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A. J. Bradley (Wales, UK)

Page: 1
Hold On Now, Youngster...
Hold On Now, Youngster...
Price: 7.57

4.0 out of 5 stars Moments of Genius, 12 Aug 2011
I have felt compelled to write a review for this album for some time. Partly because L.C. are a Cardiff based band and I am from Cardiff and partly because I like to support lesser known bands. But mainly because I keep returning to this album time and time again. There is something about it that keeps calling me back.

I bought this album on the strength of the track Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks which I heard played on the Zane Lowe show on BBC Radio 1 a few years ago. The energy of the song and the infectious tag at the end (one blink for yes, two blinks for no, sweet dreams sweet cheeks, we leave alone) made me stop what I was doing and wonder what the album was like.

On first listening to the album, I was disappointed. Some of the tracks seemed bizarrely titled (This is how you spell "Ha Ha Ha, we destroyed the hopes and dreams of a generation of faux-romantics"), some tracks seemed noisy and hectic (Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats) and others irritated me with their odd lyrics ( e.g. `You said "Send me stationery to make me horny"').

I was just about to eject the CD and relegate it to the Never To Listen To Again box when Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks started to play. It was then that I was reminded of why I had bought the album and of the potential this band has. Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks made me want to jump and dance until I was exhausted and I played it over and over.

After wearing out Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks (word perfect, air guitar perfect, air drums perfect!) I began to explore the rest of the album with more intent. Some of the songs still didn't work for me (Don't Tell Me To Do The Maths) but others began to reveal their beauty like a slow sunrise. You! Me! Dancing! quickly became my outstanding track of the year and probably wore the repeat button out more than Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks. From the slow single chord strums at the start which build and build and build to explode into the first verse right up to the glockenspiel outro, the song is 6mins and 46 seconds of ecstasy and fully deserved its airtime on the Budweiser commercial.

Other moments of genius that have put their hands up over the last few years include the beautiful Knee Deep At ATP which starts off quickly but suddenly turns into a slow and poignant observation of betrayed love (`And I know he took you to the beach, I can tell from how you bite on your cheek every time the sand falls from your insoles').

And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison features a bridge section at 1 min 40 secs that just fills you with hope and happiness. It barely lasts a minute but you can see thousands of stadium-going fans singing it over and over whilst the band turn their microphones off and just keep the beat going.

And the final hidden untitled track is a delightful but short eclectic mix of keyboards, drums, guitars, glockenspiel, strings and what sounds like bagpipes! It fits the bill perfectly as a closing track. I just wish there were more words.

So this album has been an evolution for me. Even today, I still hear something new every time I listen to it. It tells me that sometimes music has to be worked at. That sometimes music is not always obvious. That sometimes music keeps the moments of genius to itself until you have earned the right to hear them. I love this album and can't wait for the next. Long live Los Campesinos!

HTC Desire Sim Free Mobile Phone - Mocha
HTC Desire Sim Free Mobile Phone - Mocha

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Changing, 17 April 2011
This is a review for the HTC Desire mobile phone.

I have had this phone for 2 months now and not a day has gone by where I haven't fallen more in love with it. When I first had it, I was disappointed. The battery barely made it through the day, the call quality was dubious and I could not get used to texting using a screen and not dedicated buttons.

How first impressions do not last! This phone is completely astounding. It's a superpower, a modern wonder, a surfer on the tidal wave of technology.

Let me give you some context for this review. I have never had an i-phone. My previous phone was a 6 year old clunky and chunky Sony-Ericsson. So the comparisons to an i-phone I cannot make. But I can still tell you all that is good about this phone.

First, it is slim. When I put it in my trouser pocket, it feels snug & unobtrusive against my leg. I bought a `barely there' case for it (from Amazon) which adds all of mm thickness but stops it getting scratched. So phone and case combined give me no bulk.

Second, it is fast! I am continually amazed at how quickly technology moves but I was not expecting a phone which can do so much to be so fast. There is no lag. The screens are responsive, apps open up quickly and the phone is a joy to use. It comes pre-packed with a 4GB micro SD card but I'd recommend upgrading early to an 8GB or 16GB card as your phone quickly becomes your mobile computer and you'll be grateful for the extra storage.

Third, the HTC sense operating system is flawless. It gives you 7 home screens. Seven! I can barely fill up three. You can customise to your heart's content and this was a big seller for me. I have the freedom to add apps, add short cuts, add widgets, add links and place them wherever I want on any of the 7 home screens. You can simply flick left or right to move through the home screens or pinch the screen to reveal all 7 home screens shown as thumbnails. Intuitive and quick.

Finally, it is clear that HTC have thought long and had about the design of this phone. The devil is in the detail. If you pick the phone up when it rings and turn it over, it will mute it. The `Friends Stream' app brings together all of the social network sites onto one screen (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc) so you can see what everyone is up to in one place. When you are surfing the web, the web pages automatically resize to fit the text onto the width of your screen - no more scrolling left and right to read. And if the phone is buried deep in your bag, it `knows' this and rings louder. Genius.

So what about the not-so-good stuff? Well, many of the critical reviews on here are aimed at the phone's battery life. It is true, the battery does not last long but this criticism has to be balanced with what the phone is doing. After all, it is running a 1 GHz CPU, providing light for a crystal clear and vibrant screen and running no end of applications. Having played around with ways of preserving the battery life, I recommend doing the following:

- Knock all vibrations, beeps, sounds and flashing lights off
- Do not use animated wallpaper (e.g. flowers moving in the wind)
- Change you wallpaper to a dark colour, or even black
- Reduce the screen brightness to the minimum you can handle
- Attach the `Power Control' app to your home screen and turn off EVERYTHING when you are not using it - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, screen brightness. This saves the battery massively and these things are quick and easy to turn back on using the widget
- Attach the 3G widget to your home screen and turn it off when you are not using it
- Knock off automatic updates and syncs on any apps. This simply means you need to manually refresh when you open up an app (such as Facebook) but it's just the press of a button and it's quite exciting waiting to see what will arrive!

I have found these things have made a huge difference to my battery life. It lasts a day comfortably now, sometimes 2 days if I don't use it much. Failing that, you can purchase batteries for the Desire with increased power on Amazon but they are thicker so come with a new `back' to attach to your phone.

I suppose the second criticism of this phone (well more Android really) is the lack of available good quality applications (cue comparisons to Apple). There are a lot of useless apps out there (want to make your phone sound like a shaver? Download the shaver app!) but equally, there are some very good ones. I have listed the ones that I have found incredibly useful below.

Graffiti - a writing app that lets you use your finger in `gesture' motions to text and write. I use it every day. Great if you don't like the on-screen keyboard.

Pulse - a well thought-out app for bringing together all your news feeds in one place. Fully customisable.

ReadItLater - lets you save web pages to read `offline' later. Great for train journeys when access to the internet comes and goes. It syncs fully with your PC too. Save a page on your PC using the ReadItLater website and it will appear on your phone. Neat.

Lookout - protection for your phone. Works like an anti-virus app, scanning every app to make sure it is safe before downloading. Also helps to find your phone if you lose it. The premium version also offers `remote lock' and `remote wipe' in case your phone gets stolen.

Astro File Manager - gives you access to all your folders and files on your SD card. It's like My Docs for your phone.

Player Pro - a really neat music player. The album art looks fantastic.

Got To Do - I use it every day. If you like to make lists and tick things off, this app is for you! Fully syncs with the Toodledo website.

Simi Folders - a really nice i-phone-esque file manager. Allows you to add an icon to your home screen (such as a football) and then attach all your football related apps to the icon. When you press the football icon, all the apps appear in a horizontal or vertical sliding bar (your choice). Highly customisable, saves space and looks great.

Dolphin Browser HD - a really neat internet browser. Allows multi-tab browsing, quick access to all your bookmarks and quick tasks via `gestures' (e.g. draw a `B' on the screen to save a website to your bookmarks.)

TV Guide UK Lite - access to every programme listing on EVERY channel

Talking Tom - simply the funniest app I've seen.

Dropbox - brilliant for managing and transferring docs and photos between your PC and your phone. Quick and easy.

So that's it. I titled this review `Life Changing' and it's true. This phone makes me more organised, keeps me more informed and gives me more access to a world of information than ever before. I love it. But you have to invest in it. You need to give it the time it deserves to understand it and to make it your own. I would buy this phone a hundred times over.

Case-Mate Barely There Case for HTC Desire - Black
Case-Mate Barely There Case for HTC Desire - Black
Offered by Central Mobile Distribution
Price: 1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars It's like it was made for it, 4 April 2011
I bought this case as I wanted protection for my phone that did not double its thickness! This 'barely there' case certainly does the job, and does it well. It's perfectly designed for the HTC Desire phone. From the small holes in the back of the case that line up perfectly with the speaker holes on the phone to the slightly contoured top that sits flush with the headphone socket, there is no doubt that the manufacturers have custom built this case for the HTC Desire and done a damn good job of it. It gives your phone a slightly exclusive look, unlike those generic cases that 'fit' a variety of phones!

From reading the reviews on Amazon, I was expecting to have to purchase an additional screen protector but not so. The screen protector that comes with it was a doddle to attach. I had no problem with sticky glue and no difficulty peeling of the screen protector and attaching it to the some other reviewers have written about. And the sensitivity of the screen is not affected in the slightest.

Finally, a word of warning. If you are of a clumsy disposition or tend to have fingers made of butter, perhaps you should look elsewhere. Whilst this case is handsome, perfectly formed and barely there, it wouldn't offer much protection if the phone was dropped (or dropped a lot). The corners are protected, sure, but the shock resisting qualities of some of the thicker rubber cases are not there. Ultimately, this case will stop your phone getting scratched (which was my main driver), add just a few millimetres of thickness (which was my second driver) and look very sleek (which was my passenger!)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2011 9:38 AM BST

Panasonic Lumix TZ8 Digital Camera - Black (12.1MP, 12x Optical Zoom) 2.7 inch LCD
Panasonic Lumix TZ8 Digital Camera - Black (12.1MP, 12x Optical Zoom) 2.7 inch LCD

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A diamond in the rough, 27 Mar 2011
This is a review for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 camera.

Towards the end of 2010, I decided to undertake a 365 project from the 1st January 2011. My aim was simply to take one photo a day for a whole year. In order to do this, I needed a camera that was compact, robust and versatile. It also had to give me great picture quality, a good zoom range and be less than 200! After much research, my weapon of choice was the Panasonic Lumix TZ8.

Having used this camera every day for the past 3 months, I feel qualified to review it.

I have to say I have not been disappointed. Panasonic make great cameras and the TZ8 is no exception. Although not the smallest camera on the market (check out the Canon Ixus range for that), it feels well-made and good in your hands. The button layout is well thought out and the menu options are intuitive and easily accessible. One of the most useful buttons is the `Quick Menu' button which gives access to image stabilisation, burst mode, metering mode, white balance, ISO settings, i-contrast and resolution settings. I press this button almost every time I take a picture.

Once in the main menu, you get a staggering amount of options, many of which took me a while to work out. The usual suspects are there - face recognition, picture quality, sensitivity and red eye removal as well as some less common tools such as minimum shutter speed, I.R. resolution and pre AF. For those looking for SLR-esque features, some are included. Notably, manual exposure, shutter speed priority, custom white balance, contrast, sharpness and saturation settings, EV exposure and auto bracketing.

The ability to manually control your own exposure settings is what sold me this camera. It just frees up your creative eye and enables you to do so much more than you could otherwise. After the `Quick Menu', my second most used button is the `S' button on the dial. This allows you to set the shutter speed for anything up 8 seconds. Cue traffic trails, blurred passers-by and light streams. 8 seconds is the maximum however so don't expect to capture 2 hour star trails!

The zoom hungry won't be disappointed. The lens extends to an impressive 12x zoom or 300mm in old money. The image quality at 300mm is surprisingly good. On a bright day with IS switch on, you can get some great results. For the zoom-obsessed, Panasonic have included an `E-Zoom' button which offers a ridiculous 93.8x zoom! It is, however, digital zoom not optical zoom so the image quality dips quite a bit. And don't expect to use it unless you have a tripod to hand, or hands like a tripod!

If you're a fan of close-ups the macro function won't let you down. Whilst the lens won't let you get as near to your subject as some of the Canons will (1cm) the 5cm the TZ8 offers is good enough. In good light, it returns some pretty impressive detail. There is also a `macro zoom' option which lets you get in a closer again, although
this is digital zoom so the image quality dips ever so slightly.

Whilst I am not a user of video, I did try out the video function whilst on a recent snowboarding holiday and I was impressed with the results. The images were crisp and judder free and the sound was good. The ability to zoom in and out whilst filming is a nice touch and not present on all compacts. The inclusion of HD is, of course, practically standard these days and its present here too.

By now you may be wondering why I have given the camera 4 stars and not 5. Well, it does have its flaws.

The biggest frustration for me is its low light ability. As soon as the light fades, the camera seems to default to a shutter speed of of a second, almost every time. Now a of a second doesn't seem like long but try holding the camera still without getting a blurred shot. Of course you have options. Use the flash (I'm not a flash lover), pump up the ISO (I'm not a high grain lover) or use a tripod (it never leaves my side!). I suppose the trade-off for such a good zoom range is a maximum aperture of f3.3 which results in the slow shutter speed in low light.

The second frustration is the timer. I'm a big fan of the timer. When you've set your camera up on a tripod and the exposure is set to 6 seconds, the last thing you want to do is blur the shot by pressing the shutter button too hard. So the timer comes to the rescue. The timer offers you 2 options - 2 seconds and 10 seconds. However, no matter which you use, once the photo is taken; the timer function automatically knocks itself off. So, if you want to take 10 photos using the timer, you have to switch it on 10 times. Frustrating but bearable.

Thirdly, the camera seems to err on the side of underexposure. Not a huge issue as you can simply compensate by altering the EV setting but it is something to watch out for or you'll find yourself forever pushing the exposure slider in Photoshop.

It could be argued that my final point is simply asking too much of a sub 200 compact camera. I would love to see an exposure lock function. Currently exposure and focus are both locked into the shutter button. This is fine 99% of the time but occasionally it doesn't work. For example, if I wanted to expose for a nice red sky but focus on a subject a meter in front of me, it's challenging. Aiming the camera at the sky and half pressing the shutter button captures the colours perfectly but also focuses on the clouds! Aiming the camera at the subject and half pressing the shutter button puts the subject perfectly in focus but doesn't capture the colours of the sky. An exposure lock would solve this. Or alternatively, a manual focus option.

So those are my moans. Overall I love this camera. So far (touch wood) it hasn't let me down and continues to produce stunning pictures. Would I buy it again? Definitely. Every time.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2011 1:00 AM BST

Bang Bang [Us Import]
Bang Bang [Us Import]
Price: 12.26

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only they were still together....., 22 Nov 2008
This review is from: Bang Bang [Us Import] (Audio CD)
Every now and again a band comes along that blows you away and fills your world with a new, fresh breed of music. Unfortunately, this band won't be coming along at all as they have disbanded.....but their music lives on.

I am absolutley amazed that there are hardly any reviews for this band on Amazon. More people should know about Dispatch and this album. I have been listening to this album for near on 3 years and I never tire of it. From the synocopated drum beat and single chord strums of "Here We Go" to the acoustic stacatto strumming of "Bats in the Belfry", this album is 100% genius. Every track is a stand out track, every moment is glorious.

What Dispatch do brilliantly is compose perfect harmonies, write meaningful lyrics and produce a sound that fills you with hope and happiness. You can put this album on and immediately feel better about the world.

I am so sad that Dispatch are no longer together. The music scene has lost an amazing band that was never properly recognised in the first place.

Get this album and you'll never look back.

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