The Kaje’s Top 20 Albums 2011!!!!

2011 has been an eventful year in music. While it could be argued that the female soloist has continued to battle against the folk-pop contingency for chart domination, here at The Kaje we have been more than a little blown away by the sheer diversity of the tracks hitting the airwaves.

While we initially intended to compile an album Top 10, we felt there were far too many notable releases missing from our list so have pushed the boat out a little further, but still somehow we didn’t have room for The Kaje favourites Washington, The Grates, The Wanted and Ed Sheeran…

Though we could sweet talk about those who narrowly missed out, we would rather just head straight to our 20-1 countdown..

20. Bonjah – Go Go Chaos

2009’s “Until Dawn” put Bonjah on the musical map when it saw the quintet nominated in the Best Album category at both the Apra and Air Awards.  While they may not have walked away with the prize they so deserved, the boys wasted little time in recording this blindingly brilliant sophomore record.

19. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

Britney is back and better than ever. With killer dub beats and ‘I am what I am’ attitude, Britney wasted no time in showing more recent pop princesses Lady Gaga and Jessie J that she is far from ready to give up her crown.. Here at The Kaje we are more than happy for Britney to rule the airwaves!

18. Hanson – Shout It Out

Hanson have been written off by many as a one-hit wonder. Though ‘MMMBop’ is without doubt their biggest chart hit to date, the Tulsa based trio have to their name an impressive catalogue of Blues and Soul influenced records. However, 2011 saw Hanson return to the pop domain which saw them hit the top spot some 15 years ago and boy can they still make those booties shake!

17. Darren Hayes – Secret Codes & Battleships

Former Savage Garden frontman Darren Hayes may have confused his loyal fan base slightly with his more experimental 2007 release ‘This Delicate Thing We’ve Made’, prompting a break from his solo career. Having spent time writing for an array of other acts, Hayes noted that he was simultaneously compiling a set of songs for a solo return. The result is the sublime “Secret Codes & Battleships”. The perfect fusion of Savage Garden-esque questioning ballads and Darren Hayes experimentation, “Secret Codes & Battleships” is Hayes’ best release to date.

16. Melanie C – The Sea

Former Sporty Spice Melanie C is the most successful solo spice. Her debut album still tops the poll of solo records from one of the world’s biggest girl bands ever. Yet despite consistently strong releases, Melanie C’s albums have failed to capture the public imagination in the same way. Post 2007’s “This Time”, Chisholm headed to the West End and it seemed like the solo dream was over. But Chisholm was simply biding her time and her 2011 comeback record “The Sea” warrants celebrating.

15. Ane Brun – It All Starts With One

Ane Brun decided to postpone her solo career when Peter Gabriel asked her to be his backing singer on tour. While she was keen to follow-up 2008’s “Changing Of The Seasons”, she felt uninspired and needed time to collect her thoughts. The time off has clearly worked wonders as 2011 saw her return with this deliciously delicate collection.

14.  Kelly Rowland – Here I Am

Kelly Rowland’s solo career has been somewhat tumultuous. While her 2002 debut album “Simply Deep” was both a commercial and critical success, her 2007 follow-up “Ms. Kelly” was largely overlooked. With Rowland written off by many, she focussed her energies on profile sustaining guest vocals while working hard on ensuring her third release “Here I Am” was able to hit the mark. And boy, it does far more than just that…

13. Frankie & The Heartstrings – Hunger

Sunderland’s Frankie & The Heartstrings have spent the past couple of years building up a reputation on the live circuit. With the distinctive on stage presence proving increasingly popular, the boys finally bit the bullet and unleashed their irrepressible debut album “Hunger” at the start of 2011. With their riotous rawk perfectly captured in album’s 10 tracks, this record is just brief appetite warmer for a band that may just be Britain’s biggest export in years to come.

12. Clare Maguire – Light After Dark

Birmingham’s Clare Maguire was selected by the BBC as one of the acts to watch in 2011. The honour is seemingly a curse, with the pressure piled up the selected acts to deliver commercially and critically. The praise lauded prematurely upon Clare Maguire saw many a critic slam her album upon release somewhat unfairly. With one of the most powerful and distinctive vocals of 2011, “Light After Dark” reveals more of its beauty with each listen. This may be a slow burner, but there is nothing wrong with a lack of radio friendly immediacy.

11. Adele – 21

By rights “21” should be at number 1 on our list. Londoner Adele is without any question the real star of 2011, however, with the record released at the start of the year, here at The Kaje its sheer over exposure has caused us to put it to the back of our shelf for a while. Though it may have very temporarily lost its sheen, there is no denying the innate artistry in Adele’s heartbreak. Seemingly effortlessly Adele manages to capture the  devastating beauty of break-up blues. Magically chilblain inducing.

1o. Kami Thompson – Love Lies

The daughter of folk legends Richard and Linda Thompson has spent most her adult years running away from the inevitable – that she is a musician to the core. Having tried an array of careers, Thompson finally faced up to her genetic disposition and set about work on her own material, a move which the whole world will soon be thankful for. “Love Lies” is at times tender at others playful debut effort, but its real beauty lies not in its diversity but the charm of its dexterous vocalist.

9. Charlie Simpson – Young Pilgrim

Charlie Simpson left boy band Busted while they were going from commercial strength to strength. There was little the pop trio could do wrong, but Simpson felt he was being disloyal to his musical roots and instead launched the rock heavy Fightstar. The move built his credibility and proved his diversity, therefore few eyebrows were raised when Simpson took his baby steps to solo success with 2010’s “When We Were Lions” EP. Rather than rushing a record, Simpson bided his time as he crafted his debut album “Young Pilgrim”, a wise move, as it supersedes all his other musical outings to date.

8. Oh Mercy – Great Barrier Grief

2011 marked the return of Oh Mercy minus founding member Thom Savage. However, the subtle charm of frontman Alexander Gow ensured that “Great Barrier Grief” topped 2009’s “Privileged Woes”. Sincere, sturdy, clean-cut and minimalist, “Great Barrier Grief” is a romantically charged effort.

7. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Make A Scene

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has always been a star in our eyes. With Theaudience’s only record to date still a regular feature on our stereo, we simply cannot get enough of Janet Ellis’ stunning daughter. With Ellis-Bextor having focussed her attentions on motherhood in recent years, “Make A Scene” packs a sophisticated punch and builds on Ellis-Bextor’s distinct sound.

6. Will Young – Echoes

Will Young has come so far from his Pop Idol days that he is barely recognisable from his early recordings. Having taken time to return to tread the boards, Will Young’s “Echoes” is an understated Richard X soulful dance influenced effort that easily walks over his past efforts. Will Young is back and better than ever.

5. Kimbra – Vows

Kiwi Kimbra may be best known globally for her Gotye collaboration “Somebody That I Used To Know”, but her debut album “Vows” shows that she can more than hold her own away from an established partner. Playfully innovative, Kimbra is an artist who understands how to create no-nonsense pop music that oozes credibility.

4. Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes

Nicola Roberts is not Cheryl Cole, nor does she want to be. While Cole may have dominated the post Girls Aloud solo output with her conventional auto-tuned pop slices, Roberts has relished in her lesser profile allowing her creative freedom. Far from a typical pop record, Roberts has pushed the boundaries and the raised the bar with this humour filled, synth pop treat.

3. Little Comets – In Search Of Elusive Comets

Little Comets should be one of the biggest things since sliced bread. Having more than proved their ingenuity on stage, the Newcastle troupe came the attention of Columbia Records way back in 2009. They hit the studio and crafted what they felt best represented their appeal, to find that the big label bosses wanted them to be something they weren’t. Rather than sell their soul for success, the lads stood their ground and finally released the ingeniously crafted “In Search Of Elusive Comets” at the turn of 2011.

2. Georgia Fair – All Through Winter

School pals Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley have never believed in rush releases. Though they have been playing together since their early teens, the duo never felt they had quite the right set of songs to record a full length record. Rather than force their creativity, the focussed on honing their skills on the live circuit and releasing a set of stellar EPs. With their profile steadily rising, the pair finally bit the bullet and headed Stateside to work with Band of Horses’ Bill Reynolds. The result is a no-nonsense,vocally centred record that ensures Georgia Fair are at the forefront of the indie-folk movement.

1. Dionne Bromfield – Good For The Soul

Dionne Bromfield first came to public attention as the child prodigy God-daughter of the much-missed super talent Amy Winehouse, but she grown into an artist who is so much more than a ‘by-association’ act. “Good For The Soul” leaves you breathless. Bromfield boasts a classic soul vocal and it is clear she has learnt more than a trick or two from Winehouse.With 60 and 70s soul vocals applied to contemporary urban pop, Bromfield ensures she is a step ahead of the pack. Aged just 15, Bromfield is still at the beginner’s block career wise, but “Good For The Soul” is light years ahead of many artists twice her age.

WIN!!!! Many of our Top 20 Album acts have been kind enough to donate signed copies of their releases for a big bumper prize pack! To get your hands one of the mix bags then simply tell us the title of Dionne Bromfield’s debut album… Answers by email to jeremy@the-kaje.com by January 15.

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LIVE REVIEW: Hanson, HMV Institute (Birmingham), 27.11.11

Hanson fans are hardcore. Simple as that. With doors opening at 7pm, I approximate a support slot starting about an hour later, so meet my friend next door to the HMV Institute for a quiet drink at just gone 6. By this point the queue of fans stretches beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. While they all have tickets in hand, the fans are there early to make sure they can get close to the stage and stock up on merch (which I later find includes the novel board game “Hansonopoly”).

Post-drink I return to the venue and arrive as support act Meiko takes to the stage. A friendly figure, Meiko boasts a sweet vocal that fits perfectly her brand of acoustic folk pop. While the audience are both warm and responsive the chatty chanteuse, it becomes clear that the hardcore Hanson fans (those with Hansonopoly in tow) are getting impatient for their heroes and the chatter at the end of Meiko’s set starts to drown her out.

Luckily the wait for Isaac, Taylor and Zac is far from a long one. The boys (should I say men? After all they are now all married men and fathers…) come bouncing onto stage and are met with screams and shouts. Hanson lap up the response as they launch into “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Somethin'” with an addictive energy. Within thirty seconds it is apparent that this will be a show to talk about.

Hanson are compelling, natural performers who fill a venue with positive vibes yet lack anything in the shape on an ego. They are simply passionate and gifted musicians whose enjoyment shines through in a way that excites a listener.

Aware that their UK fans know them of old, they ensure that their set covers all bases. While early hits “MMMBop” and “This Time Around” are greeted with sing along appraisal, later material, including the irrepressible “Give A Little” prove just as popular.

Equally important to the evening’s proceedings are the often telling solo slots. While my prejudiced notion was that Taylor was the talented vocalist, both Zac and Isaac prove they warrant an equal share of the spotlight. While Zac left the spine tingling with his tender rendition of  “Use Me Up”, Isaac revisited his early composition, the riotous “River”.

With their set over in what feels like just a few moments, the brothers keep the tempo up and their calls for audience participation are met with huge enthusiasm. As they close with the addictive “If Only”, the boys bounce around on stage and have the whole Institute jumping up even more of a sweat.

Before the song is even finished calls for an encore have started. Hanson do the statutory stage exit but do not tease for long. Their Cheshire grins are proof that they are loving the evening as much as their fans and they launch into a new Christmas composition about sweaters and “Snowed In” classic “Run Rudolph Run”.

The gracious brothers thank the audience and speak to fans as the slow exit commences – however, it appears that the merch desk is the first port of call and barely a soul leaves without the latest album “Shout It Out” and a T Shirt or two…

While I concede I leave empty handed, I have to admit there was a big part of me that was tempted by a T Shirt and a Hansonopoly..

Reviewer: Jeremy Williams
Rating: 5/5 

The Kaje talks success to Hanson

I must admit I am slightly nervous meeting Hanson for the first time. While they were enjoying phenomenal global success with their debut album “Middle Of Nowhere”, which spawned the unforgettable “MMMBop”, I was busy declaring my love for my first girlfriend with “I Will Come To You” in the background. Their sound was so tightly infused with my teenage years that I am unsure what exactly I will say, I hope to goodness I don’t slip up and embarrass myself.
Thankfully the boys are a relaxed warm presence as I meet them in the publicist’s office on Tottenham Court Road. The necessary introductions are done and we launch into a bizarre conversation about metals – led by the joker of the pack Zac. With the ice broken, I press record and set about finding out more about what has been justly hailed as their best album to date “Shout It Out”…

It has been a busy few months for you, I understand you have just arrived in the UK…

Isaac: We were in Paris just last night.
Zac: Technically it was yesterday.
Taylor: The tour has been great. The album came out in the UK a few months ago. One of things we really tried to do this year was to get outside of the US, to be here. The UK is really sort of the next home base to build the activity outside of the States for us. This is our fourth time here this year.
Isaac: We set out with a plan to spend a lot of time outside of the US.
Taylor: To just take a little more time to prioritise that. Having done the independent thing for quite a few years, we are always doing the balancing thing with the core business – the touring of the US. We do a lot of things that cater to that core fanbase, but you have to also allow yourself to be able to spread your wings and keep the fans that are not based around the core engaged.

Though you have released several albums since “Middle Of Nowhere”, “Shout It Out” has been termed a comeback. How do you feel about the term comeback?

Zac: That is fair.In a lot of ways for the UK audience, because we haven’t been here. Some of the records we have not released outside of the US, so it is a comeback in a way. We will take that as long as it is in a positive light.
Taylor: When we put out our third record, there had been a pretty good gap between that and the last record. That was when we first went independent. That was kind of a step in the right direction. On the last album some things happened where we didn’t prioritise the international stuff as much. So it has been a pretty good amount of time between actually being on the sand. It is one thing being like ‘hey, there is an album out’ and being in the market, playing shows.
Isaac: I also think that playing things like V Festival, which was a huge thing for us. We have not had the opportunity to play a lot of the festivals in Europe before. This year we were able to play Pinkpop and V Festival. We got a very positive reaction.
Zac: You are playing in front of a bunch of people who aren’t your fans and you have to win them over. That is the hard part of our job. In one form or another, your job as a musician is to try and win people over.
Isaac: Also the opportunity of doing that, which is one of the amazing things about festivals in general, you get to play in front of a lot people who are not your fans. They won’t have thought about coming to a show of yours in a long, then all of a sudden they are like ‘Woah! I will go and see that show..” Then the next thing you know you have an opportunity to quote unquote ‘try win them over’. It has been fun.
Taylor: It has been amazing to see the reaction. The audience just have not been catered to. We haven’t been here doing shows.

With different audiences aware of different material, do you find there are different levels of expectancy as you travel around from audience to audience?

Zac: There is just some material that you know people won’t be as familiar with. You play slightly different songs. There are songs we can play in the States that every single fan sings, that people over here don’t know.
Taylor: Our fans are still a little bit odd though, in the sense that even thought there are a lot of people with a lack of familiarity, the core fans will have probably bought the record online somewhere….
Isaac: ….or found it online.
Taylor: I think the familiarity is just the same as everything. You have your close buddies that you are with all the time, so you don’t catch up on the things you did over the last several months. You already know so you are on to the next thing. With your fans there is a degree of rapport.
Zac: With everything we do the commitment is the same. Whatever we do, we share it on the web community. We try to ensure there is another type of fandom, where people are all involved.
Taylor: Ever since we started we have tried to make the web a real big part of it. There are a lot of fans who interact with each other around the world in a very close way. That helps to make it feel less like ‘it’s been a while!’ There is a little more excitement because of the gap, but people don’t feel on the outside.
Isaac: But there has been a lot of excitement as it has been years. A lot of people are like ‘we haven’t seen you play a show for four years!’ It is an exciting thing for us and we try to make our fans realise that we appreciate them being around.

“Shout It Out” marks a return to your poppier sound, was this a conscious decision?

Zac: I don’t think we have ever made decisions consciously.
Isaac: (laughing) It has all been substance enhanced!
Zac: There is a natural ebb and flow to where you are creatively. I think this record just shows where we are. It shows a lot of the artists who have recently inspired us. Those early 60s and 70s Motown records, and records from that time period. It just comes out in the music as there is always that DNA in the music.
But “The Walk” is a little more of a rock record, we went to Africa and searched for personal stuff. I think that really came into the record. I think the topics of the lyrics on that record were just more in your face. I think when you hear those songs, you know more of what they are about. You don’t need that second or third listen to know what the song is about.
This album there was a sense of release. Just a natural connection back to some of the music that originally inspired us. We weren’t ever trying to do something, but we were just excited to explore that really thoroughly on this album.
Isaac: I will say that there is actually an example on “The Walk” of one of the catalysts for why ‘Shout It Out’ ended up going the direction it went, which was the song “Been There Before”. I remember when we finished that song…
Zac: It is a little bit more R’n’B.
Isaac: It is the most R’n’B song on “The Walk” album. When we wrote that song, we all felt that this was one of those songs that you had always hoped you would write or hope you could put on the record. We were all very very proud of that. I think that in some form or another I remember feeling that it was part of the process of coming back to where we have.
Taylor: When it comes to the songwriting, it is definitely a lot more pop in that sense. The good thing about the process of making music, you have to start by entertaining yourself. You have to think ‘this is really good’.
I think also when you look at the point we were at when we went to make this record, it just reflects a confidence. “The Walk” was the steady climb and “Shout It Out” –  the artwork, the name, the sound – we are just comfortable with what we do. We like what we do. We want to celebrate the survival of being a band.

Given that you started out so young, have you ever sat down and defined a common goal?

Taylor: World domination!!!!
Isaac: World domination was always the goal.
Zac: A reasonably sized but modest island in the Carribean named Zactopia.
Taylor: There are a lot of layers that have been developed as far as goals go. There are new things that have developed since you were 12, things you couldn’t have known you would want to take time to do. I really do think that the commonality is of what we are and what we do. I don’t know if we are slow now or if we were advanced then, but the focal point still remains true.
We genuinely feel that we have an opportunity to make music, we all love making music. We feel that what we do is meaningful in some way. You feel as if you are genuinely getting joy from something, but you are also giving something that matters to someone out there. That connection and that job is a good job, it is the job that everybody wants.
The business stuff creates this whole other world. We have always been fairly hands on. When we started our own label, it gave us the excuse to be completely hands on in every way. No one else could complain about how hands on we were wanting to be.
Isaac: As we were supposed to be!
Taylor: But back to what we were saying, underneath that surface, new types of goals start to arise. I am sure that in the next couple of years, or in ten years time, somebody will say ‘I want to go and study crossbow!’
Zac: I have always wanted to go in for the world trebuchet contest. The longest launch of an overgrown potato.
Taylor: We are doing this talk at Oxford next week and they have different people come to speak. It is a very broad thing. You have to really think about it, as it is such a compliment, but you have to think about what it is you want to say. What statement are you trying to make. I do feel that part of making music, for me anyway, if you think you have some degree of talent then you sort of have an obligation to do it. It is sort of like the universe is going to turn on you and suck you into a black hole if you decide not to do something that you can do.
Isaac: or you will just be perpetually unhappy.
Taylor: There is just a sense of I need to do this.
Isaac: We have one ultimate goal. World domination is the joke but we want to be doing this twenty or thirty years from whatever point we are. We used to say that when we were younger. Here we are 15 years later and hopefully 15 years from now we will hopefully be a little bit better than we are now, we will have hopefully done a lot of other exciting things in the process. Sustain and grow is what you are always trying to do.

Given that “Shout It Out” was released in the States over a year ago, are you already working on a follow-up?

Taylor: We are really active but the records have tended to be quite far apart – an average of about three years. Next year is probably not going to be new full record.
Zac: There is definitely going to be new music next year but what form that takes we are undecided. We are definitely keen to make more music next year, but we are also going to do more touring. We are definitely going to Canada, to Asia and hopefully back here again.
Isaac: next year is the 15th anniversary of the first record and 20th anniversary of the band
Zac: So we are trying to think of something amazing to do, like group skydiving for the hardcore fans. The biggest formation of the Hanson logo ever.
Taylor: We have to find what is a cool way to look back without it being hokey. We want to highlight where have been while being excited about what is next.

“Shout It Out” is out now.
Words and Images by Jeremy Williams

June Issue Still Available!

June Issue!!

Where our May issue was great, our June is even better! Cover stars this month are “The Bang Bang Club” providing their own insights into their evolution into a duo.

Issue 2 has it all – features, reviews, prizes(!) and much more.

Read it here!

Email us at thekaje@thekaje.com to ensure you get updates on our future issues. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Issue 2 contains:

Leo Richardson, “If someone is young and talented then it needs to be nurtured.”Polly Mackey & The Pleasure Principle, “Alliteration is always good in a band name.”Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, “Most of us have felt powerless at some time in our lives.”
Phantom Limb, “You get some of the best music from pain.”
Jenny Westbrook, “Art is quite often put off by people until the right time.”
Lucinda Belle, “Luck is opportunity meets dedication.”
Naoko Mori, “I’ve always believed she was treated rather unfairly.”
Tim Turner, “I don’t want to write about myself.”
Boy & Bear, “It’s like a big inbred kinda family.”
Cerith Flinn, “I am starting at the deep end, with a cannibalistic play.”Lachlan Buchanan, “I never plan to grow up, so for now, I’m happy acting.”
WIN!!!!; Signed Polly Mackey CDs, The Baseballs CDs, Phantom Limb CDs, Newcastle: Australia DVDs, Tim Turner Books
The Bang Bang Club, “It came to a point where everything in the music industry was a band, but we wanted to be a duo.”
Forgotten Gems:Album: The Go-Betweens ’16 Lovers Lane’
Book: Daphne du Maurier ‘My Cousin Rachel’
Film: Haunted Honeymoon
Jason Newton’s Life Lessons: “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
Designer of the Month: Disorder
Steal My Style: Nikita
The Way I Saw It: Athens
Reviews:
Albums;
Mathew Jonson “Agents of Time”; Lissie “Catching A Tiger”; Noblesse Oblige “Malady”; Sophie Hunger “1983”; Hanson “Shout It Out”
Singles of The Month; Kylie Minogue “All The Lovers”, Jil Is Lucky “The Wanderer”
Live Music; The Radio Dept., Hawksley Workman, Boyz II Men, Ingrid Michaelson
Theatre; Noises Off!, Signs of a Star-Shaped Diva, Canary, Naughty!
DVD; Alice in Wonderland, Precious, A Single Man, Sherlock Holmes
Books; Tim Thornton “Death of an Unsigned Band”, Neil LaBute “Seconds of Pleasure”, Tim Turner “First Time I Met The Blues”, Giorgio Faletti “I Kill”
The Kaje Previews Festivals; Rockness, Serenata, The Secret Garden Party, Blissfields, Lounge on the Farm, Hop Farm, Moseley Folk

Read it here!

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