Focus 2015: Innsbruck

Heya guys! Hopefully you guys are having a great week as we go into week three of the off-season and although it may be a little early, we’re going to start reviewing each of the cities that have applied to host next year’s Eurovision in Austria. If you’ve been a die-hard reader of our blog and been here with us since the beginning, you’ll know we’ve done this before, when reviewing the different cities in Denmark that applied to host it. If you haven’t read them, have a look here. This year, however, we’re going to be doing five articles regarding the five potential cities and kicking it off is Innsbruck. So what does the city have to offer and will the arena they’ve selected be the best possible choice ORF could pick? Have a little read below to find out!

Innsbruck's arena would be the Olympiahalle - but would it be the best choice?
Innsbruck’s arena would be the Olympiahalle – but would it be the best choice?

Innsbruck is one of Austria’s most famous cities, mostly due to sport – it has hosted two Winter Olympic Games (in 1964 and in 1976) and was one of the eight cities that was used for the Euro 2008 Football Championships that Austria co-hosted with Switzerland. Innsbruck is the fifth largest city in Austria and has a population of around 120,000 people as of January of 2013. The city is situated in the “tail” section of Austria, and is roughly the midway point between Germany and Italy. If you’re not sure what I mean about that, this map of Austria shows where Innsbruck is!

Innsbruck is in the centre of Austria's "tail"..but it's not the most western city in the running!
Innsbruck is in the centre of Austria’s “tail”.. it’s the westernmost city in the running!

Innsbruck was one of the first cities that put its name forward for the job of hosting Eurovision and has so far become a possible underdog of the race to host the competition. If Innsbruck wins the right to host Eurovision 2015, the venue they’ve decided that the show would be held in the Olympiahalle, which was built in 1963 to accommodate for the 1964 Winter Olympics, where it got its name and was been used as the arena for ice hockey and figure skating events for when they hosted the Winter Olympics. It was renovated in 2004 and is now capable of holding 10,000 people – roughly around the amount that the B&W Hallerne and the Malmö Arena could hold also. Sure, it’s not the largest arena that could be selected but it would be carrying on the “homely” feel that the Swedes created two Eurovision years ago.

The city itself is easily accessible to fans through its international airport, which is only a couple of miles away from the city centre. The airport has many destinations, with many of the airlines flying to cities such as Copenhagen, London, Moscow, Stockholm and Berlin, but you can see the entire list of destinations here. Luckily, the vicinity of Innsbruck provides for loads of great sights and activities. As the city is in the middle of the Alps, there are many skiing activities around the city, which may include going down the pistes or just going Nordic skiing…which, to be blatantly honest, is just walking with sticks in your hands! For things to see and do, the Alpenzoo is a good place to go. It’s Europe’s highest zoo and specialises in “alpine animals”…whatever they are! If you have a bit of money to spend, you could also visit the many shopping centres and bars that Innsbruck contains, as well as the local casino and blow your money…but make sure you have enough money to go around the city and buy things, as it’s one of the country’s most expensive cities..but it’s also one of the most beautiful.

So, that’s some info on Innsbruck and the Olympiahalle, but would it be the city we could see being the host next year? I wouldn’t entirely rule it out, but it may be a long shot, as other cities such as Vienna and Klagenfurt have arenas that could hold up to 30,000 people..but then again, maybe the cosiness of the last few years will continue, with the 60th Eurovision nestled in the Alps? We’ll have to see! So what are your views of Innsbruck hosting the show?

Your views:

Do you think Innsbruck would be the best possible host city?
Do you think Innsbruck would be the best possible host city?

Svetlana Andriyenko from Ukraine: I think Innsbruck is beautiful city, but is not right for Eurovision, not enough space, I think.

Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: I don’t think Innsbruck will host the show next year. The Contest must be in a place for people to get to easily..and if I was to go there, I’d be taking at least three flights. I’d hope Vienna gets it though!

Ilias Kozantinos from Cyprus: My family stays many times in Innsbruck, I would love the host city of Eurovision to be there!

Oleg Bulychev from Russia:  I think it must be the capital, because of it is 60TH (!) contest it’s gonna be the coolest edition!!!

Well it seems that most fans don’t really want the Contest to take place in Innsbruck, citing it would be too small…then again, Malmö was written off by fans when Sweden was deciding where to host the Contest and it was the surprise choice. Who knows? We’ll have to see where ORF pick. So what are your views on Innsbruck? Do you think it’s a good city to host the Contest or would you want another city to host it? Feel free to tell us what you think by commenting below!

Album Review: The Common Linnets – “The Common Linnets”

Hello there! It’s lovely to have you join me for today’s album review; which is the second in our series featuring artists from the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. After Rory reviewed Elaiza’s “Gallery” over the weekend – which, may I add, is an album I love just as much as he does – I will now be shining the spotlight on this year’s silver medallists from the Netherlands: it’s The Common Linnets!

"The Common Linnets" was released on May 12th
“The Common Linnets” was released on May 9th

Hot on the heels of their spellbinding Eurovision performance in Copenhagen, Dutch duo The Common Linnets were quick to capitalise on the flash impact of the contest among the record-buying public. “Calm After The Storm” charted strongly across the continent, and the quiet yet beautiful country-infused love song left its many new fans hungry for more. Helpful, then, that their eponymous début album as a duo was available immediately after the contest too!

A thirteen-track affair, “The Common Linnets” is both everything you would expect it to be in some regards, and an extremely surprising record in others.

For starters, as you listen to the album in order, you can tell that both Ilse and Waylon are established artists in their own right. Whilst there are examples of songs which emulate the exquisite harmonies of “Calm After The Storm”, there are also frequent examples where one of them takes the lead with the other featuring in a notably subordinate role, or not at all. This may strike you as odd at first, but to make it make a little more sense, I’d point you in the direction of some of the albums produced by Fleetwood Mac in the 1970s and 1980s. When you have more than one strong lead vocalist in an ensemble, making room for every single one of them to shine in every single song will only stifle their potential. Allowing each one their moment to shine as an artist in their own right will create much stronger music. “Dreams” was Stevie Nicks’ song, “Songbird” was Christine McVie’s song. Imagine how much of the magic would have been lost, had both of these songs been duets featuring the two of them?

The very same thing occurs throughout the entirety of The Common Linnets’ début album. “Hungry Hands“, “Before Complete Surrender“, “Sun Song” and “Love Goes On” are Ilse DeLange songs through and through, the latter being a heartwrenching tribute to her late father which scintillates with emotion in her every fragile word. In contrast, the rather gloomy “Where Do I Go With Me” and the exquisitely aggressive “When Love Was King” in particular see Waylon taking centre stage.

I love Ilse’s voice more than Waylon’s, and this has naturally lead to me preferring her contributions to the album over his as a general rule, however the one song which has touched me more than any other features them both equally. It’s the stunning “Broken But Home”.

This magical piece of music had the same effect on me as did “Calm After The Storm” the first time I heard it. There is no other word for it but beautiful. Structure, chords, harmonies, vocals. Everything. And on top of that, the song demonstrates what talented songwriters the pair are, even writing in their second language. The lyrics are quaint, original and delicate; beautifully relatable and thought-out – something which can’t be said for the majority of pop lyrics written by native English speakers. Songs like “Broken But Home”, “Before Complete Surrender” and “Hungry Hands” each tell their own story, and they do it beautifully.

On the up-tempo end of the scale, I absolutely love the sass in “Time Has No Mercy” and the quaint jolliness of “Sun Song”. However, my favourite of the livelier numbers is again a song which Ilse and Waylon both shine on:

“Lovers And Liars”, as well as being an excellent morning alarm song (I can vouch for its effectiveness) and a singalong-as-loud-as-humanly-possible anthem, shows off the duo’s harmonies more than any other track on this album. They are TIGHT all the way through, creating a plethora of unique and unexpected moments throughout. On top of that, it has so much authentic energy and an infectious foot-tapping beat which the likes of Mumford and Sons can only dream of creating.

If there was one thing I would criticise about the album – and I really am digging deep here, because there really isn’t a lot wrong with it at all – it would be the use of the banjo. Ask anyone to name a corny country music instrument, and I guarantee that the banjo would be one of the first ones they’d come up with; alongside perhaps the accordion and the fiddle. Ilse and Waylon have largely avoided the latter two *applauds*, but on a couple of occasions, the banjo has been glaringly prominent *points to “Arms of Salvation” and “Time Has No Mercy” in particular*. Of course, it’s all part and parcel of the country sound, and it doesn’t make the songs any less enjoyable… it just takes away a little of the magical authenticity exhibited in the rest of the album.

Very very occasionally, some of the lyrics do come across as a little cliché too, as though they’ve been lifted from the dialogue of any Hollywood Western movie – “my daddy was a gambler, drinkin’ man” etc. However, it could equally be argued that these lyrical chunklets serve to emphasise the theme of the album further – let’s be fair, Ilse and Waylon haven’t set out to create a generic pop album here, they are giving us their own interpretation of an established genre that they both love, so the subject matter of some lyrics and the odd tired instrumental choice should not be used to mark them down.

Teency little unsubstantial negatives; on the whole, the album is bloody brilliant. I think I’ve mentioned most of the tracks by name at least once, which just goes to show how each one is noteworthy and enjoyable in it’s own unique way. Ilse DeLange and Waylon have surprised me continually ever since their selection, and their every move makes me fall in love with them more and more. “The Common Linnets” is a veritable triumph. Imagine if Johnny Cash and Karen Carpenter had worked together to create “Rumours” – that’s the kind of thing you’re getting here. It’s a dream team working at the very top of their game, and I sincerely hope they carry on getting the success and acclaim they so deserve.

Ohh I love the Eurovision off-season. So many amazing albums and songs to discover. I can’t wait!

Your Views:

What's your favourite song from The Common Linnets' debut album?
What’s your favourite song from The Common Linnets’ debut album?

Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: I haven’t really heard the entire album, but I do have to say that ‘Calm After the Storm’ and ‘Army of Salvation’ are my ultimate favourites..I must listen to the full thing though!

Svetlana Andriyenko from Ukraine: I love very much this album. It brings sympathy to my sad times and brings happiness when I need it most. Beautiful words.

Ilias Kozantinos from Cyprus: My favourite is “Before Complete Surrender”, it is very calm and pretty, and Ilse is amazing singer!

The effect of The Common Linnets’ first album appears to have been both commercially successful and emotionally profound, judging from these and other fan reactions in the wake of its release. This album is an unquestionable triumph, perhaps just the latest chapter in what is quickly becoming a modern fairytale for the Netherlands’ Eurovision career. Long may it continue!

Album Review: Elaiza’s “Gallery”

Hey hey, guys! It’s now been exactly two weeks since Conchita and Austria took the Eurovision trophy and yes, it really has seemed like an eternity and a half, hasn’t it? Well, as a way to beat Post Eurovision Depression (PED), both James and I (but mostly James) listen to the albums that were released by the contestants from the Contest that’s just gone by. Kicking this year’s reviews off is Germany and Elaiza, who released their album soon after their win in USFD. So what’s the album about and what do we think of it? You better scroll down and read it, so!

Elaiza's album is the first one to be reviewed, but what do we think about it?
Elaiza’s album is the first one to be reviewed, but what do we think about it?

Elaiza was the underdog in the German national selection, coming out of nowhere to win the special wildcard to get into ‘Unser Song für Dänemark’ and then actually beating huge stars like Unheilig, The Baseballs, Oceana, MarieMarie and Santiano to win the German ticket to Copenhagen. Soon after they won USFD, they released their debut album ‘Gallery‘ on March 28th in Germany. The album contains twelve songs and each song has been described by Elaiza themselves as ‘a photo which has its own little story to it’. Sadly, it hasn’t been released internationally (yet!) but the full track list is on Youtube and if you would like to listen to the entire album there, you may click this nice little link. Now, here’s what we think of ‘Gallery’!

I must clarify something; going into this, I had expectations of violins and tubas and any other folky instruments to feature on nearly every single track, but I knew the accordion would feature heavily, as Yvonne plays it. However, I was surprised to find that those sort of the instruments weren’t coming up as prominently as I had first thought. For me, I feel like this album has a nice balance between pop and folk and it shows Ela’s roots in a way where you know where she’s from but she’s also not rubbing it in your face, with the variety of upbeat tracks and ballads. And for the purposes of this article, I won’t be including ‘Is It Right’, as when the song was picked for Eurovision, we did a review of the song, which you can read here. Nevertheless, they’re bound to get some form of recognition for that song – watch this space!

The album opens with ‘Fight Against Myself’, which is indeed a personal favourite of mine. This is one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, and talks about having to deal with imperfections and changing ourselves in order to become almost socially acceptable – which is something I relate to, personally.  This was the B-side to the “Is It Right” single and one of the two songs that was hoping to go to Eurovision, but the German public obviously picked the other song for Denmark. If it was me, I would have loved it if this went to Copenhagen, but judging by how well “Is It Right” went down (which I also adore), it was probably the best. Still, who doesn’t love hitting mannequins, test tubes and a mirror with baseball bats with faces of utter rage?

Another song that I would single out as being a bit of a favourite of mine would be ‘Lemonade’ – the seventh song on the album. This song is another upbeat, but this is more of a happy song and that line ‘When life you gives you lemons, make lemonade’ is a very motivational line, so I think that the group are heading in a very self-hope direction lyrically. In terms of the music, the opening of the song does remind me of something you’d hear at Oktoberfest, but then it becomes mainstream-ish..James and I do like this one and for me, it’s a nice change from some of the other songs that are on the album, mostly ballads, such as ‘I Don’t Love You’ and ‘Invisible Line’.

Of course, I can’t do a review on each of the songs, but if I have to give you some other highlights on the album, here’s a just a few songs that we’d also love for you to have a listen to:

  • Green
  • Goodbye
  • Without‘ (Watch out for Ela’s pronunciation at the start of the song – you may think she’s saying “shitting in my bed”)
  • Cinderella

In general, I loved listening to this album and I think that there are some rather nice gems among the line-up! As well as that, I’m sure that even though this is their début album, we’ll be seeing a lot more great music coming from the group in the future. If I’m to rate the album out of ten – judging by the assortment of ballads and upbeat songs and the mixture of folk instruments and normal instruments in the songs – I would give ‘Gallery’ eight out of ten. But what do you think of the album?

Your views:

What's your favourite song from Elaiza's debut album?
What’s your favourite song from Elaiza’s debut album?

Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: I do like the song ‘Green’ – even though it sounds a little childlike, it’s happy and I like happy songs!

Frederic Ulriksson from Sweden: I like Invisible Line – I’m someone who likes ballads and it’s a nice one for me.

Ilias Kozantinos from Cyprus: For me, I adore ‘Is It Right’. Normally I don’t like songs with an accordion, but I just can’t help but love it..I also like ‘Green’.

So ‘Green’ seems to be a rather popular song amongst the fans, while ‘Is It Right’ only gets mentioned once..I’m sure though, if you listen to the album, you’ll have your favourites. If you have listened to ‘Gallery’, what did you think of it? Do you have any favourite tracks on the album? And what would you give the album out of ten? Feel free to tell us what you think by commenting below!