Mixtape Mondays | Awesome Covers vol.5

Monday, December 18, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

Not long ago I was watching a video which touched on an interesting subject: the weird associations our brain does following relationships. More specifically break ups. It mentioned grudges we hold without even being aware we're doing so. If you're not sure of what I am talking about, well, answer this question. How many times have you swiped left because the person in question shared the same name as your ex? 

Do check Amber Run's original material, they're fantastic, live even more so! 

Now you may be wondering, how come that has anything to do with music or blogging? Well, I got really stuck after my last playlist named after Dodie's song Sick of Losing Soulmates, I just didn't know how to follow it. There are absolutely no excuses for being away for so long, but I guess I needed a break. However, with the new year in the horizon and the promise of a fresh start, I thought it was high time for me to put some new playlists out there. 

Mixtape Mondays | Awesome Covers vol.5

I coming back with an easy one, Awesome Covers is back! As you're probably aware, I don't listen to much commercial music, so I often have no idea a song is a cover. Most recently it happened with Hide & Seek. I've only knew the Amber Run version and had never even heard of Imogen Heap until it played at a friends' dinner party. It also took me a while to realise Pillowtalk wasn't a Mystery Jets track. Anywaaaay... Before you judge me, at least I know Shake It Off is not a Ryan Adams song. 

One of my favourite covers in this playlist is Regina Spektor's piano driven version of No Surprises, followed by Xylaroo's take on I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor. You'll also find here Travis, The Civil Wars, Little Hours, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and many more. I hope you enjoy this better-late-than-never-come-back of Mixtape Mondays. Happy listening! 

Mixtape Mondays | Sick of Losing Soulmates

Monday, July 03, 2017 3 Comments A+ a-

I will keep this post short because this playlist has been in the making for almost 6 months (or a lifetime!) and it is long overdue. This is not your average heartbreak playlist. You won't find here any obvious renditions of an aching heart, there is no room for "I wish you well" songs as Adele's Someone Like You or angry revenge classics such as Alanis' You Oughta Know

I am absolutely in love with these five lads from Nottingham, D.I.D = Dog Is Dead

This mixtape celebrates that kind of love which makes you lose your breath and your sleep but is as ephemeral as it is intense. And, as Seafret's Tell Me It's Real lyrics describe, the kind you can "say it is over just as it begins". Dodie's song I suppose makes the perfect title: Sick of Losing Soulmates.   

The highlight of this playlist are the images painted by some of these lyrics, so instead of going on and on about these tracks, here is a list (because I love lists!) of my favourite 10 extracts. 

Mixtape Mondays | Sick of Losing Soulmates

"There is an off-white little lie I've made about you, that I meant to hurt you"
D.I.D | I Meant To Hurt You

"So don't go, stay with me baby and wear clothes
The waters gone cold but I can't get out
Oh it's not right, when breathing is giving in"
Will Joseph Cook | Water's Gone Cold 

"Destroy the middle, it's a waste of time
From the perfect start to the finish line
And if you're still breathing, you're the lucky ones
'Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs
Setting fire to our insides for fun
Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong"
Daughter | Youth

"Endless talking of life rebuilding
Don't walk away, in silence"
Codeine | Atmosphere 

"I had all and then most of you
Some and now none of you
Take me back to the night we met"
Lord Huron | The Night We Met

"You lined me up across the room
Two falling sparks, one willing fool
And I always knew
That I would love you from afar
You told me 'boy look the other way'
You told me 'boy hide those hands'
Cause I've been living on the crumbs of your love
And I'm starving now"
Vance Joy | From Afar

"So I tried to erase it, but the ink bled right through
Almost drove myself crazy when these words led to you
And all these useless dreams of living alone
Like a dogless bone
So come let me love you
Come let me love you and then colour me in"
Damien Rice | Colour Me In

"So dry those eyes and don’t be afraid
Cause the rhythm of lovers ain't the same
No you don’t know it don’t come easy
Come easy
They say it comes in threes, love, hope and misery
And the first two have gone, tell me if I’m wrong"
Jake Bugg | Love, Hope and Misery

"And distance tells you that
Distance must come between love
Where have you been Luv?
When the mistake we made
Was in never having planned to fall in love, Luv"
Travis | Luv

"Like ghosts we both appear
In this Polaroid I'll treasure through the years
Full of promise and of smiles
We are happily quite ignorant of pain
Oh how life can quickly change
You can't predict the rain
Or second guess the stars"
Mr. Hudson | Ghosts

Mixtape Mondays | Songs About Cities

Monday, June 05, 2017 1 Comments A+ a-

A post by Charlie Hole,
a.k.a @charliehole

“Oh my God, New York can talk
Somewhere in all that talk is all the answers”
                         - Elbow, New York Morning

I’ve always been fascinated by cities; the way they move and change, the way they rise and fall, live and die, and seem to exist beyond the people who occupy them at any given time. 

I remember walking around London one night just thinking about the secrets it held, the stories it could tell and all the people it must have seen pass through it over the years. It’s impossible to walk through a city like London and not be completely overwhelmed by the sheer history of it. I always wonder about whose footsteps I could be walking in at any given time.

Elbow are not alone, New York itself has inspired so many songs it could have it is own playlist

One of the things that interested me most about cities is the relationship each of us has with them, and how we all interact with it in different ways. When I wrote The City, I imagined London as a person, who could make or break me at will, she could "promise me the world" or "trample on my dreams"... I wanted to show the city as a living and breathing organism, with a personality and defining characteristics, who could make me suffer and struggle or show me success beyond my wildest expectations. She was this omniscient presence looking over everyone. Or at least that’s how it felt sometimes.  

Ray Lamontagne wrote about the dark side of the coin, the way a city can break a man and how it can suffocate you to the point of exhaustion in New York Is Killing Me

"I get so tired of all this concrete / I get so tired of all this noise"

Cities can be relentless places, they don’t ever stop and when your luck is down you can fall through the cracks fast. The overwhelming abyss of buildings and concrete brickwork extending all around can box you in. And you’ve just gotta get out, to come up for air, escape to the countryside and breathe. 

But cities also offer all the opportunity any ambitious person could ever need, as Billy Joel wrote in Vienna.

"But you know that when the truth is told,
That you can get what you want or you just get old...
Vienna waits for you"
It’s all yours to have if you want it, the glory is all there waiting for you somewhere in the city, you’ve just gotta dig it out somehow. Use the city before the city uses you. Too many people go to a city and expect it to all come to them: the fame, the money, the success... They’re waiting for the city, when the truth is the city’s waiting for them, just go and get it.

The other thing I was interested in was how cities stitch stories into the fabric of all of us, creating shared events that bring us all together. In Randy Newman’s Louisiana 1927 he tells the story of the flood which left 700,000 people homeless and laments the reaction of the government, which largely left many poor black communities stranded. The song was later used in a campaign for the people of New Orleans after a similar event in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. "Louisiana, Louisiana / They're tryin' to wash us away"

Steve Earle wrote about how cities can tell more personal stories in his heartbreaking tribute to his friend and songwriter Townes Van Zandt, who had recently passed away. We associate memories or people with certain cities or places that have left a stain on us in some way and we leave our mark everywhere we go.

"And every place I travel through I find
Some kinda sign, that you've been through"
To understand the real power of this song you’ve got to watch the live version where you can see singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith crying next to Steve as he sang the song.

Above all, cities show us the best and the worst of life, the extremes of humanity and an honest reflection of ourselves. Cities are the only places we live on earth which is completely our own creation, we built them from scratch to provide our every need as human beings. That’s what I love most about cities, they show us where we’ve come from, who we are, and who we can be, all at the same time.

Mixtape Mondays | Randoms vol.3

Monday, March 27, 2017 1 Comments A+ a-

It is Randoms playlist time again! I suppose I can blame this craving for fresh new music to Spring coming. There was definitely a bigger gap between Volume 1 (February 2016) and Volume 2 (November 2016) than there is now, but I've been lucky enough to come across some great findings and could not wait to share them with you! 

I am not sure how I've never come across them before, but glad I've Embrace's entire discography to discover!

Differently to the two previous collections, none of these came out of gigs. But I can certainly say more than half of it came out of running! You ask how? I've a feeling both my Discover Weekly and Daily Mixes changed considerably since I started using Spotify's Your Running Mix tool - if you're not acquainted with it, the script works suggesting songs by artists or genres you like, but matching your running tempo. For example, ISLAND and Daughter are both bands I listened to when running, although not necessarily the tracks I've chosen to feature here. 

Just over a third of this playlist came from - running - friend's suggestions. Two favourites are most definitely The Decemberists and Bright Eyes, both old school bands, which makes me wonder how on earth I had never come across them before? Talking about earth... Do check out Bright Eyes' song Lua, which in Portuguese means Moon. I haven't added it to this playlist, as it wasn't the song which introduced me to them, but am in love with its lyrics. 

I suppose because of this new found range of classics, others started to pop by my feed and amongst them, Gravity by Embrace. Already one of my favourite songs of all time. It is a strange feeling, but it somehow made me think of being in my teens, good old days of laying in bed listening to radio late at night in the hopes of coming across new music, looking at the sky out of the window and feeling the cool breeze on a summer's night. 

Some other great findings which I want to spend a bit more time exploring before I elaborate on them, but so far seem pretty promising, are:

- New York based The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - I absolutely love this name! - Contender is proper old school indie pop. * Spoiler Alert! Their cover of James' Laid is brilliant, coming soon on Awesome Covers vol. 5 *

- 21-year-old YouTuber sensation Dodie. I had never paid that much attention to her until coming across this original, Sick of Losing Soulmates. She's done some pretty decent covers, but it is the witty lyrics of this song which took me back to Kate Nash's Made of Bricks era. 

- Please do spend 18 minutes of your day listening to Learn to Kiss, the brilliant debut EP by Dancing Years, a Leeds based quintet. I've chosen Neon Lights for this playlist, but I am very much in love with the violin in the melancholic April and can't help but find Valentine has some Radiohead quality to it. Do check them out!

And that's about it for now. Happy random Monday y'all, catch up again very soon! 

Mixtape Mondays | Star Gazing ★☆★

Monday, March 20, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

I think I was 12 years old when in one of the rock magazines I used to buy as an avid 80s collector, I came across a quote attributed to Jon Bon Jovi which said "I like stars cause they are free". I've never heard or read anywhere else him saying these words, but they've never left me. 

You see, I was a weird kid - yes, it goes that far back! I liked the usual drawing and colouring kids do, but I could spend my evenings sitting in our backyard with my ancient great-granny, listening to her stories as I drew pages and pages of tiny little dots. I've had many maps of Rio's night sky by the time of my first visit to a planetarium. 

Some songs are simple but know how to strike a chord: When The Stars Go Blue, by Ryan Adams, is definitely one 

I can't really tell how it started but I was always drawn to them, the stars. So yes, this playlist has a special meaning and it was particularly challenging as I did not want to let go of it. I thought appropriate to also include the video below - as well as the original track by Bad Company - as this particular recording marked the time of my life when I first acknowledged this fascination with stars. Funnily enough, it happened just around the corner from me today, in Hammersmith, on January 10th 1990 - my birthday is the 9th! The teenager me could have never dreamt of where I'd be 15 years later... 

I think it is also brilliant to hear Jon Bon Jovi singing these lyrics so far back in the day, as they pretty much became a self-fulfilling prophecy, apart from the fact he is still standing.

This playlist is a mix of classics, personal favourites, some new findings and, to my surprise, a few soundtracks. Also called Shooting Star is the Air Traffic opening track, followed by Radiohead's classic Black Star. Still in the 90s vibe, we've the likes of James - and here is She's A Star once more - and Blur. And as the 2000s creep in, The KillersFoo Fighters, Stereophonics, Ryan Adams and Coldplay make an appearance.

Mixtape Mondays | Star Gazing ★☆★

On the personal favourites I've Tom Odell's Constellations and Palace's Veins. Two new finds which have intrigued me are Stargazer, by London based ISLAND - they're playing their biggest headline gig to date at Heaven on May 3rd, they haven't released an album yet but do check the singles on Spotify, I particularly like Spotless Mind - and Star Star, by Irish folks of The Frames, which somehow I had never come across.

Closing the mixtape we've a series of - some would say cheesy - soundtracks. I've lost track of the amount of films we've Corinne Bailey Rae's Like a Star. Yes, it is dated, but if you can get past it, it's got a nice somewhat jazzy melody, which led me to think of the next song, the impossible-to-get-out-of-your-head La La Land's City of Stars. Thoughts on the film aside, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are indeed adorable singing this. And if we're going down that route, I might as well bring Keira Knightley's version of Adam Levine's Lost Stars, from Begin Again. And, ultimately - feel free to go ahead and judge me - I've not only watched, but sobbed throughout The Fault In Our Stars, so here is Ed Sheeran and All of the Stars, just because. Happy listen! ★☆★

Mixtape Mondays | Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Monday, March 13, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

Over the last few weeks I've made two playlists, not for the blog, but for a friend - I know, I am sorry peeps for not sharing, but the songs have all been featured here before, so suppose I am excused?! Anyway, it will all make sense in a few more lines... 

When I am compiling mixtapes for the blog and writing about these I've my journalist cap on. Don't get me wrong, I am a hopeless romantic (I have a t-shirt to prove it!) and I don't pretend to be impartial when sharing my thoughts about the songs & artists I choose to bring to your attention. They tend to be my favourites on a very personal level, be it a song released last week or 30 years ago. And the writing, well the writing will focus on the theme and theme itself: sea, seasons, acoustic, piano, covers... Perhaps the one playlist which I had to contextualise a bit further was About A Girl, but even though, every track had "girl" in the lyrics, so you would have got there either way...

Definitely two of the most melancholic albums I've ever came across, O and 9, by Damien Rice

So here we are. How did this one came into being?

Have you ever made anyone a mixtape? If you're not careful, you can end up with a selection which resembles Will Smith's wardrobe in Fresh Prince of Bell Air. I am far too obsessed with logic for it, so after throwing in pretty much anything I liked into a playlist in no particular order, there I went trying to make sense of it. And then it hit me. There was a pattern in the supposedly themeless bowl. And strangely enough, it said more about myself than the About A Girl playlist had. Instead of me thinking it through, it simply took shape subconsciously.

If you know me or if you've read a few of these posts you're probably aware I've learnt to live with depression and anxiety. I say I learnt to live because I do not take for granted being in a good place today. And because I see these, as well as other mental disorders I've presented symptoms of a while back, as inherently part of my life, but ones I can today keep at bay, on close watch, and hopefully not let them take over ever again.

Mixtape Mondays | Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

So off I went trying to repair the damage. Of course I had to edit the mix. It was interesting knowing these were the first songs I had chosen, but as with life, I knew I did not have to stick to them and I could shape the said mixtape to tell the story I wanted it to. And so I did. But I've also since made this playlist because in my mind it had a story of its own to tell. And here we are. As you can see, it is named after the Smashing Pumpkins song mostly because I thought it illustrates it really well - and also because Spotify has already a playlist named Life Sucks. Just kidding! But it does exist.

So make yourself a cup of tea, turn the lights down, grab a book and enjoy a bit of Travis, Radiohead, The Lumineers, Keane, Tom - as Chaplin alone wasn't enough, I brought Odell and McRae to the mix - Damien Rice (necessary!), Russian Red, Air Traffic and my favourite Brazilian band, Los Hermanos. It's a very old school playlist indeed! I hope you enjoy it, see you in a couple of Mondays!

Mixtape Mondays | Under The Covers

Monday, February 27, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

A post by Charlie Hole,
a.k.a @charliehole

I found so much music putting this playlist together. Whilst researching, I slowly realised that pretty much every artist in the world has released a cover song. And also pretty much every artist in the world has released a Dylan cover, which made it hard to whittle down.

Dylan is the perfect artist to cover, in part because he writes such incredible songs, but also because he often doesn’t make the most of his melodies in his recordings and has a habit of swallowing great lyrics. If you compare his original version of Make You Feel My Love to Adele’s, it falls apart. She blows him out of the water, as does Jimi Hendrix in All Along The Watchtower. This isn’t a weakness of Dylan’s - his voice has a striking quality to it in it’s own right - but he often squanders or inverts a great melody, and the same can be said of another of my heroes Leonard Cohen. They write songs that are sometimes, somehow, bigger than themselves, and sometimes it takes the fresh interpretation of another artist to draw the genius out of a song.

Dylan is the perfect artist to cover as he often doesn’t make the most of his melodies

These records often become far better known than the originals and that’s one of the wonderful things about the art of the cover version. Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, for instance, is objectively speaking in a different league to Cohen’s disjointed and clunky original, and far more successful. That’s the other interesting thing about songs, they go on a journey of their own, changing over time depending on how different artists have interacted with them.

The journey of how Hallelujah came to be Hallelujah is as interesting as the song itself. Originally, Columbia refused to put out the album Various Positions because it didn’t sound like it had a hit on it. The song went widely under the radar, it was said only Dylan really saw the quality in it.

John Cale covered the song in a Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan in 1991 after Cohen - who apparently had written over 80 verses for the song - faxed Cale over fifteen pages of lyrics. Cale claims that he "went through and just picked out the cheeky verses” and these went to become part of the most famous version of the song after Jeff Buckley heard Cale’s version. Buckley’s version was the far superior cut of the song, but it still wasn’t a hit until long after he died. Then, 10 years later, a whole new generation were introduced to it through Rufus Wainwright’s take which featured in Shrek. Now it’s used in almost pretty much every TV show and film you can think of, as well as featuring in countless different versions of American Idol and X Factor, as it’s become an inescapable and ubiquitous part of our culture.

I’ve included the K.D. Lang version in this playlist, as well as Buckley’s, for the sheer purity in her voice. I would highly recommend watching Lang sing it at the 2006 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, when Cohen was inducted. The live version carries an unbelievable punch, and there’s a lovely touching moment at the end where Cohen looks visibly shaken and moved by her performance.

I also included Jeff Buckley’s little known B-Side cover of Dylan’s classic Just Like a Woman because you’ll never hear anything more beautiful. He takes his time with it, sliding effortlessly around the fretboard with his enormous gift for dragging the emotion out of melody and words. 

There’s also an honorary mention to Jack Savoretti who found an unreleased Dylan bootleg and pulled out a gem of a song in Nobody ‘Cept You, which he claimed literally saved his life. Amazing to think a song like that would just be lying around in Dylan’s hidden back catalogue. It shows what a stunningly prolific songwriter he really is. Bob Dylan himself knew the benefit to a writer in singing cover songs, he said during his Music Cares speech in 2015 that “Big Bill Broonzy had a song called Key to the Highway… I sang that a lot. If you sing that a lot, you just might write [Highway 61]…”

Joe Cocker was an amazing singer who was never really a writer in his own right - also see Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones - so he often relied on great songs to bring out the best in his voice. But he also seems to be able to bring a whole new emotion and pathos to these great songs. Check out, in particular, Cocker’s version of Randy Newman’s Every Time it Rains and his famous screeching cover of The Beatle’s With a Little Help From My Friends, to hear the true range of emotion that man possessed.  

Johnny Cash’s re-imagining of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus is a welcome surprise as it’s such an unexpected change of tone from the original. A stripped down bar-room blues version of an 80s synth riff driven classic. It was arranged by producer Rick Rubin, who asked Red Hot Chilli Peppers guitarist John Frusciante to re-work an acoustic version of the song for Cash’s American IV album.  

Kurt Cobain singing Where Did You Sleep Last Night? during their legendary MTV Unplugged performance is one of the most raw and gut-wrenching male vocal performances I’ve ever heard. The desperation in his voice is amplified further when you know that Kurt would commit suicide just 5 months later and it gains an intense extra meaning when you hear the - albeit unsubstantiated - rumours that Courtney Love had been cheating on him with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins at the time.

Whilst on the subject of Nirvana, check out the audacious space left in Sinead O’Connor’s All Apologies. Her gorgeous vocals drip off the one palm-muted guitar and just leave you hanging, aching for more. Likewise, Tori Amos’s haunting piano cover of Smells Like Teen Spirt was an interesting find because it’s one of those songs that would usually fall under the "untouchable" category. Incidentally, I’d also put Let It Be into that category, but Bill Withers brings a whole new life to it in his version. Amos is the only person I know of who’s successfully covered Teen Spirit (I didn’t care for Patti Smith’s cluttered banjo version or Paul Anka’s novelty swing take), but even Amos’s attempt doesn’t quite stand up to the timeless original.

However, I don’t think cover songs, or any kind of art in general, should be seen as a competition. These aren’t artists trying to outdo each other, they’re paying homage to each other and the writing. Every one of these songs is a tribute in some way, they’re trading off each other’s art, and to me this is what the cover is all about. They allow us to delve deeper into a song, to experience it from a fresh perspective, to breathe new life into it. And they offer us a way to enjoy our favourite songs again and again, reimagined through our favourite artists.

*I’m always interested in finding new music so if you know of any covers you think should be on this playlist then tweet me or comment below.

Mixtape Mondays | Guilty Pleasures

Monday, January 23, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

I don't know from where to start. I want to apologise profusely but I have 15 minutes and 36 songs to talk about, so just trust me when I say. I am sorry I've been away for this long. Guilty doesn't even scratch the surface. I should plan my time better, but you deserve to know if I am not writing more or going to as many gigs as this time last year, well, it is for a good cause. I am running a marathon for mental health charity Mind in exact 11 weeks and the training is taking most of my time. 

Now with the music. Yes I've been feeling guilty, so I thought the theme more than appropriate. I tried making sense of the tracks to order them in some sensible way, but it is impossible when you have in one playlist Pink, Lilly Allen, Kate Nash but also Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj. No, I didn't lose my mind or went tone-deaf. Everyone has a selection they play as loud as neighbours will allow, on a Saturday morning whilst doing the laundry, right?

I can't help but having a soft spot for Little Mix, they remind me of my teenagehood listening to Spice Girls

Very few things are more empowering than singing from the top of your lungs with Kelly Clarkson "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and of them is Natasha Bedingfield's wise words: "No one else can feel it for you. Only you can let it in. No one else, no one else. Can speak the words on your lips".

But this mixtape has room for a lot more: Justin (of course) Timberlake is a must. I blame Friends with Benefits being on TV recently. Jason Derulo and Shawn Mendes (I've no excuse for these, I just like to dance to the two tracks) and the 14 year old who lives in me can't help but love Little Mix.

Mixtape Mondays | Guilty Pleasures

I better stop here before you decide to never come back. Just a couple of fun facts though. This is one of PMM playlists with the most number of female artists, which I am fairly proud about. Curiously, it is also the selection with most "explicit" tags. I guess we say it as it is. #girlpower. Have a lovely week and catch up with you soon!