Christmas was slightly more disastrous than usual. Only slightly. I went back to see my mum and dad, and my dad's room flooded when an underfloor pipe burst, my mum fell off a chair and ended up with bruises all over her back and side, then contracted the rather lovely norovirus that's going around and spent the early hours of Boxing Day re-experiencing her Christmas dinner in the most unpleasant way. On Boxing Day I took a bus to Manchester to Eastlands and watched my football team get tonked by Manchester City. The crowd was the only entertaining thing about the day and thankfully I was not sitting close to idiots, as at Spurs.
(B) I am back in touch with the man who is so ugly he has gone right through the other side into interesting and attractive. Bless him. He's a funny lad -- well, you have to be if you support Millwall FC. He sent me a jovial text only I washed my phone two months ago and lost all my numbers, so I had to ask if it was him. We're going for a drink when he's back in London. Platonically. Pls note.
(C) At some point I will talk about Christmas TV. I feel it is my duty to bore the arse off youse, just as I've had the arse bored off me (and loved every second of it). My reaction was mostly Yay!, though I will note that almost every episode of Doctor Who that I really love has at least five minutes of solid fail on some level or other (see also: Turn Left). Additionally, in the 50 self-congratulatory and deeply padded minutes of the Confidential, don't you think Tennant looked tired?
Gavin & Stacey was melancholic and seemed to exist mostly to set up season three, I am saving up Wallace and Gromit and the shiny new adaptation of Sarah Waters' Affinity for when I don't have other stuff to do.
(D) For the first time I can remember, the same song is at No 1 and No 2 -- two versions of Hallelujah -- Alexandra Burke's showbiz diva version complete with godawful key change stop/start moment and the Jeff Buckley version which was bought (in vain) by people who wanted to stop the first version getting to No 1.
Other people have remarked on the weirdness of this being a Christmas single. Other people have linked to clapclap.org's fantastic dissection of its use in films and movies. If you're interested in that sort of thing, you might like this documentary about Leonard Cohen and his wonderful, overused song:
The Fourth, The Fifth, The Minor Fall
A meander through the history and meaning of the song Hallelujah in its many and varied versions, official verses and apocrypha, with musicologists, the wondrous Kathryn WIlliams, Brandi Carlisle, Allison Crowe, the producer of the Cohen original, amateur musicians etc. Narrated by Guy Garvey. Who is a musician and therefore understands how the song *works*. Guy Garvey, my imaginary shared husband, is singer and lyricist with Elbow and a possessor of one of the loveliest radio voices. Oh, the voice.
Leeesten to it. You will thank me, unless you hate Hallelujah, which is perfectly possible these days.
(E) Time for lists.
2008 wasn't really a vintage year for great music -- well, not for this listener anyway -- but it was the year that the early/mid-80s were rehabilitated and stripmined. The eighties has been a derided decade for so long. Perhaps it took this much distance from it for people to realise how wonderful a lot of it was. I've been reading Simon Reynolds' brilliant book Rip It Up And Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-84, and it has been reminding me how much of that era is overlooked and underestimated.
30 songs that I loved to a ridiculous extent in 2008
1.Time to Pretend MGMT
From its bubbling sci-fi intro to the magnificent booming drums and squelching 80s synths, probably my favourite record of 2008. For all that the lyrics are a snotty summation of the rockstar life of cocaine, models and owning your own island, doesn't it seem to you that it's an awfully sad song? You might have the lifestyle but it's clear that it comes with a huge price. It's like the companion piece to Oasis's Live Forever
2. Sometime Around Midnight The Airborne Toxic Event
I like songs that tell stories. This is about seeing your ex-girlfriend in a bar and feeling as though your heart has been ripped out and showing it. On one level, I'm a bit "oh cry moar, drunken emo boy" and on another I am "woohoo! string intro and fantastic build". The Airborne Toxic Event are a band from Los Feliz and have released one album and written an open, snotty letter to Pitchfork on their website, which I approve of and think a bit pathetic at the same time. To summarise, this song is fucking fantastic and you should download it.
3. Some Riot Elbow
Time to Pretend might be, narrowly, my favourite song but my favourite album was Seldom Seen Kid. You couldn't call it innovative, brash or new, but everything about it was beautifully crafted, from lyrics to melodies to harmonies to its running order. It announces itself with Starlings, a love song with, I swear to God, a *giant* trumpet fanfare, followed by the lyric "Darling, is this love?" However, my favourite song from the album, narrowly beating out Grounds For Divorce and One Day Like This, is Some Riot. It's about watching your friend falling victim to his own demons.
4. Grace Will Young
A friend burned me Will Young's album, which is perfectly fine dinner party music and the very epitome of okay. This elaborate ballad, though, I love. It's the best "you spurned me, you despicable nerk, and I shall now enumerate your faults" song that I've heard since Yes by McAlmont & Butler. It's truly grand and I think you should give it a go.
5. In Your Arms Teddy Thompson
So glorious and instantly earwormish a country-rock song that if you don't like it I JUDGE you and find you wanting. The whole of Teddy Thompson's album A Piece of What You Need is my second-favourite of the year, because it is smart, sexy and sad and there's scarcely a weak song in the bunch.
6. Hearts on Fire (Midnight Juggernauts remix) Cut Copy
Another band plundering the 1980s. Their album is all right but this remix is better than anything on the album, a shimmering synthesiser dance anthem that you can sing along to.
7. Mercy Duffy
Proper girlie, sing with your hairbrush in the mirror music.
8. Setting Sun Howling Bells
Howling Bells are from Sydney, this is from a 2006 eponymous album and that is about all I know about them. I came upon this while looking for Ulrich Schnauss rareities on the internets and ended up buying their entire album. This isn't anything other than decent indie pop until its glorious, glorious chorus.
9. The Lovers Are Losing Keane
I never expected to buy another Keane album again after they were so anaemic and disappointing live, and Perfect Symmetry is much like their other albums, forgettable aside from three or four genius tracks. This barnstormer is one of them. However, this time out, Keane have clearly been listening to David Bowie, really *really* closely. For comparison listen to these:
Better Than This Keane // Ashes to Ashes David Bowie
So closely related that if they were people they wouldn't be allowed to marry.
10. Daddy's Gone Glasvegas
The most hyped album of the year, Glasvegas, turned out to almost live up to its Mary Chain meets Phil Spector wall of sound billing. If you like social realism sung in a Glaswegian accent (and I do) it's pretty fantastic. Some days I like this one best, some days Geraldine
11. Swords of A Thousand Men Tenpole Tudor
Oh come on, it's *fantastic*. It'll be a Merlin vid within months, if it's not already
12. A Thousand Suns Tom McRae
The happiest song about grief and death I've ever heard.
13. Subterranean Homesick Alien Easy All-Stars
You didn't realise that your life was emptier for not having Radiohead covered as reggae, did you? Well, it is. Wait 'til you get to the chorus... there now, aint that grand? Actually, the whole album of reggae and dub covers of Paranoid Android is one of those things that shouldn't work but magnificently, triumphantly does. The album is called Radiodread (of course it is) and the other stand out is Let Down, featuring Toots and the Maytals.
TOOTS AND THE MAYTALS AND RADIOHEAD, PEOPLE! RADIOHEAD YOU CAN SKANK TO! Don't ever say I don't love you.
14. Faithful Friend (Ulrich Schnauss remix) Katharina Franck
A ballad by a German singer is given the My Bloody Valentine treatment. I love this, but I know it's very much an acquired taste.
15. Social Competence Peter Morén
The fellow from Peter, Bjorn and John with a guitar-led pop song which has the most curmudgeonly, funny lyrics of the year. I over-identify with the lyrics at the moment.
16. Young Love (Shoes remix) Mystery Jets
A perfect pop song, and this remix is better than the anaemic original.
17. Tomorrow Ladytron
From the album Velocifero, which is Ladytron doing their usual glacial 80s barnstormer routine but doing it brilliantly. Either this or Ghosts stands with anything released this year.
18. I Told Her on Alderaan Neon Neon
More shiny 80s-inflected goodness. I have no idea what this is about but it makes me bop around my kitchen. Also, I am disposed to like anything Gruff Rhys does.
19. Anthepic Japanese Popstars
Epic piece of dance music, like it says on the box. It's all bleeps and synthesisers and builds, in a very good way.
20. Wearing My Rolex Wiley
Irresistible looping slice of dance music about a girl getting the better of you in a club. Precision engineered to make you dance. You could use it to explain what London sounds like.
21. Dance Wiv Me Dizzee Rascal, Calvin Harris, Chrome
See above, except this is also reminiscent of the 1980s. "Get away from the bar, tell your boyfriend hold your jar and dance with me"
22. Club Thing Yoav
From an album released in the last week of 2007, this is an original, sinuous, spare song constructed from handclaps and minimal drums, synthesiser jabs and echoes. It's about being drawn into glamorous club life and finding there's nothing but emptiness behind it. It should really be a vid about vampires but someone would probably mess it up. There's a wonderful, very rare Ben Christophers song called The Alien and the Earthgirl that I've never posted because I am terrified that some plonker will turn it into a soppy Ten/Rose video and thus ruin it forever. IF THEY ALREADY HAVE, DO NOT TELL ME. Thank you.
23.Silent Spring Massive Attack ft Elizabeth Fraser
As beautiful and sinister as a Grimm fairytale. Old, but I listened to it a lot this year
24. What We Had Handsome Furs
Like a lot of the music I loved this year, I first heard this in a vid and loved it enough to download the album Plague Park. There's nothing on it quite so ragged, wild and depressed as this song. This has fantastic guitars, angry lyrics and a woodblock. What more could you desire.
25. Sons of the Stage World of Twist
From one of the great lost 1990s bands, like a crossover between New Order and Oasis and completely compulsive listening. For me it's layered through with memories but I think it's a great record no matter what.
26. Zoetrope Boards of Canada
[*if you like repetitive electronic music, which I do]
27. American Boy Estelle ft Kanye West
A fairly perfect pop song in every way. Usually rap interludes are ill-advised and detract from the song. This one enhances it.
28. Some People Goldfrapp
I didn't think Seventh Tree was much cop, but this is a lush and gorgeous ballad. I do miss the days when Goldfrapp were alternately weird and kinky though.
29. L.E.S. Artistes Santogold
More 1980sish music, reminiscent of The Human League, but in a great way.
30. The song I listened to most this year, according to iTunes, is: A Strangely Isolated Place Ulrich Schnauss
I just love it. It takes my mind to places that other records do not. It moves me.