The Antidote to Radio 1’s Sound of 2016

Because after four weeks of the same songs we’re all in need of a break.

Before I start let me say that I listen to Radio 1 – which is exactly what has created the need for this post. They play the same bloody songs everyday! Even when they actually have some crackers in their music library (Mura Masa, NAO, Mabel, Shura, Wolf Alice, Royal Blood), you end up craving something different once in a while, as well as wanting to shoot yourself in the head when you hear the rest of the balderdash that they play (I’m looking at you Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth. No. Let’s NOT Marvin Gaye and get it on).

SO, with that in mind, for those of you who also have the lack of tolerance that I have, I present my alternative to the Radio 1 Sound of 2016 playlist. Not necessarily alternative in genre, but simply alternative in nature – you know what I mean.

I’m lucky enough to have a best friend who works in music (Hi Jorden), and I feel like that probably qualifies me to write about this stuff with some sense of knowledgeability, right?? Let’s do this.

 

8. Airling
I actually have zero music creds to back this choice up, apart from the fact that I stumbled across this Australian artist one casual Spotify session and haven’t stopped listening since. I would recommend checking out her WONDERFUL collaboration with Japanese Wallpaper, Forces.

THREE WORD SUMMARY: Moody electro pop (in the absolute best sense of the word ‘moody’)

LISTEN TO THIS WHEN: You’re walking home on a delightful moonlight eve


7. Jagwar Ma

Sydney born Jagwar Ma have been around since 2011, but I want to see their fanbase spread far and wide this year. The band have a Tame Impala-esque, almost psychedelic dance-rock sound that is near impossible not to get hooked on. Try out The Throw for size.

THREE WORD SUMMARY: Spaced-out pop rock

LISTEN TO THIS WHEN: You’re spinning round a campfire drunk, you’re dancing on a beach drunk or you’re taking a roadtrip back in time (drunk)

 

6. Bonzai
A Dubliner who’s signed to the same label as Mura Masa, she describes her music as “Twisted R&B or Punk R&B”. Couldn’t have put it better, as it really is an unusual sound – it definitely has an R&B vibe but with this great spiky darkness to it. Give it a couple of listens and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

THREE WORD SUMMARY: Sassy, sweet, sour

LISTEN TO THIS WHEN: You need an attitude boost before you whip that annoying friend, co-worker or family member into shape

 

5. Jay Prince
Jay Prince was recommended to me by my aforementioned music friend, and so I feel pretty confident about his inclusion here. Jay has a Kendrick Lamar feel about him, with a definite London edge to his music. It’s the kind of hip-hop/rap that is soothing to the ear, rather than attempting an aural assault on it. There’s a place for aural-assault-rap, but this article is not it. For something a bit more amped up I highly recommend that you check out his collaboration with Mura Masa, Low, however my current favourite of Jay’s is the chilled out Polaroids, below.

THREE WORD SUMMARY: Molten London rap

LISTEN TO THIS WHEN: You’re walking through the city enjoying the glorious annual two week long British summer. If you’re from a place where the sun actually exists, please feel free to listen to Jay Prince all year round

 

4. SG Lewis
SG Lewis was another Spotify find of my own, so it was a nice ego boost when my friend recommended him to me and I was able to respond coolly with, “Oh yeah I love his song No Less...” smooth, so smooth. Pharrell described SG Lewis as “a white boy with soul” which is high praise indeed for a 20-something from Reading. SG Lewis has some great Soundcloud mixes, but right now I’m crushing on the recently released and sultry All Night. 

THREE WORD SUMMARY: Soulful deep house

LISTEN TO THIS WHEN: You’ve taken the plunge and invited that cute guy/girl over to check out your music collection…

 

3. Zak Abel
I have long been in love with 20 year old Zak Abel and his gorgeous silky voice, so there was no way I could leave him out of this list. Zak has a song for every mood and every feeling and that is why my love for him is so epic. He can produce a solid gold feel good dance record like These Are The Days:

And then he gifts us this heartfelt cover:

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure I also think that he’s a complete and utter hottie.

THREE WORD SUMMARY: Multi-faceted, infectious, HOT

LISTEN TO THIS WHEN: WHENEVER. There are songs for pre-drinks, songs for the shower and songs to dance to all night long


2. Goldlink
There’s not much floating about on Washington-born artist Goldlink. Indeed, his SoundCloud quote sums up this deliberate lack of information, “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.” Presumably God, a.k.a. Goldlink, is multi-lingual which would explain what is going on in Spectrum. If anyone can tell me what language is being spoken in this song PLEASE let me know. Swedish? Japanese? Swahili?

THREE WORD SUMMARY: Soul-infused dance rap (still technically three words)

LISTEN TO THIS WHEN: You’re on the wonderful Friday journey home from work

 

1. CRAIG DAVID – Craig David’s return to the music scene also hails a return to 90s garage, something which I cannot get enough of, as it is a daily regret that I wasn’t old enough to go clubbing when he was first around. I like to view his comeback as a personal invitation to be a part of said scene second time around. Don’t even pretend that you wouldn’t let Craig David all over your *oop*. If you haven’t listened to the song that sounds a lot worse than it actually is. I suppose you really should have a listen then shouldn’t you…

THREE WORD SUMMARY: “THAT GARAGE SOUND” (seriously, listen to the song)

LISTEN TO THIS WHEN: You want to feel like a super sassy 90s raver who has no curfew and is going to damn well dance like nobody’s watching because THIS IS YOUR JAM

OH and check out his freestyle over Bieber and dream of the that day you have a crew that loves you this much. Bieber + Craig David = 2016:

 

I’m ready to PARTAAAY after writing this post. Roll on Friday.

 

What do you guys think? Any other suggestions that should be included in the list? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @LydiaFrench 

Chelsea Does…Racism – An English Girl’s Response

Disclaimer: Don’t get me wrong, I love many, many parts of the U.S. This article, however, is not about one of those parts. I’m aware that this isn’t a problem exclusive to the U.S., however this episode was. 

Last night I binge watched Netflix’s new docu-series Chelsea Does….The four part series features comedian Chelsea Handler in a very different format than we’re used to seeing her, exploring four semi-serious issues that are a part of her life as an American.

I happily sailed through episodes one and two  – on marriage and Silicon Valley, respectively. They were both equal parts hilarious and interesting. However, episode three, Chelsea Does…Racism, got dark. QUICK. I was going to write an overview of all four episodes today but after watching the racism episode I didn’t quite make it to the finale, the one that everyone’s been talking about, Chelsea Does…Drugs. I didn’t make it because I was left stunned at just how bloody lucky I am, as both a) a white person, and b) a white British person. Or more directly put, I was left stunned at how ignorant parts of the U.S. still are. Hear me out.

chelsea20does20racism20al20sharpton

Chelsea with the civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton during this episode

The episode begins rather innocuously, with a round table chat full of Chelsea’s friends and colleagues, all a variety of races, followed by Chelsea and her friend Loni exploring the various subculture havens dotted around L.A. These opening gambits were largely light-hearted affairs, with some jokes peppered around for good measure. It was only when Chelsea took her exploration down South that things started to get a bit hairy – and when I say ‘a bit hairy’, I mean ‘incredibly, embarrassingly and dumbfoundingly racist’.

I’m not going to recount what happened blow-by-blow, as it would probably result in me throwing my laptop down the stairs of the Starbucks I’m currently writing this in, but I would say, you have to see this sh*t to believe it, so go watch it. I will, however, give you my Top Five Racist Moments to whet both your appetite and your anger…

  1. Chelsea goes to an ex-slave plantation that is currently used as a stately home and hotel used for ‘massages’ and ‘weddings’. I’m imagining the brochure reads something like this, “Please feel free to relax by the pool while reminiscing over the hate crimes of your white ancestors. Complimentary towels can be found in your room.”
  2. A white woman anecdotally claims that she knows of no stories where slaves were treated badly, and her pal chimes in with a tale of how a freed man stayed at the plantation he had been enslaved at, so he must have been happy. Guess that solves that then! UPDATE: White people debunk slavery, subsequently solving all racism.
  3. A charming young fellow, who happens to take part in confederate reconstructions, likens slaves to farm equipment, suggesting that if slave-owners had spent a lot of money on tractors (or, um, slaves), then treating them badly would be a waste of money.
  4. Police brutality is obviously a massive issue in the U.S., now more than ever, and it really is a sobering moment to realise that racism is not simply limited to the aforementioned people spouting the aforementioned ignorance, but that in fact that it extends to loss of innocent life on a regular basis. Chelsea’s meeting with Walter ‘Lamar’ Scott’s family in Charleston is a stark reminder of this.
  5. I can’t even deal with this Matthew Heimbach guy who is so clearly convinced he’s the smartest person in the world. “I will not insult my confederate ancestors” – classic Heimbach.

The thing that really shocked me here was the idea these people had that if slaves were treated okay,* then that made slavery okay. As far as I understood, the thing that made slavery bad wasn’t simply the fact that they were treated horrendously – a product of slavery itself – but the fact that these human beings were enslaved to another against their free will. So what if they were treated okay? They had no volition or rights, and were akin to cattle or farm equipment. I really tried to find a metaphor for this line of thinking but there’s nothing that can actually compare, so I thought it best left unsaid.

ht_walter_lamer_scott_01_jc_150407_4x3_992

Walter ‘Lamar’ Scott, who was fatally shot in the back by a police officer in Charleston, 2015

 

The only thing that makes this episode’s interactions bearable is the unshakeable optimism that almost all the African-Americans that Chelsea interacts with possess. It’s inspiring to see their ability to believe in so much when they’re given so bloody little to work with. Chelsea’s pointed looks to camera also provide some comic relief, highlighting the absurdity of some of the things that we’re hearing. I was also pleased to see Chelsea explore racism towards Mexicans and American-Indians, types of prejudice that I knew little about (apart from the obvious Trump reference here).

It was an infuriating, yet illuminating episode, especially for someone who doesn’t come from the U.S. Despite the ignorance and infuriation in part three of Chelsea Does…, it’s an issue that needs to be discussed, and for that reason I’m glad that Chelsea Did…Racism.

Give it watch gang! I’ll lend you my Netflix password.

 

*Funnily enough that conjecture is yet to be confirmed

Maroc’n’Roll

I’m now in my final year of university, and despite all the hard work I’ve been doing so far (not too far from the truth actually), I’ve managed to squeeze in a trip to Morocco which I returned from on Saturday evening. I’ve never been to Morocco before – and I wouldn’t usually swan out of the country one blustery Tuesday in November – but I have a friend currently living there, surfing and just generally enjoying life, so we put a visit in our diaries.

Not a bad view, eh?

Not a bad view, eh?

He is staying in a skinny beachside house, in an adorable and colourful fishing village called Tagahazout, which is about 20km from Agadir, where the nearest airport is. My days there were filled with sun, surf and snacks, whilst my nights were full of open-air yoga, sea-staring and early nights – have you ever surfed before? It reallllly takes it out of you. To start with, after a bumpy experience in a scuba-diving attempt and my inevitable sea-sickness, the ocean and I are not on the best of terms anyway. The biggest step for me probably came before I even got on a surfboard; just getting out there, facing the waves and the awesome power of the water. By my third day on the board however, I was managing to awkwardly crouch-surf the waves…It’s exhausting, but the rush when you catch a wave is addictive and It’s definitely something I’ll be pursuing in the future.

A hard-earned camel bone wall piece, complete with secret mirror. Plus, a sneaky view of the crazy colourful rug I snapped up.

A hard-earned camel bone wall piece, complete with secret mirror. Plus, a sneaky view of the crazy colourful rug I snapped up.

We visited the local market in Taghazout, where we bartered like natives and as a result I loaded up my little hand luggage suitcase with quirky goodies. I could have snapped up everything in that eclectic and colourful market, every item had such a personality about it! It would be a decorating dream to take a trip to the Moroccan markets with a couple of very large and very empty suitcases…

The food was delicious, and with fresh fish from authentic Moroccan fisherman on offer every morning, I ate like a king but paid like a pauper. Quite a difference from my dismal weekly supermarket basket.

I had a wonderful few days climbing valleys, surfing and eating, and though it was a shock to the system when the plane touched back down at Manchester Airport, I feel throughly rested and ready to attack my Greek Tragedy essay this week. Well, a little optimism never hurts, though it is a bit futile when it comes to tragedy #ClassicsBanter

Italy: Finding Beauty Amongst the Chaos

As my time abroad is coming to a close in a couple of months (boohoo), I was thinking about the struggles i’ve faced during my year in Italy. In deciding how to approach this post, and it appeared to me that I could take it one of two ways. I could a) write about the truly big obstacle which everyone has experienced whilst living away from home – the fact that you are, in fact, away from home. Whilst that undoubtedly is the toughest part of my year abroad, it’s also the most obvious. So, that led me to b) the little obstacles that have peppered my time away – which I suppose could be summarised with my Study Abroad department’s beautifully clichéd phrase of ‘cultural differences’.

A world apart biggest obstacle

my Erasmus society getting a little confused (but still making it work!)

 

The lack of organisational skills possessed by Italy is simultaneously mind-boggling and impressive; impressive that there is still a country left to run underneath the mind-boggling lack of organisation. If you ever find yourself in Italy with something important to do, something with time constraints or an essential outcome at stake, I would urge you to go anywhere, be anywhere, except Italy. My German friend studying Medicine here quite frankly told me that should any medical emergency occur, I must put her on the first flight back to Germany and get her treated there. Coming from someone with firsthand experience of the Italian medical system, I’ve tried my hardest to remain healthy this year, however I did come down with a sore throat (I know, I know – poor me) in March. Thinking that a trip to the local pharmacy would suffice, I struggled down the street, only to be greeted with a sign that informed me that they are in fact closed from 12.00-16.30 every day. Whilst the notion of an illness which respects the shop owner’s need for an afternoon nap seems absurd to us Brits, one can only assume that Italian ailments are much more flexible with their scheduling…

 

It is a beautiful but shambolic version of a normal society, and while this chaos was what frustrated me beyond comprehension at the start of my time in Verona, I have to begrudgingly admit that there is something to admire amongst all the pandemonium. I’ve learned to worry less about tomorrow, and live in the moment a lot more. Whilst I’m prone to intermittent bouts of worrying (just like any good Englishman) and I’ll never be truly Italian in that respect, I do think that we can take something from their love of life and lack of anxiety. When Italians have free time, they really have free time – it’s a lovely thing to see them drinking and enjoying themselves at 11pm Sunday evening, just because it’s their Sunday evening. Work can wait, deadlines can wait and tomorrow can most definitely wait.

just your normal Sunday night drinks in Italy

 

 

Berlin on my mind

Hi all,

You might have remembered that I posted about going to Berlin for a long weekend to see Sam Smith, my current obsession. Well…it happened. And it was even better than I could have predicted.

It goes without saying just how incredible Sam Smith’s performance was, but I’ll say it anyway. I can’t remember the last time I was that blown away by a gig – every note was perfect, and he seemed genuinely humbled and wowed to be performing for us. He’s only 21, and though his youth showed through in his lack of arrogance on stage, his professionalism and skill totally outstripped his age. GO SAM GO.

Image

Apart from the concert, which was always going to be something to remember, I completely, totally and utterly fell in love with Berlin itself. Head over heels. A no-turning-back-now-I’ve-got-to-learn-German-and-live-there kind of love. The atmosphere and vibrance of the city totally infected me and I can’t stop thinking about it/stalking it on the internet/daydreaming about my life there! My plans have all shifted a bit after my four nights in Kreuzberg, and once I’m fully confident in my Italian I’ll be starting the long road of learning ANOTHER language. And I cannot wait.

I have many many MANY recommendations from my time in the city, but three particular nightlife haunts really made an impression. Whilst everyone visiting Berlin is probably aware of the exclusivity which surrounds the nightclubs there, it doesn’t really hit you until you’re standing in line for a club at three in the morning, entry money clenched tightly in your fist, being rejected after a fleeting and perfunctory once over. As a 22 year old tall blonde girl living in Italy this year, I’ve had seven months of standing out and being rewarded for looking different –  so let me tell you it is most definitely a sobering experience being rejected from anywhere! Whilst Italy and Berlin are potentially the most extreme of each end of the spectrum (thanks for the confidence boost, Italia! You not so much, Berlin…) it is definitely realistic advice that you have to keep it cool if you want to get into the clubs in Berlin. Seriously, look like you wish you were anywhere else in the world but in the queue trying to get into their club. Don’t smile. Don’t laugh. DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH.

Despite being so mercilessly tossed aside at the first club, our gang persevered and the next place we tried let us in, as thankfully we had some German-speakers amongst us, and it ended up being THE BEST PLACE EVER. Did I just blow my cool-cover? It was a giant old squatters’ house on three different levels that had been sort of renovated. It was edgy (sorry about that word), shabby-chic and achingly cool, like a sassy girl wearing a man’s jumper that she found in a skip. There was a boat in garden…a boat. It was essentially the house party to end all house parties. We arrived at 4am and didn’t leave until 7.30 the next morning, in true Berlin fashion.

Image

looking fresh at 7.30am

On a slightly less exclusive note, we stumbled upon a great bar in Kreuzberg which I whole-heartedly recommend, Rummels Perle. It has a great chilled vintage feel, with atmospheric lighting, beautifully mismatched decor and a great DJ. And they’ll let you in even if you speak English. Which I do.

Finally, Butcher’s Bar. This is a bar situated at the back of an old butchers, which is accessed through the back of a red telephone box at the back of the shop. I know, amazing right?! We passed the door lady’s muster and soon enough we were in the smoky secret back room decorated with meat hooks and red lighting. Though the prices are a bit steeper, it is a really great place to get your first drink and soak up the feeling of Berlin secrecy and exclusivity. While this place does has the exclusive feel to it, I’ve since been told it does actually let most people in. So don’t fret too much, use it as your dry run and ACT COOL….Then grin like a loon when you get let in through the telephone box.

Moral of the story? Go to Berlin. Love it. Just don’t let anyone there know that.

DIY: Scrunchie in 5 steps

Whilst the scrunchie has become a beloved and household fashion item in the UK over the last years, I have been met with a few bemused and disparaging looks at my choice of headwear over here on the European mainland. The most notable occasion was being quoted a Sex and the City episode by my German friend Mona, in order to explain her feelings about what was going on on the top of my head:

Whilst I admire Carrie’s enthusiasm in her hatred for all things scrunchie, i’ve gotta say I think she needs a firm push into 2014. Plus the fact that Carrie’s potency as a viable life guru has been pretty much negated by the amount of balderdash she has spurted out in her time (‘Are men just women with balls?’ being one of my personal favourites).

So, despite the shouts of Germans and Carries everywhere, here is my DIY Scrunchie tutorial, so you can make as many scrunchies as you want in as many crazy patterns, colours and sizes as your heart – and hair – desires!

——-

What you need:
– 18cm length of elastic, about 1cm wide
– 35cm length of fabric, about 10cm wide – the bigger you want your scrunchie to be, the wider your fabric should be
– sewing kit and thread to match your fabric colour (I bought some fabric from a local haberdashery shop, as well as using an old top that I liked the pattern of)
– safety pins
– scissors

How to make your scrunchie in five easy steps:
1. cut out your fabric and elastic to the lengths and widths you want (I used the measurements above)

2. once you have your long strip of fabric, fold it in half lengthways and inside out – sew tightly and with small stitches (this is important and saves a lot of mending later on!) along the length of the fabric, creating a fabric tube of sorts

3. turn your fabric tube the right way round (so what was on the outside is now on the inside)

4. thread the elastic through using a safety pin for ease, then sew the two ends of the elastic together

5. sew the two open ends of the fabric together – this will create the ‘scrunched’ effect, which also helps to hide any messy sewing! And you’re done 🙂

I have made two so far, and the best tip I can give you is to make your sewing neat, with small stitches. I used large and loose stitches with the first scrunchie I made, and it left a lot of gaping openings when I turned it the right way around in step 3.

Let me know if you make any useful adjustments to your scrunchies 🙂 Here are my finished products:

my first (messy stitches included) scrunchie

my first (messy stitches included) scrunchie

scrunchie take 2 - from an old top

scrunchie take 2 – much neater!