When I originally made a note of Janelle Monaé as a potential recommendation I see that I wrote: “Janelle Monaé: take your pick”. I’m going to go with the first track I heard: Tightrope.

When I first stumbled across the video I had that whole “Who the hell is this?! And why have I not heard of them?” I was struck right away by the sense that this is an artist who has got the whole thing together: a great tune, a distinctive sound (or rather, a distinctive take on a familiar sound), lyrics that are actually saying something, a striking visual image and a coherent video that sticks in the memory. Continue reading

I’m the kind of person, demographically, who should be a Bruce Springsteen worshipper. But for some reason it never quite happened. There are definitely songs of his that I really like. But… well, perhaps it’s just that I feel I can get the same thing from Tom Waits, and I also get a nightmarish and deranged German cabaret freak show host shouting into a megaphone thrown into the bargain.

Perhaps I’m always worried I’m going to find Bruce Almighty a bit too earnest to take, and perhaps that’s why I wasn’t drawn to the idea of him recording an album inspired by the work of folk singer Pete Seeger (half-brother of the awesome Peggy, who lives just down the road). But right from the opening, with the fantastic version of ‘Old Dan Tucker’ (a song with something of a troubling history) it’s clear that being po-faced is not going to be a problem on this album. It actually reminds me of how Bellowhead was sounding at the same time: the big good-time traditionals band. Continue reading

Tested.com is a website hosted by Adam Savage, formerly of the US TV show Mythbusters, although I think the driving force is presenter Norman Chan. And it also frequently features Simone Giertz who you might now (particularly if you’ve seen my social media) is Queen of the Shitty Robot Nation.

Much of this website is devoted to making homemade models of movie props. (Although, when I say homemade, Adam used to work for leading Hollywood special effects company Industrial Light & Magic, so the standard is actually cutting edge – no pun intended.) Or it’s devoted to making cosplay costumes and wearing them at comic conventions. Or it’s devoted to discussing pop culture events, particularly super hero movies.

I’m actually interested in surprisingly few of these. But I love that: I love tuning into regular shows made by people who are fantastically enthusiastic and knowledgable about things that I know comparitively nothing about. Continue reading

Johnny Cash apparently believed that he was of Cherokee ancestry, and this later turned out not to be the case. Had he known it wasn’t true, would he have made this album, I wonder? I think it’s an intriguing question: how much does the actual blood matter? If you were told it, and grew up believing it, and identifying with that culture, would it make a difference if your DNA later proved otherwise? I’m not claiming to know the answer…

But I think that ‘Bitter Tears: Johnny Cash sings the Ballads of the American Indian’ is an extraordinary album, full of visceral anger about the unjust treatment of Native Americans through America’s history. Continue reading

Just as there is now a genre known as ‘Liam Neeson takes a series of kidnappers / terrorists / wolves apart with his fists in a frighteningly realistic way’, so there is also the genre we’re going to call ‘Oh, you’re going to fuck with Jessica Chastain, are you? Are you… sure that’s a good idea?’ Continue reading

So a while ago, Sam Taplin (of ‘Sam Taplin’ fame) sent me an email with a link to the latest Ed Sheeran song, which (at that time) was called ‘Castle On The Hill’. I thought this might the kind of song you’d like, he said.Knowing that my motto is “No song too obscure, no song too ubiquitous” (or… it is for this blog post at least), this was a fair assumption.

I thought it was okay. Obvious Mumford influence, with a bit of U2 thrown in. Nice sentiment, but… did I really believe the song? I wasn’t sure. Continue reading