Sunday, 29 December 2013

Top 20 of 2013


I've given up on writing a new intro for this post as last year's is fine so I've lazily lifted it and reposted here...

So below is my Top 20 of 2013.  A few words before you continue...

You won't agree with me.  Some of you will think I'm pretentious for including a raft of songs you've never heard of.  Some of you will think I'm too 'mainstream' in my choices.  Some of you will think this is a massive exercise in showing off.  And that's fine.  My opinion is no better or worse than yours and my choices are no more or less valid than yours would be.  This is just my opinion - you might not like it but I can't help that.  But before you grumble to yourself or tell me I'm an idiot, try and do this yourself.

The "rules" are simple - any song that has been released (as a single, on an album or even as demo/give-away) is eligible to be included.  Pick 20 that represent your favourite and don't include more than one per artist.   I added a rule of my own where I'd limit myself to maximum one choice where collaborations had occurred.  So for example, both Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner individually made the 2011 Longlist but I would limit myself to a choice from one.  This is only to add variety.  You can find the Top 20 of 2011 and the Top 20 of 2012 by following the links.

The list presented below is given as Track name - Artist (Album).  They are not ranked in order of preference or greatness but rather the order in which I personally think they make a good playlist.  I'd love to hear what you think so get involved in the comments or tweet me @BroooOwl and tag your posts #top20of2013

1.  Jubilee Street - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (Push The Sky Away)   There are a few albums from this year where picking one song above the others is a really tough ask, and the latest offering from Nick Cave is one of those albums.  This was one of my early favourites and so just edged it, but Mermaids or Higgs Boson Blues could have edged it.  Great tune to start things off.

2.  Picasso Baby - Jay Z (Magna Carter Holy Grail)   Probably one of those tracks/artists that you either love or hate which is a perfectly reasonable point of view.  I think MCHG is a pretty solid album but I particularly love this one.  If you have the time to spare, watching this YouTube video where Jay Z talks about music as art is well worth 11 minutes of your time

3.  Diane Young - Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires of the City)   Vampire Weekend are one of those bands that I love for a multitude of reasons (off the wall lyrics, unique sound, incredible vocals) and whilst there new album didn't quite hit the same heights for me as the previous two, this is incredibly catchy

4.  Best Of Friends - Palma Violets (180)   Guitar music at some of its best, great music and catchy lyrics you can't help but sing at the top of your voice.  A great summer tune to have blaring out in the car with all the windows down.

5. Love SpellsBleached (Ride Your Heart)   I can't remember where I heard about Bleached from but this album is one of the catchiest I've heard all year.  This is another one where there are a bucket-load of summery songs to go through.  It's all very familiar sounding music but that's definitely not a bad thing.  Love Spells is my favourite off the album.

6.  Falling - Haim (Days Are Gone)   I'd venture that it's likely you've only not come across Haim if you've been living under a rock or something similar this year.  A rare album where the Hit Parade and I agree - a belter from start to finish.  I could have probably picked any track to make the final 20, but this is my favourite.

7.  Please Don't Say You Love Me - Gabrielle Aplin (English Rain)   I picked this up fairly late in the year but I struggle to get this tune out of my head once I've listened to it (and not in a bad way).  I also really liked November from the album so if you like this, I'd check that out too.

8.  Strong - London Grammar (If You Wait)   Another album I didn't get round to until about November time for some reason or other.  I watched them perform on Later... on BBC2 and was immediately sucked in.  Strong has an odd blend of a Florence & The Machine mixed with Massive Attack that's a bit too difficult to explain.  Definitely one of my favourite tracks of the year without a doubt.

9.  Color Yr Lights In - The Besnard Lakes (Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO)   A strange one this.  Most of the album can pass you by quite easily unless you're specifically listening to it and doing nothing else.  The first time I listened to it, I was preoccupied with other things until this track came on, when I stopped everything.  It's probably a good album to have on late at night, but this song is really good.

10.  Pink Rabbits - The National (Trouble Will Find Me)   This is definitely in my top 5 albums of the year - it's brilliant from start to finish quite frankly.  Pink Rabbits is basically some of the best lyrics you can imagine, stitched together with some wonderful piano (which I can't seem to learn).  I can't urge you strongly enough to listen to this one.

11.  Waiting On The Doorstep - Filthy Boy (Smile That Won't Go Down)  I'll be up front and say that this is what you'd class as a but of a "comedy" song which normally wouldn't get a look in on a list such as this.  The problem is that this is so funny and catchy that you'd can't help yourself.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for children but give it a listen - I'll say nothing more so I don't spoil it.

12.  Van Der Graff - Courteeners (Anna)  Anna is (in my humble opinion) a much improved effort compared to the Falcon album of 2010 which is a good start.  Sadly it does tail off a little after the first half for me but the opening tracks are Liam Fray at his best.  Van Der Graff's lyric about "splitting up like the A57" is fantastic and I do love this song. 

13.  So Good At Being In Trouble - Unknown Mortal Orchestra (II)   I heard this very early on in the year and I've played it for just about everyone I've talked to about music since.  The album is good too but there's something so funky about this track that I really love - soulful and laid back is how I'd best describe it.

14.  You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover - The Strypes (Snapshot)   If you like raucous guitar music then The Strypes are definitely for you.  The album has a bit of a 1950s feel to it in places which is frankly wonderful.  Again, I struggled to pick a track for the shortlist but this one is pretty simple, and simple is often the best.  Great song.

15.  Cut Copy Me - Petula Clark (Lost In You)   It came as a bit of a surprise to me that Petula Clark was still recording anything to be honest.  The album is a.... bit of an assortment I think.  Hearing an 81 year old covering Gnarls Barkley isn't an everyday occurrence (and not something I'd necessarily recommend) but Cut Copy Me is fantastic.  Next To You is also a great track (and sounds oddly like a Eurovision entry) and also worth a listen.

16.  Breakfast At Sylvia's - Skint & Demoralised (The Bit Between The Teeth)   It greatly saddened me to hear that Skint & Demoralised won't be recording albums after this, the third and final installment.  I think the third album is the best they recorded and whilst Breakfast At Sylvia's may not technically be the best track on the album (the sheer passion and honesty in Amores Perros probably takes that title), I do love it and it's one of my all time favourite Skint & Demoralised songs.

17.  Happy To Stay - the Michael Ainsley Band (Cyclone)   I've seen the Michael Ainsley Band a few times this year, doing support at local venues in Wakefield.  They've got a pretty catchy repertoire which is no bad thing either.  Happy To Stay reminds me a little of some early Green Day (not sure if that's what they were going for but it's nothing but a compliment).  A great song to jump around to.

18.  Further Away (Romance Police) - Lissie (Back To Forever)   Lissie's album is quite frankly brilliant and it's matched by her live performance.  I saw her in Manchester this year and I've rarely seen anyone perform with as much passion as she did.  The title track to this album is exceptional but it's just edged out by this.  The guitar solo reminds me of Fleetwood Mac (though I'm sure someone would tell me I'm mistaken)

19.  Better Than That - Miles Kane (Don't Forget Who You Are)   Another entry for anthemic guitar music which is no bad thing.  This album has some absolute belters on it but this one stands out just above the others for me.  The lyric "Maybe it's the time and place / Or maybe it's your stupid face / That's turning me on" is a particular favourite of mine.

20.  Snap Out Of It - Arctic Monkeys (AM)   Another year and another Arctic Monkeys track on the shortlist.  I think this year it'd be difficult to accuse me of local bias as AM is, by general consensus, the album of 2013.  I'll save my gushing praise and let you read any of the reviews (or better, just listen to it!) before you make your mind up.  As with Nick Cave and a few others, it was almost impossible to pick a favourite off AM.  I was mostly torn between No 1 Party Anthem and this tune, but because I sing this one with my daughter, I've decided to pick this.  Definitely the toughest choice of the whole shortlist.

As with last year, there's some music I've been disappointed in and some other good albums that didn't make the cut.  Kurt Vile's new album fell a little short of my expectations following the debut offering of Smoke Ring For My Halo in 2011.  Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, but I just maybe expected too much.  Kanye West's album grew on me the more I listened to it, but still fell a little short for me.    Daughter missed the final 20 by a short length, as did Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Sacrilige.  And for some pop whimsy, check out Cody Simpson's La Da Dee (from Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2).

The "award" for my Album of the Year this year goes to Arctic Monkeys.  AM is a superb LP in my opinion.   This is the link to the Google search for "AM Review" - pick one at random and read it.  And then listen to the album again and again and again.

I've added another new category for 2013 which is Live Performance Of The Year.  If I'd not been criminally ill on the night of the AM gig (something I don't like to talk about), I suspect Arctic Monkeys would have been walking away with this one too.  As it happens, seeing Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at Manchester Apollo completely blew me away so I think they win hands down.  You must try and see them if you get chance,

If you made it this far, then thanks for reading.  Hopefully you'll find something new you've not heard before.



Saturday, 7 December 2013

Peer Support

There should be little doubt that living with diabetes can sometimes be difficult to the point of making you feel overwhelmed.

Having a good support network is key to helping you manage the times where you feel like you're not sure where to turn or what to do for the best.  Many of us are fortunate enough to have a group of close friends or a supportive family to help us when we need it; to listen to our problems and offer a sympathetic ear.

Some people are a little less fortunate or may even feel worried or embarrassed about revealing a particular problem or concern to someone they have a close relationship with.  In these cases, Peer Support can be an effective tool for people with diabetes.

Peer Support is an incredibly valuable service that's run on a purely volunteer basis aimed at providing anyone affected by diabetes, whether it's you with the condition or you're a parent or carer for someone with diabetes.  All volunteers go through training provided by Diabetes UK to ensure they're able to listen to whatever you have to say and provided support, advice or guidance wherever possible.  Anyone can get in contact via phone or e-mail and you can read more about it on the Peer Support page

Recently I've become involved, along with another volunteer Louise, in a new strand of localised Peer Support that is being piloted by Diabetes UK.  The overall aim is to be able to offer the same Peer Support service described above, but also offer informal support in a more social environment on a group or face to face basis within our own local areas.

Louise and I are offering Peer Support through a number of different mediums (Twitter, Facebook, and via a shared blog) as well as looking to utilise the Diabetes UK forums if at all possible.  That support will be open to anyone who feels like they need to get something off their chest, just needs someone to listen or simply needs pointing in the right direction for some support or advice.

On a local level, we're hoping we can promote the service by getting local doctors and healthcare professionals on board and by asking our diabetes specialist teams to make sure everyone in hospital clinics knows what we have to offer.  As interest hopefully grows, we'll be looking to arrange informal meetings for people to get to know each other.

Our new Peer Support work hasn't been going very long but it's starting to gather momentum and the more we can spread the word, the more we'll be able to help people affected by diabetes with anything they might need.

Louise and I aren't experts with years of medical training, but we do have a wealth of experience in living with diabetes and know that sometimes, having someone who's able to listen will do you the world of good.

If you want to find out more about what we're hoping to achieve, please visit our Peer Support Blog which also details how to get in touch with us by e-mail.

You can also connect with us in the following ways:

Andy (Sheffield area)

Twitter:  @AndyPeerSupport

Louise (South East)

Twitter:  @LouPeerSupport

If you've got something that's been troubling you then please consider using Peer Support as a means of unburdening yourself.  We use the hashtag #talktosomeone on Twitter so if you need help, support or advice then do Talk To Someone.

Important: All Peer Support volunteers have been through training and checks to ensure you're always discussing any issues in a safe environment.  Your details will be kept confidential at all times.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Top 20 of 2013 - The Longlist


Its that time of year where I start reviewing the new music I've listened to over the past year.

If you're not too familiar with the approach, you can see the 2011 Longlist and 2011 Shortlist posts by clicking the links.  The 2012 Longlist and 2012 Shortlist are also here if you fancy reading!  Basically anything which has been released since Jan 1st 2012 is eligible.  I've narrowed down about 45 albums and EPs to a Long list of about 90 tracks.  I'll then go through and select a Top 20 of 2013.

It's a good way to review the year and find some new music along the way.  Hope you enjoy.



Artist Album Track
About Group Between The Walls Walk On By
About Group Between The Walls All Is Not Lost
About Group Between The Walls Untitled
Arctic Monkeys AM No 1 Party Anthem
Arctic Monkeys AM Snap Out Of It
Arctic Monkeys AM Arabella
Arctic Monkeys AM One For The Road
Bleached Ride Your Heart Looking For A Fight
Bleached Ride Your Heart Outta My Mind
Bleached Ride Your Heart Dead In Your Head
Bleached Ride Your Heart Love Spells
Bromheads Choro Winnebago
Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs Clarietta Things We Be
Courteeners Anna Are You In Love With A Notion?
Courteeners Anna Van Der Graff
Courteeners Anna Marquee
Daughter If You Leave Youth
Daughter If You Leave Still
Dutch Uncles Out Of Touch In The Wild God Boy
Esben & The Witch Wash the Sins Not Only the Face Shimmering
Esben & The Witch Wash the Sins Not Only the Face Deathwaltz
Everything Everything Arc Kemosabe
Filthy Boy Smile That Won't Go Down Waiting On The Doorstep
Filthy Boy Smile That Won't Go Down That Life
Filthy Boy Smile That Won't Go Down Charm Of The Dangerous Minx
Gabriel Bruce Love In Arms Greedy Little Heart
Gabriel Bruce Love In Arms Zoe
Gabrielle Aplin English Rain Please Don't Say You Love Me
Gabrielle Aplin English Rain Alive
Gabrielle Aplin English Rain November
Girls Names The New Life Pittura Infamante
Girls Names The New Life Drawing Lines
Haim Days Are Gone Falling
Haim Days Are Gone If I Could Change Your Mind
Haim Days Are Gone Forever
Jay Z Magna Carter Holy Grail Picasso Baby
Jay Z Magna Carter Holy Grail Holy Grail
Jay Z Magna Carter Holy Grail Part II (On The Run)
Joe Gideon & The Shark Freakish Snake Candy
Joe Gideon & The Shark Freakish You, The Pole And The Rastafarian
Kanye West Yeezus Bound 2
Kurt Vile Wakin in a Pretty Daze KV Crimes
Lissie Back To Forever Back To Forever
Lissie Back To Forever The Habit
Lissie Back To Forever I Don't Wanna Go To Work
Lissie Back To Forever Further Away (Romace Police)
London Grammar If You Wait Strong
London Grammar If You Wait Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me
Mazzy Star Seasons Of Your Day Flying Low
Michael Ainsley Band Cyclone Happy To Stay
Miles Kane Don't Forget Who You Are Better Than That
Miles Kane Don't Forget Who You Are Taking Over
Miles Kane Don't Forget Who You Are Don't Forget Who You Are
Neko Case The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You Night Still Comes
Neko Case The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You Local Girl
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away Jubilee Street
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away Higgs Boson Blues
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away Mermaids
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away We Real Cool
Palma Violets 180 Best Of Friends
Palma Violets 180 Step Up For the Cools Cats
Parquet Courts Tally All the Things That You Broke You've Got Me Wonderin' Now
Petula Clark Lost In You Cut Copy Me
Petula Clark Lost In You Next To You
Public Service Broadcasting Inform Educate Entertain Spitfire
Public Service Broadcasting Inform Educate Entertain Theme From PSB
Public Service Broadcasting Inform Educate Entertain Night Mail
Serafina Steer The Moths Are Real Lady Fortune
Serafina Steer The Moths Are Real Disco Compliation
Skint & Demoralised The Bit Between The Teeth Amores Perros
Skint & Demoralised The Bit Between The Teeth Breakfast at Sylvia's
Skint & Demoralised The Bit Between The Teeth When Saturday Comes
Stereophonics Graffiti On The Train Indian Summer
The Besnard Lakes Until In Excess, Imperceptile UFO Color Yr Lights In
The Julie Ruin Run Fast Just My Kind
The Julie Ruin Run Fast Party City
The National Trouble Will Find Me Pink Rabbits
The National Trouble Will Find Me Hard To Find
The National Trouble Will Find Me I Should Live In Salt
The Strypes Snapshot Blue Collar Jane
The Strypes Snapshot You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover
The Strypes Snapshot Hometown Girls
Unknown Mortal Orchestra II So Good At Being In Trouble
Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City Diane Young
Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City Obvious Bicycle
Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City Unbelievers
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito Sacrilige