Friday, November 28, 2008

albums from 2007

Here at Assistant Blog Towers I'm beginning to think about my records of the year so that I can indulge in a bit of list-making, and it occurred to me - in particular after hearing the Wave Picture's Dave Tattersal talking about his intuition that we wrongly favour what is new over what is special - to look back and see how many records from last year's list I still rate really highly.

And then I discovered that I never posted a 2007 list, despite a clear memory of writing it. So a trawl through my huge drafts folder located this unpublished list, compiled in January of 2008, of my favourite albums of 2007. What's interesting is that firstly I had remembered '07 as a particularly bad year for albums, and yet I was surprised how many great records I singled out. Equally, there are a few there that quickly lost their sheen. So here's the list, as written, with the exception that I've put any records I still listen to frequently in bold. There's nothing on there I'd disown, but the paucity of bolded items indicates that it's interesting what insights a bit of distance and perspective can bring.

1. Field Music - Tones of Town
2. The Good, the Bad and the Queen – s/t
3. Scout Niblett - This Fool Can Die Now
4. PJ Harvey – White Chalk
5. Jeff Lewis – 12 Crass Songs
6. Electrelane - No Shouts, No Calls
7. Burial - Untrue
8. Seabear – The Ghost That Carried Me Away
9. Dinosaur Jr - Beyond
10. Cribs – Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever
11. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
12. Thurston Moore – Trees Outside The Academy
13. Von SudenfedTromatic Reflexxxions
14. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
15. Prinzhorn Dance School – s/t
16. Deerhunter - Cryptograms
17. Mountain Goats – Sunset Tree
18. M.I.A – Kala
19. Robert Wyatt – Comicopera
20. Horrors – Strange House
21. Prodigy (Mobb Deep) – Return Of The Mac
22. Shocking Pinks – s/t
23. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
24. Twilight Sad – 14 Autumns and 15 Winters
25. Holy Fuck – s/t

2008 list to come quite soon, when I'm finished arguing with myself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

band tees

On 6music tonight Steve Lamacq was endorsing the idea of band t-shirt day; a day when all of us who spent our teenage years collecting band t-shirts unite to dig one out and wear it to work. I think the point of this was probably that those of us old enough to remember The Inspiral Carpets would have long grown out of this habit, which isn't strictly true in my case; in recent years I've picked up several band tees, inspired not so much by showing off my allegiances but rather the fact that they seem to be so well designed these days. And I'm afraid I still wear them to work, so band t-shirt day might not be such an event for me. Nevertheless, it did make me think about some of the band t-shirts I've bought over the years.

- Aged about 14 or so I went to see The House of Love at Middlesex University, escorted, I'm afraid to say, by my father. They were wonderful, as you might expect, but my strongest memory of the evening is of leafing through a pile of bootleg tees laid out on the grass outside the venue. The ones I fixed on were two old, faded, but wonderfully exotic and eccentric Cure t-shirts; riotous colours against, of course, black. I remember making my dad buy me them, and the misty, musty smell of them, cold to the touch and still a little damp from the wet grass.
- At Mile End, watching Blur in 1995, I missed the entire Cardiacs set (I know!) so that I could queue up for a pint of beer and a t-shirt; the beer I quickly spilt, weaving my way back through the crowd, and the t-shirt (dark blue with the band logo across the front) I lost long before the end of the gig. Ah well.
- At a different Blur gig someone offered to swap me their Bluetones t-shirt for my vintage Nike t-shirt. Of course I refused, glowing in the knowledge that I possessed an enviable tee. In retrospect, I think it was one of my mum's old t-shirts which I liberated from her drawer.
- Much more recently, I bought a really nice Midlake t-shirt at a gig in Brighton; I was very pleased with it indeed. At the end of the show I handed it to Anne-Sophie for a moment so that I could nip to the loo. When I returned it was covered with marker pen doodles, as AS had thoughtfully asked each member of the band to draw an animal on it for me. This was good. But as a consequence I've never worn the t-shirt. Bah.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the streets of my town

Had a very pleasant afternoon trotting around Camden Town yesterday. Although it was the stomping ground of my teenage years, I've not been back much lately and was pleased to discover that the slow spread of big business towards the lock (a Starbucks by the canal!) has not really diminished the singularity of the place; it remains the go-to place for those looking to take part in tribal activity; everybody there is a something. A goth, a hippy, a mod, a rocker.

It's a long way from being an epicentre of hedonism - most people just stand around, inhaling joss stick smoke or squinting through pub windows for empty tables - but everyone there seems to be making a statement, that they are out without purpose, open to opportunity, trying to belong. Had I not been exactly the same in my teens, I might be a bit dismissive, but I remember that peculiar, probably false, feeling that you had to escape everyday life, where you didn't fit at all. And go somewhere where others felt the same. Silly, but rather lovely.

It's all still there. At the same time, just a little bit of the danger seems to have gone - the streets are cleaner, the drug-dealers more cautious. But probably that's better, rather than worse.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

currently listening to...

1. It Hugs Back - Work Day 7"; over a clutch of singles, It Hugs Back are slowly burrowing the thought that they might be the most promising band in the UK right now into my head. Like Field Music - another band who grew and grew on me, until at last I loved them unconditionally - they are devising a sound of quiet genius. This latest single is lovely.
2. Deerhunter - Microcastles/Weird Era Cont... LPs; two blissful albums from one band, released on the same day. You can't argue with that. But which is better? I really can't decide.
3. Brighton MA - Amateur Lovers LP; another massive grower - at first I dismissed this as Dylan-lite, Midwestern indie rock, but I was quite wrong. Beautifully arranged and heavy with feeling, this is a dour cracker.
4. Emmy The Great - We Almost Had a Baby 7"; We're finally at the countdown stage of the long, long, long wait for Emmy's album. Thank goodness. The A-side you should know already. The b-side, 'Short Country Song', is spellbinding.
5. Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby - s/t LP; totally unexpected return from the marvellous Eric - this is a bright, funny, loopy return; some lovely, lovelorn and frazzled songs that could sit next to Robyn Hitchcock or Kevin Ayers in any record collection.
6. Don Cavalli - Cryland LP; an amazing, technicolour, love-it-or-hate-it effort from this Parisian loner; a twisted combination of delta blues, psychedelic rock, Beefheart and Devo.
7. Francois Virot - Yes or No LP; An interesting, simple collage of acoustic guitar and handclaps which somehow recalls Animal Collective and XTC. Odd, intriguing, good.
8. Wallpaper - On The Chewing Gum Ground LP; Three-piece power pop from Washington State; this is a patchy but occasionally great combination of Make Up, The Jam and, er, The Merton Parkas.
9. Stricken City - Lost Art 7"; not quite as great as their super debut, 'Tak o Tak', but a great pop song nonetheless, and the band evidently possess, in Rebekah Rah, a bit of a star in the making.
10. CaUSE Co-MOTION - It's Time LP; this one's only at the bottom of the list cause I've had it for a while; it's terrific, energetic stuff, imbued with the spirit of The Pastels and their kindred spirits The Vivian Girls. Infuriating band-name capitalization thing notwithstanding.

Friday, November 14, 2008

new stadium plans

Is it alright for me to blog about football if I pretend that I'm blogging about architecture?

Actually, I think I am blogging about architecture. The football back pages are buzzing at the moment with the news that my club, Tottenham Hotspur, have announced plans for a new stadium, which is being built on the existing site at White Hart Lane. What makes that interesting to non-Spurs fans, I think, is that the plans for how they'll do it are really rather interesting. The intention is to start building the new ground directly behind the current stadium, and progress as far as they can with it before demolishing the current ground and moving the pitch up into the new building. At no point during the process will the capacity drop below it's current maximum (36,000) but at the end the club will have a shiny new ground with room for 60,000 people. The pictures below - which are the real reason for the post - demonstrate the process. Kind of fascinating, and oddly pretty too.

Here's an explanation of the process:

PHASE ONE: New stadium build commences to the north of the existing ground. The stadium remains in use at full capacity.

PHASE TWO: Out of season, the North Stand of the existing stadium is demolished and the new pitch is laid.

PHASE THREE: The partially-completed new stadium is in use for one season. The remainder of the existing stadium is demolished.

PHASE FOUR: Out of season, the remainder of the new stadium is completed, ready for the start of the following season.
Just hope the new stadium doesn't turn into an anonymous, atmosphere-free dome like the Emirates. Unfortunately, looking at the drawings, it looks very similar.

Monday, November 10, 2008

mural off brick lane

Sunday, November 09, 2008

first aid kit

I feel a bit guilty liking Sweden's charming First Aid Kit so much, as they sound so like Peggy Sue that I feel as if I'm cheating on a cherished girlfriend with her sister. Their mini-album, Drunken Trees, has many fine, spine-tingling moments on it, but the track of theirs that's impressed me the most is their YouTube cover of the Fleet Foxes' Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. Here it is:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

fireworks for obama

Whose idea was it to schedule Bonfire Night the day after the American election? Really bad timing; I think after staying up ‘til five o’clock last night any participation in the festivities tonight would be bordering on suicidal. Ordinarily I watch the fireworks at Hove Cricket Ground, which are always reliably ace, and do so from the considerable comfort of Dave and Eleanor’s balcony, but this year the option is nixed as Dave has rather inconsiderately moved out and I keep meaning and failing to catch up with the elusive Eleanor. I did weigh up the thought of watching it on the cold grass inside the stadium, but after last night’s excess and excitement, that appeals rather less. So tonight the emphasis is on warmth and an early night, possibly with a few fireworks glimpsed through the skylight.

The election, of course, was wonderful. Dan, Sam and myself convened on Ant’s new flat for a delicious Roast dinner and wiled away the pre-election hours by listening to Throbbing Gristle and watching the telly on mute. Adverts, in particular, were a delight; no matter how bucolic or serene it may otherwise be, no advert can survive a soundtrack of the Gristle’s ‘His Arm Was Her Leg’ without being rendered impossibly sinister.

That done, we dashed over to the Shakespeare’s Head for a few drinks before retreating to the flat to watch Obama romp home. Of course, it took a bloody age, and we ran so completely out of alcohol that we were driven to contact Brighton's own Booze Brothers (men who deliver alcohol to drunks in the middle of the night) who, sadly, were otherwise engaged, leading Sam to make the desperate decision to race back to Compton Avenue to get some more wine. By about half four or so it was unarguably clear that Obama had won, and we watched with glee as the last States fell. It was a genuinely amazing, delightful thing to witness and watching I felt privileged, as if I were an actor in the drama unfolding, simply by virtue of being able to look on and cheer. Hurrah for Obama.

Have a lovely Bonfire night.

michael crichton

Just heard that Michael Crichton, the thriller-writer and author of Jurassic Park has died; I take no pleasure in this - indeed I'm a secret fan of his glossy, imaginative, high-concept science novels ('Prey' being my favourite) - and nor do I think that his death is anything to joke about (unlike those bastards Brand and Ross, who are doubtless cracking rude jokes as I type); but I'm deeply impressed with this silly, clever, flippant update to Crichton's Wikipedia page, added today:

Michael Crichton died November 5, 2008, from a rare Andromeda strain of cancer. After what initially appeared to be a hopeful run at remission as a result of the controversial new Carey Treatment, Crichton’s timeline ran out. The late author, known by some as “The Terminal Man”, opted not to provide the public with full disclosure regarding his illness, but rather to keep it within his personal sphere of close friends and family. He was noted to have kept his zero cool, despite what must have indeed been a state of fear. Crichton was 66 years old. Jurassic Park.
Brilliant. But his death is a loss - there are comparitively few thriller writers I rate (and even Crichton's prose is often terrible), but he is one I've always enjoyed reading.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

your stupid trendyness is killing the world


Despite feeling reasonably confident about today's US election, I feel, at the same time, horribly nervous today; or perhaps impatient is a better description. Does anyone know what time the results are expected to come through? There's a part of me that wants to do an all-nighter, but instead I think I'll just go to bed early, so that I wake tomorrow the sooner, and know.