Category Archives: Now Orbiting…

Electricity Is So Mainstream

I started this post on the 12th of January, the day my electricity was re-connected after being cut off for 5 days. Things kinda didn’t go according to plan. On the first night it was off, I was in my room in the darkness and all I could think was I really need to hear some music, and there was something I came here to say afterwards, but didn’t quite manage to finish the post.

The first thing I need to say is that if you have contacted me about a review (and many have), please accept my apologies if I didn’t respond, and most particularly if I did and haven’t written anything yet. In some cases it may be too little too late, but I’m hoping I can still listen and write for them over time.

My life doesn’t suck, by the way, it’s just not particularly easy at the moment, and yes – as the opening of this post may indicate – it’s a business/finance thing, which is unrelated to this place but the one thing it’s affected is my capacity to listen to music and write about it the way I had been. I hope this makes sense to everyone out there, but before things got a little complicated for me in other areas of my life, when I listened to music, I went to where the music was….and when I came back, I brought “souveneirs” (just a fancy way of saying “blog posts”, really).  Right now, the difference is when I listen to music, it takes me home.

I miss the other way.

Anyway, I also want to say a very belated thank you to the awesome Arvel Hernandez (Endless Nest) and Evan Hydzik for making it possible for me acquire Fringe – it was worth the wait – such incredibly moving music – and I am blessed that others went out of their way to enable me to hear it.

So, back in January, the power was off, and on the first night (that sounds unintentionally biblical, but perhaps here follows revelations!), I craved just to hear at least one song, one note… I don’t have an MP3 player, by the way, all my audio devices are powered by mains electricity. Except, I remembered that just before I moved into this place, and was staying with my brother and that other hopeless yobbo, I bought an SD card for my phone so I could transfer photos to the computer, but I had saved one song to it.

Lucky for me, my phone was charged, and so for about 20 minutes I was in my room, in the dark, listening to Bloodhail by Have A Nice Life on my very tinny phone speaker.

It was a strange experience.

A very (very) long time ago, I was meant to write something about the solo music project by HANL’s Dan Barrett, Giles Corey. I didn’t obviously, but one thing I did do was buy this…

That’s a pendant bead (hence the drilled hole at the top), made from seraphinite. I bought it because it reminded me of Giles Corey, in essence, and I had planned to use it in a necklace or something (unfinished – surprise). It’s the tombstone shape, the dark shapes like hollowed skull eyes, the almost black/grey washed out colour, in part, but more importantly it’s the finer details. The feathered texture, the fractured lines within a solid stone, like calcified and imprisoned broken wings…it’s full of ghosts, some of them dark, some of them light. That’s what I saw, anyway.

And you know, when I was listening to Bloodhail that night, I realised that here on earth, unluss you’re buried in something¹, there is no such thing as pitch black.


1. Just to clarify, I don’t mean dead and in a casket, I mean unless you take the light of the world away from yourself, even in the darkest moments there is light from somewhere.


What I’ve Been Up To & What I’ve Been Getting Down To

Ok, so I didn’t die from my cold, but dear lord I wish I could curl up into a ball and sleep for a month right now! What are the chances that four weeks later – almost to the day – I instead get a nasty case of the flu? The kind that impacts every little muscle and – while it may be TMI – makes you want to cry when something remotely sentimental comes on the TV, like ads for dishwashing detergent.

Bleh, that’ll teach me to think I can survive on four hours sleep a night and still get everything done, like my hero here:

But instead, I see Jane finally achieved that freshness and sparkle she’s always longed for, and I’m all

like Timmy fell down the well again.

Ok, so that’s an exaggeration (promise – I’ll only get teary if there’s exotic scents involved, not your stock-standard pine or lemon).

While I’ve got the chance, though, and an excuse for being slightly sentimental, I want to thank each and every person that’s given Two Hands and our first release some attention, and – in a lot of cases – exchanging their hard-earned for the album. Bless your hearts, you’re awesome.

I’ll be updating the THM blog in the next couple of days with all the new features and reviews. Also, keep an eye out at [sic] for a label focus piece some time in the near future.

Meanwhile, and though I know I said I wouldn’t do this, here’s what’s been taking up most of my time and attention – most of which are still unfinished because I forgot this stuff is actually work.

But on to the actual important stuff – what I’ve been listening to…

Anyone who reads [sic] will know I took a bit of a liking to the album Gallantry’s Favorite Son by Scott Matthew recently – really, go check this music out. It’s just lovely.

Last year, Crippled Black Phoenix’s I, Vigilante was one of my favourites, though it was edged out of my top ten at the last minute… Recently, I finally caught up with more than just a sampling of tracks (some b-side type stuff available on Bandcamp) and actually bought the Resurrectionists & Night Raiders box set (an expanded version of 2009’s 200 Tons of Bad Luck). Like I, Vigilante, I can’t say I’m enamoured with every single song on this massive 2-CD set, but really… Who needs to be when the songs I dig are so bloody good!?

If you haven’t listened to them before, give the opener – Burnt Reynolds – your full attention.


A Thing About Ratings

Other possible models for the proposed S4E ratings system – The “Broken Record”, the more broken it is, the more I played it, or the “Trashed Hotel Room”, the more trashed the room, the more the album rocks

As you can see, I’ve been a little busy making a few minor adjustments to the site, shifting things around and retiring the 2010 Book of Favourite Things. I’ve added a few new site links to the “Page Formerly Known As Resources” so check there for lots of other awesome things, and I’ll promise to remember to include more as I find them. Then there’s the [sic] Links, which go to my reviews on [sic] Magazine for anyone who has an interest. I’ve had the opportunity to review some really great stuff, so aside from just being links to “More Mack”, there’s some pretty nifty music to learn about.

The other thing is, I’m currently toying with the idea of employing a ratings system for music reviews. I’ve often said that I’m not fond of scores and applying them elsewhere is sometimes the hardest part of the review process, but I feel there’s a difference between scores and ratings – the latter being more flexible for my purposes.

At [sic], applying scores is a required part of the format, being a numerical score out of a possible ten. Occasionally, the score might seem a little at odds with the words, but my criteria for applying a score can be a little different to what I find to say about the album and leans more towards the technical side of things – i.e. I try to think in overall objective terms, such as how good an example it is within the genre, innovation, consistency, replay value etc. Obviously it’s impossible for me to be completely objective when I consider those things, but when I write about the album, I write exclusively about what I think, when I score it, I give consideration to those other elements. Over the last year, despite my resistance, I have learned that thinking in those terms does have a certain value, however minor it may be.

I feel ratings, on the other hand, cater more to the subjective side. Rather than being considered an (attempted) objective assessment of overall quality, the ratings system I have devised for possible use here would be used as more an immediate visual indicator exclusively of my own opinion, further explored in what I write.

I don’t write about much here that I don’t love in some way. If I’m talking about music, you can be sure I liked it enough to want to talk about it. What I sometimes neglect to consider are the same elements I reflect upon when I apply scores at [sic], but here I’d like it to be on a much more subjective level.

If it were not for the fact that I recognise some of my reviews have been on the more unconventional side, this is probably something I wouldn’t think about at all, but I’m aware that, sometimes, what I’ve written can leave readers with a relatively abstract idea of the music and no indication as to whether I actually liked it other than it’s here (see my recent write-up for Conquering Animal Sound’s Kammerspiel for a good example of what I mean). I have no intentions of changing the way I write at S4E, as the words are inspired by the music and I think that has its own, hopefully unique, value, so what I’ve come up with is something akin to a star rating with five different levels, but without the capacity to indicate I felt something was ‘sub-par’ as a 1-star rating certainly would.

I feel that such a system is in keeping with the ethos of S4E, and I think it has the potential to add an element to the reviews here that is sometimes missing. While the visual indication (by way of ‘arm lengths’) is on a scale of 1-5, I’m not interested in further defining each level and assigning particular paramenters by which a release can “achieve” a certain rating, I’m more interested in simply having a recognisable system that will allow readers to get a (relatively) clearer sense of how I feel about something (cos it’s all about me, ya know).

While I’m considering this idea, I thought I’d put it to any readers who’d like to have a say, either in the comments section or via the poll below. You can vote exclusively as to whether or not you’d like to see a ratings system on S4E, or just how you feel about ratings/scores in general, as I’d be interested in a consensus on the subject. It’s completely anonymous, so the only data collected is the answers. Muchas gracias to anyone who votes.

Also feel free to leave comments – positive or negative feedback welcomed. I would be further interested if readers have a preference for seeing ratings at the beginning or end of a review and/or if low scores ever resulted in the choice not to read a review.



10 Love Songs For Valentines Day

Valentines Day brings all sorts of emotions to the fore for lots of people, excitement, anticipation, dread. As it’s just a few days away, I thought my time would best be occupied by seeing to it that no matter who you are and what your situation is, you’ve got the perfect song to spend it with. It’s impossible to cover every aspect in only 10 songs (or 12, as it turned out), but I’ve tried to cater for the most common. Hopefully there’s a track here for just about everyone to hug, kiss, flirt, seduce, cry, eat chocolate or nurture bitterness to. Or other things, like plot evil, if you’re so inclined. First, let’s get the whole today’s just a horrible reminder of how you done me wrong thing out of the way.


Tricky – Poems
Poems comes from the one-time collaborative effort Nearly God, generally considered Tricky’s album as opposed to being attributed to all contributors. This is one of the moodiest spurned lover songs out there – play if you feel like having some deep-seated resentment come seeping back. (Features Tricky, Terry Hall & Martina Topley Bird).


Dr. Horrible – My Freeze Ray
This is the song for those shy, awkward types who haven’t quite worked up the courage to tell their loved one how they feel. (Dr Horrible is the title character from Joss Whedon’s musical mini series Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, played, and sung, by the inimitable Neil Patrick Harris).


Tindersticks – City Sickness | Sandrine – Trigger
I couldn’t decide between these tracks so you get two for the price of one. These are for all the lovers going solo on the 14th, for whatever reason. City Sickness for the guys, Trigger for the gals. No matter what, there’s always one person around who’ll show you some love, if you’ll only let them.




Flight of the Conchords – Business Time
Especially for all you comfortable types who find bliss in established routine and domestic ritual. Make sure that you’re wearing your business socks on the 14th, and don’t get your partner that new video game/book they mentioned, or if you do, try to work it in sometime between afterglow and sleep, otherwise you might find yourself back at Plan 8.


The Frames – Early Bird
Really just wonderful, one of the most joyous and uplifting songs I know. This one’s especially for those Valentines that are still getting to know each other, and loving every second of it.



Stuart A. Staples – Dance With An Old Man
I nearly excluded this a capella track from the Tindersticks‘ front man, lest I be accused of having an obsession with a particular theme, but this is such a lovely track. And yes, I do mean lovely. This one’s for all those out there that have been together for – like – ever, and still have fuel for the fire.



Neneh Cherry – Golden Ring
Up until about five minutes before publishing this post, #4 was another Neneh song, Move With Me (primarily because I love the lyric ‘move with me, I’m strong enough to be weak in your arms‘). Then I realised I didn’t have a track for anyone out there planning on proposing to their partners, which is quite obviously a horrible oversight. So here you go, you hopeless fools romantics. And what the hey, all this talk about love is making me feel generous, so have Move With Me as well.




Depeche Mode – In Your Room
One of the most powerful, and therefore scary, things about love is that it means being vulnerable to someone else. They know your secrets, they know how to hurt you in all the worst possible ways. Some of the best ways, too. In Your Room is a little dark and sinister, and a hell of a lot sexy – it’s the song for those of you who trust as much as you love.


The Cure – Lovesong
The Cure at some of their best with this song. It still has the trademark hint of melancholy (such as befitting the album it’s from, 1989’s Disintegration), but of all the songs that have ever been written that say pretty much the same thing (i.e. I will always love you, no matter what), there’s very few that capture the bittersweet, celebrative, and beautiful sentiment as poignantly as this. (Dolly Parton’s words, even when sung with Whitney Houston’s powerful voice, just don’t hold a candle to this). For all those that never stop giving love.


John Lee Hooker – I Cover The Waterfront
This has been a favourite of mine for a long time, and I love this beautifully understated and intimate performance. It’s number 1 because it’s really the perfect all-rounder Valentines Day song – To me, there’s not much more romantic than a simple ‘I will wait for you until you’re here’, whether you know who the you is yet or not.



All tracks are streaming only – no downloads are hosted on this site or linked to. Any artists wishing to have the material removed can do so by using the contact information

In The Absence of Paper-Folding Skills

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Why I Love – An Elsewhere Post…

For my last post of the year, I would like – once more – to direct attention somewhere else.

I discovered the blog TheSteinbergPrinciple earlier in the year, via the very worthwhile charity album Gold Day – The Songs of Linkous, Smith and Chesnutt (which, by the way, you can still purchase at Bandcamp).

Since then I have been visiting the site on a regular basis and not only been introduced to some truly great music, but I’ve also taken inspiration from it, expanding some of the content I include here on S4E.

I recently had the opportunity to contribute to the blog with a post called Why I Love – a series of posts by various contributors that explore some of the things in the world that are treasured by the individual writer. Obviously, I was only too glad to take up the opportunity, and the post can now be read over on the site. Thus I extend the invitation to anyone that has an interest, as well as encourage spending a little time exploring the site in general and all the awesome things to be discovered there.

And, of course, my sincere thanks goes to Euan at TSP for giving me the opportunity to contribute the post, for the inspiration, for the very kind words about S4E and for giving space to my words.

Lastly, I wish everyone a happy and safe 2011.


Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

For any and all readers of S4E.

For those (like me) that love the smell of tinsel, freshly baked gingerbread and pine trees. For those that still wear those silly paper hats from crackers no matter how old they get and won’t give up the little plastic whistle or alien finger puppet for anyone.

For those that swear this time they won’t eat so much, and for those that don’t have so much to eat. For those who hope to get everything they want, and for those that give everything they have, including hope.

For those that still believe in magic and maybe even Santa, and everyone that helps create the magic I still believe in.

For those with good friends, those who are good friends; and especially for those who miss them.

For my good friends.