Tom Ewing

Feb 19

Album-A-Day #4: A Postcard From Dead Charn

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This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get framing content and non-music miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here.

Here’s what I listened to for this edition:

#20 The B-52s – The B-52s (1979)
#21 Art Taylor – A.T.’s Delight (1960)
#22 Madeline Kenney – Perfect Shapes (2018)
#23 Maggie Rogers – Heard It In A Past Life (2019)
#24 James Ferraro – Four Pieces For Mirai (2018)
#25 Dawn Richard – new breed (2019)
#26 Barmy Army – The English Disease (1989)
#27 Shinichi Atobe – Heat (2018


Jan 19

Album-A-Day #3: Dwellers Under The Stove

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This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get intros and miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here. A fine arrangement!

This week’s new to me LPs:

#13: Laura Nyro – Eli And The Thirteenth Confession (1968)
#14: Space Africa – Somewhere Decent To Live (2018)
#15: Dexter Gordon – Go! (1962)
#16: Junglepussy – JP3 (2018)
#17: Helena Hauff – Qualm (2018)
#18: Jackie McLean – Capuchin Swing (1960)
#19: Main Source – Breaking Atoms (1991)

Where and when you listen to new music is a critical variable in this sort of project. It could never be a set of balanced or considered reviews, because then what about a week like this? One where music was pushed to the crepuscular margins, listened to (for the most part) at low volume, late at night, aiming for the right balance between immersive and inobtrusive.


Jan 19

Album-A-Day 2019 #2: Hello Pork Pie Hat

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This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get intros and miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here. A fine arrangement!

This week’s new-to-me LPs:

#6: Ariana Grande – Sweetener (2018)
#7: Rico Nasty – Nasty (2018)
#8: Lester Young – Blue Lester (compilation; 1956 according to Spotify…)
#9: Oliver Coates – Shelley’s On Zenn-La (2018)
#10: Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour (2018)
#11: Noname – Room 25 (2018)
#12: Oliver Nelson – Skull Session (1975)

Mostly catching up on new records, but the most important listening I did all week was on Tuesday night, after a battering day on professional and personal fronts, when I put on Lester Young’s Blue Lester compilation. It was exactly what I needed – one of those precious moments when the music you reach for and the mood you’re in match precisely, without you even realising they would. The languid sax lines, nosing around familiar tunes, wandering out into unfamiliar ones, had a remarkably powerful effect on me. “Take it easy”, the music seemed to say, “You can cope. It’s going to be OK.” I fell asleep to it.


Jan 19

Album A Day 2019 #1: What Big Teeth

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This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get intros and miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here. A fine arrangement!

Days 1-5:

#1 Kelly Moran – Ultraviolet
#2 Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
#3 Antoine Kogut – Sphere Of Existence
#4 Stefflon Don – SECURE
#5 Cab Calloway – Hi De Ho Man: Classic Cab Calloway

Starting when the year starts means – inevitably – actually new releases are thin on the ground. I fell off the promo email lists of all but the most GDPR-defiant PR people a long time ago and there’s no virtual pile of envelopes on the doormat to get me started.


Jan 19

Popular Crystal Ball: 2018 – Gotta Get Down On Friday

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By annual tradition, my rankings – best to worst – of the year’s UK number one hits, with initial thoughts – very initial, I’d heard only one of these before last week and it wasn’t Ariana. Again, I didn’t adore any of these tracks, and perhaps quite liking is the best I can hope for. Pop has been good to me, after all,

I feel like this year acts have learned the ins and outs of the streaming game – none more than Drake – and turnover has settled down. The dominance of Spotify – and its editorial clout – still seems like a problem, and more fundamentally there’s no sense that the charts have any kind of niche in cultural life any more. But in terms of accurately reflecting what a lot of people are listening to… yes, here they are.


Jan 19

Twenty Eighteen, A List (i)

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This list was inspired by Brad Nelson in another place, and their excellent idea of just smushing together the things which stood out in 2018 regardless of media or format or whatever else. In practice the list is distressingly limited in scope. It’s been a weird year, a year when time got away from me – a combination of sudden leaps forward in my work life and huge challenges as a parent and a human being. My will to express myself atrophied. Of course I have regrets about that. But culture can be a comfort as well as a challenge, and that’s what I needed last year.

But last year is over. I’m starting up my album-a-day project again, to be mainly documented on a new Tinyletter I’m setting up, which will have brief notes on those and on other things I bump into. You can subscribe to that at if you like.

Here are some bits of flotsam from 2018, in the order they occurred to me.


Dec 18

ATOMIC KITTEN – “The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)”

Popular31 comments • 3,383 views

#935, 7th September 2002

Sometimes when this project stalls it’s because there’s a song too tricky or terrible to write about. You might think that’s the case here: it’s not. “The Tide Is High (Got The Feeling)” is indeed terrible, but its wretchedness is banal, readily apparent. There’s nothing here to get your head around: it’s a bad cover version, in an era of bad cover versions, performed mechanically by a band whose character was deliberately bleached out of them when success hit. There’s no long term plan, no devilishly clever marketing scheme – in fact the marketing is as transparent as the rest of the record.


Sep 18

BLAZIN’ SQUAD – “Crossroads”

Popular32 comments • 3,045 views

#934, 31st August 2002

If Blazin’ Squad had never existed, would it have been necessary to invent them? You suspect record labels would have given it a so-solid try: a hydra-headed rapping crew, but full of youthful good looks and free of nasty predelictions? Too good to resist, at least in this weird, early-00s phase where it’s equally clear that the public want to buy rap records (maybe even British ones!) and the labels don’t have much idea what will or won’t cross over.

In fact, before I did my research, I assumed Blazin’ Squad were ‘manufactured’. Now I’d prefer to call it ‘sculpted’ – from the marble of an eager bunch of North London schoolfriends somebody carved this hit cover. Why “Crossroads”, though? A proven earworm; a familiar chorus and a structure with plenty of space for voices to gather and mingle.


Aug 18

Incoming Content!

FTPost a comment • 105 views

Hello everyone!

This is just to say that the Pop World Cup and Popular will be back in September*. Thanks for waiting and huge apologies for disappearing – family health and work issues have taken their toll (again).

*very possibly before! But I’m not going to promise anything earlier.

Jul 18

Pop World Cup 2018 – Group C Match 1

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What if a World Cup lasted ALL YEAR? That’s the experiment we appear to be running with this year’s PWC, and a grand experiment it is too. Here we are with the fourth match, group C, which even features a team that is STILL IN the football tournament. France are one of the great exponents of the modern pop game, but Denmark have form too, and Peru and Australia are tantalising prospects. Listen to all four tracks below the cut, and vote for your favourite two.

Pop World Cup 2018 Group C Match 1: Pick TWO tracks

  • AUSTRALIA: Ngaiire 74%
  • DENMARK: Soleima 47%
  • PERU: Animal Chuki 37%
  • FRANCE: Keep Dancing Inc. 32%

Total Voters: 38

Poll closes: 19 Jul 2018 @ 12:04

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FRANCE (Manager: Sam Walton): Keep Dancing Inc. – “Life Goes On”

“Paris’ Keep Dancing Inc lead their country out for their first match with the kind of classically French, vintage but super-technical short-passing build-up play that will mesmerise fans, opposition and neutrals. Drawing from the proud traditions of French pop’s recent past, Life Goes On blends just the right levels of sleepiness, wobble and melancholy, with two deep-lying forwards in the form of shimmering guitar chords and rich arpeggiated synths supporting a central striker vocal full of youth, confidence and (of course) insouciance. It may appear to be an unassuming start, but like the great France performances of previous international tournaments, Life Goes On just keeps building, self-assured in its own class and irresistibility. Peruvian, Aussie and Danish defences should be very wary indeed, Clive.”

PERU: (Manager: Garry McK): Animal Chuki – “La Venenosa”)

“Peru’s squad contains mastery of the full range of international tactics, but we’ve decided to open our tournament in a very modern Peruvian style. Animal Chuki were forged in Lima’s digital cumbia/tropical bass scene with strength at the back, relentlessness in middle and a skittish front line. We’re hope to harry our opposition all the way.”

AUSTRALIA: (Manager: James Errington): Ngaiire – “Diggin'”

“Far away from the oversaturated scenes of American and Eurasian pop football, Australia have spent the last four years quietly honing a team of gifted, polished players. Wisely, they’ve adopted the tactics of the All-Blacks and started looking to the wider area for talent. Ngaiire was born in Papua New Guinea, but moved to Australia as a child. Her music has been labelled “future soul” – but the futuristic elements are kept low key, tightly wound percussion and nervous synth stabs, while the soul is bared, often painfully so. Diggin’ is “a song about being found before you find yourself in a permanent state of no return.” and in a just world it would have been her worldwide breakthrough. Maybe it can be now.”

DENMARK: (Manager: Jack B): Soleima ft Hoodboi – “Breathe”

“‘Breathe’ is a slick, slyly addictive pop song, and Soleima’s understated, slightly wry delivery is perfect for it. ‘I wanna daydream with you, just so we can breathe’ goes the chorus, which as far as I can tell means what the Danish apparently call ikke noget, but is just lazy enough (in a good way) to fit the atmosphere of the song very nicely. It’s cold enough to sound cool, but warm enough to sound summery, and (more importantly) to sound good on a taxi radio at night, the best possible place to listen to this type of song. Even if this isn’t your cup of £6 Carlsberg now, I suspect that this is exactly the kind of sound that in a few years will make you feel oddly nostalgic for the mid to late 2010s, even if you’re not quite sure why. This is my Denmark team’s Claude Makelele figure, doing more than you think.”

RESULTS: Over in Group F, South Korea make a confident start to the tournament – not their most dominant performance but it’s still 3 points in the bag. Behind them in the Group of Death, Sweden slip up and lose second place to a stylish Mexico side. Germany’s tactics have been found out and they may be heading for the same ignominous exit their footballing counterparts suffered unless they can rally in the second game.