On the record – That lovely Nordic sweeping feel to things (Weeks 17 to 20)

Here we go again, another four weeks have flown by and it’s time to catch up with which albums I have been listening to over the past 28 days. Just like last time, there has been a wild array of genres filtering their way into my ears, from rock to pop, rap to sweeping Scandinavian melodies. Also this time out, the first album that I’ve truly struggled to get to the end of.

I’ve opted to work out a top ten list from all the albums listened so far, and I’ll keep this updated as the year continues, so by the end I can see what I have really gained from this adventure. First, though, the albums – my picks come first, which feature albums from 2015 or 2016, and Mr C’s selections are second, composed of albums from any other time.

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 17
Beneath the Skin Of Monsters and Men 2015 Just beautiful, with that lovely Nordic sweeping feel to things. You can just picture the music over a beautiful fjord or Icelandic landscape scene. Great as background music or for weekend relaxation.
Pretenders The Pretenders 1980 Love this. I’ve always had a soft spot for Chrissie Hynde, probably starting when she appeared on Friends. Really good album, bouncy and foot-tapping rock with fabulous vocals.
Week 18
Everything At Once Travis 2016 Just as with Coldplay’s album, this one was a lot more positive than previous editions – but thankfully it wasn’t over the top with cheeriness. I have loved Travis in the past so it was lovely to hear them again.
What’s Going On Marvin Gaye 1971 Incredible voice, relaxed sound with important messages. Slightly odd transitions between songs, but otherwise a really nice listen.
Week 19
Thank You Meghan Trainor 2016 An odd album, with a hugely eclectic mix of songs from pure R&B Destiny’s Child style to the more lilting Hawaiian guitar ballad. Quite fun, and lots of positive messages, but there’s no flow making it a jarring and jittery experience.
Born in the U.S.A. Bruce Springsteen 1984 Really enjoyed this album, so very indulgently eighties. Fine balance between guitar rock and country music, but great songs, catchy melogies, and some anthems you can roar.
Week 20
Views Drake 2016 Some good bits here and there, very well produced, but ultimately I just found it quite boring.
Everything Must Go Manic Street Preachers 1996 Good album, great guitars and interesting lyrics. Confident I was missing important song meanings but I liked it anyway. Only concern is the singles stand head and shoulders above the rest.

My top ten after twenty weeks of listening to a wide variety of albums:

  1. Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.
  2. Come On Over by Shania Twain
  3. Let Go by Avril Lavigne
  4. Get Weird by Little Mix
  5. The First Time by Kelsea Ballerini
  6. Chaos and the Calm by James Bay
  7. Thriller by Michael Jackson
  8. Play by Moby
  9. Graceland by Paul Simon
  10. Debut by Bjork

Our souls

I love this video promoting the US version of Red Nose Day. So many celebrities, most of whom are favourites, and only a couple of whom I don’t actually recognise.

It’s an amusing message, of course, but I have to admit the best bit is the bonus appearance of Ana Lucia – who appears to be on a film set and in a completely different context to everyone else. Weird.

There’s a hint, somewhere deep inside me, of indignation that the US are taking one of our ideas and doing it equally as well if not better. But then again, it’s all for charity, so what does it matter?

What a lonely web we weave

A recent episode of Note to Self highlighted a really interesting concept that they’re unfortunately calling the ‘Lonely Web.’ The idea is that for all the popular social media posts that get hundreds of views every day, there are those that don’t get any visits at all. It’s an interesting listen, if a little hamfisted at times – you sort of get the feeling that it’s not a huge issue, particularly as not everyone is out there to be famous, and there’s an awkward moment at the beginning where Manoush only just manages to remember there’s a world outside of America. Nevertheless, it’s a thought-provoking podcast with great production values.

I’m calling it the lonely web. It’s a result of thinking about how we access content. Most of it’s through social media and too much content is getting posted every day. It’s getting lost in the noise. A lot of the noise is the product of the social media sites themselves, which encourage us to post everything from our thoughts on the election to what we had for breakfast.

There is something pretty lonely about broadcasting your deepest thoughts and having no one see it, especially in an environment that encourages you to share yourself.

I’m in two minds, really, because firstly, I don’t think people should post random stuff they don’t care about – if you’re having an exciting breakfast, then sure, but every day corn flake updates aren’t necessary. However, I also don’t think people should feel pressure to get any views. Post for yourself and if anything comes of it, that’s fine, and if it doesn’t, that’s also good too. That doesn’t automatically mean you’re lonely.

Going above and beyond

A new trailer for the third installment of the Star Trek reboot was released recently and it looks quite a lot like the previous two!

This time, however, it’s co-written by Simon Pegg and directed by Justin Lin, who played a big part in getting me hooked on the Fast and Furious franchise (something I’m still not totally over!)

J.J. Abrams has had to hand over the baton to another director, busy as he has been with bringing Star Wars back to life, and that might make this third film an interesting proposition. I loved the first two, even if I didn’t totally understand the time-bending logic that rewrote all of history in the second film. I know a lot of people didn’t feel the same, and there was some furore when the first teaser trailer for Beyond came out. Even Pegg himself wasn’t too happy with how the first trailer looked, but he’s been more complimentary about this one.

It’s so important to get a trailer right, as it can be the key thing that makes someone watch a film or not. In this case, I like this trailer and I like Star Trek, so there’s no doubt this one is going to get a Film Watch review at some point.

Rocking around the clock

the-rock-clockIt’s not every day you open up the app store on your phone to discover that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has released an alarm clock app to help you wake up and set your goals. Turns out that was a really good day.

The Rock Clock does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s an alarm clock which pushes you to reach a specific goal (ie. wake up early, or write that screenplay), and the alarm sounds feature the Rock’s beautiful voice giving encouragement.

My particular favourite is to hear the dulcet tones of everyone’s favourite muscle guy saying: “Beep, beep, beep… I could do this all day.”

I hadn’t realised that this clock was part of a bigger project by the Rock called, cleverly, Project Rock.

We all have hopes, goals, dreams and aspirations, and I’ve officially made it my project to help as many of you get after your goals as possible. Let’s get after it and chase greatness… together.

Johnson aims to help with four projects, two of which have been revealed and two which are still to come. The clock app is the second of the projects, the first appears to be a handy rucksack style bag with pockets galore. I don’t really have a use for the bag, but I’d be keen to own one if only for the inspirational boost it should give. Unfortunately, it’s sold out, which is probably good for my bank balance.

Instead, I’ll stick to the clock. I’ll be honest and say I haven’t been brave enough to use it for actually waking up in a morning – the Rock is kinda scary – but if there’s a mid-day alarm required, I’m ready to have the Rock tell me to “get after it.”

Sweet skatin’

I really love this music video for Sweet Lovin’ by Sigala. The song itself is your standard dance number, but the video takes it a step further with roller skates that issue smoke from the back. I want some!

What is really fab about the whole thing is when more skaters join the fun towards the end of the video, creating a sort of roller skating version of the Red Arrows. This must have been a lot of fun to film.

On the record – Still trying to shed the Disney image (Weeks 13 to 16)

This is the fourth update of my On the record adventure, wherein I try to listen to a new and an older album each week and report back my findings. I’ve been loving the process, and this time I think I started to expend a bit in terms of genre. We’ve got some modern pop, electronic stuff, brilliant country crossover, older pop classics, and some marvellous guitar rock.

As always, my picks are first – albums from either this year or last – whilst Mr C’s selections are second, with his choices coming from any other time in album history. He picked out some brilliant records this time, I think.

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 13
Communion Years & Years 2015 Enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. I like a couple of their songs but wasn’t sure my enjoyment would stretch to a full album. Good, interesting melodies with some fun rhythms – perhaps not groundbreaking but certainly fun to listen to.
Love Angel Music Baby Gwen Stefani 2004 This is more the Gwen I know and love. Gloriously irritating, who else could get away with chanting random fruit spellings at you? An eclectic mix of R&B and electric pop with oddities and intricacies to make each listen add something new.
Week 14
Super Pet Shop Boys 2016 Great start to this album, it sounds just as you hope a Pet Shop Boys album is going to be. The middle didn’t thrill me so much, it all seemed to get a bit maudlin and overly familiar. Overall listenable, but not one to add to their classic collection.
Come On Over Shania Twain 1997 Totally forgot about this album, I love it so much, every song is a classic for me. Shania is my original pop country princess – only trouble is I have to be careful where I listen as it’s impossible not to sing along!
Week 15
Red Flag All Saints 2016 Better on the second listen, the first couple of songs are great, but the rest doesn’t feel quite so strong. I like that they experiment and don’t just go for middle of the road tunes, but they don’t all work – oof, Ratchet Behaviour.
American Idiot Green Day 2004 Brilliant rock tunes, catchy, sing-a-long greatness with some heart-wrenching moments in there too – I can totally see why it was made into a musical. The structure of the album confuses me though, with some songs back to back on a single track.
Week 16
Revival Selena Gomez 2015 Really good album, even better on the second time around. Bit over the top in terms of adult content in places, it does feel like she’s still trying to shed the Disney image. But otherwise good, catchy, upbeat and modern songs.
Thriller Michael Jackson 1982 It feels like a short album, just nine songs, but every single one is perfect. The BFF relationship with Paul McCartney boggles my mind a bit, but Thriller makes up for everyone and everything. Could be one of the best songs ever, I reckon.

Picking the tunes with DJ Dench

I pick and choose my way through Desert Island Discs, but the wonderful thing about it is the timeless nature of all the interviews. The BBC have made the full archive available indefinitely, so you can listen to anyone at any time. I subscribe to the podcast, but often don’t get around to listening until well after the interviews have been aired.

I just recently listened to Dame Judi Dench’s show, and fell even more in love with her than I already was. Rather than joyously recounting stories for each of the brilliant songs on the list, Dame Judi gradually comes to the realisation that all her songs are actually quite depressing. It’s really fun to hear, as each track passes by, Judi’s reaction that she maybe should have taken a look at the eight songs as a whole.

It’s even better, right at the end, when host Kirsty Young asks the beloved Judi which track she was save from the waves.

“Which one would I save? Hmm. I don’t want any of those. I don’t want to go to the island and I don’t want to take any of those with me.”

Highly recommend listening to this one.

Starstruck

It felt like an incredibly long wait, but finally, a couple of weeks ago, I got to see the new Star Wars film. Actually, it emerged onto my chosen digital media platform about four months after it graced the cinema screens, so whilst it felt like the anticipation went on forever, that window is thankfully getting smaller. I managed to avoid all but the most obvious spoilers – and for the most part they were things that only made sense after you’d seen the film anyway. (There are no spoilers in this post, btw.)

look-to-the-stars

Naturally, I’ve seen it one or more times since that first occasion, and I love it. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for about a year, and I can categorically state that a) I’m obsessed and b) I’m now even more obsessed.

I always have a slight hesitancy about talking about it though, because as a new fan, I hate to be one of those people. You know, when you’ve liked something for soooooo long and then someone else comes along and is all “Isn’t it so good? This bit, and this bit, and this bit?” And you’re like… yea, twenty years ago.

You don’t tend to take to them kindly, really. And I know I’m being that person but I can’t help it. I came to Star Wars late, and I love it, and the rest will just have to fall into place.

The fact that I was somewhat tardy in my arrival to Star Wars fandom had me in two minds. At first, I thought it was a shame I hadn’t had more years to watch the films over and over, to indulge in the books and comics and great things that came from the series. Now, of course, things have changed. Disney have wiped the slate relatively clean so that only the films, the TV series, and newer books and comics are canon. In that case, I’m incredibly grateful to have arrived at the franchise when I did – just early enough to get a good grounding in the first six films, but not so early as to get carried away with expanded universe stuff that was only going to get cast aside.

Now that I’m up to speed again, and can start reading things that have the word Star Wars on, I’m looking for more. I’ve spotted an amazing visual dictionary or two on Amazon and am keen to investigate the comics as part of my limited introduction into that world as well.

This incredibly handy list of what is canon these days will be my guide.

On the record – Violently happy, you know (Weeks 9 to 12)

I’ve gotten into a brilliant rhythm with this album adventure, and I’ve started listening to other albums and things as well as the ones I have on my To Do playlist. It was also seriously exciting to watch something like the Brits and know who half the people were and have already heard half the things that were sung. This is progress, for sure.

So, here are another four weeks’ worth of albums with my modern picks first and Mr C’s classic album choices second.

Title Artist Year Notes
Week 9
Phase Jack Garratt 2016 After listening to James Bay I was hoping this would be more lovely indy stuff but it wasn’t really. It was a bit too keyboard-heavy, slightly too experimental for my tastes. Solid work but I won’t seek it out again.
Graceland Paul Simon 1986 Loved this, it was infused with African influences which made it intriguing, tribal, wide-ranging and just a little bit jaunty in places. Clearly, You Can Call Me Al is the classic here, but I enjoyed pretty much all of it.
Week 10
I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it The 1975 2016 Upsettingly long title, and the song of the same name is in sentence case when the rest is in title case, grr! Otherwise, great start and finish to the album, but the middle gets a bit wishy-washy. Instrumentals that are nice but go on too long.
Debut Björk 1993
Was scared of listening to this one, because, you know, Bjork. But I actually loved it. Great instruments, a real ear for the sound of things, and some fun lyrics too. Violently happy, you know.
Week 11
Storyteller Carrie Underwood 2015 A good album, some songs are far better than others, but none are the weakest link. Brilliant stories for some of them – Choctaw County Affair and Church Bells being two specific examples. Storyteller is an apt name for this album.
What’s the Story, Morning Glory Oasis 1995
Love this, it really tells of the time it was released. Some of the songs sound very similar, but the standout singles are incredible. Roll With It, Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger are three brilliant songs and to have them consecutively makes some of the best ten minutes of music ever!
Week 12
This is What the Truth Feels Like Gwen Stefani 2016 A good album, listenable and so very Gwen Stefani, but I must admit none of it particularly stood out for me. There’s some great echoes of Madonna, Taylor and maybe even some Selena Gomez which makes it funky and fun but I couldn’t pick a song to recommend.
Survivor Destiny’s Child 2001 Some really brilliant songs at the start of this album, but it tails off to real downbeat ending. Whereas the ladies are kick-ass at the beginning, they are all loved up and slightly pathetic by the end. And I could barely get through the self-indulgent thank you track at the end.

My to do list inspired by the music this time round:

  • Learn how to play You Can Call Me Al on some kind of instrument – it is too much fun!
  • Stop being scared by Björk.
  • Listen to more Oasis, they’ve got a big enough back catalogue and I should know more of it.