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The Great Blog Crossover – Having Favourites is Just Favouritism

Sam Willet is a hairy-faced love god. He also runs a rather fine blog, the excellently named Escape Rope, in which he talks everything he loves, including music, sport, and food. It’s a scattershot approach I respect and encourage heartily. Given our mutual admiration, we decided it might be time, in the fine Amalgam Comics tradition, to enjoy a bit of a crossover between our two blogs. It’s the Summer Event You Never Asked For! So here’s Mssr Willet – with italicised interjections from my jerkish self – coming onto my blog and spitting on its illustrious tradition of Having Favourite Things. Spitting on the idea, spitting and spitting, until his salivary glands run dry. It’s always really riled me when people ask me: what’s your favourite… band/song/film?. How the heck do I know? It’s like being asked to some up your life in one sentence. Feelings towards media and culture are conditional on what’s going on in the rest of your life at the time. So, I’ve come to a decision. From this day forth, whenever I get asked the dreaded ‘What’s your favourite (insert cultural product here)?’ question, I’m going to either: a) Walk away, gleeful at shirking my social responsibilities.b) Say ‘I don’t know’ and smile dumbly.c) Hastily change the subject.d) Fall over and feign injury.e) Shout ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ into the questioner’s face until they flee or dissolve. And I’ll tell you for why, using an example: My most recent favourite album, when asked, was In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. This was largely based on the fact that I believed that the record elicited from me a particularly strong emotional response, one which I greatly appreciated. I believed I had a special relationship with that album, and I truly treasured it. But more recently I have come to question this, for a few reasons. In no particular order: I gradually realised that the band were a bit better known than I had thought, and their popularity went beyond that of a small, cult following. It is common enough to feel more strongly for that which is known to few, rather than that which is known to many, but I still occasionally feel guilty about this, as it carries with it the suggestion that most people are idiots – cultural elitism. I also read and heard the band described as ‘Indie’, a genre label that grinds my gears in a very acute way, and discussion of which I will save for another time. But crucially, I also found that the more I told people this was my favourite record, the less I believed it, and the more that the unfathomable magic dust which had bound this album and I together seemed to ebb away. If you have a favourite film, then you probably don’t appreciate film as much as you could*. The same goes for music. There are so many reasons to enjoy these things, so many positives and negatives to be taken away from them, all surrounded in each individual’s unique personal culture and context, that I just can’t understand how someone would be able to name their favourite, or why they should be compelled to. The instant I single out a cultural product as my favourite, the main emotion I experience is regret. What about all the options I didn’t consider? Somebody’s probably heard that and thinks I’m an idiot! Sherbert! [–Politeness Ed] So I’m not a person suited to having favourite things. I think my favourite food is curry, but what about all the other tasty dishes out there? It’s just not fair. Not since primary school have I considered anyone to be my best friend – sad maybe, but it’s a concept which has never sat well with me**. Is it too cynical to suggest that it’s childish to have a best friend? It’s certainly an arrangement that feels weirder to encounter as you get older. People aside, the best solution is to write lists. I have a predisposition for lists – I have a worrying tendency to resort to them for all of my decisions. But for films and music, it would take a huge investment of time an effort to create lists which I would be even close to happy with. I can just imagine the proud completion of my lists, showing everything I enjoy in genre categories and rank order, pinning them up on the wall and then someone walking into the room and saying ‘why isn’t The Big Lebowski under your favourite comedies – I thought you loved that film?’. There is a moment or two of silence before I tear the wretched paper from the walls and run out of the house into the street, blubbing horrifically. I haven’t listened to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in its entirety for ages. I await my next listen with trepidation. I fear it won’t feel the same. There is certainly a strong link between this fear and my big mouth. *Or you have devised a completely watertight way of empirically measuring the goodness of films, as this blog obviously has.**Even having met the impishly handsome proprietor of this blog. The man is incorrigible, dear readers.

30 Days of Music is Over! feat. Sam Cowley

Sam Cowley is a rude, rude man. And far too cool for this being-on-the-internet business. Mr. Spencer has asked for my services in this navel-gazing, 30 days of pretentiousness… I joke, I love it really. How could I not? So my favourite song, eh? I will have to go for Roots Manuva’s Witness. For several reasons which I will elaborate on… …Right now. I love a lot about this song. But I warn you, it may get a little Sociology. First off, it is from without doubt the best British hip hop album of all time (Run Come Save Me). I would say there are all sorts of of amazing British hip hop artists, mixtapes etc, but this is one of the few albums which works as a whole. Second, I think the bassline is ridiculously iconic. All it takes is for a DJ to drop the first half-second of the beat over the end of another song to get me outrageously aroused. Bloody cockteases. Seriously, see it live if you can… jizztastic. It is so different; robot diarrhea if ever I heard it. Third, I think it typifies everything Britishness should be. Forget* Griffin and the rest, with their archaic nursery-rhyme idea of national identity. Apart from the mix of cultural references (cheese on toast, jerk fish, pints of bitter) there is just the spirit of the thing, glorying in a diversity of origins, boastful in the most understated way. Even the opting for low key language only adds more power We don’t give a frigg** about what them fools thinkFrigg your network, our debt work will speak for itself. It makes me proud to come from this bloody bloody country. And as a typical Sociology type, I think that says a lot. *Oh, Mr. Cowley, with your politicised swears! Tut tut. I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, I warned you he was rude.**Oh, Sam, why can’t you be more like your Mr Manuva, with his polite non-swears?

30 Days of Music is Over! feat. Imogen Dale

Imogen Dale is the lovely girlfriend, and having her first taste of the blogosphere. It is sweet, like strawberries. The best kinds of songs are those that evoke an emotion, any emotion, in the listener. There are the happy exciting ones that make you smile and dance around, then there are the opposing songs that can make you completely relax and even cry. Konstantine by Something Corporate. This is my crying song. And also my favourite song. I always come away from a listen feeling extremely satisfied, the 9 minutes and 36 seconds are enough for me to roller-coaster around my emotions and come out of the experience with a positive outlook on life. I feel inspired. I have memories of this song, of trying to write all the lyrics down during end of year 10 exam revision procrastination in the school hall, of putting it on a CD for my best friend to cheer her up (which, male readers, for a girl does often involve having a good cry) after a break up, doing the exact same thing for myself mere weeks later, I even went through, albeit only briefly, a phase of not being able to get to sleep without it. I especially love to listen on my iPod while sunbathing: I would thoroughly recommend this situation. I drift apart from my song, but we always come back together and then I feel terrible guilt that I’d neglected her. For me, she’s a timeless song, my love affair with Something Corporate has definitely ended but this song was always detached from the band. Other reasons I love this song: for once, I can sing along. I love to put my little heart and soul into a singing session (on my own, as I have been told I’m not allowed to sing in public, even on karaoke) and my poor memory doesn’t permit me to memorise very many songs, but that’s okay, because it makes those that I do more of a treasure. Also, the music is played by a piano rather than a band, and I love the piano. She’s quite simply a lovely song, a beautiful tune with enjoyable lyrics. Thank you for reading :o)

30 Days of Music is Over! feat. Sam Lewis

Sam Lewis is the tender heart of The July Days and an all-round very polite boy. One thing that has struck me most about Mr. Spencer’s blogathon over the last 30 days has been the honesty in choices of songs. For many of them I smirked at his choices for being a bit, well, poppy and stupid (see Britney Spears, Tenacious D). Yes, I’m fully aware that this is a very elitist attitude, but this is why I’ve enjoyed reading these blogs over the last month. These songs aren’t bad at all and have actually made me rethink about why I tend to have this blinkered prejudiced attitude to pop music. If I’ve learnt anything (and I like to think I have) there is such a thing as good pop music and that it is okay to like it whoever its done by. Which brings me to my choice of favourite song: Ex-Factor by Lauryn Hill. Lets make this clear: this isn’t my favourite song of all time. However, it definitely is up there in the list. I can vividly remember hearing this in the car on the way to school at the age of 10. I used to hate everything that got played because I wasn’t that interested in music and so nothing really grabbed me, but this song was different; I didn’t actually mind it. I then heard it randomly a couple of times throughout school, and it got to the point where I used to like it but could never admit it because Blink 182 was ‘the thing’ and carrying a skateboard meant that this sort of music was off limits. Being an insecure teenager, music taste meant everything and any signs of weakness would be exploited (not much change there mind…) Fast forward to university and, once again, this song popped up on a long car journey back to the Shire. This time it was different; I could be open about liking it without embarrassment. I actually bought this album from a charity shop for a quid the other day and this song has been pretty much on repeat ever since. I can finally be open about my unashamed love for it, and my gosh does it feel good. I guess that’s one of the reasons its one of my favourite songs; it’s the only song that’s stuck with me for 12 years and the one of the very few songs I have liked throughout my youth. If that’s not testament to a personal favourite song, I don’t know what is. So, like those old school tales of suppressed love like a García Márquez story, I can finally stand tall and proud and say I love this song. Without being accused of brown-nosing too much*, I’d like to think that Mr. Spencer’s blog for helping me recognise this and reminding me that sometimes, pop music can be fun and that you can like anything (within reason) and not feel the hot pangs of worry and anxiety that many know me for. Cheers Alex. *He is, but that’s alright. We love you too Sam!

30 Days of Music is Over! feat. Helen Shepherd

Helen Shepherd has various Google-related superpowers. She can see you right now. That sudden download of all your search history? It came from inside the house. I don’t know if you know, but Alex is actually quite a nice person*, when he isn’t forgetting my birthday. So nice in fact that he asked me if I’d like to write a short guest entry for his fabulous blog, about my favourite song. I said yes without thinking of the consequences of my actions, as ever, and so here I am mulling over what my favourite song is. This is the sort of question that usually makes me drop and roll, the horror of being judged as worthless and irrelevant is just too much to bear, and I never tend to impress when it comes to musical competitiveness. To work out what song I could suggest to be my favourite song, I turned to a process of elimination, walking through the forests of my youth to remember what once was. I remember when I lived for Slipknot’s first album, swearing I’d never love anything more. Then, I went through puberty and realised most people could understand my pain, so that was abandoned. I turned to my Last.fm, hoping for some answers, but there was not much to report. Yes, Turn Me On by Kevin Lyttle is perhaps my most adored, (second) most played song since 16th July 2009’s reset, but is it my number one definitive smash hit wonder? I’m not sure. Turn Me On has a specific context in my heart, and whilst I do love it, I think there is probably a song out there somewhere which has been intrinsic to my identity much longer. I checked all over for answers, under my desk, in old playlists, when suddenly like a bright yellow guitar falling from the sky, I clocked the song I could say that, perhaps, could be, the song I might be able to name as my favourite. I’ll give it a bit of context, that seems to be the gig in these sort of things: Diamonds and Pearls came out in 1991, when I had but two tender years to my name and, not that I remember this, but it was the album my brother got for Christmas that year and managed to appal my lovely, Catholic Nanny with (though retrospectively we realise she probably just found it hilarious). In those between years, I remember sitting in the car shouting along to the lyrics I now realise are completely inappropriate for such a young thing to be shouting. This song recalls it all: the house parties I’d insist on playing my (mostly terrible mix) CDs at, the singalongs at the bus stops of my glory years, going to see Prince at the O2 the day before I started university (not that he performed it, man of faith he is now). I admit, even the video has something so me about it, begging the questions am I like this because I love the song, or do I love the song because I’m like this? So, the song I think I will choose is Gett Off, by Prince. *Lies. All lies.

30 Days of Music is Over! feat. David Inkpen

David Inkpen is a polymath. A physicist, writer for Redbrick music, member of The July Days and infrequent blogger. Mr. Spencer has commissioned me to comment on my favourite song for his ever-pretentious 30 Days of Music fiasco. I did briefly consider doing the whole 30 days at the start of the month, perhaps with my own twist (I was thinking counting down all the non-prime numbers then the prime numbers: I’m a physicist so had to do something nerdy). Looking at the topics however such as “A song that makes you happy” and emotional things like that I passed as music does not seem to stir the same feelings in me as other people.* I look as music as more of an analytical thing, appreciating good composing, performance and the like. Not to say I haven’t got a chill down my spine when listening to music. It happened once. I think it was cold day. To that effect, I feel I should choose a “favourite” song based on compositional quality and not perhaps on how much I enjoy it. On the other hand, what does that portray me as? Some form of robotic musical scoring system which does not appreciate any human values attributed to songs? Perhaps. So no, I will not choose music on its musical nuances, nor the skill or subtlety of the artist in question, I will choose a song I like. But what is my favourite song? This is an impossible question I feel. To say out of the whole of music – THE WHOLE CABOODLE – that Song X by Artist Y is the thing I’ve most enjoyed ever is somewhat of a crazy concept. Must it be by your favourite artist (which then poses the same question with relation to artist)? I think not. And to narrow down one song seems crazy and imposes too great a limit for one to actually choose a song. So I will answer this question with not my favourite song**, but with one I enjoy, have enjoyed for a while and think I will appreciate for a good while to come. Smiling at Strangers on Trains by Million Dead is a song I’ve loved for a while and know very well as I have played it at acoustically at open mics probably too many times. With such fantastic similes as “you were a single red blood cell but I lost you in the knot of capillaries”, along with the original guitar lines that only Million Dead can provide. Frank Turner (of Frank Turner fame) delivers an ever passionate and angsty performance. I think his lyrics were perhaps the best and most poetic when he sang for Million Dead and it’s a real shame he grew up and became less serious. Have a listen, I hope you enjoy it. Mr. Inkpen adds: If it is a little too “heavy” for you people of a fragile demeanour then here is Mr. Turner doing a cover of himself, with only some swearing in the beginning.****Note: Mr Spencer had a similar discovery.**This is a cop-out. Wuss.***Those rockstars, eh?

30 Days of Music: #005

day 05 – a song that reminds you of someone TODAY: A guest blog from Imogen ‘lovely girlfriend’ Dale. Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights Alex is addicted to this song*. It’s been sung, listened to, and craved for by him more times than I can count. I think (my embarassing lack of music knowledge exposed) this was the first time I’d even heard of Kate Bush, and the first time I heard it was indeed sung by the lovely Alex Spencer. As his singing doesn’t quite compare to hers**, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this seemingly screechy and dull song. But I did! And I have continued to enjoy it every time I have heard it. In fact, I think I’ve even been known to sing it to him myself, and to myself, on my own, while procrastinating. What can I say, it’s catchy! *It has, after all, already been a star in this 30 Days of Music extravaganza!**The opinions expressed by Imogen Dale do not necessarily reflect those of Alex-Spencer.co.uk. Thankyou, Imogen! This short entry (costing me only £17.53) courtesy of Imogen having an exam tomorrow, and Alex having somewhere in the region of 15,000 words due over the next couple of days, and Alex pansying about when he writes anything.