After seeing him deliver incredible performances at Glastonbury and V Festival, I decided that I had to buy James Bay’s debut album, Chaos and the Calm as soon as possible.
Straight away, it’s clear that Chaos and the Calm is a great name to describe the musician’s debut. With it fusing fast-paced and powerful soul with mellow, laid-back tracks, the album definitely fits this contrasting idea of chaos and calm.
But then again, the ratio between the two music styles isn’t exactly split equally. If anything, the album boasts too many slow tracks. Whilst James Bay’s voice is undeniably unique and soulful (songs such as Let it Go and Scars are testament to this), towards the end of the album the slow tracks become somewhat forgettable. I often found myself zoning out of the final few tracks at times, which was a shame.
However, that is not to undermine these tracks on the album. Both Let it Go and If You Ever Want to Be in Love have memorable choruses which will stick strongly in listeners’ minds. Meanwhile, Move Together and Scars are the two mellow tracks which really showcase James Bay’s relaxing soul.
In contrast, you then have the driving rock ‘chaos’ present in songs such as When We Were on Fire and the well-known track Hold Back the River. Whether it’s the powerful instrumentals or the vocals, it’s these tracks which are the most memorable on the album and really show off the musician’s unique vocals.
Whilst smooth, slow-tempo tracks such as Scars help James to demonstrate his talents on his debut album, the balance between these and the soulful rock songs is essential in order to make a memorable and strong debut.
With the album’s contents living up to its name, James Bay’s debut is catchy, and soulful. Although the balance between driving and laid-back music may not be equal, this adds a great sense of diversity to what is a very intriguing album release.
So after last week’s V Festival, I’ve had a bit of a laid-back week. For most of this week, I’ve been able to some work done, as well as do a spot of reading.
As you would have read on Friday’s post, I got round to finishing The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. However, throughout the week, I found that I was procrastinating from reading and finishing it. Fearful that I may have fallen out of a reading habit, I did wonder… Is it because of the book? Do I not have the time?
When I think about it, I think it’s a mixture of the two. However, I do have books to look forward to now. This week, I got two exciting deliveries in the post: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz, and a signed, hardback copy of Patrick Ness’ The Rest of Us Just Live Here. I’ve waited for the new Millenium book for a long time now, so hopefully that should kickstart my love of reading again.
But also, aside from books, this week was full of surprises as I noticed that I was in a few celebrities’ pictures and videos! First of all, you can find me around 0:45-0:55 on Evan Edinger’s Summer in the City Creator Day video (see below).
By the way, you can read my post about Summer in the City here!
But also, after going to V Festival, I noticed that I’m in two photos of Example’s set! I remember Pendulum’s set finishing beforehand and I was lucky enough to get myself right at the front to see the majority of his set!
See if you can spot me in these two pictures (clues are in the captions if you’re struggling)!
But what’s more, after tweeting about this on Twitter, Example himself replied to me!
It’s been a while, but I’ve finally got round to reading – and finishing – The Silkworm, the second Cormoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).
After being left somewhat disappointed by the first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, I found myself enjoying The Silkworm more than Galbraith’s debut. As weird as it sounds, I felt as though it was one of those occasions where the sequel is better than the first, original book.
I won’t refer to my review of The Cuckoo’s Calling that much (you can read that here), but whilst the first book had far too many characters to keep track of, it was a relief to see that Galbraith kept the amount of characters in The Silkworm to a minimum. This in turn led to a better ending, where, when the plot was unravelled, I wasn’t confused by the motive, or who the character was exactly (which happened in The Cuckoo’s Calling).
Of course, another difference was the plot itself. With this book, a few more things about the plot were definite, whilst a lot of The Cuckoo’s Calling was left up to the reader’s speculation. It was far less confusing this time, although that is not to say that the book provided us with multiple things to think about…
It was actually the plot itself which drew me to the book. This time, a rather annoying (not to mention selfish and somewhat self-centred) author of a libellous novel is brutally murdered, and because he’s such an arse, everyone has their reasons for killing him – making it the perfect crime novel, and a very interesting read indeed. As well as this, in true crime fiction style, the novel contains some great red herrings that had me kicking myself when all was revealed at the end.
Aside from the murder case itself, Galbraith also allows time to develop the characters of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. Upon reading the book, I really got a sense of Cormoran’s unique and intriguing character. However, the development of the two main sub-plots (Matthew and Robin’s bumpy relationship and Strike’s manipulative ex, Charlotte) weren’t that great. Yes, both had their climaxes, but they both followed the narrative pattern which make the two books somewhat uniform.
Lastly, I bought these two books together, without me knowing whether I would enjoy the first book and go on to read the second. With the third book coming out soon, I probably won’t continue to read the rest of the series.
With an intriguing plot at the centre of its story, The Silkworm is the perfect crime fiction novel for its unique crime and deceptive red herrings. Whilst it is a better novel than Galbraith’s debut, the book still has an element of confusion which may put of some readers.
Rating: 4 out 5
Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling or The Silkworm? If you have, comment your thoughts below!
I’ve just realised that it’s been nearly a month since my last writing update. Sorry about that, I’ve been busy. Well, that, and the fact that I’ve struggled when writing my latest scene of my book.
The scene itself isn’t particularly one of action. Instead, it covers backstory and develops character. It’s tough though, because I enjoy writing scenes of action – ones where the plot moves forward, fast-paced and scenes which I know will excite the reader. Whilst backstory and character development are key to a good plot and story, I often find it hard to make these scenes as intriguing or as good as those action scenes.
But if anything, I’ve learnt that you need motivation and persistence to get through these difficult sections. At the moment, the book is a first draft so I can always return to these scenes if need be. Thankfully, the motivation came by talking to others about my story (there’s always some fun in telling other people your idea and hearing what they think) as well as having some time to write. I got some writing done whilst in London last week and wrote a lot whilst in my tent at V Festival! Also, the scene I’m writing no longer looks boring and will provide an intriguing backstory to one of my main characters…
Unfortunately, it now looks unlikely that I’ll complete the book by my first deadline of September. However, I want to complete the book by the end of the year in line with one of this year’s New Year’s Resolutions. Hopefully I’ll have more time on my hands at university to write my book and I can get it finished soon.
Speaking of my writing whilst at V Festival, when I finally got it written up into my one big document, my word count has increased dramatically and is looking more positive. So, without further ado, this is what my word count is at the moment:
Current Word Count: 7,511 words
I look forward to working on the book more over the next few weeks, and as always, I shall keep you posted!
Last weekend I went to V Festival 2015. I went to the festival last year (read the post here) at Weston Park, Staffordshire. But this year was different, as this time I went to Hylands Park in Cheltenham, and the event promised a whole new, exciting line-up!
As well as that, there were more sponsors this year. Coca Cola were handing out free cans of Coke and PG Tips were handing out free cups of tea. There were also these very handy charging points by Virgin Media and LG which also offered free wifi too.
Friday – Silent/Headphone Disco
I tried out the silent disco last year and it is so much fun! This year it returned so of course I had to come along.
For those who don’t know, a silent disco is a bit different to a normal gig. Everyone in the audience has a set of headphones and it’s only through them that you can hear the music. At V Festival, the headphones have two ‘channels’, A or B, both controlled by a different DJ desperate to get the audience listening to his station.
What I love about silent discos is hearing everyone else sing the same song, or switching to the other channel to find out what everyone else is singing along to. But in terms of DJs (I don’t know their names), the DJ on channel B was more interactive with his audience. Meanwhile, DJ A took too long to progress and cue his next song.
Aston is a former member of JLS, who now has a solo career. With his set boasting Justin Timberlake covers, a vocal style similar to Bruno Mars and dance moves like that of Michael Jackson, Aston Merrygold is clearly a showman, as well as an impressive singer.
I had already seen James Bay and Glastonbury, but I knew I had to see him again because his voice and all-round performance is incredible. With his debut album being called Chaos and the Calm, the musician had the crowd dancing to the powerful, upbeat songs like Best Fake Smile and Hold Back the River, and had the audience waving their arms to the laid-back track, Let it Go. It was another great performance by James.
I was able to catch the last bit of Mark Ronson’s set at Glastonbury this year, and I thought it would be good to see his set in full at V Festival. However, I was disappointed. His music wasn’t my style of music and it took a while for him to play Uptown Funk. After a while I felt bored and decided to see who else was on at the time.
After being left a bit disappointed by Mark Ronson, I had some time to kill before I saw the next act on my list. I decided to see Shift K3y. Aside from the fear of carbon dioxide poisoning (I was right at the front and was being constantly blasted by the CO2 cannons), his set contained smooth transitions between great tracks and his performance of I Know and Touch were brilliant. I didn’t see all of their set though as it was then time for the next act…
At this point of the day I faced a tough decision: do I watch Pendulum (who I’ve never seen before but really want to), or Jess Glynne (who I have seen before, but before her debut album was released)? In the end, lured by the incentive that Pendulum reunited after 4 years for the performance, it was a rare opportunity and I had to see them.
What a great set it was. The beat-drops were incredible and with two of the three members being from Knife Party, their set involved tracks from them too which was amazing. Overall, a rare and absolutely brilliant performance that I was glad to see.
Example + DJ Wire
I’ve seen Example twice now and I know that he is absolutely brilliant live and is definitely one to get the crowd going. However, this time, he wasn’t performing with his band, but with DJ Wire. It was interesting to see the difference, with DJ Wire dropping a well-known tune or classic in-between an Example song (for example, We Will Rock You by Queen and Porter Robinson’s Language were played during the set). Overall, it was another set that I wish I saw in full. Unfortunately I couldn’t as I had to leave to see the next act…
Last year, I went to see Chlöe Howl instead of Sam Smith. But then, when I looked back at the footage, I was gutted that I didn’t see him perform. This time, I wouldn’t let the opportunity pass, so I saw the whole of his set. With his powerful vocals matching that of his records so precisely, his performance was emotive, impressive and sometimes moving.
Whilst they weren’t exactly my sort of music, Kasabian’s set was intriguing and definitely a great headline act for the Saturday. The band interacted with the crowd well, the set contained entertaining visual effects and the use of countdowns to the start of the set or the next song were clever.
However, I was gutted by the fact that they never played Fast Fuse or Where Did All the Love Go, and after a while it did feel like the set was going on for too long.Nevertheless, it was a strong performance by Kasabian.
With their jolly, upbeat guitar riffs, The Proclaimers were the perfect warm-up act to the Sunday. I was surprised to find out they sung the song I’m On My Way, which I remember strongly from the Shrek movies. But of course, everyone was waiting to hear their final song, 500 Miles, which was a definite crowd-pleaser.
If you read my Glastonbury post, you’ll know how impressed I was by his vocals then. I was not disappointed when I saw him at V Festival. Every member of the band displayed amazing solos, and Gregory’s vocals remained spotless.
For those at V Festival, they faced a tough decision between two Ellas: Ella Henderson or Ella Eyre? For me, it wasn’t a tough decision. Sadly, Ella Eyre isn’t my style of music and so I waited at the Virgin Media stage for the third time to see Ella Henderson.
With a powerful voice, Ella did a great job of performing her well-known tracks such as Glow, Yours and her new track with Sigma, Glitterball. She then ended the set with Ghost – a great ending to her set.
Excitable and enthusiastic, Russell Kane’s comedy set was packed with quick humour. His jokes targeted at teenagers were particularly funny.
After a great Glastonbury performance I thought it would be worth seeing Sigma once again. They did not disappoint and their unique drum-and-bass style got on well with the crowd. It was also great that they brought on guest vocalists such as Majestic and Ella Henderson, who both delivered great performances. Aside from the annoying frontman, who was too keen to promote Sigma’s debut album, Life, their performance was a great follow-up to their set at Glastonbury.
I had seen George Ezra at Glastonbury and thought it would be good to see him again. I only managed to catch the last few songs of his set, but I couldn’t help but feel as though his performance was lacking. In my opinion, his vocals weren’t as good as the studio recording or at Glastonbury. As well as that, the conversation with the crowd between tracks was exactly the same as what he said at Glastonbury, which was a shame as it could have been more original.
Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of Gary Delaney’s performance. With his act being nothing more than one-liner jokes, his set lacked diversity. I also struggled to hear him on occasion. But despite that, some of his jokes were clever and funny.
Kevin McCarthy (MC)
In-between Gary Delaney and Andrew O’Neill was the MC, Kevin McCarthy. He did a great job as MC, even when he slightly roasted me at one point. He was funny and a great warm-up between acts.
I only saw a bit of his set before I had to see someone else, but Andrew’s set contained bouts of enthusiasm, good humour and friendly interaction with the audience. From witty one-liners to more developed but funny stories, O’Neill’s set, from what I saw, was vibrant and entertaining.
With Duke Dumont’s music style being a tribute to 80’s dance, his set was definitely going to get the audience dancing. From tracks such as The Giver, Need U (100%) and his new track, Ocean Drive, his performance encouraged a lot of dancing. Additionally, by ending his set with I Got U, his performance ended with the perfect feel-good feeling.
After seeing them perform in the past, I know how good Clean Bandit’s set can be. I wasn’t disappointed. Neil and Grace’s performances on strings were great as always, Elizabeth Troy provided amazing vocals (although it is a shame that Florence Rawlings was not there). As well as that, it was great to see Christina Hizon on keyboard, who is a new addition to the band when performing on tour. Whilst I was gutted that Jess Glynne didn’t join them on stage to perform Real Love or Rather Be together, Sharna Bass coming on to sing Extraordinary was a great surprise.
Admittedly, at the start of the weekend I said that Calvin Harris would have been a better Saturday headliner, and Kasabian would have been a good end to the weekend on Sunday. However, with epic beat-drops from tracks we all know and love alongside fireworks, lasers and pyrotechnics, Harris’ set was the perfect ending to a great festival.
So that is who I saw at V Festival! It was an absolutely incredible weekend, and it was so good to see people I have always wanted to see live.
Did you go to V Festival? Have you been before? Who, out of the people I saw, do you most want to see live? Comment below!
This week, I stumbled across this track from Sigala. I heard it being played on the TV as well as by friends and family. So, for that reason, Easy Love by Sigala is this week’s Musical Discovery!
Although the song has no proper build-up, the listener is taken by surprise and thrown straight into a song with a bouncy drum beat and a tropical synth melody similar to Martin Garrix’s Don’t Look Down. The track itself uses audio samples from the Jackson 5 hit, ABC. In a sense, this use of audio sampling is a great follow on from Philip George’s Wish You Were Mine– which samples vocals from Stevie Wonder’s track, My Cherie Amour.
However, the vocal effects for this track aren’t that catchy and are tolerable. For me, it’s the feel-good piano chords and piano stabs in the chorus which makes the song so great. As well as this, I think without vocals the song could also make a great instrumental track.
Overall, the song promises a feel-good dance track which is progressive, and leaves listeners curious to see what Sigala will release next.
In an article published by The New York Times last Saturday, Amazon employees spoke out about the way the company has treated them. Since then, the article has prompted criticism of the online retailer, with some shoppers boycotting the site and choosing to buy their books – or other products – elsewhere.
With shoppers questioning whether or not they should continue to shop at Amazon, the article and debate surrounding the revelations prompts an entirely different question as well. Is this the point where we see the rise of independent bookstores and online booksellers?
First of all, the campaign to boycott Amazon started with the controversy surrounding the idea that Amazon did not pay it’s “fair share”of tax. Now, the article by TheNew York Times can only be seen as fuelling the idea of boycotting Amazon. Plus, in a time where the boycotting and publicity surrounding SeaWorld led to losses after the release of the documentary, Blackfish, Amazon may need to make drastic changes soon in order to secure its place as one of the most popular and most used online retailers.
But now Amazon customers are looking elsewhere to buy books, with some customers using an alternative online bookstore such as Wordery to order the latest paperbacks.
Speaking to The Booksellerin 2013, Will Jones from Wordery.com said: “Customers are crying out for an independent online retailer”.
He continued: “We can offer customers an online alternative to Amazon.”
On the other hand, the apparent boycotting of Amazon has also given hope to bookstores, both independent and chains.
With Amazon currently under customer scrutiny, questions are being asked about Amazon’s future, and whether independent booksellers may benefit from the controversy surrounding the online retailer.
Books Are My Bag, a campaign which launched in 2013, promotes and celebrates bookshops – encouraging book lovers to use alternatives to Amazon.
The Bookseller’s Association, who are a part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, said in a recent blog post that “nothing will stop Amazon in selling stuff customers don’t even know they want yet”.
They then went on to add that “[Amazon] have added a new online storefront called Amazon Launchpad.
“They are also forming new partnerships with companies like Boots to sell devices; even work with ‘frenemy’ Apple in some areas and are rumoured to be about to launch grocery deliveries in the UK.”
With that in mind, the idea of Amazon “[eating] itself alive” or no longer existing is unlikely. However, the rise of other online bookstores and independent bookshops may still happen through Books Are My Bag – which launches its 2015 campaign in October.
In an article by the Guardian, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos defended the company. The New York Times article currently has over 5,700 comments at the time of this article being written.