Archive | December 2004

Albums of the year 2004: top 20

1. Ordinary Boys – Over The Counter Culture

“Talk, Talk, Talk” topped my single chart and so it is not surprising that this album would also do well. Though “Talk, Talk, Talk” was number one in my single charts probably my favourite song off the album is “Over the counter culture” and if this had been released this year would have easily headed my single chart. This album is one favourite after another and their is no way anything could have knocked this from the number one spot! I will not comment more on this.. listen to it!
2. Snow Patrol – Final Straw
This is an absolutely storming album. At times quite melodic – a good thing. It has a combination of slower “chill out” tracks like the absolutely excellent”Run” and some that you could just bounce along to all night, “Wow!” and “Spitting Games” would be a good examples. I actually think I did end up bouncing along all night at their gig!
3. The Crimea – Tragedy Rocks
“who knows!” – probably the most memorable lyric from this album. This is from “White Russian Galaxy” and what a way to kick off an excellent album from start to finish I was in musical heaven whilst listening to this. They have a nice range of music in this album. They even slow it down a bit for “Miserabilist Tango”. If you haven’t heard of the Crimea yet then you are missing out. Oh and an instant favourite of mine was “Opposite Ends” but then this album is full of great songs.
4. Greenday – American Idiot
The album kicks off with “American Idiot” probably the most notable single they have released from this album. It has a strong anti-american government feeling. They even said at Reading that they were going to go back home and get this redneck out of power. It is a shame that they and many other bands were not able to motivate enough people to get that certain redneck out of power. The song is good and I remember many times moshing to this whilst out. This album has been called rock opera and the length of some of the tracks do have this feeling. One of these is the second track and probably my favourite of the album “Jesus of Suburbia”. This one goes on for 9 minutes! It could probably have been easily split into different tracks due to the different styles used within it but it works well together and I don’t think that if bits of this song were put together to form separate tracks it would work. The album has a typical Greenday feel to it. A big improvement over Warning.
5. The Killers – Hot Fuss
Instantly loveable. The Killers combination of indie rock and an electronic feel give them a distinctive sound. They are a club classic band and on no more than 3 occasions have I heard multiple songs of theirs played whilst out. This is the band I *need* to see in 2005. I missed them this year. Lets hope they play Reading. The album is full of upbeat songs with very bouncy beats. To choose a favourite would be hard. I love the electronic sound of “Smile Like You Mean It” and then the just wonderful lyrics and dancy feeling that “Somebody Told Me” has. These lyrics include “I’m breaking my back just to know your name” and “heaven ain’t close in a place like this” – very appropriate in most clubs. My favourite probably has to go with this. A wonderful song.
6. Ash – Meltdown
Ash were back this year with an excellent album. They still have their upbeat feeling but a slight reinvention on the parts of the drumming has given them a heavier feeling though I don’t think that “Clones” is as heavy as people say it is. “Clones” is far from my favourite and there would be lots of competition for my favourite. It was good to see Ash back with something new. I managed to see their album set twice this year and they were brilliant on both occasions. “Orpheus” came second in my singles chart and so probably merits my favourite song of the album but there are so many good ones to choose from.
7. Lostprophets – Start Something
This starts off with a bang and yes it does have a feeling that they are about to start something. The first track just gets going from the start full of heavy guitars and at times what can only be described as screaming. It works though. I think that this song is one for the fans of their previous album “The Fake Sound of Progress” and is aimed at showing that they haven’t forgotten the past. The album is not just about heavy rock they also have some more melodic songs however the heavy feeling still persists through these. The typical melodic ‘verse’ and heavier ‘chorus’ comes through. Probably my favourite on this album is the song I heard the first – “Burn, Burn”. One thing that bugged me about this song for ages was that I thought it was a cover. It is not in the true sense though the tune throughout resembles one used by Seal in “Killer” – don’t remember the “solitary brother” line? My favorite track on this album has to be “last summer”. I would also highly recommend seeing them live they really can get the crowd going.
8. Franz Ferdinand
Mercury Prize winners Franz Ferdinand seem to have been around for ages and due to this I initially forgot that this was released in 2004! How do you forgot such a memorable album one may ask. My answer would be I don’t know. It is a wonderful album. “Auf Acshe” is possibly my favourite and I remember dancing around too “Matinee” and “Micheal” on various drunken occasions.
9. Delays – Faded Seaside Glamour
The album starts off with an oil drum sound and at first I was not sure what to expect of the rest but I was very impressed by their use of different types of percussion. Probably my favourite track on this album is “Nearer than Heaven”. The lead singers voice is piercing whilst an excellent song is played through out, excellent harmony of sounds. Then there is the storming “Long Time Coming” and I have to say I think the percussion really makes this song. Oh and not to forget “Satellites Lost”.
10. The Hives – Tyrannosaurus Hives
“see that idiot walk!”. Excellent album. Wonderful live. Some instantly catchy songs are produced on this wonderful album. “A little more little you” has a very swingy feeling. In general I do think they have been misplaced from the middle of the last century. Not that I am complaining! They also sound like they have not been over produced – something bands can do. Oh and I love “Two Timing Touch and Broken Bones” – one to dance along to all night. The favourite probably has to go to “Walk Idiot Walk”.
11. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
Melodic, wonderful, delightful. I think that describes this album quite well. I missed their live gig at the Birmingham Academy earlier this year and I only stuck around for half of their set at Reading so I could go and see the darkness. I wish I had watched the end of their set now. This album follows on well from their excellent “Oh, Invented World” album.
12. The Libertines – The Libertines
It is a shame that this wonderful band look like that they are on their way out. A great album. It has some outstanding individual tracks. Ones that come to my mind has to be “Music when the lights go out” and “Can’t Stand Me Now”.
13. The Zutons – Who Killed The Zutons
Not to be forgotten. The Zutons made an excellent impression on me this year. The album is very good and the banjo sounding song “Moons and Horror Shows” is probably my favourite off the album.
14. U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
This is a late entry and “Vertigo” would have probably have gotten in to my single chart if I had been paying attention! This is a cracking album. The ‘old men’ still have it in them I see. “Vertigo” and “City of Blinding Lights” are currently my favourite tracks off this album. It has a nice combination of heavier songs and more laid back tracks.
15. Razorlight – Up all night
Probably one of the more fashionable rock outfits at the moment. They are good. Absolutely excellent live. This album is definitely indie and never gets very heavy. My favourite of the album might well be “Rip it out” but “Golden Touch” has to be close.
16. Thirteen Senses – The Invitation
I first properly came across them at the Radio One: onebigweekend gig in Birmingham. They were excellent though I did recognise one of their songs. I must have heard it on the radio beforehand. They are very melodic and I love the use of the piano throughout. Possibly my favourite track is the last on the album “Automatic”. This is a very slow one and has a good combination of a piano and some penetrating singing.
17. Scissor Sisters – Scissor Sisters
At first I couldn’t stand them. They came across as pretentious and irritable. Then I actually sat down and listened to the whole album. It is not my favourite but it is quite good. It has a very strong dance feeling throughout it and I get the impression that they are more of a dance outfit than a rock group! I do like the instantly loveable “Comfortably Numb” with some catchy lyrics “hello, hello is their anybody out there”. One thing I can’t believe is the high pitched voice that the male lead singer has!
18. Futureheads – Futureheads
This album kicks off with the excellent “Le garage” and it keeps going with probably my favourite song of theirs “Robot”. They also did an excellent set at Reading. See them if you get chance.
19. Avril Lavigne – Under My Skin
Something makes me like this album and in general Avril Lavinge’s music. It does have a very typical teeny music feel at times. I do like the sound of her voice though. “how does it feel” is probably my favourite off the album but I do really like the melodic “slipped away”. The slower songs sound less teeny though – a good thing.
20. Goldie Lookin Chain – Greatest Hits
Musically this is far from the best. Quite the worst in fact. Lot of fun though and instantly memorable. Songs include “Gun don’t kill people rappers do” something I must have said one too many times to my house mate! Oh and you can not forget “Your Mother’s Got A Penis” – “its the truth man his mother has actually got a penis”. Then of course there is the surreal”Half Man Half Machine”. Oh the lyrics are at best obscene! This is more comedy than music!

A new phone..

Today I got my new phone a Nokia 7600. It looks more like a handheld video game but I rather like it. I have very much enjoyed playing around with it – except locking myself out by stupidly typing in the pin number incorrectly. I called 3 at just gone midnight on the off chance and yeah was able to get it all sorted though. I think I was redirected to India!
+ Nokia 7600 –,8764,56327,00.html

Royal Astronomical Society

Oh I meant to post this before but what with Christmas I completely forgot. On Christmas eve I became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and thus am able to use the letters FRAS after my name :-).
+ RAS Website –

The Soviet Exploration of Venus

I decided to look up a bit of space history today. I was reading some comet stuff (inspired by Comet Machholz) and the name of a space probe “Vega” came up. This was a Soviet Union probe that went to Venus and then on to visit Halley’s comet. It seems that the mission was an overall success. One thing that can be noted about scientific missions to Halley’s comet is that there has not been one NASA probe to this object. Back in the mid 1980s the USSR, Japan and Europe sent craft to intercept it. While researching the Vega space probe I came across an absolutely wonderful website of the topic of Soviet exploration of Venus:
This has an astonishing amount of material and is very informative and in my opinion very interesting. If you ever wanted to know about past Soviet spacecraft then I would highly recommend this site.
I also came across some interesting stamps produced by the USSR about Vega: I think I may even have a few of these!
+ Soviet Exploration of Venus –
+ Comet Halley –
+ NASA Stardust Vega I & II –
+ Vega Stamps –
+ Comet Machholz –

Tsunami from above

Firstly my thoughts go out to the millions affected and to the 100,000 or so lives lost during this unbelievable tragedy. The scenes are more reminiscent of a hollywood blockbuster than reality.
The full extent of the disaster can be seen on the digitalglobe website . The images displayed on this site are quite remarkable and the devastation can be well seen.
+ DigitalGlobe –

Transit of Venus Beer

I was looking back at some transit of Venus stuff earlier and I came across something I would like to try: Transit of Venus Sunrise Ale. Shame it is brewed in the USA – don’t think I can easily get it exported. I might give it a try when I am more awake tomorrow though! Doesn’t hurt to ask and I am sure the beer could last the journey though customs would probably seize it as a dodgy liquid – especially with the title “Transit of Venus Sunrise Ale” they will probably think that it is some sort of codename.
Oh take a look at it at:

Full top 50

1. Ordinary Boys – Talk, Talk, Talk
2. Ash – Orpheus
3. Snow Patrol – Run
4. The Killers – Somebody Told Me
5. Agent Blue – Sex, Drugs And Rocks Through Your Window
6. Green Day – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
7. The Killers – Mr. Brightside
8. Morrissey – First Of The Gang To Die
9. Muse – Butterflies and hurricanes
10. The Strokes – Reptilia
11. Dogs Die In Hot Cars – Godhopping
12. The White Stripes – There’s No Home For You Here
13. The Darkness – Love is Only a Feeling
14. Franz Ferdinand – Michael
15. Green Day – American Idiot
16. The Crimea – White Russian Galaxy
17. Lost Prophets – Last Summer
18. Snow Patrol – How To Be Dead
19. Razorlight – Stumble And Fall
20. Morrissey – Irish Blood, English Heart
21. Muse – Sing for absolution
22. Ash – Meltdown
23. The Hives – walk idiot walk
24. Keane – Bedshaped
25. The Crimea – Baby Boom
26. Snow Patrol – Chocolate
27. The Libertines – Can’t Stand Me Now
28. Franz Ferdinand – Matinee
29. Ash – Starcross’d
30. Ordinary Boys – Week In Week Out
31. Jet – Rollover DJ
32. Seether feat. Amy Lee – Broken
33. Razorlight – Golden Touch
34. The Others – This Is For The Poor
35. Thirteen senses – Thru the glass
36. Lost Prophets – Last Train
37. Goldie Lookin Chain – Guns Don’t Kill Rappers Do
38. Thirteen Senses – Into The Fire
39. Distillers – Hunger
40. William Shatner – Common People
41. Agent Blue – Something Else
42. The Departure – All Mapped Out
43. The Zutons – Remember Me
44. Scissor Sisters – Laura
45. The Futureheads – Decent Days And Nights
46. Jet – Get Me Outta Here
47. HIM – Solitary Man
48. The Shins – So Says I
49. Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting for
50. Kasabian – L.S.F.(Lost Souls Forever)

5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Huygens is go!

In true thunderbirds style (well my fake count down of a title at least!) Huygens is go! Yep that’s right Cassini has let go of its load! The Huygens probe has the left the nest and is off to pastures new. Well to be more scientific it is heading to Titan so it can crash into its surface, ok maybe that wasn’t very scientific but you get the idea. Huygens is an ESA probe and is to study the surface of Saturn’s largest moon Titan. It is intending to plunge into the moons atmosphere on Jan 14th after leaving Cassini on Christmas eve. Lets hope all goes well as it should return some very interesting science.
+ ESA Press Release –
+ Astronomy Now Article –

New Binoculars and observing

It is very cold in Birmingham and the ground is becoming very slippy so it was not the best idea for me to go out in the garden for long tonight. I didn’t want to risk damaging my ankle further. It is getting better – slowly.

My parents brought me a pair of binoculars for Christmas. They are very good. They are not a pair that would cost silly money and I believe were very reasonably (so are well within the reaches of the normal person just wanting to give astronomy a go!) priced. I am glad they brought them for me as what with I have seen recently I have become a convert to binocular astronomy. It is quite interesting and something that you can do very easily and very quickly. My knowledge of the night sky was pretty good but it is getting better and better now that I am using binoculars.

Tonight I observed M52 (not entirely convinced), M29, M39, NGC 457 (Owl cluster) and I think M103. I also went for the normal objects that I look at during my observing including getting probably my best view ever of the Orion Nebula. Comet Machholz was easily observable with my binoculars and I am not convinced that it has particular increased in brightness yet. Lets hope it does soon otherwise I will be deemed as lying! 🙂 (see below for sky charts).

M29 is a 7th magnitude open cluster and lies in a region of high dust absorption. It is about 7,200 light years away and contains about a dozen clearly visible stars. It is not the best example but is still quite a nice sight. This object lies just below Sadr in Cygnus.
M52 is a rich open star cluster and contains about 200 stars. It is easily visible through binoculars and can be found in Cassiopeia. It also has the name “the Scorpion”.
NGC 457 (Owl cluster) is again a rich star open star cluster in Cassiopeia. It has several thousand member stars and through large telescopes shapes can be picked out in this.
M103 again an open star cluster in Cassiopeia. Some say this resembles a Christmas tree. I wasn’t convinced though my binoculars. Well I wasn’t convinced I could see it to be honest. Either way it made me feel Christmasy!
Sky Charts:
NGC 457, M103 and M52:
M52 Sky Chart
M29 Sky Chart
+ Comet Machholz –
+ SEDS NGC 457 –
+ SEDS M103 –
+ Astrosurf M52 –
+ M29 Amateurs View –
+ SEDS M29 –

Christmas Day Snow

Well I didn’t think it would but it did. It snowed in Birmingham on Christmas day. It really makes Christmas feel right! I took some photos of the snow coming down.. so I canprove it to everyone!

xmas snow 1
xmas snow 2
xmas snow 3

+ BBC Weather Birmingham Christmas Snow –