Phone Box Thursday: City Square, Leeds

We’re still in Leeds town centre, and today we’re looking at a rather handsome row of four red phone boxes in City Square.

Red phone boxes
Red phone boxes, City Square, Leeds, 24th July 2016.

Each of the phone boxes is very well preserved, so clearly Leeds city council have put some work into these ones.

Red phone boxes
The four phone boxes are all in good condition – no smashed windows or graffiti here.

They frame the restaurant building very nicely!

Red phone boxes
Handy if you’re eating at the restaurant, need to make a phone call, and are so much of a 20th century throwback that you don’t have a mobile (I salute your dedication if so!)

Join us again next week for more Leeds phone boxes.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #85

Day 85 takes us to Now! #85, which was released on 22nd July 2013.

July 2013
This is how the world looked in July 2013. Geth and I were on a trip up to Edinburgh when one of those rare-for-Scotland 30°C days arrived, and the one thing I’d not packed was a swimsuit, so all I could do on this beach trip was paddle. Since then, I’ve packed one every time I’ve gone away during the summer, just in case.

I believe this was a good year for summer hits.  Let’s see if I’m remembering correctly.

Now! That's What I Call Music #85
Track 1: Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers – Get Lucky

Great feelgood funk track – love this tune.

Track 2: Robin Thicke, TI and Pharrell Williams – Blurred Lines

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve only just had Pharrell Williams on track 1.

This track…urgh.  Infamously and rightly banned by the University of Edinburgh student union, among various other music-playing organisations, because the lyrics are really rapey and gross.  The sad thing is that it would be a really great track if it weren’t for the lyrics, ’cause the tune is great and it’s really danceable.

Track 3: Passenger – Let Her Go

Gorgeous, introspective tune – really like this one.

Track 4: Justin Timberlake – Mirrors

Nice epic atmosphere, great track.

Track 5: Naughty Boy and Sam Smith – La La La

The theme is slightly irritating, but overall it’s an interesting song, which is unusual for an era where most things are really samey.

Track 6: Icona Pop and Charli XCX – I Love It

Great chant-along track – I’ve always really liked this one!

Track 7: John Newman – Love Me Again

Another song that I really like.  The instrumentals are great.

Track 8: Jason Derulo – The Other Side

Forgettable tune, but the chorus is nice and epic.

Track 9: Pink and Lily Allen – True Love

I find this one a bit cheesy and annoying.

Track 10: Taylor Swift – 22

Good solid pop track – very danceable.

Track 11: The Wanted – Walks Like Rihanna

Every time I run the Great North Run, I find that because it’s the biggest race in the UK and the biggest half marathon in the world – nearly 60,000 runners these days – there’s no shortage of characters to keep me entertained (and believe me, you need that when running along miles and miles of identical-looking motorway).  One guy runs the race with a portable karaoke machine, and last year, when I encountered him, he was doing this song – except he’d changed the lyrics to ‘I can’t sing, I can’t dance, but who cares, I run like Mo Farah‘.  It’s possible you had to be there, but I found it hilarious, and it really got me through the rest of the race.  Thanks for that, portable karaoke guy!

Anyway, it’s another solid pop song.

Track 12: Bruno Mars – Treasure

Bruno Mars still doing his 1980 pastiches – today he’s aping Michael Jackson.  Good stuff.

Track 13: Olly Murs – Dear Darlin’

This one’s a bit of a dull ballad, so I’m not keen.

Track 14: Demi Lovato – Heart Attack

Great song with an awesome epic chorus.  Love it.

Track 15: Selena Gomez – Come And Get It

Great tune – love the rhythm on this one.

Track 16: PJ & Duncan – Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble

’90s classic, back in the charts to raise money for Childline.  It actually got to number one this time round, probably because Ant & Dec had promised to perform it on Saturday Night Takeaway.  It’s still as enjoyably daft as it was in 1994.

Track 17: Iggy Azalea – Bounce

Good beat, but there’s not enough melody for me.

Track 18: Fuse ODG – Antenna

Love the rhythm on this one – very danceable.

Track 19: Nelly – Hey Porsche

The theme really irritates me, and the tune’s very uninspired.

Track 20: Paramore – Still Into You

Great tune, though the theme is a bit cheesy.

Track 21: Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

I was talking about this one yesterday when reviewing the identically-titled Rita Ora song.  On the whole it’s a bit dull, but it’s got a great chorus.

Track 22: Gabz – Lighters (The One)

Cringeworthy kiddie vocals, appallingly cheesy theme.  Just awful.

Track 23: Rudimental and Ella Eyre – Waiting All Night

Great beat, okay tune, but it’s pretty repetitive.

Track 24: Jessie J, Big Sean and Dizzee Rascal – Wild

Bland tune on the verses, but the chorus is okay.

Track 25: Duke Dumont and A*M*E – Need U (100%)

I find the vocals really irritating on this one.

Track 26: will.i.am and Justin Bieber – #thatPOWER

Very generic electro lines, boring tune.

Track 27: David Guetta, Ne-Yo and Akon – Play Hard

Great rhythm, great bassline, great Better Off Alone sample.  Annoying video, but you can’t have everything.

Track 28: Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding – I Need Your Love

I’ve always found the tune on this one very irritating.

Track 29: Pitbull and Christina Aguilera – Feel This Moment

Annoying, repetitive track, but the Take On Me interpolation is quite fun.

Track 30: Sebastian Ingrosso, Tommy Trash and John Martin – Reload

Boring dance track, very forgettable tune.

Track 31: Armin van Buuren and Trevor Guthrie – This Is What It Feels Like

Fairly bland dance song with an annoying chorus.

Track 32: Chase & Status and Louis Mattrs – Lost And Not Found

Nice atmosphere, but the vocals are really dull.

Track 33: Chris Malinchak – So Good To Me

Another boring tune, one of those ‘summer chillout’ tracks that were all the rage at the time.

Track 34: Disclosure and Eliza Doolittle – You And Me

Dull and forgettable.

Track 35: Breach – Jack

Very little melody in this – just drum machine, spoken word and fairly tuneless bassline – but at least it’s something different.

Track 36: Wiley, Angel and Tinchy Stryder – Lights On

Bland tune, but at least this one’s actually got a tune.  Very forgettable though.

Track 37: Dizzee Rascal and Robbie Williams – Goin’ Crazy

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

Interesting rhythm, but again the tune’s very uninspired.

Track 38: Psy – Gentleman

Follow-up to Gangnam Style that obviously wasn’t anywhere near as memorable as the original.

Track 39: The 1975 – Chocolate

Love this tune – great instrumentals, great lyrics.

Track 40: Union J – Carry You

Saccharine and bland.

Track 41: The Saturdays – Gentleman

A slightly more standard song about a ‘gentleman‘ than Psy’s attempt above.  It’s actually quite edgy for the Saturdays, and I like the retro references in the lyrics.  Good stuff.

Track 42: Charlie Brown – On My Way

Slow ballad, not my thing.

Track 43: Tom Odell – Another Love

Lovely piano at the start, and it’s got a nice atmosphere – quite like this tune.

Track 44: Michael Bublé – It’s A Beautiful Day

Nice and upbeat, but the song’s a bit too cheesy for me.

Recipe Wednesday: all-day breakfast

As I’ve mentioned previously, in the last few weeks of trying to get to my Slimming World target, I tried doing a few SP days.  Since getting to target, I’ve stuck with this habit the day before weigh-in, because I’m still getting to grips with maintaining and the summer has always been my most difficult time SW-wise – there are lots of special events like holidays and festivals going on, afternoons in beer gardens, and cravings for ice cream.

As such, I’ve settled into a pattern of having all-day breakfast for tea on a Wednesday night, because it doesn’t require cheese, which means I can use my Healthy Extra A for milk to go with my bran flakes, which are my additional Healthy Extra B choice on an SP day.

All-day breakfast
All-day breakfast. Nice and light for pre-weigh-in night – well, it is compared to the huge bowls of pasta I usually eat!

If Geth’s eating with me, he often helps out with cooking this one, because he really likes cooking sausages or thinks he’s better at it or something.  You start by frying sausages (I use Linda McCartney regular vegetarian sausages* but obviously if you’re a meat-eater you can use low-syn pork ones) in Fry Light, turning every few minutes.  After about ten minutes, you add sliced mushrooms to the pan, and then when everything’s got about five minutes left to cook, you add the halved tomatoes.  Finally, while the fried food is finishing up, scramble some plain beaten eggs in a non-stick pan.  Dish up and serve with a sprinkling of ground black pepper.

Ratio-wise for SP, I try and match the combined volume of tomatoes and mushrooms to the total volume of eggs in order to stick to the rules.  The sausages are synned rather than ‘S’ or ‘P’ so they don’t count towards either half of the plate.

*I have to use regular Linda McCartney sausages (half a syn each) rather than the rosemary and red onion ones I normally have (which are free), because on SP days you can’t have any free food that’s not ‘S’ or ‘P’.  This seems a bit counterproductive to me, but them’s the rules.  There aren’t any veggie sausages in either the Quorn or Linda McCartney lines that have enough protein to be classed as ‘P’ foods, more’s the pity – Quorn mince and chicken style pieces are both ‘P’, but not the sausages.  Hopefully this will change at some point.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #84

Day 84 equals Now! #84, which came out on 25th March 2013.

March 2013
This is how the world looked in March 2013 – to be precise, how it looked on Six Nations finale night. My unlucky Scotland jersey, as usual, did nothing to prevent Scotland getting the wooden spoon, but what made up for it was being with about six Welsh people on the night that Wales stole the championship from right under England’s nose, hence the giant Welsh flag that we pinned to the wall. You can imagine how well this went down in a Southampton pub.

Let’s see what the hits were that spring.

Now! That's What I Call Music #84
Track 1: One Direction – One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)

Pointless cover mash-up of Blondie’s One Way Or Another and the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks.  This was the Comic Relief single for 2013, so I guess charity fundraising is the excuse for ruining both of these classic songs.

Track 2: will.i.am and Britney Spears – Scream And Shout

I really like this danceable track, especially the well-done callback to Gimme More.

Track 3: Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble

I quite like this tune, and it’s got a good atmosphere.

Track 4: Pink and Nate Ruess – Just Give Me A Reason

Great song – love the way the duet works here.

Track 5: Rihanna – Diamonds

Another pretty tune.  Very nice.

Track 6: Bastille – Pompeii

Epic and anthemic – love this one.

Track 7: James Arthur – Impossible

The annual inclusion of the most recent X Factor winner, this year doing a pointless cover of Shontelle’s Impossible, which was not a great song to begin with.

Track 8: Olly Murs and Flo Rida – Troublemaker

I quite like this jaunty track – it’s got a great singalong chorus.

Track 9: Bruno Mars – Locked Out Of Heaven

This is from my favourite Bruno Mars era, when he started doing all these pastiches of artists that were big circa 1980.  This song sounds like it should have been released by the Police.

Track 10: Kesha – Die Young

Nice beat, but the tune’s pretty forgettable.

Track 11: Bridgit Mendler – Ready Or Not

Irritating vocals, boring tune, and the chorus has a poorly-done interpolation of the Delfonics ’60s song (which was already done much better by the Fugees).  Nothing impressive here.

Track 12: Little Mix – DNA

Great epic atmosphere, but the tune’s a bit weak.

Track 13: The Saturdays and Sean Paul – What About Us

Another bland, forgettable song.

Track 14: Girls Aloud – Something New

Love this one!  Girls Aloud sort of came to a natural finish at the end of the ’00s, and so this special tenth anniversary track is really the only thing they’ve done as a group this decade.  Better one cracker than lots of poor tracks, though, and this song is great.

Track 15: Nicole Scherzinger – Boomerang

Good rhythm, but this is another uninspired tune.

Track 16: Disclosure and Sam Smith – Latch

I appreciate that it’s a bit different from most stuff that was in the charts at the time, but it’s not my kind of thing – the tune is generic and I’m not into this kind of chillout/trance stuff.

Track 17: Rita Ora – Radioactive

I usually get this one confused with the identically-titled Imagine Dragons song that came out around the same time.  This one’s probably my less-preferred (though there’s not much in it – the Imagine Dragons song is pretty dull too), because the tune’s very bland, but it does have a good electro backing track.

Track 18: Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire

I quite like the instrumentals, but the tune on the vocals annoys me.

Track 19: Christina Perri – A Thousand Years

Boring ballad off the Twilight soundtrack, but at least she doesn’t sound quite as horribly off-key as she does in Jar Of Hearts.

Track 20: Emeli Sandé – Clown

I find the theme a bit awkward, and it’s too slow for me.

Track 21: Gabrielle Aplin – The Power Of Love

This was one of the first of the big ‘Christmas advert’ hits that have been a feature of Christmas music this decade.  Take a classic song, record a slow, melancholy, piano-based cover with female vocals, slap it over the top of an expensive John Lewis Christmas advert, debut the advert during an X Factor ad break in early November, job done.  Christmas classic guaranteed.

Of course, this was already a Christmas classic, and has been ever since Frankie Goes To Hollywood released the original in 1984.  Gabrielle Aplin’s version is very pretty, but it doesn’t have the pure emotional power of the Frankie version – Holly Johnson’s performance of the second verse is capable of moving me to tears when I’m in the right place, and Aplin just can’t compare.  Still, it is enjoyable, even if July is really not when I want to be hearing Christmas songs.

Track 22: Avicii and Nicky Romero – I Could Be The One

I love this dance track – obviously it’s got a great beat, but there’s also something very wistful about the vocals.  I actually can’t think of anyone who was better than Avicii (RIP) at emotion-inducing EDM.

Track 23: Bingo Players and Far East Movement – Get Up (Rattle)

Daft tune, but it’s a good head-nodder.

Track 24: Pitbull and TJR – Don’t Stop The Party

Messy and irritating.

Track 25: Calvin Harris and Tinie Tempah – Drinking From The Bottle

Good beat, and I really like Tinie Tempah’s rap on this one.

Track 26: Dizzee Rascal – Bassline Junkie

Daft theme, but I find it very funny.  Good stuff.

Track 27: Wiley, Chipmunk and Dayo Olatunji – Reload

Boring tune, and there’s too much going on with the track.

Track 28: Rudimental, John Newman and Alex Clare – Not Giving In

Slow and dull intro, and the tune’s very irritating.

Track 29: Conor Maynard and Wiley – Animal

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Wiley on track 27.

The rap’s very bland, as is the tune, and the whole thing’s just a bit repetitive.

Track 30: Disclosure and AlunaGeorge – White Noise

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

This one takes ages to get going.  The electro hook’s okay, but the vocals are super bland.

Track 31: Devlin and Diane Birch – Rewind

Another very forgettable song.  Also, part of the melody on the chorus rips off Heart’s Alone, which has been an irritating theme in recent Now! compilations.

Track 32: Lawson – Standing In The Dark

A little more upbeat than previous Lawson tracks, but it’s still a very bland, saccharine song.

Track 33: Biffy Clyro – Black Chandelier

I saw Biffy Clyro once.  It was the worst gig I’ve ever been to.  Not because of Biffy Clyro, I hasten to add – they were fine to listen to, although the heavier stuff they were playing as the second support band in 2003 wasn’t really my thing.  The main act was Linkin Park, who were okay (and I am glad I got to see them given sad future events), but the SECC in Glasgow had done this thing (I don’t know if it was by band request or what) where they barriered off a huge semicircle around the stage and only let about fifteen people into it, leaving the remaining hundreds of gig-goers to squash uncomfortably round the outside of the barrier and completely ruining the atmosphere.  The only person onstage who seemed to be on the audience’s side was Ian Watkins of Lostprophets, the main support band, and I don’t really want to give him credit seeing as how he turned out to be a sex offender.

Anyway, I never went back to the SECC again.  Barrowlands all the way if it was a Glasgow gig, even if I did lose a lot of brain cells and earrings over the years through being booted in the head by crowdsurfers.

I think what I’m trying to say is that this song’s a lot more interesting than the stuff Biffy were doing back in 2003.  I quite like the vocal hook at the start, and the chorus is great.

Track 34: Fall Out Boy – My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)

There’s a nice atmospheric chant-along bit on this one – quite like the track.

Track 35: McFly – Love Is Easy

Twee and irritating.  I should note that Geth appreciated the It’s A Wonderful Life sample though.

Track 36: Ben Howard – Only Love

I find this tune pretty annoying.

Track 37: The Lumineers – Ho Hey

It’s a bit twee, but it’s quite a nice, jaunty song.

Track 38: One Direction – Little Things

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had One Direction on track 1.

This one is an irritating saccharine ballad with an irritating black and white video where One Direction sit around and play acoustic guitars in an attempt to look like serious musicians.  The song was apparently written by Ed Sheeran, which will surprise no one.

It was also number one on Geth’s and my wedding day, which is far from ideal.

Track 39: Pink – Try

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Pink on track 4.

This one is a gorgeous tune though – really like it.

Track 40: Gabrielle Aplin – Please Don’t Say You Love Me

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Gabrielle Aplin on track 21.

The only thing this song achieves is proving that she should have been a one-hit wonder.  Dull and uninspired.

Track 41: Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere

1987 classic, back in the charts due to a mobile phone advert.  Not complaining here at all – I’m very partial to Fleetwood Mac, and this is one of my favourites.

Track 42: Ellie Goulding – Explosions

Not keen on that choral bit at the start, and on the whole it’s too slow for me and I don’t find the tune interesting enough.

Track 43: The Justice Collective – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Charity cover of the ’60s classic to raise funds for Hillsborough victims’ charities, and the Christmas number one for 2012.  Some good voice-spotting to be done here.

2018 Ciders #36: Old Mout Berries and Cherries

I believe this is a new flavour of Old Mout – it’s certainly not one I’ve had before.

Old Mout Berries and Cherries
Old Mout Berries and Cherries.

This is a lovely fruit cider with that typical perfect Old Mout level of sweetness.  It’s also divinely brambly (brambles = blackberries if you’re not Scottish), which gives it one of the best tastes of any new cider I’ve tried this year.  It’s not quite up there with Kiwi and Lime, but it’s definitely a strong contender for my second favourite Old Mout flavour, which is impressive after just one bottle.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #83

Day 83 equals Now! #83, which brings us to 19th November 2012 – just four days before mine and Geth’s wedding.

November 2012
This is the way the world looked in November 2012. Not every day looks like your wedding day – to put it mildly – but on that day the world looked very good indeed, and so did we.

I am proud to report that we played absolutely none of the following songs at our wedding disco.  Not even Gangnam Style.

Now! That's What I Call Music #83
Track 1: Psy – Gangnam Style

It’s still hilarious nearly six years later, and very danceable, even if you’re not inclined to do the comedy dance that goes with the song.

Track 2: Robbie Williams – Candy

Nice feelgood tune that gave Robbie Williams an unexpected number one later in his career.  Good song.

Track 3: Swedish House Mafia and John Martin – Don’t You Worry Child

The theme is pretty cheesy, and the tune is a bit bland.

Track 4: Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Great folk-pop track with an awesome singalong chorus – really like this one.

Track 5: The Wanted – I Found You

Good danceable track, but the tune’s a bit bland.

Track 6: Calvin Harris and Florence Welch – Sweet Nothing

Another boring tune – not keen on this one.

Track 7: Maroon 5 – One More Night

Great reggae-tinged beat – this one’s a great head-nodder.

Track 8: Wiley, Skepta, JME and Dayo Olatunji – Can You Hear Me? (Ayayaya)

Love those steel drums at the start – good tune, great rhythm.

Track 9: Flo Rida – I Cry

I quite like the tune on this one – despite the title, it’s quite feelgood.

Track 10: Ne-Yo – Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)

Irritating tune, even more irritating theme.

Track 11: Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time

Another annoying tune, and the theme is really cheesy.

Track 12: Katy Perry – Wide Awake

Again, a very bland tune.

Track 13: Pink – Blow Me (One Last Kiss)

Great beat, and I love the instrumentals.

Track 14: Little Mix – Wings

Good solid pop track – very danceable.

Track 15: Stooshe – Waterfalls

Uninspired cover of the TLC classic.  What’s kind of irritating is that the surviving members of TLC show up in the video.

Track 16: JLS – Hottest Girl In The World

Good beat, but in general I find this track a bit messy and jarring.

Track 17: Nicki Minaj – Pound The Alarm

Another very danceable track, another fairly forgettable tune.

Track 18: Redlight – Lost In Your Love

Dull, repetitive tune, and the messy beat gives me a headache.

Track 19: Rita Ora – How We Do (Party)

Boring, bland track – not enough melody for me.

Track 20: Cheryl – Under The Sun

It’s got quite a nice retro tinge, but the tune’s fairly forgettable.

Track 21: Wiley and Dayo Olatunji – Heatwave

Double repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had both Wiley and Dayo Olatunji on track 8.

Great rhythm, but the vocals are repetitive and irritating (and it’s never clear whether the lyric is ‘body‘ or ‘party‘).

Track 22: Sam & The Womp – Bom Bom

Daft track that’s a lot of fun.  Happily chair-dancing right now.

Track 23: Labrinth and Emeli Sandé – Beneath Your Beautiful

I know the grammar of that title looks horrible – it’s actually because they’re using ‘beautiful’ as a noun rather than misspelling ‘you’re’.  Still wrong, but not a your/you’re fail.  ‘Beneath Your Beauty’ is what they actually mean.

Anyway, the song’s a slow, saccharine ballad, and I’m not keen on those.

Track 24: The Script and will.i.am – Hall Of Fame

Collaboration cooked up between will.i.am and Script singer Danny O’Donoghue, who were both coaches on The Voice at the time.  It’s a bit awkward and poor.

Track 25: Florence & The Machine – Spectrum (Say My Name) [Calvin Harris Remix]

Not technically a repeated artist alert, but this is the second collaboration between Florence Welch and Calvin Harris on this Now! compilation.

This tune is epic and gorgeous.  Lovely stuff.

Track 26: David Guetta and Sia – She Wolf (Falling To Pieces)

Boring, forgettable tune, and I don’t find any of the hooks very interesting.

Track 27: Calvin Harris and Example – We’ll Be Coming Back

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Calvin Harris on track 6, and sort of on track 25.

Nice atmosphere though, and the tune’s quite pretty.

Track 28: Ellie Goulding – Anything Could Happen

I find this one pretty dull.

Track 29: Naughty Boy and Emeli Sandé – Wonder

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Emeli Sandé on track 23.

Not keen on this tune – I find it a bit twee.

Track 30: Conor Maynard and Ne-Yo – Turn Around

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Ne-Yo on track 10.

This one’s another boring, uninspired tune.

Track 31: One Direction – Live While We’re Young

Extremely bland tune – very forgettable.

Track 32: Chris Brown – Don’t Wake Me Up

Irritating spoken word bit at the start, dull saccharine vocals.  Not a fan.

Track 33: Amelia Lily – You Bring Me Joy

Another dull, forgettable song.

Track 34: Fun – Some Nights

Good tune – there’s something a bit folk-rock about this one.

Track 35: Example – Say Nothing

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Example on track 27.

This is another bland, uninspired tune.

Track 36: Lawson – Taking Over Me

Too cheesy for me.

Track 37: Karmin – Brokenhearted

Yet another forgettable song.

Track 38: Trey Songz – Simply Amazing

Again, this one’s far too saccharine for my liking.

Track 39: Simple Plan and Sean Paul – Summer Paradise

Nice jaunty track, though it’s a bit cheesy.

Track 40: Angel – Wonderful

This tune’s okay, and there are some interesting instrumentals going on too.

Track 41: Devlin and Ed Sheeran – Watchtower

The chorus samples/covers Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, and there’s also a bit of the guitar riff from the Jimi Hendrix version.  Other than that, it’s mainly a rap, which I’m not keen on.

Track 42: Mumford & Sons – I Will Wait

I find this tune really dull, and a bit depressing.

Track 43: Elbow – One Day Like This

2008 hit that was back in the charts for 2012 – I can’t remember why.  Classic tune though, and that repeated anthemic hook at the end is epic.

Film Review: Solo

Geth is a major Star Wars fan – it’s one of his main obsessions.  As such, for the release of all of the new Disney Star Wars films, we’ve gone out to see the film on release day so that he can watch the reviews on all his favourite Star Wars YouTube channels without getting spoilered.  The fact that we didn’t manage to do that with Solo – indeed, that it took us about six weeks to get around to seeing it – should tell you everything you need to know about how ridiculously busy life has been for us both recently.

Still, this last weekend, Geth has finally managed to celebrate his birthday properly – it was actually three weeks ago, but there just wasn’t space to do anything at the time – and as part of that, we managed to squeeze in a trip to the cinema on Friday afternoon.

I was slightly apprehensive about Solo, because I find recasting difficult – it really breaks my suspension of disbelief.  I’d been very happy with the effects in Rogue One where they’d digitally recreated the likenesses of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher, but I do appreciate that you can’t really do that for the main character of a film.  Still, Alden Ehrenreich is a great actor, and while I didn’t feel that he echoed Harrison Ford’s performance in the same way that Ewan McGregor managed for Alec Guinness in the prequel trilogy, I did believe that it was the same character, and I didn’t really think about the change of actors while I was watching the film, which I think is all you can ask for, really.

The story was very enjoyable – it was a good rollicking action adventure, and the tension never let up.  There was a great moment with a surprise appearance from an old character you wouldn’t expect, though I would have thought it would be really confusing for people who only watch the films and not the animated TV series.  I expect I’ll hear more about that when Geth catches up with his YouTube watching.

My only real issue with the story was that, like Rogue One before it, there were a lot of character deaths.  I expected it from the start, and made sure not to get too attached to anyone, but I’m never a fan of killing off characters.  I find it to be cheap and lazy writing – there’s always a more interesting way that you can write characters out of a story – and I get frustrated when certain writers become known and lauded for regularly offing their creations, as if it’s clever or brave to do so.  It’s not.  I find it especially irritating when characters are basically introduced simply in order to die, and I felt that there were a couple of instances of that in Solo.

On the whole, though, I liked the film, and I’d give it a solid three out of five stars.  If we can arrange it before it stops being shown in cinemas, Geth and I will go see it once more with my dad (I have a tradition of going to see Star Wars films with Dad that dates back to The Phantom Menace!  I wasn’t born when the original trilogy came out, sadly) and then it will fade into the kind of film that I’ll be happy to semi-watch while doing something else once Geth has bought the Blu-Ray.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #82

Day 82 brings us to Now! #82, which came out on 23rd July 2012.

July 2012
This is the way the world looked in July 2012. Our Southampton flat was a bombsite because we were about to move at the end of that August, our wedding was set for the November, I was finishing the first draft of a novel, I had a million and one things to do…and yet my nose was buried in The Best Of Smash Hits: The ’80s. Some days I think there’s no hope for my procrastination habit. Other days, when I feel I never get a break, I think I could learn a few lessons from my twenty-seven-year-old self.

Let’s have a listen to some summer hits I would have been far too busy to go partying to.  Except when I felt like it.

Now! That's What I Call Music #82
Track 1: Fun and Janelle Monáe – We Are Young

Gorgeous atmosphere, awesome tune.  A favourite.

Track 2: Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe

I’ve always had a soft spot for this feelgood track.  Love the instrumental hook.

Track 3: Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa – Payphone

Very pretty tune, quite like this one.

Track 4: Flo Rida – Whistle

I find the theme and chorus of this track a bit irritating.

Track 5: Coldplay and Rihanna – Princess Of China

Another beautiful tune.  Really like the way this works as a duet.

Track 6: Rudimental and John Newman – Feel The Love

I like the vocals, but I find the rest of the track a bit dull.

Track 7: Nicki Minaj – Starships

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

Track 8: Rihanna – Where Have You Been

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

This one’s pretty uninspired and forgettable.

Track 9: Rita Ora and Tinie Tempah – RIP

Another annoying theme, and I’m not keen on the tune.

Track 10: Conor Maynard – Can’t Say No

Daft theme, but it’s a good head-nodder.

Track 11: Justin Bieber – Boyfriend

Justin Bieber sounding like Justin Timberlake.  It’s not a bad tune though.

Track 12: Ed Sheeran – Small Bump

I find this one really depressing!

Track 13: D’Banj – Oliver Twist

Good danceable track, great atmosphere.

Track 14: Stooshe – Black Heart

Another nice retro-tinged track from Stooshe – good stuff.

Track 15: Katy Perry – Part Of Me

The verse sounds too similar to David Guetta and Rihanna’s Who’s That Chick?, and the chorus is pretty generic.

Track 16: Marina & The Diamonds – Primadonna

Pretty tune – quite like this one.

Track 17: Paloma Faith – Picking Up The Pieces

Depressing, annoying tune.

Track 18: Train – Drive By

Good beat, but the theme and tune are irritating.

Track 19: Cover Drive – Sparks

Pretty tune, quite like this one.

Track 20: Jason Mraz – I Won’t Give Up

So slow and depressing that I actively dislike it.

Track 21: Alex Clare – Too Close

Great atmosphere, builds beautifully.

Track 22: Emeli Sandé – My Kind Of Love

Lovely tune, but it’s too slow for me.

Track 23: will.i.am and Eva Simons – This Is Love

I really like this one – beautiful atmosphere, epic chorus.

Track 24: Cheryl – Call My Name

It’s got a good beat, but the tune’s a bit generic.

Track 25: DJ Fresh and Rita Ora – Hot Right Now

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Rita Ora on track 9.

This is a great track though – really upbeat and danceable.

Track 26: Tulisa – Young

Annoying tune, but it’s got an okay beat.

Track 27: David Guetta and Nicki Minaj – Turn Me On

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Nicki Minaj on track 7.

Interesting hook, but the vocals are pretty bland.

Track 28: Calvin Harris and Ne-Yo – Let’s Go

Quite like this tune, and it’s very danceable.

Track 29: Usher – Scream

Good beat – happily nodding along to this one.

Track 30: Jessie J and David Guetta – LaserLight

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had David Guetta on track 27.

Annoying tune, uninspired bland electro lines.  Just boring.

Track 31: Chris Brown – Turn Up The Music

Another forgettable dance track.

Track 32: The Wanted – Chasing The Sun

Quite like this one – it’s very danceable, and the atmosphere’s great.

Track 33: The Saturdays – 30 Days

Another one with a good rhythm, but the tune’s a little repetitive.

Track 34: Loreen – Euphoria

The Eurovision winner for 2012.  Great tune, awesome atmosphere.

Track 35: Swedish House Mafia – Greyhound

Great beat, and it’s got a nice epic feel, but again it’s very repetitive.

Track 36: Azealia Banks and Lazy Jay – 212

Love this one – the rhythm is awesome.

Track 37: Plan B – Ill Manors

Great atmosphere, but it’s another one that’s too repetitive for me.

Track 38: B.o.B – So Good

Love that piano at the start.  Good stuff.

Track 39: Sway – Level Up

There’s some interesting lines here – I like the hint of harmonica – but on the whole it’s too messy for me.

Track 40: Taio Cruz and Pitbull – There She Goes

Daft lyrics, generic tune.  Not hugely keen on this one.

Track 41: Labrinth – Express Yourself

Interesting rhythm, but I find the tune pretty irritating.

Track 42: Scissor Sisters – Only The Horses

The tune’s okay, but it’s a bit forgettable.

Track 43: Lawson – When She Was Mine

Boring tune, cheesy lyrics.  Not my thing.

Track 44: Gary Barlow, The Commonwealth Band and Military Wives – Sing

Song released to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  It’s cheesy and fairly awful.

TV Review: Boys On Film: A Night With Duran Duran

I’ve mentioned before how much I love BBC Four.  Between the old episodes of Top of the Pops and the music documentaries, there’s always something worth watching, which is the main reason my digibox is always getting too full.  They’re always doing new shows about old music, basically, so it’s one of my favourite channels.

As such, I was really excited when I heard they were going to be doing a special evening of shows about Duran Duran, who are my current biggest musical obsession.  It’s the band’s fortieth anniversary this year, and so the BBC Four programmes are part of the celebration.

Geth was due to be at a work do on Friday evening (although in the event, he ended up coming home early and watching the Duran stuff with me, as he’d already had a heavy night on the Thursday!) so I made sure I had a few cans of cider in the fridge and settled in for the evening.

The first programme was Duran Duran: There’s Something You Should Know, which was a new documentary with a lot of interesting features – particular highlights for me included Nick Rhodes talking to designer Antony Price about the suits used for the Rio video, Simon Le Bon meeting up with his old choirmaster, and all of the band members cramming themselves into a tiny Citroen just like they used to do in their early days.  There were also some really good interview segments with more recent collaborators like Mark Ronson.  The documentary was organised into sections based around seven of Duran’s albums – but as they’ve released fourteen, this did mean that there were large parts of their history that just didn’t get mentioned.  It’s a shame, but in an hour-long documentary you can’t do justice to everything.

The second programme, Duran Duran: A Night In, was the highlight of the night for me – it was basically just an hour of the band members reminiscing about TV programming from their childhoods in the ’60s and ’70s.  About five minutes into the programme:

Geth: You’re never deleting this, are you?  It’s clips of all your favourite TV shows and films, narrated by Duran Duran.  It’s basically your ideal programme.

Given that at this point we’d had the 1960s Batman series and Hammer Horror’s Dracula…yeah, pretty much.  Other TV shows and films covered included Barbarella (the film that gave Duran Duran their name) and ’70s Top of the Pops performances from Marc Bolan and Roxy Music.  I love all of these things anyway, but Geth was right – the commentary from the Durans made it a highly enjoyable watch, and unlike most things that I insist on keeping on the digibox, I’m sure I will be rewatching this one many times.

The third programme, Duran Duran: Unstaged, was a recording of a concert played in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, with visuals by David Lynch over the top.  Geth found the flashing imagery a bit much after a couple of days’ heavy drinking, and headed up to bed, leaving me alone to watch what was quite a good show – it was a good mix of old and new tracks, and the band had a lot of guests playing with them like Mark Ronson (again) and Beth Ditto.  I sort of didn’t notice the Lynch visuals after a while because I was too absorbed in the music, so this is definitely one I need to watch again.

There was also a repeat of a Duran Duran TOTP2 special, but as it wasn’t on till three in the morning (the other shows were being repeated first), I went to bed and caught up with it the next morning.  I’d already seen a lot of the performances, but it’s the amusing commentary from Mark Radcliffe and the fact-filled captions that make TOTP2 worth watching.

All in all, great programming as ever from BBC Four, and a real treat for Duran Duran fans.  Hopefully a new album and tour won’t be too many years away!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #81

Day 81 means Now! #81, which came out on 2nd April 2012.

April 2012
This is the way the world looked in April 2012 (actually March). Dublin was unseasonably warm, but the statue of Oscar Wilde was still chillin’ on his crag. I should probably get rid of that coat, as it’s too big for me now.

On with the 2012 hits!

Now! That's What I Call Music #81
Track 1: Gotye and Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know

Gorgeous song that was deservedly number one for weeks and weeks.  Love this track.

Track 2: Coldplay – Paradise

I normally find Coldplay songs pretty depressing, but this is a beautiful tune.

Track 3: Ed Sheeran – Lego House

I find this one fairly dull, but the video with Rupert Grint is funny.

Track 4: Emeli Sandé – Next To Me

There’s something that irritates me about the tune.

Track 5: Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)

Nice solid pop song, quite like this track.

Track 6: Jessie J – Domino

Another feelgood pop track, but the tune’s not particularly exciting.

Track 7: David Guetta and Sia – Titanium

Great vocals, good tune.

Track 8: Flo Rida – Good Feeling

Flo Rida sampling Avicii sampling Etta James.  It’s a great hook, so I can see why.

Track 9: Katy Perry – The One That Got Away

I find this one a bit depressing.

Track 10: Labrinth – Last Time

Nice atmosphere, but the tune’s a bit pedestrian.

Track 11: Rizzle Kicks – Mama Do The Hump

Great, danceable track!  The video with Jordan Stephens’ mum and James Corden is also hilarious.

Track 12: Olly Murs – Dance With Me Tonight

In my Zumba class in Southampton, we always did a really fun jive number to this one.  Great, upbeat track.

Track 13: Pixie Lott – Kiss The Stars

Good upbeat dance tune – happily nodding along here.

Track 14: One Direction – One Thing

It’s always really annoyed me that this song rips off the chord sequence of Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way.  As such, I can’t hear it without getting a weird mash-up of the two songs stuck in my head.

Track 15: Marcus Collins – Seven Nation Army

Interesting, eerie, soul-tinged cover of the White Stripes classic.  Good stuff.

Track 16: Florence & The Machine – Shake It Out

Nice tune – quite like the build on this one.

Track 17: Drake and Rihanna – Take Care

Pretty tune, but it’s too slow for me.  I like the It’s My Party callback though!

Track 18: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

Gorgeous atmosphere – really like this track.

Track 19: Little Mix – Cannonball

Pointless cover of the Damien Rice song (see Now! #80 review from yesterday) by the 2011 X Factor winners.  Thankfully Little Mix would go on to release much more interesting songs.

Track 20: JLS – Proud

Boring ballad, not keen.

Track 21: Military Wives and Gareth Malone – Wherever You Are

The Christmas number one for 2011 – a pretty tune from one of Gareth Malone’s TV choir projects.

Track 22: LMFAO – Sexy And I Know It

Hilarious song – this one’s a shameless pleasure!

Track 23: Flo Rida and Sia – Wild Ones

Double repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Flo Rida on track 8 and Sia on track 7.

The tune’s really irritating, bu the rap’s okay.

Track 24: Lady Gaga – Marry The Night

Good solid pop – great tune.

Track 25: Avicii – Levels

This is the Avicii song that Flo Rida was sampling on track 8; in turn, this track samples Etta James’ 1962 song Something’s Got A Hold On Me.  There’s some great hooks going on throughout.

Track 26: Pitbull and Chris Brown – International Love

Awful theme, awful song.

Track 27: Lloyd, André 3000 and Lil’ Wayne – Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)

Another bad theme, but I actually really like this song!  Just make sure to avoid the squicky explicit version.

Track 28: Sean Paul – She Doesn’t Mind

Good beat, good tune.  Really like this one.

Track 29: Taio Cruz – Troublemaker

The lyrics are sort of hilarious and terrible at the same time.  Could do with a bit more melody as well!

Track 30: Alexandra Burke and Erick Morillo – Elephant

Great theme, and it’s got a good beat.  The tune’s a little generic, though.

Track 31: Swedish House Mafia and Knife Party – Antidote

It’s very danceable, but there’s not enough of a memorable hook for me.

Track 32: Rizzle Kicks – When I Was A Youngster

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Rizzle Kicks on track 11.

The theme annoys me on this one, but the tune’s nice and feelgood.

Track 33: Stooshe and Travie McCoy – Love Me

Mid-century retro jazz-tinged song with Spice Girls-esque cackling interspersed throughout.  It’s not a bad tune.

Track 34: Gym Class Heroes and Neon Hitch – Get Yourself Back Home

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

I quite like the tune on the chorus, but the rest of the track is pretty dull.

Also, though I don’t class band/individual repetitions as a repeated artist, that’s two songs in a row with Travie McCoy’s vocals on.

Track 35: Rihanna – You Da One

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

This tune is a bit irritating to my ears – not a fan.

Track 36: Tinchy Stryder and Pixie Lott – Bright Lights

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Pixie Lott on track 13.

Bland, forgettable tune, and the rap’s nothing special.

Track 37: Cover Drive – Twilight

The tune’s pretty dull.  I’m sure I did like at least one of Cover Drive’s songs, but this wasn’t it.

Track 38: Alyssa Reid and Jump Smokers – Alone Again

Utterly appalling cover of Heart’s Alone, with a rap partway through it and new, terrible verses.  The original is special to me (partly because it was on the sacred tome that is Now! #10) and so I find this mess pretty offensive.

Track 39: Jessie J – Who You Are

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Jessie J on track 6.

Boring ballad with overblown vocals.  Not my thing.

Track 40: Chiddy Bang – Ray Charles

Good retro-sounding track – very noddable.

Track 41: will.i.am, Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger – THE (The Hardest Ever)

Fantastic track!  I love the atmosphere, the build, the melding of the three very different vocal styles.  Wonderful stuff.

Track 42: Dappy and Brian May – Rockstar

I’m a bit irritated that a legend like Brian May got roped into contributing to this very uninspired song.  The rap’s okay, but the tune’s really generic, and the theme is my least favourite: the whole ‘look, I’m rich and famous now, let me brag about it in a song!’ thing.  The brief guitar solo is, of course, epic.