Inside No. 9 – ‘To Have And To Hold’

CONTAINS SPOILERS

This was another episode where the number 9 was a house number. It is a suburban house, and the plot is about the dead-in-the-water marriage of middle aged, middle class couple Harriet (Nicola Walker) and Adrian (Steve Pemberton). But, with it being Inside No. 9, there’s more than meets the eye…

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Inside No. 9 – ‘Once Removed’

CONTAINS SPOILERS

The number 9 in this episode is a house number, and it is about moving house. Straightforward enough, but this being Inside No. 9 things turn out to be a lot more
complex than that….

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Inside No. 9 – ‘Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room’

CONTAINS SPOILERS

A comedy duo from the past who were known as Cheese & Crackers reunite after many years. Cheese was Tommy Drake (Reece Shearsmith) and Crackers was Len Shelby (Steve Pemberton).

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Inside No. 9 – ‘Zanzibar’

CONTAINS SPOILERS

Finally got round to this! The 4th series of Inside No. 9 was shown in January and a bit of February, so I realise this is quite some time after it was broadcast, but I still wanted to do it.

The first episode of the 4th series, ‘Zanzibar’ was notable in that it was told through iambic pentameter, a device used in many poems, and perhaps most famously associated with Shakespeare. In the episode ‘Zanzibar’, the title is referring to the hotel Zanzibar, and the number 9 isn’t a room, but a whole hotel corridor.

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Now 99

Now 99 is The first Now album of the year, and the album cover really is colour vomit! I think the multicoloured…. stuff on the cover is supposed to be bubbles? It’s similar, but not identical, to the cover for Now 65 in the US.

At the time it was released, Now 99 had no number one singles, it looks like the age old problem of licensing issues.

However, some of the number ones in the time
between Now 98 and Now 99 have annoyed people. Ed Sheeran couldn’t have dropped any bigger hints to the British public what he wanted for Christmas, i.e the Christmas
number one, by releasing about a thousand alternate duet versions and remixes of the schmaltzy ‘Perfect’. Meanwhile, Drake is on his second offence for clogging up the number one spot for months on end purely on streaming, in this case ‘God’s Plan’, a boring nothing of a song, which was number one for 9 weeks, but if the charts were still sales alone it wouldn’t have been number one for ANY weeks, let alone 9!

But, a week after Now 99 was released, it did get a number one single, and it was the one chosen to be track 1 on CD1, so well done on them for backing the right horse. That track is ‘These Days’ by Rudimental feat. Jess Glynne, Macklemore & Dan Caplen. It had been number one on sales alone for some time, but had to wait SEVEN WEEKS at number 2 behind ‘God’s Plan’ on the official chart. ‘These Days’ is Rudimental’s third number one, Jess Glynne’s sixth (!), Macklemore’s second, and Dan Caplen’s first. It is quite a nice song, fairly old school soul-ish, a piano based ballad on heartbreak and hope it will all work out in the end.

‘IDGAF’ by Dua Lipa is not a word pronounced “id gaff”, it’s an abbreviation, and I guess you’re supposed to pronounce each letter individually. In any case, the letters stand for I Don’t Give A … well, it cuts before the F word comes in. Dua Lipa won the British Female Solo Artist award and the British Breakthrough Act award at the BRITs earlier this year, and ‘IDGAF’ is probably my favourite song of hers to date.

In contrast, ‘FRIENDS’ by Marshmello & Anne-Marie is just supposed to be pronounced “friends”. Written like that you might think it’s a cover of the theme tune from the
’90s TV series Friends (‘I’ll Be There For You’ by the Rembrandts). But unlike the title of Friends, there is a purpose for it being spelled in capitals. The lyrics do spell the word out. It’s a friendzone song, but a rare occasion where it’s from the perspective of the person who just wants to be friends. And it sounds like the lad who fancies her really can’t take a hint, which is why she literally has to spell it out! She even says he’s “like a brother”!

Portugal. The Man. As opposed to Portugal, the country I guess. They aren’t from Portugal though, they’re from Alaska. And they’re not a man, they’re a band. You’ve probably heard their track on here, ‘Feel It Still’, on several adverts and films. It’s this years version of ‘Radioactive’ by Imagine Dragons in that respect, the 2010s tradition of having an alternative guitar pop band getting a hit song that will be on the soundtrack to everything for a year. ‘Feel It Still’ is OK, I like the instrumental/production, there’s quite a lot going on.

Now 99 sees the return of Taylor Swift to the Now compilations. She last appeared way back in Now 85 with ’22’. Apologies if I’ve put that awful song back in your head. Try and think of the different Lily Allen song of the same name! Actually, don’t, that song’s crap as well. Let’s get back on topic. The Now compilations have missed out on including such Taylor Swift hits as that one about her exes, that one about her haters, that one that’s meant to be about Katy Perry, that one that’s meant to be about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and that lonely Starbucks lovers one. But the one they have been able to get, ‘…Ready For It?’ is unfortunately worse than all of them. It’s an absolute migraine of a song!

The worst track on the compilation is ‘Tip Toe’ by Jason Derulo feat. French Montana. It has obnoxious, repetitive electronic production, Jason Derulo’s falsetto is grating, and the whole thing is annoying!

The title of ‘Beautiful Trauma’ by Pink suggests a contradiction, and the music sounds quite sweet and romantic, but the lyrics talk of a couple where she slashes his car tyres and he punches a hole in the wall, and she frames it! The comical and colourful video, which features actor Channing Tatum as the husband, was popular.

‘Finesse (Remix)’ by Bruno Mars feat. Cardi B is very catchy, upbeat track and one of the most fun on here. Both the sound of the track and its music video are an homage to the ’90s, so bonus nostalgia appeal there.

Craig David feat. Bastille – ‘I Know You’ appears on this compilation, and according to the CD booklet it features only Bastille’s frontman Dan Smith rather than the whole band, but for whatever reason the whole band are credited on it.

Jax Jones feat. Ina Wroldsen – ‘Breathe’ feels like a song I’ve heard a million times before and like it came out a while ago, but it’s quite new. It is nice hearing Ina Wroldsen’s vocals again though, ‘We Stand Up’ by Kat Krazy feat. Ina Wroldsen was one of my favourite tracks of 2016.

‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ by Sigrid featured on last year’s spring Now release Now 96. I said in my review at the time I didn’t like it, but the track grew on me and I loved it by the end of the year, and indeed it made my top ten songs of 2017. I instantly loved Sigrid’s next song ‘Strangers’ (which is included here on Now 99). Then, a bit later Sigrid was announced as the winner of the BBC’s Sound of 2018, so I was a bit ahead of the game! ‘Strangers’ is an excellent song, and it made number one on the sales only chart.

The track I enjoy the most on Now 99 is ‘Dancing’ by Kylie Minogue. Kylie Minogue sounding a bit like Dolly Parton? Of course I’m here for that! In fact, it’s my favourite song of 2018 so far.

Singer-songwriter George Ezra is on Now 99 with ‘Paradise’. After ‘Don’t Matter Now’, his new album’s the lead single, only reached number 66, the second single ‘Paradise’ has done much better. It made number one on the sales chart! At the time of writing it has peaked at number 2 on the official chart, but even then it is George Ezra’s highest peaking song to date, his previous one was his debut single ‘Budapest’, which got to number 3. I guess ‘Paradise’ has done so well because it’s a nice love song, people will always want to buy those. The album it is taken from is called Staying At Tamara’s, and it has gone to number one in the albums chart!

Paloma Faith manages to notch up two appearances on CD1, as the vocalist on ‘Lullaby’ by dance producer Sigala, and also Paloma Faith has her own track, ‘Guilty’, which sounds like a forgotten James Bond theme.

The final track on CD1 is called ‘One Last Song’ (I’m sure it’s not a coincidence). It’s a Sam Smith track, and musically it sounds like something that would be on a Christmas album, but lyrically it has nothing to do with Christmas.

CD2 gets off to a good start with ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt.2’ by Stormzy feat. MNEK, it’s a pretty classy track really, I like the rock guitar and gospel choir in particular. Stormzy won British Male Solo Artist and British Album Of the Year at this years BRIT Awards.

‘Psycho’ by Post Malone feat. Ty Dolla $ign is a decent hip hop track with cool, icy production.

‘Decline’ by RAYE & Mr. Eazi is a reworking of ‘Always On Time’ by Ja Rule & Ashanti. They’re remaking Noughties classics now. From when I was a teenager. And ‘Always On Time’ is itself now 17 years old! You know you’re getting older when…

CD1 has Mabel & Not3s – ‘Fine Line’, while CD2 has Not3s x Mabel – ‘My Lover’. “You feature on my track, I’ll feature on yours”, I guess.

There are way too many dreary, overwrought ballads on the whole, particularly the ones by James Arthur and Calum Scott. I think the best of the ballads is probably ‘Let You Down’ by NF, which is a bit more mid-tempo and has more interesting production, and I guess it’s more personal, as it is about his relationship with his father.

The X Factor winners song is on here. What do you mean you’ve forgotten who won it already?! It was boyband Rak-Su, and their winners song is one of the better ones. It is uptempo, they wrote it themselves and features Wyclef Jean and Naughty Boy.

5 Seconds Of Summer usually do pop-rock, but their track on this compilation ‘Want You Back’ is more of an R&B-ish electro pop song. I quite like it though, in fact it might be one of the best pop singles of the year so far!

‘Wait’ by Maroon 5 sees them becoming increasingly forgettable and bland, blending into the background sounding like everything else in the charts and much less like Maroon 5… but that makes them a hell of a lot more tolerable to listen to than they used to be!

In contrast, ‘You’re The Best Thing About Me’ by U2 sounds like pretty much any U2 song ever.

The last song on Now 99 is ‘Live Forever’ by Oasis, which previously appeared 66 Nows ago on Now 33 in 1996. It is still a great track, and is included here after Liam Gallagher performed it at The BRIT Awards in tribute to the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena terrorist attack.

Now 99 as a whole is typical in that there are slim pickings for the first Now compilation of the year, and usual elements such as winners of The X Factor, The BRIT Awards and the BBC Sound Of The Year are included. The Now albums and the charts in general are also in a bit of a tricky position, as they are in any transitional period. The inclusion of streaming has led to a more static chart, and the Official Charts Company have to come up with new rules to try to balance things out during these transitional times as they did when downloads were included at first. Streaming is increasing as sales are declining. It does seem to be the way it’s heading in terms of how people consume music, which again was the same before with download sales increasing as physical sales declined.

A lot of the more urban, hip hop and grime tracks on here did better on streaming than they did on sales (Dave feat. MoStock – ‘No Words’, J Hus – ‘Bouff Daddy’, BlocBoy JB feat. Drake – ‘Look Alive’), none of which even made the top 40 on sales alone. But you can’t deny the relevance of streaming. At the same time, there are tracks that reached the top 10 or top 20 on sales that ended up lower on the official chart due to lack of streaming, some of which have already been mentioned. If people are actively purchasing a track, that is, at present time anyway, probably a better indicator that they actually like it and a better reflection of its popularity, so it isn’t just “official” chart positions that matter.

I think all things considered, Now 99 has done a good job at selecting songs that are popular with the general public, and if anything it feels a lot less empty than many spring Nows do.

The next Now, due for release in July, is going to be a milestone, as it will be Now 100!

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Shakespeare & Hathaway – Private Investigators

CONTAINS SPOILERS

Shakespeare & Hathaway – Private Investigators is a comedy drama detective series, in which ex-hairdresser Luella Shakespeare (Jo Joyner) and former police detective inspector Frank Hathaway (Mark Benton) solve crimes in Stratford-upon-Avon.

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headphonedaydreams 6th Year Anniversary

The 6th year of my blog. Also, more importantly, Happy Mothers Day! My mum loves flowers, so she gets a lot of those on Mother’s Day from me and my siblings.

Here’s how the blog fared in its 6th year.

Special MentionThe Secret Life Of The Zoo (Series 2)

OK, technically this isn’t in the time period, but it gained a lot of views during this ‘year’. And the most viewed in the time period is:

1) The Secret Life Of The Zoo (Series 3)

The documentary series about Chester Zoo, the stars of series 3 included a “penguin pop band” with each member named after crisp brands. Munch featured prominently in series 2, the penguin chick who featured mostly in this series was Squares.

Series 3 also featured a butterfly fish named after The Doctor in Doctor Who, with his own TARDIS (well, a bucket that takes him from tank to tank) and fights alien invaders (sea anemones).

The Hi Way elephant family featured strongly in both series, with two new calves born in series 3.

2) Inside No. 9 – ‘The Riddle Of The Sphinx’

Just as ‘The 12 Days Of Christine’ was generally the most popular episode of series 2 and the most viewed on the blog, once again ‘The Riddle of The Sphinx’ was the most popular
episode generally in series 3 and the most viewed on the blog. ‘The Riddle Of The Sphinx’ was DARK, even by Inside No. 9‘s standards. It starts off being about cryptic crosswords,
but let’s just say things take a disturbing turn and just get more horrific from then on.

3) Eurovision 2017

Last year’s Eurovision was alright. The winner (Portugal, represented by Salvador Sobral with ‘Amar Pelos Dois’), was a different sort of song for a Eurovision winner, and the first time Portugal have won.

The UK’s entrant was Lucie Jones, and we did slightly better than we have done in recent years. (Though admittedly, not that much better).

I was quite pleased the two laziest entries (Germany with a rip-off of David Guetta & Sia – ‘Titanium’, and Spain with a repetitive tuneless mess) were the bottom 2, and also that Italy’s smug, pretentious entry ‘Occidentali’s Karma’ underperformed despite being the favourite to win.

My initial favourite was Austria’s entry, Nathan Trent – ‘Running On Air’, I suppose because he’s really nice and pretty, and the song’s really nice and pretty. In the long run, Norway’s entry, JOWST – ‘Grab The Moment’, was the song I listened to the most after the contest was over.

But for being perhaps the most “Eurovision”, I have to give a shout out to Romania’s entry, Ilinca feat. Alex Florea – ‘Yodel It’. Rap and yodeling!

4) Months Of The Year In The UK Singles Chart

I’m quite proud of this one actually, of how well it turned out, as I was in two minds about doing it at all, but it turned out to be a lot of fun writing it, and the end result was a lot better than I imagined.

Justin Myers/the guyliner posted a link to this from his Twitter account, mainly due to learning that Earth Wind and Fire had a Christmas remix of ‘September’ called ‘December’, and he said the blog was “really great”. He is someone I have admired for a long time, so that was amazing.

5) Inside No. 9 – ‘Empty Orchestra’

This was my personal favourite episode of series 3 of Inside No. 9. Empty Orchestra is the literal translation from Japanese of “karaoke”, and fittingly it takes place in a karaoke booth, and it’s also a fancy dress party so there’s a lot to enjoy here. Also one of the very few Inside No. 9 episodes to get a happy ending!

6) 20 Years Of Eurovision Winners

I’ve been watching Eurovision since 1997, making 2017 20 years, so I did a ranking post of the winners in that time.

7) Peter Kay’s Car Share (Series 2)

The second series, which was mostly enjoyable but infamously had a bit of a downer ending but there is supposed to be a special happening later this year, which really will be the final ever episode.

8) The X Factor (Series 14)

The franchise is on its last legs isn’t it? Actually, it might even be crawling on its belly now. Anyway, this wasn’t a bad series per se, the changes made (can perform their own self-written songs, elimination decided by public vote only) were fine, but honestly can anyone remember much of anything from this series? It feels like it happened years ago, not months ago. Which doesn’t bode well for winners Rak-Su and runner-up Grace, let alone any of the other contestants, but I guess we’ll see.

9) Inside No. 9 – ‘Private View’

A murder mystery set in an art gallery!

10) Inside No. 9 – ‘Diddle Diddle Dumpling’

This was about a lost shoe, but being ‘Inside No. 9’ there was a lot more to it than seems at first….

Blog posts about The Secret Life Of The Zoo were my top most viewed, but overall, Inside No. 9 was the biggest show here, every episode in the time period is in the top 10! For year 6 of the blog the screw has fallen off the 6 and become a number 9! It is probably the best show on TV at the moment, IMO. (And yes, I have been watching series 4, I have been reviewing it, but it’s quite a complex show and I want the posts on it to be as good as they can be, so they’ll appear on the blog when they’re ready).

Another Special Mention:

Now 97

This wasn’t “liked” by other bloggers, but it was VERY close to being in the top 10 most viewed and was actually the most viewed out of all the three Nows, so I have to include it really.  This had no less than 4 songs which made it into my top ten songs of 2017!

These posts were all ‘liked’ by other bloggers:

Now 96

In hindsight, this was better than I thought at the time, quite a few tracks on here have
grown on me, most notably ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ by Sigrid, which also ended up in my top ten songs of the year.

Now 98

Personally, I think this was the best of my Now reviews this year in terms of how it turned out.

Now 25 (U.S)

This was my first attempt at a different country’s Now compilation and of a retro Now album. I did this one because I bought it in America ten years before the time I wrote that blog post. What I did like about this was that as U.S. Now albums are only one CD rather than two I was able to talk about every single track without it getting too long.

Top 10 Songs of 2017

Well, you can probably guess what this is.

Mid-Year Limbo: Songs from 2016 I listened to more in 2017

This is similar, but a top 5 list of tracks which I liked in 2017 but were technically from 2016.

The BRIT Awards 2018

Jack Whitehall did a decent job of presenting, and the most notable thing with the ceremony was Stormzy winning British Male Solo Artist and British Album Of The Year, and in his great closing performance brought up the Grenfell Tower disaster and slated the Tories and The Daily Mail, but also expressed happiness at the recent success of other black British people, such as Daniel Kaluuya winning a BAFTA.

Doctor Who – ‘The Eaters Of Light’

This was actually the most viewed of my Doctor Who posts, which is a little strange, as this wasn’t one of the better or even most memorable episodes, but there you go. It was about a Celtic tribe versus a Roman legion and featured a mysterious alien beast. Crows are prominent, too.

Doctor Who – ‘The Pilot’

This was a brilliant opening episode, and could have been one for a whole new era of the show, the only unusual thing was that it was representing the end of an era. It was a great introduction to the new companion Bill Potts (played by Pearl Mackie), and it had an intriguing antagonist in Heather (played by Stephanie Hyam), which also had a love story element, that would come back in the series finale.

Doctor Who – ‘Smile’

The one with the Emojibots.

Doctor Who – ‘Thin Ice’

This was interesting, set in Regency England during the last Frost Fair, and brought up topics such as how there was more diversity than is often believed, and also how to cope with the reality of loss of life in certain jobs, and visually the episode looked great, perhaps let down by generally flat guest characters and a cartoonish villain.

Doctor Who – ‘Oxygen’

Zombies in space (sort of). I really liked this one, it had satire of capitalism could be if applied ruthlessly in the far future and I felt it was similar to Red Dwarf in that way, in fact the new series of Red Dwarf had quite a similar episode.

Speaking of the new series of Red Dwarf

Red Dwarf XII

Very much a series of two halves, an average first half, but an excellent second half. But overall, things that happen in this series include Lister, Rimmer and Cat all getting converted into mechanoids, Rimmer and Kryten competing in an election, a very evil corporation taking over Red Dwarf, and Rimmer travelling the multiverse.

Red Dwarf Series Ranking Post

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the sci-fi sitcom, I did a series ranking post.

Blue Planent II, presented by David Attenborough, was a majestic series, the biggest show of 2017. It has put environmental issues into mainstream culture and politics, showing the impact we humans are having on our planet.

Blue Planet II – ‘One Ocean’ was a great opening episode, an introduction to all the elements of the series.

Blue Planet II – ‘The Deep’  was going into the furthest depths of the ocean, showing some truly awe-inspiring footage, some of which had never been filmed before.

Blue Planet II – ‘Coral Reefs’ (the most viewed of my Blue Planet II posts) had some of the most beautiful sights in the series, but ended on a heartbreaking note that many coral reefs are dying due to global warming.

Blue Planet II – ‘Big Blue’ was on the vastness of the open ocean and featuring creatures such as the very peculiar Portuguese man-o-war, but the ending showed how plastic that is dumped into the oceans is literally poisoning it and the animals that live there.

Blue Planet II – ‘Our Blue Planet’ directly focused on how us humans are affecting the oceans, through overfishing, dumping waste (not just into the ocean!), and global warming, but crucially it also showed successful attempts at improving the situation, to protect species and areas and to reduce the waste we put out, that it can be done and does make a difference.

David Attenborough also made another documentary, Attenborough and the Giant Elephant about the interesting, but tragic life of Jumbo, probably the most famous elephant who ever lived.

Pointless Celebrities: Writer’s Special

By far the most, er, pointless blog post I’ve ever done. It was basically me talking about how when Owen Jones and Mark Watson won Pointless Celebrities: Writers Special, and
that I kind of fancy them both a bit and in another universe they’d make a great couple. And that’s pretty much the entire post, but someone liked it, so here it is.

The Apprentice (Series 13)

A mediocre series of The Apprentice. It ended with joint winners for the first time ever, but seriously, who cares? The star of this series was Elizabeth McKenna. Running a tourist task like a headmistress on a school trip, on the same task shouting “To infinity and beyond!” on a Segway, chasing chickens and turkeys around, giving herself the lead role and taking over editing of an advert in a task where she wasn’t even the project manager, spending a whole task using a tape measure and still getting the measurements wrong. But the thing is, it would be a mistake to just view her as a joke contestant, she was genuinely one of the best performance wise, she was very organised and efficient, and was a key feature of her teams winning the tasks.

That said, Anisa Topan was probably my favourite contestant, as she seemed lovely.

Another contestant Andrew Brady would then go on to appear in….

Celebrity Big Brother 21

This was a great series! Deliberately going for depth, they had only women in first, then men a few days later, and lots of important issues ended up being discussed, such as equal opportunities, LGBT+, racism, gender equality. It was won by drag queen Courtney Act (real name Shane Jenek), one of the best winners ever. Shane J/Courtney is very informed on a lot of LGBT+, specifically drag and gender identity, and health related issues, and was also very nice and polite too.

I also quite liked glamour model Jess Impiazzi, who turned out to be a lot smarter than she thought she was.

I think it was a very, very good year for the blog. Here’s to the next year!

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