Sensations In The Dark (at the Guardian)

Here’s a clip for you today if you miss there being people visible behind the music you listen to. It’s a performance of the song Sensations In The Dark by Gruff Rhys, formerly (?) frontman, singer and guitarist in Welsh psychedelic pop five-piece Super Furry Animals. (The band’s currently on hiatus as members pursue their own various and delightfully good side projects, but never say never!)

I cannot explain how fond I am of this video, although I will try! The entire concept of the album this track is on, Gruff’s 2011 third solo album Hotel Shampoo, is a wonderful mishmash of past, present and various mediums of storytelling. It began as a problem some of us may have had as well, in one form or the other: too many half-used, old bottles of complementary shower products, little souvenirs of our holidaying lives spilling over onto the racks of our bathrooms.

We still have, I’m embarrassed to say, shower gel and shampoo bottles from trips taken in 2015, the dates on the back of the containers consolidate our shame, but Gruff’s a touring musician! Starting in 1995 with Super Furries, touring around UK and the world, staying at a new hotel every day of the week, it was certainly an exciting experience for Gruff, and like many of us, he kept souvenirs, not imagining this wonderful experience could last. Trouble is, success and musicianship dogged poor Gruff and so, fifteen years later, he found himself facing boxes of old disposable shampoo bottles filling up the house, five hundred and sixty seven (567) of them to be exact.

There’s no real reason why we keep ours, and it’s probably a good idea to chuck them out soon, but it wouldn’t be Gruff Rhys if he’d dealt with the problem in such an anodyne way!

Going through the bottles and shower caps in his fifteen-year old collection, Gruff found that the containers brought back memories, hotel names, venues, gigs they’d played and states of mind: the excitement of being a new band on the scene, the highs, the lows, America, etc. (He didn’t state these examples, but that’s what I imagine anyway…)

Gruff began writing songs about the journeys and moments that those shampoo bottles had been present in, and about the various memories and what they’d brought back to him. All of that became the album Hotel Shampoo. And what of the shampoo bottles themselves? Gruff took a night to put them all together to make an actual hotel by gluing together the containers in an art installation at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. He then spent the night in that hotel of memories of his making.

Here’s him making Hotel Shampoo.

The song Sensations In The Dark itself, as Gruff says in his performance for the Guardian, is about the time when he was younger and growing up in his hometown of Bethesda in western North Wales, and used to tune into Dublin’s late night music radio stations across the sea, which were closer to his than the London stations, literally the sensation of discovering music after dark.

What I love about this performance? Where do I begin.

First, I love just how simplistic the arrangement of this performance is and yet it sounds so good! I have no idea how a simple acoustic guitar can sound so full, but it’s worked for Gruff for nigh 30 years now so there’s gotta be something to it.

Then there’s that lovely, understated falsetto with the slightest vibrato. It’s also worth mentioning how well Gruff understands the quality of his own voice (texture? Timbre? A magazine that interviewed SFA in the 90s once described him as “cello-voiced”, whatever that means), and uses that to his advantage. His music is written to be complemented by a sweet, soft voice, which is exactly what he possesses.

Gruff Rhys is one of the finer examples of greatness in simplicity. A lot of his ideas are really simple, as he lays bare here, Sensations In The Dark is just three major chords, but it’s the way Gruff puts together the whole song over it that reveals his incredible knack for writing a great pop tune. Time after time, his great pop sensibilities, indeed musical sensibilities, deliver another smooth-wine easily listenable tune with clever vocal melodies that sound unmistakably Gruff Rhys. I’m always amazed by it.

Then there’s just the general showmanship on display here. Gruff has a pretty sharp wit (that people don’t really give him credit for, as opposed to say, a Gallagher) and with the story behind the song, it really makes for a memorable performance.

On the whole, it’s up there with some of my favourite videos. Gruff’s supposedly in the last stages of mixing together a new solo album, and it’s meant to finally bring back the electric guitars, notably missing from this (and subsequent) record, and which I’m definitely looking forward to hearing. It might just be one of the highlights of my 2021.

Some New Punk For You

As you may know, my constant blathering on about music at impossible hours of the day and for impossible lengths of time has landed me in the only logical place I could end up in: the local radio station doing a music show. Then there was a second music show because I listened to too much music. Then the fact that an hour of playing music didn’t always do music appreciation the full justice it deserved, which culminated in me being responsible for updating and elaborating on our weekly music show’s playlists afterwords in longform on the show’s blog, over at whatthepunkcfrc.wordpress.com. Sometimes I get excited about a week’s playlist and want to share it with you too (new music ahoy!)

So here’s the latest article I’ve written for the radio music blog, and it’s all about experimental, psychedelic, indie, synth-y and hardcore punk.


We here at What The Punk?! try and dig up the best, weirdest, snottiest, sneakiest and most spaced out punk you will find, and this chilly month, we bring you this collection of punktastic snuggles to fill your thoughts and keep you warm.We here at What The Punk?! try and dig up the best, weirdest, snottiest, sneakiest and most spaced out punk you will find, and this chilly month, we bring you this collection of punktastic snuggles to fill your thoughts and keep you warm.

(I’m sorry, sometimes the music we have is pretty diverse and impossible to capture in a single opening sentence. I try, but sometimes even I don’t know what I’ve just written. Read on. There’s great music to follow.)

Also, as a note, the WordPress is crashing because of the inhuman amount of embeds I attempt to squeeze into a single document. WordPress itself is ridiculously loaded as it is. I’ll be including links to the musicians we played on their Bandcamp pages where you can listen to their music, browse through their discographies and merchandise and purchase music or merch from them directly. I’ll only be embedding artists whose music is not on the Spotify playlist we’ve included, but do give them a full listen on their sites if you like them!

21 December, 2020:

We played Mitcham, UK-based queer shoegazy grunge quartet Screaming Toenail, who describe themselves as “sassy, decolonial, queer, punk”. Their album Growth is a must-listen! (“Dedicated to anyone resisting colonial heterosexual bullshit.”, as their Bandcamp page says.)
Screaming Toenail – Divide and Conquer

Also on this set was Die! Die! Die!, the post-punk, post-hardcore trio hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, whose release from October this year we listened to, called I Seek Misery. Back in 2008, Die! Die! Die! had released a two-track album called Sideways, Here We Come (a play on The Smiths’ final studio release, Strangeways Here We Come, as directly referenced in the band’s promotional images), whose music video was very stylistically remnant of Welsh artist Peter Fowler’s distinct lo-fi scrapbook style art, and particularly reminds me of the music video he made for the Super Furry Animals’ song Presidential Suite off their 2001 DVD-album release, Rings Around The World.
(As the Super Furry Animals, having moved from Alan McGee’s indie label Creation Records (known for championing bands like My Bloody Valentine, Oasis, SFA themselves, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Bob Mould) to the major label Epic Records, had access to a greater budget for the first time, they opted to make the entire album a DVD-first release, which meant music videos for each of the 13 songs: a tall order on any budget, just ask Gorillaz this year!)

See for yourself, here’s Die! Die! Die!

Sideways, Here We Come

And here’s the music video for Presidential Suite.

The acclaimed song that also features the Velvet Underground’s John Cale.

Die! Die? Die! – I Seek Misery

We dipped into the Atlanta, GA punk scene from the mid 2000s, listening to one of Peach State’s leading punk groups, Carbonas. Their brand of snotty, snarky punk throws back to the 1970s, but also features delightfully catchy vocals and a knack for writing good melody. We listened to their 2007 song Phone Booth, from their self-titled album Carbonas.
We also had music from Montpellier, France’s high-energy garage punk quartet Les Lullies, and a Calgary, Alberta based fuzzy punk band who are fast becoming a favourite of this show, Self-Cut Bangs. We heard their rather more alternative song Perfect Posture, off their self-titled debut album.
Carbonas – Phone Booth
Les Lullies – Mourir d’Ennui
Self-Cut Bangs – Perfect Posture

Continuing in the alternative vein, we had some indie music from South Korean band Billy Carter. Taken from their second album (I was about to say “sophomore release” but I’ve learned of late that thanks in no small part to radio presenters overusing the phrase, it’s actually becoming quite annoying to hear in the music world. Thanks Shaun Keaveny… (great guy, just you know. One of the first 6Music presenters to spring to mind!) How do we stop repeating ourselves when we talk of nothing but music day in and day out!?)

Taken from their second album Don’t Push Me, the band straight away tackles heavier themes than their bright debut double EPs The Red and The Yellow which were critically acclaimed and nominated for multiple music awards in South Korea. “The album begins with ‘Invisible Monster’, which contains a strong will to overcome the traumas caused by abuses”, they say, and that’s the song we listened to.
Billy Carter – Invisible Monster

We dug into some more psychedelic punk as well, listening to psychedelic synth punk band NOTS from Memphis, Tennessee. If echoed spoken word vocals over assured basslines are your thing (basically, new wave), you’ll love this band. We also had an anthology release pop up on our radar, as industrial art-punks Dow Jones and the Industrials put together their releases from 1979 to 1981, and in similar vein, we played industrial synth punk pioneers Chrome.
Dow Jones and the Industrials – Can’t Stand the Midwest
NOTS – Half-Painted House
Chrome – Heartbeat

We had new psychedelic punk from Australian band Eggy and some very specifically accusatory indie punk from Melbourne female quartet Parsnip (the song’s called Crossword Cheater), and shooter further across the Tasman, In My Mouth by Auckland, New Zealand post punks Wax Chattels.
Eggy – Johnny Whoop
Parsnip – Crossword Cheater
Wax Chattels – In my Mouth

We at this radio station are big fans of Bandcamp (if you couldn’t guess from the ten or so Bandcamp links throughout this article), not only for championing music in an ethical way that doesn’t shortchange artists (once again, I’ll point you to this article), but as a platform that is also constantly striving to discover and promote the best music that musicians on the platform are making. From their Best Punk of 2020 feature article, we picked some of our favourites, albeit in step with all the limitations that come with having only an hour on radio…

New York band Straw Man Army won us with their noisy lo-fi punk and the lyric “That aching in your mouth is just the presence of a hook” on their song about genocide, Option Despair. We also heard Arrival.

We also had British punks Shopping with their indie brand of catchy, synthy punk and the delightfully sneery and irreverent Sniffany and the Nits, with their blinder of a song Horse Girl.
Shopping – Trust In Us

Dressed fully in nurse garb, Sniffany and the Nits bring absolute manic energy to their music—both on record and live.

We also heard from Aussie punks Cold Meat, Missouri’s Fried E/M and Columbian punk from Muro.
Cold Meat – Industry Sleaze
Fried E/M – Peace and Love
Muro – Fantasia del Progreso

Find the playlist for the show below.

Quarterlife Rants

Don’t read it, it’s a rant. If you want to read a rant, it has some cool stuff about paper phones as a perk.

Incoming rants… duck!

A lot of you may know, or have an inkling based on everything that goes on on this blog, that design is not insignificant in my life, whether it’s good design or bad being a separate matter. I like design but fear I’d get genuinely bored if that was all I had to do in life, but wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my whole life behind a desk coding…

We found a compromise, and such a good one that I hate to use the word ‘compromise’ on it: I found an entire interdisciplinary field out there that combined the two aspects, and many more disciplines, but was way more than the sum of the whole: human-computer interaction. The area that concerns how people use, work with, and understand technology of any sort. From interfaces to entire new technologies, webpage layouts to answering “how many new features can a phone introduce before users start throwing their phones against the wall screaming and check into the nearest isolation ward?” (although admittedly, today with COVID and everything, that question could just mean a tracing app alert…), everything to do with people using technology is the realm of human computer interaction.

Naturally then, it checks into all the different components that rule people, and technology: it’s a bit of computer science, naturally!; good design, psychology to know people better, linguistics, for phones to be able to talk to people better, you can see how many different angles this can bring in!

A professor I knew of spent years building technology that worked with hand gestures, but was on paper. No screens, and it wasn’t a phone. It was very cool. He brought the concept of a computer out into the real world, and built something he called the paper Windows. The year was 2004. It was more of a proof of concept admittedly, it made use of projectors, but that’s the spirit of HCI, anyway. How do humans interact with technology, and how can they?
(Spoiler, e-ink technology was definitely a hit with him. His next invention? The paper phone! He also made the first foldable, organic phone that he wrapped around his wrist, a concept I see Samsung eventually learned of.)

This video is from 2004. If you couldn’t believe it before, surely the 140 px gives it away?

So it’s an extremely interesting field, and contrary to what the above may make you think, it’s not just restricted to novelty labs tucked into universities on exclusive papers marked ‘Academic research only’, but one major component of it, user interface and experience design, is a pretty well known concept.

The only trouble in my eyes is that knowledge about it both is and isn’t. User experience (UX) involves researching about the people who will use your product, designing your product with those people, good design principles, and accessibility (ideally, but practically as I’m seeing it, only where budget permits and a larger proportion of users exist) in mind.

Lots of workshops litter the internet that will teach you how to make your first wireframe (a mock snapshot of your website/app’s final look, particularly if it’s a digital product you’re building), what goes into user research, and an emphasis on how badly good design is needed (My mother spent a month trying to click a button on Amazon’s website for a return to no avail. It’s genuinely one of the worst websites in the world. I’ve seen the button).

Perhaps for exactly that reason, there’s a lot of basic knowledge about it out there, but not the decisive expert’s eye. I’ve been trying to make something decent out of what I know for a couple of years now. It’s pretty basic. More importantly, it’s nowhere near enough. (I did warn you in line 1 this was a rant. Sure I deviated to give you a lecture on one of my interests on the way, but this remains at heart, a rant. I don’t have to be right about what I’m saying to rant.) University courses are all about the software development, maybe some about the theory, but in the rigour of more “mainstream” computer science courses, I’d honestly just forgotten for almost a year that I was really interested in HCI, that that was what I wanted to do. Getting caught up in the thick of it, I spent a lot of last year fretting about my strengths and weaknesses, and that I couldn’t find an interest within my own field. It wasn’t until I came across our course calendar this year that I remembered HCI was a thing. My thing.

I’m taking the HCI course next semester, and I have a course on UX next year. I’m super excited about them. But the fact that in all four years, I could only find those two courses was a bit of a downer. I know I’m an undergrad. We don’t specialise. But I get to see my friends in specific game design courses in second year itself, I get to see them in specialised software development streams that focus on the ins and outs of the software process. I get to wait till third year to take one course a year hereon that’s relevant to me.

It would be helpful to actually get to go into the thing I think I like and figure out if I really like it practically, or not. (Computer science is a great field to go into theoretically. The courses are fun, the things you can do with it are mindblowingly incredible. You kinda forget that once you leave that institution of possibilities for a real-world job in computing with real-world expectations and responsibilities. It can also be a drag.) I’d like to learn as early on as possible whether I’ve wasted the last two years gearing towards something I found out was actually only just okay. After all, as no matter how confident you sound in an application, you can’t possibly know whether you like what you think you like, from having done a 7-day free trial (okay, not free) on training wheels.

Still, all of that would be okay if the expectations matched the reality. Most computing students at the same level won’t have too much experience with fields like these that are still only in the process of being formalised, except for a few notable institutions (data science I think is another similar field, where most colleges won’t have specialised studies, but will sort of try and beef you up with your math and stats instead). The trouble is, the outside world still has such high expectations of anyone trying for human computer interaction and I just find myself thinking… how on earth do you ever fill your vacancies? You haven’t described a college grad, no sir. The entire planet is collectively still trying to figure out what interaction really entails and you’ve decided who the ideal candidate is? It’s also always candidate this, candidate that; anything you’ve ever done just has to be resume-ready, or it’s a waste.

I’m honestly quite proud of the trifle projects I’ve done. I think they look good. I think they were thought through. I also know that they’ll never be enough. (I just applied to internships to a place that had both HCI and software development postings, and I got passed through to a stage 2 for the development one, and flat out rejected for the HCI one, which for no real reason makes me so mad because I know if they asked me about the development position, I’d hecking say yes because why wouldn’t I, and then I get more dev experience and no HCI experience, and that puts me in a stronger position to apply as a developer in the future, and that means I get more dev projects and the HCI thing looks weak in comparison and gets pushed to the bottom again, until we’re at that embarrassing position in life where about five years later, I’ll rediscover this blog and go, “oh my goodness! I’d completely forgotten I wanted to do something in HCI!” and well, quarterlife crisis will hit early my friends.)

And I guess that was the central fire of this rant. I hate that I, inadvertently and circumstantially, will likely be heading towards something I’m only meh about, because I have too many years of lifeblood left in me to do something I’m meh about. And it looks like quarterlife crisis will come down to staging an intervention and answering some pretty touchy questions, and what makes me mad is I thought I’d already asked me those questions and got the answers. I could ask them today and still get the same answers. But it seems that what you say, even to yourself, can differ from what you do.

Is 20 too early for a quarterlife crisis?

(Yes, I could’ve ranted to my mum, but it’s 4 AM and she’s sleeping, besides, she’s heard this all before and is sick of it and I did promise you more writing. Relish in the dramatic anguish.

[Exit stage left]

[Lights fade]

(Trust me, I know what I’m doing, I’m in the playwriting course this year.)

How Music Streaming (Doesn’t) Work

A little something I wrote this week for the radio show I do’s blog

Earlier today, I was talking to someone about music (as I am wont to do, seeing as how my inability to shut up about it has landed me a not-temporary spot on a music radio show), and the conversation invariably turned to Spotify. How convenient streaming services have made listening to music for us, no need to queue up in long lines outside record stores, no reason to go out and buy singles, or indeed listen to an entire album… or even music by a single artist! Spotify, a music streaming service perhaps best known for its sleep playlist, has been garnering something of a more sinister reputation over the last decade… and yes, it’s not all rosy with those million-subscriber playlists either. Let’s dive in.

Not here, not yet! Hear this first.
Photo by Matthias Groeneveld on Pexels.com

It’s been whispered in questioning tones in hushed corners for a long time, but many people, particularly casual listeners are only beginning to become aware that Spotify has some pretty unethical practices, especially when it comes to their music services. While more vocal voices have been criticising Spotify in the last five years, some perhaps forever, pulling their music from their platforms, the unfair ways in which Spotify and other music streaming services really shortchange artists has become way a much better covered phenomenon this year, when the arrival of a global, contagious virus meant that live events, with their crowds, their shouts, and almost all of a professional musician’s income, disappeared.

Miss this yet?
Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

Maybe you’ve been hearing about the campaigns in the UK (Broken Record) and elsewhere (Justice At Spotify by the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers) regarding how little Spotify pays artists per stream– well under 0.1 cents (0.004 cents = 0.00004 dollars). If you’re a premium subscriber, also know that your subscription fee does not go to the artists you’re listening to. It goes into a big pot that then distributes it to whoever has the most streams overall for that month (called the pro-rata model) which means you’re not paying for the music that you’re listening to. You’re paying for multi-millionaire chart toppers only, regardless of whether or not you listen to them.

Spotify has repeatedly ignored musician campaigns for fair pay through a system that has almost entirely replaced physical music copies’ sales (CDs, vinyls, digital albums)—previously their largest source of income.  To show you what a large proportion of their earnings used to come from album sales, here’s some maths that people have done: on the strength of album sales alone, the Beatles were able to retire completely from touring. With today’s streaming models, they’d be touring till the end of their lives. Ever wonder why your parents/grandparents could go see great bands for $8? Even with inflation, that’s because album sales were covering artists! Note that this applies to all streaming platforms, your Apple, Deezer, Tidal, YouTube etc. but here’s why I’m calling Spotify out specifically.

Spotify were asked if they had a response to the various campaigns earlier this year in an interview their CEO Daniel Ek did with MusicAlly, and his response was a smug, twisted version of “yeah well that’s life, adapt or die bitches, I still make $4 billion a year” (he put the responsibility on musicians, telling them to “engage more regularly” and release music monthly like goddamned machines and called their art “content” in the process, which pissed off a LOT of people, but Spotify didn’t care too much)

They’ve been accused of ACTUAL sketchy practices like creating fake musician profiles and putting their AI-generated songs (copyrights owned entirely by Spotify) on their most popular playlists in a complete cash generation move. They’re now allowing a podcasting platform they own called Anchor to use any music that is on Spotify completely royalty-free in their podcasts, and I don’t know how that’s legal. For reference, no recorded medium can include recorded music/music that someone else holds the rights to, without the permission of the owners (artists and/or labels) and must pay a royalty fee to use them. Radio stations navigated lengthy laws before winning the right to be issued blanket licenses to play any music (ours are annually renewable). It’s not all that simple. But because streaming is so new, legal-wise, there aren’t enough laws regulating them, allowing streaming giants to act outside of all established norms for music publishing. (Want to read a legal headache? Read about the legal history of music sampling. Find out how much the Beastie Boys are still paying, 40 years later, for the samples used on their album Paul’s Boutique). This period is akin to the 7-day free trial stage of any product, except it’s been 12 years and big middle men companies that have nothing to do with the production of music are reaping big rewards at the expense of artists—and the health of the future of music.

The “health” of music, you ask? Apart from ensuring that music can be a viable career and that people from all backgrounds (economic, social, etc.) are able to take a stab at a music career, and not just well-off hobbyists, one fear with the playlist-obsessed, mood-categorising Spotify, is that musical diversity could well suffer. At the moment, the most popular Spotify playlists, and consequently the artists most benefitting from Spotify are those that fit a certain downbeat, indie vibe, that fit into the sleep playlists and the mood n’ chill playlists. In a model already so heavily pitted against them, a service used by millions of not billions that prefers a certain kind of music could weed out all other genres of very good musicians (speaking as a punk show, we definitely don’t fit the conventional sleep-time vibe! Although, I do know people to sleep like babies through thrash metal… hmmmm).

I could go on, and I wouldn’t be the only one. Many artists have spoken out against them, some pretty major artists too, like Radiohead, Taylor Swift, to name a few, have pulled their music from Spotify in the past. Here’s Beck talking about how unimaginably little Spotify pays. The founder of the Broken Record campaign I mentioned earlier is guitarist from English post-Britpop band Gomez, Mr. Tom Gray.

All these movements haven’t had no effect. Awareness of these practices is spreading, and in the UK, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has launched an inquiry into the effects that streaming has had on musicians’ lives. They’re collecting evidence right now, so if you are in the UK, musician or not, you can give your evidence to them now!

Now you ask, is my very listening to music illegal now? Can I still use Spotify?

Well, you certainly can, and I wouldn’t judge you for it. My recommendation is to use Spotify the way you’d use radio: to discover music you’ll love. Then go out and support music that you like, if you can! If buying albums doesn’t work for you, the music industry has adapted well: buy their merch! Oh, and if you’d like to listen on platforms that not only let you listen but also fairly support artists? Try Bandcamp, or a few newer streaming sites (using a User-Centric model, which pays your fee only to musicians you’re listening to) like Sonstream or Resonate.

Chocolate Or Crackers?

It’s officially holiday season! And for an expat like me (is that what I can myself?), it’s officially Schrödinger time. (It’s holiday season, but it’s also not.)

It’s Diwali this week, which means for the first time since lockdown began, we’ve had to clean the house out, and by “we”, I mean “not me”, because as I’ve discovered over socially distant (over 16,000 km and very responsible), time-zone factored online school, relaxing in the morning after a night long of school by washing windows is quite the way to wind down.

How much, you ask? So much that I’ve managed to break the spray-pump bottle we used to water the plants in little over a month washing windows. Plastic is a scam.

I’ve also found it pretty amusing to sing an old song by actor, comedian and musician George Formby, a Lancastrian Englishman who rose to fame in the 1930s and ’40s for his comedic morale boosting acts and wartime films in Britain. His cheeky sense of humour is on full display in this song, called When I’m Cleaning Windows (sometimes called The Window Cleaner).

The song, as performed in one of his films.

Fun fact: his lighthearted but sometimes risqué lyrics had him well banned by the BBC, who at the time were lead by moral strongman and man-who-made-frowning-accessible-to-the-masses, John Reith.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg
Man of the people, or rather, the collective frown of the people poured into one man, Lord John Reith.

(Note that I’m not doing the man ugly here. There genuinely isn’t a picture in the public domain of him actually smiling.)

Reith, who considered his role as Director of the BBC to be that of defender of public morality, famously refused to play Formby on the radio declaring, “If the public wants to listen to Formby singing his disgusting little ditty, they’ll have to be content to hear it in the cinemas, not over the nation’s airwaves”.

But Formby soon put an end to that: the royal family counted themselves as fans of his work!

61 George Formby Videos and HD Footage - Getty Images
Who’s laughing now, Lord Reith?

Either way, like everything else this lockdown, the window washing isn’t going great. They’re stubborn windows that won’t stay clean for long, making me feel like a smoker who’s decided to give up the fag: I’ll just clean these windows one last time, and then I’m done for three years, one last cigarette, just one more clean out tomorrow… but they’re dirty again!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 79ca30da-6c2f-4f10-bed0-f3bac09e4ad8.jpeg
For anyone keeping tabs, it’s these very same windows from 3+ years ago. Mmmm, read all about them!

Rounding up other things in the house that should’ve been thrown out years ago (I found mint chocolates from 2016), we found an old box of mini-fireworks we didn’t know we had, and taking things a little further, my grandparents weren’t even sure were fireworks at all. Small, triangular, squished up, or circular and similar: crackers or chocolates?

Which brings us to the absurd spot we’re in now. Chocolates or firecrackers? I wish I could put it out to the people to decide. Unfortunately, they’re gone. Someone’s eaten them.

Just kidding.

Don't Eat That: Sheneman, Drew: 9781101997291: Books - Amazon.ca

Chocolate?

It’s officially holiday season! And for an expat like me (is that what I can myself?), it’s officially Schrödinger time. (It’s holiday season, but it’s also not.)

It’s Diwali this week, which means for the first time since lockdown began, we’ve had to clean the house out, and by “we”, I mean “not me”, because as I’ve discovered over socially distant (over 16,000 km and very responsible), time-zone factored online school, relaxing in the morning after a night long of school by washing windows is quite the way to wind down.

How much, you ask? So much that I’ve managed to break the spray-pump bottle we used to water the plants in little over a month washing windows. Plastic is a scam.

I’ve also found it pretty amusing to sing an old song by actor, comedian and musician George Formby, a Lancastrian Englishman who rose to fame in the 1930s and ’40s for his comedic morale boosting acts and wartime films in Britain. His cheeky sense of humour is on full display in this song, called When I’m Cleaning Windows (sometimes called The Window Cleaner). The song, as performed in one of his films.

The song, as performed in one of his films.

Fun fact: his lighthearted but sometimes risqué lyrics had him well banned by the BBC, who at the time were lead by moral strongman and man-who-made-frowning-accessible-to-the-masses, John Reith.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg
Man of the people, or rather, the collective frown of the people poured into one man, Lord John Reith.

(Note that I’m not doing the man ugly here. There genuinely isn’t a picture in the public domain of him actually smiling.)

Reith, who considered his role as Director of the BBC to be that of defender of public morality, famously refused to play Formby on the radio declaring, “If the public wants to listen to Formby singing his disgusting little ditty, they’ll have to be content to hear it in the cinemas, not over the nation’s airwaves”.

But Formby soon put an end to that: the royal family counted themselves as fans of his work!

61 George Formby Videos and HD Footage - Getty Images
Who’s laughing now, Lord Reith?

Either way, like everything else this lockdown, the window washing isn’t going great. They’re stubborn windows that won’t stay clean for long, making me feel like a smoker who’s decided to give up the fag: I’ll just clean these windows one last time, and then I’m done for three years, one last cigarette, just one more clean out tomorrow… but they’re dirty again!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 79ca30da-6c2f-4f10-bed0-f3bac09e4ad8.jpeg
For anyone keeping tabs, it’s these very same windows from 3+ years ago. Mmmm, read all about them!

Rounding up other things in the house that should’ve been thrown out years ago (I found mint chocolates from 2016), we found an old box of mini-fireworks we didn’t know we had, and taking things a little further, my grandparents weren’t even sure were fireworks at all. Small, triangular, squished up, or circular and similar: crackers or chocolates?

Which brings us to the absurd spot we’re in now. Chocolates or firecrackers? I wish I could put it out to the people to decide. Unfortunately, they’re gone. Someone’s eaten them.

Just kidding.

Don't Eat That: Sheneman, Drew: 9781101997291: Books - Amazon.ca

Tiptoeing In And Shutting The Door

… now settle down, nice and comfy, receiver of this aftermath of a digital pen.

I’m thinking about making this the place I come back to to rant and cry about everything (instead of what? Well, I’m embarrassed to say… Tumblr. Don’t tell anyone. They have really good archived 90’s rock and punk gig photos and interviews. And some really weird people).

I miss just writing stuff without needing it to catch the eye of a target audience and all that, digestible bites if you will. I miss being able to turn the mess of day-to-day adolescent-but-toddler life into something mildly humorous (particularly now, during lockdown!), and of course, getting back into nichely British sports that for some odd reason, didn’t catch on in Canada in spite of how we’d sometimes refer to ourselves as discount Brits who are nice.

Either way, with the world around being nigh unrecognisable to someone from 2019, trust, dear reader, that I am the same, for even today as I write this, I am procrastinating on taking a midterm and it’s past midnight.

Okay, so maybe not entirely the same. Asynchronous lockdown life has spoiled me.

But as I set off to get this midterm over with, I’ll just say, it’s been nice to brush feet on this black carpet of a blog background I’d decided was ideal a good few uninformed years ago. I hope I come back to it more often.

How Does Netflix’s Streaming Model Differ From Spotify’s?

We hear of musicians being paid less than scraps thanks to the uniquely monstrous revenue models of streaming services like Spotify, Apple, YouTube, etc. Somehow, film and TV have not only survived in the meanwhile, but are also thriving off being exclusively on streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu. What’s the difference?

Music & Productivity. How Listening Can Make You More Productive
Credits: the Internet

Video streaming platforms employ a vastly different revenue model to music streaming, in which creators have a vocal say in how much they would lease shows to Netflix for.
It’s not an “$x per stream” model. Money that comes in from subscriptions goes directly to content creators, keeps them on the service, keeps them on good terms with streaming, and ultimately has proved so successful that platforms have branched into producing their own shows.

On the other hand, music streaming sites spend the money paying off advertising and record labels, and artists themselves very seldom have a say in the royalty rates they receive. Payout models often calculate an artist’s streams as a fraction of all streams on the service (for example, the number of streams generated by Artist X on Spotify, divided by the total number of streams by all artists on Spotify). Obviously, the biggest names in music dominate streaming too, and get the largest cut of royalties. This means most of your subscription fee is going to go to an artist you don’t even listen to.

The results are disastrous outcomes for smaller, independent artists, and payouts of well under a single cent per stream. On many platforms, there is a threshold number of streams to rack up before there is any payout at all. 

With the royalty rates for artists being anywhere between £0.0003 and £0.0050, many moderately successful independent artists (those who self-publish or are on an independent label, and sell out a few thousand tickets for a show) report anywhere between £3 and £12 from over thousands of streams, but no more.

While streaming in video content has created more revenue and audience for show and movie creators, in music, it is leading to growing backlash over decisions that don’t seem to keep artists in mind. Add to that a few shady reports of non-existent “artists” belonging to Spotify having high numbers of streams, yet no label contracts, a handful of songs and no tours, to directly generate unshared revenue for the company, and it certainly isn’t helping streaming companies’ image as faceless bureaucrats making decisions that are solely driven by motives of money, and not music promotion. Artists are forced to essentially cut music sales entirely out of their revenue, even as digital and streamed music continue to become the most popular forms of music, with vinyl close behind, but digital and CD sales left far, far behind.

The various challenges faced by the music industry have only been amplified since lockdown began and large gatherings, notably including gigs in pubs, concerts hall performances and music festivals cancelled. In effect, a performing musician’s only source of income, touring, and the selling of merchandise at a show, dried up entirely.

Tom Gray, a producer and former musician, has been documenting and advocating for change in the nature of streaming payouts since March this year on Twitter, under the hashtag BrokenRecord. Related hashtags to take a look at regarding the workings of streaming include FixStreaming, and more generally, KeepMusicAlive.

A 2015 article in TechCrunch noted that the differences in streaming models could be the difference between a thriving industry and a struggling one.

Could things change for the music industry if someone adopted a Netflix-like model for music? A model that does away with “fraction per stream” and sets out fair payout rates, acknowledging that the music these sites are willing to throw away for pennies is the very backbone of the multi-million dollar corporates they helm?

One solution? Buy CDs! Buy music straight from the artist, go to their website, find them on Bandcamp and support them if you can. Music can be a wonderful thing for us, and so rightly, should it be for musicians as well!

 

 

Parallels

On looking back through the leaves of history
She found parallels abound;
There was so much she didn’t understand
And so, she knew, was the trail she’d leave behind

Odd little sprinkles of time
Stamped anachronistically upon the ageless
Showing its years in different ways:
In ways she didn’t understand

All this while, she’d watched the books,
She’d found it rather cute
The misunderstandings, primitive,
The misfits but misjudged

And yet there were parallels
Things that stayed the same
Searching, still frowned upon
Some things never changed

She suspected, they never would
And so, she made up her mind:
Why should she hold out on hope
For change that never came?

She would live her best life now
She and what she held dear,
It was her neat cropped prim roses,
It was her picket fence

And not to live in lasting fear
Of the end drawing near
For in her little bubble
She was right, fine, unconquered.

Outside it, not very much so
But she never did set out to please,
Fair then, if the world didn’t please her
Her acknowledgement was never needed

Torch Bearer

The new generation will carry the axe to the finish line.

Staring into the eyes of those she challenged
She gently put her axe down
The vibrations rattled off its body
And seemed to make a different sound;

Their protective armour was studded
And hid in it legacy
But the history was now in the books
And their shell wore only hypocrisy

She came from a different land
With different way of tread
They looked upon her, questioning,
So she opened her mouth and said,

Those are your gods you talk of, not mine
To me, they’re but influence
They taught me how to stand up
But have sat down since

They taught me how to sing
And you, how to talk;
Their spirit flows within my veins
But I choose my own cause

I’m not out to topple the stars
I merely build on the earth beneath
But bearing the torch lit in last flames
There’s mountains to go before the peak.