And the winner is…

This year is almost over and an evaluation is almost inevitable. I sat and thought about the things I can evaluate and came to a conclusion that there are so many, I just can’t deal with this boredom I could cause you. I just couldn’t sleep at night if I had done the crime of wasting your time with the evaluation of my life. I mean, really, who cares what’s the best food I’ve eaten this year? Or the best daiquiri I’ve drunk? I wouldn’t. So, I’m just going to do what’s best for all of us and skip that awful part. So, followed by a really loud drumroll… Here are the music “yeah’s” and music “no way’s” of this year.

– “Sleep well” album of the year:
Norah Jones – The Fall. I would call it a “no way” if it wasn’t so plain and modest. It didn’t disturb my good night’s sleep at all, because I just didn’t notice it. So – here goes… an inconspicuous “yeah” for all of you insomniacs out there.

– “Two good singles” album of the year:
You won’t believe me on this one probably, but let’s face it – I Gotta Feeling and Boom Boom Pow were the only two good singles from this year’s Black Eyed Peas album The E.N.D. They were good, okay, they got us all moving and jumping up’n’down, but we all know it’s not enough. If I would rate singles, it would be a definite “yeah”, but for the album there’s a big, fat “noooo way”.

John Mayer - Battle Studies (c) Sony Music

– “Quite boring, but decent” album of the year:

John Mayer – The Battle Studies. And I’m really sorry to say this, John. Continuum is still the best thing you’ve created. You’re still gorgeous, I still love you, but I think the routine has hit the relationship. The good news is – you can still get back on the track. Who Says proves it. Anyhow – this is a “yeah”, despite all.

– “Jump-around-shake-your-arse-like-you-just-don’t-care” album of the year:

Jamie T – Kings & Queens. In comparison with Panic Prevention, this is a downhill, obviously, but it still holds the obvious charm of Jamie T and his own style. There were tracks I loved, there were mundane tracks, there were the weird ones as well. Maybe, as time goes by I will love the tracks I hated at first, as it was with Panic Prevention. A single I just can’t fly by and not mention in this case is Sticks’n’Stones – amazing, full of energy and an obvious success. So yeah, I do give it a “yeah”. And I still want to see him perform live. Preferably Sheila and Northern Line, though.

Jamie T - Kings & Queens (c) Virgin Records

– “It was good, but let’s not take this any further” album of the year:

Susan Boyle – I Dreamed A Dream. Well, this is just sad. Okay, it was great how she rocked Simon’s socks off at Britain’s Got Talent last year, but why, and this is a serious WHY, did she have to record an album, for God’s sake? And yeah, I know everyone has a right for their 15 minutes of fame, but didn’t hers tick out when she performed the third time of the song from Les Miserables? Oh well, but what do I know… Everyone, hurry to get your copy of copies!

– ALBUM OF THE YEAR. As simple as that.

Jamie Cullum – The Pursuit. I am convinced that a lot of people will listen to Jamie Cullum, the young boy (well, not so young anymore as he turned 30 this year) from Essex, in the future the way we listen to Frank Sinatra now. With honor, appreciation and admiration. Despite the critics who are on to Jamie about him “making the jazz pop-ish” I think that we are actually experiencing the birth (yes, and I’m sure he’s only in the early stages) of a legend. The first time I heard The Pursuit, I thought “Okay, not a lot of new stuff, but it’s decent at least. He hasn’t made the world’s best album, but he is still not breaking his own levels of mastery”. Then I heard it again, and again, and again… And I fell in love. I’m still listening to The Pursuit every single day and it still gives me goose pumps. So “yeah”, this is a very loud “YEAH” for fabulous Jamie Cullum.

Jamie Cullum - The Pursuit (c) Universal Music

I’ve got some “yeah’s” to give to Dave Matthews Band for Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, Amerie for In Love & War, Mika for The Boy Who Knew Too Much, Arctic Monkeys for Humbug, Ida Maria for – Fortress Round My Heart, Royksopp for Junior and Muse for The Resistance. And some definite “no way’s” for Eminem – Relapse and some of the very unfortunate comeback attempts from The Backstreet Boys and Take That (YES, INDEED!)

Know-how: Porto delights and clashes

Psst... | Image © Austra Javalde (2009)
Psst... | Image © Austra Javalde (2009)

There is a beautiful small town in the North of Portugal, which just got trashed massively. As I’ve mentioned before, I have lived in Porto, Portugal for about four months now. Quite some time and yet, there is so much that I explored during these past days and so much I learned about the wonderful Portuguese people. But let’s not rush forward too fast…

Why the particular week?
There are a lot of reasons why this week was The One. But the main reason is the visit of a good friend of mine, also known as the Party Chipmunk of Latvia (Almighty). He might not have £100000 fun himself, but everywhere he goes, magic just happens. If he goes over to Porto for Sao Joao, you can count on the best celebration ever. If he goes to an unknown jazz club, there most certainly will be a DVD on with one of his favorite artists. He laughs. He jumps around like a Happy Bunny and sings along. He’s not a very big fan of hammers. He’s awesome humble and shy.

What happened exactly?
Well, I’m not going to tell you everything, mates! But this is just because at one point my memory just fails me. You know I’ve got nothing to hide from you. So – here goes…

Day One
The best view ever: two Latvians struggling with the lack of sleep. He had spent a night in London Stansted and I was too worried that I might oversleep, that I just couldn’t sleep at all. Although, we had a lovely walk to some of the sights, like Sao Bento rail station, the bridge of Luis I and Vila Nova de Gaia. When you come to Porto, make sure you cross the bridge of Luis I (that’s the only one the tube crosses, quite easy to spot) and go a bit up to the small park on the other side of river Douru and enjoy the splendid view on the whole cidade do Porto. Some say that the only good thing in Gaia is that particular view and port wine. Not sure that I agree, but we certainly tried both and I can say that the view causes much less unbearable headache in the next morning, than the port wine.

Day Two
There are quite a few Latvians in Porto. One of them is a really good friend of mine and she works at a wonderful bar at the seaside called Praia dos Ingleses (Portuguese: English Beach). Spontaneously, we decided to drop by and in the mean time check out the ocean. It turned out to be the absolutely right thing to do and we had a wicked time. Imagine – the ocean, waves, stars and cold beverages. Don’t quite remember the way home but it was very, very late. Here’s a tip: if you ever visit that bar – don’t buy rum & coke, it’s oddly expensive, choose something else. For us, the choice was gin & tonics. I think I can still taste juniper in my mouth. Ah, I almost forgot – before going to the beach, we saw one of the most awkward buildings in Portugal – Casa de Musica – the house of music. It’s the central place of the majority of the musical events – mostly Portuguese and world music. Moving forward to…

Day Three…
…took my breath away. I reckon I had never seen so many people in one place doing things so incredibly odd and lovely at the same time. Why? This is the day of the midsummer festival in Portugal. It’s called Sao Joao in Porto and Braga, two small towns in the North, and Sao Antonio in the rest of the towns and Lisbon, the capitol of Portugal (well, duh!). I can only tell you about the traditions of Sao Joao – been there, done that. At the celebration day, the anticipation is in the air. You can see trade folks on the streets selling plastic hammers, basil pots and garlic blossoms (I had no idea, they were so big!). All of the things mentioned before are essential celebration attributes, apparently. I’m going to elaborate on the hammer only. Buy one, you’ll need one. Even if you don’t like them at first, you will catch yourself paying that one or two Euros for it later. All of the people just walk the streets hitting each other with those hammers. They make a cute squeaking sound that will ring in your ears long after the party. It’s a lot of fun and you just have to give in. Also, there are wonderful fireworks at the Ribeira (Riverside) part of the town and when they end, people start walking to Castelo do Queijo (The Cheese Castle). It’s located in a huge roundabout, which is the central part of Matosinhos, the part of Porto with all the surfers, fisherman and ocean lovers. After the parade to ocean, you can write off the next days, because you will simply be half paralyzed, especially in the feet area.

Day Four
Waking up at about 2pm, after arriving home at about 7am, the first thought was: where are my shoes? Portuguese know how to party. They just do. This was the day that was supposed to be dull and sleepy, but it turned out that my friend had done his Googling and found a small jazzy-blues bar at the area of Sao Bento station. On our way to the club, he dragged me into a fun fair with those awful little cars with whom the biggest challenge is to hit as many other vehicles as possible. I was insanely afraid in the beginning, but surprisingly it turned out to be lots and lots of fun. When we got to the club, it turned out that there is no jam session after all, because everybody is sleeping after the yesterday’s party. We still went in to have a few beers and we ended up very pleased, because they were showing the live concert of John Mayer, which is a love we both share. Met some really nice Portuguese musicians and had an awesome time.

Day Five
The lack of beauty sleep is finally beating me, so we went to the nearest Wifi spot to get some internet and have breakfast and split our roads for me to sleep, for him to keep exploring. Instead of sleeping I finally managed to clean the enormous mess my room had turned into and read some case studies on the journalism ethics, because I’ll have to do the impossible – I will have to pass an exam after a week of hardcore parties. Let’s see how it works out.

Day Six
Being a good girl and skipping the amazing sightseeing ride to study for the exam. Waiting for my flat mate to wake up and plug my internet back to where it belongs. As I said I’m in Porto for about 4 months now and there is one thing that I would like to teach them, there is one tiny thing that I would never get used to, if I lived here permanently. Majority of them doesn’t understand the significance of internet. I’m pretty sure, that’s because they don’t know how to use it ways that will make a difference and help them do things better and faster. Thank god, my course mates stand beyond others. As for myself – I just need my permanent internet access. It’s not that I’m planning to use it all the time, it’s just – I need it to be there, be available. Is that so hard to understand?

Keep your eyes peeled, more details & pictures coming soon! And I’m more than sure
you don’t want to miss them! By the way, if you’re fortunate enough to be one of the approx. 1,4 million Latvian speakers – check out the videocasts, that we made..

(All of the characters are fictional and if you see any connection with reality, I advice you to call your shrink immediately)

Jamie’s the man

Tell me, what is the first thing that pops into your head, when you think about Essex? Is it London Stansted? Essex Girl? Well, Essex has been the birthplace and crucible of some of the most influential rock artists in the history of music including Iron Maiden, Depeche Mode, Blur and is birthplace of U2’s Dave “The Edge” Evans. But still – that’s not it. Essex is the birthplace of one of the most amazing singers/songwriters in the world. And I stand by my words. Still don’t know who I’m talking about? Here’s a hint – These are the days, Mind Trick, London Skies… Got it?
I’m not telling news now. I’m absolutely just reminding. Because – who doesn’t know him? No, seriously – who doesn’t?

Jamie Cullum (born 20 August 1979) is an English pop and jazz-pop singer-songwriter. Not only he is a great singer, he just had to be an amazing pianist, a quite good guitarist, and a drummer. He has it all.

His list of albums is good enough for an artist that is twentysomething still. The first one was released in 1999 (Heard It All Before), of which 500 copies were made. Due to their rarity, original copies have sold for as much as £600 on eBay. The success of Heard It All Before resulted in Cullum being invited to appear on Geoff Gascoyne’s album Songs of the Summer. After that one, he released Pointless Nostalgic in 2002, which was quite a big success. And then the success came in it’s best – he released Twentysomething in 2003, which was a huge success and got to #3 in UK, #83 in US, #2 in Australia. But that wasn’t enough for the guy. He had to release Catching Tales (2005) which got to #4 in UK, #49 in US, #26 in Australia, #30 in Germany and even #1 in Mexico. After getting a pretty much permanent place in the media and music markets, he has released Live at Ronnie Scott’s (2006) (exclusive for iTunes) and In the Mind of Jamie Cullum (Compilation CD). Let’s hope it doesn’t end there.

He has released three DVD’s as well. Personally, I’ve seen one of them – Live at Blenheim Palace. And It Was Amazing. Looking forward to seeing the one that was a Tribute to Brian Wilson (2005) where he performs “Sail on Sailor” with Fred Martin & The Levite Camp and especially the well known Telling Tales (2005) with Catching Tales Special Edition.
Jamie Cullum – These are the days.

Keep your eyes peeled, more coming up in just a little while. FYI: I quit sleeping a long time ago.