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#13for2013: The Best of Your Best

8 Jan

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love mixtapes. I love making them, receiving them, listening to them, critiquing them, dancing to them and sometimes wearing them. I even had one on my recent 30th birthday cake:

30th birthday cake mixtape

So, it was with great gusto that I got stuck into this year’s mixtape challenge with my musical twin, Tom. We’ve been doing mixtape challenges for almost two years now (woah), and this year we’ve also hopefully drummed up at least a couple of other people to get involved in our set of 13 mixtapes that we’re planning to make this year as part of #13for2013. Everything needs a hashtag nowadays. If you’re up for getting involved, leave a comment or say hello on Twitter @GemStGem and we’ll let you know what the next challenge is.

Anyway, so the first challenge of this year is The Best of Your Best, where I suggested choosing 12 tracks by your favourite artist or band to illustrate to the world why you love that act so much. The hardest part of this for me was choosing my favourite band. Yes, like everyone else, I have a selection of about ten bands that I always, always go back to, but I wanted to choose one where each song could mean something to me and that I could share with other people. I didn’t want to choose a band where the songs I love by them mean things that I wouldn’t want to put on a blog, and other bands were my absolute ‘my-heart-is-bursting-I-love-you-so-much’ favourites at one time, but they might not have stood the test of time.

toothpaste for dinner music drew sharing machine mixtape

I think everyone has bands like that, bands that you loved like your high-school sweetheart, bands with which your relationship was an intense, fleeting holiday romance, bands that you broke up with and couldn’t listen to again, bands that feel like coming home when you put them on. But only a few bands, acts or artists – like friends or lovers – really make that impact that means you know they’ll stay with you forever.

Which is why I chose Pulp as the band to build the Best of Your Best playlist from.

pulp band logo mixtape playlist gemma critchley music blog

I love Pulp for loads of reasons. They were one of the first bands that I remember noticing as a kid, emerging into my teenage years, blinking as the bright lights of Britpop exploded across Top of the Pops. Sleeper were the gateway drug of my 90s indie education. I bought The It Girl with a voucher from HMV one Christmas and spent hours pretending I was Louise Wener in my bedroom, singing along to Nice Guy Eddie. I soon discovered Blur, Ash, Suede and Pulp and couldn’t get enough of that lovely indie stuff. Babysitting meant I could buy CD singles from Wooolworth’s (and the cassette of 1977 by Ash) and I scrabbled borrowed copies of Blur and Suede albums from my older, cooler cousins.  Backstreet Boys posters on my bedroom walls were replaced slowly (although the Spice Girls remained) with pictures of Tim Wheeler, Damon Albarn and a mini-shrine to Jarvis Cocker. And when he jumped on stage at the Brits in front of Michael Jackson, I remember having a stand-up argument with a friend which resulted in us not walking to school together for a week because I insisted on his status as an indie legend. Then came cord flares and charity shop-shopping and my trips to the Steel City became more and more frequent.  I never did manage to rock a pair of NHS glasses, but not for lack of trying.

Skip to the end…

skip to the end spaced

Anyway, cut a long story short – move to Sheffield, fall in love with Sheffield, move to Leeds, miss Sheffield and spend lots of time back there dancing to Pulp in nightclubs, go to Barcelona and bump into Jarvis Cocker as he wanders around:

Move to London and go to a very excellent club night called Scared to Dance where they PLAY PULP SONGS ALL NIGHT. And that brings us to here.

In an idea taken from this excellent post on Tom’s blog about his Idlewild playlist, I’ll break down why I chose these songs.

Here’s the tracklisting:

pulp playlist mixtape gemstgem gemma critchley blog mixtape

1. Glory Days

I love the line in this song that goes “When you’ve seen how big the world is, how can you make do with this?” which basically summed up my idealistic youth’s mindset of getting out and going far. I made it as far as Ecclesall Road, but that suited me just fine.

2. Cocaine socialist

Jarvis accused the Labour party of ‘trying to be hip’ (a crime, for sure) back in 1998 and then wrote a song about it as a B-side to ‘A Little Soul’. It’s a great song, not least because it sounds like a reworking of Glory Days, tainted by politics. I like the fact that, despite being a staunch Labour voter, Jarvis didn’t want to get involved.

3. Do you remember the first time?

Do you? Everyone loves this song. It gets everyone up dancing, and I’m sure it’s been the soundtrack to more than a few first times doing one thing or another. This song reminds me of nights out in Sheffield with wonderful Sheffield golden uni-era folk like Rosy, Liz, Cath and Heather and always puts a smile on my face.

4. Death goes to the disco

A bit of an older track, but still rings of why I love Pulp – they’re kitsch without being ironic, I love the keyboard in this and the way it manages to sound like a disco in a Sheffield WMC, but with the abstract concept that the grim reaper will be popping in for a dance before going out to his shift where he must shove your loved ones off this mortal coil.

5. Sheffield: Sex City

Forget New York, forget Paris, when it comes to doing the deed, there’s nothing like the back drop of Park Hill Flats and the prospect of an early morning stride of pride to the Supertram to get home after the night before to get you in the mood. I love Candida Doyle’s accent in this and the fact that Jarvis picks all the rubbish places in Sheffield and makes them sound sexy. It’s a heady blend of romantic realism, kitchen sink poetry and electronica.

6. F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.

Another injection of spoken word here. The way the song jumps from barely a caress in the verse and bridge to a punch in the chorus gets me every time. Most Pulp songs sound like they could soundtrack a film, but  this one more so than others. I’ve got some really good memories of this song and I’ve definitely sat and sang my heart out to the chorus:

“Why me? Why you? Why here? And why now?
It doesn’t make no sense no. It’s not convenient no.
It doesn’t fit my plans but I got that taste in my mouth again”

7. Mile End

Not only a brilliant pop song, when I first moved to London, this song was pretty much my life. We were living in Bow in East London temporarily and househunting desperately and I listened to this song every time I went to the gym (incidentally, it was in Mile End), where I’d look out of the window and run on the treadmill, facing the very flats that Jarvis was singing about. I was thankful that the flat we ended up finding was not a mess alright…

8. Bar Italia

Continuing on a London theme, I do want to go to Bar Italia in Soho, but I love this song more for the fact that it reminds me of a time where the lyrics:

“If we get through this alive I’ll meet you next week, same place, same time”

Have never been more applicable. One of those times in your life that you wouldn’t go back to but had an amazing time whilst you were there. I used to love going out to Razor Stiletto in Sheffield and met such an amazing group of people there, had some of the best nights of my life and learnt a lot about myself and who I am. Bar Italia just manages to capture that last bit of the night when you know it’s coming to an end but you don’t want it to finish.

9. Pencil Skirt

Classic Jarvis, I love those ‘ah’s in the chorus. Sheffield seduction at its finest.

10. Babies

One of my all-time favourite songs, ever. I’ve had so many great nights dancing to this song and the story in it is heartbreaking, beautiful and real all at the same time. I get a warm feeling in my chest everytime I hear Babies.

11. Common People

As in Tom’s mix, I’m not going to leave out the hits just to be hip. Far from it, I have been known to lean on barriers all day and heckle bands with ‘Sack this, play the hits’ (see also: Leeds festival 2007). So, here is Pulp’s masterpiece single in all its full-length glory. I love it because it was us, it’s where we came from, it’s two fingers up at the poshos from uni, it’s rejoicing in drinking cooking lager and knowing how to get by on a fiver a week and still have a good time. It’s a glorious, messy, beautiful ode to being young and having no money and I bloody love it. And I like doing the dance, too.

12. Like a Friend

This is definitely up there in terms of favourite songs. I love everything about it, the lyrics, the honesty, the build-up of the song, the guitar – it breaks my heart and makes it soar all at the same time. A love song if ever there was one.

And that, my friends, is it. My first #13for2013 mixtape is done.

Let me know your thoughts!

#oneaday 129: Hendo’s magic

25 May

I want to share with you today a little-known (to those living outside of South Yorkshire) culinary delight known as Henderson’s Relish. Here’s a rather lovely picture of it that was drawn by Kid Acne :

Kid Acne Hendo's Henderson's Relish Sheffield Archipelago Gallery Sheffield
Image courtesy of A.P.G. Gallery (I used to live behind it back when it was called Archipelago Gallery, but it doesn’t mean I can nick their images so please click and go and buy yourself something nice from their website).

Henderson’s Relish – or Hendo’s, as it is called by those in the know is a wonderful condiment that can be used to make pretty much any food taste even better than it already does, from Cheese on Toast to Chips, from Baked Beans to Pies (all the main food groups there, kids). I remember being surprised when I moved all of those long 40 miles up the M1 to Leeds to find that this magical elixir of life was nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is in Sheffield. They have it in pubs in Shezza with salt and pepper to just put on your dinner. Alas, this was not so in the Knightsbridge of the North. This very sauce led to a whole debate in my office the other day about the benefits of regional food, from Parmos to Oatcakes to Pontefract Cakes to…

…Anyway, I digress. As I said, you can add it to anything and everything, the possibilities are, as they say, endless.

And now they’re even more endless than they were before, with this weird and wonderful list giving us 48 unique uses for Hendo’s, courtesy of The Wookie.

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#oneaday 66: I did it all for the gnocchi

7 Mar

On Saturday I made gnocchi from scratch, for the first time.

I was surprised to learn that it’s basically boiled balls of mashed potato with egg and flour, but hey; every day’s a school day as They say. It actually ended up being a bit sloppier in texture than I would have liked, so if anyone has any tips on how that can be avoided, that’d be greatly appreciated.

For now, I can cross gnocchi off my ‘to cook’ list and move onto my next culinary challenge, Greek cuisine. I don’t know if anyone reading this ever went to that amazing Greek deli on Hunter’s Bar roundabout in Sheffield, but if you did you’ll know exactly the kind of food I’m going to make.

greedy greek deli sheffield

Dolmades, moussaka, hoummous, olives (obvz won’t make those), and anything with Feta or Halloumi cheese. Any recipe suggestions are welcome as I don’t currently have a Greek cookbook.


#oneaday 64: Don Barrell Gents

6 Mar

Friday’s post is late, because I was in Sheffield watching Don Barrell Gents, a rather wonderful musical duo. Treat your ears here:

#oneaday 15 – Reasons to be Cheerful

15 Jan

Yes, it’s January and yes, everyone is skint, miserable and fed up. So here are some reasons to be cheerful:

1. Exercising.

Since Christmas, I’ve been going hard at le gym and I’m really enjoying it.

ok go treadmills dance gym

Now I have a deadline, and a goal. I’m going away in 14 weeks to celebrate the fact that one of my best friends is getting married. So I’ve set myself a target of three gym sessions per week and lots of healthy eating. I vow to be a massive hot WAG-type person by the time April gets here.

2. Birthday parties

Tonight I’m hitting up my beloved hometown of Sheffield for one of my friend’s birthdays. We’re going to our favourite little Italian, BB’s, and will no doubt indulge in some cocktails and dancing too. I can’t wait to see everyone and to visit the mothership. Plus, it means I get to bake a cake when I get home from the gym.

cake boss buddy birthday cake

3. The fact that lots of people are still actively doing #oneaday

#oneaday one a day bloggers pete davison angry jedi

The amount of people still blogging for #oneaday is impressive, part way through the month and enthusiasm is still strong. If you’ve read any of the one a day bloggers’ stuff and liked it, take a few secs to click on the banner on the right to help our charities for free, or you can donate cold, hard, (virtual) cash to Cancer Research UK via the justgiving link on the right,

#oneaday 14: Part of the weekend never dies

14 Jan

Time for my Friday Fashion fix and this week, I’ve been inspired by our Friday afternoon choice of music in the office. We were listening to Soulwax remixes and loads of amazing electro/indie stuff from circa 2006/2007 and it took me back to the time when I was a massive fashion idiot.

post razor-stiletto, pre-peaks sewer adventures

I bloody loved dressing like this and going out dancing until the sun came up (and sometimes until it went down again!). Buying 80s party frocks from Poverty Warehouse in Hyde Park, sticking bits of glitter and plastic on them, wearing sunglasses inside at night and never going anywhere without glitter on my face and a ridiculous satorial attitude. Ridiculously brilliant, obviously.

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My first post of the 2011 one a day project

1 Jan

MMXI. It sounds like a shortened version of Mexborough, the town where I was born, co-incidentally. Which must make 2011 My Year, or something.

fonts welcome to mexborough

This is my first post of the one a day project, where myself and a gang of other literally inclined (that phrase looks wrong but does actually make sense, trust me) are attempting to post one blog every day in 2011. The project was started by Pete and I heard about it through my friend Ian, who successfully completed one a day last year and who subsequently inspired me to get involved. This year, we’re blogging for charity, so if you’re feeling kind, visit our justgiving page and donate to support Cancer Research UK.

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Tha knows…

5 Dec

Kid Acne is a DIY graffiti/music type chap off of Sheffield.

Some of the things he’s done made me smile and so I thought I’d share them with you too. I love the northerness and the pride that shines through in the examples below, something a bit tongue in cheek without being outright ironic (those of you who know me will recall that I am not a fan of irony in any way. If you like something, like it. If you do something, do it for the right reasons. Anyway, I digress).

I’m a sucker for design/typeface/wordy/arty bits and bobs, so if you know of anyone who you think is similar and who I might enjoy to get involved with, leave a comment and share the love, ja darlinks?

Kid acne Shezza

Kid acne - strong and northern

Kid acne - you and me both mate


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