Musical Discoveries: April

Good day to you, Findettes! Today we are going to dispel the myth of the musical Guilty Pleasure. Let your pleasures be no longer guilty!

Be proud of your music taste –a catchy tune that sells by the billion is far harder to write than a load of critically acclaimed white noise. Just because something invokes the snobbery of others doesn’t mean it has no value, right? Today we will be examining (in the usual glib and insubstantial way) the latest wave of country music, a genre often derided for being tacky and formulaic that more often than not boasts serious song-writing muscle.

Personally, my re-interest in country has been piqued by E4 twangathon Nashville, the hit US TV drama following the trials and tribulations of a bunch of country music artists as they follow their fortunes in the famous music city. The show’s trump card is a powerhouse performance from Hayden Panetierre as hard-as-nails rising star Juliette Barnes (allegedly based on the very real Carrie Underwood). If you haven’t been sucked in yet, you need to get into this series – fast. It’s compellingly glitzy but there’s real depth to the characterisation and a bucketload of brilliant, strong female characters – what else would you expect from the creator of Thelma and Louise? But the best part of all is that there’s a ton of original music in every episode, and pretty much all of it is genuinely good.

You can download the soundtrack now – and note that this is only volume 1 of this season’s music… this is merely a redneck’s whisker of what we’ve heard on the programme so far. Here’s a taster of Juliette teaming up with arch rival and country grande dame Rayna James (played brilliantly by Connie Britton):

But these days country music isn’t always about bottle blonde and rhinestones. There’s been a cool edge to country ever since the alt-country/Americana explosion of the noughties ushered in a new breed of serious artists who wanted to move away from the Kenny Rogers cheese factor and towards some serious indie credibility. Welcome then to Caitlin Rose, whose latest record is smooth, sophisticated and intoxicating, like bathing in tub full of bourbon. Highly recommended, especially if you like your songs with plenty of stories to tell:

Caitlin Rose: No One To Call

Finally, just a little more lovelorn, we have Indiana’s Austin Lucas who is currently on tour in the UK with the equally brilliant band The Glossary, whose latest album is due to be released in the UK soon and is well worth a bend of your ear. Do go and see them live if you can – I was lucky enough to catch both last week it was a phenomenal performance.

Austin Lucas: Sleep Well

Tell me Findettes– do you love country music? Seen Nashville? What are your pleading-not-guilty pleasures?

Penny
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PS! Find Penny at her new blog: All We Need is Radio Gaga or on Twitter @TokaiPenny

Musical Discoveries: March

Good day to you Findinos (I can call you this as I have just got back from holidaying in Italy and am quite the expert), today we have a first in that all our picks for this month are singles! It’s rare that we have a month of artists releasing album teasers of quite this calibre, so I’m cashing in and filling up Rebecca’s beautiful website with hideous Youtube embeds and lots and lots of excitement. Are you giddy yet? You should be…

Justin Timberlake – Mirrors (from forthcoming album The 20/20 Experience)

Pop star/actor, actor/pop star, what is it about those celebs that flip between the two that makes us think they’re crap at both? Regardless of what you think about JT’s gifts (and let’s admit it, that face is a gift, regardless of what’s coming out of his cakehole) his new single is here. JT has stated in the press that he’s now heavily influenced by Pink Floyd and other prog rock – yes really – but the only evidence of this here is that the song is over eight minutes long. However, this means that it is Very Serious Music and we should sit up and pay attention. I’m slightly upset by Mirrors, irrespective of Justin’s impressive length, because Timbercheeks used to release terrifically sexy, clever, groove-laden songs and this all sounds a bit R ‘n B lite. Like something Bieber would do. The last four minutes are fair enough, but really they’re just all noodles stuck on the end. This is the second song released off the new album, and I’m still holding my breath for the Big Bootyshaking Single. I have faith though, come on Justin.

Phoenix Entertainment


For those of you sitting there thinking you’ve never listened to a song by Phoenix, if you’ve ever heard any incidental music on E4 then you’re almost certainly mistaken. These French pop pixies make super-smart indie music with throbbing great catchy bits that spin you round like a relentlessly cheerful carousel until you have to get off and throw up. But in, like, a really, super-good way. The new one is all classic Phoenix bouncing verses, paired with a crashing great chopsticks-style hook that’ll get the festival crowds jumping from May through to September. New album promises to be great fun, even if some of their earlier subtlety is slowly being bled out in favour of this type of instant sugar rush.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Sacrilege

I like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs because they somehow manage to be interesting and hugely accessible all at the same time. Plus, I always want to look at what Karen O is wearing and what her hair’s doing, and it’s nearly always something amazing. They had promised that their new album would take us back to their more simple, lo-fi roots, but as there appears to be a gospel choir on the end of this, I’d say that’s likely to be a load of tosh. Great song though. (and if you’re interested we’re talking blonde bob and 1970s rodeo cowgirl for this record – outstanding effort as ever, Ms O).

David Bowie The Stars (Are Out Tonight)


Ah, it’s another pop star/actor, actor/pop star dichotomy! But we always let Bozzer get away with it don’t we? Because he’s a living legend that’s why. This is off the new (new!) Bowie record which should be out by the time you read this, and already has critics dribbling into their iMacs and making the keys all sticky with how good it is. I won’t profess to be an expert of his oeuvre (I didn’t object to Black Tie White Noise era Dave – apparently this means I‘m a philistine) but I will say that this has everything you could wish for from a Bowie song – it’s cool as ice with a nice edge of menace and please watch the video because Tilda Swinton is in it being absolutely batshit bonkers and it’s insanely fab.

That’s it for this month my lovelies, please let us know what you think of this little hit parade in the comments – whether you think Justin’s a joke, Bowie’s past it, or just really really want to be a 1970s rhinestone cowgirl (I know I do). And, naturalmente, let us know what you’ve been listening to!

PS! Find Penny at her new blog: All We Need is Radio Gaga or on Twitter @TokaiPenny

Musical Discoveries: February

Penny’s back today and I for one am excited… you’ll have to read on to find out why, but Penny has given a nod to one of my favourite bands (and albums) of all time.. sound track to my youth and all that, that I still regularly have on repeat in my house. Love it Penny, as always.

Good day to you Findettes! I am pleased to report that, somehow, we have made it through to February. I looked out of the window the other day and actually saw the sun in the sky. We’re nearly there! I hope your resolutions are going well. Mine was to resume public blogging, which I have been doing over on my new blog All We Need is Radio Gaga. The good news is that 2013 is already looking corking good for tunes, and I had to trim down a huge list of really fabulous albums this month to bring you the following top picks…

Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob

Latest sounds by Tegan and Sara

Some people like it when bands get all introspective and serious about their art. I like it more when formerly “proper” bands throw everything out of the window for the sake of a truly amazing chorus. Writing brilliant pop music is so, so much harder to do then writing something obscure in a funny time signature that lonely smelly men will buy on £50 German import and never open the shrink wrap on for fear of lessening the resale value. It really is. Because music is about joy, not scoring points. This record is Canadian sisters Tegan & Sara moving away from their quirky indie roots and stepping up to the plate to write an album so full of twinkling electronic pop joy that you can imagine Kylie listening to it in her car on a sunny day. Is it disposable? Maybe. But what’s bad about that when it sounds so good?

Local Natives – Hummingbird

Hummingbird by Local Natives

There are some areas of modern music that I feel a bit socially awkward around. The corner of the music party where the Fleet Foxes/Arcade Fire fans are hanging out is just not somewhere I’ve been. It’s not that I don’t want to go over there, with all their flutes and the photo shoots in the desert with the animal masks, it’s just that I always assume I don‘t have anything to say about these bands. I put Local Natives in the same group, as a band that might require me to have some sort of permanent Instagram filter over my life before I could listen to. It is simply by chance that I’ve stumbled across their new record and even though it sounds so unbelievably indie (or psych-folk or whatever) it is actually really good and swooping and lush and lovely. I wouldn’t listen to it to get pumped to go out for a night dancing or anything, but a cup of coffee and the Sunday papers on a February morning – yes. Maybe I’ll go and stand in the corner at the party next time. I hope they don’t mind that I don’t have a beard or a vintage tea-set.

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours [35th Anniversary 3CD Deluxe Edition]

There is nothing I can say about this, other than the fact that they are touring this year and here is this reissue of an incredible album that has sold over 40 million copies, and, and, and, there is no more excuse I need to bang on about Fleetwood Mac. The Fleetwood Mac Rumours reissue (three disc edition) includes the album and some other gubbins like live stuff and B-sides, and blah blah look at the video of them playing Don’t Stop live in 2007! There’s a marching band! And look at Stevie Nicks, she looks like she’s been frozen in time and I’m not sure how she can open her mouth to sing! You could be there and you could see all this too!

So how are you doing, Findettes? Heard anything good lately? Wanna tell me how good Arcade Fire really are? Hands poised over the keyboard to book Fleetwood tickets the second they go on sale? Hit me up in the comments…

Penny
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PS! Find Penny at her new blog: All We Need is Radio Gaga or on Twitter @TokaiPenny

#JanuaryJoy – Try some new Music

Good morning! Today’s #JanuaryJoy prompt holds a special place in my heart because it embodies the reason I asked Penny to write a monthly music post here on Florence Finds. I love music but I’m not the first off the blocks when it comes to finding new stuff and there’s even less chance of that now I’m a certified Radio 2 listener. Last year I bought Emile Sande (recommended by Penny last March,) Alabama Shakes (May), and Taylor Swift (from November) as my Musical Discoveries. So this year I’m excited to set ten minutes aside and listen to Penny’s recommendations each month. After all, who doesn’t love the feeling of being ahead of the trends?!


Image Credit

Happy new year Findettes! 2013 is going to be a musical blinder (is that a deafer? No matter) with a gajillion amazing things for you to cry/laugh/sing/vomit technicolor rainbows after drinking half a bottle of Lidl brand Malibu then dance about like a loon to. You will be delighted and relieved to know I have listened to some of these hotly recommended acts. Most of them were pretty dreadful, but this lot are not. In fact, they look a lot like they might be going places:

Haim

Haim are three sisters from California who are being hyped to the point of grossness by the music press at the moment, and are being labelled as all sorts of ridiculous things like “nu-RnB-meets-folk-hop“. Whatever you do, do not let this put you off. This band have a lot of very good songs, and catchy bits that wedge in your brain like enormous, day-glow grapple hooks and tug on your senses til your brains fall out of your nose. Promise. I do not understand why music journalists make up this nonsense when they could just say “very good band, sounds a lot like Fleetwood Mac”.

PAWS

This recommendation comes from a special place in my heart. That would be the punky 16-year-old place in my heart that’s covered in sparkly leopard print that only ever plays 7“ singles with four chords or less. PAWS were the band I saw live the most last year , because they are brilliant. Their reputation as one of the best Scottish live bands around at the moment is completely and totally deserved. If you like scuzzy wuzzy catchy songs and bouncing round in scruffy pubs, this is the band for you – go listen to their debut album Cokefloat which is currently available to listen to for free on Soundcloud.

Laura Mvula

Laura Mvula is a lovely talented lady who seems to get compared to Bjork a lot. That seems a little rash (is anyone really like Bjork? Really?) but perhaps they mean this song reminds them of that early, ethereal Venus As A Boy era twinkly stuff, which it is sort of like. It’s very pretty, very accomplished and all soft and floaty like somebody is stroking your ears with kitten‘s tails. It’s not quite wearing a swan as a dress and starring in Lars Von Trier films yet, but maybe that’s coming with the next record.

Flume

Now if Flume could wear a (metaphorical) dress, he’d probably wear a dress made of every musical genre you can imagine and then put a swan’s head on top of it. And then set it on fire. The Australian producer already has a massive online following, huge blog hype and a debut album that came from nowhere to beat One Direction and the Rolling Stones to get number one spot in the iTunes album chart last year. Official release in the UK is set for February and the album teaser is mouth-watering smoosh of beats and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production. Your little brother probably already has everything he’s ever released and your Nan will think it’s a right racket.

So there we have it! As today’s #JanuaryJoy is to listen to something new, why not let us know in the comments what bands/artists you’re hoping to open your ears to in 2013?

Penny
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PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

Florence’s Gift Guide #3: The Music Edition

Seasons greetings pop-pickers, have you got your 99p rolls of penguin paper at the ready? Already put the scissors down somewhere and not quite sure where you’ve put them? And that rubbish sellotape that you can‘t bite with your teeth and then it wraps around and argh? That’s right it’s Christmas shopping time and we’re about to give the gift of music. Now I may not be able to tell you how to wrap an mp3. However, I can tell you what to buy to wow and delight the tricky, picky, awkward members of your family.

For Little Sister
TOY: Toy
Exuding hipster cool, your little sister is the only person you know who can wear a bowler hat without looking like a try-hard. She drinks craft beer and is “like, so OVER the Weeknd”. Yes, that’s a popular artist, and we’re not sure where the E is either. Maybe your sister took it. Frankly, nothing would shock us. In order to avoid the wrinkled nose this year, buy her one of the hottest releases of 2012, from a hyped band who actually lived up to the fuss. Lovely scuzzy guitars, a dollop of Joy Division, a little bit of early Manics and whole host of other stuff thrown into a shoegazey swirl. It works. She’ll love it. She might even lend you her tie-dye leggings now.

For Dad
MARTHA WAINWRIGHT: Come Home To Mama
Dads always love listening to a good female singer, don’t they? Maybe that’s just mine. This album would honestly do for anybody who loves a bit of soulful, honest song writing. If you’re already familiar with the Canadian troubadour family of Wainwrights – also including Rufus, Loudon III and Martha’s late mother Kate McGarrigle – you won’t be surprised by how truly accomplished this record is. The songs are emotionally connected to the real, larger than life characters in her family to the point of being raw. They’d be uncomfortable to listen to if they weren’t so beautiful. Quite, quite lovely.

For Best Mate
ALUNAGEORGE: You Know You Like It [VINYL] EP
Having already featured these guys once on Florence I’m happy to report that they smash it out of the park live too. This EP is just a taster of what’s to come from Alunageorge so get excited – slick urban beats, massive hooks and sultry, irresistible vocals that’ll take you to the moon and back. Definitely ones to dance the night away with your best bud, preferably wearing something with bat wing sleeves and some really stupid shoes. They’ll be pretty much omnipotent next year so get on it.

For Big Brother
DEFTONES: Koi No Yokan/SOUNDGARDEN: King Animal
Two mighty comebacks for two alternative genre behemoths, you couldn’t go wrong with either for the whichever member of your family likes to make the devil horns the most. Deftones were always the band who made nu-metal credible (really, these two words can co-exist, I‘ve heard it with my own ears) and their new album is fresh and crunchy and delicious. How they manage to sound modern but still like themselves after all these years in a genre that has otherwise dated horribly is a total mystery. As for Soundgarden, I never got them first time round – they sounded pompous compared to the cut and thrust of grunge peers Mudhoney and Nirvana – but this is just a ripping rock album. Massive riffs, no piddling about, nobody vanishing up their own bum. Lovely stuff.

For Mum
LITTLE MIX: DNA
Ahhh who am I kidding, this is for me. Ridiculous everything-but-the-kitchen sink pop music, so well-executed it slips into your ears and zaps straight into your brain before you‘ve even realised it‘s happening. What’s not to love?

Tell me readers, what music will you be buying for your loved ones this Christmas? And what’s on your list for Santa?

Penny.
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PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

Musical Discoveries: November

Good afternoon pop pickers, what are you all listening to this month? It’s all been about the laydeez for me, as this month we have a 100% all-female line-up for the first time in Florence music history! Maybe it’s because the boys were being boring this month, more likely it’s just because girls are brilliant. Read on and let me know what you think of this month’s picks (plus your own) in the comments….

Bat For Lashes: The Haunted Man

This is record is GREAT. It’s really, really good. I don’t normally use rubbish introductory sentences like this, because I’m not normally rendered speechless by things, but when it comes to the third outing for Natasha Khan, (aka Bat For Lashes) it seems I most definitely am. This is so accomplished, the song-craft is effortless, weaving all kinds of instruments into a visionary tapestry that reminds me of Kate Bush at her most simple and accessible. If this gets nominated for the Mercury next year (which it ought to) it will mean every single one of Khan’s three records will have been shortlisted – surely a record? A deserved one. Listen to single “Laura” if you missed it – and I defy you not to be moved by it. If this is anything near to being your sort of thing then trust me – you’ll be listening to this well into the new year.

Taylor Swift: Red

I never thought I would voluntarily listen to a Taylor Swift album, let alone talk about it in public, but inescapable single We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together had me sucked in and I couldn’t resist. I don’t know who Swift has writing her songs but they are imbued with magical unicorn juice. Every song (even the ballads, which I normally dislike) are beautifully put together and have just enough class to pull this record out of the usual pop dross and into somewhere quite special. Pop nugget “22” has almost as much bite as WANEGBT and opener “State Of Grace” is so cool it could have been lifted straight off a “serious“ band‘s record and would be lauded as genius. Surprising, accomplished and excellent.

Anyway, any excuse to repost this atom bomb of a single. I hadn’t realised the video was this great either. People in music videos wearing animal costumes would normally make me want to spit fire, but these are so demented and borderline sinister you can’t help but be transfixed by them. Check out the weird bear/monkey man! You would not want to meet him on a dark night. He’s far too happy.

Florence‘s Earworm: *A*M*E: Play The Game Boy

Florence’s Ear-Worm is all about songs that make you dance around the house in your knickers punching the air and turning the hairdryer on so your hair blows back like you’re in a music video in the 80s and the cats are your backing dancers and then all of a sudden you realise you’ve left the curtains open and the old lady over the road is staring at you. Just me? OK. This song will make you think it’s summer again. Aural candy floss of the highest order – lick it, it gives you a sweet buzz and disappears almost instantly. Joy!

Penny.
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PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

Musical Discoveries: October

Good afternoon Findettes! Shake off your galoshes and come dry off by the fire whilst Aunty Penny winds up the gramophone for us on this chill October day. Fancy a sherry? I’ll get the nice glasses out.

I almost wasn’t going to review the xx’s new record Coexist because it’s basically very much like their debut, but do you know what? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I love listening to the xx in the winter, it’s the perfect soundtrack to grey city days, a gorgeously delicate counterpoint to all the hustle, bustle, mucky buildings and being stabbed in the eye with someone else’s brolly. This is a sumptuous set of songs, just like the first, stripped back to the bones, no messing about. I always tell my mum off when she comes back from the shop with yet another navy blue top because she’s always got a wardrobe full of them. Well, sometimes you’ve just got to go with what you know.

I tell you what though, this is a surprise! Who remembers Beth Orton? She’s from back in the day when folktronica was an actual word that people used to use to describe music people in their twenties played at dinner parties. But Beth was always a cut above all that nonsense, she’s got a lovely, truly distinctive and honest voice with no bells, whistles or warbles. She’s clearly passionate about her craft, knows her musical onions, is talented and marvellous and, well, I’ve had a girl-crush on her since I was a teen and had Trailer Park on constant rotation. New album Sugaring Season moves away from any bleeps and squiggles and cosies up to the truly epic, sweeping folk music that she always did so well. A wing-spreading, if you will. Gorgeous.

Florence’s Earworm
I have a real weakness for massive, glittery pop songs that bound into your ears wiggling their spangly hot-panted bottoms and juggling giant disco balls. This is the new song from Canadian pop twins Tegan and Sara, and if this is the direction the new records is going in, I’m very excited. Are we all ready to dance around our bedrooms punching the air and singing into our hairbrushes? Get set – go!

Penny x

PS. Readers, I couldn’t help but add a postscript to Penny’s round up this week and I feel justified as this particular piece of musical hot property wasn’t even released when Penny wrote this post. Since, it has become Number 1 in the download charts and high up on the list of conversation topics amongst fans of the associated franchise or the superstar songstress involved – The new Bond single from the forthcoming film of the same name, Adele‘s Skyfall.

As far as I’m concerned it’s a musical match made in heaven, Adele’s silky tones were made for Bond and it’s a win win with the marketing department as 2 huge franchises combine. I’ve heard people say it’s same-y, but surely that’s the point of Bond. It has a theme after all. I’d love to hear what you think of it? (Watch the Skyfall Trailer here.)

Musical Discoveries… June

Good afternoon and I hope you’re ready to give Penny a warm welcome back. This month, in an effort to invite some more reader participation we’ve switched things up a bit and instead of sharing the album artwork, you can now click the images below and hear the albums and songs that Penny is reviewing. I know a lot of you read at work, but we figured if you do fancy looking into her recommendations, then it’s darn sight easier this way. Do drop us a comment if you like the new interactive style. ;)

This is it – summer is here, whether you believe it or not. Put away your moody broody music and pick some pop for June! Now, because this series is about discovering new music, we’ve decided to embed samples in with the reviews this month, so you can suck it and see…. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Regina Spektor: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

Regina Spektor is the kind of artist I imagine hipster librarians listening to, although you’ll be pleased to know that you can enjoy her music without any formal training in the Dewey Decimal system. Incubated in the hip East Village anti-folk scene, this is Regina’s sixth album and boy has she got her trademark kooky ditties down to a fine, whimsical art. This is a really solid, consistently good record that knows exactly what it is – jazzy, poppy, stylish and intelligent. You’ll get it straight away if this is your bag (probably because it won’t be a bag, it will be a satchel).

Citizens! : Here We Are

Here’s a treat – something that’s indie enough for festival season, and yet glam enough to still be cool and interesting. Ladies (and gentlemen) of a certain age will remember how way, way back in the 1990s there was a whole army of velvet-jacket wearing, leather-trousered bands, marched into battle by Brett Anderson of Suede (Damon Albarn nicked his girlfriend, remember?). Anyway, I think this sounds a bit like all that business. Really catchy, stylish indie rock with a B-movie, David Bowie post-punk glaze. If you liked Franz Ferdinand when they were about, I think you’ll like these.

Niki & The Dove: Instinct

Swedish babies must learn to write beautiful pop music in the womb. This is the debut album from Swedish three piece Niki and the Dove – one of those buzz bands I always expect to be a bit flimsy and rubbish, except they’re not. From the soaring hits like single Tomorrow all the way down to the murky, brooding brilliance of The Gentle Roar, Niki & The Dove brandish style and substance like a shaman waving two large and impressive rain-sticks at the sky. Vocalist Malin comes on like the lovechild of Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper, flitting between a soft, lilting coo and an impassioned battlecry over a soundtrack of shimmering, glossy synths and tribal percussion. The dynamics are seductive – a sense of oncoming danger and tension building, exploding periodically into euphoria. It’s the same trick that made Hounds Of Love such an iconic album, but you can’t complain about the template being borrowed when it’s done with so much panache. They’ll get comparisons to Florence & The Machine, but they’re so much better than that.

Catcall: Warmest Place

If that all sounds a tiny bit pretentious, then Australia’s Catcall will be just the tonic. Singer/songwriter Catherine Kelleher makes catchy, bubbly music with a twist of 80s pop. This is her debut album, and though she is already beloved of music blogs and tastemakers she still has yet to break over here in the UK – unbelievable when she’s got songs as ear-wettingly hooky as Satellites and Shoulda Been. Music to lie by the pool drinking cocktails to (something fruity with a plastic monkey in). Catch her while she’s on the cusp!

Penny.

How to Run [For people who hate running...]

This afternoon’s post is by the legendary Penny from Bad Penny Says. Usually our new music guru, she also happens to be a fully qualified personal trainer and after all the talk lately about keeping healthy and happy her choice of topic is very apt. In the summer months I enjoy running, there’s nothing like it to clear the head, but I have so many friends who say ‘I just can’t run…‘ Well, let Penny show you how…

I have lost count of the number of clients who come to me and speak in wistful tones about how they’d love to be able to run, but they’ll never be able to. They gaze enviously at joggers in the park and gym-bunnies on treadmills, as if these people are a different breed to them, magically gifted with winged feet/ lungs that don’t burn just 20 seconds into a run around the block. As if, as foetuses, these people simply laced up their shoes one day and ran out of the womb.

Stop the madness! I am here to bust these myths wide open. If your body is capable of walking to the shops, you should be able to run. And once you get into it, the sky’s the limit. Running is a weapon with which you can fight obesity, depression, anxiety, it strengthens your cardiovascular system and it frees your mind. You too could be one of those people who other people gaze wistfully at. I promise. Tried it before and hated it? Don’t worry – there are tricks you can use to cheat the system. This is how you get into running, when you think you can‘t run:

1. SLOW IT DOWN. This is the biggest mistake I see people making. Running should not be fast – not at first. It should be very, very slow. The best way to start out is to walk for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing your pace until you’re walking at such a speed that it starts to feel a little uncomfortable. Then – without increasing your speed – lift your feet between steps. Congratulations. You are running. Doesn’t it feel easier than walking really, really fast? Good.

2. BREAK IT DOWN. Rome was not built in a day. Running is a learning process for your body, which needs to get fitter in order to be able to do what your brain is asking of it. Remember that burning chest feeling you get when you run for the bus? If you get that, you’re doing too much too soon. Once you’ve mastered the slow run (see above), try interspersing 1 minute runs with 2 minute walks. Repeat 5 times, with a 5 minute walk to warm up and cool down either side, and you have a 25 minutes of excellent running activity, all done by you, the supposed non-runner. Well done!

3. KEEP IT UP. Consistency is the key to progress. Aim to get your running practice in 2-3 times a week. If you only manage to grab 15 minutes here and there, that’s just fine and dandy too, and we‘ve established above that it doesn‘t have to be especially strenuous. The main thing is that you do it – no excuses, no putting it off until tomorrow. Write it in your diary if you have to, stick it on the fridge, leave your trainers by the front door in the morning – whatever it takes. As you get more confident, increase the length of your running intervals, and reduce the walking. See how much further you can go. Feels good, doesn’t it? You couldn’t do any of this a few weeks ago, and now you can. Feel proud.

The biggest running myth of all is that you should feel completely knackered by the end of your runs. If you’re doing it properly, you should feel energised and invigorated. If you find you’re becoming exhausted to the point where you lose motivation and start skipping sessions, then you’re running too fast or for too long. Really. Take it down a notch. There’s no point running yourself into injury – you’re doing this because you want to care for your body, not punish it.

Finally, the common sense stuff. Learn some stretches to cool down with, and make sure you’ve got trainers with a reasonable support in them. Keep hydrated. If you’ve got any existing medical issues that you’re worried may be aggravated by high impact exercise, then get your doctor’s approval before starting out.

Over to you! Do you love running? Then tell us how you got your mojo…

PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

*All images taken from Rebecca’s Pinterest account and originally uploaded by users so without source credit.

Musical Discoveries: May

It’s the second week of May (already?) and it’s a Tuesday, which means we’re welcoming Penny back with her musical discoveries. I’m already tempted by two on this list and shocked by a third, so read on and see where it’s at for music this month… and see if you can guess which are which.

Good afternoon and welcome to your music for May! Festival season is nearly upon us, and if you haven’t already had a look at the Florence Finds festival guide then hop over now, and then dust off your wellies ready for a season of outdoor music. The majority of this month’s pick of the pops have their roots in Americana – bluesy rock and country-tinged folk, all perfect for sitting around the campfire and toasting marshmallows to whilst wrapped in a million (stylish) jumpers to ward off the brisk British summer nights. And also -surprise!- there’s a Norah Jones album, just to prove I’m not a snob about anything.

Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls

Attention! Alabama Shakes are set to break the UK in a big way over the next few months. This month’s UK small venue tour sold out almost instantly, they’re in every music magazine, have done Jools Holland and basically ticked every buzz-band box required before they inevitably explode into the nation’s consciousness with their debut album Boys & Girls.

They peddle a simple, soulful sound – think the of the retro-blues of the White Stripes, or a stripped-back Kings Of Leon, then stick a lady with serious lungs and a bucket of charisma at the front and you have a recipe for success. Are the Alabama Shakes doing something new and exciting? Hell no. They are doing something unashamedly old, and they are doing it with style. You’ll be hearing a lot more from these this year though, that’s for sure.

Norah Jones: Little Broken Hearts

When I think of Norah Jones, I think of grown-ups in immaculate homes having dinner parties where they serve something with a coulis on it for pudding. I have never made anything with a coulis on it, and I have never really understood Norah Jones, in spite of her impressive music credentials -which include a boggling 9 Grammy awards. However, this new record is different. Broken Little Hearts is the result of her work with uber-producer Danger Mouse (who has worked with Gorillaz, the Black Keys and Beck among others), and the collaboration has taken her sound in a much fresher direction.

Gone are the smooth, easy-listening stylings of Come Away With Me – in their place is clever, contemporary pop production. Little Broken Hearts sounds like Norah is finally branching into the modern, and it translates pretty well. It’s not going to change the world, but I promise you don’t need coulis on your pudding to listen to this one.

Ellen & The Escapades: All The Crooked Scenes

Marked out by Glastonbury as an emerging talent in 2010 when they were invited to play the Introducing stage, Ellen and the Escapades have since garnered universal praise for their lush, sweeping folk-rock sounds. This is their very impressive debut album, and it’s certain to win them even more hearts.

From the wistful, rolling opener Run, through the Dixie stomp of hit Without You, all the way up to the nostalgic folk of Coming Back Home, Ellen and the Escapades pick you up by your braces and plant you firmly in your rocking chair on the front porch, looking out at twilight plains. No mean feat for quintet from Yorkshire. I guess the bleakness of the moors aren’t that far away from the barren landscape of a cowboy film, when you think about it. Anybody who enjoyed the First Aid Kit album (mentioned here a few months ago) will love this record too.

Jack White: Blunderbuss

If you like your Americana with a bit more growl and groove, the modern king of the blues Jack White is here to get the party started. This is his first solo album, and so eagerly anticipated that it knocked Adele’s 21 off the no.1 album slot, where she’s been lurking quite preposterously for more than a year now (seriously, surely anybody who wanted to buy that record must have it by now?). Jack made his name in the legendary White Stripes, and this record is a riff-packed monster that won’t disappoint fans.

It’s more eccentric than the Stripes, weaving a path through ramshackle rock, swampy blues and quirky country, but it’s all underpinned with solid song writing and is impressively listenable. I have to confess, the White Stripes totally passed me by, but I can’t stop putting this on. How anything so moodily rooted in the blood and guts of a marriage break-up (to model Karen Elson) can sound so completely uplifting, I have no idea. Just more proof of the genius of Jack White – if we needed it.

I’ve been falling in love with Alabama Shakes already via the radio playlist and now I want Blunderbuss to rock along to while we’re burning up the open road in the U.S. of A. later this month. A perfect soundtrack I think. Thanks Penny!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.