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What We’re Growing And What Works Best For Us – Essentially Pop

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What’s your best gardening success story? Mine has to be strawberries. I want to say they’re practically foolproof but I have been known to kill some plants!

Saying that, once established, they are the gift that keeps on giving! When I planted my first garden at our house back in 2008 I planted some strawberry plants under my apple trees…and just left them. Every year however, until they were finally crowded out by the apples, and then blackberries, blackcurrants, and gooseberries, they gave as much as their little strawberry hearts could give. I think we got our final strawberry crop from this particular set in 2015.

At the start of the pandemic last year, I bought more strawberry plants, and they’ve been happily spreading across my garden, escaping their planters. I’m currently considering cutting some of the runners and potting them up for sale, there’s just so many of them!

I also love soft fruits, and started growing two different varieties of raspberry last year, the normal red sort, and a beautifully sweet golden type. Prolific growers, the golden ones especially produced fruit well into Autumn, and in fact, I was still picking them in November. Both varieties are back with a vengeance this year, and their location directly outside my office means that very few make it into the house…sad times.

Apples, gooseberries, blackcurrants, and also redcurrants are guaranteed prolific crops in our garden. But on the other hand, I’ve had blueberries for nearly as long, and have yet to get a single fruit from them. I’ve expanded my soft fruit empire this summer to include loganberries, jostaberries, tayberries, mulberries (black, and white), gojiberries…and probably a whole lot more I’ve planted and forgotten the names of already!

Here in South East London we have a mild climate, so I decided to try my hand at growing grapes last summer. My two vines surprised me by producing a very tiny bunch between them, before dying back. I’d given them them up for this year, but I’m grateful I didn’t dig them up, as both have burst into leaf this summer. Will they produce grapes again? That remains to be seen.

No piece about fruit and vegetable gardening can go past the old favourites – tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, and the gift that keeps on giving, courgettes (zucchini). I had a mixed result with tomatoes last year; I grew far too many varieties and way too closely together, resulting in losing a lot of fruit to blight. This year I’m trying to trellis my tomatoes, so although I’m still growing just as many varieties, I’m letting them breathe, and I’m also practising good garden hygiene by cutting off all the lower leaves. Peppers on the other hand cropped continuously until November, as did my courgettes, meaning, if I could manage it, those two ingredients found their way into just about every meal. Like the tomatoes, I had mixed results with my peas and beans, but I think that came down to starting too late in the season. This year I started early and have set up bean teepees and the runners are finding their way to their top.

I’ve tried my hand at some new things this year, including globe artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, and asparagus. I’ve even planted out some sweet potato slips, and I’m hoping that our summer will eventually kick in!

We’ve added some more fruit trees to our existing apples, cherry, damson, medlar, Kentish cobnuts, and pear: a Yuzu lemon, and an Australian citrus variety, the finger (or caviar) lime. Both of these have been planted in half barrels up the back corner of the garden, in order to take advantage of the all day full sun.

I’ve also planted three types of self-fertile fig trees in one of my garden beds, and hope to train them over an arch. Our cherry and damson trees have joined the apples in being heavy croppers; the medlar and Kentish cobnuts also seem to be giving it their very best at producing fruit. Only the pear tree doesn’t seem to be enjoying itself, and if it doesn’t get any bigger, we may have to move it for a year and see how it goes.

Do you grow your own fruit and/or vegetables? What’s been your greatest success, and why do you think that was? On the flipside, what have you grown and never want to grow again?

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St. Vincent Covers “Funkytown” For Minions: The Rise of Gru

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Some things in life are inevitable. For a while, that inevitably was a new Shrek movie with an updated pop cover like “I’m a Believer” from Smash Mouth. These days it’s a new Despicable Me movie, this time in the form of spinoff Minions The Rise of Gru. And just as we all predicted, the new Steve Carrell led film comes stacked with a loaded soundtrack headlined by St. Vincent.

For her contribution to the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack, St. Vincent covered “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. Her version was produced by Jack Antonoff and continues a run of luck for the musician that earlier this year saw her win a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

Antonoff also gave St. Vincent a shout-out for her album Daddy’s Home when he won Producer of the Year at the Grammys.

Announcing the release of her funky cover, St. Vincent took to Twitter and wrote, “Excited to say the @Minions (including @jackantonoff) and I have just released our version of ‘Funkytown’ from #TheRiseofGru soundtrack. Shout out to Gru and them…” Included with the post was a graphic of St. Vincent as a minion.

Joining St. Vincent on the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack are Tame Impala, Kali Uchis, Brittany Howard, Thundercat, Caroline Polachek, Diana Ross, and Weyes Blood, just to name a few.

The album will be released on July 1, coinciding with the film’s theatrical release. You can listen to St. Vincent’s cover of Lipps Inc. “Funkytown” below!



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Parmalee Shares The Music Video For Their Top Five US Hit ‘Take My Name’, A Musical Marriage Proposal.

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Back in October of 2021, Parmalee released ‘Take My Name’ as the second single from their third studio album. It was written with and produced by David Fanning, producer of the massive hit ‘Carolina’ that introduced me to the band back in 2008, Ashley Gorley and Ben Johnson. Robyn Collins of ‘Taste of Country’ described the song as “a musical marriage proposal” and lead singer of the band, Matt Thomas, says it was inspired by the marriage of brother Scott; he says “it made me think about what I would want to say to my future wife.”

Some songs almost become bigger than themselves when they tap into the lives and moods of everyone and this is very much one of those songs. It’s not difficult to see why this song has been adopted by fans all over the world irrespective of their taste in music; its words conjure all the romance and love that you’d hope to feel when you ask someone to marry you. It’s lyrically a shopping list of everything you feel at the moment you realise you’ve met the one, even if that’s after only a short time. I remember proposing to my wife after just 8 weeks and if I try to remember what I was feeling at the point I proposed and tried to put it into words I would hope it was very similar to this song. Now over 31 years later and still happily married I listen to this song and it brings all those feelings back in a rush so why wouldn’t it be the perfect song to overlay a proposal, sing at the wedding or just be part of the moment; it’s how I’d love my sons to feel when they propose to their partners. 

Parmalee are very aware of their fans needs and were quick to record a wedding version for such occasions with a less catchy percussion and a softer piano focussed vibe than the original version. There have even been brilliant occasions where the band has turned up to “crash” a wedding and sing this song to the happy couple reminiscent of Maroon 5 and their song ‘Sugar’. None of those guests will forget that wedding in a hurry!

With all the interest in the song and the brilliant videos and messages the band have received, they felt the time was right to make their own narrative video to accompany the song as an addition to the previously released visualizer. The ‘Wedding Version’ video of the romantic song was filmed in Gallatin, TN and directed by Shane Drake. The heart-warming story follows the journey of the protagonist through middle school and all the way to adulthood featuring kids from a local school, an original 1968 Mustang Shelby GT350 and appearances from the band with the lead being played by frontman Matt Thomas.

Matt says:

“From the jump, the fans have really latched onto this song in such an amazing, life changing way- our fans have been the reason for so many of our own major milestones, so it means that much more to us that folks are using our song for their proposals and weddings and allowing us to be a part of those major moments in their lives. We wanted to pay tribute to the fans who have been on this journey with us since the beginning so in the music video you’ll see a story of love and loyalty unfold across the years-but don’t expect to see any weddings or proposals – the fan created videos far exceed anything we could depict. We love watching them.”

With over 135 million global on demand streams, the song has raced up the Country charts, outpacing the band’s previous single, the multinational Number 1 smash ‘Just The Way’ with Blanco Brown and has been popping up all over TikTok with creators playing the song over proposal and wedding videos and even sparking a trend of using the sound of the song and writing “if your man doesn’t make you feel this way then what are you doing?” over the video. 

Parmalee - Take My Name (Official Music Video)

Coming from their recently released album ‘For You’, an album that has garnered critical acclaim with American Songwriter calling it “authentically real, genuinely inspired” and Billboard saying that “Parmalee find itself in the enviable position of being able to tap into multiple audiences”. What is very clear is that Country music is slowly starting to find a new, younger audience in the UK to stand alongside the existing fans of the genre. Zack Bryan has recently found himself high on the Spotify album charts and UK stars like Ed Sheeran have appeared alongside Country stars like Luke Combs at the Country2Country festival. Even Tom Odell has found himself headlining the British Country Music Festival in the Summer. Parmalee may be the band to really break down the barriers between Country music and the UK Charts with this song as the musical genre of this release is far less important than the honesty and emotion of the lyrics and Romance will always break down all of the barriers, or at least I would hope it would.

‘For You’ is out now and can be streamed and downloaded here. Find out more about Parmalee and their music online on their official website.

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Mercedess Releases debut album ‘Casa Fantasia’ along with lead single ‘Summers Already Gone’

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This Copenhagen DIY pop artist has managed the difficult task of mixing her soulful voice with vibrant dreamy production and lyrics with real streetwise attitude. The result is something that has given her the hit single ‘Obvious’ which Danish radio loved and the internationally acclaimed single ‘Back to Business’. Now she is releasing the excellent lead single ‘Summer’s Already Gone’ which sounds very modern Bond in its lo fi production but tells an unusual love story. Not a story about falling in love with a person, but about the love affair that always ends; the affair with Summer.

She says:

“I wanted to write a song that could represent both the fearlessness of the magical Summer days and the truly blue sadness of the re occuring love story it actually is when Summer eventually comes to an end. I know it’s a heartbreaking, melancholy feeling but it’s also everything I love about Summer.”

The song was written in Mercedess’ living room with Danish indie superstar Goss and the guitarist Søren Breum and is produced by the critically acclaimed artist Vera. It allows the velvet of the artist’s voice to tumble over the muted trumpets, break beats and flirty acoustic guitars and strings bringing to life the seasonal heartbreak. 

The fact that it is about the love and anticipation felt for Summer is almost more poignant this year as we embark upon the first free Summer for a few years. The affair with Summer this year promises to be a torrid passionate affair as we’ve been apart so long but the heartbreak of its end will be felt more keenly. This song will be the soundtrack to the affair for sure.

The single is released on the same day as the debut album from this exciting new talent. Mercedess says of the album: “Casa Fantasia is an album about longing for closeness and honesty. These songs are an escape from reality-a place to feel free and be yourself. Writing it was a personal journey and process to me that hopefully will make space for creativity, art and emotions for others too”

The album promises to do just that with the artist’s melancholy and yet warm and dreamy vocals and marks an exciting new chapter for an artist destined to find international acclaim  with this collection of music. Summer may come and go but I’m sure the appeal of Mercedess will be perennial. 

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