Wednesday, 7 December 2016

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five books I'm reading in 2017

(Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerReadsLainey. Find out more at the Goodreads group!)

Guys, this year was a mess.
I read more than I'd ever read before, and I still didn't read half of the books I intended to. This list could be 50 books and it still wouldn't encompass all of the books I've missed, both ones that I wanted to read personally and those I received for review (either via NetGalley or through actually receiving ARCs, which I feel SO GUILTY about!).
So in January, I'm going to prioritise these five books, and hopefully that will assuage some of my guilt...

5) 'The Girl With a Clock for a Heart' by Peter Swanson
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I really enjoyed Peter's 'A Kind Worth Killing', so when 'The Girl With a Clock for a Heart' was republished the publishers kindly sent me a copy. I haven't had a chance to pick this up yet, but if it's as tense as his other book I know I'll fly through it in just a day. 

4) 'Long Dark Dusk' and 'Dark Made Dawn' by J.P. Smythe
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I enjoyed the first book in J.P. Smythe's Australia trilogy, but when I got the second book I decided to wait for the final installment to be released so that I could marathon them both together. The third book only came out last month, so I haven't waited too long to read it, but I'd like to get these out of the way and get another series finished.

3) 'The Sun Is Also A Star' by Nicola Yoon
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I heard a few things about this book that put me off of reading it (specifically that there are bits narrated by random characters in the background of scenes, which sounds far too confusing for my little brain to keep track of!) so even though it was one of my most anticipated 2016 releases, I avoided reading it. 

2) 'Isla and the Happily Ever After' by Stephanie Perkins
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I was meant to read 'Isla...' in FEBRUARY. Oops. 

1) 'Replica' by Lauren Oliver
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I got a proof of 'Replica' in July. FREAKING JULY. I wanted to wait until closer to the release date (October) to read it, but I didn't have time in September. Then I was meant to join a readalong in October... And I FORGOT. This proves that I am a horrendous person and am not to be trusted with deadlines. 
I was so excited about this book. I almost cried when I read the first page... But after a couple of chapters my mind wandered, and I put it down, and I haven't had time to try again. But in January, I will. I swear it on the life of my unborn (future, potential) child.

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday!

Are there any books you really want to read at the start of 2017?

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten authors I discovered in 2016

(Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish!)

This year, I've read more books than ever before. I've read over 200, and I have no intention of stopping before 2017 begins! There have been a lot of authors that I've read for the first time in 2016 and should have read before, and there are some debut authors that I've checked out that I'd like to recommend to everyone else.

10) Alice Oseman
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I've never managed to make the time to read 'Solitaire', Alice's debut novel, but when 'Radio Silence' was released I wanted to jump on board - everyone seemed so excited about it. I loved the lack of romance and the focus on friendships and fitting in, and it definitely convinced me that uni wasn't for me: you need to follow your own dreams for you, not other people's ideals!

9) Leila Sales
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I only finished 'Tonight the Streets Are Ours' last week, but I'm already counting it as one of the best books I read in 2016. I don't know why it took me so long to read a Leila Sales novel - her debut is about a DJ and half of this blog is about music, for Christ's sake! - but I'm so glad I finally picked this up.

8) Patrick Ness
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Because the Chaos Walking trilogy and 'More Than This' just don't sound interesting to me I waited until 2016 to finally discover Patrick Ness. (I'm lying. They look AMAZING, I'm just lazy). I loved 'The Rest of Us Just Live Here' and I'm looking forward to reading more of Patrick's writing in the future - in fact, I bought 'More Than This' on Kindle just a couple of days ago!

7) Lisa Heathfield
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I read a sample of the first couple of chapters of Lisa Heathfield's 'Seed', but it made me feel so uncomfortable that I felted unmotivated to read the whole story. When 'Paper Butterflies' was chosen as the #SundayYA book club pick for the month I felt daunted, but I ended up reading it in a couple of hours - I was transfixed, and I felt the undeniable need to know how the story ended.
I'm going to give 'Seed' another go in the New Year. 

6) Frances Hardinge
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After all of the fuss surrounding 'The Lie Tree' following its Costa book prize win, I decided to give it a try this year. I didn't think I'd like it, but I ended up feeling completely shifted to another place and time, and it was jarring when I finished it and had to come back to living in the here and now. If Frances Hardinge's other novels manage to transport you so utterly and completely, I'm going to fall deeply in love with each and every single one of them. 

5) Douglas Adams
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Somehow I managed to make it to my twentieth year of life without picking up any of Douglas Adams' novels, so I'm proud to say that I've (almost) read two this year (okay, I'm halfway through 'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe' and I am STUCK, but that's one and a half further than I was in 2015!).

4) Terry Pratchett
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I had this book recommended to me constantly last year, but I waited until this year to read it. As soon as I'd finished it I just wanted to read it again, and I hate myself for waiting so long to actually pick this book up. I haven't read any other books by Terry Pratchett, but if they're as good as this one I'm going to LOVE them. 

3) Holly Bourne
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Holly is currently writing her eight novel, so why did I wait until now to read one of her books?! I have most of them on my Kindle, and it's going to be my priority next year to finish reading the Spinster Club series. 

2) Louise O'Neill
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'Asking For It' broke my heart. I still haven't read 'Only Ever Yours', but I will, as soon as I get over the difficult and harrowing experience that I went through while reading this book. 

1) Sara Barnard
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'Beautiful Broken Things' is the best book I read in 2016. It's Sara's debut novel - her second book, 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder', is coming out in a matter of weeks - and I'm so glad that I gave it a chance, because it's wonderful. Dealing with depression, abuse and female friendships, there's not a love story in sight within these pages.

Which authors did you read for the first time in 2016, and why did it take you so long to get to them?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Better Than Never - The Bullingdon, Oxford, 03/12/16

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One State Drive were my highlight of the evening. 
From the second 'Nothing Left' started, I was hooked. They're exactly the kind of band I've been looking for, but too often all the bands in the 'easycore' genre sound identical. Luckily One State Drive have a certain something that makes them stand out, and while I can't put my finger on what it was it certainly intrigued me.
I'd chosen one word to describe them after their first few songs: cheesy. Just listen to the lyrics of 'Got It Down', with its "the back of your head has never looked so good" refrain - there's no other word to describe it! So when vocalist Addy Walker mentioned that their recently released EP was called 'It Ain't Cheesy Being Easycore', I was delighted. This band knows exactly who they are. They aren't trying to fool anybody, and they certainly aren't taking themselves too seriously.
Their cover of 'Fat Lip' was a bit of a train wreck, but I mean that in the best, most enjoyable kind of way. It felt more like a karaoke session at the end of the night than a song in the set of the opening band, but it was the perfect way to warm the crowd up: no one was standing still from the moment that iconic riff started. 
The band worked hard to hold the crowd's attention through their closer, 'Keeping Score', and Addy managed to get a lot of people jumping with him towards the end of the song. Compared to the audience's non-reaction to the start of their set, the end was an absolute triumph.
I wish they'd been playing later in the night, because they're so good that they deserved to be higher up the bill. I'm going to keep a very close eye on these guys and hopefully I'll be able to catch them at a few of their hometown shows in 2017. 

Nothing Left
Got It Down
It Ain't Cheesy Being Easycore
Cut The Deadweight
Fat Lip cover
Keeping Score

On The Last To Leave's Facebook page they describe themselves as a 'young 5 piece pop punk band from Oxfordshire', and 'young' isn't an understatement. I don't know exactly how old the members are, but I was shocked when vocalist Matty Harris shared that they'd been performing their cover of All Time Low's 'Weightless' for two years: they definitely didn't look old enough to have been in a band for that long already!
The Last To Leave's music is lyrically immature. I enjoyed their set enough to buy their EP, and I think they're already very talented musicians, but their lyrical content needs some serious work. 'The Story' has the chorus "This is how the story ends/This is how we'll start again/This is how the story ends", while 'Reflections' reads more like a suicide note than a break up song with the worrying - and melodramatic - line "You make me want to fall asleep forever".
Ironically, the most developed song was the childish and overly repetitive - yet insanely catchy - 'Never Going Home'. It sounds like it's going to be an instant hit. If you compare it to the pop-punk songs that get radio attention it's up there with the best of them, its "never ever ever, never ever ever going home!" chant looping around your head until you want to scream it back at the top of your lungs (while tearing your hair out from sheer frustration at how simplistically genius it is).
They've already got the stage banter going on - one particularly memorable moment happening while they were trying to convince people to buy their EP and bassist and backing vocalist Sam Jones quipped "One pound will buy me a Pot Noodle. That'll feed me for three weeks!". Onstage charisma and confidence are normally the last thing that a band find, but The Last To Leave have bucket loads of it already: they'll only get better with age.

The Story
Weightless cover
Burning Up
Holding On
Never Going Home

I'm still not sure how I feel about Coast To Coast.
Despite the fact that all of the bands had the same amount of time on stage, I felt restless and struggled to concentrate during their set. There's something about Keiran Hyland's vocal that bothers me, in the same way that I struggle to fall in love with Moose Blood, Real Friends and Knuckle Puck. It's nothing against Coast To Coast - in fact, it probably makes them better that they're among such esteemed company! They just aren't the band for me.
They played two brand new songs in their set, 'Ajax' and 'Geranium'. They both fitted well in the set, but I'm not sure if that's because they sounded so similar to the songs they'd already released: they have a style and don't seem too willing to diverge from that. The only exception to the rule is 'Bunkbeds', which was slower and had a more melancholy feel to it, something which I would normally describe as a positive but which just made the set feel even longer.
I'm going to give Coast To Coast's recorded music a try, to see if it's a problem that they suffer with live and not on their official releases, but I'm not holding my breath.


This was a bittersweet night for Better Than Never. It was the release show for their new EP, 'Head Under Water' - a release which has already been getting the band attention from sites including Punktastic and Rock Sound - but it was also their final show with now ex-lead guitarist Max Peniket, who has been with the band since 2014. One door closing and another opening wide for a band who've been working hard for almost four years now.
'Head Under Water' is Better Than Never's second EP this year, following February's 'Homemade Hero'. It's a more polished offering, the past year of touring - including a notable support slot for Courage My Love and a lengthy co-headline tour with Coast To Coast - having done great things to improve the confidence of a band who are rapidly gaining attention in the underground UK pop-punk scene.
The first thing I noticed when the band took to the stage was the surprise addition of a female member, who the band introduced as vocalist and guitarist Will Keating's sister Maisie. She's been filling in for the band since the departure of their previous drummer, and though she's only 15 but she held her own amongst the boys. If she can play like this now she's going to become a force to be reckoned with if she continues playing in the years to come. I've got a feeling the boys are going to struggle to find a replacement who could keep up with her - as they themselves said on stage, "she's sick as fuck!".
The new EP was streamed online for the week prior to this show, but if I hadn't known better I would have assumed it had been out for months. Older songs and established fan favourites 'Slowly Slipping Under' (the first song the band ever wrote) and 'Panama' (the song that really lets Will's vocal shine) both received great reactions because they're already so well loved, a huge amount of people chanting the words back and throwing themselves towards the stage to get closer to the action, but it wasn't until the new songs were played that the night really began.
Vocalist James Harris introduced 'Forty Eight' as "one of the heavier songs [they'd] ever done", and the screaming laced throughout the song meant it wasn't surprising at all when the audience erupted into a moshpit, the biggest I'd ever seen at a show of this size.
The inclusion of a cover of Fall Out Boy's 'Sugar, We're Going Down' drove the crowd further into a frenzy, and even the people stood towards the back of the room couldn't stop themselves from singing along to every word. It also meant that the reaction to 'Learning To Swim' was even better than it otherwise would have been: the cover put everyone on a high that they didn't come down from until long after the set had finished.
When the band finished five minutes early the crowd chanted for one more song, and James joked that it was "physically impossible. We don't have any more songs!" but when the audience continued to demand more he gave Max the chance to choose one song from the setlist to play again, giving him the reins at the end of his last show. He instantly picked 'Sugar, We're Going Down' which James refused, and after a few moments of pondering it was decided that they'd be closing with their opening song, 'Dreamland Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be'. The crowd were much more energetic second time around, giving Max the send off he deserved by breaking out into another mosh pit and yelling the words into the microphone when James held it out into the crowd.
You might not have heard of Better Than Never just yet, but it won't be that way for long. 

Dreamland Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be
Slowly Slipping Under
Lowhill Lane
Forty Eight
Sugar We're Going Down cover
Learning To Swim
Back Of The Line, Kid
Dreamland Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Sunday, 4 December 2016

WTF Did I Miss This Week? #9 (w/c 28/11/16)

The YA world:

There were quite a few new releases this week:
Image result for teach me to forget ericaImage result for talking as fast as i can gilmore girlsImage result for girls in the moon
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As well as some gorgeous cover reveals:
UK cover (left) designed by Neil Lang; US cover (right)
The two covers of 'Shattered Minds' are UK (left) and US (right) respectively.

In other news:
  • The Chaos Walking adaptation had some casting news: it looks as though Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland are both on board!
  • While Beth Reekles announced that 'The Kissing Booth' will be coming to Netflix. 
  • It was also announced that the screenwriter for 'Carol', Phyllis Nagy, is scripting the film adaptation of Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta novels. Not YA, but still exciting bookish news!
  • TV writer Simon James Green announced that his debut novel, 'Noah Can't Even', will be released by Scholastic in May.
  • Twitter's Brooding YA Hero is set to have his own book!
  • While there was uproar over ABRAMS Kids Bad Little Children's Books. Some people are describing the titles as racist, some are arguing that they're purely satirical: which side of this debate do you fall on?
The music world:

After the excitement of the last month, I couldn't find any official new releases this week. Maybe that's me not looking hard enough, maybe it's just the way things are as the industry starts wrapping up for Christmas and preparing for 2017.
But Better Than Never did put up an early (and free!) stream of their EP, which is being released next week.

However, there was some new music released:

Simple Plan released a video for 'Perfectly Perfect':
and following that with the release of their new Christmas song, 'Christmas Every Day'.

Biffy Clyro released another trippy video, this one for 'Re-arrange':

State Champs get lost in their new video:

And Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello's collaboration now has an official - and stunning - video:

Meanwhile The Flatliners announced that they were releasing their next album via Rise Records next year and released a new song to celebrate, Lower Than Atlantis have 'Had Enough' and there's another episode of The Maine's Miserable Youth series. 

And, of course, there were yet more tour announcements:
  • After teasing their reunion since January, The Sleeping finally announced a reunion show while will be held at the end of December.
  • The New Year will start in style for Ronnie Radke and co., as Falling In Reverse announced a North American headline tour for January and February. Support will come from Motionless In White and Issues.
  • Against The Current announced they'll be returning to the UK and Europe throughout February and March.
  • While Moose Blood will be spending that time out of the country, headlining dates across North America with support from Trophy Eyes, Boston Manor and A Will Away.
  • Green Day have added two Irish dates to their previously announced UK dates, scheduled for the end of June.
In other news:
  • The co-founder of Riot Fest, Sean McKeough, was found dead at just 42. 
  • Austin Carlile has spoken out to raise awareness of Marfan's Syndrome...
  • ...while Of Mice and Men have pulled out of their Australian A Day To Remember support slot, to give Austin more time to recover. 
  • AFI were announced as the support for Deftones huge UK dates in May...
  • ...while Lower Than Atlantis announced that Young Guns, Hands Like Houses and Roam will be accompanying them on their UK tour in March...
  • ...and Babymetal were announced as the support for Guns 'n' Roses Japanese tour in January.
  • Next week Kerrang! are giving away a free CD of Green Day covers, featuring With Confidence, Andy Black, Waterparks and many more!
  • twenty one pilots are one of Spotify's most streamed artists worldwide. The new was announced on frontman Tyler Joseph's birthday and was probably the best present he received.
  • The first wave of bands playing Impericon Festival 2017 was announced, including Miss May I, Thy Art Is Murder and In Hearts Wake... 
  • ...a huge chunk of bands were announced for Download Festival 2017...
  • ...while the first Reading and Leeds 2017 headliner was announced: Muse! Check out the full list of bands announced so far here.
  • But it wasn't just UK festivals getting their first announcements. There was also line-up news for Rock On The Range (held in Ohio at the end of May) and Hangout Music Festival (held on the same weekend as Rock On The Range, but in Alabama).
  • Lit announced they will be releasing their next album in conjunction with PledgeMusic
And this is where I leave you! I'll see you next Sunday.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Pierce The Veil - Brixton O2 Academy, 27/11/16

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Hanging out in Brixton before the show, I wouldn't have been blamed for assuming this was a Creeper headline show. I saw more people with their distinctive Callous Heart back patch than I saw people wearing Pierce The Veil shirts, and when vocalist Will Gould came skipping out on to the stage the screams were ear-piercing. 
They managed to get the first circle pit of the night going during 'The Honeymoon Suite', and despite the fact that new single 'Suzanne' has only been out for a little over a month the majority of people in the room were singing along to every word (even though the chorus still sounds like screeching cats meowing to me...). Will was humbled by the reaction, as he normally is: this man doesn't seem able to accept the success that the band are experiencing. He thanked the crowd at multiple points, taking the time after 'Valentine' to shout "Thank you so much, Brixton! That's fucking awesome!" in response to the crowd's response to their set, and dedicating closer 'Misery' to Pierce The Veil for bringing them on the tour, saying that it was "absolutely wild" and "so fucking great to be here". He also shared that "in the two years we've been doing this band, this is our favourite tour we've ever been on", stating that playing with letlive. meant playing with "some of the best people we've ever met, some of the best friends we've ever met" before dedicating 'Astral Projection' to them. I don't think the folks in Creeper are capable of disliking anyone.
Their success is mind-blowing, particularly when you consider that their debut album, 'Eternity In Your Arms', isn't set to be released until the end of March. Reminding the crowd that they'd only been around for two years just hammers home the fact that they're experiencing a very strange and rapid trajectory, and I'm interested to see where they'll be in two years time. 

Black Mass
The Honeymoon Suite
Astral Projection

Have you ever seen a grown man tear a carpet from the ground and throw it at a crowd of people? 
Well, I guess that means you haven't been to a letlive. show then!
Jason Aalon Butler proved himself to be one of the world's most energetic frontmen once again.
Moments after coming on stage he'd thrown his microphone stand into the air and leaped into the crowd, screaming his heart out as tech guys flooded the stage and frantically attempted to fix his destruction, trying to both reassemble the stand and keep his trailing microphone wire elevated above the heads of the crowd.
Most frontmen take the time to climb back on to the stage in a sensible manner, but not Jason! He launched himself and landed on his back, rolling over and stumbling to his feet, still relentlessly screaming as he wandered back towards the centre of the stage. He stopped for a moment to take a drink of water then decided to pour his drink all over himself, writhing sexily under the stream of liquid, all the while wrapping his microphone wire tighter and tighter around his throat. 
Then he broke out into a brief cover of Michael Jackson's 'Man In The Mirror'. 
And all of that happened during 'Renegade '86'. 
Saying it was an explosive way to start the set would be an understatement. It was the most exciting five minutes I've ever experienced in my life, and while it would have been completely understandable if the rest of the set had been disappointing, it just kept getting better. The carpet incident happened during 'That Fear Fever', after a brief game of bounce the drumstick - which resulted in Jason launching it across the stage at drummer Loniel Robinson's head - and after Jason had casually walked through almost the entirety of the crowd, heedless of the cable still trailing his every step, stood on random members of the audience towards the back of the room and simply fallen backwards, allowing them to catch him and deposit him safely on the floor.
Then it was time for the carpet to feel his wrath. Clambering gracelessly back on to the stage once more, he rolled to the floor, tugging at one of the corners with a furious look on his face. It rolled back easily, making it question why a badly fixed carpet was needed on the stage, but before I could question it too deeply Jason was wrapping himself up in it, wearing it like the world's most uncomfortable snuggie blanket. He obviously agreed that it wasn't the most sensible costume to wear while performing, but instead of putting the carpet back down he launched it into the crowd, the heavy material landing on the audience with an audible thwack. It's testament to how much people adore and respect letlive. that there were no complaints about his reckless behaviour. It was the highlight of my evening. 
But letlive. don't rely too heavily on Jason's stage antics. They're touring to support their new album 'If I'm The Devil...', which was released back in June, and based on the reaction to the newer songs - which Jason toned down his performance to effectively showcase - they're doing a damn good job of attracting new fans with each album they put out. They seem to be taking a stand with their new album, particularly where 'Reluctantly Dead' is concerned (the only song which featured Jason playing guitar as well as singing), and he isn't afraid to bring their new-found politicism into their live show. He went as far as encouraging the crowd to chant "Fuck Donald Trump" after announcing that letlive. "don't believe in bigotry, we don't believe in hate, we don't believe in war", and that political strand is also weaved through 'Good Mourning, America', which targets gun crime statistics. 
But compared to the overt messages in those two songs, the other two new releases they chose to put in their set had a completely different feel.
Introducing 'A Weak Ago', Jason explained that it was written "in memoriam of a town where we grew up" and asked "if you have any interest in music as an art form, as an expression, then we implore you to jump up and down like they would have in the 90s". 
Then there was the only slow song they performed, 'Foreign Cab Rides', which Jason introduced poignantly, sharing his vulnerabilities by admitting "I spent a lot of my life believing that romance and love was just something they wrote about, something in the movies. I believed it was unattainable, and I told myself I wasn't deserving of it. But nights like this? I feel love." Following the round of applause from the crowd, he enthused "Every single person in this room is deserving of love in some capacity, but most importantly make sure to give love to yourselves. Be good to yourselves." The contrast between the maniac wearing a carpet at the start of the set and this open and emotional version of Jason is one of the reasons people respect him so much: he knows how to put on a show, but he also knows that he's human, and he's allowed to show his softer side. 
But it didn't last for long. As soon as 'Banshee (Ghost Fame)' started he was back to his crazily energetic ways, inciting the biggest circle pit of the night so far before rolling an amp on to the stage, taking a moment to ride it like an extremely wobbly and tall skateboard before bellyflopping on top of it and launching himself across the stage, nearly colliding with the drum kit AND one of the guitarists during his journey. 
How he gets away with doing things like that on stage, I'll never know. 
He was completely out of breath following the non-stop action, merely saluting the crowd as he unbuttoned his shirt, panting heavily at the back of the stage before stepping forward to introduce penultimate track 'Muther'. Jason has no qualms about speaking on stage, and he took the opportunity to call out any misogynists or sexists in the crowd before the song started. He asked if he could take a moment to speak to any women in the room, then announced "This world is going to act like you owe them something. [...] Women? You don't owe this world shit. You are the reason this world spins around and around, don't let no man tell you otherwise. Men in this room, if you feel entitled to take this from a woman emotionally, mentally - even more detrimentally, physically - I'll be around this whole evening to punch you in your motherfucking face." 
I hadn't thought the applause and cheers that they'd been receiving throughout their set could get any louder, but the reaction to this statement was raucous, and Jason had to stop speaking for a couple of minutes to allow the crowd to calm down. He wrapped up his speech by sharing that "the only two people in this world who taught me to be a man were two women" and dedicated the song to his mother and sister, before inviting Hannah Greenwood from Creeper back on to the stage to perform the part of the female co-vocalist. After Hannah left the stage Jason followed her, disappearing for a couple of minutes before appearing on the balcony to the side of the seating area upstairs in the venue. 
When Jason eventually returned to the stage, it was time for letlive.'s last song, the previously mentioned 'Good Mourning, America'. Of course, Jason couldn't pass up on the opportunity to finish the set with a bang, and after he climbed up on to the drum kit he launched himself backwards, breaking the kit into pieces while Loniel was still playing. There were still circle pits going on as the band finished, the crowd seeming unwilling for their set to finish, and I don't think it'll be long at all before letlive. are headlining this venue. Sets from support bands don't get better than this.  

Renegade '86 (+ Man In The Mirror snippet)
That Fear Fever
A Weak Ago
Foreign Cab Rides
The Dope Beat
Reluctantly Dead
Banshee (Ghost Fame)
Muther (ft. Hannah Greenwood)
Good Mourning, America

After letlive.'s consistently explosive performance, Pierce The Veil had a lot to live up to. With a screen unfurling to cover the stage while they were setting up it was obvious that they were getting ready to pull something special out of the bag, but with so many people in the audience only attending to see the support acts, the headliners had a fight on their hands. 
The screen had an animation projected on to it, illustrations in the style of the cover of 'Misadventures' showing a rocket flying through the sky hitting pigeons against its windscreen, exploring the depths of the oceans and eventually crashlanding in London. When the stage was revealed it showed a broken rocket framing Mike Fuentes' drums, the four members of Pierce The Veil climbing out from the windows and the wreckage in astronaut suits before diving in to 'Dive In', their most recent single (the video for which was released days before the show).
The first half of the set was a mixed bag of material. Bringing back old favourites 'Caraphernalia' and 'Bulletproof Love' (during which vocalist Vic Fuentes picked a fan called Lauren out of the crowd to sing the first verse to, shouting that it was his "favourite part of the night right now!" when he sat her on a stool and sang directly to her as she cried her eyes out), they then chose to include the beautifully tender acoustic 'Kissing In Cars', a surprise for a set that was favouring their heavier songs until that point.
Vic shared the story behind 'Kissing In Cars' while the other members set up their acoustic instruments, admitting "This one wasn't meant to be heard by anybody in the world. This was supposed to be a wedding present for Jaime's best friend." He went on to explain that Jaime's friend gave them a list of words that reminded him of his soon-to-be wife and asked, "Can you make a song out of these words?". "We wrote this for them. Now here we are ten years later singing this to all you here in London," Vic yelled to rapturous applause, and he was blown away by the reaction when every person in the room started chanting the words back to him, admitting "I don't think I've ever heard this many people sing at once in my life."
They played a good amount of their new album: as well as 'Dive In', they included 'Texas Is Forever', 'The Divine Zero' and 'Floral and Fading' in the main part of their set (the latter which Vic shared he wrote "for [his] girlfriend Danielle. She's here somewhere tonight, she flew all the way from California to be here!", before pointing directly at her towards the back of the room, crooning "Oh, I see you girl."), putting 'Circles' in the encore to break up the chunk of songs from 'Collide With The Sky'. The fans don't seem to have fully accepted the new songs just yet, the yelling and cheering reactions reserved for the older songs that they played, but if they keep performing them this solidly it won't take long before they become set staples. I'm interested to see which songs from 'Misadventures' they choose to include in their set when they play Download festival next summer.
They neatly split their set into two, taking a moment at the end of 'Kissing In Cars' to walk off of the stage and have their new 'Misadventures' backdrop switched with one featuring the 'Collide With The Sky' artwork. Their third album is still their most popular - their new album having flown under the radar in comparison - and it's refreshing to see a band that accept that their audience want to hear older material and not just the new album that they're currently touring. Whereas they could have put in more songs from the new album and received a less enthusiastic response, they know what their fans want to hear and are not afraid to cater to that.
Because of their support band, one song was guaranteed to make it into the set: 'Tangled In The Great Escape', which features Jason Aalon Butler. Despite the fact that he'd just played a relentless set of his own, his energy level wasn't diminished and it was the most successful song Pierce The Veil played. "It's very rare that we play that song, and we only do it when we tour with letlive.," Vic shared, and as it was always my favourite song on 'Collide With The Sky' I became even more grateful that I'd been able to attend this show.
Halfway through the set, Vic took a moment to thank the crowd, saying "This is the most special show to us that we've ever played in our career. We've been a band for about ten years now and this is the biggest headline show we've played in our entire careers.". It made his message during 'The Divine Zero' even more inspirational: "You don't have to grow up to do the thing that you love, you can do it right fucking now."
Pierce The Veil are doing what they love. It's obvious from the chemistry between the four members (completed by bassist and backing vocalist Jaime Preciado and guitarist Tony Perry) that there's no inner turmoil or tension that could possibly bring these four down. For a band who've never had a personnel change it's surprising that they still get along so easily after a decade, and their onstage interactions are still fun to watch - particularly when Vic pointed his guitar at Jaime like it was a gun, causing him to fall to the floor and lie motionless before bouncing back into action and leaping across the stage. This band won't repeat themselves, constantly striving to further their stage show and surprise their fans on every tour. Can you point to another band who would climb out of a rocket to take to the stage?
Some people have dismissing Pierce The Veil due to the lack of chart success experienced by 'Misadventures', but I think that's naive. They're not likely to release another album like 'Collide With The Sky', but they're still getting stronger with every year that they stay together.

Dive In 
Texas Is Forever
The Divine Zero
Bulletproof Love
Floral and Fading
Kissing In Cars (acoustic)
May These Noises Startle You In Your Sleep Tonight
Hell Above
Bulls In The Bronx
Tangled In The Great Escape (ft. Jason Aalon Butler)
Hold On Till May
King For A Day

Friday, 2 December 2016

Highly Suspect - The Dome, Tufnell Park, 25/11/16

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Vukovi converted me during their set.
I listened to 'Animal' before Download festival and was wholly unimpressed, so I crossed them off of my list without a second thought. I was interested when they announced their self-titled debut album was scheduled for release in March, but when they were added as sole support for this show I was disappointed. I assumed they were going to struggle to get a reaction from the crowd: the show sold out mere hours after it was announced back in September, while Vukovi were added to the line-up at the start of November. It was unlikely that anyone was going to be attending the show purely for the Scottish four piece, and I thought they might fall flat when confronted with such a rock 'n' roll crowd.
When their stage time came around the room was already filled almost to capacity, the crowd eagerly waiting for someone to take the stage. Whoops and hollers echoed around the venue, and the band came out to a smattering of applause, the Friday night crowd anticipating the start of the music.
Vocalist Janine Shilstone took command, her high and breathy vocal giving their sound a unique twist that makes it impossible to draw comparisons between them and any other bands around at the moment. She's unafraid to be the focal point of their set, regularly taking phones out of the hands of fans at the front of the crowd to film herself singing directly into them, a huge contrast with most vocalists who want people to put their phones away instead. She's also hilarious, taking the time to apologise for her thick Glaswegian accent before squealing with excitement someone shouted out, exclaiming "You can? One person!" with glee.
The songs at the start of their set had a heavier sound, with bassist Jason Trotter adding screaming backing vocals which - although well performed - felt misplaced, causing an uncomfortable contrast between his voice and Janine's. But by the end of the set the dance aspects that weaved subtly through the first couple of songs took center stage, powerful riffs, "hey!" and "woah-oh-oh" chants, and funky breakdowns bringing their set to a remarkably successful close.
The majority of the songs they played are going to be on the aforementioned debut album, and Janine shared that they were "quite nervous, because a lot of the songs in our set and ones we've never performed live before," before thanking the crowd for "being so welcoming!" to them.
I wouldn't be surprised if Vukovi make quite a few festival appearances throughout 2017, but I won't make the mistake of missing their set again.  

La Di Da
Bouncy Castle
Boy George

If you were at the show and know which song came third in Vukovi's set, please let me know!
When I went to this show, less than a week had passed since Highly Suspect released their new album 'The Boy Who Died Wolf', and I was excited to see how the new songs worked in a live environment.
The album is stunning, a tour de force that ranges from piano ballads ('Chicago') to sprawling anthems that wouldn't sound out of place performed at an arena or stadium-sized headline show (both 'Serotonia' and closing track 'Wolf'). There isn't a weak moment during any of the 11 songs, but at times the album does rely heavily on the production - just listen to 'My Name Is Human' or 'Viper Strike', which both feel swamped in effects: one polished to perfection, the other distorted to add to the grunge vibe it emanates.
This made me feel a little apprehensive about seeing the band again. For one thing, The Dome is a drastically different environment to Reading festival, where I discovered - and rapidly fell in love with - the band. I didn't doubt that they would sound amazing wherever they played, but headline sets and festival sets are not similar at all and it's always interesting to see how bands cope when they're the main attraction of the evening. That, combined with not knowing quite how the new material was going to work, meant I went into this show filled with nerves.
They dissipated the moment the opening riff to 'Bath Salts' rang out. The band took to the stage ten minutes after their allocated stage time, a delay which succeeded in further pumping up a crowd who were already buzzing with excitement, but with their set finishing ten minutes after curfew it didn't mean they put on less of a show.
These three are pure rock 'n' roll. Starting 'Bloodfeather' by yelling "When I start jumping up and down, I want every motherfucker in this room to start jumping with me!" vocalist Johnny Stevens knew that he had every single member of the sold out crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, and he took advantage of them, milking every moment of their time on stage. The first break came at the start of 'My Name Is Human', which Johnny introduced by announcing that it was currently #1 in America (on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs chart), before he stopped playing and shared "I gotta tune this. Just got off a plane with it, you know what I'm saying? This is for your benefit."
He used this fake out way of teasing their most popular songs a couple of times during the show: after playing the opening riff to 'Serotonia' he paused to thank Vukovi and DJ Rigby (the DJ who played between the two sets, on his "first international gig") and then joked that it was time to get "back to your regularly scheduled programming", then in the middle of 'Lydia' the band stopped the song to have a brief break, chugging from a bottle of tequila that Johnny passed back and forth between him and drummer Ryan Meyer.
How do the new songs sound live? There's only one word to describe them: perfect. 'My Name Is Human' sounds like a more natural rock song, focusing on the riffs and shining a spotlight on bassist and backing vocalist Rich Meyer, proving that it doesn't need the vocal distortion to be atmospheric. 'Little One' felt more tender and poignant, particularly after Johnny introduced the song by saying that he was "so fucking fortunate, because the girl that it was written about is sitting right back there", but still allowed for a humorous moment when he vocally substituted the chimes that sound in the middle of the song.
Meanwhile 'Viper Strike' still has the bitter sarcasm that makes it the most vengeful song on the album, but without the distorted effect on Johnny's vocal you can easily understand every single lyric. That makes lines like "I see you're clutching that cross pretty hard, though/A lot of those motherfuckers are gay/Like in a 'hide your kids' kind of way" so much more effective. And with Johnny introducing it by saying "Sorry about our president..." it's a much more politically charged song than most Grammy-nominated, chart-topping acts would risk to release.
Highly Suspect are big on equality and acceptance. If that wasn't obvious by them directly tackling racism and homophobic in 'Viper Strike', it's unavoidable when Johnny tells the crowd "Look around each other. This is a family here. This is what MCID is all about. You guys are a network now.". It was visible at the show: the room was filled with people of all races, ages and sizes who were all dancing, chanting and yelling the words to every song. You don't often see people having this level of unrestrained, unselfconscious fun, and Rich even commented on that fact, announcing "I've never seen so many happy faces in my life!".
Some people have written this band off, unimpressed by the way that their ever-so-slightly commercialised rock is making its way into mainstream charts, but you'd be stupid to dismiss these three. They're happy to explore their sound, exemplified perfectly during 'Round and Round' - the only song to feature Rich on lead vocal (which Johnny introduced by saying "Rich has the voice of a goddamned angel [...] like an angel who gets in a nice black tutu and performs a ballet in hell") and one of the most effective moments of their set - and the stripped-back introduction to 'Vanity' which made the song practically unrecognisable.
Then there are the rock 'n' roll antics that they get up to on stage. They're not trying to stay in anyone's good books, and they're definitely not playing by the same rule book as most other bands, either. Chugging tequila at multiple points throughout the set might seem hardcore, but when you consider the fact that Ryan Meyer played a ten minute drum solo during 'ATL' (the live performance only outro to 'Claudeland') and didn't miss a beat, and following his solo Johnny sauntered back out on the stage, lit cigarette dangling from his lips as he finished the show by breaking the law in a rebellious fashion... That's a real rock band. You can't call Highly Suspect posers, because no one would describe this show as forgettable.
We were very lucky it even went ahead. Johnny admitted that he "missed [his] first flight", groaning "it took me thirty fucking hours to get from New York to London!", and I'm beyond grateful that he managed to make it to the country, because this show has easily become the best I've seen this year (and having been to over 50 shows, that's no small feat).
I'd already bought tickets to their headline show at Koko in March, and if you don't have tickets yet you need to change that. It's not going to take long for that show to sell out, and I think it's going to be one of the last times that you'll be able to see these three in a venue that small.
2017 is going to be Highly Suspect's year. Don't be surprised if they change their Grammy nominated status to Grammy winners.

Bath Salts
My Name Is Human
Round and Round
Fuck Me Up
Viper Strike
Little One
Claudeland/ATL (including drum solo)

'Tonight The Streets Are Ours' by Leila Sales

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*This review will contain spoilers!* 
"I think maybe I just love people too much," Arden answered aloud. "So if other people love me a normal amount, that doesn't come close to matching the way I feel about them."

'Like all stories,  the one you are about to read is a love story. If it wasn't, what would be the point?'
I loved the straightforward attitude of this opener. I'd been considering returning it to the library and borrowing it again at another time, but after reading this I was hooked.

'Tonight The Streets Are Ours' focuses on a question that Arden shouts into the void - Google - in a moment of sheer desperation.
'Why does nobody love me as much as I love them?'
Someone else has asked this exact same question on his blog, Tonight The Streets Are Ours, and Arden is struck by the knowledge that there is someone out there in the world who feels exactly the same way she does. She devours Peter's posts, discovering the tale of a rich boy in New York whose parents don't support him, whose brother runs away from Cornell and whose girlfriend dumps him as soon as his brother leaves, heartlessly abandoning him in his time of need before taking him back after he makes a grand gesture on New Year's Eve.
Arden becomes obsessed with the blog posts, refreshing Tonight The Streets Are Ours at multiple points throughout the day, desperate to see what happens next in Peter's life.
She had many reasons to ask why nobody loved her as much as she loved them. Her best friend Lindsey hides pot in her locker and allows her to take the fall for it. Her mother leaves, running away to New York and leaving her father to care for her and her brother Roman, but he'd rather spend all of his time at work or in his office playing fantasy football. Then there's her boyfriend Chris, an aspiring actor who skips their first anniversary celebrations to go to a meet and greet with the cast and crew of his first film.
The same night Chris leaves her alone in a fancy hotel room, Arden reads Peter's latest post and finds out that him and Bianca have broken up again. She wonders if it's some kind of divine intervention: the people in her life don't treat her right and Peter isn't treated the way he deserves to be, so maybe they're the right people for each other. She phones Lindsey and asks if she wants to go on a road trip to New York and Lindsey accepts, so within the hour they're on the highway phoning every book store in the city to try to track Peter down.

I loved this book
It featured all of my favourite aspects of YA contemporaries: a diverse cast who are extremely easy to relate to, different styles of writing and - best of all - a road trip. You can't beat a road trip. 
I really connected with Arden, because I've often felt the same way she has: that I love the people around me more than they love me. I think it's something a lot of people experience. Our own feelings are intense, but it's difficult to get a true measure of how someone else is feeling. I've always dismissed this fear before, thinking I was just being self-absorbed, but to see it written down on the page was a very emotional experience. 
I liked the discussion about how we show love and what it means to different people. Peter thinks his grand gesture will be enough to keep him and Bianca together, believing them to be soulmates, but she cheats on her boyfriend - Peter's brother - when they start dating and she can't get past the guilt. Arden thinks love is sacrificing everything for another person, but when she listens to her mother she understands that there needs to be give and take in every relationship: you need to love people, but you need to love yourself and make sure that they love you too, or you'll be expending too much energy for little to no return. 
I thought Arden's reaction to meeting Peter was very relevant. Following the announcement that a black actress would play Hermione in 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child', J.K. Rowling insisted that she had never mentioned a skin colour in relation to the character, so she could have had any colour of skin - people just assumed she was white, because the majority of characters normally are. Arden addresses this problem in a direct way...
'He was Asian. Arden had just assumed that he would be white, like she was, like almost everyone in Cumberland was. She felt immediately guilty for expecting, however subconsciously, that everyone she met would look like her.'
...and it makes you reflect on your own personal assumptions regarding characters. I'd also expected Peter to be white and was pleasantly surprised when he wasn't, because it made the story much more realistic. I'm going to make a conscious effort to imagine a wider range of characters in the future.
Peter's blogs were written in a very intriguing way, constantly setting up enigmas that weren't resolved. If Tonight The Streets Are Ours was real, I know for a fact I'd be one of those people checking back every day for new updates! When the real story behind the blog comes out - that Bianca's ex Leo is Peter's brother, who returned about a month after running away and is no longer missing - Arden is disappointed that Peter used his words to deceive his fans, but that's a life lesson in itself: people might be completely honest in their blogs, but it's still only their side of a story involving many people.
The contrast between Arden's life in her small town and Peter's luxurious life in the big city - where he casually hails limousines and attends crazy parties - meant that the second half of the novel went a lot faster than the first half, but even though the start of the book was a slow burn I still found myself enjoying every page I turned.
The epilogue is perfect, giving information about where each and every character ended up following the main story. It's the perfect example of a standalone: every loose end is wrapped up, and this time in all of their lives is put behind them.

If you're looking for a thought-provoking and fun contemporary to read over Christmas, you should definitely grab this one. I can't think of a single aspect of the book that needs improving, and I already think it might be one of my favourite reads of 2016. 
I haven't read any of Leila Sales' other novels yet, but my local library has 'My Song Will Save Your Life' on shelf and that's certainly become a priority read for 2017. If it's as brilliantly written as this one, Leila Sales will have easily put herself in my favourite authors list.