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.

parkrun touristing: Whitley Bay

Another week of the fair on the Town Moor meant another week of no Newcastle parkrun, so Geth and I took ourselves off to the coast for Whitley Bay parkrun this morning.

I’d done Whitley Bay once before, last summer, on a morning where it was pouring with rain (and of course we arrived forty minutes early and had to shelter against the wall of a tiny hut near the start).  Geth had just come along for support on that occasion, as he was recovering from a broken toe, so today was his first parkrun at Whitley Bay.  For me, meanwhile, while it was my second run there, the course this summer is so different that it was like running it for the first time again.

This is largely because last summer, the front at Whitley Bay was mostly taken up with works, and so large parts of it were closed off.  As such, the finish funnel is now in a completely different place, and you get a straight sprint finish along the front – unfortunately, if you’re not familiar with the course, it’s difficult to time when you should start sprinting!  I’ll know better next time.  Hopefully they won’t move the finish again.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #80

Day 80 brings us to Now! #80, which came out on 21st November 2011.

November 2011
This is how the world looked in November 2011 (actually October). This was a pub somewhere near Southampton, but I have no idea exactly where. I’m actually wearing that hoodie right now, but it is getting a bit worse for wear.

Let’s see what was soundtracking my first few months living in Southampton.

Now! That's What I Call Music #80
Track 1: Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera – Moves Like Jagger

This one reminds me of unpacking all the stuff in our new flat when we first moved to Southampton.  I’ve always really liked this one – great tune, and the theme is awesome.

Track 2: Rihanna and Calvin Harris – We Found Love

Nice tune, but it’s a bit repetitive.

Track 3: One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful

Revoltingly saccharine!  Everything about this track is just irritating.

Track 4: Bruno Mars – Marry You

It’s a bit cheesy, but I quite like the tune.

Track 5: JLS – Take A Chance On Me

I like the piano at the start, but again, the song in general is too saccharine for me.

Track 6: Christina Perri – Jar Of Hearts

It would be a good song if she could actually sing.  Seriously, it’s so off-key!  Why was this even allowed to be released?

Track 7: Kelly Clarkson – Mr Know It All

Highly irritating tune, and I’m not keen on the theme.

Track 8: Olly Murs and Rizzle Kicks – Heart Skips A Beat

Great track – I love this one!  Upbeat, feelgood, awesome tune.

Track 9: The Wanted – Lightning

I like the instrumentals, but the vocals are kind of annoying.

Track 10: Pixie Lott – All About Tonight

Good solid danceable pop, and lyrical references to shoes are always a winner with me.

Track 11: The Saturdays – All Fired Up

Fairly generic dance track, but the tune’s okay, and it’s quite danceable.

Track 12: Lady Gaga – The Edge Of Glory

Great pop tune!  Love the sax solo too, obviously.

Track 13: Will Young – Jealousy

Irritatingly whiny and insipid.

Track 14: James Morrison – I Won’t Let You Go

Painfully boring and depressing ballad.

Track 15: Ed Sheeran – You Need Me, I Don’t Need You

Great upbeat track, and I’m sorry, but I still find the elevator lyric hilarious.

Track 16: Damien Rice – Cannonball

Too slow and earnest for me.

Track 17: Lana Del Rey – Video Games

Gorgeous tune!  An all-time favourite.

Track 18: Charlene Soraia – Wherever You Will Go

Slow, dull ‘TV advert’ cover of the Calling song.  It’s a good tune, but the original beats this hands down.

Track 19: Goo Goo Dolls – Iris

Absolutely beautiful tune – a classic rock track from the ’90s, back in the charts due to somebody performing it on Britain’s Got Talent.

Track 20: Matt Cardle – Run For Your Life

Achingly boring.

Track 21: Westlife – Lighthouse

Jarring lines, saccharine vocals.  Not a fan of this one.

Track 22: Adele – Set Fire To The Rain

Gorgeous tune – love the atmosphere on this.

Track 23: Professor Green and Emeli Sandé – Read All About It

I find this one a bit depressing.

Track 24: Gym Class Heroes and Adam Levine – Stereo Hearts

The tune’s okay, but the rap’s really uninspired.

Track 25: Labrinth and Tinie Tempah – Earthquake

Great, danceable track – really like this one!  That monastic bit is wild.

Track 26: Jason Derulo – It Girl

Cheesy and forgettable.  Not a great song.

Track 27: Dappy – No Regrets

Again, there’s something very depressing about the tune on this one.

Track 28: David Guetta and Usher – Without You

Boring tune, uninspired lines.

Track 29: Calvin Harris – Feel So Close

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

I find this tune pretty dull.

Track 30: Leona Lewis and Avicii – Collide

I remember there was a bit of upset at the time, according to the Radio 1 DJs, because Avicii hadn’t originally been credited despite the fact that it was his track and Leona Lewis was just singing over the top.  Anyway, the tune’s a bit repetitive and bland.

Track 31: Example – Stay Awake

Slightly awkward theme, but the vocals are good.

Track 32: Sean Kingston – Party All Night (Sleep All Day)

Daft theme, but it’s a pleasant enough tune, if a bit bland.

Track 33: Tinchy Stryder, Calvin Harris and Matthew Burns – Off The Record

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Calvin Harris on both track 2 and track 29.

Boring electro hook, generic rap.  Not a fan.

Track 34: Sak Noel – Loca People

Another daft theme, and the track itself is pretty repetitive and dull.

Track 35: Rizzle Kicks – Down With The Trumpets

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Rizzle Kicks on track 8.

This song is great though – wonderful atmosphere.  I absolutely love the vocal style, and the lyrics are brilliant.

Track 36: Cher Lloyd and Mike Posner – With Ur Love

Extremely generic and forgettable.

Track 37: Jessie J – Who’s Laughing Now

Very irritating hooks and vocals, and I’m not keen on the theme.

Track 38: Rihanna – Cheers (Drink To That)

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

Nice feelgood tune, quite like this one.

Track 39: Sean Paul and Alexis Jordan – Got 2 Luv U

Good beat, and I quite like the vocal hook.

Track 40: Emeli Sandé – Heaven

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

This track’s awesome, though – very Massive Attack-esque.

Track 41: Maverick Sabre – I Need

Boring, forgettable tune.

Track 42: Wretch 32 and Josh Kumra – Don’t Go

Gorgeous tune, even if it is a little depressing.

Track 43: The Collective – Teardrop

Too many artists to mention collaborating on the Children In Need single for 2011 – a cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop.  There’s a lot of misplaced rap; it’s not horrible but it’s pretty uninspired.

Stuff I like about my parents’ house #4: bookshelf full of classics

As I’ve been in a bookshelf place this week, what with getting my own ones back up and running, I thought I’d share my favourite of Mum and Dad’s many bookshelves: the one in the dining room that used to be an escape of mine when I was a kid.

Bookshelf
I feel cosy just looking at it!

This is where Mum keeps all her old childhood books from the ’50s.  I was a voracious reader when I was little, and I would scour the whole house for new books to read (there are a lot), but this was one of my favourite spots to spend a Sunday afternoon. I’d pick out something that sounded interesting, and nine times out of ten it would be a jolly-hockey-sticks romp about maverick English boarding school girls in the ’50s.  It was a world that was completely far removed from my own, but I found it fascinating, and those books later inspired one of my own characters in one of my ongoing novel series.  I would settle down in the chair next to the bookshelf, so that once I was done with one book, I could immediately grab another.

Other books on the shelf included the entire Little Women series (published as four books in the UK – Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys – I must have read them twenty or thirty times), Alice In Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass, and the entire What Katy Did series.  Some real classics there, and I still borrow them from time to time.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #79

Day 79 equals Now! #79, which came out on 25th July 2011.

July 2011
This is how the world looked in July 2011. That summer, Geth and I were living with Mum and Dad, as we’d had to give up our flat in May when Geth’s last University of Edinburgh fellowship salary came to an end, and we wouldn’t be moving for him to start his new job in Southampton until September. When I wasn’t doing my volunteer shop job at Oxfam or attending the many weddings we were invited to that year, I spent most of the summer (which was characterised by a lot of thunderstorms) on my old childhood bed with my laptop. Geth did the same on the spare bed with his laptop, which meant we were often visited by José – like most cats, he loved laptops, as they were cosy and warm to lie on. We kept having to move him off. If I’d known he would only live for a couple more months, I’d have let him lie on my laptop for as long as he liked 🙁

The thunderstorms weren’t really conducive to summer songs, but from what I remember there were an awful lot of them that year.  Let’s have a listen.

Now! That's What I Call Music #79
Track 1: Adele – Someone Like You

Beautiful tune, but I’m not really into slow ballads.

Track 2: Aloe Blacc – I Need A Dollar

Great track!  Love the atmosphere on this one.

Track 3: Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song

A welcome break from Bruno Mars’ saccharine ballads.  This one’s very funny, and the video is great.

Track 4: Jason Derulo – Don’t Wanna Go Home

It’s the one with the sample of Show Me Love that I mentioned in my Now! #24 review.  Good beat, happily nodding along here.

Track 5: Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Great beat, very danceable.

Track 6: Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull – On The Floor

Another great dance track – really like this one.  The Lambada sample is immense!

Track 7: Alexandra Stan – Mr Saxobeat

An all-time favourite!  I love this track, especially the jaunty saxophone hooks throughout.

Track 8: Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (TGIF)

The song’s a solid pop track, but it’s the hilarious video that really makes this one (Hanson!  Rebecca Black!  Just Dance!).  Also, I REALLY appreciate the sax solo, ’cause you hardly ever hear them in 2010s pop.

Track 9: The Wanted – Glad You Came

Great summer dance track – this was another favourite of mine that year.

Track 10: Nicole Scherzinger – Don’t Hold Your Breath

Gorgeous tune – yet another favourite!

Track 11: The Black Eyed Peas – Just Can’t Get Enough

Thankfully/sadly (?) not a cover of the Depeche Mode song.  I’m not really a fan of songs copying classic song titles unless they’ve got some link to the original – it causes confusion apart from anything else.

It’s a nice tune though – quite like this one.

Track 12: Take That – Love Love

Nice feelgood tune – quite like this track.  Love that bassline!

Track 13: Jessie J – Nobody’s Perfect

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

Track 14: The Saturdays – Notorious

Another track that borrows a classic title (see track 11 above).  Not a cover of the Duran Duran song.

I actually really like this track, though – I just wish they’d used a more original title!

Track 15: Rihanna – California King Bed

It’s the kind of ballad that would normally be too slow for me, but the tune’s so gorgeous that I really like it.  Also, that rock guitar solo is retro and epic!

Track 16: Scouting For Girls – Love How It Hurts

Too saccharine for me.

Track 17: Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall

I find this tune a bit irritating.

Track 18: Cee Lo Green – I Want You (Hold Onto Love)

Nice retro disco feel, but the tune’s a bit forgettable.

Track 19: Yasmin – Finish Line

Dull and uninspired, and that As sample is just ill-fitting.

Track 20: Ed Sheeran – The A Team

Lovely tune, but I find the theme a bit on-the-nose.

Track 21: Birdy – Skinny Love

Highly irritating whiny ballad.  Not a fan.

Track 22: Templecloud – One Big Family

I like the vocals, and it’s a good atmosphere, but it’s too slow for my liking.

Track 23: Pitbull, Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer – Give Me Everything

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

This is a great track though – I love the tune on the chorus.

Track 24: LMFAO, Lauren Bennett and GoonRock – Party Rock Anthem

I’ve always really liked this daft dance track – it was played at every wedding I went to in 2011 (and there were a lot of them!)

Track 25: DJ Fresh and Sian Evans – Louder

’90s-tinged dubstep, which was a big thing at the time and which I had kind of forgotten about until now.  Good beat, but the tune’s a bit generic.

Track 26: Example – Changed The Way You Kiss Me

An absolute classic!  Wonderful track – love the tune, the way it builds, everything.

Track 27: David Guetta, Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj – Where Them Girls At

I like that chant-along chorus, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the video.

Track 28: Chris Brown and Benny Benassi – Beautiful People

Annoying chorus, and the rest of the tune’s just uninspired.

Track 29: Calvin Harris and Kelis – Bounce

Great feelgood dance tune!  Gorgeous stuff.

Track 30: Loick Essien and Tanya Lacey – How We Roll

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

Great atmosphere, good beat.  Quite like this one.

Track 31: Nicki Minaj – Super Bass

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

This tune’s okay, but it’s a bit generic.

Track 32: Tinchy Stryder and Dappy – Spaceship

Daft track that always makes me laugh with its ridiculous lyrics.  I’m not sure if that was intentional or not.

Track 33: Wretch 32 and Example – Unorthodox

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Example on track 26.

This is another great track though – love that chorus.  The Fools’ Gold sample is awesome too.

Track 34: Vato Gonzalez and Foreign Beggars – Badman Riddim (Jump)

Some good lines on this dance track, but it’s a little messy.

Track 35: Snoop Dogg and David Guetta – Sweat

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

Good beat, good atmosphere – very danceable.

Track 36: Swedish House Mafia and John Martin – Save The World

Repetitive, irritating tune, and in general I just find this one a bit bland.

Track 37: Dev, The Cataracs and Tinie Tempah – Bass Down Low

Daft theme, but I really like this one!

Track 38: Mann and 50 Cent – Buzzin’

Another pleasingly daft song, but I find the tune a bit annoying.

Track 39: Chase & Status and Tinie Tempah – Hitz

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Tinie Tempah on track 37.

This one’s too messy for my liking, although Tinie Tempah’s whimsical rapping is always appreciated.

Track 40: Katy B – Broken Record

I find the tune very irritating, but the beat’s okay.

Track 41: Nero – Guilt

This one’s pretty boring, but I quite like the dubstep bass once it gets going.

Track 42: Alex Gaudino and Kelly Rowland – What A Feeling

The tune’s too cheesy for me, but it’s got a good beat.

Track 43: Wynter Gordon – Dirty Talk

Another solid pop track – really like this one.

Track 44: Inna – Sun Is Up

The tune’s a bit dull, but it’s fairly danceable.

Phone Box Thursday: Call Lane, Leeds

We move on this week to a series of red phone boxes around Leeds town centre.

Red phone box
Red phone box, Call Lane, Leeds, 23rd July 2016.

Um, ignore the banana skin.

I like to see phone boxes that have been turned into cash machines – it means they’re still useful in the 21st century and councils are less likely to get rid of them!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #78

Day 78 takes us to Now! #78, which was released on 11th April 2011.

April 2011
This is how the world looked in April 2011. Geth and I would have been midway through one of our walks along the Union Canal, which was our favourite thing to do on a sunny day in Edinburgh.

Let’s see what I would have been listening to during the last few months in our Tollcross flat.

Now! That's What I Call Music #78
Track 1: Bruno Mars – Grenade

Too saccharine for me, but the tune’s okay.

Track 2: Adele – Rolling In The Deep

Great atmosphere – love the chorus on this one.

Track 3: Jessie J – Do It Like A Dude

The theme’s a bit daft, but there are some nice instrumental lines here.

Track 4: Rihanna – S&M

Great piece of electropop – really like this tune.

Track 5: Kesha – We R Who We R

Irritating tune, very uninspired.

Track 6: The Wanted – Gold Forever

Released as the official Comic Relief single for 2011.  Sadly the song’s really bland.

Track 7: Matt Cardle – When We Collide

What was it I was saying three days ago?

Right on schedule, here’s X Factor winner Matt Cardle’s pointless cover of Biffy Clyro’s Many Of Horror.  Rather offensively, they changed the title of the song, because it clearly wasn’t bland enough for the kind of people who buy X Factor winners’ singles.  What’s hilarious is that the cover is SO pointless that on occasion, Cardle even apes Simon Neil’s Scottish accent.

Track 8: Take That – The Flood

Yay!  Take That are no longer Fake That!  Well, for one album at least.  Robbie Williams returned for the Progress album, and all was finally right with the world again.  This song is a gorgeous, epic, atmospheric tune – lovely stuff.

Track 9: Ellie Goulding – Your Song

Interesting folky cover of the Elton John classic (which was performed by Ellie Goulding for the first dance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at their wedding reception, fact fans).  The operatic Moulin Rouge! version from 2001 had cast a long shadow over the ’00s in terms of other people copying that take on the song when they did cover versions, so it was refreshing that this cover was so different again.

Track 10: JLS and Tinie Tempah – Eyes Wide Shut

Far too cheesy for my tastes, and the electro line sounds the same as every other dance track of this era.

Track 11: David Guetta and Rihanna – Who’s That Chick?

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

This is a great piece of bouncy pop, though – awesome tune.

Track 12: Taio Cruz and Travie McCoy – Higher

Taio Cruz did two versions of this song, one with Travie McCoy and one with Kylie Minogue.  I prefer the Kylie version, I have to say.  It’s still a good tune though.

Track 13: Chris Brown – Yeah 3x

Another dance track where the instrumentals sound the same as every other dance track released around this time.

Track 14: Britney Spears – Hold It Against Me

Daft theme, as the lyrics are based around that terrible pun of a pick-up line, but the tune’s okay.

Track 15: Alexis Jordan – Happiness

I’ve always quite liked the video for this one.  Do you remember how in the late ’00s/early ’10s, women’s fashion shoes were all ludicrously high six-inch-stiletto affairs with round covered platforms?  (As with most things, I only got rid of (most of) mine in my cull earlier this year.)  Like every other female pop artist of the era, Alexis Jordan wears them in the video here, but there’s a weird bit that makes it look like she can’t walk in them.

Anyway, the song’s kind of forgettable, but it’s got a nice feelgood atmosphere.

Track 16: Parade – Louder

Good beat, but the chorus is annoying.

Track 17: Olly Murs – Thinking Of Me

Nice jaunty track, quite like this tune.

Track 18: Avril Lavigne – What The Hell

Great bit of pop-rock – love that singalong chorus.

Track 19: McFly and Taio Cruz – Shine A Light

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Taio Cruz on track 12.

I’ve always found this tune pretty irritating.

Track 20: Noah & The Whale – L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.

Great folk-rock track – awesome lyrics, lovely tune.

Track 21: Susan Boyle and Geraldine McQueen – I Know Him So Well

Cover (complete with hilarious parody video) of the classic ’80s duet by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson.  It’s the kind of cover I would normally decry as pointless, but the point here is comedy, and they absolutely nailed it.  The charity fundraising for Comic Relief doesn’t hurt either.

Track 22: Jessie J and B.o.B – Price Tag

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Jessie J on track 3.

This is a very nice feelgood tune though – good stuff.

Track 23: Chipmunk and Chris Brown – Champion

Repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Chris Brown on track 13.

I like the intro – lovely piano, nice choral bit, great atmosphere.  The tune on the chorus is nice as well.

Track 24: Wiz Khalifa – Black And Yellow

Great tune, awesome atmosphere.

Track 25: Rihanna and Drake – What’s My Name?

Repeated artist mega alert!  We’ve already had Rihanna on both track 4 and track 11!  I am not impressed, Now! compilers.

This one’s an okay tune, but it’s a little repetitive.

Track 26: The Black Eyed Peas – The Time (Dirty Bit)

Messy cover of ’80s classic (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, with lots of…well…dirty bits (i.e. squeaky, tuneless feedback).  I shouldn’t like it, but it’s actually very danceable.

Track 27: Nicole Scherzinger – Poison

Nice solid pop track, really like this tune.

Track 28: Enrique Iglesias, Ludacris and DJ Frank E – Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)

Daft theme (don’t get me started on the explicit version), but it’s got a good beat.

Track 29: Cee Lo Green and Wiz Khalifa – Bright Lights Bigger City

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

This one’s a bit slow for my liking, but it’s got a great atmosphere.

Track 30: Katy Perry and Kanye West – ET

Awesome epic atmosphere, lovely tune, and the video is beautiful.

Track 31: Pink – Perfect

I find the theme of this one a bit awkward and the tune a bit dull.  Not a fan.

Track 32: Tinie Tempah and Ellie Goulding – Wonderman

Double repeated artist alert!  We’ve already had Tinie Tempah on track 10 and Ellie Goulding on track 9.

This song is lovely, though – that chorus is just gorgeous.

Track 33: Willow Smith – Whip My Hair

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

The theme is a little cheesy, but then she was about nine at the time.  Good song otherwise.

Track 34: Katy B and Ms Dynamite – Lights On

I’m not hugely keen on the tune, but it’s got a good beat.

Track 35: Martin Solveig and Dragonette – Hello

Great dance track!  Really like this feelgood tune.

Track 36: Flo Rida and Akon – Who Dat Girl

Dull tune, boring rap.  Not keen.

Track 37: Far East Movement, The Cataracs and Dev – Like A G6

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

Track 38: Wretch 32 and L Marshall – Traktor

Great beat – happily chair-dancing here.  Awesome lyrics too.

Track 39: Aggro Santos and Kimberley Walsh – Like U Like

Love this tune, and the verses have an awesome rhythm.

Track 40: Devlin and Yasmin – Runaway

This one’s a bit generic – nothing special here.

Track 41: Tinchy Stryder and Melanie Fiona – Let It Rain

Boring and forgettable.

Track 42: Chase & Status and Liam Bailey – Blind Faith

I like the ’90s tinge, but on the whole the track’s far too messy for my liking.