Friday, December 22, 2006

Review of the year


A lot of the albums I bought this year weren't released in 2006, however of those I did buy that were released this year here are my top 5:

1. Bright Carvings - Monkey Swallows the Universe
This album is quite superb and deservedly takes the honour of album of the year. I can remember the first listen like yesterday as it broke into Sheffield Shanty I thought this sounds like Twee nonsense trying to appeal to Sheffield sensibilities. But then on the second listen I realised that I had been fooled and that this really was a work of musical and lyrical genius. Clever stories told over beguiling music played with such delicacy and simplicity that it's myriad layers come together in a delightful way. You need to own this record.

2.CSS - Cansei de Ser Sexy
Tremendous bubblegum punk record, at 35 minutes, there is no room for dull tracks. Unlike MSTU it's merit is not on musicallity but on fun. This record oozes cool, vibrant tunes matching Lovefoxxx's astute and cheeky lyrics. Art Bitch is the highlight, though it is the live performances where these songs come to life.

3.Mr Beast - Mogwai
Probably their poorest album to date, but with few records to choose from I'll put this in the list. Probably only half of the tracks are great on this offering, however it does have the magnificent 'glasgow mega snake' which packs Mogwai at their most ferocious into a delightful 3min track.

4.Love and Other planets - Adem
Another up and down album, however his ability to create music using a variety of borrowed sounds makes this album worthy of note. Some beautiful tunes and allogories of love. Perhaps my love of his first album, homesongs, sets a standard that just can't be matched.

5.Campfire Headphase - Boards of Canada
Back to their best after their mediocre last album. Beautiful melodic electronica that is perfect for ambient surroundings. Lacks the odd sampled vocals of previous albums.

Must also mention the superb double album of Peel Sessions by the delgados, not included in the list due to being a compilation album. Superb music as always and the added bonus of mentioning me in the sleeve notes (i'm the moog). arab strap sadly split up this year and also released a compilation of rareities and hits.

Albums I bought this year worthy of note:
Clap your hands say yeah
Belle and Sebastian - Life Pursuit

My top singles of the year with links to youtube videos

1 when the sun goes down - Arctic Monkeys
At the start of the year I hailed this as single of the year and I wasn't wrong, though the next few tracks made it a close run thing. Perfect single material that just makes you want to bounce along. Shame the album fell a bit flat after a few listens.

2 boy at school - Hot Chip
Not only is the tune great but the video is superb. I love the harmonies over the simple electronica. Just need to get the album now

3 alala - CSS
There's another video too. When I heard this on the radio I liked it straight away. It's got perfect pop elements, driving beat, makes you want to dance.

4 Monster - The Automatic
I love the shouty vocals on this, though it sounds very much like Seafood.

5 science - Monkey Swallows the Universe
You'll have to go to theur website to see the video. Following on from their superb album comes this beautiful tune about losing faith in the 'truth' of science.

6 Us - Regina Spektor
Wonderful piano playing from the anti-folk queen. Using vocals to create unique sounds, the video is wonderful too.

7 Maneater - Nelly Furtado
The best pop record of the year from the crazy nelly furtado. Shame the video is a bit lame.

8 Yeah Yeah - Bodyrox
A nod to a dance tune that couples simple beats with great shouty vocals sung with attitude.

Live gigs of the year

CSS - Leadmill
Adem - Boardwalk
Monkey Swallows the Universe - Boardwalk
Mogwai - Plug
Regina Spektor - Leadmill
65 Days of Static - Leadmill
Belle and Sebastian - Octagon
Emma Pollock - Leadmill
Radiohead - Blackpool
Broken Social Scene - Manchester Academy

Best book I've read this year:
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, I reviewed in some depth a while ago, you can search for it if you're interested!

I'm sure there's more stuff, but that'll do.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Turn off those lights..

Been up to the nursing home to do a bit of carol singing which I think the residents quite enjoy, though it is always the ridiculously high songs, usually written for children, that seem the most popular. Anyway, on my way up I went the back way out the bottom of my garden where I passed this house. Every year the light show is more and more over the top. It's the first time I've passed it in all it's resplendant glory this year. I'd noticed the sixty foot santa had disappeared from it's yearly resting place in the back garden. It's awful, really awful. This year alongside the myriad santas is a giant igloo from which a snowman moves up and down in an eerie mechanical manner. A giant translucent sphere which contains something, though I didn't venture close enough to find out exactly what. Possibly an elf or a bear - who knows. Goodness knows how much energy it utilises, and what drives people to such efforts to luminate their houses. I'm sure it's some kind of pitiful cry for attention. But back to the energy wastage not to mention the kilos of carbon dioxide pumping into the atmosphere as a result. I'm with dave walker on this one, turn off the lights before they kill us all!
cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker.

Lights cartoon

Cartoon by Dave Walker.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


My friend and fellow blogger has taken part in the blog posada, it's well worth visiting here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holy Space

Had a bit of a lie in before finishing off the last few bits and pieces for the stations I was preparing for Holy Space. Spent a couple of hours getting the last things in place and the image loops on the data projects running. The event opened at 2, and people started coming in almost straight away, which was encouraging, cos we've had almost no time to advertise the event, we didn't even know exactly what we'd be doing until a couple of weeks ago. There was a steady flow of people throughout the afternoon and it seemed to be well received. I had a wander around all the stations, but didn't really spend the time I would've liked to due to keeping a 'watchful eye' on the stations. But I think it made a nice alternative to the general christmas services, each station had some personal challenges and then ideas for prayer with creative options. Some delicious fair trade refreshements were served in a separate room where people gathered to chat and enjoy some company. Sadly, like a mayfly it's time was over and the church had to be returned to it's former layout, ensuring headence was taken to the floor plan for the setting out of chairs. Woebetide anyone who returns a chair at the incorrect position or angle! And in two hours no-one would know that we'd been in at all.
Photo set available of holy space on flickr

Friday, December 15, 2006

Not again!!

Traffic chaos again

Two nights running

Unbelievable. This time coming in and leaving sheffield. Traffic accidents probably caused by the terrible driving conditions, rain and spray. This time I managed to turn off and roam around some back streets whereup I eventually emerged somewhere I knew. Only 2 hours to get home. Yet again thwarted from preparing the last few things for holy space as we were meeting at the church at 6:30, I was 30min late. The rooms soon began to take shape as we prepared the various stations that we had been given to prepare. Fish and chips was shared and the rooms were left 85% complete before we retired for the evening aroun 11pm. Got home and printed off some images and managed to finally get chance to chat with v, we'd not managed to chat since sunday with one thing or another.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Monkey Swallows the Universe - live

After finishing my pizza I headed up to the Boardwalk to watch monkey swallows the universe their final gig of the year, and it was the best performance I have seen by them. During the support acts members of MSTU came round and handed out festive treats to eat, and with just a few hundred in attendance it made for pleasant intimate surroundings. The set was superb, this time none of the sound problems that have blighted other performances this year, what a difference being the headline act obviously makes in this regard. Each tune was played with the usual beauty, showcasing a new tune about a ghost in a graveyard which sounded very promising. Before the set I'd been chatting with Nat about the earlier traffic chaos and she was retelling her 2 hour journey across the city to the venue making them exceeding late to meet one of the support acts who had come on the train from Norwich. During the inter song banter Nat once again vetted her frustration at the traffic causing idiot. At the end of the set they were warmly encouraged back on stage for an encore. Kev played Groucho, a song with lyrics like: you love me like an existentialist loves an empty room that no-one can see inside, or you love me like a nihilist loves absolutely nothing at all. Today he created a new line: you love me like a four by four drive loves to cause traffic chaos (or words to that effect) Brilliant! It was so good to go from feeling incredibly annoyed to enjoy listening to one of my favourite bands and then hear them sing about that very same frustration!

I wish I had a bulldozer

Cos today I would've used it to create a path home. It was absolute traffic chaos tonight on the way home. Bear in mind that on Tuesday I stayed at work till 6pm and got home in 40min. Today I was making good progress and just past the Atterclif turning on the parkway when I hit the queue at 5:10, I'd already been driving 30min and at this point am about 2.5 miles from home. I listened to Chris Evans on the radio, I was enjoying it, but then iot was 5:30 and I'd moved a matter of metres. Right I want to be home now as I've got stuff to prepare for the Holy Space event before heading into town for the MSTU gig. It's then 6pm and I even resort to tuning into Hallam Fm to find out what the cause of the delay is, and whether there alternative routes I could attempt on reaching the parkway roundabout. Turns out there's gridlock all round sheffield, all routes are backed up, traffic chaos. And the cause, yes the cause is some idiot who had broken down on west bar and left his car with steering lock in place. This vehicle was of course immovable by the services trying to free up the roads. Was I getting irate, I had to ring people up on my phone just to moan about how bad it was being stuck in traffic. I got home at 7:15 and decided to call for a pizza. Guess what - that was late too, I had to wait for ages, but they did give me a free can of pepsi. Still it shows how finely balanced sheffield road network is, one car on one part of the ring road system causing huge delays from all directions into the city.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday is gig-day

Went to Manchester to see CSS again last night. Arranged to meet up with Jonah and his friend at MacDonalds, just opposite the venue. However, they were running late, and I had to make my drink last about an hour. I'd brought something to read whilst I waited, but I could sense that Ronald wasn't his usual jovial self and was directing stern frowns in my general direction. Eventually I left, so Ronald could turn his attention to other worries, like the Hamburgler. We arrived at the venue in time to see the 1990s, who I've seen 3 times in the last few weeks in support slots. I'm not that keen on them to be honest. Started to get quite excited waiting for CSS to take the stage, but I was disappointed during the first couple of songs. The mix was terrible, and it sounded dreadful, I think it was the output from the sequencer that was having the effect. Thankfully this technical problem was sorted and the gig improved greatly. Lovefoxxxx continued her flamboyant performance and stage diving antics, which really adds to the live experience. They will definately be featuring highly in my end of year review. Go see them if you can, they are touring extensively and should be playing at a stage near you!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Arthur and George

Picked up this book the other day because I liked the look of the cover and the synopsis on the back seemed intriguing. Started reading it last month and I have gone through periods of reading it a lot and then just the odd page here and there. Is it any good? Well, I'm not sure, it's interesting as it is based on historical figures and is a fictional account of something that actually happened. The imprisonment of George for a crime he did not commit and the subsequent campaign to clear his name led by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It starts well as we are introduced to the characters, but I found the court case of George rather tedious. I'm not a fan of courtroom literature, and as the result is obvious from the outset, it seems overlong. It then progresses from courtroom drama to who-done-it mystery and the interest levels are raised. Unfortunately there are then reams of pages given to the story of Arthur's love of another woman and all the complications that that brings. So in all I think this book is fairly average, and fails to engage and grapple with the institutional racism of the time and the pre-conceived opinion of 'half-caste' people. Still, it's well researched.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Holy Space

Awe and Ultraviolet are putting on a special reflections on Christmas event at Broomhill Methodist church on sat 16th Dec. The space will be open from 2-8pm for people to drop in and utilise the various interactive stations that will hopefully aid a time of quiet and contemplation during this busy period. If you're in the Sheffield area I'd recommend you drop by. Click on the image for full details.

It's a Carol free zone!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

London calling

Went to London yesterday as i had to attend a training course for this document management system we use. It was a fairly brief, but very useful course held at their head office. I'd got the directions to the venue, but when I reached the correct road I scouted up and down it about twice but could not locate number 18. Perhaps, I thought, you have to know the correct brick to tap with your wand to make it appear, a bit like Diagon Alley. However, after I rang up it turned out that the street I was on actually carried on on the other side of the crossroad. Taking advantage of being in London I decided to do a bit of wandering around after the course, calling in at the National Gallery where they had a nice Cezanne exhibition. There was also a Hockney exhibition on in the portrait gallery, and upon entering the gallery I executed a perfect 180 degree turn upon reading the entry fee, £9! Wandered around Oxford Road, first time I've seen it lit up for Christmas I think, not that impressed. Met up with C for a meal and a chat, it's always good to meet friends, we went to yo sushi, which I enjoyed. Trying to intercept food items as they flowed around on the conveyor belt. Late train back and I've almost finished reading my book, if only work was like this every day.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Time for blogging

So it's been a while since I've had opportunity to update this blog and I think I'll undertake a bit of back blogging. The other day I chanced upon an email from john as I was glancing through my old fish email account as I knew someone had sent me an email to that account by mistake. It turned out that he would be passing through sheffield today and wondered if we might meet up at the train station before he caught a bus for his onward journey. After work I headed up to the station and had just got into the foyer when I bumped into another friend, steve, who I'd not seen in about 8 months. Then john appeared, quite strange to have just stood in one spot for barely a minute and have met up with two friends. Turns out that as I had got john's email late he had not received my reply so my presence was a bit of a surprise for him. He had in the meantime organised a lift for his onward journey, so we had very little time to catch up. In fact no sooner had we sat down with a cup of tea then his lift arrived. Despite the meeeting being brief it was good to see him outside of the blogging hemisphere.