Music, Music, Music

Music has always played a hugely important part of my life, from pretty much as far as back as I can remember (which is longer than I care to think about too much!).

I remember when I was a young boy playing my first record – a ’45’ vinyl single (anyone else remember those? I’m really showing my age now aren’t I?!) – on my little plastic record player in the garden, playing it over and over again and driving my Mum and Dad insane!

Music has seen me through tough times – still does – and has kept me (relatively) sane during particularly tough times. Although that assessment is probably up for debate!

It even played a major part in the birth of my twins Jake & Ellie. The anaesthetist-come-DJ was playing Beyonce tracks during the birth and I’m pretty sure ‘Halo‘ was playing as they emerged! It’s been my theme song for them ever since.

 

In recent years too I’ve begun playing & writing music, relearning the acoustic guitar, to the extent that I am now a semi-professional musician. I love it!  But that’s another story.

As with so many other things, listening to music seemed simpler in the past. I’d buy a record / cassette tape / CD of what I liked and play it. Simple! After the iPod turned up I started ripping CDs onto my PC or portable player – now my smartphone. I loved this and still do – all my music available in a few clicks. Then music became available to download, as a purchase or free from now-infamous piracy sites. Now we have the likes of Spotify where you can stream almost anything you like as long as you have an internet connection. Then of course there is also now the ubiquitous YouTube. It’s a Brave New World!

I’m still coming to grips with streaming tech to be honest; it’s meant a radical adjustment in how I listen to music. I listen to Spotify a lot but the bulk of my music is what I’ve bought myself, mostly on my PC. I currently have 66,000 tracks there, which I’m still adding to, including a pile of CDs I haven’t listened to yet!  I still download tracks if I want them on my ‘phone for when I’m out, but I’ve pretty much stopped buying CDs now.

I like to work from home as much as I can, not least because that means that I can listen to music that I like while working. In those simpler times my regular ‘Playlist’ would just be my CDs, but it now includes streaming & downloading as well.

So – and this is actually the point of this post! – here is what I’m currently listening to:

Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ Playlist

This is a playlist created by Spotify specifically for each user based on what they listen to there. It’s usually pretty good.  My favourite this week was from a musician I’d never heard of before: ‘Soft Rain’ by Damien Dempsey. A lot of it is spoken: his wonderfully expressive Irish lilt against a backdrop of chilled and relaxing but uplifting soft electronica, with his beautifully toneful singing voice bursting in on the chorus. Give it a listen: I think it’s wonderful!

 

The BBC 6 Music Playlist on Spotify

The BBC 6 Music radio station has become a national institution, even in its short history, in my opinion. It’s perfect for mature music lovers like me, who love not only classic ‘quality’ music, but also want to hear sounds that are new and innovative. There’s always something unexpected here! My recent favourite isn’t there at the moment, but is a real stand-out track: the collaboration between Underworld (remember ‘Born Slippy’ from ‘Trainspotting’?) and the living legend that is Iggy Pop. It’s called ‘Bells & Circles’ and it’s what you’d expect: crazy, high-energy, high-octane, dancilicious* brilliance!

* yes, that is a word. It is now, anyway…

The NOW UK Top 20 Chart on Spotify

Yes, here’s where I ‘let the side down’. ‘My generation’ – whatever that is – (especially the male side) is meant to be disdainful of ‘modern music’: “what do these kids know about music / it’s all computers and bleeps and manufactured” etc, etc. Well, yes, some of that may have some truth in it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable, for me anyway. Also, “manufactured music” has been around for much longer than I have, and isn’t necessarily bad: ‘Motown’, anyone? I’ve always been partial to a bit of ABBA, for instance,  so I don’t have a problem with good pop, and sharing the musical loves of my 8-year-old twins helps immunise me to a lot of modern pop too! I do often skip a few tracks, but right now I’m not at all and I think it’s actually not too bad! My pick of the current bunch is the rhythmic guitar-based pop-rock of George Ezra’s ‘Paradise’. It’s great for singing and playing on my acoustic guitar, although harder than it sounds!

 

Stalking Following Facebook Friends on Spotify

I like the social aspect of Spotify and I wish there was more of it. You can see what your Facebook friends are listening to, if they allow it, and it’s always rewarding! I love having a further insight into the likes and loves of people I know in person or online; it’s also another great way of discovering new music. So what stands out at the moment? Let’s see… And the winner is: a very talented local musician called Harvey, who chose: Psycho Killer (live) by Talking Heads!  This is a great live verison: mostly acoustic, and predictably eccentric. It’s also a song both Harvey & I love to play on our acoustic guitars. Your prize is in the post Harvey! Probably.

 

‘I Know of You’: My Own Spotify Playlist

This is made up of songs I’ve heard and liked and want to listen to again, and is the latest of many. It’s hard to choose a current favourite, but I’m going for: ‘Living in Disgrace’ by John Smith. I love the chiming, rhythmic guitar & his raspy but beautifully expressive voice. A real gem!

 

Spotify Album: ‘Melodrama’ by Lorde

I first knew of Lorde from her breakthrough and record-smashing song ‘Royals‘ (another which I love to perform) but it wasn’t until I saw her Glastonbury set (just on TV, unfortunately) that I realised how amazing she is. Still a teenager, she is multi-talented: a writer, singer, producer, dancer, trendsetter. A true young auteur! Also, being from my country of birth New Zealand – and those who know me ‘in real life’ will know we also have something else in common – it’s probably illegal there for me not to like her! This is her second album and is full of more great songs, both up- and down-tempo, but always engaging and thought-provoking. My pick is the very moving, heartfelt and personal ‘Liability‘, which despite the difference in our ages, gender and experiences I can still very much identify with it. It’s a theme for the ‘outsider’, the one ‘who doesn’t quite fit in’. As an ex-pat Kiwi I also love hearing someone who sounds like me!  It’s a very beautiful song.

The sound quality on this video isn’t the best – it’s fan-recorded – but I had to choose it as it was live from my old home town! Not only that but her introducton and explanation of her deep love of writing and music is very moving. (Contains some ‘strong language’).

 

I’m listening to a lot of music at the moment! I see this is a Very Good Thing.

I’ll post about the CDs I’m also currently enjoying another time; tomorrow if I have the time.

In the meantime, “If music be the food of love, play on!”.

 

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The Things They Say & Do

Jallie are at an age now (23 months tomorrow) where they seem to say or do something new every day: living & learning with them, watching them grow & develop, is wonderful.

That’s why I usually have no shortage of ‘3 Brilliant Things’ to record daily over on my blog of that name, when I make / find the time that is.

I’d thought also to do a weekly highlights post here, & was going to call it ‘3BT Tuesday’ or something equally catchy. Then I saw that Chris over at Thinly Spread has started a weekly linky thing called “The Things They Say & Do”, where you post memorable things your children have said or done over the last week & link the post to her blog.

So I put 2 & 2 together & came up with a brilliant idea: if your daughter slags you off on facebook, don’t go on YouTube smoking a fag & shoot her laptop with your gun: not helpful*

After I got that sorted I thought it might also be good to combine my 3BT thing with Chris’ linky, so here it is:

On Tuesday Ellie copied me spinning a teaspoon around in a cup with amazing success: great fine motor skills!

On Wednesday after treading on my sore finger, with her boots on, over a wooden floor (I may have said “Ouch!” or something similar) Ellie looked straight at me & said “Sowwy Daddy”.

Jake, to me, on Thursday: “I like Ellie”.
Me: “You like Ellie?”
Jake, nodding & smiling: “Yeah”. He then walked over to her & gave her a great big hug.

Ellie yesterday, sitting on the floor after falling on her bottom: “Hello Daddy. Hello Mummy. I fell over”.

I hope Chris doesn’t mind me doing more than one! Why not have a look at the other posts there, they’re funny 🙂 

* I kid you not 

I am Resolved

New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t make ’em, as I don’t keep ’em.

I only made 1 last year:  to make no New Year’s Resolutions. Which I immediately failed, obviously.

This time of year there are inevitably lots of blog posts of New Year’s Resolutions, & I’ve read quite a few good ones.

This one though, ‘My Online Resolutions‘,  from the excellent Him Up North’s blog made me realise something: I seem to be carrying out my New Year’s Resolutions without actually having made any.

“Huh?!” I hear you say. It’s OK: I get that a lot.

Well, I’m doing things differently this year. And it’s because I’ve decided to do so. I guess you could say I’ve resolved to do so.

I haven’t actually sat down, as I have done in the past, & said to myself: “Right: this is what I must do with my life this year”. That does, however, seem to be what is happening in practice.

So here’s what I’m doing differently this year, at least in my online life:

1) Twitter. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Twitter.  “I love it; it hates me”? Maybe! When you have responsibilities though you can have too much of a good thing. Twitter is fabulous fun. I’ve met so many fantastic people there, we’ve shared jokes, sad stories, music, films, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried,  participated in & even started hashtag memes, & generally had a great time.

‘Time’. There’s the rub, as my mate Bill once said. Working from home, & at present being pretty much a SAHD, (someone really should come up with a better acronym for stay-at-home Dads…), Twitter is always there, always available, on my office PC, on the laptop, on my iPod Touch. And there’s always something happening. It is a constant distraction; & I’m easily distracted. With baby-care taking up so much of my time I have to make the most of it to do what must be done. So often Twitter has eaten up too much time. I’ve tried just lurking during the day, the ‘no-typing’ rule, but that only had limited success.

I believe it’s known as ‘Twittaddiction’.

In the evenings I also found that a lot of the really fun messing about also resulted in my not getting on with other interests I’d had lined up for whatever spare time I’ve had.  It’s very easy to get carried away, especially after dark. All work & no play may make Jack a dull boy, but all play & no work can make Jack a bit over-excited 😉

So I’ve had to re-evaluate where my priorities lie, & as a result I’m taking a break from twitter.

I’ll still be sending tweets from my blogs when I’ve made new posts, auto-tweeting music links from my iPod, & my automatically-produced newspaper is still about. But that’s it.

Will I go back? How long will I be away? I don’t know.

Will I miss it? Yes: everything about it. What I’ll especially miss though is the daily contact with the so many terrific people I’ve met there.  So to all of my friends there: Thank You. For Everything.

I am still about online though, which brings me to:

2) Blogging. I’m doing more of it. I’ve been looking for & have found some great blogs, especially ones similar to mine: Dad blogs, parents of twins blogs, & have linked to them in my ‘Blogroll’.  I’ve subscribed to more blogs, I’m commenting more. On my own blogs I’m posting more, & linking up with other blogs & blogging resources.

And you know what? It’s great fun. It’s sociable, it’s a creative outlet, it’s therapeutic, I’m learning about other peoples’ lives & loves – some similar to mine & others very different  – & in more depth. In short, it’s enhancing my life. And that can only be a good thing.

3) Facebook. Yes I use it. I’ve never enjoyed it as much as Twitter. I have a much smaller circle of friends there, & I want to keep it that way: quality not quantity. So I’m using it more. And that leads to:

4) Family. I want to keep in touch with my family more; not easy when most of them live so far away. Many of them use Facebook. I have noticed that some of them even have telephones. And houses, with addresses attached. And emails. All of which I want to use more.

Ultimately that’s what this is about: doing the right thing by my family, especially for the sake of my beautiful twin babies. And of course being nice to my wife. I’m sure she must read this sometimes… 😉

So: keeping my New Year’s Resolutions without making any? I reckon I could be on to something here!