Tom Ewing

12
Dec 17

TFTACOXS* – December 11: Pret Ham Hock, Stuffing And Apple

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ham hock *The Freaky Trigger Advent Calendar Of Xmas Sandwiches OF COURSE

Pret’s Christmas sandwich line may be the one to beat, but it is not without flaws. One particular recurrent problem gives anger to the Sandwich Gods: Pret continually use very crumbly ingredients. Crumbliness is a Bad Thing in sandwich terms particularly if – as is surely the case with Pret! – a sizeable chunk of your customers will be eating them at their desks. Keyboards and jumpers beware – there is no controlling the crispy onions in the Christmas Feast.

My Pop Year: AUSTRA – “We Were Alive”

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Austra’s Future Politics was one of the first 2017 albums I heard, somewhere in the weeks of dread, defiance and hand-wringing around the Trump inauguration. It’s coloured how I hear it ever since. The title announces it as a ‘political’ album, the sleeve signals that the contents are likely to be cryptic. Austra’s Katy Stelmaris embraces our time of heightened nerves, this mode of being – which many lived in well before Trump – where ‘politics’ can exhaustingly infect every gesture. But she also rejects it, insists on ambiguity and a realm of private meaning.

11
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 10: The Snow Globe

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snow globe The centrepiece of Sainsbury’s Christmas range this year is “The Snow Globe”. This boldly rejects all traditional packaging and is sold in a sealed plastic dome, which fanciness probably adds 50p to the cost of the not-all-that-large sandwich. Unless Sainsbury’s are taking a Blue Monday 12″ style profit hit, which I very much doubt.

What is it? “Christmas dinner in a brioche bun” or in plainer terms a turkey and bacon roll. The brioche bun has tiny stars on, nicely captured in this image I nicked off Twitter, and is very pleasant and fluffy, but (surely to nobody’s surprise) the whole thing suffers from over-ambition and ultimately disappoints.

The problem is the bold decision to have both a layer of cranberry and a layer of “sprout slaw”. High marks on paper for seeing the christmas dinner concept through and including sprouts, but in practice both layers are a bit too gloopy. Which combined with the softness of the bread gives the Snow Globe a slightly sloppy and pre-chewed feel. A bit less of the cranberry, and (sad to say) a more robust bread, and the bitterness of the slaw would have balanced the sweetness very nicely. As it is, the Snow Globe is… no great shakes.

7
Dec 17

My Pop Year: SERGE BEYNAUD – “Akrakabo”

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Serge Beynaud’s Accelerate LP is a danceable feast, showing how Cote D’Ivoire’s coupe-decale is one of those musics which can absorb almost anything, from pop-reggae to trap-style vocal exclamation. It’s potentially exhausting to take on in full, but the quality is consistent – put it on shuffle for a few tracks and ride Beynaud’s ebullience until you start to tire, then repeat next time you’re in the mood.

Lead single and first track “Akrakabo” is always a good place to start. Here the music that’s pulled into the whirl is some sweet West African guitar pop, which breaks through like a grin after two pummeling, bouncing minutes of rhythm. It’s a wonderful moment. If the pace of the rest feels crazed, check the video to see Beynaud and his formation dancers handle it with aplomb (plus the fakest sheikh this side of News International.)

6
Dec 17

My Pop Year: JANA RUSH – “??? ??”

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The titles of Jana Rush’s tracks on her Pariah LP have an enjoyable bluntness. “Beat Maze.” “Chill Mode”. “Frenetic Snare.” She’s been DJing and making records for over 20 years, since she was 15. This is her debut full-length. So I suspect there’s a healthy unwillingness to piss about, or to dress up her music with unnecessary atmospherics. As another of the tracks puts it, “No Fuks Given”. It is what it is.

5
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 4: Tesco Finest Turkey Feast

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turkeyfeast For all that it’s still the most popular supermarket in Britain, Tesco seems a bit nonplussed at Christmas time. Its adverts have long been upstaged by the posh end of the market – and this year it got the unwelcome attention of racist idiots too – and nobody makes much fuss about its sandwiches compared to the PR juggernauts of Pret or even Greggs. The store does its bit over Christmas, sells everything you’d expect, and I suspect makes most of its money by being open later than anyone else on the 24th – by which time its sandwiches are the last thing on anyone’s mind.

3
Dec 17

Canoe: Dig It?

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La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1)La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman has an enviable knack of getting critics to dwell on the high-flown literary allusions in his books – Paradise Lost in the His Dark Materials trilogy; The Faerie Queene here. But he’s also very self-consciously in dialogue with the rich history of children’s literature, most obviously CS Lewis, of whom Pullman’s vociferous critique is matched only by his wholesale borrowings. Pullman’s anxiety-of-influence tango with Lewis helps give his books their imaginative charge as well as their moral and aesthetic mission.

2
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 2: The Greggs

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greggswobs At £3.10 this is the most expensive single food item in Greggs. Unless the Christmas Toastie beats it, but certainly none of the secular options break the three pound barrier. What do you get? Turkey, bacon, cranberry, stuffing, and SPINACH, a concession to any wandering Pret regulars (like me). Obviously Greggs’ sandwich is available far and wide. I got mine from the Pease Pottage Service Station.

1
Dec 17

Manage A Team In The Pop World Cup 2018!

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zabivaka Bozhe moi! IT’S BACK! The draw for the Football World Cup was made today, and so, for the fourth time, we’re delighted to host the POP WORLD CUP.

The point of this post is very simple. If you want to be a manager in the Pop World Cup, put your name in the comments and pick a specific team (first come first served) or ask us to choose a random one.

More clarification? But of course!

What is the Pop World Cup? It’s a music competition involving the 32 countries in the “real” World Cup vying to see who is the best at pop music. It will take place starting in February next year, before the football World Cup starts.

29
Nov 17

My Pop Year: KELLY CLARKSON – “Love So Soft”

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Writing about Will Young it was hard not to be reminded of Kelly Clarkson, who likewise showed that the first blush of reality TV idols were the best – in terms, at least, of producing stars you can feel vague but huge affection for. I always want Clarkson to do well, and hope her material’s good, despite honestly not knowing a great deal about her. Fortunately the material on her 2017 LP, Meaning Of Life, IS good, almost uniformly strong – this is the track that jumped out for me on first play, and it was the single, but half the record could have been here. Strong in more ways than one, too – Clarkson projects confidence, toughness and wisdom, relishing the role of a soul-pop trouper who’s seen a few things. What comes across in “Love So Soft”‘s chants, squeaks and swagger is a hard-earned, no-nonsense joy in life: a pop music that’s happy in its own skin. Which might not ordinarily impress, but in the year the world’s had, it’s a balm.