Hello, yes and how are you?
First things first: I love all y’all
But y’all look tired.
I get it. Times are weird.
So, let’s lift our eyes from our phones and do something unexpectedly kind for someone today. Send someone you know an anonymous present. And never tell them it’s from you.
Go on. I dare you. It needn’t be expensive. It will spread joy. And a little confusion. Which is OK with me.
It needn’t be me either, though, let me be clear (*shiver*), I do like presents.
This year I turned 50. I had a party. it was fun. it went like this.
This year my elder son did his GCSEs. Blimey. He did brilliantly, since you ask. Which is amazing. My kids are amazing. My wife too. It’s nice to have nice things.
This year I grew a beard.
This year I wrote 3 screenplays. And got shortlisted in BBC Writer’s Room, Austin Film Festival and other competitions.
This year I went to a screenwriting conference and learned a lot.
This year I took on 2 bands for management, of which a LOT more next year.
This year I went to CERN in Geneva and SAIGON in Vietnam. Both blew my mind completely.
Vietnam was a weird trip from the lush weird hills to the Mekong delta. And the best food. Little deep fried Asian whatnots all day long. If you know me, you’ll know this is my actual fantasy. Also, I went fishing for crocodiles.
CERN was ridiculously exciting. And obviously I was hoping that an electrical storm would hit the experimental particle physics lab. And I would get superpowers.
Weirdly that did actually happen. Despite being searing sunshine all day long, there was 10 minutes of black cloud and lightning.
And, come closer, I have not had hay fever since. Not perhaps my ideal superpower but a subtlely game-changing one.
This year I tore my hair out at the world and let it get under my skin.
It has to, I suppose. But even so….
It is my firm belief that 2018 will be remembered as the worst year since 1944.
Really, really bad.
But the noose is tightening on Trump and our collective foot is on Brexit’s windpipe and common sense is beginning to regain its grip on the nation.
You do have to wonder how we got here.
And at the risk of coming over all tinfoil fedora, it does seem that a thick slice of neoliberal idealogues are trying to garland the rich and crush the poor. What utter fucks they are.
Luckily their shamelessness has made them easy to spot now. So please vote them out next time. Thank you.
In the UK, we are waiting on the big reveal of Corbyn’s ever-so-cunning secret long game Brexit-killing genius but my feeling is that
- It might not exist
- It looks so like doing exactly fuck all at our nation’s hour of need that literally no-one will care and, despite previously being a strong advocate of him, he’s over. And the smarter Tories will embrace killing it sooner than he will.
Seriously tho. They are STILL 4 points down in today’s YouGov poll.
Wheel out Keir Starmer and let’s try to re-embrace the 21st Century.
But I have genuinely high hopes for 2019. Many exciting things are already planned.
So, to business…
I listened to records and watched films a lot this year.
These are my favourites.
All other lists are disappointing.
Accept no substitute.
This is the one…..
These are arranged in some sort of vague order.
International teen 8bit sample pop with a C86 heart beating somewhere inside. There are beautiful minor chord melodies in this kaleidoscopic pop. It’s All Good.
Idles Joy As An Act of Resistance
Brilliant second effort from the country’s most important band. Beautiful fury and fierce kindness with huge ugly tunes that make my heart soar. Shout out, as ever, to Beggars for firing me for suggesting signing this band’s publishing last year.
First time I heard COLOSSUS I knew it would be my SOTY.
Matthew Dear Bunny
Mr Dear lends another slice of sleazy, funny, late night beats and plastic dolphins. If you like Young Fathers, Dean Blunt, Massive Attack, Leonard Cohen, Frank Sinatra and Ian Dury you might want to check in. Modafinil Blues
Janelle Monae Dirty Computer
Janelle is sorta like a god now. To me. So smart and funny, sexy and weird, bold and powerful, inventive quite a long way out there. This album starts with actual Brian Wilson and ends with Prince and every single song is wonderful. To call it pop or R’n’B is to sell it Way short. If you liked Lemonade, you will like this. A masterpiece.
Suede The Blue Hour
Well. Colour me biased but this is absolutely magnificent. Godlike. Their weirdest, hardest, biggest record to date. The live shows were pure fury and abandon. TBH, if TBH has a flaw, it’s three songs too long. Not that there are three misfires – there really aren’t – but it’s just quite a LOT. If you loved Dog Man Star, you need this. The opener, As One, is somewhat OTT, skipping from The Omen soundtrack off to Led Zep.
Also their doco was brutally RAW and surprisingly funny and shameless. Not as funny as this though.
Spiritualized And Nothing Hurt
I find a lot of their records a bit boring to be blunt. But this is magnificent. 9 huge pure accessible, gospelly pop masterpieces. It’s the best bits of Spiritualized with none of the indulgence, skronk or boring bits. I’m Your Man
Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar
Scottish hip hop sounds bad. I know. So how about a punched up, lean, funny, reflective Massive Attack that starts a party in your head? In my View
Culture Abuse Bay Dream
If you ever liked Ash, Weezer or the Lemonheads, stop reading this right now and order this record NOW. 10 short sharp perfect pop songs. There is nothing wrong with this album. It is perfect.
It’s not easy being this good. And it’s even harder making it look this easy.
Hatchie Sugar & Spice
Only an EP but my rules are elastic. If I said it was a little shoegazingy jewel that stumbles into the Sundays’ and Cranberries’ territory, you might want to run but that would be a mistake. Quietly anthemic and it has 5 more brilliant, perfect songs than most records. Absolutely brilliant and dripping in melody. Sure?
St Vincent MassEducation
My joint favourite cleverdisco record of last year comes back round as a set of keening piano ballad wonders courtesy of the clever but very strange Doveman, Recorded at the same time and just as vital. And way more beautiful.
Sophie Oil of Pearl’s Insides
Properly nuts future pop weirdness from Sophie. Not for everyone, I suppose but a very exciting and inspiring signpost for pop music. Have a look at this video. Just LOOK AT IT.
Pre-Occcupations New Material
I’ll be honest this is a bit gothy. It sounds like Sisters, Bauhaus and The Cult. But it doesn’t suck. Big urgent and anthemic battletunes. Disarray.
Soft Kill Savior
Ummm. I’ll be honest this also is a bit gothy. It sounds like The Cult, Sisters and Bauhaus. But it doesn’t suck. Big urgent and anthemic battletunes. Click here if you love The Cult.
Twitchy, weird and introverted electronic-y LCD-ish postpunk disco tinged indie grooves here. They split up after bad revelations about the singer. But this is a great album. See how this weird lil tune blossoms in your head
Homeboy Sandman + Edan Humble Pi
There wasa time in 2002 when hip hop seemed ready to slip off its dumbness for good and go somewhere amazing. Aesop Rock, El-P, Cannibal Ox and more made amazing records. As did Edan, if slightly less so. This is a brilliant return to that time. Never Use The Internet Again alone with worth buying this for.
Cypress Hill Elephants On Acid
They were not faves of mine. They were a bit too stoopid. But not good stoopid. This however is ridiculously good and very modern. There’s an Egyptian rapper all over it and it sounds very Arabic and gritty and weird and fiery. I know you won’t believe me. But I am right. If you listen to rap at all, listen to this.
Primal Scream Memphis Sessions
The album after Screamadelica sucked. Hard. But only after it was messed about with. This is what they turned in first. It’s an attempt to be the early 70s Stones. Still. But it’s got way more swing and none of the awkwardness of GOBDGU. Honestly I had to be persuaded to listen to it but it is really wonderful.
Confidence Man Confident Music For Confident People
Fun. Not unlike Superorganism in outlook. Fun, spare, colourful, sassy pop that does not fit into any category. Every song is catchy as fuck. Girlfriend is better but Boyfriend is funky.
Dream Wife Dream Wife
A new band turned me onto this. Somewhere between Polly Harvey and Karen O, this lot turn fiery guitars and fiery minds loose on your ears. Let’s make out. Hey, Oof, I said…LET’S MAKE OUT.
Lykke LI so sad so sexy
I love LL. This record was slightly disappointing after the last two. But that is a bar so stupidly high, that few get anywhere near it. Epic, Nordic balladry is here. Sad bangers are here. It’s slipped on some v tasteful rap’n’R’n’B shoes which makes her sound more like other records a bit too much – but still a thing of joy. Like Hard Rain.
Gaz Coombes World’s Strongest Man
This is weird. If you liked Supergrass and are now older, I’m gonna say this is for you. It’s meticulously crafted modern grown up pop with both surreal and heartfelt lyrics. It nods over to Thom territory at times which is odd but welcome. And it has so much to offer I will be listening to this for years. Smart as fuck. Wounded Egos. You will not love it on the first play but it will have you forever by the 4th. Seriously.
Thom Yorke Suspiria OST
Thom in fine ballady form here. Piano spookery with a handful of actual songs. It’s long. And it’s way better than his last clickfest solo trickery.
David Bowie Glastonbury 2000
After not really enjoying His music for the 90s, this show felt like, well, if I can venture into mild hyperbole, it felt like The Second Coming Of Jesus. All the old hits. Played properly. With 150,000 people exploding with joy. Life-changing. If you don’t love this, you are dead to me.
Against All Logic aka Nicolas Jarr 2012-2017
This is some chopped up disco nonsense that I am never sure I love but can’t ever take off.
Samantha Urbani Policies Of Power
Another EP. If the idea of Jam&Lewis producing Madonna is not your cup of tea, then move along. I am a fan of 80s music, as you know. But I routinely hate things that try to sound 80s. This though is liquid brilliance. 1 2 3 4
Nils Frahm All Melody
And rest. This is spooky beautiful, airy, Debussy-esque piano playing. His piano makes noises your doesn’t quite often. Beautiful. Gaze upon him in awe.
Let’s Eat Grandma I’m All Ears
Their first album was a bit of a dog’s breakfast. This new one has a cohesive streak that channels their very eccentric confessional and delusional pop ideas. Weird modern catchy pop. Donnie Darko.
Kamasi Washington Heaven & Earth
A massive jazz album. Which had another massive jazz album hidden in the packaging if you bought the CD. Weird, melodic 60s sci-fi TV jazz. My wife hates it. I only paddle in the jazz ocean. This is perfect for that. Fists Of Fury
Cavern Of Anti-Matter Hormone Lemonade
Weird clicky, rhythmic, Krauty Stereolabby percussive grooves. A lot more FUN than that implies. And the shiniest sleeve of the year. Make Out Fade Out
Nicki Minaj Queen
Hmmmm. I have a thing for Nicki. Mad as a box of maniacs and with a seriously filthy tongue, she is clever as hell with it. The first half of this record is a perfect Missy-Elliott-on-GHB album. I’ve not actually got to the end of it yet. It’s long. Barbie Dreams tho. Oh my.
Ty Segall Freedom’s Goblin
Also too long. But it was solid gold til that last 15 minute horror. Garage rock as usual from Ty but with 60s psychy pop and Hot Chocolate covers thrown in. His 2nd best album, after Manipulator. Everyone’s a Winner. Apart from that last one.
Bambara Shadow On Everything
Imagine an angry, drunk, righteous Nick Cave chasing you with The Fall behind him. Or listen to this album. Americans. Toured with Idles. Be smart get on board. Monument.
The Damned Evil Spirits
Made with Tony Visconti and very brilliant. Their best album for 33 years. Christ. Really though. It’s ace. Standing on the edge of tomorrow.
Laibach The Sound of Music
Grotesquely brilliant cover album. Insane packaging. And I was surprised to discover that I remember all the songs. My Favourite Things
Also in some sort of order.
You are aware of this film.
Sorry To Bother You
A total blast from start to demented finish. You have not seen anything like this and you will not be able to predict where it’s going at all. Sorta Spike Lee v Spike Jones
Again, this is a standout on account of the impression it leaves. The story could be written on a matchbox but the way it unfolds like one of the more OTT classic metal album sleeves coming to life is seared into my mind. Cage is on fire here. At times literally.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missourri
You saw this, right? Just brilliant. If more downbeat than the trailer suggests.
It’s on Netflix so no excuses. Beautiful, smart, dreamy sci fi.
How do they keep pulling these films off? A cast of several million battle a big purple guy.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse
A simple, if nuts, story told in a way that really does feel trippy as hell as 5 different types of animation fight for space on the screen. Also very funny.
Very cool tight and unusual meta-heist film.
A perfect film.
The first one is one of my faves from the last 5 years and this runs it quite close even if it does splinter a little toward the end.
Great simple, lo-fi ish sci fi shot with style and a lean mean colourful sheen.
It’s fun. But it’s more Indiana Jones sequelly than whatever skyscraping madness Lord/Miller were trying to pull off.
Sorta modern noir that does not do what you might think at any point. Very cool.
This screenplay must have been about 20 pages long. Weird, off-kilter nobody-cares (kinda) stoner (kinda) comedy, that made me laugh and lives for the gaps in conversation.
I’ve still not seen Assassination Nation, A Quiet Place, Isle of Dogs or The Favourite. Or A Simple favour.
Despite pulling back from music for much of this year in favour of writing, I went to a lot of shows. Mostly not little bands. I even went to the theatre. (it was crap)
The best gig this year. Or any year since I saw Bowie at Glastonbury was
You’ve read about this elsewhere. It is as good as people say. Never seen anything like it. It incorporated things I don’t like: theatre, dance routines, drilled precision and lack of spontaneity. But it was mesmerising and clever and wonderful and life affirming and it reinvented the rock show.
Due to my wife’s passion for them, I have seen this band a lot. And mostly they bore me a bit. This time everything was in the right place. Breathtakingly so. They even played the whole new album.
Suede are absolutely on fire at the moment. Furious engagement with an oh-so-willing crowd. Totally brilliant. I have seen them live more than any other band and they are at the peak of their powers. Believe.
Young Fathers, Lorde and Yeah Yeah Yeahs at All Points East.
Stunning. Really these were each masterclasses in how to do a big show.
Superorganism several shows. All amazing
Idles never less than 100% each time
Sparks. Totally brilliant as per usual and I met Tony Visconti at one of them.
Flatworms were proper Husker Du econopunk pop joy.
Martin Carr at The Roundhouse. A tripped out 30 minute 3 song set. Skyscraping boldness.
Ghum are a new 4pc band. Somewhere between Warpaint and Nirvana Unplugged is this international band of women. My tip for next year is them. 100%. Early days but have a listen to I’m The Storm.
Them and Lady Bug, of which more later.
There. I’ve put due diligence in and am pretty sure I am not missing anything.
Do the present thing. I am going to do one now.
Have a good Xmas.
PS here is Trevor Horn and his favourite book.