What makes an album great?

The greatest thing about music is how every single person’s taste differs. People reading this will love bands I hate and vice versa, and there is no question that that is how it should be. If everyone liked the same music, all the artists would sound the same and it would lose the heart and soul that makes it special. In these blogs I will never question an individual’s music taste – I despise people who do. So, with that being said, it makes the answer to the title very difficult indeed as it all comes down to personal choice. My favourite albums include Californication and Origin of Symmetry, which were both very successful but weren’t met with universal praise nor did either reach #1 in their native charts. There’s no individual recipe for success however I believe there are certain aspects that, if followed, can make an album particularly special.

Maybe the first point to consider when looking at this is that albums are becoming less and less important. In 2014 so far, the #1 singles are being dominated by pop acts such as Pharrell while the #1 albums are a more mixed bunch with the usual pop acts being joined by Bombay Bicycle Club, Kaiser Chiefs and Elbow. I can think of two reasons for this, with the first being that the more successful artists in the download (shudders) era are the ones who sell the most singles rather than albums. Therefore, musicians such as Katy Perry, Rihanna and Rita Ora aim to get multiple number one singles and maybe a week at number one in the album charts as a result of the sheer load of singles. For example, Rita Ora’s first album was top of the charts for a week yet had 2 number one singles while Kaiser Chief’s Education, Education, Education & War spent 2 weeks at number 1 without spawning a top ten single.

The other aspect of this chart disparity will be because artists are in the music industry either to sell singles or sell gig tickets. Bands such as Muse and Bombay are never going to have multiple #1 singles but are known for being good live and, as a result, make good albums so they have a lot of songs to play. As there are two different types of acts, there are two different types of albums. Those that with one listen the listener can pick the good songs from the bad ones and those that all songs seem to be at a similar level of quality, good or bad. Both kinds can produce great albums, although you are more likely to enjoy the latter.

So what makes a great album? For me it boils down to three things: the second single, album tracks and putting the songs in the right order. Obviously, the first single is important as it introduces people to the sound of the album, is most likely to generate chart interest and therefore entice new fans. The first single needs to appeal to old fans and to bring in new ones, which is no mean feat, but it is the second one that is more important for me. First of all, the lead single is chosen as the most industry-friendly song, while the second is usually the one which the artists prefer. The second single gives you an insight into two things. How the artists themselves view their record and how good an LP it is overall. I find that on a lot of occasions the second single is actually better than the first, such as Starlight, Biblical and Paradise.

I usually wait until the second single to buy an album, unless they are one of my favourite bands. Once I’ve listened to the songs I know, I don’t just ignore the album. Which brings me nicely onto album tracks. Those songs that artists don’t release, which casual fans ignore but hard cores adore. I’m a big fan of album tracks, they separate the talented musicians from the industry generated hit makers. The one band I have in my collection that walks the line between those two is Coldplay. There’s no question they have released great singles in the past, with usually one or two per album but then the albums themselves (with the exception of Viva La Vida) are incredibly poor. The best albums are the ones where all of the songs are of a similar good quality, where picking singles is a difficult task, such as American Idiot or So Long, See You Tomorrow. Even if the album has 5 or 6 standout tracks (such as Californication), it can be one of my favourites as long as the others aren’t poor.

Obviously you usually expect the singles to be better than the album tracks. However, there are some albums where the album tracks are so bad they are nothing more than fillers. For me, there is a stark contrast between simply not being the quality of singles and being a filler. By fillers, I mean songs of little quality used so the album isn’t simply a collection of singles and these are usually more apparent on pop artist’s albums, although not limited to. Most albums are a collection of singles, good album tracks and fillers (Employment by Kaiser Chiefs: I Predict A Riot, Saturday Night and Team Mate) although I think it can be agreed that the best album have fewer fillers than good album tracks. It goes without saying that the best albums are those with no tracks you class as a filler; with Absolution springing to my mind as an example. The beauty of combining a live band with good album tracks is that these, while present on the album tour, become rarities on later tours. Fillers are rarely played so the best albums can be judged by which album tracks get played 5 or 6 years after the release. For an act designed to release singles, the set will invariably just be a collection of hits so set lists are a good judge of which albums the artists prefer.

The third aspect I mentioned was the order of the songs. While not as important as the two above, it is advantageous to avoid the album sounding disjointed and carelessly put together. For an example, I’d describe Franz Ferdinand as well put together. Starting slowly, Jacqueline kicks in and the energy doesn’t stop. The songs flow and so if you listen to it in the order that it’s been made you don’t ever question the song choice. You can tell an album is organised well if you can’t stop listening to it in order, especially on a device which shuffles songs. One possible stumbling block is if an artist tries numerous different styles on the one album and interchanges them. On the rare occasion this could work, but usually it just sounds like they have drawn lots for songs. To combine styles and make it work, look at Repent Replenish Repeat by Dan le sac vs Scrioobius Pip. That record starts off with a dub step vibe, before transforming smoothly into a more mainstream, less heavy electronic sound.

With hindsight, perhaps an easier article to write would have been about what makes a bad album. At least we could all agree there that some mediocre singles, dreadful album tracks which are mainly fillers and a disjointed feel to the album would make the worst album ever. In truth, even if the first and second singles are good, the album tracks are decent and the order is fine the album might not get the recognition it deserves. There is no definitive guide to making a great album; I’ve just explored some ideas that popped into my head when thinking about my personal favourites. You, as a reader, will like different stuff to me. Maybe you prefer the Coldplay approach, with one or two incredible songs and 10 decent to boring ones or maybe you don’t buy albums at all.

If you don’t then may I be so bold as to suggest that you do? You learn a lot more from a physical album than you do from downloaded singles. You get to hold a piece of that artist in your hand and listen to it over and over again. Albums and music are timeless, a reflection of how the artist felt at the time of writing whether it be about love, politics or whatever. Cherish them, even the ones you don’t like, as time and effort were put into every single LP you buy. Never be ashamed to like a band or album based upon public perception and try new styles as not to limit yourself to the same genre. Once you have done that, you can decide for yourself what you like best from albums. Obviously I’d recommend you start with any album I’ve mentioned here but your taste may vary from that.

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T in the Park 2014 – Sunday Review

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Following the disappointment of main stage on Saturday, we were back there on Sunday ready to hear Newton Faulkner, Kodaline, Kaiser Chiefs, Bastille and Arctic Monkeys. Throw in Franz Ferdinand to the mix and you had a line-up that closely resembled our perfect music day. The hardest decision was Franz over Jake Bugg but seeing as we knew Franz better and already knew what a good live act they were, there was only one logical decision. That being said, we would both go and see Jake Bugg at a later date.

Newton Faulkner – Main Stage, 13:05 – 13:50:
Reviewed by Emma

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Newton’s fourth album, Studio Zoo, is how I first started listening to his incredible songs as I saw it in the charts at number 10 on iTunes and decided to listen to a few of his songs. It is strange to think this is the first time I had heard of him considering his first album, Hand Built by Robots, and his third album, Write It On Your Skin, both reached number 1 in the album charts whilst his second album, Rebuilt by Humans, found its way to number three. However, it is safe to say I fell in love with Newton’s songs with his complicated acoustic guitar riffs, catchy melodies and beautiful voice. I was looking forward to seeing him live as he clearly is a live artist and even though I had only listened to Studio Zoo at that point I was interested to see whether his other albums were worth a buy.

As I don’t know all of his songs it is difficult to work out which songs he played and we also missed his opening song, as we were buying some lunch, so I cannot comment which it was. From his latest album Newton played Indecisive which is a fairly upbeat song and it does not disappoint live as it is clear Newton was born to perform on stage, especially at festivals. I would say this lunchtime slot on main stage is perfect for him because he is a bit of a laugh. Chatty, friendly and easy to listen to he was popular amongst the crowd he attracted. Often joking with the crowd, asking if they wanted a cup of tea or a quiche and asking if they were his friends he is a true people person and very down to earth. He played I Need Something and Teardrop from his first album which were very well received especially Teardrop which is a beautiful cover of the  Massive Attack song (I would say it is better than the original). Clouds, from Write It On Your Skin, sounded nice live and is one of the reasons for going to buy the rest of his three albums as well as his final song Dream Catch Me which he introduced by saying “I have four minutes left. Have I played Dream Catch Me yet?” showing his laid back, friendly attitude which entices the crowd. Also, he responded to the crowds jokes that he looked like Ed Sheeran (they sung the chorus of Sing) by doing a cover of Justin Timberlake’s Like I Love You, which again I prefer to original because it truly showed his talent whilst playing the guitar.

I would love to see Newton again because he was great fun and his songs are wonderful however I need to listen to his other albums more before doing so. He seems like a genuine guy and I would recommend him to anyone who just wants some easy listening and a laugh.

Emma’s rating: 7/10. Favourite song: Dream Catch Me

Gareth’s verdict:

Having seen little of Newton Faulkner but knowing he exists, I was very impressed by Studio Zoo and even more impressed when I saw him. He doesn’t take his music seriously, likes to interact with the crowd and comes out with brilliant lines such as “I know I’m mainly an acoustic act but that does not mean there cannot be jumping!”. Go see him, you won’t regret it.

Gareth’s rating: 6/10. Favourite song: Like I Love You

Kodaline – Main Stage, 14:20 – 15:05:
Reviewed by Emma

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Kodaline are a band I decided to buy whilst looking around HMV because I had heard of them and that apparently they were meant to be good. I agree with those who say they are a good band because their songs are catchy, easy to listen to and great to sing along to. There isn’t a song on their album, In a Perfect World, that I don’t like and enjoy listening to and as well as Imagine Dragons my mum decided they were a band to constantly play in the car. So, the idea of seeing them live was one I was definitely excited for although, for some reason, I didn’t have high hopes for the band being good live as they didn’t seem like a live band but I was proven wrong.

They began their set with After the Fall one of their album tracks which was the first song which surprised me as it showed me just how wrong I was because it was a great opening. The next two songs were very popular within the crowd as they are two of their singles, One Day and Love Like This, and demonstrated the band’s ability with instruments especially the lead singer who can play the harmonica, the mandolin, the piano and the guitar showing that these are in fact a good live band. My favourite song of Kodaline’s was played next. Way Back When was just as wonderful live as it is on the CD with the upbeat feeling that you can dance and sing along to. Their two singles High Hopes and Brand New Day were received well with the crowd singing along throughout although unlike other bands they didn’t communicate with the crowd much showing that they are new to the scene and not experienced enough like artists such as Ed Sheeran and Kaiser Chiefs. All Comes Down was their penultimate song which is one of their album tracks and again performed very well live with no faults on their behalf because the mood of the song was conveyed perfectly. To end the set Kodaline played All I Want which I would describe as a great ending to a good set as it is a popular catchy song meaning the crowd were content after watching the performance.

I would say that Kodaline are definitely worth seeing live because they are very good and their songs sound pretty much like they do in the studio. The only criticism I would have is that they don’t interact with the crowd enough yet but that is something that comes with experience so it’ll come with time. I recommend them and I want to see them again one day in the future.

Emma’s rating: 7/10. Favourite song: All I Want

Gareth’s verdict:

I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to A Perfect World and Kodaline didn’t disappoint with a set which covered all of the high points of that album. Good live, clearly enjoying each other’s company and having a big fan base, Kodaline could go far. It all comes down to whether they can keep writing catchy songs.

Gareth’s rating: 6/10. Favourite song: All I Want

Kaiser Chiefs – Main Stage, 15:35 – 16:25:
Reviewed by Gareth

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Kaiser Chiefs are one of my favourite bands. Having stuck with them throughout the dark days of their fourth album and losing the majority of their fans, I was concerned when Nick Hodgson left the band. But, looking back upon this, it appears that that moment was a blessing for the Leeds band. It allowed Ricky Wilson to have greater overall control, and saw the other members come to the fore – especially during song writing. The result is an album which is the best since Yours Truly, The Angry Mob. In fact, Education, Education, Education and War is easily my favourite album of 2014. The lyrics are as clever as ever, the songs all tell stories and the chorus’ retain the catchy spirit of past Kaisers songs. For various reasons, I have never been able to seem them live and since we bought tickets they had been the band I was most excited for.

Opening with crowd favourite Everyday I Love you Less and Less and then following it with hit upon hit, this was a performance to remember. Referencing the departure from Balado, before Coming Home, Ricky declared that this “wasn’t just a goodbye, it was a new fucking beginning”, the only band we saw not to dwell on the sadness of leaving. Controlling the crowd better than anyone we saw, Ricky pulled out all of his usual tricks. He ran from side to side, patted a security guard on the back and played sing-a-long I Predict A Riot in the crowd. The biggest receptions from the crowd came for Never Miss A Beat, Ruby, The Angry Mob and show closer Oh My God. The Arctic’s AM artwork sign had been unveiled before the gig and Ricky joked that Kaisers had no big sign to show who they are but did have a drum kit with the album artwork from Education… on it. Ruffians on Parade and Meanwhile Up In Heaven got played from that work while Employment’s lesser known hit Modern Way was also played. The ten songs played saw the crowd jumping and singing to almost every note. Complete with Ricky’s antics, the crowd were sure to never miss a beat.

The Kaiser Chiefs are a safe bet for any festival, you know they will attract people and deliver a perfect set which everyone can enjoy. But, I can’t help but feel T missed a trick with them. Attracting the second largest crowd of the weekend, a middle afternoon set seems too low. Kaiser Chiefs have hit rock bottom, and they know it, but are starting to crawl back into the public’s consciousness. It shouldn’t be too long before a festival takes a risk and gives them a higher billing.

Gareth’s rating: 10/10. Favourite song: Meanwhile Up In Heaven

Emma’s verdict:

Personally, I think that Kaiser Chiefs are perfect for headlining any festival and I believe that they will in the near future. Without a doubt, I want to see them again hopefully on their next tour because their set and songs were flawless live with Ricky being an excellent front man with a talent a controlling a crowd (even as massive as theirs was).

Emma’s rating: 10/10. Favourite song: Coming Home

Bastille – Main Stage, 16:55 – 17:45:
Reviewed by Gareth

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Bastille are the London pop band taking the world by storm. Boasting the greatest quiff in music, wonderfully catchy tunes and a geeky charm the Twin Peaks obsessed four piece have played almost every country in the world. I wasn’t convinced at first, brushing them off as another industry puppet however seeing them support Two Door in Manchester completely changed my opinion and they have since become one of my favourite bands. T was to be the third time I have seen them.

Opening, unsurprisingly, with their album’s title track Bad Blood, Dan Smith and co got the crowd singing with Weight Of Living, Pt II and Laura Palmer. It says a lot about Bastille’s popularity that despite none of those songs made it into the UK Top 40 they were still known by practically the whole crowd. The beautiful Overjoyed followed (which Dan announced as “the most inappropriately named song of all time”) and then popular single Things We Lost In The Fire. With the crowd eating out of their hands, they burst into three album tracks These Streets, Oblivion (what will soon be the next single) and Icarus. Icarus sums Bastille up perfectly. A catchy chorus is the basis for their songs and one of the reasons they have become so popular, so quickly. When discussing the tricky second album, they have been toying between going more electronic or trying out a harder, rockier sound. Their attempt at the latter, The Draw, is a very noble attempt to add guitars to their music and is definitely an avenue worth exploring in my view. There was only time for three more songs, although Bastille were going to please everyone by starting that with Flaws, which saw Dan run along the front row of the packed crowd. Going into possibly the most famous cover (/mash up?) of the past few years, Of The Night received a very rousing reception. Of course, there was only one song they were going to end with and Pompeii was probably the best sang along to song of the weekend.

One can only hope that Bastille aren’t a flash in the pan for they have infectious energy, a togetherness on stage and seem genuinely down to earth nice guys. Every time I see them they seem better than they did and new songs I’ve heard are promising enough to suggest the second album will continue their success. Definitely the most exciting new band out there.

Gareth’s rating: 10/10. Favourite song: Icarus

Emma’s verdict:

Bastille were who I was most looking forward to seeing over the weekend and they didn’t disappoint. They are truly wonderful live, I definitely want to see them again soon and I can’t wait for their next album. For me, this set was perfect with my favourite song from their album being played, Oblivion, so I was more than happy as they rarely play it. Dan is great a controlling a crowd and I believe that in a few years they’ll be headlining festivals.

Emma’s rating: 10/10. Favourite song: Oblivion

Franz Ferdinand – King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent, 20:00 – 21:00:
Reviewed by Gareth

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Ah, Franz Ferdinand. We booked the T tickets around a similar time to seeing them live for the first time and immediately said we would see them again if we could. Franz are a band with four great albums, an incredible amount of hits and a loyal fan base which mean they will always be in around the public eye, even if they don’t reach the heights of their debut album. In Scotland, at the festival where they are heroes – this was going to be a gig to remember.

Boy, do Franz know how to do a gig. It’s hard to explain how good they are if you’ve never seen Franz live because they don’t do a lot different to their studio songs, except for play the remixed version of Can’t Stop Feeling and extend This Fire. Trust me though, these are a band you don’t want to pass the chance to see live. Even though we were now tired, bored of all the pre-gig waiting and desperate for a wash they delivered a set as good as any we had seen all weekend. Perhaps, for those reasons listed above, this was the most enjoyable. The only songs the crowd didn’t know as well were the unreleased song Auf Asche (my original favourite Franz song so I wasn’t complaining!), as well as the lesser known singles Stand On The Horizon, Love Illumination, Bullet and The Fallen.  The best receptions came for Do You Want To, The Dark of the Matinée and the classic Take Me Out. Mixed in among the set were songs such as No You Girls, Right Action, Ulysees and Walk Away. The other song played was the openly gay anthem Michael, and all songs proved that Franz can still control a crowd and have a good time.

A gig full of so many hits will always be pleasing for fans but Franz go further than that. They make every chord enjoyable and every beat stunning. Every song is a spectacle and they do it all with smiles on their faces. They are good at making music, seem to enjoy doing it and will hopefully be around for a very long time.

Gareth’s rating: 10/10. Favourite song: Walk Away

Emma’s verdict: 

Of course, Franz Ferdinand were as good as always and I cannot say I regret seeing them over Jake Bugg because they are truly sensational live and not many people could match their standard. I seriously recommend seeing them live and especially at T in the Park because the Scottish crowd could not have appreciated their songs more.

Emma’s rating: 10/10. Favourite song: No You Girls

Arctic Monkeys – Main Stage, 21:20 – 22:50:
Reviewed by both

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“And just cause he’s had a couple of cans, he thinks it’s alright to act like a dickhead”. Lines from A Certain Romance, from a band which Gareth has followed for so many years without seeing them live (yeah, another one). Excitement for Arctics had been building for months, and there are occasions when such excitement can get the better of you, times when no matter what happens, the reality will always be a let down. Despite the fact Gareth hadn’t liked Arctic Monkeys as much since the crap that was Humbug, AM had restored his faith in the Sheffield lad and their growing popularity meant this came at the right time. Emma, on the other hand, had heard AM, liked it and was optimistic for this gig.

Don’t get me wrong, we knew what a horrible person Alex Turner has turned into before this, but what we didn’t realise was just how much he controlled the band. In fact, we’d argue they are no longer a band but an Alex Turner ego fest. From the stupid quiff to the ridiculous jacket and the unfunny lines he would spill out occasionally, he made himself look like an idiot and we can’t believe that some people actually like that. Oh how fame has ruined him. But we’d forgive all that if the music was good, which it wasn’t. Again, we both think AM is a terrific record and songs such as One For The Road, Snap Out of It, Knee Socks and Do I Wanna Know? are wonderful tunes but boy do they make them sound atrocious live. Knee Socks for example, dragged on so long I swear people were falling asleep and Snap Out of It had lost all of its catchy nature. That brings us on another point, this is a festival so why play 9 songs from your latest album? Album tracks such as I Wanna Be Yours have no place in a festival encore (especially when When The Sun Goes Down, Teddy Picker, Mardy Bum and Fake Tales are all ignored) and I’m glad Disclosure drowned out the dreadful acoustic version of A Certain Romance. By the encore, we had lost almost all our interest in the set, following the terribly dull segment of No.1 Party Anthem (another strange festival choice), She’s Thunderstorms, Fluorescent Adolescent and 505. That wasn’t the only boring part of the gig, with Dancing Shoes, Crying Lightening, even the wonderful Arabella and Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair seemingly merging into one long Alex Turner quiff obsession fest. On that subject, he had the equaliser for his guitar turned up way too loud, meaning that the chorus riffs for Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? and R U Mine? sounded almost identical. On the plus side, Fireside sounded really good as guitarist Jamie Cook (heard of him? You’re not alone if you haven’t) changed to an acoustic and old favourites Brianstorm and I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor were truly brilliant. Overall though, the set was a massive disappointment with even good songs such as My Propeller and Library Pictures sounded frankly average.

We’d heard that Arctic Monkeys were good live. We’d heard that they had energy, kick ass tunes and the ability to control a crowd. By all means, go and experience it for yourselves but don’t just blindly believe the hype. A great studio band, but certainly not one I would pay to see live again. It left a bitter taste in Gareth’s mouth that the moment he had been waiting for for so long was such a damp squib and leaving the festival after that was like enjoying a party until your ex-girlfriend shows up. In fact, it was hard not to vomit after watching a man with such talent but no humanity parade himself around on stage for an hour and a half making out like he was a God, when instead he is nothing special. He’s turned into something resembling the man he depicted in A Certain Romance.

Our rating: 2/10. Favourite song: I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor

Other Acts:

The only other act we caught on Sunday were the Red Hot Chilli Pipers – a Scottish bagpipe band who play covers, like Avcii’s Wake Me Up. Something you’d only see in a Scottish festival but still worth going to see should the opportunity arise.

T in the Park 2014 – Saturday Review

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Saturday was pop day on main stage, with acts such as Calvin Harris, Pharrell and Katy B taking to the stage. Our only mission on Saturday was to avoid this, due to it not exactly being to our taste. Luckily, there were The 1975, Bombay Bicycle Club and Ben Howard on other stages to stop the boredom from creeping in. That being said, the middle of the day didn’t have much going on for us so we spent most of it checking out unsigned acts in T-Break and BBC Introducing.

The 1975 – Radio 1 Stage, 20:25 – 21:25:
Reviewed by Emma

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I bought The 1975’s album not long ago due to seeing an advert for them and liking what I heard. To be honest, by the time T in the Park came around I hadn’t listened to the album as much as I should’ve done because I found some of it different to listen to, such as 12 (seems to be around a minute of nothing), so I was apprehensive seeing them live. However, I am happy to say that I will be listening to their songs more often as they impressed me when live which I wasn’t expecting. It’s clear to see the lead singer is a little bit of a cocky jerk but he was amusing to watch smoking when singing and drinking out of what either was a champagne or wine bottle.

The gig started with their self titled track The 1975, which clearly shows a lot about their ego, which the mainly teenage dominated crowd screamed to and loved as well as every other single song (they could’ve been utter shit and they still would’ve screamed their love and devotion). However, unlike the normal teenage girl attracting bands The 1975 do at least have decent songs such as The City, one of their singles, which was impressive live even if I didn’t know the lyrics very well. As well as Imagine Dragons, The 1975 played bonus songs – although they didn’t only play seven songs in total luckily – which were Milk, So Far (It’s Alright) and You. I am not a devoted fan like the majority of the crowd so I didn’t know the songs at all however again they were enjoyable to listen to and the crowd certainly sang along and had fun. M.O.N.E.Y., Talk!, She Way Out, Heart Out and Pressure were all great live and good album tracks with catchy melodies and nice sounding guitar riffs. The 1975 are incredibly catchy with singles such as Settle Down and Robbers which the crowd and I all found ourselves singing along to the choruses and dancing around. The ending of the set was ideal for any man… Girls, Chocolate and Sex. It is safe to say The 1975 are a band obsessed with girls and sex but if you look past their immaturity the set was very well rounded off with their most popular songs.

Overall, I would say that The 1975 are good live but I would like to see them again because I need to know their songs better so I can truly appreciate them. It’s clear to see that The 1975 are like marmite because the lead singer is a cocky Alex Turner wannabe and their songs are immaturely based upon sex and girls but if you look past that (and the screaming girls) they are very enjoyable to watch live.

Emma’s rating: 5/10. Favourite Song: Chocolate

Gareth’s verdict:

Having heard Chocolate and not much else, I first listened to the album and wasn’t totally convinced. The album is disjointed with some great songs getting almost lost by nothing tracks. Still, upon seeing them live I have a lot more love for them. They were much better than I expected, although the quality of the three bonus tracks seems to suggest they aren’t good at choosing album tracks. It will be interesting to follow their future career, they could become big stars just as easily as they could fall away.

Gareth’s rating: 5/10. Favourite song: Sex

Bombay Bicycle Club – Radio 1 Stage, 21:55 – 22:55
Reviewed by Emma

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I’ve known of Bombay Bicycle Club for several years but for some reason I never ventured out to buy their albums. After too long, I bought their second album, Flaws, as it was on offer and pretty quickly after that I felt the need to buy their other three albums which are just as incredible. Although, when I first bought the albums I didn’t realise the true extent of their greatness and that is why seeing Bombay live is a definite must. They are the obvious surprise of the festival because I could not imagined they would be that amazing.

The set was opened perfectly with Overdone and It’s Alright Now from their recent chart topping album So Long, See You Tomorrow. Overdone has a wonderful intro and outro and It’s Alright Now had the whole crowd singing along  so it was a simply incredible introduction to their continually perfect set. Followed by two songs from their equally good third album, A Different Kind of Fix, Shuffle and Lights Out, Words Gone are awesome songs. The upbeat piano riff in Shuffle and nice guitar riffs in Lights Out, Words Gone caused the crowd to all dance along without hesitation. Come To, Home By Now and Luna are other songs from their number one album which were simply superb live with Home By Now featuring their touring member Liz Lawrence who sang the chorus very well. Bombay played three songs from their first album, I Had Blues But I Shook Them Loose, What If, Evening/Morning and Always Like This, which are their more indie sounding songs and there is no way in faulting them, especially What If which is incredible live. For me, the main highlights of the set were How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep (from their third album), Feel and Carry Me (both from their fourth album) because without a doubt they were amongst their best songs live. How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep had the lyrics come up on the screen behind them so the ambience within the crowd was enjoyable as the majority were singing along. Feel is upbeat clearly with Indian influences and the lead singer Jack Steadman was encouraging the crowd to dance along saying to “have ourselves a dance party in here” and he did not disappoint. Carry Me was the ultimate ending to this perfect set with catchy lyrics, an upbeat tempo and a generally incredible nature.

Bombay Bicycle Club were a massive surprise live with a truly wonderful set which you couldn’t help dancing and singing along to. We’ve already booked to see them again in December because there is no doubt that they are a band Gareth and I want to see over and over again. They seem like genuinely nice, down to earth people who can make music that can give you goosebumps – it’s that good. I would seriously recommend them.

Emma’s rating: 10/10. Favourite song: How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep

Gareth’s verdict:

Surprise of the weekend? Definitely! Of all the bands Emma gave me to listen to before T, Bombay had always been my favourite but I had no idea they would be so good live. Dancing and singing for an hour, they rocked Radio 1 stage to a sparse crowd (mainly due to the fact Paolo Nutini was on main). The crowd was almost entirely made up of Bombay fans, which gave it a very special atmosphere.

Gareth’s rating: 10/10. Favourite song: Feel

Ben Howard – King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent, 23:35 – 00:50
Reviewed by both

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Emma remembers hearing Ben Howard for the first time when he performed for the Brit Awards 2013 playing his single Only Love from his first album, Every Kingdom, with just his guitar and a cellist. Four days later she had bought the album and fell in love with his songs almost immediately. We were both looking forward to seeing him live when we saw the line up for T and it is fair to say we had high expectations because on his album his songs are superb. His quality performing live is by no means bad, in fact he is pretty incredible, however, his set wasn’t appropriate for a festival so he was a little boring. Four out of his nine songs were new and as he hasn’t released any of them, his new album hasn’t even been announced yet, it was a little strange to watch with the crowd often complaining to hear his old songs.

Ben started the set with two new songs, Conrad and Rivers in your Mouth, which were incredibly odd to begin with especially seeing he was fifteen minutes after getting lost. The apprehensive crowd were disappointed not being able to get into the full swing of things until these two songs were over which took around twenty minutes seeing as he extends each of his songs to be about ten minutes which is great unless you’ve never heard the song before… Which the whole crowd hadn’t. Finally, Ben truly began his set with Black Flies which the crowd were relieved by and suddenly the atmosphere of the whole of the tent was amazing. Everyone was singing along to every word which was consistent throughout (except for the new songs) so he clearly attracted his devoted fans which was a massive audience – surprising considering he was headlining at the same time as Calvin Harris and Elbow. Followed by the immensely popular The Wolves which he extended perfectly with the whole crowd singing and showing he is a truly talented musician. His singing was flawless throughout the set and his guitar playing was incredible especially when he was playing complicated riffs whilst singing at the same time. Disappointingly, next he played Small Things another new song that nobody knew which immediately destroyed the buzzing atmosphere he had just established. Don’t get us wrong, his new songs sound excellent and we will be buying his new album when it is released however to play them at a festival where people are expecting to be able to have a great time and sing along it wasn’t a good idea to play four unknown songs. Luckily, Ben picked up the atmosphere playing Only Love and Keep Your Head Up which the crowd loved and Only Love was just as good, if not better, than it was when performed on the Brit Awards. After Keep Your Head Up, it was clear to see what a genuine guy Ben Howard is; he clearly doesn’t like the limelight he has received after becoming famous preferring to keep himself to himself, which is probably why he disappeared for a little while. He seemed emotional saying something around the likes of “some days you don’t believe in the records you make and some you do” and on the brink of tears he added, “today, I do”. He continued with The Fear which was beautifully extended, upbeat and catchy. Even in his emotional state he was incredible – showing his true talent at writing and performing awesome songs which he can make five minutes longer by including the crowd and riffing at the end. Now, you would think he would end his set with this perfect closing number leaving the crowd satisfied and content but he finished his set with End of the Affair (another new song). Most of the crowd left because why stay when you don’t know the song (another ten minutes of silently watching in boredom) and it’s past one o’clock in the morning as he overran? Obviously, we stayed and the song is what you describe as an emotional love song and incredibly odd to end your set to in a headlining slot at a massive festival.

Overall, we would describe the set as strange. It was a little disheartening to watch new song after new song when you were there to hear the hits. In fact, the only saving grace during these was that we were inside and therefore protected from the rain. That being said, the songs from Every Kingdom were outstanding live and well worth the wait to see. Ben is clearly a very talented singer, songwriter and guitar player and we can’t wait to hear, listen and love his new songs. But at a festival? Not what we wanted!

Our rating: 6/10. Favourite song: The Fear

Other Acts:

The biggest dilemma for us was whether to see Nina Nesbitt or John Newman, both of whom we knew but not very well. We chose John and weren’t disappointed with him, as the soulful set persuaded us to buy his album, Tribute. Cowering from the rain, we darted into BBC Introducing and T-Break stage at various points where we saw Chloe Howl, Lisbon, Charlotte OC and The Amazing Snakeheads. The first three we would be quite happy to see again, the last one made our ears bleed and we never want to hear another song from them ever again. Even being tortured to the sound of “Happy” would be better than The Amazing Snakeheads.

T in the Park 2014 – Friday review

One of the biggest dilemmas of my life came when the T in the Park 2014 lineup was released. To go and enjoy a great number of my favourite bands or to stay and attend my graduation as well as watch the final of the World Cup? Eventually, it was decided that a festival so perfect wouldn’t come along as often as the World Cup final would and none of my friends were attending graduation hence Emma and I turned up in Balado on Thursday 10th July. The prospect of seeing Kaiser Chiefs, Imagine Dragons, Franz Ferdinand and Ben Howard amongst others meant we instantly realised we had made the right decision.

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Our only concerns had been about some potential Friday clashes, as for some reason the poster and app had implied we wouldn’t be able to see Maxïmo Park and possibly Chvrches. Rather luckily however, we had read it wrong and we were able to go and see both, as well as Imagine Dragons. Another band we were there for were the Friday main stage headliners, Biffy Clyro. Sheltering from the sweltering sun, we also caught Foxes set, a singer songwriter we had heard rave reviews about. Here is our summary of the day:

Maxïmo Park – Radio 1 Stage, 16:40 – 17:30:
Reviewed by Gareth

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Having been a Maxïmo fan since their first album but never getting the chance to see them, I was understandably excited about the prospect of attending this 50 minute slot. For me, a festival slot should be packed full of hits with one or two album songs thrown in if you can. At the end of the day, you pay money to see a number of bands and you want to hear the songs you know. In that regard, Maxïmo could not have delivered a more perfect set!

Their fifth album, Too Much Information was released in February and they opened the set with Give, Get, Take – the opening song on that album. This, My Bloody MindHer Name Was Audre and The National Health were the only album tracks they played and the first three were taken from TMI. Way back in 2005, the first album A Certain Trigger was nominated for that years Mercury Prize and was commercially successful mainly due to the three hits Graffiti, Apply Some Pressure and Going Missing. All three songs were played, as well as their first UK number one, Our Velocity, and fellow singles from Maxïmo’s second album, Our Earthly Pleasures, Books From Boxes and Girls Who Play Guitars. With a solid base of these hits, the T crowd were in full sing along mood and the lead singer, Paul Smith, was as energetic as ever (including a run along the front row high fiving us during the set closer, Going Missing). Thrown in amongst these were Leave This Island, The Kids Are Sick Again, Hips and Lips and Midnight On The Hill which meant they played a set entailing all their albums and songs which everyone knew.

Overall, this was a set full of singing, jumping and endless energy. For a first Maxïmo gig it was well worth the wait, seeing all their biggest hits and proving that, despite the fact they aren’t as big as they were, there is still a lot of life left in this band. Paul Smith’s voice is clear and sounds just as good as it does on record, despite all the running around he does. He did his signature jump a number of times, and is a true showman. An incredible live band who know how to play a festival, definitely one I would recommend and want to see again! For a 50 minute set, 14 songs was an impressive achievement. They are a well oiled live outfit and that makes seeing them immensely fun for everyone.

Gareth’s rating: 8/10, Favourite song: Books From Boxes

Emma’s verdict:

As a newcomer to the Maxïmo Park scene, their performance showed me their true excellence given that they proved to me that they are not only good on CD but are also incredible live so I would throughly recommend seeing them.

Emma’s rating: 7/10, Favourite song: Girls Who Play Guitars

Imagine Dragons – Main Stage, 18:05 – 18:50:
Reviewed by Emma

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I was first introduced to Imagine Dragons by my English teacher a few years ago when he decided to play their video for Radioactive purely because he thought it was “cool”. I agreed with him quite quickly seeing as the video is somewhat odd and therefore I loved it because who can resist a video with teddy bears fighting in? Seriously, it is worth a watch. Imagine Dragons have catchy, upbeat songs which can entice most people who enjoy rock/pop including my mum who now listens to them non stop. Therefore, I was more than excited to see them live and I had high expectations seeing as their songs are great on CD. It was unfortunate to say I was slightly disappointed.

It is strange when a band begin a festival set with a bonus track from their album and it is even more weird when it isn’t even on their hard copy album with bonus tracks – only the iTunes version. I’m not saying that Fallen isn’t a good song because I expect it would be however I haven’t ever really listened to it. The next part that befuddled me was the fact they riffed a lot meaning by the end of their set they had only played seven songs in total. Fallen was followed by Tiptoe which is an album song and therefore more understandable although it is incredibly strange seeing as they didn’t play one of their main singles, Demons. The next two songs Hear Me and It’s Time seemed good live although we couldn’t hear very well from we were standing (the whole gig would’ve been better if we were in a different place). My favourite song of their set was a cover which you could say shows something however it was more because the crowd went mental because of course a Scottish crowd love the fact they played a I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) by the Proclaimers. The whole crowd sang, jumped and enjoyed their cover of this well known Scottish song so it was truly wonderful. They finished their set with their two popular singles On Top of the World and Radioactive which were a great choice to end with as the whole crowd knew them and so the atmosphere was buzzing.

At the end of the day I believe that Imagine Dragons are great live however I would prefer to see them in their own gig as then the riffing would be fantastic to watch and the sound quality would be better. However, I think that at a festival they shouldn’t have played as many album songs as they needed to play Demons as it is an incredibly popular song.

Emma’s rating: 5/10, Favourite song: I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

Gareth’s verdict:

I first heard of Imagine Dragons when Emma gave me their CD to listen to, although I had heard On Top of the World on FIFA. Having fallen in love with their album, I was immensely excited to see them live especially to hear Demons, Radioactive and a possible album track such as Working Man or Amsterdam, and as it was their first album I was hopeful. I wasn’t completely disappointed by the set and 500 Miles was a lot of fun but it was slightly upsetting not to see most of my favourites. That being said, they are clearly very talented and I would pay to see them again.

Gareth’s rating: 5/10, Favourite song: Radioactive

Chvrches – King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent, 19:20 – 20:20:
Reviewed by Gareth

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Chvrches were the first, and still only, band I have bought an album of upon recommendation of my sister. I wasn’t disappointed, as The Bones of What You Believe has quickly become one of my favourite albums from the last couple of years. In the first week I bought it I must have listened to it in full about 7 or 8 times and so I was very excited when I found out they were playing at T.

After leaving the chaos that was main stage, we headed towards the tent with the plan to stop and get some food. What we hadn’t considered was the sheer mass of people doing the same. So, without food and fairly desperate for a piss, we decided to risk seeing Chvrches first. The back of the stage was set up to look like the album cover, and the Scottish crowd went crazy for their opening song, We Sink. Song after song from their album followed with Lies, Lungs, Gun and Night Sky being played in quick succession. Singing slightly lower than she does on the album, Lauren Mayberry introduced a bonus track on the album, Strong Hand before telling the crowd not to throw piss at one another. Clearly very comfortable with a big crowd, they played Science/Visions, Recover, Tether, Under The Tide, By The Throat before ending with The Mother We Share. They only didn’t play one song from the album, You Caught The Light, instead throwing in a bonus track which was more energetic and better anyway so this, for me, was a perfect set list.

In fact, my only criticism would be the sound in King Tut’s not being to the standard that the other stages possess. That being said, the crowd loved seeing a Scottish band taking the first step along the way to possibly headlining a festival one day, the songs were still as catchy as they are on the LP and it was a throughly enjoyable experience. They aren’t quite as comfortable live as the likes of Maxïmo are, but they are well on their way.

Gareth’s rating: 7/10. Favourite song: Tether

Emma’s verdict:

I would love to see Chvrches again as they were incredible live and I would know their songs better as well as not being desperate for a piss or for food. Also, I think the acoustics for their songs would be better in a different venue and not the tent because sometimes it was a little too overpowering in there.

Emma’s rating: 7/10. Favourite song: Night Sky

Ed Sheeran – Main Stage, 20:40 – 21:40
Reviewed by Emma

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I’ve liked Ed Sheeran on and off for a few years now first discovering him via a few friends who showed me The A Team video on Youtube. Instantly I loved the song, the simplistic guitar with his beautiful voice is difficult to dislike in my opinion, however, recently it has been more difficult to like him when he started collaborating with artists like Pharrell Williams. Originally, this seems like Ed Sheeran has become a fame seeker who is trying to get a number one single and more fans which is hypocritical when he sings in You Need Me, I Don’t Need You “I will never be product of my genre/My mind will always be stronger like my songs are”. Although, Ed seems like a genuine, nice, down to earth guy so I am conflicted in whether to believe he would want to collaborate for fame so for the moment I would prefer to think he had his reasons.

Having seen Ed before in Nottingham I had no doubt he would be great live. It is obvious to see he has a talent at controlling a crowd by making them sing, be silent and often telling them that if they don’t know the words to just make them up and sing along anyway. It is a wonderful thing to see when an artist can completely control a crowd and encourage them to just purely have a great time. Unfortunately, we missed the first few minutes of Ed’s first song You Need Me, I Don’t Need You as we were getting our tea however it is safe to say this is an amazing song live (as I have seen it before). He extends this song to become ten minutes of genius creating the whole track using a loop pedal, splitting the crowd into two sections getting them to sing two different melodies and just causally rapping other songs. This was followed by one of his popular songs from +, Lego House, which does not disappoint live – in fact I would say it is better live. Next, he played three songs from his new album X, Don’t, I’m a Mess and Thinking Out Loud. Seeing as I had been apprehensive about buying the album, considering his current single Sing isn’t to my taste, he convinced me his new album is definitely worth a listen. Basically, Ed played all his singles from the first album, new album and a few album tracks from the new album so next was Give Me Love, a single from the first album, which again demonstrates his ability with a loop pedal is truly incredible creating harmonisations near the end of the song. I See Fire, his soundtrack for The Hobbit and bonus track on his new album, is a beautiful song live. This was the first time I had heard it all the way through and I would love to see it again. Finally, Ed Sheeran ended with his two top singles, The A Team and Sing, both surprisingly good (as Pharrell didn’t turn up for Sing) so overall Ed’s set was very well done.

I don’t have any faults for this performance, apart from Sing being a little annoying as a first single but even that is much better live, as he is a genuine talent for the music industry as well as a down to earth guy who can control almost any crowd. At times, Ed can seem a little awkward but that is part of his charm so I would seriously recommend seeing him live if you enjoy his music or if you just want to have a bit of fun.

Emma’s rating: 9/10. Favourite Song: You Need Me, I Don’t Need You

Gareth’s verdict:

I missed all the Ed Sheeran hype, writing him off as just another one of those overrated pop acts. My opinion has been completely changed since seeing him live. Down to earth, the lyrics to You Need Me, I Don’t Need You are wonderful for how much he attacks the flawed music industry and he seems like such a pleasant lad. So yeah, fair to say he impressed me.

Gareth’s rating: 7/10. Favourite Song: You Need Me, I Don’t Need You

Biffy Clyro – Main Stage, 22:20 – 23:50
Reviewed by both

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The headliner we were both most excited for were Biffy Clyro, the topless Scottish three-piece. Gareth had seen them once before, while Emma was seeing them for the first time. Biffy have combined their original disjointed riffs, weird song compositions and lyrics that make little sense with a pop element, which since Puzzle has given them increasing chart success. Headlining a festival for (almost) the last time before they head off to make another album in their homeland made this gig a perfect recipe for success.

Biffy are a band who truly cater for their fans at live gigs, even at festivals regularly playing album tracks from any of their 6 releases. Their set at T was no exception, with Woo Woo, Whorses and Questions and Answers making an appearance. Emma had been hoping for Spanish Radio, Christopher’s River, Victory Over the Sun and Folding Stars and wasn’t totally disappointed as the latter two were played. Opening the set with Different People, Biffy then launched into That Golden Rule and The Captain, which got the crowd singing and jumping along. Unsurprisingly, the crowd knew Many of Horror, Who’s Got a Match? and Biblical best, with the Opposites album tracks such as Sounds Like Balloons also popular. Clearly blown over by the massive crowd, Simon Neil seemed very emotional throughout the gig especially during the solo acoustic renditions of God & Satan and one of his tributes to his late mother, Machines (played at the start of the encore). Another sentimental moment came when Biffy played 57, introducing it as one of the songs they played on the T-Break stage before getting signed. One of my favourite sections of the gig were the two brilliant songs which have long intros, Glitter and Trauma and Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies which led to Many of Horror, Woo Woo, Black Chandelier and then ending with Bubbles. The encore began with Machines, before changing pace dramatically with Stingin’ Belle (complete with bagpipes) and ending with Mountains, all of which which were hugely well received and Biffy left to the hero reception they deserve. Bagpipes, pyrotechnics and fireworks – this truly was a gig not to be missed.

Obviously, Biffy Clyro are a must see due to being a truly excellent live band. They were a perfect headliner for T in the Park so hopefully they will play there many more times in the future and personally we believe they would’ve been better suited to end the festival (no doubt with the bagpipes). The Scottish crowd clearly loved them, the atmosphere throughout their performance was incredible and there is not one song that wasn’t flawless. To sum it up, Biffy Clyro are a spectacular Scottish trio.

Our rating: 10/10. Our favourite song: Glitter and Trauma

Other Acts:

Shading from the sun we caught Neon Jungle and Foxes. Despite not knowing her songs we thoroughly enjoyed Foxes and have bought her album since. The same can not be said for Neon Jungle, who apparently have had a UK top 10 song. They were absolutely shocking. The fact one of their songs has been a hit just sums up how much bollocks the charts are.

An Introduction

The weekend of 11th – 13th July 2014 will always remain strong in our memory. T in the park became our first major festival together, indeed the first major festival either of us had gone to. Reading reviews of the festival on the train back, both of us realised how much we wanted to try our hand at it. So, setting up a blog for experience and to present some potentially controversial opinions, this is the result.

In the next few weeks, we will review each of the acts we saw at T, as well as looking back upon some of our favourite music moments. Then after that, the blog will get filled by reviews and our opinions on various musical events. For more information on what this blog will be used for, as well as details about who we are visit this page. We would love to hear your opinion on what we write, as music is rightly opinionated, so write those in the comment section below.

For now, keep looking for updates and enjoying music.

Artist Page – Alt-J ( ∆ )

Who?

  • Joe Newman (Guitar, Lead Vocals)
  • Gus Unger-Hamilton (Keyboard)
  • Thom Green (Drums)

Former members:

  • Gwil Sainsbury (Bass)

Where?

  • Leeds

Records?

2012 (An Awesome Wave)

2012 (An Awesome Wave)

2014 (This Is All Yours)

2014 (This Is All Yours)

You should check out:

  • Left Hand Free
  • Breezeblocks
  • Every Other Freckle

Have we seen them?

  • 8th December 2015 [Nottingham] (Both of us)

Alt-J

Artist Page – Arctic Monkeys

Who?

  • Alex Turner (lead singer, guitar)
  • Matt Helders (drums, backing singer)
  • Jamie Cook (lead guitar)
  • Nick O’Malley (bass, backing singer) (from 2006)
  • Andy Nicholson (bass, backing singer) (until 2006)

Where?

  • Sheffield

Records?

2006 (Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not)

2006 (Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not)

2007

2007

2009 (Humbug)

2009 (Humbug)

2011

2011

2013 (AM)

2013 (AM)

You should check out:

  • I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
  • Fake Tales of San Francisco
  • Brianstorm
  • Cornerstone
  • Arabella

Have we seen them?

  • July 13th 2014 [T in the Park] (Both of us)
Before they became too big for their boots...

Before they became too big for their boots…

After...

After…

Related Articles:

T in the Park – Sunday

Artist Page – The Automatic

*The Automatic have probably split up*

Who?

  • Robin Hawkins (Vocals, Bass Guitar)
  • James Frost (Guitar)
  • Iwan Griffiths (Drums)
  • Paul Mullen (Vocals, Guitar – from second album)
  • Alex Pennie (Synths – first album only)

Where?

  • Cowbridge (Wales)

Records?

2006

2006

2008

2008

2010

2010

You should check out:

  • Monster (well, you’ll already know it!)
  • Raoul
  • Secret Police
  • Insides
  • List

Have we seen them?

  • No

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Artist Page – Bastille

Who?

  • Dan Smith (Vocals)
  • Kyle Simmons (Bass Guitar)
  • Will Farquarson (Guitar, Keyboard)
  • Chris Wood (Drums)

Where?

  • London

Records?

2013

2013

You should check out:

  • Pompeii
  • Icarus
  • What Would You Do
  • The Driver

Have we seen them?

  • 25th January 2013 [Manchester – supporting TDCC] (Gareth)
  • 1st June 2013 [Manchester – supporting Muse] (Gareth)
  • 13th July 2014 [T in The Park] (Both of us)

 

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Related Articles:

T in the Park – Sunday