Record Store Day 2014

ImageSorry for absolutely no posts in what seems like forever – I’ve had an exceptionally busy time of it these past few weeks. Anyway, like most of you, I had an exceptionally busy time yesterday too. It was Record Store Day and it was the first time I’ve ever partook in one actually. It was a brilliant experience, and it went absolutely perfectly. I got every release I wanted, and I was particularly thrilled to see that Head had got in a very small – no more than about three or so it appeared – copies of Pet Shop Boys’ Fluorescent 12″. I was very fortunate to obtain a copy as I got the second copy and I think they had sold out by the time I left the store. The hour queuing since 7:20am paid off dividends as I wasn’t prepared to take the risk of missing these exclusive releases. It was a lovely day with beautiful weather, and it was great to see so many people out supporting the local record shops. I was amazed how many people were there queuing just for Castlecourt Shopping Centre opening its doors at 7:30am actually. By the time Head opened at 8am, there was easily at least about 100 people queuing behind me and my brother – that meant the total queue was nearly out the main entrance of Castlecourt. Bonkers! There was a great buzz though, and I just really loved the experience. As you can see I also got a few other random bits and bobs. I couldn’t resist getting The Clash – Live At The Shea Stadium on vinyl as I hadn’t seen that before. I also finally got The Velvet Underground & Nico on CD as well as getting the soundtrack to one of my favourite films, The Blues Brothers. I just love that soundtrack. It was a great day for sure, and as I’m finally getting my turntable this week I simply can’t wait to listen to these!

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A Trip To The Market

ImageToday was a Sunday with a difference. I went to St Georges Market, situated in Belfast city center. I had a great time. The atmosphere was great, there was a brilliant variety of stalls and the food was delicious. I had my first paella today and it was divine. Almost as divine as my trip to the vinyl stall.

It was the only record stall there, but it had such a good selection I didn’t need another stall. On display, I found a mint condition original pressing of Sandinista! by The Clash. I simply couldn’t refuse – even the original sticker was intact. It looks, quite simply, perfect. I bought it and it’s now set to became a most treasured item in my ever-growing Clash collection.

Sandinista! aside I also found a few other gems. There were a few New Order vinyls, but the one I settled on in the end was the 12″ of Confusion. Again, the condition was simply marvelous. The other vinyl I bought was Disco by Pet Shop Boys. It was perfect looking also – all the vinyls at the stall looked great really. Disco was one Pet Shop Boys vinyl I was particularly keen to get so I was delighted to find it this early. My next vinyl record trip will be on Tuesday where I’m going to Ballymena. I’ve never been there before, so it’ll certainly be something different. Very much looking forward to that!

My New Vinyl Endeavour

This is a post I’d never expect I’d ever write. I’m a heavy CD buyer, but I’ve never collected vinyl. That is, until about two weeks ago. My dad was looking at his music collection and in doing so, he unearthed his old vinyls, which he hadn’t seen in goodness knows how long. Me and Dad have a fairly similar music taste so a lot of albums I love were discovered. Tango In The Night by Fleetwood Mac, Graceland by Paul Simon and Songs From The Big Chair by Tears For Fears being just three examples. Needless to say, I was in my element.

They were just three vinyls in a larger batch he gave to me. The 12″ of Blue Monday has become a particularly prized item in my music collection. It got me thinking though because a few months ago a family friend kindly gave me about a dozen Madonna vinyls. And I have a very limited amount of vinyls myself that I bought in a now closed down vintage store here in Belfast about two years ago. I’ve no turntable so I’ve not been able to hear any of it. And I’ve always wanted one to.  Getting this influx of records has made me finally bite the bullet: at long last, I’m going to get a turntable and start a vinyl collection!

Of course, I’ll need to be limited with my vinyl. I’ve got around about 500 CDs, and there’s just no way I can possibly replicate that on vinyl. It’s just not financially feasible. So I’ve set myself some limitations. For now, I’m only going to collect Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, The Clash/Joe Strummer and Factory Records vinyls (New Order, Joy Division etc). Amazingly, it doesn’t seem too difficult to do. I’ve discovered a great shop in Belfast city centre (situated in Wellington Place) called Dragon Records. I’ve already bought about six vinyls from there. For Factory Records and The Clash/Joe Strummer, they’ll be my main source. I’ve actually already bought some Clash/Joe Strummer and New Order records from there. I’m going to a few other places in the next couple of days too. I’m looking forward to seeing how this new found hobby progresses!

Electronic – Disappointed

Boy, have I rediscovered my love for this song over the past few days. About two years ago this was pretty much my all time favourite song. I played it to death, then played it some more. It’s so gorgeous that I’m always a bit gutted (disappointed?) that Neil Tennant wrote this song for Electronic didn’t keep it for Pet Shop Boys instead. It’s the Pet Shop Boys classic that never was.

There’s so many reasons I love this song. Firstly Neil’s vocals –  are utterly beautiful here (and the harmonies are stunning). Then, there’s the lyrics. They have a certain degree of optimism for once – happy love songs aren’t something Neil Tennant has written a lot of. It makes for refreshing listening. The song has a beautiful arrangement too, with plenty of synth strings, house pianos and brilliant guitar playing from Johnny Marr. The whole song just sounds so damn euphoric. Disappointed  became Electronic’s highest charting single on the UK charts, although it doesn’t seem to be remembered nearly as much as Getting Away With It. In fact, Disappointed isn’t even on any of Electronic’s three studio albums. It was featured in the film Cool World and as such could be found on the film’s soundtrack, but not any any Electronic release until 2006’s Get The Message – The Best of Electronic. I think the song is highly underrated. In my opinion – it’s one of the best songs of either Bernard Sumner’s, Johnny Marr’s or Neil Tennant’s careers.

Pet Shop Boys – Two Divided By Zero

I thought I would take a moment to acknowledge this excellent song. I was listening to Please earlier, the debut album by Pet Shop Boys which I haven’t done for a while. In doing so I remembered just how much I love Two Divided By Zero (the opening track). It doesn’t have the finest melody you’ll ever hear on a Pet Shop Boys album and it does sound rather dated.  Crucially though it does have great lyrics. Here, the song’s narrator wishes to run away to New York with their lover. Hardly a cutting edge concept but what elevates the lyrics is the metaphor of two being divided by zero.  Firstly, two divided by zero is mathematically impossible. You can’t divide by nothing, and nothing divides this couple. The idea of something being divided by nothing is a ludicrous concept, as is the idea of the couple not being together. It’s an incredibly clever – not to mention unconventional – spin on things. And really rather romantic too. Both of the Boys acknowledge that it’s this song along with Love Comes Quickly that came closest to the sound they were trying to achieve with Please. It’s actually Neil Tennant’s favourite song on the album. It’s certainly one of my favourites too!

Electric vs Elysium

elysiumIt’s quite common for an album to grow on me, but it’s exceptionally rare for an album’s appeal to wear off on me over time. Yet recently that’s happened to me with one of my all time favourite groups, Pet Shop Boys. A few days ago I was listening to some tracks from Elysium. It got me thinking. I initially really liked Elysium, but in the wake of 2013’s Electric, I have to say I’ve gone off Elysium somewhat

Since its release last July I’ve been regularly playing Electric either in full or individual tracks. To be honest – I can’t say the same for Elysium. I haven’t listened to it in full in goodness knows how long. It’s not that I dislike the songs (although I really dislike Winner and Hold On). A lot of them I simply have no desire to listen to on an individual basis though such as Your Early Stuff and Everything Means Something. Electric has a magnetic pull for me that Elysium lacks. It’s also a far less consistent record than Electric too. I love every song on Electric. With Elysium, I only really love about five songs on it. Even a more popular track like A Face Like That – which I loved at the time – just pales in comparison to the Electric songs for me now. Elysium does have a beautiful production but it also lacks a flair and passion that Electric carries in abundance.

Maybe my lack of interest in the Elysium era is partly because Pet Shop Boys didn’t seem in all that invested in it either. Winner was a poor lead single, and as for the visual side of the era…. well what visuals were there? I loved the album cover but Winner’s video was abysmal and Leaving had a mediocre video at best. With no real live shows either I think it’s taken Electric’s well deserved praise and heavier promotion to make me release what a let down of an era Elysium was. indexTo be honest there was so little to it can we really call it an era at all?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying Elysium is utterly awful. I just find it rather amusing that I liked the album a lot more initially than a lot of fans did, yet in hindsight I can actually look back at the era and say that I fully understand the criticism directed towards it now.  Hindsight is a funny thing, isn’t it?

My Albums of 2013

Overall, I think 2013 has been a really good year for music. Far better than 2012. We had a triumphant comeback with David Bowie’s The Next Day. Meanwhile pop stalwarts Pet Shop Boys released one of their finest albums ever in Electric. Then, fresh talent such as AlunaGeorge and Jagwar Ma (amongst others) released excellent debuts. Here’s my top ten albums of 2013:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Electric
  2. David Bowie – The Next Day
  3. Jagwar Ma – Howlin’
  4. AlunaGeorge – Body Music
  5. MIA – Matangi
  6. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine
  7. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
  8. Disclosure – Settle
  9. Janelle Monae –  The Electric Lady
  10. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

A tough choice: there were other albums I thoroughly enjoyed this year too. My only worry for 2014 music is that so many of my favorite artists have released albums in 2013 (even 2012), that the vast majority won’t do anything in 2014. I’m looking forward to new offerings from Foster The People, Katy B and Friendly Fires (hopefully). Who knows – there’s bound to be a surprise or two like David Bowie and Beyonce’s surprise releases this year. Only time will tell, but it’ll certainly be interesting  to see.

Year Highlight: Pet Shop Boys – Shouting In The Evening

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! It’s hard to believe it’s here already. Just where has this year gone? It’s crazy. I think 2013 has been an excellent year for music, far better than 2012. Now we’re in the last seven days of the year, I’ve decided to pick seven songs from the year that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed (in no particular order). The first song is Shouting In The Evening from Electric by Pet Shop Boys.  It’s definitely the most abstract song on the album. From the first listen, the pulsating hard dance beat of this song is gripping. It’s the most hard-edged dance track in their repertoire. If you’re a fan predominantly because of their lyrics then it may not be your thing. It’s lacking in lyrics bar a few lines that don’t really add much to the song but it makes up for that in its sheer euphoria. The song sends you into a bit of a frenzy. It’s just a shame the song hasn’t been performed live yet – it’s crying out for a performance on the Electric tour. Hopefully they’ll perform it in 2014 because I feel it’s perhaps one of their best songs ever!

Pet Shop Boys’ Thursday B-sides

Two days ago (finally) the postman delivered the Thursday CD single. I was very eager for the single to arrive as I hadn’t heard a note of either of the two new B-sides. I’m a few days late with this post – I’ve had an exceptionally busy week. Thankfully normal service can resume now. Anyway, here’s my thoughts on the new B-sides.

No More Ballads
My first thought when I heard this was “Wow – classic Pet Shop Boys opening”. The very first opening chords remind me a little bit of Play-era Moby actually. I was skeptical about No More Ballads initially because Neil had described it as “Our Rihanna hit she hasn’t recorded yet”.  I was expecting No More Ballads to be a pacy electronic song, very Electric in style. It couldn’t have been more different. It is in fact, a ballad. Moreover, it’s potentially one of their best ballads in years. No More Ballads doesn’t have the dour heaviness of Invisible. In fact the music is pretty light really. The lyrics though are chilling. It’s sung from the point of view of someone who has been badly hurt in a personal relationship with a singer. The narrator views this singer as a joke and questions how can they sing lovely songs yet behave in such a despicable way.  The song could be referring Rihanna and her relationship with Chris Brown. It’s a very strong possibility. I have to say I love the concept for the lyrics in No More Ballads. Very inventive and quintessentially Pet Shop Boys. There’s an allure to the song. What a shame it’s just a B-side given it’s quality. Definitely a very worthy addition to Pet Shop Boys discography.

Odd Man Out
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this. That’s not to say it’s a poor song by any means though. It starts off on a similar down-beat tone to No More Ballads. It’s got quite a classic Pet Shop Boys feel too. The song is essentially about the trials and injustices faced by a homosexual in 1961. It’s also inspired by the film Victim (from the same year) which was a pioneering movie regarding homosexuality. The portion of dialogue sampled at the end of Odd Man Out comes from Victim actually.  The melody in the song is a little strange – especially the chorus. The chorus actually grates on me a little bit. What doesn’t help either is that the song’s lyrics don’t speak to me. I can’t relate nor connect to the song in any way. That’s the main reason I can’t get into the song. It’s just too far removed from my own experiences . It’s not a question of quality as such. It’ll never be an all time favourite Pet Shop Boys song for me, but I can definitely appreciate it.

That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. I still think Get It Online is the best Pet Shop Boys song of the Electric era. I think No More Ballads could become a favourite for me however.  Sadly I think that may be it in terms of Electric singles and thus B-sides. Thursday is the third (arguably fourth) single from the album, which was the same amount of singles released for Elysium. I hope I’m wrong though – we’ve only had four Electric era B-sides whereas Elysium generated nine. Only time will tell though.

 

Pet Shop Boys on Jonathan Ross (From last night)

So, last night Pet Shop Boys appeared on The Jonathan Ross show. Appropriately they were performing their latest single, Thursday. It was released today on digital stores (in the form of two EPs). Tomorrow the physical single will be released. I can’t wait for the physical CD single to arrive later in the week because I haven’t heard a single note of No More Ballads or Odd Man Out (the two new B-sides).  Anyway I really enjoyed the live performance of Thursday from last night. They essentially played a shorter version of the No Rap Radio Edit, with Neil singing the parts that Example sings on the longer versions. It’s actually my first time watching  professionally recorded live footage from the Electric era. I’m aware of the set list but I’m trying to avoid watching any footage in case I end up attending a date in 2014. Failing that then I’m reserving watching the bulk of the show until the inevitable home release. I can’t say how much this TV performance echoes the tour, if it does at all. Nevertheless I really enjoyed it – Neil’s vocals sounded excellent. There’s also a funny little moment in it but I shan’t spoil it. You’ll just to have watch it for yourself!