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minimise / maximise

i’ve become obsessed with minimalism this year, but in an odd way. while i am still trying to get onto clearing out a lot of my older stuff (something i’m managing to do slowly, but there are some larger items i’m struggling to sell on eBay so a trip to the tip may be in order soon) but it’s taken another form.

as well as the physical ideas of minimalism referring to how we make use of space, i’m trying to apply it to other areas where i guess it already exists but isn’t known as minimalism. for me it’s a way of minimising effort or resources while still getting maximum results.

the first one of these for me was exercise. due to my shoulder injury, mental health and various side effects that go along with my current medication, i’m often very low on energy or worried about damaging myself further. so applying my interpretation of minimalism being getting the most out of the least i was able to research various workout plans that used a lot of energy in a very short time. things like tabata training and hiit all work well for me, and as soon as my head is shaved and don’t have hair in my mouth all the time i’ll be doing them a lot more often. please note i mean the workouts themselves take shorter amounts of time, these are still not “quick fix” weight loss routines.

that got me thinking. if i can condense what would normally be a two-hour gym session (including travel, warm up, cool down etc) into around 40 minutes, what else can i condense to save time?

i’m often asked how i manage to get so much done (producing new work regularly, running a blog, making podcasts and still maintaining a social life of sorts) and i guess this is one way i do it. if i’m ever travelling i’ll generally be overlapping a bus/train journey with work by planning or writing something down. i’ve found if i really focus on preparation while i’m doing other things that don’t require much thought or energy, i can do things so much more quickly when the time comes to do it. i’ll rehearse a podcast for days before actually recording it. then the time comes to record, i sit down, do it pretty much in one take and spend as little time as possible editing it. this also kind of refers back to a previous post where i discuss making time to think about things, as well as making the most of the time you have when you’re awake.

i apply it to my artwork too. i use squared paper to plan first because it helps with proportions and symmetry, especially when working from a reference. i also doodle a lot of stuff that never gets shown to people, but even when i do share work i don’t expect (and i don’t promote) aiming for perfection. aiming for perfection leads to overthinking and becoming hypercritical of your work, which isn’t the best way to use your time. trust me. i spent a lot of time doing that and it held me back in so many ways.

i don’t really spend a lot of time editing anything, if i’m honest. even when i’m writing i’ll maybe restructure something as i proof-read it, the rest is just spelling mistakes.

back when i was 17/18 i was in a band called the acclaimed and we managed to record a 7-song ep in the space of a four days. even back then i tried to make sure practicing was a huge thing so when it came time to record we all basically sat down and did our own bit in a couple of takes. i think we even had a three-take rule back then (you have a maximum of three attempts to record something and use the best one – it’s something i’d read about a few punk bands doing when studio time was expensive so they had to get through things quickly) which allowed us to focus on songs or areas we really needed to work on.

minimalism has helped me really take a new and effective approach to my own life, purely because i make use of the time i have available. i’m excited to see what i’m capable of doing in a day, week and even a year when i’m off my meds and not sleeping as much as i do now!

snippets

recently i’ve been a bit slow on posting everywhere, mainly because i’ve not had many fully formed ideas. so rather than leave it any longer i figured i’d just post a few musings here for the time being.

1. taking time for yourself.

something i’ve wanted to talk about for ages is the idea of how people think if you’re a creative or self employed that you always have to be moving and making new tangible stuff. all about the output rather than the value of your brand. i always hate referring to myself and my work in the same breath as a brand but if you do anything yourself and put it online you’re basically creating a brand identity, and i see mine as including podcasts, videos and blogs alongside my art and merch projects. one of the joys of doing this is i get to do what i want when i want and as long as it’s all linked together properly it all forms the brand and therefore everything compliments everything else and adds value to what i’m doing (or at least that’s the plan).

so we have the idea that what looks like inactivity to people outside of your business/head is a bad thing. you’re not making things or adding value, simply because people can’t see a pattern or process developing. i’m not very good at writing plans or making full cohesive strategies but i do have a firm idea of what i want to do and how i want to do it. i spend a lot of time thinking and reverse engineering, i like to solve problems and analyse information but i rarely write or talk about it because to me it’s something that happens in a split second in my head. writing it down slows the process down for me. i place a lot of value in taking some time away from posting everything on social media and making new pieces of work all the time (not to say i don’t enjoy that, back in april i made 32 new pieces in a month) to focus on where i can grow and ideas i can look into. i’ll write projects and ideas down but a lot of it is very conceptual or involves a lot of reading. sometimes i spend my time walking around just visualising what a finished project will look like, and when i get home i’m able to put what i have in my head into a finished item. it’s the same with podcasts; i’ll quite often practice more or less the whole thing in my head first then make some quick notes to give an idea of order and to make sure i don’t forget anything.

2. technology & art.

recently i’ve seen some ridiculously clean lines in tattooing and a lot more tattooists seem to be planning their linework using ipads etc. i’ve seen it in the work of other artist as well and it got me thinking about how some people within the art community have moved further from using technology, almost rejecting it for the time being. i get the odd urge to make a fully digital piece every now and then but the majority of the time it’s saved either for editing/layering or left completely out of things. could it be that advances in technology are encouraging some artists to move away from it? that we used to want to aim for perfection, but now that’s far more possible we now aim for organic imperfections?

3. my old job.

would i rather be back in my old job (or one like it)?

not at all. i’d take the uncertainty and difficulties that come from running my own business over that any day of the week. the circumstances which led to me leaving my old job and the journey that has resulted from that has exposed me to flaws and problems that may have otherwise been buried or gone totally unnoticed. yes money is tight and yes my motivation fluctuates and yes i sometimes work very long days, but i feel so much more ‘me’ compared to how i was in my old job. i always joke about how the version of me at uni wouldn’t recognise (or would hate) who i am now because i’ve changed so much. the truth is that transformation truly began when i left my job to set up my own business.

i still feel like i can do more, but i always do, and nothing will ever feel like enough for me. that’s how i know i’m on the right track, because i’m still trying to make things work. nothing feels formulaic or textbook to me. i’m trying to do more with what i’ve got and (as you’ve probably seen) i’m consistently attempting new things and releasing new one off pieces.

i go through obsessive phases, which is in part possibly due to my mental health, so you’ll probably see me release a whole load of one type of item or a certain style before moving onto something new. then it kind of gets left in the “one day i’ll do more of this” pile while i do something else.

that’s it.

that’s all of them. flash thoughts i wanted to write down and flesh out but never got round to it so enjoy those and maybe ask me some questions if you want more information!

Supporting Creative Friends


Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

Hey everyone!

I’ve noticed something recently. A lot of smaller businesses online are either having to shut down or they’re scaling their portfolio down a lot. So I’ve decided to write a a post for people who want to know ways to support small businesses and independent creatives they follow on various social media.

Purchase their work!

This is the most obvious. If you want creative people and small businesses to continue creating at a regular pace and put all of their time and effort into what they’re doing, your best bet is to purchase from them. The amount you spend and the frequency of which you do it is down to you, and it’s largely dependent on what you need, what people are providing and the cost of the items themselves. I’ve been encouraging some friends to include payments in instalments to make things more accessible. I’ve introduced it in full scale to my store recently and it’s been pretty popular.

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Let them know what you want more/less of!

Is your favourite artist releasing a bunch of designs you like on items you don’t want/need? Contact them! Small retailers are usually more able to respond to direct demand quite quickly and can sometimes make things as a one off.

Please keep in mind some people may have to release items as a pre-order to generate the funds (and establish the demand) for certain products. A couple of years ago I released t-shirts at the request of a few people, they started as a pre-order and when I had the funds I ordered in as many as I believed demand to be (from people saying they’d buy one) to not sell nearly as many as I’d anticipated. Had I done this as a full pre-order I wouldn’t have had this problem, and the situation itself nearly led to me having to close down my store.

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Patreon!

The next couple are pretty similar. The first of which is subscribing via a service such as Patreon. This is great for people who make content on YouTube, write blogs or generally create content that may not necessarily always result in items for sale. Most Patreon creators include rewards and regular updates for Patrons, and it’s something I’m still getting the hang of. Some people need the funds to cover project costs, others to cover their regular outgoings. They usually list their reasons for using it in their description.

You can sign up to support creators on Patreon from as little as $1 a month (around 80p) and even if you can only pledge $1 a month it’s a huge boost to the creator. At the time of writing, my pledges come to around $50 and a bunch of those are $1. It builds up if enough people do it and it means creators can focus on making great content for you full time without worrying about money, and you’ll get rewards in the meantime!

I should probably mention that once you make a pledge you can edit or pause it whenever you need to. You’re not tied into pledging a certain amount until you cancel or anything like that.

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Donations!

Not able to pledge every month for whatever reason? Does the creator you want to support not make anything you can buy/afford? Almost all of them have a PayPal account you can send funds to as and when you see fit, even if it’s just a couple of quid. As I mentioned before, it all adds up.

If PayPal isn’t your thing (or theirs), see if there are other ways you can send them some cash.

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Share their work!

A lot of people don’t have a disposable income to support creatives financially for a variety of reasons and that’s ok! There are other ways you can do it. People tend to use all sorts of social media, and if you think someone isn’t getting the recognition they deserve then share their work. You never know who might be following you. They might end up interested in someone’s work and be able to support them in any of the ways I’ve mentioned.

Whatever your main social media, follow your favourite creators if they have a profile there and share their content. If they don’t, post their work with credit and try to either include their @ from Instagram, Twitter etc or a link to the best place to view them. You’re a part of the media and, whether you choose to believe it or not, people listen to you and care about your opinions. They usually also have things in common with you, which is why they follow you. So chances are if you like something for whatever reason, some of the people following you will too! It doesn’t matter whether you have 10 followers or 10,000. You’re important to your followers and to the people you amplify and share the work of.

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As well as purchasing items from my store, you can also support my other projects by donating via PayPal or pledging via Patreon. Patreon pledges start from just $1 a month (around 80p)!

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Vegan Tips

There’s a lot of tips about going vegan floating about at the moment, so here’s another one. Even though I haven’t written this yet (I don’t really do planning or editing) and have only read two or three others, this is definitely the best one out there.

I’m going to start by pointing out the obvious. I do not know you, I do not know your circumstances and I do not know what you like to eat. So this is going to have to be pretty general.

The only real tips for anything are planning and education, and a lifestyle change like going vegan is no different. Read blogs, watch discussions and documentaries on Netflix/YouTube/etc, get onto Google and look at pictures of pigs. Try to get a well-rounded view on how animal agriculture, and a diet and lifestyle involving animal products, impacts the environment, your health (generally speaking) and people on a global scale as well as the obvious unnecessary cruelty to animals. Maybe also try to see how the lifestyle might intersect with other interests you have. Last year I wrote a piece for Mad Rabbits about how I feel veganism aligns with the punk and hardcore scenes.

Long and short, do your research to find your why.

That’s your education sorted. Onto planning. In my last post I wrote about shopping on a tight budget. Veganism can be expensive; the same as any diet/lifestyle. But it doesn’t have to be. Before you go out shopping, you’ve looked into educating yourself and found your reasons for going vegan. It can seem daunting at first, you might think you’ll have to fill your cupboards, fridge and freezer with all new items, but you’ll find it’s easier than you thought. You’ve probably already got some spices and herbs around, and some tinned stuff. You’ve probably got a handful of fruit and veg you really like too. The foundations are there; it’s just a matter of building on them.

The first thing I want you to do is think of three favourite foods/recipes for each meal of the day and five snacks. They’re probably not vegan, and that’s fine. See what you can swap for vegan ingredients. Does it involve minced beef or turkey? Swap it out for veggie mince, or more vegetables. Stick with what you know and focus on making your favourite comfort recipes vegan friendly first. That way if you’re ever struggling or having a rough day in general, you’ve always got those to turn to. Rather than making a whole new internal menu, try to adapt the internal menu you already have.

If you follow some vegans on Twitter (or pages dedicated to vegan food/clothes etc) you may see certain words pop up that you’re not sure about. At times this can be a bit intimidating, as it can seem like we have our own dictionary. I get you might not want to message someone about it. We’d love it if you do, it makes my day to be messaged out of the blue by people looking for information of advice, but if you’d rather Google something to see what it is then do some further searching to see what can be made with certain things then that’s perfectly fine too. Go with what feels comfortable for you.

And, most importantly, I’d say. Do not be afraid of fucking up. We all do it from time to time. You might buy something you’ve been told is vegan, eaten it and then found out there’s been a change in recipe/ingredients and it now contains eggs. You may have just not checked the label on some soup and not realise that some vegetable soup contains cream or whey powder. You haven’t failed. The vegan police aren’t going to come to your house and ban you from carrying on your journey. It’s part of learning, and as with all learning it gets far easier the more you do it. Something I still do when I’m in a supermarket is check packaging to see if a product is vegan, despite having no intention of buying it. That way I can combine education with planning. I know what new products I can use in future, and start to think about how I can use them.

It’s a really good time to find new things being released, so see how you get on. If you’d like to get in touch to either ask questions or just tell me you’re planning on trying a couple of meals feel free to DM me on Twitter!

Shopping Smart

Last night I did a quick walk around a supermarket on Periscope to provide people with some little tips on starting your vegan journey on a budget or if your mental health means you don’t really want to spend a lot of time cooking but still want to give veganism a go. This is mainly a summary of that discussion (and a later one I also had on Periscope). I’m also considering doing a brief food diary a couple of days a week to show people what a depressed vegan eats and how I shop etc, but for now let’s get into it.

Firstly, this is working on the assumption of you having a freezer and some cupboard space, as well as being able to get to and get around a supermarket. This is purely because it’s most reflective of my circumstances and I don’t want to make any guesses about what it may be like for people not in this position, but I do have intentions of speaking to people for whom any or all of this is not true to gain some perspective from them.

The first thing is the old faithful reduced section. When I was at uni around 146 years ago we used to do our food shop at a nearby 24-hour Tesco after midnight. It was always very quiet and the reduced sections for the bakery and veg aisles were fairly well stocked. Reduced sections are generally hit and miss so you may have to get creative, and I by no means suggest always doing your shopping at 2am, but if you’re able to get to a nearby supermarket a little later in the evening (for example, if your nearest shop shuts at 10pm, try getting there for 9ish) you’ll find more items are reduced and the shop will be much quieter. It’s great if you’re anxious in busy places or if you simply hate queuing.

The next thing I brought up was brand label items compared to a supermarket’s own brand. This is most noticeable for things like tins of baked beans, chopped tomatoes etc. The product is often more or less the same, maybe a “premium” brand like Heinz use a slightly different recipe but the majority of the time the extra cost you’re choosing to pay is for the name on the packaging on the product rather than the contents. It may seem like a small saving but consider the fact that you might buy, say, one tin of beans a week. If you pay 35p for a supermarket’s own brand instead of 70p, over a year that’s a saving of just over £18. Quite often the “premium” brands are shelved at eye level, so look at the items above/below them. Those brands pay for their space at the end of aisles and their position on shelves. It’s no coincidence that the cheapest stuff is usually in the most basic packaging on the bottom shelf. There’s been less investment in the product itself so whoever makes it can afford to charge far less, but it’s the same basic product on the inside. Give it a go, if for whatever reason it isn’t for you then you can go back to what you know.

As well as reduced items, look out for discounts. At this time of year loads of veggie and vegan stuff is discounted to take advantage of people partaking in Veganuary. They want you to try their products and alter your buying habits so you purchase their items on a regular basis. If you know you like something and have the space, take the time to stock up. Last summer a supermarket by me messed up massively and had Linda McCartney sausages priced at 45p for a few weeks (they’re usually £2). Needless to say I got through a load of boxes around that time.

The next thing is to buy frozen fruit and veg when you can. Provided you have space, it won’t go off and it’s so convenient. If you have a few days where you feel awful and just eat crisps and cereal then that’s fine, but if you then feel the need to make a smoothie you’re either confronted with a trip to the shops or a trip to the freezer. I know which I’d prefer. Same with veg. Most places offer all sorts now, from frozen onions and mushrooms to avocados and butternut squash. I love getting packs of mixed veg and heating some up with some chopped tomatoes and having that makeshift sauce with pasta. It’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s pretty good for you too.

Another thing I’d suggest is using things like coupons and loyalty cards. It gets a little bit 1984 but using a loyalty card means that a supermarket can track your buying behaviour. They’ll see which stores you go to most and what you buy from them (if you have a bigger store for your “proper shop” and a smaller one a bit closer to home where you go and get a few bits every few days etc), they’ll also know if you’re loyal to specific brands or if, like me, you bounce from offer to offer. They use this information to tailor your coupons and shopping experience. I highly doubt everyone who shops at my local Sainsburys gets coupons for money off or bonus points when they buy Alpro products, but I do. Alpro will probably have paid Sainsburys to give me these discounts to keep me as a loyal customer because it’s on their database that I’m a shopper who buys whatever non-dairy milk is cheapest. If your local store sees a shift in the purchases of “free from” items or sees a maintained high level of “free from” purchases, guess who’ll be getting the new products and expansions on those sections first.

Not only that but you’ll build up points as you shop, and at some point you’ll be able to use those points to pay for your shopping. Back in November I spent less than £2 on food shopping because I decided to use up all my available points and start afresh.

One thing I forgot to mention last night was the inclusion of lists. I know a lot of people always make lists for everything, and it’s something I’m still getting used to. My short term memory is pretty terrible and I wish I had £1 for every time I’d gone to buy food and come home to realise I forgot something because I forgot to take a handwritten list with me. I’d recommend making the list on your phone if you can, purely because it’ll probably be with you when you’re out shopping. Most smartphones have an app for notes or Word documents etc so it won’t cost you anything extra to set it up and it may end up saving you quite a bit of time.

It’s also a good idea to do some product research before you go. On most supermarket websites now you can search “vegan” in their products and be provided with a list of things you can buy in store, some of which you may not have known are vegan friendly! There’s also an Instagram account called accidentallyveganuk which lists snacks and new products released by loads of supermarket chains across the country. Give them a look to make the list and see how you get on.

I’ll do another post later this week about specific tips for people who are new to veganism and may be struggling, and for products and recipes. As always my DMs on Twitter are open to anyone who has any questions or suggestions 🙂

Christmas Commissions

It’s a sad day. Halloween is over. My Cryptober plan was a success, despite needing to catch up on it every few days.

But now I have nothing to paint! I mean  I have ideas – I always have ideas – but I’d rather do some stuff for you guys. I’ve sold a few Cryptober pieces already and the others are still for sale (framed page paintings are £30 each, ask about the availability of them and be aware I’m always happy to replicate some of them!)

Now comes the time of year when I anticipate getting pretty busy with commission pieces. At least I hope I’m going to be busy. That’s kind of the point of this post, to let you know what items or time I’ve got available to allow you to plan stuff accordingly. Especially if you’re in a position where you may have to pay for items in stages (more on that in a minute).

So firstly I should mention my prices. Smaller framed page paintings are £30 each, £40 if I’m using the Satanic Bible. I’ve briefly mentioned my plans for the Satanic Sex chapter on Twitter, but if you haven’t seen then ask me about it! There are only five pages available for that chapter so please be mindful that they may sell out very quickly.

Larger ones (such as the existing bat pieces I did for Cryptober, on three pages) are £80 framed. The Cryptober pieces are only £60 because I already had the frames around and don’t really like that they aren’t black.


A4 woodburn pieces START FROM £100. I may have to charge more depending on the design. Keep in mind a piece this size can take a couple of days to complete. Smaller pieces will be priced individually when you enquire, the same goes for other paintings and small pieces.
As for payments, I mentioned earlier about doing it in stages. As well as taking payments via PayPal or bank transfers (and through either of my stores) I’m also more than happy to take payments split into smaller amounts to make things more manageable for you. My general terms and conditions are that I don’t send out finished items until I’ve received the full payment, and if an item is over £50 I do request an initial deposit of at least half the price quoted before I get started.

If you have any questions please get in touch with me through Twitter or Instagram (my username is robcryptx everywhere but I rarely use Facebook for work stuff).

I’m always happy to work to your budgets and ideas so just let me know how I can help! 

The boring mental health one

I always find talking about my mental health weird and difficult, particularly in this kind of capacity. I’ve been meaning to do this forever though, and I guess some form of insight into what I’m like in my head wouldn’t go amiss. It’s often pointed out to me that I’m quite a closed off person so it’s going to be a bit of a push for me to open up.
I think one of the most difficult things is to say what exactly is “wrong” with me. I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety but the longer I’ve gone, the more I’ve researched and the more treatments I’ve tried I’ve begun to realise they’re probably part of a wider spectrum of things. Before I was discharged from therapy I asked my therapist if they thought I had OCD as, from reading into it (the invasive thoughts among various other behaviours), it seemed almost certain to me that it was the case. We did a brief assessment, agreed it’s more than likely the case but I manage to control it to a decent level the majority of the time. The little things I do to control it go largely unnoticed now.
So to reiterate, I know some of the symptoms but I’m not totally sure of the exact illness. I’m ok with that, I don’t think it needs a label aside from if anything goes horrible again and I end up back in therapy. Don’t get me wrong, I benefitted a lot from therapy, I’d just really rather not go through it again. And that isn’t even really for the actual therapy element. My main issues were based in having to deal with my GP. They weren’t mental health specialists, which I understand. But my initial meeting was about anxiety attacks, feeling suicidal etc. You know, that old chestnut. They nodded along and wrote a prescription for Citalopram. I didn’t react well with Citalopram. It made my invasive thoughts a lot worse and I had uncontrollable urges to harm myself in a variety of unorthodox ways. After a couple of weeks of freaking out, hoping I’d settle into it, and doing my own research I discovered that with OCD and other “control based” mental illnesses, Citalopram is generally quite a bad fit. So I went back to change my medication and had to tell the GP what I needed, which was Fluoxetin/Prozac. I still didn’t get along with Prozac, it basically turned me into a zombie for about a year and I have very little memory of my time on it, but I wasn’t having panic attacks or freaking out every day so I stuck with it. In that time I was on a waiting list for therapy.
Therapy was good for me, even though I’ll admit I get really paranoid of people knowing things about me so I held back a fair bit of information. It’s odd but even though my therapist was there to help I still didn’t want them to know how violent my invasive thoughts can sometimes get. That’s the other thing, I’m not a violent person so to have thoughts like that really scared me. The line between what is just an invasive thought and what is an urge is sometimes very blurred and it’s distressing to think I was/am capable of such creative and aggressive thoughts. Right now those thoughts are very much under control because I’m generally in an ok place in my head. At the moment I’m just the kind of standard depressed person who doesn’t have the energy to do things I need to do (I write a to do list almost every day, with little things like household chores and even reminders to shower and eat included in it) but also never wants to sleep. I’ll literally stay awake until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. I’ve found Pokémon Go helpful with that, it means I’m out walking a lot so I end up more easily worn out and sleep better/more.
But yeah, I don’t really want to waffle on too much but I guess if you have any questions just ask? I’m usually quite open about it but I don’t like it being all over social media, so where possible I prefer to do it in private.

Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

It’s been a while since Thrice last released a studio album, almost five years in fact. So today is a day I’ve been in anticipation of for quite some time. They’ve always been my favourite band for their drive in pushing forward and trying new sounds and approaches to songwriting and To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is no exception.

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I was tempted to write this as a track-by-track but we’d be here for days so I’ll just go over the main highlights.

The most noticeable singular element of almost all of Thrice’s more recent work has to be the guitar tones, and TBEITBN follows suit. The cleans sound so crisp, bluesy and piercing without drawing your attention from the rest of the song, and the heavier tones feel like a warm musical hug, but not in a way that drowns out the more subtle elements. If you listen to The Window and Black Honey you’ll understand. And the vocals. Oh, the vocals. I’ve been in love with Dustin Kensrue’s voice for around 14 years but it seemed to reach a new level on Beggars and Major/Minor. It’s all gravelly and lovely. Blood On The Sand and Death From Above are my favourites for showcasing exactly what I mean.

They’re lyrically just as strong as ever too, I’ve been sat here for ages trying to pick some of my favourite examples but I can’t. They’re all just so so good. There’s such a wide variety as well, with some political songs such as Death From Above (which seems to be written from the perspective of a drone pilot) being a clear contrast to Stay With Me, the track directly before Death From Above and is more like a love song. Songs like Stay With Me show how incredible Thrice consistently are at constructing songs, there isn’t a single dull or out of place chorus on the whole album but the thought that goes into the writing is so evident in Stay With Me. They know when to keep it simple and when to play with time signatures of structures, and do so in other songs, but Stay With Me is fairly straightforward but not lacking in brilliance.

From watching the studio updates on YouTube, they said they were bringing in new music but trying to shine light on various eras of the band’s duration and it’s been so carefully done to make it seem either accidental or casual. In places it feels like an amalgamation of the best bits of the albums following The Artist In The Ambulance that you’d only really notice if you had them pointed out to you or if you’re a Thrice nerd like me.

The chorus for Death From Above brings about memories of Silhouette though I can’t place way (probably the time signature and general heaviness), and Whistleblower would fit perfectly on Vheissu, but by far the easiest one to point out is Salt And Shadow. It’s such a perfect album closer, reminiscent of some of the tracks from the Air chapter of The Alchemy Index. It almost feels like a lullaby, with the multi-layered vocals lending themselves to probably the best ‘light’ song Thrice have ever written. I also love the way Salt And Shadow ends, it’s a very subtle hark back to the “You’ve got to play it again” from The Beltsville Crucible from The Illusion Of Safety but it’s so expertly done that it’s easy to miss.

I had high expectations for To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, as I do with every album by every band I love, and I’m so pleased to say they’ve all been exceeded. I know a lot of other amazing albums have been released this year but TBEITBN has shot to the top, with most of the songs mentioned here being among the best songs I’ve heard for a long time.

Screaming Into The Abyss

A few people have asked for this so here we go.

Firstly, this isn’t in response to the Neil deGrasse Tyson video about the presence of aliens in the universe, but it is something I think about a lot. If you’d like to watch it, the link is here.

It’s always a weird thing to consider. Humans seem to have this arrogance that if there is life ‘out there’ that they are not only able to communicate with us, but also that they want to communicate with us. It could be that they’ve received our messages but didn’t see it as worth replying for whatever reason.

There are a number of other reasons why we’ve not been contacted, of course. Maybe we’re going about it in entirely the wrong way. Humans can only see around 2% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear around 1-2% of the acoustic spectrum. Even on Earth there are life forms that can’t communicate with one another. I’m sure we’ve all read that story of the lonely whale who could only make noises out of the hearing range of the rest of their species and was thus unable to communicate. Considering this happens on Earth it isn’t too far fetched for it to happen anywhere else. It could be life on other planets have tried to contact us and we’re just unable to ‘hear’ the message. Or they see a different 2% of the electromagnetic spectrum and as a result we’re just ghosts to one another.

Another thing is the timing of our attempts to contact alien life. Say it takes 50 years for our message to reach whoever may receive it, it would have to reach them at a time within their development or evolution where they’d be able to collect and interpret that data, then form a response that we’d understand. We’ve tried to send references for them to use in building their response, but what if they didn’t understand that was what it was for? There are ancient languages on this planet that we’re unable to translate. Given the universe is around 13.8 billion years old, we might be contacting a civilisation in it’s infancy, or conversely a civilisation where our technology is considered to be archaic. They might view television and radio the way we view ancient Egyptian methods of communication at the very least. And even if they are able to receive our message, decide to reply, manage to form a response, know where to send it then transmit it back to us, it would probably still take another 50 years to reach us. So from our original transmission we’re talking at least 100 years for it to get back to us, assuming the 50 year model. If we extend that to 500 years we won’t hear back for a millennium, at which point our technology may very well have moved on to the point we can’t receive those messages anymore.

To go back to Dr deGrasse Tyson, he’s been widely quoted as saying that with the universe as huge as ours, saying there’s no alien life based on the areas we’ve looked for it is like looking into a drop of water and concluding there is no life in the oceans. There are currently approximately 10-14 million species on Earth and over 5 billion species having ever existed. It seems bizarre that all of these will have been condensed onto one tiny speck in a universe that is billions of light years wide.

Eurovision. Eurowow.

Hoorah, hooray, it’s Eurovision Day!

It’s hard to write this without giving away too many of the tweets I have saved in my drafts on Twitter. There are a few things to cover though.

Firstly, a handful of people have asked me what Eurovision is. In short, it’s an international music contest featuring basically every country in Europe (and Australia, though nobody really knows why). Whoever wins hosts it the next year, this year it’s in Sweden, and it’s broken down into two semi finals and a grand final.

Each semi final consists of 18 acts, of which 10 go through. These are then added to the previous winner’s entry and the “Big Five” to make a final of 26 acts. The Big Five are the five countries who make the largest financial contribution to the competition, and in doing so get a free pass to the final. The Big Five are France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. It’s probably a good thing the UK get a free pass every year because if we didn’t there’s no way our past few entries would have made it to the final, especially not this year. Honestly. It’s dog shit.

But yeah, some people didn’t watch the semi finals because they’re super duper shit and would rather watch just 26 of the 42 entries so here’s a brief run down of what they missed from not watching it. You missed Bosnian rapping, Greek rapping, a gravelly man representing San Marino, an Estonian card trick, some droney rock shite from Montenegro, Nicky Byrne from Westlife, a man from Belarus who was naked and howling in a wolf’s face and a few handsome men from Denmark. Sucks to be you. If you’re able to watch them on iPlayer I’d recommend it, but skip through the sketches in between. Again, utter dog shit. Especially the BBC’s attempt at a comedic version of a Scandinavian drama. I’d rather watch my grandparents fuck than go through that again.

As for the ones to look out for in the final, Belgium are the openers of the competition. This is a shame as it suggests they may not do well with the voting, but it’s a very typical 90s Eurovision song complete with a glittery jacket and some snazzy dancing. I’ve got the Netherlands, Israel and Bulgaria in my top five even though they’re also relatively early in the running list too. All strong songs with a bit of something extra to help you remember them. I’m not giving anyway away though, you’ll have to watch to see what I mean.

A couple of other songs I’ve been singing to myself lately are Croatia’s entry and Latvia’s entry. Both pretty big outsiders as far as the bookies are concerned but they’re just about memorable enough to get a decent spot in my opinion.

The others kind of tend to merge into a big mess with only a few others standing out, some for the wrong reasons. Poland’s entry has some of the worst lyrics of the competition and the singer looks like Weird Al Yankovic, and the less said about Georgia’s entry the better. I just hope the people in the venue are protected with some form of eye protection. It’s a light show that can be seen from space.

Anyway this has been brief as fuck but I’m excited and I’m not gonna spunk my best material away here so you’ll have to wait until 8pm tonight when I start live tweeting the whole fucking thing.