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wobblelikejelly |Photos of the year

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It is to my eternal regret that I don’t get enough photos printed – it’s obvious that photos look better in tangible form. In the absence of real photos, a gallery of my favourite photos from 2014 will suffice for now. It’s been a good year, with plenty to see and do. Enjoy!

Brussels is easily one of my favourite cities and having been there four times, it is somewhere I feel very comfortable in. If someone who hasn’t bothered to visit Brussels tells you it’s boring, just come to me and I’ll bore you senseless with Brussels love. Grand Place at night looks like nothing else, and with new lighting installed, everything looks more sensational than ever.

Grand Place

Norwich is somewhere I raved about back in February and rightly so. It is quite simply a great city in its own right. It is remote enough from other big cities to have to bow to anyone and it’s all the better for it. I was especially “omgomgomgomg” about the John Lewis building and my trip seemed to focus on the architectural gems of Norwich. Go!

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This year I went to Paris for the third time, but every visit feels different from the last. This time the weather treated us to a carefree April trip full of rests in parks and a daily mojito. I fell in love all over again and our trip up Tour Montparnasse gave us the added bonus of not being able to see it ruin the skyline.

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Liverpool, what a swell place! As I left Liverpool after a fantastic day of sight-seeing, I regretted deeply that I never went to university there. I doubt I’d have ever left. The cathedral was an absolute highlight for me and I’m keen on going back and just gazing lovingly at it.

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Bosnia and Croatia made up my summer holiday destinations this year, and despite being mistaken for a drugs traffiker (I’m usually mistaken for Harry Potter) sitting on a coach which was vaguely on fire for 8 hours, almost throwing up every time I went near the harbour in Split, I loved it all. Mostar and Sarajevo hugely appealed to me, even if the cities made me think seriously about the evil that humans can do to one another. Croatia had gems in the form of Zadar and Plitvice Lakes, with Zagreb offering a vibrant capital city experience.

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Sarajevo Town Hall

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Mostar

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Beautiful Mostar

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Zadar’s superb waterfront

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Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

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Zagreb

 

If you were to sum up the holidays I have been going on on the past few years, you will keep coming back to Spain and Scandinavia – and rightly so! God damn, I love them both so much. This year I went with my friend Rokos to Andalucia and saw some sensational places, from the gobsmackingly gorgeous Ronda to the incomparable Alhambra in Granada. Cordoba had the Mezquita and a charming city to boot and Seville was just a knockout place for food, drink, sights and the shock of 35c weather in late October.

Seville

Seville

Ronda

Ronda

Cordoba

Cordoba

Seville - Alcazar

Seville – Alcazar

Alhambra - Granada

Alhambra – Granada

Alhambra - Granada

Alhambra – Granada

Editors – The Weight of Your Love review

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Editors v.1 – explosive guitar riffs that were the embodiment of singer Tom Smith’s akward jerks.

Editors v.2 – Glossy, big-budget rock that smooths out the exciting youthful edges of debut.  Still ace though.

Editors v.3 – Doing a mini-Radiohead and producing an underrated album. ‘Papillon’ is one of their very best singles.

Editors v.4 – The biggest missed opportunity of their career, slap in the middle of the road.

Listening to the new Editors album, it is hard to believe that Tom Smith is just 32, such is the torpor that accompanies much of the music here. While the band have made something of their recording sessions in America, you couldn’t pinpoint an emerging style that offers the audience much new to be excited about. The Weight of Your Love finds Editors neither able to recreate the excitement of their debut, nor find solace in the cold electronics of In this Light and on this Morning; this time they seem to flounder and never fully focus on what they want to achieve. Considering I have been a fan of Editors since I first heard them, it pains me to be so critical of them but after 3 years away, they needed to come back with a bang, not a comfortable jumper. Lead single ‘A ton of love’ is a fine song indeed, with Tom’s delivery rawer and rockier than ever with the American influence really evident. If robots were asked to make a perfect slice of arena rock, they’d invent this.

‘What is this thing called love’ finds the band pressing the “emote” button, and surprisingly doing quite well. The star though is Tom’s voice, with him showcasing a lovely falsetto with a rough edge. Through his career, he has developed nicely as a singer and this song is the best example of that. However, the music never really inspires or picks up enough to push the song into genuinely emotional territory. ‘Two Hearted Spider’ finds us in familiar, but fertile, territory as the band produce some down-tempo background for a story of doomed love, with the heavily-reverbed vocals leading to the big chorus and wailing background.

‘Sugar’ opens with a riff straight out of Bjork’s ‘Army of me’ and it’s one of the more aggressive tracks on the album, with an Arabic-sounding note in the mix that adds genuine interest to the track, with an excellent final 30 seconds. If the band had produced more songs this forward and alive, the album would be much more exciting.

‘Hyena’ frustrates for two reasons because it is so nearly brilliant. Firstly, it may have been stolen from Interpol but only if Interpol had decided to add unnecessary instrumentation that makes the song sound too crowded, when it would sound far better if it were razor-sharp. When the chorus comes in, and the vocals get more frenetic, Tom never quite hits the spot. It’s the aural equivalent of a near-orgasm.

The album ends on ‘Bird of Prey’, another quality track that remind us of where Editor’s strengths lie; straight-up rock tracks that use Tom’s distinctive voice to great effect, and bringing the drums to the forefront. On reflection, it is a pity that this album is about four tracks short of greatness. Take ‘The Phone Book’ as an example of how the band missed the spot. This track takes inspiration from their American adventure in full, and while not great, it’s at least a deviation on their sound. Sadly, The Weight of Your Love is the sound of a band not confident or ambitious enough to throw out the rule book and embrace a new direction. ‘The Phone Book’ is  placed as the penultimate track, which is just bizarre when sandwiched between two tracks that are so clearly in the vein of Editors. It almost seems like they have buried it, almost too scared of what could have been.

Music for the spring, y’all!

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In a previous post I harped on about being an indie boy, but I swear I’m moving away from what is a sort-of definition of indie boy to something different. Basically, the music I’m going to be peddling to you is much more electronic in influence and some is very chilled out.

Part of my discussion of identity was wrapped up in music; my favourite song ever being Tori Amos’ ‘Cornflake Girl’ is a very different proposition to the stuff I’m playing now. As I go to clubs less, I think the pace and agressiveness of the music is slowing down, into a more atmospheric groove. ONWARDS!

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  • Annie Clark’s ‘St. Vincent’ is just wonderful. Her voice, her looks, the videos, the sheer intelligence of the music…wow. This has been on repeat for the past few days after I bought a CD (wiki ‘CD’ to find out what they are, digi-friends) of their new album Strange Mercy. It is their third remarkably album in a row.

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  • The Decemberists – This is why we fight. More familiar territory, but a gorgeous track. The video is all a bit Lord of the flies and rather beautifully shot.

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  • Johnathan Johansson – Blommorna. Heading to Malmö for the latest delightful slice of electro-pop, Johansson has appeared on my radar a few times and this is no bad thing. Again, the drumming from Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill surfaces, that’s three songs in the past year that’ve used it that I know of!!
  • M.I.A – Bad Girls. This needs a mention for the cinematic music video alone. It captures an Arab vibe pretty well – you know, inexplicable fires, nobody doing any work…oh hang on, no, M.I.A is pushing some agenda like usual, and I’d wager that it’s a really incoherent agenda. As a person she seems tiresome but as an artist she really knows how to make a stellar pop song and working again with Roman Gavras she has produced a genuinely thrilling video. I fancy filing my nails while riding at a mad angle on a car, too…

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Marvellous Marseille!

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With an enviable location by the Mediterranean, France’s oldest and second-largest city oozes character from the terracotta-roofed buildings lining the Vieux Port to the cathedral perched impossibly high up, peering down on the city. Marseille offers a taste of France that is resolutely not the Parisian lifestyle many will know. Here, the pace of life can be as hectic, but Marseille dances to a different tune; one that pays homage to its southern roots and melting-pot diversity.

While the region in which Marseille is situated, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, is visited by a phenomenal 34 million tourists per year, it is unlikely that Marseille is at the top of many people’s list of French destinations. Lonely Planet doesn’t even list the city as one of the top 14 destinations in France on its website, but there’s something gripping about it.

Another glorious street scene

Marseille offers a number of distinct sightseeing opportunities. For example, the Vieux Port and Old Town: much of the city was dynamited in the Battle of Marseille during the Second World War, but the history of the place stills feels palpable. There is the important architecture of Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse and the natural landscape of the Calanques in nearby Cassis; a stunning series of rocks and deep valleys, looking like a Mediterranean fjord with beautiful clear water. Combining these three features alone, Marseille packs a punch of which other cities should be rightfully jealous. Add to that excellent food, a sunny climate and wonderful people and you’ve got a great destination. Best of all, flights there can be very cheap and it’s a mere two hours from London.

Vieux Port

Vieux Port is the old harbour and is quite simply stunning; the first glimpse of it is likely to send your inner adventurer into a frenzy. Every direction looks tempting, every alleyway and road leads to a wonderful vista. The harbour and boats within the Vieux Port are reminders that the Mediterranean is always close by, and from here you can take boats out to some wonderful islands, such as If (in the Frioul Archipelago), with its prison Chateau – the setting for The Count of Monte Cristo and a great destination for views back to Marseille. It is also home to many Italian lizards, which are easy to spot but trickier to photograph. Back at the Vieux Port you can also observe the fishermen bringing in the catch of the day, check out the soaps and crafts at the stalls (while Marseille soap is famous, it is Savon d’Alep that is worth the purchase; Syrian soap is excellent stuff!) or have a drink in the many bars along the harbour.

Vieux Port

Le Corbusier – La Cité Radieuse

Anyone with an interest in modern architecture should visit Le Corbusier’s landmark building.  It is a stunning example of early Brutalist architecture – Le Corbusier described his techniques as breton brut – which translates as ‘raw concrete’ – and as ugly as it can look in Britain, this style of architecture just looks better by the Med. The sunshine helps, as does the physical build quality, which is a world away from badly built estates across the UK. If you fancy seeing some Le Corbusier-inspired housing in London, look at English Heritage or just read the brilliant Estates by Lynsey Hanley.

The building features his five points of architecture, and offers a brilliant roof garden that replaces the land lost in making the building. This works so well in Marseille; the building is breath-taking, and you can visit the Restaurant to admire the glorious interior design, which features the Corbusier sofas for good measure. The balcony offers views out to the sea, and is a pretty magical place to drink a glass of wine at sunset. While the food on offer may not be to everyone’s taste – when we visited it was two taster menus, each at €65, including delicacies such as foie gras, crab, and pigeon – the building itself it still worth the trip.

The Calanques and Cassis.

The Calanques and Cassis make for a great day out, but could easily make for a good weekend away. The Calanques is an area between Marseille and the town of Cassis that consists of cliffs forming many small bays, much like fjords. The landscape can be quite barren due to the lack of soil; the Calanques are mostly limestone but where there is vegetation, it is mostly shrubbery. It is a sight to behold, seeing busy harbours hundreds of feet down the cliff in the turquoise waters. There are a number of ways to get to the Calanques, but it has been suggested that the best way is to take a boat from Vieux Port in Marseille; similarly you could take a short train journey to Cassis and walk to the nature reserve from there. Time and bad planning meant we missed out on lunch at Le Lunch in Sormiou, which is said to be one of the most picturesque spots for an afternoon meal in the south of France.

Cassis calanques

Cassis has a number of great beach spots – but as you head into the Calanques nature reserve you’ll find many secluded rocky bays to lounge in. Don’t forget to try out a glass of cassis in the main town, too!

Marseille accommodation

Affordable accommodation is available at the Le Corbusier hotel, where you can have a cell-like room from €69; many of the rooms boast original features such as parquet floors and a shower cabin inspired by a ship.

We stayed at The Grand Hotel Beauvau, which is situated right in the centre of town, about 30 seconds from the Vieux Port. Prices start from about £120 per night, which is reasonable for a four-star hotel in an enviable location.

Cafes and drinks

Breakfast was not included in the rate at Grand Hotel Beauvau, and at something approaching €20, it is best to head elsewhere. Pain & Cie was an ideal spot for breakfast or brunch with the best soft-poached eggs and a great tray of spreads to go with your breads and croissant. Never has a continental breakfast been so good! Cup of Tea was that rare find; a tea shop in Europe that doesn’t destroy the art of tea through Liptons. This was glorious leaf tea, and the cafe also served a pretty fantastic rhubarb and raspberry pie, too.

The Hotel Belle-Vue facing the Vieux Port is a great spot for a cocktail; there is something simply elegant about sipping a good drink on the tiny balcony, enjoying the glorious views up to the magnificent Notre-Dame de le Garde cathedral. Equally good is Longchamp Palace for food; renovated in 2006 from a dingy drinking den into a chic brasserie. The meal was reasonably priced, with a steak that was nigh-on perfect.

All in all, Marseille and the surrounding area offers so much, it’s hard not to fall a little in love and let people’s misconceptions of the city fall by the wayside. It’s not Barcelona, granted, and yes, sometimes the bins seem to exist just to overflow, but these are merely minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things.