The Zaw Towers Review of 2017

2017 was a year of where far too much was happening in the world that I didn't like, whether it be ongoing train disputes with the Government not caring out disabled passengers, far too many instances of discontent due to Brexit, but worst of all, the ongoing threat of terror and how that affected the general feeling of being safe in this world. Out of all of that came a number of moments that truly represented the good in this world and the way that by being stronger together, anything can be possible and indeed is. On a personal front, work goes nicely, and Manchester City are playing pretty well (understatement). In addition to that great music, family, friends and my love were also a real help to make the year feel better. Here's what made my year in 2017:

Best Single/Track of 2017 - "I Want My Country Back" - She Makes War
A one-off single tied in with the General Election, but a real sense of passion and thought that went into the words and went into being able to rock along with it. In under three minutes all that is wrong politically and in the UK is mentioned, such as fox hunting, sleazy hacks, liars and hypocrites in power, the Government's attitude towards the NHS, refugees, and how everyone "gets their fake news from the Daily Hate" in the chorus. It's a blistering track and one that shows off Laura's superb talent. Pledge for the fourth album - it'll do you good.

Also recommended:
"Black Hoodie" - Body Count - The whole of the "Bloodlust" album is brutal and uncompromising, but none more so than here with the story of how former band member Mooseman was shot dead, and how nothing was done. Throw in a nod to KRS-One's classic "Sound of da Police" in the chorus along with some killer riffs from Ernie C, Ice-T sounding angrier than ever, and you've got one hell of a blast to close the album with.
"Where's The Revolution" - Depeche Mode - My favourite single of theirs in absolutely ages. It sounds darker and moodier with Dave Gahan in fine vocal form, as how so many people are repressed and and because of that represssion won't be in revolution against the powers that be. The chugging interlude of the train is coming with the engines humming reinforces that feeling of being abused under power with nothing to do about it. Electronics and guitar merged in that chorus so well too.
"Less Than" - Nine Inch Nails - Oh, yes. NIN in their electronic and guitar driven chorus best and the lead track from the "Add Violence" EP. Driving verse and electronics, and killer bass line all the way through, with Trent's voice in particularly good form from quiet to then bloody loud. And the video, with contributions from gaming legend Jeff Minter, just adds to the whole feel wonderfully well.
"Sweet 16" - Thom Worth - The opener from his "Because of Us" EP shows off his singer-songwriter talent at its finest. Infectiously catchy chorus which mentions "being nothing more than a bedroom guitarist" whilst running away from being a younger age and the "sweet 16", and how a reality check kicks in when everyone else appears to be settling down. Massively enjoyable listen and a great joyous indie pop song.

Best Album of 2017 - "Echo Bridge" - Gavin Osborn and the Comment Section
An album recorded in post-Brexit Britain, complete with paeans to the happenings of the least year, notably in the epic "I Am European", and the desire to be home in "Time To Go Home" after a stay away or just knowing when to leave at the right time. Also, "Priced Out" sums up how the housing market is, the brilliant "Don't Know Enough About That" showing a tendency to bluff your way through things you don't know about, hoping a subject comes up (such as Ray Parlour's workrate in the Arsenal midfield) which you do know about - and a moment of reflection on "I Think It's Gonna Be Alright". And those are just a few highlights on what is Gavin's finest release now. There's still some CDs left - snag one while you can.

Also recommended:
"Music For People In Trouble" - Susanne Sundfør - Going back to a much more stripped back feel worked wonderfully well for Susanne, with more focus on acoustics and her wonderfully lilting voice setting the tone for feeling comfortable in an uncomfortable world. The wonderful "Undercover" is a highlight, starting small and finishing majestically, and the countrified feel of "Reincarnation" just takes us back to Americana. And the epic finale of "Mountaineers" just bookends an emotional listen from start to finish.
"Almost Persuaded" - Swing Out Sister - It may have taken its time to be released, but ultimately well worth the wait, with Corinne, Andy and co really getting a laid back late night vibe expertly into the album - could well have been a film soundtrack too. The opener "Don't Give The Game Away" is majestic and sets the tone, with the soulfulness of "Which Wrong Is Right" is classic SOS at their finest, with two contrasting versions of "All In A Heartbeat" another sense of seeing two sides too. Purchase it and open your mind, and enjoy.
"Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie" - Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie - Perhaps the most surprising release for me this year, but in a good way. Take most of Fleetwood Mac along with you, and you've got a FM album in all but name and some pop sensibilities, especially in the likes of "Feel About You" with Christine on form on the chorus, and "In My World" having a great mood set. Also, "Lay Down For Free" could have easily sat on the Rumours album too, and add to that the lovely "Carnival Begin" slowed down and just feeling the warmth.
"Reformation" - Matt Gray - Four albums' worth in a box set, mainly of remakes of Matt's classic Commodore 64 tracks, as done by the man himself, and given much love in the process. From the powerful village theme to "Tusker", the blending of two themes from "Pro BMX Simulator" into one, and both the loading and title themes to "Hunter's Moon", it's all there and then some, with the final disc having a belting ingame theme for the unreleased "Dominator 2" as well as an epic full version of Rob Hubbard's "Knucklebusters". Perfect for the retro gaming and music fan!

Best Concert of 2017 - Pop Will Eat Itself, ULU Student Central, London
Great to see the incredible PWEI on top form, and with Richard March from the original line up joining on guitar too for the set. Good sized venue, crowd ready to pogo and plenty of old and new classics for the masses to go mental to. For me, "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" was an obvious highlight, but so was the excellent "Not Now James, We're Busy" as well as a storming triple of "Wise Up! Sucker", "Def Con One" and "Their Law" at the end. Hot, sweaty, but everyone in the right mood with the band killing it every single time. If you get chance to see them live, you know you need to!

Other Concerts I Enjoyed
Celebrating David Bowie, Brixton Academy, London
- One year one from Bowie's passing, and a celebration of his music was so well done. Three hours of quality with his band on top form, and guest singers doing their best to do the great man justice. Joe Elliott of Def Leppard's "All The Young Dudes" brought the house down, brilliantly so, and Simon Le Bon doing "Let's Dance" and Tony Hadley belting out "Changes" were other great highlights. The starman would have been mightily proud to say the least.
Prophets of Rage - Kentish Town Forum, London - Atmosphere wise, it was immense, with most of Rage Against The Machine, along with Chuck D and B-Real showing vocally on some top form. The RATM renditions were excellent, with real feeling and passion and Tom Morello on superb guitar form. To close out with a passionate belting rendition of "Killing In The Name" was perfection, with the whole crowd singing along en masse, and that sense of being together as one and being passionate with it. Awesome.
She Makes War, Servant Jazz Quarters, London - A great gig of two halves with an acoustic set with the occasional cello in the first half, and a full on electric set with band in the second. This allowed for a perfect showcase of the SMW catalogue, including an epic "Delete" along with "Paper Thin" and "Time To Be Unkind" - with full on "In Cold Blood", "Drown Me Out" and of course "I Want My Country Back" electric. And a cover version of Culture Club thrown in. Small intimate excellent gig all round!
Gary Numan, Academy 1, Manchester - To back up the excellent new album "Savage", the live set from Gary Numan was just as good as ever, with a full on crowd giving it plenty of passion. All the new album tracks sounded polished, and plenty of old classics given a more electronic feel than in previous shows, so as a result "I Die You Die" in particular sounded on top form, along with a great "Love Hurt Bleed" and "A Prayer for the Unborn" in particular. Storming show as ever. Nuuuuuuuman!

Best TV Programme of 2017 - Line of Duty Series 4
Very close call, as the second series of Doctor Foster was very good also but somehow lost its way a little in the final two episodes. Line of Duty though was gripping from start to finish, with the spectre of Balaclava Man and the still potential of there being corruption in the ranks really fiendish - not least from one of the superiors even getting a previously reliable member of AC-12 involved. One thing's for sure, it'll be a hard act to follow especially as Thandie Newton was also so brilliant in this series along with Adrian Dunbar as the ever impressive Ted Hastings.

Best Sporting Moment of 2017 - World Para Athletics and World Athletics Championships
To have both of the world athletics events on home soil was a special thing, and really did rekindle all the same passion and enjoyment as the 2012 Olympic Games did. Although the best selling Para Worlds, still didn't fully sell out which was a shame, but great performances from Jonnie Peacock, Hannah Cockroft, Kadeena Cox et al was brilliant. Mo Farah bowed out on track with a gold and silver, and the 4x100 metre relay team's well deserved gold was a special Saturday moment. Seeing some of the athletes live and an epic 200 metre final was one of those enjoyable moments, and so good to be back in the stadium for that (and I saw football as well as music in the same stadium too)

Best male of 2017 - Lewis Hamilton
In my view, he should have had Sports Personality of the Year hands down, and in an absolutely titanic scrap with Sebastian Vettel for most of the season, he kept battling and got on top, winning a historic fourth world title to be on his own as the best of the Brits, beating the all time pole positions record and being right up there in terms of race wins. He carried it off with suitable aplomb and it was a joy to watch that sense of fighting and having to work to win and bounce back from last year's disappointment.

Best females of 2017 - Dany Cotton and Ariana Grande
A double winner this year, both showing courage and strength in adversity. For Dany Cotton, the leadership shown when the firefighters were dealing with the Grenfell tragedy, and her endless campaign for improved fire safety and to bring those to book accordingly showed true passion for not just the job, but also compassion and a togetherness post tragedy that those in Government were severely lacking. And with the awful Manchester Arena bombing, Ariana vowed she would be back in Manchester, and the One Love concert at Old Trafford a short while later showed a sense of determination, a sense of love for the city but visiting the children in hospital and spending all day with them was a sign of taking the city to her heart, which was rewarded with the freedom of the city and respect from even those who may not like her music.

Personal moments of 2017 - Job Progression and Completing the Capital Ring
It's been a year of consolidation for me, but also one for me to do plenty of exploring too. Earlier this year I completed one of my ambitions when I made the move down, and that was to complete all fifteen sections of the Capital Ring walk, and I really enjoyed being out and about on weekends on my own, seeing more of the city and outskirts than I normally would. I also managed to progress nicely in the job so it's been good to have something stable to keep me going too. And of course, having the support of The Love In My Heart was a massive plus and continues to do so all the time.