Category Archives: friends

Neill’s book launch

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Neill’s a talented illustrator and has published a graphic novel about robots that are also mobile phones. It’s called Mo-Bot High. These pics are from the launch at Blackwells.

Felix’s 1st birthday.

Birthday cake.

Best albums and gigs of 2007

Music Room

Music Room sign at the Jericho Tavern

When I was in Vancouver in 2001, I found a kindred spirit in the form of Mason. He’s almost singlehandedly responsible for about 95% of the Canadian music that I have in my collection…introducing me to the New Pornographers, Mass Romantic.

His recommendations and the CBC Radio 3 Podcast have informed and developed my Canuck-o-phile instincts, to the point that I shamefully know more about independent Canadian music than Australian stuff.

Anyhow, we’ve kept in touch, although we haven’t actually spoken or met in person since Vancouver. Since I’m too lazy to compile my own best albums of 2007 list, I’ll point you towards Mason’s most recent blog post concerning the best albums of 2007. There’s a podcast in mp4 format where you can listen to an example track and hear Mason and Jehan’s opinions about some of the tracks, amongst others. It’s entitled “Hiptarded Podcast #1” which hints at the prospect of more in 2008. I wait with bated breath.

As for the selection, I’m not au fait with a majority of the albums, although I was familiar with more of the albums on his shortlist. I must say, from the Jamie T tunes I have heard, I have built up a natural aversion to him though. His reputation as the male Lily Allen reinforces that; I dont share Mason’s enthusiasm for her either.

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to discovering new music…I’m pretty “anti” the music press, so you’re less likely to find many bands championed by the NME or similar publications in a Ed generated favourites list. The same goes for BBC Radio 1. I tend to think that taking a bit more time to dig deeper and not just accept the artiste du jour as decided by the payola-esque music industry is a better idea…YMMV. I’ve been like that for years, just replace Radio 1 with Triple J (Australia) and the NME with…well the NME to see what I mean.

By the way, a couple of albums that I would have thrown into the mix that Mason didn’t mention are Hvarf-Heim by Sigur Rós (which I guess isn’t technically a new album) and Last of the Chanranguitas by The Epstein (Oxford’s answer to Calexico).

Perhaps as significant as a best albums list is gig attended and enjoyed list. Here’s mine:

  • numerous Stornoway gigs
  • The New Pornographers at Koko, London
  • Metric at The Zodiac, Oxford
  • Howling Bells at The Fez, Reading
  • The Epstein + Ox at The Holywell Music Room, Oxford
  • Sol Samba at The Zodiac
  • The Piney Gir Country Roadshow at The Jericho Tavern, Oxford
  • Sky Larkin, The Round Heels, The Epstein, Stornoway, Fonda 500, Goldrush at Truck Festival
  • You Say Party, We Say Die at The Zodiac
  • Sons and Daughters at The Zodiac

Cancelled gigs that I was looking forward to:

  • Rilo Kiley
  • The Decemberists

Gig of the Year:

  • Arcade Fire at Brixton Academy, London

Free Ashley Naylor song

My friend Ash has a free tune on the last.fm site, which I have embedded in the post below. You can download it and a couple more yourself at his last.fm artist page

As you may know, he’s also in the critically acclaimed band, Even.

I like last.fm a lot. I always wished there was a counter on CDs that kept track of how many times you’d played it and this site with its audioscrobbling plug-in does this and more.

Here is my last.fm user page.

Metric gig, Canuckophilia and Canadian Music (AKA some Canadians I know)

I went to see Metric play at The Zodiac here in Oxford on Sunday night. It was a great show, capped off by an energetic stage-dive by Emily Haines, as can be seen in the pic above. I was just out of range from being jumped on, so I fished my camera from my pocket and was able to get this mainly in focus shot.

My friend Nick is a huge Metric fan. When I was in the gents, I spotted a discarded YYZ (Toronto)-LHR (London Heathrow), Air Canada baggage tag and gave it to him as a joke. I later found out that he got it signed by the band…lol.

Ever since I spent a great year in Canada, I’ve had a soft spot for most anything Canadian. My Canadian friend Anne-Marie gave me a book called So, You Want to Be Canadian?  I actually knew quite a lot of stuff that was in the book already such as:

  • What Ogopogo is. (thanks to my time in the Okanagan)
  • What a Beaver Tail is.
  • The tune of and a good chunk of the words (in English) to Oh Canada.

At work I have a maple leaf coffee mug, when it’s slow at work I sometimes listen to CBC Radio 1 via the Internet and my favourite outdoor store is the Mountain Equipment Co-op. I also once stayed up all night to watch the Calgary Flames play in a Stanley Cup game…although I admit that my love of hockey isn’t such that I would hurry to do that again.

I admit it, I’m a Canuck-ophile.

I also listen to quite a bit of Canadian music. This all stemmed from my time in Vancouver when I met Mason, who now works at This Magazine in Toronto. Check out his blog, which looks great after a make-over. Mason first played me the music of The New Pornographers, amongst others. Their show at The Borderline in London was the best that I went to in 2006…well equal with Broken Social Scene at The Zodiac. They are also Canadian.

I met Anne-Marie after eavesdropping on a conversation about Calgary on the Oxford Tube bus. She used to play me Canadian music on the stereo of the Phoenix Cinema bar, where she used to work and tell me stories about working on Canadian indie movies, once dating the bass player from The Arcade Fire and working on a New Pornographers video shoot.

The last time I went to Canada was in 2005, when I visited Anne-Marie in Montreal. Before leaving, I emailed Mason and got him to send me a list of CDs I should check out. He doesn’t know this but I ended up buying every CD I could find on his list, spending about $250 in one go.

His list actually duplicated many of the artists that I’d heard on the CBC Radio 3 podcast. I highly recommend this weekly podcast as they play a wide variety (not just indie rock) of great music. The host, Grant Lawrence has an enjoyable announcing style too, in my opinion. I don’t always get a chance to listen every week, as the podcast is usually an hour long or there abouts. I do get iTunes to download it every week though and get to catch up on journeys to London or long train journeys to Scotland. There is really some fantastic music of all genres coming out of the Great White North.

Australia’s radio equivalent, Triple J FM could really learn a thing or two from CBC Radio 3. Triple J have podcasts and now and again, I have a listen to popular scientist, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, but there is nothing that I know of that showcases Australian bands as well as the CBC Radio 3 podcast does for Canadian artists. I liked Triple J a lot better before they sold out in 1990, anyway! Viva 3RRR-FM!!

Coincidentally Dr Karl’s last name is the same as another British-based Canadian I know, Dallas Kruszelnicki. He’s a musician, yoga instructor and former guitarist of The Dirtmitts.

Anyway, that’s enough proselytizing about Canada for now. Time to ski Mt Mattress.

Kissing the bride

Here’s a snap that I took at the wedding of my former house-mate and accomplished etymologist (for the esteemed Oxford English Dictionary), Jane. Her and her husband Mike are currently in New Zealand, indulging in a bit of “tramping”. Another former house-mate, Rebecca was the bridesmaid and she can be seen in the pic in the left foreground.

The wedding was held at the fascinating World Heritage site, New Lanark, which is south of Glasgow. They have restored the cotton mills and the other buildings that comprise the 19th century example of utopian socialism created by the noted social reformer and philanthropist, Robert Owen. He’s also credited as the “father of the cooperative movement and was the father of the US Congressman, Robert Dale Owen. Amongst other things, Robert Dale Owen drafted the bill that resulted in the formation of the Smithsonian Institute.

The ceremony took place in the building formerly (and delightfully) known as the Institute for the Formation of Character. The lighting was pretty tricky as there was a strong yellow glow from the incandescent lights and also, the sunlight coming through the windows was constantly changing.

Anyhow, the history lesson, lovely natural setting, kilts and dancing are captured in this Flickr set.

Aloha Damon and Tara.

My close friends in London, Damon and Tara are leaving tomorrow for a stint in South America, so I thought I’d immortalise them in a blog post.


The above photo is of Damon, myself and Gerard (the cycling trio) at Damon and Tara’s farewell dinner the weekend before last in London.

Since I first met Damon on a charity bike ride between Oxford and Cambridge in 2004, we’ve shared some great cycling times. For example, going to the Tour de France in 2005, participating in the London bike courier roller race Rollapaluza IV, a 120 mile cyclosportive last year and many enjoyable training rides. In the couple of years I’ve known him and Tara, they have become good friends and I hope that their adventure is all they want it to be.

Aloha!…or should I say Adiós!

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