I haven’t gigged for a while. To be honest, I’ve been kind of uninspired by gigging. In a way that I find hard to describe.

Not as a performer, actually, but as an audience member. And I think it might be down to the fact that the main time I perform now is in the Bastard English Session. And when that session really works I find it so much more enjoyable than gigging. Maybe that’s why every gig gives me this odd sensation of… ‘shouldn’t there be something more?’

Here’s what the session is like:

(Thanks to Cassi P for this clip!)

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‘A special kind of hearing’

I won’t forget when Peter Pan / came to my house, took my hand / I said I was a boy / I’m glad he didn’t check…

That’s the opening line to The Honesty Room, the 1993 debut album by Dar Williams, which I was recommended by a friend when I was at university. I don’t think my friend was expecting me to like the double-album (her debut packaged with its follow-up, Mortal City) that she had lent me, but three songs into it the songwriting had sufficiently blown me away to make me decide to go to the shop and buy it the next day. Continue reading

Elise Trouw is obviously not the first person to discover a loop pedal, nor the first person to play many instruments on one track, but still, to me, what she does feels new.

And perhaps part of that is because tracks built up entirely from loops can often get boring very quickly, whereas her ‘loop’ music videos actually have momentum. They are so skilfully arranged, and as much about the performance as the music.

I sometimes find it fun to watch musicians really shred — to play incredibly fast, with incredible precision. But I actually find what Elise Trouw does more impressive than that, because she just makes it look absolutely effortless. It sounds like she is performing with a rock-solid band behind her. And I know that if I tried to do something like that I would just fuck up take after take after take…


Current Favourite Thing:
Also, I mean, there’s two ways you can try to deal with very young musicians who are extraordinarily precious. You can be consumed with bitterness, or you can try to vicariously enjoy the youthful enthusiasm. I defy you not to do the latter when watching this video:

It’s Theory Time, girls and boys…

So what do I mean when I say artists who lose their ‘sparkle’ as they get older? Like they’re unicorns or something.

Well, I struggled to find the right word. I originally put ‘why artists often lose it…’ but that can mean so many things. What I mean is that so many artists begin their career with a kind of energy to their work. (And by artists I’m talking musicians, writers, film-makers, comedians, painters… whatever.) And when you compare their later work to their early work, the later stuff feels lacklustre somehow. Like they don’t care as much. It’s something I was always aware of growing up. As a theory it was very much in the air in the 90s — as “beautifully fucking illustrated” by this clip from the film Trainspotting:

And recently, as it has finally dawned on me that despite all the various excuses that I’ve given myself for the last few years I am still in the middle of a writer’s block, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Continue reading

As far as I’m concerned, travel TV with a good host is pretty much as good as TV gets.

And most of my favourites have been under some other pretext. In the 80s and 90s Michael Palin retraced the journey in the book Around The World In 80 Days. I love love love Andrew Graham-Dixon’s ‘the Art of…’ series for BBC4. And for Anthony Bourdain, perhaps the best travel TV host that I’ve seen in the last 5 years or so, the pretext is food. In many ways his most recent series, Parts Unknown, did with global cuisine what Jonathan Gold did with LA cuisine: showed how it can give you a different appreciation of cultures other than your own. He goes to Myanmar, Columbia, Libya, the Korean quarter of LA…

With Bourdain, who tragically died just a few months ago, I get the sense of a guy who spent lots of years trying to fit into a macho environment, but was now sick and tired of it, and serious about being a curious and compassionate human being. Continue reading