Phone Box Thursday: Claypath, Durham

Back to Durham today for a couple of phone boxes in the centre of town.

Red phone boxes
Red phone boxes, Claypath, Durham, 14th May 2016.

Bit of a blurry photo today, I’m afraid, as we were in a hurry to get back to the train station and I could only take a photo from a distance.  Next time I’m in Durham I’ll try and remember to take one from close up!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #99

Day 99 brings us to Now! #99, which was released on 23rd March 2018.

March 2018
This is how the world looked in March 2018. I have hundreds of photos from that month depicting things that I was getting rid of in my clothes cull – the joys of digital hoarding – but this is the only one I have of me, although I suspect Mum and Dad probably have some from their visit to Newcastle that month that I’ve not seen yet. Winning my Slimming World group’s Greatest Loser award was one of my highlights of my journey to target. The house, meanwhile, was even messier and full of boxes than it is now.

I’m starting to get a little suspicious that some of the tracks on these latest Now! compilations weren’t actually hits at all.  I know that a) the charts change so rapidly that there too many songs to remember and b) most chart music these days is so generic that it all blurs into one, but my memory is pretty good, and given that all of these songs are supposed to have been in the charts just a few months ago, I’m surprised that there are so many song titles I don’t recognise.  I will have to do some research as we go through them.

We’ve finally reached the current year, 2018!  Let’s see what pop music has come to these days.

Now! That's What I Call Music #99
Track 1: Rudimental, Jess Glynne, Macklemore and Dan Caplen – These Days

Now I know I’m nearly at the end of this long Now! marathon – this track is still currently (as of today, 19th July 2018) in the Top 40.  We’re so close to the end!

I find the tune pretty irritating and the theme a bit awkward, but there’s some good stuff going on with the lyrics.

Track 2: Dua Lipa – IDGAF

Another tune that really annoys me.

Track 3: Portugal The Man – Feel It Still

Great tune, great danceable beat, and a lyric like ‘let me kick it like it’s 1986 now‘ is always going to go down well with me.  Love this one.

Track 4: Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton – Say Something

I really like this tune – it builds very nicely.

Track 5: Taylor Swift – Ready For It?

Good atmosphere, but the tune is very forgettable.

Track 6: Marshmello and Anne-Marie – Friends

This one is insidiously catchy and was stuck in my head for weeks earlier this year.  I’m not a fan of the tune or the theme, so it wasn’t pleasant.

Track 7: Bruno Mars and Cardi B – Finesse

I do like that early ’90s feel (which, judging by the style of the video, is deliberate).  Like the callback to Walk This Way too.

Track 8: Sigala and Paloma Faith – Lullaby

Another annoying tune, but it’s got a good beat.

Track 9: Craig David and Bastille – I Know You

I really like the rhythm, but I find the song a bit cheesy.

Track 10: Jason Derulo and French Montana – Tiptoe

Good solid danceable pop song – really like this one.

Track 11: Jax Jones and Ina Wroldsen – Breathe

Good beat, good tune – quite like this track.

Track 12: George Ezra – Paradise

I really like George Ezra’s stuff – it’s so different to the generic EDM-hip-hop-pop lyrically-vapid tuneless mush that makes up the bulk of the charts these days.  This is an upbeat feelgood song with great lyrics and an awesome chant-along bit near the end.

Track 13: Kylie Minogue – Dancing

There is something indescribably comforting about the fact that, thirty years after I Should Be So Lucky became the favourite song of every girl in my nursery school class, Kylie Minogue is still featuring on Now! compilations.  I feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I really like the guitar on this one – it’s a nice, pretty tune with a retro feel.

Track 14: Camila Cabello – Never Be The Same

Pretty tune, but it’s a little slow for me.

Track 15: Mabel and Notes – Fine Line

I quite like the tinkly instrumentals on this one, and it’s a good tune.

Track 16: Sigrid – Strangers

It’s got a good rhythm, but the tune annoys me.

Track 17: Paloma Faith – Guilty

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Paloma Faith on track 8.

As I explained in the intro, there have been a few tracks on Now! compilations recently I’ve not recognised, including this one.  Looking it up, I now know why.  This wasn’t actually a hit – not in the UK or anywhere else.  As such, I’m not sure why it’s been included!

It’s got a great atmosphere and a nice classic feel, though.

Track 18: Pink – Beautiful Trauma

I find this one a bit depressing, though the tune is very pretty.

Track 19: James Arthur – Naked

Too slow for me, and I don’t like the tune.

Track 20: Tom Walker – Leave A Light On

Again it’s a little too slow for me, but it’s got a good epic atmosphere.

Track 21: Calum Scott – You Are The Reason

Another one that wasn’t a hit – it only got to number 43!

This one’s too slow for me, and the tune’s very depressing.

Track 22: Sam Smith – One Last Song

I quite like the retro-sounding instrumentals on this track.

Track 23: Stormzy and MNEK – Blinded By Your Grace [Part II]

Good tune – quite like this one.

Track 24: Post Malone and Ty Dolla Sign – Psycho

Interesting instrumentals, but I don’t like the tune – it’s very repetitive.

Track 25: Blocboy JB and Drake – Look Alive

Not enough melody for me.

Track 26: Khalid – Location

Another non-hit – this only got to number 67!

Great atmosphere and classic feel – quite like this one.

Track 27: NF – Let You Down

I can’t stand this track – the tune and the high-pitched vocals are so irritating.

Track 28: Ramz – Barking

Great track!  Endearing theme, interesting tune.  Big fan of this one.

Track 29: J Hus – Bouff Daddy

Good atmosphere, but the tune’s boring.

Track 30: Cliq and Alika – Wavey

Also not a hit – this one only got to number 44!

It’s got a good rhythm, but I could do with some more melody.

Track 31: Dave and Mostack – No Words

Nice tune, but the rap’s too messy for me.

Track 32: B Young – Jumanji

It’s got an okay beat, but the tune’s very uninspired.

Track 33: Raye and Mr Eazi – Decline

It’s based heavily around an interpolation of 2002 hit Always On Time by Ja Rule and Ashanti.  I just find it very unoriginal.

Track 34: Notes and Mabel – My Lover

Double repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had both Notes and Mabel on track 15.

This tune really irritates me.

Track 35: Rak-Su, Wyclef Jean and Naughty Boy – Dimelo

This is an interesting one.  It was the X Factor winner’s single for 2017, and for the last couple of years the X Factor winner’s single has not been featured on the spring Now! compilation like it used to be – both Louisa Johnson’s Forever Young and Matt Terry’s When Christmas Comes Around were left out, the latter presumably partly because nobody wants to hear an explicitly Christmas-themed song in the spring.  Part of this, I believe, is because of the X Factor‘s decline in popularity recently, but it’s meant we’ve not been following an interesting change.  Louisa Johnson’s winner’s single was a cover as usual – Forever Young was originally a Bob Dylan song – but Matt Terry’s When Christmas Comes Around was an original song (written by Ed Sheeran), which was a first for the X Factor since Shayne Ward’s That’s My Goal, and signalled an interesting move away from its irritating karaoke format.  This move towards original songs continued in the 2017 competition, with many of the contestants (notably Rak-Su and Grace Davies) performing tracks they had written themselves.

As such, this winner’s single from Rak-Su is self-written – an upbeat Latin-tinged hip-hop track with great lyrics and a clever interpolation of Wyclef Jean’s lines from Hips Don’t Lie – and as a result it’s the only X Factor winner’s single I’ve ever liked.  It’s a great track.  It’s just a shame we had to put up with years of awful pointless cover versions to get to this stage.

(I should note that, despite the above essay, I’ve never actually watched the X Factor.  My interest in this stuff is purely from a chart geek perspective.)

Track 36: G-Eazy and Halsey – Him And I

Pretty tune, quite like this one.

Track 37: Sza and Calvin Harris – The Weekend

Another non-hit!  This only got to number 55.

I’m not hugely keen on the tune on this one, but it’s got a good retro-sounding beat.

Track 38: Hailee Steinfeld, Alesso, Florida-Georgia Line and Watt – Let Me Go

Another generic, irritating tune.

Track 39: 5 Seconds Of Summer – Want You Back

Nice tune, but the verse is too slow and cheesy for me.  The chorus is good though – and I love that rock guitar.

Track 40: Demi Lovato – Tell Me You Love Me

Yet another one that wasn’t a hit – this one only got to number 85!

It’s got a good atmosphere though – really like those instrumentals.  The tune’s nice, but it’s a bit slow for me.

Track 41: Maroon 5 – Wait

And another non-hit – number 79 for this song.

Not keen on this tune – it’s pretty generic.

Track 42: James Bay – Wild Love

This one’s too slow for me.  Nice tune though.

Track 43: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – As You Are

The complete opposite of a hit.  This didn’t chart at all!

I like the instrumentals at the start, but again it’s not upbeat enough for my liking.

Track 44: U2 – You’re The Best Thing About Me

This one, meanwhile, only got to number 92.

It’s nice to hear some rock music, but the tune’s a bit dull.  It’s got a good retro-sounding instrumental in the middle though.

Track 45: Oasis – Live Forever

This wasn’t actually back in the charts this year (so it’s yet another non-hit, although of course it was a hit on its original release in 1994), but there was an increased awareness of it due to Liam Gallagher performing it at the Brits in tribute to the Manchester Arena bombing victims.

One more thing: I just want to add a quick note about all the non-hits that have littered this playlist.  While I’ve only just noticed it with this one, I suspect non-hits have been a thing for quite a few Now! compilations leading up to this, as there have been quite a few instances where I’m surprised I recognise so few of the tracks (as I mentioned in the intro, while it is tough to remember hundreds of generic songs, I have followed the charts religiously this decade and have a good memory).

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I can sort of understand it in a way, as 95% of chart music in the late ’10s is woefully, utterly dire.  It’s awful – the worst quality it has ever been in my lifetime.  Most of it is completely generic, uninspired and half-arsed, and so I have a bit of sympathy for the Now! compilers deciding to include songs that they think are good but didn’t trouble the charts for whatever reason, rather than yet another terrible identical-sounding EDM track that somehow managed to get to number 24 for a few weeks.

At the same time, what I’ve always liked about the Now! compilations is that they do reflect the most popular music of the time – good and bad.  I feel that including songs that weren’t hits, that weren’t soundtracking people’s lives by being played on the radio and on TV shows and at sports events – well, it kind of takes away from the status of these albums as cultural artefacts of the time.  I’m a little sad about that.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings with the release of the 100th entry in this long music marathon.

2018 Ciders #40: Sheppy’s Classic Draught Cider

On visiting my parents’ house recently, I found that Dad had collected a whole load of different Sheppy’s ciders while on a trip to the West Country.  Expect to see lots of them reviewed here over the next few weeks!

Sheppy's Classic Draught Cider
Sheppy’s Classic Draught Cider.

Sheppy’s Classic Draught has what I would consider a perfect medium taste.  It’s also very refreshing without being too watery-tasting – absolutely perfect for summer.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #98

Day 98 takes us to Now! #98, which came out on 17th November 2017.

November 2017
This is the way the world looked in November 2017. It may have been 2017 but it’ll always be the ’80s in my world. Especially in London goth clubs, where the style’s not changed in over thirty years and I can dance away happily to my favourite Tears For Fears and Soft Cell tracks.

The following are not likely to be played at goth clubs, but let’s see what the party season songs were for this most recent Christmas period.

Now! That's What I Call Music #98
Track 1: Camila Cabello and Young Thug – Havana

Good solid pop tune – love the Latin feel.  Really nice song.

Track 2: Post Malone and 21 Savage – Rockstar

There are some interesting instrumentals going on, but it’s got quite a depressing feel.

Track 3: Sam Smith – Too Good At Goodbyes

Too slow and ballad-y for me.

Track 4: Pink – What About Us

It’s an okay song with an important theme, but I find it a bit depressing.

Track 5: Dua Lipa – New Rules

Absolutely wonderful track, gorgeous instrumentals, great tune, clever lyrics and vocals.  The video is immense too.

Track 6: Ed Sheeran – Galway Girl

Inspired by the Irish folk classic of the same name, but nowhere near as good.  Still a nice upbeat song though.

Track 7: Charlie Puth – How Long

I really like this one – great atmosphere, awesome tune, retro feel.

Track 8: CNCO and Little Mix – Reggaetón Lento

Very danceable Latin-tinged pop – good stuff.

Track 9: J Balvin and Willy William – Mi Gente

More great Latin pop (Despacito really kicked off a trend in 2017).  I remember dancing to all of these in Zumba class.  This one’s got an awesome atmosphere and a really interesting rhythm.

Track 10: Justin Bieber and BloodPop – Friends

I really like the bassline, but the tune’s pretty uninspired.

Track 11: Zayn and Sia – Dusk Till Dawn

Nice epic chorus, but on the whole the tune’s a bit generic.

Track 12: Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj – Swish Swish

Great beat, but agin the tune’s not very exciting.

Track 13: Demi Lovato – Sorry Not Sorry

This tune really irritates me.

Track 14: Stefflon Don and French Montana – Hurtin’ Me

Another one where I just don’t like the tune.  I also find the theme irritating.

Track 15: Louis Tomlinson, Bebe Rexha and Digital Farm Animals – Back To You

Yet another annoying tune!

Track 16: Khalid – Young Dumb And Broke

I quite like this one – it’s got an interesting rhythm and an endearing theme.

Track 17: Maroon 5 and Sza – What Lovers Do

Nice feelgood song – the vocals are a little irritating, but I quite like the tune.

Track 18: Jason Derulo – If I’m Lucky

Good atmosphere, but the tune’s very generic.

Track 19: Clean Bandit and Julia Michaels – I Miss You

Again, I just don’t find this tune very interesting.

Track 20: Alma – Chasing Highs

Uninspired and depressing.

Track 21: Zedd and Liam Payne – Get Low

Another very bland tune.

Track 22: Charli XCX – Boys

Great track!  Fun theme, interesting instrumentals.  The celebrity-filled video is great too.

Track 23: Rita Ora – Anywhere

It’s got a good beat, but it’s another bland tune.

Track 24: Marshmello and Khalid – Silence

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Khalid on track 16.

This is a lovely tune though.

Track 25: Avicii and Rita Ora – Lonely Together

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Rita Ora on track 23.

I find the tune on this really irritating, but the backing track is great.

Track 26: James Hype and Kelli-Leigh – More Than Friends

Generic-sounding dance cover of En Vogue’s ’90s classic Don’t Let Go.  The original song is beautiful.  This track is anything but.

Track 27: Yungen and Yxng Bane – Bestie

That chorus is incredibly annoying.

Track 28: Mabel and Kojo Funds – Finders Keepers

So is the chorus on this one.

Track 29: Chris Brown – Questions

This is the second hit in the space of eighteen months that interpolates Kevin Lyttle’s 2003 classic Turn Me On, after Cheat Codes and Dante Klein’s Let Me Hold You (Turn Me On) in 2016.  I think it’s fairly poorly done, and I love the original so I find all these poor imitations pretty irritating.

Track 30: Craig David – Heartline

Dull and generic.

Track 31: Selena Gomez and Marshmello – Wolves

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Marshmello on track 24.

I quite like the tune on this one, though.

Track 32: MK – 17

Another really irritating tune.

Track 33: Axwell & Ingrosso – More Than You Know

I like the guitar at the start, and the tune’s okay if a bit generic.

Track 34: Liam Payne – Bedroom Floor

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Liam Payne on track 21.

It’s another fairly generic tune, but I remember I had the chart on in the background last year, and this was playing and got to the lyric ‘but your clothes say different on my bedroom floor‘.  Geth interjected crossly, ‘Stop stealing her clothes then!’  It really cracked me up and is all I can think about when I hear this song now.

Track 35: Duke Dumont, Gorgon City and Naations – Real Life

Another boring tune that sounds like every other dance track this decade.

Track 36: CamelPhat and Elderbrook – Cola

Really squicky theme – to put it bluntly, it’s blatantly a song about spiking someone’s drink.  It’s a shame, ’cause it would be a good track if it weren’t for that.

Track 37: Lil’ Uzi Vert – XO Tour Llif3

Some interesting instrumentals going on, but the tune’s very bland.

Track 38: Big Shaq – Man’s Not Hot

Very funny hip-hop parody, and it’s got a good rhythm to boot.  Really like this.

Track 39: Chris & Kem – Little Bit Leave It

Apparently these dudes were on Love Island or something.  I’m not sure why someone allowed them to release a song – it’s extremely grating.

Track 40: Cardi B – Bodak Yellow

I find this one extremely depressing.

Track 41: Logic, Alessia Cara and Khalid – 1-800-273-8255

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Khalid on both track 16 and track 24.  Give someone else a chance!

This one’s got a nice tune, but it’s too slow for me.

Track 42: Paloma Faith – Crybaby

I like the rhythm, but the tune’s very dull.

Track 43: The Script – Rain

The tune’s okay except for that annoying chorus.

Track 44: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Grace (We All Try)

The tune’s quite interesting, but again it’s too slow for me.

Track 45: Liam Gallagher – Wall Of Glass

Very refreshing to hear some actual rock music – it’s something different, finally.

Track 46: The Killers – The Man

Love the retro disco sound on this one.  Great stuff.

Cheesecake

I believe it was in New York City in 2004 that cheesecake became my favourite dessert.  This would make sense, as New York is of course famous for its cheesecake.  My brother Malcolm and I would go out at night to the street vendors that were selling it and bring it back to our hotel room.  Later that year, Dad found a recipe online, and for the last fourteen years he’s been able to make a pretty good New York style cheesecake himself.  I have it every year for my birthday.

Birthday cheesecake
My birthday cake from January 2017. The baking process usually results in a crack across the middle, but it always tastes amazing.

Probably the best non-New York style cheesecake I’ve tried is at Artisan Cheesecakes in Edinburgh:

Artisan Cheesecakes
So rich, so incredible.  We had these in June 2016.

I keep meaning to go back when I’m in Edinburgh but have not got round to it yet.  Being on Slimming World kind of gets in the way of being free to stuff your face with cheesecake, so I have to plan for it.  Maybe later this year.

I’ve got a lot of meals out to go to this week, so am sticking to my current strategy of ‘skip the starter so I can have cheesecake at the end’.  As such, I’ll probably have a cheesecake roundup for you next week.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #97

Day 97 equals Now! #97, which was released on 21st July 2017.

July 2017
This is how the world looked in July 2017, the morning of the day Jodie Whittaker was announced as the new Doctor and hence the last day I was able to wear that T-shirt without it being out of date. I was planning to get some iron-on stickers for it, but then it got far too big for me anyway!

Last year’s summer hits were pretty good from what I remember.  Let’s have a listen.

Now! That's What I Call Music #97
Track 1: Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber – Despacito

Gorgeous Latin summer tune, deservedly one of the biggest hits of the year.

Track 2: DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper and Lil’ Wayne – I’m The One

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve only just had Justin Bieber on track 1.

This is an extremely irritating track with too many rappers on it, none of whom contribute anything good.

Track 3: Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean – Feels

Great funk rhythm, great tune.  Really like this one.

Track 4: Jonas Blue and William Singe – Mama

This tune really irritates me.

Track 5: Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson – Symphony

Gorgeous instrumentals – quite like this track.

Track 6: Little Mix and Stormzy – Power

This is one that was used in Zumba class last year – I love the vocals.

Track 7: Liam Payne and Quavo – Strip That Down

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Quavo on track 2.

I really like the rhythm on this one – it’s very danceable.

Track 8: The Chainsmokers and Coldplay – Something Just Like This

I find this tune insanely irritating, and the theme’s horribly twee.

Track 9: David Guetta and Justin Bieber – 2U

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Justin Bieber on both track 1 and track 2.  Nobody needs that much Bieber on a Now! compilation!

This one’s a dull, forgettable tune.

Track 10: Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

I really like the classic feel to this – there’s something about it that reminds me of the slower dramatic examples of glam rock.

Track 11: Shawn Mendes – There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back

Cheesy and annoying.

Track 12: Rita Ora – Your Song

I really like this one – great tune, great electro lines.

Track 13: Olly Murs and Louisa Johnson – Unpredictable

Excruciatingly boring tune.

Track 14: Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

Great rhythm, great lyrics.  Good stuff.

Track 15: Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla Sign – Swalla

I love this one!  It’s really danceable, and the vocals are awesome.

Track 16: Katy Perry and Migos – Bon Appétit

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Katy Perry on track 3.

This tune is highly dull and generic.  I’m starting to wonder how all these half-arsed attempts at tunes are becoming hits.

Track 17: Nick Jonas, Anne-Marie and Mike Posner – Remember I Told You

Another track that’s so boring I can’t concentrate on it.

Track 18: Lady Gaga – The Cure

A slower track from Lady Gaga, but I like the dramatic feel.  Would have been even better if the lyrics had been about the Cure as in the band though!

Track 19: Camila Cabello – Crying In The Club

Love the atmosphere of this one, and the interpolation of the melody from Christina Aguilera’s Genie In A Bottle is done really well.

Track 20: Niall Horan – Slow Hands

The theme irritates me, and I can’t get on with the rhythm.

Track 21: Miley Cyrus – Malibu

Pretty tune – I find some of the lyrics a bit grating, but it’s got a nice summery feel.

Track 22: Ariana Grande – One Last Time

Originally released in 2014, back in the charts to raise money after the Manchester Arena attack.  It’s a gorgeous tune, but I find the theme uncomfortable.

Track 23: French Montana and Swae Lee – Unforgettable

Good beat, but I’m not keen on the tune.

Track 24: Sigala and Ella Eyre – Came Here For Love

Another tune that I find really irritating.

Track 25: Maggie Lindemann – Pretty Girl [Cheat Codes X Cade Remix]

Annoying tune, but the theme is the real issue here – cloying and vomit-inducingly smug.

Track 26: The Weeknd – Rockin’

Forgettable and dull.

Track 27: Little Mix and Machine Gun Kelly – No More Sad Songs

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Little Mix on track 6.

Another annoying tune.

Track 28: Jax Jones, Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don – Instruction

I really like this one – great beat, great theme.

Track 29: Cheat Codes and Demi Lovato – No Promises

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve only just had Demi Lovato on track 28.

Again, I don’t like the tune.

Track 30: Disciples – On My Mind

Great track – good tune, very danceable.

Track 31: J Hus – Did You See

Interesting track – I like the lyrics.

Track 32: Kendrick Lamar – Humble

Another interesting song – there’s some great lines here.  I quite like this one.

Track 33: Future – Mask Off

I really like the melancholy tune on the backing track – it’s gorgeous.

Track 34: Kygo and Ellie Goulding – First Time

Twee, saccharine and bland.

Track 35: Martin Garrix and Troye Sivan – There For You

Another tune I just can’t get into.

Track 36: Rudimental and James Arthur – Sun Comes Up

Generic, annoying tune.

Track 37: Hailee Steinfeld – Most Girls

It’s a bit cheesy, but I quite like this one.

Track 38: Selena Gomez – Bad Liar

Good retro sound, even better retro video.

Track 39: Neiked and Mimi – Call Me

Nice feelgood tune, but the vocals are really irritating.

Track 40: Raye – The Line

Nothing exciting about this one.

Track 41: Fifth Harmony and Gucci Mane – Down

Repetitive and dull.

Track 42: Haim – Want You Back

Again, I just can’t get excited about this tune.  I do like the retro tinge on the instrumentals though.

Track 43: JP Cooper – Passport Home

Too slow for me, and the theme’s very cheesy.

Track 44: Take That – Giants

Another boring tune.

Track 45: Artists For Grenfell – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Charity cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic to raise money for the victims of the Grenfell fire.  There’s some interesting stuff in this version, especially the added rap by Stormzy at the start.

My new(ish) toy

I spent most of today buried in my Kindle.  I got it from Mum and Dad for Christmas but it’s only this last week that I’ve actually loaded it up with ebooks and started using it.  There are a few odd things that it keeps doing without asking, and it’s not got a very good system for turning itself on and off, but it makes reading so easy that I’m a total convert after one day of use.

This is very good news for my poor, groaning bookshelves, as well as for the limited amount of space in the house.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #96

Day 96’s Now! compilation was released on 7th April 2017.

April 2017
This is the way the world looked in April 2017. The mouth of the Tyne was chilly but beautiful.  I’m glad we’re returning to the ferry photos in this final week, as they call to mind some early entries in the marathon such as Now! #3 and Now! #15.

Another new year, some more new hits.

Now! That's What I Call Music #96
Track 1: Ed Sheeran – Castle On The Hill

I wasn’t sure about this track when I first heard it, but it’s really grown on me – it’s a real singalong classic.  Things that are great about it:

  1. The very relatable poetic evocation of what it feels like to be nostalgic for your teenage years.
  2. The reference to Tiny Dancer.
  3. The section describing what all the old friends are doing now – I think it’s lyrically very beautiful.
  4. The fact that Suffolk Police needed to emphasise road safety in response to the ‘driving at ninety down these country lanes‘ lyric.  If you’ve ever driven on British country lanes, you’ll know why ninety miles an hour is not a good idea.

Track 2: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Human

Great track – I love the atmosphere on this one!  It was also used really effectively in the trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda, which was a game I actually really loved.

Track 3: Little Mix – Touch

Good solid piece of pop – I really like this tune.

Track 4: The Weeknd and Daft Punk – Starboy

Another great atmosphere.

Track 5: The Chainsmokers – Paris

The tune’s pretty depressing, but the lyrics are quite good.

Track 6: Starley – Call On Me [Ryan Riback Remix]

There’s something I find really irritating about the tune on the vocals, but I quite like the instrumentals.

Track 7: Anne-Marie – Ciao Adios

Great pop track!  Really danceable – we did a cooldown to this one in Zumba class for a while – and the tune’s good too.

Track 8: Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

The tune’s a bit generic, but I like the ’80s feel.

Track 9: Zara Larsson – I Would Like

I find this tune really irritating.

Track 10: Katy Perry and Skip Marley – Chained To The Rhythm

Interesting theme, and it’s got a good beat.

Track 11: Sean Paul and Dua Lipa – No Lie

Another irritating tune.

Track 12: Martin Jensen – Solo Dance

It’s an okay beat, but it’s pretty forgettable.

Track 13: Zedd and Alessia Cara – Stay

I really don’t like this tune – it’s very depressing.  Also, I was really irritated at the time when the Viva music channel would always mute out the word ‘rum’ in the lyric ‘drinking rum and cola‘, because apparently it’s not acceptable even to say the names of alcoholic drinks before the watershed nowadays.

Track 14: Sigrid – Don’t Kill My Vibe

Boring and slow.

Track 15: Steve Aoki and Louis Tomlinson – Just Hold On

Very generic dance track, nothing special here.

Track 16: Dua Lipa – Be The One

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Dua Lipa on track 11.

It’s got quite a good chillout feel, but I’m not keen on the tune.

Track 17: Jonas Blue and Raye – By Your Side

Highly irritating tune, and it’s too high-pitched.

Track 18: Coldplay – Hypnotised

Too slow, forgettable tune, so dull I can’t concentrate.

Track 19: John Legend – Love Me Now

The tune’s okay, but it’s another one where I can’t get onboard with the theme.

Track 20: Robbie Williams – Love My Life

Great to see Robbie Williams still going strong, even if this song is almost tipping into self-parody.

Track 21: George Michael – Fastlove

We’ve already had this one on Now! #35, but as it was included here as a tribute to the late great George Michael shortly after his passing, I’ll let it slide.

See the link for my review.

Track 22: Jax Jones and Raye – You Don’t Know Me

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Raye on track 17.

I really like this track though – the bridge is awesome, and it’s got a great beat.

Track 23: The Weeknd and Daft Punk – Feel It Coming

Double repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had both the Weeknd and Daft Punk on track 4.

This one’s too cheesy for me, and not upbeat enough.  I like the retro feel though.

Track 24: Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa – Scared To Be Lonely

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Dua Lipa on both track 11 and track 16.  This is getting annoying!

Yet another irritating tune.

Track 25: Kygo and Selena Gomez – It Ain’t Me

Again, there’s something that really annoys me about the tune.

Track 26: Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane – Black Beatles

Great rhythm, but the tune’s very repetitive.

Track 27: Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello – Bad Things

I quite like this one – the tune on the chorus is nice.

Track 28: Sage The Gemini – Now And Later

I find this track pretty dull – it could do with a bit more melody.

Track 29: Tinie Tempah and Tinashe – Text From Your Ex

I quite like the atmosphere, but the tune’s nothing special.

Track 30: Stormzy – Big For Your Boots

Great rap track – the rhythm on this is awesome.

Track 31: Tom Zanetti and Sadie Ama – You Want Me

Takes ages to get going.  When it does, the tune’s very irritating and sounds almost off-key.

Track 32: Martin Solveig and Ina Wroldsen – Places

Another annoying tune.

Track 33: Robin Schulz, David Guetta and Cheat Codes – Shed A Light

I’m just not keen on this at all – it’s cheesy and generic.

Track 34: MO and Kent Jones – Not In Love

It’s another very forgettable tune, but I quite like the reggae-tinged beat.

Track 35: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Skin

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Rag ‘N’ Bone Man on track 2.

The tune’s very pretty, but it’s too slow for me.

Track 36: Train – Play That Song

Extremely irritating and twee!

Track 37: The Vamps and Matoma – All Night

That chorus is insanely annoying with its kiddie-sounding vocals, and the rest of the track’s not much better.

Track 38: Ariana Grande and Future – Everyday

Too slow for me, and the track’s very messy.

Track 39: Major Lazer, PartyNextDoor and Nicki Minaj – Run Up

Another irritating tune, but it’s got quite a good beat.

Track 40: Post Malone and Quavo – Congratulations

Not keen on the tune on this one.

Track 41: Julia Michaels – Issues

I really don’t like this one – the vocal style and rhythm are kind of stop-start, the tune’s nothing special, and the theme annoys me.

Track 42: Lorde – Green Light

This is a great song – I love the beat and the way it builds.  Wonderful track.

Track 43: Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean and Migos – Slide

The kiddie-sounding bit of the vocals are just incoherent shouting, and the tune’s pretty dull, but I like the retro-sounding instrumentals.

Stuff I like about my parents’ house #5: original GPO 746

I’ve blogged before about my replica GPO 746 landline phone.  It’s a good replica, but nothing beats the feel of dialling on the real deal.  This black version, which sits on Mum and Dad’s hall table and has done since before I was born, is the real deal.

Original GPO 746
An original GPO 746.

It came with the house when Mum and Dad bought it in 1982, so we assume it dates from the ’70s.  It still works fine.  In fact, there have been times when the house has had a power cut, and because of the way that phone is connected up, it still works despite the power cut.  My brother and I discovered this once when housesitting/catsitting for Mum and Dad and trying to find a way to order pizza while the electric company were digging something up on the other side of the street.

There have been a couple of hall tables in that spot while our family has lived there, but only ever one phone.  Good old black 746.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #95

Day 95, and we’re at Now! #95, which was released on 18th November 2016.

November 2016
This is how the world looked in November 2016. Running was much harder when I was bigger (you can see the tailrunner just behind me, which means I was the last finisher out of several hundred people…again), but I’m a stubborn cow and I still went out and did it every week. (Photo by Maggie Davison at Newcastle parkrun.)

Time for some party season hits!

Now! That's What I Call Music #95
Track 1: James Arthur – Say You Won’t Let Go

I can’t stand this one!  It’s so saccharine, and the theme just sits really awkwardly with me.

Track 2: Little Mix – Shout Out To My Ex

Great solid piece of pop – really like this.

Track 3: Clean Bandit, Sean Paul and Anne-Marie – Rockabye

The Christmas number one for 2016 – and, notably, the first Christmas number one since 1999 that wasn’t either a charity single or a talent show winner.  It’s a good song – although I find the theme too cheesy – but really I like this one for the hilarious bit in the video where all the old dudes in the pub mime along to Sean Paul’s vocals.

Track 4: The Chainsmokers and Halsey – Closer

It’s a bit repetitive, but I quite like this tune.  The lyrics are pretty daft though!

Track 5: Major Lazer, Justin Bieber and Mø – Cold Water

It’s an okay tune, but it’s a bit generic.

Track 6: Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj – Side To Side

Great piece of pop – love the rhythm on this.

Track 7: Sia – The Greatest

I find the chorus really grating, but the tune on the verses is okay.

Track 8: Calvin Harris – My Way

Nothing to do with the Frank Sinatra song.  This one’s got an irritating tune, and is very repetitive.

Track 9: Hailee Steinfeld, Grey and Zedd – Starving

Cheesy, too slow, and the lyrics are a bit awkward.

Track 10: MO – Who Do You Think Of?

This is the girl group MO, not to be confused with the solo singer Mø who also appears on this Now! compilation (twice).  This is a good, danceable pop tune – quite like this one.

Track 11: Neiked and Dyo – Sexual

Highly irritating tune, too high-pitched, awkward theme.  Not a fan.

Track 12: Anne-Marie – Alarm

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Anne-Marie on track 3.

Great atmosphere, but again I’m not keen on the theme.

Track 13: Olly Murs – You Don’t Know Love

I quite like this one – there’s a nice ’80s tinge to the backing track.

Track 14: Mø – Final Song

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Mø on track 5.

Pretty tune though, quite like this one.

Track 15: Maroon 5 – Don’t Wanna Know

The tune is super irritating, but the video, which parodies the Pokémon Go phenomenon, is great.

Track 16: JP Cooper – September Song

The chorus for this rips off the chorus of Jealous by Nick Jonas, so whenever I get one or the other stuck in my head it usually turns into an unwelcome mash-up.  The rest of the tune is just annoying.

Track 17: Shawn Mendes – Mercy

Too slow for me, but it’s an okay tune.

Track 18: Ellie Goulding – Still Falling For You

Dull, saccharine and irritating.

Track 19: Emeli Sandé – Hurts

Great tune, great atmosphere.  Really like this one.

Track 20: Michael Bublé – I Believe In You

Too cheesy for me.

Track 21: Craig David – All We Needed

The official Children In Need single for 2016 – and it’s finally something that’s not a cover!  I’m so glad the trend has finally shifted!

What I’m not glad about is that this track is super slow.  The piano’s nice, though.

Track 22: Drake, Wizkid and Kyla – One Dance

This was number one for fifteen weeks in the summer of 2016, equalling the second place for longest-lasting number one held by Wet Wet Wet since 1994 for Love Is All Around.  I found this really interesting – because I have clear memories of the Wet Wet Wet chart run from when I was nine, I was able to compare the way fifteen weeks felt as a child versus as an adult.  It went a lot quicker as an adult, because time always does (I’m a firm believer in the theory that we are constantly subconsciously comparing intervals of time to our total life so far, which is why time just gets faster and faster as you age), but it also felt like I did and achieved more, probably because I was running and working so much during that summer.

Anyway, the track.  It’s got a good beat, and the tune’s okay, but it certainly didn’t deserve to be number one for fifteen weeks.  Thankfully it didn’t equal or beat Bryan Adams’ 1991 record of sixteen weeks for Everything I Do (I Do It For You), so that still stands.

Track 23: DJ Snake and Justin Bieber – Let Me Love You

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Justin Bieber on track 5.

This tune is almost unbearably irritating and cheesy.  Not my thing at all.

Track 24: Fifth Harmony – That’s My Girl

The tune’s a bit annoying, but it’s got a good rhythm.

Track 25: Sigma and Birdy – Find Me

Too slow, but the atmosphere’s okay.

Track 26: Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha – In The Name Of Love

Pretty tune on the vocals, but the electro hook annoys me.

Track 27: Nevada, Mark Morrison and Fetty Wap – The Mack

This is the second ’10s cover version of Mark Morrison’s 1996 hit Return Of The Mack, after the one by Mann, Iyaz and Snoop Dogg in 2011 (which was also called The Mack).  It doesn’t really add anything to the original.

Track 28: Tieks and Dan Harkna – Sunshine

It’s got a good beat, but the tune annoys me.

Track 29: Zara Larsson – Ain’t My Fault

Okay tune, but the theme is really problematic.

Track 30: Bob Marley & The Wailers, Lvndscape and Bolier – Is This Love

Semi-cover of the 1978 classic, with some dance rhythms over the top.  It’s got a good atmosphere, but it can’t touch the original.

Track 31: Digital Farm Animals, Cash Cash and Nelly – Millionaire

Irritating kiddie-style vocals on the chorus, and the tune annoys me.

Track 32: Snakehips and Zayn – Cruel

Forgettable tune, boring vocals.

Track 33: Matoma and Becky Hill – False Alarm

Another bland tune.

Track 34: Galantis and Hook ‘N’ Sling – Love On Me

I’ve never been keen on the vocals on this one, which sound to me like someone is faking a Scottish accent.

Track 35: Charli XCX and Lil’ Yachty – After The Afterparty

Irritating tune, but I quite like the theme.

Track 36: Dua Lipa – Blow Your Mind (Mwah)

Good beat, annoying chorus.

Track 37: Louisa Johnson – So Good

Good solid piece of pop with a great atmosphere.  Not keen on the theme though.

Track 38: James TW – When You Love Someone

Pretty tune, but it’s a bit too slow and acoustic-y for me.

Track 39: Wilkinson and Karen Harding – Sweet Lies

I find this tune very generic, and the beat is like every other dance track this decade.

Track 40: Craig David and Sigala – Ain’t Giving Up

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Craig David on track 21.

I quite like the tune and the tinkly instrumentals, but the chorus is kind of annoying.

Track 41: Charlie Puth – Dangerously

Good atmosphere, but it’s a little too high-pitched for me and the theme’s a bit saccharine.

Track 42: Offaiah – Trouble

Very repetitive tune, not keen.

Track 43: Christine & The Queens – Tilted

Good, interesting track.  I really like the instrumentals on this one, and there’s something lovely and classic about the vocals.

Track 44: Lady Gaga – Perfect Illusion

I like the rock edge on this one.

Track 45: Niall Horan – This Town

Saccharine acoustic ballad, and I don’t like the theme.  In short, it’s pretty much everything I dislike.