Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Why I don't write music reviews anymore

As a teenager, I knew I wanted to be a music producer. I spent the vast majority of my free time messing about with guitars and cheap recording equipment - and I mean cheap, like tape players and microphones held together with electrical tape - and could happily listen to a song on repeat for hours on end in order to figure out exactly how certain noises and fluctuations were made (did I mention I was too poor to own a computer?). I left school with grades I wasn't altogether pleased with but which I deserved, given my total lack of commitment to my education beyond the music and English departments, and set off to university.

I studied music technology for almost a year before I realised I was not cut out to be a sound engineer. When your dreams cease to keep you awake at night with excitement and start to strangle you, it's time to wonder whether you made a mistake. How beautiful the 'production lab' was, with it's huge windows looking out over the sea. How peaceful the recording studios were, with their padded walls and endless bays of lights and switches. I could have happily lived there in the vocal booth. There were vending machines, so I wouldn't have starved.

The sad fact was, I wasn't very good at it. Or at least, I didn't have the same technical background as everyone else. Instead of going to college first and gaining something resembling skills, my high school had encouraged me to hop straight to Uni, at the ridiculous age of seventeen. I was the youngest there, I was one of only two females, and I was an introvert. This was not an issue for the classes I took to with gusto - editing, chopping, quantising, gazing at waveforms for hours at a time; the happiest I've ever been. However, quite frankly, I sucked at recording, my performance skills were terrible, and my head for basic equations is non-existant. You might as well ask a horse where to put that snare mic.

Towards the end of the year, I found a ridiculous excuse and quit. I decided that music was a hobby, and I should stick to what I knew - namely I should string sentences together for a living since I did it all day anyway. I'd like to stress at this point that I love writing, and that this is not a sad story. I began writing gig reviews and epic essays on the motives behind album construction and all the things I had learned during my brief spell at university. I started to realise that music reviews are depressingly formulaic once you've written several hundred. Relate the music to other music the reader may have/should have heard before - use an outlandish simile to inject humour - leave enough scope at the end to say how it could have been improved. No matter how many times I tried to change the way I wrote my reviews, I couldn't make them less technical. I get involved with the textures and the sounds, and I forget that I'm supposed to be saying in 300 words why this local three-piece should win the latest Battle of the Bands competition. It's something I can do, but I don't like doing, and after a few years, I stopped.

Every now and again I consider writing about all the musical discoveries people share with me every week, but then again, surely a tweet suffices? Or perhaps it doesn't? Either way, when people unfollow me for "spamming" them with tweets about DnB mixes and releases, I feel they are missing the point. Find joy where you can, and share it around - I just happen to feel that for my own purposes, actually showing people music is preferable to wrapping up the ideas of it in metaphors and giving it a score out of ten. I in no way mean to disrespect music reviewers by saying this, some are more than excellent. This is just my opinion.

And that's why I don't write music reviews any more.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Shinybiscuit's Summer Style Tips

It's the middle bit of the year when everything's a bit warmer but it should be hotter than this, and when it is hot it's worryingly hot because it should be colder, so naturally there is a need for different fashions and whatnot. Being the style icon that I am - wearer of the timeless jeans-and-tshirt-combo for nearly 24 years now - I have decided to share with you some of my tips to keep BANG ON TREND. BANG.





Clothes are really good, because they stop branches and nettles from scratching and itching you, and they also give you something to talk about at parties when you don't really care what the other person is saying. There are two types of clothes - tops and bottoms. Generally it's nice to make sure these don't match, otherwise you end up looking like one of those 'what-paint-shall-I-buy' bookmarks, but really it's up to you. It doesn't really matter at the end of the day. I like to adorn my body coverings with an assortment of cat hairs and accidental torn holes, for an authentic just-got-off-the-megabus look. When the weather is warmer you don't have to wear a jumper or a jacket, so that T-shirt you bought for £25 even though you really shouldn't can get a really good airing. That's one of the main reasons summer is the best.


Generally, it's advisable to wear shoes that enable you to walk distances in, given that this is their only job. Some shoes are nicer than other shoes, but really it's a matter of taste. I tend to favour the "scruffy too-old-to-wear-skate-trainers" trainer, because I feel that running trainers are the ugliest things ever created by man (including sea mines and Pete Burns) and should not be worn outside of their sporting territories. High-heeled shoes are obviously mental, but they look quite nice, so I'd suggest wearing these at special occasions where walking isn't really necessary, like meals or watching the new series of Curb (!!!!!!!!!!) Flip flops should only ever be worn on beaches, on holiday or when it is 30+ degrees outside. If you are wearing flip flops and a cardigan (or an umbrella, as somebody wisely pointed out) you are doing it wrong.


Summer is an excellent time for sad things to happen, because you can blame red crying eyes on hayfever. "Oh that bloody tree pollen!" you can shout, safe in the knowledge that people will leave you alone and offer you anti-histamines instead of prodding you to talk about things. You are also able to cover up your eyes with sunglasses, which are my favourite accessories because they can make you look like Rose West or the Chanel lady.


Get rosy cheeks by smiling and laughing a lot. Videos and pictures of funny things will help this along - and if you end up crying from laughing too much, you can use the tips for eyes to avert any unwanted attention.


Lipsticks are fun, but they only last for 3.6 minutes before needing to be re-applied, so make sure you do all your partying or meeting and greeting in this window of time. Re-applying gives you another 3.6 minutes, but it never looks quite as good as when you put it on the first time, so I'd advise either just using lip balm which you can't see anyway, or just not bothering because they are only lips.


Summer can be a difficult time for hair. My hair likes to do impressions of David Bellamy when it's a bit humid outside, and this isn't ideal. Doing your hair up in a one-bobble bun and ignoring it for the rest of the day takes care of unwanted Head Topiary Effects, while also freeing up loads of mirror time to worry about why eyebrows exist. Keeping your hair down is a risky choice, and although i wouldn't advice it, I wish you all the best with it.


Bite them. Don't bite them. Paint them different colours or pretend they don't exist. I was once told by a man I know that he has never once looked at anybody's nails. While this might be a bit of an exaggeration, it might be true, and that means if you want to make them look nice, do it for yourself. In fact, use that advice for all of the things above. Summer is not a great time for gloves, which is a shame as I quite like them.

If you have any more tips, please feel free to add them.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Bus - A Short Story by Yours Truly

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

News of the World will never be sorry enough.

As I was saying to a friend of mine earlier today, I sometimes avoid talking about serious current affairs because I feel it alienates those who like to listen to me prattle on about music and adverts and food. Sometimes, however, certain things require real and uninterrupted attention.

Millie Dowler's phone hacked by NOTW - story here

The thing is, none of us are shocked. Not really, if you think about it. We know what Newscorp are capable of. Doesn't this scare you? That the company in charge of the majority of our news publications has acted in this heinous way, and none of us are truly surprised? Outraged, yes. Disgusted, certainly. But not one of us can say we are totally shocked to the core.

This is despicable. I thought I was already completely dissolutioned by the press (only a year after graduating as a Journalist, might I add, which is terribly sad in itself).

Something more needs to be done than mis-directed or careless Twitter rage - as useful and rally-calling as it is. Twitter will become the message board of the Lefties if we're not careful, and all credibility will be lost. People will forget what they have done, dismiss us as bawling hand-wringers and carry on buying the Sun and the NOTW for their bikini-clad cover stories and pretend none of this ever mattered.

There needs to be some action. Make like Merseyside and BOYCOTT. Tell all your friends. This cannot continue.
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