5 reasons to listen to Greg Holden

I’m not sure if everyone has already heard of Greg Holden and I’m just super-late to the party, or if he is indeed as underrated as he appeared to me when he popped up on my Spotify playlist, but it matters not, because he is ABSOLUTELY excellent.

His Hold On Tight song – a Mumford-and-Sons-esque, folk-inspired triumph about not taking your life for granted, above – has come through my headphones every morning this week, instantly sending what feels like molten happiness through my commute-weary veins. On Monday, after an emotional weekend and a really early start, it was like auditory nectar. I love it. 

It’s ironic, also, that one of my favourite songs of his is called Go Chase The Sun, during what must be THE wettest and most dismal June in the UK on record. SIGH.

And in case that wasn’t enough, here’s five more reasons why you should definitely check Greg Holden out.

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On discovering new music: hell yeah, The Decemberists

I’ve written before about the magic that new music can bring to your life.

(c) heathre on Flickr. Totally not my photo. Click to check it out

(c) heathre on Flickr. Totally not my photo. Click to check it out and a bunch of other great ones

My most recent “new” music – i.e. that I’ve just discovered, rather than actually new ‒ is the album The King is Dead, by American group The Decemberists. Currently formed of Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query, and John Moen, it hails from Oregon, and this is the band’s sixth and most recent album, according to this peerless record.

But although I enjoy their vaguely revolutionary, historical-sounding name, and appreciate their background, I actually just bloody love this music. I could happily travel for miles in discomfort if I had this on repeat – it’s the aural equivalent of a comfy pillow, warm blanket and whisky-laced, milky coffee.

Aaand apparently they’re bringing out a new album this month! *CLAPS HANDS LIKE A JOYFUL SEAL*

Released in 2011, The King is Dead is a beautiful and uplifting melding of influences, including American and British folk ‒ using instruments such as accordions and fiddles alongside the usual pianos and guitars ‒ and seems more reminiscent of country standards and lackadaisical acoustic tunes than modern US pop-rock.

This is especially evident in the single Rox in the Box (above), which features a harmony of the often-covered tune the Raggle Taggle Gypsies, making it sound unmistakeably folk. I am an unashamed country-music lover (proud!) and similarly cannot get enough of acoustic-style folk songs.

Whether English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, American, Breton, any tunes of that ilk make me feel heart-burstingly better about the state of the world – see Bellowhead, Kate Rusby, Fleetfoxes, Cara Dillon, Seth Lakeman, Show of Hands, Mumford & Sons, Blake Shelton…even (especially?) Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert make it on my go-to happy-place list…

I particularly love how the genres’ “of the people”, vernacular nature means they cover vast subject matter, from mournful and incredibly emotional laments, to tales and legends from history; from hilarious and tongue-in-cheek observations on society, to fantastically toe-tapping jigs, and politically-important protest songs.

The King is Dead is more at the emotional, tongue-in-cheek, knees-up end of things, but also throws in a dash of history and lamentation too.

Its rhythms and melodies are shot through with a golden streak of major-key positivity, with lead singer’s Meloy’s voice reminding me strongly of the more upbeat Michael Stipe (of R.E.M) numbers (such as Shiny Happy People) – an influence that seems less strange when you learn that Peter Buck of R.E.M. contributed to three tracks, including Calamity Song and Down By the Water, which was nominated for a Best Rock Song Grammy Award in 2011 (and sounds straight out of an R.E.M album if you ask me!).

I bloody love it. I might move on to a few of their other albums too, but for the moment, I’ve got The King is Dead on repeat. It’s damn difficult to pick a favourite song from ten great tracks, but here are the rest of my top five at the moment (in addition the one above)…

June Hymn

Calamity Song

January Hymn

Dear Avery

Because everyone likes a food festival

So I finally made it to the Foodies Festival this weekend, after multiple failed attempts (well, multiple Googles, a few “I should maybe definitely go” thoughts, followed by subsequent missings of the advance-ticket-offer.)

Foodies Festival is a travelling food fair, including bars, ice cream vans, product stalls, cookery demonstrations, juice trucks and seating areas. So far, so excellent.

Anyway, because I can apparently only do something after months of procrastination, I finally booked a ticket for the Battersea Park venue. Now, I think it’s mildly cheeky that these places expect you to pay around £15 for entry, only to then charge you loads to actually buy anything once inside. Thanks to my 2-for-1 offer, I actually paid £7.50 each, which was a *bit* better, but still not great…

However, my indignation felt short-lived once I’d discovered that Foodies Festival GIVES OUT SHEDLOADS OF SAMPLES. YES.

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What would Dolly Parton do? The best 5 quotes inspired by Glastonbury 2014

DOLLYFabulously-positive, unashamedly “larger than life” and glorious singer Dolly Parton just performed to a packed-out Pyramid Stage at this year’s Glastonbury. Watching her on stage (on iPlayer, I wasn’t actually there), not giving a crap about what anyone might have to say about her, she just reminded me of how much I love country music (yep, I’m just that cool) and how positive and inspirational I find Parton’s whole attitude, not least her music. Yes, really!

Just for starters, beyond being ridiculously catchy, her song “9-5” is an anthem for everyone everywhere who has wondered whether sitting in an office all day might perhaps NOT be the pinnacle of personal happiness. Her “Better Get to Living” song came out when I was doing some exams at uni, and I played it to stay positive and motivated. “Jolene” is a heartfelt warning from anyone who’s ever felt remotely diminished by the supposed threat of a more beautiful, apparently “better” woman.

Also, Dolly gives seriously good quote. And we all know I love a good one. So, I did a quick Google and decided that these five were the best. Enjoy 🙂

[Image credits: “You’ll never do…” ; “My weaknesses” ; “Figure out who…” ; “If you want a rainbow…” ; “We cannot direct…” ]

Life in lyrics: Giving Monday the Elbow Part II

Some of my most vivid ideas for paintings come when I’m standing on the tube home, listening to my music, escaping the sweaty, noisy, shuffly, sighing carriage into my own world of lyrics and fabulous songs.

Although I love music, and have been known to shed a tear over a particularly beautiful song (yes, I know, cheese, sorry) I’m the kind of person who listens intently to the lyrics of a track – even the simplest phrases can be extraordinarily moving, funny or flippant, and I live for those moments when you realise a songwriter has perfectly captured your feeling or mood.

As you may know, I also love to faff about on my free evenings and play with paints, and I love vivid colours and experimenting with blending. SO, I’ve often thought about combining these two passions (lyrics and painting). Last night was the first time I actually sat down and did it….here’s the result.

It’s a definite first draft, although on balance I quite like it.

Lyrics-Elbow-Day-2

There’s a lot I’m really not happy with though, and I’ve learned quite a bit from this first try:

  • I think I’ll try blending only a couple of colours in the background next time
  • Maybe choose a shorter lyric (I initially wanted to put even more on this, before I realised it wouldn’t achieve the same look with teeny tiny writing! ALSO I changed the “looking like a beautiful day” lyric slightly – sorry Elbow 😦 – to make it fit better on the page).
  • Try outlining the words in black pen so they stand out a little more, especially on the yellow?
  • Put more red and pink in it. (That’s just me. Heh)
  • Overall though, it pretty much captures that feeling of happiness and serenity that I get listening to this song (One Day Like This, by Elbow).

It’s totally unintentional that I’ve ended up writing about Elbow lyrics for two consecutive Mondays (I would barely have even called myself a fan – I think these two songs are the only ones I have, sadly; maybe that should change, I seem to like them more than I thought!) but there we have it.

The next verse is also gorgeous, so I might do a follow up. (‘Cause holy cow, I love your eyes; And only now I see the light; Yeah, lying with you half awake; Stumbling over what to say; Oh, anyway, it’s looking like a beautiful day…So throw those curtains wide, one day like this a year would see me right).

Guess there’s something in these here tunes that makes me feel better about the week ahead… 🙂

Life in lyrics: Giving Monday the Elbow

New-York-MorningSo it’s Monday. *YAY*

It was a beautiful weekend in London (I basically did nothing but lie in, sunbathe, read, paint, watch TV, do a bit of a workout, and eat good food. No, there were no Instagram photos of daffodils or pub lunches or rousing countryside walks (I don’t even use Instagram, I KNOW. OMIGOSH) but it was good all the same.)

But on Monday? GRR. Like pretty much everyone else in the city, you have to get up about three hours before your body naturally feels like it, and get on to a pretty slow, expensive tin can (some people call them trains) packed in with other people’s shuffling and eating and perspiring and sodding breathing. Yes, it’s the morning commute. Gotta love it.
But for the past week or so, I’ve not been struck down with quite the same level of dread as has happened on other days, because (apart from the quiet arrival of spring, which is completely FABULOUS) I’ve been listening to this song by Elbow as soon as I get on the train.

Headphones in ear, I play it first, before anything else, and just breathe and listen.

And so far, it makes me extraordinarily calm and optimistic, even when it’s Monday and I’m tired and running late and some anti-social twazzock is sitting next to me rustling and twitching and eating and drinking and sighing FAR BEYOND what is necessary to get comfy. SIGH.

Also, the pedant in me is also disproportionately pleased by the quiet symmetry held within the idea that, as the bloke next to me elbows me in the side, I am also giving him the Elbow – in the form of beautiful harmonies and mental PEACE. So nuh.

Now, I realise the song is about New York, but the quivering notes and the uplifting lyrics about people coming together to build and lifting their heads towards the sky and being in a city – WELL, I reckon that applies to London just as much as the Big Apple (but also I like the idea of living in NY one day, and I know people who live there, so hey, it’s all good).

Also I love the lyrics. The ones above seem particularly creative and optimistic, even if it’s sadly not quite true that everybody owns the great ideas (otherwise hey, we’d all be quids in on the iPod). HOWEVER I also love

  • The first to put a simple truth in words, binds the world in a feeling all familiar (this is so true)
  • Reaching up into the sky….Why? Because they can… (they CAN, dammit, they CAN!)
  • The desire in the patchwork symphony (just a beautiful line, with a beautiful melody)

I read somewhere [edit: HERE, in the Independent] that the lead singer of Elbow, Guy Garvey, fled to New York after a particularly painful break-up, and just sat and people-watched and felt the spirit of the city nourish his smashed-up heart, and it transformed his song-writing forever.

Now, some of us, sadly, have neither the means nor the time to dash off to wherever whenever anyone decides to be a total dick, and are also (sob) apparently unable to create original and wonderful music from our personal tragedies.

Some of us have to be content with mediocre blogposts. C’est la vie, huh?

BUT TAKE COMFORT. Because here, I’m passing on my morning optimism solution. Yes, I may get sick of the song before too long, but so far, so good. Listen and love. It’s unabashed anthem-writing at its best, confectionery in musical form, but it’s also perfectly created, with echoes and soothing riffs and Garvey’s soulful voice, and it just sounds like something that some cheesy romantic movie director would set to the background of a sunrise when it’s going to be A REALLY GREAT DAY.

And it makes everything feel like it might be OK even when it’s not. Even on Monday. Amazing.