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Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …
Album: Becky Hill – Get To Know
There’s plenty on this album for lovers of dance music, which isn’t surprising when it’s largely a compilation of previously released collaborations with some of the biggest names in the business – such as Sigala, Oliver Heldens, Jonas Blue and MK. There were some new tracks too, hopefully giving a taster of much more to come.
Track: Gorgon City & MK – There For You
The opening drum beats grabbed me the first time I heard them – and with the rest of the song’s familiar house structure there was little chance of me not liking it!
Album: Beyonce – Homecoming
I’ve got to salute Beyoncé for the April release of HOMECOMING, a live album recorded from her headlining performance at Coachella in 2018. The 40-track album featuring some of her greatest hits ‘Run the World (Girls), and ‘Single Ladies’ plus a string of new hits comes along with her Netflix documentary also called HOMECOMING. This captures behind the scenes of the Queen B’s fantastic production and team in the build-up to her performance. It’s a must watch and listen with a few guest appearances too!
Track: Khalid – Right Back
My favourite single of the year has got to be the remix ‘Right Back’ by American singer Khalid, which was released in the summer of 2019 featuring American rapper A Boggie Wit Da Hoddie. The song is about celebrating the good times with friends and has an amazing video, which has that young Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff feel to it. So if you want to feel that ‘Summertime’ vibe put this song on and let the music take over.
Album: Lewis Capaldi – Divinly Uninspired To A Hellish Extent
I quite like Lewis – he doesn’t come across as a typical “star” and his music is clever and great to listen to too.
Track: Joel Corey – Sorry
Just love this version – originally a great garage song, Joel’s version is a great cover that’s upbeat and gets people up and dancing.
Album: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Parts One and Two
Upon first listen I knew this was going to be the winner. The second part is great but I think the first one edges it for me. I think the two part album is a clever idea, having two separately releases for the same project six months apart. So many great tunes – I love fluency in albums!
I love the how thing to feel like an experience as opposed to a collection of songs. I feel as though a lot of work has gone into this. I think the albums up to this point by Foals have been brilliant but I think this project is what they’ve been coming to for the last 12/13 years.
Track: Fontaines DC – Boys In The Better Land
This was harder than I thought I’ve changed my mind a few times this year. I could’ve easily gone with Sigrid again with Don’t Feel Like Crying. My 12 year old inner child loved some of Busted’s recent output, (M.I.A and Nostalgia), Upto maybe six weeks ago I was gonna go with Hypersonic Missles by Sam Fender… until I turned to my other half and said “Do you know what, honey? I’m going to invest in some Irish Punk”.
This led to me buying albums from The Murder Capital and Fontaines DC. The latter particularly led me to rest my case in this silly notion that “guitar music is dead” is just pure nonsense. It’s funny, full of character, great lyrics, jangly guitars, powerful! It’s been the song in my head for the best part of the last two months – punk perfection with pop elements!
Album: Rammstein – untitled
Rammstein exploded into 2019 with their first new album in 10 years. A powerful reminder of why they are the best in the World at what they do; unapologetic industrial metal with equal measures of controversy and dark humour, they continue to do what they always have; make music exactly the way they want to.
In this album you may find slightly more electronica, as if S&M keys player Flaké has been let off his leash (figuratively and literally!) Every track on the album is a gem in its own right, but for me the biggest stars are the heart-breaking Puppe, East German rebellion number Radio, Euro dance Ausländer and Epic opener Deutschland. A track that laments the pain of loving a country that has such a dark history.
Rammstein are a band who have never put out a poor album and 2019’s offering is easily in their top 3 along with Sehnsucht and Mutter. Powerful, beautiful, funny and thought-provoking; Rammstein are back with the biggest of bangs … oh ja!
Track: Ghost – Kiss the Go-Goat
A special track from this year’s EP Seven Inches of Satanic Panic, Kiss the Go-Goat is a supposed re-release of a 1969 track found in the bowels of the Ghost archives. The music video explains the story, where Patriarch Papa Nihil, remembers performing the song at the Whiskey A-Go-Go at the end of the 60s.
We are then transferred back to the performance with Tobias Forge playing a youthful version of the crumbling Papa. What follows is a performance that looks, sounds and feels authentic of the time and is testament to Forges creative genius. Aesthetics aside, Kiss the Go-Goat is a structurally intelligent heavy rock track that showcases musicianship at its best, so catchy that you will be singing along to a song that glorifies allegiance to the Devil in a way that only Ghost can. Another masterpiece from the darlings of pop metal Satanism!
Album: Westlife – Spectrum
I’m a big Westlife fan anyway and was very happy once I realised that they were reforming but the release of a brand new album was the icing on the cake for me. It’s a perfect blend of a slightly new, more modern sound for them, but mixed in with songs that are just so Westlife that you would instantly recognise them, so there is something for every fan.
My personal favourites on the album are Better Man and Dynamite, two completely opposite songs, but equally as memorable. I guarantee if you listen to this album you will be singing along to every song by the second chorus.
Track: Dan + Shay featuring Justin Bieber – 10,000 Hours
I have to admit I’m not the biggest Justin Bieber fan so was a little bit skeptical that I’d like the song, but this was definitely one of the collaborations featuring him that I have really enjoyed this year. I’d never heard of Dan + Shay before this track was released and now have absolutely fallen in love with their voices. Great job guys!
Album: Ed Sheeran – No.6 Collaborations Project
I love the concept of Ed setting up him in a Nashville studio and – Dick Turpin-like – accosting any artist passing by to come and record with him.
I much prefer Ed’s recordings to his live performances, where he seems to me like a profusely sweating street busker who’s had far too much coffee!
Track: Ed Sheeran feat Stormzy – Take Me Back To London
Great production and sparring between “Ted” and Stormzy. I love the lyrics contrasting the street life of Stormzy with Sheeran talking about having crisps with his pint!
Album: Yola – Walk Through The Fire
Yola is already being talked about as the Queen of Country Soul, and the album has had plaudits such as 2019’s most promising debut written about it, however Yola Carter has been performing for many years. I was lucky enough to witness her sing with her band Phantom Limb back in 2012, and was stunned by her vocals back then. This year’s album, produced by The Black Keys Dan Auerbach is a masterpiece. Single and album opener, Faraway Look is a highlight with the sweeping strings, harpsichord and those amazing vocals, over a gorgeous 60s tinged tale of a fading relationship, but the gorgeous Americana that follow makes this a must listen for anyone that likes soul, country, the 60s or just really good songs. Honourable mentions to Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind, Jimmy Eat World – Surviving.
Track: Sports Team – M5
A lot is being written about Sports Team with very good reason. For those of us who loved 90s indie, there’s a lot to like here, but they seem to have a connection with their young audience that makes it look very special indeed. From doing an annual competition for a jolly to Margate on a double decker with the band (with a gig at said seaside resort included as well) to a WhatsApp group that all the band are part of, there’s a lot to love about this 6 pieces attitude, and spiky pop such as this single puts me in mind of early Blur, so what’s not to love.
Honourable mentions to Franc Moody – She’s Too Good For Me, High/Low – Sleepwalker, Blossoms – The Keeper.
Album: Divine Comedy – Office Politics
The Divine Comedy is basically an alias for the hugely talented Mr Neil Hannon, who consistently delivers albums of sheer jaw dropping quality. I’ve featured a lot of tracks from the new album on my Off The Record show on at 10pm Tuesday nights, showcasing Hannon’s trademark eccentric and witty lyrics which are always accompanied by some beautiful melodies.
I feel Office Politics is his most eclectic collection to date, so it was a perfect fit for my show. It’s hard to pick a favourite track from the album, but if I was pushed it would have to be Life and Soul of the Party.
Track: Johnny Marr – Armatopia
As for my favourite single? Well I’m showing my age by even calling it a single, but I have to choose Armatopia by Johnny Marr. Released as a standalone single after last year’s solo album Call The Comet, I think the track sounds a bit like a New Order record and in the video the former Smiths guitarist looks a little bit like Tony Montana from the film Scarface. But I tell you this, once you hear this track, you too will be screaming “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”
Album: Ed Sheeran – No.6 Collaborations Project
I loved the concept of the album and the feeling that there’s a bit of something for everyone. Demonstrated through his collaborations with artists such as Eminem to Justin Bieber to Stormzy respectively. Who ever thought we would see all of them on the same album.
Track: Ed Sheeran feat Stormzy – Take Me Back To London
Of all the tracks on the album this was the one that made it into my personal playlist and still gets played when the shuffle lands on it. I loved the meshing of styles and how the lyrics highlight the contrast between the two artists.
Album: Camila Cabello – Romance
I have to say its rare for me to listen to the entirety of an album, but one that I definitely had to check out as soon as it arrived was Camilla Cabello’s 2nd solo album, Romance, released earlier this December. I really like her voice and style, and the integration of Latin influences always makes me feel great and want to dance, no matter what I am doing!
Track: Whitney Houston and Kygo – Higher Love
I have so many songs I want to mention here, but since I’m only allowed one I think it has to be Higher Love. This cover of Steve Winwood’s 1986 version was technically recorded for the Japanese edition of Whitney Houston’s third album in 1990, I’m Your Baby Tonight, but the remix by Kygo that was released in June this year and was the soundtrack to my summer really. It’s so uplifting and feelgood, both musically and lyrically, not to mention the incredible vocals!
Album: The Dualers – Palm Trees and 80 Degrees
This album has that Feelgood Factor – upbeat songs with a ska groove compared to the more reggae groove of their last offering Back to Paradise in 2014.
All of the songs on this album are original even though some of the titles of the tunes may lead you believe it’s gotta few covers. If you want to conjure up a warm summer day relaxing at the beach sipping cocktails then this is the album for you.
Single: Niall Horan – Nice To Meet You
In my option this is not like the sugary rubbish the other members of One Direction have been offering. This song is a bit gritty but has a great hook and is pure pop music – you’d be fooled into thinking this was the Arctic Monkeys.
Album: Kano – Hoodies All Summer
I managed to get to see Kano perform at the Royal Albert Hall this year and what a show it was! Kano is such an iconic artist from my youth and to see him deliver such an amazing album is credit to the artist he is. A groundbreaker!
Track: Kano – Class Of Deja
Seeing this performed live was amazing. An unforgettable show, one that I’ll never forget and in such an iconic venue as the Royal Albert Hall.
Album: Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra (Her-o) – Chilled Classics
As I’m not a huge fan of today’s modern music, I like to see my generation bringing out the tradition Christmas albums. This not only brings back old songs, but chills them out a bit and with added strings making them beautiful to relax to.
Track: Soulecta – Not Like That
This has to be one of the best songs I’ve heard not just this year but ever. It features local artist Leanne Louise. I was always a huge garage fan, so to hear it again 20 years after my garage days pleases me.
Album: Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles
BRITs Critics’ Choice Award winner Sam Fender and his number 1 debut album Hypersonic Missiles is certainly my album of the year. The North Shields based singer-songwriter touches upon topical and important subjects like suicide, domestic violence and the importance partying, making this album a must listen for 2019. Sam’s haunting vocals and clever lyrics, sprinkled amongst dazzling saxophones and classic guitars have seen many draw comparisons between Sam and Bruce Springsteen. Unlike Springsteen however, Sam Fender has produced not only the album of 2019, but possibly one of the best albums of the decade.
Track: The 1975 feat Greta Thunberg – The 1975
Sometimes a great song isn’t great because of its catchy chorus or ability to make you dance, but is sometimes great because of the message it conveys and the context in which it’s released. The 1975 have never been afraid to speak out about social injustice and key issues in the world, with this track being no different. The 4 minute and 55 second track features an essay read by 16 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg herself, soundtracked by a delicate and beautifully produced instrumental from the band. Greta speaks passionately on the global climate and ecological crisis we face and how we all must immediately act to prevent further and irreversible damage to our planet. Although it may not be the greatest singalong or biggest selling track of the year, the take home message of The 1975 is clear and unquestionable – “Everything needs to change … it is now time for civil disobedience. It is time to rebel”.
Album: Kaiser Chiefs – Duck
A great summer album from the band.
Single: Maroon 5 – Memories
I bought their 2017 album Red Pill Blues and was blown away by them, so much so I’m now collecting all their albums.
Album: Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
Michael Kiwanuka is one of my favourite male artists and his first two albums established him as a folksy soul man. Within his latest album he manages to add a modern twist to these genres whilst also still keeping a retro sound to his music. It’s a very unique album and his music has a timeless quality, the perfect soundtrack for chilling on a Sunday afternoon.
Track: Lizzo – Juice
Her music can only be described as ‘self love anthems.’ Lizzo as an artist that empowers fans to be proud of who they are unapologetically. This track does just that and its a lot of fun!
Album: Scully Ward – 40ft Cable 10ft Stage
The local Essex scene is full of hidden treasures, and singer-songwriter Scully is definitely among them. This album proved him to be a distinctive voice on the scene who has no problem trying his hand at numerous genres and styles.
Track: Lakey Inspired – By The Pool
Been listening to lots of laid-back electronica and ‘chillhop’ lately, and Lakey Inspired is the pick of the bunch – blissful beats and piano make it the perfect soundtrack to shut out the world and relax to.
Album: Simply Red – Blue Eyed Soul
A great album as I love blue eyed soul!
Track: Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now
Very catchy, infectious and a great dance tune.
Album: Brittany Howard – Jaime
Jamie was Brittany Howard’s first album outside of the Alabama Shakes. With her outstanding voice and soulful sound it’s everything you’d hope it would be.
Track: Weyes Blood – Andromeda
This track has a beautifully melancholic tone to it. It’s a bitter sweet song with a nostalgic sound that never fails to give me goosebumps.
Album: Lady Antebellum – Oceans
Can it be ten years ago that Lady Antebellum broke into everyone’s consciousness with the iconic track Need You Now? Their latest album Oceans is on a new label and is a return to their Nashville roots with a melodic soft country sound.
Packed with songs that are emotional and honest about life that cover the full spectrum of emotions, this is my stand-out album of the year. If you give it a listen, you will not be disappointed.
Track: Sophie Griffiths – Holding On To You
The music career of Ingatestone’s own Sophie Griffiths continues to develop. Her song Holding On To You demonstrates an emotional depth and also great songwriting skill.
The acoustic version gives particular power to the poignant character of the self-penned lyrics. This has to be my track of the year.
Album: Sleeper – The Modern Way
This was an extremely difficult choice for me this year as there were seven or eight albums which would have won this accolade another year, but in the end I plumped for the one which I played the most (according to last.fm, which I still use!)
The band’s first album in 22 years sounds like it’s still rooted in the mid-90s, but with the same killer hooks and witty lyrics and some genuinely stone-cold classic tracks. And Stephen Street – who has produced many of my favourite bands and albums – works his magic perfectly on production once again.
Track: Ivory Wave – Gold
This song came out in the first week of 2019 and nothing managed to topple it from the peak position in my year’s playlist. Three and a half minutes of confidence and swagger which recalls the golden days of early 90s Happy Mondays without sounding dated at all.
Album: Howard Jones – Transform
Such a polished and modern sounding album, which doesn’t suffer negatively from the 1980 moniker, as the tracks sound on this punchy album, feel musically relevant with classic Howard creative style and the modern influence of a partnership from producer BT.
Track: Promenade Cinema – Arch House
So many great tracks this year, and this song became a firm favourite with its polished drama and heart felt warmth, gliding around the ear with a serous narrative, bounding the creativity.
I can’t wait for the album.
Album: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
If a music album ever summed up grief, this is it. Echoes of Johnny Cash in its delivery, the loss of his own 15 year old son influenced Cave in the creation of this album. Beautiful and devastating in equal measures.
Track: Billie Eilish – Bad Guy
A track that teases you right in your ear with every breath and crackle. Both playful and haunting. If film director Tim Burton did songs this would be what I would expect to hear.
Album: Nina Nesbitt – The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change
I generally enjoy songs by Nina Nesbitt so I plumped for her second album, released in February. I particularly like the title track. She has a good voice and the album is an easy listen on a winter’s evening by an open fire – if you still have such a thing!
Track: Jess Glynne and Jax Jones – One Touch
It’s a great track to either open a show with or to kickstart a second hour. Happy and bouncy – what’s not to like?
Album: Celine Dion – Courage
Proving why she’s the biggest selling artist in her field, this album doesn’t disappoint. Stand out tracks include “Imperfections” and the spell-binding “Courage” which tells the story of her journey with her two children as a single parent. The album can be summed up in one word – sublime.
Track: Taylor Swift – You Need To Calm Down
A massive return to form for the popular singer/songwriter. This track is almost impossibly catchy and has a bassline that’s as infectious as laughter! Whenever I play this, the responses are amazing and in high numbers.
Album: Elbow – Giants Of All Sizes
A downbeat commentary on modern day Britain. Guy Garvey’s vocals work well with this style and the album’s release in late October makes me think this album will stand the test of time.
Track: Spoon – No Bullets Spent
The band released their greatest hits album this year, ‘dropping’ this track as the one new song for a bonus. Another great track from a very underrated band, this Britt Daniel-written song is very much of the time as his comment on gun control.
Album: High/Low – Down The Wave
Let’s be honest, most albums come with a heavyweight lead single and a few half decent supporting tracks to prop it up. High/Low’s third studio album, Down The Wave, isn’t one of those. It’s the sort of rock out you can rely on to get the air guitar juices flowing and keep you bopping along at a safe distance from the “skip” button.
Every track has a catchy, fuzzy riff, a hook that’ll stick in your head for weeks and a solo that always seems to hit just the right notes. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about this album was deciding which song to play on The As Yet Untitled Rock Show next!
Track: Vix20 – Hashtag Change
Whoever you are, whatever your beliefs, we can all agree that 2019’s news bulletins have been a never ending box set of political drama! This year it all kicked off in every sense of the phrase and Vix20’s Hashtag Change provided the perfect soundtrack for all of it.
Complete with Donald Trump voiceover, this tongue-in-cheek power-pop/rock anthem gives us a chance to reflect on the ridiculousness of it all, inspiring a punchy, guitar driven revolution where a sense of humour prevails over whatever life and world leaders throw at us!
Album: Jax Jones – Snacks (Supersize)
It’s been another great year for pop and dance music but for me the best album would go to UK DJ andProducer Jax Jones with Snacks (Supersize). It was also his debut album, released relatively late in the year on 6 September through Polydor Records.
The album expands on his previous release, his 2018 EP Snacks as part of an experimental release strategy that involved new singles being added to the EP before the addition of six new songs for the release of the full album.
Track: Lizzo – Juice
So many great singles out this year it’s almost impossible to single any one artist or track. However one stand-out artist for me was Melissa Viviane Jefferson – known professionally as Lizzo.
She released her third studio album, Cuz I Love You in 2019. The album spawned two singles, Juice and Tempo. Juice, the lead single, released on January 4 by Atlantic Records, is catchy with very singable lyrics and an all round great pop dance track.
Album: Cigarettes After Sex – Cry
Cry has a warmth, reflected and soothing tones with the softness of Greg Gonzalez’s vocals. This album is extraordinarily visual, almost cinematic in points.
Their trademark lethargic drumming, silky-smooth bassline create the spacey, dream-like, sparkling guitar line to create the melancholy atmosphere that works perfectly on this album. This technique is a running theme throughout “Cry” creating some of the more memorable moments.
The group’s sound and style is captivatingly mysterious and has immense potential for growth and pushing the boundaries of ambient music
Cry is an exploration of love and romance.
Track: Kate Tempest – People’s Faces (Streatham Version)
Spoken word artist, rapper, poet, novelist and playwright Kate Tempest dropped her version of her song “People’s Faces” (Streatham Version) off of her critically acclaimed album The Book Of Traps & Lessons.
With four studio albums, two Mercury prize nominations and poetry awards including the Ted Hughes Award under her belt, the development of Kate’s style has been a gradual process, transitioning from the young rapper she was at 16.
“We’re working every dread day that is given us. Feeling like the person people meet really isn’t us”
Lyrics are and always have been the crux of Kate Tempest’s music. It’s where all of the agonising and soul-searching of the entire record culminates in this very simple expression of deep love for people’s faces. A message to connect with as many people as possible.
Co-writer Dan Carey and Kate Tempest really “hopes that it connects with you and that you feel it.”
Album: Martin & Shirlie – In The Swing Of It
As the presenter of Phoenix FM’s 80s show I am delighted to pick an album and track from some 80s artists!
This is a lovely album of classics, from romantic 80s duo Martin and Shirlie Kemp, plus two songs written by the couples daughter Harley.
Track: Pete Tong and HER-O feat Boy George – Symphony Of You
This great track is taken from Pete Tong’s “Chilled Classics” album.