Song Of The Day – Let It Snow by Dean Martin

From the album ‘The Dean Martin Christmas Album’ (1966)

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Song Of The Day – The Best Songs Of 2017

Howdy! So, that’s 2017 nearly over, and, given my Christmas was pure misery thanks to being bed ridden with the flu for nearly all of it, good riddance to them both. Speaking of hoping for better, here’s the best songs of 2017, as per moi. Sure, there are more extensive and thorough end of year lists out there, but you’re here now, somehow, so why not stick around and listen to some boss tunes?

As with the best albums of 2017 list from last week it arrives alphabetically. There is some reissued stuff in here too, which isn’t technically from 2017, but, well, my sense of smell is all out of whack thanks to a headache that nags like toothache, it’s proper jarg, and I simply don’t care anymore. Okay?

Black Hanz – The Moonlandingz

From the album ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’

Black Screen – LCD Soundsystem

From the album ‘American Dream’

Country Figs – Alex Cameron

From the album ‘Forced Witness’

Drayton Manored – Sleaford Mods

From the album ‘English Tapas’

FEAR. – Kendrick Lamar

From the album ‘DAMN.’

Fourth Molar – Zimpel-Ziolek

From the album ‘Zimpel-Ziolek’

I Don’t Have To Cry – Maryn E. Coote

From the album ‘Maskeraad’ (Reissue)

I Look Like I Look In A Tinfoil Mirror – Call Super

From the album ‘Arpo’

Jona – DB1

From the album ‘Zwischemwelt’

Moontalk – Laurel Halo

From the album ‘Dust’

Mr Henri Rousseau’s Dream – Midori Takada

From the album ‘Through The Looking Glass’ (Reissue)

Oh Rama – Alice Coltrane

From the album ‘World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’ (Reissue)

Out The Way – Nadine Shah

From the album ‘Holiday Destination’

Pills – St. Vincent

From the album ‘Masseduction’

Republic – Shinichi Atobe

From the album ‘From The Heart, It’s a Start, A Work Of Art’ (Reissue)

Rogue Soul – Overlook

From the album ‘Smoke Signals’

Sheer Chance Matters – Preverelist

From the album ‘Tessellations’

Terrazzo – Visible Cloaks (Featuring Motion Graphics)

From the album ‘Reassemblage’

To The Moon & Back – Fever Ray

From the album ‘Plunge’

Touch Absence – Lanark Artefax

From the EP ‘Whities 011’

You Hedonic – Lee Gamble

From the album ‘Mnestic Pressure’

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Song Of The Day – Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues & Kirsty MacCall

From the album ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’ (1988)

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Essential Listening: The Best Albums Of 2017

Gosh, another year gone. Time seems to be speeding up the older I get. It’s not helped by a lack of sleep and living in the age of always being incessantly connected to digital mediums as the main form of communicating with others and consuming culture.

Somehow, despite all of this, and the difficulties that arts face thanks to a combination of the government cutting funding, the laissez-faireness of the internet and mainstream tastes in utter vacuous rubbish still prevailing, there’s still an endless supply of interesting music and other creative endeavours appearing every year. If any old fart tells you that music used to better in [insert era here], tell them to get fucked, it’s never been harder to create something meaningful or genuinely unique.

That’s a big statement, but musicians and listeners are trapped by the same conceit – every year our knowledge of music expands. It cannot shrink, no matter how many albums you take to the charity shop or how many mp3’s you delete. What new music you experience might only be a drip in the ocean thanks to scope of choice offered by digitalism, but its awareness nonetheless.

It’s posited that by your thirties you’ve established what your taste in music is, and isn’t. I’m trying to transcend this analysis by fighting against my expanding knowledge and the sense that I should discard genres I tend to be less enthusiastic about so that I can maximise time for things I know I’ll probably enjoy. Example – it’s hard to find the motivation to listen to Memphis rap mixtapes when I could be listening to John Coltrane reissues.

The only solution to this is not to be so deliberate. Be random, spontaneous, avoid my usual browsing patterns, don’t discriminate based on genre or reviews, try something that looks odd, or intriguing. Now, I’ll confess I’m being disingenuous here, as haven’t approached music with this realisation or intent throughout this entire year.

As it is, one exception aside, the albums that made my list were all by folks who I’ve either heard of or owned previous works by. Maybe I’m being too pretentious, too try hard, perhaps I’m already doing it right, that my tastes are fine and refined (but who cares if they aren’t?) and that I’m entering into a completely unnecessary measure, but, you know what, just like most of the musicians out there who don’t get paid (much), and know they probably won’t, what is there to lose? What’s the point in life without a bit of experimentation?

Conversely, the structure of this blog post remains completely unchanged from last year. The eleven best albums I listened to this year, and it was painful to pare it down to that number, follow in alphabetical order. It seems hypocritical to pick a top eleven but then not put them in a ranking order, but it seems silly when the genres are so disparate.

I’ll post my favourite songs of 2017 in-between Christmas and New Year. Hope you all enjoy the time off, and, while we’re at it, in the spirit of being random, RIP Keith Chegwin.

Alice Coltrane – World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda

What I wrote in July still applies:

Simple jokes are usually the best – what’s the difference between chopping up an onion and a banjo? Nobody cries when you chop up a banjo. See? How about the joke decrying the cynically populist hijacking of Hare Krisna’s spiritualism (as well as Maharishism and Transcendental Meditation) during the late 60’s and early 70’s:

Hare, Hare, Hare. Krishna, Krishna, Krishna.

Hare, Bollocks, Hare. Krishna, Bollocks, Krishna.

Hare, Hare, Hare.

Bollocks, Bollocks, Bollocks.

So it gave me cause for pause when I heard that a reissue of private Hare Krishna influenced devotional music recorded by Alice Coltrane in the 80’s & 90’s had been released. But then I listened to it. What a gem.

Another point – this album made me realise that I hadn’t heard Alice Coltrane sing before. Thankfully the singing sits seamlessly alongside this latter work, which shares many compositional similarities with “Universal Consciousness”. ‘Om Rama’ and ‘Rama Guru’ are the highlights, and there’s an almost total reimagining of Journey In Satchidananda using an austere church organ.

B12 – Electro-Soma I+II Anthology [compilation/reissue]

A reissue/compilation of select singles and EP’s released under the moniker. It’s a sci-fi and mind-space inflected exploration and part of the escapist counter-cultural vogue that the burgeoning rave and club scenes, and genres of rave, acid, techno and ambient, and many video games for that matter, lent upon for inspiration in the late 80’s to early 90’s.

Call Super – Arpo

Traditional Jazz and Arabic sounds are gratifyingly fractured through a prism of rave sequencing. It just sounds immaculate.

Gnod – Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine

Test Dept with normal gear. The austereness of its industrial estate aesthetic is epic and expansive, a soundscape that evokes imagery of declines; the recent industrial past, the inanity of the currently prevailing economic and geological policy, and, as the title suggests, offers a forbidding aspect of the forces driving Britain to Brexit.

Kendrick Lamar – Damn

Still as pissed off and cutting as ever, but it makes sense. Life just gets more complex for him. Instead of just inequality, cultural apathy, and his upbringing, he now gets to rail with incredulity against the hype surrounding him and his work and the temptations of success corrupting his sense of self. More than anything he’s under immense pressure to deliver with each album, but deliver he does. People forget that the fight against going stale and becoming repetitive is one of the hardest to overcome.

Laurel Halo – Dust

Those melodies, man. There’s sarcasm, cynicism, contempt, odd humour, voice distortion, Jazz sampling, bleeps, movie sound effects and ebullient strings, all fragmented and woven back together coherently in an electronic (piss?)take on modernity though a sixties psychedelia sensibility. Move over ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk. ‘Moontalk’ really is the sound of the summer. Check it out if you get the chance.

LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

You can understand why Murphy wanted to stop at ‘Is This Happening’. Any future album would be pre-occupied with trying to make sense of aging in an age where things age in a nanosecond, while maintaining the sanctity of a sound that’s become distinctively timeless and his, is hard going. Still, when you listen, it just makes sense. He’s living the dream through this project, so why should it end? Why would anyone want it to?

Lee Gamble – Mnestic Pressure

Gamble’s work has always approached highfalutin concepts, but this is accessible due to its generous sourcing of all contemporary electronic genres. The opening track of the album sets the tone – distortion intermingles with a jungle sample before clearing out into a convoluted ambience that sounds smooth as silk. This one would’ve made it on the list for its flawless production alone, but that every track’s a winner elevates it to album of the year contender (if that wasn’t an arbitrary measure too far).

Overlook – Smoke Signals

When it comes to drum and base I’m very particular about it, I set the bar high, too high so that most offerings fail to clear it. But this one did, and how. It even offers an ode to ‘Logical Progression’, and continues the genres ties with nostalgia, by wielding relatively famous and obscure quotes from movies and other sources. Most of its offerings approach the genre’s darker end, a mid-90’s score for the atmospheric, bucolic, gothic autumnal imagery of Stranger Things, before it explodes into a rave sensibility with horns grunting and wailing ferociously on ‘Rogue Soul’.

St Vincent – Masseduction

Her past works have piqued my interest, but I haven’t returned to any of it. This one will be different. The added depth comes through its self-reflection, a therapeutic gamut of emotions that arrives when receding from life’s volatility, from black humour; ‘Pills’ and ‘Savior’, ennui ‘Young Lover’, to forlorn and desolate laments of dissolved relationships and loneliness on ‘Smoking Section’ and ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’. As good as a pop music album can be.

Various – N.E.E.T (Not in Education, Employment or Training)

Some folks (named ‘The Green Door’) had the brilliant idea of taking a bunch of young out of work Glaswegians, the type that are routinely derided and demonised as scroungers and no-hopers by politicians (many of whom actually are a waste of skin) for political capital, and actually gave them a chance to do something more interesting than standing in the dole queue. Its intent is completely validated, proving that good things happen when people are given a creative outlet. It’s a collection of sparse electronicky, psych, and post-punk covers from famous albums. The highlights are a squalidly sultry all-girl duet of ‘Warm Leatherette’, ‘Pythagoras’ Hammer’ sounds as though it’s been conceived on a spaceship organ and ‘1969’ features a mangled vocal that’s delivered with the ferocity of a Ned’s pathos crossed with Shane MacGowan sporting a migraine after a forty hour bender.

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No Homage to Catalonia.

When I haven’t been killing time mass killing on GTA V online, shopping for Secret Santa prezzies (edible anuses look appetising), or watching Sopranos clips on YouTube (I’d forgotten how bloody funny it was), I’ve been keeping an eye on this Catalonia thingy, or, rather, how and why it’s been reported and viewed.

It’s almost as depressing as the fiasco itself.

Now the comparison I’m about to make is admittedly flawed, and I’ll caveat this further by conceding that in no way are their circumstances suitably comparable, but Northern Ireland and Catalonia are both regions that contain long held grievances from sizable parts of their populations. They’re viewed differently, and we all know why. Catalonia has never been, in its modern history, independent from Spain, while Ulster used to be part of another country, Ireland.

Still, transpose the scenario in Catalonia to Northern Ireland and the worrying absurdity of recent events is revealed. Just imagine Sinn Fein were slated to have a clear majority in both devolved and national elections, and the promise of holding a consultative referendum on independence was the reason for their increase in popularity, only for the British government to send in police and armed forces to stop said vote taking place, and for them to then arrest Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fein leaders in the lead up to a national election months later. What do you reckon the result of that would be, how do you reckon it would play out?

Given Northern Ireland’s recent history, really badly, and the reaction, both locally and internationally, would reflect that. Because there’s been no conflict in Catalonia, other than an assassination decades ago, any drive for self-determination has been peaceful, and motivated by gaining geopolitical and economical advantages, so in this sense the more apt comparison is with the Scottish independence movement. However, that’s flawed too. While a concerted campaign was mounted against the virtues of Scottish independence by the state through the media, it was within the law, and the referendum vote was held peacefully. This is being denied to the Catalonians through violence and censorship, despite a clear mandate for a referendum having been proven.

The apathy of the mainstream UK media, and its phony claims that what it did report was balanced, is completely unsurprising, and indicative of kowtowing to, even appeasing, the xenophobic populism that drove Brexit. The neutrality of the EU to the affairs of one of its own members is over compensating, a sympathetic cognisance of Spanish historical contexts, where regional nationalism is now erroneously synonymous with terrorism, an issue which, ironically, has been hijacked to popularise insular nationalism. Spain’s issues with the Basque separatists ETA, who routinely bombed Madrid during the seventies and eighties, means an implicit pardoning of the Spanish government’s behaviour has been granted, so far, even if all the ‘Catalonian nationalists’ can be accused of is political opportunism and construing certain laws as ambiguous.

Given how heavy handed the Spanish have been in oppressing all routes sought by Catalonian independence through traditionally democratic and libertarian means, it can be construed as a cynically brazen attempt to enrich and incite separatist dogma. Perhaps, with continuous forms of oppression, imprisonment and censorship, they hope the Catalonian resistance will mutate into violence. This would make it easier to justify crushing the independence movement, and like ETA, ultimately ruining it’s the validity of its claims internationally.

Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. The Catalonians need to keep the heid. Even if the Catalonian independence movement keeps it civil in the face of provocation, some, for entirely selfish reasons, aren’t prepared to give their movement and grievances a hearing. The insular reaction from many is depressingly indicative of empirical nationalism. In these complacent minds, the actions of the Spanish government are justified to support their worldview. The logic is suitably as simple as they are – seeing Spain crush a separatist, nationalist uprising in one of its regions figures to help dissuade any such movements closer to home.

Those who are vehemently opposed to change are usually the most ill-prepared for it. Dickheads who hate foreigners and who are partial to a bit of Mosleyism are par the course, but the real damage is done by journalists and politicians who choose to enable the erosion of democratic rights by intellectualising violence by the state on its subjects. Even more egregious is attempting to make it relevant to something completely unconnected, just as I did by comparing Spanish politics with that of Northern Ireland. Think about this: that I made that comparison, just to contextualise the danger of what’s being allowed to happen in Catalonia, proves that mainstream media is now wielded as a form of propaganda that exists not to inform us, but to convince us that our perception of what democratic process looks like should be fluid.

You may not have liked the outcome of referendums on Brexit and Scottish independence and how we arrived at them, I certainly didn’t. I hate that we have a corrupt and inept Tory government. You may be aghast at the prospect of another vote on Scottish independence or Brexit (who knows?), but at least we still have a modicum of decency allied with a sense of lawful democratic should be. If we’re willing to deny freedom when observing events elsewhere to justify opposition to national and regional disputes then we move one step closer to abdicating our own rights.

And with that, I’m away back to GTA V online to fuck shit up.

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