Wednesday, 5 December 2018

DIY Magazine's NEU Tour 2018 - Leeds @ Headrow House | TALKBOY, PEAKES, CARO | Gig Review 29.11.18

Hello everyone!

Today I have for you three new awesome bands from Leeds that I'm so excited to be writing about.

Leeds has a great scene for live music with some incredible venues of all shapes and sizes. It's thanks to these venues that I connected with the music I did when I was younger; if I hadn't have been going to The Cockpit at least once a month to see of my favourite alternative rock bands play, I would not be where I am today. It's thanks to Leeds' live music scene that music became such an integral part of my life and clearly the right industry for me to go into. Now I'm home I can't wait to explore Leeds' scene more and help more of Leeds' music be heard.

That's why I am so happy to report that when DIY Magazine's Do It Yourself NEU Tour had its final panels and gig in Leeds last week, three extraordinary local bands stepped up and delivered some amazing sets. Each with their own unique sound, mesmerising set and exciting future, here is an introduction to Talkboy, Peakes and last but in no way least, Caro.



This indie sextet kicked off the show with their fun, lively and fantastic original tracks. There was a lot going on, six people on a small stage can do that, but they suited it. Their music has so much energy; Talkboy were clearly having a lot of fun on stage and it transcended to the crowd. They were fully committed to the show and entertaining us all. They were confident and talented musicians, all the elements of their sound coming together so well. The keys, guitars and drums not drowning each other out, but uniting to make colourful melodies and an identity that is going to set them apart.

Lead singers, Katie and Calum, both had such strong voices and they complimented each other so well, making a really interesting duet. I was also so happy to listen to their lyrics, which were more poignant and narrative then I anticipated from a young band. Their new single Over and Under is a fantastic example of their songwriting ability and everything this spirited group are cable of. On the rockier side of indie, but animated, fun and dynamic, Talkboy will be a really interesting one to watch. I wish them the very best of luck.


Next up came synth-pop trio, Peakes, who immediately made a big impression upon me. Their soothing and enchanting tracks had the whole crowd captivated from the get go. After the lively performance we had just witnessed from Talkboy, this was a total change of pace, but their front woman Molly had such a mesmerising voice. Their music had all of us in the audience happily transported to another place and time where only Peakes existed. Molly's lovely vocals were accompanied by perfectly atmospheric drum playing from Pete and Maxwell's ingenious keys, their tracks were fantastically composed. Their performance really was spell-binding, at times I forgot about everyone else in the room and the music was the only thing on my mind.

Their tracks Space and Pray For You were shiver-inducing and etherial, Molly's voice being both feather-like and powerful when she needed it to be. They also played such a beautiful cover of Kate Bush's track Running Up That Hill which is definitely one of my favourite new tracks this month, they made it totally their own and it was so polished. I honestly thought these guys were incredible, they produce the most dreamy melodies. Their music is perfect should you need a quick little bit of escapism; put your headphones in and turn the volume up, let yourself float away with Peakes.


To close the show came the INCREDIBLE Caro. I cannot underplay how impressed I was with these guys, their music completely kicks you on your arse, you cannot deny how good they are. They were so talented, such an exhilarating sound and just so cool. Their music I would class as alternative indie/rock but it was eccentric, wacky and energetic. When they started a track you weren't quite sure where it would go but you were in for a hell of a ride; each song is a rollercoaster. I was also in awe of their completely original lyrics, both poetic and quirky in equal measure. In their single Closet Lunatic, frontman Adam sings "Underneath your goody two-shoes there's a dirty pair of socks that you're never gonna wash no" I love it.

To top it off they were also fantastic showmen, they put on such a performance and were having so much fun dancing around the stage. They were so entertaining and I can only imagine in a bigger venue with a bigger crowd the whole room would be alive, it was so much fun. Their track Eyes On The Ground invites you to dance; the way Adam and Andy's riffs jump around while Bryn keeps the beat on the drums, its so hard to sit still. Their tracks are very cleverly composed and it gives Caro such an unmistakable identity. Adam has a great stage presence as well, he's an amazing front man and you can see how passionate he is when he's on stage. I could not recommend seeing them more, and I'd say look out for them but I think soon enough it's going to be hard to ignore them, they're going to be huge! I seriously dare you not to like these guys.

Thank you to DIY Magazine for putting on this event. The panels during the afternoon featured prominent speakers from Leeds' own music scene and gave great advice for anyone looking to get into the music industry. As you can see the show that evening was also such a success and curated so well. Thank you DIY and to Headrow House for hosting the event.

I hope you all enjoyed this post and definitely check out these bands, so much talent and if you like in or around Leeds, I implore you to try catch these guys. That's all from me today but I hope you all enjoyed this post, see you soon!






Thursday, 15 November 2018

ELECTRIC - TONIGHT ALIVE @ Fibbers, York 10/11/18 | November 2018 UK/EU Tour | Gig Review

Hey gang! It's been long enough, eh? (See the cheeky Canadianism I put there?)

I know I haven't spoken about it too much on this blog, but to quickly update you all before I dive in to this post, I've just returned home from my year to Canada! What was originally supposed to be just six months of living out in the mountains to experience a real winter, turned into a full year of living in the magical Banff National Park, and a little tour of the west and east coast...sorry to the family and friends I promised I'd be home by May!

It was undoubtedly the best year of my life; everyday there was something that made me stop and contemplate for a moment how amazing this experience was. I in no way expected my life to take this turn, but I am so, so grateful it did. I might do a post explaining properly my life there and why I decided to move to Canada, as I'm not sure I've really gone into full detail on it, so stayed tuned if you're interested!

But update over, lets dive headfirst into a review I've been so excited to write for a gig that reignited a much needed fire within me...

On Saturday night, I was lucky enough to attend the third show on Tonight Alive's November 2018 UK/EU tour and oh my good God was it an incredible show! I've been struggling to find words powerful enough to properly translate how much of an amazing show they played, and how uplifted I felt as a witness to it. Supporting Tonight Alive on this tour were two artists I hadn't come across before; Bournemouth based quintet, Wolf Culture, and metal veteran, Jamie Lenman. Before I attempt to relay the details of that evening, let me enlighten those of you who perhaps haven't come across Tonight Alive before...

I have been a devoted admirer of Tonight Alive for a number of years now; I think I first heard of them about six years ago, and saw them live for the first time at Slam Dunk North in 2013, when they played the debut tracks of their forthcoming, and utterly brilliant album, The Other Side. I enjoyed their music prior to the release of this album, but The Other Side was definitely a turning point for me and my love of Tonight Alive. It received glorious reviews and commendations across the alternative rock community, and truly cemented Tonight Alive's position as trailblazers of the genre. Every song on that record is a hit in its own right; the singles they released, such as Lonely Girl and The Ocean, were of course the key tracks the band felt best represented the album, but the remaining songs were just as much poignant and owned the same depth of emotion. Over time it has helped me process so many emotions that I didn't know how to address, their music has been like therapy for me for a long time.

The process of writing and releasing their next album however, turned out to be demoralising and exhausting chapter for Tonight Alive. Amid personal struggles and clashes with their label concerning their sound, as well as the band's image following its release, their third album Limitless is a snapshot for the band of an unhappy period in their story. They wrote about realising the power of the human spirit but also the oppression they were experiencing. This created a feeling of two extremes within the record; the fierce and resilient side of Tonight Alive, and then some severe lows. While The Other Side was similar in this duality, it felt more connected, whereas Limitless felt a little disorientated. Don't get me wrong, it is still a very good album with some great tracks, but it's sometimes hard to listen to from start to finish because it takes your emotions just about everywhere. Limitless being a difficult album to record, it was then a difficult album to take on the road. The record dealt with pain and frustration, but without healing. After their extensive touring following its release, the band walked away from their label, Sony, and the projections they had for a band that Tonight Alive were never going to be.

In the months following the Limitless era, Tonight Alive worked through their harshest personal struggles to reclaim their voice. They each battled demons, powered through a creative all time low, and drowned out the voices that were attempting to suffocate their own. This time was especially challenging for their vocalist, Jenna, who struggled deeply with self image, her physical health and the frustration that followed Limitless. Through opening up about her mental health, finding inspiration through the power of spirituality and, as she's often quoted, shaving her head, she found liberation. This was a cathartic journey to rediscover their identity and direction as band, and after only three months of writing, they began production on Underworld.

Their fourth record, Underworld is a collection of songs that dive straight to the heart of their pain, analyses it, and grows stronger from facing their demons head on. It teaches valuable lessons about facing your fears instead of running from them, each one hurts but through it all they remain hopeful. This record flows so organically between tracks, each one tells part of a story as to how Tonight Alive have together reached a higher consciousness and contentment. It has been received delightedly by their fans, they recognised the struggles the band went though with Limitless and now their recovery and bravery in producing Underworld. With the freedom to once again be themselves, Underworld is a true portrayal of Tonight Alive's soul and that is why the fans have responded so well to the record. It is honest, fierce and beautiful, it is Tonight Alive as we have always know them.

I went into far more depth than I intended to then, but I think it's important to have an understanding of who an artist is and what fuels them to produce the music they do. My love for certain artists lies within their history, how I've matured in the same time they have and within their longevity as artists. So many musicians these days have hit singles but their albums lack any substance and so many don't break enough ground to make it more than a couple of years in the spotlight. On this tour, Tonight Alive are playing a number of acoustic shows to celebrate their 10th anniversary as a band, they are incredibly talented artists and that's why I delved into so much detail. Now you have the context, it's time for the review.



Already on stage when we arrived were Wolf Culture, a British band who this year released their debut EP, The Devil's Plans for Idle Hands. I'd quickly looked into them before the gig, their sound is solidly pop punk and I was excited to see how well they played live. Their tracks Killing The High Horse and The Side Effects Of Being Happy reminded me a little of early Neck Deep or Mayday Parade; their melodies have that exclusively British, alternative texture to them and their lyrics are wonderfully shady and sassy at times. Being the opening act is never easy, especially if you're an unknown to the audience. Wolf Culture played a great set but didn't get too much of a response from the crowd, which at that point only filled half the room. They did leave an impression on some and I hope that other members of the audience picked up on their talent. I think they'll definitely be one to watch as their sounds is already very polished to say they've only released one EP. I think they did a good job, they just need more a little more confidence and it should evoke more of a reaction from the crowd.


Next up was Jamie Lenman, who I'm sorry to say was not my cup of tea. His music had much more of a post-hardcore sound with elements of metal, which was a bit too heavy for me. Jamie Lenman was once the frontman of rock trio Rueben, but has since released a number of albums as a solo artist. He had much more of a presence on stage and demanded the attention of the crowd, but that was mainly due to the volume and intensity of his music. He was engaging and rallied the crowd's excitement for Tonight Alive, but at times he came across a little arrogant. I can't deny he had a good voice, I thought his cover of Another One Bites The Dust by Queen was very good, but I can't help that I didn't enjoy his set, it was just not to my taste. He seemed a little of an odd choice as a support artist for a band like Tonight Alive, Wolf Culture made total sense, but I felt Jamie Lenman didn't really suit the overall feeling of the evening.


Then it was time for the headline. Stepping out of the dark into the view of a single spot light, Jenna began gently with "Never really knew what it meant, Just always knew that I was different", the opening line of The Other, from Underworld. All of us in the audience were in suspense; captivated, waiting for the kick of the chorus. When it came it light flooded the stage and the crowd were instantly on their feet. It was a promise that this show was going to be an epic performance. When the moment came, Jenna removed her jacket to reveal she was sporting one of the tees from the merchandise stand, featuring the lyrics "I will not apologise, Or lie for who I am", the final line of the second verse before the band dived straight into the second chorus, Jenna jumping about the stage and the crowd jumping below.

Off to an incredible start, they followed with some older favourites from their first two albums; What Are You So Scared Of?, Bathwater and Don't Wish which the crowd loved! Don't Wish inspired a shift in the atmosphere, the hardier side of everyone in the audience came out as we sung along to the bulletproof attitude of the song. One of the reasons I love The Other Side so much is the lyrics. They are the most important element in a song for me and Tonight Alive write such passionate and poetic writers that each song hits you where it hurts.

They paused the set here to tell the crowd that the show was dedicated to them; that it was for our enjoyment and it was their duty to deliver to us an amazing show. Jenna told us they were so grateful for our support, allowing them to do what they do and were so thankful that we had come out to see them. Their appreciation of their fans and the respect and love from the crowd inspired the most beautiful atmosphere throughout the entire show, the connection was so natural. They absolutely followed through on their promise, Jenna and the boys gave their all to every single number and the commitment they demonstrated was next level. They threw their hearts and souls into every moment they were on that stage, it was amazing to witness.

Jenna was dancing around the stage in every single number with a huge grin on her face, she looked like she was having the time of her life, totally in her element. Singing her heart out she was beyond confident, it was the knowledge that she was destined to create and play music like this.

I liked the above the shot for the two arms in the foreground on the right. You can't quite make out the words but they both have lyrics from Underworld tattooed on their forearms, with the five sunflower petals from the album cover. A testament as to how significant and inspiring their last album was to their fans.

They announced they were making a music video from the tour for their beautiful track, For You, also from Underworld. We were told the more we joined in, danced, went crazy, the more likely we would end up in the video, so of course everyone did. Jenna came down to the barrier to be face to face with the crowd, she wanted to feel the connection that had the whole room spellbound. During such a delicate and uplifting song, you could feel the love in the room between the artists on the stage and their supporters below.

Before they played Say Please, a fantastic and raw track from The Other Side, Jenna recited a powerful poem/mantra that I have desperately tried to find online but have failed to. "My higher self is my only authority" she told us, instructing all of our spirits to rise and live on an elevated level. It's this trope of strength and possibility that resonates in everything Tonight Alive do, and it is such a positive use of the reach they have as musicians, to encourage self belief and motivation in their audience.

Next came Crack My Heart and Disappear where Jenna invited us all to "bring out your freaky dance moves". She lead the way, cutting loose on stage, her body moving in perfect time to the melody. The entire room was moving, and the atmosphere was electric.

The show began on such a high, from the get go there was a current that ran through everyone in the room, but at certain points the voltage was increased. The second that the intro to Tonight Alive's most powerful anthem, A World Away, hit the crowds ears, we reached the peak. It was like something else, the whole room was magnetised as we chanted "This is not my punishment, this is my catalyst for growth, I know I will survive this, I'll be the strongest person I know". It was a moment of shared vulnerability and strength, and it was breath taking. A World Away has been one of my favourite songs since the first time I heard it and it remains one of the most empowering songs I know. From A World Away, they kept the feeling of vulnerability on full volume. They hit us with Waves, the only song they played that night from Limitless, one of the more authentic and powerful tracks from a bittersweet album. Its a cathartic song, and as Jenna sang out the final "Getting caught up in your riptide" there was a feeling of release as we gently came down from the A World Away high.

Coming to the end of their set, they treated us to some more fan favourites from What Are You So Scared Of? and The Other Side. Amelia and Wasting Away separated the original fans from the newcomers and the gutsy track, Lonely Girl, got a huge response.

They had to finish, of course, with Temple. The first release from Underworld, it was the battle cry that Tonight Alive were ready like never before; they were finally their authentic, unapologetic and untamed selves. The song has such a ferocity and energy to it, the perfect choice to close their set with. Again upholding her promise to deliver the best show she was capable of giving, Jenna came face to face with her fans and then, supported by them, climbed above the crowd and gave all of us in the pit a front row seat for the final track...

The current reignited during Temple and the whole room was alive again, the connection between Jenna and her audience was explosive. As I sang along to every word I was so thankful I was in that room, I hadn't been to a gig in over a year and they're usually a bimonthly event for me! I ached for that feeling of magnetism you get seeing your heroes play live. Tonight Alive not only satisfied that craving for me, they set my soul on fire. Their performance of Temple was pure fire.

You probably think I have written this review through rose-tinted glasses, but I'm telling the truth. I adore Tonight Alive, but they truly are doing something incredible right now. If you go and listen to Underworld you'll understand; the way they address and explore depression, love, body image and pain, gives hope to so many.

At a time where mental health is so topical in popular culture but still not openly discussed enough, it is vital that young people have a way to express feelings that they maybe don't understand or have difficulty talking about. This is especially relevant within the alternative rock community, in the wake of Kyle Pavone's recent passing, and the suicides of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington last year, it's clearly a problem that needs to be faced. Not only have Tonight Alive had the bravery to write about these deeply personal struggles, but they perform these songs every night on tour, continuing the conversation and exploring their pain. The band experience this each night with their fans, many of who are teenagers and young adults, and it allows them to process similar feelings they may be having, and gives them a way to productively confront their anxieties.

In the spirit of open conversation and transparency, I will confess that over the past two years or so, I have dealt with anxiety and OCD and at points it's been pretty bad. I told a few close friends, but there were times when I wasn't completely honest about the severity of the issue. It's something that has come and gone and thankfully I've got a lot better at dealing with my issues and I'm in a good place now. Tonight Alive's music has been so helpful and remedial for me during this time; the motifs of personal growth and empowerment within their songs have been hugely inspiring for me. Of course that's intrinsic to why I admire them so much, but I don't think you can underestimate how important it is for people who are struggling to have a way to process the fears that are controlling them. Their music is transparent, authentic but most importantly hopeful, that's why people connect to it so strongly.

Whether you're a fan of alternative rock or not, I would seriously recommend listening to their music. Even if it's not to your taste, you may take something away from it you didn't anticipate. Tonight Alive are now halfway through their tour, if they're playing anywhere near you then I seriously recommend seeing a show. You may still think I'm biased, but ask anyone, they play one hell of a good show.

Thank you all for reading this post, and if you are struggling with anything then I've attached a link to the mental health charity Mind, who offer information and support across the UK to anyone who is struggling with their mental health. If you are going through something, please talk to someone. You are not alone and there are people out there that want to and can help you, it is not something that should be swept under the rug. You deserve to live your life to the fullest and your mental health is too important to ignore. Please seek the help you need to get better.

That's all for today everyone! Thank you for your patience and for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it. If you want to continue the discussion in the comments feel free to do so, I welcome a safe conversation about this topic.

I'll speak to you all soon.


Tonight Alive

Wolf Culture

Jamie Lenman


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

MUSIC REVIEW + INTERVIEW | Wild Front - 'Simmer Down'

Hello everyone, it's been a while!

I have some new music to tell you about today, curtesy of an endearing Southampton four-piece! Get ready for a tune that is going to strike a real cord.

I haven't said much about it on this blog, for the simple reason that I haven't had the time I'd like to dedicate to fully going into it, but for the past eight months I've living in the beautiful town and National Park of Banff in Canada. To live in a place of such breathtaking, natural beauty is surreal and an absolute dream, but there are downsides to living amongst the isolation of the mountains. Such as a lack of a diverse and energetic music scene, which as you all know, is vital to my functional existence and sanity. It was therefore such a gift when I was contacted a few weeks ago by LD Communications asking me if I'd like to do a little work with a rising band on their roster; the charming boys of Wild Front.

As is my rule before agreeing to collaborate with any artist, I had to check them out to see if they were a band I would genuinely listen to and enjoy. I'm happy to say they passed the test! The first song I heard from Wild Front was their spine-tingling single 'Rico', which intrigued me and coaxed me to delve deeper into their sound. I found their music a little reminiscent to the likes of Amber Run, but original enough to prevent them from disappearing into the unidentifiable blur of the indie rock genre. There's a healthy dose of integrity to their tracks, some solid arrangements and a touch of true sentiment.

Wild Front have released two EPs until now; their debut, 'Physics' in 2017 which propelled them straight into the view of some of the industry's most reputable news sources, such as Radio 1 and NME. Not to mention their being chosen to play Glastonbury's BBC Introducing Stage by none other than co-organiser of the event, Emily Eavis herself, in 2017. At the beginning of the year they also released their EP 'Stripped' which featured five of their favourite tracks in new, acoustic arrangements. I'm happy to say that this was just a prequel to the main event, and that Wild Front have since been back in the studio under the watchful ear of Fred Cox, who has helped them produce their first full album to be released later this year. I don't yet know the date of the release, but to get the ball rolling, I can share with you all Wild Front's new single, taken from the aforementioned album, their cathartic and catchy track; 'Simmer Down'.

REVIEW - Simmer Down

This track has a flavour we can each of us relate to, and a pretty raw one at that. It's about letting go; the finality of stepping out of a chapter of your life with someone and the brutal reality of having to walk on alone. Opening with a confident guitar riff and beat, Josh's drums mimic the rhythm of your feet hitting the solid ground, almost to say 'this is life, you have to face it'. Then comes in Jack's voice with a presence you cannot ignore, similar to that of the doubt that follows a failed relationship and you in turn. This track is almost a conversation with the voice in the back of your head, the paranoia that tags along uninvited, the baggage you carry with you until that moment when you finally drop it and you're clean and free.

'Simmer Down' is a sleek and infectious track to empower your stride and start afresh a new mindset that leaves the past in the past. Jack's chorus of "How does it feel to be on your own?" will draw out the resilient side of you, it's not a taunt, it's freedom. As an opening single this bodes well for Wild Front's forthcoming album; it is polished, confident and enticing. The melody is fresh and has a good kick to it, it's a fierce track.

To be contacted on behalf of Wild Front and asked to write about their music was a gift itself, being granted the opportunity to submit some of my own questions to them was amazing. I was so excited to hear what the boys had to say about their new single, album and all of the incredible milestones they have coming up this year, 2018 is going to be a big one for them!


Q: ‘Simmer Down’ has a very cathartic feeling to it, as if you’re letting go of any potential baggage you’re holding on to. What’s the story behind it?
 A: That’s a pretty apt description of the song to be fair. It’s based around the idea of feeling like the best thing for a relationship is actually to end it and be apart, no matter how much you want to fight the idea. How does it feel to be alone, rather than in a relationship, and is that actually the best outcome. It’s a fairly angst cry in the chorus. I’d say the chorus is more of an introspective discussion rather than an outwards expression.

Q: What can we expect from the new album? 
A: The chilled, summery and driving vibes heard on 'Simmer Down' are certainly a theme that will run throughout the album. We have a few different aspects to our sound, so the album will be a real mix of that. Expect a bit of chilled ambience, a fair few bouncy, foot tappers and a few tracks with a slightly darker, rockier edge! Don’t want to give too much away…

Q: What was the writing process and production like for you?
A: A lot of the writing starts with the four of us sitting in our rehearsal space in Joe’s (guitarist) garden and spending a little bit of time jamming on some ideas until something more solid appears. That will then be taken away and vocal lines and lyrics will be added. It sometimes happens in the reverse way, but that’s definitely been a common process for this bunch of tracks. We’ve been working with Fred Cox in his studio to produce the tracks, and he’s been such a gem to work with. We’re usually fairly set on how we want the tracks to sound when we go in with him but he’s been such a welcome addition in the process and has really understood how to take our ideas and let them flourish. He’s also hilarious, which really helps!

Q: What does the rest of your year look like after the release of the album?
A: We’re going to be releasing a track from the album every two months up until May next year, to give every track a real chance to be heard. As a band nowadays, streaming is such a key aspect of trying to get your music out there, so we don’t want to waste any chance to get the tracks heard! We’ve got lots of festivals lined up, and then we’re off on a headline tour in October, playing Liverpool, Newcastle, Leeds, London, Brighton and then our biggest ever hometown show in Southampton which we are massively excited about! 

Q: What does playing the main stage of the Isle of Wight Festival mean to you guys?
A: It is a huge honour for us. Growing up in Southampton, Isle of Wight Festival has always been the local big festival; it’s so mad that we’ve been given an opportunity as huge as that. 

Q: There’s a lot of hype around you guys at the moment, with all the festivals you’re playing and from BBC Introducing. Where do you hope this will take you?
A: We’ve always been part of different music projects in Southampton growing up, and we’re so overwhelmed by all the support we’ve got over the last few years. We just love playing and performing, and just hope that we get the chance for our music to be heard by more people and play to more and more people. It’s always nice to communicate to people through your own music and we just hope that will continue!

I'm anticipating great things from these boys this year, there's already such a maturity and identity to their music that I'm sure all of the experiences they have in store this year will foster and encourage. They are so deserving of the opportunities they have and the hype that's been stirred around them, as someone who really appreciates good lyrics, I think the stories they tell will surely connect a lot of people, which is what music is all about.

I hope you all enjoy 'Simmer Down' and are now waiting in eager anticipation, as am I, for their upcoming album. As I mentioned, Wild Front will be playing at festivals all over the country this year and if you're nearby I'd definitely check out their tour, I really wish I was home to see it! I'd like to say thank you again to Wild Front for involving me in this. I wish them the best of luck with all everything they have planned for this year and here's to this leg of their journey, may it be take them further still!

I hope you enjoyed this post and I'll see you all soon.


Follow Wild Front:
Band Camp

Friday, 23 February 2018

MUSIC REVIEW | Neon Waltz - Bring Me To Light EP

Hello and Happy 2018 to all you lovely people!

Today I'm breaking the radio silence with a burst of novel, British rock music from Scottish sextet Neon Waltz, who will leave a whisper of promise in your ears; this is going to be a good ride.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Ignition Management asking if I could attend the first show of Neon Waltz's UK Tour, (which is now well under way and worth checking out if you're around), in my beloved Newcastle Upon Tyne. Unfortunately, that would be a bit of long commute from the Canadian Rockies where I'm currently residing, so I replied with regret but an interest of working with Neon Waltz on any future projects I could. 

Luckily, the boys were quietly anticipating the release of their new EP - 'Bring Me To Light', which was released today, Friday the 23rd of February, which they kindly granted me early access to. Sufficient to say, I was pretty excited about it. 

Hailing from the remote but beautiful John O'Groats, its astounding to find a band with such an original identity. With a sound reminiscent of their Britpop forefathers, but contemporary and more romantic in sentiment, they're a perfect fit for Ignition Records who I'm sure will nurture them perfectly as they mature and create. It took one listen of 'Dreamers' from their debut album 'Strange Hymns', which they released last August, for me to know that this sapling would bloom into a cool, polished and compelling sound. 

Introductions over, lets get to the review of their newest release; 'Bring Me To Light'.


I'm really impressed with this EP, I think Neon Waltz have turned their humble philosophies into an honest poetry paired with some really interesting musical compositions. 'Bring Me To Light' reflects a story of growing up and moving on; exploring all of the emotions that come with that process, the end of one thing and beginning of another. They have been blessed with the honesty of vision and sentimental touch that is innate to some of the most adored of British rock bands, its a wonderful indication of what they're capable of achieving this year. This EP is really exciting and a clear message from Neon Waltz; this is who we are and you should be ready. 

Track By Track:

Bring Me To Light

A strong opening to the EP; the boys waste no time in telling you that they're ready to leave the familiar and jump into the fog. The title track has a real 'coming of age' feel to it which sets the narrative for the rest of the EP. Its independence, freedom and confidence; the exquisite excitement of   the adventure you've been dreaming of that has finally arrived. The melody holds an integrity others within this category lack, its not one that you'd hear opening a soul-searching indie film, instead the beat quietly motivates the listener while Jordan's endearing vocals float above you. I think this would be a great song to hear live, it has an energy that while you're stood in that crowd, it wakes up that life inside of you that can only be accessed through live music. 

Watch It Fade

This track has a lovely but modest composition, perfectly telling the story that comes with a lack of direction and indecision. It's a plea to a friend, to fight for the sake of yourself and to step into the ring. It's a song of encouragement; the melody stirring in you the determination to get out of your slump. The middle eighth is filled, similarly to Bring Me To Light, with a beautiful guitar instrumental which builds end of the track to a climax, encouraging you and the embers of hope inside your chest.


Liam's keyboard is the star of the show in this one. The simple but rhythmic notes set the tone beautifully for the farewell to those childhood illusions that we all eventually wake up from. The narrative of this EP is one of coming into our own, and as we grow up we realise not everything works out as picturesque as we imagine when we're young. This track is perfectly titled; the lyrics reflecting the humility and intimacy of our romanticised childhoods and what we must do to move on.    The elements of this track are simple and delicate, but as they should be to tell a tale of tragedy. 

Enlightened By A Fall

I love this final track. Only 1 minute and 22 seconds long, its a humble little lullaby which I think really gives the EP a unique and poignant mark. Jordan's four lines of vocals give it a touch very close to poetry, rounding off the EP very gently and peacefully. Its simply quite beautiful and I love it.

'Bring Me To Light' was released today and I'd seriously recommend it. I've really enjoyed listening to it on repeat while writing this post and I'm intrigued to see what's next for Neon Waltz. I love being in Canada but I miss the British music scene, we are truly blessed with some incredible artists, events and venues. I really wish I could have seen Neon Waltz play Think Tank in Newcastle as I've had some great nights there and I'm really interested to see how they'd play live. I hope everyone who attended had an incredible night and I wish Neon Waltz the best of luck with the rest of their tour and with the release of their new EP. I'm definitely going to be keeping a close eye on these guys.

Thank you to everyone for reading and thank you to Ignition Management for getting me involved. I hope you are all keeping well and here's to an exciting year for Neon Waltz and British music.

See you next time,


Follow Neon Waltz:

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

MUSIC REVIEW + INTERVIEW | Tom Forest - Believer

Hello everyone! 

A bit of a break from my travelling spam today, instead an inspiring story, philosophy and fresh music from a captivating new artist...

A few weeks ago, I was approached by London-based PR agency Lucid Online, asking my thoughts on the latest single from one of the artists they represent. As with all of the music I have reviewed and written about on A Romantic Calamity, I will only agree to work with an artist if I believe in and enjoy their music, this one was definitely a yes!

So today I have the great pleasure of introducing to you all Tom Forest and his faith-assuring new single 'Believer'.  Somehow I've been lucky enough to not only be asked to review Tom's brilliant new single, but also been granted the opportunity to ask him a few questions. So you're all in for a treat!

Tom Forest has lovely ability to ease and elevate mood with his languid melodies and rich vocals, each song portraying an honest and sincere story, often of the purer things in life. From what I've learnt of Tom and his view on life through the research for this post, he has such a deep appreciation of the things that really matter; family, friends and working hard for your dream. He seems to have figured out how to be happy, with the love of the people around him and doing something he loves, even if its not been easy to get there. His songs have a real transparency and honesty to them, speaking of how beautiful and simple life can and should be.

Starting at the beginning; the single. This is Tom's second single to be released from his upcoming, debut album 'Hope' and tells of a feeling we've all undoubtedly experienced at times.

REVIEW - 'Believer'

This is a song that stirs the quietest parts of your soul, the modest but ever present parts of us that keep us moving even when we feel like we're losing more battles than we're winning. The things we want the most are always worth pursuing, even if the struggle makes us lose sight of what we're working towards. This is a song for moments like that; when faith flickers and the clouds seem to mirror the doubt inside us, but despite these feelings we continue to move forward.

'Believer' is a soul-sooting track that refills us with faith, in ourselves and our dreams. It's the restorative cup of steaming tea at the end of a hopeless day, its the feeling of someone unburdening your shoulders of their uncomfortable weight, the belief in the voice of your loved ones when they tell you you're going to achieve everything you set out to.

The track has such a tangible feeling to it, put your headphones in and let Tom's smooth voice drown out the rest of the world while he reassures you of yourself. With a guitar riff that simmers underneath the lyrics like your heart beats under your chest, it will fill you with grace and quiet confidence. The transcending layers of vocals throughout the track mirror the depth of belief in those closest to Tom who helped him through his own feeling of struggle that inspired the song. Through their faith in him, he found his faith in his dream again.

We all need that now and again, the embrace of a family member or the voice of a friend to let you know that whatever happens they'll be there and you will be ok. 'Believer' is the song to bring you back to solid ground, the raw but ethereal melody reminding you to close your eyes and take a deep breath. 'Believer' is a song to relieve the tension in your body and your mind; it is a humble anthem for anyone in need of solace and respite.

Click here to watch the video to Tom Forest's 'Believer'.

I hope you all like the track as much as I do, after hearing it I had a few questions for Tom Forest which he kindly answered and completely affirmed my belief in his lovely outlook on life.

INTERVIEW - Tom Forest

HI: The context of ‘Believer’ is a feeling we can all relate to; losing faith and momentum with our goals. What mindset did you have when you wrote it? Was it written retrospectively having overcome this feeling? Or did you write it from the perspective of someone who was helping you through this time?
TG: I'm a father, have a day job, and work on music every spare hour between those things, so there is constant tension between those elements of my life; the reality and the dreams. My writing partner, Isabel and I have needed this song on and off a lot. I don't think you ever fully overcome that feeling of needing faith from outside. At the time we wrote it those were the things she was saying to me to pull me through.

HI: ‘Believer’ is a song that holds a lot of love in lyrics, would you say it's a way for you to repay those that supported you in the making of your album?
TG: Exactly. We had one month to make the record, and no real budget. Everyone who played on the record did it out of love. Our parents took over childcare duties so we could work 24/7 to get it done. Everyone got behind us in a way that was overwhelming and humbling. I sang the lead vocal for this song with my dad looking after my baby daughter a few feet away. Most of the album vocals were recorded at home late at night with a long-suffering family member on the sofa nearby.
The video for Believer features as many friends and family as could make the filming, the video is a visual thank you, we wanted to make portraits of them to treasure.

HI: When the song premiered on The Line Of Best Fit, you said on Twitter: “we wrote this album..” who are you referring to there?
TG: One of the songs on the album I wrote alone, to Isabel and our daughter, and Monster was written with Isabel and our drummer, the enormously talented Simeon Rodgers. Everything else is Isabel and me. The way we collaborate on a song is never the same. Some are both of us around a piano, some she's more of an editor. She engineered, mixed and produced the album. Because I'm the singer, the songs usually come from my perspective.

HI: Who or what inspires the stories your songs tell?
TG: A few years ago my brother got really ill and we nearly lost him. It was an intense experience (especially for him!) and I had to write about it to process it. Those songs were the start of the album, and as life began to recover we continued to write in a biographical way. I never thought anyone, let alone our family, would hear these lyrics. The songs say things what I wasn't able to express in any other way to the people around us.

HI: What was the production process like for your album? 
TG: Isabel wrote a strict schedule and we weren't allowed to mess about! (See below!)

All the songs were written in a rehearsal room, just voice and one instrument, usually guitar, and I would always dial up a huge reverb, to try and fill the space right up with those two elements, so from writing there was this sense of a big church-like space, and keeping it simple.
We recorded those two elements at home and then programmed drums to find a groove. The drums were recorded in one day at RAK Studios, then Mary Cadbury came and played bass for a couple of hours. She has such unique touch, Isabel didn't edit those drums and  bass at all. Mary and her sister Lucy, and Conway (Ellis) and Shonet (Zabrina Hockley) would come round to our flat, we'd blast the song at them and they just stood in front of the speakers with a live mic, singing away. The label suggested strings on four tracks and Sally Herbert made the most amazing arrangements. Mandy Parnell mastered it. She's incredible. The whole way through we had a great relationship with the label who let us get on with it, but made suggestions when we needed them.

HI: Your debut album is titled ‘Hope’, a feeling which is clearly expressed in ‘Believer’. Are there any other themes that feature within it?
TG: Its an album of two halves. The earliest songs are about loss. 'You Have A Father' is to my nephew at the point that we thought we might lose his dad. 'Brother' is about that again, but also about Isabel's brother's death when she was younger. Ultimately though, we found each other, we built a home and had a child, and thats the rest of the record, and why we called it Hope.

HI: The artwork you’ve realised so far to accompany the tracks all feature you and your partner Isabel beneath water, what inspired that imagery?
TG: We had just written a song called Superhuman about working till you get sick, till you burn out, to the point that its really serious. Both Isabel and I have history with that. We knew we were going  somewhere with clear water and I kept thinking about a man in a business suit underwater, never reaching the surface. The images are stills from video shot on a go-pro- aside from that we had no specialist equipment, diving gear or way to monitor the images… just faith it would work!
We were just experimenting when I got the shot of Isabel in the water. The crazy thing is that she was two weeks pregnant at the time, we had no idea. In that photo I'm holding the camera, she's in the water, and our daughter is there too, so that image is the turning point of the record. The album sleeve is me diving into the water, which feels like the total immersion we had in finishing the album and showing it to people - terrifying, but also exhilarating.

We've done all our artwork ourselves so far. The visual element, the underwater photos and video stills are so important to get across what this project is.

HI: How long has music been a dream for you?
TG: When I was a kid I desperately wanted an electric guitar and my dad built me a toy one cut out of a piece of wood to pretend with. Real guitars became mythical objects to me. If I don't make music I'm not me. I think Isabel feels the same.

HI: What musical influences do you have?
TG: Hendrix, Buckley, Bjork, Sufjan Stevens and Portishead are really important to me, but in the time we were writing and recording this album we listened to Motown constantly. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 was in heavy rotation. We also love the new Denai Moore album, which was produced by a friend of ours, Steph Marziano, and the Sampha album is beautiful. Isabel has worked with Adele and Sam Smith and I think she's absorbed a little of that too.

I think the thing I love the most about Tom's story is his and Isabel's determination to see this album through, and how successfully independent it is. It's a beautiful story proving dreams can be achieved if you have a vision that everyone else can believe in too and you're willing to work for it. The gratitude they have for everyone who helped them make the record is unparalleled and it's such a lovely thing to see, modesty and humility are few and far between these days.

I wish Tom the sincerest best of luck with his album, if it's anything like what I've already heard it'll be a wonderfully rounded album that uplifts, moves and delights the listener. Tom's debut album 'Hope' is on its way, but if you'd like to hear more of his music before then I've linked to all of Tom's social media at the end of this post, including his Soundcloud, where you can find some more of his tracks.

I hope you all enjoyed this post and Tom Forest. Next time they'll be more of mine and Victoria's adventures in Europe; our third destination that was Lake Bled, Slovenia. As always thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer!


Tom Forest:
Lucid Online

Thursday, 3 August 2017

'This Is Going To Sound Crazy But...' | Ljubljana Of My Life

Hello everyone!

(P.S. from Holly who's just finished writing this; it's rather long, worth it, but long. You've been warned.)

Ok so who let August happen? Hmm?? This summer is disappearing a little too quickly for my's now only a few weeks till Sophie and I head off to Canada! It's all becoming incredibly real at the moment.

Today's post however, looks not at my adventure to come, but my last. If you read my last blog post then you'll know that in June I went travelling with my darling cousin, Victoria, around the Adriatic. We had the most beautiful trip and I loved every second of it.

We saw far too much and made too many memories for me to possibly fit them all in one post, so instead I'm splitting them up by destinations. I've already documented the first leg of that journey which we spent in Croatia, so if you'd like to read that one to get a little more context, click here. This is the second instalment of our Adriatic tetralogy, and so naturally comprises of the second leg of that trip, which took place in Slovenia's bewitching capitol, Ljubljana.

Prior to this holiday, I knew next to nothing about Slovenia. Mine and Victoria's cousin, Sarah, had visited the country a few years ago to attend a friend's wedding at Lake Bled, (which was to be our third destination), and had said it was beautiful, but other than that I'm ashamed to say I was rather ignorant of the country.

I am happy to say that now having visited Slovenia, it is one of my favourite places in the world. I was completely besotted with Ljubljana and Lake Bled was just surreal in its beauty. Slovenia is such a forward thinking country in terms of sustainability, technology, equality and culture that I was quite taken aback at how modern it felt. The people are so proud to be Slovenian and so content, they were modest and above all kind. I know we only saw a fraction of the country, but both the city and the countryside felt like a fairytale, it was so serene. Victoria and I both felt so peaceful and yet energetic  while we were exploring Ljubljana and Bled, I think Slovenia and it's people have an innate appreciation of life which really rubbed off on us both. We had an evening and two full days in Ljubljana, it was my favourite place we visited on the trip and it has undoubtedly become my favourite city in Europe; I completely fell in love with it, (hence the title of this post).

In the weeks before we went away, I researched each of our destinations and wrote down all the things I thought Victoria and I might want to do and see (and eat) whilst we were there. Even in the time before our holiday begun, I was already being drawn to Ljubljana; I scribbled down page after page of information about Ljubljana and the things I wanted to see, examples of architecture, history and 21st century culture. I couldn't wait to visit the source of my new found fascination.

We arrived in Ljubljana at about half seven on a Thursday evening, having travelled five hours by bus from Pula. We took our bags straight to the hostel which Victoria had booked a small apartment with, quickly spruced ourselves up and headed out for some much anticipated dinner.

We left the apartment to find that it was only about 200 yards away from one of the most famous attractions I had wanted to see since doing my research, The Dragon Bridge. Constructed between 1900 and 1901, the bridge is named so because it is adorned with four fierce looking dragons, one on each corner of the structure. The dragon is the symbol of the city following a legend that before the city was founded, a dragon lived upon the hilltop which for the past 900 years has been the site of Ljubljana Castle.

(These pictures were obviously not taken that evening but instead the following morning.)

On a high of excitement thinking what the next few days would have in store, Victoria and I wandered through the streets in search of food, our direction guided by hearty noise and lights. We soon found ourselves however in the main square of the city, Prešernov Trg, and the iconic Triple Bridge which connects the square to the parallel side of the city over the Ljubljanica river. We crossed the river via the central bridge and did not have to walk far before finding a restaurant that took our fancy.

Cafes, bars and restaurants border the river on both of its banks with waterside views in their hundreds. We chose a restaurant called Zlata Ribica for its stylish, bright exterior, waterside tables and it's wide menu of local Slovenian dishes. In my research I had found that Slovenia is a country that loves it's food and farming is a big part of Slovenia's culture and industry. Due to the varying Alpine landscape and the influence of their continental neighbours, each region has its own speciality dishes; for example the Karst region is famous for it's Pršut, an air-cured ham, and Idrija in the west for a pasta dish called Žlikrofi. Slovenia's red and white wines are growing in reputation as well which hardly seems surprising given the country's geography.

This was easily one of the best meals of the holiday. The food was fresh and lovingly made as well as flavourful and beautifully presented. The waiting staff at Zlata Ribica were also very kind hosts and more than happy to recommend dishes and advise on flavour. Victoria and I ordered a jug of local white wine which was light and dangerously easy to drink, whilst we chose our mains. Victoria had the Slovenian beef goulash with gnocchi, (I think I've remembered that right) and I opted for fried chicken and ham schnitzel and a side of grilled Mediterranean vegetables. As with most of the meals so far that holiday, we swapped forks and sampled each others choices and found our meals to be equally as delicious as the other.

(These two images were taken on my iPhone, I'm sorry the quality's crap!)

Another motive for choosing Zlata Ribica was for the presence of a certain dessert on their menu. In my research I had found pictures Slovenia's most famous dessert, a layer cake from the easternmost region of Prekmurje, called gibanica. The cake consists of a shortbread base, with strudel pastry separating four different layers of fillings, usually poppy seeds, sweet cheeses and curds, walnuts and apples. We asked our waiter for the correct pronunciation as to not make fools of ourselves for the next week we would be in Slovenia, and he recommended that we share one as its very sweet.

When he brought it out to us only a few minutes later, we were thankful we took his advice! It's incredibly sweet as you'd expect, but still very, very good. The apples were complimented by the walnuts and poppy seeds whilst the cream and curds balance against the pastry and shortbread. I don't think I could have finished one by myself as I imagine a whole slice would be very heavy and we'd already had a hearty meal. We had such a lovely evening and meal at Zlata Ribica with a lovely view of the river that we were tempted more than once to go back again over the course of the next two days.

The next morning we got up early and crossed the Dragon Bridge to the other side of the river to visit the Central Market. The market had come up in my research as it is a daily ritual for produce sellers and Ljubljana locals. It takes place in the Vodnikov Trg and Pegačarnev Trg alongside the Ljubljanica river and is open 6am-6pm on weekdays and 6am-4pm on Saturdays. A wide range of produce can be found at the market including fresh Slovenian fruits and vegetables, dry-cured meats, flowers, fresh bread, biscuits, pastries and baked goods, cheese, fruit, nuts and oils. We wandered through the umbrellaed stalls and watched as the locals and the sellers carried out their business as they do everyday.

Opposite the central market and overlooking the river is 'Plečnik's Covered Market' which is a permanent market/shop front that again is open daily selling fresh, local produce. The shopfront here was named so after the architect who designed it, Jože Plečnik, who I'll talk more of later. We decided to stop here for breakfast at a bakery called Pekarna Pečjak which is located in one of the permanent shops in Plečnik's Market. We bought coffees and jam-filled pastries for less than two euros each and sat at one of their tables just outside the bakery watching the world go by.

'Plečnik's Covered Market'

As we sat sipping our coffees in the sunshine, we noticed that just by us a street food market was also taking place that day. It took me far too long to put two and two together and realise that it was a Friday and the stalls we could see and smell where actually all part of 'Odprta Kuhna', which in English means 'Open Kitchen'. This was another famous event I had come across in my research and takes place every Friday between 10am and 9pm, offering a huge selection of worldwide cuisines from local businesses and street food vendors. It was certainly very busy when we passed through later in the day, we'd planned to pick up a mid afternoon snack but decided it was far too hot to eat so instead we purchased some amazing smoothies from Green Republic's stall.

From here we headed back to the central square, Prešernov Trg, where we planned to join a walking tour of the city at 11 o'clock. We arrived a little early to soak in the scenery and people watch. The square sits right in the heart of the city, and is home to one of its most famous statues; the Prešeren Monument. The monument features a statue of Slovenia's national poet, France Prešeren with the muse of poetry holding a sprig of laurel above his head. It is also the location of the afore mentioned, iconic Triple Bridge, which is exactly what it says on the tin; three bridges that cross the Ljubljanica river. Before the whole area along the side of the river was pedestrianised, there was a valid reason to have three bridges, (one for cars and two for pedestrians) right next to each other, whereas now the whole thing seems a little eccentric, although it does look rather beautiful.

Ljubljana Castle over looking the city.

The Triple Bridge.

'Plečnik's Covered Market'

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation.

The Prešeren Monument.

This was, I think, an art installation in the middle of Prešernov Trg which featured a range of small sprinklers suspended on wires high above the square and created an area of artificial rainfall all day long. It provided much confusion and joy for little children as they walked through the "rain" and to us tourists a wonderful burst of cool against the heat of the day. 

Just before 11 we joined the large crowd forming outside of The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation where our walking tour was to begin. The company who provided the tour was called The Ljubljana Free Tour and is part of United Europe Free Tours, we found information about them through a leaflet at our hostel. We didn't need to book in advance, only turn up and sign our names on a clipboard so it was very hassle free. There was a rather large turnout that day so they split us into three groups of about 25 people. Our guide was called Janez who was a historian and had taught at the university of Ljubljana for seven years. He was very funny and gave us all so much information about the city and Slovenia's history, including some context about the former Yugoslavia and communist rule. 

We begun in the square and he told us about the buildings and sights around us which I've already mentioned, and then lead us down the river explaining the artwork featured at each of the bridges that cross the Ljubljanica and when they were built. He lead us back to the Central Market and told us about the food and heritage of the tradition as well as how the the city was working to reduce its waste as Ljubljana has been awarded 'Europe's Green Capitol' for its work on sustainable development.

Next Janez took us to Ljubljana's cathedral; St Nicholas' Church. He explained the symbolism of the design on the west door of the church which depicts the complete history of Christianity in Slovenia.  He also told us that if you rub the nose of one of the faces in the bottom right hand corner of the door it is supposed to keep you safe. In fact so many people have taken part in this superstition, that despite the door being made of bronze the nose has now turned gold. 

We walked the short distance from the cathedral to the Town Hall and the Robba Fountain: The Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers. The fountain depicts three river gods, one for each of the Carniolan Rivers: the Sava, the Ljubljanica and the Krka. 

The Robba Fountain, designed by Francesca Robba, 1751.

Ljubljana Town Hall, as we were sat on the steps listening to Janez explain a little about the politics and future of Ljubljana, the mayor and his wife were leaving the Town Hall and came over to say hello.

We continued walking one street parallel to the river and marvelled at the quaint beauty of the city. The buildings were irregular and baroque in their style, each a different faded, pastel in colour. Many of them were shops or restaurants on their ground level and Victoria and I took note of a few we wished to come back to and investigate. What struck us most was how clean and pristine the city looked, I started comparing it to Duloc from Shrek because the modest, but slightly gothic, architecture of these buildings felt like a fairytale. 

We crossed the river again and Janez took us to see the library of the University of Ljubljana, designed by the famous architect, Jože Plečnik. The city has sometimes been nicknamed 'Plečnik's Ljubljana' because his work defines so much of the city's aesthetic identity. He was Slovenian born and had many triumphs in Vienna and Prague before returning to Ljubljana in the 1920s and transforming the city to its current splendour. He was devoted to his work and put a lot of meaning into the smallest details of his work; for example, the windows of the university library do not lie flat but instead are in the shape of an open book to reflect the pursuit of knowledge of university students. Plečnik's also designed the two side bridges of the Triple Bridge, as well as the covered market, and did a lot of renovation work around the city's bridges and churches.

The University of Ljubljana Library, designed by Jože Plečnik. It is supposed to look like something from Harry Potter on the inside!

Ljubljana University.

The Slovenian Philharmonic.

We finished the tour in Kongresni Trg, just a two minute walk from where we began it in Prešernov Trg. Ljubljana is very compact city and so it's perfect for a weekend city break as you don't have to walk miles or pay for public transport to see everything. Janez gave us a final roundup on Ljubljana, telling us about the university and a little more about the politics and future of Slovenia. As the name 'The Ljubljana Free Tour' suggests, the tour was free but donations are welcome to help support volunteers like Janez who provide the tours and allow them to share their city with visitors. I'd highly recommend the tour, it took about an hour and a half in total and we saw nearly every sight on the list I'd complied and more that I had missed in my research. If you're in Ljubljana for a few days then its a means to quickly engulf yourself in the culture and learn about the short but beautiful history of Slovenia.

We spent the rest of the day wandering round the city, revisiting places we'd passed and monuments we wanted to see again. That afternoon the heavens opened in a Noah-like downpour which was so torrential it was comical. My umbrella did little to save Victoria and I from getting drenched and so we spent a little while standing under doorways and visiting churches and shops to escape the rain outside.

We stumbled across many beautiful independent shops selling Etsy-like interior items, fashion and artwork. There was one in particular we fell completely in love with called 'The Gud Shop' which sold geometric prints, illustrated notebooks and beautiful mugs and crockery. We couldn't have found a more Pinterest-worthy shop if we'd tried and we both could have easily bought the entire place. We decided we'd head back to the room a little earlier than usual to have a little rest then when the rain had subsided got dressed up and headed back out to dinner. We ate this time at a restaurant called Paninoteka where we again enjoyed good food, waterside views and a lovely atmosphere.

The next morning we went back to the market for breakfast and fuelled ourselves up on more pastry in preparation for the steep walk up to Ljubljana Castle. There are many trails that lead up to the castle, we found one leading up the hill just behind Vodnikov Trg where the Central Market is situated. The ascent took us about ten minutes, I think, as even for 9.30am it was already pretty hot.

Once we reached the walls of the castle, we were confronted with a pretty beautiful view of Ljubljana.

We paid our admission to the castle including the audio guide, and walked through an archway into a beautiful courtyard. We picked up our audio guides and spent the morning exploring the castle's various parts including the dungeon, chapel, armoury and towers, Ljubljana Grad (Slovenian for 'castle') also has a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as restaurants and shops. The castle, again, looks very modern in the way they've turned it into a museum and exhibition space. The lower floors of the castle, under the courtyard and next to the dungeons, have been converted into conference rooms and there was a beautiful art gallery space there as well.

Our tickets allowed us access into all of the exhibits and museums, including the 'Plečnik Above The City' exhibit. The temporary exhibition was created to mark the 60th anniversary of his death and lasts until the 1st of October. It celebrates his work on the city's architectural identity and features his plans to restore and transform Ljubljana castle into first a cultural space, and secondly his dream of it hosting the Slovenian Parliament (these plans were never followed through but none the less are very impressive).

Our tickets also granted us access into the Slovenian Puppet Museum which must have been one of the highlights of the trip for Victoria and I. We spent about an hour in the museum even though you definitely could have done it ten minutes, but the puppets provided us with such a bizarre fascination we lost track of time! They were, without a doubt, some of the creepiest things I've ever seen which made them hilarious to the both of us. The museum is interactive and located up in the rafters of the castle in two rather dark rooms. We were the only ones there at the time which meant we could take our time sitting in the musical chairs that played you soundtracks from popular puppet films, watching puppet films that range from the 1950s to present day and playing with the shadow screens.  It was honestly just such a bizarre and surreal exhibit that when we left and walked back out into broad daylight we felt like we'd forgotten the rest of the world was still there. I don't know how to describe it succinctly or truly but I don't think we stopped laughing all the while we were there. It was just very odd.

The courtyard.

Lower levels and event space.

The chapel.

I'm afraid I don't have any pictures of the exhibits because some did not permit photography and others were too dark for photographs.

Last on our castle tour was the tower. The staircase of the tower consists of two red, metal staircases that are intertwined, spiralling up and down in perfect symmetry. We climbed the ascending stairs to the top and were confronted with a view that easily outshone the one we had seen below the battlements...

We left the castle around lunch time and headed back into the city; there was one place left on our list of must-sees and one that Victoria had been waiting months to visit. Prior to this trip she had read a blog called '24 Hours In Ljubljana' and seen a beautiful rooftop bar on the top floor of one of Ljubljana's tallest buildings, Nebotičnik, which is Slovenian for 'skyscraper'. At the time of it's construction in 1933, it was the 9th tallest building in Europe and has since been home to residential flats, shops and business offices. It is popular amongst locals and tourists for its romantic roof terrace and stunning views. We stopped there for a drink and lunch, even though it was a little pricey, I'd pay for that view any day!

After lunch the afternoon was gorgeous and clear so we walked ten minutes from Nebotičnik to Tivoli Park, Ljubljana's biggest park stretching nearly 5 square km and apparently a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon. We took our books and enjoyed an hour sat on the grass soaking up the sun.

We began to feel like we were cooking so headed back into town for ice cream and a final wander around what was firmly our new favourite European city.

The National Gallery of Slovenia.

The Slovenian National Opera and Ballet Theatre.

For our final evening in Ljubljana we went out to diner at another restaurant along the river bank which served traditional Slovenian dishes. We fell slave to our stomachs and were tempted by the risotto with prosciutto, asparagus, tomatoes and mozzarella, it was divine. We finished the evening by going for drinks in one of the bars below the street level, right on the banks of the river where we enjoyed cocktails and nutella and caramel pancakes for dessert! 

I did not anticipate this post was going to be so long, I am so sorry! As is blatantly obvious, Victoria and I adored Ljubljana, it truly is an incredible city and I've struggled to shut up when telling people about it since. I think the reason I loved it so much was how much fun we had there; it gave me the same sort of feeling I get when I think back to university and how alive and free I felt in Newcastle. They are quite similar in some senses; both huge university towns that cater very much for young people with great bars all through the city, there are some of my favourite restaurants in the world in Newcastle and the food was insanely good in Ljubljana as well, they are also quite green cities with large parks in the centre of the city and they both have such friendly people with a really strong identity. I think every evening in Ljubljana when Victoria and I went out for dinner and drinks, we felt that we had such an electric mood which seemed to make every moment glow. I wish I could find the words to articulate it, but in Ljubljana we felt freedom, and that feeling is rarer than it ought to be.

Again I'm sorry this was such a long post but I hope you enjoyed reading it, I couldn't recommend Slovenia enough to anyone; it is a stunning, fairytale-like country where the people are kind, considerate and fun. For a capitol city, Ljubljana didn't feel expensive but it has so much to offer, I want to go back tomorrow. Our next destination was Lake Bled, an hour and a half's drive north from Ljubljana, pictures and stories coming soon!

I hope you're all enjoying the summer so far and make the most of what's left of it. If you're travelling, just soak everything in, you never know what may inspire you or change your mood for the next three months.

Thanks for reading, see you all next time.