The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Blogs

From 2007 to 2010 CLUAS hosted blogs written by 8 of its writers. Over 900 blog entries were published in that time, all of which you can browse here. Here are links to the 8 individual blogs:

09

In these uncertain times, where can you turn for reassurance and sanity? Who will show vision and daring? Who can read the French music scene like a book?

The answer: your CLUAS Foreign Correspondent (Paris).

As we predicted would happen, 'Pays Sauvage' by Emily Loizeau has won the 2009 Prix Constantin for France's best album of the year. The prize was awarded at the end of a ceremony in Paris last night. The victory makes up for Loizeau's defeat in the 2006 edition. That year, her debut long-player, 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde', was shortlisted but lost to slam-poet Abd Al-Malik.

In truth, with Loizeau's so-so second album winning, the 2009 Prix Constantin ran to form. The prize has usually gone to a solo artist making safely-bohemian chanson française with mostly French lyrics, and 'Pays Sauvage' checks all these boxes. In addition, Loizeau's current rustic-flavoured style is representative of a plethora of folk-pop acts enjoying success in France today.

Even though we feel that 'Pays Sauvage' is a step down from the dizzy emotional and creative heights of 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde', we're still happy that she won. Well done.

A new edition of 'Pays Sauvage' has just been released, featured seven of the original songs now sung in English. This ties in with Loizeau's series of U.K. shows later this month. No Irish concert has been scheduled for the moment.

Rather surprisingly, her new single will be a cover of 'Sweet Dreams' by the Eurythmics. Here she is performing the song Nouvelle Vague-style with French singer Arthur H on a recent television show:


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07

Air will play two nights at the Olympia in Dublin, on 23 and 24 February. The shows are part of the French pair's European tour to promote their latest album, 'Love 2'.

We're not really encouraging you to go, of course. This post merely fulfills our commitment to telling you about French acts playing in Ireland. (It's in writing over on the right, just above the blog roll.) 'Love 2' continues Air's recent form in churning out the same old soft-focus retro-futuristic loungecore that you heard and fell asleep to on 'Talkie Walkie' and 'Pocket Symphony', and why would you want to hear more of that? Only continued goodwill towards 'Moon Safari' and the soundtrack to 'The Virgin Suicides' will bring people to these shows.

There are plenty of other more interesting and productive things you can do on those nights instead. The second leg games of the first knockout round of the Champions League fall on 23-24 February, so there'll be decent football on television. If you're not into football or television, you could always read a book or go to the cinema or even do some cleaning. (Did you know that vinegar is great for removing water marks and grease from your kitchen and utensils? Meanwhile, a newspaper is very effective for cleaning windows, but make sure your old fella has finished reading it first.)

You can hear some of 'Love 2' on Air's MySpace page. Here's the 'Sexy Boy'-esque animated video for the new single, 'Sing Sang Sung':

 

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05

It's been a while since we told you about Irish acts playing in France. Were you of such a mind, you could accuse us of neglecting our remit and write a sternly-worded letter to the newspaper. But we'll make up for it now by featuring our gallant boys and girls who are coming to Paris in November.

The Swell Season played the intimate Maroquinerie this time last year but have now graduated to the larger Bataclan on 9 November. You might remember how 'Once' got a warm reception in France, so it's good to see Glen n' Marketa building on that success. From Marketa Irglova to another duo and more adopted Irish: Rodrigo y Gabriela are also going well in France. The Mexican pair have sold out their show at the Casino de Paris on 12 November.

The following night Bell X1 play at the Batofar - one of several boats on the Seine that have been converted into music venues. By coincidence, the Batofar is a former Irish lightship and still painted bright red. That night is Friday the thirteenth so let's hope the boat doesn't sink or isn't haunted by the ghosts of sailors lost at sea.

A few days after that, on 17 November, Dublin retro-rocker Imelda May comes to Paris. She's playing at a venue near Bastille called the Reservoir - we've never been there but presumably it's smaller than the O2 in Dublin she'll try to fill before Christmas. More luck to us: a cosy venue will be a great place to see her.

(On 18 November, of course, there'll be plenty of Irish in Paris. For fear of bringing down the jinx, let us move along swiftly. We'll just add that U2 will play at the same venue, the Stade de France, in September 2010. Apparently the show is already sold out.)

This busy season of Irishness in France begins this weekend with Two Door Cinema Club (right), who are signed to hip Paris-based label Kitsuné.

The three Down lads are on the bill of a high-profile, sold-out touring festival organised by French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles, visiting Lille (6 November), Paris (7 November in La Cigale), Nantes (8 November) and Toulouse (10 November - so they've a day off on the 9th). They'll be supporting Passion Pit, Florence And The Machine and Boy Crisis: La Roux were supposed to be appearing too but have just cancelled due to 'medical reasons'. If La Roux had been there, and at such a small venue, it would possibly have been the greatest line-up in pop history (even though Florence leaves us cold).

Anyway, Two Door Cinema Club make brash and melodic indie-pop; they're very good at it. Their next Irish appearance is a free Mandela Hall concert in Belfast on 17 November - no Free State shows lined up for the moment. Check out their choons at the Two Door Cinema Club MySpace page, and watch the vidjo for 'Undercover Martyn':


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03

The Prix Constantin, France's equivalent of the Mercury and Choice music prizes, will be presented at a ceremony in Paris on 9 November. The winner will be selected by a jury chaired this year by icky-voiced chanson française singer Olivia Ruiz.

A quick recap of the rules: to qualify, an act must have made their album in France and never have attained gold sales status, which in France is currently 75,000 units. (No fear of that these days, says you the cynic.) You don't have to sing in French or even be French: Asa, last year's winner, is Nigerian and sings in English and Yoruba. That said, her victory bucked past form: the winner is usually a solo artist performing a rather unadventurous album that's mostly in French. And this blog's favourite artists never win - non-runners this time round include Emilie Simon, General Elektriks and Kim, while the disappointing albums by Phoenix and Plastiscines didn't get a call-up either.

So, here's a look at this year's shortlist of ten, in reverse order of likely winner.

Sorry, Birdy Nam Nam and Diving With Andy - there's more than one of you, you don't have a word of French on your album and you got great praise from us. Don't go clearing space on the mantelpiece. Facetiousness apart, the pleasant '60s pop of Diving With Andy might be a good long-odds bet but it's hard to see this prize going to BNN out on left-field.

Controversial rapper Orelsan made international headlines during the summer festival season. Local politicians objected to him performing his track 'Sale Pute' (which translates as 'dirty whore'), allegedly glorifying violence against women, at events supported by public funding. His name on the shortlist will gain media attention for both Orelsan and the Prix Constantin and that'll probably be that.

This leaves us with the depressing fact that seven of the ten shortlisted albums for the Prix Constantin can be filed with the coffee-table folk-pop that's popular these days among the Paris bourgeois bohemian set.

Amazingly, there are THREE male English singer-songers on the list. The likeable Fredo Viola brings electronica and a slight indieness to the table. Piers Faccini, drawing on world sounds, also has his charms, while Hugh Coltman's acoustic jazz-pop is fairly bland. But the French will hardly give the goodies to an Englishman... right?

Back to the home contenders: Babx and Yodelice - it must have been a windy day at the baptism font - are up-and-coming male artists in the chanson française genre that prizes wordplay over melodies. Their more established peer Dominique A, familiar to Stephin Merritt fans from his appearance on The 6ths' 'Hyacinths And Thistles', ploughs a deeper furrow of dark, poetic expression that does without fripperies like catchy tunes. Hugely popular and respected in France, he's worth a few bob down the bookies.

And so we come to the only other woman included, besides Diving With Andy's singer Juliette Pacquereau, on a list featuring a rapper accused of misogyny. Now, Emily Loizeau is someone your blogger has raved about fairly often so you'd think she'd be a no-hoper. Ha! In a move of daring ingenuity, she made 'Pays Sauvage' - a rather ordinary album of bandwagonesque folk-pop mostly in French. Solo artist; mainstream sound; lyrics mainly en français - isn't this exactly where the Prix Constantin tends to go? Genius!

So, Emily Loizeau for the win, which would make up for her fantastic 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde' losing in 2006. Each way bets to cover your derrière: Diving With Andy and Dominique A. But we'd really like to see Birdy Nam Nam somehow win this.

The full list of runners and riders, with MySpace links for each, is:

Babx  - 'Cristal Ballroom' [sic]
Birdy Nam Nam - 'Manual For Successful Rioting'
Hugh Coltman - 'Stories From The Safe House'
Diving With Andy - 'Sugar Sugar'
Dominique A - 'La Musique'
Piers Faccini - 'Two Grains Of Sand'
Emily Loizeau - 'Pays Sauvage'
Orelsan - 'Perdu d'Avance'
Fredo Viola - 'The Turn'
Yodelice - 'Tree of Life'
 

And here's Emily Loizeau, the favourite in the parade ring, with 'Sister':


 

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29

You might recall, if you've been around here long enough, that in 2006 we featured the 'Paris Calling' compilation of new young French garage rock bands. A surprisingly high proportion of them seemed to have attended the 2003 Paris concert by The Libertines and copied the London band's scuzzy retro-punk sound. Mainly middle-class teenagers from comfortable suburbs, they were lumped together by a cynical French music media as 'babyrockers' - which betrays the middle-age status and mentality of many in the music press here. ("Young people being in bands! Not in my day they were!")

PlastiscinesOne of these bands actually met and formed at that Libertines gig. However, Plastiscines (right) immediately distinguished themselves from their Doherty-worshipping peers. For one thing, they were a group of four girls: the other bands were mostly young lads in thrall to the immature and cliched Ramones-style gang image. Also, they were happy to play at being glamorous pop stars, appearing in photoshoots for fashion glossies as well as music mags. And they sounded nothing like the other bands - their reference points were The B-52s, Sleater Kinney and such U.S. punk-pop, with a hint of '60s Frenchness for local colour.

Most importantly, Plastiscines did it very well: their 2007 debut 'LP1' was crammed with snappy, catchy, charismatic songs befitting independent-minded young people. Unfortunately for them, heavy promotion for the record's French release seemed to weary the mainstream public and embolden the band's humourless muso critics. Their drummer quit and so did her replacement. This bad luck at home was tempered by well-received shows in North America, naturally more receptive than conservative France to girls playing electric guitars.

So, their second album has just come out and feels like it's aimed at a U.S. market: 11 of the 12 songs are in English and the band recently appeared in two episodes of hit series 'Gossip Girl'. However, 'About Love' is seriously disappointing - it feels like merchandise rather than music and that's always a symptom of the dreaded second album syndrome.

Many songs here sound like formulaic rehashes of familiar alt-rock. For instance, first single 'Barcelona' has hints of The White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army' about it. Other tracks are half-ideas and quarter-ideas stretched beyond breaking: a song called 'Bitch', where singer Katty Besnard lists various ways in which she is the eponymous disagreeable female, is particularly dumb and depressing in this regard.

But the most unpleasant surprise about this record is how lifeless and boring it sounds. The charm, personality and swagger of their debut songs have disappeared. This could be any band, any uninspired or derivative guitar group: Plastiscines seem to have come down to the level of their 2006 babyrocker peers.

Oh well. You can check for yourself on Plastiscines' MySpace page. Here's the video for 'Barcelona':


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26

Yesterday, Monday 26 October 2009, this blog ran (and completed) its very first Marathon. It was a day of extreme highs and lows and one that I'll probably never forget.  I know for sure that my right knee won't let me forget anytime soon.

As I reached the start line at 8.30, the air was heavy with the smell of fear and deep heat.  Nervous pleasantries were exchanged between competitors amidst final stretches and photographs.  Everyone wanted to know what time everyone else wanted to achieve.  If I could do it in less that 4 hours, 30 minutes, I'd be very happy.  If I could somehow find the adrenalin to do it in less than four then I'd be ecstatic!  As the 9.00 start time approached, my emotions began to get the better of me, not because of the 26 miles, 385 yards ahead of me, but because of the hundreds of miles I'd put in beforehand and, of course, the very reason I was doing this in the first place, in memory of my Father-in-law, Alan Smyth.  

However, once the starting gun went all nerves quickly disappeared and I settled in to a nice pace of 9.30-9.45 minute miles for the first 5 miles.  It was hard not to think about the difference between the first time I attempted 5 miles, when I was sure I'd have to call some sort of cardiac ambulance, and today.  Indeed, miles 4-8, through the Phoenix Park, are perhaps the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on.  The colours of the trees, the enthusiastic crowds, the fact that I was, without very much effort, on course for possibly a 4 hour marathon added a spring to my step that made me feel like the greatest distance runner in the world.  

That being said, as good as I felt exiting the Chapelizod Gate, I realised that I wasn't sweating very much and so I took some time to load up on water and energy drinks at the next water station.  Mile 8 to 9, which included the impossibly steep St. Laurence Road, was by far the toughest of the race so far but as I made my way through miles 9-13 I seemed to get a second wind.  I was now running a pretty good pace and still had the 4 hour pace balloons in sight.

However, as I crossed the half way mark in 2 hours, 1 minute and 14 seconds, and began to dream of upping the pace and overtaking the pacemakers between miles 13-18 (and before I hit the dreaded wall), I heard what can only be described as a loud snap in my head and almost immediately came to a shuddering halt given the pain that was now emanating from my right knee. I couldn't believe it.  This was the same knee I suffered a grade 2 ACL tear in during training (causing me to miss 8 weeks in total) but which hadn't caused me any real trouble for over 6 weeks.  

I made my way as quickly as I could to the nearest first aid area where I was strongly advised to call it a day.  That was NEVER going to happen, not after coming this far.  The first aid guys applied as much deep freeze as they could before advising me one more time to consider leaving the race.  Stubbornly, I still refused, saying that I'd give it another couple of miles and see where it took me.  All in all, I spent over 21 minutes getting treatment and stretching and so any hope of a sub four hour marathon were well any truly gone.

Indeed, after about a mile of very light jogging I relalised that time was no longer an issue.  It was now all about ignoring the pain in my right knee (akin to replacing your knee joint with a testicle and running on it for 12 or so miles), and just finishing the race.  To be honest, I wasn't sure I could but as mile after mile passed by I could sense the finish line and that, plus a brilliantly supportive crowd, kept me going, even through miles 18-24 when I seemed to spend most of the time trying not to cry, both from the pain and the feeling that I'd let myself and others down because of this injury.

Somehow, and from somewhere, I picked up the courage to run, as fast as I could, the last 2 miles, 285 yards in the hope of finishing in less than 5 & a half hours.  Seeing Mrs Key Notes, her mum and my own Mum and Dad, as I struggled through the last mile, gave me a huge emotional and physical boost and as I crossed the line I was so overcome with the emotion of the whole experience that I almost, almost, forgot about the pain for a moment.  Officially, my time was 5.46.14 but, as I took 21 minutes out for treatment, I'm giving myself an unofficial time of 5.25.14.  

Not that it matters, of course, I finished a marathon, essentially on one leg, and that, as everyone has since told me, is all that really matters.  That and getting to the doctor today!

Should you wish to sponsor me, there is still time so please check out my MyCharity Page.


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25

Another day, another post about Serge Gainsbourg. But how can we help it? The man still exerts a profound influence on French and international pop music. Besides, even almost two decades after his death, he's still making news.

The poster for 'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)' by Joann SfarWhile exclusively revealing that the former Gainsbourg-Birkin residence lies in the shadow of Chateau French Letter, we mentioned in passing that a film has been made of Gainsbourg's life. Well, the first brief trailer has appeared in French cinemas, so we'll take the opportunity to tell you more.

'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)' - the part in brackets means 'heroic life' - will be released on 10 January 2010. It is directed by Joann Sfar, and is an adaptation of the director's own graphic novel about Serge. (By 'graphic novel' we mean a long-form comic book, not a saucy piece of prose.) The story begins with young Lucien Ginsburg, a Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied Paris, and ends with Gainsbarre, a drunken boor making a show of himself on '80s TV shows. Most importantly, though, in the middle it features Serge Gainsbourg, who made some of pop's most thrilling records.

The lead role is taken by theatre actor Eric Elmosnino, who has transformed himself into an uncanny double of the great man. Other parts go to more recognisable French screen players: award-winning young actress Sara Forestier plays France Gall; Laetitia Casta plays Brigitte Bardot and Anna Mougalis plays Juliette Greco.

As for the role of Jane Birkin, that's a story in itself. Gainsbourg's most famous creative and romantic partner is played by Lucy Gordon, an English actress who appeared in Spiderman 3 and a few lower-profile films. However, on 20 May of this year, two days before her 29th birthday and shortly after the final cut of the movie was screened privately, Gordon hung herself in her Paris apartment. Unconfirmed reports suggest that she had been deeply affected by the suicide of a friend.

Of course, mere impersonation isn't going to make for a good movie. Gainsbourg's complex nature and extraordinary story provide a considerable challenge for Sfar and his first film as a director.

Here is the 40-second trailer for 'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)'. Elmosnino, wreathed in smoke, perfectly captures the surprising effeminacy of late-'60s Serge. (This 1965 TV interview shows similar flickers of campness in Gainsbourg.) Gordon, for her part, does a good take of young Birkin the doe-eyed ingenue and improbable scandaliser of a generation. No prizes for guessing which piece of music soundtracks this clip:


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22

Much has been made here in France of Phoenix and their growing popularity in North America, with reference to two sold-out shows in New York's Central Park at the end of last month. However, these weren't huge outdoor events on the scale of, say, Paul Simon's legendary shows in 1981 and 1991 - the French band's gigs were in an area of the Park called the Rumsey Playfield as part of a cultural series called SummerStage.

Similarly, you may also have seen Justice and their 2008 documentary 'A Cross The Universe', which chronicled their eventful U.S. tour. (Highlights include a quickie marriage and an arrest for assault.) That pair's spiritual forefathers were celebrated in LCD Soundsystem's fantastic 2005 single 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House'. And celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has taken under his wing a French singer called Sliimy, a cross musically and physically between Mika and Prince. So, pop from France has found a niche in the American music scene.

Ooh La L.A.!Attempting to build on this, while Phoenix were rocking New York a dedicated French music festival called 'Ooh La L.A!' took place in Los Angeles. As reported by Les Inrockuptibles, three shows took place over the weekend of 23-25 September at the Henry Fonda Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

(And yes, French people really do say "ooh la la!" - though it seems to us that the most common users are irate drivers and excitable sports commentators. At the risk of destroying your image of France, it's not really something a pouty Parisian model or extrovert Breton villager would utter.)

The first night's bill featured Sebastien Tellier, still telling the unfunny joke that is his 'Sexuality' album. (However, as we reported last February, his live show is worth the ticket price just to hear him play the wonderful 'La Ritournelle'.) Also playing were a French Letter favourite - Cocoon, the Clermont-Ferrand folk-pop duo who've become hugely successful in France. (How could you not be charmed by an album called 'My Friends All Died In A Plane Crash' and released on a label called Sober And Gentle?)

And then there was piano-pop artist Gonzales. Real name Jason Beck, he's actually Canadian but following a few years in Berlin he's now resident in France. He produced both 'Let It Die' and 'The Reminder' for Feist. On 18 May he set a world record by performing a solo concert that lasted 27 hours, 3 minutes and 44 seconds. And his piano-playing hands were cast as those of Serge Gainsbourg in the forthcoming biopic on the great man, though we read that his contribution hasn't made the final cut.

Unfortunately his recent music is nowhere near as interesting as those little pieces of trivia. But back in 1999 and 2000 he released some catchy tunes on the Kitty-Yo label, the best of which was a slinky single called 'Let's Groove Again'.

Rather appropriately, the second night of the festival starred Hollywood Mon Amour (the '80s movie theme version of Nouvelle Vague) and Franco-Finnish indie duo The Dø, whose singer Olivia Merilahti is quite irritating. Sadly, French Letter favourite Emilie Simon had to cancel for personal reasons (a bereavement, apparently) and she was replaced by Soko, the acoustic singer-songer whose track 'I'll Kill Her' became something of an internet hit.

The final night of 'Ooh La L.A!' was dedicated to French electronica. Brodinski and The Shoes are both from the north-eastern city of Reims, also home to Yuksek, while Jamaica are a Parisian duo formerly known as Poney Poney (not to be confused with fellow French bands Poney Express, Poni Hoax or Pony Pony Run Run).

Aside from the electronica/Reims clique, you'd be hard pushed to construe any kind of coherent French scene from the 'Ooh La L.A!' line-up. For one thing, none of the artists currently perform in French, apart from the absent Emilie Simon's previous album, 'Végétal'. Still, it's a good time for French bands to head for America. And, combined with annual global Fête de la Musique celebrations such as Let's French in Dublin, world domination seems to be on the agenda.

We've already raved at length about Cocoon and Emilie Simon so here's that Gonzales song we mentioned earlier, 'Let's Groove Again':


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21

You might remember that the top album in our Best French Music of 2008 list was 'Don Lee Doo' by Kim.

Kim live at the Maison Aquitaine in Paris, 21 October 2009Well, the Bordeaux electro-popper has just released the follow-up - his 18th long-player in only 15 years and he's still a young man. Fortunately, in the case of Kim Stanislas Giani, quality is quantity: 'Mary Lee Doo' is another cracker. (It even has its own charming little video trailer.)

You may have guessed from the title that this new record shares a theme with its predecessor - apparently it's the second part of a trilogy. And there's certainly some continuity in sound; Giani clearly still loves classic Prince and Kate Bush and, says you, what more recommendation could you want?

 Well, there's even more reason to check out the new Kim album. 'Mary Lee Doo' isn't just a tribute to '80s electro-pop - there's a more romantic and wistful feeling created with non-electronic instruments like bass and acoustic guitar. 'Solid Rock' has a breezy '60s feel and the excellent 'Solenn' shares the driving '70s groove of Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours'.

And it's not all retro influences: 'Never Come Back 2 U' may have a Prince-ly title but it sounds more like contemporary U.S. R n' B, as does album closer 'Move On'.

Kim recently played a special show at the Aquitaine tourism and cultural centre in Paris. (Bordeaux is in the Aquitaine region, you see.) Starting off behind a table of small vintage keyboards and electronic devices (including one that seemed to be just a random array of grey plastic buttons), he then moved onto acoustic guitar (above right) and eventually even shunned the microphone. Point being: his songs work without electricity, which is handy in the storm-battered south-west of France. But then he hopped over to the retro synths again for the smashing 'Radio Grady'.

You can check out Kim's tunes, past and present, at his MySpace page or website. No video for any of the 'Mary Lee Doo' tracks yet, so here's something off 'Don Lee Doo' to give you a flavour of Kim - 'When The River Turns Around':


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20

Skinny and Bloated websites in IrelandA pet peeve of mine is bloated websites: site with pages that are so stuffed with images and widgets that they take too long to download, even on broadband. Over our 10 years of operations CLUAS .com has continually tried to keep things lean and mean when it comes to page size (indeed CLUAS, as far as I am aware, remains Ireland's lightest – and hence fastest – music website).

Back in 2008 I had a good old rant about bloated Irish websites (specifically about Music and Technology blogs). Another indulgent rant is long overdue, this time I've fixed my attention on the winners at the recent 2009 Irish Web Awards. Are the best Irish websites of 2009 a lean and mean bunch, or are they a morbidly obese bunch? Read on...

The table below presents the results of an analysis of all 21 sites that won an award at the Irish web awards in terms their page size as reflected in:

  • the total size of their home page, and
  • the total number of files that need to be downloaded (also know as number of "HTTP requests") to create the page.

The 3 colour-coded categories in the table correspond as follows:

  • "The Skinny": ("Optimal balance of page size and http requests")
  • The Bloated: ("Just too much going on in terms of page size and http requests")
  • "The Bonkers": ("Inexcusably massive number of HTTP requests coupled with an utterly obese page size")

The Irish Web Award 2009 winners, categorised by payload

Site Winner of Irish web award for… Number of HTTP requests Total size of page (KB)
The Persuaders Best Podcaster 9 123 KB
Kildare Street Best New Web App/Service 11 148 KB
RTE Sport Best Sports Site 34 167 KB
CLUAS.com (did not win, just shortlisted) 30 168 KB
Silicon Republic Best Technology Site 44 217 KB
Count Me Out Best Social Media Campaign 32 240 KB
Curious Wines Best eCommerce site 45 266 KB
Talk Irish Best Education site 40 271 KB
RTE Most Useful Website 61 295 KB
Entertainment.ie Best Entertainment Website 91 350 KB
Look and taste Best Videocaster 35 432 KB
Boards.ie Best Discussion forum 23 468 KB
Cars Ireland Best Practice 100 540 KB
Decisions for Heroes Most Innovative Website 68 708 KB
Nos Mag An Suíomh Gaeilge is Fear 64 729 KB
Rose Project Most Accessible Website 44 792 KB
Phantom FM Best Radio Website 145 560 KB
IDA Ireland Best Govt. & Council site 175 655 KB
Irish Times Best Online Publication 151 832 KB
Organic supermarket Most Beautiful Website 71 1376 KB
Nialler9 Best Music Site 100 1387 KB
Dance Ireland Best Arts Website 62 2053 KB

Note: The data above is based on visits to these sites on 14 Oct 2009, page size of any site may have changed since then.

 

Seeing a whole load of data listed in a table is one thing. Presenting it in a chart is another, and can often make it easier to understand what is going on across a diverse set of data. So I plotted the results of each individual website on a chart in an effort to extract some more immediate and meaningful results from this analysis. The chart (see it below, where each dot represents one of the websites) has the number of HTTP request along the X-axis, the total size of the home page on the Y-axis. The general trend of the plotted data (that'll be the blue line rising gently upwards, my Leaving Cert Physics teacher would be proud of me) confirms what you'd expect, i.e. that the greater the number of HTTP requests a web page makes, the larger the size of that web page. However it's also easy to pick out from the chart which sites are skinny (hello to the sites that managed to squeeze into the box way down there in the most bottom left part of the graph) and which are bloated. And then there are those outlying sites which are just just barking when it comes to page size and number of HTTP requests...

Graph of Irish websites, page size versu HTTP requests

Pity your poor browser - and internet connection – if you hit one of these 'bonkers' sites. For these 6 sites we're talking an average payload of 1.17 megabytes of data to be downloaded via an average of 104 HTTP requests!? Take the worst offender in terms of page size – danceireland.ie. Their home page is made up of 2MB of data (I repeat: 2 megabytes) to be downloaded. If you're on an iPhone and visit their home page, this single page will consume 7% of the daily bandwidth your phone company has allocated you (based on the monthly limit of 1GB of data afforded by O2 to iPhone customers in Ireland). One single solitary web page consuming 7% of your daily download allowance? Truly. Madly. Deeply. Bonkers.

The 8 'bloated' award winners? They are only somewhat better than their bonkers brethren. Between them they impose an average payload on visitors of 455 KB of files to be downloaded via an average of 70 HTTP requests.

But it's hats off to the 6 'skinny' sites (that'll be 5 of the 2009 Irish Web Award winners plus gatecrasher CLUAS.com) who all manage to keep their page size to less than 300kb while keeping the number of HTTP requests to less than 50. Between them they average a modest 265 KB of files to be downloaded per page via an average of 31 HTTP requests. Needless to say, thanks to our ongoing dietary efforts, CLUAS is among these 8 skinny sites, and our page size of 168KB means we clock in as the 4th lightest of the 22 sites.

Two concluding pleas:

  • Plea 1: Could all webmasters run their websites through one of the many free online tools that check the overall size of a page (I recommend the one offered by the WebsiteOptimization.com guys). If comes out at over 500KB get pruning. Remove some heavy images or chunky widgets on your page to get it down to a reasonable size.

  • Plea 2: Both the size of a webpage - and the number of HTTP requests the page makes - should be standard judging criteria in any web awards. Placing a carrot like that in front of any website owner who aspires to being recognised by his/her peers with an award for their site is one way to help focus minds on this often overlooked but important aspect of user experience, whether the user be connected via broadband or dialup. (...Of course it never crossed my mind that if super light CLUAS.com were ever to be up for consideration of an award with such an additional judging criteria, that our chances might get a bit of a lift...).

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Nuggets from our archive

2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.