A Blog's Life Top 10 Totally Off Topic

10 Things I Loved In 2013

Releasing my first ever solo EP Let’s Build An Airport was the major milestone for me but here’s 10 other highlights of the year.

The Rise of LFC

The massive turnaround in all areas of Liverpool Football Club, but especially the performance of SAS, the blossoming of Suarez into one of the best players in the world and of course the fall of Man Utd.

Discovering Cormac McCarthy

6 books 2 plays and 3 films so far. His lean style, profound dialogue, dark subject matter and old testament overtones create books that sink deep into your psyche.

Nottingham Music Thrives

Though posterboy Jake Bugg and new signings Indiana and Saint Raymond grab the headlines, they really are the tip of the iceberg. Nottingham continues to thrive and newer bands like Sea Monster Eyes, Privateers, Field Studies and Injured Birds excite me the most.


Mysterious Mostar is the partron saint of the Skyless LFC fan and the underground prophet of the match highlights videos. Thank you – whoever you are!

Bill Bailey does Billy Bragg for Billy Bragg

Brain Pickings

Addictive and profound – sign up for Maria Popova’s newsletter

Whole Lotta Helter Skelter

I interviewed Soundhog here. His mashup and video are both things of beauty.

Bad Lip Reading

Along with Honest Trailers and How It Should Have Ended, BLR supplied the lols.

Carragher & Neville Double Act

Sky turned MUFC’s most hated player into a universally respected pundit a few seasons ago. This year they did it again with LFC’s Jamie Carragher and created an entertaining and knowledgable double act.

Arctic Monkeys Regain Their Mojo

After two classic albums and two dour and miserable affairs it seems like the clouds are lifting and the Monkeys have a spring in their step once more.

Click on the links for my top 10 music, books and films of 2013

Top 10

Top 10 Films of 2013*

*watched in 2013!

1) True Grit
2) The World’s End
3) Gravity
4) The Three Stooges
5) Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
6) Thor: The Dark World
7) Les Miserables
8) Jaws (Reissue)
9) The Sunset Limited
10) Ice Cold In Alex

honourable mentions

Rockin’ documentaries – The Other F Word, The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Still crazy after all these years – Blazing Saddles, Enter The Dragon. I can’t believe it’s taken me all this time to get to see these – The Sixth Sense, Serenity, Tin Tin & The Secret Of The Unicorn. Slightly brainless action 2 Guns, The Raid. Slightly religious films – Dogma, Blue Like Jazz.

TV seasons Lost (everything except season 3 and I loved the ending thank you very much), The Thick Of It – haven’t seen the final season yet.

Top 10

Top 10 Books of 2013*

*(books I READ in 2013)

1) Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
David Bayles and Ted Orland

A beautiful little book full of rich insights that demythologises the creative process helping to remove the hinderances to making stuff

2) Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
Donald Miller

Finally shedding some of my evangelical prejudices and clearing up my confusion between Don Miller and Doug Coupland I found BLJ to be a warm and engaging book about faith where for once the writer is not the hero.

3) No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy

Hard to improve on a film with Tommy Lee Jones but the source book is even better. McCarthy’s dialogue sings and the Sheriff’s internal struggles make sense of that ending.

4) The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles
Dominic Pedler

A beast of a book crammed full of insights. Not just for Beatles fans but anyone who wants a thorough grounding in pop songwriting and the related music theory.

5) All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy

Two of McCarthy’s most likeable characters go through a rite of passage that is brutal and beautiful in turns. Any book that can make a city boy like me interested in the art of  breaking horses must be the work of a master.

6) The Road
Cormac McCarthy

Bleak, very bleak with occasional outbreaks of bleakness, I still haven’t mustered up the courage to watch the film. McCarthy portrays the smouldering wick of humanity in sea of evil.

7) The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form
Cormac McCarthy

A two-hand play in which a black Christian ex-con tries to talk a respectable white atheist out of killing himself.

8) Crap Lyrics
Johnny Sharp

Undoubtedly snarky fun but full of useful ‘how-not-to’s for any budding songwriter

9) The Street Where I Live
Alan Jay Lerner

The genesis of My Fair Lady, Camelot and Gigi on stage, screen and record as told by the raconteur extraordinaire lyricist himself.

10) Nineteen Seventy Four
David Peace

It’s grim up north. Yorkshire noir – where everyone is a bad guy.

Honourable Mentions

Other books I enjoyed

A few classics – Othello – William Shakespeare, Heart Of Darkness – Joseph Conrad. Coraline – Neil Gaiman, The Beatles Phenomenon – Barry Miles (a budget version of Mark Lewisohn with great photos and sheet music). The Crossing, Cities Of The Plains and Outer Dark – Cormac McCarthy. As if I didn’t get enough C- Mac this year! Good books only let down by mystical mexicans, weird endings and characters who spend 60 pages not interacting with another living soul. The Stand (The Complete and Uncut Edition) – Stephen King. Enjoyed my 20 year check-in with SK. Epic (obviously). And Gilead – Marilynne Robinson. Such a warm book that manages to convey such drama in what essentially is a man’s 270 page letter to his son.

Ukelele Writing With Kids

GCEA Revision

Just finished a song with my year 2 (6 year old) ukelele club. The inspiration was to come up with song that teaches the strings on a ukelele G-C-E-A.

I am unashamed to admit verse two contains some heinous ‘rhymes against humanity’ and the tune was heavily ‘influenced’ by They’re Red Hot by Robert Johnson, but hey! It’s Edukationel!

Download Grandpa Can’t Eat Apples here

And check out other songs written with pupil right here

Grandpa can’t eat apples
Because he hasn’t got any teeth
Grandpa can’t eat apples
Because he hasn’t got any teeth
He can eat a peach, he can eat a plum
He just chews em up with his gums, gums, gums
Grandpa can’t eat apples
Because he hasn’t got any teeth

Grandpa can’t eat apples
Because he hasn’t got any teeth
Grandpa can’t eat apples
Because he hasn’t got any teeth
He can eat a melon without the shell on
He can eat a banana – any time he wanna!
Grandpa can’t eat apples
Because he hasn’t got any teeth

Top 10

Top 10 Albums of 2013*

1) The Wilderness – ks Rhoads

There’s nothing lower case about ks’s (?) epic soundscapes. His debut album also contains some great tracks (Dark Hotel for one) but The Wilderness has been stuck on my mp3 player ALL YEAR LONG. You can check out the free sampler on noisetrade.

2) Clothes You Can’t Outgrow – Mountain Schmountain
2) Saturn Mexico – The Black Heartthrobs

Equal second – two self-released albums available on Bandcamp. Nottingham’s Mountain Schmountain write some of the most original songs on the planet (check out Unnatural Stances for one) and L.A.’s The Black Heartthrobs crankout super-melodic super-feelgood noisy indie rock.

4) Let It Beast/DJ BC presents The Beastles – DJ BC 

Hard to pick between The Beastles 3 albums and these two are neck and neck – but why not download em all and make your own Beatles/Beastie Boys mashupmixtape

5) Live at Electrical Audio – David Bazan

Bazan’s live in the studio ‘best of’ contains my favourite version of Magazine

6) The Riddle (Expanded Edition) – Nik Kershaw

30 years on this album still hold up as a shining example of uber clever hooky pop writing

7) Beardytron 5000 mkII debut Pune, India – Beardyman

Beardyman unleashes the power of several ipad, and incredible set of vocal chords and a musical genius brain. Powerful grooves, athletic melodicism and at least one hilarious trainwreck in completely improvised live set.

8) Stack-A-Tracks – Jellyfish

Just the backing tracks from 2 classic 90’s albums. A heartbreaking work of staggering pop genius.

9) Great Balls Of Fire! – The Best of  – Jerry Lee Lewis

They didn’t call him the killer for nothing.

10) EI8HT – Nik Kershaw

Brillaint tracks like Runaway, The Sky’s The Limit and The Bell rub shoulders with others that are merely very good.

honourable mentions

Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin

It may have some average tracks but it demonstrates what it means to be an album.

The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind – Ben Folds Five

A perfecly credible return from BFF boosted by a handful of awesome tracks like Draw A Crowd, Erase Me and the title track.

Check out
The Black Heartthrobs on Beatles-influenced songwriting
DJ BC Interview
Ben Folds Five on Sodajerker podcast

*as always these are merely the albums I heard in 2013.

A Blog's Life

Catching Up

What have been up to? Working on a recording project with Nina Smith & New Communication which culminated in a gig at The Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. Here’s 2 songs from there, the first I which I co-wrote with Nina and a few of the NewCom guys…

Next Wed I’ll be at the RCH again performing Tree Of Life, a song I co-wrote with one of my pupils for FAWM 2013, with a choir of several hundred kids  –  (download the demo here).

On Friday I’ll be supporting the fabulous Agent Lala at Bunker’s Hill in Nottingham. Agents Laila & Mathew have been part of the Nottingham First Tuesday Songwriting Group from (tues)day one and constantly amaze me with their fun, yet deep and endlessly inventive writing. Come along and hear for yourself!

Blogging wise I’ve posted demos of new songs Everything In The World Is Fighting Everything In The Sky and Vengeance Is Mine and over at Beatles Songwriting Academy I’ve been taking apart Piggies and Happiness Is A Warm Gun