Saturday, 20 December 2008

All right, all right, you CAN have my albums of the year

So yeah, after years of bitching about Metro's rhetorical asking me for my albums of '05 to '07, I'm now ungratefully bored of submitting '08 lists that'll actually get published. That said, probably less people read them than read this, there's that whole narcissism thing, and, um, I'm bored. Why not put yours up, if you're some sort of vain cunt too?

1. of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping.

Yeah, I like this quite a lot. Here is a review I wrote of it. Shame it didn't quite get the same reception as Hissing Fauna... - the main criticism seemed to be that Kevin Barnes had gone 'too far', which seems inherently daft to me - but the band seem to be pretty popular these days so swings and roundabouts, like.

This is a song by of Montreal called 'Id Engager'

2. Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing

Obsession with Hung and Power as people now slightly waning (too many hoodies! turning up at the drop of an envelope! fact we probably can't REALLY top the whole pearly king thing without actually breaking the law), but this album remains super-duper, only British thing I've really liked this year.

'Bright Tomorrow' - directed by none other than Andrew 'Andy Hung' Hung

3. Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.

I do think the main reason for Microcastle's popularity is that it's less challenging than Cryptograms, and not necessarily in a great way, but Weird Era Cont., the free bonus album, is genuinely amazing.

Oh god I just worked out how to embed YouTube vids. My mind is blown. Wow. 'Twilight At Carbon Lake'

4. Women - Women

Being a citizen of the world (and an upstanding one at that) I am not going to let the fact this has only technically come out in the US thus far stop me putting it in this ill defined list of no professional import or interest.

A much nicer version of 'Black Rice' than the last one I put up, oh yes.

5. Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
A fun thing about being a music journalist is that you get to meet your heroes and discover they're complete dicks. Bradford Cox, I have discovered, is not a nice man, neither does he have a particularly cohesive grip on reality, but he's still a genius and satisfyingly prolific.


6. Parts & Labor - Receivers
Discovered all their back catalogue this year. Good. This is good too. Yeah.

There is not a single official video or great live performance of anything off this record on my new bitch YouTube, but this 'Wedding In The Wasteland' is sort of okay if you ignore the vocals.

7. No Age - Nouns
Yeah man. 'Sleeper Hold' makes me want to high five things.

This TV show looks rubbish.

8. Times New Viking - Rip It Off
Once you realise you have to turn the volume down by about a third, this is just the funnest lo-fi pop record.

'Teen Drama' - once they stop dicking around it's probably actually quite a lot more clearly recorded than the album version.

9. Portishead - Third
Urgh, why have I even set myself up to write these comments? I like this album for the exact reasons stated in every end of year poll it's scored in.

Sadly that dreadful little Jools Holland man crops up here, as official video to 'Machine Gun' is 'disabled by request'. I'm souring on this whole deal already.

10. Islands - Arm's Way
As far as I'm aware only two people like this record, me and James from DiS. And I possibly like it more because I have fond memories of listening to it in the Arctic. But that can be enough, can't it?

Wow, an actual music video. Goddamn multi-millionaire rockstars.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Man pulls funny faces; 24 years later another man is impressed

So if you're all very good this will be the last post I make about Talk Talk... BUT ANYWAY... I'd been doing a wee trawl through their synthpop stuff (pretty trite and cheesy compared to what came later, but still pisses over entire New Romantic movement... god Spandau fucking Ballet fuck me off, like, I get most 80s hits, but 'Gold' is terrible, like the theme from Record Breakers crossed with a wank) and I honestly don't think I've ever heard of the song 'Such A Shame' or, to the point, it's attendant video. WELL HERE IT IS, fresh off some weird German 80s internet channel:

No matter what you think of the song (I like it, definitely their best early track, uses synthetic sound for legitimate musical effect, rather than novelty/drama/because they couldn't afford real instruments), but I think this video is amazing.

Like, I'm a total sucker for over-stylised movement, but it's like he doesn't have any control of his face at all... I could come up with some sort of theory about what it all means and not even really believe it myself, but I'd rather leave it thinking it's sort of non-judgementally highlighting the grotesquery inherent in performance, but not directly making an actual statement. Think Talk Talk were too classy to be mocking the concept of music videos/lip-synching in general, but this must have shitted up yer average 1984 MTV fan. Either that or it's just about LOL-ing at the man with the funny face.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

So I watched the final of X-Factor...

Yeah, so I was feeling kind of peaky on Saturday and sacked off Vivian Girls and instead watched the X-Factor final with my housemates. NOT THAT I NEED TO JUSTIFY MYSELF, YEAH? I mean, in a week's time I'll be an ex-Bristolian, really it was me being benevolent.

So anyway, when I've previously watched X-Factor or American Idol it's kind of been an attempt to find, y'know, a soulman or a diva in a relatively old school, 50s to 70s style vein, and then sort of sculp them as appropriate (which actually I suppose is what happened in the 50s to 70s). This was, though, deep 90s shit man. Both the curious little Irish guy named Eoghan Quigg and the very odd looking boy band thing (on a scale from 'most' to 'all' wonder how many of them let Walsh touch them with his soggy paws?) both sang in that very curious sort of slightly gentle, slightly nasal post Boys II Men vocal style that was so beloved of also-ran boybands and male solo artists in the late 1990s.

I only actually caught the last song of each, maybe it was different elsewhere, but it just seemed incredibly bizarre and anachronistic for these judges to be so apparently moved by something so painfully dated. I suppose for Cowell, Walsh and Minogue it was a reminder of a simpler, happier time (while in Cole's case it probably just stood as confirmation of the fact she hates her own music), but in a peculiar way I actually found the whole thing a little tragic - it's stating the bleeding obvious to say they're using the bells and whistles of a TV show to substitute for the fact that these artists probably wouldn't stand much of a chance on their own, and blah blah blah, there are huge sums of money flying around for all in general, but I dunno, so much effort to create something so small, like millions of pounds and man-hours put in just so that the judges can feel comfortable being moved by bland throwbacks.

Oh yeah, and since I started writing this there has been some hooplah over the X-Factor winner singing 'Hallelujah'. Firstly, to provide a commercial break, I shall drop in the video of the biggest loser in all this: John Cale. Everyone knows the song was written by Cohen (who must by now have made enough to BUY his own Buddhist monastery by now or whatever) and everyone knows the Buckley version, but poor Mr Cale has received precious little props for his vocal arrangement (the one Buckley and X-Factor used) and is presumably making dick all money from the thing. Well, here is his version of 'Hallelujah', up on an obscure blog that has to date been viewed approximately 340 times, probably most of them being me when I log in.

So yeah, these petitions to get Buckley up the charts, reclaim 'our' song from the darkside - wankers, the bunch of them. Sue there are some very lovely versions of 'Hallelujah' out there, but the fact is that over the last few years the song has made its own cultural crossover independent of the machinations of Cowell's evil empire; sure a lot of that was to do with Shrek 2 (the Rufus Wainwright version) but the fact is it's just better known by people like TV producers/the people whio were teenagers when Grace came out have more sway on the media, so it gets used as an emotional background song in TV shows, football highlights, etc... the idea that Buckley's version is 'ours' is pure fallacy.

Don't want to make some boring comments about class warfare here (eg X-Factor version haters being middle class snobs), as I don't really believe that's the case, but the fact is anyone has a right to make a shitty cover of whatever song they please, and the suggestion that 'Hallelujah' should be special when it crossed the cultural line into yuppie product a few years ago is just bollocks. I'm sure the fact that Buckley managed to idiotically drown himself is a major reason for people thinking his signature song should be untouchable but it's not, it shouldn't be, and no song should be.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Unemployment and me

So I suppose everybody (INSERT GENERIC SELF-MOCKERY ABOUT BLOG'S LIMITED READERSHIP) expected me to write some absurdly melodramatic entry about my departure from Metro directly after the event (myself included) but actualy it still feels like a total non-event, a particularly expansive weekend or something. This is a good thing, as I was vaguely concerned that in some way I needed Metro, that I'd been kidding myself that I'd be okay leaving, that without the daily batting out of 250 word previews of obtuse Welsh-language theatre productions and grumbling about a computer system named Atex, my life would disintegrate into some sort of amorphous, directionless blob.

But nah, if I'm hardly in-demand and highly paid, I appear to have retained enough clout that people keep sending me free music. Especially when that's so hard to come by these days. Heck, aside from the minor fact that I'm homing in on the end of my 20s with no job, no prospects, the vague suspicion I frittered the last four years of my life away, and a false sense of financial security instilled only by redundancy pay that I'm about to fritter away on a ludicrous expedition to Russia, I'm basically a god. Bow down to me you fucking peasants.

Here is some stuff I have been doing. Prepare to be astounded.

1. Getting into Women.

Not the ladies, you understand. What, parents, YOU read this? Oh, don't worry, I'm not one of those gays (I'LLGIVEYOUGRANDCHILDRENONEDAYPLEASEAPPROVEOFME), just I can't bring myself to render my tangled but ultimately crushingly mundane lovelife onto these pages. Not yet, anyway.
Er, anyway, after the initial buzz of Crystal Castles had worn off, I was a little concerned that I might not have gotten embarrassingly excited about any Canadian bands this year. Thank the lord for Calgary types Women, then. If you happen to read any issue of Plan B for the next seven years, you'll find something or other written on them by me, but they are very awesome, here is Black Rice, their pop song:

2. Thinking mean things about the dead.

A regular pastime, but I was wandering past a roadside memorial the other day and I looked at the picture of the deceased and I just thought "that guy looks like a dick". I didn't think "I'm glad he'd dead", so my sensitivity has definitly come on in leaps and bounds, but it was some muscly dude in a body-builder's pose, and y'know, I didn't find myself welling up. And can you have retrospective hubris? 'Coz he clearly wasn't that hard.

3. Thinking insensitive things about popular media figures.

Baby P would be a solid hip-hop name, you have to admit.

4. Being unmoved by the plight of others.

Woolworths was an awful relic of a time best forgot, I'm glad it's gone. No sympathy for the staff, hoping for a career there was tantamount to putting all your money on a two legged horse. That was dead.

5. Getting needlessly worked up about baby food.

That's 'Grandma's Sunday Lunch' flavour, if you can't make it out. The two things that annoy me the most about this product (which I clocked for the first time the other day for some reason or other that's definitely not weird or sexual) are that one, it's a completely pointless lie, insofar as parents are unlikely to be arsed to explain to their months-old sprog the advertising psychology that goes into the inference that this substance was personally hand-mushed by their grandmother (who probably makes shit Sunday lunch anyway), and second, the fact there's no hilarious picture on the front of two drooling simpletons - one a toddler, one a senile octogenarian - both being spoon-fed, side by side, eyes equally devoid of intellect.

6. Going to a lawyer.

For formalities to do with leaving Metro that I'm LEGALLY BOUND NOT TO DISCUSS (I feel adult just writing that) I visited a lawyer for the first time ever the other day. I think she was completely bemused by me, but in fairness to her and the obscene fee she was receiving, she really did try her best to spin it out into something more than just her signing a bit of paper. It was not much like This Life.

7. Making absurd foreign holiday plans.

Given how much I'm going to blather on about my trip while on it I'll spare the gory details here, but basically next year I'm going to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, China, South Korea and maybe Japan, plus Iceland for New Year. Any smugness on my part can of course be counteracted by the knowledge I have basically signed myself up to be bitterly, bitterly cold for the next several months of my life.

8. Getting into Talk Talk.

So basically I'd read all this blah about them inventing post rock and how Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock were two of the greatest records ever made, but frankly I think I may have read that in Mojo, so y'know... Plus the only stuff of theirs I'd actually heard was the cheesy synth gubbins from the early days. But anyways, I downloaded both those records last week and, like, whoa there - I just can't believe these things came out of the 80s, they sound like, er, I dunno, like either they always existed or still don't... I'd read 'nuff words about them and still didn't have a clue what they'd sound like before listening, maybe there are no words, but certainly I can't be bothered trying to bash out a description (uh, unless somebody wants to pay me). Anyway, here's probably the most accessible track from either record, Spirit Of Eden's 'Desire', which appears to be where Radiohead got most of the ideas for Kid A from. No pretty moving pictures, sorry, though there is a nice proggy picture of some birds.

9. Not writing a novel.

At the lovely Arike's suggestion, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, the object of which is to bash out a 50,000 word novel during November. Probably I was always doomed in this, because for the first 20 days of the month I was employed full-time as a writer, I still have shit loads of other music writing to be doing, etc etc etc. But man, I wouldn't personally recommend it - once you sign up you get sent these 'pep-talk' emails from the guy in charge of the month and a few random published novelists, all of whom blast you with horribly self-helpy metaphors about how writing a novel is like being pregnant or whatever (think that one came from a guy, which was well authoritative like), and you just think "FUCK. OFF." Philip Pullman aside I don't think I'd even heard of any of the pep-talkers, and the fact is they're imparting these horribly smug writing tips when they'd almost certainly never contemplate cramming 50,000 words into a month themselves. I dunno, I'd jokily said I'd try and write the whole thing in the ten days of November that I was unemployed, but I was so annoyed by the pep talk emails I didn't even really try. OR THAT'S MY EXCUSE. Anyway, this all sounds really self-justifying, I'm probably just not temperamentally suited to it, the fact is that while I've got numerous fragments and starts of novels on my hard drive, Arike has actually written one in a month and I'm sure it's grrrrrreat. I think it's a thinly-veiled biopic of Mark Ward or something.