Skip to main content

To a Canadian Guy I Met in Barcelona (on the Subject of Music)

I've tried really hard to get into Arctic Monkeys since your recommendation.  I like the lyrics (I think) but I've never really liked Alex Turner's voice.  It's a shame because alongside the likes of fellow Mercury Prize winners Alt-J, they're one of the UK's most popular indie bands. But while i think Arctic Monkeys are deserving of the hype (at their best, they're brilliant storytellers: this performance of Fluorescent Adolescent is one of my all-time favourites), I don't think Alt-J are.  Their lyrics are, quite frankly, stupid and the band have been deeply overhyped.   

I've been listening to a lot of songs by The National recently.  They've always been on my radar but it was only recently that I discovered songs like Don't Swallow the Cap and Bloodbuzz Ohio.  I don't highly rate them as songwriters; their songs lack coherence, but if you like taking lines on an individual basis, as I sometimes do, then they're definitely a band to check out.  

In terms of the songwriters that Britain has, I think Ben Howard is the one that has got it - should we say, most right - in his latest album, I Forgot Where We Were.  I'm still obsessed by a song of his called Conrad - a very deep, multi-layered offering that actually seems to have something to say.  Everything I've listened to recently (including the latest offering by Scotland's Paolo Nutini and Ireland's Damien Rice) just seems a bit empty, but I Forgot Where We Were has bucked that trend and offers something both emotionally and - I daresay - intellectually.  It's like your compatriot Neil Young said about writing tender songs: as soon as you try to write a tender song, they no longer become tender. 

Laura Marling is always one to look out for (What She Wrote, Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) and My Blackberry Stone are all near-masterpieces, and while they are sophisticated, they are slightly more elusive in meaning than the songs on her first album, Alas I cannot Swim), but she has never released an album without "I" or "Me" in the title, which should tell you something about the subject matter she tends to concern herself with.  But it works, especially her first two albums, which I absolutely urge you to check out.  They are essential.  The only other female singer-songwriters we have that can be put in the same bracket as her are Adele and Florence from Florence and the Machine, which - as major UK exports - I'm sure you've heard of.  

Out of all of our female singer songwriters we have, it is only Adele that has been able to detach herself from her own ego for 3 or 4 minutes and tell a good, simple story.  She speaks to The Everyman and is arguably the most popular female artist this century.  

As much as I love sophisticated lyrics riddled with deeper meaning, I'd love for a British Johnny Cash or Dolly Parton (not in terms of style, although my taste has tended towards country music for its purity in the last few years - a sign that I must be getting old!) to come along.  I need a storyteller who keeps it simple, who keeps it funny, who provides a narrative and does all of this without pretension. But perhaps I'm asking too much.  I think Rock Island Line, made famous by Johnny Cash, is one of the greatest songs ever written.  I think it's got everything.  I guess it's only a matter of time before someone like that comes along and produces songs so great that they get weaved into the public consciousness.  I'll have my fingers crossed for that.  


Popular posts from this blog

An Expert Analysis of Michael Fassbender's Running Style From the Film 'Shame'

Tom Wiggins: What are your first impressions of Michael Fassbender/Brandon's running style? Paul Whittaker: He's running nice, smooth and relaxed. He seems like he has a good amount of fitness and he is running well within himself in terms of pace.   TW: What improvements could he make to his running style? PW: The main improvement I'd make is his foot plant.  He lands heel first and this causes a 'breaking' effect when travelling forwards.  If he landed on his mid-foot/forefoot, this would be a much better for impact stress and propulsion going forward into the next running stride. TW: Regarding his speed, how many minutes per mile is he running? PW: I would say he is running approx 7-7.30 minutes per mile. TW:  What do you make of his stride lengths?  Is he overstriding/understriding? PW: The actor is definitely overstriding in this clip.  It would help if his feet landed underneath and below his centre of gravity. TW: What's his posture like? PW: A slight forward le…

The Babalú Coffee House & Graffiti in Central Reykjavik

A month or two after getting back from last year's trip to Iceland, I noticed on my analytics page that my blog had attracted a massive seven visitors who were based in Iceland. 'That's strange.' I thought. 'I haven't even mentioned, let alone blogged about Iceland yet. Why am I attracting visitors?' It was at this point that I recalled scrawling my blog address on the wall of a Reykjavik coffee shop. Don't worry, readers: it was perfectly legal.

Any UK-based coffee house would have shown me the door as I graffitied this here url across their wall, but this was the Babalú Coffee House.  And you soon realise upon arriving in Iceland that it has the highest concentration of cool, calm and creative types than just about anywhere else in the world.  Iceland is like the coolest place you've ever visited...just better.  It's so hip that it could bring that very word back into fashion.  
Situated on the Skólavördustigur road and roughly between Ha…

A Scene From "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Roughly halfway through Nuri Bilge Ceylan's 'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia', after a long night in search of a body through remote Turkish hillsides, a weary parade of officials and the accused stop for sustenance.  Tiredness and confusion has muddled the mind of the suspect over the whereabouts of the body.  The search party, consisting of a police commissioner, doctor, prosecutor and driver, are all past the point of tiredness.  They've all written the night off and have resigned themselves to the fact that they're unlikely to return to town with either a confession or the missing body.  In the early hours of the morning, the  three-car parade stop for a break in a village and gather in the darkness of the local mayor's home.  All the men are physically and emotionally spent.  Even in the darkness, the stresses and strains of their working and personal lives are discernable through the shadows thrown on each of their faces.  Cracks are showing that may never g…