a samba, so I thought I’d go with something with a bit of a Spanish flavour for today’s track: “Porto“.
The track is centred entirely around layering different acoustic guitar parts while sticking to the tried and tested house beat. The assymetrical phrasing of the melody helps to keep the track fresh (along with each new musical layer) and works over the slow, trance-like chord movement that borrows from Spanish folk songs to bring a typical flavour of Flamenco music into your dose of electronica.
Once again, the name of the game is subtlety and reflectiveness – and the tune is one of the best Worakls has produced. Ladies, gentlemen and people of fluid or non-specified gender, I present to you “Porto“.
~ Adam Hitchen
As the weather is slowly (very slowly) getting warmer, and the days are getting longer, and balmy, lazy afternoons are once again in sight, what better way to chill out and melt into relaxation than by listening to the languid, soothing tones of Rebecca Ferguson? Her brand-new album is called Lady Sings the Blues, and is a fitting tribute to the legendary era of Swing and Jazz. The influences of Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and Amy Winehouse are clear, although Rebecca’s distinctive tone manages to leave her own individual stamp on the songs.
The tracks themselves vary in tone within the genre: from the upbeat and joyful ‘Get Happy’ (if you deny clicking your fingers along to that one then I don’t believe you), to the melancholic yet romantic ‘Embraceable You’. My personal favourites of the album are ‘That Old Devil Called Love’ and the wonderful ‘Summertime’, both classic songs that Rebecca does sweet justice to. If you have a penchant for the old-era vintage swing blues, then this collection is the ideal soundtrack to your afternoon of lazing in an armchair or snuggling up with that special someone. The perfect accompaniment to a smooth red wine, or a glass of G&T with cucumber.
~ Eleanor Goodman
Day 5 of #Woraklsweek. Each day I’ll post a different song by the amazingly talented French DJ, who as of yet has not even remotely gained the appreciation he deserves. Worakls specialises in Minimalist House and constructs some truly beautiful atmospheres for us to just melt away into.
Today was supposed to be a solar eclipse apparently… as you would expect, this would usually entail a sun shining very brightly on a warm day. Wrong. Oh well, as Worakls’ song “Soleil de Plomb” will help to bring the sun to you! (For those who aren’t aware, “Soleil de Plomb” translates as a sun shining beautifully).
Today’s track creates a beautiful blend of piano melodies and standard house music conventions – a fuzzy, distorted bassline, vocal-like hits and a building drumline that helps the track become something truly special.
Once again, the name of the game in this song is layers – each musical layer is beautifully interwoven with the others to create a specific atmosphere. In the case of “Soleil de Plomb”, the mood that Worakls has gone for is an uplifting sense of energy, while remaining within the relaxing minimalist house vibe that he often creates.
At this stage, I’ll stop my incoherent babbling of music jargon and let you guys make your own minds up!
~ Adam Hitchen
Day 4 of #Woraklsweek. Each day I’ll post a different song by the amazingly talented French DJ, who as of yet has not even remotely gained the appreciation he deserves. Worakls specialises in Minimalist House and constructs some truly beautiful atmospheres for us to just melt away into.
Thursday can be dramatic for many reasons. For some reason Thursdays just seem to be filled with action and stress – possibly because we know the weekend’s just around the corner but it’s not quite tangible at this point.
For this reason, I’ve selected Elea. It’s a slight change of pace, with more driving cinematic strings as the central theme, kicking in from the very beginning and filling you with a sense of urgency before the house beat and chilling electronics kick in. There’s a definite sense of loss and thoughtfulness in this record, with the vocal-like drone in the background and the minor key in the bell sounds and heavily edited marimba melodies. When the strings come back they cement the sense of time running out – just as you would expect from a film score.
The overall effect can be slightly overwhelming at times when you feel like there’s just too much to do, but the orchestration works absolutely perfectly in proving that Worakls isn’t afraid to tackle very difficult instrumentation and work outside of his comfort zone to bring you a class A record. Hit it up.
~ Adam Hitchen
But I’m a “Fool for your loving”, and in the “Still of the Night”
When I’m a “Long Way From Home” it just doesn’t feel right
“The Deeper the Love” they say the deeper you fall
I am “Guilty of Love”, but I’d give you it all
~ Laura Webber
The concept of a lyrical poem is to take an artist and write a poem consisting mostly of their song titles, to either get across what the artist’s views were or create a whole new narrative for their music. Each lyrical poem acts not only as a poem in its own right but also a crash course of the artist in question.
Enter Shikari are one of the few bands that require no introduction, partly because any attempt to describe their music would result in the same confusion as a discussion of the meaning of life with an infant. These genre-hopping giants recently dropped their incredible 4Th LP “The Mindsweep” last month, meaning it was time to ‘Take To The Skies’ once more and deliver a tour de force filled with brand new, meaty material, alongside fan favourites.
‘The Corn Exchange’ fits in perfectly with the architectural aesthetic of Cambridge – old and pretty from the outside, but neat and modern on the inside; with a decently sized floor-space for fans to tear up, a huge stage and the obligatory wall-length bars in the foyer. Unfortunately, Cambridge is around three hours away from where I live, meaning I missed the first support band: ‘Fatherson’ – which is a pity as their smooth alt-rock tones would have been the perfect way to get in the mood for a night of music – if not quite preparing for the hectic energy of the following bands.
The second band to hit the stage was ‘Allusondrugs’ – a band which I did manage to catch, who were sadly underwhelming. Each song seemed like a pastiche of a different band: first attempting to emulate ‘The Strokes’, then ‘The Darkness’, followed by ‘Marmozets’… unfortunately, by not choosing a signature sound for themselves, ‘Allusondrugs’ don’t feel like they’ve mastered any particular style – the set came across as bland and uninteresting. Oh, and the lead singer could benefit from some singing lesson (just saying).
All was not lost though, as ‘Feed The Rhino’ took to the stage to remind everyone that the raw energy of hardcore is still very much alive and kicking. Still riding off the back of the success of their most recent album “The Sorrow & the Sound”, FTR know how to get a crowd moving. The venue’s PA was almost unable to handle the sheer power or anthemic belters “Behind The Pride”, “Give Up” and the signature rock’n’roll vibe of “Deny and Offend”. Towards the end of their set, it seemed that even frontman Lee Tobin was struggling to maintain his voice – although I challenge anyone to keep up his full-throated hollering for over half an hour. ‘Feed The Rhino’ finished off their set with the more reflective “Tides” – living proof that even the heaviest bands have a subtler side – and the undeniably catchy “New Wave”. The energy in the performance was pure and ungated, and whet the crowd’s appetite perfectly for the entrée: ‘Enter Shikari’.
Before I continue, I should point something out: ‘Enter Shikari’ work within every genre of music possible. They can start off with a sombre acoustic sound, move into a dance track, a dubstep drop, crushingly heavy breakdowns and finish with a stadium rock anthem – often all in the same song. As a result, crowds aren’t full of the usual suspects when it comes to moshing. Usually, there’s a standing area at the back, a pit for moshing in the middle and people singing along at the front. A Shikari gig is essentially a free-for-all: there is no etiquette. People break out into moshing/dancing all over the venue, and standing at the front will get you squashed up against everyone else so tightly that you won’t be able to breathe. Ironically, this makes the pit (in any shape or form) the safest place to be – suits me.
‘Enter Shikari’ set the scene with the thought-provoking opener from the most recent album: “The Appeal & the Mindsweep 1”. The chilling electronic backbeat and slam poetry-style call to arms from front-man Rou Reynolds gave me chills, before the band launched into a frantic, anthemic journey – a pattern and pace that was held for the entire concert. I’m always impressed at how refined Enter Shikari’s lyrical content is – all songs are incredibly well thought-out political statements weaved into a beautiful and often raucous blend of electronic and metal music. Angry fan-favourites “Destabilise”, “Radiate” and “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi” provided the perfect atmosphere to throw my weight around and just wallow in the sorry state our society is (apparently) in. When a song starts off with the lyrics “Now, I don’t know about you…” and warning sirens, you know that someone is about to erupt – and it’s probably going to be you. New additions to the Shikari catalogue definitely don’t let up on this; notable songs include “Anaesthetist” – a furious retort to plans to privatise healthcare and the decline of the NHS – “Never Let Go Of The Microscope” – an electronic, almost ambient song if it weren’t for the carefully planned scientific rap from Reynolds – and “Myopia”, a tragic song about the extinction of various species on our planet. The technical proficiency of the band has noticeably improved since their inception, especially on these newer, more ambitious songs.
Of course, it’s not all violence and harsh sounds: Welcome respites from the madness came in the form of slightly softer songs such as the acoustic “Stalemate”, “Torn Apart” which is an anthem for the decline of society (and oh so danceable-to) and the almost Coldplay-esque “Dear Future Historians”. Each of these songs starts off noticeably softer, in an acoustic manner and build different layers of sound until you’re hit with a wall of emotion – which is no less breathtaking than screaming your lungs out. It’s during these quieter moments that you realise “Wow, these guys are seriously talented musicians”, and it’s utterly true. Few bands can claim to flick between your emotions like Shikari do: tugging on your heartstrings, making you think about the world that you live in and getting you riled up about how stupid human beings can be.
Not to say that the show was all doom-and-gloom – more reflective at times, with an aura of aggression that’s a welcome release for most. Some class-A stage-presence and banter kept everyone completely invested in the show – particularly towards the end of the show. Already a fan-favourite, the 2-minute restaurant complaint in the form of “Slipshod” went down an utter storm, with the entire crowd screaming out the quintessentially British anthem of disappointment. Reynolds may have even gotten a little too into it, as he smashed a glass vase on Rob Rolfe’s drum kit to the cue in the song. It just made me wonder how many injuries the band sustain from shows like these! “Slipshod” ran straight into the party anthem “Sssnakepit”, Shikari-style: The song started off with the Hamilton remix of the track and the band transitioned seamlessly into the original. This practise was seen earlier with the dubstep edit of “Motherstep 2.0” into “Mothership” and a mash-up of the latest single “The Last Garrison” with a stellar remix of “Juggernauts” by Nero, ending up again on the original. Throughout the gig I was constantly aware of how much planning the boys put into their set – which music to play, how it all flowed into the next song and how to create a spectacle with a mix of gravitas and exceptional lighting.
This was the 4th time I had seen Enter Shikari, yet I was still completely blown away. It definitely won’t be the last time either. If you’ve never seen the indescribable spectacle that they put on, I recommend you head down to a show as soon as you can.
~ Adam Hitchen, Head of Music
I’ve been a fan of Marika Hackman’s English folky sound for some months now, and I’ve been anticipating her debut ‘We Slept At Last’ to be the ultimate dreamy album. It’s somewhat different to what I usually go for, but it’s beautifully crafted and Marika Hackman is probably my favourite artist in this kind of genre.
The album kicks off with ‘Drown’, a track with beautiful guitar melody and ghostly vocals, which sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon vibe, or if you just need to chill, this album is the one. Poetic lyrics accompany the whole album, such as ‘you can polish me for hours/but I’ll always look best in your head’, sung on the lead track ‘Drown’. The writing of this album is very clever (I felt like I was reading Shakespeare and I am in no way an English Literature buff!).
‘Animal Fear’ is a track that I’ve been enjoying for quite a while, and it’s one of the most upbeat on the album. I’d describe this track as quirky folk, and although it also has some pretty heavy lyrics, I feel like this track is the most fun that Marika has on the album and the change of tempo is appreciated after tracks ‘Skin’ and ‘Claude’s Girl’. Other tracks such as ‘Monday Afternoon’ build on Hackman’s own harmonies with woodwind instruments and strings, which the album needed as it can feel a little samey at times. It’s a really nice addition to the tracks. Although I’ve categorised Hackman as ‘folk’, ‘We Slept At Last’ is much darker than what you would expect. Track ‘Undone, Undressed’ reflects this – it’s very slow and hard to get into and I’m not 100% sure that I’m a fan of it.
My favourite track on the album is probably ‘Ophelia’. The lyrics are much more prominent and its plodding guitar melody matched with these is really appealing. I find that the track builds more than other tracks on the album. ‘Ophelia’ is a sweet love song and one that I’d recommend to listen to from the album.
‘We Slept At Last’ from Marika Hackman is all-in-all a beautiful album; its dreamy melodies and intense lyrics make the album sound so atmospheric. Though I’d suggest that at points it is slightly ‘samey’, ‘We Slept At Last’ is an album I’d recommend to anyone as its arty nature is so captivating. It was even my Valentine’s present from me to myself. Enjoy!
~ Ceri-Ann Hughes
There’s an argument to make that AC/DC’s approach to songwriting is the most successful in the history of popular music. Every album they’ve recorded draws from a beefed up treble-heavy take on blues rock based on big chords and bigger choruses, and since 1980’s legendary ‘Back in Black’ album they’ve been untouchable at the top of the hard rock mountain. Because even though every record they’d made before it and have made since is transparently cut from the same musical cloth, they’ve all come with a handful of incredible songs it’s impossible for the primal human brain to connect to.
‘Rock or Bust’ makes no attempt to differentiate itself from its predecessors and doesn’t suffer a smidgen from that, in fact standing head and shoulders above the other AC/DC albums of the 21st century thanks to its reined-in, filler-free 35-minute runtime. It’s also, despite the lack of chief songwriter and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, a perfect channelling of the band’s immortal strengths – the perfect fusion of melody and hardness, a youthful vigour that the decades of their existence has not diminished, and simple chemistry. No prizes will be won for variety, but there’s enough to maintain the listener’s interest, from the belligerent call and response of “Dogs of War” to a headlong charge on “Baptism by Fire”.
Lyrically, the lewdness and single entendres may not be to everybody’s taste particularly delivered by a group of this vintage, but Brian Johnson sounds as energised and ever and somehow gets away with it. The music could never be described as complex, but it shows a mastery of the base elements of songwriting that may never be bettered. ‘Rock or Bust’ may well be the last AC/DC album the world gets, and it’s thus appropriate that it’s as single-minded and uncompromising as anything in their discography. No matter how many imitators continue to spring up in their wake, their like will not be seen again.
~ Michael Bird