Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Monday 15 May 2017

Music for Toddlers (great for dancing and car journeys – that parents will like too!)

I think one of those universal truisms is that children love music. From the earliest weeks, whenever music came on Baby VP would perk up and take notice, often waving hands and legs and then as she got older, dancing to the beat. I think it helps that we have sung to her all the time – and still do. We found quite early on that putting on some of her preferred music would instantly make her smile and so we got quite good at finding music; but gosh there is a lot of really rubbish children’s music out there! So I set to work rooting out the good stuff because there is only so many times I can bear the happy-hardcore version of If You’re Happy And You Know It (sorry Justin Fletcher – no one needs to hear that!)… It’s worth also noting that playing any sort of music (with the exception of death metal or sweary rap?) is great for children.

  • The Rainbow Collection by The Rainbow Collection/Sophie Barker.

This is the first album we bought for BabyVP when she was about 5 months old. It’s sung by Sophie Barker, one of the singers along with Sia and Zoe Johnston from Zero7 (which is probably why I like it so much). The songs are old favourites, so parents can sing along too, but unlike many which are either saccharine or very cheaply orchestrated, these are done well and are not unbearable after, say, the 700th play. Favourite songs? Dream A Little Dream, Teddybear’s Picnic and Lavender’s Blue.

  • Julia Donaldson’s Treasury of Songs.

Any parent from 2003 onwards will be extremely familiar with Ms Donaldson’s work, mostly from The Gruffalo or any other countless children’s books she has produced – as Julia has to be one of the most prolific children’s authors around. It helps that she’s really good at what she does – I mean, who doesn’t love the Gruffalo? Or Superworm (my fave)? Or The Snail and The Whale? I can recite them perfectly (!) we’ve read them so much (“Superworm is super strong/Superworm is super long…). And so when I saw a copy of her Treasury of Songs with a CD of her singing said songs in the sale, you know that we had to get it. And since then, I have had each of her songs etched into my memory! As Donaldson started off as a songwriter for CBBC, it seems fitting that most of her stories either started off as songs or became them for this book/CD. The book is illustrated by Axel Scheffler (who else?) along with the lyrics for each song. It’s lovely, it really is. I laughed as the Amazon reviews say that they love the songs except for Julia Donaldson’s singing; but I think it’s a bit like a favourite granny singing your child a song. The child doesn’t care that it’s not being done by a professional singer – and neither do I. Despite starting to twitch if it’s on its 20th rotation of the day, I still like it. Favourite songs: The Snail and The Whale, Fox and The Crow and A Squash and A Squeeze. Props to Malcom, Julia’s husband, for singing on most of the tracks and occasionally dressing as a fox…

  • Pretty much anything by Laurie Berkner.

We tend to shy away from the American singers as I am aware that linguistically there are enough differences to make me want to stay mostly-British where possible. Having said that, Laurie Berkner is a really good songstress (regardless of some of her songs sounding like other peoples’) who makes songs for children to dance along to. She has a great YouTube channel (so by the magic of Bluetooth you can attach your device to speakers and play that) and her songs are on the whole pretty original (lyrically), upbeat and fun. There are certain songs that Baby VP now requests, particularly These Are My Glasses, We Are the Dinosaurs and Bubbles. Definitely one to get moving to!

  • Renee & Jeremy

When you want something a bit folky, these two are the two to go for. Upbeat, mostly original works with minimal orchestration and a lovely message. We really like them and particularly the songs Night Mantra, It’s A Big World and Share.

  • Putumayo Lullaby by Various Artists

I got this CD years and years before BabyVP arrived because I loved the songs. If you’re a fan of the World music genre or want your child to be, these Putumayo compilations are the place to start. Great songs.

Sunday 30 April 2017

Music: April’s favourites

Few people can pen a song like Cohen could. And his last LP, released just months before his death, was one of the most lucid and adroit albums I have heard in a very long time. It is, like its title, full of darkness but what it lacks in positivity/rainbows it makes up for in pure lyrical genius.

Not a new one but one I re-found and fell in love with again. Marling has a new LP, Semper Femina, which is just as 70s-folk-laced and powerfully-written as ever.

Thanks to fellow blogger Melissa for highlighting this gem. The title track is pure Elton John if Elton and Bernie Taupin had been the protest singers of 2016/17 and they’d been tasked with delivering a highly-accurate description of the ridiculousness of humanity’s current predicament. It’s sad how accurate and cutting his lyrics are; in stark contrast to the poetic Cohen’s, which are cutting and accurate in metaphor.

It seems a few of this month’s favourites are artists who sound like other artists. Laura Marling sounds like a hybrid of Carol King and Joni Mitchell and Father John Misty who seems to channel pure Elton John albeit without any of the showmanship or platform shoes. I’m not sure whether Michael Kiwanuka would agree about the parallels drawn between himself and Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, but there’s definitely a familiar sound; his voice would be just at home in the 60s as it is now. It’s lush, with a huge intro, and a familiar melody that I can’t put my finger on.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

New Music: February and March

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Music: A few new finds

A few new songs I’ve found in the last couple of months:

Thursday 24 November 2016

Music: James Reynolds

If you’ve watched a BBC nature documentary recently (with perhaps the exception of the Attenborough documentaries), you’ll probably have heard some of James Reynolds’ work in the background.  It is how I first found him, after asking Mr VP to use an app to work out what the song was that was playing as some mayflies danced just above the surface of a river.  He is a young but gifted piano composer whose pieces are often used by the BBC (and probably others). You’ll enjoy it if you have a penchant for minor keys, twinkly piano pieces or film scores (or all three, like me!).

My favourite pieces are Butterfly (the one used with the mayflies); Silent Sleep; and Life In Slow Motion.

Saturday 30 May 2015

Music: Staphan O’Bell – Yellowstone

I haven’t ever written about Staphan O’Bell on here except for adding his last single, Five Years Went Fast, to my autumn 2014 playlist.  I really should have mentioned his music before as I have a bit of a musical crush on him!  His back-catalogue is upbeat and catchy with plenty of indie folk thrown in, and catchy melodies masking his lyrical poignancy.  I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I can definitely detect a hint of the Damon Albarn in there, particularly on his song From My Rooftop (no link as it doesn’t seem to exist online!) and like Albarn, O’Bell’s songs seldom fail to elicit a smile and definitely provide something to bob your head to.   It seems that Swedish songsters are innately capable of making really great pop songs.  I’m not sure if it’s something in the water, or whether all of those long, dark winters make their songwriters overcompensate by writing really upbeat stuff, but whatever it is, I like it (and I’m sure you will too)!

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Mid-Week Music: Nils Frahm – Four Hands

This has been on rotation for quite a while now and I must say that I find a lot of solace in Nils’ piano compositions, but particularly this new one. Each time I listen to it I find something else I like, but I think I really like it because it reminds me of the sea and the rolling waves.  What picture or memory does it evoke for you?

I am similarly smitten with his song Hammers, which epitomises the busyness and industriousness of Spring to me. It makes me think of birds rushing backwards and forwards to their nests and insects on the wing, darting to and fro. Both songs make a perfect mid-week pick-me-up.

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