Music to write copy by

7 02 2010

Here at CJS we have recently dived head-first into the relentless routine of production days.

Unforgiving deadlines, strict word limits and gripping features are now the order of the day, and we need to be focused on the job in hand.

While a clear mind and a readiness to communicate are musts within the confines of the newsroom, many of us will no doubt find ourselves constantly on the go, chasing stories and writing features away from the order-in-chaos.

I cannot be alone in using music to help focus the mind, and in this post I will share with you just some of the bands and artists I turn to when I have work to do.

Be it revising for a testing public admin exam or writing a 750 word feature on Formula 1, music tends to help my productivity. I’m sure it does the same for some of you too.

At the very least, I hope I can introduce a few more names to your Spotify playlists and provide a gift that stays with you for years to come.

1. Electric President

I was introduced to Electric President just over a year ago, and  the Floridian duo instantly won me over with their blend of haunting vocals and mellow beats.

Alex Kane’s electronic input perfectly complements Ben Cooper’s vocals, both providing a subtlety lacking in the work of may of their peers.

They have been compared to Postal Service and The Weakerthans, but such comparisons do an injustice to a band whose music will engross but not engulf the listener.

2. Mogwai

As far removed as possible from the energetic Gremlin with which they share their name, Mogwai are on a level which most bands can only dream of.

For more than a decade they have treated fans to expansive post-rock so grand in scope it makes Lord of the Rings look like Superbad.

They went some way to getting the recognition they deserve after being asked to compose the soundtrack to Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait in 2006. Since then, they have gone from strength to strength with recent album The Hawk is Howling showing the band’s unerring ability to captivate observers with every movement, much like Zizou himself.

3. Jurassic 5

Of course, I appreciate that different people work best when listening to different genres of music. As such, I feel it would be both ignorant and inappropriate of me to omit hip-hop in my discussion of music to write by.

Kings of the genre, in my humble opinion, are California-based act Jurassic 5. Showing more versatility than many of their peers, J5 span all elements of hip-hop, often providing more relaxed and mellow music but never being afraid to show more aggression and panache on live favourites such as A Day at the Races.

Their music might not seem conducive to writing at first glance, but check them out for yourselves and you may well be pleasantly surprised, even if hip-hop isn’t usually your cup of tea.

4. Explosions in the Sky

The word ‘epic’ is used all too frequently when it comes to today’s music. But one band which really does merit that description is Explosions in the Sky.

The Texan quartet have spent the last decade or so making music you thought couldn’t be bettered…and then bettering it. Their crashing guitars and vocal soundscapes add an unquantifiable sense of grandeur to whatever you are doing while listening to them.

So stick any one of their albums on, be it one of the earlier classics or the new groundbreaking material, and it will feel like that MPs’ expenses story you’re writing is the next Ulysses.

5. Sigur Ros

Perhaps the most famous of the five bands I have mentioned here, Sigur Ros have still taken far too long to gain the recognition they deserve.

No one else makes music quite like the Icelanders, whose vocalist Jonsi Birgisson sings in an invented language – Hopelandic – as well as in his native tongue.

It is perhaps the use of Hopelandic which give the quartet their almost magical quality. But the whole-hearted desire to experiment also has something to do with it.

Their music puts you in a state of mind so peaceful all other concerns will be brushed to one side, letting you focus your energy on almost anything.

If you are yet to discover this masterful band, I urge you to sit back, relax, and enjoy.


And now for something completely different…

16 11 2009

I know this blog is normally about journalistic issues, but I thought I’d do something else for a change and join an ongoing debate about the sports icon of the noughties.

After Alfie Tolhurst set the ball rolling with his nomination of Ryan Giggs, a number of my coursemates have given their suggestions, so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring.

So, without further delay, I present to you my nominee for the sporting icon of the decade…

Michael Schumacher

They say a sign of the very best sportsmen is not what they do on the field of play, but rather how much they are missed when they depart.

It is with such a maxim in mind that I present to you my entry to the sports icon of the decade poll, Hurth’s finest (sorry Ralf), Herr Michael Schumacher.

King of the Road

Since ‘Schumi’ retired from Formula 1 in 2006, the sport has seen three different drivers claim the crown, each with a different constructor.

Many argue that it is the quality of car which has contributed to world titles for Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, as two of these men won by extremely narrow margins and none have yet managed to retain their crown.

Consistency was no problem for Schumacher, however, as he relegated four different drivers into second place over his five year winning streak, taking the title by a margin as high as 58 in 2001.


And when the German was in the driver’s seat, the sport was all about results and great performances.

Now this has given way to petty squabbling, spying scandals and budget controversies. It seems that without a milestone like Schumi against which decisions could be measured, F1 has lost its way.

Countless footballers and rugby players may claim their team suffered as a result of their departure, but to claim their sport went downhill? Only one man can do that.

We Germans aren’t all smiles and sunshine

But it would be unfair, not to mention stupid, to merely look at the post-Michael era when this article is meant to be about the man himself.

Of course the facts speak for themselves. In the years 2000-2006 Schumacher won five world titles, finishing second and third on the two occasions he missed out on the biggest prize.

And in 2004 he scored a remarkable 148 championship points, including an unprecedented 13 wins.

You can see how much it meant to the guy

This of course ignores completely the two world championships he won while with Benetton in the 90s, which helped contribute to a record 91 grands prix over the course of his career.

And while few in the business would blame Michael for remaining stoic and serious after his retirement, he has shown a lighter side and a willingness to have fun away from the wheel, as this final clip demonstrates.

So, who are the other contenders?

Usain Bolt

Zinedine Zidane

Roger Federer

Lance Armstrong

Ryan Giggs

Cristiano Ronaldo

David Beckham

Shane Warne

Adam Gilchrist

and this offering