Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Desert Isolation Discs: Radio queen Ruth Barnes

I've been busy over on my other blog, Desert Isolation Discs, in which I quiz my guests on their favourite tunes.

My latest interviewee is broadcaster Ruth Barnes. After a career spent largely in music radio – she knows how to pick a tracklist. With an all-female playlist on her Amazing Radio show The Other Woman and through work with everyone from BBC 6Music to Resonance FM, Ruth has adeptly curated choice cuts for years.

She’s achieved an absolute shedload – working as a continuity announcer for BBC One and Two, voicing long reads for the Guardian and Economist and creating documentaries for Radio 4. She’s also worked hard to further the cause of women in the male-dominated radio industry. The Independent described her as a "pop pioneer who knows what women want".

Over a pint of Guinness, she talks women in radio, her most interesting interviewees and what she wants to do next. And all with a special guest – her daughter Roisin! Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Acast or stream it on Mixcloud.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Photos: The street art of Valencia

On a sojourn to Valencia this week I was struck by how prolific and inventive the southeastern Spanish city's street art scene is. An already beautiful place with an historic old town with clusters of impressive buildings (a nip up the Torres de Serranos and a  swing by the ceramics museum are musts), the graffiti lifts the experience still further. 

Its university's central location - including a design school which has a shop well stocked with spray cans - doubtless plays a big part. Almost every available spot in the hipster hotspots of the centre's northwest side and its successor Rassafa are taken up with incredible throw-ups, recurring yet interesting tags/stencils and paste-ups. 

Like Madrid, the most startling images are found in both Valencia's tourist-filled heart and tired backstreets. There are loads of recurring themes ("Are you dead yet?" is repeatedly stencilled up) and artists whose work is familiar, probably from the pages of VNA, but I'll let the pictures do the talking. I took loads more, so give me a shout if you'd like to see them.





Monday, 25 May 2015

Snapshot: New York's Adult Mom

As Adult Mom prepare for their debut album to begin telling tales of lipstick marks and Meg Ryan to the world, we take a look and listen. 

Who are they?
Steph Knipe leads New York's Adult Mom - a band name that would be a Googlewhack if dodgy sounding porn flicks weren't included in searches. The State University of New York student, with the help of bandmates Bruce Hamilton, Jen Sinski and KT McManus, has been gigging hard. I Make Boys Cry, Knipe says on one of their many catchy tunes - I believe her. Knipe used her music to come out and talks a lot about the confusion of a “queer” identity and her relationship with her parents as a result.   

What do Adult Mom sound like? 
Knipe's strong American twang and stripped back sensibilities give the band's songs a country-feel but Knipe's spiky lyrics make them a far more edgy prospect (*I got time to lie  and for sex that's trite/I'll take back what is fucking mine and you won't get a single dime*, she sings on One Night Stands). Her chirpy, child-like voice takes in everything from Diane Cluck's sharp edges to Cat Power's silky tones. She also talks of playings Rilo Kiley covers and definitely explores some similar themes on relationships as Jenny Lewis' lot. 

What have they done? 
Last year's debut EP on Miscreant Records followed a string of Bandcamp releases and a maiden record, out on Tiny Engines, called Momentary Lapse of Happily is out on July 28. Their touring has largely been restricted to the US but her twee sensibilities mean us Brits will doubtless be clamouring for Knipe's appearance soon enough. Survival, the catchy lead single from the new album, is a particular highpoint - get it. 

What are people saying?
“[The band's] confidence comes through on the lush and cushiony Momentary Lapse Of Happily, whose clean-cut sound recalls Jenny Lewis, or contemporaries like Frankie Cosmos and Waxahatchee. The instrumentation usually bounces around in a way that the lyrics decidedly don’t, bolstering anxious feelings with an infectious, disarming energy.” - James Rettig, Stereogum 

What does Steph look like creeping through the woods?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Serial podcast: Which cases should Sarah Koenig investigate next?

Serial is back. Well, almost. 
Love this artwork from Serial's creators

A very welcome email drops into the ShadowPlay inbox declaring that, having sifted through 1,500 submissions for cases worthy of her attention, Sarah Koenig and her podcasting team have chosen a case for series two of the hit podcast. 

The phenomenal success of the first series (nearly 80 million downloads) sent earthquakes through the podcasting world. New companies are being set up to house the scores of new podcasts - with money and support flowing into what looked a niche and fading industry. The world was hooked on the case of Adnan Syed - no, really - only Eritrea and North Korea failed to register a listener. And even if its outcome was somewhat ambiguous (another podcast, The Undisclosed, has just launched attempting to solve the same case), the anticipation for a follow up is rife. 

The nature of the subject for the second series - which as yet has no air date - have been debated long and hard in the pub. Well, the kind of pubs I go to. Opinions are divided as to whether Koenig and producer Dana Chivvis should gun for an unsolved case, an attempt to overturn a guilty conviction or a completely different crime. Here's a few options:

The Babes in the Wood 

Perhaps Koenig and the team could cross the pond to attempt to solve arguably Britain's most famous unsolved case. The murder of young girls Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway after being snatched, sexually assaulted and strangled in Brighton sent the nation into shock in 1986. Chief suspect Russell Bishop was acquitted but is serving a life sentence for another, similar attempted murder. 
Could Serial prove his guilt or innocence?* 

The case of the disembodied feet 
This Canadian case has puzzled Canadian police since feet began washing up in Vancouver in August 2007. Four left feet and one right, still wearing trainers, have appeared. Everything from a 2005 plane crash off nearby Quadra Island to victims of torture have been suggested as the cause. With the case closely watched, many would welcome a podcasted resolution. 

The Somerton Man
Australia's conspiracy theorists have enjoyed more than half a century puzzling over the 1948 find of the body of a man known only as 'T.Keane'. Many believe the man, who washed up on Somerton beach in South Australia, was a Cold War spy or a poisoned murder victim. A suitcase was found at Adelaide railway station containing clothes that matched his alongside Persian poetry that said 'it is ended'. The book from which it was ripped was found in a doctor's care along with letters written in some kind of code. The various leads, including a mysterious nurse, in this case would doubtless tempt Koenig. 

The case of Edgar Coker
Edgar Coker pleaded guilty to a charge of rape in 2007 to avoid going to adult prison. The teenager suffered a 15-month sentence and being listed as a sex offender for six years after an accusation by a then 14-year-old. Coker and his accuser both have IQs in the lowest 5-10% of the US population. This case has actually been solved - by the University of Virginia Law School Innocence Project, which has helped out Serial - and Coker has been removed from the register after his accuser revealed she lied. However, the Koenig touch to another case involving young people - given the listeners won't know the story - may appeal.

The Loch Ness monster
Well, if someone's gonna get to the bottom of it (the Loch and the mystery), it's this lot. Don't take podcasting equipment into the water though Dana… 

Jack the Ripper
At least some crusty historians and east end accents could make amusing appearances. And I'm sure there's a Cockney MailChimp ad in the making. 

*A macabre footnote in the tale is that Katrina Taylor, who played Fellows in a Crimewatch TV re-enactment of the murders, was found stabbed to death in a graveyard in 1996 in another unsolved murder.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Desert Isolation Discs: Music critic and musician Everett True

Jerry Thackray, or rather his pen name Everett True, is a name synonymous with quality music journalism and rock'n'roll spirit. The Chelmsford-born music journalist's life is a stream of guitar music's biggest names from performing the first single released by Alan McGee's Creation to pushing Kurt Cobain - whom he is rumoured to have introduced to Courtney Love - on stage in a wheelchair before Nirvana's seminal 1992 Reading Festival performance. 

His ability to put himself at the centre of his interviews or reviews - from writings in his fanzine and the NME to Melody Maker and The Guardian - have given his work a unique and ever-engaging style. He's written books on numerous bands including Nirvana, The White Stripes and the Ramones. With Careless Talk Costs Lives and later Plan B magazines he gave over meaty space to cult bands and emerging heroes. He now lives in Australia with his wife and three children, teaches and writes for his excellent website CollapseBoard.com.

Here, he picks the eight tunes he couldn't live without when thrust into the lonesome desert and talks me through his early years, the changing face of music journalism, why he was sacked from NME, his relationship with Nirvana and which bands he has started fights over. Stream the show below or download is as a podcast here and subscribe to the podcast by typing 'shadowplayboys' into iTunes or equivalent.