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w/e 2022-02-06

On this week’s Bandcamp Friday I bought ME REX’s fresh Pterodactyl EP, which I think is a re-recording of an earlier EP:

Jolly good. I’m not great at describing music and find it especially hard to describe why I like ME REX so much but they hit the spot that wants angsty, wordy music by nice British indie folks.

One thing I’ve liked about the past couple of years has been all the videos of musicians playing from their own homes (although it’s not much compensation to them, missing out on the income from gigs, obviously). Here’s ME REX rehearsing Skin, It Itches from that EP, sitting in a lounge while, I think, someone does some sewing on the table in the background:

Sure, some musicians should be unattainable and untouchable alien David Bowie types or android Janelle Monáes, too fabulous and fantastical to seem so approachable. But there are others, like this bunch, who I love to see sitting round, strumming away, having a lovely time, making a great sound. A little sensitive huggable gang I’d love to be part of.

§ Having recently declared my semi-retirement I now find myself working up to four days per week for the next couple of months which, as you can imagine, is quite a shock to the system of Little Lord Idleroy. The new work is a couple of Wagtail-based projects for the ever-lovely Hactar, so a good reason to semi come out of semi-retirement.

§ Given all the extra time I’ll be spending at the computer I allowed myself to bring forward this year’s birthday present to myself and bought my first DAC and headphone amp, the Shenzenaudio Topping EX5, reviewed so favourably at Audio Science Review.

It is entirely unnecessary but, having read so much on the topic (reading hifi discussions I barely understand is a comforting distraction), it felt like a reasonable thing to try. Who wouldn’t want their music to sound better?

Of course I do not notice any difference in the sound quality when I plug my nice headphones into this new, satisfyingly-heavy, black box compared to when I plug them directly into my laptop so I have clearly wasted my money. I assume I just have cloth, and gradually aging, ears. I cannot, for example, tell the difference between the 128k MP3s and the lossless WAVs in these tests at NPR, even afterwards when I know which is which.

Other points:

  • I can get more volume from my headphones now (but I don’t need it).
  • I can no longer use the volume control keys on my keyboard and have to instead reach for the unit’s knob – which is less convenient but more satisfying.
  • I’ll be able to get some better speakers and connect them through this, which wouldn’t have been an option before.

A shame that nothing sounds better though. I can just be reassured that other people can, apparently, tell that music is somehow improved through this magical box. A bit like someone recognising that a glass of fancy wine is extra special while I’m thinking, “Mmm, yes, this definitely tastes red!”

§ I don’t know if it’s having just come off the Amitriptyline or just starting on the Topiramate – an alternative potential migraine-preventer – but for several nights this week I did not sleep well at all. So I had a few days where I was tired-to-the-point-of-dizziness all day and then lay there wide awake half the night. And repeat. I slept better last night so hopefully that’s improving because that was hard work.

§ Over recent weeks we’ve enjoyed the currently-available first half of season five of This Farming Life which came out two or three months ago but we missed. As ever, so very, very good. It’s clearly a rather airbrushed view of farming life – everyone is lovely, the hard times are uplifting, we only see the most interesting and varied moments, etc. But it’s great viewing. It’s nice to see a couple from the previous season who have just moved to a new, bigger farm on the Isle of Butte, which provides many opportunities for gorgeous drone shots.

§ We finished watching the first season of Friday Night Lights this week. Over the years I’d heard a lot of times how good it was and… it maybe wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped but was still pretty good. You know, good for one of those mainstream, 40-minute-episode, 22-episode-season, shows with no swearing or nudity or anything too risky.

Part-way through I wasn’t sure whether I needed to watch any further seasons but by the end I think everyone had grown on me – despite almost every man being a bit (or a lot) of a dick at some point – and I’m looking forward to watching more. I relaxed into the unchallenging world. It’s a shame a couple of the main characters are so very drippy but the rest are pretty good.

I’m fascinated by tone in TV shows because it seems so hard to define and describe. One axis is drama-comedy — there are various points between a Very Serious Drama and a straight-out-comedy and I always assume it must be hard to hit exactly the desired spot. This time I was intrigued by depth, and how you do or don’t manage to hit that. Friday Night Lights covers plenty of serious topics but I don’t think it’d get called “gritty” – somehow it glides through everything, never reaching for real depth. I don’t know if W. G. Snuffy Walden’s music is part of that, always ready to over-emphasise Sad Moments with Sentimental Music.

It’s also a good show to remind British viewers how weird normal life in (parts of) the USA can be. The huge importance of high school football teams, the massive stadiums schools have, the frequent praying, car dealerships being a really big deal, etc.

Given I’m no expert on suburban Texan fashions, or American cars, most of the time the show looks completely up-to-date to me, despite the show being from 16 years ago. Then every so often you see a clamshell phone or catch sight of a family’s TV – a small CRT screen in the corner – and you realise how much time has passed.

§ That is all. My brain is still not entirely all there. Or here.

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