We don't normally do an end of year round-up and awards, so this year, we have decided to do just that.
It isn't a complete overview, as we decide on the winners of the following categories, Best Product, Best Album, Best Single, Biggest Surprise, Biggest Disappointment and Most Promising Band.
BEST PRODUCT: Metroland - 12X12
Metroland delivered their 4CD Anthology set "12X12" in May 2017, a well thought out collection and concept. The box set showcased their 12 inch singles released in the first 5 years as a band, gems like "Zeppelin", "Thalys", "Enjoying The View" and "Synthetic Sound" are all included. Their is also a disc for their 7 inch singles released and for the first time on CD, a disc of their B Sides. The collection is rounded off with a fantastic selection of rarities, remixes and demo's.
As is the case with all Metroland's releases, presentation is a key ingredient. The Box Set houses cards telling you the history of the tracks as well as other very interesting facts.
I am probably biased because I am a massive Metroland fan, but the "12X12" Box Set represents fantastic value and is an absolute joy to listen to.
The 4CD set is available from the Alfa Matrix store here
A Digital Edition featuring just the 12 Inch Singles is available here
BEST SINGLE: Empathy Test - Throwing Stones
Whilst this single was released in late 2014, I have only recently discovered this band, who are from the UK, "Throwing Stones" is a gem of a track, passionate, moody, atmospheric, are three words to describe this track. The Single is also backed up with a remixes EP which is also very strong with brilliant remixes by Minuit Machine and Lost Years, as well as a stunning remix of the track "Here Is The Place" by Thomas Datt.
On hearing this track for the first time I immediately did a lot of research on the band to find out more about them and of course listened to a lot more of their music. 2017 saw the band release, not one, but two debut albums!!
"Throwing Stones" is available as a Digital Download here
"Throwing Stones Remixed" is available as a Digital Download here
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Midge Ure - Orchestrated
album took me completely by surprise, I didn't even know it was an
album Midge was working on. Having heard "Hymn (Orchestrated)" I was
impressed and so bought the album, to say I was blown away was an
understatement. It is a beautifully executed orchestral album, a perfect
balance between electronic and orchestral sounds. The one thing this
album definitely shows, is how good the Ultravox and Midge Ure solo
tracks are. Songs like "Vienna". "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes", "The
Voice" and "Reap The Wild Wind" have been taken to a new level and the
voice of Midge Ure sounds as strong as ever, hard to believe he is 64!
The album has one new song on it and that is "Ordinary Man", which fits into the album perfectly.
to this album is a real pleasure, it is brilliant from start to finish,
if you haven't got the album, treat yourself, you won't be
The album is available on Amazon here
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Depeche Mode - Spirit
Depeche Mode have slowly been losing the plot over the last few years, that said I did think "Delta Machine" was a good album. The same cannot be said of the album "Spirit", which, in my opinion is not only the worst album they have released but is possibly the worst album I have ever heard and I have been a music fan for more than 40 years. The album is a complete mess, devoid of anything that resembles a melody, the songs sound tired and the production is awful. It is very rare to listen to a whole album and not have a grain of interest in any of the tracks, this album succeeds in doing that.
This may well be their last album as I can't see how they can move on from this album, the songwriting just isn't there anymore, which is very sad. They can't complain though, as they have had a long and successful career but this album has finally seen me lose patience and interest in them.
If you want to hear how bad this album it is available from Amazon here
MOST PROMISING BAND: Empathy Test
How on earth I have only just discovered this band, I don't know, people that know me will know I search all over the world for new electronic/synthpop bands for my i-Select Shows and yet right under my nose in the UK are Empathy Test!!
They have very strong songwriting skills and a wonderful atmospheric tone in their music and they have been working damned hard to gain recognition and it is now paying off. They recent did crowd funding to help launch 2 debut albums, "Losing Touch" and "Safe From Harm".....they reached nearly 700% of their target and no wonder, as their output has been very impressive with quite a few EP's and Singles released and of course, In November of this year they released their 2 debut albums, both of which are packed with top quality songs that synthpop and electronic fans with drool over. They launched the albums with a sell out show in London to an appreciative audience, which brings me to another aspect of this band that I like, live they are just as good, vocalist Isaac Howlett is effortless in delivering his vocals and you will be hard pressed to spot a difference between his recorded and live vocals.
They are building quite a following in Germany and have quite a few live dates booked their and want to do a headline tour of their own in 2018.
This band have something about them, they have a special magical ingrediant, that surely, will see much bigger and better things around the corner for them. To think that they are not signed to a label is bordering on criminal, surely someone with take these lads under their wing, they deserve it.
They are tailor made for a label like Mute Records.
I will be following their progress that is for certain.
Empathy Test have their releases available on Bandcamp here
Visit The Official Empathy Test Facebook here
.......We can look forward to new albums by Metroland, Eurotix and Machinista, three of our favourite independent Electronic and Synthpop bands!