Collaboration: Albums of the Year

Review of the Year 2016We hit the midpoint of this year’s collaborations posts today.

After looking into our favourite songs of 2016 a couple of weeks back, we’re now considering which albums we think made the biggest mark this year.  As always, you can expect a good mix of genres and interests with some indie, pop, rock and Asian sounds all thrown together to make our unique top 5’s.  All three of us love music, hence why there are so many collaboration posts on it, so this ‘review’ has definitely been an enjoyable one to write.

I know I speak for all of us when I say that these collaborations have been a great experience for getting to know each other’s tastes better, because we always come across something interesting in someone else’s list that we never would have expected.  It’s great to think that these posts are helping to strengthen our friendships, especially when we never get to spend time with each other anymore.

A Writer in Sight

IMG_7306I have music on my mind about 80% of the time – I am obsessed.  If someone on the list of 100+ people that I like has new music coming out, then you can be sure that I’m well aware of it and waiting anxiously for it to be released.  2016 has been an excellent year for pop music comebacks – all but one of the albums on my list have been in the works for 2+ years.  I would say that picking my top 5 was hard, but it hasn’t been.  That, however, is only because I haven’t heard the full albums for most of the artists that I listen to who have released new music this year (gosh darn it money!).  If I had then maybe this list would be a little different, but then again the music that’s on here is still completely amazing.

Long Live The Angels (Emeli Sandé)

A Writer In Sight (5)After being tipped for release this time last year, Emeli Sandé finally released the follow-up to her multi-million selling debut last month, just in time for Christmas.  As I spoke about in my review of the album, ‘Long Live the Angels’ is a more uptempo affair than her debut, and it features wonderful influences from Sandé’s Zambian roots.  Although it doesn’t stand out as immediately as ‘Our Version of Events’ did, the new album has some major high points that show how impressive her voice can sound with a strong piece of music.  Tracks like ‘Somebody’ and ‘Every Single Little Piece’ see the singer pour her heart into each tiny moment of the song to produce music that constantly plays with your emotions.  In ‘Hurts’ she creates one of the most intense songs of the year with the frantic hand-clapping beat and soaring vocals that show a power Sandé has never shown before.  You may not love the album as much as its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still completely amazing in its own right.

Glory Days (Little Mix)

A Writer In Sight (4)Last Sunday Little Mix celebrated 5 years in the music industry when they returned to the X Factor stage to perform two songs from their fourth studio album ‘Glory Days’.  If you’ve seen my review of the LP then you’ll know exactly what I think of their latest release.  Following on from the 2x Platinum selling ‘Get Weird’, album four sees the girl group branch out their fanbase with the inclusion of a sound that’s very current in the UK charts right now.  Although not necessarily a positive aspect for a group that has already been so succesful without needing to conform to anything, the album is still an extremely strong work of music that stands comfortably on its own two feet.  Tracks like ‘Power’ and ‘You Gotta Not’ highlight Little Mix’s quirkiness and sass, with ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ and ‘Touch’ acting as excellent singles thanks to their perfect combination of kickass vocals and danceability.  ‘Glory Days’ is the perfect soundtrack for a night out, and exactly what you need when you’re looking for a pick-me-up.

This Is Acting (Sia)

A Writer In Sight (3)Despite being in the music industry for many years, Sia only started to receive major mainstream around 4/5 years ago following a number of high-selling collaborations and the release of her sixth album ‘1000 Forms of Fear’.  When she dropped her latest record ‘This Is Acting’ back in January, everybody knew her name, and rightfully so.  The album is a non-stop rollercoaster ride of vocal excellence and pure artistry that showcase Sia’s unquestionable songwriting skills.  The marching beats of ‘Move Your Body’ will have you up on your feet, and the funky ‘Cheap Thrills’ will keep you there.  If you’re looking for something dramatic then listen to ‘Broken Glass’, or ‘Alive’, or ‘Bird Set Free’, or… Every track on this album is simply epic!  For an album that’s composed of songs written for other artists, Sia manages to take control and make each track her own with great ease.

Familia (Sophie Ellis-Bextor)

A Writer In Sight (2)After a decade of releasing uptempo disco-pop, Sophie Ellis-Bextor did what very few artists do these days and experimented with a whole new sound when she released her fifth album ‘Wanderlust’ back in 2014.  2 years on she’s utilised the success of that previous album to create an equally experimental and intriguing LP in the form of ‘Familia’.  Impacted by the music of South America, album six beautifully highlights the quirkiness of Ellis-Bextor’s personality with the blend of funky instrumentation and unique vocals.  The disco influences work brilliantly on opening track ‘Wild Forever’ and lead single ‘Come With Us’, while the singer’s penchant for balladry shines on ‘Crystallise’ and ‘Unrequited’.  ‘Familia’ has a distinct sound that is almost unheard of in the charts, and for that alone this album deserves all the success it can get.

Joanne (Lady Gaga)

A Writer In Sight (1)Lady Gaga is an individual who never stops evolving, and her music is better for it.  Each new album is different from the last, and ‘Joanne’ is the perfect example of that.  Upon first listen it’s clear that this album is best when listened to as a complete collection, rather than as individual songs, but that’s not a negative point.  It’s a delightfully cohesive piece of music that sees the singer more exposed and vulnerable than she’s ever been in the past.  ‘Angel Down’ and ‘Joanne’ pull on the heartstrings in contrasting but equally perfect ways, whereas ‘Perfect Illusion’ and ‘Just Another Day’ bring a welcome party vibe that keeps the album flowing in a smooth and enjoyable manner.  ‘Joanne’ may not match the undeniable brilliance of ‘The Fame Monster’, but it marks a big step in the right direction for an artist who’s constantly showing her talent in new and exciting ways.

Give It Some Geek

SarahI had a mild heart attack when I found out we were going to do our top albums of 2016. I rarely listen to music from the current year, let alone a full album. If we were doing 2015, I could have spouted on for hours. However, after really racking my brains, I realised of course I’ve heard loads of music this year, plenty of full albums too. They just aren’t pop albums. I often find that emotion is a big seller for me when it comes to music. If you like thought-provoking, or if you like opposite ends of the spectrum, then you should definitely give these five albums a listen!

Kingsglaive Original Soundtrack (Various Artists)

Give It Some Geek (5)The Kingsglaive OST is a beautifully composed album, written by John R. Graham and Yoko Shimomura – the latter also worked as the composer for the Final Fantasy XV game. Whenever I work on something creative, I always have classical, instrumental and soundtrack music on in the background. The Kingsglaive OST has such a rich and diverse set of tracks, ranging from the upbeat Calling For Rain that incorporates a sitar with a Bollywood feel, to the sombre and elegant LUNA and Somnus that focus around piano, strings and piccolos. Without watching the film, each track creates its own distinct narrative that sets my imagination on fire. Perhaps the only song that is totally unique to the rest, because it isn’t unique at all, is track thirteen. FINAL FANTASY Main Theme (KINGSGLAIVE Version) is a reimagining of the classic piece of music that has featured in almost every Final Fantasy game. In comparison to the rest of the album, perhaps it is obsolete. That being said, its almost MIDI-like sound is charming and uplifting, and it solidifies the album as part of the extremely popular franchise. It also juxtaposes the beautiful LUNA track that follows afterwards. This happens with a number of tracks, and I think really helps to bring out each song’s individual charms.

Exhale (Thousand Foot Krutch)

Give It Some Geek (4)Thousand Foot Krutch’s latest album Exhale reminds me just why I loved them as a kid. Trevor McNevan’s vocals for a start; he sounds as amazing now as he did back then. He has the same crisp notes that were once found in Phenomenon in 2003. Exhale features many tracks with a heavier bass, leaving perhaps only a couple of tracks that are softer. The opening track Running with Giants is powerful and loud; it’s a perfect introduction to the album. The chorus hits with electrifying chord progressions, getting you ready for what’s still to come. Tracks like Lifeline keep you on your toes with the switch-ups between fast and slow, verse and chorus.  Then there’s Honest which is totally different to the rest of the album, stripped back until it’s almost an acoustic song. McNevan’s vocals shine through here; it feels much more personal and the lyrics themselves speak of deep, honest emotions. It’s a perfect final track and really gets to the heart of what the rest of the album has been saying.

Cycle (Dean Fujioka)

Give It Some Geek (3)You might not have heard of this one, but Dean Fujioka is a Japanese musician, actor, model, director and radio host (and is slated to play Roy Mustang in the just-announced 2017 film Fullmetal Alchemist). 2016 brought his first studio album and I have to say, I adored it. Fujioka creates a number of unique songs that range from rave music to heart-felt ballads. If I had to liken the sound to anyone, it would be to FUN. and a little Panic! At The Disco. I don’t claim to be fluent in anything but English, but I think not understanding the lyrics of a song forces you to listen to the composition and really appreciate every aspect that goes into creating a song and an album. As well as fun, upbeat and even a little metal tracks like Banana Muffin Blues, you really feel his passion for music through other tracks like Sweet Talk and Thirsty.

Suicide Squad Original Soundtrack (Various Artists)

Give It Some Geek (2)The Suicide Squad Original Soundtrack is a collaborative album so there’s a lot I could say about this. First off, I enjoyed the film but it isn’t the best. The soundtrack, however, is brilliant. Featuring artists such as Panic! at the Disco, Twenty-one Pilots, Imagine Dragons and Skrillex, there’s a great mix of talent all with the same goal. The tracks bounce off one another, from one form of creepy to the next, R&B to Pop to goodness knows what. Heathens performed by Twenty-one pilots is a particular crowd pleaser. This comes as no surprise once you hear its catchy beat and a set of lyrics that tell a brilliant narrative, even without the film as context. Plus there’s that great middle eight too. Other tracks, like Gangsta and You Don’t Own Me, are seductive and inviting. They’re late night jazz bar tunes that hint on the complicated love between Harley and the Joker.

Metal Resistance (BABYMETAL)

Give It Some Geek (1)If you recognise this band, it might be because you’ve been chilling in Yo!Sushi recently and their concert has been on repeat on the screens there. That was definitely the case for me when I was in Manchester. I adore them. BABYMETAL consists of three young girls, Suzuka, Yui and Moa, plus a whole load of kick-arse metal instrumentalists. Their second studio album Metal Resistance is pretty much everything I love about music mushed into one. Tracks like No Rain, No Rainbow and THE ONE are gentle, sweet, uplifting and have you thinking of unicorns. Juxtaposing then, Road to Resistance and Meta Taro blast in with the deep rumbling (male) roars and phenomenal drum and guitar parts that so many associate with metal. It’s such a mixed album and I can’t stress how great it is it listen to. There are some songs, like the most popular track KARAOKE, that are so emotive and imagination-provoking that they could have been plucked from any action movie. Yes, they’re a Japanese band, but they’re stepping into the western spotlight with some of their songs already translated into English – THE ONE, for example. Personally, I love how the Japanese language flows anyway and adore the songs in their native tongue. Suzuka on lead vocals has such an alluring voice that you don’t always need to understand what she’s saying. It’s strong, feminine and she has so much control over those high notes. I can’t get enough of Metal Resistance. You just have to give it a listen.

 

If you like my taste then you can check out my blog at https://giveitsomegeek.blogspot.co.uk/

Holly Quills and Ivy

HollyHello, its me (you’ve just sang Adele in your head didn’t you? … sorry)! This is our third week of collabs already, and I am absolutely loving it! So this week we are talking about our top 5 albums of the year, and I’ve got to tell you narrowing it down to five has been super hard for me because I am listening to music 24/7. Honestly! If I’m not talking to someone, then I will mostly likely have my earphones in and will be blasting whatever song I am loving on that day. There have been some amazing albums this year, but here are my absolute favourites.

Death of a Bachelor (Panic! At The Disco)

Holly Quills and Ivy (5)I think this is the album I have listened to the most. Panic! At the Disco is one of my all-time favourite bands, even though recently it is kind of just Brendon Urie by himself, although I am perfectly okay with that. With this newest album, he wrote it completely solo and the results are phenomenal, and I am not just saying that. There are so many different styles of music on the album – there is something for everyone, from the Sinatra like “Death of a Batchelor” to the classic alternative “Emperor’s New Clothes”. I was even lucky enough to see them twice live this year as a part of their UK tour, and when these songs were performed live it was mesmerising. If there is any album on this list that you should definitely go listen to, its this one.

Dangerous Woman (Ariana Grande)

Holly Quills and Ivy (4)This album kind of surprised me as I never set out to listen to it, but after listening to one song on the album I could’t stop. Now, I find myself constantly listening to the pop princess that is Ariana Grande. This album seems a lot more grown up than her previous albums, with the inclusion of tracks such as “Dangerous Woman” and “Bad Decisions”, but overall it’s still a very fun album to listen to, and you’ll end up signing along with all of the catchy choruses.

7/27 (Fifth Harmony)

Holly Quills and Ivy (3)I have loved Fifth Harmony’s music since I heard Worth It.  I know Little Mix ‘Mixers’ and Fifth Harmony ‘Harmonizers’ aren’t supposed to get along, but I ignore all that because both of them make amazing music. You should never deprive yourself of good music because of that. With upbeat tracks like “Work from Home” and “The Life”, its hard not to love this album. It even includes some slower songs to contrast with their usual upbeat songs, which suprisingly work well together and flows beautifully with the whole album.

Lemonade (Beyoncé)

Holly Quills and Ivy (2)Yes Queen B! What can I say? She has a history of blowing it out of the water and she did it once again with Lemonade. An hour-long music video using all the songs on her new album…I mean wow, just wow. Is there anything Queen B cant do? I think everyone on the planet has listened to this album by now, and if you haven’t, then where have you been? Open another tab, go to YouTube or Spotify and listen to the album.  You can thank me later. It is such an iconic album, and I don’t think much can top it. Well, until she releases another album that is.

Bry (Bry)

Holly Quills and Ivy (1)Now I going to bet that none of you have heard of this artist (if you have then yay!). Bry is a Irish singer who has been putting his music on Youtube for a good few years now, and he has finally released his first album this year. I have loved his music for years so to see him release an album is amazing. His genre of music is a blend of folk and indie, and it’s incredible. If you like Ed Sheeran then I recommend listening to him. I’ve seen him live three times and its obvious how much he loves music which is really great to see in an artist. My favourite songs on the albums are “Your Life Over Mine” and “Adventure Time”. Please go and listen to him, hes just amazing.

If you interested in seeing more of my own blog then you can find me at http://www.hollyquillsandivy.co.uk

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