Thursday, December 15, 2011

top 10 albums and singles of 2011

Time again for my annual countdown of half decent music. A grand internet tradition since 2006!

This time last year, I suggested that I'd probably be bored of Kanye West's album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by February. How wrong could I be? Very. That and Janelle Monae have been my two most listened to albums of 2011, despite both being released in 2010, and neither featuring in the upper ranks of last year's countdown.

So it's in that spirit of success, and the fact that I've been traveling for the last nine months - and so more detached from music than usual - that I present this year's 10 best albums and individual tracks. Now more valid than ever!

As usual, an artist will only feature in one list or the other, not both.


1. The Antlers - Burst Apart
2. Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
3. The Horrors - Skying
4. Jay-Z and Kanye West - Watch the Throne
5. Kasabian - Velociraptor!
6. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
8. Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia
9. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
10. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine

Listen to one track of each of these albums as a Youtube playlist. It's mostly a calm, enjoyable listen.


1. Elbow - Lippy Kids
2. Coldplay - Paradise
3. Lupe Fiasco - Words I Never Said
4. Alex Metric & Steve Angello - Open Your Eyes
5. Noah & The Whale - L.I.F.E.GO.E.S.O.N
6. The Vaccines - Post Break-Up Sex
7. Arthur Russell - Walk On The Moon (Labyrinth Ear edit)
8. Nicola Roberts - Beat of My Drum
9. Kount Masloff - You Came to Win
10. The Go! Team - Secretary Song

Listen to the top 10 as a Youtube playlist. It's quite a brash, upbeat listen.

You may also look back over the album countdowns from 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007, and the single countdowns from 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

the struggle for aloofness

It's 6:13pm. The sun has been considering whether to set or not for a couple of hours, and it seems now to have settled on an answer.

We're in a beach restaurant in Karnataka, India, but it could be any backpacker orientated hangout worldwide. All the hallmarks are present and correct: patio furniture, hammocks and facial hair. There's banana pancakes on the menu, and the same five Bob Marley tracks repeating on the stereo. Everything is familiar here. Comforting. Today will not be remembered for its life altering developments.

There's six of us enjoying an early dinner. People have been competing to try and out-liberal each other. Sid took an early head start when he pointed out he's a vegan and that he doesn't own a TV. Samantha however, announces she has her own vegetable patch. Her opponents are sent reeling.

It's in the midst of this that KC asks me what the time is. 6:13 I reply. "Oh, that's precise of you", he retorts. Everybody giggles. KC has dreadlocks. An unkempt beard. KC has no interest in the exact time. KC has no interest in the exact anything.

I feel bruised by this encounter. I have tried to help out my friend KC. Why should I be mocked for merely trying to provide people with a helpful level of accuracy? You've asked me something, I'm now trying to assist you to the greatest possible extent. Yet, I get laughed at if I don't give you a worse answer.

For me to round the time to 6:15 actually requires extra effort on my part. I'd have to think about that. Do a quick calculation in my head. It is you that has asked the favour of me. If you're going to ask me the time, but want a pleasingly inaccurate answer, round things off yourself. You go through the effort. Seen as I'm doing you the favour.

Failing that, just don't ask at all. Seemingly you don't really care what the actual time is anyway. You see the sun is about to set. You've been hanging out in this place for five fucking weeks. I would've thought you'd have a supernatural gift for time estimation by now. Roping me into proceedings seems unnecessary. You do the rounding. You do the aloofness. It's best off I leave it to the professionals.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

weddings, deaths and public urination

Due to the graphic nature of this blogpost, reader discresion is advised

This weekend, six things happened to me that had never happened before. For instance: I'd never accidentally bought women's clothing before. Now I have. I'm not yet very good at telling the difference with Indian clothes. Here's some further examples:

I'd never been a guest at an Indian wedding before. I manage to get off at completely the wrong Metro stop, and arrive late to find the party in full swing. After five minutes they play one of the very few Indian-influenced songs I know (Panjabi MC - Mundian To Bach Ke), so thinking this might be my only chance I'm immediately on the dancefloor, trying my best not to look an idiot. The food meanwhile, is a bewildering array of dishes to pick and choose from. Taking my cue from everybody else, I pile my plate with 15 or so different flavours - roughly 70% of which I'm unfamiliar with - and tuck in, before heading back for seconds. Otherwise the wedding is a backseat affair, and I observe a procession of rituals being performed, most of which I don't understand even once they've been explained to me.

Another first: leaving the wedding in a taxi, traffic suddenly envelopes us. It is a short wait before we pass by the cause. A man is lying in the street, having been knocked off his bicycle by a bus. His head is against the ground, except for roughly a third of it, which is scattered a few feet away. I've never seen a dead body before, and this is a horrific, perspective altering first time.

I've also never seen a film in a Bollywood cinema before, and so watching Bodyguard is an interesting experience. Nobody bothers to switch off their mobiles. Kids scream and run around in front of the screen. The film has complete disregard for whether what is happening is physically possible or not. At one point in the second half, the lead female character is lying in bed, watching on TV a scene from the first half of the film.

I've never seen a woman urinating whilst standing up in the street before. That was weird.

And I've never been in Nepal before. Until yesterday. Despite me being a (comparatively) tall westerner, I was forced to sit in my allocated seat for the 12 hour journey, which just so happened to be the one with the least leg room on the entire bus. Over the course of the journey I take increasingly desperate and absurd measures to highlight my discomfort. At first simply trying to sit elsewhere, then leaning on the guy next to me, then just giving up and sitting on the floor. Eventually I'm lying on the floor, deliriously trying to catch any sleep I can. As I understand, Buddhists believe that the head is the highest, holiest part of the body, and the feet are the lowest, dirtiest part. So the sight of this westerner deliberately lying with his head on the dirty metal floor must have been pretty bewildering to them.

So what do I think of Nepal? Seems to be full of unflinching, westerner baiting order-Nazis. I'm sure I'll find that to be wholly representative.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

i'm an idiot.

I'm an idiot. I recently spent a full 60 seconds trying to remember what side of the road people drive on in Britain. Having just written that sentence, I've now been struggling to remember which side of the road is used in India, where I've been travelling for six weeks now.

There is a more impressive example of my advanced idiocy though. In the northern city Amritsar, I leave my bank card in the ATM (British readers! That's the crazy name they have for cash machines in this country!) and walk off. Several hours later I'm confused when I can't find it. I head back, and there's no card, but a sign says that any swallowed bank cards will be returned to the nearest branch.

It's Saturday night, so I resign myself to the fact that I will have to stay in town until Monday to see if the card is safe. I tell pathetic lies in emails and Facebook messages to friends, saying I'm stuck here because an ATM has cruelly swallowed my debit card.

Monday comes, I walk to the branch and... It's closed. Public holiday, I eventually work out. Tuesday comes, and I get told to return the following morning with my passport, and they'll have my card. Wednesday comes, and it's a relaxed, conversational atmosphere as I'm sitting at a desk, signing paperwork to get my card back. I pop my passport back in my bag, wish everybody well and leave relieved. Five minutes later I turn around and start walking back again. I walk into the bank once more and five employees are in fits of laughter. I pick my bank card up off the desk and walk out again.

I'm surprised I haven't absentmindedly stabbed myself in the eye with a biro yet.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

postcard from washington dc

"The mind boggles at how much terrorism has been avoided since 2001, when companies started introducing a $4 tax on it."

Checking out of a youth hostel in Washington DC, I ask to put my backpack in their storage room until my coach leaves later that day. A fairly standard request. They explain that it's $4 per day for a locker, or for each time you enter the locker.

Mild extortion, but I agree to it.

In the storage room there's a sign warning people not to leave bags unattended, as "this is Washington DC, and people tend to be pretty paranoid about these things".

Now then. I know I'm nearly ten years late with this observation, but the terrorism America has seen over the last decade hasn't really been based on unattended packages, has it?

That's what we're constantly being told, "Please be aware of unattended packages". Any unattended package, be it outside the White House or outside Gateshead Plumbing School, may be the next step in Al-Quieda's deadly campaign of terror.

If I was a one of today's young aspiring terrorists, I'd be quite insulted by this misunderstanding of my craft.

And let's hope they don't come up with the idea of just putting their explosive inside one of lockers. I reckon 2011's sharp-minded terrorist might deem their 'destruction of western civilisation' cause worthy of a $4 outlay.

And what a time to insult them! "Hello young terrorist, I know you were thinking of blowing this youth hostel sky-high, but we're assuming you're too tight-fisted to pay for the privilege." If there's one time you don't want to be throwing around insults, surely just as they're making final preparations to blow up a building is that exact time?


TERRORIST: Well I was having momentary doubts about my cause, about everything I've been taught, and about whether my beliefs are worth turning a six storey building to rubble for. But then I read that I had to pay $4 first? As some sort of barrier to entry for terrorism? Well from that moment I was convinced. And I didn't bother phoning in a warning either.

The mind boggles at how much terrorism has been avoided since 2001, when companies started introducing a $4 tax on it. Given the immeasurable success, it's perhaps time to extend the policy to other problem areas. Waging an unwinnable war on drugs? A £3 tax on drug trafficking should fix things. Depressed about iIllegal immigration? A £5 tax on war refugees will do the trick. And I seem to spend more money checking my Vodafone voicemail than I do on lunch, which is exactly why I've never entertained thoughts of hacking the voicemails of murder victims.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

glastonbury plans

Here's who I'm planning to see at Glastonbury this year. Let me know what your matches are. The last few years my spiritual home seemed to centre around the Other Stage, this year I'm gravitating more towards the Pyramid. Here's how we're looking:

campfire or aimless exploring

Wu-Tang Clan
Biffy Clyro
Morrissey or park special guests (Arctic Monkeys?)
Stanton Warriors or Zero 7 DJ set

The Gaslight Anthem
Pulled Apart By Horses or Mark Thomas
Patrick Wolf
Tinie Tempah
The Horrors
Noah and The Whale or park special guests (Pulp?)
Janelle Monae
Coldplay (tight timing. Chemical Brothers if too busy)
Orbital DJ set

Laura Marling
Dan le Sac vs Sroobius Pip
TV on the Radio
The Go! Team
no evening plans

Media-wise, I'm back tweeting for the Guardian, and I'm co-writing Drowned in Sound's review. So if you're not going, I can still irritate you about it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

coachella 2011 review for drowned in sound

DiS's Mark Muldoon was in the area whilst the 12th Coachella festival was kicking off. So he swung by. This is what happened to him.


All the hipsters are headed off to Coachella. Here in L.A. we call it "Spring Cleaning." - @bobbyhundreds
There's only one way to deal with playing an outdoor stage in 36°c/97°f heat, and Nic Offer - frontman of !!! - is the person that's figured it out: groin-thrusting in swimming shorts. He's also in amongst the crowd within the first 60 seconds of the set, trying to persuade people to let him on their shoulders. His play-the-fool antics are an ideal party starter.

Arriving at the main stage nice and early for Cee Lo Green, I find Ozamati are still parading through the audience playing acoustically, 10 minutes after they were meant to be coming off stage. It turns out to be an appreciated distraction, as Cee Lo shows up 30 minutes late for his set. After the first song, nobody applauds. It's an uncomfortable, remarkable moment. He explains that he only just landed, and blames festival organisers for giving him a late afternoon stage time. Fair? Debatable, Cee Lo. If not, it's a cowardly attempt to shift blame and stop the audience turning on him. To add insult, synths appear absent in the sound mix. He plays 'Smiling Faces' and 'Crazy' from the Gnarls Barkley discography, before rounding off a 20 minute set with 'Fuck You'. Without stopping, his band launch into a cover of Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing', and stage management promptly cut the sound. Clever move on Cee Lo's part, as pockets of the audience keep singing regardless. Still, it's a car-crash of a set.

Kicking off an evening of bleeps and beats, A-Trak is crowd pleasing to a perfect extent, in the (spectacular) Sahara tent. His DJ set mixes in a classic N2Deep sample, his own jittery remix of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and he teases the intro to Daft Punk's 'Robot Rock' for three minutes, before releasing it to a baying crowd.  Only by finishing on Duck Sauce's 'Barbra Streisand' does he threaten to overstep the mark.

As the weekend continues, you can understand why. Coachella is seemingly gripped by two obsessions: the group Daft Punk, and the song 'Barbra Streisand' by Duck Sauce. It's not unusual to hear groups singing it at the main stage in-between acts, or back in the camping grounds late at night. If there's anybody in the vicinity that had maybe come to California to try and escape said track's ubiquity in their home country, then tough.

Anyway, barely a quarter of the crowd are still there once Erick Morillo takes to the stage. His less adventurous set lacks the charisma, but it's decent enough. Nobody leaves displeased.

Situated only two hours from Los Angeles, Coachella is a good place for Heat magazine/National Enquirer readers to spot celebrities. Paul McCartney appears on stage with Morillo, and at Afrojack on the big screen dancing with Usher. Jeff Goldblum entertains people entering the site with a solo jazz set. Rhianna looks moody watching Arcade Fire. Is that Elle Macpherson watching Elbow? And people claim to have seen Danny DeVito knocking about every year.

Despite the efforts of their talented MC Sgt Pokes, somebody has forgotten to turn the bass up at the Magnetic Man show. Somewhat crucial for such an act, no? Eventually - when pockets of the crowd start to sit down - somebody somewhere take the hint, rolls out the bass cannon (I hear that's the terminology people are currently using), and fires off a few rounds. The place erupts.

Bass levels are fine at Sasha's set. The only danger is not being outclassed by the CAN'T. STOP. STARING. visuals. After a while, he's up to the task, and it's a typically professional performance.

Kings of Leon may be headliners, but it's Chemical Brothers that have been entrusted with closing tonight's main stage. One wonders if the notoriously stroppy Team Followill are upset by this (or Strokes playing before Kanye on Sunday), given that there's no such suspicion of Arcade Fire's stage-closing abilities tomorrow night.

Anyway, technical difficulties mean the Chems are 30 minutes late on stage (the band reportedly annoyed with Kings of Leon as it meant they didn't get a soundcheck that morning), and we only get an hour long show. It's a brilliant hour though. 'Saturate' and 'Swoon' are the highlights. The previous criticisms levelled at their live show have been addressed: extra stage lighting adds variety, new, improved visuals have been made to replace some of their more stale predecessors, and they're no longer self-indulgently playing current album Further in it's entirety.


Saturday, and the security guard at the entrance won't let me in unless I promise 'to get laid today'. Which seems a little strict.
This day has more of a guitar theme. There's an enormous amount of goodwill for The Joy Formidable (above), and they're lapping up the attention. Rarely seen not smiling, the band make a glorious noise in the afternoon heat, and are all too happy to (literally) throw a few instruments around the stage in the process.

Twelves have either tailored their DJ set perfectly to the beach party vibe, or somebody made a very logical decision in booking them. Only when they clumsily finish with Daft Punk's 'Aerodynamic' do they misfire. They're playful though: on two occasions they start the slow build to a breakdown, reach a peak, then let the track drop at some other point than the much tried and tested 4/4 beat dance music lives by. For those of us that like to play the game 'Incorporating The Drop In To Your Dancing', this means making a big dance move at COMPLETELY the wrong time, realising, then OH NO attempting to style it out, in the hope of TOTALLY looking like you meant to do it all along. And failing.

The tent for Foals is the busiest of the weekend, and the crowd are willing the band to success. Not always a good thing, such as when clapping along at inappropriate points of 'Spanish Sahara'. Pin-drop silence would've been much more appropriate. The band feed off it though, as Yannis Philippakis recklessly stagedives off the speaker stack. Nobody catches him, but he makes it back to stage in one piece, to the audience's delight.

In a weekend of such attention-grabbing stunts, it's notable what little Broken Social Scene need to do to keep their audience's attention. 'Cause = Time' sounds wonderful as the sun sets, and Lisa Lobsinger's turn on vocals, on 'Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl' in particular, is enthralling.

BSS have the good grace to finish nice and early too, allowing plenty of time to get down the front for Elbow. It's not a busy tent, but there's some deeply fanatical people here. The setlist weighs heavily on new material, but is no worse for it. In a world of fudged, compromised festival sound, eight minute opener 'The Birds' is the most beautifully mixed moment of the weekend. And could 'Lippy Kids' have overtaken the previous competition to be Elbow's finest track?

An evening stroll reveals that Mumford & Sons are playing to their usual massive, screaming festival crowd. Except now it's in the US as well, and it's confirmation that they've reached the big league in this country too. I nip off to grab my first ever shower at a music festival. Apparently it's 'socially unacceptable' not to here.

Animal Collective. Coachella has serious affection for Animal Collective. This is a high-profile slot. For the first five minutes, a grid closes over the front of the stage, and we're treated to a Daft Punk (that name again) influenced light show that is as impressive as it is unexpected. The set design here is bat-shit crazy, more elaborate than virtually all festival headline sets I've seen, and this isn't even a headliner.

This is Animal Collective though, so they're not going to make nice with their setlist and play the hits. 70 minutes of music contains only two old songs. Meanwhile the accompanying visuals alienate anybody not on drugs - alongside committed fans, they love the set. But down the front areas of the crowd people are lying down, many even asleep. After the final song, the level of applause is lower than an audience would give out of basic politeness.

Arcade Fire are roughly 478% better than the (great) headline set they gave Reading festival eight months ago. This is a band that really wants to play hard in the big league festival headline market. They start with 'Month of May', which segues into 'Rebellion (Lies)', which is followed by 'No Cars Go'. Previously shy of stage-theatrics, during 'Wake Up' 700-ish blow-up beach balls tumble over the roof of the stage onto the audience. During the following encore, it transpires that these balls are all changing colour in sync with each other, shooting waves of light across the audience. It's a startling trick.

It transpires that these balls, embedded with LEDs and IR transmitters, as well as Animal Collective's light-grid opener and set design, are the fruit of Coachella's partnership with The Creators Project, and are exclusive to the festival. As unique selling points go, it's a compelling one: at Coachella you won't just see your favourite bands, you'll see them play enhanced performances, likely the best shows of their career.


Festival fatigue is setting in by Sunday afternoon. It's less appealing to stand in a predesignated area away from the stages, so you can pay $7 for a beer. To show you are of legal drinking age (21) you have to permanently wear a wristband with a huge ugly Heineken logo emblazoned across it. As with the previous days, a plane spends the afternoon circling the site, tailing a banner advertising the new series of Doctor Who. Presumably BBC America thought Kanye West fans and Doctor Who's potential audience were a Venn diagram match made in heaven.

Plan B is on early to a small crowd. His touring beatboxer Faith SFX starts the show, and overshadows the next 20 minutes. Later, a cheesy string of soul covers is turned to festival gold by his return. Lacking the crowd size or enthusiasm to get a mosh pit going, the band decide to have their one on stage amongst themselves for closer 'Stay Too Long'. It's fun.
It's the second show of the big Death From Above 1979 reunion, and things go more smoothly than their SXSW comeback. It's noisy, and Jesse and Sebastian seem to be having a lot of fun in the process. It's all very good natured fun.

Also, two hours earlier CSS played the Mojave tent. They have a song about making love and listening to Death From Above. This is presumably the first time the two bands have shared a bill. I'd like to know if they all hung out backstage please. If anybody knows post a comment. THANKS.

The National play an intense hour long set. Twice - most triumphantly on 'Squalor Victoria' - they morph regular tracks into intense six minute frenzies. 'England' is the dark highlight. In a show of confidence, 'Terrible Love' is the set closer of choice, and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) joins them on guitar for good measure.

Chase and Status have a little more credibility with the US crowd than in their home land. This isn't the event set it should be though. Plan B and Tinie Tempah are both elsewhere on the bill today, yet Tinie is barely audible during album highlight 'Hitz', and when 'Pieces' starts, is that Plan B that's nipped on stage, had a word in Will "Status" Kennard's ear, then walked back off again? Still, with the brutal effectiveness of their music, it's difficult for one of their gigs to go too wrong. Certainly nobody in the moshpit is complaining.

There's time to catch the last six songs of The Strokes. Can't say I understand the appeal of their indifferent stage manner, but everybody here appreciates it. They dash through each song. People dance. Everybody seems to get what they want out of the arrangement.

Kanye West's set is the subject of the most speculation all weekend. Chatter centres on who - of the Twisted Dark Fantasy collaborators and beyond - will join him on stage. Pitchfork predicts Rhianna, Katy Perry, Kid Cudi and Bon Iver. I speak to several people who are thinking of catching the set purely because they couldn't bare to miss a rumoured Daft Punk appearance.

In the face of such speculation, perhaps the wise thing to do is go the other way, instead proving that you can do this without celebrity help. Bon Iver is the only star-collaborator. What we get instead is more a piece of performance-art, taking in classical and opera influences. It's not afraid of theatrics: an entrance on a crane moving over the audience, an ancient-Greek stage backdrop, some 15 ballerina dancers, regular pyrotechnics, costume changes and classical interludes.

Most importantly, and no doubt aware of his public image, the Kanye on show here is modest, fragile, and heartbroken. He wins everybody over. Meticulously planned, structured and choreographed, it's a class act, and a thrilling show.

This review was originally posted on Drowned in Sound here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

postcard from louisiana

Am I just lucky, or do remarkable things happen every day to everybody in New Orleans?

The threat of flooding from the Mississippi had continued as I carried on down towards its mouth. On the coach into town we're driving along bridges over marshland. Except today the locks have been opened and the area is being flooded to divert water from the city. It seems we're passing at exactly the right moment: we witness the sight of colossal amounts of water gushing into the area, overwhelming trees as it goes. The guy next to me said he's been traveling this route for 40 years, and never seen anything like it.

The best description of New Orleans I'm told is that I shouldn't think of it as the south of the USA, but as the north of the Caribbean. This seems accurate. And I say so with all the authority of somebody who has never been to the Caribbean.

My first night out in the city I am taken to a bar that feels more like an off-license, with patio furniture set up in the back garden, fairy lights decorating the fences, and musicians playing classical music in the corner. After that it's off to a private members bar/pool club where we relax drinking whiskey sours in the pool until 1am.

Hours before leaving the city I'm heading back to my hostel, along a street I'd already walked on several occasions. This time however, one of the parks is filled with a stage, the stage is filled with a reggae band, and 3000 people are partying along for free. I change plans, and join in. I ask the guy next to me why this is all happening, and his response describes New Orleans better in three words than I could in 300: "It's Wednesday, brother!"

Monday, May 23, 2011

postcard from tennessee

Two objectives whilst in the Deep South: eat some BBQ, and see some live blues. I'm told these are the two most important things to sample whilst in the region.

Every now and then whilst traveling, you get lucky. I arrive for my 24 hour visit to Memphis and am told that today is the final day of the World BBQ Championship. 250 teams are competing. I get the feeling that today is one of those days.

It's a remarkable set-up. Teams have gone to great personal expense to build big stalls, and variously provide music, alcohol, elaborate stall designs, matching uniforms, games and gimmicks to provide the perfect BBQ atmosphere.

Team names pun around the subject of pigs. Two personal favourites: Notorious P.I.G. and The People's Republic of Swina.

All the while, judges go around sampling each stall, and marking their BBQ on the minutest criteria. I eat (for free) at about 14 stalls throughout the day, and struggle to discern anything other than superficial difference between them.

As the sun goes down, everybody gathers at the main stage, and 40-something awards are handed out ("and the ninth place in Ribs category goes to..."). A couple of winners cry on stage. The involved crowd cheer at any mention of local pride, local sports teams, or overcoming the floods (the venue was moved from it's usual spot on the banks of the Mississippi*). The biggest cheer comes when - apropos of nothing - a winner calls for the crowd to support their troops.

It's all very surreal, but a strangely moving experience. It's an taste of what gives people a sense of social harmony out here, in the same way that soccer and royal weddings do back home. Everybody leaves exhausted, elated, and very drunk.

We then head back into town and catch some live blues. That's pretty damn good too.

*superb analysis of the media's reaction to the Memphis flood can be read here

Friday, May 20, 2011

postcard from montana

I've edited together a little video of a one day hike I did in Glacier National Park, Montana. Do you see?

By way of previous updates, you can see 42 postcards from April here, postcards from the Middle East, Japan and South-East Asia by scrolling back through here, and my postcard from Coachella festival here - find out which two headliners played the gigs of their career, which one had people down the front falling asleep, and which act Paul McCartney skanked to...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

i'm backpacking again.

Oh hello. I'm back traveling again. Which is nice. In the interests of brevity though, I'll only be posting to this blog if I have any stories worth telling.

For regular updates and silliness, follow me at This is better than me flooding blogspot/facebook every time I'm feeling narcissistic.

If you're not on Twitter, you can just create an account, tell them your phone number, and then choose to have my tweets sent via SMS to you for free, should you wish. Technology!

Semi-interesting stories will be posted at the excellent audioblog service ipadio. There's a semi-interesting one there now about hiking in Yosemite National Park. It's semi-great!

The occasion photo will end up on flickr, and maybe the odd video on youtube.

If you like writing and countries, you can read what I typed about countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Japan by clicking here and scrolling past the silly long Glastonbury post.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Brighton Rock: assumed film review

Can I review a film, based on watching just the last 20 minutes?

So I saw the trailer for Brighton Rock a week ago. Looked enjoyable. Action packed, I would say. Perhaps even over-packed. Were any plot details left out?

Then yesterday, I read a review that mentioned that the climactic scene of the film is on a clifftop. Hang on! I thought. That trailer spends its last 20 seconds having emotional confrontations on clifftops!

Happy that the film promoters had already provided me with a handy two minute recap of 120 minutes of cinema, I returned to the cinema last night, when there was only 20 minutes left of the film.

And it was a very enjoyable 20 minutes, thank you. It tied up that nasty cliffhanger the trailer left me on, and I saved two hours of my life. Which I opted to spend in the pub. RESULT.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

glastonbury 2010: a twitter memorial

I've just been sorting through some old tweets, and ended up reading through my timeline from when I was at Glastonbury 2010. Thought I'd post the collection up here.

Just finished washing last years Glastonbury mud off walking boots, ready for this years Glastonbury mud.
19 Jun

Here's a fun fact: I'll be part of the team tweeting on the Guardian's website as part of their Glasto coverage. Expect MUSIC OPINIONS.

Got into west carpark at 6am after 45mins crawling towards the site. Not bad. Now in W36 car park queuing for gates to open.

Last game I saw at was when they went out on penalties against Portugal in '04. Similarly electric atmosphere here today

Suddenly I'm sat 60 meters from Prince Charles, standing on the Pyramid stage. Surprising.
Detroit Social Club and Courteeners have put in decent sets so far. Hoping for big things from Bonobo
25 Jun

Best t-shirt slogan seen: 'GIVE WAR A CHANCE'
Bonobo: ace. Current rumour is that tonight's secret set at The Park is Thom Yorke.

LATEST: Guy spotted on his friend's shoulders, eating a fry-up. The Big Pink's set, Park Stage.

All pretty exciting up at the Park stage. Half the crowd think its The Strokes, half think its Thom Yorke...

A 'well lubricated' Jamie from the Klaxons has left however, having been more interested in seeing The Big Pink.
25 Jun

It's Thom Yorke! And Jonny Greenwood?

Oh my days. Thom Yorke. Jonny Greenwood. Radiohead classics. Incredible. is ruined

Last minute change of mind. Gorillaz too packed. Groove Armada instead. Have you heard their latest album? It's phenomenal

Risk of seeing Groove Armada completely vindicated. They and the crowd were as one, and we left dripping with sweat.

A raucous late night DJ set from Chase & Status in Shangra-la just about makes up for not being able to see their live set earlier

Here be my Friday Top 5: 1. Thom Yorke & Johnny Greenwood 2. Groove Armada 3. Bonobo 4. Local Natives 5. Chase & Status (dj set)

I wish I had found the time to make my HELLO STEVIE WONDER flag.

It was going to be that or FLAG FOR SALE. ONE PREVIOUS OWNER.

Peter Hook talks Hacienda in the Park. "stock-take tip: if you manage a bar, it doesn't mean letting the staff take the stock."

Peter Hook talks Hacienda in the Park. "...I don't know if you've ever tried to reason with a gangster on crack carrying an uzi"

Not fussed by this footy tournament going on, but is anywhere here showing the Doctor Who finale?

Was expecting a bigger crowd for The National. Thought word had really got out about them in the last couple of months.

Overheard: 'picking your favourite National song is like picking your favourite sexual position'

If The National are any later coming on stage I can kiss goodbye to seeing Biffy Clyro for sure

We live in a world that is still only beginning to wake up to what a special band The National are.

Despite running from the Other Stage, can't even get where i can see Biffy Clyro's set at the Park.

"You are fully aware that Shakira is currently on the main stage, right?" - Ryan Jarman, The Cribs.
26 Jun

So how's the TV coverage of going so far? Has Jo Whiley been nice to a band she secretly hates yet? Perhaps @ can advise.

Have they begun EVERY SINGLE SHOW discussing the weather? Has @ said the Pyramid crowd is the biggest he's seen? @
26 Jun

Monochrome is the last theme I ever expected for a Scissor Sisters set.
This backing singer has got a little over confident. #ohitskylie

Excitement in Muse crowd is off the chart. Wish I'd been able to see Laura Marling though.

Speechless due to fatal attack of Muse. Normal service will be resumed shortly.
27 Jun

I would have been tweeting throughout, but it was JUST TOO GOOD.
27 Jun
And having been previously cynical, what a wonderful choice of collaboration track Streets Have No Name was.
A Four Tet DJ set seems like a good way to loosen up after such a night.

Oh Four Tet, you were very wonderful

Saturday Top 5: 1) Muse 2) The National 3) Four Tet (dj set) 4) Peter Hook (in conversation) 5) Silver Columns
27 Jun
All I want is a curry before noon, but YOU'RE ALL only selling bacon butties
27 Jun
Haven't heard any celebrity death rumours yet. Cliff Richard has usually corked it by this point
Twitter! Help me start the rumour that Robert Kilroy-Silk has died!
Oh em gee! Just heard Robert Kilroy-Silk has died! Run over by a shopping trolley apparently!
27 Jun

I'm not sure the guy with the DROP BEATS NOT BOMBS t-shirt has considered the real world practicalites of such a foreign policy.
27 Jun

Walking across site. Surprising numbers avoiding game. Temper Trap and Jaguar Skills playing to good crowds.
27 Jun

Meanwhile Broadcast 2000 on BBC Introducing stage are playing the football commentary in between their songs!
Alex Metric felt lacklustre, so have come to Cabaret tent to see Shappi Khorsandi tell jokes instead.
"I read this wonderful piece in the paper - no sorry - the Metro, yesterday" Shappi Khorsandi, Cabaret tent.
I Am Kloot are making some beautiful noises in the Queen's Head right about now. The new songs are a revelation

I Am Kloot were wonderful. They'll be the set everybody talks about on the Other Stage at 2011, that's my prediction.

Seeing LCD Soundsystem twice already this summer, so am at Faithless instead. Want to hear Insomnia live again
27 Jun

Faithless: only just not as good as Scissor Sisters last night. Imagine they've won a lot of fans back.

Fair to say the majority of the audience are at Faithless just for the hits. New stuff is winning them over though.

Just saw four policeman on horseback each wearing Village People headwear. They were probably cheered louder than Gorillaz on friday
27 Jun

Orbital release thousands of glow sticks into the crowd! Via strategically placed friends in the crowd!
Orbital Doctor Who end set madness!
27 Jun
We made a dash for Four Tet's set after Orbital. Never a decision one is going to regret.
27 Jun

Four Tet was as beautiful as one could wish for. Now rushing to The Park because have heard a Chemical Brothers DJ set rumour.

Made in to a gay club in Block 9 where you pay £2 or just flash your penis for free entry
28 Jun

We obviously took the latter option.
28 Jun

Now at Arcadia. Haven't experienced an insaner club night than this set up. And it only lasts 3 days a year.

No queues to get out the car park! Woo! I don't think I've ever had happier news. Thank you , and happy birthday.

Top 5 of Sunday: 1) Orbital 2) I Am Kloot 3) Four Tet 4) Shappi Khorsandi (Cabaret tent) 5) Faithless

Top 5 of : 1) Thom Yorke & Johnny Greenwood 2) Muse 3) Groove Armada 4) The National 5) Orbital

Reading my tweets I was too drunk to remember on the Guardian's site. An odd feeling, one I imagine few people can ever have
28 Jun

In 2011 I'll be at Glastonbury again, as well as Coachella. Expect more livetweeting then.