Tag: Music

The Year in Albums So Far

Inspired by a chat with longtime Friend of the Blog Grace, I’m sharing what I’ve been listening to so far this year as part of my goal of listening to a new-to-me album each week of 2020. By far my best discovery is Snoh Aalegra, who also featured in my February Favorites post.

While I tend to prefer spoken word – podcasts, audiobooks, and so on – I know that music is helping a lot of my nearest and dearest right now. Check out my finds so far and then share your favorite artists and albums or newest discoveries in the comments with the rest of the coterie.

Ugh, those feels again, by Snoh Aalegra

Black Messiah, by D’Angelo

Music to Be Murdered By, by Eminem

Feels, by Snoh Aalegra

Hotspot, by Pet Shop Boys

Sanctuary, by Genghar

New Hope Club, by New Hope Club

Don’t Explain, by Snoh Aalegra

Lucky Ago, by Color Theory

La Vita Nuova, by Christine and the Queens

Foreigner, by Jordan McKampa



Daughter Concert

“For those of you in the cheap seats I’d like ya to clap your hands to this one; the rest of you can just rattle your jewelry!”
― John Lennon

Confession time, we have not been taking appropriate advantage of London in the summer and we need to rectify this immediately. Working from home obviously contributes to the problem, as does the fact that my clients are several timezones behind me and I often have to be at least partially available during hours that most people spend frolicking. Jeff also has a lot of studying to do for the ever present reality of tests, and weekends are largely devoted to the necessary errand running that we haven’t been able to do during the week.

But it’s summer. In London. We need to be outside absorbing as much Vitamin D as humanely and safely possible because the cold, dark days will arrive much sooner than we all probably realize. To that end, we’ve started making an effort to track down as many outdoor adventures as possible, while varying up the routine a bit.

If I’m a theatre girl, Jeff is the resident music guy. When we were deciding what to do for our anniversary this year (travel being out of the budget for a while to go, alas), I picked the midnight matinee at The Globe and he wanted a concert and found a great one.

Somerset House, on the banks of the Thames, has a long history. The site has been home to a Tudor palace, a residence for members of the Royal family and their entourage, and apparently later a barracks. It was demolished and rebuilt in the neoclassical style and has moved over time to house various arts and learning societies and is a popular venue for performances. Particularly in, hey! Summertime! We first heard about the band Daughter on NPR and Jeff snapped up tickets as soon as he found out they were going to be performing.
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Not bad, venue.
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Drinks boys circulated the crowd with these signs and easy-to-spot flags that I probably found entirely too funny, but that I clearly had to document.
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No makeup and summer allergies, but pretty happy to be here!

The opening act was D.D Dumbo, an Australian artist who builds his songs while you listen (see more here, thanks again to NPR’s music reporting).

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A disproportionate amount of my music is tragic or vengeful, the blues feature heavily, so make of that what you will. Daughter makes music that is gorgeously sad and depressing, and the lead singer Elena Tonra has a perfectly haunting voice so she’s right up my street. The band is still learning how to tour and their stage presence could use some work, but the music is the slow, quiet kind that gets its claws into you.

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Just as pretty in the dark. Hopefully there can be more concerts in our future, as this has only been my third ever. My second, incidentally, was my first date with Jeff, so things are working out pretty well so far.

My Man Plays the Blues

“You couldn’t not like someone who liked the guitar.”
― Stephen King, The Stand

We spend a lot of time in the West End, it’s where some of our favorite restaurants are, obviously the theatre district, and frankly it’s just a great place to wander. One of Jeff’s favorite areas to meander therein is Soho. Once it had a nicely sizzling reputation as a sex industry district and the site determined as the source of the outbreak of cholera that helped form the science of epidemiology. More recently it’s reputation is as one of the real music centers of the city.

Denmark Street is particularly famous for its shops selling musical instruments and sheet music. At one point several major artists lived, worked, or recorded music there – we’re talking Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie… It’s basically Jeff’s nirvana (who, incidentally as far as I know, did not record there). Many an evening after he’s indulged me in some window shopping, I head into Soho to return the favor.

Because if Jeff ever makes his fortune, I know exactly what he would collect. Guitars. He’s played ever since he was a kid and even inherited a bass and a custom built electronic guitar (shared with a brother) from a great uncle.

I never went in for the sensitive troubadour types (of which our university had hordes), and Jeff didn’t win me with his musical talents. But I’ve got admit, the dark and deep blues and jazz tunes didn’t at all hurt. I might do for indie and some blues but for Rock in our house, Jeff’s your man.

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You can’t see it here, but there is some serious musical lust on his face.

Like all true admirers, he’s found his favorite local shop: Macaris, with locations on both Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street. And its goods are pretty impressive. They are the only authorised Gibson guitar dealer in the near area, a fact they are pretty proud of, and they sell everything from simple starter guitars for kids and soulful university students right up to the 80’s-est of 80’s rock n’roll royalty gear. Even I, who know nothing about guitars but for what I’ve learned from the devotee I’m married to, was knocked back to see some of their treasured stock – NOT for sale.

Oh. Just guitars signed by John Lennon, Oasis, and other major British rockers. Nothing much to look at. (*clutches self a bit to see them just hanging there!).

They sell other instruments as well, but I think it’s pretty clear their heart lies with the thrumming and plucking sort. But it’s not just guitar lovers we’re talking here!

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Fun family fact – among my exceptionally nifty mother’s talents (Classical Greek and Latin included) lies the banjo! She decided she wanted to learn as a girl and worked out the scheme for an instrument and lessons herself. She’s plucky like that. Interesting enough, a sibling followed a bit in her footsteps…

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Brig’s teenage wooing and general cavorting choice: the ukelele! Ignore my thumb at the bottom, if you please. But for Jeff, there’s only room in his heart for the one true stringed instrument.


Sing, Choirs of Angels!

“Christmas is more than a time of carols, cards and candy; it is a season of dedication and decision.”
– William Arthur Ward

If you were to open my Christmas Music folder in iTunes, a quick scroll downward would tell you something else about my holiday tastes: apart from being a “purist” I’m also a traditionalist.

You won’t find Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Let it Snow, or White Christmas.

What you will find is The Cambridge Singers, Hereford Cathedral Choir, and a smattering of various monastery choirs.

You will hear Good King Wenceslas, The Cherry Tree Carol, Adeste Fideles, quite a bit of Handel, Angels We Have Heard on High, Quem Pastores Laudevere, and my very favorite The Sussex Carol.

Mum and used to sing Fum Fum Fum, while baking Christmas treats.  The whole clan, if in a silly mood, could try the Hallelujah Chorus, blissfully murdering time and tune.

Like so many other good things, though, even Christmas songs can’t be taken too seriously.  Because, traditionalist I may be, but dour faced pillar of tradition I am not!

If A Equals B, and B Equals C, Then A Equals Muffin

“Fastidious taste makes enjoyment a struggle.”
– Mason Cooley

The science of Recommendations seems, to me, to be very imprecise.

Pandora, set to my station of summery, party, of-no-artistic-value-whatsoever music, was feeding me a lively stream of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and other culturally reprehensible choices.  And then suddenly, out of no where, an unmistakable disco beat.  And then, “Ah, ah ah, ah, stayin’ alive!  Stayin’ alive!”  Who ordered the Bee Gees?

Then later on Amazon.com, Small Dog’s personal crack, I was casually leafing through their recommendations for me.  They defy logic.  Wondering what had possessed it to recommend Conan the Barbarian I clicked on it to see why.  Answer: because I once ordered  Planet Earth.