I really really like Lovesick and I’m so happy we got a season 3. I binged the first season in a day or two, and series 2 in not much longer. I will take, for various reasons, more time to watch season 3, but after episode 1 I’m already confident that it’s gonna be a good season. No other show combines humour, heartbreak and tales of love and dating in such an accessible mix. Edgy when necessary, honest when needed, hilarious most of the time. I hope this is not the last season of Lovesick.
In no particular order, things to look forward to:
- Great new music. Most of all the new Turin Brakes album Invisible Storm that is released on 26 January 2018.
- Live gigs, including Turin Brakes many times, but also Iron & Wine, Susanne Sundfør and many others I don’t know about yet.
- Spending many days with the girlfriend.
- A late Summer wedding in the USA. See also below.
- A late Summer holiday in the USA. See also above.
- Filling in my fresh new bullet journal. 2017 was up and down for my bullet journal experience, but I’ve decided to keep going this year.
- Discovering new things to cook.
I’ve never been a real tablet user. I’ve had iPads around the house for years, mostly borrowed ones or ones from work, but I’ve never really used them properly. I tried magazine reading – but ended up with a backlog of Wired magazines, I tried watching things, but found I preferred a tv and my old iMac instead. But with no laptop and a desire to be able to write, consume and create on the go, I’ve decided to invest in an iPad anyway. An iPad Pro that is, with a proper keyboard case and a pencil. Because yes: it’s a tablet and not a real laptop with real software instead of simplified apps, but I don’t think I need those that often…
The only thing where my iPad Pro might be lacking is in the podcasting department. I’m still experimenting with how to make those properly on the device. And I’m still sort of figuring out the tricks when it comes to editing website code. But besides that, I can do most of the things I want to on the iPad. Any new Windows PC or Mac comes with a lot crap slowing you down. I mean, I like OS X but it has so many tools and bells and whistles I never use. I like the idea of a modern computer being light, and being focused on what you need. So I decide the apps I want to buy and use and there’s hardly any bloatware or crap on it.
So with my old iMac still running relatively smoothly I’ve decided to set it all up like this: intensive website work and editing I’ll do on my iMac, everything else I’ll try to do on the iPad. So far, so good, although I’ve gotten so used to a touch screen now, that I find myself pushing non-touchscreens as well before realising that it won’t work. But besides that minor inconvenience, I find this setup to work pretty well for me, a joy to use at times even. And that’s what expensive things should be: a joy to use. I could have shelled out twice as much for a sleek MacBook Pro, but instead the iPad Pro will be my companion at home and on the road.
Here’s to a productive 2018.
My songs of the Year
So I didn’t blog here that much. But I did listen to a lot of music. I decided to write a bit about that music here. Here’s some songs that made an impact on me this year.
The War On Drugs – Pain
I don’t really know what it is that makes this song work so well. The War On Drugs, to me, don’t sound innovative or even worthy of the hype they seem to get in the press. And yet, the songs speak to me, they get me, they work for me. It’s the attention to detail I guess, the trance, the combination of mood, vocals and lyrics. Pain is one side of the coin, a melancholic song that makes you a little sad and reflective at the same time. It works perfect in the Autumn and Winter. The other side of the coin has songs like Holding On, more uptempo and good for driving around in a car. It makes A Deeper Understanding one of my favourite records of 2017. And this one of the best songs.
Turin Brakes – Wait
You know what news you can wake me up for? When my favourite band announces a new album. And releases a catchy single to boot. I danced a whole Monday afternoon to this one in a pub in St. Albans. And it was caught on above video, alongside other fans. I’m so happy to have been part of a little bit of Turin Brakes history and look forward to the new Turin Brakes album Invisible Storm in January 2018. Get it folks. This band is so good, so nice, so great. So awesome. Let’s keep them going ‘till they physically can’t anymore.
Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still
The comeback single by Portugal. The Man might not be their most epic song ever, or even their best, it IS their most fun, commercially most successful and cleverest one to boot. Feel It Still makes me dance, groove and jump a little. It popped up everywhere, from Dutch Radio 1 to Apple commercials and back. Well-deserved for a band who’ve been working hard for years. And no, I did not mind they played it twice at their gig in Amsterdam last May.
The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
I enjoyed the previous album of The New Pornographers a lot, but Whiteout Conditions has by now a special place in my heart. Especially the title track above, which hit close to home despite not dealing with the exact Whiteout Conditions the lyrics describe. When I changed jobs this year and improved both my happiness levels and feeling of accomplishments, Whiteout Conditions was the soundtrack that helped me through the harder bits of that process. And made me rock out too.
Spinvis – Trein Vuur Dageraad
My favourite Dutch songwriter Spinvis returned with an awesome album. On it is a song called Stefan & Lisette, which means I finally have a song with my name in it that I like – no actually love. But the title track of the new album is the highlight for me, combining melancholy, looping lyrics and a night train through Europe to create one of the stronger picturesque songs of the year.
Tom McRae – None Of This Really Matters
As a storyteller, how much of the story you tell is about the characters in it, and how much of it is about the storyteller himself? Tom McRae made his mostintimate, quiet album in years, literally distancing himself from the society and characters he sings about by moving to a Norwegian cabin on an island in the sea to make sense of the things that don’t really make sense: From Brexit and hate to futile things and hopelessness. It’s heartbreaking yet also clearly a labour of love, including a book full of notes, dark humour and hopefulness that add a layer to this record. Tom McRae went deep this time and therefore this album may make less sense than the previous ones to the casual listener. But I am not a casual listener. I don’t mind going deep to make the most of it. Even though society becomes more shallow everyday. So if you can get a song on the radio where everyone sings almost joyfully “None of this really matter anymore”, you can’t help but conclude that Tom McRae has lost none of his talent or drive. Keep them coming, Tom. Keep them coming.
The National – Dark Side Of The Gym
Sure, I go way more crazy over The System Dreams In Total Darkness with its electronic beeps and boops and the guitar riffs that are crazy and the horns and all that stuff. It might even be more innovative than Dark Side Of The Gym… Because yes if I made you choose with song was LESS The National By The Numbers of course you’d pick System. But haha I’m not asking you that, your opinion doesn’t even matter that much here. It’s my blog after all. MUHAHAHAHAHA. And I just really love the mood and sounds of _Dark Side Of The Gym _. So yea, deal with that my man. Or woman. Or whatever way you choose to define yourself. DEAL WITH IT. OK moving on.
Jens Lekman – Wedding In Finistere
Sometimes an album can deceive you. Tom McRae’s 2017 effort may be too quiet for you at first listen. Jens Lehman’s seemed overproduced and too heavily layered at first. But in fact it wasn’t and by the end of 2017 it remains one of my favourite records and this is one of my favourite songs with Paul Simonesque vibe but a clear Jens Lekman signature at the bottom. Jens Lekman’s storytelling will not appeal to all, but the emotions of a wedding almost breaking down but coming good in the end have rarely been put to music better than has been done in this song. And while doing that, Lekman throws some playful universal truths about growing up and getting serious. Or maybe I’m just getting old. Whatever.
- Wireless EarPods: never ever have my earbuds / headphones stopped working due to anything other than the cable breaking. Wires will have to go at some point. Magic also means an effortless experience of using them and trying them for a few days will tell whether the whole charging thing is manageable. And whether the stereo speakers are good enough to use instead of your headphones in some situations.
For its price, however, they’d better be pretty decent sound quality too. But at least Apple is trying something new. And you can still buy a 6s if you really want a headphone jack. I don’t really see a problem. You can always buy Android if you truly want to boycot Apple. It will be interesting to see if sales slow down for this model.
- Mario to iOS. Nintendo realizes how to quickly make cash. If this becomes only 50% of the Go-hype, it means a whole lot of money for them. Shame it’s an endless scroller, but hopefully it captures some of the magic of old-school Mario.
- iPhone: new camera looks fun to try. Not fun enough to upgrade from a 6s though. Let’s see whether there’ll be any nice new Macs later this year.
- Still not gonna buy an Apple Watch, even though I really like the fact that I could swim with it. I really want a cheaper fitness tracker though. Currently waiting for the TomTom Touch.
I saw Kubo & The Two Strings last Saturday, a great stop-motion animated film by Laika (who also did the wonderful Coraline). It’s a pretty amazing story combining a ‘Legend of Zelda’-type quest, the stories that make a life and a wonderful fairytale all in one.
It’s a beautiful world to get lost in, full of magic, melancholy and stories beyond the fairytale being told. It’s been a while since I looked at a screen for the first hour thinking: “This is so nice. I don’t want this to end.”
Probably my favourite film of the year so far. Go see it while you can, in cinemas now.
Letter from Tim Cook / Apple:
The Commission’s move is unprecedented and it has serious, wide-reaching implications. It is effectively proposing to replace Irish tax laws with a view of what the Commission thinks the law should have been. This would strike a devastating blow to the sovereignty of EU member states over their own tax matters, and to the principle of certainty of law in Europe.
As much as I would like tax laws to properly tax companies (something The Dutch can do better too!), right now tax laws aren’t doing that. And if you make Apple pay for that, you have to make thousands of other companies do the same really. More importantly, this goes to show yet again that the EU isn’t perfect. Either we go all in and let the EU dictate all economic decisions for Europe as a whole (which, mind you, would be very difficult considering all the different countries with different levels of wealth…), or we don’t (which is probably what many people would prefer).
I think it’s weird to retroactively change the tax rules, if that’s what’s happening now. We could make different rules for the future. But is the EU the right body to do that? Do we agree with that?
The thing is, even if we in Europe change the rules, the companies would just move to countries where the rules are better. Companies will always try to find ways to maximize earnings and avoid giving too much of them away. You can’t take that out of companies. What we could try is rebuild our tax system so companies can’t avoid them or pay them in other countries where you can pay less.
Tax reform doesn’t seem to be a particular hot topic yet. Lower taxes, yes. So to be honest, I see world peace happening sooner.
I’ve enjoyed Fionn Regan’s music ever since a fellow member of a forum I posted a lot on, send me his Hotel Room EP as a ‘Thank You’ for some bootlegs (read: live recordings of a band) I sent him. After releasing his excellent debut The End of History in 2006 (10 years ago, wow!) he released a couple of more albums, the more electrified The Shadow of an Empire and the drowning-in-strings 100 Acres of Sycamore. Sometimes, to my taste, this record feels a bit too lush. It’s a beautiful set of recordings, but I didn’t connect with it as much as the previous two albums.
However, after that album, Fionn Regan returned back to basics with his 2012 release The Bunkhouse Sessions, vol. 1: Anchor Black Tattoo. This album was recorded in a most basic fashion and this means the songs are intimately presented to your ears.
Also, check out this live version with another favourite of mine, The Staves:
I would call it a return to form, where it not that I don’t think he ever ‘lost’ it. Still, it made me very excited for future Fionn Regan releases, especially because of the vol. 1 in the title of this 2012 record. Sadly, that has been the last music he has released on his own. Apparently, he played on the Helsinki album released last year, but besides that it’s been awful quiet in Fionn Regan land. Which is not uncommon in between albums for Mr Regan.
Fionn Regan has turned into one of the more prolific Instagram users I follow. He posts multiple photos every week, mostly black and white to a following of 1200+. They are nice photos, usually lacking any words or comments from the man himself. Sometimes he also posts art work and sometimes you can see him in or near a recording studio.
In an interview with the excellent website ForFolkssake.com he says:
I find sometimes that in the world of the singer-songwriter I don’t know where I fit in…I find that I’m kind of at odds with a lot – well, I’m always going against the world and challenging it, especially the more commercial end of the singer-songwriter spectrum. I don’t understand it! I don’t feel that that’s where my stuff’s the strongest – it’s at odds with the time period maybe. When it comes to words I have a great love for words and I think that will become more of interest to me – at some point I’d love to just concentrate on words.
He meant as a lyricist or poet. Interestingly, for his audience at least, he’s now concentrating on images, not words. I like his pictures, which show a keen eye for the beautiful in the mundane, and are sometimes funny. Besides the occasional selfie of course.
Now, earlier this year Fionn Regan performed live for the first time in years, supporting Richard Hawley at Meltdown Festival. There was, according to fans on the RH Forum, no mention of a new album or new EP. But, having never seen the man play a live show, keep hoping for a new record.
We can see what Fionn Regan is up to on Instagram. But it offers, sadly, no explanation why he hasn’t made another album. Yes, there are plenty of singer/songwriters around, but Fionn’s music, with its delicate guitar parts and its poetic, cryptic yet touching lyrics offers something most of those singer/songwriters’ don’t. So whatever Fionn Regan is up to, I hope he’s also making new music. And that we’ll be hearing it soon.
2016 has been in general, a pretty crappy year so far when reviewing newspaper – website – headlines. Besides all the attacks on innocent people from Baghdad to Brussels, from Paris to Istanbul and then everything in the United States on top of that. And I’m probably forgetting several wars going on right now. In first world problems, we lost several popular culture icons (I guess that trend will continue for the forseeable future, seeing as most of the 60s, 70s and 80s stars are approaching old age now) and as the European Union, we lost a bit of ourselves as well. Even today, tragedy hit in Italy, where there was train crash that took 20 human lives. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better right? You gotta go there to come back, the Stereophonics would sing. I’ve never really listened to that album, but as album titles go, I’d call that a pretty good one.
Now, I don’t wanna say “ignore all tragedy” or make light of it in any way, but the reason we’re all hearing and seeing about this so intensely is because of the media and Internet. I’m not saying anything revolutionary here, but 100 years ago, news travelled less fast, and we couldn’t live-broadcast institutionalized racism on Facebook to everyone we know – and then some. 100 years ago, before Internet, tv and radio, our worlds were much smaller.
If I were to kill all technology in my life and zoom in to the impact of all this tragedy on my daily life: that impact is rather small. I had a friend in Brussels the day of the attacks there, so I’d have heard about that. And I would see the armed forces in Belgium when visiting that same friend. So there’s that. And by now I’ve met only a couple of refugees from Syria, so it’s not as if my entire world has been changed by that either. And when reading about the sh•tstorm that is the world right now and how angry people get, I see nothing of that in my little privileged world. Nothing, unless I actively go and look for it and reach out.
So this is why I don’t get all the anger going round, all the hatred. A lot of people seem to respond with fear and anger. But the refugees who came here haven’t destroyed our country, most of the problems are being caused by the people who are already living here. And those problems, are once again, the things the media are focusing on. Yes, I do get that things that are wrong in the world need a spotlight so that they get put right, hopefully. But when you are reporting for the cause, and when are you a sensationalist throwing gasoline on the fire and encouraging behaviour. Look at your life: is there when it comes down to your location, your place in society any reason to get properly upset about anything right now? So why are we letting media and Internet get us upset and act angry towards people who have done nothing wrong.
I’m blessed with friends who are incredibly kind, incredibly nice. When I celebrated my birthday last month, people were so kind to me, by simply telling me that they care, by showing up to my party, by giving extremely thoughtful gifts, by letting me know: we’re here for you. Even today, I received an EP I bought by singer/songwriter who wrote a nice little message in the sleeve. Little acts of kindness.
It’s been making me think that yes: kindness and calmness are probably the recipe for life right now, to make the world a little better. So I’ve been trying to be a bit kinder in everyday life. I don’t know if it’s working, but I try. Like I said: in my life there’s no real reason to be angry, so I’m trying not to be angry, despite all the crazy stuff happening all over the world right now. I refuse to believe that these are the end times.
And I don’t mean that I, you or we shouldn’t get upset about issues that we care about. Or shouldn’t be sad for the people in Italy, Iraq, France or the United States. We totally should. Or angry about the fact that this violence is happening every single day. I think we should also try to fix the world. And I do honestly believe that the only way we can do this, is by stepping up and doing our bit in making it better. With both the kindness I mentioned, as well as taking meaningful action to make change happen. If the whole Brexit-scenario and the gun control laws in the USA have taught us one thing, it’s that the people who shout hard are being heard. But unless we all turn up to decide, or in other ways use the tools that our democracy has given us, that’s the only way we really get a say. By staying silent (or only speaking in the media and nothing else), we don’t really do enough. We may sometimes feel better than the angry mob who votes against stuff, but unless we all counter that mob with votes in favor, that mob is still the smarter group. See also this bit by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.
So yea, I’m not trying to preach here, but what it boils down to. You don’t have no opinion in this world. You have one. Even if you’re a bored teenager snapchatting the day away, you have an opinion. You can decide the future and you can stop things from happening and make other things come to pass. Approach people with kindness, and issues with activism. Even activism to keep things the way they are now. Or to make things a little better. Uninformed little me is probably wrong about some issues I do have an opinion about, but it’s also okay to change your mind.
So, on (social) media, that window in the big world that feels impossible to change, I’m gonna be kind. I’m also gonna to try to take a stand. Cos int the end I’m an optimist. And it might get worse. But it’ll definitely, eventually, get better.