[Long read…]

I haven’t been feeling well recently. An ongoing fatigue illness. Which, as I mentioned last month, has meant I have had to temporarily stop putting new music on this site (because all my music-making has to be focused on making money, which is not what this site is about).

This led me to spend a lot of time researching what the health problem might be: talking with my GP, reading books, reading scientific papers, watching lectures on YouTube. And after a bit of trial and error, I think I’ve located the problem and have felt back to normal for a couple of weeks now. Continue reading

‘Believe it!’ – Lee Miller’s war photography

“What’s a girl supposed to do when a battle lands in her lap?” proclaimed Lee Miller in a radio interview, when asked about travelling through war-torn Europe and eventually taking a bath in Hitler’s bathtub. All the elements of her image are here, and if there was one thing Lee Miller understood it was the power of image. On the surface, this quip reveals her to still be the quintessential 1920s art celebrity and glamour girl, but underneath it there’s a serious question. What should the former darling of the surrealist movement do when faced with something as terrifyingly real as the Second World War? Continue to make art like her friend Picasso? Teach in a school specialising in camouflage, like her Quaker husband? Or pick up a camera, and go to the front line? Continue reading

In the mid to late 90s I felt that there was a lot of great music being created, but the most innovative and mind-blowing was in the dance music scene (although I got told off for referring to it as ‘dance’ rather than ‘electronic’). And of all the imaginative and influential musicians in that world, there was one who towered above everyone. Cornish-born Richard D. James – better known as Aphex Twin – was the undisputed Daddy of the genre. With every new recording, he always just seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else, and you knew that within a year you’d hear his influence on everyone else’s recordings. Continue reading

‘Miyazaki in Wonderland’

Spirited Away, the Japanese animated fantasy directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is one of my favourite films, if not my actual favourite. Certainly top 5. So… I assumed it would be fairly easy to sit down at my computer and pinpoint quite what I love about it. It has proved surprisingly hard to unravel.

A few people have recently mentioned to me in passing that they’ve given Miyazaki films a try, and got frustrated and given up. I think can see why. I consider myself Miyazaki fan, but then I have to remember: I love his style, his attention to detail, I love My Neighbour Totoro, I love Kiki’s Delivery Service, and I’m… interested his other work, but I didn’t go crazy for Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind or even Princess Mononoko. There is a huge amount of inventiveness, originality and beauty in all of them, but I don’t necessarily warm to all of them as stories.

But it feels to me like somehow everything came together for Spirited Away. (And this isn’t a particularly controversial view: last year film critics at the New York Times voted it the second best film of the 21st century so far). It is the story of a young girl in a sulk in the back of a car, moving house to a different part of the country and leaving all her friends behind on the way to their new home…

Actually, here’s a trailer, which sums it up much better:

Continue reading

“In Screaming Color”

Taylor Swift was already a big star in 2014 when she released her fifth studio album: 1989. But this became one of those giant pop albums, like Adele’s 21 and Whitney Houston’s eponymous first album. Suddenly people who claim to not even like pop music know these singers’ names and, when drunk, reveal that they know a surprising amount of the lyrics. And the fans that love the album… really love the album. People get personal about it. People get defensive about it. It’s more than just the soundtrack to a certain part of their lives: it can become a part of their identity.

So it was with 1989. It was everywhere, but yet fans didn’t feel the need to apologise for liking it, even though it was everywhere. And its fanbase was surprisingly broad. The number of men my age (early 40s) who have professed to loving this album is… statistically significant, shall we say. Every other week it seems, someone new declares “Look, 1989 by Taylor Swift is a great album and I don’t care who knows it…” So popular has it proved amongst older men with indie leanings that the alt-country artist Ryan Adams actually released a cover version… not of one of the 1989 songs, but of the entire album. (Was that, and its critical response, Olympic-level mansplaining? I’m hardly the best person to judge that, to be fair.) Continue reading