Saturday, 6 June 2015
Welcome to another end of year retrospective on a great season of Premier League football. Here at The Ephemeric we like to take this moment to take stock of the season gone by and bestow our carefully considered accolades. "But Mr. Ephemeric", I hear you ask, "How can you just talk about the football season at a time like this after everything that's going on with FIFA?". First of all that's 'The Reverend Dr. Mr. Ephemeric Sir', secondly yeah we'll probably write something about that soon, just wait for the dust to settle a bit.
Unlike last year there was really only ever one team in this competition. Chelsea led from the very beginning, setting a new record for the longest uninterrupted stretch at the top of the table, and were duly crowned champions. Jose Mourinho doesn't seem to have lost his touch from his first spell at the club, still a relentless winner. Key to the club's success has been two new signings; Diego Costa banished the spectre of Fernando Torres to become one of the league's top scorers, and the player with the best goals/games ratio, while Cesc Fabregas was a creative powerhouse in his return to English football, with a stunning 18 assists, just two away from an all time record. Meanwhile Eden Hazard is beginning to stake his claim as one of the world's very best, and contributed more goals (either scoring or assisting) than any other player in the country.
Pre-season favourites Manchester City ended up disappointing fans with a very poor run towards the end of the season saw them drop out of contention and very nearly even out of second place. Manuel Pellegrini may have won the title just a year ago, but now he finds himself walking a tightrope. Many expected City to show him the door this summer, but with that not happening one can only assume he has little room for error next year.
Elsewhere Arsenal's incredible 4th-place-champions streak came to an end, but in a good way, clinching a top 3 place and automatic Champions League qualification for the first time in years. Right behind them Manchester United have had something of a minor renaissance under Louis Van Gaal, so much so that many now tip them for a genuine title challenge next season. With the shadow of Alex Ferguson still looming over Old Trafford Van Gaal will have precious little time to deliver.
Fair mention must also go to the impressive feats of Swansea, particularly with new manager Garry Monk having something of a breakout season. Ronald Koeman has done an impressive job stepping into Pochettino's shoes and continuing Southampton's fine form even after selling off half their squad last season. Then there's Alan Pardew who bounced back from Newcastle ignominy to take Crystal Palace to their highest ever league position. A very positive season for new hires.
At the bottom it was a familiar story for perennial catastrophe-ridden QPR, who were joined in the drop by Hull and Burnley.
Now without further ado it is time to move on to the Ephemeric end of season awards, followed by our carefully selected Premier League team of the year.
The Ephemeric Premier League Awards 2014:
Winners: Chelsea - A near flawless season from a domestic standpoint, dominant in the league, and a cup to boot. A strong year for a still young squad, it will be interesting to see how they develop from here, especially with the new financially responsible, youth-driven approach the club is moving towards.
Relegated: Hull, Burnley, QPR - Burnley never looked like staying up, while QPR are always a disaster, but one has to feel for Hull who at times showed real Premier League quality this season, just not consistently enough.
Player of the Year: Eden Hazard (Chelsea) - Hard to argue against. Bags of assists and goals, but the real joy of watching Hazard play is in his unpredictability, that creative spark that all the game's most legendary entertainers have. Hazard has it.
U-21 Player of the Year: Harry Kane (Tottenham) - The new big thing in the British press, and massively overhyped, but one can't deny he's had a damn fine season with the goals he's scored, both for club and country, and the way in which he has coped with the spotlight.
Best Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Manchester United) - The best part of the Man U team this season has been de Gea, and it will be interesting to see how they cope if indeed he does head to Madrid in the summer.
Manager of the Year: Alan Pardew (Crystal Palace) - At the start of the season no one would have predicted this award, with Pardew unpopular and much maligned at Newcastle. But the fact is the man too the Toon from relegation fodder to the upper reaches of the Premier League, and after he parted company with them, he did the same for Crystal Palace, a team which looked rudderless and relegation-bound after Pulis left, but ended the season in their highest ever league position.
Top Scorer: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) (26) - Another top season, all the more impressive when you consider his injury issues and inconsistent playing time.
Most Assists: Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) (18) - A revelation on his return to the Premier League, damn near beat the record.
Overachievers: Crystal Palace - From looking relegation bound in the opening months of the season to their highest ever position. Truly a remarkable story.
Underachievers: Newcastle United - On the other hand you have Newcastle, who ditched a successful manager and drove themselves back to the foot of the table, back in a serious shout of relegation. When will things go right for them?
Best signing of the season: Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) - As above.
Worst signing of the season: Radamel Falcao (Manchester United) - A world renowned star before his mysterious (and most likely dodgy) move to Monaco. Injury problems have also taken their toll. Either way, the money involved in this loan move was absurd, even more so when he was so completely anonymous all year long.
The Ephemeric Premier League Team of the Season 2015:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Manchester United) - A top season, David de Gea was largely responsible for the Manchester United resurgence, beating off some tough opposition for this place. Now linked with a move to Real Madrid.
Right Back: Branislav Invanovic (Chelsea) - Possibly Ivanovic's best season for Chelsea, and that's saying something. Always under-appreciated, but this season's goals and shrewd mix of attacking play and strong defence was on another level. One of the Champions' star performers.
Centrebacks: John Terry (Chelsea) & Phil Jagielka (Everton) - John Terry was arguably the best player in the league this season, just losing out narrowly on our big prize to Eden Hazard. It's easy to see why. Unbeatable at the back, a leader on the pitch, scored goals and kept vital clean sheets. Most impressively of all, he became only the second player ever to play every minute of football this season. Laughable to believe that just two years ago a younger Terry was being told he couldn't play more than once week. For his partner, we went with Phil Jagielka, another one of these players who so often avoids the spotlight, but is essential for his team. The PFA chose Cahill over Jagielka, a move that is mystifying to the Ephemeric.
Left Back: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) - The second Chelsea youth product on this team, and really the club must be wondering why they let him go. He has been on fine form for Southampton, and considered by many to be the top performing left back in the league this season, laying on assists and good attacking play down the left, easily stepping into the much hyped shoes of Luke Shaw.
Right Mid: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – Another contender for player of the season. Sanchez's drew comparisons to Mesut Ozil for his huge transfer fee, but his first year in England could not have been more different, a stunning success. Goals, steel and assists, Sanchez has been so central to Arsenal's fortunes this season that it's very easy to believe they may not have finished in the top 4 without him.
Centre Mids: Nemanja Matic (Chelsea) & Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) - A Chelsea duo in the centre of midfield. Matic is the hard working defender and a real revelation since returning to Chelsea, while Cesc, as we have mentioned, has had a stonking great first season in blue.
Left Mid: Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Has to be on the team, best player in the league and arguably one of the top five players in the world right now.
Forwards: Diego Costa (Chelsea) & Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – Diego Costa concludes our incredible 6 Chelsea players in the best 11, and deservedly so with his goalscoring successes this season. Sergio Aguero, the league Golden Boot winner, joins him up front.
So there we have it, another season of Premier League football gone by. We'll see you again next season!
Monday, 1 June 2015
Genre Alternative Pop
Producers Ariel Rechtshaid, Brandon Flowers
Brandon Flowers is a peculiar creature as far as rock stars go. An innocent Mormon boy, former bellhop from Sin City itself in Nevada, Flowers somehow found himself launched into super-stardom as the posterchild of the new-wave electro-rock movement of the mid 2000s, unusually by way of the European record labels.
Best known as the leading man of The Killers, Brandon has written some of the most recognizable hits of the past decade. Songs like Mr. Brightside which ten years later still has the unique ability to send an entire room full of people into a frenzy in a way that few songs in a generation do. Such is the musician's prolificacy that when his band goes into hiatus he just has to keep working on solo material. The Desired Effect is now the second such solo album to be released.
There has always been a curious dynamic between Flowers and his Killers bandmates, reigning in Flowers' sprawling, freewheeling ideas with their more grounded, rock and roll style. Still there is no doubting that Brandon Flowers is the core of the band; he is the song-writer, the creative force. There have long been rumours of Flowers wanting to break free, to branch out and become a bona-fide solo superstar in the mold of a Lady Gaga or David Bowie. Yet for all his talent and recognition with The Killers, that breakthrough as a solo artist, the boost needed to make him one of the biggest household names in the world, has always seemed one step too far.
The first album, Flamingo, was met with a lukewarm reception. The conventional wisdom had it that Flowers, without the moderation of his bandmates, was just too far from the mainstream. But there was brilliance in that album, intelligent songwriting with Flowers' trademark flair. The real problem was one of production. Over the top effects, unnecessary vocal layering, music levels all out of whack; Flamingo was a frustrating experiences precisely because there are songs with great ideas and sublime moments in them ruined by messy production and baffling creative choices.
And so The Desired Effect sees a new production team in place. Multi-Grammy Award winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid takes the helm, bringing with him experience of working with some of the biggest stars in the world from Madonna to Beyoncé, to Vampire Weekend and Haim, and the difference is like night and day.
One of the first things that strikes you upon listening to The Desired Effect is how finely honed every track is. There is barely a note put wrong, not a single layer that sounds out of place or jarring, each of the album's 10 slick tracks are radio-ready hits. The quality of the production is such that even the lesser songs, which are inferior to some of those on Flamingo, sound better.
The key tracks are without doubt the four singles released ahead of the album. Can't Deny My Love is a track that sounds very reminiscent of the darker tone of Flamingo, and as a result serves as one of the best examples of the progress that's been made. This is Flowers at his most off-the-wall as far as The Desired Effect goes, big vocal effects, heavy percussion, layered backing vocals, and epic scale. It's exactly the sort of song that on Flamingo would have come out sounding like a mess, but here it's just slick stadium pop, a throwback to David Bowie or Pet Shop Boys in their 1980s pomp.
Still Want You takes things to another level with one of the finer tracks of the year so far. Again Flowers wears his influences on his sleeve, sounding like such a dead ringer for Young American's era David Bowie he could well have been listed a contributor. It's one of those impossibly catchy songs, with a great hook that lends itself well to live concert sing-along sessions with the audience. Top notch.
Which brings us to Lonely Town, which is pretty much a perfect pop song. Pure 1980s glam with the catchiest chorus we've heard in years, belying the darker meaning of the lyrics which are intended as a sort of spiritual successor to Sting's anthem to stalkers, Every Breath You Take.
The final of the first four singles I Can Change returns to the 1980s New Romantic period with quite a breathtaking anthem of desperation. The driving beat besot with piano and Flowers' falsetto make for quite an addictive concoction.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The album has plenty of quality throughout, from the brassy opener Dreams Come True to the delicate Between Me and You, the rockabilly Diggin up the Heart, or the wonderful semi-acoustic number The Way It's Always Been. These are all very fine songs, and even the less inspired tracks sound like superlative pop down to the slick production and undoubted talent of Mr. Flowers.
Ultimately this places The Desired Effect undoubtedly right up there with the best albums of the year, and possibly a major breakthrough moment for Brandon Flowers' solo career. The rest of The Killers must surely hear this and fear for their jobs, Brandon is on superb form without them, and has created an album which by merit of it's expert studio work is worth far more than the sum of its parts.
Must Listen :
Still Want You
Can't Deny My Love
I Can Change