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Desert Island Discs


My good friend Chris, who I’ve known since school, loves his music and he came up with a tough challenge last year. What would my Desert Island Disc choices be if I were stranded in isolation, surrounded by sea, on a beach with no rescue in sight? Not only that, could a few scribbles be put with each track to illuminate why certain tracks made the cut.

He mentioned this at the start of 2011 and set a deadline of the final day of the year. So I did a lot of mulling and of course left it til the last minute to nail my colours to the mast. Wow, it was a hard thing to do but the journey was great fun.

Having to commit to only 8 tracks was unbelievably difficult. So tough that I’ve listed some back-ups at the end of this post, just in case my original CD gets lost on the island.

In the end I picked as if sifting through my musical memory. Which tracks had stood out for me since I first discovered the joy of music?

Sweet Thing by Van Morrison (1968)
Rock On by David Essex (1973)
Take Five by Dave Brubeck (1959)
Secret World by Peter Gabriel (1992)
Seashell by Skylab (1994)
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads (1983)
Spooky by Dusty Springfield (1970)
Tomorrow Morning by The Blue Nile (1996)

Van Morrison “Sweet Thing” off Astral Weeks (1968)
After reading many glowing reviews I was really looking forward to hearing Astral Weeks. First listen and I hated it, what a load of rubbish, garbled, conceptual, rough. But never one to give up on a good thing I kept going and loved it after a year, now ten years on, it’s probably my favourite album of all time.

David Essex “Rock On” his first single (1973)
I’ve included this as I was a massive David Essex fan growing up, complete with teenage crush. Claire (H my best friend at school) was always a Donny Osmond girl so we had endless talks on who was best. Weird thing is, both David and Donny are still going strong decades later. Bet we aren’t saying that about Matt Cardle down the line. As for the song, I still think it is superb, just a terrific pop single, way ahead of it’s time, as proved by the number of times it’s been sampled in the digital age.

Dave Brubeck “take five” (1959)
Always reminds me of my Dad. He was Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and jazz whilst Mum was Bee Gees, Glen Campbell, Stevie Wonder and Leo Sayer. A great bit of music, superb emotional playing by all concerned. Timeless.

Peter Gabriel “Secret World” off Us (1992)
PG is someone I admire tremendously. He has used his time and position for so many good things, his voice is a thing of beauty and though not perfect it always sounds heartfelt and full of soul. He’s written many great tracks and never produces work without a great deal of thought, a forest could grow in the gap between his albums. But it is always worth the wait.  This track is typical Gabriel; emotional delivery, heartfelt lyrics and has been known to make me cry.  A neck tingler of the highest order.

Skylab “Seashell” off skylab No1 (1994)
From the very first moment I heard this I loved it. Dreamy beats, very atmospheric, I’m right there on the beach. Well on the desert island this will be perfect. Very visual for me with lots of lovely scenes and places I’ve visited popping into my head.

Talking Heads This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) off Speaking in Tongues (1983)
Captures the isolation and loneliness of being away from home. One of my all time favourite bands. I think I will find it supportive to listen to this whilst on the island. Makes me think of the people and environments that make a home a good place to be. David Byrne is such a talent, great writer and lyricist. A big regret is I never got to see them live.

Dusty Springfield “Spooky” a B-side from single How Can I Be Sure (1970)
If I ever get married, this will be my choice for first dance. It’s just so happy and lovely. What a delicate and distinctive vocal from Dusty. So cool. Great sax solo. The only female vocalist to make my DID list. What can I say, seems I’m a baritone kind of girl!

Blue Nile “Tomorrow Morning” off Peace at Last (1996)
Probably my favourite vocalist ever is Paul Buchanan. Tough choice to pick which song to represent the Blue Nile. I went for this as despite the melancholia it is hopeful, maybe the rescue ship will arrive tomorrow. Minor keys, romance, regret, atmosphere, stories. It’ll all here.

Back-Up Disc in case Disc One gets lost.
Peter Gabriel “Zaar” off Passion (1989)
Richard Thompson “Mystery Wind” off Rumour & Sigh (1991)
The Beatles “Come Together” off Abbey Road (1969)
Martha Wainwright “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” off Martha Wainwright (2004)
The Smiths “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” off The Queen Is Dead (1986)
Fleet Foxes “White Winter Hymnal” off Fleet Foxes (2008)
M “Pop Muzik” single (1979)
Georgie Fame “In the Meantime” single (1965)


Best of 2009: Music and Films.

2009_bestfilms_music

Indeed, it is that time of year again when a cultural reckoning is required.  Did you have any favourite films this year and what was cooking up a storm on the music front?  Just like a friendly chinwag round the internet campfire, all are welcome to spend their two-pennies worth, please share your own Best Of’s for the Year 2009 and leave a comment.

I shall kick things off with my choices:

Best singles:

    Laura Marling – Alas I cannot swim (came out in 2008)
    Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
    Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
    Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter
    The xx – xx
    Wilco – Wilco
    Wildbeasts – Two Dancers
    Yeasayer- All Hour Cymbals

Bubbling under
Tunng- Good Arrows (came out in 2007) / The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love / School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms / Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz / Polar Bear – Polar Bear / Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs / The Antlers – Hospice

Best Films
(roughly in order, best first)

    Fish Tank
    The Damned United
    Mesrine Killer Instinct
    The Class
    Moon
    Caramel (2007)
    Sleep Furiously
    Coraline
    Doubt
    35 Shots of Rum
    Frozen River
    Let the Right One In
    The Reader
    An Education
    Inglorious Basterds
    Slumdog Millionaire
    Syndoche new york
    Public Enemies
    State of Play

…. sadly there were others but they didn’t even make the cut.

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My favourite films of 2008.

filmframe

I usually bore all my filmy mates with my favourite films of the year, but hey, now I have a blog I can be even more indulgent!  My favourite music list will follow shortly, as soon as I’ve taken some more evaluative pills.

  1. There Will Be Blood /Paul Thomas Anderson, USA … ambitious, layered, passionate, engrossing, well acted.  Old-fashioned parable, epic in a good way.  Stunning cinematography.  Needed a great central performance and thankfully we got a top of the range Daniel Day Lewis acting class.  Powerful stuff.  Just spoilt by a drawn-out ending.
  2. The Dark Knight /Christopher Nolan, USA … very enjoyable, disturbing, moody and magnificent, Heath Ledger’s Joker lifts it notches higher on the entertainment levels.  Delve deeper and the messages are thick and potent.
  3. Juno /Jason Reitman, USA … original, funny, involving, imagine a comedy about abortion working so well. Great screenplay.
  4. No Country For Old Men /Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, USA … clever and creepy, vacuous, mans dark side exposed, not much hope on show.  Always interesting but worryingly uninvolving.
  5. Happy Go Lucky /Mike Leigh, UK … just the antidote I needed post “Old Men” and “Will Be Blood”, light of touch, beautifully acted, jaunty, charming and sweet. A film with a heart.
  6. Lars & the Real Girl /Craig Gillespie, USA … I really loved this, its original, affecting and thoughtful.  You are slowly drawn into a quite odd world which is brought to life wonderfully.
  7. Of Time and the City /Terence Davies, UK … rich, moving, interesting, thoughtful, individual, a very personal elegy and an essay on life.
  8. Charlie Wilson’s War /Mike Nichols, USA … entertaining, well acted, surprisingly better than I thought.  Philip Seymour Hoffman should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this.
  9. Gomorrah /Matteo Garrone, Italy … realist and gritty, suffers a little being post-“Sopranos”, anti-gloss gangster deconstruction. Tight jumpy editing, visually strong and visceral.  Deserves to be seen widely.
  10. Sweeney Todd /Tim Burton, USA/UK … rich in colour and pantomime,  good fun, I closed my eyes sometimes but the sounds were even worse.  Burton back on form.
  11. The Kite Runner /Marc Forster, USA … emotive, a strong visual hook tells a universal tale.  Strong but slightly flat.
  12. Wall-E /Andrew Stanton, USA … innovative and exciting first 40 minutes, imaginative story then plummets to dullness. How could such potential diminish so quickly?  Massively disappointing.
  13. Indiana Jones /Steven Spielberg, USA … couldn’t resist, my hero returns for more hokum.  Better than Indy 3 nowhere near as good as Raiders.  Old Harrison just about pulls it off, thankfully the laconic Bogart delivery doesn’t diminish with age.
  14. Gone Baby Gone /Ben Affleck, USA … well told crime tale, sturdy acting.  Delayed release due to freakish parallel with real UK child abduction case in the news.
  15. Burn After Reading /Ethan Coen/Joel Coen, USA … poor, almost embarrassing acting and casting, the Coens back to coasting mode.
  16. Hellboy 2 /Guillermo del Toro, USA/Germany … what a let-down, the best bit by far (which produced the only audience laugh) is the singing of a Barry Manilow song.  Save your pennies and watch that clip on YouTube.

Missed but heard good things on:

Hunger (UK), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania), The Class (France), Waltz with Bashir (Israel), In Bruges (UK/USA),  Man on Wire (UK/USA)

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Editors cover “An End Has A Start” photography by Idris Khan research from sleevage.com website


The days of purring over sleeve artwork are probably long gone for most music buyers nowadays but a good cover can still play a key part in packaging, branding and marketing a band. Over recent times a cover which consistently caught my eye was the Editors “The End has a Start” I don’t quite know why, but I liked the colours and the image and so I decided to investigate a little more.

There is a fantastic website (Australian in origin I believe) which made my task a whole lot easier. Sleevage.com is a fantastic resource which started a year ago and it delights in record sleeve art. Any interesting cover (new or old) can be put forward and the origin of the image or design is discussed with intelligence and insight. If you really love your music there is the opportunity to suggest and submit your own review, in return you can get your hands on free CD’s and gig tickets.

Luckily, the Editors cover was discussed in staggering detail by Ash at Sleevage only a few months ago. For me, the image on the front cover evokes memories of an industrialized area just on the edge of city centre Manchester near the Velodrome where huge gas storage structures tower over terraced houses. For the reviewer at Sleevage it looked like it could be a stadium or a racetrack and just goes to show that what we see is in the eye of the beholder.

The photography is by Idris Khan a controversial UK artist who uses other peoples images to build up multi-layers until a “new” piece is created. I use the word controversial as he has created a bit of a stir due his actual source material being other artists’ work, which raises many questions as regards authorship, originality and copyright. (see also Richard Prince’s work). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Prince

The cover shot was created by Khan using a series of images taken by Bernd and Hilla Becher, they were a German husband and wife artistic team who began working in the late 50’s their work often featured the industrial structures which surrounded them. (Bernd Becher sadly died last year and his obituary can be found here).

Whatever the rights and wrongs, I do find Idris Khan’s work haunting and rather beautiful. The strongest images are those which have the central spine and linear core provided by buildings. On this work the architectural symmetry allows the layers to blossom and creates a real atmosphere and feel that works ‘with’ rather than ‘against’ the originals.

 

“it’s obviously not about re-photographing the photographs to make exact copies, but to intervene and bring a spectrum of feelings – warmth, humour, anxiety – to what might otherwise be considered cool aloof image. Idris Khan.

 

In 2004 he scanned all 1,953 pages of the Koran to create what he believes is his best piece. He discusses this project in a Guardian interview here.

Now I’m off back to Sleevage.com to check out that “Nevermind” cover for Nirvana …

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