Category: music


Image based on the top 30 words used in songs based on 1 million recordings.

In this year’s  BBC John Peel lecture, Brian Eno said that one of the failings of modern-day music critics is that they pay too much attention to song lyrics. As part of Roxy Music, Eno played on two of the greatest pop singles of all time – Virginia Plain and Pyjamarama – where the words add to the atmosphere but when considered apart from the music are ,at best, enigmatic, at worst, plain jibberish.

Even when songs do have an obvious meaning or tell a story, they should not be viewed in the same way as poems or works of fiction. This is why the ‘Rock In Translation’ slot of Italy’s Virgin Radio makes for such a torturous listening experience. On this, a woman earnestly reads the translated lyrics to popular tunes as though she were helping to impart some meaningful insight into the human condition. Lines in the vein of “come on baby rock me all night long” are rendered into Italian as though they were some kind of profound comments on the nature of loving relationships. Continue reading

Illustration by Lizzy Stewart.

Illustration by Lizzy Stewart.

‘Don’t Make A Scene – A field guide to putting on DIY gigs’ is a ‘zine compiled by Rob St John and Bartholomew Owl; two dedicated Alt.Folk musicians and all round decent guys.

The 2014 booklet was originally charged at a highly reasonable £4. Now it’s an even better deal as it’s just been made available as a free to download PDF. This generous offer is a way of sticking two fingers up to Black Friday zombie consumption and to embrace the spirit of buy nothing day. Continue reading

THE ART OF ASKING by Amanda Palmer (PIatkus Books, 2014)

This book is part memoir, part manifesto and part egocentric vanity project.

Amanda Palmer is a performance artist. She has been a human statue, a stripper and is best known as the lead singer of The Dresden Dolls who, in their early years were, in her own words, “a punk-cabaret duo specializing in tear-jerking seven-minute songs with drum solos”.

The manifesto part, is her fervent belief that artists, and by extension all human beings, need to learn that there is no shame in asking for help when you need a place to sleep or money to finance projects.

The experiences she recounts are proof that this can work. The most dramatic example is a Kickstarter campaign to fund an album. She set a relatively modest target of $100,000 but eventually raised a record-breaking $1 million. This level of success was not without its critics. She has been labelled a “self-serving, greedy, superficial attention whore” but is thick-skinned enough to overcome such unmerited slurs. Continue reading

violenza_donneTo mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I’m sharing this song and video.

It was written for the documentary The Hunting Ground which highlights the shocking number of rapes that take place on US college campuses and the subsequent cover up by the institutions involved.

The song written by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga is entitled “Til It Happens to You” and the video graphically addresses this important issue:

 

MERCURY REV live at The Bronson Club, Ravenna, Italy 14th November 2015

mercury revWhen the music’s over, life loses meaning.

In the immediate aftermath of the bloodshed in Paris, it was a relief that Mercury Rev decided to go ahead with this show in Ravenna, their only date in Italy.

“The music doesn’t stop. Maybe it’s the only thing we have now” says Jonathan Donahue at the beginning of a luminous concert which briefly makes the horrific events at Le Batacian seem like a fleeting nightmare.

It is a timely reminder that music has the power to excite, inspire and unite. When the news is dominated by death it gives us strength and hope. Continue reading

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