Reading habits – January 2014

I should probably write proper reviews of some of these, but for now I will just make a list.

Ken McClure – The Secret
Adrian Barnes – Nod
Anne O’Brien – The Virgin Widow
Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch
Jon Ronson – The Psychopath Test
Scott Stossel – My Age of Anxiety

I also made a Spotify playlist of music released this year, to help me remember what I’ve listened to.

Christmas projects

I have all sorts of things planned this Christmas, some of which may happen and some of which may take a little longer to reach fruition.

  • Albums of the year (which I always do), and which will be ready on or around 31st December.
  • One movie a day, where I will watch one decent movie a day, and list them all with a few notes on why I chose them and how they all fit together.
  • A writing project, which I’ve started, and which might end up being a “one poem a day” type exercise.

It is good to have some time to work on this sort of thing, and I’m hopeful it will redress the balance a little after a year of too much work, too much responsibility and not enough creativity.

Music that is currently rocking my world

I often get asked to recommend music, which I’m often very bad at because I know from experience that a lot of what I listen to might not be to everyone’s taste. But if I was recommending some music from this year (or from recently but that I largely discovered this year) then my list would look something like:

Shearwater – Animal Joy
The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know
Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes
Metric – Synthetica
Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls
Pog – Between the Station and the Sea
Moonface – With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery
Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion
Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
Thieves Like Us – Bleed Bleed Bleed
Tindersticks – The Something Rain
Paul Heaton – Paul Heaton Presents… The 8th
The Wedding Present – Valentina
Maxïmo Park – The National Health
Bear in Heaven – I Love You, It’s Cool
The Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends
Errors – Have Some Faith In Magic
Tennis – Young & Old
Julian Cope – Psychedelic Revolution
Guillemots – Hello Land!
Stevie Jackson – (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson
The Kabeedies – Soap
John Zorn – Templars: In Sacred Blood
Holograms – Holograms
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz – Abraxas: The Book of Angels Volume 19
Allo Darlin’ – Europe
John Zorn – The Gnostic Preludes
Yeasayer – Fragrant World
David Krakauer – Pruflas : The Book Of Angels Volume 18
Swans – The Seer
The Indelicates – Diseases Of England
Craft Spells – Gallery
The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre Is Evil

Albums of the year – 2011

These are the 30 records I couldn’t live without in 2011. Some more than others, but they all deserve a mention.

  1. The Indelicates – David Koresh Superstar
  2. Destroyer – Kaputt
  3. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
  4. Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys!
  5. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
  6. Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler
  7. The Twilight Singers – Dynamite Steps
  8. British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
  9. Luke Haines – 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s and Early 80s
  10. 8in8 – Nighty Night
  11. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
  12. Craft Spells – Idle Labor
  13. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls
  14. Widowspeak – Widowspeak
  15. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
  16. Wilco – The Whole Love
  17. Toro Y Moi – Underneath The Pine
  18. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
  19. Amanda Palmer – Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under
  20. Akron/Family – S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT
  21. Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On
  22. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
  23. Dum Dum Girls – Always in Dreams
  24. Grails – Deep Politics
  25. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
  26. The Horrors – Skying
  27. Tori Amos – Night Of Hunters
  28. Soft Metals – Soft Metals
  29. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness
  30. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

Albums of the Decade

I don’t really know where to start when trying to draw up a list of songs or albums that sum up the last 10 years. 2000 was a long time ago (10 years, in fact), and I’m not sure I can be truly objective when comparing things I’m listening to now and records that I remember being at least as important at various other points in the last 10 years. I love the new Flaming Lips album, but is it really better than Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots? Is In Rainbows better than Kid A, or was it just released more recently? And is it really possible to sum up a decade in a list of records?

My gut instinct is that no record released this year should make the list. Just because I’ve not had time to assess their importance. But at the same time I don’t think that’s fair to an album like The Hazards of Love, which I reckon I’ll still be listening to in 2019.

So without further ado, a first stab at a list of records from the last 10 years that I think people should own, and that in some way sum up the decade for me.

Radiohead – Kid A (2000) – To me this record redefined what a big selling record could sound like, and did a great job of sounding like everything I was currently listening to at the time (Tortoise, Jim O’Rourke, Miles Davies and a few even more esoteric things). Everything they released this decade would get into my top 100, but this is where they laid down the blueprint for what was to come. I bought this album the day I had my first interview to work at the University, and to me it perfectly sums up 2000.

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – The album that introduced me to Wilco, and that marked them out as something more than just an alternative country band. It was also the first album (I think) that was streamed to listeners before it was released, and marked the first of four consecutive great albums they released between 2002-09. It was hard choosing between this, A Ghost is Born and Wilco (the album), but I think YHF just shades it, and is the one I’d recommend people start with.

The Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004) – They seemed to come out of nowhere, and to be critically acclaimed without ever being fashionable. This album was the one that really introduced me to them, and made me realise that there was something coming out of Canada that wasn’t 24 minute instrumental masterpieces or trite pop songs. I played this album to death in 2004, and still dip into it every now and again, and it is something I would recommend to anyone who likes music.

The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday (2005) – I didn’t discover this band until their 4th album (Stay Positive), but soon fell in love with their second effort from 2005. They are described as a bar band, but I see them as the 21st century version of Jack Kerouac and the best storytelling band ever. The music is loud and simple, the lyrics are narrative and hilarious, and the fact that something made in 2005 topped my listening charts for this year just goes to show it is something special.

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid (2008) – Last year’s album of the year by a mile, and something I keep going back to when I want to be reminded of 2008 (which was generally a good year). I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while, but this is the first album where I would recommend every single song.

Albums of the year 2009

Calculated using the same algorithm as the last two years, and only including albums actually released this year.

  1. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
  2. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
  3. The Horrors – Primary Colours
  4. Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist
  5. Florence and The Machine – Lungs
  6. Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
  7. The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love
  8. Califone – All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
  9. Doves – Kingdom Of Rust
  10. Maxïmo Park – Quicken The Heart
  11. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – The Century of Self
  12. Robyn Hitchcock – Goodnight Oslo
  13. Editors – In This Light And On This Evening
  14. Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers
  15. Bear in Heaven – Beast Rest Forth Mouth
  16. Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For The Young
  17. Fresh Body Shop – The Ugly Army
  18. Atlas Sound – Logos
  19. David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything that Happens will Happen Today
  20. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk

Oddly enough, three of my most played (and favourite) albums of 2009 were released prior to 2009. They slot into the top 5 as follows:

  1. The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday
  2. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
  3. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
  4. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
  5. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

Nothing else from before 2009 got anywhere near the top 20 (American Demo by The Indelicates being the closest by some distance).

A brief life update

This week I’ve largely been:

  • Listening to the new albums by The Flaming Lips, Atlas Sound, Charlotte Hatherley and Broadcast (all of which I’m really enjoying)
  • Updating my main workstation to Ubuntu 9.10
  • Learning about Google Wave
  • Trying to juggle various work tasks (and not dropping anything hopefully).

Oh, and I still hate this time of year. Even though we had no annoying begging children this year, there is still the firework-hating dog to deal with.

Flaming Lungs and Flaming Lips

At various points in the last few days I’ve been fairly convinced that I’m ill. I’ve had a sore throat, various wheezing fits, and a general sense of tiredness that sleep does not fix.  The annoying thing is that each “episode” only lasts a few hours and then I feel fine again. Maybe it’s my super-immune system kicking in, or maybe I just need a holiday and I’m not ill at all.

In other (more relevant) news, I’ve been losing myself in the new Flaming Lips album for days. It’s epic (over an hour and a half if you download the iTunes version), and a very challenging listen, but if you like music that makes you think and that is a little (lot) to the left of the mainstream then I’d very much recommend it. I’m also liking the new Califone album (for those times when I need to be soothed rather than challenged), but have otherwise not bought a great deal of new music recently.

Of course, by “recently” I mean this month.

Listening habits and Mercury disappointment

I’ve been back at work a week now, and it really does change the way I listen to music. Over the past week or so I’ve actually only really listened to things whilst travelling to and from work, so at least half of my listening time is taking place quite early in the morning (where I prefer to listen to quieter and slower music). This has lead to me spending a lot of time with the new Yo La Tengo album (which I’d recommend as a good starting point), and also with the (still) brilliant Wilco album, which gets better with every listen, and which might even be my favourite album of theirs now.

I didn’t watch the Mercury Music ceremony in the end (Dollhouse was more pressing this week), but I’m slightly disappointed with the result. I’ve heard bits of the winning album, and I don’t think it offers anything I’ve not heard before. I’d like to have seen Florence winning, but it doesn’t change the fact that “Lungs” is a great album that would appeal to most people who can appreciate music made by someone who gives a damn.