A few years ago I did an album a day thing on social media, not entirely sure why on reflection, I guess it passed the time and time does passes. Music behaves as a bit of a catalogue or bookmark of favourite, or not so favourite, passages – it’s part of our timeline, the soundtrack we live inside in the film we inhabit. For those of us that rely on it, music can summon specific events, or times in our lives. An invocation of feelings, relationships, spaces, places, a sense of how we exist in a dynamic where life flows around us. There’s also the patterns and shapes it makes and how we inhabit that emotional landscape.

I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. My sister won a beauty competition in the late 60s when she was about twenty, I’d have been about three or four, she won a few around then before moving on to not doing them. In this particular contest one of the prizes was a portable record player, it was black and grey plastic and leatherette and had a detachable speaker in the lid.

When she left home when I was about six, she gave it to me with a pile of singles, mostly The Beatles in what I still think is their finest era  – the pop bit near the start, so I had I Wanna Hold your Hand, Love Me Do, Help etc on crackly seven inch in generic patterned scuffed sleeves which I can still picture clearly in my head, I still have a few in fact. There were a others, some Rolling  Stones, two Nina and Frederick singles, both with the archetypal pictures of them in red jumpers on a black background, Billy Fury, Elvis Presley, Mary Hopkins, Lee Marvin, Chuck Berry and so on, her time-markers passed to me.

She bought me a couple of records too, probably the first that were actually mine, and I moved into the bigger bedroom she had vacated, complete with nail varnish marked carpet, pink paisley wallpaper on two walls and hessian-textured brown Anaglypta on the opposing ones. There was also the 1970s finesse of a polystyrene tiled ceiling to cover the cracked plaster which finished it off nicely. I moved in a painting of cowboys done for me by my eldest brother which hung above the bed, below it a drawing of a limpet I’d found on Cromer beach which I was particularly proud of because it looked like what it was, and I think it may have been the first time I’d achieved that, a step in the life of someone who wanted to be a painter when he grew up, like his big brother almost was.

I grew into the room, and it enfolded me. The little mono record player used quite frequently, her old records and my mum and dad’s odd selection, plus a later random donation by my brother in law of Dirty Water by the The Standells, some Ten Years After and John Entwistle, plus tapes I recorded of his Bowie, Queen and Roxy Music, the thrusting noise of stuff like Sparks and their ilk recorded from the tuner on their living room direct from the top 40 when we visited on Sundays for tea which I played endlessly on a little tape deck I’d got for my birthday. Eventually one Christmas the little record player was replaced by a rudimentary sleek-looking Panasonic Music System; one of those flat silver plastic things with a built in tape deck and tuner, it lasted from my very early teens well into my 20s. The wallpaper was eventually blotted out by multiple coats of yellow paint by my dad, then black and white by me, the addition of posters; Blondie initially, my first true head over heels love affair with a band, I bought everything I could afford by them before moving on to the Pistols, Buzzcocks, Magazine and on into Joy Division, Gang of Four and Killing Joke and so it goes.

As time passed, the posters formed a shifting patchwork of change, a display of my hunger for new, different, odd music started to emerge. I’d routinely started listening to Peel by the time I was 13 or 14. Like a lot of my generation he was the gateway drug, a human discovery algorithm. I started recording the shows on tapes to play back the bits I liked which I couldn’t afford, we’d swap albums at school, play, record pass on, home taping augmenting what we already bought, shaping and carving out patterns and galleys to explore.

Once I’d left home and we got a council flat the Panasonic system died, I think the result of mioving from one damp rental to another too many times. It was replaced by a turntable, tape deck and amp, some of those I’d bought at car boot sales and some I was given for helping a mate out with something or other, which may or may not have been slightly warm, I didn’t like to ask. That has in turn all been replaced in a pattern of different bits over the years, a new amp to replace a cheap Cambridge Audio that caught fire, a CD player added; a medium I wasn’t ever very fond of, a CD to CD burner at one point, a MiniDisk player appeared and stayed for a long time until it died of the click of death. I also had a cable to play straight from the computer during the years when everything was MP3. I think I’m on turntable four or maybe five now, amp three or four, speakers five including one pair I blew and one pair my youngest son did likewise. Most of my stuff is swapped with mates or part exchanged/donated over time with them. I’m not an audiophile by the way, I don’t really care about that stuff, just so long as it does the job okay to my slightly ringing ears.

Anyway, back to this. I deleted most of the posts it came from in a fit of wondering why I was bothering but saved a few. These are some of them. I’ll try and augment this a bit and do it on blocks of ten or something similiar, adding new things as they occur to me or I play them or they play me, the text is more or less as it was, so it may not make sense and varies in length, and I’ll write some new bits probably, here’s the first ten anyway. I’ll add some more once I dig them out, and I’ll write some new bits as new music has happened since that I’ve disappeared into. I quite enjoy this sort of stuff, it’s low pressure writing about nothing in particular is probably why.

Just as a quick aside, these are all things I physically have rather than just stream; if I like things enough to listen often I buy them in one format or another, either CD, vinyl, or paid download where physical media doesn’t exist. Streaming is something I constantly do, I’m mean fuck that I’m not unhinged about ‘records only’ or anything like that, streams are convenient for the consumer, but that doesn’t mean it pays musicians well if at all in the case of the bigger services, especially Spotify. So like, equals buy. I should maybe mention that I don’t think liking music and collecting it are the same thing, they’re actually two overlapping bubbles – separate although inter-related; I do both but mainly I like music, I also collect certain things, usually by certain artists, but mostly I buy to listen and support.

This isn’t a chart, because you can’t quantify what appeals at any given moment, and some are very short observations whilst other won’t be. Hopefully there’s something in here you might like, maybe think of it as a mix-tape because I fancy you or something.


List 1, October 2019

The Antlers – Hospice.

Which for the last three days (in October 2019) has largely been this old fave from 2009. It’s dense, harrowing and beautiful. Layers of stuff. Enjoy, or not. I don’t mind. Listen to/Read the lyrics though, because they’re fucking amazing, the subject matter it covers is at best ‘difficult’.

2. Apparat – The Devil’s Walk

Sascha Ring does lots of stuff. This for me is some of his best. Again one I’ve listened to a lot over the last week, from 2011 originally. I remember buying the record around then, maybe a year or so later but can’t remember why. The song Goodbye appeared more recently as part of a TV series soundtrack on something or other that didn’t interest me beyond the song being in it, so I can’t remember what it was.

3. Mogwai – Happy songs for happy people

I like nearly all of Mogwai’s output and have done since the 90s when I saw them a couple of times. This is the one I return to the most. Probably followed by Zidane and Rock Action. Another band who thrive on minor chords. You can almost see the melancholy as a colour in this one. It’s a beauty.

4. You Forgot it in People – Broken Social Scene.

I seemed to be mining a bit of a listening vein when I started doing this that was early 00s favourites (with forays into breakcore and Krautrock in between).

I’ve played this twice in the last 24 hours, purely because it’s in my opinion their best album, hooky memorable oddities. They sort of lost their way a bit after this, I think, anyway.

Lover’s Spit and Anthem for a Seventeen year old girl are crackingly kooky songs. I have a soft spot for Canadian bands at the best of times, more of those will doubtless appear. This huge mob overlap into stuff like Metric and Do Make Say Think within that scene, and they’re good too, so they’re alright with me generally. They’re also one of those bands I found via my kids and their friends.

5. Mondkopf – How deep is our love?

I’m slightly addicted to drone, it fluxes in and out of my listening patterns. This album/EP/LP/whatever has been one of my constant go back to over and over again things this year. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite release from 2019 unless something mad happens. Utterly incredible stuff, a world dying in slow motion in your head. It’s one of those extraordinary bits of music that makes everything feel like it’s the soundtrack to an abstract film that you’ve just wandered into. So yes anyway. Best thing from 2019 for me. It’s also notable that his earlier stuff in my view, isn’t as good, it’s also very different.

6. Wedding Present – George Best.

I love Gedge. The Wedding Present of the bands I’ve seen the most live. Tough call between this and Bizarro, this edges it because it’s that place in time where I was in my very early twenties and first fell in love with them live and was living the life of Riley on terrible money while working in a venue and living in a cheap and threadbare shared house which was always full of brilliant people. One I’d seen them I went out out and bought various singles, and eventually this. Lyrically he’s a poet, northern songs of love and loss, like a cross between Bennett and Morrissey*. Just brilliant. My Favourite Dress still remains one of my favourite songs.

*When Morrissey wasn’t a massive racist twat, just a twat.

7. A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Atomos.

Music changes the way I think, when I shot the photos for Vanishing Points largely under the influence of this lot, originally the previous eponymously titled album, but in 2014 this object of beauty arrived. Both albums soundtracked my way of thinking in many ways, including about how I shoot landscapes by changing how I feel about what I’m doing. It’s also worth looking up all their other projects, Dead Texan, Stars of the Lid and even the link to Sparklehorse for starters. One of my favourite records of the 21st century. Headphones on works best.

8. Maybeshewill – Not for want of trying.

Noisy glitchy post-rock from Nottingham akin to 65daysofstatic on some levels. This is their finest album and has the brilliant Howard Beale ‘I’m mad as hell’ rant from the film Network in the title track which improves your life no end every time you hear it. It’s full of really solid meaty sounds.

9. Au Pairs – Playing with a different sex.

Charismatic, Gang of Four-esque feminism. Probably where I first encountered the real state of gender politics in 1981 when I borrowed the record from a mate. Anyway I taped it, played it until the tape stretched, then bought it, and still play it quite often, it forms part of a long and broad thread of female-fronted agit-prop agit-pop in my tastes which continues to grow to this day. Post-punk always will form a sizeable wedge in my musical tastes because it’s where my own decision making about what I liked really started. Come Again, Dear John and especially It’s Obvious are quiet emblematic of a specific phase of the early 1980s.

10. Sparklehorse – Good morning spider.

Less of a band and more of a vehicle for Mark Linkous – ‘The Static King’, a troubled soul, some of his music has a fragile beauty about it which really shows his inner struggle with the dark stuff that made him so brilliant (try the album It’s a Wonderful life for more of that). Other stuff like this has much more of a mix. More reminiscent of Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, bits of Americana, folk, psychedelia and plenty of Beatlesque sequences. There’s also patches of it that hint at the future of A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Adam Wiltzie was involved.

I’m a late comer to Sparklehorse, only really discovering them after Linkous killed himself. But better late than never when things are this forever.