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Top 10

10 Things That Didn’t Get Enough Love in 2015

10 Things That Didn’t Get Enough Love (Even If They Got Some) in 2015 (Or Any Other Year) And You Should REALLY Check Out (If You Haven’t Already).

All of these made my top 10’s but dammit – I need to say more!

Music

Alone At The Microphone (David Bazan)

Unplugged music videos filmed at home and in his car plus interviews. $5 for the film and mp3s. Download here.

Safety Fifth or LYA (Mucca Pazza)

Can’t decide between Chicago punk rock marching band’s two most recent albums. Buy them here. Watch them here.

Aeon: Peace To The Puzzle (Scorzayzee)

Rap with self-depreciating humour, raw brokeness, spirituality and a Notts accent. Read about it here.

Films

Birdman

Got a lot of love, but not enough.

Bad Words

Jason Bateman‘s hilarious and moving non-PC comedy about man entering a child’s spelling bee. He plays a man determined to offend everyone he encounters but finds himself befriended by a lonely Indian boy. The film bombed but I can’t help feeling it was misunderstood. Red band trailer. Amazon UK link.

Inherent Vice

Some people complained the plot was impossible to follow. But then some people would say that. Trailer.

Chef

A heartwarming indie movie about a guy making delicious sandwiches. A live action remake of Ratatouille starring lots of REALLY famous people. The fever dream of Tony Stark’s chauffeur while lying in hospital with the cooking channel on. You decide. Trailer.

Skeletons

An ultra low budget British comedy about two psychic ‘house-cleaners’. Incredibly inventive, visually brilliant and succeeds in painting a fully realised world with only the simplest of brush strokes. Trailer. Amazon UK. Google Play.

Book

Team of Rivals (Doris Kearns Goodwin)

A massive book about Abraham Lincoln’s election and cabinet which never gets boring or confusing for a minute.

TV Show

Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell

Another fully realised world – post-magic Georgian England. A great setting of a fantastic book. Enzo Cilenti is utterly compelling. Trailer.

Categories
Top 10

The 2015 Top 10

Here’s my top 10 of everything from 2015 (Just for you Ben…and the pedantic guy who always points out which albums/films didn’t come out this year)

skip to 10 things that didn’t get enough love in 2015

Top 10 Albums (I Heard For The First Time) in 2015

Alone At The Microphone (David Bazan)
Safety Fifth (Mucca Pazza)
Bazan Monthly Volume 1 (David Bazan)
LYA (Mucca Pazza)
Aeon: Peace To The Puzzle (Scorzayzee)
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (Public Enemy) – Chuck D is the Dad I never had
Mezmerize (System Of A Down)
Live At The Academy (The Band)
Plays Well Together (Mucca Pazza)
Motown Gold (Various Artists)

Top 10 New Films (I Saw For The First Time) in 2015

Bad Words
Birdman
Inherent Vice
Mad Max: Fury Road
Grand Budapest Hotel
Chef
The Martian
Blue Ruin
Tomorrowland
Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Tomorrowland is nowhere near as bad as everyone says. Some people just don’t like a positive message I guess. Ant-Man, Locke and Home were also good (though Home‘s musical ‘score’ almost amounts to a Rhianna commercial every 15 minutes). Paddington and Pixels were in the ‘expected them to suck but they were actually well done and a lot of fun’ category.

It’s too early to call Star Wars: The Force Awakens, even though I’ve seen it twice, but I can say it and Fury Road both had compelling and fully realised female heroes which threw Jurassic World‘s dated “serves you right for trying to have a career instead of children and wear high heels in the jungle” sub-text into sharp relief. Which is ironic as JW writer/director Colin Trevorrow is lined up to take charge of SW ep 9. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

I’ve got Ex_Machina but haven’t watched it yet. Ditto for Inside Out. Pixar is like the girl who broke my heart (by dating all those sequels) and I just haven’t been able to forgive her yet.

Top 10 Old Films (I Finally Got Round To Seeing For The First Time) in 2015

Skeletons
There Will Be Blood
Apocalypse Now Redux
Fight Club
Vicky Christina Barcelona
All The President’s Men
The Imposter has a great score by Anne Nikitin
Jackie Brown
Miller’s Crossing
Serpico

I also enjoyed the big dumb comedy of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

With Inherent Vice, There Will Be Blood and Grand Budapest Hotel it was a good year for the Andersons. I also saw Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tennenbaums which were good but didn’t make the cut, and bought Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and The Master but haven’t watched them yet.

Top 10 Books (I Read For The First Time) in 2015

Team of Rivals (Doris Kearns Goodwin)
War And Peace
A Tale Of Two Cities
1983 (David Peace) – the finale of the Red Riding quartet, not a George Orwell prequel
Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin (Deena Ruth Rosenberg)
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Haruki Murakami)
Words Without Music: A Memoir (Philip Glass) – great though I still prefer the film Glass: A Portrait Of Philip In Twelve Parts
Steal Like An Artist
A Farewell To Arms
Love May Fail

The 10 Best Songs I Wrote In 2015 (In No Particular Order)

Kiss Me Beneath The Mistletoe
Faster (Than The Speed Of Light)
Bullingdon Boys
Tonight (with Harry Verity)
The Architects Of Our Unhappiness
Where Did The Time Go? (with Liz Frencham)
If You Screw Up (with Hamilton Poolhall)
Christ Will Come Again (with Steven Wesley Guiles)
Ghosts
Polishing A Turd

Other Stuff

The Best TV I Saw In 2015

Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell
Agents Of Shield Season 1 (got S2 haven’t watched it all yet)
Dr Who Season 9 (finally got stories worthy of Capaldi’s acting)

Best Gig Of 2015

The Most Ugly Child headline set at the Idolin’s album launch laid waste to the venue like a bunch of carnival folk who turn up uninvited at your cousin’s wedding and get everyone drunk, pregnant or fighting. Ably support by Lisa De Ville.

Other top 10 posts here

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Nottingham Sounds Top 10

The Top 10 Things I Listened To, Watched And Read in 2014 (Even Though They Weren’t All Made In 2014)

Most of these are available on Amazon. Click here if you want to earn me a little commission at no expense to yourself.

Music. Albums. (Mostly).

1) AM – Arctic Monkeys  A long awaited return to form for one of my all time favourite bands

2) Silver Birches – Injured Birds  Beautifully recorded distinctly British folk, created right here in Nottingham. Like Oscar Wilde being introduced to Howling Wolf at a party.


3) FAWM 2014 Demos – Liz Frencham Unless you took part in February Album Writing Month you might not get to hear these songs for another year at least. But I did, cos I know people. Australian Jazz vocalist/double bassist Liz Frencham to be precise. I also really enjoyed getting to know the music of FAWMers Woody Muller, Expendable Friend and Hamilton Poolhall this year too. (FAWM links will only be live till Jan 2015. You can hear more of Liz’s music here and here)

4) Blood Money – Tom Waits  Songs from the play Woyzeck including God’s Away On Business
5) A Creation Liturgy – Gungor Virtuoso praise and worship. Who’d have thunk such a thing existed? Sufjan Stevens’ slightly more normal brother.
6) Hypnotize – System Of A Down Daron is the best rock guitar arranger since Jimmy Page

7) Celestial EP – Field Studies Stunning vocals and dreamscape guitars. Another awesome Nottingham band.

8) His Best Chess 50th Anniversary Collection – Howling Wolf The voice! The guitar!
9) At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash One of JC’s strings is a quarter tone flat for about 3 songs and he does a couple of tunes off his comedy album. And it’s still awesome. Check out Johnny and June’s duet on Jackson.
10) Glassworks – Philip Glass PG’s most accessible album.

Books.

My Top 10 Books fell neatly into 2 halves

Best Non-Fiction

1) The Jaws Log: Expanded Edition (Newmarket Insider Filmbooks) written by one of the script guys (also an extra) and bound in a weird shark skin feel cover
2) Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters Hilarious, thought provoking and pure poetry. See my many blog posts here
3) Hotel California: Singer-songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the L.A. Canyons 1967-1976 A book about the music industry where nearly everyone is a bad person
4) Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers I’m a lifelong fan but I learnt a whole bunch of new stuff
5) The Defeat Of The Spanish Armada Gripping

Best Fiction

1) American Gods Epic. The Stand with superheroes.
2) Suttree Probably McCarthy’s warmest, most humane book and everyone doesn’t die.
3) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War Almost nothing like the film. Which is good.
4) Hamlet (Wordsworth Classics) Yep. I went full ReBard. Deal with it Melon Farmers…
5) Red Riding Nineteen Eighty (Red Riding Quartet) Boy are these books dark. Three down one to go…

Films

Not really in any clear order…

1) Temple Grandin – watch this film!
2) The Lego Movie
3) Philomena
4) Penguins Of Madagascar
5) Interstellar
6) Inglourious Basterds
7) Lincoln
8) Mr Turner
9) Telstar
10) Seven Samurai

Also enjoyed Sightseers, The Lives Of Others, Rush, Primer, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy and Rewatching The Fisher King and A Hard Day’s Night. TV-wise I loved Sonic Highways, An Adventure In Space And Time, Queen: Days Of Our Lives, Firefly and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Categories
Top 10

Five Biggest Encouragements For Indie Songwriters In 2014

2014 was a tough year in many ways – I didn’t suffer from writers block as much as writer’s-can’t-be-bothered. (even though I still wrote 31 songs this, it was well below my personal best of 47). But by the end of the year these five things had helped to snap me out of it and give me a renewed sense of optimism and purpose. Maybe they’ll help you too.

They are

1) Dave Grohl’s documentary series Sonic Highways
2)
Mike Leigh’s biopic Mr Turner
3) Steve Albini’s 2014 Face The Music Keynote Address
4)
The documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown
5) The First Tuesday Songwriting Group

What all of these have in common is that they portray artists making art in the midst of life happening. Things like mexican standoffs with gig promoters, illegitimate children, suicides, being dissed by the reigning monarch, riots, alcoholism, threatened eviction, hurricanes. Some artists labour in obscurity, others meltdown in the spotlight, others work on after the crowds have been and gone. We have champions, patrons and supporters – to stretch our canvases and shave our dinner, preserve our legacy and remaster our lost tapes when were gone. But we do the work of an artist. And the art gets made. Regardless.

Whether you like Foo Fighters or not Sonic Highways did a great job of spotlighting unsung heroes from 8 music cities in America and gave glimpses into the process of recording in different studios, collaborating and lyric writing. A couple of episodes are still on BBC iPlayer there’s a longer trailer

and more info here

Mr Turner is visually stunning and has some great performances (especially from Timothy Spall). It’s still around some cinemas and will be out on DVD (in Feb?) 

Steve Albini’s Keynote Address is remarkably encouraging for someone with a rep of being a curmudgeon and leaves you hopeful that the music industry is heading in the right direction (at least for those of us who aren’t money-grabbing sharks) You can watch it on YouTube or read the full transcript

Standing in the Shadows of Motown is the story of Motown’s house band The Funk Brothers combining interviews, reconstructions and a glorious reunion concert. It’s bittersweet but goes a long way towards rightly crediting the men who “played on more number-one hits than the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys COMBINED” It’s available on DVD and you can find it on YouTube.

Being in a songwriting group forces you to write regularly whether you feel like it or not. Looking back I’ve realised that many of my best songs were written solely because I HAD to write something for the next meeting. If you live around Nottingham you’re more than welcome to attend First Tuesday Songwriting Group. If not look around for a similar group in your area (or start one!). Failing that – sign up for February Album Writing Month.

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Showing Up Top 10

10 Old Songs I Paid Good Money For

Today I have been mostly edited and mixing ‘kids’ songs. Things are moving along now with the Dig Down Deep To Normal album. Thanks for asking.

Downloading is dead? Here’s 10 songs (except the widget will only show you 8?) that I rediscovered via Spotify and then bought! Or discovered for the first time via Spotify (or Sodajerker)! Or just bought. Enjoy!

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A Blog's Life Top 10 Totally Off Topic

10 Things I Loved In 2013

Releasing my first ever solo EP Let’s Build An Airport was the major milestone for me but here’s 10 other highlights of the year.

The Rise of LFC

The massive turnaround in all areas of Liverpool Football Club, but especially the performance of SAS, the blossoming of Suarez into one of the best players in the world and of course the fall of Man Utd.

Discovering Cormac McCarthy

6 books 2 plays and 3 films so far. His lean style, profound dialogue, dark subject matter and old testament overtones create books that sink deep into your psyche.

Nottingham Music Thrives

Though posterboy Jake Bugg and new signings Indiana and Saint Raymond grab the headlines, they really are the tip of the iceberg. Nottingham continues to thrive and newer bands like Sea Monster Eyes, Privateers, Field Studies and Injured Birds excite me the most.

MostarLFC

Mysterious Mostar is the partron saint of the Skyless LFC fan and the underground prophet of the match highlights videos. Thank you – whoever you are!

Bill Bailey does Billy Bragg for Billy Bragg

Brain Pickings

Addictive and profound – sign up for Maria Popova’s newsletter

Whole Lotta Helter Skelter

I interviewed Soundhog here. His mashup and video are both things of beauty.

Bad Lip Reading

Along with Honest Trailers and How It Should Have Ended, BLR supplied the lols.

Carragher & Neville Double Act

Sky turned MUFC’s most hated player into a universally respected pundit a few seasons ago. This year they did it again with LFC’s Jamie Carragher and created an entertaining and knowledgable double act.

Arctic Monkeys Regain Their Mojo

After two classic albums and two dour and miserable affairs it seems like the clouds are lifting and the Monkeys have a spring in their step once more.

Click on the links for my top 10 music, books and films of 2013

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Top 10

Top 10 Films of 2013*

*watched in 2013!

1) True Grit
2) The World’s End
3) Gravity
4) The Three Stooges
5) Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
6) Thor: The Dark World
7) Les Miserables
8) Jaws (Reissue)
9) The Sunset Limited
10) Ice Cold In Alex

honourable mentions

Rockin’ documentaries – The Other F Word, The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Still crazy after all these years – Blazing Saddles, Enter The Dragon. I can’t believe it’s taken me all this time to get to see these – The Sixth Sense, Serenity, Tin Tin & The Secret Of The Unicorn. Slightly brainless action 2 Guns, The Raid. Slightly religious films – Dogma, Blue Like Jazz.

TV seasons Lost (everything except season 3 and I loved the ending thank you very much), The Thick Of It – haven’t seen the final season yet.

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Top 10

Top 10 Books of 2013*

*(books I READ in 2013)

1) Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
David Bayles and Ted Orland

A beautiful little book full of rich insights that demythologises the creative process helping to remove the hinderances to making stuff

2) Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
Donald Miller

Finally shedding some of my evangelical prejudices and clearing up my confusion between Don Miller and Doug Coupland I found BLJ to be a warm and engaging book about faith where for once the writer is not the hero.

3) No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy

Hard to improve on a film with Tommy Lee Jones but the source book is even better. McCarthy’s dialogue sings and the Sheriff’s internal struggles make sense of that ending.

4) The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles
Dominic Pedler

A beast of a book crammed full of insights. Not just for Beatles fans but anyone who wants a thorough grounding in pop songwriting and the related music theory.

5) All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy

Two of McCarthy’s most likeable characters go through a rite of passage that is brutal and beautiful in turns. Any book that can make a city boy like me interested in the art of  breaking horses must be the work of a master.

6) The Road
Cormac McCarthy

Bleak, very bleak with occasional outbreaks of bleakness, I still haven’t mustered up the courage to watch the film. McCarthy portrays the smouldering wick of humanity in sea of evil.

7) The Sunset Limited: A Novel in Dramatic Form
Cormac McCarthy

A two-hand play in which a black Christian ex-con tries to talk a respectable white atheist out of killing himself.

8) Crap Lyrics
Johnny Sharp

Undoubtedly snarky fun but full of useful ‘how-not-to’s for any budding songwriter

9) The Street Where I Live
Alan Jay Lerner

The genesis of My Fair Lady, Camelot and Gigi on stage, screen and record as told by the raconteur extraordinaire lyricist himself.

10) Nineteen Seventy Four
David Peace

It’s grim up north. Yorkshire noir – where everyone is a bad guy.

Honourable Mentions

Other books I enjoyed

A few classics – Othello – William Shakespeare, Heart Of Darkness – Joseph Conrad. Coraline – Neil Gaiman, The Beatles Phenomenon – Barry Miles (a budget version of Mark Lewisohn with great photos and sheet music). The Crossing, Cities Of The Plains and Outer Dark – Cormac McCarthy. As if I didn’t get enough C- Mac this year! Good books only let down by mystical mexicans, weird endings and characters who spend 60 pages not interacting with another living soul. The Stand (The Complete and Uncut Edition) – Stephen King. Enjoyed my 20 year check-in with SK. Epic (obviously). And Gilead – Marilynne Robinson. Such a warm book that manages to convey such drama in what essentially is a man’s 270 page letter to his son.

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Top 10

Top 10 Albums of 2013*

1) The Wilderness – ks Rhoads

There’s nothing lower case about ks’s (?) epic soundscapes. His debut album also contains some great tracks (Dark Hotel for one) but The Wilderness has been stuck on my mp3 player ALL YEAR LONG. You can check out the free sampler on noisetrade.

2) Clothes You Can’t Outgrow – Mountain Schmountain
2) Saturn Mexico – The Black Heartthrobs

Equal second – two self-released albums available on Bandcamp. Nottingham’s Mountain Schmountain write some of the most original songs on the planet (check out Unnatural Stances for one) and L.A.’s The Black Heartthrobs crankout super-melodic super-feelgood noisy indie rock.

4) Let It Beast/DJ BC presents The Beastles – DJ BC 

Hard to pick between The Beastles 3 albums and these two are neck and neck – but why not download em all and make your own Beatles/Beastie Boys mashupmixtape

5) Live at Electrical Audio – David Bazan

Bazan’s live in the studio ‘best of’ contains my favourite version of Magazine

6) The Riddle (Expanded Edition) – Nik Kershaw

30 years on this album still hold up as a shining example of uber clever hooky pop writing

7) Beardytron 5000 mkII debut Pune, India – Beardyman

Beardyman unleashes the power of several ipad, and incredible set of vocal chords and a musical genius brain. Powerful grooves, athletic melodicism and at least one hilarious trainwreck in completely improvised live set.

8) Stack-A-Tracks – Jellyfish

Just the backing tracks from 2 classic 90’s albums. A heartbreaking work of staggering pop genius.

9) Great Balls Of Fire! – The Best of  – Jerry Lee Lewis

They didn’t call him the killer for nothing.

10) EI8HT – Nik Kershaw

Brillaint tracks like Runaway, The Sky’s The Limit and The Bell rub shoulders with others that are merely very good.

honourable mentions

Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin

It may have some average tracks but it demonstrates what it means to be an album.

The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind – Ben Folds Five

A perfecly credible return from BFF boosted by a handful of awesome tracks like Draw A Crowd, Erase Me and the title track.

Check out
The Black Heartthrobs on Beatles-influenced songwriting
DJ BC Interview
Ben Folds Five on Sodajerker podcast

*as always these are merely the albums I heard in 2013.

Categories
Top 10

My Top 5 Original Songs of 2012


The best of me!

Concentrating on my EP – Let’s Build An Airport this year meant I didn’t write as much as last year, or demo to as high a standard as I’d like, but here’s the 5 tracks I wrote that I’m most proud of this year

1) Fingernails
2) One More Hour With You (Generic Christmas Song)
3) Hard To Love
4) Count Me Out
5) Cheese On Toast

1) Fingernails

Quite pleased to write a simple and effective riff song as a singer-songwriter’s life is usually one long strumathon

2) One More Hour With You (Generic Christmas Song)

My response to a ‘write a Christmas song’ challenge at the most recent meeting of Nottingham’s First Tuesday Songwriting Group.

3) Hard To Love

Anytime I manage to write something short and to the point feels like a win.

4) Count Me Out

Written in Nottingham’s Jam Cafe at the Spaceships Are Cool launch party while waiting for the band to start.

5) Cheese On Toast

A work colleague told me about a disastrous date she had and challenged me to write a song about it. Would like to revisit this demo and add more drums and synths. I wonder if the members of Europe are busy?

Honourable mention

Israel’s Praise (Psalm 22)

Written and recorded for FAWM 2012 over 2 days. Another one of those, “hey you sound a bit like David Bazan songs.

You’ve had the best of me – now take the rest of me!

*Photo by Daniel Whiston