On the record 2017, Part 2: A certain kind of dance pop that is hard to explain

Another five weeks completed, so that makes ten overall in 2017 – incredible how quickly the musical weeks go by. I’m still hugely enjoying this album adventure, well into its second year now, learning more about music and artists and songs every single day.

I’ve also realised how brilliant this album lark is for being open to new genres and artists – when you don’t have full control over what is picked, you just have to go with the flow. A friend of mine often asks what my album selections are for the week and then pulls faces at the options, but even ones I am dubious about, I enjoy the process.

So let’s see what has been on the playlist recently!

Week 6

  • Little Fictions, Elbow
    I read an NME review of this album before listening, that described it as “13 tog duvet” music, and it is just that. There’s no thumping albums, it’s easy listening all the way, and I guess in the end I found it quite dull because of that. Perhaps good to de-stress and unwind, but not my favourite.
  • Fearless, Taylor Swift
    Good second album from Ms Swift, it’s quite fun working my way through her albums knowing how she develops and where she goes in the future. This, though, is solid country pop with some great singles, and a good mix of other tracks – none of which are a letdown, which is the sign of a good album.

Week 7

  • Human, Rag’N’Bone Man
    Great album. I had high expectations because he’s being talked about a lot and Human is an incredible song. Thankfully the rest of the album lived up to the hype, with brilliant soul vibes throughout but leaving you with an overall feel-good mood.
  • Purple Rain, Prince
    Liked this much better on the second listen through, I think the first time some of the screaming got to me but second time it wasn’t so bad. Love a few of the tracks on there and it stands up as a whole really well. Glad this has finally come to streaming so I can have a listen!

Week 8

  • The Waiting Game, Una Healy
    I’ll admit, this only grabbed my attention because of the single featuring Sam Palladio from Nashville, but it turns out to be quite a good album. It’s sort of a mashup pop and country album, but it’s definitely more bubble gum than country – good songs but it lacks the emotion you often get from country artists.
  • Garbage, Garbage
    Love this album. Shirley is brilliant and you get really drawn in to each and every song. I wish I’d listened to this album as a teenager, it’s got that intense brooding nature that you could really hibernate in a teenage room and shut out the world with.

Week 9

  • Joanne, Lady Gaga
    I knew this was a slightly different album from Lady Gaga, but it was far more intense and introspective than I’d anticipated. It’s good, some incredible vocals with well-crafted songs and I particularly liked the duet with Florence Welch. It’s not to be taken lightly though, this album, you can tell it’s more personal and meaningful than other efforts.
  • The Innocents, Erasure
    I’ve loved A Little Respect forever so was prepared to love the album that followed it. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say I loved it, but I did enjoy it. The songs are cheesy in places, and it’s a certain kind of dance pop that is hard to explain, but still somehow quite compelling. And A Little Respect is still awesome.

Week 10

  • Divide, Ed Sheeran
    I’ve not been a huge Ed fan in the past, but gradually his evident talent and good songs have mellowed my stance a little. This is a good album, far better than I thought it would be, with the singles as stand-out songs and the rest doing a good supporting job. The end is a little melancholy and left me feeling depressed, but overall a really good job – even if I still don’t totally get the hype.
  • Days Gone By, Haim
    Really loved this album. I’ve spent plenty of time listening to Haim’s Beats1 show but not really paid much attention to their own music – and I’ve been missing out. They have a brilliant, unique sound, full of bass notes and guitar riffs and stop/start moments. Definitely a highlight of the year so far.

That last week was epic. Ed Sheeran’s talent and Haim’s rhythm really meshed well together and made me want to listen over and over to both. I hope there are more weeks like this in the future.

First time, last time, no time

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with streaming music. At first I hated it because I wanted to be more in control of… well, everything. And then I loved it because I wouldn’t have been able to afford to listen to 100 albums in a year if I had to purchase every single one. Plus, I would have had to buy Drake’s album and that would not have made me very happy.

Now I’m in a neutral place because for the most part I’ve let go of controlling my music, and I’m happy to just stream as and when I want. But I am a bit confused. I wanted to listen to Kelsea Ballerini’s effort again after she was nominated for a Grammy, but found this:

kelsea-ballerini-streaming-first-time

The album that kicked off my Album Adventure more than a year ago, and remained in my top five right through to the end of 2016, is now not available to listen to. It’s on pre-release despite actually being out since 2015 but now only the singles are available.

This is the stuff that makes no sense to me.

Who next for Doctor Who?

doctor-who-logoIt was announced a couple of weeks ago that Peter Capaldi will be stepping down from the BBC role everyone’s talking about – no, not the lead of whatever baking show will replace GBBO, but in fact, the titular role of Doctor Who. It’s no secret that Capaldi hasn’t been my favourite Doctor, and I’ll admit that I have watched only two episodes of his since his tenure began. So unlike many, I’m glad that the show is adapting and changing once again, and I can only hope the replacement is more to my tastes.

The trouble is, I don’t know if those tastes align with the show anymore at all. The latest batch of Doctor Who has turned me off the show as a whole – I haven’t felt a need to revisit some of the greater times of Tennant and Smith. I rewatch TV shows quite often, using them as a good background distraction when working on a variety of projects. Have I  grown out of the show? For a while, I did think perhaps I was too old for it now, until I realised that one of my favourite movies of last year was Zootropolis, I laugh endlessly at Minions no matter what they’re doing, and I have a subscription to the Disney Channel app. Probably not that then.

It can only be that the current lineup hasn’t fostered my interest – and that’s not just actors. People tell me that the showrunner takes a lot of the blame, that Capaldi is wonderful but he has dire scripts to work with. I couldn’t argue either way, but if that’s true, it’s a shame and thus a good job that dear Moffat is standing down too.

I worry that I will be captivated by whoever takes over and then have to sit through all the previous episodes to catch up with the show. It’s a monster of the week structure at heart, DW, but there are often things you need to have seen in previous episodes to fully appreciate in current storylines.

So who is it going to be? I’m not foolish enough to guess. There’s a wishlist, of course. Ben Whishaw, Richard Ayoade, Adrian Lestor, anyone with the ability to find the quirky nature that really brings out the best in the role. There’s talk that Tilda Swinton is the current favourite but I’m not sure I want a female Doctor. I’d rather the females had their own awesome storylines, with Sarah Jane’s spin-off adventures a fine example.

For now, we’re just left waiting to see who will take over the much-coveted role, and I’m left wondering whether it will be someone so brilliant I’ll have to sit through Capaldi’s back catalogue, or simply let the show stay with its younger audiences.

The doing is the thing

I’ve just started reading Amy Poehler’s memoir Yes Please, and I only got as far as the introduction before I wanted to share some of the incredible wisdom. That’s the sign of a good book, I think.

So what do I do? What do we do? How do we move forward when we are tired and afraid?

What do we do when the voice in our head is yelling that WE ARE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT?

How do we drag ourselves through the muck when our brain is telling us youaredumbandyouwillneverfinishandnoonecaresanditistimeyoustop?

Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. You may still hear the brain and all the shitty things it is saying to you, but it will be muffled, and just the fact that it is not in your head anymore will make things seem clearer.

And then you just do it.

You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true.

You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know.

Writing the book is about writing the book.

I do so miss long-form stressful but oh-so-rewarding book writing.

A Google gas station journey

It all started with this note from my Zombieland Film Watch post:

5:06 – Recognise that petrol station from that music video.

Because there was a shot of a petrol station right at the beginning, when he was laying out some of his ground rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse.

zombieland-gas-station

Now, I know what you’re thinking – it looks like any petrol station ever, and… well, we’ll get to that. For now, stick with me. It rang a bell in my head as the same fuel depot as spotted in a country music video that I’d seen a year or two ago.

And that’s where the problems began, because when I started to google it, I realised I couldn’t remember the artist. Or the year. Or the name of the song. Or any of the lyrics. Just that I had seen the video on Vevo TV’s Nashville channel before they ruined their app by taking all the good content off it.

All I could remember of it was the artist was a female country singer with dark hair, and that at one point she had a man tied up in the boot of her car as she parked outside the gas station. So I started searching:

  • “country video woman kidnaps man petrol station”
  • “country music video woman kidnaps man petrol station”
  • “country music video gas station”
  • “female country music singles 2015”
  • “vevo tv nashville”
  • “female country singers”

A lot more similar searches followed. Then other bits and pieces of the video started coming back to me.

  • “music video gas station swimming pool”
  • “country music video woman smashes wine bottles man in trunk of car”
  • “music video climbing out of swimming pool with high heels on”

Then desperation.

  • “how to find a song through the music video description”

Then maybe work backwards and come at the problem from a different angle.

  • “where was the opening gas station of zombieland filmed”
  • “gas station filming locations atlanta”

GAH. One more try and then I’ve really got to get on with my life.

  • “country music video gas station wine bottles swimming pool man tied up”

AND EUREKA!

After a quite literal stress-enducing ninety minutes of googling and racking my brains to remember, I found the answer!!!

Unfortunately, it turns out that a) it wasn’t a particularly good song, b) it wasn’t the same gas station after all and c) most gas stations do actually look the same, don’t they.

I did find out that Rainey Qualley is the daughter of Andie Macdowell which is quite a good fun fact to have, so that means it was all worth while.

Wasn’t it?

On the record 2017, Part 1: Fifteen in a row is a bit much

A brand new year means a new batch of albums to get through, and I’m really excited about what the next fifty weeks have to offer. If you’ve not been following this brilliant album adventure of mine, here’s a quick recap:

Listen to two new albums each week, one selected by me and one by Mr C. Mine will be a current album (ie. this year or the last), whilst Mr C has the rest of musical history to choose from. I try and listen to each album at least twice during the week to give them a fair shot.

So, on with the first round up, and I’m sticking with the five weeks at a time plan that finished off the 2016 adventure.

Week 1

  • Starboy, The Weeknd
    The thing about this album is, it’s good enough, but it starts and ends with two brilliant songs that feature Daft Punk. So should I really be listening to a Daft Punk album instead? Love The Weeknd’s voice, it’s reminiscent of Michael Jackson in places, and carries the album through despite it being quite lengthy!
  • M!Ssundaztood, P!nk
    Ahh, I love Pink so it’s a surprise that I’ve never listened to a full album by the pop superstar. This, her first, is a great mix of songs and tests out various genres. There’s a hint of Alanis Morrisette, and an occasional feel of Alicia Keys, but all of it is just great work from Pink. Strong, confident, with a good message to not stand for any nonsense. Love it.

Week 2

  • Long Live the Angels, Emeli Sandé
    It’s a good album, she has a great voice and the musicality is amazing. I’m just not totally sure this kind of music is for me – I found an entire album of it to be a bit intense, a bit too dramatic. The individual songs are great, but I found 15 in a row to be a bit much.
  • Word Gets Around, Stereophonics
    Really enjoyed this one. Great guitars, interesting song titles and concepts, fab lyrics that avoid all the normal clichés. Like the singles, of course, A Thousand Trees is a stand out, but actually it works together as a whole really well.

Week 3

  • I See You, The xx
    Had no idea what to expect from this album as I didn’t really know the band, but I loved it. It’s not quite chill out music but is relaxed and moody, thoughtful with some great backing beats. It feels quite intimate, and I think there’s a great quality in both their voices that really resonates.
  • Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan
    Beautiful album, this one. It’s interesting having listened to it off the back of Emeli Sande last week, this is just so much better. Sweeping, soaring, an incredible voice and great instrumentation work to make it a wonderful listen from start to finish.

Week 4

  • 24K Magic, Bruno Mars
    Interesting album this one, because overall I liked it but it sort of left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. It’s good pop, Bruno has an incredible voice and great rhythm, but if the lyrics are anything to go by, he’s a bit obsessed with how girls look. Chunky was a particularly weird one.
  • Beauty and the Beat, The Go-Go’s
    Enjoyed this album, and expanding my knowledge about 80s bands. Loving the girls with guitars awesomeness, and it’s a really upbeat kind of album. My only issue is that a lot of the songs sound the same, so it’s hard to distinguish sometimes, but as they’re all good, it’s not really a huge problem.

Week 5

  • a girl a bottle a boat, Train
    Good, pop album, although it’s a bit cheesy in places. Play That Song being a particular example, it’s so saccharine it hurts, and using that riff is almost as bad as Cliff Richard’s Millennium Prayer. Still, the rest of the album is fine, but I’m not sure it’s worth many more listens.
  • Random Album Title, deadmau5
    Dance music has never really been my thing, but I did quite like this selection. I don’t think I would particularly seek out an album like this to listen to, but it was good for keeping a steady pace whilst out for a walk and quite handy to tune out to doing some admin work.

It feels as though it’s been a slow start to the year in terms of album releases – I assume this is because everyone tries to get music out before Christmas to cash in on holiday sales. Which is lucky because I have a list to catch up on, until the next big release!

Living the front man dream

James Corden continues to do fab and fun things for his late night US talk show, but his latest exploits with Queen grabbed my attention like no other. A faux battle between him and current front man Adam Lambert saw the pair having something of a riff off with Brian and Roger backing them on guitar and drums.

I’m so jealous of the things James gets to do and this tops the lot. Singing with actual Queen must be the biggest dream of all.