On the record 2018, Week 42 – You can do better than that

This week’s new album is nominally my pick but actually came from Mr C, and it is James – Living in Extraordinary Times. This was released back in August, and apparently Mr C has been enjoying it ever since. We saw James perform on Jools Holland and Better Than That was a great tune.

I have previously listened to a James album and enjoyed it, although said it went a bit wonky in the middle. Mr C says this album is also greatness with the odd wonky moment, so I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

His own pick this week saw us digging way back into the archives. We settled on Tom Jones relatively easily, but then it’s like… where do you even begin with Tom Jones? Acts like this have such long and varied histories – do you start at the beginning, or at the peak, or nearer the modern day? We settled for the album that has It’s Not Unusual on it, because, well you know, choon!

A view to change hearts and minds

Our third and final South West Coast Path adventure of the summer was all about cliffs. The theme of our adventures so far has been spontaneity and this was another one that we hadn’t really planned out. It was the kind of trip that saw us driving along a coast road and eventually just deciding to take the next left turn to end up at a beach.

Unfortunately, the beach we ended up at wasn’t that inspiring, so instead, we decided to follow the acorn which took us climbing up some pretty steep cliffs. It was hard work, but it was so, ridiculously, worth it. These are the kind of views that you see on TV… and views you just can’t look away from.

We passed beaches, cliffs and even little mini fort bunker things, which made it one of the best walks ever. We went further than we had anticipated, as Mr C kept saying “let’s just see what’s around this corner,” and that’s when I knew I had him hooked. If he wasn’t convinced about the SWCP deal before, he certainly was after this.

Three walks in and our project is properly kicked off… just in time for winter!

On the record 2018, Part 8: Could really have done without all the chatting

I can’t quite believe we’re heading into the final stages of this year’s album journey. I don’t feel like it’s been anywhere near a standout year as 2017, but there’s still time and I know there are some good releases coming up soon, so watch this space!

With ten weeks to go, I’ve started posting what I’m listening to ahead of the week so you’ll get a sneak peek of what’s coming up from now until the end of the year. And I’ve got to start thinking about the end of year top five and top ten lists. Already! Let’s just get on with it, while I put that to the back of my mind again.

Week 36

  • Runaway, Passenger
    Lovely chill album, this one. I think I liked it more than the last one I listened to and there were no embarrassing “who does his voice remind me of” moments. It was just a nice, relaxing album with intense but reflective vibes. I feel like this is the kind of music you could have on in the background and never get bored of it.
  • It’s My Life, Sash!
    I used to listen to Sash albums by stealing them from my brother’s room, so this was nice and familiar. Encore Une Fois! Stay! Ecuador! Good nineties dance beats, but I think it’s mostly nostalgia for me at this point, and I’ll stick with the singles rather than indulging in the album too often.

Week 37

  • Language, MNEK
    I was really looking forward to this album coming out, having listened to a handful of the singles and loved them, as well as Julie Adenuga on Beats1 really bigging it up. I loved the album, but could really have done without all the chatting and interludes along the way. They’re fine(ish) once, but not necessary time and time again. Otherwise, it’s a brilliant album, love it.
  • Blue Lines, Massive Attack
    I loved Mezzanine, one of the early albums in this adventure of mine. This album didn’t really do it for me at all. Unfinished Sympathy is the best thing on there, and even that wasn’t exactly a favourite. The rest of it wasn’t memorable and wasn’t something I’d choose to listen to again.

Week 38

  • Cry Pretty, Carrie Underwood
    I was super keen to listen to this because I loved the last album from Carrie, but this one was something different. It’s clear that Carrie has been through a lot, and of course we’re in a different and more difficult world now, so it was a more contemplative and slightly more downbeat offering. Good album but not up there with Storyteller.
  • August and Everything After, Counting Crows
    I really enjoyed this! Weirdly, I thought I knew something about Counting Crows but I didn’t know any of the songs and can’t remember why I’ve heard of them. However, it was a good album, a genre of music I really like, and one I will likely to listen to over and again.

Week 39

  • Chris, Christine and the Queens
    This took a few listens to grow on me, if I’m honest. I’ve been waiting and waiting for the album to be released, and was superbly excited for it so expectations were high. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d been let down – the songs are all great but did it live up to the previous work? I listened a couple more times though, and loved the Beats 1 special Chris did running through all the tracks, which has really helped open it up to me. I still don’t know which album I like better, but at the moment it doesn’t matter!
  • Different Class, Pulp
    Loved this. A bit of nineties Britpop to get the week going nicely. As always, I knew more of the songs than I thought, and although I was worried William Shatner would have ruined Common People for me, he absolutely hadn’t. So, fab work from Jarvis Cocker and his crew!

Week 40

  • Queen, Nicki Minaj
    I was a bit intimidated by this album, if I’m honest, but I really quite liked it. There’s the odd moment where Nicki goes into her weird voices mode which I’m not so keen on, but overall it’s a lot of fun. I don’t know if it feels like a body of work as opposed to a collection of songs, but they’re good so I don’t think it matters.
  • A Flock of Seagulls, A Flock of Seagulls
    Up until this point, Flock of Seagulls was just the punchline of a joke about Chandler’s hair, but this week I discovered I really enjoyed their debut album! The stand out tune is I Ran (So Far Away) obviously, but actually they all stood up to the test of time, and I really liked the pop from the first moments of listening.

Putting the stud in Studland

It feels a bit incongruous to write about the beautiful sunny days of summer when autumn has more than arrived, but I want to catch up the final two stretches of South West Coast Path we walked this year, before settling down to make plans for the next batch.

So, after finding the start of the path, our next adventure was another that came about by accident – we hadn’t particularly been planning on finding the other end of the national trail, but I sort of had an inkling in my head as we drew nearer and nearer that we could make it happen. A glorious blue sky was overhead when we rocked up to the beautiful Studland.

 

Our mission had been to find a beach and boy did we succeed – a gorgeous, unhindered stretch of sand that we ended up just walking and walking along, dipping our toes in the water and putting the world to rights.

Of course, this stretch of beach does include a portion that is dedicated to nudists and that was an interesting ten minutes or so. Out the other side and we rounded the corner to see the chain ferry in action and our destination.

I read later that there’s a compass inset into the ground which you can’t make out in any of the pictures I took. I wish I’d known about it sooner, because I was too busy looking at the top half of the sculpture. The first of no doubt many rookie mistakes.

At this point in our journey, Mr C was still highly dubious about the whole South West Coast Path adventure. I wrote previously that he figured seeing as we had found both ends that was probably enough. Unfortunately for him, my appetite had only been whetted by the whole experience and I couldn’t wait to find the next stretch of path we could follow.

A new design for your trophy cabinet

Apple’s recent update to iOS12 has brought with it plenty of changes, some are good, some are bad, some are genius, and some make your life better without you actually realising it needed it. I have thoughts on a few of the interesting new features but I’m kicking off with something that is a subtle change but I’m really loving it.

I’ve talked before about how much I like the Activity feature on the Apple Watch, in particular the badges that you can earn, and I’ve also talked about how frustrating it is when they don’t work. They seem to be functioning correctly for me at the moment, which is a good start, and it’s always fun to view which awards you have achieved and which you are working towards via the Activity app on the phone.

The awards tab used to be just a great big long list of badges that you have achieved, with a couple greyed out that you are probably currently working on. You could tap each to see more details, dates, times, calories, number of achievements unlocked, that kind of thing.

None of that information has changed but the subtle layout update in iOS12 has really brought this page to life for me. The awards have been split into categories, with a new competition section, limited edition badges, your monthly goals, and then individual badges further down. That helps to narrow down your gaze depending what you are focusing on this particular week.

I also really like the addition of the goal information underneath each badge. It’s either telling you how many times you’ve achieved your goal, or what you’re aiming to do in the future. For example, to get my October challenge, I need to close all three activity rings for 20 of the 31 days. You used to have to tap into the badge, read the blurb and do the maths yourself. Here, it is displayed front and centre. It’s not a big change but it just makes checking your progress more of a “glance and be inspired” moment rather than a labour of love each time.

I love when little design tweaks make a big difference.

On the record 2018, Week 41 – Six to start

For the last ten weeks of this year’s album adventure, I thought I’d mix things up a bit and post about what albums I’ve got to listen to before I’ve listened to them. The usual reviews (if you can call my brief thoughts a review) will follow, but this is a fun heads up of what is on the menu this week.

So, it looks like some really good albums are coming up, but releases over the last couple of weeks haven’t totally stirred my blood. For the new album, my choice, this week, I’ve gone for You Me At Six, with VI.

I feel like I should know this band but as always, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about them. I will probably find out I know all the songs later, that’s what always happens.

And the older choice, from Mr C, is Clean Bandit, with New Eyes.

Clean Bandit are the type of band where every song can be completely different so a whole album is going to be an interesting one to digest.

I will report back!

Tomb Raider’s long shadow

The third release in Tomb Raider’s recent reboot emerged into the wild last month, and I can honestly admit to being completely obsessed with it. I’ve enjoyed the previous two games, but it’s taken me a while to get fully to grips with this new Lara and her rather more complex adventures. Everything is rather more realistic, far more brutal, significantly more graphic and eventually, a lot more fun, than the Tomb Raiders that have gone before.

After playing 2013’s Tomb Raider, I talked of the brilliant game spaces (“the game is essentially Lara does LOST”) and during Rise of the Tomb Raider I was grateful for slightly fewer enemies to kill and more puzzles to complete (“the developers have gone back to the core of Lara”). This time out, with Shadow of the Tomb Raider being on our consoles for less than a month so far, I’m happy that all the good stuff has been built on for yet another great adventure.

We’re maybe halfway through the game, and there have been challenging enemies which are perhaps my least favourite bit, but there have been fabulous puzzles. I’m liking the additional missions to the main story, and some of the spaces to explore are mind-boggingly vast. My ability to look at the map and plan a route only to immediately get lost knows no bounds. My only complaint so far is the swimming controls are impossible. I’ve always struggled but whatever they’ve done to this year’s controls means I cannot do it. Thankfully, Mr C indulged in some swimming practice (Lara Olympics, anyone?) and can now get us out of every watery escapade.

One of my favourite bits of this year’s game is the photo mode. You can pose Lara in a shot, snap a photo and share it however you like. There are competitions to take part in but I just like capturing the moments where the game ever so slightly takes your breath away.

And, of course, Mr C likes that you can capture moments like this, where you juxtapose TR2 Lara into new Lara’s surroundings. So weird.

Just like the previous Square Enix products, I was impressed with how much value for money you get out of this game. We have been playing almost endlessly and are about 50% complete. And now, there are downloadable side missions being released as well. So, as an update to the sign off on my previous review: I guess I will be productive again in 2019.