Category Archives: Music

Ukuleles: The Greatest Escape

I am no musician, and I certainly can’t sing, but about 18 months ago I bought a Ukulele… and I love it.

There’s something so simple about a four-stringed mini-guitar-shaped musical instrument that just makes you smile when you play it. My housemates might say something about the noise it and I make together, but I hope they’ll agree that after a year-and-a-half, it’s starting to sound palpable.

Back when we lived opposite a guitar shop, on one bored Monday afternoon, I took a spontaneous excursion across the road and bought myself a ukulele. I’m not quite sure what on earth compelled me, but I’ve always wanted to learn guitar, and a uke was much cheaper and looked far more within my abilities bracket. Within a couple of days I’d learnt a few basic chords (C, G, Am, F) and found a smile across my face that had been missing in recent weeks.

It’s no coincidence that the ukulele purchase came at a time in my life when everything seemed to be changing. I’d recently moved into a new place, started a new job and had lots of questions about where my life was going. The ukulele didn’t help figure any of that out, but it did give me an escape. Time to myself without any distractions to just let my mind wonder. And it still gives me an escape now. After a stressful day at work, or when there’s too much going on, just playing a few songs can slow you down and make you relax for a few minutes.

A posse of ukuleles (I'm sure that's the official term)
A posse of ukuleles (I’m sure that’s the official term)

I’ve started going to UkeJam, a collective of local ukulele players that meet bi-weekly in a local pub to play songs together on their ukuleles. I love it because I learn new songs to sing, and can play as loud as I like without annoying anyone :D

Ukulele playing in Richmond Park
Ukulele playing in Richmond Park

Turns out that there’s quite a few other people in the PhD offices that play ukuleles, so we’ve got quite a sweet little niche going on. Maybe I should start a ukulele society on campus…

There might not be a post next Thursday because I’ll be boating from Birmingham to Wales, but we can get in touch the following week :) x

Update: There will be a post next week, it will answer one of life’s greatest questions, “what the f*** is an arboretum?”

Songs for the Summer

I’m not usually a fan of what is going on in the music charts, the thud thud of club bass and rap verses makes every song sound the same, and not in a good way. But, recently I think there’s been an resurgence of classic song-writing techniques – especially with what Pharrell Williams has been doing – starting with Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, then Blurred Lines, Happy, Love is the Answer and most recently, SING with Ed Sheeran.

So here’s what I’ve been into the last couple months. It’s a mix of Pharrell’s groove and funk, slower soul and some hip-hop vibes for good measure. I think all of these picks provide a great soundtrack to whatever you’re doing this summer.

G I R L
Pharrell Williams – G I R L. Of the back of all his success in 2013, Pharrell’s new album will get you on your feet with some great beats and unique falcetto tones.
Causic Love
Paolo Nutini – Causic Love. It’s been a long time since Paolo’s last album “These Streets”, but it was worth it! His Scottish spark is funkier than  before (which I love), but also very deep in some places. I especially love “Numpty” when he compares starting a relationship to failing to build a house, saying one day he’ll wake up and say “who’s that bitch with my second name?”
Tribute
John Newman – Tribute. On the back of my love for the Rudimental album last year that just screams a BBQ party vibe, this debut album is more of the same, but with less club and more soul.
X (Multiply)
Ed Sheeran – X (Multiply). The last time I was this excited about an album release was for Daft Punk’s last year, and we all know how that went down. I loved Ed’s first album, but this takes it to a whole new level. More Hip Hop-esque in SING and more emotion in Thinking Out Loud makes this better for partying and chilling alike.
YES!
Jason Mraz – YES! Finally ending on another hotly-anticipated release. I played Love Is A Four Letter Word to death last summer, the saxophone solos and catchy tunes carried summer to euphoria. This album is more chilled, with orchestral strings playing a big part in the songs. And, having just bought tickets to see Jason Mraz at the Royal Albert Hall in September, it goes without saying that I’m wetting my pants for this to be in my earholes.

Let me know if there’s a song or album that you can’t get out of your head at the moment, I’d love to hear what you’re into and I’m always on the lookout for new music to work and play too.

Until next Thursday x

Lucky.cpp

Never get the lyrics wrong to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky ever again with just a few lines of code…

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;
int main()
{
   string pronoun[3] = { "She's", "I'm", "We're" };
   string endline[4] = { "'til the sun", "to get some", "for good fun", "to get lucky" };

   for(int i = 0; i < 12; i++)
   {
      cout << pronoun[i < 4 ? i % 2 : 2] << " up all night " << endline[i < 8 ? i % 4 : 3] << endl;
      if(i % 4 == 3) cout << endl;
      usleep(2100000);
   }
}

BEDA: Sunny Day Albums

oh my blog!

Sun! Quick, put on your shorts and have a glass of Pimms, this might be the only day of summer we get! And while you’re sunbathing on your B&Q sun lounger, may I suggest the perfect soundtracks to get your muscles loose…

Home Again
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again. If you’ve never heard of Michael, then you need to. Voted BBC Sound of 2012, his music is perfect funk/soul.
These Streets
Paolo Nutini – These Streets. Cool, acoustic, Scottish.
Love is a Four Letter Word
Jason Mraz – Love is a Four Letter Word. I think we already established my addiction to this album earlier on in BEDA, so no surprises here.
In Between Dreams
Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams. More acoustic goodness.
Continuum
John Mayer – Continuum. While he may be womaniser of the century, his music is perfect for lazing around in the garden.

 

And lastly, the song I was so hyped about a week ago has finally been released! Well… the radio version at least. After only 48 hours of sale, it managed to get to number three in the UK singles chart! I warn you that it’s catchy.

[youtube http://youtu.be/5NV6Rdv1a3I]

BEDA: Mexican Monkey Jam

Monday number three of blogging every day. I could get used to this… if I was a masochist.

After getting an insight into my music tastes yesterday, you may realise that I’m a bit of a fan of the groovy chill-out sound. September by Earth, Wind and Fire, Mr Scruff, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Chic… I could go on. It’s the best stuff for a lazy day, or a crazy night. In my eyes it’s a mix of the current dance music trend that is sweeping the charts, tied to the groovy beats of the 70’s and 80’s. So you can imagine my reaction when a few weeks ago I saw that Daft Punk are releasing a new album, and it’s funky!

[youtube http://youtu.be/xqNQRTlhY7I]

And the title… “Random Access Memories“… my geek side is euphoric. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get too excited about an album based on a 15 second sample, but then today I saw this:

[youtube http://youtu.be/JMJwcOiBoZE]

How can you not listen to that and not get chills… did I mention I was a little bit excited?

We’re up all night to get lucky. We’re up all Mexican monkeys! Bring on May 21st! Until tomorrow x

BEDA: Music of the last 12 months

Blog like you mean it.

Today I’m going to run through what the music service last.fm reckons my most listened to songs of the last 12 months are. Because I don’t have last.fm on my phone, or my old MP3 player, or at work, the list is very restricted to basically what I listen to on my desktop at home, but nevertheless… there’s a list, so I’m going to use it.

  1. Maroon 5 – Sunday Morning, 23 plays. This song is the first song on my Sunday Morning playlist. Yes, I have a Sunday Morning playlist. In my eyes, this song is the perfect way to start a lazy day.
  2. Paolo Nutini – Million Faces, 24 plays. A beautiful album. And this song is one of the more under-rated Paolo Nutini songs. Chilled out and relaxing.
  3. Urusen – Vote For Me, 25 plays. My Mum actually bought this album after seeing them live. I thought I’d give it a go, and this is by far my favourite song from the album. There seems to be a trend of good, chilled out stuff on this list so far. I guess that’s because when I’m in my room I’m usually after music that will just mellow me out and de-stress after a long week.
  4. Earth, Wind & Fire – September, 25 plays. An absolute classic. And it somewhat became our house anthem last year – the number of times I’d wake up to this song is in the hundreds I’m sure. And if this is the soundtrack to the start of your day, then you knew it was going to be a good day.
  5. Mr. Scruff – Spandex Man, 25 plays. This song has chill and party – just like the rest of Mr Scruff. The perfect music to have on your headphones while coding, and the perfect “let’s go out” track. Legendary.
  6. Jason Mraz – I Won’t Give Up, 27 plays. When I saw that Jason Mraz had a new album out, I immediately found a website where I could listen to the whole thing. So I did. And I fell in love. It’s chilled (again, of course!), but it’s also very energetic in places. This song is perfect for a summer evening.
  7. Jason Mraz – The Freedom Song, 31 plays. I love brass instruments in songs! It’s so happy and “let’s go”. How can you not love this track?
  8. John Legend – Ordinary People, 44 plays. I hadn’t heard this song before April last year, and it grabbed me when I heard it. It’s one of the reasons I still regard Will.I.Am as an incredible artist/producer/songwriter even if his new single with Britney Spears is a pile of steaming poo.
  9. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe (acoustic version), 45 plays. I love the simplicity of the acoustic version as opposed to the pop-ed up original. And when you hear it constantly for months you need to listen to it to get it out of your head. That’s how that works, right? Still, I’d rather have this being played everywhere than frickkin Gangnam Style.
  10. Jason Mraz – Everything Is Sound, 75 plays. To this day, this is my go-to singing in the shower song. I just can’t help myself. So catchy and so happy.

So there you go. I sing in the shower, have a Sunday Morning playlist and listen to a lot of Jason Mraz.

Love you all, until tomorrow x

Paloma Faith

I saw Paloma Faith live a couple of weeks ago at the Hammersmith Apollo, and I’m not ashamed to say that she genuinely moved me. Her story is truly inspiring.

She funded her way through a Theatre Directing MA by working in various jobs such as a sales assistant in Agent Provocateur, a singer in a burlesque cabaret, and a life model. Her dedication to her dreams eventually led to being recognised by the music industry in the late 2000’s.

She’s always been interested in the music, and wary of becoming a singing puppet for big record labels – she allegedly walked out of an audition at Epic Records because the manager of the label refused to turn off his phone when she asked him to.

This down-to-earth character is what made that night at the Apollo so touching. Her performance of Just Be, acoustic, sat atop a lone piano was just mesmerising – the words and the way she sang them massaging an open emotional wound for me in that moment.

If you like this song, go and buy her Fall From Grace album, I implore you – it’s a musical masterpiece from start to finish, and this song is just one piece of the story that the album tells with amazing power.