My Christmas Playlist

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I’m not one of those people who starts listening to Christmas music in October, but I am a proponent of Christmas music in moderation. I recently made this playlist to help get me through the work day and you can listen to it here.  Enjoy!

1)      Christmas Lights   // Coldplay

2)      Carol of the Bells   // John Williams

3)      The Christmas Waltz   // She and Him

4)      Christmas Song  // DMB

5)      Hark the Herald Angels Sing   // Christmas Songs

6)      Let It Snow   // Glee Cast

7)      Little Drummer Boy   // Pentatonix

8)      Last Christmas   // Jimmy Eat World

9)      I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day   // Burl Ives, Owen Bradley

10)   Baby, It’s Cold Outside   // She and Him

11)   Silent Night   // Nat King Cole

12)    What Child Is This   // Classical Christmas Music

13)   Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas   // Christina Perri 

Adorable Photo courtesy of  Montana Sweetpea Tumblr

Erika’s Album Launch, Review: Delving into ‘Epic Pop’

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The weather outside London’s Waterloo station may have been bitingly cold, but Erika Footman cast a warming glow of the Vaults of Waterloo Station as she introduced her new album Onna-Bugeisha, on Thursday evening.  Press and pledgers alike were kept in excited anticipation while the venue was prepared.  Told as we went inside that we were to be ‘taken on a journey for the ears and eyes’, the mesmerised crowd were lead down dark passages and dimly-lit corridors,  from the ceilings of from which hung Japanese lanterns and origami birds, which as you brushed past and touched them chimed with a variety of notes.

Having flirted in the past with the pop-rock genre and toured with both Mika and Skunk-Anansie, it is Erika’s self-proclaimed sound of ‘epic pop’ that makes up her first full EP worthy of the truly spectacular ‘interactive launch.’  Technical art and visuals play a big part in her repertoire, and her Japanese roots play a huge role in the themes of the music and interior decoration of the gig.

As we walked from room to room the attention to detail and way in which the music was presented and performed was noticeable.  The experience of hearing sweet, uber-pop under the deserted arches and rumblings of the trains at Waterloo was a once in a lifetime experience.

The show started with a melodic performance of Maybe, which saw a favorable reaction from the crowd, mainly down to Erika’s sunny disposition and genuine humility at having a large crowd of excited guests.  An impressive shamisen solo lead the crowd into another ‘vault’ and the interactive theme continued.  The next vault, a blue lit, high ceilinged room created the perfect backdrop for the soulful choir-like rendition of Wonderful which awaited us.  Asking the crowd to sing along, *hats off to most of them who could actually carry a tune* I would defy anyone not to be drawn in the by the vibrations of the trains above and the music below, the sight was something quite spectacular.

The second act of the night was a public gig, allowing for a larger, more powerful band and for everyone to fully appreciate the intensity and ferocity of Erika’s voice.  The intimate setting allowed for plenty of audience interaction, and Erika’s joyful, exuberant nature was in full force by the middle of her second song.  At time it’s surprising that someone with such a smooth, calm manner could be so different to her onstage persona.   Her voice at its peak is reminiscent of a poppy Avril Lavigne and the energy she displays clearly comes from her more pop-rock roots.

Erika proved to be unlike any other artist by using a perfect mix of artsy theatrically and musicality to create a euphoric, hedonistic atmosphere everyone in the venue felt a part of. Dancers, sparklers, paper birds and Erika in beaded skirt attached to the audience (yes really) provided the climax of the encore.  Erika has the ability to both absorb and adore her audience.  It is difficult to find fault with her unique, creative outlook on her music.  With her knack of quirky pop, it’s difficult to see her star doing anything but rise in the future.

Ash x

John Mayer at the 02 Arena, Review

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Fresh from this summer’s release of his latest album Paradise Valley, the Connecticut strummer returned to London last night to continue his world tour.  Despite his very public profile, he stipulated early on that last night’s gig was very much, ‘about the music’, and he wasn’t wrong.

Supported by the equally divine Gabrielle Aplin, her distinct British folk harmonies serve to make the show considerably more nuanced and music-focused.  She is chattier on stage than Mayer himself but her peppy tone served as introduction enough for the main man.

With a set made up primarily of tracks from Paradise Valley and peppered with his multi Grammy Award winning back catalogue, Mayer stunned the 20,000 strong crowd with his genius guitar solos that have lead him to jam with the likes of Eric Clapton and BB King.

John Mayer’s previous sounds have seem him flirt with pop and blues, but last year’s Born and Raised and his current album see him work with a heavily country influenced rhetoric, his opener ‘Wildfire’ setting the tone for this with a mix of spark and soul and his Mumford-esque rendition of ‘Age of Worry’ had the crowd singing along to every line.  The images of the American Mid-West are projected throughout on the giant screen behind him, a nod to his latest, simple sound and allowing the musical to be at the forefront of his set.

In the first of his only two addresses to the audience he betrayed a hint of nervousness that his music still isn’t universally accepted, ‘I’m sure you can’t all be American exchange students, that must mean that someone in London knows who we are.’  His self-depreciating stance was undermined by his subliminal musical abilities, he is at his best when it is him and his guitar alone.

His two hour show ended with a selection of his older songs, ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’ and ‘Free Falling’ were met with most screams and shouts of adoration.  Despite his success, his plain clothes and noticeable lack of interaction with the crowd allow for a total remove from the starry lifestyle often trailing in his wake.  John Mayer is up there with the greats of American music and when you’re in his presence this is never far from your mind.

Bestival, 5-8th September 2013 – Review

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After the kind of summer weather every festival-goer longs for, everyone with a ticket to the last big party of the summer was ready for one final frivolity session before the leaves start dropping.  Even the long-seen  clouds and intermittent heavy rain seemed unable to dampen the mood.

Although Bestival now falls under the ‘big’ festival category, it clearly hasn’t forgotten its boutique beginnings, the myriad of stages, sets, tents, fairground rides and performances are all set within several fields and are so spaced out that one can wander about what feels like many mini-festivals in one.

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After a brutal 4am wakeup for a crossing on the most expensive ferry in the world, we stumbled into Bestival’s site a little bleary eyed, but the incredible décor and beautiful setting of Robin Hill country park soon shook the sleep from our eyes.  The ever-present fairyland theme continued to amaze (this is not my first Besti), the visual delights almost outweigh the music for me as does the eclectic mix of people who take their chance to dress-up more than a little seriously.

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Since it began in 2004, Bestival has been able to blend a perfect concoction of mainstream acts with up and coming and slightly left-field artists, and this year was no exception.  I was lucky enough to get a press ticket this year and despite this, found myself struggling to name more than a handful of people skulking around the artists bar.  But little did this matter; in fact I prefer the spontaneity of stumbling across unknown bands from across the musical spectrum, rather than always seeing the crowd-pulling headliners time-after-time.

The weekend got off to a wonderful start, after a short nap, our first visit was to the Replay tent to see acoustic-cutie Lewis Watson in his early evening set, his mellow tones and deliciously humble manner made his repertoire the perfect accompaniment to a cold cider and the beautiful sunset.  The highlight of Friday had to be the epic FatBoy Slim, his headlining hour and a half set drew in well over half the attendees, and his classic beats certainly kick-started the hedonistic vein of the weekend.

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The gorgeous Lewis Watson

As with most modern music festivals, there is so much more than music, and as a self-confessed culture-vulture I was keen to explore the hidden magic of Bestival: the Ambient Forest hosted excellent poetry and storytelling,  the highlight being Scroobius Pip and his spoken word – perfect if your hangover just can’t stand a baseline. The cheery WI ladies offer delicious tea and cake at recession friendly prices, meaning the eclectic jewellery stands I simply couldn’t resist a purchase from were eased from guilt a little.

The Saturday night for me belonged to Simian Mobile Disco: their 3.15am set drawing in a mix of all-night ravers, hangers on and weird and wonderful creatures in their nautical attire (HMS Bestival was this year’s theme), Bestival’s dancefloor roots shone through in the Big Top tent, which was packed and heaving until the early hours.

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My favourite tea tent of all, I want this in my garden.

Throw into all this mix the most wonderful selection of food this side of the Spinnacker Tower, with the finest ethically sourced dishes, as well as an assortment of vegetarian, international and quintessentially English caterers and the presence of Elton John and Chic almost seems  redundant.  Luckily we got them anyway.

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Elton John performs his first festival on British soil in over thirty years.

By his own admission Elton John hasn’t played at a British music festival since 1969, his presence on this island is only because ‘he heard it was a good one’.  With over forty years of musical experience behind him, he certainly knew how to draw the squashed-in, slightly damp revellers out of their day-three-weariness and celebrate the end of the summer in style.  Although we were only able to stay for the beginning of the set (our boat departed that evening), his mix of eccentricity and spine-tingling classic tunes certainly made it a difficult stage to walk away from; as was Bestival and the glorious summer of 2013.

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Bestival maybe older and more mature, celebrating its 10th birthday this year, but it still delivers a fabulous end of summer party and exceptional entertainment for all.

Afternoon Pump Up Playlist

Anyone with an office job knows that afternoons are the hardest, particularly late afternoon. My eyes want to close, my mouth wants sugar and I just want to call it a day. Thank God for music. I find that listening to energetic tunes really helps get me through long office afternoons and I made this Afternoon Pump Up playlist to do just that.Image

If you like, you can listen it to my playlist right  here on Spotify.

1)      Young the Giant // My Body

2)      Katy Perry  // Roar

3)      Mates of State // The Rearranger

4)      NEEDTOBREATHE // The Outsiders

5)      Coldplay  // Princess of China

6)      Red Hot Chili Peppers  // Can’t Stop

7)      Kimbra  // Settle Down

8)      Gavin DeGraw  // Not Over You

9)      Tegan and Sara  // Closer

10)   The Killers  // Prize Fighter

11)   The Neighbourhood  // Sweater Weather

12)   Lykkei Li  // Dance, Dance, Dance

13)   Kid Cudi, Kanye West  // Erase Me

14)   Jakwob feat. Maiday  // Fade

I hope you enjoy! What songs get your heart pumping?