Music, Music, Music. And More Music.

CDs? I have a few!

Even though I rarely buy them these days I still have a pile that I haven’t played & am getting to know. Despite my enthusiasm for new music I’m still old-fashioned enough to be into ‘albums’, not just single tunes. When I play a new CD I like to ‘get to know it’, as an entity in itself, not just a collection of individual tracks, so I’ll give it a good few plays before adding it to my collection and moving on. Unless of course, it’s rubbish! Then it gets fewer plays…

Being CDs, often ones that I bought some time ago,  they tend to be of older music, unlke the Spotify choices in my last post which were mostly newer.

Often they’re for playing in the car; I haven’t quite got my act together with digital music there yet – but I will. Because of that I like to have them in some specific and different flavours.

There’s the Mellow One: for winding down, relaxing. I often stick this on when I’m driving home late at night and want to relax before bed.

Then I like to have an Up-Tempo One. Something fast, lively & uplifting. Great for driving on a motorway or in preparation for a night out! Uusually fast, energetic rock or some bangin’ dance tunes!

At the moment I also want a Feel-Good Summery One. Warm weather: chilled, but uplifting, happy songs for a hot day. Yes, I live in Wales: never say I’m not an optimisist! And we do get some lovely warm days here y’know!

Aside from a few sundry picks that I just like the look of I also have a Wifely One! Yes, the “Separated and who gets the CDs?” thing! No fights here though: we seem to have been pretty clear about whose was whose. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been into music more than her, although she has some great picks. I’m onto the last one – it feels momentous…

What I’m playing at the moment? These:

The Mellow One: ‘The Sound of Bread’

I did say there was some older music here! ‘Bread‘, fronted by David Gates with Jimmy Giffin, were a laid-back Los Angeles based ‘soft-rock’ band that was popular in the 1970s, known for their slow, countryish West Coast ballads. They’re sometimes “a bit sad Ted!” but they have some great songs, & my pick from this “Best Of” type album is the iconic ‘Guitar Man’. It wasn’t a big hit at the time but remains one of their best-loved songs.

 

The ‘Wifely One’: Original Music from the Motion Picture ‘Shine” feat. David Helfgott

I love many different kinds of music, including ‘classical’, and this album is a pleasure from start to finsh, full of wonderful music. ‘Shine’ is a bio-pic about David Helfgott, an Australian-born classical pianist who struggled with the mental illness schizophrenia. Superbly played (as an older man) by Geoffrey Rush, the film highlights his musical virtuosity and his personal problems, although his family have been very critical of its portayal of the latter. Helfgott himself provides the piano soundtrack. Anyone who’s seen the film will understand that there can only be one pick for a top track from this, the infamous and tortuously difficult ‘Rach 3‘!

 

The Feel-Good Summery One: 37 Brits 2001 Hits, Disc 1

You’re driving around in your car, it’s hot, the sun is shining, you have the windows rolled down, people around town seem almost happy: all seems right with the world. This is the sort of music I want playing! This is a mixed bunch, as you’d expect, with some stonking tunes & some – let’s be honest, rubbish – but overall I love it. Best of the bunch – although probably not the most ‘summery’ choice –  has got to be the fantastic Iggy Pop (again!), this time with Death in Vegas playing the stunningly sinister “Aisha”. (Warning: the video is quite ‘steamy’: best avoided if easily offended!)

 

The Loud One: The Freeborn Brothers, ‘Gypsy Hobo Trash Grass’

I’ve never seen anyone even remotely like this lot. The Freeborn Brothers  are a bunch of young Polish guys who are all incredible musicians. Every year as part of their Europe-wide tour they stop off to perform at a tiny pub in my small Welsh town, and just for the cost of a donation or two. They are honestly one of the best live acts I have ever seen, not only unbelievably talented musicians but also terrific showmen, taking their music into the realms of performance art. They are also very funny. Musically they’re hard to classify: a combination of traditional Polish ‘folk’ music, bluegrass & punk! I think. They simply have to be seen to be believed, and I am very grateful that I’ve been able to. The track I’ve picked is called ‘Down to Hell’.

 

Another Summery One: ‘Sounds of the Summer’, from ‘The Big Issue’ Magazine

I’ll be honest: I mostly chose this one from the title. It’s not my idea of ‘summer music’. Summer nights in a sweaty night-club or at a festival maybe, probably not for pootling around in my car! I first played it while in the kitchen cooking with my daughter Ellie (8); in hindsight probably a mistake. We both noticed about the same time “Daddy, they’re saying some rude words!”. I put on the Brits CD instead: that was better! I do like the music though, even though it wasn’t what I was expecting. My favourite so far is probably the seriously funky, Mark Ronsonesque ‘The Turnaround’ by The Herbaliser.

 

Dermot O’Leary Presents: The Saturday Sessions 2013

This album is taken from the former X-Factor host’s BBC Radio 2 show where top musical acts would perform live in studio, often doing covers of well-known songs. It’s full of beautiful live music, and this is among its best: James Blake just on piano covering Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You‘. Entrancingly beautiful!

 

Let the music play on….

 

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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!”.

 

My Sunday Photo 24/7/16: Meet The Band!

Introducing…The Jallie Band!

Featuring: Jake on metal gazoo, and Ellie on mouth organ! And Daddy banging rhythmically on whatever is to hand. (Sounds of wild applause and cheering)

They were pretty good too!

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OneDad3Girls

Wednesday Words

I’ll sing myself to sleep, a song from the darkest hour
Secrets I can’t keep inside of the day
Swing from high to deep: extremes of sweet and sour
Hope that God exists; I hope, I pray

Drawn by the undertow my life is out of control
I believe this wave will bear my weight so let it flow

Oh sit down!
Sit down next to me
Sit down, down, down, down, down – in sympathy

Now I’m relieved to hear that you’ve been to some far out places
It’s hard to carry on when you feel all alone
Now I’ve swung back down again it’s worse than it was before
If I hadn’t seen such riches I could live with being poor

Oh sit down!
Sit down next to me
Sit down, down, down, down, down – in sympathy

Those who feel the breath of sadness:
Sit down next to me
Those who find they’re touched by madness:
Sit down next to me
Those who find themselves ridiculous:
Sit down next to me

In love, in fear, in hate, in tears
In love, in fear, in hate, in tears
In love, in fear, in hate, in tears
In love, in fear, in hate…

Down
Down

Oh sit down!
Sit down next to me
Sit down, down, down, down, down – in sympathy

Down

“Sit Down” by James. Writers: Tim Booth, Lawrence Gott, Gavan Whelan, James Patrick Glennie, Philip James Selway, Jonathan Richard, Guy Greenwood, Edward John O’Brien, Thomas Edward Yorke, Colin Charles Greenwood, James Lawrence Gott
Copyright: Blue Mountain Music Ltd., Warner/Chappell Music Ltd., Stage Three Music Publishing Limited

Crazy With Twins

My Sunday Photo: Horsing Around!

 

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It may not be immediately obvious from this photo, but this is from Jake & Ellie’s first horse-riding session!

We have been taking them to dance (ballet & tap), gym & music classes. They went over the age limit for Monkey Music, they seemed a bit bored with the gym classes as they didn’t seem challenging enough, & although Ellie enjoyed the dancing Jake seemed less keen.

So when they turned 5 we decided that they were old enough to decide what they wanted to do, rather than what we thought they should do.

Jake chose Tae-Kwon-Do! I’m not sure how we found out about it, but there’s a great session at our local YMCA, & they’re both loving it. (There’s a funny story about that: ask me later…)

Ellie was mad to do horse-riding. So we did.

It was great! Sadly my ‘phone’s battery ran out just before they got on their horses, so I couldn’t get any more photos.

It took a long time to get going, which is OK as you’re dealing with animals & you have to get the health & safety right. Then they all lined up in the field on their magnificent ponies, our 2 first-timers especially looking very pleased with themselves.

We thought they’d just plod around the field, but they took to the streets! They all rode around country lanes for nearly an hour, & even broke into a trot!

Jake & Ellie both loved it; they were so happy when they came back!

We’re definitely planning to it again; the main problem of course is that it’s not cheap. Great fun though 🙂

Trouble Sleeping?

1-DSCN0993I’ve had a bit of this lately: circumstances, sort of thing.

Fortunately I’ve come across a meditation music app that really helps!

It’s called ‘Soothing Sounds’ & is available for your Android phone or tablet.

Does it work? Yes: this app is great!

I often get myself off to sleep with a ‘Mellow’ playlist on my ‘phone. This is good, but the playlist wasn’t designed for that & more often than not songs come up that are a bit too lively & delay the process. I also use TV, although I know I shouldn’t; it’s generally been shown to be a bad idea. I’m often woken up in the middle of the night by noisy ads or a bright screen.

This however works ‘like a charm’, & I’ve been using it regularly ever since I downloaded it.
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It has a large variety of relaxing ambient sounds to choose from: for instance beach, binaural, birds, crickets, frogs, a ticking clock, a heartbeat, rain, a rainforest, flowing water, a Tibetan bowl, whalesong, white noise, wind & a some ‘new-age’ style music.

Each sound is configurable: you change both volume & intensity.

You can select each sound individually or in groups of up to 10;  you can then save any of the groups you create for later use.

I found it was as fun to play around with as it is useful as a sleep-aid!

I do have a couple of minor quibbles however. The app is quite big, & if you’re like me & have a budget ‘phone with limited memory you may struggle to find space for it.

I also had trouble getting the options to work. You can set silence, alarm & wake-up timers but I found the keys unresponsive.

To be honest I’ve had similar trouble with other apps so it may well be my ‘phone’s fault. If not it just needs a simple patch.

I usually charge my ‘phone overnight anyway so I’ve often just left it on all night. It’s actually pretty good to wake up to!

The bottom line however: it works, it’s fun & it costs spare change, so I can recommend it!

In my experience anything that helps you sleep when you’re having trouble dropping off is worth it, & ‘Soothing Sounds’ does exactly that.

Review written in collaboration with Lost Ego Studios 

 

 

 

The Princess and the Poo

Jake was heading on upstairs & asked for my company.

What that actually means is that he wanted me to play music from ‘Frozen’ on my ‘phone while he had a poo. That’s become something of a tradition here. 

After ‘Frozen Heart’ (his favourite) & a little ‘For the First Time in Forever’ Ellie decided to join us.

“Hello Ellie”

“I’m not Ellie, my name is Shakora”

I don’t even know where she gets this one from.
Continue reading “The Princess and the Poo”

Music Appreciation

frozen_ver8_xlgIn December we took Jake & Ellie to the cinema for the first time: we saw Disney’s ‘Frozen’ & they both absolutely loved it!

I was impressed as well. Although it’s a children’s film I thought everything about it was top quality: the voice acting, the animation & visuals, the characterisation, the dialogue, its humour were all outstanding. I also particularly liked the way it dealt with quite heavy themes in a way that was palatable even to 3-year-olds.

Then of course there’s the music. It was excellent – in a Disney context of course –  & unsurprisingly the musical is already being planned & is heading to Broadway, then presumably here as well.

Music plays a major part in my life & it has in Jake & Ellie’s too. I love to play music for & enjoy it with them, & have a collection on my ‘phone of 100s of songs that they like. I knew they’d love the music from ‘Frozen’ so I bought the soundtrack album for them.

I wasn’t wrong! 

We listened to it for the first time in the car on the way back from ‘Monkey Music’ last week: they were ecstatic, especially Ellie! When ‘Let It Go’ came on they were  singing along with utter abandon at the tops of their voices, heads raised, gesticulating wildly, arms waving about as if in a manic West End musical!

At home we played the songs in order; instead of the usual TV or tablet games – which sadly has become the norm in the new house while our unpacking has been delayed – they just sat listening on the sofa. While listening they were talking together & with me about the songs, remembering what happened in the film when a particular song was sung, talking about the characters & the story, enjoying the pictures in the sleeve notes & trying to read the song titles & lyrics there.

The power of Music!

It was wonderful

For more Magic Moments just click the pic:

 

 

 

 

 

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Tired, scared, sore, smelly & frozen!

Us and Them

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I can’t help thinking of Syria, & especially of its children & the terrible suffering so many are enduring.

Chemical weapon attacks on city suburbs.

A school bombed with napalm.

Horror almost too great to contemplate.

It’s trite, yes: but someone, somewhere has to do something, don’t they?

Don’t we?

Don’t I?

Dinosaurs! And Magic

We enjoyed our recent visit to the Dinosaur Park.

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As well as the obvious Jake & Ellie really enjoyed playing with a baby dinosaur newly emerged from its egg. Ellie in particular: she had to be dragged away protesting as we left! There were also great tube-slides down dinosaurs’ necks which they spent a long time on.

I was quite interested in the sets of standing stones there & their history, but that will probably have to wait until our next visit.

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There were certainly plenty of dinosaurs!

This one is Mammasaurus’ Mum, apparently

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There was a hidden lake! I was very impressed when Jake identified this as “a crocodile, or an alligator”. A big one!

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Watching over Wales?

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The watering-hole:

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There was also a recreation of a stone-age village there, including a preserved ‘real’ spring held to be sacred by the Druids. People had thrown coins into it & Jake was fascinated by it. I attempted to explain by saying that people believed that when they threw coins into the spring that something magic might happen. So of course I had to produce a coin for him to throw in! He was very excited.

At home that evening I was playing music from my iPod wirelessly from my little bluetooth speakers. Jake wanted to know how the music was coming out of the little box.

After toying with the idea of trying to explain bluetooth technology to a 3-year-old I resorted to the Daddy Pig solution: “It’s magic!”.

I can’t tell you how excited he was! Jumping around the room like a mad thing, he decided that he had made magic: that this was from his throwing the coin into the magic water!

He went to bed a very happy little boy 🙂