What a difference a year makes.
This time last year I was living in a cold draughty three bedroom house with awful parking, far too close to school and far too close to the city centre to make it a regular thoroughfare for drunks returning home from a skinful of booze around midnight every night. And now I’m not. That sounds dreadfully boastful actually and I don’t mean it like that. I’m just not there any more. But this time last year I wasn’t even thinking of moving house, it just happened very suddenly and the stars aligned and everything fell into place. It’s been that sort of year really. I certainly didn’t expect to be living in a different house this time last year. I didn’t expect to have made more than a dozen podcasts or to have my name mentioned regularly on the radio. Maybe I do have a reputation after all. Maybe people do like me after all.
This isn’t going anywhere really. It’s been an odd year. I haven’t achieved anything – still haven’t found a job even after a few useless interviews (“What kind of biscuit are you?” Seriously?) There’s been highlights and lowlights, joys and tears. And along the way I listened to some music and wrote about it. To be honest, this time last year I couldn’t see this blog continuing much further. I nearly stopped it completely in April, due to the house move and other commitments. I didn’t think I had that much to write about. Heavens I even ended up listening to The Grateful Dead for a while – how desperate was I?
Then I started to make a podcast or two. I found it was (a) quite easy and (b) a lot of fun. And best of all, people seemed to like them. Either that or you’re all being really nice to me. And the podcasts have raised my profile, not that that was the point. The point was to introduce some cool music to people. It seems to have worked.
A year ago I wrote that I hadn’t really listened to much new music that year, but still listed a lot of music I had enjoyed that year. This year I feel exactly the same. I should point out that I have heard some wonderful new music this year but I’m not saying comprehensively “These are my albums of the year” because I’ve not heard everything issued this year, so don’t even think of adding these End Of Year lists.
So what albums have I enjoyed this year? “Escapists” by The Autumn Stones has fulfilled the promise their singles from last year hinted at – an album of light and shade, both musically and lyrically, which rewards repeated listening. Imagine shoegazing crossed with early Psychedelic Furs, with emphasis on peculiar words, sax solos and catchy melodies. Definitely an album worth a listen. Ryley Walker’s “Primrose Green” album sounds like Tim Buckley and Van Morrison in some 1968 idyll, sun dappled jazz inflected acoustic dreamscapes. Beautiful stuff. “854” by Eyelids is like a more psychedelic Teenage Fanclub, crunchy guitars and harmonies but with peculiar angles. “The broken heed” by The Broken Heed (pseudonym for John Hartley) takes the simplicity of Harvey Williams’ solo albums and adds heartbreaking, deeply affecting and heartfelt words, and some of those heart stopping chord changes that I adore so much – well worth investigating and raising money for a good cause too. “Fragments of a former moon” by Lightning In A Twilight Hour is of course Bob Wratten’s latest project and is as beautiful as his previous works in The Field Mice, Trembling Blue Stars and Northern Picture Library. In the odd electronica corner I’ve enjoyed albums by Kode9 and Floating Points. Then there’s “The Race For Space” by Public Service Broadcasting. Now I wasn’t impressed by their previous album which I felt couldn’t decide if it wanted to be pop or hauntology, but this year’s album – themed around audio clips from space travel – gripped me from start to finish. If you don’t hold your breath during “The other side”… well, maybe you’re not human. And “Go!” – perfect thrilling pop music. Oh and amazingly Yeah Yeah Noh made a new album, their first in 30 years, and updated their typically English psychedelia with synths and more marvellous turns of phrase.
As always it’s not just about new music, there’s still a myriad of old music to discover. So here’s a list of some songs I have enjoyed this year.
Indelible – Huge Shark
Umbrella wars – Spent
Are you ready to be heartbroken? – Lloyd Cole and The Commotions
The other side – Public Service Broadcasting
Jealous – Nick Jonas (pop single of the year, folks)
The seventh plane – Mystic Moods Orchestra
Scandinavian wastes – The Invisible Girls
Funny little things – The Broken Heed
Mountains of the moon – The Grateful Dead
Plan A (Selling off the silver) – The Drain On The Balcony
Forget about tomorrow – Eyelids
Harvest time – The Clientele
Beauty #2 – Butterfly Child
Satellite (Far out) – Dot Dash
You make no bones – Alfie
Please tell mother (Peel session) – The Telescopes
Wadmalaw island – Power Tools
Please don’t say remember – The Apartments
There’s probably more that I’ve loved this year but can’t remember. I may well add to the list.
I’d like to recommend a few books which I have enjoyed this year. “The year of reading dangerously” by Andy Miller tells of how the author regained his love for reading and is touching, very funny and very accurate. He loves his music too, does Mr Miller, and that shines through the writing – well worth a read. “Popkiss – the life and afterlife of Sarah Records” by Michael White is a meticulously researched and highly readable book on the legendary Bristol indie label, lots of background information on the bands and music plus the early chapters give an excellent history of the development of indie pop. But only one paragraph on the Sweetest Ache??? Lastly “Higher than the sun” by Tim Worthington is a wonderful book about how Creation Records came to issue four brilliant lps within a few months of each other during the Autumn of 1991. Again lots of great background on the mid 80s indie scene there and fascinating insights into the worlds of Primal Scream, Saint Etienne, Teenage Fanclub and My Bloody Valentine and the Creation scene in general. You’d love it, I know you would.
So what does the future hold? More podcasts for a start, and more writing. There will be posts on Microdisney, Saint Etienne, Ride, Scott Walker, Virginia Astley, Eyeless In Gaza and more. But don’t hold your breath, these things take time. There will be more Toppermost articles too – thanks for your patience Merric – and other pieces here and there. I’ve recently written a few pieces for the Everything Indie Over 40 site which is always full of interesting articles (not just mine) on obscure indie bands. Have a look here.
As ever, huge thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way, shared my posts and podcasts, offered advice or asked me to write for them. I would write a list but I fear I may forget someone important… ok here goes… Esther, Wally, Ray, Steve, Adam, Nicola, Dawn, Marcello, Lena, Pete, Josh, Lee, John, David, Merric, Rick, Justin, Tim, Darren, Andy, Fiona, my family, Tara, Donna… I’ve forgotten people I’m sure… sorry… I tried….
Anyway, it’s New Years Eve, there’s probably a ton of things you need to be doing, I know there’s a ton of things I should be doing right now, so I’ll let you get on. Happy New Year and don’t feed the goldfish any cheese slices.