Monday, July 11, 2011

My little runaround

For reasons that are unlikely to become clear in this lifetime, I've started running. Well. it's been about nine months now so started might be pushing it slightly.

As I run on my own, I have taken obsession with my ipod to the nth degree. For many months, exercise was a method to listen to podcasts. You see, I've tried songs before and frankly, they're too short. As one song ends, so does my motivation. Therefore it's either later Talk Talk (average song length: seven minutes) or it's podcasts and preferably one lasting longer than 30 minutes.

My list of usual suspects includes Adam and Joe, the Guardian's Football Weekly, Mayo and Kermode's film review, Collins and Herring, the Word and so on. Most average 50-60 minutes.

Here's the rub. I have a new phone and a new exercise tracking program, one that pulls music from my playlists automatically. I have, therefore been letting it do so in the knowledge that I've only upload around 40 songs to my phone.

My recent runs have been to a soundtrack of early 80s wonderment. There has been ABC, Japan, Yazoo and the Specials. There has also been some comparative mid 80s maturity in the shape of The Smiths, The Cure and Billy Bragg.

These are all the antidote of the kind of crap you find spouted by sections of the running community who seem to think it's all about beats per minute. Well, to me it's all about listening to a song and forgetting about the fact I'm running at the same time. I need distraction not pacing.

Both above all else, the soundtrack to my running, the thing that has got me going is the enriched vocal talents of Mr Glen Gregory. So despite their appearance on those awful Plusnet adverts and some appearances with the awful La Roux (why name yourself after a mixture of flour and butter?), there is little else to say other than, for the fifteen minutes or so that I'm out running, Heaven 17's Come Live With Me, is the best song ever.

Just don't listen too closely to the lyrics.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You're my first, my last, my everything

After the wedding comes the Alan Hansen show.

I'll leave a minute dissection of how splendid a day it was for elsewhere, however whilst the song for the first dance got a couple of nice comments, the song for the second one got a lot!

The first dance was Billy Bragg's You Make Me Brave because frankly, that's what we do for each other.

The second was Bob Dylan's I'll Be Your Baby Tonight! This seemed to be really popular and may turn out to be one of the things people remember. Funny really, I had the idea for a novel I'm still trying to get published. One of the best sections involves a student union disco where this is the most popular song. And it turns out to be true. Time to revisit the novel I think.

And of those who were left at the end, the opinion of my friends seemed to be that Gene's We'll Find Our Own Way was a really good choice for the last dance.

All three are most definitely the best three songs ever.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Just because you haven't heard it, doesn't mean it wont work

Eight days from now, the wedding dance will start.

I've emailed a list of requests to the DJ. It was divided into three. Songs requested by guests. Songs that I think would be good to play. Songs that I absolutely want played.

The DJ, on the one occasion we spoke, sounded like a decent man. There is a stereotype of the wedding DJ, the man would couldn't get on radio, the man one step away from children's parties, the wacky, the loud, the full of himself. And he did not seem to meet any of those stereotypes.

OK, so they may not be stereotypes, they may actually be prejudices. I'll admit it.

Anyway, his emailed reply suggested that the first two lists would not be a problem, however he said he did not have copies of any of my non-negotiable list. This is not a huge surprise. Instead it is a mild surprise. Some of them are most unlikely to rear their semi-ugly heads at weddings but I did think that one or two might have appeared.

So, here's the list:

You Make Me Brave - Billy Bragg (first dance)

I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Bob Dylan (second dance)

She Bangs The Drum - The Stone Roses

Sea of Love - Phil Phillips

What You Do To Me - Teenage Fanclub

Enjoy Yourself - The Specials

An Audience With the Pope - Elbow

Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher - Jackie Wilson

We'll Find Our Own Way - Gene (last dance)

Now what could be so weird about that lot?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I cried like a baby, ironically

Following on from the previous post which can be summarised as "noises that delight children but annoy adults", I have an addition.

Noises from children that thrill adults

This particular example is of a simple little song, sung by my two-year-old nephew during a Christmas Day telephone call.

He's at home in Armagh, I'm currently out in Silver City, New Mexico. But to hear him sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star so beautifully was one of the best things I've experienced all year. If not the best.

Therefore Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is by far and away the song of the year. But only when sung by Ben.

Friday, December 26, 2008

See, now here's the thing. Does a song actually have to be good, well played or beautfully arranged to be best song ever? Or can it just be simply annoying and work its way into your soul that way?

I'll give two examples. First, Silent Night (all good so far) played in a Latino style at Albuquerque airport (I refuse to call it a "Sunport" as they'd like). The second is I'm a Little Teapot, played through the atonal medium of a child's doll. The child in question has no idea that this song is causing certain adults (mostly me) to contemplate a childless existence or imposing a rule that all musical toys should be vetted by the parents at least three months in advance.

I'd hate to say bah humbug. But I can't stop humming a tiny little song about teapot thanks to a tinny rendition played when a doll's stomach is pressed. Repeatedly. That's got to make it the best song ever. Right?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Leavin' on a jet plane

...I'll be back in about ten days

Doesn't quite have the same ring to it and it's not a song that I've heard all the way through. In fact, I don't think I've heard more than those two lines.

I'm flying out to Denver this morning. A nine or ten hour flight from Heathrow. I've checked the films BA will be showing and frankly, they wont detain me for long. I've brought some things to do (as a part-time student and full-time worker, I need these opportunities to read and make notes) but I've also topped up the old Shuffle with a tune or two.

There aren't any in particular that I'm salivating at the thought of listening to. This is mostly because I know what I'm like on planes. I will spend nine or ten hours flitting between activities. I will spend nine or ten hours doing this and that for ten or fifteen minutes. Diana will sleep for the whole journey so she's the lucky one.

I will, from time to time, listen to a very British song, a slightly morose effort with someone I don't usually care for, a great guitar solo. It's almost vaguely apposite for half a dozen ways (band reunion including). For the Christmas period then, Blur's This is a Low is the best song ever.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Subjectivity and modernity (sounds like an OMD album to me)

In any normal year, if some of my purchases matched the various end-of-year lists then there would be some celebration chez nous.

Actually, the normal years stopped around the turn of the century when I stopped a) caring and b) buying because a) I got bored b) I couldn't keep up and c) anyway keeping up meant listening to things that sounded a little bit too much like things that I've already listened too and frankly I'd rather listen to those things stuff again.

I have bought a few more records/albums/downloads this year. But I have mostly been buying new albums by artists I already own records/albums/downloads by.

And not all of them very any good.


So, imagine my surprise when The Times included three of my purchases in its top twenty rock and pop albums of the year. Imagine my astonishment when two of them were the rather average albums by REM and Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan.

The Times 100 best records of 2008

The third of my purchases also made it into The Guardian's poll. Its Elbow's Seldom Seen Kid which is, at least, rather good. A description Guy Garvey might not worry to much about.

To be more precise, it paints the most distinct aural picture since Talk Talk's Laughing Stock. Which is a description Guy Garvey might be slightly more interested in.

The problem is, I rather like Laughing Stock (which makes my understatement of the year list). So far, I've only been able to admire Elbow's album. I should like it more. It should be a relief it exists compared to other people's efforts. But it's not. Perhaps I like Laughing Stock too much. Back to square one with Mr. Garvey then.

Guardian critics poll

Of the other records/albums/downloads I've bought this year, I'd like to put in a good word for Billy Bragg's Mr Love and Justice which has four or five really strong songs of tender beauty.

Releasing it as a band version and an old Billy style one man and his guitar version was a mistake though. The band allows him to explore the full emotional range of each song. On his own with his guitar, he only explores the emotional range of The Saturday Boy.

However, if anyone has written finer songs than I Keep Faith or You Make Me Brave during the course of the last two years, well I'll disappointedly admit that this sort of thing is a subjective judgment and although I might disagree others are entitled to their views.

I also enjoyed the Hungry Saw, the new album by The Tindersticks. Not as lavishly orchestrated as albums of old but it hardly matters when the tunes are good and supplemented by emphasising words like cut, skin, muscle, crack and bone. And that's just the title track.

There are several gems on there as well.

One minor flaw though, what, or who, exactly is Boopar?

And then there's Decoration. If you haven't heard of them, scroll through the archives. The name will come up a few times.

The new album, See You After The War came out this year. I'm still thinking about it.

Two tracks, Somewhere In Western Approaches and Our Friends Don't Mix are fantastic. I'm just worried that they're running out songs. There seem to be a few too many re-writes to be completely healthy.

But I'm still thinking about that too.

Anyway, Billy Bragg and The Tindersticks were overlooked by the Berliner broadsheets so it's hardly surprising that Decoration were too. But that's fine, I don't need validation from a subjective list anymore.

This is probably why, when I sit down with a DJ to plan the songs to be played at my wedding, they will tend to come from 1965, 1982 and 1995. There might be a couple from 2008. But no more.

And finally...

I really ought to saw what the best song ever is. Well, for at least the next fifteen minutes, and possible well into the new year, the best song ever is Billy Bragg's I Keep Faith.