Posts Tagged ‘music’

Fame at last

February 1, 2009

I am published! This article really annoyed me, so I sent a letter into the Guardian, and they published it. I didn’t even think to check yesterday, but my brother texted me this morning to ask if it was me.

Fame at last!

Spotify

January 9, 2009

I’ve recently received an invite to Spotify, a music service which allows you to stream tracks and albums in full, as often as you like, and for free (bar some advertising, which I haven’t actually been subject to yet).

I’m a big fan of last.fm, and Spotify allows you to scrobble tracks to your account. The great thing about Spotify is that, by contrast to last.fm, using its iTunes-like search interface allows you to immediately pull up any track or album that you want to hear, unlike last.fm’s addmitedly interesting radio feature. So, for example, I am currently listening to New Order’s masterpiece Technique in full, thanks to the power of Spotify and the interwebs.

Spotify is exactly the thing that the big music companies should be seeing as the future, and to their credit they seem to have gotten on board, with the so-called major labels all signing up to provide music.

The service is currently in beta and requires you to queue for an invite, but mine took just a week, and I think the service is fantastic so go and sign up!

S is for Song!

October 10, 2008

Lo-Fi has tagged me to continue a song meme originally started by Information Overlord. As with these memes, it’s totally arbitrary, and all the more fun for it! Perfect for a Friday, and a good way to get blogging again (I’ve been even more remiss than usual recently). The idea is to name five of my favourite songs by artists beginning with the letter “S”. And here we go:

Shellac: “Wingwalker“. One of Shellac’s first singles, and possibly their best. It has all the elements: rumbling bassline, whipcrack drumming, sheet metal guitar, Steve Albini’s impassioned ranting, and the stop-start dynamics that make them such an entertaining live band. I’m going to see them in a few weeks, I hope they play this!

Studio: “No Comply“. This was the track that introduced me to these guys. It’s like Happy Mondays meets Can on the beach in Ibiza with Swedish accents, and is as fun and sun-kissed as that sounds. A perfect pick-me-up on those quickly drawing-in Autumn nights.

Steinski: “Lesson 2 (James Brown Mix)“. Steinski was an early exponent of what are now called “mash-ups”, and is about 100 times better than most of the exponents of this around now. He specialises in using old hip hop and funk breaks to create something both witty and true to its roots, and was obviously a big influence on the likes of DJ Shadow. This is a concatenation of about 10 snippets of fantastic James Brown tracks, along with a load of other samples, and is truly get on the good foot stuff!

Smog: “Cold Blooded Old Times“. By the standards of Bill Callahan (Smog’s guiding force and songwriter) this is a pretty cheery number, if a song about domestic violence and unrequited love can ever be considered cheery. It’s the infectious riffing and handclaps that make it feel, if not exactly like a party number, then at least a happy way to feel depressed.

Slint: “Good Morning, Captain“. It’s difficult to write about this song without sounding horribly pretentious, but here goes. It’s in the long tradition of gothic seafaring stories, along the lines of Moby Dick or The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. A shipwrecked captain realises he is alone on his ship, only to see a (ghostly?) child looking in at him through the window. This is backed with slowly developing, ominously intertwining guitar lines and a relentless rhythym section. The song reaches its climax with a cathartic howl of regret and loneliness from the captain, with a raging guitar maelstrom behind, possibly one of the heaviest (both in the “heavy metal” and “bad vibes” senses) things I’ve ever heard. It still sends tingles down my spine on hearing it to this day.

So that’s my selection. I hereby pass the meme on to Tom P, Nick, Dan, Jude and Tom A. Do your worst!

Green Man

August 21, 2008

I went to Green Man festival at the weekend with a whole bunch of friends, old and new, located in the beautiful Glanusk Park near Abergavenny in Wales. These included Jude, Tom P (Green Man thoughts here), Tom A (thoughts here) Welsh Jude, my brother Jim, Alex A, Alex F, and Steve, along with about 15 other people. This made it extremely sociable and fun throughout, despite the somewhat dubious weather. Friday was fine, but it rained most of Saturday and some of Sunday, making for a damp latter couple of days.

Nevertheless, the good vibes and music shone through, along with the excellent bars (one of which sold proper spiced cider which turned out to be real loopy juice) and a wide range of good food stalls.

Bands wise, I saw a whole bunch of good-but-not-great acts, along with a few real standouts. In the “not bad” file we had The National, Spiritualized, Sennen, Wolf People, Pentangle and a load of other bands I saw in passing. The really great bands were Fuck Buttons (by the standards of Green Man, aggressive walls of droning noise), Junior Boys (who had the misfortune to be playing in the middle of a downpour but really benefited from a huge soundsystem to propel their bass heavy electropop), and Black Mountain (who sounded suitably doomy and strung out).

The real point of the festival is hanging out in the beautiful surroundings with friends, and that was great throughout. Particular fun (despite the incredulity of certain hataz) was playing an RPG called The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach, in which you play an academic jostling for position within an American East Coast university in the 20s, with the added distraction of brain-infesting cockroaches to deal with.

All in all, a lovely weekend. Oh, and if you run into me, be sure to ask about gong baths!

Round-up

July 27, 2008

Hello readers! Its been ages since I’ve posted here, so I thought I would do a round-up post, detailing some stuff I’ve been up to recently. In no particular order:

  • Reading Dan‘s new blog, Stephen King Reviewed, in which Dan is reading and reviewing in order every book written by (you guessed it) Stephen King. I’m not a massive fan of King, but Dan makes them sound more interesting than I remember from the few I’ve read.
  • Watching Iron Maiden at their recent Twickenham show, which was great fun, and not least to people watch. They played stuff from their classic run of 80s albums, meaning the dread words “this is a number from our new album” weren’t uttered once.
  • Visiting Dublin for the BIALL Conference. Dublin is an interesting place, and it reminded me a lot of northern industrial cities like Manchester or Glasgow. We did all the touristy stuff like visiting the Guinness brewery and the zoo, as well as eating very well, and drinking a fair amount of Guinness.
  • Going to Devizes to visit Kate and Will. Devizes is a nice little town, and is home to Wadworth brewery, meaning that there is seemingly a pub on every corner, all of which serve very good beer.
  • Listening to a bunch of different music, including: Prins Thomas’ Cosmo Galactic Prism mix, an excellent Steinski compilation, Neu!, the new Girl Talk record, (available on a pay-what-you-want basis here), and Studio’s Yearbook 2, which is a compilation of remixes. Currently on my shopping list are the new Hold Steady record, and Harvey Milk’s new one, which sounds like it will be pretty interesting stoner/doom metal.
  • Getting to grips with the new version of last.fm. Pros: seems to load a lot faster than the old version. Cons: not so sure about the layout, and it seems that they’re moving away from using the software as a player, a feature I liked. There’s been a great deal of discussion (read: moaning) about it here.
  • Getting excited about the upcoming Green Man Festival. There are a record number of people I know going this year (probably about 25!), including my brother, Tom P and Tom A, meaning that it should be great fun. Also, the line-up is looking particularly strong this year, with late announcement of the Junior Boys as the icing on the cake.
  • Reading some good books, including the excellent Warlock by Oakley Hall (thanks again Tom!) and a collection of J.G. Ballard short stories which I picked up for 50p at a local fete.
  • Reading the always-interesting Potlatch‘s thoughts on Wetherspoon’s pubs and Stoke Newington. He characterises the campaigns to keep the likes of Nando’s and Tesco out of Stokey as employing “leftwing radical rhetoric, but with rightwing exclusionary goals.” This is a really interesting idea, but not one I’m sure I agree with. Anyone else?

Okay that’s all I can think of for the mo. It may be an empty promise, but more updates to follow!

Last.fm serendipity

May 30, 2008

I had a last.fm user called Radgardener leave a comment in my last.fm shoutbox. It turned out that  not only was our music compatibility “super”, but that I appeared as one of this user’s musical neighbours.

Not so strange, you might think. Until you find out that… we share a name! Or at least, his name is Neal Stewart. Apparently he’s my Canadian musical doppelganger.

Spooky or what? It’s like we both had entered The Scary Door (warning: those of a fragile disposition should not watch this clip).

1000 del.icio.us posts!

March 6, 2008

A landmark, of sorts- I just posted my thousandth link to del.icio.us, a service that allows you to save URLs and then refer back to them as and when you need to. As well as this, it allows you to tag things you save, thereby building up a folksonomy.

You can view my links here– they are a real mish-mash of stuff, running the gamut from web tools to libraries to politics to film to sport. For the record, my thousandth post was an interview with Carl Wilson at the AV Club, talking about his new book about Celine Dion in the very good 33 1/3 series, and it was tagged with my most popular tag, music.

Thoughts on the iPod

February 13, 2008

Yes, yes, I know, I’m about 5 years behind half the people in this country on this, but I finally got an iPod this Christmas, and I thought I would note some of my thoughts on the ways in which it has changed my listening habits.

First of all, it has really made me think about my unwieldy collection of CDs. I must have burnt only a fraction of the total number, and this begs the question: how many of these CDs do I actually really want to keep? I mean, it’s conceivable I might want to listen to a track off that Bentley Rhythm Ace  album I have, for some reason, held on to for the last 10 years, but in all honesty it’s not going to happen. So maybe a CD purge is in order.

On a related note, burning a whole load of CDs has made me realise how weak parts of so many albums (including a lot of albums I like) are. One of my favourite albums of the 90s is Royal Trux’s Accelerator, and I still really like it, but could probably live without hearing half the tracks ever again, which made me think twice about burning the whole album. This is where compilations come into their own, since they provide perfect iPod fodder, and you can easily delete tracks without feeling guilty for dismembering a cherished album (a rockist idea anyway, I know!). Mix CDs are also great in this respect, since if done well they are unique in providing the cohesion of an album with the variety of a good compilation.

And the perfect medium to hear new mixes is in podcast form, which really has opened up a whole new world of (free!) music to me. The two I have subscribed to that particularly stand out are Resident Advisor (check here for a mix by the always excellent Optimo DJs) and the Beats in Space radio show coming out of NYC. As these choices indicate, another side-effect has been that I am listening to lots more dance music than previously, which is perhaps also to do with the fact that dance music tends to work better on headphones from an MP3 than, say, stoner metal.

It has also made me think about my small to medium sized collection of LPs. One the one hand, I kind of wish I had them available in a format that was easily transferrable to computer, since many of my favourite albums are in this format. But then, on the other hand, I picked up a copy of the gatefold edition of Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4, which features  some truly great artwork, making me remember why I enjoyed buying vinyl in the first place.

Finally, owning an iPod has brought home the need to buy myself a decent laptop, over which I have been prevaricating for years. I can’t continue to clog up Jude’s computer with my (to quote her) “funny bleepy music”!

Did anyone find their listening habits changing in the ways I describe when they first got an MP3 player? Or perhaps in other ways? Leave a comment!

Classical Gas

September 13, 2007

This post will probably only mean something to those of you who, like me, spent their weekday evenings in the mid 90s holed up in your bedroom, listening to the indie-tastic Mark and Lard show on BBC Radio One

Anyway, Nick sent me a link to an MP3 recording of Classical Gas, Tony McCarrol’s post-Oasis project. I had to stifle my laughter in the office, largely unsuccesfully. You can join in the hilarity by clicking on this link.

Green Man 2007

August 21, 2007

Well, I’m back, showered and rested after an exhausting but fun Green Man festival. This year’s event was bigger than last year’, up from about 6,000 to the 10,000 mark. The festival still retained its intimate character though, and it was always easy to buy a drink, get some food, or use one of the (relatively clean) chemical toilets. Neither did this increase in numbers detract from the idyllic location, set in the beautiful Brecon Beacons, with proper misty mountains and ancient forests.

The crowd was an interesting mix, with 20-something hipsters, 30-something parents of young families (meaning there were loads of kids running round!), and a fair smattering of 6-festivals-a-summer types. The location, near Abergavenny on the Welsh borders, meant that there was a strong Welsh contingent, as well as lots of people from Bristol, the Midlands and the North. The slightly older nature of the crowd makes things a bit more laid back than your Readings or Glastonburys, which suits a prematurely middle aged and congenitally grumpy person like me just fine.

The weather was not as good as it could have been. After a pretty clement Friday, it poured down all Saturday morning, making for a very wet day. This didn’t seem to dampen spirits too much, though, it was just a bit of a pity there couldn’t have been a bit more sunshine.

Anyway, on to the most imortant thing, the music. Green Man’s predominant theme is folk, but not necessarily the arran jumper, pint of bitter, finger in ear variety. As well, lots of other styles are represented, ranging from some fairly hard rocking stuff, to the weirdly psychedelic.

My favourite band of the weekend were probably Clinic, who are about as far from folk as it’s possible to get: droning, farsifa-smothered, krautrocking garage-blues, with very odd lyrics, reminiscent of the Fall.  They also wore those puritan hats, which was a nice touch.

Honourbale mentions go to Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation, who played a number of Led Zeppelin tunes, and were therefore great; Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, who were admittedly a bit jamming, but also played some excellent Pavement-esque skewed pop songs; Gruff Rhys, who played from inside a television test card set, and finished with a 20 minute power ballad about a plane being hijacked, complete with dramatisation; and Dead Meadow, who played howling blues-rock with some heavy riffing. I did see a bunch of other bits of sets as well, as is so often the way with festivals.

Then there are the duds, and in particular a couple of acts that really annoyed me. I know that Joanna Newsom isn’t supposed to be easy, and that those people who “get” her rave about her, but I’m afraid that one warble from her was enough to send me running for the safety of my tent. The other one was Devendra Banhart: he just makes me think 70s soft rock of the worst Eagles or Santana variety. No need!

Anyway, enough bitching, and a few other things to mention. The DJ tent was a real highlight, like last year, in as much as it afforded some protection from the damp, and the DJs played some great records. Mostly these were of the weird rock variety- I heard Hawkwind, Can, Faust, Wilco’s krautrock number off A Ghost is Born, and Silver Apples’ far-out “Oscillations” no less than twice. The best was saved until the Sunday, when Andy Votel played all sorts of weird and funky stuff, including one track that I can only describe as Turkish prog rock, not something you hear every day.

The best non-musical event was hearing Ben Goldacre, of Bad Science fame, giving a talk about a number of different subjects around the theme of how the media is complicit with big pharma and the “alternative health” industries in misrepresenting science. While I have issues with his representation of “mainstream media” as monolithic, he was an excellent speaker, and his demolition job on claims made by the likes of homeopaths were right on the money. Also, the book stall was excellent (I picked up a copy of the Sword of Honour trilogy for £3.50), and there was a very good record shop selling a surprisingly wide variety of stuff.

All in all, a lovely weekend, and one to hopefully be repeated next year. I must admit, though, that as I sit writing this (at home, yay!), I’m listening to a steady diet of electropop, hip hop, techno and other synthetic sounds, as if to cleanse the palate from all those lightly strummed guitars and pastoral melodies.