Happy New Year! Here are my film, book and music discoveries of 2016


img_20170104_100937I like making lists. I thought I would have a look back over the films, books and music I enjoyed in 2016 so here are my top 5 of each:


View my year in books on Goodreads

  1. The Loney – Andrew Michael Hurley – a great gothic novel, creepy and affecting.
  2. Different Class – Joanne Harris – an evocative book about scandal in a boys’ school.
  3. Enders Game – Orson Scott Card – this was recommended to me by a friend ages ago. It’s a great science fiction story – you can see how much it has influenced subsequent books and films.
  4. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – best thriller I read all year – really worth a read. The film is also a great adaptation – but read the book first!
  5. Conclave – Robert Harris – really enjoyed this detailed look inside the Vatican and a fun story.


  1. Arrival – my film of the year. A long time since I’ve seen such an intelligent film, an alien invasion which is a really clever thought experiment.
  2. The Martian – a good solid science fiction film, very entertaining.
  3. I Daniel Blake – a must watch about the current state of affairs in the UK and what this government is doing to oppress people.
  4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – I really enjoyed this return to the wizarding universe.
  5. Rogue One – a fab prequel for Star Wars.


I consume music so differently these days. I have a subscription to Spotify – the streaming service – and have enjoyed their weekly discover playlist – which is a list of music that they think I’ll like based on my listening history (old and new tracks). I have also enjoyed buying second hand vinyl to play on my record player. Most of my new discoveries have come from listening to BBC 6 Music in my car. I often use the Shazam app to find out what the track is and this automatically creates a playlist in Spotify for me.

To get an idea of what I’ve been listening to this year, here is my most listened to playlist:

My top 5 songs of 2016 (which are a mixture of vinyl discoveries and others) are:

  1. The Pusher – Steppenwolf (from the Easy Rider soundtrack – sounds amazing on vinyl)
  2. This Year – The Mountain Goats (the refrain ‘I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me’ was very 2016!)
  3. Trouble – Girl Ray (great new band discovery)
  4. Lo, the full final sacrifice – Gerald Finzi (I heard this on Radio 3, a beautiful piece of sacred music)
  5. Heroes – David Bowie (obviously listened to a lot of Bowie this year and I think this is my favourite of his!)

Do you have any recommendations for me for 2017?


Michael Price – Easter – a beautiful meditative piece of music


I first heard this track on BBC 6 Music during Lent and although I was slightly irritated that a piece entitled ‘Easter’ was being played in Lent I couldn’t help but be captivated by it. This track was inspired by the composer hearing church bells ringing out on Easter Sunday (I can’t remember in which country, but not in the UK). It is beautiful, enjoy:

Music composed by birds – stunning

By Birds_on_the_wire.jpg: Tomascastelazo derivative work: Colin (This file was derived from: Birds_on_the_wire.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Jarbas Agnelli saw some birds sitting on wires that looked like a stave of music. He turned the position of the birds into this composition. Beautiful.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all deeps,
 fire and hail, snow and frost,
    stormy wind fulfilling his command!

 Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
 Wild animals and all cattle,
    creeping things and flying birds! – Psalm 148:8-10



Information from the youtube channel:

Reading the newspaper one morning, I saw this picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.

This work was made over the original photo, un-retouched, published in one of the biggest Brazilian newspapers, “O Estado de São Paulo” on 27/aug/2009, and shot by Paulo Pinto (note: I just erased the birds for effect at the end, but didn’t change their positions at all. What would be the point?).

I’ve made this short video to demonstrate my interpretation of the birds as notes.

Music made with Logic.
Video made with After Effects.

Jarbas Agnelli

Árstíðir – Heyr himna smiður – 13th century Icelandic hymn sung in a train station


This hymn, performed by the band Árstíðir in the echoing chambers of a train station is truly beautiful (I found it via this tweet). I looked in the comments on Youtube and found out the lyrics of this 800 year old hymn:

Hear creator of the heavens
what the poet begs.
Come softly to me
your mercy.
I trust in you,
you have created me.
I am your servant
you are my lord.

God, I trust in you
to heal me.
For the least, my king,
we need you the most.
Take, my God,
so powerful and inquisitive,
the sorrow out of our hearts.

My king, watch over me,
we need you the most.
For every moment
to hold ground.
Set the son of a maiden,
a beautiful matter.
All the help from you
in my heart.

This is written in a very violent time in the Sturlunga-age in Iceland. A few families were having disagreements over power and the man who wrote this poem was a member of one of those families. He was in the Ásbirninga family and his name was Kolbeinn Tumason. It is said that he wrote this just prior to “Víðinesbardagi”, a battle in 1208. He said this poem over and over, so often that the people around him memorized it.

By Andreas Tille (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

My new tumblr blog: songs evoking scripture


One of my many blogs that I incorporated into this one was called the Unknown God blog. This consists of a collection of things I’ve found from popular culture that for me speak of God in some way – there is a real mixture of art, film, books and music on there. One of my passions in life is music – mainly of the alternative variety but my tastes are reasonably eclectic. I often find that music moves me more than other art forms and often songs I listen to make me think of particular bible passages, they either directly relate to specific verses, they evoke the mood of a passage or sometimes they illustrate the point of a passage. Sometimes the reverse happens. I decided to create a Tumblr blog to share these as I’m simply sharing music videos and the scriptures I think they relate to. The simplicity of tumblr works well for something like this. You can find this new blog here:


I hope it becomes a resource for me but also perhaps for you. These songs could be used in all sorts of ways: to introduce a bible study, as an intro or outro to an alternative church service, for your own quiet time, in a sermon…Be blessed!

Bring the Happy by @hopeandsocial with @invisibleflock – now available as an album


A quick update to this post I wrote in 2011. Hope and Social have now recorded the show ‘Bring the Happy’ which is currently on tour.  It is still really powerful, even in recorded rather than live form. I defy you not to have a tear in your eye! If you get the chance to see the show live, do. One of the best shows I’ve ever been to.

Listen here:



Here’s the original post from 2011:

Bring the Happy performance by Invisible Flock and Hope & Social

Last night I had the privilege to attend the Bring the Happy performance by a group of artists called Invisible Flock supported by the band Hope & Social.

Here’s a description of the project from the BBC website:

Thousands of people’s best memories of Leeds have been captured in a giant “happy map”.

Three artists began a project last year to record memories of people from the city to create the interactive piece.

A glass cylinder marks a spot on the map where something good, great or life-changing happened. The higher the tube, the happier the memory.

One memory reads: “As the clock struck midnight on Millennium Square, 2010, it started to snow.”

Bring the Happy is the brain child of a group of Leeds-based artists called Invisible Flock.

The performance at Northern Ballet last night was a beautiful journey through the thousands of memories gathered by the artists from people from all walks of life in Leeds. It was one of the most profound experiences I have had outside of church!

Ultimately, it was a collection of people’s stories, people’s lives. In focusing on people’s happiest memories it also threw into relief people’s grief and sadness as well. And I think it was in the undercurrent of melancholy that a sense of solidarity and beauty pervaded the atmosphere of the room we were in. The whole gamut of human experience was shared.

I took a few pictures which hardly show how beautiful this evening was.

We were all sitting around tables decorated with balloons and were given an ‘order of service’ with song words in, written by Hope & Social – and being a Hope & Social performance there was plenty of communal singing!

It looked like a wedding reception and at many times it felt like one – lots of laughs and tears shared by the attendees all united in this experience of sharing life stories.

One of the collected memories was:

A kiss I’d wished for for weeks coming true

This was turned into a chorus which we and the band sang while the artists read memories of first love from their collection.

Many of the memories the artists collected were about intoxication. 90s rave music played, we waved glow sticks and were given shots of vodka as memories of being out on the lash in Leeds were read out. I smiled as one of them I share – dancing at Move on Up on Wednesday nights at the Underground.

There were also lots of memories of the old dance halls of Leeds – many mentioning dancing the gay gordon at Mecca in the 50s. The band played a waltz and we all went onto the dancefloor, reliving these borrowed memories together:

We sang a hymn to Hyde Park and waved sparklers as memories of Hyde Park were shared – again, these resonated with me as I have my own memories of Hyde Park from my student days:

A moving story was told of two young scally lads who shared memories of ‘Nana’ who had died. A New Orleans style jazz song played as a funeral march was played in memory of ‘Nana’:

These are just tiny glimpses of what was an incredible evening. The performance closed with the Ballad of Leeds – written by Hope & Social and based on the memories of Leeds people – the first line is ‘I was born in Quarry Hill’ – the same spot where we were sitting that had once been a social housing project in the 60s and 70s and later demolished to make way for all the arts buildings there now.