03 January, 2010


As briefly as I can... a fair old time ago Sarah posted a nice quote (near the end) about films experienced in a different age, when films would move from town to town. The watchers would be aware that a film would be unlikely to return to their town and would watch it multiple times in a number of days, trying to commit them fully to memory. They would come away with their own 'versions' of the film. The presentation of film was different, so they thought about it totally differently.

I remember reading Steve Albini say once on an internet forum, while he was outspokenly criticising Burial in particular and electronic music in general, that he no longer had to listen to old punk records, that he had fully absorbed them, taken from them everything he could. It seemed this was emphatically distinct from not enjoying them. I think maybe he meant there would be nothing to gain, and even that enjoying the songs again, that doesn't count, the point is that they are already part of him and he can go forward with them, but without listening again. I searched for the quote but couldn't find it, I would really like to read that exchange again. Maybe this too is a way of sucking art dry to carry it with you. This is not what I meant to write about.

02 January, 2010

Girls In The Field

How's listening to Radio 4 going, dude? Well, pretty much the same as my relationship with any radio station actually – intrigue seeped in impotent fury. The same incomprehending rage that Danny Boyle diagnosed as the plague of the 21st Century.

This morning the Today programme was guest edited by one-time SDP rebel and now Lib Dem life peer Shirley Williams. One issue she chose to bring attention to was the relative lack of coverage of women's team sports, when compared both to men's sports in general and women's achievement in individual sports. To this end, an interview with Lynne Truss was aired.

This is a question that has always interested me, as a devoted sports fan. Once upon a time, I didn't understand why women don't play much sport and compete against men (I was told, and fully believed, men and women were equal). I wondered whether sport could provide a route for re-sculpting gender roles. I was outraged as anyone when FIFA's pig-in-chief Sepp Blatter suggested women's football should capitalise on its good-looking practitioners (“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball.”)

Latterly, however, I just wonder whether sport is my blind spot, a vice as unforgivable as that of the life-long labour-voting professional with a fondness for first nights. The widely-gawped-at case of Caster Semenya over the summer went some way to cementing my feelings that I can never satisfactorily sync my fanatical love for sport with any leftward-leaning values I try to uphold. Anyway, I'm interested. I have produced some disorganised rambling. You can listen to the interview again here. If you prefer to read, and for long-term reference, I have hastily transcribed most of what was said. All emphasis and grammatical errors are mine:

01 January, 2010

A Selection Of Albums, 2009

If it interests the reader, I have catalogued the statistics accumulated on my Last.fm profile here. It gives an idea of what I actually listened to this year on my computer. It will be a bit skewed.

It's with sort of a morbid curiosity that I read end of year best-of lists. It's a stupid thing to do, in fairness. If it wasn't fun, and basically harmless to boot, it would be poison. I don't really understand The Wire's obligatory annual inclusion of a couple of albums from spheres of music they don't even cover during the year (see: Vampire Weekend, Dirty Projectors). Pitchfork have their ridiculous 25 “Honorable Mentions,” which they say “are not simply records #51-75 in our poll; rather, they're albums that we think deserve a bit more praise and notice.” I'm confused right there, and I want to meet the person that makes sense to. Last year Plan B stated something like “we don't believe in ranking music, so we haven't put our list of top albums of 2008 in any particular order.” Fine. But. YOU MADE A FUCKING LIST ALREADY.

Lastly, an inescapable point: The Wire, Plan B, Pitchfork, BBC Radio 3, NPR, Tim Westwood, Steve Lamacq, Walter Schreiffels and Steve Davis could all get together and name The XX's effort Album of 2009, for all I care. My relation to it will remain roughly the same as the Pope's to gays.

Everything about making music lists is petty, painful, unsatisfying, incorrect, nonsense, and ultimately FUN. A good reason not to give your list an order is because it's difficult, takes time, and you're not being paid for this, so you want it to only take an hour. Last year I had tremendous difficulty narrowing it down to two 10-album tiers and 6 “honorable mentions” (haha). This year, I thought I'd barely listened to a thing from 2009, until I picked up a pen and paper. It turns out that I did. Now, I'm reasonably certain I could list 50 decent albums. But that is not the point either. So here goes with 25 that make most sense to me.

I will also list some of the glaring omissions that spring to mind that make it obvious how meaningless proceedings here have been, and a handful of disappointments. Everything that follows is alphabetically ordered for sake of maximum fairness.


A top 10:

CalifoneAll My Friends Are Funeral Singers (Polished, perfect, top-form Califone album.)

Harlem ShakesTechnicolour Health (Irresistible and unashamed indie-pop in the vein of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.)

JapandroidsPost-Nothing (Crash, crash, singalong, shout, smile, wallop.)

John FruscianteThe Empyrean (Thoroughly immersive and exhaustive concept album.)

Les EtoilesTo Leave A Mark (Heartfelt songs bear a heavy load of family history.)

The Blue Angel LoungeThe Blue Angel Lounge (Debut from superb Velvet Underground-inspired German psychedeliacs.)

The Love LanguageThe Love Language (Debut album of gorgeous romantic songs flies by)

These Are PowersAll Aboard Future (Confrontational, strangely alive avant/noise-pop.)

The ThermalsNow We Can See (Rattles through 11 great pop-punk songs. Fun.)

ShapesThe Pasture, The Oil (22-minute dose of jagged shout-along, some carnage.)

A further 10:

All The Empires Of The WorldBlessings (Biased? Maybe a little. But enjoying the hell out of this thoroughly OTT doom/ambient album is no stretch.)

Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion (Consider: MPP actually met the hype.)

Bat For LashesTwo Suns (Consistently crafting lush pop with measured magic.)

BusdriverJhelli Beam (Inimitable lightning vocals and great production.)

DalekGutter Tactics (Hip-hop sunk deep into industrial noise territory. Mesmerising menace.)

Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca (Haha, 10-word summary, funny. Fun. Jawdropping. Hard to grasp.)

Micachu & The ShapesJewellery (Couldn't stuff more genius or annoyance into these pop fragments.)

Nosaj ThingDrift (Stunning glitch, bliss and crunch on this debut album.)

The Mount Fuji Doomjazz CorporationSuccubus (Whoa. Roving jazz instrumentals and impenetrable dark ambient.)

WavvesWavves (Teen goth beach party. The record that launched a thousand (shitty) mimics.)

“Honorable Mentions:”

A City Safe From SeaThrow Me Through Walls

Amen DunesDia

Peaking LightsImaginary Falcons

Teeth Of The SeaOrphaned By The Ocean

The London ApartmentsSignals & Cities Are Forever


ThemselvesCrownsdown (I just really hate the production, and it sounds awfully forced.)

Silversun PickupsSwoon (I don't know if it's my fault or theirs, but this seemed flat.)

Condo Fucks (aka Yo La Tengo) – Fuckbook (This is just not an interesting kind of music for me.)

Bill CallahanSometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle (Dreary. I'm not even all that easily bored.)

Yet to hear (and actually do want to track these down this time):

Alasdair Roberts (Have had a very strong recommendation. Soon!)

Broadcast & The Focus Group (The Wire's AOTY has got to be worth a shout, surely!)

Do Make Say Think

epic45 (Only just found out they had a new one, thanks Dave!)

Flaming Lips

Fuck Buttons


Grizzly Bear (!!! Honestly, when it came out, I just wasn't in the mood. I will rectify this soon.)


Jim O'Rourke


Six Organs of Admittance

Sonic Youth (And I was actually psyched for this, but it came out in a hellish month of stress)

Sunn o))) (Have in fact bought this, but it hasn't arrived yet.)

Vic Chestnutt


Wow, that's a lot of names and stuff dropped by a serial and heinous namedropper. It only remains to say that I bet I didn't even hear a lot of the good stuff last year and boy do I sink in fear and nausea when I think about all the music that will be released in 2010. When I realise how much talent and effort there is out there and how much I have not yet heard, and how in every moment more and more is piled onto the backlog. Like a character in a book who pleads, No! Don't add to the levels of existence that are already in being presently. Don't make the world more real and its grip upon us more fierce. That is where the nausea comes from in the first place. Of course, I do not really want for these people to stop making music, not at all. But it does scare me.

(Oh, and to say that you should go to the Records On Ribs website and download the albums released last year by Les Etoiles, All The Empires Of The World, Sweet Potato, Talk Less Say More and Blue Ducks which are either listed above or were very good nonetheless.)