Wide open

This music video from The Chemical Brothers is incredible. A single-shot sequence of a lone dancer moving around a grungy industrial warehouse space. So far, so normal. But gradually parts of her body become like wireframe, see-through, and that’s when the magic happens.

It’s just so detailed and intricate. That you can see her leg through her other leg. That the red pants are wrapped around an essentially non-existent body by the end.

And such a simple idea, with huge implications. When I watched the behind the scenes video, below, I really loved it even more. So much work going into a five minute video, but worth every second.

The song’s not bad either!

On the record – Unicorns and rainbows all the way (Weeks 1 to 4)

I introduced where this 2016 music goal came from already, and here it is – the first set of results are in. The idea in brief is for me to listen to more music, and specifically to understand what albums are all about.

Below you’ll find what I have listened to for the first four weeks of the challenge, with a short note on my feelings afterwards. My picks come first, Mr C’s second, but you’ll get that from the release dates.

Also, please don’t judge me for starting with a country artist – I had to ease myself in gently.

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 1
The First Time Kelsea Ballerini 2015 Perfect country pop, little bit on the sweet side, but not a bad tune on there. Except maybe I wear my pain like stillettos.
A Night at the Opera Queen 1975 Beautifully eclectic mix of grungy rock & roll alongside the more poppy pieces, some country influences and more. Crazy but brilliant.
Week 2
Purpose Justin Bieber 2015 An electro-pop looping journey that has so many Ed Sheeran influences, it’s mad. Felt very defensive too – Sorry, What Do You Mean, I’ll Show You.
Heroes David Bowie 1977 What’s amazing about this album is how you can see the effort and crafting gone in to it. Not all to my taste, but the bizarre mix means there’s got to be something to like.
Week 3
A Head Full of Dreams Coldplay 2015 Very poppy, quite an 80s feel, but really – who are these people and what have they done with Coldplay? It’s almost oppressively optimistic. Unicorns and rainbows all the way.
Straight Outta Compton N.W.A. 1988 Loved this so much more than I thought I would, good beats, angry ranting, and a great sense of camaraderie.
Week 4
White Light The Corrs 2015 Lovely to hear their voices again, bit disappointed that it started out strong but descended into epic easy listening by the end.
Let Go Avril Lavigne 2002 Wonderful pop-rock, teen angst without being depressing, catchy songs and solid lyrics – not so sure of the one where she raps though.

After the first few weeks, I was totally hooked on this whole concept. Who knew albums could be so brilliant and contagious and how can I listen to more and more please?

I quickly discovered that I needed to listen to each one more than once for it to really sink in and take hold, so I’ve endeavoured to listen to each at least twice. A couple of them I’ve wanted to listen to more than that – Kelsea’s album really is a beautiful slice of country pop, whilst Straight Outta Compton also really grabbed me (much to my own surprise). I already listened to it twice over and above the requirements for this challenge.

Two hits out of eight albums, is that a decent strike rate? We’ll have to see how the next batch goes.

Notes for future research:

  • Listen to more of N.W.A. together and apart, and learn more about the East/West Coast hip-hop battle.
  • Find out if Coldplay’s albums in the period in between the last time I listened and this time were as positive, or if this is just a bizarre outlier.
  • Continue to ponder what it must have been like to hear Bohemian Rhapsody at the time in its natural habitat.

On the record

It started like this:

John: Rumours? You ever heard Rumours?
Kayleigh: What?
John: What?! Rumours is one of the best albums in the whole wide world!
Kayleigh: Never even heard of it.
John: Excuse me? You’ve never heard of Rumours? Oh, you’ll love it. I’ll burn you a copy. Tonight. One of my all-time favourite albums.
Kayleigh: Mine’s Now 48.
John: Now 48?!
Kayleigh: They’re all on it, all me faves S-Club 7, Steps, Samantha Mumba, Shaggy! It wasn’t me.
John: No. No, I’m sorry. You can’t have a Now album as your favourite album.
Kayleigh: Why not?
John: Cos you can’t have a compilation.
Kayleigh: I can have what I want, John.

Peter Kay’s Car Share

Mr C and I have had conversations like this over and over, although it wasn’t until this recent viewing that I realised my favourite album really and truly is a compilation. I’ve never really been an album type of person. I like an eclectic mix of songs, and tend to either like what I hear or don’t, and then stick with the ones I like. Searching out new music has never really been a key part of my enjoyment of the genre.

It was worse when the barrier to getting an album was somewhere around the £13.99 mark. Back in the day, I had a rule that I had to like at least two or three songs off an album before I’d even consider buying it, and even then I’d invariably opt for a Friends DVD instead. So the album thing, it kinda passed me by.

Now, I do agree with Kayleigh that you can have whatever you want as your favourite. But part of me thinks I have been missing out on something. Mr C is a big fan of the album. He tries to explain to me concept albums, collections of work that tell a story, how much it means to an artist for you to listen to their songs in the right order, etc, etc. I’ve mostly ignored him.

Until now.

I want to make the most of my Apple music subscription, I want to listen to more music, and I want to stop Mr C doing that disappointed shake of the head when we talk about albums. Hence, my new Life List adventure, On the Record.

The goal was conceived as thus:  Listen to a new (to me) album every week for a year.

I started listing new albums I wanted to listen to, and Mr C started chiming in with classic albums he thought I should hear.

Very quickly it became clear what the goal was going to become: Listen to two albums a week for a year, one chosen by me (released within the last year or so), and one chosen by Mr C (released any time up to 2010).

Slightly less catchy, but a heck of a lot more interesting. Naturally, I have to record my findings, so look out for some more music based entries coming soon!

Mr C’s top five films of 2015

As previously mentioned, Mr C was unable to narrow his shortlist of top songs down to just five. And by the time we got to talking about films we were both pretty exhausted by the whole subject. So, I let him get away with expanding his list to ten films as well! I’m such a pushover.

Anyway, these are in alphabetical order with links to my Film Watch reviews for a bit more of an insight.

Previous year’s lists are available here: 201020112012, 2013 and 2014.

Mr C’s top songs of 2015

Now, normally at this point in the year, I hand over a portion of my site to Mr C, allowing him to pick his top five songs and top five films that we consumed in the previous twelve months. It’s a joyous process for me – throughout the year, we keep a note of potential contenders and then I get to watch him writhe in agony as he tries to finalise his top five lists. Unfortunately, this year, the internal debates within him went on for so long that I had to put my foot down and demand a decision.

His excuse for not being able to pick five songs out of the shortlist is that they’re all equally as good as each other and none particularly stand out. It sounds like a bit of a wishy-washy-everyone-gets-a-trophy-for-turning-up excuse, but actually it does, in itself, throw light upon the music industry in 2015. Overall, a solid year, interesting stuff released and some good music produced but, for Mr C at least, nothing so notable it deserves particular plaudits.

That being the case, and given that I had to bully him endlessly into even getting this far, we’ve expanded the lists this year from top five to top ten, and I’ve been told its important to note that they are not in any order (I’ve gone for release date instead). So, here goes with the top songs of 2015, and there’s an Apple Music playlist of the slightly longer shortlist available here.

  • First – Cold War Kids
  • Fight Song – Rachel Platten
  • Believe – Mumford & Sons
  • See You Again (feat. Charlie Puth) – Wiz Khalifa
  • The One – Kodaline
  • Good For You (feat A$AP Rocky) – Selena Gomez
  • Drag Me Down – One Direction
  • Love Myself – Hailee Steinfeld
  • On My Mind – Ellie Goulding
  • Confident – Demi Lovato

top-ten-songs-2015

Previous year’s selections are available here: 2010201120122013, 2014.

I should be so lucky

You know, of course, that I’m an insane Back to the Future fan. However, it wasn’t until we watched the incredible Back in Time documentary that I realised I’d missed out on an important part of BTTF fandom – Michael J Fox’s books. I picked up Lucky Man, his memoir chronicling his career and his Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis, and how the two had to fit in his life side by side, and eventually together.

It was fantastic. Inspiring, moving, funny, beautiful. I can’t recommend it enough.

After all that I’d been through, after all that I’d learned and all that I’d been given, I was going to do what I had been doing every day for the last few years now: just show up and do the best that I could do with whatever lay in front of me.

Are there comics in the future?

I’m not one that particularly wants a Back to the Future sequel, even though I’m a huge fan of the trilogy. However, anything else we can get that allows us to spend time in Hill Valley is fine by me. I hugely enjoyed the Telltale Games episodic game series that thrust us straight back into the world of time travel and all its many consequences. I drooled over the BTTF lego set, and loved reading the movie line by line in that slightly odd Twitter project.

So, imagine my joy to discover there’s a comic book series – four individual comics – set in and around Hill Valley, giving additional stories and insights into the world of Doc and Marty, and their travels. I signed up for a Comixology account and snapped them up immediately, despite my novice status with regards to comics.

The comics are fantastic, with the first book of the series revealing just how Doc and Marty met – something many have wondered about given their unlikely pairing. The rest is stacked full of “untold tales and alternate timelines” creating a whole new raft of problems and perils for the duo to overcome.

bttf-comics

I’ve read two of the four comics, and am sort of saving the others because with so few of them available I need to savour the joy! But they’re brilliant, and I highly recommend them. It’s also made me curious about comics as a whole, and what other gems I can find out there. It’s always been a world I’ve found daunting, but Comixology does seem to make it as easy as possible, so watch this space!

Write, write, write

Maggie, aka Mighty Girl, is one of the reasons I started my own Life List many moons ago, and I’m always interested to see her take on resolutions, goals and achievements to undertake. Whilst her resolutions this year may be minimalistic, they are none the less inspiring, particularly this one about putting pen to paper/finger to keyboard.

Write and write and write and write.
It’s like talking, as much as you want, about whatever you want, but no one has to listen to you!

Sharing the love

The fact that Peter Kay’s Car Share was brilliant and received a lot of love is probably not news to many, given that the series aired in April last year. It was something that passed Mr C by, however, and whilst I watched it over and over and grew to love it more and more, I felt protective of it in that way that means you can’t really recommend it to someone. He’d ask if it was worth watching, and I’d umm and ahh whilst secretly coveting “my precious.”

However, at Christmas, we took the plunge, and watched the first episode together. And then we watched the remaining five so that we consumed the entire series in one sitting. Now, of course, I feel bad for having kept it from him for so many months, but it was worth it to watch it together in such a fashion.

peter-kays-car-share

It is so good for so many reasons, and I don’t need to convince you of that. But, because it’s recently been in my mind again, here are five of my favourite moments from the series:

  1. When Kayleigh falls over before getting in the car. “I forgot to put me feet in!”
  2. The hysterical laughter after the Lady Diana game, because that’s genuine laughter, you can tell.
  3. That Kayleigh’s favourite album is a compilation. I’ve never really understood albums, and John’s consternation at the concept reminded me of many conversations that have taken place in our house.
  4. The Brillington College advert: “Because brilliance is ALMOST our name.”
  5. The conversation about in the second episode about funerals – John’s dad’s, as well as what Kayleigh would have at hers. Flipping between funny and serious in milliseconds, it’s beautifully done.

It’s really a three-hander, this series, with the radio and the song selections playing a third character in each and every episode. The oh-so-familiar adverts, the wacky games being played, and the nostalgic music. The BBC put together one of their playlists with songs from the show, which you can listen to in Spotify, but I managed to pull one together for Apple Music as well – amazingly there was only one song I couldn’t find.

Car Share is one of those genius works of art that deserves a second series, but would be equally as good left as a standalone piece. And if they do choose that route, well, we’ll always have Forever FM to listen to.

Girl on the Train(line)

I’ve caught a couple of trains over the festive period, and whilst this is not particularly exciting news, it has been a while since I’ve travelled on the railway. I wanted to test out the Trainline app, which recently updated to include in-app purchasing via Apple Pay, and my findings were thus: HOW did any of us manage to navigate train travel without this app?

trainlineFrom the off, it is insanely helpful. You search where you’re travelling from and to, and are presented with all the options alongside details of how long it’ll take, how much it’ll cost and how many changes you’ll have to make along the way. There’s even details of the facilities and opening hours of each station – in case you need to make sure there’s somewhere to get a coffee!

If you opt to buy via the app, you get a ticket code that can be redeemed at the station (although I think they’re desperately trying to move towards just having to wave your phone in the right direction and not have to bother with physical tickets – hoorah!). They email you details of your trip, including what the weather will be like – both of my trips had recommendations to travel with an umbrella, typical.

At the station, ticket printed, you can check real time updates about the trains, their locations and estimated times of arrival. I encountered a bit of drama with a cancelled and re-established train at one point and amazingly, the Trainline app had all the information before the station announcers had even cottoned on. I’d managed to plan which other train I could catch and how best I could navigate the situation, before the departure boards had updated. It was incredible.

Train lines. #patterns

A photo posted by @mrschristine on

I’m definitely late to the Trainline party, they’ve been providing tickets and information for over a decade. But I’m so happy to have found it now, because it made travelling via train completely seamless (as much as delays and cancellations allowed for, anyway) and provided the one thing that frustrated travellers need to ease their woes: up to date information.