Author: englishmaninamsterdam

I'm a music and fashion loving Brit living in Amsterdam.

THE KING RETURNS

New-Michael-Jackson-album

I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan so it was with great excitement that I read on Monday “New Michael Jackson album coming in May”. I could barely hold in a shamon! It’s almost 5 years since his death but the world will be treated to some ‘new’ music from the undisputed King of Pop with the release of XSCAPE on May 13th. Being a big fan means that whilst I’m super excited  I hope it does his legacy justice.

Epic Records Chairman and CEO L.A. Reid has be given unlimited access to the vault of what MJ considered unfinished tracks so surely we can expect something special. Many people have talked about the huge amount of unused material Michael had and the quality of this work left on the studio floor over the years. Some of the music world’s best producers have been brought in to ‘contemporize’ the tracks with Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins and John McClain all part of the project.

This is the second posthumous album, the first ‘MICHAEL’ was released in 2010. I for one, got up early the day of its release to rush down and buy a copy. I’m always a digital music buyer and hadn’t bought a CD in years but this was Michael Jackson! I had to have a hard copy. I liked the album but was it worthy of the King of Pop? The way MJ created his music was extraordinary! Because he couldn’t read or write music he would build every part of the track with his voice; notes, chords, harmony, melody, bass and rhythm. He explained and demonstrated this in a court case concerning his ‘Dangerous’ album (which he won of course). This creative process is somewhat lost when the control goes over to others, however talented they are. And in my opinion this is where ‘MICHAEL’ wasn’t quite up to the quality you’d expect.

No matter what, everyone involved in XSCAPE have some big penny loafers to fill.

.S.

GIG REVIEW; CHVRCHES

chvrches

Last night I paid a visit to one of my favourite venues in Amsterdam, a converted former church going by the name of Paradiso to watch….well…..Chvrches. Joined by my very good friend and gig buddy Neus, we assumed our usual spot, front left practically on the stage with a huge speaker on top of us. On this occasion our proximity to the speaker and Neus’ keenness to be right in the action caused her a just a slight problem, they were SO loud!

I loved the Chvrches album the minute I heard it but going to see a band live for the first time can be a risk. Will they perform well? will it sound good? will they come across well? The Scottish three-piece answered these questions with an unequivocal YES!! Seeing their electro-pop tracks come to life before your eyes was quite something to behold. The stunning voice of Lauren Mayberry cutting through the rafters and captivating the entire room with ease. This accompanied by talented musicians Iain Cook and Martin Doherty switching one minute from Guitar, next to keyboard, then to a sample pad meant we were in for a musical treat. Doherty provided backing vocals and took center stage for a track two, his energetic bounding about the stage getting the crowd moving even more.

Some bands tend not to have too much interaction with the crowd aside from introducing the songs and perhaps the odd “thank you”. Kings of Leon being one of these bands and funnily enough during one of the many funny interactions with the crowd Lauren took a swipe at KOL for now sounding like U2. Bit of a mixed reaction from the crowd on this but that may have something to do with the international crowd not understanding her through the Scottish accent.

chvrches 2

Chvches will be fully in the festival circuit this year and still have Zurich, Munich and Berlin to come in their European tour. If you get a chance, I urge you to go and experience them live! It’s impossible to choose a particular track as a highlight from this gig when from start to finish we were taken to Chvrch!

.S.

ALWAYS STARE AT JACOB

brunch

Well they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day don’t they? This might apply during the week when you quickly ram something in your mouth before getting out the door to attend the daily grind. However at the weekend, I strongly disagree! Brunch is the most important meal of the day and there’s a great spot in Amsterdam called Staring At Jacob. I love brunch! It’s the perfect time to catch up with friends (usually hungover) and piece together the night before over coffee Bloody Mary’s and food flirting between breakfast and lunch.

Sitting on the corner of Jacob van Lennepkade and Staringstraat you can find this hot bed of brunch brilliance. A popular choice for locals and tourists alike, you’ll find a great atmosphere and grub to die for. Typical American favourites can be found on the menu such as Chicken and Waffles, Bacon and Pancakes and for the health conscious among you some muesli and yogurt combination. With an ever changing menu you can visit time after time and try something new. Speaking from the experience of various visits I can tell you that no matter your preference they’re all delicious. The super cool interior, friendly service, relaxed atmosphere, great food and drinks ensure that it’s always busy with the sound of chit chat.

staring

Should you not quite make it out of bed in time to catch brunch you can even go later and try some of their small bites. So go check out this hotspot for yourself and stare squarely at Jacob!

.S.

BEST OF BRITISH

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I’ve finally caught up on this years Brit awards and it was a pretty good show. I do love the Brits! It reminds me of being a kid and settling in to watch with my family. There have been some memorable moments for good and bad reasons in the Brits history. From Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood doing the worst hosting job ever, to Jarvis Cocker storming the stage during Michael Jackson’s performance, to last year when Adele’s acceptance speech was cut short. What would happen this year? Host James Corden kept things moving and there didn’t seem to be any mishaps…….unfortunately. That’s what you want from an Award Ceremony isn’t it? Celebrities getting drunk, storming the stage or making an insane acceptance speech. Thank you Alex Turner for making the second of the two happen this year.

In recent years the Brit award itself has been designed by some of the greats in British design and this year, despite it resembling a cross between a lightsaber and a pizza cutter it was in fact created by hat designer Philip Treacy. Unlike the Grammy’s (see past post) with their endless list of useless categories us British are predictably more reserved with a concise 13 gongs being given away to, in the most part, deserving winners. This means the Brits are still THE award to win in British popular music so here’s who left the O2 with a little something new for their mantle piece;

British Male Solo Artist – David Bowie

British Female Solo Artist – Ellie Goulding

British Group – Arctic Monkeys

British Breakthrough Act – Bastille

British Single – “Waiting All Night” – Rudimental ft. Ella Eyre

British Album Of The Year – AM – Arctic Monkeys

Best Video – One Direction

International Male Solo Artist – Bruno Mars

International Female Solo Artist – Lorde

International Group – Daft Punk

Global Success – One Direction

Critics’ Choice – Sam Smith

British Producer Of The Year – Flood & Alan Moulder

If we ignore the inevitable inclusion of One Direction in the winners list, this year once again shows that British Music is still leading the way. But Bastille winning British breakthrough act? Surely this should have gone to London Grammar and not only just to give everyone the opportunity to see how stunning the lead singer is. But they’re new, different, current and have a great album which is unlike anything else. Bastille covered “Rhythm Of The Night” on their album! That alone should have seen them shunned from any category.

For the first time one award this year was voted for on the night by twitter users and as predictably as Harry Styles going solo sooner rather than later the crazy One Directioners made sure they scooped this one. Like anyone else stood a chance against the 17.8 Million followers 1D have.

The best performance of the night goes to the unbelievably young brothers from Surrey known as Disclosure. They were joined by Lorde to perform a brilliant remix of her smash “Royals” seamlessly mixing into “White Noise” featuring Aluna George. They have even since decided to release this digitally for charity. You can go get it here

Prior to the night there was the will she, wont she talk about Beyonce performing. One minute she was, then she wasn’t but in the end Mrs Carter did take to the stage to perform “XO” apparently for the first time on TV. Obviously she sounded amazing, its Beyonce! But sorry B it was a little boring.

Well that was it for another year of great British pop music. Next week it’s the turn of the NME awards to take a more indie approach to an award ceremony and it’s bound to serve up some fitting Rock n Roll behavior.

.S.

APP YOUR SERVICE

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There’s nothing worse than realising a band or artist you love  has recently visited your city and you knew nothing about it. Or worse still you found out too late and already the gig is sold out. If like me you love live music it’s no mean feat to keep track of everyone you want to see simply by keep checking various websites. Sure you can go to a ticket tout or try eBay but personally I hate paying someone an inflated price for a ticket they don’t even want and bought it only to exploit the genuine fans. Well fear not, there’s a great free app which will make sure you never miss a gig again!

BandsInTown is available on iOS, Android and Facebook. If you don’t have any of these platforms available to you…….come on…..it’s 2014! And furthermore, how are you reading this?? BandInTown takes information from your iTunes and FaceBook likes to populate a list of artists you’ll track and you can manually add to it whenever you wish. First set your search area based on the GPS location on your device and you’re all set. The minute a gig is announced in your area by your beloved musicians “Ping” a message to tell you exactly when and where. Even a link to buy tickets.

bandsintown

Not only is it great for bands and artists you already know, its also brilliant for new music discovery. Another area of the app shows recommendations of who’s coming to town that you might like based on the artists you already follow. Only a couple of weeks ago my friend Neus and I went through this list of recommendations and before we knew it had booked three gigs for the coming month or so. And just last week “ping”…Kings Of Leon coming to Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome on June 2nd. And now I have tickets, having been ready and waiting when they went on sale.

Without BandInTown my live music calendar would look rather depressing.

.S.

SAHARA JANUARY SUCCESS

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January has been drier than an AA meeting, through choice I might add. There’s always a lot of talk about “Dry January” just as the final party popper confetti hits the booze soaked floor during the New Year celebrations. How many of you said you’d do it? How many of you did? Well by some absolute miracle, I DID IT! Yes, I do feel rather proud of myself and am dangerously close to being that smug non-drinker that laughs in the face of your hangover. I hate myself!

I’ve recently heard via a friend that dry January is actually unhealthy but I’ve felt some benefits. Improved diet, more gym hours and best of all the start of this very blog. Had I spent January ’14 like every month of 2013 between work, drinking, partying, hangover there would have been little time or energy for proactive movement let alone clear thinking for writing. That said it has been a touch on the deathly boring side. Without the fresh vigor of blogging discovery I may just have crumbled. Which does beg the question – Can you really be social without drinking alcohol?

Its not that you can’t have fun without drinking your weight in Gin (although it certainly helps). In my recent experience its very hard to be your usual social self when you’re being boring….I mean….when you’re not drinking. Not because of the need for social lubricant to be comfortable, absolutely not. But when every social occasion revolves around a bar here, a dinner there, a club anywhere I’ve practically hibernated to avoid temptation. And drunk people! When you’re stone cold sober drunk people are not your ally. I do like a drink and so do my friends but really I’d say we’re firmly in the category of weekend binge drinkers. But aren’t we all? These days if someone tells you they don’t drink its more surprising than if they told you their favorite tipple is mentholated spirit!

This weekend I leapt with joy from wagon and began with a visit to the Ron Gastrobar accompanied by my good friend CC. She assures me she’s not had so much of a sniff of the unholy water in Jan and I’ll just about take her word for it. Being an Englishman I’ve visited my fair share of gastrobars/pubs back in the homeland taking in the good, the average and the gastronomically terrible. Here in Amsterdam this seems to be a new concept with Ron Blaauw making the claim this is the first of its kind and I wholly agree with the Michelin stared master chef. I’ve certainly never been to a Gastrobar like this! With a soundtrack including the likes of Wham! and other 80’s delights the atmosphere was casual and relaxed.

The interior was modern and littered with the artwork of Selwyn Senatori, an Italian-Dutch artist I discovered when I first touched down in Amsterdam. It should have come as no surprise when sitting right opposite me was the man himself! We exchanged smiles, mine far more enthusiastic than his. The food was of the quality you’d expect from a place named after and associated to a multiple Michelin stared chef. The  prices on the other hand were not! €15 per course to be precise, affordable for even the tightest of wallets. Upon receiving the first course it became apparent why as the portion size was verging on puny. We did then realise the concept was to have multiple courses and subsequently ordered 3 deserts. I’ll certainly be going back to work my way through a few more.

ron

 Dry January was a challenge and one I’m happy to have succeeded at even if The Daily Mail says its unhealthy. I don’t know whats more surprising, the fact they say dry January is unhealthy or that they’ve spared some column inches away from their usual subjects of immigrants and former BBC presenters turned paedos.

So can you be social when you’re on the wagon? Yes you can but the fact is it’s just not as much fun. A hangover has never felt so good!

.S.

A SKIN-DEEP STATEMENT

tatt

Let me start off by saying I’m a bit of a tattoo addict having so far amassed a collection of 13 with more to come. I love that sterile smell, the loud and unmistakable buzz of tattoo guns and the anticipation of feeling the pain (Yes it does hurt!) of getting tattooed. I may be a tattoo lover but there are many people who find them ugly, stupid and downright tacky (My own mother being one of said people). Clothes we change with time, trend, mood and even age, for instance, my skinny jean staple may not be suitable when I’m 50 but my tattoos will remain far longer whether I like it or not. I am under no illusion that there may very well come a time when I regret my tattoos. But each of them will always remind me of a moment in my life and that’s what I love most. I will always remember where I was, why I got it, who I was with, what I was thinking and what the tattoo represents to me.

My dad is 62 years old and has 6 tattoos all of which done in his late teens/early twenties and when growing up he always told me how much he hated them and never to get any of my own. Of course I paid no attention and I’ve shown him my freshly inked skin many-a-time guaranteeing I will hear the same words “oh son, not again”. However the most recent two he was surprisingly complimentary about. One is an Amsterdam themed butterfly and the second a modern twist on one his tattoos (pictured above).

With the ever increasing popularity of tattoos I have no doubt many people are putting little thought into what they’re getting, why, which artist they are trusting to mark their skin forever and doing it just to be part of a trend. We’ve all seen badly done tattoos, we may even know people with bad tattoos. If you haven’t, just head over to the @ShitTats twitter account and marvel at the weird, awful, terribly done and even misspelt body art.

Tattoos have become more and more prevalent in the fashion world, whether it be designs, prints and even the models used in campaigns and shows. Ricki Hall (pictured above) certainly doesn’t look like your conventional model with his bushy beard and heavily tattooed torso but that didn’t stop him being signed up by top London agency Nevs. Ricki has fronted campaigns for the likes of P & Co, Diesel and Paul Smith. Although the audience for the latter were clearly not ready for his inked up body with all of his tattoo’s being removed either digitally or with makeup. But would Ricki Hall have got so much work 10 years ago? Even 5 years ago? I think not!

A tattoo is a permanent statement and should be treated as such. So if you’re contemplating your first one or even adding to your collection, here’s a few do’s and don’ts before going under the needle;

DO visit multiple tattoo parlous – you must comfortable where you’re getting inked and that it’s a reputable place.

DON’T pick your tattoo from a flash card. A flash card is usually just basic samples of work. No one wants a tattoo someone else already has!

DO find the right artist. Make sure you’re on the same page, they have the right style for you and are excited about what they’re tattooing.

DON’T get the name of your partner. No relationship needs that pressure to stand the test of time.

DO be original. Go to your artist with images/artworks/inspiration and have them create something unique for you. If they cant do that, they’re not a tattoo artist. They’re a tattooer!

Don’t rush it. I’ve thought about a potential tattoo for years before getting it. I also have some impulsive ones. Whilst I like both, the ones with more thought behind them always come out better.

DO be open to change. The fact is your wonderful idea might not work as a tattoo and your artist should tell you. Once you start talking, between you you’ll come up with things that add to your idea and make it even better than you first imagined.

What do you think of ink? Love it or hate it? Whatever you opinion, to my thinking those who are inked ink for themselves and only themselves. It just so happens your choice of body art is often on display for all to see. So think before you ink!

.S.

THE SHAMMY AWARDS

grammy

Last night I decided to tune in to the televised edit of the 56th annual Grammy awards. An award which at one time was THE most prestigious award for any artist to have on their mantelpiece. An award ceremony which had some of the most ground-breaking performances in the history of music; 1988 – Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror, 1993 – Eric Clapton – Tears In Heaven, 1994 – Whitney Houston – I will always Love you. Even as recently as Elton John & Eminem in 2001, Amy Whinehouse in 2008 and Adele in 2012 . But whilst watching Robin Thicke strut his pervy uncle-esque stuff to BluRRed Lines it got me thinking about the state of POP music today and how this gathering of music royalty has changed over the years.

The first annual Grammy awards was held in 1958 and consisted of 28 awards. By comparison the 2014 category list comes in at an eye watering 83! Yes music has evolved since the days people used a gramophone as more than just a vintage hipster showpiece. But dishing out these gongs in so many watered down categories takes everything away from how special it is to get one in the first place.

And the winners are/were……

Record Of The Year 

2014 – Get Lucky (Daft Punk & Pharrell)                       1983 – Beat It (Michael Jackson)

Album Of The Year

2014 – Random Access Memory (Daft Punk)              1977 – Rumours (Fleetwood Mac)

Song Of The Year

               2014 – Royals (Lorde)                                1984 – Every Breath You Take (The Police)

Best New Artist  

2014 – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis                       1965 – The Beatles

The brackets really weren’t required for the past winners (if for you they were then stop reading now, you’re totally going to miss my point). Could the same be said for 2014’s collection of golden gramophone holders in 10/20/30 years time?? The way we have access to music in the modern age in one way is brilliant, just a click of the mouse, a swipe of the iPad or flick of the TV channel and it’s all right there in your ears in an instant. But is this having a negative affect on our attention span or the staying power of artist?

An award of any description for your talent should be a shining beacon of success in career. Unfortunately I think the sheen of a Grammy has dimmed slightly over the years but perhaps that’s of our own (or technologies) doing.

.S.

CULTIVATING YOUR CLIQUE

friends

Relocating to any country is a daunting process with many things to consider and take into account such as where to live, how to set up a bank account, dealing with a different currency, a different style of life, different culture. The list goes on and on. Now that I look back on it, surprisingly there were a lot of things I hadn’t thought about. Isn’t hindsight a beautiful thing?! Once you’ve taken care of all the important and often boring stuff it’s time to think about your social circle. Your social life can define your relocation experience and how you feel about your new home. Back in your homeland you’ve got an established circle of pals/buddies/mates/acquaintances. Whatever you want to call your clique, they’re all there with no real need to expand this core group further. But what about when they’re all in another country? A whatsapp group chat doesn’t quite cut it.  The realization hit me and to quote Paul Rudd in one of my favourite movies – I Love You Man – “I gotta get some fuckin’ friends”

When I came to Amsterdam I pretty much knew just one person, my very good friend James L. He’d been in Amsterdam for one year and had been instrumental in making the move a little less scary. James had already made plenty of mates and many of which I can now happily also call my friends but I was also conscious I had to get out there and find some of my own. But how? where? Going up to some dude in a bar and asking him to be your friend was going to give totally the wrong impression and is just plain weird! I was never the most forward of people in the past.

I looked into meetup groups, groups where people with similar interests gather, chat and as the name suggests meet up. But in the end I didn’t actually attend any. I felt like using these groups to meet people was almost admitting defeat and that I couldn’t find friends by myself, that there must have been something wrong with my character. Which now I have to say I see as a bit of a stupid way to look at it but at the time that was my feeling. So now what?

In my experience the people who make up this wonderful city are pretty open with Amsterdam being a very multi-cultural city made up of locals as well as many expats just like me. This common ground is an ideal way to make a connection and before long you’ll find it second nature to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before. It’s just a matter of putting yourself out there, getting out of your comfort zone and stop being a pussy! Bars, Parties, through other friends are great ways to meet people but the key is to follow it up. If you meet someone you get on with, exchange numbers and arrange to meet up again. Being the person to take the initiative and send that first message is the final hurdle and pretty soon you’ll feel right at home with people who not so long ago were total strangers. I’ve made some amazing friends over the past 18 months, friends who I know will be in my life in one way or another for a very long time to come.

Relocating is more than just a journey for your clothes, photo’s and nick nack’s to make in a suitcase. It’s a journey of personal discovery and one I hope you enjoy as much as I continue to.

.S.

STYLE ICON

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From his quiffed locks to his Chelsea boots, Nick Grimshaw (or Grimmy as he’s affectionately known) is absolutely my style icon and has been for some years now. As anyone who follows fashion will know, you take inspiration from all sorts of places but there is always that one person you look to who can’t seem to put a foot wrong in the wardrobe department. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve felt utter envy over his attire. His circulation restricting denim is right up my street! Whether its a biker jacket, plaid shirt and t-shirt combo or stunningly skinny suits Grimshaw is my go-to-guy. And it seems this is true for the British fashion world as he was recently named ambassador for London Collections: Men.

Mr Grimshaw’s look is a perfect combination of luxury, vintage and high street naming Topman, Dunhill, Mr Start and Liberty  among his faves. But he wasn’t always at the height of fashion and admits to an awful purchase in his youth; a knee-length SILVER puffer jacket from the clothing line of that well known Notorious BIG sidekick, P Diddy. Clearly in this case to be referred to by his former name, Puff Daddy! We’ve all made fashion faux pas growing up, with mine being a slightly too keen interest in the styling’s of British bad-boy band East 17. I shall describe no further!

For those of you who don’t know, Nick Grimshaw earns his pennies as radio presenter on his prime-time breakfast show slot on BBC Radio One. As well as this, thankfully his threads do see the light of day and is often seen on screen presenting an array of awards and shows including his own panel show. Counting Henry Holland, Kate Moss, Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe among his bezzies its no wonder Grimmy is always fashionably adorned. Rumor has it he is/was dating Italian stylist Nicco Torelli after he accompanied Nick the GQ Awards.

Yes, that’s right my style icon is gay and despite the regular assumption that I am, in fact Nick and I have a different sexual preference. Your sexual orientation certainly doesn’t define who you are and neither should it define your style. So be who you are, wear what you like and find your style icons in anyone you so wish.

For being my style icon, not taking yourself too seriously and waking me up every weekday morning……Nick Grimshaw I salute you!

.S.