Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Review

Reviews of the year and the decade are everywhere – here’s another, my own personal end of year list offering.

It gives a flavour of what I’ve enjoyed musically - live and on record - over the past 12 months, what I’ve read with pleasure, what I’ve watched on TV (not a lot) or on DVD.

I’ve not been to the cinema for six years so no one-two-three choices there and the last time I took a seat in a theatre was over a year ago for a panto, featuring my actor son, Steven Rae (very good he and it was, too.)

So, starting with CDs:

1 - Oh My God Charlie Darwin by The Low Anthem: a mix of mournful folk songs and blood-and-guts stompers.

2 - Yonder is The Clock by The Felice Brothers: inventive tales set to music that is well-crafted and full of life.

3 - Cotton by Sam Baker: lyrically superb and heart-warming from a bomb blast survivor, who is brilliant live.

Commended: Fork In the Road by Neil Young; We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River by Richmond Fontaine; Years of Refusal by Morrissey.


1 - Neil Young, Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre – followed up Edinburgh master class gig of 2008 with this utterly, spine-tingling set of wondrous rock and tender interludes. Fantastic.

2 – James McMurtry and The Heartless Bastards, Oran Mor, Glasgow - politically-edged songs with an unrivalled rootsy, blues-laden, sidewalk swagger.

3 – Mark E Smith and The Fall, The Ferry, Glasgow – totally mesmerising despite indecipherable lyrics moulded on to relentless, pounding white noise punk.

Commended: The Handsome Family, The Tron, Glasgow; Mark Olson/Gary Louris, Darvel Music Festival; Morrissey, Barrowland, Glasgow.

BOOKS (not necessarily published in 2009):

1 - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

2 - The Terrorists by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall

3 - Swan Peak by James Lee Burke

All good, engrossing, cleverly plotted reads with interesting characters. As the authors named in the first two show, have been delving into Scandinavian cop thrillers – thoroughly recommended.

Commended: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson; When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.


1 - The Wire - astounding and outstanding.

2 - The Sopranos – gripping to the very end.


1 - Thomas The Tank Engine

2 - Peppa Pig

3 - Giggle Bits

Three-year-old son, Adam rules the remote so these are shows I’ve seen most in 2009. Although I have enjoyed Gavin & Stacey, Gary Tank Commander and various BBC4 music documentaries, thanks to iPlayer.

Happy to hear your “best of” while looking forward to what 2010 brings.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Loaded with the flu so brain cells functioning less than expertly at the moment. But they, the cells, that is, have been thinking about album titles. No idea why.

Maybe it was because I was looking through some “best of” album lists and was slightly tongue-tied by American group Grizzly Bear’s “Veckatimest”, named after a small island in Massachusetts, seemingly. Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue but it makes sense, unlike the one from a Danish band called MEW, whose work I am not familiar with. Their latest album title is a hoot:
“No more stories are told today I'm sorry they washed away No more stories the world is grey I'm tired let's wash away.” Bonkers.

But not half as crazy a title as that from American singer, Fiona Apple, who has a CD titled: “When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
 And he'll win the whole thing 'fore he enters the ring
 There's no body to batter when your mind is your might
So when you go solo, you hold your own hand
 And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
 And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
 And if you fall it won't matter, cuz you'll know that you're right.” Touch of the Eric Cantona’s there, no?

There’s probably an explanation but life’s too short and all that and the same goes for “Oh Me Oh My The Way The Day Goes By The Sun Is Setting Dogs Are Dreaming Lovesongs Of The Christmas Spirit” by American singer/songwriter, Devendra Banhart.

I was raised on the simplicity of Led Zeppelin I, II, III and IV but on closer examination my musical youth is dotted with dotty titles such as:

“Weasels Ripped My Flesh” – Frank Zappa
“Swordfishtrombones” – Tom Waits
“Trout Mask Replica” – Captain Beefheart.
“Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy” – The Who
“Brain Salad Surgery” – ELP
“Thick As A Brick” – Jethro Tull.

And the just re-released and wonderful “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” by Spiritualized, is a favourite of mine. If anyone cares to tell me their “weird” favourites that would be fun.