The Sea

On New Year’s Day, we went for a long walk by the sea. Despite the relative warmth, it was bracing; several hours later, writing these words, I can still feel my skin tingling.

In the words of the song, I love to walk by the sea. That’s not totally true, I ‘need’ to walk by the sea and in as much as I still get ‘preachy’, everyone else ‘needs’ to walk or sit by the sea.

I need to see something bigger than me and something that has existed long before me and will do so afterwards. I need to be around something that I cannot purchase or contain. As far as I have a label for anything I believe in, in this post-evangelical way of being, I need to be around something I cannot control, plan or assess, but something that just ‘is’.

And I need to feel wonderous and lit up inside.

And I was.

Friday Music looking out to sea…

I took this nearly 2 weeks ago looking out to sea on a wilderness retreat. I think that shortly after I took this I fell asleep on the same rock and lost an hour. I didn’t fall into that same sea.

This is not the greatest photo in the world but it reminds me of the sheer unadulterated bliss of lengthy periods of looking out to sea and becoming lost in the sound of the crashing of the waves.

Each time I do this on a Scottish island retreat I can hear this music over and over again:-


..and each time I hear this music I am taken back to that still place…

Friday Music


Every time I see the sea I think of this song (and just because I like you I have thrown some others in).

I love looking out to sea and doing nothing. I don’t often make the time, but I am anticipating this weekend being sat on a windswept rock in the horizontal rain doing precisely that.


Friday Music


I really like the album from which this track is taken, plus I saw them in concert a couple of years ago.

We have done a lot of walking by the sea these last few weeks. There is something about the wildness and the far horizons that humbles me and puts ‘me’ into perspective. Towards the end, I have been singing this song over and over in my head.

Plus: what’s not to love about a song of sweet melancholy with only 2 chords?

And for the story:-


Top ten album listening during 2011 meme…


I commented on this from Banksyboy and on this penultimate day of the year, it is time to take up this meme and for a long post.

This is in no particular order as it took me long enough to winnow out just 10 albums that I have bought (some are not 2011) during this year (thank the Lord for friends, freebies,ebay and amazon marketplace).

Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz. He tours Britain for the first time in 5 years and owing to severe fixture congestion during that particular week I do not make it. Not one of my better 2011 moments.

This is still discernably him but so different. Not quite ‘doing a Kid A’ but close. A definite grower.

Low: C’mon. I saw them again this year. Utterly fantastic. ‘$20’ melts anyone with a heart.

Radiohead: The King of Limbs. A new Radiohead album is always salivating over- this one one definitely so. Never to be filed under ‘easy listening’.

Gruff Rhys: Hotel Shampoo. An album that your 7 year old son and you can share without it being cheesy is good. This one is brilliant and the gig that I saw him at was one of the best gigs I have ever been to. A bonus is that I can almost play ‘If we were words we would rhyme’ on the guitar. That is a bonus for me and not for you.

Elbow: build a rocket boys! One of the good things about this year was freakishly reconnecting with the person who introduced me to Elbow years back. This guy was (and is) a friend of Guy Garvey. His story, of being left a single parent in his mid 30s following the death of his wife, always reminded me of the back story of ‘The Seldom seen kid’ (and during this year I worked out that another friend’s referencing of her friend Brian years back was indeed Brian Glancy ‘The Seldom seen kid’……. I am so close to fame). This album is not as immediate as the last but I love it’s themes of friendship and community.

(Ahk-toong bay-bi) covered. If I have a simple rule it is that albums by ‘various artists’ or ‘best ofs’ are to be barely tolerated. This one confounded that rule. Normally ‘best ofs’ given as freebies (this one with Q magazine) are album tracks or spares given away by a band to drum up sales. This one was different: specially commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of ‘Achtung Baby’. Amidst the straight readings there were some suprises like Snow Patrol reinterpreting ‘Mysterious Ways’ in an un Snow Patrol way. I could not stop listening to Jack White doing ‘Love is blindness’; maybe this track is only effectively played by people undergoing marriage break up.

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins ‘Diamond Mine’. If you forced me to chose a ‘best’ it would be this one. Small, yet perfectly formed. I also saw them with a very good friend in a very small venue. The best two chord song in the world: ‘John Taylor’s month away’.

James Blake ‘James Blake’. This year I met and spent some time in his house. He recommended this and I bought it. I listened to it the first time and thought ‘What on earth have I bought?!’. Then I kept listening and I grew to love it. My children like ‘Limit to your love’ as the car shakes when the dub beat comes in.

Foy Vance ‘Hope’. I had been tracking this for a few years until finally it dropped into my price range. Sprawling and maybe a track or two too long, I really like the honesty of the voice and the playing. I listen to this and feel like giving up guitar playing- he is immense. Memories of summer evenings driving back from teaching ‘and gently whispered hope’. Someone I spent some time with a couple of months ago had met him…. I hate him (in the Lord of course).

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci: ‘Barafundle’. Yes, I know this is ages old, but I just got hold of it (and ‘The Blue Trees’ and ‘Spanish Dance Troup’). Even though I only lived in Wales for 5 years, I still feel a sense of ‘hiraeth’ and I have recently been buying welsh music. This is incredible: defies genre- quirky, unique and brilliant (and occasionally ‘misses’). I wanted to put the song ‘Sometimes the Father is the son’ in this posting but could not find it; that one stops me in my tracks. You will have to make do with the weirdness of ‘Patio Song’.

I could have easily taken that to 20 albums and added ‘Mwng’ by the Super Furry Animals or ‘Hardcore will never die but you will’ by Mogwai amongst many many others. I cannot ever conceive of a situation where someone has too much music.

Just looking at my list and my description; most of this music seems to involve stories, people and events. Playing it brings those events back. I have a well thumbed copy of Q at my side and I am scanning their top 50 of 2011- my wish list may get bigger…


Friday Music

I am still basking in the equisite pleasure of seeing King Creosote and Jon Hopkins last week (and practicing writing over florid sentences).

I saw this and it reminded me of that…


Yes, the introduction is a bit long, but as a guitar player who lives on the primitive side of very basic, I find it helpful. I love the power of music to convey story and emotion. There is much that you can do with ‘three chords and the truth’…. still quite a bit with two as well….

(My wife watched as much of this as she could bear- 3 seconds- and said that King Creosote looks like a ‘weird man you would avoid at a bus stop’)


King Creosote and Jon Hopkins

Life got too complex complex this week. I was intending to cancel a teatime trip to Manchester to catch up with a friend for tea and a concert. But then I saw this (warning: I am going to be posting videos for the next few days):-


…and I googled more Jon Hopkins and King Creosote and realised that although I was shattered, I have to go and see these people (and my friend; good long term friends who have been with you through all the changing scenes of life are precious).

If you pass a Skoda Roomster very late tonight on the M60/M1/A1 driven by a tired driver with a beatific smile, well that will be me. I am a man most fortunate.

It’s Friday, it must be music time.

‘It is the missing link between West coast of Scotland folk music and ambient music’ my friend opined sardonically as he passed me the CD. I like friends. I especially like friends who give me new music.

You may not be looking for that missing link; I wasn’t. But once I found it I was glad I did. Scottish folk singer (King Creosote) and ambient music genius (Jon Hopkins) together should not work; but it does. This Cd is simply gorgeous, excellent to play on nights of soft summer light; the fading light throwing into sharp relief the meditations on aging, seeing a younger generation grow and other melancholy themes.

The whole CD works as a piece. At first I couldn’t ‘get’ track 1 which is comprised of ‘found’ sounds in a cafe and gradually simple, hymn like piano playing. After a while it began to reduce me to tears- ordinary life shot through with gentle chords. I began to see the ordinary lives described to me on funeral visits shot through with sacred, almost unheard moments. And as for King Creosote’s voice…well……listen.

I have been described as a ‘musical guru’ (pace….. so see what you think of my shamanistic qualities….

…and if the video link works….


Some music for Saturday

It’s been another heavy week (and despite promising several weeks ago to review Brian McLaren I have so far failed- hoping when I clear my exam marking, which is eating up all my spare time I will get round to it)- time to turn off.

(naff cover font by the way)

Obsure ambient electronica in a good way (and there are very many bad ways, believe me) which cost me less than three of your English pounds delivered from Amazon.

I’m never quite sure if part of the reason why I like stuff like this as almost no-one has heard of it….but I do like it: music for hot humid days driving through the beauty of rural North Yorkshire…

No comments required (apart from ones like ‘Your music taste is impeccable, Sir’)…just find it on, say,lastfm and listen….