Not The Mercury Shortlist 2014

I could really just post the intro blurb from when I did this last year as it’s pretty much exactly the same thing…

Is anyone really that bothered about the Mercury Prize anymore?  Named after oh hang on, this is the intro blurb from last year.  Sorry.  Nice to see the Jazzers getting back in again to this year’s list, but it’s still a bit same old same old in order to try to look a bit edgy.  Then again, pickings are slim this year anyway so it was a tricky thing to pick stuff I’ve liked from what’s already been mentioned, suffice to say that I hope Anna Calvi wins it (whatever “it” is now), and congratulations to Damon/Royal Blood/East India Youth on being whoever the judges decide what mood they’re going to be in this year.  It’s an increasing irrelevance now though, especially given that it’s been moved from a time specifically chosen in midsummer because nobody bought records then to a time when every publication will be publishing their Fourth Quarter results (formerly known as “our favourite records” before it became a 3-monthly thing).

But I started doing this back whenever I can’t be bothered to check, so here we go again.  It’s not been a great year so far for British Music.  Indeed, the most exciting thing about it so far is that after next month, it’s a distinct possibility that artists such as Teenage Fanclub, the Vaselines and the Bay City Rollers will have to be reclassified as World Music.  I love you, Scotland.  But I understand why you want to leave me.  Still, I managed to cobble together a few records that I liked and would possibly qualify if any of them could have been bothered enough to pony up the initial 200 quid to enter this silly competition that only seems to be of interest to people biffing on about why someone wasn’t nominated.

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Mark Lanegan Band – Bubblegum

bubblegumIt’s rare that I do posts of a personal nature these days.  Partly because I’ve become a little bit more guarded over the past couple of years anyway due to this & that, but I suppose it’s mostly because I’ve been so busy trying to listen to so much new stuff that I’ve not been looking backwards so often anymore.  Which is probably why it came as a genuine shock to me when I read a message from a friend of mine today stating that this record is ten years old today.  Conversations that have sprung from this revelation have seemed to have the same effect on several other of my friends today, and then the floodgates opened – a whole decade of memories, communities and even enmities all springing from the collective coming-together over one record.  Happy Birthday, Bubblegum.

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Sunday Whatever

071Sometime during the last couple of months when the hinges fell of this blog (and myself), I made a bit of a discovery.   I’m doing all of this wrong.  What I should be doing by all accounts is to spend more time saying that I’ve written something (or, in many cases, copy/pasted a press release) rather than sitting down thinking of what to say.  And if that’s the wrong way of going about things in the current climate of “look at me and give me traffic” music blogging, then I’m happy to be such a halfwit for not joining in.  6 Days From Tomorrow was never truly written in order to be read (I rarely read it myself, so I have no drive to make others do so.  But thanks for reading anyway, you’re more than welcome here), it was done as what I thought would be a private thing to get my thoughts in order when other attempts failed, and it’s not doing a very good job of that either!  That it’s become something else entirely from whatever I originally set out to so is a source of occasional pride, and that I’ve managed to gain such little victories without recourse to “You won’t believe what has done, it’ll blow your mind” clickbait shenanigans or paying neither Facebook nor for the privilege of spreading the word feels like quite an achievement in itself.

So, whenever I write something, I park it on the 6dft Facebook Page and the 6dft Twitter thing (although I have to say that this is a very underused feed and my personal one is much sillier), and I park it there once.  I tried the “ICYMI” thing last week that everyone else does (which some proper sites do several times a day) and felt such an absolute wretched tart for doing so that this will never happen again.  This doesn’t mean that I am averse to Likes, Shares, Favourites Retweets and other such word of mouth if someone gets to read any of this and feels strongly enough to do so, and in fact it remains a thrill to me whenever someone takes the time to do so, but I’m not doing any of this cobblers in order to be at all popular.  I’m doing it to keep my own ducks in a row.

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Vaporland

vaporlandWhile I’ve been switched off recently, I was also apparently rather busy as the last few weeks has seen a whole raft of Things I Ordered And Then Forgot About arriving in a steady stream.  This is something I do rather a lot which always results in a pleasant surprise when stuff appears, and it’s somewhat miraculous when duplicates are few and far between.  That said, I have absolutely no recollection of ordering this one, although there’s plenty of evidence stating that I must have done.  All I can do at this point is offer my congratulations to whatever subconscious part of my brain was working on whatever day I handed over the cash for this one, as it’s a bit of a corker.

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Sunday Whatever

005Things are going a bit slow here at the moment, largely because things are far too full-on elsewhere.  There’s a definite disparity in the work-life balance here, and that can never be seen to be right.  So while I try to address that, this week shall be mostly comprised of EPs and quiet things as that’s all my attention span can cope with while all else goes mad around me.  This whatever also reflects the lunacy of the past couple of weeks, but I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about and nothing that a bit of a sleep can’t remedy.

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USA Out Of Vietnam – Crashing Diseases And Incurable Airplanes

usaSpreading from the centre of much of my listening habits of the past 25 years or so (sshh) are but two bands.  From these parts of my musical youth all manner of tendrils have sprung forth; some branches with stronger ties to their roots, some less so.  Looking at this from a wistful, nostalgic view it’s a genuine pleasure to gaze right back to these sources and also to the younger me who was so moved by it all back then as well as feeling a strange tinge of glee that it’s all still going on.  It’s also great to see and hear so many of the people involved in these groups and their various satellites continuing to create and amaze as they find new avenues to explore with new people alongside them.  One of which appears thusly.

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Sunday Whatever

weblogoHope  you like the new look of the place!  There’s still much tinkering to be done as I had to put in a whole new theme at very short notice when it turned out that the one I’ve been using for the last four years didn’t want to play, and I’m not 100% sure about the one I chose in a moment of “that’ll do for now” late on Friday night, but it’s certainly something to build on over the next few weeks or so.

What I am 100% sure on is the new logo and banner.  Nick Rhodes at Switchopen has produced some beautiful art for the likes of Mark Lanegan, Soulsavers, Ed Harcourt, Queens of the Stone Age and so many others, and now his work adorns the top of this page.  I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am that this happened at all and how happy I am with the result, especially after it puts a happier hat on the end of a rather sad few weeks.

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Singles Night

Yes, it's the same photo as last time.  I'm tired.

Well, crikey.  This is the second of these, which technically makes it a series or something.  Woo.  It’s something I should make more of an effort with though as I am very fond of singles, relegated as they largely are to novelty items instead of the towering make-or-break powerhouses they once were.  And now that the UK charts are going to factor in streaming media when compiling the charts, these little chunks of music are under even greater threat than ever.  Pretty soon if we’re not careful, Record Store Day will be the only place that we will be able to purchase singles in graspable form, and we all know how bloody expensive that gets…

It’s not all doom and gloom though as the below doingses illustrate – and I’m happy to report that I am having to be on the lookout for another 7″ box because mine is full to overflowing (and there’s nothing at all funny about that statement), so there’s plenty of people still willing to give it a bit of a go.  And it has to be said there’s more than a couple of digital noteables as well out there.

 

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Music & Mental Health

Just a quick break in proceedings (thanks to the current vagaries of an overstretched and underpopulated vinyl-pressing industry) to mention that I wrote a short thing for another music site recently, and they were very kind enough to publish my thoughts.

The very nice people at Echoes and Dust are currently running a series promoting the discussion of Mental Health and Music, as the two are rather inextricably linked in a variety of complicated manners.  My piece concerns how, just as listening to beautiful and inspiring music can send the spirit upwards, listening to troubled music or musicians (and there’s a lot of them, especially in this house) can both cause and soothe my own troubled times.  It’s complicated, it does look as though sometimes I push myself into dark corners where I’m going to suffer somewhat (because I do), but it does make an odd sort of sense to me and even getting those notions and explanations out of my head and onto the screen brightened the fog I was experiencing that evening.

Anyway, it’s there if you wish to read it by (in theory, not tried it yet) clicking the image below.  Thanks to Hannah and everyone else at Echoes and Dust for the opportunity.  And, as it’s a related thing, the Mark Linkous/Sparklehorse tribute Last Box Of Sparklers, raising money for Mental Health charities, is currently at the Mastering stage so should be available soon.

 

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Sun Kil Moon – Benji

benjiThis is a record that makes the notion of being a Record Collector a bit of a strange one.  Our various and varied collections are not passive artifacts for us to hoard and catalogue (none of mine are, anyway – which is probably why I can’t find anything), they exist as a series of buttons and triggers to be pressed, pulled and even provoked in order to bring forth memories, feelings and sometimes tears.  They remind us of times that are better off forgotten, but still we prod the hornet’s nest whenever we want to reminisce about something wonderful or even terrible.  We can be so stupid.

So while Lepidopterists don’t rifle through their hoard to find a particular moth pinned to a piece of plywood that reminds them of an ex-girlfriend, and Philatelists don’t spend hours gazing at a stamp from a far-off country they’ve yet to visit because they miss their Dad, some of us (most of us?) find ways to feel alive in whatever way we can by listening to other people’s joy and pain.  Benji is a prime example of this.

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