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.


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.


Smoke Fairies

Smoke_FairiesIt always seems a bit strange when a band goes eponymous some way into a career.  The usual way about things is to self-titlingly announce yourselves right at the start and then take it from there, wherever “it” takes you.  When it does happen though, it’s an eyebrow-raiser.  Why now?  Why this?

It does all become rather apparent once attention is paid to what the Smoke Fairies have achieved with this record, that both expands their musical palette and brings an intangible feeling of a closer bond, which is rather nicely illustrated by the image on the cover – it takes two wings for one to fly, after all…


Smoke Fairies – Ghosts: A Collection

ghostsThe full title of Ghosts: A Collection Of A-Sides, B-Sides and an EP From The Recent Past wouldn’t fit in the box I have at the top of this page to enter such things, so the least I could do was embolden it at the earliest opportunity.  And it’s a collection of which is as accurate as it is copiously-monickered, for it gathers a selection of early singles, plus what may or may not be some previously unreleased things from before their full debut album sprang forth.  This dual CD edition gives you, the consumer, not just the original Ghosts compendium but a whole extra disc featuring another nine songs from the archives.  And as it’s also a Thursday that sees this package hurtling through my letterbox, this post is being accompanied by a rather lovely wine.  Long/possibly made-up words and many things in brackets to follow/precede aren’t so much a startling prediction as a worrying inevitability.


Sunday Whatever


Best Laid Plans, and all that.  The current default setting here at the mo is “try to do something, then knock something else together as quickly as possible because Plan A has just gone a bit wonky”.  The pic to the left of this scribbling is the majestic, erm, majesty of the planet Saturn which looks stunning through the telescope but more than a little bit smudgy when I employ a camera.  Ah well, I know what it is and that’s the main thing.  Other plans that have gone awry (including the arrival of cloud-filled skies at night no matter how clear and lovely it is during the day) have been scuppered by time and work constraints, so I hope to start doing the thing I was hoping to do last week, next week – or maybe alternate that with this on Sundays.  I’m waffling.

And if things go vaguely (or at all) well tomorrow, I’m planning on liveblogging the Tomorrow’s Harvest Listening Party starting here at about 20:45 BST.  Would be fun if you popped by, so it’s not just me hitting “update” every 10 mins, typing ridiculously fast and looking for alternate words for “ethereal”.


Record Store Day 2013 – The Records

006Because, quite frankly, my previous post was basically me spending the thick end of 800 words about hanging about outside a shop, when the best bit was spent hanging about briefly (there was a queue behind me!) inside one as well.

Yes, I bought some records.  It would have been frankly rude not to have done so.  I just wish I could have spent a bit longer rummaging in the racks, but that’s the joy of hindsight in the face of some of the best marketing for a band’s return that I can think of.  Anyway, instead of 20 seconds of Numbers Station-related guerilla hype, I bought a bunch of other stuff – and lest we forget, Record Store Day isn’t just for Christmas as much/most of the below stuff is still available to pick up instore without having to pay through the nose to flippers, and online from this weekend if it looks like it might rain.


Mid-Afternoon Compilation Saturday: Reason To Believe – The Songs Of Tim Hardin

something to believeTry as I might, I don’t think that this will ever be a regular occurrence – in my defence however, Saturday is currently the one day of the week I don’t work, so I tend to sleep right through them nowadays rather than seek out fresh compilations to badly wax lyrical about.  Nice bit of serendipity today though, as this arrived today (ahead of Monday’s release – one of the benefits of buying direct from a label), I’m already awake and it’s far too cold to go outside and do anything anyway.

I must admit I know very little about Tim Hardin, other than that his story is a troubled one and full of every cautionary pointer for any aspiring singer-songwriter to heed.  What I do  know is that he left a rich legacy of much-covered work, and that my own attraction to this collection was piqued by the wealth of artists lending their talents to this tribute.  A general rule of thumb (such a weird phrase to retain in modern language – look it up!) for me when buying non-charity compilations or tributes to unfamiliar subjects is naturally based upon the assembled artists and whether there are enough I like to warrant forking out the necessary; thankfully there is a veritable host of the familiar and the essential, plus a couple of others who I’d been meaning to give a listen to elsewhere and the remainder made up of interesting unknown quantities.  So this compilation should be tailor-made for this desk.


Best Of 2012: The Other Things


Only one part left to do, and the infernal list is finished for another year. I know why everyone else does theirs in committees now. Anyway, before I get things wrapped up and back to normal, I want to mention a few other related comings and (sadly) goings that made 2012 special for me.

It’s been a genuinely odd year for the blog, although that was mostly my fault. Twice I went “sod this for a game of soldiers” and hovered over the delete button, and being flattened by Facebook’s policy of not letting my friends read what I’d written on my own Page unless I gave them money to allow them to do so (I will never, ever pay to advertise on that site, and I am overjoyed to notice that none of the artists, musicians, bands and friends of this site have given in and forked out) halved my readership, because nobody could tell when I’d written something. The site recently crapping itself and refusing to work (resulting in the ugly hack you see before you) hasn’t really helped much either.
So I am grateful to various interventions in the form of a couple of strange appearances in the UK National Press, a continuing absence of anything better to do with my free time and especially the kind words of friends and visitors alike has kept 6dft (as well as myself in general) going, and going to the point where I have ended up up with just over twice the visitors of last year.  Which just goes to show that even Facebook’s Demented Ideas Department can’t keep a determined idiot from typing.
Before I get on with the business of getting this blog’s Number One album typed up and finished (although I suspect it won’t be too difficult to work out), I’d like to do a quick tip of the hat to all the other things that have piqued my interest his year.


Best Of 2012, No.4: Smoke Fairies – Blood Speaks

bloodspeaksGood grief, I appear to be back on some sort of track!  I suppose the thing is now I’m getting to my absolute favourites, I’m finding myself that little bit more eager to write stuff.  Also, I’m not suffering from Food Poisoning like I was the other week, and that does wonders for the old concentration levels.  Onto Number Four then, and one that has vague echoes of two records that little bit further ahead and a link to the next one along, so it’s nice that all the ones at the top have that little bit of spiritual commonality to them.  This is one of those times where as soon as I heard it was on the way, I was on tenterhooks right up until release day – partly because of the obvious stuff about the last one being brilliant so therefore I was looking forward to this one, but in a more general “what are they going to do next?” curiosity.


Oh, Go On Then – Alternative Mercury Prize Not Quite Shortlist

I have to say that the real Mercury Prize shortlist this year is a bit of a disappointment this year in the respect that it’s a bit on the vanilla side.  Thankfully this means that everyone can get all in a strop about *their* faves not getting a mention, and this is the real spirit of the competition.  Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way from an award named after a telecommunications company that went bust in 1999.

So, to join in with the doings, here’s an almost shortlist of my favourites that weren’t nominated keeping to a couple of mild criteria:

  • Released within the real prize’s qualification period (July 12 2011 – September 10 2012)
  • Artists involved are at least partly from the UK
  • Artists not actually shortlisted (although for the purposes of this list, only Richard Hawley – see below for comedy gold in 2006 – is omitted from this thingy)
  • Something from qualifying album is on Spotify, just to make it easy for me.  BTW, if you like something here or elsewhere on the various playlists, please buy it – no artist will ever make a living from the tiny streaming royalties they receive.


Hope there’s something you like, or violently disagree with.