Month: February 2016

Listen To The Voice of Reason – Part 4

Thom Yorke

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They say the best things come to those who wait; I feel this is absolutely true of my relationship with Radiohead and the voice of Thom Yorke in particular.

Radiohead are one of those bands that slipped my attention for many years. I’d heard the obvious tracks like Creep, High and Dry, and once I started paying attention, it was the insanely unique voice of Mr. Yorke I became slightly obsessed with. Once his vocal skills had wormed their weird little ways into my brain, they nestled there, incubating, waiting until I was able to appreciate them in every sense.

Anyone who’s read parts 1 to 3 of my blog will know music and vocals in particular are such a massive part of my life, so it’s fair to say I had my mind blown when I first heard my favourite Radiohead album ever. Which one? For me, it has to be In Rainbows. 

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The album came out in 2007,which seems like a million years ago but to me it’s the one constant on my ancient Ipod. As far as I’m concerned, all the tracks are fantastic but I’m going to focus on my three favourites. I like these three for the lyrics, Thom’s voice, the musicianship from Colin, Jonny, Ed and Philip and the stupid way they make me dance.

15 Step 

How come I end up where I started?
How come I end up where I went wrong?

These are the opening lyrics to one of the best tracks on the album for me.

The skittish start always sets me off on one of my stupid, all over the place dances, I just can’t help it. I love the lines; these are the questions I quite often ask myself and Thom’s voice just adds extra poignancy to them.

You used to be alright
What happened?

Another great lyric, sung with the same weary tone. Was he asking the question of a friend or just looking in the mirror? The words work either way and the voice just adds more melancholy to the meaning.

Did the cat get your tongue?
Did your string come undone?

I love this line, it’s as if he’s talking to someone like they are a puppet who can’t speak or think for themselves because they don’t have the power to any more. It makes me think of someone who’s been so ground down they can no longer function as a person.

I love this song and the tone of the voice, the sense of exasperation, boredom and resignation overlaying the music is just genius.

*(click  the title to  see the live Radiohead From The Basement recording)


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I have absolutely no idea what these opening lines are about and the rest of the song doesn’t really give you a clue either.

I do not
What it is
I’ve done wrong

Sometimes it’s best not to try and analyse things too much. I’ve read that the song is about aliens, a near death experience after an accident or a suicide attempt. I don’t care really, the meaning is Thom’s secret, let him keep it!

The middle verses of the song are sung in the same tone and have the same nonsensical lyrics which I love. As the song goes on, Thom’s vocals get more and more manic and desperate and this is when I love his voice and the way he sings the most. When he gets going he’s almost out of control and this is what I love, it’s as if nothing else matters but the song and he just lets go. I wish I had that ability and the outlet to just go for it and not give a shit.

Has the light gone out for you?
Cause the light’s gone out for me
It is the 21st century
It is the 21st century
You can fight it like a dog
It brought me to my knees
They got scared and they put me in
They got scared and they put me in
All their eyes wrapped around my face
All their eyes wrapped around my face
Although everybody else can see
Although everybody else can see

I’m alive
I’ve seen it coming

This is the point where he’s completely lost it and he starts to do amazing things with his voice, almost a low howl one minute then a full blown rant. With anyone else they wouldn’t get away with it but this is just superb for me.


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This is one of my all time favourite Radiohead tracks, again it’s the sinister, haunting quality of the vocal that gets me first, combined with the lyrics that tell me something isn’t quite right here.

Don’t get any big ideas
They’re not gonna happen

You paint yourself white
And fill up with noise
But there’ll be something missing

Now that you’ve found it, it’s gone
Now that you feel it, you don’t
You’ve gone off the rails

So don’t get any big ideas
They’re not gonna happen

You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking

All the way through the song I keep thinking is this about someone being stalked? Is there an element of fear and menace? Again, I haven’t got a clue what the lyrics are actually about but I’d love to hear your views in the comments box for this post.

I like to listen to this in the dark, I find it incredibly disturbing and I love the power that some songs have to do that to me. Another track that does this to me is I WANT YOU *by Elvis Costello – makes me want to lock the door and keep a knife with me!

*click to hear the track.

Well this is the end of my post about the vocal shenannigans of the amazingly talented and slightly scary Thom Yorke. I hope you have enjoyed it, found it interesting or at the very least it’s stopped you thinking about that annoying little itch you’ve got for a couple of minutes.

I’d love to hear what you think, good, bad or indifferent. I’m new to blogging so I’m always after advice……even if it’s ‘Your shit, why are you bothering?’






Listen To The Voice of Reason – Part 3


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James Yorkston

Sometimes you hear a voice that makes the hair on the back of your neck and arms stand up, but that only lasts for a second. For me this has been happening for years, it happens every time I hear the distinctive, amazing tone of the voice of James Yorkston.

I first came across Mr. Yorkston when I went to a little festival called the Green Man Festival. We’d tried Glastonbury, V and such like but quite frankly it was just mainstream stuff you could enjoy any time. In search of something different, we decided to try the Green Man, a little known festival in a lovely setting near Hay-on-Wye. I think the first one we went to was at Baskervill Hall but it was a long time ago.

We didn’t know anything about anyone on the line up, we looked at names like Adam, 4tet, Tunng, Joanna Newsome, King Creosote and James Yorkston and the Athletes with a shake of the head – nope, not a clue.

Our tent was pitched, our cans of beer and cider (I’m such a classy bird!) were stowed in our rucksacks and we went off to further our musical education. After a few dodgy starts and quick exits from stages, we found a tent where we watched a man wearing a furry dog head mask playing a synthesizer – they were called Fonda 500 and we loved them.

After a while we wandered off, still not knowing who to see or who they were, but for some reason we both decided we liked the name James Yorkston and the Athletes. We found they were playing in the same tent we’d been in and made our way back. The tent was really full and we had to push our way inside. The music had already started and I have to admit to not really listening as we tried to find somewhere to stand.

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The first track I remember was St. Patrick (from the album Moving Up Country), the slow rumble of the instrumental opening leading to James and the opening line:

I didn’t sleep at all last night
I thought my heart had mastered the run of these seas

Well that was it, talk about hooked and landed! I was the fat fish on the end of his vocal line. His voice wasn’t perfect, which made it exactly perfect, if you get my meaning. The band played with him, the music getting louder and louder, creating the image of a rolling sea and sending shivers through me.

I awoke with a smart and a look at the phone.
I swear that I would have called you if I’d been sure you were alone.
And doesn’t that drive things home?

Simply beautiful lyrics; no fancy tricks, just a couple of very classy lines that’s all I need to make me fall in love with a song, a voice, an idea and an imagined set of circumstances. It’s not that I’m easily pleased, I just know when I’ve heard something special.

I knew then that I’d be fan for a very long time and now, all these years later I still anticipate anything James does with the interest of an inquisitive puppy.

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Born in Fife, James Yorkston was involved at an early stage with the Fence Collective who’s artists include the like of King Creosote, KT Tunstall and The Beta Band. James writes and sings and plays a wide variety of instruments. I loved the Facebook posts from him when he was having a new guitar made. It was an education as I’ve never seen an instrument being loving constructed before! 

James Yorkston and the Athletes are just one of many of James’ musical guises. He’s a man of many musical personalities, he’s played with John Martyn and Bert Janch and has had the blessing of John Peel. There’s been the Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society, a collaboration with Alexis Taylor, KT Tunstall, Pictish Trail, Emma Smith & Jon Thorne. He’s had numerous albums released, all with their own delicious twist and unexpected turns.

I think however, apart from the Athletes, my favourite reincarnation for JY has been his recent work with Jon Thorne (Lamb) and Suhail Yusuf Khan. With James singing and playing guitar, Jon playing the base and Suhail charged with making the most magical music on a sarangi (a strange little Indian instrument you play with a bow), you’ll never hear anything as lovely. I saw the trio at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester last year. I was spellbound as always, though this time the mix of cultures, sounds and styles of songs and music were just breathtaking.

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James has written a book about his life as a travelling troubadour ‘It’s Lovely To Be Here’. It’s a great insight into the often not very glamorous life on the road and gives us a peek into what really happens. It’s not all groupies and fantastic tour buses that’s for sure.

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This blog is meant to be about voices and I feel I’ve digressed. I’m not ashamed though! I just feel the need to tell more people about the music I love and to persuade you to listen for yourself so you’ll understand why I’m so passionate about it.

James hasn’t got a ‘simple’ voice, it’s full of emotion, traits, strains and strengths that I’ve not heard from many people. He’s quietly spoken, funny, caustic, sarcastic and tender, especially on certain songs that mean more to him than I could every understand or explain.

He’s not a folk singer,  he’s not a man to be labelled as anything. He’s unique, supremely talented and it’s a better place for having him and his storytelling through songs in it.

I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve been to see him. He’s seen us through bad times when John had cancer (he had trouble in the scanning machine as he was listening to James and it all got a bit much, too many good memories!), he’s been with us when we’ve been pissed (Green Man festivals and practically every gig!) and he’s always made us happy.

I’ve got to say that I’m in awe of Mr. Yorkston. If I had half of his talent in anything I’d be so happy. When we go to see him I always want to say this to him but I’m too shy, too worried he’d think I was a gushing, sentimental weirdo.  One day I might say ‘hello’, but I’m just kidding myself, I’m too cowardly for that! I’ll just be content to go along, stand and listen and just enjoy.

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It’s all about the Basa

Since Christmas I’ve been on a bit of health kick. I joined a gym last September but after a big three week holiday in America, a stinky cold for about a month, it’s only since January that I’ve been really going for it.

I’ve been hammering the cross-trainer, the stairmaster (Satan in the form of fitness equipment!!) walking up hill on the treadmill and interval training on the rower. As a result I’ve lost half a stone and I feel 100% better about myself than I did before.

Alongside the gym sessions I’ve been trying to eat healthier. I’ve cut down on as much carbs as possible, I’m eating smaller portions and I’ve been living off rice crackers during the day, (see my previous post). I’ts hard sometimes, but when I see and feel the results it’s so worth it.

I’ve also given up my packet of Walkers Cheese and Onion crisp habit at lunch times.  My name is Maria, I’m a crispaholic but I’m now four weeks crisp free.

In my search for healthy, quick meals to cook from scratch when I get home from the gym, I turned to one of the many lovely cookbooks I own from one of my favourite chefs, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Now I’m not a fish fan. I like scallops, prawns, mussels (must be eaten somewhere warm and sunny sans French fries and a glass of Sancerre) salmon and mackerel. I don’t like really fishy fish and I’d rather starve than eat trout – muddy and ridiculous things.

I have found a great fish recipe in Hugh’s book  River Cottage Light and Easy which I will share with you because I’m nice like that. I liked this because I could get it ready the night before and it’s quick to cook with not much washing up…..lazy cow!


Hugh recommends the best fish to use but I couldn’t find any pollack, whiting or coley when I went shopping in Aldi, however, I did see Basa fillets. Pay attention now, this is where I tell you why Basa is the boss.

Basa fish is a type of catfish native to Vietnam and Thailand and sometimes referred to as the river cobbler, swai, pangasius or bocourti. As with other types of catfish, basa are rich in protein but not as lean as tilapia and some other low-fat fish.

That’s enough of that,  here’s the recipe

Fish-rizo with Broad Beans – Serves 4

700g white fish fillets, such as pollock, coley, whiting or sustainably caught haddock, skinned and boned
1 tbsp unsmoked paprika
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil, plus a little extra for cooking
Sea salt
150g cooked broad beans, skinned if they are large (I used lovely sugarsnaps instead)
Juice of half a lemon
Roughly shredded mint, to finish (optional)

Check the fish for pin bones, prising out any find with a tweezers (preferably NOT the ones you use for your eyebrows), then cut into roughly 2cm chunks. Put into a bowl with the spices, garlic and oil. Add a pinch of salt. Turn together and leave in the fridge for up to half an hour. (I left them in the fridge overnight and it didn’t make any difference. I thought I might end up with ceviche but it was fine.)

Heat a large frying pan or wok over a medium-high heat. Add a trickle of olive oil. then the fish, and cooking, tossing often, for 4-5 minutes until cooked through. Stir in the beans of your choice and cook for another couple of minutes. Squeeze over the lemon juice and remove from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed. Sprinkle over the mint if you are using it.

It’s recommended that you can serve it with peas, lentils or new potatoes. I found it went well with couscous which seemed to match the texture and flavour of the fish.


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