Author: John Kell

Top 100 albums of the 2010s: 90-81

Video playlist for albums 90-81.

90: Art Brut – Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! (2018)

Art Brut’s second album of the decade, and first for seven years, was a schizophrenic affair: in places, reflections on big life changes, life in a new city and brushes with mortality; and elsewhere a rediscovery of the zest of youth – though Eddie Argos these days is in borderline territory age-wise in terms of whether that counts as a mid-life crisis or not. The expected raucous backing, albeit more musically accomplished than anyone involved would dare admit, gives it a winning charm. It’s bloody good to have them back.

89: Arctic Monkeys – AM (2013)

I never really bought into the hype around Arctic Monkeys in the mid-2000s, but somehow it crossed my radar that they’d produced en extremely well-rounded album with this one, and it’s a record I’ve returned to a lot.

88: Shy Child – Liquid Love (2010)

Was this synthwave before synthwave was invented? It sounds a bit like it to me. Following on a more lo-fi, keyboard-bashing album from 2007, Shy Child got somewhat ahead of the curve with 80s-style synth-heavy production on this record, which remains convincing and funky pop.

87: The Hector Collectors – Remember the Hector Collectors? You Won’t Believe What They Sound Like Now! (2018)

For reasons I now can’t remember, and quite possibly didn’t know at the time, in around 2003 or 4 Adam J Smith sent me a seven-inch single called Quest for Web of Fear 5. I didn’t know then that at around the same time he was encouraging his old school pal David Pope to take the nascent Just Joans further, or indeed that Web of Fear 5 would in fact turn up within the decade. Instead, truthfully, I struggled to get past the four-track production values and, shall we say, unabashed vocal technique. So this is the very opposite of an “I preferred their earlier stuff” review, as the Hector Collectors’ first studio-recorded album was an absolute blossoming. It’s not just that the songs are tightly constructed, but their observation of modern life, particularly online, and a range of cult TV references that even I struggle to keep up with, takes them into territory comparable with Half Man Half Biscuit. Comparable, yet somehow also nothing like them. But at the same time, indispensable.

86: The Understudies – If Destroyed True (2019)

I wouldn’t necessarily have expected a record like this when I first encountered the Understudies, probably at one of the excellent Daylight Music shows at the Union Chapel. I had them down at the time, not unfairly, as a likeably tuneful jangly indie band with an appealing romantic streak and the occasional lurch into 50s stylings, in terms of both guitars and hair. If Destroyed True goes to another place, though – the songs are not merely romantic, but truly dramatic, sometimes quite long and often piano rather than guitar-led. It’s hard to judge such recent records for a list like this, and I feel like I have many more listens of this album ahead of me, but even so it already feels like a real accomplishment.

85: Charles Watson – Now That I’m A River (2018)

This is an album of woozing, bluesy, almost slacker rock, and also one of those records that resolves itself pleasingly into its individual songs after a few spins. It rewards a lot of listens, and makes a lot of sense as an evolution of where Charles had got to with Slow Club by the time they split.

84: Mattiel – Mattiel (2017)

Mattiel Brown has been blessed with a powerful and characterful voice, and her debut album emerged seemingly fully-formed, offering an array of 60s garage-y numbers. The tighter and more deliberate Satis Factory (2019) was a strong follow-up, but there’s something effortless about this record that gives it an appeal over many listens.

83: Laura Veirs – July Flame (2010)

This is Another Very Good Laura Veirs album, which is no small thing to be. I’ve put this on the list rather than its successors because I particularly like the clarity and directness of the arrangements – which they achieve without merely being sparse – though any of them would sit happily here.

82: Jane Weaver – The Silver Globe (2014)

It’s rather melancholy to reflect on how things have panned out for the group of exciting and idiosyncratic artists who were associated with the Twisted Nerve label in the late 90s and early 2000s, from Badly Drawn Boy’s fade out of prominence to the incredibly sad death of Dave Tyack. It might have been a surprise to some in c.2002 that perhaps the most enduring and acclaimed career of the group would be that of Jane Weaver, whose 2014 album was a beguiling tour through electronic music, clearly drawing on huge knowledge of and enthusiasm for it, and presenting it in a digestible way for non-aficionados like me – often by putting it in a structure of the sort of wonky indie pop that Jane’s husband Andy Votel often oversees from the producer’s chair. Then again, it might not have been a surprise at all to anyone in the know. Is this the only Piccadilly Records Album of the Year on this list? Might be…

81: Chvrches – Love Is Dead (2018)

I half-seriously like to say that Chvrches are just Bis but fifteen years later. It’s not really true, but if you swap out Bis’s DIY punk sensibility for Chvrches’ more pure pop one, you’d probably find the other ingredients for each of the Glaswegian three-pieces are pretty similar. The other big difference is in their timing: while Bis’s 80s-inflected Social Dancing would doubtless have done much better if it had been released in 2009 than 1999, Chvrches’ sound matched and captured their time exactly. There’s not much between their two records, but overall the second one does what a second album should, but doesn’t always, and develops the band’s sound convincingly.

Top 100 albums of the 2010s: 100-91

Video playlist for albums 100-91.

100: Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense (2012)

It feels odd that the decade is ending with a McLusky reunion, and it perhaps risks overshadowing Future of the Left a bit. The latter were the more prolific band in the end, with Andrew Falkous’s ferocious imagination and knack for unexpected imagery giving both bands their distinctive identities – that, and a very great deal of noise. The title of this record turns out to have foretold the path of British politics with chilling accuracy.

99: Juanita Stein – Until the Lights Fade (2018)

After their debut album, I suppose I was a bit unclear about what type of band Howling Bells were, or were trying to be. They released a succession of decent records with some great songs, but nothing seemed to cohere, or capture critical acclaim, quite like their first album. Juanita Stein’s solo career has had a clarity to it that contrasts with that: both albums have had a distinctly American sound, the first more overtly country-influenced and this second one more clearly rock, and produced with quite a sheen. Almost in a Springsteen tradition in places? Maybe faintly. The effect is pretty grabbing, either way, and Juanita’s voice is showcased to good effective both as a singer and as a writer.

98: Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep (2011)

One of three albums released this decade, along with Understated (2013) and Badbea (2019), Losing Sleep was Edwyn Collins’ first album written and recorded after the cerebral haemhorrage he suffered in 2005. I saw his now semi-legendary headline slot at Indietracks in 2011, when the extent of his physical limitations was very evident. But his voice retains a hugely pleasing depth and timbre, that anchors the songs here delightfully. Really, any of those albums could happily have gone here, but on a repeat listening I found myself most drawn to this one, by a smidge.

97: Phantastic Ferniture – Phantastic Ferniture (2018)

Julia Jacklin came to prominence as a major talent in the second half of the decade, and has released two good albums. For me, I really connected with about half the songs on each and quite liked the rest, so there’s a great album’s worth of material there, but that’s not how this list works. Instead, this side project band with two friends seemed to enable Julia to hit the highs really consistently, at least to my taste – it’s an enjoyable record with plenty of oomph, and a slight slacker rock sound that’s absent from Julia’s solo work but really suits the songs.

96: The Loves – …Love You (2011)

Going to Indietracks for the first time felt in many ways like re-connecting with the music I’d followed closely around the turn of the century and had kept only partly in touch with since I’d graduated and John Peel had died. The Loves were the most direct embodiment of that – a Peel-supported band that I’d never seen at the time, and who were in fact gearing up to release their final album ahead of a long-planned split on Valentine’s Day 2011. This is a short record – under half an hour – but listening back to it, it’s got a striking hit rate in terms of the quality of the songs.

95: Black Kids – Rookie (2017)

It seemed hard to believe it was ten years since Black Kids had released their bouncy, jangly heartbreak single I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You… and it seemed even harder when Rookie emerged, and they didn’t sound a day older in either their sound or their subject matter. For all that they’re not rookies any more, this is still lyrically a set of songs from and about young people, rather than reflecting any sort of changed outlook as you might expect after a decade. And really, I liked it all the more for that – ten years on, and still an irreverent bunch of fun.

94: Badly Drawn Boy – It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1 – Photographing Snowflakes (2010)

Ten years ago my write-up of Badders’ decade was a pretty sad one: having loved his shows around the time of Bewilderbeast, and the record itself, I watched as he tried and repeatedly failed to achieve the same alchemy again, each time falling short by a seemingly longer distance. I haven’t dared see him live since 2007. By 2010 he had done more soundtrack work and reportedly recorded and then ditched an album’s worth of material, so this record seemed like a somewhat tentative toe back in the water of ‘full’ albums after a bit of a gap. In the event, it turned out to be probably his most successful record, artistically anyway, since The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, with some charming and reflective songs, attractively arranged – all a bit understated, but well crafted for that. It boded well for the second and third instalments of the apparently planned trilogy of albums… which then didn’t emerge. Since then, Badders has continued to play live, done a bit more soundtrack work, traded on some nostalgia for his debut album, and gone grey. It might seem like a bit of an underachievement, but let’s not overlook the strength of this album.

93: PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (2011)

It’s hard to know what to make of art that focuses on England right now. By association, it feels like it must be guilty of… something. We didn’t have a de facto English nationalist government in 2011 though, so it wasn’t quite so much of an issue. And to be fair, Polly Harvey’s England is often as faded and tattered as it is enchanted and beguiling. She pulled off a neat trick here of making music that was distinctive and idiosyncratic, but at the same time accessible rather than alienating. The only Mercury-winning album on this decade’s list.

92: Hard Skin – Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear? (2013)

Bit of an oddball record, this one – but curiously endearing. As a twist on their new record, On The Balls, Damaged Goods punk veterans Hard Skin released a second version of the album with a variety of female punk and indie singers performing the lead vocals. The result includes Beth Jeans Houghton and Manda Rin showing off their potty mouths.

91: Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (2010)

Indiepop was accelerating into a strong phase at the start of the decade, and this was the album that confirmed there was something going on. Allo Darlin’ leapt fairly immediately into the status of poster child, with a run of main stage Indietracks appearances that culminated in a memorable headlining set in 2014. This record’s songs were the mainstay of their sets throughout, and with a few exceptions were seldom bettered by tracks on their subsequent two albums. The band crossed over a bit, with some decent support slots and fairly regularly popping up as background music on Bargain Hunt for a while. Er, I’ve been told. But they clearly got as far as was possible on the redoubtable Fortuna Pop!, and their final show at the end of 2016 was a convincingly joyous farewell.

Top 100 albums of the 2010s: statporn preview

We all love some statporn, right? So here’s a preview of my top 100 albums of the decade in stats, that won’t really tell you anything about what’s on the list.

The albums come from the different years of the decade in the following numbers:
2010: 12
2011: 13
2012: 11
2013: 12
2014: 9
2015: 5
2016: 10
2017: 9
2018: 15
2019: 6.

Number of albums by artist country of origin:
England: 48
Scotland: 7
Wales: 3
USA: 29
Canada: 8
Other (or combinations of nations): 7.

Debut albums: 25.

Albums by artists who also featured on my 2000s list: 23. (A further 5 are by artists whose former bands appeared on that list, and one artist who appears here in their own right featured on the 2000s list in collaboration with another artist.)

Self-titled albums: 15.

Albums by artists who have played the Indietracks festival (at any time since it started in 2007): 41.

Albums by artists I have seen perform live: 81 (77 of them this decade; I’ve seen a further 3 perform live with previous bands, but not in the form featured on this list).

Albums by artists whose Wikipedia entries are currently illustrated with photos taken by me: 6.

Albums released on Fortuna Pop! Records: 10.

Videos that might make you cry: 3.

Number of albums on list: 102.

Top 100 albums of the 2010s: introduction

When I compiled my favourite hundred albums of the 2000s, I was wondering if it would even be possible to do the same for the coming decade, or whether the album as a format might die a death. In the event, the album has continued to be in rude health, so I am able once again to compile a list of my favourite albums of the decade – but much around it has changed. Now, in 2019, it looks as though CDs are on the way out, with some records on this decade’s list never being made available on that format, and many people no longer owning CD or DVD drives or players of any sort. Instead, streaming and a curious revival of vinyl (20 quid minimum for something bulky and inconvenient! Perfect!) seem to be the formats that are in the ascendancy. Still, at least the ridiculous mid-decade fad for cassettes seems to be dying off a bit.

Streaming was just starting in 2009, and has been transformative: it’s easy to forget just how much of a difference it makes that you now don’t have to pay up-front for an album (mostly) before listening to it. I might be unusual in still liking albums end-to-end; certainly I’m unusual in still wanting to buy them – preferably on CD direct from the artist or label at gigs, or on download from Bandcamp. I suspect many music lovers might come to regret, in 20 years’ time, not owning the music they care about, if streaming services prove not to be sustainable over the long term for whatever reason.

For me personally, this has been overall a better and happier ten years than the previous ten – as it should be really, as the journey from 27 to 37 isn’t the same change as from 17 to 27. But it’s been a troubled decade for the country I live in, increasingly so as it wore on; I count myself fortunate to have avoided (so far) the serious consequences that so many other people have experienced. In fact it was a decade of two halves, almost exactly: I moved out of London to Bedford in October 2014, and after that returned to presenting music-based radio shows, albeit intermittently. Wherever one draws the line, the 2000s and 2010s were the decades when I was, broadly speaking, young; the 2020s and 2030s will be the decades when I am middle aged…

As for the list, obviously it’s my personal top 100: I’m not claiming it’s in any way some sort of authoritative list of the ‘best’ records of the last ten years. Indeed, it feels like a bit of a fraud putting them in order, really – is it meaningful? Still, it’s a convention, so let’s roll with it. Certainly I’ve listened to more and better music this decade than last, and it’s a stronger top 100 than the list from the 2000s. Partly this is thanks to streaming making so much music so readily available for investigation, but possibly also some of the structures around how DIY music can be made and distributed to a high standard have meant that more artists are able to get their visions out there than ten or twenty years ago. And in a way, obviously this is a piece of autobiography – yes it’s self-indulgent, so if you’ve got a problem with that you can sling your hook now.

Plus, there’s no getting away from it: my decade’s listening has been to a large extent framed by the Indietracks festival. I first went in 2010, and have attended all bar two events since. It undoubtedly gave focus to the type of indie music I documented in the previous decade, which was in particularly rude health in the first part of the decade, and has developed in interesting ways since.

I wouldn’t do the same top 100 albums of the noughties now as then, so this is how I feel at the end of 2019 – it’s a snapshot, and I’m sure my views on some of these records will continue to develop. There are bound to be some records that would have been sure-fire entries on the list if only I’d heard them in time. I’m sure I’ll mop some of those up over the next few years. Similarly, I’m assessing records from earlier in the decade with the benefit of a greater measure of hindsight; some have grown in stature to me, while others don’t impress me anything like as much as they did at the time. Evaluating more recent records is more difficult – maybe in the mid-2020s I’ll wonder how I came to make some of these choices.

Finally for this post, the general rules I set myself in compiling the list. It only contains albums, not EPs; records that might arguably be mini-albums are given the benefit of the doubt where merited. There is only one album per artist; where there is such a massive contrast as to justify it, or some other clear reason, I’ve combined two albums in a joint single entry. There have been some interesting upshots of this: some bands who have had excellent decades are represented by one album but could just as easily have been represented by another. Some other bands have been live favourites over many years and released a lot of good songs, but not an album that was strong enough, end-to-end (to my ears), to make the cut. And inevitably, a few records were on the list until I finalised the ranking and found out that 100 isn’t such a big number after all.

Tomorrow there will be a preview post by way of some statporn, and the albums will be counted down, ten at a time, over the last eleven days of the year and decade (with a break on Christmas day). There will be a Youtube playlist for each ten-album segment, so fire up your Chromecast…

2018 – albums at half-way

It feels like this year has been very strong for new music, so here’s a set of videos from probably my 15 favourite albums in the first half of the year – though I could have listed as many more again that I’d recommend. The full playlist is here on YouTube, or click on the individual videos below. They’re presented in release date order, and the title given is the album, not necessarily the song.

1. The Go! Team – Semicircle

2. Kyle Craft – Full Circle Nightmare

3. Shannon and The Clams – Onion

4. The Lovely Eggs – This Is Eggland

5. Gwenno – Le Kov

6. John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness

7. Tigercats – Pig City

8. Traveller – Western Movies

9. Charles Watson – Now That I’m A River

10. Half Man Half Biscuit – No-one Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut

11. Jennifer Castle – Angels of Death

12. Polychrome – Polychrome

13. Red Red Eyes – Horology

14. Tracyanne and Danny – Tracyanne and Danny

15. Holy Now – Think I Need the Light

2016 albums

Back in July I compiled a list of my favourite dozen albums from the year so far.

A quick survey of the records I’ve enjoyed since them – some released before July, but unheard by me at the time – produced 15 favourites. Giving a rather unwieldy top 27 for the year. So I added another three to make it a round 30.

My main reflection from this is that it’s been a particularly good year for Americana, but there’s all sorts of other things in there too. The full Youtube playlist is here if you just want that (and the Jan-Jun one is here).

1. Kristin Kontrol – X-Communicate

The most polished pop record I’ve enjoyed in 2016.

2. Laura Gibson – Empire Builder

Idiosyncratic American folk that I found only revealed itself after quite a lot of listens – it was worth sticking with.

3. Karl Blau – Introducing Karl Blau

This is the first of two Tucker Martine-produced records in a row – Blau presents a collection of 60s and 70s country tunes here, with a great deal of charm.

4. case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs

Pretty much what you’d expect, and no less welcome for that.

5. Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini

I don’t think I’ve heard a record quite like this before. I like both the way the songs are allowed to run to their own (often languid) pace, and the name being based on a grammar lesson.

6. Sara Watkins – Young In All The Wrong Ways

Lyrically quite raw, but musically mostly pretty refined, this is a great record.

7. MJ Hibbett and the Validators – Still Valid

I said In July I expected this would be GRATE. It is. Genius video for this song too.

8. Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream

This is a listenable, absorbing record.

9. Lydia Loveless – Real

Lydia’s set another new direction here, heading towards pop or at least indie rock. My first impressions were muted, but I found listening to the album on shuffle that the songs individually stand up better than I first thought, so maybe there’s something about the running order that didn’t click for me. Lydia consistently refuses to make the same record twice and seems to be on a journey with her sound – I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes her next.

10. Bloom – What Is Life

Formerly The Beautiful Word, Brighton’s Bloom have swapped one slightly rubbish name for another, but produced an absolutely belting record. I was very pleased to support the crowdfunder for this – it’s ace.

11. Angel Olson – My Woman

This seems to have got to the upper reaches of a lot of end-of-year charts, and I can see why. I particularly like the fact that they made a video for this eight-minute-plus song, which has a stunning outro (admittedly accounting for most of the eight minutes).

12. King Creosote – Astronaut Meets Appleman

This was the year, long overdue, when I started paying proper attention to King Creosote.

13. The Tuts – Update Your Brain

It was great to see The Tuts finally get an album out, and doubly so that it delivered on the sass, snarl and sometimes chaos they offer when playing live.

14. Amanda Shires – My Piece of Land

This was one of several recommendations by Laura Cantrell in an online end-of-year article, and wasn’t the one that grabbed me most on first listen – but having got to know it, I’d now say it’s probably my favourite of those records. Really lovely.

15. Pixies – Head Carrier

It seems bizarre that it’s getting easy to take a new Pixies album for granted. Let’s not do that.

16. The Hidden Cameras – Home on Native Land

An unexpected foray into country and soul for Joel Gibb – the covers are nice enough, but the original songs are the real attraction here.

17. Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions – Until the Hunter

You know what you’re getting with Hope Sandoval, and it’s good.

18. Maggie8 – LO

There’s no online video for this album that does it justice – it’s mostly much more dramatic and energetic than this suggests. The meld of styles to produce ‘Hindi indie’ is what mostly gets written about where Maggie8 are concerned, but there’s a sense of Northern melodrama about some of these songs that reminds me of early Smiths, even though sonically there’s hardly any resemblance at all.

To save you the clicking, here are the dozen albums I particularly enjoyed in the first half of the year.
1. Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield
2. Nervous Twitch – Don’t Take My TV
3. Basia Bulat – Good Advice
4. Steven James Adams – Old Magick
5. Emmy the Great – Second Love
6. TeenCanteen – Say It All With A Kiss
7. Kate Jackson – British Road Movies
8. Laura Cantrell at the BBC
9. Evans the Death – Vanilla
10. Garbage – Strange Little Birds
11. Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis
12. Chris T-T – 9 Green Songs

BBC sitcom season – could it have done more?

Back when the BBC announced its sitcom season, which after much anticipation begins transmission this weekend, I planned a post lamenting the conservatism of the choices of shows to be featured and suggesting some shows that might have been more interesting – if challenging – options. This needs a bit of revision now: for one thing, one of my suggestions actually got announced as a late addition to the line-up; and one of my suggestions of ‘probably too difficult’ shows became genuinely impossible.

20160827 AYBSBut also, I don’t want to write a whinge. Whatever its flaws, the season is going to present an interesting blend of spin-offs, remakes and continuations of old shows, recreations of now lost episodes, and of course a series of new pilots. But it comes at a time when the sitcom is in the doldrums in terms of mass ratings (when a sitcom does make it into the week’s most viewed programmes, it’s usually a repeat of Dad’s Army), albeit definitely not in terms of quality (Uncle, Fleabag and, beyond the BBC, Plebs and Drifters are all doing great business). A spotlight on the genre will be welcome if it can kick-start one or more new series for the future – although there’s undoubtedly the danger that it might accidentally reinforce the idea that it was better in ‘the old days’.

Also, the season continues the process of challenging how we think of a TV show: as something that runs for a few seasons and then is over. But why shouldn’t the story be picked up again years later (after all, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads did it 40 years ago; Are You Being Served? got its own follow-up, Grace and Favour; and Shelley was revived successfully in the ‘90s)? Or why shouldn’t the same characters be revisited with different writers and casts? Bands re-form and songs get covered, so why not do the TV equivalents? This season isn’t unique on current TV in doing this, of course: Birds of a Feather has been revived on ITV, Red Dwarf on Dave and Yes, Minister (perhaps ill-advisedly) on Gold; plus the most prominent (only?) example of a show revived on its original channel, Still Open All Hours. Drama is being similarly developed, with Cold Feet back soon, the Upstairs Downstairs revival being rather better than it as generally credited with and, of course, Doctor Who still the grandaddy of all revivals (though the wretched This Life +10 shows that dangers of this kind of exercise… and the less said about wartime-set Eastenders prequel Civvy Street, the better).

20160827 porridgeThat said, the conservatism of the choices is a bit of a pity. Wherever the idea of a ‘golden age’ of TV and, by extension, a ‘golden age’ of sitcoms came from, it remains pervasive: only two shows selected were created after the 1970s. So I had a little think and came up with a list of potentially more interesting choices, mostly more recent. If the season is meant to celebrate sixty years of the BBC sitcom, after all, it seems odd to ignore the last two or three decades.

Tempting though it was to list some relatively unpopular or unsuccessful shows that I have a soft spot for (Clone, Badults, Josh…), I’ve tried to keep it both feasible and focused on successful shows – although, for fun, I have a list of not-quite-possible as well…

Part One: Shows the BBC could and perhaps should have included

Goodnight Sweetheart
20160827 sweetheartThis is the one that needed re-writing, of course – and very welcome that is. My original thought was that, 17 years on, Gary is living in 1962, and the modern world would seem as alien to him as the 1940s did when he first went down Duckett’s Passage. This seems very much the approach the new show (pilot) is following, and I really hope it delivers.

Bluestone 42

It would have been great to see the squad back in Blighty, with a one-off story to round things off, perhaps as was done to such good effect with Pulling (and I’m under the impression the writers had an idea for the 4th series – I’d love to see those characters away from Afghanistan).

The League of Gentlemen
20160827 leagueWith Inside Number 9 and Crooked House, the League’s writers have excelled at one-off storytelling… a single-episode revival for Rosyton Vasey would be tempting, surely?

Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps
20160827 Two PintsThe flagship show for its channel in its day, remember. The final series ended on a cliffhanger, having only just been re-booted with new characters. It deserves a proper ending.

Early Doors
EARLY DOORS_EP4You could easily do a one-off episode of this: ten years on and nothing in The Grapes has changed!

20160827 hiObviously this couldn’t be a straight continuation, but how about a prequel set in the golden age of holiday camps, showing maybe Ted and Gladys earlier in their Maplin’s careers?

White Van Man
wvmpromo-4OK, there’s not a specific case for reviving this as such, I just think it should have got a third series.

It Sticks Out Half A Mile
20160827 armyNow, bear with me here. This was a radio follow-up to Dad’s Army, in which some of the former Home Guard platoon buy and operate the pier at Walmington-on-Sea. Originally to star Arthur Lowe as well as others, it was re-cast to feature Bill Pertwee’s Warden Hodges when Lowe died after recording the pilot. The Dad’s Army characters have recently been re-cast twice, for the movie and the BBC’s ‘We’re Doomed!’, so any taboo about that has been broken – and both ventures had some extremely good re-casting that could be cherry-picked to bring this radio show to the screen for the first time.

Part Two: Non-runners, but it’s nice to think about

20160827 couplingSteven Moffat left his thoughts for where the characters ended up on Outpost Gallifrey… could he pick it up ten years on from that? One question though is what the basis of the humour would be, now that, presumably, they’re all settled? As far as I can see, the show is simply over.

The Likely Lads
The feud between Bewes and Bolam, which dates back to just after the completion of the Likely Lads film, would probably rule this out. But would we like to see what Bob and Terry are like in old age, wandering around modern-day Newcastle and grumbling about Sage Gateshead? I think so!

20160827 SorryThis is the one that, sadly, is now a total write-off. But while Ronnie Corbett was still alive, I was going to suggest, it would have been fascinating to see what Timothy Lumsden was like in old age. If the joke originally was that, in his 40s, he was still essentially a schoolboy, perhaps in his dotage he’d be nearly ready for a mid-life crisis? Though to be fair, that’s quite close to the original premise of Last of the Summer Wine (which had its own prequel, of course… it’s really not such a big deal, this sitcom spin-off business, is it?).

Ever Decreasing Circles
20160827 circlesThis is a show where the lead actor is no longer with us but two of the key supporting cast members are. If the show were to be revisited perhaps a melancholic character-led reunion of Paul and Ann, reflecting on the memory of Martin, could work… but, arguing against myself, without Martin getting annoyed by Paul, there’s really no show. Plus, there is a precedent for revisiting a successful show with just the supporting cast – The Legacy of Reginald Perrin – which is probably more of a warning than a recommendation (and let’s also note that sadly we’ve lost Stanley Lebor as Howard too). Then again, maybe a prequel could be workable – why did Martin turn out like he did? And what did happen between Martin and Ann in Kidderminster…?

All images copyright BBC.

2016 – albums so far

We’re half-way through the year, so here’s a quick run-down of my favourite albums so far (with a couple of EPs and other honourable mentions at the end). Here’s the full playlist, if you just want to watch that.

Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield

The first record I really enjoyed this year, and a really accomplished album.

Nervous Twitch – Don’t Take My TV

Yes the vocals are flat, but who cares? This record is enormous fun, and rewards a lot of listens – it’s much more smartly put together than the indie presentation suggests.

Basia Bulat – Good Advice

Produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, who found a distinctive and unusual way of showcasing these excellent songs that still sounds quite full and lush – this live rendition is a bit more orthodox than what you’ll find on the record, but still very recognisable.

Steven James Adams – Old Magick

Adams’ most considered, thoroughly produced record, and a consistently powerful and compelling listen all the way through.

Emmy the Great – Second Love

Superb tunes on this – lush-but-sparse seems to be the production mode du jour, and it’s used to great effect here.

TeenCanteen – Sister

This came out via PledgeMusic, and has a much more varied and polished sound than you’d expect if you were simply told TeenCanteen are a Scottish indie band. Belting.

Kate Jackson – British Road Movies

What a welcome return this is. There’s the odd place where I’m not sure the production serves the songs on this record, but mostly it’s a poised album that puts its songs across every bit as artfully as you’d expect.

Laura Cantrell at the BBC

A collection every bit as lovely ask you’d expect, though with two tracks sourced from off-air recordings because the BBC’s masters were ‘unavailable’ – I wonder why? (And no, the video’s not a track from the album, but it’s roughly contemporary with the version of the song on the record, I think).

Evans the Death – Vanilla

Full of angst and also a horn section. No prisoners taken on the mostly recorded-as-live album, that takes Evans the Death still darker and still heavier. (No official videos from this – the clip’s just audio.)

Garbage – Strange Little Birds

Garbage always mine the same seam, and they’ve done so successfully again here – it sounds like a Garbage album, and not just that, but one of the best Garbage albums.

Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis

I’m all in favour of indie country singers getting more adventurous with their production, but it sometimes goes awry and obscures the songs. Not so here – this is polished, pin-sharp and showcases the songs brilliantly. They range from charming to touching to emotionally devastating, and are top notch thoughout. A real achievement of an album.

Chris T-T – 9 Green Songs

A follow-up of sorts to 2005’s 9 Red Songs, although with a much more full band sound. It’s a shame the referendum has made this seem like it’s from another age, as it skewers Cameron-era politics incisively, but always tunefully.

GUMS! / The Just Joans / The Hector Collectors – Just Lovely EP 

Long-awaited Scottish indie heroes split release, and every song is great. This track has more cult TV references than even I can keep up with.

Colour Me Wednesday – Anyone and Everyone EP

Yet another canny release from Colour Me Wednesday – this video doesn’t showcase it, but I love the crunchy guitar sound they always manage on record, which lots of bands seem to struggle to achieve without it sounding weedy.

Special shout-outs:
MJ Hibbett and the Validators – Still Valid: the long-awaited new (non-dinosaur) Vlads album technically comes out in July (and more pertinently, the promo video isn’t online yet), but it’s GRATE!
Case / Lang / Veirs – Case / Lang / Veirs: I fully expect this is brilliant, I just haven’t listened to it properly yet! What I’ve heard has sounded grand, though.

2015 music – 8tracks mix

Here’s a mix of my favourite music from 2015. I haven’t tried to come up with any rankings or employ any particular nuance – these are just 23 tracks mostly from my favourite albums, with an EP and a single thrown in, presented in (I think) chronological order. Full tracklisting below the picture (sadly, 8tracks’ code for embeding widgets on WordPress isn’t working any more, so you’ll have to click through – much as I like 8tracks, I suspect it will go the same way as This Is My Jam and that this might be my last mix on it). Enjoy!

20151231 8tracks

1.Sleater-Kinney – No Anthems (No Cities to Love)
2.Desperate Journalist – Cristiana (Desperate Journalist)
3.Rae Morris – Under the Shadows (Unguarded)
4.Tigercats – Wheezer (Mysteries)
5.The Wave Pictures – We Fell Asleep in the Blue Tent (Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon)
6.Laura Groves – Dream Story (Committed Language EP)
7.Evans the Death – Expect Delays (Expect Delays)
8.Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield – Fond Farewell (Sing Elliott Smith)
9.Jane Weaver – The Electric Mountain (The Amber Light / The Silver Globe deluxe edition)
10.Alabama Shakes – Gimme All You Love (Sound and Color)
11.The Lovely Eggs – I Nearly Saw A Stabbing Last Night (This Is Our Nowhere)
12.Eccentronic Research Council – You Ruined My Chippy Thursday (Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan)
13.The Catenary Wires – Things I Love (Red Red Skies)
14.Piney Gir – Keep It Together (Mr Hyde’s Wild Ride)
15.Mammoth Penguins – Propped Up (Hide and Seek)
16.Simon Love feat. Stewart Lee – The Meaning of Love (It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time)
17.Beach House – Beyond Love (Depression Cherry)
18.The School – He’s Gonna Break Your Heart One Day (Wasting Away and Wandering)
19.Martha Ffion – So Long (single)
20.Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts – Sad Screaming Old Man (Manhattan)
21.Frankie Machine – How Great Thou Art (Frankie Machine Has Been Shipwrecked on a Desert Island)
22.The Drink – Roller (Capital)
23.Johnny Marr – There is a Light that Never Goes Out (Adrenalin Baby)