Saturday, 28 November 2009

Top 5 Twitterers to Follow for Music

(published in November issue of Running In Heels, here

You may have just caught the Twitter bug, or perhaps you’re already a pro and know your FF from your RT, but who should you be following if you’re into music? Whether you’re a fan of Radiohead, Black Sabbath orthe X-Factor, these are our top tips on who’s saying what and who to follow on Twitter.

The Hypemachine watches music blogs all over the world for the latest musical scoops and opinions so that you don’t have to. Hypemachine tweets about its favourite new bands as well as everyone else’s and recommends interesting blogs, reviews and music videos.

Follow Hypemachine on Twitter @hypem

The top British music magazine brings you frequent updates on new releases, details of upcoming gigs and reviews. They also have breaking news stories and announce secret gigs and tours. If you like NME’s tweets, you can follow various members of the NME editorial team and journalists who often tweet anecdotes about the so-called darlings of the music world.

Follow NME on Twitter @NMEmagazine

As well as your standard music news, reviews and links taking you to the newest music videos on the net you also get all sorts of other music-related goodies -such as guitar lessons from indie bands such as Vampire Weekend. Follow Stereogum for music-related trivia such as stars birthdays too.

Follow Stereogum on Twitter @StereoGum

The Line of Best Fit
In their words: Attacking the bastions of all that’s unholy and impure in the seedy but delectable world of online music news, reviews and features. The girls and guys of TLOBF are relentless in the updating of their site and in tweeting – expect honest and sharp reviews of seemingly every kind of new music out there.

Follow The Line of Best Fit on Twitter @TLOBF

Pop Justice
With its focus firmly fixed on pop you may think these guys are not for you but with their witty and highly scathing tweets on everyone and everything in the music world you will not disappointed. If you’re a British X Factor fan then these guys are a real must – you can download their hilarious ‘play sheet’ and play along with the show.

Follow Pop Justice on Twitter @popjustice

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Bob Dylan is good for you

Like the rest of the current population of London I have been suffering from a particularly nasty breed of cold recently. Try as I might I haven't been able to shift it - and I tried. I was particularly hopeful about the Echinacea tincture drops that were recommended to me by a coursemate. Said coursemate claimed that at the first sign of a cold she takes it and voila - no horrid cold. I think maybe it was too late for me.

Not being able to sleep very well has also not helped things. And as I'm prone to having trouble with drifting off and therefore prepared I immediately consulted my magic supply of many soothing teas. Chamomile wouldn't cut it so I brewed a strong venarian root tea which usually has my mind twirling slowly into sleep mode, in a bizarre alice fallling down the rabbit hole kind of way, extremely quickly. But, alas! Not this time.

So, almost on the verge of dispair I happily came across Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour - you can hear a bit about it here. I had read about the award winning radio show in which Dylan meditates on a particualr theme, which includes everything from money to cats to baseball, but hadn't ever heard it. The music is handpicked by the legend himself and is mainly blues or jazz and from bands which I would probably never think to seek out myself. He also litters his show with anecdotes and slang - in his intriguing voice, well, to me it sounds poetic. So it must have been fate then that I found it now because since unwinding with old gravel tones himself I drift off to sleep no problem - and I mean that in a good way. And my cold is now nothing more than a sniffle, well almost.

I thoroughly recommend giving it a listen - every single show (and there are a lot) can be found here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Album review - Up From Below, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros deliver an enjoyable debut album and all without the help of anyone named Edward Sharpe.

The merry band of 10 or 12 — in a recent interview the band couldn’t make their minds up, bring together a choir of different instruments and voices to produce a veritable love-in of hippy folk-rock.

Alex Ebert, formerly of Ima Robot formed the band a couple of years ago and it appears he hasn’t had to look far to find inspiration for songs. His girlfriend Jade is also in the band and their apparently perfect and therefore slightly nauseating love for each other is all over songs ‘Home’, ‘I Come In Please’ and, well, ‘Jade’, in which he claims “Jade is the girl of the hour” over and over again…I get it, he likes her.

The sound in parts is as retro as their album cover and you may find yourself checking that you haven’t inadvertently switched onto something by The Mamas & The Papas or The Beatles.

But there is evidence of more forward-looking songs — ‘Brother’ for instance has hints of KOL and Fleet Foxes. In fact there are elements and influences from a whole range of bands which have all come together in this album to make it, well, brilliant quite frankly.

From the lilting anthem ‘40 Day Dream’ (above), which so over-brimming with joy it could have been purpose-built for a raucous summer festival crowd who with cider in hand would happily chant the chorus “it’s a magical mystery kind, must be a lie iiiiie.”

‘Home’ is another standout track albeit so unashamedly country it makes you want to don dungarees and take up the banjo, while ‘Om Nashi Me’ provides a few minutes of psychedelic quiet.

Personally I'm inspired to either; invent a time machine and go back to the '60s (quite keen on that idea already to be honest) or rent a big truck and drive around the southern states with ‘Up From Below’ blaring, or both. It certainly keeps me smiling through a dreary British winter. 9/10

Thursday, 12 November 2009


I heart these guys and their album 'Up from Below'. I'm inspired to either invent a time machine and go back to the '60s (quite keen on that idea already to be honest) or rent a big truck and drive around the southern states, or both. Album review to come!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It was all one podcast - remembrance day

My first attempt at a podcast - and yes, I know the sound is really bad, the levels are all wrong and my speaking is too loud. But it was just an experiment really and an exercise in some in productive procrastination (paradox much?)

I mention Remembrance Day at the beginning and the truly sad fact that Harry Patch - last of the WWI veterans died earlier this year. I watched some of the services going on around the country and was struck by what a momentus thing this was - there are no soliders left who fought in that war. It has really passed into the realm of history.

Anyway, I'd really love to follow this up and make a short 10 minute podcast every week featuring some new tunes that I like to seek out on a regular basis and some general favourites of mine. I'm more trying to teach myself some new skills (and remember some old editing ones) than produce a totally groundbreaking podcast but if anyone listens to it and enjoys it along the way then hurrah! It's a bonus.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

New music to my ears

(published in November issue of Running In Heels, go to

We’ve all been there; 4,000 songs saved on your computer but not a single one you feel like listening to. Sure there are your favourite songs, maybe sing-a-long songs, or even listen-to-when-heartbroken songs. But with the entire internet stretching out ahead, around and through your very being these days – where do you go and what do you do when you want to find new, exciting, ear-pleasing and inspiring music?

As we all know in the beginning there was MySpace but this veritable antique of a music site is now a little out of date. If you’ve actually heard of a new band and want to give them a listen, then their MySpace page is still a great place to look but actually searching for new music on it cold can be laborious to say the least. The days of chatting to Lily Allen and getting invited to secret gigs by Pete Doherty through their MySpace pages are certainly over, so what other online musical treasure troves are out there for us to rummage through? can be a brilliant option for those of us who do not have a clue where to start because it essentially does all the hard work for you. For a really simple snapshot of what relatively unknown bands are being listened to, then the chart section on can tell you who is most ‘hyped’ or the ‘most listened to’. Alternatively just landing on the page of a band or artist gives you a whole selection of similar artists, or if you have a favourite song… try searching for that and see what related tracks come up.

For anyone who wants to know which European and American bands have all the kids excited on the other side of the Atlantic then listen to the great and varied selection of songs which feature on Little Radio you can read about them on the blog too if you like.

Then there’s The Hype Machine which follows blogs and discussions worldwide and then streams you the music that is the most talked about. You can even apply specific filters – just in case you’ve ever wondered what the most-talked about tracks are on Twitter, for example.
Pitchfork is a reviewing site with a focus on independent music including electronic, pop, hip hop, dance, folk, jazz and experimental music -you are getting literally some of newest music available which you can read about and of course listen to on the site.

A must for those wanting to be totally ahead of the crowd is Stereogum – another outlet for brand new music but usually indie and alternative music. Stereogum regularly champions new artists and bands way ahead of anyone else and they often go on to make it big.

Now, with the songs of your new favourite bands still ringing in your ears you can log in to Spotify and listen to their entire back catalogue for free. Also worth watching out for are other people’s Spotify playlists – these could be friends or perhaps some muso’s you follow on Twitter. Or you can visit Spotify Playlists and download any number of other Spotify users’ playlists – you are bound to find something new that you like this way.

And now perhaps you want to show off all the new music you’ve been listening to? Then why not create your own playlist and post that on your social networking site of choice or share it on Spotify Playlists? You never know, you may be helping someone else discover their new favourite band!

Flashpacking: the best boutique hostels

(published in November issue of Running In Heels, go to

Forget everything you thought you knew about hostels. Banish all thoughts of overcrowded dorms, of paying for the privilege of borrowing distinctly off-white towels and of eyeing your new suspicious-looking roommates who will inevitably roll in at 5.30am and turn all the lights on while they try to work out which bed is theirs. To say staying in a hostel was ‘roughing it’ was usually an understatement of epic proportions, until now.

There has been a recent explosion of boutique hostels all over the continent. These ‘poshtels’ are fast becoming the accommodation of choice for the traveller in search of style, quality and comfort on a budget. The glamping trend has been on the up and up over the last couple of years and who wouldn’t want to spend Glastonbury in a cosy cushion-filled, lantern-lit tepee? However, not all of us can afford the hefty price tag, especially in the current and woeful economic climate; flashpacking (as backpacking with style shall now be known) is certainly the next logical and somewhat cheaper step.

And whether you’re a flashpacker who is all about modern, sleek and minimalist spaces, or like your interiors flavoured with vintage linen, antique furniture and bric-a-brac, there is a poshtel out there for you. Some boast swimming pools, sun terraces, a la carte menus and private en suite rooms – and all for half the price of a hotel. Here is a selection of Europe’s best…

Miss Sophie’s - Prague, Czech Republic
Situated in the new town, Miss Sophie’s is ideal for those who want to experience the modern side of Prague as well as the old. You’ll be staying in the new cultural and social heart of the city – or in other words, where all the locals hang out. This hostel provides a peaceful refuge from the hubbub of the tourist-trapped old town but is still only a few tram stops away from the famous Wenceslas Square for when you are stepping out for some sightseeing. With the rooms and communal spaces so beautifully decked-out in etched glass, brushed steel and modern linear furniture, you can easily forget you are not in an upmarket hotel but in a hostel where a private double room with en suite will cost as little as €30 (£27) per person per night. And, if the glare from all that glass gets too much you can always chill out in their brick cellar lounge (above), which has an altogether cosier atmosphere, or head out to some of the trendy hangouts that line the surrounding streets.

Red Nest – Valencia, Spain
The Red Nest is another modern and colourful hostel located on one of the city’s most beautiful streets in the very heart of Valencia and many of the rooms boast great views over the historic old town. Guests can catch up with each other and enjoy themselves in the vibrant communal areas or relax on the sun terrace after a long day on the beach – or if it may be shopping in the city’s pretty boutiques which has you worn out, you can certainly afford a blowout with prices like €41 for one of the uniquely decorated private ensuite rooms.

Palmers Lodge – London, UK
If you’re looking for some authentic English Victoriana then Palmers Lodge certainly will not disappoint. Located in affluent and cosmopolitan Swiss Cottage the building has enjoyed many incarnations throughout its rich history, beginning life as the Palmers’ private residence, before becoming the Home for Incurable Children and then enjoying a long run as a college of nursing after the Second World War. Nowadays it is a stunning boutique hostel full of character and original features. The grand and large rooms have been opened back up, allowing a feeling of tremendous space. There’s an in-house bar too and even Wii players for you to challenge your fellow flashpackers! Continental breakfast is included in the £50 price tag – the steepest on our list, but still a very reasonable price for a room in London.

Mleczarnia Hostel – Wroclaw, Poland
Mleczarnia or ‘the dairy’ is almost impossibly kitsch: the rooms which contain pretty little dark-wood beds are accessorised with a variety of carefully chosen clutter such as floral lamps, oil paintings, vintage gramophones, old black and white photographs and handmade curtains. This place looks like it belongs to a century ago. A more modern feature however is the swimming pool – a rare but brilliant facility for a hotel let alone a poshtel – that’s as well as the library, the cafĂ© and the bar, which sells speciality local beers and delicious home-made cakes. Situated in the Four Temples Quarter it is 5 minutes away from the picturesque old town and will set you back around £40 per night for a private room.

Lisbon Lounge – Lisbon, Portugal
Modernity and commodity are brought together in the Lisbon Lounge, possibly the trendiest boutique hostel on our list: some of its rooms have even been decorated by the country’s leading artists. Other features include fully-equipped kitchens and lounges featuring DVD projectors for cosy screenings on every floor. The hostel could not be in a better location for the city’s best cafes, restaurants, shops, all major transport and more importantly the buzzing nightlife of the Bairro Alto area, which can all be found within walking distance. Fancy getting out of the city? The train can take you to the nearest beaches in a matter of minutes. All this comes in at a positively meagre £24 per person – no wonder it’s won a couple of Hoscars – the hostel equivalent to the Oscars.

So if you’ve decided that a cheap, chic and cheerful city break is what you want then why not give a boutique hostel a try and change your mind about hostels once and for all?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Holidays are coming?

On Monday evening - yes that was the 2nd of November - I spotted this.

I was still reeling from the shock of being wished a 'merry Christmas from Tesco' on their newest ad while I was watching X Factor on Sunday (I was recovering from our Halloween festivities) so spying the famous coca cola lorry had me really spun out. I stood, open-mouthed like a goldfish for a few moments, the billboard is huge, almost across one whole side of the glamorous Elephant & Castle shopping centre - and it lights up.

It's a shame really because having no choice but to gawp at this billboard every day is really going to take the thrill out of seeing the Christmas coke advert properly for the first time - "holidays have been coming for 2 months already!" I'll shout when the excitable 'holidays are comin'' tune pipes up. Bah Humbug!

Which reminds me the Christmas lights have indeed been switched on in Oxford Circus - I didn't go to the big button pressing ceremony but have heard, that in a typically British fashion - we ballsed it up. Jim Carrey (because all the lights are promoting his new film A Christmas Carol) punched the big red button and about two lights came on...can anyone say Olympic opening ceremony?!

Ellie and the Machine

So this is Florence and the...oh wait! I mean Ellie Goulding, silly me!

That's very unfair of me actually as I do quite like Ellie Goulding but her latest song 'Under the Sheets' does seem to be uncannily similar to Florence's 'Drumming Song', but I suppose music comes and goes in trends so it was just a matter of time before Florence's trademark harp and big synthy choruses started popping up all over the place.

I think I prefer Goulding's 'Starry Eyed' which at least distinguishes her as being a little bit different from other female artists and has given rise to a ton of really great remixes. None of this really matters however, she is definitely going to explode in a really big way very soon - her tour sold out uber quickly for an artist is who is still relatively under the radar, and despite my reservations I would still like to check her out live.

Monday, 2 November 2009


A very late happy Halloween to you all! We celebrated in the usual style with dressing up in various ghoulish guises and of course, carving pumpkins. My housemate Lily totally outdid my traditional triangle-faced effort with this spooky portrait of a young Michael Jackson - absolutely amazing! I think next year she should start up a 'your face on a pumpkin' business - it was certainly a great talking point at our Halloween party and her talents should be put to use.