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

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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.

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

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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.

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Best of 2014, No.9: The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia

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This is the first record in this list, and most certainly not the last, where I decided on more than one occasion from first listening onwards that this was my Number One favourite record of the year.  That it turned out not to be so is no indication of my cooling towards it (I certainly haven’t) or that those above it display a far greater whatever than this (not all of them do).  I guess that Entropicalia is something of a state of mind record to take on board, and in doing this alone makes its inclusion among Ghost Box’s roster completely sensical and essential.

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Best of 2014, No.10: The Night Terrors – Spiral Vortex

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Eep, I need to get a shift on.  Two days ago, I thought that it’d be a good idea to ditch most of the individual Top Ten posts and combine them in another long, rambling post that never ends for neither the reader nor the writer.  Today however finds me in brighter spirits however so that’s been binned and I’m back to Plan A, although I’ve no idea how I’m going to squeeze it all in.

Anyway, all that follows (and pretty much all that preceded as well, come to think of it) are my picks of the bunch; or at least were when I put this together a month or so ago.  Every time I put a record on to write about it, it automatically becomes something that should have been placed a lot higher, and then I put another one on and it all happens again.  Ah well, the sign of a good year I guess.

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Best of 2014, 20-11

048Of course it’s not a “Best Of”.  It’s just a title I did once and am now stuck with.  For me, it’s a bit of well-meaning guff at a time of year when I could do with distracting myself and others with stuff that I hope to be vaguely entertaining or perhaps interesting.  If not, then it’s given me something to do.  It’d be nice if this is how and why all such lists are created, as the prevalence of them now (which is far greater than five years ago when I first had the notion of doing such a thing for myself) is verging on the ubiquitous, and if they all were just to get traffic (as if such a thing was important) then it’s a bit sad for those who still do it out of sheer enthusiasm for what they enjoy doing.  Maybe we should try to do something else next year, as it all feels like an accountancy exercise when there’s so much chatter of what publications feel that they should include rather than saluting and toasting the stuff that they wanted to put in.

Everything included here and in the previous twelve months, the years prior to that and – with a bit of luck and a fair wind – the years to come also, is a celebration.  I intend to keep it that way.

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Best of 2014: 30-21

049This is the weirdest and, from a selection point of view, the most horrible part of the whole list to write up.  Every one of the ten albums listed below are stunners, but for reasons various they didn’t quite make the top twenty.  If only the reason “well there were twenty records that I thought were better” was accurate, but it’s far from the truth.  In a section that is all too self-typically guilt-laden and apologetic, the following records are all brilliant and you should give them a go.  To be honest, it’s been a surprisingly better year for new music than I originally thought before I started collating this list.

It also doesn’t help when more really good records keep appearing – one that has been expected since  the summer and two that just appeared as if by magic.  It’s a pain in a way that their appearance does provide the potential for buggering up the process entirely (as well as opening up an internal debate about Christmas albums in general), but I’m more pleased than perplexed about this, as these things are supposed to be an end-of-year goof-off for all concerned rather than the play-it-safe, rule-infested, vanity-search marketing tripe that these things can so easily end up being.

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Best of 2014: 40-31

017I have absolutely no idea when I’m going to finish this.  Usually, I try to get it all out of the way as close to this side of Christmas as possible, but that’s not going to happen I don’t think, especially as I have a couple more things to park here & elsewhere in the meantime.  Never mind, the whole point of these things is to take in the whole year, even if in this case it ends up being the fiscal one.  And more importantly for me, it’s about getting it right in my own head rather than rushing to be first or making sure that the ‘right’ people get namechecked.  It’s all about what feels right, and at the end of the year where such a thing seemed largely impossible on any number of fronts, it’s nice to be calm and reflective about the whole thing finally.

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Best of 2014: 50-41

009What a strange year this turned out to be.  Leaving aside the various inconveniences and horrors that have kept me away from this place for much of 2014, it’s also been even harder for anyone to get their blogs out there thanks to the concerted efforts of the sort of places that were originally set up to be all social and sharing.  Ah well, I wasn’t comfortable with tarting this place about back in 2010 and I’m not changing now.
It’s also been a really eclectic year – either in the case of the type of records that have been coming out (and also the people making them) or maybe my own shifting tastes during an uncertain, unsettled year.  However they’ve come to me, I’m glad they did and the selection process ended up being a very swift affair, starting off with over eighty candidates and then a few arbitrary orderings and re-orderings before the fifty that will follow over the next few weeks settled into a bunch that feels about right, with a bit of room for things to move about a little bit as I progress.  Some of the ones that didn’t quite make it should have done and some that did will probably feel out of place by the time I’ve finished, but that’s the nature of these things when they’re done as they should be; on a quixotic whim rather than like a process of accountancy that these things end up elsewhere.
And as I look back at previous years to see how I usually do these, I see that I should have started on or around the 12th of November, so whoops.  I’d better get a shift on.

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Kings Of The South Seas

kingsIn the bit between getting home from work and going back out to work again, I’ve been reading Tom Hiney’s On The Missionary Trail, a true tale of two gentlemen of the London Missionary Society who went on a long jaunt around the hitherto uncolonised parts of the late-18th Century world to see just how their previously-dispatched missionaries were getting along.  While there’s a little bit of “well, what did they think would happen?” in places, it’s a remarkable story of not just confronting the best and worst of the cultures they visited on a succession of whaling vessels, but the best and worst of their own – the first tale of cannibalism for example comes from within an American crew, and the least said about those in charge of the Australian penal colonies the better.
All of this fascinating reading comes from the anticipation of this record, inspired by this and other stories of the time.  And while the extensive liner notes make it quite clear that Kings Of The South Seas do not support modern whaling, the admiration for their distant ancestors, the communities around the world and the people changed on both sides (and the germs they swapped) is palpable and well-deserved here.  Because sometimes – to quote an old folk trope – people really did sail out of Liverpool, never to return.

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Black Whales – Through The Prism, Gently

prismIt’s all a bit “fits & starts” here at the moment I’m afraid.  Blame work.  The upshot of all this is that instead of getting to spend time doing this, I’m currently waking up, going to work stupidly early, getting home stupidly late, soup and then bed.  For six days a week.  Ah well, it’s infinitely better than what I was facing this time last year.

On the plus side, the drive to and from work is incredible fun, as it currently involves driving alone down myriad twisting country lanes, unlit and occasionally foggy.  As well as these natural hazards, the journey is now about 40 minutes each way which means that I more often than not get a whole record in while avoiding stuffing my car into yet another hedge/tree/escaped cow.  This one’s been getting a lot of play time during the past couple of weeks and it’s an escape well-received.

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