There is a reason why this post is ever so slightly late. At the end of his performance of Micheline, Mark Kozelek takes a moment to gather his thoughts before asking his gathered audience “Are you tired of these middle-aged ramblings of mine? ‘Cause I’m gonna go a lot more of them” before going into a short discussion of his recent viewing of True Detective. And as I was only halfway through watching the set at the time, I immediately switched off and vowed not to return until I’d finished watching it for fear that he might say something spoilery. My advice is – if you haven’t done so already – to watch True Detective from start to finish, as it’s incredible. And once you’ve done that, put this on and nod along sagely with his short and highly accurate summarising.
This 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.
Albums are all well and good, but what of the individual songs contained within? A silly question to be sure, but it’s a bit more complicated than merely going “well that was the best record, so it had the best songs on it” – that works sometimes, but not always. Sometimes, a song in its right place in the context of its album home is a euphoric, emotional high; but remove it from its running order and the joy is lost. Conversely, a song can be so big, bold and beautiful that it swamps the rest of the record to the point that it has to be removed and isolated to give the rest of it a chance. In short, this list (in no particular order other than the one in which they occurred to me) has very little bearing on the wordy behemoth that preceded it.
The following ten tracks I think (by happy accident) typify 2013 as far as 6 Days From Tomorrow is concerned. They all trigger a response that goes beyond mere emotional; they make the heart beat faster or slower, they make arteries expand or contract, they make eyes mist up or a focus sharper. It’s a strange thing to be talking about how the act of merely listening to something can evoke a physical reaction, and maybe this is just something that affects me. If the latter is the case, then I’m the lucky one.
Before I start this bit, something of an apology is due for a bit of an error while doing what little I do to publicise anything on here. When tweeting each page as I’d finished them, I got my numbers wrong in haste, and pegged Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood’s wonderful Black Pudding album as Number 5, when it was actually Number 6. Whoops. And before I had any chance to delete them and repost (because to be honest, I didn’t notice for 3 days…), these two cheeky retweets happened which led to lots of others…
It’s always a rare thrill when someone I write about likes something enough to repost it, and anyone whose read this blog for any length of time will know how much of a lift this would have given me. If only I’d got my bloody numbers right so that I wouldn’t be sitting here now in a state of mortal embarrassment. This must be how the nation’s tabloid editors must feel every time they make an error in their publications. Erm, yes.
Anyway, almost done with the end of year goings-on (Top 10 single/EPs and Top 10 tracks to follow suit either tonight or soon after), and it’s a weird year-end because I’m not sure what’s going to be happening with 6 Days From Tomorrow, at least in the short term. I was made redundant on the Friday before Christmas, and although I’m not destitute just yet, I don’t know when I’ll be back in gainful employment in these uncertain times. So unfortunately, hobbies and pastimes must take a financial backseat to more sensible matters for at least a while, as records aren’t cheap – especially the nice big waxy ones I’m so fond of. I could delve back again (part of the reason for this blog’s existence in the first place, lest I forget) for those interested in the oeuvre of Nuclear Assault etc, or maybe one or two ruminations on records, formats or anything else that annoys me. I don’t know. An uncertain future could be the kick up the backside I need anyway, as 6dft has been losing readers by a consistently huge margin all year (down by a third all the way through). Maybe this is a problem with all homespun blogs now that the bigger ones are now well established as tastemakers and bigger shop windows, maybe I don’t split my posts down into enough separate pages to get the traffic count up, maybe everyone hates the Oxford Comma, or maybe I’m just not s much fun as I once was. But sod it, if I still enjoy doing this, then I’m still going to do it.
Ranting out of the way, it’s fun to re-edit the full Fifty down into one, difficult-to-read post. These lists are all very silly anyway as they take far too long to type and become very wrong very quickly. Looking through the lists from 2011 and 2012 (never did a 2010 full list in one post, but they’re all in there somewhere if you’re bothered enough to search), there’s so much stuff at the top of each respective list that I barely listen to now, or ones near the bottom (or that never featured) that get spun constantly. They’re little more than snapshots of a week at the back end of November, which makes it all the more strange then that we all get so irritated when someone else’s list is wrong or – worse! – in the wrong order.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who’s read, commented, contributed, liked, shared, retweeted or just plain enjoyed/disagreed with having a few minutes of their time wasted (although I don’t think there’s a button for that, and so Social Media Regulations seems to mark this down as being a somewhat irrelevant activity, which is a bit of a shame really), hoping that Christmas went well for all and that 2014 brings everything you strive for. And fingers crossed, this place may still be here. Maybe with fewer mistakes. Although while I say “with fewer mistakes”, I exclude the formatting of everything below as it’s taken me ages and I’m way beyond the “sod it, that’ll do” point of the evening. Enjoy! x
Getting through this part of the list always proves to be the trickiest part of the larger puzzle here, as this is where the real favourites of the year begin to gather. I guess this particular grouping is where the cool, back-of-the-bus misfits hang out because while they’re not the big glitzy stars of the age they demand a certain, definite amount of quiet awe and a collection of longer sentences than those who preceded them due to the enthusiasm that they naturally draw out of me.
Of course I say stars of the age, but it’s a hard thing to qualify – unlike most other lists of this ilk that you see strewn across the more professional parts of the internet this is not a list drawn up of votes, consensus or anything approaching democracy; it’s me sat here moving things about until it feels right. This is harder than it sounds because my state of mind is notoriously fluid so to get fifty records in an order that not only felt right last week but also feels right today (and hopefully on the 24th when this is all finished) is, to use a technical term, an utter sod. But I remain happy with it, probably because I’ve also cheated a bit with this part.
Compiling this list has been a bit trickier than the ones I’ve done before. For one thing, the fifty I ended up with were taken from a much larger list than previous endeavours, with just under thirty others not quite making it and several others being omitted for reasons various (reissues, compilations and stuff that may come together as a separate thing of later on). Also, looking back at the ones I didn’t include proved to be an odd experience, as there’s at least a couple of “worthy” entrants that almost demand inclusion because they were expected to be included (if that makes any sense at all), but all in all I’m happy with the ones I did put in and happy(ish) with the order they’re in – not that a regimented order actually means anything anyway. The third thing, well, that’ll have to wait – it’s something that’s bugging me, it’s something that I hope will be resolved soon, and it’s something else to fill the space at the top of the next part if I can’t think of anything else.
As always with this before I reveal the next lot, I hope that you find something in here to like, agree with or froth at the mouth because you love or hate something far more than I did or possibly ever could. This is why it’s here x
This is one of those records where it is hard to come up with a meaningful introduction to. Partly because most of what I felt like writing was already covered in a previous seaside-related confection of recent weeks, albeit with a completely different emotional aspect. I suppose that with this one, it’s an example of having little power we have over what memories are evoked when we start hitting strong, obvious triggers such as the sea. With a name such as Desertshore it’s hard to avoid such evocation and the music they have already produced allows all manner of recollection to flow, and for this set it’s most fitting to have someone with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of poetic memories (certainly this year, as this is his third studio album of 2013, his second of original material and his fourth in little over 12 months) to join them for the full ten songs as he does here, after singing on just over half of their previous album.
A bit of a confused bag this week, as it’s been a bit of a confused week all round. I seem to have amassed quite a collection of things during the past fortnight that I have yet to even listen to let alone consider writing about. Add to this ongoing internal arguments about technology (which I was hoping to externalise months ago but didn’t. Oops) and a general intellectual collapse when the sun came out, and I’m left with a convoluted excuse for not doing any work. Hopefully much to come over the next week or two, if I can just sit down and relax for long enough.
At a time when people – and oh my do I include myself in this bracket – are excitedly prepping themselves to hear the first album in eight years (what is it about eight years and artists?), this is Mark Kozelek’s third album this year. And it’s still only May, so anything could still happen. Well, actually it’s an album with Desertshore available in August, but other than that, anything could happen. I’ll come in again.
Following from a set recorded live in Melbourne and his hugely enjoyable and eclectic Like Rats collection, Mark adjusts his oeuvre accordingly and heads off into pastures new, provided by the Album Leaf’s Jimmy Lavalle in an initially surprising fashion, but as it turns out it’s a fashion that suits both performers rather wonderfully.
It is of little surprise to anyone who has breezed through these pages before that I’m rather partial to the Cover Version. Reasons for my love of this particular form of expression are many and have no doubt been mentioned before – a new slant on old favourites, a previously unseen roadmap/blueprint from much-appreciated artists, a way of discovering previously unknown material or sometimes just goofing off for entertainment purposes. Out of the previously-listed criteria for what I usually enjoy from a collection of someone doing a bunch of songs by other people, I honestly have no idea where to file this one, and the way that I went through the first listen was fraught with myriad temptations that would have meant that it would have taken several hours to get from one end to the other.
Mark Kozelek of course isn’t averse to knocking out the odd cover version (and knocking them out of the park), and something particular to his treatments of classics, favourites and assorted others is that they are well and truly bent around his own personal outlook to the point that they are scarcely recognisable as covers, fitting in cuckoo-like among his own body of work. Like Rats is sort of a continuation of this; thirteen songs from a very broad church that make perfect sense here due to the way that they have been reconstructed, and a palpable sense of the joy of reinterpretation and making completely new versions that retain those precious few moments of “Hang on, I know this one…”