August 2014 Playlist

Spotify Playlist here416788b

To say I’ve been neglecting my blog a bit lately is something of an understatement. It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote anything here, and I have to confess, I haven’t felt any sort of need to do it. I stopped blogging because I no longer believed I had anything interesting to share. Why should I just be scribbling endless ‘lifestyle’ posts out without any sort of reasoning behind them? With ‘lifestyle’ blogging (yes, I’m keeping the inverted commas for full ridiculousness) you eventually become aware that all bloggers are writing the same sort of thing, with the same kind of carefully neutral commentary. 

In short, I stopped writing because I was shouting into the void, writing for the sake of it. I moved up to London in the Spring, and I’m now aware of the sort of thing I want to write. There are so many amazing things to do in the city, and I’m going to try and write about some of them, purely because they interest me, and not because I’ve been asked to write about them or paid for my services. I started my blog as a way of recording things that made me happy, no matter how small or silly, and I’m keen to find that passion again. 

For today though, I’ve got a different sort of post. I thought I’d share some of the tracks I’ve been listening to this month, along with a handy Spotify playlist for easy listening. I’m a big sbtrkt fan, and I’ve enjoyed the collaborative work Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig has been doing (e.g. with Major Lazer), so this song has been on repeat for me. I love the imagery of the ‘flags flapping in Manhattan, gargoyles gargling oil’. Chet Faker’s No Diggity cover is an oozy, enjoyable trek of an interpretation, and professional saddo Lana Del Rey benefits from a bit of a speed up by Cedric Gervais. 

The War on Drugs seem to be steadily creeping into public awareness, and Under the Pressure is a glorious 9 minute showcase of their latest album that has soundtracked my Summer. I’ve also popped in a bit of the ever-rousing Is Tropical, which never fails to perk me up. Glass Animals are a new discovery, an addition to my adored coterie of indie exports from Oxford (see also Foals & Trophy Wife). They’re a bit of a revelation, like having thick treacle course through you aurally – full of expansive vowel sounds and languid vocals. Finally, Juce are an exceptionally promising trio who recall girlbands of both the 60s and the 90s. Their band logo is even written in the same font as the film Clueless, and they’re a gorgeously fun slice of pop for the final remnants of Summer. 

Adam & Albert

 

 

I’m currently writing this post from a wonderfully sunny St Ives in Cornwall, but before I go on to boast about the glorious weather, I’m going to rewind to last week, and a cold and faintly snowy London.

 

Last Thursday, India and I headed up to South Ken to see the event we’d been anticipating for months on end: Foals at the Albert Hall. We last saw them in the grubby, chilly, small Concorde 2 in Brighton, and were fascinated as to how they’d translate to such a different venue. If you’ve never seen the band live, I urge you to get tickets for whatever you can lay your hands on. Foals are phenomenal live, and I say that without the slightest bit of exaggeration.

 

After a rather pleasing support slot from Efterklang, the laser lighting kicked in, the smoke machine pumped up to full volume, and the band made their way on stage. Most of the set came from their new album, Holy Fire, interspersed with crowd-pleasers such as Total Life Forever and Spanish Sahara. When Foals play, something almost transcendental happens to the audience. I looked around the crowd, seeing people transported by the music, these huge guitar riffs and echoing vocals punching the walls of the Albert Hall.

 

After about half an hour, India and I grew frustrated at being in a seated area, and our attempts at chair dancing weren’t really cutting it, so we clambered down to the front of the tiered section in a haze of dance-driven urgency. We spent the rest of the gig waving about like idiots, watching the mosh pit from on high, and feeling the waves of sound on our faces. Due to our (over)enthusiasm, we got pulled aside at the end of the gig to give a short interview about Foals for the Albert Hall. After hoarsely repeating the word ‘epic’ several times, we were on our way to Soho.

 

In Soho, we picked up Frankie, who took us to a new discovery: The Soho Social Club. I almost don’t want to talk about it, because it was so ace that I don’t want anyone else to know it’s there, but what the heck. It’s essentially one room on the corner of a dark, tucked away Soho street, and contains a few small tables and one long banqueting table. The walls are stacked with books and framed black and white photos with a heavy S&M emphasis. The cocktail menu is brief but carefully curated, and the staff charming.

 

When we got there, Frankie was greeted heartily by an old dear in a fur hat and large earrings who perched, regally, at the very end of the long table. ‘Oh hello love’, she said, ‘it’s been ages since I saw you, hasn’t it?’ They chattered away for a little while, before Frankie turned to us and said she’d never seen the woman before in her life…But I’ve overlooked the very best part of TSSC: the dogs. Yes, dogs. Four squiggly balls of fluff scattered around the room, enjoying the attention of the delighted customers, and I took quite a shine to a sweet French bulldog called Modesty.

 

From there, we dashed to The Diner for stacked burgers, baskets of fries and Cherry Cokes before crossing the river to the BFI, just in time for my beloved Adam Buxton and the start of BUG. If you’ve never been, BUG is a bi-monthly (last time I checked) showcase for new and interesting music videos, which Adam hosts. Not only is it a fantastic way of discovering new bands, but Adam also reads out YouTube comments on the videos, and gives his own commentary, which is hugely entertaining.

 

Bit of a skim through Thursday, but I’ll be back soon with posts about Cornwall, and showing off about the sunshine. Ta ra for now.

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Bellowhead & Oxford in the snow

Some places in the world have a particular draw, and you find yourself instantly feeling at home as your feet touch the tarmac. There’s something about Oxford that wraps me up and makes me feel…right. I got on the Oxford tube at Victoria and bagged myself a spectacular seat at the front of the bus, mainly because there were only about two other people on the thing. It was a bit like having a giant red double decker taxi to myself. After a dozy journey listening to Joni Mitchell (a huge gap in my musical knowledge that I’ve decided to remedy).

I arrived at 2pm to find a slate-skied Oxford, chilly and snowy. I’d intended to have a wander and find some new places, but it was just too cold. After some determined trudging, I decided to cut my losses and parked myself in Turl Street Kitchen for most of the afternoon. A cup of black vanilla tea and a sublime vanilla cupcake later, I was feeling much more human – the James Brown on the Turl Street playlist helped too. Around 5, I met my friend Lucy and headed to The Big Bang in the Castle Quarter for ginormous plates of bangers and mash, water in teapots and a very deadpan waiter. I mentioned before I was into British food at the moment, and I’d strongly recommend this place for any veggies looking for a decent savoury meal. For once, I felt like just as much thought had gone into the veggie options than on the meat, and I opted for one stilton & walnut and one vine tomato & basil sausage on grain mustard mash with red wine gravy. I followed it with an apple crumble, which was a bit on the ‘smooshy’ side and needed a little crisping up. But for the savoury part, it couldn’t be faulted.

After supper and some lethal Cotswolds cider, we practically had to stagger up to the New Theatre for Bellowhead. I first started listening to Bellowhead when they played Latitude in 2011, and I’ve been a firm fan ever since. Some bands sound identical to their recordings when playing live, and then there are other bands who bring something phenomenal to their live shows. I like feeling that the performers are creating something that only this particular audience will see, something that can’t be recaptured even with YouTube. Bellowhead do this, as do Foals, who I’m seeing (again!) next month.

I’m not going to go into too much detail and review the performance or their new album, Broadside, as there are many more eloquent reviews out there. All I’ll say is, give them a go even if you don’t think you like folk. It’s an outrageously brilliant, stomping, barnstorming album full of intriguing instruments and catchy melodies. For the live show, the band ran at it with full energy, jumping up and down while playing, hopping around, battling with each other. It was a frenetic show but unforgettable. Not an especially coherent post from me today as I’m pretty exhausted, and very aware of needing an early night prior to London Fashion Week tomorrow and St Andrews over the weekend…until then x Oxford 004Oxford 010Oxford 014Oxford 017Oxford 019Oxford 020Oxford 022Oxford 024Oxford 025Oxford 027Oxford 029Oxford 037 Oxford 032 Oxford 036

Workout Music for Hipsters

Well, maybe not ‘hipsters’. But workout music for people who really don’t want to have an autotune drawling in their headphones ‘I wanna make you sweat’. Thing is, all of that empty, rubbish, stupid music is actually rather good for working out, thanks to the BPM. Ratbags. What to do? What’s left for you if you’re a gym bunny, and yet you’d rather wear high tops than trainers, and your workout wardrobe is 90% American Apparel? First of all, you need to step away from the post-ironic ‘Physical’ by Olivia Newton John. I say this because it’s on every workout playlist I’ve ever made, even though it isn’t actually that conducive to working out. But I love ONJ more than lychee macaroons. Ok, maybe don’t step away from her.

But here, have a few songs that’ll get you moving. I’ve thought a lot about this. Essentially, I’ve been back at the gym long enough for the initial glowing, sweaty, happy thrill of the whole thing to wear off, and I’m BORED. Music is sometimes the only thing that pulls me through a workout. So I’ve compiled a few tracks that will make you work just that little bit harder. There are so many tracks I could choose, but I’ve just gone with my current playlist. Enjoy – and please feel free to give me any suggestions you might have, I’ll get bored of this lot very shortly!

1. Vlad the Impaler – Kasabian

Oh hell yes. Something about the machiney, metallic fizzing noise of the intro makes me move like some kind of workout robot. I strongly recommend this for the cross trainer, because holding the bars in your hands makes you feel like Vlad, running about with spears in your hand. I get all ‘into character’ on this and do a really fierce face. Way too much fun, definitely try this.

p.s. Yep, that’s Noel Fielding in the vid.

2. Walk Idiot Walk – The Hives

YOU can be that idiot! Good for treadmills or rowing machines, this one. It’s a little slower paced, but still aces.

3. Oh Really – Goldheart Assembly

Just amazing. Big, grinding song with an extremely catchy chorus. One for the treadmill.

4. Intergalactic – Beastie Boys

Not sure about fitting this in with the hipster definition, but this is AMAZING. The fact that they shout the final word of every line gives you a bit of a push to keep going, and the repetitive churning of the beat will keep you working at it.

5. Sing a Simple Song – Sly & The Family Stone

This definitely pushes the brief of a workout song, but it’s just so insistent and amazing that you can’t help but enjoy it. And if you can help but enjoy it, then I feel sorry for you. Try a little do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do…

6. Sleepyhead – Passion Pit

Just so weird and beautiful, and actually makes you feel strangely elated while working out. What more could you ask for?

7. Something is Squeezing My Skull – Morrissey

Come on, man. It was never going to be an indie playlist without a bit of the daffodil-waving one. Surprisingly great to accompany a workout.

8. Over and Over – Hot Chip

This is a workout classic. It achieves this weird sensation where you almost drift out of yourself and into somewhere a little bit above your right ear. Perfectly for when you need to just mindlessly work out for a bit and not think about what you’re doing.

9. Lisztomania – Phoenix (Alex Metric Remix)

It MUST be the remix for full effect. Pretty slowish at first, so maybe good for resistance machines or weights. When the ‘watch yourself!’ bit kicks in, you’ll be feeling like a superhero.

And two that aren’t remotely indie but make me work hard:

10. Hung Up – Madonna

I should probably be ashamed of this, but I’m not.

11. Run The World – Beyonce

The military style beat will work wonders if you suddenly start to flag.

Tuesday Tunes

I’ve been a bad, bad girl about posting lately. I just haven’t really had much to say. I took myself off social media for a day on the 29th, and then didn’t really come back properly. That’s all it took – the best part of a day away from it, and the spell was broken. And my rule with blogging is, try to only do it when you’ve got something of interest to say. I actually don’t really have anything interesting to say today (just going to put that out there right away) so I thought I’d swerve it by giving you all a list of some of my favourite ‘choons’ at the moment. I’ve included vids, so all you need to do is just press play. Happy Tuesday!

1. ‘Like this? Then try this’ by Euros Childs Wow. I heard this on Adam & Joe (as is the case with many of the things I find important) and I got sort of obsessed by it. It’s just a big slice of mental. But enjoyable mentalosity – not the awkward kind. The lyrics are amazing: ‘Hear that dog barking through the night?/Getting on my wick too/Put it in a car/And drive to a lay by/Dump it, pick out something new’. Listen out for the end, where he descends into a weird frenzy of different things he likes. Oh, and his accent is gorgeous. AND, he offered the album for free, but I think it deserves to be paid for: http://www.euroschilds.com/son-of-euro-child/

2. ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ by David Bowie. I’d never heard this until a couple of days ago. I’ve got absolutely no idea how. I’d call myself a pretty big Bowie fan. I suppose I like to discover phases of his music in an organic way (worra load of old WANK!) and hadn’t happened across this yet. Well, I have now. The song just gets me really excited, like it’s leading up to something incredible. It’s all the ascending wibbly bits (come on brain!) I can’t BELIEVE this was written in 1970. To my ears, it sounds so fresh. Enjoy.

3. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ by Gotye. Waaaah. I wish everyone didn’t love Gotye. I want Gotye ALL TO MYSELF. I kind of thought Gotye had popped up overnight, but was intrigued to see he/they/it has been around for ages. I actually realised I’d heard ‘Learnalilgivinanlovin’ on the Whip It soundtrack years ago. I’m intrigued. He, Mr Gotye, has the voice of Sting. But if you listen to ‘Thank You For Your Time’, I’m going to put it out there that I’m reminded massively of Har Mar Superstar; which is always a good thing.

I’d encourage you all to discover the album ‘Like Drawing Blood’, but I’ve chosen something newer as I like almost every song from ‘Making Mirrors’. It feels like Mr Gotye (I must find out his actual name. I’m going to call him Gordon Gotye for now) has drawn from exactly the pool of music that I love, so there are these weird slices of, say, The Eagles, and jungle drums, or cheery swooping guitars. ‘State of the Art’ is probably my other fave, but ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ won out because it’s so moody. Listen to it it while wandering the streets in a long black coat with your collar turned up, scowling at people. Gordon Gotye really excelled himself on this. 

4. ‘Lucretia MacEvil/Spinning Wheel’ by Blood Sweat and Tears Oh man, I love these guys. That’s top of the line music criticism right there, that is! You’d be hard pressed to find much better in NME than ‘Oh man, I love these guys’. Seriously, though. If I’m having a bad day, I like to pop this on and go for a walk. Watch what your legs do. You walk in a certain way to this kind of thing. ‘Lucretia MacEvil’ has long since been my bestie of theirs, but after watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I fell back in love with ‘Spinning Wheel’. This video is not great quality by any means, but I’ve put it in because I love their dance moves so, so much.

5. ‘Too Much to Dream’ by The Electric Prunes Mmm, garage-y goodness. I heard this when I was a teenager, and it was the first time music really started meaning something to me. It’s such a sweaty, pulsing, furious bit of music. While my friends were listening to Justin Timberlake or 50 Pence, or Cent, or whatever, I got into my original garage and a lot of 70s punk. Anyways, enjoy.

6. ‘If You Want Me To Stay’ by Sly and the Family Stone This is smoooooth. Again, I’m plumbing the depths of my musical collection for your benefit, and I HOPE YOU APPRECIATE IT. I really have nothing more to say about this than simply that you need it in your ears, right this minute.

7. ‘Do You Wanna Hold Me?’ by Bow Wow Wow Look, this has been pretty heavily weighted towards artists of the male variety. I felt obligated to include something by a woman. And what better woman to include than the luminous Anabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow? God, I love this song. The lyrics, the music, the energy…I really believe that Bow Wow Wow were a phenomenal band, managing to satirise the very pop culture that they were part of – ‘Children I wanna warn ya/Cos I’ve been to California/Where Mickey Mouse is such a demon/Where Mickey Mouse is as big as a house’!

 

Do Something That Scares You

I made every excuse in the book to get out of doing the thing that scared me. The Thing was scheduled for yesterday evening, and I’d known it was coming for about four or five months. That meant that I couldn’t even pull the ‘but I’m woefully under-prepared!!!!’ card. Thing was, I really, REALLY didn’t feel like it. I mean, really. The past couple of weeks have been utterly manic. While it may look like, as a freelancer/self-employed chappy, I just swan off to the cinema on a Wednesday afternoon, that isn’t my whole life.

Yes, I do take off on occasional mid-week jaunts, but to make up for it I work through the weekend. I stay up working til late. I wake up in the morning and hit my inbox. I think about work all the time. This last week it all got a little bit TOO much. When you’re a freelancer, you obviously have a variety of different people who give you work. You don’t leave your office at the weekend, or at 6pm, and leave your work behind. You need to be easily contactable at all hours, and when you need to take a day off to get some head space, it can get a bit sticky. I desperately needed that bit of room, but everywhere I turned there was a loose end. The emails, phonecalls, texts and tweets suddenly all started to build up and I started to drown a bit.

I’d manage to get a very sexy bit of flu at some point during the week, which meant that by Thursday morning, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. In fact, navigating the tubes on Wednesday, I kept feeling like I was going to pass out. My voice had started to go. Then there was all the snowy weather and cancelled plans…all in all, I was getting a bit stressed out and a bit crap at dealing with stuff. I was trying to run away from my To Do list instead of calmly approaching it, and that was the worst thing I could have done.

Yesterday, I took action. I decided I wasn’t going to do The Scary Thing. Because of this decision, I then felt so guilty and awful that I channelled my energies into everything else on my list and actually manage to clear a lot of my work load. I was due to leave for The Scary Thing at 6pm. Around 5.30, I decided to do it. The Scary Thing was singing and playing my ukulele in front of an audience at a burlesque night at the Forum, in Tunbridge Wells. I’d never even been to the Forum, and it had been ages since I’d performed in front of people. I’ve sung in front of crowds before, but never sung AND played my uke. I was losing my voice, I was dizzy, I was exhausted, frazzled, and had never done the song in front of anyone before. Oh, and I hadn’t washed my hair.

What changed my mind? The fact that, deep down, under the talk about flu and potential snowfall, I knew I was planning on cancelling because I was just plain scared. I wanted to let myself off the hook. Thing is, if it’s only fear that’s holding me back, then I will always do it. If I’m scared, I know I’ll go through with whatever it is I’ve said. Whether it’s singing in the middle of the RVP shopping centre in T Wells on a busy day, modelling in a catwalk show, or agreeing to pull together a magazine pitch in a week, I’ll always do it, to smash in the head of my Fear. Why? Because I never want to look back and know that I stood in my own way.

I thought about this blog, and how it’s based around positivity, ‘just doing it’, and encouraging people to go for their goals. How could I possibly keep writing like this and telling others not to be scared, if I knew I’d completely caved in myself? My whole philosophy in life is based on stepping outside of my comfort zone, because then and ONLY THEN will good things happen. You can’t sit around in your room or in your office, expecting your life to miraculously change and get exciting. You need to do it yourself.

I am generally great at not letting nerves interfere with anything. I decreed this year would be ‘my year’ (I hope you’ve done something similar yourself), and since the year started I’ve been taking chances, making connections, smiling at strangers, going to new things…And things have already changed hugely. This year has already been unbelievably brilliant. Good thing after good thing has been happening. But to return to last night…I stomped all over my nerves, quickly ironed my dress, grabbed my ukulele and a make up bag and headed off.

I wasn’t remotely nervous when I got there and met the rest of the girls who were performing. Everyone was so lovely and really kind. I got dressed, Victory rolled my hair, ran through my song and chilled out, trying to ignore the flu-induced dizziness and slightly croaky voice. I was still calm as the audience filtered in. The photographer at the event very kindly came up to tell me I looked good on camera in the photos he’d shot before we started, so that made me feel a lot better. And predictably, ten minutes before I went on, I completely freaked. My voice suddenly started to go, I felt a bit shaky, and I just really, really, REALLY didn’t want to do it.

I did though. I stepped out there, looked into the audience, had a little chat with them, and started to sing. I think it went well – I had a couple of strained moments due to the good ol’ sore throat, but ultimately, it went much better than I could have hoped. Because, like Cinderella, I had to get home before the Lemsip wore off, I exited through the audience. I was still slightly scared that I would get pelted with a spare bucket of tomatoes that someone had on hand, but ultimately I was relieved I’d done it, and completely buzzing. No tomatoes – I had some lovely, sweet people saying they’d really enjoyed it, one girl asked for my card because she was getting married and mentioned something about me singing at her wedding, and another lovely lady was very enthusiastic and asked about where she could buy my CD, and took my card to talk through potential future opportunities with her!

So, not bad for the first time I’d ever performed like that in public. If I hadn’t gone, I would have stayed at home, watching TV, eating spaghetti, and feeling very silly. I still truly believe that if it scares you, you should do it. Even if you do it for the huge burst of adrenaline that you’ll get afterwards, then make it happen. It worked to clear my head – I’m suddenly able to focus again, I’ve ticked things off the list and just generally dealt with everything that’s come my way today.

Still not convinced? There’s a line in a Chilli Peppers song that always sticks with me, and it’s this: “This life is more than just a read through”

Music for break-ups

I’m not your stereotypical ‘break up music’ girl. Let me own up to that right away. It’s counter-intuitive to me. So, you’re feeling miserable, and you want to listen to….more miserable music, to make you feel worse? What?? I’ve always done the opposite. It’s on with the dancey stuff, the dubstep, the fast-paced music filleted of emotion. The second I break up with someone is the second I pop on, oh, I don’t know, Santogold, or Adam Ant, or anything, ANYTHING that isn’t slow or moody. It isn’t just the music; I also dress up. I can guarantee that if you see me the week after a break up, I will look fantastic and totally overdone. It’s just a matter of principle.

The last break up was different. I knew it was coming for ages, and I knew I was going to have to do it. It all crashed down around Christmas and New Year, which – newsflash – was not entirely conducive to my strategy of ‘PUSH YOUR EMOTIONS ASIDE, GET OUT AND DANCE’. I was stuck inside the house, doomed to days of seeing relatives and being asked about my love life, and all my friends were equally busy with family obligations. My coping mechanisms weren’t going to work. A tip – never, ever break up with someone during the festive period.

So I wasn’t able to forget it. And suddenly I found myself drawn to cathartic music instead of soulless beats. There is something about The Vaccines that just….strikes something deep inside me. Their sounds have a slightly echoing, epic quality, with the singer sounding simultaneously far away and yet inside your ear. I froze when I heard this song. Quite a few Vaccines tracks are about that awkward transition from being young and irresponsible to being an adult; as in ‘Wetsuit’, and this one taps into that feeling as well.

It’s bizarre when you hear a song that perfectly encapsulates how you feel. I think we all seek meaning in songs, we are all quick to align ourselves with the message. I suppose that’s why so many people do listen to break up music. This one was perfect. Not ostensibly about a relationship, but more about time drifting on. ‘You wanna get young, but you’re just getting older, and you had a good Summer but it’s suddenly over, if you want a bit of love, put your head on my shoulder, it’s cool’. There was something about it that engulfed me. I couldn’t move as I listened to it.

‘Is THIS what I’ve been missing?’ I wondered. ‘Maybe there is something to be said for a bit of self-indulgent misery every now and then’. Because it felt like it was helping. The song allowed me to feel sad, and angry, and frustrated, and unhappy, but at the same time it was someone else singing, somebody else’s words. I could still hold it at arm’s length. I could walk away at any time.

I scooped up an old teddy bear that belonged to my dad when he was young, and I sat down with it on my bedroom floor. I listened to this track more than a few times. I cried and cried, and then calmed down. I allowed myself about two days of being sad, because if you know me, you’ll know that’s an EXTRAORDINARY amount of time for me to be miserable. I so desperately want to be melancholic, but I get cheered up too easily and I ruin the effect. After two days, I shelved the song, put down the bear, and got up.

It came on my iPhone earlier while I was running, and I remembered how I’d felt. I decided to give the song to all of you, as well. Just in case you need it.