gilest.org

30 days of music

I need one of these.

This is Matt Sheret's idea. I should have done it when he did a few months ago, but I didn't, so I'm doing it now. I shall probably cheat, though. I doubt my 30 days will be 30 consecutive days - but there aren't any rules, are there? Just guidelines. And we all know what we can do with guidelines.

If you'd like to follow along via RSS feed, there's one here.

day 01 – your favourite song
day 02 – your least favourite song
day 03 – a song that makes you happy
day 04 – a song that makes you sad
day 05 – a song that reminds you of someone
day 06 – a song that reminds of you of somewhere
day 07 – a song that reminds you of a certain event
day 08 – a song that you know all the words to
day 09 – a song that you can dance to
day 10 – a song that makes you fall asleep
day 11 – a song from your favourite band
day 12 – a song from a band you hate
day 13 – a guilty pleasure
day 14 – a song that no one would expect you to love
day 15 – a song that describes you
day 16 – a song that you used to love but now hate
day 17 – a song that you hear often on the radio
day 18 – a song that you wish you heard on the radio
day 19 – a song from your favourite album
day 20 – a song that you listen to when you’re angry
day 21 – a song that you listen to when you’re happy
day 22 – a song that you listen to when you’re sad
day 23 – a song that you want to play at your wedding
day 24 – a song that you want to play at your funeral
day 25 – a song that makes you laugh
day 26 – a song that you can play on an instrument
day 27 – a song that you wish you could play
day 28 – a song that makes you feel guilty
day 29 – a song from your childhood
day 30 – your favourite song at this time last year

Day 1 - your favourite song

It's got to be this. Not because it's a Bond song - I'm not that bothered about Bond. Just because it's an amazing tune. Carly Simon, Nobody Does It Better. Particularly the final minute or so, when the strings sweep in and Carly sings "You're the best" over and over again. This song still tingles the hairs on the back of my neck, every single time.

Day 2 - your least favourite song

This is so much easier: it's by The Farm. It is truly, utterly, abominably awful: All together now.

In 1991, NME declared The Farm's album Spartacus a fine piece of work. They even included it in their list of Albums of the Year for that year.

So I bought it. Because the NME said I should.

And it was the the most extraordinary pile of shit I have ever had the misfortune to listen to. I sat there, watching the vinyl spin on my turntable, and cursed. I cursed the NME, I cursed the writer who wrote the review, I cursed myself for being such a slavish and devoted reader that I'd rush out and buy anything they told me to. What an idiot.

Day 3 - a song that makes you happy

I got into Best Coast this year, after discovering their mini album Fade Away on Spotify.

This is how pop music should be. Short, to the point, no farting about. Best Coast stood in a studio and made the good songs they needed to make, then stopped and released them. None of these songs feel unnecessary, none of them feel out of place. Other artists would have stayed in that studio longer, desperate to write something else to make the time up. Those other artists don't make albums as good as this, though.

Play This Lonely Morning next time you're driving on the motorway. Play it several times, until you can sing along. Already, the motorway will feel like a nicer place.

Day 4 - a song that makes you sad

The Sea, by Morcheeba

A song that reminds me of a certain time, and some certain people, and some old old friendships that slowly disintegrated, like sandcastles as the tide rises. That happened because of ignorance (mine), laziness (mine) and geography (everybody's). Put this album on and this is the first song, and instantly my thoughts drift back, and I get melancholy and lost in thoughts of times past and parallel universes where things are slightly different.

Day 5 - a song that reminds you of someone

Step On, by Happy Mondays

This song - particularly the more melodic remixes of it - reminds me of my college chum Dickon. We were students at Cambridge poly when this came out, about 19 or 20. I can remember this playing really loud in a dingy student bar somewhere, and a crowd of us shambling about on the dancefloor doing our very best Bez impressions. I caught Dickon's eye as we danced, and we both grinned like loons. A tiny moment of shared joy that has stayed with me ever since, and pops up in my brain every time I hear Shaun Ryder's voice crooning "You're twistin' my melon man."

Day 6 - a song that reminds you of somewhere

Cottonmouth, by Throwing Muses

1991. Cambridge. I'm a lazy student paying more attention to music and gigs than to my studies, and I'm very into Throwing Muses. They come to Cambridge to play a gig at The Junction, and I'm transfixed by Kristin Hersh's electric eyes and extraordinary voice. This song reminds me of Cambridge generally, and The Junction in particular - a place I made myself at home in while I had the chance.

Looking back, it's incredible how three short years felt like a lifetime, and how the atmosphere around Cambridge polytechnic (CCAT, AHEC, APU, whatever they call it these days) and Mill Road seeped into my bones and shaped the person I'd become.

Before I started this, I didn't realise how many songs would be connected to my time in Cambridge in the late 80s to mid 90s. There's a theme emerging. Didn't expect that.

I'm still very into Throwing Muses, now I stop and think about it.

Day 7 - a song that reminds you of a certain event

Crazy in Love, by Beyonce

This song reminds me of my son being born. It wasn't released until nine months afterwards, but by the time he was that age he was able to listen to music and show some sort of baby appreciation. The summer this was a hit (and it was HUGE hit) I can remember driving around the Wiltshire countryside with B in his baby car seat behind us. Kate and I would sing along, and sometimes B would smile or giggle or make those funny baby noises that babies make when they're enjoying themselves.

So it reminds me of those days, and those memories inevitably remind me of the day he was born, the day he changed my life and changed me forever, and for the better.

Day 8 - a song you know all the words to

Twisted, by Joni Mitchell

I know all the words to this whole album. Court & Spark was one of my dad's favourite albums, so he played it often, and it just seeped into my brain by osmosis.

I grew up and bought the album for myself, and found I knew the whole thing. I still play it regularly - usually when I'm alone at home or in the car, so I can sing my lungs out to it. I like to think I'm singing gorgeous harmonies, and I sing the same ones every time, but I suspect they're only gorgeous to my ears. I don't care. Neither does my analyst. And neither does Joni.

Day 9 - a song you can dance to

Don't you want me, by Human League

Even if you've never been much of a dancer or a clubber, sooner or later you reach that age where dancing becomes more embarrassing than enjoyable - unless you're dancing with a bunch of people your own age. I've been to 40-something parties where 80s music rings out loud and all the 40-somethings present throw their hands in the air and make like it's 1986 all over again - the year that pop music peaked. It was all downhill from there.

Don't you want me is the most 80s song that the 80s ever produced, from the most 80s album of the 80s. From the opening bleeps of the sequencer to - well, to everything else that follows - it's a bloody masterpiece of pop music, the standard by which all other pop songs should be measured. Probably.

Watching the video again is interesting. I'd forgotten about the behind-the-scenes shots towards the end, and how much of it was about people getting into, getting out of, driving around in, and singing inside medium-sized 80s hatchbacks in the fog.

Put this on, put it on loud, and make room on the dancefloor so I can do some of my very very worst dad dancing.

Day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep

Tie-dye, by Tindersticks

Back to Cambridge again. I went through a phase of playing the first Tindersticks album while I was supposed to be revising. After all, it wasn't exactly sing-along music, was it?

I fell asleep, every time. I can remember this song, but not much of the ones that followed until the final track, so I'm guessing this was usually the point at which I drifted off. A book about geomorphology tipping forwards from my hands to cover my face as I snoozed.

Day 11 - a song from your favourite band

My favourite band is one person, and that person is Kate Bush.

Here she is performing Running up that hill on the Wogan show back in 1985. I can remember watching this on our tiny little telly and being amazed by it. Kate at the lecturn, hardly moving at all (unusual, for her); the band behind, menacing and blank-faced ... it still sends shivers down my spine. Think how much work went into choreographing this one performance, for this one show, on this one night. Wonderful.

Day 12 - a song from a band you hate

Made of Stone, by Stone Roses

Right. Voicing this opinion often gets me into trouble, but 30 Days of Music requires me to be honest and write about music 30 times, and I can't let this opportunity pass me by. So let's get to the point:

The Stone Roses were rubbish. Total, utter cobblers.

I said it back then, and I've said it ever since, and I'm saying it again now. Ian Brown couldn't bloody sing (although he got better when he went solo), and the band ripped off so many ideas, so blatantly, that I couldn't understand how they got away with it.

They were the big thing while I was at college. Most of my friends thought they were amazing, and thought I was mad for thinking otherwise. Maybe I am.

Still a bunch of cobblers though.

Day 13 - a guilty pleasure

Remedy, by Little Boots

I have no idea if Little Boots is fashionable or not, I'm too old to worry about stuff like that anymore. All I know is that I think she's great, and Remedy is a delicious little chunk of pop with a chorus that wants to snog you, then dance in front of you with a silly grin on its face. Play this and you'll see me mouthing along and wiggling my hips, even if I feel like I ought not.

Day 14 - a song no-one would expect you to love

I believe in you, and Come into my world, by Kylie Minogue

I've always had a soft spot for Kylie, ever since her first re-invention after the initial pop-starlet phase that launched her career. I admire the way she always seems to be in control of what she's doing. I could have chosen half a dozen Kylie tunes, but these two are both great tunes I can sing along with without ever getting bored. Top stuff Kylie.

Day 15 - a song that describes you

Where is it going? by Orbital

It took me ages to come up with something for Day 15, but here's the best I can manage. Where is it going? A question I often ask in bus stations.

Also: top bleeps.

Day 16 - a song you used to love but now hate

Sit Down, by James

I had a big thing for James during my late teens and early twenties. I loved What for. The band played in Cambridge several times while I lived there - once on my birthday, just as Sit Down was a huge hit. My friends and I, along with several hundred other sweaty youngsters inside the Cambridge Corn Exchange, sat on the beer-sticky floor and sang along. I bought one of those "ja m es" T-shirts.

I don't hate the song now, but it does make me cringe a bit. Maybe I associate it with my embarrassing 20-something self. Maybe James did a bunch of better songs. I still love What for, though.

Day 17 - a song you hear often on the radio

Always, by Bon Jovi

Ugh. My son loves listening to Heart in the car, and it drives me mad because the playlist is so repetitive. Right now this is one of the songs they're playing over and over - always with the same intro "Up next another rock classic from Bon Jovi!" Oh God make it stop.

Day 18 - a song you wish you heard on the radio

Brilliant Mind, by Furniture

Even when Furniture were a thing - which they were, so very briefly - you were lucky to hear one of their songs on the radio. Any of their songs except this one, which was a hit single.

I was a fan from the moment I heard Brilliant Mind, and I became a bit obsessive. I bought every album and every 12inch EP. I saw them live, once, at one of their very last gigs before they went their separate ways. I listened to everything they ever did and memorised all of it. Later, when I discovered the internet, I learned the basics of HTML by making a web page about the band. It's still there. They credited me on the sleeve notes for their compilation album because of that. That makes me smile.

Brilliant Mind isn't even my favourite, or the best, Furniture song. But it's the only one you're ever likely to hear on the radio, so the only one I can wish to hear more often.

I still remember that time I saw them live. Still remember how happy I was.

Day 19 - a song from your favourite album

Them Heavy People, by Kate Bush

It's her again. I vacillate, but I'm pretty sure The Kick Inside is my favourite album, and this is my favourite song on it. Most of the time. It's the harmonies in the chorus: simple, but wonderful. I can listen to this album and feel calm, even after the most stressful of days.

Day 20 - a song you listen to when you're angry

Fall on me, by REM

I have Steve Wright in the Afternoon to thank for my years as an REM fan. I can remember sitting in my dad's car, and Steve Wright played "It's the End of the World as we know it", and I was hooked. I bought Document, then I bought the back catalogue, and subsequently bought everything else until the band lost interest and lost its spark. (Somewhere around Reveal, I think, maybe earlier.)

Needless to say, everything up to and including Document is incredible, and Life's Rich Pageant has always been one of the best albums to be grumpy to. It's shouty, it's rocky, it's really annoyed about so many things. You can sing along and feel the energy surging through you. You can sing along with a scowl.

When I'm in a bad mood, I put this on, and it makes me feel worse, and that makes me feel better.

Day 21 - a song you listen to when you're happy

Batyar, by The Ukrainians

I think all the indie kids I knew went a bit bonkers when a bloke from The Wedding Present started singing Smiths songs in Ukrainian. Excellent. And great fun playing live - real, fling-yourselves-around-the-room fun.

Day 22 - a song you listen to when you're sad

Oh man. Me and Billy Bragg.

I got into Billy right from the start, and that was thanks to my big brother and John Peel. Brother listened to Peel in the evenings, and Peel played Life's a riot with spy vs spy, so Brother went out and bought the LP with the money he'd earned from his Saturday job in the hardware shop.

When Brother went out, I'd listen to it on our mum's record player downstairs. I memorised every song (I can still sing them all). From then on, I followed Bragg like a little lost lamb. Saw him live more times than I can count. Bought pretty much everything he ever released.

Greetings to the new brunette is one of his finest moments, I think. It's the first song that came into my head when I thought of something to listen to when I'm sad, but to be honest, I could play it in any mood, and it would probably be the right thing.

Day 23 – a song that you want to play at your wedding

Left to my own devices and Vocal by Pet Shop Boys.

I'm already married. Most people would follow that by saying, "When we got married, the first song we played was ...." but we didn't get married like that. Our wedding was very DIY, very low-key, very short-and-sweet, and done on the cheap. So we didn't have any music. If we got married again, I think Kate and I would have quite a job deciding what song to play.

Both of us love Pet Shop Boys - Kate prefers the early stuff, particularly Behaviour, but I prefer some of the more recent dancey, bleepy stuff. Perhaps we could compromise on Left to my own devices, or something else from Introspective.

Day 24 – a song that you want to play at your funeral

Low, by David Bowie

I'd quite like people to enjoy my funeral, as much as people can enjoy any funeral. So let's play some Bowie: all of Low while people are coming in, Ashes to Ashes (obviously), and finish with Life on Mars, which is where I'd like the tiny pod containing my cybernetically enhanced brain-in-a-jar to be sent, so it can prepare itself for the longer interstellar journey ahead. Yes.

Day 25 - a song that makes you laugh

Don't look at me (I don't like it), by The Lovely Eggs

I love the Lovely Eggs. They're having a pile of fun, and they don't give a damn what you think. Almost everything they do makes me laugh. I'm probably just jealous.

Day 26 - a song you can play on an instrument

I can't play any instruments, something I regret. But I can sing, an almost-passable baritone. And I love singing - as you'll have seen in all the entries above, singing is what I do most of the time when I play music. I sing in the car, I sing in the shower, I sing in the home office, I sing in the kitchen, and I have to use all my willpower to resist singing in the quiet carriage on First Great Western. Can't sing there. People would tut.

So there's quite a lot of songs I can sing, and picking one of them out is hard, but I've gone for this.

All over again, by The Lilac Time

I discovered the Lilacs shortly before they split up the first time, and followed their every move ever since. Looking for a day in the night is a lovely album, full of mellow sounds and stinging lyrics. This is the most stinging of all - a song all about the horror of the music industry, a song that really sticks the knife in then twists it, hard.

Day 27 - a song you wish you could play

Lliwiau llachar, by Super Furry Animals

It's not anywhere on YouTube, so you'll have to make do with this Spotify link.

God, this is a beautiful song. I want to learn guitar just so I can strum it and sing this. Of course I'd have to learn all the words too. I could listen to this over and over again. Sometimes, I do.

Day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty

What? I don't have any songs that make me feel guilty. This is silly.

At this point I think I need to confess to feeling a bit nonplussed about this writing prompt - about many of these questions. If I'd spent a bit of time really reading the questions in this list before embarking on the project, I don't think I'd have done it quite the same way. I think I'd have just chosen to list 30 songs I really like, rather than having to link songs to things they might not be linked to at all.

I can't think of any songs that make me feel guilty. There aren't any.

So, here's a great song. It's The Birds, by Elbow.

There seems to have been a bit of an Elbow backlash in recent years, and doubtless some people will say I'm conforming to a very slippers-wearing 40-something stereotype by liking their music. But I do. And this one, in particular, has a spectacular set of harmonics in the vocals.

Once again, as it has been throughout this series: it's mostly about the singing. I like singing this. Guilt-ridden or not.

Day 29 - a song from your childhood

America, by Neil Diamond

My mum loved The Jazz Singer. She took me with her to see the film at the cinema. Twice, I think. Then she bought the LP and played it over and over again, and of course I listened in, and learned it off by heart. I can't hear any song from that album without thinking of my mum, and the house we lived in during the late 1970s and into the 80s. And the wallpaper that was on its walls.

Day 30 - your favourite song at this time last year

Twisterella, by Ride

I can only answer this thanks to the wonder of last.fm. This is what I was listening to a year ago.

And with that, we're done.

Listen to all the songs

I've made a Spotify playlist with all these songs on it. I didn't include The Farm or Bon Jovi, because they're rubbish songs. Nobody wants to listen to those.

(11th August - 13th November 2014)