On the record 2018, Week 49 – Don’t you worry about that

Penultimate week of albums for the year, it’s exciting! Almost time to reveal my top five and I still haven’t decided upon it, so that’s fun.

This week, it’s The 1975. I was not a fan of the last album I listened to but only because the title of it was quite interesting. I have enjoyed a couple of the songs off this new album, so it’ll be interesting to see what the full experience is like.

And, for reasons I can’t remember but may have to do with watching lots of country music late on a Friday night, Shania Twain is Mr C’s pick for the week. I’ve already done Come On Over, which is arguably her best work, so this time it is Up, which still has a couple of proper tunes on it.

Hooray for Shania!

Also, this week, I put together a page collecting all the albums I have listened to which is a useful resource for a) remembering if and when an artist has been covered and b) realising just how many albums I’ve listened to over the past three years. What an adventure!

 

Stern taskmaster

I’d never even heard of Taskmaster until this latest series, and it only crossed my path because I follow James Acaster on Twitter, and he was a participant in the latest series. I like Acaster’s work, and some of the clips and gifs I’ve seen have made me wonder what all the fuss is about.

I had to do a bit of digging to find where I could watch this show – it’s broadcast on Dave, which means it’s part of the UK TV family. There’s an on demand app called UK TV Play (I do not recommend this app, it’s very poor compared to other video streaming efforts). So, I downloaded and started watching.

Obsessed.

Genuinely, I thought, I’ll just check out the first episode of the first series and see what it’s all about. I binge watched that first series in a weekend, and started working on the second.

It’s crazy but brilliant.

In case you don’t know, five guests are put at the whim of Taskmaster Greg Davies and series creator/able assistant Alex Horne. Each episode features a handful of tasks, for which points are handed out, and one of the comedians will win the episode, and then the points are added together to get a series winner too.

Yea, Mr C didn’t seem all that thrilled when I used that explanation to try and convince him it was good, either.

Perhaps, with the admin out the way, it’s time to talk about the tasks. They are both weird, wonderful, genius and silly all at the same time. Getting three yoga balls to sit on a yoga mat at the top of a steep hill on a windy day. Finding the quickest way of emptying a bathtub without pulling the plug out. Painting a picture of a horse whilst sitting on a horse.

Some are more cerebral, some are basic, and the highlights are seeing how each contestant approaches the tasks differently. The good thing about it, too, is because it’s the same set of people over the course of a six-episode series, you get to know who will try and twist the rules for an easier life, who’ll think outside the box, and who will just jump right in with both feet and see what happens. I read somewhere that the producers approach it a bit like a continuing drama in that sense, and I think that adds to the fun.

So, there are seven series with Acaster in the latest batch that has just finished. I’ve got a bit of catching up to do but at the rate I’m going, I’ll be up to speed in no time. And then they’ve just realised a Taskmaster book, with tricks and tips and tasks to put on your own Taskmaster event. Wondering which of my family and friends I can convince to give it a go.

On the record 2018, Week 48 – Make a lot of nice friends

Eyes down, settle in, we’ve got three weeks to go. It’s crucial times now because my picks need to be selected carefully so they qualify for the top five list at the end of the year. Having said that, I think I’ve already got eight albums to choose from for that prestigious list, so any newcomers will have to be brilliant. (Hint: I don’t think this week is it.)

First up, Olly Murs – You Know I Know. And I’ll admit that we have had this on in the background of a busy afternoon. I wasn’t listening that closely, but I did notice that the second half of the album is all Murs’ previous hits – every one a choon. He’ll have to go some to make the album live up to that.

And then, another random selection from Mr C – Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens. Of which I’m aware of Father and Son, Wild World (which is a song I love), and of course the title track which I know from Extras.

On the record 2018, Part 9: One of the chillest albums I’ve heard in a long time

The penultimate round up of the year, a little bit later than planned, but I’ve been slightly busy plotting and planning which albums to listen to for the weeks that are left. At this point, there are just three weeks left, and that’ll be three years of album listening. Incredible!

As I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks, there are a handful of good albums being released before this year is over, and it’s getting harder to choose which ones to prioritise. But it also means there are a lot of good things to listen to and that’s where this roundup comes in. Here’s what I thought of ten of the albums listened to recently.

Week 41

  • VI, You Me At Six
    This is a band that I’ve heard of in passing but really couldn’t have told you anything about. On the first listen, I thought this was a pretty good album and then second time round I enjoyed it even more so that’s a good sign. It’s the first time in a while, too, that I’ve thought an album was just a bit short and I’d have liked some more.
  • New Eyes, Clean Bandit
    I have mixed feelings about Clean Bandit, because their songs can be so different that you never really know what you’re going to get (except a bit of bonus cello!) I really liked the album, actually, it’s stacked with tunes, but there’s one song that is hugely not for me. Come Over gets inside my head in the worst ways, so I dreaded the very middle of the album, but the rest was great.

Week 42

  • Living in Extraordinary Times, James
    As expected, this was a good album that just went a bit wonky in places. I said that about the last James album I listened to and this was more of the same. However, I also didn’t feel like I really enjoyed it first run through, but gradually it really did grow on me. Second time through I was on board, and Mr C suggests a sixth listen will sell it to me completely.
  • Along Came Jones, Tom Jones
    Tom Jones in his early career reminds me very much of Johnny Cash. It’s got that old school soul feeling about it, with stacks of shorter songs whipping you through a journey. Tom’s voice is unquestionably brilliant, and recognisable instantly, and they’re all solid songs. But of course, It’s Not Unusual stands out as a proper choon.

Week 43

  • Broken Politics, Neneh Cherry
    This was one of the chillest albums I’ve heard in a long time. I was quite keen to listen to it despite the fact I realised I don’t know any of Neneh’s previous work – I’m just aware of the family and like their output. There was nothing wrong with this album but it didn’t stand out particularly to me. It was perfect for background, chill music.
  • The Raw & the Cooked, Fine Young Cannibals
    I went into this album anticipating that the first song, the single, She Drives Me Crazy, would stand head and shoulders above the rest of the tracks. And it did. The rest was okay, but when you start out with a great tune like that, it’s hard to make it all stand out. I wasn’t totally convinced, either, by the cover of Ever Fallen in Love at the end.

Week 44

  • Empress, RAY BLK
    Love this album. Run Run is a great song to kick off with, and we travel through some great highs and lows to end with the inspirational Just a Kid. It’s a short album, just eight songs lasting thirty minutes, but it still had a pretty big impact on me.
  • OK Computer, Radiohead
    I was kinda hoping this would be better than it was. The album is billed as one of the greatest ever, and I do like some of Radiohead’s work. This album was perfectly good, with some real highlights, but I don’t know that I cared for the whole thing, particularly, and I certainly wouldn’t put it up there as one of the best ever.

Week 45

  • EL MAL QUERER, ROSALÍA
    I was quite excited about this album because I love the single Malamente, and Julie Adenuga has been bigging up Rosalía for a while now. I didn’t really get on with the album as a whole, unfortunately. There are some good tracks on there, but then there are also some songs which are quite warbly, screechy even, and I just wasn’t down with it.
  • Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Whenever I listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I tend to just think ‘this is good, sounds like Red Hot Chili Peppers, just as you would expect’. And this album was exactly the same as all that. It’s a long one, well over an hour, but never boring. Just lots of good rock tunes from a band who are very good at what they do.

The house on the hill

I was aware of the hype surrounding Netflix’s recent horror offering, The Haunting of Hill House, but I wasn’t sure I was prepared for it. I quite like a good horror but haven’t watched anything in that genre for such a long time, I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous about my nerves.

However, a friend recommended it and thus I was convinced to at least give it a go.

As you can probably guess from the fact I’ve written a post about it, I loved it! The first episode got off to a really slow start, and I wasn’t sure I was going to watch anymore until the very last few minutes, where there’s a sudden twist that turns everything on its head.

I don’t want to spoil anything here, so won’t go into details, but from that first episode, it was just superbly told and enticing all the way. Flipping back and forth through time, telling the story in a slow, methodical fashion, and gradually piecing together what has been going on in the family’s time both at the terrifying Hill House or in their lives since they left.

I read some reviews that suggested it was a good enough show but the characters were one-dimensional and uninteresting. I can totally see where that comes from, but equally you have to think about what this family has been through, and the fact that each sibling has essentially shut down in order to cope with the things they’ve seen. If you frame it like that, I think they do a great job.

(I don’t think this is a spoiler, but just in case, look away.) There’s also the secret insight that each child in the family represents one of the stages of grief, which I didn’t know at the time and does, indeed, make me want to rewatch again.

Having said all of that, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. It felt a bit twee after everything we had been through together. The gang sitting around a celebratory cake didn’t feel like it had enough gravitas considering the horrors that have been lived through. But structurally, it worked and I really enjoyed it.

Thanks to my friend for making me watch it, and I pass the recommendation onwards. It’s not gory, and there aren’t many jump scares, it’s just hard-core suspense and intrigue overlaid on a really good story. Great work.

On the record 2018, Week 47 – Say it loud, say it clear

Just the three albums to choose from this week, but for me it was pretty easy. Little Mix are always going to be up there as one of my top options and whilst I still don’t think this album will live up to the greatness that I found in Get Weird, I can’t wait to see what LM5 does hold.

Meanwhile, Mr C’s pick this week is entirely random and without reason – Living Years by Mike + The Mechanics. I know the song, although I don’t know why, and the rest of the album will be a bit of a mystery to me.

Finding the right path

Earlier this year, I worked my way through Swift Playgrounds – Apple’s easy-to-use educational tool to teach you the basics of the Swift language – and to celebrate, purchased a quite adorable R2D2 that you can program with that self-same language. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite make the leap in my head from the playgrounds I had been messing about with to the more tangible efforts with a toy, and the instructions that came with that little droid were a bit more advanced than I was.

So I’ve been pondering what the next step is and that’s when Mr C suggested having a look at the courses on Ray Wenderlich’s site. The site has an iOS learning path that starts with building an app. It throws you right in at the deep end, opening up XCode and within minutes having an app that does something, however small.

I followed that first course from start to finish, and I loved it. It’s got the right mix of introducing the basics, guiding you through the more advanced sections and glossing over what you don’t need to know yet, so that you can still get the hands on feeling of making an actual product.

Unlike the playgrounds (which I still enjoyed, don’t get me wrong), you really have a sense of working towards something which makes it that much easier to join the dots in your head and solidify the learning.

I have finished the course now and have a fully-formed app that is actually a fun game. I’m not planning to submit this to the App Store considering it’s not my invention (although a quick search of the store suggests many people have), but I am diving straight into the next course on the Ray Wenderlich path to greatness – that’s what I’m calling it anyway.

The next course is more about the Swift programming language, so back to the slightly more abstract again, but I have faith that having achieved what I have so far, learning the language this time will be more meaningful. I also know that the third course on the list gets you building another app, this time a To Do app. Goodness knows I have experience of those, so I cannot wait!