Chris Alexander

On Engineering

My Favourite Cheese

13th July, 2009

Yesterday I was in town, and spotted a sale on. I came home, showed my housemates my purchases, and all they had to say was that I’d bought a load of cheese.

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Not that type of cheese, however - they were referring to my choice of music. For I had come back with 4 CDs I had been meaning to buy for some time - The Hoosiers’ “The Trick To Life”; Lily Allen’s “Alright, Still”; Anastacia’s “Pieces Of A Dream” and Duffy’s “Rockferry”. I wouldn’t consider those particularly cheesy, but I guess that’s just me.

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Yesterday afternoon I had a chance to listen to all of the albums I bought, and this is what I made of them (in the order I listened to them). Yes I know I’m a bit late to the party with all of these, but they were all cheap and I couldn’t resist.

Lily Allen: Alright, Still

This album has some serious style; and it’s seriously cool at that. Cheeky rhythm guitars, groovy bass lines and elegant percussion mix with a fantastic blend of vocal melodies, canon and harmony to create a very summery, feel-good vibe throughout the whole thing. All this despite discussing some of the most depressing subjects you could choose for an album!

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The opener “Smile” was a huge hit, and for a good reason: the combination of the jaunty bass line, jazz-style organ and vocal harmonies works fantastically. The second track “Knock ‘Em Out” warrants a special mention only for its sheer contrast to the rest of the album - an aggressive brass section and ska-style drums combined with the almost rapping lyrics create an entirely different atmosphere. “LDN” was another huge hit, and despite discussing some of the worst things you’d see in London (and a dubious rhyme between “Tesco” and “al fresco”), the whole song has an almost carnival feel with the bright trumpet hook, simple samba bassline and marimba and organ combining to provide more percussive than melodic effects. This is one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album.

If you can get past the regularly offensive and occasionally violent lyrics, the style, music and melody on this album is sensational, and well worth a listen.

Anastacia: Pieces Of A Dream

This album’s pretty old, but I’ve had one of the tracks “Left Outside Alone” on my iPod for a while (I think it came from a compilation album some time ago), and when I noticed this one yesterday with a couple of other tracks I knew, I thought it would be worth a shot: it certainly was.

All of the tracks on this album maintain the funky keys, great vocals and uplifting style of “Left Outside Alone”. The opener “I’m Outta Love” and the subsequent track “Not That Kind” are classics; lesser-known tracks like “Cowboys & Kisses” and “Heavy On My Heart” are still impressive pieces of music, and maintain the air of familiarity of the whole album. Some would say that the tracks are repetitive, but I think that they all maintain an excellent and consistent style (underpinned by Anastacia’s distinctive voice), while providing more than enough variation between tracks to keep the album interesting until the end.

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A particular track to look out for on the album is “I Belong To You”, an excellent duet with sensational vocals and rocking guitar solos. I listened with trepidation to the Club Megamix on the final track, which fortunately didn’t turn into the 12-minute boring drum track I was expecting. Overall this is an excellent album to listen to, with each track providing a new variation to listen to and savour.

Duffy: Rockferry

The style and production of the entire album is excellent - the vintage microphone they used sounds sensational combined with Duffy’s voice, and the percussive extras, bluesy rhythm guitars, and string sections provide an excellent body of sound and work really well together.

However, for some reason this has only been used on some tracks - Rockferry and Mercy only use the string sections to good effect, and they are unnoticable or completely absent in other tracks. This lets the music down, as Rockferry and particularly Mercy are the best tracks on the album; it may have been that these ones were engineered specifically for release as singles, as their styles are so different to the other tracks. For just about every track except Mercy I was continuously willing the music to speed up just a little - “Syrup & Honey” was painfully slow - and this spoilt my enjoyment of it.

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Despite this, Mercy is still an excellent song, and “Distant Dreamer” is still a good finish to the album. I think this would be better for people with a larger appreciation of Country and Western styles. I also suspect this one will get better with listening, as even as I listen to it now I am enjoying it more than I was earlier.

The Hoosiers: The Trick To Life

This is the last album I listened to yesterday, and I’m glad I did - it is absolutely stunning! From the all-time classic “Goodbye Mr A” to the lesser-known track, The Hoosiers’ quirky style permeates every instrument of every bar making each track hugely enjoyable.

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Excellent “Darkness”-style vocals combine with brilliant lead guitars, and rhythmic basses and percussion to create an upbeat, fresh and very summery feeling to every track. “A Sadness Runs Through Him” is an enjoyable variation to the style with long vocals and rhythmic piano melodies; “Clinging On For Life” provides a well-earnt acoustic break; and “The Trick To Life” rounds the album off very well.

Verdict

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Overall, I think I enjoyed Lily Allen’s album most yesterday afternoon, with The Hoosiers in a very close second. If the rest of Duffy’s tracks had been as well done as “Mercy” then that album would have been in great contention too. Anastacia’s album was very enjoyable too.