Beach Beach – The Sea

Want some jangley summer pop evocative of glazey mirages in the sunshine, twinkling drops of water on the toes, and soft sand on the skin? A band from Barcelona are more likely to be able to offer such a thing than one from Bognor, and Beach Beach may well be that band. New album The Sea is a riot of glinting summer nights and vibrant and simple gratification.

Pale Honey – Youth

Bolting forth with bright fever and passionate frankness, Youth, from Swedish duo Pale Honey is a direct and fresh piece of frenzied and fraught garage pop, bristling with playful riffs and pacey drums. Tuvra Lodmark (guitar/vocals) and Nelly Daltrey (drums) describe the track as having ‘controlled coolness’, the sweaty intensity of the guitar work layered over brisk and succinct rhythms. Potent and emphatic in its sparseness, it’s a deft and intimate introduction to their debut album, also called Youth, out May 4th on Bolero records.

Books make you feel better

I love reading. I always have. As a child mum would take me to the library every Saturday afternoon. We would spend ages in there as I deliberated over which books to borrow, the horror of being restricted to only eight filling me with grief. We would leave with my pile, and I would start reading in the car, spending the rest of the weekend lost in a world of words, only to have finished them my Monday. Whenever my brother and I went with our parents to family friends’ houses we would take books. We’d wave hello, then rush into a corner to read. We were probably the only children to be told by their parents they read too much. At school I was sent to the top class to pick out books, having already exhausted the shelves in my year’s room. Our house is filled with books, a little messily, on every surface, by every chair, and lining all the shelves. I carry around at least 3 or 4 every time I leave the house. My back knows it.

Around half of the population read regularly, although time and frequency is skewed towards the older population. 2.2 million people in the UK, who used to read, cite difficult events such as depression, the death of loved one, losing their job or ill health as a reason behind this.

Bibliotherapy (the use of literature to help people deal with psychological, social and emotional problems ) has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) UK as a useful start in treating mild and moderate depression, anxiety and panic and some other mental health problems. But it doesn’t have to be a prescription – reading for pleasure is just as beneficial.

According to a study from The Reader, people who pick up a book  are happier with their lives, with those reading for just 30 minutes a week being 20% more likely to report greater life satisfaction. This life satisfaction comes in many forms, including health, mental wellbeing, connection and knowledge. It’s not only enjoyment that reading promotes, but the ability to cope with the challenges of life.

To start with, reading s relaxing. It’s why we often fall asleep with a book in our hands, or miss the stop because we can’t look up from the page. But in a mentally engaging way, rather than purely passive like mindlessly scanning social media or watching television. The absorbing effect of reading is reminiscent of the state of ‘flow’ that Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has found is one of the greatest impacts upon happiness.

There’s a connection that comes from reading, finding yourself in a relationship and exploration with the characters in whose world you are inhabiting. Non-readers are 28% more likely to report feelings of depression, and 19% claim it helps make them feel less lonely. It might help introduce them to new ideas, remind them of things they love, trigger memories and encourage consideration and thought. A sense of recognition can help people suffering from particular stresses to know they are not alone, and open up new ways to deal with those struggles.

Reading reveals more about the world, and thus enhances curiousity, empathy and inclusion, and regular readers tend to have greater general knowledge and perform better at work. They also tend to have wider social circles and find it easier to engage with other members of their community, with the study showing readers are 27% more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger and 50% more likely to enjoy it.

All of these make people feel better about themselves. Readers are 10% more likely to report good self-esteem than non readers and those who read for just 30 minutes a week are 18% more likely to report higher self-esteem.

Nai Harvest – Sick On My Heart

Fuzz fused and pumped up Sheffield duo Nai Harvest have announced new album Hairball is to land on 28th April via Topshelf Records, and have unveiled the first single Sick On My Heart. Bolshy punk sonics and brash vocals combine in a confident rush of elasticated melodies and memorable hooks, enjoyed with confidence and tenacity. Throughout April they are touring the UK with fellow Sheffield band Best Friends, all culminating in the album release and a hometown gig. Best friends themselves, guitarist and vocalist Ben Thompson (22) and drummer Lew Currie (24), have been touring relentlessly for the last two years, and those experiences are to be heard in tone and content of the record. It’s an assured yet abrasive record, bubbling with emotion and angst whilst being deftly written and produced.

Gig dates
16 Cardiff, Clwb Ifor Bach
17 London, Birthdays
18 Brighton, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
19 Nottingham, Bodega Social Club
20 Birmingham, The Oobleck
21 Glasgow, Broadcast
22 Manchester, Soup Kitchen
23 Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
24 Sheffield, The Harley

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Hwyl with Green Man

Celebrate St David’s Day with the guys at Green Man festival on Saturday, as the team decamps from the Black Mountains to London’s Cecil Sharpe House for their annual Hwyl. The home of the English folk dance and song society, Cecil Sharpe House is an ideal location for the Green Man’s unique blend of alternative, stimulating and original music and art programme, and as a taster for the main event is more than appetising.

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It’s all about celebrating the magic of Wales, with a wonderful mix of new and traditional Welsh Arts, including comedians Elis James and Mike Bubbins, arts installations, poetry from Owen Sheers, Patience Agbabi and Haf Davies, theatre, a traditional Welsh Twmpath and workshops, all accompanied by tasty Welsh ales and ciders and Welsh food. Music comes from Teleman, Sweet Baboo, Stanley Brinks, Georgia Ruth, and Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog, alongside a traditional Welsh Twmpath. If that’s not enough the Dylan Thomas Book Bus will be on site, and perfomances from Tangerino Circus running through out the day.

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It’s a great taster for August’s festival, where St Vincent, Hot Chip, Viet Cong, Goat and The Wave Pictures have all been confirmed to play.

True Brits

‘Do you feel British?’ Rahul asks the audience, as he bounds onto the stage in t shirt and jeans, with a twinkle in his eye, looking like any other teenager. True Brits is an exploration of identity – how it is formed, the different facets influencing it, and what it means to individuals and the groups in which they live. Taking place between the bombings of July 2005 and the London 2012 Olympics, writer Vinay Patel has created a play in which Rahul, an 18 year old second generation Asian from Bexleyheath, South London deals with life, facing up to bullying, family expectations, university, and dating. In short, all the normal things that a teenager experiences – even a British Asian one. The main message is that maybe, despite his looks and heritage, he is not that different. In fact, according to a study that Patel read, the group most identifying with being British are young British Asians.

To many in the audience it seems ludicrous that this point needs to be made. But as the play unfolds we start to recognize certain things. The unease felt when someone appearing to be Muslim gets on a train. Fear triggered by a bag in a crowded place. The assumption that certain life paths are there for some people. The belief that marriage must be to someone from a similar background. ‘Innocent’ racist jokes become more sinister when uttered by children singing on the bus. We might like to believe that we live in an enlightened world, but stereotyping, ignorance and prejudice still play out on the streets and in the lives of so many places and people in Britain.

Patel is clearly writing from experience: the two inspirations behind True Brits werethat the society I grew up in had tossed me aside after 7/7, and that during the Olympics this was my home, always was and likely always would be”, he said in an interview with A Younger Theatre. It’s clear how disaffection might embed itself in young people, and not everyone channels it creatively like Patel. Despite evident pride in his country, jubilation at the Olympics, his best friend fighting in the British army, we’re left with a sense Rahul will always experience that feeling of being an ‘other’ even as he identifies as British. He may appear to move seemlessly through the choices of Thames or the Ganges, Reeboks or turbans, London or Bombay, chips or rice, but deep down it is not so easy. The kind of feverish and potent pride in the country that we see on stage does not always mean acceptance, and equally embracing British culture does not mean a denial of heritage and family.

Actor David Mumeni is engaging throughout the 70 minute one man show, shifting accents between the posh voices of his girlfriend and his family, the cockney rhymes of bullies, and the discriminatory tones of police pretending to be friendly during their random checks. The set design is minimal and unchanging, the attention very much being on the words and emotion conveyed. Rave reviews followed its first outing in Edinburgh, and will do after this run at the Vaults. Whatever you do, don’t miss out next time.

The first play from new talent Vinay Patel, True Brits is directed by Tanith Lindon, produced by Rich Mason Productions and supported by HighTide Festival Theatre.

A little of everything

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