Mark Lanegan – A Thousand Miles Of Midnight

tmomBack in the days where people weren’t too fussed about genre labels, when experimentalism regularly hit the high points of the charts and when nobody really gave much of a stuff how much records weighed, remixes reigned supreme.  These were mostly shuffled off to the margins of b-sides and exclusive 12″ singles, but there was the occasional album of rejigged and reworked music for our pleasure.  Remixing was all over the place, some remixers became more venerated than the people who employed them, and then it all seemed to tail off rather quickly, or at least vanish underground to a place where most people couldn’t find them, except for the very determined.  The occasional gem bobbed up to the surface (the Soulsavers’ sublime take on Starsailors’ Four To The Floor being a prime example), but it all went quiet as some remixers went back to being DJs, others started making their own records from scratch, and others carried on messing about for diminishing audiences.  This record is a celebration of decades of messing about with other peoples’ stuff.


Steve Gullick – Nirvana Diary

nirvanadiaryI consider myself very lucky to be the age that I am.  Not now of course, as that’s awful.  But the age I am allowed me to be the age that I was at the back end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s when there was so much wonderful chaos in the world of music, and I will always be amazed that it was all going on around me, going a huge defining the person I was then and hopefully laying down the groundwork for whatever I am now.  It was a brilliant time when every weekend hanging out in record shops uncovered new treasures and new friends, and almost every night was filled with live shows and clubs where all manner of people gathered to share in this delight.

That’s how I remember it anyway, and I’m sure that it’s wholly incorrect.  I don’t particularly care though, as this book helps to reassure me that it really was that much fun and important.  In this book, I feel that I have fully corroborated evidence that it Happened, by virtue of the people involved on both sides of Steve Gullick’s camera being slap bang in the centre of it all.


Best of 2014, No.1: Myriam Gendron – Not So Deep As A Well



On the last day of the year, it’s my favourite record of the year.  When I first heard this in April by accident, I was pretty sure that this was going to end up on the top of the 2014 pile.  After a small amount of doubt in the middle of Summer, I can’t believe that I thought that it could have been anything else at any point.  All good and great albums are supposed to be something different as well as something that, for want of a better term, just “fits” whether that tessellation comes in the form of the meeting of moods, becoming a subconscious part of a specific event, or merely by dint of becoming the zeitgeist of a whole litany of events.  This is it.  The only record I heard this (almost last) year that does all of that.


Best of 2014, No.2: A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos I-XII


This record and the one that follows were pretty interchangeable during the month or so that it took to put this whole Top Fifty together.  I’m pretty sure I have them the right way round though, as I hope to explain tomorrow (yes!  I will might actually get this review of 2014 completed in 2014!).  As it’s a personal statement, it’s only fitting that the ones that made the most personal impact became such favourites of mine, and for such disparate reasons.  With this one, the impact is something created rather than reflected, and that’s a gift well worth celebrating.


Best of 2014, No.3: Mark Lanegan Band – Phantom Radio

phantom radio

Genre pigeonholing, don’t you just love it?  Ever since Faith No More were dubbed “Funk Metal” back in the 1980s, mankind’s desire to label things that sound a bit different to everything else has seen labels get sillier and sillier.  Then again, it all started with Rock and Roll, which makes little sense anyway.  I did try to find something all-encompassing to encapsulate whatever goes on during the course of this record, but nothing fits.  Even the current trend for “Post-” anything doesn’t seem to work, as even looking up something as outwardly clever as “Post-Blues” brought up Booker T and the MG’s, Jethro Tull and Chris Cornell, so it’s anyone’s guess really.  Ultimately though, it doesn’t really matter except to people who don’t read past an arbitrary number of stars and the first sentence of anything.  What does matter is how something moves you, and Phantom Radio moves like nothing else.  A Post-Lanegan record, perhaps?


Best of 2014, No.4: Inventions – Inventions


Sometimes, something just grabs you and doesn’t let go.  Inventions, a coming-together of Explosions In The Sky’s Matt T. Smith and Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper is most definitely one of those somethings.  The first play of this album overwhelmed and reprogrammed the senses, and a later, memorable playthrough on a train journey down to London cemented its status as a record to be cherished.  It’s a record that suggests constant movement, described before a single note is played thanks to the arresting cover art, taken from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope tracking a pulsar’s journey over the course of 51 months.  As a visual accompaniment to the music, one could do a lot worse and very little better at describing wonder in a single image.


Best of 2014, No. 5: Desertshore – Migrations of Glass


It’s all going in fits and starts here, and with three days left until the end of the year it’s all getting a bit fraught here.  It will be finished though, even if it’s nudging midnight at the last timezone on the planet.  It’s an enjoyable pursuit, not only because of the excuse to revisit and re-evaluate all the best musical bits of 2014, but just to have a bit of a laugh and kill a bit more time while doing so.  These things do have a habit of being a bit po-faced and serious, and whenever it feels like enjoying something starts to approach seriousness, it’s time to step away, put the kettle on and think about playing outside for a bit.

As an aside, doing this sort of thing isn’t the same as it was when I started.  Every platform I use to try to let people know what I’m doing here has been taken over by people uninterested in sharing experiences and engaging in a like-minded word-of-mouth spirit of community, and instead concentrate on letting me know that unless I spend (a lot of) money, it’s all guaranteed to be a bit pointless as I cannot reach my “customers”, and presumably this will also mean that people wanting to have a gander at/interact with this site (or a whole host of other, better ones) are going to find it a bit more of a struggle to do so.  I don’t want any, and have no need of, customers.  Next year, I’ll start afresh, or at last the same as I did 5 years ago when the intention was to quietly not be read while I put things in order.


Best of 2014, No.6: Black Whales – Through The Prism, Gently

Vinyl. Vinyl vinyl vinyl. It’s all you ever hear about nowadays. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as it’s a lovely format, although postmen the world over would perhaps beg to disagree, although it’s a format a lot more fetishised and snobby than it was back when it was a bit more of a necessity. It’s a happy accident this year that almost all of my top ten records this year are all here in variously-hued plastic (including this one, which finally arrived in physical form not 24 hours ago after being caught up in the now-standard pressing delay), and it has to be said that it’s a format I like in a lightsaber-ish “for a more civilised age” thing.  It’s a bloody expensive hobby though, so where uncertainty strikes I’m more likely to go for the cheaper option.  Not here though, as I knew I was going to be onto a winner so the extra expense was well worth it.


Best of 2014, No.7: Mark Lanegan – Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology 1989-2011


I’m fairly certain that I’m breaking some sort of rule here.  I’m also fairly certain that I don’t really give much of a stuff for what passes for rules governing internet lists. I could justify it with a whole host of technicalities, but frankly I can’t be bothered – it’s Christmas Eve, I’m at work supposedly listening to a conference meeting but am actually typing this and I keep thinking of stuff to get from the shops in the way home. So instead I’m just going to enjoy the bloody thing.


Best of 2014, No.8: Little Big League – Tropical Jinx


Being as terribly English as I am, I am aware of the term “sophomore”, yet I have no real idea what it actually means, and even in these internet-enabled times I have little inclination to find out.  Instead, I shall be referring this in typically repressed fashion as Little Big League’s “second” album, or maybe “next”.  Semantics aside, I love this record.  I loved their first one, and this one blows it clean out of the water.  It’s harder going sometimes musically and emotionally (especially in the wider context of the record’s cover, the obvious happiness of which I hope evokes the best memories), but the rewards are so much better.