Discover and Stream

How we discover new music is changing.   Finding new artists is becoming easier and a quicker process, we share our taste in music freely on social networking sites, and now even the services that we use to listen to music can give us recommendations on what we will like next.

I’m a fan of Spotify, I have been since I was a free user when it first arrived on the scene.   I am now a fully paid subscriber and more than happy to pay £14.99 per month for my family account.    They have just launched their new ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist feature that provides you with a playlist of recommended music that you ‘may’ like every Monday.   So far, I’ve been impressed.

As well as Spotify as a means to discover new music, I listen to Gilles Peterson’s BBC6Music show, normally on catchup on the iPlayer app (which you can now save offline finally).   This is an excellent collection on new music that join the dots between hiphop, soul, funk, disco, world, house and electronic music.   I highly recommend it.

Lastly, I still use the mailing lists from Boomkat, Bleep, and Spotimy (a site that gives a list of all the new releases on Spotify that week).

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That said, I’m currently reading, “How Music Got Free” by Stephen Witt.   Highly Recommended also.

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POP!

Just recently I’ve found myself immersed in a whole new world of reading, mainly about Pop music and its  extremely interesting history, little quirks, stories, hidden gems of anecdotes and other fascinating facts that continue to surprise me.   I’ve always had an interest in Pop music, but since ‘becoming’ a musician, I’ve been guilty of really ignoring the world of Pop (mainly the manufactured ‘throwaway’ type stuff) and focussing on more ‘serious’ (I hate that term) music.   However, of late I’ve managed to have an open mind and listen to the ‘work’ of Pop acts that are more mainstream and mass marketed than I normally would, the catalogue of sensations like Rihanna, Katy Perry and others. .

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This new found interest really sparked from reading Bob Stanley’s outstanding and extremely well researched encyclopaedia of Pop history, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah – The Story of Modern Pop”, which takes you through the last fifty years of Pop history fleeting back and forth over the Atlantic to give an excellent perspective on the time and place of these wonderful records.    Personally, it was the short anecdotes and pockets of insider knowledge that I loved; the fact that Marvin Gaye played on Little Stevie Wonder’s first single, or the fact that  ‘House’ music was simply named after a club in Chicago called ‘The Warehouse’.   The whole thing was fascinating and I can’t recommend it enough.  I even attended his talk during the Aye Right Festival and I’ve even made a handy playlist of all the tracks that are mentioned.

During my reading of this book, my wife mentioned that she had heard Stuart Maconie on BBC Radio Scotland talking about a book called “The People’s Songs – The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records” and that he was in fact planning a talk about this book in the Stirling Tolbooth that very week.    I quickly booked my ticket and attended.   It was wonderful and gave an insight into Great Britain through fifty songs that clearly indicate what is going on at the time through the music, there was also a radio show that was aired alongside the publication of the book, but the talk was informative, funny, and full of those little anecdotes that I loved from Bob Stanley’s book.   Again, I’d recommend this to anyone interested in music of any genre in the last seven decades; from Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”, to Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers”.

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Both these books coincided with my wife’s birthday, and my choice this year was to buy her a turntable.    After managing to track one down on ebay for £6.00, we raided our parents vinyl collection and have began to enjoy music on a different level.    Listening to music on a turntable (especially when you have never had one at home) focusses you on what you are listening to, and encourages you to stay in the room and listen to the music rather that attending to the washing, ironing, and other household tasks.    We now choose a record and sit quietly whilst one of us examines the sleeve notes and artwork.   It could be a novelty that will quickly wear off, almost as quick as one side of an LP, but I hope it doesn’t.

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I am still fully enthusiastic about Spotify and I love the idea of the entire volume of music available at my fingertips at any given time (3G permitting), but there is something I can’t quite put my finger on when it comes to listening, really listening.

Single Malt Whisky: 2013 An Annual Review

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Its that time of year again where we all search for that perfect dram, for ourselves, or indeed for others,  whether its for St Andrews Day, or its for Christmas Day or its for bringing in the New Year at Hogmanay.    It was after being asked from some close friends last year for some whisky buying advice, I decided to place an annual review on this blog to help those in need.     Here is last years. . . . 

Aberlour 10 year old // Speyside

A whisky that I had the pleasure of enjoying twice this year, with two separate bottles.   My wife got me a bottle and my daughter picked one up for me for Father’s Day.   A delicious whisky, the colour alone makes you want to keep sipping it.  I really enjoyed this with cake, mainly my wife’s walnut and courgette cake, it seemed to be just the right mixture of sweetness, mixed with the dark fruity raisin flavours of the whisky.   I will most certainly be buying this again.

Auchentoshan Classic // Lowland

I had the chance to visit my local distillery again this year and had a wonderful tour, this time we tried the full range and I enjoyed each one, however the Classic was possibly my least favourite.   The Three Wood stole it for me, and after having a really good tasting with friends one night, we had the opportunity to try the Valinch before it was released.    That very same night my good friend treated me to the Springwood, again it felt quite young and almost not ready, but a nice light dram all the same.

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Dalmore Tweed Dram // Highland

A generous gift from my Brother and Sister in law.   I really enjoyed this and the bottle disappeared quite rapidly.   Definitely one to try if you haven’t already and a fantastic bottle too.   The colour is not dissimilar to the Aberlour but the taste was not quite as sweet, so still had the the kick of a full flavoured Highland whisky.

Fettercairn Fior // Highland

Another generous gift from my Brother and Sister in law (man, they’re good to me. . . ).   A delicious whisky, just the right amount of peat for someone who is not (yet) a fan of the darker more mysterious stuff that makes your throat burn and go numb.   Its a full mouthful of everything you’d expect from a highland whisky and then BAM, there is the peat!  Just a wee touch though to remind you that the barley was in fact dried with a peat fire.   Lovely, and a great bottle.

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Glenkinchie 12 year old // Lowland

A gift from my Mum and Dad, and the bottle we took to have over the New Year into 2013 down in Dumfries and Galloway.   Nice wee dram for a lowland malt with plenty to talk about, flowery and tasty however for me there is nothing too threatening or distinct that makes it stand up against some of the more interesting belters.   A safe bet for someone who hasn’t tried it.

Isle of Jura Superstition //  Island

Similar to the Fettercairn, a little finish of peat in this one.   I’ve actually been really enjoying this little dram with some water, which believe me, it unusual for me.   I think it maybe is just opening up the peat a little and giving more of the nose.   A gift from my brother for my birthday, its November and I still have it…..its done well.

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Ledaig 9 year old // Island

The peaty little monster that lives in the same distillery as Tobermory,  I really enjoyed this as it was a gift from friends that had asked me to play at their Wedding, which to be honest, was a gift in itself.   It was one of the Glenkeir treasures from The Whisky Shop, and the unusual age made for an interesting dram.   Similar to some of the more peaty Islay beauties, this was a rare treat.   I’d definitely try some of the other years if I get the chance.

Macallan Gold // Highland

My brother picked this up for my Christmas this year, and I loved it.   Its difficult to go wrong with The Macallan, and its actually difficult to go wrong with Highland / Speyside whiskies.   I had just finished this bottle when I read an article mentioning that there is a trend that distillers are following that will do away with ages and instead use descriptors such as; Gold, Amber, Sienna, Ruby.  I however hope this trend doesn’t catch on, I love knowing the age of my whisky.

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Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old // Speyside

A favourite of my good friend and whisky drinker, Beano.   I’ve had a couple of bottles of this and have just taken the neck out of my latest.   A unique shaped bottle, and a really pleasant little warmer.   Nice and smooth with just enough kick to remind you that you are in fact drinking whisky.    Personally, I normally enjoy a wee bit of peat, but this is a really good little change if you’re searching for something that little bit lighter or something to have before those really really cold nights come along. . . and then you would look for the Ardbeg or Laphroiag.

Over the last few months I also had some little nights out where I’ve been in good company to enjoy a wee dram or two, mainly from some of my favourite Glasgow pubs.  (The Lismore, Dram, The Scotia Bar and the Ben Nevis).

In no order, I’ve enjoyed my first taste of Deanston, I had a nice glass of what the late Mr Iain Banks calls ‘The Perfect Dram’, Glenfiddich 21 Year Old (I think, thanks Beano).   I also have been lucky enough to finally enjoy the wonderful oily and strong nectar of Kilchoman in their 2013 Machir Bay Release, and was blown away by both the Ardbeg Corryvreckan and the Isle of Arran 10 Year Old.

Dedicated to Mr Iain Banks. . .

Sláinte!