The Midweek Mix – 27/04/16

Your midweek hit of the best new music:

Christine and the Queens – Tilted

Already huge in France, Christine and the Queens is jumping into the public eye in the UK with a spring in her step. She has got some serious moves!

Låpsley – Love is Blind

Holly Fletcher, aka Låpsley, had already won me over with Station, but it seems after recording with the xx producer, Rodaidh McDonald, her sound is only getting better. At a mere 19 years old, she is creating some of the coolest sounding music in the UK right now.

Tangerines – You Look Like Something I Killed

Peckham-based Tangerines specialise in drawling lyrics and Americana. Catch them at Field Day this year!

Arthur Beatrice – Real Life

Real Life gives me high hopes for Arthur Beatrice’s second album, Keeping the Peace, which will be released in a month’s time. Ella Girardot’s vocals are as effortlessly beautiful as ever.

Gabriel Bruce – Metal Soul

How Gabriel Bruce released two songs in the past two months without me noticing until now is beyond me. My life has been missing his unique deep voice and signature jerky dance moves for far too long!

 

 

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The Midweek Mix – 03/02/16 – Determination

We did it! We survived January!

What nobody tells you though, is that February can also be a bit dark and dreary. All your new year’s resolutions are long forgotten, your dreams of 2016 being “your year” are slowly slipping away and you’ve probably decided that hiding under your duvet until Spring is an adequate life plan. You are wrong.

What you really need is a determination playlist with a healthy serving of cheese. You’re welcome.

Jess Glynne – Hold My Hand

This song is an instant mood changer for me. Jess Glynne forces me to get out of my seat, dance around the room and put a positive spin on whatever rubbish might have been occupying my brain before. Sure, it might be about getting together with someone rather than being a Destiny’s Child-style independent lady, but hey, you can be strong and determined with someone by your side too. The “I CAN DO THIS” feeling is undeniable.

Arthur Beatrice – Midland

This might not be an obvious choice but I have obscured the lyrics in this song so far that it has become something of a determination classic for me. Rather than the “go get ‘em” feeling of many determination songs, Midland focuses instead on being steady, calm, standing your ground, and being stronger inside than you will ever outwardly appear.
I’ll never move, I’ll never move, I’ll always be so still.
I’ll never grow, I’ll never grow, as tall and fierce as me.
Heaven knows it’s probably not what Arthur Beatrice were getting at, but it works for me.

Starship – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now

A classic! Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now brings back memories of singing along to this 80s classic at university club nights and bar extensions in a huge group of friends. Being in such a large, yet close friendship group is the closest I’ve ever felt to the “young and invincible” feeling that is always talked about. I felt like nothing could break us and I couldn’t really see past that time or imagine life post-university. It felt like everything to be there, just singing and dancing with friends.

Wolf Alice – Blush

For me, this song is all about having the confidence to turn your back on the things that make you unhappy, be who you really are, and go find your own potential.
Don’t chicken out, it’s all good, you’re allowed, to be what you could.

S Club 7 – Reach

A determination song I grew up on! This gets every 90s child jumping to the dance floor and believing that they really can reach for the stars. It’s a throwback to a time when you really did think anything was possible. You could be a firefighter on Monday, a ballerina on Tuesday and a brain surgeon on Wednesday. Go 90s you!

What are your determination classics?

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End of Year Reading Wrap Up – November

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Before we fall too far into 2016, it’s time to update you on my November and December reads and wrap up the year with a few reading stats!

I started November with Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. After deciding it was about time I read some Christie, I headed to Foyles. I was completely overwhelmed by the choice but figured the bestselling mystery novel of all time was probably a good place to start! I definitely was not disappointed. And Then There Were None follows the story of ten individuals who are mysteriously invited to a remote private island and are murdered one by one. With nobody else on the island, it is the ultimate whodunit! We ended up reading this at our work book club and not one of us had correctly guessed the identity of the murderer before the big reveal. Christie is so clever in quickly changing your mind as soon as you are on the right track. The BBC’s recent adaptation is definitely worth a watch too, whether you read the book first or not. Despite the addition of sex and drugs to spice things up a bit for the screen, it remains faithful to Christie’s intelligent story.

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After all that crime, I turned to one of the best “women’s fiction” or “chick lit” (if we must use that term) authors out there and devoured Paige Toon’s The Sun in Her Eyes. Paige always pulls me in and draws on my emotions when I least expect it. It often takes a few chapters, but by the end I am completely addicted. The Sun in Her Eyes is one of the best of Paige’s novels I’ve read (up there with One Perfect Summer!) and tells the story of Amber Church, who survived at age three the car crash that killed her mother and is about to discover her mother’s dying words that may change her life forever.

My final read of November was Emerald Fennell’s Monsters, a recent YA release from Hot Key Books with one of the best cover designs this year (look closely!). Emerald Fennell, who is best known for her role in Call the Midwife, has created a fantastically dark murder mystery, set in a seemingly perfect seaside town, with some very sinister children at its heart. This is YA at its best, with no fear of nastiness. Do not underestimate the brilliance of this book.

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I will continue the end of year wrap up with my December books later in the week. Until then, happy reading!

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The Midweek Mix – 25/11/15

A Midweek Mix dominated by female vocals this week!

Adele – When We Were Young

Ok, so we’ve all heard Hello and it’s great, but When We Were Young is something else. Adele has a way of climbing into my head and heart and shaking everything up. Critics say 25 is a boring album because it’s just like the last one? I say, BRILLIANT, I loved the last one! I have so much respect for Adele and I’m in awe of her ability to be so successful without giving constant interviews or letting the media take over her life.

Wolf Alice – Matilda (alt-J cover)

I love Wolf Alice. I love alt-J. I love this cover.

Daughter – Numbers

I am always excited to hear a new single from Daughter. Everything they create is poetic, sincere and elegant.

Disclosure ft. Lorde – Magnets

NEW LORDE! She remains the coolest 19-year-old around.

Chvrches – Empty Threat

I’ve spoken before about how much of a fan I am of Glaswegian, synth-loving Chvrches and their new album, Every Open Eye. On Friday I will be starting my five-day birthday celebrations at their Ally Pally gig and I can’t wait. My electro dancing shoes are ready!

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October Reading Wrap-Up

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I started the month with a short free ebook of Jim Smith’s My Dad is a Loser by Barry Loser. The Barry Loser series is really popular with children 7+ and I hoped this promotional ebook would give me a taste of it. Unfortunately, it didn’t really enthuse me to check out the rest. These free ebooks are so difficult to get right though, and I imagine it might not be entirely representative of the series as a whole, which has previously won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. I would take a bet that it would be a good addition to the shelves of any child who has already made their way through The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Mr Gum, and who enjoys the series format.

My second children’s book of the month was an absolute favourite of mine: Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death. This is the second in the Goth Girl series, which follows the adventures of Ada Goth, daughter of Lord Goth, in their enormous and mysterious home, Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Riding on the Great British Bake Off bandwagon, this installment of Ada’s story sees celebrity cooks, from Nigellina Sugarspoon and the Hairy Hikers through to Mary Huckleberry and Gordon Ramsgate, arriving at the hall for the Full-Moon Fete and the Great Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off. It is witty and full of clever references that will inevitably appeal to parents reading along with their children. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the story alive and the incredible production of the book, with shiny red sprayed edges, beautiful gothic end pages and a ribbon, make this a stunning object to own and a fantastic gift.

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Later in October, I picked up the third in the series, Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright, at a Waterstone’s event with Chris Riddell and Emily Gravett, and I can’t wait to read it. The event was fantastic. Chris Riddell is constantly brimming with enthusiasm and ideas, which he willing shares with everyone. I got the impression that he has been a great mentor to the wonderful Emily Gravett (author and illustrator of Wolves and many other picture books) and, after hearing him speak, I am more pleased than ever that he was appointed as Children’s Laureate.

Moving on to some YA, we reached a momentous point this month… I finally finished The Hunger Games! I am incredibly behind the times, but I felt Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay was a fitting end to the series. I gradually became more annoyed by Katniss’ ongoing Peeta/Gale dilemmas, but it was still a very enjoyable and addictive read. It even infected my dreams for a couple of nights. I think I was on a mission to kill President Snow!

My graphic novel of the month was This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, which I picked up at Gosh! Comics in Soho. I bought it primarily because it is one of the first graphic novels aimed at the teen market that I’d really heard people talking about. On an initial flick through, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me where the buzz surrounding this book had come from, but I was pleasantly surprised. On the face of it, it is a classic coming of age story: two young girls who have spent many summer holidays together at the beach discover secrets, boys, heartaches and family breakups. Once you dive in, however, it is an incredibly realistic portrayal of teenage friendships with some surprisingly dark subject matter and a healthy dose of feminism thrown in. I found the characters annoying and infuriating at points, but it only added to how real they felt.

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I picked up I’ve Lived in East London for 86½ Years by Martin Usborne at the Photobook Weekend in Shoreditch, where lots of small, independent and local presses were selling their photography books. I’d had my eye on this one, the first in Hoxton Mini Press’ East London Photo Stories series, for a while. It is a beautiful book full of photographs celebrating both East London and a man, Joseph Markovitch, who lived there for 86½ years. His wonderful character comes across in the photos and his select words which are scattered throughout: “I like to walk because I see things that I would never see, like boats and ships and strange people’s faces. I would like to walk in the rainforest but I’d have to be careful of the snakes and the spiders, it’s very dense over there.”

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Finally in October, I read some non-fiction. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science is a fascinating look into the study of sexual physiology. Mary Roach is a truly brilliant writer who made this book addictive reading with hilarious stories of her research (which took her to pig farms, sex toy labs and inside an MRI scanner) and insights into the aspects of sex most people have never even thought to ask about. I would particularly recommend this to anyone who is just getting into reading more non-fiction or anyone who enjoyed the recent Institute of Sexology exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London or the Masters and Johnson drama on Channel 4. I warn you though, you will get strange looks if you read this on the tube, which only goes to show how much time commuters spend reading over other people’s shoulders. Perhaps they wouldn’t be so nosy if they thought to bring their own book. Don’t they know they are wasting valuable reading time?!

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The Midweek Mix – 21/10/15

A solemn Midweek Mix this evening:

Daughter – Doing the Right Thing

This video brought a tear to my eye the first time I saw it. A sombre portrayal of the effect of dementia on family life.

Of Monsters and Men – Thousand Eyes

I am still in love with every one of these lyric videos from Beneath the Skin. This one is creepy and goosebump-inducing.

Andy Shauf – I’m Not Falling Asleep

Canadian Andy Shauf is the master of mellow elegance.

Peacock Affect – The Drowning

Beautiful simplicity from George Holman, aka Peacock Affect.

The xx – VCR

Brightening things up very slightly is The xx’s fragile classic, VCR.

I wanna find myself by the sea,
In another’s company,
By the sea.

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The Midweek Mix – 07/10/15

Five songs from five new artists:

Misty Miller – Happy

Misty Miller isn’t quite as new as she might first appear, but she’s had quite a transformation since her sweeter days of blonde hair and pretty dresses. Happy is extremely catchy and I’m sure she’s going to be a Radio 1 hit.

Kid Wave – I’m Trying to Break Your Heart

I’ve featured Kid Wave on The Midweek Mix before, after I saw their great Tramlines set at the Leadmill in Sheffield, and I’m definitely a fan. This video for I’m Trying to Break Your Heart was released earlier this week.

Bully – Trying

Bully hail from Nashville and are reminiscent of 90s grunge pop. I love Alicia Bognanno’s Courtney Love-esque drawl.

The Half Earth – The Balance

The Half Earth is Sheffield’s best new songsmith. The Balance is beautifully measured and exact. It rewards repeated listens.

Billie Marten – Bird

Billie Marten has already been compared to the incredible Laura Marling, and Bird suggests that comparison may prove to be well deserved. Beautiful song, beautiful voice, beautiful video.

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September Reading Wrap-Up

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As the clock struck midnight on 1st September, I was tucked up in bed reading Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods, a set of five intensely creepy graphic short stories. These spine-tingling tales had me turning on all the lights and checking for monsters under the bed before I could even think of attempting to sleep. It is an incredibly impressive piece of work that rewards repeated readings. The more time you spend with each image, the creepier they become; trees turn into spindly hands and deep reds melt into blood. With very few words, Emily Carroll’s haunting illustrations brought a cloud of terror over me. I wasn’t really sure what I was frightened of, and that is, of course, the most frightening thing of all.

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In need of some light relief, I turned to YA contemporary How to Be Bad, a collaboration between E. Lockhart (author of the fantastic We Were Liars), Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski. The basic premise of this book is that three girls, the stereotyped good girl, the wild-child and the posh new girl in town, take a road trip and discover the true meaning of being ‘bad’. It’s a fun take on the classic coming-of-age road trip novel and, despite it taking a good few chapters to properly get into it, I became really invested in the characters quite suddenly about halfway through. Definitely an enjoyable, easy read for the end of summer.

My third book of September was the fantastic Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, which I read on my Kindle. This is a YA novel about Evie, a sixteen year old with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is one of the best, most realistic, depictions of OCD I’ve ever read. I was really glad to see that it went beyond simply presenting the well-known hygiene related obsessions and compulsions and gave a true insight into the thought processes of an individual with OCD, for example by showing Evie’s belief that if she touches all the lampposts on the way home six times, her evening will go really well.

I visited Penguin’s Pop Up at BOXPARK in Shoreditch this month. It was part of Penguin’s 80th anniversary celebrations and they had a small selection of their titles on sale, as well as a fun post-it note wall of messages from visitors describing what books mean to them and a live action mural by illustrator Toby Triumph. I picked up The Lottery, a 99p short story by Shirley Jackson. Originally published in The New Yorker, it caused outrage amongst readers in the 1940s. I read this short story in one sitting and absolutely loved it, apart from the fact that I found the ending quite predictable. Sadly, I put this entirely down to the small quote on the back cover which drew my attention to an aspect of the story at the very beginning that might have otherwise passed me by. This made it quite obvious from the start what was going on, but I did still enjoy this incredibly well-written and shocking story. Next time, Penguin could probably just stick the endorsements from Neil Gaiman and Donna Tartt on the back though. As if I would ever turn down a book with those two names by it!

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My next read of September was the first in Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum series for children 7+, You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum! This is a hilarious tale of a very nasty man, ‘an absolute lazer’, with an ‘absolutely grimsters’ house, who takes against the village’s favourite dog when it makes a mess of his garden. We follow a little girl, who has ‘a smile as happy as the Bank of England’, as she tries to rescue Jake the dog. Andy Stanton’s wacky and absurd writing style is really appealing and it took a lot of effort not to laugh out loud on the tube while reading this. You never quite know where the sentence is going to go: ‘She ran past big trees, little trees, tiny little trees, and tiny tiny little trees so small they were more like pebbles, in fact they were pebbles.’ This is a definite recommendation for fans of Roald Dahl and David Walliams.

My third and final YA read of September was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, which has just been made into a film. You can see the trailer here. I’m still not sure what I made of this one. It’s the story of Greg Gaines, a seventeen year old whose mother forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. The best part of this book is that is doesn’t try to follow the ‘Fault in Our Stars’ model of a romantic story about cancer, but, for me, the worst is that it is so in-your-face about it: ‘So if this were a normal book about a girl with leukemia, I would probably talk a shitload about all the meaningful things Rachel had to say as she got sicker and sicker, and also probably we would fall in love’. The narrative voice grated with me and was a little bit too Holden Caulfield-esque for my liking. Many people do absolutely love this book though, so maybe give it a go, especially if you enjoy different narrative formats as the story is told in bullet point lists and scripts, alongside the standard narration. I will still make an effort to see the film – I can definitely see that it would translate well onto the screen and it has already won awards at Sundance.

Finally, a shout out to Mike Medaglia’s One Year Wiser, a collection of 365 beautifully illustrated meditations. I work with Mike at JKP and was lucky enough to go along to his book launch at Gosh! Comics in Soho earlier this month. Whilst I haven’t made my way through the whole book this month, I have enjoyed dipping into the September pages whenever I feel like taking a breather or finding some inspiration. It’s a very beautiful object and would make a lovely gift (for those of you looking ahead to Christmas already!) You can see sample pages from the book here.

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The Midweek Mix – 23/09/15

Here are the five tracks you need to hear this week.

Sunflower Bean – I Hear Voices

Rocky psychedelia from New York’s most promising new band.

Wolf Alice – Baby Ain’t Made Of China

A new-old song from Wolf Alice and one of the best B-sides I’ve heard for a long time.
Oh love me, make me better, and wash those tears away.

Battles – The Yabba

Who needs vocals when you have absurd music and an absurd video to match?

Chvrches – Clearest Blue

Let’s face it, I just love everything Chvrches are putting out at the moment.
Will you meet me more than halfway up?

Foals – Mountain At My Gate

I have really rediscovered my love of Foals with their new material from What Went Down. Such a great sound.

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The Midweek Mix – 16/09/15 – Live Lounge Special

Long gone are the days when I’d listen to Radio 1’s Live Lounge every morning of the school holidays or over revision during study leave, but I have been loving Live Lounge month so, in its honour, here are some of the best LL covers from this year!

Wolf Alice – Steal My Girl (One Direction)

Nobody expected Wolf Alice to cover One Direction, but here they are with maximum echo.

Slaves – Go (The Chemical Brothers)

Slaves are masters of the cover version. They make every song sound like their own. See also: Skepta’s Shut Down Slaves-style.

Chvrches – Cry Me A River (Justin Timberlake)

A Noughties classic turns Scottish and synthtastic.

Lucy Rose – Bad Blood (Taylor Swift)

Taylor Swift has been covered a lot in the Live Lounge recently, but this beautiful, simple cover of Bad Blood is my favourite by far. I particularly love the change from ‘band aids’ to ‘plasters’.

Ella Henderson – Hold Back the River (James Bay)

Finally, a cover that is far from inventive, but is brilliant anyway. Ella Henderson is very easy to love — Ghost is the only good song I can remember coming out of The X Factor in recent years — and a great voice plus a great song always equals greatness!

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