AOTY 2023
Black Country, New Road - Live at Bush Hall
Mar 27, 2023
Holy shit… 1000 followers. Like, really, one thousand… ONE. FUCKING. THOUSAND!!! OH WOW! I genuinely cannot even imagine a room with a thousand people inside! This is seriously nuts! And, to thank you all, I wanted to do something special. Recently, Black Country, New Road have made a live album that I wanted to avoid because I already knew that it was going to make me cry. But this band is incredibly special to me, so yeah I am going to review this. However, to make it more personal, I wanted to recollect some of my memories of these years on this site and as a reviewer, so these are going to be in between my thoughts of each single song from this live album. So, yeah, here they are, my unfiltered thoughts about the album and my memories on AOTY.

I don’t think I should actually make an introduction regarding Black Country, New Road and their latest project, a live album titled “Live at Bush Hall”, however I will make one just for the sake of the review! Black Country, New Road are a British band that started out only 5 years ago as a 6 piece band, after burying their previous band Nervous Conditions. The band was a peculiar one, as the members all had talents in very different instruments, from standard ones to more peculiar ones that made everything sound more orchestral! After becoming a 7 piece band, they released singles way back in 2019, “Athens, France” and “Sunglasses”, creating an audience in a small amount of time. Their first album, “For the first time”, was a successful debut: while only having six tracks, the songs were long, developed and overall a breath of fresh air! They also got nominated for the Mercury Prize Awards for AOTY!

After a short amount of time, the band released some singles anticipating their next album scheduled to come out in 2022, basically only a year after their debut! A risky move for the band because, as we all know, there is the saying that the second album is always the most difficult to create! However, with the four singles released and with the other tracks on “Ants From Up There”, I thought that Black Country, New Road had made a modern masterpiece. With exceptional and poetic writing from frontman Isaac Wood and atmospheric and emotional instrumentals, the band was making music that I had loved so much that my Spotify Wrapped had 5 out of the 10 tracks from the album in my actual top 10 of last year!

However, things weren’t looking good for the band: before the release of the album, the band stated that Isaac was going to leave the band, leaving them without a frontman for the next tours. As a fan, this was devastating news, as the band was almost going to follow the path of a band they were compared to named, of course, Slint. As for actual albums, we’ll truly have to wait, as this next chapter of the band will be written only with a studio album (at least in my opinion), but the tours have been successful overall! So much, in fact, that they made this live album made of unreleased music that was performed in December of 2022! But what do I think about these new tracks here?

I had known about Album of the Year for a good amount of time. I am subscribed to Brad’s channel, of course I had known about it. I was really debating myself over even making an account on this site. Like, who was going to read any of my reviews? No one, I thought. But, I still wanted a way to catalog my feelings about albums that I was listening to. Like, at this point, I was still discovering songs, albums and artists that I didn’t even know about. I didn't know about the existence of Arctic Monkeys in 2018, remember. So, on the 21st of December of 2020 I finally did it: I created the account.

The first track is titled “Up Song” and the album starts off with a certainly unusual sax solo before the first lyrics of the album: “Look at what we did together”. The track is sung by bassist Tyler Hyde and it’s all about the departure of Isaac, how the band feels like they’ve lost a big part of their identity once he left and the incredible amount of respect that they still have for him. With the lyrics that are presented in the track and with the instrumental being slightly similar to some present in “Ants From Up There” but also slightly different I’m already hooked and ready to be devastated by the album!

I started by basically dumping review after review of everything that I had listened to so far. It was a really embarrassing thing to do honestly and that is also because I reviewed bad albums first: I had made a list of the best and the worst albums from 2020 and so I just put everything there on the site in a few hours. Those reviews are bad, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? I didn’t expect any sort of attention, this was just meant to be a database of my ratings for albums. But now, stuff has changed.

Next is “The Boy” and yeah this is the weirdest song that they’ve made so far. The track this time is mainly sung by the pianist May Kershaw and it’s basically a story divided into three chapters about a robin trying to fix its wings and finding many characters in its way: a hedgehog telling the robin to go to the mole, a mysterious boy and the depressed Mrs. Mole who tells the robin to find the deer. This adventure is convoluted, a bit confusing and certainly stands for some sort of allegory, as there is a lot of mentioning of being a better mother or father and talks about “wanting the boy”. Either way, the instrumental still fits, with its natural orchestral tone that explodes with energy on the last leg of the track where May sings: “I won’t try to fly”.

I remember the first time that I thanked people for reaching a milestone. It was over a year ago, I was celebrating the fact that I had reached 50 followers by mentioning the famous Pyrocynical meme and by giving a 90 to “Shy Away” by Twenty One Pilots. How did I get to 50 followers? I do not remember honestly enough. However I do remember the first time that one of my reviews reached an amount of somewhere between 10 likes. It was, of course, the Eurovision period and I celebrated the fact that Maneskin won by giving a 100 to “ZITTI E BUONI” and by saying that they’ve made history! Even if Maneskin are considered bad now, was I wrong at the time? I don’t think so!

The following track is “I Won’t Always Love You” and it is sung yet again by Tyler and it describes the ending of a toxic relationship in the best way possible! Progression and atmosphere reign on a track where even the way that the lyrics are sung make sense! The track begins with the line: “I will always love you and I will always want you” but the singer here has a hard time actually saying those words because she doesn’t believe them anymore, leading to the fiery second part of the song where she explodes because she “can’t live through another night like that”. Three tracks in and I’m already crying.

I was still making short reviews at the time and because they were short and not entertaining in the slightest I wasn’t doing pretty well in terms of likes on the reviews. I do not remember if gaining likes was even my objective at the time, but they were still welcome! I started review dumping yet again, however I made a decision that year as well. Even though I don’t think that I even had 100 followers, I still decided to review something different. “BLU CELESTE” by BLANCO was the first full-length italian album that I decided to review. It is one of my longest reviews ever on this site and of course it flopped in terms of likes, however that review stimulated my music listening habits and from then I decided to start listening to more italian stuff, since I could have probably found something cool or interesting!

“Across The Pond Friend” this time is sung by a new voice in the mix: it’s sung by saxophone player Lewis Evans! While his vocal style may remind a little bit of Isaac, he still has some different characteristics that make him sound different than him. This time, we are being presented an instrumental that sounds adventurous overall and that I don’t think has any deeper meaning outside the one that is presented in the lyrics. Here, the singer basically decides to take a little break from “life” to experience something different and meet up with someone unexpected, an across the pond friend. After some time with them, he isn’t ready to say goodbye yet, but he has to hug them and get back to normal life, a confusing and dissonant world, just like the distorted instrumental right at the end of the track.

I started experimenting a little bit in my style of reviews, especially after the disappointing “Music of the Spheres” by Coldplay but also for the stunning and incredible Silk Sonic project, but throughout the rest of that year I started making reviews about the singles of a small indie band that would change my life forever. More on that later. For some reason I could not find the review for 100 followers, however I celebrated 150 followers with “30” by Adele and made my first review of 2022 on “Dawn FM” by The Weeknd by starting out with a question about how the year started. This was because 2022 started in the worst way possible, because I really wasn’t accustomed to university exams. Staying alone in a room to study for many exams for almost an entire month was stressing to say the least. Oh yeah and I also started making actual Italian album reviews, listing out my favorite tracks from the albums that I reviewed!

“Laughing Song” isn’t a song to laugh to. In fact, it is another tragic track sung by Tyler and it could be all about Isaac all over again. It’s about depression and how someone finally saw that she was wearing some sort of mask to hide it all away. However, she let the best person that she knew walk away, starting the cycle all over again but this time with a constant thought of guilt, as she accepts the fact that she won’t find anyone else that will make her feel like that ever again. It’s difficult to write a review about something that makes you cry, but yet again this is a beautiful song, one of the best that the band has written so far.

However, in February of 2022 a peculiar album came out that changed my entire life for the better and that was for a long amount of time my most personal and most liked review ever. “Ants From Up There” by Black Country, New Road is seriously one of my favorite albums of all time! I became incredibly honest on that review, talking about my problems regarding my mental health. I kinda blamed it on the exams that I was studying for, but in reality while yes they were there, I also had two problems in my life. One of them was temporary: my parents had COVID and I had a mental breakdown because of that. The other one is a thing that I still think about to this day. I do not know if I am actually in love and with whom. I know it may seem a bit weird to talk about these sensitive subjects and it may also seem like a silly concern, but I’m still having this concern because I’ve never been in love before, not even a small crush when I was much younger, so I’m still thinking about that specific topic. I don’t even know if a lot of my words even made some sense, but these were basically a lot of the problems that I was having around that time.

“The Wrong Trousers” is the second and last track sung by Lewis and it is, yet again, a track about Isaac and his departure. At least I think it is. But this time, from the point of view of Lewis! The tracks where Lewis takes charge feel more conventional honestly, but they still sound beautiful and have great atmospheres! Also, I haven’t mentioned this, but usually live albums tend to have a more rough production which makes them more difficult to listen to; however, this just straight up sounds good! The track, even though not my favorite, is still memorable, as it definitely shows his perspective, saying that he didn’t know about Isaac’s feelings and with the whole “wrong trousers” metaphor signifying the fact that he still has no intention to step into the role of main vocalist of the band. However, he still says that they have still made something to be proud of.

From that point on, I started actually making long reviews about what I thought about the albums and the reviews about new projects were getting a lot of likes. Examples being the “OFFLINE!” EP by JPEGMAFIA and “Us Against the The World” by Tom MacDonald. I celebrated 200 followers by reviewing “Camouflage” by Ditonellapiaga, I started to interact with many people on this site and I also said that my last review on this site is going to be the one for “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West. Talking about interaction, I also reviewed the project by Ryde Noir titled “In Shadows”. This was the first project from an AOTY user that I actually reviewed, which was extremely satisfying because it felt like I was kinda making an impact on this site!

I heard a lot about the already fan favorite “Turbines/Pigs”, an almost ten minute track sung by May and I can definitely say that I have cried to this song as well. I don’t know if it’s the pianos, the violin playing by Georgia Ellery in the background and the drum playing by Charlie Wayne that has the same purpose of confusion and sound just like a storm that do it for me or the devastating lyrics that are all about depression and self-hatred, pulling references from the Bible itself with the pig metaphor. I don’t know if I am just a soft boy or anything like that or if I’m actually supposed to cry on these tracks. It’s probably because I’ve been through many periods where I’ve felt that same emotion or feeling that is portrayed in here.

I also got a lot of likes by just saying “Fuck Kid Rock”. That’s basically a cheat code. I also reviewed every single Eurovision song from 2022 too. However, during that same period, I posted one of my longest and most in depth reviews that also became the review with the highest amount of likes so far. Of course, it had to be when Kendrick dropped “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”! I talked about what Kendrick was doing before and what I thought the album was about and, if I have to be honest, I would change some stuff about it: the start is a bit too long and dramatic probably and I would probably mention more stuff about the albums whole narrative and at the end whether I actually enjoyed the album or not. I know that ratings exist for that purpose, but I could have actually written something different.

That track was the last one sung by May, leaving the last two tracks to Tyler. “Dancers” is a very different track in the way that it’s structured. The whole track is similar to “Snow Globes”, with the screams in the background and the repetition of the lyrics: “Dancers stand very still on the stage”. However, this track is more dramatic and makes the repetition its strong selling point, like in the two notes on the piano that are repeated on the chorus before the final explosion with the saxophone. It’s a different track that totally works in this context as well! From a lyrical standpoint it is all about how the singer recognizes a certain person as fake, saying that she thought that she knew her, making her upset that she was wrong about someone. However, the lyrics present in the outro may symbolize that the person she was talking about maybe wasn’t someone different but it was instead herself.

Did that review change stuff for me? Well, actually, yes! Right now that review has 59 likes. To me, that’s a lot and that gave me a whole lot of enthusiasm for music and for reviewing because this is what I actually want to do in an actual professional way in the future! Reviewing singles by AOTY users helped me to get more in touch with other people in real life as well! I truly want to continue talking about music because music actually saved me from many bad and dark periods of my life, moments where I felt depressed and worthless. I reached 300 followers and celebrated by reviewing “TRAUMA” by PSICOLOGI, I tried to get into heavier music and now I’m more accustomed with the different genres of metal, I celebrated 400 followers by reviewing the latest album by thasup and so on and so forth.

After that, we finally get to the end of this journey with an instant reprise of the first track of the album, sung yet again by Tyler! I haven’t mentioned yet somehow, but I have to say that the guitar playing by Luke Mark is seriously impressive throughout the entirety of this live performance! This closing track is a more sad way to close things out in the best way possible this live album, with the band involved for this final piece!

There have been moments of many ups and downs, but then I started gaining even more and more and more followers! It was a really sudden thing as well! In fact, it was so sudden that I didn’t really have the time to elaborate and make the special reviews for reaching these objectives! In fact, I only made the 800 followers special by saying that “The Glow Pt. 2” by The Microphones is a masterpiece and by making that review a place where people could ask me questions or leave some album suggestions! Only two people sent me something, but that’s ok, I still love you all!

“Live at Bush Hall” isn’t just a new start to a new chapter in the career of a young band that has already been called as one of the best of our generation. This live album is two things. It is a celebration of the things that made the band good in the first place. But it’s also a way to close the first chapter of their story in the best way possible, referencing the past and Isaac’s incredible contribution to the band. The songs here show two things: they are callbacks to the past material but they are also a way to evolve, showing that they are still present in the scene, showing that everyone has their place in this band and that anyone can try and take the lead vocalist role on a song. This is, yet again, a masterpiece and I’m so happy that the band has found a way to continue to surprise the listeners and the fans! I’m proud to be a fan of a magnificent band!

And after that, the rest is history. I don’t know if the live album is going to get mentioned in some sort of way in my year end list, I still have to decide on that. However I’m pretty sure about the fact that I’m still grateful about the fact that I still have a platform to post reviews on and I’m still grateful about the fact that there are people that actually read my reviews and people that want me to review their projects! I truly want to thank everyone on this site that has ever interacted with me and if you have made it to the end of this review I want to thank you as well! Lots of love to everyone, take care and remember: BCNR, friends forever!

P.S.: Why did I decide to go for the “MAN” username? It’s literally the first three letters of my name. Why did I use The Rock as my profile picture? Because people used that as my nickname for at least 6 or 7 years! Just some things that I wanted to reveal for a special occasion like this one! Also, we’re almost at 1100 followers once this review comes out. Yikes, it took me so fucking long to write all of this stuff. This is basically 5 pages of Google Documents!

not reading allat (congrats on 1k and amazing review homie)
Awesome review as always, MAN. And also very nice retrospective on your time in AOTY, ever considered creating a youtube channel to upload your reviews there?
First of all, thank you for the messages!

Second, yes I have considered creating a channel but the thing is that I just have a laptop to post these reviews on the site that has had multiple problems in the past. I don’t really have the necessary equipment and I also don’t have the necessary funds to buy stuff that I could use to make videos on YouTube.
Great review.
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More Reviews by MAN
Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
Feb 10, 2022
Black Country, New Road - Snow Globes
Jan 24, 2022
Black Country, New Road - Concorde
Dec 6, 2021
Black Country, New Road - Bread Song
Nov 8, 2021
Black Country, New Road - Chaos Space Marine
Oct 20, 2021
Black Country, New Road - For the first time
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