Wednesday, 28 April 2010

TLS Update

Sometimes I just like to write about what's going on here at Chalky Towers, so here goes.

I have two shows coming up in the next week, both for pretty high profile bands - 'Flight of the Conchords' and 'She & Him'.  I've haven't seen either acts before and if I'm totally honest, I'm probably looking forward to the comedy factor of FOTC more than the 'cutsey' factor of 'She & Him'.  The main reason I got tickets to 'She & Him' is because a) I love M Ward's guitar playing and b) it's on our wedding anniversary, and yes, I do have two tickets!

Two very different concerts and neither having anything in common musically with the last act I saw, Caribou.  Incidentally, I've decided my Caribou phase is perhaps a sort of electronic allergic reaction to having overdosed on folk music last year, anyone else feel this way?  I'm not turning anti-anti folk but my electronic batteries just need a little recharging.

In other news, my broad beans are doing well but the slugs have eaten my courgettes.  Grrrrr.

[FOTC photo by Rakka and interestingly made from concord grape juice on cotton.]

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

I have a Vuvuzela!

I have a new musical instrument/noise making device!  It's called a 'vuvuzela' also known as a 'stadium horn' and was given to us by a friend following his recent trip to South Africa.

The vuvuzela is basically a metre long plastic horn and to play it (according to wikipedia) "requires some lip and lung strength to blow" and it emits "a monotonous noise like a deep foghorn or an elephant."   So far the only sound I've been able to make is akin to someone blowing their nose and it really hurt my cheeks!

Vuvuzelas are synonymous with South African football, so if you're planning on watching the world cup this summer, you're going to hear this foghorn noise A LOT!

Here's what it's supposed to sound like.  This is definitely not the kind of instrument you want falling in the hands of your 7yr old nephew.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

'Turn On, Tuna In, Drop Out' - The Future of Internet Radio

Internet radio, thousands of stations out there but where do you even begin to start looking for a station that will suit your taste in music?  Enter Radio Tuna and with it the future of Internet Radio.

The brainchild of a small team of Brighton (UK) based web developers, Radio Tuna will not only help you find internet radio stations it will match them to a particular genre with amazing accuracy.  I caught up with Will from Radio Tuna who explained further:

Q1:  How would you describe Radio Tuna to someone who had never seen or heard about it?

The short answer is 'Google for online radio', the longer one is 'a nifty search engine that brings order to the chaos of internet radio, making it easier to find needles in the haystack of stations and genres. We cover around 20,000 stations and make them searchable by artist or genre through a simple and intuitive interface'.

Q2:  For the techies, how does it work?

There's a number of separate processes working together. Once our spider or site user adds a suitable station to the database, we regularly visit its server status page to collect the track data that tells us what they're playing. We process this data as it's often dirty i.e. 'Madonna - Holiday - 789HITZ RADIO' and use a fuzzy algorithm to match it to our database of 10 million tracks. Once we know what the track is, everything else flows from there - we know its artist, genre etc and this data is tied to the station. Once we have a number of tracks for a station we work out the genre profiles that you see on the site. It's quite involved and there's quite a bit of clever tech behind the scenes - I could go on but that's probably enough!

Q3:  RT is a really impressive service - how did the idea of creating it come to you?  Was it a daunting project when you started?

Thanks! It kind of grew naturally out of other things - our blog ( is probably the best place to read about how it all began. Yeah, it was daunting but we've just kept putting one foot in front of the other. It helps that it's such an exciting project.

Q4:  Do you like Tuna? (sorry couldn't help that one!)

Very much so, as long as it's sustainably caught!

Q5:  How much of a challenge does the success of applications such as Spotify or LastFM provide to RT?

Naturally they are a challenge - they're great services! However, we feel that we're different enough for us to happily co-exist alongside them. Sometimes you want to hear a particular album or artist right now, and sometimes you just want someone (or something) to play you a selection of music that you'll enjoy. Radio is very much about the latter, and it's good sometimes to be taken places you wouldn't necessarily choose to go.

In absolute terms, radio provides a wider range and depth of choice, with better niche provision - unlike other services, there is no 'catalogue' limited by the licence deals we've managed to strike or the limits of our servers. We don't actually know how many different tracks get played, but our database contains over 10 million tracks and we still can't identify everything!

The other difference is that most stations are curated by experts and enthusiasts, real people who are mostly broadcasting for the love of the music. There's something special about knowing that someone out there has chosen to play you a particular piece of music right then that you'll never get with an algorithm.

Q6:  Which country do you get the most visitors from?

The US, followed by the UK, then Japan and Italy. Since we launched in December we've had visitors from 186 different countries and territories.

Q7: When do you plan on going past beta?

Good question! We are now getting pretty close to being able to drop the beta tag, but it'll probably be another month at least until we do.

Q8: RT has just introduced me to 'Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy' by Bappi Lahiri for the first time.  Who has been your favourite artist find?

No one artist stands out, but we have collectively discovered a love of Bluegrass.

Q9: Most of my friends who develop web applications spend a lot of time surfing the net when they're not working.  Are you guys pretty much the same, or do you rush away from your computers to look for inspiration elsewhere?

We're all heavy internet users most of the time, whilst working or not! We do tend to read around what we're up to (books as well as tech sites), as well as keep up with others in the Brighton web dev community.

Many thanks to Will.

If you wish to get in contact with the Radio Tuna team or have any feedback for them, click here and select contact on the bottom left hand side of the screen.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Caribou @ Rough Trade East (London) & The Freebutt (Brighton) 17th April 2010

What's better than seeing Caribou perform once in a day? Seeing Caribou perform twice in a day of course! 

Last Saturday, Caribou (Dan Snaith and his band) played an in store show at the Rough Trade East store to celebrate Record Store Day 2010.  It also kicked off the European leg of their tour to promote their latest album, 'Swim'.  

When I arrived the queues were literally down the street and around the block.  I'm not sure everyone was queueing to see Caribou since there were other bands playing, but I am certain lots of people who witnessed the awesome performance and didn't already know of them were duly converted. Their second show of the day was at the legendary and very small (150 capacity) Freebutt in Brighton, this had sold out two weeks prior.

Both shows looked and sounded fantastic.  Thankfully the loudness of the PA systems didn't overly 'dull out' the sounds as can quite often be the case. Crowd pleasers such as 'Bowls' and 'Sun' sounded particularly great, the band really looked like they were finding their groove.

Drawing mostly on songs from ‘Swim’, they also performed ‘Melody Day’ from their last album ‘Andorra’ (2007).  This is a personal favourite so it was lovely to hear it performed live -annoyingly I still haven't figured out what they're actually singing in the chorus. 

My favourite part of both shows involved the drums.  I was completely transfixed every time Dan Snaith and Peter Mitton beat out what looked to me to be quite complex rhythmical drumming sections in seemingly perfect symmetry, this was incredibly impressive and blew my mind a little.

After the show I got a chance to meet Dan Snaith in person but I must have been slightly overwhelmed and just muttered lots of thank you's and shook his hand!  I can be so frustratingly useless sometimes in these scenarios!

Anyway, Caribou has earned my award for best performance of the year so far. If you get the chance to see them play, do not pass it up.

Caribou at The Freebutt 17/04/10
Caribou at Rough Trade East 17/04/10]

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Day Geoff Travis Inspired Me To Write A Music Blog

During the summer of 2007 a new Rough Trade Record Shop was launched in London's East End.  It was 31 years after its partner store Rough Trade West was opened in Notting Hill.  Generally speaking, the music industry was on a pretty slippery slope with record stores across the country disappearing at an alarming rate. Opening a new record store was considered a fairly brave if not ridiculous move.

At the same time, thanks to an intensely time consuming job I had experienced a bit of a hiatus from the world of music and to put it simply, my soul was in dire need of musical replenishment.  The only problem was, where was I to start?  The sheer amount of music out there can be daunting when you've been out of the loop for a couple of years.  I noticed an advert inviting the general public to attend a live interview with Geoff Travis, (founder of Rough Trade Records) at King's College, London.  Geoff was there to explain why he was opening his new record store and to discuss the state of the music business from an artistic as well as a business perspective.  This interview could not have come at a better time for me.

As expected, the evening was very insightful and it was great to listen to someone who was still so very passionate about music after many years in the industry, I think I really needed to hear that.  The most interesting part for me was when Geoff mentioned he read music blogs.  I'm not sure I should have found this to be such a revelation, but I guess having grown up under the influence of a very established music industry who you could pretty much call the 'gatekeepers of organised talent', to hear now these very same people were also looking to the internet and reading what music bloggers had to say was something new.  Music blogging had started to gain some sort of influence.  Yes it makes sense now but I just hadn't realised it was actually going on back then.  Indie music was no longer a one way flow of communications, controlled by record companies and magazines such as NME or Q, it was a free market of thought, opinion and creativity thundering along endless miles of fibre optic cable at an unstoppable rate.  

The next Arcade Fire or Gill Scott-Heron could be posting their home recordings from a basement somewhere in godknowswhereville and I could be listening to it in my own home on myspace.  The thought of being a part of all this excited me a great deal. 

On leaving the lecture theatre on that cold November evening I decided to create this music blog.  I was so excited and got straight to trying to think up a catchy name and design.  Two years later I'm still here, perhaps not posting with as must frequency as I wish and I still have a lot to learn about writing (and music apparently) but whenever I need motivation I often find myself thinking back to the day Geoff Travis inspired me to write a music blog. 

Incidentally it's Record Store Day 2010 tomorrow (Saturday 17th April) and almost three years on, that 'crazy' idea of opening a record store is still working.  Rough Trade East is very much alive and kicking and one of my regular haunts for free instore shows and buying music.  The Rough Trade team have organised so many awesome instore shows that I know have provided endless photo opportunities and talking points for so many aspiring music bloggers.  Their influence on the blogging world can not be under estimated.

So why not pay them a visit this Saturday, bring your kids along and get their faces painted up like the guys from Kiss (really!)-or just forget the kids and get yours done. Take a look at this list of acts they have playing live at both their stores and there will be special limited edition vinyl on sale, it promises to be a lot of fun.  See you there!

Record Store Day 2010 is happening across the world, find out what your nearest Record Store is doing to celebrate here.

[Photo of Rough Trade East by Joe Pettersson]

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Music Go Music New Official Video - 'Light of Love'

The pop-tastic 'Music Go Music' have just released an official video for 'Light of Love'. It's the opening track off their debut album 'Expressions' which now has a confirmed UK release date of  Monday,19th April.  I can't wait to see these guys perform here hopefully someday soon.

Music Go Music - Expressions
(Mercury Records -R.D. -19/04/10)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Bottoms Up!

I now declare the new look Terrible Love Songs blog officially open!

There are a few tweaks still to be made but quite honestly I think I've had more than I can manage for one day!

Pheweee! Time for a glass of something nice.  Unfortunately the insanely pink margarita in the photo was drunk by yours truly just over three years ago- tonight I'll be settling for something a little less extravagant and probably a bit healthier (yawn).

Bottoms up!  Normal blogging will resume tomorrow.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Terrible Love Songs Logo

Dear readers,

I'm in the middle of redesigning this website and wondered whether you might be able to help me out.

I'm looking for Terrible Love Songs logo suggestions, anything from cartoons to sketches, graphics etc.  If you find yourself stuck in a boring meeting this afternoon with a pen and paper or fancy exercising your creative side this weekend, any ideas would be really appreciated. Please send to tlsreview [at]

Thanks muchly Chalky xo

Stream Caribou's Latest Album 'Swim'

If you listen to one piece of music today make it Caribou's latest album 'Swim'.

Currently being streamed in its entirety two weeks before release (April 19th), I am confident this album will be taking it's rightful place as a soundtrack to many a dance lovers' Summer 2010.

In Caribou's own words “I got excited by the idea of making dance music that’s liquid in the way it flows back and forth, the sounds slosh around in pitch, timbre, pan… dance music that sounds like it’s made out of water, rather than made out of metallic stuff like most dance music does.”

Maybe this is why I'm really enjoying some new dance music for a change?

Really hope not too many more of these songs turn up in adverts.  Films are OK but adverts can be a bit too much.

Top Tracks: Sun, Leave House

Caribou facts:
He has a PhD in Maths form Imperial, his Dad is a Maths professor and his sister reads Maths at the University of Bristol.

Great mathematical brains that also have great musical talent - this is a subject that has always fascinated me.  A friend of mine at university was a finalist in Young Musician of The Year while studying for her Physics degree. I remember the corridors of Imperial College Physics Department reverberating with the sounds of musicians practising in empty lecture theatres during lunch hours.  Music and maths.  Anyway, listen to the Caribou album, it's awesome, he's a very talented man.

[Thanks to Chromewaves for bringing the Caribou stream to my attention.]

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Things I'm Enjoying

Here's a list of things I've been enjoying recently.

Secretly Canadian Record Label.
This is where bands such as Bodies of WaterFrida Hyvönen and Music Go Music live. Such an interesting label, always worth checking out the bands on their books. Can't wait for any of those three to tour through the UK, hopefully soon.

Getting promotional codes to download an mp3 version of the album when I buy the vinyl option.  Such a good idea and a reason to always buy vinyl rather than CD.  Recently purchased vinyl from Secretly Canadian and Merge Records have both included download tokens.

Spring (the season).

Album sleeve picture frames (for vinyl).  Another reason to buy vinyl (and hopefully get an mp3 download for convenience). Album art is to be enjoyed!

The Love is All latest album- 'Two Thousand And Ten Injuries'.  Favourite track- 'Take Your Time'.

Back with more soon.
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