Friday, January 07, 2005

Blogwatch

No competition for the most affecting blog post to have caught my eye this week: Sarsparilla writes about her nervous breakdown whilst immersing herself in the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album - "If I'd had the nerve to be open, to tell the truth about everything that was happening to me back then, I might have gotten a little more support than my so-called friends were able to give me. And, you never know, when I beat the fucking thing, and came out of the drugged up zombie zone that my fuckwit doctor's pills put me in, and damn well cured myself in five months flat, someone, somewhere, might have said well done."

Mopping up the last remaining end-of-year lists...
Deviated Septum: Rod's Albums And Songs Of The Year, Kevin's 2004 Cuts Sampler and Marnie's Albums and Songs Of The Year
Somedisco: Some Of My '04 Faves

Elsewhere:

Kenny reviews a selection of books, including ex Sleeper vocalist Louise Wener's latest novel, and enthusiastically recommends the Dylan autobiography I got for Christmas - must press ahead with it soon;

Inspector Sands monitors the gathering storm over the BBC2 screening of 'Jerry Springer: The Opera' tomorrow night - I didn't even know it was on, but will most definitely be tuning in and no doubt laughing my fucking head off;

Backroads is astounded by the mutation of his local garden centre into a "lifestyle emporium" with nary a plant in sight;

Sarah divulges her New Year's Resolutions - "8. Lick someone's trousers while humming the A-Team theme";

and Jonny B finds himself uncomfortably backed into a corner at a New Year's Eve party - "There's a critical point - let's call it 'Blunkett's Cascade' - in any situation. That's the mortifying moment of realisation when you find that a situation which you were previously totally, utterly, one-hundred-percent in charge of has suddenly gripped you by the scruff of the neck and is pulling you screaming towards the chaotic abyss of horror. Blunkett's Cascade occurred as I was backed towards the cooker.".

PS If you've been enjoying Mike's annotated countdown of his favourite singles of last year, then get over to Troubled Diva and encourage him to keep going regardless of the mutterings of disgruntled non-music-loving readers...
Spreading the word

Congratulations to SWSL associate Skif, whose music fanzine Vanity Project has been bigged up in the pages of NME. The latest issue, #12, is available now for free online and, if you prefer, in paper form - details on the website - and includes, amongst other things:

Interviews: Jeffrey Lewis, Misty's Big Adventure, Chloe Poems

Features: John Peel obituary

Album reviews: The 5, 6, 7, 8s, Ballboy, The Fall, The Knife, Misty's Big Adventure, Patrick Wolf, The Rocks, Twinkie, The Would-Be-Goods

Single reviews: Babyshambles, Elliott Smith, Help She Can't Swim, The Knife, Tokyo Dragons, X Is Loaded

Gig reviews: The Cardiacs, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Winnebago Deal, Polysics, Sujfan Stevens, The Finn Brothers

Incidentally, Skif now has his own blog too. Hobo Tread can be found in the sidebar, and can be expected to cover such subjects as music, fanzine writing and travel, often in pursuit of lower league football - despite being marooned in Liverpool, he's a keen follower of Havant & Waterlooville FC.
Helping ourselves?: Update

First of all, thanks to all of you who have read and commented - either here or elsewhere - on the post below.

Special thanks to Vanessa for pointing me in the direction of this Rod Liddle article in The Times which examines the reasons behind the extraordinary generosity of the British public on this occasion and, effectively, says it all much more eloquently than I could - "I wonder how many people rang the credit card hotline and, deliberating how much to give, suddenly recalled that they’d recently spent £29 in Debenhams on a presentation box of lavender soaps for their ghastly mother-in-law? Shame was already poking its nose over the parapet, even before the tsunami struck. It was the time of year when the British people were at their most morally vulnerable ... We were not harangued or bullied into giving money by mouthy, overpaid, has-been pop stars or self-righteous and unfunny comedians wearing red plastic noses. There was almost no haranguing of any kind. Just a regular reminder of where you could give money, if you wanted to. The public was left to its own devices and to make its own judgment. If we felt guilty about our own wellbeing or affluence, it was a natural and genuine response to tragedy, rather than something we were told to feel.".

Thanks also to Jonathan for alerting me to a similarly excellent Guardian article by Blake Morrison debating the value of silences - "To the sceptical, today's three-minute silence can't help but seem a shallow and belated gesture of sympathy. But to refuse to observe it just because Blair, Bush and various tainted western agencies approve of it would be perverse. Public silence in medias res - abandoning normal routines to remember the dead - has been a powerful tradition since the Armistice. And if the greatest natural disaster in our life time isn't worth commemorating, then what is?".

Jonathan's response to Morrison's article, and to posts by myself and Nick, can be found here.

Finally, a BBC story about how texting and blogging has helped the rescue and relief operation.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Helping ourselves?

I should preface what follows by stating that it’s certainly not my intention to offend anyone. If you have been personally affected by the Asian tsunami and earthquake, you naturally have my deepest sympathy. I appreciate that I’d be unlikely to say the things I’m about to if I myself was caught up in the disaster, or even knew someone who had been.

Even in the face of a tragedy of this magnitude, I find myself struggling not to be cynical. To be cynical is not necessarily to lack faith in the relief effort in general. It’s perfectly possible to support the global response in general and the work of aid agencies, and yet still be appalled by articles which reveal what the Government’s pledges of financial aid really equate to and what corporate generosity actually amounts to.

And the less said about the news that self-serving rock stars are intent upon seizing upon the situation to relaunch their careers with a “charity single”, the better. Charity begins at home, eh?

More complex are my feelings about the public reaction, which has manifested itself in an unprecedented generosity. That there has been such an overwhelming response is of course positive in many ways – far better that the nation should come together in the wake of a genuine tragedy rather than in the media-driven mourning of Princess Diana.

At a time when international relations often appear stretched and strained, it’s encouraging that people all around the globe can be united, even if only in grief, and their political representatives can forget their differences and stand side by side in solidarity when it matters most. This was a global tragedy in a far truer sense than 9/11.

And yet despite what others less cynical than myself argue, I can’t help but feel that altruism in its purest form is in short supply. We still seem to need a reason to care for what happens on the other side of the planet, and that reason is the disaster’s direct impact on British nationals.

Sarah has suggested that the Western response cannot simply be explained by the fact that the area is a popular holiday destination, but I just can’t agree. At first, the cameras focused on British tourists sporting a few scratches, complaining about lost luggage and the fact that their ideal holiday had been ruined. Nothing that being featured on ‘Holidays From Hell’ can’t fix, eh? As the full scale of the tragedy has gradually emerged, such crass self-interest has disappeared from view.

But even as the overall death toll rises, the continued media focus on British victims and on the British missing is sickening, frankly. I’m sure it’s the same with French victims in France, American victims in the US and wherever else, and it’s an inevitability given the fact that proximity (of effect rather than distance) is one of the key factors in an item’s newsworthiness – it gives the story an “angle”. But ultimately a life is a life, no matter what nationality that individual happens to be. As obvious as that might be, it’s far too often overlooked.

On Sunday afternoon I found myself in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in the midst of an exhibition about the Rwandan genocide. Nearly one million people were slaughtered in the space of less than a year, and the lives of so many more were irreversibly changed. Yet the international response was practically non-existent. Why? Did those million lives not matter as much? And was that because Rwanda is a small country in central Africa and not an idyllic playground for Westerners? That has to be a factor.

There is also perhaps something to be said about the way the TV pictures of destruction seem to have caught the imagination of a public accustomed to the “shock and awe” images of disaster movies. The same thing happened with the Boscastle flood last summer. The sheer scale of the devastation as it has been revealed visually in our living rooms has no doubt prompted much of the public reaction.

By contrast, the less spectacular but certainly no less horrific images of the Rwandan genocide only emerged after the event. Whereas a natural disaster, terrible though it might be, is ultimately unpreventable and beyond human control, we’re perhaps less prepared to acknowledge and face up to the horrors that man can inflict upon man.

Just to reiterate, then: Despite all this, I nevertheless stand behind the relief effort, and would urge you to give what you can to help. I hope not to have caused any offence, but felt compelled to commit these thoughts to the blog. Please feel free to agree or disagree.

Links:

Disasters Emergency Committee Tsunami Earthquake Appeal

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog

Mike writes about his own feelings as a very recent visitor to Phuket.

Robyn has the story of a friend caught up in the disaster.

Phill has collected together some links to other first-hand accounts.

Sharply differing perspectives on the three minutes’ silence from Jonathan and Nick.

(Thanks to Phill and Jonathan for some of the links in this post.)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Happy New Year to you and yours! May 2005 bear you bounteous fruit!

Proper content along in a bit, I promise...
Listwatch

At Troubled Diva, Mike's in the process of running through his Top 90 Singles Of 2004, complete with extensive commentary - at the time of posting, he's got as far as #56 in the countdown. Click on the link to dip in.

Elsewhere:

Pitchfork: Top 50 Singles
Stylus: William B Swygart's Top 75 UK Singles
Parallax View: Who To Listen Out For In 2005 and Top 12 Books
Danger! High Postage: Top 10 Singles And Much More Besides (scroll down for the full Top 40 Singles)
Amblongus: 20 Singles That Stuck In My Head
The Whole Wide World Of Fat Buddha!: Favourite Albums, Books, DVDs And TV
Casino Avenue: Top 3 Albums
The Highrise: Top Tracks (scroll down)
Secret Knowledge Of Backroads: Records Of The Year
Diamond Geezer: Top 3 Albums

(Thanks to Mike and Inspector Sands for some of these links.)
Quote of the day

Dudley Moore: "Are you allergic to compassion?"
Peter Cook: "Only in suppository form."

Just one of the countless quick-fire exchanges from 'Not Only But Always', one of the very few crackers amongst the turkeys that made up the Christmas TV schedules. The two hour programme purported to tell the story of Cook and Moore's volatile friendship, but focused primarily on Cook's caustic satirical wit, failed relationships and decent into alcoholism.

If you didn't see it, but had the misfortune to catch some of 'The Vicar Of Dibley' or 'Star Spell', I pity you, I really do.
Feel good hits of the 4th January

1. 'So Says I' - The Shins
2. 'There She Goes, My Beautiful World' - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
3. 'Take Me Out' - Franz Ferdinand
4. 'Everybody Come Down' - The Delgados
5. 'Pattern Recognition' - Sonic Youth
6. 'No Good Advice' - Girls Aloud
7. 'Black Math' - The White Stripes
8. 'Evil' - Interpol
9. 'Come As You Are' - Nirvana
10. 'Purple Haze' - Jimi Hendrix

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Listwatch

Stylus: Best 40 Albums and Worst 40 Albums
Independent: Artists' Albums Of The Year
Pitchfork: Top 50 Albums
Parallax View: Top 40 Albums, Top 12 Gigs and Top 20 Films
Danger! High Postage: Top 30 Albums
Assistant: Records Of The Year Part One and Part Two and Not Quite Records Of The Year
Expecting To Fly: An assortment of Top 10 Album lists

(Thanks to Kenny for several of these links, and to Pete for inviting me to contribute a list to the Expecting To Fly post.)
Blogwatch: in brief

On a festive note...

Our Man In Hanoi gets into the Christmas spirit in Vietnam;

Jonathan is affronted by the arrogance of the new Santa perched atop Manchester Town Hall;

and Mike's posted his annual Christmas photo.

And on a completely different note...

Nick describes 'Garden State' (subject of some lyrical waxing on this very site) as "the most indie film I have ever seen" - I know what he means. This leads into a rant about "how much I Hate Indie" which made me chuckle, if not actually nod in agreement. And to think, Nick's considering killing off Auspicious Fish - don't let him go quietly.
Quote of the day

"If you aren't grumpy it means that you are content with the world around you, and who the fuck in their right mind would be that?"

Bob Geldof, in the BBC's 'Grumpy Old Men Handbook' - a present given to my dad, but which occupied me for a good portion of Christmas Day. There's something disturbing about finding yourself in vague agreement with the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and Anthony Worrall-Thompson...
The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog

Click on the link above for information about aid and what you can do to help.

If you, like me, have spent the festive period eating too much, pickling yourself in alcohol and generally indulging in all kinds of merriment, it's a sobering read.

(Thanks to Kenny for the link.)

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas you cheap lousy faggots!
SWSL Top 10 Albums Of 2004

Fans of Razorlight, Keane, Kasabian and The Killers: you may want to look away now. Or, failing that, fuck off back to sixth form.

First of all, the shamefully long list of albums that might potentially have troubled the Top 10 had they assailed my ears…

THE ARCADE FIRE - Funeral
THE BLACK KEYS - Rubber Factory
BLUES EXPLOSION - Damage
THE CONCRETES - The Concretes
ELVIS COSTELLO - The Delivery Man
THE DEARS - No Cities Left
THE DELGADOS - Universal Audio
THE EARLIES - These Were The Earlies
THE EIGHTIES MATCHBOX B-LINE DISASTER - The Royal Society
GOLDIE LOOKIN CHAIN - Greatest Hits
THE HIVES - Tyrannosaurus Hives
HOPE OF THE STATES - The Lost Riots
THE LIBERTINES - The Libertines
MODEST MOUSE - Good News For People Who Love Bad News
THE RADIO DEPT - Lesser Matters
RADIO 4 - Stealing Of A Nation
RILO KILEY - More Adventurous
THE SECRET MACHINES - Now Here Is Nowhere
SIX BY SEVEN - 04
SPARTA - Porcelain
THE STREETS - A Grand Don’t Come For Free
TV ON THE RADIO - Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
THE WALKMEN - Bows & Arrows
BRIAN WILSON - Smile

(New Year’s Resolution: seek out and buy more music.)

Next, the honourable mentions…

DAVID BYRNE - Grown Backwards
THE CORAL - Nightfreak And The Sons Of Becker
GRAHAM COXON - Happiness In Magazines
IKARA COLT - Modern Apprentice
MARK LANEGAN - Bubblegum
MORRISSEY - You Are The Quarry
QHIXLDEKX - The Twin Moon Conspiracy
SCISSOR SISTERS - Scissor Sisters
THE SHINS - Chutes Too Narrow
SONS & DAUGHTERS - Love The Cup
SOPHIA - People Are Like Seasons
WILCO - A Ghost Is Born

Of these, The Shins probably came closest to scraping in - charmingly fresh power-pop with incongruously shadowy lyrics, but after a corking start Chutes Too Narrow unfortunately tails off into a bit of a disappointment with one or two drippy tracks too many.

And now for the Top 10…

10. CLINIC - Winchester Cathedral
In musical terms the Liverpool four-piece peddle some of the most deliciously sinister pop around. Ade Blackburn's nasal whine might render the vocals almost entirely incomprehensible, but his malevolent hissing gets right under the skin. Winchester Cathedral might be business as usual for Clinic, but when business is this good that’s no reason to complain.
Key track: ‘Anne’

9. KELIS - Tasty
There may be a slump in quality over the course of the final few tracks, but for the most part this record is a classic lesson in how to precipitate salivation. Mrs Nas keeps us more than entertained with a succession of bootylicious sex jamz, ably assisted by The Neptunes. Yum yum.
Key track: ‘In Public’

8. PJ HARVEY - Uh Huh Her
After the polish, positivity and vitality of 2001’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, Uh Huh Her marked a partial return to the gritty, raw and raucous sound of the early 90s, no doubt at least partially influenced by PJ's time hanging out with the likes of Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan. Nevertheless, the less immediate but more delicate and restrained tracks like 'It's You' and 'The Slow Drug' come into their own over time.
Key track: ‘It’s You’

7. THE ICARUS LINE - Penance Soiree
Obnoxious, abrasive, abusive LA brats embark upon a riotous romp through rock history like a bunch of marauding punk rock vikings. As on their debut LP Mono, The Stooges, The Jesus Lizard and The Birthday Party are vomited up to glorious effect, but this time there's also the sound of 70s rock imploding, psychotically pulverising metal and heavy-lidded doped-up Spacemen-3-esque epics. Sitting amidst the wreckage is a blast.
Key track: ‘Getting Bright At Night’

6. INTERPOL - Antics
In many ways a dream sophomore release, exuding, for the first time, self-belief and a confidence in their own musical identity. A more urgent record than 2002's Turn On The Bright Lights, Antics unfortunately retains its predecessor's lyrical deficiencies but also - thankfully - its drama, poise and dignity.
Key track: ‘Not Even Jail’

5. THE FIERY FURNACES - Blueberry Boat
Without doubt the album which rewarded the patient listener the most. Every spin revealed new facets, the record endlessly divulging its secrets one by one. The Fiery Furnaces are one in a million, and Blueberry Boat is fantastically rich in ideas, invention and wit, both musically and lyrically (how many songs do you know which start off by discussing a teenage dream of working as a typewriter mechanic?). A palatial place of refuge if you ever fear that music is lacking in imagination or ambition, or a first port of call if you're just in search of wholesome tales of piracy and lost dogs.
Key track: ‘Chris Michaels’

4. FRANZ FERDINAND - Franz Ferdinand
The Strokes sexed up and set to a disco beat. Assured and yet far from arrogant, Franz Ferdinand's electrifying debut lit a fire that burned out of control on the dancefloors of indie clubs in cities all over the place, whilst Alex Kapranos was to men's fashion in 2004 what Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs was to women's in 2003. "Super-fantastisch" indeed.
Key track: ‘Take Me Out’

3. SONIC YOUTH - Sonic Nurse
Their 19th studio album saw the New York legends come full circle, a natural continuation of the retreat away from the self-consciously obtruse avant-gardism of NYC Ghosts & Flowers which characterised 2002's Murray Street. Treading water for perhaps the first time in their career, then, but doing it with such style. Who could begrudge them plagiarising their own illustrious back catalogue when the results are as magnificent and melodic as 'Stones', 'Pattern Recognition' and 'Paper Cup Exit'?
Key track: ‘Pattern Recognition’

2. THE FUTUREHEADS - The Futureheads
Franz Ferdinand may have won the battle in taking the prize for best single, but The Futureheads won the war. Even on the umpteenth revolution this album bursts with an irrepressible lust for life. Impassioned and intense but above all stunningly good fun, The Futureheads' debut is one to live long in the memory - and the heart.
Key track: ‘Hounds Of Love’

1. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus
Not one to dwell on departed friends (Blixa Bargeld) or rest on his laurels - which were wilting somewhat after last year's rather flaccid Nocturama LP - Nick Cave followed it up with a double album of staggering power and beauty. By turns lugubrious, angry and exultant - but, perhaps most notably (if not surprisingly for Cave afficionados), brilliantly funny. We might all be on the highway to hell, but we're gonna be grinning all the goddamn way there.
Key track: ‘Hiding All Away’

A reminder of the SWSL Top 10 Albums Of 2003:

1. THE RAVEONETTES - Chain Gang Of Love
2. THE MARS VOLTA - De-Loused In The Comatorium
3. EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY - The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
4. MOGWAI - Happy Music For Happy People
5. THE STROKES - Room On Fire
6. YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Fever To Tell
7. RADIOHEAD - Hail To The Thief
8. HOT HOT HEAT - Make Up The Breakdown
9. CAVE IN - Antenna
10. EELS - Shootenanny!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

SWSL Top 20 Singles Of 2004

From The Futureheads to The Fiery Furnaces, Graham Coxon to Nick Cave, 2004 has been another vintage year for the humble single format.

First of all, the honourable mentions:

ABERFELDY - ‘Heliopolis By Night’
BASEMENT JAXX - ‘Plug Me In’
BEASTIE BOYS - ‘Ch-Ch-Check It Out’
GRAHAM COXON - ‘Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery’
THE DEAD 60S - ‘Riot Radio’
FRANZ FERDINAND - ‘Matinee’ / ‘This Fire’
THE FUTUREHEADS - ‘Meantime’
GIRLS ALOUD - ‘The Show’
GOLDIE LOOKIN CHAIN - ‘Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do’
GREEN DAY - ‘American Idiot’
PJ HARVEY - ‘Shame’
THE HIVES - ‘Two Timing Touch And Broken Bones’
THE ICARUS LINE - ‘Party The Baby Off’
IKARA COLT - ‘Wanna Be That Way’
KELIS FEAT ANDRE 3000 - ‘Millionaire’
THE MARS VOLTA - ‘Televators’ EP
MAXIMO PARK - ‘The Coast Is Always Changing’ / ‘The Night I Lost My Head’ (double A-side)
MUSE - ‘Butterflies And Hurricanes’
N*E*R*D - ‘She Wants To Move’
OUTKAST - ‘Roses’
PRODIGY - ‘Girls’
SCISSOR SISTERS - ‘Take Your Mama Out’ / ‘Mary’ / ‘Laura’
THE SHINS - ‘Fighting In A Sack’ / ‘So Says I’
SONS & DAUGHTERS - ‘Johnny Cash’
THE STILLS - ‘Still In Love Song’
THE STROKES - ‘Reptilia’ / ‘The End Has No End’
TV ON THE RADIO - ‘Staring At The Sun’
USHER - ‘Yeah’
WILCO - ‘Spiders (Kidsmoke)’
YOURCODENAMEIS: MILO - ‘Schteeve’
THE ZUTONS - ‘Don’t Ever Think’

And now for the official countdown…

20. SCISSOR SISTERS - ‘Comfortably Numb’
2004 was barely a couple of weeks old when Scissor Sisters shoved a big gay cock up the arse of mainstream pop and spunked out this gem of a cover. A gleeful middle finger to comfortably numb po-faced Mojo-reading Floyd fans everywhere.

19. THE FUTUREHEADS - ‘Decent Days And Nights’
Like Scissor Sisters, spunky - only not in the same “mop it up with a Kleenex” kinda sense. Perhaps not quite as deliriously potent as ‘First Day’ or ‘Carnival Kids’ (the lead track on last year’s ‘1-2-3 Nul!’ EP), but a 2004 highlight nonetheless.

18. FRANZ FERDINAND - ‘Michael’
Indie disco dancefloor thrills courtesy of the latest band to be labelled Glasgow’s finest. More hip-shaking and homoeroticism. If brazenly heterosexual rock means Jet, then I’ll take this anytime.

17. PJ HARVEY - ‘The Letter’
A timely reminder that Polly Jean’s voice is still one of the most bewitching and beguiling around. She could seduce statues.

16. THE STREETS - ‘Blinded By The Lights’
No pretence, no posturing, a vivid portrait of Britain in 2004- this is the urban chronicler Skinner’s kitchen-sink garage at its finest, music utterly of its time in the best possible sense.

15. THE LIBERTINES - ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’
The Libertines have always been a complete mess, and break-ups are always messy - but rarely is it this enjoyable to hear the process on record. All the same, they’re not the messiahs, just a couple of very naughty boys - well, one of them in particular.

14. KELIS - ‘Milkshake’
Jaw-droppingly original pop beamed in from another planet. Still not sure what it’s all about, but it sounds positively filthy. Cold shower for one, please!

13. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - ‘Nature Boy’
As delightful as it was unexpected. Neither featherlight ballad nor blood-and-guts melodrama, ‘Nature Boy’ is a Bargeld-less Bad Seeds trying their hand at a charmingly breezy pop song, albeit one about “routine atrocity”. And it wasn’t even the best Nick Cave single of the year…

12. THE FIERY FURNACES - ‘Single Again’
Traditional song meets The Fiery Furnaces. With predictably unpredictable but thoroughly pleasing consequences. And a lot of electro squelching.

11. THE WALKMEN - ‘The Rat’
You’ve got a nerve” - who has? The Strokes, for daring to release singles far inferior to ‘The Rat’ and yet undeservedly laud it over their NYC brethren? Tense, nervous, agitated, insistent and angry.

10. THE RADIO DEPT - ‘Why Won’t You Talk About It?’
Listening to this is the equivalent of putting on a thick oversized fluffy jumper knitted entirely out of the strands of feedback and fuzz from The Jesus & Mary Chain’s Psychocandy. If you’re a regular visitor to this site, then you’ll know this must categorically be A Good Thing.

9. GRAHAM COXON - ‘Freakin Out’
Brattish, nihilistic, solipsistic, agoraphobic gutter-punk of the highest order. Does anyone else have difficulty believing that this man had a hand in writing ‘Country House’?

8. RACHEL STEVENS - ‘Some Girls’
No, no, no, no, NO! What were you thinking of, Ms Stevens?! And you, Mr X?! Don’t you know that Comic Relief singles are supposed to be shit, and not lip-smackingly splendid electro-pop!

7. INTERPOL - ‘Slow Hands’
No more lurking in the shadows for Paul Banks and company. ‘Slow Hands’ was a bold and strident step into the light.

6. MORRISSEY - ‘First Of The Gang To Die’
So, what’s all the fuss about this Morrissey character, then? Ah, NOW I see… It’s difficult to say whether even a totally cleaned-up Pete Doherty would constitute a more remarkable rehabilitation than this.

5. THE ICARUS LINE - ‘Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers’
One of those songs where the title says it all, really. The bassline is as ugly as sin (think Lemmy and Ann Widdecombe’s lovechild) and the whole thing’s as blunt and brutal as getting repeatedly struck in the face with a car jack. As they say - no pain, no gain.

4. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - ‘Breathless’ / ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’ (double A-side)
Forget ‘Breathless’, as gorgeous as it is - this was all about the Abattoir Blues track it was paired with. A majestically tempestuous and tumultuous triumph, and most probably the only single released this year to make reference to both Nabokov and Johnny Thunders.

3. KELIS - ‘Trick Me’
Delectably minimalist r ‘n’ b that fast grew into the biggest fattest burrowing earworm of the year. About dirty low-down no-good men and their deceiving ways and not about magicians, sadly - but most definitely magic.

2. BRITNEY SPEARS - ‘Toxic’
Postmodern bricolage par excellence or just a bloody marvellous pop song? Does it really matter? Ubiquity did nothing to dull its dazzling sheen.

1. FRANZ FERDINAND - ‘Take Me Out’
Even when nominally writing about Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Darts Of Pleasure’ for last year’s list, I couldn’t help drifting off and talking about ‘Take Me Out’, earmarking it as a frontrunner for this year’s top spot. Well, here we are, and here it is. Absolutely nothing’s changed since then, except for the passing of twelve months of inferior singles releases. Still a glorious marriage of arty Strokes new-wave and fringe-waggling disco stomp a la Blondie, and without a doubt my favourite single of the year.

A reminder of the SWSL Top 20 Singles Of 2003:

1. JOHNNY CASH - ‘Hurt’
2. THE RAVEONETTES - ‘That Great Love Sound’
3. BEYONCE FEAT JAY-Z - ‘Crazy In Love’
4. MICHAEL ANDREWS AND GARY JULES - ‘Mad World’
5. THE DELGADOS - ‘Hate’
6. ELECTRIC SIX - ‘Gay Bar’
7. JANE’S ADDICTION - ‘Just Because’
8. MEW - ‘Comforting Sounds’
9. THE WHITE STRIPES - ‘7 Nation Army’
10. OUTKAST - ‘Hey Ya!’
11. INTERPOL - ‘Say Hello To The Angels’ / ‘NYC’
12. THE DARKNESS - ‘Growing On Me’
13. YEAH YEAH YEAHS - ‘Date With The Night’
14. THE STROKES - ’12:51’
15. THE FUTUREHEADS - ‘1 2 3 Nul!’ EP
16. FRANZ FERDINAND - ‘Darts Of Pleasure’
17. RADIOHEAD - ‘There There’
18. HOT HOT HEAT - ‘Bandages’
19. THE RAPTURE - ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’
20. THE CORAL - ‘Pass It On’

Monday, December 20, 2004

The SWSL End-Of-Year Music Lists

Yes, folks, it’s that time of the year again. I’ve procrastinated, cogitated and deliberated long enough. Over the next few days I’ll be posting my Top 10 Albums and Top 20 Singles, complete with commentary, but to start things off here’s the Top 10 Live Performances of the year.

Read, enjoy, disagree and leave comments, or just ignore as an exercise in supreme self-indulgence – the choice is yours. But dammit, these things MATTER to us bloggers, you know…
SWSL Top 10 Live Performances Of 2004

Limited – I hope understandably – to my own gig-going experiences…

10. MUSE, Glastonbury Festival, 27th June
Recent single ‘Hysteria’ and ‘New Born’ get things off to an electric start and, although ‘Citizen Erased’ and ‘Apocalypse Please’ are spectacular, the set begins to flag somewhat in the middle, as the songs drift gradually away into the empty bombast and prog-opera for which they attract so much critical scorn. Thankfully, though, the three singles ‘Bliss’, ‘Time Is Running Out’ and ‘Plug In Baby’ with which they end restore the natural balance between pomp and substance, and in the encore they attack an explosive ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ with staggering ferocity. Let them eat rock, Matt Bellamy seems to have said – and we do, with relish.

9. FRANZ FERDINAND, Birmingham Academy, 27th January
It's great to see a band who came across as loveable but eccentric sell-nothing arty geeks back in August looking so naturally at home on the Academy's stage, buoyed by the knowledge that they've got a corker of an LP just waiting to be unleashed. The opening trio of songs - 'Shopping For Blood', 'Tell Her Tonight' and the ever-marvellous chart-scorching single 'Take Me Out' - are as clear a statement of intent as you'll ever hear, that statement being, ‘We have come for your ears and your stereos’. Let's get one thing straight: they ARE the new Strokes, if only in the sense that they're the most precociously well-formed band to appear since Julian Casablancas and company came into view. Parading almost mathematically perfect songs like ‘Jacqueline' and 'Darts Of Pleasure' on stage, they're like a newborn baby freshly emerged from the womb clutching the proofs for a new law of physics.

8. PJ HARVEY, Glastonbury Festival, 25th June
Most of the choice cuts from new album Uh Huh Her – ‘The Letter’, ‘Cat On The Wall’, ‘Who The Fuck?’, ‘The Life And Death Of Mr Badmouth’ – get a welcome airing, but my personal highlights are Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea tracks ‘Big Exit’ and ‘Good Fortune’, songs I love unconditionally. The cider having taken control of my body and mind, I spend most of the set nodding and gawping at the stage – as if the songs weren’t enough to arrest the attention and quicken the pulse, she’s wearing a Spice Girls dress and pink stilettos
(Also seen at Birmingham Academy)

7. THE ICARUS LINE, Nottingham Rock City, 3rd May
I'm not quite sure what it is that appeals to me - they're obnoxious, messy, graceless and not particularly talented. It must be something to do with the primal quality of their music, and their antipathy towards, amongst other things, everything that attempts to pass itself off as "punk" - plus, of course, the fact that they rock. There's little evidence in tonight's set of their seedier and sinister stoner side (stuff like 'You Make Me Nervous' from their last LP, the ferocious Mono), but we do get the brilliant single 'Feed A Cat To Your Cobra' (#7 in SWSL's Singles of 2002, dontcha know) and plenty of highlights from their latest offering: 'Seasick', 'On The Lash' and the single 'Party The Baby Off', during which band nutjob and Buddyhead co-founder Aaron North, sporting black 'Mask Of Zorro' eye make-up, walks along the bar and sprays Coke out of the soft drinks nozzle all over his guitar.

6. THE FIERY FURNACES, Nottingham Stealth, 26th August
What happens next is anyone's guess. The four piece career and crash through song after song without pause for breath, and I stand gobsmacked at the awesome intensity of it all, foremost in my mind the thought, ‘They do this EVERY NIGHT?!!’. It starts with 'My Dog Was Lost But Now It's Found', and 'South Is Only A Home', 'Single Again', 'Don't Dance Her Down', 'Blueberry Boat', 'Bright Blue Tie' and 'Tropical Iceland' are all in there somewhere, gleaming pearls of surrealist blues thrown out before the mulleted swine, while snatches and snippets of songs apparently discarded earlier creep back into the set.

5. MOGWAI, Nottingham Rock City, 24th March
'Sine Wave' gets the encore off to an inauspicious start, Martin losing track of his drum line amidst the industrial crunch, but the rising guitar riff and gently skipping drums of 'Mogwai Fear Satan' are on hand to make immediate amends. As ever it packs a mighty wallop, but the surprise is that, as in Birmingham last October, it doesn't close the show. That honour falls to 'Ratts Of The Capital', on this occasion a sinuous, shrieking beast that is so stunningly heavy it threatens to burst your eyeballs. For a moment, after about five minutes of powerchord barrage, I'm tempted to put my hands to my ears, but then just in time I stop myself - that would be to concede defeat to the sinister forces of old age and reason... So, no 'Take Me Somewhere Nice', no 'Like Herod', no 'My Father My King' - but then to complain about the omissions would be ungrateful and detract from what we did get. What Mogwai have gained in grace and songwriting skill over the years, they patently haven't sacrificed in power or extremity. I may be edging towards my late 20s, but there's still something special in feeling physically brutalised by music.

4. SPIRITUALIZED, Nottingham Rock City, 26th January
The mammoth and majestic set ends with a pure fucking noise freakout and all-out strobe assault that’s like Mogwai and The Velvet Underground self-combusting together on stage. It’s January, my first gig of the new year, and already it’s a serious contender for top spot come the end-of-year lists. Amazing. And graceful. The bar has been set obscenely high. Ladies and gentlemen, I am currently floating in space.
(Also seen at Glastonbury Festival)

3. THE FUTUREHEADS, Birmingham Academy, 6th December
Extensive touring over the past year has whetted their live set to a keen blade, their spiky songs like daggers which jab you in the ribs in a perversely pleasurable way. There's no stylish slickness here, just an invigorating clattering punk racket overlaid with the glorious three and sometimes four part vocal harmonies. You get the feeling that you're witnessing the release of years of pent-up frustration, the cork popping from the bottle marked 'Adolescent Energy'. Fast, furious and utterly thrilling to watch.

2. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS, Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 7th November
Love. Disgust. Hope and warmth. Malice and foreboding. Songs of beauty. Stories of violence. Weightless balladry. Blazing fury. Carefree days of sunshine. Dark nights of the soul. Gossamer threads of guitar. Bar-room blues on PCP. The sublime. The ridiculous. ‘Babe, you turn me on’. ‘Routine atrocity’. ‘GET READY FOR LOVE!!!’ ‘THERE IS A WAR COMING!!!’ Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds experience … From the moment they reappear and Cave says, ‘So, what do you want to hear?’, the encore's just a little bit special. Cave sneering the reference to ‘moral sneaks in the White House’ in 'God Is In The House'; the explosions of noise in 'Red Right Hand'; the entirety of 'Deanna' (‘I ain't down here for your money / I ain't down here for your love / I ain't down here for love or money / I'M DOWN HERE FOR YOUR SOUL’); blood-soaked murderfest 'Stagger Lee' making gangsta rap look like kids' stuff. He doesn't play 'Do You Love Me?', but if he had I would have shouted 'Yes'.

1. SONIC YOUTH, London Brixton Academy, 2nd September
The star of the show has to be Thurston Moore, an art-punk legend dressed up as Bill or Ted. Even in middle age he's a goofy teenager getting to do what he's always dreamt of and loving every minute of it, tossing that unchanging mane with the same enthusiastic abandon of youth. ‘The last time we were here was about ten years ago. Those were the days, baby!’ Barely fifteen minutes into the set and he's humping his guitar on top of the enormous speaker stacks as 'Pattern Recognition', confirmed tonight as a modern classic in the same mould as 'The Empty Page', drifts away into feedback … Just take a look at the set-list. I've seen them play 'Teenage Riot' AND 'Expressway To Yr Skull' ON THE SAME NIGHT. I can die happy.

Every other band I’ve enjoyed / endured live this year:

Atlantic Dash / Basement Jaxx / Bright Eyes / British Sea Power / James Brown / Dead Meadow / The Duke Spirit / English National Opera / Funeral For A Friend / Goldie Lookin Chain (x2) / Hope Of The States / Interpol / The Killers / Kings Of Leon / Lostprophets / Maximo Park / Paul McCartney / Modey Lemon / Morrissey / My Morning Jacket / The Rapture (x2) / The Raveonettes / Red Organ Serpent Sound / Rilo Kiley / Scissor Sisters / Secret Machines / The Shins / Six By Seven / Sons & Daughters / Squarepusher / Television / The Von Bondies / The Walkmen / Wilco / Wolves! (Of Greece)

A reminder of the SWSL Top 10 Live Performances Of 2003:

1. RADIOHEAD, Glastonbury Festival
2. SIGUR ROS, Glastonbury Festival
3. LOW, Birmingham Academy
4. JANE’S ADDICTION, Nottingham Rock City
5. THE FLAMING LIPS, Glastonbury Festival
6. THE RAVEONETTES, Birmingham Academy
7. EELS, Birmingham Irish Centre
8. MOGWAI, Glastonbury Festival
9. YEAH YEAH YEAHS, Leeds Festival
10. THE DELGADOS, Birmingham Academy

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Reasons To Be Cheerful #4

(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)

The Farmers' Market / The German Christmas Market

New Street, in Birmingham city centre, is just your average shopping street. It could be in any city centre anywhere in Britain.

But every other Wednesday, the Farmers' Market takes over.

No, the city's not invaded by loads of welly-clad yokels with their trousers held up by string, chewing on ears of corn and saying "Oooo-arrr" whilst bartering over the price of cattle.

The Farmers' Market consists of loads of stalls selling all manner of exquisite specialist produce - sausages, wine, vegetables, cider, cakes, pies, cheese. It's not cheap, but sweet Jeebus it's delicious stuff.

A word of warning, then: don't go if you're feeling at all peckish, as the sights and smells - ostrich burgers and organic sausages sizzling away - will have you spending money like it's going out of fashion.

In the run-up to Christmas the Farmers' Market is shunted down to the Bullring end of New Street, the other end and Victoria Square becoming home to the German Christmas Market.

All kinds of traditional German goods are available - candles, jewellry, puppets, ornaments, chocolate-covered fruit. As a friend put it, a happy hunting ground for "the sort of presents that look like you've put some thought into them".

That's what I gather, anyway - my experiences of the German Market have been predominantly centred on the stall selling enormous spicy Frankfurters that are twice as long as the buns they come in and on the cabins from which deliciously sweet and intoxicating Gluhwein can be procured. A few of those, especially with an extra shot of Appelschnapps (makes it taste like molten alcoholic apple strudel) and you'll not know which way's up...

Incidentally, what a pleasure to discover the Birmingham: It's Not Shit site, as recommended to me by a friend and endorsed by Casino Avenue and The Highrise. There's photographic evidence of what Frankfurt gets in return for the German Market. Also, be sure to check out Baywatch Brummie Style - safe for work, but better with the sound on...
Listwatch

NME: Top 50 Albums
Rough Trade: Top 100 Albums
Rolling Stone: Top 50 Albums
Guardian: Top 10 Gigs
Blender: Top 50 Albums
Enthusiastic But Mediocre: Top 100 Singles Of 2004-ish (appearing bit-by-bit)

(Thanks to 50 Quid Bloke for the link to this webpage.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Something in the way

INTERPOL / THE SECRET MACHINES, BIRMINGHAM ACADEMY, 16TH DECEMBER 2004

When The Secret Machines take to the Academy's main stage, we're happily gathered, chatting away with pints in hand. Unfortunately, we're not actually in the venue, but in a pub round the corner, and so only catch the last fifteen minutes of their bizarrely early support set. Precisely how many songs we witness in that time isn't clear, but their expansive and measured proggy sound is enough to convince me that new album Now Here Is Nowhere could be worth investigating.

When Interpol emerge into the lights to the delight of a roaring crowd, it's clear that time spent on the road has coaxed them out of their shells, and they come across as less sheepish and more showmanlike than before. Bassist Carlos D wears a black waistcoat over an arresting blood-red shirt. The most extrovert member of the band, guitarist Daniel Kessler, plays to the crowd, even going so far as to interrupt his intro to a song when struck by a 7" record, stopping to autograph it and chuck it back from whence it came. (That's as close as we get to what could be properly described as "antics".)

Even normally undynamic frontman Paul Banks goes to some effort, his tufty collar-length hair and the black trilby perched on his head making him look like Malcolm McDowell in 'A Clockwork Orange' - minus the eye make-up, of course. His between-song banter is as flat and platitudinous as ever, though.

'Next Exit' is first up, having triumphed over one of my personal favourites 'Untitled' in the battle of the opening tracks and shunting it from the setlist altogether. 'Obstacle #1' is next, and that's the pattern for the rest of the evening - great song after great song.

And yet something's not quite right.

It's partly the fact that the real sweet spot they hit mid-set - 'Not Even Jail', 'Hands Away', the ever-gorgeous 'NYC', 'Slow Hands' - seems rather short-lived, the impetus lost during a couple of the lesser tracks from towards the end of Antics.

It's partly the fact that, despite airing eight of the ten tracks from this year's LP, there's no room for the brilliant 'Take Me On A Cruise'.

It's partly the fact that there seems to be a strange reticence to put faith in the new songs at the business end of the show - 'PDA' ends the main set, followed by an encore of 'Leif Erikson' and 'Roland', and then another of 'Stella Was A Diver...'.

But, most of all, it's the fact that the sound is all wrong. Perhaps it's just where we're standing, but we get all Banks's vocals crystal clear (and that means all the the frequently excruciatingly bad lyrics) and almost none of the taut and inventive basslines that hold the songs together. Ultimately, that's probably what impedes my enjoyment most.

All the same, it's by no means a bad show, but ultimately one that makes me yearn for the songs' recorded counterparts - in that sense, the exact opposite of last week's Futureheads gig.

A very special band, then, who on the night just fail to do themselves or their music justice. That's my take on it, anyway - just try telling that to the hordes of beaming sweaty fresh-faced teenagers gleefully stomping on plastic pint glasses when the lights go up. Or my gig-going companions Kenny and Phill, for that matter...

Update: Kenny's posted a write-up of the evening on Parallax View.
Blogwatch

Yes, it's been awoken from its hibernating slumber...

Phill of Danger! High Postage, whose acquaintance I had the pleasure to make last night, is aggrieved that those scallywags and scoundrels at the Metro have plagiarised without permission his feature for the BBC website about Birmingham's refurbished Electric Cinema, which reopens its doors tonight. And rightly so - cheeky bastards. Incidentally, the Electric Cinema is shaping up to be a prime subject for the SWSL Reasons To Be Cheerful series - watch this space.

Elsewhere:

Vaughan tries his hand at political commentary - "A bearded cabinet minister, renowned as a no-nonsense, hardline political bruiser with the sort of right-wing policies you never dreamed you'd see from the Labour Party, has resigned. He has been swiftly replaced by a bearded cabinet minister, renowned as a no-nonsense, hardline political bruiser with the sort of right-wing policies you never dreamed you'd see from the Labour Party";

Jonny B has a very specific matter for the incoming Home Secretary to, ahem, clear up - "If Mr Blunkett had a fault, it was that he concentrated too much on the glamour parts of his job, like prisons and tanks at Heathrow and stuff, and did fuck all about the issue of dog shit. As regular readers know, I hate dog shit. If you offered me a choice as to whether I would want Dido rubbed into my face or dog shit, I would choose Dido every time. That's how much I hate it";

Paul is justifiably appalled by the ECB's decision to grant Sky exclusive rights to show live cricket from 2006 - "English cricket – it's on the rise, people are becoming interested again, the national team are winning, Twenty20 has revitalised the domestic game and from 2006 only those people with Sky will be able to watch it live. Genius. Only the ECB could find a way of screwing up the most promising climate for expanding the cricketing fanbase for years";

Nick enthuses about Can's Ege Bamyasi and Girls Aloud's What Will The Neighbours Say?;

and Angelo defends those authors nominated for the Bad Sex Awards, this year won by Tom Wolfe - "I realise that these authors are not always trying to be serious and I've had enough terrible sex to know that it's not always the way we'd like it to be in reality".
Know Your Enemy #52

"I really don't ever hate anything, but there was one appalling thing I went to: 'Shaun Of The Dead'. Quite the most loathsome film I've ever seen."

Ken Russell, one of the "movers and shakers" interviewed for the Guardian's review of the cultural year. Other interviewees include Andrew Motion, Corin Redgrave, Patrick Marber, Chris Ofili, Michael Grade, Alex Kapranos, Tom Paulin and David Shrigley.

(Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the link.)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Pretentious? Nous?

The tracklisting for the forthcoming Mars Volta LP Frances The Mute, due for release on 22nd March, according to Punknews:

Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus
A. Sarcophagi
B. Umbilical Syllables
C. Facilis Descenus Averni
D. Con Safo

The Widow

L' Via L' Viaquez

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore
A. Vade Mecum
B. Pour Another Icepick
C. Pisacis (Phra-Men-Ma)
D. Con Safo

Cassandra Gemini
A. Tarantism
B. Plant A Nail In The Navel Stream
C. Faminepulse
D. Multiple Spouse Wounds
E. Sarcophagi

It's business as usual for Messrs Bixler Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez then...
Listwatch

Stylus: Top 5 Labels and Top 10 Movies (and the 4 Worst)
Prefix: Top 60 Albums
Chromewaves: Top 10 Albums

(Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the latter two links.)
Quote of the day

"Sit with pen poised over first card for half an hour. Recognise that because 'Merry Christmas' has already been printed for you, you have nothing else to say to the schoolfriend who had three kids by twenty and with whom you are only in touch the rest of the year by means of being a CC to the hilarious emails that do the rounds of her office every day".

From Writing Christmas Cards: The Green Fairy Guide, which trumps my own feeble effort from last week.

(Thanks to Inspector Sands for the link.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Griffin has his wings clipped

Remember the BBC's July programme 'The Secret Agent', which went undercover behind the scenes in the BNP to scratch away the party's facade of respectability?

Well, five months on and party leader Nick Griffin has been arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit racial hatred as a direct result of comments made unwittingly to camera in the documentary. Couldn't have happened to a nicer chap.

(Thanks to Jonathan for the link.)
Death by Christmas decoration

Yesterday, whilst out shopping in the evening, J and I stopped for a bite to eat at the Bullring. We sat in the cafe admiring the enormous and intricate neon stars suspended above the open-air thoroughfare, before noticing that they were swaying quite violently in the wind, the metal cables which hold them in place looking worryingly frail. J turned to me and said: "They're a 'Six Feet Under' death just waiting to happen". I'll be walking down there with care in future - as much as I'd like to meet the show's cast, I'd rather not do it encased in a wooden box.
Quote of the day

"If you can't have sex with the monkey, make friends with the organ grinder."

Mark explains to flatmate Jeremy his plan to get close to the object of his affections Sophie by befriending her boyfriend Jeff in last night's episode of 'Peep Show'.

The finest comedy currently on TV, ahead of more feted series like 'Little Britain', 'Max & Paddy's Road To Nowhere', 'The Smoking Room' etc? I think so, anyway.
Feel good hits of the 15th December

1. 'Kissing The Lipless' - The Shins
2. 'Carnival Kids' - The Futureheads
3. 'Back In Black' - AC/DC
4. 'Toxic' - Britney Spears
5. 'I Luv U' - Dizzee Rascal
6. 'Nature Boy' - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
7. 'Rhinocerous' - Smashing Pumpkins
8. 'The Coast Is Always Changing' - Maximo Park
9. 'The Only Moment We Were Alone' - Explosions In The Sky
10. 'The Bends' - Radiohead

Monday, December 13, 2004

The green green grass of home

"Romantic" and "comedy" are two words which, when placed together, ordinarily instil a profound sense of horror into my heart. 'Garden State' is, ultimately, a romantic comedy, but like 'As Good As It Gets' it's a particularly deceptive and devious one because it only comes out of the closet and reveals its true nature halfway through.

Up until this point, I had been utterly charmed by the film's offbeat humour, witty touches and general quirkiness, none of which feels at all forced - for which all the credit must go to Zach 'Scrubs' Braff, as its writer, director and star. He even gets a decent performance out of Natalie Portman, last seen (I think) doing a passable impersonation of a corpse as Queen Amidala.

After the midway point, the laughs are gradually airbrushed out, convention drifts in and the ending is disappointingly saccharine.

Nevertheless, it's certainly worth a peek - and, coming from this particular cynical and jaded individual, that's high praise for a rom-com.

(Braff even has his own 'Garden State' blog - click here to read it.)
Listwatch

Uncut: Top 70 Albums
Observer Music Monthly: Top 20 Albums and Top 10 Singles
Parallax View: Top 45 Singles
Rented Rooms: Top 10 Albums
50 Quid Bloke: Trevor Maynard's Top 10 Albums With Female Vocalists

(Thanks to Kenny for alerting me to the former two lists.)
Seasonal goodwill

What better way to embrace the spirit of Christmas than by inviting some new faces in from the freezing cold to roast their chestnuts on a roaring open fire? So, a warm welcome to the SWSL blogroll for:

It's Funny Because It's Shit
The Long Lost Lonely Lagomorph
Sashinka

Come on in, knock the snow from your shoes, help yourselves to a homemade mince pie and sit yourselves down in front of 'Only Fools And Horses'. And don't mind my gran - brandy has that effect on her.
We'll meet again...

... or, rather, we'll meet for the first time at some point in the future.

Owing to a last-minute change of circumstances, necessitating a corresponding change of plans, neither myself nor He Who Cannot Be Named were able to attend Saturday's blogmeet in London. I was thus deprived of the chance to reacquaint myself with at least one familiar face, Mike, and to meet those behind some of the more illustrious sites on the SWSL blogroll - Vaughan, Anna, Mark, Robin, Adrian, Sasha...

As far as I'm aware, there's no proper write-up to be found - shame on you all, except for Mike who has at least posted some brief comments on the event.