Twice today I managed to force myself on my new(ish) health program – the magic of walking. I suppose it is power walking of a sort, as I get my running gear on, pick an album to pop on the MP3 player (just now my mobile phone) and set off, walking as fast as a can for as long as I feel like (around an hour).
Tonight was a walk around one of our areas of scenic beauty in Norrköping, Strömmen (translated directly it’s the stream but it’s a bit bigger than that) in the dark. I realised, once I’d left the lit area, that I was getting a little nervous. It reminded me the stark contrast to when I walked through the park home in Burnley in my early teens, totally oblivious to the real dangers in the area (preferring to worry about witches and the like). In years since I have read about abuse, murder, rape and the like in the stretch between Burnley’s town centre and my family home.
And I’m back on the life is short, life is fleeting, what’s it all mean pondering. I mean, when I started planning my ‘meaning of life’ party this year (as I turn 42), I wasn’t aware just how much of a mid-life crisis I’d put myself through. I suppose at least that means that I’ll live to 84 now instead of 70 (seeing as I had a mid-life crisis party 2005.)
But the walking feels more my thing at the moment, being as the music really inspires me and I also realised today I can walk pretty rapid when I feel like it (especially when it’s dark…).
The album of choice today was Archive and With Us Until You’re Dead and it’s already a classic – I leave you with the first single from the album: Violently
02. Björk – Biophilia (One Little Indian)
It's the insane one!
And it’s time to bring in ‘mad as a hatter on mind-bending drugs’ Björk and her latest, crazy offering in the year’s best of. Incidentally, this is also Björk’s highest outing since I started the charts (her previous best was third in 2001).
I distinctly remember commenting on an update by that man, Steve Duffy, when he mentioned listening to this and I said I was struggling with it. I was still struggling a few weeks later and this album has climbed, albeit slowly, from way down in the low 70s (the bottom end of the top 30) up to number two. I’m not sure she ever had enough in her to take the top spot but this album is a prime example of the importance of properly listening to music. And yes, whilst getting on my own high horse I am also aware I am guilty of this too (Tom Waits would have never won in 2002 had I given Lambchop and Is a Woman, the listens it deserved, the latter being one of my top five albums of all time).
But hey, Björk is a character, equally adept at providing us with masterpieces as well as utter tosh and listening to this album just reminded me of my students’ adverse reaction to her at the summer camp I was teaching at, showing she doesn’t appeal to the youf of today.
She’s been influential, provocative, naive, mental, aggressive and downright complicated over these last 25 years or so (yes, her first release was in 1977) and I’ve been bemused, entranced, and downright nonplussed by her in that time.
Tell you what though, she’s never dull!
[editor’s note – Maddoc thinks she’s terrible and Audrey loves her]
03. My Brightest Diamond – All Things Will Unwind (Asthmatic Kitty)
The mighty Sara Worden!
Shara Worden strikes again and anyone who knew she had released an album this year should really have been expecting her rather high up in the list. My Brightest Diamond is one of my most played artists since I started my whole Last.fm scrobbling saga (number six in the total played) and she’s had rather an impact on me, for her style, voice and wonderful, quirky lyrics. I’m quite sure a few of you have heard her but I’m also quite sure that many of you haven’t and it’s about time you did (you get a track here but also another on the best of for 2011).
Shara has that delectable mix of jazz, classical and pop/indie that I love and even though I said that Wild Beasts and Other Lives could have been in this position, to be honest this is where it belongs, it’s not good enough for either of the top two positions but holds its own against the aforementioned two.
So enjoy My Brightest Diamond and get ready for number two, coming soon!
04. Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino)
A week ago it was number two in the chart and looking solid for that postion. The race intensified, the listening likewise and down it dropped. As with Other Lives, I could just as well imagine this as number three but I went with my gut hoping that my guts don’t have ‘shit for brains’.
Been reading today that this has been commented on by several reviewers as a likely candidate for album of 2011 and obviously I can see where they are coming from. This was one of Ian Stackhouse’s biggest follies, having them much lower than they deserved and I put that down to a possibility that he was not listening to them as much as he should. The album is arguably the most exciting and inspirational of 2011, and much as I try and convince myself that one of the lead singers’ voice is irritating I just keep on listening, keep on getting impressed.
This one will remain a classic for many years – get out and buy it people!
Number three is announced tomorrow and begins an unprecedented final three…
05. Other Lives – Tamer Animals (TBD Records)
The first time I have had the privilege of listening to this band (it being their second release) and I was very quickly blown away by the sheer quality and majesty of it. I have already heard favourable comparisons with Fleet Foxes, which, although I can understand, I struggle to agree with. I have had a hard time getting my head around what is so good about the Foxes but not so these guys.
There’s a Floyd influence at work, which I love, (even picked up on by the wife) and although the album is only forty minutes long, it’s a very worthwhile and engaging forty, covering all the usual suspects with aplomb.
Tamer Animals, could have easily finished the year at number three, such was the difficulty in choosing between this and the next two up. Time will tell if I made the right decision, yet a decision had to be made.
Coming soon, number four…
Day 18: A song you wish you heard on the radio
I’m not seeming to play by any of the rules here, which I can live with as long as you all can.
A tough one this in that I don’t ever listen to the radio, being as there is so much good music out there that I don’t have time to listen to masses of weak music, hoping for a nugget of genius to shine through. I leave my friends and Last.fm, Metacritic and Pitchfork to find them for me.
However, if I did listen to the radio, I’m pretty sure they never play these guys as they are so undervalued and I’ve never loved a band so much and found that so many of my friends have not heard of them, as I hear with these (maybe with the exception of Sufjan Stevens and Eluvium).
Anyway, a radio station playing these guys might well have me tuning in. They’d need to play a hell of a lot of other great stuff too but this might well be a good start!
Day 19: A song from your favourite album
Oh so easy! Not only has it been my favourite album for over ten years now but it only has five tracks too!
If I have to explain this decision then we don’t really need to speak about music ever again, do we?
Incredible, absolutely incredible!
Day 20: A song that you listen to when you’re angry
I think I missed yesterday didn’t I? Did I? Oh well, never mind, I’m here now…
My first thought was Rage Against the Machine’s Wake Up, as that is one of the regulars on my angry list (yes, I need the angst to get me out of the angst) but then remembered that first on the playlist is ALWAYS this one:
It’s sheer raw power this one and has the lyrics to match. You hear this at volume in my gaff and you know there’s trouble!
Day 21: A song that you listen to when you’re happy
But I’m never happy…*cough*…
Pretty much millions to choose from here and so I’m going to go for a song that I heard for the first time, very recently, thanks to my friend Aleksander. One of those bands that make you wonder how you’ve missed them before!
It’s one of those pop songs by an artist that knows how to make pop songs!
Day 22: A song that you listen to when you’re sad
Well, the first song that springs to mind is actually my number one song of all time (again), which shows me up for the jolly old soul that I am but the more I thought about it, there was another one that I tend to play too – not because it cheers me up but more because it gives me perspective (and I like perspective).
It’s a masterpiece this (featured in my top 40 songs of all time) and I found it interesting that when I looked for a video for it, I found a montage of Only Fools & Horses and Red Dwarf clips to accompany one clip, as the creator of the vid thought that the song needed cheering up!