Chain link

So, you know that feeling when you’ve loved the soundtrack to a movie for years and years, and then you start listening to more albums and catch up with one that you probably should have already known about, that quickly becomes one of your top ten, and then you realise that one of the artists actually sings on that original soundtrack, one of your favourite songs? Happens to us all, right?

Turns out that Time Bomb Town is by Lindsey Buckingham. WHO KNEW?

This discovery, as dull as it may be to someone on the outside looking in, is one of those things that make me incredibly happy. That there’s some kind of meaning to this random world, and that everything will fit together in the end – at the right time, when it will actually make a difference and mean something to you.

It’s also just a really good song.

Kingsman 2 – ‘I hope you’re ready for what comes next’

New trailer released for The Golden Circle, the sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service (which I can’t believe I watched two whole years ago!).

I actually ended viewing this trailer with my mouth agape. The first film garnered a 5 out of 5 stars rave review from me, and this second one looks just as good. It’s also a great excuse to have to re-watch the first one again… just to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.

Harry Potter treads the boards

I recently got a chance to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the two part HP play that is currently featured in London’s West End. Around the same time, the play broke records for Olivier Award nominations and actual award success, so I was going in with some pretty high expectations.

Naturally, I have to #keepthesecrets but it’s fair to say that I can fully endorse the awards for production, lighting and sound. The general production values of the entire five hour play are astonishing: incredible music, wonderful visuals and some astounding effects. We’re watching wizards, after all, so there’s some exciting stuff to behold.

I wasn’t so keen on all of the acting, some of it was too fast, too loud, too hammy. Ron and Hermione were perfect, and whilst Harry, Draco and the others had more emotions to deal with, it would have been nice to fully understand what they were saying. A new cast are coming in for the second year, so it would be interesting to see what difference a new take on the characters makes.

I can understand the need for the double play format, there’s quite a lot of story to get through, and there’s a natural cliffhanger right in the middle. I saw it all in one day, though, and so it was five hours of sensory overload so that I was totally wrecked by the end, and felt kinda delicate the next day too. The woman sitting next to me was in tears from start to finish of the second half, though, whether through joy or sadness I don’t know. I dread to think what kind of emotional hangover she was feeling the next day.

After I read the book, I said I would reserve judgement on many of the issues until I’d seen the play. Now I have, I’m still not much further forward. There are still some significant discrepancies between what was in the books and what happens 19 years in the future, but equally, the story works much better on stage and is an interesting addition to the canon. It was good to see the fleshed out characters, as it had felt one-dimensional in the script book.

Overall I enjoyed it and it was absolutely worth queueing outside the theatre for twenty minutes in the pouring rain. But I’m not sure if I would make quite so much effort to see it again.

On the record 2017, Part 4: Great for a bit of nostalgia

I was having a bit of a panic over the last few weeks that I’ve listened to lots of albums but can’t remember them all. What do I like? What don’t I like? Why so manyyy? And then I took a step back and realised this project isn’t about learning every single song I listen to. I compared it to the Film Watch odyssey, which isn’t about remembering all 700+ films consumed. Both projects are about immersing yourself in a medium, soaking up the general love and enjoyment of the genre, learning, growing, and, dare I say it, being in the moment.

For the music project, it’s not about being an encyclopedia of pop, it’s about vaguely knowing a band when they are mentioned, or finding a new album to love and one to hate, and most of all, it’s about having context for the songs rather than just knowing them from a five second clip on Peter Kay’s Car Share.

Relax, enjoy, it’s music and it’s wonderful.

Week 11

  • The Breaker, Little Big Town
    I was expecting better things from this, if I’m honest. It’s a perfectly pleasant album but it’s just not memorable. It’s got a very laid back, relaxed, California beach vibe to it, which is nice, but the best songs are the first and last one, bookending the album. Everything in between is instantly forgettable.
  • Actually, Pet Shop Boys
    I wasn’t sure I’d like this album, Pet Shop Boys are great but a whole album could have been too much. Thankfully, there’s a mix of songs: slow and fast, meaningful and just fun, catchy and forgettable. It’s not one of my favourites but certainly a listenable 50 minutes of music.

Week 12

  • So Good, Zara Larsson
    Good album this, I knew more of the songs than I thought I did and it’s a fine pop album – lots of catchy songs that will make you dance. It’s reminiscent of Rihanna, so some of the tracks I wasn’t so keen on, but overall the balance makes for a strong first international album.
  • Speak Now, Taylor Swift
    It feels like Taylor really had some things to say with this album, a lot of the songs sound more personal and meaningful than previous efforts. There are some great songs on here, I love Story of Us, but some of the slower ballad types didn’t really do it for me. I like the increased amount of storytelling, though, you really can get invested in the songs.

Week 13

  • Wonderland, Take That
    A perfectly pleasant album but nowhere near as good as I was hoping. A bit plodding in places, but mostly a feel good hour of tracks, unfortunately for the most part instantly forgettable.
  • Celebrity Skin, Hole
    This is a fantastic album – it’s grungy rock but with a melody, epic guitars but with good purpose, I love it. Great songs, starting with Celebrity Skin which is a proper choon, and could threaten to overshadow the rest, but thankfully the full album stands up to the challenge.

Week 14

  • The Afterlove, James Blunt
    I pre-judged this album, as many have, so was pleasantly surprised by it. It’s a good, modern, pop album, and you can really feel the influences from Ryan Tedder and Ed Sheeran – both on the songs they wrote and throughout. The lyric “I’d say you’re beautiful but I’ve used that line before,” is fab.
  • All Mod Cons, The Jam
    Loved this album. I knew the main Jam songs but anything outside that was lost to me. I was amazed at listening to a full album, the songs haven’t really aged at all. You can picture The Libertines or similar doing all these tracks and more. Great stuff.

Week 15

  • Pure Comedy, Father John Misty
    This is not really my cup of tea at all. Good voice and superb musicality, it reminds me of modern day Elton John. But it doesn’t grab me, it’s all a bit of a drag, and when your single average is almost six minutes, I’m always going to struggle.
  • Love, Aztec Camera
    Gets off to a slow start, but picks up speed and the brilliant Somewhere In My Heart is the turning point. Great eighties pop, not sure it’s aged particularly well but is very of its time and therefore great for a bit of nostalgia.

Been a while since I found an album I really didn’t like, but make that two now – Drake and Father John Misty. Otherwise it’s been an interesting few weeks where for the most part I have preferred the older albums to the newer offerings.

On board with on-court coaching

If you’ve watched tennis for any extended period of time, particularly outside of the main grand slam events, then you might have seen the moments when coaches come on court to have a chat to the players mid-match. It only happens on the women’s tour, and isn’t at every event, nor does every player choose to do such a thing, so it can be a blink and you’ll miss it type of event.

I’ve railed against this in the past, not because I don’t find it interesting to hear the exchanges – granted they are often in other languages, but even seeing the body language can be fascinating – but because it’s so very specifically geared towards the women. I’ve heard others talk about it and it’s often felt like, as the men don’t have on-court coaching, that it’s a sign that women can’t cope with the mental stresses of the game. A form of sexism, I suppose.

Well, after a particularly good episode of The Tennis Podcast, I am now far better educated than that! It turns out it’s not a sexist thing at all, it’s actually an improvement brought into the game that the WTA are blazing a trail with, pushing to get others to join in the fun.

David: It was 2008, Larry Scott was in power at the WTA at the time, he was a pretty innovative guy… he brought this on board, he felt that it was going to open up the communications channels for spectators to get a real insight into what goes on and, you look at other sports, boxing, they mike up the corner men talking to boxers in between rounds. They do the same with the Formula One drivers, you can hear the exchanges between the driver and the pit lane. We’ve not got that in tennis, until this came in. That just didn’t exist.

Catherine: And yet, tennis has these built in periods of reflection for the player, where you see them sat at the change of ends, you get to gaze into their eyes and you’re aware that they have this minute and a half to chew over in their mind what’s happening out there, and yet it’s so frustrating because you can’t know what’s going on.

The conversation continues with David and Catherine discussing the problems that are associated with the coaching situation: that you can’t always understand what is being said, that it’s not always the right person that dashes on court, and that the hit and miss nature of its adoption means it can be quite confusing. But when it does happen, it’s definitely worth watching. I particularly enjoy seeing Darren Cahill, who is currently coaching a very temperamental Simona Halep, because his optimistic and calming ways are wonderful. I could do with some of that in my life.

So, I have re-assessed the on-court coaching situation and now, just like with three-set matches, I wish the men’s tournaments would also come on board.

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.