Presented in Widescreen

Monday, 29 December 2008

"yes man" (2008) / cineworld unlimited

Went to see the new Jim Carrey / Zooey Deschanel film "Yes Man", based on the Danny Wallace book of the same name, tonight. The premise of the story is that Carrey playes Carl Allen, whose life is going nowhere until he attends a seminar and agrees to say "yes" to everything and start living his life - something Wallace actually spent six months doing in real life.

It's definitely a feel-good film, pretty much everything he says yes to has positive consequences, other than the necessary "plot-twist" near the end. I found it quite enjoyable, but it really didn't require any thought. My main reservation is the casting of Jim Carrey in the lead role - although he's not overly zany, there's still a little too much of his trademark mugging for my liking, especially as the film does not call for it in the slightest - in fact it probably turns the viewer against his character a little. I think someone like Steve Carell may have been a better choice. Zooey Deschanel is lovely as Allison, and some of the songs by her in-film band Munchausen by Proxy are quite amusing.

All the same, it's a reasonable distraction for a couple of hours. What an in-depth review.

Trailer is here.

I've been going to see as many films as possible lately using my Cineworld Unlimited card. I got it as a way of filling in time when I'm not on shift, but it was starting to look like a bad deicision when there was barely anything I wanted to see all summer. Think I'm beginning to break even on it now. For my own reference, here is a list of the films I've been to see using it (they've not all been classics, I have to say):

01. Hancock
02. Tropic Thunder
03. Step Brothers
04. Taken
05. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
06. Burn After Reading
07. The Rocker
08. Quantum of Solace
09. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
10. Four Christmasses
11. Body of Lies
12. What Just Happened?
13. Yes Man

I don't think I've forgotten any.

Monday, 22 December 2008

top 10 albums of 2008

Was going to try and write a full Top 20, but not been feeling well and I've found the first ten hard enough! May pad out the twenty later in the week, without write-ups.

10 | FM Belfast | How to Make Friends

Icelandic electro party funtimes. One of the musical highlights of my trip to Stockholm, left me grinning from ear to ear with fun covers, daft interludes and general good vibes. Check out "Lotus", from the album.

09 |
Cut Copy | In Ghost Colours

I have to admit I feel this has less standout tracks than their debut, 'Bright Like Neon Love', but I think it benefits from being a bit more consistent. "Hearts on Fire", "Feel The Love" and "Lights and Music" are all on their Myspace and worth a listen.

08 |
Mystery Jets | Twenty One

Slightly surprising change in style from their James-go-prog debut, 'Making Dens', to day-glo '80s pop. Contains two of the finest singles of the year in "Young Love" and "Two Doors Down".

07 |
Lykke Li | Youth Novels

I find this a little hard to describe, Latin influenced Swedish indie-pop? Produced by Bjorn of Peter Bjorn and John. Possibly a female Jens Lekman? Definitely a little twee. I don't know. I'm mostly obsessed with "Little Bit".

06 |
Neon Neon | Stainless Style

This was one of the records I was most looking forward to this year, and it didn't disappoint - not that I really ever knew what to expect. Nothing like the Super Furries, or Boom Bip, or the previous Boom Bip/Gruff Rhys collaboration at all. If the Mystery Jets dived in to the ocean of 80s pop, Neon Neon bought a submarine and stayed down there. 'Stainless Style' is a concept album about the life of playboy car designer John Delorean, he of the "Back to the Future" car. It does dip a little in the middle (especially "Sweatshop"), but "I Told Her on Alderaan", "Steel Your Girl" and "I Lust U" are amazing.

05 |
Friendly Fires | Friendly Fires

A grower, but it definitely paid off. I have to admit that I'd initially written it off as two excellent singles ("Paris" and "Jump In the Pool") plus 8 other songs, but repeated listens in the car revealed their charms. Quite a few of the tracks start off a little un-promisingly, before veering off into another direction. Probably best to listen to it, i've already started exhausting my vocabulary.

04 |
Hot Chip | Made In The Dark

Took a while to grow on me, but this turned out to be excellent. I think it's a good mix of the first two albums, a little less electronic than 'The Warning', but a little more polished than 'Coming On Strong'. Some of the songs are actually really, really lovely - the title track and "In The Privacy of our Love" in particular. Plus they were excellent at ATP, and exceptionally good humoured about my heckles during their DJ set.

03 |
Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight

I loved Frightened Rabbit's first album, 'Sing The Greys', and this was a worthy follow-up, taking the sound of their debut and expanding it. Lyrically, it details a break-up, with no blushes spared. So it's sometimes awkward listening, but much of it is actually quite funny and clever. The only let down for me has been the two times I've seen them live.

02 |
Los Campesinos! | Hold On Now, Youngster... / We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Two records in one year, nothing if not prolific - even if 'We Are Beautiful...' is not to be considered an album. Old-school indie-pop like the stuff I've always liked, with extra violins and keyboards and more amusingly angsty lyrics. 'Hold On Now, Yougster' finally clicked after seeing them at ATP, I think it just came accross better live, and then found itself a firm in-car favourite. 'We Are Beautiful' is excellent, especially for what started out as a stop-gap EP.

01 |
Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago

This record is absolutely beautiful. There's not much more to say about it than that. I first saw him/them play at ATP, after a hungover morning on the beach in the blazing sunshine and was blown away. Hung about afterwards to buy the CD and listened to it constantly for the rest of the summer, and have never got sick of it. Here's a link to the Daytrotter session, but the album is even better.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

the a forest: early demos, rambling

Amongst our friends, the as-yet unreleased The A Forest album has started to take on "Chinese Democracy" style mythical status. At least for the 2 or 3 people still waiting... We started on it in 2005, ditched the original recordings and have very slowly been piecing it together since 2006. We thought that at one point last year that it was finished, we had it mixed...then realised we still needed to tidy a few things up. There's still a couple of vocals that Cat wants to re-do, but hopefully it should see a release in some form next year.

I've been listening to the tracks that are likely to make up the album today, and I have to say I'm pretty proud of them. I've had my doubts at times, but I think a little bit of distance from the writing and recording has put it all into perspective. There are faults, but they don't upset me like they used to. One thing that struck me was that when it does come out, it will be 5 years since our split single with Mercury Tilt Switch, a re-recorded version of which will appear on the album. That's got to be a bit of a record delay between the release of a single and its appearance on a (non-compilation) album?

As well as the album tracks, I've been listening to other early demos and songs we recorded for the album, but discarded along the way for various reasons. The early instrumental demos have a certain charm, especially as they were recorded live in a practice room with a couple of mics and an 8-track. They are surprisingly good considering we've not always been the strongest live band. The album offcuts include songs that we played live quite a bit, but that just never translated too well into recordings.

In the spirit of the season, I've uploaded a few things. They're a bit rough around the edges and hopefully no-one else in the band will mind me doing this! You can listen to five songs from the album over at our myspace.

[MP3] The A Forest - Nursery
[MP3] The A Forest - Kids Jumping Off the Bridge

Two instrumentals from our first set of demos, before Cat joined. We definitely played "Nursery" at quite a few shows, always as an instrumental. This involved the peak of our instrument swapping, with me taking a shot on drums. The instrument swapping was something I was keen on early on, but we calmed down on it after a while. I don't think we ever played "Kids Jumping Off the Bridge" live, but may be wrong - we did play one gig without a singer before Cat joined. The title comes from the Perth tradition of kids in the summer jumping into the Tay from one of the bridges. I never did it, the idea terrifies me. Both tracks recorded live onto Chris' 8-track at Stage 2000 during September 2003.

[MP3] The A Forest - Waves

This has been available before but I took it down from the website, though it ended up on some playlist on a blog and turns up on, scrobbled from far flung corners of the world. It's based around a chord progression I'd had kicking around since school, having recorded a version of it myself at one point. The cello sounds pretty out of tune, and my guitar is probably knackered, so forgive us. We recorded parts of it ourselves at Stage and one of the sound rooms at Duncan of Jordanstone but got Robin Sutherland to do the final overdubs and mix it for us, the start of a beautiful relationship. Recorded spring/summer 2004, at the same time as "Dans L'aide du Levrier Retraite".

[MP3] The A Forest - There Is No Love Between Pigeons

This is an abandoned recording from the album sessions, recorded in 2006/2007. It sounds better than I remember, but definitely not good enough for the album. This was what we ended our set with for quite some time, often ending in some rather pathetic guitar abuse from me, a little over-excited. That poor guitar was kicked around the floor, thrown at walls, strings snapped and often knuckles bleeding... The title was inspired by the sight of some rather one-sided courting between two pigeons in Dundee city centre.

Hope there's something to enjoy there, for fun more than anything else.

Monday, 1 December 2008

broughty ferry beach: november 30th 2008

Went for a walk on the beach at Broughty Ferry on Sunday and took the camera along. Despite the cold (and my hangover), I think I eventually got some good shots. There's a lot of duplicates from trying out different settings. It was a nice, clear, day and the light was excellent, even as it got dark.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

baxter park fireworks: november 5th 2008

I took my camera along to this years firework display at Baxter Park in Dundee, first time I'd been to that one in a few years. Managed to get an okay spot and the photos turned out better than expected, but I think that was more luck than skill.

past & pending #1: mikee & the lambos

Mikee & the Lambos
Active: 1998
Gigs: 1
Recordings: 0

As promised some time ago, the first in a very occasional series chronicling the glorious failures and mundane successes of my ten years playing in bands. The original idea was prompted by a similar move by my friend Alex Botten, eventually resulting in his recent book "Hanging Around".

We begin at the beginning, at age 15, with the first real band I was in, one that actually had instruments, and practised, and even played a show. Mikee & the Lambos, as we were christened before stepping onstage at that solitary show, were my friends Euan and Andrew on drums and bass respectively, myself on guitar, and on vocals (and six years our senior...) Paul. Paul was one of two respondents to our "singer wanted" advert in a local guitar shop, the other a girl in the year below us at school. After months of regular (but hardly committed) practice, we had been offered a gig by some school friends in that well known rock and roll Mecca that was Burrelton Village Hall. Still, it was a gig, and we were confident. We agreed, a set was worked out and new Ellesse trainers purchased.

Not for the last time in my life, questions of general musical competency were ignored with naive over-enthusiasm. When I mentioned that I could play most of "I Wanna Be Adored" by the Stone Roses, this was good enough for Paul to insist that we play the whole thing, my faltering approximation of the actual guitar solo and all. We generally tended not to play anything too complex, for good reason, so this was always going to be disastrous. The rest of our set, as I recall, consisted of "Teenage Kicks" by the Undertones, "Creep" by Radiohead, "Kung Fu" by Ash and one original: "Funky Riff". A title that the word misleading will never, ever be enough for. "Funky Riff", as far as memory serves, consisted of little more than me playing a single, unfunky, riff and working through my effects pedals over a straight 4/4-plod and inaudible bass. The lyrics, in full, were "Funky riff/funky riff/funkiy, funky riff". It was more than likely worse than you could ever imagine.

I don't think our one show was quite what anyone involved may have imagined. There was no heaving crowd down the front - everyone was sat on plastic chairs against the walls of the hall (amazingly, the chair-to-punter ratio was about 1:1) - and our friends never suddenly saw us as messianic figures. Largely because we were terrible. Still, it wasn't all bad - we did get to play an encore of "Creep". Just as well really, as the first time we played it I managed to pull my guitar lead out with my foot as I went for my distortion pedal. I think the most important thing I learnt that day was to always loop the lead round the strap...

Mikee & the Lambos never survived in that form, unsurprisingly. Paul (or possibly his fiance) realised that this was clearly a waste of time, and we never really saw him again. After a short break, Andy, Euan and I did continue. That is where we will pick up next time.

kaput - captain capo... (again, live at drouthies)

Another video of "Captain Capo...", this time taken on a camera phone by Maxi at our Drouthies gig on August 16th, with Esperi and White Heath. There's photos that I took of those bands here, and more video to come once it's been uploaded, courtesy of Cat.

I have clearly failed miserably in my attempts to write regularly in this blog (last post in July!), but I guess I've just been pretty busy (and very lazy). Still, I think it would be good to force myself to write regularly, even if just to keep my brain ticking over, so will persevere with it.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

kaput - captain capo & the battle of goujon (live clip)

Here's a short video of my band Kaput playing at the Doghouse in Dundee on Tuesday just passes (8th July 2008). A friend of mine filmed it on my camera when he thought he was still taking photos, quality is pretty reasonable. It's only part of the song, but gives you a pretty good idea of what we sound like. Enjoy, hopefully!

Something old about cycling

Got home from work today and decided to go out for a cycle, first time i've been out on the roads this year if i'm not mistaken! Headed out the Strathmartine Rd from my flat, then up through Broadfoot and towards the car park at the bottom of that old quarry in the Sidlaws (help me out please!) and then from there on to Kirkton of Auchterhouse, down onto the main road and back to Dundee via Muirhead & Birkhill, through the Dryburgh Industrial Estate and along Macalpine Road and back to mine. As i came down the hill back to my flat i was almost tempted to go again...I've included a handy link for my route (12 miles!) at the bottom.

I took my camera with me, but although it was a beautiful afternoon nothing really caught my eye to photograph. Was going to try and get a few of Dundee off in the distance, but i think a combination of sunlight and distance put paid to that.

On the massive plus side, i really felt the benefit of my recent trips to the gym (and weight loss) - managed to keep pedalling on the vast majority of the uphill bits for a start! The last time i tried a shorter version of the route i was pretty knackered after half an hour and had a sore knee. This time my legs felt like they were working but weren't sore in a painful way, and i mostly managed to keep my breath.

Fun times! Actually reminded me why it was a good idea to buy a flat so far out of town.

Friday, 13 June 2008

euro 2008: betting

Tonights bets on Netherlands vs. France:

France to win: £2 at 7.0
1-0 Netherlands: £2 at 3.9
5th goal Netherlands: £2 at £5.7 *
5th goal France: £2 at 5.7

Also added Netherlands to win the competition: £3 at 5.7

Current winnings: £9.40
Current exposure: £16
Total outlay: £24

Monday, 9 June 2008

mclusky - "she will only bring you happiness"

Just because, really. As far as I'm concerned, this and "...Do Dallas" are the only Mclusky anyone needs. It seems this is occasionally a controversial opinion.

euro 2008: betting

Football and betting, 2 things I know little about but am often an enthusiastic participant in. And now, they come together! With no home nations in Euro 2008, I've decided to make it a bit more interesting by having some money on. I'm more of a results man anyway. I've started with a few bets on the outright winner, as follows (all odds are decimal, I'm using Betfair):

Germany: £5 at 4.9 (market now at 4.7)
Portugal: £5 at 6.6 (now 6.4)
Croatia: £3 at 15 (now 19.5)

Germany taken on the basis of being favourites, and always having a good shout at these things. Portugal looked good in their opening game, and Croatia was a gut feeling as much as anything else - a little surprised Croatia have drifted out to 19.5, but then what do I know?

My next moves are probably going to be betting on individual matches and the outcomes on the groups. I fancy Germany and Croatia to qualify from Group B, so will probably start with something on that.

Current winnings: £0
Current exposure: £13
Total outlay: £13

Thursday, 5 June 2008


Hmm...nightshifts. Oh joy. Especially when it's so nice outside. Not enough time for a proper update right now, pretty busy trying to make some impact on laundry mountain...

I'm planning to post about the following relatively soon:

+ Pictures from ATP vs Pitchfork.
+ Stuff about bands i've been in, starting with Mikee & the Lambos, in honour of the 10th anniversary of our first and only gig.
+ Stuff about cycling.
+ Possibly a couple of themed mix-cds.

I have been listening to lots of Jens Lekman.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

alamos album launch, with popolo + bullet hell

Friday night saw the launch of Alamos' second album, 'Captain Indifferent Says, "Whatever"', with a gig at Dundee's Fat Sams. Support came from Popolo and Bullet Hell.

Popolo were up first, a fresh faced 4 piece from Dundee, Fife and Glasgow. They play short bursts of melodic, jerky instrumental "math" rock with tinges of Foals or Battles, for want of better reference points. None of the tunes outstay their welcome, with the band having the good sense to know not to stretch anything out for any longer than it needs to be - this was slightly disorientating when songs ended abruptly at their first show a couple of months ago, but only a couple of gigs later they have grown in confidence. Looking forward to the recordings being promised later in the summer.

Bullet Hell played next. Always a joy to watch, and it transpires a joy to photograph too with all of Kev's rawk! poses on full display. Bullet Hell make an almighty noise with just bass and drums, albeit with the bass amplified a second time with the sound manipulated towards that of a guitar. The best i can do for reference points is Motorhead, in terms of the relentless drive and heads down intensity. It's quite fun to watch a bass be played as if it was a guitar, without it sounding wrong, though that makes no sense to say. Sadly, Bullet Hell also currently do not have any recordings available.

Our hosts for the evening were Alamos, finally letting their second album free into the world after a year's wait. They've been playing the many of the songs around and about for over a year now, so they've had time to sink in for me - probably quite helpful as the sound is less immediate than on the first record - still all good though! The set was a mixture of old and new, so it was good to hear the hits dusted off. Fritz's bass was suitably booming, so much so that the vibrations knocked my pint off the ledge I'd rested it on... I've only had the chance to listen to the album once since picking up my copy, so it's a bit early to have something to say about it other than that I like it. You can listen to a couple of tracks from it and order the cd from Alamos' myspace.

Not sure how happy I am with most of the photos, I took quite a lot and maybe 1 in 5 were ok. My main complaint is that a lot of them came out grainy, or just slightly blurred. Often this hadn't shown up when I was setting up the shots or reviewing them on the camera itself, so there were quite a few that I had thought would come out well that didn't. I think this may largely be due to having to use fairly long shutter exposures and a low aperture to get sufficient light in. I guess I just need to find a way to work around it, or failing that persuade more bands to play in better-lit venues! I took one or two shots with a flash, but just didn't like the way they turned out.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


The view from outside my flat at about 8:30pm tonight. The recent long days of glorious sunshine have been swiftly replaced by fog and rain and gloom and it's now like there is no summer. After one day. It was a shock to not be woken up by the sunshine this morning, just as it initially had been a shock to have been woken by the sunshine while not having slept in for work! Please come back summer sunshine, I had plans for you!

Otherwise an uneventful day. I did manage to pick up the new Spiritualized and Wedding Present albums on the way to the gym. Just listening to the Spiritualized ("Songs in A&E") now, and eight tracks in I'm quite taken with it. "Sweet Talk" is especially lovely. The Weddoes will get next listen.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

sigur rós - "gobbledigook"

The first material from the upcoming 5th Sigur Rós record, 'Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust', has been made available for download this evening. Clocking in at just over 3 minutes, "Gobbledigook" is certainly more succinct than much of the bands previous material. The track is the album opener, and upon listening does feel like it's building up to something grander - but maybe that's just preconceptions? Musically it's quite simple in construction, strummed acoustic guitar over a skipping drumbeat bolstered by handclaps, and some lovely backing vocals. Very pretty, and 'warmer' than a lot of their older work.

Download available from

lykke li - "little bit"

A million years behind the rest of the world i'm sure, but i only heard this for the first time last night and have become obsessed. However, unsurprisingly, like most indie boys from the age of 18-40 i'm a sucker for pretty much any Scando-pop. While it's probably an awful comparison, i think this is a nice midpoint between The Concretes (tweeness) and Robyn (danceability). It definitely sounds Swedish, i couldn't really imagine it being made by a UK/US artist.

voi vittu!

So this is where it starts, then?

I've not really decided what to write about yet, I used to do this before but it was never that interesting to read. Hopefully it is worth another shot.

I like music, girls, cycling, drinking, photographs and my job, so I guess that's what I'll write about in time.