Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Month of Living Abstemiously: The 2012 Edition

No drinking in February tends to come at a most opportune moment. Today it feels most welcome, having spent a weekend overindulging at friends' nuptials in the Caribbean. That was terribly indulgent, and Sunday my body utterly rebelled at the thought of more booze for supper; this, of course, came in response to drinking rum most of the early evening while on a catamaran. Ahem. So I'm very much looking forward to it, along with trying to keep up with some healthier living i.e. exercise. I've not done much of that at all.

I've also failed utterly at two of my four resolutions - walking home and a movie. But:
  • Tonight I am going to see a friend for dinner and I'm going to walk the three miles between work and the restaurant to meet her, so that's a start.
  • I watched two movies on the plane to and from the nuptials - Moneyball, which made me really want to read the book (and delight in the badarsedness that is Brad Pitt), and Crazy Stupid Love, which I liked a lot more than I was expecting - although given that that was about zero, it's not saying much. Julianne Moore is just lovely, but it really would have been nice to have seen the movie flesh out why she wanted a divorce, but that wouldn't have fit with the narrative. Instead we got a lot of Steve Carrell (who I'm still on the fence about) and Ryan Gosling, who is nothing but a pleasure to watch, for many reasons.
And as tomorrow starts February off to a no-drinking bang, it's all go for seriously maintaining the other resolutions. I have had something green every single day, and it's been pretty easy, although I've had to go out of my way a couple of times to make it happen. It's been good for me so far, I think.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reading the Detectives

I am a big fan of the detective fiction genre. I could always tell when I was stressed as a youth, because I'd wander to the library and head back with armfuls of Agatha Christie and various other detective writers. I love a great many and, recently, in Claire De Witt and the City of the Dead have read one of my favourite new voices in years; I am genuinely excited about the prospect of future books in this series. I'm also about to read another new voice (well, new to me) in Jussi Adler-Olsen. Am hopeful this is not yet another male detective with a drinking problem, a cool record collection and problems with his spouse/ladies yet absolutely irresistible to the ladies. Not that I didn't love the early Rebus/Wallander, but there is something a little tiring about those, which is why Claire De Witt struck me as a nice alternative (although **SPOILER ALERT** there are substance abuse issues. sigh). I also very much enjoyed the Tana French novels for their effed up but at least different narrators.

Anyway, I digress. The spur for this post is the death of my all time favourite detective fiction writer, Reginald Hill. His books I have loved more than any others. They span an extraordinary number of books, subjects, ingenious plots - animal rights activism, flooded villages, Passchendaele, rugby clubs, amateur dramatics, South American guerrillas.

They also feature functional human beings. One of the best things about the Dalziel & Pascoe books is the marriage between Ellie and Peter; the reader follows them falling in love and growing into a marriage that has its issues but, basically works. It has the normal stresses and strains (in a way that portraits of idealized "happy marriages" often don't work - yes, Ian McEwan, I'm looking at you, and am not the only one, apparently - because they're portrayed as "perfect" rather than happy - a different thing).

The relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe is funny, affectionate, tense; everything a yin and yang, two-member team should be. Pascoe underestimates Dalziel's ability to read people, situations, his intelligence; Dalziel underestimates Pascoe's grit and determination. It works beautifully. I'm tempted to re-read them - I had them all in one place, in sequential order, before we moved to the US. Maybe it's now time to regather them and start again. Once I've got rid of the mountain of library books and Christmas books that are piled around the house.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Apropos of Nothing

Top Ten Blur Songs That Were Not Singles:
  1. This Is a Low
  2. He Thought of Cars
  3. Death of a Party
  4. Miss America
  5. Sing
  6. Badhead
  7. Trimm Trabb
  8. Blue Jeans
  9. You're So Great
  10. Bank Holiday

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What I Liked in 2011: Musically

Albums of the Year (bearing this in mind - apparently I am a dude who really likes Jodeci)

  1. House of Balloons - The Weeknd. I have just KILLED this album on my ipod. I absolutely fricking love it. The follow ups are also pretty stellar, particularly Echoes of Silence, but this was spectacular. Depressing, nasty, dark, anguished - it somehow expresses how you feel when somewhat ashamed of your behaviour, when you want to lock yourself in, hungover, and speak to no one. That I listen to this a lot at work is clearly a coincidence. Ahem.
  2. Space Is Only Noise - Nicolas Jaar. Again, something I listened to a lot. I'm frankly annoyed that the person who made this album is a mere child (21!), but I think its shifts of mood wash over you beautifully and, having seen him perform some of this stuff live in December, it really is much heavier than it appears on the first few listens.
  3. Stone Rollin’ - Raphael Saadiq. This was the perfect rock & roll/soul/funk album. Unbelievable. Could have been made 40-50 years ago, frankly, but feels completely present.
  4. Let England Shake - PJ Harvey. I was umming and ahing about putting this on - is it really that good? And then I listened to it again. A lot. And, frankly, it is. I listened to a great guardianmusic review of the year that pointed out not just the incredible discussion of war, but how rooted it is in the land of England. It's about the cliffs, the soil, as well as the fight to protect that.
  5. The English Riviera - Metronomy. I was really unsure about this at first, but I should have realised that this was a good sign. The initial problem for me that I struggled to get over was how different and, as I thought then, inferior it was to the previous Metronomy album, Nights Out. Now, I maintain that that album is one of my favourite albums of the last ten years, but my love for it crept up on me. Similar persistence with The English Riviera has paid off. I love the new vocalist; I love the quaint, sometimes gentle, melodic Englishness that lures you in, but the bite and darkness are there all the time. It's clever, cool and stylish, yet with none of the coldness or aloofness that those adjectives can convey. But then, I love Blur, who have been accused of all those things, repeatedly (too clever! not enough soul!). So gauge your judgment based on that.
  6. Civilian - Wye Oak. This was a (for shame!) NPR-based discovery. All Songs Considered did a mid-year review, and I picked up some of their recommendations. This was my favourite, by miles. I love her voice over the guitars, the almost hazy, reverberating quality of it all.
Note: I would probably have included one of, if not both, the Andy Stott albums (We Stay Together and Passed Me By) if I'd had them before Christmas. Am absolutely loving them right now.

Compilation of the Year:

I have been loving the DJ Kicks by Wolf & Lamb. Most enjoyable, a really great mix of things.

Podcast of the Year:

This is actually a false category, as I seem to have been pointed to several really great dance podcasts that are now a regular part of my listening routine - Little White Earbuds, Clubberia, and, most recently, Kev Beadle. All good!

Songs of the Year

  1. Mattie Safer - Is That Your Girl? I love this despite the crap rap in the middle. That's how awesome it is.
  2. Azealia Banks - 212. This is absolutely filthy. The video is absolutely fantastic. I want to dance like them at 0:35. All the time.
  3. Joe Goddard - Gabriel. Seriously disco. Joe Goddard is by such a mile the best Hot Chippian, and with this, he's had songs on my best of list two years in a row (thanks to the 2 Bears making it with Church last year).
  4. Eleanor Friedberger - My Mistakes. I've never been a big Fiery Furnaces fan, but I absolutely love love love this song, this video, and particularly the cheesy saxophone riff at the end, which brings back a nostalgic pang for Aztec Camera and what I think is one of the greatest songs of the 80s.
  5. Duran Duran - Girl Panic! They're back, baby! I love Duran Duran. Love his voice, love John Taylor's pout under ridiculous hair, love them.
  6. Lianne La Havas & Willy Mason - No Room for Doubt. I think part of my enchantment with this song is because I can't quite believe that such a soft, wistful song could come from someone who grew up in Thornton Heath, frankly. But it's just utterly delightful.
  7. Junior Boys - Banana Ripple. I adore the Junior Boys and although this album was not as great as the glorious So This Is Goodbye, this song was many minutes of just joy and exuberance. And far more disco-y than previous efforts, methinks.

Gigs of the Year

  1. LCD Soundsystem - last ever gig, Madison Square Gardens. How can a gig ever compete with this? (Hint: it can't.) Atmosphere, music, raw emotion, and the sheer delight at attending, having thought I wouldn't be able to make it. Bliss.
  2. Darkside - MHoW. I was utterly exhausted, had a six hour meeting that ended at 10.15pm, and somehow pulled myself together to go and see this - the world premiere of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington. I was really late, and arrived at what seemed quite noodly atmospheric stuff that I was not into. Then TOH gave me a whisky & ginger and suddenly the base came in, and it was one of the best gigs I've been to. Made even better by the phenomenal encore with some tracks off Space Is Only Noise. I really can't bear how talented Nicolas Jaar is. It's annoying.
  3. Portishead - Hammerstein Ballroom. I wasn't going, then I was - a friend got me a ticket for my birthday. Beth Gibbons' voice is genuinely a wonder of the modern world. The visuals were stunning, the music sounded phenomenal (the acoustics were brilliant), and all of a sudden, a teenage ambition was finally fulfilled. Glorious.
  4. Friendly Fires - Bowery. Right down the front, dancing away with Ed McFarlane and his sexy dancing. I love that you can take someone who's never heard FF before, and they will have one of the best concerts of their life because FF are so good live.
  5. Soulwax - Webster Hall. We went in very very late, just to say we'd gone, thought we would be too tired to wait for Soulwax, and on they came just as we arrived. Brilliant dance party when we'd sort of given up on going to and enjoying the gig.
  6. Sleigh Bells/CSS - Bowery. Live, Sleigh Bells kick arse. It was a friend's 30th, we danced away, and what a double bill - CSS were a lot of fun, too. Made even better by TOH suddenly appearing, having been stuck in an airport not too long beforehand and not being expected to make it. It was brilliant.

Friday, January 06, 2012


What to expect from me in 2012: More of the same blathering, I expect, but with the following modest behavioural modifications:
  1. Something green every day. Yep, there are days when, dear reader, I fail to intake anything green whatsoever. And that's not because I'm eating a shedload of tomatoes on those days, either. My level of healthy eating is indicated by whether I'm eating the green stuff, so I'm aiming for something green every single day. Not at all meals, not necessarily salad, but something green.
  2. A Movie a Month. That should be easy enough. Ahem. But we almost never go to the movies and, even if it's old/repertory, I'd like to go more. I always feel so pathetic when it comes to Oscars time and I've not seen anything. We only just saw the Harry Potter final movie on the plane yesterday. Pathetic.
  3. NDOW+1: No Drinking on Wednesdays (plus one). Wednesdays are my downfall, it seems, and it's time for it to be over. And in an effort to reduce my intake and to appease my doctor, I'm going for one extra day without booze per week. I think it's because it's an automatic reward for me after a long day at work - I just want to have a drink, but I don't assess whether I really want it or not. So this is the way to change that, I hope.*
  4. The Long Walk Home. I'd like to walk home once a month. It's only 7.1 miles. Google maps reckons that will take me 2 hours, 24 minutes, but that's surely for people who walk quite a bit slower than me. Even if I only walk at 3.5mph, that's 2 hours, 2 minutes. Yes, it's a long time, but I love walking through New York. And if I do that in the snow - hella workout!
Those are the concrete resolutions. Otherwise it's the general wanting to read more books, trying to read more, take exercise, yada yada yada. This list by an amazing woman I met travelling is far more inspiring. Hmm. But it did make me want to do a retrospective of 2011. A little too late? Surely not.

* Note: I have broken this already. But a couple of dear friends got engaged. It was a glorious celebration and I only had two glasses of wine. Ahem. But I think NEXT week is the week to start.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Who I Listened to in 2011

Courtesy of Last.fm

  1. Friendly Fires
  2. LCD Soundsystem
  3. Air
  4. Lewis Taylor
  5. Richard Hawley
  6. PJ Harvey
  7. DJ Shadow
  8. Nicolas Jaar
  9. DJ Jazzy Jeff & Mick Boogie
  10. Radiohead
  11. Metronomy
  12. A-Trak
  13. SBTRKT
  14. Thievery Corporation
  15. Blur
  16. The Weeknd
  17. Underworld
  18. Lykke Li
  19. Sea of Bees
  20. Massive Attack

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


They'll appeal, but the men tried for the murder of Stephen Lawrence have been found guilty. As I described here, this means a lot in ways in which I find it hard to express. Not closure, but some vague sense of justice. Vague being the operative word here, not justice, unfortunately.