Monthly Archives: February 2016

Good Eatin’: Avgolemono and Currywurst

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

A bit of a mixture in today’s blog entry. A post that is book-ended by two rather different meals. The opener, the first soup that I have made in ages; the closer something a bit simpler but still very satisfying.

Food item: Soupa Avgolemono

This really was a case of picking a random dish in the 1001 Foods To Die For book and seeing if I would be able to make it. It doesn’t always work that something is makable (I am going to have some serious issues with the dishes in the ‘Mongul Feast’ section), but this time I got to a Greek soup made with egg, lemon, orzo and chicken.

There are some recipes that call for hours of preparation and cooking –  who has time for that on a Wednesday evening? Instead, I opted for a ‘weeknight’ recipe that only takes 30-40 minutes. Like the recipe says, this is tangy and (weirdly) silky. The only part that I had a bit of reservation over was the tempering of the egg-lemon sauce. It goes against everything I’ve learnt when making stracciatella soup.

Food items: Guacamole and Salsa

Stop it. I know what you are thinking. In my defence, I have made my own salsas and guacamole in the past. It’s just that I wanted an easy win when making some chicken wraps. I mean have you tasted the Tesco nacho cheese dip? Gorgeous man!

Like with most foods, you get when you pay for with salsa and guacamole. This is especially true with guacamole where most instant versions overdo the onion and spice to cover for avocado that is past its best. If in doubt, just make your own.

Food items: Rum

I don’t drink as a rule, but I like to give things a try if my partner has them. He made himself a rum and coke (okay Pepsi Max, but that’s all we had in the house), so I tried some rum both neat and when mixed with the cola. As someone who would rank rum and raisin as one of their favourite ice cream flavours I did not like the rum on it’s own. I just can not get over the burn of the alcoholic content. It was actually nice in the Pepsi Max… but I just love Pepsi Max so I am not sure much credence I can lend to that.

Food item: Battenberg Cake

Like with a previous cake on this blog, I got this sample from my mum who brought over leftovers from an afternoon tea (she so fancy). This time, there was a battenberg amongst the leftovers (also present was this weird kind of re-imagined cheesecake which was just nom).  I never used to like battenberg as a child because of the marzipan icing. Now, I have to say that I actually quite liked it. It’s not a cake I would seek out, but it’s nice enough.

Food item: Jicama

Thank you High Street Kensington Whole Foods for this one. I had this jicama in two ways: raw and baked skinny chips. After I peeled it that is, it was a bugger to peel and kept messing up my peeler.

Anyway, when it was raw the jicama was fresh and reminded me a lot of an apple that had lost a lot of its sweetness, but some of the sweetness still remained. When made into fries I found the same issues that I found with sweet potato i.e. it was hard to make crisp fries that weren’t burned. Still, went remarkably well with…

Food item: Currywurst

CURRYWURST! I remember, back when I was doing my journalism training, there was a guy who would repeatedly tell the same story about going to Germany and how he thought the food was okay except for the currywurst. When I say repeatedly, I swear we would all this twice a week for a few months. As someone who likes currywurst I began to get annoyed after the tenth telling of the story and interjected that I liked currywurst. It was like a bomb went off the way his face went.

Anyway, currywurst! I tried to get this as authentic as possible, so I used actual German sausage and German curry sauce/ketchup. I don’t know what his problem with it. Horses for courses I guess. I’m guessing it was because instead of a spicy tikka masala sauce he got a curried ketchup instead? Like, if he had different expectations he would have liked it more?

Who knows. All I care about is that I like it and that I have enough curry sauce to make another batch soon.

Progress: 709/933


Oscar Bait – Bridge of Spies / Mad Max: Fury Road

Title: Bridge of Spies
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 2015
Country: USA

I think it is fair to categorically say that Bridge of Spies is one of those films that really benefited from the expansion of the Best Picture nominations to the maximum of 10. I can not see this being a nominated film otherwise. Then again, where is Carol, Creed or Inside Out? Well, you have a pro-America film that is directed by Steven Spielberg, penned by the Coen Brothers and starring Tom Hanks. I bet this pedigree alone gave it votes.

I’m being unfair. Bridge of Spies is a really good spy thriller with genuine moments of Coen-style absurdity. Tom Hanks puts in an always great performance as a real-life character who embodies the American ideal, despite the fact that the Americans who surround him are very much acting like idea Americans.

What helps this film along is the knowledge that it really happened. Sure there will be a few embellishments to help along the story, but this prisoner swap between the US with East Germany and the Soviet Union is real. Considering that, everything you see on the screen is actually pretty amazing.

It is a toss up between this and Brooklyn for what I liked more. Both are films of two halves spent in different counties, and it is in this scenery change where Bridge of Spies just edges out Brooklyn. Where Bridge of Spies was able to ramp up the tension and intrigue (even though the brilliant Russian spy played by Mark Rylance is absent), Brookyln stalled ever so slightly.

mad max fury road
Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Year: 2015
Country: Australia/USA

Talk about leaving one of the best until last. My husband specifically wanted to see this one, so things being as they are it was the one I got around to last. It made for a brilliant finale to this list of eight.

I, like many people, was both pleased and surprised to see Mad Max: Fury Road nominated for Best Picture. It’s rare to see an action sci-fi film getting the nod at the Oscars. It’s even rarer to have a film like this picking up a lot of Best Picture awards from other organisations on the way. I hope it marks a sea change.

When stacked against the other seven films that have been nominated Mad Max: Fury Road really does stand out. It’s easily the one with the least scripted lines and most cuts per minute. Having recently seen the original Mad Max (and neither of the two movies in between) the world is vastly different. No, not just because Tom Hardy makes for a better looking lead.

Then again, Charlize Theron is the real lead here, isn’t she? Her role as the amputee road warrior Imperator Furiosa just steals it. I have yet to see most of the best Actress nominees in action (still need to see Carol, Joy and 45 Years) and yet I have a hard time seeing why Charlize Theron would not be nominated. It would have added a different slant to the current rhetoric of the Academy not nominating any African-American for an acting nod.

Anyway, the thing that put me off seeing this in the cinema is that I just foresaw this as being one long car chase. Now that I have seen this on DVD… it is still one long car chase. But what a car chase it is! I can not remember the last time I have seen such amazing special effects that were not CGI.

Same goes for sheer imagination. When looking at this mythology that George Miller has created in this post-apocalyptic Earth… well there are very few films (or even video games for that matter) that come close.

I could go on, but I won’t. Writing these posts does make me want to talk to someone about these films. So, anyone who has seen all eight films, please comment – I’m keen to see your rankings too.

Current Rankings
1) Spotlight
2) Room
3) Mad Max: Fury Road
4) The Big Short
5) The Martian
6) Bridge of Spies
7) Brooklyn

8) The Revenant

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)

Now that I that I have seen all eight movies I think I can call this a check off in advance of the ceremony itself.

Progress: 83/89

Oscar Bait – The Revenant / Brooklyn

revenantTitle: The Revenant
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Year: 2015
Country: USA

If you look at the end of year statistics on Metacritic you will see that 2015 was an outstanding year. Wide releases like Inside Out and Carol were able to score over 90 and yet still walked away without a Best Picture nomination.

By all measurements of the best film of 2015 The Revenant is not number one. Having now seen The Revenant I find it’s impending success rather perplexing. For one thing, no matter how good Tom Hardy is in this, I have a very hard time of understanding him (which makes me the opposite of everyone who can understand him in this but not in The Dark Knight Rises).

I have two words for this film: brutal and beautiful. The cinematography is outstanding. I think it’s very likely that this will be the third win in a row for Emmanual Lubezki. I also can not quite believe the incredibly visceral performance that Leonardo DiCaprio gives. That scene with a bear alone is just…  beyond the pale. I mean the stuff his character goes through starts to get ridiculous. He is shot, thrown off a horse, tumbles down a waterfall, falls off a cliff, gets mostly buried alive and yet still plods on.

Plodding. That’s a pretty good word for this film. The rest of the film just plods along though. It feels 30-45 minutes too long and the entire story thread about a Ree tribe looking for their stolen member just feels like an extra thread that needn’t be there.

Will this win? Very likely? Should it? Cinematography and Best Actor, yes. Best Picture, no.

Title: Brooklyn
Director: John Crowley
Year: 2015
Country: Ireland/UK/Canada

If I were to describe Brooklyn‘s place among the Oscar nominees, it would be to call it the ‘nice one’. It’s a position that other films like Little Miss Sunshine, Phinomena and Finding Neverland have filled in previous years. It may walk away with handful of nominations, maybe even an award or two, but not the Best Picture prize.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really liked Brooklyn. It is definitely one of those movies that I know I will probably watch again in the future. But it won’t win.

Saorise Ronan gives an absolutely outstanding performance as Irish immigrant Ellis Lacey. You also have great support from Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson. But it won’t win.

Now here’s thing, Brooklyn currently sits in the penultimate position in my rankings. However, I liked it a lot more than The Revenant. So, I’m going to put a few periods between 5th and 6th position so I can note the jump in my thoughts.

Current Rankings
1) Spotlight
2) Room
3) The Big Short
4) The Martian
5) Brooklyn

6) The Revenant

Oscar Bait – Room / The Martian

roomTitle: Room
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Year: 2015
Country: Canada/Ireland

It’s hard to fault the impact of Room. Going into it I only knew half the story. For some reason I assumed that the entire film would pretty much be a two person show. In fact, only half the film takes place in the titular room. The latter half actually takes place after Joy (Brie Larson) and her son Jack have been found and released.

Usually I find it hard to watch films with a child actor as a main character. I mean, unlike most people I did not find Quvenzhané Wallis worthy of a Best Actress nomination. I would, however, think that Jacob Tremblay really should have received a lot more nominations during award season.

There is a such a fantastic chemistry between Tremblay and Larson and that just raises this movie to an incredibly high level. It would be easy to make this film over the top. Brie Larson is able to give such a subtle and nuanced performance as the surivor of a kidnapping, and Tremblay is just so believable and natural as her son.

If it was not for my love of Inside Out then Room would definitely be a contender for my top film of 2015. Spotlight would also have a chance at that title too. Then again, neither Spotlight nor Inside Out were able to make me cry as often as Room.

Would I like this to win? Yes. Will it win? No chance sadly.

THE MARTIANTitle: The Martian
Director: Ridley Scott
Year: 2015
Country: USA

No matter what the Golden Globes say The Martian is neither a comedy nor a musical. It has a quite a few laughs and features Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover in supporting roles, but it is most definitely not a comedy.

This film easily belongs to Matt Damon. When I think of some of the more gung ho characters in sci-fi movies (classic example: The Day After Tomorrow) astronaut Mark Watney is a breath of fresh air. Not only is he an optimist and a survivor, but he is also an incredibly smart and geeky guy. I mean, how can you not fall for a handsome astronaut who is able to make accurate comparisons to a pirate and to Iron Man at different points.

Some critics have described The Martian as being Robinson Crusoe in space. Rather accurate really, but I can’t imagine there being as many breathtaking shots in an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe. Or disco music, a touch that really helped to set this film apart from regular sci-fi fare.

Will this win? No. Should this win? No.

Current Rankings
1) Spotlight
2) Room
3) The Big Short
4) The Martian

Oscar Bait – Spotlight / The Big Short

Annual/regular updates to the lists that I follow for this bucket list blog are both the best and worst thing about them. I know that for most of them I am far away from finishing, but it can be rather vexing to see the numbers go down every now and then.

The Best Picture list is a rare case. No film will ever be stripped of its award, but the list continues to grow. As such, I usually try and watch as many of the (predicted) nominees as possibly in the months leading up to award.
So, in the interest of crossing the eventual winner off (as well as some future 1001 films) there will be four posts this week with a round up of the films I managed to watch before I the ceremony on February 28th.

spotlightTitle: Spotlight
Director: Tom McCarthy
Year: 2015
Country: USA

Spotlight is the nominee I was looking forward to seeing the most with the exception of Room. As such it was the first of the eight that I went to see.

My takeaway message from this film is one that haunts me as I write this down. In the movie they give the estimate that 6% of Catholic priests at some point molest/rape children. I, as I mentioned in January, used to work in a Catholic school. The possibility that I would be teaching someone who could have suffered at their hands had never really occurred to me. Now, I am terrified that the law of averages dictated that I did.

That is the power of Spotlight. Think of it as a modern All The President’s Men, but with better pacing and a more gripping subject (as a non-American). The central three of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton are the beating journalistic heart of the movie. Ruffalo in particular shines as the rather twitchy and singular minded Michael Rezendes.

The impressive thing is that we know how this ends. We may not know the details, but even on this side of the pond we were able to feel the repercussions. Yet, every twist and turn is able to keep you on your seat and swearing at the utter shittiness of everyone involved in the huge cover-up.

This would be a worthy winner.

bigshortTitle: The Big Short
Director: Adam McKay
Year: 2015
Country: USA

How the hell did the director of Step Brothers create this? This is arguably the smartest of all the movies nominated this year and is, by far, the funniest. Going into The Big Short my understanding of the financial crisis was pretty basic. I mean I had never heard of CDOs – synthetic or otherwise. Thanks to some well executed-acts of fourth wall breaking and Margot Robbie in a bubble bath I am glad to say that I understand things a bit more.

What I fail to understand/wish I did not understand is how long it took before the banks to put their hands up. There are moments in this film where you find yourself just staring blankly because you can’t quite come to terms with the sheer amount of greed on display.

For me this is typified by the scenes in Florida. All the warning signs are there, but since the collapse of the housing market had never happened before no one (bar a select few) thought it would ever happen.

The biggest shock for me, however, is right at the beginning where we are brought to the nexus of the idea that would bring about the downfall of the US housing market and, as an unfair consequence, the rest of the world. The fact that it was a pretty innocent and safe idea that got abused and mutated… just wow.

Should this win? Probably not. Should this be shown in economics classes for years to come? Most definitely.

Current Rankings
1) Spotlight
2) The Big Short

Good Eatin’: So… Much… Grouse Blood

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Not too long ago I was adamant that I should get in as many food items as I could before I headed to Japan since I wanted to reach 700 whilst I was over there.  Well, it turns out that I am unable to budget for crap since I managed to reach 700 hundred a full month before my honeymoon. Oh well, doesn’t matter really.

Food items: Limburger, Leberkase, Obatdza, Rugenwalder Teewurst

GERMAN FOOD! When I found this store in Borough I acted like a total idiot. I rambled on at the poor saleswoman about my heritage and how happy I was to have found this shop (there for 6 years apparently). I would have bought more, but I had already spent quite a bit in Borough.

The thing I was most excited about finding was the Obatdza. It was not as strong as I was expected, but I could taste the stronger cheese that had been defanged. The tub I bought had hints of caraway seeds (always good) and would have been perfect on a pretzel. Damn, why didn’t I buy a pretzel.

Next came the limburger. You know, the cheese frequently used in Looney Tunes to denote something that smelt awful. Well, they weren’t wrong. Opening the plastic bag that the wrapped cheese came in (yes, that strong) I had a whoosh of sulphur hit me in the face. The thing is,  once you get over that smell it it is a remarkably mild cheese. In terms of strength rankings it would be on the stronger end of brie – but not by much. It is remarkably mellow and springy when you consider the nose on it.

Probably my favourite thing here (well, tied for first with the obatdza) was the leberkase. I I may have groaned out loud like some sort of porn model when first smelling this. Years ago, Sainsbury’s used to sell something like this that they labelled German Sausage. It was sad that they stopped selling this, but at least I now know where I can buy some. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a bit like a firm spiced sausage, but in meatloaf form.

Finally there is the Rugenwalder Teewurst. I had the option of a fine or coarse version, obviously I went for the coarser one. I made notes for this as I ate it and was apparently channelling my inner doge – such bacon, so smoked, much mushy, very delicious, wow.

Food items: Jerusalem Artichoke, Chioggia Beet, Blade Mace

The array of names that fruit and vegetables have is really starting to get annoying. This is something that has stopped me from covering the Chioggia (or Candy Stripe) beetroot for the better part of a year. If it wasn’t for the vendor having a pre-cut version on display, and then my recognising the pattern, I might never have covered this. This would have been a real pity since it looks amazing and is easily the best beetroot I have ever had. It was sweet and earthy, but the earthiness was nowhere near as overpowering as other beets that I have had.

These beets paired really well with the Jerusalem artichokes (which are sunflower roots, not artichokes). These were gorgeous when roasted with some olive oil and thyme. The innate nuttiness just exploded and seemed to find a good friend with the beetroot.

Then there is the blade mace. A last minute addition to the bread sauce I was making, but an addition that means it is food #700 rather than the grouse. Weird that. I have had a bag of mace blades in my cupboard for a while so was happy to find a use for them. If you have had nutmeg you will know what they taste like, nutmeg’s older and more powerful brother. Perfect in a bread sauce, just remember to remove it before eating the sauce.

Food items: Red Grouse, Roast Grouse

Who knew that a grouse would be so bloody? I sure as hell didn’t! It took me ages to find and clean all the blood that leaked out of this bird (well, birds since they are smaller than I expected). I found a really good sounding recipe online for the grouse. I stuffed it with sage (sadly not the Dalmatian sage), sealed it in a pan, wrapped it in bacon then roasted in the oven. Sounds good right? Not at all I’m afraid.

It smelt so bloody and gamy when I started preparing it that my stomach turned a little bit. I am sad to say that the smell didn’t much improve after baconing and roasting. I knew going into this list that I wouldn’t like EVERYTHING I have eaten, but this just was not for me (unlike the partridge or the pheasant) A pity really since the vegetables and bread sauce were gorgeous.

Progress: 702/933

Good Eatin’: The Devil’s Suppository

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Another Borough Market trip today. I am still in love with this place as there is always something new to find and eat. In this incarnation of a Borough Market visit I was able to make two rather awesome discoveries. The first was that there is a (possible permanent) German food store very close to the market. Also, there is a cheese that is described as the Devil’s Suppository (more on that in a sec).

Food items: Fleur De Sel De Guerande and Smoked Sea Salt

I was very happy to see that the salt stand that I usually just walk past without paying attention to it (what?) offered free samples of their salts, vinegars and mustards. The fact that two of these were the remaining salts from my food list just sweetened the deal.

The first that I tried was the expensive Fleur De Sel De Guerande. One thing that I really liked about it was just how coarse the salt was. It meant that whilst there was still the salty hit I would expect (I mean, it IS salt after all) there was also more of a mineral taste that I would associate with mineral water. I can imagine this being really nice on chopped tomatoes.

Talking about a Ronseal deal here – the smoked sea salt. I mean, it’s smoky salt. What else is there to say about this. I mean, I would love to get some and use it in some cheese-based dishes.

Food items: Borage, Munster, Mimolette Vieille, Salami Di Cinghiale and Boulette D’Avesnes

Okay, so there is a lot of food here (mostly cheese) and this made for a ridiculously fatty (and delicious) dinner.

Let’s start with the healthier one. The borage flowers. On their own they tasted earthy and slightly bitter in the same manner as watercress. With some of the other foods in this fatty dinner the borage flowers somehow started to taste oily, as if they were suddenly deep-fried in batter. Weird.

Then there was the very orange Mimolette Vieille cheese. It tasted like a marriage of Gouda and Edam if they then went on a honeymoon to France and got a spray tan. It’s just that orange. It has the creaminess of Edam, but the texture, nuttiness and maturity a fan older Gouda. Like a lot of hard cheese, don’t eat the rind, It isn’t that nice.
The quarter circle cheese in the picture is the Munster. It’s a tangy cheese with a slight taste of ash, as if you are eating a block of cheese with fireworks detonating all around you. For the most part it was rich and nutty, but not as nice as the Mimolette.
The meat on offer was a Salami Di Cinghiale. It was chewy. Very chewy in fact. Weirdly so since it just began to fall apart after being cut. The sweet and gamy taste would mean that it would be gorgeous in a tomato and red wine pasta sauce, but it was a bit too expensive to cook with. As I ate it I could really detect notes of black pepper and fennel.

So this leaves me with the Boulette D’Avesnes cheese. If you look at the picture it is the red cone that looks like it is being housed in a see through plastic buttplug. It is no coincidence, therefore, that this is the cheese that was given the nickname of The Devil’s Suppository. One of the sellers actually gave us a warning about this cheese when I went to buy it, telling me that it was a very strong cheese and that it was spicy. Like I said to him: I see nothing wrong with this sentence.

We left this cheese to the end since we knew how strong it would be. The smell of the cheese was… not great. To me it smelt like phlegm, to my partner it reminded him of a certain type of diarrhoea (I wanted to ask him about how many types there was, but I thought better of it).
It smells weird, but how does it taste? Well, it’s pretty much an assault on the senses. At different points I made notes of the taste of the same mouthful and it went in this order: heat, creamy, pepper, creamy, bitter, herbal, heat. All of this meant that, despite my better judgement, I really liked this cheese. I just need to remember that, should I encounter this cheese again, not to waft it under my nose.

So, it’s pretty clear that I am going to overshoot 700 before I get to Japan. Oh well, I’m not exactly broken up about this fact.

Progress: 693/933

Oscar Bait – All The King’s Men

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 82/88Title: All The King’s Men
Director: Robert Rossen
Year: 1949
Country: USA

You would be excused for having never heard of this film before. There are a number of films that have won the Oscar which most members of the general public would not be able to name. All The King’s Men, much like Cimarron and Cavalcade would be one of these films.

1949 was one of those interesting years at the Oscars. The Bicycle Thief took an award for Best Forgeign Language picture. The Heiress wins the most awards (the ever-brilliant Olivia de Havilland taking home her second Oscar) with four. All The King’s Men takes home Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

Why would that make it an interesting year? Mainly because, whilst you the two classic movies I just mentioned (The Heiress and The Bicycle Thief) it was a weak year for nominations. Especially so when you see then in the following year you had Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve, Harvey, Adam’s Rib and The Third Man all battling it out in various categories.

Is this my way of saying that All The King’s Men is a poor film? Not by any means no. It wasn’t the best film out that year (then again it is so rare for the Academy to give the honour to the best film of that year), but it is still a really good film. It actually made me want to read the book.

Going in cold I had no idea that over the course of two hours you see the complete political career of Willie Stark, a once honourable man who wants to just make the world better. Did I say once? Why yes I did, because a big part of the film is about his fall into extreme corruption in order to achieve his dream of making it big.

Broderick Crawford absolutely shines in this film in the role that won him his Oscar for Best Actor. He is able to play the role of both the idealistic and honest politician and then slowly mutates into one of the greatest political villains that I have seen on film.

At no time does Crawford’s Stark go into pantomime evil, that would be too easy and remove the impact. He is an extreme, and rather adept, Machiavellian who would have probably remained honest if the establishment had not so maltreated him.

As a Brit I could look at this man and have one man creep into my mind as an equivalent – Tony Blair. Cheap shot? Maybe, but there is a parallel of a man starting out so extremely well loved and just becoming a figure of hatred and disappointment amongst those that once voted for him and loved him.

In reality, All The King’s Men was based on a book that was loosely based on a real life of Huey Long, a Louisiana senator who was assassinated on the steps of the Capitol building. Knowing this makes me want to read the book. After I finish Clarissa… whenever that is. Long book. Very long book.

Acclaimed Albums – Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 92/250Amy_Winehouse_-_Back_to_Black_(album)Title: Back to Black
Artist: Amy Winehouse
Year: 2006
Position: #130

There has only been one time in my life where I have acted like a total hipster – and that was due to Amy Winehouse. How many people out there actually listened and enjoyed Amy Winehouse’s music before she came out with ‘Rehab’? Not that many. I have a crystal clear memory of sitting in my school’s library when I was about 15 and I had her debut album Frank playing on my iPod:

Someone: Who you listening to?
Me: Amy Winehouse
Someone: Who?

I enjoyed the fact that I was listening to this artist who I was loving and no one else in my peer group knew who she was. A year later, Back to Black came out. I remember listening to ‘Rehab’ for the first time on Myspace and really not liking the new direction she was taking. It grew on me, but I felt cheated. Then the same people who had no idea who she was were making various “no, no, no” jokes involving one another’s mums and sisters. I was angry in that way a teenager is when everyone starts muscling in on their discovery.

I got over it by the time I finished the second track of Back to Black. I mean sure, she did a complete change in direction, but ‘You Know I’m No Good’ runs circles around everything on her first album. By the end of my first playthrough I was hooked. ‘You Know I’m No Good’, ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ and ‘Back To Black’ formed a big part of my personal soundtrack between Halloween 2006 and Easter 2007.

It was one of the earliest times I can remember getting really into how good the production of a song was. My love of Bjork had taken hold and I was starting to notice of how things worked on a very basic level. So Mark Ronson and his trumpets just fascinated me. Then again, the world was fascinated by him back then.

Listening to both Frank and Back to Black I have to say that I still prefer her first album. I like my Amy Winehouse witty, brassy and moreorless happy compared to the tragedy that just unfurled after Back to Black.

Acclaimed Albums – My Aim Is True & This Year’s Model by Elvis Costello

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 91/250

MyAim_isTrue Elvis-Costello-This-Years-Model
Title: My Aim Is True
Artist: Elvis Costello
Year: 1977
Title: This Year’s Model
Artist: Elvis Costello
Year: 1978
Position: #82

Continuing on with my attempt to get through these albums quicker today’s look is at the two Elvis Costello within the Top 250 – which are, probably unsurprisingly, his first two. It’s a bit of a difference compared to the last albums post where I finished off the Björk albums.

Prior to these albums, the only exposure that I am aware of having of Elvis Costello was in the second Austin Powers movie. That duet he did with Burt Bacharach coloured my image somewhat. I looked at the covers of My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model and I thought he looked like a bit of a twit. Quite cute, but a bit of a twit.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was completely wrong in this. Yes, he may have gone into luvvie territory, but he is not the Cliff Richard type that I expected him to be (although I got worried at the beginning of ‘The Beat’ from This Year’s Model).

He’s punky, he’s new wave, he’s pretty much in the same general area as Blondie in Parallel Lines and the music goes obscenely well with cat gifs.

Of the two albums, I have to say that I do have a preference to This Year’s Model compared to My Aim Is True. Thinking about it, this is one of the few times where I actually have agreed with the comparison of two albums within the list. Why? Maybe it’s because it features the lesser number of slow songs and just feels more confident. Both are very good albums though.