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.


Hashtag la vista

28 10 2009

Last week I, and my colleagues on the Cardiff postgrad diploma in journalism, were tweeted to an intriguing lecture from @cward1e

You may be wondering a couple of things about that opening sentence, namely why I used the word ‘tweeted’ and why I referred to our guest lecturer Claire Wardle as @cward1e

There are two reasons for this:

1. I am massively self-important and am using words like ‘tweet’, ‘hashtag’ and ‘blogosphere‘ to sound smart and hide my profound lack of knowledge on subjects I might appear to be well-versed in. Note that by making this point ‘1’ I am only drawing more attention to this self-importance.

2. Claire was talking to us about her area of expertise, social media, and – more specifically – the twitterverse.

Sesame tweet, this week brought to you by the letter @ and the #32*

For those of you who are new to the world of twitter, let me give you a brief rundown.

People post their views – known as ‘tweets – on whatever they want, from their views on Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize to what they are eating for breakfast, and share these views with the world.

Anyone can see your tweets if they choose to ‘follow’ you, but long gone are the days when people only joined twitter to stalk the likes of Stephen Fry and Charlie Brooker ( or @stephenfry and @charltonbrooker to you and I and anyone else who follows them).

So, those @ signs, what do they do? Well they allow you to tag or mention your friends/followers/stalkees in your tweets. For example, yesterday I tweeted about going to a Frank Turner gig with my friend Emma – the tweet went something like this:

seeing @fthc tonight with @emcetera

You can also throw in the odd hashtag (that’s a #) to discuss ‘trending’ topics – i.e. those which a lot of people are tweeting about. For example, last week, one such topic was #oneletteroffmovies and my immature offering was #oneletteroffmovies ace ventura – pee detective.

The hashtag is – of course – by no means restricted to juvenility and bad puns, that’s just what I use it for.


Trending topics can do more than simply bring together like-minded people. They can help bring news stories out in the open.

Take, for example, the recent coverage of the Trafigura debacle – the name of the Swiss company became common knowledge far quicker than it might otherwise have done, simply as a result of tweets and hashtags spreading it like wildfire.

And there are other ways that twitter helps bring people together.

Claire told us about things such as twitterfall and tweepml in her lecture. The former allows you to see what people have to say about certain trending topics, while the latter allows you to form lists of people with certain things in common. Go on, try them out.

Other things came up in the lecture, such as netvibes and tweetdeck, but I’ll let you find out about them yourself.

Alessandro Diamanti

*32 is a completely arbitrary choice, made – for argument’s sake – because it is the number worn by Alessandro Diamanti when he scored the equalising goal for West Ham last weekend. It’s the ‘#’ bit that’s important, although if you hadn’t worked that out by now you’ve probably wasted your time reading this. The eagle-eyed among you will have also noticed that ‘@’ is not technically a letter. Good for you.