“I had a group of friends with a secret society called ‘Skyfox Three’. They had a special rubber stamp that they used to stamp bits of paper with, though it wasn’t very clear what they actually did.”
Some musings on childhood from Joe brought back some excellent memories today. Personally, I spent a lot of my childhood carefully reading my ‘how to be a spy’ book, hiding in the bushes at the front of my house, making notes about the car number plates that went whizzing along the road. This may explain quite a lot.
Today I’m writing an acrostic clue in the name of work and can’t help but feel that all the spy work has finally paid off.
If you, too, still have a hankering to become a spy, invest in this fine book.
I have enjoyed January. Many people I know have all done grand, brave new things this month.
We have found ourselves repeating the words “month of change” as though if we can just say it enough, we will officially own the rights to it and will be able to dictate a positive outcome on new MONTH OF CHANGE™. It reminds me of the somewhat loud, lunatic outlook on life that the friends of Bridget Jones possess. “Fuck it,” they shout over wine-fuelled dinner. “Just do it.” And so on.
In MONTH OF CHANGE™ jobs have ended and started, relationships have changed out, and people are, on the whole, smiling more at the end of the month than at the beginning. Unfortunately for music, in MONTH OF CHANGE™ a headphone-free work environment has stunted the exciting listening of new music.
However, here are a few good things for you. They’re all quite mellow but groovy in their own little ways.
Sometimes, I’ll find myself with spare time and without plans, and remember what a rare bliss it is. The best use of this time is to listen to one of my favourite music journos, Alexis Petridis, talks about new music. Sometimes he also writes about men’s fashion and parkas too (these obviously do not appear in the podcast).
Usually I am very tired and fall asleep, which makes for inconvenient listening.
They were talking about Jungle the other day, which led me into a big delve around Jungle’s 2013 stuff. I love it. Really calm and groovy.
2. Denetia and Sene
Consistently appalling at classifying music, duos like Denetia and Sene make it a lot easier for people like myself to hide this ineptitude by creating cross-genre music that befuddles even the hardest nosed of music journalists.
“It carries no boundaries” one impassioned journalist shouted.
Let’s give up listening with our keyboards and use our ears. This is a tres nice album. Something mellow from it here and something more upbeat below. Really love this one.
3. Valerie June
Discovering Valerie June was the result of, my housemate, Helena’s voucher-fuelled Rough Trade binge. It replaces Captain Beefheart this month on the record player.
She sings folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian and bluegrass (or “southern drawl” as we lazily termed it). She sings like she’d have been at home as a roots artist 80 years ago; she sings like you’d expect to see her in a sexy basement bar next week. She also has excellent hair.
Last.fm gives quite the loving description that I’ve just somewhat bastardised.
Workin’ Woman Blues with its sepia video gives you a decent idea of what most of June and her album sounds like on the whole, but Shotgun is a more striking track.
Jonathan’s Sunday roundup turned me on to giving their new sounds a listen. Which I’m appreciative for, because previously I’d associated them only with vague disappointment, which is hardly flattering.
“My album of the week is the new Warpaint LP, which is really their first album as far as I’m concerned, as I never really listened to their first – just the odd song on a radio that sounded to me (possibly incorrectly) like they were trying to do a The Cure thing. I caught them live at End of the Road this summer, where they sounded a bit rusty, but listening to this now I can see what they were getting at; a big, spacious, deep, lazy pop vibe. It’s a lovely lovely album, I think – a bit like a lot of the stuff I used to listen to when I was a teenager.”
I also love the Sunday roundups. I like his ever-excellent writing and hearing small things in people’s weeks that makes them happy is one of my favourite things.
I aspire to look this cool in black, white and a hat.
6. Lucki Eck$’
I wanted to sit down and write some smart-sounding things about why I like this song tonight. I was a vision of proactivity.
Today’s key moments: Go to work, hand in notice, allude to doing work. Go to garment making evening course, attempt to make a dress, unpick many stitches. Cycle home across London with a backpack full of milk, flour and lemons.
Intention: Make pancakes. Write intellectual words about many songs. Feel wildly proud with great use of words. Fancy self as some sort of modern language artist. Put words on the internet and earn internet points.
Reality: Return home. Eat large bowl of risotto. Don pyjamas. Attempt to write fancy words about songs. Write only horrible words. Sound like NME intern. Delete all words. Give up on dreams of becoming 21st Century Camus. Fall asleep on sofa.
In short: Lucki Eck$’ ‘Count on Me’ tune comes via Jamie whose own blog with some ‘music video pull-ups’ is well worth a delve into. Good mellow night time music, with a nice balance between vocals and instrumentals (although YouTube comments are having a field day disagreeing with this). What a fun hat he has.
See you next month for MONTH OF PRODUCTIVITY, RAGE AND BAD DANCING™, name WIP.
There’s a storm in the Winter Palace
As Vladimir Putin receives his hundred thousandth message
Urging him to chill out with the whole dictator thing
Sent to him by some kid in Berkshire
To fill time between morning coffee
And prêt for lunch
Politicians and cabinets shudder
As frantic researchers
List the waves of protest rocking the nation
“… but President, look at the numbers
Over two hundred thousand people have
Changed their profile pictures
The game is up
The final video of 2013. Windfalls, Belgium and “#nocarbs” takes over at AKQA.
The advantage of skipping anything resembling a November monthly roundup is that there are now twice as many sounds I’m excited to point at your earholes. But do not confuse this with any sort if yearly roundup. I’m much too indecisive and impulsive for that (also, it would probably feature Drake so we can just skip that sort of ritual humiliation). Now let us begin.
1. Blood Orange
I have never listened to Devonté Hynes’ Cupid Deluxe in one full go. Instead, people have individually pointed me to their favourite tracks throughout the year and I’ve enjoyed the stories and associations that came with this. Whilst not a typical Buzzfeed fan, their LGBT team are often quite good and the recent piece on Blood Orange’s album as 2013′s most queer-positive album is an interesting read about transmitting attitudes.
“Artists can now piggyback their way to success on messages of equality packaged neatly for straight audiences. This brings up uncomfortable questions about authorial intent and patronization. For every “I’m Coming Out” or “Thinkin’ Bout You,” you can point to a “Firework” or “Born This Way” or “Same Love,” and while those in the latter group may represent more benefits than burdens in a broad sense, they begin to feel like pandering condescension.”
The video for Time Will Tell feels wonderful and beautiful. It’s like being given admission to someone’s private moment. The same writer goes on to draw a parallel to a quite touching moment of his own.
“[His dancing] lacks any semblance of vanity or self-consciousness. He isn’t performing for anyone but himself. I know that kind of dancing, I recognize his moves: It’s the way I dance for my boyfriend before we go to bed, when I’ve had a few drinks and I’m trying to make him laugh.”
2. Willis Earl Beal
This man is too young to have a voice like this. He’s excellent, with deep vocals that veer on the right side if sentimental. I really like his new album, it’s great all the way through, with a couple of exceptional tracks.
If you’re in London, you can see him play in February. Burning Bridges is my favourite track, but isn’t on YouTube. You’ll need Spotify, cash or some sort of exciting third option to get hold of the Burning Bridges, but I recommend taking the effort. An equally good alternative is below.
3. Young Fathers
Sound like they’re from California, are secretly from Edinburgh. It took me a while to get my head around that. They’ve recently-ish released the follow up the their Tape One EP, Tape Two. Both are sublime.
Strong 80s-esque pop fun. Good for reasons beyond the video.
5. Rosie Lowe
Understandably lumped into the same category as Jessy Ware and Lanza (also listed later), the Guardian attempted to describe her when she featured in their ‘New Band of the Day’. It’s an article that manages to say very little, and I’m facing the same problem. Their one line summary probably does the best justice:
“Slow, jerky soul from South London – think an xx-rated Sade.”
6. Alex Winston
Beautiful Alex Winston is angry in her new album, for some reasons that are not outrageously original in the music industry.
This year, having fired her manager, she’s released her self-produced and self-released album. Some have pondered if latest lyrics “In a sea of motherfuckers, man, you were no salvation, face it,” might be directed at someone. The answer is yes, and may be carefully hidden in the last two sentences.
But it’s a lovely, softly sung song that doesn’t sound bitter, but for the lingo. Super as ever.
Super old Sampha. This EP was a long time coming and not even Drake and his upbeat swag-filled prose can – or needs to – makes this better.
This album is like stepping into someone else’s music room for something very personal. “Lighter-than-air atmospherics” (thanks Pitchfork), downcast lyrics, and untouched piano echoes help.
This is some lovely pop nonsense. This track comes from the 15th Kitsune Maison compilations. I’m still not always sure how bowled over by KM I am, but I am a big fan of this track and its pure, wonderful, silly pop. It is the type of track that needs to be overplayed 10 times a day until I’m thoroughly sick of it. I’m right on track for this.
9. Jessy Lanza
Fuck Diamond (below) and Keep Moving are great tracks for late hours of the day.
10. Nils Frahm
Delightful piano. One of my favourite writers, Alexis Petridis, recommends his new album Spaces. I agree.
11. J Cole
12. The Range
Donkey Pitch put out another ace record this year. When you read anything about this track it’s like they’ve hired some sort of excellent SEO manager:
“Hinton’s electronic yet percussive sound has already got him noticed as a Caribou-Four Tet hybrid. All splintered vocals and looping, hazy jungle rumbles, Nonfiction has itchy feet when it comes to genre, jumping from ethereal strings to tough percussion and grime.”
There’s a lot going on in the album, and this first track, Loftmane, caught me with its simplicity, feeling of empty roads and yellow streetlights.
13. Lauryn Hill
Really enjoyed a revival of this album this month. Endlessly good.
I like that at some point my friends accepted that pointing my iphone at them on a regular basis is just something that occurs.
November: featuring a lot of work, a bit more running, and a lot more fun than those two stanzas suggest. And finally, perhaps an end to the reign of Miley Cyrus-related paraphernalia as Helena, my housemate’s, great birthday party of 2013 came to a close.
October was filled with great things. It made me really happy. Logically enough this 60 second snapshot does too.
Featuring: Ransom notes. Risk document rage. Too much Miley Cyrus. And a tell-tale that we’re getting old: discussing Hollandaise sauce on a Friday night.
Oh it’s dark and the weather is bad. And I am yet to work out how to cycle in a raincoat without endlessly overheating. Such is Autumn.
Here are 13 things I’ve been listening to a lot this month. All are good. Let’s start with something joyous.
I had my head under some sort of rock when this stuff came out. Let’s make up for lost time.
African basement bar beats with a clean Parisian vibe, says the internet. Fun malarkey for grey weather, I say. Jolly cover art makes me happy.
Tasseomancy’s new single is full of more steel pan sounds than ever. The sisters that make up Tasseomancy are the backup singers for Austra, who I continue to be exited about. The combination of these two facts is lovely.
This song is delicious.
The cover of Rainer‘s new single is a picture of an ass. Jonathan is very pleased with how his new 7″ sounds and has been instagramming it. “Yeah, and you read playboy for the articles” someone said. In this case, I think it might be a bit of both.
Girls is the single with the ass cover. Satin is a separate single I’m really liking at the moment. They’re doing a couple of small, lovely sounding London gigs at the moment. Go see them in some sexy tiny venues.
4. Paper Tiger
Sunny clappy stuff. Just right for the best of central London’s grey weather. I’m writing this at 7:30pm. It’s dark. Let’s all listen to Paper Tiger and bop.
5. Erik Enocksson
I have a playlist called floating on lakes. Admittedly in my average day, very little of this takes place. Nevertheless, it is built for moments in which lying in a rowing boat, floating around on a large mass of water seems appealing. This is usually done in the bath and involves a great deal of pretending.
These songs take me back to a lake in the woods opposite the house I grew up in. There are always some ducks waddling around the lake. And in the middle there is a tiny island with absurdly tall trees shooting up from it. It is prime wellington boot wading territory and feels miles from anywhere. Woods should be mandatory everywhere.
This track tops this wankily-titled playlist at the moment. It’s made by a Swedish chap with a penchant for recording albums live in woods and making songs that sound this good with so little to them.
6. Virginia Wing
In my head I have been referring to this as Virginia Wang for ages, whilst gives me no end of childish delight. It’s not though.
I’ve been listening to Offshore recently. It is sad to find out about great work only after a musician’s died and realise that what you’re listening to is locked in the past. It’s also a reminder of how being able to leave music as a legacy is amazing.
For someone that writes on the internet for a living, I could sure spend a lot of time talking about the importance of making ‘real’ things. One day my work, deep in the folds of the web won’t exist. But with things like say, music, books or architecture, all of them let you feel like you’re walking around someone’s head a little. And you’ll always be able to do that.
Pacer, the first single from the EP, is so very good. Such a long, super track that just builds perfectly. “Part of his talent was to make difficult things look easy,” say the not particularly critical critics.
Braids are reminiscent of Blue Hawaii. Principally because their singer, Raph, is also the vocal half of Blue Hawaii. But there are enough similarities between the two groups’ style to draw the easy comparison without knowing this. The same gentle, ethereal vocals just make it quicker to make the connection.
Luckily, the two bands are different enough that you’re never left listening to one album feeling it’s simply a B-Side of the other. The “tropical-pop with love ache melodies and experimental club rhythms” of Blue Hawaii this is not. Braids are little calmer, cooler, more restrained. They play XOYO in December.
Had an interesting month with this suspiciously talented sound man recently. I now understand why people cherish The Room with such odd excitement and have never had so much fun throwing plastic spoons at a cinema screen.
An album he brought out a couple of years ago is easily worth a listen.
11. Oneohtrix Point Never
This month’s serving of poorly classified and suspiciously upbeat ‘ambient drone’ is Oneohtrix point never. Find the new album, R Plus Seven, up on Spotify. I love Americans. It’s like diving into an Amazonian rainforest made of vintage synths.
Pitchfork delights in telling us that the jungle, rain-esque sounds bring to mind “a then-exotic turn-of-the-80s sound of the Fairlight synthesizer, an early sampling device.” I don’t know what this is, but if I’m ever asked I will lie through my teeth and shout that R Plus Seven is indeed perfect maths too, like a confused Orwellian character on a mission to impress their more musically inclined friends.
12. Us Baby Bear Bones
My friend Bob takes photos. Of living in Brighton, one of the things I miss is going to gigs with him. Not just because he has a splendid name or because he takes lovely photos, even whilst adamantly cursing the ceiling for a venue’s choice in red lighting.
Brighton has a bunch of awesome little venues and lots of splendid artists have played in them at the start of their careers before graduating to larger and grander locations. I have nice memories of Beth Jeans Houghton, Thomas Truax and Toro Y Moi playing in the city. And of course, Mr Scruff, who somehow seemed to never not be playing. It’s left me with a fondness for the intimacy of Brighton bands.
And so, this month’s slew of electronic dreamy pop stuff comes from Brighton’s Us Baby Bear Bones, from my friend Bob.
13. Ghost Loft
Kitsune Maison released their 15th complication with assorted trendy songs on it last week. As part of their word of mouth media #buzz shindig, they asked a few of the bands that graced this year’s list to put together a playlist each. Chela put together a wonderful playlist that I’ve been listening to today. Whilst a lot of the selections shot me back to days during university listening to Radiohead and Pixies, it also put me onto this song by Ghost Loft, which sounds nothing like either of those two.
“I’m just very, very arrogant and very stubborn,”
says the Olympic athlete casually.
Nike are doing a bunch of cool stuff at their futuristic East London sneaker house 1948 this week. Last night, I went down to a talk with Olympic 800m runner Andrew Osagie.
The guy runs 800m in 1:43. I don’t know what I expected, but I spent half the talk staring at his calves thinking “mine look sweet f-all like that,” whilst wearing the face of some sort of excited GP. All of the lean. All of the intense runner muscles.
There was a lot of chat about barefoot running. It was Feel London, all in aid of the skinniest soled shoe Nike now make (so there’s your connection). I asked one wholly unrelated question about head games and running.
If a run is 60% mental and 40% about your body, I asked, what got his head ready to run? – whether he had any pre-race head games or traditions.
“Not really. I’ve always been stubborn. I’d hate losing, even as a kid. That mental makeup has always been there. The training is what I can work on but my mental side has always been there. Saying that, around the hotel I walk around just in socks because I like feeling comfortable like I’m in my own house.”
Which I rather liked. And because the idea of athletes plodding round a hotel in socks when they’re away from home is just rather sweet.
One month. In video. In 60 seconds.
In which a trip to Amsterdam warrants lots of Nike shoes, birthdays occur, Ross returns from Bolivia, and Husam defines crunking.