EP Review: Gabrielle Aplin – Avalon

I know this is a rock blog, but I can’t help myself but talk about Gabrielle Aplin’s new EP, Avalon. Ever since her debut album English Rain I have loved everything she’s put out. In her last EP, Miss You, she made a transition between her old, indie folk style of music, to a more mainstream pop sound. I felt like that would put me off, but she made the transition really well, especially in the fantastic title track. This new EP continues this trend, and I feel like it pulls it off perfectly. Here’s why…

Listening to this EP, you wouldn’t even suspect that Aplin’s previous music was any different to this, because it shows a level of style and confidence many artists take much longer to grow into. The musicality has taken a big step too, with the production sounding a lot fuller than any of her previous work. A perfect example of this is by far the best song on this album, ‘Waking Up Slow’. It feels like a bit of a bold claim to make, but I feel like this is one of the best pop songs of the year.

It’s not the only good song on the EP though, with every song offering something different, but equally good. Foe example, ‘Say Nothing’ is just a quality pop song, with a great chorus. ‘Used To Do’ is a guitar-led track which feels like a callback to Light Up The Dark, her last album. Last of all ‘Stay’ is a slow but full-sounding ballad.

I feel like with everything she releases, Gabrielle Aplin gets a little bit better, and this EP is no different. Each song is quality, but in a slightly different way, fitting together to make a diverse, but coherent EP. Whatever she creates next can’t come soon enough.

Best songs: Waking Up Slow, Used To Do

Score: 7/10

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My Top 100 Songs: 30-21

30. Royal – Waterparks

This is my favourite song off one of my new favourite albums, and from the moment I heard it I knew I’d love it. Waterparks are probably the best new band in pop-punk at the moment, and this just proves that.

Find it on: Double Dare (2016)

29. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine – The Killers

I’ve recently talked about this song on the blog, so I’ll keep it short. This song is a pure masterpiece, and the fact that Brandon Flowers wrote it at so young an age is just a testament to what an incredible songwriter he is.

Find it on: Hot Fuss (2004)

28. Kitchen Sink – Twenty One Pilots

Just a bonus track on Vessel, I didn’t hear this song for a while. But when I did, it really hit me hard. In it, Tyler talks about trying to create things and leave a legacy behind. If you’re a creative or artistic person, this’ll hit you hard.

Find it on: Vessel (2013)/Regional At Best (2011)

27. Kids In The Dark – All Time Low

Future Hearts wasn’t everyone’s favourite stage of All Time Low’s career, but I think it was one of their best ever albums, and this is one of their best ever songs. Not only is it incredibly catchy, but it also has a bit of a message, which is rare for All Time Low.

Find it on: Future Hearts (2015)

26. Soap – As It Is

As It Is’ second album marked them branching out from their regular pop-punk and experimenting a little with some new sounds. This is almost (but not quite) the best thing that came out of that, a dark, Brand New-esque track that I absolutely love.

Find it on: okay. (2017)

25. Sorry You’re Not A Winner – Enter Shikari

Enter Shikari are one of the bands I’ve got into more recently, and this song stands out as by far one of their best. From the incredible riff, to the electronic elements, to Rou Reynolds’ versatile vocals, this song is a modern masterpiece.

Find it on: Take To The Skies (2007)

24. Goodbye Angels – Red Hot Chili Peppers

I feel like the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ latest album is massively underappreciated. They tried something new, and while it didn’t always come off, it worked well a lot of the time, including creating this masterpiece of a song.

Find it on: The Getaway (2016)

23. Just Like Heaven – The Cure

This is an absolute classic. I don’t really know what to say other than everything about this song is near perfect; the vocals, the rhythm, the bass, the guitar, and all the other little things tying them together.

Find it on: Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)

22. Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters

I remember first hearing this song on a Guitar Hero game when I was 12 and being blown away by Dave Grohl’s vocals. Now, at 20 years old, I feel exactly the same when listening to it

Find it on: The Colour And The Shape (1997)

21. Make It Stop (September’s Children)

Rise Against have written a lot of meaningful, powerful songs, but this must be the most powerful of all of them. Written after a long string of teenage suicides caused by homophobic bullying, this song was written as a message to everyone out there that things will get better. This is truly Rise Against at their best.

Find it on: Endgame (2011)

My Top 10 The Killers Songs

Ever since I first heard the opening to ‘Mr. Brightside’, I knew I loved The Killers. And why wouldn’t I? Ever since their first album, they’ve been producing top quality music, and with the singles I’ve heard from their new album, they look to continue this. Wonderful Wonderful is out this month, and in celebration of that, I’ll be counting down my favourite songs by them.

Honourable mentions (Warning, there are a lot!):

  • Mr Brightside
  • Somebody Told Me
  • All These Things That I’ve Done
  • Change Your Mind
  • Glamorous Indie Rock And Roll
  • When You Were Young
  • Bones
  • Show You How
  • Romeo And Juliet (Dire Straits Cover)
  • Joy Ride
  • This Is Your Life
  • I Can’t Stay
  • Neon Tiger
  • The World We Live In
  • The Man

10. Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf

There’s something about this song that I just love. The old-fashioned sound quality, and the bluesy guitar rhythm go together to make this one of the most oddly charming Killers songs.

Find it on: Sawdust (2007)

9. For Reasons Unknown

From a relatively unassuming verse, the song bursts into life with Brandon Flowers belting out by far one of the best choruses he’s ever written. An essential listen if you want to get into the band.

Find it on: Sam’s Town (2006)

8. Smile Like You Mean It

One of the highlights of their first album, this is one of the very songs that got me into The Killers. Just try listening to this without it getting into your hair.

Find it on: Hot Fuss (2004)

7. Sam’s Town

This song is a perfect introduction of one of my favourite albums of all time. But not only that, Brandon Flowers shows some of his best writing skills off in this song. What more can you ask than great music with great lyrics?

Find it on: Sam’s Town (2006)

6. This River Is Wild

I can’t believe this song isn’t more well known, because in my opinion it’s one of The Killers’ best. It sounds huge and epic, but with vulnerable lyrics, and I absolutely love that contrast.

Find it on: Sam’s Town (2006)

5. Under The Gun

Short but sweet, this is one of the most catchy songs I’ve heard in my life. Probably one of the most underappreciated Killers songs too, only being a bonus track on Hot Fuss.

Find it on: Sawdust (2007)

4. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine

Believe me when I say this, this song is a masterpiece. Not only does it sound great, it tells a captivating story, something The Killers do expertly. It is the last part of a trilogy  of songs also containing ‘Midnight Run’ and ‘Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf’.

Find it on: Hot Fuss (2004)

3. Losing Touch

This song probably has no right to be where it is on this list, but I love it so much. There is a certain infectiousness to the chorus that won’t let it leave your head.

Find it on: Day & Age (2008)

2. Read My Mind

Simply put, I think this is one of the best songs ever written. From the synth intro, to the lyrics, to that amazing chorus, it’s just perfect from back to front.

Find it on: Sam’s Town (2006)

1. Tranquilize

Well where do I go from one of the best songs ever written? This is the only song I could have possibly picked for the top spot. The Killers have never written anything like this, and I don’t think they ever will again. It’s dark, unsettling, and utterly brilliant.

Find it on: Sawdust (2007)

Album Review: PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell

2014’s White Noise ranks amongst my favourite albums of all time. The the mixture of dark pop and rock music was intoxicatingly beautiful coupled with refreshingly honest writing by lead singer Lynn Gunn. Now PVRIS are back with their second album, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell, promising a more stripped back sound and more honest lyrics than ever. When I heard about the personal hell Gunn seemed to have gone through in order to create this album, I was at first a little sceptical – would it all be worth it just for the sake of an album? But thankfully, she seems to be out the other side of that difficult time, and has created one of her most honest pieces of work to date, a hard task considering that she’s known for her brutally honest lyrics.

While White Noise had a beautifully full sound, swathed in metaphor, this album most definitely has a colder, more direct approach. In the chorus of second single, ‘What’s Wrong’, Gunn sings ‘don’t need a metaphor for you to know I’m miserable’, forgoing the imagery created in the previous album and just saying exactly what she’s thinking. And if that sounds critical, trust me, it isn’t. While the sound is different, it is no less beautiful in it’s own way, creating a completely different atmosphere. If anything, that just shows the bands’ versatility. The brutal honesty continues in another of the records best songs, ‘Half’. The song contains the chorus: ‘Never wanted to be here now/One foot in the grave, other on the ground/I can’t process what I’m feeling now/This skin I can do without’, yet more lyrics that paint an honest picture of how difficult the creation of this album was.

But I have one main problem with this album; the lack of variety. Other than the aforementioned two songs, this album never really changes things up all that much. Don’t get me wrong, the sound and overall mood that this album creates is beautiful, but there is too much that just sounds the same, or seems to lack inspiration. I love this band, and by no means is this a bad album, I was just expecting more. However, whether you’re a fan of this band or not, there’ll be things to take from this album.

Best songs: What’s Wrong, Half, No Mercy

Score: 6/10

My Top 100 Songs: 50-41

50. Self-Esteem – The Offspring

This, along with many other songs found on Guitar Hero is one of the major reasons I got into punk and pop-punk as a genre. I heard this, along with Sum 41’s ‘Motivation’ and Rise Against’s ‘Savior’, decided to find more bands that made that kind of music, and have never looked back since.

Find it on: Smash (1994)

49. Almost – Bowling For Soup

In this song, Bowling For Soup, who are known for making a lot of joke songs, and never taking themselves to seriously, create quite a hard hitting sad song. It combines the catchy pop-punk that they are known for, with well written lyrics, and a touch of Bowling For Soup’s trademark silliness to great effect.

Find it on: A Hangover You Don’t Deserve (2004)

48. Snuff – Slipknot

Generally, I appreciate Slipknot for what they’ve done in the music scene, but have never really got into their music, but this song is a masterpiece. It shows some of the most honest lyrics Corey Taylor has written to date, and if this doesn’t give you goosebumps, nothing will.

Find it on: All Hope Is Gone (2008)

47. Panic Station – Muse

From a sad, slow song, to a happy, fast one, this is by far the catchiest song Muse have ever written. What really shines for me about it is how much fun they seemed to be having while making it. It’s just a really fun song.

Find it on: The Second Law (2012)

46. The Middle – Jimmy Eat World

Does this song even need any introduction. Not only is it one of the catchiest songs ever written, it helped to define pop-punk in its early days. This song will go down in history.

Find it on: Bleed American (2001)

45. Ode To Sleep – Twenty One Pilots

This song isn’t just special to me because it sounds great, but also because the lyrics really resonate with me. It talks about that time at night when negative thoughts begin to creep into your head just before you go to sleep. And in my opinion, it’s a perfect portrayal of these thoughts.

Find it on: Vessel (2013)

44. Karate – Babymetal

This may come as a surprise, but I think Babymetal are far more than just a gimmick. They blend the backing music of a metal band with the vocals of a J-pop band, and do it really well. The melodies are catchy, and the instrumentals are intense, and I feel like that’s a really interesting balance that hasn’t been explored enough yet.

Find it on: Metal Resistance (2016)

43. Always – Panic! At That Disco

From an intense song, to a minimal, acoustic one, this is the beautiful highlight of the masterpiece that is Vices and Virtues. It combines beautiful acoustic guitar, beautiful singing and beautiful lyrics, and I couldn’t possibly love it any more.

Find it on: Vices and Virtues (2010)

42. Kids – MGMT

Oddly enough, I found this one on a FIFA video game soundtrack when I was younger, and it has stuck with me ever since. If you can listen to it without it getting it stuck in your head, congratulations.

Find it on: Oracular Spectacular (2007)

41. Lovely – Twenty One Pilots

From one catchy song to another, this is one of four amazing bonus tracks to Twenty One Pilots’ Vessel. While not the best of those bonus tracks, it is still a masterpiece in itself, and features some great lyrics from Tyler Joseph.

Find it on: Vessel (2013)

Come back in a couple of weeks for more of my favourite songs!

Album Review: Kesha – Rainbow

I think it’s fair to say Kesha has had a terrible few years. She has spent the majority of them being embroiled in an legal battle with American pop producer Dr. Luke after he allegedly sexually abused and assaulted her. She seems to have made her way out of this difficult time even stronger though, which is fantastic news. On the 6th of July of this year, she released the first single from this album, called ‘Praying’ – a triumphant anthem against Dr. Luke and everything he stood for. So here she is, with fourteen brand new songs, and her new album RainbowKesha has claimed that she has been inspired by her ‘true’ musical influences on this record, including Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys, and Iggy Pop. So Kesha seems to be finally free on this album, but how is it?

You can immediately see what she means about the influences of this album. This album is full of emotional, powerful anthems, with a few rock influences rather than the electropop she has been known for. Considering that, it is definitely her least ‘mainstream’ album she has come out with, but that isn’t a bad thing. ‘Woman’ is a powerful, but catchy feminist anthem, whereas ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ and ‘Boogie Talk’ feature the Eagles Of Death Metal and are great rock songs in their own right. Everything on this album is new, and unlike anything Kesha has ever made. This uniqueness makes this one of the most genuine and original albums of the year so far. Kesha has never really released a bad album, but with this one she has gone above and beyond anything that she’s done before.

The album is packed full of incredible moments. ‘Hunt You Down’ is a great country-inspired song, showing not only Kesha’s adaptability, but her great voice. Another great moment is ‘Learn To Let Go’, the closest song to Kesha’s previous material, but with a brand new spin on it. Not to mention ‘Praying’, which is an anthemic ballad, yet again showing the best of Kesha’s voice. Arguably the best moment on the album is Kesha’s own take on ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)’, a duet with Dolly Parton herself. Whether you’re a Kesha fan or not, you should pick this album up – it is a triumphant, incredible record, with some of the best songs of the year. Kesha, we’re so glad you’re back.

Best song: Let ‘Em Talk

Score: 9/10

My Top 100 Songs: 60-51

60. Prayer Of The Refugee – Rise Against

One of the most catchy and easily recognisable tracks Rise Against have ever written in their career, this song is an absolute gem. It shows them at their furious, political best.

Find it on: The Sufferer And The Witness (2006)

59. Holding On To You – Twenty One Pilots

I love an intense song, and this is definitely one of those. It mixes all the best aspects of Twenty One Pilots’ work, mixing soaring melodies, intense rapping and great electronic influences to create a song that once you hear, you won’t get it out of your head.

Find it on: Vessel (2013)

58. Ocean Avenue – Yellowcard

This song is yet another example of early 2000’s pop-punk. Great vocals and guitar are combined with one of the most easily recognisable choruses of all time to make an incredible song.

Find it on: Ocean Avenue (2003)

57. Smile Like You Mean It – The Killers

This is one of the songs I’ve liked for the longest on this list. I always had it in my head when it first came out, but I only found out what it was called after discovering The Killers later on in my life. An amazing song.

Find it on: Hot Fuss (2004)

56. Team – Lorde

2013’s Pure Heroine was an incredible album, but I feel like this is the best song from it. Not only does it bear all of Lorde’s trademark incredible writing and production, its chorus can get in my head like no other song.

Find it on: Pure Heroine (2013)

55. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains Of Wayne

I may lose my credibility to a lot of people by saying this, but I love this song. It’s as catchy as anything I’ve heard, but not only that, it’s possibly one of the funniest songs ever written.

Find it on: Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)

54. I’m Made Of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of? – A Day To Remember

I mentioned loving intense songs earlier, but this is something else. It feature incredible screamed vocals and an incredible chorus, the best of both worlds between hardcore and pop-punk.

Find it on: Homesick (2009)

53. Lost In Stereo – All Time Low

From one catchy chorus to another, this is one of the best songs in All Time Low’s discography. It contains one of the best vocal performances too!

Find it on: Nothing Personal (2009)

52. I Could Have Lied – Red Hot Chili Peppers

There is a beautiful acoustic track nestled in amongst all of the smash hits in Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and it’s this song. It’s serene, beautiful, and features some of John Frusciante’s best guitar work.

Find it on: Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)

51. This Is Letting Go – Rise Against

This part of the countdown is started and finished by Rise Against, but the songs couldn’t be any more different. While ‘Prayer Of The Refugee’ is filled with anger, this is much more reflective and thoughtful. The lyrics are some of Tim McIlrath’s best work as well.

Find it on: Endgame (2011)

Come back in a fortnight for more of my favourite songs!