Reconnecting: Nature’s Melody and Mental Health

Reflecting back on this year there is something that most, if not all of us, have been able to partake in – reconnecting with nature.

The stresses and pace for modern life can distract us from all the natural beauty that surrounds us every day. As we’ve had more time available to us from lockdowns, furloughs and unfortunately redundancies, there is some benefit to our daily Boris walks.

mental health
start point sunrise

Nature in all its seasons orchestrates sounds and songs that can keep us in tune with our very own nature. It can help keep us grounded by keeping our minds healthy and renewed with positive thoughts. It can also help us to escape in our own headspace to a place to comfort and peace.

I’ve found myself surrounded by symphonies of birdsong, the gentle trickle of the brook or even the roaring wind. Even as I sit here on a headland in the South Hams watching the old sun rise on a new day I can feel the energy and life in all the sounds around me… the crashing waves on the rocks, the whistling wind, the calling gulls and the eerie howling of the wind in the caves below. Even watching the blazing sun rise into the sky adds to the spectacular show that I’m witnessing. There’s motion, tempo and life. 

In a year that has been dark for many, where there has been death, sadness and negativity… this can disrupt or even irritate our mental wellbeing. Being forced to slow down life can help us to think and to contemplate. For me, spending time in nature has been a positive experience which has helped me to keep my mind focussed on positive perspectives.

I’m a fan of J.R.R Tolkien and his masterpiece stories set in middle earth. There’s a quote I’m particularly fond of that says, “where there’s life, there’s hope”.

Songs, poetry, literature and other forms of creativity can communicate utter garbage, while some can echo lifelong truths. For me, this quote fits hand in glove with how I want to approach challenges like 2020.

hobbiton
hope

Going into lockdown I started to enjoy being lazy. Time to slow down and catch up on some tv series I could binge on, great! For some this is dream come true, for others it has been a real struggle. After thinking about it, I knew I didn’t want to tolerate the behaviours and attitude that came as a result of lockdown. Instead, I wanted to engage with it, I want to look back on this time and for it to be profound, as a time where I was still able to grow and learn despite circumstances. Even in the midst of despair, I wanted to find hope and maintain good mental health.

When I look and see terrible things happening, I wanted to see with new eyes something that revealed the opposite. When I heard negativity in the news, politics or social media, I wanted to hear the opposite with new ears.

As a musician, it has been hard not to share and enjoy your passion with others who are like-minded. As a band, we have missed seeing a lot of our friends and music family this year through our gig circuit and summer festivals. At the beginning of restrictions and lockdown in England I had thought that music was being completely silenced…how wrong I was.  There is always a song playing, always a tempo and always a melody. We just needed to reconnect with it.  

Keep safe, Mark.

Goo Goo Dolls

Goo Goo Dolls Gig Review 25/2/20

And yes it’s a bit late…

It’s really no secret that Mark and I are fond of a lot of the same bands, just check out our inspiration lists on Spotify.

I’m going to take the credit to for introducing the Goo Goo Dolls to Mark. I’ll write about the Goo Goo Dolls and what they mean to me another time but this was the third time we got to see this incredible group.

We drove up on a cold February day, blissfully unaware of the Corona that was going to punch our world into lockdown a month or so later. We parked in Birmingham City Centre and headed toward that strange building that looks like a spaceship which houses the fantastic Bull Ring Mall and got ourselves a sensible Nando’s. We made our way to the Birmingham O2 Institute and cued up while some people try to buy our tickets and others tried to flog their CDs to us. Love the ingenuity.

Valeras

We got into the Institute and being the old refined humans we are, we found seats. DO NOT JUDGE. We got a couple of drinks (Cherry coke ‘cuz we’re ‘ard) and listened to the support act in the form of ‘Valeras.’

I’m not sure what box to put Valeras in, but after following them for a while now I can see that’s really what they wouldn’t want. Seeing the ‘bigger bands’ support acts can either be a delight of finding a new band or a constant watch-watching to see if they’re leaving. I like them!

They ran through their set professionally and the lead singer is engaging and makes every effort to get the crowd into their tunes. I’m fond of the song ‘Playing with a Gun,’ and I definetely recommend them.

www.valeras.co.uk

Listen to Valeras on Spotify

Third Time Lucky

Mark and I now seem to have a two year tradition of seeing the Goo Goo Dolls. I have to tell you, we saw them in 2016 and I never thought I’d get to see them. I cannot express the joy I felt the first time as it just seemed far out of what I would experience. Actually the second time was just as good as the first time.

And the third time? JUST AS GOOD. The band were touring their latest studio album Miracle Pill, which is another strong inclusion in their catalogue. They get a fair bit of criticism for not varying out of their style but you know what? It’s good so shut up.

John Rzeznik and Robbie Takac are the leaders of the group, hiring the other guys for their full performances. The two of them have been together a while and are clearly a strong unit and makes me wonder if Mark and I will be like that in 20 years or so.

Of course they blast through their 90s signature classics (including ‘our song’ Iris) with ease, the decibel level of the crowd clearly rising when these songs turn up. What interests me are the new songs of which we only got to hear five. They do have twelve albums worth of songs to pick from and keeping the punters happy is probably the key ingredient for their thirty year career.

The real standout for me was ‘Autumn Leaves’ which had an extended solo, a real dramatic air punching affair. It’s my favourite song on ‘Miracle Pill’ and absolutely piques my inspiration.

It’s after seeing a band like the Goo Goo Dolls, who I’ve been with solidly since 2007, that I get pumped for the performance. The energy of the crowd singing your songs… the joy… love it.

www.googoodolls.com

Listen to the Goo Goo Dolls on Spotify

Tom

Spotify: Year One

What an odd thing to do a blog about. I wanted to get across a few feelings about my transition from purely ‘physical’ music to streaming. Definitely came to the party pretty late.

I love music and remember the excitement when one of my favourite bands released their latest album. I realise that a few of these groups are very popular and like a bull to a red flag I love a ‘deluxe’ boxset. It’s like a mist descends: I the love the anticipation…

Back in the Day

In 2008 I fondly remember Oasis released their ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ album. This was the first album they released after I’d really gotten into them (see what I mean about being late to the party?)

It was a big set with four vinyl, two CDs and a DVD with a huge book full of lyrics and it was beautiful. 8 years later I actually got a record player!

The thing is, and I’ll be honest here, music is expensive and buying full price CDs was getting a bit pricey. I’d check through Amazon’s second hand listings and Poundland to get a good deal. It often crossed my mind that streaming might be the way forward to help with the bank balance.

So I spent a little time condensing my CD collection and getting rid of the cases (at the moment I’ve still got the inlays but we’ll see how long this lasts) and then I saw a ‘3 months for 99p’ deal for Spotify so I took the plunge.

Streaming

It’s now been over a year since I changed over to using Spotify and I had a few predictions going in and I found them to be right!

So for a set fee I can listen to the billions of songs that exist across the Spotify platform.

I’ve found bands Steam Powered Giraffe and current favourites Katzenjammer that I might never have had the joy of hearing. Of course there was always YouTube but I could never really get on with listening to tunes that way.

All I do is load up my phone with 20 albums + and off I go.

The Cons of Spotify

You know what’s on my mind? That these artists aren’t getting a lot of money for their hard work (and this is coming from an ‘artist’ who is also on Spotify). You need SO MANY listens to make it financially viable. The bigger artists like Coldplay, U2 and Foo Fighters are sort of doing OK with millions of monthly listeners.

There’s also the fact because I can listen to SO much music that investm ent into bands and following your favourites isn’t as important anymore. As digital cameras sort of made photographs less valuable because you now had access to 100s of photos that could just delete like that – you’ve now got super commercially focused, throwaway music. Same with film/TV streaming.

When you bought a CD it was an investment and you’d have to listen to it a lot; you’d get value out of it. It’s not the same now as I don’t need to put a lot of time into really listening. Done, done and on to the next one.

The Future

Am I going to stick with Spotify? Yes I am. Like I predicted all this above, I also predicted that it would save me money and it has. I now like this money saving scheme of mine! It’s got its claws into me but you know what? I still want to listen to my favourites… and when they’re one of my big favourites I’ll still buy the deluxe boxset (or at least the vinyl!)

What does this blog state? It means I’ve been sucked in – but having access to back catalogues of Weezer, Feeder, the Rolling Stones and finding new bands like the above and Larkin Poe has been such a great experience.

Tom’s Inspiration Playlist

Mark’s Inspiration Playlist

Mattie’s Inspiration Playlist

Joel’s Inspiration Playlist

Tom’s 2019 Picks (So Far)


Here’s Tom’s 2019 Picks so far and this 2019 has been very busy for Alpha Tide so far (with even more busy-ness to come).

As you all know we released our debut album at the beginning of December and the lovely Emily joined us to make up a five piece.

What’s key as we continue is to stay inspired and as a musician, there’s nothing quite like that feeling of discovering a new artist, band or album

(Or if you’re anything like me then ‘getting’ an older band after about 20 years of thinking they’re rubbish).

There’s been a few discoveries this year already that I want to share with you; maybe you could get something out of these too.

Pale Waves

Pale Waves, Tom
Pale Waves

Now here’s a weird one to start with.

Here’s a band where all their songs sound the same… (sorry Pale Waves) but you know what… I quite like it.

They’re described as ‘Goth Pop’ which I think comes from lazy labelling of their music because the young lady who is their lead singer has a goth ‘look.’

There’s something fun about the block synthy sound mixed with grunty guitars that really connects when I’m driving!

OK, I’m not thrilled about the expletives but they’ve got quite a following.

Songs to watch out for: Drive, Eighteen, Television Romance

Larkin Poe

larkin poe, toms 2019 picks so far
Larkin Poe

Atlantan duo Larking Poe started off with their career as the Lovell Sisters but with their elder sister Jessica leaving the group they formed this ‘the Poe’.

The name comes from the combination of their grandparents surnames (Poe being connected to the classic author!)

Obviously from the get go I instantly fell in love with them 😏. The more I listened to them I discovered something really quite interesting.

I’m not a huge country or blues fan but having a permanent slide guitar player really made me pay attention.

From what I’ve noticed there’s a different sound between their early EPs and their current sound going from acoustic-country to more electric blues. Worth repeat listens.

Songs to watch out for: Long Hard Fall, Sugar High, Banks of Allatoona

Weezer

weezer, toms 2019 picks so far
Weezer

Bit behind aren’t I? Obviously I’ve been aware of Weezer since their beginning back in the early 90s. Their singles being staples of the 90s/00s playlists. What really grabbed my attention recently was ‘Africa’.

You’re probably aware that a persistent fan on Twitter petitioned for the band to cover it which led to the ‘Teal’ album of covers to be released.

I LOVE IT.

After a month of listening to ‘Teal’, the fabulous ‘Black’ album appears and that became a game changer.

The amount of time I’ve spent listening to that album has been quite considerable: a band that after 25 years can produce something that enjoyable is always quite spectacular!

Songs to watch out for: (There are SO many) High as a Kite, Crab, Perfect Situation

Don’t forget to check Tom’s previous picks from 2018

Hymns (and Hers)

Alpha Tide didn’t just originate at a church fete (you might recall Paul McCartney and John Lennon met at a church fete… you know just sayin’).

We are all church-going Christians too which means that we all share a rich history when it comes to to music. Specifically hymns.

Hymns tend to have a very distinct ‘style’ to them,’ possible products of their time. As songs, they have a very different purpose to what music in general is used for today.

It feels like a lot of modern popular music has become industry. It’s like it’s about selling the song rather than personal expression. Very different from what hymn writers intended for their songs.

Genius

Maybe the name Max Martin might not ring any bells with you. Behind Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who have the most successful songwriting credits of all time, this gentleman comes in third!

Martin has written, co-written or produced Britney Spears’ ‘Baby, One More Time,’ Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never Going To Get Back Together,’ and Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream.’ These aren’t the songs either with his name on them!

That’s impressive right? The amount of money these songs have generated is mind-blowing. He has 22 songs which sat pretty much at the top of the Hot Billboard 100. 5 entered the chart at number one.

This shows he knows how to make money from a catchy tune. Arguably you could say Martin discovered a formula to making these hits.

Although these fun songs have value in nostalgia, arguably something has been lost.

What About Hymns?

Looking back, hymns the church used weren’t just for the worship of God, they also taught the principles of the Bible. Many people years ago couldn’t read or write and so these songs served this two-fold purpose.

Music wasn’t just in the church: folk music came from a collective experience within the community. The camp fire sing-a-long might still be a tradition for scout groups. Hymns and older songs like this were tools for community strengthening.

As the world becomes smaller, we become aware of how music has effected and sustained people. Quite literally, old Pentecostal slave songs from America were more than morale boosters: they were communicating secretly without their oppressors knowing their plans.

The wonderful stories we hear from the Fab Four and the Rolling Stones tell of the rock and blues influences from America. This music in the 1960s fed their inspiration for their iconic music that changed the world.

The Future of Music

As developments were made in technology and music’s objective, so the value of music changed with it

At one point, the only way to hear a song ‘live’ was to buy the sheet music and play it on the piano at home. When gramophones were introduced and you could have recordings at home, sheet music became less popular.

The last twenty years has seen more technological development than ever before. With it we’ve seen the decline of vinyl (although there is an amazing resurgence of late) cassette tapes and now CDs as the world of streaming has now cemented itself as the most popular and practical way to get our music fix.

It begs the question: what is music to you?

For a lot of us, it has become personal and arguably where the innovation of downloads and streaming has arisen. Are the days gone of what music was? Is it just an industry?

Maybe leave a comment on the socials ;D

Tom