Date archives for September, 2015

September 21st, 2015
Blog Entry

Opening Lines: I Run – Embrace

The water’s frozen to ice.

There was a time I believed Danny McNamara, frontman of British indie rock quintet Embrace, was a remarkably gifted lyricist, though this lyric makes that hard to believe. I looked up to him during my late teens and early 20s, when my hair was long and an acoustic guitar was the ultimate instrument of self-expression (these days my hair is rarely longer than a toothbrush bristle, and like most grown-ups I’ve realised self-expression is best eradicated.)

Having scrobbled Embrace tracks over 2,000 times, of course I was curious to listen to their self-titled return, released in 2014 some eight years after their previous album, This New Day.

Imagine you had eight years to write an album. That’s ages: the Olympics come and go twice in that time. It’s certainly long enough to develop the same rudimentary grasp of chemistry demonstrated in those opening lines.

I wish I’d misheard this lyric, or that this interpretation – as found on – was the right one:

The watre’s frozing to eyes

While researching this article to make sure I didn’t make myself look an idiot, I actually searched “is frozen water always ice?”, just in case there had been a huge advancement in our scientific comprehension of water in the years since I last opened a chemistry book. That’s how bad this lyric is: it introduced my Google search history to its most stupid question yet.

In the interests of fairness, the writing credits for this song are shared between Danny and brother Richard, both of whom should know better.

More Opening Lines

I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
Do You… – Miguel

September 15th, 2015
Blog Entry

What running has taught me

For Christmas 2012, Hannah bought me a GPS watch. It’s one of the best presents I’ve ever received, as I’ve told her about a thousand times since.

I didn’t run much in 2013; I got to 10km once, thought that was good enough, and stopped. In 2014, though, I did a lot better, completing about 600km over the course of the year. In total I think it was about 70 hours of running (yep, I am very slow) which gave me plenty of time to think. I haven’t run at all this year because of injury, but I still wanted to post this. Here’s what I’ve learnt from putting one foot in front of the other.


September 7th, 2015
Blog Entry

Opening Lines: I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton

If I should stay, I would only be in your way

A lyric we’ve all heard a hundred times – and one that sends me scrambling for the skip button, if I’m honest – but like most great lyrics, follow it back to the source and you find the real story.

That story is Dolly parting ways with manager and former duet partner Porter Wagoner around June 1973. The song wasn’t released until a year later: imagine having to reconnect with that emotion in performances a year after the fact, again and again, as the song grew more and more popular. At the song’s heart is strength masking vulnerability; in the Whitney Houston version, it totally overpowers it.

The song is full of difficult admissions – We both know that I’m not what you need, that (perhaps ill-advised) spoken word section – all stemming from that first realisation: that two people are stronger apart than together.

Interesting story: Elvis wanted to record a cover once the song became popular, but Dolly Parton refused to sign over half the publishing royalties in return. Not many people would say no to Elvis, but then, as this song shows, not many people are as strong as Dolly Parton.

More Opening Lines

I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
Do You… – Miguel

August 30th, 2015
Blog Entry

Opening Lines: I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

Ooh, I bet you’re wondering how I knew
About your plans to make me blue
With some other guy you knew before.
Between the two of us guys, you know I love you more.

In those first four lines we witness confrontation, envy, dismissal (“with some other guy” cuts like a knife) and what could be either a plea or a goodbye, depending on whether you hear “love” or “loved” (I can hear it either way, depending on my mood, and can’t seem to find the official lyrics online). “I bet you’re wondering how I knew” is a phenomenal line on its own: when secrets come out, the response is often “how did you find out? Who told you?” The song latches onto that paranoia from both sides right away, and keeps pulling on it: People say believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.

The song’s lyrics never reach those early heights again, but then few songs since have even come close.

Note: I know this wasn’t originally Marvin Gaye’s song – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles had their version rejected, then it launched as a song for Gladys Knight and the Pips – but it’s definitely his song now. Listen to the Gladys Knight version again, and the difference is thrown into stark contrast.

More Opening Lines

Do You… – Miguel

August 22nd, 2015
Blog Entry

Opening Lines: Do You… – Miguel

Do you like drugs?

Well, that’s certainly one way to start a song.

Do You…, the fourth track from Miguel’s 2012 opus Kaleidoscope Dreamwhich I’ve written about before, you might remember – gets straight to the point. It’s a solid icebreaker: do you like drugs? I suppose if the answer is no, you can safely skip to the next track, though you’d miss out on a typically cheeky track that hits maximum romance right at the outro (but we’ll also save that until the end.)

But that line’s just the first line of the intro, not the verse, which picks up in territory to which everyone – even avowed drug-haters – can relate.

Have you ever felt alone?
Do you still believe in love?

A one-two punch of intimate questions, bam-bam, that’s almost enough to convince you that you’d misheard the very first line. But, if you’re in any doubt, it’s short-lived.

But do you like drugs?

Yeah, forget about your dreams for the future, or that suffocating loneliness that grips you at night: it’s really important that we find out if you like drugs. Because Miguel does (MDMA on occasion, apparently). And you know what else Miguel likes, of course: sex.

I’m gonna do you like drugs tonight.

What’s clever about that is how it reframes the persistent question, and even though I’m not sure how one would go about “doing” a person like drugs (roll them up and burn them?), Miguel’s gift is that he doesn’t half make it sound like fun.

More Opening Lines

I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

January 6th, 2015
Blog Entry

The best of 2014 playlist

To see out 2014, I put together a (short) playlist containing some of my favourite tracks of the year. Some are cool, some definitely aren’t, but I liked them all.

Postpartum – Taylor Mcferrin, from the album Early Riser

This intro track from a great rainy day album sets the mood to “cool” from the get-go.

Time Will Wait – The Submotion Orchestra, from the album Alium

The sort of music I imagine proper grown-ups listening to, all atmosphere and subtle brass (it is possible!). The album is all this good by the way.

Sound of a Woman – Kiesza, from the album Sound of a Woman

She does belt them out, our Kiesza. She reminds me of a less timid Lisa Stansfield; if you like early 90s divas, you’ll like this.

Monument – Röyksopp & Robyn, from the album Do It Again

Hands down my favourite saxophone solo (a baritone sax, to boot) exhales its way into a brooding track about legacies and statues or something.

Love XYZ – Luke James, from the album Luke James

Luke, Luke, Luke. Your whole album should have been this good: great harmonies, beats, synths. Sadly it’s downhill after this (until I Want You, his best song but disqualified from this list as it dates back to 2013) but still, this is good.

V. 3005 – Childish Gambino, from the album because the internet

I haven’t listened to because the internet as much as I’ve listened to Camp, but crikey this song is catchy.

Blood – Patterns, from the album Waking Lines

Pleasantly melodic indie-pop from Manchester. Not groundbreaking, but it all works. Words that come to mind include “tropical” and “hopeful”. I don’t know what the lyrics are about because I can’t make them out.

Up We Go – LIGHTS, from the album Little Machines

Concluding the synth-pop section of the playlist, it’s LIGHTS’s ode to friendship and togetherness and never, ever giving up. Had a bad year? Give this a listen.

Panic Tree – Jimi Goodwin, from the album Odludek

I could have included Oh! Whiskey (the aspirational/deluded “One of these days I’m gonna give myself a real good talking to/And recover some youth, maybe give up the booze” got me through a great many long, slow runs) but there’s something about the honky-tonky piano that makes this yarn about chopping down a tree a real knee-slapping good time.

You Go Down Smooth – Lake Street Dive, from the album Bad Self Portraits

Speaking of good times, here’s 3:29 of pure musical enjoyment. It all skips along effortlessly, and produces two moments that still get my hairs standing on end. Crank it up for the choruses and hear those harmonies and brass really glisten: I have never once made it through this song without tapping something in time with the beat.

Rental Love – Lake Street Dive, from the album Bad Self Portraits

My final track of the year is the final track from my album of the year. Sounding like a long-forgotten blues standard, sung with precision and purpose by Rachael Price, it’s just lovely, lovely music.

Complete Archives