Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Albums of the Year

Forever the hardest decision to make, my favourite albums of the year. Here they are in an incredibly precise order that I've changed an innumerable number of times. I'm still not happy with it, but 2014 is almost done so here we go.

20. Real Friends Maybe This Place Is The Same And We're Just Changing
Last year's breakthrough pop-punk act couldn't quite continue the momentum. Maybe relentlessly pushing the same song down people's throats eventually was their undoing, but pophad -punk is pop-punk and can never truly be defeated. Pop-punk forever.

19. Say Anything Hebrews
An album with no guitars. A strange and disturbing place to be but it's pulled off remarkably well. Hebrews is awash with special guests, from Los Campesinos! vocal siblings to Bemis' own wife. 'John McClane' the obvious standout, but 'Hebrews' feat. Brian Sella, and 'Six Six Six' with a psychedelic verse from Andy Hull both provide proof that the rather unusual approach for an album works.  

18. Maybeshewill Fair Youth
When you watch Maybeshewill play almost every summer in a field they turn into a vehicle for nostalgia, so maybe that's why Fair Youth manages to make the list. Either that or because post-rock has always made a terrific essay writing, and I've had one or two of those to write on my Computer Science course. Either way Fair Youth is here on merit, not particularly boundary pushing but good, solid post-rock. The way it should be.

17. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties We Don't Have Each Other
The first of a couple of side projects, Aaron West is a character from the brain of The Wonder Years' frontman, Dan Campbell. All based around the protagonist's journey through life We Don't Have Each Other hits and misses but would probably be under the 'generally favourable' review category on metacritic.
16. Royal Blood Royal Blood
The year's band for people who enjoy preaching about a revival of British Rock Music without it ever having died. It's fairly obvious why Royal Blood have support slots with Foo Fighters lined up, they sound huge. Riffs is literally the name of the game, and to get the full sounding relentless attack from a two piece is impressive enough by itself. Quite obviously destined for big things, hopefully they don't suffer from a similar problem to Real Friends where they don't mix things up enough.

15. Fireworks Oh, Common Life
I wholeheartedly admit that I have listened to Oh, Common Life criminally few times since its release in March, but it doesn't take long to realise that the sextet haven't strayed far from the tried and tested. 'Run, Brother, Run' being a personal favourite, but the inaugural 'Glowing Crosses' runs it close. Does it exactly what it says on the tin.

14. Owl John Owl John
I'm always intrigued to hear the latest from the mind of Scott Hutchinson, which comes in the guise of Owl John - a solo project pushed by his label. Where Frightened Rabbit are clearly defined Hutchinson has clearly taken this as an opportunity to explore his musical horizons. 'Hate Music' is brooding in a way not imaginable from the man who wrote 'Poke', 'Red Hand' is jaunty and foreboding simultaneously, whereas 'Songs About Roses' is more familiar territory. The production is outstanding, and shout out to Atlantic for forcing him to indulge himself. Boy did it pay off.

13. Ariana Grande My Everything
I've considered shuffling around my list in order to bump this up a little but, heartbreakingly, I don't feel like it warrants it. Yes, this has some great tracks on it - 'Problem', 'Break Free', 'Love Me Harder' - but I just can't bring myself to put something with 'Hands On Me' into the top 10. Admittedly though, it's an incredible track for various reasons.

12. La Dispute Rooms of the House
Not up to the standard of previous works, that is undoubtable, but there's some gems hidden in the 41 minutes. 'First Reactions After Falling Through Ice' being the standout, but 'HUDSONVILLE, MI 1956' proves a worthy introduction, and 'Woman (reading)' is a beautiful case study. As always it's the lyrics of frontman Jordan Dreyer that really elevate the band into another category; 'THE CHILD WE LOST 1963' tugs at heartstrings in particular. This is the quintessential album of a post-hardcore band 'maturing' and honing their sound, and effectively mellowing out. Whether that's a positive is personal choice, but Rooms of the House certainly promises much more for the future.

11. Modern Baseball You're Gonna Miss It
Modern Baseball may be the definition of whiny American emo but that doesn't stop You're Gonna Miss It from being really quite good. 'Your Graduation', 'Apartment', and 'Charlie Black' make up the cornerstones, with 'The Old Gospel Choir' chipping in with a sensational two and a half minutes. It's not going to be an album for everybody, but that doesn't mean it's a heck of a good album. Then there's the fact that even if you don't like it you've lost less than half an hour of your life, there's no reason not to really.

10. Moose Blood I'll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time
Moose Blood, the newest face in British Emo put out a real statement of intent with I'll Keep You In Mind. Straight away 'Cherry' lives up to its genre, although from there the lyrics aren't always up to scratch, but the tracks themselves normally do a very good job at masking any slips in quality. 'Boston' and 'Bukowski' are familiar to those with prior knowledge of the Canterbury quintet, meanwhile 'Kelly Kapowski' is one that suffers with its words - "She wears hats above her ears, oh God I want her here". Y'what? Basement have shown its entirely possible to succeed this side of the pond and one can only hope that come this time next year they're still riding high.

09. Childish Gambino S T N   M T N // Kauai
So not technically an album, but hey. A combination of mixtape (S T N   M T N) and an EP (Kauai), but part of one concept. The former a dream about home - using the vehicle of a Gangsta Grillz mixtape - and he then wakes up in Kauai. The 'Telegraph Avenue' video (also referencing Kauai) dropped at the same time and hey, that's just how the Bino rolls. It's not just recorded output where Childish excels; I had the pleasure of seeing him twice this year, once in the intimate surroundings of Manchester's multifaceted, Gorilla and another at Brixton's O2 Academy. Both were incredible and would quite easily make any 'gigs of the year' list I'd sketch up. I await your next move, Donald.

08. Taking Back Sunday Happiness Is
The last couple of Taking Back Sunday releases have been solid, but nowhere near living up to the 'early stuff' so it's good to hear Happiness Is has some of the finest tracks of the year on it. The first half of the album is absolute gold, alongside album closer 'Nothing At All' - quite reminiscent of the title track on this year's Xcerts' LP at least in style. With the self-titled hearing Lazzara on a track entitled 'Best Places to be a Mom' was odd, and although some of the lyrical content is quite obviously not aimed at those twenty and below it's made up for with incredible hooks.

07. Damien Rice My Favourite Faded Fantasy
It took eight years, but finally there's a follow up to 9. Lisa Hannigan's off with her own fairly successful solo career, and in her place are building, nine-minute long symphonies that lead into Rice's more classical style. The two tracks slotted into the middle, 'I Don't Want To Change You' and 'Colour Me In' are truly greats. From the soft to the soaring MFFF encompasses everything that made Rice rise to the top to begin with, don't leave us waiting so long the next time.

06. Taylor Swift 1989
I used to be cool. I used to mock the young, beautiful Pennsylvanian who wrote sickly sweet songs about young lovers, but then Red arrived and everything changed. 1989 continues that trend, with pretty much everything about pop music stuffed into 50 minutes. And hey, the bonus tracks may be among the best songs on the album - 'New Romantics' is incredible. If you didn't like Swift as a human being it's pretty hard not to after this.

05. Spring Offensive Young Animal Hearts
Spring Offensive may be dead, but Young Animal Hearts will live forever. An album I've been waiting for since 2010. The sorrow hidden in the lyrics don't always translate to the tracks - yet its these very lyrics that make Spring Offensive quite so enticing. One of my favourites comes from 'Worry Fill My Heart':

“If I can’t pay my rent then I’m completely dependant,
I never thought that I would be so in line with convention,
How dare I even think that I could be any exception

04. Pianos Become The Teeth Keep You
The only album to have truly depressed me in the past 365 days. The forty-three minutes are matched by nothing else. Since 2011's The Lack Long After the band seem to have lost that angry edge; the screams have been replaced by a softer, just-as-heartbreaking soul searching by vocalist Kyle Durfey, carrying on in the direction set out by 'Hiding' - one of the tracks of last year. In the context of the band, 'Lesions' line "I find myself moving my legs, to make sure I still can" is incredibly moving, and the repeated "Your wick won't burn away" in 'Repine' is just as poignant. The fury may have subsided, but what's left is just as harrowing.
03. Marmozets The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets
Marmozets have had an incredible year, and put on one of the best sets of 2014 when they opened up for Taking Back Sunday on their UK tour. TWAWM blew almost everything out of the water, and Roadrunner did a tremendous job in both allowing the album to be made, and promoting it to the point that they've put the band at the forefront of British rock. From the explosive 'Vibetech' to the soundtrack-esque 'Hit The Wave' the quintet cover all bases, and do so exquisitely.

02. Manchester Orchestra Cope
When I interviewed Manchester Orchestra after the release of Simple Math they said they had two sets of songs - yin and yang. If Simple Math was a softer beast then that makes Cope the fierce other half. The singles may stand out, 'Top Notch', 'Every Stone', and the title track. It's one of the fullest sounding records of the year, and although the classical Manchester Orchestra peaks and troughs may have disappeared it's produced a beautiful rock record.

01. The Xcerts There Is Only You
Four and a half long years since the release of Scatterbrain the trio finally get around to releasing a follow up that's been in the works since 2012. Learning the lyrics to 'Shaking in the Water' on the Brand New tour, followed up by a preview of new songs at the Scatterbrain album show under the moniker of Saul Goodman. The contrast to the previous LP is incredible, and the upbeat pop anthems has the potential to launch them into the mainstream. 'Pop Song', 'Kids on Drugs', and 'Kevin Costner' are all masterpieces in songwriting, but the title track is something else. An incredible ballad that builds and builds, impossible to listen to without joining in. While others on this list, Piano's Keep You for example, may be heartbreaking it's strange to finish an Xcerts album with a sense of optimism.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Travel: Barcelona 2014

Barcelona's long been one of my favourite places to visit, so when finding a deal online for Barca vs PSG in the final round of Champions League group matches there was little hope of ever turning it down. It happened to clash with the final week of uni but after a consultation of university timetables I was fairly certain that it'd all work out alright. Obviously I was wrong, and as I was in the air my robotics team were demonstrating Leslie's solution to our final exercise, which thankfully went incredibly well. Not only that but my final year project demonstration was meant to be at the time I left for the airport, even after explaining that was going to be an issue.

So the terrifying ordeal of flying was made slightly simpler by the doctor - shout out to her - and in fact frightening Josh was one of the highlights of the journey. Something not usually expected from those with their own flying fears. We made it okay though, and not moments after arriving at the hostel we headed out to La Rambla, the only vaguely tourist destination befitting ten in the afternoon. Seems slightly different in midwinter, Joshua being propositioned by 'ladies of the night' definitely didn't happen in early August. Thankfully we found a nice waffle place - I had ice cream, it was that warm - before heading toward the nearest Irish bar where we saw Sky replay Ramsey's goal over, and over, and over, and over, and over.

Our one true day in Spain was lovely. We managed to get locked into our room to begin with by some guy who I think was just trying to change the sheets. After half an hour banging on the door hoping for somebody to come and let us out we eventually managed to go on our way into the Catalonian sunshine. Other than that slight mishap we spent it the exact same way we did the last time. Beach, Parc de la Ciutadella with its pretty fountain, Gothic Cathedral. This time though, we really tried experiencing the culture. Paella, Tapas, Sangria. You name it, we ingested it. Alongside the classic English Breakfast tea, although always having to ask for milk did get a little tiring.

By the end of the day it was time for the entire reason we were there, football! If you've ever met Josh you'll be aware of his fascination with Messi. It's beginning to get strange, but as long as it doesn't turn into something to rival his Chloe Moretz 'thing' we should be all okay. Alongside the best footballer in the world there was Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Suarez, Iniesta, Xavi. Not a bad list at all. Better yet Messi, Suarez, Ibra, and Neymar all managed to find the back of the net. Maybe the first three weren't classics, but Neymar's strike was wondrous. From our position I just expected Sirigu to save it, but it went beyond his reach and nestled - that most used of verbs - into the back of the net.

It's always nice to unwind after watching the best football match you may ever see, so we ventured back into the city toward the horrendously overpriced Hard Rock Café. Hey, what the heck right? Just another quick shout out, this time to the Spanish for eating ridiculously late, which meant that when we rolled in at 00:15 it wasn't remotely out of the ordinary. Splitting a bottle of wine turned out to be much cheaper than a milkshake, and also far more romantic, but of course Josh had managed to run out of money by this point so it actually just ended up being me paying for everything. T y p i c a l   J o s h.

In our 43 hours overseas we had a great time, and it's genuinely gutting to come back to cold, grey, wet Birmingham after spending the best part of two days having to remind myself it was December. Wherever we head off to next next - Rome maybe? - we might end up going for slightly longer.

Just a quick final note, Josh is genuinely one of the most photogenic humans. Prettiest friend 4 eva. More photos on flickr!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Posting This on Facebook Would Cause Too Many Problems

There are four things that irked me this week, (+1 from a couple of weeks back) and in no particular order they are:
  1. People still criticising Kim Kardashian for getting famous off a sex tape that, as far as I'm aware, she had no hand in making public
  2. The reaction to a 15-year-old boy being raped by a 47-year-old woman, and the fact that the kid should be okay with it
  3. That Dapper Laughs guy, who I admit I know very little about but have seen enough to form an opinion
  4. Katie Hopkins, always and forever
  5. Lea Dunham
I'm gonna start with the last one because that's the one that's been in my head for a while so:

Lea Dunham

I don't know how familiar everyone is with Ms Dunham, but she's a fairly successful actress, producer etc. etc. who I believe is best known for her role in Girls. Recently she released an auto-biography that states - and I'm quoting here - "Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying" in regards to her trying to coerce her younger sister into sexual activity with her. Without going into too much detail she basically abused her sister from the age of 7 until puberty in various ways. Now I can understand that a seven-year-old may not fully appreciate what they're doing, but by puberty you really should. Furthermore you've equated yourself to a sexual predator and you're definitely old enough now to understand that what you did was probably not acceptable. Yet she seems content to boast about it like it's somehow a positive. Allegedly she also 'outed' her sister to their parents, which is also not cool. Not a very nice person, really.

Katie Hopkins

Well there's no better segway into Katie Hopkins than that, really. 'Not a very nice person' is on her coat-of-arms. In the past what she's said has been utilised by talk shows to bring in viewers and thus her views are obviously 'edgy' but not great. This time though she's come out as saying completely derogatory things about Muslims and Palestinians. Please explain to me how you can avoid jail time when people are going to prison for the exact same thing.


Equally whoever this Dapper Laughs guy is, okay it's a comedy act - I get that. However when you look recently when Judy Finnigan's daughter started receiving threats those were swiftly and harshly dealt with, why is Dapper Laughs - who is doing, as far as I can tell, the exact same thing except abstracting the person - not facing 'up to two years'? The issue is that with situations like these is that people do replicate what they see on TV. Whether it's as a joke or not it's irrelevant when the entire premise of the character appears to be - at least to me - negating women's rights.

Cheerleader Rape

I just don't get how you can genuinely not understand that a 47-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old, whatever the circumstances, is pretty much always rape. When you hold power over somebody, like the age difference here creates you just cannot do that. Now, when he said he didn't want to have sex with her, again as far as I can tell, he was free to leave, fair enough it's not because he didn't say no (as far as I can tell), it's because the situation is just wrong and it makes consent irrelevant. Him telling his father about it surely shows that he wasn't completely comfortable with it?


The least serious of the three, but people really have to get over Kim Kardashian getting famous from a sex tape she had no hand in releasing. From there she's gone on to build a franchise around her that I'm not even going to attempt to put a price on. She might not be everybody's hero but hell yeah she's great and yeah in my opinion she's a great role model for young women. Go KK, Ily x

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


Kids in Glass Houses have two shows left, one in London tonight and one in Cardiff but alas the last time I'll ever see them has passed. Smart Casual and Dirt were both soundtracks to my time at Rangelagh, and I vividly remember listening to it while walking past the music block - don't ask me why. For a few years they used to be one of those bands I just saw at Reading, and it'd always be so much fun. On the In Gold Blood tour cycle I got the chance to speak to Iain Mahanty - an interiew I was wholly unprepared for, and photograph the band at The Forum in London. There's also a horrifically written review which is the reason I tend to stick to photographs nowadays.

KIGH are a band with so many memories attached; The one that springs to mind in particular is when I continually listened to 'Lovely Bones' throughout our stop in Italy while interrailing, for no better reason than the line "When in Rome" as far as I can remember, but it became such an integral part of that visit that even now listening to it will take me back. 

Really, there's one man in particular to thank for my continuing (active) interest in the Welsh quintet, and that's William Brown - like Charlie Brown it feels incredibly natural to refer to him by his full name. I'm not entirely sure how we came to be friends, but I do know we met in Glasgow due to a rather average Bloc Party gig, at least something good came out of it, right? I'm not sure if I'll ever see him again now that KIGH have bitten the dust because as far as I'm aware the only time we've bumped into each other apart from KIGH shows was Brand New in Glasgow, and the probability of them coming back any time soon is also slim.

Three shows on the 'Farewell Tour' doesn't feel like nearly enough, and I'm gutted that I can't really afford to get down to Cardiff! My ending, however, was pretty perfect. A hometown show - for me at least - with one of the best crowds it has to offer was a pretty special way to end it. Plus the day before, in Oxford at the 'soundcheck party', I got to hear my beloved 'Lovely Bones' and there's not much more I wanted from these dates.

Goodbye Kids in Glass Houses, I await your reformation.
Long live me, 'cause I'll be fine without you.

Monday, 27 October 2014


Hackathons have always been scary to me, I’ve never known what I could make and whether it would be good enough, and as such there’s no point travelling the country if it’s not going to be enjoyable. Unfortunately Hackference in Birmingham fell on (one of my many) busy weekends over summer, which left it down to BrumHack, part of the MLH hack season, to pick up the reigns for my first hackathon. In many ways the perfect introduction, run by friends and at my University, there were few reasons to turn down the opportunity.

That said, it didn’t cure my lack of ideas, and as sponsors were giving their opening speeches the reality of not having an idea was starting to set in. Thankfully neither did a trio of friends who were also in attendance. Tom, Joe, and Matt all had very loose ideas for what to do and almost immediately we decided to form a ‘team’ and banter around ideas. The one that stuck was incredibly simple, but with a fantastic entertainment factor.

The Braintree representative was going to give out a prize for whoever could incorporate images of Cristiano Betta, his colleague, into their hack. Thankfully this was easy, as there’s a website with placeholder images solely of Cristiano – think placekitten, but with a bald Dutch man who enjoys wearing an interesting array of hats. The question was how to incorporate this into a hack with Tom’s Kinect, and it was obvious – superimpose Mr Betta’s face onto your own, so you can become Cristiano Betta.

So we picked an image from the website, and started installing all the necessary programs needed to create such an incredible piece of software. Joe’s Visual Studio took an incredible amount of time to install, almost five hours, but luckily some was more reliable. Finally, in an example face tracking program in the Kinect SDK, we found a method that was drawing a mesh between points it picked up from the face. From there it wasn’t difficult to instead draw our image, taking the Point in the top left and stretching a rectangle to use as a canvas down to the Point in the bottom right.

Job done five hours in.

At this point there was genuinely a potentially finished hack, but with a gutting of a method replaced with six or seven lines of basic C# code, it felt like we should push on. The next iteration was to convert this into an Android application that could amuse family and friends for hours. The ability to make yourself a Betta man on the go appeals to all of us.

Unfortunately this was far less simple. I’ll admit, while Joe and Matt tackled to application code I may have drifted and not being much help. After failing to use the Bloomberg API to collate random information to display next to your head it was tough to refocus – as an aside did you know there was such information as number of pets lost/killed during air travel? There’s some strange, strange reports in this world.

I tried to make my own little app that took a band and formed a simple wordcloud from their lyrics. Using a combination of python to scrape information from azlyrics, and R to run statistical tests. Unfortunately azlyrics didn’t particularly like my sending of hundreds of requests and took to ignoring them, fairly swiftly ending that particular foray – although I now have a folder with lyrics to 30 Ariana Grande songs so it wasn’t a complete waste.

Thankfully other team members were far more productive, and halfway through the hack (ish) we had an Android app that would track, and print over faces. We were finally making real progress on a real hack. That’s when things significantly slowed down again. In order to be in with a chance to win some pretty incredible Lego we had to implement payments using the Braintree API, but without Mr Joe Nash – who had very wisely chosen to sleep instead – it was tricky going. Especially as my GitHub (Windows application) chose this moment to complete conk out, and trying to learn the correct order for commands in cmd is much more complex at 4am.

Having said that the early morning, fifteen or sixteen hours into a hack, is where I feel Rubber Ducking really comes into its own. Your brain is still working, but you’re far too shattered to realise. Almost everything that comes out of your mouth is obvious, but it’s not something you considered before despite staring at the same screen for three hours trying to figure out why nothing works.

Soon even that dried up, and due to my having to be in Oxford the next day I thought it would be best if I tried to get some shuteye. A three-and-a-half hour power-nap between 5 and 8:30 was a dream, but alas it probably caused a few more problems than it solved with the amount of Coca Cola drank over the course of the last day; awaking very tired, and very hungover-esque – all my favourite things in life. At least I had a bed for the night, people back at the labs were literally sleeping under tables. A team from Sussex had cleverly positioned themselves on the sofas, and could be heard snoring as late as 11am the next day.

Back the ‘next day’ and nothing had particularly changed. Both Tom and Joe tried the true hackathon experience – more out of necessity at having nowhere to go than anything else – but I don’t blame them for being a little bit sluggish in their working. Nine to eleven crawled past, and we were wondering how much was possible to present with what was essentially – as someone pointed out – what had been happening automatically in webcams for five or six years. At 11 though, everything kicked into gear. Joe Nash was back, and his ideas to use a hardcoded client token fixed all worries – this was where ‘hacking’ really took on its proper meaning.

It worked! We were able to pay through PayPal, and this let us unlock a new face for the application. Okay, it didn’t quite work in the fact that it unlocked the face beforehand, a face that could never be changed back to the default head, and you could avoid paying simply by exiting the app – but we were close! Allegedly using Braintree had proved challenging for many a group, so to have a payment send – even if it was at the wrong time – was a massive bonus to a team with no prior hackathon experience.

We genuinely got a great reaction from both guys who know Cristiano, and those who hadn’t a clue who he was, although I do accept that it may be a little strange to program such a hack without ever having met him ourselves. There’s a video of our presentation on YouTube (hopefully) which shows the app in all its glory - you can watch below, we're on first around 1:30! We actually managed to win the Braintree prize for use of their API, lots of Lego, being the only team to get it working for a mobile app, which is really cool - I'll definitely be using that as a memento of a great day. We even had a respectable amount of votes for Hackers' hack!

At the end of the day we set out to have a good time programming, and that was all our goal. Some of the teams had incredible applications that could genuinely be expanded upon, but that doesn’t mean that our virtual reality (pushing it now) android app is any less of an achievement. Hackathon no.1 down, time to get involved with the next one.

Also, massive shout out to Jack Wearden, Joel Hoskins, Sian, and MLH for organising; plus the team from Sussex who had to leave at a ridiculous hour in order to make it in time – and travelled in style with an ace Charmander onesie. 

#TurnDownForWhat #WhosBettaWhosBettaWhosBest

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Music: The Sounds That Keep Me Sane

Haven't put anything up here in a while, so here's a bit about the stuff I've been listening to recently.

Marmozets The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets

Marmozets, a band formed of two sets of siblings from Leeds. Trying to describe their style is a difficult task where you have the vicious 'Vibetech', that could probably appease those at Sonisphere or Download, just a track away from 'Hit the Wave' - where the chorus is hard to listen to without picturing explosions and slow motion panning. There are a few tracks we're already familiar with, like the excellent 'Move, Shake, Hide' and 'Why Do You Hate Me?', and both stand out but for me the title track, 'Weird and Wonderful', sums up the album perfectly. Becca's vocals are outstanding soaring above the pulsating guitar riffs and it's exactly why this band are gonna go far.

Kevin Devine Bubblegum

Kevin Devine may not be the young upstart that Marmozets are, but that doesn't make him any less relevant to today's world. In a music industry that has lost any concept of lyrical substance it's refreshing to have 'Bubblegum'. 'Private First Class' is about the plight of Chelsea Manning, and trying to empathise with her situation. Even better is the fact that when played live KevDev actually bothers to change the pronouns which is amazing to me. Right next to it is 'Fiscal Cliff', which again shows how the content may be political, but his ability to write a killer hook for the chorus can still keep your attention. It's not just full of shouty semi-punk tracks though, 'Red Bird' builds beautifully over the course of six minutes into a cacophony of warm distortion, and 'Sick of Words' is much lighter but lacks none of the purpose. Bubblegum was actually released at the same time as another of his albums, Bulldozer, and both are well worth checking out.

Moose Blood I'll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time

It's entirely possible for Moose Blood to become the next big thing in emo, and this album is quite capable of helping them do it. I've heard people say that this is the album they wish Brand New had made post-Déja. While I don't necessarily agree with that sentiment - how could I when TDAG is the best album in the history of time? - it certainly shows you the company that people are slotting MB alongside. 'Cherry' provides an earnest, yet melancholy opening but that's quickly forgotten as 'Anyway' kicks in. They haven't deviated from the formula that made Moving Home a 'hit', and both 'Boston' and 'Bukowski' are re-recorded, and welcomed back like old friends. Sadly for Mark Andrews and Junior they've not managed to corner the market on 'Kelly Kapowski' in time, although it's one of the weaker tracks on the album so maybe White Lightening's still in with a chance. Also a shout out for being the only band I've yet heard to fit 'nan' into a song [although I've lost where they say it so I may have made it up].

Blitz Kids The Good Youth

Blitz Kids are one of those bands that teenage girls like, and bearing that in mind probably a band that I should steer well clear of; but ever one to obnoxiously continue where others would falter - this analogy doesn't include any genuinely scary or even mildly anxious situations - I actually got to quite like Joe James and the gang. Another band signed to the never ending resource of money that is Red Bull Records there are, no doubt, plans for them to follow in Twin Atlantic's footsteps and go onto bigger things. The Good Youth is a great start, with newest single 'Perfect' being the standout track, but by no means the only positive. 'On My Own' and 'Sometimes' both employ the same characteristic big choruses with 'Long Road' proving to be a more relaxed, heart-felt ballad. Haters gonna hate, but this album is great.

Childish Gambino STN MTN / Kauai

There's not much going on in the world of Donald Glover that I'm not on board with; hell I even like 'Break Your Heart Right Back', and both STN MTN and Kauai are no different. One a mixtape, the other an EP. Not sure the actual distinction between formats other than that one was released free, and both can be streamed. Both link back to 'the boy' from Because the Internet, in STN MTN he's dreaming about having his own Gangsta Grillz mixtape, and then he wakes up in Kauai after his dad's died. I can't even comprehend where the 'Telegraph Ave.' video fits in, but I'm sure it's not coincidence that it also references Kauai. STN MTN is a little 'heavier'? I'm not sure how to talk about rap albums; but there's definitely more sawtooth waves either way. Kauai has a pretty nice 70s vibe, and the only thing I could do without is Jaden Smith talking crap - particularly annoying as Gambino's part in 'Late Night in Kauai' is particularly nice - but I'll take what I can get. Have a look at the 'Telegraph Ave' vid too, 90% of it is amazing. plsluvmeDonald.

Solemn Sun §

The first release under the [sort of] new pseudonym for Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun, occasionally it's these moves away from the tried and tested that can go horribly wrong, but not so here. 'Josef' quickly establishes the new order, but there are definitely remnants from their past incarnation. The EP's closer, 'I Saw', fluctuates between upbeat and moody, Jim's vocals almost sink into the wall of noise, while the background croons, "I saw, I saw you". The EP is streaming on Kerrang! and you can pay what you want from their site, hard to say no to that!

The Xcerts  There is Only You

Technically not out yet, but the first two singles have been released and I've not been this excited for a record in a long, long time. 'Shaking in the Water', which first made its appearance on the Brand New tour two and a half years ago and only just made the cut to be TIOY, is an upbeat grunge track. The hook of which won't be out of your head for days, and you'll absent mindedly find yourself bobbing down the street muttering, "I was shake, shake, shaking in the water". The next track, 'Pop Song' unashamedly bridges the gap between rock and pop, and it's clear that the bleak nature of Scatterbrain has been completely replaced. Mike Sapone's influence has faded and the band are back with Dave Eringa, who produced In The Cold Wind..., alongside Paul Steel, part of Cold Crows Dead. Maybe it's the latter's influence that has seen the production become such a vital part, taking them from a cult band to one that genuinely sound like they could fill arenas. Only time will tell how good TIOY will actually be, but I'm pretty confident.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Sport: Telford Tigers 6-1 Bracknell Bees

Poor Bracknell, having to journey to the big spending Telford Tigers on the opening day of the season. The club that The Bees wouldn't do badly replicating; brand new rink in a brand new part of town with pretty solid ambitions for this season. Conversely the programme describes our beloved team from Berkshire as the potential 'surprise package'. To then lose 6-1 showed the sympathetic words for what they were. It started well - scoring first but conceding two seconds from the end of the first period - until two goals in the second were followed by another three in the third without an answer. The amount of penalty time picked up in the final twenty minutes was also excessive - Wiggins picked up a game for resisting the linesman, and Strycek a match for high sticks. Poor Mettam, he played so well - particularly in the first - when Telford hit the post twice, were through one-on-one twice, were on the powerplay twice, and had multiple attempts saved by the Bees' goaltender. Onto next weekend.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Politics: Scottish Independence

On September 18th Scotland vote whether to remain as part of the United Kingdom, or 'go it alone' as an independent country. The two sides themselves tell a story, the progressive SNP who hypothetically have Scotland's best interest at heart, and the Westminster elite who tend to neglect those north of the border.

I think a key reason for the formation of an independent Scottish state can be found in this very idea alone. The Scottish people feel out of touch with a government located, geographically at the very least, at the other end of the country. Of course this was one of the reasons for Holyrood in the first place, and has somewhat helped - Those in Scotland don't pay tuition fees, or prescription charges for example. However on national policy it still feels like the Scottish electorate, overwhelmingly on the centre-left, aren't catered for by centre-right governments. The traditional option of voting for the left - Labour - have blurred the lines with Tony Blair's New Labour, and even Ed Miliband's tenure often sees him on the wrong side of the line for Scottish voters. 

The Better Together campaign have come out with a slapped together plan for 'Devolution Max', essentially creating a federalised system where Scotland have much greater powers, but that would seemingly increase the degree of separation between the two, and keep Scotland on track for independence somewhere further down the line. That is, of course, if you believe that Devolution Max will actually be offered at all in the event of a No vote. It does seem like this is a last ditch effort to keep the status quo after The Sunday Times/YouGov poll showed the narrowest of leads for the Yes campaign. As many have said, if the Westminster parties were serious about Devo-Max then it would have been a campaign point long before the postal votes have already been submitted. Equally Devo-Max would negate a Scottish seat at the EU table, which is a key goal of the SNP.

Politically therefore it makes complete sense for a Yes vote. The people of Scotland have the right to choose who they're governed by, and this principle covers a couple of other contentious points. The reason why other parts of the UK aren't allowed to vote, for instance - forcing the Scots to be ruled by a government they no longer want is completely undemocratic. Equally why people living north of the border, who are not Scottish citizens, can cast their ballot - as it affects them as well if Scotland is their home. (Of course The Mail had the most to day on such an issue.) Whether being ruled by the SNP in practice is as appealing as the idea remains to be seen, but personally I'd be all for trying. 

Equally I think national identity north on the border backs their own country. The recent Commonwealth games highlighted Scotland, and Scottish values - rather than the broader, and slightly more ambiguous notion of 'Britishness'. As with all home nations the Scots have their own sports teams, with self-contained Scottish leagues - and we've seen in history how much sport has a part to play in a wider role. It can only help the Yes campaign that the Scottish football team put in a battling display against World Champions Germany this week, and that during the aforementioned Commonweak Games 'Oh Flower of Scotland' frequently rang round the arenas. Of course there's also the darling of 'British' tennis, Andy Murray, who almost didn't bow to the queen - apparently. It all adds to a narrative.

Outside of sport there's far more. Music, somewhat removed from the rest of the British scene - The Proclaimers, Texas, Travis, Biffy Clyro, Twin Atlantic. The list is endless, and they're wholeheartedly championed within their native country. Comedy, the world famous Edinburgh Festival is unrivalled. Scotland has its own newspapers, bank notes, food, art, history. While there are obviously links with rUK, there's a very separate Scottish culture also.

So all that's really left to question is whether the country can afford to go it alone. With businesses threatening to pull back into the rest of the UK and already removing some of their [cash] assets it would seem as if it's going to be an uphill struggle. Of course the majority of the North Sea Oil is within Scottish waters, but production has been decreasing for over a decade, and will probably continue to do so. Can it sustain what is bound to be an incredibly fragile economy? All this coupled with the markets probably inducing at least short term pain - even after one poll indicating a possible Yes vote the pound and Scottish shares have both fallen.

Then where does the currency situation end up? A currency union with the rUK would seem an obvious choice, the two economies are so interconnected anyway that maintaining the status quo would seem natural, but Westminster politicians are concerned, no doubt, over having to bail out banks in a foreign country. That would leave the choice of using the pound without consent - Sterlingisation - which could be used for a while, but would likely leave Scotch banks at risk with no help from the BoE, a wholly new currency - which economists seem to be divided on, or the choice to join the Euro. Joining the Euro is a prerequisite of EU membership, but as I'm reliably informed on twitter that requirement has no time limit - effectively negating it. Good for Scotland, as the UK is quite a long way off the convergence criteria, and if Scotland had to abide by it then it could hurt trade with rUK.

Plus, on EU membership, it's almost certain that Scotland would have to fully reapply for membership based on the noises coming out of the Union. Barroso himself said that, "it's going to be extremely difficult... if not impossible" for Scotland to join the EU as a sovereign state, mainly down to other countries fearing it would encourage other regions to go for independence. EU membership is a big part of the SNP plan, so that they can negotiate positions as best for the Scottish people rather than the English as its seen the UK government does - especially with regards to such things as fishing quotas. To be denied it would be an incredible blow, but it would also be detrimental to the EU to be seen denying entry to a nation who was so keen to join. I'm intrigued to see how it unfolds if it occurs.

All said and done I'd back a yes vote if I was a Scottish resident, mainly due to the fact that the Westminster Elite don't represent the wants and needs of their nation. However it's key to remember that a Yes vote won't bring instant gratification, it'll be a process that takes years, but hopefully it'll be worth it.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sport, Sport, Sport, Travel, Comics, Beach, Netflix

Sports haven't been good to me recently. Lauren and I went away to Nottingham for a couple of CHL matches, which happened to sit perfectly either side of Reading's match at the City Ground. Nottingham Panthers, ranked 44th out of 44 teams in the CHL never really stood a chance; neither did Reading who had half a team out through injury.

Still, to watch 'your' team get tonked 4-2, 4-0, and an eye-watering 10-1 on consecutive days wasn't the best way to spend a weekend. There was a brief moment of hope, when Panthers came from 2-0 down to equalise midway through the second period but from then on it really was one-way traffic.

Aside from sport though, the weekend was a hoot. Endless programmes about Kate Bush, went to see Guardians of the Galaxy, played some crazy golf. Plus ended up spending a fair amount of money on comics, and 'graphic novels'. Turns out that they're actually alright! My first foray came in the form of a volume of 'East of West', which I'm not sure I have the necessary vocabulary to suitably explain.

From Nottingham I took the five hour journey straight down to Plymouth, where my family were down in Modbury. Finally I tasted the sweet deluxe hot chocolate of The Lazy Cow again; atop it a mound of swirling whipped cream, a vast array of coloured sugar strands, and finished with miniature marshmallows. Heaven on Earth.

Lastly, in this diary of life, which everybody is super interested in. Finally finished Archer, which is amazing, and well worth getting Netflix for almost by itself. Moved on to the intensely disturbing, Bates Motel; Outlining Norman Bates' life before Psycho. It's been renewed for a third series, although only the initial ten episode run is on internet's holy-grail of tv and film.

Now to actually catch up with work.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Books: Inferno

Now, I don't normally write about books but I felt like making an exception for Dan Brown's Inferno. He's been one of my favourite authors ever since reading The Da Vinci Code over the course of a family holiday, much to the annoyance of my parents at the time. Often touted as one of the biggest selling authors of all time, Inferno is the third installment of the Robert Langdon series.


The book starts in media res - thanks Los Campesinos! - with Langdon waking up in a hospital bed with a bullet wound, and from there he has to fight to piece together the last two days of his life, which are a total blank - although he does realise he's awoken in Florence. Pretty quickly he begins to trust one of the doctors treating him, Sienna Brooks, and the two set out on an adventure to recover the lost remnants of the Professor's mind. It's all based around Dante's masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, and all the associated works of art that were spawned from it.

Obviously everything is incredibly well researched, as is typical of Dan Brown. Everything fits together perfectly, and the level of detail is amazing. I genuinely don't know how he's able to create such an intricate mystery with all the knowledge that's required.

However the storyline doesn't seem to flow as easily with previous novels, and it definitely requires the suspension of disbelief. Everything Langdon knows he seems to have learnt from a private tour - which is probably completely accurate for a man of his stature, but it seems repetitive and dull. Plus his accomplice, Brooks, is meant to have an IQ of 208 but often has to play dumb in order for Langdon to explain, or be the one to figure out the mystery. It's almost comedic when he keeps repeating, 'Finally, something Sienna doesn't know'.

The little techniques he uses to lead the readers toward (and also away) from the big reveals are really interesting to see. Here his repetition aids the reader, keeping fresh certain scenes, while confusing things with misleading thoughts from each character - the book's written from about half a dozen people's . Half the notes I made while reading the book became irrelevant as everything unfolded, and that's one of the beauties of it. There's so many twists and turns, some of them obvious but a lot of them less so.

Really, it's just made me want to visit Istanbul and Florence (again). The cities are as much a character as anybody else. Time to wait for the movie, so I can be disappointed all over again.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

LIVE: Childish Gambino [2]

So obviously my Childish Gambino hype toward the start of the year was pretty high, but it's (slowly) died off as we've got further into 2014. That said, with his date at Brixton Academy on the agenda that did pick up a little. Somewhat unfortunately Lauren, my partner for the night's entertainment, had to pull out, which left me waiting in a Starbucks for an Irish fella off twitter until ten minutes before Bino was on - Although thankfully it meant I made back my £20, only quadruple what the touts were offering for my spare.

Inside the place was packed. Not surprising as the 5,000 capacity Academy was completely sold out. The normal between band entertainment was enhanced with the addition of a projector screen showing a special 'Deep Web' backdrop. This backdrop was effectively controlled by the crowd, one part essentially a white board that could be drew upon, and the other a stream of messages - both controlled from within the Deep Web App. This lead to some interesting things upon Brixton's back wall.

The lights go down, and the backdrop changes, evolving until eventually a room is pictured. Then the room erupts as Gambino strolls out to his piano on the middle of the stage. As he starts playing, he announces that this is the last Deep Web Show, and he wants to do something a bit special. The show that follows is so immersive that you almost completely forget your surroundings. Of course the focus is Gambino's concept album - Because the Internet - played in its entirety from start to finish, but the backdrop plays a key part also. It gives context to the songs in front of it, from shootings to sex.

When the band behind Childish suffer from a technical hitch the rapper's freestyle comes to the fore. As Don't Flop can attest to, being able to think on your feet is a wholly different skill to penning a bar. That said, Childish's other personality is an award winning writer so maybe it's not too surprising.

If the Deep Web section of the show is immersive, and interesting then the older tracks are just downright fun. Heartbeat, Firefly, and Freaks and Geeks are all met by euphoria. Not being a regular at hip hop gigs I can easily tell you that it's unlike anything I've experienced before; you just don't get it when watching Frightened Rabbit, or Biffy.

I'm hoping that next time Donald Glover appears on our shores it's for more than a single show, because if the golden rule of showbusiness is 'always leave them wanting more', then he's doing it perfectly.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Recently I watched Man of the Year. It wasn't a great film, but the standout performer was Robin Williams and he seems to be the standout in the vast majority of his films. Be it the comedies where he thrived, or his critically acclaimed dramatic roles. I've seen people say he was taken for granted, and another that said he seems invincible. That sums it up for me. I'm not going to  artificially inject him into situations he was never a part of, but he was a staple of my childhood however you look at it. Flubber, Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Aladdin. Hook. It's strange, because despite all of those he'll probably be best remembered to me as Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum, one of my favourite films while growing up - even if I hate to admit it.

In the last couple of days I've watched The Dead Poets Society, and re-watched his Oscar Winning performance in Good Will Hunting. Despite only being a supporting part his role seems so vital, he brings life to characters that could so easily be flat and unsubstantiated. I hope that good can come out of this; that it gives a chance to lift the taboo on mental health issues but I somehow doubt it. The headlines splashed across front pages make it clear, this was a man driven to this because of money issues. That may have played a factor, but it doesn't tell the story. Equally, the need by [tabloid] newspapers to splash the gruesome, unnecessary circumstances that surrounded his passing really upset me. I'm not even going to mention the twitter comments.

Rest easy O Captain, My Captain.

I'm not sure if it's just his death, or a few other factors but I've been pretty down the last couple of days. Partly, I think it's partly down to the fact that I thought by twenty I'd be a little more organised. I'd be in a band, or I'd be doing photography for at least some kind of pay. On Sunday I went to a wrestling show, and told someone that it'd be really cool to be able to wrestle. They just asked me, "Why don't you learn?". It really is that simple, and I had absolutely no answer to them. Just like last week when a friend asked why I wasn't in a band if I wanted to be. No response. The main reason with that is that I hate everything I write. The lyrics are average to poor, and the melodies are clichéd. 

At least I've managed to get to a pretty good university, but I don't feel like I fit in as well as I'd like. Despite appearing slightly tech-y I know next to nothing about recent technology, and my grasp of programming outside Java is fairly basic. I'm not very good at video games, unless you count FIFA which I'm fairly good with, and I get bored with single player games far too quickly. But equally I'm not a sports guy either - as much as maybe I would like to be.

All of this can be solved with just one thing, hard work. So, I need to draw up a plan. Which I guess looks something like:
  • Invest in [cheap] studio lighting, now I've actually got money.
  • Get some press passes sorted!
  • Find some models for photography, and start snappin'.
  • Just keep writing lyrics - one day I'll be able to take the best lines from each individual song and actually manage to make a decent song.
  • Practice C++ [Fairly crucial]
  • Just try to keep up-to-date with tech things
  • Travel, Travel, Travel, Travel, Travel, [Photos], Travel
  • Get in touch with people who actually do any of these things and figure out the next steps from here
  • Actually interact with other humans
How hard can it be?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Life: Twin Atlantic Have Been In My Head All Day And They're Awful [Sort of]

I think two weeks is the longest time between posts since I started this blog properly, and that's mainly because I haven't really done anything - partly due to spending a few days at home when my family were down in Devon which is fairly soul destroying. What I have done has been relegated to my other blogs - Reading/Wrestling - so that it doesn't get quite so cluttered over here.

Finally though, something to do! Reading and Leeds announced a free Twin Atlantic/PABH warm-up show in Manchester, which you had to 'win' tickets for. Effectively that meant entering, and eventually being given more than you asked for - apparently down to most people who entered not having an adult to go with. Anyway, the gig itself was pretty good - I had one of those groggy headaches which did lessen the enjoyment factor somewhat; but I haven't seen Twin since (I think) Reading Festival 2011, and haven't seen them headline in over three years either. It's pretty rare nowadays for them to be playing somewhere with capacity in the triple digits, check their tour later in the year if you wanna know how big they are now (Spoiler: Pretty big).

The big news of the day - from my point of view - was the coach journey! Now, if you know me you'll probably know that I've had a rather troublesome time in certain situations. All arising from a rather stressful period in 2012, the first week of Uni. First I felt rather dehydrated in a lecture - the first lecture - and had to go out, but only after drawing a great deal of attention to myself via asking whether I could leave. "This is embarrassing" was somewhat of an understatement. Then there was a Megabus but a couple of days later, I was meant to be going to The Garage in Highbury for La Dispute, but unfortunately I never made it. Rather foolishly I wasn't fully prepared, and lacked any water thus becoming (again) dehydrated. I got off at Birmingham Airport, and went back home rather disappointed.

Both those events triggered panic attacks, and a rather more general anxiety which is brilliant. Since then coaches have been rather unpleasant, so being able to travel on them relatively panic free was actually a fantastic experience. I've been to 'see' someone about it and turns out that it was rather helpful. That along with a healthy dose of Propranolol worked wonders. Now just to see how an open day goes tomorrow, and I may be able to consider myself cured. (ish) 

Away from depressing overreactions to everyday situations there's the brand new Solemn Sun playing in London tomorrow. Finally a reason to go to the Old Blue Last. Gonna feel all hipster in Shoreditch. Plus there's a fair bit of wrestling on this weekend. Fight Club: PRO, Southside, and PWK.

It's gonna be a hoot. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Photography: 2000trees

I've been going to 2000trees since 2010 (minus 2012 when I was off interrailing) and there's something that keeps me going back every year. Almost every band comments on how it's the "best festival in the UK", and they manage to curate a line-up almost solely from the best artists in the country - with a couple of notable exceptions this year. If you wanna read a review I wrote you can go here, or photos are below the jump [with the full set being here]

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Life: No Longer a Teenager, Not Quite an Adult

I woke up on July 6, 2014 a changed man. The reassuring knowledge of being in my teens - with life ahead of me - had evaporated, instead leaving the terrifying expanse of my twenties. Two decades worth of life experience flashed before my eyes as I rolled out of bed on a 'lazy' Sunday morning, as I was dragged somewhere against my will - I guess some things don't change.

(As an aside, that place happened to be a vinyl fair at Rivermead Leisure Centre, where I picked up a whole host of records that my parents already own; War of the Worlds, Kate Bush, Supertramp. I added a couple of my own - searching high and low for Talking Heads, and Patrick Bateman's speech in American Psycho flooded back as I added Whitney Houston's debut LP, simply known as 'Whitney Houston', to my ever expanding list of purchases. In fact, I stopped myself from looking around half the stalls for fear of bankrupting my father.)

From now, all the potential that I've somehow managed to keep hold of throughout my teenage life can suddenly dissipate come actually having to find a job in, hopefully, a year's time. The last year of uni is quickly approaching, and holds a quite terrifying amount of weight over the outcome of my future endeavours.

Still, for now I'll content myself with finally finishing Dexter - even if the best seasons are apparently behind me, and try and cram as much into my week's free WWE Network as possible. Plus 2000 Trees starts on Thursday, which is always good fun. Here's to another decade of being alive.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Sport: World Cup By Goals

This World Cup has been smothered in plaudits from those who have been impressed with the free-flowing, attacking football on offer. Of course there are exceptions, the goalless draw between Japan and Greece was a game that quite literally put me to sleep. Still, goals are being scored at a phenomenal rate of 2.83 a match (136 in total), and better yet most games are tight affairs - 44% are being decided by a single goal. There's more drama than anything Vince McMahon could have scripted, who would have believed that Greece could sneak past the Ivory Coast with a last minute penalty after failing to find the net in their opening two games? Or, closer to the WWE analogy, Suarez yet again deciding to gnaw at human flesh?


Iran's goal eight minutes from time in their final group game means that, for the first time since 1998, all teams at the finals managed to score at least once. Holland put the most goals past the opposition goalkeeper with ten, followed by Colombia with a respectable 9. Despite France's final game ending goalless they still notched eight thanks to FIFA's new goal line technology. Depressingly there are nine players who scored more goals than the entirety of the England team; Xherdan Shaqiri only required 65 minutes to better Wayne Rooney and co. 

In terms of goals conceded it's perhaps a surprise that, alongside Belgium - whose only goal against was the penalty conceded by Jan Vertonghen -  Mexico and Costa Rica only conceded one goal apiece. At the other end of the spectrum are Australia and the somewhat troubled Cameroon, who picked the ball out of their net nine times. Greece were the only team to qualify for the knockout round with a negative goal difference. Australia, Cameroon - two of the three bottom ranked teams, alongside Honduras had by far the worst goal difference overall. Unsurprisingly Germany, France, Netherlands, and Colombia lead the way in that department. France and Germany find themselves in the same quarter - so if both teams get through the last 16 then that'll make for an outstanding quarter final.

Group D, with three teams ranked inside the top ten, scored least frequently - but still with a respectable 2 goals per match. On the other hand Group B set a blistering pace, with six goals in the Netherlands demolition of the reigning champions. Come the end of the group they still found the net once every 25 minutes - or 3.66 goals per game.

As mentioned in my opening statements, the games have, for the most part, been close. 63% of games have ended with honours even, or one side prevailing by a single goal. It's interesting that games that would traditionally be close have often ended up being lopsided; Spain 1-5 Netherlands, Switzerland 2-5 France, Germany 4-0 Portugal. However when you look at games that should be easy wins for either team they have often ended up being much closer affairs. Argentina in, hypothetically, the easiest group only managed to defeat each team by a single goal. Nigeria, who qualified with Argentina in Group F are the lowest ranked team to make it past the group phase of the tournament.

Finally the world cup started with a bang, 49 being scored in the first round of matches. In the final round that figure was down almost 15% to 42. That doesn't bode well for the knockout rounds, as defences tighten up and nobody wants to make the mistake to lose the game but with some of the matchups who knows what will happen? Yet more 2-1s to come?