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I have something a little different for you today – a musical post.
For a while now, I’ve been intending to put together a list of the songs we’ve come to associate with our move to Portugal.
Most of the time, our home runs on music. Sometimes many days can pass without the TV being switched on, but the iPod dock is in constant use.
Some of this music isn’t necessarily to our normal taste, but certain songs have become intrinsically linked with our move to Portugal – to leave them out would mean failing to tell the whole story – so don’t judge us on all of them!
Emma Bunton – “Free Me” (Album)
Yeah, yeah, let’s get all the “Ben loves the Spice Girls” giggling out the way. As my closest friends will know, I’ve always had a soft spot for a little girl power.
All joking aside, if I had to choose one album that makes me think of our early weeks in Portugal, it would be this. It may seem odd that someone who knows about all kinds of obscure house, soul and hip-hop places this in his top ten albums of all time, but it’s true.
It’s a beautiful chunk of Motown-tinged pop that never gets dull. It reminds me of sunny afternoons driving around the Algarve, and long days of cooking in our first house in Tavira, where over a decade of London tension first began to thaw away.
Marvin Gaye – “I wanna be where you are”
OK, I’d better find something a little more highbrow and credible for my next choice, so here we have Marvin Gaye.
This is from a quite obscure B-sides album, and is a simple groove as much as a song – but what a groove it is, with strings and brass that I could, quite literally listen to all day long.
This is my “work done, wine poured, time to peel the prawns” tune. My wife, who doesn’t really do soul music, merely tolerates it.
Odyssey – “Native New Yorker”
My life would be incomplete without this track. I associate it with having visitors staying in Portugal with us and have been surprised by how many friends were already familiar with it.
I also (girly moment) remember shedding a tear upon hearing the line “where did all those yesterdays go” in the hours after my mum had left to return to England after her first Christmas visit to Portugal. Hearing it now, I’m reminded that this time next week I will actually be on my way to New York!
Mambana – “Libre”
I could easily write a separate post listing all the Latin house tunes that I associate with our life in Portugal, but that would bore everyone to death, so I consulted my wife as to which to include.
To me this song is all about driving down the Algarve’s N125 road on the way to a beach, often with a couple of mates in the back of the car. Hearing it now is enough to give me goose bumps in advance of this summer.
Thick Dick – “Insatiable”
This is a house tune that I remember from my clubbing days. A couple of years ago this Balearic-tinged version appeared, complete with its laid-back Spanish guitar sounds.
It’s a track that’s equally as perfect through the headphones by the pool as it is blasting in the car on the way to a night out. It featured heavily in our summer last year. It’s basically summer distilled into five minutes – which is a good thing.
The Milk – “B Roads”
Right, time to man up with something a little more guitar-based. The Milk’s album, “Tales from a Thames Delta” was one of my highlights of last year and our car soundtrack for several months.
It’s a track that tends to come out when we’ve got too much to do and feel a bit up against it: “you gotta live on the run, or you’ll die young” is quite an inspirational message!
Jay-Z and Kayne West – “Clique”
This tune makes me think of my young mates in our local town, and of a few mad nights out. Lou (my wife) loves it too, earning it a place on this list.
Over-the-top swag hip-hop, complete with lots of sweary lyrics. Parental discretion is advised.
Oddisee – “Hustle Off”
Oddisee is a hip-hop artist I discovered last year. His album “People Hear What They See,” was the iTunes hip-hop album of the year for 2012.
This track isn’t actually on the album, it’s more of an obscurity, but the “sometimes you just gotta turn your hustle off” message is very resonant for those of us who’ve decided to slow down our pace of life.
The Nextmen – “Whisper Up”
A list of songs related to our move to Portugal wouldn’t be complete without some poolside reggae. “Whisper Up” is a quirky little number that I doubt many people are familiar with – but it’s instantly appealing and often causes people to ask “what’s this?”
Fierce Collective – “Baker Street”
This is Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” turned into shameless handbag-house. I was never a massive fan of the original (other than always whistling it whilst walking through Baker Street tube station).
This version, however, I discovered during a particularly crappy week of work in London, and it came on my iPod while I was on the Gatwick Express en route back home to Portugal. I’d never previously realised the lyrics were all about swapping city life for something rather more like ours. By the time I pulled into Gatwick train station and reached the “you’re going home” line, I was nearly crying for joy with the certainty that we’d done the right thing by moving to Portugal.
Michel Telo – “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”
You may know this one. It’s a Portuguese (Brazillian) song that has reached number one in 16 European countries. However, it’s not so well known in the UK, where, as recent events prove, they don’t really like joining in with everyone else.
This song reminds me of summer days and nights out, and it always delights me when I hear English expats sing it…in Portuguese.
The Quiet Boys – “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”
I had to include this song. The dilemma was which version, as I seem to uncover a different one every couple of months. Any one of them is perfect for playing quietly in the background whilst floating in the swimming pool (made from a converted irrigation tank) at our family’s place nearby.
I’ve gone for this acid jazz flavoured version, but I apologize to Roy Ayers for not choosing his. I have, however put the Roy Ayers version here as my choice is the one item on this list too obscure to find on YouTube.
Compiling this list of twelve songs has been a really enjoyable (and at times emotional) experience. I have no doubt that over the coming days I’ll think of countless other tunes I should have included. But I still feel that this list provides a good representation of the soundtrack of our life in Portugal. I hope you enjoy it.