1989

I’m not going to eulogise over how good Taylor Swift’s latest album is, because there’s already plenty of those out there. But I will take a second to note how, unlike any pop album I can think of, it actually hit home.

I’m a firm believer that the best music not only has a catchy melody or a great riff (or whatever gets your particular juices flowing) but can grab a hold of what you feel, where your life is at that very moment. The very best music can make you take stock of all that, and that’s what 1989 manages.

It’s rare that an album will so perfectly capture where you are as a person right at the time that you listen to it. There’s obviously an element of chance involved, but it’s still fleeting. We’ve had albums from Pianos Become the Teeth and Have Mercy in the last month – both bands that I love – and neither of them have struck a chord with me as sharply as Swift’s latest.

It’s interesting that the album is called 1989, probably no coincidence that a record written by a 24-year-old feels so familiar thematically. The potential mistakes you may have made and may be making, the missteps and regrets that we’re all accidentally accumulating as we stumble through our early 20’s with essentially no fucking clue where we’re going. 1989 sounds to me 90% a celebration of these things; 10% reflection on what may be going right or wrong.

It’s this candour and vulnerability, wrapped up in brilliant, 80’s-drenched pop songs, that has caught me a bit off guard with this album, and also why I’d recommend it wholeheartedly – even to those who can’t think of anything worse than sitting through it.

Introducing: Moose Blood

Moose Blood are a four-piece band from Canterbury, Kent.

They play a brand of pop-tinged emo, addressing everyday issues but managing to make them sound urgent and exciting.

The lyrics from upcoming debut EP Moving Home, released on February 11th on Fist in the Air records, have the rare and charming quality of sounding like they’re describing a unique moment from your own life. They might not deal with the happiest feelings at times, but there’s always a warmth in the tracks that’s infectious.

The songs have the feeling of arriving home after a long time on the road – exciting yet comfortably familiar. Bukowski is a particular highlight, driven and uplifting with a few well-placed nods to the bands’ influences.

The band have recently played a few shows in the London and Southeast area to brilliant receptions – it’s well worth checking them out live if you get a chance in future.

Have a listen and do buy the EP/download it, it’s only £2 and it’ll make sure these guys can make more brilliant music.

Real Friends

The problem with musical fads is that they can get old fast. As a genre gains more popularity, more bands start to surface. The end result is one of saturation, too many bands plying their trade in a style that can become stale as quickly as it became exciting.

The trick then is to discover the bands that are rising above the tide, those groups that are still managing to be exciting where their peers are failing to do so. Bands like Real Friends.

Amongst the spate of sub-standard pop-punk records this year, it has been easy to miss some real gems. The three EPs released by Real Friends this year deserve every bit of attention they’ve received, and then some.

Dropped back in January, second EP Everyone That Dragged You Here is one of the strongest genre releases this year. Opener Floorboards is a pop-punk tour-de-force. It’s energetic, it’s catchy, it’s got all the right breaks in all the right places. It works acoustic. It’s essentially the perfect opening to an EP.

In May, the band released an accomplished acoustic EP, the one new song included showing that the possess song-writing skills away from the typical pop-punk fare showcased on ETDYH. 

This month, Real Friends have come out with Three Songs About the Past Year of my Life, a new three track EP just as strong as Everyone… Middle track Hebron is an astonishing departure from their signature sound, as heartfelt and passionate in its delivery as it is disarmingly fierce.

Vocalist Dan Lambton struggles to contain his emotion as a single guitar chimes in the background. It’s painfully honest, impossible to be unaffected by, and brilliant.

From repeated lyrics about sleepy eyes and boney knees to artwork featuring houses of the leafy Chicago streets the band call home, there is an ultra-personal aspect to Real Friends that instils a vitality to their songs. Theirs is the sound of pent-up small town frustration exploding from your speakers.

For every Floorboards, there is a HebronFor every Anchor Down, Skeletons. Real Friends have shown, over three releases in one year, that they are a multi-faceted, excitingly talented pop-punk band that have distilled exactly what it is that makes the genre so great.

Fans of pop-punk, you owe it to yourselves to give these guys a spin. With the continued rise of The Story So Far, Real Friends may be the next to capture audiences’ attention.

Don’t miss the boat.

Britney, An Obituary

No, this isn’t just me being dark and randomly killing celebrities off in my writing, as funny an idea as that may seem. 

As part of a music course I’m currently a part of, I was required to knock up a 500-word obituary for Britney Spears, regardless of the fact that she is still very much alive. And, well, here it is:

Princess of Pop Britney Jean Spears has died at the age of 30. The pop singer passed away at her home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, on the 25th October after a short battle with cancer. She leaves behind sons Sean Preston, 7, and Jayden James, 6, their names a constant reminder of her hillbilly roots.

Born in McComb, Mississippi, Spears was a member of the New Mickey Mouse Club before catapulting to stardom in 1999 with the release of her debut album …Baby One More Time, which yielded mammoth singles ‘…Baby One More Time’ and ‘I Was Born to Make You Happy’. Britney’s fresh-faced appeal and perceived innocence allowed her to ride the wave of popular female acts at the time. The album has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and became the biggest selling debut of any female artist in history.

Her musical successes continued with the release of subsequent albums Oops…I Did it Again! (2000) and Britney (2001), before the songstress eschewed her wholesome image in favour of a slightly more raunchy persona. The release of In the Zone in 2003 saw Spears fully embrace her sexier style, as well as the introduction of more controversial – and often more ridiculous – elements of Spears’ private life.

Britney shared an on-stage kiss with pop legend Madonna and rival Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMA Awards, more famous for the gratuitous amount of tongue involved than for its participants.

Spears then kicked off 2004 by marrying childhood friend Jason Alexander in a drunken Las Vegas sham. The marriage was annulled after 55 hours as Spears “lacked understanding of her actions” (Judge speak for how horrendously pissed she was).

By September, Britney had neglected to heed her own advice by oops, doing it again and marrying dancer Kevin Federline. Apparently more lucid the second time around, Spears Marriage Mk 2 lasted 3 years, Federline fathering both of her sons.

Her dabbling with illicit drugs saw her shave her head in early 2007 and attend Promises rehab centre for a month – she had, in her own words, “hit rock bottom”.

She divorced Federline in 2007, eventually losing custody of her sons and was again hospitalized in January 2008 as those around her believed she posed significant risk to herself.

Once fully recovered, Spears resumed her singing career, and, whilst hardly breaking new ground, Circus (2008) and Femme Fatale (2011) were still exceptionally popular albums.

Whether positive or no, Britney’s wild behaviour and propensity to either marry or snort everything she encountered often overshadowed her ever-successful pop career and burgeoning television presence – cameo appearances on How I Met Your Mother and most recently The X Factor suggested that Spears may have had a future on the screen.

Having provided the soundtrack to every virginity lost between 1999 and 2003, Britney leaves behind a sea of mid-20s fangirls, as well as most recent fiancée Jason Trawick. Third time has not proved lucky when it comes to Spears and engagements, but her legacy ensures that this Princess of Pop may be gone, but will not be soon forgotten.