Sunset over Hamburg docklands

20ish Things I Tried To Do Before I Was 30

Life, Music

Well, that’s it, I’m officially 30, and have been for almost a week. In fact it started at quite a pace with an early morning flight for work and a client presentation.

But you don’t care about that. Hopefully if you’re reading this it means you’re kind of interested in whether I managed to succeed at any more of those challenges. So here goes:

1. Get that tattoo! 
I don’t have the tattoo yet, but the wheels are in motion to get it. 

2. See your favourite actor in one of the major plays of the season in London.
Done 😀 and I plan to post a little review soon.

3. On a night out, if you spot a hot guy boldly buy him a drink. 
No hot guys spotted. Although there were arguably not that many nights out to spot any hot guys. 

4. Help the homeless
TICK

5. Prepare your lunch at home for a full week
5 days worth of lunch taken in to work 😀 Go me!

6. Write that first chapter...
I half did this… it needs a bit more work but if you’re interested/lucky I might share this opener sometime soon.

7. Apply for a job that sounds like a real challenge
TICK

8. Make out with a Bavarian.
Well, I ruled out making out with a Bavarian but I did attempt to have a conversation in German with the taxi driver who took me from Munich airport to my client meeting. Seeing as I’d been awake since 4am, who knows whether what I actually said made any sense, but he at least humoured me for the 30 minutes he was a captive audience.

9. Adopt a kitty.
I got to pet 6 beautiful kittens and a slightly anxious mummy cat while visiting friends of mine in London.

10. Write a fan letter to One Direction.
Done. Read it here: http://wp.me/p2oEtS-2O

11. Fund something ridiculous but cool on Kickstarter.
Ok, so I have to admit that technically I completely forgot about this one. BUT, I did preorder a friend’s book he’s planning to self publish so that kind of counts right?

12. Find a “Victorian Female Hobby” ™ and reclaim it. Cross stitching feminist slogans is a good start!
Nope, failed at this one spectacularly.

13. Get drunk without getting a hangover. Believe me, it’s going to be the last time.
I don’t ever drink enough to really claim that I did this to be honest. 

14. Sleep underneath the stars.
I’m claiming dancing under the stars and then sleeping between 5.30am and 10am for this one.

15. Write a poem.
I started to write one, inspired by the current discussion about Syrian  refugees. I don’t think it’s ready for public consumption yet but maybe I’ll share what I did with you some time.

16. Kiss a stranger without any foreplay.
Nope. Didn’t manage this one either.

17. Stagediving. Go for it.
Or this one :/ Oops.

18. Get up early and watch a sunrise somewhere beautiful
I got up early and saw the sunrise on my journey to the airport on my 30th birthday. Not really somewhere beautiful but still pretty amazing.

19. Go to the top of a mountain and sit there contemplating the world.
Again, didn’t make it up a mountain but contemplated the world while several thousand feet in the air travelling across Europe. Can we say that counts??

20. Go to a music festival
TICK – MS Dockville in Hamburg

21. Watch a meteor shower
TICK – Watched the Perseid from my balcony

22. See Wicked in the West End
TICK – this was a last minute whim added to my list when deciding what I could do with the rest of my stay in London to see Hamlet

Progress Report: 29 Things To Do Before I’m 30

Life, Music

There’s just over a week to go until my 30th. Where does the time go?! Seriously, I swear the Earth has decided to spin faster since I decided to do this. Anyway, I guess I’m about to hit the final straight of the challenge and well, it probably could be going better to be honest. But there are at least a few that can be updated/ticked off. Here we go!

1. Get that tattoo! (Or, considering timings and waiting lists, I think ‘book that tattoo appointment’ also counts in this case.) 
Ok, still trying to find a tattooist for this one. Any tips/recommendations are welcome.

2. See your favourite actor in one of the major plays of the season in London. (Ok that one’s cheating a bit but some of these should be easy, right? 😉 )
Less than eight days to go to this. I’m having to actively not think about it to avoid getting too excited 😉

3. On a night out, if you spot a hot guy boldly buy him a drink. (Because 30 is the age of fearless.)
Working on that night out thing….

4. Help the homeless
I can check this one off my list, although to be honest it’ll be something I try to keep doing. On this occasion I bought some breakfast for a lady who at least appeared to be homeless and asked me to buy her something to eat while I was picking up a breakfast snack for myself from the local bakery. We communicated in this weird broken German and I bought her something hot for breakfast. 

5. Prepare your lunch at home for a full week (because we all know how delicious the food at work is)
If taking leftover pizza to work counts, we can take the total number of successful packed lunch days up to 3!

6. Write that first chapter you’ve been thinking about. It doesn’t necessarily need to make a full book but just start with it..
Yep… still got to put fingers to keyboard!

7. Apply for a job that sounds like a real challenge
I’ve updated my portfolio, now to find somewhere to apply to.

8. Make out friends with a Bavarian. (’cause some of these should be easy. *giggles and runs*)
Er, yeah… slow progress on this one.

9. Adopt a kitty.
I’ve befriended a random colleague’s dog at the office, does that count?

10. Write a fan letter to One Direction.
Since they announced their planned hiatus, this is absolutely perfect. Copy of the letter coming soon.

11. Fund something ridiculous but cool on Kickstarter.
Not found the ridiculous Kickstarter project of my dreams yet…

12. Find a “Victorian Female Hobby” ™ and reclaim it. Cross stitching feminist slogans is a good start!
I’d forgotten about this one to be honest… *wanders off to Google*

13. Get drunk without getting a hangover. Believe me, it’s going to be the last time.
Yeah… I don’t really do the getting drunk or the having hangovers. I like to be in control too much

14. Sleep underneath the stars.
Technically I danced underneath the stars until sunrise and then slept out in the open in my sleeping bag between roughly 5.30am and 10am. So I think that counts…? 

15. Write a poem. When you’re over 30 and grown up, maybe people think you’re strange if you still write poems.
Ah yes… where did I leave my inner poet?

16. Kiss a stranger without any foreplay.
Uh huh.

17. Stagediving. Go for it.
I missed an opportunity to do this at MS Dockville last weekend sadly…. not sure if the opportunity will present itself again before the big 3-0.

18. Get up early and watch a sunrise somewhere beautiful
Or alternatively don’t go to bed right? I saw the sunrise at MS Dockville from the stroll back from the festival/showers after dancing all night.

19. Go to the top of a mountain and sit there contemplating the world.
Not done this one yet either…

And here’s two more I decided to add:

django_django20. Go to a music festival
So technically this was already planned before I started my list, but I went to MS Dockville in Hamburg last weekend. It was amazing. Great bands, great company and lots of dancing until sunrise.

21. Watch a meteor shower
The Perseid happened a few days after I started this challenge and as I’d never watched a meteor shower before I thought I should jump at the chance to watch it. OK, so I wasn’t organised enough to get out of the city but I saw a few meteors dashing across the sky from my 3rd floor balcony.

Music Review: Sam Isaac – When The Lights Went Out

Music, Reviews

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=2390653404/size=venti/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=4285BB/

About four years ago, in a dingy pub-cum-gig-venue in Norwich, England (called, if I remember correctly, The Queen Charlotte, located about five minutes from my then front door with a splendid line of Iced Strawberry Daiquiris at £3 per giant-sized pitcher), I saw Sam Isaac for the first time. Squished in between the bar and a sea of punters, mostly students, Sam stood in the dimly lit venue with just a microphone and his acoustic and played his heart out. I was hooked.

I’m not entirely sure how I came to know about Sam Isaac. I think it was a result of many hours listening to the delightful Welsh tones of Radio 1’s Huw Stephens on his Introducing… slot. Whatever the story, sitting in The Queen Charlotte, no doubt supping a sugary ice-cold beverage, I found myself tunelessly singing away to a beautiful song that was washing over the crowd. Much to the amusement of my friend Annette. (Or possibly her distress…) Yet I had no idea what it was, or who it was standing mere feet in front of me. (We didn’t even realise there was a gig on at the pub to start with). I later came to know that the song was called Sideways (which I thoroughly recommend you get a copy of somehow) and the ginger man with a guitar was called Sam.

Think Ed Sheeran meets Ben Howard via Noah and the Whale and you’ll get an idea of what this UK-based singer-songwriter sounds like. But Sam was around long before Ben and Ed and probably Noah really made an impact on the British music scene. Somehow though, the music loving public haven’t appeared to be as taken with Sam as with these other singer-songwriters.

Recorded at home, over the course of a year, When The Lights Went Out is a welcome return from Mr Isaac. It’s a chilled, beautiful little album, perfect for relaxing in the last of the summer days or for running through parks covered in crisp autumn leaves or for a indie film soundtrack (most suited to films in the vein of Garden State, Once, etc).

It might not be an album to fervently write home about, it might not dramatically change your life, but it will certainly brighten your day as it rotates round to play on your iPod. Well, I like it anyway.

Music: Ones to watch in 2011

Music, Reviews

It’s that time of year again; time for round ups, retrospective opinions and contemplative previews.

As December draws to its wintery end and the world gears itself for a fresh batch of 365 days seen in with a decent amount of revelry here’s some music to add to your NYE playlist of acts to watch in 2011. (So when they make it big next year, you can feel smug knowing you’ve been ahead of the game)

The Joy Formidable

Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt are otherwise known as The Joy Formidable and come highly recommended by Radio 1’s new music connoisseur, Huw Stephens. This spritely, enthusiastic little Welsh band have been doing the rounds for a good few years and have just completed a tour of the US.

2011 sees the release of their debut album The Big Roar at the end of January. It is preceded by the single Austere (check out the new video), available on limited edition vinyl and to download from January 17th.

All that is followed by a tour kicking off in February, which takes them across the UK, Europe, back to the US and to 2011’s SXSW in Texas.

If you can’t wait a few weeks to hear more then lurking in the depths of the internet is their previous EP A Balloon Called Moaning.

 

Little Comets
Another band releasing their debut album in January 2011, and also hotly tipped by Huw Stephens, are northern foursome Little Comets. Think the Mystery Jets meet The Coral and you might end up somewhere close to the sound of Matt, Mark, Michael and Robert.

Hailing from Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Little Comets have already created an extensive fan base and gained a notoriety for gatecrashing university lectures and performing on public transport.

After the success of previous singles Adultery, One Night In October and Isles, Little Comets are set to grace airwaves up and down the country with the release of their debut album In Search of the Elusive Little Comets at the end of January.

Catch them on tour at a venue near you in January starting at Liverpool’s Shipping Forecast on the 28th.

Everything Everything
Technically Everything Everything aren’t a brand new, emerging act for 2011 but they are taking part on the NME Shockwaves Awards Tour which has often provided a platform for bands ready to hit the mainstream bigtime (notably The Killers, Bloc Party, We Are Scientists and Arctic Monkeys).

Sounding a little like a noughties indie version of The Pet Shop Boys (and that’s a good thing), Manchester quartet Everything Everything are already leaving their mark with their 2010 album Man Alive.

Expect great, probably slightly surreal, things from this band in 2011. They’ve been 6 Music’s album of the day, met Rolf Harris on a ferry and have already hidden themselves away to write that “difficult second album”.

If you want to get a taste of Everything Everything and their more than slightly quirky style then check out the single Photoshop Handsome – available to download from January 17th – or their previous single My KZ Ur BF.

The Go! Team

If you’ve never come across The Go! Team before you have been missing an audio/visual treat. They are a six piece from Brighton and 2011 brings a brand new album that’s bound to be jam-packed with feel-good bouncy tunes galore.

Rolling Blackouts is due for release at the end of January. It is the third album from the band and looks set to continue their happy, psychedelic party throwback sound.

February will see the band make a welcome return to the live scene, starting with a show in London’s Heaven on February 8th. If you’ve wanted to see how a band incorporate various instruments including an African Thumb piano, harmonica and glockenspiel into a rock band, The Go! Team are the ones to catch.

Educate your ears with hits from their 2004 debut Thunder Lightning Strike and a few previews of the new album.


Alice Gold

She looks a bit like a moody Joss Stone or a tastefully dressed Jennifer Ellison and sounds like PJ Harvey got pumped full of adrenaline. She’s recently supported Athlete on their UK tour, unleashing her attitude-laden voice and guitar rock on the unsuspecting crowd.

Born in Camberley, Alice started writing at age eight, toured America on her own in a 1978 Winnebago and generally appeared to live a bit of a nomadic-esque life according to her myspace profile.

Keep your ears out for her album Seven Rainbows which is due in the summer, and expect a single in early 2011. Describing her sound to The Sun as ‘psychedelic pop played with soul’ Alice is sure to crop up in the music press every now and then if nothing else.

So that’s it, your five to listen out for in 2011. This list isn’t by any means comprehensive; comment, criticise and add your own top tips below.

Other notable acts to make sure you delight your ears with include Sheffield band Feelix, James Blake, Lyrikkal (she’s nine and could give Willow Smith a run for her dad’s money) and if you haven’t happened across these yet make sure you give Sleigh Bells and Cold War Kids (who are back with a new album) a listen.

LIVE REVIEW: Athlete O2 Academy Sheffield November 29 2010

Music, Reviews

First published by Sheffield’s free magazine Exposed
Photos to follow just as soon as I get them uploaded!

Athlete
O2 Academy, Sheffield
November 29th 2010
4/5
 
For unbeknown reasons, Athlete have never really hit the so-called Big Time. Even the success of 2002’s album Vehicles and Animals or hit single, Wires, in 2005, hasn’t seen them secure a coveted place in the indie hall of fame. (Although they did secure an Ivor Novello Award for Wires). Where others have soared in a giddy haze to the top, Athlete have been the steady tortoise, plodding faithfully, writing beautiful songs and producing stalwart albums.
 
Yet in the intimate venue upstairs at Sheffield’s O2 Academy, competing against the beats of Vampire Weekend downstairs, Athlete prove just why they have sustained a firm and varied fan base. Tonight they are supported by local singer songwriter Stoney and a girl called Alice Gold who looks like Joss Stone and sounds like an attitude laden PJ Harvey.
 
Athlete’s Joel Pott takes to the stage with his acoustic guitar and mix track and launches into You Got The Style. Considering the weather outside is threatening a snow blizzard, it’s the perfect ironic start – Oh it’s getting hot in here, must be something in the atmosphere – to a beautiful night.
Immediately the room is in full voice, singing along. As they abandon the setlist for a moment, the boys crank out Vehicles and Animals, swiftly followed by Westside – complete with Joel forgetting the lyrics and a brilliant little bit of heckling and banter between stage and crowd. 
 
Athlete have drawn a Sheffield crowd that spans generations and includes some fans who witnessed the band perform ten years ago supporting Mansun at the Leadmill. 
 
It’s feel good, it’s melancholic, it’s downright cheerful in places. Whatever you think of Athlete, make sure you catch them live next time they grace a Sheffield venue. Surveying the audience tonight as they dispel onto snowy Arundel Gate, every face displays a smile despite the freezing weather. You won’t be disappointed.

LIVE REVIEW: Just a Band – Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Plug, Sheffield

Music, Reviews

Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip
Plug, Sheffield
October 27th 2010
4/5
This review was written for Exposed (exposedmagazine.co.uk), Sheffield
It’s been over three years since they graced our airwaves with a satirical social commentary on NME and the supremacy of Stephen Fry but Dan le Sac and his bearded pal Scroobius Pip are back. Stopping off in an energetic Sheffield to play Plug, which, in Scroobius’ words, looks like a laser quest venue, they bought a quirky American lady by the name of Kid A and Birmingham septet Misty’s Big Adventure with them.
Kid A, otherwise known as Anni T, can only be described as Bjork meets Morcheeba to a background of electronica beats. The voice of Sac vs Pip’s latest single release, Cauliflower, Kid A opened the night in an unassumingly pleasant way.
Misty’s Big Adventure, on the other hand, launched into their set with provoking poetry and a tune not dissimilar to the Batman cartoon theme. It’s rare a support brings so many feel good vibes as Misty’s Big Adventure. Imagine The Go! Team crossbred with The Zutons and you might be close to the hunched over excitable band complete with trumpet and baritone sax. Their emo-spoof, I Want A Biscuit, You Can’t Have One was a definite highlight.
Despite a series of hit songs a few years back, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip are still very much on the backburner of the mainstream. Opening with Sick Tonight, they immediately get the Sheffield audience on side, Dan dropping beats only he knows how to perfectly complements Pip’s half spoken, half sung vocals.
Even as the boys pull out more melancholic tracks, including The Magician’s Assistant, they strike a balance with humour about dwarves and three children sneaking into the gig on each others’ shoulders. After a solemn moment in memory of a lad called Jamie, Scroobius and Dan pull out the track that first snuck onto the iPods of the crowd – Thou Shalt Always Kill. With the crowd singing back every word as they bounce around, the song ramps up the gig for the final part of the nigt.
Saving hits The Beat That My Heart Skipped and Letter From God To Man for the encore, complete with Pip’s longest crowdsurf in which he kicked a mirror ball, these too likely lads from Essex leave the northern audience on a high and disappear.

Album review: Tinie Tempah Disc-Overy

Music, Reviews
Released 4th October 2010
9/10
What do Dysons, Mallorie Blackman, Scunthorpe and Simon Cowell have in common? Any ideas? No? I’ll tell you. They all feature in lyrics on Tinie Tempah‘s brand new album, Disc-Overy; his debut no less.
Instantly likeable from the first play, Tinie has created a monster of a major label debut which sucks you in from the moment you press play, pumps you full of adrenaline and leaves you wondering what just happened as closing track Let Go winds you down.
In 2001 a black 12 year old boy named Patrick Okogwu discovered UK garage unit So Solid Crew. Nine years later he’s better known as Tinie Tempah and is up for four Digital Music Awards including Best Newcomer. That’s more awards than singles he’s released.
Recorded in just 11 months in London and Sweden, it hardly seems possible that Disc-Overy is Tinie’s debut. Having firmly secured himself within the UK mainstream music scene with hits like Pass Out, Frisky and latest single Written In The Stars all in the space of the last year it’s hard to imagine the urban scene without Tinie.
The album quickly settles in with a sound that could easily become synonymous with Tinie’s urban style, rushing us through to his hit single Pass Out. But as track four, Illusion, and the following, Just A Little, slide you into an easy urban groove it’s clear that Disc-Overy is not 13 clones of Tinie’s early hits. The frantic pace of Pass Out falls away to embrace a more reflective mood that carries through the middle section of the album.
Having written most of the tracks after the phenomenal success of Pass Out, Disc-Overy takes you on a journey through Tinie’s childhood in South London as well as telling of the good, the bad and the downright ugly of the twenty-first century fame monster.
Featuring collaborations with Ellie Goulding and Kelly Rowland plus track production from dance producers of the moment, Swedish House Mafia, Tinie’s album has an impressive weight behind it that can only serve to help its success.
When a debut album doesn’t feel or sound like a debut you’ve got to be on to something great. Disc-Overy is set to launch Tinie into the future and secure his place in the urban scene on a worldwide scale.