Thursday, 31 December 2009

Albums of the Decade

Right this one is going to be long. It involves my taste in music. I can talk about music for an eternity so if you're not really into that just quit reading.
As the 'noughties' (quite possibly the worst decade name ever) are coming to a close and the 'tens' are about to start, I'm going to sum up as best as I can the albums that have made this decade for me.
I have managed to whittle it down to twelve. I wanted a nice rounded number like 10, but twelve was the lowest I could go to.
For those who have had the misfortune of not hearing these albums, for each album I mention, I shall include a clip of a track from each album in the form of a youtube video so you can educate yourselves.
They are in no particular order, just records that have had some considerable kind of impact on me this decade.

Radiohead - Kid A (2000)

Basically for me, this album represents everything that music should be: experiments, creativity, fusions of old leading to the creation of new and not playing it safe by conforming to everything else out there. This album is an epiphany unto the listener. Even the URL of this blog is taken from the first track, 'Everything in its right Place'. That's how much I like this album. It's the kind of album that opens your eyes to what is truly possible when minds are set free to delve into realms previously unexplored. I have heard nothing like it from any other artist. These compositions transcend the simple boxes and categories we mortals can clumsily throw them into. Illuminations of landscapes in your head as the soundscapes sweep over you, ranging from gentle ambience to richly textured beauty. When Radiohead do an album, they do it right.

Idioteque - from the album:

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (2009)

A fairly recent album, from the second the first song started, I was in love. The rich, smooth vocal harmonies of the opening title track enveloped me in their anguish. I felt every word. The whole record is absolute perfection, with no weak tracks dragging it down. Beautiful from start to finish. Stands out among the rest of the bands coming out of the current Neo-Folk movement.

Little Lion Man - From the Album

Sigur Rós - Takk... (2005)

OK, I know it's not their best album, but this album is the first I ever heard from Sigur Rós. This is the album that started it all for me. From here on in, every second of music I heard from this artist was pure bliss, an absolute aural orgasm, making strong use of dynamics and composed with such musical precision, as if every note in every piece has been specially selected to sound absolutely perfect. This music takes you to places that you never thought existed.

Hoppipolla - Taken from the album. The actual music video wasn't available, so here is some footage from Planet Earth to accompany the song:

Jónsi & Alex - Riceboy Sleeps (2009)

Not too long after I had discovered Sigur Rós, I found out an album made by their singer, Jónsi, and his partner, Alex, was soon to be released. Naturally, I bought it as soon as it was made available and my was I in for a treat. Much more the mellower side of Sigur Rós, this album has provided perfect ambient bliss for me. It had gotten me through hours of mind numbing revision and work yet also provided atmosphere while I have read novels. I have even fallen asleep to this peaceful record.

Boy 1902 - Taken from the album:

M83 - Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts (2003)

Rich and textured sonic bliss. Excellent electronic ambience. Anthony Gonzalez really is in a field of his own and stands out against the backdrop of electronic music. Some of these songs are almost orchestral in texture yet have been produced digitally on a computer. A very rewarding album.

Run into Flowers - from the album:

Peter Broderick - Home (2008)

This album is just pure luscious acoustic folk from an exceptionally talented musician. From the choir-like layered vocals singing together in harmony in the opener, 'Games', this album is a pleasure to listen to. And what's more, the album artwork is one of my favourites of all time. To me the artwork just represents the title, 'Home', so perfectly. Broderick is such a well-rounded musician and enters singer-songwriter territory effortlessly here.

Below It - from the album:

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)

Fleet Foxes are unlike no other band I listen to. I saw them live at Lollapalooza this year in Chicago and their sound put me into a trance; a state of absolute awe. Seeing them live was more than just a gig; it was an experience. This album is a wonderful, soothing listen. I would recommend this band to anyone. The record is natural and organic, conjuring up images of beautiful forests, rivers and mountains in the listener's mind. An unmissable album.

White Winter Hymnal - Taken from the album:

Protest the Hero - Kezia (2006)

Well this is going to be a controversial choice. This comes straight from the extreme end of my musical spectrum. This is about as metal as I get. From the second I heard Protest The Hero, they appealed to the musician in me. The amount of time and tempo changes they can fit into one song is unreal.
Kezia is a concept album which spans three perspectives of the execution of a prisoner. These three perspectives each comprise a 'chapter' of the album, and the storyline unfolds through the lyrics. The perspectives are that of the prison priest, a prison guard who is to execute her and the prisoner herself, named Kezia.
When the band wrote the music for this album, they were still in high school and weren't skilled enough to actually play the stuff they had written. So they practised and practised until they could actually play their own stuff. That's how technical this music is. The music snobs call it mathcore. I call it insane.

Heretics and Killers - Taken from the album:

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)

Bon Iver is the solo project of Justin Vernon. After his previous band broke up, Justin confined himself to a cabin in Wisconsin for three months. This "hibernation" led to the creation of this wonderful record, capturing the feeling of his seclusion perfectly. An excellent album.

Skinny Love - Taken from the album:

Arctic Monkeys -Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)

There's nothing not to like here. This album flows perfectly from start to finish and is a perfect representation of modern day British culture. Believe the hype.

A view from the afternoon - taken from the album:

Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid (2008)

I absolutely love this album. It is 100% deserving of the Mercury Prize it won back in 2008. Every track is perfection and the orchestral sections are beautifully composed. Buy it if you haven't heard it already. This band deserves to be huge.

Weather to Fly - from the album:

Frank Turner - Love, Ire & Song (2008)

As the ex frontman of Million Dead, Frank Turner has always had a punk rock mentality. This shines through in his music through the sincerity with which he sings, meaning every word, making him stand out among the beige, drab backdrop of singer-songwriters. His songs are intelligent and diverse and he is very politically in tune with the world around him. For me, this is his best album, although others may disagree.

Love, Ire & Song - Taken from the album:

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Number 1

So Rage Against the Machine actually got number 1 this Christmas.
I swear that's the most excited I've ever been while listening to a chart.
The people have spoken. Maybe next year we'll get an actual Christmas song that isn't from the X-Factor. Just a thought.
But what a furore this has all caused; with all these X-Factor fans whining how 'Joe really deserved it' and how he's 'worked so hard.' Can these guys not just accept defeat, get on with their lives and enjoy Christmas?
As for the 'working hard' part, all he did was audition for a TV show and was then spoon fed all the way through it by judges, mentors and special guests such as Michael Bublé and Robbie Williams.
This is a stark contrast to Rage Against the Machine who literally worked their way up off their own backs.
Also around 60 grand's worth of the money raised by the RATM campaign has gone to the Shelter charity to help the homeless through what will, no doubt, be a freezing Christmas. If that's not a Christmas giving spirit, I don't know what is.

Sunday, 20 December 2009


I saw Avatar3D last night. It was an absolutely brilliant experience. The whole world James Cameron has crafted through his pure creativity is a truly breathtaking and beautiful place, with a moving and gripping plot, driven by emotion.
One of my films of the year easily, along with Star Trek and The Hangover.

Saturday, 19 December 2009


I have been thinking about breasts.
Why is the nipple the 'offensive' part of the female mammary gland?
For example, there are often breasts shown on tv, films and in pictures but as long as the nipples are covered, it's OK.
What's so bad about a little nipple? When guys are topless, they don't have to cover their nipples.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Hospitals and more

I went to the hospital today with the mother. She had to go to physiotherapy for her arm.
So thankfully it was only a brief visit to the 'nice' part of the hospital rather than the death-and-suffering-filled part (which I have visited a little too much for my liking).
But still, I got the same sense of depression oozing from those bland, white, clinical walls; like the expressionless face with which a doctor gives out a diagnosis.
I could not be a doctor.
I felt the same sadness that I did as a boy seeing smokers outside the hospital, just as the lead singer of Editors does (see below).

Then I visited the city centre, saw a few friends and had a little shop with the mother. Everyone keeps asking how I could even bring myself to miss Plymouth after living in Cardiff.
I can't really explain it, because I know Cardiff is so much bigger and has so much more to offer, but I will never feel the same about it as I do about Plymouth. I see part of me in Plymouth. I just feel right there, content that it's not the best place in the world but it's where I was born and I've seen it grow as I've grown.

In other news, the nation has gone mad since the X-Factor finals. It seems these two chumps, Olly and Joe, have divided the fair maidens of our nation in two. I have heard pretty malicious comments from both sides of this argument, with some stooping to outright insults of each finalist. The best part is how much I've heard the term 'he just HAS the X-Factor' being bandied around.
Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise you guys were all music geniuses? Oh no wait, you bought the Cheryl Cole album didn't you? Yeah, I thought so.
I loathe the term 'X-Factor'. It is just a gibberish marketing word which has no application to music whatsoever and is exploited to market the nation's next karaoke act. The average viewer of this show wouldn't know a time signature if it fucked them up the ass, yet they deem themselves fit to pass judgement on who has 'X-Factor'?

I'm not one to rise to silly trends and do what facebook groups tell me, but I didn't have 'Killing in the name of' by Rage Against The Machine so I have bought it.
I strongly urge you guys to do so too.
Even if we could get it in the top 10, it would be nice.
If it was number 1, I would love it (although it's never going to happen).
Simon Cowell has ruined Christmas.
He has stolen Christmas number one too many damn times, a slot which used to be taken by classic Christmas songs!
If he thinks I'm Scrooge, then he's the Grinch.

Saturday, 12 December 2009


 So, yesterday I returned to my motherland of Plymouth. It's brilliant to be back. I feel a sense of familiarity paired with an odd sense of unfamiliarity simultaneously.
Exiting the A38 and entering Plympton, I gazed upon those old paths and streets in which I grew up with a smile and a feeling of returning to see an old friend after a long time apart.
I invited my friends Sherwin and Luke to my house for a few beers. I picked them up in my car, having not driven for 3 months, which was, to say the least, interesting! When we got to mine, I instantly slipped back into our old ways, catching up, laughing and joking. I feel like, with all my friends down here, no matter how long I go away for, our friendship will always remain strong. Within minutes I was brought up to speed with what I had missed and it was as if I had never left.
I would have liked more friends to have come over but, what with them being broke and due to me inviting everyone on such short notice, it was only the three of us.
We went to the end of the street to catch a bus into town at about 11PM. As the bus came to a stop for us, the engine went off which made me think 'I swear they usually leave the bus running to let people on'. We boarded and, sure enough,the driver was fiddling with the controls attempting in futility to restart the bus, spurred on by a flashing battery light on the dashboard. Are they called dashboards in buses or is that just cars? Alas, I digress.
So, there we were stood, faced with a smattering of puzzled looking passengers, very aware that if the bus hadn't stopped for us it would probably still be functioning.
We abandoned the broken bus and called a taxi to town. It was a good night, not too crazy; which gave us time to have a good old catch up.

Since studying at Cardiff and being around lots of international students, my confidence socially in other languages has really improved. I was in a club called Firefly and a Spanish word popped up on my radar, at which time my ears pricked up and tuned in. Upon discerning that it was indeed Spanish that they were speaking, I approached the group while Luke and Sherwin were at the bar and started chatting to them in Spanish. This is something I would rarely dare to attempt with English people as we live in such a reserved society where people are closed up in their little cliques with no thought of talking to others, unless they are hammered and want to grind against each other's sweaty bodies. The Spanish people were really nice and I even got one of their numbers so I can text them to meet up again when we're all out.

Due to the lack of numbers last night, we're doing it all again tonight.
It's good to be back!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Must. Finish. Essay.

Possibly in light of last night's dream (see previous post), I have been struck by a wave of inspiration to finish my Spanish history essay, entitled 'Why did the Franco regime last so long?', before we break up for Christmas on Friday.
So here I am slaving away at my laptop on the essay, my only motivation being the thought of a burden being lifted from my shoulders, enabling me to have an even merrier Christmas due to the fact that I would have had to do this essay over the Christmas holidays.
My plan alone is 500 words, and the essay only has to be 1000. These are good times my friends.
I wish I was in this constructive mindset more often. Then maybe I wouldn't procrastinate so much, like I am now.
Alas, back to the essay I must go.

World Cup draw

So the draw happened yesterday for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I'm liking the look of England's group. We're in group C along with Algeria, Slovenia and USA. When playing at our peak I think we have the ability to beat all of these teams, we'll just have to see if England will deliver when it comes down to match day.

In other news, I had a dream last night that I had gone home for Christmas and left all my books and stuff I need for work up here in Cardiff! I felt so good and relaxing to be home for the first, like, 5 seconds of the dream and then the terrible realisation stuck me that I had to go back to Cardiff. Not good. I think it's my subconscious little way of warning myself to not forget ANYTHING when I pack to come home on Friday.