Okay, first recommendation of this month…

I have no idea when I first discovered Anna Akana. I think I’ve always been watching her YouTube videos, in much the same way that Mr Grady from The Shining has always been the caretaker of the Overlook hotel.

Actress, comedian, novelist, vlogger, musician, Mother of Cats, honest discussant of mental health problems. Daniel Radcliffe fan. Dreamer of sex dreams with people she doesn’t like. The videos are funny, insightful, compassionate and she’s definitely a talent to watch out for…

Current Favourite Thing:
I mean, it’s probably this…

A song I happened upon on Spotify. I thought the title looked good, and started the track, and thought… okay… kind of generic opening… and then a kind of generic riff… and then… one of the finest examples of songwriting I’ve heard in a very long time.

Not everyone has the same tastes in songwriting, and the thing I’ve always responded most to is to be able to cram a huge amount of emotional information into as few words as possible. And this, like the best punk rock, just nails in such a simple way the heartbreak of wanting others to see you the way you see yourself, but knowing that instead they see something they find deeply troubling.

You can also find more about the context behind the song below:

Not for the faint of soul…

Current Favourite Thing:
“The ragged ends of your summer dress…”

The comic 2000 AD was ubiquitous when I was a child. Its principle character was Judge Dredd, an almost ridiculously exaggerated version of the Hollywood action man that was so popular in the 1980s: muscular, militaristic, ultra-macho to the point of sadism, humourless (apart from the occasional sub-James Bond pun). I found him a deeply unlikeable character, and although I had friends who loved the comic I don’t remember reading one of this stories all the way through. Continue reading

I’ve been meaning to check out Françoise Hardy’s music for ages, and finally took the Spotify plunge. There is plenty that I like the sound of, but I love this album. It is pop music (released in 1962, the same year as The Beatles’ first single) stripped right down to its barest essentials: catchy melodies, simple lyrics, great riffs and effortless cool. She’s like some super-stylish chanteuse singing over Johnny Cash’s backing band. 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

That is an article title that I defy you to say 10 times quickly.

Director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Magic Mike and many more…) put something on his blog in 2014 that I have only just discovered. It is a lesson in moviemaking.

He took a particularly famous film by Steven Spielberg, put it into black and white, and took the sound out, replacing it with music. He basically turned it into a silent film.

And then he invited us to watch it with this simple premise: that you will still know exactly what is going on at any given moment. Sure, there will be the odd detail you might miss, but what is on screen is expressed so clearly, with all of the tricks of cinema, that you really don’t need dialogue or sound. Continue reading