Monday, 18 August 2014

The Album, According To 16 Year Old Me

The way music is digested is always changing. People lament the decline of the album, but at one time the only way to experience the music you loved was to go to a concert or buy the sheet music. So as I write this, I'm aware that my experience of music during my formative years is just one stage in the evolution of music appreciation. I can't wait to see what's next.

(I'm on the left with the shit hair extensions)

As a teenager my consumption of new music was dictated by the radio (Radio 1, or ATL on Radio Ulster - how I discovered Snow Patrol at the age of 15) or the tracks my friends shared with me via MSN, email and by making me CDs. Music was what I bonded with my peers over. I held my list of favourite bands as an emblem of myself - it was a club for like-minded people. To illustrate, here's a screenshot of my cringeworthy Bebo profile, circa 2007 and probably old enough to know better.

(I went to take a screenshot of my teenage MySpace profile but when I signed in it was awful - the place social networks go to die. I couldn't find anything and all the pictures were moving. I couldn't even see where to sign out so just X'd the window and got the hell out of there.)

I bought a new album 3 or 4 times a month back then. I couldn't wait to get to the nearest HMV after school to browse for new music. Most was recommended to me by word of mouth, others were pot luck based on how much I liked the artwork. A lot of time was spent lusting over John Frusciante albums that were set at that slightly unattainable price of £15.99. When I finally settled on something, I felt proud walking up to the till to spend my small allowance. Would the cashier give me a nod of approval? Mostly not, but purely the act of buying the CD felt cool. If I got on the bus home without meeting a friend it was great because it meant I could start the listening experience there and then on my little CD player. It's hard to think of a time when you'd buy an album without hearing most of it first, but it was so exciting! (It's also hard to think of a time when I carried a personal CD player and even some actual physical albums with me regularly.) I'd get home and hole myself up in my bedroom, listening from start to finish with no breaks, praying no phone calls came for me, pouring over the artwork and reading every printed word. My favourite albums came with the lyrics and probably photos of the band. Then I'd go on MSN and make sure everyone could see what I was "listening to".

Now, buying an album almost seems flamboyant. Spending £10 on a piece of plastic when you can listen online for free? Of course I believe in supporting the artist (I pride myself on having never illegally downloaded music, back when that was a thing) but perhaps they might benefit more from me going to see them play a gig. I've always maintained that I couldn't enjoy an album in the same way if I didn't purchase it; it wouldn't seem like it belonged to me, and I wouldn't invest so much of my time getting to know it. But then I realised that I've ripped plenty of CDs in my time and have settled into that music as if I'd paid money for it.

If 16 year old me ever thought there would be something like Spotify or YouTube on the horizon, I would have lost my shit. I probably wouldn't have spent as much money on albums at the time either. Like a kid in a sweet shop, I'm overwhelmed by streaming services. So much content to explore, but even so I often go back to the albums I'm used to. Reluctant to take a risk, I'd rather be comforted by familiarity. The music doesn't seem so precious and valuable any more (although it could be argued that this is a result of me growing up rather than the nature of streaming). Investing in an album is not the priority; rather, the listener follows impulse with a short attention span. I don't see an alternative to streaming happening any time soon. Yes there are kinks to be ironed out regarding artists' monetising to the greatest effect, but didn't the big acts always get the most money? Hasn't it always been a ball ache trying to make a living as an indie artist? (Or even signed!)

These are the albums that made their mark on me. I remember each person who pointed me in their direction, the first time I listened to most of them, and exactly how I felt.

Yeah, I never said I was cool.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Nashville Flashback

In March I went away with five friends to spend a week in a lovely house on the outskirts of Nashville. I can't believe I haven't put up the photos before now. Better late than never eh?! We kicked off the trip with a group gig in Belfast a few days before we left (lovely poster above designed by Thomas who came on the trip). It was set to be the first time in America for me, though I had plenty of ideas in my head of what it would be like from growing up watching The Monkees and, erm, Star Trek. This is the view we had from our back garden...

It was really icy when we landed down, but by the end of the week it was t-shirt and suncream weather!

Food shopping was an unforeseen adventure for me. We were starving after arriving late on a Monday night and discovering that no takeaways would deliver to our house, so when we went to the supermarket the next day it felt like we bought everything in the shop!

I was out with one of the acts I work in artist development with, Travis is a Tourist - we took a lot of footage documenting our trip. The woodland area and abandoned train tracks out the back of our house were perfect for filming. At one point though we did upset our neighbour who thought we were attempting to run off with one of her old rusty lawnmowers...

My first sort-of coffee - a milky way mocha!

You can't see the sign but this place was called Fanny's House of Music (lol).

We met the friendliest mechanics who let us have a snoop around their amazing garage. So many cool cars.

There was a day where spent most of our afternoon hanging out in this one coffee shop.

The last day was spent roadtripping from Nashville to Dallas - 12 hours straight on the road! Highlights include having my first Taco Bell (my server was very excited), trying root beer (yuck) and flicking through all the radio stations (ranging from dedicated Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen broadcasts to A LOT of hiphop). I came back with a new found appreciation for Beyonce.

So I said goodbye to the gang as they drove on to SXSW, and I made my way back to Belfast. I can't wait to get back to the States again though. By hook or by crook I'll make it to Austin next year!

Grace x

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

That Time I Went to Brighton: Pt. 2

So while my computer feigns to defrag the disk drive, and while my nails dry (french mani with blue tips on LH and purple tips on RH) I will let you guys in on my shopping haul in Lovely Ole Brighton.

The Lanes truly are a thing of wonder - a colourful, kitsch haven for an individual such as myself. So much vintage tat I didn't know where to look! The vintage clothes admittedly didn't really wow me. Perhaps it's because I'm in a sewing phase but I found myself thinking a) that's way too expensive and b) I could probably make that.

Snoopers Paradise was a right find though. I was so overwhelmed by the utter volume of junk spread over a space about the size of two houses. Everything had a price sticker too, which made it a safe place with no unexpected crazy prices. I didn't buy much in the end, just a couple of patches to satisfy my current Moonrise Kingdom style fascination.

Oh yes, I found Moominpappa hanging about outside a shop which stocked an abundance of MOOMINS STUFF! I was in MOOMIN HEAVEN!

I also came across a cute Irregular Choice shop. I loved the cat heels on these shoes (they remind me of my first pet, Cinders) but they weren't quite right - I don't like wide peeptoes and wtf is that silver trim? I don't know if my taste is becoming more refined or if Irregular Choice have lost the plot slightly.

A few of my purchases...

1 / Moomins plate!
2 / Moomin Mamma's Magic Potion and vintage patches
3&4 / I discovered a shop called Tiger which is basically a cross between Ikea and Paperchase, only better. I'm developing a washi/coloured tape obsession... I'll let you into a secret: I love pretty wrapping on presents, so much so that I have a table in my landing specifically for wrapping gifts!
5 / A couple of fat quarters I picked up in a cute fabric shop, to give to the stitch'n'bitch girls who are starting to learn how to sew.

Grace x

Sunday, 11 May 2014

That Time I Went to Brighton: Pt. 1

Last week I escaped (ahem) to Brighton for The Great Escape, and quite promptly fell in love with it. Despite - or maybe because of - the rain and blustery gales I felt at home wandering around the Lanes and running across town to different gigs. 

We arrived on Thursday and collected our delegate passes, grabbing a sneaky pint before I went off to explore. In the evening we had dinner in Bill's on North Road, where I had the best halloumi burger ever and made firm friends with a like-minded tequila fan, Rosie. Music wise there were a few things I couldn't see because of  queues (namely Deathcrush and Hozier) but I did catch Rosie Lowe, Lizzo and Tiger Cub. 

The next day was ropey to begin with but I was soon woken up at the sound check for our Generator NI showcase. We had The Clameens, Go Wolf, Wonder Villains, Ryan Vail and UNKNWN playing - massively varying in genres, but each really special acts from Northern Ireland. 
The showcase was held in the Prince Albert which had a Banksy on the gable wall, and served beer battered halloumi which probably topped the burger from the night before (if possible)!

Following the showcase I went for another dander through the lanes - such awesome shops, I'll have to do a separate post on what I bought soon! After a quick disco nap we went to see Gallery Circus (twins who I'd seen in Liverpool the week before and they were just as great this time), Marika Hackman (wonderful psych folk - she did a Joanna Newsom cover!), Femme (envious of her impressive pink bowl cut), The Amazing Snakeheads (scared the pants off me and it was so warm I was going to pass out but class all the same) and The Clameens (who were knackered after their daytime show but still put on a stomper). In the middle of all that we were able to fit in a visit to a tapas bar where I managed to eat my own weight in potatoes, chorizo and croquettes. Excellent.

Basically after two days in Brighton I have decided I could DEFINITELY see myself living there, in one of these houses to be specific. I think I'd paint mine lilac. As promised I'll put up another Brighton related post in a day or two focusing more on the shopping side of things!

Grace x