The Social Media

As I’m updating this blog a bit more frequently than before, and I’m getting a couple of more views and follows than in a long time, I thought I would spread the word about my Social Media presence.

These are in no particular order:

Instagram – I post pictures about my running, what I’m reading, the films I’m watching and other stuff!

Strava – I use Strava to log my runs, I also use…

Smashrun – Does the same job as Strava but puts the data into nice graphs and such like.

Last.FM – I’ve been Scrobbling, as it used to be called, the music I listen to since 2003. I primarily listen to digital music via Spotify these days. Back when it started I was an iTunes user.

Snapchat – Not a link but if you are a SC user as the Kids call it, find me by searching for – gary_bartram – I use it but don’t expect anything Earth shattering on my story etc

Twitter – I used to be a prolific Twitterer when I was annoying various people within the online film community but I stopped all that when I met Sarah. I occasionally go on a rant but it’s rare these days! Stop by and say hi!

Letterboxd – This is where I log my film watching and see what the remaining members of the film community I like are watching.

So that’s me on Social Media!

How I Heard 2013

As I sit here and start typing, I have a playlist of my favourite tracks from 2013 playing from the Spotify App on my iPad. <My Tracks of 2013> I’ve typed that because I’m of an age where I remember going into Woolies in Bushey during the mid 1980s and buying cassette tapes with my pocket money. A time where you listened to one album at a time, recorded the Top 40 off the radio & likely didn’t venture that far from what you knew musically; unless you lived near a record shop and had some cash.

Those cassettes I bought weren’t always pop albums though, up until I was about 10 I was into classical and other instrumental music, I can clearly recall one Christmas sitting in my room tuning my radio to BBC Radio 3 or 4, whichever of those plays classical.

In that Woolies I remember buying tapes of TV themes, the Grange Hill Album, New Kids on the Block and a particularly treasured (at the time) album of Paddington Bear songs. Those tapes are now long gone, and there’s many a day where I have wished I’d kept them.

So to have access at my fingertips to tens of thousands of tracks is a wondrous thing, I’m not sure the youngsters of today realise how lucky they are! That said however, I think in some ways, having access to too much music has limited what I listen to, once again I’m not always venturing too far from what I already know. Something that must change in 2014.

This year my music listening has mostly been influenced by a reintroduction of running into my fitness regime, plus I joined a Spinning class in April. Which means I’m hearing modern pop and dance music a lot each week; which is why you’ll find tracks by Miley Cyrus, One Direction, Demi Lovato & their various other contemporaries within the playlist should you check it out.

There are 85 tracks currently on the playlist, it may increase as I remember other tracks I like! But I thought I would highlight just 5 of them, to give a flavour of what has stuck with me the most.

Five tracks I Enjoyed This Year

Woodkid – Run Boy Run
I’ll talk more about Woodkid in a post I’ll do about albums but this is the second track on his debut album The Golden Age. I love the energy, the drums, the orchestration, it never fails to get me boping about. Hearing this played live, as I have done twice this year, is something I’ll never forget.

John Grant – GMF
A song I only heard recently but when it came to the chorus I burst out laughing. Not because it’s funny, but it’s what he says and how he says it. It’s the kind of thing a gangsta rapper would love to say but this is a white dude with a massive beard.

But I am the greatest motherfucker
That you’re ever gonna meet
From the top of my head
Down to the tips off the toes on my feet

I guess it resonated as I’d love to have the confidence to think of myself as the GMF.

Bingo Players ft. Far East Movement – Get Up (Rattle)
I don’t often watch the music channels on Sky but I must have turned on at the right time earlier this year, when the video for this track came on. I watched the video from start to finish not really taking any notice of the music, it was dancing killer ducks after all. After a few repeat showings, I found myself enjoying the music, and I’ve played it many many times since, very bouncy to run to!

Bastille – Flaws
Having been introduced to Bastille like others through their song ‘Pompeii’ I checked out the album and enjoyed it a lot. I’m not one for lyrics normally, if it sounds good then I’ll listen, but the lyrics in this song are worth hearing. It talks about flaws and how we all have them, some people don’t mind them being known, others bury them deep within but without them we wouldn’t be who we are. Nice.

Oscar Isaac – Hang Me, Oh Hang Me
This is a traditional song sung by actor Oscar Isaac in the forthcoming film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ from the Coen Brothers. It is due to be released in the UK in January 2014. Having really enjoyed the soundtrack to another Coen Brothers film ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?, when I saw that NPR were streaming the entire album for Davis, I sat and listened to it all. Twice. Then I bought it on iTunes as it isn’t all available on Spotify.

So that’s a short look at how 2013 sounded to me. I’m going to do another post about some of the albums I’ve enjoyed this year. As I think about it, there really aren’t that many that I’ve listened to, once again, it’s those pesky pop and dance tracks that have taken me over this year!

My Year in Music

My philosophy when it comes to music is ‘if it sounds good, I’ll probably like it’. I’m not one for lyrics or working out the deep meaning the songwriter is trying to convey to the listener.

The only time I get concerned about lyrics is when they are in the latest pop song that the young people at the Youth Club are wanting me to play. Then I get my serious head on and listen intently to whatever double entendre or knowing wink is being put across as suitable fodder for impressionable young minds. Wow that was deep!

When I listen to music on my PC, iPad or phone it is logged through Last.FM, something I have been doing since 2003, when Last.FM was just a university project called Audioscrobbler. So I know 95% of what I’ve listened to this year.

My top artists chart for 2012:

Top Artists Plays
1 Coldplay 93
2 The Rolling Stones 83
3 Beastie Boys 74
3 The Beatles 74
5 Two Door Cinema Club 72
6 Elvis Presley 61
6 Frank Sinatra 61
6 The Vaccines 61
9 Ella Fitzgerald 58
10 No Doubt 56
10 Green Day 56

Ella Fitzgerald is the only anomaly here. I listened to her ‘Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook’ which is 57 tracks long as part of my 1001 Albums challenge. The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley & Frank Sinatra also feature in the challenge but I like them so have listened to them again and again.

My top tracks chart for 2012:

Top Tracks Plays
1 Fun. – We Are Young 15
2 Goyte – Somebody That I Used To Know 12
2 PSY – Gangnam Style 12
4 Go Betty Go – C’Mon 10
4 Survival Guide – The Walls 10
4 Grimes – Oblivion 10
7 Chuck Berry – Route 66 9
7 Joe Dassin – Les Champs-Elysees 9
7 Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks 9
7 The Lumineers – Ho Hey 9
7 David Guetta – Titanium 9
7 Rihanna – Where Have You Been 9
7 Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together 9

This is a bit more representative of my year then I expected. As I play music at Youth Club occasionally and at our parties, I expected their to be more pop like One Direction.

I thought about doing a top five songs of the year but I’ll do that in another post along with my favourite albums, so instead I’m going to do a ‘Gary’s Musical Memories of 2012’ instead.

Up first is ‘Les Champs-Elysees’ by Joe Dassin. I don’t know where I first heard it, Last.FM tells me I first scrobbled it in 2011 but I’m sure I heard it before then. It’s included here because I went to Paris for the day in April, and after I’d had lunch in a Parisian cafe I sat down on a bench on the Champs-Elysee and listened to the song.

I made a playlist for my trip of seven tracks including Champs-Elysee, three coming from great films set in Paris – La Haine from La Haine, Si Tu Vois Ma Mere from Midnight in Paris & Comptine d’un autre ete, l’apre midi from Amelie. The remaining three were picked because they have a Paris connection and sound really good. If you have Spotify click here >Paris

France also features in my next song; Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes. Not a favourite song but one that will always make me think back to the 9 days I spent in the South of France as part of a PGL trip. Someone had made some CD’s for the trip and whenever this song came on, or indeed was requested, nearly the whole coach sang along. It became our unofficial anthem, whenever we were feeling a bit tired, one of the coach drivers would put it on to lift our spirits.

While I’m mentioning that trip, I can’t not include Shake a Tail Feather by Ray Charles, Each morning we would be gathered together to dance to the song.

Here’s one of the many videos on YouTube at the very place we danced.

I’ve gone on about my trip to the USA a lot on this blog but it was certainly the highlight of my 2012, and it also includes a few musical highlights, also something else that I’ve constantly been banging on about. Of course I mean the gig at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco featuring Survival Guide and Go Betty Go.

Survival Guide – The Walls

My favourite of their currently limited output. It was certainly a thrill for me to see and get to meet the band.

Go Betty Go – C’Mon

Go Betty Go are a band who I had no knowledge of prior to seeing them, and they were very loud, I didn’t catch barely a word that was sung but they sounded great.

Both bands, one up and coming the other back for another crack with the original lead singer, have hinted at new material in 2013, I know I’ll be looking out for it.

Another memory from the US was traveling along Route 66 albeit for a short time. We had been to the Grand Canyon and arrived back in the town of Williams which is on Route 66, the town is decorated to celebrate the road and I was able to get some photos, including me with a Route 66 sign, in my hand I had my phone which was playing the Chuck Berry version of the song.DSC_0063

My last musical memory of 2012 is Ill Manors by Plan B. In the past I have been very critical of Plan B, a man who started as a rapper, turned out a critically acclaimed soul album that just made me laugh every time I heard him sing, before going back to being a rapper and releasing a very gritty soundtrack album to his film also called Ill Manors.

I’m putting it in this list because he impressed me with the song. He has a go at all sides in the class war, the politicians for promises not kept, an expensive Olympics that hasn’t done anything to regenerate poor communities in London but he also has a go at the youth who swear and drink thinking it makes them the big man. I hope he follows this album up with another album like this and not chart friendly soul.

I do wonder how many fans of the ‘soul’ version of Plan B bought this album only to sit in silence and disbelief and this different sound poured out of the speakers and he says ‘Are you sitting comfortably, well put your seat belts on ‘cos you’re in for a harrowing ride.’

1001 Albums – The 1950’s

For those not familiar with why I’m doing this; it’s because a few years ago I bought a book called ‘1001 albums you must hear before you die’, it’s one of a series of books covering; music, film, books & paintings. I saw it in a sale and thought why not, it then sat on a shelf where I would occasionally dip into it but that was about as far as it went.

One day I was having a tidy and a dust (a rare event!) and saw the book and opened it to the first album in the list which is Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours. I listened to the album and went onto the next one. Around the same time I had been listening to various albums and posting my thoughts on a forum, that got to the point where I was listening to too much music and not posting anything.

So I decided to listen to the albums in the book and add my thoughts to my blog, which was a bit barren at that time.

I started the challenge in February of this year. It was my intention to listen to a few albums a week before posting my thoughts.

That started to go wrong as a number of the albums are jazz albums, and I’m not keen on jazz which made it very heavy going. It turned from a challenge I’d set myself to hear more music, to one where I stopped listening to music.

Today I have finally finished the 1950’s.

There were 23 albums by 21 different artists. Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis both had two albums in this section.

Gary’s listening entertainment rating 5 – 0
Gary’s listening entertainment rating 4 – 11
Gary’s listening entertainment rating 3 – 7
Gary’s listening entertainment rating 2 – 3
Gary’s listening entertainment rating 1 – 2

My favourite album was Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.

Other favourites include:

The Crickets – The “Chirping” Crickets
Frank Sinatra – Songs For Swingin’ Lovers
Louis Prima – The Wildest!
Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley

When I started I had expected, Elvis or The Crickets or maybe Little Richard to come out on top, but it was the western stylings of Marty Robbins that won the decade for me. The combination of the music, the lyrics which I don’t normally go for and his voice/singing style just won me over and I’ve listened to it twice today, and I expect to do so again soon.

I haven’t particularly enjoyed listening to this section as a whole but I’ve listened to artists that I wouldn’t have even thought to listen to if not for this book, including; Marty Robbins, Louis Prima, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holliday.

I’m keeping a playlist track of all the tracks that I deem to be standouts, it’s a Spotify playlist and if you want to hear/see those I’ve picked then click on this link – 1001 Standout

Onwards to the Sixties!

1001 Albums #23 – The Dave Brubeck Quartet / Time Out


Spotify Link
The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out

First Listen

Prior knowledge of this album
I was aware of two tracks.

Standout Tracks
Blue Rondo A La Turk
Take Five

Jazz again! Ah the 1950’s you trouble me so. This time though  wasn’t put off completely.

I was aware of two tracks going in, they have been in various films over the years and that’s probably where I heard them first, but they are also pretty much classic bits of music history.

Blue Rondo A La Turk has that great 1-2/1-2/1-2-3 thing going on, and yes I had to look that up. It uses a time signature not usually heard in Jazz which Dave Brubeck heard whilst on tour in Europe. The opening and closing using that tune are great, the middle section does drop into a more familiar jazz style but it was one I could just about cope with.

Take Five is very cool, an excellent piece of music; possibly my favourite bit of jazz – no wait I’ve just remembered the theme from Bullitt. Okay level favourite perhaps?

Anyway, the rest of the album is okay, it’s still not for me. Jazz in a different tempo like the two standouts here I can listen to, jazz in its everyday 4/4 time (I think that’s right) is not for me…just yet.

Hear again

Album Entertainment Rating
3 out of 5

1001 Albums #22 – Marty Robbins / Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs

Spotify link
Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

First Listen

Prior knowledge of this album

Standout Tracks
Big Iron
Billy the Kid
A Hundred and Sixty Acres
They’re Hanging Me Tonight
El Paso
Running Gun
The Little Green Valley

The track listing on Spotify is a bit different to the original album release. I listened to the tracks in the order that they were first released.

I had been looking forward to this one and I wasn’t disappointed. I knew nothing of Marty Robbins before listening and it was only that it wasn’t a jazz album that I was looking forward to it!

This as the title suggests, is an album of cowboy related songs. The first, Big Iron, is a cracker, it tells the story of a Ranger going up against a vicious killer in an old west gunfight. All the imagery is here, a stranger coming into town, a killer with 1 and 19 notches on his gun, the locals expecting the Ranger to die and the gunfight.

The songs are all short self-contained stories, but they are all fully formed and well written. Like Big Iron, you can listen to them and the images he is singing about can be imagined in your mind; that’s what happened when I listened anyway.

His voice is really nice too, very easy to listen to, with a hint of Elvis now and again.

In later life he appeared in a Clint Eastwood film ‘Honkytonk Man’ and raced cars in NASCAR.

This is well worth a listen, and despite the 1950’s section of this challenge also containing, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley & Little Richard, this has been my favourite album.

Hear again

Album Entertainment Rating
4 out of 5

1001 Albums #21 – Miles Davis / Kind of Blue

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue

First Listen

Prior knowledge of this album

Standout Tracks

in 2003 Rolling Stone magazine ranked this album at number 12 on their 500 greatest albums of all time list. So perhaps there is something wrong with me, when it was a form of torture to listen to this record.

Occasionally during the 46 minutes of this album, I found myself absentmindedly tapping my foot only to be interrupted by a piano break that seemed out of place, or a saxophone solo that wasn’t in time with anything else being played…then I remember this is Jaaaazzzzzz.

It’s still not for me. I’ll try again in 20 years,

Hear again

Album Entertainment Rating
2 out of 5