Monday, 14 January 2008

two thousand and heaven

So 2008 is already two weeks down, and I bet you thought you'd escaped the unending cycle of retrospectives on the year just departed, right? RIGHT?

You've got a lot of attitude.

I decided to ask around the STA extended family for thoughts, opinions and rantings on 2007, and got exactly three responses. So here they, along with something I wrote when I was drunk.

Andrew Ferris - Smalltown America head honcho, guitarist/singer with Jetplane Landing.
This was originally posted here, as Andrew, being the total maverick he is, ignored my request to email it to me directly and posted it on here himself.

My friend Ian said the best thing about 2007 was his girlfriend moving out; "the bitch" with that as context this is my year in review.

Music: '07 was the year of Ideas Over Marketing as the online democracy finally took hold. Robyn's Konichiwa Bitches was the best start to the year the DIY industry could have had.
After his Tomahawk distractions, Stainer fans could rest easy that the undisputed master of the snare drum was back in the now to often lauded Battles. Future Of The Left proved they were vastly superior than the sum of their parts (even NME sez so - so meh!) on the wonderfully executed and titled 'Curses'. Even a cursed Soothsayer couldn't keep The Mars Volta down and Les Savy Fav laid waste with their first fully realised record. Album of the year was Comicopera by Robert Wyatt.

Interviews: Unembarrassed by the fact that they actually began to start playing Les Savy Fav on the Radio in the year that we decided to release 'Why Do They Never Play Les Savy Fav On The Radio?' - one of my personal highlights was interviewing Tim Harrington before their Scala show. You can download the whole sycophantic thirty minutes right here.

In matters much more professional; interview of the year was at the Purcell Room with Robert Wyatt curated by Sean O'Hagan.

Magazines: Alternative Ulster became AU and looks all the better for the missing letters; Rocksound's monthly reviews became indispensably comprehensive; Organ is the best it's ever been; Plan B became more willfully and brilliantly obscure and Artrocker remains the essential purchase for the indie pop trawler. If Robert Wyatt had published a magazine this year it would have been Magazine Of The Year - just for completeness.

Bateman - singer/guitarist from The Young Playthings

I’m not a religiously ‘new music’ person, more the bargain-bin guy. Every year, before Christmas when I’m supposed to be buying presents for my nearest and dearest, I always treat myself to a shitload of cheap records and new albums are rarely on sale; when they are, like the Enter Shikari album whose title I can’t be bothered to remember and which I bought for £1.99 in Impulse in Heathrow, it’s usually for good reason – they suck. However, I did get a few new good albums this year (Amazon vouchers and Limewire etc) and I just LOVE boring people with my opinions, so here goes.

Best Albums

STRUNG OUT, Blackhawks Over Los Angeles
I’m probably the only person with a brain who realises how fucking cool this band is. It sounds like if Iron Maiden were from the suburbs of California, smoked pot instead of drank ale and grew up listening to Nofx instead of Black Sabbath. The double bass drum machine-gun bursts and duelling guitars give me an insane hard-on.
MODEST MOUSE, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
I’m not the only person with a brain who appreciates that Isaac Brock is a total genius. The presence of Johnny Marr only confirms that Brock is bidding for world domination, of which I wholeheartedly approve.
RYAN ADAMS, Easy Tiger
I thought the dickhead Boy Wonder had finally fallen foul of the mark with this, his, like, 200th studio album but I thunk too soon; not as great as Jacksonville City Nights or Cold Roses but there are still some stunning songs here, most notably Tears Of Gold, Two, Pearls On A String (of which I saw a better version on the Internet, performed live on David Letterman) and the acoustic Off Broadway (of which I didn’t think much until I saw him perform an incredible version of it with the Cardinals at Hammersmith Apollo this year). Oh, plus the best/worst metaphor for a drug addict ever – a Halloweenhead.
As the rains plundered homes around the rest of the country this miserable summer, Mark and I, from the secluded vantage point of our east London loft flat, debated the important issue of whether Amy Winehouse is fit. Little did we know that this would precede our most exciting social news of 2007, for just a few months later she would move in to our apartment complex! Okay, okay, we haven’t actually spied her yet but she’s here; the paparazzo permanently camped outside the gates watching DVDs on their laptops in their mini vans 24/7 are testament to that and their photos of her leaving in the London Paper fool’s proof (while the whole thing reached an apotheosis of celeb heaven when Pete Dokkers briefly moved in too, to help ween her off the horse, pen a tune with her and, just maybe, snog her while Field-Captain-Civil-Rose was in prison on remand). Amidst all this excitement I downloaded Back To Black from Limewire on Christmas Eve and was well and truly blown away. The up-close and personal pix may confirm that Slay-Me Slimehouse (Mark’s hilarious, ludicrous new moniker for her) is, currently, physically hideous but her voice and her music and her words are to die for. Good luck getting better in 2008 Ames.
The Guardian called it ‘drive-time indie’, which is actually quite apt, though it doesn’t really do it justice. Fine, it’s not a patch on Reconstruction Site (Samson’s words and voice on Elegy For Worzel Gummidge, or whatever it’s called, make you want to curl up and die they’re so yucky) but songs like Civil Twilight, Relative Surplus Value and the utterly consuming Night Windows confirm that no one writes everyday losers like Jay Kay Samson.

Best Songs

ROBYN, Handle Me
RIHANNA, Umbrella
FEIST, 1234
CHE’NELLE, I Fell In Love With The DJ
‘I fell in love with the DJ/Sneaking round the backdoor, banging till we hear somebody say “ooh-ooh-ooh”/I fell in love with the DJ/ getting intoxicated every weekend, making my heart go ooh-ooh-ooh’. Unfortunately, in the bridge, her boyfriend turns up with a knife (seriously, listen to this shit!) but she avoids that potentially fatal predicament by simply jumping straight back into the chorus! God, how great is pop music?!

Bargain-bin best-grabs

I’m probably the only person with a brain who thinks Joey Cape is a genius. He wrote the whole of Resolve after the suicide of former Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde and perhaps that’s why it sounds so powerful – a cohesive, 12 song elegy of grief and regret that, amongst other things, indicts the physical and emotional isolation felt by so many in 21st century American life, confronts the horrific scene of Plourde’s death but ends, most movingly, with a plaintive eulogy of hope, addressed to Cape’s wife, to whom he was introduced by Plourde.
RYAN ADAMS, Love Is Hell
Yeh, he seems like a nob, but what a great songwriter. The whole thing’s brilliant, the Wonderwall cover, English Girls Approximately and Hotel Chelsea Nights the spine-tingling standouts.
PANTERA, Vulgar Display Of Power
Stuck this on my iPod to listen to when embarking on a post-Christmas Day run and it made me want to punch an unsuspecting fellow runner in the face its pure aggression is so fucking genius.
LOTION, The Telephone Album
My friend Jason is a big fan of Thomas Pynchon. He got into Lotion because Pynchon wrote the liner notes to their Nobody’s Cool album and he lent me Gravity’s Rainbow and ripped me this album. Gravity’s Rainbow put me off Pynchon forever but The Telephone Album made me remember nights getting drunk on Mark’s roof in the mid ‘90s all over again listening to Nobody’s Cool – oh, so glorious! A criminally forgotten band.
THE WALKMEN, Bows + Arrows
The Rat. Plus 10 other amazing, weird, warm, shambolic songs. I fall in love with this album a bit more with each listen.

Dan Emergency - Guitar / Vocals in An Emergency
Dan also makes solo electro wizzzzzzkid music, plays in the dreamy Farewell, Appalachia! and has just started a new band with some people who were in the really awesome punk rockers Bullet Union. I think he also plays in about three other bands as well, I can't keep up. We call him "Dan Emergency" because it sounds like "An Emergency" and we're clever with stuff like that. I don't think he realises this.

2007 was the year that I quit skateboarding in the real world. Why? Because I can now do 360 flips to noseblunt slides before 180 kick-flipping out over the shuddering body of an old lady I knocked over a few moments before from the comfort of my easy chair. In summary SKATE. is the best game ever made.

BEST 'GUITAR MUSIC' LP: Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil
Black Lips look like a real bunch of scum bags and I mean that in a good way. I have come to realise that I like my rock (and roll) sleazy, dirty and with plenty of slacker-jerk-goofball attitude. I saw them play acoustically in a shop in Brighton and I feared them. That's how good they are. Also, you get the impression that these guys know what they are doing and although present themselves as crazy fools are actually way clued up. You can keep your super-tech nano-bot guitar stylings and octopus drum rhythms. Also, I don't want to hear any of your lovey-dovey nonsense. I just want to listen to Black Lips, wear sun glasses and pretend I am as cool as them.

BEST GIG: Dan Sartain @ The Bristol Thekla
Dan Sartain is a legend. He is younger than I am (I think) and is already a legend. I hate that guy! My girlfriend was too scared to talk to him 'cos he is so great and I'd have to agree. His songs are amazing, his voice is brilliant and he is the kind of dude you wouldn't wanna leave your girl alone with because he'd just swan off with her and deservedly so! Anyway, this show was awesome. He tore the place down and came across as being as humble as a piece of pie.

BEST HIP HOP LP: Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury

Just last week, I was out in Aspen
Me and Puff hoppin off the plane, both us laughing
A week before that, I was out in Italy
Attire heart throbs could not get rid of me
Up and down the tella crib, me and like ten hoes
Call from the cell phone, give me that enzo



In 2007 I got really in to drawing, I figured I couldn't draw but it turns out that shit doesn't matter! Seripop make visuals that look like a bunch of psychedelic puke. Crazy colours, crazy designs and a whole load of mess. They influenced me a lot this past year and hopefully one day I'll be able to achieve some work as positively mind-bending as theirs. Also they are in a beautifully offensively named band: AIDs Wolf. Seripop, I salute you.

Me! Daniel Guntrip - STA's newly appointed label manager
I decided to write seven things that made 2007 great. You know: seven for 2007. They have the same number! And stuff! I said we were clever like that.

All Tomorrow's Parties - Dirty Three weekend, ATP Vs The Fans, Portishead's Nightmare Before Christmas.

Simply put, ATP is the best festival in the UK. I went to all three last year, which - financially speaking - is probably worse for my bank balance than a crack addiction. But who cares? In one year and three festivals, I got to: see Portishead's first show in ten years; see Wilco's current lineup beating ten bells out of their back catalogue; dance in some manic chalet party with twenty of my most awesomest friends to "Touch Me, I'm Sick"; dance while Oneida spent nearly 15 minutes playing the same bit of "Up With Peopl" overandoverandoverandover..; get a million indie points for being totally dissed by Nick Cave; see Okkervil River and for them to be SO INCREDIBLE it was totally worth skipping Les Savy Fav for, and... oh, a million over amazing memories. Including a cute Texan girl groping my bottom at five in the morning whilst I was watching the sun rise.

Battles - Mirrored

Yeah yeah, this has been on everyone's End Of Year List-O-Ramas. Whatever. Listen to the drumming. LISTEN TO THE DRUMMING! My favourite description of this record comes from someone on Drowned In Sound's message boards, who said his 4 year old sister described unlikely-super-hit-single "Atlas" as sounding like drums fighting monsters.

Future Of The Left. Generally.

Curses! makes a lot of things better, not least the fact that it's getting the level of success that Mclusky totally deserved. Despite replacing the overt sarcastic hatred of Mclusky with more a absurd take on things, Falco's still as raging as ever and Kelson From Jarcrew backs him up very nicely indeed. Also, they're great live. You know, I saw half of Mclusky at Reading a few years ago on the Carling stage. I was so hungover that day that I had to leave, which is 'impressive' (ie, not at all) as they played at 8pm or something. I went to see the Super Furry Animals instead, which was fun until Goldie Lookin' Chain came out and they did some kind of rubbish team up. GO TEAM DANIEL!

Los Campesinos - You! Me! Dancing!

Quite simply the finest slap of pop released last year. I must admit I was slightly skeptical that it would be better than the demo version that got them all their initial hype, but golly gosh did they manage. Top marks to the band and producer David Newfeld. They also win extra points for not editing down it's six minutes plus running time for a single release, even though doing so probably would've seen it spank daytime Radio 1 into shape somewhat. Even further extra points to Gareth Campesinos! for introducing it as "Creep" during their show at ULU back in October. Every band should have a "Creep": it makes them work harder.

Lost Season 3

From THAT OPENING SCENE!!!! of episode 1 to THAT CLOSING SCENE!!!! of episode 22, season 3 of Lost possibly more "OH MY GOD" moments per screen minute of television than anything that's ever been produced. I can't wait for series 4 to start, even if this Writer's Guild strike is going to derail it. Episode 1 is called "The Beginning Of The End". We're through the looking glass, people.

New Futurama! NEW FUTURAMA!

OK, time to level with y'all: I probably love Futurama more than I love rock 'n' roll. For five years, it was not only the funniest show on television, but it managed to do this whilst being so goddamn romantic and heartwarming at times as to make even a steely cynic as myself feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And then it was cancelled, and the world became a greyer place. THANKS FOX! But then it came back! Back in November, the first new Futurama in four years arrived, in the form of the 90 minute movie Bender's Big Score. I, being the utter geek I am, was unwilling to wait for the official UK release (April this year, apparently), so I imported it from North America. You know what? It's just as good as it was. It has time travelling, Bender being awesome, Fry and Leela being emo about each other, plenty of hilarious digs at Fox, and lotsandlots of references aimed squarly at hardcore Futurama geeks. Like me. Best of all there are THREE MORE MOVIES COMING OUT THIS YEAR. Hell, even my mother loved it.

Okkervil River - The Stage Names

My love for this album is such that I'm having trouble with words. It's my favourite album of 2007, and here's why:
Musically, it's their most "pop" record to date - the arrangements are as complex as they've ever been, but they've been reigned in and tightened up and everything fits really well.
Lyrically, it's their most complete, if not most complex, a loose concept record that dwells on living your life through art, both as a composer and as a spectator, taking in John Berryman, Savannah, a fictionalised version of lead singer Will Scheff circa 2015 and a lot more along the way.

I saw them play in Brighton back in November, at the tale end of a 5 month tour. They looked exhausted, Will Scheff was visibly/heroically drunk, and they played an incredible show. I'm going to see them again next month!


Yes, yes it is.

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