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X (Deluxe Edition)
Ed Sheeran - CD
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Firstly I have to say I have no idea what the two-star review guy is banging on about. Yes, X is different to Plus for the most part, but it's definitely not worse. It opens on a fairly forgettable note with the first track, but from then on it's largely gold. Even more so than with Plus, X is an album that you quickly and fiercely grow into. Tracks like Nina and I See Fire tug at the heartstrings of melody-lovers like me, while Sing is ultra-catchy and a great happy tune to get you in the mood for a party. There's even a slice of bona fide 70s soul on one of the songs. I'll finish by saying this: I recently drafted an Ed Sheeran playlist for myself after a few listens of X and there are more tracks from X on there than from Plus. The only caveat I should mention is that there are fewer of the slightly wet 'romantic' songs in the style of a good few from Plus. If you want to buy this album solely to eat ice cream and cry to, you'll be disappointed. I can only assume that's what the two-star reviewer wanted...
Smith & Jones By Crosshatch Men's Beamline Striped Scarf (Cream)
It all started one morning when I was a younger man than I am now. About a week younger. I was trying to stuff the ends of my chunky hand-made scarf down the front of my coat in preparation for a typical sub-zero foray into the British suburban wilderness.
I saw this scarf on one of my usual pokes around the Play.com site and snapped it up for a penny shy of three of the Queen's pounds. It looked like a simple but nice lightweight scarf that would actually allow me some neck movement when it's not quite cold enough to warrant Big Bertha. That's my epic chunky scarf. This new scarf came today and although it smells strongly of vinegar I've tried it on with my coat and it sits perfectly, filling in the gap between my collar and my neck, which is just what I wanted. It'll need a wash before it gets worn properly, mind you.
The colours are slightly darker than they are on my screen, but not too much so. It's a fair representation, I'd say. The quality of manufacture is pretty good too, with a very smooth feel. It's quite thin though, and doubling it over is a must to keep any kind of warmth anywhere. Most would probably do this anyway.
Anyway, I'm very happy with it. Or I will be once I get the vinegar smell out.
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This film starts grim and only really gets grimmer, right until the very end. Switching it off at the end was like waking up from a very long and protracted bad dream, devoid of all hope and human decency. Yes, it's an accurate picture of the depths to which the human race would sink in an apocalyptic scenario, but by God it's heavy viewing. If you're looking to buy this film hoping that there's a happy or even hopeful ending you'll be disappointed. The reason I give two stars is for a decent set of acting performances, but I would never, ever trouble to watch it again.
Bunny And The Bull
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Although there is some of the Boosh style of humour in BatB, it's a very different kettle of fish. It jumps through time and memories a lot, and you need to be paying attention to keep up with what's going on. But as it unfolds it becomes clear that the strange, reclusive, slightly creepy main character is battling with his inner demons connected with the what happened the last time he left the house. Effectively trapped there, he relives that saga in his mind, and as he does so his demons appear to come to life. It's a fabulous, eerie, touching and thoroughly involving film that's got 'genius' stamped all over it. Don't go into it expecting an elongated episode of the Boosh, because it's nothing like - apart from a couple of stunning cameos from Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt. Well worth watching, and without doubt a five-star film.
Sing When You're Winning
Robbie Williams - CD
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In a nutshell, SWYW is the best album Robbie Williams ever did. The songwriting is more grown-up and refined than on his previous albums, yet as a whole the album is much more accessible than his later work.
It has everything in it. Anthems are there in the shape of Let Love Be Your Energy and Supreme, while the more 'serious' songs are taken care of in spellbinding fashion by Better Man, If It's Hurting You and By All Means Necessary. There is lyrical and melodic gold here; the album has the potential to touch your heart as well as lift it sky high.
In fairness, one or two of the tracks are weak links in the chain, but as a whole the album is hugely accomplished. I will always keep it in my CD collection if only just for my favourite tracks off the album. However, while I do that, I'm always amazed when I listen to the whole thing again. It really is a great record.
One Moment More
Mindy Smith - CD
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Mindy Smith is a country and western singer, so be aware of that before you buy this album expecting something more conventionally pop-like! Words of warning out of the way, Smith's voice is unique; soft and gentle at times, and sharp as a flint at others. Its real magic is its ability to pierce you to your very core and fill you with the genuine and very powerful emotions she is singing about.
My personal favourite track is Hurricane, simply because I related very closely to the beautifully simple lyrics. But arguably it's the track where Smith's voice is at its most potent. Some people might know One Moment More, a track written about Smith's mother, from the closing sequence of an episode of Smallville, and it is indeed a very, very heartfelt song.
Other than the songs that have the ability to bring you inwardly to your knees there are several based on Smith's Christian faith. As long as you're not violently opposed to that, these faintly country-style tracks are extremely good in their own right, and provide an excellent intermission from the emotional peaks and troughs of the standout tracks.
The album closes with a genuinely brilliant cover of Jolene, with the original singer of the track, Dolly Parton, on backing vocals. Again, the way Smith sings constructs in the listener's mind the scenes, characters and emotions that she is singing of.
Listen to it with your eyes closed and let yourself be fully absorbed by the music, and by Mindy Smith's beautiful voice. It, like all the best albums, demands that you set time aside to dedicate to it, otherwise you won't benefit from its full and glorious impact.