My top podcasts – A remedy for self isolation.

Self isolation is becoming a situation that more and more people find themselves committing to. With that, there is the challenge of overcoming the pitfalls involved in this process, namely trying to resist climbing up the walls!

One of the best things I do on a now routine basis to pass the time when I am on my own is listen to podcasts.

Podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular media platform and I’m glad that this is so: because podcasts offer lots of opportunities for many beneficial experiences, namely:

1.) An opportunity to learn something new

2.) An opportunity to find out more about interesting people with interesting stories.

3.) It makes you a better listener. It increases your engagement in discussions.

4.) They encourage you to try something new and explore your own ideas.

5.) Keep up to date with current affairs and developments.

At a time when self isolation is becoming a reality, I thought I’d share some of my favourite podcasts. I hope it gives you an opportunity to find something that interests you and you can engage with over the coming weeks.

Happy listening!

Akimbo – Seth Godin

Link – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/akimbo-a-podcast-from-seth-godin/id1345042626

Topics – Culture, Business and Marketing

I’ve been following Seth Godin since my university days. He is an extraordinary writer with a fascinating philosophy of business and marketing.

It’s a heartwarming, empathetic and optimistic podcast to listen to and it’s an easily digestible average run time of 25 minutes.

If you are interesting in doing better work and levelling up, this podcast is for you.

The Bob Lefsetz Podcast

Topics – The music industry, Culture

Link – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-bob-lefsetz-podcast/id1316200737

If you are in the Music Industry, you really should know who Bob is. His weekly letter is read by tens of thousands, many of which are some of the most well known people in the business.

He’s opinionated, fiercely honest and that is a breath of fresh air in an industry that seemingly has plenty of nonsense.

On his podcast, Bob interviews a wide range of musicians, managers, engineers, CEOs and beyond. Some of the stories are incredibly funny and remarkable.

As a starting point, his conversations with Canadian manager Jake Gold (The tragically hip) are incredibly useful for anonymous artists such as myself.

Kermode on Film

Topics – Film and Cinema

Link – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/kermode-on-film/id1436700945

Mark Kermode is one of my go to people for reviews and discussions about film and cinema and as a result I have discovered a lot of films I adore.

His regular conversations with Film reviewer Jack Howard offer a funny almost father and son dynamic and there are some great episodes where they share their opinions, debate and amusingly throw digs at one another.

There are also some live shows with great interviews with actors/actresses and directors as well.

Song Exploder

Topic – Songwriting and production

Link – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/song-exploder/id788236947

This gem of a podcast is wonderfully insightful and you get a glimpse into the minds of many brilliant music artists.

The premise is simple. An artist unpacks the songwriting approach and explains the demo process as well as demonstrating different parts of their songs including sounds deep in the mix that you wouldn’t always expect.

Other noteworthy podcasts I listen to –

James O’Brien – Full Disclosure

Tifo Football podcast

The Intelligence by The Economist

If there are any podcasts you highly recommend, feel free to suggest them in the comment section below.

Julia Holter – Aviary

And they say the album format is dead…

It may well be on a monetary level but needless to say, it does not stop artists like Julia Holter from using the album format to make her statement.

And quite an artistic statement is Aviary.

Clocking at just under 90 minutes, the record is a experimental odyssey with so much depth and beauty, it is initially overwhelming. Similarly to the first time I heard Kate Bush’s ‘The Dreaming’ or Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’, the album reveals its’ magic and gradually blossoms with repeated listens.

The title is inspired by Lebanese American writers Etel Adnan quote ‘I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds’. Such a sound collage can be blissful, peaceful, quietly unsettling. Julia achieves this in fifteen tracks that don’t have a distinct structure as such but dive into experimental explorations, build in tension and widen up a panoramic canvas of sounds consisting of piano, strings, drums, trumpets and even bagpipes; as well as Julia’s typically layered and ambient vocals.

This is demonstrated in ‘I Shall Love 2’, the first track to be released. There is not too much more needed to be said about the music as it is far better for it to be experienced. That being said, the noticeable trait of Julia as shown in her previous works is her evocative ambiguity. Julia didn’t really know how to articulate herself when I saw her live, she appears introverted and coy on social media. Ultimately, her goal is to get lost in the Music. There is no conventional structure, no direct meaning to the songs she does, instead there is an internal dialogue, a collection of sounds and words that may at times be on a lyrical level non sensical, outright bizarre but ultimately so satisfying.

And when so much Music out there is so formulaic, so lacking in it’s risk taking and no more than chewing gum for the ears; this record is a breath of fresh air. I have listened to this record with headphones on by a beach, I have listened to this record whilst turning the lights off in my apartment with dimly lit candles. Whatever way I have enjoyed discovering this record, ‘Aviary’ is truly an exhilarating musical experience.

The best records for me have been released by three women this year, Janelle Monae’s ‘Dirty Computer’, Natalie Prass’ ‘The Future and The Past’ and now Julia Holter’s ‘Aviary’. All of which showcase in their own way a defiance to the current chaotic climate we find ourselves dealing with in 2018. They are a celebration of opening up to vulnerability, love and truth…and that is when Music becomes so powerful.

‘That is all’.

 

Journey of The Effervescent by Kinky Wizzards

Over the last year, me and the brothers have been busy planning new things for the Kinky Wizzards.

Simultaneously, the boys decided to put a new live Music video together by themselves where they explored some of the older material.

It is safe to say after watching this video of the brothers do their thing, the song title says it all. Vivacious and enthusiastic.

I look forward to joining them for our string of shows this summer.

Ryan

A Farewell to Rush

‘Hold your fire 
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame
‘Til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission’ 

Mission, from Hold Your Fire (1987)

This band is part of my DNA.

Earlier this week, Alex Lifeson had revealed that Rush had spent two years no longer recording and touring and there were no plans to do so in the future. A totally quiet and un-rockstarlike way to bow out gracefully and to be honest, I would expect no less from such a band.

I discovered the music of Rush at the age of 9. The same time I had just started learning to play the guitar. My Mum had decided to buy me and my brother one of those Portable CD players each. The year was 2001 and the mp3 players and iPod had still not quite hit UK stores. My Mum decided to test the CD player with ‘Presto’. Now every Rush fan knows how that album starts; ‘Show Don’t Tell’, those quiet drums, at which point she is convinced that the CD player is a bit quiet, whacking up the volume at the point to which the full band is about to kick in with the riff and subsequently, having the shock of her life.

There you have the introduction of Rush into my life. I listened to ‘Presto’ religiously, and my teenage years saw me embark on a journey of discovering their entire catalogue. From the weird and wonderful 70’s era that saw the band dressing up in Kimonos delivering sci fi concept albums, 2112, ‘A Farewell to Kings’ and ‘Hemispheres’ to the thought provoking more concise and synth dominated records of the 80’s to the heavy guitar driven records of the 90’s.

The band ignited my love for physical records at a time where it was swiftly disappearing for my generation. I  couldn’t just listen to the music, I had to own it, unpack the concepts within the artwork and the deeply thought provoking lyrics. Listening to their music became a way of life.

For those who like myself, had Rush as a pivotal soundtrack in their lives, there is just so much to admire about them. For a start, their untempered ambition to do whatever they wanted to do, despite the initial pressure in what was a considerably shaky start to their career. Three albums to their name and a fair amount of negative criticism, particularly with ‘Caress of Steel’ and less than satisfactory sales. Their label pushed Rush to develop a more commercial friendly album and how did they respond? By making ‘2112’ a twenty minute Ayn Rand inspired epic about a futuristic totalitarian state! The result…unprecedented success.

The second is their musical prowess. All three musicians are simply insane at their instruments, Alex Lifeson is one of my favourite guitarists, Geddy Lee’s driving bass and his ability to simultaneously manage singing and playing bass and synths…with his feet! Of course, Neil Peart’s presence behind the kit needs no introduction.

The third is the philosophy and the lyrics. Not to say I don’t love Led Zeppelin and AC/DC but unlike most rock bands, Rush were willing to dig deeper into a wide range of themes. I can think of four love songs that they wrote off the top of my head! Beyond the initial records where they let their imaginations fly, they managed to explore so many dimensions that covered science, society, suicide, ambition, probability, fame and conflict. ‘Subdivisions’ is often mentioned with praise for the way in which it captured that feeling of alienation in an incredibly heartfelt way for those who felt like an outsider. It was an anthem for me in my high school days. That is one of many songs I could delve into. There is so much about Rush’s music that resonates.

The final point that has to be made is that Rush were a definitive rock band, but they carried such a sense of humility about them. All three members are intelligent individuals who have always been weary of the weight that fame could have had on them. They never took themselves too seriously, and are just seriously cool and interesting people and always remained captivating, grounded and funny in interviews and documentaries.

Rush is a band that not everyone knows, yet they are the third most successful band in terms of gold and platinum albums, behind The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Arguably, they are the biggest cult band ever. The ones who do know of them and are fans truly stand as one of a kind in terms of the abundance of passion they have for Rush. So much so that it became a central theme in the 2009 comedy ‘I love you, Man’ where the two main characters share a crazy love for the band. Admittedly there is much of that sensibility in myself and my fellow Rush fans. Take one of my Science teachers as example. When he found out I was a fan, he grabbed every opportunity to talk to me about 2112. My brother also told me small anecdotes of times he would play the record to the entirety of his form group, trying to convert unimpressionable teenagers into embracing the trio.

I saw Rush three times. 2007’s Snakes and Arrows tour, 2011 The Time Machine and 2013’s Clockwork Angels tour. The first time I saw them was one of the most exhilarating live shows I have ever been to. Their live show is utterly mesmerising, the power they can carry as a trio was just unbelievable as is the overall production of each tour they did. To have seen them live three times was a privilege.

And then there is the influence they have on my Music.

The first time I met the Kinky Wizzards, I distinctly remember myself and Miffy talking about our love for the band after commenting on the R30 T shirt he was wearing at the time. Incidentally, one of the first songs we learned to play together was YYZ and we still cover it live to this very day. The first song I played when trying to find musicians for Eden Shadow was ‘Tom Sawyer’. There is no surprise as to why so many listeners and critics of my own music often compare it with Rush.

Rush is part of my DNA.

And I am eternally thankful that this band exist. They have taught me so much and have inspired and continue to inspire me. After four decades of music, the band are done with their work, but their legacy will remain a long, long time.

To quote Alex Lifeson’s ‘Hall of Fame’ speech;

‘Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah.’

Keeping the Peace – Arthur Beatrice.

When there is such an overwhelming amount of media out there, how on Earth can you break through and penetrate to audiences who would seemingly fall in love with the material you create?

I think it is a mixture of things these days, from the main trusted sources, snapping, tweeting and posting social media networks, gut wrenchingly writing out a cheque for marketing but I am sure as anything that good old spontaneity can be easily overlooked.

Because it was through that, that I stumbled across this beauty of a band on a rainy summer day at Field Day festival. I was there for John Grant, Air and PJ Harvey but I arrived super early on my own, ready to embrace a day of stumbling across anything and thank goodness I did.

I discovered many good acts that I had loosely heard of, Mystery Jets and Steve Mason who both impressed; but I had never ever heard of Arthur Beatrice, a band that has just released their second album and have been on the peripheral for a while.

They were superb live – in fact, awe inspiring. Their second album is a statement of intent, beautifully composed well worked songs, powerful vocals and an overall soaring, anthemic feel.

Besides spontaneity being overlooked as a means of discovery, you cannot underestimate word of mouth. That’s proven in my inability to stop mentioning this band to my fellow music lovers and sharing it here in my own digital space.

This band, in my humble opinion needs to be heard by more people, so here it is people.

Arthur Beatrice – Keeping the Peace

Give it a listen!

Ex factor

Lauryn Hill’s Ex factor is a class in it’s own right. The track fuses styles of RnB, Hip Hop and Neo Soul and the lyrics are masterful in outlining the heartbreak of a toxic relationship and a perpetual wheel of trying to hold everything together. When done as well as this, it is the type of song that everyone can take their own meaning and experiences from.

That is just about the listeners though. Some musicians may identify with such a song that they are able to open up another dimension of it, and never have I heard a rendition of a song so remarkably done than Mara Carlyle’s cover of ‘Ex Factor’.

I first heard this cover when I saw Mara supporting Goldfrapp at the Royal Albert Hall in late 2014. I was enraptured.

All of a sudden, the well known Neo Soul track known for grooving your blues away is much more contemplative and spacious affair. Mara arguably gives the song a more melancholic shade as she leads and a church organ accompanies and the delicate emergence of a choir.

How can the same song be done so differently? I love both versions, but I think Mara’s desperately needs to be heard by more people.