This Sunday, the England Swings show started a two-piece special on the best tracks in 2010 from the United Kingdom : Here's what we played : 


King Blues - Headbutt (Punk and Poetry)
Male Bonding - Year's Not Long (Nothing Hurts)


Kele - Everything You Wanted (The Boxer)
Manic Street Preachers - It's Not War (Just the End Of Love) (Postcards From a Young Man)


Biffy Clyro - Many Of Horror (Only Revolutions)
Two Door Cinema Club - Undercover Martyn (Tourist History)


Gorillaz - Broken (Plastic Beach)
Eliza Doolittle - Skinny Genes (Eliza Doolittle)


Stornoway - Zorbing (Beachcomber's Windowsill)
I Blame Coco - Self Machine (The Constant)


Magnetic Man - I Need Air (Magnetic Man)


Plan B - She Said (The Defamation Of Strickland Banks)


Tinie Tempah - Pass Out (The Disc-Overy)


K'naan - Waving Flag


I Am Arrows - Green Grass (Sun Comes Up Again)


Script - For the First Time (Science and Faith)


Patrick Wolf - Time Of My Life


Wanted - All Time Low (The Wanted)


Peter Gabriel - The Book of Love (Scratch My Back)


Tunng - Hustle (And Then We Saw Land)


Chemical Brothers - Swoon (Further)


M.I.A. - It Takes a Muscle (Maya)


RIP Charles Haddon : Ou Est Le Swimming Pool - The Key


RIP Ari Up : Slits - Typical Girl


We also played a brief clip from the top five songs of 2010 according to the Official UK Chart Company. They were : 


5. Owl City - Fireflies
4. Usher - OMG
3. Bruno Mars - Just the Way You Are
2. Matt Cardle - When We Collide
1. Eminem - Love the Way You Lie


We didn't play the "regular" top five this week, but we'll discuss them below : 


5). Ellie Goulding - Your Song (non-mover)
4). Katy B - Lights On (new)
3). Black Eyed Peas - The Time (Dirty Bit) (+1)
2). Rihanna - What's My Name (non-mover)
1). Matt Cardle - When We Collide (non-mover)


TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW 


Before we get started, a brief word about the end-of-the-year top 5 : 


Bleah.


The UK's chart mirrors the American chart this year closely, with four of the five tunes done by American artists. I admit I liked "Fireflies" and "Just the Way You Are" from the beginning, but Usher's song was only sporadically brilliant (the football chanting went a long way in the tune), and I didn't buy into that reprehensible Eminem song from the first time I heard it. There's no TUNE in that tune, just ugliness. Sorry, England, but you can do better than that. 


This week's chart is not the Christmas chart, although it reflects sales leading up to the holiday, and the holiday itself. It's one of the biggest sales weeks of the year, so there are usually no surprises. 


Ellie Goulding, though, continues to surprise with the tenacity of "Your Song", which hung onto the number five position for a second week. As I've said before, it's pretty and quirky, but I'm not sure it goes the original one better. I'll give it a 7 on the England Swings scale of 1-10. 


Here's another surprise - a brand new song on the week-after-Christmas chart. Katy B scores at number four with "Lights On". Featuring Ms. Dynamite, it's a clubby song about continuing to dance when the DJ at the club is pretty much finished. "I keep on moving with the lights on/C'mon play me one more song" pretty much establishes the whole idea here. It's all right, for sure, but it's not great. Ms. Dynamite is the best thing about it. I'll give it a 6.5.


The Black Eyed Peas aren't finished with us yet, are they? "The Time (Dirty Bit)" slides back up a place to number three. The song is now approaching ubiquitous, but it's lost ground in America, having slid back to number 8 two weeks ago, and that's where it stayed this week. Could it be that the party 'n' fun approach that BEP take is losing it's appeal? The song could resurge in the new year, but even the UK kept it at number 1 for only a week. 


Hey, I just noticed a kinda cool "wind-blowing" effect in the song I didn't hear before. That makes me throw it a little higher on the scale. I give it a 7.


Rihanna and Drake are pegged at number two again this week with "What's My Name", which is the most enduring song that Rihanna's done in recent memory. The tune continues to bounce around in the upper echelons of the American chart as well; it's at number three this week. It's less sterile and artificial than most of Rihanna's recent output, producing a warmer feel than she usually can muster. I give it an 8.


Our X Factor winner stays at number one this week. Matt Cardle's "When We Collide" doesn't approach the original, but it's got enough charm and ambition to it. It's popularized what was a great song, and that's something to be said in its favor. My recommendation? Listen to Matt, but buy Biffy Clyro. I give the Matt version a 6.5.


If I manage to get it together enough this week, I'll throw out my thoughts on the year's best albums later. Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!
 
 
It's time!


Every week this year, the England Swings show has brought you the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom. Now the year is nearly over, and it's time for us to do the first of two Best Of the Year shows. Which magnificent songs will turn up today? Tune in at 6:00 p..m. ET to see!


In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon Digital Cable channel 37
In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27
Anywhere else in the world : http://www.fcac.org/webr
 
 
Last night was a special Christmas show : 


Futureheads - Christmas Was Better In the 80s
Wombats - Is This Christmas


Kinks - Father Christmas
Shakin' Stevens - Merry Christmas Everyone


Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody
Wombles - Wombling Merry Christmas


Annie Lennox - The Holly and the Ivy (A Christmas Cornucopia)
Summer Camp - Christmas Wrapping


Susan Boyle - Away In a Manger (The Gift)
Adam Faith - Lonely Pup (In a Christmas Shop)


The Fab Four Freakout : 


Beatles - Christmas Time Is Here Again
John Lennon - Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
George Harrison - Ding Dong Ding Dong (Dark Horse)


Chris Rea - Driving Home For Christmas


Pogues & Kirsty McColl - Fairytale Of New York
Bo Selecta - Proper Crimbo


Feeling - Feels Like Christmas


Coldplay - Christmas Lights
Choir Of King's College - Shepherds In the Fields Abiding


Royksopp - Le Cantique De Noel


Chris Moyles - It's Never Gonna Snow
Boney M - Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord


Maddy Prior & the Carnival Band - Ding Dong Merrily On High


Crookes - It's Just Not Christmas Without You


Julie Andrews - It Came Upon a Midnight Clear


This week, we didn't play the full top 5, but we played an excerpt from each, with number one in full : 


5). Ellie Goulding - Your Song (-2)
4). Black Eyed Peas - The Time (Dirty Bit) (-3)
3). Trashmen - Surfin' Bird (new)
2). Rihanna ft. Drake - What's My Name (+2)
1). Matt Cardle - When We Collide (new)


TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW


It's finally here - the biggest chart of the year! For those of you unversed in British chart history (Americans), the Christmas chart is the most anticipated rundown of the year, with the Christmas Number One becoming perhaps the most important song of the year. 


More history : In recent years, the Christmas number one has belonged almost exclusively to the winner of the X Factor television show, and that's a purposeful placing by the producers of the show; the series ends just in time for the winner to release his or her first single just before Christmas. Five of the seven winners have reached the top at Christmas; first year winner Steve Brookstein released his single a week late (they hadn't quite figured it out then), and last year's winner was . . . well. 


That takes another bit of explanation; By 2009, a backlash against the show had started, with many feeling it unfair and unexciting that the Christmas Number One was pre-ordained by X Factor. Last year, an online campaign was started to push a non-X Factor song to the top, and the campaign succeeded. Therefore, last year's Christmas Number One was the unusual choice of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing In the Name". 


It just goes to show, you never know with the British charts. Witness this week's lineup : 


Ellie Goulding has now stayed in the top 5 for five weeks with "Your Song", which drops back to number 5 this week. A fairly straightforward cover of the Elton John song, it has had a natural success, unbiased by television appearances, use in an advertisement, or anything else. The song has simply stuck around on its own merits. This will probably be its last appearance in the top 5, so we'll give it due props on the England Swings scale of 1-10 and give it a 7.5.


The Invaders from Party Planet manage to hold onto the number 4 position with "The Time (Dirty Bit), an absolutely ridiculous "song" from the Black Eyed Peas. Part of the chart drop (it was at number one last week) comes from all of the Christmas competition, but part of it may forebode a lack of stick-to-it-ness of the song; I notice it's dropped from 3 to 8 in America this week as well. Could it be that people are tiring of the endless blagging about "having a good time" and "popping bottles" that the Peas are pandering? I have to hope so. I give the song a 5, and that's just because the synth riff IS killer. 


So, let's say you don't want X Factor to go to number one at Christmas. You search far and wide for a song to promote online, and try to send it to the top of the charts. After a whole year to decide, you settle on . . . The Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird"?! What?!


And while it didn't come anywhere near succeeding, the song has now entered the annals of chart history by being number three on the British charts for the week beginning December 19 2010. As I said above, you just never know what's going to happen . . . 


The only chart that "Surfin' Bird" has made before was in the USA in . . . 1963. The song has been gone, but not forgotten, as any Pee Wee Herman or Family Guy fan can tell you. 


Of course, that doesn't excuse the fact that it's one of the most annoying songs in the history of popular music. I mean, c'mon! That middle section where the song breaks down before going into the "Pa-pa-pa-oom-mow-mow" part is actually scary. 


But judging it appropriately as it takes its place among the hits of 2010, I have to give it a 6. Not bad. 


Rihanna's Christmas fortunes continue to rise as "What's My Name" jumps up two places to number 2. Well deserved, this one; it's the cleverest song she's done in ages. Whereas Drake is a bit superflous to the proceedings, Rihanna's in fine form (literally) and voice on this song, with it's patented hook-that-won't-quit. I give it an 8.


And, of course, Christmas number one belongs to Matt Cardle, winner of X Factor 2010. 


But they were clever about it this year, weren't they? They didn't pick a mopey inspirational ballad like "The Climb" or "Hallelujah". No, they picked Biffy Clyro.


Just say that again. Biffy Clyro.


See, Simon Cowell and company knew that if they did that, it wouldn't sell as well. They might be beaten by "Surfin' Bird", for heaven's sake. So they picked a song that's irresistable, but was not a huge hit. It's contemporary, it suits Matt's voice just fine, and it gives that little burst of indie cred to the show and singer. 


So how is it? 


Not as good as the original, which was one of my favorite songs in recent memory. 


But not awful, either! There's a tendency to take the production stratospheric, but it also sounds as if someone was bright enough to stand there yelling "Tone it back! Tone it back!" while they were mixing the record.  So they did, and the song benefits. Meanwhile, Biffy Clyro look on in amusement. 


So go and get the original, now that you're aware of it. But there's one caveat : it's not called "When We Collide" as Matt Cardle does it. No, the original has the we-don't expect-a-hit title of "Many Of Horror", and I'm pleased to see that it actually climbed the chart to number eight this week. Good on you, Biff!


So, another Christmas chart come and gone. We hope you enjoyed our weekly analysis; write and let us know what you think, huh? No album reviews this week (no new albums!), but we'll be back next week with all sorts of stuff for you. 


And listen in to the England Swings show this coming Sunday at 6:00 p.m. on http://www.fcac.org/webr, where we'll be playing the Best British Music of 2010!


THANK YOU for reading, have a Happy Xmas!
 
 
Today, we'll be playing the best, brightest, newest, and coolest CHRISTMAS music from the United Kingdom! We'll have all sorts of new tracks, as well as all the old favorites - where else can you hear Noddy Holder scream, "It's Chriiistmaaaas!" once again? 


Tune in today at 6:00 p.m. ET : 


In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channel 37
In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27
Anywhere else in the world : http://www.fcac.org/webr


Happy Christmas to everyone!
 
 
In lieu of reviewing a new album this week, I thought I’d wrap up a holiday present and discuss some recent singles. There’s been some amazing stuff released recently, and some others that were, um, not so amazing. Here we go : 




Alesha Dixon - Radio




Okay, Alesha has as much of a claim on the title of  “Britain’s Pop Princess” as that Cheryl Cole woman. This single, reminiscent of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”, is a eurosynth smorgasbord of tuneful sounds, and it’s a shame that it didn’t do better on the charts. I’m thinking that Alesha’s best work is still in her future, but for now I give this an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.




White Lies - Bigger Than Us




Here’s a band that is just now reaching its potential. This is a great song, a bit Cure by way of Interpol. The last White Lies album was gloom, gloom, gloom, but this first track from their upcoming album has an urgent sort of desperation instead. It’s also got a killer chorus : “I want you to hold me/I want you to pray/This is bigger than us”. It may not be genius, but it’ll do for now. I give it an 8.5.




The Naked and Famous - Punching In a Dream




This band comes from New Zealand, but they’ve finally broken into the consciousness of the UK with this single, and rightfully so. Echo-chambered and bouncy, it’s a cross between indie rock and awesome techno : this is what groups like Hadouken! SHOULD sound like. I give it an 8.5 as well. 




Fenech-Soler - Demons




This is definitely one of the up-and-coming groups of 2010, and hopefully they’ll continue to refine their unique sound in 2011. There’s the feel of a runaway locomotive going on here - the song bursts with energy and doesn’t sound quite like anything else out there. It’s a bit pop, a bit rock, and all good. I give it an 8. 




Clockwise - I Don’t Know




This is an unsigned band from Canada who have a classic rock sound. They sound as authentic and tight as ever on this new single. They’re an undiscovered wonder, and this single has crashing guitars, great vocal harmonies, and a cohesive rhythm section. They manage to sound both retro and modern at once. I’ll give this an 8.5. 







Adele - Rolling In the Deep




Whoops, almost typed “Rolling in the Depp” there. This is the first single from Adele’s upcming album “21”, and it bodes well for the record. It’s a bit brassier than previous material, so much so that it sounds a bit Duffy. Still, Adele is in fine voice, and this song rolls like a monster. Adele has turned out to be one of the premier British artists of the 21st century. I give this song an 8.










Noah & the Whale - Wild Thing




It was Mumford & Sons that went international this year, but it’s Noah & the Whale that should have had the breakthrough. The song construction is clever here, as always; the delivery is low-key and beautiful. The tune is a little like Lou Reed, and a little like Lloyd Cole. Cool. I give it an 8.




And : a couple of bonus Christmas singles!




Coldplay - Christmas Lights




Okay, they got me again. Instead of going all bombastic and grandiose, Chris Martin and company have put together a typically-beautiful Coldplay song, all about heartbreak and angst. It’s one of the saddest Christmas songs ever, but it works a treat. I’m going with an 8.5 on this one.




Goldie Lookin Chain - You’ll Never Be Alone On Christmas Day




Maybe I’m a sucker, but I LOVE this song. It was the least expected move from the jokey GLC - a straightforward and beautiful Christmas song. Maybe it’s still a joke or a parody, but taken on its own terms it’s a classic holiday tune, with gorgeous harmonizing. Admittedly the lyrics are just the tiniest bit silly, but it all holds together. I give this a 9 on the scale, and take off my Santa hat to Goldie Lookin Chain!

 
 
Here's the playlist from last evening's England Swings show :


Pendulum - Crush (Immersion)
Naked & Famous - Punching In a Dream (Passive Me, Aggressive You)


Badfinger - No Matter What
Edwyn Collins - Do It Again (Losing Sleep)


Avicii & Sebastian Drums - My Feelings For You
Jamie Woon - Night Air


Rod Stewart - Mandolin Wind (Every Picture Tells a Story)
Martin Simpson - The First Cut Is the Deepest
Fairport Convention - Rosie (Rosie)


The Fab Four Freakout : 


Ringo Starr ft. Paul McCartney - Walk With You (Y Not)
Beatles - You Won't See Me (Rubber Soul)
Beatles - You Really Got a Hold On Me (With the Beatles0


Clare Maguire - Hope There's Someone
Alistair Griffin - Just Drive


Fenech-Soler - Demons


T.C. Folkpunk - Zero To Hero (In Sixty Seconds (T.C. Folkpunk)
T.C. Folkpunk - Take a Look Around You (T.C. Folkpunk)


Goldie Lookin Chain - You'll Never Be Alone On Christmas Day (A Goldie Lookin Christmas)


...and this week's top 5 songs in the UK : 


5). Rihanna - Only Girl (In the World) (re-entry)
4). Rihanna ft. Drake - What's My Name (new)
3). Ellie Goulding - Your Song (-1)
2). Willow - Whip My Hair (new)
1). Black Eyed Peas - The Time (Dirty Bit) (new)


TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW


The Americans take over the top 5 again, with three new entries. Two of these have been American hits; the other has received a little less attention, but a fair amount of notoriety. 


We have a rare re-entry into the top 5 as well this week, with Rihanna's "Only Girl (In the World)" reaching number 5 after being absent for a week. The song has already spent 5 weeks in the top 5, with two of those weeks at number one. In the interim, the song rose for a week to number one in America as well. 


I think I've said all I need to about this track in previous weeks, but if you've forgotten, it's a pseudo-disco stomper over which Rihanna floats her thin voice. It was vaguely exciting the first couple of listens, but has now been overplayed to the point that I could easily go a couple of years without hearing it again. On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give it a 5.5.


Of course, we have to give props to Rihanna for having TWO songs in the top 5 this week, which is something that I don't remember happening for quite a while for any artist. "What's My Name", at number 4, though, is a vast improvement on the club monsters that Rihanna has come out with in recent times. The song is truly catchy, beautifully produced, and Rihanna does a magnificent vocal on it. She slips into a slight Barbadian accent here, and it's charming. 


The track could have been easily done without Drake, though, who really adds nothing. It's the chorus that the listener remembers, not the ephemeral rap that the guest star provides. I give this song an 8. 


Ellie Goulding continues to stick around with "Your Song", which says something about the attractiveness of the tune. It received as little promotion as any song in recent memory, so it's a triumph for it to have been in the top 5 for four weeks now, and for it to be the only survivor of last week's top 5 as it has only slid back one place. 


There's a vulnerability to the song that harks back to the Elton John original. Ellie delivers an unaffected vocal, and the only consistent accompaniment is a piano and a cello. Simple, but effective - as the success of the song shows. I give it a 7.


If you're not familiar with the phenomenon of Willow, suffice to say that she is the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, and has been pushed into the showbiz life at the tender age of 10. Whereas her song has created some buzz in the USA, it hasn't hit the top ten there. 


In the UK, though, the song entered the chart at number two this week. It remains to be seen whether or not it will have any staying power, but I'm guessing that the UK looks at this as a novelty song, and that it will drop next week. 


Willow doesn't have a bad voice, but it's actually a bit hard to tell, since the track is vastly overproduced. It also sets a hyperactive pace, with SFX and "extras" jumping in and out of the song. 


And it's all about her hair. 


The track will be soon forgotten. I give it a 5. 


Depending on how you feel about the production tricks of will.i.am, you'll either love or hate the new Black Eyed Peas track at number one this week. "The Time (Dirty Bit)" is a touch over five minutes of a cover ("The Time Of My Life" from Dirty Dancing) with a BEP-synthed overlay. The song represents new lows of lyrical stupidity, even for the Black Eyed Peas. It's another of their "party" songs, where everyone feels good and (cringe) pops bottles. 


It does have a killer synth line in the "dirty bit", but there have been better (and more murderous) lines in practically any Euro-Techno hit in the last ten years.


The song is slick, danceable, and sounds exactly like everything on the BEP's last album - especially the dreaded "I Gotta Feeling". 


In the USA, the song has climbed to number four on the charts so far, but it's not done yet. It won't stay at number one in the UK next week, either, for obvious reasons (okay, because it's time for the Christmas number one, and it looks like the X Factor winner might have it wrapped up). I wouldn't be surprised to see it climb back to the top in the UK after the holiday, though. 


I can't hate the song, but I can come close to it. I give it a 6. 


See you next week for some analysis of the Christmas top 5!
 
 
It's a Very Special England Swings show today at 6:00 p.m. ET :


In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channel 37
In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27
Anywhere else in the World : http://www.fcac.org/webr


Each week, the England Swings show brings the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom to your TV or computer (we are cablecast and webcast). This week, for our pre-pre-Christmas show, we've got new tunes Pendulum, Edwyn Collins, Clare Maguire, and more, and we've got older songs by Badfinger, Martin Simpson, and Rod Stewart. Also, we'll be debuting a couple of tracks from a brand-new album by unsigned Canadian artist T.C. Folkpunk! Oh, and a special holiday song as well. 


All of this, plus our regular features : 


The Fab Four Freakout : Beatles, Beatles, Beatles!
UK Music News : X Factor Update!
Top 5 Countdown : the best-selling songs in the UK TODAY, with a new number one!


Tune in to the England Swings show today at 6:00 p.m. ET, and enjoy a couple of hours of entertainment!
 
 
Well, wow. 


There seems to be a trend in the past year or so for R&B and/or rap artists to expand their horizons and try to do a modern-day Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Earlier this year, one massive success was Janelle Monae's "The ArchAndroid", which borrowed from so many different musical forms  - sometimes in the same song - that it was nearly overwhelming at times. 


Now Kanye West has stepped up and made the album of his career. "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is a phantasmagoria of different genres, pulling in influences from Bon Iver to Gil Scott-Heron, and blending it all in a cohesive, fascinating, and downright MEAN album. 


Kanye has so much to say, that it's only natural that he reached out to a ton of guest stars, samples, and divergent forms of music. In essence, though, he's made a rock album with a certain amount of inevitability. I mean, why did it take this long for someone to pick up on the brilliant King Crimson anthem "21st Century Schizoid Man" IN the 21st century? It took Kanye to realize the potential there. 


The album is rife with rock guitars, many of which are sampled from other music. Take a look at some of the sampled artists for an idea of the diversity to be found here : 


The Byrds
Smokey Robinson
Manfred Mann's Earth Band
Mike Oldfield
Rick James
Tony Joe White
Black Sabbath


All of this makes the album completely bursting with music, and makes for very few dull moments. Along with this, the filthy, misanthropic (and, yes, occasionally misogynistic) lyrics manage to titillate and shock at the same time (and for Kanye putting us on notice about what he's aiming for : "What's a black Beatle, anyway?/A f***ing cockroach?"). 


The most amazing thing about what's going on here, though, is the near-perfection of the blending of guests, styles, and genres to make a complete whole. Many of the guests have moments of brilliance (witness Nicki Minaj's brilliant rap on "Monster"), but it all contributes to a distinctly Kanye-esque take on music, life, and philosophy. 


There are a couple of minor musical "interludes" on the record, but here's more evidence of Kanye pushing against the wall : most of the songs are long opuses that shift and mutate into several forms. All of them are good, but some standouts include the above-mentioned "Monster", "POWER" (that's the Crimso-sampling one), and the remarkable "Runaway". This track starts off with nearly a minute of one piano note before kicking into a slippery syncopated rhythm. Again, the lyrics are just as nasty as they can be ("Let's have a toast for the d*****bags/Let's have a toast for the a**holes"), and concludes with a oddly affecting filtered sound which could be vocals or guitar, and sounds like both. 


The album ends with "Lost In the World", featuring a delicately auto-tuned Kanye and Bon Iver, and stops in the middle of a note. 


Does that mean there's more to come? It's going to take some doing to top this. 


I give this new Kanye record a 9.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
 
 
T.C. is an unsigned Canadian artist, and he’s just released a interesting album of all-original material. 




Since T.C.’s last release, “Every Cloud Has a Sulphur Lining”, he’s managed to pick up an entire band for recording, and he’s improved his songwriting skills. “Every Cloud...” had several broadly-based diatribes against easy targets such as television and tobacco companies, but the new self-titled album expands his range of topics. That’s good news!




There ARE still some easy ones, though. “Zero To Hero” is possibly about reality TV stars. “Instant Coffee Lifestyle” is all about the inauthenticity of modern life. 




There’s a core of songs, though, that could maybe fall under the category of “People that piss T.C. off for one reason or another”, and that’s where the songwriting skills have advanced. There are plenty of Elvis Costello-ish lines on these tunes (good example : “She was one mistake that I made/Though I’ve laid her to memory” from “She Has Everything”). Clever turns of phrase, hurtful and hurting asides, it’s all here. T.C. is finally aiming his vitriol with some originality!




The instrumentation is impeccable. The songs are, for the most part, hooky as anything, and the choice of embellishments is kept simple. A nastily-distorted harmonica here (“Zero To Hero”) or horn parps there (“Take a Look Around You”) add a whole new dimension to the music. 




All of this adds variety, and completes the T.C. picture. The makings of an exceptional musical composer are here. 




Some highlights : 




“Whenever I Sink My Teeth Into You” is filled with those marvelous horns again, and has a descending-note bit just before the chorus that does the job admiringly. We’ve got the extra added bonus here of a male-choir repeat of the chorus near the end of the song, while the music builds and finally fades back to the acoustic guitar that the tune started with. 




“Feeling My Way Around In the Dark For You” is a blues-oriented tune with more of that nasty harmonica. The song is actually a bit surreal and psychedelic, like something that was done by a garage band in the 1960s.




A word about the vocals : T.C. is a decent singer, but nearly all the songs are delivered in a sort of clenched-teeth roar that becomes a bit monotonous after a while. Fortunately, the songs are strong enough to overcome this, but I’m betting Mr. Folkpunk has a voice that has a lot of versatillity. He needs to start showing it.




I’m looking forward to whatever T.C. Folkpunk does in the future. For now, I give this album an 8 out of 10 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

 
 
Here's the playlist from last night's show : 
Enter Shikari - Destabilise
White Lies - Bigger Than Us

Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl
Paolo Nutini - Coming Up Easy

Courteeners - Scratch Your Name Upon My Lips (Falcon)

Slade - My Oh My (The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome)

Amy Winehouse & Mark Ronson - Valerie (Version)
Bee Gees - Lonely Days (Two Years On)

The Fab Four Freakout : 

John Lennon - (Just Like) Starting Over (Double Fantasy Stripped Down)
Beatles - Slow Down
Beatles - She's Leaving Home (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Beatles - Flying (Magical Mystery Tour)

Adele - Rolling In the Deep
Alesha Dixon - Radio

Brett Domino - Gillian McKeith

Coldplay - Christmas Lights

...and this week's UK top 5 : 

5). Far East Movement - Like a G6 (new)
4). Olly Murs - Thinking Of Me (non-mover)
3). Nicole Scherzinger - Poison (new)
2). Ellie Goulding - Your Song (non-mover)
1). X Factor Finalists 2010 - Heroes (non-mover)

TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW

It was a surprisingly average week in the British top 5, with a plethora of songs staying in place, and a couple of new entries. Why surprising? Because it's December, and usually there are so many songs vying for the top echelons of the chart that there's a bit more turnover. But we take what we can get, right? 

Every song tells a story, more or less. This week, we highlight the stories behind the songs :

 At number 5, we've got the All-Asian Angeleno Electro Hip-Hop group Far East Movement (there's actually supposed to be a * between Far and East, but I can't be bothered). 

Story : People drink. A lot. They get high (and fly). They dance.

The interesting thing about this track, which has already reached the number one position in America, is that this is the sort of thing that's been popular in Europe for, oh, six years or so now. All of this makes me think that Basshunter and Fat Man Scoop should probably re-release their entire catalogs in the USA, just to see what will inevitably climb the charts. 

"Like a G6" is simple, with an oscillating synth line, handclaps, and filtered vocals. Just to dispel any uncertainty, the song's "G6" refers to a model of Gulfstream private jet. And also, there's no uncertainty that there's not even a modicum of originality in either the instrumentation, the lyrics ("popping bottles". Again?!), or anything else. That said, the song has a certain alcoholic warmth to it that's charming. On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give it a 6. 

Olly Murs hangs onto the number 4 slot for another week with "Thinking Of Me". 

Story : Guy used to be togevva with gal, they've moved on, but he still likes her and throws a bunch of nostalgic memories of their time at her in hopes that she'll hook up with him again. 

Olly continues his assault as the British "easy-goin' fella" with ska-lite tunes and "oh-oh" vocals. This ain't bad, but it's fairly forgettable. What was I talking about?

Oh. Yeah. I give Olly a 6.5.

Nicole Scherzinger has her first chart smash as a solo act, coming in at number 3 this week with "Poison".

 Story : I really have no idea what she's talking about. Sorry.It's got something to do with her using "Poison" to seduce somebody. I think.

The track is all ADHD, a bit like Cheryl Cole's "Promise This". It doesn't stand still long enough to get a real fix on it - it's overproduced to the max, and only vaguely catchy. Note that the track was released in the USA more than a month ago, and went absolutely nowhere : there's a reason for that. I might be proved wrong, but I'm guessing the British audience will tire of it quickly as well. I give it a 5.

Ellie Goulding manages to stay at number two a second week with "Your Song". 

Story : Gal likes guy, (or in the original version, perhaps it was guy likes guy), and can't afford to buy her great stuff, so s/he writes a song for her. 

Uncharacteristic of Ellie's past material, the song is simple - there's only a piano for most of it, and then strings creep in. Ellie's voice is not filtered, and is a bit idiosyncratic; therefore the song has a bit of rough-edged charm. It's all very nice, and fairly unimpressive. I'm going with a 6.5 on this one, too. 

The X Factor Finalists stay at the top of the chart with "Heroes". 

Story : Well, it was originally a song about being a "hero" by being mean and drinking all the time, but Simon Cowell has cut out the song's heart, and turned it into a vaguely inspiring charity single ABOUT heroes. 

Good guitar, though. No Carlos Alomar, but not bad. 

Of course, like every Syco records "ballad", it starts all slow and respectful, and then builds and BUILDS until it's a faux-gospel shout-out. 

It's mostly pretty awful, charity or no. 

I give it a 3.Album reviews coming soon!